The Fate of Gnomos

Apes, Apes in the Jungle: Part II

Fifth Session – Dec. 26
DM: Chris
Players: Eric, Sam, Neil
Characters: Jaggar, Sledge von Hamar, Gringold Grapeseed
Play time: 7 hours

The party rested in the heat of the midday jungle, soothing their wounds, reflecting on the battle, and insulting Piglore. After a couple more failed attempts to get Jaggar’s subdued ape to eat, Jaggar realized that there had indeed been a third ape to the attack party, and that ape could have alerted other brigands by now. There was clearly no time for Piglore to change or clean his soiled, second-hand trousers.

The group pressed for the coast, heading in the direction of the waves, fixated on Piglore’s now-unbelievable tale of coastal riches to simply give them direction. However, their path only led them deeper into tangled jungle, with no beachline in sight. Their captive ape began howling and yelping, which Jaggar took as an attempt to alert other gorillas. Grapeseed forced a gag of rope in the ape’s mouth, Sledge tied a knot about its head, and the party pressed on even as the animal became more frantic.

Finally, there was a rush of wind and a rumbling growl, as though the ocean had risen up in a great typhoon and slapped against the distant cliffs even as a typhoon rained down. The party drew to a halt, finally suspicious because of this terrible sound. The gusting swoosh of sound began an ululating, rapid-fire repetition, and the party finally understood as well that there was a rapidly approaching threat.

Jaggar attempted to step in front of his ape, to provide it reassurance, but the beast took the opportunity to flee the field, stumbling along in its rope binding. Grapeseed readied his weapon, Sledge stealthily concealed herself in the undergrowth, and Piglore cowered in fear. And then the terrible monster appeared to the party: a fierce wyvern, crashing through the trees before them.

The wyvern lashed out wildly, biting at Jaggar. Jaggar leapt to the side, and the monster bit only treebark, but its whip-like tail flicked out and slashed Jaggar down the chest. Though he avoided the poison seeping from its tail-point, the wound was nonetheless grievous, and Jaggar stumbled back. Piglore panicked, flinging his tomahawk in a blind frenzy (and missing) before fleeing, with Jaggar hot on his tail. Grapeseed leapt absurdly into the air, easily landing in the mezzanine branches of the canopy and hopping from branch to branch in his escape. The wily Sledge slipped away through undergrowth, undetected despite the ravenous wyvern’s keen eye.

Jaggar and Grapeseed simultaneously realized that the best way for the party to escape alive was to sacrifice a member. Jaggar ignored Piglore, racing for his traitor pet. He slid across the slick forest floor, dropping prone and kicking out, knocking the gorilla flat on its face. They struggled briefly even as the wyvern took to the sky to pursue hidden above, but as the gorilla got back to its feet, Grapeseed seized the opportunity and dove from his tree, wrapping his knees around the gorilla’s torso and plunging arrows bare-handed into the gorilla’s neck. The gorilla toppled and Grapeseed rolled free, even as Jaggar was already on his feet once more and dashing away from what he hoped would soon be wyvern food.

Grapeseed stood and stepped back as the wyvern crashed back through the canopy. The creature bit at Grapeseed, but the dwarf dodged. The wyvern’s tail found its target: it cracked the skull of the ape. When the wyvern pulled free, the ape still stood, but blood and pus and poison seeped from the wound. The ape despairingly wailed at the wyvern in a final attempt at intimidation, but the mock-dragon simply beat into the primate, securing its meal.

Grapeseed met up with Jaggar, Sledge, and Piglore back on the path. Afraid to stay on the path further, and even more afraid of trying for the coast again, the party headed in the general direction of the waterfall, eventually finding where its lowland river intersected the path. Near the scene, they found an upturned carriage from an older bandit raid. The guards were similarly stripped. The only items of interest were a torn book about arcane artifacts and a letter saying that a valuable item could be found to the north. While the party tried to keep these elusive clues secret, Piglore snatched the book. After reading what little remained in the book, Piglore insisted that treasure must wait at the waterfall. Lacking a clear direction to head, the party agreed to let the lad lead them, so long as Piglore washed his pants first. They turned down the river, heading toward the waterfall. The sun set as they made their riverside march.

