Following their previous discussion over breakfast at Castle Sarrat, it was decided that Vipio, Gree, and Sarren would head northwest towards Jaston to handle the water purifier situation. The Aeon Priest Matchitehew claimed that Draolis’ water supply was being poisoned and that the people from Jaston were intentionally altering the water purifier to create a toxin, and requested that the purifier be brought back to prevent such misuse of technology. While the group was in agreement that the situation needed to be remedied, there were two notable exceptions: Cylens wished to stay behind to investigate just how the food creation machine worked, suspecting some kind of foul play, and Earl wanted to stay behind with him to ensure Cylens’ safety.
And so the remaining members set out towards the north. It would be a three day journey upon their yakul, and the moth that Vipio flew on, as he’d mastered controlling beasts and had tamed the moth to the point that it was very docile and accepting of both the party and being ridden on.
The first night was largely uneventful, with Vipio standing watch and catching sight of some odd fox-like animals that trotted around the area, seemingly active at night. Despite his attempts, the creatures were too timid for Vipio to train and scampered off after being enticed to approach the camp. It would later be learned that these animals are called luren, and were a common sight among the area.
As the party traveled further north for many hours, it was getting to be night time when they saw a village in the distance. Rather than break camp for the night, the group decided to press on, but they were met with resistance. As Vipio flew in on his moth, the guards of the town shot some kind of projectiles at him, one hitting him and another hitting his moth! Vipio retreated as Sarren and Gree approached and tried to calm the situation down, but the guardsmen seemed rather apprehensive.
Hewek, leader of the guards, approached them and asked about both the creature that flew above which his men shot at, thinking it to be hostile, as well as the intent that the group had as they came towards the town so late at night. After some discussion, he let them stay outside of the town under guard, but something was definitely amiss.
The next day the group woke up, albeit not under the best sleeping conditions, and were finally able to get some answers. Hewek welcomed the group, telling them that the town he was protecting is named Nasool, and he explained that several animals and children had been disappearing over the last several weeks, and they’d established a guard to try and protect the town, but still every few days another would be taken. Hewek had previously lead expeditions into local ruins that had many beneficial numenera in them, but after all this happened, he was now primarily the town’s guardian, and in his voice the companions could hear that he had somewhat a disappointment in his task as he wasn’t able to know what was going on or how to stop it. Hewek did suggest that the group, should they wish to help, talk to Lysra, who led the hunters that provided one of the staple food sources and trading goods for the town. Passing through the town, it was easy to see the large number of people butchering animals and distributing meat to the various residents. And yet no currency seemed to be exchanged; it was all given freely, an indication of how this town operated.
With the sunlight illuminating the town, it was easier to see how it was laid out. Around 30 buildings dotted the landscape, coming in a variety of sizes, but for the most part all of it was made up of egg shaped buildings, rounded from bottom to top and constructed of some kind of mix of clay, dirt, and mud. Nearly all of them had a chimney poking from the top, presumably each of them having a hearth to cook on below. To the west alongside the town was a river that flowed and helped provide both food and water, but it was relatively shallow.
Meanwhile, back at Castle Sarrat, Cylens and Earl had been investigating the town. Originally it was merely a question of how the town was provided such bountiful food, but they discovered far more in their efforts. Upon talking to the townspeople and getting some leads, they found evidence that Margaret and her bodyguards had been murdered and buried in the graveyard behind the Order of Truth church. More scanning and snooping revealed that one of the additives to the synthetic food was cloudcrystal dust. Matchitehew, the supposed Aeon Priest in town, had been importing cloudcrystal dust from the Golden Sanctum, up in the Westwood. This dust was mixed into the food, which invigorated and made the people of the castle happy and content.
Upon being confronted by this information, Naranial Horges seemed to have no knowledge of this. He was an ignorant participant in the schemes going on under his castle. Cylens and Earl rush out to catch up with their companions and inform them of this conspiracy, but it would take several days even upon their yakul to reach them.
During this time, Sarren, Vipio, and Gree, at Nasool continued their investigation into the disappearances of the town’s livestock and children. They went to a “community hall” where some people gather, but they were greeted with odd looks and while the tender at the counter was quite happy with providing them food and drink, there was a sensation that things were uneasy around here, even before a group of strangers arrived at the city gates the night before (and with a small town of just over a hundred people, word spreads fast). Gree wished to meet with Lysra, the leader of the hunters, and the group found them at a the hunter’s outpost in the city.
Despite her initial apprehension, Lysra eventually confided to the group that while they were skilled at hunting prey animals, she had no idea what could have done this. She suggested that maybe it wasn’t a creature so much as a person that was kidnapping these children and animals and that they might soon ask for a ransom. When asked if anything out of the ordinary happened, Lysra mentioned that out on one of their hunts, they found a carcass of some large sea creature a few weeks ago that was around half a mile north of the town.
The group then went to talk to Berkin, the person in charge of the town’s trading. Berkin didn’t have an explanation for the disappearances, but he did shed light on how the town was a largely communal society, with everyone pitching in how they can and basic necessities like meat given out freely. Everyone was expected to cook their own food, explaining the hearths in everyone’s homes. When asked if someone could be kidnapping children, the trader was almost confused and could offer no explanation as while some of their residents had disagreements, he didn’t imagine anyone would resort to something like that or why they would given that the town had no particular wealth. Berkin did mention the several families that had recently lost children, and with this lead, the group went to the house of Zolya and Hannen who had recently lost a child.
