February 6-19, 2017
The Path Less Observed
Lunadain 11th Klarmont
Two members of the Grey Company stayed up far too late the night before…
Remar whispers to Draven more softly, "I'd like to...unburden myself of something I've done and was wondering if you could help me with that. The guilt..."
Draven looks at his fiery friend, "Remar, you know I'm always here for you. But, perhaps not when we're both this fatigued?"
"Yeah. You're probably right. Sorry for bothering you when you're tired, Draven," Remar concedes.
The young priest pauses and then reconsiders, "No, wait. Let's take the first watch, you and I. We can keep each other awake while you unburden yourself"
Remar stammers, "Are...are you sure?" looking at his pious friend, the light and shadows from the firelight making him look alternatingly both angelic and demonic.
Draven pontificates, "Patience may be a virtue, but one should also strike while the iron is hot. Come, sit with me brother."
Remar sits and takes the opportunity to poke at the fire with a stick, adjusting it so that the flames burn more efficiently while distributing more heat. After a short while, he side-glances at Draven nervously and asks, “So, um, I’ve seen this done in the war-camps I’ve been...attached to. Most of them had priests. But, I wasn’t ever really given the opportunity to pay it a lot of mind. How do I start this off? What are the proper incantations and gesture sequences?”
Pitching his voice in the low but firm whisper he so readily recalls from the senior priests during his upbringing, Draven thinks back to his training. Precious few had felt the need for absolution for wrongdoings in the last few months of travels, but he wasn’t going to mess up this opportunity.
“The first step, which it seems you have reached already, is to recognize that you have erred and need to make a change. Penance is expected, of course, but true contrition is also required. The common sins of violence, theft, lying and adultery come common enough among mercenary camps, I’m sure, but even your arcane studies put your soul in peril…”
He dons his gray woolen cassock and sets up his small portable altar.
“If you think you’re ready, tell me what has so burdened your soul?”
And just like that, Remar can’t escape the images of the past, recently dredged up by the encounter with the mummy, as they all come floating to the surface once again.
Ack! Rema it be gettin’ cramped in ‘ere! Why donna ye just tell ‘em, Rema’? Ey dare ye ta tell ‘em yer a murderin,’ greedy, bastard who hears voices, let alone wit an actual soul o’a deadman mixed in wit yers.
A tear runs slowly down his cheek in the firelit, silence that Draven hears following his question. Then, finally, Remar speaks. “I...I killed them, Draven. All of them. So many, many of them. It was all my fault.”
View From the Perch
The following morning, Kasiex leads the group to the edge of a rocky escarpment. The tired group of travelers follows the Hutaakan as he crawls up to the top and looks over. He signals the others to move up as well. From here, a good view of the valley can be seen. Kasiex points out the route he wants to take to return to Byxata, the Hutaakan village. He plans to descend down the goat path to the valley floor and cross the open area that leads south to the Singing Pool. Then he plans to skirt the mountain base on the other side, sneak across to the woods and cut along the edge of the large lake before heading north to their final destination. “Traldar in west. See there,” he indicates some movement to the north and west. “They usually not come past those woods there,” pointing to the wooded area directly below where the Company is perched. “What think? Good plan? Press on make back dark time,” he says in heavily broken and accented Thyatian.
“Sounds good, Kasiex. I’d definitely like to get back to shelter today,” Griffin replies.
“Yes, for now we need to stay far afield from the Traldar,” adds Draven.
“A sound plan; let’s do it,” Iris adds.
Kasiex nods agreement to all the others, then crawls backwards from the edge of the escarpment. Marshalling the allies, their various beasts, and all the rest, he gets everyone moving and begins the trek back to Byxata.
Remar packs and follows in relative silence, remembering on how he was woken up.
Seeing the Green
The Hutaakan Wildsteward leads the group along the narrow and often steep path that leads back down to the valley floor. As he rounds a blind turn, Kasiex suddenly stops and and signals for other to come forward. He peers around the corner and points with his long, narrow snout. “That strange. Not here before.” The rocky trail ahead is covered with strange plants. The entire narrow way is blocked by vines, stems and leaves. Large, prickly purple flowers appear in several spots. Smaller white puff-balls dot the lower area as well. There is no other vegetation nearby with the exception of the occasional mushroom patch and this was definitely not here on the hike to the Vault of the Elders.
The Wizard, eyes coming into focus, looks and says, “Huh, what’s over there?”
Kasiex stares at the plant, wracking his brain for anything like it in the Valley.
Kasiex has never seen plants like this growing in the valley before and no one else is familiar with them either. Regardless, the path is completely blocked by this strange growth. It probably wouldn’t be too difficult to push through it, especially with the help of a blade, but due to the location and nature of the steep rock walls, climbing could prove to be a problem, especially for those without the Traldar’s riding lizards.
“Wow. That is some plant. I can’t help but be wary of anything that just shows up to conveniently to block our path, let alone a giant growth like that.” Remar says. “It could be magical or predatory, for all we know. Put here by our enemies? As such, I recommend we stay mindful of the petals and puff-balls. Any part of them could contain pollen or oils or some such that could even be lethal.” Remar wonders how drained it would make him to levitate or apportate lizards, horses, and unmounted persons to presumed safety the other side.
Kasiex grunts, irritated. “No. Not new here, here. New in Valley. Never see anyhere before.”
