Rest for the Weary
Resting in the blind Frappe built for the party, Jayden and Erasmus attended to Frappe’s poison wounds and were able to stabilize the spread of the poison in his bloodstream. Unfortunately, the team’s supplies were insufficient to purge the poison from his system, but their efforts were successful in ensuring he would not get any worse. Through the night Caldwell, Sorrow, and Rangrim rotated shifts on watch along with Jayden’s three Eyes of Alarm for the extended rest. Erasmus carefully tucked an amulet into Frappe’s pocked while he rested; an amulet that carried great powers of protection to help strengthen his already weakened defenses.
No Rest for the Weary
Sorrow took the first watch shift while the others rested. The stillness and quiet of the night took its effect on her, as well, and she began to drift off within her own mind, as she pondered the events of the last couple of days and the influence of her pact with her patron and the other magical items the party happened upon. Lost in thought, Sorrow did not hear the rustling nearby that would have served as an early warning sign for the events about to unfold. As luck would have it, the Eye of Alarm were did not stir, either and the adventurers were woken by the sounds of rumbling while the earth below them began to move. Through the rumbling Sorrow hears whispering, almost as if the elements were calling out to her, but before she can focus her attention further, a 2-headed, horned snake (Death Rattler Viper) came up through the rubble grabbing her attention. More snakes emerged, surprising the party members who had been woken – the rude interruption to their rest putting them at a disadvantage at the onset of the attack as they shook off the effects of their deep sleep.
Sneak Snake Attack
Erasmus, Jayden, and Sorrow, who was already awake, were not affected by the surprise attack having superior focus and alertness. Despite this advantage, the snake attacked Jayden from behind, injuring her badly in 1 bite and injecting her with poison that if not attended to quickly, would continue to deteriorate her system and condition. As quickly as that happened, another snake emerged from the trees above and attempted to grab Caldwell to pull him up into the tree. Caldwell is quick on his feet and with his superior natural fey abilities, steps quickly out of the snake’s grip, but not before he finds himself on the receiving end of a biting attack. Erasmus steps in front of a large Crushgrip Constrictor and attacks with a righteous brand, but the snake is agile and able to dodge the attack. Jayden’s retaliation on the Viper whose bit marks are still fresh fails, and she is further weakened by the effects of the poison attacking her body. Seeing their fellow party falling under continual attacks at the hands of the snakes, Sorrow curses 2 snakes within range and Rangrim charges the Constrictor. A viper takes a bite at Sorrow and after feeling the attack from the first head, is able to avoid the attack of the second head. Rangrim is grabbed by the Constrictor and pulled up into a nearby tree.
Caldwell fires an acid orb at one of the Vipers while Erasmus attacks with his divine rage, neither of which seem to have much affect on the snakes. While moving forward to attack, Erasmus is able to push the Constrictor off of Rangrim, and the snake releases its grasp. Jayden’s next attack also follows suit and she misses her attempt to Blunder Rangrim out of the tree so he is out of the grip of the Constrictor should it commence another attack. Squeezing the last bit of visible poison from her gaping bite wound, she begins to feel her strength returning and the last of the poison is excised from her system. Frappe turns the tables in the favor of the adventurers, attacking with Twin Strike and making contact with both heads of the snake, a weapon in each hand. Sorrow seizes an opportunity to curse the remaining 2 snakes, effectively cursing all the attackers. Rangrim moves out of the tree to attack one of the Vipers, successfully bloodying the creature using a very apropos Serpent Strike.
Oozing with blood and puss, the Viper returns the attack at Rangrim, but in its weakened state, misses. It quickly follows up with another attack on Sorrow, who is not as fortunate and she is badly wounded. The Constrictor tries to move behind Rangrim who takes the opportunity to launch a successful attack. In retaliation, the Constrictor grabs Rangrim and begins to squeeze his body, crushing his ribs and making it difficult from him to breathe. Hearty Rangrim suffers, but at the same time feels invigorated by the successful attack against the Constrictor and resists the full extent of the Constrictor’s crushing intents. Erasums focuses his energy over Sorrow and is able to restore her strength while Jayden channels her majestic word of healing in Rangrim’s direction, distracting the Constrictor enough to force it to release its grasp on Rangrim – not a moment too soon as his eyes began to bulge under the constricting pressure. Breathing at full capacity again, and thankful to be doing so, Rangrim takes in a deep breath before steadying his axe to a cleave attack at the Constrictor. Sorrow doubles the damage by taking an opportunity attack against the Constrictor on the heels of Rangrim’s cleave.
