Secrets of the Sands

Eleventh Session

Panthers and Corruption

- Arrive back at Kri. Our idiots are on the largest island. A different clan runs it. We can’t use the good will we have with the first clan to help with our interactions with this one, partially because we don’t want to taint that good will by associating ourselves with the idiots, and partially because the clans are rather competitive. Game of one-upsmanship between the groups.
- Our idiots are somewhere in the jungle. Tehlmar can use the bracelets to give us a way to roughly locate them, and when we get closer, a way to communicate with them (like a boosted version of Message).
- We decide to try to sneak them out without engaging the locals. After some discussion, we sail to the least dangerous-looking part of the island and have Tehlmar conjure a dingy. With the guidance of Nhobu, in the form of a reef shark, we manage to navigate the reefs near shore without incident.
- Saidi casts a spell that will help her locate our idiots, with amplification help from our bracelets. Armed with our new heading, Nhobu leads the way into the jungle, expertly navigating the thick forest with their memory of a map of the island, and their generally incredible survival skills. It takes us a day to travel from one section of jungle to the next, but Nhobu keeps everyone from getting lost, is able to find food and water without trouble, and locates ruins that can provide suitable shelter for the night.
- Nhobu senses that there is something wrong with the jungle. There is usually a sense of harmony in forests, but here there is a jarring dissonance. As we travel, it becomes apparent that the bad feeling permeates the entire island; it is not limited to a single area. The other island felt nothing like this.
- We assume, because this island is the most populous, that the witch (who is somewhat of a recluse) does not dwell here, and therefore is probably not the source of the disturbance. However, during this train of thought, we realize we don’t really know where she is. We do assume that some of the locals could point us in the general direction though, should we need to know later.
- After hearing from Nhobu that the jungle feels wrong, Faylen tries to detect magical traces around the ruins where we stopped for the night. The ruins have lingering amounts of magic in them. They were at one time used by a group for magical purposes, but have been abandoned for a long time. Faylen does not find this unusual, for many tombs she has explored in the past have shown similar signs of civilizations having come and gone. Nothing she detects matches what Nhobu is describing.
- During the night, as she meditates, Faylen notices Kane tossing and turning in her sleep, and muttering out loud. Kane feels something whispering and touching the edges of her mind.
- We also determine that this wrongness in the forest is unrelated to the black stone, which would be felt as more of an absence. Being surrounded by the black stone would feel like being cut off from all life energy around you.

