Exodus

Session 13: How to win friends and influence battles.

CARDS: Dolmens, Hulagu, Giggles, Ma’chek, Chinua & The Dust

We strike out after the other missing cows…
Find a pack of 150 Hellhorns…with our beasts…and they’re girls…
Flying the standard of Horgrim Whitemane (old, worn-out general)
The men are all either old or children…
The old general is no idiot…they are digging in…
Circling birds show that there is a second group…
Khut speeds off to check…
200-man Empty Circle scouts…shooting down the birds…

Squee and Ithunn casually saunter down towards the Hellhorn camp…
They are acosted by a big, competent looking Hellhorn lady (Batbyar)…
They are told the camp is on the eve of battle…
They wander in and chat with Horgrim Whitemane…
Who is Squee’s best friend…
Apparently they are ready to “sing their deaths”
They are so ready to die that…Squee REALLY is their best friend…

Khut kisses the mammoth with a Looooooooooong shot…trying to snipe the EC leader…
Which gets shot out of the air by a massive volley…
And KHUT RUNS….

Leading the Centaur army into a valley…
Where the Krokodile decimate their archers with cursed arrows…
The Cavalry crash…

AND the party charges the leader (a massive, blackskinned centaur with a huge axe)…
Khut takes the general’s shield with an arrow…
And Sorq wrecks their lives with a Fireball…
And Squee, Ithunn, and Ado pile on to save her from an incoming volley…
Khut drops one with another shot…also heavily aided by the bardic dynamic duo…
And more Fireballs start flying…
AND Ithunn moving like Hasted lightning…appears out of nowhere…
and spinkicks the general in the face…Five. Times.
And knocks him to the ground…and beats him like a bad dobby…
AND he stands up and beats her with a huge axe…
Khadagan leaps in and slashes at him…narrowly avoiding a back-kick…
Ithunn kicks him down again and the beatings commence…
And chops his head off…
More arrows rain down…finally dropping Sorq…
Khut nails three more…
AND one is turned crispy by a Fireball…
AND Vadim smears one with a Rhino…

Meanwhile the Krokodile keep shooting and the cavalry continue to wheel…
Their cavalry get in among the Krokodile…who are saved by the Hellhorn infantry sacrifice…
AND the cavalry get torn apart by the Krokodile archers…
AND the Empty Circle scouts jump General Whitemane…
but Whitemane and Bayar survive…
AND Khut collects A LOT of horsemeat…
AND Ithunn has a group of fanatical amazon fan-girls…
She gets a lot of “Sign my horn!”
AND Horgrim is deliriously happy for the victory…
He tells us they bought OUR beasts from the Bent Blades…
Over the Hill…
We go pay them a visit…

Scroll of Unseen Servant
Potion of Climbing
4374gp worth of plunder (spent)
15 days of Fodder
32 days of meat rations for the Hellhorns
120 surviving Hellhorns…

We roll in to the Bent Blade camp…
To find out outrider (Squee) has them wrapped around her VERY little finger…
Vadim talks up Nergui’s, the Bent Blade, cow-snatching skills…
We caught them cold and dead to rights…
AND with some smooth talking from Ado…
230 Bent Blade scouts (Horse thief) join our little band…
AND we get all 24 beasts back…
PLUS the 36 they brought with them…
We sent couriers back to the Gray Lady telling her that we found some skystones…
and food, and she should come join us…

We book it North and catch up with the caravan…
During a Lightning Storm…
There is a stampede…while rounding them up we find…
5 fine-blood (L4) Hornbeasts show up…with Malik brands…
Apparently belonged to the Cataphracts of the Malik empire…

We start trying to integrate our new, mismatched Tribe…
Sorq goes to talk with Hundreds…who is up to her ears in refugees…
Ado and Squee jump in with some work songs to get everyone packing stores for the road…
Ithunn takes her Amazons and begins training them in a very erotic combat-dance…
Khadagan loads up a pair of wagons with a mobile herb-garden…
He plants Cackleaway, Sourgrass, and a couple Firestarter Bushes…
Vadim chats with Hulagu…
Learn the Chinua ran off to the Boneyards with a pacel of outriders…
Hulagu asks for help collecting salt from the salt flats…

Vadim and Khut round everyone up and ride off after Chinua…
We follow them to the khurgan burial mounds of the “Bone Yards”…
We follow the tracks towards the oldest dolmens…
Sorq deciphers the moss-covered ancient ruins…
The final resting place of Khan Gen’Shihir, his mount, and his wind beast…
There is a giant stone blocking the passage…the block is brand new…
and the tracks go STRAIT IN…
We tie a rhino too it…then Sorq explodes it as we goose the Rhino…
AND we’re in…
AND another big rock closes us in…

We enter a big antechamber with bass-relief depictions of steppefolk at war…
The story of the betrayal of Gen’Shahir Khan to the Shahanshar of Malik Gond Shahar
Sorq creates some flaming cat lights…
Khut finds tracks going left…into a workers chamber…
Big boulders fallen in from the roof…remnants of a recent camp…
4 days of rations are there (they took a week)…
Strange pinging and clicking noises…
A rock moves…It surprises people…Khut hits it, and hits it again, and hits it again…
It swings back and whiffs…
Khadagan crams some firestarter bush wood-chips in the crack left by Khut’s axe…
AND Sorq blows it up with fire…
AND Squee blows it up with Shatter…
AND Ithunn leaps in, kicks it down, and starts beating…
But it stands up and punches her into a wall…and vanishes…

Khadagan points out that the rock-monster is a spirit…
We all light up a bowl of Yokeleaf and start tripping…
We appear to be in a smooth hall of solid-gold (on-reflective) walls…
Sounds of tinkling fountains…
A tall, square-chinned steppefolk in heavy armor with a long forward curved sword…
We chat it up with Ja’Lin (he’s gellin like a felon)…
He leads us into a gorgeous pleasure dome with a crystal domed ceiling…
With an unbelievable greenhouse/garden of unrecognizable plants…
Sorq busts out a gilded, landshark-bone flute and tries to propitiate the spirits with song…
Ja’Lin offers us baths and summons two malik servants to assist us…
Khut looks at everyone like they are insane when they start bathing…

NEXT TIME: Ado pees in the pool in Xanadu

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Session 12: Horray for Omelettes!

Deck of Fate Draws: Swampy, Gabaatar, Altan, ???

Vadim is wandering through the mist…
He smells the boiled-cabage scent of a gorgon…
He goes kackle-mode and follows the scent…
He finds a gorgon, stuck in the mud, bellowing…
He freezes the ground and tries to free the creature…
Swarms of landsharks are around…

We all awake to Vadim bellowing (waking from a dream)…
There is white dust on Vadim…
We are in the mudflats left behind after the monsoon tarns…
Burning cursed Khort keeps the Holy Mountain Beasts coralled…
We see Altan running for the herds…
Vadim bolts out the door…
“I guess this is a no pants day”

Wettooth peas growing around the corrals…
The big bull HMB rears and stomps…
The mamas stand guard over the calves…
Except in the HMB corral, where they appear dry…
Like something feeding on their roots…
Khut rushes in, sight obscured by the smoke…
Lights a torch and shoves it in a crack in the mud looking around…
Squee rushes in and finds a blood-trail leading to one of the calves…
Heals him quick-like…

The mudflasts buckle in a line heading for the HMB calf…
Barruk rushes in and stands right in the path…
A fully grown, emaciated landshark breaks the surface…
Barruk lands a solid swing on it…
Then it crashes into the baby…
Only to anger the mama who starts stomping…
Knocking everyone flat…
It hurls past Barruk, and Ithunn who tries to look scary…
And CHOMPS the calf…

Khut instinctively runs for high ground…
The highest ground is obviously the Bull…
He tries to climb it…
and narrowly avoids getting stomped…
but the big feet open up the tunnels below…
Khadagan leaps at the landshark and, Raging, tries to hold its jaws shut…
Barruk leaps onto its back, and hacks at its neck…
Squee does a hilarious hippo impression…viciously mocking the landshark…
Ado leaps into the Landshark’s mouth…and sings a lullaby to the calf…
Who shall henceforth be known as “THUMPER”…
Ithunn leaps in and kicks the landshark backward away from the calf…
Right under the feet of the stomping Bull…

Khadagan leaps in after it…and stabs it in the pants…
Its viscera spill out into the muck…but it keeps coming…
Barruk tries to leap out…and falls on its head, decapitating it…

Khut runs and knocks over the nearest bundle of khort…
Choking and hacking as he does it…
Vadim makes friends with the mama and rides the HMBs off to get some fodder…

Sorq and Ithunn collect a lot of landshark eggs from the holes and make lots of omelets…
Khut cuts up the adult and makes a really, really nice cloak…

Ado takes Thumper to meet Ganbaatar…suggesting that Thumper could be trained for war…

We go talk to Altan…round up his herd and the second brood HMB
We head south to seek out the Gray Lady…
AND a sleeping landshark that Vadim detected…

Khut rides off to try to wake up and draw the shark’s attention…
Then Ado drops a Thunderwave to draw it in on himself…
The Shark bursts up, swallows Ado whole, and dives…
Khut and Ithunn dive down the hole after it…
Ithunn lights up a huge chamber…
The back wall glistens with hundreds of eggs…
The big, mama landshark digs its claws in…
AND Ithunn grabs its tail and chases it up out of the whole…
Barruk and Khad swing for it, and create a mighty breeze of whiffing…
AND Vadim rushes in on his Rhino…knocking it down and stomping it…
Vadim leaps in the hole as the Rhino goes over…
AND belly-flops in the mud…
AND Squee jumps down and lands on him…
Ado gets up and uses them as a human ladder to climb out…
and narrowly avoids getting eaten again…

Sorq’s cat, Alev, leaps into the launches some flames at the eggs…
Khut runs over and shoots up out of the hole…
Tagging its tail as it swings past over the hole…
AND Khadagan slides in and opens its belly…

We climb down and collect the eggs…put them on ice…
With the intent of leaving them as traps (17 live eggs)…
Khut cuts up mama for food…
AND discovers that Landshark eggs are THE MOST DELICIOUS THING EVER!