Seeing the snakes within his range, Caldwell seizes the perfect chance to release his great area of effect powers. With Rangrim within the range, as well, Caldwell focuses his fire intently on the snakes and is able to successfully control the trajectory of the acid orbs to avoid hitting his fellow party member. Dividing their assaults across all 4 snakes, the party was not making great progress bringing any creature down singly. Caldwell’s attack on the bloodied snake badly damaged the creature, but did not finish it off. On its last scales, Erasums attacks the near-dead creature with his weapon, but misses. It its attempt to dodge the attack, the Viper did duck its head, which was now stuck in the ground, anchored by one of the horns on its head.
On a roll, nearby Jayden dishes up a serving of Vicious Mockery and hits one of the Vipers, who is now distracted and weakened in its attempts to attack the adventurers. The snakes begin to cultivate an aura of fear amongst the party, rattling their tails, which unsettles the adventurers. Sorrow finishes off the horn-grounded Viper and begins to radiate with a dark aura. The snakes and adventures continue to exchange attacks and blows with equal successes on both sides – as vipers are badly damaged, so are the party members. Short and stout Rangrim is an attractive, nugget-sized target for the snakes and once again the Constrictor grabs him like and begins to squeeze. Caldwell attempt to loosen the grasp with his bare hands and Erasmus’s attempts are also unsuccessful. Although badly hurt, Frappe musters up his strength and makes a two-handed attack against 2 of the vipers, killing one but missing the other as the momentum of the sword slicing through the neck of one of the snakes impacts the trajectory of his other weapon and its intended target.
Rangrim falls unconscious from the grasp of the Constrictor and Jayden dishes a second helping of psychic torture and vicious mockery at the snake, weakening its attack power as it reels from disorientation and confusion; however, not affecting the strong grasp on Rangrim. Frappe attacks the same Constrictor and Sorrow unleashes her Spiteful Glamour also at the target, who is now barely breathing having suffered 3 consecutive rounds of damage from Jayden, Frappe, and Sorrow. Rangrim can tell that the grip of the snake is beginning to loosen and he is finding it easier to breathe. Able to regain oxygen flow and feeling back in his limbs, he attempts a crushing strike, but the angle of the attack proves too difficult while still in the grasp of the Viper. Caldwell’s hands release an angry acid attack at the snakes in range, one of which tries to retaliate, but whose attack is thwarted as he is blinded mid-swipe by an orb of acid. The attack finishes off the Constrictor who instantly releases its death grip on Rangrim, who falls to the ground, once again unconscious.
With one snake remaining, the party focuses on their combined attacks against the creature, leaving Rangrim unconscious, piled up on the dead Constrictor for the moment. Erasmus and Jayden’s attack attempts miss, but Frappe connects. At the hand of this blow the snake attempts to flee, slithering away into the forest. Caldwell’s acid orb releases too early and he barely escapes damage at his own hands (literally). Jayden extends her crossbow and with careful aim fires a single shot at the snake, stopping its escape attempt and sending it to its own Cruel Fate.
Time to GO!
Surveying the battleground, Frappe informs the group that the large snake, the Crushgrip Constrictor, has scales that are very valuable. He skins the scales off the creature, which he estimates to be worth 375 gold pieces. Sensing a nearby area of safety off the path ahead, Frappe leads the party ahead where they take a short rest. While relaxing and tending to their battle wounds, Jayden sings a Song of Rest to the party. She plays along with her violin, especially for Frappe, a gesture that in a complementary way to Erasmus’ amulet of protection, adds power to the attacks of their newcomer. Hearing the sounds of the early morning jungle, Frappe urges the party to press on – but “Where to?” is the larger question. Sorrow says she knows where to go and points ahead. Erasmus, as one of the group’s natural leaders, wants to know where we are going and how Sorrow seems to know what to do – what is her agenda? The party is engaged in this conflict as Frappe looks ahead and sees a tree begin to wave and jiggle like Jell-O ®. Noticing the concerned look on his face, the group follows his gaze and sees the wavering trees. Jayden tells the party that the planar portals are becoming more unstable and they need to find a way out of this plane. Erasmus probes Sorrow further, asking her to take them home, since she said she knew how. She firmly says she does know, but she will not take them home – she has information she needs before they go. Frappe ignores the scuttle and instead tries to climb a tree to see ahead in the distance, but is unable to get high enough for proper vantage.
