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SUMMARY: Silverwing gets wind of a trail that leads her, Erakirak, Ga'Elian and Erithamiel to a Corrupted woodland southwest of Vadran Village, where a ghoul has arisen. They can't do much about the Corruption, but they put down the ghoul before it can infect anybody else.

H07: Kultari Road Outside Vadran Village The meandering Kultari Road runs right past this small village. The village itself exists at a crossways, where Eldwyn Road and Kultari Road converge, before each wanders past and on its way. Logs surround the village Vadran in a carefully laid, though commoner's defense. During off times, children can be seen tumbling and balancing on the log surfaces, or chasing each other in games of tag. In look and form, Vadran could be any of the number of villages that dot the Alexandrian countryside. Beyond the village is an expanse of farmland, country roads, and the occasional, wooded area. During the days, horses and mules can be seen, strapped to plows and other means of work and labor. During the weekends, the center of the village will be filled with social activity.

Erakirak and Silverwing are travelling on Kultari road. Or, well, it would be more accurate to say they are crossing it, although they are doing so at an oblique angle that involves following the road for a bit.

Why, you might well ask, did the Egalrin cross the road? Well, apparently to keep up with his griffon, who is clearly taking the lead, sniffing out some kind of trail while the ranger follows her, curious.

Ga'Elian and Erithamiel land on the road, having flown in from the east. Elian says, "Well met, Rak. Is she hunting?"

Erakirak seems thrilled and a little tongue-tied by the elf's arrival. "I -- er, I mean -- well met! Ga'Elian. Sir. I... well, I suppose so," he explains, clearly uncertain, "though I have to say, I'm not sure _what_ exactly. She got the scent of something about half a mile ago," he adds, pointing in the direction they came from, "and simply won't let it go, so... well, I figured I'd see what has her interest."

In almost no time, Erithamiel squawks, but although he doesn't have a discernible language /per se/, his tone is... alarmed. He indicates in much the same manner that a hound dog would when foxhunting, but at Silverwing herself. Ga'Elian notices this and focuses his gaze, his hearing, and even his smell, trying to discern what has evoked this warning. After a moment, he says, "Whatever scent they have caught, Erithamiel seems to consider it a threat." He dismounts and tells the griffon, go with her, boy. We'll check it out.

The griffons take the lead, and pretty soon they've left the road and the nearby village far behind them, along with the farmland surrounding it. They enter one of the occassional patches of woods... and before too long it becomes obvious that the woods have been influenced by _something_ unnatural. Here, a tree has shrivelled and died, leaving a punky misshapen mess where an oak once stood. Here, another tree stands healthy and strong... but its leaves are black, and a black foul-smelling sap exudes from its bark. There, a section of undergrowth is humming with the angry sound of insects, whose wings seem to glow in the shade of the woods.

"This is... not natural," Rak observes, competing for the Most Incredibly Obvious Observation award.

By the time the rangers discover the corrupted trees, their stinksap isn't the only source of stench. Even the rangers now can smell the foul aroma of decomposing flesh. Ga'Elian says, quietly, "Whatever she was tracking, I think we've found its lair, but it seems to be out, but I'd wager, not far nor nor long."

GAME: Erakirak rolls perception: (5)+12: 17

The rangers notice signs of a vaguely humanoid being having been here, discerning it by the impressions left in the soil, broken twigs, and so forth. It seems to have no regard for neatness as the dry bones of an unfortunate racoon are haphazardly discarded, the soft tissues entirely missing.

Erakirak nods slowly, and regards Silverwing with pride and admiration. "Well done," <auran> he tells her, quietly. "Whatever it is, if she sensed it from such a distance..." he trails off uncertainly. It occurs to him, not for the first time, that he found her in a tainted pool, much as these woods were tainted. "I wonder what it is," he says, regarding the humanoid's trail. "It doesn't seem like anything I've ever seen?"

GAME: Ga'Elian rolls knowledge/religion+FavEnemy: aliased to knowledge/religion+2: (3)+2+2: 7

Ga'Elian ponders. "I'm not sure, either, but I think I might be able to get a glimpse of it with a spell." He casts.

GAME: Ga'Elian has prepared residual tracking in a reserved spell slot.

