The Silk Road

The Battle for the Kakutsk

Back to Pride Rock directly!

The kreen clutch are salvagable. She is worn and torn, but its an apparently hearty race for next morning she insists she is ready to move! Astounding! She will go back to the kreen NE, to stop them from being so crazy.

Duncan "Can you wipe out the gnolls with us?"

She will try, if she can get there in time. She has a lot of distance to cover. Grumpet sends an animal messenger to the cave, for the king to meet us there on the day of our planned arrival.

On the trail, we run into groups of travellers over and over. First, a warband a couple hundred strong from a herd of yakmen heading in same direction. Since last time one of us talked to them, the King of the Yakmen by the lake east is assuming that since we are backing the old king, he has sworn off the war to exterminate the wemics; their warbands are assembling at the north river to war the gnolls are already starting to cross in groups larger and larger.

"Now it is up to you to do your part and bring the king of the wemics back."

Further on, we encounter the other local races on the move!. All able bodied centaurs are moving to the hills north of pride rock. They swore an alliance with the yakmen because of us, to wipe out the wemics. They are the west flank. The tiger wemics have assembled their warriors, are moving for Pride Rock. Regardless of what happens with our plan, they see the writing on the wall with the Bharag Grok, they must be stoppped together. A string of the nomad cavalry next, Brothers of the Wolf. Wolf, Hawk, Deer, Cat, Snake. Snake Brotherhood were not really nomadic, the humans who lived in the serpent forest. Allied with YT or became YT. They have been reduced to nothing after our YT attack. They will disperse and be no more. The Cat are already at Pride Rock, only ones truly wemic friends in every way. Wolves and Hyena's don't like one another, so we march vs Bharag Grok, marching for river north to give them hell as they try to cross. The Deer brothers are not good warriors, but great messengers and communicators and hit and run tactics, fastest of all nomads. The Hawk are great scouts, scout assassins of a sort. Quick, stealthy killers. Not good at mass combat. All working in their own ways. They all hope to meet us again soon.

By the time we reach the river east of the Rock, the 8 clans of rakasta are going to PR too. They are the only ones thus far that have met with tragedy already. All here are all there is of them. They are here en mass. Up the river north was where they all met up. The ravager adn his elites and witch stormed upon their 2 tribes "We fought best we could and could have won, but the ravager and his heroes were too much once they entered the fray. We got to our village to find another group had attacked their already and were not just killed but were being feasted upon. The rakasta total 62 warriors in all now, and looking for payback.

Duncan sends a hard bitten squad of them to pick up the Queen wemic and cub and meet us at PR.

We approach PR and see it is bustling. The Cats are here to see the fireworks. Rumor has spread the old king is still alive, because of our good deeds. Delegations of all others are here to see the anticipated action. We approach the Rock, saying nothing but greetings to anyone of what is about to happen to anyone, and join the caravan already here.

Lots of whispers as we pass by, wondering if this is going to happen, where is the king? Queen? Etc.

The king is sent another animal messenger to enter town immediately, he should be a few hours away waiting.

The brothers welcome us back.

Duncan "We need to talk in private."

Duncan tells him his YT allies have been crushed by the thri kreen. Then convinces him that we have the queen and cub in tow, but the king is going to get here first with protectors. Further, no one here will accept their legitimacy again unless its, primitive style, claws, primitive weapons. But, we have an ace in the hole for him. His scintillating robed sorcerer will be here to help again. In reality, Arisaan will be in the robe at the fight but will disappear as the fight begins. That and political tokens seals the dea.

Grumpet, Bligh, Arisaan, and others are informing the delegations to back us up on the claim.

They then arrive after we leave to do just that.

We let word get around, and all prepare for the duel and wait for the arrival of the real King.

Duncan talks to Malenko about donning the robe himself, and hitting the lead brother with a couple minor hindering spells at strategic moments, suruptisiously. He is not really in to breaking the wemic customs since he likes them so much, but really hates the idea of the brothers winning. He's torn. Duncan convinces him for the brothers aren't getting out of here alive. If they win, Duncan's men are killing them anyway. No tribe here will risk protestation with the Bharag Grok threat.

The 2 brothers proceed to whoop one another up, feline pumping up. The crowd below splits as Hrok and the King make their way. Hrok has let the king know his Queen and cub are safe and on the way.

The brothers say nothing nor taunt the old king. Lots of insults at Hrok however, that all of  his family will be put down for his attempted usurpation.

First, an intimidation phase, paw slapping etc. Then circling and feeling each other out. This lasts a couple minutes or so.

Hrok and the weaker brother initiate first, then the other 2 engage. Soon enough, Hrok and foe are in a full on grapple on the ground, rolling and raking and biting at one another ferociously. The king and elder brother then charge one another head on, slamming into one another and right to the scrapping like they've hated one another all their lives with barely any defense on either side.

The old king gets in a couple flurry of hits. Twice the older brother looks to be getting in a powerful lick when he suddenly weakens just slightly or slips for a moment (Malenko) causing him to miss by a hair.

All are with bated breath surrounding the combat.

Though Hrok is larger and older, the younger brother has more skill from his adventuring. It 

The battle turns on a critical fumble by the elder brother just after getting in a good body shot and overpowering him to the ground. He goes for a overhand cleave but trips over the kings flailing lets falling face first to the ground. Dazed for a moment, the King leaps at the opportunity and tears him open viciously then grabs him by the mane. One massive strike with his axe kills the elder brother!!

In our peripherals, we can see Malenko moving about, giving the edge to our men!

Soon as the elder bro is dead, the younger of the 2 is panic stricken.

Duncan to his men "Do not let him out of here. He is in this to the death."

He then gets cautious, now down 1 to 2. Only making the most opportune attacks. He gets to Hrok's flank and is about to get in a good shot when the King leaps into position behind him and grapples him to the ground. The king pins the usurper's arms to the ground powerfully. Hrok begins chopping him like an inanimate log. The brothers adrenaline gets on arm free and stabs the King with his stone dagger in the rubs deeply but he's a goner. That was his last gasp of power. His weapons drop just after, he goes mostly limp as the king releases and backs off. The bro gets up stumbling blood pouring out of him. Hrok pounces ruthlessly and a rapid attack of his lion claws finishes the troublemaker.

Hrok is moderately damaged. Grumpet races to the king and starts making with the druid skills.

The cheers rise "The Kings are back!" as Hrok must be co king now.

A handful of the yakmen with a centaur and couple nomads hurry into the camp. The gnolls are on the move en mass and on their way here. All their sorties have merged into one on this side but for random stragglers. Our allied centaurs yakmen and nomads took a whooping and had to pull back. "The ravager and his champions are unstoppable." The allied forces are as well but can't attack again until we are all together. "The Bharag Grok horde is uncountable. The yipping and wailing they make struck terror into all before them."

Mulligan "That doesn't sound very natural."

We start mobilizing immediately. We warn them of our undead horde, informing them they are more animated than undead "Like if a wizard made a chair walk around."

Our priest arrives with the undead. All our forces are mustered.

The usurper equipment is gathered and divided to Hrok and the King. The wemic nation is at war.

We see on the horizon a running skirmish. The humans harrassing the enemy to stop them from overtaking the exhausted yakmen. From the SE the last of the minotaurs and Yaks are almost here.

The thousand of gnolls indeed emit an unnerving yip, like a terrible laughing. It seems almost the entire army is doing so. In their center are ravager, witch, champions. Their laughter is making that of the masses more potent.

Riding in front of the horde are our cavalry, harassing the gnolls as well, having met and joined up with the other forces. Once their arrows are Higone, they make for us. When our wemics make their move, the yakmen make their massive charge. The brothers of the Cat ride in small groups as horse archers with the wemics. The wolf charge; Hawks circle mounted, pinpointing flinds and obvious leaders. Hrok and the King each take a different group. Tor goes for the center left, Cat on the right. The skeletons are moments away from engaging. The ravager and champs are in the heart of combat. Every group who pulls into fight them is destroyed. Hyenadon riding cav (dire hyena's). Hrok is soon lost in the horde. Tor cleaves his way through, every hit a kill. Tor reaches the ravager before we can get there. But the shaman is casting upon him at the same time, opening up what wounds he had left from the previous fight. The ravager lops off Tor's head!! He picks it up and rides through he battle showing his head!

As we are trying to get to teh leadership in the center, Hrok comes into view holding a handful of gnoll scalps and lobs them into the crowd. The ravager turns toward him as he is fighting toward us.

Our skeletons enter the fray in support of where groups of our men are engaged to take attacks away from our men. A dull but loud humming begins all around the battle, from an unseen source. It is unsettling to those who hear it, though Duncan is pretty sure he knows what it is and gets a wry smile on his lips.

The skeletons are sent in to fortify our group, and we use them as animated shields essentially.

After a quick foray by skirmishers does no harm, a force charges at us. Grumpet summons a 5' rampart under our line with a 5' deep ditch in front of it. We cut the force down with relative ease but for a squad of hyenadon riding gnolls who hit Bhodan's men on our right and its a tough fight. Behind them coming toward us and arriving soon, comes the witch, priest, ravager with bodyguard, a bunch of flinds.

Clouds have beenrolling in, and by now the sky is completely blackened like a terrible storm is imminent. The rakasta on our left are being overrun by the gnolls with mounds of our skeletons destroyed among them, forming groups back to back to defend themselves. To our right, the wemics are holding their own. Beyond them, the yakmen and some humans have surged and are rushing over the gnolls there.

From the weakened rakast left comes a force of enemy, 20 of the rageborn gnolls. Its lucky that the heavily drilled Hobgoblins are there with Archileus at the very end to turn the line with precision to meet them!

Duncan "Master of Heat and Flame! Burn the scum!" as the centaurs fire over our men and into them. Kyros reads an incantation from a tome, and 8 of the hobgoblins are plus 1 hit/dam for 2 rounds.

A torrential downpoor begins, very fast the field is muddy.

Bhodan's men hold the line, much backed up by skeleton shields. The gnoll leader was knocked out fairly quick. Arisaan made a beeline there and beheaded him.

A vortex forms in the clouds above us as the battle continues. One of the rageborn is struck by a random bolt of lightning. The rageborn wrap up our right flank at the centaurs who moved up when our line shifted. The endmost is cut to ribbons by 4 rageborn. Grumpet entangles them from the other flank, then Masther of HnF conjures a 2handed flameblade and cuts one, which then vanishes in a quick flash.

With the right flank secure, suddenly Hrok and the 2 catnip loving wemics leap over the ditch and charge toward the ravager and his group who are coming across the field at us. The Minotaur, not to be undone, follows.

Bhodan "Duncan, what do we do?"

Duncan "Move up with them and provide skirmish fire to keep the fools from getting swarmed. Do Not Melee Engage!"

The other centaur goes down!

The massive rageborn leader has lingered behind the line, now comes forward with an almost impossible charge in the muck. 2 of his men step aside and he reaches Archileus and a hoblite. He gets by them, then overruns the hoblites behind, reaching Malenko and crits him in the head!

Duncan orders all but Archileus side to go round our ditch and move up to assist Hrok et al. It is only under the vortex that got saturated, upon us specifically.

The rageborn leader takes Malenko down but loses his falchion in the process! Malenko is knocked 15' away.

The shield one of the first gnoll Lt's has, that fought the hoblites and died, was carrying the dead wemic king's shield!

As Duncan and our forced move across the field, we can see more of the battle. We are doing surprisingly well compared to how this whole thing started but victory is at best 50/50 right now.

As we engage the wemic force, another large pack of gnolls appears to the right heading for us at a run, but the Imperial Cav charges into them and cuts them off. The gnolls are large enough in number that they are able to form a circle around cav.

The humming and buzzing, we can now here, is much louder.

The gnoll hit by the Malenko and vanished reappears almost right where he vanished, only sent temp into a time vortex.

Then, a horde of thri kreen, the source of the humming, appears!  They slam into all fronts of gnolls!! The tide begins to turn.

At the Ravager and his men, Duncan et al catch up as fast as we can to Hrok et al. The rakasta hit the flinds first with Bhodan's men. We then hit dead center, cutting our way to the leadership directly with Hrok himself.

The ravager is flanked by the Boodha and the Chosen One priest. Duncan appears from the crowd first, with Hrok, engaging the ravager. Mulligan soon joins them as Toro hits the Chosen one and Bligh the Boodha. Grumpet then appears from the ground as an earth elemental! He grapples the ravager's legs while half in the ground, disrupting his defense and attacks!! He keeps this on for most of the fight, making a huge difference. 

Archileus and the hobgoblins fight a desparate action vs the barbarian gnolls who are the most ferocious opponents they have ever battled en masse. Several of the hobgoblins go down by the end, but all survive thanks to timely heal checks and a lucky stabilization at neg 10 by one of the hoblites. Kyros and Father B assist, healing Pollux enough to bring him back to conciousness, before Father B follows Duncan up to the Ravager battle. There, he harrasses the Chosen One best he can and assists our efforts. The tide turns when Arisaan makes her move, cutting down the massive boss rageborn with 2 disembowling sneak attacks.

The battle is a great challenge for both sides, its an awesome contest. Hitting is inconsistent at first, Toro is especially challenged by the Chosen One, and the enemy casters suffer several timely spellcasting failures. Hrok is taken down by a Ravager mighty crit but then Mulligan especially kicks into gear, hitting multiple times for a few rounds in a row and lays the Ravager low. Father B has brought Hrok back up by then, and he and Duncan turn to help Bligh as Toro takes the Chosen One down immediately after.

Mulligan the Scum drops trow, straddles the downed Ravager's head while holding his maw open, and starts taking a dump in the Ravager's mouth.

Duncan and Bligh slay the Chosen One while this is going on. Out of their 3 bodies come dark clouds that form together above us and a voice warns us this is not over, it will return to destroy us. It then becomes a vortex which buffets us terribly as we try to scatter from its wrath, Mulligan pants around knees. This drops the alread wounded Hrok again but he survives.

The battle is being won around us. Its thanks to the Kreen arrival, though neither side could have beaten the gnoll horde alone. As the gnolls flee, the kreen follow to cut down all they can in the route. Our army ceases and gathers. The rakasta are a people no more, none remain but those who fought with us. They will follow us east in hopes of finding more of their kind from their ancestral homeland of lore.

