The Currents of Space – Episode 2.4


Priority One – All security personnel respond

 > Rioting on the Strip between local workers and off-duty US Marines.

They emerged onto the Strip into the middle of a riot. A massive brawl was going on; there were US Marines and Port Security facing down a mob of (mainly) Chinese workers; many carrying and chanting TLA slogans.

‘Call up all information we hold on Lieutenant Crossland, Serial number 023488.’

Dr Singh frowned. ‘I may join a ground team if I think it is necessary; this would normally only be if progress was unsatisfactory.’

After debunking from hypersleep, the team gathered in the planetary survey office. The ‘Oppenheimer’ was coming in to Aurora from the darkside; even so the aurora playing around the planet was impressive.

‘What the frack is that smell?’ asked Achernar. A ship’s tech poked his head in. ‘Sorry about the smell; a malfunction in the water recycling system. It’s a recurring problem on this ship. We’ve fixed it now; the scrubbers should fix the stink.’ He grinned and bowed out.

Dr Singh entered and called for attention; Etamin clicked his heels and saluted. Dr Singh scowled but ignored him.

‘We are looking at three sites of interest. Team Alpha will investigate the rectangular structure in Environ s01. Team Beta will investigate the strange mounds in n13. Team Gamma,’ he paused, looking at Achernar, ‘will investigate the dry alluvial bed in s02’

Etamin raised his hand. ‘Will you be coming with us to investigate the dry river bed? After all, it seems to be pretty safe.’

Achernar cut in before Dr Singh could respond.

‘What is the overall mission plan? I understand that due to the high-energy cosmic bombardment from UV Ceti, radio communications are impossible and if a major storm is expected then the safest place is underground. How are we to keep in touch?’

Dr Singh beamed. ‘I like a forward thinker, Mr Achernar, (‘just Achernar’, muttered Achernar), I am appointing you Team Gamma leader. You will be equipped with an ATV and full supplies; you and Team Alpha will be flown out to the site by the expedition lander, which will then continue to s01 to drop Team Alpha. Your planned mission time is five days; the lander will return to the drop point in five days. Yes, what is it?’

Etamin had his hand raised again. ‘What if we find everything in the first two days? What do we do for the other three?’

‘I have a doctorate in planetology. What do you have? Nothing! So either prove me wrong, or don’t question me. We land in 24 hours, be ready to leave immediately.’

Bellatrix raised her hand. ‘Dr Singh. It is traditional to have a last night beer, food and movie session.’

‘And waste twenty-four hours! You will leave immediately.’



Brought to you via landline from Parkfield Corporation

– The weather forecast is good, there are currently some minor flares; these are expected to produce normal activity.

– There is a developing region in the southern equatorial belt, a Class Two sunspot. This is being kept under observation.

– Polar magnetometers show fluctuations within normal limits; no major storms are expected.

++ ADVISORY: If the warning sounds; or the aurora deepens in intensity, then seek shelter immediately. Get into your assigned shelter or as deep underground as you can.


The lander took off at 0800 the following morning, heading for Environ s03. Bellatrix wangled her way onto the flight deck; she immediately saw what problems the massive radiation storms caused.

‘Hi, Pat Mason; I’m ship commander. That’s Rachel, pilot; don’t want to disturb her at the moment. As you can see, the instruments don’t give accurate readings.’

‘So how do you navigate then?’

Mason grinned and pointed out of the window. ‘We go back to the twentieth century; how they used to fly the early aircraft. They navigated by looking out of the cockpit. Look down; do you see those beacons?’


‘Now put these on.’ Bellatrix put on the set of goggles; only now realising that Pilot Rachel was wearing them as well. Suddenly a line of beacons appeared; stretching into the distance.’

‘They only go as far as Outpost Three; after that we rely on the locator beacon that the ‘Oppenheimer’ fired down from orbit. Rachel, do you have a fix?’

‘Not yet; we’re still too far out.’


Approaching the landing site; there was a decision to be made.

‘The locator beacon is on a cliff above the river bed. You can be landed there; or down on the river bed.’

‘Go for the river bed,’ said Achernar; ‘the pick-up point is the beacon on the cliff. We’ll go for a hot drop, hover down and we’ll drive straight out. We don’t know what that river bed is and the ATV will float if it’s water under that ground cover.’

It was fairly firm ground; they headed for what used to be the riverbank. There were several clusters of hard-shelled pod plants in clumps.

‘Look here’, called Capella. ‘Some of these plants have been smashed open.’ He pulled out a camera; suddenly the ground heaved and a creature burst out of the soil next to him. It was shaped like a shrimp, dark-grey, with several segmented legs at the rear of its body. The upper body was bulbous and two rotating eyes on short stalks regarded him; moving to look from various angles. Capella raised his camera just as Etamin realised what it was doing and screamed a warning.

‘Capella! Get away from it! It’s triangulating!’

The warning came too late, much too late. With blinding speed, the creature’s bulbous upper body extended into a club, striking Capella full in the chest. There was a sickening crack and he went down. There was no time to help him; the ground erupted with several more of the creatures around the party.

They fought a running battle back to the ATV, managing to drag Capella with them. Even so, they were all injured and Achernar was wounded; even a glancing blow from one of the clubs was enough to cause severe bruising. Inside the ATV, for a time it came under attack; the clubs ringing off the outer hull; after a time the creatures gave up and left.

Paula examined Capella but looked up and shook her head.

‘His ribcage is completely stove-in. He must have died instantly.’

Achernar glanced at Bellatrix, expecting a bad reaction. Instead, she just stared at the inner hull and said nothing.

“Capella,” he thought to himself. “You were my cousin and I will never know now if you knew.”


Paula drove the ATV up to the landing beacon and Paula and Achernar buried Capella, whilst Etamin stood guard. Bellatrix stayed in the ATV. When it came to saying a few words, Achernar hesitated.

‘What’s up?’ asked Paula. ‘Are you worried about the mission?’

Etamin was looking at the alluvial plain with binoculars.

‘There are several clusters of those pod plants. Maybe they mark nests or hives of some kind?’

Achernar tried to talk to Bellatrix; he found her lying on a fold-down at the rear of the ATV, staring at the wall.

‘Fuck off Ach; we’re in this mess because of us landing at Mobius Three. And whose idea was that? Mine! It was fucking mine!’

‘You couldn’t have known what was going to happen and we did rescue your brother from the Lebkuchen.’

‘Yeah, we rescued the fucking wanker that wanted me out and still does. Piss off Achernar and leave me alone.’

Achernar became angry; ‘Now just listen! We’re in a crawler in a potentially hostile environment. There is no room for you to be a prima don …’

‘Sorry to interrupt’, came Paula’s voice. ‘A tight-beam has just come in from the lander. There’s an emergency and it’s nearly here to pick us up. We’re needed to help Team Alpha.’

To be continued …


GM Notes

OMG! Another PC death!

This was a straight combat using the 1970’s retro-rules. At one point I thought I was going to lose Achernar as well.

The creatures started off by being designed using the Creature Design rules; however when it turned out that they did a load of damage using a Club; I remembered a documentary about deadly creatures that mentioned the Mantis Shrimp.

Seriously, to design some weird alien life-forms that are nasty or just strange, you don’t have to look further than this planet to skin your random rolls. Bombadier beetles are real, as is the Ant-Lion!

