Some years ago, in a small grove, well hidden within the Gloaming Hills…
Jharron was content. His studies went well and he felt a strong connection to the hidden grove within the Gloaming Hills.
The mists and fogs of the hills surrounded Jharron with a comforting feeling as he walked about the area, surveying the wild life and plant life. He recalled the conversation he had earlier with his mentors and fellow druids of the circle. They had remarked that his connection to the land was unusually strong for someone of his youth.
Jharron watched as a wolf pack brought down a deer they had cornered in a ravine. All was as it should be as the deer played its part in the scheme of life and death.
Suddenly Jharron felt a stabbing pain within his head, that was just as suddenly gone. But although the pain was gone, an uneasy nauseous feeling began to fill his stomach. But the feeling didn’t come from within. As Jharron turned, he could feel the source of the illness pulsing at him from the center of the hidden glen, near the standing stones of the circle.
Jharron glanced at the wolf pack and determined the pulsing feeling was not affecting them, and then cautiously slipped through the mist toward the standing stones. Jharron’s perusal of the wolf pack informed him that while they are aware of the disturbance, it did not affect them with pain and nausea like it did with him. The whole way he was aware of the natural way of things and concerned as he has never felt this way before and he had visited the hidden glen multiple times to relax and meditate.
As he made his way towards the hidden center of the glen, the pain and nausea began to slowly fade. Over the course of the morning he made his way back through the forest and the hills towards the standing stones. As he went, the naturally misty atmosphere of the area began to turn into low hanging clouds and a misty rain. By high noon, as he reached the outer edge of the glen, the mist had turned into a substantial rain.
As he approached the trees hiding the glen and the standing stones from casual view, he realized the pain had completely gone, but the nausea (which had never completely left) had gotten stronger.
Jharron stopped, stunned. He realized that the subtle enchantments that hid the glen and subtly caused non druids to go around without realizing it…were gone. The warmth and welcoming feeling he was used to in this area…gone.
Jharron stared ahead into the dimness of the grove.
“Druids more powerful than I placed those wards, so something is not right.” he thought. “The wolves did not seem concerned and yet I find the enchantments gone and am sickened. Maybe something has attacked the very nature of the grove and the attack is causing a sickness to emit through the grove that has somehow affected me.” Jharron peered around looking for the familiar goings on within the forest and listened for sounds to determine if his presence has been detected.
As he approached the area, Jharron realized something new about the wolves behavior that he had seen but not understood. The wolves were not affected physically by the disturbance, but they were not happy about it all. As if they were insulted by it.
Jharron peered around cautiously. The first thing he noticed was the smell of blood wafting out of the center of the grove. The second thing he noticed was three druid like figures moving around near the central altar. These three figures were of humans, dressed in ritualistic druid garb that he was not familiar with. Near the altar Jharron saw the only figure that seemed familiar to him, that of one of the elder druids, Carmachael. The figure was sprawled on the ground, and it was apparent to Jharron that the elder was dead.
Suddenly Jharron realized what the figures were. The elders had spoken on rare occasions of a blasphemous sect of “blood” druids. Druids that had forsaken the neutral and balanced ways of the old times, and taken to evil and perverted magics involving blood. Jharron’s sect still performed animal sacrifices and offerings to the nature spirits, but in a balanced naturalistic fashion.
THIS is what had caused his nausea and pain, the perverted blood magics of this cult!
Jharron surveyed the area and came to the conclusion that the main body of blood druids had already left, and all that remained was these pathetic underlings, tasked to catch any stragglers. It didn’t appear that they had noticed him yet.
Jharron thought “Wish I could get those wolves to help but I guess I am on my own” as he quietly readied an arrow. He checked the wind and measured the distance to perfect his aim while controlling his breathing as his father taught him many years ago. Finally, when the time was right, he released the arrow on its deadly path. “The blood druids are a menace and need to be dealt with. As nobody else is here I will have to do the best I can.”
After releasing the first arrow, Jharron seeked cover behind the stone and readied a second arrow. While doing so, he said “Wish I had the ability of my friend Vincent cause then I would definitely have the assistance of those wolves”.
The released arrow flew towards its intended target, and narrowly managed to hit the druid dead center of the chest, catching him totally by surprise. The druid paused for a moment in shock, and then crumbled to the ground dead.
Jharron moved up quickly behind cover, and made another arrow ready. From his new angle Jharron could see what may have been a swirling mass of vines that covered a log. Or a body.
Jharron scanned the area and decided to even things up a bit. He released an entangle spell to slow his enemies and potential enemy. He then raised the bow and took aim at the druid farthest away while keeping an eye on the vines. “I wonder what those vines may be hiding. I hope the elder has not passed but if he has, maybe he will get some satisfaction from my actions.”
The vines and grass within the area responded to the familiar call of Jharron’s druidic magic. The blood druid farthest away was held fast by the entrapping grass. The closer of Jharron’s opponents managed to avoid becoming entangled and stepped clear of the area.
