Having escaped death in the cave at the summit of the Pass, the adventurers pushed on down the mountainside and well into the night where they finally caught up with their guide at his evening camp in the wilds. The party reunited, and Entan insisted that the adventurers not endanger the group of travelers like that ever again. The following day the group pressed onward; the slow-moving, malnourished miners, who followed Nysteld since the cave, now set the meandering pace as they all continued north for another week of travel. The party put the harrowing events of battling Osusk behind them and spent time bonding as Entan continued to lead them toward the foothills. The beauty of the landscape and its wildlife washed over our adventurers, but their sightseeing was bittersweet as some in the group struggled with the poisons of addiction.
The following player characters traveled through the cold and north toward the temperate foothills:
- Hodjai, the Djenndan warrior, played by @Evan
- Sookta, the Djenndan blacksmith, played by @xSubNuke
- Lemur-o, the kahlnissá assassin, played by @Terri
- Nysteld, the human seer, played by @saelbrin
- Jamia Copperdrum, the Pulnagá mercenary, played by @katherinehunter77
The traveling party continued to be led by Entan, and was joined by Roth’is, Gur’oru, Kishsahat, and Dyrakos, as well as the eight surviving ais’lun miners: a thinly old man named Yau’arr, Lorrana, Taden Yalast and his two children, Un’derr and Nyme’id, Dan’sulo and his friend Dan’ia, and a sickly young boy named Zadalury. No one among the traveling party was able to speak successfully with the ais’lun except Roth’is, and he could barely make sense of what their words meant. The nobleman thought the miners spoke some dialect of Low Es’ahn that developed in the forklands. But what was clear was that the miners seem to follow Nysteld wherever she goes, completely enthralled by her every action.
Autumn in the lower wilds gives birth to a starkly beautiful landscape of large, leafless branches that stand watch over snow-capped shrubs and flowering low ground foliage, all of which lays dormant under the summer canopy of the overhead deciduous trees. Though there are frequent gusts of cold winds from the mountains to the south, traveling north in this part of the wilds means heading toward a more forgiving climate and noticeably more stable seasons.
After breaking camp and beginning their daily trek the morning after they reunited, Nysteld makes it known that she wants to see the ais’lun miners to safety. She asked Roth’is, “I wouldn’t ask you to do this if I could do it myself, but would you help us learn a little bit more about this group of ais’lun so we can come up with a plan about what to do with them once we get to civilization.” The nobleman reluctantly agreed to help them learn a bit more about the ais’lun, but warned, “I am not certain that we can understand each other at all.” Still, the nobleman was able to confirm their names, their former connection to Osusk, and their former home in the forklands. Sookta counseled caution regarding the miners, that not only could they not understand their language, but that they also might be misinterpreting their will and intentions. No matter what these miners were about, they seemed resolved to trudge through the cold in their rags, following Nysteld and making no complaints.
Osusk had left Hodjai with a grisly parting gift: a deep dagger wound on his shoulder. It looked worse by midday than it had when he first received it. The gash had blackened edges and persisted in bleeding and festering painfully. It made the warrior feel queasy. Gur’oru cautioned that in his experience, poisons of that nature were persistent and sometimes deadly. The adventurers did their best to bind the wounds, but they could do little else for their companion.
Entan’s lead wagon put pressure on their pace as he was now on the lookout for exotic animals he would be able to capture and sell as the primary goal of his trade. But the only animals that the adventurers encountered on their first day of travel were a group of six pikas. The rodents were beautiful little things–smart and capable creatures that made clearly deliberate actions. As the adventurers encountered them, they appeared to be fighting over the corpse of a wolverine. The six rodents each scrambled around the corpse attempting to claim a piece for themselves. Two of the largest pikas seemed to clutching the corpse’s head and arguing, while three others fought dragging the corpse in opposite directions by its legs. The sixth pika seemed to be chirping at its comrades, as if to suggest that there was enough of the wolverine to go around. Entan resolved to let the pikas stay their course, claiming that these creatures were not in high demand and would not fetch a very handsome price as beasts of trade. Meanwhile, Hodjai’s dagger wound bled through his bandages and the Djenndan warrior began to feel sluggish and weak.
