The scene is this; our heroes had just emerged triumphant, clutching the magical jug found in the House of Man and Crocodile when they were attacked by an angry Allosaurus. They defeated the large carnivore and closer inspection showed small black, nasty looking arrows in it’s back. Goblins!
The Fellowship were on alert as they camped for the night atop a small hill next to the ruined shrine of Camp Righteous. Not long after a few fat drops of rain splashed down and soon a torrential storm deluged from the sky cutting visibility down significantly.
Valdimir was on watch and Shadows alerted him to movement outside the camp. Through the rain filled air lumbered two zombies, the familiar blue triangle on their forehead marking them as members of Ras Nsi’s undead army. They body slammed Valdimir before he could react. He didn’t let out a scream, as some witnesses attested, but in a manly voice shouted “To arms! To arms!” as he straightened his conquistador helm. The sleeping figures roused, except for Nundro, Cole and Xandala who did not wake, and joined the fray. More and more zombies were highlighted in a bright flash of lightning as the fighting intensified. Skopti expertly severed heads with his longsword as Valdimir’s pinpoint precise eldritch blasts, Undril’s divine radiant powers and Musharib’s maul “Skullbash” also sent the living dead back to their graves. Grom however was still frustratedly hacking at zombies like they were tree trunks and they simply would simply not lay down defeated. In his rage, with a zombie prone and crawling towards him, he finally mastered the art of “aiming for the head”.
As the last zombie was dealt with, two Goblin arrows whistled past Skopti’s ears. Musharib cast his eyes about and spotted a battle stack of Batiri Goblins by the groups canoes still moored on the river bank. The Fellowship and their companions (those who were awake anyway) rushed forward and joined battle once more, taking out two Goblins before the stack collapsed. In another flash of lightning a second stack was spotted, this time with a Goblin Boss atop it. In his rage, Grom rushed towards the second stack clutched his amulet and disappeared briefly. He re-appeared 30 feet closer to the Goblins still running and hurled a javelin straight between the eyes of the Boss. Just at the last minute he crouched down and thrusted the Goblin below him into the deadly path of the missile. The poor Goblin was skewered like one of the kebobs served in the street markets of Port Nyanzaru. It was not long before all the Goblins except the Boss were laying dead on the ground. The Boss, knowing that he was done for, laid down his scimitars pleading for mercy behind his carved wooden mask with insect-like mandibles. Skopti was in no mood for parley and sliced through the Goblin’s outstretched hands and into his neck. He fell with his death screams bubbling bloodily from his opened throat. The storm passed and the victors inspected the canoes, which had had holes knocked into them by the Goblins. Nothing had been taken however and a quick Mending spell from the now awake Nundro fixed the holes.
The next morning camp was broken and the travellers were mounting up for the next leg of their journey when out of the blue, Valdimir received a Sending spell from a familiar voice:
“Hey Vald! It’s Jarpetto! I have grave news, Daran Edermath died this morning. His soul has gone forever! Sister Gariel said he cannot return. I…”
Six long seconds passed.
“….memorised Sending twice today. I am on my way to Chult. I am not sure how, but I will get there and see you soon.”
Momentous news indeed, which Valdimir replied to (“In jungle. Back few weeks. Meet at Kaya’s Rest. Ask for the Great Nundro.”) and then relayed to the rest of the team before they set off on the river once more. Apart from traversing yet another waterfall nothing of note happened and camp was made for the evening rest. Musharib was on watch and was ruminating on the various strange yet wonderful animals that called the jungle it’s home. As if called by his very thoughts, two feline shapes moved in the gloom and before the albino dwarf guide could react one of them pounced on him. It was a pair of hungry Kamadan’s, large leopards with six snakes growing from the fur on each ones back. Again the alarm was sounded and the explorers were roused from sleep to defend their camp. One of the Kamadan’s had hung back and attempted to breathe sleep inducing gas at Valdimir and Musharib. Both were unaffected and the jungle predators were killed easily. Musharib shared his knowledge of these beasts, saying that as a mated pair they would potentially have a nest with young nearby. The Merchant Prince Ifan Talro’a would pay a handsome price for Kamadan cubs. In the end it was decided that there was no room on the expedition for such a prize, although Cole did mark the spot on his map.
In the morning a strong wind was blowing from the North and it was blessedly cooler than normal although still around 25 degrees. The strong wind meant that the clouds rushed by and no rain fell. However, between the Alchemy Jug and Nundro making it rain, water and dehydration were not issues.
After a couple of hours, on the east bank of the river a great commotion was spotted. The jungle thinned out somewhat and everyone could see a huge horde of shambling figures, familiar looking zombies of Ras Nsi’s army of undead surrounding a dead Brontosaurus. The behemoth must have been over 70 ft tall when alive and the zombies were clambering all over the corpse, gorging on it’s dead flesh. The party of explorers simply floated on by, not wishing to disturb what looked to be over a hundred undead horrors.
