Conscientious Objectors

Het-Kiril's journeys!

As we take the giant gnome things with us, we are set upon in rapid succession by some sort of frilled lizard and Kari-Krex. Kari-Krex, we fill in on what’s been happening, and send her back to the caravan. She seems less and less opposed to going back to the caravan, and I can only assume it’s because her companions keep dying. As for the frilled lizard, we manage to scare it off and, sadly, do not get to kill it and take its skin.

We follow the river for a little while, and reach a bend at which point we confer with Hiriyya and Gordoto (the two giant gnomes). Gordoto, at this point, shouts for backup and flees into the river. I can only surmise that his companions are nearby. However, rather than finishing his escape, Gordoto very quickly re-emerges from the river bleeding and screaming. Apparently, the local fish are not hospitable. I race after him, pick him up, and throw him back in the river. He does not re-emerge.

Ah. On second thought, that makes questioning him more difficult. But I’m still in a state from not getting the skin of the frilled lizard.

Unfortunately, Gordoto’s clamoring has not gone unnoticed. Varia uses her new mask to strike fear into Hiriyya, and the giant gnome runs off. We prepare to engage this new threat. Six giant gnomes attack. They slap me a lot, it hurts, and so with a flurry of my weapon, I do my very best to intimidate them all.

And I get a little healing, get struck a little more, and go down. Which is a very tiresome trend for me.

The battle wages on, during which our new half-orc companions prove themselves quite well. Zoo is struck a good many times and goes down as well. Kadda is killed outright. We return the favour, and kill some of the giant gnomes in return.

After a very long, involved battle, we kill all but one of the giant gnomes, get those of us who are down healed up, then send the surviving giant gnome off alone with Kara and Zoo. Only Kara and Zoo return.

We loot the assorted corpses. At this point, I notice the smell from my skin bag is quite… ripe. It is with great sadness that I am forced to empty the skin slurry out of my bag and rinse it out. Perhaps I shall undertake some craft whereby I learn how to preserve skins I collect. Regardless, I am not having a good day today.

After the battle, we rest and travel for four uneventful days. At which point we come across four naked women bathing in the river. This far from civilization, this can only be some sort of trap. So we attack them. Rafan electrocutes the river they are standing in, then Marcello engages the angriest looking one. Who grows claws, and clumsily claws at herself.

I am unsure of the tactics behind such an action, but nevertheless, I wade in as well. We down one of the naked women, then I focus on the one with the claws. I strike her mightily, she swings at me, and I don’t particularly care. She, frustrated, tries to move away. I strike her again, and by this point she is looking rather unhealthy. So she disappears.

This is quite frustrating.

Turns out the three naked ladies (who were actually real naked ladies, and not some sort of thing with claws and a bad attitude) were being controlled by the one naked lady who wasn’t a naked lady but a thing with claws and a bad attitude.

I know, it confused me a little bit as well.

Regardless, from what I understand, the… thing… was using this ruse to prey upon passing travellers. Unfortunately, not having killed her means that she is still out there, possibly to enact this trap all over again. Regardless, there is little we can do, and so we move on.

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Out of the Screaming Jungle, from the Journal of Reethna-Onatee

So the great shadow beast was defeated, but not without casualties. Our intrepid and possibly insane guide Nkechi and the leader of our message runners Kol both fell to the foul monster. Kol we buried in a cairn and Nkechi we decided to send back to Gozreh the most fitting way available: a funeral pyre sailing back down the river. The day was not all sadness, though, we were able to liberate a variety of useful equipment from the bodies of the shadow beast’s previous victims and, after having fought in a common cause, the three half orcs who had so recently wanted to kill us, decided to join us on our journey. There was also some awkward explaining to do when Keri-krex returned from delivering a message to the caravan only to discover that the rest of the runners had died. She seemed to take it ok, but it is probably best if we keep her on runner duty for the next little while.

The next three days pasted fairly uneventfully until we were attacked by a pair of lions at dawn. The lions proved no match for us, however and were quickly dispatched, with Kadda, one of the half-orc sisters delivering the killing blow to one of them. Her Acid Ray magic is proving to be very useful. Over the next few days we encountered a giant wasp’s nest and a nest of poison vipers, but they were quickly dispatched and the way made safe for the caravan following behind us. We were attacked on the morning of the next day by a group of three Monitor Lizards (why do these animals always attack when I am asleep!) which have a nasty bite, but luckily we emerged unscathed and collected eggs from their nest in the hopes of having baby monitor lizards to train. My companions decided to name the three eggs Titanicus, Dragon, and Luna.

