For the first time, Harv and Malandra regretted letting Ryan keep watch all night. He usually did so, as he was unable to sleep anyway, and the others were happy to have uninterrupted slumber without the worry of being ambushed. This morning, however, they awoke to find Ryan missing. Also missing were Extra Eye, his undead minions, and the elven villager that had signed on before they left town. The only trace that Ryan had ever been there was the gilded dagger Malandra had been examining the night before and the Ring of Lore Harv had borrowed the previous evening to discover his new sword’s origins.
The disappearances of their comrades was worrying. The elf was the least concerning, as they had only met him a couple of days prior. Extra Eye had a habit of wandering off for days or weeks at a time, but Ryan was never one to be so foolish. Harv and Mal gave each other knowing looks. Despite their concern, derailing the mission to mount a search was not going to happen. They would either find Ryan by continuing to explore the island, he would find his way back to them on his own, or he was no longer on the island at all. If it was the latter, magic was at play, and neither of them had an ability to cast spells. They would need to find a mage if they were unable to locate their friend within the next few days.
After a brief conference with the others, they spurred the party back into action. The two villagers, Marcos and Astrid, and the cleric, Gabe, were reluctant to put aside a search for the missing, but they had little choice. The veteran hunters were smashing down the walls in the next chamber before they could form a good argument. Mal and Harv chuckled to themselves when they heard the cleric continue his grumblings about them “smashing everything in creation” and “defiling tombs”. These were not the first tombs they’d “defiled” and they were unlikely to be the last, barring they didn’t meet an unfortunate end on the island.
The rest of the early morning was spent meticulously clearing the Northern Tomb. By mid-morning they were a bit richer for the loot they’d found, and ready to move on to the Eastern Tomb when Fenris alerted them to a new presence approaching the tomb. A man had appeared, and not one he’d seen before. After a brief exchange with each other in Canus, Mal ordered Fenris to bring the newcomer to them. When he did so, the newcomer, a mage from Constantia, regaled them with a fanciful tale of how he was helping his master in Constantia one moment, then found himself standing in the middle of a summoning circle in the middle of the jungle the next.
Gabe, Marcos, and Astrid seemed awed by the tale, but Dinah, Harv, and Mal were less impressed. But then, it was hard to match the wonders and horrors they’d encountered. They agreed to let the mage join them, as he seemed harmless enough, though they decided to keep an eye on him.
When they reached the Eastern Tomb, they discovered that it was crawling in witch apes. Almost a dozen of them were monkeying about the entrance. The party attempted to get the drop on the apes, but their sneaking abilities were severely lacking. Luckily, their fighting abilities were not. After a brief, yet intense battle, the party dispatched the witch apes. Mal was even able to almost make the mage faint when she transformed into her wolfe. She did so love the looks of horror that she got the first time someone saw her wolfe-out.
When the party entered the Eastern Tomb and eradicated the last of the witch apes on the upper level, they found something they’d not found in any of the other tombs, well, alive anyway…a person! After they spoke with the person, three things became clear.
1. The person possessed magical ability.
2. The person served the giant witch ape that Ryan had seen roaming the island in the distance two nights before.
3. Perhaps there was a way to avoid having to hack their way through the witch apes to get into the center tomb.
At Mal’s prodding, Harv convinced the servant of the master witch ape to bring an offer to his master. In exchange for aid in ascending the center tomb and the cessation of the witch ape attacks on the party, they would destroy the terror hawks’ nest at the top of the center tomb. After agreeing to await the giant ape’s decision on their offer at the Southern Tomb, the party withdrew from the witch apes’ dwelling and made their way south again.
They set up camp at the base of the Southern Tomb and tended to their wounds while they waited for an answer.