Thirst

Finding the Source

Defeating the chirogs and rescuing Tuss proved to be quite the adventure. Nilara was safe and Eeshina was reunited with her aneen. On the way back to Aversil, the party encountered a rather odd jack who calls herself Nyx the Wob. Nyx had followed the group and observed their battle from a nearby hillock. Now she travels alongside them, talking to herself (or rather, her transdimensional alternative self called Vyx) in a singsong language that is incomprehensible to anyone else.

As the party reached the edge of town, it became apparent that something was dreadfully wrong. The townsfolk were in an uproar because, suddenly and apparently without reason, the Gold Falls dried up. Residents gathered around the town’s leader, Norama, demanding answers.

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Norama tried in vain to quiet the crowd. Hedge pushed through to the front and addressed Norama directly. She had little information to share. The Gold Falls stopped flowing early in the morning, and the river was quickly disappearing as well. Soon the town would be without water, and people will begin dying of thirst. Norama was able to point Hedge and his companions towards others in town who might know more.

The group first visited the Aversil Inn. Frankyl, the Inn’s proprietor, stood behind the bar organizing bottles and polishing countertops. Nilara stood by a fire in the center of the room, stirring a large pot with a spoon longer than her. Hedge, however, was focused on a middle-aged gentleman sitting alone in a corner.

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When the group approached the stranger, he was gruff in his manner and introduction. His name was Guthrain, a trapper who had once sought out the headwaters of the Gold Falls. He took a long drag from his pipe before recounting his tale. Years ago, Guthrain found the source of the Gold Falls. High in the mountains, water jetted from a perfectly round hole set in a flat metallic surface. However, when Guthrain approached the hole, strange singing drifted out in long, alien tones. It felt like a warning, so Guthrain fled. But not before recovering a strange silver sphere from the base of the hole.

He offers the object to Hedge and his friends in exchange for 10 shins. Eeshina and Hedge combine their coin to acquire the artifact, while Psirryk, Nyx, and others take turns examining it. The sphere seems to be a sort of key, though to what is unclear.

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The group leaves the Inn, and heads to the Skymother Shrine to speak to Enautan. The shrine’s keeper is sleeping under a tree when the party approaches. Nyx immediately assumes napping position, while Hedge tries to gently shake the old man awake. Enautan startles out of his slumber.

Enautan tells a tale from when he was a young adventurer. He and his friend Hilga attempted to find the source of the Gold Falls. However, they never made it past Yellow Lake. A metallic man ambushed the couple on the shores of the lake. They were able to escape before engaging the creature in combat, but Hilga disappeared that night and was never heard from again.

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The party’s final stop in town took them to the Aversil Apothecary. Shaniath, the shops owner, has put out a bounty, asking that someone find out why the Gold Falls has dried up. Like most people in town, Shaniath believes the Skymother is punishing Aversil for a perceived injustice. But she is also a practical woman who would like to find a less supernatural solution than appeasing the gods. She sells various supplies to the group and reminds them to dress warmly. The mountain is cold and brutal this time of year.

Nyx leaves the group momentarily and travels around town in search of useful rumors. She discovers that a young boy recently found a path up the mountain just west of town. The party decides to use this trail for their ascent.

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The path is steep and difficult, and the five-mile hike to the Gold Falls results in several minor injuries. The once thundering waterfall is now completely gone. Only damp rock and a few rapidly drying pools remain. A tree with leaves – each containing a single blinking eye – grows at the base of the falls. It whispers in a strange language, but Hedge’s orange contact translates the dialect. “Thirsty, thirsty, thirsty…” the tree repeats again and again. Nyx and Itchybald carry small handfuls of water and pour it over the trees roots. The tree responds in kind, sending pleasant images into the minds of any living creatures nearby. Nyx notices a pair of ravage bears and two cubs in a nearby hollow. The party decides to leave the tree and the bears in peace, and continue up the mountain.

Another five miles, a broken nose, and several other delays take the party to the top of Gold Falls, where Yellow Lake lies in silence. The lake is much lower than normal, but still retains water. Fish still swim in the water, all bright yellow, despite otherwise seeming to be of different species. Upon closer inspection, each fish is revealed to have tiny, humanlike fingers on its pectoral fins. They also glow in the dark, like fireflies. The fish are not dangerous however, and even make a good meal. Nyx eats several of them raw. Itchybald catches one and places it in a strange pane of glass that has holes filled with water.

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When Nyx ventures too close to the shore, however, an Oorgolian Soldier emerges from the water. The mechanical soldier is lost, alone, wounded, and essentially insane, but Psiryyk manages to calm the creature and communicate with it. Itchybald is able to remove a large rock from the creature’s leg, allowing it to move freely. Eeshina then uses her healing powers to fix any lingering damage the stone might have left. In apparent gratitude, the Soldier begins following the group and even accepts orders from Psiryyk to guard them while they sleep.

In the morning, the Oorgolian soldier offers three cyphers to the party, though it is unclear where they came from. The group then heads further up the mountain. Five miles further, an avalanche strikes, knocking those further behind down and inflicting damage on those caught in its wake.

