Sunday, October 25, 2009


The next day, the expedition (with it’s ranks swelled by an extra 40) started off heading for the nearby lake, and from there, to the village of the ex-slaves. Within a few miles they had hit the western shore of the small lake (perhaps a mile in diameter), and heading north another mile along the shore brought them to the village. When they arrived, several startled natives came out of the their huts…these were fortunate members of the village who were out hunting or fishing the day the Taranthian slavers raided the village, and had been spared capture. They screamed and cried in happiness as they saw their relatives returned to them, and the reunion was quite joyful. Of course, nothing else would do but for the village to hold an impromptu festival, and the trip to the Elephant’s Graveyard was delayed a day as the adventurers and their entourage enjoyed the hospitality of the grateful villagers.
Long into the night, music was played with drum and flute, there was dancing, feasting, and games of skill, and merriment abounded. Most of the party stayed alert and did not drink much of the fermented banana wine, except for Mongo who not only heavily partook of the beverage, but told the party “It is time for Mongo to plant some seeds!” and commenced to dallying with several of the village girls, including one incredibly comely lass at whose hut he spent most of the night.
The next morning, the adventurers made their leave, with the newly minted priest of Attar, Kumar, joining Endefal at his side. Using a broken chain link as his holy symbol, Kumar reluctantly said goodbye to his family as he joined the expedition to spread the word of The Rescuer to others.

The first night there was little problem, except for a poisonous fer-de-lance snake that crawled into the camp and was killed by Endefal before it was able to bite Kumar. The next day, skirting the lake they crossed a swampy, wet area with water up to their ankles, slowing the expedition down. Scouting ahead, Mongo, Roho and Kal ran into a nest of crocodiles with 9 crocs guarding the eggs. As they were attacked, they fought back and a giant specimen slid into few and attacked Mongo. Kal entangled almost all of the reptiles, as Roho and Kal dealt with the two crocs that escaped the vegetation. Soon Cadelaine and Endefal were there to help, and between them all they killed the crocs with Mongo performing fanatically against his chosen foe (downing five of the beasts by himself).
The rest of that day was uneventful, until late in the day. The scouts found signs of a battle that had been fought, with broken weapons, blood, and pieces of bodies. Mongo identified the items as cannibal weapons, and it looked as if someone had run into them. Immediately the group became suspicious because so far they had found no sign of anyone on the trail to the Graveyard except for slavers…they immediately suspected something wrong. Mongo and Cadelaine snuck up ahead but made an abominable mess of noise, alerting the trio they found in a nearby clearing. All three were light-skinned and clearly not Delosian natives. A large man in armor with a large sword, a woodland type of man holding a bow, and a half elven woman in leather stood talking in the clearing. All were wounded and all immediately looked to the bushes as they heard Cadelaine and Mongo thrashing through. The thought crossed the party’s mind that this might be the group of thieves that had stolen the map from the priesthood of Vistna, for why else would this group be alone in the jungle dressed like mercenary warriors, on the exact path as they?
The trio immediately readied their weapons as the ranger-type shouted “Who’s there?” to Cadelaine and Mongo as they remained hidden. Hoping to confuse them into revealing something, Mongo walked out of the bushes with his hand held free of weapons. Meanwhile, Endefal, Nadal, Kal and Roho arrived to back up the hidden duo, leaving Kumar and Alando a few hundred yards back to watch the caravan.
The trio of mercenary types in the clearing were clearly confused by Mongo’s appearance, as he was obviously no cannibal, but was far too well equipped to be a native of the area. From concealment, Endefal cast Hold Person and Kal cast Heat Metal on the large fighter type, but neither seemed to have any effect on him. The trio in the clearing kept shouting questions at Mongo that he did not answer, then finally the large man said “Screw this, let’s just kill the bastard!”
At that, Mongo attacked, and all hell broke loose! Both Nadal and Endefal rushed from concealment to assist him. Suddenly, a wall of flame burst up in front of Kal, Roho and Cadelaine…and the unfortunate Endefal, who had begun charging and took full damage from the fire as he rushed through the wall. A now-visible mage stood about 30 or so yards back behind the party, concentrating on the wall. Obviously, the party was not the only one planning an ambush! Cadelaine quickly dropped her blowgun and darts and began pouring deadly snake venom poison on her arrows; Kal and Roho tried to rush the mage, but suddenly Roho was stabbed by a previously invisible half elven thief type, and they began battling. Kal was left with the mage, who by virtue of being able to cast a Wall of Fire, looked quite capable and deadly!
Back in the clearing, Mongo, Nadal and a now-healed Endefal began mixing it up with the trio, a fighter (Charl), ranger (Ark), and a female half elven thief (Hem), who avoided combat to stand back and fire sling bullet after sling bullet at the party members. Charl was quite experienced and competent, he was struck many times but fought on, delivering nasty blows to the trio with his bastard sword. One blow knocked Nadal unconscious, and only Mongo and Endefal were left to battle him. The ranger Ark took a few blows and retreated to the foliage to leave Endefal and Mongo to Charl, but before leaving cast Entangle on the area! Both Endefal and Mongo were caught up in the grabbing vines and grasses, but so was the enemy fighter Charl, who began swearing threats to Ark for getting him along with the others. From the bushes, Ark and Hem continued to pepper party members with missile weapons.
On the other side of the trees, the battle had taken a desperate tone. Struck by what appeared to be a poisoned blade, Roho gasped, and fell heavily to the ground. At almost the same time, Cadelaine’s poisoned arrows were bouncing off the mage (who appeared to have some sort of Protection spell going) so she shifted to the thief that had attacked Roho, striking him solidly and killing him almost instantly with the poisoned arrow! Meanwhile, Kal had thrown a magical puffball at the mage, who was engulfed in the cloud and began coughing and gagging. After stabbing the nearly helpless mage with his spear a few times, he realized desperate measures must be taken as the mage had reached into his robe and pulled out a wand! So, dumping two vials of oil on the ground and all over the coughing mage, he used his spear to light the mage up, turning him into a flaming bonfire as the oil ignited whatever the mage himself had on his person. The enemy mage was quickly consumed by the flames and the blaze became a funeral pyre for him. The threat ended for now, Kal rushed to Roho, but it was too late. The poisoned blade had taken the life of the native fighter, and Kal grimly decided his death would not be in vain.
Back at the clearing, Alando and Kumar had arrived in response to the shouting and sounds of battle they had heard back from the caravan. Cadelaine at this point was trading missile fire with the hidden Ark and Hem, and Alando crawled into the clearing to minister to the unconscious Nadal with healing spells. Still caught in the entangled shrubbery, Endefal, Mongo and Charl could only watch helplessly. Joined by Kumar, who shouted “For Attar!” as he raised his club high, Nadal rushed the hidden Ark who was still firing arrows into their midst. The party heard a short struggle, then the crack of something striking a skull. After several minutes, Nadal and Kumar emerged from the jungle, dragging an unconscious form…they had taken care of Ark with a well placed blow from the novice cleric!
The mercenary fighter Charl still held by the entangle spell cast by his own comrade, Kal, Alando and Cadelaine used him for target practice with missile weapons as he finally collapsed unconscious, just in time as the spell dissolved. Without wasting time, Mongo and Endefal rushed into the jungle to find the missing thief, who had a several minute head start and had disappeared into the trees. After about a mile, there was an ambush as a now partially healed thief dropped from a tree onto Mongo, backstabbing him with a poisoned blade. Mongo, however, wasted no time in dispatching the thief with several powerful blows, separating her head from her shoulders with the final one. The poison did not seem to have any effect on the native ranger, and so he and Endefal dragged her body back to the clearing.
Finally, the party’s survivors dragged the bodies of their enemies, as well as the still alive but badly beaten Charl and Ark (now tightly tied with rope) to the camp for questioning. Searching the bodies, the party found the original stolen map in Ark’s pack, marking this group of five as the mercenaries who had ambushed the priest of Vistna back in Port Maugre. Under questioning, Charl gave up everything, saying he was just a hired hand and the jig was up, He told them they worked for House Mith, and had been tasked to find the Elephant’s Graveyard before the party, and eliminate any witnesses to the deed. They were the ones who had attacked and stolen the map from the priest of Vistna, on orders of the merchant house (or so Charl said). They had unfortunately been sidetracked on their mission to find the Graveyard when they had been attacked by cannibal headhunters the day before, who had killed their cleric, another mercenary fighter, and scattered the few native porters they had brought along. When the party had come upon them, they had been debating whether to return to Port Maugre empty-handed or go onwards.
At these words, Ark began shouting to Charl that his life was now forfeit, as their employers were not forgiving men and would kill them all rather than be revealed. He was silenced as Endefal placed the cursed Helm of Alignment Change on his head, causing the ranger to revert to an alignment much more aligned to law and good! Ark immediately became sorrowful at the attack that had killed the party member Roho, and asked if he could do anything for them. Charl was quickly executed and searched, along with the rest of the dead mercenaries. As Ark was talked to more and more, it appeared he had definitely changed profoundly, and now could be trusted to not only assist the party, but join them in the rest of their journey! With a written confession from the now-dead mercenary Charl, Kal tasked a bird to carry the papers to Port Maugre and the House of Valaryan.

