Regime Change in Vog Mur
'Thranduil Lominlindi', an Elven Fallia Ilin (Knight/agent for the Blackrobe Assembly) - Chris.
The Escape (Part II)
We paused at the gate, unsure. What were we doing again? What had just happened? Vague recollections of ... something to do with collecting taxes escorted under guard... breaking free and running away, er, finding a tactical regrouping point... a surprise attack on the small force at the wall, and speedily accidental, er, skilful dispatch of two of the island's lords... and an escape route now open from the land of our human enemies to a peninsula so filled with trolls and ghouls and monsters with large nibbly teeth that our already overwhelming enemies had had to build a wall. Still, better the enemy who might be a figment of someone's imagination than the one that's just stuck a knife in you. After some discussion we concluded that your enemys enemy might just as well eat you as decide that you might be a useful temporary ally, so best not to ask.
We followed the faint path from the gate in the wall into the dark, until we came to a spork in the road; looking for a boat off the island, we headed left down to the coast. The path steepened and as we came down the edge of a quiet cove the Secret Policemen, Agent Lominlindi, noticed it really was very quiet. Too quiet. There was no boat in the cove. A flagged path (or paved parth) led up from a mooring point to a door into a mound on the edge of the island, above it was inscribed "Mausoleum of Gart". Tūd pushed tentatively at the doors and they creaked slightly open. It was still dark, still quiet and really very dark and quiet for opening doors into burial mounds. We left, and drifted around and up to the back (west) of the southern hill and camped out. In the dark.
As dawn broke Tūd, in a highly camouflaged OP on the hillside, noticed a squad hedge-hogging along the path from the wall. They took their time, and as they grew closer it was clear they were very, very nervous indeed... Which made us a little nervous too what could be around here that would make ten armed men and a mage nervous?
They would be out of range of our commandeered short bows if they followed the path around, so we sneaked around the dead ground behind the hill into the woods to the north. Until Tūd, still trailing his camouflage netting, tripped over and rolled, resin armour clacking and the odd 'ouch', 'ooof' etc, down the hill into the woods. The squad froze, all eyes white and staring at the point that Tūd had disappeared.
The three continued to sneak, this time a bit more sneakily and a bit less noisily, around the wood line, careful not to be seen either by the squad or whatever dreadful creatures lurked in the wood. Special Secret Agent Lominlindi recced further into the woods to see what Trolls there were, and found only an Anteater, mostly Appellation Troll.
The enemy squad had stopped out of range of our borrowed short bows, still staring fearfully up to where a pile of pots and pans had apparently fallen down the hillside into the woods. The smell of fear... Bored with waiting, Kamilata stepped out from the woods and yelled abuse, waving the helm taken from the elf lords killed (but not entirely by us) at the wall. The squad formed into extended line; magician in the middle and sergeants at the edges, the left hand squad not very keen and getting in each other's way. The magician gestured and Kamilata wisely took a few steps backwards; luckily the magician misjudged the changed distance and a hemisphere of freezing cold exploded in front of Kamilata, causing him minor frostbite to his forward foot.
The two Ilin stepped out of the trees and let fly. One arrow buzzed past the magician, the other left Tūd's bow backwards. All cunning plans now expended, the three charged forwards, Tūd taking his time 'because of my gammy leg, honest'. The next shot from Tūd took the left-hand Sgt in the leg, as that squad threw their not yet bloody spears at the charging one-man jalee shield wall, Kamilata. Only one hit, not too badly - and oops now they don't have any pole arms. Kamilata bowled into their Sgt point first, the Sgt went down and his squad, now flanked, disintegrated into individual fighters not all that keen on taking on the jalee that had just dispatched their Sgt.
Agent Lominlindi & Tūd loosed off more arrows as they closed with the magician, who went all blurry and unfocused and leaped away behind the still formed right hand squad, which in turn started to retreat in good order, shields and pointy spears facing the lads. Tūd charged into the flank of the now disorganised squad facing Kamilata; the Assembly Agent took a running leap over the still formed squad between him and the magician - but failed to get enough 'up' and in a magnificent 'Leap of the Flying Hippo' flew pretty much horizontally into the squad's shield wall, luckily missing any of the pointy bits.
