Saturday, October 31, 2009


The expedition continued on with clear weather for a change, as Ark took the place of Roho in the scouting party of Mongo and Kal that traveled 100 yards ahead of the main group. The next day, the party came upon a small group of apes that had brought down a beast of the jungle…carnivorous apes! This rare species fed on bloody, red meat as well as the fruits and berries of their brethern. Sensing they could get by this encounter without killing the great beasts (the hairy apes stood 7 feet tall and looked very mean and powerful), the rangers and druid did not attack but instead threw the apes food and did not appear threatening. Kal began speaking with one, and casting Animal Friendship, got the giant beast (who said his name was “Gra-Gra”) to follow him around like a docile puppy…..a docile puppy that enjoyed eating red, bloody meat (as they found when they were attacked by wild boars about an hour later, where Gra-Gra promptly ripped one in half and began noisily feasting!).

As the expedition continued, and hour or so later the scouts were shocked to hear the sounds of battle and shouting up ahead…as well as a loud baritone singing voice which they found strangely familiar. Summoning Nadal and Cadelaine, the small group rushed into the jungle and came upon a grisly scene: a clearing that held the remains of some sort of expedition, surrounded by a horde of cannibal warriors about to overwhelm the party. Bodies of cannibals and members of the expedition, along with dead mules and broken carts, were strewn across the small glade as the remnants of a party, their backs against a stone cliff, were making their last stand shooting crossbows and arrows into the mass of screaming, slavering natives. The party quickly made plans, coming from the rear they were not seen or heard by the natives. Ark and Kal threw Entangle spells, Cadelaine threw two Sleep spells, and a couple more Hold Person spells by Endefal took away fully half the 50 or so warriors.

Mongo rushed into combat and quickly killed a shaman chanting spells before being set upon by bloodthirsty, howling native berserkers. Endefal engaged the leader of the natives, who had been blinded by a spell cast by Kal, and quickly killed him also. The rest of the party, including the ape Gra-Gra, began hand to hand fighting. Cadelaine snuck through the battle invisible and helped the trapped expedition survivors by casting Web at an attacking group, capturing a half dozen of the natives. She then saw the leader of this party was Drake, the intenerant bard of Port Maugre. Meanwhile, the battle was a tough one against the berserking natives and at one point Kumar and Alando had to join the fray for their healing powers, as Ark went down unconscious and several other party members were desperately injured. Gra-Gra was a definite asset, ripping off heads, arms and legs of cannibals and pausing to take a bite or two before getting back to the business of killing. Even Kal’s stores of goodberries came in handy as they were eaten by the handful to keep up strength and soon the natives were all either dead or routed. Pausing for curing, they checked with Drake and the members of his party, also healing and helping the few left of his group.
Drake heartily thanked the party and said he and some other mercenaries were out looking for adventure when they had run afoul of the cannibal horde. He offered the party extra rations and half of the little treasure he and his men had gathered (several ivory tusks) as his only aim now was to make it back to Port Maugre in one piece. He wished the party luck and continued on his way, as the adventurers quickly left the scene of carnage (and half a hundred dead bodies) for fear of predators, and continued moving down the trail.

Finally, early the next day, the end of their trip was in sight as the map showed only a few miles to the village at the mouth of the Elephant’s Graveyard. Pushing ahead wearily, the rangers noted several human footprints criss-crossed with reptilian footprints and tail dragging the ground. Discussing the find briefly, the party (consisting of Ark, Mongo, Endefal, Cadelaine, Kal and his ape) decided to follow the reptilian tracks, as Mongo identified them as Ophidians, servants, scouts and guards of the dreaded snakemen (the Yuan Ti).
They quietly followed the trail to a steep overhang looking over a small village. The village was undoubtedly the one marked on their map, and they saw five of the ophidians observing the villagers go about their daily business. After a short planning session, Cadelaine snuck up invisibly and hit the group with a Web spell…only one got loose, and he was set upon by Ark and Endefal, who quickly killed him. Suddenly, two unseen snake creatures slid out from the rocks and attack the party, with Mongo, Cadelaine and Gra-Gra taking care of them. As they did so, The other members of the party pour oil on the trapped ophidians and lit them on fire, killing them. During combat both Gra-Gra and Kal had been bitten by the creatures, and Mongo told them that per legend, the poison would cause them to become ophidians in a few days time. Quickly, Cure Disease spells were cast by the priests to prevent this awful eventuality.

