Characters: Remo, Meth, Ailon, Bram, Luna, Vincent, Teve, Na'tan
Once again, the party is faced with tough decisions. Do they continue searching for K'tala, the Caliban Vizier, or do they return and deal with the Dukes? How do they deal with Meth and her curse? What about Luna and her obsession with finding the anvil and that mean temper she has developed? What about the poor people around them? All these questions are topics for conversation as the party discusses the note of doom they have received.
Meth decides to pray about the their situation in hopes for divine intervention or inspiration. Each time she petitions her god Dwalin for guidance, the pigeon sitting on Bram's shoulder makes a noise that disturbs her. She starts to scream in protest when suddenly she realizes that she has her answer even as she asked for it: the pigeon could can carry a note back to Darmek.
She voices her plan and the party soon comes up with the following note:
Continuing to seek anvil.
Any advice on lifting curse would be helpful.
Any other advice would be helpful as well.
If we are needed, call us back.
They place the note on the pigeon's leg just like the original note. At once, the bird lifts off and heads southeast. It seems the bird does know where home is. If it will only get the note there and bring back advice quickly.
The party decides that they need a wagon. They see one farm that seems to have mostly survived the flood and they decide to stop and see if they can buy a wagon from the farmer. The farmer stops from his cleanup effort as the party approaches.
"What do you want?" the farmer asks.
Bram says, "We were noticing that fine wagon you have and were wondering if it might be for sale?"
"You are not from 'round here, are you?" the farmer asks.
"No," Bram says, "we are mercenaries returning from the war."
"There are some who say that these disasters are Al-Rashid punishing us for you warrior's failure in the war. I'm not so sure they are wrong. The wagon is not for sale. Get off my property!"
"Err," Bram stammered, "we'll be leaving now. Thank you for your time."
The party was taken by surprise at the farmer's reaction. In a real sense, he was right. These disasters were their fault but not for the reason he voiced. If others have the same opinion, they may be in for rough times under their current cover story. It would be better if they looked less like warriors and more like merchants or craftsmen. They need that wagon even more now.
As they are leaving the little settlement, they hear off in the distance some man yelling.
"Repent and Savankala will forgive. Al-Rashid offers no kindness, only oppression. Seek Savankala . . ."
At that point, the voice stops as other angry voices are heard. The party can just make that a struggle is in process when it ends. Someone is being carried off but its too far to make out the details. Na'tan feels her chest tighten as she turns her head and keeps moving forward. There is little she can do to help her brother in faith but that doesn't mean she has to like abandoning him.
The party make for the countryside where the find a secure hiding place. After some discussion, the party decides that Na'tan, Ailon, and Teve will enter the town as locals and try to buy a wagon. Teve disguises himself and Ailon like locals and Na'tan plans to do the talking. They enter the town, find a small general store, and enter. The shopkeeper is sweeping up some of the spoiled flour that is all over the floor. It looks like this store had several feet of water in it at one time. He stops as the two enter.
"Good morning," the shopkeeper begins, "what may I help you with today?"
"Good morning," Na'tan replies. "The flood has washed away our wagon and were hoping to buy a wagon and some supplies. Can you help us?"
"Have two 4 seater carriages and a farm wagon out back. I also have two mules along with tack and harness. What would be to your liking?"
"The farm wagon would do nicely. How much are you asking?"
The shopkeeper thinks a bit and says, "I can let you have the wagon, two mules, along with tack and harness for 150 pieces of gold."
Na'tan swallowes hard and whispers to Teve and Ailon, "That is a bit high but I don't think we will find anything better for quite a distance." The three agree and Ailon nods to the shop owner.
"Zek! Get the farm wagon ready. Hitch up the two mules and bring it around front. Will you be needing anything else?" the owner asks.
The three look around and end up buying a barrel of pickles, 3 barrels of beer, some rope and a tarp to cover everything. They thank the shopkeeper and leave. They take the wagon out of town to where the rest of the party is waiting. After hiding their most obvious armor and weapons in the wagon under the tarp, the party heads off west looking much more like a band of merchants.
The day is nice with the sun shining brightly and a nice breeze. Much of the standing water is gone by the end of the day. The party finds a place to camp off of the road and set watches.
Just before dawn, the guard hears grumbling noises and tramping sounds coming toward them. The rouse the party just in time as a band of 9 ogres stumbles onto their camp. There is intense fighting for several minutes before the party gets the upper hand. Luna takes several severe wounds during the battle. After the ogres are defeated, Remo tends to the wounded. He provides healing for Luna, Ailon, and Vincent. Na'tan lends her healing touch for Luna as well.
The party heads off toward the west as the bright sun rises in the east. The day warms till it seems like it is at least 90° by mid morning. In the early afternoon, the temperature peaks at about 100°. All are forced to remove armor due to the heat. Metal armor burns if it touches bare skin and leather armor holds in body heat adding to the discomfort. Evening provides little relief since the temperature only drops to around 90°.