Kyros over casted from his arcane book and we find him passed out amongst the downed hobgoblins. Duncan and Toro are our worst off.

During the battle proper, our caravan at the basd of pride rock had to circle and defend against an attack themselves, Nnesk and Maeth helping there.

Nothing but rest and casualty accounting the remainder of the day. The Kreen return in groups and mass nearby.

The skeletons are completely destroyed.

Over next few days:

Recovery for our wounded.

Hrok is now the single Wemic Chief.

Duncan talks with the kreen queen, who ask us to travel east to their home valley to deal with the problems there. Duncan agrees to go and see the situation to see what we can do, but this must include a deal to assist all future trade east and west, to and from the Empire.

 

 

 

 

XP for entire battle other than ravager's group: 52800

Rageborn leader's falchion: mst (plus 1 crit threat range) man size

Lt Fort lt shield, steel

 

Adv Note, Kimiristi:
Entered via Room 23; Vhue is in room 30; orcs in the 5 rooms marked 25

Books: when using book with a heal check = plus 2 to treat; healing herbs = 150 uses, each gives plus 2; 

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Ritual in the Serpent Forest

Day 1 its drizzling the whole day. The clouds are circling the region not moving on. Day 2 its a full rain. Day 3 when we arrive its a blood storm.

There are actual rain clouds which have rolled in as well, mixing water with the blood.

Grumpet says the forest here, ruins inside most likely to

be specific, is the epicenter.

We camp as its late. The night is uneventful. The bloodstorm ceases.

Next Day

Up early and into the forest of the YT, straight for the middle. Low lying cloud of mist greets us, very thick fog. Can't see clearly beyond 5', nothing past 30'. Further, its a bloodfog, nasty red hue to it. The animal life is completely quiet. The only sound is that of our walking on the bloodrain soaked ground.

Grumpet "This is unnatural, they've ruined the landscape.

By the time we reach the edge of the central deep forest, the fog has yet to lift. Many of the trees in the center are thriving like they love this blood rain, like they are feeding off of it. This makes Grumpet nervous and angry.

Grumpet "I will not be holding back from combat on this one."

Duncan "Wait until we most need it."

A good mile and a half or 2 in, nearing the center, some of us notice that some of the blood loving trees seem moving ever so slightly, branches beginning to lean into us. Vines on the ground slowly snaking toward us. 1 particularly vial tree further down the path looks like its moving, bluffing natural movement. Its big, real big, only reason we can see it.

Battle begins as we hear a massive rend from the earth, the giant tree has stood up.

The first to drop is via Mulligan and Pollux's fire spell. Then the rear 2 rakasta drop their's right after!

One of the front rakasta, Toro, TK, and Nnesk are rushing ahead for the big one, for Grumpet yelled he is likely controlling the other trees. He is then grappled, but transforms into a snake and slithers out.

Nnesk and the front rakasta see 4 humanoids come just into sight at the right of the blood Treant. They warn the other 2 as 4 arrows wisp by them.

Toro "Ignore them!"

The big tree is marching to us, but its slow. The wemic with Duncan kills that one, Pollux clears the front one, and those rakasta make for the new humanoid foes. More humanoids charge us from beyond the archers!

Maeth, Mulligan and his wemic make for the front as well now.

Grumpet slithers that direction too. The 2 rear rakasta join Bligh and his rakasta.

The chargers look human.

The final trees drop and we all head forward to battle.

The humanoids turn out to be YT purebloods. Mulligan deals the final blow to the evil blood Treant, which oozes a bloody sap. After that we start dropping pure bloods. The last archer flees into the fog and we take out the evil druid last, surrounded and hacked down like the rat he is.

The mist starts to break up and we move on. Approaching the ruined temple, the mist has lifted. Sky is still blood red swirling clouds, slight bloody drizzle now too.

The ruin is well and overgrown. Once 2 or 3 stories, now one. We come to what looks to have been the main entrance. To the rear an old dome structure and a spire adjacent, collapsed. Fronting the dome is a statue visible over the old 2nd floor wall remnants of half man/half snake arms outstretched. Remnants of a stairway within the spire.

We split up. Duncan leads Bligh, Pollux, Archileus, the wemics, Nnesk, Kyros and Father Balsomon and Tk in through the front door.

Climbing up and into the spire, Mulligan leads Grumpet, Maeth, Arisaan, Toro and the rakasta. Looking over the former dome, there is a huge ceremony in the largest room toward the front. About 40 some YT filling the room tight, priest we saw in the crystal included, of multiple sorts including some minor mutations such as a split tail. All chanting in a religious ceremony. In the dome room, is a pool full of blood. Tween that and the ceremony is the statue room. The priest stands at a bound thri kreen, dagger in one hand and rod chained to the kreen on the altar in the other.

In the front, we can hear the sounds of the ritual inside. They go carefully into the front door to a closed foyer room, lower then the rest of the temple. Steps go up about 20' to the grand chamber. Its an open path to the ceremony.

Mulligan signals to Arisaan silently to come up and over to eliminate a guard. She climbs up, eyes it up, and skulks over. She kills him instantly. The rest come over the top.

This place ID'd as a major place for the Path, the First who started/helped start them is the statue at the center; first man to change himself into a YT! This was one of the most major cult centers to the CP, he was one of their prophets. The blood pool is an artifact, used to summon a blood angel. That prophet helped bind the angel they turned into the blood angel. Used in all sorts of terrible rituals. The statue is likely evil too. Whatever they are doing to the kreen is not good. The kreen is 2 or 3 times the size of the kreen as we heard of them. Kind of bloated. Grumpet says it must be a female with spawn. 

The YT next to the priest is stark red, heat shimmer surrounding him, wielding 2 weapons and split tail ending in spikes. 2 purebloods stand at the far side of the statue from Mulligan's men, one a lithe looking female, the other a male wearing loose fitting attire and carrying a staff.

In front, 2 YT are at the end of the hall just outside the main room.  The fountain is on the floor, not set in it, and the statue is on a short pedestal, both giving us cover.

The head priest is explaining that the lifeforce of the kreen sacrifice will help bring their master back to this plane in his true form "The Defiler, the Reviled One, the One True Anethema".

Rear, Mulligan and Arisaan lead the way around the pool and hit the 2 there, the wemics charge and take down the hall guards at the front and the battle begins. With the Wemics, Duncan backed by Archileus and Bligh backed by TK lead the way in. Arisaan is momentarily mesmerized by the female YT who skulks suddenly unseen by all but Maeth who almost fumbles her shot pt blank at it. Grumpet lunges from the statue base and pounces upon the Ignan, as Mal will tell us later: the mix of a YT and a fire elemental who then tears into him, but his fire damage is negated by Grumpet's fire prot spell! The male at the statue is a monk YT, lashing out at Mulligan and the rakasta helping him.

Toro hurls his flour, prepared for scintilating robe, in front of himself revealing the monk out of her camo!

One of the wemics goes down under the attack of an abomination.

Bolsomon's attempt at a prayer spell is negated by the room's magic with a burst in the center of the room, likely removing a sygil. The pool of blood begins to illuminate from within. Maeth is envenomed multiple times by the female rogue. Zy Quan the high priest has retreated to the other side away from Mulligan and Grumpet (as a lion) and begins casting. The kreen looks like she's about to drop egg or eggs.

Maeth steps back and drops the rogue like a bad habit with 2 arrows! Grumpet is constricted by the Ignan, Mulligan feels a brief weak urge to drop all his weapons. Grumpet passes out. One of the abominations reaches into the kreen and squishes an egg withing, another 2 each pull one out and squeeze each onto the altar. Mulligan drops Po jan the monk YT.

Bolsamon moves in and saves the downed wemic.

Priest Zy Quan calls to his master "With the sacrifice of these innoncent royal young, as you asked for oh lord, come save us from the nonbelievers!" So, that's why they wanted the wemic queen, for her unborn. The pool of blood begins to writhe, forming a tendril that begins to come forth and wrapping it around the statue coating it in blood.

At the front its tough fighting as there are so many but Mal clears some space with fire.

He then hits the statue with a wave of arcane energy. Underneath the blood that it seers off, we see the starting of scales: its coming alive.

Maeth fires on the Ignan now. She's quite worried that she is on the other side of this statue. Our other wemic is clubbed down with a critical.

Kyros "It's the anathema, it is the end of all time. Doom of the world is upon us!"

Toro kills the Iganan!! Mulligan catches a glimpse of the Color Robes, right next tohim and Arisaan! Mulligan drops a YT and Arisaan swipes and hits the color sorcerer!

Zy Quan, ritual complete, slithers to Mulligan and the 2 rakasta with him.

Duncan "Kyros, how do we destroy it!"

Kyros "The pool of blood is its life! Get the statue in the pool of blood then destroy the altar." He moves to near TK, points his hands at a YT and kills it with a blast of blood red bolts. The dead pureblood starts to shrivel a bit, then Kyros passes out.

Robes vanishes.

Mulligan crits Zy Quan. The battles till wages, and the Anathema comes to full flesh!! Noooooo! The blood seeps off revealing an enormous snake body with arms and multi headed wielding, a massive falchion. Around its neck is a silver disc of the world with a serpent coiled around it. Utterly horrible, it will haunt our nightmares for years at least. It moves slowly a step forward and begins with falchion swipe upon Zy Quon as he reveres "Yes, my lord, so amazing" unfortunately for him it couldn't care less.

Duncan "Bolsamon, you need to try to get forward and wake Grumpet up, if he lives" he does so.

Zy "Master, why are you not pleased, I will kill the nonbelievers in your name! For you" and continues vs Mulligan and the rakasta.

Mal "The Anathema should have no immunities, the bad news it is unbeatable in combat."

The altar is made out of wood.

The spear rakasta with Mulligan kill Zy Quan!!

The 5 purebloods left, seeing the god is uncontrollable, scatter and flee in panic.

Toro moves for the pool, the A hits with its AoO. But, Tor's homeland has a great relationship with his land's naga people, and wing laum protects him from this thing to some extent.

The last living abomination does not give vs Scum who kills him.

Balsoman's pray has activated with Zy gone, and Balsoman also sends another blessing upon us all.

Mal has been using spectral forces to batter the walls, causing a huge chunk of ceiling to cave in above the A right upon it.

Toro and the 2 rakasta in back start bailing blood out of the pool. Archileus spots the color robes but misses a spear throw! Then points to him. Arisaan leaps forward and blindly cuts him!! Bligh charges the spot but misses.

Color robes drops to the ground, cornered, begging for mercy "Let me live, I'll make your mission my mission and tell you how to get the A into pool. I want your word."

Arisaan "Ok. You have my word."

"The amulet. The blood is the portal where the spirit came from, the altar is the key to opening it, but its the amulet that it truly cares about. Only a YT can actually use the amulet. Very powerful. Get the amulet into the pool and it will go for it. Take my cloak so it can not see you diretly. It has so many eyes looking directly everywhere, it will never see you." Arisaan takes it.

Duncan "Clean that altar off." Bligh and Archileus get the kreen off.

Maeth, Nnesk and Balsoman cover the formerly robed sorcerer.

Men surround the A to separate its attack forms.

The A decapitates a rakasta!

Arisaan scales the A, cuts the leather cord with a handaxe. One of the heads does catch sight of her but misses her!

She grabs the big amulet and drops off the creature!

As it attacks, successfully hitting her once, she moves and drops it into the pool. It moves to it and swan dives into the blood portal. It grabs it, and begins appearing but Grumpet warp woods the altar and TK starts hacking it up with Duncan and Scum just for good measure. Arisaan books it back to the altar room.

The pool turns into a reflecting pool, and grabs at Arisaan as she rushes off, beginning to pull her into the pool. She barely escapes by ditching the cloak which is lost with the A. As the blood turns into water, it is a normal shallow pool again.

The blood sky turns into normal dark rain clouds and it begins to rain.

Arisaan cuts the YT dead to his last words "We had a deeeeeal".

We check on the kreen, which is not doing well. Duncan can communicate via the bracers! It thanks us for freeing it and fill in some story: they come from a huge valley of insectoid races; she is effectively the kreen Queen; balance of power shift recently, the formians becoming very aggressive and dramatically increased in numbers, went conquering; all their colonies joined forces killing and eating all in their path; the kreen saw the end coming and migrated out, making a deal with the aranya who controlled the caves out of the valley; once here the snake men kept them north of the  river via magic before resorting to kidnapping the queen, causing the kreen to go a bit wild and chaotic; now that she's free, she can stop their wild aggression; their great wish is to be able to return to their valley; the rift valley is a huge rend in the earth; she has no info on what lies further east of it; all creatures there have a communal memory w/in their kind; as far as hers goes, kreen have never left the valley until now; lots of minerals and gem mines in the rift that may interest us though and not a single being there cares about such things! The bracers we use will be of big use there.

We find her equipment she carried when kidnapped.

Loot: all coins older

725pp

1553 gp

136sp

gems totalling 2904 gp

mst glaive (1 abil)

mst greataxe

mst hvy wood sh

mst longbow

mst longspear

mst longsword

2 mst shortbows

mst warhammer

hoplite armor, augmented = halfplate, mst 1 abil (1750) w/hvy st sh highly ornate (2159)

Alchem potion purify food/drink

pot: magic fang

scroll: consecrate, divine favor, gr heriosm, plant shape, summon nat ally 1, unseen servant

falcata that illuminates as a torch

spear illuminates as a torch

6 small altars (30 total)

armchair 10

4 sets artisans tools

3 backpacks, 2 bags 20 marble sling bullets, 2 bags 20 sling bullets, 33 bags of half lb chalk, 2 bags common spice, 5 bags dried shrooms, 4 bags iron nails, 41 bags 1lb salt, 12 bags 1lb wheat, 4 barrels 30lb, 2x 240lb barrels alcohol; 3 × 150lb barrels oil, 35 × 10lb bolts canvas, 11 × 10lb bolts linen, bottle high qual wine, 27 bottles regular wine, 16 bottles fine wine, 2 bottles good wine, 19 bottles honey, 6 bottles spiced wine, 2 × 5lb bow saws, box 20 arrowheads, 3 boxes 20 candles, 35 × 20lb boxes charcoal, 4 chisels, cold weather outfit, asiatic courtiers outfit, 2 crowbars, 3 fishing nets, 32 flasks oil, 8 fling and steel, 2lb gameboard, grindstone, 2 × 50' hemp rope, 2 × 10' ladder, large cage, loom, 10×10 rope net, 2 × 50lb wheat sacks, 4 lb salted ham, 8lb cask molasses, 8lb dried figs, 5lb cask pickled fish, 2 × 5lb cask sausages, 3 small hunting traps, small magnet, 2x 3lb wool cloaks.

