Vorwulf had just finished chopping the head off of the barbarian chieftain (trophy headhunting is a Westlander warrior tradition of great antiquity), Magiia was busy looting the headless corpse finding 250 gold pieces, 50 silver, and 20 platinum pieces. Vor then snatched up a couple of small bags, both were black and yellow in color, from the dead man’s belt. He assumed that they were the Wasp’s property. One proved to be a bag of meals from which a hot meal of bread and meat could be pulled out three times a day. The other was a bag of holding full of what appeared to Vor as a bunch of spell components and other uninteresting stuff. They wisely left the medallions (the magic charges that had fueled their magic were spent anyhow) and their boots all of which bore the mark of the dragon. Grom checked the Wasp and found that he was very near death.
Vorwulf (Played by Cris): “Well, heal him healer. You are the group healer.”
Grom (Played by Gil): “Aww man, I don’t wanna waste a healing potion on this guy.”
Afterwards they moved the wasp to the rowboat and got on their way with Vorwulf at the stern of the magical craft. Grom eventually healed the Wasp up enough for him to ‘not die’ with his healing touch ability. It took a little while to catch up to their hill-giant guide, Jez. Vorwulf had mistaken a strangely shaped yew copse for the boar-hunter and taken them a little ways in the wrong direction. Jez agreed to guide them north around the bend of the ridge, a trip of around 11 miles or so. The trip was necessary as around the southern curl of the ridge was the Spider Wood.
Vorwulf (when the others complained): “Well it’s not named ‘Spider Wood’ for nothing.”
By evening they had reached the apex of the north bend and could see the Nor-Rills (river) a few miles directly north as they were on the high ground and completely in the open having broken into a large area of grassland. The night was quiet and passed quickly. Wasting no time they were off and moving again finally being led to a lakeside campsite hidden among reeds and cattails that were several inches above their heads and to Jez’s waist. Jez used the swampy place frequently when on hunts. It featured a stone-lined fire-pit and stash of dry firewood. After the giant set camp the slayers sat around the fire and discussed the Wasp.
Gil: “Maybe I should turn him into a mouse or snail and carry him in my bag.”
Cris: “Man he’s a mage so his Will save’s gonna be high. Maybe we can pay the giant to take him back to Merdna and the protégées.”
Jenn (Magiia’s Player): “Naw. The giant’s a dumb@$$ he’ll just talk the giant into letting him go or something.”
Gil: “Yeah man, he’s crafty he’s gonna find his way out of it.”
Cris: “Well, where we’re going he wants to go too so we’ll just have to keep an eye on ‘em.”
The night was quiet until Maggi’s watch when all were wakened by the sounds of battle but by the time they were all up and ready Maggi assured them that they were safe. A pair of Green Jellies had crept up on the bivouacking adventurers from the water and she had with a single powerful whack killed the both of them. All that was left was a sizzling puddle of slime at the water’s edge.
Morning; the argument between Vor and Grom about the Wasp continued. Eventually…
Vorwulf: “Alright, alright! Go ahead and try then!”
Grom attempted to cast Animal Form on the Wasp but the lanky wizard was able to resist the magic quite easily. So in an attempt to finesse some information from Xanto, the shaman engaged him in a brief conversation in which the Wasp was his usual charming self and tried to get Grom to loosen his tethers “just a little”. Vor who overheard the whole exchange saw right through the ploy and stopped the shaman from carrying it out. Probably a little embarrassed, Grom stopped playing nice and threatened the Wasp getting some information as reward for his intimidation attempt. Xanto told them about Millenium Trees and the immense power those legendary plants hold and that the Millenium Mushroom should have a similar potency. A few minutes later Grom had the genius idea to try to “recruit” Jez the hill-giant bribing him with the gold lightning javelin he had taken from Blackbrow. It didn’t work but the giant took the treasure anyway.
After a day’s travel they came to the pebble banks of a rapidly flowing westerly river, the appearance of the purple moon signaled their stopping. Jez departed dragging his sledge due east after telling the slayers to go straight north across the river, they could already see the chalk mesa of the White Heath about 2 miles beyond the unnamed river. To the south were seemingly endless rolling grasslands which gradually sloped down with a long low hill about half a mile from their camp. There was no good place to conceal their camp. They wisely decided to light no fire. Grom attempted to commune with nature in order to get a better idea about the ruins and to pinpoint their location but unable to get a bead on anything realized they were currently out of his range. The Wasp now demanded to be released as he knew which ruins they were seeking.
Magiia: “There’s more than one?”
Xanto the Wasp: “There’s two.”
Grom (intimidatingly): “WHERE? WHICH ONE!”
Vorwulf just stood there laughing to himself.
Xanto: “Uhm, Uh, there’s a southerly ruins and a more northern one. We want the northern one!”
Vorwulf (referring to the Wasp’s initial demand): “Not till morning.”
The group settled in to sleep; Maggi counted her dragon-blood potions and found she had only 3 left.
Come morning Vorwulf fed the Wasp from the bag of meals and discussed with him the terms under which he was traveling. The rawhide snapped as he cut the Wasp’s bonds (who was now conscious and complaining) and tossed the Wasp his bag of holding. The ranger kept the bag of meals. Xanto pulled out a yellow glass vial from his bag and drank down its contents, all his wounds instantly and fully healed. He pulled a fresh suit of yellow & black clothes and a clean pair of black velvet shoes.
