B1. The Crown of a King That Sits on No Head

Session Date: June 17, 2019
Effective Character Level: 8

Gather at the Harvest

The landscape swelled and burst with innumerable colors. A cacophony of melodies rose from each hillock and alcove. Strange winged shapes floated high on breezes, while inscrutable forms lingered beneath widening ferns. The Feywild was a bizarre and alien place to most humanoids, who generally preferred their worlds sensical and orderly. (Only those who ingested mind-altering substances seemed at home in this Realm of Desire.)

The harvest festival had come, and all fey had been invited to the Autumn Court.

Set near the “edge” of the Feywild, the Autumn Court’s landscape was a sprawling quilt of fields, either ready for reaping or already harvested. One of the largest fields had been cleared, and long tables grown directly from the soil. Upon them, every manner of fruit and shoot, beast and bulb, and grain and game had been prepared.

The Pumpkin King, (Lord of Mischief, Master of Scares, and Warden of the Empty Throne) himself surveyed the scene.

On a hill to his right gathered the verdant greens of the Summer Court. Unicorns and treants posed in displays of vibrant life and strength. Titania, the Queen of the faeries herself, reposed in a throne crafted from bright oak leaves and vines.

Directly across from her, to the Pumpkin King’s left, assembled the Gloaming Court (they of winter). As per their request, the Pumpkin King had set them at the edge of an evergreen wood. Their palette was muted but no less elaborate.

At the other end of the field from the Autumn Court reveled the Spring Court. Filled with satyrs, nymphs, and dryads, the Spring Court was well known for their adolescent pursuit of excess. The Pumpkin King could hear their drunken carousal from where he stood.

And, finally, surrounding him, there was his own court. The Pumpkin King cleared his throat.

“A toast! First, to the Summer Queen of Faeries, and to the Queen of Air and Darkness! May their reigns be fruitful and without end.

“Next, to the Middling Courts! A toast to the Spring Prince…” Then he gestured finally to an over-sized chair directly to his left. “And a last toast to the Empty Throne of the Autumn Court, upon which no fey may sit!”

The fey courts murmured their general agreement. The Autumn Court’s strict absence from politics offered the only neutral grounds on which all four courts could meet.

“I think it’s time we moved on to our main event, our much beloved Wyld Hunt! Remember, I will declare a series of ‘marks’ to be found, all somewhere on the Material Plane. Each of the courts will field their own hunting party to track down, capture, and return with one of these marks! Please, gather your crew, and we will begin shortly!”

Tatty Bogle, one of the Pumpkin King’s errand servants, quickly toddled off to find the Autumn Court’s “champions.” He located them at a nearby table, partaking in the feast and revelries.

Worryingly, the centaur had imbibed a little too much pixie dust with his wine and was prancing awkwardly around the troupe, convinced he’d learned to fly.

“Champions! It’s almost time! Gather yourselves!” Tatty Bogle quickly counted to make sure everyone was present.

There was Methuseus “The Fey Glade Ensorcelor,” a sorcerer centaur. In addition to the fiery spells he wielded, Methuseus also carried a Wand of Fear, to instill proper respect in his foes. He often said that most problems could be solved with a swift and judicious application of force.

Also with them was Prustine Peaceglade “The Perspicacious,” a pixie rogue who avoided gendering themselves. Their Wand of Paralysis helped incapacitate larger foes. Unlike their Spring and Summer cousins, who sparkled with bright luminescence, Prustine had adopted the more subdued hues of the Autumn Court.

Joining them was Feb Morko “The Nightstalker,” a satyr rogue. He sported a Helm of Teleportation for quick movement, and a (non-magical) pan flute he’d become quite versed in. While he never shied away from a scuffle, he’d found that there was always more than one way to solve a dispute.

Completing the band was Fharrs Nipere “The Mistress of the Hunt,” a Tau’ri archer fighter. She might have passed for a lithe human, were it not for her large cat-like ears and tail. Her weapon of choice was a small hand crossbow, but its magical enchantments let it hit both faster and harder.

(Each of the Wyld hunter’s titles were as sacred to them as their own names. Like favors, names gave power to those who used them, and only the most boorish ever addressed another fey by anything but their title.)

“Regard me in all my wonder!” the centaur was still shouting. “Am I not glorious? See, I fly above you!” (He was not.)

“Yes, yes, you’re quite stupefying; now listen up! They’re about to declare the marks!”

Once the courts had fielded their individual parties, the Pumpkin King again raised his voice.

“For our first of three rounds, you may hunt any of the following marks. You have an hour of Feywild time to complete your task. After that, you must return here, with or without your prize!