1 Rakasta is the only death.

View
The Shrine of the Masters

At the Masters' Shrine:

We knock on the brass knockers, front double doors open on their own. Looks exactly as was seen before. We find the Servant meditating upstairs at the same spot as before. Now in front of him is a wrought iron tripod, large glass or crystal sphere atop it. He's not meditating, but observing into the sphere.

Duncan "Hail servant of the Masters." He does not turn to look, but acknowledges us with greetngs.

Duncan "We come with questions, seeking answers."

"Ask, and hear the wisdom of the Masters."

Duncan details the ship, our knowledge of Ilithid and such, then is completely upfront about our concerns about him and the veiled masters.

He says the veiled masters don't seek worship, but obedience. He is not working with nor for nor worshipping them; knows the lingering effects of their former presence is permanent in this area. Sort of a poor choice of words, and ethereal veil separates where they masters are from here, they still speak to him through it; it is still possible with the right magiks. He does so often, still hear their voices. They impart their wisdom, guide him, etc.

D "So why did they leave? Was it voluntary?"

He does not get to ask questions, they simply tell him things. Its a one way communication. His story of it being his fault matches what we heard already. But, he has discovered how to make it right, how to mend the wounds he was the cause of and set things back to the natural order. All via the Masters. Its too beyond understanding to explain with words "but I can show you." We follow him downstairs to a secret rectory.

On the way down "What do you have locked up down there and why?"

"Its in the rectory, the great balancer, that thing the Masters explained to me on how to bring the world back to order."

D "Using it for what?" To reset the world, back to the way its supposed to be. Not sure how yet, talks haven't gotten that far.

D "How do you know you're talking to the Masters and not being tricked?" He's spoken to enough Masters in his life to know.

As we approach the basement, we can hear the thumping heard before, and the scratching.

D "What were you looking at in the orb? Is that how they speak to you?" Its the focus to strengthen the commune. "Always has and always will." He has had it since just before they vanished. Then it was just a regular crystal ball, later they started calling him through it, long glimpses of the future even centuries ahead. Can communicate to another crystal, or see what its being used for. Its the Master crystal ball of all balls.

We get downstairs to the door. All seems fine to Duncan, Bligh, TK and Grumpet.

Mulligan, Archileus and Toro feel an odd energy, almost more like a thought pervading the area, domating and powerful.

Arisaan feel it too, but knows its truly malevolent.

Mulligan "Do you feel that?"

Tore "More I sense it. like a cloud of thought all around."

Arisaan "Its more than that, its evil, I can feel its malevolence."

Grumpet then picks up on it, the most uncomfortable of all "It's not of nature."

Duncan "What in the hells do you have down here?"

"For all these years I've been tormented with the knowledge that there is no forgiveness nor redemption, but there is a way to make things as right as they can be."

Arisaan "Nothing this evil can make things right."

His eyes shut, hands cross into his sleeves. We hear movement in the dark of the hallway further.

Servant "Behind this door, behold, the great balancer, the one who will set things right."

An eery red emination begins at his sleaves, out of his hooded face. From down the hall comes a sliding or dragging sound. The doorway fades out of existence revealing a huge room full of books and the like in a rectory. A man sized humanoid form lurks, we see a silouette. 3 Yuan Ti, 2 half snake half man the other full big snake with arms, make their way down the hall for us.

Mulligan "You've laid a trap for us!"

W/o moving at all "I have laid no traps for anyone, you just happened to be here at teh right time."

Grumpet "The right time for what?"

The sound of this humanoid things voice wails as if in horrible torment and pain.

Archileus "Some friend, Pollux Malenko."

Arisaan lashes out with her new scimitar at the Servant. Mulligan and Arch move up and block the Yuan Ti as Grumpet warps the bows in hand of the 2 lessers, the creature in the room moves to the doorway, a man shaped ooze of crimson ichor. Like blood. Duncan leaps past it into the room and the 2 of them engage. 

Th 2 lesser YT draw scimitars and stay put. TK moves and attacks the Servant. The big YT moves up to Mulligan and Archileus and engages.

Malenko is shocked at the Servants turn to apparent evil so casts upon the big YT, hurling a flaming arcane bolt.

Mulligan hears voices in his head calling for him to join the enemy but resists.

The Servant begins laughing maniacally, making up silly rhymes of death and the end of the world etc, hits Toro with an inflict wounds. He starts bleeding from all his orifices and pours.

Duncan sees that the blood from the Servant is trickling unnaturally to the ooze man, as is Toro's. Toro then slays the insane traitor and he crumples to the floor. In his eyes, Toro sees a moment of clarity in his eyes as he falls to his knees. There "It's all clear now, it wasn't my fault, and I have been forgiven" and falls dead.

He then spots in the room, on a shelf, is a small idol, more of a charm, of Master Bruce! Whom Toro's swords belonged to! And feels as though its beckoning him to retrieve it. His blades glow lightly through the Servants blood.

Arisaans's scimitar has the same glow. Bligh joins Duncan vs the blood man, striking it with the Wooden Blade.

The blood man attacks with a number of pseudopods, hitting both D and Bligh once. Arisaan starts sopping up the flowing blood with moss and fungis from the walls and floor.

Toro joins vs the blood man now as TK attacks with his glaive over Arch and Mull.

Mulligan drops the big YT. The other 2 move in.

The blood thing lashes out, crit on Toro and grapples him to draw him into itself. It's licking up the blood off of him.

The lesser 2 YT move in and Archileus immediately kills one.

Toro hacks the tendril off, freeing himself. Grumpet slays it with a dehydration spell!! Mulligan brings down the last YT.

Toro retrieves the Master Lee charm. He feels blessed by Master Lee. When using unarmed attacks, grappling, or cinematic stunts and such, gets plus 2 to any d20 rolls. Has lingering intell. from Master Lee's time, being in Toro's possession will begin enhancing his blades to what they are supposed to be, unlocking their secrets.

We search the place and loot what we can, too much for 1 shot. We pick out some choice stuff for Callimachus too.

The Servant's Journal: multi volume; spans centuries, in his perspective. His first meeting with the 1 god of the Masters to his moving to this place where it starts to peeter off. We can see the descent into madness from there. He was racked with guilt for a long time, traveled with a group of adv's for a while to a city in the kingdom of Esperania decades ago called , after Masters vanishing. There he was part of bringing down the inquisition, after which he began hearing the voices of Masters speaking to him, telling him how forsaken he was, dragging him down basically. He then sought seclusion ending up here. Came into contact with the YT who over time convinced/corrupted him into helping them destroy the world. 

Eeh gads!! There is an active blood cult, and its not even humans but YT!!

We find info on the YT as well they hate everything not them, all else is food; if it can think its an enemy. Have taken naturally to blood cult, but rather than killing everything, just everything but YT. Where they came across the blood cult is not mentioned.

At one point, there is a vague reference to himself in the journal after the fall of the Masters: he was known as the crystal seer for a short while, a hermit.

We get the crystal ball of all crystal balls. Pollux says they are no toy as is, this one even more dangerous. Recommends none even touch it. Touching w/o UMD will likely have terrible effects; even with it he recommends not using it. With magic power is best. A user could be fine, but also might be bad. Can't leave it here either though.

Mst 3d4 glaive (plus 1 att)

2x mst scimitar (both lvl3, serpentine motifes, handles are coiled serpent, pommel is head, jade snake coiling up center of blade, extra money value)

We go outside. In otherwise blue sky are rolling blood red storm clouds! Drizzling but sunny, raining blood.

We leave for YT forest.

View
Forces Gathering

Day 55

Return to Pride Rock. The wemic tribes, after having spoke to Duncan, left trusted men behind in case we found king and queen, so they could get word quickly. Duncan informs them of the king being found, some of them head for their tribes. He also has word from Grumpet's animal messenger that Grumpet has the queen. He does not know yet about her being lost again, then found again, so informs them that the queen and cub are safe as well.

Day 56

Night, Archileus et al return! Duncan talks with the Master of Heat and Flame and details the mysterious figure spoken of by the King. He does not know personally, but he has been around since the Masters, quite old. His cloak makes him unable to be seen directly on. Otherwise, just a powerful arcanist. Where this man is hanging out, can't be sure, but likely with wemics or watching us. Could be looking for former king/queen. He is called Ssark, highly intelligence. Avg charisma at best, nor the mastermind type. He is being guide by someone else. Not clever enough of a strategist. Nor are the brother kings. He is a subtle man, almost an assassins mind in that sense. Does not like drawing attention to himself.

I Duncan "Can you counter the cloaks effect, even for one person, even temporarily?"

"Not counter, but because I'm a master of illusion which the cloak works by, I could use a form of  a baleful mirror imaging. They stay around where he is, so it will show you where he is. You'll be able to look at the illusions, but as soon as you look right at him, he'll disappear but that will allow you to target his spot! The servant of the Masters in the temple, where I have been staying a lot lately, to the south may be able to do better. He is very powerful."

Day 57

Animal messenger arrives from Grumpet with all that has happened there. Duncan sends the Rakasta out to meet them immediately to take them to a friendly tribe.

Day 58

Nothing eventful.

Day 59

Late, Ship group arrives Pride Rock.

As does Grumpet et al.

Duncan talks to Brillstagg privately, with Callimachus, about:

Ssark: evil as evil can be, but also not very clever. Let's just say he has never won a game of chess in his life. He was there to make sure the king lost, for certain. The king should be dead, so there must be something special about him. No reason why he should have been allowed to escape. Old king is either very powerful and has something special that kept him alive, or he has someone looking out for him. Ssark's mission therefore did not come to full fruition. He is likely tracking down the King, or hanging with the 2 brothers.

Servant of the Masters: a conundrum. Only person who went under that title was a First who is kinda one of the originators of the Covenant of the Return, had no particular single Master, was loyal to them as a whole. During their rule centuries ago, one of the 2 great schisms between teh masters. In this one the 2 greatest Masters went to war (Imbrun and Peldan), brothers, in Celestine Empire. One was overthrown by the other. Celestia, chosed First of Imbrun, was the wife of the emperor who was was cast down. Her sister, Luna, chosed First of Peldan, and the sister's consort (a Malakhaz) took over the Empire for a short period. The Servant of the Master believed all Masters were divine, favored no one above another. Just a regular guy at this point. He gained a lot of power, on his own, around this same time. Eventually the Celestia side regained the Empire. As time went on, the Servant remained humble.

The 2nd schism, the Masters War, then happened later. The Servant was linked by some to the events that caused it. Not intentionally though. Once the war was over he fled and vanished. No one knows where he went since then. If this is the same servant, he still feels terrible, it broke him. He came here to hide out and worship alone. Now, not all Masters were the same. There was a group called the Veiled Masters who made pure monstrosities, not elves nor even orcs. Only those masters was he never a servant of.

He was a great guy, but all that he went through? He may be the bad guy. He may have gone over the edge.

He has no idea what he has locked up in those basement rooms.

Master of Heat and Flame: If there is one think I have learned in his long long life, it's that you never trust a Malenko. This one here is definitely a Malenko. The Master Malenko had a falling out with the Master Keraptis (possibly brothers). K had found a way to get past the coming doom via some means. Malenko, a bit of a schitzophrenic, also supposedly did, by shattering his psyche, spreading his personality and power among a bunch of Malenkos. How they are chosen and why he has no clue. Something to do with stars and birth signs. All have some sort of psychosis. Even the best of them can't fully be trusted. All have a personal goal that they work towards, their one obsession. Could be a life goal to protecting a person or group, anything.

So he could be the enemy, could be a true ally, could be doing this truthfully but for secret personal reasons, or anything in between.

Ilithid: One of the Veiled Masters, the original in fact, was a horrible abomination upon the world, by the name Ftagn. He showed up here as a Master thousands of years ago, in the early days. A competitor to many other masters. Was banished or destroyed by their combined efforts. His spawn lived on. One day, long time ago, there was a falling star that came to the earth. Upon it was a band of superheroes and many different peoples with them. They stopped here, did great deads. One of them was slaying the spawn of Ftagn on this world. These heroes called them Ilithid. The Nugenacers by Thorangia are descendents of some of them, one of the heroes in particular. The vast majority of that campaign happened in this area, especially a bit further east.

Callimachus uses the Crystal Ball, it works!! He sees Ssark, and the cloak gives him no benefit! Ssark stands close to a river, speaking to some snake men. They parlay with gnolls. Ssark himself does little, but for a few words here and there to the head Yuan Ti who looks to be a human type like the one who turned on Arisaan. One of the gnolls is massive, next to him stands a shaman. We bring in Hrok and the other 2 wemics, but as we figured the pic is too small for them to recognize anything at all. Ssark's masterminds may be the Yuan Ti themselves. Arisaan says that, via their body language, Ssark is subservient to the Yuan Ti. The gnolls have several bugman bodies, mangled in a fight and torn up. Arisaan concentrates on the lips of those talking facing us. Even considering they are non human, she has xp both gnolls and Yuan Ti recently, she picks up some stuff. The negotiation is almost a battle plan, but generally. Like 'we need to start acting soon' type of stuff. Also, apparently the bugmen are north of the river but came in a wave from east like locusts. Pushing gnolls westward. Something unknown south of the river is holding the bugmen from crossing it in some fashion. Gnolls and Yuan Ti have made an alliance, Yuan Ti have convinced the gnolls to cross south instead as a cultural mass and clean out the wemics, taking that land as their new home. Pressure on the gnolls is mounting. The gnoll shaman turns his back to us, says something to the Yuan Ti, and the snakeman leader and Ssark both look right at the sensor.