They discuss if they should travel in the evening and rest in the day given the heat. The mountains are nearing and in a day or two they will begin steady climbing which should help with the heat. They decide to go one more day and then decide.
The next day the heat is even greater. The sun beats down on the party as they slowly stumble westward. The temperature soars to 110° and even the breeze feels warm. The water from the flood has all but gone and the wagon and mules kick up dust which sticks to their sweaty bodies. The party has already gone thought their water and is well into the first beer barrel as evening comes.
They find a shaded slope where they park the wagon on under some trees. They set camp and spend the evening and the next day in under the shade of the trees and wagon. The temperature climbs to around 120° that day and they are glad they are not out in the heat. As evening comes, they break camp and begin climbing into the mountains.
Just before sunup, they find a cave in the side of a mountain that looks like it might have been a waterway in the past. The air is cool in the cave and it is large enough for the wagon, mules, and the party. Upon exploring the cave, they discover that the back of the cave is a wall of rocks up to the ceiling. It looks like the cave was in fact a tunnel in which water had flowed sometime in the distant past. It had been much deeper but the ceiling has collapsed blocking off the tunnel. They decide to rest in the cave during the day.
The sun rises and the heat climbs again. The cave remains cool but Meth, standing on guard, can see the air wavering outside from the heat. She thanks Dwalin for the nice cool cave and asks for a quick reply to their note. She has to keep reminding herself that suffering is good for the soul. Secretly she wonders if her soul has not developed enough already!
Late in the afternoon, as Vincent stands guard, he is knocked to the ground as the floor begins to shake and the mouth of the cave collapses. The party is trapped in the cave but nobody is injured. They discuss using Luna's hammer but are afraid that it might bring down the entire cave. The decide to move the rocks manually from the mouth of the cave. After a few hours of digging, with little signs of progress, they again discuss their options. It is decided that the main group will concentrate on the mouth of the cave but Teve, Bram, and Remo will begin working at the back of the cave to see if that way might lead out as well.
They make slow but steady progress at the mouth of the cave. As the sun rises outside, a filtering of light makes its way though the jumble of rocks blocking the cave mouth. The team at the back of the cave makes progress as well as they manage to move enough rocks from the top of the pile to see though. The old tunnel wall fell to form this jumble of rocks leaving a much higher ceiling over the blockage. Teve climbs though the opening and walks over the rocks to the back of the pile. After moving a few rocks, he can squeeze though and is open tunnel leading up into the mountain. There is now a light breeze flowing down tunnel, over the jumble of rocks, though the 'cave', and out through the rocks at the mouth of the cave.
Since it is unlikely the party could move enough rocks to let the wagon and mules though, the party decides to send Vincent, Bram and Teve to explore the back way. They are given 3 hours to explore before a rescue party will be sent. The rest of the party now puts all its effort on removing the rest of the rocks blocking the cave mouth.
Vincent, Bram and Teve follow the tunnel back into the mountain. The tunnel soon begins to climb more quickly and after about 30 minutes they reach a spot where the tunnel opens into a large cavern. The ceiling is covered with stalactites and the floor is covered with stalagmites. They can hear the sound of dripping water echo throughout the cavern. The channel they have been following becomes a dry river bed that crosses the cavern. They follow it across the cavern where it again becomes a tunnel. The tunnel again climbs up though the mountain without any signs of quickly reaching the outside. They decide that this path, although interesting, would not serve as a good escape path since the wagon and mules could not make it up the tunnel. They decide to return to the cave and have just entered the cavern when they hear something that brings terror to their hearts: the grumbling noise of ogres.
By keeping cover and moving quietly, they discover that the ogres are in the process of setting up camp near the channel they had followed. Vincent notes that they look more like travelers then settlers. It is likely that there are more openings in this cavern than the two they know about. The party keeps moving and discover another opening leading down. This one is more like a crack then the water flowing channel they were following. Vincent also finds evidence that it has been uses as a path. They quickly move on and work their way back to the tunnel.
They begin moving down the tunnel and have made it several hundred yards when the ground again begins to shack. The party looses their footing and begins to slide and tumble down the smooth tunnel. They can make out screams and the sound of falling rock behind them as the begin their fall. After what seems like forever, the come to rest on a relatively flat section of the tunnel. Neither is severely wounded but all have bumps, cuts, and scrapes. They quickly begin their journey back toward the cave only to learn that more rocks have fallen in the jumble blocking their path.
The rest of the party had made good progress and was close to opening the mouth of the cave when the earthquake hit. They heard the rocks falling at the back of the cave and quickly abandoned the front of the cave to clear the back opening again. After several hours of digging, the explorers rejoin the party and tell their tale.
The entire party is exhausted from digging and decide to rest for a few hours. It looks like they might clear enough of the cave for a few to get outside in another few hours. It might take the rest of the next day to clear a path for the wagon. With a little luck, the party can be on its way when evening falls again.