The Beastmen had lain traps on the path to their camp – surprisingly ingenious ones, at that. Cleverly-hidden, well-made, and certainly catastrophic for any who ran across them, it spoke volume about the intelligence of the local tribe. As we hiked up the trail a gruff voice barked from the shadows.
“Do not move, human,” the Beastwoman growled as she stood, revealing herself from her previous concealment. “Explain or die. What has human come seeking from Stonestalker den?” Her fingers, and the large claws which tipped them, flexed instinctively with her words.
After explaining, with care, that we wished to discuss matters with Hundred-Blood and not cause more strife, we were allowed entrance, with dire warnings should we stray or attempt any “human tricks.” I glanced to Verse, making sure that she would keep her normal Scarlet Chorus-style proclivities and outbursts to herself while in the hostile den.
The Beastmen had several human captives chained to the rock walls of a nesting den. Eb suggested we ask about the crimes they had committed and implored that we find a way to intercede in their behalf, but I disagreed – that seemed to be the exact kind of “human trick” we had been warned about. Our intention was to speak with Hundred-Blood, and that’s what we would do. While technically members of Kyros’ Empire, the Beastmen were looking for any excuse to gut us and leave us for the vultures above.
We found Hundred-Blood on a tall outcropping, the remnants of a multi-story building that had long-succumbed to the earthquakes. I gave a solemn nod of appreciation for her agreeing to see us, and waited for her to speak, as I knew was custom among the Beastmen tribes. As Prima of this den, hers was the first – and last – word.
“I know what you want,” she started, snorting and licking blood-soaked claws. “Hundred-Blood, strongest of Stonestalker tribe, not return prisoners. Not allow passage to more sacred places. Not joining Scarlet army.”
I knew tact and diplomacy wasn’t going to win us the day, and so I dove straight to the heart of the matter. Pointing at the purple Azurelith crystals surrounding us, I discussed not the Scarlet Chorus, but the Disfavored Earthshakers who were known to be protecting Cairn. “The purple wizards steal your crystals, don’t they? Perhaps we can trade favors.”
Though it took some time, Hundred-Blood eventually saw the wisdom in allowing humans to fight other humans, rather than throwing her own tribe at the powerful Earthshakers who had been pillaging the Beastmen tribe’s “ancestor holy ground.” Apparently the Earthshakers used the Azurelith as material components in their spells, but the Beastmen saw the crystals as fangs of their fallen warriors, holy relics and a testament to their eternal strength.
Hundred-Blood pointed out a relatively safe path through the winding crags, leading to the Aurora Spire in the Northwest. “Find humans. Kill humans. Cleanse the land with their blood.”
Barik understandably didn’t like the idea of killing more Disfavored, but he recognized that the Earthshakers were actively engaged in an uprising against Kyros’ will – the Archon of Stone had betrayed the Overlord and these mystics continued to fawn on him and bolster his strength against the overwhelming power of the Edict. That they dared wear the Disfavored colors was a betrayal to the army they claimed to stand for.
Eventually, he came around too, and we were on our way to another section of the oldwalls, and rising above them, another spire to explore.