Having consulted ancient oracles and having been refreshed the heroes return to known worlds.
Okay, a bit more detail.
Constrained by Pieter’s Knights of Unyielding Valor the kraken mauls Aeran and Alruna a bit more. Aeran escapes it’s grasp, but Alruna is caught and flung into her allies a few times. Finally the kraken, badly wounded, retreats from it’s hunt and withdraws into the depths of the black lake.
The group wades out to the gate they believe holds the portal. The water is foul, and chest-high near the gate. Sioned tells everyone to try to think thoughts of death and despair, the key to open the portal, and helps folks along with some ancient tales of woe and horror. The portal opens. A vast current pulls everything within ten or fifteen feet of the gate through it as water rushes through the portal. After only a second or so the portal snaps shut behind a dazed and disoriented party and the mass of choking fish and lake-creatures that were pulled through the gate along with the lake’s waters.
It is soon apparent to experienced planar travelers that the world they have come to is neither the Shadowfell nor the Outlands. A blue sky, with wispy clouds, above and a pleasant, but hot, temperature color impressions of “courtyard as garden” with citrus trees and pleasant-smelling herbs. Before anyone assesses more than that a well-dressed servant standing near a door addresses them.
Paulo inquires first if they are friends of the Duke Stormcrow Abruzzi, then if they are his enemies, then lastly if he may offer them the Duke’s hospitality. It becomes clear that the Duke pays some attention to what comes out of his gate and that accepting his hospitality, at least until they meet him themselves, is not an optional thing. Sioned accepts his offer of hospitality and the group is shown to rooms where they may prepare themselves before meeting the Duke. Baths are taken, gear is cleaned, and in a bit under an hour Paulo returns to tell them that the Duke has cleared his schedule and would be happy to see them at their earliest convenience. Everyone interprets that correctly and immediately follow Paulo to a library.
The Duke (“The Duke, the Duke will die before these eyes and he’ll know, he’ll know, that it is I, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, who encompasses his doom!”, sorry, love that quote) is a tall, and somewhat guant, man. He has grey hair and the signs of age, but appears to still remain vital and full of energy. He is a tiefling. When the party enters the library a number of courtiers will depart to let Duke Stormcrow speak with his “guests”.
The conversation goes well, for Sioned and her companions mean no ill to the duchy and are candid and truthful. The Duke does get Sioned to examine a long fore-arm bone that proves to be the “gift” Ogg gave her that was wrapped in silk. The bone is powerfully magical, it’s easily detected by anyone with good arcane senses at the range of an entire city, however the silk seems to be shielding it’s power and keeping it secret. What little can be told of the bone is that it is very old, it’s powerful magic seems to be trying to reconnect it to the other pieces of whatever it once was, and that it’s not a piece of anything anyone has ever heard of.
Further questioning reveals that the Duke visited the Oracles long ago. At their request he moved the gate from the Shadowfell to his lands and waited, they told him that in the future travellers would come forth from it, and that he must guide them to the Grove of the Eldest. For twenty years nothing had come through the gate, then Sioned et al arrived. Stormcrow connects the bone to his prophecy and believes that Sioned is surely being used as an agent by the oracles, and that she should probably be aided as best he can since he thinks well of them.
At the Duke’s invitation the party spends the night, taking rest in the castle. His hospitality is impeccable, the company educated, the city nearby (Calembel) easily accessible and welcoming, his wine and brandy cellar is possibly the best Rook has encountered, and when morning comes everyone is refreshed.
Riding out from Calembel on phantom steeds, and aided by a traveler’s chant, the party makes excellent time as they race north along the coast. Asking at villages they guide themselves towards the Grove of the Eldest, which the villagers are happy to direct them to though they won’t speak of what goes on there. Cresting a ridge running down from the mountain Ioa they see a forested valley that matches the description of the grove, in a clearing near a stream they can see smoke rising up though the distance is too far to see more.
Working their way through the forest the party breaks into the clearing near the stream. There they see an older woman tending some fish she’s roasting over a low fire. She seems well enough, and readies herself to flee until assured the group means her no harm. She then offers to split the fish with them for lunch if they will share their food with her, everyone agrees and people sit down to a simple meal. Elegeia is not terribly forthcoming as a conversationalist, but it’s apparent she’s a very good listener as she gets much more information out of the party than they give her. In particular she won’t tell them who “The Eldest” is, though after lunch is finished she tells everyone that she will introduce them to “The Eldest” if that’s their desire.
Following Elegeia into the forest the group travels for a bit. Elegeia is quiet by nature and doesn’t speak much on the trip. Pieter looks around the forest for anything out of place but it seems natural enough to him. Suddenly Elegeia stops and turns and asks the party what they see. Looking around more closely the group slowly realizes that the tree behind her is a branch of Yggdrasil, the World’s Tree. Commending them on their observation, and having finished her introduction of the group to the tree, Elegeia departs as quietly as she led them to “The Eldest.”
It takes some time before the group manages to climb up into the branches of the tree, having determined nothing unusual was to be found at ground level. Swinging around the bole of the tree (maybe 10’ in diameter) Aeran finds a hole leading into Yggdrasil, arcane energy seems to indicate that the tunnel inside the hole is a planar passageway. Some people slam against branches as they swing over to the hole, but no one falls the forty or so feet to the ground below. The tunnel itself proves a tougher job, it’s been chewed out of the tree by something (or things) and is winding and steep, and not very big, it’s seriously claustrophobic. It’s also slick enough that Alruna fails to hold her grip and falls down the tunnel into Rook, who falls into Pieter, the three are only back-stopped at the last moment as Sioned braces herself and stops the disaster about to unfold. With more caution the group finishes the climb.
They emerge onto a large branch of Yggdrasil, perhaps 20’ wide at it’s narrows. Below they can see a fork and they head towards it, seeking the trunk.
Before they get to the fork they are assaulted by a pair of neogi slavers, each caring for a swarm of neogi spawn that are pursuing (and consuming) a writhing mass of rot grubs. The neogi slavers spread out to sides, climbing along the sides of the great branch with their spider-legs gripping the tree easily. The rot-grubs, pursued by the neogi spawn, slam into the party’s front-line. Rook petrifies a mass of the swarms, and Sioned uses a Wail of Anguish to punish them as well. However the group is held back by the slavers, for each neogi repeatedly blasts and fries their minds with psychic attacks, shackling their minds with commands they must resist. (and dazing them) The fight is nasty, and closely fought, for a very long time. But once the swarms start to fall it’s but second before the entire enemy forces are in collapse. One of the slavers escapes by climbing to the underside of the branch and moving away, there are no other survivors.
The group takes a short rest and proceeds along the branch of Yggdrasil.