1/3/16 The Conyberry Incident (began camping at Conyberry, ended speeding away on an augmented one-horse cart as the ruins crumbled behind them) (lv5 → lv6)
After putting the horses away, setting noise traps, and pitching a decoy campsite, Finrik and Toki tucked themselves in to their makeshift beds in the ruins of Conyberry. Meanwhile, Vetkin, wide awake from his day spent resting in the cart, climbed to the second floor of a burnt-out house to begin his shift as nightwatchman. The only thing Vetkin noticed through the night was its stillness but he remained ever-vigilant all the same. Hours went by without a single sound- it seemed the larger world and even nature itself had forgotten Conyberry.
As the sun began to rise, the watchful Vetkin spied several glowing orbs of light flittering across the tree line to the east. As they pulsed closer to the ruin, his brief feeling of alarm subsided when he saw that the lights were merely a large group of fire beetles, just passing through. He didn’t see this as a reason to rouse the party, and returned to the final hour of his watch. Minutes later, his keen elven senses detected something else coming from the same forest. It was a sound, for sure, but he couldn’t get a bead on it. It was a hollow grating noise, a humming that seemed far off, yet close- was this the sound of the forest waking up? As it slowly moved closer, the source of it became no more apparent. It soon became louder, and he was certain he wasn’t the only one to hear it when the horses began to stir.
General in its location, yet specific in its ominousness, the sound continued as the sun slowly brightened the ruins. Vetkin continued to watch the horses from afar, even as his eyesight blurred. A minute later, the gentle stirring of the horses became all-out panic, and they neighed and whinnied and started to kick the walls of their enclosure. Suddenly thrown from his slumber by a dream of his nags in trouble, Toki leapt from his bed to investigate. Just then, Finrik woke and jumped down from his perch after taking in his surroundings, an arrow already knocked in his shortbow to provide cover for Toki. Toki carefully moved closer to his horses while observing the area. He was overcome with horror as the ground underneath the cart suddenly began to pulse, then shake, then break. All that could be heard over the horses and the sound of breaking earth was Vetkin, as he yelled, “Move the horses, now!”
Just then, the party watched in quiet terror as two long, dark appendages burst from the ground of the horses’ crumbling stable. The two spiky arms bent as they returned to the ground, clutching a screaming horse in its spiky grasp and rending its flesh as it was pulled into the mix of debris and earth. As quick and sure as if it had been fired moments earlier, an arrow loosed from Finrik’s bow pierced through the dust and rubble and struck one of the appendages. A second arrow followed it just as certainly. Bloody, but alive, the horse was released from the creature’s grip and its silhouette disappeared back into the earth as quickly as it appeared.
The party, a little rusty from the rigors of combat (indeed, their most recent adversary was their new friend, Vetkin) sprang into action. In the space created between the cart and the wall, the second horse attempted to escape the chaos, but a quick-thinking Vetkin grabbed onto its bridle and flung himself on top of it, and attempted to steer it around the ruins. Then, Toki quickly rushed forward and used all of his weight to push the cart out of the way to clear the path and he began to assess the injured horse’s wounds. Before he could calm the horse, Finrik’s great spirit bearpig sprang forth from the space behind him, and brought with it a bounty of resolve for the poor horse. Now, no longer clinging to life and determined to not become just another one of “Toki’s dead nags”, the unnamed horse climbed to his feet, as the bearpig let out a fierce roar.
Toki then hastily hitched his suddenly healthy horse to the wagon, and with a forceful crack on its behind, the cart lurched forward, but directly into the path of Vetkin, still struggling atop his runaway horse! Though Drow are quite unaccustomed to horse-riding (indeed, many more horses have been killed by Drow than ridden by them), Vetkin was able to steer the runaway horse back towards the ruins and narrowly avoid a collision with Toki’s cart with an astonishingly graceful jump for such a frenzied beast.
