[As usual this shifts to a different tense halfway through. Never mind eh?]
The boys recover from their bout of government restructuring at the nearest Empire castle. Although far from their liege lords, they are still supported by the Empire structure as representatives on this far flung edge.
Now that the lads have brought back into the Empire the islands of Vog Mur, the local lords will get together to decide who gets to administer it.
In the meantime, Tűd continues to avoid physical exercise as his side is still stiff and sore. He geekily makes friends with a language scholaring Blackrobe, Imrael, and spends most of the months reading and discussing magic.
Thranduil spends the time practicing his sword-work with Prince Arutha, though they don’t seem to get on all that well.
Kamilata gets to know a local sea-faring race, and also manages to spend most of the team’s recently-earned money on a three-week bender encouraged by some nefarious politician from the castle. As the Ilin don’t understand money, this is not a problem. The two-week hangover, however, is.
The meeting to decide the fate of Vog Mur is an opportunity for a fairly large get together, including representatives of merchant guilds, priests, magicians, and neighbouring fiefdoms that aren’t directly involved in the debate. The first to arrive is Orchard Pamook (?) and his entourage, in a great explosion of thunder and smoke in the market square. All are impressed, but some are not pleased.
Rumours of a half-eaten man found on the outskirts of town.
More people arrive.
As ilin, Tűd and Thranduil will join the feasting. Kamilata, as a profeshunal soljer but not under the local command, is relatively free. He gets cornered however by Ziggy “Elacaborn” Stardust, the chief mage and a cross between Toyah and Jeremy Irons, to arrange a quiet meeting between Princes Arutha and Kuvan.
About the same time, Mayor Haermond finds he is missing some rather important scrolls that he had locked up in a chest in his study. He has watches, both physical and magical, over the routes in and out of his castle and he is sure they haven’t left the building. Unwilling to involve local people with local interests, he assigns the task of finding them to an equally unwilling Tűd. Short of any idea of how thieving works, he asks his bookish friend Imrael to use his magic to scry out what has happened to the scrolls. After a night-long ritual with dribbly candles and secret dances involving bells, handkerchiefs and silly hats, Imrael can only conclude that they have not been removed out of malice. A clue! Tűd tells Thranduil and Kamilata, on the basis that one might know who in the local politics might have motive, and Kamilata because he’s a profeshunal soljer and knows how things are acquired and hidden…
They start at Haermond’s office with Haermond himself. Marines stand outside the door, the door itself is warded, and the scrolls were in a locked steel box on the study table. The window is too small to climb through, and the ‘wardrobe’ too slippery. Only Herman himself and the Big Cheese Glordin have a key. Luckily, one of the kitchen maids who just happened to be delivering muffins knew a thing or two about locks, so she had a look to see if it had been picked. Unfortunately the thing or two she knew didn’t have anything to do with this lock, so that was that, but she was recruited into help look around the office (down the back of filing cabinets, in the pile of papers by the loo, etc). Noticing the unused fireplace (always included in dwarvish-built castles, even in tropics) the lads look at what might fit up. The kitchen maid probably could (“If the chimney fits…”), and while there is no soot to dislodge, the dust hadn’t been disturbed around the fireplace. The maid assures us it’s not her job to clean fireplaces, and she’ll beat whoever was supposed to with a stale muffin.
Kamilata is wondering how to quietly meet up with Prince Arutha, and is starting to think about disguising himself as the Muffin Man to get near him.
What about the half-eaten body on the outskirts? Don’t spread the rumour, we don’t want to panic anyone. Except that everyone knows, that’s how it’s a rumour. [Tűd said something very Ilin when told about this, perhaps it’ll come back to memory]
Kamilata gets to meet the princes by loitering near the stables and catching them when they return from rides. He arranges a meeting between them in a hayloft (oh yes…) for the next morning, while he guards the entrance. As they leave, Arutha looks relaxed but Kuvan mixed (“you’ve won the lottery and your wife has died”).