Having seen and heard the combat, as well as the plume of rising smoke, the villagers were observed running into their small village surrounded by a 10 foot stone wall as the gates were dragged shut behind them, a warning horn being sounded at the first sign of fire so close to the village. The party members soon presented themselves at the gate with several ophidian heads prominently displayed on the ends of their weapons so as to quell any fears the villagers had concerning their intentions. They noticed there were only perhaps a dozen warriors on the walls, indicating a very small tribe. Soon, the chief Hamar and his shaman Brolo were engaged in conversation with Mongo (which, despite drinking a Philter of Persuasiveness, they found very confusing), then Alando and Kal (who could somewhat understand the ancient Delosian dialect of the tribesmen). After telling the villagers they meant no harm and were there to trade food (which the tribesmen, known as the Armecs, were very much in need of), the gates were opened and the small expedition with pack animals was allowed to enter.
Entering the small village, the adventurers noticed the poor health and non-existent wealth of the Armecs. Talking with the chief, with the shaman hovering around, the adventurers were told that the Armecs barely scraped out a living here on the edge of the jungle with their few crops and very small amount of game the hunters brought in. Due to the nearby cannibal tribe, and the threats of predators like the ophidians, the men of the tribe were reluctant to travel very far to hunt or gather. The party immediately sensed the helplessness and sincerity of the chief and his villagers; they were probably on the last generation of the tribe if conditions continued. The adventurers gladly opened up their wares to the grateful villagers, sharing the contents of the large amount of iron rations Drake and his group had given the party for being rescued. This was obviously more food than the Armecs had seen in awhile; immediately, the chief called for a celebration in honor of the visitors as the hungry villagers began eating the bread, meat and cheese.

Soon after, as the small caravan had settled inside the village (which only numbered a dozen or so stone buildings inside the enclosure), and as they shared their rations with the Armecs, the ancient-looking shaman got up to speak. The adventurers had been asking about the “elephant’s graveyard” for awhile, and the chief had talked about it only in passing, to say that the entrance to the valley where the elephants died was only a short distance away. As the shaman faced the characters, they could see the carved ivory elephant token hanging from his neck, identifying him as a shaman of the Elephant cult.
In answer to their questions, and why they had come, he told them in his dreams he had seen his own death not far in the future (from what he said and events in the past he talked about, the party estimated his age at 90 or more). However, he had also seen the arrival of the adventurers, and the fact they would be searching for the elephant’s graveyard. He looked across the fire at the cliffside past them and spoke: “ When I was still a small child, the Armecs lived in the “Valley of the Elephants”, which was abundant in everything we needed….there was a small lake with fish, fields to plant crops, and many edible creatures. A temple was built there in worship of the Elephant God, and many a generation of Armecs lived peacefully in the valley and tended the temple there (the tribe was named for it’s greatest warrior of centuries past, Arm).
Many years ago, a man called Honapo became high priest. One day he came back from a journey outside the valley filled with madness. He entered the temple swinging a great battle axe and struck down many of the Armecs. Only those who quickly ran outside survived. Honapo then locked the doors of the temple with himself inside. Frightened by what had happened, my people left the temple and the valley to make a home for themselves outside the valley, in the edge of the jungle. Any who re-entered the valley since that awful day decades ago never returned, so now it is forbidden to return there and no one living in the village has seen inside the valley except for myself. In the years since, some mystical power is in the valley, possibly caused by the priest Honapo and whatever has befallen his mind…dying elephants began to find their way here from all over the jungle, and they all travel down the tunnel into the valley never to return. Sometimes the gods intercede and one of the great beasts falls dead outside our walls, not making it into the valley, and our god has told us this is for our survival as we are then able to use it’s meat, tusks, bones and skin for our purposes since it is taboo for us to kill any of the great beasts ourselves.”
Brolo paused to stare down, clearly exhausted by his long speech and the memories. “Leaving the valley proved to be the downfall of our tribe, as each successive generation has grown smaller. While in the valley, we were protected from attack, but for the last few decades the beasts of the jungle and eaters of flesh have worn down the tribe to its present state. The only thing standing between us and utter destruction is myself, the last Elephant Cult shaman. When under attack I can summon elephants to battle intruders…Unfortunately, I am very old now and can barely call the power to summon the elephants, and the village will have no shamans or protectors after I die…and I have not very long to live. Please when you enter the valley, cleanse the temple of evil, for in my last days I will be able to re-consecrate the temple then and my people will again have a land they can dwell in and be protected from the outside evils of this land. I can then die with the knowledge my people are safe. ” At this, the shaman sat down and was silent, except for one more thing. “I have seen in my dreams your arrival here, and you will free the valley from it’s curse, but some of you will die. I and my people thank you for your sacrifice…and know the Elephant God looks upon you with favor also.

