Amalia was not at all amused at Marissa’s fate (((see session 8))) and when Viridiana came to her senses and ordered Landfall, the dwarves refused her. “Go to shore, may you die there” were their exact words. Only after much discussion could the strong fighters be convinced to join the others on their trek inland, towards the temple to Ophelia. No guards were posted on the beached ship
The journey over the rugged mountaineous terrain took several days. On a plateau near the suspected location of the temple, under a collection of mountain peaks, a large assembly of tents could be seen. The camp had been erected near a prominent cave, leading into the mountain. Most sentries were stationed near it, guarding against intruders day and night.
The party circled around the camp and the mountain range in the cover of the trees, but did not find the temple they were looking for. They concluded that the way to the temple must lead through the camp and into the cave and Amalia did not like it one bit. She was neither keen nor likely to sneak undetected to the cave entrance and confronting the Wolfmen in the camp below wasn’t appealing either. So she and the dwarves decided to double back to the coast.
The others, lightly armored and in part versed in avoidance, snuck through the sentries in the dim moonlight. Nobody could see far into the cave though and it turned out to be perpendicularly lined on all sides with foot long spikes, some of them eerily discolored not unlike the fangs of a monster, luckily a narrow path seemed to lead into the cave mouth between them. The nearby trees warned Alexa about the creatues living within, but she was not dismayed. Yekda went in first as far as he could see and then some, lit a torch and made a clean getaway into the Maw before the Wolfman sentries figured out what was going on.
The Wolfmen did not pursue. The path was barely wide enough for one person to not become impaled while walking. After almost an hour of walking through the grotesque cavern, they noticed what must have been another cave mouth, leading outside. Two pairs of red glowing eyes were already expecting them.
“Resssite the tenantssss of faissss” a hissing voice from the dark commanded. Viridiana did so and praised her godess. This was enough for the Snakemen who refrained from using their dreaded charming gaze on the party. They welcomed the reinforcements in their struggle against the ‘besiegers’.
The Sanctum of Ophelia was a box canyon in the middle of a mountain range, a crater lake at its center. The few faithful human priests (MU1) and the acolytes (NM) serving them lived in huts on the shore. It was unusually warm for this elevation too, no wonder does the clergy of Ophelia dress so scantily. The Snakemen had awoken from their underground dwellings to protect the sanctum in response to a raid conducted by a party of wolfmen on the priests.
Apparently the high ranking members of the faith had fallen in the assault, including the High Priestess meant to answer the party’s questions. The War Leader of the Snakemen, Son of Set alluded, that Ophelia herself could answer such questions, but first the invaders had to be dealt with. Son of Set’s plan was to simply wait them out until they would run out of supplies in a few months.
The party knew that Amalia would not wait for them that long on the ship. Something had to be done.
On the way back, our dwarves ran into another all-dwarf party. They were immediately delighted to find other dwarves (((high reaction roll with a bonus))) while Amalia was amazed at their mounts, Giant Goats, perfectly suited for the terrain.
The dwarves were on their way back from Craypool, a nearby human settlement, to their Mountainhome. While they were reluctant to answer specific questions about their home and its location, they dropped the hint that it lied to the north of the old kingdom of King Strom II. Visitors were also expected to bring trade goods, good to know.
Eventually they parted ways and the dwarves made it back to the ship without further incident.
The party in the Sanctum learned that the Wolfmen were sent by their creator, the reclusive Wizard Rackham, their “Father”, to retrieve Earthblood from the caverns of Ophelia, where the godess dwells. Only the chosen tribe, the Snakemen, as well as the High Priestess were allowed in there and the Snakes had of course no interest in gathering the toxic substance and to disturb their godess in whatever she was doing down there. The Wolf delegation, led by a big one named Arugal, then treacherously attacked, killing most of the vulnerable Magic-Users outright and further raided the village until it was beaten back by the Snakeman warriors, whose magic cunfused and smote them mightily.
The priests also completed Viridiana’s training. She was only missing the final cosmological lesson anyway, having learned the rest by doing during her adventures and tribulations.
The party was authorized to deal with the Siege, though Son of Set was reluctant to send his warriors into open battle. The narrow nature of the ‘Maw’ only allowed for single file formations and while the Snakemen are stronger individually, a desperate Wolf or two could best one nonetheless. They instead turned to trickery.
Their first request at a parlay was met with demands (((bad, but not terrible reaction roll))). “Bring us food to feed all of our warriors, and we shall listen to your words”. The party prepared several large pots of meaty stew for the carnivores, but laced it with a poison that the snakes provided. Not enough was added to kill them all, obviously they would have seen through it after the first of them had perished from the stew. Ingesting the stew would make you violently ill and unable to fight after a few hours, allowing for a decisive advantage in a possible battle (of which they only had to convice Son of Set).
The Parlay was held at the outer exit of the Maw. a Snakeman, Eggshell, was supposed to cover the retreat if anything went wrong.
Arugal and the other Pack leaders were pleased with the food, but insisted the delegation also partake. Yekda bravely ate from the stew, while Alexa pleaded Vegetarianism. The wolves were afraid of catching the “disease” and kept well enough away from the Elf. The besiegers were satisfied and gobbled up the contents of their bowls.
The negotiations went nowhere fast, but Arugal was seeing the futility of his efforts. He was unwilling to admit defeat yet, and Viridiana was neither authorized nor willing to fulfill their demands.
“Wait a minute, the priestess is not eating!” a Beastman shouted from the crowd. When confronted, our priestess tried to fake it, but was found out. The retreat was pre-planned and went smooth though, the Snakeman’s confusing gaze stopping the first few pursuers in their tracks. In their charmed confusion, they held back their brethren and the party made a clean getaway.
By next day, the besiegers had broken camp and disappeared into the mountains. Son of Set agreed to bring the party’s question about the Sign of Earth before Ophelia.
Her words (relayed back through Son of Set) were to bring the trinket back to where it was found, fate would guide the destined wielder to it eventually. She was unwilling to tell them how to unleash the Sign’s powers.
The remaining priesthood of Ophelia also declared that on the same day the next year, August 10th, a new High Priest would be chosen from among them.
The Journey to the ship was uneventful and the parties reunited on board.
When Amalia told them about the dwarves living north to the Realm of Strom, Ophelia remembered the accursed name. Strom II was a famous Dragonslayer in his time and hated all lizards. His reign wasn’t called ‘The Harvest of Scales’ for nothing!
But that was long ago, and most were more concerned with the town of Craypool, they were about to anchor in.