The plan was to once again strike out from the hilltop camp, heading north along the Korir River looking for a road to Kibwe. Perhaps they would find allies along the road – a caravan to provide safety in numbers. Perhaps they will find new information to answer some of their questions about Magdalena. They left the hilltop around midday, and a couple of hours later as they moved along the river they noticed several of the Tigers of Rastel following several hundred feet behind. Despite Mother’s best efforts to disguise their trail, it became apparent the tigers were tracking them by scent. As dusk approached the Tigers began to parallel their path, perhaps in an effort to flank them.
Legertha advocated a couple of times to stand and fight the tigers rather than give them the element of surprise later in the day/night, but Samaya argued that they were smart, weren’t trying to catch them, and were perhaps just making sure they left the area. Legertha acquiesced, but sought out a defensible position and out of sight place to camp for the night. The party spent time setting up a lean-to and several snares with sunrods and fireworks to alert them of intruders in the night. In the early morning hours just before dawn Legertha and Samaya heard a brutal animal fight about 1000 feet north of them and at the water’s edge. It was clearly the Tigers in a fight for their lives against some other vicious beast. The fight lasted for several minutes, after which there was an ominous silence. The rest of the party slept contentedly through it all, but in the morning they took the time to find out what happened and all made their way to the river.
As Samaya and Mother sneaked over the crest of a hill near where they believed the fight to have taken place, Mother inadvertently snapped a twig at an inopportune moment and as they peered over the hilltop they were spotted by one of the Tigers. At what appeared to be a watering hole along the river there were two huge corpses of bulettes and one Tiger. Three other Tigers were feasting on the bulette remains – one of them looked seriously injured. When they noticed Mother and Samaya they huffed and glared in warning, but were otherwise unperturbed by their presence. Mother and Samaya, slunk back to the party and they all agreed to give the Tigers a wide berth and continue north along the river. Sparkel summoned mounts for everyone and they made good time, traveling perhaps 35+ miles that day.
When preparing camp that night Faeregrim deployed a web shelter for everyone to sleep safely inside. They designated one-person watches, the first assigned to Sparkle. Everyone else slept soundly through the night, none of the waking or woken by Sparkle. Faeregrim was the first to awaken with the dawn to pray for Desna’s favor and was disconcerted to notice no one was on watch, but thought little of it as others also woke and started their day. As they began to prepare to depart and needed mounts again, someone asked where Sparkle was and they all looked at each other blankly. Legertha looked for tracks and found what she believed to be Sparkle’s tracks heading into the shrubs. The tracks ended where some large predator track began and Mother was pretty sure they were dragon tracks, but Sparkel and the dragon were nowhere to be scene/heard.
Exercising the typical mourning period for Puddlians, they struck camp and were back along the river in 10 minutes.
The next six days were taken following the river north, then northeast along the jungle edge. On the fifth day they found their stone giant friends in another nice campsite. The giants offered to share the camp and some of their food. Some light conversation didn’t yield much other than that they found their friend and he didn’t have a charm against demons. The next day they traveled together and it was suggested the giants could carry them all of they wanted to move faster, but something Mother said offended them and they stayed ahead of the party for the rest of the day and left them before they made camp at the confluence of the Korir and another river just south of the Kibwe jungle. It was a well-established, if not-often used campsite and heading north from here was an overgrown track that looked like it might go to Kibwe.
The next morning they spent the first part of the day crossing the last of the hilly grasslands and along the disused track and at noon they breached the jungle. During the day the jungle is relatively quiet – most of the critters come out at night and rest during the day. The exception is birds and primates, which can be scene periodically high in the canopy, along with a few insects and other diurnal foragers and predators. The animals can be raucous and the insects buzz furiously, but other sounds are muted in a somewhat calming manner.
Even when the sun is high in the sky, the lighting under the forest canopy is gloomy. Beyond 20 feet, the lighting is dim and the vegetation is pervasive and rarely allows for line of sight beyond a few feet. Movement through the jungle is also very difficult. There are no clear paths or trails, and the vegetation that covers and crisscrosses the forest floor is damp, wet, and moss-covered. Movement is very slow in these conditions, but Survival skills make it possible to move more quickly. Movement through the dense vegetation is also hard physical labor. After 4 hours characters had to fight off fatigue and risk exhaustion.
The heat and humidity in the jungle is also oppressive and incessant. Characters need 3x as much water for hydration. Heavy clothing also becomes sweat-soaked and cloistering almost immediately, and armor chafes. Endure elements or similar effects eliminate the hydration and armor difficulties, and made the fight against fatigue more bearable, and fortunately Faeregrim had come prepared with a wand and his own divine gifts, and Mother was able to brew her own palliative. Despite this it was difficult going, several of the party succumbing t fatigue, requiring them to cut their days short on occasion.
