(You can find Part 1 here)
The party retreated down the road until they were just barely within visual range of the grove. There, they paused to rest, shake off the effects of the wraiths' fear attack, and plan their next move. Their biggest concern were the bows carried by two of the men in the grove. If they again fell prey to the wraiths, the party felt that they would be easy targets for the men. Ulhurr, the owlman, volunteered to fly back to the village and recruit villagers armed with bows to assist in the attack. Everyone else agreed to this plan and Ulhurr flew off toward the village.
After Ulhurr left, the remaining party members rested while still keeping an eye on the grove. It wasn't long before they noticed six people at the grove's edge. Five were the same men as before, along with another individual wielding a long staff. Asrok wanted to get a better look. Using his assassin skills, he melted into the underbrush and silently moved into blowgun range of the men. (Note: Asrok used his Talent, Shadow Walking, in order to move unobserved.) He had previously coated some of his darts with paralysis poison in order to have a nonlethal attack option in case some of the men were mind controlled villagers. Since he had them, he decided to put the darts to good use. In very short order, he had taken down three of the men, including the two bowmen.
The men in the grove knew they were under attack, but were not able to spot Asrok. In retaliation, the staff wielding man directed a group of wraiths towards Asrok's general area. The wraiths started flying in a gradually shrinking spiral around Asrok. It was only a matter of time before they found him. In desperation, Asrok made a mad dash between the wraiths. Somehow, he made it.
Upon seeing all this activity, Phoibe, Tafkap, and Naseer prepared for battle. However, the three remaining men chose to rapidly retreat back into the grove and the wraiths followed. Asrok rejoined the others. They decided to press forward with an attack on the grove and not wait for Ulhurr and the villagers to arrive. Phoibe, the priestess, told the others that if they trusted to the power of Athena, she could protect them from the fear caused by the wraiths. (Note: Phoibe planned to use her Talent, Righteous Words, to inspire the party and help everyone resist the wraiths' fear attack.) They entered the grove, Phoibe loudly chanting a prayer to Athena.
Meanwhile, Ulhurr had caught up with the group of villagers who were transporting the injured attackers (formerly missing villagers themselves) back to the village. He explained the party's desire for more bowmen to assist in attacking the grove. The villagers agreed, and when they arrived at the village, four bowmen were added to their group. They all set back out for the grove. After a short distance Ulhurr told the villagers that he would fly on ahead and rejoin the party. If he deemed the situation too dangerous, he would fly back and warn the villagers.
By this time, the rest of the party had encountered the wraiths again and discovered that, indeed, Phoibe's words helped them resist the wraiths' attacks. Powerless, the wraiths retreated. They continued toward the center of the grove unopposed. At the center, they found a gigantic blackwood tree of enormous girth. The tree had grown into the side of a small building, causing it to collapse. Asrok, Tafkap,and Naseer chose to examine the ruins, while Asrok circled the tree. It was determined that the building was probably a small shrine used during rites connected with the planting or harvesting of the blackwood trees. Asrok discovered a crevice in the tree large enough to admit entry into the apparently hollow interior.
During this time, Ulhurr had arrived back at the location where he had left his companions. They were nowhere to be seen. He did find the three men Asrok had poisoned. Surmising that the rest of the party had reentered the grove, Ulhurr took to the air hoping to see or hear something through the grove's dense canopy. Instead, he encountered the bats once again. They were still guarding the tree. Five individuals, larger than their brethren, broke away from the cloud of bats and headed in Ulhurr's direction. Ulhurr landed on a nearby treetop, unlimbered his bow, and in an amazing display of skill, quickly dropped three of the bats. (Note: Ulhurr used his Talent, Advanced Missile Training, to attack the bats.) The bats crashed through the canopy, landing near the rest of the party. Seeing the skewered bats, they realized that Ulhurr was in the canopy above them. Phoibe shouted to Ulhurr, asking him to join them. Ulhurr dropped through a thin spot in the canopy, leaving the bats behind.