- Nhobu notices a distinct lack of animal life in the jungle (much to their disappointment). Once we bed down for the night, while everyone is sleeping/meditating, Nhobu slips off to find an animal they can talk to about what’s wrong with the forest (after taking some time to cast a spell to let them speak with animals). They decide to track down one of the “kings of the jungle.” As they wander deeper and deeper into the woods, they start hearing creatures moving around them, out of sight but keeping pace. With their keen senses, Nhobu can tell that there are two of them about forty feet back, their behavior reminiscent of a hunter stalking their prey. However, they do not advance or attack; instead, it seems as if they are escorting Nhobu. They do not reveal themselves to Nhobu, but their movements suggest that they are some kind of large cats. Nhobu decides to continue in the direction indicated by the spell they cast to locate this jungle king without engaging their followers.
- After a while, Nhobu arrives in a large clearing, lit by the full moon. Into that light steps a huge panther, black as night and huge enough that Krom could ride him if he deigned to be ridden. He pads forward and begins circling Nhobu, sniffing at this unfamiliar creature but giving them a wide berth. Still, he is large enough that his body makes a complete circle around Nhobu as he paces.
- “What are you,” he asks. Nhobu greets him politely and explains that they are a druid. Though the great panther does not recognize the word, he understands the Nhobu is a speaker of animals and he is always happy to meet one who knows “the True People’s tongue.”
- Nhobu explains that they sought him out because something feels off about the jungle. The panther nods. “Not many of your kind detects these things, but yes, there is a corruption here.” Nhobu presses for more details and the panther continues. “It…takes things. It takes friends and creatures and warps them to its will.” This sounds suspiciously familiar to the corruption the party faced under the sea.
- “How do the creatures of the jungle feel about this?” Nhobu asks. The panther laughs. “If you were corrupted, I would have to kill you on sight.”
- Nhobu thinks back to what they faced in the underwater caverns. The monster there was not the source of the corruption, merely a disciple of it. We haven’t yet identified the true source, but it is something akin to Kane’s patreon (though not Skailron itself). It does seem that the corruption on land and in sea have the same origin.
- Nhobu asks the panther, who identifies himself as Baghera, how long the corruption has been present on the island. He says that the corruption has existed since before he was king, that it has existed through more generations of kings than he knows.
- “Has anyone ever tried to do anything about it?” Nhobu asks. “We do, we kill the corruption whenever it spawns.” “Good…” Nhobu says, then mutters, “Dump water out of the dingy, but don’t patch the hole, that’s fine.”
- “Is there any place on the island that seems to be affected more strongly? Where is the corruption?” The panther digs a pawful of dirt out of the ground and flings it at Nhobu. Nhobu takes this to mean that the corruption is in the earth, that it can be found anywhere on the island. Nhobu asks if there are any particularly intense spots, and Baghera replies that there are none in his kingdom.
- His kingdom does not encompass the nearby town. Baghera calls them “the Kri gifted.” They have a good relationship. He doesn’t eat their young when they wander into his territory, and they stay out of his territory for the most part. The jungle between his territory and the town belongs to another king of the jungle.
- Nhobu thanks him for his help, and offers their services in return. Baghera tells them that his hunters detected that Nhobu’s party is heading into an area that is more corrupt than others. He asks that if we find corruption, we kill it. Nhobu readily agrees.
- Nhobu mentions that they are traveling with four others. “The laughably loud ones?” Nhobu confirms this, and assures Baghera that they will not harm the forest, and hopes that in return they can pass through unscathed.
- Baghera nods. “I will tell my hunters not to feast upon them.” Nhobu very much appreciates this.
- Nhobu tells him that they are heading west and asks if he can tell them anything about whomever reigns over that land. “It is another panther, but he has gone mad. He is not corrupted, but he is likely very close to being corrupted.” But Baghera has not had to put down too many of the Mad King’s followers who have strayed into his territory.
- Nhobu asks if Baghera knows of any who could reverse the corruption process before it has been completed. He says yes, but they are not of “The People.” It is a task for someone with greater mastery of magic than a panther.
- Nhobu thanks him again, and promises to lend their assistance, should he ever need it. Baghera says he will keep this in mind, and takes Nhobu back to their encampment.
- Faylen is meditating when Nhobu returns with a gigantic panther, and she is understandably startled. She’d been on edge all night, what with Nhobu having disappeared, and the constant vague sensation of being watched. Things have been moving in the shadows around their camp, finally coming to a head when this ten-foot-long, 300+ pound panther emerges from the jungle alongside Nhobu and sits down next to the campfire.
- Krom is sleeping sitting up, which his axe in his lap.
- Nhobu performs some introductions and Faylen waves hesitantly. Baghera sniffs in Kane’s direction and Nhobu hastily reassure him that she is not corrupted, she has her own thing going on and Nhobu has it under control (not strictly true).
- He agrees that Kane is not corrupted, but informs Nhobu that the corruption seeks her out. Nhobu, very diplomatically (those manners lessons seem to be having some effect), assures him that that is something they are aware of and are taking steps to prevent.
- Baghera seems to understand Faylen’s Common, but can’t speak it himself.
- When asked, Baghera tells them that he knows nothing of black rocks.
- After dropping Nhobu off, Baghera pads back into the forest. Nhobu is psyched about the whole interaction and high-fives Faylen. After Baghera is out of sight, we hear a very loud yowl as Baghera tells his hunters not to attack us.
- Kane wakes up and asks what the hell is going on. Nhobu mentions something about a forest deity and Kane instantly says they have to go find it, to deface its alter. Nhobu quickly backpedals, saying that he was more of a great cat ruler than a god. Kane settles down again, disappointed, and Nhobu makes note not to throw words like that around so easily.
- Now that her meditation has been thoroughly disrupted, Faylen decides to investigate the temple where they are spending the night. She can tell that these ruins are not of Kri make or design, and that it is very old. There are motifs that she recognizes from the temple she explored during her trial. Faylen takes down many notes, but isn’t able to draw any specific conclusions except that this place, and the people that created it, easily predate the Kri (and orcs).