Toward the end of the first day of travel, the adventurers encountered a robed man with a hunched back pulling a rickety cart past a cluster of shrubs along Entan’s path of travel. The caravan stopped and the man greeted everyone warmly, introducing himself as Achoris, a Curio Trader on his way south to Pelmora. Lem, who was just beginning to feel the affects of withdrawal from her fix of potion she drank the day before, stepped forward to talk to this strange man. She was suspicious of him, most likely because his robes showed a striking resemblance to those Dadruath wore. The traveling trader did his best to remain pleasant in the face of distrust. Lem asked the man, “What brings you on this path?”
“Mm, simply travel,” replied Achoris. “There’s only one way to get to Pelmora from the Barren Wastes,” he added. “And that’s through the wilds.” It was a lucky chance to encounter anyone or anything other than dangerous creatures and treacherous storms in the Northern Wilds, but the group had been lucky with good weather and now they had stumbled on a curio merchant making the long trek from the far north to the City of Embers. And, as luck would have it, Achoris carried with him a number of dangerous and controversial potions, some of which are said to help wounds heal more quickly and to counter the effects of poison. The adventurers negotiated a price for some of these potions, even though it was dangerous to use them as both Lem’ and Hodjai were familiar. They both struggled with an addiction to potions, and each day the withdrawal only got worse.
In his cart, Achoris also had a strange glove that he was hoping to sell in Pelmora, but told the adventurers that they could make him an offer if it interested them. The aged gauntlet was the fabled Glove of Emsor, though none in the group had ever heard the tale. It was said that the Glove of Emsor was carved from the belly of a Great Bear in the Barren Wastes in a time before the Empire existed, and was imbued with an ancient and unknown power. The Glove was said to have been lost in the last great avalanche at Land’s Edge, but Achoris had found it in a craft tent along the ice villages of Dourm. He said he had traded seven rather pricey relics in order to acquire the Glove, and was hoping to sell it for enough threnns to retire once he reached the City of Embers.
The adventurers were only bedazzled by the Glove for a short time, before they decided that potions were intriguing enough for them. The group wished Achoris well on his journey, and offered their hope that he could sell the Glove to people who would be able to benefit from it. The adventurers and the Curio Trader were set to part ways when Hodjai realized that it would help to know what the poison was afflicting him, if Achoris could help determine it. Remembering that they had looted some vials of a poison from Osusk, they showed the trader and asked what it was. Achoris inspected the vials for some time, and said it is most fortunate that they had found him indeed, because the poison in Hodjai’s dagger wound was a deadly one they often call “The Putrid Weeper.” When such a poison is applied to an open wound, the wound is unable to heal or stop bleeding. The victim will continue to bleed as the wound “weeps” until they become too weak to survive. Hodjai, already trepidatious about all this sorcery and intrigue, had heard enough about this Putrid Weeper. He confirmed with Achoris that the potions he was selling would help counter the ill-effects of the poison.
Then, unexpectedly, Achoris offered to trade all the potions that the adventurers required for just a vile of the poison. He pontificated about how it would be in the adventurers’ best interests, and that he was more than willing to help, but it was also clear to the group that he greatly valued the poison that they possessed. Still, the prospect of trading a poison they happened to find for four that they needed, while also keeping their gold, was too great for them to pass up. The trade went forward, and Achoris took his leave singing a jaunty tune as he wheeled his cart south. The adventurers resumed their trek northward while Hodjai administered the anti-poison to his wound. Within the hour he began to feel that the wound had stopped bleeding, and though he was weary and starting to feel withdrawal from his potion addictions, he felt more like himself.
Their second day of travel was blessed with wonderful weather and a brisk pace, but otherwise was uneventful except when Kishsahat threw her bear pemmican at Dyrakos’s head. The rest of the group did not know what the fuss was about, but it felt comforting, somehow, to see that Kishsahat was mostly back to her old self and that their travels were moving forward with a positive momentum. Hodjai’s wound closed successfully and the warm airs from the west surrounded the party with the smells of sweetgrass and river salts. The very next day their bout of good weather and temperate winds continued. By midday near a rushing brook and a field of snow-capped willow bushes, Sookta and Entan noticed four, thick-furred muskox. The party goaded Entan that he should capture and try to domesticate the furry oxen, stating they would make an excellent addition to the group to aide their travel. Feeling that they could afford to take the time, Entan agreed. With an expert’s touch he approached the muskox, bridled them, and tethered them to the wagon caravan.
