It wasn't long before they discovered the first of what would be many unpleasant surprises. Over a nearby ridge, Michael led 109 into a fight against an undead gifted. The creature was covered in armadillo-like plating, which was in turn covered in spikes. The monster was missing the lower half of it's jaw - an indication of how it likely died in the first place. After a quick battle, the group quickly disposed of the zombified creature. During the fight, Michael revealed that he too was gifted, shaping the earth and rocks with his bare hand into a weapon.
The group traveled until dusk, when Michael used his abilities to create a large domed structure for them to rest in. As he did so, he explained that at night, a terrifying unholy beast hunts. Apparently, it was this monster that took his arm a couple nights ago. 109 didn't argue the issue and entered the sturdy dome without complaint.
Before going to sleep, Michael struck up a conversation. He asked them about each of their respective abilities and explained his own - that he was an alchemist of sorts. He could shape and even change the compositions of whatever he touched, within certain limitations. When asked about the wooden crate, Michael explained that he was an artist. Before the journey, he used his gifts to create statues, and the box held his unfinished life's work. 109 discovered from Michael that gifted aren't especially common (other than the undead variety, that is), and he had never even heard of the Alon. - both a good thing and a bad thing for our heroes.
He also explained that the elixir he sought was rumored to be housed within an ancient castle on a deserted island. He had been on the road for several weeks before the mysterious creature attacked him, severely wounding his arm. He was only able to survive by using his remaining arm to construct a small shelter around himself on the fly before passing out. He had awoken the following morning to find the monster gone, but his arm badly infected. He had had no choice but to amputate it and use his gifts to superheat a nearby rock to cauterize the wound.
After a little bit of getting-to-know each other, the group fell asleep. In the night, Adriana awoke to the faint sound of flapping wings outside the shelter.
The group arrived at a town early the next morning. The town, Aiden, laid at the crossroads of several trading routs, and as such was a very busy and prosperous location. The center of the growing city was dedicated to a bustling and ever-changing marketplace. It is here that Michael stopped and set up a little booth of his own. Throughout the day, he sold small figurines he had obviously crafted, leaving 109 to explore the town of their own accord.
Flynn took Gasha around - or rather, Gasha took Flynn - to see the city. Included on their sightseeing was a puppet show and even a playground where Gasha garnered much respect and admiration from the other children with her superior climbing abilities. Flynn merely garnered strange and frightened looks due to his unusual appearance.
Rad and Hera headed to the town's military grounds where they were holding a shooting contest. In a town surrounded by gifted-zombies, self-defense was extraordinarily important, so they hosted a variety of competitions and training often. Rad easily swept the lower rounds of the contest, meeting his match with a non-gifted gunman, The contest eventually ended in a draw between the two and they celebrated together by heading to the nearest tavern, deciding that they were equal parts rivals and friends.
Adriana found her way to the slums of the city and luckily avoided several dangerous situations, including a shady man trying to sell her drugs before attempting to kidnap her. In self-defense, she killed her would-be-assassin and stole his coat, later modifying it to fit her and even aid in her own stealthiness.
Wade, a bit peeved at Adriana for leaving him on Lud almost immediately, stuck with Michael. When Michael had made enough money selling his figures, he sent Wade to shop for supplies.
When Michael had finally sold all of his wares, he packed up and did some shopping of his own, purchasing a veritable chemistry set, complete with test tubes, beakers, and the like. As night fell, he used the rest of his money to rent a couple rooms in a nearby inn.
Safely indoors, Michael and Rad shared a drink and became fast friends while the rest headed to the built-in bath house. The ones who went to bathe found the venture to be less relaxing than they originally planned, having to practically fight Gasha every step of the way to simply get her in the water.
They eventually all retired to their separate rooms, happy to finally sleep in proper warm beds for the first time in weeks.
Aaaaand I'm back once again.
The Journey (as I've finally began calling it) wasn't nearly the same success that Lud was. As you'll see (or recall, for those of you who were with me every step of the way), I kind of struggled with it, and it took me a while to finally figure out why, but I'll get into that in my final post about it. That isn't to say that I think it was bad - just not executed properly. Or at least, that's how I see it.
After my epic that was Lud, I wanted to have a drastic change of setting and pace. For the Journey, I was only going to have one NPC (save for Gasha and Hera) throughout the arc, as opposed to Lud's half-a-dozen or so. Additionally, the Journey was built to be just that: a journey. I originally planned on having a string of self-contained stories to flesh out the arc, but due to my lack of creativity, that plan sort of fell through pretty quickly.
The other goal of the Journey was to allow the characters to explore one another as individuals and develop their powers and personalities. Again, things didn't go quite as planned, and I blame myself for this. I somehow forgot that without an engaging and enthralling story for the players to take part in, there would be nothing to grab their interest. As such, the arc came across more as a chore than anything else.
The mystery surrounding Michael and the monster hunting him were easily the most interesting part of the arc, and in my opinion, the only thing that kept it together as a whole. I'm not sure if the payout was worth the effort (as of the time of this writing, the arc is already over), you'd have to ask my players to answer that.