Book Three — The Plains

Chapter1

Tradespot and Beyond

We learned that the trolls had been successful in taking the exiger stronghold with the help of Gorfang, who returned safely. It turned out that during the Kujerungs’ stay, though, that they had taken all magical items and books and scrolls. However, they had not had the time to remove all of the money and they had hardly removed any of the food, weapons, and armor that the Brands had stored.

It was understood by most of us that of all the people who had fought for the menials, only some of us would continue on with their travels. Slagstone, Thingol, and Gorfang had their own quest to go on, and Ferric, Mugumma, Tortho, Tim, Enkavar, and a Harmasti named Gai would accompany them. Though we wished to leave before the snows came, we also wished Simon to come with us. Thus, we waited until Humakt’s High Holy Day, Six-day of the 4th week of winter when Simon was made a Sword of Humakt.

It was then that Tim declared that he would stay with Harmast. The egg was extremely large, and would almost certainly get larger. So, somewhat sadly, he decided to remain. Worfang declared that he would stay in the valleys and try to take the old shaman’s place until he returned.

Harmast had been in contact with the Viter clan. They promised us safe passage through their valleys. In return, they hoped that Harmast would be benevolent towards them.

As leader of the ex-Brand valleys, Harmast took on a title. From now on, he would be known as Harmast Nightblade, Lord Protector of the Qualyorni Pass.

It was a week before we left that we heard bad news. The queen troll, carrying Slagstone’s second child, had miscarried. Thus, Slagstone was kept fairly busy for the last week before we departed Mistvale for the last time.

During the weeks we spent waiting, Mugumma took this time to explain to us the culture of the plains. The gods that the plains people worshipped were as follows: Pamalt is the king of the gods. Keraun is the goddess of rain. Aleshmara is a goddess that only women could join. Sikkanos is the desert wind. Vangono the Spear is the god of war. Cronisper “The Wise” and his wife Yanmorla are also called the Gray Ones. Of course there is Bolongo, also called “The Mask”.

Noruma is the god of shamans, but was not the same as the Horned Man. Nyanka is the goddess of oases. Jmijie is the god of wandering. Rasout is the god of hunters. And there were gods and goddesses recognizable such as Lodril, Voria, Babeester Gor, and Maran Gor. And then there is the Chaos god Vovisibor, also called “Filth who Walks”.

The men rule on the plains, but the women have the right to choose who rule. Thus, the old women of the tribe are feared politically. There are three sizes of groups: families, lineages, and tribes.

The plains themselves actually had many rolling hillocks. The rivers on the plains, of course, flowed to the south. In the land of Zamokil is found the last remnants of the Artmali Empire. Jolar is fairly flat with some oases dotting the plains. The remnants of ancient forests can also be found. In Doraddi, walking nomads roamed. And in Kresh could be found the people who rode the war wagons. In Tarien can be found the slarges of old. Far to the south is the Nargan Desert. South of that, legend tells of the Enmal Mountains, where the gods live.

The Arbennan Confederation had been formed by the people of Jolar and Doraddi to fight

against the Kresh. They also included the Zephyrists, who, though they rode in wagons like the Kresh, used sails to propel them.

Little chaos was found of the plains, except the ever-present broos. There were no scorpion men, no walktapi, no jack-o-bears, nor vampires.

In general, the people were friendly towards strangers, not knowing if they might be somehow related. But, they thought bad of sorcerers because of the depredations of the Ill Empire in the Second Age.

And so the fateful day arrived. We were laden down with weapons, armor, and provisions. We were going to bring with us the three wagons that Simon and Tim had brought from Ouori. Harmast had gifted Slagstone with 10% of the wealth found in the Brand’s stronghold. This amounted, in total weight, to 3 kilograms of gold, 20 kilograms of silver, and a metric ton (1000 kilograms) of copper.

Of course this was not in one lump, but rather in small tablets of 20 grams each, which we learned were used in trading. Thus, we had 150 tablets of gold, 1000 of silver, and 50000 of copper. Each gold tablet was worth 12 pennies, a silver tablet one penny, and a copper tablet a tenth of a penny. The gift from Harmast was thus worth a total of 7800 pennies.

Thus the party was as follows: Slagstone the dark troll, Thingol the wizard, Simon the Fanatic, Sword of Humakt, Gorfang the dwarf, Mugumma the shaman, Enkavar the duck, Ferric the dwarf, Tortho the cook, and Gai the Harmasti. We went through the valley that the exiger stronghold commanded and headed into Viter territory.

We passed through the Viter valleys safely and made our long arduous way down the Qualyorni Pass. The journey down was as easy as our path up was difficult.

On Witch-day of the sixth week, our food ran out. By then however, we had sighted the trading post that the exigers used. It was a collection of both buildings and extremely large tents. There were shrines to Argan Argar, Lodril, and Trickster. We set up the tent which we had taken from the exiger stronghold.

As we finished, a big fat man wearing only a loincloth came up to us. He said, “It’s customary here in Tradespot to pay for benefits received — such as the privilege of pitching your fine tent here on my land.”

Though we did not like the man, we acquiesced to his rent, one penny a day, because we didn’t want to go through the hassle of taking down and then pitching the tent all over again.

The first thing we did was to go to the temple to Cronisper and Yanmorla. When asked who the Gray Ones were, the priest replied that they are the fathers of the gods. When asked where the biggest temple to Cronisper and Yanmorla were, he replied that the biggest one was in Kresh territory, but that there was a smaller one at the Three Pines Oasis in Jolar which was about 320 kilometers to the southwest.

The next thing we did was to learn the language, which was called Arbennan. So we went to the only language teacher, a man called Ribi Tortran. He was a Malkioni, of the Rokari sect and a member of the warrior caste. He wanted to charge one penny per hour per person. Thingol attempted to bargain with him. In return for a matrix for Treat Wounds, Ribi would teach us all for four weeks for free. While everyone else learned, Mugumma taught Thingol about the intricacies in Enchanting.

During this time, Enkavar had made friends with the local Trickster priest, called Mister Man. All through the four weeks, Enkavar and Mister Man tricked, stole, and cheated their way through the trading post, even thieving successfully from Slagstone. Enkavar, though, declined to

sacrifice for Mister Man’s shrine’s single Rune spell, Become Dirty Shirt.

Finally the four weeks came to an end. Thingol successfully created the matrix for Ribi, and we looked for a way to go to Three Pines Oasis.

So we went to buy pack animals for the journey. They had one especially interesting animal, which they called a thunderbeast. It was a huge beast, with two bony projections from its nose which made it look like it had a slingshot on its nose. The dealer’s price was too high, so we ignored it. He also had some dinosaurs, which we considered. The dealer sad that they were herbivores, but should also be fed fruits and that it was especially fond of river plants. There were also dogs that, though they could carry very little, were cheap enough that we could buy many. We finally decided to buy two of the dinosaurs. It cost us the 2 mules that we had brought with us and 800 pennies. Mugumma said that the animals would probably be good for about 320 kilometers.

So, on Witch-day of the tenth week of the rainy season, we marched for Three Pines Oasis. Before we left, Slagstone succumbed to peer pressure and distributed the money evenly. Gorfang put all of his money in buying a ruby. Simon declared that he would stay at Tradespot to try to set up a temple to Humakt. Thingol was unable to repay his debt before we headed off.

After three days of seeing nothing but prairie dogs and assorted lizards, we arrived at a flooded riverbed. The dinosaurs grazed in the river while we headed over to a copse of trees in which there was a hut. Inside lived an 80-year old Trickster priest. The spell that this shrine taught was Detach Legs.

We stayed here for the rest of Gata-day and all of Empress-day while Mister Man got his Rune spells back. Gorfang asked about Bolongo and where there was a shrine to him. He offered a can of food to the priest. After some bargaining, he agreed, but Gorfang had to come inside his hut before the priest would tell him. Inside, Gorfang was told to hold onto a stick with rattlesnake rattles and promise not to hurt the Bolongo priest. Gorfang agreed, and was told that the shrine was to the west and slightly north.

When the priest asked if anyone wanted to become a Trickster initiate, Mugumma replied that he would. Mister Man did the initiation. He told Mugumma that the more money he paid, the easier the initiation would be. Mugumma gave him 100 pennies.

Mister Man took Mugumma to the widest part of the river. He told Mugumma that there was a big lizard at the river bottom that was slowly rotting away. Mister Man pulled out a dead fish and tossed it into the river. Mugumma’s task would be to get the fish and bring it out with his mouth. With his hands tied behind his back, and a Skin of Life cast on him, Slagstone tossed him into the river. Mugumma landed in water some 2 feet deep. Finally, Mugumma took the plunge.

After about a minute of floundering around, he came up with the fish.

When Mugumma asked Mister Man what he had to do to become an initiate, Mister Man told him that he had been told to find a needle in a thirty-foot diameter pile of dung.

On Pamalt-day, we headed off again. Again we spent a week seeing nothing interesting until Gata-day of week 12. On that day, we saw a platform house supported some 20 feet in the air. The occupant was another Trickster priest, a kid some 17 years old. The spell taught here was Turn Clothes Invisible. Mister Man regained his uses, while Mugumma sacrificed for two uses.

