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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Arrive Pride Rock.
In the meantime, we head back west.On the way, we meet the Rakasta by Duncan