Good evening/morning! I present to you the next installment of the weird and wonderful and slightly wanton Passage of the Planeswalkers. Also, stay turned for next week's episode - it's going to be a little different. You'll meet some new characters in a completely new futuristic setting. It has lasers and guns and giant, angry bee-aliens! *Pew-pew! Pew!* *Other assorted laser noises*
There was an unusual crunching underfoot as the travelers stepped through the crystal gates of Lisseth. They found themselves squinting against a sudden glare. One could equate it to a sudden snow blindness; the harsh light seemed to refract off everything. Once their eyes had adjusted, the planeswalkers saw that it was not snow that reflected the light, but every blade of grass on the ground. Each leaf was a tiny shard of glittering green glass. The trees were the same - tall, glittering structures of brown and green and rusted red glass. A slight breeze filtered through the leaves, bringing with it the sinister chiming of millions of razor leaves.Through the trees, they could see a stone dais. The group headed towards it, threading their way gingerly through the glittering trees. In the lead, was Targar Ironsoul, the stocky, warhammer-wielding dwarf. Behind him was a newcomer by the name of Leander Farstrider. He was an elf with scrubby, auburn hair and blazing green eyes. Slung across his broad shoulders was a longbow. The half-elf Lereahl was for once, not bringing up the rear because Wolfenight winced along behind him. The wizard was not one to wear shoes and the glass-like grass was indeed very sharp.As the adventurers approached the stone dais, there was a hiss and a tall, intimidating looking man in sweeping green robes appeared amidst a puff of purple smoke. He looked down his crooked nose at them. His eyes were as sharp as the glass leaves around them.“What are you doing here?” he asked in a commanding voice. The travelers stopped as if pinned by the man’s gaze. His voice seemed to resonate with untold power. He was obviously a great wizard.“We are Planeswalkers – travelers, come to seek adventure and treasures,” said Targar, stepping forwards. He stared back into the wizard’s burning gaze. It was not like a dwarf to be looked down on so. The wizard rocked back on his heels and crossed his arms with an unimpressed noise.“Well, if you’re here, then I may a well ask you to help me. I am searching for herbs of unusual power, said to grow around these parts. Bring several samples back to me and I may consider rewarding you,” he said.Targar opened his mouth to retort, but the wizard waved a lazy hand at the group. They felt themselves be spun around and rapidly marched away by some strange magic. Targar grunted furiously as he fought against his limbs. Once they had been walked a sufficient distance, they felt the magic begin to lessen and were able to take control again. Targar seemed all for storming back to the wizard and introducing him to the business end of a warhammer, but Wolfenight was able to convince him that they’d best just do what the wizard had asked of them. He achieved this by looking worriedly back at the way they’d come, and then sprinting further into the forest in the opposite direction.After an hour or so of winding their way through the glass forest, they came upon a huge wall constructed of the same glassy wood. Wolfenight, who now wore a brick on one foot, and a sack on the other, began to suggest ways that they could get over the wall.“I could levitate myself up,” he said, gazing at the spiked top.“But then how are you going to get over the wall? Your levitation spell only lets you go up and down,” said Targar, smoothing his beard.“You know, we could always walk around and find a gate?” said Lereahl. The others ignored him.“I could throw another brick at you?” suggested Farstrider.“That would be wonderful!” said Wolfenight.“Guys? Gate?”“Okay, get that brick ready. Here I go!” Wolfenight cleared his throat and muttered the magical words of the levitation spell, sending himself shooting straight up to the top of the wall. Lereahl sighed, turned on his heel and began walking away.“Okay! Now the brick!” called Wolfenight. Farstrider hefted the brick and lobbed it at the Wizard. There was a sharp ‘Ow!’ and Wolfenight was sent spinning over the top of the fence. There, he was able to let himself down and landed rather clumsily on the ground.