What they found at the base of the waterfall was a site of wonder: glittering towers, massive archways, gently carved stone steps leading up mirrored pyramidal faces, and distant dome-capped structures, all carved into the rock wall of the cliff. But Grapeseed saw something unpleasant: more apes lurking near the archways and along the steps. After the trials of facing just two of the beasts, no one in the party looked forward to another engagement. Jaggar insisted that Piglore should expose himself, throw a stone at an ape, and then flee into the woods, giving the party the opportunity to search the ruins and mop up any stragglers when the guards chased after him. Piglore was reluctant, but after Jaggar and Grapeseed continued to bully and cajole him, he agreed, breaking down into tears.

Piglore asked of Jaggar in particular only one thing: “You’ll protect me, right?”

“No,” Jaggar intoned. “I will not protect you. You will die. But we will tell people of your adventures. This is how you have an adventure, and that is what you want.”

Piglore nodded reluctantly, still uncertain and certainly unwilling to die as a simple diversion. Sledge stepped forward, at last falling in with Jaggar and Grapeseed for the plan. She was sure that Jaggar did not mean what he said, and that Piglore would be fine. She reassured the youth, saying that he would be safe; she shared a swig of whiskey between them, and she insisted that he prove himself as an adventurer by partaking in the straightforward task. Piglore had a moment of clarity after drinking. He asked for collateral. Grapeseed at first tried to offer the ape arm that he had hewn off in the earlier battle, but Piglore was not quite that much of a fool. Grapeseed agreed to at least give Piglore a weapon, as Piglore was otherwise unarmed. This seemed to reassure the lad enough to make the attempt.

But Piglore did nothing according to plan. Rather than stride boldly forward into sight, he crept through the tall grasses at the edge of the jungle, even as the others concealed themselves. Rather than throw at a guard, he threw at a column. The gentle thunk of the stone almost went unnoticed, but one guard heard. The guard scanned the grasses, and despite Piglore’s best efforts, the guard saw him and shouted to the others. As the guards flooded down toward Piglore, the boy sprang to his feet and ran to the others, shrieking, “It didn’t work!”

Jaggar growled. This was not worth it. He simply stood, spun on his heel, and sprinted into the jungle once more, screaming toward the armor-wearing apes, “This isn’t what we told him to do!” Sledge stood to fight, but her confidence left her. Believing that maybe these apes were intelligent, she dropped all of her weapons and offered to surrender. Only Piglore turned to fight.

Piglore and the apes swung at each other. Piglore was lucky, evading attacks and scoring hits with his borrowed club. He screamed to Grapeseed, “Gringold where are you?” But Grapeseed remained silent, hidden in the tall grasses. Another ape hit at the vulnerable Sledge, and something prompted Grapeseed to finally act. He jumped up, sprinting across the field and taking a moment to shout to Piglore, “Get to work,” patting him on the back before continuing on to Sledge and scooping her small halfling body over his shoulder. Grapeseed then raced into the jungle.

Sledge, hanging over Grapeseed’s back, saw the last glimpse of Piglore in combat. He struck hit after hit against the apes. One huffed in fatigue. Sledge could have sworn she heard Piglore mutter, “I’m really an adventurer!” Then one of the apes swung his club down hard on Piglore’s skull, and another one closed for yet another attack. The jungle obscured Sledge’s view then, but she knew he was doomed.

Two apes dashed into the jungle after Sledge and Grapeseed. Grapeseed tossed sledge away, tired of the small burden, and leapt mightily into the trees. After a series of desperate leaps and falls, he finally evaded pursuit. Meanwhile, Sledge scampered up a tree and into a squirrel hole, slipping to the bottom again as the confounded ape guards searched for her. Everyone had escaped.

Sledge spent the night in the nook of a tree. Grapeseed rested in the crook of a great branch. Jaggar slept comfortably in an abandoned burrow, thinking of how to spin the story at taverns so that he did not come off so craven.

The next day, Jaggar was up first. He went to the river, speared a fish on his longsword, and cooked and ate it. He then decided to check the glade by the waterfall again, to see if he could recover Piglore’s body. Grapeseed had a similar idea—he hoped to loot Piglore’s corpse. Grapeseed and Jaggar found each other near the river, but both believed the other dead. Suspicious that they each dealt with a ghost, they insisted on the only proven test—a high-five! Sure enough, they both were alive.

