The isle of the Face in the Rock was home to strange wonders and, as it turns out irate slugfolk. After a day’s worth of rest, Kai Leng, Mu, Rohan and their companions decide to head further inland to explore. Muskan stays behind, content to apprentice for the astronomer slugman.
The group follows a stream and comes upon a humble village set around a large pond. Lowly huts scatter to the sides, and lead the eye to a strange feature cut from the cliffside: the infamous Face in the Rock. Between the Face and the group however, lay several obstacles: the pond, and marauding fishfolk who’ve begun staring at the group in suspicion.
“Does anyone know how to speak their language?” Mu whispers.
“I do,” Esgreth, a Fasashi student, speaks up. “I speak their vile and worthless crab-language, yes.”
“Er, that’s not very polite, but maybe you can ask them if we can visit the face in the rock.”
“We can just kill them and go straight to the Face?”
“No! Oh gods, no. That’s a horrible idea. Please ask them. No killings, please.”
Esgreth shrugs and makes the hand gestures. From time to time, her violent movements are emphatically punctuated with outstretched middle fingers. The group looks at her, mildly horrified.
Luckily, the fishpeople, though offended, agree to escort them to the Face. The path they take brings them through the middle of the pond. As they near the carving, they begin making devout gestures towards the Face. “They’re worshiping the thing. Filthy heathens,” Esgreth mutters.
Just as she finishes her words, however, Esgreth is suddenly dragged underwater by one of the fishfolk!
Meanwhile, Kai Leng, who a few moments earlier decided to discreetly separate from the rest of the group, looks for things to steal. Or for things to turn into drugs.
From the poor, impoverished village of fishfolk. This is all a legitimate line of business. Obviously.
Kai Leng manages to stumble upon some iron ore, as well as a barrel of saltwater kelp that might be useful to keep. As he tucks the find away in his pack, he realizes to his fascination that the kelp was…sentient? Most interesting…
Back to the pond scuffle, Mu tries desperately to hold on to Esgreth as the fishfolk attempt to drown her. From what the group could understand, the fishfolk deemed that sacrifice was necessary to access the Face in the Rock. And, unfortunately, the strangely hostile Esgreth was as good a sacrifice as any.
“You know, that actually sounds pretty reasonable,” Rohan whispers to Leri. Leri nods in agreement. Unfortunately, Mu was having none of it, and refused to let the fishfolk have Esgreth.
Disgruntled, and without an ample sacrifice, the fishfolk eject the group from the village. Esgreth curses all the way.
“We should just kill them all!” Esgreth exclaims. “I have this, poison from the Ipixangga Clan! It dissolves in water — this should be enough to wipe out all those horrible creatures.” She reveals a vial filled with a foul, black substance. The contents were seemingly alive, pushing against the glass container in anticipation of a kill.
“Uh, no. Please no.” Mu, horrified, confiscates the vial with Kai Leng’s help. “If you hate other cultures, why did you even join Fasashi in the first place?”
“I believe the best way to eradicate non-human entities is to learn about them. Meet non-people, kill non-people so to speak.” Esgreth nods in satisfaction. “It has been a most fascinating experience thus far.”
Their conversation is cut short when Kai Leng realizes, to his horror, that the sentient kelp could move. And that one had escaped the barrel…and had latched on to his neck.
Crying in surprise, Kai Leng removes the errant kelp and begins to check everyone else for signs of infestation. Esgreth had several kelp happily attached to her legs. When peeled off, the kelp revealed smooth, pink, baby-like skin. “SEAL THE BARREL WITH TAR,” Kai Leng cries.
The companions quickly comply, sealing all openings to contain the strange material. Satisfied, Kai Leng nods and proposes that they move on ahead to the location of the Godsmoot.
They head out in the hot afternoon sun.
Their kayaks navigate the waters, under the skillful guidance of Kojo. Tired and exhausted, the group decides to camp out on a forested island. As the day ends, they set camp and assign watch for the night.
Kai Leng is first watch. His shift is uneventful, yet still somehow unnerving. He felt he was being watched, though no threat was visible. Unnerved, he ends his watch and passes it on.
The night deepens. Around midnight, the group is shaken awake by Rohan — a tiger is stalking the camp. Kai Leng takes charge of the situation and instructs the group NOT to make any large noises nor fire nor light, and to also double up on the guard assignments for all latter shifts. A fortuitous decision: not more than a few hours later, the group is rattled again, this time by the shouts of Esgreth, as her fellow watch Chan Chai is mauled by the tiger-like creature.
Kai Leng, Mu and Rohan rush out. Chan Chai is on the ground, incapacitated by the strange creature. The creature looks almost exactly like a tiger, though its fur was black and its stripes orange.
A Bhoot! The ghostlike remains of a strong-willed animal, come to haunt the island. And now it has set upon their camp.
The group acts fast. Kai Leng strikes the creature with excessive force, and Mu assists by quickly blinding it with a spell. In pain, the Bhoot turns invisible just as Esgreth plunges a spear into its body. Thinking fast, Mu casts Light on her oar and stretches it up high, revealing shadows cast by the unseen creature. Rohan makes the final attack, and the Bhoot disippates into inky smoke: alive, yet in retreat.
Nonplussed, the companions regroup and decide that this island may have dangers too much for their own capabilities. They push on in pursuit of the Godsmoot.
