After the events at the Temple of Darkness, it was time for the adventurers to find out what had happened to Talith and the merchant train the week before. Following the now faint trail, the party and Ardu attempted to backtrack to the spot where the merchant train was attacked. Adding to their difficulty was the fact it had rained the night before, but several good trail indicators helped them on their way. They had a minor encounter with a plant known as a “Thorn-Slinger”, which threw sharp wooden thorns in a large radius, but escaped relatively unscathed. Later that day, a tiger was spotted, and it was bleeding from the same or a different thorn slinger, and was hurt. Mongo and Kal used their knowledge of animals and special powers (including Speak with Animal and Animal Friendship) to approach the wild beast, remove the thorns, and place a poultice on the wounds. Their good deed done, the great cat bounded off into the jungle.
After a minor encounter with killer frogs at the stream where Ardu had been attacked by the tiger several days earlier, the trail became easier to follow. Soon, they stumbled upon the skeletons of the small band of Tzulan warriors that had defeated directly after the caravan had been attacked, and after that, the spot on the trail where the attack had happened. Cleanly picked mule and water buffalo bones, along with several native bearer skeletons, spoke of the fury of the attack. It was seen that all the head were missing on the dead native bearers, a fact Ardu attributed to the Tzulan warriors taking trophies to prove their manhood. With no sign of Talith or the others, the decision was made to carefully move onward to the village of Onnja, as it had been six days since the attack perhaps the Tzulans had left the area entirely.
Several hours later, the party halted as voices and movement were spotted ahead. Suddenly, they saw a group of over 100 Ashante warriors, accompanied by Talith, Derk, and a few of the House Valaryan mercenaries! Hailing the group, they were greeted as Talith and Ardu exchanged happy greetings….Talith explained they figured Ardu and the rest had perished. Ardu told a story about holing up in a cave for the past week (leaving out all mention of the Temple of Shadow) as he fought off a dangerous infection. Talith explained that he and a few others were the only survivors of the attack, fleeing until they reached the village of Onnja. They had spent the last few days recovering, and then with the help of the Ashante warriors and a village shaman, had decided to turn the tables on the Tzulan warriors and track them down to extract bloody vengeance. The party joined in with the Ashante war party as they continued to track the Tzulan warriors….hoping they had been delayed and had not already left and gone back to Tzulan territory.
Luck was with them…half a day’s journey later, Ashante spies returned to the main force with news: ahead, at a small lake, the Tzulans were camped! Spying on the encampment, the Ashante had listened carefully and discovered that after leaving the sacked merchant train, the Tzulans (unfamiliar with the territory), had stumbled into the air of a angry giant hippo by a secluded stream and lake. The hippo had attacked and killed the war party leader before it had been slaughtered. The death of the leader had led to arguments about who was then to lead, with the two leading candidates splitting the war party in two. Now, several days later, the two would-be chieftains and each of their followers were each on a side of the stream, waiting an inevitable confrontation to prove who would lead.
The situation would be perfect, Talith and the village shaman agreed. With the war party split, they would be easier to destroy! Making plans, Talith and the shaman decided that the shaman and about 100 of the Ashante warriors would tackle the larger group of Tzulans (perhaps 30 strong) while Talith, the party members, and the remaining mercenaries would take on the smaller force of 20 odd warriors on the other side of the stream. Talith, Kal, Mongo, Cadelaine, Nadal, Endefal and Ardu, joined by natives Roho, Po, Jade and Kira, would wait for the Ashante to attack the main force; then, as the warriors were distracted, Talith and his small force would attack by surprise and hopefully finish off the smaller group.
The plan went off as it should have at first, except for the fact not as many natives were incapacitated by spell as was hoped. Sneaking up on the small force of 22 men, two leader types and one minor chieftain, as the Ashante attacked across the stream in a blood mad rage, the party threw spells to hopefully take a few out of commission. Kal threw an Entangle, Cadelaine a Sleep spell, and Endefal a Hold Person spell but they unfortunately did not stop very many, and the battle was on. The fight was long, bloody and desperate. The Tzulan warriors were skilled and tough, and managed to kill Po and Jade almost immediately. The rest of the force fought on, some more effectively than others, with Talith, Ardu and Mongo taking the brunt of the attack. Cadelaine used her potion of Invisibilty to great effect, sipping it to slip behind the lines, backstab, and then sip it again to disappear. Pouring deadly snake poison on her sword, she invisibly backstabbed the Tzulan leader twice as he battled Talith, killing him the second time as the poison struck him hard. Unfortunately, she was then knocked unconscious with a spear butt to the head as Tzulan’s swarmed her before she could again sip her potion and disappear.
