Unsung Heroes

The road past Habe
featuring fire beetles, awkward situations, and dead dragons

After a good day of traveling, we spotted the village of Habe in the distance. At first this seemed like a great time to get a bit of rest and buy equipment, but we were disconcerted when we saw that the village was about two thirds Kald. However, Jareth reassured us that this place isn’t under the control of the Kald and that most of the people here are misfits and that the Kaldan Empire doesn’t really care about this patch of country.

We were approached by a militia unit, which was worrying, though they turned out to be wearing the uniforms of the Nuthellan army. It was a mixed unit too, which was interesting; I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kalds, Stonekin, Dragonborn, and humans all in the same unit. The commander, who introduced herself as Agate XXIII, asked us if we were under orders or if we were just passing through. At first we said we were just passing through, but it rapidly occurred to us that we were wearing army uniforms ourselves, and we would look like deserters if we didn’t give a good explanation of ourselves. Jareth handed her Verman’s letter, and she seemed impressed, and sent us on our way. The whole thing got really awkward with Nihm, though; she started growling and her tail began to twitch the minute she saw Kalds once we got in sight of the town. Coryn had given her a ball of yarn to keep her occupied, though even that wound up getting awkward. She’d gotten all tangled up and asked someone to cut her loose. Agate XXIII sent one of her adjutants (a young Kald) to do it, and Nihm’s tail went bottle-brushy. The poor kid looked terrified out of his mind.

We wound up spending the night at the town’s inn. During my watch, that Kaldan kid came up trying to be all silent-like. He had a note in his hand, and stammered “give this to the kitty” and ran off. He’s a good kid. I hope he doesn’t die an ignoble death.

I gave it to Nihm when everyone woke up. She seemed genuinely touched by it, and went out to find him to thank him; I think his name was Schumacher. She came back looking fairly happy; she’d talked to him, it had gone well, and apparently had found some milk. She seems to have had a bit of a breakthrough, or perhaps a religious experience; apparently she has been told by her ancestors that she’s supposed to defeat the Kald without hating.

On our way out of town, we ran into a troop of guards from Habe carrying back a dead fire beetle. There were some more questions about who we were, and we told them that Agate XXIII had already spoken to us and let them have a look at our orders again. Coryn showed some interest in the fire beetle, and wanted to try and get its poison sack out, but it wound up being impractical for some reason, and so we wound up just moving on.

The next day, Jareth had a pants malfunction while on the road. His buttons wound up bursting, and for the rest of the day he had to walk holding up his pants with one hand. None of the rest of us were able to do anything about it at the time, and none of us knew how to sew, so we went to sleep as usual.

All went normally until something very bizarre and disturbing happened during the night. During my and Coryn’s watch, we noticed Nihm crawl into Jareth’s bedroll. That was weird enough, because even if Nihm’s been acting a lot nicer lately, I still wouldn’t expect her to start cuddling up to Jareth like a housecat. Surprise and mystification turned to shock and horror when she crawled all the way into the bedroll, and her head began bobbing up and down. My jaw landed somewhere in the Underdark. I eventually managed to turn to look at Coryn and asked, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” All I heard in reply was “yeah.” I think her might have made some pithy comment like usual, but I was lost in the horror of the moment. Even though after a moment we were able to figure out what was probably going on, it was still horrifying to watch on account of what it looked like was going on.

Jareth woke up the next morning, greatly shocked to find that someone had fixed his pants while he had apparently been asleep in his bedroll. He asked what had happened, and we could only look at Nihm. The whole situation was very uncomfortable. Nihm was sputtering about how we were perverts, and Jareth was sputtering about the fact that Nihm had been next to his man parts. It was very bizarre.

A few days later, as we were traveling we heard a lot of noise coming from off the road. We were divided between whether we should go have a look, or if we should just keep on walking. Nihm clambered up a tree to have a look. When she came down, she said that she had spotted a dead black dragon a little ways into the woods, and that while she couldn’t see what was making the noise, something seemed to be eating it.

We ran off screaming like little girls after that. I don’t know what could kill a dragon and eat it, but I didn’t want to find out, and neither did anybody else apparently.

A few days after that, the heat wave finally broke, and the weather became cool and windy. It was a great relief to everybody; it’s about time it started feeling like autumn.

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Wet kitty's and furry blankets

Day breaks and we start walking through the forest toward where the druid lives. Jareth decided that we should camp off the road for the night and Raharjo and Coryn took the first watch, Jareth and myself taking the second. I know that Nihm prefers to sleep in the trees so I decided that I would just tie her up to a branch and hang her little tent nest there safely off the ground.

About halfway through my watch, everyone in camp is completely startled when the sound of an assault rifle being shot rings through the trees. I myself jumped about three feet, Raharjo is woken out of a dead sleep in his magic roll and Coryn is sitting up very straight and stock still, holding his rifle.

“Are you okay?” Raharjo asks him.

“Is he dead?” Coryn asks as a reply.

“Is who dead?”

“…nevermind.” Coryn lays back down.