Stunned, in so many ways, the squad picked themselves up and ran for it.
The remaining squad surrendered, and Tūd turned and put another arrow into the magician's receding blur. The mage slowed and stopped and shot a lightning bolt at the pursuing Agent Lominlindi, still recovering from his hard landing. Luckily it did little damage, and the Assembly Agent leapt into the blur and beat it to the floor. The blur collapsed and resolved into the magician with bits of pointy wood sticking out his legs and bruises on his face where Thranduil thought hith throat wath. The practical jalee collected weapons, organised help for the wounded sergeant and found a place to set up camp and dig latrines,
We relieved the magician of a black staff shod with iron, a dagger and a purple cloak that Tūd recognised as being somewhat magical. Wed also acquired 4 soldiers, a sergeant and an unconscious mage. Unable to communicate with them, we encouraged them to leave but they werent very keen on returning to their masters having failed. All the same, they were even less keen on going to the cove which the Sergeant identified as Ovag Bas (Deathless something), after all someone may have left the door to the tomb open... The magician was Ambrose, Magician of Encla Turic and nothing to do with rice pudding at all. We put the soldiers to setting up camp - dig latrines and stuff - while we decided what to do next.
It appeared that the taboos on this western island and the other islands originated with Edas many, many generations ago. As Kamilata put it "There was probably some scam going and it died with him".
On the basis that the rest of the scare stories and curses were just made up, we took the other fork in the path to the bit on the map that said 'here be ghouls', a spit of land called Sulemein (which means Spit of Land). Turning up, we found an entrance to the ground similar to that to the Mausoleum of Garth but broken open, and long-dead soldiers lay scattered inside the door. We left the living soldiers at the top to set up camp dig some latrines and stuff - and took Ambrose with us into the dark. He offered light and help in killing Silnas "as he's an evil bastard". Kamilata told him wed trust him as far as we could throw him with a broken arm - "but I don't have a broken arm" - ha ha ha. Luckily Kam The Engineer had a lantern, and we followed a carved tunnel down; it joined an undersea stream on the flat, and after about half an hour we found some stairs on the right.
The Lights at the Ends of the Tunnels
[Sorry about change in tense, cant be bothered rewriting it all]
Up the stairs we find an exit similar to the entrance on a much smaller island, which Ambrose tells us is Dalov Veld. We follow a faint path past a giant bronze-covered statue inscribed Yanor Staidys, which we can't make out much about, to an old, long abandoned stone cottage. Its a bachelor pad; bed, well and fireplace in one room and study in the other. The study is well shelved but most of the books are gone or rotten. The terraced garden is overgrown.
Back to the tunnel and on we go. Another half hour on and it rises to an exit on the edge of a ruined town, all that's left of it is a crumbled outline of the walls. Night threatens, and we realise we've left the soldiers at the other end of the tunnel camped out in "here be ghouls". Thranduil legs it back along the tunnel, arriving just as the old bodies scattered inside the door pick themselves up and head up into the dusk. Shouting, he warns our boys and attempts to leap over the ghouls, which are still all facing the other way. A last minute flash of common sense prevails - he's about to land in the middle of a bunch of very flesh-eating hard-to-kill-because-they-are-already-dead, and instead he smashes into the back of the nearest, ripping out a few of its ribs. Our soldiers are retiring in good order - time to, well, leave. He does, throwing the ribs into the stream as he passes so the ghoul won't be following him to get it back ("I've come for my goo! It's on your shoe!"). We light a small fire in the watchtower fireplace of the ruined town and don't talk about spooks or ghouls or the lich at all in any way.
In the morning, while gathering wood, Tūd spots baboon tracks. He knows this, not because there are baboons at the end of them, but because he's seen baboons at his university who are baboons in the same manner that the Librarian is an ape. So much for nature trails.
With nothing better to do, we head up the hill to get a good look around. Ambrose is holding up well despite the wounds in his legs (we've not walked all that far so far), and is trying to persuade us that he really could help overthrowing his brother. Errr... he means his evil master...
