Amas & Oras

A sad, lonely fish
[not cleaned up or edited yet]

We are on boat. Mother fuckers. We’ve been at sea for three weeks. The wine is getting watered down. Hayden wakes to a warm tingly sensation around his mouth… he awakes to see Strelok pumping something into his mouth from a small barrel. It is sweet. “The fuck?” Strelok giggles.
He then takes the keg hose for himself and pumps the top of the keg wildly. He reveals that he took the stuff they found in the Forest and mixed it with booze. He is wearing only his belt, cloak, and sword. He cackles and runs out of the cabin. Hayden sighs. Strelok may have been at sea too long.

Hayden goes up to the deck, where he meets Sheila. It is very early, and few ship hands are on deck. There is loud snoring from below. Sheila begins doing bare-hand forms. Strelok is trying to get to the crows’ nest. He has only made it about three feet up. Sheila asks if he’s slept; Strelok apparently doesn’t need sleep, and recommends “the stuff!” (blue goo + strong booze from abandoned village) Hayden says it is quite strong, and asks if anyone else hears humming. Strelok asks why he was climbing… there was something important, but he forgot… Sheila suggests he come back down, and he does somewhat reluctantly. He goes over to Sheila and slings an arm around her. He still is wearing little other than munitions. Upon Sheila’s inquiry, he says he has never been better.

Hayden decides to go up to the crow’s nest. He sees no land. He sighs and remarks that it is taking far too long, and that this is a tiny boat. Bored….

The days are long and stressful, and all are relieved to finally see land. We ’d expected to see the port city. Instead, there is lots of debris in the water; entire docks ripped from their places, skeletal remains of great trading ships. We wonder if the lumber was needed to burn bodies. Suddenly there is a thundering screech echoing – Strelok drops to the deck and screams. Zephyr has read about the larger beasts roaring to warn off potential rivals; how large, the book did not say. As she finishes telling everyone this, two answering screeches are heard. Hayden: “Well, sounds like something that needs us to go kill it.”

Later that day, a sailor calls to say he’s spotted actual land… which is about 30 miles out from shore. We discuss our plans – land somewhere open where there are not hiding places where things can jump us as we disembark. We’ll land as close to the wall as possible. We will, if need be, fight our way to the wall. We are overheard by a shiphand, and told we aren’t landing anywhere near here… we’re going are the wall. This is not the safe side. Reports say the wall does indeed stretch to the coast. Hayden is pleased by this news, and asks how long. He is displeased when told it will be another 4-5 days. He hopes we will not encounter what we heard before; we know the small ones seem not to like water, but we don’t know about the larger ones.

The next morning, we wake to cries and exclamations from above deck. We go up and see a gathering of shipmates on the port side of the ship. Then we hear another screech… much closer and louder. Zephyr pushes her way through and sees one of the plague beasts in the water. It looks like [insert description here. Include: very tall; almost like combining an Alien™ with a baboon. kinda insectoid, kinda armor plated, but shorter rear legs and longer arms. As they grow out of the human host, the human skin sometimes doesn’t fall off all the way, giving the appearance of being worn as a loin cloth.] It is 35 feet tall, perhaps half as long. This one is walking through the shallows, towards the port city – not towards us. The possibility of testing the weapons comes up, but it is likely too far away (about half a mile). We hear another roar, and see a smaller movement before it; borrowing a sailor’s spy glass, we see it is chasing a smaller one. It will absorb it and get bigger. Strelok says he can kill it. He still seems a bit unstable… perhaps not just from the drinking, but also a seeming change in his mood over the past few weeks. We decide not to break our course, and as we sail off, we watch the larger crush the smaller before gathering it to its mouth. Strelok asks if under the arm might be a good place to attack, a weak spot; Zephyr is unsure, as there was no information about the creature anatomy at this late a stage that would reveal weak points. Hayden looks down at his sword, then at the giant creature, and sighs. “This isn’t going to end well.” Strelok reminds him that he has offered before to teach him about firearms. Hayden agrees. Strelok hands him a gun. Hayden looks at it a bit, “Sooo…” Strelok says, “point it at things you don’t like and pull the trigger! Preferably not things that are the hull of the ship.” Hayden tries shooting it at the water, and is a bit surprised by the recoil. A sad, lonely fish floats to the surface. Hayden’s ears hurt. He tries again… and kills another poor fish. Strelok adjusts his aim a bit. He leaves Hayden to practice. Many seabirds die that day. The TerrorBird down in the hold begins to get restless from the sounds of bird death.

Later, Hayden asks how the bullets so small are supposed to hurt something so big. Strelok advises him to “fire enough of them”.

A few days later, we pass the wall. By then we have seen more of the creatures, at least three of which were larger than the first we saw; one perhaps 50ft, another about 60. Some have swollen abdomens. Finally we see the wall, which does indeed extend out into the sea. The wall here is unmanned. There is no evidence that the creatures have gone far out enough to sea to get around the wall. We go to shore in a small dinghy, and need a few trips to get all the equipment. Hayden strikes a dramatic pose in the bow of the dinghy. Suddenly, in a spire in the wall, a man appears. He asks what our business is. Strelok waxes eloquent about bringing hope… and deat— Zephyr pushes him into the water. We tell him we have brought weapons, despite there not being many of us. He tells us to go see Niam, and gives us directions. Zephyr fishes a struggling Strelok out of the water. He complains about the taste of salt water. Between our wagon and dozens of bags of holding that Zephyr purchased, we can get everything along.

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[5/14 rough]

Recap: boat, sheila develops, planar travel disc.

Hayden and St talk about plans after this is over, if we survive. They settle on pirate kings, and then ponder how they wound up in this position. Z and Sheila wanders up from below deck, from making bombs and drinking in the galley *resp). There is small talk about boats; Hayden has been picking up some of the terminology. Sheila is surprised he is planning for after the fight, as he expressed doubt that we’d succeed; he points out that he isn’t sure we’ll succeed, but that he has a vensted interest in his own survival. Asked what she will do after, Sheila says something vague about people needing leadership. St and H suggest starting her opwn church. She could even be the new goddess, since she’ll be saving the world. Hayden [pomts out that [easants are easil;y duped; Strelok: didn’t you used to be a peasant? H: ….do I look like a peasant? They move on to the benefits of tithing, which Sh says she isn’t interested in. Sheila says she will continue to do what is right, and will continue on that path for the rest of her life. H asks what determines “right” after all this. She points out that there will always be people who need help. Hayden still is mystified by the idea of helping people selflessly. Nor does he understand he not wanting money.

Z wants to continue studying; places yet to explore, creatures yet to discover… H: things that haven’t tried to eat us yet? Haven’t tried to blow us up yet? Z points out the latter has not happened, with the exception of the thing Hayden poked with a sword. There is a disagreement on whether it was gentle nudging or stabbing.

Hayden questions having enough manpower and materials; Zephyr goes over the plan again, and Sheila reassures that Hayden may be surprised by what people can do. But then she starts talking about the light or something. While he has valid concerns, Zephyr feels many of the points have been explained before; Strelok points out to her that they have been drinking an awful lot, but she decides to go back below deck and leave people more attention worthy to explain. Sheila adds that she knows that there were a few hundred paladins who decided to stay in Oras rather than go back to Amas.

Polena meanwhile is practicing her sorcery. There are some minor explosions. Her eyebrows get considerably singed. Sheila inquires about her progress. Polena says she mostly has control, but sometimes the explosions are a bit bigger than she expected them to be. She had found a book on board that has been helpful. Sheila tells her to stay comfortable with it, and Polena says it comes naturally to her; she will try to keep it in check. Sheila reiterates that this is important. Polena cites Strelok and Zephyr’s assistance and says it will be fine.

Later, Z approaches Sheila and asks her to be the figurehead of this expedition, as she feels Sheila is already being seen in that role; more importantly, she doesn’t believe people will listen to her. Sheila agrees, and they discuss details about communications between builders, healers, fighters, and alchemists. Zephyr and the alchemists she brought will be doing the teaching of weapon launcher building, bomb creation, and crystal cultivation, but Zephyr plans to mainly fight on the wall once she has things generally set up. She explains she’d like to have all healers ready, and have the wands and scrolls she bought in Amas on hand to use. The warriors should be able to use the bombs as long-range weapons from the wall.

Later when the group convenes, more detail is arranged: Strelok will find a metalworks and people with guns or the knowledge to make them; he himself can make basic hand cannons. Hayden will aid in coordinating people, as he is chasmatic ; he comments that he is a glorified clerk, but Zephyr again says he is more a war general. Hayden is also interested in helping use hand cannons made by Strelok. Sheila will be the general leader, but will especially direct the paladins and healers.
Zephyr knows that Olavand has been completely devestated, and can assume Ardova likely is as well. The last remaining country with respectable technology/resources would likely be Erag, but they are rather focused on the furtherment of their own people. The wall should be between ardova and molavan, which are near erag.

Hayden asks if there is a military that isn’t wearing clanking armor, for stealth purposes. Sheila says there isn’t a set uniform; some will have armor, some will wear leather, etc. Hayden clarifies that he wants to know what they look like, but Zephyr inquring as to why does not bring forth an answer. Sheila says the flaming sword and a burning sun are common to most warriors. Cut and color scheme? Based more on rank; a simple, low ranking — Hayden interrupts and asks specifically about officers… he wants “to look the part”. Zephyr doesn’t quite understand this, but gives up trying quite quickly.
Strelok asks about Polena; she is currently on deck, and has been rather moody. Z says that since she learned about the weapons with Hornswaggle, she can act with the Alchemists in teaching, cultivating, developing. Strelok and Sheila are concerned about Polena (a well-timed explosion rocks the boat a bit). Strelok goes up to talk with her.