Meanwhile, Finrik’s bearpig attempted to sniff out the vile ground-dwelling creature, digging into the broken ground as Finrik readied an arrow for the second sighting of it. Just then, three more of the creatures burst out of the ground: two in the center of the road, and one to the west where Vetkin had just clumsily ridden the horse. Made furious by their acrid stench, the bearpig smashed through the destroyed wall of the makeshift stable and immediately clutched one of the creatures by the neck and pinned it to the ground. As the full body of the creature came into view, Finrik recognized it as an ankheg, an insectoid monstrosity with a long, slender body and a tough, scaly carapace that has often been the bane of woodland farmers and their livestock.
As the two ankhegs tore into the center of the town, Toki passed by high upon his cart and threw wild blasts of fire and frost at the ankhegs, but missing each time. Unhappy with either the errant results of his sorcerer powers or the lack of favor Tymora had shown him, he jumped from the cart and ran closer to get a better shot. To the west, as if summoned by the sudden commotion in Conyberry, the party saw Mordekai and Dorash running down from the hills and engaging the lone ankheg in combat. It appeared as though they had signed themselves up for Toki’s peculiar brand of adventure after all!
At this time, Vetkin found his out-of-control horse galloping full-speed towards the two ankheg, and threw himself (and the horse) to the ground to avoid running directly into their oozing maws. The horse struggled to get to its feet as Vetkin did the same, but it wasn’t quick enough to escape the hungry ankheg. The ankheg rushed forward and wrapped the horse in its legs and closed its cruel mandible across the horse’s neck, severing its head with little effort. Toki watched only a short distance away, but somehow kept his composure enough to see the party through what was to come.
In the west, Dorash, though badly wounded by his underestimation of his insect foe, and Mordekai finished the ankheg off with some ranged assistance from Finrik and they moved to join the party in the center of town. Nearby, Vetkin steadied himself on the ground in front of the decapitated horse and let loose a blast of web to slow the horse-killer. Undaunted, the ankheg returned fire with a projectile of its own- a putrid jet of acid! Vetkin shielded himself with his long cloak just in time, and narrowly avoided taking the acid to the face. Instead, a small amount of acid splashed onto his forearm, causing his bandages to melt away and disintegrate.
As the final ankheg was brought down, Finrik’s bearpig, still clutching his proud kill in his mouth (in spite of the taste), is overwhelmed as three more ankhegs spring out of the ground, surrounding him. The bearpig fights valiantly as the party retreats and Toki brings the single-horse cart around the south edge of the ruins. Then, the bearpig dematerializes, still fighting even as he phased out of the material plane. The confused ankhegs quickly turned their attention to the fleeing cart piloted by Toki, and it appeared he was done for, but he was able to swerve around them, nearly capsizing the cart in the process, as he made his way toward his awaiting cohorts.
Suddenly, the ankhegs stopped dead in their tracks as all of Conyberry began to shake violently and the party all jump onto the cart as it passed, one after another. The ankhegs nervously looked around for a moment before all at once the smell of the earth being turned inside-out hit the party and an ear-splitting “boom” rang through the hills. A gigantic shadow leapt from the earth, occluding the sun with its shape and its herald of dirt, and landed on top of the three ankhegs. As the party pulled away from the chaos, they witnessed a massive grey-skinned beast devour one of the ankhegs whole in its gaping jaws before swinging the other two away like the insects they were. The ankhegs attempted to fight it, but the beast proved far too powerful and its thick coat of armor-like scales disregarded their attacks one after another, until they were soon after torn apart, the acid spewing from their abdomens like geysers of filth. As if it needed to announce its presence to the Neverwinter Woods a second time, the towering beast let loose a tremendous bellow over his victory as the party escaped in the distance.
As the party wildly careened away from the disaster that is Conyberry on their one-horse cart, they all slowly began to notice that:
A) Toki and Mordekai have peed themselves.
B) They forgot Dorash. “Wait, where’s Dorash?”
C) Vetkin is crying, and he makes no attempt to hide it.
D) Finrik is wearing a horse-head cap.
E) The sun is up.