Near the mid afternoon, Entan asked Sookta to build a saddle contraption for each of the muskox in order to make it easier for the ais’lun to ride on the newly domesticated animals. Nysteld and Lem’ took the opportunity while the caravan was stopped to go foraging for supplies. They found a number of supplies to share with the group, and became more acquainted with their motivations for adventure. Meanwhile, Sookta found enough supplies to build successfully three saddles for the group of muskox, which seemed to come as a relief if only briefly to the cracked feet of the miners. The following day saw beautiful weather and an improved pace. The group of ais’lun all rode on the newly fashioned saddles atop their large muskox mounts. Laughter and hope echoed throughout the wilds, though at times Entan silently cursed his poor luck at finding any tradeable animals thus far.
The party discussed the difficulty that both Hodjai and Lem’ faced in trying to break themselves from their potion addiction. Sookta explored his fascination with potions at length, but admitted that he just does not understand how they work. Of course he understands the cause and effect of drinking beneficial potions, but the chemical workings and functions are beyond his current comprehension. The blacksmith imagined, though, that it would be useful to invent a potion to cure the addiction one experiences to certain potions.
But primarily, the adventurers talked to each other about their motivations and their plans once they make it to Cyopolda. Lem’, envisioning that perhaps Roth’is would be willing to aide their adventures in Cyopolda, asked Roth’is where he was from, and what brought him to be traveling north at this time. The group learned that Roth’is is 122 years old, a member of the “ancient noble family of Thobal.” Roth’is kept much of his story shrouded in mystery for the group, but it was clear that he had a deep connection to Djenndan culture, to the nobility of the Ancient Kingdom of Scorth, and to the forklands and the surrounding borderlands. For the first time, the adventurers began to see the nobleman as more than just a burden in their own journey north.
Their fifth day of travel graced them once again with good weather and a temperate breeze. By now in the wilds, visions of the looming mountains and foothills of the west are visible on clear days, and the vistas visible beyond the clearings of evergreens were truly breathtaking. The landscape begins to change dramatically near the edge of the foothills, and the rising and parting slopes are jutted with large boulders and lined with tiny creeks. Over one such sloped rise, Entan drew the caravan to a halt. He was filled with an indescribable glee, and without words he pointed ahead to the waterside clearing just below their position. There the group encountered a small village of meerkats who regarded them with curiosity. There were some meerkats hugging each other near their crude longhouse, others working with river stones near the brook, and others drying fish on a rack made of river reeds. Meerkats are said to be the most highly intelligent of all the beastfolk. They are feline in nature, but are bipedal with grasping hands. They are gesturally communicative, but it does not seem that they use language with one another, nor do they appear to make sounds of any kind. They use rudimentary tools and have surprisingly thoughtful eyes. It was a rare thing to encounter a beastfolk village like this.
Entan was elated and expressed interest in capturing some meerkats for his trade animal collection. There was a mixed uproar among the adventure party. Nysteld was vehemently against it. She explained that he should look for other animals with less complex social structures. The party launched into a deep philosophical discussion about the ethics of domesticating animals, what comprises intelligence among beasts, and ultimately whether or not animals should be captured and removed from where they choose to live. But Entan was unmoved. He had been doing this type of work for nearly a decade, and he noted that each of the animals in his trade is treated with respect and kindness. Often, he noted, his animals live a better life in and around civilization than they ever could experience in the wilds, regardless of their social structure. The debate grew intense at times, but luckily the meerkats did not hear the party and continued about their daily routine down by the creek side. Hodjai was surprised that they spent so much time talking about the meerkats as animals, since to the Djenndan warrior the small village seemed like a group of people, no different than viantu or humans. The idea that these people could be bought and sold seemed foreign to him. Despite the protests and the open-ended philosophical quandary, Entan was determined to catch a few meerkats. Unfortunately for him, and to the quiet celebration of many others in the party, as the survivalist approached the meerkat village they all became frightened and ran away. He was unable to catch up with them.
On their sixth day of travel the weather continued its blissful calm, and the trees gave way to a variety of grassland shrubs as the group stood firmly in the foothills. It was here beyond the forest’s reach that Entan turned the caravan’s course west to head strait toward the larger hills and mountains clearly visible, a looming obstacle between the Northern Wilds and the Protectorate. Seeing the foothills approach put a smile on Gur’oru’s face, and the old veteran began to tell the tall tales that many young Djenndan hear as children. The stories name the Great Giants of the pass beyond the foothills and tell of their deeds immortalized in stone.
