Having realised that the jungle seemed to be actively fighting our progress (with some very nasty agents), we decided to head back towards the west, towards the lair of raptor #2 and the mountain range that would lead us to the desert.
It seemed to us like there had been a consciousness opposing us in the forest, but it was as if only a tiny part of that consciousness had been focusing on us (like a large creature and a single mosquito). Still – we don’t want to become the most noticeable mosquito: the consequences could be… squishy.
Anyway, as soon as we started heading a different way, our progress became a lot easier, and we found ourselves nice and relaxed. Perhaps even a bit complacent.
Fairly large ones. They covered several of us with web, and then started biting at us. Repeatedly. Al burned up most of the web, and we all fought back, but Aloeine got bitten enough times to be pretty unhappy. We defeated the spiders, although Mel did manage to fling Roderick into a very stinky puddle of mud. She then pulled a great trick of summoning Roderick straight back, whereupon he immediately shook that stinky mud all over all of us. Ewwwwwwww.
We decided to take a short break and clean/patch ourselves up before continuing.. Aloeine – now a little paranoid – cast “pass without trace” on us, and it either worked or made no difference. We also noticed that the fungus was definitely easing off now – not much at all around any more.
After a while, we realised that we could hear something following us. Cogs slipped away into the brush beside the path to find out what it was, while the rest of us kept on walking – far enough that anything following us should definitely have passed the point where we left Cogs.
Then two arrows come flying out towards us, and thudded into a tree… unfortunately, Mel and Aloeine hadn’t really been paying close enough attention to figure out whether those were Cogs’s arrows or not. Aloeine cast some kind of thorny spell on the area where there had been movement. Al then teleported herself to just off the side from where the movement was… and found herself face to face with a rather surprised-looking raptor #2… who moves towards Al and is immediately spiked on Aloeine’s thorns. Oops – sorry raptor #2! Al told the raptor to stop, and after a bit of bungled communication, we all come together (spikes off), healed the raptor, and talk with them about our plan to go see Parch. Aloeine made some of Raptor’s camouflaging vines blossom (because making new shiny things makes new shiny friends!), and Raptor agrees to come with us… although they point out that they will run away if they think we’re going to get eaten. Al assures Raptor that in such a case, we will be trying to keep up.
We continued through the jungle to the west, even more easily with Raptor’s guidance – they are very familiar with this area, after all. Raptor leads us to a spot further north of the cave: the slope is not as steep, and we’re able to climb to the top of the ridge. From that high vantage point we can look down and see the desert to the west (“one day, this will all be yours”).
The desert is a large rocky area with patches of gravel or sand, formed by the rain-shadow on the lee side of the mountain ridge. In some patches, there are large drifts of gravel or sand. Here and there are also structures of rocks – piled on top of each other in patterns… but not obviously constructed as such. We ask Raptor where they had seen Parch, and they reply that it was in a big sandy patch (they point it out – about 5 miles away), and so in the absence of any better leads (at least, any better leads that don’t seem increasingly inclined to kill us the closer we get), we prepare to set off in that direction. Apparently we should watch out for the scorpions.