Saturday, February 4, 2017

Far Isles Session # 55 - Up, Down, and all Around

Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 4), with henchman Corvus (Fighter 2)
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 5), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 1)
Chaff (Vivimancer 5), with familiar PrettyBird and riding dog PuppyWhuppy

Due to the increasingly cool and dry air, Awg's amphibious skin needed immersion to regenerate. With Abdul el Abdul along as a guard, the calmonari retreated back to the waterfall pool for a good long soak. In the meantime, the rest of the party focused on finding a way inside the cone; one that did not involve a half-day airlift with the ebony fly. Running low on food, they elected to leave the four crossbowman at base camp and tasked them with hunting up some vittles. The rest of the party decided to investigate the few areas of woodland, scavenging nuts and berries as they went, hoping to find a hidden way into the volcanic crater. They had little luck in their exploration. Two days of wandering from copse to copse uncovered nothing. Except the creepy way the trees retreated from their campfire on the first night; they elected to camp in the open after that.

The party spent the next couple of days gathering nuts and berries while exploring the open grassland of the plateau. The sky remaining clear, they were able to check the view off the northern and eastern edge. To the north, there was nothing to see except more rugged mountains. The view to the east was more interesting however. They could see the upper course of the main river below, including the multiple cascades that poured off the mountains. All this water spilled into a flooded sunken valley nestled between the plateau and the mountains. More interesting were the obvious signs of intelligent life; the flooded valley was crisscrossed by a square grid of raised causeways, and at about a dozen intersections there rose large, steep-sided mounds. Some appeared to be topped with 'man'-made structures. Figuring they could at least get some information from he inhabitants, the party decided to loop back to base camp to pick up the mercenaries, then head back across the bridge and down into the valley. Along the way, they encountered a herd of 7-8 mastodons grazing near the edge of the plateau. Chaff, in a mischievous mood, summoned the ebony fly and proceeded to buzz the herd. This set off a a wild panic among the woolly pachyderms, and Chaff started to coral them towards the cliff edge. Without slowing down, the huge bull at the head of the herd tumbled over the edge with a bellow, which was enough to frighten the rest away from danger. The herd split in two and ran north and south along the precipice. Chaff, meanwhile, triumphantly flew out over the edge hoping to see his kill, having forgotten it was a 3000' drop to the base of the plateau. All dreams of mastodon steaks over the campfire were forgotten.

Back at base camp, the party found they were short one crossbowman. Apparently a boar hunting trip went wrong, leaving Alfred the crossbowman gored and dead.  The hirelings did manage to catch some smaller game, so the food situation was a little less dire than before. Packing up camp, the party headed for the rope bridge. Crossing it was a little more challenging this time; halfway across, a pair of huge pteranodon approached from across the valley, quite obviously with hostile intent. The two winged reptiles took turns diving at the trapped party. Thankfully, they did little harm; one of the hirelings gained a new scar, and both Corvus and Chaff had close calls. The usual barrage of pistols and lasers, bolts and arrows inflicted terrible damage on the terrible beasts, plus a command rope from Kwinsea and web from Chaff sent the two plummeting into the gorge below.

The party got to the end of the bridge, then crossed the river to the north side once more using the ring of water walking. After a few more hours of climbing, they came to the crest of the ridge and found themselves looking down on the flooded valley. Heading downhill, they picked up the end of one of the causeways and headed towards an 'inhabited' mound. As they got closer, they noticed several raised farms in the flooded water. On one, figures could be seen hoeing, weeding  and so on. Kwinsea, being the linguist of the group, called out a greeting in all her known languages. But there was neither response, nor acknowledgement. Observing the  people more closely, the party now noted while they seemed fairly well dressed, physically they were in hard shape. And a shift of the breeze brought a smell of rotting flesh; they were zombies. That made everyone nervous, so Chaff sent Pretty Bird aloft to check out the mound before they walked into a trap. Through the parrots eyes, the vivimancer could see a cluster of stone buildings atop the mound. They seemed to be of ancient construction, patched and repaired more recently. In a clearing there was a large party forming up; several formations of zombie soldiers, a palanquin similar to the one they encountered in the main river valley, and a cluster of better dressed and apparently alive people. As Chaff/Pretty Bird watched, this formation started down a steep set of stairs towards the causeway and the party.

Not sure what to expect, the party stepped off the causeway and into the shallow water as the
T'sin, Lord of Moku
palanquin and guards approached. The procession stopped when they reached the party, and the zombie bearers set the palanquin on the ground before lifting the flaps. Inside sat an older man, well dressed and with dusky skin. He raised a hand to the party and spoke. It was difficult to understand him at first, but Rodrigo soon figured out the language was vaguely related to that of the Tanaroa natives. The speaker's name was T'sin, leader of the Moku tribe. A conversation ensured, and the party learned there were four others tribes of the Q'uitchin in the valley. They all lived on separate hill/mounds, and used zombie labour to do all the hard work while the living had a life of luxury. The dead became the property of the tribal leader to be brought back for a 'second life' to serve the tribe. They had lived this way for many many years, since the days of the 'empire of the masters'. When questioned about the masters, T'sin showed a medallion he wore, depicting a bulbous inhuman face with pupil-less eyes and a sphincter-like mouth surrounded by tentacles. The tribe had had no contact with 'the masters' in many generations, but still followed their commands. One of which was to maintain the rope bridge, but taboo prevented them from actually setting foot on the plateau. When asked about the inhabitants of the volcanic cone, T'sin expressed surprise than there was anyone there.  The party also asked about any caves or tunnels that lead up to the crater, and were disappointed to hear there were none.

The Moku seemed friendly enough, and Chaff inquired if the party could stay the night and get some supplies as well. After consulting with his advisers, T'sin agreed, asking only that, if any of the party fell in their coming exploration of the crater, their bodies would become property of the tribe to be brought back for a 'second life'. That made Rodrigo nervous, with visions of daggers in the night and the party entering an eternity of zombie servitude. Convinced by the swashbucklers paranoia, the party decided to backtrack to the ridge above the river to camp for the night. As dawn approached and Chaff stood watch, the little vivimancer noted movement in the bushes below. He awoke the rest of the party, who formed up just as a trio of huge dire wolves burst out of the brush. Swords flashed, tidal force and instinct were cast, and in the end the party had one dead dire wolf while the others had fled.

Given their food situation, the party spent most of the day making dire wolf jerky, before once more crossing the rope bridge. Picking up Abdul el Abdul and Awg along the way, they once more marched to the base of the volcanic cone. Having exhausted their others options, the party decided the best way in was to take the chance running shuttle service with the ebony fly. So much of the next day was spent flying back and forth, until by mid-afternoon the whole party was on the island in the middle of the crater lake without incident. They'd chosen to arrive out of sight of both the village and the temple, hunkering down amidst tumbled stone walls and weather worn statues. Once everyone as finally in one place, the party carefully wove their way across the ruins to the cliff above the temple entrance ....



1 mastodon
2 pteranodon
1 dire wolf AKA wolf jerky

Alfred the Intrepid Crossbowman

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