"Two nasty individuals known as the Briarwoods, Lord and Lady Briarwood, have for the past five years been occupying the city of Whitestone, which was once the home to Percival here, after it was forcefully taken from his family, most of which seemingly have been either killed or lost in the process, and he was scattered to the four winds, to find Vox Machina. After encountering the Briarwoods in Emon, in a scuffle that took place, the Briarwoods retreated to Whitestone, inviting the party to come and say hello. Since then the party has prepared the best they could, made their way towards Whitestone, and through some bit of infiltration and subterfuge managed to sneak into the city itself.
"They, under the guise of Scanlan's Seeming illusion, appeared to be as common folk as the rest of the poor saps that still live in Whitestone. They scoped out an abandoned tavern which they fitted to their needs as kind of a base of operations and also managed to come across a central portion of Whitestone's city structure and history known as the Sun Tree. A tree once risen to the might of the sun god Pelor, now lies dead in the center of town, and from it hung eight figures that appeared to have been individuals killed, hung, and painted up and dressed to resemble Vox Machina, as essentially a warning or a welcome; it's hard to tell when it comes to the Briarwoods. Nevertheless, a message was definitely delivered. The party, retreating back to the tavern, set up for the remainder of the afternoon. Keyleth carved, through her druidic magical ways, through the ground to find some of the roots of the Sun Tree and began preparing an extensive time-consuming ritual in hopes of restoring some semblance of life to the entity itself."
In the tunnel below the tavern, Keyleth continues her ritual to revive the Sun Tree. On the second floor of the tavern, Vax'ildan replaces some of the daggers in his Blinkback Belt with wooden stakes he had purchased in Emon. He also takes the symbol of Sarenrae he received from Father Tristan and sews it onto the back of his right glove. Vax tells Grog he's going downstairs and heads through the tunnel. Kneeling down next to Keyleth, he asks if she needs anything. She requests Holy Water, but Vax only has Holy Oil. He gives the vial to Keyleth anyway. She also requests some drinking water, as the tavern only has old wine and ale.
Percy, Vax, and Scanlan exit the tavern through the window and Percy leads them to a well. They manage to pull up a bucketful of clean water and take it back to the tavern.
Leaving Vex'ahlia, Trinket, and Grog to guard Keyleth while she performs her ritual, Percy leads Vax and Scanlan to The Zenith, Whitestone's temple to Pelor. Vax and Percy stick to the shadows and alleyways, while Scanlan, still disguised as a peasant boy, walks down the middle of the street.
Reaching the far eastern side of Whitestone, they follow the path through the woods and come upon the graveyard. As they enter the gate they see a stone temple with stained glass windows. Percy walks up to the doors and tries to open them, but can't. Vax prepares to unlock it, but there isn't a lock; the doors are barred from the inside. Scanlan uses Dimension Door to get inside the temple and sees three stained glass windows on either side of the building, some shattered, along with pews that have been pushed off to the sides, some of which have been destroyed. There is a red carpet going down the center and leading up to the altar.
Scanlan attempts to lift the large wooden bar holding the doors shut, but between the weight of the bar and its height relative to a gnome's, he is unable to move it. Percy pulls out a blade that he never uses and he and Vax stick it between the two doors, under the bar, telling Scanlan to wrap some cloth around the blade and help them lift it. The combined strength of the three men is unable to budge the bar and Scanlan ends up cutting himself on the blade. Vax goes around the side of the temple, leaps up the wall, and climbs in through the window, landing safely inside. Scanlan calls his Unseen Servant to assist him and Vax, but they still cannot open the door. Finally, Scanlan summons Bigby's Hand, which easily flicks the bar off the doors.
Percy enters the temple and looks around. The inside looks ransacked and the broken windows were shattered from the outside. As they approach the altar, they see that one of the braziers on the side is gently smoldering. Percy quietly calls out for someone named Father Reynal[spelling?]. On top of the altar are several overturned glass vials. Percy examines some of the spilled liquid and finds it to be caustic in nature. From the way things are scattered around the altar he gets the feeling that someone had hastily packed up. Looking closer, Percy sees ash scattered around the smoldering brazier, which is absent from the other braziers. Smelling the ash, he determines its source to be paper and finds a portion of a burnt note underneath the ashes.
[...] without sufficient magical essence, the distillation has proven to consistently fail. A shame, really. I shall seek an influx of materials elsewhere before I can continue this project.
Regarding the weapon, after a year of taking notes from eyewitness accounts, my original designs were faulty (and recently cost me my hand). The winds of fortune have seen a shift, it seems, as Sylas just returned from Emon, having encountered the still-living subject, and had the pleasure of seeing his work first hand. His unnatural eyes took in much detail, and I believe his observations have brought me to the brink of finishing my design. I intend to journey from Whitestone within a couple of months to gather the components needed, but if Delilah's hunch is correct and the subject is heading here, I may find myself needing to leave sooner than anticipated.
Taking a second look at the altar, Percy recognizes similar elements to the black powder he uses for making ammunition. Looking through the pouches on the floor beside the altar, he finds phosphorous and traces of other chemical reagents, most of which have been emptied.
Percy and Vax walk to the door on the right. As they open the door, they are immediately hit with the smell of decay. Shoved partially under the bed are the remains of Father Reynal, long passed. Scanlan investigates the body and discovers a series of puncture wounds from a rapier in his torso. Everything of interest has been taken from the room and body. The various symbols of Pelor throughout the temple have all been defaced or destroyed. Vax grabs a few medallions that could possibly be cleaned off.
