Chapter 05: Hunt

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Session Number: 117
Date: Sunday 18 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: none)

XP Awarded: TBA

The group hesitantly approach the motionless creature. It is reasonably intact, and around the same size and shape as the first. Half examines the arrow wounds. Some of the group's missiles have lodged inside the creature, those that did all lie on a seam between two adjacent metal plates. There are a few marks where other arrows have harmlessly bounced off the creature.

Face starts prying at the creature with his knife. A minute later he has a number of its legs separated but has not made much progress getting inside the creature's abdomen.

"Does anyone mind if I continue?" he asks.

"No, go ahead," Blondie says and the others agree. She starts moving in a circle around the group, keeping a watchful eye. Bowman continues to keep his eyes on the creature, but his ears turned outwards.

"You want a whetstone?" Blondie asks Face. "Coz I don't have one."


"That lump of metal is gonna make a hell of a mess of your knife."

Face looks at his knife. Its edge is still surprisingly keen, despite the abuse it is being subjected to.

"You want a hammer?" Blondie says. "Coz I haven't got one of them either."

"Love your work," Face retorts.

After a couple of minutes, Face manages to crack open a facet of the creature's metal carapace. Its innards are metallic and angular. It does not look mechanical inside, like clockwork. Rather, its insides look a little like the surface of a pond that has frozen over in winter - crystalline. Face pokes at it with his blade; they give way.

"It's like metal straw in here," he comments. He pulls a handful of the stuff out and looks inside. "Interesting," he says. "It looks like it is partitioned inside. I can see solid, hexagonal walls in there."

"Any goo?" Flash asks.

"No, nothing liquid at all. I don't think this was a living creature. It's not like it was a bug with some sort of metal armoured outside. I think it was magical."

"So we need not feel guilty, then," Blondie says.

Face keeps scraping away with his knife. Ten minutes later he has pierced the partition wall and finds more of the same on the other side.

"This might go faster if I had some help," he says. Half offers his sword.

"No, that might break," Face says.

"I'd be surprised," Half replies. "It looks pretty well-made to me."

"Does anyone have a crowbar?" Face says. "Or some other large piece of iron?"

Blondie looks at Face with a strange expression in her eyes. "What? Strange… No, it's gone."

"What's bothering you?" Half asks.

"Something that he said… I got a sudden surge of emotion, I don't know why." She continues to pace around.

Bowman looks for tracks while Face and Half pull the thing apart. After ten minutes, it is thoroughly and irreversibly disassembled. Its insides are arranged into regular polyhedrons, like a three dimensional honeycomb. Inside each partition is more of the latticed material. The outer shell is similar to the partition walls, only thicker.

"I think it is safe to say that this was not a living creature," Face says.

"Not living," Half admits. "Maybe sentient."

"Over here," Bowman says. "I have its tracks." They lead up to the river in a straight line.

"What next?" Face asks. "Do we keep following the river?"

"I don't know," Bowman says. "This river is quite a lot smaller than the first."

"How about extrapolating the creature's original course? Find out where it was going?"

The group head to the far side of river, fall back into their perpendicular formation and set out as if the creature forded the river and kept going. They walk for over an hour with nothing of note: they are deep in forest of varying density. Not long after, they strike a larger river, about the same size as the first.

"Which direction are we going?" Flash asks.

Half looks up through the forest canopy. "South, I think."

The group follow the river upstream. A few minutes in, Flash stops everyone. "This is a cartwheel track," he says.

Half looks at the ground that Flash has indicated. "I reckon you're right."

As they progress, the group spot more signs of civilised passage. After an hour, Face stops.

"So do we keep going towards civilisation? Abandon Verithna?"

"Let's go back," Blondie says. "The rat in hand is worth more than two in the tunnel." She pauses, thinking about what she just said. "Eeeew. That's just gross."

The group cross the river and search for tracks on the opposite side. While there is some sign of travel, it is less on this side. They head in the other direction, downstream, continuing to search for tracks.

After something approaching an hour, the small tells of traffic on this side are getting harder to follow and the terrain is getting rougher. After another hour there are now no sign of traffic. The group see the beginnings of a ridgeline on the far side of the river. They follow the river's right-hand bank, noticing that it has been making a gradual turn to the right. Forty minutes later they are alongside the ridgeline. They continue, following the river as it and the ridgeline diverge, the ridgeline becoming farther away.

After a further hour the river straightens up, flowing to the northeast by the group's reckoning.

"Let's head back to Verithna's," Half suggests.

"I think we should stay out," Face replies.

"I'm with Half," Flash says. "We could ask Verithna about the tracks we found."

"Alright, then."