Later that day all the Important People head off for a day’s hunting and picnicking, leaving Thranduil in charge of the castle. (“Don’t let anything happen to it and get hold of the scrolls before we get back”). All that is left is Princess Forgileill (Arutha’s younger sister), 106 marines and the kitchen staff.
Since the scrolls weren’t taken maliciously (according to that magic stuff), the lads start looking for the scrolls in Glordin’s rooms, since he has a key and may have taken them to read and review. The Muffin Delivery Maid is there changing the sheets, and the Princess, being a girlie girl, is tidying her room. There are loads of scrolls, everywhere – not so much looking for a needle in a haystack as a particular piece of hay. They give up trying to locate it by normal means, and resort to an astrologer on the outskirts of town. As they prepare to leave (saddling up horses etc) they realise that there are a lot of odd people hanging around. The maid has noticed some of the ‘ex-officio representatives’ (MoD speak for ‘Spy’) of various nearby kingdoms. Thranduil instructs the guards to close the gates (they’re not very bright) and patrol the castle to throw out undesirables.
Just as the lads are mounting up a terrific scream shatters the morning (?) quiet. Action! They leap into the castle keep, following screams both angry and frightened, the clank of running armoured figures and the dull wet-sack hard thuds of lightly armed men being battered. They pass a few crumpled, flattened and dismembered marine corpses; Kamilata picks up a couple of unbroken spears on his way past.
The main hall echoes with the battle; corpses of the marines are scattered along the floor to a knot of figures standing in front of the throne at the far end. As they race forward they see the nearest standing figure is massive, bestial, and above all hairy, facing a shield wall of a dozen marines covering the princess who is backed up against the throne. Tűd cries "a gnoll!" recognising it as one of the doglike humanoids from his homeland. The others, who have never come across one before, are confused by this reference to a small hill but carry on forwards to close with it.
Their recent combat experience tells; within a few rounds the lads have dealt several mighty blows (or, in the case of Tűd, mighty pointy arrows, or, in the case of a passing kitchen maid, slung Mighty Rock Muffins). Then it all goes horribly wrong; Kamilata is smacked back and lies stunned. Agent Lorimar, after a flying ‘leap of the mighty chicken’, is mortally wounded as a sweep of talons scatters his chest, lungs and ribs over the marines who are still bound in a solid shield wall. Luckily the damage done so far on the Knoll was enough that an arrow from Tűd knocks it down, stunned. But as he closes in to finish it off, they realise the early blows are healing, and Tűd’s clumsy attempts to saw away at the beasts prone twitching body is not sufficient to keep up with its healing.
The princess, with the beast down now, recovers enough to notice that the backs of the marines in front of her have been green for some time. She glances up to see the green dagger brought by Tűd as a present from his boss, Gothon Yla, and hanging over the throne for the duration of his visit (before being put in the storeroom with other useless trinkets) is glowing a bright green. Making an intelligent guess, she yells to Tűd and throws him the dagger. It skitters over the ground to him; he grabs it turns and cuts the nearest limb, the beast’s leg. The beast is already awakening, yells and leaps away, Tűd hobbling after it, his crippled leg compensated by Boots of Quickness. It makes for the nearest window, faster than any can follow, and leaps. Tűd gets to it and leans out – with an amazing lucky shot (230?) he catches it a blow through the plant life below, but loses it as it runs.
Medics bind up the wounded, though in the case of Thranduil this is mostly wishful thinking. Nevertheless he only appears mostly dead, and might even be getting better.
The important people return, and Herman thanks Tűd for returning the scrolls… Tűd just nods and says no problems.
Unusually this time, he’s standing still. It’s Thranduil who is moving about, sometimes flickering from place to place, sometimes walking. He morphs from young to old to desiccated in no apparent order. Just before he wakes Thranduil appears young and hale…
Tűd awakens from this strange dream, finding that overnight Thranduil has recovered. Without, apparently, too much intervention from the priests. This is mighty mysteriousness, and Tűd mentions his strange (and probably highly illegal) dream to his good friend Imrael. [but I can’t remember what the consequences were, if any].
