In the foothills of the Flametongue Peaks, the north of Zhongdao…
Leaving Ren and the White Company behind, the party continued northwards. Travelling back to Jejin with the cyclops’ heads, the party approach the walls of the city and found them locked. The guards atop it asked for their business, and summoned the mayor. The mayor brought them the reward of 500 gold for the killing of the cyclops.
While the party refused the reward, they asked to be let inside, to distribute the medical supplies they’d reclaimed to the people. The mayor, after hearing the treason they had spoken against the Shogun before, refused them entry, even though they held the medical supplies hostage. After hurling a cyclops head against the gates, and insulting the mayor, the mayor threw the gold down to them, and told them to leave or be fired upon.
While the party left without a fight, they first threw the gold back over the wall, and left the medical supplies behind at the entrance to the city.
Travelling throughout the day, they passed by an area where a number of orcs had been killed by javelins.
At the end of the day, they happened upon a merchant travelling south. The merchant was happy for the chance to share some words, and some food, and told a number of stories from his youth in the area. One of the stories was of especial interest, telling of an opening into the fourth mountain of the range, and opening out of which came what he claimed was a meiko, a shrine maiden.
As the party spent the night, Akemi was visited by another terrible nightmare, a vision of armies under her command being annihilated due to her failures. At this point, she was heavily weakened and clearly tired and drained. Lu Bu and Grozem saw Akemi in this state, and warned the next watch, Sulsashi and Strawhat, of what they saw.
The next watch was on edge, a fact which wasn’t helped by the ominous blowing of the wind. Sulsashi noticed that one edge of Akemi’s tent was opened, and after being woken again, claimed she had tied it down. After hearing a rustling that seemed to him to be laughing, Strawhat gained Sulsashi’s help in following a path through the grass.
The path wound and weaved through the grass, bringing the two further and further out into the wilds, further from the light of the camp. With the wind calling around them, and an unnatural quiet settling over the area, the path came to an abrupt end.
Strawhat and Sulsashi spent the rest of the watch on edge, and in the morning, the party discussed what to do. Thadrack believed, based on the description, that the trauma was caused by a night creature, a Night Hag, which siphons the life-force of people through their dreams. The Night Hag had to visit every night, but arrived in a form that could not be seen. This seemed to be confirmed when Akemi appeared as desecrated, with two deep hand-shaped bruises on her back.
Deciding that any action would have to wait until the next night, the party continued up into the mountains. Before they reached very far, the ground shook, and a thin plume of smoke arose from the top of the fourth mountain. As the ground shook, some boulders dislodged, and out of the ground arose four beetle-like creatures, Umber Hulks.
The party fought the Umber Hulks, and managing to burn and cut them down, prepared for their next move.