We catch the Gray Lady a half-day’s journey outside of Vohu Mana
Ado leads the way in…and runs into Krokodile outriders…
Who inform him that they are STARVING
They’ve lost several people…
We roll in and cook up some Landshark soup…
Vadim brings a hardboiled Landshark egg to the Gray Lady…
Turns out they’ve been living on Krokodile eggs for a few days…
The Gray Lady is pissed off…
We negotiate food & transport to Vohu Mana & 2 mating HMBs…
The Gray Lady quickens “Little Foot”…
Lots of bad smells, sacrificed eggs, and she’s nearly unconcious after…

We hear a ruckus from the Krokodile…
Find out that 24 of their hornbeasts have been stolen…
Khut looks for tracks…
finds that the Warbler curse markers have been bypassed…
Blob of reddish paint…
Clear tracks hornbeast tracks…and one stepfolk mocassin print…
Khut hits the ground running…and chases down a small Malik caravan…
2 wagons…6 Malik guards…2 massive 10-ft. tall lumbering Malik…
AND the carve-horned, giant malik are clearly not alive…
AND they have way more hornbeasts than they should…
Definitely the stolen ones, but only 6 of them

Barruk and Squee ride in and greet them…
The black-robed leader-malik refers to things in the East as “deeply untroubled”
Says he bought the hornbeasts for “a song” from…
Red-skinned, horned steppefolk…who lit out north…
Barruk mentions “Brands”…
AND Khut rolls at full speed and smears a guard with a Rhino…
AND Barruk clocks the Malik-sorcerer with a branding smite…
The sorcerer disappears…reappearing and blasting Khut off his beast…
AND then Ado silences him…

Sorqutani vanishes, reappears right beside the sorcerer…
AND he goes rigid…and Alev climbs into his robe and starts biting…
AND Khadagan leaps into the silence and guts him…

Barruk is surrounded by five dudes and two zombies…
AND wrecks a zombie with his flaming hammer…
A guard retaliates…and Barruk turns to water for a second…
AND the axe splashes through him harmlessly…
BECAUSE the spirit of Drowned River loves us…
Vadim rushes in and smears a zombie with a Rhino…
Squee calls up clouds of swirling daggers around Barruk…
Ado thorn-whips a zombie through the blade barriers…
AND then Vadim crushes it with his Rhino…

Ado, who has been being beaten on by two of the guards…
RUNS and hides under a wagon…but still gets a javelin in the ass…
He tries a shot at one of the guards…and knocks out Barruk instead…

NEXT TIME:
Interrogate 2 captured Malik guards – from Vahu Mana
Chase down Hellhorns…

Loot:
32 Boiled Landshark eggs (heal 1d4 hit points when you eat it)
16 Live (chilled) Landshark eggs
500 copper disks, 8000 silver disks, 2600 gold disks, 130 platinum disks
1 Potion of Healing
2 wagons…with wheels…

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Session 11: How much can we piss them off?

Deck of Fate Draw: Feud, Semek’s Wife, Naquim Black-Hand;

Draw Second Session: Sparky, Holy Mountain Beast

We dress out the dead razorclaw…
Find its stomach filled with meat contaminated by massive amount of Cursed Khort
Clearly deliberately poisoned…

We entreat the Drowned River spirit to help us find a monsoon tarn where Cursed Khort grows
Khut spots Watery Horntail spores on the wind and we follow them northwest…

Notched curl on a wind-beast (standard) and a big group of steppefolk
Hellhorns…with a triple-curl of Orbghuz IronCrown…who hates us…
Also standard of Brackith Axetooth (another vanguard clan)
Also black-hand-on-white-field of the Black Hands
Lots of Black Crow hunting ripclaws circling around

We crouch discussing whether there is any hope for peace…
Khad spots an albino ripclaw flying in from the West making a bee-line for the camp
Khut shoots it down, the bird vanishes, and drops something
Khut stealth-sprints and grabs a bamboo thing that the bird dropped
Warbeasts thunder out of the camp…
Ado creates an alarm cascade in the local fauna distracting them
Two peal off…two head strait for Khut
Khut goes flat and hides…
AND escapes by the skin of his teeth
Sorq sends Alev, her miacid familiar to retrieve the arrow…

Khut hands over the bamboo thing to Sorq to figure out what it is…
It is wrapped in a strip of paper with black-shaman runes on it…
Wrapped around a stick of specific length, then re-wrapped to make it incomprehensible…
Sorq interprets the markings…
“Beast herd west, bring everyone, the hunt begins”

Ado decides to entreat the Dust spirit for aid against the Hellhorns…
Khut gopher-snares a licken…and hands it over to Ado…
Ado rips out the lickens throat and makes a circle of blood around himself…
His attention is drawn to the Hellhorns, who are breaking camp…slowly…
Khadagan entreats Drowned River to mire their wagons…

We send Semek’s wife back to Drowned River to rouse the hunting parties…

Seeing the Hellhorn hunting parties saddling up, we decide to cause trouble…
Sorq sends Alev in to set fire to the camp…drawing off one of the parties…
2 Blackhand, 2 Axetooth, and 3 Hellhorn parties left…

We run down the southernmost Black Hand hunting party…
Chase them for 20 minutes…Sorq shrinks and rides Khut’s shoulder…

Khut leaps onto the rear-most warbeast…
Sorq color-sprays the driver…
Knut body checks the rider and spearman off…takes control of the animal…
And Charges his Rhino into a headlong rush against one of their Rhinos…
And Sorq paralyzes their driver…
And Vadim comes up and blows the spearman off with a gust…

Ripper runs off after a licken, taking Ado into the thorns with him…
And Ado gets shot a lot…

Khad charges down a ridge and tackles a rhino, grabbing its head and bringing it to a halt…
Sending its rider and spearman flying…

The lead rider releases a Ripclaw to warn the others…
Which is promptly shot out of the air by Khut…

A spearman climbs up on Vadim’s Rhino and is promptly thorn-whipped off…
Then the Driver is gusted off…
And Vadim has his own rhino…

We run arround and pound them with Warbeasts…and grind them into the dust…

We take their pikes, a case of 8 healing potions, and 4 warbeasts
We toss down healing potions…and ride hell for leather to the west…

We catch up and see a lantern-flash signal from another Hellhorn hunting party…
Telling us to circle with our pikes…
AND we see that it is a herd of Holy Mountain Beasts…
Apparently they are trying to drive them off a cliff…
We jump a ravine and circle to the west to try to cut off the herd and drive them south instead of NW to the ravine…

Vadim lays down some thorns in front of the next closest hunting party…
Then he and Sorq rush headlong into a forest of Holy Mountain Beast legs…
And Vadim makes “Friends” with a HMB bull calf…and makes a friend for life…
AND gets STOMPED by the angry mother HMB
And Sorq sends her cat in…which claws its way up on one and vanishes in a flash of fire…
Causing six HMBs to charge, panicked back to the east…strait at the Black Hands…
And Vadim gooses it and bursts out ahead of the HMB herd…

Meanwhile, Khut slides his beast into a ravine for cover…
AND does a looooooong, arcing shot in the dark and tags an Axetooth standard bearer…
WITH a Black Hand arrow….hilarity ensues…

AND…we run into some Quicksand…and Khut barely rears and pivots his beast before it goes in…

Two Black Hand hunters peel off and chase to Khadagan…
And Khad shoves a bag of poisoned thermopsis powder in a spearman’s face…
And then the Driver vanishes, shot off the beast by Khut…
And the second driver gets Ripper-poo flung in his face by Ado…
Who swings down under his warbeast to dodge their counter-attacks…
AND jabs his spurs into his own beast, unleashing a Thunder Wave…
Blowing them away…
One more beast comes up behind him…
And the third driver vanishes just like the first…

Suddenly, out of nowhere…there are swarming clouds of Ripclaws…
Which tear into everyone…
Khad spots a flickering crow…a shaman in spirit form…
AND cleaves it with his axes, dissipating the swarm…

And Sorq, now out it front, bursts into flame, spewing fire everywhere…
AND TURNS THE HERD
Everything in the north turns into a royal cluster-fuck melee Hellhorns vs. HMBs…
AND Khut does some surgery to a warbler arrow…and launches it…
With a long, shrill cry of “FUCK YOU ORBGHUZ IRONCROWN!”