Capella dying has buggered up a couple of Storylines!

Where are the Currents of Space going to blow me next?


A Star for Queen Zoe

Chapter 3 – Flight of Glory

Servants showed them to their rooms in the castle; the rooms were well-appointed and they were afforded a personal valet and maid, they merely had to pull the bell cord.

De Meister paced the room; then looked out of the window; down onto Glory. The castle staff had thrown a few tarpaulins over the ship; enough to break up the outline. Abruptly, he left and sought out the Duke. ‘My Lord, Sir. I am uncomfortable about this mission. None of us have ever flown in a starship; yet we are expected within a few days to be able to learn how to operate one. Our pilot apparently learnt her trade at sea. I have no confidence in our commander; the Count seems too pre-occupied with pomp and ceremony about his own importance. Finally, I am expected to work alongside a savage.’

The Duke’s eyes were cold and his tone scathing. ‘Do you think you were picked for your good looks; de Meister? The Queen was presented with several possible candidates; she picked you. You claim to be the best swordsman in the kingdom and your reputation precedes you. That is why the Queen chose you to serve her Remember; you were picked by the Queen herself.’

Sometime later, they all met in the courtyard by Glory. A boarding ramp wide enough to take a small cart led up into the ship. Lt. Chandrakala pushed past them and climbed a ladder up into the control room. Prof Murphy took charge of the tour.

‘This is the sensor bay; as far as we as we can determine the ship was designed for long-range scans. There was a ground vehicle housed here, but it was missing when the ship was found.’

‘This is the cargo hold and the fuel scoops / processing. The ship holds enough fuel for one drill; we have to refuel every time. The scoops allow us to skim gas giants or stars. It is something we haven’t been able to try as yet.’

‘Is that the pilot’s job?’ asked de Meister. Dr Murphy glanced at him; then replied ‘yes’.

‘What’s a drill?’ asked Treggs. ‘You said we had enough fuel for one drill. What does that mean?’

Dr Murphy motioned them through into the next area. ‘This is the engineering section; where the ship’s power and drive are generated.’ He pointed upwards. ‘It extends to the upper section as well.’

Dr Murphy crossed to a large panel displaying a myriad of symbols. ‘I don’t profess to understand half of this; mainly why I’m here is to gain that knowledge.’

‘So, what’s a drill?’ Treggs looked at the panel and shrugged. Dr Murphy pointed to the machines. ‘I don’t, as yet, understand how the Spike Drive works. But, when we activate it, we will travel about one parsec. That is why we must plot our course carefully, we must arrive where there is fuel available.’

de Meister scowled and thought inwardly ‘this is getting worse by the minute. Now we have an engineer who doesn’t understand his machinery.’ He looked around for Leila, but she was nowhere to be found.

Leila followed the others into the ship, but quickly became bored with stuff she wasn’t interested in. She returned back to the courtyard. In the sensor bay, she encountered a castle servant examining the panels.

‘Who are you?’ challenged Leila. The woman jumped and turned. ‘The Count wants everything kept clean. I am just a cleaner. Look, I am cleaning this panel. I have finished now.’

Leila watched her cross the courtyard and go through a door to the servants quarters.

That evening over dinner, she asked the Count who had been assigned to keep the ship clean.

‘I have assigned no-one’ replied Count Shvedov. ‘Although I have been considering taking a personal valet and maid with me. At grand occasions I must always look my best.’

de Meister rolled his eyes at this, but before he could speak the Duke stepped in smoothly. ‘My lord, there will not be room aboard Glory for any extra personnel, other than ourselves.’

‘But I do have my own stateroom surely’?

While they were diplomatically breaking the news of the accommodation to the Count; Leila slipped out of the room and headed outside. It was dark and the air was chill; a factor she barely noticed. She was about to head into the servant’s quarters when a flicker of light caught her eye. It was coming from an upper room in one of the towers. Leila wasted no time; she pulled out a knife and ran lightly up the tower steps.

In an upper room was the cleaning woman, crouched down by a window. She had a hooded lantern and was sending a rhythmic series of light flashes to the outside. As Leila entered, the woman rose and with a snarl, pulled a knife.

‘Savage! You had to interfere. Now you will die.’

A furious knife fight ensued; Leila found, to her amazement, that the spy was a competent knife-fighter. However, the spy’s lack of armour showed and although Leila took a few wounds; most of the hits she took were absorbed by her hide armour. Finally, she hit home with a deep stroke.

‘Savage,’ hissed the woman, spitting blood. ‘Your kind deserves to die out. This is our planet.’

Leila grabbed hold and shook the spy, but the life had left her body.

Outside, something caught her attention. Out on the hills to the west a light was flickering; in a similar way what the spy was doing. After a time, it stopped.

‘Idiot!’ cried de Meister, his voice filling the Great Hall. ‘Did it not occur to your savage instincts to keep the spy alive for questioning?’

Leila’s eyes were ice-blue. ‘Call me savage again de Meister and I will carve your heart out. I am Leila of the Sevatim and I demand respect.’

The Duke stepped forward. ‘Listen, please. Put your differences aside in order to consider the consequences. We must assume that the presence of Glory has been compromised. The lights that Leila saw came from the west; the Cumberland border.’ He paused and looked round to everyone. ‘Leila looked to see if the woman was carrying anything incriminating; she was not – the mark of a good spy. It is obvious that she has an accomplice, out on the hills. We must capture this person alive.’

‘Kincaid’ said the Count. ‘What relationship does have Cumberland with Rivington? Would they betray us?’

‘My Lord. Cumberland is a poor nation; they covet our riches and protected position behind the North Mountains. The air flows dried and hot across Cumberland. The promises of the Bright Empire are like mana to them and King Matthew has already signed up to their proposals.’

The discussions went on long into the night and the following day. Eventually a plan of action was agreed upon.

Leila could (just) remember a few of the sequences. She would repeat them; in the hope of engendered a response. They would then use Lissia’s Lingusitic skill to talk to the responders and keep them talking until a patrol could capture them.

The plan worked; Lady Lissia found that they were using Morse code; a signalling language from Old Earth. She kept the communication going until the patrol captured the spy out in the hills; he was taken by surprise and taken alive. Back at the castle; he was put to the question and it was eventually revealed that he had not passed on any information to his spymaster.

The following day, they broke fast in the Great Hall. The discussion revolved around the mission; due to leave tomorrow as this is when the Great Feast will take place.

‘I have to raise some … problems that I can forsee’; said Treggs. ‘The Queen has charged us with founding a colony. However; I don’t see that there are enough of us to do that. Also, we don’t carry enough supplies or basic materials to do it. So, what is our purpose?’

Count Shvedov surged up, his face black as thunder. ‘You dare doubt the judgement of the Queen!’

The Duke of Kincaid rose and made a gesture of calming. ‘It is true; the Queen has tasked us with a mammoth undertaking. However; it is not without a solution.’

He unrolled a map onto the table; it showed Essex and two other systems. ‘What we are looking for is not a Garden World, but any world that can sustain life on a long-term basis. It does not have to be permanent; it only has to last long enough to fulfil the terms of the treaty. Later, of course, it can be expanded. So,’ he looked round the table, ‘we carry tools, timber and cloth; enough to establish a basic settlement. We leave a garrison and Glory returns to collect more of the castle guards and staff …’

‘And spies,’ interjected De Meister. The Duke ignored the comment, ‘… in order to expand the colony.’

