Having cleared the dungeon, the party returned to the dwarves and told them it was ready to use. They didn't want anything to do with the plane of ice, but what *were* they going to do?
So they decided to head into the forest to investigate the insane elves. The forest was incredibly dense, and even on the trails they were having a hard time making much progress, until they came to a lovely little clearing full of enormous red and white spotted mushrooms. They knelt down to examine the mushrooms more closely, and saw that they were mushroom houses, with little windows and doors. When blue gnome-like creatures started to emerge, they ran for their lives! As they left the clearing, they managed to shake off the dream and, looking back, see that there was no clearing at all.
This was too dangerous for them -- monsters that could make them hallucinate? So they headed back. On the way, they heard what sounded like childrens' voices screaming for help from off the trail. Alex snuck over to investigate, and discovered that whatever was making the sounds was coming from underneath a rock, with an angry manticore perched over it taking swipes at the hollow, but not able to fit its huge paws inside.
The party decided to intervene, even if it was probably a trap. They easily killed off the manticore, and told the voices that it was safe to come out. Three colorful little ponies emerged -- a yellow one with a red mane, a white and pink unicorn, and an orange and purple pegasus. They told a story about how they'd gotten lost in the scary forest, and asked to be led home...
They told this story to the magic talking rock that had saved them, since Alex was hiding on top of it, out of their line of sight, and had a good bluff check. Ironhoof was in earth elemental form, and was a moving but not really talking all that much rock to add believability I guess?
At any rate, the party decided to lead the probably hallucinatory ponies back to the dwarves. But when they reached the edge of the forest, instead of a wasted landscape of salt and coal, they saw a beautiful pastoral land with farms and a bustling village of thatched roofs and -- most of them made their will saves, but it was too late to break out of the dream just like that. They were able to realize that it was a dream, at least, as it all went fuzzy and abstract.
And they were able to see the dwarves screaming in terror and charging at them with axes drawn. Artican (who'd failed his save) tried to interpose himself between the dwarves and the ponies, and ignored them shouting about the monsters until Alex convinced him to cast Heal on himself to cure his own insanity. That he didn't believe he had, but to humor her...
Not only did that cure him, but it drove another monster out of his head. Another, because by this point the party realized that the 'ponies' were actually one of the animate nightmares they'd met before -- one inviting them to tea, one driving their blink dog friend insane...
The undisguised one tried to lash out with tooth-ridden tentacles to murder the party while the 'ponies' wailed in terror, trying to confuse everyone. They were really no match for the party, though. The ponies were killed and the other monster forced to teleport away.
Well, dimension door away. Which meant it was close. They eventually found it in a barracks full of sleeping dwarves, and drove it away (but still couldn't kill it). They didn't know if the magically sleeping dwarves were infected or not, so they kept watch that night for anything suspicious.
Seven of the dwarves from that barracks woke up with terrible nightmares. Working together with some dwarven clerics, they managed to exorcise and swiftly execute all the not-quite-ready-to-be-born monsters and end the threat for the moment, assuming that the second nightmare had actually fled the town after being chased away.
The forest was *definately* too dangerous for them to venture into, though.
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