We start driving six HMBs south…Vadim’s baby, the mama, and four others…
Sorq drives them with firebolts…Ado mimics the cries of a calf to draw the mothers on…
AND then the Nohai come running on…
We send them circling out to the edge of the fight to pick of straggler warbeasts…
And they come hauling back enough meet for 13 days…

We get back to Drowned River…
With six Holy Mountain Beasts…
Meat to feed the tribe for 13 days…
Khad takes a fresh HMB Steak to Semek…and asks him to step up the manufaccture of his Razorclaw claw weapons…

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Session 10: Time to go Hunting

JC’s notes

By the body of a dead Holy Mountain Beast
Vadim is wrapped up, in the mud, by two giant acid-spitting snakes
Ithunn, Pinky, and Khut quickly kick its ass
Then, of course, there was a giant fresh Holy Mountain Beast…WOO MEAT!
Ferrik, a very short member of the Dust, shows up and helps himself to a snack
says he knows where the stuck Tradestoners were

We find the Tradestoners…circled up with torches…
being circled by two full-grown, voracious landsharks
one tackles Petrana (tradestone general) and starts rolling her in the mud…
AND it is night…and overcast…so Vadim and Khut can’t see…
We shoot into the darkness…hit some Tradestoners…
THEN
Sorq wild-casts some fire to make a light…and Confuses everyone
THEN
Vadim feels some eggs hatching…under his hands…
AND lots and lots of baby landsharks start crawling out of the ground…
Ithunn leaps in and stabbity-stabbity the one on Petrana…
Squee sings and sends pointy thorns impaling the other one…
Vadim wades towards the Bull Landshark, grunting like a Landshark in heat…
and tags it with ANIMAL FRIENDSHIP
Khut shoots right through a gout of swamp gas…
AND hits a wagon lightning it on fire… to cries of “NOT THAT WAGON!”

The Landsharks charge…one eats Ithunn…the other leaps and crushes & knocksout Squee and Ado…
Barruk tries to leap up on a Hillock…but goes unintentionally swimming instead…
Ado and Ithunn leap up on the back of an attacking Landshark…
Khadagan rushes in and tips the burning wagon…dousing the fire…
but finding a man with a tube full of imperial fireworks pointed at him…

Vadim rides off with “Swampy” the Bull Landshark to go eat the holy mountain beast…
Swampy snacks on the landshark-fry as he swims by…
Khut grabs Squee and books it out of there in Swampy’s wake…

The Landshark lady rolls and crushes Ado…
And the swarm of fry roil over Ferrik…
Barruk shoves it up out of the water, half onto a hillock with his horns…
Where sorq blasts it with fire and Ithunn proceeds to stabity-stabity

Squee, riding on Khut, drops a thundering depth charge into the middle of the baby-landshark swarm…
Swampy swims through and eats them all…

Mama landshark leaps and pins Barruk three-feet under the water…
But gets an arrow from Ferrik strait into the brainpan…and then gets skeletonized by the fries…

And…froth of hatching baby landsharks spread like froth on the water, thousands of them in every direction…
Vadim rushes by on Swampy and tosses two 200-ft. lengths of heavy hempen rope…
Petrana grabs one and anchors it to a wagon…
Khut rush swims for another wagon…barely grabs on to the wagon…
with the rope tangled around his ankle…AND hangs on for dear life…

Khadagan rights the fireworks wagon and throws a keg of gunpowder into the midst of the fry…
Ferrik pegs it…
AND there is a BIG BOOM

Everyone books it for the wagons…accompanied by Squee’s depth charges and Sorq’s icy flashes…
hooking the other wagons onto the train…
Which are classic Tradestoner praerie-schooners, barges with wheels…
With desperate hornbeasts trying to swim along as Swampy drags them…
Barruk makes a flying leap into the last (rootabega-filled) wagon…
Ferrik grabs Ado and leaps on behind him…
Sorq, standing on a tumbling, floating hillock, pulls out her thunderbird-feather…
and electrifies the fry-filled water, vaporizing much of it, creating a huge bank of fog…
AND falls off her hillock…vanishing in a flash of flame just before she hits the water…
only to reappear, precariously balanced, on yet another hillock…
And Khad lights up another keg and chucks it into the water…BOOM!

We get free, cut up the holy mountain beast (and feed the rest to Swampy who promptly goes to sleep…
Petrana introduces us to Broken Tusk…the lazy do-nothing boom-powder maker…

We push hard through the night until Vadim is almost dying from exhaustion…
But finally get out of the mud…
Khut tries to ask Petrana whether she’d like to go with Gray Lady or Drowned River…
But finds her truly dying from exhaustion…
And everyone piles on and manage to bring her back from the brink…
There is some argument with Vadim…but finally we strike W by NW around the fens to catch Drowned River…

We find a cairn with 4 dead Drowned River outriders (sans beasts)…shot to death…
We catch up with the caravan…
Khut and Vadim do some breeding…Blacky gets Rosebud pregnant with triplets…
Ferrik makes some challenges within the pack…
Barruk chats with Ganbaatar, finds out that they lost a patrol…
and that something has been running ahead of the Clan…and flushing out/burning out all the food…

TIME TO GO HUNTING
Khadagan sends up a ripclaw (somehow seeing through its eyes)…and it gets taken down from above and behind…
We find a dead, long-rotting hornbeast calf…and some signs of it being dragged/dropped off a cliff…
And then we get pounced by a “Sabreclaw”…big slothlike thing…looking sick and enraged…
Quothe Sorq “It must be saved…with fire”
Vadim turns the ground to spikes…and Khut pushes it back to keep the distance…
Barruk charges and cleans its clock with a two-handed strike from his axe…
Ado drags it through the spikes with a thornwhip…
Khadagan runs up and gets in its grill…
And gets shot onto the spikes by Khut…
AND then it slams Barruk into the spiked cliff-face…impaling him and knocking him out cold…
Ferrik shoots but it goes wide as the rock he’s standing on collapses…
Sorq summons up some weird black tentacle arm things…and slams Barruk and the beasty…
Then Khadagan takes its head…
AND its rage floods into Khad making him even ragier…
AND takes its claws as a trophy…to be converted into weapons…

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Session 8: We Didn't Even Have to Set Fire to It

Caravan moving determinedly to the west — well supplied with bolts and wood, Altan pacified
Hundreds of Dust plies us with fermented diabetic warbeast blood and asks about integrating the tribes (Dust & Drowned River)
Clearly she thinks helping each other (cross-race) is a “filthy” practice
Hors’deouvre (chatty gnome working for Gray Lady) buts in confusingly
“Warren” — racist gnome who can’t discarn ‘big-folk’ genders, kicked out by the Gray Lady for not being able to use the right gendered pronoun
There is a long, convoluted discussing about “trade” (sex), how to strengthen the pack, and the proper place of the nohai in the pack
We dispatch three nohai hunting parties one “howl” to the east, one to the west, and one to the northwest
Giggles takes the East
Hundreds says she will “make herself useful”, by which we think she will try to supplant a member of the heirarchy
She heads out and jumps Ma’Chek…Khut flags to Ma’Chek that she should bare the throat…
Ado hits the crowd with Calm Emotions…
Sorq stuns Ganbaatar before he interferes…
Hundreds of Dust becomes our new mayor (very charismatic, chaos-inducing mayor)…
She warns Khadagan that he should be careful of her mate…Khut and Khad follow up to learn that Chinua is now her mate…
Warren the gnome hits the downed Ma’Chek with a Charm Person…and get hauled off to a tent…
Ado goes out and tries to get the drowned river folk to calm down about the change in leadership…
Kicks Ma’Chek’s power base out from under her…

We wake up to the sound of Hundreds howling…to a strange crystalline awareness…the world in phosphorescent
Hundreds of Dust is seated in the very center of the camp, in the middle of an ornate sand drawing…
The Moon splits, divides in three (silver, rose, dark)…clearly we have touched the ‘Spirit Realm’…three separate distinct worlds…
Figures moving around cast three different shadows…one real, one faint, one disintegrating…portraying three different actions…
“The Verge” — the moment in the split second before the ‘world comes into being’ before a thing happens…before reality crystalizes…
The “Near Verge” — where you can slip between the Verge, the moment that will be, and “the Cusp”, the moment that is…
Part of “The Fade” is infringing…part of what happens after we are done with the present moment…
The symbol on the ground glows the same rose colour as the third moon…
Squee suddenly screams “ITS THE MOON PEOPLE”…
Ado steps out and echos the sound of an angry, imminent thunderbird…
Khut reaches into his pants and pulls out his second-most prized possession…his third knife…the cold-forged iron one…the kind that you stick between the shoulder-blades of spellcasters because they deserve it…
A spiked, brutal THING appears…woven from the fear of the future…fears of starvation, fear of being driven out, fear of oppression, fear of the journey…
Ithunn bears her broken tusks (which are surrounded by burning black flames), says “I Remember”, and jumps the thing…almost as if it weren’t there…
Khad swings at it…and somehow only the trailing edge of the blade contacts it, the for-edge passing right through…
Khut jams his blackened blade between the thing’s shoulder blades and rakes it…getting its attention…and gets clawed a bunch for his efforts…
he didn’t need that kidney anyways…
Ado takes the distraction and puts the arrow strait into its rib-cage…
Warren lets his batshit crazy mind race…and all of his crazy postulations somehow appear and attack the thing…making it jump strait into Khad’s axe…
AND…the thing suddenly bursts out laughing as an illusory Warren hits it with a pie…
Sorq paralyzes it and bends it into a pretzel staring at its own ass…
And Ithunn, Khut, and Khad tear his lungs out…
AND Ado jumps up and plants his iron foot-spurs strait into both of his eyes…and sorq roasts them in a fire…

Shadow_Brute.jpg

And then, we appear to be sitting around a campfire with the strange pungent smell of something burning in the fire…
Ado sticks his hand in the fire and is not burned…pulling forth five fire opals (which are continuously warm to the touch)…
Hundreds of Dust is there, with an elaborate sand-painting around the fire and a lot of psychotropic shrooms burning in it…
Dawn breaks so we get to sleep…

Late in the day, Khad wakes up and goes to bug Semek for some armor, and to ask what he thinks about the events of yesterday…
Everyone else jumps in with orders: armor for Ado, Yaghuth-tusk holder belt thing for Ithunn, and razorclaw spine-mounted bracers for Sorqutani…

