The serpent is the embodiment of Heaven and Earth. It scares people in many ways.
Last time, the Castaways agreed to help a small cadré of dissidents from the little fishing port of Suum’tero free their village from the influence of the demon-worshiping slave traffickers known as the M’bulazi. The Bekyar sub-tribe had been coaxed into a confrontation with the heroes by the town’s resident juju priestess, the Bekyar Se’enga who was subsequently slain by Kishtari.
The primary catalyst of the confrontation, Kor’lec, who’d snubbed and offended Se’enga earlier in the night, was nowhere to be found—unless one checked a certain patch in the saline swamp surrounding the village, where the druid had bed down.
Unliving the Dream
Kor’lec dreamt for the third time of the undead dragon. In this vision, he was amongst a group allied against an ophidian army on a strange world. The wyrm was called Nymdragoth and was fighting on behalf of the serpentfolk and their monstrous creations. In the dream, Kor’lec inhabited an elf druid who was entrusted with taking a head-sized, mummified eye to someplace called the Library of Last Resort, where Nymdragoth couldn’t find it. But an elder druid, who looked vaguely like Kor’lec’s grandfather, exposed Kor’lec’s vessel as a spy being controlled by undead dragon.
Thus, Kor’lec was in Nymdragoth’s head all along as in the first two dreams. This time, the wyrm addressed Kor’lec directly when he looked into his mirror. Nymdragoth said he hadn’t felt Kor’lec behind his eyes for centuries, when in reality Kor’lec’s last dream involving the wyrm were but a few weeks prior. After more tit-for-tat, the dragon grew wary of Kor’lec’s insolence and tried to intimidate him into revealing who he was. Nymdragoth sensed a crying child in the background before the same sound woke Kor’lec, implying that the dreams were transmitting information to the villainous wyrm.
Kor’lec Gets a Deinotherium
The crying child was a local village boy who explained to Kor’lec that his father, a farmer, and some men were planning to kill poor Matumba. The boy explained that the strange animal was big and clumsy, but didn’t mean any harm. The beast had been driven away many times but kept returning to damage the fields and “upset the sows,” which Kor’lec soon learned were elephants used by the farmers as beasts of burden.
Matumba turned out to be a 13 ton, 13-and-a-half-foot tall elephantine creature, wallowing in a marshy rice field. Despite the primordial proboscidean’s threat display, Kor’lec bravely approached and gained the huge old animal’s trust. He noted a gouge in the beast’s flank, terribly festering and probably caused by a younger male in a battle for dominance. The druid was able to clean the animal’s infection and heal the wound. The whole encounter was witnessed by the farmers, who’d arrived at the field to kill the deinotherium. Kor’lec’s taming of the big angry animal greatly impressed the villagers who recognized the half-elf as a “spirit-talker” and friend of Shimye-Magalla. None wanted to slay Matumba, for he was a rare old beast, and Kor’lec nodded that he understood the villagers had to protect their farms. The crying boy’s father was especially relieved Kor’lec spared him his child’s animosity, and offered an old howdah in case the druid and his friends sought to ride Matumba. As to those friends, many of the villagers had guessed they were still hiding in town, and not run off as Sheriff Red had told the M’bulazi. Few liked “the old witch” Se’enga or her Bekyar buddies, and Kor’lec’s “miracle” gave them hope that Shimye-Magalla had sent champions that would rout the wicked slavers.
Matumba remained agreeable to the druid’s handling, so Kor’lec bid him to sit tight in a clearing and await his return. Word of his deed traveled fast, and Kor’lec’s trip back to the Naga’s Notch was punctuated by welcoming nods and smiles from the villagers.
The Bat Cave
“I call this the Bat Cave,” Samaritha explained, “because we had to clean out an icky bat nest to build it.” Kor’lec was led by the Naga’s Notch Inn’s proprietor to the hidden cellar, where Dornas and Monica were working on fashioning weapons and alchemical items. The two humans had been awake for an hour or so, using Rashoom as a runner to sell old gear at the docks and return with the supplies they needed to build a formidable arsenal. They got the returning druid up to speed on what he missed, and that Kish was at a man named Ewandabe’s house trying to get information from a boy hiding out there who’d successfully escaped the M’bulazi stockade. Kor’lec was surprised when his teammates mentioned Tyst’s lycanthropy in front of Samaritha. The dancer put him at ease by saying she was descended from lycanthropes, and protected the halfling’s discovery during the bar fight. “About that,” Samaritha contended, “he put a lot of good people at risk.”