- When everyone is awake the next morning, Nhobu recounts their adventure and the things Baghera told them. Krom is skeptical, but Faylen confirms that the giant panther part, at least, is true. Nhobu says that the panther’s hunters will not bother us, and in return we will be really good to the forest. They stare down each person individually; Faylen is offended.
- Nhobu notes that the corruption is on this island, not just in the sea, and that we’re supposed to kill any corrupted creature we come across.
- We continue heading toward where we believe our idiots to be, Nhobu again guiding the party expertly through the wilderness without incident. As we near our destination, Nhobu senses the feeling of corruption begin to grow stronger. Everyone is on edge, Nhobu is twitching.
- We start hearing voices through our bracelets/collar, along with an overwhelming sense of exhaustion. Nhobu can pick out signs that the idiots had sprinted through this part of the jungle, without regard for stealth. They also notices paw prints, like that of a panther, but there are too many legs. They are decidedly unsettled.
- Nhobu tracks the idiots to the entrance of another temple. The unnerving paw prints go in and come out, but the tracks of our idiots only go in.

- We find that it’s difficult to go into the temple because we are filled with an overwhelming sense of dread and fear.
- Faylen takes a moment to talk to the idiots using the Message-amplifying powers of our bracelets. She can hear them bickering: Mug is saying he can only hold them off for so long. He’s exhausted and his magic is wearing out; if he doesn’t get some sleep/rest, he isn’t going to be much help. Lucky is panicking, screaming into the mind-link that we’re all going to die. Mazoga is telling them both to stop being idiots, that if they let down their guard, they’ll rush in and overwhelm them.
- Krom tries to get Faylen to say hi to Mazoga for him, but Faylen ignores him.
- Faylen alerts them to our presence and promptly receives a migraine for her trouble, as all three of them start yelling into her brain. We feel two heads get slapped, then Mazoga tells Faylen that they ran into the temple to escape some creatures, but they followed them inside. The creatures do not seem afraid of fire or magic; they are being hunted. When Faylen asks, Mazoga tells her that they look like giant six-legged panthers with tentacles coming off their backs.
- Mug says that this place is filled with dread. Something happened here a long time ago and since then it has been eating at the world around it.
Mug’s magic is more elemental-based, whereas Nhobu’s is more nature-based. He is a shaman.
- We tell them that we’re on our way to help them and head inside. Nhobu can see that there were traps here at one point, but they have all been triggered a long time ago.
The room straight ahead looks like a den of some sort. It seems there are sleeping arrangements for about a half dozen creatures, but none are in there now.
We turn down the right corridor. Faylen sees statues like the ones she saw in the other temple, but they are toppled over and broken.

