The Fate of Gnomos

Apes, Apes in the Jungle: Part I

Fourth Session – Dec. 22
DM: Chris
Players: Eric, Sam, Neil
Characters: Jaggar, Sledge von Hamar, Gringold Grapeseed
Play time: 5 hours

Grapeseed awoke late on the date that his friends and fellow adventurers left for the hidden city of Helmaerh. Upon finally rousing himself from a presumably drunken stupor, Grapeseed bumped into Piglore, a 19-year-old half-elf inhabitant of the oasis camp of the She’Hon nomadic tribe. Piglore introduced himself as the “administrative assistant” of tribal leader Vetka. He explained that he had heard rumors of a rare stash of gizmodium, secreted away somewhere near the coast to the northeast of the desert.
Grapeseed immediately realized that this would be a fabulous man to con, string along on false hope and chronic intimidation, and eventually murder to dispose of in some roadside ditch. Unfortunately, Piglore’s plea was also overheard by two other wandering adventurers who had arrived at the oasis: Sledge, a halfling rogue and ex-swampboater, and Jaggar, a foolish fighter who had never really left his charlatan roots behind. They both jumped on the chance for profit: Sledge for gizmodium and Jaggar for gold in exchange for his share.
There was some initial bartering. Grapeseed ultimately convinced the group to a three-way split of 28% per share for the adventurers, with the remainder to Piglore. Jaggar agreed to give away all of his share to Grapeseed in exchange for a portion of the gizmodium’s value and the chance to insinuate himself into Grapeseed’s underworld contacts for future work. Piglore said that they should set out that night.
Piglore was insistent that the adventurers not speak to Vetka, so of course the adventurers immediately tried to get to Vetka as surreptitiously as possible. Sledge spoke with him, learning that Piglore was just as big as a foolish, head-in-the-sky idiot as he seemed. Piglore was raised by Vetka’s niece’s aunt, so Vetka felt some loyalty to the dolt, but Piglore was also completely incompetent at all tasks ever assigned to him. Vetka had given him the “administrative assistant” job so he could shuffle papers and stay out of the way, but the chronically disheveled and dirty Piglore was bad at even this task. Vetka was actually glad to see the boy go, and encouraged the adventurers to either help the camp pack up or leave soon, as a sandstorm was to sweep over the area by nightfall.
Sledge found Grapeseed building some weapons from horseshoes, rope, and netting. She found Jaggar wandering about the merchant stalls. Sledge informed them of her conversation with Vetka, and the trio stormed back to Piglore. Why, they insisted, would he have them wait until a sandstorm was on their heads? Why, Piglore insisted in turn, had they spoken to Vetka behind his back? Sledge said that she only wanted to eat roasted cockroach, and while even Piglore was not fully willing to buy the story, Grapeseed and Jaggar bullied him until he agreed to take them out into the desert right away.
The problem was that Piglore was a bad navigator.
The party spent the day wandering vaguely northeast across the desert wastes, eventually coming to rocky terrain that ended in sheer cliffs. They could look out over the cliff edge and see a great jungle canopy ending at the coastline. As evening was setting and the winds were whipping up from the south, the party knew they had to make it down the cliff into the lost world of jungle below. Sledge tied a rope and bounded gleefully down the cliff face.
Grapeseed toyed with one of his homemade weapons. He prepared to toss it, but he misfired wildly, hitting Jaggar in the face with a horseshoe. He advised Jaggar to ease the pain with sand. That did not help. After a time, Grapeseed and Jaggar turned back to the problem of the cliff, as well.
Grapeseed punched his fists into rock wall and grappled down the slope with ease, catching every hand- and foot-hold as if he had carved the rock face himself. Piglore whimpered cowardly down the line, followed by an equally fearful (though slightly more composed) Jaggar. As Jaggar slithered down the rope, sand swept over the top of the cliff: they had narrowly missed the storm.
Sledge reached the end of her rope. She was still seventy-five feet from forest floor, but only a dozen or so feet away from the nearest tree. She leapt gracefully through the air, landing delicately in the tree’s upper canopy. Grapeseed quickly followed, forcing himself from the cliff in a ferocious lunge and almost falling to his doom, crashing through branch after branch before saving himself.
Piglore cowered on the end of the rope. Jaggar too was concerned about the jump, and he convinced Piglore to help him tie another rope to the end. They lowered themselves even further. Piglore looked up at Jaggar and asked him to please keep him safe. Jaggar promised him that he would not let him fall. Piglore prepared to jump…and slipped from the line. Jaggar did not catch him.