Sledge wanted her weapons back. She crept back to the glade and found the others. Unfortunately, none of them found Piglore or the weapons. Grapeseed saw fewer guards out, and Jaggar decided to parley with them. Grapeseed and Sledge agreed to wait for half an hour before giving up on him.

Jaggar marched sternly up to the ape guards under one of the archways. They began grunting and calling out, so he imitated their behavior again. As he came closer, he noticed that their tattered armor pieces fit better, and they had a glint of intelligence in their eyes that the apes from the pathway had lacked. He nodded to them and attempted to signal peace. One ape took off up the stairs, and Jaggar waited.

Finally, an enormous silverback gorilla marched proudly down one of the pyramidal stairways, placing much weight on his powerful forearms. The gorilla greeted Jaggar gruffly when it reached the archway. “HU-MAN,” it boomed.

“Yep, that’s me,” Jaggar said.

“HU-MAN, why are you here?”

“I’m here to bury a friend, “Jaggar replied. “You see, you killed him in combat the other day—a misunderstanding, he acted against our own orders, should have been avoided—and I would like his body to bury him.”

The gorilla assented to that. Jaggar pressed further. “I also need his club. It was his favorite weapon in the whole world and deserves a place at his side. You see, er, in my culture, we, uh, burn the dead with all their possessions and push them out to sea. In fact…” He remembered Sledge’s situation. “In fact, he had a halfling retainer carry the remainder of his possessions. She had such a fright when your guards…misunderstood our gestures, and she dropped all of his weapons.”

The gorilla barked a series of orders. Jaggar attempted to learn of the gorillas at this city, but they shared no answers. Jaggar attempted small talk, but the silverback was not amused. It flexed, revealing yet another pair of powerful arms. Jaggar attempted to compliment them, but he received no further information. Finally, gorillas brought Piglore’s body out. Jaggar was only slightly stirred to have confirmation of Piglore’s death, but he was more fixated on the body’s equipment: the apes had left Piglore in his underclothes, with only the club.

Jaggar tried to press the silverback to bring the weapons, but the elder ape threatened him. Jaggar then tried to secure some sort of honor guard or ambassador to aid him in burial, but the silverback turned from him even as Jaggar said, “I’m sure you don’t want to waste your time—.”

Jaggar convinced one of the remaining gorillas to at least drag Piglore by the foot down to the edge of the glade. He then carried Piglore to the water’s edge. He checked Piglore for any last sign of life, but it was a futile effort. He lit a funeral pyre with Piglore upon it.

Meanwhile, Grapeseed and Sledge had become distracted by the figure of a female dwarf near the top of the towers. She crept down some stairs, bypassing any guards due to Jaggar’s distraction, and dove into the river below. Sledge and Grapeseed went to find her. They discovered a well-built, athletic female dwarf with a flowing beard and an attractiveness that seemed to only repulse dwarven Grapeseed. She introduced herself as Syrena, member of a noble house of Helmaerh. She said that she had been assigned to escort a convoy carrying a valuable package to Helmaerh, but she was raided by the apes on the way. The apes, she said, kept the women in a harem, locked up most of the time, except for when the apes chose to rape them or force the captured women to serve. She pleaded with Grapeseed and Sledge to help. Sledge was moved by her plight and agreed, but she insisted that they first meet with Jaggar.

They came across Jaggar as he was sliding Piglore’s charred remains into the river, which quickly swept the nineteen-year-old “adventurer” away toward the sea. Jaggar turned to Grapeseed and said, “Oh, here’s your club back.” And that was all the eulogy Piglore had.

After Sledge and Syrena explained the situation in the ape fortress, Jaggar joined Grapeseed in suspicion of Syrena’s motives, especially given her assertive nature and refusal to explain the package’s identity or origin. Nonetheless, Jaggar decided to vote with Sledge in taking up the adventure, explaining in a sidebar to Grapeseed that they could always steal the package if it was valuable.

