A Poignant Rescue
Devoted to her Lord with an intensity of faith that few mortals could ever match, Dame Mayapple Xanatov stood as a shining paragon of the Phaestean Order on Sapience. For centuries she served Him, and the love she held for the Smith was as genuine as one of His dwarven children, touching every aspect of her life.
It came as no surprise when she was the one that first grew worried about His perceived absence. The Gods of Achaea are fickle with Their attentions and travel Creation’s many planes with an ease that mortals may not imagine, but Mayapple grew ever more concerned that this was something more than a simple hiatus. Gathering some of her citymates, she investigated His possible disappearance and, soon enough, her party was receiving visions of shackles clanging and silver wisps emanating from the Great Oak in Eleusis. Immediately, this raised alarms.
Over the coming months, more and more people investigated Eleusis, including Hashani and Targossians, and experienced their own visions. Dark whispers filled the streets of the cities of Sapience, rumours and fears of horrid Gaian schemes. Aided by a cryptic shout from Pandora, the Wayward Heir, accusing the Lady Gaia of ‘going too far,’ a single conclusion began to take hold: the Earthmother kidnapped some unknown number of Divine, trapping them beneath the Great Oak of Eleusis to sap Their essence for nefarious purposes.
Some Eleusians acted with bemused denial, while others actively encouraged the rumours, going so far as to spread misinformation when they were sure there were eavesdroppers to poison the well of knowledge. While the peoples of Sapience argued about the truth of what lay beneath the Great Oak, strange puffballs appeared throughout the lands, their appearance unusual and disturbing in its fleshlike nature.
Before long, the cities of Sapience banded together to free the seemingly-trapped deities, marching upon Eleusis in a united force while the adherents of Nature fought a desperate battle to protect what truly lay beneath the Oak. Blood filled the trees and fertile soil, until the battle was interrupted by the unsettling sights and sounds of puffballs everywhere exploding into amorphous, shadowy clouds. Filled with a singular purpose, they marched towards the roots beneath the sacred Eleusian tree, and the adventurers’ battle shifted to stopping – or protecting – them in their advance.
Nearly half of what soon became apparent as swarms of insects reached Eleusis, and, there, deep within the roots, they converged to form the Mycorizael Swarm, a being of living decay that soon found itself at odds with the more civilised cities of Sapience. Though it, and its Eleusian allies, fought bravely, the relentless assault of Ashtan, Mhaldor, Hashan, Targossas, and Cyrene eventually proved too much, and the strange creature was dispersed, vanquished from the Prime Material Plane.
As Mayapple stood victorious over her foe, surrounded by temporary allies from every walk of life, it was her Lord Phaestus Himself that appeared before her. He was never trapped, He explained, confirming a theory that had gained increasing traction over the past few months: these ‘visions’ were little more than hallucinations caused by the spores of the alien puffballs, their shared themes the result of something akin to mass hysteria as the rumours spread through the infested cities.
With the DwarfFather’s touch, the Dame was cleansed not only of her remaining fungal infection, but of an ancient disease that had ailed her for centuries. Though she had not accomplished what she set out to do, for the Smith was never in any danger, she was blessed by her God for her steadfast loyalty all the same, and that is a victory that few mortals will ever claim.
Summary: Driven by strange visions of Gods trapped beneath the Great Oak, the cities of Sapience marched upon Eleusis, only to be interrupted by the sudden bursting of the odd puffballs that had emerged around the realms. From within came the hordes of insects that combined to become the Mycorizael Swarm, an ancient being of decay that was ultimately banished despite Eleusis’s admirable attempts to defend it. In the end, it was revealed the visions were no more than hallucinations brought on by fungal spores.