Part of the Tribe
After they all successfully overcame the Trial of the Totems, the Sun Shaman of the Sklar-Quah leads the Crimson Blades back to the Flameford as the pale fingers of dawn creep over the eastern skyline. As the rest of the camp looks on, the shaman draws symbols on their faces in the ash from the central fire pit to properly induct them into the Sklar-Quah.
He urges them to rest in the guest yurt while he and Chief Ready-Klar wind walk to the Kallow Mounds to commune with the ancestors regarding the party’s questions. Krojun Eats-What-He-Kills is placed in charge of the camp, where he will oversee the festivities once they awake.
The adventurers spend the day abed, rising in the late afternoon to the smell of spiced bulette meat roasting. They emerge from the guest yurt to ecstatic cheers from the Sklar-Quah, who have clearly been waiting for them to rise. The tribe has gathered around the central fire. Thundercallers begin singing songs of the Sklar-Quah, accompanied by drums and the unique whistling sounds of their windspears.
Krojun compliments Slim for sharing his wine the other day, but insists that airag, fermented mare’s milk, is the drink of true Shoanti. He challenges the Crimson Blades to a Shoanti drinking game, which Arlynn, Egan, Slim and Zandu accept. The game involves reciting the details of a herd of horses, with each error resulting in a drink and each round adding a new detail to keep track of. Slim proceeds to get totally blasted, while Arlynn keeps her wits and wins the contest.
Ashla stays out of the game, instead picking up her bulette tooth necklace and then joining the dance circle. She proves able to catch on pretty quickly to the moves of the tribal dance.
Irabeth tastes the food, but declines the drinking contest and hangs around the edge of the party. She turns down an offer from Krojun to dance, but she ultimately lets herself get pulled into the dancing ring by Sefah and another Shoanti woman. The half-orc proceeds to make up for her lack of skill with her enthusiasm.
When the drinking contest concludes, Slim staggers back towards the guest yurt and face plants outside. Remmy goes to check on him, while Zandu tracks down Kyra. The halfling woman had been moving around party, chatting with everyone, but she cheerily accepts the sorcerer’s offer to dance.
“I am a little bit drunk,” Zandu warns her.
“Don’t worry, I’ll lead,” she replies.
They proceed to dance in a slower, Korvosan style, with Zandu managing quite well despite his tipsiness.
As they dance, Kyra squints up at the sky, where dark shapes are flying out of the west, silhouetted against the setting sun. The halfling quietly reaches for her crossbow. The mysterious fliers drop other dark shapes as they pass overhead. Egan spies them and can tell they are not natural creatures. Watching them fly past, Arlynn casts daylight on her sword and holds it aloft, shouting “Look to the skies!”
A series of thundercracks can be heard from the direction of the stables, followed shrieks and whinnies from the horses, the sound of horses dying.
“That’s my cue to find some shade,” Kyra says. She slaps Zandu on the bottom. “Watch you back out there, big boy.”
She flits off into the shadows of the yurts to the east.
Near the guest yurt on the other side of the central fire, a drunken Slim falls to the ground and plays dead.
Moving with almost superhuman speed, Krojun rushes over to the stables to investigate. He bellows that the tribe’s horses have been slain and that they are being attacked by gargoyles.
The winged monsters appear overhead and begin peppering the adventurers with arrows, soon expanding their attacks to the Sklar-Quah as well. Egan uses control weather to create a strong downdraft, making the gargoyles’ bows ineffective. The gargoyles begin to land among the barbarians to attack with their jagged claws.
Zandu casts fly on himself and glides in the direction of the stables, obliviously passing by Kyra’s hiding place.
Revenge of the Mantis
A Red Mantis assassin steps out of the shadows beside the inert Slim. The drunken rogue attempts to play dead, but the assassin slashes him with a sawtooth sabre. Slim then tries to pretend the blow is fatal, but the assassin is unconvinced. Remmy charges to his aid, shouting “Get your claws off him!” Irabeth trundles along after her.
Among the eastern yurts, two more assassins step out of the shadows to flank Zandu.
“How do you keep getting yourself into these situations?” Kyra calls from the shadows.
“It’s a talent,” Zandu replies.
“You really need to expand your repertoire,” she replies, wounding one of the assassins with a well-placed crossbow bolt. The two killers stay focused on the sorcerer, who struggles to fend off their blows with his shield.
