Early Harvest 2511.
Drogo, Galadiir and Shadow accompanied by Deneris the war buffalo, after burying Marvellus, left Nal Sagath and headed north-east towards Lhobanport. After ten days travel they reached the shores of the Brown Sea and turned east towards the mountains, which began to dominate the skyline. Many days later they spied the glistening white stone of the city of Lhobanport and hurried onwards, glad to put the eerie Land of Idols behind them.
The city loomed large before them as they approached the Serpent Gate; they could make out several tall towers, one of which was curiously twisted, they could see the gilded dome of the Hall of Enlightenment and beyond this, crawling like ants, they could make out pilgrims ascending the Ten Thousand Steps beside the cascading River of the Clouds.
The Serpent Gate was in the shape of a rearing cobra; guards manned the upper battlements and stood either side of the gate. There was a steady flow of merchants and wagons in and out of the gate. The guards wore lacquered leather armour and carried moonblades; they were friendly.
“Greetings, friend traveller. Have you visited us before and do you have goods to sell?”
“It is our first time here”, replied Shadow, “we have a small amount of ivory to trade.”
The guard waved his hand through the gate. “You will need to take lodgings in Gaijun’s and do your trading in Small Traders. Be peaceful.”
They decided to check out the lodgings first, they assumed Gaijun’s was an inn or tavern. They actually found that it was the Foreigner’s district, a maze of short alleyways and courtyards; with lots of small blocks of lodgings. It was also walled with low walls, effectively isolating it from the rest of the city. The rooms were reasonable; 3 Moons for a shared room and meal. The rooms were basic with an unglazed window; but still far better than many days out on the road. Drogo went to the owner and offered his services as a bouncer/guard; this was politely declined; the man saying “Thank you, but we have all the protection that we need.”
They soon realised that the chiming bells ringing out over the city at intervals were a timekeeping mechanism of some kind; two bells had sounded when Galadiir and Shadow set out to Small Traders. This was a crowded bazaar, with many traders operating out of baskets or spreading their wares on the ground. They found a spot and spread out the twenty pieces of ivory that they had won betting on Drogo in the wrestling match.
Drogo, meanwhile, hefted the mysterious bronze staff onto his back and headed across the river into the Market. This was better quality than Small Traders; the stalls were made of wood and the area was roofed with billowing silk cloth. It was then that he chanced upon a beggar.
“A coin for a prophecy, master?”
“I am Drogo. I have no coin. I hump women to make payment.”
The beggar stood, easily as tall as Drogo and hissed foul breath into his ear, “Even when you carry the wealth of Kings on your back?” He vanished into a small alley. Drogo puzzled over this; then decided to return to Small Traders.
Meanwhile, Shadow and Galadiir were attracting very little attention when a very attractive young lady stopped and looked at the ivory. She wore a long blue dress and tunic, with a veil which was undrawn. She was VERY attractive.
“Your ivory. How much per piece?”
There followed a few rounds of haggling until they settled on a price of 25 Moons per piece.
“Please parcel them up and deliver them to this address at seven bells this evening.”
Drogo joined them shortly afterwards and Galadiir produced two orange gems and laid them out for sale. A pair of black-booted feet stopped; Galadiir squinted up into the sun to see a tall man wearing black leather and a long cloak.
“A Caldeian dagger for your gems”
“I do not think that …” started Galadiir, and then jumped to his feet to stare into the face of his uncle Anatoiir! “Uncle!” he cried. “I have not seen you for years”.
“Perhaps,” smiled Anatoiir, “but you’ve been making a name for yourself recently. Your father wants to see you. Be at the docks in the morning.”* Galadiir looked worried at this, but insisted that he went alone.
Seven bells came and they headed off to the address with the ivory; it was a townhouse just off the market. A maid answered the door and they were led into a wood-panelled room which smelt of sandalwood. The lady was very pleased and a servant brought a chest with 5 bags of 100 Moons. As they left, she spoke softly to Shadow “my name is Shameena.”
At the hostel they dined and Drogo drank lots of fermented yak’s milk (“it tastes like its name”), then they retired to the room. In the dead of night Galadiir woke to see a cloaked figure disappearing out of the window, carrying the staff. They gave chase across the rooftops, Drogo caught up with the figure and grappled with him, trying to wrest the staff away. He nearly succeeded when suddenly the thief fell backwards off the roof, an arrow through his chest. Drogo grabbed the staff and Shadow grabbed the falling thief. Looking down, they saw a group of figures, all armed with bows …
To be continued
* I have a card system that quickly generates family trees; useful for noble houses when sometimes you need to know who’s related to whom. Galadiir has two uncles and two aunts, plus three female cousins; his father is a merchant.
Early Harvest, in Lhobanport
Drogo and Shadow dragged the thief back on to the roof and ducked for cover as a flight of arrows came their way. Drogo took a minor graze off an arrow, but shrugged it off. Galadiir ran to the edge of the roof and cast “Wall of the Dead” to block any further arrows. Drogo quickly searched the thief; he found a bronze dagger and a medallion with the symbol of a mountain embossed on it.