The next morning, plans were made for the party to investigate the Valley of the Elephants. The chief told them his son, Sholo, would guide them to the entrance (which was in the cliff wall, shielded by hanging vines), but could go no further….from there, it was up to the adventurers. So, Kal and the ape Gra-Gra, Cadelaine, Mongo, Endefal, Nadal, Ark, Alando, and Kumar packed up their supplies and followed the chief’s son to the entrance several hundred yards away. They left Sholo at the large opening and pushed past the hanging vines…there was a tunnel 200 feet long lit by light from the other side, and the tunnel was immense…large enough for the great elephants to pass inside on their journey into the valley.
The trip through the tunnel was short, and soon the party stood at the entrance of a valley, approximately 1 mile wide and five miles long. Around the entrance where they stood, the floor of the valley gradually tilted down to a basin, where shimmered a small lake, and a large stone building. Between them and the structure was several miles of broken plain, and the sun gleamed off the hundreds and hundreds of elephant skeletons laying all across the valley floor! The party surveyed the area; besides right next to the entrance, there was little growth except for scrub bushes and grass, and the sides of the valley looked crumbling and sheer. Several groups of large vultures fed on recent elephant corpses, and the adventurers saw several lone jackals and hyenas running across the plain. Nothing but small animals, scavengers, seemed to inhabit the treeless valley.
As the party made their way from the entrance, suddenly the air filled with pollen. Ark, Alando and Kumar had a glazed look in their eyes, and began walking towards what appeared to be a large, 6 foot tall flytrap…a gigantic “mantrap”! They had been hypnotized by it’s pollen, and began heading toward the open maws of the plant to step inside, but Kal threw up an Entangle to stop them, and then Endefal used several vials of oils to burn the abomination to the ground. After it was on fire, the charmed individuals’ heads cleared, and the group began to head into the valley.

However, attracted by the smoke, several man sized winged creatures began circling the party from a couple of hundred feet up. Coming from what looked like caves on the side of the mountain, these dozen or so creatures began trailing the party from above as the adventurers moved through the valley. Small bones crunched under feet as the party marveled at the sheer amount of elephant skeletons scattered across the plains…estimates of how much ivory could be brought out of the valley by Nadel and Ark took the total over 100,000 gp worth! Walking past and through huge skulls, rib cages, leg bones, and great curving tusks, the party could see nothing alive except for small rats, mice, insects and such. The occasional jackal and hyena kept their distance, as did the great vultures feeding on the corpses. Only the winged beings kept pace with the adventurers, keeping a couple of hundred feet away as they circled overhead and began screaming to each other in a strange guttural language. Ark gave them a grim look and told the party he recognized the creatures…”Pteramen”. They were winged reptilian beings, he said, with no redeeming qualities…as a matter of fact Ark told them, they were cruel and evil and lived in trees and caves attacking creatures weaker than themselves, not just for food, but for sport.
Resolving they needed to find out more about the reptilian flyers, Cadelaine volunteered to climb to their caves. Turning invisible, she made the long climb up over 180 feet to a ledge that connected several cave entrances. The stench of shit and worse hit her nostrils, causing her eyes to water as she gagged, moving invisibly and silently past several of the perching creatures (who resembled, in her mind, winged lizardmen). Walking through a few caves and searching, she found some bodies of past explorers and their packs. Cadelaine was able to gather a wand, a scroll tube, and many gold pieces, until picking up a bulging leather pouch, the rotting thing fell apart dropping dozens of gold coins onto the stone floor with a ringing sound. Immediately, the flying reptiles went silent, only to began screaming and squawking as they rushed through the caves angrily searching for an intruder. Very quietly, Cadelaine slipped out and climbed down the cave, bringing her findings to the party. Identifying the wand would have to wait, but upon opening the bone scroll tube they found a priest’s scroll with several spells.

