The Price of Freedom Part I & II
It was the Ides of Sojourn, in the Year of the Wolf. Geoff the Mighty had stayed behind in Kularni to carry out a job he had promised to do for Sergeant Vilir, in return for being released from prison. The job was easy, a caravan was due to arrive from the east within a few days; Geoff was to search the caravan and retrieve a black lacquered box belonging to Vilir.
Geoff did some asking around in Kularni; he learnt that the caravan usually consisted of five to seven wagons and camped outside the caravanserai. It was not allowed in as the caravan master – Algol the Terrible, was reputed to be a dread sorcerer. He was said to deal in slaves and the forbidden flower of the Black Lotus. Usually he stopped overnight to purchase supplies.
That evening the caravan arrived, seven six-wheeled wagons made of black wood, with pointed roofs. Each wagon was drawn by four chained slaves from the Ivory Savannah tribes. The caravan made camp a quarter of a mile away from the town. Normally, townsfolk would flock to sell foodstuffs and trade goods to any passing travellers; Geoff noticed that the traders made no move to approach the black caravan.
The following day, three dark-robed men wearing veils that obscured all but their eyes, strode through the main gate of Kularni and headed towards the shop of Khasis the scribe. Geoff watched them from across the courtyard and moved across to eavesdrop.
“Translate this scroll. 100 Moons will be your reward”
Khasis unrolled the scroll and glanced at it. “Not until the night of the full moon, in three days,” he answered in his quiet voice. “The Ancients hid their secrets well.”
“We will wait”. As one, the men wheeled round and left the shop.
Checking his gear, Geoff decided to go that night. Waiting until dusk had fell, he stole from the city and headed out to the caravan. Crouched in the cover of some scrub furze bushes, he observed his target. There were six wagons arranged in a circle around the seventh. The slaves pulling each wagon were lying on the ground between the yokes, apparently sleeping. Geoff looked for where the guards were posted; he frowned when he didn’t see any.
“Why do the slaves not just wander off then?” he thought.
His eye was caught by a flicker of green light coming from the centre wagon; the light flickered again behind a curtained window and a puff of green smoke escaped from a small chimney set in the roof.
He crept closer and realised that he didn’t really know where to start looking. Standing in the shadow of the nearest wagon, he remarked that it was made of wood, showing a greenish tinge in the moonlight. He sniffed the air, the wood smelt faintly of decay
Without warning, the ground next to him shuddered and churned and a Sand Lizard erupted out of the ground and clamped its jaws onto his leg! He managed to leap back just in time and drew and swung his sword, cleaving through the creatures neck. He sensed movement behind him and threw himself to one side as a second lizard attacked from behind. Geoff swung backhandedly and hewed off one of the creature’s legs, then jumped on its back and plunged his sword deep.
He glimpsed a figure standing in the shadows, the gleam of a blade showing. Geoff leapt forward, raising his sword; at the last minute he recognised Raven!
“By Hordan’s tits,” she hissed. “What are you doing here?”
“Looking for a black box,” Geoff replied. “You?”
“Looking for someone, an old friend”
A deep voice came from the front of the caravan, from the slaves. A large black man, with a shaven head, was regarding them keenly. His teeth were startlingly white against the blackness of his skin, but his eyes had a faint purple sheen to them.
“Old friend, am I, Raven Gallowglass? You have come to collect your gold.”
“I did not betray you at Akoit, N’Dula”, replied Raven.
“Tell that to the six hundred of my braves left to rot on the plain outside that accursed city.” He looked at Geoff. “I am N’Dula, once chief of the Nkosi tribe. Set me free and I will serve you for one year and a Sojourn.”
Geoff looked and saw that N’Dula was shackled to the yokes of the cart by iron shackles. He lifted them experimentally.
“N’Dula,” said Raven. “I swear by the Divine Couple that I did not betray you. The battle was lost before it began. It was sheer madness to start the attack before the main Kyrosian army was with us, but General Tunamos was adamant that we could carry the day. When it was obvious that all was lost, I tried to bargain safe passage for us, but was struck down buy one of our own archers before I could reach the city walls.”
N’Dula grinned. “One of my best shots.” Raven stared at him for a long moment; then a broad smile spread across her face. “You old bastard. Now, let’s get you out of here.”
At that moment, the door to the centre wagon opened and a green glow spilled out. Silhouetted against it was one of the robed men. With a gesture, he cast a glowing green cloud of smoke up into the air, where it hung over the caravan; lighting up the area with a sickly green light.
