The Noodists Advance - Jungle Madness
What follows is the account of Lycis' party January 25, 2003
“Alex!” Meshif called from the stern tower, “we will be in Kurast before dark.” Alex waved a weak hand in Meshif’s direction and moaned, “Thank the Heavens! One more day of this dreadful rocking and I would surely die!” Half grunted a short approval and Wystral simply rolled over and covered his head against the rain. All around the ship, the members of the company were bracing themselves against the rain that was growing heavier. Zak, Lycis and Naked Fist, were putting the finishing touches on a makeshift tent shelter over the stern-quarter, large enough for the entire party to rest under. The company was gathering slowly under it. All except for Wystral, who remained prone against the stern-rail. Sin, Sinfully and Meno helped Meshif’s wife fill small portions of hot porridge into bowls for the companies breakfast, but Numsay remained at Wystral’s side, sitting quietly next to him and sheltering him from the constant rain.
The company ate quietly. The mood under the tent was heavy and tense. The morale of the group was low this morning, except for Lycis and Meno. Meno hummed pleasantly while she served the porridge and Lycis sat to himself with a distant smile on his face, as if he was recalling some sweet memory over and over in his mind. Meno handed the last bowl to Lycis, and then taking her own, sat down next to him and began to eat, still humming contently.
Alex sat down heavily next to Texvix, and was quickly joined by Sin. He raised his head and offered a weak smile to the gathered company, “Today we reach Kurast. I have never been there, but Cain tells me it is a fair place, with kind folk, temples and markets where we may get needed equipment repairs and supplies before we set out on our pursuit. When we arrive, Naked Dead and Zak will scout the city to find the party provisions. Texvix, Meno, Lycis and Naked Fist will secure for the party accommodations at some appropriately comfortable hostel. Half, Wystral and I will accompany Cain to gather what information we can about Diablo and Mephisto. Else, Howsit, and the Assassins will stay with the ship and await our return.” There was little reaction from the company, other than a couple of nods, to these directions. Satisfied that each member knew their assignment, Alex leaned back against Texvix and closed his eyes. Texvix held him tenderly and stroked his forehead. Sin hesitated a moment, as if she would protest the situation, then rose to help Meshif’s wife clean up.
The rain continued into the day. Land was sighted shortly after breakfast and the ship hugged the densely jungled coastline all day. Shortly after land was sighted, and the ship neared the coastline, Alex, Half and Wystral began to grow noticeably stronger. Now, as the ship rounded a small peninsula, bringing the docks of Kurast into view, the three stood at the bow in silence. The sight of the ruined and rotting docks was disheartening. All day, the company had been anticipating the return to civilization and the luxuries that awaited them. Nothing could be seen on the shore but a small stone landing completely surrounded by Jungle. “How can this be?” cried Cain, as his eyes filled with tears. “Glorious Kurast has surely felt the power of the encroaching darkness. This great city, reduced now to molded stone and rotted wood, was once the hub of all trade in the east. You could see the towers of its temples for miles.”
The ship slipped quietly along side the landing. The amazons leapt from the bow onto the dock as Meshif cast the painters to them. In a blink, the ship was secured. Alex stood next to Cain at the railing with a troubled look, “So, this is the fair city of Kurast. We shall find no rest or help here.” Alex turned to the company gathered behind him, “Everyone pair up and spread out through the docks. We will gather back here in a short time.”
The company spread out over the docks, disappearing down the rotting walkways in all directions. After a very short time, they were all back at the ship, all except Texvix. She was crossing the main walkway back toward the landing and the group, with a great smile on her face, and behind here strode a Barbarian, his body and face painted as if he had just been in battle. “Look what I have found.” She said in a happy voice. “This monster stopped me and declared that he has been pursuing us for weeks.” Texvix was looking at the barbarian almost lovingly, “He says he wants to join us”
Half pushed quickly to the front of the group, now crowded around Texvix, Alex, and the barbarian, almost knocking everyone to the ground in his obvious excitement. “Ancient – it is you.” Half bellowed in delight. “By the Ancients, I thought my eyes were deceiving me as I watched you approaching. I had given you up for dead.” Ancient’s face beamed as the two barbarians grasped shoulders, “Half – the last time I saw you, you and Alex and rest of the company were striking off East from the Rogue Camp as I turned South to join the battle there. You were singing that horrible traveling song. By all that is glorious in battle, it is good to see you again.” As if on cue, the two huge men head-butted one another, staggering both. As they recovered, laughing joyously, Half turned to Alex, “Our company is surely graced Alex, for we again boast the two greatest warriors of the barbarian race.” To which Alex quickly responded with a laugh, “And I won’t venture a guess as to which of you is the greatest. Ancient, you are truly welcomed back among us.”
