Outnumbered. Outmatched. Outmaneuvered.
Nevertheless, we fought. We could not leave these people behind, those captured by the Yuan-Ti. These people should mean nothing to me, except that the leader of Lotus Lake offered money for their rescue and the death of the monsters. Without us, these people would die in whatever ceremony we had interrupted. I cannot let that happen.
From my vantage point down on the cliff, I saw Oromis draw his axe towards Petra and Eclipse. Last night at the tea house, Oromis had been cursed by one of these snake monsters. It was happening again, and Oromis’s struggle was plain on is face. Eclipse quickly protected Petra with her magic just as Petra took the blow. The magic controlling Oromis faded and he glowed with a murderous rage, spitting a short apology to Petra as he rushed to the summit. I fired another shot from my cannon, utterly wasting one of the Yuan-Ti archers, and hastily cast a protection spell on Oromis. Though bleeding, Petra fired a bolt of fire and turned another archer to ash. Eclipse ran after Oromis, giving him cover with her spiritual weapon.
I meant to follow them up the mountain, but was distracted by what I saw to my right. Luna, Hebo, Spoink, and Ezio had gone in that direction, and I saw another Yuan-Ti monster giving them chase. I turned towards the monster instead.
On that side of the mountain, my companions fought off their own attackers. Luna drew one away, making magical copies of herself to fend off the attacks. Hebo and Ezio teamed up to weaken another while I shot it in the spine. Hebo fired a bolt as Luna cursed her attacker with a loud boom. It was stunned and tried to move away, but the lingering injury caused it to teeter and fall. With our enemies dead, we drew up to the summit to join Oromis, Petra, and Eclipse.
We were surprised to find an ally helping us: a monk named Rioma was contending with the abomination that led the Yuan-Ti, a humanoid carrying all manner of instruments of death in its serpentine arms. The monk was badly wounded, but we used the distraction of the leader to our advantage and worked to eliminate its companions. Ezio and Hebo rained arrows upon it. Petra and Luna cast all manner of magic. I took my shots from afar. Oromis and Eclipse rushed it with their weapons drawn.
Outnumbered. Outmatched. Outmaneuvered.
Perhaps it saw the hopelessness of its fight and that the ceremony could no longer be completed. It cast a strange spell, then vanished from our sight.
The last remaining Yuan-Ti (the sorcerer that had cursed Oromis into serving it) panicked as it found itself utterly alone, surrounded by our weapons. Fortunately for it, it would not live much longer with its fear. Eclipse began helping some of the injured captives while the rest of us looked around. We surmised that the abomination fled.
At this point, I noticed Petra asleep on the ground. That was odd. I figured it was an effect of the abomination’s last spell, and I shook her awake. As I did so, a blast of dark energy ripped into me and cast me from the summit. As I climbed back up, I heard my companions shouting in battle again.
The abomination was desperate. It must have seen itself in a losing situation, but it kept fighting. Like us, I suppose. Maybe it thought the other Yuan-Ti on the mountains would come rescue it or provide support. But that support never came. Oromis split the abomination into many pieces and his rage abated.
Whatever magic the Yuan-Ti had over their captives, it quickly wore off once the leader was dead. We set them free from their binds and armed the adults with Yuan-Ti scimitars that we recovered from the corpses. I reminded my companions that we had a charge to kill the monsters as part of this quest and present proof of death for payment. The sun on the mountain will turn their flesh to rot, but we will keep their tails as spoils of conquest.
Luna found two interesting trinkets: an insignia engraved on an amulet, and a ceremonial knife. Neither were infused with any kind of magic, but we kept them nonetheless. Midday was drawing on and we had to move the people back to Lotus Lake. We descended from the mountain, watching the rest of the Yuan-Ti flee in fear.
The people of Lotus Lake were elated to see their friends, relatives, and children return safely. They called us heroes. I spoke briefly to the leader of the town about our deal, showing him the pieces of our enemies, but decided that we can settle the debt in the morning. Ezio, Luna, Petra, Oromis, and Eclipse returned to the stables near the tea house to rest. Hebo, Spoink, and I stayed nearby. Hebo sang quietly to help calm the fussy children while I worked to repair the damage to my body.
That strike from the Yuan-Ti leader was too powerful. I am not yet strong enough to face him. Perhaps I should tell my companions about Zero. I feel impressed to stop keeping secrets from them. I only hope it does not turn them away from me.
Ezio and Luna finished resting as twilight approached. They decided to find the monk that helped us on the mountain, intending to recruit him to help us with the bounty at Obsidian Garrison. I spent my time selling the scimitars to a few villagers, but I cannot help but feel a twinge of guilt as I profited from their misfortune. I think tomorrow I will give them the rest of the swords and Yuan-Ti bows at no charge. Perhaps Ezio and Oromis can train the villagers. Lotus Lake does not appear to have any militia or other form of protection.
Meanwhile, Ezio, Luna, and Hebo approached the monk, Rioma. He told them he was sent on a mission to learn more about the Yuan-Ti in the area and had been subject to very bad luck. He declined to help our group at Obsidian Garrison. Rioma then asked our group what were our intentions. Ezio surprised Luna and Hebo by explaining that he intended to take down the Court of Towls. Rioma, too, was surprised by this. Persuaded by Hebo – pretending to be a tough “bad cop”, Rioma decided to meet with the rest of our group to discuss this.
They found me back at the stables, watching over my sleeping companions. I explained to Rioma that we would investigate the corruption in the Court of Owls, but I would not personally get involved in an overthrow. I and my companions still had our suspicions that the Court of Owls may have something to do with the monsters in the Redstone Canyons and the intimidation of Exatorus, but we have a lot to learn before getting involved further.
But now we know Ezio’s ultimate goal: he fully intends to fight against the government here. I am still unsure, but I will assist him as well as I can in the investigation. And who knows? Perhaps our path will lead us to finding the corruption in the Court and helping the people of Caladmein in some way. Right now, I am fearful of the Court. I explained to Rioma that we will investigate, but going against the Court will certainly lead to a slow and painful death.
Something else that was on my mind while we spoke with Rioma. Luna’s body language was… odd. Her face seemed flushed. I did not say anything, but I wonder if she is feeling well. I had not noticed this until she was around Rioma. Perhaps he is a carrier of some disease.
We decided to stay in Lotus Lake for at least one more day. This would let us recover from our injuries and assist the townspeople in any way we can. Rioma planned to do the same. He was interested in the ceremonial knife and amulet that we recovered. We will speak more to this in the morning.
As Hebo and I went back to rest, Rioma asked us what is our group’s name. Hebo responded, “The Great Ones!”
We heard Ezio chuckle in disagreement.