We left the shrine on Empress-day. After some hours, Mugumma saw something bright to the south. After another half-hour, he declared it was definitely getting brighter. An hour later, we could see that it was a series of things that looked like waterspouts made of fire. The bottom of them was some 2 meters off the ground, but we could see them turning the land brown underneath them and, when they touched the ground, small fires starting. Accompanying them were blasts of hot air.

Looking quickly around, we spotted a large puddle some 200 feet across. Immediately we ran towards it. Now some of the flames spotted us, for four of them split off from the main group and headed directly towards us.

We only just made it to the puddle, some six inches deep, in time. The flames came to the edge of the puddle, then stopped. Mugumma cast an Extinguish 5 at the smallest flame. It didn’t seem to affect it. Then the flames communicated with each other in blasts of hot air. Then they started towards us across the water.

The dinosaurs panicked and ran away from them. Three of the flames chased them, caught them, killed them, then moved quickly off the water. Gorfang cast Demoralize at the remaining one. It worked, and the flame hesitated, then went off to rejoin the big group.

Examining the animals, they were definitely dead. Gone were our supplies except for those we had carried with us. Tortho butchered and cooked portions of he beast that were edible as a final meal for us.

The next day we came across a large pool of water fed by three streams. A small marsh surrounded the pool and there seemed to be something under the marsh. Hungry as we were, we decided not to kill it for food because we didn’t know what it was. That evening, off in the distance, we could see lights shining in a copse of trees that Slagstone said was some two miles away. We waited until the next morning to investigate.

Once we arrived there we could see that this village was built along a river basin. There were many stone buildings and lots of tents pitched. The river had flooded and partially flooded some of the stone buildings. Many people were in the village, mostly women. And off in the distance we could see three huge pine trees along with many little ones. We had made it to Three Pines Oasis.

Everyone in the oasis was human with one exception. There was a humanoid sitting on a stone building with his knees to his ears. His feet were a foot long, and his toes about the same. One elbow reached to the stone he sat one, and with the other he scratched himself. His fingers were a foot long and he had big eyes and ears with a tiny nose and mouth. His coloring was gray, with a mottling of beige. When he saw Mugumma, he started to point at him.

Standing before us, however, were a bunch of people with stone axes. They seemed more wary than angry. Mister Man cried, “Hail!” and received a return “Morning.”

“We have come to visit the great temple to Cronisper” “What is you business there?”

“We are pilgrims.”

The men seemed unconvinced. They sent a kid back to the buildings and he came back with an old woman who said, “Well, so many imposing armed strangers It’s time for the Ritual of Meeting contest.”

Asking what the Ritual was, the men told us that it was a custom when two tribes met. Each tribe’s champion would engage the other’s in two contests, one chosen by the one, the other by the other. If a champion won both contests, he was entitled to demand anything from the loser’s tribe. It was obvious that the contest was set up so that each champion would win his or her own contest, thus creating a tie.

We picked Slagstone as our champion and the men produced their own, a small wiry fellow.

For our contest, Slagstone suggested an eating contest: whoever could eat the most in one hour would win. The people brought out the food for the contest. At first their champion tried to keep pace with Slagstone, but he was clearly out-classed. When he realized this, he stopped eating and

waited for the rest of the hour while Slagstone stuffed himself.

For their contest, each champion would simultaneously throw staves at the other as though they were spears. The object was to catch the spears thrown at oneself. Three spears was the usual number. Three times the villager’s champion caught the staves, and three times Slagstone was hit by the staves.

The contest was declared a tie and we were welcomed into Three Pines Oasis.

Chapter2

Three Pines Oasis

Three Pines Oasis has a population of about 500 people. The size of the oasis is about a square kilometer. There were quite a few temples there for the considering the population. The biggest was to Aleshmara and had a Babeester Gor shrine inside. Thus the temple was guarded by her warriors. There were also temples to Cronisper, Yanmorla, Pamalt, Vangono, Nyanka, Lodril, Keraun, and Faranar, one of Pamalt’s wives. There was a structure for Noruma and for Jmijie as well as one for the local grain goddess, Nomiama. There was no temple to Trickster, though there was one to Bolongo.

Asking about the creature, we learned that his name was Zuzu. He had been here for about eighteen years and lived here. It was still pointing at Mugumma. Mugumma waved at Zuzu, who promptly thumbed it’s nose at him. He asked why he was pointing at him. Zuzu responded, “To bug you!” Zuzu, who was a jelmre, was to point at Mugumma for the rest of our stay here.

We went to the temple of Cronisper. We clapped outside the curtain, signaling our presence. An old man hobbled out smoking a long, ornate pipe. Mugumma promptly yelled out, “Fire!” and Extinguished it. The old man growled, “I don’t want to talk to you,” and went back inside.

We all chastised Mugumma rather severely. He and Enkavar went off to make some stone soup while the rest of us went to the temple of Yanmorla. The priestess was the oldest woman we had ever seen. She was blind, toothless and hobbled with two canes.

We told the priestess that we wished to speak to the Gray Ones. She seemed to not be interested in helping us. We persisted by offering to do things for here and she finally relented. She said that she, as priestess to Yanmorla needed nothing, but that her great-grandchildren might be helped. They lived in the only green tent in the oasis. Or was it the only maroon tent? She did tell us that we could go back to the Cronisper temple in a few days, “after he forgets about you.”

It turned out that there was only one maroon tent, some forty feet in diameter. We went there and saw an old woman sunning herself, a younger woman grinding grain and some children playing outside. We asked the young woman if she was the great-granddaughter of the priestess. The older woman replied that she was. We all stood amazed64.

Gorfang told her why we had come and asked what we could do for her and her family. She asked if we could weave or fish. Gorfang replied that we couldn’t. She asked if we had anything nice or pretty. Gorfang brought out the gem he had bought in Tradespot and offered it to her.

When she only said that it was pretty, Gorfang offered to make a clasp for it.

Gorfang spent the rest of the day making the clasp for the gem. He used some of his silver to make a small cage for it.

The next day, Six-day of the last week of winter, he brought the completed jewelry to the old woman. She seemed very happy and asked what he wanted her to do. Gorfang asked her to tell her great-grandmother that we had done her a favor. She agreed and we went back to the priestess.

The priestess offered us two Divinations in return for the favor. We tried to bargain for more and she agreed to add another but only if the three Tricksters did not play any tricks on any of her relatives for the rest of their lives. We agreed to her terms. Mister Man asked who wasn’t her relative. The priestess said that she couldn’t remember any of the villagers that weren’t her relatives. But she said that Zuzu and the Babeester Gor axe women definitely weren’t.

  1. Six generations all living at the same time!

For the Divinations, we came inside the temple. We all sat down on cushions inside. There were still some empty cushions. The priestess seemed to go into a trance and as she did, forms that were human occupied the empty cushions. One of them, a young woman, asked us to ask our questions.

Our first question was, “Where should we go next in our Quest to save the Third Age?” The answer we received was, “Blaze your own paths. Don’t ask me.”

Next we asked: “We have been told to seek the Gray Ones. How can you help us?” “I’m at your service.”

Finally, we asked “Where is the land before the sun goes down?” The answer we received was a vision. We saw a large land which zoomed in on a port city. In the city were blue-skinned people, all of them handsome or beautiful. The animals helped them without being forced to. The countryside looked like savanna. We could see the sun directly overhead. Then, the sun fell from the sky and landed with predictable results. The last thing we saw was the sea boiling.

After we had talked to the priestess and had dinner, Mister Man beckoned us out of the camp. We went and he took us some distance from the oasis. There he lit a fire and proceeded to make a speech65.

After his speech, Gorfang explained the Quest to Mister Man. He declared that every Quest needed a Trickster and would join ours.

We asked Mister man to teach us some of the things we would need to know while we stayed here. He told us about how marriages worked. When a man marries a woman, he becomes a part of the woman’s family. Their children, however, belong solely to the woman’s. Thus, the chief of a tribe must be the son of a woman of the chieftain’s family and his children can not become chief after him.

He also told us about some of the chaos monsters that inhabit the plains of Pamaltela. There was one called a watchwhere, so named because it can see through anything. It is intelligent and often cooperates with other chaos monsters. Then there is the grue, which looks something like a snake corpse. It injects venom and if a person dies from it, he or she becomes a ghoul. Another monster is called the chovin. It has the shape of the last thing it ate, plus tentacles. But, said Mister Man, it only comes out in the summer.

However, there was still the problem of a leader. Slagstone declared that he would accept not being leader. After much debate, it was decided that Tortho would become the leader. After this declaration was made, Mister Man suggested to Tortho that all the party’s money should be put in his hand. Tortho refused Mister Man’s suggestion.

As we headed back to the oasis, we could see that there was a commotion going on. All the priests and priestesses were talking to a young man who had evidently run for a good time. He said that the Promalti had been seen, during the rainy season. We asked what the Promalti were and they said that they were men made from fire. We then realized that they were the firespouts we had seen and we told them of our encounter. They told us that they come from the Nargan Desert. We asked how one dealt with them. They said that it was difficult to do so. Supposedly the Promalti were immortal, but not invulnerable. As to their motivation, as one of the Promalti said to a human, “I am a child of the Sun, an enemy of the city. We shall seize the land and burn it until we are stopped by our old enemy, the sea.” The villagers spent the night uneasily, disturbed more by the fact that their coming was so unnatural than by the Promalti themselves.

