SCOUT: Other Shards of the Saffron
Jan. 20, 2021, 2 p.m.
Comments and Log
For certain parts of the jungle there are no maps. There are barely trails, only breaks the thick foilage that might hint at a place to pass. The heat and the humidity would be different for those native Arvani, even those who have spent time in the relatively warm climate of the southern most points of the Lyceum. This is an entirely different animal and, somehow, between the different weather and the dense, untouched greenery all around them, it feels far more strange than any other place in the Compact. Far more wild.
Ian is here with Aindre, of that there is little doubt. He boarded the ship with Aindre (after Aindre got his jungle pants out of the dryer). He disembarked from the ship with Aindre. And he's showing a general deference to Aindre that suggests that at least as far as Ian is concerned, Aindre's in charge. Or maybe just in charge of him. That's a lot of times to type 'Aindre'.
Ian's ill suited for tromping through jungle; his gait is a little uncertain in the best of times, and a ground littered with leaves that conceal all number of hidden obstacles is not the best of times. He's stumbled more than once on this hike, and will probably stumble again. Having his cane helps, but even so, he's sorta naturally become a rear guard just by virtue of being slow. Not helping matters is the way that he pauses from time to time to scan the trees, scan the canopy, scan the ground.
Also of note: The horrible, horrible scarf that he has with him, worn coiled at his hip like the world's ugliest, smelliest whip.
When Adrienne Pravus insists on coming on this rescue mission from the great walled city of Pieros, she does not do so alone. The group is diverse - Graysons and Velenosans and Pravosi struggling their way through the lush jungles. Six Pravosi Centurions accompany her; it would seem to be the result of some negotiation that sees the Pravosi Voice out into the hinterlands. While no stranger to the wilds and wrapped in steelsilk and pyreweave more comfortable in the heat, Adrienne is careful to defer to the many capable scouts and soldiers with her on their journey.
What she does share, to the best of her ability, is information. During their travels, Adrienne shares what information she can. Not only of the Skal'dajans - their invisible assassins and robed, immensely powerful Anointed Masters - but also of the Saffron Chain. Its crocodiles and giant snakes, the cataclysm that ripped it asunder, the many ancient cultures known or suspected to still inhabit.
Lore thrives in the heat, craves it, soaks it in and asks for more. Where others have merely adapated, she is born of it and it shows. There's an ease in moving through the wet curtain of humidity, a shift in her breathing, as if she's used to walking through wet blankets of air all the time. She has a tendency to range a little ahead, playing pointman for the group, keeping an eye on the 'trail' and an ear out for anything suspicious. She was contracted by the Pravus family to assist in the expedition, but likely would have found a way to smuggle herself aboard even if she hadn't been. These sorts of adventures are just her cup of tea. Or liquor. Liquor might be better.
The heat and humidity are utterly intolerable in leathers - and Sunaia is flushed and restless. However. The location. Green on green with green highlights and deep green shadows. It's all perfect. Couldn't be more perfect. There's a quality to that unknown, strange in a strange land, that makes Sunaia excited to be here. Maybe an Ashford thing. From trailing the Grayson contingent that arrived at Pravus' call to Pieros -- from the walled city -- to here. She semms like she's looking everywhere -- not focusing on any one thing for too long.
Squish. Slurp. Mirari tugs her foot out of a particular wet patch of dirt/mud, and frowns down at her feet. The sandals might be steelsilk, but they are still sandals. "It's hotter than high noon in midsummer on the Setarcan beach." She grumbles to herself, and peels off her pyran drapes it over one arm. She tries to peel the silk of her corset away from her skin, but sweat has slicked it flush. "Shards and ashes." She pulls up the wineskin hanging from her hip and gulps down water, before corking it again and letting it hang back down. Her green eyes restlessly scan the surrounding while she grumbles to herself.
Prince Aindre is used to the wilds of the Gray Forest but these jungle wilds are something altogether wilder than even he's used to and it shows even through the constance of his Grayson-sculpted princely demeanor. There'll be not a complaint out of him no matter the number of times he's needed to take a cloth to his brow and the sides of his neck, often enough now that he just wears it around the back of his neck as he moves along with the rest of the group. Mostly he stays up ahead and close with the other scouts, using his knowledge to help identify signs of passing and other secrets sometimes noticed by those more comfortable in the middle of nowhere but occasionally he returns (always and ever with Ian at his side, it would seem! And seemingly never at all perturbed by it either.) to the main group to report back findings and to perhaps catch parts of the tales of local lore that are being doled out by people more familiar with the dangers and the history of this place.
Adrienne checks perception and survival at normal. Adrienne is marginally successful.
Sunaia checks perception and survival at normal. Sunaia is marginally successful.
Ian checks perception and survival at normal. Ian marginally fails.
Aindre checks perception and survival at normal. Aindre is successful.
Mirari checks perception and survival at normal. Mirari is marginally successful.
Lore checks perception and survival at normal. Lore is marginally successful.
The heat and humidity is punishing for those not used to or prepared for it, but there is beauty to be found in such a place as well. Green of every hue and shade surround them and there is a scent in the air of growth and rot and even the sweetness of flowers that is actually quite pleasant. While tracks aren't easy to discern on the jungle floor with a thick layer of plant life to obscure them, the breakage of plants all around them and the unmistakable trail cut through the undergrowth before them are dead giveaways that something, likely something with a big knife, passed through here before them. It is Aindre that spots the first actual footprint, the print of a bare foot, about the same size as his own, pressed deep into the mud. It's definitely human at least.
Mirari checks intellect and agriculture at hard. Mirari is marginally successful.
It would be easy for Prince Aindre to get distracted from his task here with all of the bright shades of flora and probably several species of the fauna, things he's never encountered before, the allure of the unknown and the gorgeous wrapping it comes in out in these parts of the jungle and it's safe to say that more than a few times he catches himself wandering after a sweet-scented blossom of murderous red to look at it a little closer but he always rights himself back onto what he's doing until an outward sweep of the head of his two-handed hammer brushes aside the low fronds of a fern to show off the remnants of fresh, human footprints. "I think we're definitely on the right track..", he assures Lord Ian while reaching up with one hand to signal those behind them that he's found something and holding up a little until everyone can catch up. "I've got a print here, bare feet, deep." After, he adds on, "We should probably double up on our caution and be aware of the trails we're also leaving at this point. Extra eyes all around and on guard, just in case."
