Spurred by the disastrous portents of their dreams, the party made their way to Seer’s Home aboard Wasp. Upon arriving, the group spoke with Iom Vaqari, who confirmed their fears that war loomed in the near horizon and that Seer’s Home itself was in danger. Meera and Danerth left immediately for Kalsgard to retrieve a prophesied rune, while the others busied themselves with preparations for the trip North. Va’haan was able to reunite with her own culture as well as her pack of sled dogs, and spent the days happily drinking the frothy fermented yak’s milk of her people, fishing, training the dogs, and storytelling; O’yen’g had a lot of intense feelings brought up by spending her days caring for and playing with the young children, and helped prepare for the coming trip by trapping some “fur-fish”; Rilken interspersed time helping in the kitchens and storerooms with teaching the young Varki card tricks.
Meera and Danerth made their trip quickly and safely. However, they learned that since leaving Kalsgard, the city has been in a state of great tension and unrest, and the Red Hand has almost entirely dispersed. They acquired the large, disk-shaped rune and met Ji Takeda, who joined them on the way back to Seer’s Home.
The Varki helped to outfit the group for the trip to the Crown of the World, providing them with 5 sleds laden with provisions and driven by some of the Varki youth who lived in Seer’s home: Yaffa, Erowi, Levan, Kera, and Sec. After much mutual well-wishing, the party set off with their drivers for the shortcut, a long out-of-use passageway that would take them to the glacier. They found a massive, sculpted entranceway, with statues and symbols of a people none of them recognized, and headed into the vast passage, wide, echoing and in great disrepair. Colonnades, statues, and trash lined the wide tunnel, and despite being seemingly long-abandoned, it wasn’t long before the party heard sounds of other people and detected torchlight in the distance.
Va’haan hailed two heavily armed warriors who stood post at the gate, while the rest of the group melted into the shadows to assess the situation. The gatekeepers proceeded to immediately demand a hefty toll of 1,000 gold from the travelers. Va’haan refused the toll and told them of the group’s important quest, beseeching them for assistance in safeguarding the land and offering instead food or protection, but the brigands did not care and only restated their demands. Va’haan then threatened the warriors, who scoffed, and simply called out the other 6 members of their band. And so, the battle was on.
The group, especially Va’haan and O’yen’g, were distasteful of this unnecessary battle from the very beginning, and entered into combat with reluctance and anger. As O’yen’g prepared to enthrall the brigands, Va’haan shattered the spell with two quickly loosed arrows at their leader, Ri’ad. The brigands charged forward; Ri’ad seriously wounded Va’haan with her massive sword, while the other heavily-armed leader rushed at Rilken, who dodged him easily. Rilken loaded his sling with a vial of alchemical fire, loosed it behind the brigands, and sprayed them with its explosive blast. Meera stealthily approached from behind, leaping cat-like through the shadows. Va’haan attempted to communicate once more with Ri’ad, simply telling her to stop, then with great disappointment laid a magical touch upon her that spread damaging ice across her face, down her neck, and into her body. O’yen’g yelled out a paralyzing sonic blast, calling them “foolish children” for engaging in this fight. Rilken thrust his rapier deep into the shoulder of one of the large warriors, while Meera emerged from the shadows and into the fray, a tiny, whirling body striking out in all directions and sending two fighters sprawling onto the cavern floor at once. Finally, O’yen’g’ strode to the center of the battle, healing friend and foe alike, and demanded Ri’ad and her band end the fighting at once. Having been beset upon so intensely, and so utterly shocked by this strange but clearly powerful group of travelers, Ri’ad surprisingly acquiesced, setting down her sword and calling off her fighters. The party was granted safe passage and given a tip regarding the beasts residing in the next gatehouse. (“They’re susceptible to pointy things.”)
Deeper in, and farther down, the party traveled until they came upon a room overgrown with moss and mold and algae, an overflowing fountain at its center, the floor submerged in several inches of standing water. As they made their way through the gatehouse, the walls became slimier and decayed corpses and unrecognizably decomposed trash were piled on the floor. They forced their way through a door covered in a sticky, unrecognizable substance, which released nauseating spores when disturbed. They found a secret room with an alchemist’s laboratory and many potions, and in the sludge, beartraps set and ready. A stench grew thicker and thicker, as Meera opened the door to the center room. Perched on the door, she could detect breathing, and O’yen’g peered in and saw two great eyestalks emerging from a deep, thick pile of completely putrid waste. Meera lept down from her perch to stab at the eyestalk, only to slip in a viscous glob of rotting meat and fall face-first into the putrefaction. Only her intensive training and great fortitude kept her from vomiting profusely at the contact. The creatures rose up from the trash, revealing themselves to be absolutely massive quivering gelatinous monsters with lashing tentacle arms and great mouths filled with hundreds of small, pointy jagged teeth. One lashed out at Rilken, who was making his way slowly across the trash heap, slashing his arm and causing him to choke down an intense wave of nausea. O’yen’g entered, hit the beast, and was rewarded with a spray of sickening black ichor from its quivering body. Va’haan stood back and loosed arrows at the eyestalks. One monster died quickly, felled by one of Va’haan’s arrows that pierced straight to the base of its writhing eyestalk. The battle went on, with the group hacking methodically at the remaining monster, who continued to spew out wretched black filth from its wounds, sickening the party; O’yen’g, Rilken, and Meera managed to keep hacking away even as they were repeatedly overtaken by bouts of nauseous vomiting and choking down bile. Finally, its eyestalk partially severed and some disgusting organ disemboweled from its round, jellied body, the monster expired.
The group moved on quickly. They gave a cursory search of another room, finding a religious shrine to a sun diety and a corpse O’yen’g unceremoniously looted. Continuing forward, Meera detected a chest from under a thick layer of mossy rot. Eagerly clearing it off, she opened it only to immediately hear a click and “shoom” as tiny darts struck her chest. She pulled the darts out and continued to examine the chest, refusing aid from her party members. Then, a short minute later, the poison struck her with a pain unlike any other, as if she were being stabbed repeatedly, constantly, from inside. She quaffed a potion that would delay further effects of the poison for another hour, but already, in under two minutes, her health had been severely compromised. The adventure came to a close with Meera in a precarious state and the party with little choice but to forge ahead on their time-sensitive quest.