Raharjo wants to help him, try to find out what’s going on, but it’s decided that Coryn wouldn’t take any help offered. The Jerk. We tell him to be careful and to not sleep with his gun so close to him perhaps. Day breaks, everyone is ready to go, and no one mentions the events of the night before.

“Hail the travelers!”

We look around. A man comes up to us and wants to know what we’re doing, where we’re going. We try to explain to him that we’re looking for a guy to help Nihm and about the deathroot when all of a sudden a shimmer appears on the road ahead of us and a Dragonborn appears out of it. He comes over and asks about us encountering deathroot and asks to see her. He puts her gingerly on the ground, examines her wound muttering to himself in Drakonic. (It’s like he’s been following us or something)

He asks Coryn, who is walking about with his flamethrower, if he could make a useful fire with it. Coryn agrees and the Dragon guy takes some pine needles and performs some kind of acupuncture to try and find out what’s wrong. He decides that the effect is necromantic and that he might be able to wake her up. But he needs her to not move, else she will sever her chi connections, whatever that means. He takes a few of the pins out, placing a few others elsewhere.

“Oops…” He hastily places a pin back from where he took it from.

“What happened?” I growled.

“…nothing,” he quickly replies.

He asks us to help him slowly, but quickly remove the pins from her back.
She’s bleeding a bit from the pricks he’s created but she still hasn’t woken. We decided to toss water onto her to wake her up. It worked! I’m pretty sure that we’ve gone mostly deaf from the sudden screeching noises she’s making. Nothing looks or sounds more pathetic than a wet kitty.

She seems to be okay for the most part. The draconic guy starts to ask her if she feels okay, if she hurts anywhere and explains to her that she has a close encounter with deathroot. He asks where we’re going and we tell him that we’re heading to Zerhun, and asks that we send his regards to the Abbot there and tell him he’s looking into the deathroot problem. Gladly! Except I never caught the man’s name. Sure hope someone else did.

Before we head off, Raharjo asks the Draconic guy if he’s ever heard of mud people. He says in some legends yes, but not here on Harn. Raharjo explains to him that he met a bunch of them, how he tripped over a mud baby and how its people came looking for it. The draconic guy seemed to be very interested especially when we told him that the baby seemed to ‘eat’ the deathroot off of Raharjo’s hand without leaving any ill effects. As we take our leave, Nihm pats him on the head and crawls back up onto my shoulders where she apparently felt she belonged.

During watch that evenin Coryn hears a noise off the road that sounds kind of …clanky. He’s reminded of Alfy.

“Raharjo.”

“Yes?”

“I hear what sounds like a metal man coming down the road toward us.”

After about fifteen minutes or so, Coryn realizes that the sound isn’t coming any closer and goes to investigate. He finds an Eld sitting by a large rock and operating? on a spare arm. He appears

to not have any weapons near him. Coryn tries to stealth to get closer to him-

“Greeting Fleshling!” the Eld says. “Are you part of the group down the road?”

Coryn’s face drops. “Well, yes.”

“My name is Nefernefrvatenhebmun. You can call me Muny.”

Coryn scoffs internally. “You may call me Coryn.”

Coryn invites him to join our camp and Muny agrees, but with hesitation. He thinks he should hang back a bit until Coryn announces his presence so as not to make the rest of us skittish.

Coryn walks back to camp as quietly as a herd of stampeding elephants and wakes up Jareth. I apparently managed to sleep through everything Coryn starts talking. His timing couldn’t have been better. The magic on my bedroll had just worn off.

He states he found a robot and asks if he can bring him in. That as nice of him. Can’t even call the poor thing an Eld. We all agree and Coryn goes back to the ‘robot’ to lead him back to camp.

He introduces himself as Nefernefrvatenhebmun but that we may all call him Muny. He’s a traveling Storyman, apparently. His current story is about the root that inhabits human bodies, takes control of them and eventually kills them. Raharjo tells him that we know that story pretty well and Muny pumps us for information about the root. He offers to let us look through his bag in return for the story. We thought it best to look in the morning when there is better light.

Afterward, once he had pumped us for information, he goes to the edge of camp to not disturb the others who need rest. Nihm, who has yet to sleep goes, to him and tells him a story of her own about the great tree of life and how things are not going well. Muny allows her to look through his bag in return for her story. She agrees, but also wants to wait until morning.

When morning arrives, he starts rifling through his bag. Inside we learn there is a couple of prosthetic Eld limbs, a double barrel pistol, two cases of rifle ammo, a case of pistol ammo, a couple

of spell scrolls, some boots of stomping and a brooch of stability. He also has lots of gold. For her story, Nihm was awarded an item of her own, and decided to take some gold. The rest of us decide on a box of twenty rifle bullets. Before we leave, Nihm tells Muny another story about the emcampment that we all escaped from and how it burned down in a “BLAAAAAAAAAAAZE OF GLOOOOOOOOOOOORY!!!” She decides on the box of twenty pistol bullets as her reward. Can never go wrong with ammo. That stuff’s expensive.

Later, as Muny is walking down the road, the rest of us comment about what a weirdo he is and how we basically conned him out of some free stuff.