Lore checked dexterity + artwork at difficulty 9, rolling 22 higher.
Watchful, Adrienne uses the pause in their journey to drink and eat. She seems particularly focused on those struggling most in the heat - Ian and Sunaia and Mirari - watching for signs of illness. At Aindre's announcement, she quirks a sweat-dampened eyebrow. "They lost a boot?"
Lore checked dexterity + artwork at difficulty 9, rolling 19 higher.
"The shun shoes. Smart move, here." Sunaia pauses, only to catch her breath (it's fine) and after mopping her brow for the --nth time today, she drinks water.
Lore checked dexterity + artwork at difficulty 9, rolling 31 higher.
Lore checked dexterity + artwork at difficulty 9, rolling 25 higher.
Ian mops his forehead for the upteenth time. He's got a fair amount of experience with heat and humidity, including that one three month trip to and from Brightshore, but he's also wearing a lot of armor. So while he doesn't complain, he's still sweating a fair amount, and his armor's probably not going to smell great after this. He frowns at the bare footprint as everyone gathers to "admire" it. "Keep an eye out. We may be facing poisoned weapons."
Lore checked dexterity + artwork at difficulty 9, rolling 52 higher.
Lore uses the pause int he trek to quickly dig around in her pack. She whips out a number of seasilk scarves in a dark green/brown coloration and uses her waterskin to wet them down, then goes around to each of the party members, offering to show them how to wrap a shemagh around their head and neck. Explianing as she does so that these are used in other places to help combat against sun, wind, and irritants. She'll add that, when wetted, they also help to keep one cool so heat sickness is less of an issue. Every party member is offered one, along with instruction, moving quickly to make sure each person can get it situated before they're ready to move on.
While everyone else is looking for tracks Mirari is ... too! Well... Kind of. She stoops down and brushes back a large frond, peering at the ground. Then she gets distracted from the search when she spots a particularly sweet smelling flower. A glance is given over her shoulder at the others before she turns back to the flower and starts digging at the base where it grows up out of the dirt. Right with her alaricite adorned fingers. "Ugh, why is the dirt so wet?" She complains to herself, and it takes her enough time that she's last to head over to the print that Aindre has found. She's carrying with her an entire flowering plant, it's bulb and roots and all. She's also now covered in dirt. She peers down at the boot and then back up to the other's and saws, "Yup, that's a human track."
Helpful Mirari. Helpful.
"Oh, thank you." She says to Lore when the scarf is handed over.
Prince Aindre almost laughs despite his word of caution, this at the question from Princess Adrienne. Almost. "Perhaps? It could be many things. All I can tell you is that whoever made it, they were heading in this direction and their feet are about as big as mine so we don't want them to catch one of us off our guard.", while gesturing in the direction they're already moving. "Tracks are stories though, no doubt as we press on we will be able to read more of it." Lord Ian's word of advice on poisoned weapons does bring a bit of a pause out of the Grayson prince, who mulls it over before optimistically suggesting, "I was told it's safe to assume everything here is poisonous. You'd better look lively!"
"Hm." Adrienne's noise is non-commital, although the mention of toxicity has Adrienne turning a briefly assessing look muddy Mirari's way. It'll be fine. Sure. "Thank you, Lore. I could mistake you for a native. Lead on? We can't see him - or them - but nor they us."
The broken plants indicate that the 'trail', if it can even be called such, leads deeper into the jungle. There are no more tracks, but other small signs of passage become more obvious now that the initial print has been seen. The direction of a broken stem. A single long, dark hair clinging to a branch as they pass. The distinct screech of birds, unlike any most of the group has ever heard, ring through the air, almost as if they are trying to interrupt or even respond to the human voices that they hear. Lore's gift of the scarves helps as long as the water is cool, but the humidity prevents any sort of moisture from evaporating. It's rather like walking through some sort of soup.
Mirari sends an apologetic look in Lore's direction and then uses the given scarf to wrap up her potentially-poisonous plant up. It's carefully, so very very carefully, bundled up and tied up. A smile is given toward Adrienne and she says, "Oh don't look at me like that, highness. If my epitaph reads 'Died digging up a poisonous plant in a nearly untouched jungle', well I'd say that's probably a good one, hm?" She's all cheerful, despite the fact that she's, in fact, sweating buckets.
Ian looks up into the canopy yet again when the birds screech, before pressing on, still as an accidental rearguard. He stumbles over a root hidden by the vegetation on the jungle floor, but, as he's managed thusfar, manages to keep from actually faceplanting in the mud. Good for him. He's not very talkative, but that's probably not a function of the heat or the general struggle to stay on his feet. It's just that Ian's not very talkative.
Sunaia listens, chuffs with good humor, and she offers a close-lipped smile as they continue along the trail. It's poorly kept, but, still a trail. Especially when there's more signs - that bent stem, the strand of hair. Then, birds, it's a noise she's not heard yet -- and she glances skyward, squinting.
A tired hint of humor flits across Adrienne's eyes. "I'll write it myself," she promises Mirari. Her voice is quieter now, in deference to the risk of threats around them. Her quip aside, she would not carry anyone home insensate or worse if they can avoid it.
Chuckling, Lore bobs her head at Adrienne, "Thank you, Your Highness. I've had many eyars to perfect the technique." Once the party is ready to move on from the footprint to follow the 'trail' into the deeper jungle, she starts off again, pausing only once. MIrari's wrapped bulb is given some consideration before she pulls a piece of oiled leather from her Poppinsesque rucksack and offers it over. "That silk will just muddy and sieve the dirt from around the bulb, this should help keep it from dripping." She flits a brief smile and starts off into the jungle once more ADVENTURE!
