Afternoon of Turoth, the 10th day of Laeneven, in the 10th year of the rule of Oduth VI and Umista III.
We finished resting and regrouping after our short, but intense, fight with the flight of hippogriffs. Narmoran, being more carnivorous than the rest of us, suggested we gather some meat off one of the carcasses for dinner that evening. No one else seemed particularly interested, but it only took a few minutes to cut out some choice pieces. After a short rest, we continued to the east, following the directions Brenna gave us. We stopped for our evening camp just short of the area we were to begin mapping in detail. The night passed uneventfully.
Waraeth, the 11th day of Laeneven, in the 10th year of the rule of Oduth VI and Umista III.
Banjo informed us this morning that he had felt some odd vibrations in the ground while standing watch. According to him, they were never particularly strong, so he didn’t think too much of them. As nothing happened, we dismissed the matter and set out.
Off to the north of our camp rose a hill with a good view over much of the area we were to map; hoping to simplify matters, we headed to its summit so our cartographer could examine the area from a good vantage point. While Brenna made notes about what she could see from the hill top, Kementir and Narmoran scouted around the crest to see what kind of wildlife we might expect in the area.
Aside from the normal tracks expected in these wilds, they uncovered some very odd markings after a half hour of searching. Unfamiliar to all of us, they looked like someone had taken a series of sharp sticks and alternately poked them into the ground and dragged the points through the dusty soil. None of us had any idea what kind of creature might have left them, nor had any of us heard stories of similar markings. We followed them back and forth for about a mile, but they disappeared when the ground grew rocky.
Having observed much of the area from the hill, Brenna suggested that we ought to head south towards a small creek. It looked to be flowing west from a lake in the middle of our area, and the land around the lake appeared to be a rich meadow. Tall grasses, much healthier and stronger than any we had seen in the last day, grew around the lake for more than a mile. Breena mentioned that such a location might make for bountiful farming if the area could be secured.
We quickly reached the creek and headed upstream towards the lake, noting the excellent soil around us. Brenna was right, this land could be very useful to any farmer. However, such idyllic surroundings could not last.
After following the stream for a little over a mile, a sudden tremor in the ground was all the warning we felt. With a yell, Kementir felt the ground give way beneath him, as a large creature grabbed at his feet and began to thrash up to the surface. Thinking fast, Nakta stunned the beast with a quick mental blow and carried Kementir clear of danger on an enchanted wind.
Calling to the spirits, Adas brought Tasha into the fight, sending her to distract the bug emerging from the ground where Kementir had been. Hoping to further slow the monster, Adas also focused a mental blast at it, but was unable to connect with the peculiar mind of the creature. The giant insect attempted to bite down on Tasha, but was unable to connect with the fleet spirit.
Narmoran let out a chilling howl and leapt at the bug, cracking open its carapace with a mighty blow from his glaive. Though badly wounded, the insect was not without allies, as another bug worked it way towards the surface and tried to snare the barbarian. Remaining quick on his feet, Narmoran dodged the unexpected assault.
Hoping to distract the new arrival and give Narmoran a chance to recover his balance, Banjo sent a mystic bolt at the creature, but his aim was off and the missile flew wide of the monster.
Thrain rushed forward towards the melee, hurling a hammer at the first bug injured by Narmoran, further breaking its hard shell and nearly dropping it to the ground. Nakta hurled a bolt of chaos at the badly wounded creature, and her well aimed magic slipped through the cracks opened by Narmoran and Thrain, killing the bug. Not yet spent, her magic leapt to the second insect, hammering into its shell.
Adas advanced toward the melee, bringing Tasha to his side. he channeled a spirit through his companion, striking at the monster and healing the nearby barbarian. However, Adas quickly let loose a warning yell as he felt the ground beneath his feet shake. A third bug surged to the surface, grabbing Adas in its vise-like mandibles. His face paled from the pain as its acid-like saliva began to eat through his clothes.
