As Father Vargas, High Warden Teren, and the party discussed the best way to attack the hydra, a cry arose from Father Vargas’ mercenaries. Simon turned and saw the hydra burst forth from the woods at the edge of the road, snapping up a guard in one of its mouths as it charged the group. A moment’s time saw Two-Feather and Father Vargas rally their men, and begin to attack the hydra from all sides, wary of the many snapping jaws that were thrusting at them. Trish rushed forward, and with a duo of quick swipes, lopped off one head and stunned another. “No!” yelled High Warden Teren, “We must try to take it alive if we can, leave at least two heads intact!”
Susi launched himself in the air and dropped the battleball, which grew in size as it dropped to the ground, and began rolling towards the snakelike creature. Simon ran to the hydra, dropping a lasso around one of the heads as he came, then flipped around underneath the creature and tied the lasso around one of its rear legs, taking that head out of the fight. Trish dodged the heads coming at her, and one snapped and closed briefly around her armored torso, but the armor was too hard to crack, and the creature’s teeth simply slid off and the mouth slammed shut with a snap.
As the battleball rolled harmlessly against the hydra’s side, Simon ran up its back, but his second lasso missed the head as it ducked down to snap at Trish. Trish retaliated, and subdued two heads with the flats of her blades. Colby charged in and using his rapier, slashed two of the creature’s toes off, enabling one of the mercenaries to cut another head off. As that one fell away, two more heads sprouted from the stump of the one that Trish cut off at the beginning of the fight.
Simon threw his lasso again and it dropped neatly over one of the remaining heads. As he tried to pull the lasso underneath the creature, it snapped its head up, leaving Simon dangling from the end of the rope as the head snapped down at him. Colby slashed one of the heads from the body with his sword, dancing away as the skull dropped down where he had been standing moments before. Realizing that the battleball wasn’t damaging the creature (and Simon had almost been drug under it when the head snapped him forward), Susi recalled it to his hand, and began shooting at the hydra’s body, but the arrows just glanced off the creature’s heavy armor. Trish and Simon finished subduing the remaining heads, and the creature fell heavily on its side, unconscious.
The hunters moved forward and singed the heads that had been lopped off with fire, to prevent them growing back and starting to attack again before the creature could be subdued. Runners were sent to the temple and the party moved on down the road, continuing to head towards the area marked previously on Colby’s map. In the late afternoon, as the group set up camp beside the road where it crossed a river, Simon taunted Two-Feathers good naturedly. “Sneaking about in the woods is great until it comes to blows, eh? Where were you and your braves today?”
Two-Feathers laughed and said, “Come Simon, let us take first watch, and I will tell you of the Thicket”.
During the watch, Two-Feathers told Simon that the Thicket was recovering from the invasion and that the dragon was recovering from his injuries. They then talked of their adventures since they had last seen each other. As the dark folded in on them, the tales gave way to a companionable silence. Sometime later, Simon heard the crackling of a branch snapping, and he rolled off the rock they were sitting on, dropping to one knee and drawing his katana. He glanced behind him, and he could see Two-Feathers’ feet poking out from around the rock. He then heard movement in the trees.
The sounds of movement woke Susi, and he saw that Simon was looking into the tree, which was now noticeably shaking. He fired a Heaven’s Light arrow into the tree, which was then illuminated like day. The creature in the tree looked like a floating ball with many eyes. It was a Devil Eye. Susi cast multimissile, then let fly with a couple of arrows, which missed. Simon cast fire blade on his katana, but the flame simply ran up the blade, then went out. He cast missile defense, but it didn’t seem to work either. Simon remembered that Devil Eye’s have powerful anti-magic surrounding them, and launched himself in a furious attack that stunned the beast.
Father Vargas, High Warden Teren and the trolls woke up from the commotion, but Trish and Colby remained asleep, with Trish snoring quite loudly. “Try not to kill it,” called High Warden Teren, “It is our green Eye Tyrant”.
Three of the eye stalks turned to look at Simon, and a pink ray, grey ray, and arc of lightning flew out of them to strike Simon. The damage from the lightning stunned him, but he shook of the effects of the other two rays. Two of the eyes looked at Susi, and a black ray hit him in the chest, and he could feel his heart stop, then start again. A second ray, this one purple and oily looking struck him wounding him, and causing him to drop to the ground.
Colby woke up, saw the creature and quickly fitted a rock in his sling. It hit the creature squarely in the main eye in its body, but the Eye Devil shook its head and opened its central eye wide to try and locate where the rock came from. Susi noticed Trish still snoring as he stood up, and let loose with a hawk scream which brought her to her feet. He then shot an arrow at the eye that had hit him with the black beam, hitting it, and causing it to droop down against the beast’s body. Simon whipped his cape over the eye stalks, jumped on the main body, kicking it, and then cut it with his katana. The beast fell out of the tree with Simon riding it on the way down, and coming to his feet lightly beside it when it hit. The hunters ran up and secured the eye stalks by tying burlap sacks over them, and secured the main body. Simon went over to the rock where Two-Feather still lay, next to the rock they had been sitting on. He had been turned to stone.
As Father Vargas healed Susi’s wounds, High Warden Teren came to where Simon was looking at the stone figure of Two-Feathers. “You have brought us the very beasts that we were looking for, and we certainly couldn’t have done it without you and your group, Simon,” he said, “You are released from my service. We will have some priests come to take care of Two-Feather, although they will take more time to arrive than the ones coming to recover the Eye Tyrant. What are your plans now?”
