Kast

Chapter 17 - It's a Trap!

Excerpt from Tharn's Journal

It feels so wonderful being back out in the woods. Last night I went on my first hunt in many weeks. After finding a suitable location, I waited only a short while before a beautiful stag walked past. My first arrow was a clean shot, and Kimya and I followed the beast as it wore itself down.

We found it stuck on a tree at the edge of a clearing, unable to jump high enough to escape. The clearing was filled with a rotting stink that I was unable to place. Kimya clearly knew better than I, as she was clearly worried, and would not approach the stag. However, I was able to kill the beast and remove it from the tree without incident.

As I dragged the stag away, a creeping vine snaked its way toward me, and I only just spotted it in time to drop my burden and jump away. The smell turned out to have been caused by a shambling mass, a pile of rotting plants that exists only to devour. Basically it is the natural equivalent of the creature we encountered in the sewers. This time, however, I only had Kimya with me.

After a fierce battle, we finally took down the creature. To be sure it wouldn’t cause any more damage, I began cutting it apart and dispersing the pieces, only to find that it wasn’t yet dead! After a further brief struggle, I actually killed it and made sure that it was truly dead. Kimya, being her playful self, grabbed a flower from the creature, which I braided into her fur as a trophy from our kill.

I managed to get my kill within about a half mile of where I expected our new camp to be, and left it there to avoid having a clear path to where we were sleeping. Before returning to the camp, I broke off a piece of an antler. I think I will carve it into a little figurine.

The following morning, we laid our trap, using a slow-acting poison provided by Tenaius planted in the corpse of the stag. We then went in search of a good ambush location. Once we found a suitable one, we trapped it with poisoned caltrops and waited.

Just as we thought we had missed the gnolls, they appeared. Daevon baited them into our trap, and the fight was on. Most of the gnolls proved to be merely a nuisance, but three distinguished themselves as true problems. One was a skilled combatant, and nearly took down several of our group. Another first appeared as a giant spider, and kept us busy with its magic. Finally, there was a grey-furred magic-user who flew above the confrontation with a pair of wings. How curious that we should encounter that same gnoll once again…

We were able to defeat the gnolls with no casualties, and through a combined effort prevented the grey-furred caster from escaping. We even managed to capture their shape-shifting shaman, who grudgingly provided us with the location of the main gnoll camp, and even that there are three command camps within the larger one.

The gnolls had with them a group of farmers they had captured and a great deal of money that they had stolen from the locals and from the thieves we had encountered the day before. To help the farmers, we sent them home with a large portion of the money.

Today we finally scouted the camp. Now with two implements of flying, Telsyn and I were able to scout different areas at the same time. I went north-northeast, and saw several towers, a storehouse, and large kennels where the gnolls were breeding hyenas, presumably to grow their army. Just before returning to camp, I saw a port the gnolls were constructing on the river. Telsyn also discovered a location covered with blood and demonic sigils. Well, more covered than the rest of the camp.

Perhaps the most interesting and disturbing thing we saw was an excavation site. The gnolls have hundreds of slaves working on digging out the ruins of an old city. I can’t imagine what horror they hope to find, but I think we should carry out our mission before worrying about the ruins. The others don’t seem to agree, but I’m sure we’ll come to an agreement.

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