Syrena led the group to a secret side entrance, and they crept up into the old ruins, stealthily pushing guards over ledges as they went to avoid detection. Syrena led them to the slave quarters so that they could free her friend, Yshera, who she said could aid them in defeating the ape chieftain.

In the slave quarters, the high elf lady Yshera was freed. Sledge went to picking locks to free other women, and Jaggar futilely tried to break off a lock with his longsword pommel. Grapeseed explored the lower level, finding a cage of dead men. He broke the lock and looted their corpses before rejoining the others. Jaggar asked Grapeseed to help free the women, but Grapeseed insisted that he would not help so long as the prisoners were crying. Jaggar tried comforting them enough to get Grapeseed to help, and the bitter dwarf finally sprung them free. The adventurers proceeded to kill more apes (thanks in part to Yshera’s distracting magical cantrips) as they made their way to the throne room.

Syrena explained the situation. N’tak was the ape leader, the four-armed silverback. His abilities were somehow enhanced through a golden crown that he wore, but if the adventurers could remove his crown, they could break his hold on the other apes, and Syrena could safely recover her package.

Jaggar charged blindly into the throne room, yelling, “I’m back for another funeral!” He found two tables, one blue and covered in treasures, and one red and covered in fruits and cooked meats. An ape guard sat at both. At the far end of the room, N’tak sat upon a massive throne as one servant woman fed him and another scrubbed his feet. Jaggar attempted to get information from N’tak, but the ape simply ignored him. Jaggar attempted to bargain with N’tak to get the package, offering to leave the ape in peace, but the parley effort failed. Finally, Jaggar readied his sword to fight.

Sledge, Syrena, and Yshera also crept up, but N’tak instantly saw them and threatened to force Sledge into his harem. Suddenly, Grapeseed leapt from the steps out of sight, through the air, and before N’tak’s thrown. N’tak flipped a lever, which began to raise his throne room into the sky, while fighting broke out.

Sledge, Syrena, Yshera, and Jaggar battled fiercely with the two guards while Grapeseed focused on N’tak. Grapeseed leapt about like an agile monkey, always two steps ahead of N’tak, until the great ape finally caught the dwarf in a massive hand. Grapeseed pissed his britches and wriggled free, springing back toward N’tak’s head. Before the gorilla could react, Grapeseed pulled the crown from his head. Instantly, the intensity in N’tak’s eyes faded, and he slumped back on his rump. Grapeseed decided to sit as well, plopping his urine-drenched bottom on N’tak’s head. Meanwhile, the others slaughtered the guards, noticing briefly the light fade from the gorillas’ eyes shortly before their end. As the final guard fell to Sledge’s shout of “For Piglore,” the group realized that the fortress had gone eerily silent. Looking over the ledge of the now-exposed throne room, they saw that the gorillas were dissipating into the forest, seemingly normal simians once more.

Suddenly, N’tak registered intelligence again and reared up. Before anyone could comprehend what was happening, he lunged for the golden crown. Grapeseed simply tossed the crown over the cliff and jumped off the ape. N’tak leapt after the crown, falling to his doom at the base of the waterfall.

Jaggar first cut off the guards’ testicles to sell to an apothecary, and he then searched the treasure, collecting loot. Grapeseed cut off another ape arm to add to his collection. Syrena pulled another lever, opening a trap door. She entered the trap door and returned with her package. While she was away, Grapeseed tried to seal her in, but he accidentally opened another trap door and almost fell to his death, dissuading him from treachery for at least a few moments. Jaggar found a beautiful stone ring, marble like the old ruins around it, and inlaid with a blue gem that appeared to be magical. He slipped the ring on his finger and suddenly felt called toward a domed structure closer to the cliff face.

He headed to the dome, finding Yshera already there. She explained that she felt similarly drawn, given her natural magical proclivity. The others soon joined them, curious. They studied the dome. It was stone, with a massive stone door in front, and several two-foot-long depressions covered in vines. After hacking away the vines, they realized that the depressions were windows, and they could see that the windows faced into the cliff itself. They heaved open the door and found themselves on a raised platform overlooking a vast ancient city, clearly untouched in ages. It seemed possible that this city predated even the arrival of the gnomes.

