There were two schools of thought. On the one hand Berun, Goll and Brun were of the opinion that the adventurers should walk. Berun and Brun argued that they would gain valuable experience during the hike. Brun was especially eager to test his power against the many undead rumoured to be stalking the surrounding jungle. Goll said; "If we fly, we will draw attention to ourselves, when we should be keeping a low profile. We are, after all, about to head back across the Empire. We don’t want to fall foul of those Roc Riders”.
The other camp, Gorlab, Zaen and Gul, favoured flying. "After all”, they said, "we’ve fought long and hard to get the crown back so why walk when we can fly again”. Another advantage would be that they could avoid those annoying rust monsters. The matter was put to a vote and it was decided that they should take to the air once again.
Goll donned the crown, furrowed his brow in concentration and they rose above the trees. The flight went well for the first twenty minutes or so until Gorlab spotted something in the distance. He activated his magic eye and shouted "A giant roc off the port bow.” The crew looked around. Berun cried "I don’t see anything, what’s all the fuss about.” "You’re looking the wrong way” said Brun. Gorlab, ever the optimist, cast a Fly spell on himself, "just in case!” he said.
Berun, who was manning the ship’s ballista, swung round. "Ah, now I see it.”
He fired a bolt as the fearsome creature closed the gap with The Despair. The beast was hit, but only slightly and it continued its attack. As it neared the ship it received a volley of missiles, both magical and mundane, from the crew. Gul, Gorlab and Zaen fired lightning bolts while Brun scored a hit with his bow. Goll expertly flew the ship as the roc and Despair continued their dogfight. At last the winged beast was upon the crew and lifted a minor player in its mighty talons. Berun ran across the deck and hit the giant bird a crippling blow with his two swords. Zaen fired a lightning bolt as the creature tried to make off with its prey and the roc plummeted like a stone towards the jungle.
Gorlab, closely followed by Berun, flew after the falling monster as it disappeared into the green canopy below. "I’d better go after him,” said Berun, "you know what he’s like when he’s on his own.” The rest of the crew laughed in agreement. "Find a suitable place to land, pilot” shouted the captain and The Despair swooped down to find a clearing.
Meanwhile, Gorlab was hovering around the jungle interior. Something caught his eye. He thought he saw a movement of some kind. Yes, those bushes were definitely moving. Had a breeze caught them? No, the air was still and humid. They moved again, and Gorlab cautiously flew nearer but was wary of investigating. Berun appeared next to him and had no such qualms. He headed straight to the undergrowth and disturbed a giant spider. It immediately attacked the intruder.
As Berun and the creature fought two more crawled out of the surrounding jungle. Gorlab unleashed a magic missile. This was no ordinary spell, it was one specially created by Berun called modestly ‘Berun’s Bolt’ (well if you’ve got it flaunt it, as the Drow proverb says). Gorlab had only recently been taught the spell and it fizzled underwhelmingly from his finger tips. He tried again, this time with more success, and soon he and Berun had killed the spiders. Unbeknownst to them, or any of the others, these were tarantellas. One bite could set the victim dancing to exhaustion. What a lucky escape! (Who writes this stuff?)
Eventually the Despair landed and the two Drow rejoined their comrades. They were about to take off again when something narrowly missed the captain. A stick lay on the deck.
"Who threw that?” said Gul indignantly "We’re not taking off until someone owns up, someone could’ve lost an eye.”
Another stick landed on the deck and the crew saw a monkey up a tree waving its arms. Gul leapt from the ship and stormed across the jungle clearing. Words you wouldn’t say to your drinking companions turned the air a dark shade of blue. Followed by Goll, the captain approached the tree and fired a magic missile at the monkey, knocking it from its perch. It managed to catch a branch and Gul let loose another missile, killing the harmless creature and cooking it at the same time. Never one to miss a free barbecue, Sue sped across and grabbed the fallen monkey. Pigsy, the ravenous demon, was close behind and a struggle ensued. Eventually they both had had their fill and the ship took off.
They landed some distance outside Mora and walked towards the village. They were met by ten native archers, led by an angry looking shaman. The bowmen were making a show of being warlike but Gul and the others could tell it was for appearances sake. The shaman, however, obviously meant business and glared as the party approached.
"They don’t look like they’re in the mood to hand out Fireball spells,” someone commented.
Gul let loose a lightning bolt at the shaman, killing him. "Is that Ajani,” he said. "I don’t think much of him.”
The natives ran back towards the village. Emboldened, Gul urged his comrades on. Berun ran forward and attempted to grab the shaman’s pouch without the others noticing, but he was seen by practically everyone. He rummaged through it and emptied the contents onto the ground. It was filled mostly with fetishes and other shamanistic paraphernalia but one item caught the attention of all the crew. It was Berun’s own necklace, taken from him by the Drider. Then they remembered that Dakarai had mentioned the Drider coming to his village, this village.
As they got closer to the village they were faced by seventy or more warriors, all armed with bows. Their leader was again a shaman, but a much more imposing figure. He was accompanied by a fearsome sabre tooth tiger. He spoke: "I am Ajani. You have killed my apprentice; you have killed my friend, the jungle spirit.”
"The jungle spirit was an evil liar, come to mislead you” shouted Brun.
"The jungle spirit was my friend and you killed him. Now you come to my village, killing my apprentice and using your magic. I say go, leave a magic item each and go.”
The party looked to Gul for a lead. He hesitated for a second but his pride and reckless nature again got the better of him.
"Attack,” he roared.
Berun cast ‘Fly’ on himself and streaked toward Ajani, hoping to engage him before he could use his magic. A hail of arrows showered down on him as he flew, weakening him before he reached the shaman. He landed just short of Ajani and the shaman landed a blow. His tiger sank its teeth into the brave Drow and he fell at Ajani’s feet.
The others moved forward. Goll and Gul cast sleep spells, overcoming half of the archers, and it was Goll who did most of the damage. However Ajani raised his hands and hurled a fireball at the advancing party and stopped them in their tracks, only Gorlab, who was on the flank of the attack, survived. He saw his position was untenable and immediately surrendered. The jubilant natives stripped him of his magical items, bound him and led him off to the village. The lifeless bodies of the others were all stripped of any magic items they owned.
A short while after this disaster Dakarai and his nine drummers came upon the scene. Seeing his friends lying singed on the ground he bade his followers to bind their wounds. Brun was merely stunned and was soon up and around. Zaen and Gul were only slightly wounded and needed only a little rest to recover. Goll and Berun however had suffered major wounds. Berun had lost his right arm and Goll’s left leg was all but useless. They stared at Gul reproachfully. He turned away.
Zaen asked; "What about Gorlab. How can we free him?”
"I may be able to intervene on his behalf,” said Dakarai. "Give me a magic item to trade for his life.”
Brun replied; "We have none left, only clerical talismans and scrolls.”
Gul said quietly; "My brother Dur has a magic ring, a ring of Fireball negation, how ironic. I shall persuade him to part with it.” The ring was given to Dakarai, much to Dur’s disgust, and he disappeared into the village. A few hours later he returned with Gorlab and the party returned wearily to the ship, giving their thanks to Dakarai. They returned to Tanaroa chastened and in low spirits.
Over the next three weeks Gul pondered his folly. His wounded comrades gradually recovered and the memory of the defeat began to recede. Their thoughts turned to the sword being forged for them by the salamanders.
More to come, sports fans.