Nighttime in the jungle is when the jungle becomes alive. Most of the denizens are nocturnal and come out under cover of darkness to forage and hunt. The insects and other critters become more raucous and when full dark arrives it is a cacophony. For non-natives this is disconcerting and makes sleep difficult. Where to sleep is also of concern. The forest floor is alive – literally, and those choosing to sleep on the ground will be harassed by insects and other critters all night long. Fortunately Faeregrim was once again prepared and sheltered everyone in a web shelter, keeping out the insects and cacophony so everyone could sleep and rest.
It took 4 days of trekking slowly through the jungle, but at the end of the fourth day the jungle parted and the city of Kibwe with its impenetrable granite walls stood before them. Circling to the north side of the city and the main gate, they could hear the sounds of civilization, the smell of real cooked food, and the familiar rancid taste of refuse – all welcome after over a week in the wilderness. They were questioned briefly in the sally port entrance and warned not to make trouble, but then entered the welcoming city.
Soon after they arrived another pair of foreigners entered through the gate, a wholesome if intimidating paladin and portly hafling swashbuckler. As these newcomers entered the central square they saw their quarry, and were themselves noted by the party. After some awkward introduction and questions it was made clear they were all meant to help each other. The newcomers, Laustanenvi and Pinty, added some newfound information about Magdalena and her connection with the marid:
It has been centuries since Caerula and Magdalena crossed paths, but at the time they were cordial, Caerula suspicious of Magdalena’s motives, but both respectful of each other’s power. Also at that time they both had eyes for another marid – Natus Mare – one of the younger genies at the time and highly sought after by those of the female gender. Caerula laid no claim to Natus, but Magdalena did, and began plotting her acquisition of the succulent marid.
Over the years, Magdalena courted Natus, but was rebuffed – at first politely, but later more vehemently. It was clear that he had eyes for Caerula and wished Magdalena to leave them be. Discontent, Magdalena began to plot the demise of Caerula in hopes of clearing the playing field. She gathered her minions and sent a small army of hags to assault the home of Caerula and end her time on this plane.
Not expecting such a violent incursion by someone once a friend, the marid were caught off-guard and Natus succumbed to the witchery of the hags and was swept away. Retribution was swift, the marid calling upon their allies to sweep the seas for Natus and bring Magdalena to justice. So potent was the response that Madgalena was forced from her temperate coastal realm to the interior of the Mwangi Expanse and her ancient home of Pythos.
The marid have been unable to locate Magdalena or her followers, but recently they have been made aware of and encountered hags owing allegiance to Magdalena. Apparently the witch is again extending her tendrils of influence into the Inner Sea and the marid are eager to track her down, free Natus, and bring Magdalena to her end.
With this new information, but gaps still in their plans, the party immediately began trolling for information and learned a few things about the city:
N large town
Population 3,800 (3,100 humans [1900 Zenj, 500 foreigners,
400 Bekyar, 200 Mauxi, 100 Bonuwat], 700 other)
• Darvian Estabar, Lord Magistrate of East Mwangi Mining Company
• Clatriani Orridik, Bloodman of Beykar Block
• Father Maasu Abwedoma, prime representative for the free people of Kibwe
• Hestrax Ves, The Beggar Prince
• Tysi Galdren, electorate speaker for the free trade laborers
The indomitable walls of Kibwe stand as a bastion between humanity and the harsh and unforgiving wilds of the eastern Mwangi Jungle. Born from a conglomeration of indigenous tribes and foreigners, it remains the most ethnically diverse city in the Expanse, featuring tribes of humans, elves, giants, and even stranger beings like kobolds and lizardfolk. As a major trade nexus between the Mwangi Expanse and the eastern nations beyond the Ndele Gap, this city is a patchwork society built almost exclusively on mining and the steady influx of caravans. Its varied populations stake independent claims to the different sections of the city, where they practice their own beliefs and adhere to their own law. The city caters to no
specific group, ethnically or culturally. Instead, a council of representatives loosely governs the city (and as a result, city policy tends to favor those ethnic groups currently boasting the majority of council representatives).
Kibwe began as a small trading post, established as neutral ground upon which caravans from the west and east could meet and exchange goods, as caravan owners could earn higher percentages by swapping cargoes and returning home than by actually undertaking the arduous journey all the way to their target markets. Instead, both sides were able to travel the portion of the route they knew best, and business boomed. Over time, Kibwe’s proximity to untapped natural resources also became apparent, and the land was quickly purchased by several companies that built permanent, more defensible structures. At first, competition between rival companies was fierce and deadly, and the initial colonies were almost wiped out. In the wake of this infighting, the indigenous peoples of the region and caravan folk who had set up shop here instituted various laws and guidelines to assure that the city’s ability to trade freely and maximize profits would never again be threatened. And in doing so, they ensured the ethnic freedom of all those taking residence within its walls, giving rise to the city’s diversity and a new wave of prosperity.
