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After hunting the proud White Lions, the search for a Screaming Antelope was a new challenge for the survivors and they advanced more cautiously, knowing that new challenges and threats potentially awaited them. Caleb lead the survivors on towards an area where he had previously seen many acanthus plants growing, stating that it was as good a place as any to begin their hunt. When they arrived though they found that the plants had been uprooted and half eaten, certain evidence that a screaming antelope had passed this way recently. It wasn't long until they were able to pick up the trail of their quarry and they rushed excitedly after it. They ran and ran until tiredness took them and they had to pause to rest. Lorena suggested that their hunt may have been too eager and may have caused the skittish antelope to flee from them. Thalia was less sure about this, but either way it was clear that the trail had gone cold.
The hunting party continued on, coming to a portucullis standing alone on the plain of faces. It seemed to serve no obvious purpose and the group moved carefully around it lest it hide some unseen peril. In time they regained the scent of their prey and were lead down a strange path littered with the bones of dead monsters. The survivors hurriedly collect what they can. As he reaches down to harvest the bones Caleb pauses as his glance discovers something odd on the ground. One of the stone faces appears in the likeness of his own, but older and wiser. It is then that a scream pierces the darkness, the survivors rush towards it and in a clearing find their quarry, the Screaming Antelope, warily grazing amongst a clump of acanthus.
As the survivors try to surround the monster, Caleb stumbles and alerts the beast. In an explosion of movement it dashes straight at him, kicks him in the chest and then bolts away from him towards Lorena. Thalia and Icarus, both armed with Cat Gut Bows unleash a volley of clawed arrows which come to rest in the screaming terror's ear and knee, rendering it maimed and slower for the rest of the fight. Lorena attempts to gut their prey with her Katar but as she strikes the Antelope spasms ferociously and its black hooves strike her hard in the chest.
Frightened, the monster bucks wildly, forcing the survivors to keep their distance with the exception of Caleb who closes with it and attempts to bash it with his shield. It all goes awry though and the Screaming Antelope onto him and devours him with its grotesque undermaw. Lorena is horrified by the sight and is frozen for long moments staring into the antelope's restless eyes as it tries to digest her friend. It is the archers who save Caleb, as they let loose another hail of arrows into the beast's flank, causing it to regurgitate Caleb. Panicking, the beast bolts, smashing Caleb over and thrashing its hooves at Thalia's head. The survivors pursue the wounded abomination but as they try to strike it their weapons are ripped from their hands by the multitude of tiny hands which infest the monster's hide!
Eventually though, Thalia manages to bring her Twilight Sword down onto its shank, causing it to sink to the ground in pain. This opens the way for Caleb, furious from her near death experience in the Antelope's Gut, to kill the monster by bashing its head open with repeated strikes of his shield.
The return home seemed as if it would be relatively uneventful, most of the survivors had little to say and Thalia felt stronger as she reflected on how this new hunt had differed from the five other times she had battle for the good of the settlement. Almost within sight of home though, it appeared again! A strange spot hung there upon the ground, its silhouette reminding the survivors eerily of themselves of Caleb's former form. Without hesitation Caleb stepped into it and was transformed back to his former self and with the strange girdle absent. Caleb only smiled at his shocked companions and joked that he would try not to make a habit of doing such things in the future.
Life at the settlement goes on and the survivors work on constructing more leather armour as well as a lucky charm. As they work industriously they hear a cry from the Lantern Hoard and discover that Starbuck has knocked over a lantern. She picks it up cautiously, but then shakes it vigorously causing it to heat up and burn her hands. She lets out a roar of triumphant surprise and declares that with heat they can accomplish many new feats of creation. She then starts a warm fire using the lanterns and the survivors gather around and tell stories.
It is only late into the night that Freya steps forward to admit an old secret to her fellow survivors. She tells them of a forest gate beyond which she once saw a strange knight who tended flowers. As she tells the joke she moved off into the darkness and was followed by the settlement. To their surprise her tale was real and they reached a gleaming green gate and through it a peaceful glade. It was then that Freya fell over dead, a ghostly flower bursting from her lips with her last breath. Gently the survivors carry her corpse back to the settlement and leave her in state prior to burying her. One survivor, Grace, waits until no one is looking and grasps the blossom from her lips.
As the days go by Grace finds that she cannot shake an obsession to return to the glade and she pleads with Caleb and Lorena to take her on the next hunt to track down the glade and its guardian.
This was another year that went relatively well. The hunt for an antelope can be pretty brutal but I was lucky that Devoured Grounds balanced out Skittish. The fight itself was a bit more hectic than I made it sound and I was definitely a bit nervous when Caleb got swallowed up whole and Lorena fluffed her attacks. I also felt the consequences of lazy positioning a few times as the Antelope dashed all over the place and knocked over survivors a few times. Ultimately though everyone managed to get their weapon proficiency so it was a good fight.
I laughed when I drew A Strange Spot again and randomly determined that it would be Caleb who went back into it. I sort of house ruled that he would come back out as he was before (except with the buff from the first time he changed) with the exception that the belt of gender swap would be gone. It was sort of a weird situation but I figured this made more sense than him keeping it.
The settlement phase went smoothly as I managed to pick up the lantern oven and scrap smelting innovations (I'm starting to amass a decent amount of Iron and Scrap) and I continued to work on a set of Leather Armour. Next year I'll depart to hunt the Flower Knight with the aim of picking up a Vespertine Bow.
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed it.