Location: the Laekenala Jungles of Halganath
Date: Trilan 13th-26th of 1333 Avard
The group spent the night recovering. Their stamina had been sapped by the magic effects of the horrid spell that could siphon energy from living things and convert it to pure arcane power. By the morning, they were in a better position to examine their situation. The half-orc sisters Ghorza and Urzoth wanted to return to Wuron Sfa and speak with the dragon Sordrunaskashast – an ancient druid that had told of them of the horrid spell, and sent them to find it and destroy it, if possible.
Karvana, however, wanted to speak with her mentor – a treant named Syzygius with many century's worth of rings and a long memory. Syzygius was perhaps forty miles away – as opposed to the hundreds upon hundreds of leagues' distance to Sordrunaskashast. Karvana convinced the half-orc sisters to visit Sysygius, first, as he was nearer, after which he would travel with them to Wuron Sfa.
Valanthe, tracking the conversation with great difficulty, agreed to accompany them. Karvana and Valanthe could communicate with some difficulty in Sylvan, but she seemed to have no languages in common with the sisters. The sisters, in turn, had to use the common traders tongue to speak with Karvana. As the group headed farther into the jungle, following Karvana, Valanthe tried to learn some of the words the others used.
After two days, they came across half a dozen undead plants that tried to attack them. Karvana, already in bear form with Valanthe riding her back, rushed forward. There were undead vines in the air and undead weeds on the ground. The vines tried to drop onto them and attack them, much as constrictor snakes behaved. The weeds were a different problem – they were poisonous, and attacking them pushed a poison into the attacker. Worse, when they were destroyed, they loose a poisonous cloud into the air that choked the lungs and made people uncoordinated, clumsy, and slow.
The vines and the weeds, together, were a problem. Ghorza let loose a powerful beam of moonlight despite the cloudy day overhead, burning most of the undead plants in place. Urzoth, changing to the size of a giant wolf spider, attacked one of the vines in the tree. The damage up in the canopy was considerable; the undead plants had been working to kill the great trees, and perhaps create even more undead plants.
After the brief but frightening battle, they found another trail, perhaps two weeks' old. The other trail had six sets of tracks from a creature that seemed foreign to Valanthe. Once Valanthe pointed out the prints, the other women confirmed that they were horse tracks. After a bit of back-and-forth and translations, Valanthe was horrified to discover that the horses had iron shoes. Iron was anathema to the fey, and Valanthe was further horrified to discover that Ghorza's axe and many human weapons were made of iron.
The iron-shod horses in the jungle with a trail hacked through the underbrush was odd, but the timing was even odder. The group of women felt that it was no coincidence – that the trail could be the very villains who set lose the magic blast the destroyed a hundred square miles of jungle, as well as creating more undead plants. They were two weeks behind whoever it was, but if they acted quickly, they could perhaps catch them within two weeks.
Ghorza put Valanthe on her riding lizard, and the two of them followed the druids. Urzoth and Karvana alternated tracking, letting one rest while the other pushed hard. At times the trail ran cold or was already overgrown, and they had to backtrack. At other times, they followed the cut path of six horses and… something else, easily enough. There was a veritable giant with the villains, a man of great size or perhaps even a goliath or a half-giant.
They found one of the villains' campsites. It was military precise, with two tents, water diversions, latrines, and signs of formal camping. The group stayed the night at the camp site, resting from the hard day's forced march. On the morning, they set out again, following the path and pushing hard.
Valanthe began to sortie out in the mornings, at lunch, and in the evenings. Although the world seemed alien to her – iron men and a giant planet in the sky – the jungle itself was familiar. Valanthe knew most of the plants and trees and animals, what was safe to eat, and where to find something to drink.
At lunch, they stopped at one of the villains' camp sites – almost identical to the first. They realized that they had gained on their prey by a day, and if they could make the next site by sunset, then they could catch them. So became the pattern for the next two weeks; push forward in the morning, rest at lunch on an old camp site, push forward in the afternoon, rest for the night at an old camp site, and then do it all over again. The long slog was interspersed with small trials, such as crossing a small river, dealing with lost trails now and again, and a great deal of mud.
They found the remains of a human tribe's village. The villagers had all been dead, but the Inquisitors had taken the time to create a bonfire, burn their remains, and then bury the ashes and bone fragments. On the wooden palisade, they found symbols carved by a knife – Yatindar with a line through it, Whalin, and then, smaller, the symbols of Barith, Brigain, and Curiss below that of Whalin.
Urzoth and Karvana spied a ring at the same time, and both moved towards it. Karvana's bear form made it there, first, and she slapped her paw on the ring, and held it up before her ursine nose and eyes. Urzoth moved to snatch the ring from her, but Karvana-the-bear slipped it into her mouth.