The next week was the Holy Week at the end of the year. The whole oasis was filled with celebrations and ceremonies to remake the world. Mister Man had to play the part of Trickster and

  1. See Appendix C.

so we hardly saw him. However, Mugumma and Enkavar more than made up for him, playing many tricks on all of us. Slagstone was repeatedly dumped with dye from a bucket suspended on the top of a door. Thingol discovered that his book had been glued shut. Tortho’s meals were suddenly tainted by an extra amount of spices. And Ferric and Gorfang kept seeing the shadow of monstrously huge broos.

The first day of 1624 dawned bright and sunny. We all headed over to the temple of Cronisper to talk to the priest. We clapped outside the temple and a figure emerged.

“I suppose you’re all wondering why I’ve called you here today. I need to talk to each of you, for I can see the future.”

To Gorfang he said, “You will have a sex change operation.” To Tortho, “You will meet a tall, dark stranger who will mug you.” To Thingol, “You will learn the wisdom of the Tap INT spell. Apply it to yourself.” To Slagstone, “Your bison will father trollkin.” As he was about to speak to Ferric, he stopped for a second as he saw some of us looking at him in mockery. “Wait a minute,” he said. Mugumma then asked the priest what his future was. The priest said, “I can see many welts, bruises, and maybe even broken bones in store for you.” And Mister Man threw off his disguise and started to beat Mugumma with his cane, chasing him all the way out of the oasis.

Going inside, we saw the real priest of Cronisper bound and gagged. Removing the gag, he said, “You filthy foreigners! Go back to where you came from!”

Gorfang said, “We’ll go away when you answer our questions.” “Go away or I’ll call the wrath of … Cronisper on you!”

We attempted to pacify the old man, but he was adamant until Gai made a very respectful speech asking the old man for both his help and for Cronisper’s help.

The speech moved the old man. “That’s the way to show respect. Everybody else out while I talk to this respectful young man.”

When Gai came back out, he said that the old man had not known much himself about certain details of our Quest. But, the old man had said that we could have four Divinations and that he would tell us the payment for it afterwards.

Our first question was, “Is the finding of our true virtues necessary for the completion of our Quest?” The answer: “You’re not fit for the quest without them, but they are not absolutely necessary.” Our second question: “Where is the Red Beast?” “South. But don’t go there yet.” “Then where should we go?” “East.” “What is the End of All, the Bane of Time?” “Chaos.”

The priest told us to come back the next day when he would tell us his payment. When we came back, he told us. He wanted us to find out what was going wrong in Kothar and Tarien. He said that strange things were going on here in Jolar, such as the Promalti being seen. He said that in all probability similar things were going on in Kresh and Tarien and we were to find out.

He then pulled out a small statuette. Giving it to Gorfang as the most trustworthy, he told us that it was his soulstone. Gorfang was to deliver it to the palace atop the Enmal Mountains. He told us that it was no hurry. Asking what a soulstone was, he told us that it conveyed a request. He refused to tell us what his request was.

Since we were now going to be involved with the Kresh, we asked the villagers about them.

They told us that 200 years ago, there had been no Kresh. They had all come from Doraddi and thus their customs were not too different from the Arbennans. Because of the war, they were viewed as enemies, but were definitely not Chaos.

To make the long journey, we had to provision ourselves. Gorfang made an ornate necklace using four gold tablets, rimming them with silver and working more silver into additions. We took this to the temple of the local grain goddess, Nomiama. Inside, there were many bushels of a red- colored bean. We asked the priestess if we could barter for food. She told us that everyday, one could take a double handful of bloodbeans.

Using the necklace, we were able to trade for one bushel of bloodbeans, which were so called because the inside of the bean was blood-red. The bushel, which contained about 40 kilograms of dried beans would last us about two weeks (12 days). The priestess told us that eating just bloodbeans alone was not good. She was willing to let us have a half-bushel of bloodbeans, a quarter-bushel of squaa, a local grain66, and two kilograms of sweetgrass, a plant which collected sugar crystals on the inside. We accepted the offer.

Leaving the temple, a man came up to us. He said he liked the necklace, and wanted one for himself. He would pay, he said, with the carcass of a river rat he had caught made into jerky. Again, we accepted and on Witch-day, we gave him the necklace and he gave us a huge sack full of jerky which weighed 35 kilograms.

The food was divided up among the party except for Mister Man, Mugumma, and Enkavar, who carried bottles of beer. We began walking on Six-day and saw nothing interesting. The next day, off in the distance, we could see a campsite. We headed towards it.

There were about 200 people and 30 tents. There was an elephant off grazing, wearing implements that identified it as a beast of burden. Some little children saw us and started to throw rocks at us. Slagstone walked towards them and they ran away.

Then 8 warriors with spears came towards us. They all wore orange feathers. We stopped, and one of them said, “Who speaks to prove you are not Chaos?” Of course all of us talked at once. The man told us to stay here and he called to another man back at the campsite. He brought an old woman out to us on piggy-back. She hobbled around, inspecting all of us, grabbing the tongue of the duck, and asking the dwarfs to hop and show her their feet. Finally she told the warriors that she thought that we weren’t Chaos.

As was the custom, we then had a Meeting Contest. Again, Slagstone was our champion.

They brought out their champion, a man named Gornolog. We chose our contest first. It was rock- throwing, purely for distance. Slagstone, with his troll strength, won easily. Their contest was a game of standoff. The contestants stand an arm’s length apart and attempt to make the other person lose their balance. Again, Slagstone won.

They asked what we wanted. We asked for a meal and friendly conversation. They said fine and invited us to a feast.

  1. Squaa and lagniappe are the two local grains.

Chapter3

The Dolmanyei

The chief of the Dolmanyei is named Sumigar. He is a fairly small, but rotund man. At the feast, which featured elephant in a large stew, Sumigar gave the eyeballs to Slagstone as the victor of the Contest. Slagstone gave one back to Sumigar as a gift. Mugumma, as a shaman, got the tail, uncooked.

We talked for a while about our adventures and they told us of the history of their tribe. We also talked about the plague, called the White Frothing, which had devastated the land.

Eventually the subject of Tricksters came up. The three in the Dolmanyei were all Bolongo worshipers. When we were asked about Tricksters, Enkavar and Mugumma each attempted a trick. They failed. Mister Man said, “Amateurs! Stand up Mugumma, before all the tribe!” Mugumma did, whereupon Mister Man cast Turn Clothes Invisible on him! Everyone had a good laugh until Thingol made a snide remark. Then Mugumma cast Turn Clothes Invisible on Thingol! Mister Man yelled, “Enough!” and cast his remaining uses on a nearby 16-year old girl and two of Sumigar’s wives, all of whom fled screaming.. As some of Sumigar’s warriors dragged him away to beat him, Mister Man called out, “It was worth it!” Finally, the chaos died away. Mister Man came back with many bruises. Mugumma then cast his last use of Turn Clothes Invisible on Mister Man, who ran away until the spell wore off.

The next morning, we took our leave from the Dolmanyei in friendship and continued to the east. For four days, we saw nothing but assorted animals. On the fifth day, Mugumma was nearly bitten by a snake called “The Hundred Steps”. It has that name because after one takes one Hundred Steps after being bitten the victim falls dead. On Six-day of the second week of spring, we made it to the next oasis.

To our surprise, the Dolmanyei were there too. The reason that they had doubled back to the oasis, which was called Gully Rock because of the large rock in the sinkhole that provided water, was because of a band of mercenaries from the mountains which the Arbennan Confederation had hired to fight the Kresh decided to stay in Jolar.

We stayed at Gully Rock for some time. The Dolmanyei tribe, though small67 were friendly. They welcomed us to stay with them for as long as we wanted, though we would have to hunt for our own food. Sumigar declared that they would stay at the oasis for one week. We decided to stay with them and rest from adventuring. This was Ga-day of the third week.

The very next day, three women came running back into Gully Rock. They had been severely beaten. Some of the warriors went out and came back with Songamma. She had been beaten and raped by some people, we weren’t able to quite figure out who. Four of Gornolog’s best warriors gave chase, as did Gorfang, Tortho, Thingol, and Enkavar. After about an hour, we spotted the villains, four of them. The four warriors plus Enkavar then snuck around behind them and then jumped out, shouting to surrender. Though the villains made for their weapons, we quickly overpowered them and brought them back to Gully Rock.

That night, exactly at midnight, Songamma verified that they were her assailants. They were tied up and warriors held spears to their necks. Sumigar handed the four a torch and said to them, “You know what to do.” Only one of them was able to withstand the pain of the charred member. The rest of them were killed. The other one had the bleeding stopped and then was released.

The next day Sumigar said that the tribe would stay at Gully Rock to raise sweetgrass.

Again, we were invited to stay, and we accepted. It took until the end of the ninth week before the

  1. See Appendix D.

sweetgrass was ready to be harvested. The harvesting itself took four days and it took another two days to weave baskets to hold all the sugar. It was on the last day before we left that Thingol managed to learn the spell Transform Water to Beer. Mister Man was there to try out the first use of the spell.

Also during the time we spent with the Dolmanyei, Tortho and Gai attempted to garner interest in themselves from the local women. Though Tortho was not too handsome, he managed to woo Sumigar’s oldest daughter, Igana.

On Ga-day of week 11, the Dolmanyei tribe and us left Gully Rock to attend a meeting of most of the tribes of the Arbennan Confederation. We arrived that on the first day of summer.

