At dawn the next day, we see Karishka greeting what amounts to a sunrise in these parts. She does this unclothed. Mery asks and learns that Karishka is thanking Nethys for a new day.
Tomas asks Karishka if she would be willing to help us explore the area. As we travel, she becomes somewhat fascinated by the few maps we have. Mery learns that Karishka is a ghoul, prompting her to check with Milo to ensure there is no danger.
As we journey on, Karishka frantically warns us about an incoming storm. We move to a cave, unfortunately not a close and places what I had through was a mace outside, standing upright. She tells Mery that the thing generates illumination, but needs to be recharged. As the rain falls on the object, it starts glowing slightly, growing brighter with time. She also tells Mery that the rain recharges spellcasters. Mery experiments and plays in the rain for a few hours, flying around.
After the storm passes, we head back out. After another hour or so, we’re forced to another cave for another storm. We don’t make much progress that day.
Not long after we start looking for a good night camp spot, Karishka spots a campfire and negotiates with the ghouls there to let us camp with them. In conversation with our fellow campers, we learn about “synergy”, a form of colored rock. Milo, Mery, and Heinrich learn that these are highly magical (with each rock color affiliated with a school of magic). Apparently craftsmen can make magic things from these rocks. Mery learns that ghouls do have dragonmarks, and one of our campmates has one. The youger one, about 16, seems to know a large amount of dragonmarks, and quickly rattles off the various kinds. Responding to Milo, he mentions he learned this from their scholars.
What our map shows as the King’s Highway, the ghouls call “Alley of Damnation”, populated by waste wraiths.
The next day we barely duck a green storm. This one isn’t fast, so we have plenty of time to get under cover. Most of us take a bit of rain, which is quite painful.
I continue my (new) work to write in my journal when we stop to rest. Mery’s picture-making time is really helpful, and I can transfer pictures right into the journal.
We take about a week to make our slow way to our destination, arriving on November 7th. Along the way, we run across some wraiths, some large moles, and even the immense scorpions. In the first fight, I’m shocked to find I’m not entirely past the war. I rage through the scorpions, and nearly take a swipe at Jared. Takes me a few minutes to back myself down into a safer state. I recover faster in the second fight, and am mostly back in control by the third. At least enough that I’m not wildly swiping. Not so much that my rage-state is entirely gone.
The building at the site we visit are in sorry shape. Most wood is significantly damaged, with few standing timbers and portions of roofs. Stonework is in better shape. The church is surprisingly in better shape than the surroundings. The outer walls are shaped a bit like a fortified building, with ornamental-seeming towers. Within the outer wall, we find the remnants of some wagons and a wooden structure (perhaps an outbuilding for housing or somesuch). The church itself is round and double-domed with a spire up top. A fountain/pool is around to the side outside of the church.
We leave the wagons inside the walls and outside the church, and bring the horses inside and get them settled down. I review with the group what Sebastian had learned, namely that the wagons had been found outside, some fallen coins, and some coins in/around the fountain. So we start our search outside, with the fountain. Milo reports the fountain is specifically magic, moreso than the baseline he has observed in the wastes. Milo does his water creation thing in the fountain. The bottom of the round fountain lowers part of itself in a descending circular stairway. As I work my way down, I hear some shuffling ahead.
At the bottom, I pause for the group to catch up, with Mery’s light. Two shambling humanoids start working their way towards me. I shout out a friendly greeting, and more start coming forward. Milo does his Sarinarae thing to generate a friendly glow. When the glow reaches the shambling humanoids, they are grievously wounded and essentially dismembered. Mery generates a ball of fire and rolls it down the hallway, burning a number of additional ones. Milo think these are zombies. A tunnel forward/right seems to be a source for many of them. I maintain a defensive position just off the stairs while more spells and things are thrown down the hallway. One zombie catches our eye, dressed better and acting a bit differently. And casting spells! Heinrich creates some black tentacles which grab onto the special zombie and some others. The tentacles grab just in time to interrupt what Milo warned would have been a lightning bolt. Some more spells, and even the special zombie goes down. More zombies (in excess of 30), including about a half-dozen zombie-magi. With our defensive position, finishing them off isn’t overly challenging — only a few frenetic moments when some managed to rush through the magic kill-zone, which Kell and I handle.
After the flood of zombies we start exploring. We quickly find a crate that has been damaged, and is spilling a volume of coins. About the only thing we end up finding down here is a large volume of crates full of hard coins/bars, and other hard/solid treasury items. Milo finds a number of crates of good alcohol. Takes us a good long while, a couple of days, to schlep the treasure up to the wagons and stow for a journey back. Karishka helps, but does not seem at all interested in any portion of the treasure.
I suggest that we leave some form of offering to Nethys, and Milo suggests that we re-intern the zombie remnants. We do the best we can with the remains, taking another few days.
I ask Karishka what her people want. She answers that this is an individual choice, and hers is to explore the wastes. Asked about the world beyond, until she met us, she did not believe that any such exist. Ghouls cannot leave the wastes — they lose energy, get sick, and ultimately die. She offers to guide us to a nearby settlement for further discussions, to which we agree.