However, it was too vast to explore without a better-equipped and larger team, especially consisting of more dwarves. Syrena promised to help equip the party and reward them for saving her. She asked them to accompany her back to Helmaerh first. She explained that her package was necessary for Helmaerh’s transmogrifier (although she would not explain what that was), and she preferred to have companions for the road. When Jaggar warned of other ape brigands, she insisted that the road should now be safe with the fall of N’tak.

Jaggar would not leave unless the dome’s doors were sealed again to prevent any other adventurers from looting the interior city first. Syrena reluctantly agreed to perform the necessary magical stonecrafting, and Jaggar insisted that she teach Grapeseed how to perform the trick in her absence to open the doors once more.

With that, the party regrouped with the freed women at the base of the waterfall. Jaggar and Grapeseed searched for N’tak’s corpse and his golden crown, but Grapeseed could only find the crown buried in silt at the bottom of the river, and there was no sign of the body, as the current had likely swept it away. Grapeseed traded Jaggar the ring for the crown, and the party set out.

The party camped near the path that night, and in the solace, Sledge gave in to the guilt she carried over Piglore’s death. She had assured his uncle that she would watch over the boy, and she had failed him. She tried to convince Grapeseed and Jaggar of their wrongness and of the need to somehow rectify the situation, but Grapeseed laughed in her face, and Jaggar smiled wryly. Nonetheless, as all party members were to set out the next morning, Jaggar sought Sledge out. What would she do to rectify it, he wondered? Sledge proposed going to the large human cities, to seek out any lost ways of magically bringing a soul back from the dead. Jaggar, skeptical that there were souls at all, nonetheless agreed, feeling weighed down by the imbalance of selfish evil that had allowed him to abandon the young boy in the first place. Sledge craved redemption; Jaggar craved restoration to a balance of neutrality.

With a mission in mind, Sledge and Jaggar informed the rest of the party. They would journey north, while Grapeseed would join the women in heading south to Helmaerh. Jaggar and Grapeseed shared a warm chest bump before splitting ways, and so the party split once more. While Grapeseed could not have known it, he would soon find his old adventuring pals once more.

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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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Much Ado in Helmaerh: Pt I
Mind control and toad-wrangling

Third Session – Dec 18
DM: Logan
Players: Eric, Sam, Jimmy, Nate K, Chris
Characters: Byrtha (Jethro), Irvig, Kray-Lock, Fox, Professor
Play time: 3.5 hours

The quest for the Fate of Gnomos resumed with the triumph over the slaver bandits of the desert and the return of our heroes to the nearby oasis home of the She’Hon nomadic tribe. Along the way, a few more captured prisoners and slaves joined our party of adventurers: Byrtha, the half-elf ranger whose quest to understand nature and his limits of reproduction have garnered him expertise; Irvig, a half-orch monk with a mysterious past; and Kray-lock, a war-priest whose memory is limited by a head injury sustained upon his capture.
With their arrival back to the oasis, these three, coupled with Fox the Priest of Light and the unhinged Professor were met with congratulation and reward by the tribe’s leader, Vetka. Vetka explained to our heroes that the desert was vast- too vast to ever warrant their secluded tribe to depart from its reaches. He could not guide our heroes outside its limits, but he did gladly agree to escort our cohort on the long trek to its border. Upon arrival at the desert’s mountainous edge, he provided three things: a medallion, a word of caution and precise directions to the city closest to the desert’s border. He wished our party well and departed.

With Fox’s keen navigational instincts, Byrtha’s ranger expertise and despite the Professor’s absent-minded inattention to anything other than his scroll of written directions, the group found the mysterious hand-shapen rock carved from a cliff-face and the statue perched underneath; this was the destination of which Vetka spoke!
Once they arrived, the professor spoke the secret words Vetka provided; the statue opened, and a cachectic dwarven man with a shillelagh emerged! The party quickly learned he was the gatekeeper to an ancient, hidden city beneath the mountain named Helmaerh. With his shillelagh, the gatekeeper cast a peculiar spell of stone-melding, and our cadre was able to walk straight into the cliff-face and through its thick, rock walls without a door. When they rematerialized on the other side, they were awed by the sight of a high, expansive stone dome glowing with bioluminescent flora and under which a city thrived. They approached the city, but briefly stopped in a camp of traders and merchants along the trail. They learned in this camp that Helmaerh was an ancient dwarven city of a magical dwarven sect who worship Milora. This sect extends hospitality to its visitors, so long as they respect the customs and religious laws of the land.

