ACT 5: The Race to Tazion
Session 29: Demons in the Jungle [Sep 30th, 2021]
The heroes try to plead with the ruffians who approach them. They explain that Ricketts is the one they should be trying to get money from. Ricketts is trying to set up his wagon and preparing to leave. The eight ruffians demand gold from the heroes, but Dolgrin and Lox convince them that isn’t going to happen and they should bring Ricketts over. One of the toughs brings Ricketts, who is screaming at the foolish men. Ricketts convinces his men to take the gold by force and a quick battle erupts.
Dolgrin hacks one of the ruffians with his axe, then Flax cuts one of them in half. A few bombs, spells, and more attacks and the rest of the scatter into the nearby fields. Ricketts is trying to escape on his horse-drawn carriage, but Aspira strikes him with a bolt of lightning. A sizzling Ricketts is quickly begging for his life from the heroes. He offers them gold, but they refuse. They ask that he stop running bets along the trade road, he agrees and takes off.
The heroes travel for another day and a half. Lox begins to feel the moisture in his body getting closer to normal. At the end of a long day of travel, the heroes come across a small Zenja village on the jungle’s edge. The villagers come out and seem quite eager to trade. Dolgrin buys a small charm from a young lad. However, Gor and Lox realize that they are acting strange and seem afraid of something. Aspira learns that they must talk to the shaman of the village to understand what they are afraid of.
The heroes join them as Aspira and Dolgrin head into the shaman’s hut to speak with her. She says she is wary of foreigners, but begs them for help. She seems quite superstitious in her beliefs, but strongly believes the village is cursed. She says a demon called a chemosit hunts them night, for the past two weeks it has taken children and adults into the jungles and fed on them. She begs the heroes to help them. Dolgrin and Aspira talk with the others and agree to stay the night and help them fight this ‘demon’.
Gor helps Flax talk with the villagers, asking about his missing brother, Bracken. He learns that Bracken did come through this village and gave a young girl one of his whittled wooden Dwarf-charms. The heroes feast on flatbreads, fruits, and porridges. They then watch the villagers perform acrobatics, dances, and fire-breathing stunts. The night grows late and the villagers head off to bed. The shaman brings the heroes to a hut at the edge of the village in the jungle. She marks the door with goat’s blood to attract the beasts.
The heroes sleep lightly, taking shifts, and preparing for the chemosit attack. Near the end of the night, during Gor and Flax’s watch, they head a creature sneaking up to the entrance of the hut. The door then rips apart as a massive ape-like, bear-like beast roars at them. The others quickly move to fight and Flax hacks at it and charges to the side of the hut, where he finds another chemosit charging at him.
The back wall of the hut is ripper apart and a third chemosit strikes at Lox and Aspira. Aspira blasts it with holy fire and Lox quickly blinds it, then he and Aspira are able to escape the hut with Dodak. The beast then chases after them and nearly rips Aspira in half. Lox blasts it with elemental magic but it seems to resist.
Meanwhile, Flax goes one-on-one with one of the chemosit beasts hacking at it as it tries to disembowel him. Eventually, Flax is able to hack away its limbs and the beast falls dead. Flax tries to catch his breath and keep his intestines from falling out. Dolgrin keeps hacking at the chemosit at the hut’s entrance, as it grabs both Gor and the dwarf. Gor smashes a few bombs into the beast’s face. It then drops Gor and tears into Dolgrin, ripping into his gut as well. Dolgrin summons Rolk’s power and strikes at the beast, then Gor finishes it off with a bomb.
The third chemosit still holds Aspira, ready to feast…
Session 30: Tunneling Terrors [Oct 14th, 2021]
Flax tries to fling spells, while holding in his disemboweled gut. Dolgrin does the same as he rounds the hut towards the final chemosit monster. Aspira struggles to get free of its grasp, but its rips into her and drops her unconscious, bloodied form upon the ground. Gor blasts the beast with a bomb and rushes over to bring a healing elixir over to Aspira. Lox continues to command his shocker lizard to strike as he blasts it with spells. After taking some wounds, the chemosit tries to flee, but Flax charges at it and cuts it down with his sword.