‘So, which system do we head for first?’ asked Lt. Chandrakala. ‘I need to start the course calculations today, in order to make sure they are accurate.’

All eyes turned to the Count, who gestured at the map. ‘This will be our first destination.’ ‘An excellent choice, my lord,’ said Professor Murphy, ‘a Class-F star one parsec away.’

The morning dawned cold and damp, with a light drizzle falling. They all went aboard Glory, Lt. Chandrakala and De Meister went up to the bridge; Professor Murphy and Dr Ferring went down to engineering. de Meister watched appreciatively as Lt. Chandrakala expertly powered up the ship’s systems

Suddenly, from outside, a fanfare of trumpets blew.

‘For the glory of Queen Zoe of Richmond; this expedition is underway,’ declared the Count. Glory lifted upwards from the castle courtyard, the downdraught scattering the trumpeters; then, as Chandrakala increased the power; rocketed skywards up into space.


GM Notes

For this third instalment I used the Stellar Adventure rules from Arion Games. They are based on the Advanced Fighting Fantasy system (as per the game-books) but are very easy to use and very detailed. The combat between Leila and the spy lasted nine combat rounds, longer than I thought it would, hence Leila’s realization that the spy was a surprisingly good fighter.

Thrilling Adventure Stories – 4

Web of the Spider Cult

Part 1 – Museum Mayhem

For the fourth in the Thrilling Tales series, we had lost Matt, who is away at Uni, but gained Andy who joined the group a few months ago.

Following their encounter with the Shadow Sun Syndicate, the group went their separate ways for a time. Dr Zeus went on a road trip to visit every state in the USA; when he returned to the apartment in Port Douglas’ Garment District he found it empty. A fully signed set of legal documents from Jack Ohio left the apartment to Zeus and anyone else who joined him in adventures. Jack and Yoz had gone to England to visit Lord Starling. A separate note from Alex Scarr was more direct. The sorts of stuff they got into were too much for a simple gangster; so he was going back to his old mob.

A knock came at the door; there stood a man with a military bearing, followed by a smaller man with Eurasian features.

“You’re Zeus, right?” said the military man in a booming English voice. “Starling put in the word for you; said you’d be good in a scrap. Brackenbury’s the name, Colonel. Served at Ypres, don’t you know. Rum show that; lucky to have got through. This is Toka, my batman. Japanese chap; loyal and good in a scrap with those swords of his.” *

Another knock came at the door; it was a messenger.

“Hibbert, Port Douglas Museum. You were recommended by Dr Armitage. Come immediately; have something that needs your skills.”

The museum was a cab ride away and was busy at this time of day. They made their way up to Dr Hibbert’s office on the third floor.

The door was ajar; inside, Hibbert was slumped over his desk; a strange notched gold coin spilled out of his hand. On the floor, in front of the desk and getting to his feet, was a huge muscular masked figure. A large contusion on the back of his head showed that he had been struck from behind.

Just as the accusations began to fly, both windows burst in and two Aztec warriors, in full regalia, swung into the room. Two more came in through the door. Toka decapitated one, the body fell back out of the window and the Colonel took out another by bracing his rifle on Hibbert’s head. The masked man punched one of the Aztecs coming through the door, then grabbed the other, spinning him and body-slamming him into the wall. A final shot from the Colonel and a quick stab with Toka’s knife finished them off.

The masked man introduced himself as El Angel Rojo **; he was in the town of Merida on the Yucatan when he was approached by a Doctor Breakspear; who was injured and close to death. He asked him to deliver a weather-stained diary and a notched gold coin to Dr Hibbert. He had just handed them over when he was struck a heavy blow from behind. The next thing he remembers is the adventurers coming into the room.

Zeus went to examine Hibbert’s body; from out of Hibbert’s hand had spilled a strange notched gold coin. He was just about to pick it up when he noticed a black spider crawling out from under Hibbert’s body.

“Do not touch it!” cried Rojo. “It is a Mexican Black Widow; very deadly. Its bite is fatal.” Zeus grabbed a water glass and trapped the spider on the blotter. Pushing the body back, they found two bite marks on Hibbert’s neck.

The Aztecs looked to be of native Central American stock; they carried obsidian axes and blowpipes with a pouch of darts. The coin had Aztec glyphs on it; an examination of the books in the room indicated that Dr Hibbert is (was) an expert on Aztec culture. Zeus started looking through the books to try and identify the symbols on the coin.

All of the Aztecs had spider tattoos on the back of their right hand.

Suddenly, there came the sound of breaking glass from outside the room. They rushed out to see a toppled glass cabinet and another Aztec running off down the gallery; pushing visitors aside. The Colonel whipped up his rifle, but there was no way he could get a clear shot. They gave chase through the museum; at one point they were gaining on the Aztec, but he leapt down a stairwell to the next floor. Rojo grabbed a trolley that some potters were pushing and trolley-surfed to catch up; the Aztec ran into a visiting party of schoolchildren and was pushed backwards; Toka and the Colonel caught up with him. At some time in the struggle; the Aztec was stabbed and killed.

“Much apologies”, said Toka. “Was I not meant to do that?”

On the body, they found a map of the museum with a route drawn from Hibbert’s office to the basement. They returned to the office to find that Zeus had drawn a blank on the symbols. He had determined that the blowpipe darts were tipped with something; what it was he was unable to say.

They then remembered the diary that El Angel Rojo was still carrying.

To be continued …


* These are Ben and Joe’s new characters. Ben spent the entire session putting on a dreadful upper-class English accent.

** This is Andy’s character, based on the legendary luchador El Santo

A Star for Queen Zoe

Chapter 2 – Stalled in Steinbach

The survey ship stood in the courtyard of the castle, almost filling it. De Meister nodded appreciatively.

“It’s bigger than I thought. That took some skill to land. Maybe this guy is a good pilot”.

The ship was long, with rounded curves designed for atmospheric operations. The forward section, presumably the bridge, was linked by a wasp-waist to the main body. Surprisingly, there were no windows. In the lower forward part was an opening, with a ramp leading up and in. Two guards stood at the foot of the ramp, armed with halberds.

“First, we breakfast”, said the Duke. “The Count is very strict on routine. We will meet him and the others in the Great Hall.”

“A question,” De Meister stopped the Duke. “Should you not rig up something over the ship to hide it from above?”

The Duke looked up, puzzled. “From above?  Cumberland has a few balloons; but our sentries are on watch for them and have fire arrows.”

“Oh I see. Then the humans from the Bright Empire also use balloons to keep watch over their new territory. That is a comforting thought.” The Duke went pale. “You are right. Camouflage will be arranged immediately.”

In the Great Hall, servants were dishing food out to three people seated at the High Table. As they entered, a herald blew a fanfare and announced “The delegation from Her Majesty the Queen for Andrei Shvedov, Count of the County of the Stein and Herald of the Queen of Richmond”.

“Approach the table, bow and kneel”, advised the Duke. “The Count is your leader and commander of this expedition. He commands respect.”

Dr Ferring started forward; Treggs gave his huge grin and stayed put; Lady Lissia was nowhere to be seen and de Meister and Leila glanced at each other; then both drew their weapons; but held them blade-down.