“It worked!” came the wizard’s voice from behind the fence.“Yeah, okay, but now how are we going to get over?” asked Farstrider, indicating himself and Targar.“Uh…” came Wolfenight’s reply.“You do realize there’s a gate over here?” bellowed Lereahl.An incredibly tall man had come to greet them just inside the town’s glass gates. He was a cleric and wore robes of white patterned with light grey swirls and stripes. Lereahl, somehow, was the only one not to realize that the man was actually a huge bear. A sheen of magic only made him appear human.“Greetings travelers! Have you come to pay your respects to the Great Bear God?” The cleric gave them a wicked, fanged grin. Farstrider, Targar and Wolfenight all took a small step back in alarm and began nodding furiously. Lereahl looked at them, rather confused.“Good, good! Now, tell me, how much do you know about our wonderful lord and host?” the cleric asked.“Uh, not much,” squeaked Farstrider.“Excuse me a moment,” said Wolfenight in a small voice. He dashed off. Lereahl watched him dart around the corner and into a small shoe shop they had passed on their way in.“Well, for one, he is all around us,” said the bear-cleric, throwing his hands out wide.“Yeah?” asked Targar, who was slowly getting over his shock.“Indeed, young believer. He is our world, our life source, our very heart. He provides all. The glass tree is the fur upon his back, the earth - his holy flesh, the cold wind – his life-giving breath.”“Wait. Basically you believe that you live upon the back of a giant bear?”“A polar-bear to be exact,” said the cleric, nodding sagely.“Okay, I’m back,” puffed Wolfenight. Lereahl looked down. The wizard had traded the brick and the sack for a pair of fluffy slippers with fake claws on the toes.“Loving the bear-feet,” the half-elf sniggered.“What are you talking about? My feet are no longer bare. That was the point of these,” said Wolfenight, waving a slippered foot at Lereahl.The villager’s name was Shawn. He was all knees and elbows and shook like a leaf, but was happy enough to take the group wherever they wanted to go at the sight of the small bag of gold that Targar offered him. He led the travelers to the south, to where there had been reports of strange and violent beasts. The creatures here were like this because of one of the dangerous plants that grew in the forest, or so they’d been told by the bear-cleric. The Planeswalkers could only assume that these were the herbs that the great wizard had sent them to find.The path was narrow and meandered vaguely through the forest. It widened at one point and Farstrider paused. He’d heard something rustling in the undergrowth. Past the first line of trees, lay the mouth of a dark cave. The rest of the group turned to see a puppy the size of a goat scramble out of the glass leaves and sit, panting, on the dirt. It looked at them curiously and cocked its head. Farstrider smirked at the pup and aimed an arrow at it. Lereahl darted forwards, putting a restraining hand on the elf’s shoulder.“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” he said.Farstrider glared at Lereahl.“And why might that be?” he snapped.“Well. It’s quite obvious that this creature is only a youngster. My knowledge is that puppies are generally closely guarded by a mother. And judging by the size of this pup, its mother would be… well, I’ll let you figure it out,” replied Lereahl.Farstrider looked again at the huge puppy and thought for a minute. He lowered his bow. The party moved on.
Targar giggled. Lereahl looked worriedly at him.“Are you sure it’s safe for him to keep holding that?” he asked Wolfenight.“Sure!” the Wizard waved a dismissive hand. Lereahl looked back at the grinning dwarf, still not convinced. They had come across one of the odd plants that the bear-cleric had warned them about, and that the great wizard had sent them to pick. There had been a small grove where two specimens grew, glowing white and blue amongst the glittering green ferns and jagged glass vines. When approached, they had given one a lightheaded, giddy, almost blissful feeling. Targar had volunteered to carry the samples. Lereahl had never seen the dwarf smile so much.