As evening approached, the adventurers set up camp with the hopeful stories of the Great Giants still bouncing around in their imaginations. Dyrakos made a wholesome broth with hard grains and meat for dinner. After they all ate, they settled in and both Lem’ and Hodjai suffered from a shaky disposition. The effects of their withdrawal had caught up with them. Lem’ knew that there was a slim chance she would not pull through, that this was the worst of it, but that it was mostly possible to overcome the fever and weakness of withdrawal. So she decided that she wanted to try to let the enormity of her symptoms run their course. She had almost reached this point the week prior, and had even written a letter of farewell to her brother when she had resigned herself to let her withdrawal symptoms do their worst. But the altercation with Osusk compelled her to fight, and so she had flooded her body with vigor potion one more time, giving her an immediate fix and starting her road to recovery all over again. Now she sat strung out, weak, but determined to persevere.
Nystled tried to ease Lem’s suffering with a soothing tea. The other adventurers took turns checking in on Lem, except for Hodjai who was becoming feverish himself. Nysteld stayed with Lem’ the most. Toward the middle of the night the kahlnissá ghost’s breaths became rapid and shallow. Unconscious and in a cold sweat, Lem’ succumbed to her withdrawal sickness and stopped breathing. There was nothing anyone could do but watch the fever take her. When Nysteld saw the last breath go from Lem’s chest, she placed her hand on the kahlnissá and quietly uttered in Brolean, “With whatever comes next, I hope you find your balance.”
The news shocked and saddened the group. For the entirety of the next day the group discussed what they should do with Lem’ and finally decided that they should find a place to bury her in the wilds according to the traditions of her people. The adventurers found a great oak tree and Jamia and Kishsahat dug under its base near the thick roots. They wrapped Lem’s body in a cloak and interred her under the large tree. Kishsahat took out her knife and artfully carved a face looking down at the resting place of Lem. The group stayed near the tree for a time before returning to their camp to eat their evening meal in a solemn silence. Entan and Roth’is both eulogized the kahlnissá ghost. The rest of the party discussed what should be done with Lem’s belongings. Dyrakos spoke more words than he had said in all the days combined since they left the City of Embers. He said definitively, “We can’t divide Lem’s goods among us because Lem is still with us. So her stuff will stay in the wagon, so when we need her help she’ll be there for us.” The sentiment was understood and no one in the entire caravan offered argument. The group had difficulty sleeping that evening.
Hodjai especially became overwhelmed by the events of that day, and as the evening approached he began to imagine he would suffer the same fate as his companion. But rather than drink a potion to ease his withdrawal pains, he too decided to suffer the symptoms and take his chances with the fever that claimed the life of his comrade. After making his decision, he stepped to the edge of camp to prepare himself with the ritual of “Zakora,” or passage into the other world. This would be the second time the warrior found himself performing Zakora; most warriors only perform the ritual once. Finding a patch of dry, smooth earth, the warrior painfully knelt and shakily etched the Alldedan symbols for Zakora into the ground. After chanting for a moment, and thanking Lem’ for leading the way, he scooped up the dirt containing the symbols and dusted them into his hands.
That night Hodjai’s breathing became labored for a time, and the sweats drenched his nightcloak as if a rain had fallen. But the adventurer awoke the next morning feeling that the worst had passed him by. His companions were there to greet him. It seemed that he had been spared once again. Just before the morning meal, Nysteld decided to write a letter to her conversants back at the Sodality of the Unladen to ask about research for how to prepare a potion to aid a body in its detoxification. Addiction, she posited, is a physical manifestation of a body in a state of instability. There must be a way to provide additional physical aids to support the body, to help it flush poisons, and provide a counterbalance for those who may become addicted. This, she imagined, would help people more safely overcome the most dangerous effects of the fevers of withdrawal.
The conversations over breakfast turned toward their continued travels. Entan informed the group that they would soon be arriving in one of the many villages that populate the foothills from south to north along the vast western mountain ranges. The particular village they were approaching is called Heksaag, and their caravan guide promised that it would be a welcome respite from the harsh realities of adventure through the wilds. Traditionally, Entan claimed, he spends two days resting in Heksaag before continuing west through the Great Giants of the mountain pass. Primarily this gave him time to recuperate and drink plenty of wild rose mead, a local specialty. They will drink to Lem’s memory and to their future endeavors as we continue in our next installment. Thanks to the players for a great session. I’m looking forward to the continuation!