Days later, back at Oleg’s…
August presents Svetlana with her wedding ring…. She says it’s lovely, but it’s not hers! Bummer. She describes hers in further detail, which probably would have been helpful when she originally asked us to look for it. Petra disdainfully thinks Svetlana is a ditz, but August doesn’t seem to mind.
Lord Garess thanks us for our alliance with the kobolds, but he’s kind of a dick about it. He has yet another wanted poster for us — makes you wonder what the hell he and his men are for if they can’t take care of any of these problems! Anyway, this poster is for a man named Akiros Ismort. Apparently he was once a paladin, but at some point in the past he started messing around with a married woman — not too noble for a paladin. He ended up slaughtering both her and her husband (!!), and he fled, going off to live with some barbarians for awhile. He is now employed by the Stag Lord as his second in command. Garess tells us that Akiros has recently replaced the Stag Lord’s former second in command, a man named Dovan, but we don’t know why. He also tells us that Akiros is extremely dangerous.
That night while we’re sleeping, Jhod the mysterious traveler jumps from his bunk, screaming “Friends! Friends! I have had a revelation! Erastil has finally spoken to me!” Svetlana makes us some tea in the kitchen and we all gather round while Jhod tells us of his vision… Erastil has sent him on a journey to cleanse a temple. He’s been following signs up until recently; the signs led him here and he’s been waiting for more. Tonight he had a dream, and we were all in it helping him cleanse the temple. He says he would like it if we were to accompany him on his journey and help him; though he has no money to pay us, he will gladly offer us sanctuary there whenever we may need it. We agree to help him.
The next morning we awake to find that Jhod already has the wagon loaded up, and he’s all decked out in chain mail and carrying a mace. (A cleric, I guess?) He’s going to lead the way to the temple. We set out.
We camp at the Thorn River Camp. That night, while Lochnar and Drixt are on watch, they see a spectral apparition. She talks to them, telling them that she’s a spirit of the forest and we’ve transgressed into her sacred forest. She wants payment! Specifically HONEY! The boys tell her to piss off… she gets really angry and informs them that we are now cursed. At this point they decide to wake the rest of the party. Drixt tries to take a swing at her, but his sword goes right through her, and she doubly-curses Drixt. So being superstitious folk, we decide to give her one of our 2 jars of honey, which seems to placate her because she floats away and leaves us alone. We then hear rustling and giggling in the bushes. After much searching about, we come up with nothing, so we just go back to bed.
The next morning there are tracks everywhere, which Petra identifies as grigs and a fey dragon. They seemingly flew away. We infer that Drixt is not truly cursed; it was just an illusion.
Come to think of it now, we probably should have realized that’s what was going on, considering that Bokken told us about how much grigs love honey. Duh.
Next day (Hex 18)…
We travel on, and finally reach our destination: the Temple of the Elk." It’s pretty run-down. Vines covering everything, crumbling structures, and a fountain in the middle that’s all stagnant and yucky. Jhod tells us that one of the priests here committed sacrilege. Erastil cursed him and turned him into a bear. This bear still lives here, and is in constant pain. It’s stuck here. Our job is to kill the bear and subsequently cleanse the temple.
Petra notices some assassin vine nearby. It’s nasty stuff — it can move on its own and kill things to make its own fertilizer! Gross! A fight with the vine ensues, and as soon as we get the vine taken care of the bear shows up and starts kicking our asses in an epic fashion. We fight and fight and fight, wearing him down until Jhod deals the final death blow. The bear turns into an old man and then crumbles to dust. The fountain suddenly clears up, too.
We take a look around and find the cave where the bear lived, but there’s nothing in there of interest. We fill some flasks with holy water from the fountain and help Jhod get set up for his purification. He’s completely different; he seems as if a tremendous weight has been lifted from his shoulders. He’s going to stay here, he says, and we are welcome here anytime. He tells us that this is his penance for a terrible act he committed. He says that a long time ago his village had been troubled by murders of innocent citizens. The victims had all been obviously attacked by a vicious monster — clawed, mauled, etc. About this time a strange, hairy traveler had come to the village, and Jhod falsely accused this man of being the murderer. Jhod reasoned that his hairiness meant he was a werewolf, which went along with the vicious way in which the townsfolk had been attacked. So the village lynched this stranger. But, to everyone’s horror, the attacks continued. Come to find out, the attacker was actually a band of warts in the region. Jhod was banished for his false accusation. And now that he has made things right with Erastil he is redeemed. Yay for Jhod!
The following day, in the woods of Hex 19
We see a tree with a mite skull impaled on some branches. Sirene & August have a bad feeling about it… Sirene tells us that this is an area of First World history. The veil between the planes is very thin here; magic can leak through, and things can turn sour very quickly if the magic turns. Sirene throws a bag at the tree… Nothing happens.