As we stroll along gossiping, a whoop (sorry, a 'flange') of baboons turn up on the path in front. Both parties hesitate Tūd puts down a little cheese and bread and the lads step back. A baboon knuckles forward, picks up the food, examines it, and takes it back. After a bit of chattering, two disappear into the undergrowth and come back with some fruit. We eat it... hmm yum fresh fruit after weeks on salted biscuits in a boat, and running around the woodland away from sharp pointy things. Tūd feels a sense of kinship, they're almost beautiful.... More fruit arrives. As Thranduil removes his helm to scoff, the baboons screech toothily and scatter. We stand and discuss what we know of baboon behaviour: were they upset? amazed? happy? are any of those good things? bad things? what species are they anyway? If they are ex- inhabitants, where is the witch with a fondness for ugly pet primates?
A few hundred yards further on we find a pointy-eared bloke standing in our path. We introduce ourselves as agents of Alcant rather than tax collectors, and he welcomes us and takes us home. He and his wife have set up shop in Dulacaborn's Tower, managing a library 'reserve' outpost, in case the main library was trashed by bugbears which apparently it was, and have been shagging here for about 300 years. We feel we've interrupted something. Nevertheless they are polite and fill in some of the background; we are welcome to use the library and we can let The Rice Pudding loose, as he has little power over the elves and the baboons will bring him back if he tries getting away.
The library gives us some clues to the history of the islands. It's been fought over by a few unpleasant people, finally settled by human descendants of Garth as the peasantry, ruled over by an elf lord Edas's treacherous descendents wielding Edas's gadgets and powers. The colony has dwindled since, with little contact with the outside, and continuous infighting and inbreeding in the tiny aristocracy. There is a dragon in them there hills just west of the library, who has been the foe of Edas and his descendants but who doesn't like being disturbed. Garth is the ancestor of the current human peasantry, so might be a help if he's not completely dead. Or not. There are some fire-hounds around somewhere. Silnas, the current head cheese, also controls some watery Dr Who creatures in rubber suits called kral. We think, of the five original masters, two have been killed 'by us', and Ambrose is prisoner, leaving Fylmair and Silnas. There's also a tunnel from the Ale House (the study on the small island Dalov Verd that used to be a library) to the castle... Hopefully all the current residents have forgotten about it...
To do before breakfast:
So at daybreak we head up to the original entrance on the west of Dalov Perll. No sign of 'our' soldiers, but we burn the ghouls anyway, their departing spirits crying out to each other by local-sounding names. Back into the tunnel and out again at The Ale House to find the entrance to the castle tunnel. We search and search. And search. The Engineer finds the entrance first a whole wall that flips up while the two Ilin potter about looking under chairs and down wells for a small door.
We sneak in.
We sneak along.
We find a sneaky door at the end...
Special Agent Lominlindi sneakily listens...
..and hears nothing.
We open the door into the lowest basement level of the castle and begin to explore. We enter through Silnass library, where he goes to throw hissy fits, explore corridors and examine rooms. Two sets of guards, relieved at being posted to an easy sentry duty after terrifying duty in the western peninsula chasing a horde of mighty horse lords (er, us), relax too much. Drunk and sleepy, they are easy prey for an invisible purple Special Agent. We tie up the surviving sleepers and trek on. A storeroom supplies food, lamp oil and our weapons! At last, we are a force to be reckoned with well we can bluff with a bit more confidence now.
Passing through what seems to be a maritime museum with en-suite laboratory, we creep up some stairs. Suddenly, Tūd is sliced and diced by blades sweeping out from the ceiling, triggered by balanced steps on the stairs. The others, obviously more penitent, manage to avoid them.
Tūd, with blood seeping through layers of bandages around his head and neck, decides he's had enough fun and it's time to go back and rest (except, let's just have a look in here oh go on, one last peek over there...). Secret Squirrel Lominlindi is mildly skewered while finding a pit trap the hard way.