Mulligan flips them off, 2 handed.

They cease the meeting. The king looks at the ravager and mentions meeting again at the appointed time. Then they all split up.

Confronting Malenko: why are you here? Personally, he is quite fond of cats. A kindred he feels with them. The original master Malenko was dealt grievous mental damage, one of oldest though not most powerful Masters; Every Mal has a part of the collective of original Mal whether they conciously realize it or not. I particularly have a hatred for the Veiled Masters as he did. No Mal has ever worked with them. Not that I know they are around here, but their works are.

Whereas the Masters created things of nature and beauty (which he would include even orcs in, so…), all which fill a niche, the things Ilithid created did not fill such a niche so much as took over niches. 

His name is Pollux.

Callimachus "An invasive species artificially dropped into an environment within which they don't belong."

"Yes".

Example is the ankheg. Boon for farmers but if not satiated and properly handled, can kill a lot of creatures. All Ilithid creations are like that.

Duncan "Should I be worried about this warforged then?"

No, they are not a created life, not a species that procreates. They were task fillers, not niches.

He thinks the bugmen, Thri Kreen he calls them, may be their creation. He is not holding them back, he does not know who or what is. The yuan ti he hates, not created by the Ilithid but changed themselves using Ilithid inspired systems. So he wants them destroyed for that and that they threaten his cat people.

 Going to the caves was a hope to find something there that could help.

Concerning the Servant, even when he stays there briefly, they don't talk much. The Servant does not do chit chat, only talks about big things. We tell him the veil comment. He says could have been just a random word he used as symbolism, or not. We should speak with him directly, and listen carefully to his own words.

What does he have locked up downstairs? Mal is not sure. Never investigated it himself

One thing to understand: the 3 chambers, wings of the temple, are dedicated to beings greater than the Masters. They were effectively gods on earth. But, they had 3 gods that they worshipped. The Masters got their power via worship by men, and their worship was a conduit to those gods. A select few humans can have connection directly. The Servant was a regular guy at first. What made him revere the Masters as a whole was that he discovered, in his absolute unimportance and that level of humility, allowed him to gain the ear of those gods. He once questioned one of them as to why the state of mankind had to be how it was, all men servants and slaves, constantly at war, greed, etc.

He asked the god to fix things. Most of the earth was then dominated by an uber Master, setting the world at peace but didn't make things better. Absolute tyranny. He then asked to god to set things right again, back how it was. The world broke out in war. Masters fighting each other. Eventually all came to a head in the masters' war. All put into motion by the Servant just trying to do the right thing.

So, quite possible the Servant has turned evil, siding with the Veiled Ones out of loss of all hope. Or, maybe not.

We have to go and find out for sure.

View
Duncan: Pride Rock Meeting/Search for the Dethroned King

Day 51

Duncan et al arrive Pride Rock early evening. Lots of clans are here.

Ambassador arrives today as well.

Day 52

The Pride Meeting

Lots of talking and posturing all day. Night the official meeting, lots of physical showings and domineering, including some non fatal fights which the brothers easily win each time. They are impressive comatants. The bros. are officially kings by the nobles, but enough are against them that its basically civil war.
Of the 9 tribes, 3 are loyal, 3 are begrudgingly loyal to simply following the new leaders. 3 are completely opposed. Several clans w/in the loyal 6 are opposed to the brothers still. They say that with the heir still out there, this is wrong to make them kings.

Both sides talk candidly to Duncan as a neutral party. The brothers say if Duncan can bring back the queen so they can kill the heir, or if we kill the king or bring him back to be killed, they will hook us up with an awesome item from their loot.
The rebels offer a separate solution: get the queen and heir and bring to one of their clans then we have their friendship. Bring the king back alive, same thing. Will find a way to reward us.

When the prides break up, the brothers say there's going to be lion blood. They can't put up with prides opposed to their rule. Those opposed would rather fight the fake king and the gnolls and die than follow a fake king.
They feel following these 2 kings means losing to the gnolls anyway. And their mentality of superiority and imbalance with the other races does not work in the long term.

Day 53

Duncan et al get to the hills. After nightfall, we are caught by cougar mountain wemic aka The Proud. They have our scout as well. They can't hunt in plain lands for larger game cause the wemics will bust them up. Very territorial. In the hills, the gnolls are causing them trouble. Their numbers are too small to do anything about it.
This is caused by the brothers.
The mountain wemics are now hunting plains to west, causing some issues with the Nomad humans there.
Duncan thanks them for not eating his scout. Mulligan would not have been pleased at his death.
They have the old king as well!! They thought he was just a warrior hunting them, until they saw him being stalked by other wemics so brought him in alive to decide later what to do with him. Bargain to the brothers for hunting rights maybe.
Duncan explains our presence here, including his backup. They size realize we are nothing to push around and take us to their camp, freeing the scout who has never been happier to see anyone else in his life.
They know of our caravan as well, it was too much trouble to do anything about. They agree to leave it be.

We are invited to camp with The Proud and talk tomorrow.

Day 54

They see our presence as a game changer, major power player.
Duncan wants the king set free. He explains we want to solve all inter racial issues and destroy the gnolls and any other threat. We just want peace. Duncan asks them to keep the king alive, well fed, and healthy as can be until we figure this out.
He also asks them to keep the king on the edge of the hills, easily accessible as quick as can be once Duncan wants him revealed.
They agree to take him to the caravan caves for us! And leave a handful of their warriors to makes sure we are on the up and up.

Now, Duncan gets to talk to the wemic former king Sirok Tor. Duncan introduces himself. Gives him the deal on why we are travelling through here.
He's heavily scarred. Lots of old war wounds.
He greets Duncan in a very regal manner.
His version of what happened matches well with what the brothers said. Their anger toward Sirok festered for a long time. They had a mixed adv party that did stuff extensively around the area. When they returned, they had the new equipment. At first, they asked to be part of the royal pride. Sirok turned them down, feeling they better served as wandering heroes not sun bathing males. They left, returned a few days later and kindly asked him to step aside and give them the throne. Sirok refused. They left for another few days, returned much more arrogant and demanded he step down, offering to let him take all his progeny. He refused of course, as a king should. They left assuring he would regret it. 2 nights later they returned while Sirok was relaxing, the pride was joyous with the alpha female being with cubs. A strange feeling came over all as the bros came in. Tension thick immediately in the air. All on edge almost in a trance, all anyone could do was watch. They drew wpns, challenged, he couldn't refuse and battle joined. The younger bro he thrashed heartily. The older was much stronger esp since he had just fought 2 at once. He was still holding his own until something weird happened. Sudden sickness came over him, weakening him. At that point on the older bro took control and won.
He can't tell if real or hallucination, he thought a man was there at the fight, human. It feels real but foggy all the same. That's when he started getting sick, when he noticed him. When he thinks about the fight in general, he doesn't recall him. When he pictures particular moments, he visualizes his presence. Sirok also can't place what he was doing, just staring perhaps. Also was never in one place watching. He pictures him in different spots at different points of the fight.
He wasn't very tall, shorter than Duncan. His eyes, though, had almond shaped eyes, not round like Duncan. Like a nomad rider only there was something about it off. Little to no facial hair, unlike the nomads. Its like he never looked directly at the man, but something off about the way he looks at Sirok in his memory of it.
Wore only robes, green to greenish blue color, shimmering like emeralds.

He's willing to go back, but knows he can't beat the brothers. Especially not with this strange ghost man seemingly helping them.
Duncan says he thinks the female is alive, and has top men searching for her now.
Sirok says no matter what, Duncan et al can't kill the brothers, not allowed since we can't claim the throne. We'd be like hitmen. They have to be brought down by their successor.
Duncan "But you could fight them with a partner, 2 on 2."
Yes, the 2 winners would be co kings then. Which at this point, he is fine with.
Sirok says we have to set the stage for this to happen properly. Whatever the bharag grok are doing is coming soon. There are already war parties crossing the second river in hunting parties. Even a unified wemic nation can't win vs their numbers. The wemics, centaurs, men, yak, etc must join forces.
No one will unite with the brothers, though.
He says he can tell The Proud are on our side.
He says an wandering man called The Master of heat and Flame is a wemic friend, he can help you with the alliances and much more. Find him.
 
We need to find this strange apparition man and deal with him then.

The Proud says we are free to go. We get on the move immediately. We send word with them to tell our cav to be ready to move soon.

View
Mission: Queen and Cub

Day 47

Tonight: team arrives and camps at forest's edge. The woodland is more like closely packed patches of woodland. In the middle is a dense patch of thick woodland, deep and dark, 6 miles across.

Day 48

Into the woodland, looking for snakeman and wemic signs. Grumpet, Mulligan and Nnesk all find signs of a wemic occupying the areas. Early on was doing its best to cover up. Mulligan notices this, and that the fresher it is, the sloppier the attempt at hiding is. The birth is near.
There are signs of old ruins throughout the entire woodland area, like gate with no remaining wall and steps to midair. More and more the deeper we go.
Also, toward the middle, Mulligan sees the droppings of snakes, big ones. There must be a lot of them. The wemic also made her way deeper to the middle.
As the day is ending, he loses signs of the snakes. And only scattered wemic signs, moving further and further in. He loses her, but picks up gnolls!! They merged onto the queen's trail, so we follow them.
From high ground, about a mile off, Grumpet sees an encampment of gnolls in a grove with fresh game cooking. Maybe a dozen.
Mulligan "Let's kill 'em all."

He takes point, masking his scent by disgustingly rubbing on gnoll scat and approaching from upwind. They surround a campfire irregularly in a clearing. They predominantly have axes, spears, and bows. One is a flind, the leader. 1 wears gloves with piercing blades, lots of piercings all over his flesh.
Mulligan wants a diversion, which Arisaan says "I can supply that."
Arisaan, looking girly, gets himself in a state of partial undress and distress, and begins wimpering and crying, alone. The leader sends 4 other gnolls to retrieve him. Arisaan attempts to flee in terror but 'trips'. They easily capture him bring him to the camp and bind his hands.
As they are oogling at Aarison, Mulligan, Hrok, Nnesk and Grumpet approach from one direction to enter melee; Maeth and centaurs bow support from opposite side. Arisaan falls, and acts like she's scrambling away, getting herself inposition to grab a spear.
The leader orders the spit prepared to add her onto it. She escapes her bonds while huddled over herself in 'terror'.
The bowmen fire. That's when Mulligan, Nnesk and Hrok charge. Grumpet warps several of the spears with warpwood.
Muligan takes some shots, being surrounded by a few berserks. Arisaan takes out the Flind in one shot. We mop them up handily.
We'll use their camp for the night and eat their kill. Before it gets too dark, we scout the vicinity. Scattered about, we find some gnolls ripped up by lion claw, taking place over the last few days. Has she had the cub?
Grumpet charms 2 birds into acting as sentries overnight, and enhances the undergrowth around the camp to penalize stealth.
First guard shift, we hear footfalls in the dark, but light. Mulligan says 2 footed. Mulligan moves out to investigate. Maeth wakes up Hrok and Arisaan.
Mulligan follows the sound around the camp quarter way. 
He hears nothing, but just spots a woman dressed as a nomad in leather armor, long dark hair, saber and quiver/bow. She had doubled around Mulligan and is about to jump him. Very pretty, emerald eyes which among the nomads is a sign of nobility or blessings of the Masters. Could have a First in her bloodline.
"Why you lurk around our camp, woman."
"That depends on who you are, and what you're doing out here."
He tells you we are hunting snakemen, and so is she!
She comes into camp. Her name is Zyana, a Kakutsk, but a loner. Prefers to go it alone as much as possible. Mulligan says he and Grumpet like the solitude of the wilderness also.
We takes great pleasure tracking and hunting the snakes, she hates anything serpentine. She is also trying to find her friend, to no avail as of yet.
Arisaan is wary of her, but nods to Grumpet she seems truthful, so he tells her our true mission. So is she, the lioness is her friend! Arisaan, skeptical as always, keeps his eye on her.
Mulligan "Why would she wander into this place anyway?"
"Easier to know the enemies here." She's avoiding potential treachery of her own people, was originally looking for Zyana but they failed to find one another.
Arisaan "Let us look together." She agrees. She knows some areas where the queen certainly isn't.

Day 49

Zyana is up earlier than any of us. We break camp and move out.
Grumpet uses the birds, empathizing with several and speaking to them, asking if they have seen a wemic.
One says there is one not far from here!! NE just inside the deeper section! In old ruined structure.
Mulligan "Let's move."
Couple miles further we find it, a single small 1 story, 1 room building. On the way we find couple more dead gnolls.
We catch sight of a pack of 10 gnolls moving around, keeping a perimeter around the entrance.
They are circling in teams of 4/3/3.
Zyana and Mulligan see them keeping an occasional eye our way. They must have caught our scent.
From inside the building, we then hear an angry lioness growling.
Mulligan sends the centaurs and Hrok around to come from upwind, taking Maeth and Grumpet as well. The rest will continue in and get their attention.