Suddenly, the air 100 feet above the party was a dozen or so pteramen clutching rocks. They began dropping them on top the heads of the party, causing several injuries! The party responded by firing arrows and sling bullets, as the pteramen returned again and again to drop rocks from on high. A crude shelter was sought by the party members in the carcass of an elephant, as Nadal threw a blanket over a giant skeleton to shield Kumar and himself. The rest of the party returned missile fire but they were not killing any of the creatures. Seeing a storm front blowing in, Kal began concentrating on a spell as Ark, Alando, Endefal, Cadelaine and Mongo returned fire at the pteramen. Suddenly, after concentrating for ten minutes or so, with raindrops hitting his face, Kal gestured dramatically, and lighting bolt ripped down into a small group of the pteramen clustered on the ledge, incinerating them! Three burnt bodies lay crumpled at the edge, and the rest of the pteramen, realizing the gesturing figure was causing the bolts to hit them, retreated in fear into their caves. Kal caused bolt after bolt to hit the area, hopefully scaring the creatures into leaving them alone.

As the small storm blew through, the adventurers huddled underneath the crude shelter in the elephant’s skeleton (supplemented by several more blankets). Ark told them that even if the pteramen were scared now, they had to be dealt with, as they would return to bother the party until they got brave enough to try to snatch individuals up and bring them to their lair for food. A plan was then drawn up, more of necessity than good planning, where Cadelaine and the ape Gra-Gra (with Kal riding on his back) would climb the slope, tying several hundred feet of rope to rocks, hopefully before the pteramen came out of their caves to investigate. The rest of the party (excluding Alando and Kumar) could then climb up, and perhaps they could ambush the pteramen in their lair. Not a great plan, but it was the best the party could think up on short notice, as it appeared no alternative existed to getting pelted with rocks for however long they were in the valley.It was decided that Cadelaine (while invisible) and Gra-Gra, with Kal riding on his back, would take up long ropes (or many ropes tied together); fasten them at the top, and guard/defend the ropes as the rest of the party members used them to slowly climb up to the pteramen’s ledge and lair. Hopefully, they wouldn’t disturb the Pteramen (who had all retreated into the caves), and most of the party would be on the ledge ready for battle by the time the reptilian bird men noticed intruders on the ledge.

Quietly and quickly, Cadelaine and Gra-Gra (with Kal in tow) traversed the rocky slope, and reached the ledge. Cadelaine quickly tied her end of the rope off, but Kal had may problems and could not seem to fasten the rope to any nearby protrusions. As this went on, a scream was heard, and pteramen began pouring out of the cave openeings to battle the party members! Gra-Gra leapt to the attack, battling two of the creatures, as one by one the party members reached the ledge and joined in the battle. It was a long, dirty, bloody combat, as the party members had to be careful of their footing, as well as the claws of the pteramen. One time Cadelaine was grabbed by a pteraman and dropped over the side, but her Ring of Feather Falling made the drop a slow, floating fall to the bottom of the valley.

Ark, Endefal, Kal, Mongo, Nadel, Cadelaine and Gra Gra (both Alando and Kumar were told to stay below to prevent injury) slowly fought through the screaming, slashing creatures as one by one they fell dead at the blows rained upon them. Mongo fought madly at the reptilian enemy he hated most, and soon the party was surrounded by steaming pteraman parts on the blood-slippery outside ledge, all the creatures destroyed. Then, reluctantly searching through the filth of the pteramen’s lair, the party discovered a few additional coins not located earlier by Cadelaine, as well as a potion in a metal vial. With their meager treasure in hand, but secure in the knowledge the winged reptiles would cause no further damage, the party scaled back down the cliff and set up camp for the night.

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