We come upon a roadside stand that appears to be a small blacksmithing station. Inside we find a portable blacksmith shop worked by a Stonekin. Nihm climbs onto a pole to watch him work and he

finally notices our presence. His name is Shist the XXXII and he has stuff for sale! He also seems to be very impressed when he finds out that we escaped from a prison camp. We learn from him that he wants to become an officer in the army so he can keep blacksmithing. But in order to do so, he needs money. Thus the portable station he has set up. Nihm inquires about how much he needs and then gives him the one hundred gold he needs. Shist…shits. He stutters asks us if there is anything we need. We decline. Still determined to pay us back somehow, he asks us our names and ranks and after a few minutes of some weird clinking sounds, he hands us all medallions with our names and ranks on them. These could come in handy for identification should we ever need it.

Shist explains to us why he wants to join the army; we learn that he has this awesome idea for a steam powered vehicle that could hold men inside. This vehicle would be armor plated and could be mounted with guns. Once he creates this formidable weapon, he says he’s going to name it Quill, in honor of Nihm.

We move on, due south and the forests have cleared away to rolling hills. We camp for the night. During the night, Nihm hears a peculiar sound. She looks around and finds that Coryn is crying in his sleep. She goes over to him, cuddles up next to him and calms him down enough to let him fall back asleep. She comes back over to Jareth and myself and says she’s going to be taking his watch. He apparently needs his rest. During this time, she makes breakfast for everyone! yay… grits. ….

During our travels that day, we find what looks like Muny’s camping spot. There are random brass cogs and wires littering the gound. Nothing really happens for a few days after that. We just do a lot of walking. Like a LOT of walking. My freaking feet are going to fall off, I’m sure. However, one night after about three days Coryn sees Nihm’s foot twitching while she’s sleeping. But it’s almost like something invisible is tugging on it. He goes over to investigate, lifts her foot up, looks under it and feels the ground below it, but there is nothing there. Nihm sleeps on seemingly oblivious. When it comes time for watch change, Coryn tells Nihm about her foot and hwat it was doing. She stares at it for a while but nothing happens. As we’re travelling the next day, Raharjo notices that Nihm’s foot keeps turning and leading her along the side of the road. Right as he’s about to say something, her foot turns her all the way around perpendicular to the road. There’s a track there.

“We should go this way,” says Nihm.

“Why?” asks Raharjo.

“There’s a track here,” she explains to him as a mother might explain to their child.

Raharjo looks on his map and realizes that Nihm is right. This is indeed the right way. We go that way and it meets up with another road. I can’t help but feel that were it not for Nihm’s wayward foot, we would get lost. And quickly. After about an hour we camp. That evening, Nihm and Jareth hear Coryn muttering in his sleep about stupid lizards and barbecue. Nihm laughs it off, but Jareth is kind of worried. Coryn wakes up the next morning feeling duly refreshed.

Again, we continue walking and come along a Harnesh with furs to sell. Nihm, being the generous soul she is, buys us some blankets to sleep with. We’re coming up on a swamp and they could come in pretty handy. However, as we get up the next morning, we realize that it’s as hot as the seven hells. ….go figure. Get some warm blankets and we don’t even need them now.

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Jareths' Journal
Making fun of dead people....?

After the Deluge…..

It seems like I lost sight of Nihm, and that’s not a healthy thing. Frantically (yet casually so as not to cause alarm) I look around and find her, limply tangled amidst a giant tree overcome by the deluge. Nihm is not moving, but together we discover she’s alive, even as someone discovers that a root has taken…uh…root in her.

We have to rely on Raharjo’s expertise on the matter, but he seems to think that we can fix her. I’m not much good here, so I hang back while he and Coryn go to work on Nihm. It’s a process that would otherwise look quite painful- what with the fire and everything- but they seem to have confidence in their methods. They begin cutting her open and gingerly taking the roots out of her, burning them out after. At one of the last one, the odd mudbaby snatches out the last branch, and it forms a smile on the thing’s face before it eats the branch.

We discover that the last branch is actually grown into Nihm’s spine, and I feel quite sorry for her- well, before I remember all the misery she’s caused me. Coryn exposits that perhaps if Raharjo uses his hand, the host would know the difference between a viable host and a soon-to-be-dead one. We all wait with bated breath while we see if it works- and it does. It’s now in Raharjo’s finger now, and he starts to mildly panic. The mudbaby reaches for him, but it seems like it wants the branch inside Raharjo’s finger. Regardless, Cam seems to be offended there, and tries to grab the mudbaby.

And that’s when we see a hill forming out of the morass, and then it explodes. In its place are roughly human sized mud people. Raharjo tries to use his words on them, and Cam tries to set the baby in front of it.

Or rather, Cam gives the thing to me to do it! But, I don’t speak Mudpeople, so I improvise: I speak loudly and gesticulate grandly. Afterwards, the wailing baby is pacified, and the mudpeople take something out of it- an obsidian rock, rather- and tosses it at Raharjo. They leave, looking for something.

The traders come back and ask us what’s going on, but we scarcely know ourselves. But, we have to move on. Cam and Raharjo fuss over Nihm for a bit, before Cam straps her to her back. Then, we go. Of course, our “friends” aren’t nearly as happy to see us as they used to be. They don’t seem to like Coryn at all (something about making fun of them watching their friend die), and they don’t want us to make camp with their camp. Fair enough.