The group cross the river and backtrack on the other bank until it nears the ridgeline. They then double back to the north, following the ascending ridgeline.

"I'd be interested to see whether the first creature is still there," Bowman says. "Maybe it was just playing dead." An hour later they recognise the site where they saw the creature. The body and the three severed legs are as they left them.

The group retrace their steps north for an hour and a half. Ahead, an oak forest is visible atop the ridge to their left. They continue and are met by a bounding dire badger. It looks at them, sniffs the air, then turns around and lopes off.

Soon after, the group arrive at Verithna's sett. The dire badger lies outside the entrance. Verithna comes out.

"Ah, you're back."

"We haven't had a huge amount of success, Verithna," Half says.

"Well, you're all back…" she says. "That is something, and more than I can say about last night!"

"We only found one more of those creatures," Face says. He describes finding the dead creature to the south, near where the river meets the ridgeline. Verithna confirms that this is her kill. Face goes on to describe them finding another and killing it.

"Good, good," Verithna says. "I am glad."

"Why glad?" Half asks.

"Because they are not part of the natural order."

"What does that mean?"

"It means that no deity of this world or beyond calls these creatures their own. They do not belong here. What purpose they fulfil I do not know, but it is not of this world."

"I think they are magical," Face says.

"Almost certainly," Verithna says.

"We also came across some cart tracks to the south, on the other side of the river," Half says.

"Yes, civilisation lies that way."

"We went the other way," Face says, "following the river."

"That is the Larellian River."

"If you say so… I figured that the thing would not want to venture near civilisation."

"Did it try to avoid you?"


"Was there a pattern to its movement?" Verithna asks. "Did you observe it for any length of time? The one that I followed was striking out more or less as the arrow flies, for a good length of time. It was travelling in one direction."

Bowman and Face recall the first creature's tracks. They crossed the ridgeline in a straight line. The group located the second creature by its squeal rather than its tracks, so it is more difficult to tell which direction it was travelling.

"Were they both travelling in the same direction?" Face asks the others. No one answers. He picks up a stick and starts drawing lines on the ground, trying to map out the encounter. It is inconclusive; at best he can say that they weren't on polar opposite paths.

"I wonder whether they both came from the same place," Half says. "If they were, then their tracks would not be parallel."

"Interesting idea," Verithna says.

"Anyway, that's all we have at the moment," Face says. "If there are more out there, we're happy to go look for them."

"It would be a service to me if you did," Verithna says. "It is not something that I can attend to myself."

Half looks up into the approaching dusk. "We are willing to backtrack and search for these things, but we found no sign of any more. We searched the area and found the one other that you could hear and dispatched it. Do you feel that we have held up our end of the bargain?"

"It is what I agreed to…"

"As a matter of curiosity," Flash says, "how long before you think you can help us with our ailment?"

"The requests I would make would probably be best made as the sun is at its zenith."

"So you can help one, some, or all of us, tomorrow lunchtime?" Face says.

"Oh, I would help you all. In turn… If what I can do does not help the first, I would not continue. I would say this. I am not certain of what will happen when your memories return - if what I do is successful. I don't know who you are. I would bargain for some sort of assurance that you would do me no harm when your memories are returned."

"I am the weakest one here," Face says. He glances at Blondie. "I cannot even lift her axe. How about while everyone else keeps searching, I stay here. You return my memory. If you don't like me, you can kill me."

"I am not in the habit of killing those I don't like."

"I don't think that I am a bad person, and I am willing to bet my life on it. I am the least likely to pose a threat to you. We will stay here tonight, if that is alright with you, of course, Verithna. Tomorrow, you guys go out and do some searching. I'll stay here Verithna. You try and heal me. If it doesn't work, there is nothing lost. If it does work and I turn out to be evil… I'd rather be not evil. I'd probably rather be dead than evil."

"Even if we gain our memories back," Half says, "we won't lose our memories of this time."

"I cannot be certain of that," Verithna says. She turns to Flash. "What do you think of his plan?"

"We could go out and come back by lunchtime…"

"I understand your concerns," Half says to Verithna. "Do you have any ideas on how you could have an assurance for your safety?"

"This 'lady' will keep her own counsel at this time."

"I can agree to that plan."

"Can I confer with my friends?" Face asks.

"Of course. Before you do, you sir, ranger." This said to Bowman. "What do you say of the sun elf's plan?"

"If you can find a way to guarantee your safety then you should do it. If not, then we should find a way."

Face leads the group away to confer privately. Verithna enters her sett. A dire badger lies outside, unaware that the sun he was basking in has since been replaced by lengthening shadows.

"I want to make this as easy as possible for Verithna," Face says. "I am willing to risk my life. Are you? I would rather be like this, with no memory, than be evil."

