Xymor

Living Cucumbers

Excerpt from ‘Death Plants: Bizarre Vegetation of the HoX Era,’ Chapter 5: Vegepygmies,’ by Archmage Malenna Dawn, Headmaster of Botany and Alchemy of Ravencraft School of Sorcery and the Dark Arts.

…Vegepygmies aren’t inherently evil, like Gnolls or Drow, but neither are they benevolent in their core communal philosophies. Many might consider them no better than animals, but they are intelligent, with their own unique language and tribal culture. They may even have a religious tradition, though no scholar has yet determined what deity, if any, they worship….

…While Vegepygmies are plants in the technical sense, they are not to be underestimated. Like an erupting volcano or a tremulous tornado, Vegepygmies, in large numbers, are extraordinarily dangerous….

Nolofinwe summoned eight giant lizards that surrounded the giant scorpion and beetle. With the reinforcement, the heroes easily slaughtered the ooze-seeping beasts.

A loud cry echoed in the cavern. The heroes recognized that it must have come from the vegetation-covered humanoid they saw earlier and readied themselves for continued battle. But Craven cast a language spell and understood the strange tongue: “They killed the beasts!”

Craven took a gamble.

“Friends!” Craven shouted, in the language of the vegepygmies. “We come in peace. We do not come to fight. We only want to pass through.”

Silence. The heroes formed a circle, their backs to each other. Flint gave the cleric a sideways glance.

“You speak our language,” Craven heard. The heroes only heard the strange tongue. The lone vegepygmy stepped out of the darkness and into Craven’s light. The heroes’ tensed, ready to charge, but Craven held his hand up to stop them.

“Yes,” Craven responded. “My goddess has allowed me to understand you.”

“You kill the beasts.”

Craven hesitated. He didn’t know what the vegetable humanoid meant by that or how to respond.

“What’re they saying,” Nolo asked. Craven ignored him.

“Um, yes,” Craven stumbled for words. “We killed the monsters. But….”

“Kill beasts, good,” the vegepygmy interrupted. “We thank you.

“Oh, well, you’re welcome,” Craven replied, sighing in relief. “It was our honor.”

“We let you through and then you go.” The vegepygmy turned around and howled more of its bizarre language into the darkness.

“What’s going on?” Nolo asked Craven again.

The cleric smiled ear to ear. “See, Muerath is with us. They’re peaceful. They’re going to escort us through their territory.”

“We could’ve taken ‘em,” Flint said.

“And made ourselves some vegetable soup,” Nolo chuckled.

The heroes decided to mount Nolo’s newly summoned giant lizards and followed the vegepygmy. The little vegetable humanoid led them through the caverns, pointing out various vegetation for the heroes to avoid and not touch.

“See,” Craven said. “They’re so nice they even warn us about the dangerous plants around.”

“Yeah, they’re really friendly,” Flint gruffed. The dwarf noticed the lines of armed vegepygmies hiding in the shadows, following and watching them as they traveled pass.

Arien immediately recognized some of the deadly vegetation the vegepygmy pointed out – russet mold. She vividly remembered its poisonous effects. During one of Roman’s victorious gladiatorial fights, she witnessed a losing opponent’s punishment. The half-living, beaten gladiator was hogtied in chains and placed in a cage in a ten-foot deep hole. A duergar stepped to the edge of the hole. He was dressed in strange protective clothing and carrying a small wooden box. The duergar carefully opened the box and with a thick black gloved hand pulled out a tiny chunk of reddish-colored mold. He threw the mold down at the cage and it exploded in spores all over the chained gladiator. The poor captive screamed as mold quickly sprouted and spread along his flesh. She remembered his words of agony: “It’s eating me!” Fortunately, he didn’t live long, but it must have been the most agonizing last minutes of his life.

Craven noticed a dead body, decomposing in a bed of russet mold. It was the body of a Derro. He dismounted and prayed to his goddess. This forced the others to stop and watch.