We return by dusk at the Ord Throg, the large island with Dulacaborns tower, ruined town, and dragon Vorig in them there hills. As we make our way through the ruins, we spot a Pull Cibor-style fishing boat inexpertly making its way onto the beach. We help unload them; they are women and children fleeing from Encla Turic. While Kamilata helps Tūd back to Dulacaborns tower and the healing elves, our Special Agent dons his tuxedo to interrogate the refugees. Within minutes we have the latest gossip Silnas is panicking, feeding his soldiers to the hydra, and there is a plot amongst chickens to escape and our Special Agent is no longer wearing much of his tuxedo.
The refugees turn out to be highly placed; Preserena is Ambroses wife, Katamaya is the ex-slave wife of Fynmeer. After a couple of days of further, er, interrogation at Dulacaborns Tower, we head back to the castle. We could use a new route, but that's just what they'll be expecting....
Inside the castle, we decide to take on a double-sentry through a door we had merely peeked through the previous time. Sneaky Agent Lominlindi, wearing his purple invisibility cloak, opens the door and sneaks in. Using Kamilatas megaphone-shield, the Ilin boom out WE HAVE COME FOR YOUR CHICKENS! Shocked and possibly awed, the two sentries are quickly despatched. A neighbouring room turns out to be a prison and hell-hound kennel. The hell-hounds are out just now, but we leave a message by releasing the imprisoned soldiers and civilians. Unable to communicate properly with them, we send them away, and they rush out through the concealing curtains behind the landing area to make their way around the cliff to relative safety. Somebody somewhere sees them and the alarm is raised.
This time, the 2x 4 man guards are in better nick (at least, theyre sober), but still very nervous. We draw them to the top of the stairs; a few well placed arrows from the Ilin and well placed blows from our one-man shield wall persuade them to leave. Our cries of We have come for your chickens appear to have mixed effect.
Chasing after them, we rush into the store room close behind the last of the soldiers who are squeezing past the aquarium secret door. We can hear what must be one of the masters rallying them around the toy boat pool. Through the crack in the half-closed aquarium the Ilin let loose two arrows; both are killing strikes, knocking the master down and into unconsciousness to bleed to death.
The now quite demoralised soldiers all try and leave at once; struggling, they jam in the door. Encouraging them, Kamilata gives them a few blows on the back - they jam harder. The lads drag some boxes out of the storeroom and set fire to them; finally the soldiers panic beyond all reason and under the extra strain the jam gives way and the soldiers pelt up the stairs, closely followed by the lads. Passing a sign hidden under a cloth, Thranduil pulls the cloth away; under it is a Symbol of Fear. Kamilata finds his exhilaration turn to something less pleasant, but at least as he runs from the symbol he picks up Tūd who has curled into a ball and is sobbing to himself.
At the bottom of some stairs with daylight at the top, we can hear fireballs and shouting from the top. Invisible Squirrel Lominlindi goes up to look as Kamilata gets a grip and Tūd cowers in the corner. Silnas is firebombing his own routed troops in frustration; a few lie scorched in the courtyard but the last few are escaping, singed, into the open land beyond the castle.
Silnas screams his anger, glides down into the courtyard and heads for the stairs. In his hand is a two handed great sword; at his back are two broadswords. He wears antiquated but serviceable armour. Agent Lominlindi hides in invisible purple in the corner as the remaining master strides past him. Below, Kamilata prepares himself to charge up the stairs. Tūd recovers a little and then loses it again; hes backed up in a corner and wondering where his other underpants are packed.
As Silnas comes down the stairs, Kamilata charges up and Thranduil stabs him in the back. The first two blows, good strikes, are warded away somehow, and Silnas in his fury buries his great-sword in the wall. He struggles to pull it free while blows from Thranduil and Kamilata are either warded or miss naturally. Finally a blow lands and Silnas disappears. The two warriors wave pointy sharp things around where they think he is until theyre convinced that he's not there at all any more. The wimp cowering at the bottom of the stairs finally recovers, and changes his armour.