I take watch with Cam. We’re approached by one of them, with apologies- and warnings. This person believes that we’re not safe in the town ahead. It’s sound advice, and well heeded. I don’t like where this is going, but we’ve really no choice.

We leave early, trying to get to the town before the traders do, just so we can get some help for Nihm. We’re lucky, and we do get there about a day later. The doctor that we take her to cross examines Raharjo about R’s methods, and is pretty bent on blaming the Kald for this. I don’t know if it’s the Kald or something natural, but whatever it is, it’s quite harmful to us.

Regardless, we thank the man. He tells us that there’s no cleric around, and we wonder if there is one for safety’s sake. He tells us there’s a druid nearby, but that he’s late. We leave, but not before paying him in Crack Powder, because that stuff is in trouble anywhere.

We look around this place, and I recognize that I’m pretty penniless. I happen upon a woodcutter who needs some things delivered, and that I can keep the difference if I can up-sell this stuff. and I’m game.

Turns out, as a door to door salesman, I’m pretty good. It feels like an abuse of my skill, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I suppose if this whole soldiering thing doesn’t get me anywhere, I could sell appliances to people….

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Jareth's Journal, Part 6
Always nice meeting new friends...under false pretenses.

The Next Day…

The good news is, it’s not raining. The bad news? Mud. Everywhere. Something around here smells, too, and I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s all those dead bodies that we came across. I think I’ve got something on my boots.

Cam shouts something, that I miss, but I do see what she’s pointing at- some man-eating beast I think is called a Waver, and she thinks it’s very VERY hungry. I go tell Nihm to climb the tree and see if it’s friendly. Coryn decides to yell at it. It gets closer. It might be a hippogryph with some kind of scorpion tail? Either way, it yells at us in some kind of language, and I think we might be screwed.

I don’t know what Coryn is saying to it, but I think we might be dinner.

It licks Cam in the face, and she gives it all her meat so that it doesn’t eat her. I back away, just in case. Coryn begans talking to the thing, and I hope he’s not selling us out. I keep my eye out, even as it begins sniffing at my pouch. I give him some meat- no, not that one!- and he backs off. It has a few things to say, and flies away- Coryn calls it “Rosebud”.

Not long after, our road forks, and we decide to go Northeast. Granted, it seems to be longer, but safer. Coryn tells us that Rosebud said that there were some people going that way, too.

Hopefully, they’re friendly people.

Raharjo and Cam get a closer look, at the footprints, which are pretty deep. Coryn puts in his two cents; perhaps the tracks we are following aren’t trying to hide themselves. Raharjo deduces that these people are under a forced march. We continue on, unsure of whether or not that we want to meet the makers of these tracks. We soldier on nonetheless, and make camp at the end of the day.

The road has dried up a little bit, and we gain some ground on whoever it is in front of us, and the weather dries up a bit. It’s not long before we see the caravan in front of us. There are some Dragonborn in the group, as well as some Kalds. Hmm…

They’ve made camp on the side of the road, eating but not standing. Coryn, Raharjo, and myself try to sneak up on them, and they’re speaking Harnesh- which is good I guess, and ty seem to be talking about some kind of monster on their heels, and something else about a person named Yuri who got killed. They mght not be harmful to us…

We agree to let me go out there and announce myself. They tell me not to go south. A tree killed their friend. I tell them that we are a troupe of dancers, and that my name (alias!) is Richard Danson. After a short break, we break camp, and begin traveling with the merchants. After a bit of conversation, their partnership is just as strange as ours. These people are pretty poor, but they each have a specialty. They’ve got some supplies, and Coryn suggests that we let them use our bedrolls. They are wary, but grateful in the end.

Our travels continue, and these guys are pretty relaxed. They’ve all known each other for a long time, and they visit towns in Nutella and help people fix up their homes. They’re wondering do-gooders, essentially. Thankfully, the day passes uneventfully, and we make camp once again. I think they like us!

There’s a storm coming, though, and in the early morning, a tree falls over. It doesn’t rain though- weird. The air smells like electricity and ozone- an odd smell. That tree is on fire, and we establish a fire line and put it out. We find a river and bathe…

Raharjo asks about the town we’re going to (though I should’ve done that myself!). The town seems to be a stopgap between bigger places.

There’s a lot more traveling, here. Oh yeah, and finally the rain comes. In a flash flood. We head for the hills, hoping to get out of the flood. Instead, we get assaulted by a wall of water! We try to get away, and Raharjo seems to have inherited some sort of…mud baby? The thing cries an awful lot.

After the flood, the landscape is unrecognizable, and the mudbaby is asleep at Raharjo’s feet….

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Jareth's Journal, Again.
So, we're in a forest, right?

Well, I survived a grass dragon, thanks to the impromptu help of Nihm, who’s still wriggling under the thing.

And she bites me. And yells. And points. And bleeds. And chastises me.

It kind of makes me wonder if she has any friends at all.

