Over unknown waters Edit
Dorrel Khondu, Orethel Rivorneth, Oruruk Brimfiddle, and Taliesin Ben Beirdd regained their lost senses while shackled by manacles against a cliff wall dozens of feet above the sea level, where raging waters clashed with razor-sharp rocks. The sky above was gray, clouded and ominous, as rain poured down and lightning split the world.
They had no memory of how they got here or for how long they were in this sorry state. Soon after, a number of harpies appeared, untied and pulled them up. They dragged their weak bodies across the stone floor of the plateau, away from the cliff and into a mazy ravine deeper inside.
The lair of the harpies Edit
The group was carried on the inside of a large cave mouth and forced through some natural corridors, ending up in a stone womb-like chamber, separated by the rest of the complex by a pit filled with crude spikes made of bone.
The group had no sense of time, and Taliesin noted that it must have been one or two years since he recalls anything beyond the blackout, judging by the growth of his hair and assuming no one trimmed it all this time. Regularly, a pair of torch-bearing harpies appeared from beyond the pit, threw poor quality food and rainwater at them, then left again.
Determined to escape this situation, the group risked time and decided to spend approximately a day in there to regain some strength, and then fight their way out. During that time they spotted five tiny, pinhead-sized holes that run down their spines. Having no clue as to what that was exactly, they procceeded as planned and at some point when no guards were near, they scaled the pit and moved out carefully. Dorrel scouted the pair of harpy guards ahead, and the group managed to surprise and overcome them using bones and rocks as weapons.
Mousing onward, they located another lone chamber, where they discovered a treasure hoard of sorts. They found clothes, coins, and their own possessions as they recalled it, also in here. They suited up and moved on.
They found their way outside the cave and onto a plateau, where a few harpies and a different, blue-skinned one were pondering. A fight ensued and while the beastly creatures fought with ferocity, they all met their death.
Free of their strange captors, the group searched the last remaining part of the complex. This larger chamber contained decorations made of humanoid and animal skulls and bones, a 7-foot-tall stone statue of an uknown warrior, an open shaft on the ceiling, a skeleton chained against a wall with pitch black bones, and a sacrificial spear made of wood and carved bone--that Oruruk identified as a weapon brimming with Necromancy, though he decided to let it be nonetheless.
After some inspection, they moved the statue a few inches to reveal a dug pit underneath, containing more gold coins, bones and stones of various sizes, and a torn piece of fabric with part of the Redsea Trading Company insignia on it.
They group eventually decided to leave this complex, and climbed down the exit. They found themselves at the bottom of the ravine, surrounded by cliffs and lean vegetation. Similar cave entrances, albeit smaller in size, could be seen on various heights all over the face of the cliffs--possibly more harpy nests. They moved further in the craggy maze, navigating it successfully and leaving it behind for good.
The Naked Hills Edit
The group came out of the ravines and into a hilly area, full of lush vegetation. A few miles beyond the hills, a thick jungle could be seen, misty and uninviting. The environment had them guessing they must be somewhere in Thundermarch still, with no idea as to the specifics though.
They decided to stay clear of the jungle and walk parallel to it, hoping to run into some landmark. Some foraging was done, although the area seemed largely devoid of animals. They had to sleep under the heavy rain, in a makeshift camp.
For several days they kept on circling the jungle, while still living off the land and keeping clear of the mountains where the harpies lived--for they saw there were more of them. Eventually, they came upon a short mountain range and were forced to start climbing again. They climb was not easy and they were strained to their limits. Luckily, they spent some nights within caves with limited fire, while battling the constant soak and relentless wind of the unnatural storm.
At some point during this trek, they realized the jungle spreads to cover hill and mountain alike, leaving them the option of braving it or walking all these days back again. The group made a choice to enter the jungle carefully, all the while keeping the cliffs overlooking the newly found sea to their right.
