Oblivion Sea Edit
After the group subdued their attackers, the journey continued on an unknown course, all the while hoping to reach land. Taliesin and Oruruk kept on their research about the wererat, Orethel walked the deck making sure everything is in order, while Dorrel and Rathgol mainly spent their days in their cabin, sleeping or eating.
Eventually, land is spotted on the horizon but before the group had the time to speculate as to where they are, the sea broke its calmness and rocked the ship more violently. Following that, a pack of kuo-toa emerged from the waters and climbed the ship. The group recollected themselves for a fight, but the surprise attack left them somewhat separated. Taliesin resolved into a manifestation of the Fey Presence, which worked against the sea creature, but also damaged the hull of Orpheus. The rest fought with steel and magic across the deck, and eventually the fight was won.
Sadly, the ship took too much damage from Taliesin's power, and it started going down. The group gathered whatever gear they could, took Rooark and Gorin with them, and used whatever wood was available for makeshift boats. Orpheus eventually sunk, and the group used the boats and flotsam to reach that mysterious shore.
The Woodsmen Edit
Oruruk and Taliesin sent their familiars forth while still at sea, to scout the shore and a little further inside. They saw a lush beach, immediately back by jungle, much like the one from the island they left behind although summer ruled this sky. The sprite located a small community of five or six wooden huts, inhabited by some women and children. All of them appeared nyreen, except for one woman who was clearly duendu.
The group finally reached the shores, tired and hungry. They found a place for Rooark and the boy to hide, for they did not want to risk bringing a Cursed one into a community. The wererat agreed to that and the pair marked a spot a couple of miles away, where the group was to return for them. Then, the group made the one hour walk to the community.
What they found was the nyreens the familiar spotted earlier, and they were all held back and mistrustful. The duendu woman came forth, introduced herself as Isabele Doria Tainama and made sure to ask if they are magic users. She explain that this is Nyree island, that she came from Vorgis years ago as a poor lass, and met Koro Tainama in Belmora. The two got married and she lives here with him ever since. Also, she is the only one around here to know Tradespeak.
Isabele invites the group into her home where she offers food and drink. The group notices the symbol of the Eightcross in her home, hanging on the ceiling above their heads. The nyreen women and children gathered around the home, looking in with a mix of curiosity and contempt.
Isabele explains that the island is in the grip of a terrible curse; a curse that poisons the water, spoils the food and kills the animals. She claims that the manifestation and cause of this curse is Panga, a monstrous creature that resembles a scorpion and feasts on animal and human flesh alike. If they want to help make the road to Belmora safe, and return the favor of her hospitality, she needs them to go into the jungle, kill him and bring him back. In the meantime, the men of the community returned from their lumber work, all of them nyreen. The group met her husband Koro as well, and another strange individual, Gecko Muckbucket the green goblin.
Panga the terror Edit
The party consider this and agree on helping out, for they also want to clear the road to the closest town. Isabele informs them that at night a ritual will take place; a sacrifice that will help protect the group and the village during this trial. Indeed, later on the community gathers around a fire and recite verses in an unknown language. A nyreen woman cooks a green soup and offers it to all that will go out to face Panga. The few who drink it find it is bitter and hard to keep down; the rest chose not to consume it. At some point in the process of the ritual, Isabele and Koro bring out their baby child Raipe, who the group now sees is deformed. The child is killed as a sacrifice and a woman is bathed in its blood. The ritual is complete soon after that, and the group is prompted to face the evil of the jungle.
The group prepares and leaves the community. After a couple of hours of searching the jungle, they came across some tracks. Indeed, Panga was close for he also sensed them and moved towards them. A violent fight ensued; Panga managed to hurt many of them and his poison entered their veins. In the end Panga was slain, but sadly not before Dorrel was gruesomely slain when the monster's tail furiously destroyed the duendu's head in an explosion of blood and gore.
The group studied Dorrel's body looking for clues of their condition, and Rathgol was seen eating a small piece of the body's raw flesh. When questioned, he replied that it is a gray orc tradition to allow the fallen to live through their comrades. Soon after Dorrel was buried in that part of the jungle, the group severed Panga's stinger from the tail and returned to the community.
The initial joy on the nyreens' faces turned to anger when they saw the severed stinger. In disappointment, Isabele stated that they needed the stinger for the cleansing ritual to be complete. The locals are convinced that the only tool they had to break the curse was now obsolete, and sent the group away. The group indeed left, with the addition of Gecko who joined them, following the now clear path to the north for Belmora.
Suspicions EditThe group arrived at the town of Belmora, after about a day worth of traveling on foot. Orethel and Rathgol stay outside the gates, and the rest choose to enter. Going past the Aes Qintari guards at the gates who checked them, they stayed at the only inn on this part of town, the Easthome.