The next day we encountered a canoe pulled up to the shore of the river. We have had generally bad luck with the denizens of this area, so we decided to investigate further. We followed a set of tracks a little ways into the jungle where we found a dead boar whose entrails had been used in an augury spell. Unfortunately none of us were able to read the results, but we were definitely on the path of a magic user of not-inconsequential power. We carefully circled the corpse and continued following the tracks until we came to a clearing with a large cairn being guarded by a giant statue. As our only member trained in stealth, Kadda went ahead to scout but inadvertently awaked the statue that, upon closer inspection, turned out to be a giant zombie. Het-Kiril and I waded in to fight the monster when the shaman we had been tracking emerged from the cairn and began to attack us as well. His magic was very strong and it was only by the grace Iomadae (and the ring of protection I had acquired from one the shadow beast victims) that I was spared a seriously debilitating curse. The shaman had a few tricks up his sleeves, including flying into the air, but by all working together (and shooting lots of crossbow bolts) we were able to defeat him and his zombie minion. The shaman had desecrated the cairn and stolen some magical artifacts that we, in turn, took from him.

We continued on our journey until a few days later when we finally exited the far end of the Screaming Jungle. As we were exiting the jungle, we saw two small figures in the distance that turned out to be gnomes that ran as soon as we came close. We gave chase and just as we were catching up to them the gnomes turned, grew to 12 feet tall and attacked us. We traded blows back and forth for a little while until Varia was able to use her powers of suggestion to make one of them shrink and surrender. As it turned out, the gnomes seemed to be a couple, so when the female surrendered, the male did as well.

As I am writing this, my more diplomatic companions are talking with the gnomes and trying to find out where they are from, if there are more, and if they will pose a threat to the caravan. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that none of their answers can be trusted.

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In Which Things Go According to Plan, An Excerpt from Het-Kiril's Journal

So I step to the forefront and prepare to add the ape to my skin bag. The ape screams in fear. And two out of our three orcs decide to tactically retreat, while the third bravely shoots at the ape.

Of the things I learned today, these are at the forefront of my mind; first, apes scream in rage rather than fear. Second, getting punched by an ape hurts. A lot.

Anyway, the ape hits me quite hard, I hit it back, and it goes down. I don’t bother to see that it’s dead, and simply start skinning it.

Today I learned what a shadow demon is.

I do not like them.

And they can’t be skinned.

So from what I understand, the shadow demon had been possessing the ape. Then, the shadow demon decided to possess me. All I remember is being… displaced… and trying to move towards what I sensed were powerful forces. It was very confusing. However, after the battle, I was filled in by the others.

Apparently, I promptly stopped skinning the ape in order to kill this new assailaint. I strike it mightily, it strikes me mightily…er. Also, it summons three crocodiles, because it hates us I presume. At this point, apparently I went nuts, dropped my veil, and started trying to kill my companions.

I’ll confess that part of me is both relieved and disappointed that I didn’t manage to kill anyone before being dispatched.

Anyhow, Varia manages to kill the crocodiles, drop me, and then… I learn that shadow beasts can cast fireball. I am, by this point, having a very bad day. I am down and smouldering, my compatriots are doing their best. It is at this point where my floating consciousness goes dark, and I recall none of the following.

Apparently the blast had dropped myself, Kol, and Kara. Kara and I are bleeding out, Kol is not. And then the second fireball hits. Marcello steps to and attacks this beast, I get a little bit of healing, Kol and Nkechi are both dead. Kyras tries shooting the beast with Kol’s bow, to no avail. Varia grabs my falchion and tries attacking the beast, to little effect. She also throws some holy water which has some effect. Sadly, she just has the one flask.

I manage to finally wake up, get up, and we all start running away. Kyras fires one last acid arrow at the beast and… it disappears. We are a bit confused, but throw out what healing we have, set up, and prepare to ambush it when it comes back from wherever it went. It appears, and we open the gates of our collective fury. To little avail. We finally manage to knock it down and murder it. Sore and leaking though I am, I still have the energy and wherewithal to skin that damn ape and add it to my skin bag.

There is nothing of the shadow demon to skin. And I am furious.

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Dinosaur for dinner! An excerpt from Het-Kiril's journal

What a battle! Suwuna dead, mind you, but look at what we killed! I take the stegosaurus skin for my skin bag, and we carve up the stegosaurus into easy-to-manage steaks. Luckily I realize we still have some of the humans with us, and in the interests of not frightening them, I refrain from adding Suwuna’s pelt to my skin bag or taking the choicer pieces of meat from her (a bit of a waste, but sometimes I try to be considerate to those around me). After we break camp, now laden with meat to last us a good while, we hike for a few uneventful days before sending Kari-Krex back to rendezvous with the caravan.

