Lost [Part 01]
The half-warped werewolf collapsed to the ground. Silence would follow the clash of swords, armoured shield-men bouncing down the side of the ziggurat, and the thud of bowstring against ear. But this is a jungle and it’s noisy.
Taking a few steps back from the corpse, Thranduil turns and sees Katamaya [from Vog Mur] sitting on the bottom steps…. Surprise! It seems she’s followed us all the way from [er where were we?] but she’s not entirely clear on her motives. Anyway there are more important things right now; Kamilata’s forearm bone (there’s probably a technical term for this) is poking out of his wrist and it hurts. Tûd’s ear is no longer attached to his head, and he’s poking morosely through the rubble and weeds on the top of the ziggurat muttering something about it not happening again. Kamilata knocks back an extra healing potion and grimaces at both the taste and the new pain of the accelerated healing.
As dusk creeps in, we decide to camp out for the night in the middle of a broccoli jungle in bugbear country on top of a Ziggurat dedicated to a blood god. What could possibly go wrong? At the top we look through the temple to see if it’s suitable. Tûd finds small bear prints, or bare footprints, going in and out – perhaps a Murian? The temple is battered and cracked, the effects of weather for 1500 years. Inside are the remains of a fire and the rubbish of fairly frequent camping. Thranduil and Katamaya have a few awkward moments; she doesn’t take his familiarity well.
Thranduil spider-senses someone coming. “Hide!” cries Tûd, and clanks about looking for a dark patch big enough to hold a fully armoured warrior. Thranduil pops his head out and sees a Muri woman approaching – small and tattooed. He manages “Hello. Name my is.” in Muri and then calls over to Torendra to translate.
Stranger: “Who are you? Don’t you know it’s dangerous here?!”
Torendra: “Yes! We just killed a werewolf!”
“Good grief, it’s fairly safe here though, apart from the werewolf”
“Oh good, well fuck off then”
“What?!” [consternation from others who’ve picked up some swear words]
“Oh, sorry, where I come from that means do come in, welcome”
She comes in, introduces herself as Keevay and shows us the camping setup. Apparently there’s also a crack in the structure that can take us to a deep chamber where there’s clean fresh water. The Ilin look pleased at this – they’ve been sweating in their armour for days and are, well, icky. The crew have supper, pleasant enough except that Katamaya doesn’t take Tûd’s familiarity well.
As we head off to the crack we have to remind Katamaya that this may be a horror movie, but she’s not to wander off on her own… that way lies, well, chainsaws. The werewolf body has disappeared, his weapons and kit still lying in a pile…
Inside the pyramid, octagon-shaped corridors step down to a rich chamber with a nest of old robes, some gold thingamies, jade statues in alcoves and a set of harnessed brass wings on a statue. Tûd is only just getting used to the concept of money, having spent all his life until now being looked after at courts, and all this shiny stuff is very interesting. But Keevay encourages us out of the far door, so we pass a door on the right and all the shiny things and follow her down another stepped corridor - Kamilata believes we’re underground - to a large domed chamber with a river running along the far side. The Water is Good. Katamaya lurks at the back.
We stand about in disorder, relaxed and chatting in the torchlight about robes of gold and how fast ancient robes rot when Katamaya – still lurking - notices three amorphous darknesses drift in through the door, in a threatening you’re-all-doomed-and-we’re-going-to-let-you-think-about it manner. She shouts out “Are these supposed to be here?” and suddenly it’s all dark and spooky, the torchlight no longer adventurous and romantic but flickery, inconstant, and not nearly bright enough to show whether anything is lurking in the corners.
Keevay screams behind us “We shouldn’t be here! We’re doomed!” This is more like it; we respond like the hardened warriors, kitchen maids and lap-dancers that we are (or aren’t as it turns out); Tûd pings one through the centre with a silver arrow but it doesn’t notice. Katamaya borrows a dagger of returning from Kamilata, hitting and hurting a blob – but the dagger returns inconveniently to Kamilata’s sheath. Torendra does the same with Thranduil’s but misses.
Thranduil raises the light levels so we can see… and behind us is a splitting creaking sound. Tûd turns around reluctantly, slowly and wide-eyed, to see Keevay transforming into a big nasty vampire with the most enormous nibbly teeth.