It is night, but the moon and nebula are bright enough to see by. St asks her what she is practicing. Polena says she found a book about magic, and the sailor said she could borrow it; it belongs to his daughter who goes to school in Vuresca. St offers help and his own spell book if they’d be helpful. Polena asks for his opinion on a spell she hasn’t quite mastered. She steps back a ball of light, akain to a sun, forms between her hands; she releases it and it shoots forth across the sea. Kamehameha! She says she hasn’t been able “to do it less than that…”; the ball is seen far out on the horizon. She is concerned that if she uses it as is, she will hurt someone. Showing Strelok the book, he recognizes the spell as a cold blast… but Polena’s casting did not resemble a cold blast… except that he suddenly notices a trail of ice in the wake of the energy. He tries to replicate what she did. He easily forms a small ball of the cold energy. he concentrates on making it larger; he is able to make it brighter and larger, but only to the size of a grapefruit, as opposed to Polena’s beach ball. His peters out about 200 yards away. “…That’s the smallest you can make it?” Polena gestures with her hands to show a slightly smaller one she made… He says he wasn’t holding back, and feels he couldn’t make one a third the size of hers. She repeats that she fears she’ll hurt someone. She says that when she used the water spell against the Charybdi, it was simply supposed to move the boat… but its effect was far greater. She asks Strelok to help her tone it down. He says he’ll try, but most people try to do the opposite. He has a few ideas. Polena says she feels different these days… like something inside her is different. Because using magic, or because sad losing the church family… she isn’t sure. Strelok says people can come into their power in different ways, so that may be it. She says she hopes she can be helpful, since the beasties don’t respond much to magic. St says there is more that can be done than balls of fire or ice; she asks him to teach her some of those things. Strelok agrees, suggesting, among other things, entaglement spells and divine magic. Polena decides to practice a bit more, and Strelok tells her to come find him if she needs anything.

The trip is nearly one-third complete.

St goes to talk with Z, says they may have a bigger problem. Z asks bigger than what. St says P’s power growing faster than anyone he’s ever seen; he is concerned, but trying not to let her know. Z says she can be helped at the schools after all this, but for now… damage spells won’t help much now anyway. St suggests metamagic, and asks for Z’s aid. Sheila overhears, and says we should direct her toward non-attack spells, as it would not be good to fall back on those against creatures that may actually become stronger from such attacks. Z agrees, but says Polena knows her shit. Soon they all go to bed.

The next day, Zephyr went to have her own chat. She asks Polena how she is doing. Although not used to being supportive on an emotional level, she tries her best, and her awkwardness doesn’t get in the way overly much. Polena talks about it being hard not being part of the church; also, working on magic that has in the past always been something “bad”. She also regrets not having proper teaching in the area. She feels lonely. Z tries a half hug, and Polena breaks down. Zephyr pats her continuously, trying different shoulders, the top of the head, both shoulders… but she is attentive to Polena’s sobbing the entire time, and doesn’t even mind the emotional clinging all that much. After a few minutes, Polena settles down, and apologizes. Z tells her not to; she reminds her she has friens, offers to help, offers to get her into a magic school, etc. Polena is grateful. Z says she can come talk to her anytime, and they can… just… uh… she’d not sure what people do… Polena says she knows a fun peg game; Z says that as soon as this is all over, P should teach her. P gladly agrees.

Four days pass; it is now day 10. One sailor has been lost in a storm. Polena has made a bit of progress in reining in her power; concentrating a little less hard, and being more thoughtful of time she allows it to charge, she replicates Strelok’s smaller cold blast. Hayden walks up to Polena and makes the motions as if doing the spell himself: it poofs out. “Eh, I got nothing.” Polena said she almost thought he’d do it. Like, maybe he was a secret wizard…

Hayden uses presti. to change outfits. Cleric officer….? Pirate king…? Cleric officer? Pirate king…. Zephyr wonders a bit at this bizarre behavior, but decides to ignore it.

4 more days pass; day 15. We’re down to jerky, fruit, water. People are getting restless and irritable. Strelok contemplates fishing, snd finds some fishing gear.

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All the Montages.
ALL OF THEM.

Totally haven’t fixed or proofread this, fyi.

2/26
We discuss more what our plans will be. Z hopes to recruit some working under Horns so that she is not the only one who knows what to do, especially since at this point the people working on them have a more updated idea of how to use it. Hayden isn’t sure how he can help; it is suggested that he can help get things we’ll need, including a ship. Polena reminds Strelok of the people who had been trying to find their own route between continents. They are south {Cassianka? sp?}. Further, they owe the party a favor. It will also be easier than going through Ferrin.

PS, part of Strong’s plan to quarantine Oras includes a blockade to stop ships.

General call would bring people who aren’t necc useful, despite good intentions. Zephyr agrees with St’d idea of paladins and clerics; Sheila’s divine spell stopped the infection of a blight worm at its earliest stage. Zephyr also will use a sending spell to contact her school in Vuresca to try to recruit the strongest alchemists. Hayden and Strelok mention something about casing the “Stronghold”.

Hayden cases. Details are acquired. He and Strelok scheme how to steal things. After forming a rough plan, Strelok goes to talk to Polena. He asks how she’s doing. She says she’s expected this would eventually happen. He says we have the option to get back at them a bit, if she is interested. Polena doesn’t understand, and Strelok outlines all the wrongs they’ve done to her. She defends them somewhat, but not a lot. He asks for her opinion. She doesn’t know if she wants to help, but doesn’t mind if they do it. Strelok says they’d use it to help out Oras.

He then goes to Zephyr, who is a bit skeptical. Will be used for “mission”? Yes, Strelok reassures her. Zephyr says as long as they don’t get caught… Strelok says that may be a problem, as they may well notice, and would obviously suspect us. Zephyr points out that she’s already planning on stealing the weaponized crystals (even if she has Hornswaggle’s blessing, many people involved in cultivating and weaponizing crystals, some would notice…) and hoping to take some of his alchemists to aid us; even without that, she needs to linger with Hornswaggle for at least a few days, plenty of time for Strong to come after us. Strelok says they have other means of getting funds. Zephyr says she will leave it to his judgement. HIS… not Hayden, who she had to bribe to take a sobering potion so that they could discuss the fate of the world.

[Side: The bird that followed Hayden from the Forest is being more noticeable recently, interacting more. He takes crumbs from Hayden, splashes water when Hayden drinks from the well… and has even brought two gold pieces to Hayden (and some copper). Hayden raises an eyebrow and decides the bird has paid his rent. He shares his jerky with the bird. Hayden tells the bird that it is suddenly a lot less annoying. “Keep this up, and it might go somewhere.”]

Hayden asks Sheila if servants of Iomadae take certain vows. For example, is a vow of poverty part of the deal? Sheila gives away most of her earnings. Sheila says no, just a teaching that you should not take much for yourself. He continues to ask questions, wanting to leave something for Strong that may get Strong in trouble. He plans to take a medal prominent in Strong’s medal and leave something in its place. Hayden grabs parchment and quill and runs off on his own. That night, Hayden attempts to get into the building. He lurks until he sees people go in for nightly cleaning, then uses his hat of disguise along with stealth and bluff. He leaves a letter in Strong’s office, on the floor as if it had accidentally fallen and was unnoticed; people cleaning, however, will undoubtedly see it.

Meanwhile: Sheila cannot think of any paladins in particular to ask along. She plans to speak to people on the road to recruit them, either to fight for change here or go to Oras to help.

Early Morning Ceremony: Is cold. The ritual is observed by two council people, and Strong leads. Sheila is asked many questions, relating mainly to her path and its relation to Iomadae. They take her armor and give her another set: it is more muted, a dark blue-gray. The insignia is a bit different – it is simpler, and features a sword. As the ritual concludes, they wish her well. Strong looks sad. Sheila nods and takes her leave.

The party assembles and heads out. Sheila seems more terse than usual. Hayden looks up at the Stronghold and sees Strong watching them. Hayden uses his hat of disguise to take the appearance of an alter boy and winks back at Strong. Strong looks alarmed and confused.

We head towards Hornswaggle and Danuul. Zephyr uses a sending spell to contact her college. Hornswaggle’s colleagues are academic types; they offer aid in research, and similar, but they are not the sort who would come along. Zephyr asks for any adventuring types among recent graduates (or not necc recent) who she might be able to enlist. There is a montage. Polena and Zephyr go to Hornswaggle, Strelok and Hayden to Danuul. Zephyr asks Sheila to find any who might have divine magic and would come to help with healing. She suggests the church of Iomadae in Danuul; Sheila does not wish to deal with them, however; they may not look well upon her and her new path, and this path is brand new to her. Strelok says, well, she could introduce herself to some vice! Hayden adds that she might take the chance to loosen the ponytail a bit. No? Well, Strelok asks about affiliates; soldiers such as she met during her stint on the wall, for instance; healing clinics that are not religiously affiliated; etc.

NOTE: Physical confrontation DOES work against these things; just difficult. So trained soldiers WOULD be a benefit. Zephyr points out that if we are planning to send soldiers onto the battlefield, really need to get clerics, people who know divine healing. Some soldiers would know those spells. Further, the soldiers who worked with the church will know people. Zephyr gives her share of the money from Strong to Hayden and request that they buy as many divine spell wands, scrolls, etc. as they can find. Additional 10k for bag of holding… but is told they will be fine for money. Instead use for things needed for crystal cultivation. In that case, Zephyr says, just get as many bags of holding as you can.

MONTAGE
As Zephyr expected, Hornswaggle not happy about fact that all his work will be held in reserve. Agrees they should go to Oras. Gives Zephyr half a dozen prototypes. Two alchemists who work under him are willing to come. They know all about the crystals. Zephyr learns from Hornswaggle; in spare time, Polena bombards her with questions, wanting to learn. Best intentions, but stretches Zephyr’s time thin. Zephyr at times puts her with one of Hornswaggle’s underlings to learn, so that Zephyr herself can best maximize her own learning. College responds, sending a list of names of people interested in helping out. Setting up a research committee. Half a dozen willing to come with us. Zephyr requests they be sent to Hornswaggles lab immediately. They should be there within 5 days.

