Andra, desiring more and powerful spells, decided to return to the Mercane to see if a deal could be raised. Andra, Wendeam, and van Rijn returned to the merchant with a list of several rare and powerful spells. After some negotiation, the Mercane suggested that three could be obtained for gold… but that other possibilities were available, if a service was to be performed.
The Mercane required a Non-Disclosure Agreement before providing details, which involved some debate. Fortunately the Company was available to vote. After some debate and a few reservations expressed by Ariel, it was agreed to sign and find out what the job was.
It turned out that the Mercane had a deal that was “problematic” and wanted to hire more security. Their trader, Joliffe, was in a land called Ambartzumian. Ariel and Andra had both heard of it, as it was known for exotic herbs and alchemical goods.
The Mercane would provide transport for the job, which was expected to take a week. More haggling ensued, particularly about payment if the job was to prove to be a failure. Orixia helped but felt that she and Phantine needed to stay in Hest to ensure its safety.
Eventually Andra and van RIjn approached Zell, who was practicing martial arts up by the gates. The githzerai seemed to find the implacable presence of the Guardian soothing. Eager to do some exploring, Zell signed the NDA and went back. She haggled with the Mercane—quite skillfully, to van Rijn’s ears—in gith, and seemed to extract quite a bit from him, at least based on his pained look, but only said she “got some books.” Still, van Rijn wondered….
The Mercane opened a gate to Ambartzumian, and van Rijn, Ariel, Andra, Wendeam, and Zell stepped through. They appeared in a dark jungle, with the raw smell of rotting vegetation and the presence of a dead body being dragged by a scaly, twisted being with a reptilian mein. It charged immediately and, quick on her feet, Zell interposed, sloppily cutting it with her silver scimitar but preventing it from getting to Andra and Ariel. Battle ensued, though, as the creature proved to be tougher than it looked.
Off in the distance, by a fire, a hulking, ogre-sized snake headed man seemed to be butchering a deer that was hanging from a pole using a large hacking blade. He was by a pile of mixed bodies, including some humanoid ones. Wendeam went up to melee the small snake man, killing it, and van Rijn slowed a mass of them, noting that the large snake men seemed to be resistant to magic.
Andra, realizing that the battle’s darkness favored the snake men, cast an enhanced Continual Light and lit up the entire field, showing a camp, many more snake men, and a coffle of roped captive women and children. Ariel used Displacement, which was fortuitous given that the large snake men had quivers of javelins along with shields and large swords and proved to be skilled in their use.
As the fight ensued the small snake men, who appeared to be nearly mindless servitors and the larger snake men charged. Andra fireballed them while Wendeam, van Rijn, and Zell moved up to melee them, while Andra continued casting fireballs, though he was Magic Missiled by a snake-blooded sorceress who was hiding among the captives, invisible.
Far to the edge of the village a large snake man had a hunched over reptile man on a leash, which kept lurching forward as if it was eager to attack.
This proved to be a most fearsome creature… a gith of some sort that had been converted into a dreaded soulsuck. It went straight for Zell, sensing their kinship.
It mind blasted Zell, van Rijn, and Wendeam. van Rijn managed to fight off its intrusion, but the other two succumbed. Wendeam turned out to be reasonably safe but Zell was savaged by two of the smaller snake men, who took advantage of the fact that her guard was dropped.
Ariel, seeing this, used the Fractal Blades to slice many of the smaller snake men and the larger ones to ribbons. It proved necessary to do this twice before the soulsuck fell. Wendeam and van Rijn went to finish off the rest, while Zell threw her adamantine spheres to help.
van Rijn moved up and saw that the captives were elven villagers, and noticed that one of Joliffe’s guards was still alive near the pile of bodies, though he was in bad shape.
To be continued….