With the creatures defeated, Gor is able to save Aspira from certain death, and Lox is able to patch up Flax, Aspira, and Dolgrins wounds. After a few healing spells, the heroes return to sleep for the remainder of the evening. They oversleep from exhaustion the next morning, but are greeted by curious villagers as they arise. The people thanks them for saving them from the monsters. The shaman of the village gifts them a powerful wand and a rare alchemical elixir.
The young child that had Bracken’s carvings confesses to stealing a scroll from the dwarf, and gives Flax the scroll with an apology. Flax and Gor examine it to find that it is a treasure map, seemingly pointing the way to the crash site of the lost treasure ship, the Crimson Runner that was rumored to have gone missing in these parts many years ago. It was famous for having a cargo of gold ingots at the time it disappeared. With some examination, Aspira is able to discern that the map points to a point where two rivers meet just past Kalabata.
The heroes continue on away from the shade of the jungle edge and deep into the hot, dusty savannah on the route to Kalabata. They spend two uneventful days travelling the dusty road, occasionally passing merchants and other travelers. Late on the second day, they find that the path ahead is hard to discern. A recent rain has greatly muddied the area, making the rain hard to follow. Aspira marks a course and leads them in the direction of Kalabata. They find themselves in a wide field filled with a sporadic mounds of dirt following curved, linear paths. After striding for some time, they find the ground is unstable, and nearly everyone falls into pits in the field, where the ground underneath caved in on them. Flax is the only one standing. It is then that numerous insects the size of horses burrow out of the earth, spitting acid at the heroes.
Aspira and Gor struggle to get out of the pit, while Dolgrin and Dodak manage to get out quickly. Flax charges one of the beasts and nearly cleaves it in two. Lox then uses his water magic to use the pressure of the water to shoot himself out of the pit. He then blasts some of the creatures with a powerful wave of elemental energy. It kills one of the beasts. Dolgrin fights head on against two of the beasts as Lox fights another. Gor finds himself beset by another beast after he finally manages to climb out. He blasts it with dreadful bomb of psychoactive substances, then he shoves a firebomb into its mouth.
Aspira finally crawls out of the muddy pit and blasts one of the beasts with a lightning bolt, felling it. Two of the beasts burrow into the ground and flee as Flax cuts down the final monster. The heroes celebrate their victory as they tend to their wounds.
Session 31: The Gallows Dead [Oct 28th, 2021]
The heroes continue their journey along the road towards Kalabata, following the flowing grasslands and occasional copse of acacia trees through the savannah. After a day and a half of travel, they find a a large flock of vultures circling over them for quite some time. Eventually, as the evening sets in and the sun sets on the horizon, six very large vultures gain the courage to strike and swoop down upon the heroes. These large vultures, called geiers, have blood-red beaks over their sickly forms.
Lox immediately summons a pteranodon dinosaur to strike and hold back one of the geiers. The others swoop down and beak and claw at the heroes with their talons. Flax is able to cleave one in half, as the others burn, scorch, and electrcute the others. Eventually only a single one remains, caught in the burning flames of one of Gor’s alchemist’s fires. It tries to fly away, but is eventually burned by the caustic fires. The heroes celebrate their easy victory and continue on their quest.
They travel for another nearly 3 days along the trade road to Kalabata. They see the hint of the jungle in the distance and the city with it. They are about 3 hours outside the city when they come across a scorched tree near the road. It has numerous bodies hanging from the tree with ropes around their necks. They appear to all be Northern merchants and travelers, foreigners. Gor, Dodak, and Aspira recognize this as the handiwork of the war-like Zali. The heroes worry that there may be survivors and they rush towards the some of the bodies on the ground to check for signs of life. They find that they are all dead.
As the heroes come near the corspes, they are assaulted by a tenacious odor that sickens their stomachs. It is then that six of the corpses gain movement and begin to stand and shuffle towards them. The heroes are surprised by the sudden zombie attack and Aspira is immidately grabbed by one of the zombies as it tries to eat her throat. Flax hacks down one of them and tries to fight off the one holding Aspira. Dolgrin finds himself facing off two of them. Lox summons a ball of fire to burn the zombies as he pulls back to a safer distance. Gor successfully blasts a few of the zombies with his signature bombs.