In the morning the nobles, priests and sorcerers gather to reconstruct the scene of the previous day. The creature is identified as a werewolf, not a geographical feature at all, and the lads are engaged as Werewolf-hunters. A scrying to locate the prey show a barbarian-like warrior, large blond spiked hair, worn shield, battle axe, loping through a jungle/forest that is thought to be the one to the north.
“We’re all going to Die-aton”.
Hunting Hairy Monsters
Scrounged some items from the armoury, probably left over from long ago days of fighting bugbears. Argued for money (no, we do need some) and free silver-tipping everything. Introduced to some of the areas history, especially the bugbears/Histograms/Nightstalkers. To help with supplies and cooking, a kitchen maid is attached, in a strange coincidence the maker of Iron Muffins that the lads had previously encountered.
Make their way to Die-aton by boat, and from there north to Kael with a supply caravan headed by Calain. [for some reason I have ‘welsch chlamas’ written down here, but I have no idea why]. Kael is a Frontier post, sending out heavily armed and armoured local patrols to the north. The boys compare their light armour and slim long swords with the heavy plate and two handed broadswords of The Brotherhood…
At Kael they meet 6 adventurers; Tor hits it off with Rothgar The MIGHTY and we join up on the basis that the more other people there are, the more likely it is you can get away while the bugbears are eating the others. Especially if some of them are really short or really unfit. Or crippled. Ah.
Head west along mountain path. Thranduil is in front being a light-footed pointy-eared half elf. He senses a disturbance in the force and holds his hand up closed in a fist. Everyone along the line tries to find the gun group, but it appears they haven’t brought one.
“Perhaps his back’s out” says Kamilata, as Thranduil hasn’t moved for a bit. Our guys huddle up as Lludia comes up to find out what’s going on.
Thranduil sottos “I think you should take a look up there, we’ll just wait here, just have a look past that glowing pile of octaron there” “what octaron?” “er it’s a kind of rock, I mean that boulder about 100 yards up the trail” “oh ok”. Thranduil moves forward, covered by Tűd…
Eddies in the space-time continuum (“Really? How is he?”) spill out a swirling dark-upon-dark hole in the air in front of where Thranduil was standing. He is now cowering, er covering, in some rocks just up from the trail.
“Oh a gateway” says everyone (“Is it a ritual gateway?”), and Rincewind comes charging out of it, smoking hair and singed armour, carrying a big key/weapon. He manages a few running steps before a crossbow bolt follows him to smack him in the back of the head, not quite killing him but knocking him to the ground.
Two black-robed pointy-eared humanoids step out after him, looking suspiciously like elves, ready to finish him off. Tűd takes Ilin exception to this, and a bit of friendly banter follows. The elves claim that magic used by humans in their homeland of Armarillo (?) harm (eventually to death) their god Scyrah and so they hunt down and kill all human magicians [Thranduil thinks they may be drow but is unsure whether to signal an attack], and Tűd telling them not in this town matey and promising (on no grounds at all really) that he would prevent Rincewind from returning to Armarillo, and anyway we don’t know the way, there’s no-one to show us.
The lads strip Rincewind, bandage him up, and take him back to the castle at IKeal for safekeeping. Despite the HUGE temptation, they don’t take any of his stuff, as it still belongs to him while he’s alive. Other temptations follow…
Back onto the path, then head off into the jungle. Stopped by 2 Muri at point blank range. Desperate gestures for Torendra the kitchen maid to come forwards as she’s the only one who can speak Muri (being, well, Murian), but she’s busy flirting with Rothgar The MIGHTY. “I’m not going to the front, it’s dangerous!”. Finally persuaded. It appears the Muri are upset with the adventurers for attracting the bugbears the last time they came through – Torendra points at them “It was them! Not us!”. We are asked to avoid their area. We agree as we like not having too many extra holes. Interesting, no-one knew there were Muri living in the jungle.