Our heroes next visited a tavern named the Glowey-Hole, where a glowing liquid liquor was served from a natural spring waterfall. While Fox and the Professor chatted with some clergymen found there, Kray-lock eyed the joint for unbelievers who needed “evangelism”. He found none who provoked his “gospel”, but drank straight from the glowey-hole instead, challenging Fox to a drinking contest. Kray-lock was declared winner by no-contest default and after this night of revelry, the party sought rest.
The next morning, the heroes awoke and began exploring the wondrous city further. Each member split up and investigated separate parts of the town. Fox discovered that two miners of the Kena mining clan had died in a suspicious cave-in. He learned that the centuries-old mines were managed and mined by 4 clans: Kena, Anto, Esse and Bem. Fox also learned that a death of this nature hasn’t occurred in several hundreds of years. When Fox visited the family of late Ennett, they informed him that although this death was a strange one, they were not concerned of any foul play. In a gracious offer of mourning, Fox requested to visit the site of Ennett’s death in the mines, however, the family could only give Fox the names of Ennett’s two closest friends who were with him at the time of his death, Sable and Amuld.

Meanwhile, Byrtha and Irvig investigated the shrine of Milora and spoke with several clergy members there, learning some more of their peculiar religious customs. The Helmaerhans revere the High Shaman as a religious figure and politically. When inquiring about the religious practices of grief, Irvig and Byrtha learned that the Helmaerhans recycle their dead in the mining process.

The Professor investigated the town’s principal resource- the Transmogrifier. He learned on a guided tour that this magical instrument could receive matter from the mines and transmogrify it into any resource which was required by the city with only a handful of reagents, such as gems.

When Irvig, Byrtha arrived astounded by the news that the dead were being recycled, a strange event occurred outside the Transmogrifier. A large crowd gathered on the path around two corpses. Fox sprung to action immediately, and using a prayer of light was able to catch one of the two souls hurdling toward oblivion and reincorporate it. With more first aid from the rest of the party, this man regained consciousness and introduced himself as Sable. A bystander explained that Sable had bashed in the skulls of his friend (Maklah) and then himself. The Professor was able to identify an aura of arcane beguilery surrounding Sable as he explained that he could not remember what happened. Two strange men surrounded by a similar aura appeared and carried him toward the mines, suggesting that everything was alright now and that we should go to visit The Gather. Fox agreed since he learned Ennett and Sable’s other friend, Amuld, would be there.
At The Gather, our heroes witnessed the arena sport local to Helmaerh known as Khadma (which loosely translates to “toad-wrangling”). They watched a few matches to learn the game before Irvig lost his patience and dove in for himself! Professor and Byrtha both wagered on his victory while Fox and Kray-lock searched for Amuld. Irvig was evidently a quick study; he bested the giant toad despite being swallowed whole early in the match by incapacitating it with several graceful and forceful blows.

Were the deaths of Maklah and Ennett mere coincidence? Will more toads get the shit kicked out of them? Will our heroes discover hidden forces at work in Helmaerh?

One thing can be certain: The quest for the Fate of Gnomos will continue!

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Captured in the Desert/Assault on the Desert Bandits
Gizmodium in the Desert