They walk back into the main temple area, and as they do they hear a sound like a strong, wailing wind, but the wind is not blowing. Vax steps back into the shadows. The moaning sound gets louder and louder as the air gets colder and colder. Scanlan grabs Percy and turns them both invisible.
The shimmering form of a woman appears at the doors to the temple, translucent and letting out groans and gasps. The figure appears gaunt and elven, with sunken and faintly glowing eyes. Glancing about the room, its eyes focus directly on Percy and Scanlan. Its image begins to shift, becoming more horrifying.
Vax immediately throws the Keen Dagger and two wooden stakes at it. The dagger hits and returns to the Blinkback Belt, but the stakes just pass right through it and clatter to the ground.
The banshee moves up between the three of them and lets out a wailing scream, sending a chilling burst of spiritual energy through them. As Percy looks at the being, he feels like his soul is being forced from his body and immediately drops unconscious.
Seeing Percy crumple to the ground, Scanlan asks Vax if they should flee. "In a little bit," he replies. The bard turns and shoots a Lightning Bolt through his Hand Cone of Clarity at the banshee, but it doesn't take full damage due to its ethereal state. Scanlan steps away and casts Healing Word on Percy, bringing him back to consciousness.
Vax moves along the wall towards Scanlan and throws the Keen Dagger and Flametongue Dagger at the banshee, both hitting. He continues moving along the wall, stopping behind his two teammates.
The banshee moves up to Percy, still prone on the floor, and swipes at him with its Corrupting Touch. The creature's hand reaches through Percy's body and seems to grasp his spine, knocking him unconscious again. The banshee drifts back, away from the party.
Scanlan asks Vax again if they should leave, but Vax insists they stay and kill the creature. Scanlan casts Bigby's Hand and backhands it, scattering and dissipating its form. He lifts himself up with the giant arcane hand, tossing himself into the air and celebrating his victory.
Vax goes over to Percy and feeds him a Greater Healing Potion. "Wake up, handsome." As soon as Percy is conscious again, Vax slaps him twice and questions what they should do next. The gunslinger suggests they should quickly check the other room and then leave.
The other room is a small kitchen that appears to have last been used less than a week ago. Searching the kitchen, Scanlan finds some stale bread, salted dried meats, and rotting produce.
Percy hands Vax a design which he says is part of the de Rolo family crest, and Vax begins carving it into the stone of the altar. Percy drags Father Reynal's body out of his room and leaves him in front of the altar. After finishing his first carving, Vax goes to the door of the temple and carves "Pelor lives in Whitestone". He then picks up the stakes he threw earlier, as well as a few extra pieces of splintered wood from the broken remains of the pews.
The three of them leave the temple and exit the graveyard as the sun begins to set. As they make their way back to the tavern, they pass by a small group of Whitestone citizens conversing in a desperate tone. Standing among them is an older gentleman. They appear to be having an argument about farm shipments. The older man shouts to the rest that the situation is out of his control, as it has been decreed by Sir Kerrion. If the villages can't provide food, taxes will be collected, and if the taxes can't be paid there are worse things that can be taken.
He turns away from the group and notices Scanlan and Percy, still disguised as peasants. Not recognizing Percy, he brings two of his guards forward. Percy manages to convince him that he's a simple worker, and the man eventually leaves with his guards.
The three of them make it back to the tavern shortly after nightfall. Keyleth is nearly complete with her ritual and Vex has been watching over her. Percy goes up to the second floor to keep an eye on the Sun Tree. He occasionally sees one of the zombie giants passing through on patrol and also begins to see several humanoid guards that had not been out during the day. Their movements seem unnatural.
As Keyleth completes the ritual she casts Sunbeam and tries to infuse it into the tree without damaging it. Seeds and greenery begin to grow in the soil around her, but the Sun Tree itself does not appear to have any reaction. Frustrated, she releases the full power of her Sunbeam and accidentally destroys some of the roots and sets fire to portions of the tree. Vex immediately pulls out a cloak and starts smothering the flames.
Once the flames are all out, they see that the area surrounding the charred parts are a more vibrant brown color, as if the energy from the Sunbeam had some effect in revitalizing the tree. The vibrancy spreads a bit as Keyleth encourages it along. However, the effect soon stops and begins to reverse, and all of the newly-sprouted greenery around the tree begins to wither, crumple, and turn to ash. Keyleth takes the Holy Oil and tries spreading it over the roots. After a moment, the oil seems to burn off and evaporate.
Based on what she just witnessed, Keyleth determines that something further below ground, beneath the tree, is sucking the life out of the land. Vex uses her Primeval Awareness to check for any nearby vampiric presence and feels multiple presences above, below, to the North, and throughout the city.
Keyleth apologizes to the group for being unable to fix the tree. They all reassure her. Scanlan brags about killing a door and a banshee, saying the door was the harder of the two.
Percy says that he's figured out what they have to do first: kill Kerrion Stonefell.
Vox Machina goes to sleep for the night, Vex and Vax taking the first watch. As the night goes on, Whitestone becomes incredibly cold. The windows of the tavern frost over and everyone huddles together for warmth. Throughout the night, Percy is wracked with nightmare after nightmare, whispers and voices infiltrating his dreams.
Everyone wakes in the morning, but Percy still dwells on his nightmares, nervous and with an uncontrollable tremor to his voice.