The herald blew again. “Andrei Shvedov, Count of the County of the Stein and Herald of the Queen of Richmond, states that he is in command of this expedition and will be accorded the respect that his position demands.”

De Meister stepped forward. “Listen, Count Shvedov. We are under no illusions as to the importance of this mission to Queen Zoe and the kingdom of Richmond; and we are all committed to it. Nothing will be gained though this pomp and ceremony. If you are the captain; then so be it. However, I do not know you. If I think you are making a tactical error, then I will challenge it. I am here as a warrior and fighter under the command of the Queen herself.”

Leila stepped forward, staring at the Count. “I am here for the Queen. I will obey you, but I will not serve you.”

Count Shvedov looked unhappy; but then his face cleared. “I too serve the Queen. To gain our interstellar colony almost certainly will require diplomacy. That is my area; I am empowered to make deals under the authority of the Queen.”

The Duke of Kincaid stepped forward. “Let me introduce your other crewmembers. This is Professor Albert Murphy; ex-chair of mechanics at Perth University. “The balding man nodded; said “I can’t wait to show you around her; she is beautiful”, then went back to his food.

“This is Gita Chandrakala.” The young Asian woman wore the uniform of the Richmond navy. “She is the ship’s pilot.”

De Meister started forward. “How did you get to be trained as a pilot? We all know what starships are. But there has not been one here for five hundred years. Why are you so special?”

Chandrakala looked at him. “I am an officer in the Navy; I fought in the battle of Deep Lagoon. Also; I read some books obtained from the Sistema. I can fly this ship; if you have any doubts then there are coldsleep pods in one of the holds.”

The Count rose and declared that they would convene again at sundown to discuss strategy.

“Sundown? I was under the impression that this mission was urgent.”

The Count dabbed delicately at his mouth with a napkin and waved his hand. “You need to learn about the ship and I have an important hunting expedition organised with the Duke of Parun.”

“One more thing, then. Does the ship have a name?” The Count thought for a moment. “It shall be called ‘To the Eternal Glory of her Majesty Queen Zoe of Richmond’.

Leila hissed at this. “It should have a name that will strike fear into our enemies. The ‘Star Huntress’”

“How about ‘The Shuddering of Forgotten Enemies?” said de Meister.

“It already has a name – SV2305”, said Lieutenant Chandrakala.

“Why don’t we just call it ‘Glory’?” suggested Treggs.

“You cannot leave until King John holds the Great Feast. This is scheduled in five days”, said the Duke. “You have been assigned rooms in the castle. You will find everything you need there. Get yourself settled in and we will meet again in an hour, in the courtyard by …” he smiled, “’Glory’”



The personalities of the crew are beginning to show in more detail now.

Episode 2.4 – All My Sins Remembered

Early Homecoming in the Fifty-Second Year of the Leopard, in Kularni

Drogo and Galadiir had buried Shadows body underneath the statue of Geoff the Mighty on the farm, then spent some time with Gallmus and the family. There was growing excitement as Miriam’s baby was due during Festival, although Galadiir was due to meet with his uncle in Lhobanport during early Harvest. Kerim Shah awarded them a generous sum of money on behalf of the town for dispersing the Ayaka threat.

They were in the tavern in Kularni, having a quiet drink, when suddenly the flickering shadows around them started to deepen and form into small hideous demons, clawing at them.

“We are under attack!” cried Galadiir. “I know this spell, it is of House Dyath; one of my ancestral enemies”

Through the door strode a dandy, clad in leather armour with an ornate decoration, bearing a short sword and a dagger in either hand.

“I am Ilyrios of Syranthia and I claim the bounty on Galadiir of House Xymart”. Behind him was a large man clad in bronze armour with a large axe.

“I am Bullias of Ekul, here for the bounty on Khal Drogo, a savage from the Savannah Tribes.”

With a roar, Bullias ran down the tavern towards Drogo, pulling his axe as he did so. The other patrons in the tavern rose and fled out of the door, all except for one. A young man sitting alone, he put down his drink, sauntered over to Ilyrios and casually enquired “what’s going on here?”

“We are here to collect the bounty of ten thousand Moons offered by the Priest-King of Caldeia for these men.”

“What did they do?”

“They destroyed a large part of the city. Thousands of innocents died. Now stand aside, this is not your fight”

The young man stepped back, thought for a moment; and then kicked the table towards Ilyrios, drawing his sword as he did so. Ilyrios jumped back, startled as the man said “now it is a fair fight”.

Galadiir stood to face the charging Bullias and cast his “Army of the Dead”; two ghostly warriors materialised in from of him. From out of nowhere appeared a black raging shadow demon that tore the warriors to pieces* Bullias was upon him and struck a blow with his axe. Galadiir fell back, blood streaming from a wound in his side.**

“I am Drogo and I need no armour. Armour is for weaklings”.

Drogo leapt to his feet, up onto and over the table and dived upon Bullias, trying to wrest the axe from him.

Ilyrios danced forward, his twin blades flashing in a blur. The young man put up a spirited defence but to no avail, he took a gash along one arm. The transformation was startling, he stood for a moment bolt-stiff; then his eyes turned blood-red and he launched a frenzied series of attacks against Ilyrios.***

Revealed out of the shadows was a black-skinned Tricarnian, who cast a whirling network of clawed shadows towards Galadiir. Galadiir recognised him; “Xythen of House Dyath”. He sent three “Roses Thorns” at the wizard, who took a hit directly in the chest. Galadiir then re-summoned his “Army of the Dead”.

Drogo and Bullias were struggling in a grapple, Ilyrios pressed an attack that wounded the berserker again but then took a massive blow in return that he barely survived. Yelling to the others to regroup, he ran from the tavern.

Bullias broke free and moved to defend Xythen, he took out one of the “Army” but then had to defend against a fresh assault from Drogo, who had drawn his war club. Xythen broke for the door but was cornered by the berserker; at this point he surrendered. Bullias also lowered his weapon; a chorus of yells broke out to try and snap the berserker from his rage. Fortunately, this worked and the redness faded from his eyes.


Galadiir went up to Xythen and offered him his hand; Xythen accepted and they shook.

“You are Galadiir of House Xymart”.

Drogo said “You are a good fighter” to Bullias. Bullias grunted and made a crude reference to Drogo’s loin cloth being used to hide a weapon; Drogo laughed at this. He went to the bar and broke open a barrel of ale.

“Drogo says drinks all round”. They all righted a few chairs and sat round a table and shared stories. All eyes turned to the berserker.

“My name is Geoff and I am from the Empire. My father was a famous fighter; he was killed and I am here to avenge his death. I am as skilled with bow and sword as he was.” ****

“Why do you want to kill us?” asked Galadiir.

“Kill you? We don’t want to kill you,” said Xythen. “You’re worth nothing dead. The Priest-King wants you alive. I would imagine that it will be a long time before you are permitted to die. You understand; it’s not personal; it’s just the money.”

At this point, Kerim Shah and a group of guards entered; followed by the tavern keeper who was wailing about the damage caused.

Kerim Shah was prepared to let the matter drop provided they made reparations with the tavern keeper. After all, they were heroes; having helped defend the town against the Ayaka and being instrumental in stopping the war. However, this sort of thing could not be tolerated in the town, more bounty hunters will likely turn up; he suggested that they ‘lay low’ for a while. As it turned out, he has just the thing for them; a message needs to be taken to a remote keep up on the border with the Red Desert. He has no men to spare, many are still recovering from the battle and others are still being trained.

