"I'm mute" said Thranduil, but no one heard him. Partly because we were all going to Die. A ton. But mostly because he was mute.
Kamilata and Tūd went to the markets to shop. Forgileill and a very quiet Thranduil went to the palace to politic in past, present, and future tenses. All at the same time.
We feel uncertain, hesitant and slightly out of place. Aren't we supposed to be locked up? Before the regime changes?
Tūd and Kamilata meet Torendra in the street and chat about what's happening over samosas and tea. She's been 'here and there' in Kaminor - the largest imperial city in Teddin. It's got walls and sewers and everything. She's been meeting her ancestors and learning to speak in full sentences. In turn we explain that we're off to the site of Hśrins last stand (before his crawl. Possibly his last crawl). We have a map, and an avowed intention to properly set to rest the dead there, some of whom came from rather important Imperial families. Tūd points out that we also don't want to let any shiny things appear in the hands of the Hurgilin, and she ought to talk to Thranduil if she's interested in the other stuff.
Torendra is very interested in Tūd's shiny things that are stapled to various parts of his body. Which is not surprising as they came from followers of a sister religion, but for the moment Tūd doesn't remember that and merely says they came from some witch who tried to get in the way of their clean up operation in Vog Mur. We all go shopping together but realise we're a bit short of coin and we really need to hire horses and a cart for the journey to Diaton. Which is a few days crows-flight away. Not the flying crows that your sister's got, more of tired menagerie. Kamilata changes some of Tūds golden shiny things for more spendable silvery shiny things. Tūd is very happy with the fact he's got more shiny things (of a different colour) for no reason in particular. We sell the boat to raise some proper money. They spend some time in the library looking to see what they can find out about the ancient campaign.
In the palace, Thranduil is fixed of his muteness but collapses with knotted hair, courtesy of a flying minkey ("Don't take quinces from monkeys"). Forgileill bumps into a Brother of the City Eel (?) one of Thranduil's previous Assembly agent colleagues.
We meet up in town where the reunion of Forgileill and Torendra seems less than enthusiastic. Trouble at mill. We don't know what type of trouble though... Maybe it's because we've sold the boat to buy some horses; "What?! WHY?! I could have borrowed some horses" cries Forgileill. Well you said to use our initiative. "What?! When?" Under the castle at Vog Mur. Look, we wrote it down.
We outline our discovery at the library. Turin was Hśrins little brother, and on returning from Hśrins last stand he fled in turn from the unnamed city. So we go to the unnamed city, track Turin to his last stand by giving some drugs to, say, a prophetic dreamer, find the army's banner, and backtrack that ('smagic) to Hśrins last stand. We have instructions on how to find the drugs and a scroll to activate the banner. 'Slightly' addictive so no operating heavy machinery under the influence of either.
We go north. To Diaton, and the fort at Caell with their Brotherhood of the Black Scabbard (Thranduil asks "Are there any women brothers?").
We pass a cart of Dark Scabbard wounded - Hurgilin activity is on the rise.
Ardnarot (the witch/priest also attempting to change regimes in Vog Muir) mentioned and Torendra knows of her - we relate the killing. Tūd then remembers Ardnarot is part of the same religion... Torendra is very interested (esp. that she came from Almor?). Forgileill digs out Ardnarot's shield from her handbag.
More politics Forgileill and Thranduil.
Reach Caell, greet chief Ciallian ('priests') "Hello again - didn't you come this way the last time through?". Forgileill & Thranduil meet and greet, Thranduil holding their new banner (so he can whisper into Forgileills ear things she doesn't know. "My hovercraft was very full of eels"). The others talk to the troops about fighting in the jungle, comparing and contrasting the Brotherhood with the Mura. Hurgilin tend to kill by ambushing. They can't swim, and they can't run any long distance - so the Mura run away until they're tired and then hit them. The Hurgilin are not stupid mind. No, just petty, mean and vicious.
Tūd blags some lard and smears it all over himself to get rid of the flies. He gets ants.
Planning our route, we think we might as well go via the ziggurat and see if we can recover any of the kit we abandoned there last time. We hack our way through the jungle. Very scary, big spooky things brooding. (Description from Sarah with added geographical pedantry) lots of biting things, esp. the ants. Kamilata is particularly badly bitten. Poisonous things with stings.... there are sloth basilisks around here... "Most won't attack unless provoked". Torendra: "So lets provoke one".
Picking our way through this, Tūd spots something flash towards Torendra and yells a warning "Look out! A mosquito! Devehaland!" (which gives a sense of size). She tries to duck but she's knocked sideways as it slams into her like a dart. Tūd starts forward and is knocked off balance himself by something sharp landing between his shoulder blades. Torendra realises she's in danger, but it's OK she has a microwave-proof camping spork (perfect for the handbag, camping and the briefcase...). One passes Forgileill buzzing enthusiastically.
