Part 8: Breaking The Bad Ape
Alena started heading into the forest at dusk the party, her intent on locating the riches therein. She quickly located the trail of the priests of Set and followed them relentlessly. Jorta was following but not looking well. The affects of the yellow lotus still bleeding her dreams into reality. After hours of walking she found some rocky ground where the tracks seemed to disappear. The party hunted for as long as they could spare for the tracks but could not find the them again. They continued forging a path north through the forest. During the dark march the yellow lotus takes a hold of Jorta and she wanders away from the party thinking she is cheating Lord Cyrill. A distressed Lord Cyrill alerts Dunk who thinks he can quickly bring her back. Unfortunately for him she is a lot stronger than she looks and her passion for the squirrel much greater. The party becomes separated.
Alena, Maheen and Arcandur are tirelessly trying to track down the trail of the priests and don't notice the others are missing for hours. When they do it is around 3am and the party are exhausted. They also notice the sounds of horns in the distance. They decide to sleep for a few hours in a tree and hope to locate the missing members the next day.
The party awakes at dawn and begins marching north again and stumble upon an old road. While walking upon this they hear the horns again. Arcan uses his powers to divine what is coming and is very afraid. He grabs the other party members and tells them to run!! They do. They run hard and fast. Soon ape like men appear on the road behind them chasing them down.
The party runs into a vine-covered stone ruin not far from the old road just as the four beastmen in the war party overtake them. The structure has no roof, but the walls look to be about two feet thick, and still stand about 10 feet tall. There are several old embrasures choked with vines looking out toward the road. The embrasures are awkwardly high for humans, at least 5 feet above the ground. Suddenly a huge apeman emerges from the treeline and hurls a primitive bolas. The crude rock and vine weapon spins around Arcandur legs and he drops hard to the ground. Three more apemen charge into view and sprint forward.
Alena spins and draws her swords, rushing forward to protect the downed companion. The beastmen are on her. She fights furiously her swords cutting into their thick fur and corded muscles but she is not fast enough to avoid their blows though as they begin raining down on her. Arcandur also is struck with a club. Maheen remains too far away to be hit.
Maheen draws her bow and fires at the creatures while Arcan is unable to free his legs, he unhooks his crossbow and shoots into the side of a creature that seems to ignore his wound through battle frenzy. The three realise they are fighting a losing battle as the alpha wades in. Alena takes a heavy blow and is crushed back by the creature's giant obsidian spiked club. Together she and Maheen focus their might and manage to down one of the lesser apes while the other two and the alpha surround the doomed and trapped Atlantean.
In desperation, Arcandur plucks out a small packet of clear crystals and slams it on the ground next to him. A thunderous force explodes outwards around him, engulfing everyone. In a cloud of dead leaves and dirt, everyone is hurled backwards. Through some sort of sixth sense Maheen twists under a fallen log, shielding her from the force, to quickly rise unhurt. Two of the apemen lie still, their necks and limbs twisted grotesquely. Alena pulls herself unsteadily to her feet, a trickle of blood from her nose as her eyes stare dazedly. The alpha impossibly has remained on his feet, a furrow in the ground before him where his bestial hand had torn at the ground.
With a terrifying roar the alpha launches himself forward, his club a blurred circle. Alena attempts to clumsily party, but the club smashes through her defense and crushes her to the ground where she lays gasping before falling still.
Maheen manages to get a shot off at the huge hulking creature but it ignores the wound as if it was nothing. It's black eyes locked on her and its maw opened, its teeth bared in a horrific rictus grin. It's chest puffs out and it begins to hoot and snarl, its lip curled back. A wheezing, shaking roar can be heard in an awful parody of bestial laughter. It begins to lurch forward before sliding to the ground, hooting and wheezing, its limbs thrashing on the ground.
Arcandur draws a dagger and saws through the binding vines. Rising unsteadily, he casts a worried look at the fallen elf before approaching the thrashing beastman, dagger held uncertainly in his hand. Maheen appears at his side and they pause, before Maheen turns urgently and says "the yellow dust"! Arcandur looks at her, his eyes widen before a grim determination settles on him.
The alpha stares up at the sky in primordial fear as Arcandur walks over to it, takes his back pack off and starts to rifle through it. He pulls out a small bag full of some yellow powder that he decided to take off of the priest’s of Set boat. He begins to sprinkle it down over the inhaling laughing maw of the creature. It has no choice but to breathe in the powder. More and more of it is poured onto its face. Its eyes begin to water and go blood shot. Soon its nose is dribbling yellow mucus, and then blood. It continues laughing. Laughing with its whole body except its eyes. Its eyes filled with fear… and then death.