Flax cuts down the zombie attacking Aspira, and she is able to get some distance and blast a few of them with holy light. Gor helps take out a couple of the zombies, but may have sharted himself in the process. Dolgrin is able to cut down one and Flax helps him finish the last one. With the zombies defeated, the heroes determine that a Zali necromancer must have cursed these bodies in the hopes of killing anyone foolish enough to try and cut them down to bury them. After the fight, Aspira, Gor, Flax, and Dolgrin all find themselves feeling diseased by the wounds inflicted by the zombies, their heads are stuffy and cloudy.
The heroes decide to press on into Kalabata, where they find vine-choked ruins on high hills rising above crowded, dark streets of crude wooden shacks. Noble houses are built into the ruins above and poverty seems rampant in the streets below. As the heroes enter the city, they are accosted by numerous Zenja locals desperate for coin, some are beggars and others sell trinkets and other items. The heroes purchases Zali totems from a young Zenja girl named Kibi who offers to show them around the city. They have her direct them to the Shrunken Head Tavern, where they are to meet the Historical Society contact, the dwarf Cheiton.
Kibi takes them to the tavern where they meet with Cheiton. He has a quick reunion with Aspira, Dodak, and Dolgrin and orders them all some beers. He takes them to a hushed corner of the smoky, dingy tavern. He speaks in whispers and warns them that there are ears everywhere and he has heard the the Ariana Consortium, the Pirates of the Fire Islands, and even the Crimson Blades have agents in the city. He tells them not to trust anyone.
The bartender inquires with the heroes about finding a Gor Ponga, as he has a letter for him. Gor accepts the letter and finds it is from his secret lover, Rogerina. He shares it with the group. It seems she is on a river-boat cruise northward with her Zenja friend, Eeka. Gor grows increasingly concerned as Cheiton describes the dangers of travel up north. He describes the demon-worshiping ape-men called Charau-ka, the small cannabilistic fey called the Eloko, and the war-like Zali tribe to the east, which tend to kill all outsiders on sight.
Cheiton then brings the heroes back to his house nearby, warning them that it might not be safe to rest at the inn.
Session 32: The Assassin’s Knife [Nov 11th, 2021]
The heroes try to sleep in Cheiton’s house. Dodak, Gor, and Aspira sleep in small spare bedrooms. Dolgrin sleeps in a small hall outside of Dodak’s room, and Lox and Flax sleep on the floor in the second floor sitting area. The night crawls and the everyone manages to get to sleep, feeling mostly safe in the home of an ally. However, their sense of safety is false. Late in the night, Flax and Aspira are awakened by the sound of broken glass as dark-hooded assassins try to sneak into Cheiton’s house.
Aspira finds the assassin standing over her, she blasts it with spell, but they do little to slow the assassin swift cuts with his long knife. Aspira is cut numerous times and collapses upon the bed, bleeding out. Flax faces off against an assassin in the hall and calls out to the others to wake them. Dodak also faces an assassin in his room, but is oblivious to his impending doom as he snores soundly. Dolgrin bursts into the room to save his friend, only just stopping the assassin from finishing the job.
Lox summons a large bear to fight the assassins and it manages to grab and hold one of them. Flax then cuts the man down. Gor peaks out and finds two assassins fighting the large bear. He throws a few deadly bombs and fells one of the them. One tries to flee out the window, but Gor manages to hit it with an acid bomb that knocks him to the ground below. The other assassin charges at Lox, but is soon knocked down by Flax. Dolgrin and Dodak then flank the final assassin and Lox sends a ball of fire to finish him.
The heroes save Aspira from death and treat their wounds. They then find Cheiton has been killed in his sleep and a scrawled note simply reads, “Leave the race….“. They find that the asssassins carried knives of the Crimson Blades. But one of them had a single gold coin with the Ariana Consortium mint on it. The heroes then question the surviving assassin. Aspira tries to intimidate him, but he seems to welcome death. Dolgrin and Lox then reason with him and he begins to speak. He tells them that some unknown ‘rich’ folk paid him and his friends to assassinate some dwarf in the building. The mysterious patrons gave them the knives to used, telling them they were poisoned.
