Chapter 04: Bug

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Session Number: 116
Date: Monday 12 December 2011
Venue: Densial's
PCs & Players:

Arrian? Rog1/Clr10? (Fergus) (kills: none)
Feren? Rog11? (Yeran) (kills: none)
Lionel? Rgr6/Wiz1/ArcA4? (Ash) (kills: none)
Rowaine? Pal11? (Craig) (kills: none)
Troll? Wiz11? (Densial) (kills: 1 large metallic bug)

XP Awarded: TBA

"Hold on," Verithna says. She rummages through folds in her clothing, finding all manner of items. "Here we are," she says, laying out a number of fine leather skins and lengths of twine. She wraps handfuls of leftover boar meat in each square of leather, ties them with twine and hands a pouch to each of her guests.

"Would you be able to help me with my armour?" Blondie asks Verithna.

"I am not used to all that metal," Verithna says, "but I think I can remember which strap goes where. Come with me back into the sett." Ten minutes later, Blondie appears, armed and armoured. "The well of life sustain you," Verithna says by way of blessing.

The group keep the sun over their left shoulder as directed, following the ridgeline. They fall into a random pattern, pairs making and breaking as conversation moves them. Blondie notices and a muscle memory surfaces.

"I'm going to take the lead," she says. "I'm the most heavily armoured. Half, can you please take the rear?"

"Sure."

The time is difficult to judge. After something more than hour and less than two, the ridgeline to their right is noticeably dropping away.

"How do we find these things?" Face asks. "Just call out?"

"We were supposed to be able to hear them from a long way away," Flash says. "I haven't heard anything like Verithna described."

"Let's split up," Face suggests.

Another of Blondie's instincts surfaces. "No, let's stay together."

"How about we form a line, shoulder to shoulder?" Half suggests. "We stay twenty feet from our neighbour, for a safety margin."

"Alright," Blondie says. "The best-armoured people stay on the ends. Half, that's you and me."

"But I wanted to be on the end," Face says.

"Here," Blondie says, holding out her axe with two hands, parallel with the ground. "Hold this." She tosses it towards Face. The weight of the weapon carries him face first in to the ground.

"Half, you and me on the ends," Blondie affirms.

The group continue walking, soon striking a river to the left, around twenty five feet wide.

"Some on one side and some on the other?" Face suggests. "Or shall we all stay on this side heading out, and on the other side heading back?"

"I like the second idea," Blondie says. "It keeps us together."

The group keep their 100 foot wide line and alter their track slightly to the right to parallel the river. Blondie sets the pace and is leftmost in the line, closest to the riverbank.

"Let's trade places," Face says to her. "I reckon a metallic spider is going to steer clear of a river, or it'll rust. So it's safer for me to be by the river."

Blondie turns this logic over in her mind. She isn't completely happy with it, but cannot refute it. "OK," she says, and swaps places.

Shortly after, Bowman, Flash and Half see something odd ahead, near the riverbank. "Stop!" they yell in caution. Blondie and Face halt. A pile of metal shards lies beside the water. Blondie throws a look in Face's direction.

Everyone approaches. Closer inspection reveals it to be shards of metal around a faceted two-piece metal body about eighteen inches across, intact but damaged. It is not moving.

Face quietly finds a stick and circles around, opposite Blondie. He wedges the stick underneath the object and makes it lurch towards the girl.

"Aaagh! It moved!" she says. She buries her axe in the pile of metal. Three of its legs fly off. She hits it again, then stops and looks up. She sees Face sniggering, walks over and pushes him.

"Sorry," Face says, struggling to keep his smile under control.

"That was not funny!"

The group look at the thing close-up. It is now well dented. It looks like it was once a shiny, faceted, antlike creature about the size of a domestic cat. The material, where it has not been damaged by weapons, is flawless, as if were extruded or even grown.

Face retrieves one of his knives and stabs the creature. Tink, the blade scratches the metal surface. He looks for holes but finds none. He picks away at a broken leg joint, eventually pulling on the leg. It separates, leaving a small hole behind. He tries to pick up the body: it is rather heavy and he struggles to lift it. He think it is more solid than not. He drops the metal.

"Verithna mentioned the word 'construct,'" Face says. "I figure that it means that this thing was made."

"Makes sense," Half says.

"There is supposed to be more than one," Face continues. "Maybe there is a nest nearby."

"How long shall we look for before returning?" Half asks.

"Our main goal is to find and dispatch any we can," Face says. "I'd like to make some effort. Why don't we spend the night? We have blankets and food."

"You know the trouble we found ourselves in last night," Blondie says. "If we find trouble again, I don't think we will have Verithna to bail us out. Let's keep with your original plan, Face. We follow the river for a time, then cross it and search the other bank. We can time it so we get back to Verithna's before nightfall."

"Three hours upstream, three downstream," Half adds. "Sounds good."

The group fall back in to their line formation and set out. They have gone no more than thirty steps when Bowman spots deep thin depressions in the stony dirt, like someone has stabbed the ground with a rapier many times.

"Has it been burrowing?" Bowman asks. "Its body looked fairly clean, so I suspect not."

"Blondie, grab the remains, will you?" Face asks. "I want to see if its legs make holes that look the same as these."

"I can do better than that," she replies, picking up the three legs that she severed earlier and walking over to Bowman. She takes one, crouches down and stabs it into the ground next to an existing hole. She does it a second and third time. The holes look fairly similar.

Half looks at the original lines of holes. "They seem to be arranged in a pair of parallel lines," he says. "I am thinking they lead somewhere." He confirms the theory by tracing the lines to the pile of metal.