“Craven’s a strange one,” Flint said to Nolo. The druid nodded.

The corpse began to twitch and jerk and then slowly moved to rise and stand. Russet mold grew on the rotting flesh.

“Very strange,” Flint repeated.

The vegepygmies emerged from the shadows and surrounded the heroes. Their weapons were drawn. They started howling and whistling.

“What did you do?” Nolo spat at Craven.

“He pissed them off, that’s what” Flint growled. He unbuckled his warhammer. Arien slowly gestured with her fingers, ready to release the magical energies she was conjuring.

The largest of the vegepygmies stepped forward, spear in hand.

Craven held up his hands over his head. “If we have offended you, then we apologize. We meant no harm.”

“You took progeny,” the large vegepygmy hissed, pointing to the shambling undead zombie.

“Progeny? What? Oh.”

“Craven! What’s happening? What did you do?” Arien asked.

“Well, it’d seem that I disturbed their reproductive process,” Craven replied.

“Great work!” Flint yelled. “What? You just cock-blocked ‘em?”

“In a way, I think. Hold on. I can fix this.”

Craven held his arms out in a gesture of peace. “My friends,” he said in the vegepygmy language, “Please, forgive us. We meant no harm. My goddess can raise the dead in-service to help protect my ward.” He pointed to Arien.

Then vegepygmy leader raised his spear.

“We did not know your customs. We did not understand. We do now. Again, we never meant to offend. We mean no harm. We are your friends. If you want, we can return the dead back where it came from and let it continue to be your progeny.”

The leader stared at Craven for a long moment and then lowered his spear. “You go,” he said. “Take progeny. You killed beasts and we thank you. Our gratitude is progeny. But you go now. ” The vegepygmies surrounding the heroes stepped back into the shadows and disappeared.

“Thank you,” Craven said, as he quickly mounted his lizard.

“What happened,” Arien asked again.

Craven smiled. “Muerath is always with us. We can continue. They’re friends. I told you I can take care of this.”

“Weirdo,” Flint mumbled.

The heroes left the territory of the vegegpyies and continued their quest to Shukalgau.

The giant lizards had returned to the Fey many hours ago and the heroes were back on their own feet. They turned a corner and entered a small opening with several passageways. As they stopped to consider which way to go, a lone half-elf came running toward them from out of one of the tunnels. He looked beaten, frightened, and in a hurry. He noticed the heroes and approached.

“Please, for the love of god, help me. They’re right behind me. They’re coming,” he rasped in haggard breath.

The heroes turned to each other, in silence and uncertainty. But they didn’t have time to debate. From out of the tunnel whence the half-elf came, the Duergar burst forth to reclaim their prisoner.

The fight was quick, fierce, and intense. The duergar focused their attention on the half-elf, nearly killing him in their concentrated effort. But the heroes of Xymor had arrived and the duergar weren’t prepared.

Arien touched Flint and transferred the magic of speed onto him. She then danced around and flung lighting spells with a twisted smirk of glee. Flint bellowed out laughter, disappearing in a spell of invisibility and smashing unsuspecting duergar with his booming warhammer. Nolo raised his arms and summoned forth the power of Nature. The cavern exploded in plant life – giant mold, mushrooms, and weeds. It hampered the duergar attack. Then eight giant wolf spiders leapt out of the shadowy corners and assaulted the duergar. Craven healed the half-elf and ordered his zombie to attack and distract the duergar while he out flanked them. The half-elf took advantage of the cleric’s healing by stepping into a shadow and disappearing. He re-appeared across the opposite side of the cavern from out of another shadow and pummeled several of the dark dwarves to death.

The fight wasn’t easy, but the heroes seemed to enjoy slaughtering their old slave masters.

The heroes came out victorious and the half-elf introduced himself as Samir. He told them that he only recently arrived in Shukalgau and was trained as a Slave Hunter for the duergar. But when the opportunity had presented itself, Samir escaped – only to be relentlessly pursued. The pursuit was over—for now.

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