There were some 1300 people there. Also there were the Zephyrists, people who rode in wagons propelled by the wind. In addition, there was Simon the Fanatic! He had stayed in Tradespot for about 12 weeks, then had come with the rest of the people of Tradespot to the meeting. Thingol was able to repay his debt to Simon.

Sumigar went to the meeting of the chiefs. He came back shortly with word that a single Kresh wagon train was approaching. Immediately a wave of fear and apprehension swept the meeting area. All the warriors got up their weapons and made ready to fight the Kresh.

The Kresh wagon train was composed of 60 wagons, each pulled by many slaves. The wagons were about 50 feet long by 20 feet wide by 15 feet high. Their wheels were 12 feet in diameter. The wagon was so big that it had two levels. There were a few warriors on the tops of the wagons.

As the warriors formed a line to defend the rest, the column stopped about a kilometer away. Then the slaves unhooked themselves and got weapons out. What we had thought were slaves were actually the Kresh! Then one of the men who had been riding the lead wagon walked forward. He wore clothes similar to what the Arbennans wear, but the material was much finer and more colorful.

He talked to the chiefs and then went back to his wagon. Asking, we found out that he had asked for a talk with the leader of the meeting.

That night, all the old women of the tribes conferred to choose who would be their representative. The wagons were drawn up in a big circle with a roaring bonfire in the middle of them.

The next morning, the appointed chieftain (which was not Sumigar), had a talk with the Kresh leader. It turned out that the Kresh had a lot of prisoners which they had taken in the last year which they wished to return. There were no strings attached. We, but not the Arbennans, were astonished.

All that day, the Arbennans and the Kresh mingled. The prisoners who were returned showed no signs of having been maltreated, though they complained that they were not allowed to have their weapons while imprisoned.

We talked to some of the Kresh and learned that they were heading for Zamokil next. Since that was where we wished to head, we began to ask if we could join their wagon train. The head wagonmaster, Noyama, said that if we wanted to go with them, we would essentially have to earn our way by helping to pull their wagon. In addition, we would have to either pay or hunt for food. He said that a kilogram and a half of metal should pay for one meal for all of us. Since that amounted to 7.5 pennies of copper, we didn’t think we’d starve.

The work schedule, said Noyama, was that the wagons were pulled for four hours, then a rest period of four hours was called. Then there was another pull for four hours and then they all slept during the night.

We decided to think on it. Noyama said that they would remain at the meeting place for three weeks, then they would leave. Meanwhile, Tortho was talking to Igana, asking her to come along with him. However, right in the middle of his speech, his clothes turned invisible from Mugumma’s spell. Tortho immediately fled.

That night, Tortho found Mister Man building a framework over Mugumma’s sleeping form. He decided to come back in the morning to see what Mister Man had perpetrated.

When Mugumma woke up, he found himself in a copper pot. Or at least the upper half of himself. As he peered over the rim, he saw, besides all of us and Mister Man, another pot which held his legs. Both of the pots were suspended over many porcupine skins. Apparently, Mister Man had put himself in Mindlink with Mugumma and then cast Detach Legs on himself/Mugumma.

Mister Man declared, “This is his rightful punishment for not giving me money.” When we evinced interest in letting Mugumma out, Mister Man stopped us. “There are two reasons why he should not be let out. One: He will be able to take much pride and accomplishment in getting out all by himself.”

Mugumma then cried out, “No! No! Let me out!” Mister Man continued. “Secondly, this is all my property.”

Seeing no immediate solution, Mugumma then took to chanting for an hour or so. Then his Discorporate form few out of the pot and attacked Thingol. Thingol beat Mugumma unconscious68 then released his spirit. Two hours later, after Mugumma re-awoke, Mister Man declared that he was going to find a weasel or two to toss in with his legs.

As Mister Man returned, Mugumma cast Protection 6 on his legs. The weasels did no harm to his legs. Then he got smart and Ignited the ropes suspending the pot with his legs. The pot fell and the legs fell out unharmed by the quills. His legs then kicked away the skins and then he jumped out of the pot. With his arms holding onto his legs, his legs dragged his torso after Mister Man, who quickly climbed a tree. Mugumma tried everything he could to convince Mister Man to reattach his legs to his body. Even an offer of 200 pennies did not change his mind.

Finally Thingol interceded. Transforming water into beer, he got Mister Man to drink himself out of the tree. The next morning, Mister Man reattached Mugumma’s legs. Mugumma then renounced the cult of the Trickster. Mister Man, though disappointed, said that he knew of a ritual that would remove him from the cult. Mugumma would have to do the initiation ritual in reverse, putting a dead fish back into a river with his teeth. This he did, and then asked if that was it.

“What? Just because you put a dead fish back in a river?!” cried Mister Man as he burst into laughter.

  1. Down to zero magic points.

Chapter4

The Kresh

While we waited for the Kresh wagon train to leave, a happy occurrence took place. On Pamalt-day of the third week of summer, another Kresh wagon train arrived at the meet. One of its passengers was a morokanth. In fact, it was a morokanth that some us had known quite well. It was Grosko. Though we were happy to see him, he declined to explain just how he had gotten to Pamaltela.

During the last week before the Kresh left, we learned why most of the nomads had generally not domesticated any animals to ride. The reason was because the animals were either too small to ride, or too large to handle.

The day finally came when the Kresh train left. In all, there were 40 wagons under the leadership of Udowa, a wagonmaster himself. We all decided to pull on the morning shift, since the heat of summer would be less oppressive.

All of us, that is, except Thingol. Every morning he would bribe one of the Kresh to pull for him by turning water into beer. Then he had the whole day to study his spell book.

The first day out, Udowa had a meeting of all the wagonmasters. Noyama attended and when he came back, he separated all the non-Kresh from the Kresh, us included. He asked us to promise not to tell any Doraddi what he was going to tell us now. We agreed. Noyama then told us of how in recent years, wagon trains similar to the one we were now in had vanished without a trace. He said that this wagon train was going to find out why. All the wagons in this train were volunteers. The only clue they had was that they had all disappeared near the Nargan Desert.

After two weeks of travel, on Pamalt-day of the sixth week, we encountered a large patch of lagniappe and sweetgrass. We stayed there for the rest of the day and all the next harvesting the food.

After another two weeks, we met a tribe of Doraddi who gave us many bushels of food.

When we evinced interest as to why they didn’t fear the wagon train, we were told that “they’re our Doraddi.”

Another week passed until the head wagon suddenly shifted direction. After another hour, we came upon a large cairn of rocks. Inside this cairn were more supplies.

Two days later, we came upon a large, wide gully running east and west. At the bottom of the gully were a few scraggly plants which indicated to us that the gully once had water in it. Udowa told us that one of the wagon trains was last seen going into this gully. He told us that all the warriors would go into the gully to search for the train. The rest of the train would celebrate a Holy Day to Aleshmara.

All of us volunteered to go except for Gai, who decided to stay behind and party. We split up into groups and explored the gully.

After about a half-day’s journey down the gully, Grosko suddenly smelled burnt wood and sensed Chaos ahead. Cautiously we crept forward, but nothing attacked us. Slagstone then noticed that the ground beneath us had been disturbed, some time ago. Reasoning that perhaps something was buried beneath the surface, we began to dig.

Grosko was actually the one best suited for digging and he went to it. After a few minutes, he struck wood. After some more digging, it turned out to be a wagon wheel. The wheel had been partially burned, so that some of it was charcoal.

Once we found this, we hurried back to tell the others of our find. We came across a wagon master and three of his Spears. We told him what we found and he told us to go back with two of his Spears and guard the area while he went back to tell the other wagonmasters.

This we did and when we returned we thought we might dig some more. Neither of the two Spears helped and indeed they seemed amused that we were continuing to dig.

Night fell, and we posted a guard just in case. The next morning, six wagonmasters showed up with their guards. One of them brought out a rock and placed it in the hole we had dug. Then he cast a spell and the gnome bound into the rock began to dig, much faster than we could ever have done.

The only other remnants we found were a broken human thigh bone, a corroded spear point, and a bent gold ring.

It was then that Grosko realized that the area that he knew to be Chaos was only some 200 meters in both directions from the hole. By lowering him into the hole, he also found out that the Chaos taint went only six feet underground.

Thinking that the spirits of the Kresh might still be around, Mugumma Discorporated, but he found nothing out of the ordinary.

Back at the wagon train, Udowa declared that the train would follow this gully towards the west, to see if anything else showed up. But first, he said, they would stay here for a week to hunt and celebrate.

The week we spent at the gully passed uneventfully and we then began to travel alongside the gully. A week passed and then, off in the distance, we could see somebody holding up a thirty- foot high pole with a flag on it. It was a man, and he was blue. Noyama told us that he was a Veldang.

As soon as he saw us, he put down the pole, took 298 steps directly towards the setting sun, pointed at the ground beneath his feet, then returned to his pole, picked it up, and walked away.

Gnomes from our train dug at the indicated spot, and found a trove of food.

The next day, the first day of autumn, clouds were seen in the sky. We participated in a two- day celebration welcoming the clouds. This ceremony included the pouring of a water cask onto the sand, no doubt to entice the clouds to do the same.

