We found ourselves one mile from the slaver’s encampment, and we paused to discuss our tactics for attacking them and rescuing their captives. We questioned the slaver we had captured alive, but the brute was a simpleton and could provide little of help to us. Observing his crude mannerisms gave me an idea. While Thamior and Cheetara stealthed into the camp and took out the archers in the treetops overhead, the rest would assault the camp… except for me. I volunteered to be the distraction (or the scapegoat?). I arcaned myself into the form of the slaver, put on his clothes, practiced speaking a few of his loud complaints and refusals, and left for the camp.
I ran into camp blubbering and shouting about the attackers! Close to a dozen slavers stood near a large campfire, with a loud braggart leading the thugs in a rally of curses and catcalls towards “Miles you idiot”, “dumbheart Miles”, and “Miles of worthlessness”. To play my role as Miles, I needed to reduce my intelligence to a mere shadow of myself, but combined with my physical form and voice I carried the day with an actor’s proud skill. I howled about the dozen attackers that ambushed me and my two companions, the trickery and flame they hurled at us, and I attracted their attention away from the stealthy approaching the camp. Several slavers were standing over the bound forms of the captives, ready to execute them quickly as the campfire danced cruel flames in their darkened eyes. As the archers were silently and skillfully removed, I stumbled into a position directly in line with the executors, intending to hurl a lightning bolt through them all when the time was right.
The leader shouted insults and invitations into the jungle, and all of the slavers were growing restless waiting for those he hoped would behave as “civilized men” which were obviously upon them. My team emerged from the trees into the edge of the camp shadow, and the bargaining began. There might be a way to rescue the captives without the risk of battle, and the leader threw offers of selling the captives and threats to kill them and other things, and it seemed clear that they did not have a taste for battle this night. Their price of 20 gold per head was trivial, but I could see that even that paltry sum was more than my team really wanted to part with. Finally, they agreed to keep one captive with them until they were able to depart in safety. I joined with the rest of the slavers departing camp and my team advanced to see to the health of the captives. After a mile or so, I howled of exhaustion and received another assault of curses, but as I predicted, they were not willing to wait and they left me behind and dumped the captive so they could proceed at top speed.
After they ran out of sight, I approached the bound captive, but he shouted and squirmed even after I morphed back into my original Elven form and voice. I awaited my team to approach up the trail, and they reported the rest of the now free captives have bolted for their village. We pursued the slavers and I sent Aethyr overhead to view them with the sharpened sight that the fey-owl depended upon. Thamior’s baby bronze dragon Kriv returned down the trail – apparently he had been hiding among the slaver’s items – and Kriv (speaking Draconic) described some sort of shantytown the slavers entered. Evening smothered the jungle. Aethyr and I observed the town from a distance, and it appeared to be a ramshackle pirate hovel with a hundred or so degenerates living among the filth. We quickly decided to avoid the shantytown and aimed to cross overland through the jungle, over the large nearby river, and towards the nearing mountains where our goal of the Ibecx ruined city was rumored to lie.
After three weeks of so of eventless travel through the thinning jungle, we refound the big river’s southern end and followed it for a few more days into the foothills of the mountain range. Several of us spied a stonework dam over a nearby river tributary, and perhaps our lack of recent encounters gave us all a thirst for meeting someone, even someone with a hostile intent. Kragg quickly found Dwarvish runes which he knew were carved by one of his compatriots we had rescued from the sewers of Port Garmsby. Perhaps some of these Dwarves are accompanying the vile halfling sorceror Sid while he searches for the Ibecx ruins? The dam structures were uninteresting except for a 15 foot circular pit, perhaps a cistern for water storage. Juju, eager to help, offered to light a rock and drop it into the pit, and she was rather nervous while drawing the arcane energies as she was still very new to using the magic which I have been instructing her. The pit had an opening hidden within shadow.
Kriv jumped impulsively into the pit, disappeared for a moment, and shouted about a “small wet city place”. After finally emerging from weeks of jungle into the dusty sunlight, we now descend into the dry pit. Plenty of stonework was mined out of the rock and abandoned. A few housing rooms, a refuse pile, a dozen buildings, no remnants of magic, and nothing of interest other than a few Dwarven runes hastily written (within the past few weeks Kragg says) about Sid not being able to find what he is seeking. We depart for a few more hours of southward travel before the sunlight runs out over the mountainous horizon.
A night of quiet on the hillside was deceiving. Perhaps we should have thought deeper about hiding our presence, especially as we were nearing Sid’s horde. As dawn approached, Cheetara woke me and whispered about another flying lizard. A large blue dragon lumbered through the pre-dawn sky, heaving its wings and hoary breathing across the rocks. I have been in the habit of preparing our nightly campsites with what an ancient wizard Leomund had called his Tiny Hut, a protective dome of force, and all were thankful for the dome as the beast clawed at the dome as it flew by, breathed lightning upon it, landed upon it, and made itself a nuisance of the highest order. The blue dragon was angry with us for some reason, and his rage would likely last much longer than the hour remaining before our Hut would evaporate into the dawn.