Iconic Encounter: Jungle Trouble

Friday, October 6, 2023

"And then he walked face-first into a swarm of mosquitos, just like that!” Lini chuckled. “I remember the first time I did that, so many years ago! It nearly scared the life out of me. He’s fine, though; just rattled from the experience.”

The orange-haired dwarf grunted acknowledgement, pausing in his forward motion long enough to ask, “This was while I was scouting?”


“Right,” the lively gnome confirmed. “That’s why Valeros and Ezren stayed back at camp. Val wanted to sleep off the mosquitos…”

“…and Ezren wanted to avoid getting his shoes wet again,” her friend grumbled.

“You’re not wrong.” Lini grinned, hopping over an old, grounded vine. “But I can’t really blame him for wanting to stay behind, Harsk. He’s been seeing enemies everywhere. Every plant’s a flesh-eater and each low-hanging vine’s a snake to the poor guy.”

“He’s not like us,” Harsk summarized.

Straight to the point as usual, the little druid mused, but no less correct for it. The three of them—her beloved companion Droogami, the ranger Harsk, and she—had already fallen into a comfortable pattern. Each of them knew the best places to set one’s feet to keep their steps as unobtrusive as possible, and they had a general knowledge of what to watch out for in this environment. Each was more comfortable here, in the middle of the thick-grown jungle, than in the chaos of “civilized” settlements. Likewise, they each trusted the other to be competent in their own skills.

“Right. And it’s never good to be alone, so I didn’t really mind them hanging back at camp while we went ahead,” Lini finished. She saw the momentary flicker of a grin cross Harsk’s face and knew he’d been thinking much the same thing about their traveling companions.

Exploring the jungle had been a lot easier since letting Ezren and Valeros stay back, she had to admit.

A short, sharp hiss of sound from the dwarf interrupted the conversation. Lini crouched instinctively and then rolled her eyes at herself; she was the one holding the torch. Most obvious target, anyone?

Fortunately, the ranger’s quick warning was not immediately followed by an attack. It was just a signal for her to be cautious. Moving forward quietly, keeping low, the green-haired druid soon discovered what Harsk had seen: through the darkness ahead, a stone monolith reached up through the shadows, impeding their chosen path.

Lini’s curiosity tingled through her, the thrill of discovery barely held at bay until she received an all-clear signal from Harsk and saw Droogami return from circling in the opposite direction. She practically bounced as she approached, hopping atop a nearby root, a thick but sturdy remnant from a long-fallen tree. At this greater height, she raised her small hand and gently cleared away a curtain of overgrown moss, then rested it along the edge of the strange, sculpted rock.

“Another one in the distance,” Harsk said, pointing out a similar shape at the edge of their vision. “Wonder how far these go.”

“Droo, look at this,” she breathed, running her fingers along the rock. “How old do you think this thing is?”

As ever, the snow leopard refused to lend her appraisal to the situation. Lini chuckled. “I bet Ezren’s kicking himself now. He’d have wanted to see this.” Though, she had to admit to herself, he’d have certainly seen that vine over there as another snake, that plush leaf as a squirmy caterpillar, that hanging bit of moss as a bat…

“We’ll bring them tomorrow. More light then,” Harsk said.

Nodding, Lini’s hand brushed over a dip in the stone’s surface. Following a hunch, the gnome cleared away more of the moss. “Hang on a tic...! Hey, Harsk, there’s some sculpted stuff on the monolith! Kinda looks all swirly and serpentine. Come and look!”

“One moment,” answered the ranger. His own exploration had turned up something odd: dark, splotchy stains on an otherwise-green leaf. Blood...? He looked up, trying to locate the source of any drip, but found nothing of interest above. His stomach tensed, as it often did when he realized there was likely danger nearby.


Lini the druid and Harsk the ranger explore an ancient menhir in a dark overgrown jungle

You never know what you’ll find in the heart of the jungle. Illustration by WIll O'Brien from Pathfinder GM Core.


Meanwhile, Lini’s eyes shifted, focusing just beyond the edges of the monolith, past the normal spectrum of light, into the space that allowed her to detect the presence of magic. What she found drew a thoughtful sound from her. “Huh. There’s a faint magical aura on it, too...”

