Dark Sun: Grave Burden

E08: Tooth and Claw

"The desert can be a host of many lost treasures and ever-persisting dangers. One of those omnipresent dangers is death." -- Otaa, elder elf of the Water Hunter tribe

The scourging crimson sun hangs almost directly overhead in the midday sky. A steady, heated wind slowly seeps over the canyon walls. The distant calls of wild beasts occasionally echo throughout the rocky gorges. With the old druid Veloc nowhere to be found, you begin to wonder what could have happened to him. The curse is still in remission now, but how long will Veloc’s magic keep undeath at arm’s length?

It is the 4th day of Mist. The party collects themselves after searching the hoodoo. Eyrth takes a rest within, and the party decides what they will do next. They decide to rest until the temperature outside reaches a bearable point so that they can travel. Eyrth watches outside while the others rest for four hours (enough rest for the enduring mul Nataku, but not enough for Dalamar, Kathaalis, or Asis). After awakening, Kathaalis explains to the rest of the group that there are two nearby settlements that may be of interest: South Ledopolus and Fort Glamis. The afidae says that Fort Glamis is closer and offers itself as a trading hub, so that the party could resupply. The group decides that in this case the fort is probably the best place to go first.

The party sets out a short time before sunset. The heat is bearable and the sky is dimmed, but the party will lose less hydration this way. Kathaalis leads, winding through the rock corridors, up and under ledges, and through sparse vegetation only to wind up back at Veloc’s hoodoo. The party is confused, but Kathaalis seems to have merely been putting on a deception. He then finds the absolute quickest way out of the badlands, and succeeds in avoiding any dangerous creatures that may have been lurking within.

At this point, Dalamar decides it best that he guide the group through the flat(ter) lands until they all reach Fort Glamis. Dusk falls like a curtain, and the moons Ral and Guthay begin to take on the crescent of light from a nearly set sun. The elf and the rest proceed through the desert.

Eventually, Dalamar sees strange silhouettes flying high in the dark red sky. They look to be circling around, but because of the distance, the elf cannot determine how large the creatures might be. The smell of carrion assaults the senses of the party like a falling boulder, and the group continues on to find a giant husk of some rotting beast laying next to some large rocks. The creature still looks to be moving!

Eyrth lets his enchanted bone trident fly through the air towards the squirming husk. It sinks in briefly before jutting back out and returning to the psychic warrior’s hands. The trident reeks of rotting flesh. All of the sudden, a larger silhouette rises from behind the large corpse. The group can make out the general features of the giant beast: A four-legged monster with chitinous plates covering most of its body, and fur where there are no chitin plates. Its nose alone is the size of a grown man’s head. And its incisors are long-enough to pierce all the way through one’s chest.

Dalamar instinctively shoots a couple rapid arrows at the animal, their cold magic streaming through the air. Asis does the same, letting a couple arrows fly (but neither penetrate the thick armor plating of the beast). Kathaalis also shoots the animal with his composite longbow. Eyrth approaches the creature after using an augmented version of his expansion power, and growing to match its huge size. The beast lets out a psionic wave of mental confusion, and all but Dalamar and Asis resist. Nataku begins to summon a water elemental, which gates into the material plane from the exotic plane of water. The being resembles a standing wave of water.

Dalamar is unable to speak or even perceive what exactly is going on as the confusion weighs heavy on his already-frantic mind. In his confusion, he attacks the beast with his cold-enhanced bow, and one of the arrows sinks deep into the creature’s chest. It lets out a thundering roar of agony that surely echoes throughout the desert for miles. Asis, failing to distinguish friend from foe, turns around and fires an arrow almost point-blank through the midsection of Dalamar. The arrow lodges itself into the side of the elf, and wedges against his hip-bone. Because of his state of confusion, he cannot perceive that his ally wounded him. He can only perceive the immense pain.

Eyrth attempts to grapple the ferocious beast either out of braveness or stupidity. This provokes a threat from the animal, who claws at the psychic warrior, wounding him deeply. Eyrth’s hold on the animal isn’t established and blood begins to stream down his body from the deep puncture holes in his flesh.

The monster takes another swipe at Eyrth. This time, its immense claws slash at the throat of the ex-gladiator, nearly severing his head entirely. Eyrth falls backwards to the ground, his expansion fizzling out. As he lay on the ground in his normal form, the life bleeds from his eyes as blood spews from his gaping throat. He dies almost instantly.

The water cleric Nataku rushes over to heal the wound that Asis inflicted upon Dalamar. He casts an advanced cure spell, which causes the arrow to slide out of the wound and then seals it. This causes a euphoric body feeling in Dalamar, and relieves the deep pain in a moment.

The confusion wears off of Dalamar and Asis, and the group non-verbally decides that with Eyrth dead it would be a wise decision to run from this terrible giant. They do so, with elf Dalamar running away first (and is gone from the scene in an instant). The others run a different way, and Asis runs head-on into a belgoi after making a sharp turn in a canyon. The creature’s bell gives a slight toll from the impact. Three more belgoi stand nearby, and look on with creepily blank expressions. One of them begins to ring its bell, and Kathaalis feels as if his mind is being invaded. The afidae staves off the impulse to give in, and he and the rest run back in the direction from which they came. Dalamar spots them in the distance and the group rejoins. They quickly leave the area and head to Fort Glamis.

The party —sans-Eyrth, reaches their destination after another hour or so of quick overland movement. They see the fort, which is composed of four tall pale-stoned walls, laying upon an elevated bed of rock. Its tall wooden ramps are drawn up, revealing that the fort is closed up for the night. Kathaalis spots a unnervingly still humanoid standing near the far corner of the fort in the distance. As the party sets up camp in a rocky outcropping, Kathaalis watches the figure for quite some time. It never moves.

The morning brings the 5th day of Mist, and the group collects their temporary camp and heads to the fort. The agafari ramps are lowered now, and the party heads into the outpost after a brisk search and briefing by the guards standing at the entrance. Nataku discovers that the well in the center of the fort is running out of water. Nataku also learns of the fortmaster, Bryphero. The water priest is told that Bryphero might be able to discuss the water-shortage in length, but not to expect a conversation with him because he “has been shut-in lately”.

Dalamar investigates the well and buys about a gallon of water from the well-guards for a ceramic piece. The guards inform the elf that no more than a bucket of water per person may be distributed in a single day.

Kathaalis and Asis browse the merchant rows, looking to buy new weapons, armor, and other equipment.

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