OASIS of BEN-HADAR
After leaving the ancient city of Phalypragm, the party continues north towards fabled Oz-Oka. Crossing the dry savannah for several hours, they suddenly see a large area of lush vegetation and bubbling springs by midday. The sweet-scent of jasmine and yellow sweet-clover fills the afternoon air, as well as the soft-buzzing of countless honey-bees going about their evening business. Amongst this unexpected desert greenery, a stone temple sits, covered mostly in thick, rope-like vines. Dozens of towering Agafari Trees seem to silently stand guard over the ancient site. Judging by the archaic runes on its outer walls, this appears to be a shrine to the good Elemental Prince, Ben-Hadar, The Ancient Lord of Water and the Deep…
Amongst the party, it was perhaps little Basha that was affected most by the site of this sacred grove; for all the plants, trees, and abundance reminded him of his beloved Forest Ridge, and the endless lush greenery that he missed so much.
Surrounding this ancient shrine, the party takes notice of the multitude of fruit-bearing trees and bushes that fill this verdant area. Upon closer inspection, Basha, the halfling shaman, discovers that this fruit is in fact magical! With the mystical-knowledge of Tan’s arcane abilities, they identify and harvest a nice handful of these enchanted potion-fruits. As night approaches, the party decides to make camp here.
BY DEMONS BE DRIVEN
The night was mild, and with the added comfort of fresh spring water and plentiful supply of sweet and delicious wild-fruit, the group’s spirits were lifted for the evening. That night, supper consisted of cooked wild yams, roasted lizards, and rabbit-herb stew. With full bellies, the party turns in (though Leth and Hassimir do stay up to take first watch, which was mostly uneventful). After this watch ended, with Basha and Jub-Jubs taking second shift, things took a turn for the absolute worst! Sometime during the wee-hours of the morning, the duo hear the distant yapping of hyenas—or worse—Gnolls!
From beyond the camp’s light, a mob of Flind Assassins rush the party! Behind these Alpha-Gnoll warriors, a frightening sight; a rabble of undead Gnoll Zombies! To make matters worse, a menacing two-headed giant is amongst their ranks; a ferocious Ettin!
Leading these monsters, a bizarre, Gnoll-like demon. The monster is a devilish abomination known as a Bouda. These demons are beasts of vast darkness, summoned from the realm of shadow by powerful necromancers! They are the epidemy of rage, lust, and gluttony, whispered in tales meant to frighten even the stoutest heart—for they are the despoilers of the innocent, and eaters of children…
With a savage charge, the two groups meet head-on, slamming into each other’s ranks with untold fury. Using his divine will, the Air-priest Leth manages to turn the tide by banishing the Gnoll Zombies back into the shadows, and after a grueling battle, were able to destroy the ravenous Bouda and the rest of its Gnoll allies.
After the bloody confrontation, the party is able to recover several valuable pieces of jewelry from the demon’s ashen corpse, as well as a large bag of precious gems from it. It seems that these beasts may somehow be connected to the Gnolls the party has been battling these past few weeks as they traveled north. Examining the corpses of these hyena-men, the group discovers that they all hold tattoos and brands of a “Scorpion” icon…
The following morning after the confrontation with the Bouda Gnoll-demon, the party gather what edibles from the lush grove they spent the night in, and continue North. According to the ssurran ranger Kassak, the desert outpost of Jawbone Ridge is close, and the party should be there by sunset. Along the way, the group notices several more large patches of dead, scorched earth, and whole valleys of desiccated wildlife covered in grey-salt; the mystery continues as to why this phenomena is occurring on these savannah lands. Is this all a natural occurrence, or is something more supernatural or sinister at play?
