House of the Beast: LoF Session XVI
Returning to the town, the adventures learn, through Ce-tan’s contacts, that Zayiid had joined the convoy he arrived with only a day before it arrived at Kelmarane. Having performed good works of healing on the members of the caravan, his story was not questioned, and his presence welcomed as a boon to the weary travelers. His exit from the meeting was followed by a quick departure northward, on foot.
Conversing amongst themselves, the group determine that, given their options, a return to the destroyed settlement to acquire the support of Ukar through the mountains was their best course of action. The merchant, and Pasha. Hassan Al’Din, offers a fine set of white mares for the travelers to take, at no cost to the party. Questioning his generosity, he blithely replies that success, and disposal of the carrion king would be good for business, however failure, and disposal of Ce-tan would be just as good for him. Apparently, whatever the means of their departure, the Pasha can not see them go fast enough. In a land of blood and sand, money talks. Leaving the meeting, they depart to find Ukar, the lone gnoll in the camp of slaughtered settlers.
While the Pasha was concerned only with his riches, Ukar, on the other hand, strikes a deal with the adventurers. In lieu of gold, her guidance through the mountains comes only at the price of the Carrion King’s death. For though some desire first the glint of treasure, for others blood is more valuable than gold. The horses however, would find no way to brave the pass which Ukar would lead them, and their bright white hides would attract undue attention in the den of their enemies. Sending them quickly on their way back to the city, the party departs toward the foreboding mountains of the Brazen Peaks.
As the towering mass of land begins steadily rises over the horizon, Ukar tells the story of her people. How these peaks, sacred to Lamashtu, were made to protect the gnolls, her favored people. Their very foundation lain upon the bones of the great hyena who birthed and suckled the gnoll race into existence. And of the Mother’s Maw, a great wound in the earth from which it is said all monsters on the earth have been born.
The sun sets upon their first night in the mountains. The air cool, but without discomfort. Awaking in the morning, however, it appears that Ukar has gone missing. Wary and distrustful upon her return, the adventures question her as to her wear about. Explaining that gnolls are primarily noctural, Ukar informs the group of travelers that she has spotted a detachment of gnolls, those responsible for the murder of the Zephyr Guard at the fortress.
Her story is quickly found to be true, as the party approaches the area from which she came, screams arise over the crest of a nearby hill. Peering over the area, a large gnoll is held by two others. His features are deformed, rotting with some sort of foul corruption, his mouth and tongue are destroyed. Wasting no time to ask questions before the encounter, the party quickly destroys the foul beasts with ease. The tortured monstrosity, it seems, was once their leader. Having arrived three days ago at the behest of Rokova, the gnolls were apparently told to stay put without further direction. After having been left, however, anxiety for pillage and blood drove them to slaughter at the outpost and Rokova has since, still not returned.
This name is not unfamiliar to Ukar. It seems that this may be the same beast she suspects of indirectly feeding her information. If true, she informs them, then it may be that a fellow Lamashtan is within the house of the Carrion King, working against the goals of his master.
With a long journey still a head of the group, Ukar leads them onwards toward the House of the Beast. This land, she says, once belong to the Three Jaws tribe. The death of the cheiftan’s son however, had boiled vengeance in his veins and driven him to lead his entire tribe to Pale Mountain to make request of the Carrion King. None had been seen since. Until a few weeks ago. An informant of Ukar had encountered a massive beast. A gnoll so incredibly large and strong that he dwarfed those who had encountered him. Though massive in stature, his mind was broken, bent only on destruction, no longer able to reason… and bearing the markings of the Three Jaws tribe.
Taking in this new information, and suspecting the worst for the rest of Ukar’s den, the party continues on their journey, entering into the White Canyon. A deep gash in the earth, some miles across. The day is spent in a precarious crossing over its white salt belly. Ukar has been through here many times. In one direction there lay enclaves of gnolls. Encampments and scouts would make passing through without detection nearly impossible. There is, however, another way. A dangerous pass of which even the gnolls will not into venture. Their guide explains she knows what exactly what it is, but it is called a “lightning lizard”, a fearsome foe of local renown. Crossing would be quick and free from detection by the gnolls, yet if not careful, or simply unlucky, a gruesome death could await. Weighing certain discovery against the possibility of a quick and uneventful passage, the party chooses to pass by the den of the lizard.
The cave lies approximately where expected. Though dark and forboding, luck, it would seem, was with the adventures as they snuck, light footed, across the beasts very doorstep. Grateful to have not woken, or attracted the attention of the many legged lizard, they quickly exit the area and continue on their way. Finding a place to bed down for the night, Splat the juvenile greer and Ukar stand watch as another night passes without incident.
One day closer to their quarry, the party sets forth in the morning. Passing deftly through the mountain terrain, the gnoll priestess leads them to the foot of a strange and ghastly sight. A human man lay dead upon a cross. Arms spread wide, his intestines lay, forcefully removed, at his feet. His eyes and features have been pecked clean by birds. More senseless cruelty or a warning of some sort, it is not clear. Passing him, however an occurrence as bizarre and unexplainable as many of the features of this land washes over the party. Colors invert and Ce-tan feels nausea wash over him. Not knowing what causes the strange effect that covers this area, Ukar offers only that the Carrion Tribe claim this turf as the area where Rovagug first once touched the world long ago, and that this place, is the very area where he began to unravel all of reality. The priestess, however, does not think this is in any way true, yet has no other explanation for its nature.
As they spend more time in the mountains, altitude sickeness finally begins to take its told on the party. The gnome and several others begin to feel its sapping power. Skilled in the art of medicine and familiar with the plants of the area, Ukar offers some sort of stimulant remedy to help fight the effects. As the mash of herbs takes effect, she explains that a powerful druid, leader of the Al’Carchaiv tribe controls this area and that it is said all beasts and even the sand answer to his call. The approach of sandstorms, however becomes of greater concern to the adventures, and quickly they find a cave in which to retreat. Waiting out the storm, night falls and the party makes wait for the morning. Suddenly however, in the middle of their sleep, dozens of ghostly scorpions are summoned directly on top of the group. Springing to they feet, the party handily dispatches the creatures, finding evidence of someone’s presence, a note is scrawled on a piece of filthy canvas. Leave now, or die a gruesome death….