We have been moving up the river for the last few days, heading SW to the inlet and march NW through the woods towards what we believe is the main village. Chants from the natives put the crew on edge. Rod has questioned them and they tell her that it is a challenge… “Come to the game” and invoking Cha-Qloa, a name we have not heard before. King says it is the ‘Spirit of the Hunt”. Counter songs have no effect. It seems too easy. We know there are many of the enemy out there but they are letting us pass and rest up from the volcano. The watchers at night though disturb our sleep.
About a day or so from the inlet, midday, standing on an outcropping rock, stands a man, wearing a skull like mask, headdress, and staff who stares at us. Refusing to respond, he radiates evil and magic. We pass underneath him . He does nothing but watch.
Dawn approaches as does the inlet and beach. The old man is there, along w/ near a score of armed warriors. Sensing his emotions show anticipation.. fear… expectation. We beach the boat and step off. When the rest of the crew attempts to leave, the others get very excited. We stop. The old man beckons just us forward asking us to set down our weapons. We do and move to him, intuition telling us that this is a parlay. He is the ‘Speaker’. He tells us that they have what we want but that they have hidden it. Since we have performed their ‘ritual’ at the volcano, we are under safe passage. We must find the ‘Hunt’, survive, and then we will leave w/ our prize. The Speaker places a symbol on our foreheads in some sort of substance. It tingles. A wave of vertigo passes over us. They turn and leave. King informs us that the symbol is ‘of the hunt spirit’ and will keep us from being attacked by the locals. We are now part of the ‘hunt’ and will face ourselves in the ‘Deep, Dark, Jungle’. The ‘other lands’, the land of spirit.
We beach the boat on the north side of the lagoon and set off, only the five of us, into the JUNGLE. Strongbow, Echo, Rod, Ackdor, and King. Cloying heat surrounds us. Everything seems to radiate magic. Rod says she feels off… dizzy. Echo, King, and Ackdor also feel it but not I. Rod says the world feels ‘empty’, as if all the people are gone. Night falls and we camp. Minor annoyances only. In the morning, an aerial reconnaissance by Rod shows we are surrounded by jungle as far as the eye can see. There is no sun, only light. Strongbow’s Gem of Direction spins incoherently. Planning for our future, we spot bananas and coconuts along w/ fresh water.
Eventually we come to a clearing. In the center, about a half mile across, is a lake. In the center is a small island containing some trees and a smoking campfire. No presences are noticed other than the Jungle, itself radiating. Tracks show it as a local watering hole. Where then did the campfire come from? The trees seem to contain some sort of fruit. It is decided to get over to the island in various ways. The fruit are mangoes. The campfire has no tracks around it. We rebuild the fire.
A pair of tigers visit the lake during my watch. We seem to share a common goal. They stay in my mind. Rod tries the water, feeling refreshed but notices no reflection for a moment before it seems to reappear. A scream by Echo causes King to wake her. She had fallen asleep and dreamed of falling towards the sky. King wakes us in the morning. Echo, tasting the water, tells us it tastes like water from the pure elemental plane. We all take our fill and decide to rest for the day.
The next night, I sit in reverie, imagining a time before time, when Elves were one w/ nature. Thinking of Melina, I snap out of it, somewhat disappointingly. King wakes us up in a panic. There are large bubbles in the middle of the lake and Echo is missing. Rod and I dive in after her. I am disoriented but Rod reaches Echo who is about 30’ below the water’s surface and pulls her to the shore. After she (Echo) recovers she tells us she doesn’t know how she ended up in the water. We just notice that Rod is in her natural form. I seem to have developed a tan. Sensing magic, the fire registers. I pour out the water onto it, extinguishing the smolder. We decide to move on.
Things appear darker, more ominous. We feel more a part of the jungle than before. A huge spider nest is avoided as we move deeper into the woods and make camp. We are woken up by thunder and lightning. Our Environmental Tents provide protection although the morning is like walking in a swamp. Later we discover some more fruit. Nothing untoward happens through the day. We camp and enjoy some roast pineapple. The night is quiet.
In the morning, we are low on water. We strengthen our resolve and let Echo purify morning water. A search turns up some coconuts around a small pond, about a ¼ mile across. W/ fresh water and many coconuts, we move on. A distant river is heard… Right at the edge of a cliff. A tree has fallen across it. We easily make it across and camp for the night and feast. The morning is darker, much darker than it was before. Almost as if it is a different place.
We come across another clearing.
Cobblestones, long set, have grass growing between them. Large obelisks, obsidian and smooth, jut out from the ground. In the center is an oval pool about 15’ wide and 7’ across. It seems a holy place. Calling to us. It wants us to drink. The water is deep and blue. We drink. It flows through me, pulling something along inside. Our reflections in the water are gone.
Drums. Drums in the jungle.
The hunt has begun.