It took several hours to reach the bay where the first expedition had landed. The remains of their ship lay on the beach covered in fungal growths. All that was left of the crew were a few fleshless bones and even these were covered with mould, there were no signs of violence though, perhaps they had succumbed to Forest Fester. John counted the skulls, it appeared that the only the watch-keepers from the ship were here, that left five of the party unaccounted for. Sven and his companions spread out looking for possible signs and tracks of the rest of the party. Hysa was the first to find something, Two fragments of blue and yellow tile lay on a track leading from the beach, the yellow nearest the ship, now they could follow the foot-steps of the missing expedition. The main question was should they start now and then have to spend the night in the forest or should they set up camp here. The sun decided for them, already it was close to the horizon. Dank and dark though the forest was in daylight at night it would be even more deadly. At least here they had the wood from the ship to make a fire.
Hrafni with his battle axe and Sven with his tomahawk broke off some of the ships timbers, sharpened them at both ends and made a defensive perimeter, it would not stop anyone or anything but would slow them down and give warning John and Gyliam used the wood shavings and timbers too short for stakes to start a fire in the centre of the fenced area while Hysa kept watch from the prow of the ruined ship. Soon it was dark and the party drew lots for the night watches, at least they had some hot coffee to go with their well sealed rations. Sven drew the midnight to 4am watch and laying down his Fibrite blanket on the sand drifted off to sleep, sword in hand. He woke with a start at Hrafni shook him. “There is something moving out there.” he whispered. Quietly Sven roused the others and they stood in a circle surrounding the fire all looking outwards into the dark.
With a loud crash and a bellow something large and black demolished part of the makeshift fence. Sven loosed a quarrel from his crossbow and it found its mark. The enraged creature charged at him. Hysa and Hrafni came to his aid and the combined blows of Hysa's scimitar, Hrafni's battle axe and Sven's sword brought the creature down. John lit a flare from the fire and they surveyed the monster before them. “It is a Fearsome Favilav”, Hysa said in awe. “I have seen pictures of them, they prey on fog leeches and anything else they can find wandering in the forest. Luckily for us this is a young one, not fully grown I hope its parent is not near by.”. It took all their strength to drag the still warm body away from the fire and beyond the fence. After some hasty repairs to some of the stakes Sven took his watch while the others slept. Gyliam relieved him before dawn and he managed a couple more hours sleep before the smell of brewing coffee woke him.
Fed and refreshed the party broke camp, leaving behind a well sealed bottle containing an outline of their movements so far and their plans standing in the ashes of the fire. Should any of the missing return here at least they would know that they were being looked for and where the 'Skíðblaðnir' was moored. As they travelled John added his marbles to the tile fragments. There was of course the risk that any Fungus Hunters that came across the markers could follow them as well, but they would have to know which colour to follow.
John was the first to spot the fungus covered remains of a metal rucksack frame on the ground, Hysa then found another. Some of the contents were rotted but they were from the university party. What had made them abandon their equipment? Were they being chased? The bag of blue and yellow track markers lay discarded on the ground too. Now they were hunting blind. Should they split up at the fork in the track ahead? Perhaps that was best. Hrafni, John and Gyliam took the left track while Hysa and Sven took the right. John handed Sven a spare bag of markers, these were orange and white, placing the white in the direction of travel Sven moved on.
The path twisted and turned through the forest. No sign of the missing party. Ahead the path widened out into the remains of a paved town square with a stone tower in the centre. That might give a good vantage point. Sven started to move ahead when Hysa grabbed him by the arm and pulled him back. “Favilav,” Hysa whispered, “circling round the tower” From the cover of the forest they watched the huge black animal, it paused every now and them bellowing up at the tower. Then Sven spotted a face at one of the ruined windows, they had found the missing expedition. Sven and Hysa moved back down the track to discuss what to do next. They would need all members of the party to kill the Favilav, it was twice the size of the young one that had tried to attack them at the camp. Hysa volunteered to go back and get the rest of the group while Sven kept watch here.
As he waited Sven wrote a note and secured it to one of his iron crossbow quarrels. He spotted the face again at the window and took aim. Best not to hit the person, aim high. The Favilav turned at the slight noise of the crossbow but turned again as the iron projectile struck the wall inside the tower. A few moments later a hand waved at the window. His message had been received and now they had a better chance to take the Favilav by surprise.
It was clear that the Favilav was hungry, it had prey it could smell and hear but not eat. It was in a bad mood, however Sven doubted that Favilavs were ever in a good mood. He would bet that the explorers in the tower were hungry too, they should have been back home for two weeks, so must have been stuck here for at least three, they could not depend on them helping to fight the Favilav but they could provide a distraction.
Hysa returned after an hour or so with the rest of the party and they retreated back down the track to discuss tactics. Sven's proposed plan was simple, at his signal the explorers in the tower would throw whatever they could find at the Favilav while their would be rescuers would cross the square and attack the creature from three sides. Sven would attempt to get at least one head shot with his crossbow while the others harried the monster. After that it was down to repeated blows from whatever weapons they had.
Like most plans this one did not survive first contact with the enemy. Perhaps a shift of wind carried their scent toward the creature but after being distracted for a moment by the hail of rocks from the tower the Favilav turned and faced its attackers. That at least did give Sven a chance to hit it several times with bolts from his crossbow. However the Favilav had horny armour around its head and the shots bounced off. That was until it opened its mouth, Sven's quarrel entered the fearsome maw and struck the animal a mortal blow. However it was a long time dying and Gyliam was badly wounded as its spiked tail trashed around. Eventually the creature lay still and the rescuers were joined by the explorers from the tower They were weak, tired and hungry but anxious to move away as soon as the doctor in their party had seen to Gyliam's wound. Hrafni hauled the wounded mycologist across his shoulders and with Sven and Hysa in the lead they retraced their steps to the beach.
As they sat around the camp fire the original expedition told their story. They had returned to the beach intending to depart when a Fungus Hunter ship arrived at the bay. Using a catapult the hunters had fired a giant puffball at the expeditions vessel which exploded in a cloud of spores when it hit the ship. The crew had raised anchor and made for the shore however they had been overcome by the spores and died before the ship had landed. The rest of the party had retreated into the forest meaning to make for the statue where the 'Skíðblaðnir' was moored which was the emergency extraction point. Soon after leaving the beach they had been chased by the Favilav and only just made it to the tower. They had been living on emergency rations since then.
The trek back to the the 'Skíðblaðnir' took most of the next day, it seemed that the larger the party the more fog leeches they attracted. With Gyliam injured that left Sven and Hrafni in the lead and John and Hysa bringing up the rear. Sven was worried by Gyliam's wound, they had cleaned it as best they could but in this place even slight wounds became infected quickly At every stop they applied more anti-fungal salve and hoped. Sven lost track of how many fog leeches they returned to the forest.
Sven never would have believed he would be glad to exchange solid ground for the uneasy motion of the airship but he was glad to see the last of the Fungal Forests of Fomalhaut. The forest however was still with them and they had to remove Gyliam's leg and toss it overboard. Few could stomach to watch as Hrafni wielded his battle axe to perform what must have been the fastest amputation in history. Even Gyliam missed the moment and through a rum induced haze said “Ready” after the event.