January 18, 2014

Forced Marches are Exhausting

D&D Next with Ben Robbins.
Start from the beginning: Slave Galleys Suck
Next Session: Communication is Hard

The morning after the bloody monkey throw-down, Titus and Kelti checked on Visage, and while he was conscious, he didn't look much better. Having a monkey tearing you apart really doesn't do much for one's complexion. After patching him up to the best of their ability in the light of day, they decided to continue hiking in the stream to get some distance from the monkeys, just in case. By mid-day, they reached a clearing and could see off in the distance, between two mountains, a strip of blue water and what looked to be a sailboat. Buoyed by the idea that there might be civilization, and consequently rescue, from this savageness just yonder, they decided to go check it out.

They went back into the jungle to forage for food and then set out in the general direction of the mountains. Everyone was paranoid that they might get lost, so they each employed their own method of trying to stay on track. Titus used his ax to make notches in the trees, especially whenever they stopped, pointing in the direction that they were headed. Visage used rocks to create orienteering circles with arrows and Kelti carried a long stick that she dragged on the ground to mark their progress.

When they settled in for the night, Kelti dug a hole to put the stick in, to prevent any accidental bumping of the stick, but as soon as they closed their eyes, they realized that it was nearly as bright as it was earlier. The moon was shining through the trees so they decided to break camp and force march by the light of the moon. Unfortunately, an hour later they were all bone tired, apparently being slaves for a week, not getting enough food to eat and being attacked multiple times in the last few days of being shipwrecked was not super conducive to forced nighttime hikes. They managed to find a smooth rock and promptly fell upon it and slept the rest of the night without incident.

In the morning, Kelti realized that she had forgotten her stick in the excitement and subsequent exhaustion of the night. When they looked around at their surroundings, more of the smooth rocks were scattered throughout the forest, definitely ruins of some sort, overgrown with the jungle but still stately. The lasting nature of the rocks hinted at skilled masonry in an era past.

At one point, they were walking between two walls that were still standing and after a few moments, it started getting darker even though it was in the middle of the day. They hadn't noticed that the walls led into the side of a hill and became a tunnel of sorts. Not quite foolhardy enough to explore this dark tunnel (Visage was not the sort of wizard that had a Light spell), they backed out and soon enough came upon a steep hill covered in brambles and bushes.

They all tried climbing up the hill, with varying degrees of success, Kelti, more used to scrambling up ropes and not forcing her way through thick foliage, had the worst time of it, though Visage managed to get quite a ways up before getting stuck and had to climb back down. Titus, determined to get to the top, decided to somewhat recklessly start using his ax one-handed to hack away at the bushes. In this fashion, he managed to get to the top of the hill and after a yelled discussion with Visage and Kelti who were still at the bottom of the hill, he scouted the area.

The top of the hill was covered in the same brambles and bushes and as he was pushing through a particularly thick clump of them, he nearly lost his balance as it parted to show a large crater directly in front of him. The crater looked to be man-made with what appeared to be an abandoned city in its center, with buildings and roads that had a similar look and feel as the ruins that they had passed. Similar tunnels were spread throughout the crater walls, and it was possible that the tunnel they had accidentally entered earlier might lead there.

Titus went back and told Kelti and Visage what he had seen and they decided that the only way everyone would be able to effectively climb the hill would be if Titus hacked a path down. As Titus was working on creating a path, Visage and Kelti both set out to find water and food. Neither were successful, but Kelti stumbled upon a freshly killed carcass that looked like it had been mauled by a large beast. Shaken by what she had seen, she tried to find her way back and got lost. Half an hour of terror and frustrated yelling later, she finally found her way back to the base of the hill. Visage appeared from the jungle at the same time but before the two of them could set out together to forage for food, Titus spotted a familiar movement at the edge of the jungle and yelled down a warning.

Neither of them wanted to go up against another horde of monkeys so they stayed put and Titus, the path 2/3 finished, booked it down double time. He stood guard as Visage and Kelti struggled to climb the hill but as soon as they both safely reached the path, he started up the hill again too. Titus couldn't help but take one more glance behind him and he saw the chilling and ominous sight of a solitary monkey sitting in the middle of the clearing, staring up at him.

Titus led Visage and Kelti to the crater city that he had found and they walked through the jungle around the crater. When they approximated that they had gone half way around the crater, they cut back in to look at the crater city and get their bearings. This time they noticed a public square of sorts in the middle of the city that had a large rough and unhewn rock as its centerpiece, which was mysterious but not enough so that anyone wanted to venture into the city to find answers. The sides of the crater were extremely steep and there was no visible ways to get out.

They eventually made it to the top of the saddlebow and spent the night. The next morning, they continued towards the two mountains but it wasn't long before they spied a group of about 20 locals, marching in single file. They were armed with spears, so they decided to follow them stealthily. Kelti led and was so focused on getting as close as possible to the group that she didn't notice that for the last several moments, they had been stealthing in parallel with a large puma-tiger-like beast.

The beast slowly turned its head and noticed at the same time that there were three scrawny humans alongside it, others had died for less, so it started raising its hackles. Kelti froze and started backing away slowly. Visage tried to intimidate the beast by casting an illusion of large feathered wings on Kelti, but it only served to infuriate the beast further.

It lunged towards Kelti and managed to swipe her across the chest, ripping a not unattractive slash in her ragged shirt. She yelled out and Titus leapt forward next to Kelti and swung his ax, but in his haste, underestimated the largeness of the beast as well as how tired his arms were from the hacking that he had done the day before and the swing went wide. Undeterred, he used his momentum to swing again on the way back, catching the beast on its shoulder. They dodged and closed in on the beast, who in turn swiped and tried to take bites out of them, but in the end, Kelti managed to dart in and bury her frog shiv in-between the ribs of the beast and carve her signature into it.

The beast gave one last dying roar as it slumped over to its side. Titus, Visage, and Kelti caught their breath and only then noticed that the group of locals had overheard their heated battle and were gathered around, their spears slowly lowering and expressions of awe and disbelief on their faces. They started talking excitedly amongst themselves in a language that was unrecognizable to Titus, Visage, or Kelti and waving their four arms around.

No one had much experience with trying to communicate with people that had no common language, so their attempts at being understood were met largely with confusion and quizzical looks. Visage at one point tried to use his illusions to depict a small version of himself cooking the beast and eating one of its legs. While the illusion was extremely accurate and well-made, the locals erupted in a frenzy of astonishment, fear, and distrust at the display of magic. Kelti, after multiple attempts, managed to get across to the leader that she owned the beast, but wanted help in carrying it. They latched the beast to a few spears and made their way to their village, which was walled in with thatched mats, but no dwellings had roofs.

The locals fairly mobbed the newcomers but once it was apparent that they would all be feasting well that night, everyone settled down. Kelti watched as the beast was skinned and made motions that she wanted to keep the skin. The leader seemed slightly taken aback at her need to make such a declaration, and made a show of deferring the pelt to her and bringing over an old woman who promptly started preparing the hide for tanning.

Soon the mouth-watering smell of roasting meat filled the air and Kelti performed a song and dance for their entertainment while they waited to feast. The leader made a show of cutting off a choice bit of meat and offering it first to Kelti. They agreed that it might be a good show of commoderie if she split the meat and offered half of it to the leader. But when she did so, he was extremely hesitant to accept the offered meat and seemed to do so out of social obligation rather than thanks. He lifted his portion into the air to show everyone, and the crowd murmured quietly. They looked at each other and shrugged, apparently some social faux pas had been committed and only time would tell what had transpired.

Next Session: Communication is Hard