From the Memories of Freya of the Huroola
Big Chief Bagoomba
The Year of Awakening
“Evil is not born, it is taught.”
I had been summoned to the village of Big Chief Bagoomba to speak with Bengoukee, the witch-doctor of that tribe. Also present were a saru called Goku, a shu called Mowgli, a tiger katanga called Malinsar, and another nubari called Yamboya. Bengoukee told us that the spirits had told him that a great evil had returned—the Master of Yonik-taru, or the Magic of Head Shrinking. He explained that long ago yonik-taru was the bane of the ancients, and they fought against its wielders eliminating them. But some survived and among them was Hodulla, the former witch doctor of the Saiyama and Bengoukee’s former master. Hodulla had controlled the Saiyama for hands-of-hands-of-hands of years before Bengoukee had deposed him and Hodulla fled into the Valley of the Spirits. The elder witch doctor had thought his master long dead, but now it appeared as if he had returned. Bengoukee then told us that the spirits had chosen us to deal with the problem.
Apparently the headshrinker got its power by draining the life force from other races of Malatra, and turning them into horrible non-living-but-still-walking things called topi. He suggested dealing with the headshrinker’s phal-torren, which was the receptacles of their power. Without the phal-torren, the headshrinker would be powerless.
The spirits had also informed him that the lair of the headshrinker was within the Jungle of Lost Tribes. This presented a small problem, as the area was taboo to all races of Malatra. Thankfully Bengoukee was the only person in Malatra to have powerful magical paints, which could protect the wearer from the taboo. He also told us that one of his lesser apprentices, a tiger katanga named Ffft would be joining us, since we didn’t have a witch doctor in our ranks. A different tiger katanga named Uubarr was the guardian of the Jungle of Lost Tribes and would meet us along the way to show us the path there.
Bengoukees assistant, Mirmirani, came forward with a great bowl, into which Bengoukee added several unknown ingredients. What resulted was a thick paste, which Bengoukee spent several hours applying to all of us and added intricate symbols of power. He told us that the paste would only last for so long, and warned us not to get wet or risk washing it off. Ffft snuck a small sample of paste when it was being applied to me.
We set out soon afterward, escorted to the edge of Big Chief Bagoomba’s territory by two of his warriors; a Rudran named Grey Shadow, and Bagoomba’s guard Reesta Nifari. It was obvious from their demeanor that they were very pleased to see Ffft off.
Along the way we learned why Ffft was so disliked; he was really, really annoying. He would prattle at us constantly, and sometimes not even make any sense. He used obnoxious nicknames for all of us that seemed to change on his whim. He poked Mowgli with a stick repeatedly and talked about our companion’s relative height compared to other members of the shu race. Most annoyingly, he whistled all the while we spoke to him.
After several hours of walking we began to hear the sounds of flowing water ahead, even though there was supposed to be no river or stream nearby. Soon we had discovered the stream, and determined that we would not be able to cross it without washing off some of our markings. Ffft annoyingly just used a spell to jump across the obstacle. Mowgli, Yamboya, Malinsar and I had a much more difficult time of it. Goku used some vines to swing across, and used a vine he had brought across to help create a rope bridge with one of my arrows tied to a vine.
Once we were all across we were greeted by a male korobokuru. He said his name was KalameetKalameet. Ffft immediately said that he looked trustworthy, and proceeded to tell him everything about our mission and even invite him along with us. We were less eager for him to join, as we figured our mission was important and that we were the ones that the spirits had chosen. I really didn’t like the idea of another armed male in our group. Malinsar pointed out that it was impossible for the korobokuru to join us, as he didn’t have the special protection against the taboo of entering the Jungle of Lost Tribes. Ffft had this one covered however and proceeded to do his own painting of our new ally with the pigments he had purloined from Bengoukee. The symbols were nothing like Bengoukee’s and I had the distinct impression that Ffft was making some of them up.
When Kalameet was partially covered, we continued on our way. As we rested for a few hours at night, we had a close encounter with a dying horn-head garuda, as well some runner garuda who had come to feast on it. We helped it escape the creatures, then fought them off before we rested for a bit. As soon as light came, we set out again. It didn’t take us long before we were greeted by the tiger katanga called Uubarr.
The katanga told us that the Jungle of Lost tribes was taboo for everyone. He, and his family going back several generations, had enforced that taboo. Now he felt that he had failed, as evil lurked within the region once again. He inspected our painted symbols and surprisingly even gave Kalameet an all clear, though he did warn us that there was a chance that the symbols would not be fully effective. He then led us to the trail into the Jungle of Lost Tribes. Finally, he warned us against taking anything from the Jungle of Lost Tribes, as he put it: “the secrets and devices there are for the ancients and we are not ready for them.” He told us he would grieve for us when we didn’t return, which made us even more reluctant to enter the region.