Geoff went off to buy a bow, quiver and arrows whilst Galadiir settled up with the tavern keeper. After some negotiation, the man settled for 100 Moons. Galadiir was suspicious about this, but paid up and left. *****

GM Notes

* The trappings of a Dispel spell cast by Xythen.

** Matt rolled Snake eyes on a Soak? We couldn’t decide on a Critical Failure for this, since Soak is a meta-Game concept anyway.

***Another Berserker! I rule that berserkers attack the nearest target, friend or foe, and keep fighting until the snap out of it or there is no-one left. They cannot voluntarily try and break the rage; it needs an outside stimulus for them to attempt to roll.

**** Yes, this is Harry’s new character, Geoff, son of Geoff the Mighty (Harry’s first character, who died in Caldeia)

**** Persuade gone wrong (Matt rolled Snake-eyes). The tavern keeper accepted 100 Moons, but Galadiir is going to find that his purse fell off his belt and that he has lost a further 500 Moons.


A major fight with Wild Card opponents. In the first session, the Players dice were not with them and they were getting well and truly kicked. The second session they were really cooking and the tables were turned.

Notable quote: Galadiir “I can’t believe this. One minute they’re trying to kill us, the next they’re sitting and having a drink with us!”

XP = 2


GM update (24/09/17) – Things have changed a lot in real-time. Matt (Galadiir) is at Uni now and is not a regular attender and back in the early days of this Game there were a lot of mistakes made (too much XP for example).

There has been a lot of interest expressed about carrying on; but there may be new characters. The issue of the Burning Moon? – that’s a different issue. I have a good idea of what’s going on there.

Episode 2.3 – The Dogs of War

Storm Season had broken with a vengeance and the rain poured down, turning the ground to a sea of mud. Drogo, Shadow and Galadiir stood at the edge of the farm and looked to the south.

“They will surely not attack in this weather “said Shadow. Drogo shrugged. “Drogo would. Take enemy by surprise, sheltering inside in dry”.

“Listen”, called Galadiir. In the distance came the braying of horns. “They have been sighted from Kularni”. Two of Drogo’s men came in; a force of Ayaka was approaching the farm from the south; a large number accompanied by three hunting spiders.

Drogo reviewed his army. Along with himself, Galadiir, Shadow and Akazar, he had his men and the farm workers. There were several others; friends and relatives of the workers; plus he had Deneris and Galadiir’s “Army of the Dead” and “Wall of the Dead”. Furthermore, he had organised the men into digging some earthworks and clearing the vegetation around the farm perimeter.

That night, after the sun had set and the boiling red moon was in the sky, they heard a loud noise in the distance, like water pouring over a mighty cataract. In the morning, three men had gone; thrown down their weapons and deserted their posts. Drogo took up post in the centre, ready to command the army and to help in the defence. Galadiir had built himself a low platform to cast spells from; Akazar and Shadow stayed in the centre of the farm with a reserve of men.

As dawn broke the Ayaka attacked from the south; screaming their battle cry “Ootini, Ootini!” Drogo leapt into the fray and Galadiir loosed several spells. As before, once the Ayaka saw he was a sorcerer they turned their attentions to him. Drogo leapt across to defend him; the initial charge was repulsed. The second wave of attacks saw Drogo battling to protect Galadiir and the Ayaka surged past them and into the farm. Drogo took a deep blow to the leg; saved by his Loin-Cloth Hero Edge; Galadiir was running out of energy; having to maintain several spells at once.

In the farm, Akazar went down under a frenzied onslaught by a group of Ayaka; Shadow fought a desperate battle around the statue of Geoff the Mighty aided by the reserve men. A final battle round the statue saw the defeat of the Ayaka; who routed and ran south.

Shadow mourned the death of Akazar; they searched for and found his body; he was buried under the statue of Geoff.

“This will be our graveyard, where we will all be buried”.

After a few hours rest they left a garrison at the farm and headed north to the battle at Kularni. The Ayaka were laying siege; they had climbing ladders to scale the walls and several spiders were on the roof of the caravanserai. The heroes fought their way through to the main gates; Galadiir was wounded by a spear thrust and then bitten by a hunting spider that dropped on to him from inside the gates. The arrival of the heroes helped turn the tide. Drogo, Shadow and Kerim Shah led a sortie out of the gates whilst Galadiir went to help the healers in the market area. The sortie was a success and the Ayaka withdrew to the south.

As darkness fell, Kerim Shah met with Drogo on the roof of the town, by one of the ballista. He was covered with spider bites.

“My thanks for your help.” He looked to the south, where the horizon was lit by a flickering glow. “That was just a skirmish, to test our defences. The main army lies there, waiting to attack.”

Later that evening, in the tavern, Drogo challenged Shadow to The Drinking Game. It was not Drogo’s night; he passed out after the first drink and Shadow collected 500 Moons in wagers. Across the room Galadiir saw Toorkman, surrounded by his men. Toorkman doffed his hat and made a sweeping bow; then turned back to his men.

To be continued…

GM: Our first test of the Mass Battle Rules from SWD. I used the rules as written; with the bonus of a Benny at the end of each Round in which they went out in personal combat. I’m going to quantify things a little more using “Tattered Banners”

They have discussed a plan for Shadow to sneak in and assassinate the Ayaka leader


Session 2

Storm Season (Returning), in the Fifty-Second Year of the Leopard

Galadiir, Drogo and Shadow discussed a plan to take the fight to the enemy. Leaving a garrison at the farm, they headed south into the Ivory Savannah, with Drogo riding Deneris. Drogo and Shadow were excellent trackers and were able to follow the trail left by the fleeing Ayaka. It was during the third day that they encountered trouble.

“Halt!” called Shadow, who then scaled the nearest tree into the lower branches. “There are several creatures approaching from the south, through the grass.”

Drogo leapt onto Deneris and readied his Buffalo Spear.

“Drogo is ready”

Soon the creatures were visible, Giant Hunting Spiders. The size of small ponies, they bounded through the grass towards the heroes.

“Spiders”, groaned Galadiir. “Why does it have to be spiders? If I create a “Wall of the Dead”, they’ll just climb over it”*
Drogo and Deneris charged the nearest spider and ran it down; Deneris trampled it into the ground. Galadiir summoned two of his “Army of the Dead” to engage the spider closing in on his left; Shadow stood ready in the centre. The spiders showed a disturbing grasp of tactics; two of them climbed up trees and jumped at Shadow and Drogo. Deneris reared up but to no avail, the spider landed on her and attacked Drogo. One of Galadiir’s Army went down; Shadow used his newly-learnt Shooting to shoot his bow at the creature; both shots missed.
Another spider ran out of the grass towards Galadiir, Shadow dropped his bow and leapt in front of it. Drogo stabbed at the spider as it fell towards him; his spear caused a deep gash; enough for the spider to jump back into the tree. Galadiir used his “Sea of the Dead” (Blast) to take out one of the spiders that was lurking up a tree; Drogo decided to snare the last one in his net to make a spider cloak out of its hide** However, he succeeded in snaring the spider up in the tree too well; he pulled it out of the tree and the fall killed it.

