Strolrushi shook the Peers awake after a much needed sleep. Garrus-Dorn and Twarog awoke completely wrapped in bandages and covered in healing ointments. The healer offered the party mugs of gelatinous slime to drink and help accelerate their recovery, much to Twarog’s delight and the dismay of the others.
Having been treated and now well-slept, Strolrushi hurried the Peers out of his home. Thinking no more of their offer to return with them to Nihliesh, the varjellen directed them back to Mayor Ranaan for their reward as thanks for saving Gastera.
Ranaan offered the Peers shins, but was politely refused by Phaenna, who made the point that they came for a healer to help Nihliesh. Feeling indebted to the Peers, Ranaan agreed to try to persuade Strolrushi to join them.
The mayor explained the varjellen was dedicated to start a school of healing and academia, but Gastera didn’t have the resources. The Peers agreed to grant Strolrushi access to funds if he established a school in Nihliesh. Ranaan relayed this to the varjellen, who finally agreed to leave Gastera.
Unable to let the heroes of the aldeia walk away empty handed, Ranaan gave them gifts of cyphers and rations to aid in their future adventures.
The party mounted their esprons and readied to continue their main quest north, to the smugglers’ cove where they’d acquire a boat to Aian.
Keen to see Nihliesh, Strolrushi split from the Peers to venture south to the city. To help him enter the city without trouble, Lumos wrote a letter of introduction for the healer to give to the council. With Strolrushi’s departing, the Peers set their sights forward.
Day 29: Morning
The Peers arrived at their destination, but were surprised to find no settlement. Suspicious, Phaenna searched around the area and found a cliff wall that wasn’t quite what it seemed. Twarog threw a rock at the formation, amazed to see it phase right through and echo on the other side.
Hidden behind a holographic cliff-face was a grotto bustling with smuggler activity. Garrus-Dorn led the party into the cave, where they were welcomed by a woman named Brisca, who had been expecting them.
Brisca helped the Peers load the crates of devilweed onto her steamboat. The party left their espron mounts in the grotto and boarded the vessel, ready for their long voyage on the Sadara River.
On the river, Brisca showed her hospitality and directed the Peers around. She revealed the boat’s steam engine was powered by crystallised marteling whale oil, a costly fuel created by nano traders.
During the tour, a paranoid Lumos saw Brisca’s eyes flash to a reptilian shade. Fearing the smuggler to be more than she seemed, he sneaked away to inspect her private cabin. He found nothing suspicious and began to wonder if he was seeing maddening visions again.
Having had a long day, the Peers were pleased when the sun finally set and they could rest.
Phaenna and Twarog woke, startled by a noise in the storage room. The two crept to the doorway to inspect the situation. A shadow cast on the back wall revealed a serpentine creature devouring the contents of a corner crate.
Using her estoeric knowledge, Phaenna teleported the crate to her and Twarog. A decapitated smuggler’s head stared up at them with a frozen, horrified expression, sat atop a pile of half-eaten limbs and pieces of torso.
Startled by the disappearance of its food, the creature thrashed about in the storage room. Crates fell, waking Lumos who was hushed by Phaenna. The three of them readied their weapons and stormed into the room, only to find Brisca staring at them in equal confusion.
She had heard a noise and came to investigate, same as them. Lumos, whose mind was clouded in suspicion, drew her attention to the crate of dismembered body parts. He raised the lifeless head for all to see and demanded an explanation.
The rest of the party woke to Lumos’s shouting. Brisca stared at the young man with bewilderment. The woken Peers joined Brisca in her confusion, as Lumos held a melon fruit in his hand.
To Lumos’s dismay, the crate was filled with foreign and exotic fruits, not limbs. Twarog and Phaenna inspected the goods, baffled by what they were seeing. Had they dreamed it?
Madness and paranoia crept into Lumos’s mind, drowning his reason in an ocean of noise. Brisca stood before him, her face distorted with human and serpentine features. The Peers watched the Fah priest descend into panic, unaware of the intense fear that gripped him. He drew his crossbow and aimed it at her.
Lumos advised Twarog to block the doorway, separating him and Brisca from the rest of the party. In a moment of trust, Twarog complied and barred the Peers from intervening. The priest aimed his shot at the smuggler, doubt heavy on his shoulders.
He fired. The bolt pierced the wooden wall behind Brisca, passing through her head of dissipating smoke. The smuggler smirked, her illusions melting away. Brisca lamented the quick discovery of her ruse, and Lumos watched in terror as her head split into twin serpents conjoined in the middle, one half covered in brilliant crimson scales, the other smoky and ethereal. Finally she revealed her true form, that of a magathan.
The Peers stared at the monstrosity in horror, suddenly aware they were its main course.