At the word of Princess Adrienne, the Grayson prince begins his search again and when there are no more feet to follow that search takes his gaze up the trunks of trees or dragged down the branches otherwise trying to bar them from pressing on. Notably, in places where there are no tell-tale scrapes in the bark or errant hairs or threads of cloth to betray those who have passed before, Prince Aindre can often be seen pulling out a knife to notch his own subtle marks of passage in discreet places, sometimes stopping as he does so to quietly review this or that with Lord Ian in conspiratorial whispers. It's really the only chatter he's doing now when he's not trying to connect the dots between one sign of life and another in this challenging, dangerous landscape.
Adrienne checks perception and survival at normal. Adrienne marginally fails.
Aindre checks perception and survival at normal. Aindre is successful.
Ian checks perception and survival at normal. Ian is successful.
Lore checks perception and survival at normal. Lore is successful.
Sunaia checks perception and survival at normal. Sunaia is successful.
Mirari checks perception and survival at normal. Mirari is marginally successful.
Those little signs give every bit of evidence that they are at least headed in the right direction. Of course, the fact that some of those leaves are speckled with the unmistakable red droplets of blood that stand out so vividly against the green is hard to miss. It's fresh enough to be wet, though one might wonder if anything really every dried in such a damp, humid place. The blood becomes a trail and the path cut through the foilage looks less deliberate and more wild now. The birds overhead screech and seem to laugh at their grisly discovery.
Ian might miss footprints, but long experience has taught him to recognize blood pretty damned fast, especially when there's this much of it. Not that a whole lot changes in his bearing following the discovery; his expression is equally flat as he mops his forehead again. "Whatever we're looking for, we're probably getting close."
"It's a lot for one person to have lost," Adrienne adds in agreement with Ian. She crouches into the muck, touches a gloved finger to the blood to inspect it. Head tipping back, she follows Sunaia's gaze to the birds. "I preferred it when they were absent."
Mirari's demeanor changes when she spots blood speckling the leaves. Others have already seen it, so she doesn't bother speaking up. Instead she hefts her flower away into a makeshift back hanging off her hip, opposite her waterskin. Then with an opaque, wary expression she steps forward-- to put herself into a position to better protect the royals of the group. Idly, she wipes dirt off her talons. A glance is given up to the seemingly laughing birds and she hisses at them. Full on, breath pushes through her teeth in a feline hiss at the birds. It's a rather animalistic way of saying 'fuck off'.
Another vague exhaled snort from somewhere further down the line, that not-chuff of a laugh, the pallid smile from Sunaia. A hand on, resting only, on the pommel of her plainer sword. Adjusting the weight. Then, her nose scrunches. Blood. Another sidelong look overhead, squinting, glaring at those annoying birds. "Wonder if they're edible."
"Everything is edible once," murmurs Adrienne deadpan, clearly wondering the same.
"If they ever do go quiet, that's the time to worry," Ian remarks regarding the birds, while picking his way over a fallen log with care. "I'll take listening to them over not."
Lore either doesn't notice the birds or is ignoring them. She's focused more on the blood trail and where it leads, frowning slightly. "This doesn't feel right. If someone is injured, why would they head -deeper- into the jungle? Especially if they lost enough that they're not even bothering to cut a path anymore...." Lifting a shrug, she loosk ready to press on!
The first time Prince Aindre's fingertips come up with fresh droplets of blood to smear between them he throws up the hand signal again that he's found something. He goes on to note how Lord Ian and several others have noticed it also and that leads him to finally recognize how truly much of the stuff there is around them and ahead of them and it brings something of a grim look across his face. "I rather like the birds.", he quietly imparts to those talking about them. "Just for the same reasons as Lord Ian has. When they go quiet the real bad stuff is out there..". The Grayson prince steels himself against what's the come and sheathes the little knife he'd been using to mark their path so he can more fully commit himself to that hammer he's been carrying around also.
"Works -- until it doesn't." Sunaia murmurs, agreeably, to either (both) comments spoken by Pravus and Kennex. Offering the hint of a toothy smile.
"Unless it's self-inflicted," Adrienne adds after Lore, rising, "the wound came from somewhere." She does not rule out the potential of self-injury despite the dangers around them. Her gaze drops when Aindre grips at his hammer. A screetch makes her jaw twitch. "Let's hope you both do not have gifts for prescience."
As they pick their way through the broken foilage, it starts to become clear that something, something person-sized was -dragged- through it. The blood happens to be a remarkably effective trail marker, though it doesn't lead to anything they were perhaps wanting to see. Up ahead of them, wrapped around the truck of a large tree, the circumference of which would not be encircled even if the lot of them joined hands to try, is a body. The skin was once dusky, but is now gray and artificially pale from loss of blood. There are wounds on his shoulders and legs and dark bruises left around his neck. His body hangs at a strange angle only made possible because the man's neck has been broken. Messily. There are signs of passage away from the area in the form of broken branches, also bloody.
Lore checks perception at normal. Lore is successful.
Adrienne checks perception and survival at normal. Botch! Adrienne is simply outclassed. This is monumentally beyond them and the result is ruinous.
Adrienne checks intellect and medicine at normal. Adrienne is successful.
"Well that's not good." Ian briefly dons his Captain Obvious cap to make this brilliant deduction, without any real change in his tone of voice. He's cautious about approaching the body, and will gently discourage anyone else from doing so until he's had a look at the ground around the tree, and then the tree itself.
Ian checks perception and survival at normal. Ian is marginally successful.
As he gets closer to the body, Ian's brow furrows. "Hold up a second. There's something..." There's a hesitation in voice, like he's trying to put a very vague concept into words, and not finding the right ones. "Don't touch the body. Something's not... something's wrong about this."
Aindre checks perception at normal. Aindre is marginally successful.
Adrienne's pale and oddly golden gaze fixes on the body bent around the tree to the brief exclusion of anything else. Still, she awaits a go ahead from the others before joining Ian. She listens, crouching again a safe distance away, Lore's scarf pressed to her mouth, and scruitinizing the body. "Puncture wounds. A lot of them." Her brow lifts, surprised. "A broken neck and back, it looks like. I'd say after he died, though." She frowns beneath the mask, baffled. She tips a glance up to Ian. "Take your time. What do you see?" Her encouragement is patient but serious.
