It is decided that the opportunity that the grove offers for relaxation and personal growth is too good to pass up, so the party accept’s the dryads’ offer to stay for a while. Meals are provided by the dryads. The food is refreshing, but often quite light, prompting the group to seek wild game several times per week. While each meal is shared as a whole, each member of the group spends his/her time independently.
Rico spends some time trying to communicate with the kobolds, but the combination of the language barrier and their lack of cooperation prevent him from making much progress. Several days after the attack, the tree to which the kobolds were tied is found to be empty. Escape is assumed at first, but before a search party is assembled, Fren informs the group that the dryads had “taken care of” the kobolds. They say no more on the topic.
Jora spends some time talking with Glendra, who is all too happy to teach her more of the ways of the dryads, as well as a few tales, the likes of which few bards could ever hope to be privy to. Karl spends his time physically training and joining in on whatever he finds interesting. Lady Dahlia spends most of her time studying a large spell book, attempting minor spells and cantrips, on occasion.
Adakias spends his time in peaceful reflection, listening to the sounds of the animals, the trees, and the river. Aelric also spends some time enjoying nature. At one point, he makes a trek back to The Parade for supplies, taking orders from anyone that needs anything.
Glyra often spends her days off with the dryads or on her own. Like the dryads, she is rarely seen except during mealtimes. Raivik spends several weeks carving beautiful designs into his quarterstaff, which he then presents to the dryads as a sign of friendship. They are very appreciative, and Sera takes it off to wherever the dryads keep their few possessions. He also spends time studying the flora and fauna, inspecting plants and tree saps, and trying to creep up upon the animals. Fren offers him a few tips, though he only manages to successfully tag a sleeping badger (not Hubert).
Again, the dryads impart their knowledge upon those willing to learn it. Honey is a large part of the dryad diet, so they must collect a lot of it. Fren uses this as an opportunity to train Glyra, teaching her to extract honey without disturbing the bees that provide it. She suffers a few stings, but by the end she becomes quite deft at it.
There are two small mountains to the Southwest of the grove where Sera takes Adakias hiking. The terrain is extremely rocky and unforgiving. The going is extremely rough on Adakias, but Sera doesn’t let up on him. After the first hike, Adakias is so exhausted that he sleeps through the entire following day. As the weeks pass, though, his reflexes and stamina have increased, such that he is only somewhat sore at the end of a day’s hike.
Every morning, at dawn, Dinda takes Karl and Raivik off to a quiet to teach them to commune with nature. They spend hours in silence, either meditating or focusing on a flower or a tree. At first it is frustrating for all three of them, as little progress is made. After a few weeks, though, they can begin to faintly feel the essence of the forest, and to barely hear the true voice of nature.
After the first week, Glendra announces that she must oversee the meeting of two peoples that live beneath the forest. It will take her several days, but it should prove interesting, should any wish to attend. Aelric, Jora, Lady Dahlia, and Rico join her. After marching to the nearby mountains, Glendra leads the group down into a cave. Rough rock soon becomes smooth stone, and the caves take the shape of hallways and rooms. There are even chairs, tables, and other practicalities that seem to grow right out of the rock. No tooling marks can be seen, it is almost as if the rock naturally formed this way.
Glendra stops to inspect the markings next to a doorway. “This is it,” she says, nodding, and leading the group into a room with a long table, and a large that looks out over a large cavern. Faint light can be seen in the distance, and hot air blows in through the empty window. Everybody takes a seat in the stone chairs, and Glendra explains that these rooms are were all made by the Cha’taru, otherwise known as the Stone Callers. The Cha’taru are a peaceful race of magical beings that literally come from the caves in the region. They are made of stone, and can manipulate and even fuse themselves with it. They are peaceful and friendly, but rarely associate with other beings. They find limitless beauty and their greatest joy in the stone that makes up their home, and they want nothing more than to work it and to be with it. It meets all of their needs, so they have little reason to journey out.
The Cha’taru have come to be neighbors with a small clan of Fire Spirits. Like the Cha’taru, the Fire Spirits desire a peaceful and reclusive existence. Long ago, the Fire Spirits dwelled above, in the forest. They do not know how they came to be in the world, and while they were happy in the forest, it was clear that they did not belong there. While not composed of fire, as the Cha’taru are made of stone, the Fire Spirits can create and manipulate it, and they must do so to survive. At first, they tried to control their fires, but at times it would get loose and cause great damage to the forest. In time, this drew the attention of the dryads, and while the spirits were willing to cooperate, having no wish to cause such destruction, they were uncertain as to what to do to reconcile their way of life with the forest that they had become reliant upon and a detriment to.