Nearly impenetrable, Kibwe’s towering granite block walls serve as barricades against the treacherous eastern jungles. Tremendous slabs exquisitely fitted without mortar slope slightly inward, their weather smoothed surfaces intricately carved with millions of ancient runes. Within the walls, concentric stone passages weave like arterial pathways throughout clotted ghettos of mud-and-thatch huts. These settlements surround a sizable free square known as Adayenki Pavillion. Mud and thatch serve as the predominant building material for small walls and furniture, while soapstone sculptures of anthropomorphic creatures adorn daises and columns about the various slums. Stone depictions of tusked tiger-men and gaunt, featherless birdmen with f leshy wings and curved beaks stand attentively with swords and shields.
For the most part, Kibwe remains politically neutral. Its governing council of consists of numerous tribal leaders and foreign officials appointed from each community. Larger clans are permitted more appointees, and therefore power shifts are common. Appointees are expected to adjudicate law with the interest of the city first, and their people second. Failure to remain impartial can result in execution, and thus deliberations are always well argued before decisions are made concerning the welfare of those from other tribes.
Of the foreign groups, the various trading company representatives may possess the most power. The power structure shifts frequently as companies build and lose profit (which also defines the amount of support they can muster or hire). Still, indigenous tribes retain a fair amount of political clout, as do government representatives. And while caravans come and go regularly from Kibwe, locals draw a clear distinction between themselves and the transient populations—and they have no problem taking the latter for all they’re worth. Bargaining is the highest art form in Kibwe, and the city’s most profitable local resources include diamonds, gold, and salt. Other less profitable resources include items like cattle, cacao, coffee, cotton, ivory, peanuts, timber, and wax, as well as countless foreign imports from east of the mountains.
Adayenki Pavilion: A broad sea of strewn flower petals litters an extensive commons at the center of the city. A wall of huge tapestries, rugs, and skins strung upon thick totemic posts separates the Pavilion from the rest of the city. Predominantly used as a common area for religious services, the space accommodates extensive celebrations, such as community prayers and large ceremonial weddings. The blocks around it are devoted entirely to trade, with caravans and stalls offering bulk goods from every corner of Garund and beyond as traders seek to increase their margins by swapping cargo.
Aspis Consortium: The Consortium holds and maintains a defensible section near the western gate. While the majority of the citizens are distrustful of the company and its presence here is minor compared to settlements like Bloodcove, the Consortium has made considerable investments supporting Kibwe and its open markets. These include installing infrastructure, such as basic housing, as well as supplying developments with water and food.
Beykar Block: The Beykar control this block and use it to orchestrate the sale of slaves, despite the disdain of the majority of the council. While the Beykar solicit and accept bids from international buyers and arrange for slaves to be delivered to alternate sites, active slave-taking is outlawed within the city and the surrounding area, so Kibwe remains strictly a waystation for the Bekyar’s caravans and slave chains, not an active hunting ground.
Bwamandu Camp: This tiny camp is composed almost entirely of ex-slaves and torture victims fortunate enough to have escaped Usaro, along with their friends and families. Here they band together, creating a small ghetto dedicated to mutual support, both social and economical, as well as to plots against the Gorilla King.
Gold Refinery: Owned by the East Mwangi Mining Company, this area is where day laborers smelt gold dust from rock and turn it into ingots.
Miners’ Camps: Here entire families live in rows of shanties built from mud, thatch, and scrap. They come to eke out meager livings mining diamonds, gold, and salt. More than a few are missing limbs, as amputation is the harsh penalty imposed on those caught f ilching goods on the side.
Mozimba Camp: This camp is composed almost entirely of tribesfolk from surrounding regions who provide labor or work as guides, medics, salt miners, furriers, tanners, and provisioners.
Straggleblock: An increasing number of refugees, exiles, and outright criminals f ind their destinies tied to this sprawl of leaky, moldering hide tents, which shelter several hundred of the city’s most destitute.
Walk of Shrines: A single street lined on both sides with small churches and shrines dedicated to dozens of gods, spirits, and philosophies. Some are simple kiosks, tightly packed with small platforms for preaching. Others house small congregations. Fetishes hang in windows and interiors are kept cool with skin carpets and leaf-woven prayer mats splayed across the f loor.