The Godsmoot island was tiny — in fact, it seemed practically overshadowed by the bleached whale skeleton lying on its shores. Along its beach, the group stumbles upon corpses, seven haphazardly strewn about. They also stumble upon the faint marks of human presence, carefully covered up…
Mu tries not to show her joy at the sight of the corpses. “It’s not disrespectful if we cut a few of them up and turn them into pack lunches, is it?” she asks Kai Leng in a whisper. Kojo, happy to help, takes out his knife and begins to make fillet cuts.
Rohan finds his high priest in one of the dead bodies. “No,” he gasps. Rohan kneels down to study the corpses carefully. What did they die of? Perhaps they fought amongst themselves, violently securing their ownership of the Summon scroll? But no…as Rohan investigates even further, he realizes that these priests did die fighting. But they died fighting together.
Meanwhile, Kai Leng explores the whale skeleton with Squiggy in tow. He sniffs the air. Herbs. As he approaches the skull, his sharp eyes spot crates and crates of excellent goods and spices hidden within.
“Fucking awesome,” the janitor whispers to himself, as he tips open a crate’s cover and inspects its contents. Opium, tea, herbs. This was easily worth thousands of silver, if not more. Holy shit.
Rohan confronts Leri and asks her about her high priest. He couldn’t find her priest among the corpses, so where was he now? And, more importantly, what does Leri really know? What happened here?
“I cannot speak of it. I already told you, I am incapable of telling. I’ve already helped you with this expedition so you can see it with your own eyes but — OH dammit, come on. You’re smart, figure it out!” Leri cries.
The group looks around once more. Clues…what clues should they be looking for? Mu spots a tree, unnaturally dried to a husk yet with no signs nor marks of burning. Rohan and Kai Leng consider the state of the bodies. Given what they know of the Topaz Dragon’s timely activity with the Godsmoot…the gears in their heads begin to whir.
They realize that the Dragon is behind the deaths. But why?
“Wait, is your High Priest the Topaz Dragon?” they ask Leri.
“What? NO! No he is not!” she replies, outraged and mildly offended.
“Was he working with the Dragon?”
“I…I don’t know. I don’t know what the dragon has to do with all of this,” the priestess admits.
There was one way to find out.
Luckily, not only did they know where the Dragon’s lair was, they also had a bounty of offerings to give it, thanks to Kai Leng’s excellent find.
This was the plan: first, they would approach the Dragon with open arms and offerings. In addition, Rohan and Leri would strip their clothing of any priestly vestments. Chan Chai‘s Yellow City Flag (why was he carrying it? It is a mystery) would be quickly tied to Mu’s oar to assuage the Dragon and let him know that the group meant no ill will.
That should get them in its good graces enough to ask a few questions. After that, the group would, very non-offensively and very cordially, get the hell out of the place.
Plan seems foolproof. Really, its core nugget was simple: DON’T PISS OFF THE DRAGON.
The Topaz Dragon seems to fill up even the very air of the cavern. Its incredible size meant that at any point the group could only see one facet of its body at a time; the rest lay in shadowy darkness.
“THIEVES!” it bellowed. “THIEVES IN MY LAIR!”
“Now now…we’re not thieves!” Mu cries, as Kai Leng offloads two or three of crates of the most choice loot.
Mu leads the conversation, spinning a yarn about how they admired the Dragon, how they were interested in exploring new cultures, and as it just so happens, very much interested in what Dragons do on a day-to-day basis…say, within the past six months or so?
Placated, the Topaz Dragon told its tale.
Several months ago, the Dragon’s most valued Makara scroll became lost. Stolen, by eight dastardly thieves from the Yellow City, each a High Priest from its own cult. The Dragon hunted them down, and killed them — but not before one of them escaped with the scroll. Leri gasps. The Dragon was describing her high priest!
“He thought he could escape me,” the creature continued. The Dragon described how he had carefully stalked the high priest, transforming into human form so it could follow the thief into the Yellow City. How it had slain the high priest, though it was too late: the scroll was gone.
The Topaz Dragon casually lobs a head into the group’s midst. “This is what remains of that thief.”
Leri tries to hold back her sobs.
The group and the Dragon come to an agreement. The group would “assist” the Dragon by publicly displaying the head in the Yellow City, and proclaiming that the Topaz Dragon would not suffer thieves in its lair. The Dragon would give them a topaz scale as proof for the Yellow City denizens…and would, of course, let the group go scot free and with no harm on their heads.
As they leave, Mu asks which body part the scale came from.
“You don’t want to know,” the dragon replies.
The group trudges back to their kayaks. Exhausted, they head back to the Yellow City, though not before they making a short detour to an unfortunately crabfolk-filled island. Daunted, the group decided that it would have to be an adventure for another day.
In the city, the group is lauded as the Knights of the Topaz Dragon. Rohan makes his (heavily edited and abridged) report to his cult, while Leri takes advantage of the death of her high priest to renounce his actions and position the Cult of Baku as a newer organization. Mu and her club have lots of new trinkets and trophies for the club room (plus! dead priest lunch packs aw yiss) while Kai Leng sits on a veritable hoard of loot.
The group decide to return the scroll to the dragon. After all, it’s absolutely the safest place it could be — in the protective claws of a genial yet possessive, and centuries-old, powerful creature. Of course, there’s the minor problem of stealing the scroll back from the University Library, but everything seems achievable after all the trials and tribulations they just overcame.
All seems well.
So long as the group doesn’t think too hard about the fact that the sentient kelp seem to be capable of escaping their tar-sealed container…or about the fact that miles away, a gathering of Bhoot have begun to muster and convene…or the fact that very, very angry smugglers have just found out that their cache was missing.
And gods forbid they find out that the Scroll was no longer even in Eastside.