Episode 11 – To the City of the Clouds

 

11 Homecoming, 2511, at Kularni in the Verdant Belt.

Drogo and Galadiir made their escape from Caldeia and returned along the caravan route to Kularni. They deemed it wise to avoid Caldeia for some time as the Priest-King has posted a 10,000 Moon bounty on their heads. Galadiir was intrigued with the bronze staff that they had found in the Temple of the Slime-God, the runes carved on it were Lhoban, although he couldn’t read them. After a pause at Kularni, they intend to continue to Lhoban and the City of Clouds.

They visited Gallmus and his family on the farm outside Kularni, the farm was doing well and the family were eagerly anticipating the first harvest of maize and vegetables. Drogo and Galadiir went into the town and commissioned a statue of Geoff; Galadiir wanted a stone one but found it would cost around 6000 Moons, he settled for a plaster and lath one for 500 Moons. Whilst in Kularni they kept a look out for Raven and Spark but didn’t see either of them. However, in the tavern they remarked upon a man seated alone, wearing a hooded robe. They sat with him; he was a Valk from Jalizar. He told them a tale of chivalry and honour, resulting in his exile from Jalizar. He called himself Shadow. They provisioned up and made ready for the journey east.

Four days later, travelling along the fringe of the Ivory Savannah, from ahead they saw an explosion of light in the sky, verdant fountains and rainbows of colour fanning out and spiralling upwards. As brilliant orange and yellow starbursts bloomed in the sky, they ran forwards to the edge of a Savannah tribesman village. Many of the tribe were gathered in a semicircle around a small man wearing silver and purple robes.

“And now I, the Great Marvellus, will show you the mysteries of the ocean”

At a gesture, the centre of the village was filled with a wind-blown ocean, foam-flecked waves crashed and broke and in the distance a sea serpent reared its head against a darkening sky. The tribesmen hooted and cheered; some dipped their hands in the water and tried to drink it.

Galadiir looked on in amazement. “I must get to know this Marvellus and find out how he does this. I am the greatest sorcerer in the world and I know of no spell that can do this.” He moved closer through the crowd.

 “And now, I shall show you what it means to soar high above the ground”.

The scene changed in the blink of an eye to drifting clouds, with the ground a green and brown blur beneath. The tribesmen began to look concerned; Marvellus waved his hand and the village re-appeared. A burst of cheering erupted, the tribesmen beating their spears on their shields in appreciation.

Later that evening there was a feast held. Galadiir got to speak with Marvellus; he was a wanderer from the Empire out to see the world.

“I’m heading for Lhobanport, looking for a ship across the Brown Sea to Kenaton or Ekram.”

“Where did you learn your magic?” asked Galadiir. “I’ve never seen it’s like”

“A good magician never reveals his secrets”

A tribesman approached Marvellus and gave him a sack full of ivory horns.

“Not bad for a day’s work.”

Galadiir went to speak but then a commotion caught his eye. The tribesmen were drawing out an arena circle in the dirt. Drogo stepped into the centre, stripped to the waist.

“Asagwara of the Babangida tribe! I, Khal Drogo, do challenge your champion for the right to earn a buffalo spear!”

Into the circle stepped a huge black man, the tribe champion; his entire physique dwarfed that of Drogo. Asagwara (the headman) stood and called out “the challenge is accepted, Khal Drogo. You will wrestle; first one to three throws to the ground wins”.

As Drogo and the champion clashed for the first time, both Galadiir and Shadow were offered bets; 10 ivory pieces for Galadiir’s short sword and Shadow’s armour if Drogo loses.

To everyone’s amazement, including Drogo’s, he won every bout by a clear margin (the dice were with him).* The champion was thrown every time. At the end, he was rewarded with his buffalo spear, Galadiir and Shadow got their ivory and the feast continued into the night.

The following day, Galadiir, Drogo, Shadow and Marvellus continued east towards Lhoban. After several days they reached the edge of a steep escarpment overlooking a plain of shallow hills and woods.

“I have heard of this place. This is the Land of Idols”, said Marvellus. “It has an evil reputation.”

The air grew thick and heavy and the light faded fast. Out across the plains a huge storm was brewing; bright threads of lightning split the sky. Shadow scouted for a suitable hiding place; he found a cave large enough to hid Deneris in. They made shelter as the storm broke; massive purple-blue bolts of lightning crashed down nearby and the concussion of the thunder deafened them.

