Having recovered from the "shock and awe" produced by witnessing the Divine power of Avatar O' Reilly, MC and his companions strode through the gate, en route to the heart of the Tree of Life. He immediately bumped into a small tree which shuddered at the impact, and then showered the group with nuts of various sizes. Amused, MC gathered these up and went on. There was only one other room immediately apparent, which had a nice pool with some pretty fountains, but looked like a dead end. After wandering around cluelessly for 5 minutes, MC was ready to give up and go back; but then Imoen noticed some stone statues with empty hands. The light dawned slowly; the group had found a stone harp and horn back in Salt-cellar, and whadda ya know! These fit into the statues hands. The fountains stopped flowing, the pool dried up and stairs down were revealed.
MC, being the considerate creature that he is, gave everybody in turn the chance to withdraw from the quest; each one swore to follow and exact just retribution upon the foul Irenicus. MC was touched; he also wondered what Edwin, Kagan, Viconia and Dorn would have said had they been there instead. Probably they would have tagged along also, but for radically different reasons.
Down the stairs they went. At the bottom, they encountered none other than Irenicus himself! He was, however, totally oblivious to their presence; they could neither talk to him nor attack him. Drat! Luckily, Princess Ellie-Mae was also there; she revealed that Irenicus was being assisted by sap-sucking parasites, some sort of ethereal aphids or termites apparently. Killing them would break Irenicus' connection to the tree. She also said that MC could use his nuts to bridge the gaps in between the branches and reach the parasites. That sounded rather crude to MC, as well as painful, until he remembered the nuts that he had collected from the tree upstairs. Whew! Much relieved, MC agreed to the task.
And so it was done; easily dispatching the various elementals that sought to block their way, the group exterminated the parasites ... which looked nothing like any sort of aphid, by the way. Unless they were demonic aphids from Hell, which, considering that half of the Abyss seemed to have been summoned for the attack on Salt-cellar, was certainly possible. Performing this pest control job ended up with the party being teleported instantly back to Irenicus. How? Why? MC was confused, but that was nothing new; he coped with it in his usual manner, and put it out of his mind. More important matters beckoned; Irenicus was not amused. He blustered, MC blustered, He threatened, MC scoffed ... OK, stop beating your chests, guys; we all know how this turns out, and it's not hugs and kisses.