The wee Davian Goldomain pointed the party in the direction of the “little man of the woods” who had sealed him in a magic bubble. Their path took them deep into the fey-haunted wilderness, where the sounds of trees splintering warned them of a titanic struggle taking place just ahead. Awaiting them was a warforged, Bassgod, a bard of some repute who’d watched the whole spectacle unfold.
A massive tri-horn behemoth, a rarity in these parts, was waging a life and death battle with a squirrel. At this point, the party reflected on how damned weird their lives had gotten, that the sight didn’t really surprise them. The behemoth was charging and thrashing, unable to hit his nimble opponent, which was wearing the beast down with sustained guerrilla attacks. The party opted to wait until the battle was over to try and sneak past the squirrel to the overgrown path they spied beyond. As the behemoth breathed its last, the squirrel set eyes on the party.
And what murderous eyes they were! Zed found himself bloodied with a single attack, and Dashiel‘s sharpest arrow strikes couldn’t hit the little monster. The party quickly fell back to a defensive position, with Varris hurling the injured Zed to safety before being pulled out of the fray by Bassgod’s magic beats. It was then that Nyrineab hatched an unorthodox plan.
By everyone’s best estimates, the squirrel was an ordinary forest critter with layers of powerful enchantments. Nyrineab having ritual training, he decided to ready a disenchantment ritual, step into the squirrel’s attack radius, and discharge the ritual on contact, and hope for the best. The preparations were made, and as the squirrel raced at the shade like a furry missile, he braced himself for impact. Mercifully, the enchantments dissolved on contact in a blinding flash, and the squirrel fell to the ground harmlessly. Visok opted to bash it anyway, just in case.
The way forward was clear, and eventually led to an ancient platform that held an overgrown portal. A small figure was busily working at something. The party opted to ready a surprise attack, only to have the plan go awry when Nyrineab offered to buy the kid back. The figure vanished into thin air, bellowing threats that quickly ended when he recognized most of the party.
The “litttle man of the forest” proved to be none other that disgraced gnomish wizard Khalid Kashem. He had been travelling around, making sure that potential fey crossings remained closed. He’d opted to borrow Davian’s dowsing rods to help in his work, only for the elf boy to see through his invisibility and follow him. Davian, it seemed, had considerable magical potential. He’d left the boy in a ward at his campsite to ensure his safety, and enchanted the squirrel to deter interruptions. The party found the murder squirrel to be perhaps a bit of overkill, but he boosted the enchantment on Zed‘s coat by way of apology. It wasn’t perfect, but it was appreciated. Kashem opted to return the boy to his family and try to smooth things over, but it took some of Bassgod‘s diplomacy to keep mother Goldomain from attacking the runt. Kashem’s offer of accompaniment fell on deaf ears, and he flew off into the sunset, leaving the party to resume their travels.
The party and The Goldomain Family parted ways at the outskirts of Hala Xel. Out of gratitude for helping to recover their son, the family had baked a bag of delicious elven waybread, which promised to keep the party fed for the next week. Following their map, the party began the treacherous climb into the Daelfarn Mountains.
The first sighting of the Deorai Goliaths came with the chance encounter of a herd of skygoats. These woolly creatures claim elemental ancestry, which meant their thick coats fade into wisps of cloud. The party knew from their briefing that these were the herd animals of choice for the Deorai, and sure enough, a goliath shepherd happened by, massive longbow at the ready, unsure of what to make of these strange outsiders. Bassgod got the gent to lower his weapon with some catchy beats. Unfortunately, further communication proved difficult, as the shepherd spoke only goliath, and only seemed interested in communicating with Visok, at any rate. Luckily, Nyrineab had another answer in his ritual book, that enabled some one-way communication. It took a great deal of pointing and gesturing, but when Visok showed off his runepriest powers, it got the party an audience with the Deorai.
The Deorai village was most suspicious of the travellers, and greeted the party with stern glares and disapproval. Their shepherd guide attempted to grant them an audience with the tribe’s elders, only to have his request refused. It appeared that the party was out of luck when one of the elders emerged. Elder Hadhra would speak to them.
She spoke a smattering of common, but seemed disappointed when she found that the party was indeed here to trade on behalf of the Arcane Academy. The Deorai Goliaths maintain a strict policy of non-interaction with outsiders. The only way to trade, she explained, would be if Visok performed The Ordeal, and joined the tribe.
The Ordeal was a Deorai rite of passage. To become a member of good standing, young goliaths journey west to a sacred location with a band of their fellows. In the shadows of the standing stones, they are to wait three days without food. At dawn on the third day, they are to build a fire and prepare tea from sacred herbs. After consumption, they will be tested mentally and physically. If they perform the rites to satisfaction, they are said to hear the voice of the mountains, and will return as full members of the Deorai people. Without fellows, the rest of the party could stand in for Visok’s Ordeal. Though they would not become citizens themselves, their participation would prove that he is a valued member of a community. The group agreed if it meant fulfilling their mission. Turning to the assembled crowd, Elder Hadhra shouted, “Rejoice, my people… the son of the Runekeeper will join the tribe!” Say what…?