Reunited, the party entered the crevice at the base of the tree. Inside, they found a common sleeping area large enough for 8-10 people. They poked unenthusiastically at the filthy bedding before discovering a small tunnel leading down and to the right. After lighting a small lantern, Asrok crawled in first, followed by Tafkap. It was a tight fit for the burly Lemurian. The rest of the party followed, though Ulhurr did so with the greatest of reluctance. (Note: Ulhurr has the Disadvantage, Claustrophobia. His player could have activated it for some temporary Hero points, but chose not to. He still roleplayed it though.) When Asrok reached the end of the tunnel, he could see that it led to a small underground chamber that was obviously part of the ruins above. As he exited the tunnel, Asrok was attacked by two of the men from the grove, They had positioned themselves on either side of the tunnel exit. Asrok rolled across the chamber and drew his sword. Tafkap gathered his legs beneath himself and sprang from the tunnel mouth. The two of them quickly dispatched both of the men. The rest of the party entered the chamber. It was furnished with a few crude pieces of furniture and was slightly less filthy than the sleeping chamber above.
At the far end of the chamber, a tunnel large enough to walk through single file sloped downward into the earth. Faint light emanated from the tunnel mouth. The party entered cautiously. At the other end was a room hollowed out between the great tree's roots and lit by a few fitfully burning torches. Cells had been dug into the walls of the room. Behind wooden bars were the blacksmith and his family. The party released the captives and tended to their injuries. When asked about the man with the staff, the family told the party that he had been there, but had left through the large tunnel at the other end of the room. No one in the family knew where that tunnel led, but when they had first been captured, they had witnessed another prisoner being dragged into it. They then heard some faint screams. The other prisoner never returned. A debate about what to do with the family then occurred. The family wanted to return to the village immediately. Much of the party wanted to continue down into the tunnel. A compromise was reached. The blacksmith and his family would wait in the hollow tree for either the party to return or for their fellow villagers to arrive. The party would follow the man with the staff.
This tunnel was larger than the others. It was almost ten feet in diameter, with walls of tightly packed earth. At the far end, they found what appeared to be a large, natural hollow in the earth. It, too, was lit by a few fitfully burning torches. The hollow was approximately 20 feet high, 40 feet wide, and 60 feet long. At the far end, a large hole could be seen plunging straight down into the ground. Between the hole and the party stood the man with the staff.
In a querulous voice, the man demanded to know "Are you here to serve Meiroth?" When he received no reply, he began to pray and threatened the party with "Meiroth's wrath". Tafkap strode up to the man and, almost casually, struck him down. Gravely injured, the man continued to pray to Meiroth and to berate the party. Asrok and Phoibe conferred. Neither of them had heard of a god, demon, or spirit named Meiroth.
Phoibe stayed behind to treat and guard the wounded man while the rest of the party continued towards the hole at the far end of the hollow. Blood smears could be seen around the hole and a strange rumbling could be heard coming from its depths. Suddenly the rumbling became louder and the injured man began cackling with glee. "I think we are about to meet Meiroth" shouted Tafkap as a gigantic worm-like creature erupted from the hole. Purple, with a yellow underbelly, the creature possessed an impressive mouthful of teeth, vestigial eyes and two small stalk-like tentacles on its face. Ulhurr took to the air as Tafkap and Asrok moved in to attack. Naseer moved to one side and cast a spell. Fire sprayed from his hands and scorched the beast. The worm writhed in pain, which caused Asrok to miss with his attack. Ulhurr also missed while trying to target one of the stalks. Tafkap struck a mighty blow to the creature's side. He was surprised at the toughness of the worm's slimy, segmented body. It tried to crush Tafkap under its bulk, but he nimbly dodged out of the way. It then tried to grab Ulhurr out of the air with its mouth, but missed. In retaliation, Ulhurr chopped into the worm's densely boned skull with his axe. Naseer again bathed the creature in flame, while both Tafkap and Asrok sliced into it with their swords.
Tired from his spell casting, Naseer fell back to where Phoibe and the prisoner were. Phoibe had bound and gagged the prisoner, in case his prayers were having an effect. Freed from guard duty, Phoibe charged into fray with her spear, stabbing deeply into the worm's underbelly. Tafkap, Ulhurr and Asrok had also scored additional hits on the creature. The worm thrashed to the side, smashed into Asrok, and knocked him down. Phoibe and Tafkap both stabbed the creature one more time before it fell back into the hole.
Asrok noticed that he was experiencing an unpleasant tingling sensation on the slime covered portions of his body. Naseer then attracted everyone's attention when he said "I don't think that worm was Meiroth. I think that's Meiroth." and pointed at the ghostly glowing apparition floating above him.