We exit carefully at the top of the stairwell to find him waiting for us in the courtyard at the top, wielding now his broadswords, one in each hand. Thranduils bowstring breaks, and restringing a composite bow is a long operation. Tūd demonstrates that he's good with the right weaponry, and proceeds to hand out damage at the end of bits of pointy wood delivered at speed, stunning Silnas every blow. Thranduil resorts to his boomerang knives but can't hit for toffee. Kamilata gets around to where he can charge without getting shot, and Tūd finally misses, giving Silnas enough time to recover himself...
Four rounds later and it's not looking too good. Kamilata has taken a couple of heavy hits and we've only managed a few glancing blows. Then Kamilata manages a good hit that opens a bleeding wound, Thranduil closes in with his sword, and Silnas disappears.
With our only melee man, Kamilata, badly injured and Silnas only lightly hurt, its time to peg it. We peg it.
Back at the tower, it takes a few days for Kamilata to recover. In the meantime we're pretty sure Silnas will be getting more loopy and destroying more taxable resources. The western half of Dalov Perll is in flames; he's released the hell hounds. The wall is manned again.
The Easy Way
Thranduil bonks, Kamilata sleeps and Tūd watches the islands and plots and plans, the plans becoming more outrageous all the time. We could talk to the dragon Vorgis; he's appeared as a beggar/bloke once in the village, but probably wouldn't like us disturbing him to tell him 'wed like to help you deal with those idiots whove been disturbing you'. We could talk to Garth, surely he'll want to help out enemies of his murderers, even if he isnt quite completely dead. We could foment rebellion in Purll Cibor... for that, we need to speak Muir, so Tūd gets some lessons from the elves and the refugees (though unfortunately different lessons to the ones that Thranduil is getting). In amongst the lessons he picks up some gossip that the statue of Yanor Staidys on the small island is a golem, and can be activated for one command by burning the right kind of herb for him. The herb is called Nimble Mumble Muir and no one knows what it is.
So Tūd goes to the statue and burns the wreaths the villagers leave annually (just in case), and a few other bits and vegetable pieces that he's picked up. Nothing happens. Settling into a small gap in the wall to rest out of the sun, he falls back into a stairwell that leads - clank clink clonk clack... ping.... ringringringring down into a little alter with a bowl for burning things on top. Aha! And a bit of research in the library reveals a description of the herb - brown and sticky and can be found underground.
So, On The Third Day of Kamilatas illness, Tūd goes hunting in the tunnels for the elusive, cunning, 'erb. After a long, long time he finally finds something that might match the description, and takes it down to burn for the golem. It works.... and after a few questions that aren't instructions, really, they aren't at all, Tūd sends him off to "Kill the Master of Encla Turic". Off the 30 high golem strides, into the water, in a straight line for the castle. Soon the sounds of a terrific battle drift across the water, and Tūd settles down to a packed lunch. An hour later and the sounds die away our anxious hero-by-proxy waits to see what happens... the Golem rises steaming and dripping from the water onto the beach, marches back to his podium and resumes his previous stance. Tūd limps 'cautiously' out from behind the wall where he 'just happened to be standing', thanks the Golem and whoever created him (you can't be too careful), and hobbles back to Dulacaborns tower with the presumed good news. Kamilata staggers out of his sickbed and Thranduil hobbles out of Katamayas, and all three lads make their slow way back to the castle.
Silnas lies face down in a Silnas-shaped hole in the ground a few hundred yards in front of the castle gates. The villagers, awed and possibly shocked at having one of their deities turn up and thrash their evil overlord, stand at a respectable distance.
Tūd gets the Sgt they'd met before to start organising things, digging latrines etc. Once settled, the team commandeer a fishing boat to return to Alcant with Ambrose, his estranged wife Preserena, Katamaya, and their children. We leave Ambrose's spell books and staff with the elves though, and confiscate his wife's alchemic books; they would have to get a licence first
All in all, it seems a reasonably successful mission: We have removed an unpleasant tyrannical aristocracy and replaced it with a proper military puppet government. We have gained some loot (or taxes), and some handy gadgets, and yet preserved the economy and manpower sufficiently that the land can be taxed again. Self congratulations are in order, but it appears there is no rum at all