Chronicles of Ancient Darkness

The Viper's Throat

In the aftermath of the encounter with the bear, the party, Mina’s relatives from the Wolf clan and Wolf get themselves together and head West, in a rather awkward silence, to find a suitable spot to camp overnight away from the dead bears. They find a spot about about 3/4 of a mile away, and the Wolf Clan members agree to keep watches.

The night passes uneventfully, and the party rises a little after sunrise. It is a chilly April morning, the surrounding trees just coming into bloom. Wolf is missing, presumably off hunting or exploring. The party heads back to where they left the bears, which lie where they fell and pick up the trail which they were following that leads north. The trail is obvious enough and Valkilmer notices the party they are tracking seems to have picked up speed at this point and is definitely hurrying northward. The trail seems no more than a day old. Anja looks to see if there are any children’s tracks in with the others but is unable to distinctly determine if this is so. The tracks head due north and the party follows them for about 1/2 a mile and discover a point where the tracks seems to stop and their are signs of a struggle, a rolling around in the dirt kind of struggle. Anja looks again for children’s footprints and does indeed find what is likely the tracks of a child off to one side, as if not really part of the struggle. Valkilmer notices that while the bulk of the party continued on north, there is one person’s tracks that run off to the East. The child’s tracks continue North. The party decides to follow the bulk of the tracks north and shortly comes to the second tier of the Snake Den Bluffs which consist of more terraced levels on a roughly 30 degree slope. Looking up to the bluffs can be seen a number of outcroppings and ledges as well and dark spots which must be more cave entrances. It is now about midday.

The party starts out on a path that winds its way up the bluffs and after about 1/4 hour of climbing, it becomes clear that the trail they are following is leading to a flat, terraced level in the bluffs with a cave entrance nearby. Valkilmer and Kym-mae notice that in the entrance of the cave stand the remnants of a wooden barricade or door. The doorway is quite large, about 10’ across and about 10’ high. The door or palisade looks as if it has been torn down and is not off its hinges due to misuse but rather because of being partially demolished. Valkilmer and Kym-mae also notice a stick or staff about 4’ high driven into the ground in front of the cave entrance with something dangling from it. Valkilmer, ducking down behind rocks and staying close to the bluff wall, tries to approach the cave entrance unseen. The rest of the party tries to remain as hidden as they can while Valkilmer moves up ahead. Kym-mae thinks this cave may be the ’Viper’s Throat’ which is an important location for the Viper Clan, in the same way as the Heart Den is important to the Wolf Clan. The Viper clan is known as a hard-working clan, clever but recently shamed as two generations ago their mage joined the Soul Eaters.

Valkilmer makes his way stealthily towards the cave entrance and approaches the cave mouth from the side. He notices several fire pits on the plateau in front of the cave entrance and the scattered remains of the fence that was once across the entrance. He also sees the staff, 4’ in height, placed in front of the entrance; it’s then he notices a dead starling dangling by a thong attached to the top of the staff. Valkilmer listens at the entrance but hears nothing. He also notices a small alcove to the west of the cave entrance that harbours fire wood and is sheltered from the elements. Valkilmer, following the tracks finds the ground well trodden and worn around the entrance and assumes the party they are tracking entered the cave. Valkilmer returns to the group and reports what he found. It’s suggested Jub might know something of the significance of the dead starling on the staff and it’s then the party realizes that Jub is not with them and must have slipped off unnoticed before they reached the cave.

Kym-mae says she will announce the party’s presence to anyone in the cave and hands her baby off to Valkilmer; Anja immediately takes the baby from Valkilmer. Makkar and Kym-mae approach the entrance and Makkar yells inside, “Hello! This is Makkar from the Sea Otter clan!” Kym-mae hides behind Makkar and adds a meek, “Hello?” The closer Makkar gets to the cave entrance the more of a sense of dread he feels, Kym-mae on the other hand feels that although the situation is strange she remains unafraid. Kym-mae smells something rotten from within the cave. Kym-mae goes back to the rest of the party and begins to make a torch; the other Wolf clan members assist her and soon a torch has been made. Makkar rejoins the party on the trail as well and suggests they all make torches. Anja suggests they approach the cave entrance as a group. The party spends 15 minutes making a torch each and then moves to head back up. Anja begins to try and explain something about ‘not taking chances’, and ‘this is where they are’ and ‘having to do her ritual’ and fiddles with her talisman. Makkar exclaims, “Oh! Bear Anja!” “Right.” Says Anja and then adds, “One stomp yes, two stomps no.” and walks off…

