13 Olarune, 994 YK - In the heat of the following morning, the Khraal rainforest comes alive with strange sounds from all manner of exotic creatures. The full lushness of the foliage becomes apparent and strange fauna and flora dominate the scene. The temperature steadily rises to bewildering heights and the party sets out on their hike, led by their guide Isik d'Tharashk, toward the ruins of the Dhakaani empire... Just moments before, they were nearly dinner for a young green dragon!
A good night's rest is harshly ended when the party is awakened by a shouting and running Isik! As he comes charging through the rainforest floor, he yells at the party to "RUN!" Shortly thereafter, they see why Isik was in such a hurry.
Barreling through the dense jungle foliage is a massive lizard-like creature with a long neck and tail, a huge wingspan and stands nearly as tall as a large horse, but much thicker. It's wet scales glimmer in the morning sunlight and puffs of wispy green smoke fume out of it's nostrils. It's a green dragon.
Isik contines on past the party encampment, but the rest of the party does something uncalled for. They stand up to the beast! Raksur lifts his (new) bastard sword and shield, ready to defend against the beast and order his troops into battle. But, Lasai isn't sure what he is doing standing up against such a creature, so she hurls herself to knock him out of the way. She shortly finds that pushing a massive black man like Raksur isn't such an easy task. She comes to a grinding halt against his mass.
Then the battle ensues. The dragon's scales seem nearly impenetrable and his delivery of a acidic breath attack is nearly enough for the party to give up - but they don't. They continue fighting on until finally the green dragon starts to show its youth. A few brutal attacks from Raksur and Lasai put the beast into a defensive mode. Lasai figures she would takes advantage of the sudden upturn of events and intimidate the beast into surrender. She tells the beast she will call off Raksur and Talvaras if the beast leaves them to their quest. The young, but large, green dragon agrees...
Or so it seems!
Just when Raksur and Talvaras back off, the green dragon's frown turns to a snarling grin and he says to Lasai in draconic - "Foolish human!" Just then he snatches her with both foreclaws and bites down on her shoulder taking her out of the fight. Raksur and Talvaras are stunned and immediately charge in to help Lasai. While Talvaras distracts the dragon, Raksur slaps Lasai awake and reinvigorates her will to survive.
Despite the dragon's advantage after taking out Lasai, the party's fury gives them the upper hand and they slay the beast. Raksur guts the dragon, searching for some loot.
Exhausted, out of breath, and nearly collapsing, the party takes a short rest to regain their wits. Isik comes jogging back. He walks over and thumps the dead dragon with his boot. He doesn't say much, but is obviously impressed.
The party takes off after their rest. Isik continues to lead them deeper into the rainforest. The party marches along, soon realizing the harsh environment is taking a toll on the members with the least stamina. Finally, they come to a crossing where Lasai creeps up and refills the party's waterskins before they cross - spending too much time at a standstill with the entire party would have definitely alerted the goblin woman doing laundry downstream, so luckily the party only sent Lasai.
After crossing the river, the party comes upon a small clearing where some ancient buildings likely once stood. Stabbing through the canopy and into the ground where they stood was a incredibly huge stone blade of what appeared to be a sword. Far too enormous to see where the blade was coming from, it must be part of some greater structure. Raksur thinks back on his goblinoid history and realizes they are near a mountain ridge home to great monoliths of the six great Dhakaani kings. This must have been one of the swords of those kings stabbing into the jungle below them. Isik confirms - they are close to their destination. A shadowhunter bat, the size of a halfling with large wings, interrupts their thoughts. It doesn't attack, coming straight toward them, but then flies off into the jungle shadows. The party makes note that shadowhunter bats make their homes near manifest zones connected with Mabar.
After that, the party cut their way through the jungle and finally reached a stopping point. The rainforest abruptly ended at a cliff that jutted out of the ground straight upward out of the jungle canopy. Unpacking their climbing gear, the party started ascending the wall-face. Raksur was the first to go up, scouting ahead and planting pitons to assist the rest of the party in climbing. He notices a tunnel leading into the rock face, a strange red glow pulsing from within but continued past it warning the others to keep an eye out for it. All is well until Lasai gets near the tunnel. Peering inside, she is entranced by the pulsing red glow and decides to climb in. Talvaras starts getting concerned as she goes deeper into the tunnel, only her feet showing.
As Lasai reaches the light, she realizes it's not a large magical gem, but a fire beetle! Her face is nearly burnt off as the beetle emits a blast of flames at her. As she screams, Talvaras pulls her out and nearly falls. Finally, Lasai gets ahold of the rope, but three of the fire beetles come pouring out of the tunnel. Unleashing a fiery blast, one of the beetles burns through the rope causing Lasai and Talvaras to drop down to the next piton, barely hanging on. Above, Raksur has made it to the top of the cliffside and starts hurling rocks at the beetles. Lasai fast-ropes down to the ground, but Talvaras isn't so lucky. He is stuck and continues getting attacked by the fire beetles. Finally, he kicks one of them off the wall, Lasai strikes one with her shuriken, and Raksur smashes one into reddish ooze with a large stone. With no interference, the party again makes their way to the top, this time everyone reaching it with no problems.
There, they witness a sight as they see the open mountainside comes into view. Six incredible monoliths, carved out of the side of the mountain resemble great Dhakaani hobgoblin kings holding massive swords that stab into the jungle. Much of the artisanship has eroded from weather and time, but the awesomeness of the wonder still holds its weight.
At the base of the cliffside, a road seems to lead in either direction for miles eventually curving out of view. Raksur scouts the northern side and sees a large mass of humanoids moving in their direction from down below beyond the jungle on an open savannah. He alerts the party. In addition to the road, they see a set of narrow, steep stairs leading up into the belly of one of the monoliths.
The party heads up the stairs and upon reaching the top come to a thick mesh of thorny foliage. Isik slashes through and they step into a strange, eery locale. A grove of fruit trees and impeccably maintained grassy floors lead to a ruin. Reddish fruit hangs from the trees, and upon closer inspection something else does too. Skulls. Skulls of humanoids of some type hang by rope from many of the trees surrounding the ruin. Shivers run up the spine of each member of the party as they move deeper into the grove. It feels as though no one should be here.
The party reaches the ruin, surrounded by five large obelisks in a star shape around the ruin that rise up thirty feet or more into the air. Two sets of narrow, steep stairs lead up to two stone doors. The party follows one set of stairs. On the stone door, strange, ancient goblinoid writing, mostly worn away is engraved around the doorway. Talvaras says a word aloud and Raksur touches the door.
The stairs give away! The party slides, even Lasai who managed to grab ahold of the side of the stairs can't hang on for long, into a pit at the bottom of the staircase. Falling into spikes, that seem to be coated in some strange sludge, the party is badly wounded. Isik nearly perishes before Raksur can revive him. The walls seem much too steep to climb in their condition. Even if they made it up near the top, falling would mean certain death.
Finally finding the ruins, it seems the party has met its end. Badly wounded, with no place to rest, all hope of surviving and accomplishing the mission seems lost. Is this how the operatives sent before them ended? Is this how each of them will die, far from home, among three other strangers?
But wait... in the evening, setting sun Raksur sees something. At the top of the pit, the silhouette of a humanoid, peering down.
Friend or foe? Who knows...
To be continued...