MOAR MONTAGE
Strelok works on getting bounties in Danuul; Hayden has scrolls of “sculpt corpse” to make it appear that certain people have been caught, and collect rewards. Danuul still up and running, but much tension and suspicion, fewer nomadic tradesmen coming through. More quiet at night, more security at the city gates. Hayden works on stealing from merchant vaults, wealthy townspeople, and other places with decent amounts of coin.

Hayden’s loot:
1,665 gold
800 gold
600 gold, ~800gold worth of jewelry

During day: shopping! And when that is not happening, Hayden tries to figure out the bird. It has taken to alighting on his shoulder. It chirps and warbles at him occasionally. It seems to pay attention to Hayden when he speaks, and may make response sounds. Hayden is able to get general feelings from the bird…. which can be irritating, because often when Hayden yells at it, it becomes gleeful. Hayden has discovered it is very fond of leftover toast crusts, and is happy for meat scraps. Berries and other fruits also are good, but are often a bit large; an apple slice proves troublesome. Hayden recommends an opposable thumb. The bird pecks him a bit, then nibbles his thumbnail. When Hayden is stealthing, it can be shooed away, but often will take it on itself to roost nearby and watch. Once during a heist, it coos softly to alert Hayden to a guard nearby.

HOORAY IT’S A MONTAGE

3/19 – I was pretty much dead after finals and cake D:
So during montages, Sheila talked with army buddies about helping.

Hayden decides to stop by his old home.

Hornswaggle has no interest in coming along.

~
Hayden and Strelok are in Danuul. VERY crowded; a tent city has been erected.

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Where We Go From Here

The town Ilirra: Many refugees, some areas cordoned off for them. Marketplace deserted, people staying inside. Feeling we should leave asap. We go to see Strong in his nearby “Stronghold”. Polena worries about the church’s reaction to her use of magic; Strelok points out they don’t need to tell Strong. Polena reluctantly says this is true.

We are given separate rooms, our weapons are taken. Then Strelok, Zephyr, Hayden, and Sheila are put in a waiting room; Polena is not with us. Sheila is summoned to see Strong alone. Strong is sitting at his desk, not looking very happy; he looks disappointed, in fact, which is harder to deal with than angry Strong. There are no other chairs, so Sheila must stand. Strong says he’d “had more hopes from this mission than he probably should have had”. Sheila outlines our trek, including some creature encounters. Also: the corpse balls found in ruins and the city. Strong then asks how studies with Polena have been going. Sheila says she’s been improving. Strong agrees, yet the part of her they’d hoped would have been quelled in her time with Sheila had only gotten stronger. Polena is no longer welcome in the church. Strong suggests this may have resulted from Sheila’s poor choice in companions. He also says he’d been thinking of Sheila taking over his position one day, but clearly may not be suitable… Sheila snaps. She’s done all she’s been told, everyone has survived and contributed, gone through more than most could. Strong’s eyebrows nearly reach his hairline. Sheila concludes, and is overcome with an “oh shit what did I do” expression.

Strong: I see fieldwork has been hard on you; why I thought mentorship program would be suitable. By now you should have settled down and have your own students. Understand adventure is in your nature; however, not questioning your place in our flock, you are a valued member and did impeccably; however, “we have lost a young and brilliant girl from our group because it was difficult for your to multitask and guide her toward the light”. Not a failure on your part; a lack of aptitude for teaching. As I was saying, many other venues in the church that might better suit your nature. I do not plan to renew any contracts with your party. Clearly not aligned with our point of view; although effective mercenaries, little more than that. I understand your loyalty & sense of friendship with your group; willing to grant you a sabbatical to sort out your loose ends, at which point you can return—
Sheila: what good if world is ending?
Strong: We’re doing what we can…
Sheila: You need us. You need me, you need this group.
Strong: not my decision to make. I trust you, but you don’t have good graces with rest of council. Don’t test them. I strongly advise against it.

Sheila has had it. Especially because he went after Polena. She defends her ward passionately, saying Strong has not been there to see her accomplishments or growth. Also frustrated that he hasn’t even talked to any of us about the mission yet has decided it is done. She has done her duty. Skyler snickers. She says mentorship is more about character, about making sure they do things in the heart of Iomadae. Strong looks sad. He says he understands her feelings. But the church is very clear on the dangers of the unpredictable nature of arcane magic; they cannot abide a viper living amongst them. She’s shown great strength of character. Perhaps they can one day be allies. But as a member of our church… it is just not possible. Sheila says this situation is not working for her. Strong says he regrets that this might be their last conversation. He would not say this to anyone else. In ancient church lore, have been paladins who devoted lives to Iomadae as “heart wanderers”; did not attend church or belong to organization, instead independent bringers of her word. Isn’t that what Iomadae did herself? Few are strong enough to travel this path; none of chosen it in past 600 years. Strong says there is a ritual, and then Sheila will not receive help from the Church again. Sheila says she hasn’t really been getting help as it is. Strong says he is sorry she feels that way. The ritual will take place tomorrow at dawn. “You are dismissed.”

It is early afternoon. Zephyr gets a summons.
Zephyr is greeted happily, and shown to a chair. He comments on the parties progress and the loss of the mercenary and Hayden’s hand. Z informs him of the threat the information in the book contains and that the forest is not a current problem. Strong is confused at first and asks for context to her excitement. She explains how she came upon the book she has been translating. She explains how the bugs while a threat, are not nearly as important as the plague worms and their growing numbers and connection to Faramil. She also inquires about Hornswaggle and his work with the bombs. She volunteers the party to save the world. Strong is seriously disturbed and tells Z that they must immediately quarantine the entire east continent. He informs her that even though some ships did get through the blockade they are being quarantined in the bay. He also informs her the party will not be further employed by the church and that the church is pulling out entirely from the eastern continent. He looks forward to her continuing to work with the church on the bombs. Z expresses concern about the paladins being recalled, S informs her that those that wish to stay can. He expresses that the church simply cannot sacrifice their soldiers considering the current circumstances. They must protect their own and cannot focus on peoples that can only offer “Dust and horses”. He tells her that the creatures are growing in size and lessen in number. There is a wall separating Ardova and the northern parts of the continent. It has been holding, but that is currently the best hope. The creatures however are getting more dangerous as they grow. Z also inquires about Javid. He was killed. Euthanized. The weapon is nearing completion resulting in a steam powered grenade launcher. A trebuchet like launcher as well. The weapons will be stored and set up to be used in case of emergency infection or other breach of quarantine. Hornswaggle is still working on the crystal production but needs more resources to grow enough for mass productions. Zephyr asks if the weapons will then be sent to Oras; Strong admits that, no, they will not. They will be kept in Amas for its protection should the plague worms reach this continent. But can just cultivate more… Strong says it is very costly. Zephyr inquires as to whether that is from materials, or manpower; she is told the vast majority is paying people to do the work. She points out that people fighting to survive are unlikely to ask for wages; Strong offers to part with a prototype, and Zephyr accepts. She then asks for and receives directions to where Hornswaggle is working. It is several days away.

Meanwhile, 20 min after Zephyr summoned, Hayden and Strelok’s things are returned; told they would not be needed. Strelok asks about money; told they could stop by the treasurer. Sheila is awol (stormed off after meeting w/ Strong), and Polena was taken from the start. There aren’t sure where the women are. They go to the Hawk N Swallow inn for a drink. Hayden mentions he’s got money to blow; Strelok says: we can use that for planar travel. Hayden:…. Huh? (Would need to find an outsider already here to transport us, as we don’t have that tech) (Strelok tries to explain: Our universe is a pancake. There are an infinite number of pancakes. We can go to one of those other pancakes. Why haven’t others done it…? Difficult, expensive. Some leaders of Strelok’s college can do it. Hayden: “sure, why not. Could be fun. Hopefully less tentacley death.” Strelok also says we might try to do something about the problem here. Hayden is doubtful. Strelok says escape is a plan B. Hayden asks what plan A is; Strelok says it is to get drunk.

Back with Zephyr and Strong…
S gives Zephyr voucher for money, 24Kgold. Z goes searching for the rest of her group and does not find them. She then goes to the treasury to receive her payment. Bag of holding is good. She inquires about Sheila and Polena. She is informed that Polena left the city and is heading towards the train station. She asks for a rookery and sends a message to Polena to return. SCRAW!!! She then inquires about the boys and Sheila and is informed the boys went to a bar and that Sheila in the training yards beating the shit outta some poor noobs. They are terrified. Wimplow style. They conspire to reform the group. Z informs Sheila that she is going after Polena. She requests that Sheila find Strelok and Hayden in that time, as Zephyr has much she needs to say to the group. They will meet back here in 2 hours. Zephyr steals a horse. The stable boy is very accommodating. No not like that. sigh

Sheila finds the boys, surrounded by empty cups. They seem jovial. Sheila is tempted to have a drink herself. She takes a swig of one of their cups… and wonders why they like it. Sheila asks what their plans are. What about money? Z has. Where is Z? Going after P. Where is p?? What’s going on? Sheila briefly explains that church rejected Polena, Polena headed to train station, Zephyr currently fetching her back; Sheila also leaving church (they kicked YOU out? No… parting ways…) Hayden likens it to telling a fish to get out of the ocean. Sheila says she was apparently starting to swim upstream. So, Hayden asks what Sheila’s plans are. She says she will be doing nothing sanctioned by the church. Hayden is wondering why they are letting her go solo rather than kicking her out. Meanwhile, Strelok is asking about how the church does duels. He wants to challenge Strong.