2 minutes later, bear Anja emerges from the bushes, Kym-mae backs off. The Bear has Anja’s bundle of equipment in its mouth. “Anja, is that you?” asks Valkilmer? The bear answers with a single stomp on the ground. Kym-mae still hides behind Valkilmer and begins to back away. Bear Anja tries to signal for Valkilmer to carry her stuff, “You want me to scratch your neck Anja?” asks Valkimer. Bear Anja casts him an angry bear look and waddles towards the cave entrance. Valkilmer picks up Anja’s equipment and slings it over his back.

Anja, approaching the cave entrance feels a bit weirded out by the starling but not too badly. Sniffing at the cave entrance, bear Anja smells dead deer and dead human. She judges the dead deer smell to be about 5 days dead, and the Human smell about 3 days. Bear Anja feels reluctant to enter the cave, and then moves to the staff in the ground and knocks it over. Immediately upon knocking it over bear Anja feels an increase in her dread of the cave. She hesitantly sniffs at a grease that coats the rim of the cave entrance and smells years upon years of caked on animal fat. The rest of the party as well as the Wolf Clan members approach the entrance behind bear Anja and try to peer into the cave entrance as well. Nearly everyone but Kym-mae feels a deep sense of dread and fear at the thought of entering the cave; Talis also is not so fearful. Talis and Kym-mae cross the threshold into the tunnel beyond the entrance and though Kym-mae is able to pass without any strange feeling coming upon her, Talis definitely feels a sense of dread though she is not compelled to stop in her tracks. Valkilmer enters as well, and is momentarily gripped by a deep fear that this is the absolute wrong thing to do and feels unable to move for several seconds.

Kym-mae and Talis move down the tunnel with a lit torch and see what could only be smelled before, the carcasses of three deer, gnawed and chewed upon. Talis, moving forward, calls for Valkilmer to join them. Valkilmer, now shaking himself into action, comes to have a look as well. Kym-mae also come into the room and sees not only the deer carcasses but also sees the carcass of a human, in much the same condition as the deer, partially eaten and torn open. Talis, seeing this, throws up.

Bear Anja, previously reluctant to enter the cave, conjures up the courage to enter. Makkar, also stepping across the threshold gets hit palpably with a wave of fear and feels paralyzed in fright for a few moments; though shakes it off a few seconds later. Bear Anja, entering the cave, is also hit hard with a terror she cannot explain and remains frozen in a panic for several seconds before shaking herself out of it. Both of them seem physically exhausted by the will required to even enter the cave.

Talis, getting herself together, examines the dead body. Valkilmer raises his axe in case something ‘jumps out.’ Talis, sees that the chewed on body is that of a Sea Otter, Shawtin, a fisherman for the Sea Otters and a friend of her brothers. Kym-mae calls out “Hello?” again, but there is no answer. Talis feels suddenly quite uneasy and suggests they leave and turns to go. Suddenly there is a growling from behind Talis. Kym-mae, not looking back, runs for her life. Talis runs as well, though she keeps pace with Kym-mae, “Help!” she yells!