Time to use one of the precious few magic arrows. He picks out an Arrow Storm, in a smooth motion places it on the bow, pulls back and sights in one move, and… relaxes it, puts the arrow away, and pulls out a Thunderbolt. That’s more like it. The vampire is now reaching for him, so when Tûd releases it he’s fairly close… Hits for 240ish, with lots of special effects – electricity zaps about the vampire uselessly as it has no nervous system, but the impact knocks it back and its skin crackles burns and bursts, smoke and greasy black flames leaking out of its smouldering robes. It collapses, smoking, to the floor.
The others are hacking at the grimly approaching shadows. We discuss drowning ourselves in the river to save ourselves from them. Torendra and Katamaya re-borrow the daggers – Torendra misses and Katamaya changes her mind mid throw and jumps into the river. Kamilata attacks with his broadsword but fumbles and one of the shadows sucks itself onto him. He follows Katamaya into the river, then Torendra and Thranduil do the same. Thranduil, weighed down in his armour, is forced to climb out of it to swim. Kamilata sets off down the bottom of the river, weighed down in his armour and the teams expenses allowance, using his amulet to breathe the water.
Crippled Tûd, who can’t swim, wears armour, is holding his bow in one hand, and can’t breath under water, hesitates on the bank. As the three remaining darknesses sweep in he takes a deep breath and drags in the remains of Keevay, who disintegrates and washes away. Grabbing the bank, he slings the bow and starts the long struggle down the tunnel wall to catch up with the others who are larking about as they drift town the river.
Eventually we all wash up on a pebble beach at the bottom of a sinkhole about a mile downstream. Rocks lying around indicate some kind of paved area had been built on the surface but it’s fallen in.
We wrap ourselves up in whatever’s least soggy, light a small fire with bits of old wood that’s fallen in, and surround it with everything else to dry. Torendra tells us all "I told you so, should have told her to fuck off". Katamaya doesn’t take Kamilata’s familiarity very well.
Torendra climbs out the sink hole and we cautiously follow; Katamaya last as she says she doesn’t like the idea of us peering up her skirt. This puzzles Tûd, Kamilata and Thranduil as they’ve already been there. Above we emerge onto a T junction of paved military roads. Old carved columns are broken and scattered – war not weather. Winged statues, built on a monumental scale – probably because they are monuments – that watched the roads have been vandalised and thrown down.
Remembering the view from the mountains to the south, before we entered the jungle, scholarly geek Tûd draws a map of the local area. East of us is an amphitheatre/arena, to the north a ruined building, and to the south an even more ruined building. Dithering, we’re not sure whether to head home now that the werewolf is dead, or have a look around first. We finally settle on looking at the amphitheatre to pick up a show while we talk about it. We cross a bridge over nothing, which is weird. The road was well built and is now only somewhat overgrown.
The amphitheatre is more a circus, and oval sanded floor surrounded by terraced stands, overgrown with jungle. Amongst the trees we find large three-toed birdlike prints. We run away, back to the plaza and south.
As we approach the southern ruins we start to find skeletons scattered in knots along the road, a mix of small human and large misshaped ones – probably Hurgelin (Bugbears). Around the smashed door of the ruined southern building are more remains, mostly female (you can tell from the armour?!). The doors and even some of the stones are marked with massive teeth. Run away! Oh we already are.
Thranduil steps through the door, and Katamaya feels some magic trap go off - nothing happens, but it does happen very suddenly. Statues of winged warrior woman around. Broken walls. In places the floor is knee deep in skeletons. Barriers put up and overrun. Possibly 1500 years ago – about the same time the Hurgelin arrived and booted out the humans.
Monging it again, the party split - Thranduil and Torendra in the building gazing about, the others outside gazing about.
Very suddenly a gloopy thing with lots of tendrils comes slithering out of the mud, slides through gaps in the broken masonry, slips out the building and leaps onto Katamaya. She gets out of the way just in time. Thranduil chucks a vial of anti-magic at it but oh-what-a-shame gets Katamaya – whose glamour disappears and is revealed as Princess Forgileill (the princess who stole the scrolls as we didn’t know that). We all go "ooooh" but only briefly as we’re a bit busy.
Something is coming up the road from the plaza.
It attacks Forgileill again; Kamilata gets tore in and does some cutting and stunning and crushing with his broadsword. Torendra retreats up the stairway where she can see a barricade, and shouts to us that there’s "a safe place up here."