The storm cleared a s quickly as it had begun and under a blue sky they continued onwards and downhill. Scouting ahead, Drogo came across a lightning-struck tree that looked like a man, a rough face in the bark and two twisted outstretched limbs. Shadow inspected it and realised that the whisper of the wind through its branches were forming the words “burn me”.

As Drogo scouted around on Deneris, Galadiir used a flask of oil to burn the tree. It gave off a sickly stench of burnt meat as it burnt; finally it toppled over to reveal a large hole in the ground, sloping downwards.

To be continued

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GM:  An omen? The last time this happened was in the Temple of the Slime God and it all went FUBAR next session.

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Session Two

25 Homecoming, 2511, in the Land of Idols

Galadiir, Shadow and Drogo prepared to enter the hole uncovered by the burnt tree.  Marvellus demurred and said he would set up the camp for their return. Drogo instructed Deneris to keep an eye on him.*

The hole sloped downwards for a short distance; then opened up into a passageway. Galadiir lit his lantern and they all looked round in amazement. The entire passage was lined with dark wooden panels, including the ceiling. The floor was closely packed earth. The panels had sigils carved upon then, spaced seemingly at random, although many repeated themselves. There were between eight and twelve sigils on each panel; they all shared a common twisting, curling style. Galadiir shook his head.

“I have never seen the likes of these before”

He made to prise one of the panels away from the wall to see what lay behind; but something made him reconsider and he put the dagger away.

At a fork in the passage they took the left-hand passage, emerging into an oval chamber, panelled in the dark wood. At the last minute Galadiir looked up and registered several objects falling towards them; he jumped aside and the creature fell past him onto the floor. Shadow also avoided the creature, but Drogo was not so lucky and the thing landed on the crown of his head. A loathsome grey creature about the size of a city cat was on Drogo’s head, six spindly legs gripped under his chin and jaw. Under the thing they could see scissor-like mouthparts chewing. A final long leg/tail protruded from the rear of the thing.

“Spiga,” breathed Shadow. He drew his swords and slashed at the two on the ground that were trying to scuttle back up the walls to the ceiling. They burst with a spray of evil-smelling grey slime. Drogo, meanwhile, drew his war club and beat at the Spiga on his head. He felt something, like a blunt needle, sliding into the wound on the top of his head. He knocked the Spiga off and Shadow killed it. Two others fell from the ceiling but Galadiir was ready for them, two “Rose’s Thorns” put paid to them.

“They are common in the sewers of Jalizar”, said Shadow, “as well as caverns and ruins throughout the Dominions. Have you never wondered why tomb-robbers always wear hats?”

“Khal Drogo has no need for a hat”.

Pressing on; the passage led to a circular chamber. It was empty and there was nothing remarkable about it so they continued to another fork in the passage. The next chamber they entered had two exits, but one was almost completely blocked by a cave-in. It looked like the ceiling had come down. Shadow climbed up to the top and was able to determine that passage continued. They had no digging tools and Galadiir’s magic could not help; so they took the other exit. A side passage led towards another chamber; suddenly the floor gave way beneath Galadiir’s feet and he fell into a deep pit. Fortunately he wasn’t hurt and Shadow climbed down to join him.

They became aware of a faint susurrus, a rustling sound that gradually was growing louder. The examined the walls of the pit and saw it was honeycombed with small holes, each about 2 inches in diameter. Galadiir’s inherent fear of swarms kicked in and he climbed out of the pit as quickly as he could; even so, Shadow beat him to the top.

Drogo examined the pit, it was 10 feet across. He decided that he could do a running jump and leap over it. He managed it; the others followed his example and also made the jump. There was nothing in the chamber; but in the next one they found a skeleton!

The skeleton was clad in traveller’s robes and a cloak, not really suited for the Ivory Savannah or the warmer southlands. A satchel held a leather-bound journal, a bronze dagger and a pouch of 20 Moons. Galadiir examined the journal. It was the journal of one Jaron Greybane of Syranthia. It was quite detailed. Galadiir turned to the last few entries in the book.

———————————–

25 Harvest

Have left Nal Sagath and am heading south-east. Nal Sagath is a dull, cheerless place, although I am told the spirit is better during the Carnival.