A man answered the door, looking rather distraught over the recent loss, but was convinced to let the group in to examine what might have happened. As they entered, the companions hear the door’s bell ring, something installed at the top of the door despite no lock being present, which Hannen explained was normal among the town. Zolya was comforting her remaining son on a nearby couch, the building circular with this central room having several seats around it as well as two smaller beds, arranged circularly around the hearth, with the other exterior rooms visible including a bedroom, a sort of study room, and various other rooms that seemed to be used for storage of other things. There were windows along some of the exterior, but they were sealed and made of some kind of material that’s a mix of plastic and glass compounds. There was no obvious case of intrusion, even as Sarren scanned the bed where the child was taken.
Eventually it was decided that they should visit the beached animal that Lysra mentioned. But before they left town, a masked man approached them, shirtless, wearing bright orange slacks and heavy boots, and armed with a sword and spiked club.
This man introduced himself as Brennen, and explained that his prized pig had disappeared one night and he heard that this new group of adventurers were trying to find out the cause of these disappearances. After some discussion, the group allowed Brennen to travel with them as he explained how the town worked and the unexpected disappearances.
Upon reaching the massive animal on the beach, the first thing that everyone could recognize was the horrible stench. This thing had been rotting on the beach for quite some time, and it made everyone queasy from just smelling it. After some examination, Sarren discovered that the hole on the side of it was a wound created from the inside out, suggesting that something burrowed from within, and the angle of the hole suggested that it came from the creature’s stomach.
After examining the evidence, the group decided to set a trap using one of Vipio’s bears. As night felt, they let her out on the east side of the town, with the plan for Gree to dart it with a blowgun that would allow Vipio to mentally see what Snuggles saw. After several hours, the party noticed Snuggles getting anxious, and they all raised to alarm while the dart was shot, and Gree was able to see just what was responsible for the disappearances.
The creature scampered away at rapid speed, but Gree caught up with it, alarming the creature and causing it to spit out the injured Snuggles. As the creature was being attacked by Vipio, it suddenly wrapped around Gree with all four of its appendages, using his legs and its tail to balance upright while it engulfed its face with its mouth!
Sarren assaulted the creature with mental blasts.
Brennen suddenly burst into flames; he reached into his halo and hurled a handful of fire at the creature. Then he raised his spiked club and charged into the melee.
Vipio tried to use his whip to pull the creature away, but his attack backfired when the creature instead skitterhopped up to him and now held both Vipio and Gree with his arms in a tight hug, the creature’s mouth still swallowing Gree’s head with the ever present eerie gaze at Vipio. The way its body contorted was unnatural, its tail curling around both pairs of the human’s legs and using them to support the trio in a grotesque perversion of anatomy.
Blow after blow from Brennen’s spiked club and mental damage from Sarren weakened the creature, and its grip on its two victims loosened. It pulled Gree down to the ground with it as it fell, his head still engulfed from the creature’s maw. Vipio managed to wriggle free. And Brennen dealt one final blow that killed the creature once and for all.
Vipio attempted to pull the jaws off Gree, yet large scrapes of the numerous teeth created trenches in Gree’s face. Despite the obvious damage of both the burned flesh and gorges in his face, Gree didn’t actually feel any pain, telling others that he felt totally fine and that nothing was wrong…until he touched his face and felt those gaps in his flesh, and a stream of blood flowing down and now covering his hands. Gree was stunned for a moment as he saw his hands full of blood yet not feeling anything wrong. The creature’s attacks had some kind of substance that caused the victim to feel no pain from it, making them unaware of harm caused to their bodies and simply placid as they were ripped apart or devoured. A perfect trait for both predator and parasite.
Sarren used her healing cypher on Gree, but light vertical scars still remained on his face from the deep incisions created by the creature’s teeth.
The group gathered up a half dozen guards to find and dig into the creature’s lair deep underground, but all they find are piles of bones in a chasm. The previous victims of the creature were assuredly dead by this point.
Snuggles, who despite her burns and injuries from the creature engulfing half of her before spitting her out, was on the brink of death when Vipio coddled her back to the realm of the living. Due to the creature’s traits, she didn’t seem in any real pain despite her injuries, but only time would tell if the streaks of scarred flesh would heal on her.
At news of the creature’s defeat, and following Gree cutting off its head to ensure that it was fully dead, the leaders of the town suggested they bring the body back to the town square to burn it. Gree took several of its teeth (and the potential “venom” it had) to store for future use.
At mid-day, the carcass of the creature and its head were thrown onto the burn pile. A flame was light that engulfed it, and finally the terror of the town was laid to rest as its body melted into a sludge before being charred into black flakes, only its teeth and claws remained, no skeleton or other bones left behind.
In the aftermath, the town decided to keep a night watch for a few more weeks to ensure that no further incidents ensued, and were happy to let the group stay in one of the unoccupied homes in the village.
Upon the closure of knowing what happened to his prized pig, Brennen admitted that he used to be an adventurer, and had retired here to this quiet town not long ago. This whole incident with the creature rekindled his lust for adventure, so he wished Sarren, Gree, and Vipio the best on their journey as he himself returned to his home to gather his traveling gear. He said he’d always wanted to explore The Beyond. Perhaps now was as good a time as any.
Following that, Cylens and Earl finally caught up to the group at Nasool. They explained how Castle Sarren and its surrounding town had some shady dealings going on, and that this task to retrieve a water purifier from Jaston may have some sinister implications.
The group will have to decide what course of action to take given this new information, but at least they could be confident that they’d ridden the world of a monstrosity that preyed the lands, and that everyone would be just a tad safer.