Tûd turns to the road from the plaza to see racing up the road two over-tall stick-thin old men with wired beards, tails, mad glowing eyes, and the smell of brimstone; the very anthropomorphic embodiment of evil. Each carries a sweeping glaive with nasty looking hooks at the top. This seems a good time to use a Storm of Arrows and it sure is. The single arrow explodes into sixteen, and we watch them thud in one by one – three miss and few do much damage on their own – but the last arrow catches one demon through both ears killing it instantly. The other hardly pauses, and we peg it for the top of the building where Torendra is.
As we enter a door at the top, the mundanes see the room revealed as a shrine as it was just after the battle, the warrior women lying dying on the floor. One slumped on the shrine itself addresses Torendra “Take my sword and continue the fight!”. The scene fades, and quiet returns.
A tremendous crash at the door reminds us that we can’t relax yet. Kamilata and Tûd stand next to the door discussing loudly which arrow they'll use to kill it (“Don’t use that! It’ll level the building!”) but the demon is not put off and it starts to break down the door. Torendra gets undressed. And redressed in a magic armour and sword that were on the shrine, amongst the remains of a corpse. Princess Forgileill, who saw nothing of the vision, goes ‘ewwww’ or words to that effect..
Tûd drops an anti-magic vial through the door and laughs “That’ll sort him!”. But the demon catches it and chucks it back – and Tûd fails to do the same thing, the vial hits the floor and breaks, releasing a cloud of magic-nulling smoke. Kamilata falls on his magic sword to protect it…
We set up a complicated plan where we all position ourselves just right to get the demon to face someone - Kamilata volunteers to be ‘main enemy’ with his ring of deflection while we hack at its back. But the demon smashes through the door at speed while we’re still talking about it, and runs a gauntlet past Torendra who gives it a minor cut, Forgileill who lets loose a lightning bolt that fizzles to a spark, and Kamilata also gives it another small cut.
It turns at the far side of the room, and faces us – two armed male warriors, an Amazonian with a magic sword, a sorceress and, and, well, Thranduil in his nightshirt. We attack it before it can get its wits together. It is doomed.
Torendra falls over her sparkly new sword and lies stunned on the floor. Thranduil attacks bare fisted and hurts his shin. Tûd hits it with a silvered arrow that has no effect at all. Kamilata trips up charging forward, and is also out for two rounds. Only Forgileill manages a small hit, distracting it enough (laughing too hard?) for Thranduil to try and slap an anti-magic vial against it, but he fumbled that. Things are getting desperate.
Tûd nicks a Lightning arrow from Thranduil’s quiver and uses it. Lots of special effects, it strikes the demon in the chest, knocking it back and out. Forgileill and Torendra cut it up.
We all talk to Katamaya about being Forgileill – it seems she was just bored and wanted a bit of excitement, adventure and really wild things. "Loony" mutters Kamilata. The rest nod thoughtfully. We may be in trouble over this.
Looking about Torendra finds a clay tablet with a list of fairly good rich stuff in amongst broken tablets – taxes? tribute? inventory? Certainly the city was rich in those days.
We head off for the more complete northern building and get caught by the tendrilled planty muddy thing. Torendra slingshots an anti magic vial into it; the smoke bursts out but clings oddly to the creature and some sort of magic struggle finally pulls it apart.
The northern ruins are in better condition, but still with lots of bodies. The building is some kind of barracks – utilitarian, no plumbing or baths. Obviously blokes accommodation. The top floor is neck deep in bodies, we clear a space to look around and find an old ex-magic helm. Thranduil finds a niche behind the alter, jemmies it open and finds a small ivory statue of some old bloke. Tûd finds an old painting showing the old city, where the buildings were and the canals and some of how they lived.
Talking over the campfire, Tûd says that he thinks its great that Princess Forgileill is here, and he’s sure that her family will think it's great that she's learning new things and will appreciate how we’ve looked after her. "Loony" says Kamilata. He expects to be guarding toilets for ever.
Tûd dreams of storms and ravens and safe havens and long ways home.
We head off to explore the circus in more detail. In an attempt to be more organised, we set up an order of march and Thranduil goes off on point, with sneaky spells ("Smell Like A Fox") to compensate for walking around the jungle in a nightshirt.