After leaping to his feat, Slim teams up with Remmy against the assassin who attacked him. But the Red Mantis adherent tumbles pasts them and springs up and over the guest yurt. Slim signals for Remmy to circle around and cut off any escape while he pursues the assassin among the shadows.
Together, Arlynn and a Sklar-Quah burn rider move towards Zandu’s position to assist him. However, there is a terrible skreeing sound as two crossbow bolt streaks out across the camp. One glaces off the back of Arlynn’s armor while the other slips between two plates and sinks deep into her flesh.
“Sniper!” Arlynn shouts, pointing at a clump of yurts to the northwest. But the frightful noise of the bolts sends many of the Sklar-Quah civilians into a panic as they rush away from the source of the attack, bowling Egan over and stumbling into the claws of the gleeful gargoyles.
Undaunted, Ashla investigates source of the attack, but has trouble spying anything in the shadows behind the cluster of yurts. Badger, however, is on his guard, revealing the presence of a mountain lion prowling in the darkness—which creates more questions than answers.
Amid the terrified crowd, Egan calls out to his treant, “Woody,” and struggles to his feet, fending off attacks from the adjacent gargoyle.
Still facing the two assassins, Zandu backs up and then denounces them as incompetent, ineffective, and doomed. The assassins seem shaken by his words, but this does not stop them from stepping forward and rending him five times with their sawtoothed sabres. The sorcerer topples to the ground in a bloody heap as Kyra shouts out an anguished “Nooo!”
Arlynn warns the rest of the party that Zandu has been slain. She imbues Kyra and the burn rider with the power of Iomedae’s wrath.
Kyra pledges to slay the two assassins, who each flee in opposite directions, one retreating back towards the stables while the other dashes across open ground to link up with his companion by the guest yurt.
This second assassin stumbles right into reach of the lumbering treant Woody, who slaps it with one massive wooden hand. The assassin limps off into the dark.
Slim finds the assassin he was looking for in the shadows behind the yurts and strikes at it again. But rather than fleeing out into Remmy’s trap, the Red Mantis assassin leaps over Slim’s head onto the guest yurt and dashes over to the other side.
“Damn it, they’re fighting like me!” Slim groans.
Rather than chasing after the Red Mantis, Slim rejoins Remmy and the two of them begin circling around behind the yurts looking for the sniper. Egan starts calling lightning down onto the gargoyles. Krojun taunts three gargoyles into attacking him and proceeds to fend them all off.
Before she can confront the mountain lion in the shadows, Ashla is attacked from behind by a Red Mantis who jumps off of the roof of the adjacent yurt.
With fighting taking place all over the camp, Irabeth surveys the scene and calls Princess to her. Taking the saddle, the junior paladin then charges the assassin attacking Ashla.
More arrows lance out, this time striking Krojun. Arlynn reveals the figure carrying the powerful repeating crossbow and Krojun names him the Cinderlander. With a roar, the barbarian charges “the devil tshamek.”
A massive brawl develops as Krojun, Ashla, Slim and Remmy all converge on the Cinderlander, who drops his bow and fights back with twin hand axes. His puma companion grapples Krojun and Irabeth rides to his aid.
Across camp, Kyra methodically pursues the second of Zandu’s killers as he attempts to flee through the shadows.
She Who Walks in Blood
It is at this point that the Red Mantis Commander Cinnabar makes her entrance, accompanied by yet more assassins. She says she takes no pleasure in this violence and blames the adventurers for dragging the Shoanti into this. She begins to call on the Sklar-Quah to stand down, but Slim denounces her for having brought the devil tshamek into the Flameford, which inspires a roar of approval from the barbarians.
Arlynn then insists that if the Red Mantis’ quarrel is with the Crimson Blades, they should leave the Shoanti out of it. She challenges the commander to a duel. The Red Mantis accept and the gargoyles lift off while the burn riders watch tensely from the sidelines. Krojun says he will leave the “bug people” to the party, but insists that “the devil tshamek is mine!”
The Red Mantis assassins fan out, some going after Egan while others move to help the Cinderlander against Slim, Ashla and Remmy. Cinnabar and Arlynn slowly close with one another, with the commander walking through the communal fire pit unscathed. As the master assassin closes, Arlynn can sense that she was telling the truth—she is taking no pleasure in the killing and prefers this kind of “clean” fight.