- As we turn the corner, we hear skittering on the ceiling, coming toward us. Two creatures appear, fitting Mazoga’s description. Nhobu tries to speak with them, but they do not respond. They yowl out a challenge as they run straight toward us. As we look at them, they’re hard to see, like they’re incredibly hard to focus on.
- Before anyone attacks, Nhobu yells out to wait until they’ve cast a spell. Faylen, Kane, and Saidi all ready their attacks. Nhobu calls out their spell, and one of the creatures is suddenly glowing with violet light, making it easier to focus on.
- Faylen sends out a rope of electricity, that latches onto the glowing beast, but she is unable to pull it from the ceiling.
- Kane shoots two eldritch blasts at the other beast. The first one goes wide, but the second connects.
- Saidi looses a bolt of fire, which chars the glowing creature.
- One of the beasts scurries over to perch above Krom’s head. It sends its tentacles at Saidi and Kane, and while Kane is able to duck out of the way, Saidi is badly buffeted.
- The glowing beast turns on Faylen, hitting her hard with both of its tentacles.
- Krom, finding himself unable to fully focus on their assailants, grows furious. He grabs the tentacles hanging above his head and yanks with all his might, but instead of pulling the creature down, he finds himself dangling in the air.
- Suddenly, we hear screaming from our idiots, and Nhobu hears pounding footsteps, coming in our general direction.
- Faylen attempts to slash at the tentacles before her, but is finding is difficult to pin down the beast’s exact location and misses. Frustrated, she begins to sing, and darts away from the beast.
- Kane fires two more blasts, but both fail to find their mark. She seems to be too interested in the creature to bother trying to hit it.
- Saidi throws a firebolt, which barely singes her target.
- Nhobu also tries to use fire, and while their aim is true, it isn’t very effective.
- The beast that has hold of Krom, slams him into one of the walls. He smacks Saidi with his other tentacle.
- The other beast whaps Faylen and Nhobu.
- Krom hacks at the tentacle he’s attached to and severs it from the beast. He falls to the ground, holding the flailing tentacle. He drapes it around his neck like a scarf, extremely proud of himself.
- Our idiots appear at the far end of the hallway, yelling at us to move because more beasts are coming. Krom attempts to show off his new scarf to Mazoga.
- Mug is throwing back down the hallway. Mazoga tells us that a half dozen more are back there.
- Emboldened by the appearance of our allies, Faylen swings at the beast before her, landing a solid hit. Then she darts away.
- Kane sends out more eldritch blasts, but they do not connect.
- Saidi chugs a potion, then throws a firebolt that also misses.
- Three more displacer beasts appear in the midst of our idiots.
- After contemplating sending a rhino down the hallway for a moment, Nhobu instead decides to conjure two giant spiders (despite Kane’s earlier words of “I don’t like giant spiders.”). After situating them on the ceiling near the two beast, Nhobu turns into a lizard and crawls into a crack in the wall.
- One of the spider takes a bite out of the displacer beast beside it.
- The displacer beast above Krom whips him with its remaining tentacle.
- The other displacer beast attacks the spider, which disappears as it is murdered.
- The remaining spider shoots webbing at beast that killed its partner, pinning it to the ceiling.
- Lucky hits the beast he is fighting for before running down the hallway toward us. He takes a deep wound as he tries to escape.
- Mug shoots some fire at the same beast, and gets hit hard in return.
- Krom swings his axe above his head, does a fair bit of damage.
- Mazoga also lands a solid hit on her target.
- Faylen swings at the displacer beast nearest to her, but misses. She then chugs a potion.
- Kane summons a sphere of deep cold water, which no light can enter. It engulf the remaining spider and seals off our exit.
- Able to see the beast more clearly because of Krom’s earlier hit, Saidi brings it to a fiery end.
- The beasts fighting our companions hit Mazoga and knock Mug unconscious. We notice that as he falls, he drops a heavy-looking sack.
- Nhobu crawls back out of their hole and resumes their gnome form. They mercifully dismiss their spider companion so it will not suffer a horrible crushing death. Then they yell out to Mug, rousing him back into consciousness again.
- The beast restrained about Nhobu’s head attempts to swing at them but fails.
- Lucky fires a hand crossbow, which finds its mark.
- Mug heals himself a little more, then crawls across the floor, away from the monsters.
- Krom runs toward the idiots, taking a few hits from tentacles as he goes. He heaves two javelins, one in each hand, and they slam into the beast at the end of the corridor.
- Mazoga hurries over, getting behind Krom, and says, “Thank god you’re here because I didn’t think we were going to survive another day holed up in the back.”
- Faylen darts over to the restrained beast, slashes at it, and backflips away.
- Nhobu yells to Kane that they’re sorry and the spider is gone. Kane reluctantly dismisses the watery void. She tries to do something to the restrained beast, but nothing happens.
- Saidi sends out some magic missiles, but they do very little damage.
- Krom gets hit by more tentacles. Mug goes unconscious again.
