Next day we wanted to continue up the hill to the ruins, which is where the divining rod seemed to want us to go. So we began another day of hiking. Off to the side, Faun was scouting a little way off, and I saw her motion that she had heard something. She headed off that way, and so I slowly cleared us a trail after her. In a while we broke through to a wide but overgrown road, which sped up our progress. Down the road I saw Faun sneaking up on a smoking fire, where a massive cyclops loomed over a helpless bound maiden. I could her sounds of struggle and moans of distress. Faun continued sneaking up, drew back her arm, and hurled a javelin at the unsuspecting brute! The cyclops roared in surprise, looked around without seeing where she was (as she ducked away), scooped up his victim and loped off into the jungle crosswise from our path up the hill.
As we got closer to the campfire, I saw a trail sign Faun must’ve left for me to direct me where she dashed off in pursuit. But the cyclops popped back out of the woods. I barked, “Fan out, let’s mob it!” and we charged forward (though Faun still lurked in the woods).
Umbra Blessed us as Fiameta shot off some Magic Missiles. I cautiously advanced ahead of the party, but then Eli recklessly charged past me, slicing aggressively into the cyclops’s leg with his drusus. The bound woman flopped around screaming, as Faun snuck out of the jungle behind the brute, with a gleam in her eye. The towering monster roared as he brought his tree-trunk club down on Eli, hammering him out into the jungle treeline that formed the road’s border. I slowed up, exclaiming, “_OOO, wow, hold on there big guy, we surrender!!_” as Faun snuck up and slashed the back of his leg, dropping him to his knee. He pulled the woman off his shoulder and dropped her in the road. Galen, standing behind me, then hit him with an arrow. But the cyclops turned around to see who got him from behind, and I took advantage of the opportunity to charge in hacking with my machetes.
Eli probably should have lain where he landed and waited for a healer to attend his cracked ribs, but instead he struggled bravely to his feet, and stumbled over to press the attack! Umbra summoned a Spiritual Hammer and whonked the cyclops in the head. Faun cartwheeled away over to the maiden, and began to drag her into the jungle… but instead of mewling gratefully, the maiden flipped to her feet and transformed into a hag! It was an illusion, she was working in league with the cyclops to ambush travelers! Suddenly two more hags emerged from the jungle. The cyclops suddenly perked up, howled with rage, spun around and hammered Eli again, this time straight down into the ground! The poor gladiator was instantly knocked unconscious. Blood, ichor and what must have been organ pulp oozed from his crumpled form.
I felt a tingling as all this transpired, and before I knew it, I seemed to become a giant rat! What witchcraft was this? Well, I decided to make the best of it, so I scurried up the cyclops’s leg and bit into his back, raking and scratching, as Umbra came jogging down the road towards us to see if anything could be done for Eli. I kept scratching and gnawing for all I was worth, and eventually it was enough to bring the bloodied cyclops down! I am the rat king!
Nearby, the hag pounced on Faun and tore into her face with a wicked claw, knocking her back into the jungle, apparently unconscious too! The hag went from Faun to intercept a charge by Galen, but I leapt from the falling cyclops to land on her back, scratching viciously with my newfound rat prowess. The paladin delivered a powerful slash to her to though, as she was distracted by me on her back.
Down the road, Fiameta knifed another hag that had charged the middle of the party, but then took a nasty claw to the face and went down. Umbra finally trundled up to cast Aid on her, bringing her back to her feet. Evidently, he concluded that Eli was too far gone for his ministrations to be of any use. But now, looking over, I could see Eli slowly, haltingly rise! Was he saved by some miraculous divine intervention? But wait, something wasn’t right. His movements were too stiff, and his eyes looked cold, dead. Oh no! Our erstwhile comrade’s dead body had been animated by the fell Covenant powers of the hags!
Galen kept slicing at the hag, occupying her attention, so I dropped from her back and scurried over to the edge of the jungle, where Faun was laying prone. I snatched a Goodberry out of her pack, and shoved it in her mouth with my rat anus (she’s used to that kind of thing as a druid). Galen slew the hag just then, so her spell expired and I transformed back to my normal self, squatting over Faun’s face just as she came to.
Umbra was able to stave off the middle hag with his lucern hammer, scoring a couple of glancing blows and giving her pause until she turned to flee, as did the far hag. We had foiled the ambush, but sadly Eli had passed on and been animated as a zombie, and he continued to flail mindlessly at Galen with his cesti. Umbra came over and Destroyed him, intoning some anti-zombie fundamentalist bigotry as our former compatriot disintegrated into a pile of dust.
We healed up the rest of the wounded and dug a grave for Eli’s pile of dust, and left a stone inscribed with “We Were Entertained” to mark the site. Umbra found two keys and amulets on the hags, and several valuable gems on the cyclops. Faun and I noticed a pretty well-worn path probably used by the cyclops for ambushes like this. But the wand still pointed up the hill. What to do? Well we were too exhausted to think about it just at the moment, so we decided to camp out right there at the ambush site and decide the next day.
In the morning, a dwarf came trodding up to our breakfast fire, shorn and toting a large longsword, looking like a short, stout human. He noticed our downcast look and says, “Hey! Who died?” as Faun roasted bacon in Eli’s old helmet. He said, “I am Tenoch Giantsplitter, I have abandoned by clan, my family were cheating lying backstabbing assholes, I refused to follow suit, ergo I was a disgrace to them. My grandmother was a human. If you need any giants split, I can help ya. Were there any around here?”
We explained what happened to this odd little fellow. He said, “Oh I ran across a hut a little ways back, but it was locked with magic.” We got him to take us back there and use Umbra’s keys to get in. Umbra was in a zealous rage and wanted to kill the remaining hag, since she was the one who sacrilegiously animated our dead friend’s corpse.
In the hut though, we found a nice cloak with a periapt of poison protection, several potions, a fabled Deck of Many Things, studded leather armor, several more gems, and a purse full of 300 gold, and a Buckland’s Everfood Purse!
Tenoch started drawing from the Deck of Many Things, and received a magic longsword and a bunch of jewelry! Faun drew, and suddenly got a lot more attractive, and a tree-house keep! Umbra drew, and got a church and the service of a warrior, and a wish! He wished for a Handy Haversack. Filamena drew and also got the service of a warrior, but also lost a great deal of intelligence. I draw, and lost my new enchanted studded leather! The now gorgeous Faun kindly offered me her cloak of protection with the periapt though, so I was mollified.
Next day we tried to burn the hut but it was fire resistant. So we just headed back off down the road, toward the hill with the ruins on it that the divining rod pointed us to. As we got closer, the road was still overgrown but it became cobblestone. It was hot, humid, and we were under the canopy so it was dim.
We approached the summit, there was a stone pyramid with many other tumbled down ruins surrounding it. The rod pointed to the pyramid. The jungle didn’t seem to grow into the ruins, though it infested the surrounding areas and a little foliage popped up here and there. A statue of winged human was atop the pyramid. Umbra suggested we sweep the outer buildings first, so we did. We came into the area from the East out of the jungle. We started our sweep South.
After a few buildings, I heard something in one with a newish roof. I signaled Faun, then climbed up to the top of a wall of a nearby ruin and covered Faun with my bow. Inside, we could see some lizardmen!