So we’ve learned how to manipulate this aether, and we’ve been told that we are the first people to do so. It’s an amazing process, really- it’s the ability to share a combat experience, and make each other better by sacrificing a little bit of our own ability to aid someone else’s.
We’ve spent a little bit better than a month learning this stuff, and I’m not sure if there’s any more we can learn here. At any rate, the fearless Eld leader receives a message from a chipmunk, and it seems pretty dire. Apparently, there’s an Eld who hasn’t been heard from in quite a while who might be causing trouble. There’s a lot of technobabble here that I don’t really understand, but apparently this guy destroyed a quarter of the Kaldan army. The basic idea I’m getting is that this guy is missing but might still be alive. Perhaps these Eld need our help?
It looks like that’s going to be the mission: To maybe find this guy and his odd power source. We might only need to be pointed in the right direction. We also get some supplies from HQ, and I have five dried out vines called tunnel creepers, and a wand of fly with 10 charges on it.
So, we set off on our mission. Along the way, we begin to see burnt out patches of land, well contained and well planned. At the center of the char is a plant or a bush that someone has put there.
Knowing that we’re in enemy territory, we get ready for trouble, sneaking around as quietly as we can. Nihm takes to the trees and has no better luck. We take our time picking through the brush to make sure we don’t screw this up.
And speaking of that, Nihm falls out of the tree, with a bunch of bushes flying at her. I see them out of the corner of my eye, only to see more incoming. I try a crossbow bolt; it goes right through. I see Nihm drop down and squash a fire with a sleeping skin, and I see that Raharjo does the same. Our new Eld, Ricky, fires a frosty bullet at the swarm of bush-like creatures, and gets swarmed. I shoulder the crossbow, and get one of my leather blankets ready, only to have Nihm jump out of the tree with one. Raharjo tries something similar- I think- and falls down and hits a tree on the way down. Ricky continues to be swarmed. I ready the blanket and toss, snatching only one of those bushy little bastards up. I hold on for dear life, not knowing what to expect.
Nihm takes another swipe, and Raharjo continues to roll around on the ground like a crazy person. I don’t know if he’s trying to put the fire out or if he’s having a seizure- but it works. The fire is out around him, and I hope he didn’t get burned too badly. Ricky does some kind of funny little dance, and the flying bushes swarm over Nihm. I try to smash the bag I have into the others, only to almost dash Nihm right in the skull with it. Nihm doesn’t smash the others either, and Raharjo stands up, having put out all the fires. Ricky is still doing the spider dance, and I completely miss the swarm attacking Nihm’s face (which is good for my well-being). Nihm finally finishes them off though, and Raharjo looks like he’s going to try to put the fire out, along with Ricky. He’s done about that, and I take the bag of bush and try to bash it.
It stops moving- and starts again! I show everyone else this, and I’m not sure that they know what to do with it. Nihm takes a closer look, and she looks like she may have an idea brewing in her head. Like we’ve observed, fire kills it, and we just set the tent on fire. Nihm also tells me that she fixed my pants- and I tell her that I had thought that the Pants Fairy had fixed them. She climbs off of me and onto Ricky, pouting. I just thought she didn’t like me.
Anyway, we forge ahead, and come across a badgermole hole, and Tecouny. We try to get his attention, but he isn’t very receptive. Nihm climbs on him and begins digging into the bark-like substance of his flesh, but doesn’t seem like she’s making much progress. She somehow gets ejected off the guy’s body, and the tree person strikes her with his club. We spring into action.
Nihm climbs the guy, and I rush forward with my crossbow. He laughs, speaking in Eldish, and bursts into flame, catching Nihm on fire as well. Ricky is quick to grab her and put her out- but by that time, the druid is ash. I’m not sure what was going on, but it’s perfectly clear that whatever he had to say to us, he’ll take it to his grave.