"I agree," Half says. "If I am some sort of danger to her, then I am better off not existing."

"We don't know who we are," continues Face. "If we are dangerous, we may be able to overpower her."

"Should we have ourselves restrained?"

"That's not a bad idea," Flash says. "Although, really, if we do that then we should all do that. Whatever Verithna needs. I am also willing to bet that I am not evil. But if I am, I am willing to put myself at Verithna's mercy."

"Here's what I recommend," Face says. "We go to her with your plan, Half, of restraining us all, and have my plan in reserve: having me alone at her mercy. If she doesn't like your plan, perhaps she will like mine."

"I'm fine with that," Flash says, as do they all.

Face calls for Verithna. The dire badger raises its massive head and looks at him, annoyed at the sudden noise. It whuffs and puts its head back between its paws. Verithna comes out.

"Here's what we think is the best plan," Face says. "Tie us all up and do your thing to whomever you choose."

Verithna looks at each in turn. "Fascinating. I am interested in hearing your second plan."

"The second plan is actually our first," Half says. "Face remains here, with you, while the rest of us go out and search for more of these creatures. You try to restore his memories. If he turns out to be some kind of bad person, he is yours to do with as you will."


"If neither of these plans are acceptable to you," Face says, "whatever you want."

"Do you know herbs?" Half asks. "Could you put us to sleep?"

"Hmmmmm…" Verithna muses. She turns to Face. "I don't know that I care for your company that much." She smiles. You may all go if you wish. We can sort it out when you return. If you wish to draw our bargain to a close now, you may stay here until the sun's zenith, I will cast my pleas and we will part. It will be a service to me if you continued your search."

"I believe we intend to continue the search anyway," Half says.

"Then if you return by midday, I will do as I said."

Face frowns. "I get the feeling that you would rather we keep searching, and you feel that if we got our memories back that we'd leave. I am willing to add to the bargain and say that regardless of whether I get my memory back or not, that I will continue to try and help you."

"I can agree to that also," Half says. "As long as my conscience allows me to. I think the service you do us far outweighs the service you would have us do."

"One of the reasons I want my memories back," Face says, "is that I cannot do anything if I am a spellcaster as you say…"

"Would you show me your book?" Verithna asks.

Face thinks. "OK," he says, getting it out and offering it to her. She holds her hand up and does not take it. She then closes eyes and mumbles several words. Her eyes open. "Thank you," she says. "You are indeed a spellcaster."

"I'm sure it's not just me," Face says. "We all feel hamstrung. Blondie here doesn't even know how to get out of her armour."

"I sympathise," Verithna says. "Were I in your situation…"

"I am willing to go out and find more of these things," Face continues. "They are unnatural and that is enough. I want to feel like I have done enough to earn our part of the bargain."

"I am wondering about perhaps boundarying that," Half says. "Perhaps a time limit, say, one to two weeks? A number of us wear religious symbols. I am not one hundred percent sure that we are our own people, or how much freedom we might have once we find out who we really are. I can only promise to weigh that as carefully as I can."

"Ranger?" Verithna asks.

"I will help until I receive my memories back, but I cannot guarantee what I will do after that."

"I understand. Well, then. dinner? Boar is not on the menu tonight. I don't wish to kill the entire family."

Verithna serves a meal of gamey fowl, vegetables, and much dandelion tea. As they eat, Flash asks about the tracks by the river.

"People do live in the woods south of here," Verithna explains. It gets increasingly more civilised the farther south you head. But this area, the northern end of the Larellian peninsula, well, I'm about as civilised as it gets."

"That puts my mind at rest," Flash says. "I was uncertain of the character of the forest."

"Mark my words. This forest is not a safe place."

"It seems nice enough to me," Face says.

"…if you remove the wolves," Flash adds.

Verithna's eyes grow piercing. "There are worse things than wolves."

After dinner and the evening chores, Face turns to his book, the one that identifies him as a spellcaster. He opens the cover and examines the script within. It is utterly unintelligible. He has a thought, and rifles through his pack. He finds what he is looking for: a quill and a jar of writing ink. He opens the jar, dips the quill and writes in the back page of the book:

My name is Face, or rather, it isn't.

He compares the writing to that earlier in the book. It looks to be penned by his hand. Some of it is even in the same colour ink.

The next morning, Half asks Verithna a question.

"When we go out today, I had the idea of tracking down the other side of the ridge. Is that possible?"

"It might take you as long as walking south on this side and crossing where it is lower," Verithna says, "but yes, it is possible. The forest is lovely this time of year. You do have to watch the owlbears, though. I did mention them, didn't I?"

"Yes, you did," Half says. "How would we avoid them?"