———————————–

29 Harvest

We have reached the Land of Idols. I have had to pay off several bearers as they will not set foot into the cursed land

———————————–

37 Harvest

It is the fifth day of Festival at home and I am missing it

———————————–

38 Harvest

My guides tell me that the ruins of Sisanak are only a day or so journey from here! I have just enough time to explore the small building near to our campsite. Garm, my loyal body guard, will keep entrance at the front of the building.

————————————

After some confusion over the map reading, they finally arrived back in a chamber near to the entrance. Exploring the route they didn’t follow at first, they found a chamber with an upper level reached by scaling a 60’ cliff. Shadow scaled the cliff and found the remains of an old campsite, with a cache of five sealed bottles. He recognised the type from his days in Jalizar; the could be used for potions or poison. Suddenly the cliff edge crumbled beneath him and he fell to the floor of the cavern! Fearing the worst, Galadiir and Drogo rushed to him; to their amazement Shadow sat up, brushed himself off; then he stood up.**

“Sheera’s Horns”, he swore. “Three of the bottles are broken”.

To be continued …

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*GM: war buffaloes may be trained and loyal, but I’m not sure they’re THAT well-trained!

**GM: Shadow took four Wounds from the fall and was Incapacitated. Harry opted for a Soak roll (they had lots of Bennies due to Joker’s Wild). He soaked FOUR Wounds! so literally got up and walked off, dripping potions everywhere.

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Session Three

25 Homecoming, somewhere in the Land of Idols

As Shadow picked himself up following his fall from the cliff, Galadiir was outraged.

“You, you clumsy oaf!” he screamed. “We’ve lost those potions for good. What are you, a farm labourer?”

“No”, replied Shadow. “I am a member of a secret assassin’s guild from Jalizar.”

“Really? Then it’s a good job you don’t talk about it then”.

“Even the best assassins can slip and fall.”

“You’re the best?”

Heading back into the tunnels, they went through the Spiga cave and back to where they had found the pit. Ignoring a side passage, they entered another wood-panelled chamber, oval in shape. Stretched out on the floor was the skeleton of a huge snake, easily thirty feet long from nose to tail. No-one was able to identify the type (not easy from just a skeleton), other that it had been venomous, judging by the large curved fangs.

Continuing along the passage, another chamber held three large land lizards, obviously hungry. As Shadow moved to attack it sent out an impossibly long tongue that wrapped around him and dragged him to the creature’s mouth. He was badly bitten before managing to get free. Drogo was likewise attacked but was unhurt. Galadiir cast “Rose’s Thorns” on the lizard attacking Shadow and killed it, Drogo killed the lizard attacking him, but Shadow was badly bitten again and Wounded. Drogo ran over to help, took a swing and missed completely. The war club spun out of control and cracked Shadow on the back of the head, Wounding him a second time.

“Idiot tribesman!”

“Khal Drogo is sorry, although he does not say so.”

Galadiir hesitated over casting another “Rose’s Thorns”, but when both Drogo and Shadow failed to kill the creature he relented and the spell killed it dead. He used his healing talents on Shadow, curing his Wounds. Galadiir offered up the souls of the lizards to Xymart, his House patron demon*

Examining the chamber, the lizards had been feasting on eggs, each one a large leathery ovoid about 2 feet in diameter. There was no indication of what they were or what creature might have hatched from them. Drogo hefted one; he estimated the weight as being around two pounds.

Moving on, wading through a short passage half-filled with water, they emerged into a chamber where the far exit was blocked by a cave-in. On the floor was a calcified skeleton, humanoid but not human. The jaw was the wrong shape and the head had a bony crest, plus it sported a tail. It was then that Drogo spotted something glinting inside the ribcage. As he started to break the calcified ribs to get at it, several swarms of Strip Beetles poured out from between the panels lining the walls. Galadiir cast his “Sea of the Dead” spell (Blast); a horde of spectral warriors appeared and stamped two of the swarms into the ground. The third swarm swept forward and engulfed them all, despite being bitten badly, Drogo continued to hammer away at the bones, breaking a hole large enough to garb the object; a key on a chain. The final swarm of beetles was moving rapidly towards them; they beat a hasty retreat out through the water; rightly surmising that the beetles wouldn’t follow.

The key was ornate, made of a dull red metal. It was ‘twisted’ in a curious fashion; ‘sinuous’ was the word that sprang to mind. Drogo shrugged and hung the key round his neck.

Investigating the final chamber, it had once contained about thirty of the leathery eggs. Most of them were smashed and broken, their contents missing. Finding nothing else of value in the chamber they left via the Spiga cave and returned to the outside. Night had fallen.