The road so far…

Session I

Our adventure began with the unfortunate and coincidental kidnapping and
drugging of 3 men of various backgrounds. Under constant sedation from sleeping
gas for an undetermined amount of time, our victims festered in a haphazard wagon
car constructed from ancient machine parts. After missing a dose of sedative and
being jolted by a dislodged wheel and axle, the prisoners regained their facilities
and ambushed their captors. Regaining their strength in a feat of adrenaline, they
subdued their captors. The freedmen found themselves stranded in the desert.
Weighing the options, they discovered another prisoner in their cart who was still
breathing, and after nursing her back to health, determined that she was the
daughter of the head of a nomadic tribe in the region. The group wandered around
and attempted to get their bearings when they happened upon a group of outriders
from the tribe. The wanderers were welcomed to an oasis camp where the leader of
the tribe offered supplies and weapons, begging their guests to rescue the other
young, able-bodied members of the tribe that had been captured in a raid by these
“slavers”, including his only son. While the outriders had located what they
assumed to be the hideout of the bandits, after the kidnapping, they did not have the
strength the mount an attack. The weary travelers enjoyed a night of rest, then
were led to the hideout, which was marked by a large, weathered white tree and a
pit filled with bones, bisected by a rope bridge. The warriors assaulted 2 guards
keeping watch in the tree, lighting the magnificent growth ablaze and revealing a
secret door to an underground tunnel. They descended into a tunnel leading to a
magnificent antechamber of stone. Proceeding carefully, the avengers detected a
group of marauders in the main chamber ahead, set a magnificent trap, and
flawlessly eradicated the evil-doers.

Session II

At this point, they happened upon another group of recent captives, who, upon
release, decided to join the cause. The newly formed party, bolstered with success,
proceeded confidently and without mercy. Before crossing the rope bridge, a
stirring in the walls prompted the group to discover and seal a would-be assassin in
his hiding place with a raging oil fire and its choking black smoke. The billowing
smoke drove our zealots quickly out into the light of day, where they were luckily
able to cross the rope bridge without consequence. Following passage of the bridge,
our heroes found themselves in the bridge of an ancient gnome spacecraft where
they were attacked by more bandits. Here, our previously untested rogue lurked in
the shadows of the useless technology, putting it to use in what can only be
described as akin to ritual killings while the barbarian (surely fatigued from his
capture) swung madly and bled copiously. After the clangs of battle ceased, tired
warriors took a rest while the mind of the Professor percolated madly over the
meaning behind Gnomish instructions on the wall. Though having difficulty
extracting the instructions from the Professor, the group managed to elucidate their
parts, successfully opening the previously unmolested energy core, which contained
9 small cubes of precious Gizmodium. Frustrated with their lack of progress (and
his lack of understanding of the importance of the material), the barbarian grabbed
one of the cubes, and hurling it across the room, unleashed a forceful wave of energy
which certainly got the party’s attention. Demonstrating the capacity to both learn
and apply new knowledge, he giddily chucked the powerful cube down a shaft in the
middle of the bridge where suspected foes lie in wait. The barbarian and the
Professor (one eager for battle, and the other in hopes of saving the precious cube)
plunged without thought into the shaft where they faced a gaggle of the opposition
in what appeared to be the barracks. The barbarian faced embarrassment yet again
when he tried to smash a recently frozen enemy and ended up with nothing but
bruises and a cold shoulder. With the possibility of riches clouding the vision of our
now weakened and weary travelers, they ventured through a barricaded door to a
dark and dank area of the ship marked “DO NOT ENTER”, there they encountered a
pool of tar which turned out to be a black pudding. Its pseudopods engulfed the
barbarian and reduced his clothing to oblivion, with his skin and axe not far behind.
Luckily, a combination of a lowered rope, brute strength, and the arcane knowledge
possessed by the Professor both saved their companion and negotiated the mutual
survival of both sides and the plundering of the pudding’s acquired loot. Battered
and bloody, the party returned to the bridge, located the release to open a shaft
above them, and continued to the Leader of the bandits’ chamber. The leader
taunted his former captives while his goons fell one by one. Upon feeling the tide of
the battle change, his smile faded, and taking up his massive weapon, the
repurposed arm of a warforged, he relegated the, until then, unscathed rogue to a
seemingly lifeless mass. In the end, the combined rage of the new colleagues was
too great for the Leader to fend off, and his outfit was put to an end by the
disappearance of the head of the paladin’s trusty trident into the welcoming soft
tissue of his neck. Each of the bandits bore this symbol branded on their shoulders

There was much rejoicing, and after rescuing the prisoners, our heroes were

celebrated, wined, rested, and given a guide to escort them east to the edge of the
desert. Our newly seasoned party now finds themselves on the road bound for…

Home?
Fame and Fortune?
Knowledge?
Newfound purpose

Nothing is certain, but ADVENTURE.

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