Gil: “How’re we going to get across the river.”
Jenn: “It can’t go over water right?”
The GM (me): “They think it’s like a hoverboard.”
Cris: “Nooo! It’s MAGIC!”
They proceeded in their hover-boat over the rapidly flowing river. Suddenly when they reached the dead center of the span a giant horned water-serpent leaped out of the water its bull-like horns aimed at the vessel’s timber but Maggi made quick work of it while balancing on the edge of the craft as they hovered over the raging water. Soon, they were able to quickly reach the pale edifice of the White Heath well before noon. The 200 ft. cliff-face was heavily pocked with hundreds of bird hovels with a few being “man-size”. Vorwulf climbed a pine, there many trees, thickets and woody shrubs growing in the cold shadow of the cliff, to catch a bird’s eye. The cliff stretched as far as he could see both northward and to the south-east. They deserted the rowboat and were determined to climb up to what appeared a bounding wall along the top of the edifice which fluctuated in height greatly depending on the level of ruin of that particular section.
Vorwulf used his scimitar of dimensional door to reach the top, slashing open a dimensional rift and at stepping through appeared at the top of the wall at its most stable-looking point. Maggi easily scaled the rope that Vorwulf had lowered arriving at his side at surprising speed. The shaman cast bestial might on himself gaining a pair of wings as well as a thick coat of fur, a pair of claws, and large owl-eyes. He flapped his wings and shot upward in the direction of his companions but from out of one of the larger bird-holes in the cliff-face as he passed over the opening a Roc (a brown eagle the size of a man) shot at him with talons bared. Grom got off a spell as a simultaneous attack blasting the powerful bird back into its burrow with a cleverly applied wind rush spell. He wasted no time in joining his companions; the monster-bird did not reemerge.
What they saw before them was a vast ruined city made of bone-white limestone with multiple gaping and shadowed windows, holes, and doorways in the remaining squat structures staring back at them like the orbits of malformed skulls and vast areas and piles of limestone blocks like broken teeth scattered everywhere. When they realized that they had taken their eyes off of the Wasp they noticed he was already at the top of the wall next to them.
Cris: “He probably has wasp-wings under that cloak.”
Jenn: “Well let’s see.”
Magiia gave the skinny wizard a “helpful push” knocking him easily from the wall, a pair of buzzing tough looking brown wings, much like that of a wasp, sprang forth and lowered him gently to the floor of the skeletal city. They soon followed one after the other. Vorwulf was determined to stay out of the buildings and try to stay in the open areas desiring to get out of the place fast as possible as there were probably “all sorts of things abouts”. He made it a point to make sure the Wasp understood that. They began to move and the shaman spotted several piles of scattered bones, indeed there fairly fresh bones everywhere. Vor identified them as the bones of bears and goats and the tracks all around the area as those of a pack of manticore.
Grom: “What’s a manticore, they have wings? Like a chimera?”
Xanto the Wasp: “I hate manticores. They freak me out!” He looked truly disturbed.
After explaining to Grom what may be wandering about, Maggi didn’t care “as long as they bleed”, Vor told everyone to stay close and don’t stray. The Wasp was staying almost too close to the ranger as the party snaked their way through the remains of the dead city. To calm his shaky nerves the Wasp started to run at the mouth telling the slayers a story:
Y’know around 600 years ago the Brown Horde seized the entirety of the White Heath and both cities which at the time were still but weakened bastions of the Mad Mages. It was they that chewed the maze of tunnels that now exist in the limestone edifice connecting the tombs, natural caves, labyrinths, storerooms, and oubliettes. And I guess the bird-holes now. I have no doubt some of those Roc-burrows lead there. They run the entire underground of the heath. The first city the hordes attacked, the southern one, resisted their attacks to the bitter end but the northern city was betrayed by a small wizard faction connected with the Obsidian Guild possibly some of its founders which allowed them to remain unmolested for a time. Eventually however with the coming of the Red Horde and then the Black the city was reduced to a complete ruin. The fate of the betrayer wizards was never recorded though an adventurer and brother of good standing with the Obsidian Guild led an expedition about 100 years ago chasing down the lost brothers after discovering some documents in the library at Ezmer recorded by an anonymous Hill-Lander bard. He discovered their tomb, or at least where their bodies were piled but he also noted the active leyline and silvery filaments that were a part of some strange inter-dimensional fungus which was too powerful for him to “molest” in any fashion save to come out of the tumulus the only survivor with a single silver strand. I have read his notes the filaments lend a special potency to viands and potions and especially to the imbiber. I have done the research as well on the mushroom and it is indeed akin a millennium tree though I admit, I have no idea it’s nature. I do know though that in 2 days the mushroom should sprout if the planetary charts are correct, ah druids ever their eyes to the skies, with the Green Moon making an appearance. We need to get there before the cap fully opens. If the Outrider, wherever he is, was correct we are still about 2 days away from the northern ruins though.
Vorwulf: “Good to know.”
To Be Continued…