After a little more than two weeks of travel, on Pamalt-day of the third week, the sun was obscured by clouds. Everybody seemed happy. But suddenly, a blue ghost materialized in front of our wagon. Somehow, it seemed as if it had been wounded. It gibbered in Arbennan, “Help…

Death… The wagon train.” At the same time, Grosko sensed Chaos. Then, as the ghost finished the last word, something else materialized. They were mouths and they began to attack the ghost, who hysterically tried to fight them off. Despite our attempts to help, the ghost was eaten away.

Through Mindspeech, we discovered that all the other wagons had seen spirits as we had. Noyama then turned the wagons away from the desert, in the direction that one of the spirits had indicated.

After a few hours travel, we stopped and formed a circle of wagons. Most of the warriors, along with us, left the train to investigate a pillar of smoke that was just ahead. The warriors split up into groups with us being one of the groups.

After about a half hour, we were ambushed. Rising out of the ground came four broos. One looked like a mountain troll but had green skin, wore metal armor and carried a crossbow. Another was naked, but his skin appeared wet. A third had claws for hands but nevertheless carried a

greatsword. The last was very small and naked.

The one with the crossbow fired 3 shots at Simon. Two bounced, but one of them buried deep in his chest. Unfazed, Simon drew his bow and cast Speedart on it. Ferric, who had his crossbow ready, fired at the broo and hit it in the chest. Enkavar slung at the wet broo and hit its left leg. Gorfang also fired his crossbow and hit the chest of the crab-clawed broo. Finally, Mugumma Demoralized the crossbow-armed broo.

At the same time Simon fired his bow and critically impaled the green broo in the abdomen, the clawed broo spat at Grosko. The saliva hit his chest and it turned out that the saliva was actually acid! Grosko’s chest was set on fire. From the ground, the green broo breathed fire on Simon. The flames engulfed his chest, abdomen, and left leg. Near death, Simon called on Humakt to heal him so that he could continue the battle. Humakt granted the miracle. Slagstone chopped at the small broo and took off its left arm. The clawed broo swung at Grosko, hitting his abdomen. Grosko fell, miraculous putting out the fire on his chest as well. Grosko noticed that this broo was beginning to regenerate from the wound it had taken. Enkavar then cast a Hot Foot on the clawed broo, succeeding. Gorfang tried a Demoralize on the clawed broo, but failed. The green broo stayed on the ground. Gai then hit the green broo in the left leg. The wet broo missed. Thingol, looking around, noticed that all the other groups of warriors were fighting as well.

The clawed broo spat again, this time at Gorfang. Fortunately, Gorfang managed to get his shield in the way. The acid burned the shield, but none got through. The green broo again breathed fire on Simon, engulfing Simon’s right arm, chest, and left leg. Slagstone buried his poleaxe in the shot broo’s chest, killing it. The clawed broo swung at Gorfang, but he parried. The green broo clawed at Gai and hit his left arm. Mugumma came to Grosko’s side to Heal him. Ferric hit the wet broo in the leg, causing it to fall over, but his weapon took damage from the acid that covered it.

Thingol then Palsied the green broo in the head, knocking it unconscious.

Suddenly, from the corpse of the small broo came a ghost which wrapped itself around Slagstone, engaging him in spirit combat. The clawed broo spat at Grosko, but it missed. Then it tried to swing at Grosko, but he dodged the blow. Grosko then clawed back at the broo, but it parried. Simon continued to Heal himself. Tortho hit the wet broo’s right leg, damaging both it and his weapon. Enkavar slung again and hit the clawed broo’s abdomen.

Again the clawed broo spat at Grosko and again it missed. The spirit continued its attack on Slagstone. Grosko again dodged the clawed broo’s swings at him. Tortho impaled the wet broo in the leg, but his spear disintegrated as he struck. Ferric fired his crossbow and hit the wet broo in the head. Simon, using his bow, hit the clawed broo in the arm. Grosko hit the same broo in the same arm. Enkavar slung at the broo and hit it in the other arm. Thingol’s spell failed.

Relentlessly the spirit continued its attack. The clawed broo now spat at Gorfang and hit him in the left leg. Ferric fired at the wet broo, but he hit Gorfang by mistake. Grosko hit the clawed broo’s arm. Simon shot at the wet broo and hit it’s head. The broo, still on its side, took the damage we were giving it. Thingol’s spell failed and seeing that matters were fairly well in hand, looked around. Above the wagon train, he could see a huge ghostly face over it.

Again, the spirit gnawed at Slagstone’s soul. Ferric noticed that the wet broo wasn’t making any kind of movement, including breathing. The clawed broo spat at but missed Gorfang. Suddenly, the green broo leapt up and breathed fire at Ferric. Fortunately, the flames missed. In return, Ferric shot it in the leg. the green broo clawed at Gai, but missed. Thingol tried to Palsy the clawed broo, but failed to overcome its magic points.

The green broo fell over again, victim of the Palsy. The clawed broo again missed Gorfang. Tortho and Grosko then finished off the clawed broo. Once the green broo fell over again, Simon went over to it and beheaded it.

Then there was only the spirit attacking Slagstone. Since it was obvious that Slagstone was

about to be possessed, Mugumma had been stripping him of all his possessions. Then we hog-tied him just before the spirit possessed him. But unlike an ordinary possession, this spirit changed his body into the shape that it had been before, though it was still the same size as Slagstone.

Mindful of its obvious chaotic feature, Grosko tortured the broo, chopping off a hand and foot as well as blinding it. Meanwhile, the rest of us looked around us. Though there were still some groups of warriors fighting, most of the creatures on the plains were broos of all assorted kinds.

We then decided to leave the broo behind and try to make it back to the wagon train. Taking Slagstone’s possessions with us, we left the ambush site. Once we had to hide ourselves from a large band of broos, but we were mostly left alone, possibly because, from a distance, we looked like a bunch of broos.

When we got in sight of the wagon train, we saw something horrible. The wagon train was being assaulted by things as big as houses. There were broos, grues, ghouls, and even a Tyrannosaurus with tentacles. And over it all, was a face that was sending out spirits to attack the defenders.

From the wagon train, we could see Slagstone’s son, the bison, running our way. We calmed it and then, deciding discretion was the better part of valor, found a crack in the ground in which we hid.

We stayed in that crack for four days, until Grosko’s Sense Chaos told him there was no chaos around us. We emerged from our hiding place on Gata-day of the fourth week and then began walking directly away from the way we had come.

Chapter5

On the Plains Again

Grosko decided that he needed to commune with the Bull. He left us for the moment, heading east.

The rest of us continued walking away from the train. Or rather where the train used to be.

Where the wagons once stood, there was nothing.

The next day, Empress-day, we spied a line of smoke to the east. Warily we approached but it turned out to be an encampment of humans. Spying us, some men came out to investigate. When we told them we came in peace, we had a Meeting Contest. Choosing Mugumma as our champion, he engaged the other champion in first javelin throwing, and then hopping on one leg the longest.

Mugumma lost them both.

Since we had lost, we expected to lose something of value. However, they didn’t ask us for anything. There were about a hundred people in the camp, of which fifty or so were children. Their clothing was similar to the Doraddi we had seen in Jolar, but it was of much better quality. We surmised that these were Doraddi that lived with the Kresh. It turned out to be true.

We asked them where the nearest Kresh wagon train was, but the leader said that we should all eat first, then talk. Hungry as we were, from four days underground, we accepted. The feast was similar to those we had received from other Doraddi, but there was more grasses, less meat, and some new fruits.

At the feast, many young girls clustered around Mugumma, and middle-aged women around Thingol and Tortho. This confused us until the leader explained.

The leader first told us that it was not surprising that we had misunderstood some of the customs. After all, he said, who was our guide but Mister Man, a Trickster. The custom went like this. When a man reaches marriageable age, he finds a middle-aged woman to marry. She, with her experience, can care for the man quite well. He in turn is taught by the woman. Eventually, the woman dies and the man is free to marry a young girl, whom he can care for and teach her. The cycle continues as the man dies and the woman approaches middle age. Thus, marriages between people of nearly the same age were few. This too explained why all the young girls had flocked around Mugumma, who was nearly forty, and the older women around Thingol and Tortho, both in their twenties.

Gorfang was quite amazed that the Doraddi here had no central ruling council the way they had the Decamony. The Doraddi leader explained their system: when they need to send a message to the Kresh, they go to a meeting place and leave a man there to give the Kresh the message. The Kresh meet among themselves to pass the message to other wagon trains. When Gorfang told them of the apparent threat by Chaos, the man replied that there hadn’t been any broos seen for a hundred years.

Meanwhile, Tortho with the help of Thingol and a few liters of beer had managed to get a new spear for himself. Mugumma was interviewing a possible assistant, a Doraddi named Boo-boo. And Cimex, another Doraddi, was asking to join us.

Finally, the tribe left their camp to go to a meeting place. We asked if we could go with them and they said yes. On Witch-day of the fourth week, we came upon a big field of bloodbeans. We spent the remainder of the day harvesting. The next day, we came upon an old Veldang camp. It was a filthy mess. Tortho, combing through the debris, found a silk scarf.

On Gata-day of the fifth week, we came upon a sight. It was a single tree, some hundred feet

tall. It turned out that the tree was the meeting place. At the base of the tree was a huge wooden chest. Opening it found a trove of goods: cloth, pots, fruit, and soap. The Doraddi replaced the goods with food, then prepared to depart. We asked them how long it might be until a Kresh wagon train came by. We were told it should be soon. Asking about water, they told us of a river bed that we could dig into and find mud. Then they left.