Alex turned toward the group smiling, “For those of you more recently joined, this is Ancient, one of the original members of our troop. Honor him with your friendship and support, as you have already honored each other. So, what did we learn scouting the docks?” “No accommodations are to be found here, Alex.” Lycis answered. “Nor provisions,” Zak added. “There is a metal worker, a mercenary group, a chemist, and a strange priest-looking fellow in tattered robes that speaks with incomprehensible riddles. There is also a mystic weypoint.” finished Texvix. She continued, “This is my home city, but I can tell you that I do not recognize this place. There should be wide streets leading from the mystic weypoint here at the dock into the city proper, where the bazaar, and great temples reside.”
“Cain and I have discovered that a dark stranger has been here just recently. It could well have been Diablo himself.” Alex began, “The jungle has been taking over the land for several months, and the growth speed is increased. There are stories that the members of the High Council have been possessed by Hell’s power and that the entire jungle down to the sea is crawling with the possessed minions of the dark.” He looked out over the jungle and sighed, “We have grim work ahead here, and no mistake.” Then turning back to the gathered company, “We will make camp on the land immediately outside the docks, gather what provisions we can, and begin the search in the morning.”
That night, as the company slept, Alex, Wystral and Half sat talking quietly at the campfire. Alex began, “Half, you will take Lycis, Meno, Else, and Sin, and scout into the jungle. Stay along the streams and do your best to locate what remains of the main city of Kurast. Cain tells me that there are mystic waypoints scattered throughout the jungle. Do your best to locate them.” He continued in a hushed voice, as he detected stirring in the sleeping company, “Wystral and I will remain here, and with the rest of the party, scout the coastline above and below these docks to clear the surrounding jungle of any evil that may be threatening these folk.” Half nodded, “Don’t worry Alex. If Kurast is still out there, we will find it.”
The warm rain, which had ended shortly before nightfall, had begun again to fall sometime in the early morning. Half and his company; Lycis, Meno, Else and Sin, gathered at the bridge leading into the jungle. The only clear path was along a fetid stream that passed through camp on its way to the sea. The water was black, and smelled of mold and rot. It had a brownish green slime about an inch thick over the top, and bubbled menacingly. “Everyone ready?” Half asked quietly, his great shoulders tense and his eyes twinkling with the anticipation of expected battles. All nodded. “Stick close together, Else and I will lead, Meno and Lycis next, Sin you’re the rear guard. Lets go.”
The party moved off down the trail following Half’s instructions. It was not long before enormous mosquitoes and biting flies continuously swarmed them. The hated insects were everywhere, and as they fed on the company, great welts rose on the skin where their bites landed. They pushed on, swatting and slapping at their antagonists, deeper in to the jungle. They met large groups of small and ferocious pygmy-like natives that attacked them with broad bladed daggers and long blowguns. They were terribly fast and the short and intense battles with each group took their toll.
The jungle seemed endless, full of dead ends and side trails that led to nothing but more jungle. On more than one occasion, the party found they had been traveling in circles, as they found themselves surrounded by the remnants of a previous battle. But with grim determination, and very little complaining, they would pick a seemingly new direction and begin anew. Down one trail, one the group was sure they hadn’t been down before, they came upon a clearing. In the clearing were ruins of some long abandoned temple, the collapsing walls were covered with flowering jungle vines and mold. Throughout the clearing the ground was covered with thick spider webs that grabbed their legs and made walking difficult. In the middle of the ruins, and where the webbing was thickest, there was a mound with a gaping black hole large enough for a man to walk through bent over. Lycis could feel the evil within and said, “Half, we must go in and cleanse this place. The evil is strong here, I feel it.” Half simply nodded and without orders or planning, the group followed him through the hole.
When Lycis emerged from the tunnel into the underground chambers, Half, Else and Meno were already battling in the midst of a dozen giant spiders. The spiders lunged with protruding fangs and spit streams of acid poison that burned the flesh. The fumes from the dying spiders filled the air and sickened the entire group. Lycis charged into the battle to stand beside his fellow warriors, and together the five smote and slashed and punched and stomped the life from the hated animals. They moved through the underground passages slowly, battling spider and maggot, one after the other, progressing inch by slime covered inch onward. They fought their way into a large chamber with a great golden chest in the center surrounded by the largest, and surely the most ferocious spiders they had yet encountered. The spiders and the party charged one another simultaneously and met in the center of the room with a tremendous crash. The group fought feverishly and one by one the giant spiders exploded into slime as crushing blow after crushing blow fell upon their armored bodies. Finally, as Meno exploded the last ghastly foe with a terrible spell, Sin knelt and deftly opened the great chest.
