Once upon a time there was a party of adventurers on a quest inside the shadow plane. It didn’t take long before the group found themselves being escorted to the hall of the fey king, ruler of the winter months and the moon. Although clearly mad by the party’s standards, the king was also agreeable, giving his time and attention to the team as they explained their errand and what they needed. The king did not immediately respond to their requests, but instead offered them a tour of his garden. Begrudgingly the party followed along as the king showed him his crop of winter berries – the purpose of which was to extend the winter season and thus his rein over the land before his ex-wife the queen assumed power in the summer. The berries were almost ripe, and each one signified another day that the king could carry on his authority.
Fast forward to the eventual meeting with the queen. Cold and calculating though she was, the party was forced to work with her because they’d tried to steal her prize unicorn at the behest of the king. Rather than punish them, however, she offered to let them have the unicorn if they did a favor for her. In a cottage in the woods, one of her courtiers slept under the spell of her ex-husband, the evil king. Waking the maiden required the kiss of a noble knight – a role filled by the party paladin. All they had to do was get inside the house and kiss the sleeping maiden. Once awake, the party was free to return and claim the unicorn.
Once at the cottage the team soon found itself entering the dark abode. It was a two story cottage in the middle of a twilight forest, and while there was nothing especially foreboding about the place, it was filled top to bottom and throughout with small birds in cages. As the party members moved through the house, birds fluttered and danced, adding a curious sense of mystery but no obvious threat.
Once they reached the bedroom on the second floor, they all spied the maiden resting peacefully in her bed, overwhich was draped a gossimer veil. A velvet cord hung from the ceiling inside the veil, but othrwise they saw nothing unusual. The knight approached, lifting the veil and descending for the kiss. The maiden was beautiful, and though chaste, the knight was somewhat taken with her beauty. He bent and touched his lips to hers.
The maiden sat up straight with a gasp, looked to her right, and yanked the velvet cord. In an instant the cages all throughout the house flew open, and a torrent of birds filled the air, swarming about the party with the gentle buffet of tiny wings before scattering out of the house through the bedroom window. The knight scooped up the maiden and the group returned her to the queen’s palace for safe delivery.
It took some days before the party became aware that the king’s guard was hunting for them. It was weeks before they realized what had happened. The moment the maiden released the birds they’d scurried into the sky and made a direct flight to the king’s terrace where they then devoured his winter berries to the very last one.