One from the group of 4 moves to the door and darts in. He tries is knocked back out. The queen walks out, with a wobble in her legs, as the gnoll rejoins his team. She is not pregnant. Then backs gack inside.
We are in position. The centaurs and Maeth start charging into a group of 3. Mulligan's team hits the other 3. Arisaan runs for the structure, just barely with a jump catches the roof edge and pulls herself up. Grumpet throws down and entangle on the group of 4.
2 of the gnolls get to the edge of the entangle, the other 2 are held.
Arisaan cuts down one of the bigger who made it throught the entangle with a critical from the roof. The other makes it past her swipe and into the building as the others are still fighting.
Arisaan drops to the doorway and sees the gnoll with the cub. It makes a rush to get through her, but she gashes his arm with the AoO crit and he drops the cub. He turns and graps it again.
The lioness hits for the first time now. The gnoll goes to hurl the cub out the door into the tangle, but Arisaan cuts him down DEAD. Then turns to take on any other comers.
The cub is wining and crying now.
By this time, Muligan has killed his and jut finished Nnesk's as ell, Hrok has one out of his 3 left which the centaurs take down.
The other 2 are still stuck in the entangle. Zyana's opponent is the only one remaining. Nnesk and Mulligan help Zyana kill the last.
One of the gnolls breaks free and runs flees. Centaur fire misses him badly. The entangle goes away.We take the gnoll prisoner.
The queen goes for the cub and collapses. Hrok gets the cub off the ground.
Grumpet sees to the queen. She says she is poisoned and now KO'd. Grumpet delays it well and starts working on fixing he. He assumes its Yuan Ti venom, which he has never dealt with. He can alleviate her symptoms and keep her alive longer, but she is dying unless we get venom from one of the snakemen to study it. Preferably alive.
Mulligan "Let's move out. No time to waste. Grumpet stay here with the wemics. Zyana, know where any snakemen are hiding?"
Not specifically, so its seaching time.
She says they are tough, expert ambushers so usually travel in small groups, and very stealthy. They don't like to use their venom unless they plan on eating the kill, so its likely w/in a mile or 2.
So, it could be looking for her. Mulligan wants to spit us into 2 search teams. Arisaan sneaks in a whisper to him, to be put with Zyana.

He leaves Maeth to patrol the perimeter and Hrok inside with Grumpet; then splits into 2 search teams: Himself, Nnesk and 1 centaur; Zyana, Arisaan and the other centaur.

Mulligan's team find a yuan ti heading in the diretion of the building w/in 5 minutes out. It's a short but desperate battle. The centaur is quickly coiled and taken down by a construction plus acid seep from its scales as Mulligan attacks. Nnesk is shaken by this half man half serpent abomination and only gets a couple arrows to hit home, too afraid to approach in melee. Mulligan is then grabbed but just as he is gets a lethal final cut with his axe.

Maeth misses a Naga move into the buildingsight. She reacts to the sound of battle.

Zyana sees Yuanti trail. She walks away a moment "follow me". Arisasan however is doing his job well and doesn't buy it, training his executioners eyes on her. Just as he readies and the centaur steps forward, Zyana turns and a second set of eyelids opens inside her eye. She's a Yuan Ti!! and draws her sword. This is a longer battle than Mulligan's, one of feints and position but in the end Arisaan's readiness for betrayal and skill challenges lead to too many sneak attacks. The centaur though is close to going down by the end.

Both scout teams rush back to the ruin.

The Naga we heard about got past Maeth's watch and into the clearing when Hrak sees it. He begins posturing lion-like but the Naga isn't impressed. It and Hrak engage. Trumpet from inside with the wemic Queen summons a dire wolf to assist. Though it's quickly taken out by its stinger's sleep venom, another large wolf exits the ruin and attacks as well. Together it and Hrak kill the Naga with no little difficult. The wolf then changes back into its true form of Grumpet.
The rest of the group arrive soon after.

Trumpet gets the venom from the dead and soon distills an antitoxin given to the Queen. He also has enough Naga venom to make several poison doses.

We absolutely can not stay here.
Gumpet talks to the birds again who inform him of a settlement a couple miles south of the southern edge of the forest. While Grumpet is preparing the antitoxin Mulligan gets a drag stretcher made for the unconscious Queen.
The cub  is starting to make too much noise but Grumpet easily calms it.

We make it to the town before nightfall and are met by a contingent of the inhabitants: yakmen. Though they are no lovers of wemics, it's on our side the former King was so much more friendly with the other races. They allow us in to stay.
Their is a king of the yakmen over 100 miles to the east. But, a relative of his rules locally, only about a days ride east. If we want to talk to someone of their race about the current problems, he's the one. We will ride for their tomorrow.

Day 50

Grumpet et al leave for the yakman prince, arrives tonight. Trysta stays with the wemic queen and cub. They take us into the town, fairly suspicious of Hrak. We even see a bull man (minotaur, naturally born).

Day 51

The ruler says if we manage to save the Kakutsk from the Bharag threat, the yakmen would be more than happy to be a caravan trail stop.
We can see they have craftsmen of skill. We eat with them, business tomorrow.

The yak king is gathering the herds to go to war with the wemics; the towns are fortifying. The new kings are nothing but trouble, tentative relations made aggression by them. They say whole villages have been taken out by the wemic warriors.
This is worse than we heard.
Arisaan "What if the old king were back in charge?"
"The king is dead, for sure" no way the brothers let him just leave. Certainly assassins have found him by now. Hypothetically, if he did return "we would reconsider. We can at least deal with him. He wasn't  just king of the wemics, he was king of the Kakutsk. Out of respect for stability."
Grumpet tells him to try to get the king to hold off on war with the hope of the old king being returned. He agrees to do what he can, with no guarantee.
He also mentions an odd issue eastward, further than their capitol:
Groups of insectoid men, 8 to 9' tall, have been seen since about a year prior to bharag started being offensive. First in very small, but larger and larger as time went on. Over 100 at one sighting. This is east, and north of the river north of here in bharag lands.
They were no picky about what they killed. He doesn't think the wemics have any idea about them, but the yakmen are sure they have something to do with the bharag grok.
We tell them of the encounter of such a creature from the Tunguskik friends attacking a group of them and a group of Tsyrgys.
This sounds to them like what creatures may do when something greater is forcing them to move to new lands.
When they are encountered, they don't attack towns nor large numbers, Otherwise run or they kill you. This concerns the yakmen greatly. One on one, a yakman beats one, but they fight well in numbers.

He says the yakmen territory roughly starts at the forest and goes east. Wemics run all west to the hills by Kimiristi.
 

Day 52

When grumpet gets back to the yaks south of the forest tonight: it was raided by gnolls! Their leaders fought like devils. The centaurs, queen and cub were captured. They had a powerful shaman witch or something as well. Its the prophet and ravager.
They went north to the woods. They came with 30 gnolls. The yakmen killed about a third of their regular warriors. The enemy elites did most of the damage.
Mulligan is furious, he insists upon a squad of yakmen warriors to accompany us i we go into the woods to rescue them now. One will be the minotaur. To make up for their folly. He goes full the Scum here, doesn't ask nicely.
Grumpet gathers a handful of birds and sends them as animal messengers, one to the desolate caves and 2 to Pride Rock, to inform all of the situation.

Day 53

We don't know if we have the power here to take on the leaders, but we must at least know where they are going. We have to track them if nothing else. Our force starts north to track.
The have 2 days, maybe just more, of a headstart. We begin tracking at full speed, mounted. The yakmen struggle to keep up, lagging behind as we go. Hedge magic has been used to try and disguise it, but Mulligan and Grumpet still pick up the trail.
They get to the woods and continue straight through. Obviously, they are not concerned with the Yuan Ti, which is concerning for us. We almost lose it, but Maeth keeps us on track. About 12 miles in, she says it looks like 2 large serpents  who came from deeper in the center of the woods and a human sized booted foot with them met up with the gnolls. They then all proceed north together.

Day 54

Following a bee line north. While we are going, Mulligan sees signs of turmoil in the tracks as they stop. We come across a dead wemic, head on a pike. Further on, a fight with a herd of yakmen that the gnolls won again. 5 dead yakmen, their cattle slaughtered. We slow down our tracking.
After nightfall, at least 12 miles ahead, we see sets of campfires miles ahead. Probably at the river, but spread out from one another. We have to stop. The yakmen catch up, exhausted, a few hours later.

Day 55

We work our way toward them, Mulligan using his spyglass. There is a veritable army gathering here! Our quarry lost several gnolls on their way up here. There are 10 left including shaman and ravager.
Something is moving in the grasses for their campsite, Mulligan spots. An inconsistent rustling at several spots.
Mulligan "Let's move in, now!"
The enemy start making for a ford in the river. Coming right at them from the waterline is the prospective ambush. The enemy look oblivious. We are SW of them as we approach. Both captured centaurs are with them, as well as the queen and cub. The queen is moving ok on her own, it seems. The shaman must have been working on her.
Mulligan has Hrak look through the glass to see if the attack formation is that of wemic. He says that's something else "judging by the direct assault to the front, could be men or another humanoid variety" like rakasta, there are orcish and goblinoid types around here once in a while. Also, that lead gnoll is not the Ravager. It's a pack lord.
Whatever is coming is going to hit them before we do.
The centaur's human arms are bound, connected to necks. Each has a gnoll yanking on them.
We see the enemy catch something on the wind. The ravager flanked by 2 others steps forward. The yuan ti slither low into the grass and out of sight. 3 other gnolls move right, on our side, into the grasses. The other gnolls back around the prisoners. The human is cloaked in robes behind the ravager with the shaman.
As we make our way up, 5 rakasta come into view yell a war cry of sorts, and charge into the gnolls. Flankers spotted the yuan ti, for they are both attacked by a rakasta. The other 3 hit the ravager and his flank guard.
We run forward.
Grumpet has prepared a call lightning, and as the rakasta hit unleashes it on the hedge wizard shaman. This bolt stikes some fear in the gnolls with the guards. The human turns and pans around, trying to sense the strike's source. Mulligan and Arisaan notice that under the robes, as a breeze blows, his skin has a slightly yellowish tinge. The clothing for a second seems to shift in color as he pans around. It then seems like he hones in on Grumpet.
The robed man shimmers briefly, then multiplies into 6 duplicates. Illusions!
We hit the fight ourselves. Our bullman hits at our captive friends. Maeth fires at gnolls, Mulligan at the robed man and one of the figures is cancelled; Grumpet calls another lt bolt upon the shaman; Hrak leaps tween the centaurs upon another of their gnolls; Nnesk fires at a guard gnoll who then engages him. One group of yakmen are sent to help sweep to the front and help the front 3 rakasta, while 1 helps the rakasta on our side vs the yuanti. Another group sweeps around the far end to the other yuan ti fight and to watch that flank.
The robed man and images fire a blast but misses Mulligan.
The yakmen guarding the flank call out that one of the other groups of gnolls is wading across the river nearby, about 30.
Maeth turns to the illusions as Mulligan charges them.
The Lt. keeps coming.
The centaurs attack with their hooves.
Mulligan yells at the centaurs, who were abused on the way up here, and queen "fight or get the hell out!"
The centaurs back away, the queen attacks the Minotaur's man, her binding is attached to that gnoll.
Hrok is the first to take his gnoll down! One of the rakasta is killed by gnolls next.
Grumpet's lt. takes the hedge wizard down!
Hrak charges one of the fight at the front. The robed man vanishes in a puff of smoke and the last image vanishes.
The first of the other gnolls have reached the shoreline. The centaurs have been sent to get our horses.
The yuan ti on our side is cut down by the rakasta! One of the front line rakasta takes down one of the gnolls. Another gnoll is dropped by a yakman, another is crit ko'd; another yakman crits the other yuan ti DEAD.
A yakman is killed by a front gnoll, who then turns on a rakasta and drops him too!
The pack lord takes the Rakasta leader down!
Arisaan charges from hiding, sneak attacking the pack lord.
The centaurs arrive with the horses.
Mulligan calls for the yakmen not engaged to start rushing away, 2 on help Nnesk and his gnoll finally dies. 1 of the 2 remaining rakasta stay in the fight.
Another yakman is dropped by a gnoll.
Arisaan cuts the pack lord badly again, plus another lt. shot.
We hear the warcry of the gnolls heading our way.
Everyone starts taking off with the queen but for 2 yakmen, a rakasta, Arisaan and Hrok fighting the pack lord, and Maeth firing at the last gnoll.
The rakasta leader is pulled out, still alive, by one of his own telling Arisaan to get him out.
The Pack lord kills a yakman but his axe gets stuck in its head. It draws a big curved blade.
The other gnoll charges Hrok.
The other of the group are making for Grumpet.
Arisaan first aids the rakasta leader. Maeth rides up with her horse.
The yakman still vs the packlord crits and hits again DEAD!!! The rakasta crits him as well!!
Arisaan mounts up with the rakasta leader and she and Maeth take off. Hrok flees, the gnoll missing him. It howls and chases but Grumpet fries him.
Grumpet starts sending lt into the chasing gnoll group.
One of the rakasta was poisoned and is weakening. He turns to face the gnolls and his death. A very bloodied yakman, gaping wounds all over, goes with him.
We see them hacking as we flee, going down in a swirl of blood.

So, 4 yakmen lost and 3 rakasta dead. We get away fleeing like the bloody hell. East for about an hour through some rocky terrain to lose any pursuers, then straight south we go.
We come upon a herd of cattle and its yakmen herders. We warn them of the gnolls north.

The rakasta explain were part of a pride in this area. A bunch of gnolls recently crushed their pride. It got enough that they are no longer an effective pride. They were on a mission of vengeance to die fighting the first group they found. It happened to be this one.
There are only a few pack lords in the Bharak, we are lucky to have gotten one! Since we showed up, they figured the mission turned from suicide charge to chance of victory.
We cut back west ourselves. The yakmen heard accompany us for a while, safety in numbers, into the wemic lands.
We will take the queen to the centaur village to hide her there until needed.
Grumpet impresses the urgency now upon the yakmen. They must get the yakmen on our side, this was an army massing north of their border, not the wemics. We have to get together.
The Rakasta ask for horse or to to gather their prides quickly. Grumpet and Trysta will ride centaurs so they can get mounts.
We tell the yakmen to have their king or his emissary meet us at the city that was attacked while we were gone, Duncan or an ambassador will meet him asap.

Day 56 though 58

On the way to Pride Rock, we meet the Rakasta sent by Duncan who take charge of the queen and cub.

Day 59

Arrive Pride Rock.

In the meantime, we head back west.On the way, we meet the Rakasta by Duncan
 

View
Mission: The Desolate Caves

Day 47

Guide team leaves early for Archileus at Pride rock. The Rakasta switches back and forth, riding with the riders.

Day 49

Arrive at Pride Rock

Day 50

Guide for priest leaves for base caves. Pushes a bit, arrives tonight.

Archileus et al leave for the caves. They go south to the river; at the fork, south to and around the hill's edge, and south to the next hill line to search for the caves.

Day 51

Kalestios and guide leave base caves.

Arrive at desolate area at end of day. Camp tonight, will begin search tomorrow.

