As we prepared to set out into the desert, Al had a more-thorough-than-usual think about conditions, and advised the party to prepare ourselves with things to provide shade from the sun and protection from dust storms. So, we improvised some things from the edge of the forest before setting out.
We then set out towards the west. The desert is a mix of layers of striated, painted rock, with some areas ground down to sand. The wind has carved the rock into different shapes – pillars and canyons… think Arizona (although with fewer Republicans – I’ll take scorpions any day). As for whether the formations are such that we might imagine we’re seeing anything more than rocks? Perhaps if you were sufficiently drunk and had never seen a dragon before. Otherwise… just rocks.
Having left the forest, we all noticed that it was a lot quieter out here – none of the sounds of birds and other critters we had been used to hearing in the jungle; instead, just Raptor #2 chattering away – “I don’t like how quiet it is here – I’m meant to be the quiet one”. “We should be very quiet.” OK then… we’ll be quiet.
After walking (quietly) for some time, we found what appeared to be a very large, dead spider… or perhaps nearly dead, since it was moving and twitching in the breeze. Except… Aloiene went to take a closer look, and noticed that it did not seem to be moving only in the breeze, and also it seemed… hollow?
Oh no. There was something inside it. Many somethings.
Suddenly we found ourselves facing two swarms of scorpions. Al has always considered scorpions to have excessive pointy and bitey and stingy bits, so a whole swarm was… Mel‘s involuntary squeal summed it up pretty well, actually. That’s ok – Al has ways to deal with swarms of unpleasantness: one way, really – set it on fire. Only, following a quickly-lobbed warm-up from Cog, and as she prepared to light up the little bug[ger]s… OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! Attacked by a giant scorpion. The brood mother? Invertebrates are not usually much for maternal instinct, but this absolute motherf…….
Finding herself trapped in the claws of the beast, Al used Misty Step to vanish to a nearby rocky outcrop, and then drop a ball of fiery revenge on all assembled (or at least, all those assembled primarily from chitin). Mel gave the broodmother a good hard whack with her sword, and Maul and Cog finished off all the scorpions quite tidily. As we caught our breath from the fight, Parch suddenly appeared on top of the nearby rock arch, where he had evidently been the whole time (hmm… I think Al might have lit that up with her fireball… oops! No hard feelings?)
Seemingly entirely unperturbed, Parch indicated the dead giant scorpion – “Are you going to eat that?”
“No please – it’s all yours!”
And so, we took a short rest alongside Parch, who devoured the giant scorpion. We can see why we hadn’t noticed him before – Parch blends in so well with the rock of the desert. As we sit commensal, we tell Parch why we have sought him out, tell him about the corruption on the other side of the island, and that we believe the corruption is human in origin – specifically, Lady Floriane and Argenias Lat in origin. However, we don’t seem to be persuading Parch to help us out in any way, so we ask Raptor #2 to try and convince Parch that we are trying to help his brother Woodscale, and that we are doing so at the request of his mother Be’sharis
We suggest that Parch could help us lure Woodscale out of the forested lands into the desert, where a combination of the anti-fungus compound we are already carrying and the dry desert air could help us cure Woodscale, and break the influence and corruption affecting him and the forested lands. When we mention the fungus that we suspect is an integral part of the corruption, Parch tells us that the fungus has been present for hundreds of years (at least)… so we are certainly looking for a recent change or interference, that would fit with our theory that Floriane and Lat are behind all the trouble.
Nevertheless, Parch tells us that he still won’t enter his brother’s lands without more proof that Woodscale is not in command of his territory – to do so otherwise would be “insulting”. What proof would suffice? Something from Woodscale’s hoard. We told Parch about the fact that Woodscale’s hoard had been taken when we found the lair from which Woodscale had been driven (and in which Raptor #2 had been hiding). We also recounted that none of the creatures we had fought on that side of the island had had any gold on them at all, however we had found some items. We offered all of the items we had found for Parch to investigate, just in case any had come from Woodscale’s hoard and would serve as the proof Parch needed. Parch investigated, but could not recognise his brother’s magic on any of them. To gain Parch’s assistance, we will need to recover something from Woodscale’s hoard… but we absolutely cannot get to Woodscale.
We keep coming back to that – both Be’sharis and Parch now want something from Woodscale’s hoard, but it feels like dealing with the problem here will require at least Parch… or possibly in due course we can get both Parch and Be’sharis involved?
However, on reviewing our journals, Mel realised that there was a possible way to achieve our goal – when we had found Raptor #2 in Woodscale’s old lair, we had learned that humans had looted and taken the hoard away to ports to the south: ports we have not yet visited. Perhaps we could go investigate those ports, and find some of Woodscale’s hoard – indeed, Parch tells us that we should get as much of it as possible, for two reasons:
1) a dragon who is safe and well would never simply let go of any part of their hoard, let alone much of it – so returning with any substantial amount of Woodscale’s hoard would demonstrate to Parch beyond a shadow of a doubt that Woodscale is no longer in possession of his lands and/or his faculties.
2) a dragon’s memory and sense of self is very different to those of humanoids: their hoard encompasses them and their experiences and is a direct representation of those experiences. Losing part of their hoard is to lose part of themselves. Likewise, if we can recover a significant part of Woodscale’s hoard, it could help both bring him back and heal him from the corruption.
So that is what we have decided to do – we will strike south to the sea, then travel around the coast towards the southern cities where Woodscale’s hoard was taken. Hopefully there is still enough left that has not been traded away… although who exactly might hold these treasures, and what we will have to do to persuade them to let us “borrow” them, is quite a different matter.
Also, Be’sharis had said that if we came to the shore, she would find us. If that happens, it could be good to discuss our findings so far with her also.