From the Memories of Alyssa of the Huroola
The Year of Awakening
“When in doubt, go to the source.”
The few of us who had been the Heroes of Fire Mountain were doing as Bengoukee had suggested and traveling to different tribes in Malatra, and were currently staying with the Koshiva. River and our saru friend Ook had been raised in Koshiva villages, so this was not a new place to visit for a few of us. Terra Chaos, The Crocoshaman, Shinola the Fateless and I were enjoying ourselves in discussion with new friends and visitors to the area, Fern Gully a jungle tam’hi and Sawtooth Longclaw a caiman katanga. Meanwhile, River met a new friend, another river tam’hi called Eliza Strawberry.
Suddenly, we began to feel the ground shaking and heard someone shout a warning that garuda were stampeding. The Crocoshaman, River, and Eliza Strawberry did their best to hide within the nearby river, while Terra Chaos, Fern, and Ook did their best to rescue helpless villagers from the stampede…with mixed results. Shinola, Sawtooth, and I all took a very direct approach to the threat, and tried to attack the beasts as they came. We even managed to take down two of them before being forced to leave our position and hide.
It was rather scary, as more than two-dozen long necked garuda crashed through the village, trampling many ground structures, crops, and people indiscriminately. Before we knew it though, it was over. Then the warning from Fern who had taken refuge in the tree village above us, about the creatures chasing the stampede came. Four knife-footed garuda charged into the village. We concentrated on taking one of the creatures down, but once it was badly wounded enough, it fled from us. The remaining ones likewise fled, two of them dragging the corpse of one of the long necked garuda with them as they went.
When things had settled down, Kunda, the village elder came to speak with us. With her was acting chief Shubak. The pair told us that ever since the eruption of Fire Mountain, more garuda had been seen than ever before. Kunda knew that many generations earlier, the Ancients had locked most of the garuda away within the Valley of the Spirits. Now, it appeared as if they had found a way out of the valley. They wanted us to travel down the River of Laughing Idols and learn why the garuda had left their home, and also try to find a way to stop them from leaving. Kunda told us that she could remove the taboo upon the Valley of the Spirits for us, but only for a short while. We were taken to her hut, where we stared at the fire as she applied strange symbols to our heads with some paint before calling on the spirits to remove the taboo for us. When she was done, she told us that the taboo was removed for us, but only for the next moon.
The nine of us then set out down river. We used two canoes of three people each, while River, The Crocoshaman, and Eliza Stawberry all decided to swim as much as possible. After eight days of traveling downriver, we began to approach the region controlled by the Rudra. We were soon stopped by a river tam’hi and several Rudra in boats. The river tam’hi was named Virada who acted as the Guardian of the River of Laughing Idols. She told us that one of the other guardians was a giant crocodile, called Ohmuho. It recently had gone insane and killed several Rudra and even a few river tam’hi. The Rudran hunters wanted our help to kill it, and she wanted our help to heal it if possible.
After a day more of traveling downriver, we found him as he attacked one of the Rudran boats. Combat with the creature commenced, and although we were able to determine that the reason for his insanity was some sort of rock that had been gotten lodged into his forehead. The Crocoshaman was able to remove the evil spirit infecting the wound, and Terra was able to remove it. With Fern and River’s help, they guessed that healing the wound would benefit the creature the most. After healing the creature, he thanked The Crocoshaman and left. We learned later that Virada had died trying to save Ohmuho from injuries sustained in our combat.
A few weeks later, we were forced to abandon our boats as the river had slowed to become what amounted to a swamp. We had only been moving by land a few hours when we encountered a saru named Kukachalla who was being chased by a tiger. Terra Chaos was able to get the tiger to back off, and Ook befriend Kukachalla. Kukachalla had poked the tiger while sleeping, and had run to us when chased. Kukachalla was heading to the Trees Who Remember in hopes of learning what had happened to the saru’s family. We allowed the crazy saru to join us.
After two further days of travel, we had arrived at the Taboo Totems which marked the border of the Taboo Lands. As we wondered what to do, a voice spoke to us telling us that the Valley was forbidden to our kind. It also asked why we had come. Fern recognized that it was a tree in a nearby copse that was speaking to us, and soon we learned that these tree-beings were the Council of Trees, the oldest and wisest trees in Malatra.
They told us that a short time earlier, as they understood it, a group of Black Leopard Katanga had lived near them, but that they had left the region when the garuda started coming from the Valley of the Spirits. They also told us that long ago another race, which we called the Ancients, but who called themselves Nubari had trapped many garuda in the Valley of the Spirits. Before then, those Nubari had communities within the valley. They told us all this freely, but asked that we sing to them as it relaxed their roots and slowed the flow of the sap within their trunks. River and I agreed to the request. They then called a spider from their branches and had us follow it toward the actual Valley of the Spirits within the taboo area.
Since Kukachalla couldn’t enter, they told the saru that all of the saru in the region had been killed by wicked Black Leopard Katanga nearly twenty rainy seasons ago. This meant the saru was without a family, so Kukachalla left us to find a new one. The rest of us quietly followed the spider.
Once we reached the valley, we could see that it was more than a valley…it was a massive chasm, of which we could not see the other side. The chasm’s bottom was one nearly fifty nubari heights below us, and the cliff face extended for many miles in either direction. A massive waterfall, where the remnants of the River of Laughing Idols fell into the Valley of the Spirits was to our north, and created a mist in the area that made it hard to see even this far from the falls. We could however see that the trees below us must be enormous, and nearby was one massive tree, which had fallen over the edge of the cliff creating an artificial ramp by which the garuda had been accessing the rest of Malatra.
We looked upon the fallen giant tree, and quickly determined that if we could remove the tree, the garuda would no longer be able to reach our part of the jungle. Unfortunately, cutting the tree wasn’t much of an option, as it would take many days longer than the time we had left within the taboo area. Eliza permanently scarred herself both physically and emotionally by performing a spell to create fire to try to dislodge the tree. Unfortunately, the mist in the area made such magic much less effective.
Eventually, River realized that she could sing to the tree, and it would relax. We watched as the tree fell in to the deep valley, briefly disturbing one of the massive garuda that lived there. We had succeeded in stopping the garuda, so we returned to the Koshiva.
When we arrived a few weeks later, they gave a feast in our honor. Acting Chief Shubak gifted us with many items in thanks. When we spoke with Kunda however, and told her our story, she told us that it was obvious that many garuda of different types had escaped from the Valley. Although not previously common, they were now part of Malatra’s ecosystem, and we would have to get used to them… or die trying.