Sunaia's attentive, not looking _at_ the body directly, but to assist Mirari - keeping a careful silvery gaze around them for unexpected surprises. "Bait?"
"If its self-inflicted then its even worse. It means we're being -lead- and in a particularly grisly fashion. Neither option particularly appeals," Lore returns to the Princess with a grimace. She turns back just in time for them to break through the vegetation and into the clearing. Halting rather suddenly at the gruesome sight before them, she draws in a breath and steels herself before approaching. She doesn't actually TOUCH the man, she just sort of... hovers around the body and peers at it from multiple angles. "He's Eurusi.. Skal'dajan military... he must have gotten separated.." She glances towards SUnaia and shrugs, "This doesn't seem deliberate... its... sudden. Violent. Which is really just as terrifying."
Mirari's eyes flicker over the surroundings, over the giant tree, and then out at every angle they could be attacked from (re: everywhere). She glances at the large tree and then at another tree. A frown is given before she flexes her taloned fingers at Sunaia, "Shall I climb up and see what I can see, hm?" She eyes a nearby tree looking for a particularly tall and sturdy one, that does not have a horrifically broken body on it.
Ian sniffs the air, because what he needs right now is MORE smell of death, and looks up into the canopy again. He has the air of someone trying to grasp something ephemeral, just barely beyond his reach. "Maybe," he says of Sunaia's suggestion about bait. "I don't think we should stay here."
Lore checks perception and survival at normal. Lore is successful.
Mirari checks dexterity and athletics at normal. Mirari is marginally successful.
Prince Aindre does a little looking around, first at the man up close and then at the clearing around them and he seems to come to the conclusion, "I don't know if we should take our time actually..", this offered over to Princess Adrienne in counter to her suggestion, "Whatever wrapped that poor soul around that tree like that also left this whole clearing behind. I'm not sure it's wise to be here when our enemies are out there.", he adds on with a gesture out into the thickness of the jungle around them. At Master Corsetina's suggestion he does relent to advise, "On the other hand, having a look from up high might not hurt? If you're quick about it?", but even then his gaze stretches back out to the treeline where the heaviness of the jungle begins anew, keeping his guard up while the rest of the information is gathered. On that guard, he crosses the clearing over to where the man's weapon was dropped near the treeline, picking it up and looking it over.
Mirari checks luck at normal. Mirari is successful.
Anger ripples across Adrienne's eyes at Lore's pronouncement that the dead man is Skal'dajan. They're here. It's brief. How he died is the more pressing concern. She turns her head to look down the path yet to come. "Don't slip," is all she advises Mirari. Ian's unease has her rising. "Whatever killed this man - and I do not know what - may be hunting still. How curious are you?" She is very curious.
Ian doesn't look thrilled about Mirari going up a tree, but he waits while she does whatever she's going to do, speaking with Lore in the meantime: "He got separated and then took off his shoes? Do they usually go around barefoot?"
"Hunting," Thoughtfully, and Sunaia's expression wilts a little, "Wish I had the dogs --" Edging around the clearing, continuing to look low if Mirari is looking high.
Sunaia checks perception and survival at normal. Sunaia is marginally successful.
Adrienne holds the scarf to her mouth against the corpse's stench. Something, maybe curiosity, draws her back to the body. She takes another step closer, inspects from a different angle. "I can see clear through /his body/." It takes Adrienne a moment to understand what she just said. "The entry and exit wounds are as wide as my wrist. How?" She breathes out the last syllable and looks ineffectually around. There are trees.
"Huh.", Prince Aindre remarks, aloud, holding up the weapon that, ostensibly the tree-hugger had been wielding. "Only the handle of this thing has blood on it. The blade's thick with.. sap? Sticky, clear, not sap I'm familiar with." The weapon is something he's just picked up, a Eurusi something-or-other, who knows these things? "Would a tree just kill a person out here?", he asks quite seriously of Princess Adrienne on the chance that she knows, while warily turning his attention back over to where Mirari's about to go up a tree.
"No, but he'd been barefoot for awhile. My -guess- is that something attacked their camp, scattered the forces, and then chased a singled-out prey until..." Lore motions to the body around the tree and shrugs, then steps back from the tree to look around the clearing. "Whatever it was, left off in that direction." SHe points to another trail of broken foliage.
It's part athletic ability and part that she has alaricite claws on her fingers that has Mirari up the tree. She slides at one point, her steelsilk sandal slipping off of a branch and she catches herself with her talons, but then continues to climb up. There is a sudden pause at one point. Somewhere near the middle of the tree. Where she looks downward, and there is a pressing of her brows together. For a brief moment there is something akin to fear on her expression. She hangs there in the tree for a moment, seemingly having some internal debate.
A hand slides downward as if she were going to retreat, but then suddenly she starts climbing up higher /faster/.
"/No/. Fuck you." She might be over heard growling ...
At the tree itself?
Mirari checks dexterity at normal. Botch! Mirari catastrophically fails.
Lore checks dexterity and brawl at daunting. Lore is marginally successful.
As Mirari curses at the tree, she suddenly is flying off the tree, through the air, and crashes right into Lore's waiting arms, knocking them both over into the broken underbrush. Lore likely saved Mirari a broken limb or two.
Adrienne checks mana and agriculture at hard. Adrienne is marginally successful.
"Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhh--" Mirari shrieks as she goes flying.
Adrienne looks at Aindre. She holds his gaze. There's an exchange, there, of mutual understanding.
Then Mirari growls.
"I think you're right," she spits out, twisting on her heel to look to where the woman climbs. But what is she supposed to do? "Let her go," Adrienne tells the tree. Yes, she's talking to a tree. But they're in a jungle where trees are killing people, and this is not even the most mad thing she's done since becoming Adrienne Pravus. "We are no threat to you. I swear it in Petrichor's name."
"Shit," Ian says after a moment, and not at what's going on with Mirari. He's squinting at the body, as if whatever he was trying to put into words is slowly taking shape in his mind. "Sparte once took me on a trip to a forest that had been a battlefield. The trees --" And then suddenly Mirari is sailing through the air, and Lore's reacting faster than he could.