First, return the tooth of a Remorhaz beast that yet lives.
“Second, locate the crown of a king that sits upon no head.
“Third, the heart of a maiden, upon her wedding night.

You have five minutes to confer and decide your first target. After that, the Wyld Hunt begins!

The four representatives of the Autumn Court quickly conferred. Prustine recalled that a Remorhaz was a huge, centipede-like monster that buried its way through glaciers with a super-heated body. Methuseus felt they could easily accomplish the first mark if they pummeled one into unconsciousness, rather than killing it outright.

The “heart of a maiden, upon her wedding night” was open to a little more interpretation. Methuseus wondered if they should could return with the bloody organ still in hand, but Feb the satyr suggested perhaps wooing the young lady instead, leaving her heart-broken. (Historically, both were perfectly valid strategies, to a fey.)

In the end, the group decided on tracking down the “crown of a king that sits upon no head.” Tatty Bogle was aware of a particular human nation, along the Sword Coast, whose monarch had recently died. A prince was slated to receive the crown, but the coronation had not yet occurred. To the Wyld Hunters, this seemed like a great opportunity for a smash-and-grab.

“Then it is settled! Quick! To your steeds!”

The Wyld Hunters mounted three “Blink Wolves”–larger cousins of their terrestrial cousin, who could track prey across both space and dimension. Tatty Bogle quickly whispered the destination in each of the wolves’ ears.

When the Pumpkin King finally sounded his horn to begin the hunt, the blink wolves immediately began galloping. To their riders, though, they seemed to be running exactly in place, as if on a floor of rollers. However, within moments, the vibrant colors of the Feywild began distorting and fading around them; and the starker, more somber shapes of the Material Plane began taking shape. The wolves were running, not across the ground, but across the planes themselves.

Within moments, they were on the Sword Coast.

The First Mark: Coronation Crashers

As soon as their toes had touched the Material Plane, the blink wolves had dismounted their riders and vanished again; they were not to be used in the trial itself. The four Wyld hunters took stock of their surroundings, realizing they were a little more on-the-nose than expected.

They were standing on the marble tile of what appeared to be a large human cathedral. Hundreds of spectators lined the walls about them, in what the fey surmised were expensive clothes. Guards, too, were stationed in ranks and stations throughout.

The fey guessed that the affair was meant to seem ornate and heavily embellished…but compared to their own home of the Feywild, the cathedral seemed like a drab, sun-bleached hovel.

However, immediately seizing the fey’s attention were the figures at the far end of the cathedral’s hall. A young boy, perhaps only ten or eleven, knelt in front of the altar. Directly in front of him, an elderly bishop held an object in the air above the boy’s head, chanting rhythmically to whatever deity he worshiped.

That item, of course, was the crown itself.

“It’s a coronation!” hissed Prustine. What the pixie didn’t know, however, was it would be ten minutes before the outstretched crown touched the boy’s head–or ten seconds.

No one in the cathedral yet moved against the fey. The blink wolves had deposited them soundlessly on the tile, sixty feet from their objective and on the far side of a double row of guards. Surprised murmurs were beginning in the nearby onlookers, but it would be a few seconds before anyone moved.

Realizing that a Mage Hand would take several seconds too long to grab the king’s crown, Methuseus instead pulled a mote of red flame from the air itself. “Can’t crown a prince, if there’s no prince,” he muttered, throwing the mote directly at the kneeling boy.

The ball of energy caught the child directly between the shoulder blades. His chest exploded outwards, showering the priest with blood.

Moving almost simultaneously with the centaur, Fharrs the Tau’ri let loose with her hand crossbow. The bolt struck the crown directly, knocking it from the bishop’s grasp and into his chest. The elderly man went down with a startled cry, still unaware of what was happening.

“Quick! The crown! Grab the crown!” Methuseus yelled, and the pixie and satyr bounded towards it.

Thanks to the speed of the fey’s entrance, and their violence of action, the human guards were only now moving. Fharrs brought up her crossbow and fired two more bolts at the nearest guards. If they could seize their trophy and evade capture long enough, they could link back up with their blink wolves and make good their escape.

But Fharrs watched, in astonishment, as her bolts seemed to ripple through the air and vanish. Then, an all-too-familiar sensation seized her and the members of her party. The outlines of the rigid human buildings rippled like water, and the colors blended together like a painter’s palette.

They were being forcibly pulled from the coronation by some powerful magic. But it was not magic from the Feywild.

Conjure Fey: I Choose You!

