It began with an easy enough mission. Chad rounded up the first trio of guildies he spotted – Fursifer, Sophie, and Traveler. They were given their instructions, meet with a young merchant named Raeken and do as he asked. They decided to grab an extra set of hands and maybe a little muscle to support their rogue, bard, witch ensemble, but all they could find was Dirrasha, so they recruited the catfolk monk and headed on their way. The merchant asked them to guard a chest being shipped by sea to a distant port town known as The Bloodcove. There, they would deliver the sealed papers to the dockmaster and head back via their prearranged transport on the ship called the Sea Serpent. It was an easy 100gp job. They chose to ignore the uncertainty and seeming lack of knowledge possessed by their young employer. They were even asked by the guild to check around and see if anyone knew anything about their missing guild party that visited the Mwangi a while back.
The journey was smooth with only a small pirate showing easily being turned away by the heavy cargo ship’s defenses. Fursifer got a little sea sick, Dirrasha was bored and wondering why she ever agreed to go out at sea when she hated water, and Traveler chipped in to learn a bit about sailing, but Sophie was the most active. The prostitute turned bard practiced her old trade extensively with the crew, earning 30sp over the 12 day voyage at 1sp a go! Upon arrival in Bloodcove they easily found the dockmaster and delivered their chest (full of maps – Raeken turned out to be Mahd’s nephew dealing with his first business transaction). They collected a receipt and prepared to head home to Absalom. There was a hiccup though. The Sea Serpent never made it to port. It was attacked and sunk by pirates. With no way home the party decided to scope out the locals and look for a new transport ship. No one had heard of those missing guildies that vanished on their mission to this part of the world. They visited the Pirate’s Hook tavern and were distracted by loud screeching outside followed by screams. They ran out on the docks to see an enraged Dragonnel attacking. It had several townsfolk, including a woman and her three children, trapped at the end of the dock. The guildies quickly rushed to help. Traveler tried to put it to sleep with little effect while Fursifer and Dirrasha readied ranged weapons. Sophie’s quick thinking saved the day with an illusion of a similar creature swooping in and hoving overhead. The Dragonnel flew off after it and was brought down by the town militia in hails of arrows and ship ballista bolts. Two of the rescued individuals belonged to the Aspis Consortium. Their associates soon found the adventurers and made them an offer. Come by boat inland to their base known as Night Fall to help guard against local elven cannibals just a couple weeks until their mercenary reinforcements could arrive to replace lost soldiers and they would not only pay each person 20gp a day but also book them free passage on the next cargo ship headed back to Absalom. They accepted and began their trek up river by strange paddleboat. The River Queen, captained by human Kelim Esteban and manned by his crew of first mate Faruq the half orc, Hurg the dwarf engineer, and his three human lackeys set out later the next day.
The heat of the Mwangi jungle was intense, plus the constant swarms of insects and the bouncing of the river left Sophie feeling ill for several days with Traveler and the others occasionally joining her. That didn’t keep her from earning another 2sp from the captain though (she raised her prices after a talk with Fursifer). They spotted crocodiles in the water, listened to Sophie’s tales of pygmy ketches in the trees and the cannibal elves of the jungle, plus a number of other colorful additions added by both Traveler and Fursifer. Fursifer even chatted up the dwarf engineer after catching a hint of uncertainty in the captain’s tone about their first stop over, the Aspis station known as Whitebridge. They had discussed the Consortium and pieced together that they were known for trading with the world and selling such valuables as ivory, gems and even gold uncovered in the wild jungles. Hurg confided by accident that the Archophage (an entity identified by Traveler and confirmed by Sophie to be a strange magical plant parasite) was what fueled the ship but it was about dead and out of power. They could collect a new one in Whitebridge before heading deeper in the jungle to Night Fall. A wrecked ship named Lady Fortune the day before showed that not all of these paddle boats survived the hostile environment. Everyone took regular watches and helped aboard the ship as they made their slow journey upstream. Just before reaching Whitebride, Fursifer and Dirrasha spotted something floating in the water. It was an abandoned punt from Whitebridge. It was hastily packed with supplies and a lone backpack stained with blood and housing two thistle arrows (the kind used by the cannibal elves of the Ekujae tribe). Captain Esteban called them to anchor and wait for morning to head to the station. The night passed tensely but uneventfully and they arrived at Whitebridge. Everything looked fine except there were no people in sight. The station should have been bustling with activity. Fursifer and Dirrasha sneaked ahead to get a peek. They spotted bare footprints and no sign of anyone so they returned with their news. While the captain and the rest of the crew remained on the ship, Faruq the first mate and the party made their way to locate the extra Archophage they needed to power the ship. Ekujae elves ambushed them with arrows sticking into both Traveler and Sophie. They tried to parlay but the elves retreated after firing their arrows. Traveler and her friends had discussed the possibility that maybe the Aspis Consortium had done something to disturb the elves and incur their wrath. They moved on and found another pair of elves atop the buildings and took a couple more arrows before they too retreated. Not wanting to risk a swarm of cannibals, they raced for the storage building housing the archophage. They listened and checked for traps before opening the double doors and heard distinct heavy breathing, which /traveler confirmed was definitely something big and not human. Fursifer silently unbarred the doors, they stood back with weapons trained and let Sophie use her magic to throw the doors open. A large white-furred gorilla creature with 4 arms howled and charged. The bard screamed about it being an aggressive girallon just as arrows and sling bullets sped at it. The beast ran forward and slapped Sophie with a powerful blow then everyone set into the creature with blade, bow or bullet. Traveler tried to put it to sleep but it resisted just barely and slapped Fursifer then grabbed Faruq and bit then wrended him nearly tearing the half orc in half. Sophie distracted it with a ghost sound of a similar howl hoping to fool it into thinking another of its territorial kin was present but more injuries focused its ire on the party. they tore into it as it tore into them. A final well-placed sling stone to the forehead from Traveler toppled the beast. They hurriedly found the dead plant creature housing the precious Archophage (a glowing blue tumor-like growth). Traveler had the healer training so she attempted to cut the growth free but nicked it once and nearly killed the power source. Good thing she also had her healing hex to repair the damage and heal her party members. They raced back to The River Queen and let Hurg replace the dying Archophage. On they went to Dark Fall to report the loss of Whitebridge and deliver their assistance at the besieged station.