Of course, it is after we send her away that we are surprised during the night by an ambush. Our camp fire very abruptly goes out, and the battle is joined! One woman made of water, three orc ladies and a pair of giant earwigs against our intrepid band. I, of course, pick one of the less disgusting things to attack. Unfortunately, I’m not fully awake yet and fumble my weapon. And that orc, wouldn’t you know it, takes my sword! So I bite her. She runs off. With my sword.

I vow to add her skin to my bag!

I use my powers of suggestion to make her drop it. Except she doesn’t. I am getting a little bit worried, as she is fast approaching the river with my sword. Nkechi, bless his strange and confused little heart, manages to cause the plants around the orc woman to grow up and entangle her somewhat. I smile and pull out my bow. During this Nibodo-Lumbe decides to play the hero. He is promptly devoured by one of the earwigs. Well, I suppose he and his wife will be together once again in death—… oh, damn, this means I won’t get his wonderful purple skin!

Back to the fight at hand, I manage to drop the one holding my weapon, at which point she… drops my weapon. The second orc tries to grab the first one. So we shoot her too. The third orc tries to grab the first two… well, you see where this is going.

No, rather than kill all three sisters (oh yes, they’re sisters… I could have had a matching set for my skin bag!), we negotiate for them to work for us instead of their Shackles pirate masters. Since our runners seem to be falling in droves now, we could use the extra. I disagree with this course of action, but sadly I am in the minority. So, we hire ourselves some double-agents. Turns out the water elemental they hired will likely rat them out, and so their prospects aren’t too rosy at the moment.

I still resolve that I will get myself their skins as a set.

We make camp for the night, and I am particularly creative in how I shackle the sisters together to a tree. In the morning we press on, and it’s not too long before we discover a rather disturbing sight: a number of human corpses, rent asunder. And suddenly we are beset by a wild ape of some sort.

Which is fine.

More skin for the skin bag.

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Into the Screaming Jungle

On Moonday, the eleventh day of Rova, the group departed the Lake of Vanishing Armies and headed eastward. Before long they encountered a group of the Mzali, a xenophobic population of humans worshipping an undead child. Knowing the land, the group had taken precautions and had prepared a cover story of how they were all natives of the region and approved of the Mzali philosophy. Being such accomplished liars and fast-talkers, they convinced the would-be ambushers to let them past.

Once in the Screaming Jungle, they saw some lizardfolk near some hippopotami. Eschewing any thought of reptilian fraternity, the lizardfolk and serpentfolk immediately attacked each other, though a charging hippopotamus quickly took all the attention of the Red Mantis scouts. Ignoring the fleeing lizardfolk, they concentrated on the enraged beast and finally slew it.

The Screaming Jungle lived up to its name, with hundreds of monkeys constantly screaming during daylight hours. The early afternoon also provided torrential rainfall, causing some concern for the wellbeing of the serpentfolk in torpor after a large meal.

The following day saw an encounter with a stegosaurus. Things were tense but favouring the scouts until Suwuna, one of their runners, decided to engage it in hand-to-hand combat. Her death was soon followed by that of the dinosaur, but it was too late to save her.

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Brief Excerpts from Akara-Jetzii's Travelogue

Well. Wouldn’t you know the human female managed to convince the half-demon to marry her. Unfortunately it didn’t put an end to their revolting flirtations and behaviours.

Also Kari-Krex and Yssith-Attil managed to get us in a passel of trouble. Luckily Kol was able to get around with the judicious application of some money and smooth talking. I suppose the man is worth his salt, even if he is a bit puffed up about his own importance. Yssith is alive again though.

We managed to make it to the Lake of Vanished Armies. This trip is beginning to melt into a series of warm, muggy, deliciously buggy series of walks. The sidetrips are what seem to get us.
We were rather interested in the “treasure” at the bottom of the lake, so we managed to trade pineapples for some canoes, and paddled out to fish this “treasure” up.

I have decided I am not fond of swimming. I’m not bad at it, and it’s not the activity itself that bothers me, but it seems bad situations arise rather frequently underwater. After nearly destroying what appeared to be the habitat of some large (very large) underwater Thing (after luring it off), we managed to haul a Very Large trunk up to the canoe, and head back to shore.

I certainly hope there is something worthwhile in that trunk.

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Arrival in Kalabuto

The journey from the village to Kalabuto passed as many of the days had previously, with dangerous creatures being vanquished and strange dangers needing to be made safe. Two of the encounters were of particular note.