Dornas said that Tyst didn’t seem to have the same concern for secrecy. “It’s more than that.” The skinwalker went on to explain that when a cursed lycanthrope changed unwillingly, their minds were taken by the beast and they couldn’t tell friend from foe. Injury and fear could trigger an involuntary change as easily as a full moon. Further, many hunted the changing breeds, and the worst were werewolves who hated all other lycanthropes. Samaritha figured Tyst was new to the life but needed to know these things before he hurt someone dear to him, or was found by those who got off on killing were-creatures. Dornas suggested that Samaritha herself be the one to tell him.
Kor’lec let Samaritha know that he’d secured good-will from the village majority, and so they didn’t necessarily need to hide in the dingy old cellar. He then discussed his dream visions for the first time with someone other than Kishtari. Dornas and Monica had a great many questions about Nymdragoth and the potential threat he represented. Kor’lec didn’t know what his connection was to the creature, but strongly suspected that he was either seeing things in the dragon’s past, or landing in the wyrm’s dreams of the past.
Finally, Monica finally strait-up asked what was up with the crescent shape Samaritha and her python pet had on their heads.
Samaritha qualified that her god was at times capricious, or hungry, but generally benign and rewarded those of his disciples who propitiated him with the proper rites. When asked about the serpentfolk, the skinwalker winced and spat again.
“Yig has a younger sister, known only as Yig-Shissa which means (in Aklo) ’Yig’s sister.’ She is not nearly as friendly as her wiser, older brother. Yig is good medicine and his little sister is bad—poisons, mutations, and such. The serpentfolk barely know of her, calling her ‘the hidden Mother’ but she created them using bad medicine. Seeing they were selfish and proud, she birthed Ydersius as their king and under him they became conquerors. By agreement, Yig and his sister share worlds like Golarion. Here, Yig looks after what you call ‘the New World’ where my ancestors, human and were-serpent, are from. He gave this side of the world to Yig-shissa and her spawn.
“At some point on this world, Yig-Shissa angered her brother. Soon thereafter, Ydersius was slain by a mortal.”
“Savith,” Dornas interjected. The little-known Azlanti warrior for whom the legendary lost city of Saventh-Yhi was named. Samaritha shrugged and continued. “the serpentfolk were cursed, and became the debased animals known today.”
It occurred to Samaritha that a lot of queer coincidences were piling up. She was one of the few people on the planet who knew that legend, and capable of imparting it on these strangers who’d discovered by chance that the serpentfolk were returning. “You’ve given me much to chew over. I must commune with my god. I thank you for causing trouble in my bar.” Samaritha smiled, there was no sarcasm in that last sentence. As to the Castaways, they agreed that a lot of what Kor’lec recently experienced in his sleep needed to be relayed to Kishtari.
The Tough Go Shopping
The Taldans were about to get back to their crafting, while Kor’lec attended to his daily benedictions. Samaritha returned after a few hours with a request to speak to the party’s priest. “Where is Jask, anyway?” Kor’lec wondered aloud. Samaritha corrected, “not the old Garundi. I meant the little one,” and gestured to Likki. The shapeshifter said she’d noted the monkey goblin’s elaborate jewelry and saw that it distinguished him as a ranking holy man. She had made something that could help Likki help the group, but she knew she was a lesser conduit of the divine than the goblin. Out of respect, Samaritha asked “may I address him?”
The party were taken aback, but Likki straightened up proudly and nodded. “Sure you can address him,” Kor’lec said. Samaritha began to unravel a scroll… Likki bounded away screeching “no! letters steal thoughts from head!” Alas, the divine spell Samaritha had scribed went to Monica. “This hymn,” the priestess explained, “will calm the beast in Tyst should the change force itself upon him.” Likki could learn it in time, but for the time being, it fell on Monica and her knack for finagling magic out of items meant for other types of spellcasters.
“Speaking of which…” Red Agata had come through the drainage gate entrance. The sheriff had caught wind of the rumor that the Castaways were still hiding out in town, but after Kor’lec’s performance with Matumba, few were ill-disposed. Red offered the party a chance to “commandeer” magical components, elixirs, and ingredients that Se’enga no doubt left in her hut—which was also a magic shop. “We’ll say I deputized you guys to ‘remove hazardous materials.’ What you find might help your preparations.”
With yet another possible side quest before them, the group decided to await Kish and Tyst’s return to the inn.