Through conversation and eavesdropping, they find out that there are strange indications of a curse at work around the island; animals that appear to have died of natural cause but not nearly old enough for that to happen, flora withering or suddently turn out burnt as if from intense frost, and to top it all a strange phenomenon of several whirlpools encircling the island, making moving to and from Nyree impossible. Folk seem to associate this to the weirdness of the local spirits, showing their actual capricious face.
Also, they met a duendu from Vorgis who worked for a Kabutel named Ziggy, to whom they try to sell the body of Panga that they carried along with them. He seemed overall interested in rare animals and wonders, for he purchases such things as decoration for his master's home back in the city. In spite of that he turned down the offer, claiming the scorpion was too big for his master's taste.
Also, Taliesin--who rented the most expensive room available--developed a relationship with the owner of the inn and his daughter who frequently massaged him and seemed interested in life outside Belmora.
Meanwhile Taliesin got himself in trouble, for he was associated as a suspect to the recent murder of a local guard. The Captain of the Guard was polite and fierce to an equal measure, asking Taliesin to spent some time in the cells until this is sorted out. Taliesin agrees and spents a day and a night in said cell. Eventually, the Captain showed up again in the company of a priest of Mezharun, an Aes Qintari dressed in black robes and distinctive white eyes. The priest held the main interrogation after he lit a thick, white candle. He asked a number of questions concerning how Taliesin found himself here but in the end he was let go, free of any charge.
During the night that all of the above took place, Orethel consumed natural herbs while about half-a-mile outside the gates. This resulted to her first Telling.
Shrine of the Cycle Edit
After feeling the air around town, the group realized that folk here tolerated Mezharun without causing any trouble, but they actually followed and loved the Twin Sisters. About an hour away from Belmora and deep into the jungle there was a location, the Shine of the Cycle, where a priest was said to spiritualy guide the locals. The group took the north path out of town and reached that holy place.
The shrine was but a natural cavern indeed in the heart of the jungle. An small clearing was marking the entrance, filled with lush vegetation, a pond and, a number of followers each one deep in prayer. The group entered the deep, brazier-lit cave and met the priest, the old Zezalem Bazin Ebissa. The priest is an old man, possibly duendu but with a darker complexion, hunched and slow, with a rasping voice that made it seem as if he was in pain when simply moving or talking.
After the initial introduction, Zezalem suddenly changed posture and tone; he straightened up, his voice became clear and booming, while his eyes glowed with a pale, blue light. Apparently his body was taken over by an entity, and it spoke through him. The voice demanded respect, hinting to the fact that it belonged to a great power that chose to speak to the group, especially when it noted that it "expected the elf". The voice revealed that there is a task of great importance for them to do, but would not say what before they blindly agreed to it. Taliesin, Orethel, and Rathgol did agree. Oruruk and Gecko did not.
The voice spoke of a bone dagger they are to take and carry from this place--which Zezalem offered in his trance state. Afterwards, they were to visit a certain woman in Belmora named Ulma, who was the town herbalist. She was to tell them what they needed to do from that point on. When the deed was done, they were to return to Ulma, collect her payment, and bring that back to the cave. Their reward for their work will await them in the shrine.
A vengeful power Edit
The group took the dagger and left at that point to return to Belmora. They found this Ulma the voice spoke of, but she was reluctant to let them enter or speak. They revealed that Zezalem sent them, and then quite obediently she let the pass.
She tells them that the ancient spirit of Nyree is physically trapped to a monstrous dead tree, for many years now. The tree can be found in the Wounded Grove, miles north of town. She claims the spirit had always been savage and mad, and went completely insane when the nyreens of the island allowed the Aes Qintari to conquer them. The Twin Sisters who followed folk from the Mainland helped in subduing and trapping that ancient power, out of kindness, so that it could do no further harm. Apparently, solitude did no good to it, for it grew more bitter in time and now the whole island is threatened by its power; the waters are devouring and all life dies. Ulma states that the group must venture to its prison and destroy it completely. Once its done, they must return to her immediately.
The Wounded Grove EditThe group left Belmora for the north. After a few hours on foot through the untamed jungle, they encounter a change; the whole jungle turns red instead of green. Reminding them of the place in the Nameless Island, they proceed with caution.
When they are few yards in that territory, Gecko and Oruruk cannot walk any further. It appears that an invisible wall or obstacle of sorts blocks their path physically. The other three decide to move on anyways, while the Enkhkoi and the Kabutel walk around, looking for a possible passage inside.