"Well, the best thing would be to not enter their territory. I go up there, but we are not really on speaking terms…"

"Do they speak?" Flash asks.

"Dear boy, all creatures speak. If the wolves gave you trouble, don't walk into the owlbears' territory."

"If we delay crossing the ridge until we are half way along it," Half says, "will that keep us out of the owlbear territory?"

"I have seen them that far south, but not very often."

"How do you wish to proceed with trying to cure our disability, while remaining safe?" Face asks.

"I am very happy for you to do as you will. I have slept on it and I feel comfortable with you after the words you have spoken. Go, and I will see you at the sun's zenith."

The group head out, heading south. Three quarters of an hour into their journey, they turn right and scale the four or five hundred foot high ridgeline. There is sparse forest on the other side; the party resume their southbound trek, keeping their eyes open for tracks. It doesn't take long before they strike some very recognisable tracks crossing their path. They follow them to the right. The tracks are easy to follow, not least of all because they are so predictably straight.

EEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! A scream, forty five degrees to the right. It is hard to tell how distant it was: ten minutes? Twenty?

"Dare we ignore that?" Half says.

"We now know that there is one out here," Face says. "And we are out here to kill them. We'll be able to pick up the tracks again, but we won't be able to pick up that sound again."

"Good point."

The group alter course towards the sound. Half has a passing worry that the sound came from owlbear territory, but his situational awareness reassures him that it did not.

Twenty minutes pass. The group see no tracks, hear no screams.

"Fifteen minutes more, max," Half says. No more than five minutes later, the group cross a set of daggerlike tracks, not quite perpendicular to the group's path.

"Will following the tracks take us into owlbear territory?" Face asks.

Bowman looks in both directions. "I think the tracks to the right will," he says, "but I can't tell which direction it was moving."

"I'd rather not go near the owlbear's territory," Half says.

"It's also Verithna's territory," Blondie says.

"I'm a bit worried that it might be heading towards her," Face says.

"You are right," Blondie says. "I hadn't thought of that. She could be in danger."

"I think Verithna can look after herself," Half says. "That being said, it wouldn't hurt to go back - unless we meet the owlbears. I suggest that if we go back that we go the long way, but I would put forward another option: follow the tracks to the left. I would be interested to see if they intersect with the other set we followed."

"Sod that noise," Face says. "I'm going to assume the worst and figure that it's heading for Verithna, I'm going to follow it, and I'll do it alone if I have to. What if she is distracted by preparing her spells?"

"Possible," Half admits. "But we haven't seen them do anything aggressive."

"Let's err on the side of caution," Face says.

"I can agree to that."

The group turn to the right and walk, following the tracks. The forest denies them any distant landmarks that might have made their job easier, but the tracks are not overly difficult to follow. Not a full minute elapses before they hear the same eerie screech, directly ahead down the line of tracks. It may be closer than before, it is probably not farther away. The group hustle in pursuit. The increased pace makes it far more difficult to follow the tracks, so they fall into single file, Bowman in the lead. The tracks stutter, Bowman picks them up again, then he loses the trail. The group continue in the same direction, five abreast, but see no tracks. They go back to the area where Bowman lost the tracks.

"Is it here?" Half says.

"If it is, I can't see it," Blondie says.

"Ah!" Bowman says. "Canny creature! It turned to the right, look!"

The group resume the hunt, trotting in single file. Bowman picks up another direction change, a mere ninety seconds after the previous, again to the right. "It's doubling back!" he says.

"It's onto us," Half says. "It must have heard us." He looks at his armour, and Blondie's.

"If that's the case, then we must be close!" Blondie says. "I'll take the lead. Bowman, tell me if I miss the tracks."

They continue the pursuit. Blondie spots another direction change, this time a right-angle to the left. She follows them until they stop a foot away from the base of a tree. Flash rounds the trunk, looking for tracks on the other side. He finds none.

"Now what do we do?" Face asks. He examines the trunk. He spots something that make the hairs on the back of his neck rise. "There are scratch marks on the bark."

As one, everybody looks up. Face backs away from the trunk, nocks an arrow and looks into the tree's boughs. It is large; its sturdy trunk rises fifteen feet before its lower branches flare out. They group can see up to a height of around forty feet before its foliage blocks their vision. There is no sign of anything unusual. Bowman glances left and right at neighbouring trees.

"I'll climb up," Flash offers.

"Let's not go to it," Half says. Let's bring it to us."

"How do we do that?" Blondie asks.

"Chop it down," Face says. "You don't have a hammer or a whetstone, but you do have that axe."

"That's not what I had in mind," Half says. "And besides, that's not a woodcutting axe. Let's burn it down!"

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