Sheila explains she has a certain personality type that the church doesn’t welcome in their daily functions… Strelok: honorably discharged? Sheila: well, yeah. Strelok: So… pension? Sheila: no. Not connected to the church. Strelok to Hayden: What are you doing tonight? He proposes a party to celebrate Sheila leaving church. He holds up a glass and tells her she has eight or nine more to drink to catch up. (Throughout all this, Strelok keeps saying he should go get Polena, and Sheila explains Zephyr left already and etc.) Strelok realizes after being told 3rd or so time that Zephyr is meeting them with Polena in about 1.5 hr that he should sober up. He goes to bathroom, and Hayden asks what Sheila is going to do; wait. What? Wait? Disciple was kicked out, you are leaving the church, and you’re just going to wait? Strelok returns and says plan is to duel Strong, and then he and Hayden have extracurricular activites… H: eh? S: well, she’s not getting a pension… H: and they already fired us… and world is ending… there is a lot they won’t need… Sheila tuned them out at “extracurricular activities”. Strelok suggests he and Hayden case the place…

Zephyr comes upon a sad Polena sitting dejected on the side of the road. Out of her clerics robes she’s quite fashionable. Zephyr greets her casually and asks where Polena is going. Polena says she was thinking of going to the school Zephyr attended, since Zephyr had spoken so highly of it. Zephyr says that unlike what Polena told Strelok awhile back, it is not the case that she “has no where else to go”; she can stay with Zephyr. However, where Zephyr is going will be dangerous; she requests Polena come with her for the time being to meet up with the rest of the party, and Zephyr will explain everything. Then if Polena would like, Zephyr will write her a letter of recommendation to get her into the school. Without yet knowing what the danger is, Polena says she wants to stay with Zephyr.

They return to the city. She crafts a sobering potion for the drunken party. Zephyr has had a lot to say bottled up for several hours; when she returns to find Strelok and Hayden drunk, she is a tad frustrated (the words “I will blow you up!” may have been used). She quickly crafts a sobriety potion. When Hayden complains of the smell, she tells him that she has the party’s money. He and Strelok drink.

She explains the situation in the soon-to-be abandoned continent. She outlines her plan: go to Hornswaggle and make sure she knows everything there is to know about the crystals and the bombs made from them; obtain promised samples, then steal or pursuade Hornswaggle to part with much of the weapon that Strelok had intended to keep on this continent for protection. Find a ship — either hire some of the many people who have relatives still in Oras, or buy (if inter-continental transport is cut off, merchants with large fleets have lost most of their need for them). Go to the wall that has been constructed in Ardova and recruit the people there to cultivate the crystals and help with the weaponization process. Chuck crystal bombs over the wall and the advancing Plague Worm horde. Hopefully kill enough such that even if the remainder consolidate into one being, the resulting beast is not as unstoppable as Faramil’s Monster at full strength would be. She plans to sell most of her things, anything that is not useful against the plague worms, to raise money; she may need to call in debts, as she has lent money out to the party previously. She apologizes to Hayden, as she had previously promised her funds to aid in the regeneration of his hand. She asks if any will join her, speaking to each directly. She explains how if we cull their numbers now we can prevent them from completing the transformation. Hayden is skeptical as to what we can really do against these things, but is at last convinced. Zephyr attempts to use the prospect of damsels in distress all over Oras, honestly thinking that this is good motivation, and having no idea it comes off patronizing to Hayden.

Other thoughts: Zephyr wonders if we might spread word that we are going to Oras to help; many people have family there, and the fact that the church is withdrawing aid and leaving them on their own will not sit well with many. They’d need to bring their own food for the voyage.

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Helping Hands

We return to Danuul. More chaotic than before… not overt or overwhelming, but the usual “busy” feel is affected by an air of fear. So many fleeing the coastal cities have made it much more crowded. Refugees have been landed from Oras. Rumors of people/ships being turned away, some ships being burned. Ferrin is torching incoming ships, no questions ask; or, Ferrin is welcoming all refugees; conflicting rumors. The refugees coming may itself be just a rumor, with people fleeing the coastal cities just because it is a possibility. Luckily we are able to find room and board, three rooms between the five of us.

Hayden is brooding, having a new sense of mortality. When we enter the city, we see a shop that sells prosthetic limbs with all sorts of attachments. It is called “The Stranger”. Hayden decides to check it out. The shop keeper takes a look at his arms to gauge size. He tells Hayden that they don’t have anything basic in stock, but some with a few features… he brings out a “floor model” that he admits has a few “bugs” (Hayden twitches at the word “bugs”). The hand has a lighter finger, which creates fire in a finger; another finger has a can opener, a third has a knife, etc. A “sort of… deluxe smarmy model”. There is a reservoir in the palm, and a finger unscrews… it is a flask. There is also a concealed compartment for valuables. All the limbs in the shop are magical in construction. Each has a crystal and comes with a crystal necklace, which communicate in a way, allowing one to move their artificial limb like they would a natural limb.

Hayden expresses interest in the hand, but doesn’t have enough gold. He sees what he might have to trade… not enough, unfortunately. He barters a little… but not unfairly… and impresses the shopkeeper with the tale of how he lost the hand. The shopkeeper sees him as a veteran. “Here at the Stranger, we believing in reaching out and touching those in need…” he offers a discount: 4k gp rather than 6.5. Hayden reminds the shopkeeper that he said this model was “buggy”, and a floor-model. The shopkeeper sweats a bit, but says he’ll knock of 500 gold. Telling the shopkeeper about the gems and jewelry he has to offer, he talks them up a bit, and makes them more interesting by the stories of how they were gotten. However, they are not quite enough. The guy (not quite sane) says he needs them imbued with certain magic. Hayden is not entirely sure what this means, but says he can do this, and will return in the morning.

Zephyr knows what the man meant, and is impressed that the man figured out such an application of magic. Zephyr says she can do this, imbuing the six gems within the day. Polena may be able to help.

Meanwhile, Strelok has returned to Van’s gun shop. The shop is closed; Strelok knocks, with no success. Around back is a skinny flight of stairs, up which is a door with a bell outside. It takes a few rings before Strelok hears stirring from within, and much grumbling. “Oh, it’s you. Don’t you know the meaning of the word ‘closed’?” Strelok: No welcome back from a terrible place from which few people return alive? Van: well, uh, a few people have returned, and I had faith in you….

Strelok hands him the gun found in the wastes. Van recognizes it; he says he made it for Strelok’s father, around 20 years ago. He hadn’t thought Strelok’s father ever used it, nor had been very fond of it. Strelok says he found it in an old building in the wastes. Van thinks this is odd, and asks if Strelok saw any signs of is brother there. Strelok says he had not. Van says he hadn’t seen Alexander for many years, but knows that he had a tendency to cache weapons and ammo; and there are stories of impressive game in the forest, including a dragon. Alexander is a bit of a daredevil hunter. Strelok asks if he could trade it for the gun he commissioned before the party left for the Forest. Van is agreeable to this, and fetches the commissioned gun, kept in a mahogany box. Mahogany. In parting, Strelok recommends that Van leave town; Van asks where he should go, as the creatures are rumored to be prolific and spread quickly. He will stay.

Sheila goes towards the center of town to see what people are saying. At this point in the day, people are heading home from the market. There is much talk about the increased number of people in the city. Where they came from differs on who you talk to. The same contradictory rumors about the plague worms, the quarantine, and refugees. Those passing through are traveling to the south west, Pen{sp?} and Agrium.

Meanwhile, Hayden forges a bank bond from Illira. The next morning, he disguises himself as an older gentleman, in nice but travel-worn clothing. He retains the stump where his hand used to be. He goes to a bank and tells a story of fleeing the coast; the bond, he says, was all he could save. The bank teller is sympathetic, and finds a manager to help out. It takes awhile, as the bank is very busy. The bank is low on smaller-value coins, and the manager apologetically asks if it would be alright in platinum. He brings it to Hayden… 200 platinum total. Hayden drops the disguise once away from the bank, then heads towards the shop. He notices a mechanical hand on the roof; it is going up and down… waving, sort of… He buys his new hand. It is buckled on, and he puts on the jewel necklace. The shopkeeper flips a tiny switch on the back of the necklace, and the hand is now on.

The party catches a train to go see Strong.

WE ALL GAIN TWO LEVELS!!

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Many Bugs = Happy Birds.
Also, wtf Aeric?!

So the party had awoken to find Zephyr and Polena gone. Their beads on Sheila’s bracelet still bear their resemblance, but are cold and unresponsive. Strelok was unable to track the two. The remaining party decided to continue heading towards the center of the forest, having no other ideas.

The forest is denser, and travel more difficult. Progress is slow. The two birds do not speed things up, as they are not evolved for this type of terrain. It is getting hotter and more humid. The party encounters more bugs, a few oozes, and what looks like a shambling mound; all were successfully bypassed. Several species of fungus “ripple” towards the party. Bioluminescence is more frequent.

75 feet up a tree, a body is hanging from a branch. Hayden asks Strelok if he can shoot it down, but Strelok is reluctant to make noise. The body looks like it has been there a long time; not Polena or Zephyr. There are centipedes the size of giant river otters. Those in the party without breathing aids find themselves having coughing spells from the spores and plants. Occasionally the party will experience burning or watering eyes. Strelok devises something to help Sheila; a mask of moss, more or less.

Night falls, and the party finds a campsite. It is the hollow of a great tree, in what seems to be an abandoned animal den; there is only one opening, aside from a narrow slit in the wood in back. The one opening is well camouflaged. Aeric puts together a crude trap alarm to alert the party if someone approaches the entrance.

Unfortunately, he does not return to the den, although the traps are set.

Strelok looks for tracks and believes he sees a trail; however, night has fallen, and it becomes harder and harder to see them. Further, all the roots within the ground move slightly, making it hard to see the tracks. The plants in this part of the forest subtly writhe in the night. Luckily, the tree within which the camp has been made is long dead. Strelok and Hayden debate whether or not to try to track Aeric given the ever-increasing lack of visibility. However, the writhing disrupts the dirt and the tracks, so by morning it may not be possible to follow them. Further, the presence of tracks makes it look as though Aeric ran off; Polena and Zephyr left no tracks when taken.