Prey in the Blood Valley Edit
Once within the jungle perimeter, pretty much all visibility was lost beyond the twisted walls of trunks, vines and foliage. The thick floor forced every step to be slowed down or risk injury. Oruruk and Taliesin called forth their familiars--a hawk and a sprite--to help them navigate, but that produced poor results as the arcane spirits were as visually limited as their masters.At that initial point the jungle appeared empty of sentient beings; even the animal life was low in numbers. They did manage to stumble upon caves though and that made the nights somewhat bareable.
During one such stay Orethel decided to wander around close to their camp site, to get a grasp of the land and gather resources. Sadly, the Sil Nueda felt the harshness of this jungle the hard way for she got hopelessly lost, unable to track her way back or spot a familiar landmark. She realized the jungle had quite the unified spread, not showing much diversity, making it easy to get lost. She spent several hours wandering about the stormy darkness for any sign of the camp, and that sapped her strength and threatened her health. Orethel sat down by a tree to catch her breath when she realized a further push could prove fatal. In her dizziness, she witnessed slithering movements along the jungle floor; snakes were crawling about, as if suddenly the jungle came to life. A few hours ago Oruruk had sent his hawk to find her and at that point it did. With the spirit's help she came back to the group, through it did take some time even with two pair of eyes.
Once back, Orethel's body gave up and she fell ill, incapacitated for further travel. The next day and while Dorrel stayed with her, Oruruk and Taliesin did their own scouting and discovered another cave about an hour away from theirs. That place was filled with animal remains and the invisible sprite familiar was left to check what manner of beast would return there later. The pair also got lost while trying to head back; Oruruk summoned his hawk and and Taliesin recalled the sprite, and with their help they returned before nightfall.
The following morning found Orethel healthy and the group picked up their journey. They moved within the jungle still, and close to the cliff's edge, slowly and carefully. A group of avian creatures Oruruk recognized as cockatrices charged flying towards them from the green. The group fought them hard and defeated them, one in particular turning to stone as it died from a fierce strike. The Enkhkoi pointed out that they barely escaped petrification by killing them quickly, for each bite of these creatures can possibly force your flesh to turn to stone.
Later on their way they came upon a quite mundane tree, that bore some strange fruit. Further inspection revealed some fruit to be magical in nature. Near that area, Taliesin fell into a moving sand pit, where a giant snake emerged from its depths and tried to kill him. The rest rushed to help and slayed the serpent before it caused any real harm.
After a few days of travelling on, the group came upon a cave where a lone gray orc was resting. They communicated in Tradespeak and found out his name was Rathgol. Like them, he had no memory of how or why he got here. He allowed Oruruk to inspect him, and the gnome discovered the same five holes on his spine. The orc agrees to join them and find their way out of this together.
Later on as the five travelled together, a strange powerful beast that run on all fours charged relentlessly at them. After the creature caused a lot of damage and a tough fight, it fell. Moving away from there, they came upon a spot where the jungle was sparse and a sandy beach replaced the foliage. A stormy beach was ahead of them.
The group reached the shore and walked by the water. Further down the beach, they spotted marks of a path turning into the jungle again. Deciding to investigate this, they walked an hour in and found two makeshift huts built of driftwood and leaves. Three duendu humans came out to meet them, introducing themselves as Korom, Benet, and Rooark. The latter appeared to be their leader for he was the only one doing the talking. Benet grew tense and let a bolt fly from his crossbow, wounding Taliesin's knee, but fortunatelly both groups kept their calm. Rooark invited them into the slightly bigger hut of the two, to warm up and talk, while sending Benet away to the other one to calm down. As the rest talked, Rathgol quietly sneaked into the second hut and beat Benet senseless for what he did earlier.
Meanwhile, Rooark revealed that this place is an unknown, the Nameless Island, possibly in the uncharted waters of the Oblivion Sea and that these three men here are the only survivors of a shipwreck that crashed near here; a ship called Orpheus. He believes that if they use material from another older shipwreck near here, they could repair Orpheus and manage to escape this island.