Lore looks up towards Mirari's growl and frowns. Trees. She knows something about trees. What is it? Trying to cudgel her brain to remember what she might know of trees and things that happen in them, she nearly misses the flying Mirari. "Oh shi-!" Taking off at a run, she puts herself right into Mirari's path and braces herself for impact! AND IT WORKS. That was a shot in the dark, but she grabs Mirari and them both go tumbling away into the undergrowth. Panting hard, she offers a brief grin to Mirari, "Trees are bad, m'kay?"
Screaming through gritted teeth as Mirari flies overhead, Adrienne makes a wild GET BACK gestures at her companions. "We are leaving. Let us help you."
"You should be careful! I think that tree is a mur-..", Prince Aindre is in the midst of stage-calling up to Mirari whenever she goes flying away from the tree and the rest of his warning is clearly not needed at this point. Before he can even finish working out where she's going to land, there's Lore waiting with open arms and the Grayson's look of horror becomes something more like relief, then worry. Then more worry as the pair of them go crashingoff into some underbrush. "That was amazing, Lore!", he says, trying to get over there and pull back some of that underbrush so the two can more easily get back out again, "Where is bard when we need one!", comes his first and only actual lament, and he notes to Lord Ian, "Was that not something else? We should get out of here.".
"-ck." Mirari finishes, as she crashes into Lore. She flails a moment as they are both knocked off, and then she works at untangling her limbs from Lore's and says, "Thank you, Master Artiglio." She dusts herself off and glares at the tree. A sniff is given as she shakes her clothing out. To the tree, through gritted teeth she says, "My sincerest apologies, mister tree. It was rude of me to climb without permission." She looks like she just sucked down a whole lemon, but the apology is given.
"Very angry trees. Also, Lore was right. Panic-driven, not deliberate. There's more blood thataway. We're still looking for this missing party -- we look, but, don't think the jungle want us to mess around with them --" Sunaia is brightening "-- MAY we continue through, trees? Or, do you have someone to speak for you?" Politely, because that helps.
Ian straightens up. "Is whatever we're doing here important enough to risk getting torn apart by a tree? Or eaten. It might be a druid doing this."
If Adrienne's entreaty or Mirari's response is received, there is no response from the looming trees overhead, only the maniacal laughter of the birds that inhabit them, cackling at the blood and the flailing women that end up on the jungle floor. Distantly, there is the sound of a cry deeper in the jungle, broken and faint and just barely heard between the laughing birds.
Lore lets the others talk to the trees. She's not agriculturally inclined, not even close to having a green thumb. Picking herself up, she brushes herself off and gives a nod to Mirari, "Anytime." Stretching, rolling one shoulder, she flashes a grin at Aindre and offers, "Its okay, I know a bard that will take the story and run with it. He -lives- for this sort of thing." Looking back to the others, she offers, "Perhaps we should just, ah... leave the clearing? They aren't impeding us in general and -.." She pauses at the cry and winces, "And there's that. We can take this path here and see what else we can find?"
"If there's people out here who need us, then it may very well be. I can't imagine being lost out here with nobody searching for me.", Prince Aindre speaks up, letting a bit of determination work itself into the set of his features, then he advises the others, "For now, I'd say it's worth being mindful of respecting the forest as we move through it. Clearly, we're not in the Gray anymore." Just between the cackling birds there comes that cry and the Grayson tenses up visibly, moving as he agrees with Lore, "Yeah, they're not being very secretive. Maybe we can move a little faster, but keep low and quiet." For his part, he does just that, hammer in hand.
Ian swears under his breath at the sound of the cry, but he doesn't spring to the defense of whoever is further in the jungle. "Before we go on too much farther. I once saw a battlefield where a druid had used the trees to wipe out an army." His voice is flat, and deadly serious. "Skeletons entangled in branches, half-swallowed by trunks." He looks from person to person. "I want all of you to understand the risks. Asking the trees for permission won't do shit if someone is controlling them."
Low and quiet? Well that's what Mirari's are good for! She smiles at Aindre. A glance is given toward Ian and she says, "Then the druid should be ended. If they are enslaving the jungle-- well they need to be stopped." There is, briefly, a rather fanatically look in the dark haired woman's eyes.
Quiet: "Oh -- Ian, don't ruin the whimsy." Wry. Sunaia smile is a tight, close-lipped thing, "Trees seem tame compared to what it could be. Out there." Keeping herself low, a careful stalk, ready again to follow. "Druid might be interesting."
Rising unsteadily, Adrienne wipes at her eyes. Tears. Not sweat. "We are not wanted here." She refocuses on the distant scream. "I would wager that /that/ is the Skal'dajan's companion who dragged him here." She sucks in a breath. Her features are grim. "The Skal'dajan invasion is here, but they will not advance this way. I believe we can be sure of that." She considers Aindre seriously, weighing pros and cons in her head. "We've seen no sign of our scouts. Only those of the Skal'dajans, and we know how they died. I would advise returning to Pieros. The voice I heard - whether tree or druid - is scared. We are frightening them." She lifts a hand in deferral, however. If the group wishes to continue, she will as well.
Lore pauses to look back at Adrienne, "All deference to the treepeople... but these Skal'dajans might have battle plans, formations, tactics, orders for where to dtrike first... information that would be helpful to us AND the trees. The sooner we can route these guys, the sooner the trees will be left alone again."
The casual suggestion that a druid 'should be ended' makes Ian lower his head a bit and pinch the bridge of his nose for a moment. "You wouldn't say it was tame if you'd seen the aftermath," he mutters to Sunaia. "I've seen some messed up stuff, and that battlefield probably ranks in the top ten. This might be something the Spirit Walkers are better suited to deal with."
Adding to her earlier comments, Lore suggests, "You know, if the Skal'dajan's find out that the jungle was the reason their own troops were killed, they may easily just come back here with mages to raze a path with fire... we may want to do what we can to gather information and cover tracks if we're looking to preserve this place. Then some of the Spirit Walkers can come back later to help make the trees feel better."
"War stories. Later." Clipped, words kept short and soft, Sunaia's glancing from the direction the cry came from - to the others - and back again. Fidget. Sneeeeeak. Fidget. "Also said. Seems tame. Always something worse." A beat. "I want to see."
