When we left off, our heroes found themselves ambushed by Druun the Gorgon and his Valk riders. Hawk, still holding the weak form of Kiran of the Haakora tells Shangor, who is carrying the wounded Sylph, to take Kumal the Smiling and she will take of Druun the Gorgon. However, before the Valk can unleash their deadly barrage of arrows, the scene is interrupted by a Kyrosian officer.
The officer rushes into the square, followed by many other soldiers, some of them half naked or drunk, as if abruptly interrupted halfway through the pillaging. “Alarm! Alarm!” he shouts: “All men to the walls! You, dogs, follow me!” The officer is so worried he doesn’t even notice that the party and the Valk are in the middle of a standoff.
“What’s happening?” The Gorgon asks the officer. “An army was sighted an hour ago, coming from east. They are Sulapulians, come to help Azagara! We must rally at the gates immediately, or we’ll be crushed!” Fear floats across the Valk’s face. He and his men left their horses by the city gates, as you cannot sack a city while being in your saddle, and the idea of fighting on foot is frightening to a Valk. Druun orders his men to put down their weapons. “We’ll continue later,” he promises with an evil grin. Hawk readily agrees to that. Then the Valk run toward the gates with the other soldiers. “Come on!” the he officer shouts at the party. “We need you too!”
Kiran tells Hawk that this would be the perfect time to leave the city and to make for the jungle. Despite this, Hawk and Shangor both feel a responsibility to join the other soldiers of their army in the defense of the city out of loyalty to General Tunamos. It is quickly decided that Sylph, Kiran and Jura will stay in an abandoned building while Hawk, Shangor, Katrina and Sul’khaz will go out and fight the Sulapulians.
The army that forms ranks outside Azagara is a feeble one compared to the army that took the city this morning: Only four hundred and fifty warriors take the field against a force of twenty five hundred. Tunamos puts on a brave face as the clash begins.
In the first phase of the battle, the remaining Valk cavalry fire a few volleys of arrows at the Sulapulian heavy cavalry before being crushed by the enemy counter attack. What is left of the Valk forces ride off into the jungle. Despite this, the mercenary army’s center holds presses forward. This proves to be the Tunamos’ undoing. Without the Valk to guard their flanks, the mercenary army is quickly surrounded. Sul’khaz is stuck down by a blow to the head and Katrina takes his unconscious form back to the city. Shangor and Hawk fight valiantly beside General Tunamos until he surrounded by the Elephant Tusks, the heavy infantry of the Sulapulians, dragged from his horse and slain. With the death of Tunamos, both Hawk and Shangor feel that their obligations have been fulfilled and realizing that either death or capture will be their fate if they remain on the battlefield, they both escape to the temporary safety of the city. Katrina had made an effort to return to the battle but (wisely) decided to remain in the city as she could plainly see that Tunamos’s army was doomed from the vantage point of the city walls.
With the fall of the mercenary army, the Sulapulian army moved into Azagara to slaughter the remaining mercenaries that had been too drunk or too caught up in pillaging to answer the call to battle. Before the walls could be breached, the heroes managed to escape the city with a cart to carry their wounded.
Once in the jungle, the party realizes that they will not be able to keep either the cart or their horses. They do manage to find a place to camp by a riverside as Kiran washes away that last of the silver markings that had held him powerless for centuries. Of course, Kiran does not know the true passage of time between his imprisonment and his release. He believes that it has only been fifty years whereas the heroes believe (correctly) that it has been much longer than that. For the most part, the heroes try to humor him. Kiran tells story of his people around the camp fire as Sylph and Sul’khaz rest and recover enough to continue the hike in the morning.
On their second day in the jungle, the party discovers a milestone which Kiran identifies as a marker along the Path of Light that will lead them to his city and his people. Despite the obvious fact that it has been years since anyone has followed the path, Kiran continues to believe that it has only been fifty years since his capture.
Along the path, Hawk spots a blood trial. While the rest of the party continues along the Path of Light, she investigates and finds a wounded Kyrosian soldier who identifies himself as Rakhim. He is a survivor from the battle but his leg wound has become infected. Hawk gives the man some water and checks his wound only to find that it is mortal. From looking at Hawk’s reaction, the solider realizes that his fate has been sealed. Rakhim asks Hawk for the mercy of quick death, rather than the long and painful that he will face with the infected wound. Hawk solemnly agrees and returns to the party.
Further in the jungle, the party narrow avoids quicksand and Katrina is bitten by a deadly snake. Fortunately, Sul’khaz manages to suck out the poison. The party also finds a human skull in brush. The skull shows signs of teeth marks, which Kiran identifies as the sign that the person was killed by one of the man eating apes that live in the area. Immediately after this, a hulking gray form swings out of the jungle and snatches Jura. Shangor and Hawk immediately race after the ape, even taking to swinging on vines to keep up with beast. Katrina takes off on foot while Sul’khaz, Sylph and Kiran remain on the trail.
Hawk and Shangor eventually catch up the ape who settles in a small clearing, casting Jura aside like a toy doll. As they move to engage the ape, two more apes drop in to the clearing in engage in battle with heroes. Not only must they fight the apes, but they must also contend with the various items that the less brave apes are throwing at them. Katrina arrives soon after and is quickly reminded that she is much more effective with a bow than a sword but she only has two arrows left after the battle.
Kiran is not one to sit idly by and heads off into the jungle. Sylph tries to persuade him to stay put but he resists, leaving Sylph and Sul’khaz little choice but to follow. By the time they arrive, Jura has been recovered and the apes that moved into the open have been slain but it sounds like the entire cannibal ape nation is about the fall upon them. Everyone runs.
The party runs until they cross a river that the apes seem afraid to cross.
After reaching a place where the group can catch their breath in relative safety from the apes, Kiran comments that his people had nearly wiped out the apes and he is surprised that they had replenished their numbers so quickly. Sul’khaz makes a comment that it is too bad that Kiran and his people did such a half assed job. Thankfully, Kiran does not hear that. Sul’khaz also points out that this is further evidence that Kiran’s people are likely long gone. Despite that, Kiran tells everyone that this part of the jungle is familiar to him and that they are near an outpost of his city. An hour before dusk, Kiran is proved right as the party does find the outpost.
A ziggurat is found half engulfed by trees, further evidence of the decline of Kiran’s people. At the top of the ziggurat, they party finds a brazier. Kiran points to a cloud covered mountain and identifies it as the city of Haak. However, nothing can be seen through the clouds. Kiran opens a hidden compartment and pulls out blocks of fuel which he places in the brazier. He tells the heroes that once night falls, he will burn the blocks which will light a beacon that let his people that he is here and that the city will answer.
Before nightfall, Katrina does some exploring of the surrounding area. She discovers several poles surrounding the ziggurat. These poles are topped with human skulls that are decorated with feathers. She shows this to Kiran who identifies them as markers that are supposed to keep strangers away under threat of a terrible curse. That does little to lighten the mood.
As the night falls, Kiran burns the blocks of fuel in the brazier. As the fire burns, he speaks a spell in his native tongue that causes the fire to turn into a massive pillar of blue light that stretches into the sky. Sul’khaz points out that not only will this alert the city of Haak, but it will alert anyone else out there too. Kiran waits for hours and finally, just before dawn, a blue light briefly shines from the far mountain top. However, the joy is short lived as Sul’khaz is proved to be right. The light of dawn reveals that the ziggurat is surrounded by an army of jungle warriors armed with spears and axes. The intentions do not appear to be friendly…..
Until next time.