A trapdoor opened in the roof and a horde of black- clad figures poured out; from below the archers shot their arrows at the “Wall of the Dead”. A melee ensued as the heroes fought a fighting retreat to the edge of the building and then jumped across to the next roof. At one point both Galadiir and Shadow were Shaken but the opponents did not pursue the attack. Drogo was the last to leave; he took out several opponents with the Staff of Geoff (as they have named it); then leapt over to the next roof and escaped.
The following morning, Galadiir set off to the docks to meet with his father. A black bireme was moored, flying the flag of House Xymart. The deck guard called him “Sir Galadiir” and indicated that he was expected. Entering the captain’s cabin, he saw a tall, black robed figure standing staring out of the stern window.
“Father?” he began.
“Well? What do you have to say for yourself?” The figure turned and Galadiir saw that it was not his father; it was his Uncle Ilroniir, Head of House Xymart.
“Tell me, how do we make our money? You don’t know? Of course you don’t, since when did you show an interest in your family’s business? We are a trading house and currently we are losing money. You may ask why? It’s because one of our major trading partners is pulling out of deals with us. The Priest-King of Caldeia is not very pleased with our family; there is a ten-thousand Moon bounty on your head.”
Galadiir was lost for words.
“Not only have you interfered with the legitimate slave trade of the city; you have also been responsible for the destruction of part of the city itself!” thundered his uncle. “Now you have brought ruin upon the whole family. Have you any idea of what the Priest-King could do if he even mildly exerted himself? Xymart may be our patron, but even he answers to a higher authority.”
Ilroniir sat down at the captain’s table.
“Your aunt and your cousins are all for turning you in for the bounty and to re-negotiate our treaties.”
Galadiir summoned up the words. “Do you agree, Uncle? What would you do?”
“I will not turn you in – yet. You are family. I have a task for you instead. Listen carefully. Be here on the first day of Harvest next year. You will meet a friend of the family. The friend will give you a task to complete. You must complete the task to the best of your ability. Fail; and the Priest-King will get his prize and you will no longer be a member of House Xymart. Is that clear?”
“I will not let you down” said Galadiir and shook his uncle’s hand. There was a faint sting and a pop, with a smell of brimstone. Galadiir recognised a defensive spell of some kind.
Returning to Gaijun’s; Galadiir found that Shadow had bought a bow and was practicing with it.
GM: Most of the session was the combat; the PC’s are getting very good at fighting and so the number of opponents is increasing. They’ll be facing off some WC’s soon.
Early Harvest, in Lhobanport
The following morning they were woken by a knock at the door. Opening it, Drogo saw a Jademan, dressed in ornate green and gold robes, accompanied by guards wearing ceremonial armour. The man bowed and presented a scroll.
“You are all cordially invited to attend the Hall of Enlightenment. You will not need your weapons; please bring the bronze staff with you.”
“This looks like an “offer we can’t refuse”, said Galadiir to Shadow. Both of them secreted a dagger somewhere on their person; Galadiir took his own staff as that hadn’t been mentioned. Drogo carried the bronze staff.
Outside, they were escorted to a wheeled palanquin drawn by two yak. The guards marched either side; the heroes realised that this was quite a heavy escort. They passed through the marketplace and turned onto the Street of Lanterns; finally halting at the Hall of Enlightenment.
The Hall was a large domed building; behind it was the mountain with the Ten Thousand Steps leading up. Inside they entered a long hall, lined with monks in green and gold and guards carrying moonblades. Looking up, they saw that the dome was transparent and they had a clear view of the sky. At the end of the hall was a simple chair, with a very old monk sat upon it.
“Come, approach closer. Sit and we shall take tea”
Galadiir and Shadow sat on the proffered low chairs; Drogo sat on the floor and did not drink the tea.
“May I see the Staff?” Drogo held it out, the monk looked carefully at it and sighed. “These runes – have you read them?”
“No,” replied Shadow. “It’s an unknown language”.
“They are written in a language that was old even when the Keron Empire was young. Have you fought using it?”
“Drogo has. It is a good weapon, but heavy for someone without Drogo’s strength”
“Indulge me. Show me some moves”. Drogo moved to the centre of the hall and swung the staff around, making some fighting strokes.”
“Permit me”. The monk took up the place in the hall and in his hands the staff became a spinning blur, moving faster than the eye could see. “This is one of the Seven Staffs that belonged to the Tai-Lin Monks. It is said that when all seven staffs are reunited then the monks will wake again to fight the last battle of the world.”
Outside the Hall they became conscious of a growing commotion, of people shouting and crying out. Looking up through the dome, they saw the moon was in the sky. But it was not the familiar silvery moon, now it was a boiling blood-red colour and moving upon it was the outline of a massive horned snake …
END OF SEASON ONE
GM: This went well as the season finale. The Game is taking a break over the summer period.
I had been looking for a good place to set the finale, looking at my notes it is almost exactly a year since we started playing B & B. Also, this was the twelfth episode; again making it a good place to stop for a time.
SEASON TWO – what’s coming up
There is Galadiir’s quest to complete, a couple of loose ends to tidy up and also finding out what has happened to the moon.
GM: 28/02/17 – as will be seen, Season Two didn’t quite go according to plan.