Out on the plain they saw a campfire; there they found Marvellus and Deneris.

Next Episode: Onwards to Lhobanport – or do they get side-tracked again?

=========================================================================

* GM: I did comment that Xymart, being the patron of a noble Tricarnian House, probably wouldn’t be interested in the souls of three scabby lizards. Matt, however, was adamant that he was going to keep in Xymart’s good books. Hmm. Wonder how Xymart feels about receiving the demonic equivalent of junk mail.

** The players commented that it was good to have a good old dungeon crawl every now and then. This particular one was created in about an hour, using a simple d6 table to give passages and chambers and using Story Cubes to generate the contents of the chambers.

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Session Four

26 Homecoming, somewhere in the Land of Idols

Having rested overnight without incident, the following morning dawned crisp and clear, as befits Homecoming. They continued north-east, heading for Lhobanport.

“Are there no roads in this god-forsaken country?” asked Shadow as they proceeded up out of another shallow valley.

“Once there were cities here, I believe”, replied Marvellus. “But they are long gone.”

“Long gone where?”

“Crumbled back into the earth from which they came.”

Shortly afterwards they spied a ruin on a nearby hill; a square arrangement of low mossy walls. They rested to eat some food; as Drogo sat down something crunched underneath him. Under the moss and grass were lots of snake skeletons; smaller versions of the one they had found in the wooden passages.
“I don’t like this”, growled Galadiir. Suddenly he stood and pointed to the north. “Look! A large number of birds are circling and swooping on something.”

They hurried to the north, cresting a low hill they saw a rough-hewn pillar of rock, about 60’ tall. A squawking, milling flock of bright red and blue plumaged birds invested the top. Shadow ran forward and began to climb up the rock, immediately three of the birds peeled off and attacked him with beak and talon. Drogo hefted a rock and threw it; the shot hit well and true, splattering one of the birds against the pillar. Galadiir loosed off two “Roses Thorns” and took out the other two birds. As Shadow climbed to the top of the pillar, both Galadiir and Drogo were engulfed in an angry gaggle of birds. Drogo realised that they were going for the face and eyes; twice he narrowly avoided having an eye pecked out, but got a deep gash on the cheek. He and Deneris prevailed; whilst Galadiir was able to summon his “Army of the Dead” warriors to help guard him. Galadiir also narrowly avoided losing an eye from a frenzied attack and reluctantly drew his short sword to fight hand to hand.*

On top of the pillar, Shadow drove off the attacking birds to reveal their target; a middle-aged woman clad in a simple hessian robe. She was Wounded and had many bleeding pecks and scratches, yet she still seemed to be in a meditational trance of some kind. Despite his attempts, she would not speak; it was only when he tried to move her that she reacted; lifting her right arm and pointing to the south-east. Down on the ground, Drogo had escaped from the circling birds and had joined up with Galadiir. At that moment; as if in answer to some unheard signal; the birds rose as one into a flock and streamed off to the north-east.

As he was unable to move the hermit-woman; Shadow climbed back down the pillar. Alas, history repeated itself and he fell from the top, 60’ to the ground**. He was badly Wounded, despite Galadiir’s healing skills and magic. ***

“Going up, I’m ok. It’s the coming down which is the problem.”

As is his habit; Galadiir took some of the red and blue plumage off the dead birds. He noticed that they were all ringed.
“Someone owns these.”
The rings were copper; all stamped “HK” in the Syranthian alphabet. Galadiir gathered up several of the dead birds and cut the rings off them, then stored the birds. “Should make a nice pie tonight”, he said. ****
Continuing north-east, in the late afternoon they spied a group of travellers heading north. Thirteen men and women, with three pack horses, were heading for Carnival at Nal Sagath. The PC’s shared their fire that night and Galadiir recounted a long story about Geoff the Mighty (to earn an Adventure Card); at the end a ghostly figure of a mighty warrior appeared across the campfire; courtesy of Marvellus.

Next Episode – The Carnival at Nal Sagath
===============================================
GM:
*Galadiir was seriously considering Ground Zeroing his Blast spell, reasoning that both he and Drogo could probably take the damage.
** Shadow rolled snake-eyes again; which cannot be re-rolled with a Benny
*** Due to a GM oversight; Galadiir has a Healing spell; which Sorcerers cannot have. However, it has a special backlash; on snake-eyes it kills the recipient of the spell and sends their soul to Xymart.
**** This from a RL veggie!
There was a very real danger of being blinded or ending up with the One-eye Hindrance in this encounter.

