Thursday, December 1, 2011

Siege of Quitokai aftermath

In the several months since their arrival in Quitokai, the adventurers from Khanbaliq had, by their simple presence, discouraged the slavers from coming anywhere near. In that time Gwinch had instructed his followers, directing them in assisting a wandering monk to build a small shrine near the village. Gwinch and Kishi made peace and even discussed plans for resuming the “Emperor’s mission” to pursue the rogue Governor, based on information about a lost highway provided by the villagers. But he also had information about the location of the slavers’ local stronghold and was considering making an attack. Finally, he was curious to encounter and with some luck, befriend a tiger. Another traveller who stopped in Quitokai said that he’d seen such an animal one night at the shrine.

But all these plans were put aside when Quitokai was attacked by a combined force of the “jungle clans”—groups of people who unlike the agriculturalist of Quitokai, lived deep in the jungle. The attackers included the “Red Clan” and the “Wolf Clan” who employed half-trained wolves in their assault.

IMG_1267 by Brayo
IMG_1267, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.
Although Quitokai’s defenders held the compound, in the morning it was discovered that the raiders had made off with a number of animals, most notably about two dozen water buffaloes. Gwinch, Gunjar and Kishi decided that, on the whole, the villagers had been gone to them, and recovering the water buffalo might gain their permanent favor for future endeavors—whether seeking the lost highway or attacking the slavers’ citadel. One of the wolves had been captured; Gwinch tended the animal's wounds and relying on his past experience with animals, made a friend of him.

Accompanied by a young shaman and two warriors, the adventurers set off in pursuit of the raiders. The tracks of two dozen water buffalo driven through the jungle proved easy to follow and by about noon they would clear confirmation that they were gaining on the raiders—they came upon the aftermath of a large battle between members of two of the clans, plus about half a roasted water buffalo. After dispatching the oversized beetles who were feasting on the carcasses, the party discovered a survivor. The survivor, a member of the viper clan explained that he and his fellows had been grazing their water buffalo when the wolf clan ambushed them and killed many of his friends—and then stole the buffalo! Admitting that the buffalo were newly acquired, the survivor showed an abundance of fear-inspired hatred of the wolf clan and the party took him along with them.

As evening approached, they made a camp for the night, with four people on watch (Gwinch, Gunjar, Deng a priest from Khanbaliq, and Akoi the shaman form Quitokai). About midnight, Gwinch’s wolf began to howl in a way that Gwinch interpreted as a greeting. Gwinch heard some noise in the brush and very soon three men jumped out with knives and attacked Deng. Although the party overwhelmed the attackers by numbers, they found their weapons useless against them. One of the men had brought down Akoi and seemed about to tear out the shaman’s throat with his teeth when the party unleashed its magic. Deng paralyzed one of the three rabid men, Saisho blasted a second with magic missiles, and Kishi dropped a tree branch on the third—not killing him, but pinning him to the ground so that Saisho could finish him off with a blade of lightning. Akoi was saved—though badly wounded. (Gwinch's wolf ran off during or after the battle.)

In the morning, Gunjar put Akoi on his horse and sent him back to Quitokai, escorted by the two village warriors. The rest of the party pressed on. About an hour later, they reached a large clearing that held an old stone guardpost and an animal pen containing the missing water buffalo.

Water buffalo pen by Karissa Darvin
Water buffalo pen, a photo by Karissa Darvin on Flickr.
Three men were there, idly watching the beasts. The bulk of the party fell back into the trees and fanned out around the clearing, Kishi approached invisibly, and Gwinch, Saisho, and Gunjar approached openly, presenting themselves as travelers. The men—who seemed to be neither forest people nor farmers— but rogues from the lands of civilization, seemed to know their own kind and greeted the party with courtesy. When talked turned to the buffaloes and who their owners might be, one of the men went to get “the Lady.”

“The Lady,” explained that she had purchased the buffalo just the day before, and accepted the party’s word that they were stolen—she offered to sell them for the same price she’s paid for them—15 tael each. The party flatly refused to pay anything—although they offered to assist her in tracking down the raiders so that she might collect her costs from them. Violence broke out, and very soon the Lady and her men were dead. The party buried the bodies, looted the house, and decided to make their camp there, even though they still had several hours of daylight still, hoping that maybe the raiders would attack them there and save them the trouble of trying to follow their trail.

Towards evening, they received a surprise visit by a group of villagers from Quitokai. The villagers reported that some of their sister villages had also been attacked—these other settlements were less well-defended and had been completely overrun, and many of their occupants captured. The party decided to return the buffaloes to Quitokai and then to go to the other villages and try to find out what happened.

The trip back to Quitokai was uneventful and the atmosphere was generally joyful, at least for those without relatives in the other villages. While his disciples enjoyed a night of feasting, Gwinch went out to the shrine, hoping to meet the tiger. Happily, Kishi and Saisho accompanied him, both invisible, While Gwinch meditated in the little grove, the other two watched for trouble. And trouble came—eight villagers from Quitokai armed with spears. When the villagers pounced, Kishi blasted three of them with magic and the others fled into the bush.

IMG_0539 by Brayo

The party returned to the compound, ready for more treachery, but found everything as it should be, and they decided not to change their plan to help the people of Quitokai rescue their kidnapped relatives.
The next morning, Gwinch, Saisho, Kishi, Little Gamo, and Deng, together with Gwinch’s student-monks, and 5 villagers set off for Hoko, a village up the river.

by Brayo

They arrived and found it in complete ruins. Gwinch picked up what he though was the trail of the kidnappers, and the party followed it straight east, first through the jungle and then over grasslands and through thickets of bamboo. That night it rained, and the next day, the trail was difficult to find. After another hour spent traveling east without finding any clear signs that they were going in the right direction, the party opted to head toward the mountains to the north and the rough location of the slavers’ stronghold figring that would be the kidnappers’ ultimate destination.

Night brought them to the edge of the jungle, much thicker then what they’d been travelling through closer to Quitokai. Kishi used her magic to ascend into the air on a pair of fiery wings—looking down into the jungle she saw lights or other signs of human activity. The party made their camp. Again, Gwinch and Deng promised the others that they could spend the night in meditation while still keeping their senses alert to danger. Gwinch, for his part, spent the night in a tree on the edge of the jungle. Not long after the darkness was complete, he heard the sound of something man-sized slipping very quickly through it. As he climbed down the tree, he watched a gaunt human-like figure break through the undergrowth and charge down the slight slope toward the party. Gwinch leaped to the ground and cased after it, shouting to awaken his companions. Hearing Gwinch, the creature turned on him and charged.
Some of Gwinch’s student-sohei were among the first awake and one of them placed a well-aimed arrow in the middle of the creature’s back. Gwinch saw it burst out of its chest—bloodlessly. And the creature didn’t even falter. The creature reached Gwinch, parried his sword blade with its forearms and seized Gwinch by the shoulders. At this point, Saisho’s magic missiles hit the creature—it screeched and through itself at Gwinch, assuming the form of a spider that crawled inside Gwinch’s armor.
Using the ring that he’d taken from Omesa, Saisho commanded the spider to crawl out, and then placed it in a jar.

IMG_0080 by Brayo

In the morning, the villagers, shaken by terrible dreams, suggested to Gwinch that if his plan was to investigate the slavers’ stronghold, there were easier ways to get there then passing through or anywhere near that jungle. If they returned to Quitokai and followed the river and brought with them the girl who had escaped, they would get there sooner and safer. He agreed and they returned to Quitokai.

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