Piglore fell several feet down, and Sledge narrowly caught him by the wrist, dislocating his arm (and almost pulling the diminutive halfling from her perch). She tried to pull him up, but she too dropped him, and he fell again—straight into Grapeseed’s waiting arms. Jaggar made the jump over successfully as Grapeseed ripped off Piglore’s shirt and prepared a sling, then hoisted him onto his back.
Grapeseed led the way through the thick canopy as night set, but it soon became too dark for the others to follow. No light made its way below the overhead leaves. Sledge lit a torch after much discussion about the consequences, but they faced only a wave of moths. Eventually, they came to a gap in the forest, where a path—apparently traveled by heavy traffic at some point, and wide enough that it did not seem to be a game trail—bisected the jungle.
The party reached the forest floor and set along the path in the direction the plant life was mostly matted. Grapeseed’s dark vision led the way. Jaggar sang Piglore asleep to keep him quiet. After silent walking, Jaggar saw a glint of an arrow in a brief glimmer of moonlight and warned Grapeseed. Grapeseed then saw a wire trap that he had almost trudged into. He became obsessed with the arrows of the trip and grabbed one up in a hurry, only to have the other fired right into him. Even this was a pleasant discovery to Grapeseed, who now knew the arrows to be poisonous. He delicately stored the retrieved arrow in his bag.
Jaggar suggested resting for the night, and the wearily dropped to sleep on the middle of the path at three in the morning, having been traveling since eleven of the preceding day.
Sledge awoke sometime after dawn to the sound of rushing hooves. She roused the others, and they rolled out of the path. Most hid, but Jaggar stood to the side, resting a hand on his blade. A carriage was driven hard by a team of horses around the bend. The driver cried for Jaggar to get out of the way, and before the fighter could even react, the carriage had passed onward. Not far down the line, there was a great crash, and Piglore heard the sound of fighting and of apes. The party waited for the fighting to die down, choosing not to risk their lives for the hurried traders. Grapeseed tried to scout from a tree, but he failed to get a proper vantage before the sounds of conflict faded away into the general jungle din.
Sledge proposed scouting ahead, venturing up to the site of the crash, where she found a crashed carriage, dead horses, and dead men. The men were all stripped naked. She signaled the rest of the party to her, and they assembled, searching the crime scene for clues as to the culprits. All of the carriage group was dead, including some flabby (and naked) traders inside. Blood trails indicated that the bandits had departed into the trees. Sledge and Piglore were able to determine that the bandits were, in fact, some form of ape.
The party found nothing of value but for a few coppers, which Grapeseed took for himself. They followed the trail of the apes until it diverged from the path, and they decided that they valued their lives more than answers, choosing to stick to the path rather than follow the trail into the jungle. Before giving up pursuit, however, Grapeseed found a split leather helm, which he donned.
Only a little way onward, giant centipedes fell from the canopy onto Jaggar, Piglore, and Sledge. Sledge shook two off; she killed one, and Grapeseed killed the other. Jaggar dropped hard to his knees, crushing but not killing one and casting two off; he rolled on the ground to no avail. Piglore panicked, flailing about, but the centipedes simply crawled into his pants. One bit into his right buttock, and one bit into his thigh. While Sledge was still catching her breath and Jaggar rolled on the ground, Grapeseed ran past them both to Piglore. Helpful as always, Grapeseed ripped off Piglore’s pants and slapped his buttock so hard that he squished the centipede to a pulpy goo and ruptured the veins of Piglore’s butt cheek. As the cheek reddened, the sound of the tremendous slap echoed, CRACK crackcrackcrack, through the jungle. Piglore squealed and leaped, clapping his thighs together and killing the last centipede on him. Meanwhile, a centipede bit Jaggar on the leg before he kicked it off him, and Sledge slapped another one away from him. Grapeseed returned to Jaggar and finished off the centipedes.
With that challenge dealt with, Jaggar realized that the centipedes had poisoned him. He recalled that a certain moss in the jungle could soothe the superficial irritation that he was experiencing. He yelled to the naked Piglore, “FIND SOME MOSS.” Piglore scampered off into the forest, eventually finding some moss just off the path. Fearing that Piglore had possibly chosen a poisoned moss, Jaggar instructed, “PUT IT ON YOUR BUTT.” Piglore put the moss on his wound. When Jaggar asked if it helped, Piglore agreed. Jaggar had Piglore bring him more moss from the tree. After tasting again for poison, Jaggar swabbed some on his leg, noticing a soothing sensation. Sledge gave Piglore some pants to protect what remained of his modesty.
