Will and Slabian gathered the remaining wagoneers, while Guardian recovered his strength and Kami and his Simians kept guard.
“There’s enough men here to get the wagons on their way— just enough,” stated Will.
“Should we return to the Visage?” asked Slabian. “Or hadn’t we better protect our investments and escort these goods on their way?”
“I have no pressing business in the Visage,” stated Guardian, already mounting his Rhinox.
Only Kami stayed silent, looking to the East— his homeland— wondering what his return would bring…
The primaries of the Eastern Trade escorted their caravan east. On the third day, they came upon a walled village. One great section of the walls had been torn down and several buildings demolished. The damage was obviously recent, and repairs had only just started.
The rich caravan was welcomed into the damaged village of Duskyglade, and introduced to its leader, the magnificent Claudius. Claudius told the party that the great tentacled beast they had encountered, or one very similar, had attacked Duskyglade, tearing down the walls, killing their shaman, and destroying his temple, among other nearby buildings. When told the creature might already be dead, he was disappointed. Having the repairs under way, he had arrogantly intended to ride out and hunt down the creature himself.
The party inquired if anything had been taken from the village in the attack. Claudius didn’t know, and directed them to the lisping youth Poppy who had assisted the shaman and was now serving in his place. They found Poppy conducting rituals in the ruins of Duskyglade’s temple. He stated that, yes, the village’s holy and magical golden bowl had disappeared during the creature’s attacked. He described very accurately an item disgorged by the slain creature— there was no doubt now the party had slain the same beast which had attacked Duskyglade.
They returned the golden bowl of Duskyglade to Poppy, who enthusiastically began to recount the many other treasures the beast had taken. The party didn’t need Will’s mind reading to determine him to be lying, but Will saw his anxiety at his youth and inexperience, and his many siblings he supported to be the cause for his apparent greed. The party told him to make up a list— a very specific list— and if they had found any of the items on that list, they would return them.
As the party left the ruined temple, they saw Claudius in conversation with a regal-looking [Rus]. Claudius introduced Hetman Averjin Kargin de Rasputina of Novavskorsk, who explained that he had been tracking this tentacled creature for some time, and was preparing to set out again with Claudius to slay it. He seemed quite upset to have had his quarry taken before he could reach it. Guardian’s natural belligerence seemed to draw his attention and a few pointed barbs of his own. Rasputina cast scorn on Guardian and Hetman Vladimir Romanov, the third member of ruling Triumvirate of the Sentinels of Kore.
Rasputina stormed away, and Claudius stated that Duskyglade would hold a feast in honor of their visitors returning the golden bowl to them. Slabian spent his time wheeling and dealing in the main square, taking a huge haul in local crafts that appeared Gnomish in origin. When time came for the feast to begin, Guardian saw Rasputina riding out of town, and followed on his Rhinox.
Scarcely had the first insults flown before Guardian swung his mighty maul at Rasputina, smashing his shoulder. Rasputina was obviously a skilled horseman and attempt to evade, yet the sure footed Rhinox was able to keep up. Yet the hissed to Guardian, “Let him flee! Your masters command it!” Guardian reigned up and watch Rasputina ride away. Guardian wheeled his Rhinox back towards Duskyglade, but before he could reach it, a shot was fired from the direction Rasputina had fled. The mighty Guardian shrugged it off with a scowl and a foul gesture, then returned to the feast where he got mightily drunk, offended the citizens of Duskyglade, and passed out.
The next day, it was obvious Claudius and Duskyglade were glad to see them leave.
The caravan traveled on for a few days more along the ancients’ decayed stone roads. Slabian’s keen Moon Elf eyes spotted something unusual— a giant Eagle flying high in the sky, then landing. It would rise again, circle, and then land, each time approaching closer. The party was thus warned when, as they reached a bridged crossroads, a tremendous mammoth riden and surrounded by numerous large ogrish creatures rode into site.
Each ogre was easily as large as Guardian. They were giant twisted parodies of men, with mishappen foreheads, tusk-like teeth jutting from their thin lips, and arms too long and too muscular for their form. The mammoth itself was enormous, approaching twenty feet tall. Across its back was secured a platform carrying various goods the ogres had found value in, as well as the three riders. One in front acted as mahout, prodding the mammoth with a long spiked staff to control. One in back began to swivel a tremendously long rifle on the party. Between stood a shorter ogre, garishly decorated in feathers and skulls.
Guardian recognized this fiend— the ogre mage who had once left him for dead. He brought up his Ebon Lance and fired. The Necromantic energy struck the mage, but the wiry wizard managed to shrug the blow off. With a flick of its wrist and an utterance in some vile tongue, the mage turned one of the ogres on the ground into a giant spider. It bounded up the road and onto the wagon before Guardian, leading a mob of ogres to follow and sinking its poisonous fangs into his chest.
The mighty war mammoth approached the remaining bridge span and raked its mighty tusks across it, smacking both Will and Slabian as well as the caravan’s lead wagon. Slabian backed off, firing arrows at the mahout ogre until he fell lifeless from the mammoth. Will summoned the debris from the fallen bridge span to encase the mammoth’s neck like a collar. The beast was too tremendous and shattered his restraints.
Kami led his lieutenant and remaining minions to meet a second group of ogres head on. The mage again waved his arm, and the lead ogre transformed into giant, poisonous snake. The simians battled desperately, defeating most of the ogres but falling themselves. Kimi himself suffered from a poisonous bite of a snake, but Slabian firing from the bridge was able to finish off the beast.
The mammoth now wandered uncontrolled. The mage began to shout commands and magically control it, heading across the bridge for Will as Slabian slew the gunner on the back. Will began to overpower the mage, commanding him to sleep. The mage drowsily resisted and threw an evil hex upon Will, which only just failed to take hold.
With Guardian powering past the poison to pulverize the spider-shaped ogre and its minions, the mage had no more allies. With Will’s commands preying upon its spirit, the mage summoned the last of its strength and launched himself from the mammoth, transforming into a great eagle and flying for the dense cover of the far trees before disappearing in their depths.
With the ogres dead and defeated, the agitated mammoth wandered dangerously. Guardian approached it, and using his skill with animals, calmed it down and even mounted it himself.