Well, she has one, at least. Cam tries to tend her wounds, and I’m still pretty shocked. I step back while Cam and Nihm harvest the, um, grass dragon. Or rather, I watch them mutilate the corpse of the thing for no apparent reason. I take a breather as they others check on Coryn. When everyone is ready, we travel once again. Thankfully, there’s no more excitement.

When we set up camp, Cam agrees to take the first couple of watches, and I’ll take the next couple.

Unfortunately, I wake up in time to watch Nihm utterly destroy a bush with a petrified skull in it. Nonplussed, I walk around for another hour, and go back to sleep. In the morning, it’s pretty much the same routine- the foraging people forage while the non-foragers break the rest of the camp. Cam finds some trout, and we have some fish stew.

I miss burgers, personally. I’m not much for being out in the countryside, but I’m trying to stay out of people’s way, and learn more about them in the process. We learn that when she’s bored, Nihm is a pretty decent imitator. Coryn likes to work with his alchemy set. Cam seems to watch her surroundings all time, while Rahardjo is content to listen to Nihm do her impressions (and walk around the camp looking bored). I’m not really sure how we’re going to accomplish our task, but somehow, our group of miscreants will accomplish the impossible.

But, it’s another day done.

After I wake up from a really nice sleep, I’m assaulted by this story of a snail’s shell that was pretty well broken on the ground. There’s a letter written on the shell of some sort, but I don’t know what it means, and nobody really knows either. I go back to sleep.

It’s a drizzly day the next day. Wet, but not entirely unpleasant. Complaints are at a minimum, and I keep mine to myself. The foragers do their thing, and I keep my eyes open and watching the flora and fauna around us. Despite this, Coryn and Cam spot something dead in the forest before I do, and everyone rushes to see how it died. After a moment, Rahardjo starts yelling about something called a Barghest that just completely goes over my head. They all do come to the conclusion that we’re better off getting out of the forest, lest it eat us, too!

At the end of the day, a lot of us decide to sleep in trees, so I guess I will too. I’m preparing myself for an uncomfortable sleep when Rahardjo talks to Coryn about what a Barghest is, while Cam and Nihm talk nonsense to each other.

Yeah, I’ve got pain in funny places, but I stretch it out after I climb down. I think it’s been decided that we’re just sleeping in trees now, which makes me nervous. I scare the hell out of some passing elk, and I just want to go back to the city.

We walk by a giant lump in the ground, and the rest of them take turns poking it with sticks and digging around it. I’m almost despondent at this point, but I don’t show it. I keep it together, even when they pull a skull out of the lump, and then various body parts later on. All in all, it’s pretty morbid. I think that if someone’s buried there, we should just leave him alone- why tempt fate, you know? Thankfully, we move on after a while. There’s some tracking of the footprints that are not far away, but we don’t really get very far with it.

We move on.

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Jareth's Journal!
Just a leisurely stroll through the woods...

Brevit Umlaut.

That makes me the Team Leader, albeit temporarily. I’m a little nervous about it, and that Nihm hates my guts. I understand that, though- she hates Kalds, and I’m half a Kald myself. I guess the worst that could happen is that I die- and given my Wanted status, that might be a good thing.

Verman hands me a sack with our Requisitions inside, as sort of a rushed goodbye- I guess he just wants us out of here.

Not that’s that a bad thing; the mountain here is very picturesque, among the forests and chirping birds- kind of what we’re fighting for.

When we camp for the night, I hand out the Requisitions. I got nothing for it, but apparently one of our dead received some “Crack Powder,” which is apparently a strong hallucinogen and narcotic. I’ll pass. Cam projectile vomits at Nihm, with a sound that I think I want to forget. When we start to divvy up the watch shifts, I tell Cam to just get some sleep, and I’ll take a double shift. I down for a nap while Nihm takes first shift (dangerous, I know!).

Minus the incredibly loud forest animal noises, everything is still and boring. After a nice sleep in the Magic Bedroll, Cam hunts us up some food, scoring a fat hare in the process. It was worth the hour-and-a-half setback to cook the thing. Afterwards, we set off on the trail, and Cam and Rahardjo occasionally leave the trail to forage, which is all right. I keep my ears and eyes open just in case, but it’s smooth traveling the whole day.

Cam begins to preserve the hare fur she got during the day, and we stoke a fire. We eat rather handsomely during the evening, after which Coryn tries to make some kind of poison. All I really do is walk the perimeter and be nervous about this Brevit Umlaut thing. With a sudden start (on my way to the bathroom no less!), Nihm tells me not to crap in the bushes on account of the Poison Ivy, but she could just be messing with me. I pull my pants down, just as she starts screaming “Tasselwyrm!” at the top of her lungs, and jumps me upside down. I’m looking at furry private parts as I feel her breath on my own. But suddenly, part of the poison ivy lunges at me, and I yelp, realizing only now that she’s not trying to compliment me.