The heroes decide to leave the man tied up and rest for the remainder of the night. They then let the man go free, knowing that the mysterious patrons, likely the Ariana Consortium, would kill him if they found him. The heroes pack their items and take the supplies Cheiton had for them. They leave Kalabata quickly early that morning.
After over two days of travel through the friendly Zenja villages outside Kalabata, the heroes come close to the treasure site listen on the map that was left by Bracken. They then reach the shore of a placid lake where the famed Crimson Runner should lie in its depths. Flax is chosen to find the treasure due to his skill as a swimmer. He drinks a water-breathing potion and a special elixir that gives him webbing. He then dives into the water and finds the lost ship. He grabs an iron military chest and tries to swim to the surface with it. However, on his ascent his is accosted by a massive primordial beast, an elasmosaurus.
The beast bites Flax a few times, tearing into him. But he keeps swimming on for the safety of his friends. The others begin to send spells and bolts down at the beast, but the water makes it hard to strike. Lox summons a crocodile to intervene and, eventually, Flax reaches the surface, but the beast is right behind him…
Session 33: Treasures and Disease [Dec 9th, 2021]
Lox’s summoned crocodile manages to distract the beast a moment, but is soon thrashed to pieces by the great elasmosaurus. Lox then blinds the beast, which gives Flax and Aspira enough time to climb completely out of the water. The thrashing elasmosaurus then gives up on its land-bound prey and sinks back into the depths of the dark water.
The heroes then examine the iron chest, finding the lock upon it hard to penetrate. Gor realizes there is some magic at work, protecting the chest from degradation and hardening the iron. Lox manages to dispel this magic, then Gor helps position Flax to the best place to apply his strength. Flax then manages to tear the chest open.
Inside, are a number of potions and elixirs, along with a magical, ancient Xaya runestone. Beneath these baubles, are twenty solid gold ingots. The heroes take the treasures before returning the iron chest to the river’s depths for others to find. The heroes then continue a bit more before camping for the night. Gor is able to spend the evening transferring the magical rune from the runestone to Dolgrin’s axe, granting it incredible sharpness. Overnight, Flax’s condition improves to normal, but Aspira seems to be suffering still under the zombie plague.
The next day, the heroes find the number of villages dwindling as they approach close to the Zali border. During the evening, Gor overhears a strange sound, a horse riding towrads them from behind. They await this newcomer and find a courier from the Viana government approaching them on horseback. He delivers a letter to Lox. The letter is from Jask Derindi. He tells Lox that he has uncovered records indicating that his missing parents were once part of an expedition near Tazion that never returned. He also warns the heroes that the Viana government’s scouting party, who is also searching for Sava-Xi, is only a couple days behind them, in Kalabata.
The heroes continue on for a couple of days. Aspira’s disease seems to get better and the heroes find that the path has now become little more than an aged hunting trail tracking through the thick foliage of the jungle. Later that day, the heroes are ambushed by a band of Zali warriors. However, the heroes are able to defend themselves well, defeating the warriors quickly. Many of the enemies are beheaded, melted, and burned by sword and sorcery. Only one Zali warrior managed to escape into the jungles.
The heroes rest for the night, treating their wounds from the battle. The next morning, Aspira seems to be doing much worse, as her skin grows more pale and a faint rotting odor emanates from her skin. The heroes decide to spend the first half of the day allowing her to rest, but it seems to have little effect on the virulent disease. They continue that evening and by the next morning Aspira’s condition grows far worse. The heroes whisper among themselves, trying to figure out a way to help their friend avoid a fate worse than death by the zombie plague.
Session 34: The Fall of Aspira [Jan 6th, 2022]
Early the next morning, after spending all night tending to Aspira, the heroes watch their friend and comrade fall to a fell fate with the zombie plague. Dolgrin prays to his deity to prevent Aspira from rising again as a zombie. The heroes then find an appropriate place and bury the gifted oracle in her final resting place. Dodak takes Aspira’s holy symbol of Abalassi to bring to her family.
The death of Aspira puts a gray mood upon the heroes and they prepare to head back out on their quest towards Tazion. However, they find that the forward scouts of the main troop of the Historical Society have reached them. They learn that the rest of the troop is only a day behind them due to their stall while dealing with the zombie plague. Dodak sends the forward scouts back to the main troop to let them know what has transpired. The Arathian warrior, Amaunet, joins the heroes to help support them as they move forward.