We get moving…moving west with Shield Breakers as vanguard and Dust hunting-parties running watch as described…
The krockodile split up…ripclaw breeders stay with the caravan…fletchers join the Gray Lady’s caravan…
Maggotfolk wagons are brightly-painted gypsy caravans covered with Maggot warding-sigils warding against “The Fade”…
Accompanied by about a hundred hired mercenaries and Tradestone refugees…
We meet the Gray Lady and her sister (who has bright green hair)…
Khut stares and gets a three-section-staff to the head from Ithunn…who is apparently a little annoyed with his wanna-be philandering…
We debate their caravan’s needs for food vs. the Warblers/Drowned River’s ability to provide…and the opportunity to travel together…
She tells us about the Empty Circle worshipping some “monstrous power from beyond space who is immensely strong and powerful and somehow allows evil to exist”
She informs us that the Yaghuth follows in our wake…and are probably too scared to approach…
We ask about news from the west, she replies saying that there is little news from the West (emphazised capital, more like ‘Sunset’)…
“The far west I would not worry about too deeply…there are few who reach ‘The Land Beyond the Sun’”…

Ado talks Gray Lady into letting us into her rolling library and asks her to read selected passages…
Ado gets hold of an atlas…Steppes lead to Deserts, Deserts lead to the ziggurats of a decadent Malik empire…circumventing the Desert would take us off the map…
Khadagan gets some education in western medicine and herbalism…
Khut watches over her shoulder — the “Old Imperial” language — cased, gendered, stratified, honorific, and extremely complex…and translated from a deeply individualist, unstratified language with ~18 different temporal mode…

View
Session 6: Two Battles of Five Armies
...each!

Vadim convinces us to head north to round up the Black Crows before they get eaten by Nohai
Khut notices black birds circling in the distance
We book it full speed, running strait like an arrow to the circling battle-to-be
We arrive, cresting a hill just in time to see the Dust sneaking up on the Black Crows
And a cloud of small, black spikebeaks (“ripclaws”) (trained as hunting birds by the Black Feather warblers)
And a crew of emaciated, Empty-Circle nohai charging after the Dust, running on all fours
… Because FREE FOR ALL
The birds dive after Ithunn, and she punches them out of the sky
Sorquitani fires some fire over their heads…
Ado fires a screamer arrow at them as well, scattering half the flock
Squee jumps between the Dust and Black Crows and screams (magically loud) for “Everyone stop!”
Vadim runs for the Black Crows and tries to steal the best-looking beast
Barruk charges the Empty Circle nohai and swings for the fences…lightning falls from the sky, strikes his axe, and roasts a nohai
… One of the Empty Circles glares at Barruk, Sorq, and Khut causing us to briefly snap into the Shadow Lands from which they come…
Another leaps at Barruk, and lands, hanging on his shield…
The Dust turn and open fire on the empty circle…impaling the shield-hanger…
The Black Crows riding two-to-a-beast stare at squee but stay out of the fight…

Khut keeps and eye on Ithunn, just to make sure she’s alright, then scalps one of the Empty Circles with an arrow
Ado pegs it clean through the heart…dropping it…
Squee waxes cute, pouts at the Black Crows, and points at the Empty Circle nohai…and the Black Crows charge into the battle…
They crash in and send a EC Nohai flying…
Vadim vaults onto a loose, ranpaging warbeast and turns it towards the Empty Circle…
They scatter…
Barruk rears up and pile drives the one on his shield flat into the ground…
The others stare at Barruk with empty-black eyes and he falls asleep…and it goes for his throat…
Another howls and the spikebeaks turn and swoop after Barruk…and bounce off his shield with the sound of metal on metal…
The Dust circle up, back to back, and train arrows on everyone…

Ithunn spike-kicks the last bird on her…
Which is apparently hilarious…one of the ECs starts laughing hollowly and uproariously…runs out of the dust…
…and gets railed with an arrow from Khut hurling it back to land at Barruk’s feet…
Barruk kicks him up into the air and impales him on his horns…which is still hilarious…
Ithunn leaps and and brings her staff down on the nohai driving it down on the horns to the base…
Vadim’s warbeast rears up and crushes another EC Nohai…then the dust parts as Vadim lights up the ECs and birds…
One of the birds diving for Barruk dies with one of Ado’s arrows through its throat…
The other runs and Khut shoots it out of the sky…
Sorq keeps talking and bowing, trying to pacify the Dust…
Then gets hit in the face with a small sack of gray dust…

We make friends with the Black Crows and head to their tribe, which is on the move…fast…
Running in a staggered V formation, superior warbeasts plowing a big path for the herdbeasts…
The biggest strongest leaders (with awesome warbeasts) running in front…
Khut (or mostly Ado perched on his shoulder) try to talk to the clan-father (“Khaza Shield-Breaker”)…
Fractured leadership…families come and go from the tribe regularly…
Heavily Black-Shaman…stay out of politics
The war-leaders of the vanguard, the three largest clans try lead by consensus…
We convince the “Shield Breakers” to go south with us…scouts/cadet vanguards…
Major branch are the “Axe-Teeth” (one of vanguards)…
Hellhorns (also a vanguard clan) are most ferocious…

Vadim, Ithunn, and Sorq run off to steal some cows…
…ends up in “Hellhorn” territory (massive, ebony-skinned, take very good care of their tusks), small horns…
Find sticks woven with tufts of grass…obvious shamanic magic of some kind…
Rich and well appointed with felt yurts and beautiful drowned-river rugs…
Beasts several cuts above what we have in our herd…
Vadim finds the Rosebud of breeding stock…a beautiful young cow with turgid udders, rosey hide, and the lineage of kings…
and … pisses off a Shaman…
Vadim grabs “Rosebud” and RUNSJUMPS…and barely avoids a lightning bolt as he books it away with the cow…
Sorq and Ithunn slink away…

Khut, Ado, Squee, and Barruk chat with the Shield Breaker leaders talking about how they might gain glory but crushing the Dust…
Ithunn runs into the tent and warbles to Khut and Ado about Vadim’s escapades…
Khut yells that Nohai have stolen Hellhorn beasts and are rushing to steal the glory…

We run out at full speed…followed by three young upstart scout clans…
“Shield Breakers” “Bentblades” and “Sureshafts” — ride hornbeasts/scoutbeasts and are horse archers with longbows
Khut picks an intercept path…Squee and Barruk give rousing speeches as we run to boost their morale
Ithunn calls in the warbler cavalry…
Vadim rides at full speed, then Semek’s wife shows up and peels off…he follows…
Sorq runs back to our nohai and paints them with the symbol of her tribe (“Lust” — “The ones that breed cattle”) to differentiate them from the Dust…

A weird black bird (Decoy) shows up…chats with Ado, and demands booze…
Ado tells him to inform Ganbaatar (via Breaks) that we are attacking the Dust…
Ado threatens him and he staggers off into the wind (utterly drunk)…

Still running…Khut notices a woman among the Shield Breakers…slows…runs along side staring up longingly…and stammers out “Can I ride with you”…
She scoops him up…obviously she is from the “Sureshaft” clan…
Ado, impatient with Ripper not running fast enough, leaps on a warbeast and yells “Can I take over”…
Barruk acrobatically leaps up, grabs Ado, and manages to
Squee…shouts directions from her perch on Khaza’a head, and somehow manages to point him in the right way…
Ithunn squeels out on her flute, waking up all the birds behind us and sending them screaching up into their air…
Vadim, riding like hell…fumbles out a potion and quaffs it…or was it poison…nope its a potion…whew!
HEALING POTIONS SMELL LIKE MINT or CUT GRASS

Vadim leads the Hellhorns through a ravine and they burst out, full speed, strait into the Dust camp surprising both sides…
Lightning streaks toward the Nohai…Fireeyes comes out hammer blazing and launching fireballs into the Hellhorns…
Dead hornbeasts choke the opening of the ravine, Hellhorns storm through the fire, nohai climb over nohai to tear at the wounded…

We arrive at the top of the hill, Shield Breakers and Bentblades charge down…
Khut pegs Fire-Eyes with a shrieker arrow…he takes it on the shield and is forced to cast the shield aside…
Barruk charges in on a hornbeast, eyes glowing, and leaps towards Fire-Eyes bellowing a Challenge…
Squee whips out some bundles of grass and starts cheering Barruk on…
Ado heaps insults on Fire-Eyes head…
Nohai fire a volley then charge up the hill towards the Sureshafts…
Ithunn leaps down the hill and starts beating nohai with her three-section staff…
A massive Hellhorn in black armor goes berserk charges Fire Eyes…
Vadim casts a vine around his leg, but he pulls it loose without blinking…but wiffs on his swing at Fire Eyes…
Khut pegs him with an arc’d shot from the midst of a pack of nohai…

Fire Eyes swings his hammer at Barruk…missing by a mile…but then grabs him with a claw and savages with his teeth…
Barruk declares a Vow of Enmity…and tags him with a great axe…
Squee continues cheering and waving her pom-poms…
Ado drops a heal on Barruk and illusions up the sound of a thunderbird…which lasts a little longer than he thought…
Ithunn unleashes a flurry of blows and launches two gnolls off the cliff…
Khut pulls out his knives and slashes, boots, and sends the other two tumbling down to join them…

Vadim runs to the culvert and finds one hellhorn warbeast not-quite-dead from the initial blasts…
He heals it up and hides the warbeast and Rosebud…
Squee smiles at the big hellhorn…whispers that the other Hellhorns are stealing his beasts…
and sends him raging into his own clan…smashing knees into the other Hellhorn’s faces…
and gets burried under his own bodyguards (trying to hold him down)…and the nohei taking advantage of the distraction…