Torendra grapples hers but she can't take it off; it stretches elastically with the head still attached and it's starting to suck out blood. Tūd runs up and cuts through the extended neck. Lots off screaming and shouting from Tūd as this is the most icky thing he's seen, and he knows it's happening on his back too.
At the back of the party, the princess dives as another bug comes whining in, but she's still stung. Crouching down, Kamilata dodges the other way as the nasty comes screaming down the path. Thranduil at the back puts his fist out for it to run onto and it spangs off him, just missing the tree it was about to hit, and disappears sputtering into the jungle. Back at the front Tūd and Torendra are still screaming at each other about more or less bits of biting things buried in them. Tūd is spinning around a bit fast but Torendra manages to get a stab in the blood sac and blood sprays everywhere. Tūd is feeling a little weak (-5, -12, -12). He's still yelling though, covering everyone in more of his own blood from the enormous bloodsucker. "Can anyone do first aid?" "I don't know" "I used to" "I could for a bit". Kamilata tries to help but doesn't seem to make much difference. Torendra does some healing magic stuff (Tūd asks quietly "does this mean she's a witch?" "That would be an ecumenical matter"). Torendra, realising she doesn't have any missile weapons with her, whittles a sling.
That night, as Thranduil and Forgileill (the light-sleeping elves) stand watch, nothing happens. Breakfast is biltong and raisons, this time not embedded in biscuits. Torendra passes round some random citrus fruits that she's found on the way. Mang Os. "Quite hard to eat without a knife"; it seems her spork is not all it promises to be. Well we have an assortment of sharp things
We see a huge snake Anaconda-film sized snake on the path ahead. Could probably just eat Forgileill without a struggle. "This is where we find out it's a hydra lying down". Forgileill disappears into the jungle. Torendra pokes it with a big sword; the snake "blocks your attack to its chest with its upper arms". Tūd shoots and hits "foe drops gripping its leg". Second arrow does as well (17+ bleeding). From the dark shadows Forgileill rolls out a Fireball, destroying its limbs. And handily (ha ha) killing it. We camp out to skin it and joint it. Tūd starts a new collection, with a boiled skull and some scraped oiled and rolled up skin. It makes reasonably good eating. Thranduil reckons Forgileill should refine her spells to, e.g., "Fireball with a white wine sauce". Confrontational cookery.
Torendra eventually gets us to the Ziggurat and we climb up to the top to have a look around. It's clear from the remains that the temple is related to Torendra's Wild Maiden religion. Forgileill opens up her bag to find the everlit candle, and there's the usual super-handbag unload (make up kit including ear clips to fold ears down and fat suit for the middle aged woman with adjustable lumps).
We talk over our previous visit; Tūd digs deep in his memory. The vampires were not 'standard' vampires, they're religious suckers. Perhaps we should investigate, especially as this is Torendra's Wild Maiden (SUI?) temple and maybe we should do something about the vampires, although the place is not actually unholy. Theology debate ensues... It seems the Wild Maiden is really a sister aspect of Torendra's goddess, who is relatively speaking in the cup-of-tea-and-knitting league. Which says something about the Wild Maiden...
We prepare to enter the next morning. Torendra finds some slow burning wood (it's very slow burning; it's wet). We have an ever-lit candle and a lantern. Next morning Torendra finds torches to last several hours. Forgileill has been re-reading her spell book overnight and realises she knows a lot about light. Thranduil can do some lighting and colding - he takes the everlasting candle. Thranduil scouts, as wee willy winky. "Let's split up and search the basement". Thranduil is not comfortable, with a man-hating sword behind him prodding him on and undead blood suckers ahead. He cheers up when he remembers he's got a +20 undead slaying sword in his hand. We reach the junction decorated with vampire bling, including a winged harness, but after examining them we see they only confer flight by the grace of the Wild Maiden.
While everyone chats at the entrance to the tunnel they hadn't taken before, Tūd disappears off humming a tune. A thud and a squish and the others break off and rush in. A table, library, rotting parchments, some rings (including seals), badges, hand-axes, helmets, a bottle (religious - when filled with any blood - the donor does not have to die - makes a drink for one full day's extreme activity, or helps HPs exhaustion, etc. Must be opened exposed to the sky. Everyone goes yeeeew except Forgileill who goes what?) Tūd has tripped over a sarcophagus in the dark. The other coffins have been taken over by the vampires; the original bodies are heaped on the floor in little piles of bones and dust. Tūd and Torendra start looking through the scrolls for Wild Maiden stuff. Forgileill shouts a warning as three dark patches come down the corridor towards us. We pull out our upgraded weapons; we're well harder than last time. And a lot more confident.