Ricky does know what the tree-person said in Eldish, and he is led to believe that some outside force took over the druid’s body. Nihm sifts through this guy’s ashes, but there’s nothing much for me to do here. She does happen to find a rune on his quarterstaff, and Ricky understands that the rune means “Sessation”, which may belong to the crazy Eld that killed all those Kald a few years ago. Whether it’s purely by chance or by design is in question, but I don’t believe in coincidences. Raharjo notes that the nearby cave could be his lair, and we decide to go in.
Inside, we see roots poking through the walls, and Nihm seems to think that they may not be Deathroots. Nihm mumbles something, and runs out of the cave. I focus more on the branches. Not that I’m an expert on Deathroot, but I think she’s right. I turn and look, and she’s still scampering around outside. However, inside we don’t find anything at all.
I argue with Nihm about tossing the staff, and Raharjo thinks we should take it out to a field and burn it (I like that idea, by the way). I do see everyone moving forward, and that’s when I discover that there’s a rune on the wall- how could I have missed it before?
In the portal, we do hear movement, but we can’t figure out where all that movement is coming from, but it seems like Raharjo has a bad feeling about this. The dirt beneath our boots become mud, perhaps moving over pebbles. We hear a loud rustling behind us, and whirl around, seeing nothing. When we turn back, we notice our exit is gone, and we see a hole in the ceiling. Looking up, we see an Eld- perhaps the one we’re looking for?
He says something in Eldish, but I don’t understand it. I think we all look at Ricky, who just stands there like a bump on a log. Eventually, we do get his answer: The vines in this pit of death turn really sharp, and shoot up from the ground and try to kill us.
I don’t understand- this guy is a robot; how can he command plants?! A moot point, and I see Raharjo dash out of the way. Raharjo is trying to reason with him, and I think the we might be able to salvage this situation. I’m too busy trying to dodge spikes to say anything, but I’m seeing a clear path out, and I’m pretty sure I can take a chance and roll out of this mess.
Meanwhile, Arya casts a spell- a robot! Casting a spell!- and a creature that looks like a human made out of tree roots appears right in front of us, and heads for Raharjo. It attacks, and misses trying to hit Raharjo. Nihm flips and rolls, and I think she might be telepathic- or just desperate enough to try a daring escape. I can hear her trying to talk to this guy, and I’m really hoping that this is going to work- considering that everyone else is talking to it. I nimbly dash out, but I think I’m a little shaken from the tumble and stumble over my words. We are soldiers, and we are trying to put an end to the Eld, and that he should hear us out.
I’m pretty sure we’re making progress- which is when the Eld attacks, it takes me by surprise. It shouldn’t have, though. This guy started off trying to kill us, and there might have been very little chance of actually succeeding. Oh well…time to draw the weapons.
He goes after Raharjo, and appears to have some martial arts training. Arya roundhouse kicks Raharjo and suddenly our guy sprouts a bunch of quills or thorns- I can’t tell which. Nihm runs over to the wall and sets the whole place on fire, and I get the trusty crossbow ready. I fire, and strike home. Ricky climbed up to face Arya directly, and they seem to be fighting. We’re all stuck down here fighting the replica, and I think that’s where I’ll change my strategy. Raharjo looks like he might be in trouble, and he’s being quite defensive, taking a step backwards while trying to take a shot at this guy. He misses. I hear the shot, but I don’t know where it landed.
The thing that looks like Arya strikes out at Raharjo, who sort of gets lucky there. The eye that’s trained on the real Arya turns into some kind of giant bear, and charges towards Ricky, and fails. This is getting ridiculous! The fire spreads, and I tell Nihm to stop trying to kill us, and try to find us a way out! Instead, she tries to grab a flaming vine, and gets the business end of it.
“Why don’t you stop trying to kill us and find us a way out of here!” I scream at Nihm.
“You’re the one with the Wand of Fly!” she yells back at me.