Narmoran shifted towards and struck at the second bug, but hearing Adas cry out, he hastened to aid the shaman. With a roar, he vaulted to where the newest bug held Adas fast and struck out with his glaive. Unfortunately, the armor of this bug proved stronger, turning the blow and avoiding injury.
Wounded by Nakta’s magic and maddened by the injuries the spirits channeled through Tasha had inflicted, the second beast tried to grab the spirit lion in its jaws. Though it appeared to make contact, the bug was unable to find any purchase and couldn’t contain the spirit.
Kementir, freed from the enchanted wind that Nakta had used to move him t safety, leapt back into the fray, striking out at the monster folding Adas in its jaws. Shifting into his cat-like form as he moved in, his claws tore gashes in the armor of the bug. The creature appeared to feel the attack, as its mandibles tightened and Adas again cried out in pain.
Banjo, fearing for his companion, used more of his bardic magic to heal Adas some, hoping to buy him time until the party could finish off the bug. He struck out at the insect, but his blade couldn’t break through the armor.
Continuing his advance, Thrain hurled another hammer at the newest foe, again connecting with a solid crack. Perhaps drawn by the sounds of combat, a fourth monstrous insect burst free of the soil and tried to grab Thrain. Unable to find purchase on the dwarf’s armor, the insect moved to flank him.
Adas tried to work himself free of the bug holding him, but couldn’t escape the powerful jaws clamped onto him. Bringing Tasha in to aid him, he channeled a powerful spirit through the totem he could barely grasp. It swirled out with a roaring noise, striking at all three of the bugs still moving. Though it dealt no visible wounds, all three appeared to be buffeted and pummeled by the mystic force. Despite this, the bug holding him maintained its grip, its jaw holding him tightly as the acidic saliva continued its work.
Howling in rage, Narmoran hurled himself at the creature still holding Adas. With a whirlwind of blows, he opened several cracks in the carapace of the creature, and a dark ichor began to seep from the many wounds.
Having suffered the dual blows of Thrain’s throwing hammers, and the powerful spirit summoned by Adas, the third creature rose up and sprayed acid at all of us. Distracting all but Nakta with the sticky, burning fluid, the creature bent over and began to burrow back into the safety of the soil.
Banjo, having held his close position through the acid spray, focused on an opening that Narmoran had created in the armor of the bug holding Adas. With intent focus, he lined up his blade and rammed it home into the monster. With a shudder, it released Adas and fell to the ground. A gout of the dark ichor gushed from the wound, and the bug thrashed a moment before falling silent.
As the tunneling creature fled from sight into the ground, Thrain was able to focus on his last foe. With a mighty blow, he staggered the creature in front of him, tearing open a hole in its shell. The pain-maddened bug lunged back at the warrior, but was unable to hit the dwarf.
Nakta stepped forward and stunned the bug with her psychic assault. Gathering his strength, Adas healed much of the acid burns on himself; the magic washed over Kementir and strengthened the druid as well. Calling on his faithful companion, Adas channeled through Tasha and struck the last of the insects down.
Fearful that the one that had fled might return, possibly with allies, we held our ground and waited for the tremors that would herald a renewed attack. After several minutes of stillness, we decided that the bug had been driven off. Thinking on the matter, Kementir suggested that if the acid Adas had felt was indeed the saliva for these creatures, the spray the departing bug had used had likely depleted its supply. If that was the case, then it wouldn’t be back for at least a day or more.
We decided to head further south, moving up out of the grassy meadow about the lake. Now that we knew what to look for, several other tunnel exits were visible. Though we felt no more vibrations in the ground, we all breathed a sigh of relief when we moved again onto rougher ground.
A mile or more south of the grassy meadow, we approached another hill, rising to the southeast of our location. Again hoping to find a good vantage for further observations, Brenna suggested we head up to its crest. Along the way, Narmoran noticed odd tracks in the ground. Though they appeared to be reminiscent of a badger, there were many tracks as if several of the creatures had followed one after the other in single file though here. Furthermore, the tracks were far to deep; something very heavy had left these prints.