Ghorza, only seeing that her sister was struggling with the bear, moved to assist. She used her great half-orc strength to force open Karvana-the-bear's jaws, and Urzoth threw a hand into Karvan's mouth to find the ring. Karvana swallowed the ring, and Urzoth shoved her hand down the bear's throat. When that proved unsuccessful, she grabbed Karvana's ursine uvula and forced her to vomit.
Karvana-the-bear had nothing in her belly, thanks to a ring that sustained her. She neither needed to eat nor drink, giving her extreme endurance. Bile was all she could throw up, and so she hacked bile and the ring at Urzoth. Ghorza was startled, but not nearly so startled as Karvana disappearing – fey-stepped away by Valanthe, who had arrived to help her friend. Valanthe saw the ring and palmed it while Urzoth searched frantically for it.
Tensions were high as the young, immature Urzoth seemed ready to brawl for the ring all over again. Only Ghorza's might kept the half-orc juvenile at bay.
Valanthe examined the ring, and recognized a language she had seen in the Fey Wilds, but was unable to translate. She handed the ring to Ghorza, who recognized the script as Celestial – another language she was familiar with, but not fluent in. She saw the word 'Yatindar' in Celestial, and knew that Karvana spoke it well from her many evening talks with the druid.
Ghorza, Urzoth, and Karvana reached a tentative truce about the ring. Karvana held no hard feelings to the young and impetuous half-orc. The ring said merely For the Honor of Yatindar.
Urzoth promptly swallowed the ring, eyeing Karvana and warning anyone else away.
Ghorza and Karvana would have a long talk, later that evening, about the young half-orc druidess. In the meantime, they continued to search the fallen village.
Karvana's sensitive bear nose found a buried jar of paralysis poison the locals probably used to hunt. Valanthe added it to her arsenal. The villagers had all died weeks before the villains arrived, but their behavior towards the bodies of the villagers both frightened and hardened Valanthe. The villains treated men with respect, but not nature.
Several days later, Urzoth found a ring of brass keys that the Inquisitors had accidentally dropped. She wore it on one wrist as a noisy bangle.
They discovered in their desperation to talk about the ring another common language. Valanthe spoke the language of dragons – unknown to Karvana, but known well by the half-orc sisters. Once they realized that common language, conversation began to flow much more easily among the women.
The group managed to get within three days' travel of the enemies they sought, when a half-burned and wounded goblin burst into their camp. The goblin spoke the tongue of the orcs, and told them his tale of woe. Urzoth, of them all, took the most pity on the goblin.
His name was Olgleth. He and his tribe of two-score and ten adults had been attacked. A man with a big shield – the symbol of Whalin upon it – brought down the fire of the sun. A woman with pointed ears and two long blades cut through them. A giant of a man with an axe and ghostly bears tore them apart. And from the jungle, arrows flew with deadly accuracy.
Olgleth had stood his ground with the others, but he was swept aside by the great fire and the blades of the woman. When he awoke, his kin were dead, even the younglings. Olgleth fled into the woods, where he saw the green eyes of the bowman that had attacked from the trees. He fled farther, running for his life, scared and terrified, seemingly for days.
Before Olgleth passed out among the women, he mentioned something almost in passing, that it was strange that the humans wanted the ruins beneath their village.
The group realized that there was, perhaps, another of the great primal weapons very near to them. If they could reach the goblin village in time, they could catch the Inquisition and attack them. If the villains had already left the village, then surely they were not far ahead – but the village would likely cost the villains at least a days' travel, if not two.
They prepared themselves, mentally, to give their all in the next fight.
DM's Notes: I was wonderfully surprised to see a tracking roll so high as to discern the villains, and then TRACK them! Hard DCs of 20 were needed to follow a trail two weeks old through jungle, yet they did it, again and again, pushing one another. They would make a survival or perception check with advantage, DC20, each morning as they pushed hard through the jungle while following the trail of the villains. Then at lunch, they would make a CON save DC 10 – or lose advantage for the afternoon's tracking. They would rest through the night, and then move out again, the next day. For every morning that was successful, they stayed with the villains – and for every afternoon that was successful, they gained a day on them. It was wonderful to see the players so determined to catch up to the bad guys.
We discussed the traditional fey vulnerability to iron in myths, and considered several options for Saige's two characters. We decided that if they were going to accept vulnerability to iron, then they could have the fey magic resistance as an off set. We look forward to seeing how that plays out.
The 'grab a bear by the uvula' scene was funny, but also noteworthy for another reason. Players often insist they're 'staying in character' when they perform actions counter to the story or that hurt another player. In this case, I felt I had to say something to Caileb and remind him that we cannot have a collective story if he insists on staying within character for a character that cannot stay within the group. He ironed it out, no hard feelings that I could tell, and they moved on – but it could be a problem if the pubescent half-orc insists on grabbing bear uvulas.
I asked if they wanted to level up, from 5th to 6th, and there was general agreement. They will need everything they've got in the next fight.
None to date.