After resting in Roesh for a month, Snow knew she could not put off her journey any longer. Truth to tell, she was looking forward to this chance at solitude and contemplation. So, one evening she pulled Malouf aside and told him she was leaving on a private journey. She made it clear that she did not wish to be accompanied. Leaving him with a note and some other items to deliver to Brecaryn, she took her leave. Perhaps they would meet again in a month's time in Betaya.
She travelled swiftly to Betaya and immediately went to the Candonian enclave, anxious to see her master again. Greetings were exchanged, stories told. News of Snow and her group's accomplishments had reached her people ahead of her. Now that the Red Bull had been defeated, Wei Pai informed Snow that they could no longer guard the Mirror. Already, two attempts had been made to steal it. Thankfully, none of the Candonians had been killed, but they could not risk another attack. Snow agreed to take the Mirror with her when she returned from her journey.
The next day, Snow left Betaya, heading south towards the Rusty Mountains. There she would meet Tsunami, her opponent, the one she must defeat if she wanted to retain the title of Master of Dragons. Tsunami had dedicated all his time to contemplation and study at the Drunken Butterfly temple. Could Snow, who had been away from her temple for over a year, defeat this master?
At first, the journey was uneventful. The unicorn's restoration to the land was having an immediate effect on Chumera. Things were markedly more peaceful. However, Snow did encounter a few difficulties.
One evening, while resting, a pack of hyenas approached. After several silent minutes where each weighed the strengths and weaknesses of their opponent, the hyenas decided to move on and find easier prey. Another evening, Snow noticed in the distance a group of goblins travelling north. She chose to avoid the band rather than risk an encounter.
Unfortunately, not all her experiences were so easy. On the fourth day of travel, she was attacked by a group of 7 ogres. Their leader appeared to be a shaman. Snow defended herself admirably at first, taking out the shaman and injuring a few more, but their numbers were too great. Instead of risking being overwhelmed, Snow quickly disengaged and escaped, quickly outpacing the group.
Just west of the Luka Sea, Snow encountered a regiment of the Knights of Phantar. Having been made an honorary Captain, she easily gained access to their camp. The South Lukans looked to be stirring up rebellion and the knights were working to quell it. Their captain advised Snow not advertise her membership into the knighthood in this area lest the South Lukan separatists find out and cause her trouble. After sharing the midday meal, Snow continued to her destination.
As she climbed the mountain, she found her path blocked by a large bear. It was agitated, pacing back and forth. Cautiously approaching it, Snow spoke to the animal hoping to calm its obvious distress. The bear's cub had slid down the cliff side and now the bear could not find it. Snow quickly pledged to find its offspring. The path was narrow. The cub had most definitely not gone down the mountain else she would have seen it, so there was only one other direction it could have gone - up.
Finally finding evidence of the cub's passing, she followed his trail off the path into a wooded area. Climbing a tree, she found the cub in a giant bird's nest next to an equally gigantic egg. Knowing full well that a giant egg usually came with a giant parent, she quickly picked up the cub and began her descent. Unfortunately, she was not quick enough for the roc returned, saw Snow near its nest, and attacked, knocking Snow and the bear cub out of the tree.
Snow was able to land with the cub without sustaining too much injury and quickly told the bear to run down the path to its waiting mother. The roc came back for a second pass. Using the trees to slow the roc down, Snow was able to paralyze the roc, but not without some cost to herself.
Bedraggled, injured, and exhausted, Snow finally arrived at the temple. The temple's residents were expecting her, and she was quickly ushered in to meet Tsunami. Her host greeted her graciously. After washing up and dining, the two agreed to meet the next morning to test their skills against each other.
At dawn, Snow and Tsunami met without weapons or armor. It was skill against skill alone. For many months, Snow had been using various items to increase her dexterity and power. Could she manage to win without these aids?
Tsunami made his first move and the fight began. Lightning fast attacks were countered by lightning fast defenses. To a casual observer, it would have been impossible to decipher any of the moves, a blur of arms and feet the only thing visible. As abruptly as the fight had started, it ended with Snow the victor.