Hayden yells at the forest a little, trying to get the attention of anything sentient. The night noises abate a bit as things are startled. Sheila and Strelok agree to follow the tracks, and the three set off, accompanied by the two birds.

Everything glows, so the party can at least see the path. Unfortunately, the party is soon attacked. The creatures are glowing, slimy, and have a “deep sea” feel. Some have shining lures. The tracks take them further into the forest, and it looks as though Aeric is moving quickly. The party encounters several dead bugs, evidently slain by Aeric. After traveling three hours, the tracks are noticibly fresher.

Then there is a scraping mark, as if Aeric tripped… and nothing else. The party pauses… and looks around. The forest is moving faster now, and seems to be taking a shape. It seems to be contracting. It eventually stills; it undulates, but no longer moves otherwise. The forest has previously acted this way if large things are moving in the vicinity. Exhausted, the party decides it needs to camp. A suitable tree is found and camp is set up once more.

~
While unconscious, Zephyr dreams of the blight worms, and of “their master”… the dreams are lucid, terrible, and perhaps prophetic.
~

Morning seems to come quickly, despite the fact that watches are not set and everyone in the party sleeps. Now that the sun is up, the forest is much, much quieter; in the night, it seemed near a roar. They sleep a few hours past dawn, setting off at 10 or 11 am.

The party debates their next steps. Go further? Return and focus on the blight worms? Leave, find a wizard, and hope he can trace the missing party members through Sheila’s bracelet?

Strelok at least is able to make a better breathing aparatus for Sheila. It is still a bit itchy, but no longer makes her sneeze.

The party decides to move on into the forest.

Shortly thereafter, they find a corpse ball. It contains a single body… a fleshy one. Luckily, it is no one from the party, nor even human. It has leathery wings, a reptilian bat creature. It only has one hand, the other arm ending in a bloody stump. The goo of the corpseball is still sticky; a falling leaf lands on it and is slowly sucked in. Closer inspection shows many small beetles also sucked in. The flesh remaining suggests the corpse balls are not just the regurgitated non-digestable remains of food.

The creature in the ball is fresh and may have been sentient; perhaps there are others of its kind. Strelok climbs a tree to look around, but finds cat-sized bees. He descends.

After a few hours, the party spots a necklace on the ground which belongs to Polena. Hayden looks up, but sees nothing. There are no other signs. A small bird tries to snatch the necklace, but the party quickly scoops it up. Strelok asks to hold on to it.

Around this time, Zephyr begins to awaken, experiencing a terrible headache. It feels as though she were cut off from her arcane magic. She suspects she is in a field, one that the forest probably couldn’t make itself; also within structure, a lean-to shed thing. Zephyr notes that she and Polena are not necessarily trapped, as there is no obvious lock. But the field likely not just for magic. Polena is unconscious on pile of hay, snoring and drooling slightly. It’s warm. Pretty comfy. Neither woman has any apparent injury. Zephyr is awake maybe 3 minutess before remembering her dream, and suddenly she understands the book**. She is shell-shocked for a while, but has time to process. After about an hour, a large beetle comes and pulls open the door. It glances in, then backtracks… leaving the door open. But then a skinny gnarled man steps into doorway. He wears plain robes, is all skin and bones, encrusted with bark and debris, and he carries simple wooden staff. One white eye, one piercing.

Notes that Zephyr is awake and of good constitution; he did not anticipate that. He will not say much, but says Polena and Zephyr will not be harmed, as long as he gets what is “his due”. Says we should be on our way soon (implies it depends on the will of some male being). Won’t answer questions about how long we must wait. Says food will be brought. Zephyr decides it best not to press for answers. The man closes the door. A beetle burrows in, vomits a sweet-smelling yellow substance, and leaves. Having been unconscious for 24 hours, Zephyr needs food, and can’t resist long… the substance is surprisingly pleasant; like nectar from trees smelled. Suddenly Zephyr feels euphoric. Polena stirs, and Zephyr has an urge to finish quickly; she has enough self control to leave Polena some.

Pallas is curled in haystack in the hut, nibbling happily on bugs. He tells Zephyr they were brought on the back of a bug, and the two women were well tended. He couldn’t lead us back, but possibly could ID key landmarks if he came across them again.

After awhile, Zephyr gets lonely, and pokes Polena awake. Polena is excited about the food; Zephyr decides not to say anything. Difficult, since she is bored and finds the bugs fascinating already. Zephyr fills Polena in on the situation. Polena says her magic wouldn’t be useful anyway… Zephyr reassures her that she’s been making progress. Polena says she’d like to learn more, and asks Zephyr to teach her some. Zephyr is extremely pleased to do so. The man doesn’t return that evening, but the two are engrossed. Polena gives her rapt attention, which makes Zephyr feel appreciated; she finds she actually likes Polena very much.

~~
Back with the party, the birds are SO FREAKIN HAPPY.

Strelok has a theory about expanding leaves blotting out sun, obscuring daylight and making it seem that the party has traveled for more hours than it actually has; what they perceive as dusk and dawn are off.

Strelok tries climbing another tree. He finds an empty hunting blind. Looks like it was last used a day or so (judging by blood on ground). Appears to be used at least weekly. This looks like a good camp spot, so he goes to tell Sheila and Hayden; but he will stay on the forest floor with the birds. Sheila says they should stay together. Hayden bitches about not using the convenient platform above. Strelok assures them both that, with the two birds, he’ll be fine. He turns out to be right; the birds gleefully “defend” him against insects.

“Morning”, Sheila awakens; the party is getting more sleep since the light doesn’t reach them through the canopy until after dawn.

(With Zephyr and Polena: Polena is horrified when a beetle delivers breakfast, but Zephyr likens it to honey from a bee)

On their travels that day, the party finds a shred from Zephyr’s clothes and one of Polena’s shoes.

That morning, Polena and Zephyr have normal-person, non-educational discussion, which Zephyr is surprised to find she does not object to. It helps that there is no rambling on Polena’s part. Zephyr almost forgets that she is captured, except for the back-of-the-mind panic from not having access to her magic. It makes her feel hollow, defenseless. Probably early afternoon when a commotion is heard from outside. Theoor opens, but a forcefield is visible just outside. Zephyr and Polena go to the door frame. They begin hearing voices yelling and rustling sounds. A few moments, then a great beetle bursts from forest with the skinny man riding it. He yells “Aeric!” and from the opposite side of the clearing, Aeric enters. He is badly wounded; black eye, scratches and scrapes, gouge in scalp where hair and skin is missing. He trudges in, and says “it’s done. You may let them go now.” Skinny man considers, nods, and force field is removed. (Meanwhile: Polena and Zephyr’s beads on Sheila’s bracelet are suddenly warm).

Aeric tells Zephyr that it isn’t safe, and she and Polena must go. Zephyr: “The fuck?” Aeric: “No time now.” Although wanting to know what is going on, Zephyr recognizes that this is not the right time. Suddenly, she feels Sheila’s pull from bracelet, and she and Polena allow the transportation.

Reunited, Zephyr fills the party in on recent events. We wonder about Aeric, obviously. Strelok returns Polena’s necklace and shoe.

Zephyr then says we need to get the fuck out of the forest and back across the wall. She fills them in on what she has figured out in the book, not mentioning that dreams aided in her discovery, or that they were prophetic; however, the dreams give her an urgency she can very successfully convey. What about Aeric? Well, we don’t know where he is, he doesn’t know where we are, and if it is between him and the rest of the world…

We have similar encounters as when we were traveling into the forest, but the further we head away from the center of the forest, the more relaxing things become. On the third day of travel, Hayden spots something shiny. He does like shiny. It is gold… a lump rather than a bar or coin. It looks like pure ore, a huge chunk of it. It is sitting in the hollow of a log. He goes to take it… but the bird that tried to take Polena’s necklace is back, and it swoops and chirps angrily at Hayden. Dive-bombing and angry noises. Hayden ignores it, shooing it with his dominant hand, and grabs the gold with his off-hand. The bark of the tree snaps shut, trapping his hand, and a cloud of purple spores bursts forth. Then the rumbling starts. The bugs are coming. The bark is chitinous… not wood after all. Hitting it with the pommel of a sword produces a clanging sound. Sheila tries to help. The forest parts. Sheila swings with her fiery sword, but no success. Strelok yells that we need to go; the birds are panicking, Pallas is screeching loud enough for the entire party to hear. Strelok runs over and hits the chitin with a cold spell, then Sheila repeats a full-force blow with her sword, on fire. Blade sinks in about 1/4th of an inch; able to wrench it out… but the rumbling is ever louder. Strelok appologizes and severs Haydens hand. He throws Hayden onto the bird beside Polena to heal, gets himself and Zephyr on the second bird, and we all fucking RUN. Sheila’s armor prevents the birds from carrying her, but she is able to run quickly. Z throws bombs behind them. The party runs for most of the day before losing their pursuit.

Night is falling… Hayden has lost a hand, but his “bird friend” has followed us. Zephyr asks Polena and Sheila about restoration spells. Polena says someone at church may be able to. Zephyr offers her saved up money to Hayden for payment of such restoration spells, and points out that they’ll be paid by Strong when they return.

Traveling montage. We move as quickly as possible across the desert and wall. The men of the hold are surprised to see us alive. One mentions seeing a man who made magical, mechanical limbs. Hayden is quiet throughout the trip, which is very worrisome. The bird continues to follow us. Strelok says he knows someone who could maybe make Hayden an attachment…

**
1200 years ago, Demon Faramil defeated and magic returned (maw created, separated countinents, ocean formed). Book speaks of primal power within his control, possibly never activated because he was still building power. This primal power called Faramil’s monster, a devouring power. Blight worms are larval stage of this creature; ultimately they are almost like homuncili, each having a small part of the monster. As they grow, they will consume one another; growing, growing, growing. Plague will spread, then consolidate, and Faramil’s monster will form. It was perhaps catastrophic for us to leave when we did; the plague spreads quickly, and we’d heard rumors before we’d left of the blight worms appearing on this continent. The plague could easily consume a continent, leading to its destruction. When the monster reborn, chaos unleashed; entire plane could be at risk, not just our world. Ohshitohshitohshit. Prophetic dreams showed Zephyr the extent of the horrors. Ritual to spring the monster from depths required a cult, to bring about the blight worms. Only truly devote or truly insane would perform this ritual.