"Can I have those for a sec?" Bowman asks Blondie. She hands him the pair of severed metallic legs. "If I were that creature, how would I move?" Bowman wonders aloud. He crouches well away from the original marks, a leg in each hand, a similar distance apart as the creature's legs. He stabs the legs into ground alternately for a few yards then compares his work to the original marks. They could very easily be the marks of the creature.

Face examines Bowman's handiwork, then the original line of stab marks. "Given that the creature has three times as many legs as your experiment, Bowman, I would say that the line of marks was made by a single creature."

"I agree," Bowman says. "The tracks lead away from the river as well as towards it."

The group follow the tracks away from the river in the same line abreast, with Bowman in the middle. It is not too difficult to follow the line of stab-marks; they are deep, closely spaced and regular. After 25 yards or so they make a sharp turn to the right, heading towards the ridge. The group follow.

The tracks travel straight over the ridge and continue on in the same direction. Fifty minutes later, the group hear a strange sound:

"EEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

It is quite faint, and seems to be coming from ahead and to the left of their current track.

"That sounds a bit like the sound Verithna described," Face says. "Shall we charge, or sneak up on it?"

"I don't rate our chances on sneaking up on anything," Blondie says, indicating her armour, "and I'd say charging in is downright dangerous. But let's follow the noise."

"That means leaving the tracks," Half says. "How will we find our way back?"

"We could leave something behind," Blondie says. She takes off her backpack and retrieves a sunrod. She lights it and thrusts it into the ground, handle first. "It's better than nothing."

The group set out in the direction of the noise, travelling in a straight line as best they can. After ten minutes they have neither heard nor seen anything further.

"Shall we call out to it?" Face suggests.

"I'm not sure what will happen," Blondie says. "Let's keep going."

Twenty minutes later, the group hear the sound again: "EEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" It is considerably louder, and further to the left. They alter course.

"We need to quicken our pace," Face says.

"No," Half says. "We are catching up."

Fifteen minutes later, Bowman picks up tracks crossing the group's path. They follow them to the left. He loses them some five minutes later as the ground becomes harder.

"Has it climbed a tree?" Half whispers, looking up. No one can see anything above ground.

"Wait here," Bowman says, moving to the side. He crosses to the other side, then returns. "I see nothing."

"It seems to have been travelling in straight lines," Face says. "Let's continue on in the same direction. Maybe we'll get lucky."

Bowman leads the group for a further ten minutes but there is no sign of the tracks. He stops. "Should we wait for another screeching sound?"

"We can't afford to keep stopping," Face says. "It's just going to get away."

"Let's keep going in the same direction at a pace we can hear," Blondie suggests. The others agree.

Ten minutes later the group hear another squeal, closer and now almost over their left shoulder, towards a forest. They turn to follow, weapons at the ready, walking in their spread line. Unconsciously, the distance between them dwindles. Bowman splits his attention between looking ahead and looking down.

The light forest cover clears and the group see a river thirty or forty yards ahead, with something splashing in the water. Blondie readies her axe.

"Let's get it out of the water," Face says.

"Hey you!" yells Half.

Whatever is disturbing the water stops moving and drops beneath the surface. Bowman takes a handful of paces ahead, trying to get a better view. Half follows him, as does Flash who outpaces them all. Blondie stays in place, brandishing her axe. Face stays next to her, bow ready, waiting for whatever it was to reappear.

The river remains ominously calm; no one sees or hears anything. Bowman and Half continue scanning the riverbank, looking for a quarry.

"Stay here," Blondie says. "I'll move up." Flash keeps ahead of her, getting closer to the water's edge. Face releases the tension on his bowstring and moves thirty feet downstream, parallel to the river, ready to shoot.

Bowman moves closer to the river and looses an arrow towards where he last saw the disturbance in the water. It flies true and disappears beneath the surface with a small splash. Half edges closer and looks both left and right. He sees movement in the water, thirty feet downstream to his right. Blondie sees it too and moves in that direction. Flash moves the final fifteen feet to the water's edge and looks in. The water is very clear and not too deep; he can see Bowman's arrow. He moves downstream. Face halves the distance to the river and bends his bow.

Half and Blondie see something moving downstream, a good fifty feet downstream from where they first saw the disturbance in the water. Bowman walks downstream, Half runs. He sees something in the deepest part of the fifteen-foot-wide river. He continues past, parallel to the river, to get ahead of it. Flash moves closer and sees something of a disturbance in the water but cannot say exactly where or what it is. He paces closer, as does Face.

Something shiny in the water moves away from the group. Bowman looks upstream, wary that their prey may be more deceptive than first thought. He sees nothing untoward.

Half sheathes his sword and steps into the river, warding off the creature with his arms. "This creature hasn't attacked us," he says. "It is just running away. I don't think we should kill it."

"Didn't Verithna say to kill it?" Blondie says.

"I don't think we should just kill something just because Verithna says to. Even if it results in us getting our memories back, it just doesn't feel right."

Blondie moves to the water's edge, axe ready. Flash moves into the water, ready to stab anything that gets close. Face moves closer and sees a shiny creature scuttling underwater along the riverbed. He tracks its movements with his bow, ready to shoot if it starts to look threatening.

The creature leaves the water and climbs onto the far bank. Face lets his arrow fly. The missile hits but ricochets off the creature's metallic exterior. Bowman wades across the river to the creature's left. He shoots an arrow that pierces its side and causes the creature to stagger.

Half leaves the water. "This thing hasn't harmed us! Where do we get off harming it?"

Blondie moves into the water. Flash closes off the creature's last line of retreat. Face moves in and shoots another arrow that topples the creature. It does not rise.

Face inspects the creature to make sure it is dead. He pushes it with a stick. It looks very similar to the first creature, with six articulated legs that end in dagger-like feet. An appendage at one end, presumably the creature's head, has small stubby antennae.

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