We follow wolf-Nila north and she and Cael lead the party north-ish. While crossing a river, Nessie falls in, but Crea fishes her out. After an hour or two, things start to get a little soggy. Not full-on marsh yet, but kinda damp, compared to the rest of the forest.
We start to realize that this herb that was found in Vora’s daughter’s backpack is everywhere. Crea explains that it’s actually a well-known fertility cure (it’s totally not). Weird that an unmarried girl would be interested in fertility business, but whatever, all families are beautiful in the eyes of Krom. Cael trips and falls into the dirt…it’s a body. Oh my.
It’s a half-elf, from the looks of things. Dead for 5-10 days, she guesses. Issana rifles through his pockets. Both Talhier and Crea think this is gross. Nessie guesses that the guy died of blood loss and exposure, probably from that gaping hole in his side, and that maybe that wound was incurred elsewhere. He appears to have some defensive wounds. Issana finds a wax package in the guy’s pockets that contains lute strings. No cash or supplies to speak of.
Issana notices that a …bird? keeps coming towards us and keeps getting bigger. It’s a blue dragon. “Hey guys. Hey, everyone. GET IN THE TREES.” We don’t follow directions. EAR SPLITTING DRAGON ROAR. We run for the woods, as it wheels and roars overhead. Eventually it lands to drink from the creek. It rises up again and then heads off almost entirely due east. We breathe a sigh of relief. Back to the corpse! Crea takes note of some distinguishing features so she can report back to the village in case anyone is missing him. Cael notices a tattoo on his back of a circle made of chain links. Issana recognizes it as the icon of a criminal organization called The Chain that has cells in most large cities. In fact, it’s the mark of someone who is indentured to The Chain. Nila, with some inspiration help from Nessie, begins to follow the trail of where the dead guy came from. Before leaving, Crea sprinkles dirt on the dead guy and prays that he sleeps in the arms of Krom the Endless and will arise again with Krom the Dawn to celebrate the last day.
We follow the trail and come to a crude campsite, likely belonging to Dead Guy. There’s no obvious signs of struggle or attack, but it does appear that Dead Guy rested here while he was wounded. The tinies set up camp while Crea scouts around for signs of large predators (dragon poop). We’re on the lea side of a hill, no caves or burrows or bugbear tracks or whatever.
During watch, Cael hears rustling. It starts to rain lightly. Nessie casts light onto an arrow, which Cael launches towards the rustling. When it lands, they see figures, multiple, scatter. They seem like deer….really fuckin’ big deer. Not moose-big, but bigger than deer big. No other excitement.
We pick up the trail again in the morning, it heads towards the hills. As we take a break at the bottom of the hills, we hear a sound coming from a couple hundred feet away. Around there, we see a dilapidated tower, the ruins of a stone watchtower. Listening closely, the sound of a woman singing accompanied by a harp…the voice is beautiful but the harp playing is riiiiiiiilllllllll bad. Herm can’t detect any magic or ill intent behind the music. We boldly march into the face of bad pitch. As we get closer, music gets louder. It doesn’t get any better. We sometimes hear another, deeper voice. As we approach, the tower looks like the walls have been basically sheared off. There’s a woman, tall, light-brown hair, maybe a half-elf, and a big, two-headed dirty-looking creature playing a delicate tiny lap harp. She notices us, and begins singing, in elvish still, lyrics about “run back down the hill, back into the forest, etc.”
Issana notices that the, of the two heads, one is focused on the harp but the other is asleep. Scattered around it are bodies and parts of bodies. There’s evidence of…nibbling. Talhier gestures to his sword at the woman, like, “We can…kill it?” She keeps singing, getting strained, and shakes her head. But she seems terrified. The harp music stops. A voice goes “WELCOME AND WELL MET GOOD TRAVELERS” as the two-headed guy stands up to his full 12 feet. He bows to us. The harp-playing head is wearing a barrel-sized helmet. The sleeping head is sleeping. “TO WHAT DO I OWE THE HONOR OF SUCH ILLUSTRIOUS VISITORS?”
We send Sebastian out to try his little performance thing. He goes “Vorpal FRAK-SHON” and spits. It’s not a smoke bomb, but we’re working on it. Talhier introduces himself. “MAY WE HONOR YOU WITH A SONG” —she starts singing again, and she’s clearly panicking. Ariela seems to be chained to the wall. Issana realizes that this is an ettin, which is a kind of giant thing. Herm wonders if Gurgulburg has considered touring? Grunglybug hasn’t considered it. Talhier asks if Gurgin can give us a tour of the hills. “YES.” He starts walking down the hill. “THIS IS TREE. THIS IS…TALLER TREE.” Where’s your favorite tree? “FAVORITE TREE IS THIS WAY. RIGHT NEXT TO ROCK, WHICH IS GREAT.”
Crea follows Talhier, Issana picks the locks on Ariela’s chain. She grabs a canteen and bag of rations that she’s stashed and encourages us to leave LIKE NOW. She thinks Grungleburt won’t go too far from the tower and we should go NOW and go FAR. She basically takes off.
Off on the tour, Talhier is remarkably good at entertaining Glurgalurg. Herm thinks we should leave Talhier behind, Issana and Crea are appalled. We catch up to Talhier and Glooborrgoo. Sleeping Head starts to wake up, and as it turns out, Sleeping Head is the cranky one. Other head drifts away and seems to no longer be driving. Talhier tries to distract him, but it doesn’t work and it takes a swing at Talhier. Talhier blocks with his shield and is able to move out of the way.
The Purple Faction arrives to start dealing damage. Crea rides in on Buttons swinging her badass new axe and hamstrings the guy, knocking him down to the ground. Herm casts a fire spell that glances off of Glagarog. Issana gets stabby with the rapier. Nila turns into a naked bear again and takes a bit of a chunk out of him. He eventually gets back on his feet and swings at Crea. Buttons spooks and bolts, but Crea at least lands on her feet. Buttons takes off, though. Nessie inflicts some more fire damage. Talhier inflicts some more rapier damage. Crea inflicts a lot of axe damage. Nessie tries to command Glurgyblurgy to HALT, but he doesn’t listen, "NO!". Herm tries firebolt again, doing more damage this time. Cael gets a good gut-shot in with an arrow. Issana finds success with a rapier. Nila the Naked Bear gets a good swipe in, too. Heads Georg gets up and swing at (misses) Issana and (hits) Nila. Herm’s firebolt hits the grumpy face dead-center and incinerates the grumpy head. As the creature dies, friendly head wakes briefly and cries out for Favorite Tree as it dies.
Luckily, Buttons didn’t go far, and Crea is able to entice him back with a tasty apple.
We head back to the tower. Talhier goes looking for Ariela while the rest of us search the pile of body parts and assorted craps. Some coins (130 gold total). Adventurer’s packs. Inside the tower is broken furniture, the remains of a kitchen, some broken crockery. Around back, there’s a door to a root cellar. Down there, a small open chest holds a big piece of fabric, a green and gold banner that Crea doesn’t recognize. Herm does, he says it’s a standard he has never seen before and he thinks it’s the kind of standard that would be carried by an army in battle and this pattern might actually be from very long ago. Crea thinks it’s pretty.
Talhier uses prestidigitation to magically yell, because actually yelling is for peasants and eventually catches up with Ariela.