“There’s a couple’s picnic area up ahead!” called Shawn, beckoning them. “I think some of those plants might grow there too. It makes sense; couples go there because the place has a special, blissful feeling about it,” he added. He ran on ahead, bumping into glass trees occasionally and causing a racket. The planeswalkers trudged up the hill to meet him. They found him standing stock still on the edge of a clearing. Sure, it might have been beautiful once, with pretty glass flowers and shady trees, but lying in the middle of the glade, in a pool of dark red blood, was a dismembered hand. Shawn gave a strangled shriek and took off running back towards the village.“Well. There goes my gold,” grumbled Targar. The blood trail led to the north. They decided to follow it. Wolfenight picked up the severed hand curiously.“Hm… Human, female, young…” he mumbled, examining the slender fingers. He pocketed it and then ran to catch up with the others.Farstrider smacked his head on a low hanging branch. He muttered a few elven curse words as he pulled a splinter of glass from his forehead. The sound of his voice was enough to alert the person in the clearing ahead.“I hear you, cursed poachers. Come out so I may tear your veins from your flesh and feed the trees with your blood,” boomed a deep voice.The adventurers shrank back in alarm, but the branches of the trees around them curled and whipped, pushing them onwards. They tried to fight the razor glass, but would have shredded themselves upon it, and so resigned themselves to being herded into the clearing. The four looked upon the owner of the deep voice and their mouths fell open in awe. They had expected a man, but towering above them was a huge, snow white bear. Its eyes glinted like obsidian and its hot breath clouded in the cold air.“Now, poachers, The Lord of the Forest will make you pay for what you have done,” snarled the bear, raising an enormous paw.“But we are not poachers!” cried Lereahl, cowering against the edge of the clearing.“Lies! I know your kind. Setting wicked traps. Stealing my children. Just look at what you have done to this one!” roared the great white bear. Out from behind his tree trunk-like legs stepped a slender wolf-man. It was cringing in pain, holding the stump of an arm to its chest. The four companions looked at it in surprise.“We did not do that,” said Lereahl.“LIES!”“No, really, we didn’t!” squeaked Wolfenight. He ran forwards, pulling the severed hand from his bag and holding it out. The wolf whimpered. The Lord of the Forest stared coldly down at Wolfenight.“Mr, uh, Lord of the Forest, sir, would we really bring this back to a creature we’d tried to kill if we were poachers?” asked Wolfenight.The great bear considered the trembling wizard.“No, I suppose not,” he growled.Wolfenight bowed, placed the hand on the ground and backed away, still bent over. The Lord of the Forest looked towards the injured werewolf and nodded to it. The werewolf shuffled forwards. The great bear closed its eyes and breathed out slowly. There was a sudden flash of blinding white light. When it dissipated, the werewolf stood in the middle of the clearing, tall, proud and whole once more.“If your lordship does not object, we would like to help find these poachers for you,” Wolfenight said, bowing again. The great bear considered the offer for a moment and then dipped its head. The wizard turned to the werewolf.“Do you know which way they went?” he asked.The werewolf nodded and pointed a claw to the west.“Thank you.”“Be gone now,” boomed the Lord of the Forest, “before I change my mind about whether your veins should remain inside your body…”Targar, Lereahl and Farstrider hurried into the forest. Wolfenight lagged behind.“Maybe I’ll see you again sometime?” he said to the werewolf with a clumsy wink.She just stared and cocked her head in confusion.On their way through the forest, they came across a dozen or so traps that had obviously been set by the poachers. Lereahl made sure he dismantled them all in a way that they could not be repaired. Read: made them safe to touch and then got Targar to beat them into unrecognizable shapes with his hammer. Soon they could hear the rushing, gurgling sounds of a river and over that, the distant roar of a waterfall.The river was wide and deep. It didn’t appear to be very fast flowing, but the waterfall was quite intimidating. The river poured off a sheer red cliff face and fell down into a huge gorge. Very little avoided turning to mist before reaching the floor of the canyon.On the bank of the river, the companions found more strange herbs. These plants were very different to the ones they’d picked earlier. They were tinted purple all around the leaves and spines and seemed to glow black, even under the shadowy ledge where the travelers found them growing. Farstrider reached under the large granite boulder to pick them. When his hands closed around their tough stems, a queer feeling came over him. His hands felt numb and his head a little light. He stood up and looked around at his friends. He suddenly began to think about how much he would like to fit an arrow to his bow and shoot Targar right in the forehead. Or perhaps grab Lereahl from behind and slit his skinny neck with his own dagger. Or maybe… Farstrider shivered. Lereahl looked at him, puzzled.