When the scenery had again settled, the urban decor of the cathedral had been traded for a smoky, outdoor hobgoblin war camp. A bloody battle had been waged here; hobgoblin bodies lay littered next to their tents.

Three figures yet remained upright, standing on opposite sides of them: a hobgoblin chieftain and priest, just outside the largest of the tents; and a human knight.

Methuseus at first ignored their surroundings. “The crown! The crown! Did anyone grab it?”

Each of his friends held their palms up empty. None of then had gotten close enough to the trophy before they were yanked away.

The centaur cursed and spun towards the human. He had a very good idea what sort of magic had pulled them there, and what its intent might be.

The knight was dressed in full plate, bloodied by the hobgoblin troupe his sword had cleaved. In his right hand now, however, he held–not a sword–but a wand. Its peculiar form had been woven from straw and wrapped in vines.

“Attend to me, ye conjured fey!” yelled the knight in a pompous voice, raising the straw wand high. “Heed my words and obey!”

The fey exchanged glances uneasily, as did the hobgoblins behind them.

“As thy summoner, I command thee! Fell these godless hobgoblins, and ye shall be released from thy servitude!”

Conjure Fey,” Feb breathed, reaching the same realization as the sorcerer. “So…what do we do here? Perform what the human wants quickly and get out of here?”

“Sod that,” Methuseus declared, and set his teeth.

Ordinarily, any fey called by such powerful magic were slave to the whims of the caster, until such time that they were released, or the caster’s concentration broken. But Methuseus was no ordinary fey.

The four-legged sorcerer flexed his strength of personality against that of the human‘s. With a sudden popping sensation, Methuseus felt the grip of the magic flee his mind.

His will now his own, the centaur physically charged the human. His hooves collided with the knight’s breastplate with a loud clanging sound.

While it merely jarred the human inside, the sudden betrayal shook him visibly. Within each of their own minds, the three other fey felt their wills return to them.

“Summon us to do your dirty work for you?” Fharrs growled. “We’ll see about that.” She moved purposely towards the human, crossbow in hand.

“Hold on,” admonished the pixie, “don’t kill him just yet. Maybe we can learn something useful from him.”

The tiny rogue hailed the human knight. “Ho, friend! Let’s all just settled down a bit. We’re not here to hurt you.”

However, it was not until Feb the satyr began a calming melody on his pan flute that the human’s eyes lulled, and his grip on the straw wand relaxed. The fey creatures approached him cautiously, but the knight regarded them with a blank, moronic smile.

(Nearby, the hobgoblin war bosses held their ground warily. The sudden appearance of the fey had tipped the scales of war in the human’s favor, but there seemed to be an odd disharmony in the ranks.

One of the hobgoblins, a priest, chanted a few words. A large fire elemental rose from a nearby campfire. However, all three waited to the side, to see how the events played themselves out.)

“See, now? We’re all friends here. No need to get combative.” The human seemed in agreement.

“A Knight of the Rose?” the pixie commented, eyeing the knight’s shield. Prustine had brushed up a little on Material Plane history; and though the pixie couldn’t remember the specific name, they recalled a country ruled by a queen. Those in her service were known as the “Knights of the Rose.”

Unfortunately, that nation was a good 500 miles north of the crown and the coronation they’d just left.

“That’s a pretty different-looking wand you have there,” Feb noted, pointing at the knight’s right hand. “How’d you get it?”

“Oh this?” the knight inquired, holding up the bundle of straw. “I received it from a small, bearded man in a green suit. I perceived him to be some form of gnome, but he named himself a ‘leprechaun.’ Jovial fellow, that one. He declared that such a strapping knight as I was obviously worthy of a boon, and he gifted me this magic wand, to summon aid when I had need of it the most!”

“I…see…” Methuseus said. “And would this leprechaun have mentioned how to end the conjuring spell?”

“A simple matter, friend centaur! The wand only has one charge. To end the spell, simply break the wand!”

“Like…this?” Gently taking the straw from the human, he easily snapped the bundle of dry leaves with his hands.

And, just like that, they were back in the Autumn Court. The fey were even now gathering, to hear the Pumpkin King announce the results of the first round.

“Only the Spring Court champions returned with their prize–the tooth of a Remorhaz beast that yet lives! The Spring Court receives one point, and congratulations are in order.

Methuseus pounded his hooves into the dirt with fury. While only minutes had passed on the Material Plane, their full hour had transpired in the Feywild.

Adding insult to injury, Tatty Bogle was even now bumbling towards them, his spindly scarecrow arms out in question.

“Well, if it’s any consolation,” Fharrs commented, “that pretentious human is probably getting his limbs fed to him right now.”

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