They stored the spider hide and Shadow was able to recover one spent arrow. Continuing on, they reached the edge of the Savannah and the thick wall of the Lush Jungle rose before them. Venturing in, they soon found there were few ways of navigating and they wandered for several days before exiting onto a river bank.

The river is wide and fast flowing. The bank rises up on the right to a knoll; from there to the opposite bank is a rope bridge…

To be continued

GM’s Notes
* Galadiir is developing a real phobia about spiders (IRL, his player HAS got a spider phobia)
** This is a throwback to a very early Game of Talislanta when they fought and killed a Crag Spider
*** They have no food, water or supplies with them!

Session Three

Storm Season (Returning), in the Fifty-Second Year of the Leopard, somewhere in the Lush Jungle

Drogo looked at the river and considered whether to risk Deneris swimming it. The river is wide and with a fast current tumbling over rocks and cataracts. The only option was to risk the bridge. Drogo ran up the slope to the top of the knoll; the others followed. Shadow ran to the bridge and started out across it; with loud screams of “Ootini! Ootini!” a horde of Ayaka poured out of the jungle opposite. Shadow grabbed his bow and nocked an arrow; the swaying of the bridge unbalanced him and he fell forward; to his dismay he watched half of his arrows fall into the raging river.

“Souls for Xymart, I call on the Sea of the Dead”, cried Galadiir and raised his arms. A shimmering spectral host engulfed the Ayaka, two fell dead with expressions of sheer terror on their faces, the rest scattered. Drogo ran onto the bridge and attacked the pygmy who was running towards Shadow, with one blow from his Tribal shield he knocked the screaming pygmy off the bridge and into the river; where he was swept into the rocks.

“Drogo will take you all!”

A flurry of blowgun darts came from out of the jungle, several struck Drogo’s shield and one struck Galadiir in the shoulder. He concentrated on the burning sensation spreading from the wound and it faded.

Shadow slung his bow and drew one of his swords in time to beat off an attack from another Ayaka. He killed that one; only to see two more rushing towards him. Drogo intercepted one and used his shield to push the man off the bridge. Galadiir cast “Rose’s Thorns” and took out two Ayaka; he then was hit by another blowgun dart. Again, he was not affected by the poison (perhaps Xymart was watching over him this day).

The bridge was not meant to take this; with an ominous “snap” one of the lianas parted.*

Galadiir called upon the Sea of the Dead again and took down more of the Ayaka; Drogo pushed another pygmy into the river (it would appear that they can’t swim), then ran for the end of the bridge; followed by Shadow. Galadiir took out two more pygmies with “Roses Thorns” and survived another hit from a blowgun dart. He crossed the bridge; but there were no more attacks.

Drogo spent some time coaxing Deneris to cross the bridge; it groaned alarmingly under her weight but she crossed safely. Drogo and Shadow then scouted for tracks of the Ayaka. They found obvious ones; leading south into the jungle.


Several days later they were on a hill overlooking a large hollow. There were two large camps; bivouac shelters around fires. Beyond the camps were areas with large cages. A central slope led up to a crumbling vine-grown ruin; beyond the ruin are the light of a huge fire and the sound of rhythmic drums…

To be continued…

This was the first test of mine and Ben’s combat battle system, adapted from Mantic Game’s “Mars Attacks”. It combines the best elements of table top war gaming with a 3×3” grid to regulate movement and combat. It worked really well.
* There was a very real chance that the bridge could have collapsed if too many people were fighting on it.
** Drogo’s use of the Push (Shield Bash) to push the enemy off the bridge was inspired and he has gained +1xp

The Gamers are very interested in sponsoring / setting up a Gladiator school to use the published rules. Has anyone else tried these yet – if so, how did it go; or is there an ongoing tournament they can get involved in?

Note: They have settled on a name for the group – The Gallant Band of Manic Strangers

Session 4

Storm Season (Returning), in the Fifty-Second Year of the Leopard, somewhere in the Lush Jungle

Galadiir strained his eyes, trying to see what was in the cages nearest to them.

“Spiders! “, he cursed. “Always damn spiders. Spiders hate me.”

Drogo and Shadow studied the layout of the camp. The way to the entrance of the ruins lay straight through the middle, past the large fires that were serving as cooking fires. Around the fires, in groups, were Ayaka pygmies; Drogo attempted to count them but ran out of fingers. Beyond the camp a slope led up to a shadowy vine-grown ruin, from beyond this came the sound of muffled drumbeats and the flickering of firelight.

“The leader has to be in the ruins”, declared Galadiir. “Shadow goes and does his assassination thing and we create a diversion.”

“Drogo will ride Deneris across camp and split many small man skulls open.”

Finally, they decided on a plan that involved Shadow using his stealth to sneak towards the entrance to the ruins whilst Galadiir crept into the middle of the camp using Drogo’s camouflaged tribal shield as cover. Once in position he could then summon several “Sea of the Dead” to cause confusion in the camp whilst Drogo charged in on Deneris.

The plan was going well; Shadow nearly made it to the ruins when Galadiir tripped over a sleeping Pygmy. The man stood and rose to full height – far bigger than a pygmy.

“Anda akan mati untuk itu, pria jahat!”

Galadiir did not know what the man had said, but it sounded like a challenge. He replied in High Tricarnian and pulled out his short sword.

“Tev jāmirst, ka ļauns cilvēks”

The Ayaka leapt forward and struck down hard; Galadiir managed to parry but missed on the riposte. He jumped back and the Ayaka came after him. This time the stone club hit Galadiir on the upper shoulder and he half-fell. He struggled to his feet to see Drogo grappling with the big Ayaka; a telling blow sent the champion reeling; Galadiir stabbed him with his sword and Drogo struck the killing blow.

“You are my brother”, said Galadiir; they high-fived then turned to face the hordes of Ayaka charging them.

Meanwhile, Shadow had made it through into the ruins. He headed up the slope; pausing only to duck into cover as several Ayaka ran past him. He crept forward and hid in the shadow of a large column. In the centre of the ruins were two blazing fires; on a low dais sat a large grinning monkey-headed man, flanking him were three Ayaka champions and a pygmy wearing a necklace of skulls carrying a gnarled wooden staff. Shadow drew back behind the column and readied his bow.

Something about the column disturbed him; he looked up to see that it was one leg of a gigantic monkey statue that straddled the entrance.

“Prepare yourself, my brother”, said Galadiir and loosed off a set of “Roses Thorns” at the attacking Ayaka. Many fell; the rest milled around in disarray. Drogo whistled for Deneris and leapt into the melee; he took several wounds; all soaked by his Loincloth Hero Edge; his return use of Sweep held off the Ayaka until Deneris charged into them from the rear; tossing them like ninepins. A furious melee ensured but eventually the PC’s held and rode Deneris to the edge of the jungle; Galadiir loosed off several “Roses Thorns” to discourage pursuit.

Shadow drew back even further as number of Ayaka ran up from the camp, shouting and yelling. He presumed they were raising the alarm. Hoping it would draw off some of the guards around the monkey-head, he readied and aimed his bow at the monkey face.

Drogo turned Deneris around and they charged back into the camp*, only to be jumped by two hunting spiders. Galadiir took down one with a “Rose’s Thorn” and Deneris trampled over it; Drogo speared the second one on his Buffalo Spear. Racing through the remains of the encampment, they charged into the ruins…

Next week – the concluding episode(?)