Fortunately for us, a train came to the tree on Six-day of that week. We were going to tell the leader, Radamacue, our story, but he said we should all eat first, then talk.

We told Radamacue of our adventures with the last wagon train. He asked us about how large the army that had attacked us was. We estimated that it was some three to four thousand strong. Radamacue told us that the biggest train that had previously disappeared was 32 wagons big.

He was puzzled at how such a large army could feed itself. He called for the Chaos expert, a small, wizened old man. From our story, he said that he didn’t think it was an invasion from outside. He did think that someone or something might be breeding them, but for what reason he couldn’t begin to guess. He wondered whether or not they might live underground, since our assailants had literally risen from the earth.

Putting his questions aside for the moment, he asked us why we had come to Pamaltela. We told him of our quest to try to save the Third Age. He listened attentively.

Radamacue then placed us under an obligation. “May Vovisibor rot your soul if you tell anyone not a Kresh that it’s Chaos monsters that are ambushing our wagons.” He then told us that he was going to meet with other wagonmasters during the Holy Week.

After this, we debated what we were going to do. Some of us wanted to go west to Tarien. Others wanted to visit the Veldang to ask them about their ancient city. Finally, we decided that we would try to visit the Veldang.

The next day, Ga-day of the sixth week, Radamacue told us that the wagon train was splitting up to better deliver the message about the meet. One of the sub-trains was in fact going to see the Veldang. We asked if we could go with them and they agreed. We left the following day.

The third day out, a group of carnivorous dinosaurs forced the wagons into a protective circle. After some hours, we were able to resume our journey. The next day we encountered a huge termite mound. This one had dye painted on it, and the wagonmaster left 10 Kresh to wait for another train to spread the word even further.

On Ga-day of the seventh week, we saw another mound, but this time left an entire wagon to pass the word. Finally on Pamalt-day of that week, we saw a Veldang camp. It was filled with many brightly colored tents. We estimated the population at 200. One wagon was left here, and we stayed with it.

The Veldang women wore only full, loose skirts but adorned themselves with lots of jewelry. The men wore only britches and again, lots of jewelry. Some of the men had a kind of decoration on their skin which was a pattern of white skin.

After the wagon left, we realized that we had a slight problem. None of us knew how to speak Veldang! We thus spent some time trying to find someone who spoke Arbennan. Mostly when we said the word “Arbennan”, the person would point at Mugumma, the only Arbennan in the group.

After about a half-hour, a gong sounded. The children playing all around us left and went into their tents. The adults finished what they were doing, then went outside the camp, and formed a circle around a fire. Most of them were talking, but some took out instruments and began to play

them. Some of them started to sing along.

In vain, Gorfang went around the circle trying to find someone who spoke Arbennan.

Finally, one of the singers, an old man caught Gorfang’s eye. Gorfang then waited patiently for them to finish.

The song went on for another hour and a half, then some of the people started to dance.

Then Tortho stepped into the circle and in front of the old man cast Firespear on his spear. Immediately, eight men jumped up with their knives ready. Those of us still there noticed that the knives were made of iron! Tortho immediately quenched his Firespear.

The old man said to Gorfang and Tortho, “You’re a really rude person. What are you?” Gorfang replied that he was a dwarf from the north and that he had come from a great distance to ask some questions. When the old man showed no immediate signs of answering, Tortho asked him about the knives.

The old man left the circle and talked to them apart from the circle. He showed them his knife, a large one made of jade. He told them that it had taken two generations to rub from a block of jade with bare hands. He explained how important and valued knives are to Veldang.

When Gorfang began to ask his questions, the old man, whose name was Vimdar, replied, “My time requires payment.” Tortho offered Vimdar the scarf he had found at an old campsite and two liters of beer. Tortho gave Vimdar the scarf, Thingol the beer, and Vimdar told us to come back tomorrow.

The next day, Witch-day, most of the women were baking patties made of lagniappe. We sought out Vimdar and asked him our questions. Yes, we had at one time had a city in what is now the center of Pamaltela. Yes, the sun did indeed fall on it after Artmal had been killed. The only reason we had survived is that some of us were not in the city at that time. Who killed Artmal?

Why, Worlath69, Ehilm70, and Humkt71. Why did they kill Artmal? Because Artmal was going to drive them back into the ocean. Who do we worship now? Why, Artmal, of course, and Annila too.

Now that we had our answers, we had to decide where we were going to go. Some of us argued that we should immediately strike out for the Enmal Mountains, while others said that we should head towards Tarien. We decided to go the Tarien, but then had to decide how to get there. We could either walk nearly the entire length of Pamaltela, or perhaps try to take a boat for most of the distance. Vimdar told us that some of the Kresh were going to try to reach the Enmal Mountains, but we declined to try to get there.

Finally we decided to head northeast, towards the eastern coast of Pamaltela to try to find a boat that would eventually get to the western side of Pamaltela. It was tacitly agreed that we should avoid the huge swamps that covered most of the east coast.

So we spent the remainder of the day purchasing supplies for the long trek to the northeast. What we ended up with was some 40 kilograms of dried meat, 20 kilograms of a meaty drink called lassi, and 30 kilograms of assorted grains. We estimated that the food should last us for about 10 days.

That night, we heard Vimdar’s wife screaming. Simon, Tortho, Thingol, Mugumma, Gorfang, and Boo-boo went to investigate. Outside, they found Vimdar dead with five Veldang standing off over his body, three on one side, two on the other. The two carried knives, and of the three, two also had knives, the last a spear. Except for us and the five men, everybody else was looking from the safety of their tents.

  1. Orlanth.
  2. Yelm.
  3. Humakt.

Behind us, Mugumma, Gorfang, and Simon noticed five more men, two with knives, the rest with spears. Before the rest of us could turn around, those five attacked us.

One of the spearmen attacked Boo-boo from behind. The spear impaled his chest and Boo- boo fell. Simon was attacked by the two knife-wielders. He parried one but the knife still hit him in the right arm. Simon then attacked the other man, but missed. The other man hit him in the chest.

Simon then struck at the first man, but he dodged the blow. Gorfang threw a Demoralize on one of the two spearmen attacking him. The one not Demoralized hit Gorfang for minimal damage in his abdomen. The one who was Demoralized hit him in the left leg, causing him to fall over.

Simon parried the man with the speedy knife. Mugumma hit the head of the man who hit Boo-boo. Tortho hit one of the men attacking Simon and damaged his left leg. Simon parried the man that Tortho just hit, but his return blow missed.. The other spearman tried to hit Gorfang but missed.

Then our assailants stepped back, and then ran away. We healed ourselves and then took stock of the situation. We got the distinct impression that we should leave, so we did.

We walked the rest of the night and then discovered in the morning that two of the Veldang who we had met had followed us. Their names were Eugene and Maac and they said that they wished to travel with us. We were suspicious, but allowed them to come with us under probation.

For five days we walked. On Witch-day of the eighth week, we spotted a termite mound.

This one was not painted however. The next day, two fortuitous things happened. Simon spotted the first river we would have to cross to reach the coast. And we spotted a rhinoceros with a broken leg. We thus had fresh food and water. We killed the rhino and spent the next day drying and cooking the rhino, which yielded about 20 kilograms of food.

The next day, we spotted a whole herd of jackrabbits. We gave chase and caught some for dinner that night. After another six days, nearly out of food, we hunted for food. It was here that Tortho was nearly killed. Out hunting, he nearly fell prey to a pack of hunting spiders. Each of the spiders was the size of a medium-sized dog. Though he was attacked, thanks to his spear and Thingol, he survived.

After that we were more careful where we walked. The next day we came upon a camp of both Veldang and non-Veldang. Unlike the last camp, this one seemed more friendly. We were welcomed into the camp.

Chapter6

Encampment

The camp was divided up into two major sections: one for Veldang, the other for non- Veldang. There was also one tent set alone.

Hungry as we were, we were given food in exchange for information and stories. We mingled all that day and the rest.

It was on that next day, Pamalt-day that many things happened. First of all, the owner of the one tent was revealed. It was a sorcerer, a magus by the look of him. He invited Thingol to join him and Thingol agreed. We didn’t see him for a few days. The other thing that happened was that Simon the Fanatic killed himself. As he fell on his sword, we all saw his spirit leave his body and begin walking towards the northwest. Ferric told us that he was heading towards Seshnela to keep his word to the Luathan Amprefesno.

Also in the camp were two men who said that they had come from the swamps near the camp. They said that they lived on an island in the swamp72 which, it is said, was the only the dry land in the world. The two of them disbelieved it and started to walk. They were startled to find more dry land. They were dubious as to our claims that they were on a continent of which their swamp was only a small part.

The next day, the two swamp men, Tortho, Boo-boo, Ferric, and Maac decided to take a little expedition into the swamps. They left on Witch-day, and didn’t return until the same day next week. Then they had a tale to tell.

On the third day out(Ga-day), they were attacked by six skeletons. They were destroyed but not before all were sorely injured. Early on the fourth day out, they saw the top of a tower off in the distance. Going closer, they found that the tower, besides being surrounded on all sides by hills was actually set in a kind of sheath, with the bottom of the tower being down in the pit. The pit itself was filled with a kind of smoke or steam. They spent the rest of the day debating what to do.

