After the shock of awakening from the painful Joining ritual, the party spent a day recovering at the Last Beacon Outpost. The Alchemist explained that the Joining ritual was a means to take into themselves some essence of the beasts of the Forest of Chaos and the caverns below. Taking that essence into themselves, the Rangers gain the benefit of confusing the senses of Gaia’s beasts, which are supernaturally keened toward finding and ending civilized life. The weight of what they had given up weighed heavily upon the initiates, and not all recovered as quickly as they might otherwise. Ennia remained bed-bound, but gave Artesia a silver necklace as a token of her presence and well-wishes for the group. Hieron, still unconscious from the ritual, could offer no encouragement, and Heliodorus was taken by Pelops to another location after his abnormally fast recovery.
Amplesta gave the group four scrolls over their next breakfast, and informed them that as new Rangers, information about possible monster sightings and deeds they could undertake to prove themselves would be provided. After much deliberation about the size of targets and the relative value of taking on multiple assignments at once, the group at Rika’s insistence agreed to head south of Dikethaleos to investigate rumors that a giant or cyclops was stealing livestock. Agreeing that the task was an appropriate one, Pelops introduced the new Rangers to Bubocrates, an intelligent owl who would watch over them as the Ranger-Commander’s eyes and ears in the field. After the initial shock, and equipped with magical Shield Cloaks by Grippus, the party made haste toward Dikethaleos and the rumors of great foes.
What met them on the road north of the Unburned City were not the promised giants, but a group of bandits with skulls and downward pointed skeletal hands painted on their shields. Refusing to pay their toll, the new Rangers made quick work of the half-dozen brigands, offering no mercy to the men. Koboros, Artesia, and Skuthropos then pawned what gear they didn’t care to keep for themselves, and pocketed a tidy sum for the minor effort of ridding the world of common brigands. Artesia then turned her attention toward what rumors the tavern keeper of “The Beaten Horse” could offer. Uninterested in the gossip of the University, he told of a Periandropolene ship that came to extract a single man, reports of small tremors that spooked the horses, and farmers claiming to see some great flying beast over the Dark Forest to the west. A night outside the city to rest and heal after the few arrows they managed to land would be sufficient before promises of glorious battle with some kind of giant spurred the hunters on their way with the dawn.