Ithunn runs into a pack of Nohei, drawing them towards the Hellhorns…
but gets torn up…
Vadim rides in, grabs Ithunn and books it for where Ganbaatar is riding in from the South…
Ado leaps into the fray near Ganbaatar and unleashes a thunderwave blasting the pressing pack away…
Khut scrambles up the hill and fires at the back of the pack pressing Ganbaatar crying “Drowned River is with us” to focus the Sure Shafts

Sorq and her pack of Nohai sneak into the fray and hunt out the tent of “Hundreds of Dust” (the Dust shamaness)
She finds a tent with heavy runic beadwork…with no fire or fighting near it…
She tries to set fire to it…then realizes there are books inside…and…“decides not to”

Vadim, still riding away with Ithunn, gets shot and slumps in the saddle…
Ado runs after and heals Vadim…

Barruk and Fire Eyes keep circling and striking…the hammer misses, the axe hits…and again…
AND…Barruk brings the axe up and under and Fire Eye’s head goes flying…
The battlefield freezes…and a howl erupts from the Nohai…
Barruk raises Fire Eye’s head and shouts for everyone to stand down…

The Hellhorns withdraw…heavily weakened…
The Shield Breakers are super happy…and one of the strongest cadet clans…
The Nohai gather around Barruk and Hundreds of Dust comes out of her tent to find Sorquitani standing there…

Hellhorns — 15 out of 70 live
Shield Breakers — All in good shape, friendly with us, trying to edge out Hellhorns as Vanguard
Bent Blades -
Sure Shafts -
“Misty/Bambi/Candy Sureshaft”
Drowned River — 7 out of 12 live
Nohai — 100 + Hundreds of Dust

Increase the party herd by Rosebud + 21 beasts given to Ganbaatar/Altan

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Session 5: Bright Colors Means It's Poisonous

Just the notes
Peter — please add to this

Altan is raging, Ganbaataar is taking all the beasts
Vadim hooks up with some maggotfolk merchants to
make some nails/bolts to fix the wagons
Breaks Like Wind calls some unseen servants to lash
the wagons together
Khut and another of the maggotfolk go hunting
Bring down a wild hornbeast
Notice strange weather — heat waves in the air
Find Semek’s wife in the bushes…
Follow her…staring happens…
She runs for me…I panic…
She vaults over me and runs for camp…
We get back to camp, things are chaotic…
Breaks Like Wind summons “Decoy 9” a thoroughly
disreputable bird
Ithunn “handles” Decoy and gets seriously cussed
out, until she chokes him
Breaks sends Decoy to scout out the Black Crow
tribe and tell them “with only 1 insult”
that firebirds are coming at the head of
an army of beastmen
Breaks includes a note to be given to the Shaman
telling them drowned river is pulling up and
moving out

Decoy narrowly missing a “flying hornbeast”
part of the herd that is forming up outside the camp
floating 30 feet over the ground
everyone runs like crazy to catch it
Ithunn runs realy-realy fast
Khut decides that Semek’s wife has nothing on her
Breaks like wind stares at it through a shard of a
magic mirror, reflects himself and the world around
him, but over his shoulder at the distance, things grow very very dim, his reflection
mouths the words “They are coming”, he shouts it
Khut chases the flying hornbeast on a warbeast
and lassos it, snagging a leg
Ithunn leaps, grabs the rope, and climbs up
Khut goes up the rope after her
Up close we can see that it looks lacerated,
along its size with “ropes” wrapped around it
suckling at the wounds
Vadim ties the rope off to the horn of his saddle
tries to drag the flying hornbeast down, but
gets dragged along instead
Squee climbs up (or rides her imaginary pink dragon)
whatever
she gets up and screams something about
“IT’S GOT TENTACLES
Breaks casts Grease on the Flying Hornbeast
The hornbeast swings dangerously loose in the air
Then we see 3 massive, bloated, floating spore-like
things with nests of tentacles and horned beaks
like flying man-o-wars
They have wrapped all of their tentacles around the beast, desperately trying to keep it from slipping away
Ithunn gets snagged by a sharp-spined tentacle
It bites Khut, who just laughs it off
Breaks tags it with a firebolt, lightning it up
and it is covered in grease, so its on FIRE
Ithunn whips out a three-section staff, wraps
it through the tentacles, and then kicks
the thing — grabbing it and kicking the crap
out of it, rather like a warbler
Khut wraps his legs around the rope, swings down
and shoots it, blowing it sideways away
Vadim blows a horn to alert Ganbaatar and co.
Squee whispers “you are not my friend” to one of the
tentacle-things holding the hornbeast, which
releases its prey and runs like hell
The other begins to sink under the weight of
the hornbeast
It drifts closer to Squee who (pointing at her
pink hair, informs it “You know bright colors
means its poisonous”
The one holding Ithunn clenches with its tentacles,
then gets a beakful of staff
Breaks burns it again, and it finally begins
to drift downward…badly wounded
Ithunn wriggles free, leaps for the rope, misses
and gets her ankle snagged in its tentacle again
Khut kicks the rope swinging, still upside down,
swings over, severs the tentacle with a knife
and grabs Ithunn trapeze-style
Vadim does a sperm-whale call with the horn,
spooking the other two and turning them bright pink
Chinua barks orders and a nohai arrow burries
itself in one of them
Squee viciously mocks the one she’d previously
whispered, and it rushes her
and bites, and get stabbed, and bites some more
Khut slides down deposits Ithunn on the ground
The nohai continue to hammer them with arrows
Ithunn tosses a torch at the one eating Squee
Khut has no sympathy for the small pink thing that
insists on calling him “cutie” and shoots the other one
The Nohai bring the one eating Squee down with
arrows anyways
The other one comes down like a jelly-fish
in a barrel
Khut runs over and bandages up the gnome
Vadim saves the hornbeast, with a healing potion,
which apparently belonged to Hulagu
who is incredibly greatful
250gp worth of supplies release to our use
Contract for 1000 warbler-fletched arrows
4 Healing Potions
Vadim extracts the venom and puts it in
a sheath for Ithunn
Breaks makes a couple of whips from the tentacles

Ma’Chek and Ganbaatar congratulate us, ask where to go
We aim for Tradestone, but discuss the best way to
get them to move…
Squee goes to talk to Altan, proposing that
Ganbaatar might give him back the herd, and that
if they can get to Tradestone they will be rich
beyond the dreams of avarice thanks to the Panic
“4-legs are assets, 2-legs are liabilities”
We book it at nightfall heading west by southwest
100 steppefolk and 40 Krokodil warblers

Outriding, Khut spots campfires due west
We flow like the night over the steppes
find a Nohai camp, proper nohai, minimal teepees
tribe at least as big as the drowned-river clan
…it’s Dust
Khut lays a false nohai scent trail as they come in
then circles and lays a herdbeast scent trail due west
Vadim and Breaks ride back to convince Ganbaatar to
avoid them, Ganbaatar decides that we should
strike Dust when they are engaged with the
Black Crows…

We travel through the night and sleep
Khut sleeps in the saddle
Ithunn rides with the young Warblers, talks about
coming from the Akilabator nest, who live
down near the jungle and nest in the trees
there is much insulting of steppefolk speech
they discuss potentially heading South
for safety instead of West
but wanting to stay ahead of the “badly hatched”
or “rehatched” (warblers who do not sing and
attack singlemindedly like crows)
Vadim sleeps in his delapidated yurt, which is stuffed
with straw, tunneled out, and filled with
warblers, and snores LOUDLY
Squee sleeps curled up on a warbeast’s nose like a cat
Breaks Like Wind is one of the few mortals able to
withstand Vadim’s snoring, and finds the Vadim
is smuggling someone who also snores and farts
a lot in their sleep

We get some sleep and head into tradestone
“Raggar One-eye” — beast-trader in tradestone, primary contact with the great trade road caravans, cosmopolitan
Tradestone has a well-armed, armored, and drilled militia
We talk anout what to steal, who to make friends with

An elf and a pink-haired gnome walk into an Orc bar…
A hefty, jowly orc with horns refers to the
drowned river clan as “thieving bastards”
Gormak — bartender
Rumors of war to the east, a shattered caravan in town
Road closed, Yaghuth confiscating everything,
Squee slaps Gormak and hugs him, for no reason
The bar gathers around as Breaks casts some illusions
and tells the tale of the army, the beast-man,
the walking dead nohai

Thin, scarred steppefolk slides in across from Ithunn
asks about “demon hunters”, Squee appears in his
lap (for no reason),
“Guun” — hunter, saw some things in the Yaghuth
rememberance, doesn’t know what a demon is, but the
thing he saw “comes pretty close” — gets real dark,
screams from far away, things reaching for you from out of the ground…yaghuth are scared…down south
yaghuth not trading, closed the gates, land is shuddering,

We find the maggotfolk outside of town to the west,
just north of the great trade road, set up bazaar
offloading exotic goods
Khut spots an old lady who is clearly the caravan master, Ithunn passes her a bag of shiny things that Squee had previously lifted from her possession

“Gray Lady”
We chat — they’ve seen a lot, Khut tells the truth, trades stories, they agree to travel “close to us” but not trust the safety of her 12 remaining kinfolk to “scruffy horsethieves”
Breaks asks if they have books…
She leads them to a fancy wagon, all the dirt falls
off of them, Breaks touches the book and finds it to be an advanced medical treatise written in
cuneiform
Breaks offers to trade “the book that matters”, she says he can “come visit” but she can’t trade the books

Breaks seizes, passes out, and when he wakes up suggests that we light a back-fire

Enormous woman, 7+ tall, head-to-toe armor, gorgon steel
blade — “Petrona” — head of the militia/army

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Session 4: Give Him the Bird

Having devastated the Empty Circle camp, we backed off and got some rest while waiting for the gorgons to get bored and either leave, or go to sleep. After about eight hours, we crept back to the camp with the hope of catching the malik necromancer alone, or at least with fewer troops to back him up.