GAME: Ga'Elian casts Residual Tracking. Caster Level: 19 DC: 14

Erakirak nods again, and continues to inspect the surroundings carefully while Ga'Elian prepares his spell

Ga'Elian says, "Duh. I should have guessed. It's definitely an undead, Fleshy like a zombie, but by the signs I'd say something not so utterly mindless. Maybe a ghoul of some kind." He looks more disgusted than concerned. Then adds, "I think some kinds of ghoul stench can infect those who smell it. at least with frail constitutions, but I have a spell that will give a barrier of fresh, clean air. Let's get the griffons over here and I'll cast it on us all. I have to be touching anyone that I want to affect."

Erakirak nods agreement and calls Silverwing over to join them. "Certainly worth clearing it out, before the infection spreads, but... what about all this?" he asks, waving to indicate the woods more generally. "Is there anything we can do to stop it?"

Ga'Elian looks around. He says, "It's like a dance; the taint steps forward, we push it back. We push forward, it rebounds. While power can be brought to bear in massive ways, the unrelenting steady trickle erodes mountains more than the sudden flash floods. Let us remain ever vigilant and eradicate such infestations as we may. With the favor of the gods, it may be enough in the long run, but for now the balance of nature is kept alive by the ebbing and flowing of all forms of energy, good and bad. Only if one side should give up the fight shall the balance be jeopardized."

GAME: Ga'Elian has prepared life bubble in a reserved spell slot.

GAME: Ga'Elian casts Life Bubble. Caster Level: 19 DC: 16

Erakirak listens with a combination of genuine respect and utter skepticism that he seems completely unable to keep out of his expression. "Well... OK," he finally says. "I mean, I wouldn't mind if whatever is corrupting the land were to give up the fight, balance or no balance. But I guess we can start by eradicating the ghoul, or whatever it is. I think it went this way," he adds, pointing...

GAME: Erakirak rolls survival+2: (6)+8+2: 16 approximately the right direction, albeit just barely.

Erakirak gestures to his griffon to stay behind him, but not too far... she can take care of herself, admittedly, but he's protective just the same.

Ga'Elian mutters something quick, from which Rak might pick out somethimg that sounds like Ma-Hal. At this, a ghostly pair of stag's antlers briefly manifest upon Elian's head, but fade away almost immediately. He follows along, letting Rak take point. As he walks, he grabs his sling from his shoulderbag and a few bullets.

Following the trail is, honestly, not difficult... the creature they're following seems to be making no attempt to travel lightly. Whether that's because it is mindless, or because it doesn't expect to be followed, he has no way of telling... though he suspects the former. He keeps his bow in one hand as they move.

That is, Rak does.

As the group follows the trail, it's not long before the increasingly pungent stench is joined by the horrid sounds of the ravenous abomination. Ga'Elian softly asks Rak, "Frontal assault or sniper style?"

Erakirak considers for a moment before replying "I'll pull focus, you surprise it. If it's tougher than we expect I'll let it chase me and you can finish it off." He rattles that off with the confident air of the well-trained and the arrogant.

Ga'Elian says, "Works for me." With that the elf and Erithamiel vanish as if from existence.

Erakirak nods and continues to follow the trail, eschewing stealth for speed. Consequently, when he parts some undergrowth into a clearing where the ghoul is devouring a two-headed rabbit, he makes enough noise to alert the creature to his presence.

GAME: Ga'Elian rolls 1d4+Strength+FavEnemy+DAdmg: aliased to 1d4+Strength+2+10: (1)+2+2+10: 15

GAME: Ga'Elian rolls 1d4+Strength+FavEnemy+DAdmg: aliased to 1d4+Strength+2+10: (4)+2+2+10: 18

GAME: Erakirak rolls 1d2: (1): 1

GAME: Ga'Elian rolls 1d20+5+2: (10)+5+2: 17

GAME: Erakirak rolls 1d20+8: (4)+8: 12

GAME: Erakirak rolls 1d20+8: (5)+8: 13

The ghoul charges the Egalrin, missing, but spoiling his aim. Two arrows go flying into the green, which seems to retaliate with two sling bullets that take the creature down.