From the Memories of Gerk
Tribe of Big Chief Bagoomba
The Year of Gathering Darkness
“No treaty is an impediment to the dishonest.”
My companions Anar’ketecht, Blacquesmith, , Katan, Ssscathah and I had been called to see Bengoukee from our various tribes. It was obvious the old korobukuru had a soft spot for us. I am sure that we are his first choice for cronies when the Jungle needed saving. Ever since that incident earlier in the year at the Council of Tribes where we had to prevent a war between the butu and the Huroola by finding the legendary chili-pepper of fire, he seemed to think us the greatest heroes in Malatra.
We arrived in the village of Big Chief Bagoomba and were taken directly to Bengoukee’s hut. We were surprised to find Chief Bagoomba himself waiting for us there in addition to Bengoukee. The old korobokuru told us he had had a vision. In the vision some great danger would destroy all life within Malatra. Unfortunately, the vision was obscured but he knew one thing: ‘The answer lies with the Snake Mother, and only those with the Curse of the Snake Mother can truly understand. For without the snake people the Jungle will be ground to dust.’
Bengoukee then told us that the snake-people, called yaun-ti, had increased attacks on the people of Malatra. Now Chief Bagoomba was considering sending his own raids against the yaun-ti, an act that could surely lead to all out war. Bagoomba for his part, did not want war but knew it was inevitable if yaun-ti raids did not stop. To that end, Bengoukee wanted us to make a treaty with the yaun-ti. Bagoomba was so desperate he told us we were authorized to give them virtually anything, but would prefer to at least keep all lands south of the village of the Kuamu.
We were given some supplies and a guide to the Swamp of the Snake Men. Imsh was given a magical amulet that had been created after studying Blue Heron which had been recovered a year earlier. This allowed him to transform into a heron twice before being destroyed.
Our guide, a nubari named Bayi, soon led us down the River of Laughing Idols. As an oscray, Imsh was new to traveling the river, but the rest of us had done so many times in the past. On our way down river, we told him the story of when we defeated the attack on the village of the Kaltra by the frog people a few seasons back.
On our second day out, we had started north and soon came to the Rayanna Savannah. There we encountered some hunters from the tribe of the Wise Ones. They were hunting a pair of spiketail garuda, and we were asked to assist. We turned them down, but Ssscathah and Katan couldn’t resist getting involved. Unfortunately, Sscathah was hit with the creature’s tail and changed into his snake form to try to get away. This made it easy for the other gauda to trample him to death. Katan killed one and scared away the remaining one, but our group was already one man down before we had even reached snake country. After dining on garuda meat that night, we continued on in the morning.
The next day, after defeating a giant burrowing worm on the savanah, we were confronted with a group of snakemen. Anar’ketecht, Blacquesmith tried to flee; Katan gave chase after them allegedly to get them back. This left Bayi, Imsh, and I to try to reason with the yaun-ti. It didn’t go well. After binding, and blindfolding us, they captured our fleeing friends as well. We were taken to the main village of the yaun-ti, where we were left in a cage for some time, before the yaun-ti Snake Mother deemed to speak with us.
In her temple, she listened to our proposal of a treaty and alliance with interest. She then told us that she would accept nothing less than everything to the north of the village of the Kuamu as a trade for such an alliance. We were more than willing to agree to that, since it was what Bagoomba had told us was the most that we could reasonably offer in trade. Unfortunately, one of her servants objected to the idea of a treaty. He didn’t trust us.
She immediately agreed that we needed to do something in order to prove our good intentions, and worthiness of an alliance. She proposed a game, wherein we would be allowed to compete against some of her yaun-ti in recovering an artifact of the ancients. We were to race to the Cave of Power to retrieve the Stone of Seeing which lay beyond the Cavern of Silence, through the Tunnel that Stops a Nubari’s Heart, and past the Unsleeping Statue. None of this sounded appealing, but we agreed, as we felt we had no choice. She told us if we won, then the terms we had arrived at would be acceptable to her and her people. In the meantime, she kept Bayi as collateral that we would return even if we failed.