The heroes continue onward, travelling for over two days, following the river northeast. At one point, they come across a large group of hippopotamuses bathing in the river and eating reeds. Gor knows better to avoid the large beasts, and they stay clear of them. However, as they get close to one wandering hippo, a group of lizardfolk fire an arrow to provoke the beast. The hippo comes charging towards the heroes in an angry fury.
The heroes pull away, only later discovering that the lizardfolk are attacking as well. Amaunet charges in at the lizardfolk, felling one quickly with deft kicks and fists. Flax holds the hippo at bay, trying to shoot at the lizardfolk. Dolgrin and Dodak hold the other group of lizardfolk as Gor throws bombs at the hippo. Lox then summons a leopard that grabs one of the lizardfolk and tears him apart. Then helps Dolgrin finish the other. Amaunet finished the fourth lizardfolk and rejoin the others. The team work together to take down the hippo, feeling reluctant to kill such a majestic beast. After the beast is felled, they find a single antidote vial on one of the lizardfolk, it has the trademark of the Ariana Consortium upon it.
The heroes continue onward, travelling along the river, heading deep into the Screaming Jungle. The cacophonous sounds of the constant screaming of the monkeys nearly drives them crazy, but they manage to persevere and continue their journey. After five days of travel, the heroes come across four corpses along the riverbank, they cautiously approach them and determine that they are not undead. Gor and Flax examine the corpses up close, finding them to be pirates of the Fire Islands, a rival group heading to Tazion. The corpses bear large slashes and gashed through their armor and have bruises that suggest a massive humanoid attacked them.
The heroes continue onward into the dark jungle. After a few hours, they hear a loud crash through the trees and a great ape bursts forth. It bellows a frightening howl as it charges at the heroes. Dolgrin raises his shield and meets the ape’s charge. Lox summons his leopard again, but the ape sends it fleeing from fear. Gor throws bombs at it as Amaunet charges in striking it with fury. They begin to notice the ape exhibits strange behavior. But then Flax charges at it, raising his sword on high and cleaves the ape in two.
As soon as the ape is felled, a flame of shadow and darkness rises from the ape’s corpse and a large demonic presence stretches its claws, ready to strike at the heroes…
Session 35: The Shadow Demon [Jan 20th, 2022]
The heroes reel on their heels as the demonic form takes shape. However, before they can make a move, the demon lurches forward and dives inside Flax’s body. It immediately overtakes the warrior and forces Flax to begin cutting down his massive sword upon his comrades, while Flax’s consciousness is forced to watch helplessly from inside.
Gor blasts Flax with a few ghostly bombs that should hurt the demon inside. Amaunet and Dolgrin then try to get control of Flax and make him less lethal. Amaunet kicks Judicator out of Flax’s hands and throws it aside. Then Amaunet, Lox’s summoned leopard, and Dolgrin manage to wrestle Flax to the ground and restrain him. Dolgrin then ties him up. The shadow demon rises out of Flax’s body and then possesses Amaunet.
The heroes try the same tactics, knocking Amaunet to the ground to restrain her. Gor throws his last few bombs that would solely hurt the demon. The demon then flies out into Dolgrin, forcing the dwarf to draw his axe and hack down upon his friends. The heroes decide not to pull back and strike at the dwarf with magical attacks, hoping it injures the demon inside as well. Flax then summons a small earthquake to knock the dwarf to the ground and attempt to disable him.
The demon then flies out again, leaping into Lox. The heroes continue their strategy with Amaunet and Flax rushing towards Lox and knocking him out with a few powerful punches. The demon then finally strikes out on its own, slashing its incorporeal claws into Flax, cutting deeply into the half-elf’s soul with a cold, eerie touch. The heroes try to regroup to take the demon out for good…
Session 36: Lost Canoe and the Necromancer [Feb 3rd, 2022]
The heroes strike out at the shadow demon, trying to put an end to it once and for all. Gor finds his bombs of little use against the incorporeal shadow. Flax cuts it with Judicator, finding it somewhat hurts the creature. Amaunet finds her ki strikes harm it as well. Eventually, the heroes are able to band together and defeat the demon, banishing it from this world.