Prince Aindre halts, standing up a little straighter and turning around, not even quite into the treeline yet, "I don't have much of a way with trees, and I don't think the whole party we're searching for is in there or else we'd see a lot more signs of it. There is some merit to Lore's thought of valuable knowledge to be gained from extracting that man, but I think if you're confident that we're frightening these wildlands and Lord Ian seems pretty confident that trees can be extremely dangerous, I value the lives of those standing here more than I value whatever knowledge a single possible scout might be carrying on him." After, as almost an afterthought, he adds, "We should advise all possible armies to avoid this part of the jungle, and to exercise wariness around any of the flora here."
"You do have an adventurer's heart, Lore," Adrienne observes ruefully. She studies the other woman, a damp scarf still hanging limply from her neck. "We're evenly split. But I agree with you. But. Someone must survive to see word of this place returned to Pieros. The Skal'dajans will return to do exactly what you have predicted." She seems utterly confident. "Let us help you," she says, this time to the trees around her. Then back to the group: "Any objections?"
"To killing slavers?" asks Mirari with a drawl. "Nope."
Though it shines on his face how poor an idea Prince Aindre seems to think it is, he does finally relent as he seems to consider something. It comes with a sigh, then, "Maybe the forest will take pity on us if we're removing the problem for it.", and instead of doubling-up on his hammer he slings the thing instead, "I'm not going to get myself killed by trees with feelings. I don't think druids are slavers? I mean, I know almost nothing of druids? I just never hear people talking about them unkindly and there are a /lot/ of people in Arx who want to talk about druids for some reason..", and while he's saying that he's kind of raising his hands into the air a little and edging along with the rest into the treeline trying to look as non-threatening as he can to.. uh.. some trees. Or a druid, or whatever.
After a bit of deliberation, it is decided to send Sunaia back to the city with some guards to make a report on what they have found so far. The rest face the task of picking a direction to go, but the most obvious is to head where there are more broken branches and undergrowth. It just so happens to be in the direction of those screams. Which have now stopped.
"People in Arx have some ridiculous, romantic notions about magic." Ian is making more of an effort not to fall behind, now. His progress is not quiet. From time to time, he scans the trees.
"I hadn't realized they were magical," Adrienne admits of druids as she gives Mirari and Lore a very quick once over for injuries before sending them off to sneakery and adventure. She keeps carefully to the rear otherwise, listening and not particularly stealthy herself. She watches the trees, trying again to reach out and praying to Petrichor for a little. bit. of. help. here.
Lore checks dexterity and stealth at normal. Lore is marginally successful.
Mirari checks dexterity and stealth at normal. Mirari is marginally successful.
Ian checks dexterity and stealth at normal. Ian fails.
Adrienne checks dexterity and stealth at normal. Adrienne fails.
Aindre checks intellect and survival at normal. Aindre is marginally successful.
Mirari tips her head in the direction of Lore, and then glances off to the side. Then she's shifting away into the brush. She slips close to (but not AGAINST) the trees, and she is careful as she moves to not break or snap any branches or fonds as she moves, but she still uses them as cover as she goes. The carefulness is more out of desire to not upset the jungle than to stay quiet.
The effort to move stealthily through a dense jungle is challenging and even experts in the skill sure as Mirari and Lore might find themselves struggling to move soundlessly, though both manage to make it without making too much noise. That is not the case for Adrienne and Ian, though the noise they make doesn't seem to be attracting anything besides more birds laughing at them. Aindre moves carefully through the underbrush, picking his footing carefully. There is blood through this path as well and the sense that whoever preceded them did not take such care.
Lore nods to Mirari before slipping off into the underbrush in the opposite direction, crouched and moving carefully. The nice thing of a stealthy approach is that by its very nature, its non-disturbing of the environment. One has to work at not breaking fronds or bending leaves in one's passage, after all. And thankfully, Lore had to learn, quickly, how to step lightly so as not to leave prints in sand. Try it sometime, its damn near impossible to not leave prints in sand! There's little that can be done for the occasional squelch of foot to sucking boggy ground, but hopefully it will be overlooked in favor of the more... loud and proud of the group?
The Pravosi princess tries her best to follow in Lore and Mirari - and Aindre's - careful footsteps. Moss squishes satisfyingly if inconveniently under heel. More than once, however, Adrienne looks over her shoulder, as though expecting to find that the trees have moved to mask their path and trap them here.
"Well, we're not a smeared trail of blood yet.", Prince Aindre notes, mostly to Ian and Adrienne, ignoring the people who have slipped into stealth because where even are they? As he continues to edge in the direction of where that screaming had gone silent, he is seemingly sweet-talking the foliage around him, "I get it. You're a little angry. These Skald'ajans are scary and they have weapons and some of them are probably tainted by some foul presence - I'm sure trees probably hate that - but we're just.. going to take this one off your hands. Like pulling a splinter out." Helpfully he suggests to the wilderness around him, "I'm just saying it would be very nice to leave this place and be able to stop those Eurusi from returning to raze anything here. I like life." Surely it's working? He looks a little nervous about the whole affair.
Ian pats Aindre on the shoulder. "Always nice to see someone looking on the bright side," he mutters, with a ghost of a dry smile. He's not trying too hard to keep track of Lore or Mirari, either. They'll probably scream if they need him.
Sneak, sneak. Mirari ducks underneath leaves, around trees and bushes, and just in general attempts to stay out of sight-- and move quietly. She follows the trail as closely as she can, but also lifts her gaze to try and keep sight of the others-- lest she get separated.
Mirari checks perception at normal. Critical Success! Mirari is spectacularly successful.
Lore checks perception at normal. Lore marginally fails.
Adrienne checks mana at normal. Adrienne fails.
Ian checks perception at normal. Ian is marginally successful.
Aindre checks perception at normal. Botch! Aindre is simply outclassed. This is monumentally beyond them and the result is ruinous.