After making certain that a rampaging elephant was no danger to the larger group following behind them, the party decided that they wanted a nice, safe place to spend the night. They were delighted when they found a series of mounds and ridges, thinking that this would make an ideal, defensible camping spot. Things became somewhat desperate when it turned out that they were sleeping in the middle of an ankheg nest, but in the end they were victorious.

Just west of Kalabuto they discovered a tree with a number of corpses hanging from it. Upon investigating they learned that these corpses had become plague zombies, and unfortunately for them they were quite susceptible to the disease that the undead carried. They determined to deal with this issue when they arrived in town, but first they made very sure that no zombies remained to threaten their employers.

Once in Kalabuto they met with their contact, a dwarf named Cheiton. Marcello was particularly pleased, because the armour he had ordered was waiting for him. Yssith-Atil, meanwhile, was impatient to go shopping. Everyone else wanted to unpack and rest at Cheiton’s place, but Yssith-Atil decided he needed certain pieces of equipment and absolutely could not wait.

Leaving the dwarf’s house, he looked around for some street person who could give him directions to local shops. He almost immediately saw a street urchin who was staring at the house, so he approached her and offered to pay her for information. She said she’d do one better and guide him to where he wanted to go. After they set out she said she new a short cut through some alleyways, and he was delighted by this and told her to lead on.

Unfortunately, there were thugs waiting in the alley. Even though one of the guards had followed Yssith-Atil they proved to be too much for him, but there was a final surprise waiting for the ambushers. As soon as Yssith-Atil died, he resumed his natural form as one of the serpentfolk. The thugs sprinted off in a panic.

From here there was a great deal of diplomacy and negotiation required, since the city authorities had been summoned and were preparing to burn the body. After some smooth talking, some bribes, and quite a lot of outrageous lies, the group regained Yssith-Atil’s body and had him raised by the local clergy.

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From the Records of Kari Krex

One of these days I will join a group that doesn’t make me want to poke my eyes out. We reached a village of creepy happy people. Happy people are rarely to be trusted. I’ve had enough experience with creepy, creepy annoying happy people to know the happiness is a mask for their twisted and sick insides, but the group wanted to go so I go with the group.

We made camp at this village which welcomed us with food and lodgings and I couldn’t be bothered to care. All the rest of them were partying and I kept an eye out. My employers, the Big Clumsy People, didn’t think I saw but they snuck into the shaman’s hut.

Nibodo Lumbe got drunk and ran off with an assortment of women and one half and half but I don’t know if he knew that or not. I sat outside by the fire with that snot Kol. The sun had gone down but the village was still bustling with drinks and song. What a snot, that Kol, sitting by himself and roasting chicken. Met a nice young man eyeing Kol with smouldering wanting. Stuck up his ass, Kol. Maybe if he opened his heart to opportunities he wouldn’t be such a sad waste of space. I watched the man and it was a little tragic his butterfly glances and twitching smile, as if he was imagining the scenario of actually talking to Kol, embarrassed by his hypothetical self. Go up to my friend, I say. He’s just shy.

The young man approached Kol and you’d think no one had ever introduced himself to Kol before. Snot was skittish and didn’t speak the same language as the young man so I set aside my dislike for Kol and helped translate. The young man offered Kol pickled eyeballs, a delicacy of his people. Kol pretended to reject the proffering but I could tell by the way his lips touched the eyeball the man tried to put in his mouth that he was merely starting a slow seduction. I know when to leave men to their games and let them be.

Big Clumsy People made noise at the shaman’s hut and I learned later the shaman told them the creepy happy people wanted to sacrifice us to monsters. Hells no. I did not sign up to be sacrificed like a dumb animal. The BCP got sacrificial sludge to trap the monster, which turned out to be three ape bears. Kol and I joined the BCP in fighting these ape bears while N’Kechi slept off his mead and Nibodo slept with his girls. I fatally wounded the monsters and all I got was orders to go follow a treasure map the shaman gave the BCP.

I hope I get paid for this.

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Setting out on the road: Het-Kiril's journal

This morning we gathered with Nkechi and the runners Andross has hired us. Now, I’ve never met Nkechi, but… well, it might just be me, but I don’t think his glass is filled all the way to the brim. Even for a human.

Anyway, the group of us set out and after a long, boring day of walking, we stop for the night, set up our watch shifts and… well, the night passes uneventfully. Truthfully, I imagined more action and adventure. The most I’ve managed to get, material-wise for my poems, are that it was hot and muggy with plenty of delicious bugs (well, delicious to us, anyway… the humans seemed less interested). Honestly, nobody is interested in a poem that features wonderful weather and plentiful flying appetizers. They want action, adventure, violence!