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To make matters worse, the pair of ravage bears the party previously avoided have caught up to the party and attack . Vix is mauled and disappears leaving a pile of clothes in her wake. Hedge throws a water weapon at the nearest assailant, while Eesihna and Itchybald execute a violent onslaught. Nyx and Bartholomew perform a series of savage strikes. The bears fall one after the other and the party is left mostly in tact.

A few more grueling hours on the trail, and our heroes arrive at the source of the Gold Falls. They are now well above the tree-line and trudging through several feet of snow. The freezing, thin air burns their lungs and sunlight does not offer any reprieve from the cold. Clouds come tumbling in from the west in portent of a serious storm.

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The dry river bed that the party has tracked ends at the flat face of a metallic, rusted wall set flush with a much higher snow covered mountain. A circular cavity about 30 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep pierces the center of the wall. The interior wall of the cavity is also metallic, but unlike the outer wall, it is without rust, as fresh as newly forged steel. It is covered in unfamiliar symbols, and water stains reveal that the Gold River once issued from the cavity. Now, however, a silvery metallic seal closes it off.

Upon closer inspection Hedge determines that the seal is actually a massive powered door. Using the silver sphere gifted the party by Guthrain, the door is mysteriously opened. The silvery back wall of the cavity doesn’t slide open – it shimmers and disappears from this reality. Unlike what our heroes were expecting, water does not instantly begin gushing out. Instead, an unlit corridor is revealed leading back into the mountain.

Despite the darkness and the distant sound of yelping coming from within the cavern, our heroes light their glow orbs and head into the mountain.

To be continued…

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The Wandering Aneen

In the western foothills of the Black Riage mountains and on the eastern border of Malevich lies a small village called Aversil. This highland city is a fertile and peaceful land filled with bountiful herds of animals and flowing fields of produce and grain. It is an oasis amidst the barren and desolate lands that typify the Beyond. And it is here that our story begins.

After a trip to the market on the Gold Road, Eeshina returned home to find an empty pasture where her aneen, Tuss, once grazed. In a mild panic, she sought the assistance of her closest friends. Bartholomew was the first to volunteer, always up for a challenge and any opportunity to use his large, pointed blade. Hedge, Psiryyk, Daegalus, and Itchybald also agreed to come along, though their motives were unclear as there was some talk of roasting Tuss rather than rescuing him.

Tuss’ tracks were unmistakable due to his lame left leg. The trail was easy to follow and led the party into the foothills south of Aversil. After venturing a few miles, however, it became clear that Tuss was no longer traveling alone. The tracks revealed that Tuss was ambushed by several three fingered creatures and then carried further south.

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Eeshina and her friends continued following the trail until smoke appeared on the horizon. A small, metal box in Eeshina’s pack began ringing, and Hedge said, “Let’s hurry or we’re going to miss the barbecue.”

When the party crossed a final hill, a band of Chirogs appeared in the near distance. The small, hateful abhumans had Tuss bound next to their fire and were preparing to slaughter him for a roast. However, the chirogs were consumed by their preparations and were oblivious to the six onlookers at the top of the ridge.

It was then that Nilara, a young girl from Aversil, appeared. She noticed Tuss was missing from his pasture and secretly followed Hedge and his friends into the foothills. She was determined to help, however, upon seeing Tuss bound next to the fire she began screaming much to the party’s dismay. Hedge was able to hold the girl back from doing anything else foolish, but the chirogs were now very aware of the group’s presence.

The party inched forwards in order to get close enough to engage the chirogs. The creatures seemed hesitant to strike the first blow, but Hedge fired an arrow as soon as he was within range. Bartholomew immediately closed the distance between himself and the leader of the chirogs, brandishing his greatsword high. Daegalus and Hedge continued to let arrows loose on the nearest creature, while Psiryyk used an esotery to push another chirog into the fire.

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Time seemed to slow as the battle intensified. Itchybald launched a flurry of mental attacks and was able to dodge when a chirog attempted to grapple him. Psiryyk was not so lucky. After failing to shoot the nearest creature, the chirog grabbed him in its maw and pinned him to the ground. Hedge was able to strike the beast, and Psiryyk was released. The nano then used another esotery to slam his attacker to the ground, but the chirog became enraged. Once again it launched itself at Psiryyk, grappled him, and pinned him to the ground. This time, however, the beast used its massive claws to tear at the nano’s chest. Psiryyk was seriously wounded, but the rest of the party turned to aid him, shooting and stabbing the chirog to near death.

The chirog that had been pushed into the fire tried to close the distance to Bartholomew and Hedge, but was taken down by a single arrow fired by Daegalus. The creature fell, unconscious, and became easy prey for Itchybald and his mental attacks.

Daegalus and Itchybald were able to kill one chirog. Meanwhile, the beast that had mauled Psiryyk attempted to flee. It dragged its near lifeless corpse away from the battle. The third and final chirog, however, still has some fight left in it. After waking from its unconscious state, it turned its attention on Itchybald.

Eeshina managed to circumvent the entire battle thus far, sidestepping her way to the fire to help her bound aneen. Nilara stayed by Eeshina’s side and used a small dagger to free Tuss, while Eeshina healed whoever was within her reach.

And seemingly like magic, the battle was over. The chirogs were dead and our heroes left the scene to return to Aversil…

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