Saturday, October 17, 2009


After a week of relatively “normal” activities after their return from the expedition to the village of Onnja, the small group of adventurers found themselves one evening summoned to the meeting room of House Valaryan. Inside was the “Patriarch”, Gam, and the head of the Vistnan temple, Vespasian, along with his assistant Alando (both had been met by the party on the night the adventurers had saved them from unknown assassins). Ardu was also there, but no one else. Gam told the adventurers that this meeting was “top secret”, and no word of it must pass beyond the doors of this room. After Vespasian cast several spells around the room and on the adventurers, Gam told Vespasian to tell the adventurers the legend of the “Elephant’s Graveyard”.
Vespasian faced the adventurers and began his tale: “For many years, there has existed a legend of the Elephant’s Graveyard in Delos. Supposedly, deep within the jungle there is a hidden valley surrounded by high cliffs, impossible to locate by the air. There is only one way into this valley, through a secret entrance. The legend says that the spirits of elephants across Delos are attracted to this hidden valley. This mystical attraction causes any pachyderm who is aged, maimed or near death to attempt to travel to this valley. As a result, the valley’s floor is covered with thousands of elephant skeletons…and the mighty tusks of the great beasts. Yes, a fortune in ivory supposedly exists within the walls of this hidden enclave.
I have spent many years researching this legend, with little beyond native tales to go on. I had not thought of the Elephant’s Graveyard in years until an unusual circumstance brought it utmost in my mind. Last week, some native Ashante came into Port Maugre trading for essentials. One of the items they had to trade was a pair of giant ivory elephant tusks, and when asked where they had come upon these they volunteered the information they had traded food, fruit and grains with a primitive tribe within the depths of the jungle for the tusks. They said the tribe had a village at the mouth of a large cavern and their shaman was a Beast cultist of the Elephant. The villagers the Ashante traded with said they guarded the entrance to the Elephant’s Graveyard. The natives who brought the tusks were told to contact your patriarch as he would be willing to pay for the tusks and any further information. “
The Patriarch jumped in at this point, telling the party he had the natives brought to him, and for gold and trade goods had them draw a map of the location on the off chance it might bear fruit. Like Vespasian he had for years heard rumors of this “Elephant’s Graveyard’ but thought it nothing more than tall tales. He added “After they drew the map, I took the precaution of having the natives taken out of town t night by rowboat several miles down the coast so they couldn’t spread the word any further about their find. Plus, I wasn’t taking the chance they would draw the map for anyone else with a bit of gold.” Looking the map over, Gam said that even he was unfamiliar with many of the landmarks, and that’s when Vespasian and the Vistnan’s got involved, as he had to confide in them in exchange for what meager information they might have about the Elephant’s Graveyard.
The crude map in the Patriarch’s hands spurred Vespasian’s interest, and he went to work finding the landmarks on the map through old trade maps of the area. It appeared to be around 45 miles or so deep in the jungle, past a lake and stream not on any of Vespasian’s maps. However, he told the party, he was able to rewrite the map somewhat and sent the original back to Gam for safekeeping.
“It was this original map that was stolen that night you rescued my servants; you almost foiled the attack although the main perpetrator escaped with the map” said Vespasian.
Gam then added: “Someone must have been shadowing House Valaryan and noted our comings and goings, and managed to grab the original of the map that night. The natives either aroused too much interest when they came in and flapped their lips too much, or we have a traitor in House Valaryan or in the Vistnan temple. Either way, we no longer have the original map. However, Vespasian was able to duplicate the map as he said, as well as decipher many of the landmarks and such. So while the “competition” has a copy of the map, it’s not as detailed as the copy we have.”
“We have no idea who now has a copy of the map…it could be House Mith or House Tarn, or the Taranthians, or even some other competitor. Nevertheless, now the clock was ticking to as when we could field an expedition to find out the truth of this Elephant’s graveyard. If true, there could be tens of thousands of gold pieces in ivory there, and I want it” Gam said with a gleam of greed in his eye.
Vepasian said “After the attack you interrupted, there have been other incidents. A Vistnan priest and his bodyguard were attacked by shadowy figures, one a mage who used a Wand of Paralyzation on the priest and then incinerate the bodyguard with a Lightning Bolt. The mage was searched before being left behind. Another incident involved an attack with a poisoned blade on another priest. Obviously the assailants are those who have the map and realize there may be a better copy somewhere.