* I didn’t follow the conversation that led to this decision

Hmm … I’m a bit unsure about how this went. I wanted to get the feel of them fighting a huge horde, so I treated the Ayaka as a series of SBT similar to swarms, with the champions, shaman and Masked Warrior acting on their own cards. It didn’t feel like the PC’s were under threat at all, although the exploding damage dice did wreak havoc amongst the Ayaka (it was unbelievable; practically every combat roll or damage roll the PC’s did exploded.)

Session 5

Storm Season (Returning), in the Fifty-Second Year of the Leopard, somewhere in the Lush Jungle

Shadow saw Drogo and Galadiir on Deneris charge into the group of Ayaka round the entrance*, scattering them. Shadow took his chance and started to climb up the ruins. The ancient stones crumbled under his weight and he fell backwards. The noise caused the nearest Champion to notice him; in a flash he raised his blowpipe and sent a dart towards Shadow. The purple-tinged dart stuck into Shadow’s armour near to his neck. The Ayaka charged Drogo and Galadiir; Drogo’s First Strike proved effective at keeping them at bay. The shaman gestured with his monkey skull rod and four Headless Zombies clawed their way up out of the earth and advanced.

Shadow climbed up the ruins again and found a vine-grown ledge about 30’ up. The Masked Warrior (aka “Monkey Man”) swarmed up the wall on his right and let out a high-pitched chattering screech, directed at Shadow. Unnerved, he watched in disbelief as the Masked Warrior swung on a liana towards him, axe raised.

Galadiir jumped off Deneris as Drogo rode her forwards towards the nearest Champion and the shaman. Just in time he pulled her to one side as a huge pit opened in front of them. He looked up to see the shaman gesture with the monkey skull; a cloud of green spiders engulfed him. The shaman gestured again and a second cloud of spiders struck Drogo. Again he laughed off the attack.

“Drogo does not fear your sorcery; Monkey Man. Drogo will split your skull and let the magic pour out onto the ground”

Deneris gored a Headless zombie and threw them into the pit; Galadiir managed to kill the last Ayaka hunter and summoned his Army of the Dead to face off one of the Champions. They killed two of the Headless zombies; the shaman used his power to raise three of the dead Ayaka as zombies.

Meanwhile, up in the ruins, Shadow and the Masked Warrior were battling; swinging in and out on lianas and striking blows in passing. The Warrior took a savage blow from Shadow that he was able to Soak; in return Shadow took a Wound. The Warrior took the opportunity to scream a bloodcurdling howl straight into Shadow’s face. Fazed by this, Shadow was unprepared for the attack and took an axe wound deep into the guts.

Drogo was suddenly thrown by Deneris, who tried to charge him from behind** He jumped aside and tried to barge the Champion down into the pit; it was a close call but the Champion failed to fall in. They attacked back and Drogo took a Wound; Soaked by his Loincloth Hero Edge. A gesture from the shaman and Deneris bolted off the map. Galadiir cast three ‘Roses Thorns’ at the Masked Warrior; they did some damage but exhausted his magic.

“Drogo does not understand. Deneris is loyal to me and would never run away”.

Drogo battled the Champion; Galadiir battled the other Champion; doing significant damage with his short sword. Suddenly they heard a terrible scream. Looking up, they saw Shadow falling from the upper levels; a stone axe embedded deep in his guts. He hit the ground with a wet sound*** Drogo and Galadiir looked on, stunned.

“Xymart”, called Galadiir. “A soul for you, Lord Xymart”

The shaman gestured again with his monkey skull rod; the shape of a huge spider began to form in the centre of the ruins. Suddenly his expression turned to outright terror as a twisted rip in the air opened behind him and dimly-glimpsed was the image of a monstrous spider****. Two spider legs, thick as young tree trunks, dragged the shaman into the rip; which closed with a satisfied smacking sound. The remaining zombies crumbled to dust.

The Masked Warrior swung back across the lianas and disappeared into the jungle, along with the Champion. The jungle was thick and pursuit almost impossible.

Deneris was found hiding behind a tree down in the Ayaka camp. On recovering Deneris and Drogo giving her a strong telling off; they loaded Shadows body and headed north for Kularni and the farm. The Ayaka army was breaking up; it’s driving force gone.

The End

XP = 4 each (3+1 for the death of Shadow)

*I’d given up on the swarm idea and replaced the swarm with a group of six Ayaka hunters.

** Ben (Drogo) really could not get to grips with the effect of a Beast Friend spell on Deneris.

*** Shadow was Incapacitated and rolled snake eyes on his Vigour roll.

**** Backlash from using Sorcery

GM: The first real battle that pushed the PC’s to the limit. There were several Jokers drawn and extra Bennies awarded on all sides from Joker’s Wild; Shadow spent several on re-rolling damage. He drew two Jokers during the fight.


Episode 2.2 – Shadows in the South

It was Sorrows End and Drogo, Galadiir and Shadow were at the farm just south of Kularni. It was early evening and the sun was setting. They were speculating whether they would see Raven again and Shadow was swapping tales with Akazar. It was then that they saw a troop of soldiers approaching. Gallmus and Drogo went out to meet them. It was Kerim Shah, Captain of the Kularni Guard.

The news he brought was grim. The Ayaka Pygmies have massed in the Lush Jungle and are on the warpath. There were reports that Veranzar was under siege. Now, there is news that a small village two days travel to the south has been attacked. Kularni is preparing for war; many of the population are packing up and heading north to the Independent Cities or Kyros. If the news about the village is true then the Ayaka are even closer than he realised.

He proposes that the heroes go scouting to the south, to find out what has happened to the village and to gauge some idea of the Ayaka numbers. He cannot spare any of his own men; they are busy training militia and keeping an eye on the mercenaries being hired.

Galadiir proposed that he, Shadow and Akazar should go. Drogo was not happy about this.

“My friend”, said Galadiir. “This is a stealthy mission. You should stay here with your men and guard the farm.”

“You go to seek an army. Armies are not stealthy”, replied Drogo. Galadiir persisted and Drogo gave in*.

The following day, Galadiir, Shadow and Akazar set off south. They took very little with them other than their weapons; Akazar had escaped from Ekul with very little so Shadow lent him his bow and quiver of arrows. At the end of the first day they were on the edge of the Verdant Belt, with the Lush Jungle before them. It was then that they chanced upon a body by the side of the track. The body was male, clad in tattered rags with fair hair and a straggly unkempt beard. A short sword was gripped in in his right hand.

“Syranthian?” mused Galadiir. “What brings him so far south?” He moved in closer and wrinkled his nose at the stench of putrefaction. He turned the body over with the side of his boot and recoiled in disgust at the two puncture wounds in the man’s neck. The punctures were green and black and were the source of the smell. Shadow scouted around and determined that the man had come from the south. Galadiir wanted to burn the body, but had no way of doing so. A quick search revealed a small bag of 50 coins of an unknown type; Galadiir took these without Shadow seeing him do so. They camped for the night; they took turns in standing guard but nothing happened; other than Galadiir having a strange dream about a pair of eyes watching him.

