1/31/16 Gnoll Patrol encounter; and headed deeper into canyon (began at end of 1 hr rest at Starmetal Hills camp, ended at entrance to Laugher’s Gorge) (William sat in and played Mordekai) (lv6)
After taking an hour to mend their wounds, catch their breath, and generally collect themselves, the party climbed out from underneath their makeshift shelter of reclaimed wood and rotting furs with vague plans to head deeper into the Vaesnir Badlands to seek out the mysterious gnoll threat.
Before setting off, Vetkin and Toki gathered what provisions they thought they would need as Finrik tended to their newly-named horse, “Mr. C”. Finrik left the horse the remaining gallon of foraged cactus water, and once again draped his Elvenkind cloak over him, and left him with tender words of reassurance. Meanwhile, the distraught Mordekai received none of the same comforts and continued to struggle with seeing the violent death of his companion, Dorash.
It soon became clear during their journey that Mordekai was having second thoughts- about his new adventuring lifestyle, his choice of traveling mates, and even about his identity. But these would have to be issues that he would have to wrestle with on his own, he thought, as he watched his party heave themselves one after the other down the grease trap they had set for their enemies- slipping and sliding down the oily mess into the bottom of a canyon of uncertainty.
Knowing full-well how dangerous it can be to walk around covered in grease, Toki was happy to immediately prestidigitate his companions’ clothing into cleanliness once they reached their landing. For what seemed like much longer than an hour, the party navigated their way through the hot and barren environment, along the serpentine path of the canyon, as they watched the walls ascend higher and higher. Along the way, Finrik shared some of his expertise about the Badlands, and shared what rumors he had heard about “Laugher’s Gorge”.
Eventually, the canyon widened a bit, giving the party more tactical room, and as the walls began to stretch hundreds of feet overhead, they felt safe from aerial attacks. But before this newfound feeling of safety could fully settle in, they heard it. Echoing through the canyon was a deep and haunting voice- the laughter of Laugher’s Gorge. It seemed to come from all around them, as if it originated not from some focal point, but from the land itself. Soon after the laugher faded, Vetkin and Mordekai felt uneasy, but they declined to share this with the group. Instead, Mordekai let out a single stifled, awkward giggle.
The booming laughter still ringing in their ears, the party began to hear another sound- the sound of something big, and it was headed their way. They split, and rushed to press themselves against the rock walls as the thudding footsteps grew louder. Finrik stayed put, however; preferring to dig himself into a dent in the canyon floor from where he hoped to spring an ambush. Just then, the source of the noise came clearly into view- a hulking mammoth flanked on all sides by a pack of gnolls. Riding atop the mammoth were two more gnolls, plainly wielding ranged weapons and ready for a fight. The gigantic mammoth would have seemed strangely out of place in the narrow desert canyon, if the party hadn’t already seen several other strange things on this day.
It was clear the patrolling gnolls had yet to see the party, giving them a rare advantage. Having never needed advantages in his life, however, Toki began to prepare a fire bolt and let it loose wildly as the mammoth came into his view. As usual, it was a spectacularly bad shot but frightened the mammoth so terribly that it reared up on its hind legs, and sent the gnolls on its back crashing into the ground. With the fight fully-on, Finrik then sprang from his spiderhole and quickly dealt two surgically-accurate arrows into one of the fallen gnolls, killing it before it could rise to its feet. The mammoth then charged wildly in Toki’s direction, and Toki took this as his cue to run, but not before releasing a blast of Shatter from his bass lute toward the gnolls, scattering them.
As the gnolls grouped back together and rushed forward in the opening chaos of the fight, Vetkin seized this opportunity and pulled a scroll of Fireball from his pack. Though he was unfamiliar with this variety of magic and he struggled to hastily read the arcane script, he was relieved at its completion when the scroll crumbled to dust and sent forth a huge fireball directly in the path of the gnolls. Three of them were immolated completely and the rest made easy targets as they attempted to put out their flaming fur. Mordekai’s Magic Missle and Finrik’s arrows quickly picked off the survivors, and soon only the mammoth and his lone rider were left. The mammoth abruptly changed the direction of his charge after Vetkin’s blast, and Vetkin steeled himself for a fight.
As the mammoth trampled towards Vetkin, Finrik announced to him that they should have no qualms about killing the mad beast. Relieved, Vetkin cracked a smile as he summoned his blade and then leapt towards it. The two forces met simultaneously, and caused tremendous damage to each other; the mammoth weaved his tusks directly into Vetkin’s torso, just as his sword lopped of the beast’s trunk. Finrik then dove underneath the mammoth and in one fluid motion carved up its stomach with his swords and then flung himself on top of it with his final cut. Eager to contribute in this animal torture, Mordekai affixed a magical Light to the mammoth’s face, effectively blinding it and sending it into a panic.
Then, the one remaining (albeit very injured) gnoll moved in and loosed a javelin at the distracted Mordekai. Toki, for once, was watching out for his friend and loosed his own Cutting Words toward the gnoll, causing him to narrowly miss with his incessant mockery. Nearby, Vetkin and Finrik continued to cut piece after piece from the mammoth, and upon seeing this, the gnoll again hurled a vengeful javelin at Mordekai that found its mark, critically wounding him.
Before the mammoth, fully in the throes of death, could attempt to flee, Finrik plunged his swords into its shoulders and attempted to take control of the lumbering beast, proclaiming, “Now I got…HANDLE BARSSS”! The mammoth succumbed to these crude controls as Finrik wrenched his sword deeper into its back and it turned a half-circle back towards the party. A well-placed and merciful Fire Bolt from Mordekai then went right into the beast’s bloody, gaping nosehole and directly into its brain. The mammoth instantly went limp and slid to a stop as Finrik rode its collapsing corpse down to the dusty canyon floor.
The dust settled and the party unceremoniously squabbled over what they would do with the body and who would get the mammoth’s undoubtedly valuable tusks. Vetkin and Finrik each claimed a tusk as trophies, as Toki finished off the remaining fleeing gnoll with a heart-stopping Ray of Frost. The group then collected themselves (and their grisly loot), and said nary a word of the gruesome bloodbath they had just brought to the patrolling gnolls, for this kind of activity had become the norm for Toki’s band of misfits long ago. Undaunted, they pressed on, deeper into Laugher’s Gorge, as the shadows overhead stretched longer into the canyon.