After securing her title of Master of Dragons, Snow spent several days in the temple before leaving once again for Betaya. Her victory was celebrated upon her return. She quickly fell back into the steady rhythm of temple life until a missive was delivered to her. It was from Brecaryn. The party had decided to go to Pern to help Josy's people with an infestation of land sharks. She asked that Snow meet them there. Snow set out once again, this time with the Mirror. On her way to Pern, she passed a group of Goblins heading East, but chose not to engage them. She arrived in Pern Hobbiton soon afterwards, and was treated to a bath and a simple meal while waiting for her companions to arrive.
The rest of the party, exhausted from the long journey and endless fighting associated with their quest to end the Troubles and defeat the Mind Flayers and the Red Bull, spent several weeks resting in Roesh. They got their armor and weapons back in tip-top shape, did a lot of shopping, and spent time hanging out in taverns. In response to an inquiry from the Bards Guild, the group decided to name itself the Motley Crew.
They couldn't rest for too long, however, because Josy had been contacted by the Hobbits of Pern. It seemed they had a land shark infestation. At first the party thought it was just a loan shark infestation, which would be relatively easy to clean out, but upon learning that it was land sharks, Brecaryn hit the Knights of Phantar's library to do some research. She found some information, but also learned that another book on the subject of bulettes was in the Mages Guild library in Betaya. Deciding that time was of the essence, the party opted to forgo the further research and head directly to Pern. They sent word to Betaya via courier for Snow to meet them in Pern if possible.
Altercation in Yokel
On the way, they stopped in the town of Yokel. The city had already recovered from the Mind Flayer battle and was in the process of rebuilding. Many stores were open and the party was able to do more shopping! Alana visited a Gnomish blacksmith named Wunderbar who had a small supply of adamantine. Alana commissioned him to build some armor using the material, and he agreed. The armor would not be available right away but she paid a downpayment, and also requested if he got any more adamantine in that he build an additional item for the ranger Oliver Green, the newest member of the party.
Meanwhile, Lieralyn was invited out to a dinner date with a local nobleman, and Flerm spent some time investigating local real estate possibilities.
With the other members of their party occupied and Josy spending her time meditating in her room, Malouf, Flerm, and Brecaryn hit the tavern. Malouf, sitting at the bar, found himself accosted by an armored man, who was complaining about Malouf misrepresenting himself as a celebrity hero. When Malouf stood up to the challenge, the armored man summoned a friend, who Malouf noted was also a non-civilized individual (PC for Barbarian), although he was not from Malouf's swamp tribes. Hoping to prevent a big bar fight, Brecaryn used her magicks to paralyze the challengers, and then the party dragged them outside the tavern. More friends of the two men were outside, and things started heating up again, but Alana and Oliver returned to the tavern around this time and other group did not press things.
Vain Does Something
After spending the night in Yokel, the party got back on their southern path to Pern. After crossing the Logsend River, however, Vain took off, running due east. He ran at a casual pace, allowing the party to follow him. Eventually they arrived at a small grove of trees. In the center of the grove was a rocky hill. As Vain neared the hill, one of the larger rocks morphed into a humanoid face, shouting "Stop! Do not appro--" but Vain smashed it before it could finish, and then headed into the tunnel hidden behind the rock.
As the party deliberated, they heard a metallic crash in the tunnel below. They decided to follow, and found the remains of an Iron Golem at the bottom of the tunnel, presumably smashed by Vain. Going further, the party found an underground room with tiled floors and a large fountain.
The water in the fountain morphed into an image of Beeblebrox, which provided a message to the party that seemed to be a pre-recording in the Event that he wasn't around after the defeat of the Red Bull, which was in fact the case. His message included specifics for each member of the party, including those like Synchromie and Turtle who were no longer with the group, and one individual named Klute that no one had ever heard of. Vain cleared away another tunnel for Flerm, and the dark elf returned from the tunnel carrying a gift from Beeblebrox.
Help, Help, I'm Being Repressed
After Beeblebrox's message, Vain fell back in line and the group continued their travels. One night on watch a group of goblins passed their camp, heading west, but the Motley Crew chose not to engage.
Rather than go through the forest where Flerm had previously been killed by Harpies, the party decided to take the long route around to Pern Hobbiton. This required them to pass the Ruins of Pern, a mysterious abandoned fortress that the history books told very little about. As they approached the Ruins, Lieralyn became increasingly agitated, and eventually she screamed and passed out. The party saw a hairy creature crawling on one of the walls of a ruined tower before it scurried into a window.