Undoubtedly many want the horde of ivory, if this valley is indeed the fabled treasure trove. However, for the priesthood of Vistna knowledge is paramount, and the valley may contain ancient temples or libraries that can improve our understanding of the history of Delos. Your patriarch has graciously agreed to give any books, writings or other historical documents discovered, along with any unique magical items, to the priesthood in exchange for assistance in reaching your goal. We fear the loss of knowledge that may occur if some other entity arrives before us and plunders any temple or repository of knowledge that exists within the valley.”
Gam then explained the plan: “We are going to attempt to pull a fast one on the competition. Tomorrow, a large merchant party with Talith and Ardu leading it will take off for a false destination. That leaves you, the newest and youngest members of House Valaryan, who we hope will arouse no suspicioun when you leave for the ACTUAL location on the map. Unfortunately, because of the circumstances we don’t have as much time as I would like to get this expedition equipped. You will leave tomorrow morning with a light train of pack animals and bearers, with a false destination as a cover story. Once in the jungle you will follow the map and hopefully reach the graveyard before the competition. I want you to parlay with the villagers at the entrance to the graveyard, gain entrance and get as much ivory as you can on the pack animals after you secure the area. Clear the area of hostiles, and this means all monsters that may interfere with future ivory expeditions. Explore any structures and bring back any ancient writings, scrolls, whatever you can get. If you can, eliminate the competition and destroy or bring back the other map. Since this expedition is a bit unusual and it looks like it’s going to be a real bitch, you can keep all the magic you find unless it’s something unique or unusual, that goes to our friends in the Vistnan priesthood. I’ll even let you keep all gold over the amount it takes to finance this little adventure. All House Valaryan wants is the ivory and the rights to bring out as much of it from the graveyard as we can carry. “
The party members were both astonished at the plan and their large part in it, given their relative inexperience, yet excited and humbled they had been chosen to follow it through. Vespasian said the priesthood of Vistna was going to assist in all matters and told them Alando would be traveling with them to help translate or cure as the need came about. He also distributed many potions of Healing for the party, and Gam also added in a few items such as a Helm of Comprehending languages to facilitate communication with any native tribes they found. When Gam was asked what kind of creatures lived in the area they would traverse, he smiled and said “Cannibal headhunters, for one!” Despite this the party members were eager to leave on the morrow for their first solo foray into the deep jungle and the unknown.

Early the next morning, with much fanfare, a large, well equipped expedition into the interior left by the main gate. With Talith at it’s head, along with over 100 men and beasts, the scuttlebutt on the streets was that a “major” find of either gems, ivory or ruins had been made and House Valaryan was on it’s way to claim their treasure. Soon after, smaller expeditions from House Mith and House Tarn also left in the larger expedition’s wake, undoubtedly seeing if they could also profit from the “leavings” of the major expedition through either stealth or force. Several smaller groups also left, either to shadow the larger expeditions or try to discover where the expeditions were bound so they could perhaps arrive earlier.
That afternoon, a smaller group including the adventurers (Kal, Cadelaine, Endefal, Nadal, Mongo), along with Roho, Alando, and a native Delosian fighter called Ajada (leading 40 porters, bearers and guards) slipped out of the gates with no fanfare, at the head of 20 mules and 10 water buffalo. Their ostensible “mission” was to make contact with a distant tribe so they could establish trade relations, and they were well loaded down with cowrie shells, glass and metal beads, and gold nuggets to assist the trade. If anyone noticed this minor expedition manned by members of House Valaryan who were still wet around the ears, there was no visible reaction. So far, the Patriarch and Vespasian’s plan had worked….

For the first day, the expedition to the Elephant’s Graveyard stuck on established trails east. At the beginning of the next day, they struck out into the wilderness in accordance to the map they held, chopping through undiscovered territory. The going was very, very slow, as there was no trail at all, and all the animals and men must be accommodated. Several times entire trees had to be cut down as they grew so thick, and would grow thick again if let uncut. Only 4 miles a day was able to be traversed in the thick wild jungle area as the party headed east to a unknown lake on the map, from there to a stream, and from the stream to the mysterious village outside the fabled valley.