- Nhobu shouts Mug into consciousness again. Then they summon a beam of radiant moonlight to shine down on two of the beasts. However, they are able to withstand its light.
-The beast hanging above Nhobu tries once again to hit its small target, but Nhobu just watches its feeble attempts and sticks out their tongue.
- Lucky shoots an excellently placed bolt into the restrained beast.
- Mug continues crawling along the floor toward the exit.
- Krom gets whapped again, and decides it’s time to chug a potion. He slashes at the beast that dared hit him.
- Mazoga drinks a potion too (generic brand, not as good as homebrewed Nhobu originals), then attacks the same beast as Krom, landing a solid hit.
- Faylen sprints down the hallway, avoiding all danger, and grabs the bag. It’s much heavier than she expected (as it is filled with stone), and she teeters, but manages to get it onto her shoulder. She looks down the hallway that leads further into the temple; it is filled with smoke, but she doesn’t see any more beasts.
- Kane hurls more blasts at the restrained beast, injuring it further.
- Saidi shoots some magic missiles at the beast attacking Mazoga.
- After being exposed to the moonlight for longer, one of the beasts in Nhobu’s beam is starting to feel the burn. It lashes out at Krom.
- The other beast in the moonlight is also slightly singed. It whaps Faylen.
- Nhobu moves their beam of moonlight so it singes the other beast in the hallway. Then they speak a healing word to Lucky.
- Then Nhobu is finally hit by the flailing beast above their head, and the moonbeam disappears as they lose concentration.
-Lucky misses his shot.
-Mug finally stands up and throws a guiding bolt at one of the beasts, killing it. He looks over his shoulder and grins at Krom.
- Mazoga gets hit hard, and is on her last legs.
- Krom slashes wildly at the beast who attacked Mazoga, bringing it to its last legs as well.
- Mazoga finishes it off, and then attacks the beast in front of Krom, almost killing it too.
- Faylen lugs the bag over to the injured beast and stabs it to death. She hands the bag to Krom, but he refuses to leave without finishing off the final beast.
- Kane mutters something and we all see shapes start coming out of the ground around the remaining beast. We see fins of stone circling the entire area.
- Saidi slams the beast with more magic missiles.
-A maw opens up in the ground and attempts to chop on the beast, but it is too quick and manages to avoid it. Then it lashes out at Faylen.
- Nhobu skips nimbly up to Mazoga and takes her hand, giving her back some health. Then they yell to Faylen, empowering her as well.
- Lucky grabs onto Nhobu, saying “We have to go, we have to go before he comes back! The big one!”
- Krom tosses the bag to Mazoga, then runs over to slash at the beast. Mazoga starts booking it toward the entrance.
- Faylen slashes at the beast as well, then follows Mazoga toward the entrance, scooping Nhobu up in passing.
- Saidi has foreseen hitting the beast with a firebolt, so she looses a powerful blast, which consumes the beast in a wall of fire.
- Everyone starts running toward the entrance. With the immediate danger passed, the effects of our injuries start taking hold. Everyone is able to shrug them off except for Nhobu. They feel a certain draw to the temple, a compulsion to protect it. As Saidi raises her arms to shatter the entrance, Nhobu yells out and Saidi’s spell fizzles.
- Lucky has run off into the jungle and we can no longer see him.
We hear a loud yowl out in the jungle.
- As Saidi prepares to collapse the temple entrance again, Faylen covers Nhobu’s mouth and holds their arms, preventing them from disrupting the spell a second time.
- With a loud crash, the temple entrance is destroyed.
- Faylen finds herself holding a large brown bear, which is roaring angrily. Nhobu is still feeling the urge to go back into the temple, to explore it. But before they can do so, Krom heaves the bear into his arms and we all start running away. The brown bear is biting and clawing at Krom’s head and body, but he doesn’t seem to care.

- When we look in the sack, we see that it is full of black rock. The idiots had gone into the large town to the north. Lucky had snuck through some of the buildings in the far back. There was a large pile of black rock, it seemed like the Kri were crafting things out of it. He grabbed a sack, filled it with as much as he could carry, and snuck out.
- The villagers chased them into the jungle, but pulled back when they got a certain distance in, when other things started to hunt the party instead.
- We decide to head back toward Baghera’s kingdom, then realize that he kills all corrupted creatures and Nhobu is now corrupted.
- We figure that our best bet for curing Nhobu would be in the nearby town.
- The Mad King panther is not corrupted, but the ones we killed were his corrupted followers. He kills everything that could become corrupted, so there is not very much living in this part of the jungle. He won’t let anyone corrupt him or his pack.
- We worry about our idiots being corrupted too, but they aren’t behaving like Nhobu is.
- Nhobu’s compulsion to return to the temple wears off after five or ten minutes of running, however it is likely that the corruption could poison their dreams.
- Krom probably hasn’t dealt with many druids, but orc druids are very strange. They wander into clans, demand strange things, and wander off again.

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Xphile hazelfern

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