The following day the sun rose as a pale shadow; wreathed in dense fog. Heading south, as the day moved on the sun burned the fog away. They came upon a burned village; in the centre lay three bodies. A quick examination showed they were similar to the man they found yesterday and they had died in a similar manner.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, Drogo went into Kularni to gather some supplies. Kerim Shah had spoken truly; many of the smaller traders had packed up and gone; although Orrando was still doing business. He saw Drogo enter the courtyard.

“Drogo! Drogo, my friend. I have not seen you for some time. Come inside and share a flask of the finest Caldeian vintage. I have a job for you.”

“Not now, Orrando. Drogo has other business stopping an army.”

“Another time then? I too have an interest in stopping an army.

Camped outside was a mercenary company; “Toorkmans Gentlemen”. A flamboyant crew dressed in scarlet and green; led by a foppish dandy wearing a feathered hat who was talking to Kerim Shah. Drogo just grunted.

“Wait until they see a real fight”

Back at the village, Shadow found a trail leading north-west. They followed this for two hours; it ended in a clearing with no other exits. A large pile of branches sticks and leaves lay at the opposite side to the entrance. Galadiir’s curiosity got the better of him and he advanced across the clearing. Shadow and Akazar stayed back by the entrance; Akazar readied his bow. As Galadiir took another step forward, several blowgun darts rippled out of the undergrowth. One struck Galadiir and he felt a numbing poison spreading out. Undeterred, he made it to the pile; only to recoil in horror as it unfolded into a brown and green giant spider**. The spider struck and bit deep, causing a deep wound; however it was not able to inject its venom. Akazar loosed an arrow at the spider, distracting it; Galadiir leapt backwards and loosed off a trio of “Rose’s Thorns”, killing the creature. He turned and ran towards the exit of the clearing, another blowgun dart hit him in the neck and he felt himself becoming drowsy. Suddenly an Ayaka burst out of the undergrowth and ran at Galadiir, a stone axe raised. A well-placed shot from Akazar took him down and Galadiir staggered out of the clearing.

Back at the farm, Drogo set some of the workers and his men to preparing some defensive positions, digging some trenches and preparing earthworks. The farm was not fenced other than around the animals and anyway, to construct stone fortifications is out of the question. A wooden palisade though, is a different matter.

Helped along by Shadow, Galadiir made it back to the village. They noticed something was different; the three bodies they had left were now standing upright, impaled on wooden stakes. A chorus of war cries broke out as Ayaka poured into the village…

To be continued

GM: Players are getting their first hint that fighting the Ayaka is not going to be easy.

* I have no idea why Drogo was left behind. Ben’s idea to try and fortify the farm was a good one.
** Matt (Galadiir) hates spiders in RL and so his reaction was a picture


Shadows in the South – Episode 2: Session 2

Shadow dropped Galadiir to the ground and they stared as a horde of Ayaka ran towards them, seemingly melting out of the surrounding jungle. The hesitation proved to be costly as a cloud of blowgun darts shot towards them. Most clattered off Shadows and Akazar’s leather armour, one struck Akazar in the neck and the fatigue poison took effect. In retaliation, Akazar put an arrow into the pygmy that had shot him. The pygmies screamed a strange battle cry “Ootini!” as they charged and attacked.

Galadiir struggled to his feet, the wound he had taken from the spider burning hot. He cast Army of the Dead and his two ghostly bodyguards appeared and attacked the nearest Ayaka. Galadiir laughed and yelled “More souls for you, Lord Xymart”. At that point a dart hit him in the left cheek; he felt his vision blur and he fell to the ground; as his eyes closed he saw the Army shimmer out of existence.

Shadow was fighting a desperate battle against three opponents; he was trying to get across the village to help Akazar, who was down on the ground. A Pygmy was trying to drag him off into the surrounding jungle. Shadow took two blows to the head; as he shook his head trying to clear it, three darts struck and the world went black.

“Ootini! Ootini!”

Shadow woke with a sore head and a mouth that tasted like a badger. It was dusk, there was a fire burning and several men, warriors by the look of them, sitting or standing. One of them came across.

“Greetings to you. I am Xaltepec, leader of the Jaguar Warriors of Veranzar. We have been tracking this Ayaka raiding party for several days, but they will trouble no-one anymore. We heard your fight and decided to join in”.

Shadow saw the piled bodies of many Pygmies and that of a giant spider.

“We owe you our lives”, said Galadiir, who had also woken up. “Does your kind use coins at all?”
Xaltepec was amused at this.

“We are not barbarian savages my friend. We are professional soldiers, part of the Veranzar army. However, a little danger money can always be put to good use.”

Galadiir paid over 400 Moons to Xaltepec.

“We shall stay with you until the poison has worn off. The Pygmies are sly and treacherous, preferring to use poison from ambush. You are lucky that this was a hunting spider; not a Death Spider that killed the three unfortunates in the village. Where are you from?”

“We are from Kularni, about two days travel to the north. We heard about the army coming north and were sent here to scout out their numbers. Do you have any idea how many there are?”

“The Ayaka are the main tribe, plus there are several lesser tribes. In total, about a thousand, along with their hunting spiders and possibly worse. They have been driven mad by the Burning Moon; they see it as an omen.”

Galadiir swallowed with effort. “A thousand you say. I was hoping for a couple of hundred. How near is the army to us?”

“We are being watched right now. The Pygmies are masters of woodcraft. You hear the birdsong? Not all of that is natural.”

At dawn, they took their leave of the Jaguars. Shadow invited them north to Kularni but Xaltepec demurred.

“We are part of the Veranzar army and our duty is to our city. A safe journey to you”

Two days later they were back at the farm. They saw that Drogo and his men had been busy digging trenches and preparing earthworks. Galadiir went into Kularni to report to Kerim Shah. Outside the town was camped a mercenary company. Kerim Shah looked harried.

“Do they have cavalry? Chariots? Siege engines?”

“They have giant spiders”.

Kerim Shah glanced up at the ballista on the roof of the caravanserai and frowned.

“I shall post more mounted patrols to the south”.

As Galadiir passed the mercenary camp, a foppishly-dressed dandy wearing a red and green tunic and a feathered hat came out of one of the tents. He looked at Galadiir and sniffed loudly.

“So they are reduced to hiring riff-raff now”

Galadiir just stared, although inside he was boiling mad. He noticed that the dandy had the fourth finger of his left hand missing and that he wore a rapier and a main-gauche.

“Who are you? How many battles have you fought in?” asked Galadiir calmly.

“I am Toorkman. Remember my name” replied the dandy.

Several days passed, Sorrows End was drawing to a close and the weather was worsening as Storm Season (Returning) approached. They all continued to work on the farm fortifications. Then, just after midday, they saw two riders approaching fast from the south; they wore the Kularni crest.

“What news do you bring?” called Galadiir.

“The Ayaka are marching north and are only a day to the south. War is upon us!”
End of Episode 2
XP awarded = 2 each

GM: The biggest battle fought so far in any Game. As the PC’s went down early due to the poisoned blowpipe darts I had all of the Jaguars turn up and split control between Matt and Harry. Ben ran the Pygmies and Spiders. This allowed them to have a no-holds barred fight between Extras. There was much use of Gang-up bonuses, Taunts and Tricks. The Jaguars took no casualties and several of the Ayaka escaped.

Next issue: Kularni and the farm are attacked by the Ayaka. This will be our first test of the Mass Combat Rules (CR, modified by Tattered Banners)