Needless to say, I facepalm. I know she’s right, and I know I should’ve thought of that sooner- but there’s no time for that. I fly towards Nihm and yell, “Do you know how to use this?!”
“Uh, doy,” she replies, very mocking of me. Whatever.
“Get Raharjo out of here,” I say, wanting no more of her insolence. I fly out of the hole, and see Ricky and Arya still engaged in combat.
I can still see Raharjo engaged with the smaller, faker Arya, and he looks like he might be losing. I know we’ve got to take this guy out and fast- or we all might not make it out of here alive. Above, I see Arya’s new bearclaws digging into Ricky’s metal body. This is very strange, a bear with an odd root exoskeleton. I see Nihm make her move; she can fly. However, I can’t wait any longer, and I take a shot at Arya that just bounces off of his root exoskeleton. I drop the heavy crossbow and fly up behind the bear, hoping I’m not doing something supremely stupid. I think he’s about to turn, and Ricky assaults Arya, covering for me.
A moment later I see Nihm fly out of the hole, with Raharjo close behind. Just ahead of me, I see a strange bear-creature stamping the ground like a crazy person. I ask Ricky quickly if he thinks we can salvage this, but I’m not convinced. I plunge the dagger into his armored hide, and I think Ricky is trying to talk to him. Arya screams out a name that I recognize as Kaldan- Alach- and I see that he’s fully enraged now. That’s good, in a way- no more half measures. Ricky thinks we can destroy the body and remove his core, and we’ll try that. This thing tried to hurt what I’ve come to accept as my people, and I’m not about to let it get away with that.
Out of the corner of my eye I see Raharjo fly out of the pit, and the Arya copy flies up next up the rifleman. My concentration lapses, and the big bear slashes at me. The claws are sharp and they shred my skin. The blow takes away most of my energy, and I’m feeling pretty lethargic now.
I see Nihm fly around and try to grapple the carapaced bear, and I think she’s going to get the worst end of this raging robot-bear-thing. She doesn’t have a chance, but like a good trooper, she tries anyway. She’s talking, but I’m not sure that he hears her. I don’t think I’m making the right decision, but I do try to talk the bear down. He seems less crazy and more despondent, while Ricky also tries to help us hug it out. Amazingly, it seems to work…and Ricky seems to be vibrating?
Raharjo tries to lure the mini-Arya away, and it works; it poofs out of existence. I think Arya is crying and mumbling. At least Ricky knows what the strange Eld is saying, but I do wonder aloud if they can feel love. Certainly, it looks like Arya is feeling something. Ricky is sure he’s experiencing some kind of critical failure, but I’m not sure what’s going on in full. He might just be crazy, and he sighs out that name again, and shudders one last time.
I’m pretty sure that Arya is dead.
Ricky reaches into the Eld- presumably to snatch out his core- and the shiny diamond inside shatters into three different pieces. Nihm seems to think that this Eld had a broken heart, but I think that may be too…simplistic an opinion. We need to know what Arya knew; he was willing to visit destruction on an entire race because of this! He said he wanted to save someone named Jaen and doing away with someone named Alec.
It becomes clear that we’ve got to find out why Arya was trying to do all this before whatever reinforcements he called reaches the villagers. I’m not sure what’s going on, but we haven’t time to go all the way back to the monastery.
Nihm has the idea to use our fly charges to get out of the thickest part of the forest, and it’s a good one. We take that, and we do get out of the forest in record time- but come across the type of devastation that could only be a lot of people with little regard for their tracks. Nihm is sure that somehow her foot is telling her how to get ahead of this army (I guess).
We follow Nihm’s foot to a track wide enough to accommodate a vehicle- and Nihm is not a graceful winner. I tell her to throw the Jeep down and the feather token turns into a land vehicle with a full tank of gas. We hop in the Jeep, and take off.
It doesn’t seem very hard; operating the vehicle is pretty easy. Everyone rests while I drive. Not far ahead, I see the town of Zerhune…and I hope that we’re not too late.