We spent a peaceful night for once. The rest proved invaluable for what has been a busy day. We headed northeast, and the plains were marked by a single massive sickly sycamore, over 100 feet in height (B13). One particular find of note: near the tree I spotted a small rocky crag which the foliage had mostly concealed. I went down into the cave and found a large cache of glittering metal. Ce Me No and Tōgg confirmed my suspicion – we have stumbled upon a potentially rich vein of gold. We covered the area back up for now. We will try and turn it into a mine once we have finished mapping the region.
We continued on to the sycamore and examined it closely. The tree looked sickly, even close to death. A search of the roots revealed a hidden passage beneath them. Our friends the fey informed us that the tree was home to a large group of mites. They described the creatures as fellow pranksters, but less clever and more sadistic and sociopathic than themselves. Between that and the previous time mites attacked us in our sleep, we had a somewhat dim view of the creatures before we squeezed down into their lair.
Upon making our way in, we found the fey were spot on in their assessment. The place was filled with open latrines, as well as a collection of mites and giant centipedes feeding on a mixture of the effluence and raw kobold meat. Morrigan did her best to take a diplomatic tack to encourage the mites to relocate south out of charter area, even though such a move would have simply made them someone else’s problem. She spoke with their matriarch Quoggy, and tried to make nice by feeding one of the centipedes. She was poisoned and nearly lost some fingers in the attempt. She also pointed out that by using the area beneath the tree like an open sewer, the mites were likely to blame for the tree’s poor health. In that sense it was likely necessary for them to leave their home in order to save it.
However, their reluctance to go combined with the sound of them actively torturing something to death in the next room precipitated combat. The latter point also ensured that such combat was lethal in nature. In the end, forced but non-fatal relocation can actually feel more unsavory than giving someone a clean, quick and honorable death in combat. Happily, the mites and centipedes proved no match for us. I was able to spring over them to stop them from killing the creature they had hung up on their wall – a kobold.
The kobold introduced himself as Mikmek. He said that he was the sole survivor of a group of kobolds that had attacked the mites in order to reclaim a religious idol the mites had stolen. Seeing an opportunity for a peaceful accord with the kobolds, we took him along under our protection.
We cleared the rest of the lair out while searching for the idol. We encountered several more mites, and a couple of foes of note. One was an enormous centipede hiding at the bottom of a small chasm that we traversed. Morrigan was kind enough to cast what proved to be an invaluable protective spell on me as I stood at the choke point and the rest of the party got behind me. Ce Me No softened it up with several darts as Tōgg hurled magic energy at it, significantly weakening it by the time it reached the top of the chasm. Once it was up, I slipped inside its defenses and grappled and then pinned it.
The tactile experience was rather unpleasant, as the multitude of squirming legs were covered in filth, and I immediately felt the need for a bath. That need intensified as the combination of my new fleshgem spikes and Falayna answering my prayers to guide my strikes was vindicated. One really good squeeze was enough to pop the creature’s head clean off – though the triumph was marred by the sheer mess of its guts going everywhere. Ce Me No was likewise dismayed, as it made it impossible for him to effectively harvest its poison sacs.
Continuing upward, we came upon a final group of mites, with one riding upon a gigantic tick. Tōgg took down the majority of the mites by calling magical stones down on them, and we were then able to take down the tick as well, though its rider escaped us. With any luck, he will move as far south as his legs can carry him, and encourage any other mites he meets to follow him and steer clear of the Greenbelt. But we will keep an eye peeled in the event that he returns with a mind for vengeance.
We did finally find the idol, as well as a log of the “war” between the mites and the kobolds. It listed the assets held by each side. One particularly interesting bit was the fact that the mites reported the kobolds were in possession of a “shiny human ring.” We bound Morrigan’s earlier injuries, I changed my gore-covered robes, and with Mikmek in tow we headed east towards his people’s home (B14). The kobold lair confirmed the mite log’s account. The mites were outclassed in terms of numbers and weapons and wealth (though the kobolds do not necessarily attach the same values to the same objects as other humanoids might). Mikmek explained that the Sootscale Tribe was named for its chieftain, and they share his dark grey and black coloring, as well as a fondness for fishing… without a pole or net.
We found their lair inside a hillock surrounded by boulders. A sign indicates it was likely once a silver mine called “Oak Top.” We were “greeted” by one of the kobold sentries, who named himself Nakpik. I have no talent for understanding Draconic, and their Common was both limited and rough, but they were clearly overjoyed to see we had returned with their idol. We were swiftly ushered in to see Chief Sootscale, and he thanked us for “saving them from the curse.” Then, unexpectedly, he smashed the idol. He explained that there had been a power struggle between himself and their new shaman Tartook. Tartook had apparently convinced them all that they were cursed with some sort of affliction, and had used his magical powers to usurp the chieftain’s political power.
With the idol smashed, the shaman fled without a fight. Unsure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. The Sootscale Tribe is now quite happy to make an accord with us following the ouster of the shaman and the successful end of their war with the mites. This fulfills one of the charges sent to us by the Swordlords in Restov. But it is possible that Tartook will now gather a few followers and attempt to make the same kind of trouble the tribe as a whole has been making. We shall have to wait and see. In the meantime, the Sootscales have made us a gift of the shaman’s treasures, and we are to be their honored guests this evening. I will say one thing for my dietary vows – they spare me from having to try and keep down some of the more… “exotic” cuisines offered by the creatures we sometimes treat with.
The treasures included multiple interesting items – fiery crossbow bolts, elvish boots, magical dust, a scroll which will allow Tōgg to bewitch himself or us with the power of flight, a powerful magic wand, a finely made sickle of cold iron (perhaps of interest to Nishi), and a set of bracers that greatly resemble the ones Tōgg recently made for me. We will sell or keep these items upon our return to Oleg’s tomorrow. However, the most interesting item in the cache was a plain brass wedding ring. I dearly hope it will turn out to be Svetlana’s, as its return would be a good deed particularly apt to make Falayana smile. One more thing to look forward to upon our return to Oleg’s in the morning.
Though it does beg a question. Svetlana’s ring was reportedly stolen by the bandits. Was the kobold shaman in league with the bandits on their raids? Was the tribe simply trading with them? Did they instead cross swords, with the kobolds claiming the ring as the spoils of victory? Or more troublingly, did something or someone else more powerful slay the bandits, with the kobolds simply collecting the ring via scavenging? The necromantic death of the unicorn, the presence of the great serpent in the northeast and the undead legion in the north are all cause for concern. By contrast, the boar Tuskgutter almost seems a quaint threat. The others suggest that there is some dark and powerful magic afoot in the land – and it may well be growing.
After our return to Oleg’s, we shall head back out to finish mapping our charter area. It still includes three more areas in the southeast, as well as a final twelve mile wide band at the south of the area we have already explored. The serpent and the undead legion in the north may be approaching a level of threat that we can handle at this point. But I suspect we shall save them for “last,” first finishing our mapping and hunting for bandits – particularly the “Sneeg” fellow who roughed up Kesten on his way in – as well as going after Tuskgutter. Perhaps our friends the fey may have a bit more information on where either of these foes can be found. Or perhaps the patrons in Oleg’s common room will be able to provide some useful information. Though of course, gossip and hearsay are somewhat suspect right off the bat, and gossip and hearsay from those who are “in their cups” are even more so. We shall see…