It seemed that Lieralyn had been to the Ruins before, but seemingly repressed the memories. She had been found by Josy on the outskirts of Pern Hobbiton afterwards, and the two subsequently travelled to Beeblebrox's Isle in what would be the beginning of their journey to fight the Red Bull.
Eventually they passed out of sigh of the Pern Ruins, and Lieralyn recovered. Soon afterwards, the Crew got a preview of their landshark battle, as one burst out from under the ground and attacked the group. It strangely backed away and retreated underground after coming within an inch of swallowing Brecaryn, however.
The party finally arrived at Pern Hobbiton to find that Snow was already there waiting for them.
Little People, Little People All Around Me
After greeting each other and exchanging tales of the recent past, the Motley Crew assessed the situation with the hobbits. Already many halflings had been eaten by these creatures that burrow underground, creating tunnels in the earth as they travel. The crops had been destroyed. If not for their proximity to Lake Pern, the village would have starved weeks ago.
The mayor seemed grateful, but there were a few who resented the group's presence. One belligerant halfling expressed disbelief that such a small band of people could possibly do anything for them and advocated moving the townsfolk to the Ruins of Pern, abandoning the fields to the land sharks. Alana tactfully pointed out the group's greater stature as compared to the halflings, as well as extolling their recent success at defeating the Red Bull - modestly, of course.
A priest of Yondalla eyed Josy with disapproval. She had travelled on the holy day, something forbidden by their faith. Josy defended herself, saying travelling in order to help in such a cause could only be approved by Yondalla, but the priest did not approve of this liberal interpretation of the religion. Flerm, his usual protective self over Josy, stepped in and quietly encouraged the priest to take his insults and glares elsewhere.
Having once again used diplomacy to smooth ruffled feathers, the party ignored the naysayers and worked on a plan. The land sharks seemed to be attracted to surface vibrations and they stayed away from rocky areas. They also seemed fairly intelligent, able to avoid an attempt by the halflings to lure the land shark onto a rocky outcropping. It was unclear how many the group would have to deal with. And that wasn't all. The tunnels created by the land sharks had also attracted many other creatures - giant insects and worms.
Brecaryn's only knowledge regarding these creatures was that they were extremely protective of their young. Endless miles of underground tunnel populated by giant insects and worms and some unknown number of land sharks plus possible offspring - no problem!
Flerm suggested flooding the tunnels using the water from Lake Pern. The problem was such an undertaking would undoubtedly attrack the land sharks. So, first a way to get rid of these creatures. Snow outlined a plan that involved luring and capturing a land shark into a net, handicapping it and thus making it easier to injure it in its one vulnerable location - its eyes.
Gathering netting from the halflings, the party was boated across the lake to a wooded area in the west. Just outside of the woods the net was laid down on the ground. The party held ropes attached to the ends of the netting while standing in the trees so they could get the necessary height. Brecaryn summoned a group of hapless gremlin-like creatures called Jermlaines to use as bait for the land shark.
When the land shark came after the Jermlaines, Brecaryn ordered them to run towards the woods, over the net. As the land shark stepped on the net, Flerm and Snow quickly pulled on their ropes, raising one end up while Malouf, Lieralyn, Alana, and Oliver pulled on their ropes, rolling the land shark up like a sausage.
Brecaryn hit it with lightning while Josy walked to the now trussed up land shark and hit it with her mace. The land shark sailed into the air, landing with a great splash into the lake, and sank like a stone. Unfortunately, none of the gremlins Brecaryn summoned survived.
The party sailed back to Pern Hobbiton to report on their success. While they had been gone, a group of halflings, led by Marroc Bulge, who had been advocating abondoning their homes because of the land sharks had left for the Ruins of Pern to see if that might be a place where the halflings could re-locate. Their families were worried for their safety and begged Josy and the rest to find them. They agreed to do so but only after they had finished here.
The next step was to attempt flooding the tunnels. It would take care of any offspring and the other inhabitants without requiring the group to enter the tunnels and clear each one. It was decided that the next day the halflings would dig the trenches from the lake to one of the holes while the group acted as a guard against anything exiting from the tunnels.
They set out the next morning. As the tunnels started to fill with water, creatures began coming out of the holes, as expected. They fought them off as the worms came in waves, protecting the halflings at their work. At one point, Malouf, Flerm, and Snow had to rush to defend the town from an onslaught of bugs and worms. The remainder of the party stayed behind to continue guarding.