Day 52

One of the riders and a hoblite find the correct marker, quickly find the entrance to the cave today.

Enter, leads to a 4 way intersection, door at the end of each 3 halls. After killing an undead in the room to the left, we get into a fight vs 3 tough undead, 1 from each door, backing to the intersection to fight them, and defeat them. During that, the bricked in tombs along the main hall are broken out by the skeleton within, filling the place with them. We have to retreat to the middle room where we find the master of heat and flame in a stupor state. We fortify ourselves inside, stuck. A couple hours later, he wakes up.
Somehow the intelligent undead here were able to trap him. These undead were the bones of the original race of Malakaz. Some of the Lords of the Malakaz were entombed here also, 6 of the 12 including the leader; tiefling halfbreeds. The race were a tier down from the Lords. There is also a human race called the Malakaz that simply adopted the name and some culture (the Gozerians). There are similar other caves in these hills as well. The leaders were disturbed a while ago and are no longer here, in spirit/life essence. They do require mortal coil to walk the earth. This means someone has been here, and their bodies hijacked by them who knows when. The former owner of the body is a prisoner in their own body. Eventually it will turn into the Malakaz's natural form. A creature unto themselves, like hybrid incorporeal and corporeal. The skeletons are not neg plane tied, though were at some point. Animated bones only now. That means their neg plane essence is out there somewhere else.
He has necromancer brothers he wishes were around to truly explain all that.
If we can retrieve the crown of the Cairn Wight King (last king of the race; the race were exterminated in a war with the Celestines) in his room they will likely ignore.
The rune marking this particular cave is of the Northmen, but which stretches across many cultures, called Ansuz, a derivitive of the Malakaz chief it is named after: Andzus. The rune does change some in meaning across cultures.

We found a jetblack short sword with gold wiring on handle found in the tomb of the Malakaz chief, in the wraith's room. He tells us it is not the chief's main weapon, or he would have taken it. The design is too new, in the last couple decades of the Master's rule. It's powerful, not evil, but neither good. It will allow us to carry and transport us but will not let us wield it. Likely whoever is bearing the chief's essence was the one who brought it here. The Malakaz didn't need it so left it here.

Archileus asks if he can summon, he can! Archileus writes a note to the riders and sends it out on a small summoned bird after the Master of Heat and flame warps a corner of the door open just large enough for it to fit. It lands at him outside, obvious note attached. It instructs to assault, with Kalestios's magic, from this side and blow their signal horn to lighten our burden getting to the crown.

Late night Priest and rider arrive.

We gather loot in this center room in the meantime:

Chest of coin: 67pp; 430gp; 240sp; 700cp; gems 90 amber, 120 amber, 80 blue spinnel 110 pearl, 90 tourmaline
Mst glaive
Augmented ancient breastplate (= half plate): on chest is symbol clenched fist holding a ring of what was gold, but paint is mostly off; hand was painted of silver. Looks like a Celestial's armor. plus 1 magic! vs good foe  becomes massive bonus like plus 20. Maybe it won't like wearier fighting good people at all, then. Vs true evil = light fort.
Otyugh hide leather (tentacles still hang off back) armor = leather
Potions: invis to undead; prot chaos
3 man chariot in decent shape. Archileus says we will use this as a ram through the skeletons.

Day 53

Morning, Kalestios and guide are met by one of Archileus's 2 riders at the turn south around the hills. He guides them south, arrives tonight.

The other rider has seen the inside of the tunnel and received the bird's message. He blows the signal horn to alert those inside of the arrival.

Day 54

Archileus:
After daybreak, the desolate cave escape begins. The riders attack from the entrance to draw some weight off of us, backed up by Kalestios magic.

The skeletons turn out to be very brittle. The chariot as a ram is a master stroke by Archileus, we get to the room with no issues but sweat.
The master checks out the crown, and feels the skeletons will obey the wearer, but he can't wear it. He won't explain. Archileus will do it, he tells them to return to their tombs, and they do.
He says we now command these animate objects, of sorts.

We loot the tomb:

1000gp in coin
10 pitons
2 10lb bags salt
10lb bolt of canvas
8 boxes 20 arrowheads
20 candles
5lb net
1lb oil
5 grapples
10 hammers
14 50' ropes
5lb iron prybar
loom
miner's pick
11 mortor and pestles
12 pairs dice
pitchfork
23 10' poles
37 scrollcases
shears
signet ring of the cairn wight
41 small casks oil
2 hunting traps
spinning wheel
ink vial

Meanwhile, kalestios and the master study the stories in the wall art. the race was buried here by survivors of the race. There are hints as to where the remnants went: South of here and underground. Interesting. Do they still survive?
There are 5 other caves around this extent of hills. We could have an army of animated object skeletons. Thousands!

Day 55

Back to Pride Rock.

Kalestios will stay behind with the 2 riders. He will wear the crown, gather all the skeletons from the other tombs all together, and bring them to the hills north of here, south of the river fork. This could be a useful though brittle army if needed later vs the gnolls.

Day 56

Night, Hoblites return to Pride Rock.

View
Mission: Academics at the Buried Ship

Day 48

Night, Guide team arrive Pride Rock

Day 49

The Riders, one the same who was at the ship with Grumpet, head for the caravan base at the caves. They push ahead to arrive late tonight.

Day 50

The Riders, Callimachus and Kyros leave for the ship. Other rider leaves for Pride Rock with ambassador.

Day 53

Safe uneventful trip, arrive today and start exploring and documenting. After a pass from bottom to top, we check out the machine man.

The glowing gem goes into the fallen automation at the helm. Putting it into a chest chamber, it awakens!! He's called a warforged, made for battle on a ship by the Ilithid. One of several sorts they created. It can speak, needs to learn our language, but can communicate telepathically to bracers below. 
He explains the tentacle creatures to us. Explains the fall of the Ilithid empire with help of a human who got his mind put into one of his kind. After that, they changed warforged creation to make them more subservient and not as free minded. W/o the ilithid here alive, though, he has been made independent. He has his equipment here and with nothing else to do, will join our expedition.
He has no proper name, only a code ID set: TK421.

Mere words can not describe the Ilithid's horror, he says. He will come to explain as best he can as Callimachus gathers info from him as we go. There is no negotiating with them, all are slaves, food, entertainment. Destroy them wherever we find them.
This ship in particular: There was a colony here on this world spread out, this was probably more than thousands of our years ago; travelling tween locations going east when a local Master brought the ship down personally; couple hours flying time from destination, hundreds of miles for us.
They were experimenting a lot with insectoids, which they generally like. They hate undead. Its hard for their senses to track them, plus no real thought patterns.


Bracers: plus 2 knowledge checks (psionic); speak to intelligent creatures that use non verbal communication. Plus 2 disable device (can be used as Heal on a warforged). We will use this communication to teach him our language.

Day 54-55

The ship is dead w/o a brain. Nothing can be gotten from its machinery. Callimachus does detail all language inside and what signs and other stuff mean from the warforged. It is so alien, it gives him a headache. We take the star charts, which being a slave warrior the warforged is not privy to.
The rooms with the dead were slaves, who began to eat each other after the crash. The ilithid fed off their depravity. The ankheg was a creature it had on the ship, woke up and dug its way out.
The stores of food are nothing any respectable human would ever eat, lots of brain.

He says salt is deadly to ilithid. Like acid.

The small glass vats of jelly like stuff house the ilithid spawn. They will never die as larva in here.
Callimachus want to cook them all to death. We get a super hot fire going and try to cook one in a vat. Its not hot enough to boil the jelly nor kill the spawn. The jelly can be removed, though, so we do that.
He keeps the 10 vats of the jelly to study later, and 10 small vials here. Each vat has 10 vials worth in it.
There are 10 spawn total. As we get the jelly out, these things start to emote emotionally to us, trying to make them love them and want to nurture them. The warforged keeps us from doing do, this then makes us even hate them even more. Each one takes several minutes held by tongs directly in a fire. It takes a couple hours,and their emotional power mains
He coal pit bakes 3 w/o ruining them for later disection.

Bio gel: repairs life, on wound for 1hr = 3d8 cure; large amount can regenerate bad wound; drink = potion of longevity; 
Theoretically, a large amount could resuscitate a recent dead, like w/in minutes, if their last breath had not left yet. Could be side effects.

Day 56

Some final clean up, then ride for Pride Rock. The warforged will have to ride double, swapping around so as not to slow us down.

Day 57-58

On the road.

Day 59

Late, arrive Pride Rock

 

View
The Road To and With the Royal Pride
plus shrine/ruin/buried ship excursions

Day 43

Uneventful trip thus far but we do cross a north/south oriented river. This river cuts east not far north, right at the edge of the hills tween Bharag and Kakutsk.

Scout who surveyed hills south of Kimiristi arrives at cave base tonight.

Day 44

Early in the day, we come upon a temp settlement of centaurs, in the ruins of an older permanent town. About 60 to 80 in number, much in appearance like we know of home but of local culture. Hrok says the wemic relations with them are a toss up. Could fight, could trade, pending on first reaction of both groups. They speak the steppe tongue.
Duncan rides forward with Grumpet and Bhodan only, no weapons out. 3 of them appear out of the grasses and ask out business. Duncan tells Bhodan to be completely honest.
They appreciate our forwardness of honesty. Their chief is in the settlement.
They say the gnoll issue isn't just a wemic issue, the hyenamen are allied to the humans in their area as well, they are vile scum so get along famously with the gnolls. If it turns into an actual war it will effect all. In which case the centaurs will help fight the gnolls.
They generally stay put for the entire season so they aren't leaving any time soon.
They invite us in to meet their chief.
Inside, its much more humanish than the wemics were.
We are greeted warmly!
The chief is named Mugal.
We tell him the quick of our story.
He has not met the ruling brothers directly, and isn't quite sure what to make of them. Conflicts with the old king was more like a game, a hunt. Larger conflicts weren't to the last man, one would lose and be allowed to leave. These brothers are more hostile openly with the centaurs, even pushing some centaurs out of their grounds. Lots of trouble from them. The tribes most loyal are taking the same attitudes. Those not accepting of them as kings have kept to the old ways.
This settlement moved up recently from not far south.
Duncan asks his opinion on where the 2 MIA lions are. We think, since there are no major geographic anomalies here, someone may be hiding them out.
He tells the details of a river to the south, running from the Great Hills eastward. Its the southern fork of the one we crossed. He figures they have either been killed; or they found a set of ruins to hide out in, together or not; or they are moving from woodland patch to patch; or they have been taken in among the Rakasta (the bipedal catmen) or a friendly tribe etc.
Hrok says the lioness is due w/in the next few weeks.
Duncan convinces him to loan us a handful of his good scouts to lead someone south to help us search the area faster since they are familiar with it. He offers up to 5, Duncan asks only for 2. Leaving Maith, Nnesk, and 2 of Bhodan's men to go with them.
They begin immediately.

We move on for the Royal Pride, arrive this evening.
Not far out we come across a half dozen humanoids at a campfire cooking. Meat smells gamey and plain. All are slender and armored somewhat similar to Toronaga, not same. They are a bit to the south of our path.
Duncan rides up to them with Bligh and Bhodan. At the sight of us they hop to their feet drawing curved single edge blades lacking in elegance or quality make. They yell gibberish, in an accent similar to Toro's. Bhodan can translate some, they are the Rakasta. Their language is more human by far, and different altogether to the nomads, but most of them also speak steppe common.
We greet them peacefully and sit with them. We explain the short of our travels and purpose.
They say the 10 clans of Niko, their name for themselves (short for Toro's name for them!) know of the hyenaman incursions. Unlike the wemic who ignore the gnolls unless provoked, the Niko kill them on sight w/o question. They also don't run from a fight. So every Niko we meet have either won every fight they were in or somehow it was finished w/o death. Have a special reverence for a man Toro knows as Master Lee of his religion!! Their code is similar to Toro's bushido.
We call Toro up to meet them, who is dumbfounded. Their language is a vary archaic form of his tongue. They make a fast connection with one another. He tells them they wear the blades of Lee, they respond like he is an aasimar sent by the gods! This band of 6 insist on staying with Toronaga!
Duncan "Ok then."
They are ready for war vs the gnolls. Have only been in the vicinity for a day and a half. They have a hard time staying in one place too long but for good reason.
They readily agree to search for the MIA lions. The leader says there is a strange cave not far from here, day or 2 walk, south. Wasn't there last time they were around here weeks ago.
Grumpet "Caves don't just materialize."
"Tell that to this one. There is a patch of good very high grass around it, slight rise in the ground, cave is on one side well hidden by the grass." Possible then they just missed it but they have been there several times over the years.
Duncan has them take Toro, Grumpet and a Rider to check it out.