Whatever the thing is, it bites into Nihm’s butt, and she yelps too. A crossbow bolt flies past me and jambs itself into the dragon-like thing. Coryn yells something I don’t hear on account of Nihm’s cursing, and an arrow strikes the thing as Cam’s bow twangs. Rahardjo completely whiffs a shot to the thing, and the dragon-like thing claws and bites more at Nihm. She manages to bounce around enough that the claws don’t harm her, but the look in its eyes is wicked as it predicts her next move, and chomps down on her. Another bolt whizzes by me, and Nihm tries to snatch its tongue. Amazingly, she manages to sink her claws into the thing. She’s got no strength to yank the thing out, but the creature is none too happy about it.

An arrow flies into the thing’s mouth, and I spring away from the thing, landing on its tail instead of the poison ivy that I want no part of! As an added bonus, I sink my dagger into its tail, getting a nice view of Rahardjo muttering and jamming up his gun. The thing yanks its tail out from under me, and I land feet-first into the poison ivy. I breath a small sigh of relief. Coryn shoots the thing in the breastbone, and it falls over with Nihm on it.

Phew. I didn’t die this time…..

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Jareth's Journal
Out of the frying pan, into the volcano

We finally move out from this cave. We travel for a while, and feels like forever. We tell stories and whisper amongst ourselves. Rahardjo tells me that he was a highway patrolman; I tell him I was a political liability. The poor guy gets picked on a little bit by the womenfolk as we pick our way through the tunnels.

Although it isn’t long before we come across a few Darkmantles, though I had hoped to avoid them. I hide, and make damn sure they can’t see me as we pass under them. Unfortunately, Coryn takes a shot at them, and the attack begins. Rahardjo takes a shot at them too, and his bullet strikes home. One of the Darkmantles screeches in pain, and the other Darkmantles become a lot more aggressive. Coryn takes another shot and pretty much destroys one of them. Of course, my luck is not so good- when I try my hand at it, the sidearm that Rahardjo lets me borrow jams up! We watch as the Darkmantles…and I feel something on my back!

“You’re my bitch!” I hear in my ears, “You’re my mount!” It’s that crazy cat-person, Nihm!

She yanks my hair, and I pistol-whip her. She tries to bite my ear, and I flip myself onto my back hard enough to dislodge her. She’s not very happy, but neither am I. She accuses me of cutting down trees, and I threaten to pee on her. She calls me a dope, and runs away.

“That’s right, you run away!” I scream. In the heat of the moment, I’m not very creative. I do what I do best; I hide! I’m not much in the way of fighting, and there’s only so much that I can do against so much rage and fur and claws.

The group continues to argue back and forth, but I’m satisfied to be back here. That was pretty close for me, after all! We all plod along the path.

Eventually, we make camp, and I’m able to get some sleep. But when I wake up…she is watching me! Ever so carefully, I slither out of my sleeping bag…and through it at her! While she’s tangled up in it, I do what I do best- I hide. But the joke’s on me, though: While I’m hiding, Nihm gathers up my sleeping bag and pees on it.

I’m gonna get her but good one of these days!

They strike camp and I follow at a discreet distance, and another half-day out, we’re out of the caves! I watch Nihm climb one of the trees (I’m so gonna get her!), and they turn into people with shotguns, with some dude who looks like he’s in charge. Rohardjo argues a bit on my behalf on Nihm’s treatment of me, but it’s a moot point- she’s pretty well prejudiced against me and Kald’s in general. It’s okay, I guess; we all have our hangups.

We get taken to a camp, and I find myself some real clothes. The Quartermaster gives us all Chain Shirts, and I have a look at some of the things there. I try to get my sleeping pack from Nihm, and she won’t give it back! We argue for a while, and the Sergeant comes over.

“Is there a problem here?” he asks.

“She’s the one with the problem!” I yell back forgetting myself. “She urinated all over my sleeping pack and won’t give it back!”
He snatches the pack away from her, and sniffs it. “It smells like roses,” he says.

“Her urine smells like sunshine and roses!” I yell at the Sergeant, and he throws it at me and shakes his head.

“I don’t want to hear anymore about this,” he says. For the rest of the day, he keeps his eyes on both of us.

Finally, I get some sleep.

Verman wants to meet with us, and seems pretty mellow for a guy who had his plans blown out of the water. Verman gives me a rank of Rot (?), and I accept. Nihm raises an objection at my appointment to the group. She doesn’t really get that if I go back to them, I’m a dead guy- if they realize it’s me. It’s a moot point, though. I’m in.

Verman gives us an objective: To buy him three months for the northern border by way of Anarchy. But first, he sends us through SERE training to “bond.” (Crap!). I’m not normally great at that sort of thing.

And then? He appoints me the Brevit Umlaut- the Team Leader! Well, temporarily, anyway. Still, it’s quite a shock, but I’m up for it. After all, the Kald tried to destroy me in that prison camp, and I’m not letting them get away with that. If our mission is to stop the Kald at all costs, then they’ll be stopped.

Bet on it.

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Into the Caverns
Creeping our way to freedom~!

Delver’s Dale has been destroyed. To be honest, I’m happy to see it go. It’s so hard to keep track of the days, but I think that I’ve been here for about two years- if I had to venture a guess. It’s not a nice place, even as far as prison camps are concerned. I’ve been subjected to strange tortures, and the Warden was making exception work of his surroundings. They’ve forgotten, though, that even if the Kalds are cruel and unyielding, they are also exceedingly brilliant and darkly inventive.