Early the next morning, they decided to try to enter the tower. Spying a high window on the tower, one of the swamp men pulled out a grappling hook and, with some difficulty, caught the window ledge with it. However, only Tortho and the swamp man climbed in.

Inside they found a room that contained a large throne, many books, a glass scepter and some blocks of chalk in addition to a flight of stairs heading down. The scepter was a simple rod and ball with a red spiral running the length of the rod to touch the ball. In the center of the room there was a pentagram drawn on the floor. Inside the pentagram was a fire burning.

As soon as Tortho’s feet touched the floor, the flame jumped up and attacked Tortho. Hurt, Tortho called on Lodril to take the fire away. Lodril responded at a loss of 7 POW from Tortho. As soon as the flame was gone, another appeared in the pentagram. This one, however, did not attack them. The swamp man, however, attacked and dispersed the salamander at grievous damage to his weapon. Still another elemental appeared and both of them left it alone.

Outside, the other swamp man tried to climb up and into the room. However, he fell off the rope and into the fog. Not seriously injured, he discovered a door into the tower. After communicating this to Tortho, the rest of the people outside descended into the fog and through the door.

They were shocked to discover a huge heap of corpses in various states of decomposition.

  1. About the size of the big island of Hawaii.

As they attempted to climb up the stairs to the next level, they heard a howling that sounded like no known animal. Frightened, they all left the tower, Tortho taking the glass scepter with him.

Heading back towards the camp, low on food, they began hunting frogs to eat. One of them, slightly larger than what they were hunting, hunted them. During the combat, Ferric was swallowed by the giant frog. Though they managed to kill it and save Ferric, his armor was badly corroded by the frog’s stomach acid73. The next day, they arrived back at the camp.

When Mugumma inspected the scepter, his Second Sight told him that there was a source of POW in the top of it. The POW was about the size of Mugumma’s fetch, 25. Tortho and Ferric had tried putting magic points into it, but even after 26 had been put into it, nothing seemed to happen.

While the party had been out, Gorfang had been talking to many of the people in the camp. When he had asked about the seas to the north-east, they called it the Hot Seas, because the water there was very hot. As to people, Doraddi lived all along the coast. They didn’t know whether there were any boats to be found there.

Thingol now emerged from the wizard’s tent. When told about the heap of corpses in the tower, he remarked that perhaps a necromancer lived there. We all thought that it might be so, and that he might be very disturbed by the theft of his scepter.

Thingol told us that the wizard had at one time been the ruler of a land inside the swamp. He had been deposed and forced to flee to this camp. He now makes his living casting spells in return for food. In return for his servitude, the wizard was willing to allow Thingol a use of Create Familiar INT, a necessary spell for Thingol to be able to create a familiar.

But what animal was to become his familiar? A dog would perhaps been best, or a cat, but there were no cats at the camp, and all the dogs, perhaps sensing what Thingol was planning to do, all growled at him. A rabbit or rat also might do, but rabbits were slightly less intelligent than dogs or cats, and rats had a fairly short life span.

The wizard pointed out that if the animals characteristics could be enhanced, then death would be postponed. So Thingol asked his friends to capture a rabbit or rat for him. Gorfang devised a trap, and after a week had caught a giant rat. Thingol spent the next four days befriending it, and the next seven days going through the ritual to turn it into his familiar. The spell worked, and Thingol was now an adept.

As soon as Thingol had finished, we set off again after purchasing supplies for the journey.

That is, all except for Maac, who decided to stay at the camp.

On the first day out, some 60 kilometers away, we could see a wagon coming our way, though it was not from the swamp. It was definitely not a Kresh wagon and it was glowing. When Mugumma looked at it, his Second Sight was blinded by the passengers of the wagon.

Realizing its possible passenger, we waited for it to reach us. It was pulled by a wheel, whose axle was connected to the wagon, which was filled with many things unidentifiable to us, and on top of the heap was a chair whose occupant Thingol and Gorfang recognized as the Old Man!

The other occupant they also recognized: a boggle.

Old Man pointed at Mugumma and turned off his Second Sight ability. He told Mugumma that he would turn it back on before he left. He asked Gorfang and Thingol if they still had the items he gave them. They both replied in the affirmative. He then invited the bison to go with him. The bison agreed and was hitched behind the wagon.

  1. From 7 points of protection to 2!

Old Man said, “I have no speeches to make. I came to pick up the bison, find out if you still have the items and see if you need anything.” Tortho asked about the scepter. Old Man replied that it was a tool enchanted so that only one type of person could use it and that Tortho wasn’t that kind of person.

Then he said, “I am going to the Enmal Mountains. Do you have anything that I should take?” We replied yes, and Gorfang brought out the old Cronisper priest’s soulstone.

Then Old Man said, “I have with me a shard of the Mirror of Truth. It shows only the Truth, though you must decipher the meaning yourselves. Does anyone want to look?” Of course we all did.

Ferric saw a wheel spinning slowly. Mugumma saw two of himself; one had a grim expression, the other a happy smile. The bison saw a troll. Tortho saw a horrible thing — an earthworm. Cimex saw his own face. Boo-boo saw a huge dark shadow behind his own form in the mirror. Gorfang saw himself but his face had no features at all. Thingol saw himself made out of metal; he could see the rivets but inside it was hollow74.

Before Old Man left, Tortho asked the boggle what the scepter did. The boggle told him that it was a conversion device. He said that you put in a total of 100 magic points whereupon it put in the remaining 74 (26 already having been put in it) then stuck it in the sand. Then, he said, the next person to touch it loses a point of POW but then that point of POW can be used to make magic items. He said that of us, only the shaman could use it and that he should Discorporate before finishing the Enchanting ritual. Then they both left.

After some discussion, Cimex picked up the scepter. As he lost a point of POW, a glow followed the red striping until it reached the ball whereupon it started to glow green. Mugumma then used the point of POW and created a magic point matrix for Cimex, Discorporating as the boggle had told him.

The implications were grim. This scepter used another person’s POW to make magic items. This was absolutely priceless to any creature who didn’t have natural POW — like a vampire. That would tie in with the howling, the corpses, everything. We then had an immense debate regarding what to do with this thing. Tortho was adamant at keeping it and Thingol was adamant at us not getting attacked by vampires at night. Finally, agreeing that the last thing we wanted to happen was for the vampire to get it back, we decided to just keep moving as fast as possible and then decide later. So we did.

The next day nearly proved fatal to us all. Without realizing where we were, we blundered into a massive snake migration. The snakes were Hundred Steps75. We all froze, but nevertheless Tortho, Mugumma and Boo-boo were struck at. Tortho’s armor saved him, but not so Mugumma and Boo-boo. Thingol gingerly picked his way among the snakes over to Boo-boo. Then he cast a Neutralize Poison and purged it from Boo-boo.

Again the snakes struck at Tortho and Mugumma, but also Cimex. Again Tortho’s armor save him as did Cimex’s. Thingol then cast Neutralize Poison on Mugumma. Cimex was hit twice, Tortho again, and so was Boo-boo. This time Cimex was poisoned as well as Boo-boo. Then, Boo- boo was hit again and poisoned. Thingol then cast Neutralize Poison again on Boo-boo. Finally, Tortho was hit and poisoned. Out of magic points, Tortho only took minimal damage.

Continuing on, we encountered nothing until Empress-day of the third week of winter. Then

  1. Here is what the rest of our party would have seen: Simon would have seen himself as a corpse. Gai would have seen a sword. Enkavar would have seen a pleased king blessing him. Grosko would have seen a path going on forever.
  2. Their poison is deadly. CON is matched versus the potency. If you win, you take half damage to general hit points. If you lose, you die.

we spotted a huge monster walking across the plains.

Chapter7

The Hoolar

It had three faces, three legs, and four arms. It was also laughing with a loud, low voice. We recognized it as a hoolar. Hoolars are supposed to be the first intelligent beings that Lodril and Eurmal tried to create. Now they are extremely rare. Immortal but not Chaotic, they are known for their skills at the forge.

We decided to try to catch it’s attention by shouting. Nothing happened. Then we tried again. This time it seemed to hear us. It pulled out four immense sledgehammers and came running towards us. As we frantically tried to bring out weapons, it stopped 10 meters from us and banged the hammers together. The shower of sparks started some small fires which Mugumma Extinguished.

The hoolar bent over Tortho, scrutinizing him. Then it smiled, drooling, then stood up and clanged its hammers again. We all jumped back from the impact and the sparks. Then Ferric yelled, “Rocks into liquid?” The hoolar thought about it. Then it dropped one of the sledgehammers and drove its arm into the ground. After a few seconds it came back out with a boulder some two meters in diameter. It tossed the boulder towards Ferric who managed to dodge the huge missile. Then it stopped.

“Metal!” it yelled, looking at Gorfang. Again it yelled, “Metal!” then started to shake its hammers. Gorfang yelled back, “Mine!”

It seemed to understand that. Then it pointed at Ferric’s sack of money.

“Metal!” it yelled. Ferric gave the bag to the hoolar who dumped its contents out, some 30 kilograms of silver.

“What?” it asked Ferric. “Axe!” yelled Ferric in reply.