Harsk’s warning whistle came just in time. Lini dropped down and saw the emerald green blur of a reptilian tail jam into the stone right where her head had been. Instinctually, she pulled magic around her, drawing from the earth and tightening her skin to mimic the stony strength of the monolith. If not for Harsk’s well-timed warning, she’d have been mincemeat! The creature righted itself along the side of the stone and reared up over the top, its bright, leathery wings catching the torchlight.

“Drake!” the ranger called. As if in answer, a second serpentine hunter launched itself from the trees, angling towards him. That was a mistake; lightning quick, Harsk brought his axes to hand and left a long wound along the creature’s side as it flew by, hearing a satisfying shriek in reaction.

Meanwhile, Droogami launched herself towards the perched dragon threatening Lini, deftly avoiding the swing of the creature’s stinger and swiping at it with her mighty claws.

Despite the danger she was in, Lini had to admit that jungle drakes were simply gorgeous creatures. Sure, they were larger than she was by a notable amount, and sure, their stingers hurt like nobody’s business and had enough goopy venom in them to sicken even the hardiest body. But they were just trying to eat, after all, and a dwarf, a gnome, and a big cat sure seemed like an easy meal. Lini could totally understand how tempting a target she must make. Still, how majestic they looked when they—Oops, it’s diving again!

Rolling clear of claws and dodging the drake’s stinger, Lini gathered her magic and aimed it at Droogami. Focusing nature’s might, she used herself as a conduit, feeding power into the great snow leopard. The little druid felt her bond with the cat strengthen, their shared energy invigorating her friend. “Droo!” she called. “Like we practiced!”

Her stalwart companion and protector stood between Lini and the hungry drake. Fixing the creature with its most menacing gaze, Droogami let loose a long, primal growl, a burst of sound that shredded the air before her. You are not hunter, the magically enhanced noise insisted as it tore into the drake. You are prey.

Even Harsk had to glance over his shoulder at the great cat; he’d never heard Droo do that before. He was glad he wasn’t the target of her aimed, pain-inducing yowl.

The drake, however, wasn’t so fortunate: it reeled, knocked off balance and startled by the painful sound. Its eyes widened with fear, and for a moment, it seemed to reconsider its options. Jungle drakes typically didn’t prefer to stay and face down their prey, instead opting to fly by, letting their venom do the work for them. This one’s meal had just become more trouble than it was worth.

Noting the creature’s hesitation, Lini pressed the attack, pulling her sling and sending sharpened, stinging rocks hurtling towards it. “Harsk, watch for the stingers and the spit,” she called.

“D’ya think?” countered Harsk, diving out of the way of a flailing stinger. He rolled closer to the great creature, angling his axes with the movement, and was rewarded with a horrible screech—and a spray of hot blood as he severed the drake’s stinger from its tail. Using his momentum, he leapt from the ground, slicing his weapons upward and catching the creature’s wing. It was all but done for, and the ranger wasted no time finishing the job.

That left the one facing Lini and Droogami. By now, the gnome had moved into a flanking position, sending stinging stones at its back while Droo slashed and clawed at the creature’s front. It was going to lose.

This was too much for the creature. In perhaps the smartest choice of its entire life, the drake decided that the small, helpless meal was neither as small nor as helpless as originally thought. It displayed its wings broadly to buy itself some space and, hissing, leapt into the canopy above, beating a hasty retreat.

The victory didn’t make the druid or her friends feel much better. Taking only a moment to catch his breath, Harsk asked tersely, “You hurt?”

“No,” breathed Lini, turning her attention to Droogami. A few moments reassured her that her friend was in healthy condition. “We’re both good. You?”

Harsk nodded, voicing the thought in the same moment Lini had it: “Strange that it chose to retreat so suddenly. I don’t like it.”

“I mean, we were more than it bargained for,” Lini said. “But I don’t like it either. They love to fly-by and poison, but it’s very rare for those things to only fly in twos.”

“Then there might be more,” Harsk said. “It might be getting friends. Let’s get back to camp.”

“And quickly,” agreed Lini. “Ez and Val may be in danger!”