We set out on our quest at the same time as the yaun-ti group, but theirs had quite an advantage in knowledge of the terrain heading toward the cave. Anar’ketecht and I were constantly trying to find the correct path, and by luck of circumstance we eventually found the entrance to the Cave of Power. Unfortunately, the yaun-ti group had gotten there first.
We fought off some firetoads, and noted that at least on yaun-ti had died doing the same. Then we came to a cave where any noise louder than a whisper set off a partial cave-in. Another dead yaun-ti showed us that they opposing group had learned this lesson the hard way. We did our best to get across the room quietly. Thankfully, Anar’ketecht and I were able to get past with no problems. Imsh simply hovered and we pulled him on a rope. Katan changed into his tiger form and plodded through quietly enough, but we nearly lost Blaquesmith due to the nubari warrior’s clanking reed armor.
Beyond the Cavern of Silence was a weird tunnel which seemed to know when we were trying to cross it. A bolt of lightning shot from one end to the other every time we tried. Two dead yaun-ti made us suspect that their leader had been using them as shields to get through the tunnel. Eventually, we learned that if we crawled through the tunnel we would not get hit by the lightning.
On the other side we discovered a beautiful massive stone statue in front of an entrance to a chamber with a massive green emerald sitting on a dais. The emerald could only be the Stone of Seeing, and the sole remaining yaun-ti was already retrieving it! He tried to taunt us as he ran toward the exit, when suddenly the statue seemed to come alive and struck him a fatal blow. The gem hit the ground nearby.
Since the statue wasn’t outwardly hostile to us unless we tried to approach the gem, Imsh decided to complete the mission as best he could. He used his ability to move things with his mind to bring the gem to him, and then used the Amulet of the Heron to change into a heron and fly back to the Snake Mother. His abandonment of us, caused us to have to flee from a very motivated statue. The lighting in the Tunnel that Stops a Nubari’s Heart nearly killed Blaquesmith, but Katan carried him in his jaws as I held on to him for dear life. Anar’ketecht stopped the statue by screaming into the Cavern of Silence after we had made it through.
We soon arrived back at the yaun-ti village, just as Imsh who had gotten very lost as a bird, arrived as well. The Snake Mother took the news of the other yaun-ti’s deaths in stride, and she said that the alliance with the peoples of Malatra was now in effect. As a show of good will she gave us the Stone of Seeing to give to Bengoukee, but first she had Imsh use it. As he stared into it, she lightly bit his arm, leaving a small mark.
As Imsh looked into the stone, his vision was amplified to many others across Malatra. Those with the minds trained to understand the vision, such as the mystics, lost much of their ability due to the strain. Many others saw the vision as well, including us.
The ash covered Yaku Plains loomed large in this vision, but then we realized that the plains were not where they should be as we were standing on the Rayanna Savannah. The Yaku Plains were growing as we watched a figure clothed in black light walk slowly toward us. Plants around this figure died as he walked. Bengoukee, Taronee, The Snake Mother, Black Chaos, and many other powerful people or heroes of the jungle stood in opposition to this figure, but there was a great carnage which the figure was seemingly unaffected by. At last the lone surviving opponent to the figure, the chief of the Simbara stood against him. And then we realized, the black figure was Tiger. Tiger was coming.
Our return to Bengoukee was uneventful, but we learned upon our arrival that news of our treaty had preceded us. The details were muddled, but one group had gotten the entire story, and they had not been happy about the arrangement. The jungle druids had expressed their opposition by leaving the known parts of the jungle en masse. Where they went, or if they will ever return was not something they seemingly shared with anyone.
In spite of the controversy, and the death of our friend Ssscathah, we knew we had likely struck the first blow in a great war. We hoped that it was a war that we could win.