Amongst the old circus slave pits, he comes across a walled, moated, cleared space, with two bugbears ‘on guard’, one asleep and one picking his nose. He turns to the rest of the party and signals – two fingers to the eyes, two fingers up, thumb down, sweeps left and points to his elbow. We all shrug. He sighs and comes over to tell us. We come up with a New Cunning Plan(TM), to sneak in and kill them quietly and sneakily so we don’t get others turning up.
We conclude detailed timings and positions and realise that one of the sneaky scouts has scouted off sneakily. The Princess has gone...
She ambushes the nose picker and stabs him off the wall – he lands with a thud and growl. The sleeper awakes, screams with rage, and leaps up the wall; she chucks a knife at it (which misses) and pegs it. With the sounds of combat, the rest have turned to the target and are beginning to run in, returning to the default plan we’d have probably used anyway: ‘charge!’. Tûd can see the one on the wall and puts an arrow through its shoulder and knocks it off the wall, stunned, into the moat, blood leaking from the wound. Princess Forgileill kicks off a lightning bolt to the one on the inside; (“Hey!” says Agent Enforcer Lominlindi “That’s an illegal use of magic!”) making it very, very unwell.
Torendra stabs twice at the one in the moat, then moves out of the way enough to let Tûd put an arrow in that leaves him stunned and bleeding to death. Kamilata advances up to the inside wall. Forgileill & Thranduil are chucking things at the poor wee bugbear inside. Forgileill, down to her last dagger, gets an excellent shot into its heart, knocking it back ten feet and killing it in the way you might expect if a heart is suddenly filled with a lot of unnecessary sharp steel.
We find tracks that Bugbears have left, showing us that they seem to use the area as a holding area for slaves from raiding locally. In the corner of the holding pen we find a Mura shaman called ‘Aust’, kept separate from the others. After the usual communication difficulties (“Hello”, “Hello”. “Pizza!” “What?” “Er, Beer!” “What?” “My hovercraft is… no wait, let’s get Torendra here”), he tells us a little of the history. The city was called Mulchare, and the ‘Nightstalkers’ (or Hurgelin) summoned demons (something [F]Aust insists he doesn’t do) to drive the humans out to the jungles or to the nearby cities.
“Can’t pluck feathers from frogs”. Etc. The Princess tires of him pretty quick…
He takes us to the Chambre de Victoir and amongst the rubble we can see the mosaic on the floor showing Mira warriors fighting between cities, Hurgelin, the arena and eventually off on a barge to Heaven. In the Chambre de Cadeau, where there may have been less resistance as there’s less damage, a similar mosaic shows them at orgies, fights, and being sacrificed.
“The things we call dead are not yet born”.
Some of the surviving tribes are still faithful to the mother goddesses, and they are rewarded with relative prosperity.
Telling us the circus is not safe – the Nightstalkers may return at any point - he guides us to a path up the back of the city to the east. We pass abandoned way-stations for moving goods at speed over the trade route to the Queen’s table, another indication of the city’s wealth.
Aust tells us more about the current days; the Hurgelin are gathering more these days, perhaps preparing to attack the “metal men under the mountains” (possibly dwarves, probably the plate-armoured Brotherhood from IKea).
(“How do you tell a dwarven excise man? He’s the one in full armour.” Erm?)
We stay with some Muri for a couple of days. At breakfast Tûd is recounting some of his strange dreams, when with little warning the Hurgelin attack. The party grab their weapons and manage a few strikes before the Hurgelin rush off with Aust, and we chase them to a clearing that they cross. A Hurgelin priest in the clearing is summoning a Pit Fiend aaargh! They discuss things diabolically, eventually take to laughing at us, and the Fiend extends a talon to rip a gap in space that drags us all in and through, limbs leaden and afire.
We swirl around confused in greyness for ever or about a minute. Tûd spots a stone circle off to one side of the swirliness and remembering a recent dream about safety, makes for it, pulling the others along with him. We all wake up in a stone circle, druids and warriors gathered about, some surprised and some bemused.
'Kamilata' (Mark) – human jalee engineer and pike-man. The ilins' source of common sense. One man shield wall. The profeshunal soljer.
'Tûd' (Martin) – human Ilin. Expert rider and archer but not fully recovered from his trials, and becoming a bit of a geeky scholar.
'Thranduil' (Chris) – monastery-raised (half elf?) lin. ‘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.
'Forgileill' (Angela) – Princess, unlicensed? magician.