Forgileill stunclouds 'em; one stalks through. It spots Torendra and grows uncontrollably angry; it charges through Thranduil and Tūd to her - they swipe and miss (DB -80!). Torendra finds it's an ex-human females and she cannot strike. She backs up to parry as the screaming vampire claws and tears at her shield. Forgileill steps forward and stabs it with her shortsword.
The other two shadows are still stunned and they drift down the corridor slowly, so we all turn to battle the one frothing over Torendra. Thranduil cuts her arm off with his undead slaying sword. It would have been fatal had she blood. Tūd (96+) cuts its head off. That was fatal enough to stop it from moving.
The other vampires enter the room, recovered, and we turn back to them. Kamilata behind the entrance ambushes one and maims it. Tūd and Thranduil miss the other again on frontal assaults and, having also seen Torendra; it too launches itself at her. Tūd and Thranduil manage to get it as it's now no longer trying to avoid them. Kamilata cuts the leg off the stunned one he's got. Forgileill stabs it in the back with a hairpin and it dies. We kill the last one.
We root through the remains and read the decayed accounts. It seems some priestesses hid here rather than fight back when the Hurgilin attacked. When they finally suffocated a Chooser came down and cursed them to live in the ziggurat as vampires to drink the blood of as many men as they'd sacrificed over their priestly lifetimes. Over thousands of years they've managed a dozen or two - nowhere near the several hundreds they need - and the bitching has been tremendous.
Much to Tūds dismay, the shiny jade skulls are far too heavy too carry. Torendra takes some bling.
Down to the underground chamber - Torendra wonders why Thranduil always takes point. We explain about smelling like a fox - which works fine until someone farts or says 'boo'.
At the river's edge we tie Kamilata to a rope and he dives in to look for any of our old equipment that was abandoned there last time. But it's all gone - it's been over a year. Forgileill tries - when she reaches the end of the rope (it's only 20' long) she unties herself and carries on. The others panic briefly but, after all, it's Forgileill. Either someone's killed her again or she's off on her own. In case she's gone off on her own we go overland to the destroyed plaza, and indeed find her damply and clingingly emerging. Most of us are chatting aimlessly, but Tūd happens to see her find the werewolf-killing dagger just before she emerges and hide it. She looks vaguely guilty at being seen, but as Tūd had gifted it to her family he can't see why.
We go west. Tūds treating the anaconda skin with lamp oil. Torendra does some brilliant guiding (200+) so we barbeque basilisk egg omelettes in the evenings and eat fresh mangos for breakfast. Tūd spots Hurgilin tracks going north.
After a few nights hard travel, Torendra emerges suddenly from the jungle to see a Hurgilin guard in front - everyone freezes. She tries to signal the others quietly; she backs away, tripping over a root and letting out a curse but the sentry is half asleep. Forgileill sneaks off to look around. Tūd finds a sniper point. The others prepare for a fight.
Forgileill returns and we discuss what to do... We start by watching. We wait for 3 days observing guard changes every 24 hours. After seeing the change on the 3rd day we discuss the next action but Forgileill has already gone. She throws a knife, luckily holing the container (his horn, as it were). We are about 30 meters away (Torendra 'just out of broadsword range then'). The ilin fill it with arrows. It slumps dead barely aware of what had happened. We drag the body away and recover the arrows, brushing our trail with anaconda skin...
We go up to the city gates carefully and not mentioning it by name. (Stew's description). Mondo's city. Spooky. Not yet claimed by jungle. Something unpleasant is/was here; probably why Turin left it when he returned from the battle.
It seems it's time to read the scrolls on what we do now (unpack, unpack, unpack, pack, pack). The librarian need to take drugs now (Tūd: Yes, me! me!). The drugs are a kind of fungi and can be found in the harbour. We work our way to a headland outside the harbour so we can see into the city without going in. It's about half a mile from the headland to the harbour; Forgileill has a flying spell/bridge that should get there - who will volunteer? We all point at Thranduil. He knows something about herbs and wants to fly. Tūd stays quiet and out of the 10' spell radius. He's not keen on heights having fallen off a cliff only a few years ago. It hurt.
Detritus. What a good word.
They fly off. There are no strands of random fluff (a DJ?) The city is silent - indeed we cannot even hear the sounds of the jungle or the sea outside the harbour from it. As they cross the harbour a mysterious channelling attack is flung at them - resistance is futile and Forg succumbs - "They've killed Forgileill! You bastards!" Torendra fails her grin resistance. But nothing appears to happen.... They get diverted and explore the city. Skeletons lie about; undead jalee and ilin, killed by huge claws and a mighty heat. Desiccated not decayed or chewed. They return to the pier - everything is dead, even the stuff under the pier. There seems to be some sort of growth but it's salted and dead; a glowing fungi that was used to under light the harbour - very elvish and cool.
