The story begins with our adventurers – a group of people with diverse backgrounds and ‘abilities’ gathering at the Dinj the only Inn and the general store of the outpost of Hundown. Ib, Map, Ekaterina, Glib, Jon and Fau – each and all checking in briefly, just scratching the bare surface of the strange & outcast folk that have chosen to make their home here – at the remotest edge of the civilized world. Showing no concern, as is proper, for the petty squabbles of the settled folk, they quickly absconded across the river, led by Deuteronomy Red – hapless jape and crippled boatman. Red, whose inappropriate attention to Ekaterina was not reciprocated, nevertheless agreed to return and take them back across the dangerous River Shrike in exchange for the princely sum of a single silver piece.
Once across the party was confounded by the great number of choices facing them. Trying and failing to scale the cliff face, upon which was built the ancient ruin they had come to challenge, they decided to camp – most of them merely falling and sleeping where they stood. Ekaterina, showing a bit of foresight stayed up through the night with only Map-Rith’s jack-o-lantern to keep her company.
The pumpkin lamp cast sufficient light to keep at bay the strange lurker at the edge of the light, but it nevertheless howled it’s unnatural screech, which had a strange and deleterious effect- aging the soil she sat upon and costing her two of her back teeth.
The morning came and the rest were alarmed to learn that no alarm was sounded. Ib offered the use of his dentist’s tools, but Ekaterina refused. Forging on, they attacked the southern slope of the hill – an agreeable trip, if the scale and the angle of the slope were any guide.
Of course they were not prepared in the least for the proliferation of traps and the strange screaming that emanated from the hill beneath them. Worse for wear and somewhat weary they mounted the peak and came among the strange ruins of an old Elf structure - formed of pearlescent, shining bricks, now all decaying and falling apart. There, they encountered a tribe of what at first seemed to be men, or perhaps tigers – but what they came to find was a strange and troubling hybrid of the two. The Gotra-Hinsra-Purūṣa, descendants of both tigers and men. Some among them were fully human with painted faces and rudimentary clothing, some were purely tiger, some were a fabulous conflation of the two – all were savage, and strangely afraid.
Quickly ascertaining that the tigermen were largely afflicted by some ailment – perhaps tied to the screaming from beneath the hill or possibly related to the strange lurker in darkness who had haunted their camp – Ib the warrior sought to parley with the Gotra-Hinsra-Purūṣa. The discussion was cut short by the sudden eruption of an arm length silverfish escaping from the lead Tigerman’s mouth. Wasting no time Ib allowed the tigerhead to be removed from the manshoulers by proper application of his Buster Sword.
The mewling, just born abomination, a silverfish with eyes down its sides was immediately stamped into oblivion. Meanwhile Ekaterina had circled back to find the Tigermen’s own camp – where they kept their captive – the Southern Wizard Stark Merriweather.
Stark, having recklessly braved the river and the hill had been captured by a gang of grave-robbers who had made the peak their own base. These robbers, who had secreted away a small fortune in Elfish grave-goods were in turn displaced by the Tigermen – who Stark had managed to ‘befriend’ upon their arrival by virtue of comprehending their language, a strange dialect of human speech.
Tiring of the Tigermen and the feline affection of their Raksasha (a very large tiger capable of speech and minor magical ability) Stark and Ekaterina took their leave of the drought-parched hill, treasure alongside.
Once again on the flank of the hill they encountered the screaming patch of ground that seemed at once to engulf them in keening, horrible cries – but braving this and the now sprung traps (likely left by the grave-robbers currently residing in the bellies of the Gotra-Hinsra-Purūṣa) they made their way back to the diminishing riverbank – now at its lowest level yet. It was a small matter to wave over the servile Deuteronomy Red, who arrived presently to take the two wizards back to Hundown.
Once in Hundown they made their time and preparations, trying their luck at purchasing goods and meals from the Dinj’s proprietor – the ruffled and abrupt Halfling called Geddis Moil – or simply Eater. He provided them with the option to purchase many things, but for the moment Ekaterina was hypnotized by the greedy advances of Missus Gentle, the outpost’s main supporter, enthusiast and prostitute. Enchanted by the friendly banter of Missus Gentle, Ekaterina all but ignored Stark’s interest in trying his luck (in search of stronger drink) at the Brightside Rainbow- a garden cum bar across the street.
Eventually departing, but likewise planning a visit to Almond sister, one of the two Apothecaries working in the outpost, the two magicians entered the sumptuous, diverse and beautiful gardens of Pifsher Nimms – an ancient Elf, and the most enduring citizen of the Outpost. Nimms, the Elf, was eager to pawn off his Pear Lambic and to show off his enormous Conivus Magna – 10’ flower buds that he predicted would soon blossom. Stark, requiring something stronger than the fruit-wine of the Nimms, inquired after an amount of vodka or whiskey – only to be directed to the farming compound of the peculiar Kato Two-Shoes clan. An enclave of religious zealots, said to worship Maize and hate Animals.
Bored of the outcast-outcasts of the outpost, Stark and Ekaterina decided to go and occupy one of the many abandoned houses in the village. Settling on one not far from the beaten path, they took their Jack-o-lanterns to guide them in the immense darkness at the very distant edge of civilization.
Out in the dark, however, they were confronted again by the strange wraith in the darkness – a man-like thing, seemingly made of skin & bone and wearing a strange patchwork suit of old, ancient, new and futuristic clothing. Again, the Weird Wraith was startled by the jack-o-lantern, unable to approach very close – but again it howled its inaudible banshee scream. Stark, long used to horrible things that should not be shrugged off the sound, but Ekaterina once again bore the brunt of the sound-without-noise. This time the ground under her feet solidified into a more coherent form, like rock, and her hair and fingernails all retreated into her body – causing her to double over in pain even as her missing teeth returned. Liberal application of his Fairie Fire spell allowed Stark to drive the creature off, but in the meantime the two Magic-Users chose to seek rest and refuge in the abandoned house.