The heroes treat their wounds and save Lox from certain death. They decide to camp for the night nearby and recover from the traumatic experience of possession and being forced to harm their allies. The next morning, they have mostly recovered and continue on their journey northward along the river through the jungles of screaming monkeys.
After a long trek of over seven days, the heroes spot various wildlife, but otherwise find no pertinent dangers on their journey. On the afternoon of the seventh day, the heroes come across a strange sight. Dolgrin and Amaunet spot a wooden hull out on the river, caught in the bed of reeds at the shore. Dolgrin bravely moves in to examine it, finding an empty Zenja canoe, like those of Kalabata. The canoe is broken and wrecked on the shoreline. He sees a strange cloth object floating in it.
Gor and Amaunet move in to examine it more closely and Lox finds no magic auras in the vicinity. Gor then is quite surprised as he recognizes the cloth object. It is a fine, lace parasol of pink and lavender cloth. He recognizes it as one that belongs to Rogerina. Amaunet searches the area and finds remnants of cracked footsteps in the hardened mud at the shoreline, one belongs to a booted foot, the other to a high-heeled shoe. Gor realizes that Rogerina may be stranded out in these northern wilds, but strangely, the footstep seem to head north.
The heroes continue on for another day of travel, and in the evening of the next day, they come across signs of a large creature tearing through the underbrush. Amaunet finds recent tracks of two large, clawed humanoid prints alongside a human-sized barefoot print. Dolgrin encourages the group to check them out, despite Amaunet’s objections.
The heroes come to a small clearing with a large ant-hill like burial mound with a stone front-face and a door, that is broken open. There is a boar slain and its entrails exposed that Dolgrin and Gor realize was for extispicy predictions. Out of the shadows of the doorway step two large zombie trolls and their smaller necromancer master, Jigeke, who wears a large wooden mask.
The necromancer wields a freshly stolen ancient Xaya spellstaff. He orders his zombie trolls to attack as he stays back. He blasts the heroes with a couple bolts of lightning. The first one nearly kills Dodak, the second nearly kills Dolgrin. Lox’s summoned leopards seem ineffective, slain by the trolls and lightning before they can do much of anything. Flax, Amaunet, and Gor manage to take out one of the large zombie trolls. Flax then charges at Jigeke.
Jigeke then reaches out and touches Flax, siphoning his life force and dropping the warrior to the ground near death. Gor and Amaunet then rush towards Jigeke to stop the spellcaster. Meanwhile, Lox revives Dolgrin and the two prepare themselves for dealing with the other troll.
Session 37: Xaya Treasures [Feb 17th, 2022]
The heroes try to maintain their resolve as the necromancer Jigeke and his last zombie troll minion continue to cause them pain. Gor is able to heal Flax with a reviving elixir, but Jigeke backs away and causes Flax to shudder with pain and sickness. Flax presses forward and cuts Jigeke down. The heroes then turn their attention towards the zombie troll. Dolgrin continues to try and hold his position, keeping the creature at bay, as Amaunet and Lox try to help a best they can. Soon, Flax moves in and he and Dolgrin are able to fell the great beast.
The heroes spend some time to treat their wounds before exploring the area. Lox fixates on the ancient Xaya staff in Jigeke’s dead hands. The others move towards the opened tomb and find a stone sarcophagus of an ancient Xaya warrior. The well-crafted lid has been removed and the heroes see a crumbling skeleton wearing resplendent bronze plate armor that is adorned with eagle iconography. Dolgrin humble dons the armor, finding it’s magic adjusts to fit him perfectly. Meanwhile, Lox finds a scroll on the necromancer as well and finally they are able to identify the ancient Xaya spellstaff. It is a beautiful bronze staff filled with many powerful evocations.
The heroes rest for the night near the ancient Xaya tomb and set out early the next day. After a few days of travel, the heroes find themselves leaving the screaming jungles behind them and the cacophony of the screaming monkeys becomes a fading memory. Another six long days of travel go by, with the heroes marching along the riverbank in the rolling hills and wide plains, the mountains glistening in the west.
