The session began with the PCs sleeping through their first night in the desert. They had only the supplies they had stolen from the slave caravan and not much else. The PCs slept through the night with only a meager fire to keep them warm, (Arak was using the patchwork quilt that doubled as the defiler/concubine’s spellbook to help keep him warm). All but Arak, the goliath barbarian and Kirith Blackhand, the human warrior, failed their endurance check to withstand the cold temperatures of the night. As such, those that failed began play with one less healing surge.
They took turns watching the dark desert around them. Their unlikely companion, Polinius, captain of the guard, was not trusting of the PCs and refused to sleep the night. The moons, Ral and Guthay, cast a silvery light upon the desert giving the rolling sand dunes a soft incandescent glow. With the crackling of the fire (and the snoring of the goliath) as the only sounds the PCs heard that night, their first night of freedom went without incident.
The next morning the PCs (at the equivalent of 6am when the sun was already baking the land at a cool 78 degrees) had to figure out where they were located on the map they had found in the slaver’s quarters before they had escaped. I provided the players with a cloth map that came with the Dark Sun 2ed. box set volume 2 (a wonderful role-playing aid). The skill challenge required them to use whatever skills they felt would help them locate where they were. Polinius, believing he was a prisoner of the ex-slaves refused to help them. The PCs discovered they were just west of the northern road leading out of Nibenay. To the east was the Black Sands region and the Silver Spring Oasis. They surmised (correctly) that the half-elf woman from the day before was showing the caravan a short cut to the Silver Spring Oasis when she led the caravan into a trap.
The PCs, with the urging of Arcott, decided to head to Nibenay in order to get to civilization as soon as possible. Arcott revealed that he is the son of a Nibanese noble, a wealthy merchant. He said that his father would reward the PCs for helping him escape captivity. When pressed as to why he was placed into captivity, Arcott couldn’t remember.
Polinius tried to convince the players to take the main road to Nibenay in hopes that the party would come upon another slave caravan or a Nibanese patrol. Kirith and Akais quickly saw through Polinius’ ruse and challenged him on it. Polinius again refused to help the party as they were nothing more than slaves. At this point, Kurrix and Arak decided they had enough. Before anyone else in the party could react, Arak delivered a critical blow to Polinius, cutting open his abdomen and knocking him to the ground. As Polinius attempted to keep his guts from spilling on the warming sands at his feet, he was quickly finished off by the rest of the party. Akais, the psion/wizard, cynically noted that meant there was more water for the party. Arak joyously noted that he now owns two axes, one an executioner’s axe, the other a battle-axe.
The PCs decided to head south to the mountain range that bordered the Crescent Forest and then turn east toward Nibenay. Because they no longer had Polinius to drive the wagon, they had to do the “Learning to Drive” skill challenge. For each failure the jostling of the wagon would spill approximately 10 gallons of water over the course of an hour. They failed three times before rolling the four successes they needed. By the end of the day, they had gone from 47 gallons of water to 17.
The second day of travel toward the mountains brought a fierce Tyr Storm upon the PCs. The party found a rock outcropping to help shield them from the stinging sands that were blowing around them. They also decided to flip the cart on its side to help shield them from the weather. The storm was fierce and the excited kank nearly broke loose from its bonds as both Arak and Kirith tried to hold on. The rest of the party struggled to breathe as sand swirled around the party, thunder crashed deafening the party members. Arcott and Kurrix were targeted by a lightning strikes as well.
As the PCs skirted the foothills, Kurrix decided to scout ahead. Kurrix discovered an old man with a herd of goats pleading with a hill giant. The hill giant was sun-baked and was wearing dirty and smelly rags, in both hands it had two goats. The old man pleaded with the hill giant not to take more than two. “Please mighty G’Gax! No more than two!” Kurrix, the shadowy thief, shot the hill giant in the shoulder with an arrow. Leaping from his hiding place Kurrix got the attention of the hill giant. Kurrix ran back to where the party was located, hill giant in tow.
The battle between the party and the hill giant (lvl 8), took place on the slopes of the mountain side. It was very steep and required the PCs to make athletics checks vs. DC 20 in order to make a full move, otherwise they could only move at half speed. As they approached, the hill giant threw rocks at them. The combat included two rock slide traps and a cave system that allowed the PCs to “teleport” to the other side of the battlefield. The PCs, especially Arak and Kirith, rolled well with regard to the Athletics checks and closed the gap quickly to engage the hill giant. The hill giant was soon dispatched.
The old man, Olki’in, thanked the party and invited them to his mud hut. He led them through the mountains along a goat path to where he and his goats resided. Inside he fed them goat meat and fermented goat’s milk. He told them that G’Gax was plaguing the mountain side for some time and that A’exa Rae, Wife of Nibenay, couldn’t defeat the hill giant. Upon further inquiry, the PCs learned that A’exa Rae was a low ranking Nibanese Templar that managed a logging camp a half a day’s journey from Olki’in’s hut. Olki’in and the other goat herders provided food for the loggers and the guards. Olki’in also informed the PCs that, because they were ex-slaves, he would have to tell A’exa about them.
The group, using various methods of persuasion, convinced Olki’in not to reveal too much when they spoke with the templar. (Arak tried to scare the old man, Akais, Kurrix and Arcott tried to reason with him, and Kirrith used his Mark of the Free to show the old man that he was not a slave and would not submit to anyone.) The following day, the PCs went to the logging camp.
The camp was located at the base of the mountain range within the Crescent Forest, a vast and dense jungle. The camp itself was surrounded by a wooden palisade and constantly patrolled by guardsmen. Inside, the PCs saw wooden and mud structures that were used to house the guards, the slaves and the supplies. They noticed two clay structures. One was being used to store something covered by cloth that they couldn’t identify and the other was A’exa Rae’s palace.
A’exa Rae wore a white gown made of kestrekel feathers and sat on her throne, rather smugly and bored, while a small obsidian sphere floated over her open palm. She was surrounded by four goliath guards bearing shields with her mark. Within five feet of her was her thrall who carried a magical shield that the party identified (via history checks) as the Earth Shield. (They didn’t figure out its powers). A’exa spoke with them via telepathy. The PCs, given their brash natures, were extraordinarily polite and reverent. Arcott, spoke the truth to A’exa and she was not pleased to discover escaped slaves in her palace, but, upon mind probing Arcott, discovered he was telling the truth regarding his capture and station as nobility.
As a condition for sending a runner to Nibenay looking for Arcott’s father, (and for not being put to work as slaves), A’exa “requested” (read: ordered) that the PCs look into something that has been hunting some of her foresters deep within the jungle. The party agreed and headed out into the jungle, led by two guardsmen.
Within a few hours, the party was surprised by a group of halfling cannibals. The guardsmen were hit by poisoned darts and taken out quickly. The party was then quickly surrounded by the halflings. Akais and a halfling wilder engaged in a psychic duel as they blasted each other with their powers, while the rest of the party engaged the halflings. Within a few rounds, it was clear to the would-be halfling chefs were not going to get to eat humanoid for dinner and attempted to escape. Kurrix and Arak wouldn’t allow that to happen. Kurrix used his bow with deadly effect and Arak charged head first into the brush and cleaved one of the halflings in two with a mighty swing of his executioner’s axe. Through out this battle, Arcott issued orders and inspiring words to maximize the party’s effectiveness. At the end of the battle, one of the guardsmen was revived and informed the party that up until recently, halflings were not common in the jungle. He has no idea where they come from.
The next session will bring the party to the logging camp and the start of their first minor quest: “Hunting the Hunters.”