Bear Anja and Makkar, upon hearing the call for help, shake themselves out of their stunned state and run down the tunnel towards their friends. Talis hear something lope up behind her and then feels something slam, or push into her back; the push feels like hands. Valkilmer, seeing what has knocked Talis down is frozen in fear and shock. Makkar and bear Anja rush as best they can towards the chamber in front of them. Anja the bear turns the corner and sees what has attacked Talis and though surprised manages to continue her charge. Kym-mae pauses a second to try and grab Talis’ wrist and help her to her feet. Talis, falling forward, turns her fall into a tumble and rolls out of the way of beastial hand trying to grab at her from behind. Anja charges the creature and slams into it and knocks it backward several feet. Talis stands up and turns around to face what has attacked her and pulls out her bow. Makkar, entering the room and seeing the creature stops in his tracks again, frozen in even more fear! Bear Anja, snarls and backs up, protecting Kym-mae’s retreat. Talis whips an arrow out of her quiver and nocks it to her bow. The creature makes a leap at the bear and bites at her snout, though the attack barely scratches her. Anja raises up a paw to thump it and but it realizes the bear’s intention and releases its grip, dropping below Anja’s swipe. Valkilmer, snapping out of his shock, raises his axe again to attack and moves in on the creature. Makkar runs towards the beast with the intention to kick it. The one Wolf clan member who made it into the cave, no longer paralyzed in fear, readies his spear and moves in towards the creature. Anja, swings a mighty paw at the creature’s head and rakes its face with her claws. The creature rolls away after having been hit and tries to regain its footing. Talis releases her arrow at the beast and her arrow sticks into the creatures tough skin. Valkilmer moves in closer to strike! Makkar rushes the creature as it prepares to leap and tries to kick it but it quickly moves out of the way and he misses. Bear Anja tries to swipe it with her paw but its quick movements take it under her swing. The creature leaps at Makkar, biting into his ribs and draws blood. Kym-mae rushes backs to the cave entrance and sees Mina’s uncle and the other two wolf clan members who look shocked and confused and ask her what’s going on! She quickly blurts out about the deer and human carcasses within and that some manner of creature is attacking the party. Meanwhile, bear Anja raises herself up on two legs and brings her weight down on the creature, pinning it to the ground. The creature tries to bite Anja’s arm as she pins it but is ineffective. Valkilmer rushes to where the creature lies pinned and smashes it with his bronze axe, burying the axe head deep into its side. Makkar moves in to join the pile on and slams its head with his fist and knocks it into unconsciousness.

Back at the entrance the other Wolf clan members still seem reluctant to enter the cave further despite the plight of their traveling companions; Kym-mae waits there with them.

Anja, perched over the unconscious creature sniffs the air and smells something like a mix of cat and human approaching from the north passage. Makkar, looking up to see what it is, sees a black shape of a heavily muscled cat-person hybrid and is stunned, his brain breaking under the strain of it all. The creature then screams a Nazgul like scream, to which Kym-mae couldn’t care less (and Talis and bear Anja being unaffected as well). However, Valkilmer is stunned again and the wolf clan man who entered the room faints in terror. Talis, with the arrow still notched to her bow, takes aim on the creature. Anja moves towards the creature which now tries to claw her but cannot penetrate her think hide. Anja lunges forward and bites the creatures head and neck and nearly snaps the neck in two. Talis releases her arrow into the cat creature’s side and sees it slump to the ground, hanging from bear Anja’s jaws. Talis quickly moves to both creatures and slices open both their throats, making sure they are dead. She then tries to gather her spent arrows but finds they are both broken.

Anja moves to nudge Makkar and Talis goes to the unconscious Wolf clan man and slaps him, but he does not wake up.

Back at the cave entrance, Mina’s uncle manages to pluck up the courage to enter the cave, but the last Wolf clan member is still to afraid to enter. Kym-mae goes back into the chamber with the dead creatures, takes a look at them and remains pretty much unfazed.

Talis checks the creatures for any sort of clan markings or something to identify them as human. She finds faint Viper clan tattoos on the face of the cat-creature. Talis puts death marks on both of the creatures. Anja walks over to Valkilmer and tries to gently claw her possessions off his back, she collects them from him and leaves the cave. Talis picks up the torch from beside the unconscious Wolf clan member. Talis then moves towards the passage to the right with torch in hand. Outside, Anja finds a hidden spot from the other Wolf clan member outside and transforms back into human form. Unfortunately, the strain of transformation is too much for the exhausted bear and she collapses into unconsciousness.

Talis sniffs the air as she enters the passage before her; she smells dampness but nothing more. Checking the ground she sees nothing to give her pause. Talis then approaches another chamber and listens intently, but hears nothing. Valkilmer, Kym-mae and Makkar follow Talis who enters the chamber and sees three matted straw bed rests on the floor, a spear leaning against the far wall and an open topped woven basket of birchbark. Talis pokes the basket with an arrow and looks inside, finding three well made torches. Valkilmer eyes the basket as a potential carrying case for his possessions and Talis gives Valkilmer a length of rope for tying it to his back. Talis checks the sleeping straw on the ground and finds a pair of deer hide mittens and a 6" long bone snake carving. Makkar, noticing Anja is missing, calls back to her, “Anja! Go right!”