Sorrow closes her eyes and begins to breathe deeply, her hands folded meditatively in front of her. She begins to levitate and emit a black mist, and as suddenly as it started, she opened her eyes, feet on the ground, and told the group she knew what to do. Jayden and Erasmus exchange glances, as they realize that she was demonstrating deity-like powers and no non-deity should know how to do that. Erasmus asks her directly what she was doing and how she knew how to do it. She indicates that she doesn’t know. In a verbal retaliation for what she felt to be scolding from Erasmus, she asks him if he is afraid. He admits he is and has no shame in it – trees are not supposed to wiggle like that and he wants to get home before they are thrust into another plane and have no way of returning home. Sorrow says there is something to be learned here and she wants to stay. Growing angry at what appears to be utter disregard for the safety of the others, Erasums pointedly asks her if there is something for “us” to learn, or just “you.” Caldwell, growing impatient and frustrated (as well as angry at Sorrow, with whom he does not share the warmest relationship), begins to lose control and the party sees flicks of fire ignite from his fingertips. Ignoring Erasmus’ question, Sorrow says they have less than 1 day’s worth of work – implying that there is plenty of time to gather the information and return home. Jayden, becoming suspicious as well, asked if she means there is less than 1 day until the plane collapses or if she means it will take them less than 1 day to find the information Sorrow is apparently looking for and safely return home. Sorrow answers Jayden, looking her right in the eye, and repeats that it is less than 1 day’s worth of work, that’s all she is asking for. In a rare feat, Sorrow’s bluff fools Jayden and she seems satisfied for the moment. Jayden and Erasmus have already guessed that Sorrow has some insight/power in this plan, but Jayden, perhaps mistakenly, assumes that Sorrow is taking the group’s safety into account when balancing her needs for information. She can tell that Sorrow is telling the truth, but senses she is holding something back. Only time will tell if this was wise or foolish.
Sidebars and Staff of Hidden Secrets
Frappe urges the party once again to keep moving ahead and the group follows Sorrow’s instruction to head West and then North to follow the trail ahead. The party stays just a bit off the road but does not venture too far into the brush flanking the trail. An agitated Caldwell pulls Erasmus to the back of the traveling pack and asks the party for privacy for a tête-à-tête with Erasmus. Jayden is immediately offended by this gesture, but with her usual diplomacy and tact, respectfully requests that she be included on their conversation, making her case well that as one of the group’s leaders, she needs to know what is going on, including concerns, so that she can help address them and determine what is best for the party. Knowing she can help and has been fair and just in her leadership, they usher her in. Rangrim and Frappe are unaffected by the sidebar – they trust Erasmus and Jayden. Sorrow is suspicious because of Caldwell’s initiation of the conversation, but also deep down has a trust and respect for the group’s leaders.
Caldwell explains that after Sorrow’s levitation, the staff that he had been carrying since they fought the Ghoul Queen began to click and pieces of it began to move like a Rubix ® cube, now revealing arcane symbols that neither he or Erasumus understood. They showed Jayden the Staff of Blades and through her bardic knowledge, she immediately knew what this was, although she shared that she was not an expert on the matter. She informed them that this was not a Staff of Blades, it had been incorrectly identified as such when they took it from the Ghoul Queen. Rather, it is a magical Staff of Hidden Truths. Looking at it, she told them that it has now been engaged/opened and the arcane symbols line up through a series of dials to reveal literally thousands of truths. She posited that Sorrow’s ritual of conversation with a deity (augury) was a condition that must have caused it to open up and engage. Based on the symbols, it is currently telling them that it can do 1 of 2 things – transform itself into a dagger or grant is bearer the gift of additional insight or perception. Jayden knows that certain pre-defined conditions need to be met before the dials will reset and reveal additional truths, but she doesn’t add to the group’s confusion by sharing this information.
Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Fellow Adventurer’s Staff
Even without understanding the arcane symbols on the staff, everyone in the party immediately wanted it and the dissention amongst the group was tangible as each took his or her turn arguing as to why they should have it. Some wanted it for safe-keeping, others wanted it for power, and others wanted it just so that someone else wouldn’t have it. The group had not been at odds like this in quite a while and even Jayden and Erasmus, who had not been historically interested in the treasures of the adventures, were overcome with avarice over the item. Jayden wanted the staff because she is the only one who can read it and she knew that when it made a clicking noise, a condition had been met and it was reset to reveal a new truth. She also wanted it to keep it from being damaged if used as a weapon and wanted it out of Caldwell or Sorrow’s hands, fearing what they might try to do with it if they uncovered its secret. Sorrow began to hear a voice in her head telling her it was pleased with the dissention, greed, and in-group fighting. Caldwell and Erasmus make a case that Caldwell should carry it, as the magic enhancement it grants would suit him well, and as such, the party well, for the future battles ahead. Not wishing to cause further dissention, Jayden strikes an agreement with Caldwell and allows him to carry it providing the following conditions are met: he does not use it as a weapon, he will turn it over to Jayden at any time she requests, and he tells her when he hears or feels the object click or move. He willingly agrees, and is genuine in his commitment to her.
Debrief and Trouble Ahead
Jayden motions to the rest of the group to circle near her so she can fill them in on the object and the discussions that were occurring at the back of the pack. Caldwell is visibly concerned with this and clearly preferred the information to stay within the trifecta of participants. Erasmus trusts Jayden’s judgment and she acknowledges his trust to proceed. She begins to recount the information she shared with Erasmus and Caldwell, and is interrupted by Frappe who strongly urges they “walk and talk” as he is insistent on forging ahead. No sooner do they take his advice when Frappe sees a group of approximately 10 Omecs approaching up the road toward the party – he sees a high priest, not Chavacooth, berserkers, and spear throwers, the same mix of tribesmen they encountered in the village earlier. Frappe suggests they hide and hope the group passes them unceremoniously, as the party had a difficult time making it out of the battle alive the last time they were up against the same pack. Before they can do so, the berserkers see Frappe and the Omecs begin running back to the city from whence they came along the road ahead. Sorrow says she knows that Chavacooth in is the temple in the city up ahead, and they are headed back to tell him they have spotted us.
There’s No Place Like the Temple
Sorrow tells the group the temple is in the middle of the city, and seeing people in the town up ahead, the party wonders how they will get into the city without being attacked in order to even get into the temple. Rangrim posits that there is no underground tunneling or sewage system that would allow them to sneak in underground and there appears to be no easy way directly in, especially if they need to get to the center. Sorrow is adamant that getting to the temple is the way to get home. Absent of any better recommendations for getting home, they brainstorm how they might get into the city without provoking attack from the Omecs therein. Frappe informs the group that the city is surrounded by farmland to the East and North, with another side of the town alongside a large body of water. The group decides to begin their journey through the jungle toward the pastures to find a way to sneak into the city, definitely the long way around adding another 1.5 hours to their journey towards the city.
Friendly Farmer Escort
Approaching the farmland they can see Omec farmers in the fields up ahead with carts and horses, harvesting their crop of hemp. The party devises a plan to approach one of the farmers and persuade him to escort them and their party into the center of the city, hidden in their harvest-filled crop cart. Frappe, with the ability to understand the Omec language, suggests that he bring Jayden along with him to have the benefit of her diplomacy and negotiation, as well as powers of persuasion. Even though she does not speak the language, Frappe promises he will give her a crash course on the journey ahead and be there to help facilitate discussion with the farmer. To further assist, he empowered her with his natural gift of speech with words, allowing her to communicate in the Omec native tongue. The group agrees that leaving the others behind is the best bet, especially since the sight of Rangrim and Sorrow may be especially frightening and wouldn’t aid the attempts at peaceful negotiation of an escort.
