Episode Thirty Two - Into the Jungle
Episode Thirty Two – Into the Jungle (Level 13)
*In a huge round chamber at the heart of the palace, a great sun-light fueled crystal power’s the city’s shield. The shield is failing, being torn into by the Nassa-demon outside, and hammered away at by the huge golem-body of Gallister. There’s not much time left before the shield fails, and the city is in terrible danger.
*Mathis is gone, Carmenith is saved, Tannonlath is dead. Gallister is on his way, and the nassa is tearing away at Imminaron’s shields. King Idhion, King Enarran Amraseth, Queen Linwë, the oracle Aefain, and the gathered warlocks and wizards of the court are all witness to the psionic and shadow magic the heroes have used. Many are staring admiringly at Tobias, and more are staring in shock at Vash, murmuring about the reborn Emperor. Reactions range from worship to revulsion to fear.
*The rulers and heroes debate how to save the city, a tense argument with the sounds of the failing shield ringing over them. Enarran, faced with his son and hiding the fact that he’s losing his mind from his people, contributes little. Linwë, pregnant with Darius’ child and planning to sneak out with them, contributes less.
*The Feywild gate is closed. It had been failing for centuries, but when the Nemelethe came radiating out of it, King Idhion ordered his mages to destroy the enchantment that kept it open. Darius sends Catzin to the gardens around the gate to find the flower they need, while the debate rages on over how to escape and save the city. When Catzin returns, they have a plan.
*Just beyond the base of the cliff Imminaron stands on, lie the headwaters of a great river, which feeds out of the massive lake and flows down through the jungle into the sea, running down to a coast road through some of the most dangerous rapids and falls in the world. Where the river meets the coast, is a road, leading along the coast and through thick jungle, towards a “dead zone”. In the great conjunction of stars three month’s past, some places of old magic went wild, becoming wild or dead zones. If the party can reach the dead zone before Gallister or the Nassa catch up with them, they might just survive.
*Catzin exits the shield, invisible and stealthy, on one side of the city, while the others climb into a Viking-style longboat on the other side of the city, down the cliffs and well into the lake, but still within the city shield. As soon as they are in position, Catzin appears in mid-air in her Jharu true-glory form, attacking the Nassa and drawing it off of the shield. Her brave distraction buys the group enough time to reach the headwaters of the river, before the demon’s witch-priest catches the ruze and turns his massive charge to head after them.
*Catzin follows, harrying the Nassa, striking it and slowing it, as the group struggle to keep the longboat upright in the rapids. Tobias uses psionics to lift the boat over jutting rocks and bring it safely down falls, so absorbed in this task that he can’t do anything else. Ichtaca’s huge stature and massive strength are moving them faster and faster, and Vash, navigating and keeping them from hazards, is thrown overboard twice, though Tobias is able to fish him back out with psionics. In a wild moment of turbulent water and thrashing oars, approaching a deadly waterfall, Lyda takes one of Ichtaca’s oars to the head, and is knocked unconscious and over board, at a time when Tobias can’t help her. Darius moves fast, saving her from near-death. He rows away doggedly, shouting orders and keeping the group moving as a team in the deadly confusion. It’s a wild ride. Oars are lost, adrenaline pumps, and many times the group come close to the edge of capsizing or crashing at high speeds, a sure death sentence in this river, even without the race to outrun a massive demon.
*Meanwhile, the nassa is gaining on them. As they reach the coast and the final falls, and struggle to beach the boat and disembark, Darius looks up in horror, just in time to see Catzin be gored through by one of its huge teeth. She tumbles away, only to be snapped up into its mouth, limp at the feet of the witch-priest steering the creature inside that maw.
*Meanwhile, Gallister is fast approaching, cutting straight through the jungle while the party is following the curves of the river. Snowball follows his meteor body, allowing Ichtaca to see through her eyes through a spirit-connection. He’s gaining fast, and it will be a very close call to reach the dead zone before he catches them. The coast road is barely a path, one that cuts through deep jungle, and is overgrown and, in places, runs along towering cliffs, with parts half-crumbled into the sea.
*While Ichtaca leads all but Darius in a desperate run down the coast road, using his spirit magic to bend aside trees and brush, and calling spirit animals to guide them through shortcuts. Carmenith is barely conscious, and Lyda’s head injury has her staggering. Linwë shows surprising backbone, but is no athlete. Vash, Ichtaca, and Tobias (flying along with psionics), are forced to help them along, and outright carry all three at times.