We discover a ring on the ground — it’s blue with a fish on it. It’s a Ring of Swimming! We give it to Sirene.
We walk on a bit and discover a ford in the river and start to cross it. We make it as far as a sandbar in the middle, and just as we do so, a taztlwyrm slithers out of the water and attacks us. We kill it fairly easily. But then…. another one appears — it’s HUGE! The previous one must have been a baby, and this one is the mama! A big ol’ battle ensues — it’s pretty rough. Much grappling in the water and such! Kobie the dog dies, but we’re able to bring her back. By the end of the battle, we’ve killed 2 babies and the mama. We take all 3 heads with us.
Next day (Hex 20)….
Still riding through the woods. We spy a pile of some indeterminate substance lying up ahead; there are flies buzzing around it. August rides ahead to check it out, and discovers it’s a pile of purplish flesh. After he gives us the go-ahead, we ride up to join him. Petra recognizes the substance as troll placenta. There is a sound of crying coming from somewhere nearby… as we are trying to determine where it’s coming from and what it is, a huge boulder flies out of the woods and crushes August’s horse! August falls off and hurts himself. A huge troll comes lumbering out of the forest; she tells us to leave the horse flesh and she’ll not bother us anymore. We tell her we’ll leave her alone without a fight, but she needs to remember this in the future. She says this is fair enough. We ask her name; it’s Grasha. We then leave her in peace to eat August’s horse. August rides with Petra on her horse.
As we travel along the river, the terrain becomes increasingly marshy. We come upon a sunken area, where there are some odd buildings, in the middle of which is a high tower. Something up in the tower waves a white flag and calls to us in boggard. When we don’t respond, it says in common, “me friend! No fight!” We notice there are 2 Slurks down on the ground, not too far away. The creature in the tower yells something in boggard to the slurks… we THINK he tells them “no.” They seem to stay put, eyeing us as warily as a toad can.
We ride up toward the tower, and the boggard calls down to us: “This my kingdom. Are you peaceful?” We assure him that we are, and he comes down to speak with us. He tell us his name is Garum, and that he tried to take over his tribe after eating sacred blue dragonflies that gave him visions that told him to do so, but it didn’t work. His tribe captured him, and he maimed his own right hand in order to escape. He holds up his hand to show us — it’s nasty and looks quite painful — and we recall the encounter we had with those nasty boggards a few nights before — the ones who were looking for him.
After noticing that he also has Svetlana’s wedding ring (wtf?!) we strike a deal with him: If he promises to give us Svetlana’s ring, we will heal his hand. Plus, we will go seek the boggard search party, and when we find them we will tell them to go home and leave Garum alone. If they do not comply, we will deal with them. We will return after this is accomplished, and he will give us Svetlana’s ring. He accepts gratefully, and offers to let us stay here tonight. Nothing happens that night, and he seems honest and good on his word.
Next day (Hex 21)…
After leaving Garum’s place, we spend an uneventful day exploring. That night Petra and August are keeping watch and notice something rustling through the grass, headed toward us. Some kind of small animal. We wake Lochnar, who with his darkvision describes the creature to us: Some kind of iguana-like thing… a sparkly green dragon-y type creature with huge saucer-like eyes and a horn. We address it… the creature says his name is Blud All Innookee, and he’s a carbuncle. He tells us he’s a friend and he wants to travel with us. He says he was cursed and kidnapped by a wizard, but he managed to escape and now he’s trying to go home. Carbuncles, he points out, are shy creatures who use trickery and telepathy to keep people away from their areas; he’s able to make people see things and think things, and this could be valuable. He can also help people see into the future. If we help him go home, he tells us he’ll give us his horn — which is valuable for alchemy — in return.
Next day (Hex 22)…
In the morning, Lochnar has to leave on an errand. He will join back up with us in a couple of days. The rest of the day is uneventful, except for the fact that Blud seems to have really taken a shine to August.
Next day (Hex 23)…
As we’re traveling through the forest the magic folk suddenly get a bad feeling again, just like before, as if the boundaries between our world and the First World are very thin. We find a dead unicorn with its horn broken off, and there’s no apparent decomposition. The whole thing has a very negative aura — it was killed by a death spell, and its horn was removed post-mortem. Blud tells us it’s cursed with bad magic. Sirene sprinkles the unicorn with holy water, and it explodes all over us. Gross. Our work being done here, we move on.
Next day (hex 24)…
Nearing the Skunk River we discover boggard tracks. We stealthily track them… and discover this is the party looking for Garum! There are 10 altogether. Sirene calms 6 of them, and we attempt to parley with them. They’re having NONE of it, of course, so we have no choice but to fight.
It’s HORRIBLE… we get our asses kicked big time. It’s fairly apparent that we’re out of our element here in the river. In the end we manage to kill only 3, while 7 escape into the river. Damn it!