================================================

Session Five

Late Homecoming, in the town of Nal Sagath

(as this is a published adventure I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just give some key events that happened)

Nal Sagath was a dreary town of red-brick buildings near to the Kyros border. The original town had been razed during the Kyrosian civil war and largely rebuilt on its original foundations. Every year the townsfolk celebrate their Festival. Everyone is welcome, there is food and drink laid out to eat, with better quality provender available to buy; there are strolling entertainers and contests of all kinds. The Festival reaches its climax with a show re-enacting the Princess’s Liberation from the Four Ghosts.

Drogo had to stable Deneris at the edge of the town, then he, Shadow and Galadiir went off into the streets. Marvellus spied an opportunity and set himself up producing illusions for the crowd. Drogo was invited to join in a dice game for money; he had none so he borrowed 50 Moons off Galadiir and played. To his surprise (GM: and mine!), he won all the games, pocketing 50 Moons after returning Galadiir his loan. Eventually they headed for the town square and the Princess’s Liberation.

The show went well, right up to the point where Dalla, the innkeepers daughter who was playing the princess, was kidnapped for real. After some investigation, they found the entrance to the tunnels below Nal Sagath and set off in pursuit. There was much tracking and backtracking in the dark tunnels, Drogo took the lead and narrowly avoided falling into a pit and a nasty encounter in a flooded corridor. Shadow heard someone following them and ambushed Oggo, the strong but dim-witted blacksmith’s helper.

“Why are you following us?

“Oggo wants to help save Miss Dalla. She pretty and has nice smile at Oggo”.

Noticing that Oggo was carrying a wooden sword; Galadiir offered him a bronze dagger; then quickly took it back when Oggo said he wasn’t usually allowed to have sharp things.

The passage was blocked by a locked gate; they couldn’t get past it and so had to backtrack. Descending a steep set of slippery stairs; looking back Galadiir saw four shadowy figures push a huge boulder down the steps! They turned and ran, with the boulder bounding down the stairs behind them, drawing ever closer. Oggo slipped and fell; Drogo grabbed hold of him and dragged him along. Finally Galadiir cast his “Wall of the Dead” across the stairwell behind him, too late as the boulder rolled over Shadow and Oggo*, they were not badly hurt. Drogo leapt out of the way as the boulder slammed into the “Wall of the Dead”. Galadiir ducked into a side alcove; eventually the spell expired and the others were able to get past the boulder to join him.

At this moment, a large albino rat landed on Galadiir’s head. Shadow stepped forward and killed it with a single blow. It let out an unearthly dying shriek and a horde of albino rats poured out of the shadows towards the heroes.

“Swarms,” cursed Galadiir. “By Xymart, how I hate swarms”

To be continued

GM: * Was unsure how to handle this; the Barrier would block the stairwell and the boulder would have to do damage to get through it. However, there was the potential for another player to get trapped between the boulder and the Barrier, also due to the abstract nature of the Chase rules it was hard to figure exactly where the Barrier could be cast.

Any comments appreciated.

Session Six

Late Homecoming, in the labyrinth beneath the town of Nal Sagath

Galadiir grabbed the corpse of the albino rat and threw it into the path of the oncoming rats, this distracted them long enough for the heroes to escape.

(Again, I don’t want to give too much away as this is a published adventure).

Suffice it to say, they eventually found the missing girl Dalla and after a prolonged battle, succeeded in rescuing her.  Oggo was pleased to see her, but Dalla only had eyes for Drogo (this might have been for his imposing physique or for the fact that yet again he had managed to shed his loincloth in the middle of the battle*).

Back in the town, the grateful innkeeper threw a party, with drinks on the house for the heroes.

Later that evening, Drogo had disappeared off with Dalla and Galadiir and Shadow went outside into the tavern courtyard. There was a body lying there; turning it over they saw it was Marvellus. His clothes were torn to bloody shreds and his eyes had been pecked out. Shadow noted that Marvellus’ ornate ring was missing.

Next: They finally get to Lhobanport.

GM

* As this is becoming a regular occurrence, does Drogo get the benefit of Loincloth Hero if he isn’t wearing one (or anything else for that matter)?

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