- Nov 10, 2008
Across the generations since their tribe had assumed the form that it now took, the Standing Claw tribe had gone through many tribulations. Such trials were recorded in their legends; an earthquake six generations ago had left many dead and wounded and flattened every building in the village, the migration of a herd of gargantuans had done much the same two generations prior to that, demons had tried to slip into their ranks many times in the early days of their tribe, and wars with other neighboring tribes had sometimes taken a grievous toll. Nothing that had happened prior, however, had threatened the tribe as badly as the present epidemic did. The disease had swept through their population with frightening quickness despite the protection against disease normally offered by the magic that the wilderheart ritual infused their people with. It had started without any warning, coming into the village with a hunting party that had managed to fell a creature that they had never seen before, undetected until nearly a week after their arrival.
The hunters that had brought it were the first victims of the strange wasting disease, and the fastest to suffer its full effects; they had died within a fortnight, and only lasted that long because the shamans had been able to concentrate their healing magics on keeping them alive. Their most potent healing magics and herbs had only been effective at delaying their deaths, but by the time they had died the disease had spread. The advancement of the disease was slower in those secondary infections, but the number of afflicted was far greater, too many for the tribe's limited resources to handle. Already more were dying; the youngest and the oldest went first, but healthy adults were being stricken. The bodies had begun to pile up with frightening speed, and it became all too clear that if they didn't do something to stem the tide, the entire tribe was at risk.
Their initial efforts to cure or control the disease had failed, and the spirits that guided their tribes offered no answers, and thus they forced to this, their last desperate hope. The apprentice shamans had been sent off, in pairs, to search for a panacea that could cure their affliction. There were old legends among their tribe, among their oldest scrolls, that hinted at places where they might find something that could save them. One lead would take them to a temple in the mountains far to the North, where a fruit capable of curing any disease and healing even would-be fatal wounds was tended to by a group of monks. It wasn't clear exactly where this temple was, but they had a name; Oframana, and that at the base of the mountain was a great waterfall that fed into a gigantic lake. Another was of more definite location but less certain in effectiveness, at least in terms of how far old legends could be trusted; to the Southeast was a city located just beyond the edge of the jungle called Dabakai where a great sage lived. This sage was said to be immortal, untouched by time or sickness, and was a healer of unfathomable skill. Whether or not they could help with the sickness, if they would, or even if they still lived was unclear, but it would be an easier place to find compared to the mountain temple.
Kasa and Sanuye had decided between themselves the night before which of the two they wished to pursue, leaving the other pair of young shamans to head for the one they didn't choose. Now their journey had begun, and they had only their skills and each other to protect them from the jungle's countless dangers.
In the early morning hours of their third day of travel, Kasa and Sanuye came upon a wide river that cut through the jungle, marking the border between the area in which their village was located and the denser portions of the deadly Pfitherian jungle. The water roiled and burbled as it rolled over rocks in the midst of the fast-moving river, but lapped gently at the shore. Nearby was an eddy surrounded by a semicircle of solid rock, a small pool that was shielded from view by a series of reeds and cat-tails, a nice place to take a bath or maybe catch a few fish perhaps. The pair could see a bridge some ways downstream, a wooden band decorated with colorful lanterns hanging from the guard rails that spanned the entire river, supported by thick wooden beams thrust into the riverbed. It was the work of another nearby village, a place built of stone atop a high hill named Japasar. Traders came to their village across this bridge sometimes, some from so far away that the language they spoke was barely coherent, and there they might get a better idea of what lay ahead of them... If they wanted to stop. Japasar was slightly out of their way, and no one had come from it for more than two months now, so there was no telling what the condition of the place might be. They could skip crossing the bridge entirely, either by finding their own way across the river or by bypassing it to cross somewhere else; there was another bridge known to them further along, near some cliffs, that would be the fastest way to go, but it was seldom used and possibly dangerous. Alternatively, if they followed the river it would take them closer to their goal, though eventually it would begin to cost more time than it would save, and in the meantime it would leave them with limited escape routes and limited cover from anything dangerous that might come out of the jungle to drink from the river.