“How fascinating!” Iris says. “Maybe the deluge from the night prior was a necessary catalyst for its growth. Or perhaps something we were doing in the Vault spawned it. Some ancient plant spores released when we opened the doors? If our activity was the cause, maybe there's some information we could glean from the Tome. I'd also love to take a sample with us---carefully, of course. Who knows; it could have medicinal applications!”
Kasiex’ ears lay back; the Company's time among the Hutaaka is enough for them to read his body language as suspicious and wary. “Say burn, but that reveal our presence. Cut through, maybe thorns or blossoms are poison…” he sighs slightly. “When doubt, poke with long stick…?” He nods to Marcel and his spear. “Otherwise, wait long and I trap treerat or longfoot and throw into plants, see what happen.”
“I'll poke at it, I don't mind,” Iris says as she nods toward Kasiex. Drawing her saber as she walks closer, Iris carefully leans forward and prods at the plant with the tip of her blade, feeling simultaneously a little ridiculous and apprehensive.
Remar, watches and prepares to react with Magic if things go awry.
As Iris approaches the mysterious, lush growth with her blade in hand, it seems to pull away from her, but then she realizes that a slight breeze is blowing from behind her in the narrow ravine. She reaches out and cuts a small part from it. The severed plant part falls to the rocky ground. The rest of the plant does nothing but sway slightly in the blowing breeze.
Breathing a sigh of relief, the Mage says, “And here I was prepared to burn up a lot of magic and rest levitating everyone and everything over! Maybe hacking through is best? What do you all think?
Iris dabs a very small amount of sap from the plant onto the skin near her wrist.
The sap is watery and slightly milk colored. It is thin and slippery. Iris observes it on her arm. After several minutes she sees and feels nothing out of the ordinary.
Iris looks up at the others and says cheerfully, “No reaction so far! I like the idea of hacking through; definitely don't want to burn it.”
Remar’s face betrays him as that of someone who has not even considered a particular course of action, but later realizes they have missed out on a golden opportunity.
Kasiex draws his blade, striding forward to stand before the plant with Iris; he hefts the sword, looking at her and gesturing as if to say “you take that side, I’ll do this side” such that they would create a 1.5-2 person wide channel through the growth.
“I will help keep watch with Ree if she is so inclined,” Remar says.
Iris nods at Kasiex and begins the arduous task of clearing the unusual growth.
After a short time, Kasiex and Iris have managed to clear a path through the strange, lush foliage. They both drip with sweat from the exertion in the rising heat of the day. It was more strenuous work than they had imagined but now the path is clear. Iris notices, after catching her breath, that the spot on her arm where she had touched the initial piece of plant material seems to itch a little bit and it looks possibly a little red, but that could easily have been from scratching up against something while clearing the path. Kasiex spends several minutes picking little pieces of hacked up plant from his fur. Some of the smaller pieces seem to not want to come off, having attached themselves with tiny burs.
Having groomed the burrs out of his exposed fur, Kasiex claps Iris on the shoulder companionably and waves the rest of the Company forward. “I will scout ahead for a bit. Have the others follow slowly.” he says to Iris in Hutaak’a. “I watch-forward. You bring rest. Understand?” he follows up in broken Thyatian.
“Happy as I am to be through it, and glad that you all carry blades - my mace would have been far less useful here - I’m still concerned at the sudden growth of wholly new plants in the valley. I’m sure I don’t have to suggest this, Iris, but you do have some of it to take back with us, for further investigation and possibly to jog the memory of some of the older Hutaakan?”
Fanning herself while taking a brief rest, Iris smiles at Draven and says, “Oh! I'm glad you mentioned it; I'd nearly forgotten.” She stands up, groaning a bit as she stretches her back, then moves over to the huge mess of hacked up plant growth. Iris gathers a selection of roots, stems, leaves, and a flower and places them carefully in her pack. Wiping the sweat from her brow, she gently rubs the itchy diseased spot on her face and tries not to think on it too much. “Kasiex is ready to scout ahead; we're to follow quietly after a few minutes.”
Kasiex suits deed to word, nodding to the others and slipping off stealthily farther down the path, check for the best path and any dangers along the way.
As Kasiex heads off, the rest of the group watches him go and realizes that the usually nimble and spry Hutaakan is moving a bit slower than normal. As they rest, the group discusses this and all their thoughts come back to the Mummy Rot he has been afflicted with. All eyes turn to Iris and they realize that she too is beginning to feel the effects of the evil curse placed upon her by the Mummy Lord. The skin of her face had become an ashen grey and the veins in her neck are darkening. She shakes her head and murmurs, “I’m fine, really. It’s just so hot out here today.” Several folks nod in agreement as sweat trickles down their foreheads. It is a hot one today. After a few more minutes of uncomfortable silence, it is time to follow the scouting Wildsteward down the path. Everyone silently agrees that the sooner they return to Byxata, the better.
Cast of Characters:Garrett "Griffin" Constantine, a Thyatian rogue of a gambler from Penhaligon rolled by +Arne Jamtgaard
Draven Rickart, a Thyatian Acolyte of the Church of Karameikos ministered by +Jason Packer with help from +Patrick Burke
Remar Umerus, an Alphatian battle mage that escaped forced service in the Thyatian army currently marshalled by +Patrick Kelly
Iris Varda, a Thyatian explorer and historian searching for answers and adventure, now guided by +Stephanie Kelly
Kasiex, a Hutaakan Wildsteward used to ranging the mountains and valleys now led down a new path by +Patrick Burke
and +Jason Woollard as The DM