The Wells: Only in the last 2 centuries have settlers dug deep enough and often enough to supply all the city’s water needs with wells, making the city far more defensible
After becoming familiar with the landscape and finding humble lodgings for the night the party began asking questions of the locals about Pythos, Magdalena, and Rastel among other things. They quickly learned that the native people were a bit superstitious and when Faeregrim created water and Pinty turned it into ale they freaked. Advised to keep their ‘magick’ to a minimum they continued to inquire and eventually sat down with Father Maasu Abwedoma, prime representative for the free people of Kibwe. Unfortunately most of this answers were, “We don’t talk about that.” And “You know a lot more than me…” Though he was a sweet old man, Mother and Pinty lost their patience and left the priest be. Despite this they learned that the Tigers of Rastel have been partially possessed by demons, but because they are animals the demonic influence has been lessened.
With nothing new to go on the group conferred and decided their best bet was to travel to the Ndele Gap in hopes of finding traders who might take them by boat through the Mwangi Espanse to Nantambu and the ancient magic school located there. As they made their way back to their rooms for the night they came across an fatigued, exhausted, mosquito-bitten, sweaty, and typically stolid Sparkle staggering through the central square. The reunion was brief as she told a wild tale about being dragged off by a lonely and curious dragon that (though Sparkle won’t say it) was eventually bored by whatever she had to say and eventually allowed her to escape.
With the band back together again (minus several previous band members…) everyone turned in for the night. Around midnight Legertha received an unexpected guest as Ginger magically appeared in her room, waking her and demanding the return of her possessions. They had a heated if whispered conversation, but the inquisitive Pinty over heard and eavesdropped for a few minutes before waking Faeregrim and telling him some of what she’d heard – namely that they needed to go to Gozreh’s Pool to find Magdalena. A little flustered being wakened in the middle of the night (it is a SIN after all…), she went and eventually everyone was awake and warmly welcoming Ginger back into the fold…? Ginger and Ethelfrith had a stare down about some of Ginger’s possessions and when Sparkle saw Ginger she almost broke down I tears (not of joy…)
Ginger was brusque and condescending, but illuminated the party about what needed to be done next – finding Gozreh’s Pool, which used to be in the City of Pythos. The next day, after getting her eye of scrying back from Mother again, Ginger tried to scry on Magdelena, but to no avail. With this new information they laid out plans to make their way back to the Korir River, follow it southwest and eventually make their way south of the jungle where Ginger indicated Gozreh’s Pool was located. Preparations were made, food bought and stored, gear stashed away, and accusatory looks exchanged between Ginger and Mother (who was oddly maligned by every animal they came across that day and every day after that…).
After hiring laborers to hack their way back to the Korir River, the party set forth and 4 days later found themselves back at the river confluence. Another 5 days along the Korir River, and then 7 days along the southern jungle edge brought them to where Legertha recommended they make their ingress into the jungle. However, as they made their approach they were greeted by a strange sight – animated plants along the forest’s edge wove themselves in to a wall of dense vegetation for hundreds of feet in either direction, blocking passage. Legertha and Laustanenvi spotted a few treants amongst the foliage and stepped up to talk with them in Common and Sylvan, asking if they could pass, and what promises they could make to obtain permission. The treant issued a creaky and sslowly drawled warning, first in a language they could not understand (Treant), then Sylvan, then Common.
“Pass our warding with the knowledge that few ever return. The inhabitants within bear no malice, though wicked creatures also have made their home here.”
They asked the treant politely about Gozreh’s Pool and they moan and bow their heads, “Beware the pool… Gozreh abandoned it long ago…”
Once again using Faegegrim’s divine power and wand, and Mother’s potion, they warded themselves again the oppressive heat and wet of the jungle, pressing into the dense foliage. The first day only lasted 6 hours as party members became fatigued and needed to stop for the day before becoming exhausted. Faeregrim raised two web shelters and most slept well all night. Legertha and Ginger, however were fascinated my mysterious rainbow patterns that kept them awake all night and they needed the ministrations of Faegegrim’s restoration to continue the next day.
Travel went more smoothly this second day, however as the day progressed to noon, everyone began feeling impatient, then angry, and by midday, were consumed with rage, hacking at the jungle and muttering curses under their breath. While they were invigorated by the rage, it also made them reckless. Despite this, when they came to a slashed-and-burned section of the jungle that had been abandoned long ago and now was covered in stagnant pools of grey water, rather than enjoy the respite from the jungle, Mother convinced everyone to circumnavigate the clearing. As they did so, several party members could see something occasionally leaping or reaching from the pools, snatching insects from the air with disconcerting slurps…
At the end of this second day of traversing the jungle, Faeregrim once again laid out the web shelters and everyone hunkered down for another loud and sticky night under the jungle canopy…