Wasting no more time, Harsk bounded away. Lini hopped onto Droogami’s back and the giant cat was quick to follow. Tomorrow, they could return, clean the carcass, and continue exploring the ruins. Tonight, Ezren and Valeros might need help, and neither Lini nor Harsk intended to let their teammates down.

About the Author

Rachael Cruz is an award-winning writer / game designer whose TTRPG work can be found in Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed-Of, Dune: Adventures in the Imperium, Fantasy Age, RuneQuest, Star Trek Adventures, and more! She loves to help people of all ages play pretend and tell amazing stories together. For contact info, social addresses, and general writerly stuff, visit rachaelcruz.carrd.co.

About Iconic Encounters

Iconic Encounters is a series of web-based flash fiction set in the worlds of Pathfinder and Starfinder. Each short story provides a glimpse into the life and personality of one of the games’ iconic characters, showing the myriad stories of adventure and excitement players can tell with the Pathfinder and Starfinder roleplaying games.
More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Iconic Encounters Iconics Pathfinder Pathfinder Remaster Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Web Fiction

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Everything about this is fantastic. Great job, Rachael and Will!


2 people marked this as a favorite.

This was great! I look forward to more of them.

Grand Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

HUZZAH! More fiction! Love this!

Grand Archive

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Really enjoyed this story; and it’s great how game mechanics are interwoven as well


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Ooh, liked that a lot actually. The dialogue and descriptions are both pretty great. :>


3 people marked this as a favorite.

"Val wanted to sleep off the mosquitos" is such an excellent line, haha. Its gonna stick in my head for a long while. A simple and casual statement that punches up the impact of "walked face-first into a swarm" in a veeeery fun way. Poor Valeros.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Harsk and Lini (and Droogami!) are my favorites! Loved this little adventure :)

Dark Archive

Very nice story and great to see Lini in her 1e design


Kevin Mack wrote:
Very nice story and great to see Lini in her 1e design

What makes this a 1e design?

Wayfinders

Fun!

Dark Archive

Ballistic101 wrote:
Kevin Mack wrote:
Very nice story and great to see Lini in her 1e design
What makes this a 1e design?

She has the leg armour instead of just the shoes

Liberty's Edge

Kevin Mack wrote:
Ballistic101 wrote:
Kevin Mack wrote:
Very nice story and great to see Lini in her 1e design
What makes this a 1e design?
She has the leg armour instead of just the shoes

Actually, it is her PF2 Remastered design.

Dark Archive

The Raven Black wrote:
Kevin Mack wrote:
Ballistic101 wrote:
Kevin Mack wrote:
Very nice story and great to see Lini in her 1e design
What makes this a 1e design?
She has the leg armour instead of just the shoes
Actually, it is her PF2 Remastered design.

Pretty sure Ive seen this used somewhere else before (Have they said they were redoing the design for the remaster Iconics?)

Liberty's Edge

Kevin Mack wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:
Kevin Mack wrote:
Ballistic101 wrote:
Kevin Mack wrote:
Very nice story and great to see Lini in her 1e design
What makes this a 1e design?
She has the leg armour instead of just the shoes
Actually, it is her PF2 Remastered design.
Pretty sure Ive seen this used somewhere else before (Have they said they were redoing the design for the remaster Iconics?)

I meant it could be the new old style : Remastered going back to PF1.

Or maybe just different artists doing different styles for the same character.

Liberty's Edge

Checking various images of Lini, I think her footwear has always been like this. It's likely just that some renditions do look a bit like boots/shoes more than armor.

Paizo Employee Director of Brand Strategy

2 people marked this as a favorite.

This illustration is in GM Core but originally appeared in an older book. I believe it was first published in the second edition Gamemastery Guide but I could be wrong.

Scarab Sages

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Dig this web fiction! Wilderness buddies ftw

The Exchange

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber

Greatly enjoyed this story.. fun depiction of exploration and combat. Keep them coming!


nonbinarysunset wrote:
"[b]Val wanted to sleep off the mosquitos[b]" is such an excellent line, haha. Its gonna stick in my head for a long while. A simple and casual statement that punches up the impact of "walked face-first into a swarm" in a veeeery fun way. Poor Valeros.

That doesn't seem to work . . . .

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