When asked what he knew about the comings and goings of the outpost, Kassak stated that he has stopped there numerous times in his wanderings, mostly to trade pelts and rough gems for supplies and strong-drink, and the occasional card game at the local pub. He said that over the past few years, a vile element has been coming into the village more often, mostly rabbles of Gnolls and Gith, causing problems for the local village guards. The party hopes that they don’t encounter any trouble there…
BLOOD-BATH at JAW-BONE RIDGE
A dozen lines of smoke rise from the horizon, as scenes of death and destruction abound throughout the sizable corn fields surrounding the small wasteland outpost of Jaw-Bone Ridge. Seeing the mutilated, arrow-riddled dead villagers, and large patches of burning crops and dead beasts of burden, the heroes pull out their obsidian blades and quickly head for the besieged settlement, ready for battle!
As they enter the village, they witness a horde of savage Gnolls raiding, killing, and pillaging the outpost. The villagers, mostly simple farmers, fight valiantly against these snarling monsters, but the sheer numbers of these merciless hyena-men is overwhelming. Thick smoke and fire blanket most of the village, and everywhere you look, scenes of violence and cruelty raining down upon the inept villagers of Jaw-bone Ridge—a complete and utter BLOOD-BATH!
Amongst the furious horde of mange-skinned canine killers, a lone Dwarf Warrior fearlessly rages-on, his gigantic, flint-crafted Dwarvish war-axe cleaving and chopping into the ranks of these Gnolls. The heroes see this and join the dwarf in the battle against the Gnolls. Suddenly, from out the fire and smoke, more Gnolls appear, as well as a trio of Ettin, with one in their number being a Witch-doctor! Leading this mob of beasts, a ghastly Alpha-Gnoll who appears to have the vile taint of demon’s blood! The Gnoll leader wields a massive, three-pronged flail, whose heavy bronze-heads pulse with demonic energy!
The battle is furious and bloody, quite possibly the greatest challenge the heroes have faced thus far, as they not only deal with the savagery of the Gnoll tribals, but also contend with the Ettin’s brute-strength and magic and the Alpha-Gnoll's demonic might!
Its' utter chaos! Blasts of lighting and fireballs reign down upon the party in a vicious succession, as the Ettin Witchdoctor calls upon the darkest powers of evil to power his magic! Elsewhere, a mob of Gnolls attempt to overwelm the giant Terric en masse, but the hulking Braxat battles-back, picking several of these savage Gnolls off his shell like Tyrian sand-tics, and hurling their yapping bodies hard against nearby structures, splattering them into piles of red-goo and shattered bone!
During the course of the carnage, the party manages to fell the Alpha-gnoll and savage Ettins as well as take care of most of the Gnoll barbarians, but just as the tide looked as if it were going in our hero’s favor, a loud, terrifying roar echoes throughout the Athasian night sky; high above, a flying abomination appears! It has the body of a large lion complete with giant scorpion’s tail and a lion’s head, as well as two other monstrous heads, that of a goat and a silvery-white dragon! A Chimera! A hideous, beast of legend! The flying atrocity tucks-in its massive platinum-scaled wings as it barrels furiously towards the heroes below, swooping down close enough to blast the party with a vicious cone of desiccating necrotic salt-crystals! For several tense moments, the party battles the draconic horror, with several of the party being slammed-back to the ground with devasting wounds from the necro-salt blast and the chimera’s vicious claw, bite, and scorpion tail attacks. With a combination of magic, brute-strength, and a heaping helping of sheer, dumb-luck, the group manages to injure the flying beast bad enough to cause it to flee.
Seeing the death of their demonic Alpha-gnoll leader and the retreat of the Chimera, the remaining horde of Gnoll tribals flee with dozens of slaves and ill-gotten gain, back into the shadows of the cold Athasian night.
Two figures stand, overlooking the aftermath of the carnage left behind by the Gnoll horde's devastation. “Plutak. Plutak Star-Hammer”, the burly dwarf warrior says to Tan-Oz-Gora, as he produces a small stone flask of Dwarven whiskey, takes a deep swig, and offers a snort of the spirits to the young half-elven mage. Tan nods and obliges, nearly burning his throat as he swigs it down.
The battle was won. The Gnolls and Chimera driven off. All was quiet…For now…