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[Incomplete]

[The following is Cody’s log followed by extra notes from Becky, who will come back later to consolidate them into a cohesive log.]

Most of the day spent chiseling corpse balls. It is around 4 pm. They return to the church to make camp for the night. It is uneventful.

Sheila wakes the group early. They gather and head towards the Forest. They travel throughout the day, eat some scorpions, and come upon the first real signs of an eco-system. The humidity begins to rise. By the time they make camp that night they have come upon small patches of grass. The night passes uneventfully. They arrive at the forest arrive around noon. Zephyr acquires some spores from a plant. They make camp in the semi-circle of three. Using a hammock they make sure to stay off the ground. It has become uncomfortably warm and humid.

A large beetle the size of a German Shepard appears from the underbrush and then disappears immediately, leaving behind ichorus goo. This happens again several times over the night. Nothing happens. We are visited my many forms of life, salamanders, insects, small mammals and strange bats. Zephyr digs. She is very curious. Polena assists. The night is uneventful.

Morning comes. Everything is damp. Sheila notices while cleaning her armor that the dew is unusual. It is thick and viscous. The night’s digging was unsuccessful. The roots are so thick it is impossible to dig more than a few feet down. The fungus gets thicker farther in. They begin to see bioluminescent creatures and plants. Zephyr begins to add to her “guide”. The predatory things we find are all smaller than us and give us no trouble. They find a mineral deposit that Zephyr takes a sample of. Hayden is drawn to a bluish light. He comes upon the well of a tree. It is filled with sweet smelling that glows liquid. He puts his finger in it. It smells like nectar. He brings it to the parties attention. He tastes it. It is delicious. He is mildly intoxicated. He feels amazing. He fills a bottle with the goo, Zephyr does as well. They make camp for the night.

In the night they feel movement underground and they hear movement in the forest. The forest seems to move around the beetles, parting for them as they pass through. The Tree Well seems to be a potential food source for the insects. Zephyr feels very close to a major breakthrough with her notes. Possibly the origin of the parasitic creatures they faced on the last continent.

Blue drank is the shiznat.