They keep the prisoners in line with slimes and oozes, if you can believe it. The kalds have a special salt that they lay down around our “cells” and then set the blobs loose on the floor to patrol. The salt is not always accurate, but that only serves to keep the rest of us in line. The work is very grueling, and we weren’t fed as much as we should have been. If it hadn’t been for those new prisoners…

It was true that they made absolute asses out of themselves, but they are effective…and manipulative. They convinced the Warden to open their own bar, if only as a front to whatever operation they were running. I’m not completely sure of the particulars, but I’m sure it has something to do with either ferrying prisoners to safety, or to further elaborate on their tunnel system (which I’m not entirely sure exists, but it would account for their spontaneous disappearances).

When the new prisoners assaulted Delver’s Dale from within, it was quite sudden. It was almost expertly crafted; catching Manulf Meuller offguard was a stroke of genius. It ensure that the Warden did not have his aid when the time came, and the rest pretty well fell into the prisoner’s hands. There was a full scale riot, and I found myself free. I regret that I only clubbed two guards to death with boots that I had surreptitiously removed from their own feet. After that, I was busy running my ass off to get myself free of the Dale.

It was then that I realized that I was not free. There was a reason that I was in Delver’s Dale in the first place, and I knew that if I were to just show up again, I’d be dead. Suddenly, staying under the radar looked awfully tempting, and I threw my lot in with the prisoners. I’m not sure how useful to them I’ll be, but at least my efforts can be counted to fill their ranks. I’m not without my own resources.

Aside from that, we’ve got to find another way out of here that isn’t through the proverbial front door, and I’m going with them through the tunnels…and who can say if we’ll come out again? We could all die down there- but at least we’ll all die as free men.

Onwards, towards Nutella…and freedom.

So, as we walked down the tunnels, Nihm makes a point of threatening me. So she hates Kalds; I guess I shouldn’t tell her that I’m not too fond of them myself. We keep forging ahead, though, and find some mushrooms that may or may not be poisonous. Our trail ends in a huge chasm at our feet. I can almost make out the far side of the chasm almost sixty-five feet away- and nothing else.

Coryn tosses some dirt in the air, and finds our path. I take off my shirt and snatch up more dirt to toss- but the path is not straight; it zags in places. It takes us and the refugees quite some time to get across, and leave a message to wipe off the dirt at the rest of their passing. We are, after all, advanced scouts, and we’re supposed to take care of all the hard stuff.

We stop to rest not long after, and I take the first watch, hoping that nothing happens, but not relying on it. Nihm keeps an eye on me (big surprise), but I hear a noise up ahead. I tell Nihm to keep an eye out, and disappear into the shadows. I creep ahead.

I find a human stumbling around in the dark, and I use my superior stealth to come up behind him and take him prisoner with the stalactite I pick up off the ground. It’s obvious that this guy is a military man, and that perhaps he’s not from a Kaldan force…but I take no chances. I lead him back to the fire, and he establishes contact, and tries using Forest Shadow’s alias to confirm his identity.

“Azaleas!” the man screams at the top of his lungs, “Azaleas!”

I set down the stalactite and lay off the guy; he’s had enough surprises for one night. They debate the semantics of navigating the cave, and I’m pretty lost amidst their rank and official titles. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that I don’t really pay attention to it all.

However, we realize that this guy comes from elsewhere, but we’re goin to Nutella. Good thing he was by himself.

Meanwhile, “Forest Shadow” reprimands me for going it alone, and trade quips about Nihm’s niceties. Sure, she could be a nice person when we get to know her- whenever that is. Personally, I don’t really blame her. Either way, I catch some shuteye- who knows how long we’ll be down here.

Upon waking, this new person tells us to watch out for stalactite/Darkmantles, whatever they are. Monsters, apparently. Although, “don’t walk under stalactites” is very strange advice when inside a cavern. And this guy also says that there’s Minotaurs down here, too. Not sure if that’s true or not, and Coryn doesn’t believe it, also.

Either way, we plan for the trip ahead.

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An Accounting of Delver's Dale
Free at last!

No, my real name is not Jareth Ausk, nor is it the identity of my first cover identification. Needless to say, it’s the name that I go by here, in Delver’s Dale. No one really knows why I’m here except for the Warden, and maybe Mueller. It’s not like it matters, though. I’ll never leave this place alive. So, I toil around in this hell, praying for the end.

A small cause for hope showed up not long ago: A new group of prisoners who don’t seem to know the meaning of the word. It doesn’t take a brain trust to realize that since the new guys have shown up, monsters and phantoms have been coming out of the woodwork. And suddenly, they’ve got a bar? Something’s not right- or rather, something IS right. These new people are pulling the wool over the Warden’s eyes! It would be impressive, if it doesn’t constantly look like their little enterprise will fail at any moment.

Only, it doesn’t. In fact, it only gets stranger. These new people are pretty good, and it’s not long before there’s a revolt. It’s not so different from the others- except for the fact that it works, and works well. These guys wind up taking over the camp, and blowing the place wide open.