Vadim went in first, making himself very tiny, Inside the camp he found piles of corpses—nohai, zombie, and gorgon—but nothing moving. He crept in, heading for the malik’s tent, but had to climb over a one of the corpse piles to get to it. While climbing he stepped on a dead gorgon, which exploded, shrouding the area in a mix of petrifying gorgon breath and swamp gas from the decomposition.

The rest of us followed, at which point another of the big gorgon corpses stood up, because zombie nohai were not bad enough. I quickly shot the thing, and the rapid expulsion of noxious gasses blew it backwards nearly three paces. The familiar boiled-cabbage smell of the calcifying gorgon breath hung in the air, and I determined to keep my distance.

The zomborgon charged Khadagan, but somehow managed to encircle the hermit with its great horns, rather than goring him. What followed can be boiled down to lots and lots of bashing, every hack of an axe or poke of an arrow creating another expulsion of the poisonous gas. I climbed to the top of a tent pole to get above the vapors, everyone else just coughed and pressed on.

The undead bull kept trying, and failing, to gore Khadagan. Eventually, after much hacking, Barruk took the things right, front leg clean off. As his skin started to harden from the gasses, Khadagan went berserk, grabbed the thing’s horns, and twisted it’s head free from its neck, nearly decapitating it with his bare hands. Barruk, with a swing of his axe, finished the job of taking it’s head off, cauterizing the wound in a flash of power… then froze, his victory forever captured in stone.

We looked around to make sure there were no more undead surprises, then looted the camp. I found LOTS of rope.

The malik was long gone, but his tent was there to be looted, complete with the frozen corpse of the zombie-nohai that had terrorized Sorqutani the day before. Vadim smelled fresh dirt, and found a strongbox buried in one corner. It had a surprisingly sophisticated lock, but nothing that a little prodding with an arrowhead couldn’t fix. Inside we found a stash of gold, silver, and copper horn rings, commonly worn as a status symbol (and occasionally used in trade) by malik, a pair of gems, a delicately-woven and strangely-scented silk scarf, a trio of small containers made of clear blown glass, a gold spider-web head covering, like those worn by the Yaghüth, and a blank book with the first quire torn out.

Ado dove into the collected oddities, took one whiff of the scarf, and passed out. Vadim carefully stashed the cursed piece of silk in one of the bottles (the other two being full — one with a strange, viscous liquid, the other with something that smelled like cut grass). I took the horn rings and went out and used them to decorate our statue of Barruk.

Sorq, meanwhile, looked at the book. While the first third or so of the pages had been ripped out, the first remaining page showed indentation from the author writing very heavily on the previous page. A little charcoal revealed the following (so much as I can remember from Sorq reading it aloud to us), “As with certain reptiles, external heat on the unhatched eggs of the thunderbird can produce dramatic changes … hard-boiled warbler eggs are delicious”.

Chinua pointed out to us that the Malik had shown considerable interest in the thunderbird and finding it’s nest, even going so far as to order the nohai to search for recently dead and eaten gorgons. It then became clear as mud what the malik’s plan was…something vaguely involving finding the thunderbird eggs and setting them on fire. And we had just given him a whole bunch of gorgons to use as thunderbird bait.

I did a scan of the perimeter of the camp and, sure enough, found the tracks of the malik and a quintet of nohai leading a gorgon cow and calf away in the general direction of the thunderbird nesting spire. We quickly built a travois to haul Barruk’s stoned ass with us, and let the nohai give their slain fellows in the camp a “proper burial” (they apparently like that I remembered the necessary niceties, but really it saved us from having to feed them for now).

The malik and his group had several hours on us, and we were under-supplied. We pushed as fast as we could. Along the way Sorq and I rustled up a covey of Lickens (sort of your bog-standard chicken-lizard things, kindof like warblers but less smart) for lunch. We force-marching late into the night, past the point of exhaustion, then kept going another four hours. It didn’t help that we were also hauling our petrified friend.

unnamed.jpg

As dawn was breaking, the tracks split. The malik making a bee-line for the nest, with the nohai and the gorgons peeling off to the right, presumably to draw away the mama-bird. Figuring that stopping the malik from getting the eggs was the bigger concern, we rushed after him, running as fast as we could.

Vadim ran like a wolf (as a wolf?) and booked it to the nest. The nest itself was a huge bowl made of gorgon scales, sitting at the top of a plinth made of five white-marble megaliths leaning together to form a menhir. Our malik antagonist could be seen climbing up the side of one of the pillars, his hands splayed strangely, sticking to the side of the rock with only his fingertips.

With the rest of us still a ways off, Vadim lit up the malik with faerie fire, making him glow with a greenish miasma very similar to gorgon’s breath, and painting a nice target. I drew my bow and pegged him from nearly a hundred paces away, hitting him in the arm and causing him to loose his grip on the wall. Unfortunately, the jerk called forth some dark arts to grab back onto the cliff-face with a lash of dark energy.

Vadim followed up by plastering the malik with some cabbage-smelling gorgon goop. Clearly the fake miasma and the smell had gotten mama’s attention, because then, there was lightning. Lots of it. Coming our way.

The Malik vanished in a roiling cloud of darkness that hurled up the pillar to the nest. Vadim followed, hauling himself up the side and finding that what we thought were weathered hand-holds were, in fact, bas-reliefs of some kind of winged humanoid creatures, carved into and projecting from the rock, as if this were once some kind of structure.

The rest of us ran. Trying to get there to help Vadim and stop the Malik from getting the egg as quickly as possible. And we kept running.

Using the carvings’ predictability, Vadim was able to rocket up the wall to the nest. Vadim crested the lip of the nest, with a lightning storm brewing overhead, to find the roiling black cloud in the center of the nest, a stream of smoke rising from the center of it.

Vadim rushed in, following the scent of the smoke, and tried to tackle the malik full-speed, almost running headlong into the fire. He missed the malik and jumped at the last minute, hurtling over the unseen flames. He landed hard, knocked a scale loose, and went right through the nest, just barely catching himself to hang beneath it.

The storm picked up in intensity. Then we heard, from the center of the cloud of darkness, the sound of a flute. The flute somehow mimicked what Ado informed us was a mating call—the sound of a male thunderbird threatening to smash the eggs in the nest to make room for his own brood. The bloody malik was full of all kinds of tricks.

Barruk reached the base of the menhir and struck it a thunderous blow, opening a wide crack in the pillar, while shouting disparaging epithets at the malik. Vadim, meanwhile continued to hang precariously beneath the nest, lashing at the enemy with his thorn whip while dodging the sorcerer’s blasts of eldritch power, which tore even more holes in the nest.

And then, the lightning struck. A deafening clap of thunder. A crackling vibration through the metallic nest. The smell of frying feathers and smoking fur. When our eyes re-focused after the flash, we could see the angry, mother thunderbird hovering over the nest, electricity sparkling over her wings as she recharged for another strike.

Headless of the risks, I ran up the nearest pillar following Vadim’s path up the carvings and tying off a rope for the others. Khadagan followed me up and charged into the darkness, body-checking the malik into the bonfire. Ado, riding on Khad’s shoulder, unleashed a thunder-wave, knocking over something unseen in the darkness with a metallic ringing sound, pushing the malik towards the edge of the nest, and blowing out even more of the scales.

With the malik near the edge, Vadim anchored a rope to himself, and jumped. As he cleared the edge of the nest, he thorn-whipped the malik, pulling him off the lip, and sending the necromancer plummeting a hundred chǐ to his death.

The darkness dissipated, revealing six eggs, and a roaring bonfire. One egg lay apart from the others, apparently having fallen out of a heavily carved ceremonial iron pot which was suspended over the fire by a tripod. Most of the eggs were a mottled, metallic green, but the heated egg was a perfect azure-blue in color. The mother bird landed, snuffing out the fire with her bulk, and gathered the eggs under her wings.

Barruk quickly bowed and did some amazing pantomime, clearly trying to convey that we were not the ones who made the fire and that we meant no harm to the thunderbird or her eggs. Apparently understanding his interpretive dance, the thunderbird pulled a single, shield-sized, super-bright (but non-reflective) scale from over her heart and gave it to Vadim. She then gathered up the eggs in her claws and flew off to the west.

With the bird gone, we swapped places a bit. I swung down to make sure the malik was dead, while Sorq climbed up and snagged the carved iron pot, which was obviously witchy, and its tripod.

The malik was, in fact, very dead, but Khad came down and took his head off just in case. Then Barruk cut off his intricately carved horns as a keepsake. The rest of his heavily pierced body was dismembered and fed to our nohai. On his body we found a silver bracelet, silver pitcher, and several pages that were clearly torn from the book we’d found earlier.

Vadim, who had by this time climbed back up on the top of the nest, pointed to the east and shouted something. We scrambled up to see what the fuss was about and saw fire in the distance. Fire … in the sky. Not on the ground. Not the grasslands burning. No, the motherfucking sky was on fire. Beneath them the ground seemed to move and shimmer, like heat rising off a hot rock. After a while, we realized that this was an army, more men than one could ever hope to count, wearing METAL armor. Then, breaking the clouds over the army, came one, two, three massive birds, like thunderbirds, but blazing with fire. Fire-birds. They lit up the plains, burning a path in advance of the army.

