Episode 4.1 – West to Rachar, City of the Obelisk
On the far side of the Purple Valley the Wayfarers found a village that was apparently “frozen in time”, with three people trapped inside. They were then captured by Brutals; masked humanoids who came from out of a giant flying stone head that announced itself as ZARDOZ …
The Wayfarers were escorted inside the huge mouth of the head and deep inside to a chamber dominated by a facsimile of the face of the head. The Brutals bowed down as from out of the shadows stepped a woman. She was middle-aged, dark-haired with milky-white eyes. She wore a long robe and had a regal air.
‘Please, sit;’ she said in a soft voice. When they made no move, she smiled gently. ‘Perhaps you would prefer it in the booming voice of Zardoz commands you to sit?’
‘Who are you and why have you kidnapped us?’
‘It was … necessary. The last group I approached fled into the village of Obluten, despite my warnings, and now they are trapped.’ Suddenly she threw her hands wide. ‘Rachar is prophesised to fall. It must not happen. Several years ago, an egg was removed from the temple in the city and returned to its rightful place on the reef. The egg has been returned to the temple recently. The Skarasen will follow it.’
‘If Rachar falls then it will open up the way for the return of the Queen. The egg must be returned to the reef before the Skarasen wakes. My Brutals cannot do it; they are too … distinctive. I can take you part-way, then you must steal the egg and return it to its rightful place. The prophecy must not be allowed to come true.’
‘Are you the Mad Queen?’ asked Edgar, subtle as ever.
The woman shook her head. ‘No, my name is Timas Sarromere. Whenith Sarromere is … was my sister-in-law. She married my brother Herris; who was King of Iscobal until he died from a nightmare in 344 AF.*
When the moon next burns, the five-tongued snake will rise from the Firth and Rachar’s Obelisk will fall
‘I read this in the library at Thaeling Lake’ said Fluke.
24th Vaen, 405 AF
Zardoz landed them on a road in the midst of green rolling hills.
‘You are around three days travel from Rachar.’
The head soundlessly ascended into the sky and accelerated away; soon it vanished into the distance.
El Greco’s tracking skills and sense of direction determined that they had to head west; from the crest of a hill, far in the distance they could see the ocean.
The road led through a rocky valley, suddenly a chorus of screams erupted from both sides –
‘All who know the secret must die!’
A group of people dressed in yellow and grey outfits burst out of cover and attacked; they all had a tattoo on their right shoulder blade and carried daggers with wavy blades.
“What secret? We don’t know any secret’, replied El Greco.
Edgar charged forward, swinging his axe in a massive overhead chop. The cultist never stood a chance; they were split in two with one blow! ** El Greco fought off two of them; Fluke pulled out the dagger she had taken off the Murden. The cultists obviously recognised it and the symbol on it.
‘You are a traitor,’ one hissed, ‘and shall now doubly die.’
Despite this, the Wayfarers made short work of the cultists. All of them had the tattoo on the right shoulder blade, the same symbol was on their daggers and on the dagger that Fluke carried.
Edgar became convinced that Fluke was a cultist and was still unconvinced even when she proved that she didn’t have a tattoo. ***
‘What secret were they talking about? Did they mean about the Skarasen attacking Rachar?’
That evening, El Greco found Edgar sitting and looking at the moon, which was just past full.
‘It’s so shiny.’
At around mid-morning, Rachar came into view. The first thing they saw was the flying obelisk; then the glowing walls and towers of the city came into view. The walls were made of a metallic stone with a random tracery of wires embedded inside, the tops of the towers phased in colours from green to red to blue. The south-east gate was two metal towers; a blue field of force flickered between them. Two wardens, clad in blue stood there.
‘Iadace travellers; welcome to Rachar. Have you travelled far?’
‘I am from Ecaps,’ announced Edgar ‘and these are my friends. We wish to eat a gallen steak sandwich.’ ****
‘Ah, Ecaps,’ nodded the guard. ‘A fair land I believe, out in the Beyond. The tavern by the gate serves good food and ale.’ He deactivated the field of force via a wrist controller and they entered the city.