After the blood druid stepped out of the entangle area, he used his dagger to slice the palm of his hand. Blood dripped from the cut, but instead of falling to the ground, the blood burst into flame, and the druid threw a ball of fire at Jharron. The flame arced directly towards Jharron and would have hit him if it had not been for the cover of the stone pillars and blocks.
The entangled druid maded a mighty effort and managed to burst out of the hold of the roots and grasses surrounding him, he then moved, veering around the stone arch and angling towards Jharron. A sharp whistle emanated from his mouth as he moved, and the pile of vines boiled in a frenzy off of what could now be seen as a body, and showed itself to be a swarm of snakes.
Jharron cursed under his breath but deftly raised his bow and fired at the nearest druid. He then moved to a better vantage point.
His second arrow did not fly as true as the first, missing the nearby druid completely. Unfazed, the evil druid continued his attack, stepping forward and flinging another ball of fire. The other druid maneuvered his way around the standing stones, shepherding the snake swarm along towards Jharron’s position.
Jharron and the druid were startled by the sudden appearance of a young wolf, that charged out of the underbrush and leaped at the throat of the nearby blood druid. The druid, although startled, reacted swiftly and pulled out of the way of the snapping jaws. Jharron, to his amazement, could tell that this young wolf was one of the pack that he had encountered earlier, when he first felt the disturbance from the grove.
Jharron used the appearance of the young wolf to his advantage as he released another arrow at the grimacing blood druid. The arrow drilled into the chest of his foe, and the druid dropped to the ground with a sigh. The flames surrounding the druid’s hand flickered out as he died. Jharron moved to the wolf’s side and said “Thank you. Your presence is very much appreciated. If you don’t mind the other druid is on the far side of the glen and needs to be removed. I will engage the snakes as best I can.” The wolf stared at Jharron for a moment and then looked across the glade towards the other foes.
The remaining blood druid moved strategically and swiftly around and under several of the standing stones, apparently unaware of the arrival of the young wolf. The swarm of snakes moved ominously closer to Jharron, writhing and slithering as they came, a low hissing and scraping of scales the only sound they made.
With uncanny precision the wolf moved swiftly into the glade, where he took the remaining druid by the throat and flung his dead carcass to the ground.
Jharron moved towards a tree with swiftness and fired an arrow aimed at one of the snakes within the swarm. Silently he thought “Its a good thing the wolf came and assisted. It would be nice to be able to have a trusted friend at my side.” After hitting the swarm with an arrow, Jharron begans going through all his teachings from the druids to determine what the swarm was and a potential way to dismantle the attack.
Moving again, Jharron fired his arrow before reaching the cover of the square of pillars. The arrow flew above the mass of snakes, missing them completely. Jharron thought hard about his new opponent. “That mass of snakes acts like one creature, and my piercing and slashing weapons will do less damage against it. Something that targets an entire area with damage would work better” he realized. As he thought, the swarm of snakes slithered and hissed its way towards him.
The young wolf moved away from his mauled enemy and began biting and snapping at the snakes near Jharron. The wolf’s efforts slowed and reduced the swarm, but the remaining kept heading towards Jharron.
Jharron thought back to his training and saw the snake swarm as agitated creatures within the environment. He called out “I am trying to calm these creatures so they may live. Do not attack them if they cease to be a threat”. Jharron then cast calm animals on the snake swarm in hopes it will dissipate and move on into the forest. Upon completion of the spell, Jharron moves to enter the glen.
The soothing sounds of Jharron’s chanting filled the glade. The snakes ceased their writhing and hissing, and slowly disappeared into the undergrowth. The young wolf ceased its attack upon the reptiles, almost as if it understood the nature of the druid’s spell.
Jharron proceeded to cautiously enter the druid’s sacred area. He could see splatters and stains of blood within the area, and a few more bodies. The body of the elder druid Carmachael lay near the altar, with his throat cut. Next to the elder druid lay his oaken staff.
Jharron then cast speak with animals and said “Thank you for your assistance friend, what is your name? Are you hurt in any way? I would be honored if you were to choose to travel with me as my friend. This was the elder druid of my order and I need to see if I can find any of the other initiates and your help would be very welcome. Do you know where the rest of the blood druids went?” Jharron placed the body of the elder druid in repose and provides a quick prayer to Danaan for his safe journey. Finally, Jharron picked up the elder’s staff (leaving his good oaken staff in the circle), looked for some berries and cast a goodberry spell; he then began the search for any remaining initiates that may be able to carry on the traditions of the order.
Immediately after the blood druid attack, Jharron managed to find six of the begining initiates in the local area. Together the seven of them managed to tend the sacred grove and restored the natural flow of life and magic in the area. After a time, Patronicus, one of the lower elders, was discovered hiding in the wild. He seemed slightly mad and wise at the same time. When he saw Jharron holding the elder’s staff, he immediately pronounced him leader of the circle.
Years passed and Jharron realized much knowledge of the order of the sacred glen had been lost with the elders, but much had also been saved. As more time went by, no information or clue as to the location or motive of the blood druids was ever found.
Until rumors of ogres wielding blood magic items surfaced…