Jayden and Frappe spot a farmer with a horse and cart up ahead, fairly isolated from any fellow field workers – a perfect target. They approach him and Jayden’s words of friendship put him at ease. She explains that they are here to help the high priest, Chava Kuth, put an end to the unnatural occurrences going on here as of late and they need his help to get them to the temple in the center of town. He questions why they will need an escort into town if they are here in peace and Chava Kuth is expecting their help. Jayden explains that her friends look even more different than she and Frappe do, and they do not want to incite panic by traveling into and through the town – she suspects the townspeople will attack them, viewing them as part of the danger surrounding their existence. Reluctantly, the farmer agrees to escort the party, having fallen victim to Jayden’s charms. The farmer gathers his horse and cart and they set out together to meet the rest of the party and load them into his cart under his corn and hemp crop. Frappe thanks him with a small gift – an obsidian mirror and smoke sticks. The farmer is visibly thrown by this gesture and seems reluctant to take them, suspicious of how objects of such value came into his belonging. Jayden quickly recovers the situation, misleading him into thinking they were gifts from the high priest bestowed upon them at their last meeting.
Uncovered – Literally!
With the adventurers packed closely in the cart, covered by crop, they ride through the town and can hear cries of panic from the street. They are unsure if the pandemonium is due to their arrival, which they doubt knowing they are well hidden, or some other happenings on the street. They hear a gruff voice order “halt” and the cart comes to quick stop. Through a crack in the planks of the cart Jayden can see the temple up ahead and notices 2 Omec berserkers ready with axes threatening a very frightened farmer. A berserker grabs the farmer by the neck and readies his axe to attack the party’s escort when Jayden, now standing up in the cart, preemptively attacks the berserker with her Blunder – sliding him out of arm’s reach of the farmer, sending the berserker stumbling to the ground over the yoke of the cart. Sorrow jumps from the cart and joins Jayden’s attack once the berserker trips into her melee attack range. Reeling from double-damage, the berserker begins to froth at the mouth in pain and rage. In retaliation, the berserker stands up and takes a swing at Sorrow, who deftly moves out of the way.
The other berserker takes hold of the cart and begins to try to lift it off the group to empty its contents, now knowing that the party of adventurers that the lookouts spotted was inside. Caldwell’s attack misses the cart-clutching berserker and he continues to strain as he attempts to lift the cart off the road. Frappe jumps from the cart and viciously attacks this berserker, causing serious injury. Set off by his bloodied state, the berserker retaliates against Frappe and returns the crushing blow. Rangrim joins the attack, jumping out of the cart and Erasmus sends the berserker to his death with his lance of faith before he was able to disrupt the cart and its contents. Jayden continues the assault with the intent of ensuring the farmer’s safety, who stands frozen with fear amidst the action. Her misdirected mark hits the remaining berserker, who reels with anger at Rangrim, who he was tricked into thinking initiated the attack. Successful distracting the berserker, Jayden throws the farmer under his own cart and tells him to stay put and take cover. Sorrow looks into the berserker’s soul for this delicious weakness, and not seeing one, she attacks as the ground begins to rumble beneath her. The badly injured berserker attacks Rangrim, and Caldwell doubles up on the damage casting his acid orbs. During the scuttle, Frappe snuck around the cart to spring a sneak attack on the berserker and flanking him with an attack, cuts him cleanly into 4 pieces as his 2 swords slice the berserker in an “X” pattern.
We Meet Again, Chava Kuth…
An angry mob of townspeople began to approach the temple during the fight. Jayden helps the farmer up into his cart and sends him away through the mob of people before he is unable to escape. The townspeople appear generally agitated and it does not appear to be directed at the party of strangers. The party sees Chava Kuth atop the temple stairs ahead. He stretches out his arms (a la Eva Peron) to address his people and bellows, “People of the Omecs, do not despair. Chava Kuth, High Priest of Tezcatlipoca will destroy these interlopers.” Immediately the party is struck by lightning from his hands and is immobilized. Chava Kuth shouts out a command and Rangrim, unable to stop himself, begins to move slowly forward towards the high priest. Erasmus recognizes the command as one with great power to control others and it is clear that Rangrim is not in control of his movements.