At the Pride:
dozen females varying in age, 2 males are lounging in a clearing getting sun, another 3 around them as well keeping a watch. One of the 2 is thick and strong, deep claw mark scars on his face, likely blind in one eye, has the battle axe slung over his back. The other brother is riddled with scar tissue, saber next to him.
Some meat being carved up is humanoid. Uh oh.
The 3 guards level bows at us.
We let Hrok introduce us. The kings get up, the axe wielder taking the lead. He's definitely the one in charge of the 2. They greet us cordially.
Duncan explains our concern at the wemic fracturing since we need to move through the area "far be it for me to judge how your folk rule themselves". They insist nothing to be concerned with, the wemics will weather any storm that comes along. The big meeting is to solidify power and fix the issue we are concerend with. They insist the old king had no idea how to rule. To keep peace with the lesser steppe races, allowed prides to go hungry during winters by not allowing us to use yakman or centaur lands for hunting grounds. His  friendliness went too far.
"We on the other hand care about the wemics. We, being the dominant force on the planes" should rule and run the show. "Now it is only a matter of keeping the lesser races in their place, and from stealing what we have." He admits they are not the strategic generals he was, but we still have the best fighters regardless.
They are indeed concerned about the lost female and what her permanent loss will cause. He would love it if we were to find her, a reward even: at the mention of that by the younger, the elder shushes him "We found some things in our wanderings, not all that we can use, some more for a settled folk.  He even calls us a more sedentary lifestyle, this guy whose women hunt for them while he gets a tan.
Duncan assuming this sort of coup has happened before, asks why this female is acting like this is such an unusual terrible thing.
Typically, the females to try to keep their young alive, they do care for them afterall. So these coups aren't always the easiest thing even after the male is dead. Its not common for the queen to be with cubs when a coup happens.
Duncan asks of their actions "Why your timing then?"
In their own pride there was a vendetta. Tor killed the former king one on one, who had no cubs, so he was lucky in that respect. Before that he was in a dual of honor vs the brothers' father and killed him. Some bitterness, but those things happen. Then he became king and allowed the lesser races too much leeway to maintain a peace so much that it hurt the wemics. Several of their pride died over a winter because of lack of supplies thanks to less raids because of Tor's rules. That embittered them even more. Before whatever warlord is running the gnolls took over, they were loose wandering packs. One pack snuck in at night and slaughtered the females of their pride. There were 7 males, including them, so they all went your own ways. They came to the Royal for a home and Tor said he had no use for such clanless wemics and sent us packing. That insult was final. We were adventurers, essentially, in their wanderings. Travelled with men, hunted beast, etc.
That's why they have such equipment. It was loot.
Duncan thanks them greatly, much appreciate their honesty and openness.
They know we aren't hitmen, if we find Tor, we can tell them or not. They will not hold that against us.
Duncan asks their opinions on pregnant and wounded lion disappearing so completely so fast.
He admits Tor would have killed either of them individually. Even as a team it took their equipment for them to win. That's a microcosm for how awesome he is, at lots of stuff. Including hiding. As for Sur Abe, the female, is also a paragon of wemicness. Even heavy with child its no surprise she is gone.
They are fine with us staying here for a while.
We are getting along well, so Duncan says he is fearful that they are missing a middle ground toward the other races. He insists on their superiority.
He declares tomorrow we will feast on Yakmen and Centaur. We say we would politely decline that, so they will get other game for us.
As Duncan figured, they leave for Pride Rock in 4 days.


Meanwhile:
The centaur guides say there is a shrine south of the river and an old ruin further on. They make for those in order.
The shrine is a 3 story building. 100×70 ground floor, 3 wings to the complex off the main structure; double doors enter. No windows. Floors are smaller than one below.
People have come and gone from this area a lot.
We pull the heavy doors open enough to walk into a 40×40 room, archway at far end. ANcient statues, once humans in ornate clothing with staff or scepter or sword. 5 on each side. Bare remains of ancient faded cracked frescoes on wall. There are fresh torches in wall sconces so we light a few, take a couple more with us, and continue through the arch.
Maeth "Hello, is anyone here?"
Braziers, sensers throughout. We can still smell their recent use, air heavy with it. Walls littered with niches of small idols and statuettes. Maeth recognizes them as Masters, some she knows others she does not. One of them is an idol of Corellon. There is an obvious separation of Greater Masters who have larger and more ornate niches; the lesser power they go the more plain their spot and idol are.
This must be a shrine dedicated to Masters, now run in memorium.
She notices in a corner of the room is a set of 13 idols almost identical but with minor differences like positions. The priests in the caravan or Callimachus may be able to make further study of this.
There are stairs going up and down, on opposite sides of the foyer wall.
Archways lead into the 3 wings from here too.
Each wing dedicated to a different thing, imposing statues in each but differing motifs. On east/right is a huge man sitting in a chair, bare cheste, staff, big beard and crown, face removed of all detail.
The middle wing has the same damaged face, its kneeling, holding a scepter in an offering position.
West wing has all face definition scrubbed clean, only bottom of remnants of beard; helmet, hand on sheathed sword, aggressive stance as if looking out and into the east chamber upon that chamber's statue.
We call out again, and here sound of pounding downstairs. From above, feing chanting like private meditaion lightly chanting.
We go downstairs first. 3 doors, banging from all 3 like banging on the door.
We go back up and upstairs to the 2nd floor to a living area and study. We take the steps up. 3rd floor is a single room, peaked ceiling. A robed man meditates at a brazier, breathing in the smoke as he chants in a language unknown to us.
He wears long fiery red robes, he seems to have paid us no heed.
We wait for him to finish, letting off a final smoky breath.
He greets us kindly enough, and we all understand what he says as if he speaks to each of us in our own language. Nnesk is wary of this.
"Welcome to the shrine of the Masters" and asks us our business. We tell him.
He knows the wemics are having their issues, but the 2 missing wemics are not here, nor are they together.
"From beyond the veil, the Masters show their servant (him) many things" but not where the 2 wemics are hiding. Only that 1 is in dire straights and the other soon will be. "You, seek the master of heat and flame. He wanders the steppe lands, has a strange love for the wemics and occassionally comes to stay with the Masters humbles servants. He's a blessed one you know? Blessed long ago." Also hates the serpent, one of the wemic's immediate dangers. They seek the death of both, "the masters have not told their servant" why.
Maeth "Where can we find the serpents, then?" This we will have to find on our own. They dwell in the open but they are all hidden. "All you have to do is look." 
Not that they change their appearance, but not all look like the serpent. "They prefer to live in the gloom of their former glory. They let the dogs to that for them. All their dirty work."
Nnesk "Literally dogs, like gnolls?" He can offer no specifics such as that, only clues.
We bring up the 3 pounding on doors in the basement.
"We have nobody here, just us." He says if we refer to the catacombs below, those would be the servants to the master of heat and flame. They don't get along too well with others, so he locks them up. 3 ancient sigils keep them from leaving their rooms.
Maeth "Where can we find the Master of heat and flame?"
"When last we spoke to him, he was seeking a tomb recently (what the Masters would call recent) opened; looking for one who was forgotten but never forgotten about. People remember who he is but not what he was." To follow in his steps, find the shaman of the wolves "He would know?" Some of the wolves are currently staying not too far from here in a section of ancient gloom, as it were. This entire region, the flat lands, is the decaying corpse of an ancient time. The people were all pround once, living in grand cities. Now they ride the steppes not knowing how they once were.
He says the wolves don't stay in one place long.
"Understand, when speaking to wolves its best to bring a bone, or a nice juicy steak." Like what?
SInce we came in peace, he dips his hand into some water "May the peace of the Masters be among you" and flicks it upon each of us. A blessing.
1 time each, each person here has a reroll of a d20.

We take our leave and keep making for the ruin.

Nearing the ruin, there is a camp of 30 horsmen, human. Armed. The centaurs say they are local nomad tribe. The relations with wemics are iffy. Several are out scouting, they have surely spotted us. One gives a whoop or a howl of warning to their men.
The ruin once had a wall and castle, now a skeleton at best of its former ancient glory.
We approach casually. In the middle of their camp is a large pole, a large wolf skull strapped to it like a totem.
Our riders says that's like a banner to show affiliation. Those that use animal totems will have a chosen animal skull. Animalf of the same type will have similar canines and be part of a larger tribe. Their outriders hastily beat us to their main body and an older man in his 50's comes to greet us with 3 others.
The old man wears a wolf pelt cloak. They converse in steppe common with the riders and Nnesk. They want an offering for us travelling through his land. They ask about the girl, which the rider says we cna't give as she is not property. We have some high quality jerky and such that they are happy to clean us out of.
They taste and find it phenomenal.
"You have made the shaman of the brothers of the wolf, which is me, happy". They call him Gray Wolf 2 Fist, real name is Tuchik.
The animal brothers are called Shin, but part of the Kakutsk nation here as well. This is one of the wolf clans. There are brothers of the cat, deer, etc. The only ones they don't get along with are the brothers of the snake, not trustworthy. Wemics and shin trade when they must but stay out of each others way. Just don't get along.
They came across Tor, the king, some time back right after he left the tribe. They assumed he's likely dead. He was further west actually toward the hills. Why they don't know. They traded some weapons to him for the carcass of a large yakman, and parted ways.
The Master of heat and flame was here 9 suns ago, travelling deeper into the brother of the wolf lands searching for some old cave in the ground. Man made cave, over in the hills just west and along the north edge. Cursed caves, they feel. Can't miss them, its all desolation near them.
The heat and flame guy has appeared in the steppes for about 50 years, but was gone for a while. Only has been back for about a year. Has a real love for the wemics. Also curious about things from the past. Had a drawing with him, a symbol like the letter F, set inside a skull like shape. They recognized it from outside one of the caves on a stone.
They say there are surely no snakes in this ruin. "There are a hanfdul of truly nasty things wandeing east of the royal pride. A patch of forest further on home to things with body of a snake and torso of a man. Bad business. They can also be found in the steppe ruins here and there, but again mostly further east. That patch of woods though is like their epicenter. Also, somewhere stalking the steppe lands is something even worse. Long snake beast with a man like serpents head only. If you see that, its ill omen. Someone will die soon.
They give us a rough sketch of about where this cave is. The sun never shines into it, aka its not on the east side.
These guys's tribe is about 50 miles south of here. They invite us to bring some more of that good meat to impress the chief and we will be welcome.
He says the vile dogs north, gnolls: their war leader called a ravager has organized the warriors. He is badass. Spiritually brought together by A Chosen, powerful connection to their gods. Their original leader, a pack lord, now serves the those 2.
Also, "we have a word for the cursed beings we believe are inside of those caves. According to legend" the beings there were a despicable race long ago, tween undead and demons. The Malakaz.

We camp together, our 2 groups.

Day 45

Maeth's group makes for Duncan. The 2 centaurs decide to stay with us for now. Much appreciated. We camp at the river tonight.

Grumpet arrives at his destination.
The Rakasta say there was evidence of a lion, maybe 2, moving west. This was along the river, couple of kills. They saw no tracks, so he was likely wading in the river a lot. This was SE and SW respectively. The hill is about 50' x 200' and 50' max height. The high point makes a ridge, inclined at both ends for easy approach. Grasses are 9' tall or more for a couple miles around. Grumpet finds the cave, says something was digging and hit a cavity in the ground. The grasses once covering the soil are at the bottom of the hole. It goes in 20 feet or more. Grumpet starts in. Whatever was digging in her, he's sure was fairly large with claws designed for digging.
He moves in further and it curves upward into the hill. There is illumination in the cave, and eery red glow where it opens up. Maybe runes. He continues and it is runes carves on a worked archway. He can't tell what the material is! Which is highly irregular. He calls in Toro and Bhodan. He has no idea what the runes say so they move in deeper to a T section hallway. We call in the Rakasta. There is no trace of dirt inside here. No trace of lions. The walls seem to have a crusty film on them that crumbles, Grumpet thinks it was once a slimy film. There are tracks, insectiod and large. He thinks there is an ankheg in here. They burrow. Once we are all in, a circular door rolls across the entrance, blocking it. The halls are illuminated by free floating orbs at teh ceiling. The light is unnatural, slightly purplish glow to everything. Very unsettling.
The doors have no knobs or latches, oddly.
Touching a glass plate at the first door on the right turns the light from blacklight to redlight. We hear a terrible screach inside our minds!!
All the doors open. Another disc slides in front of the other disc at the entrance.
In all the room lie skeletons of the dead. Something bad happened her long ago.
We hear the clicking sound of insectoid feet walking down the steps at the end of the left hall. The ankheg appears and we arrange for battle, Toronaga taking the front.
After Toro cuts it up, it gets him in a grab. One of the Rakasta fires a bow in support. One more cut by his Wakizashi and another arrow brings it down DEAD.
Its eyes go dark and quickly loses some of its color.

We start looking for a way to open the entryway or another way out. We find possible sleeping quarters with ragged clothing remains, prison rooms. There is a sound in the former like a buzz then a clunk coming from grates in the ceiling. In one of these is a closed door with another glass like plate. Toro puts his hand on it, The door opens but all the others shut. Through the door is a hallway going right to steps upward. There is a door every 5' along the walls. Each has a small glass slit to see through, but they are blocked by muck or condensation or something on the other side. 2 rakasta think they can make out 2 of the rooms. Skeletal remains in a chair, one each. These are small personal rooms or cells. They look to have been wearing rags like the prisoners before, so likely also prisoners here.
The last room is 10×10 with a door on the other side. Maybe a couple weapons as well. Here is a glass plate too, but when doing so Grumpet feels a sense of intelligence like something has to be outwit to open the door. Grumpet succeeds and it opens. Probably a guard chamber. An old decreped blade, but also a 2' long handle, circular hilt, with a foot and a half blade. Like a weird short sword with a long handle. 2 sides of the handle are studded. There is a door in here as well. Another test of will but Grumpet opens it again. It is a room full of crates, rounded at the far end and cuts back on our left. The crates have some form of lock with a metal ring that may be the way to open it. Each crate has a seal of sorts burned into its surface, like a cuttlefish. Total of 50 crates in here. Figuring there have to be keys in here somewhere, we leave them be for now.
We go back and up the closer of the stairways up to a cargo deck. This is like some sort of buried ship. Most of the deck is one open room full of open crates full of containers of nasty viscous goo/brine and brainlike matter. Food? Ugh. Also, spheres and ballista bolts like ammo.
There are some door as well which we explore.
The stairs we came up continue upward. We explore here first. The doors require no thought contest.
We come to the other steps from which the ankheg came. Another stairway up as well. Galley; captain's cabin; a mate's quarters; floors covered with a weird crusty dried material, very dusty when it cracks; chart and treasure room with scroll tubes set into a device. They are air tight stoppered.

Loot:
12 gp agate, likely ankheg's random treasure
what we suppose is coin, each somehow made of swirls of gold and silver, differing in shape. The shape must determine the value.
311gp worth of gold/silver
Gems: azurite 12; 90; 55; opal 550; topaz 550; large zircon 55;
rod of cold iron
rod of adamantine
each couple inches in diameter and 5' long
high qualite set of endirons and a spit
8 bags of 20 marbles each, each a single color
half pound bag chalk
1lb bag nails, adamantine
1lb bag of salt, with strange ties of an unknown hard but pliable material  
several small kegs of an oil substance
tall bottle of clear liquid, strong smell of alcohol
9 bottles of a wine, also ancient so who knows if its any good
crowbar of an unknown metal, stronger than iron
grappling hook on a strong cord, metallic like but like rope!
9 outfits, sealed up in clear bags and in perfect condition, robes with high collars that would go above one's head; mix of colors including yellow, purple, orange, green. All drab, not bright
Tent of unknown very strong material
1lb pouch of a leafy substance
wrack of wood like blocks, like pressed dense, of different colors red, blue and black 
Sack, out of same tent material
Lots of what must be food that we don't think is a good idea to eat. Gross looking sausages, etc.
Small trap, like a beartrap but a size smaller so for human would work
50 vials ink, squid ink says Grumpet
Metal ring, few inches in diameter, with rounded fobs along it.