I’ve never entertained the notion that I’d ever get out of here alive. Now, I’m faced with the option of rebuilding my life, such as it was. But what kind of life would I have? Even among the Kalds, I’m an outcast to anyone who knows my real name. I have no idea what to do now, but maybe I’ll find my direction….

It looks like these guys are destroying whatever they used to help overthrow the Dale, but at least they share their magic table with us that gives us food. I’m on my fourth helping before I’m noticed, and there’s a low growl everywhere. Suddenly, I get a gunrack in my ass, and I point to it and shout, “It was you.” They turn and look at all of us- at least I’m not getting the crap kicked out of me- even though, with this hole in my ass, I’d be a little bit better at it. Needless to say, me and the Qatar exchange bravado, but we get nowhere as their ringleader tells us to back off. Which suits me; I’ve not been in a fight in years! I go back to nibbling, but I’m not very hungry. I’ve eaten my bodyweight in meat. I just don’t know when the opportunity will ever arise again.

Anyway, the preambulating lamp guides me to some kind of hidden control room, and begins to stitch up the wound in my butt. Their ringleader is fiddling with a radio of some sort, and I’m not really sure what they’re up to. Hopefully, it’s not getting me killed.

All told, I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of communique happening between subversive outposts. I’m not sure what’s really going on here, but I wonder if he’s talking to the mastermind of their little plan. I think I’m understanding that this Puppetmaster was not expecting them to utterly annihilate the camp, and I’m sensing a type of frustration coming from his end. I think Pupptemaster wants them to go to Nutella, and I’m going to…invite myself.

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A Revolting Development
Uh oh.

We gear up for an ambush for Manulf. This isn’t going to be easy,and we try to prepare for every eventuality. I’m sure we’re forgetting something, though. But we’ve no time to waste here- this has to look like a werewolf attack if we’re to implicate the werewolves and deflect the blame. We go through our daily routine, and I’m just not sure about this. But, we’ve come to far to go back- we must stick to the plan.

We wait while Gwyn gathers supplies, and I take a nap.

Which is rudely awakened by Nihm kicking me awake while a mouse screeches and runs around like a lunatic. Sigh. I grab up my dagger and, with the others, take off and follow. As it turns out, Manulf is there, and everything’s on fire- including Gwyn. We lay the smackdown on this guy, and Coryn blows Manulf’s head clean off his body. The jig is up. We’ve got no choice, now. We have to fight.

And that’s when I see the pile of flamethrowers. Coryn and I suit up- this is going to be messy. Nihm runs off after the guards who ran after they saw Manulf’s head disappear. Coryn stops long enough to send an Animal Messenger to the other prisoners.

Now, it’s on.

We close in on Nihm’s location, both Cam and I streaming fire from either side of Nihm. Cam is spot on- I guess she’s had some training- but my fire stream goes wide and up. We watch Nihm get shishkebobbed by halberds. Cam keeps the heat on, but I’m not really doing well myself. I get rewarded by having one of these guys charge at me, halberd flailing away. I get stabbed pretty badly, but I can’t stop now. Somewhere, Cam lights up another guy,and I try my hand again. I watch as a bunch of grass and a tree catch fire. I’m not sure if this is actually going to work. Nihm is still down, and Halcea is coming into the battle, throwing out some kind of elemental bolt. Frantic, I’m still flailing around, setting everything on fire, just as the guy—

I come to, with my pants loose and Cam standing over me. There’s an awkward pause, and everything’s on fire. Frustrated, I ditch the flamethrower, and bring my sniper rifle to bear. This has gone on long enough.

Halcea gives us a few orders from Gwyn: He wants us to organize prisoners in resistance. Sounds fair. Dropping the flamethrower, I run up the hill with the others. I take aim with my sniper rifle and crack off a shot, but my bullet goes wide. This is just not my night! Still, Halcea is able to take one out, and Nihm chases down the other one. Cam, Halcea and I spin the other guy around with our bullets, and we make short work of Kald #2. From the Snuggly duckling, we track down Alfie, but he’s not here. We don’t know where. Halcea tries to convince me that Alfie is not the dead printing press, and we must press on.

We head down to the tunnels- and I spy that some of the Kaldan soldiers are coming our way. Cam and I set ourselves up to take these guys out with some direction from Nihm. While Cam is facing the Warden, however, I’ll point my sniper rifle in the other direction, hoping to cover her back.

Cam let’s loose a stream of fire; I ready my sights as the others wait. She charcoals a bunch of those guys, and I wait to see who of the soldiers behind her react. They all turn around, and I ricochet a bullet off the wall. What can I say? It’s dark! The soldiers begin to move, and I really hope this whole thing works.

Suddenly, the Kaldan soldiers get a LOT closer, closer than I’m comfortable with! I gulp. I hear Cam yell for me to duck, and I sure as hell do! Prone, I fire off a shot, putting a bullet through a man’s eyeball. A burst of fire rushes down the cramped hallway just above me, singing the hairs on the back of my neck. I feel the rush of air as Cam runs back as they advance, raising their halberds above my prone body*

*Report cut off, due to sudden death.

(2400) XP

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