The smell of blood and something like rotting fruit becomes stronger as they walk along the makeshift path. Mirari notices it first. The plants are closing around them. They are -pushing- them forward. Ian starts to get that sense that Something Is Wrong here. Very wrong. Adrienne and Lore don't notice what is happening right away, but Aindre, poor Aindre, he doesn't even notice the vines that are wrapping around his legs, as subtle and gentle as a lover's touch. At least until they jerk him off his feet and start dragging him down the path. So much for stealth.
Ian checks dexterity and medium wpn at daunting. Ian is marginally successful.
Ian is moving before Aindre hits the ground, shifting his grip on his cane. He draws an alaricite sword from within it while he stumbles forward, falling to his knees, and cuts as part of that draw. It's not graceful, coming off looking like a very fast scramble more than anything else, but when it's all over, he's on his knees in the mud, sword in hand, and his charge isn't getting dragged to his death. "You alright?" He's not out of breath, and even after that, his expression is flat, and his eyes are calm. In fact, if anything, he looks CALMER now than he did a minute ago.
"Another clearing, another body up ahead." Mirari calls out. Off somewhere from the left. "The plants are herding us that way."
Then they can likely hear the sounds of the dark haired woman moving through the jungle there. She doesn't bother to try and hide what she is doing now. She simply strides toward the aforementioned clearing, bold as brass.
The vines seem to hiss when Ian cleaves them with his alaricite sword. They retract into the dense jungle and out of sight. The parts that remain wrapped around Aindre blacken and turn to ash in a matter of moments.
For his part, Aindre doesn't look calm at all! He yelps as he hits the ground when his boots are dragged out from beneath him and the volume of his voice is invaliant at best as he shouts, "You handsy monster!", and tries desperately to find purchase with his hands as he's being dragged off. Luckily, Lord Ian is there to neatly sever the vines that were trying to have at him and he scrambles to his feet not nearly as gracefully as he'd like to. "Well maybe they can let us go of our own accord!", he says to where Mirari's voice came from, those eyes of his looking a little wilder there for a moment as he sorts himself out and checks his surroundings, particularly his ankles, "I'm having seconds thoughts about going where the plants want us to go." This as he's shaking loose vines that turn to ash and cinders and suddenly need to be stamped underfoot and very bravely this time he doesn't yelp at all, he just squares his jaw and mutters something.
"Keep moving," Adrienne advises, yanking on Ian and Aindre to shuffle them after Mirari. For her part, she keeps her head low and watches for further vines. "Skal'dajan?" she calls after Mirari.
Under her breath, Adrienne murmurs in a clipped tone to Ian, "Well done."
Lore doubles back to catch up with the rest of the group, reaching down to help haul Ian up to his feet and murmuring, "Looks like we both think quickly on our feet." Then she's moving to try and catch up to Mirari. Probably a good idea that nobody is by themselves just now. Just in case.
Ian pulls a cloth out of his pocket and takes a minute cleaning the blade of his sword before he sheathes it into his cane. It takes him a minute to get back to his feet again (Lore's help speeds that up, though). "This is no good," he remarks as he watches the vines turn to ash. "That's what those blood vines did when we cut them up." He'll start for the next body, herded along by the plants like everyone else.
Ian checks dexterity at normal. Ian marginally fails.
Mirari checks dexterity at normal. Mirari is successful.
Adrienne checks dexterity at normal. Adrienne is marginally successful.
Aindre checks dexterity at normal. Aindre is marginally successful.
Lore checks dexterity at normal. Critical Success! Lore is spectacularly successful.
Ian might have cut the vines that were grabbing and dragging Aindre, but it doesn't take long to return. And it brings friends! Vines, thorned and barbed and smelling foul, slide from the dense vegetation and start flailing and snatching and -stabbing-. The others, probably aware enough because this entire trip has been a creepfest, dodge and duck out of the way of the wicked vines, but Ian catches a slap square in the cheek. Payback. At least it wasn't a thorned one. This one is just covered in a grayish goop that smells bad and sort of burns his skin...
Ian brings his cane up to parry, but like, it's a vine, Ian. You can't parry a vine. As he discovers when he gets smacked on the cheek by the vine that went right around his cane, because duh. He uses the end of his already foul smelling scarf to wipe off whatever nastiness got on his skin.
"That's it! We're out of here! Someone grab that body if you're into gambling!", Prince Aindre calls out, and he doesn't bother to unsling his steel hammer, instead he reaches for the knife he'd been using to notch trees, "Anyone who doesn't want to be a blood smear in the Saffron Chain should consider following Princess Adrienne, who is about to get marching the other direction!". He sounds like he's made up his mind here and all it took was the forest actually trying to murder him after intimating it wanted to murder him. He does move closer to Lord Ian, and waves the others in closer to each other. "We need all the hands we can get on each other if someone is dragged off!".
This is the sort of training that Lore very much remembers. Weapons lashing out from nowhere, whips cracking in every direction, poison and venoms at random, and a deep need to not be touched by ANY of it. Its sad, really, but that survival instinct kicks in HARD and Lore performs feats of acrobatic mastery to avoid the thorns and vines, looking at times like a dancer and other times like a gymnast. Twisting and twirling until she can reach Mirari, and the body that she'd approached. Flashing a grin, she tilts her head back towards the grin, "Shall we?"
Adrienne runs for the clearing. She requires no further incentive. "Tell me there's good news up there," she calls after Lore and Mirari. The smell has her looking over her shoulder to Ian. There's no time to tend to it now. She, unlike Ian, is taking in ragged breaths of the humid air. "I don't know that I like our odds behind you, Aindre, better than the ones ahead."
"Mmmnope." Mirari drawls, loudly, in the direction of the others. "Probably not. But don't worry, highnesses, we'll get the body." Then she's making her way fully into the clearing toward the aforementioned body to attempt to grab it off of the tree and pull it away. "Heave-ho, Artiglio!"
Adrienne checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Adrienne is marginally successful.
Mirari checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Mirari is marginally successful.
Ian checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Ian is successful.
Lore checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Lore is successful.
Aindre checks dexterity and dodge at normal. Aindre is successful.