We scurried down, then noticed through the crack that Barruk had made in the pillar that it was at least partially hollow. Not wanting to leave anything unknown behind us, we widened the crack and crawled inside. From the inside it was clear that the pillars really had been structures in the past. A staircase ran up the center of the pillar, at a slant now. I went up, but was blocked by rubble after traveling about forty-feet on the slant.

Everyone else went down. At the bottom, they found a large room, filled with maggot-folk bones stacked to the ceiling. The bones were clearly ancient, moldering away into dust at the slightest breeze or touch (though that did not stop Ado from collecting the ancient dust for use as bone-meal). The bones showed no sign of intentional wounds, no cuts, gouges, or scratches, nor any signs of the corpses having been diseased. They were, however, stacked haphazardly and, in some-cases, irregularly broken, as if they had been thrown down into the room from above.

The walls showed the remains of ancient murals, faded to nothing more than outlines and vague suggestion of color. Exits leading off from the room suggested that the other four towers might connect to this one, as part of a larger structure, but were choked with rubble. Everywhere was the same winged-humanoid iconography, clearly some kind of ancient theistic witchery—the kind of things the shamans would probably smash on sight.

Unable to proceed further, we crawled out of the crack, and piled rubble around it, attempting to hide it from the prying eyes of any who might come here later. Then, completely exhausted, we slept — some on the ground, some in the hollow under the menhir, and I hanging in a hammock from the underside of the nest.

I woke near dusk to see the light of the fires in the east to be much closer. We quickly broke camp, gathering up as many loose gorgon scales as we could manage for their metal in the process. As we did this, Ado’s warbler scouts reported in, saying that they’d encountered probing parties of some kind of strange, four-legged, half-man/half-warbeast monsters, about a day’s run to the east.

Obviously, we ran west.

We booked it for the Drowned River camp. As usual I took point, picking our trail through the hills and ravines of the steppes, and picking off whatever game I could find. And find game I did. I left a bloodbath in our wake, finding food for our whole party, nohai, warblers, and all, and then some. Finally, I spotted a nice, fat pteranadon, and brought it down with a single well-placed shot.

Unfortunately, a Spikebeak saw the pteranadon as it fell and dived, hoping to steal my kill. Ado, quick to the punch as usual, did some kind of warbler mating dance, and Vadim made some calming gestures, which at least served to make the bird more interested in eating the prey than us. The vicious bird tore the heart out of the pteranadon with its long, pointed beak, then turned, bloody heart still in its mouth, and purred at Vadim. I at once named the beast “Cid”.

Ado, not wanting to lose our food to the spikebeak, cocked his head, puffed up, and darted in circles around the bird bird, demanding that it could have the organs but must give us the rest of the meat. It just took off, clutching the pteranadon in its talons. I didn’t hesitate to shoot it.

Everyone else followed suit, hurling arrows, fire, and vicious mockery the bird’s way. It dropped the carcass and dove at me. I sidestepped, then, as it passed over, shot a warbler curse arrow strait up in front of its face. It’s eyes, then head, turned upwards, tracing the path of the warbler death-cry, then overbalanced, turning it into an unintentional back-flip and nose-diving into the ground, breaking its neck.

What’s tastier than a really big bird? An even bigger bird! We grabbed the spikebeak carcass, and what was left of the pteranadon, and booked it back to camp with our piles of fresh meat.

Well stocked, and moving as fast as we could, we gained a solid day on the following army of man-beast-things. We reached Drowned River and tried to persuade the Caravan that they needed to run like hell. We split up. Vadim easily convinced Ma’Chek of the seriousness of the situation. I managed to piss of Semek (again). Ado got price-gouged on supplies by Altan. Sorq bought a non-conductive bone hilt to affix to a steel thunderbird feather from Hulagu to turn it into a dagger. Barruk made friends with Ganbaatar. Khadagan just walked into the middle of the square and roared, spouting crazy hermetic prophecies about “A tide of iron and fire” while holding aloft the thunderbird-scale shield and the head of a decapitated gorgon.

Between Khadagan’s theatrics, and Ma’Chek’s and Ganbaatar’s leadership, we soon had everyone packed up and ready to leave…more or less.

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Session 3: Pack Tactics

As told by a boy named Khut

Vadim was out rustling more cattle, presumably, the rest of us were the Tengri knows where, climbing an escarpment. At the top, of course, was a pack of Nohai, five of them, with bows trained on us. More specifically, they had their bows trained on Barruk’s left eye (he being the most obvious threat, since I was hiding in a ditch, sneaking around them, as usual, and Khadagan was…well he was there, but somehow looks less menacing than the massive malik champion).

As we approached, carefully, one of the nohai snuck up behind the one that was obviously the leader, only to get his throat grabbed in the leader’s jaws. There was some whimpering and some baring of the neck as he backed down.

Sorq, the only one of us who spoke nohai, lead the approach and bowed to them. The chief (pack-leader, whatever) bowed back, perfectly mimicing her stance and motions, clearly trying to be polite despite not understanding the greeting, and introduced himself as Chinua, formerly of Dust

Now, that last part matters, so let me explain a few things about Nohai. First off, pack membership is super important to them. Secondly, there is no such thing as a “former pack”. The pack is the pack. You belong to the pack you are in. Claiming identity with a previous pack is sacrilege, blasphemy.

So, Chinua introduces himself in a way that makes his packmates cringe, then Sorq introduced herself as “Sorqutani of No Pack” (which of course, was just as blasphemous as the chief’s statement). Sorq then asked about his ‘current pack’ (as opposed to the former, Dust), and he was of “not no pack”, “nothing”, “the empty circle”, the “void fillers” — all of which sounded disturbingly like some kind of theism. Now, the fact that these two statements didn’t cause them to throw down immediately is something of a miracle and an oddity, but nothing like what followed next.

You see, Chinua then challenged Barruk to a one-on-one match for “leadership of the pack” (the pack being us). Now, let me reiterate, it was pretty clear, even if I was only hearing things at a distance and translated second-hand by Sorq, that something really screwy was going. As Chin pulled out his spear and made his challenge, it was pretty clear that he was putting on some kind of show for his pack as much as for us. And, of course, funny thing about Malik champions…they live for single combat.

Barruk accepted, of course. He rose up from behind a big rock where he had been trying, quite unsuccessfully, to take cover. His eyes were blazing with light, his horns shone like gold, and the ground shook with every step of his big hooves. Clearly Chin thought this was just as creepy as I did, for he nearly peed himself. But, he kept a kind of fanatical gleam in his eye, snarled and charged.

Chin slammed into Barruk, but the malik held his ground, his hooves digging deep into the shale of the escarpment. The two wrestled, spear to axe, for a while, horns stabbing and jaws snapping. Finally Chin cast his spear aside, lunged, and caught Barruk’s axe handle in his jaws. The two of them went down, with Barruk hanging half-way off the cliff.

Meanwhile up on the hill-top, the surly nohai lieutenant tried to make his move, drawing a knife and indicating to the others that they should attack us. Ado, who had been rocking out on an odd little flute, tossed his instrument across the nose of the rogue nohai, producing a shrill and weird whistling noise. The lieutenant apparently thought that this was the most hilarious thing ever, as he immediately fell to the ground laughing like the cackle-beast that he so resembled.

Khadagan then stepped in and tore out the lieutenant’s throat with his tusks. The lieutenant just kept laughing and laughing through the whole thing, and, having somehow survived to bare his throat apologetically to Khadagan, shall forever after be known as “Giggles”.

I pulled out a rope, maneuvered around closer to them, and tied it off, ready to jump and grab Barruk should he fall. Instead. Chinua released the axe and snapped at Barruk again, his jaws crushing the chainlink shirt that Barruk wore and ‘accidentally’ flipped Barruk over, away from the cliff. I say ‘accidentally’ because it was a very well conceived bluff. From my close vantage it was clear that Chinua had deliberately saved the life of our curly-horned friend. Barruk then repaid the nohai’s kindness by slamming the flat of his axe-blade into his opponent’s face, dislocating Chin’s jaw with a horrendous cracking sound and knocking the nohai out.

Barruk hauled the unconscious Chinua up the hill, where the other nohai immediately recognized him as their new pack leader (with Khadagan as the obvious lieutenant pack leader, having taken out their lieutenant’s throat). So, after applying some healing, we new had five nohai in our “pack”.

While everyone else was making nice with our new pack-mates, I spotted a couple of rustles in the grass in the ravine below. Two “somethings” were coming from the general direction of the fire-starters encampment. I fired off one of the black-fletched warbler arrows, which let out a hideous death-shriek as it flew through the air, bringing everyone else running down to look. I pointed out the waves in the grass and Sorq lit it up, setting the grass on fire and revealing a quartet of nohai, looking far too wounded to be coming at us so fast (almost to the point of being dead).

Well, dead, or undead, or whatever, we had the high ground, and bows. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Fish that got back up and kept walking whenever you shot them that is. Still, I’m a fairly good shot sometimes: nailed three of them to the ground, and nailed the hand of the last one to its forehead. This last one charged Barruk, only to lose that last hand, and its head, in the offing.

With the nohai zombies dealt with, we decided to make a strategic withdrawal, putting a few more miles of distance between ourselves and the fire camp. So we hoofed it, and I doubled back a few times to cover our tracks and spread some false ones, a right merry chase should any more zomb-nohai try to follow.