The battle swayed back and forth for awhile. Kal and his self-appointed bodyguard Roho held their own but couldn’t take out the pair they tangled with, despite spells being thrown by the druid, while the spear Talon-Bar urged him on but gave little help when attacking (as Kal was not yet proficient with the weapon). Meanwhile Talith used every potion and magic item in his arsenal to fight off the chieftain (before the chieftain was killed by Cadelaine) and the sub-chiefs, deliberately taking on the tougher fighters to save his men and mercenaries. Mongo and Nadal acquitted themselves well as they killed several of the Tzulan warriors between them. Several times healing potions had to be consumed in the midst of battle, healing spells cast by Endefal, and soon all healing magic and potions were gone as the battle dragged on over 30 minutes! Finally, after a long and bloody battle, the party members stood triumphant with only a handful of loses (a pair of the Delosian mercenaries and the unconscious Cadelaine and Kira) standing against a couple of dozen dead native warriors, several of the Tzulans having broke morale and fled to the unforgiving jungle. On the other side of the stream the Ashante had triumphed after losing a score or so of men, and were loping off the heads of their hereditary enemies. A quick search of the bodies by the party members turned up a beautiful jade ring (that later turned out to be a Ring of Coolness and was given to Nadal) as well as a gold necklace and armbands wore by the chieftain, and a handful of gold and silver. Talith let the surviving party members keep it as a reward for the exceptional fighting ability, and the party regrouped with the Ashante to head back to Onnja for rest, healing, and a victory feast.
After taking a break for a week with the Ashante tribe in Onnja (and, with the recovery of his trade goods, successfully completing his mission), Talith finally called the party together for their trip home. Roho, having seen the fighting “skills” of Kal, told him he would stay with him and be his bodyguard, as he was too ill-equipped to survive on his own….being the first elf any of the Ashante had ever seen, Roho was certain Kal was an emissary of the Forest Gods by his appearance and swore to protect the reluctant Kal in battle. Talith was able to hire enough bearers and porters among the tribesmen to outfit his merchant train for a return trip to Port Maugre. With little incident the party thus returned to the port city, the powers at House Valaryan very worried as the arrival date for the return trip had come and gone and an expedition had been outfitted to search for what remained.
At the conclusion of the trip, the party was told to keep whatever items (gold, equipment or magic) they had come across, so they took to pooling their money and having the House Valaryan mage identify many of the items. A robe they had found turned out to be an evil Robe of Shadows used by the Shadowmasters, and this was donated to the temple of Vistna for research after the priests there evinced an interest in the ancient item. The magical helm found in the Temple turned out to be a Helm of Alignment Change, and they placed that in the Bag of Holding (now theirs) for future use. The party also purchased many healing potions, and turned their small horde of silver into metal and glass beads and cowrie shells, the preferred trade items for tribes in Delos, for anytime they once again braved the jungle wilds. Cadelaine found the only local bakery in town, a small enterprise run by two ex-slaves who only spoke Kongon, and took to hanging out there as the smells brought memories of her home. Surreptitiously, she met with Captain Bohema and convinced him to get a letter to her adopted family in the League without letting them know where she was. Endefal donated the bulk of his treasure to the temple of Attar to support the good work of Jerrod and the church, but also spent time at the Vistnan temple as the mystery of the Shadowmasters and their evil ilk intrigued him; however, even in the temple of knowledge information about the forbidden masters was sketchy and difficult to find. Kal began research on the elvish history book he had found earlier, while Mongo, Nadal and the rest of the party went about their daily duties of escorting merchants, running errands, and taking short trips into the jungle to deliver goods. For a few weeks at least, after their huge adventure, things began to quiet down in the Port city….
2 years ago