After six hours on the river, Musharib pointed out a timber fortification on the West bank of the River Soshenstar and muttered “There is Camp Vengeance.”. A walled compound with watchtowers, complete with fluttering banners, and tents inside it, encircled by a ditch bristling with sharpened stakes. Undril Silvertusk pulled out a horn and blew causing birds to take off from the trees nearby. Atop the gatehouse two armoured guards appeared and shouted “By the Order of the Gauntlet, who goes there?” Valdimir announced that it was The Fellowship of the Forge and after some confusion and with Undril speaking up, the weary travellers were admitted. Inside was a motley crew of bedraggled soldiers along with some Chultan warriors manning sentry positions. Some walking wounded were taking their daily strolls, attended to by acolytes. An unwholesome stench filled the air and clouds of insects buzzed around. A half-elf wearing leather armour and brandishing a longbow who called himself Wulf Rygor greeted them. “It is good to see you Undril. The Commander is in his tent as usual. Who are these…. Others?” Undril spoke highly of the Fellowship, commenting how without Grom she would likely have perished at the blades of Goblin raiders. She asked after the Commander, whom she knew personally. Wulf replied “Commander Breakbone understands war well enough when it involves battle lines, waving banners, trumpets, and supply trains, but this war of ambush and creeping through the jungle only mystifies and frustrates him. He spends most of his time in his command tent, poring over maps and reports about the camp’s supplies. Let’s hope you have some news for him and he will want to see these other fellows too. Come!”
Inside the command tent a striking, bold figure with a fine moustache was sitting at a desk covered in sheets of paper. His polished breastplate stood on a stand nearby and priestess was in conversation with the man. The tents new occupants were finally noticed and the Commander looked up and smiled.
“Finally some good news! Tyr be praised! It is good to see you Undril Silvertusk! You have the despatches?” said the Commander. Then he eyed the strangers to him. “And who accompanies you? New recruits I see! Excellent! It is resolved then, these good souls will take our sick and injured back down the river to Port Nyanzaru” He searched through the pile of notes on his desk. “Here, you will take these manifest to Ekene-Afa so that much needed supplies will be sent. Can you leave now?”
Valdimir stepped forward and addressed the Commander, not by his title or family name, but with his given name. “Niles.” he said with a wry smile. “Our mission is of great importance, more so than any of your concerns.” He explained further about the Death Curse and the Fellowships journey to meet with the wise guardian of Orolunga in the hope that more of this mystery could be unfolded. Every time Vald said “Niles” the nobleman bristled his whiskers and harrumphed. He was red in the face and about to explode when Undril stepped in again, “Remember the battle of Myth Drannor?”. “How could I forget?” he said with a sigh “I should have these fellows arrested for insubordination during a military emergency! But alas, you have spoken well on their behalf and I shall not burden them further. We can be of no help to you in this quest however! Our mission is to purge the jungles of the foul undead, but it is proving more difficult than we bargained for. Leave us now!”
Sister Cyas, the priestess who had been with the Commander before, accompanied the companions back outside. The Fellowship were keen to continue their journey and asked if there may be someone in camp who had knowledge of the area. Sister Cyas introduced them to a Chultan scout called Lorsa. She was more than happy to tell them of the journey they had ahead – a four day trek South West from the camp would put them at the foot of the 1,800 ft high plateau atop which was the cursed town of Mbala. From this height they would be able to see all the way to the Heart of Ubtao to the East and the ziggurat of Orolunga to the West. From there they would need to head towards the setting sun for six days, crossing a river before they would be able to ascend the ruined ziggurat. As before, the brave explorers were warned of the beguiling nature of Orolunga and told to trust in the Chwinga, jungle spirits who would offer wisdom, even though they are unable to communicate. This was all sounded a bit weird. The night passed with the Fellowship sharing some of their beer with the troops and singing salty songs of the kind sung by soldiers.
When dawn broke the Fellowship were on their way. It was decided that they would leave their canoes here in the care of the Order of the Gauntlet and continue on foot as their path now led directly through the jungle. The days march was hard and the sun beat down extremely hot, but in the shade of the jungle canopy it did not pose as much of a threat and no one suffered as before. As the Fellowship camped for the night an odd apparition appeared. It looked like a wizard but was slightly transparent and it’s feet faded to just a wisp. “Where is she?” it moaned “Where is Widow Groat? She took my eyes! I must find her!”. Indeed, the ghostly form had no eyes, just dark holes. Grom was intrigued and tried to touch the spectre, but his hand passed right through and some of his life force was sucked out so he retreated, not trusting anything he can’t hit with his axe. The apparition made no sense, answering that Widow Groat was an evil old crone with gold pieces over her eyes and a nest of ants living in her skull when questioned. This thing was clearly insane and another camping spot was found for the night.
The morning after whilst hiking through the jungle, ship sized boulders seen in the distance near the plateau towering over the canopy, the explorers came across an ancient ruined temple. All that was left was crumbled lichen covered stone pillars with vines hanging down. Musharib was excited and moved towards a giant stone circle still standing amidst the ruin. Like the rest of the stone, the circle was covered in a carpet of moss, but Musharib started to hack away at it with his handaxe. When asked what he was doing, he explained that in older times Ubtao would grant favour on those who solved the mazes of life. As more of the stone circle was revealed a maze like carving could be glimpsed. The rest of the team helped out and soon the whole thing was cleared, Musharib traced the lines with his finger, working around the maze and solving it. Grom and Skopti both did the same, but Valdimir got bored and said it was stupid so didn’t finish it. After completing the maze something amazing happened, a reddish liquid which filled large leaves above the stone circle spilled over and Musharib caught it in his waterskin as did Skopti and Grom. Musharib said drinking the liquid could temporarily make you a friend of the animals of the jungle.