Chapter 4 - Mantru

The small village of Mantru was located on the southwestern shore of Broken Lake, near the heart of ruined Thanaclan. From what Rissashtak said, Mantru had been inhabited by about 50 Olman fishermen and farmers, who generally kept to themselves, but hadn't been heard from at all after a few months ago. The village consisted of eight thatched lodges of various sizes, two of which were built on stilted platforms out in the lake. When the party arrived, the village was abandoned, but showed no signs of struggle or destruction.

Shortly after the party entered Mantru, two couatls appeared and addressed them using telepathy. The couatls explained that they had come to Mantru to pay homage to the mortal remains of Umlat, the last priest of Mantru and child of Quetzalcoatl, father of the firmament and the giver of Law. They further explained that while UmIat was recently killed by a demon, his killer left the body untouched. It was teh couatl's duty to keep watch over him "until worthy heroes come to bid Umlat the farewell he deserves."

"What happened here?" Viselys asked.

Their response came telepathically to all, "Everyone in Mantru has disappeared, and only the
priest's corpse was left behind by whatever wiped out everyone else in one night."

"The body of the priest is still here?" Viselys asked. "Can we see him?"

"Umlat's body is taboo, protected by us at the command of the Father of the Sky," they thought to them in response. "Taboo for you, as well, unless you can demonstrate that
you are worthy enough to bid the priest the last farewell. We have been told we shall know these heroes, for they will have the answer to one of the Law Giver's favorite riddles:

I came back from the land of the lodestone's scorn,
I came back with the sun when the sky was new born,
I came back in the shadow as the day met its end,
What one place in four have I never been?

"The north," someone said from within the group. All heads turned to look at Duxsil, who proceed to explain, "The land of lodestone's scorn - a lodestone points north; away from, or scorning, the south. The sun rises in the east when it is 'new born' and sets in shadow in the west at the end of the day. That's three out of four compass directions, and north is the one that's left." All heads then turned back to the couatls for verification.

The couatls nodded then turned, to lead the way for them. As they went, the couatls telepathically shared, "There are two more of us watching over Umlat, as well as a friend of yours…"

Umiat's corpse rested on a bed of fresh flowers. The corpse bears deep claw marks on the neck. Otherwise, the corpse looks to be in pretty good condition, especially for being a few weeks old. Duxsil suspected a gentle repose spell.

A few moments after they reached the priest's body, with the four couatls looking on, a ghostly form materialized. The image was familiar to all but Bethesda and Roark; the feline form of Ken-Ji.

"It's good to see you again, my friends," he said in and otherworldly voice, "It seems that as I met my end in Golismorga, Umlat was meeting a similar fate here. Seems I had a lot in common with Umlat. Both of us lost our villages, all our friends and families, to the skinwalkers - the SAME skinwalkers. Like me, he was sworn to put an end to them. Without getting into all the cosmic stuff, most of which I'm not sure I understand, I was given this opportuinity to impart upon you, my friends, the information that might help you stop the skinwalkers so that my spirit, and Umlat's, and those of everyone from both our villages, can rest in peace.

"In death, Umlat finally understood that the whole village of Mantru, including himself, had been under the subtle influence of the koprus of Taboo Island, who kept the inhabitants of Mantru in an unaware state of servitude. Every once in a while, the koprus picked up Mantru's best warriors with their domination ability and used them as guards of the western
entrance to Taboo Temple.

"The village was attacked by a band of fiendish savages who wore demonic lion skins. Umlat recognized several of the savages as former young warriors of Mantru who rebelled against
the elders and escaped to Taboo Island under the influence of the koprus.

"The leader of the attackers was a horrible watery demon with bulbous yellow-orange eyes. The demon observed the attack from the lake and killed Fano, the chief of Mantru, with a lethal rune."

"A wastrilith," Urol said, identifying the description of the demon.

Simultaneously, Duxsil said, "A symbol of death," identifying the spell.

Ken-ji continued, "Umlat was killed by a powerful demon-ghoul, which paralyzed him and broke his neck. It was a huge aberration that looks like a giant reptilian baboon."

"Looked," Viselys corrected, "I took that one out."

The image of Ken-ji nodded, apparently in approval. "I'm sorry I cannot join you - that I cannot be there to finally witness the end of the skinwalkers. I know you will be victorious, though, my friends. I have told you all that I can. Please know that while I can help you no further, I will be watching. Goodbye, my friends…"

With that, Ken'ji's image dissolved away. The couatls bore up the body of Umlat and thanked the party. Then they, too, along with the body of the priest, faded away to Quetzalcoatl's realm.

Continue to Chapter 5...

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