Simon thought quietly for a moment. “I believe I will wait here until the priests come to heal Two-Feather. Then we will probably accompany him to the temple”.
“As you wish,” said High Warden Teren, “You have certainly earned your place at the temple, and I’m sure Father Ray will be eager to hear from you directly about your exploits”.
Later on in the day, as the party was doing maintenance on their gear, Colby was pacing through the camp. “What’s the matter?” asked Simon.
“Well, it’s just that we’re almost to the place marked on the map,” said Colby excitedly, “We could be looking through ruins for treasure instead of sitting around guarding a guy that’s been turned to stone.”
As Colby talked, he continued to pace, but suddenly stopped in his tracks, his eyes wide. “That hill, on the left side of the creek, it just moved”.
Susi walked over to the river and looked. “You’re right,” he said, “It is moving!”
After a quick scouting mission by Susi, the party decided to follow the game trails upriver. When they told Father Vargas, who was still at camp about their plan, he said, “Be careful. There have been many rumors in the past few seasons about demons and such. It could be very dangerous!”
After gathering their gear, the party followed behind Susi, who scouted up the game trail, and before long, they came to the area where the mountain had been seen moving. Colby and Simon snuck to the edge of the clearing, where there was a ruined settlement. Inside the settlement, were a couple of giants and a couple of earth elementals digging in the area that appeared to have previously been a mine. The giants were covered in runes, and looked as if they had been carved out of stone. As they stood looking at the giants, a voice that rumbled across the ground as if it had been torn from it said simply, “We are not alone”.
Simon looked towards the sound, and was astonished to see the head of a dragon. The moving mountain had actually been a part of the dragon, which was lying in the valley near the settlement. “Take cover in my pocket, Colby,” said Simon, and the Lir nimbly climbed in.
Simon ran over to the dragon, deftly avoiding the giants and the swings of their picks. “Greetings, Great One,” he said.
The dragon didn’t seem to take notice, so Simon stepped closer. One of the massive eyes opened a slit. “Sleeping here,” said the dragon, “Why are you pestering me?”
“I’ve met dragons before,” said Simon, “and I was curious what you were looking for and if I could help.”
“There are things that the Journeymen made that should not be used. We seek one such thing here,” said the dragon, “Even the Lazuri seek for a sword that can’t be drawn, but this task is more pressing at the moment.”
“The World Ender?” asked Simon.
The dragon’s eye opened wider. “What do you know of the World Ender?” he asked.
Simon said, “The sword was broken into many pieces and each of the pieces has a compass that directs it to one of the other parts.”
The dragon’s eye opened fully and looked directly at Simon. “I feel that you are withholding information from me. What is it?”
Simon stood quietly until the tension in the air grew to great. “I have one of the compasses,” he said, holding it up where the dragon could see it.
“You will leave this with me,” said the dragon, who spoke a word of magic. Suddenly a gnome appeared next to him with its hand outstretched to receive the compass. Simon put the compass back in his pocket.
“What are you doing?” asked the dragon, his voice rising, “You defy me? You would draw the sword that must not be drawn?”
Colby took the distraction of the compass, and jumped out of Simon’s pocket. He ran to the pond that the map had marked as a prison. He could see rusty chains coming out of the water that led down to a block of mossy stone on the bottom of the pond. He began creeping towards the stream that fed the pond.
“I will compensate you for the compass. I will also help you with your quest if you will help me with one task. There is a Journeyman relic buried with the Jade King, in his tomb. A spear named Calamity, which can rend the Earth itself,” said the dragon, “We must find it.”
Susi flew around the dragon, having made a circuit of it, at the same time that Simon dropped the compass into the hand of the gnome. Susi had noticed that the area was littered with the corpses of a lot of the animals that were still missing from the menagerie, and wondered if they had wandered here accidentally, or if they had been drawn here. He flapped down and landed on one of the giant’s shoulders and said, “I’ve always wanted to do that.”
Colby muttered under his breath, “Yeah, he wants a cracker…”
Colby spoke up to the giant Susi was perched on. “I have a map that shows this area, and it shows a prison in the pond,” he said.
The giant spoke with a rumbling voice that sounded like a rockslide, “You intrigue me. The Lir were around at the same time the Journeymen were, though not many of your kind remember it. I will tell you the story of the Jade King.”
The giant began telling the story of the Jade King, and the scene was enacted in the air before them, as if they had a portal to the actual time that the events were happening. Trish and the others walked up while the giant was telling the story and watched it unfold as well. The Jade King had become a collector of Journeyman artifacts, and when he found the spear named Calamity, it unhinged his mind and drove him crazy, leading to his obsession with the magic contained in Jade. His guards finally turned on him, and though they were killed, they managed to kill him as well, and they were all buried together, along with Calamity. “I don’t think this tomb could be where you think it is, little one,” concluded the giant, as the scene faded away.
“I think it might be worth a look, though!” said Colby.
The giant stomped over to the pond and looked down. He bent over and then taking one chain in each of his hands, gave a tug. The chains came loose from the bottom, and the giant placed them beside the pond. “Nothing but old mining equipment,” he said, “and now, I must get back to work.”
The party sat beside the pond and discussed their next move. Colby said, “We still have the seashells, so we could always go take a look”.
The party agreed that it would be worth a look, and even Susi was finally convinced to swim down. They placed the seashells in their mouths, and swam to the bottom of the pool. There was a pedestal, with a stone walkway or bridge that led to a door. There was a large lever on the pedestal. Susi pulled the lever, which caused the slab of the door to fall, and a number of dark shapes began swimming up from below the pedestal.