Once we were a safe distance, we pitched camp and settled in. Our new nohai packmates had taken the dead nohai with them, and, once settled, made a great feast of their slain fellows. They had some tradition about eating the dead as a show of respect and to take on their strength and speed. As a show of solidarity with our “pack”, I helped myself to some rotten nohai spleen, and suffered some horrible cramps as my reward.

The nohai were still in a pretty bad state. Ado used his magic to wake Chinua up. Then Khad made a paste from poppy pods, which he rubbed on the ex-chief’s gums to dull the pain as I popped his jawbone back into its socket. Barruk then finished by laying on hands to make the jaw set, leaving Chin’s chin looking much better. (Ha!) Sorq then took one of the beads out of her hair and wove it into Chin’s mane (which is apparently some kind of sign of victory or strength or the like among nohai…or maybe a courtship ritual, it’s hard to say).

Once we had settled in, the nohai told us about the “Void Fillers” — the mix-matched clan of nohai, zombies, and nohai zombies down in the valley. Apparently the fires were part of some grand scheme on the part of the Void Fillers, which basically amounted to ‘KILL EVERYTHING’. They start fires, then go around collecting the various refugees who may have survived the fire but were separated from their own clans. These refugees got conscripted into ‘fire camps’, like the one nearby, given the choice to either join up willingly, or get killed and turned into a zombie (and thus forced to join that way). Most of the nohai in the camp were formerly from the “Blades of Earth” pack, but Chinua and his crew were a small hunting party that got separated from their larger pack (Dust) by the fires are recruited in the manner described.

After a bit of a chat, Chinua implied that he had other things to share with his “pack leader”, Taking the hint, Khad, Ado, and I took the remaining nohai (Giggles, Fletcher, Kitty, and Hooch) and went out to see if any game had survived the fires. Barruk (as leader) and Sorq (as translator) stayed behind and discussed with Chin how we might go about divesting the nearby fire-camp of some of the other broken and conscripted packs to add to our own.

First point of business for the hunting party was to get me back on my feet, as I was still feeling very ill from eating uncooked, rotten nohai meat (note to self for the future — fuck pack solidarity). Khad found a weird-looking root that he called badberry (because it is what you should eat when you’ve had a bad berry). He cut it into small strips and said I should chew and swallow them. Which I did. After which it felt like I was dying. My throat burned, my stomach heaved, and everything I had eaten for the last three days came spewing out with the force of a geyser. Afterwards, though, I felt much better.

While I might have hoped for something easier to kill, the only meat we found was a herd of gorgons, maybe thirteen of them, including a pair of bulls. Now, hunting gorgons just because you are hungry might seem like a bad idea, but I was still a little light-headed from puking my guts out, and I there was one cow who was partly burned and half-lame who looked like she might be easy enough to pick off. That is, of course, if Khad hadn’t stumbled around making as much noise as a drunken hornbeast, and I hadn’t, in trying to coax the wounded cow away from the herd, gotten the attention of the largest of the two bulls.

Ado used his magic to mimic the cry of a thunderbird, which are known to prey on gorgons, hoping to scare the bull off. Instead of becoming frightened, though, the bull took the cry as a challenge and came running towards the sound (which is probably why there are as few gorgons as there are). Well, as I learned from cattle-rustling with Vadim, if a plan goes sour, just make up a new one. Oh, and run, definitely also run.

So, we ran, but, seeing the light of the fire-camp not more than a mile away, we decided we’d run for the camp, figuring that an angry gorgon bull would work wonders for disorienting, demoralizing, destabilizing, and decimating the camp of our enemies. Ado, Khad, and I booked it for the camp, heading down the steep shale slopes into the ravine, shouting, waving torches, and firing arrows all the way to the cliff to urge the gorgon to keep after us.

Meanwhile, Ado sent up the alarm through his warbler buddies, alerting Barruk and Sorq to the situation. Quick thinkers that they were, they figured that a herd of gorgons was better than one, and immediately ran out to where we’d been hunting and started lighting fires to frighten the rest of the herd towards the fire-camp. If there is one thing that a band of rustlers knows how to do, it is start a stampede.

So, with much running and screaming, we hit the scree. Khad went sliding down first, hitting the grasslands below running flat-out. Ado did less well with it, losing his perch on the cackle he was riding and tumbling down the slope. With the bull just on my heels, I ran out wide, tied a knot in the end of my last rope, hooked it on a jagged outcropping, and leaped. I swung across the gorgon’s path and, sure enough, he got his feet tangled on the rope and went barreling head-first down the slope (that out to make him mad). To add insult to injury, when he landed, Ado hit him with some vicious mockery.

Even the best plans have their consequences, and tripping a gorgon down a cliff was not one of my best plans. Short version, I got a good whiff of its breath on the way down. On the plus side, my hands half-froze holding onto the rope, so I didn’t follow it down.

Of course, then Sorq and Barruk came running, just ahead of a wall of fire and a herd of stampeding gorgons. Despite the limited mobility provided by my calcifying limbs, I managed to avoid getting trampled as the beasts came down the slope. The same cannot be said of Ado, still dismounted at the bottom of the slope, who was beaten to a fine bloody pulp by the gorgons’ hooves.

But, I didn’t really have time to worry about Ado, as my limbs started returning to normal just in time for the fire to hit the crest of the scree … and set fire to the rope I was hanging from. I let go the rope, pulled out my knives, and jammed them into cracks in the slate, holding on for dear life. There was fire above, and more fire and a herd crazed iron-hided cattle below. So I clung to the cliff and waited for the fires to burn out.

While I clung to the hillside, everyone else ran headlong towards the camp, gorgons on their heels. Khad, who had been in the lead the whole time, screamed and leaped, hitting the wooden fence around the camp at a full run and launching himself over the heads of the defenders, just moments before near two dozen tons of iron-scaled oxen smashed into the camp.

The gorgons raged through the camp, statues spreading like wildfire from their breath, and the actual wildfire spreading in an identical manner behind them. Khad raced through the camp, not even pausing as he passed the malik sorcerer who was standing in the center of the camp with blood-soaked horns, a bloody snout, an evil altar, and the rest of the whole evil necromancer schtik. Nor did Khad stop when that same malik nailed him with a clearly quite painful curse. He took the blast and kept running, hurling himself out the far side of the encampment, then circling around to meet up with our nohai, who were laughing uproariously as they fired arrows at stragglers trying to escape the gorgon-wrought carnage within.

Sorq, meanwhile, spotting the malik sorcerer, decided that it was a good idea to sneak into the camp, apparently with the goal of robbing his tent in the chaos. She somehow managed to make it to the tent without getting stabbed, trampled, or petrified, only to find the tent occupied by an undead nohai. She dodged the zombie’s strike, letting it knock out the tent poles instead, grabbed the nearest loose object, cut a hole in the collapsed tent, and ran for it holding … an iron teakettle (a tremendous waste of metal if ever I’d seen one).

With the fires finally moved on, I dislodged my knives and surfed down the slope, landing on my feet, and ran flat out to where I’d last seen Ado go down under the gorgon stampede. Barruk was already there, trying, unsuccessfully, to bandage the warbler’s wounds. Rather than waste any more time, I bundled Ado up tight in a sheet to at least staunch the bleeding a little, and Barruk and I ran to meet up with Khad, Chinua, and the rest of our pack.

Sorq caught up to us shortly thereafter and we all booked it. Behind us, the grass was a smoking black wasteland and the camp was a full of statues, burned and trampled tents, greenish fog, and the gorgons grazing on their food stores. Undercutting the noises of lowing gorgons and crackling fires were the enraged screams of the malik necromancer who’s day we had just ruined.

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Session 2: We Didn't Start the Fire
Bad Bull

When group of deputies and dignitaries from Black Crows showed up, Ma’chek was gearing herself up to throw the Hustler Rustlers under the Housebeast. Not for the gamete-hustlin’ and well poisoning. They were accused of rampant fire-startin’. Vadim and Sorqutani were able to convince her that there was some reasonable doubt they hadn’t started the fire that had spread and ravaged, and continued to spread. The Rustlers beat a dirty exit as Ma’chek set her dogs on them to save Drowned River’s face in front of the Black Crows. They turn out of be four cuppies that Vadim has raised by hand: Murderer, Killer, Ripper and Render.

Sorqutani guides the Rustlers directly up the wake of the burning fire. They enter a canyon, and come upon a wounded pregnant Gorgon, damaged by lightening. They heal her and Ado keeps Vadim from turning to stone while he helps her deliver a blue-green bull. Soon after leaving Sparky and his mom to bed down in the cover of the steep rock walls, the Rustlers find a herd of Gorgons, smashed on the floor of the canyon. Adu has retainer Yam send a whistle-arrow to inform the warblers in the area of the cache of metal.

The Rustlers meet a Quixotic Malik bull named Barruk, who is also investigating the fire. They continue up the plume and quickly discover that the massive fire was set in many places, graduating north.

The Rustlers encounter 5 spires of pearly rock, rising from the plane. While they are investigating it, a continent-sized Thunderbird roosts on it, feasting on Gorgon. Sorqutani finds a feather of solid steel, vibrating with static. Vadim covers the party in male Cackle gland juice and they walk out, unobserved.

They find an abandoned camp of Nohai/Malik mix tracks, and three Snakefolk try to kill them. Barruk and Sorqutani destroy them while Vadim and Adu collapse into seizures and try to make friends, respectively. Murderer is killed. Rearmed with snake poison, they follow the encampment northward, stealing a march through the night.

Adu and Vadim investigate the camp and find a witchy-looking bull Malik in charge of several Nohai zombies and many soon-to-be Nohai zombies, and return the Rustlers with intel.

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