After returning to Dabar and the others, we fashioned a travois from the Tiger Beetle carapaces and decided to press on a bit further before night descended, hoping that we’d find a more defensible location to set up camp. We followed the ayal tracks to the southeast until we happened upon an old ruin. It appeared to be a long-abandoned outpost of some sort, so we commandeered it. Just as we were settling down, Malak let out a terrifying roar. He said it was to warn his foes of his presence and call his friends to him. I don’t know about that, but the trees above him did fill up with all sorts of night fowl. He’s a strange one.
The night passed uneventfully, and Dabar ate a hearty breakfast. I think he’s feeling better, but we knew we’d be there another day. We all made the best of it though. Arina had found some acacia trees the previous night and after searching around the tower, found some wild thyme to compliment it. I had found some writing on the tower, and Toara helped interpret it. It seems that this was one of three ‘shields’ securing the ‘vault of the exiled.’ The other two had fallen, and a dire warning had been added to the inscription that it was only a matter of time before they come. I don’t know who ‘they’ are, but by the looks of the tower, the warning had probably been fulfilled. Malak also dug around in the tower and found an old backpack with some gold and such in it. I walked around the tower a bit and found takan tracks headed in the same direction as the ayal. We debated about pressing on toward them without Dabar, but in the end made the decision to wait till morning and try to catch up then.
When dawn broke, Dabar was in much better spirits and devoured everything we put in front of him, including some boiled tiger beetle juice. Malak had been munching away at the remains he brought with him and assured us that it was tasty, but based on the reaction Dabar had, I’m fine letting Malak eat the rest.
We pushed hard after the takan. The going was much easier with the takan tracks being considerably more obvious than the ayal, and by the end of the day, we could hear the norakan’s raucous cries. We surprised them with our attack, and working together, we slew them all and emerged mostly unscathed.
The norakan’s frenzy we had heard was because they had cornered the ayal we had been tracking and had been taunting and perhaps even torturing it. The poor thing looked absolutely terrified, but as soon as Arina released it from the net it was trapped in, it lay its head down on her lap. She spoke to it, explaining our need for its heart, and it bared its chest to her. The dagger’s work was swift, and when the ayal’s lifeblood poured out, I was almost knocked over by a sudden, fierce wind. It briefly swept away the smell of the battle and left us with a moment of profound peace.
I don’t know exactly what I witnessed in that moment, but both the self-sacrifice of the ayal and that wind-blown moment of peace weighed heavily on my mind as we scavenging the norakan’s bodies. We found quite a few valuable items, including a ring of invisibility, though we’ll have to wait till we return to Densem or Sentem to determine their actual worth. Malak sampled some liquid in a vial we found and fell to the ground convulsing. I thought for sure the poison would take his life, but he climbed back to his feet seemingly none the worse for wear. He’s made of hardier stuff than I am!
We’re all pretty worn out from double-marching all day, so I think we’ll make camp here and head back to town in a couple of days.