Vines are still thrashing wildly around because, apparently, this part of the jungle is PISSED. Yet, these vines aren't being especially fast or strong and everyone manages to easily dodge getting snatched or smacked. As Lore and Mirari approach the body, the man is clearly dead, but hasn't been for long. Blood stains his clothing, which was likely once the shades of greens of the jungle around them. Camoflage. He is lashed to the tree by thick vines and a brown leather pack along with his weapons, daggers, are on the ground near the base of the enormous tree.
Mirari checks willpower at daunting. Botch! Mirari is simply outclassed. This is monumentally beyond them and the result is ruinous.
Mirari doesn't even to stop to thing. The daggers are swiped up off of the ground, leaving Lore to deal with trying to get the body off of the tree if she wants. She eyeballs the tree a moment and says mildly, "It's probably eating him. These are mine."
Adrienne checks mana at normal. Adrienne is successful.
With characteristic calm, Ian hooks the strap of the pack with his cane and lifts it so that he can easily snag it, all the while sidestepping more vines that are making further attempts to enact their revenge. Now that he has remembered that you can't parry foliage, he's doing a lot better at that, go figure. "Everyone ready to try and get out of here?" Because holy crap is he ever ready.
Lore checks perception at normal. Lore is successful.
"Yes." There's anticipation in the way she looks to Ian, who grabs the bag. "I can feel something." She's looking around and dodging darting tendrils. "Whatever lives here is not of the gods. And we may need something stronger than spirit walkers to deal with it." Her gaze drops to the dead Skal'dajan. "Next time." If they survive the war still to come.
The vines thrash and snatch at them, but they aren't very successful. Overhead, the birds that had laughed at them before now seem to scream, as if in unison. Scream and the vines retract as if in pain. The dense jungle leaves and branches part off to one side. A path, free of blood, being offered.
Lore nods to Mirari and doesn't even seem at all surprised at the claiming of the daggers. Of course those are hers, they always were, right? Instead, she inspects the body in a quick onceover, frowning slightly and ducking another vine to step in closer. She lifts something off the body, tucking it away before hurrying back to the others with a nod, "Right, well, I think that's everything we're going to get from these Skal'dajan's. Back to Pieros?" She glances to Adrienne and smiles, "You have my services anytime you need them."
Prince Aindre's so ready to go that he's already going! At least he's turned around and made a partial retreat and he gesturing to Lord Ian who he can't seem to leave behind now that they've bonded over not dying to plants. "Let's go you crazy Kennex son of a sea otter!", he calls out, picking his way around whatever vines are slithering nearest to him and trying to act as beacon for the sailor as to where he can get through at. Then there's birds screaming and the vines are recoiling away and it certainly has him confounded for a brief moment as he spots the path that's being opened, looking around to the others with a little bit of well-earned disbelief even as heads in that direction to see the others through it.
Adrienne looks at the definitely-not-a-trap path. "Petrichor be praised." If it's a trap, well, it won't matter anyway that she's given him false credit. She runs. And Lore is smiling at her. A strangled noise escapes Adrienne and she grips briefly at Lore's arm. "You've seen nothing yet." It's a feverish promise. "Now move!"
"Mm." Mirari ducks around and dodges the thrashing vines. She glances down at the daggers in her hand and then up toward the offered path. "Mm, hmm... Trap?" But she takes a step toward it. As if she's willing to be the first to fall into the trap. "I found some nice Skal'dajan daggers." She sing-songs. "I can't wait to stab a slaver in the eye with his own weapon."
Ian casually smacks a vine out of the way with his cane (BAD VINE!) and starts for the possible trap path but fingers crossed maybe not, while he shoulders the pack he picked up. "Let's hope this is the way out, and not deeper in."
"On the contrary, Your Highness. I've seen entirely too much. But don't you worry, I'm not about to stand still for these wily vines," Lore lets out a laugh and heads straight for that definitely-not-a-trap path. Because ADVENTURE!
IT'S NOT A TRAP! This time, it really isn't. It leads them around the trees and appears to be guiding them deeper into the jungle at first before the plants begin to thin and small signs of civilization appear. As they leave it, the path seems to close up behind them. It appears that the Skal'dajans versus the Compact is not the only war that is being fought in the Saffron Chain...
Once they're safely out of the jungle, Ian's more than happy to hand the pack over to Adrienne so his hands are freed up to pour some water on the scarf Lore gave him and clean the remains of the yuck off his face.
The leather pouch contains some scrolls, written in pretty densely coded Eurusi. Lucky for you all, Lore recognizes the code and can decipher the instructions, which were to set up some forward camps in the jungles around Pieros to stage a surprise attack on the city. From some of the letters, this has apparently not beeing going well. Another scroll reveals to be a map with several mostly abandoned or even undiscovered coves that are marked with symbols that suggest them as landing points.
Desperate as she is to learn something, anything, that would justify their mad dash into that Abyssal jungle, Adrienne tends first to Ian's cheek if he'll let her, Mercy-training at the fore. It gives Lore time to decipher the notes in any case. Only then does she reads everything, closely, as quickly as Lore can interpret it. Adrienne is soaked through with sweat and grime. "They will not take our city." Her companions drift into her field of view. "Thank you. You have saved lives with this intelligence."
Mirari's will look over the code, and anyone looking at her closely enough that it's clear that she understand the language... Even if she doesn't quite understand the code. "What gibberish." She huffs in irritation. Then she steps over to Adrienne and says, "Highness, a present." One of the dagger is presented to her. "Just don't cut yourself or anything with it, until we're certain they haven't tainted it somehow."
"A trophy." Adrienne does not immediately take the weapon, however. She rises to look eye-to-eye with Mirari and grasps both of the woman's upper arms. "You are mad and brilliant and the sight of you flying overhead from that cursed tree is not one I will ever forget. Thank you." The last is a whisper and she only then takes the weapon.
Ian patiently lets Adrienne look at his cheek until Mirari comes over with one of those daggers he intentionally did not touch before. At that point she'd better be done, because he's putting some distance between himself and her and the weapon.
Mirari grins broadly at Adrienne and she says, "I am just as I am, highness." She hands off the other woman, and then moves off somewhere to poke at her found dagger. Checking over it's make, what type of metal it is, the weft and weave of it, the everything. It shall be -inspected-. There is also her possibly demonic flower to inspect.
Back to list