The party continued up the path. They realized that the path was turning away from the coast, heading inland again, and it was approaching a river that flowed from a waterfall at the cliff face. While Jaggar (and only Jaggar) marveled upon the waterfall, they stumbled into a cluster of beautiful, brightly colored flowers, which smelled sickly sweet. Jaggar sniffed at one, finding the smell too strong. Grapeseed plucked one and found himself intoxicated by the smell. Even in his stupor, he recognized the benefit of such a potential poison, so he placed it in his bag. Sledge realized that the flowers were no good, remembering stories from her swampboater days. Piglore, however, wanted to see for himself, so he sniffed a flower. Sure enough, he was intoxicated. The buzz was so great that he proceeded to sniff three or four flowers before stumbling away.
Setting off again, Grapeseed and Piglore frolicked up the path behind a far-more-serious Sledge. Jaggar tried to frolick. It ended with a fall and resentment, and the valuable lesson that one should not try to frolick in ringmail while poisoned.
The frolicking was apparently very noisy and dusty business. A flock of birds took off in the air, startled. And that was enough. The hooting and roaring of apes opened up nearby. Jaggar, Sledge, and Grapeseed hid in the foliage, and Piglore was finally shouted off the path, as well.
As the apes came nearer, Jaggar lost his confidence in his position, rising with longsword and shield raised to face the apes. Three came swinging into sight, still up in the trees, hooting. Jaggar did the only thing he could think to do: he hooted back. They cocked their heads, exhaled rapidly, shook from side to side. Jaggar did so, too. They hooted more, and Jaggar did so, too. One took off, but the others cautiously came out of the tree to investigate. Grapeseed, seeing the “wisdom” in this method of impromptu communication, similarly rose and greeted the apes with mimicked hoots and hollers.
The ape duo dropped to the ground and walked on all fours to Jaggar. At the last moment, they rose to their hind legs, standing a full eight feet tall. They both carried clubs, with leather pouches at their waists. One wore a too-small leather helm. They glared. Jaggar stared right back into their cold ape eyes. They hooted and exhaled, and Jaggar stood tall. One pushed at him, but he kept his feet, still standing tall.
Then the duo turned to Grapeseed. He withstood their advances with a similarly stolid attitude. One moved behind him, readying a club, but Grapeseed only turned to face the ape. Everything was fine. Everything could still be kept peacable. But then Piglore defecated in his new pair of britches and whimpered in a high whine.
The apes became agitated again. They seemed ready to attack. Grapeseed and Jaggar exchanged a glance. They were both sure of what needed to be done: they needed to show dominance over Piglore. But as Grapeseed lunged at Piglore, knocking him on his head, the apes assaulted Grapeseed in kind.
Sledge had stayed hidden in the foliage until that moment. She fired an arrow straight through the neck of the helm-less gorilla. Now the fight had really started. That ape turned to her, enraged. Grapeseed found himself in a rage, as well, and attempted a series of wild blows, but the ape merely stepped aside and charged for Sledge.
Jaggar knew it was his time to act. He lunged at the other ape, grappling it. He held it briefly, but it broke free, staggering back in surprise. Jaggar dropped low and slammed into the ape again, tackling it to the ground and pinning it. The ape squirmed beneath him, but he stared it down and ROARed, spraying spittle into its eyes.
Sledge was still trying to take down the arrowed gorilla. The gorilla advanced, and Piglore took the opportunity to cut at its knee. It hardly noticed, still focused on the rogue halfling. Sledge dropped her bow and reached for her dagger, but the ape battered her, knocking her out. Piglore struck again from his puddle of urine and moss and shit. Now Grapeseed was upon the ape, too. The ape hammered into Grapeseed, still wild. But this was the last straw. Grapeseed was infuriated, and he wildly flung at the ape. Even as the gorilla was pulling back from his attack, Grapeseed drove his axes through its arm, cleaving it off. Piglore struck out again as the ape prepared another attack, apparently hitting something vital. The gorilla collapsed before Grapeseed.
Jaggar was still atop his own opponent. He growled again, and the gorilla pissed itself in pure terror. Panicked, the ape freed itself from his grasp and rose to his feet, but Jaggar matched his movements. Grapeseed threw a bola to weigh down the ape, but his handmade gadget fell apart, and the horseshoe weighing it down conked the gorilla in the head. It grunted again. Jaggar and the ape stood there, staring, and Jaggar growled again. The ape grunted and cast its eyes down, dropping to its knees. It was subdued.
Grapeseed picked up the severed ape arm and then helped Jaggar tie up the subdued ape. Piglore revived Sledge, and Sledge helped Jaggar with some initial animal training. With that, they took a midday rest to restore their health. Piglore did not even bother to change his pants. And so the adventurers took a break from their adventure.

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