Title: Exploding Cacti
Date: Mid Trilan, 1332 Avard
Synopsis: A set of ruins comes complete with man-eating plants and a variety of cactus that can suck blood, sling spines, and turn people into pin cushions.
Near sunset of the 19th of Trilan, 1332 Avard.
The ME team advanced for perhaps another hour through the pouring rain, the old-growth forest giving them easy passage. The sparse ground and few herbs beneath the trees had been dark in the storm, but when the sun began to set, the team began to look for a likely camping spot. They set up watches, including Dert in the rotations as a way of trusting and testing the kobold at the same time.
By morning, the rain had eased off, turning into a thick fog amidst the trees. The team pressed on, feeling like they were being watched. The feeling had been with them since they entered the forest, and only seemed to intensify.
Dert paused, bringing his coyote to a stop. The kobold dismounted, drawing the attention of the rest of the team.
An elf dropped out of a tree, bow strapped to her back and short sword at her side. Rather than reach for any weapons or an arrow from the quiver at her hip, the elf approached Dert on her knees with her hands cradling something valuable.
The team stopped in their tracks to observe the strange supplicating elf.
Dert gingerly accepted the elven bread offered by the kow-towing elven archer – and took a bite.
The elf maiden gave her name as Faeryl Genevieve, and wanted desperately to adventure with the team. Not knowing what else to do with the strange elf, the team accepted her, but kept hands close to weapons and senses open. General questioning about the ruins the team was headed for yielded a surprise: Faeryl had been to the ruins once before, and seen a tree throw an elf far enough nearly to kill him. The elven maiden could even lead the team directly to the ruins.
The fog finally burned away, and the day became warm and still. Occasional rodents or birds flushed away from the team, but otherwise the forest seemed calm after the spring storm. The feeling of 'being watched' had passed once Faeryl had introduced herself. The team felt like the forest was holding its breath, waiting.
According to Faeryl, they could reach the ruins within an hour of sunset. Rather than approach the ruins, though, the team decided to make camp for the night and approach the ruins in the morning with a full day ahead of them. Greff hunted and brought back a fawn, earning him the ire of the elf and the halfling. Corrin, for her part, returned with a brace of coneys. And Dert brought in a huge salad of delicious herbs and onions, complete with bugs that he was happily munching on.
The team set up shifts just like the night before. When Dert's shift came up, third watch, he noted that Faeryl was still awake. -Ish. Unfamiliar with elves, Dert did not know that they tranced, sleeping with their eyes open, able to rouse when necessary and yet still asleep. So Dert went back to sleep, never rousing anyone else.
Morning came, and the team seemed rather confused by Corrin not taking fourth watch. Rather than fall to arguing or making recriminations, the team shrugged and accepted it. They had been near death often enough to enjoy every breath, and learn from the lessons that did not kill them. Faeryl had not killed them, nor had the team been attacked in the night. Whether it was the gods watching over them, or Faeryl was trust-worthy, the team knew that they could not dwell on mistakes.
Without realizing it, the ME team had really, truly become a cohesive group of hard-working individuals with some strong core beliefs. They also, still, acknowledged that they were each very different individuals with sometimes differing goals and differing outlooks. They would argue, but they would not point fingers.
In the morning, Faeryl led them to the ruins. The stone remains were located on a slight ridge that had an excellent view of the valley. The team could only see the remains of a stone tower from where they approached, and when the tower had been whole, it had likely commanded a wonderful view of the forests. The tower was only the edge of the ruins, though, and there were the remains of a considerable structure, besides.
The ridge and the grounds around the ruins had out-of-place plants and trees that in and of themselves would not have been unusual, but so many out-of-place plants in one place had the members of the team who knew of such things on edge. When the first plant moved, they were only half surprised, fore-warned as they had been by Faeryl. Vines slithered along the ground. Groups of cacti uprooted themselves and stalked forward on the roots. A large section of earth roused, moved by dead roots and the low-growing brush of a hundred small plants. Familiar herbs – added to delicacies and used as garnishes – also moved in towards the team.
First Greff, and then Arkhan, were pulled into the shambling mound of roots and plants, engulfed and scratched by fast-growing roots determined to use them for fertilizer.
Bergeron, being larger than anything but the mass of roots around Greff and Arkhan, easily trampled over many of the smaller plants. Eventually even the draestrier lizard's clawed feet became enmeshed in the many, many roots and limbs tangling everyone and everything up.
Dert spoke with the elemental spirits of the earth, the air, the wind, and fire that burned within all living things. The little kobold unleashed powerful gouts of spirit magic that blasted away many of the smaller plants, giving the team a few moments to focus on Greff and Arkhan.
Demon charged in near the shambling mound of earth and roots, and a well-timed hand out-stretched gave Arkhan a chance to free himself. Greff, too, escaped the plant's belly through its movement and motion, and then raced off to help his faithful Buck deal with several other plants.
The cacti were the worst, though. The masses of cacti shuffled off to a distance to better pepper the team with inches-long spines. Anyone getting too close to the cacti found themselves blinded and blasted by an explosion of spines. Faeryl and Corrin kept blasting at the cacti from a distance, until Arkhan's wrath and the power of Xynos accidentally compelled one cactus too close to them both. The spines were poisonous in such quantities, and Corrin very nearly passed out. Demon, too, was hurting badly from the attack.
Greff, unsure of how to battle plants – or even where to strike them with his toughened fists – seemed to have a devil of a time actually hurting the moving bushes and brush.
Despite considerable damage to his carapace, Demon managed to throw enough silk into the mass of roots and earth that it became more a ball of gunk than a shambling mound. Working slowly and patiently, the silik spider bound up the attacking plant – eating portions of it as he went.
Buck, too, had a mouthful of leaves, even as he trampled on a persistant bit of sage brush.
Once the mound and most of the smaller plants were dealt with, the cacti were defeated, one a time.
Blood seeped from hundreds of spines embedded in flesh or grinding beneath armor. Corrin had to very, very carefully pull several spines from her eyeball, although luckily no permanent damage seemed to have been done. The team could have pressed on, for they were almost into the ruins, but chose to retreat.
The plants had moved with more than a will. There had been a frightening intelligence in how they had attacked the team, and so ME's force withdrew back to their camp site.
Faeryl slipped off, real adventure and stories having departed from one another within moments of the beginning of the fight.
The team was worried, for if the trees had joined the fight, then they might have been carrying some of their friends out as corpses.
Mid-morning of the 22nd of Trilan, 1332 Avard.
Dinner was sketti, and it was good. Bill brought his girlfriend Whitney with him, and she gave playing an NPC a shot. The elven archer she was handed wasn't nearly as cool as a true Player Character, but she seemed to get the hang of the d20 system with it. We'll have to help open her eyes a bit to role-play, but she's welcome to play again, any time we have an opening. Four players is my limit, though, for now – save the special occasion or three. The session wasn't quite so fun for Sommer and some of the others. Just by chance, I seemed to pick creatures that were immune to quite a few of the party's special abilities – especially the ones they'd just picked up. That was the closest Corrin and Demon have come to dying, and in one more round, they might have been unconscious, or worse.
RPG System: Dungeons and Dragons, 4th Edition.
All characters have 50,500XP (14th level).
No worries! I heal thee!