Finally, 2 land sharks emerged, one clearly smaller and younger than the other. The halflings quickly abandoned their digging to seek refuge on the boats. Lieralyn, Alana, Brecaryn, Josy, and Oliver defended themselves. Alana was able to get off several incredible shots, hitting the land sharks in the eyes and mouths. Brecaryn's lightning weakened them further.
The adult land shark veered to the left, charging at Josy. As it approached her, it triggered her Wyvern Watch spell and was instantly put to sleep. The adolescent land shark was felled by a particularly impressive shot by Alana, entering its mouth and flying up to pierce the brain. The fight was over just as Malouf, Flerm, and Snow were able to rush to their companions' sides.
Josy finished the adult land shark off by sending it to join its mate in the lake. The tunnels now surging with water were cleared of any unwanted inhabitants. The trenches were filled back in and everyone returned to Pern Hobbiton. The success of the day was tempered by the mourning of those who had been killed by the bugs and worms that day.
The next morning, the group stayed for part of the services given for the dead before heading to the Ruins to find the missing halflings. Lieralyn was apprehensive about returning after her experience earlier. Snow cautioned her to speak up as soon as she started to feel strangely instead of waiting til she fainted. Malouf was able to find the tracks left by the halflings. They did indeed lead directly to the Ruins. The group cautiously entered, climbing over rubble.
Their presence was detected immediately. Preceeded by cackling, day turned to night, 2 hags appeared on top of one of the towers, and suddenly werewolves were everywhere. The beasts attacked the group while the hags rained lightning down on them. Oliver was quickly knocked unconscious. The others sustained significant damage.
Snow immediately moved to neutralize the hags. Alana switched to silver arrows. And Flerm, with what appeared to be glee, attacked the first werewolf he could get to. The rest stood ready to deflect the onslaught of attacks. Vain did nothing.
Before she could even reach the hags, Snow was thrown back by an explosion on the tower wall and then hit with a barrage of lightning. Instead of trying a second time with a direct attack, she downed an invisibility potion and approached the tower from the rear. Meanwhile, Malouf and Flerm had their hands full with werewolves. As soon as they killed one, another would tackle them, biting and clawing. Brecaryn kept up the magickal attacks with lightning, fireballs, and magick missiles. Lieralyn's sword and Alana's arrows kept the rest away from the unconscious Oliver. And Josy alternated between blessing her comrades to augment their abilities and healing what wounds she could. With each werewolf that went down, they stabbed it in the heart with silver, transforming the corpses back into men.
It seemed like the group would never succeed. Even as they killed werewolves, the hags kept summoning more. The party members continued to sustain injuries, tiring, weakening, while new werewolves would appear. Suddenly, one of the hags flew back. Snow became visible again as she attacked the second hag with a paralyzing pain touch. The first hag got knocked off the tower and exploded when she came into contact with the side of the wall. The second, under a barrage of swift attacks from Snow, melted into a puddle of goo.
But the fight wasn't over yet. There were still more werewolves. Before anyone could make a move, there was a roar followed by a yelp and a giant werebear came lumbering out of the ruins and with it were the missing halflings. The bear grabbed a werewolf and tossed it aside, taking another and smashing its body on the ground, the wolf's bones shattering. Suddenly, the group realized they could hear sounds of a fierce battle coming from further within the ruins.
The bear said, "Go! Leave now!". Snow offered to assist them in their fight, but the bear only responded, "Go!". So the party gathered the halflings and their wounded and limped away as quickly as possible. Though some in the group were reluctant to leave and felt they should have stayed to help, given their injuries, they would not have lasted much longer if they had stayed.
When they reached a safe distance, they stopped to rest. Snow was concerned that the injuries sustained from wolf bites might result in the spread of lycanthropy. A concoction of belladonna could prevent it. Flerm smugly produced his belladonna, reminding his companions that they had taunted him for his purchase but now should be thankful for it. Unfortunately, with so many injured, one bunch of belladonna would be insufficient. Snow asked Brecaryn to cast her enlarge spell on it so there would be enough. Once everyone was treated, hey continued back to Pern Hobbiton.
The townsfolk were happy for their safe return and reported no incidences regarding worms, bugs, or land sharks had occurred while they had been away. After resting for a day or two, the party was ready to move on, but where to next?