Talis, getting fidgety, takes a passage leading to the right and leads the way through a long series of twists and turns, most of which Talis remembers to mark the walls with arrows indicating the direction they came from. After a few minutes of moving through tunnels the party enters a chamber and sees something crouching in the corner, it growls at them. Looking closer it seems to be a wolf, though no one is completely sure it’s only just a wolf. Talis drops the torch and nocks an arrow to her bow. Valkilmer picks up the torch and tosses it towards the wolf into the middle of the room. In the increased light, the party sees a wolf momentarily back up from the torch light, frightened, and then it charges forward. It leaps at Makkar, biting him in the side but not penetrating his clothing by much. Talis steps away and aims at the wolf. Valkilmer backs away as well but readies his axe. Makkar tries to grapple the wolf but it squirms away and runs past him. Kym-mae ducks behind Valkilmer when Talis, using the walls around her and Valkilmer’s shoulder as a brace, she leaps over the charging wolf and clears it easily. Valkilmer positions himself to protect Kym-mae and the child and the wolf rushes past him and into the darkness beyond, fleeing back the way the party came. Makkar notices as it ran past him that it appeared to be bleeding from the side. Talis looks about the room and finds blood traces in the corner where the wolf was hiding. Valkilmer, frustrated by the random wandering around of the party, checks for tracks and finds the paw prints of the wolf are tracking blood.

The party leaves the chamber and continues taking right hand passages, mostly remembering to put arrows on walls. After several minutes of wandering, Talis finds a cavern that looks like it hasn’t been entered in a very long time. She makes an ‘X’ on the wall. Talis continues to lead the party down passages the are on the right until she comes to a place where the tunnel becomes very narrow and then enters into a small chamber. Talis, taking a torch with her enters the chamber and finds herself in a cavern with all the walls completely covered in paintings of snakes. Kym-mae follows her in. There is a large stone in the centre of the room with a black, carved wooden staff in the shape of a snake upon it. Looking at the paintings on the walls, Talis sees the snakes depicted eating other animals and snakes eating one another. Talis and Kym-mae leave the chamber, rejoin the group and continue to explore the tunnels.

Meanwhile outside, Anja regains consciousness and moves back near the cave entrance and rests against the rocks with the remaining Wolf clan member who still has not entered the cave.

The party within the cave continues to travel down the passages with Talis leading them, followed by Valkilmer, then Kym-mae and then Makkar. After several confusing minutes of venturing down passages, Talis begins to panic and takes off trying to follow her arrows out of the cave system. Talis, running ahead comes again to the room with the straw beds. Makkar, Kym-mae and Valkilmer, taking a different route come to a passage with no arrows on the walls. Kym-mae calls for Talis, hears her respond and follows her voice. Valkilmer follows Kym-mae but Makkar takes a different route, finding a chamber with four cages, about 4’ high, with grasses in the bottom of them, against one wall. A painting on the wall depicts a Mountain with herds of Auroch and Bison moving away from it. Makkar searches the room but sees nothing else besides the cages with their beds of grasses. Kym-mae, Valkimer and Tallis, some distance away in the room with the straw mats, realize Makkar is not with them. Talis turns back, yells for Makkar, who yells back and Talis follows his voice. Valkilmer recognizes the mountain in the painting as the mountain of the World Spirit. Valkilmer goes back to get Kym-mae, who complains against further investigation of the cave and wants to leave. However, she relents and follows Valkilmer back to the room with the cages.

As a group, the party then moves into a larger tunnel that slowly widens to about 15 feet across. On the north side of the wall is a depiction of a snake, painted very large which continues the entire length of the wide tunnel. On the south side of the wall is painted another depiction of the mountain of the World Spirit with various totemic animals descending from it. The passageway begins to descend slightly and grows a little damp. On the ground are littered the bones of several small animals. Kym-mae notices two parallel furrows on the ground, that could have been made by the dragging of a travois. At the far end of the corridor, the party comes to a large wooden fence that stretches from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. In the middle of the fence there is a door, lashed into place with two lengths of flax rope. Makkar calls out but there is no response. Talis unties the door and takes the rope which kept it shut. Makkar then opens the door, while Talis nocks an arrow to her bow. Looking inside the entrance reveals a larger cavern with pillars of stone rising to a high ceiling and several large ramshackle cages, made of wood and dome shaped.



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