“You okay?” he asked.“Uh… I’m hearing voices. They’re telling me to kill everyone,” said Farstrider in a monotone voice. His eyes were unfocussed.“Oh dear. You’d better put those plants down.”“Maybe…” replied Farstrider softly. He was looking at Wolfenight now, the beginnings of a scowl on his face.“Farstrider? Did you hear me?” asked Lereahl, moving towards him.Farstrider didn’t reply. He was reaching slowly for his bow.“Leander!” shouted Lereahl.The elf started, dropping the plants.“Uh, yeah, what?” he said, looking around blearily.“You okay now?” asked Lereahl.“Yeah. I think so. That was weird…”“Hm…” Wolfenight had bent down to examine the plants.“Don’t you touch them now,” warned Lereahl.“Wasn’t going to,” he said. He mused for a second more and then straightened up. “Mage hands!” he called, snapping his fingers. Some unseen force scooped up the bunch of herbs and held them in front of Wolfenight in a parody of a bouquet.“Now we can carry them safely,” he said.Farstrider shook his head again, frowning at the ground. The herbs’ power was strong.“Okay. I think that’s all the flower picking we’re going to be doing for this wizard,” he said gruffly. “Shall we return them to him and then get the hell out of this place?”There were nods and murmurs from Targar and Wolfenight, but Lereahl had other ideas. As most rogues do when they’re standing idle, he had been looking for things to steal.“What’s that over there? In the water I mean,” he said, pointing. The other shaded their eyes, looking out into the deep, clear river. There was indeed something just below the surface.“I’ll get it!” said Wolfenight. He was definitely having fun with his levitating skills today. The object rose out of the lake slowly. It was a huge old chest, dripping with water and rust. Wolfenight hopped into the air with a flying spell, whizzed out over the lake and then pushed the chest to shore. He hovered overhead, literally, as the others tried to figure out how to open it. Targar was the first to reach for the complicated looking lock at the front. He got a rusted spring-blade to the hand for his troubles. He stepped back, sucking the cut, and let the master lock-picker come forwards. Lereahl knelt in front of the chest, and after only a few prods of his skillful fingers and a stern look, the old box sprang open. They all grinned at the pile of gold inside.“Save some for me. Flying spell is wearing out. I’ll go and give these herbs to the wizard. We really shouldn’t keep him waiting. Who knows what he might do if he gets impatient…” Wolfenight paled at the thought and sped off, his dressing gown flapping in his wake.Wolfenight arrived at the dais just as the spell petered out. He landed on his rump in the sharp grass with a yelp.“Your herbs,” he said, holding them out to the bored looking man on the stone platform. The wizard harrumphed.“Well, if this was all you could collect, then I suppose I shall give you six-hundred gold in return,” he said. He scooped up the plants and slid them into one voluminous sleeve.Wolfenight looked up in protest, momentarily forgetting who he was talking to.“Only six-hundred? But we risked a lot for those! They’re worth much more. Just wait till my rogue gets here! He’ll charm your trousers off!”“I’ll do what?” asked Lereahl, stepping into the clearing. Targar and Farstrider followed him. Wolfenight looked wildly around. He seemed to realize what he’d just said and paled even more.“Trousers!” he squeaked in a panic.The great wizard looked strangely at Wolfenight“If you say so,” he replied, shrugging. He reached down, tapped Wolfenight’s shadow with a long finger and pulled out a pair of fine, brown trousers. He handed them to Wolfenight, who took them without a word – and wrapped them around his shoulders like a scarf.