It is by the grace of Lucha that I am able to write again today. We have had a very trying few days, and I fear that things will only get worse. The first horrifying incident came after a period of rest. We had set up camp under a copse of trees and had rested relatively safely. The peace was not to stay long, as seems to happen to us quite frequently. Some mystical birds began flying over our camp, but were not acting aggressively. Danjo thought it might be a good omen. It was not. The birds landed not too far from our camp and our day took a turn.
Their first act was to dance to create a magic that would send an enormous blast at us. Setibyr and I were able to withstand the explosion and soothe our wounds. Shortly after, the bird creatures created mirror images of themselves. They were far more clever and more dangerous than they looked – and they already looked fairly formidable. I tried to shoot at them, but once Setibyr raced forward, I was off as well. These creatures made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. There was something very much off about them. Surely Lucha would not have permitted something this awful to have been created in our world. Setibyr began attacking the one to my left. As usual, I attacked the other, hoping to draw some of the aggression off of my brother. My brother is a very strong man, but alone against two such creatures, he’d surely be grievously injured, if not killed. I had faith in Lucha and in our companions to support us and help us vanquish these bird men. Lucha protected me. Our companions did not.
Almost immediately, the bird man in front of me sliced into me, rending open my neck. Blood burbled in my throat, cutting off my air and muting my scream. I tried not to panic. I knew this could be a mortal wound, but I trusted in Lucha to keep me alive long enough to defeat these foes and protect my brother. I tried not to let on how dire of a situation I was in after that wound. The last thing I needed was Setibyr going into a frenzy and getting hurt as well. While I was struggling to breathe, the bird men opened their wings and spores flew from them, coating both of us. Danjo, who had gone to help Setibyr with his bird man, was untouched. It seemed fitting as he was unable to wound the bird man as well. The spores took root on us and started carving into our bodies. I was unable to even cry out in pain. A disgusting bubble was all I was able to manage. Setibyr continued furiously attacking the bird creature in front of him. From the back, Shino shot fireballs at the creatures, dispelling the illusions. The actual creatures seemed hardly harmed by the fire. I wonder if Shino would have been more effective fighting physically alongside us rather than using so much magic. Partway through the battle, I felt some healing relief come from Sahil. I do not know what Tuck was doing to aid us. He was nowhere near the front of the fray.
The battle was going poorly. To my surprise, one of the creatures stole Setibyr’s hammer and disappeared. The one he had wounded disappeared as well. For all of our efforts, we had nothing to show but our lives. Even those were almost lost to us. I still could not breathe, and the vines were sapping the last bit of strength that I had. Through Setibyr’s efforts, he was able to repair my throat well enough for me to breathe again. Sahil and my lady Lucha healed me enough that I would not die that day, but nothing could remove the vines. Nothing short of cutting the dozens of them out of our skin, which we could not survive.
The horrors we fought then would not compare to the creature we’d encounter next. The only way I can describe it is as some sort of sand ooze. After it had dissolved Shino, Danjo, and Danjo’s camel, we fled. I’ve never been up against something that could melt you with a single touch. I was still wounded and knew there was no way we could fight something that could melt our weapons and armor as well as ourselves. We ran. I’m not proud of it. I knew we were leaving Shino and Danjo behind. To be fair, we had seen them disintegrate. I had no way of knowing they would re-form later. I ran faster than I had ever run before. I made sure to keep Setibyr beside me, afraid he would seek revenge on the ooze. Thankfully, he must have seen how futile fighting this abomination would be as he kept pace with me. After we were a distance away, I heard the screams of Danjo and Shino. Over my shoulder, I could see them re-form – naked as the day they were born. I felt a great surge of guilt. They were back with the horror, and we had left them there. The horror had been chasing us, but went back after them. I watched in disbelief as they dissolved and re-formed over and over again until Shino collapsed and Danjo grabbed him and ran.
Tuck worked some of his magics and Danjo ran faster, catching up with us. It was quite a sight, and not just because two naked men were coming fast as can be across the sand. Had it not been such a dire moment, I would have been rather embarrassed as that was the first naked man I’ve seen. I’ve seen many shirtless men and men in their underthings, but never like that. I’m a bit embarrassed now, to be honest. That aside, I was able to redeem myself some for abandoning them as I healed Shino. He was able to run on his own and we kept ahead of the ooze horror. Tuck made himself useful this time and blasted the creature over and over with some of the magic we had found earlier. Thank Lucha it worked. It looked like it would never stop chasing us until we died.
Once it was destroyed, we went back to see if any of our gear was salvageable. Setibyr and I lent Shino and Danjo some clothes. I shudder to think what kind of full body sunburn the desert would have subjected them to. We recovered the majority of our supplies and continued on. What else can we do but continue?
The foothills of the mountains seemed more hospitable. There was certainly more greenery than we had been seeing. Some forest creatures spoke with us and gave us directions to Assur, though I don’t know that I believe them. We even spoke with a large tree! Thankfully, none seemed to want to harm us. We set up camp that night and discussed our plans. Setibyr and I want to continue to Assur and be done with this awful job. The rest of the group wants to explore the shrine. A suicide mission.
Setibyr and I discussed amongst ourselves the events of the last few days and our survival options. He was very angry. He felt that the rest of our party had abandoned us during our battles and left us to do all the fighting while they hid in safety. I can certainly see his point. Despite all of the others having more battle experience than us, we seem to always be the ones doing the brunt of the fighting. Setibyr told me that Hoar had come to him with a blessing, giving him some minor magics. He said that some of the magics he was blessed with would allow us to survive in the desert if Lucha would also bless me. I will pray to her tonight and offer her my thanks for my continued survival. If she finds me fit, hopefully she will bless me as well. My prayers will have to be silent, though, as my throat is still in a bad way.
Setibyr is not good at keeping his anger tamed these days. He confronted the group and told them that we were heading to Assur, with or without them. He told them what we had discussed about their lack of aid during our fights. He was rather harsh. I admit, I am not happy about being injured so frequently. Truly, I watched my brother almost die at an assassins hands. I can’t say that hasn’t shaken me. I know he hurt some feelings and wish he hadn’t, but I suppose something needed to be said. He knew that if we were blunt about going off on our own, that they would either have to go with us or die on their own. Without our defense in battle, they would not survive. I hate drawing such a hard line, but it is not our job to save the world. Our job is to get information for the Lady so that she can send a group of heroes that CAN save the world. We’re just a strange group of travelers and are ill equipped to handle such a thing. Most of our supplies are gone or destroyed. Setibyr and I still suffer from the after effects of the vines. We have exhausted much of the magical items we have found. Why die at this shrine when it isn’t our job to fix whatever plagues these people?
Once we get back to Assur, I hope to convince Setibyr that it is time to head home. If I cannot convince him, then perhaps he would be willing to take on some less dangerous jobs. We cannot continue like this, no matter what the rest of the group thinks. Now we just need to pray that the way back to Assur is clear and the city is not in ruins. Lucha protect us.