Zephyr comes to the realization her notes contain the summoning ritual for Faramils monster, which is the cause of the blight worm plague. We make camp again. The first shift passes uneventfully. Sheila awakes to her natural clock. This is unusual. Polena and Zephyr and missing.
“this isn’t the blessing I want it to be is it?”
Unable to find a trail they set upon direction indicated by Erics “Hunch”.

~~~~~

Zephyr’s studies of the corpse ball material revealed:
• Non-corrosive or poisonous
• Appears to be just waste material/byproduct
• Was an ooze before hardening into a solid
• Must have a preservative element since clothing, metal, etc has not degraded
• It has an unusual signature that implies magical components combined with biological base. Definitely made within a living creature.

From translation studies: can now read most of the book, but there is a sizeable passage at the end that is in a different hand and in a proto-language; cannot yet translate it, but have the sense that it is very important.

Sneezing as approach forest. Not an unpleasant smell. See more and more life — small insects, birds. looks like normal, healthy wildlife. Zephyr notes that all these birds are migratory, not native to this area. Air getting more humid. By time we camp, grasses.

Forest much denser than expected. Flora: large trees, smaller growth. Trees too large for forest edge, and how it is spreading. Mangrove-like root systems. Emitting spores: a large, rotund thing with a large blossom on top. Aproximately a 2ft diameter. Oozing spores. Ocassionally pulsing. Zephyr jars some spore-mist.

She decides to dig that night to examine the root systems. If there are shallow roots, no problem; if they are deep, that suggests that the burrowing insects are native to the waste rather than the actual forest (unless we are seeing dead plants)

Find 3 trees to camp by.

Beetle size of german shepard leaves yellow goo; corrosive, smells sickly-sweet. After several such fleeing beetles, seems a defensive thing, but can also be used to aid digestion.

Polena offers to help Zephyr dig, saying everyone else doesn’t think Zephyr knows what she is doing, but it seems like Zephyr is the only one who knows what she is doing. Zephyr is touched, and realizes she has been feeling rather dispirited, being the only one with a “plan” and yet not being paid much attention to.

Glowing goo: traces of elemental magic; foresty, nurturing.

Hayden tastes goo… Zephyr decides to start studying him again, because HOW HAS HE SURVIVED THIS LONG?!

Zephyr translation epiphany: thinks she knows where to focus now. Study: no more translation, but even more feeling that the information contained in this passage is imperative to our current quest… yet does not seem to be about the Forest. Perhaps an origin story?

Plants moving to let beetles through: symbiosis? magical or psychic signal sent from beetles? Possible beetles have a sort of spell they can cast

As we travel deeper into forest, things become bigger, and symbiosis more noticeable (witnessing plants moving for creatures often). These observations cause Zephyr to become more and more obsessed with the untranslated passage; now sure it has nothing to do with the forest, yet important.

Later, breakthrough in passage: 1200 years ago when demon (Faramil) slain, had compartmentalized soul (like homunculus) into vessel that was his body, and a vicious beast. Faramil was destroyed, but the monster lay dormant. This book details rites/rituals to reawaken Faramil’s monster; results are what happened in Oras… creatures are his children. When they have amassed enough power, Faramil will return. The magic that has returned to the world would make it easier for Faramil to return, as it has allowed this Forest to grow. Layman’s terms: someone summoned Faramil’s monster, intentionally, although results may not have been foreseen.

Polena and Zephyr take second shift… and are hit by darts. They pass out before they can react.

Taking over notes:
The party travels the rest of the day looking for Polena and Zephyr. Along the deer trail, they see structures — simple and rudamentary, yet unable to be made by non-humanoid hands. Several platforms, and some posts with engravings in a language they do not recognize. Hayden says people must live here, but Strelok points out that it may be that they LIVED here. The writing on the posts is in the same language as that on the disc that attatched to Hayden and then Strelok. Strelok asks his sword where his friends may have been taken. Sword “sensed one of the creators come”. Strelok asks if it can locate where the creator is now, or at least a general direction. Sword: "They are all around. The creator used to be one, now he is many. " Strelok asks for closest one. The sword says it is in the general direction they are heading. This makes Strelok suspicious of Aeric, who had a gut feeling that they should go in their current direction.

Travel long into the night, but finally stop to camp.

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Fort exploration

City not built in desert, life drained. Formerly a bustling port trade city. We camp in church of Pelor. Last campaign was 1200 years ago. When magic came back into the world. The forest began to grow as soon as the magic returned. Began to grow slowly. Spores present, but not in force; far fewer plants to produce them. After a few hundred years, gained speed. History: “forest” only reached the city we are in about 300 years ago. That is when the waste ARRIVED at the city, when crops started failing, drought, etc. At first only thought it was a bad few years, but only got worse. The actual forest, the city discovered, had grown towards them at an alarming speed.

Within 30 years, the city was nothing but dust; no longer viable. Some tried to stay, most left. No one beyond the wall knows what happened to them. Valuables taken by those who migrated over the 30 years. Corpse balls suggest why nothing was heard from the hold-outs. Migrators had not thought drought would last forever, but feared the approaching forest also.

Morning in the church:

Hayden snores in a gentlemanly fasion, Sheila meditates through it. Zephyr considers looking for a library. She consults Sheila about looking for a library, citing the possible knowledge it would provide to the success to the mission. They decide to head to the fort instead to look hopfully for the last bastion of the city’s people. While trying to express the importance of her search for information, Zephyr gets frustrated with Hayden, and Sheila says she doesn’t have to explain things. Zephyr expresses bewilderment that there is someone who does not catch on even with a clear display, in laymen’s terms, of logic. Sheila says he is just trying to get a reaction. (Aeric: “he’s fucking with you…”) Zephyr suddenly understands: Hayden is interested in psychology!

Once at the fort, Zephyr levitates up the wall and opens the portcullis. The courtyard around the fort is bare. Littered with a little training gear and rusted armor/weapons. The fort itself is not elegant but certainly sturdy. Hayden looks for murderholes. There are windows on the second story. Sheila opens the barred door with a clever use of her sword. Inside, we find the stone walls are much thinner than they appear from the outside; a clever ruse to deter attack. The place creaks as the door swings open, making Zephyr suspect that the mortar used in the construction is of lesser quality than that in the church. We move quietly.

The main door opens into a large entrance hall. The large door on the left opens up into a large room. There are the remains of severals wagons, some empty chests, and some old grain. The first door on the right is a small access hallway that follows the outer wall. A door in the hallway leads to what appears to be a mess hall, which in turn leads to a weapons storage room and some barracks.

The barracks have several rows of tall bunk beds. The room is old and well used. Zephyr looks through the chests in hope for a diary or notes. She finds letters, only 3 or 4. In her search she comes upon a large corpse ball. After her initial shock she notices it is located over a crevice in the ground. It is actually mounted on the wall and extends into the crevice, and so is even larger than first glance. At least 20 bodies, fully armed and armored. Zephyr sets an old sword aflame, and Sheila uses her sword in fire-mode. Sheila and Zephyr both begin to attack the ball with flaming swords… It smells terrible. Aeric leaves, Polena looks green. They hack into it until the have excavated about an 8th of it. They find nothing of use. They give up and move on to another doorway in the barracks which leads into the main hall. They find a long table they suspect would be used by a ruling council. The rest is mostly empty space. Likely once filled with much fine finery, it is now barren and ransacked. A door near the council table leads to some sort of infirmary. Zepher finds some basic medical impliments. They also find some council member chambers. It has been looted. An endtable contains notes from a consular that worked here. The last entry was 267 years ago. The last entry was speaking of leaving and the frustration that not more people were leaving with them. Zephyr takes the notebook so that she can read it in full later.

They then head to the tower. It is full of wagons, crates, a huge corpse ball and some stairs leading up. They follow the stairs leading to a junk room of sorts. As they round the stairs and come upon a faggot, it’s drafty and damaged. They come upon what is clearly a nest.

“Yes, young flesh” Hayden whispers. He stealths. Creeping. He finds the young of the Yutherk. They kinda look like winged lizard. 2 infants. Eyes open, beaked head with a small crest turning purple. Eye-less sockets. Size of large dog. Some field sketches exist of these, but no real info. Origin is the forest. Zephyr puts in earplugs, and examines the infants. They approach, squawking and biting. Sheila tosses them some lizard. The squawks vibrate the entire tower. Zephyr opts to leave them be. Meanwhile, Hayden looks through the “piles”.

The next tower is filled with nicer crap. Some masterwork things, nothing magical. The third tower contains what seems to be the last stand of the people. Hayden falls through the stairs in this room and breaks a leg. It is healed by the paladin and the cleric. Hayden cleans himself up. The last tower is similar to the third, but without a corpse ball. They discover a guard house with a skeleton. It bears a note. “They came out of the ground, we had no defense.” (They’ve come for us. There is nothing else I can do. I hope someone finds this. The bugs came, out of the ground. We never saw it coming. Etc.) It is about 1:30 in the afternoon. Hayden climbs the third tower, bypassing the now broken stairs, and sharpens his weapons on some repair equipment he finds.

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Big trouble in little giant desert china.
A Zephyr-Strelok Collaboration

The church’s doors are large and beautifully carved with sun-rays. They do not open when they are pushed upon. The garden is sad, and dry. Sheila shoulder checks the door when Hayden is unable to open it. She slams her shoulder into it once, it barely shudders, she hits it again, it creaks. Eric walks away to find a window. Zephyr uses her magic to levitate the wooden beam barring the door. On her third attempt Sheila crashes through the (now) unbarred doors and falls promptly upon her face. Hayden does his “best” not to laugh. Strelok waits outside with the birds, and does not attempt to hide his amusement at Sheila’s tumble.

Pews are stacked against a wall. The walls have been bleached in places from light, it is beautiful in a macabre sort of way. There is the sound of glass breaking and mild swearing.

“The doors are open you know” Sheila calls, now inside
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Aeric replies from outside

Hayden sets off looking for loot. He finds nothing at first on the first floor. He then sees an outline of something on the floor; it appears to be a rug, he attempts to blow the dust off and is rewarded with a cloud and hefty coating of dust, he rolls it aside and it reveals a trap door, opening into blackness below.

Sheila picks herself up, and her paladin senses tingle. She sees several beautiful marble carvings of various scenes of Pelor. She looks on in awe and is surprised that she has never heard of this place. After coming back to her senses she follows Hayden to the store room with the trap door. Zephyr also follows Hayden, noting the impressive artwork with a passive scientist’s glance.

Sheila and Zephyr find Hayden looking down into the blackness beneath the trap door. Zephyr creates a light. It illuminates a dirt floor about 8 to 10 feet below. Hayden looks for a secure place to tie a rope in order to descend below. Unable to find one, Sheila offers to lower him down. Zephyr and Hayden successfully climb down.

Below is a large room with 3 doors, 2 to the north, one to the east. The trap door is in the southern west most corner. Cabinetry, barrels, work benches and other such things line the walls of the room. The room is about 80×60, rectangular and does not follow the floor plan of the church. There are tools in one corner. Hayden finds a crowbar and discovers a very old rancid barrel of butter, disgusted he opens another, finding pickled apples and peppers, the apples are delightful. He starts to open the cabinets, finding flasks of oils, and other various tools, lamp oil, cleaning oil rags for weaponry. These seem to be have been used by the paladins for repairing and maintaining their armor and weapons. Hayden also finds the remains of a forge.

Calling up the vent for the forge “Hello?” Hayden hears a reply Aeric and Polena answer from above, it seems to lead to an office in the floor above. Hayden picks the Eastern door and finds coal, wood, and other such items, it appears to be a fire-room? There is also gunpowder which is odd…

Aeric and Polena find Sheila, and report they have found nothing on the first floor. Aeric informed Sheila that he wishes to explore the upper floors, and Polena follows, not wishing to enter the darkness below.

Hayden attempts to unlock another one of the other doors. He notices a magic trap with an earthquake effect placed upon the lock. It is stressful, but he is able to disengage the lock without setting off the trap. It opens into a long, straight corridor with no end in sight. The walls are dirt, crude, and supported with wooden beams. The floor is crudely finished with stones. Zephyr and Hayden travel about 50 yards before coming to stairs that lead downwards.

Seeing the light dissapear Sheila calls down “Find anything interesting?”
Hayden “A really long corridor, dor, dor, dor” There is no actual echo.

Sheila looks for a ladder or other means to lower herself down. Instead realizes she can use the pews to get down into the room. She drags one over to the trap door and pushes it in. It is just long enough to allow her to lower herself down. She secures it with rope just in case, and climbs down.

Strelok enters with the birds and begins setting up camp, and checking the defensive capabilities of the churches main room.