The chest was full of wondrous treasure; gold, jewels, magic weapons from ages lost, and a small translucent vial, with an eye preserved in a foul smelling liquid. “What a strange artifact to be found amidst the treasure is this eye.” Lycis mused. “I will take this and show it to Cain when we return to camp. Perhaps he can put meaning to this unique find.” “Good.” Half replied. “Now let us get out of this foul place. Back to the entrance and onward into the jungle.”
Half and Else were speeding up. The day was half gone and the urgency to reach the main part of Kurast and be back in camp by nightfall was growing. With the change of pace, came a change in luck as well. Shortly after leaving the spider cavern, they found their first mystic weypoint. Very quickly after leaving the weypoint, the company charged into a small native village and was assaulted by dozens of its occupants. The battle was tedious as the Flayers (as Half called them) darted in and out of the company using sharp knives as weapons. At the edge of the village, a ritual fire was burning, and Meno found a beautiful dagger on the body of a fallen Flayer Shaman there. “Here is another mysterious treasure for Cain to consider.” She announced to the group. “I may perhaps use this to my advantage until we return to camp.” She showed the blade to Lycis with a look of deep satisfaction on her face. In the middle of the village was a doorway in the ground leading into darkness. “Half, we should take these steps and explore here,” Else suggested, “as I am sure there are more of these beastly pygmies to be found there, and I don’t want any to sneak up behind me in this foul jungle.” “I agree with Else.” Sin added, responding to a questioning look from Half. “Down it is then.” Growled Half, and the party entered the darkness.
The group entered what was obviously a dungeon. The air here was thick, foul and heavy and the walls oozed black slime from long cracks too numerous to count. Else had been right as the passageways were filled wall to wall with the ghastly pygmies and floating apparitions as well that drained a man’s energy with each blow that he landed. The battle was continuous throughout the dungeon, and the party moved slowly forward. The enemy grew more ferocious with each step forward, as if they were protecting something precious to them. The company crashed into a large room in the center of the dungeon, and was met by a dozen Flayer Shaman guarding a great golden chest, much like the one they discovered in the spider’s cavern. The evil rushed upon them, spewing flame from their mouths as the party battled furiously. Lycis chanted a meditation to bolster the group’s resistance to fire as they landed blow by cruel blow to the heads of the demons. After a final gruesome exchange with the leader, the battle was over. Sin easily opened the chest. It too was filled with glorious treasure similar to the first. “Look!” exclaimed Meno, “here is another vial, though larger than the one Lycis carries, and it too has some organ preserved in it. Cain will surely be busy tonight.” “Back to the light!” retorted Half, “this place sickens my heart.”
Half did not allow any delay after their return to the village. He and Else moved off quickly down a new trail. The day was growing late, and the light was failing, and they still had not reached Kurast. The jungle, however, was beginning to grow thinner in places, and the foul creatures they had fought all day were scarce. As they rounded a small grove of trees, they stood at the end of a stone bridge, and beyond the bridge could be seen the remnants of a stone road leading to a huge vine covered stone gate. “Kurast! At last we have found it, and just in time too.” Half laughed loudly. His mirth was short lived, as striding out through the gate toward them was a host of huge tree-like giants, with massive needle sharp thorns sticking out from their skin. Half did not hesitate, belting out an earthshaking cry, he charged headlong into the giants, followed closely by all. In the middle of the pack of monsters stood the largest, and the party, as if with one will, battled through the pack to its side. They fell on this one with a fury they had not felt all day, and as they cut him and bashed him, great lightning bolts shot out, engulfing them all. Lycis laughed, for unlike his first encounter in the catacombs with this type of lightening enchanted demon, he was prepared and meditated a lightening resistance aura that protected the entire group. The monster fell into a lifeless knot and they quickly finished off his protecting minions. The gates to Kurast were open before them and they walked through with victorious confidence.
Just inside the gates, and behind a curiously well-maintained building, was the weypoint they hoped to find here. Without discussion, the weypoint was activated and the party instantly appeared back on the docks. Alex was there and greeted them, “Well Half, did you find Kurast?” “Indeed.” Replied Half, “and much more. Lycis and Meno have several curious artifacts that Cain must decipher. The jungle is indeed full of vile evil creatures, and without the destruction of the corrupting forces creating them, I am sure the ones we destroyed will be replaced ten-fold by the time we return.” Agreed.” Alex answered, “but before we venture out again, we must all recover from the wounds suffered during today’s battles and Cain must be given time to inspect your discoveries and consider their implications to our quest. So, my brave scouts, wash the slime and gore from your bodies, dress your wounds, and join us in camp at your convenience to discuss today’s events. The fire is warm, the tents are dry, and the company is fair, and we will hold council when you are all ready.” Meno moved quietly to Lycis’ side as Alex spoke, and as he finished, she took Lycis’ hand and led him away toward the less frequently used wells at the outskirts of the docks. He followed without protest, and thought to himself, ‘It may be some time before I get back to the company’s council fire.'