The part had been traveling for about 2 days when they encounter a group of four teenaged forest-dwellers carrying, lashed to a pole, the body of a dead spider the size of a large deer. The young men were very proud of their trophy, and although only Deng could understand any of their language, the party all soon came to understand both that the jungles was crawling with spiders and that killing the large specimens was an important rite of passage. They also learned that the young hunters hailed from a village on the edge of the forest about eight days away. Although this represented a significant change in direction, the party chose to travel to the young men’s village.
With the assistance of the guides, the party traveled more quickly and were able to supplement their trail rations with forest food. They met other local residents along the way. But despite their large numbers, they were accosted by a pair of spider-riding goblins who were armed with long spears and demanded the party’s surrender. Saisho found that his ring did not enable him to control the spiders, and so combat ensued. The spider-riders were quickly dispatched, but the spiders themselves, sustained multiple volleys of magic missiles and arrows before dying.
That night, the group was awakened by the sounds of large creatures crashing through the trees and undergrowth. Although the creatures were not charging their position, they did seem to be moving in their general direction. The locals responded by shouting and stomping and shaking the trees themselves. Gwinch himself tried to approach the source of the sound, using the magic sword he retrieved from Icar the slaver to light his way. Although the creatures retreated some ways from the ruckus caused by Gwinch’s group, he was still able to locate them—three creatures each the size of a small house, with tails on both ends, ears the size of shields, and each a pair of teeth so long they almost touched the ground.
Approaching cautiously, and chanting a prayer, Gwinch reached out to touch and pet one of the elephants who reciprocated in kind. The other elephants, although more reserved, gave their own signs of non-hostility. Gwinch returned to the group and told them to shut up. The next morning the group continued on their way, now accompanied by the three elephants.
They reached the village of Mata without encountering any more spiders.
In Mata, the party encountered an elder with whom Deng could communicate freely, and got more information. Yes, a large band of fighting men had passed through the village several months ago. They came from the North, wore ragged uniforms and demanded information about a lost highway. The people of Mata had little information to give them. The soldiers pillaged and continued their way south toward Pasar. And within a few weeks, another group of men tore through Mata in pursuit of the first, and piling a fresh helping of misery on the local residents. But that was not there immediate concern. Their immediate concern was the evolving cunning of the spiders who lived in the jungle. Although the spiders had always been a menace, previously it had been of a brutish sort, most dangerous to people who entered the forest without proper preparation. But of late, they had allied themselves with the weird goblin creatures who inhabited the forest. Long a subject of legend and again, no match for a brave warrior in broad daylight. Together, these two ancient enemies were becoming a real menace not only within the dark forest, but in the fields and farms surrounding Mata and the other villages in the valley. The party said they’d see what they could do on their way back, and then went on their way to Pasar. They passed through other villages where they heard similar stories, but encountered no other adversaries. Reaching the market-city of Pasar, they said good-bye to the elephants.