A few minutes inside Taliesin, Orethel, and Rathgol encounter five blood apes sitting easy on top of strong branches of trees. They notice that an odd sizzle of energy pulses around the animals' heads, like disrupting halos. These apes apparently speak, startling everyone when one says "turn back". The group refuses claiming they have to go deeper and the apes attack them. The group is succesful in killing them all but one, who is subdued and left there. Once the fight is won and the animals are out, the invisible barrier apparently dropped, and the group was whole again.
Further in they end up into what appears to be a dead grove. The soil is close to black, the plant are dead or dying, and the smell of the air is putrid. Thick humidity lingers on their skins and mud slows down their movement. One tree stand out in particular; a Dren tree, twisted almost beyond recognision, leafless and dead like the rest of this place.
It is around that tree that the oddity is found; a huge, snake-like creature is coiled there, easily twenty feet long or more, purple-skinned with spots of green scales, and a big human head instead of a snake's. The whole creature appeared wounded; bones protruded from several cuts, it was beaten, gushed, and broken, slowly slithering toward the group as soon as it noticed them.
Some of the group immediately attacked it, and it responded to holding back and using magic to protect itself or confuse the attackers. Rathgol even used the bone dagger which indeed easily cut the beast, but also magically slashed a wound on the orc as well. The more calm pointed at the fact that the beast was not aggressive towards them and managed to cease the fight. With that, the creature moved forward again and spoke in Black Asil.
The beast claimed it was Makuru, an ancient being of great power that looked after the island and its people. It went on to say that before the Aes Qintari ever came here--of whom Makuru actually had never heard of before, and did not know what they were--the Twin Sisters arrived. They where guiding a butcher soldier to these lands, a man called Zezalem, who was responsible for the destruction of natural habitats, the death of many animals, unique creatures, and people. It was also him that brought Makuru down eventually. The Twins commanded this man to bind Makuru to this dying place and slowly drain its godly power to feed the Twins and himself, for almost two centuries now. As the river of time moved on, the people eventually forgot all about it and converted to the faith of the Cycle. Makuru knows death is coming, but seeks revenge on Zezalem before that happens.
With this new information, the group returns to Belmora to think over matters.
Breaking the circle Edit
After spending some time contemplating on the situation, they moved on during the night to inform the Captain of the Guard on these matters, holding Zezalem as responsible for the troubles. The guard responded eagerly and moved on to arrest Ulma immediately, and some troops also left for the jungle during the very same night. The group returned to sleep at the Easthome inn.
The next morning they woke up at the sound of bells tolling. Heading out, they saw a great crowd was already gathered, with more people arriving every minute. The crowd seemed to have a mix of questioned and angry faces. Soon after, the Reeve himself appeared dressed in extravagant clothing, accompanied by the Captain and several soldiers. A few of these soldiers raised a very tall stake in the center of the open space before the inn and the warehouses, and remained there to guard it. Later, another group of soldiers walked down from the estate, carrying Zezalem himself as prisoner, followed by the torch-bearing priest of Mezharun that interrogated Taliesin a few days ago. The flame on that torch was pure white. The soldiers carried Zezalem to the stake, where they plundged a metal hook into his back, that was in turn bound to ropes that held the body of the old man high up at the top of the stake. Once clear, the priest moved in and set the stake on fire with his torch, faster than any fire should go blazing. Most of the crowd outcried in fury, othere were crying, and a few were indifferent. The wood of the stake was miraculously untouched, while the flesh of Zezalem burned. In the end, nothing but his bones were left hanging from the hook, while wood, metal, and ropes were right as rain. The priest moved back to the estate with the Reeve and guard, while the Captain announced that the skeleton was to remain there for three days for crimes against the Path of Fire.
The Reeve's gratitude Edit
Back at the Easthome inn, the group received an invitation for lunch at the estate, signed by the Reeve himself. They accepted the offer and visited the estate, where they met with the Reeve named Kalemos Galanos. He thanked them for the work they did, and rewarded them handsomely. He invited them to stay with him and enjoy the comforts throughout the course of the following two days, until the seas are hopefuly fit to travel once more. Taliesin happily agrees to that, while the rest politely decline.
Rathgol visited the south side of town, where the port was. He visited several taverns, got drunk, and got into fights as well, thankfully without attracting too much attention or causing irrepairable damage.
Taliesin indulged into a life of abundant eating, drinking, and orgies with Kalemos and his company, learning that the Reeve was gay in the process.. After a day or so it stopped, for the priest of Mezharun made sure the estate returned to a more appropriate level of behavior. Finally, Kalemos offered Taliesin and his friends the best cabin on a ship called Larventhus who would sail the following day for the Mainland, and also a letter of recommendation to his close friend Karakan, a kenku who lives in Vorgis, should they ever visit the city.
Indeed, the following day the group boarded the ship and left for the mainland, for the sea was indeed calm again.