Glendra, having known the Cha’taru for many years, sought their help. They generously agreed to cede some of their land to the Fire Spirits. Not only would this provide them with a place to live, but it had the added bonus of containing several natural lava flows, which could sustain the Fire Spirits indefinitely.
So the two people had lived as peaceful neighbors for over a century. Now, however, a conflict has arisen. The Cha’taru had become enamored with a vein of granite that ran near the surface. They shaped it, as is their way, creating a long tunnel of elaborately detailed statues. In doing so, they had to redirect an underground river, unintentionally connecting it with another, which has begun to spill into the Fire Spirits main living area. Fire Spirits, as one might imagine, cannot stand water, and the steam caused by the water hitting the lava proved nearly fatal to them. They’ve been forced to flee their home, and while the Cha’taru have attempted to alleviate the situation, they have been unable to find a solution that does not involve flooding their beloved tunnel. While they are sympathetic to the Fire Spirits’ causes, they feel that they have given enough to them, and are unwilling to compromise what they feel to be one of their greatest works.
So the Fire Spirits have had to return to the surface, where the trees of the forest provide them with the fuel for their vital fires. Glendra, aware of the situation, has come to talk with both peoples to come to a solution acceptable to both parties. Just as Glendra finishes explaining all of this, the first of the Cha’taru have begun to arrive. Most appear as very squat, round figures with very stubby limbs and large, almost exaggerated, facial features. A few take other forms, a few appear to be animals made of stone, others in forms that match nothing in nature, but all of roughly the same size, none more than a meter tall. Some walk through the door, others seem to rise from the stone. A Cha’taru in the form of a small hunting cat leaps down from above to rest lazily on the table. They are all very friendly and provide fruit juice to the humanoids to drink. They also set down several large platters of tinder, no doubt as an amenity to the Fire Spirits. They all seem to speak Common, exchanging pleasantries with the party, but they speak with Glendra in a completely foreign tongue.
After a few moments, the Fire Spirits arrive. They appear as tall, lanky humanoids, colored red, orange, and yellow, though occasionally their visage wavers, as the air can do in the presence of extreme heat. They each politely accept a piece of wood from the platters, the ends of which immediately start to burn.
The meeting starts with the first of what will prove to be many rituals. The Cha’taru hum a tune, in unison, while crafting stone figurines in the likenesses of each guest there, as a gift of friendship and welcome. This process takes roughly an hour, and it sets the pace, which is to say very deliberate, of the meetings. Though the meeting lasts for 4 hours, very little is accomplished. Half of the time is consumed by the rituals of the Cha’taru. The remaining time is spent in discussions that mostly relay the history of the two peoples’ relationship. After the meeting adjurns, Glendra explains that most of the meetings will go similarly. She also warns that while the Cha’taru ceremonies take up a lot of time, they will seem brief compared to the “discussions” that will take place between amongst the Fire Spirits.
The next day’s meeting drags on even longer, with two 5 hour sessions broken up with a meal in between. Glendra’s warning comes true in the second session. Actual productive discussion has started to take place, and the Fire Spirits, who have spoken only in Common until now, have requested a chance to commune amongst themselves. This proves to be just as fascinating a display as the Cha’taru ceremonies, as the six Fire Spirits in attendence sit in a circle on the floor, their hands raised to one another, and begin chanting in their native tongue. This goes on for almost an hour, their eyes closed the entire time, and flames well up between and round them as they sing and sway back and forth. Finally, their eyes open and the flames go out, all in an instant, and they stand up to rejoin the discussion.
The Cha’taru’s rituals and the Fire Spirit’s conflagrated congresses continue for eight days. Finally, with Glendra’s help to move things along, a solution is reached. The Fire Spirits will move to a different chamber underground. While it is larger, the lava flows are much smaller, and are not enough to sustain them alone. To supplement this, the Cha’taru will provide them with fresh lumber on a daily basis. This solution seems to please both peoples greatly, as the Cha’taru are eager to perform their art in the cavern, which now boasts a waterfall, that they haven’t touched in more than a century. The Fire Spirits, having grown tired on subsisting on lava alone, are excited at the prospect of having fresh wood to burn.
While the party didn’t actually do anything during the meetings, both the Stone Callers and the Fire Spirits express their gratitude for your interest in their cultures. Each performs a ritual that will both bolster you, and will serve as a mark of friendship. The Cha’taru lie you down on the floor, and call forth the stone to envelope you for several minutes. The Fire Spirits, in turn, offer to talk to you in their own language, which involves the group standing in the center of one of their “discussions”. Both experiences, while somewhat frightening, prove to be quite fulfilling. On the hike back to the grove, each member of the party reflects on how they will never really look at stone and fire the same way, again.