Below, Sheila, Hayden, and Zephyr follow the stairs downwards into the darkness. They end in another door, it is crude but solid. Sheila opens the door and is assaulted by the smell of earth and decay. It opens upon another hallway that extends 15 feet before splitting into a T going to the left and right. Hayden suspects this may be a tomb. They go left. Zephyr lights a torch and hands it to Hayden. The follow the hallway into and come upon a collapsed room. following the hallway they find another room filled with alcoves in which lay corpses, and treasure. Exiting this room and following the hallway they come upon another locked door. Hayden fixes this minor problem. It is contains 3 piles of corpse balls. One of the walls has collapsed and is filled with blackness. It seems that this may have been the last stand of some poor souls. The bodies of cattle are mixed in amoungst the human corpses, and various other food stores indicate that the bodies now balled up in bug vomit may have been trying to hold out here, waiting in vain for help that would come far, far to late to save them. After traveling for at least 3 hours thus far the party considers returning after coming to another fork. They take another left and come upon an even larger room filled with a MASSIVE corpse ball/pile.

Above Strelok, Aeric, and Polena put finishing the touches on placing defensive measures on the main church hall.

Below Hayden breaks into the skill on the ball, seeking potentially shiny things. The hard, sticky, tacky shell opens up into an old pudding like substance. Sheila attempts to purify the bodies with fire, severing the heads. The goo sloughs away and melts.

Upstairs the birds are becoming restless…

Below Hayden (who is bored) is playing/looting the corpses, making light with the situation, and generally pissing off Sheila who is attempting to give peace to the dead. During this process he finds more treasures. A falcion with a strange pommel ornament simillar to the symbol of the item buried in Hayden’s hand/ the bodies found in the forest. Hayden’s hand tingles… Hayden feels uncomfortable with the sword and asks someone else to pick up the sword. Zypher examines the sword and it is indeed magical, strong enchantment that is similar to the item in Hayden’s hand. While she does not recognize the origins, she is pretty sure this is going to be another bonded item. There is a much stronger concentration of magic in the pommel than the blade. Hayden uses mage hand to extract the sword and places it in his bag. After SEVERAL hours of exploring, Hayden, Sheila, and Zypher decide to head back to camp.

After returning to camp, Hayden Mage Hand tosses the sword at Strelok. “Here, catch!” Strelok lets it drop at his feet. “How stupid do you think I am?” Strelok asks.
Hayden demonstrated that the sword was similar to the item in his hand.
Intrigued, Strelock voluntarily picks up the sword. It is sentient, he speaks with it, much to the disturbance of the party. After a brief conversation he discovers the item in Hayden’s hand is indeed very similar to the sword, one seems to be for defense, and one for offense. Strelok uses the sword to extract the item from Hayden and bond it to himself.

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MUTHERFUKKIN SAND KRAKEN (which does not appear during this session...) and Wild Bread Maker Attacks.
I don't even remember where that title came from any more.

So we are in the desert. Dry, dusty soil. There are dried-up lake beds. There are ancient stumps. This area was clearly once fertile. There are some walls crumbled nearly to dust, some long-dead flower beds, etc. Currently we are on a hill with several ruins, including the remains of a cemetery. The hill is tall but with a gentle slope; it obscures the path ahead.

Aeric is moody today, which is not all that unusual. Polena is studying. Hayden is still drunk. We finish packing up and eating breakfast.

Timeline: 5-6 days since left the wall, 4 days in desert.

We resume trudging. Strelok and Aeric compete over taking point, as per usual. Zephyr reads as she walks. Polena is quiet. All in all, it is very much like the past few mornings have been. Zephyr suddenly stumbles over a rock. She glares at it accusingly. It is very hot, and Hayden accepts an Endure Elements from Sheila; Strelok requests it only for his bird. Aeric calls from up ahead that he sees something. We catch up and see the forest. We now can make out trees within the haze. The haze itself shows swirls of pink and green. Flying creatures are also visible, and the life force of the forest as a whole is palpable. We also see the city we are headed towards. It is large, and some of the outer walls remain. We will reach the city by noon tomorrow at our usual pace.

Strelok waves over Polena and Zephyr, and offers them his bird to ride. Zephyr agrees only after being told she can read on the bird. Polena is still afraid of the bird. Strelok says that Zephyr and Polena are slowing down the group and he wants to get out of the dessert (Zephyr is a bit insulted, but takes the offered ride since she’ll be able to read much better). Polena is still skeptical, but Strelok promises she will be okay. He coaxes her on. He then tells Hayden to pick up the pace. Hayden somewhat drunkenly says to simply point him in the right direction. We begin to travel at a brisk pace.

There is a quorking sound, and Aeric cries out. He is at the back of the party, and when we turn to look, he’s been thrown from his bird; the bird’s ankle is swollen, and Aeric is unconscious with a large gash on his forehead. Hayden suggests stripping the body and moving along. As Sheila prepares to heal him, Hayden suddenly wants to check what Aeric is carrying. Sheila shoos him out of the way so she can heal. Strelok: “Really?” Hayden says he doesn’t trust Aeric and wants to search him. Strelok says no, don’t touch him… but then turns to Sheila and asks her to take a look, as he also doesn’t trust Aeric. Sheila says she needs to heal him; Strelok suggests a “very thorough” healing. He cites Aeric’s suspicious moments and strange personality displays, arguing that it is a smart precaution in our situation. Sheila reluctantly agrees that there is some logic in this. Strelok asks Polena to heal the axe-beak.

Sheila stabilizes Aeric; his pulse is no longer weak, and is now steady. Strelok calms the bird and holds the reins so Polena can heal it; it starts puffing up defensively, and Strelok offers a large chunk of meat to placate it. Polena requires a lot more coaxing. Strelok says that if the bird hurts her, he will kill it… Polena protests that she does not want that, and reluctantly approaches. She heals the foot, and backs up rather quickly. She goes to see if Sheila needs help.

Sheila tries to make Aeric comfortable (as much as possible on the rocky ground). As she positions him and clears the ground, she does a brief check through pockets. His armor is light and covers only the most vital areas; he is currently wearing only a few pieces, given the heat. He still has his gambison on, however. She finds nothing of interest, and continues healing. He had regained color after the initial healing, but now is starting to sweat and is becoming pale again; Sheila uses Lay On Hands to remove fever. Sheila indicates that they can wake him up now, so Hayden smacks him. Aeric groans. Hayden smacks him again. Aeric stirs and gives Hayden a “WTF, dude?” look. He requests we not move at quite so fast a pace, at least until we are off the hill. Strelok tells him to be more careful. Aeric seems miffed.

Polena does not want to get back on Strelok’s bird, and takes off. Strelok takes her place on the bird.

We reach the bottom of the hill safely. Strelok offer’s Hayden his seat on the bird; Hayden scoffs a bit, but then accepts. The bird fluffs up a bit as Hayden approaches, but decides it’s not worth it’s time. We pick up the pace again.

When the sun begins to set, we are much closer to the city. We could reach it tonight, but we’d have to travel after dark, and we decide to camp instead. Strelok heads straight to bed. Polena and Aeric both seem “butthurt”. Hayden and Polena take first watch, followed by Zephyr and Aeric, and Sheila and Strelok. The watches are uneventful, although the flying reptiles are seen taking off from the city around midnight. They head north. We do not see them return at any point that night. Zephyr has previously noted that they do not always return to the city the same night.

We rise with the sun, eager to get to the city at last. We make quick time with morning preparations and set out. Closer now, we can see that the haze is not limited to the forest. There are particles visible within it. Most of us smell a sharp floral scent, as if emitted from plants. The particles may in fact be spores. The smell is sour but with rotten undertones. As we move onward, the haze— and smell— seems to settle around us. While unpleasant, it seems harmless. Our visibility is limited to about 200 feet. A few hours pass; noon arrives with no change in the atmospheric conditions. We begin to see shadows through the haze. One turns out to be a curved piece of wood, shaped by someone… Hayden thinks it resembles the hull of a ship. We see more and more of them, finally coming across a field full of them, lined up. It seems almost like a graveyard.

From the maps Zephyr studied before leaving the wall, she recalls seeing a crescent shape split down the middle; the city is crescent shaped. The map was very bad, but the split may have been a river. There were also what looked like cogs of a gear which radiated from the southeast of the city… they may have represented docks. There was no ocean here, but there may certainly have been very large lakes.

Hayden kicks one of the hull-like objects. It creaks and slowly falls over. Then the rest begin to creak… Sheila: “Really? We just got here…” (Strelok reminds her of the lights in the Veil, and the poking of such with a sword…) The sound of dry timber cracking and falling fills the area, and we feel a directional movement beneath our feet. Zephyr suspects that something knows we are here. Strelok: “Son of a bitch… This is why we can’t have nice things.” He walks about 100ft away and shoots into the ground. The rumbling returns… Hayden asks why we are now trying to find trouble, and Strelok says that it would have happened eventually anyway, and at least now we know where it is. Or something. A tentacle emerges from the ground, wraps around Strelok’s leg, and pulls. And the rest of the party is still 100 feet away.

Polena is up first! She gapes. Good job, Polena. Strelok draws his gun and puts it up against the tentacle. He hits it with the first shot, but the recoil causes him to miss the second. His hand appears to be covered with ice as he punches downwards. The tentacle retreats, and the rumblings cease. Strelok is angry that it left, and yells at the ground. And then starts casting spells wildly at the ground. When the party inquires, a lightning bolt is cast in our general direction. Strelok is quite angry. He walks off without his bird. The party is concerned.

Sheila tells him to halt. Strelok is more of teh angry. Polena grabs the bird’s reins and tugs it away as Strelok storms over. Sheila attempts to calm Strelok, and asks very diplomatically WTF is up. Strelok approaches to nearly headbutting distance. There is a very strange, unfamiliar look in his eyes. Sheila holds her ground and returns the stare. Then Strelok suddenly wanders towards the city. Sheila asks that Hayden go look after Strelok, not wanting anyone going by themself. Hayden is reluctant, as Strelok “seems a little murdery right now”. Zephyr goes after Strelok. Sheila asks the others to find a good camp site and leave an obvious trail so that it can be found. She thanks Polena for stepping up. Polena says she didn’t want the bird to die… and he’s not very smart… Sheila makes sure Hayden is on the same page (“work with Polena and Aeric”); Hayden recommends we not split up at all. The rest of the party follow Zephyr and Strelok.

As we get closer to the city, we see the remnants of docks. We reach a very tall wall the stretches to either side. Strelok reaches it first, and uses spider climb. From the top he sees a carefully paved street, buildings in a sprawling array… the city looks like it was in the midst of development when it fell. Hayden and Zephyr climb after Strelok; Polena looks around, then sets off South, not wanting to climb up and leave the bird alone on the ground. Sheila follows her. Aeric is sulking a bit, but accompanies them. He is flipping a coin over and over — a coin Sheila had not seen when searching him earlier.

Hayden and Zephyr reach Strelok at the top of the wall. “Everything is dead,” Strelok notes. We see a taller building, partly obscured by the haze, and Hayden head towards it. Zephyr points out that a higher vantage point is unlikely to help, given the haze. Hayden heads off anyway.

Meanwhile, Aeric is pouting childishly. Sheila asks what the hell is up. He says he sees no point in stopping in the city. He just wants to finish the journey and leave. “But hey, you’re the leader”. Sheila gets POed, points out that she helped pay him, and demands some professionalism. Aeric is an ass and says it was the church who paid him, not her. He says he’s sure Hayden told her about all the fun he (Aeric) had been having, and said this was no longer fun. Sheila asks what is with the inconsistent attitudes and behavior; for example, how he’ll get antsy, go kill something, and seem completely changed. He doesn’t see any problem with this, and says its like her meditating. Aeric asks what this conversation has to do with finding Sir Throws-A-Fit. Sheila finally gives up and keeps walking; Polena looks confused at Aeric’s strange behavior.

Back on the wall, Zephyr realizes Strelok had vanished when she glanced away. She swears. Hayden hadn’t gone far, and he returns to help locate Strelok. Zephyr considers summoning wolves and requesting their aid in tracking, but has nothing to offer them… aside from Pallas. Further, Strelok may have already descended. She nixes that idea. Hayden looks for footprints, but has no luck. Zephyr casts Detect Magic, and is able to determine that Strelok headed into the city. Hayden and Zephyr follow him west. Unbeknownst to them, Strelok is tracking. He finds signs of large insects.

Aeric, Sheila, and Polena reach a door in the wall. It is locked. That is not a problem. Sheila breaks open the door and follows the wall, looking upwards for the rest of the party. Suddenly Strelok’s bird makes a noise, and takes off. Polena chases it; Aeric and Sheila follow. They fall behind, but can see Polena’s footprints and the tracks of both birds. Sheila also sees footprints of the others in the party. She follows the birds.

Hayden and Zephyr are nearly trampled by a bird and Polena. They continue on, and Aeric runs past Hayden and Zephyr on his bird, saying something spooked Jake. Aeric says to stay put; Zephyr continues onward.

Jake finds Strelok, and Polena arrives soon after. Strelok offers her water, and abruptly reveals that he believes the gun found in the village to have belonged to his brother. Aeric appears and bitches. He attempts a pep talk “all for one” style. Polena tries to gesture him to shut up. Aeric and Strelok have a near stand-off as the rest of the party arrives. Polena, seeing the mounting aggression, announces that she is done with the both of them. She tells Strelok to take his bird, and suck it (presumably not the bird). Aeric is intrigued by this new side of her. “You got dibs on that?” Strelok hits him with his wooden sword, and he falls off his bird. Strelok tells him to say it again. Aeric gets annoyed and storms off. SO MUCH DRAMA. He says he will wait at the wall. Strelok takes charge of both birds. Sheila, the latest arrival, is not sure she wants to know what she missed.

Sheila asks if anyone still wants to explore the city, or if we should just head to the forest. An unfamiliar voice says “I think we should explore the city!” Hayden says: “I agree!” He wants to find valuables. Zephyr, on the other hand, wants to collect data.

The haze is dissipating a bit. We see a walled keep. Hayden wants to check it out. Sheila wants to designate a base camp; as the tallest building in sight, the keep may be harboring the flying creatures as they roost. However, we also need something distinctive. The church is the next largest, and is distinctive; we decide on that.

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