Luckily, after we set up camp for the second night, we saw a little bit of… oh, who am I kidding? After sending Suwuna (a particularly strange female human) back to rendezvous with the main caravan, we spot torches off in the distance. We put our campfire out, the torches go out, and we go to investigate. We flank this mystery party of humans and… Nibodo (one of the other human-ish runners we hired) seems particularly adept at negotiating with these humans. So much so that we wind up with their bows and their five sacks of pineapples.

Yes. We received pineapples. From pineapple pickers. Via negotiation.

Day three… also uneventful. However… finally… on the third night something happens. During watch, someone spots something in the grass. Movement. Now, I will confess that my initial thought was that it was more pineapple pickers. Luckily… it was everything I could have hoped for… a tiger! A dire tiger! Finally, something that would be worthy of writing songs and poems about!

Now, let me tell you something about dire tigers. They are far bigger and tougher than I expected. Surprisingly, this one was quite the handful. Naturally, me being the one in our party who is at the forefront of every battle, I engaged the tiger, raining the mightiest of blows down upon it. And, amidst singed fur and ferocious strikes, I accomplished the one thing I didn’t expect.

I think I made it mad.

I… I will confess, I’m not fond of angry dire tigers. They are so very fast. And their claws so pointy. I think I lost more blood than I have in a long time. But, after a long and harrowing battle, I finally struck the tiger down (the others may have helped somewhat, especially with the healing).

It was while we were skinning the tiger and sectioning its meat, that Suwuna returned. After some particularly revolting flirting with Nibodo (really, all mating habits of humans and their ilk are a little… well, not to my taste… everything’s so pink and scale-less), we send Nibodo to run back to the caravan. After patching everyone up, we set out again. After awhile, we come across a mine stie and spot a human hiding in some sort of blind… with a dinosaur. A riding dinosaur!

Sadly, we negotiate our way through the area for ourselves and the caravan, thus bypassing what this human termed the “Land of the Dead”. We do not negotiate for any riding dinosaurs. I am most disappointed.

Later in the day, we arrive at a small trading camp. Though most of us can not speak the language, we manage to communicate enough so that I can bet on a cockfight. Nkechi and Varya seem more interested in the birds. I’m not sure they understood what the birds would be doing to one another. Valyria disappeared somewhere with a jug of fermented milk. I have a pretty good idea why.

After the cockfight, the betting agents try to hustle me for more money. As I don’t believe I am allowed to kill them, I found it simple enough to merely change my appearance. A simple solution for a simple people. Rafan comes up with a reasonably believable ruse to allow me in my new guise to join the caravan.

I think the only other notable action of the day involved us drawing off some monitor lizards from the route our caravan would be likely to take. We didn’t even get to kill them. I’ll bet they would have been delicious.

Next time…

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Recruiting Nkechi

The trip to recruit Nkechi seemed straightforward enough. Chivane’s scout team, having received their instructions, left her behind in Eleder and set out in a pair of rented boats. Research revealed that his home was a cave on a sheer cliff and that the best approach was by water. His two crab companions could be bribed by suitable food, and the team made sure they brought enough along.

Managing to get past the crabs, the team beached the boats and started to figure out how to go up. They spied a nearby conch shell so they gave it a blow. Nkechi heard it, and started shouting at them. After a bit of shouting back and forth they were permitted to climb to his cave for a more civil discussion.

Nkechi revealed that he was a servant of the god Gozreh, deity of the sky and the sea. He listened to their request, then said that he would seek Gozreh’s will by sending them on some quests and examining their successor failure.

The first quest sent them out pearl diving. Judicial preparation and research proved useful, and all would have been over quickly had it not been for an aquatic fey who took an interest. Still, they managed to drive her away and retrieve the pearls.

The second quest required more finesse. They needed to retrieve a feather from the nest of an enormous bird. Magic won the day, and they kept their theft a secret from everyone, including the tribe of humans dedicated to preventing just such an event.

The third quest was a dream journey, and Nkechi passed around an odd concoction that would bring people with him to the spirit world. Yssith-Atil refused the journey, but the others joined Nkechi. Once in the dream realm they sought out an ancient city, but were attacked by a giant snake. They used their spirit animal forms to good advantage and drove it away. As a result Nkechi agreed to join them.

Returning to Eleder, they learned that Andros had succeeded at hiring a team of runners for them. Thus reinforced, they prepared to set out for the first leg of the journey to Tazion.

PCs:

Akara-Jetzii (monstrous humanoid 5, sorcerer 1)
Lena-Karik (monstrous humanoid 5, ranger 1)
Reethna-Onatee (monstrous humanoid 5)
Sharta-Meklesh (monstrous humanoid 5, rogue 1)
Yssith-Atil (monstrous humanoid 5)

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