Searching the mercenaries yielded quite a bit of magic that the party could use, so they divided it up. Cadelaine got one thief’s (Jakk) ring of invisibility, and a wand of frost that had survived the intense burning of the mage’s (Mofti) body. She also got a magical dagger and longsword, and some magical arrows. Mongo was able to get a set of magical hide armor worn by one of the mercenaries, as well as a ring of fire resistance worn by the fighter Charl (the reason the Heal Metal spell had no effect on him). Kal acquired a Ring of Jumping from Ark, but the party was loath to take more from him less his now firm loyalty to them fail. Nadal took the magical bastard sword of the mercenary fighter, and Endefal took a magical sling and ring from the dead female thief.
It was with great sorrow the party then held a ceremony for Roho; as per his native customs, his body was burned to let his ashes rise in the air and his sprit reach paradise. Somberly the party stayed in the clearing for the night, and were attacked by a swarm of large spiders that overran the camp at dusk. With Ark’s help, Cadelaine’s two sleep spells, and Kal’s entangle spell, a couple of dozen spiders were dealt with and destroyed. Ark proved a big help, as he was now firmly on the adventurer’s corner and was quite a good fighter. He also showed his skill the next day as a flock of jungle stirges attacked, unfortunately killing a mule and several native porters before being destroyed. As long as the helm stayed on his head (and part of the enchantment was that Ark nor anyone else could remove it without the assistance of a spell) the now-good ranger could prove to be very useful in the wilds of the jungle on the way to the graveyard.

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