They bring back some fungi. Tūd has a taste - salty. We retire to the jungle to imbibe rather than stay near the spooky fort, but near the gates Tūd sneaks some in (thus allowing the DM's requirement that he sees the city while imbibing... :-) oh look, spiders, made of blue. He sees a king (he's not covered in shit) and a bodyguard of about 20, with standard, a dragon trumpet and 2 ilin. The vision heads off east - Tūd following, and the others follow him. They're shiny ghosty people but not happy. The crew stagger into the jungle following a drug crazed visionary hopped up to the eyeball. The vision fades and Tūd shouts that he needs more drugs. The others feed him some. Some of the king's men are heading south and fade, some amicably some angrily. 18 leave in all. The vision fades as the remaining few form a defence. Tūd cries out for more again but the rest won't give him any now that they've 'arrived'. Tūd doesn't even feel vaguely addicted, much to his player's disgust.
We poke around the long-dead bodies and various game trails, old ruined trees and cracked boulders all overgrown now. We find his lifeguard - 14 skeletons in broken halberds and carrying Gwathló war spears. Possibly also the captain. The standard is buried under a mat of vines; along with it is the horn, and probably the very battered remains of Turin. A big sword and an Annuil relic - a gold crown. Yet these are not all the bodies we're looking for, according to the vision... Taking a break, Tūd sits on some studs in a mound. Digging down he finds a skeleton, carrying a great sword and long knife. A plain steel ring with dwarven stamp. 4 scrolls preserved in tubes. A bone ring with elvish runes.
We lay these few soldiers that we have found to rest; very sad. We take the banner and cast the spell to find Hśrin's last crawl and it points us the way.
At breakfast it seems Forgileill just wants to eat vegetables and nothing else, which seems a bit unusual. Especially as most of our diet is jerky and raisins. She finds some leafy things and eats those. Is she pregnant the others wonder? Probably just some princess dieting food fad. Kamilata takes the banner and we follow him. As we reach the edge of the battle site, about to re-enter the jungle, Thranduil hears baying. He tails us for a bit - and eventually recognises the howling as apes. Tūd the Ilin Ranger runs the route now to confuse the track; they start by heading off at right angles and start jogging to see if they're really the quarry. The sound closes. They are. Tūds efforts to conceal the track of several armed warriors in the rain forest are not proving successful, and he's starting to labour. It's time to get serious. At the next stream, Tūd leads the party upstream, out in an obvious trample, then backwards to the stream to follow it further up and out. Back at the entry point Forgileill excavates a pit and disguises it before following on.
Behind us, one hunter (02) falls in and dies. The rest start to fall behind; the trail is confusing and now dangerous. We plod, race or dance on as is our wont.
The banner starts to wander and we realise we're walking on as many bones as roots. Littered with the remains of scrolls and potions and furious spells and traumatic unsettled deaths, the place is awash with a low level wild magic and background lost spirits. Amongst it we find a huge iron horse, at 18 hands high. Tūd, ever enthusiastic about horses and shiny things and now seeing the two combined, tries to operate it but can't work it out. Around the horse he finds what are probably the remains of Hśrin.
We camp out and plan a plan of action. We will look for the main figures, assemble their important looking kit and corpses to take back, and say the rites for everyone. The next day we find most of what we're looking for; black armour of the ilin, some black robes [or Blackrobes?], etc. Amongst the detritus (lovely word) Torendra finds an everful porridge pot. Tūd tries the iron horse again and scrapes an unlikely attunement - he's very happy.
Thranduil runs the ritual in a mass battlefield form and does it very well and tastefully and everything (91). Forgileill is not so good at her part (08) but the others manage passable support. She's just not paying attention.
Following the ritual we leave, Tūd leading the massive artificial horse. We come across two Hurgilin on the way; by coincidence we all hit the right hand one and only Tūds second arrow hits the other. The first goes down, very dead. The other starts running; Tūd misses, Torendra runs in to stab it in the back, he shies away straight into a tree. Stunned for a moment he recovers just as an elf drops onto him ("Is there a dropping-out-of-the-sky bonus?") Huge kerfuffle.
"Did we make any noise?" not really... apart from the early ffffoom of the firebolt. They appear to have been guards staking out the edge of a Hurgilin camp; we back the baggage horse train and tiptoe off, dead quiet except the ex-jalee who is quite quiet. We run away. Quietly.
At the mountains we find a pass through and finally safety at the Caell the Blessed Fortress. The Red Priests there help to sort out the bodies and their belongings, and Tūd parts sorrowfully with the horse (I presume). Forgileill mentions in passing 'the next mission' which worries her crew - we've only just got back from this one.
We take eight days to get back to Kaminor.