The home tree rises above the tree tops before us. Dwarfing the surrounding forest, it's silver branches and leaves shine like a precious gem. It is absolutely enchanting.
Mac is consumed by childish instinct and rushes to climb the tree. At times he is a simple and silly man.
At the base of the tree is an elvish graveyard. I feel a momentary hesitation to enter such a place but if I can't manage this then I might as well go home. Things will only be more difficult from here on.
The entrance to the tree is protected by a magical lock which requires a spoken keyword, hidden within a riddle. It proves no match for Ron's sharp if erratic mind and we gain entry.
But before we can advance further, a deviant individual approaches us from the branches above. An elf, unkempt and unclean: we draw our weapons in anticipation of attack. He introduces himself as Darvin, and insists he means us no harm and wishes to join forces. This hermit, to my horror, is a master of insects. He writhes with his collection of all manner of disgusting creature. I am disturbed, but if there's anything I've set out to prove on this journey it's that a person's actions are of more import than his appearance or upbringing. I hold back my bile and we join forces with Davin.
The inside of the tree is hollow with a staircase spiralling down into a dark chasm below. Impossible though it may seem, the dead themselves seek to bar our way: the bones of long-dead elves rise to protect this ground from trespassers and looters such as ourselves. We fight them off and proceed further.
In a room overgrown with a carpet of mushrooms, we encounter another unlikely guardian. A massive stone sculpture of a hand come to life bears down on us. It meets us with titanic force and we meet it in kind. We are exhausted and bruised, but we win through and claim the prize the guardian protected:a massive emerald. Truly fitting treasure for adventurers.
Yet treasure was not all we found: a mysterious scroll and a new adventure!
The scroll is cryptic and undecipherable to us, but Ron holds the key. He recognizes the signature on the scroll and indeed it belongs to his former teacher. In the interest of protecting my comrade should this journal leave my hands I will not reveal the name nor the sordid incident that marred his family history and forced him into hiding. But if Ron's teacher is still around, if we find her, perhaps we can learn more about Ron's past and his teacher's research.
For now, having explored the elven burial ground, we return to Grem's Slide. We have achieved much this journey, more than many can claim, and the feeling is indescribable. I yearn for more, and intend to stay in Grem's Slide only long enough to resupply before heading deeper into the Landscape.