We check one of the 10 good charts, all with the alien script we have seen all over the ship. One is a map of what may be the region we passed through prior to Kimiristi and further east. There are markings of possible cities we didn't come across; teh standing stones we found are all marked!
Far to the east of here, a huge rift is marked for hundreds of miles north/south. The others look more like charts of the skies. One looks much like our night sky.

As we continue upward on the ship, more skeletons and rotted clothes; a room with many skeletons with a piece of their skull missing, punctured first by a hole. Whatever creature whose ship this is feeds on brains!
We find the weapons like ballista and such which the previously found ammo goes with. The weapon ports open into the ground outside!!
One weapons room was destroyed, we think this ship was likely sunk.
Shattered suits of armor, over 20, at one battle station. Inside the pieces are coils, tubes, strings of copper. A helmet with same stuff inside is partially crushed. Blunt weapons were used on these things here.
On the bridge, the floor is stained with not just he dried cracked film, but sickly purple blotches like blood stains.
Finally on the command deck, we start to get an eery feeling. ALl but the head rakasta are shaken by the feeling as we ascend the tight spiral steps to the command deck. In one of the eggshape chairs, with a consul in front of it with fururistic machinery, sits an Ilithid!! It wears an outfit like in the wardrobe. Looks like he has been sitting here a long time. Wires and tubes come out of him into the consul. Some are sucking fluids from him others into him. A large glass apparatus has a large brain floating in it, tentacles hanging from it writhing sickly in the goo. There is a metal manlying against one wall like teh ones we found bashed to pieces but complete.
Toronaga springs into action before the squid face can react and attacks, leaping at it 15. It attempts to assault Toro's mind but he resists. The brain's tentacles slide into teh device, and metal tentacles rise from the floor to attack Toro as well. He deftly dodges both. 4 others rise.
Toro crits with his katana for 1 con blead and hits once with the wakizashi. The lead rakasta then joins in as well. It dominates the rakasta leader, but before he can turn on us Toro slays the alien. Grumpet casts heat metal, and the brain's metal apparatus including tentacles start to burn it.
Toro is grabbed by 2 of the tentacles and it starts to try to pull him into the machine. The rakasta try to cut him free and he resists the pull. THe heat is starting to warp things an dthe glass starts to crack.
He escapes! 
It looses a psionic pulse. Grumpet slumps over paralized with horrific visions in his head.
The glass casing shatters!! The fluid is like uncooked eggwhite. The brain falls the the grounds, tentacles with it.
Toro 2 hands his katana and splits it down the middle DEAD!

The lights go out in the ship throughout. Grumpet snaps out of it in a few moments and casts Light.
2 sections of the consul glow. We can lift the surface up like a panel. A spherical crystal pulses with light, hovering in midair in the machine. Under the other is a rod about 8 to 10 inches long: a sunrod. We light that up too.
We taket the pulsing gem, which continues to do so even after removal.
Grumpet believes the gem pulses like a heartbeat, it even feels to his druid senses like a living thing. Its like it gave this ship thing life, the brain gave it intelligence. We find nothing that may open anything. He appears to have not moved for a long time, probably only kept alive by the tubes.
Toro lops his arm off at the elbow with his tanto.
Nothing works, at all, with any hand. Killing the brain killed the ship. But, with the power they are no longer locked. All the doors can be slid away with a little effort, including the entryway.
We fill the hole in partially with dirt and Grumpet camoflages it.
We camp outside.

Duncan spends the day with the lions. 

Day 46

Maeth et al arrive with Duncan early afternoon.
Grumpet arrives today as well, but later.

Duncan starts planning. His guess is that the pregnant female is the immediate need, and she's in the forest to the west. So, we need to investigate the desolate caves, the southern parts of the Great Hills for the missing former chief, and east at the snake forest for the pregnant female. Plus, Duncan would like to be present at the Pride Rock meeting.

Snake Forest: Mulligan; 2 centaurs, Hrok, Nnesk, Grumpet, Trysta, Maeth, Arisaan.

Immediately back to Pride Rock after Maeth's return, to send Archileus south to the desolate caves: One of the rakasta as a guide to get there and 2 riders, with Toro and Bligh to join them. Bhodan goes too. Another 2 riders will continue on to the caravan base: one to take 1 or 2 of the priests from the caravan and lead him there as well, the other to bring the ambassador to Pride Rock.

Once Grumpet returns, his rider and another are set to leave tomorrow to gather Callimachus and Kyros, taking them directly to this buried ship to research.
 
The other 2 wemics and the last 5 rakasta will remain here with Duncan. They will all return to Pride rock for the Meetings, then into the Great Hills in search of the king with Duncan.

Day 47

Duncan talks with the twins.

Day 48-51

Duncan leaves with the twins, travelling with their retinue for Pride Rock. Arrive late.

View
The Kakutsk and Pride Rock

Day 39

The Wemic Team: Bhodan and his 5, all the PC's, Trysta, Maith, Nnesk, 2 survivalists to send back as runners to move the caravan forward, 8 hoblites, Toronaga.
The dwarves with 1 scout will move up with them but cut off to the caves to secure and fortify.
2 scouts will explore from here for now. 1 will go through the hills around and south of town. The other will go south along the low edge of the main mt chain to the east.

The main group goes through the pass.

Day 40  

We are out of the pass, and set up camp.

On the way, Mulligan and Duncan noticed lots of gnoll signs in the hills to the east of the pass, on the city's side. Duncan is sure that in the last few days a party of mt wemics had been in the valley. Further on, a section of dozens of trees have been cleared out on in a disorganized manor. Chopped down.
Mulligan searches it in detail "Crude axes, and by the hair as well it had to have been those nasty gnolls to make some sort of primitive wood palisade or building. Roughly 50 worked in the area."

We set guards all night at camp. 4 shifts of 4 men.

On the 2nd shift, we hear a crash from Toro's tent. He immediately knows his personal shrine medicine bowl has been knocked over. He rushes for it followed by Mulligan. He sees a huge half man half lion with huge braided and beaded mane!! This wemic is rolling around in the tent knocking everything over. He is licking the bowl clean. He is equipped as a warrior.
"Unhand my bowl, beast!"
Mulligan thinks it looks like a cat doped up on catnip "What did you have in that bowl?"
The wemic gets to its feat, cramped in the human sized tent, looking wild eyed. It starts speaking in its own language. Mulligan tell the rider that is also on guard to get Bhodan fast.
No weapons have been drawn by either side. The wemic goes for an overrun by toro and Mulligan but they block the stoned wemic. It was a sloppy jump, the rug slipping partially out from underneath him as he tried.
Mulligan "Hurry up Bhodan!"
It gets back up partially, crouched and ready for danger when Bhodan runs in.
Bhodan starts communicating, telling it to calm down. It speaks in highly accented plains tongue. Bhodan says his name is Hrok Angry Spear. He had been watching us for a while and smelled Toro's herbs he cooks as incense for his meditations. He had to investigate it smelled to so, and apparently to him its highly intoxicating to the wemic. He's a bit scatterbrained right now.
Duncan will make not of this as a future trade good.
Nnesk shows up with Duncan about now.
Duncan has Bhodan lay out the short of why we are here, lucky to have run into him. He is from the pride at the high ground. He's out on a lone hunt for game and the gnolls that they call Bharagrok. He says war is brewing.
This guy is an odd sort. Twice during the talk in the tent he cut a sting down that toro had clothing hanging on, randomly.
WE get him outside and sit. He paces while we discuss, randomly getting too close to a person, or jabbing at an interesting looking clothing. Sniffs someone.
He says the gnolls have terrible warchiefs but great champions. The 2 new kings of the wemics are not great at fighting wars. They killed off the old kings young. Not a strong tradition anymore unless you are really throwing down the gauntlet and disgracing the old king. This has, however, angered many clans who threaten to migrate away. The mountain and cheetah wemics are not fond of them either and have distanced themselves. The royal pride lead female has gone missing only days ago. The coup happened about 2 months ago. The first evidence of gnolls was 3 to 4 months ago.
She was the last of the pregnant females by the old king, she is trying to keep her litter alive. The brothers have promised not to harm her and are looking for her.
The old king, Sirrok Tor, wasn't exactly the nicest guy either, bit of a jerk, domineering. He was a good warleader though. The female was one of the best hunters in the land.
They call the meeting highland Pride Rock. Currently the pride there works with the nation and the brothers still.

There is a tribal council in the near future to meet there.
Everyone is worried for the queen especially since a lone wemic birthing in the wild is a precarious and very dangerous situation.

Day 41

The survivalists are sent back to tell the caravan to finsish business and leave for the caves in a couple days. About 8 miles into the valley, they are spotted by a patrol of hyenamen. They managed to evade them but were followed for a few miles before doing so.

We make for Pride Rock with Hrock. He says the tribes are very migratory here, unusual for a tribe to have a permanent home, like the humans here. He describes a further tribe now, a bipedal tribe! Toronaga has heard of such a thing in his lands legend: Nekonohitobito. Supposedly died off or migrated away long ago. He's interested to see one.
Hrok says there are a few permanent settlements, no cities though. There are also ruins.
It takes a bit of a push, but we arrive late today at Pride Rock. There are copses and patches of woodland all around. At dawn the surrounding terrain causes a singular beam of light at he right time of year shine into the area, hence the spiritual import of the location.
To the north as we are pushing on the final stretch we see shapes moving in the grasses at twilight. We assume the areas wemic sentries. Duncan mentions it to Hrok, who also noticed. His ears are already perked and attentive.
"No, not wemics." Its the hyena men! "They come closer and closer every day. "One pack, probably all related."
Mulligan "As many men as we have, or smaller?"
"Less, so unlikely to attack."
They are too far away to make a move for.

Sentry wemics meet us as we approach the Rock. Hrok explains our presence. They are all quite curious, smelling up on us, a couple feeling us out, even literally. One rubs a pigment or ochre of some kind on Duncan's neck until Hrok stops him. He was trying to mark us as property. Duncan cleans that off right quick.
The tribe here is 2 or 3 prides. 7 to 8 females plus cubs per pride. 2 or 3 males on average each.
Hrok introduces us to the shaman Roko and Chief. WHat they call him is not so much a word but a sound they make. As a translation, one could say "Victory over hyena". We Kelestize the title Hyena slayer into an Imperial name.
Roko is very suspicious of us. Especially the hoblites. He thinks we may be demons and sent by demons. The Chief, while taking head, is more interested in details.
He calls the hills to the west the Great Hills.
He wants to know lots about our lands, our games, foods, drinks, lots. We offer to trade with him when our caravan arrives. Duncan starts a quite good relationship with him. Roko even decides we are no good evil spirits, omens of ill portent, not really demons. Good first step!!
Duncan then goes into how we are here to help, and explains what we know of their situation.
These prides are relatively loyal to the brothers only because their first born will be born here, as is custom, so it will be the rightful heir. Basically, just because they are in charge.
If anything else were to happen, they would follow the next leader. They have no idea where the former king may be. They assume he's dead. They do greatly lament the missing head female.
The royal pride is the pinnacle of the race, have been breeding the heirs for as long as the wemics remember.
Usually, when alpha female is on her deathbed, her oldes child will naturally become more and more alpha. When its an abrubt death, especially with 2 males leading, the females will go estrogen crazy and many could die. Potentially ruining the royal pride for generations.
We dine on meat with the wemics into the night.
Several younger members look on in astonishment as Hrok says something to several of them. They wnat to know if we have any more of that stuff he got high on in Toro's tent.
Duncan "I'll ask Toro when I get the chance."
He has a few lbs of it. Duncan tells him to pass a bit out to the most interested.
The night goes swimmingly.
The females will be up earliest, to hunt. The males sleep in late.
He reiterates that the Bharag started acting up just prior to the brothers taking charge.
The royal pride is only the females, genetically. Males come in from outside.
The 2 brothers were clanless, wanderers. They stay with a clan here and there, were well known. One day, decided to stake their claim on the throne. They were beating him in combat and he fled.
Grumpet "Anything seem different about them since, compared to before?"
"No, same personalty as always. Only thing different, they came in with better equipment for the coup battle. The older brother's axe is more similar to what you humans have. The younger brother wields a saber, very uncommon for wemics."
We don't think 2 wandering brothers would have much to use as stardard trade for human weapons.
Currently, the Royal Pride is just shy of 100 miles east, then 40 miles south, from here. They still have rounds to make to establish their rule. In about 10 days time, the chief and alpha male from each tribe, and alpha male if it is different, is to come to Pride Rock for a great meeting. Chief is usually the eldest or eldest warrior, so sometimes not the main breeding alpha.
So, its up to us if we wish to wait here or go and seek the Royal Pride ourselves.
Mulligan "Where were they when the female disappeared?" About the same area they are in now. Also same area that the coup took place. She left 2 days later after the slaughter of the cubs.
If we ride to them, Hrok will stay with us for safe passage. Its about a 3 day ride. They will likely not leave until they have to for the meeting.
The dangers are gnolls and human raiders, at least. 
We convince 2 more males to join us as guides as well as Hrok, in case we split up, if we go. Hrok and the chief will give them rudimentary words to communicate with us. They aren't thrilled about waking early.

Day 42

Archileus and the hoblites stay put.
Duncan moves out with the rest. He, Bligh, Toro and Arisaan will meet the brothers.
Mulligan, Nnesk, Maith and Grumpet will go as well, but branch off to search for the missing 2 lions. Grumpet will come in with Duncan first, to get the info from the source on what direction they went and such. Bhodan et all go with Duncan.
One of the guides will always be with the trackers. Hrok and another with Duncan's main party.

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