Rooark moves on to state that he will not leave this place if the group won't help him with something. He claims that weeks ago when they first got here, they moved further in and came upon a grove of strange, red vegetation. When they started hunting and foraging there, the local fey creatures were angry and attacked with no remorse, ignoring the men's pleas for help. Weak as they were they fled, but Rooark's only son Gorin was captured by the creatures. Seeing he is no warrior and that the feys were already hostile toward him and his fellows, he wants the group to venture there and claim the boy back.
After some discussion, the group paid a visit to the location of the second shipwreck, and managed to salvage a mast and more wood. Carrying that back, they worked with the others and also used magic to mend the damage on Orpheus. Soon, the ship was in as good condition as it would ever be outside a docking station. Having that covered, they left for the grove deeper in the jungle.
Where feys rule Edit
The group walked on for several hours, almost a day, and they reached a place where the lush vegetation turned red. From that point on the storm was gone. While outside it was raging, it seemed like an invisible wall kept it out of that place. Everything there had this crimson hue; from the leaves and the flowers, to the rocks and the water in streams. Besides that, it was warm, and felt quite like summer.A pair of dryads charmed the two duendu humans of the group, Dorrel and Taliesin, and used them as a protection during the talk that ensued. Once the dryads were convinced that the group posed no harm, they urged them to follow deeper into the grove.
The group was taken into the heart of the Blood Grove, where they found a lake surrounded by serene shores and was dominated by a 60-foot-tall Dren tree. A female figure was part of the trunk, like she was carved out of it, whereas the elongated roots formed a cage above the surface of the ground, holding a duendu human child inside. The dryads verified that this is the boy called Gorin.
The group had a talk with the woman in the tree, and she told a different story; she claimed that Rooark and his kin came here to brutally hunt game and chop trees. Her family scared them away, and they indeed snatched the child when that happened. She notes that the child is here to be protected by such people, and to make sure that they would not invade this place again. She reassures them that the child is healthy and fed. They check on the boy, and it indeed seems peaceful. The woman offers a night of rest within her grove, but no more than that.
The group accepts the offer and they are given a beautiful grassy spot by the lake. The pair of dryads visited again, offering a kind of sweet fruit that sated the hunger of a grown man for a day. As they engaged in small talk with the group, Taliesin felt like teasing them and he summoned the Fey Presence. The two dryads were terrified and fled immediately, while at the same time Orethel was positively engaged to the creature that came forth. Shortly after that event, the woman arrived--known as the Mother now; she dragged Gorin behind her and tossed him to them. In anger, she commanded them to leave and never come back here. She said that they had three days to escape this island for they would die here, forgotten. The group took the boy and left the grove.
Rooark was ecstatic and emotional when he was reunited with Gorin, and the boy seemed quite relieved as well. The group noticed one of the crates contained a captured cockatrice. Rooark claimed he kept it alive after a couple of them attacked them here, to use as a weapon or even as food. Together, they loaded the ship with whatever possessions and provisions they had, boarded, and took the ship to water.
A raging sea Edit
Once out in the open, the group was at the mercy of the storm that covered the island. It was a tough sailing, ravanged by wind and rain. Orpheus creaked and moaned, but ultimately held on against the weather.
After a full day they did manage to escape the storm. Behind them, they could see a thick ominous wall of grayish yellow mist, a vapor creeping and swirling as far as the eye could see in any direction coming to a stop on an apparently random point at sea, as if it worked to cover the eastern waters. Nonetheless, the water calmed down and the temperature became warmer.
During that night and while most were asleep, Rooark took the form of a wererat and with the help of his two human lackeys attacked the group. After a bloody fight, Rooark was the only attacked that survived, and the group beat him unconsious and tied him up. They all insist on executing him to avoid another such surprise, yet Orethel talks them out of it and saves his life.
During the following days Rooark is kept shackled in the cargo, while Gorin is allowed to roam free in the same part of the ship.. Oruruk and Taliesin perform studies on him, question him, and take several notes. They get to know him more, and eventually asks for a trade; Rooark will allow Taliesin to take him back to Astana and perform a lecture on him, even kill him if he wants to further study him, if Taliesin agrees to take in Gorin as his own son to spare him the life his father had. Taliesin agrees to that, and the journey continues with further studies and rest, until they reach land.