Maheen and Arcandur stabilise Alena and then put her over Arcandur’s shoulder as they carry her away from what is left of the huge creatures. They walk west for about an hour until they find a clearing at the base of a hill and prop Alena under a tree to rest.
Firelight flickered softly across damp leaves and bare stone. Set in the base of an earthen knell, nestled between thick twisting roots of giant thick canopied jungle trees, and worn blocks of a cast down ruined wall, the fire sputtered and hissed.
The soft glow from the camp didn't even reach the edge of the knell before it was smothered by a blanket of darkness. Far above through tiny gaps stars sparkled in the night sky while lower down white moths and glowing beetles fluttered over the three figures around the fire.
A tall man wrapped in a leather cloak was propped against a large twisting tree root between the fire and a small shuttered lantern. The light played across a bundle that he leaned over, his dark eyes focused intently on something that he worried at with a sharp pointed dagger. Before him laid out on ruled out cloth were several small vials of liquid and pouches with a small mortar and pestle in the centre. An acrid scent still lingered in the air, mixing with the earthy small of rotting wood and damp.
Across the fire, a slender woman lounged against a sprawled mass of cloak, bedroll and carefully placed silks. Her luxurious dark hair cascaded over leather clad shoulders as she drifted her bored gaze across the knell. Two silver coins flashed in her left hand, dancing amongst her fingers. Every now and then, the coins would meet and clink together, and she would wince slightly but wouldn't stop the movement, almost as if she wasn't even aware of the coins in her hand.
To her right and up higher, an lithe figure was curled amongst a mass of roots and long hanging vines. The firelight shone lightly across her delicate face and the twin hilts that stood above her shoulders. Her eyes were closed with a serene expression across her ageless face as though she was dreaming in a still sleep.
The stilled pose fooled neither of her companions, one who's cunning eyes sparkled beneath heavy lashes and revealed little of how much she actually saw and the other whose intense gaze hungrily devoured tiny details when they occasionally flickered up from the bundle of leather and bronze.
Around them, the jungle was alive with crickets and the chirps and croaks of frogs. Hoots and cries echoed from high in distant trees punctuated by occasional yipping barks or coughing abrupt roars. At one point, a far away strangled scream shattered the noises, the cry desperate and shrill echoed across the valley before abruptly ending and a pall of silence covered everything. The two around the fire sat up and peered into the darkness before looking back to the figure in the above them. She was leaning forward, a blade having materialised in her hand as her eyes flashed in the firelight.
Gradually the crickets started, their chirps hesitant before building back and slowly the other creatures joined in. Only then did the elf relax, eyes closing but blade still resting reassuringly in her hand. The others slumped wearily back.
As the fire slowly died down, there was a crunching noise followed by a triumphant chuckle, the man held up a leather wrapped bracer with a spine of burnished bronze. Turning it, a faint gurgling sound could be heard that faded after a short moment. Picking up the bracers twin, he started working a point, pausing to refer to the first, before with a twist, another crunching noise and a gurgle as some strange liquid was freed from within.
Holding the pair up to his expectant companions, he said in a soft voice "capillary fed chambers with a quicksilver reservoir, tundra wolf leather padding and a hardened bronze spine". Running his finger along the metal he continued " the metal will catch and throw off most blades swung lazily, but the cunning part is the metal waters within". Leaning forward, he tapped different spots "twist like so and the waters move suddenly, lending weight and speed. They won't add to your blade work, one arm will fight the other. But combined and you can move faster, maybe duck the club of the maddened ape monster".
He stopped turning the bracers and his shoulders seemed to slump, staring into the metal, his gaze grew distant and his face was tinged with sadness. His voice dropped to a murmur that barely carried " these are old works... their time is lost as dreams amongst the ash...". He fell to silence, and only the flickering light from the dimming fire stirred amongst the stilled camp.
The elf opened an eye lazily. "Wizard. I seek to claim what you offer" she unfurls her legs from their position and gazes down at him. "I understand the compulsion to protect the beauty and give her the prize you have kept hidden since the tower, but I am the one who almost died trying to save us".
She looks at the fire, her eyes appear to be picturing a different scene, her mind is gone from this place, she is in pain. "I need them" she says it quietly.
The wizard looks up and says "You cannot have them - for you wear armour".