On the way to see Tangleheart, Davidian realises that the true lord of the forest is actually the Gnome King (he is probably the “special” faerie – as known to the religion of the Elves). The naked barbaric “gnomes” seem to be a cross between Pixies and Deep Gnomes and Duergar. Whatever their original form was, the centuries of war with the orcs has twisted them into darker, more savage forms.
Mulan is the first mortal female to enter the wood for a thousand years and judging by the signs, the Gnome King’s “sap is rising” and his feelings are stirring and bringing life (in the form of small flowers budding) back to the dark forest.
After half a day, they reach Tangleheart – a huge Oak Tree and the wizented face appears and speak with Davidian.
Tangleheart explains that his brother Gnarlheart used to fight alongside him, but has succumbed to a sickness of the spirit that has turned his heart dark and corrupted. He has been bound into a small glade of dead trees, but Tangleheart cannot bring himself to kill his brother and asks the guests to do it (to return the favour of hospitality). Davidian agrees before even hearing the nature of the quest, but fortunately Tangleheart doesn’t take advantage of them and even remembers to lif the restriction on “Cut no wood” while they are in the Dead Glade.
The Gnome King argues with Tangleheart and orders him to explain to them about the gift of the Circlet of Vines that he is keen for Mulan to accept. Davidian assures her that the Faeries cannot lie and have promised that there is no magic on the Circlet other than what they have told him.
It will grant Mulan “elf-sight” (Darkvision 60ft). There are three flower buds on the circlet.
Touch the first bud with two fingers and it will cast a Charm Person spell duration 1 hour on a target of your choice in range against which there is no saving throw.
Touch the second bud with two fingers and it will cast a Dominate Person spell duration 1 hour on a target of your choice in range against which there is no saving throw.
Touch the third bud with two fingers and it will cast a permanent LOVE spell against which there is no saving throw.
Mulan agrees and graciously accepts the gift – the “gnomes” cheer wildly.
They go to fight Gnarlheart (the ancient, twisted black willow Treant). Their careful plans are disrupted when it animates two dead thorn trees right next to them. The battle is dangerous but (die to a forgetful DM) the thorn tree minions don’t attack very often. Gaston and Abraham hack down one of the two minion trees. In the process, Abraham’s Skeletal Warhorse is smashed by the tree’s mighty blows.
Gnarlheart is blasted by firebolts from Mulan, guiding bolts and sacred flames from Davidian and Abraham, as well as magically-enhanced arrows from Clayton and eventually falls. The moment he dies, the two animated trees stiffen and return to being just trees.
In the disturbed ground under the roots of Gnarlheart, Clayton digs about and finds many orc skulls and many rusted fragments of weapons and armour. There is one magical weapon – a Spear of Winter, magical +1 spear with a magical property (if attuned) for a once-per-day blast of cold. [DM: You will need to attune to it to find out the details – takes a 1-hour short rest to attune]
Davidian asks Tangleheart if he can help with the funeral/re-purification of the Dead Glade and is invited to the Dance. This is clearly a big deal to the Fae Folk. [DM: Joining the Dance requires a Religion check, with the result determining how successful you are – there is some risk!]
It is like a particularly violent version of morris dancing with sticks. Davidian understands the patterns of the Dance and becomes infused with Fae Magic from the Gnome King. He gets to learn a one-shot 5th-level spell.
Seeing how “easy” it looks, the other drift into the Dance with varying degrees of success.
Gaston, Mulan and Abraham dance well and get similar one-shot spell powers. The two rangers – Clayton and Jock – don’t get into the groove and get beaten around the shins by the laughing gnomes – both are infected by Wild Magic as a result.
The Gnome King seems to get stronger, taller and better-looking during the Dance – topping out at about 4ft tall.
The next day, they all wake refreshed (with 5 temp hitpoints). The Will of the Wisp leads them for a few hours to the far-eastern edge of the Tanglewood which cuts about 10 days off their journey and leaves them at the foothills of the mountain range containing Shar Gazoth – probably only about 4 days from the waterfall entrance described in Agraven’s Journals.
They decide (reluctantly) that their horses cannot make it through the mountains and they butcher them and spend a few hours cooking them so they won’t need to waste time foraging later and also so they won’t wander and be found by the Orcs and give-away the fact that they are in the area.
Abraham decides to replace his Skeletal Warhorse and kills, skins and polishes the bones and the companions watch in horror as the Inquisitor’s undead steed rises to its feet.
Clayton and Jock discover they have been infected by Wild Magic and their spells have crazy results, such as blasting Gaston with magic missiles while trying to Cure him and then banishing him for an hour to the Astral Plane and then causing a third eye to appear on Abraham’s forehead (granting him the Alertness feat but disadvantage on Persuasion checks). Both rangers used all their spells to dissipate the wild magic and should be back to normal casting tomorrow.
The forest trail skirts the foothills, leading to a huge lake so they head to it to wash off the blood and smoke.
Suddenly Abe spots three orcs riding huge wolves racing along the trail behind them. They all hide surprisingly well and could have even let the enemy ride straight past, but Gaston leapt out and attacked. To be fair, they were going to ambush the orcs anyway, but the warrior’s eagerness for battle sprang the trap too soon and the trailing Orc managed to turn his wolf and flee. The hunting party had seen or smelled the smoke from the horse barbecue and were trailing the party by scent – due to the Wild Magic they had no Pass Without Trace spells today.