|The City of Cauldron (from the AP boo)|
Zophiel in the Wilds, Again
After a brief introduction, I watch the Strikers. Trenzen does most of the talking. He leads us through the town to visit an old mage, the library, the captain of the guard, but only after a great inspiring speech in the front of the crowd gathered outside of the Temple of Nethys. The same crowd that had gathered and I was a part of. But first, let me continue my story of how I met them.
So, as I was standing in the crowd, I see a man dressed in robes coming to the temple. From his description, I am guessing it is Abraham, one of the Strikers and a great wizard. This sends me back to my days of my youth, when I was just 25 or 26, and I saw the Elven wizards so common in my homeland. I'm a little nervous when I introduce myself and I use what humans call me, Sophie. I mention to Abraham that I saw one of the Strikers peek out then head back in again. It is just natural that we can follow and slip into the temple through same side door, unseen.
The inside of the temple is deserted, yet I know they are in here, and most of the others are gone, for I saw two giants, half-orc guards and many gnomes wearing the clothing of their temple running away. I call out “Is anyone in here?”
“We are back here!” A half orc’s voice returns. From the descriptions I got in the bath house, this must be Trenzen, the half orc archer-paladin. The half orc is busy questioning two clerics of this temple. I keep silent as he probes them while they prepare a corpse for burial. I find out that the body is one of the famous Stormblades. Trenzen handles this like a mystery. Admiration for his inquisitiveness is worthy to give him, for a half orc. That is my upbringing talking, for being in the goddess forsaken place I have learned that many are much better than they seem, while others, deep down, are very superficial. I ask about magic regents and don't get any help.
Soon we are on our way to the captain of the guard and introductions are given to me. So many names but for me, it is to put names to faces. I tell them, seeing how they are a ‘just’ force coming to power, I want to ally myself to them. I'll want tell of my past but not today, as Trenzen is so interested in what I could do. I tell him of my translation work, and tracking, both humans and animals, and being a scout. He asks me if I weave magic. I state that I do and he presses me for if I use books or not. And well, sometimes I do, but mostly I don't. Then he asks if I perform. I do not. I tell him again, what I have done in the past and how I can help. Apparently, we go in circles. And finally he asks if I can teach him some magic. We finally agree that what I know, he doesn't know and has little chance of learning. I can only surmise, that the orc in him is speaking.
We arrive at the house of the captain of the guard and Trenzen proclaims the group’s innocence. When he speaks, it's hard to follow, but in the end, he is very convincing, this is not the orc speaking this time. The logic doesn't actually confirms his original statements, though. Since it is to our benefit, I'll let it slide.
Next, Trenzen wants to warn the rest of the Stormblades. We find one of them in the Cusp of Sunrise. She tells of how the head of the temple of Nethys wanted them to go underground beneath the city to fight something called the Cagewrights. Instead it was an ambush and one of them died, which explains the death.
For the evening, they offer to let me stay with them.
The next day, we are up early. Trenzen asks if I need a horse, but I decline. I summon my spirit horse. All the day long it is with me. We, the summon horse and I, move as fast uphill as down and more than once I had to wait for the others with their slower animals. The hooves from the horse are barely seen, for one can almost see through them. And after a day’s trip, we arrive at Red Gorge. My horse vanishes when I dismiss it. But the Strikers take this in stride, that is, magic they are accustomed to, and so, it's a common thing for me to weave the elven song. We stay at the Redhead Miners Inn and I meet Kaylee, another Striker, and I compliment her on the bathhouse. I tell her the employees spoke very highly of her and of the rest. They told me of many tales of their adventures in colorful washes of finely spoken words, while I lay naked in the pool, with a mist rising around. Not the same mists of the jungle. The jungle holds mists filled with creatures and plants, magnificent beautiful and dangerously deadly.
That evening, we debate how to proceed. In the end, we decide to hire boat paddlers to take us down the Seave River to the camping spot with an idol. The paddlers sleep under the canoes and we rest around a campfire, located on a sandy beach, midway from the river to the jungle tree line. It's a short distance of no more than 50 or so feet. I set my backpack down and pull out my bedroll. I fall into a comfortable meditation quickly under the stars, for I know I am with good company. They agree to wake me for a third watch.
Shouts, orders, painful shrieks I see and hear in my non awake mind. I know I must be dreaming, but then I open my eyes and am all too well aware that I wasn't dreaming. We are being attacked! A wall of blue and purple flames encircled around us, forcing us close. There is a reason I can guess and is confirmed not a few more seconds later, when a fireball comes down from the sky and explodes right on our campfire, engulfing us. The Strikers do their thing, and I stretch my mind for a jungle creature that does this. But to the Strikers, I appear confused and panicky consider jumping over the fire, or over the ice storm that appears to possibly put out the fire circle. Or, to jump in the water to swim under the fire. Then I feel a sudden urge of goodness. That's my cue to shoot wildly at the creature that is raining fire down upon us. It will force it to dodge more arrows and disrupt its casting another fireball. I see that an arrow, one of mine hit Toni, the Striker's heavily armored warrior. I run to her and using my magic, I close some of her wounds. And I apologize profusely for having one of my arrows hit her. It's over almost as fast as it begins, with arrows and magic bolts, the creature falls from the sky. At this point, I can clearly see it is not a jungle creature at all, but a creature not from this world and some of the Strikers conjecture it was sent by a newly made adversary, the high clerics of the Temple of Nethys from the city of Cauldron.
Since the entire night hadn't passed yet, we return to our sleep, a bit more watchful of the sky and of the jungle treeline, searching for whatever could be lurking in the distance. I finally drift off to my meditation while others discuss if that creature was sent by the clerics of Nethys, something I concluded already.
The next day, I'll be on point. I summon the Elven magic to give me a clear view of the jungle and the most safe direct route to the Demon Scar. We don't want to fight anything we can avoid. A vision comes to me and I recognize the places where natural beasts would lay in wait, catching their next meal. These areas I avoid.
About mid afternoon, after the usual rains, the jungle give way to a vast desolate circular bowl void of plant life: the Demon Scar opens with a view. Down below, we see demons and fire giants roaming freely. I suggest that we can go around the rim. Before setting out, I call a small woodland spirit. It looks like a pink semi translucent bird. Definitely it is not a real bird. I ask it to scout the rim and to look for large animals or creatures and report back. When it returns it tells me that there aren't any large animals or creatures on the rim, and it also says that it found ruins where an entrance has been dug out recently.
When we get there, Jax the "adventurer" and I scout around. We make too much noise and I realize the day at the bath has softened me some. We find tracks of three of four people that have passed this way. It's too difficult to tell if they came or left. On the way back, Jax and I are much more quiet.
We decide that everyone should go into the building for they think it will be safer inside than out here. I'm not running this group, but I'd advise against it, if asked. I call a bat to fly down into the ruins and it returns to tell us of two empty of life rooms below and a collapsed tower with a watery stream running in a tunnel, below. We move inside and rest in the big room. I conjure a magic hut so we rest in comfort from the jungle humidity. That is one thing I haven't gotten use to after a hundred and some years here - the wet heat. The night passes without incident.
At the end of my watch, I prepare a breakfast for the Strikers...