Geoff turned his attentions to the iron shackles holding N’Dula to the wagon. Try as he might, he was unable to break them using his strength. N’Dula chuckled. “I cannot break them, and I am far stronger than you. You must find the key. Also…”, and he gripped Geoff’s arm, “when you find the black box; bring it with you.”
Raven was looking at N’Dula, for the first time she registered his eyes. “You are taking Khav,” she cried.
N’Dula turned a terrible smile upon her.
“Yes. Oh yes. And it is very liberating.”
To be continued…
Hmm. That didn’t go at all like I was expecting. As Harry (Geoff) is on holiday, I ran him through my solo system to keep him up to date, (which is a complicated mish-mash of Mythic, my own stuff, 9Q’s and Rory’s Story Cubes). The original caravan was a merchant who was indulging in a little Khav dealing on the side. Now it is the haunt of weird sorcery and Khav-addicted slaves who pull the wagons. ATM, I don’t know what the weird green glowing cloud is.
The green globe of cloud expanded into a ring, encompassing the camp. It settled to the ground and began to contract. Geoff grabbed a bronze dagger off Raven and began picking at the shackles holding N’Dula to the yoke of the wagon. The cloud was almost upon them when the last pin popped free and they rolled into the shadow of the wagon. The cloud settled over the slaves; they all fell into a deep slumber. Periodically, from the centre wagon’s chimney came a puff of green smoke that joined the circling ring.
“What’s happening”, whispered Geoff. “I don’t know,” replied Raven, “but that green smoke has us trapped here.”
“I need a club”, grinned N’Dula. “A good stout club for crushing heads.” After some scouting around, he found one; a stout length of wood.
They continued looking for the black box, but found nothing. Investigating the wagons more closely; Geoff found that they had no doors or obvious ways inside. Raven confirmed that the same was with the other wagons. Only the centre wagon appeared to have a door in it,
N’Dula stumbled over a tree root and fell into the green smoke. He started to fall asleep, but Raven grabbed his foot and dragged him out.
“That’s what it is,” exclaimed Raven. “The smoke is to make sure that the slaves sleep; to counter the effect of the Khav.”
“What do you mean, Raven?” said N’Dula, hefting his club. “I am ready to take on the world.” Raven merely pointed at the nearest wagon. “You have been pulling that all day, yet you do not feel tired?”
“For someone of my strength?” laughed N’Dula. “Unthinkable. I could pull something like that all day.”
Suddenly, from the chimney of the central wagon, belched a large green cloud that formed itself into a pale-green serpent shape with a huge maw; undulating through the air. Without warning it launched itself at the group and breathed out a cloud of pale green gas, engulfing all of them. Taken by surprise, they were helpless to act as the worm belched a cloud of green gas over them. Raven desperately fought off waves of fatigue, around her Geoff and N’Dula crumpled to the ground. She ran forward and hacked at the thing with her sword, she struck but it was if her blade passed through a rubbery jelly. Her backstroke missed and the worm surged forward, enveloping her head. She felt a terrible sensation of drowning and desperately threw herself backwards out of the grip of the thing. She dived back, swinging wildly and her sword bit deep into the worm. It recoiled and squirmed before her eyes.
“Hordan’s tits, what is this thing?” thought Raven desperately. “That blow should have killed anything remotely mortal.” She cast a glance at Geoff and N’Dula; they both were asleep. She kicked Geoff in the ribs. “Wake up; this is no time to be sleeping”. Geoff woke up; the worm was still undulating in the air. He rolled to his feet and struck with his great sword, the worm splashed apart and dissipated into the air.
They rested for a time and N’Dula woke up, raring to go. Geoff looked closer at the nearest wagon; it had no door or obvious way in! Only the centre wagon had a door.
“The box is obviously not easy to find. Raven, I suggest you and N’Dula come back to Kularni with me. When my companions return from Caldeia we can come back”
“What about Sergeant Vilir? He will be expecting his delivery. More importantly, we need to get past that green cloud.”
“What cloud?” said Geoff and pointed. The cloud had gone and there were no more puffs of smoke from the wagon chimney.
“Run!” urged Raven.
Sometime later, in Kularni, Geoff, Raven and N’Dula were sitting in the taverna.
“Geoff, you are my brother,” said N’Dula. “I will serve you until the next of the following Sojourn. Where you go, I will be at your side, and my life is yours. Now, where do we get Khav around here?”
Geoff has gained N’Dula as a Sidekick (instead of XP for this adventure). N’Dula is a Right Hand (and yes, he is the major NPC from GREEN WORLD.) Just have to hope the PC’s don’t get him killed.