For several days there was no trouble except the usual spiders, ants, insects and small mammals that were always encountered in this territory. Traveling ahead were Kal, Mongo and Roho, who acted as scouts for the main body of the force. On the third day, Mongo came upon some reptilian tracks of a large, upright walking being that probably weighed 500 lbs or more. Sneaking up on a clearing, he saw two reptilian creatures known to natives as “Bonesnappers”, stupid reptilian creatures that only cared about eating and breeding, and were quite dangerous. Mongo felt his hatred of all cold-blooded beings rise in him, and as the creatures were alone feasting on the carcass of a giant ape, he signaled Kal and Roho to back him up. Kal cast Entangle on the beasts, which would hold them enough to kill them..except at that moment, another six of the creatures burst through the foliage behind them!
Kal, Mongo and Roho yelled for help as they combated the powerful reptilian beings, who used jaws and tail snaps to quickly injure the trio. Hearing the cries for help, Nadal, Cadelaine, and Endefal rushed to help just in time to see Roho brought down with a powerful swipe of a tail. While Endefal bandaged his wounds, Nadal charged into combat with his two handed sword, and Cadelaine stood back firing arrow after arrow into the man-sized creatures. Mongo brought down three of the creatures himself, including one of the Entangled reptiles as they soon thrashed free of the vines and grasses holding them. Endefal entered the combat after tending to Roho, and between the five of them, soon all eight of the creatures lay dead. After the battle, Roho was strapped to a mule until he healed up and the rest of the group continued on it’s way.
That evening, after a hard slog, the party camped in a small clearing overhung with large trees. During the nigh watches, Alando and Cadelaine managed to find themselves on one shift, and Alando soon began making uncomfortable conversation with the half elven lass. Soon Cadelaine began to slowly realize that the socially inept Alando had been taken with her and having no experience with women (he told of growing up in a monastery) he was making up for lost time by becoming infatuated with her (as she soon realized she was literally the only female he had ever spoken to for any length of time!).
Their awkward conversation was broken by screams of a native bearer who stepped out of his blanket to relieve himself….he stumbled back into the light of the campfire, covered with hand-sized hairy spiders! As he fell dead with half a dozen bites, Cadelaine and Alando quickly rose the rest of the party as well as the native porters and Ajada and found they were surrounded by the giant arachnids! Along with the hairy spiders, several large and even huge varieties began to drop down from the trees and skitter into the camp, searching for prey.
Battle followed, Cadelaine helping with a Sleep spell that took out 7 of the horrors, and Mongo quickly chopping through half a dozen of the monstrosities. A bite on Kal brought his to his knees as the poison took effect, causing the spiders to try to swarm him. Valiantly, Mongo fought them off, as the rest (including spear wielding natives) fought off the poisonous creatures. Even Ajada acquitted himself well, killing two of the huge creatures, and soon 30 or so dead arachnids lay strewn around the site, with several others crawling back into the dark underbrush. Afterwards, Kal recovered from the bite as the poison had only made him dizzy, and a head count found only one other native bearer dead from the beasts’ poison. According to custom, both dead natives were burned, and the party saw their profits fall as they calculated their first wergild for two native porters…..

The slow journey continued the next day, with the party only making 4 miles a day through the thick, untrammeled jungle. Having to cut their own trail was slow going for the small caravan of mules, water buffalo and porters. Towards the end of the day, the trail crossed that of a large group that had passed through earlier; Mongo checked the tracks and found a larger group of natives, probably walking with shackles, with many others around them…slavers with a coffle!
Calling a halt to the caravan, the party decided that although it wasn’t part of the mission, they would follow the trail (which was only an hour or so old) and see who was holding the slaves and whether or not they could be rescued. The entire adventuring party went with Alando reluctantly tagging along, for he seem to now be infatuated with Cadelaine and didn’t wish her to get into any trouble.
About a mile through the trampled down jungle grass, they found their slave train. In a clearing, a large group of 40 or so frightened and wounded natives were sitting, shackled, as around 40 or more piratical types walked around with whips. There are several campfires and tents as obviously the group was camping for the night and the slaves were being watered and fed. Mongo’s sharp eyes spotted a dozen Tzulan warriors who were arrayed on the outside of the camp as lookouts…and in the middle of the camp, a larger tent from which strode a priest of Taranthus, decked out in his holy clothing! At the sight of his enemy Endefal’s blood ran hot, and then there was no doubt that the party would go against the overwhelming odds to rescue the prisoners.