On their journey the jungle had grown over the river creating a dark tunnel of foliage. While it protected them somewhat from the heat it left them feeling more vulnerable than ever as elves and other things were spotted crawling through the trees overhead. They nervously ignored the sound of something huge tearing through the jungle to the side of the river and pretended the loud roar did not rattle their bones. They crossed through a hanging netting of vines that swept down to touch the water and Fursifer shouted to look up as vicious pygmy ketches screeched and leapt down to board the ship. The poor monkey creatures were surprised by the netting covering most of the upper deck and several of them bounced away harmlessly to splash in the deadly waters. One made it to deck and injured Sophie but was chased away quickly when outnumbered.
They finally reached Dark Fall as dusk set in and were happy to see it lit and manned by the Aspis’ soldiers, even if they looked a little stretched to cover the entire base. Commander Mynafee and his secretary Petrune greeted them with a poorly masked look of disappointment. Captain Esteban explained about your sklills and using you as reinforcements until the mercenaries could arrive to bolster the troops but the sight of the Halfling rogue, the teenaged witch with her fox, the slutty bard, and the cheetah woman with no armor did not inspire confidence. Upon arrival, everyone took notice of the elven heads on spikes surrounding the grounds. A couple of people noticed that they seemed to twitch or move every once in a while and Sophie and Traveler began secretly working their magic. Sophie identified residual necromantic magic at work and Traveler further identified it as a lingering animate dead spell of some sort. Strange. They took their places in the half abandoned fortress camp and held their watches but decided to do a little investigating while they were here. Things seemed off. When asked if there was a wizard present, Petrune identified his talents but seemed cautious. The constant anger of the Ekujae tribe with their stead assaults, plus the weird body storage and off limits areas like the guard house left the party wary. They chatted up the gasrrison commoners and learned that Petrune was a creepy man to be avoided and that they should not ask questions about the mines. The party used stealth and invisibility to search. There was a secret door in the body storage but a dozen zombies animated to chase Fursifer and Dirrasha away. Sophie and Dirrasha checked the guard house and found odd implements for digging plus shackles and whips there. Sophie witnessed a soldier brought in dead with a bashed in head late at night. Her eavesdropping heard mention of “the other one responsible being killed too”. The man that spilled too much information turned up dead the next day floating in the river. Supposedly he fell in. Traveler followed them to the commander to see what had happened and he mentioned the man talking too much and asking too many questions like her friends. She quickly hurried away and told the others about the open threat. Petrune was put under surveillance both up close and afar, Sophie earned another 2sp but the man creeped her out! They saw the secretary venture into the jungle at night and return with three shackled and hooded men later identified as elves whose bodies were added to the corpses. Something was definitely wrong here so they formed a plan.
They went into the jungle and spoke to the Ekujae elves (luckily Sophie spoke elven). They revealed all they knew and learned that the humans had been taking their people as slaves and dragging them away. The idea of taking the elves underground and the idea of not burying them immediately after death were directly opposed to their religious beliefs. The party learned of the next raid by the elves and joined forces. they hit Petrune during the attack since the guards and commander went out to fight. The wizard was not prepared for the surprise assault and they brought him down quickly then carried the battle out to kill the commander too. Traveler dropped the last of the fleeing soldiers that intended to steal the paddleboat with a blind activation of a wand she recovered from Petrune’s body. The colorspray leveled all but one which they chased away. They offered the remaining survivors of the station passage on the River Queen, freed the elven slaves in the mines, released the zombies into the jungle and learned of both false ledgers guarding a secret gold mine here and necromantic practices by the dead wizard that was planning to take over the operation with his undead servants. Back they went to Blood Cove where they made a deal with the Consortium officials: you get us home to Absalom and we forget what we saw going on in the jungle under your banner. A deal was made.
Fursifer, Traveler, Sophie and Dirrasha each earned 3,150 xp