Upon reaching the Jungle of the Lost tribes, we were awed but discouraged to discover that the entire region was the ruins of a city of the Ancients. This meant that the headshrinker could be anywhere. We set to work looking for him, and soon had to contend with several chicken garuda. After dispatching these, we were soon attacked by a group of dead-but-walking nubari! These creatures must have been the topi. They proved that we must be getting close to the headshrinker’s lair, but fighting them was horrifying. They were all but immune to my arrow shots, and their shrunken appearance misled us to believe they might be rather slow…instead they caused us to become slow! We were eventually able to destroy them though. Unfortunately, at this point both Kalameet and Yamboya had begun to feel the effects of the taboo that was on this place and began acting strangely.
We found some tracks which helped us find the lair, and soon enough we had to fight more of the horrifying creatures. In the next chamber we discovered all sorts of herbs that Ffft was able to tell us far too much about. In short, they would be used for some sort of spell components.
The next chamber had some sort of Black Art about the wall. The symbolic gibberish was fascinating to Ffft, who wanted to copy it somehow. We prevented him from doing so, but failed to notice him slipping away from us when we were looking at the gourds in the next chamber. The gourds we discovered there were of interest to Kalameet, who thought they might be valuable. He even opened one to check if anything was in it, but discovered it empty.
In the next chamber was a sleeping young boy, not quite of age to be a hunter. We revived him and asked who he was. He said his name was Xot, and he was a member of the Rudra. He had been taken seven cycles earlier, and it was his job to sweep the floor and clean the dishes. We told him that we would ensure that he made it back to his people.
In the chamber beyond, we found the headshrinker. To all our surprise, it was a woman! She was rather attractive, and only about thirty summers old. She temporarily imprisoned me behind a wall of bones while she and her dead minions began to attack the others. Ffft used his powerful ‘do what I say’ spell on her and she became our willing slave. Then Xot ran to her and asked her to drink something, which immediately freed her from Ffft’s control. Xot quietly began sweeping the floor. Ffft was so frustrated to lose her, and didn’t have any spells left so he changed into tiger form. The woman was enraged and began to attack with powerful magic. Goku, of course, fled.
By the time he had returned to us, I had freed myself from the bone prison, and we had destroyed a few of the walking dead. When she sprayed a spell into the room it knocked everyone except Mowgli, Yamboya, I unconscious. Next she created darkness in the room, while her one remaining topi nearly killed Mowgli. When I was at last able to counter the spell of darkness, I discovered that my unconscious companions had been removed from the room by Ffft. Now that they had a chance to catch their breath, they came back in and attacked with a vengeance. Even Goku was able to help, as the woman didn’t have enough flashy magic to cause him to flee. Malinsar switched to tiger form and killed the last topi, then was able to get the last strike in on the headshrinker.
After this we dealt with Xot, who claimed that he had to give a potion to his master. We realized that there was a more lasting effect on the boy than we had initially thought. Perhaps getting him back to his people would help him heal. We destroyed the black art upon the wall, as well as smashed the gourds which we now realized were the phal-torren of which Bengoukee had spoken.
Kalameet wanted to keep the trinkets the woman had on her body, but we were against the idea. So he did what any thief would do and grabbed them and made a run for it. We attempted to stop him, but he was too fast and was able to get away. We tracked him from the Jungle of Lost tribes to the stream, where we lost him.
The next day we made it back to Big Chief Bagoomba’s. Once we arrived, Bengoukee spoke with us immediately. After ensuring that we were all cured of our madness. he wanted a full report. When he learned that the headshrinker was a woman, he asked for her description. It turns out she had been Toka, another apprentice of Hodulla a century earlier. Bengoukee had thought her dead. With her gone, he hoped that his former master, Hodulla, had also passed.
He was only mildly disturbed by the tale of Kalameet, and said he would get word to the Katimaya, which would allow for the purloined items to be tested for taboos. He was more interested in finding out who Xot was. When asked, the boy stated that he was an apprentice headshrinker. Bengoukee was disappointed, but since the boy was a Rudran, he had no choice but to send him to the Rudra with a message warning them to watch the boy. He then discovered that Ffft had copied some of the black art scribbles from the wall upon his arm using some coal. He was furious with Ffft, and removed the offensive marks immediately.
A few days later word reached us that Kalameet had escaped the taboo. Yrbom had been rather angry with him, but Kural had made some sort of deal to cure the thief’s madness. We also received word that the group going to the Rudra had arrived without Xot. No one was sure where the boy had gone.