Again, we had no idea what might have left these markings, nor did Brenna. We followed them for a short distance, as they approached an expanse of brush with a copse of trees on the eastern flank of the hill. As we moved along, Kementir and Narmoran took point along the trail. After a short time, they signaled to us that they could hear sounds, possibly a struggle, coming from ahead, deeper in the brush. As they hurried along the trail, the sound resolved into a low growling noise that quickly quieted. Not wanting to stumble upon an angry creature, the barbarian and druid slowed their pace, letting the rest of the party draw nearer.
Hearing no more noises after a few minutes, they continued forward. In a small clearing amongst the brush, they found the remains of a struggle: several bodies lay about. Obviously dead, five orcish casualties were strewn about the opening, all having died from vicious bites or raking claws. More than one had clearly had its throat torn out, while other sported multiple, deep claw marks on their chests. Whatever or whoever had torn apart this patrol had done so with little or no injury to itself, however. We could find no other bodies besides the orcs, and their weapons, though in their hands or nearby where they might have been dropped, remained clean. Whatever had shredded the orcs had done so while avoiding any attacks from them.
We decided against following the tracks further, instead investigating the bodies while Thrain harvested some ears; none of us really wanted to meet whatever creature had done this in the tight quarters the trees and underbrush provided. One thing struck us as odd: though something had killed these orcs easily, it hadn’t stayed to eat. The injuries we could see were all combat related, nothing like what we would expect had something been feeding on the remains.
Eventually, we decided to move on. We would keep an eye out for more patrols, as well as whatever creature or creatures had done this.
We circled south around the hill, as Brenna had indicated several outcroppings of rock that we needed to examine. She mentioned that it was possible we might find ore bearing layers in the area. Sighting a likely patch of bare rock, Breena scrambled out ahead. She wandered along the rock face for several minutes, then let out a triumphant shout. She bent over and, using a small rock hammer, knocked loose a piece of the face. Securing it, she worked her way back towards us. Holding out the chunk of rock she had removed, we could all clearly see small specs of gold glittering on the rough edge she had broken off.
As it was drawing near nightfall, we decided to make camp near the crest of the hill; we would have ample opportunity to see any enemies coming. Further, the ground was rocky enough that we didn’t think any more of the bugs from the lake could tunnel up here.
Starith, the 12th day of Laeneven, in the 10th year of the rule of Oduth VI and Umista III.
Though the night passed uneventfully for most of us, Adas had a strange story to tell the next morning. One of the traits of his people is the ability to dream of lives long past. Though often little more than vague memories, sometimes a useful piece of knowledge, long forgotten, filters through. He said that in a previous life, he had encountered a creature that matched what we knew of the beast that had destroyed the orc patrol. Though similar to a badger from the front, once seen in profile, none could mistake the Aurumvorax, as he called it. Possessing eight legs tipped with solid metal claws, the Golden Gorger, as it was also known, was a fierce foe. Extremely territorial, these solitary creatures could fight off foes many times their size. Their metallic claws and hide were due in main to their diet. Adas told us that the gold ore we had found was the final clue: for the golden gorger lived up to its name, it would eat raw gold ore right out of the rocks. Between the extremely dense hide, capable of resisting all but the strongest blows, and the wickedly sharp metal claws driven by powerful muscles, Adas feared that if we encountered the beast, we would end up much like the orcs.
Though we were hesitant to accept his story at face value, we were also worried hi might be right. We resolved to report our findings to the Captain back in Kurtan, and to give this area a wide berth while mapping the rest of our area.
We circled wide to the east, approaching the last of the hills in our area, hoping to finish soon with our expedition. Along the way, we located more of the odd stick-like tracks on the ground, though the surface was rough enough that we couldn’t follow them for any length of time.
As we drew nearer to the hill before us, we could see a dark opening in the slope. Perhaps a cave of some sort? We decided to check it out. Perhaps the slaughtered orc patrol had come from here. If the cave were still occupied, then the soldiers would want to know, but if it were open, then it might prove to be a useful staging point for patrols in the area. Either way, it was worth investigating.