‘The ordinary buildings were a mix of stone, wattle and wood; built in and around the crystalline walls and towers. At intervals on the streets were vague humanoid-sized shaped of light in various colours; these moved occasionally but appeared to do nothing else. They noticed that the townsfolk stepped around them. The tavern was called “The Geometric Shape”; the barkeep was a Varjellen with no eyes. It licked the air in front of them.
‘Three travellers who have come a fair distance will want refreshment.’
‘Three gallen steak sandwiches and plenty of beer.’
The beer was named ‘The Rite Angul’ and was good, better than in Leydan or Thaeling Lake. Looking round, they saw many patrons, mostly human but there were some Lattimor present. ***** They couldn’t see anyone immediately obvious to talk to, so they decided to scout out the temple. This stood near to the centre of the city, not quite under the floating obelisk, a structure of grey and yellow stone made up of several co-joined trapezoid pyramids. There was only one door; they entered into a blue-lit hallway. An acolyte, wearing yellow, grey and purple robes greeted them to the Temple of Bar-o-Tua, Sister of Fate.
A dialogue with the acolyte revealed that –
a) He knew nothing about an egg of any kind, nor did he know of a secret place where an egg could be hidden.
b) They did not give guided tours of the temple, but they were welcome to attend the next service, in two days’ time.
c) Bar-o-Tua is the Sister of Fate, “What shall be, will be, as it must be”
They did note that there were several doors leading off the hallway. ******
They left the temple and returned to the “Shape.” They discussed plans about creating a distraction whilst El Greco snuck in and found the egg. They then decided it might be an idea to find out where the reef is that they have to take it to and perhaps secure a ship.
Down in the docks area, the air stank of smoke and tar. There were several ships moored and from various taverns came the sound of sea shanties. The picked one and entered immediately Edgar spotted a grizzled old sea dog.
‘The reef, you say? Aye, I remembers it; ran aground I did there back on the dark of the moon. We was waiting for daylight to re-float when the Heeldran came pouring over the gunwales. Half my crew were lost to their poisoned barbs; forced to drown themselves. Only me and three other lads made it back. T’was worse that than seeing the Skarasen.
‘The Skarasen? You’ve seen the Skarasen?’
Aye, I remembers it well. I were just a sea lad the first time; it came boiling out of the sea on the wings of a storm, but Granith stood there atop the citadel with that mace. Hours they fought for, with the seas lashing the harbour; but Granith prevailed and the beast retreated.’
‘Mighty thirsty work this.’
‘The second time, we was warned, but took no heed. The storm clouds had been gathering; at dusk a bolt from the blue struck the citadel and the beast was there. Granith faced it again but it was stronger; somehow he drove it off but was bad broken.’
‘Thank you. One last thing – can you remember what day the Skarasen attacked?’
‘Both times it were the Night of the Burning Moon’
‘Can you take us to the reef?’ The sailor shook his head. ‘My seafaring days are done; Captain Coppertree has my boat now. She’s due here in from the Cays; come back in two days.’
To be continued …
The start of a new Season as they have left the Purple Valley. This should wrap up the Intrigues of the Queen plotline, but we’ll see.
* Again, the Family Tree Generator worked well here.
** Edgar now does a frightening amount of damage with that axe (6 basic +3 chop +2 when charging, although he is at a penalty to hit with the chop.)
*** This started with a heated discussion, followed by Edgar rugby-tackling Fluke and an unseemly brawl. I left them to it and went and made a drink.
**** Ecaps = Space. I’m not sure why Edgar has suddenly decided he is from space (this started back in Leydan.)
***** Lattimor are 7’ tall six-eyed humanoid/ alien symbiotes. Can be awkward to deal with due to their shifting personalities.
****** OMG! Talk about subtle!
‘Ok, you want to steal the Koh-in-Noor diamond from the Tower of London. You walk up to the first Beefeater you see, tell him this and ask him if he can show you where it is. Do you not think that he may be a little suspicious?’
This is starting to tie in with what the HOG are doing on the Monday sessions (The Intrigues of the Queen.)
The various factions are being handled by the brilliant Faction rules in Kevin Crawford’s Stars Without Number and are throwing up some surprising results.
Update: The Factions may be revised using Worlds Without Number, which I’ve just downloaded.