The session began with the characters taking stock of their situation. They had just defeated the army of white apes that greeted their arrival in the ruined volcano temple with feral screams of challenge. They worked their way up the winding staircase to the lip of the volcano, where a small stretch of jungle overhung the steaming crater. From here, the highest vantage point on the island, they were able to take stock of their locale and spy some of the features of this island of mystery and danger, as well as discover that they had four options for descending the volcano.
The island was divided into three sections by sharp edged mountains ranges. To the north, the volcano sloped down to the coast of tall craggy cliffs which stretched the entire northern length of the island. They were able to see a fair number of flying creatures flying in and out of caves, and diving for fish between the rocks and small islets that dotted the northern waters. The creatures were large and looked to be four legged. One character thought they might be hippogriffs. This set off the imagination of some of the characters, who had visions of themselves flaying over the lands below.
To the west, the slope descended into a bog, and south of the bog, the western reaches were divided by a huge lake, with an island in its center. They could just make out what looked to be a mansion on that island, and it looked very out of place. South of the lake was an area of plains. The rolling plains led to the southwestern beaches, where they could just make out what looked like the ruins of a colony or some other walled enclave. It looked abandoned.
Heading down the mountain to the center of the island led to a raised highland plateau of broken lands and scrub. South of that was a jungle surrounded on all sides by mountains, and with a green river snaking through it, to break through the southern mountains and empty into the sea. More plains to the south showed what looked like a sunken ship in the shallows off the coast.
The eastern reaches were an area of hills closest to the volcano, and in those hills they could see large plumes of dust raised, but couldn’t tell what was causing it. South of the hills were more forest and plains, and they saw what looked like a thriving walled community. Floating in the protected bay outside the walled town was a ship with black sails.
There was another island connected to the mainland by the narrow strand of a natural stone bridge, all that remained of the mountain range where the sea had blasted through it.
Of more pressing concern was the campsite near the peak. Through the trees they could hear the hooting and calls of the silver backed apes, but they kept their distance as the party made their way to the old campsite which was made up of a torn teepee and a ring of stones for a cooking fire. On a stake planted in the ground near the fire was an ape’s head slowly decaying in the jungle heat. The fire looked weeks old, and no tracks could be found, other than ape tracks all around the campsite.
In the tent, they found a table, upon which was tacked a beautifully illustrated map of the island. The table and chair looked crudely made out of local materials, and across the back of the chair was a cured ape hide cut to be worn as a cloak. The bed was a small cot with a quilt patterned in arcane symbols. A moldering robe. Also in the room was a battered but locked chest. Thokk pried the lid open with his steel belted hands and showed little regard for the lock. Inside they found a bag of 10 small rubies, a scroll and a journal, titled “The Adventures of Shalazar Jones”.
The leather bound journal looked like it was once waterlogged. The pages were rippled and torn, and the ink was smeared. Nonetheless, it is mostly legible. The first few pages of the journal detail the sea voyage from Shalazar, the southern-most city of the main continent of D Erte, to the Isle of Dread. At least 20 days are spent on the voyage. The ship seems to become lost in a storm and is thrown up onto the southern beach of the Isle. Shalazar Jones is the only survivor. He trekked inland with a goal of reaching the top of the volcano to get his bearings. He describes a battle with a white ape, in which he was victorious, and since then the apes have not bothered him. The last few pages get harder to decipher until the last page, which is written in verse:
The mists cannot be breached nor bypassed
Without the Black Pearl held fast
The Black pearl cannot be found
Without first searching underground
The Black Pearl cannot be made
Without the natives aid
The broken planks cannot be fixed
Without woodwork masters tricks
The Black Pearl floundered castaway
Pirates have their own Black Pearl
Wizard knows but will not say
Where to search for pool a whirl
Hag knows spell, witch knows spell
Natives Know only where to fish
Tree monkeys hammer but fear the swell
Put them together and make a wish
The last few pages of the journal are empty. Also in the chest was a small wooden case that contained artists tools. The letter was written on fine vellum and was from Lady, the queen of Shalazar. It read:
By Writ of Her Highness the Immortal Queen of Shalazar
The bearer of this deed has been given the right to make an Expedition to the southern Isle commonly called the Isle of Dread on behalf of the people of Shalazar. The bearer is also entitled to demonstrate his prowess by bringing the following Fantastical creatures back to Shalazar, either the head or the living creature. For a well-preserved head, the bearer is entitled to no less than 1,000 gold pieces, and for a still breathing specimen 2,000 gold. The creatures rumoured to make their habitation on the Mysterious Isle are thus:
Fang Titan Drake
Displacer Panther Packlord
Stone Eye Basilisk
The adventurers wanted flying mounts, and so they headed north with the intention of gaining mounts, or even raiding the nests to raise hem for later. Soon however, as they were clinging to a cliff wall on a narrow natural stair that led to one of these caves, a glided into view, and it was no hippogriff, but instead had the body of a great lion, a scorpion-like tail laden with sharp thorns, and an angry old mans face. They immediately began heading back the way they came, and though the manticore saw them, it chose not to pursue.
Choosing the western route, with the intention of checking out the mansion on the way to the shore, the began coming down the mountain. The jungle had claimed the steep sides, and they followed a game trail that eventually led them into a clearing. As they crossed, unawares of course, they noticed a fragrant smell. The clearing was lined with dark purple flowers, and the ground was covered in an especially soft, spongy moss. A few of the group, the men actually, decided it was a good place to sit down and rest.
Of course, all was not as it seemed, it was an ambush, and the mossy floor began to undulate. They were sinking into the moss, and deadly acid was bubbling up, injuring them, while at the same time, their minds struggled with intense vertigo, unable to focus on the ground beneath their feet. They were under the psychic tortures of a dreaded Moss mind master. The triple M enemy was able to trawl the minds of those it was battling, and produce a duplicate made out of moss. The field was soon filled with shaggy green Hexes and Poppies. The mindmaster itself reared up off the ground and into a massive shambling mound, invisible to any who came too near by its vertigo inducing aura. It sent mind attacks to tear into the party and send their own attacks against them, while swinging a big spongy fist of dripping acid moss around. The moss duplicates cavorted around the periphery but collapsed under a direct hit.
The cleric backed to the edge of the clearing, and heard the first rumblings of a second ambush as a long sleek panther leapt out of the jungle in a surprise sneak attack. It was the same color as the lotus of the clearing, with a gaping jaw of fangs and it had strange writhing tentacles sprouting from just behind its shoulder blades. But what made the displacer panther more frightening still was that it seemed to be more than one place at once, and sometimes neither place. The cunning hunter had been waiting for just this moment to attack and it tore though the priestess scant armour, causing grievous wounds. The cleric was undaunted however, and she turned and cast a spell that instantly turned the beast into a pacifist, quelling its natural violence while the spell lasted. Rendered unable to attack the panther slunk back into the dark trees upslope, growling lowly, looking back often with its emerald eyes.
Mastering the moss followed suit, and the party continued down the mountainside. Eventually as the path starts to level out, and the twilight of evening darkens, they hear the chirp of insects and smell the fetid swampy bog that lies spread out beneath them.