As we continue along the mountain path, Thranduil feels another disturbance in the force come swinging quickly by out of the sinister (or dextro) jungle.
Night shift, 2 on, Torendra & Rothgar snogging away. Kamilata + Cormac on shift swapping tales
“Then there was the time we were fighting bugbears –”
Kamilata uses his shield to shout "Halt!" which wakes everyone up and gives the shambler something to focus on. Tűd sticks his Helm of Dark-seeing on and says “It’s OK folks, he’s dead, and has been for some time. Er…”
Lludia sends off a firebolt, blinding most people but especially Tűd with his light amp helm. Oest, who closed his eyes when he saw Lludia start up the spell, puts an arrow in and Lludia, ignoring Tűd’s curses, puts another firebolt into its chest and blows it to bits. Recovering his vision, Tűd goes to look at it and sees two more climbing up the cliff. We rush up to the top and drop rocks on them; Torendra takes one arm off at the shoulder and Tűd knocks one off the wall with his super duper shooting-arrows skill (98+93+skill 91).
Next morning we meet a patrol coming the other way, back from a few months extended patrol in the jungle. He tells us it was probably a Bugbear mage that sent the undead.
The initial plan was to investigate the same city as the other adventurers, but after talking to the returning patrol, in a flash of tourism the guys decide to visit a Ziggurat (or ‘Pyramid’) up the trail the patrol came in.
Into the jungle; something dark and slithery crosses our path. Jungle scariness, closed views, noisy. Thranduil finds footprints in the path and sends a signal back (“What’s he doing?” “Dunno, I think he’s being bothered by flies”). Tűd, as good a tracker as we have and a pretty useless one anyway, identifies them as footprints and staff holes. Probably some mage or other… The next morning, after camping at the side of the path, they find another crude camp was made nearby, whoever occupied it already gone.
We gradually gain on him that morning. Arrive at the Ziggurat, and climb quietly to the top, though as we reach it Secret Agent Lorimar trips over his armour just as Tűd catches sight of Spiny Norman tearing out the last bits of his supper (raw jungle beastie) on the other side of the platform at the top.
Spiny Norman throws his dinner away and charges around the side of the pyramid, axe in hand. Tűd leaps for the top, Thranduil digs about for the green dagger he’s sure is in this pocket somewhere and Kamilata, in a miraculous Move and Manoeuvre races over and around the top to stab Spiny in the back with a broadsword just after Spiny reached Thranduil and put an axe into him.
Then everything goes wrong. Spiny runs down the pyramid with a big cut in his back and Kamilata fumbles his attempt to follow, rolling crashing down the steps and breaking his wrist. Torendra keeps slinging stones but does only minor damage; Thranduil gets down and tore in but only manages a light hit and gets beaten further. Tűd fumbles one shot, gets a couple of minor grazes in then rips his own ear off loosing an arrow and goes off to take up painting.
Spiny is now foaming and biting his shield and his limbs are deforming… He’s taken 150 points of damage - mostly from the sling wielded by the non-warrior - and he’s still going.
Thranduil takes his medicine, leaps down and in a mighty blow rips Spiny’s head off with the green dagger-of-werewolf-slaying. Spiny collapses and we gather around, keeping his head separate.
By the time we clean up and recover it’s dusk. So we camp out for the night in the middle of a jungle in bugbear country on top of a Ziggurat dedicated to a blood god. What could possibly go wrong?
'Kamilata' (Mark) – human jalee engineer and pike-man. The ilins’ source of common sense and expense money. One man shield wall.
'Tűd' (Martin) – human, fairly accomplished Ilin, found half-drowned, wounded and broken 200 miles downriver from his liege-lord’s lands. Emerging highly illegal sensitivity to magic…
'Thranduil' (Chris) – monastery-raised (half elf?) Ilin. ‘Defender’ of the Assembly. Jack of all secret-squirrel like skills, certainly not master of any.
'Torendra' (Dee) – Muri. Castle cook and servant. Maker of Magic Muffins. Caster of First Stones.