*Darius uses his spirit connection to Catzin to extend the range of his shadow-step, crossing a vast distance with the simple spell, and arriving in the mouth of the demon-dragon, beside a startled eitharmos witch-priest. The eitharmos have learned from their mistakes. The priest and the creature’s mouth are magically shielded against ranged weaponry now, but they are not shielded against this. Darius battles the priest in the demons’ mouth, as Catzin bleeds out at his feet. He finds himself well out of his league. After a desperate struggle, he lands a lucky strike, and severs the organic tethers that connect the priest to his mount on one side, and the nassa careens to the side, on a collision course with the jungle. Darius grabs Catzin, ties his shirt around her rent belly, and dives out of the maw of the beast, falling towards the jungle below.
*As they fall to certain death, Darius opens his wrist, bleeding into Catzins mouth, and the vampire Jharu revives enough to spread her wings, slowing their fall into a painful crash landing that leaves them both further injured. Darius gives her more blood, and enough first aid to get her partway on her feet. He saves her life, but the wound was devastating, and she’s still reeling. He has to carry her. Her arms round his neck, he runs towards his friends, zoning in on them with the meteor bracers.
*The nassa crash-lands as well, still alive, but for the moment, unable to rejoin the pursuit. The heroes running along the jungle trail are forced to move stealthily, as they pass through eitharmos fortifications and sneak past patrols. The hunters are here in force, presumably after the ship, and the heroes themselves, thought to have gone down with it in the dead zone. It now makes sense why the professor couldn’t use magic to reach them, and why the ship crashed. The harlequin has gone down somewhere in the dead zone, and the eitharmos have been searching for it for months, with demon tracking dogs and no magic. They are taking heavy losses to the jungle itself, which has come to life here, and is hungry. Despite this, the eithalim have several camps set up along the edge of the dead zone, at least a thousand men, and another Nassa is nearby, ready to take flight.
*Darius and Catzin catch up with the others right as they reach the edge of the dead zone, where no magic, except primal will work. The worldfire presses down here, combining oddly with the dead zone, so an area of super-charged primal magic crosses over a zone where no other magic will work. The jungle has developed a predatory half-sentience, and reaches out with ravenous vines and hungry roots. It’s a terrible place to be forced to make a stand, but the edge of the dead zone is also their best hope. They have minutes before Gallister catches up with them, so they choose their battleground and wait for him just inside the border of the zone, Icthaca holding back the jungle with his spirit magic, and everyone praying that the god’s golem-body can’t cross over. Lyda has a few seconds to heal herself and the others, but Catzin is in no condition to fight.
*When Gallister smashes through the jungle, reaching them, and Tobias steps forward, trying to reason with the god. Gallister offers him safety for him and his family, offers him victory over his foes, a place of glory at his right hand when he rises again resurrected, a new, healthy body and power beyond his wildest dreams. All this, in exchange for the girl Carmenith.
*Tobias has heard this before. Despite the temptation, he refuses, taunting the god, working him up into a fury to provoke him to charge them. Unaware of the dead zone, and unable to sense it, Gallister thunders right into the area of null magic, and his constructed body falls apart into individual meteors. The dreamshard prison remains, gleaming, in the pile of meteors.
*Darius takes out his own dreamshard, and uses it to seal the weaknesses in the dreamshard, restoring it to its original strength. Gallister’s spirit is once again trapped, sealed away from influencing the outside world.
*The group drag the meteors out of the dead zone, and Carmenith touches as many as she can, absorbing most of them and leaving a handful of pebble-sized ones for the group to carry with them. Absorbing a volumetric equivalent of a football field full of meteor fragments has her buzzing with energy, revived and recovered, but giving off light and stuck in true glory form. They move fast into the dead zone, barely avoiding the hunters of the Eitharmos and their demon dogs.
*They travel for two harrowing days through dense jungle. At first, they are hard-pressed to elude the eitharmos, but Ichtaca can make the jungle part for them, and close behind them, and they soon pull ahead. He cannot sleep, though, and becomes exhausted, keeping the vines at bay with primal magic as Snowball leads them to the professor, and the downed Harlequin. Tobias is unable to use his psionics, and this is crippling, rendering him unable to walk, and in terrible pain. Catzin is ill, from some venom in the nassa’s bite, and can barely walk. Lyda’s healing magic won’t work, but she does her best with simple medicine to keep them going. Vash and Darius switch off carrying Tobias and Catzin. They find their magical vessel crashed near a cliff over-looking the sea, at the end of a long trench it carved through the canopy.
The Oracle Aefain gave Vash a book, a biography of his past life.
Runaway Queen Linwë has joined the group, in all her court finery.