A quick plan was formed. Cadelaine and Alando snuck around the north side of the camp, and she liberally poisoned several blowdarts with deadly snake venom. At the same time, Kal quietly cast a Charm Person on what looked like the lead fighter type of the slavers, causing him to drop what he was doing and head for the hidden adventurers. Mongo made his way to the other side of the camp to try to engage the evil priest, Endefal behind him.
Cadelaine did well at first, killing two Tzulan guards with here poisoned darts, until the third was only partially hit and managed to yell a warning. All hell broke loose as Kal through Entangle, immobilizing 10 of the slavers, and Nadal and Roho attacked the nearest Tzulan lookouts. Kal’s charmed fighter rushed to their defense and began attacking the Tzulan’s also, giving Kal and Roho a chance to try to help Mongo, who was engaged in a battle with two other Tzulans and the high priest across the camp. The priest hit Mongo with a Fist of Faith, then pulled a Taranthian bullwhip and made a magical energy whip appear in his other hand, ready for battle. Soon Mongo was almost overwhelmed….the priest showed great skill with the whip and managed to disarm the ranger with several well placed whip strikes at Mongo’s hands and wrists. Even with Endefal curing and helping him, it looked like a tough battle. The only thing in the adventurer’s favor was that the bulk of the slavers were slow to act, as they didn’t’ seem to understand what was going on, and saw their charmed leader attacking Tzulan warriors on the other side of the camp.
Soon Cadelaine and Alando were running for their lives through the brush as the last Tzulan warrior she had shot with the blowgun began chasing them, the poison not doing it’s full work. Cadelaine and Alando were finally able to set up and pepper the native with missile weapons, killing him. Cadelaine then used two Sleep spells to knock out 8 of the milling slavers and further sow confusion. Kal’s charmed fighter helped immensely as he killed one Tzulan and gravely injured another before being killed. Kal and Roho slowly battled their way through a small group of slavers to reach Mongo and Endefal and their battle with the high priest.
Disarmed, Mongo’s fury got the best of him as he launched himself at the priest, driving him to the ground. The priest dropped his bullwhip but his energy whip continued to swing and crack, hitting both Endefal and Mongo. Mongo got his hands around the priest’s throat and began strangling the life out of him and Endefal applied cures and other protective spells to the ranger while dodging attacks. Soon, a loud crack was heard as the priest’s neck broke, and Mongo wearily rolled off to partake of healing potions.
With the highly deadly and skilled Tzulan warriors dead, the slavers were no match for the infuriated party. Mongo began to slice through them like butter, killing half a dozen that Kal had captured with another Entangle spell, and the rest of the group joined in. Soon, the remaining slavers began surrendering, but to the party’s shock, Endefal answered by bashing in the brains of the nearest surrendering slaver with his giant club! The rest, seeing there was no mercy from the priest of Attar, began fleeing into the jungle, to probably become a predator’s meal in the unforgiving green depths.

In the aftermath, the priest’s tent was searched, a large chest was dragged out, then Endefal lit the structure on fire with the priest’s body inside. He began decapitating the slaver’s bodys and arranged the heads on spikes all around the camp, causing much concern and worry among the other members of the group. They had heard how obsessed and vengeful Attarian priests were, now they were getting a first hand look!!! The rest of the party tended to the slaves, as many were sick, wounded and frightened. Assuring them they were there to help, they found out they had been taken from a village near the very lake they were on their way to find (the first large landmark on their journey), so they vowed to take the natives back to their homes. Leading them back to the caravan, the immediate problem was enough food and water for 40 extra mouths. Using a high level scroll, Alando was able to Create Food and Water in a large enough amount to satisfy everyone, and the stores of the expedition were dipped into so that no one would go hungry. Back at the camp, Endefal had lost some of his fury and tended the native’s bodies with bandages and souls with quiet words of comfort. One native youth with a heavily scarred face stared at Endefal for awhile, then slowly approached him later.
Not speaking a common tongue, Mongo translated from Ashante the native youth’s (Kumar’s) entreaties to Endefal: while being held prisoner the past several days, he had prayed and been touched by the hand of Attar. After talking to the boy, Endefal realized the youth had been chosen and was now a acolyte! Kumar told Endefal he wished to join the group and also spread the word of Attar, and Endefal was happy that such a horrible episode had something good come out of it. The next day, the party would head for the lake and then make a slight detour to drop the villagers off at their home, but Kumar would continue on with the expedition.

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