[[GM:As all players made it to this session, I ruled that Juma and Click and Grey all made it through the Portal too and arrived in the Ruins of Mbala, the City on the Plateau]]
Nanny Pupu, the ancient crone, needed help to kill a bunch of Pterafolk who were roosting close to the only water supply on the Plateau. The Pterafolk had arrived a couple of weeks ago, they are searching for people with magical ancient masks!
Before that, Nanny was the lone inhabitant of Mbala, she says she “tends to the skulls of the former people”. There are skulls everywhere, kept clean of weeds, clean and polished. Outside every ruined house a small family of skulls.
Ariel has agreed to help in exchange for a Love Potion.
Ront and Grey (hidden by the ranger’s pass without trace spell) manage to sneak up on the Pterafolk and slaughter them before they can take to the air. Juma sends a Fireball into the area too – catching all the Pterafolk in it, along with Ront.
There is some aggro between the party members again after the fight as the raging Ront goes toe to toe with Ariel (in bear form) until he shakes off his Rage. Then some unpleasantness between Ront and Juma as the half-orc punches him hard for the fireball.
The Kenku – Click, is able to heal everyone and for now the tensions seem to have settled down.
Seeing that Juma has the Jaguar Mask of “Shagambi” Nanny explains that, it is probably the proximity of the Mask that triggered the magical portal. The Jaguar (actually a creature called a Kamadan – a jaguar with a fringe of snake-like tentacles!) was the favoured god of Mbala.
It begins to dawn on them all that Nanny Pupu must be quite a powerful witch to survive up here on her own! A few of the things she says indicate that she might have known some of the townsfolk when they were alive (like naming some of the skulls!). That means she could be literally thousands of years old.
When Sister Lucretia isn’t around, Grey starts asking her what other Potions she can make and she offers to make one that restores the dead to life, but wants something in exchange. What she asks for is shocking – she wants a live human baby in exchange. Just to make it perfectly clear how hideous and vile and evil she truly is, she explains she wants to boil it down to make an ointment to rub on her aching joints.
It turns out that Grey is a hideously-vile creature too and readily agrees to go looking for the payment. Nanny explains the human child has to be aged 4 or under and delivered alive. [[GM:I’m going to assume the others don’t know about his agreement with Nanny Pupu, as in-character this should be enough to make them abandon him – or outright attack him. As he was seriously agreeing to do this, Grey has made some magical connection with Nanny P – maybe some kind of geas spell. Probably Grey will need to return to the City of Port Nyaranzu to find a child to steal]].
The next day they pass back through the Portal, expecting to find the corpses of the dinosaurs they slew before – however the bodies have gone. They travel another couple of days and finally reach Dungrunglung.
The Army of the Morningstars is camped around the circular Grung Royal Palace/Village. This is the settlement where Ariel was raised by his adopted Grung parents. He knows many of the inhabitants as friends and family and is known to the King and the female Shaman (who helped teach him his druidic spells).
The Morningstars agree to hold position and not start burning down the Thorn Maze until Ariel has had a try at diplomacy (Ariel appears to be the only non-grung who speaks the Grung language. The plan is to somehow trick the king into thinking he has had his booty call with Nangnang the Grung Goddess) . Sister Lucretia pays them 50gp each for delivering her, then she re-joins the Army. Juma can tell by the faces of the Army Commander, she has delivered the shocking news (that only Juma is currently aware of). If they can’t manage a peaceful resolution n 6 hours, the 300 Morningstar Troops (including some Inquisitor Priests and Albino Dwarf Berserkers and Native Guides) will declare the Grung to be in league with the Undead and commit genocide!
To actually get to speak to the Grung King, our heroes will need to pass through the defensive perimeter, the Thorn Maze.
They enter the Thorn Maze and soon find that the walls move, closing behind them, re-arranging. The walls themselves have razor-sharp thorns on them. Ariel knows that often undead wander into the maze, roam around and either die trying to force their way through the thorns or are killed by groups of Grung Warriors who roam the Maze, killing the undead (and other intruders) for sport and glory.
They are soon ambushed by a couple of ghouls, Ariel is in his bear form and gets paralysed and badly mauled before the others manage to deal with the creatures. They are hampered by the narrow passageways. The injured bear continues to lead them, but the noise of their combat attracts a band of Grung elite Warriors (members of the King’s Household Militia). They ambush the back of the line – almost killing Juma [GM:actually the poison on their arrows is non-lethal damage], forcing him to run away.
Ariel changed out of bear form [GM:I assumed so he could TALK to the Grung!] . He instead attacks them with a thunderwave, hurling one of them into the spikes. Click also thunderwaves (boosting the thunder damage to maximum). Any hope of a peaceful resolution is gone!