As the heroes travel along the river, Flax gets the impression of something nearby. He moves towards it, hiding behind a rock, and he sees a group of small, 3-foot high blue fey-like humanoids. He points them out to the others, but the heroes are then accosted by the creatures, the eloko. The heroes pull together to defend themselves, striking at the eloko hunters. However, each time the eloko are hit, they immediately grow to great size, like that of a giant.
The heroes try to fight them off, surrounding them, cutting them and blasting them with spells and bombs. They find the eloko are not particularly dangerous and quickly cut them down.
Session 38: Lust and Temptations [Mar 3rd, 2022]
The heroes defeat the last of the Eloko headhunters. They find a strange ancient Xaya choker of beautiful design. Gor wears it and finds he can speak perfectly fluent ancient Xaya with it on. The heroes continue their journey, travelling for another four days north along the river in the wide expanses of the open grasslands.
They then come across a widening of the river where it is quite shallow and come across four Zenja women bathing in the river. The heroes seem dumbstruck to see people so deep in the wilds, much less so at ease that they would bathe naked in the river. Eventually, Lox and Dolgrin approach and the women dress themselves and greet them. They tell them they are training to be spirit dancers with their master Zakiyya. They invite all of them to follow them to their home for a meal and rest.
The heroes agree and follow the women along the river to a large hut and camp. The heroes soon find themselves at ease as the ladies bring food and comfortable chairs for them to rest. They sing songs and show their hypnotic dances. Gor learns that Eeka, the woman who travelled with Rogerina, is one of the women, but she pretends not to notice any mention of the missing woman. The leader of the troupe, Zakiyya, reveals herself. She is a tall vibrant Zenja woman with hypnotic eyes.
She seems to favor Lox and spends much of the evening getting to know the sorcerer and finding excuses to keep her hands upon him. She then whispers into his ear and a hypnotism overcomes Lox and he agrees to join her in the nearby hut. Gor sees this and thinks something strange is going on. He then hears the sounds of Lox and Zakiyya in moments of passion inside the hut. He grabs Flax and they peek into the hut, and seem to only see Lox intimately kissing this enigmatic woman.
Zakiyya then whispers into Lox’s ear and Lox heads to the entrance and begs Flax to enter and speak with Zakiyya. Gor and Flax then become aware of Lox’s pale face and sunken eyes as he desperately tries to perform Zakiyya’s wishes. Gor screams out, “Succubus!” This causes Dolgrin to jump up to attention as he and Amaunet charge into the hut to find a winged demoness. Dolgrin charges at her, but finds himself grabbed by her embrace and forced into a life-stealing kiss.
The spirit dancers surround Gor and Flax, trying to convince them to leave Zakiyya alone. Lox then throws a deadly spell at Amaunet, but thankfully it misses. Flax doesn’t know what to do with Lox, who is clearly dominated by Zakiyya, so he knocks him hard with the pommel of his sword, knocking the sorcerer unconscious.
Two lesser demons then crawl out of the jungle and strike. Flax cuts at one with Dodak’s help, as Gor blasts the other with bombs. Amaunet and Dolgrin continue to cut away at the succubus, and nearly fell the foul demon. But Zakiyya then uses her magic to disappear in a puff of smoke. The heroes then take out the lesser demons.
They find that the spirit dancers have returned to their senses as well as Lox, now that the succubus’s influence is gone. Eeka tells Gor about Rogerina, how she had come to the camp with her but was able to resist Zakiyya’s magic, she had fled northwest into the hills. She begs Gor to find her as she feels quite responsible and Rogerina likely headed towards the demon-worshipping, ape-men called charau-ka. One of the other dancers tattoos a powerful ward upon Lox and another give them a an ancient Xaya golden necklace to thank them for saving them from Zakiyya.
The heroes rest and set out on their journey towards Tazion, while the spirit dancers head south towards Kalabata. The heroes travel another eight days, finding themselves now deep in humid jungles again. They come across an ancient enclosure wall, breached by many cracks and holes. The heroes enter through one of the breaches, but find a trap has been set and numerous nets fall upon them all except Dolgrin. It is then that many charau-ka warriors leap down from the canopy to capture their new prey.