Then Ferric pointed at the huge boulder and asked, “Rock?” meaning would he be able to use it as an anvil. The hoolar looked at it, then picked it up and handed it to Gorfang saying, “Hold.” Gorfang of course fell under the huge weight of the boulder. The hoolar picked the rock back up, put it back where it had been and said to Gorfang, “Thank you.”

The hoolar then began to build up a building out of rocks taken from the ground. Inside the building was a forge. We were kept busy finding fuel for the fire, which was fierce indeed.

All night it worked inside the building. Then, the next morning, it came out of the building with two objects. One was a lump of silver some 4.5 kilograms which the hoolar pocketed. The other was an axe made entirely of tempered silver. Its weight: 25.5 kilograms. Its size: as big as Ferric himself.

Then Tortho gave the hoolar his spear and asked, “Axe?” The hoolar then went back into its building and, after an hour, came out with the spear head transformed into an axe head. Of course, the axe head was extremely small.

Then the hoolar said to us, “Hungry!” As we stood looking at each other, the hoolar reached out with two of its hands for Boo-boo and Thingol. Boo-boo immediately ran away, while Thingol dodged the hoolar’s grasp and also ran away, as did Cimex.

Ferric then hefted his axe, showed it to the hoolar and said, “Five axes!” The hoolar picked

up the axe and ate it.

“Yum!” it said as it then banged its hammers together. “Yum!” it said again as it poked at Gorfang’s armor. It was now Gorfang’s turn to run away.

But the hoolar sat down and immediately went to sleep. Those of us who had run returned and Mugumma and Ferric picked the hoolar’s pocket for the 4.5 kilograms of silver it had taken as a fee. We then thought it wise to leave the area.

But as we walked through the night, we heard banging noises behind us. The hoolar was coming towards us. With nothing else to do, we yelled our greetings. The hoolar looked at us, then smiled, saying, “I know you! Friends!”

Relieved by the greeting, Ferric then held up the lump of silver and asked, “Axe?” The hoolar said, “Wood!” Some of us went out to look for wood as the hoolar again built a lean-to for its forge. Anticipating its hunger, some of us also went hunting.

By the time the hoolar gave the axe to Ferric and exclaimed that it was hungry, we had brought back some animals and edible plants. The hoolar gulped them down, but said, “Not much substance.” Mugumma asked it, “What about your house?” The hoolar picked a rock from it, said “Yuck”, then tossed it at Mugumma. The rock struck his left arm, shattering it.

Thingol then asked it “What do you like to eat?” The hoolar picked up a rock, sniffed it, then tossed it harmlessly away.

Ferric suggested, “Your hammer?” The hoolar then said, “Marble.”

Ferric, with a gleam in his eye asked, “Where marble?” The hoolar replied, “Where marble?”

Ferric repeated, “Where marble?”

“Where marble,” the hoolar laughed and then banged its hammers76. Gorfang now yelled, “Hey hoolar!”

The hoolar asked, “Where?” Gorfang responded, “You!” The hoolar asked, “What?”

Gorfang now pointed at the hoolar. The hoolar then picked Gorfang up and sighted in the direction pointed by his arm. It put him down and looked confused.

Mugumma now said, “Eats that way!”

The hoolar asked, “Where?” as it headed towards Mugumma. Surprised, Mugumma pointed towards Gorfang! The hoolar then picked up Gorfang and started to eat him! Gorfang began kicking and shouting whereupon the hoolar put him back down.

Disgusted, Cimex threw his spear at the hoolar. It caught the spear, inspected it, said

  1. Obviously the hoolar thought Ferric was correcting the name.

“Flint!”, and ate it. Ferric then threw his axe at it, but the hoolar dexterously caught it in his mouth, then swallowed it.

Then it picked up Gorfang again. It inspected him closely and then began to peel away his armor. Gorfang threw a Demoralize spell, but it failed to affect the hoolar. Stripped of his cuirass, Gorfang was put back down. The hoolar asked him, “What now?”

Gorfang said, “Give it back!”

The hoolar asked, “Make good armor?”

Gorfang, realizing the possibilities, gave the rest of his armor to the hoolar. It asked him, “Hard or light?”

Gorfang asked, “Can you explain the difference?”

The hoolar looked confused for a minute, then asked, “Hard or light?” Gorfang responded, “Hard!”

All day the hoolar worked on Gorfang’s armor. We hunted some more for us and for the hoolar. Finally the hoolar emerged. The armor looked badly made, with hammer marks and rivets all over it. But it protected him even better than before77.

Tortho now gave the hoolar his ringmail and replied “Hard” as well. The hoolar put the armor in his mouth and began to chew. After it had chewed away the leather backing and spit out the metal, it said to him, “Not enough.” Tortho said to the hoolar to make armor only for his head and body.

After another day, the hoolar came back with armor for Tortho. It was a helmet and a cuirass and the helmet was bolted to the cuirass! But it protected him very well78. Then Tortho gave the hoolar all his money, some 5.7 kilograms and asked the hoolar to make armor for his limbs that flexed. After only a few hours, the hoolar came back with the armor79.

We now thought of where we would go. We wanted to keep heading towards the coast, but the hoolar followed us constantly. Then we thought that if the hoolar would follow us, it would be the perfect time to go into the dangerous swamps. So on Empress-day of the fourth week we headed in towards the swamp with the hoolar who now had a name. The day before, we had discovered what it was. Mugumma had asked it its name. The hoolar responded, “What yours?” Mugumma had answered, “Mugumma,” and the hoolar then said, “Me Hoolar Mugumma-

friend.”

As we headed towards the swamp, Hoolar Mugumma-friend noticed in Tortho’s pack the Cornucopia of Simon’s that we had taken. It picked Tortho up, took the Cornucopia and used it twice: once to make salt, once to make marbles. Then it pulled out five different small slabs of metals and said, “Make!” Two of the slabs were yellowish, one reddish, one silvery, and the last purple.

We asked what metals they were and it replied, “Bone metal, sky metal, yellow metal, float metal and Hoolar Mugumma-friend metal: slarges use it.80” We asked about the purple metal and managed to convince Hoolar Mugumma-friend that it was called “What?”

  1. Ten armor points, but only 17 ENC!
  2. Seven armor points and 6 ENC.
  3. Six armor points and 5 ENC.
  4. Respectively bronze, gold, copper, aluminum (also called sa-metal) and slarge metal.

Tortho began to bargain with the hoolar. He wanted all five.

They continued to bargain, but when Hoolar Mugumma-friend found out that “four” followed “three” and, banging its hammers and narrowly missing Tortho, Tortho decided to halt the bargaining. But it was realized that if we just asked the hoolar to make things then when we were done we would give Hoolar Mugumma-friend the Cornucopia.

The first things we wanted to make were items out of the slarge-metal. The hoolar advised us to wear gloves when touching it. Gorfang touched it bare-handed and his hand was irritated for a few hours. First an axe-head was made out of it for Cimex. Then a spear-point for Tortho. Then 2 daggers, one for Thingol, one for Mugumma. Then Gorfang wanted crossbow bolts made, half of the slarge-metal, half from stone. The hoolar spent three days and came back with a beautifully made crossbow81.

Most of us were clamoring to be on our way, but Tortho, with some advice from Thingol, knew that the slarge-metal items would be nearly worthless here in the east. So Hoolar Mugumma- friend made a gold dagger and a gold helmet.

While the hoolar was making these items, the rest of us were either finding fuel or catching food. Though not expecting trouble, it was Mugumma and Boo-boo who found it over the next two weeks. At first they were menaced by a Hundred Steps, but managed to run away. Then Mugumma was charged by a brontathere. Boo-boo diverted it on himself and Mugumma Slowed the brontathere just enough to let Boo-boo climb a tree. Then Mugumma fell into a pit with a spike at the bottom.

The next disaster was Cimex’s. He was surprised by a trapdoor spider and bitten, but not fatally. Then Mugumma, Boo-boo, and Tortho were surprised. They had heard the hissing of 7 snakes. Investigating, they found a hydra! They all ran away. Mugumma escaped first, then Boo- boo. Tortho was bitten, poisoned, and his armor was eaten away by acid, but he too managed to escape.

Finally, on Ga-day of the sixth week, matters came to a head. When we returned to our campsite, we found the hoolar gone, as well as Mugumma. Tracking the hoolar was easy and we soon caught up to them. Asking him where he was going, he replied that he was leaving. His reason was that there was too much bickering among the party and that he was disgusted. After a big discussion about who was right about what, Tortho decided that he would resign. He nominated Mugumma as his successor. There was no disagreement, and so Mugumma became our leader.

All discussion ended as Hoolar Mugumma-friend said, “Hungry!” So some of us went out hunting food. Mugumma, as leader, decided to go out onto the Spirit Plane. He returned with an intellect spirit. He then had Boo-boo attempt to enchant an item to hold the spirit. The ritual would take 35 hours.

Meanwhile, Gorfang was having an interesting hunt. He had spied a small brontathere and decided to try to kill it. He shot it twice before it noticed anything. Then it looked around and saw nothing. Gorfang shot again and it started to charge him. As it charged him, he shot again, and then desperately parried as it crashed into him, knocking him back 2 meters. He quickly scrambled to his feet, but the animal lost interest in him. Gorfang looked for game elsewhere.

Gata-day had come and Boo-boo’s attempt ended in failure. Boo-boo seemed distressed at Mugumma’s non-concern. Thingol asked if he would like to become his student, but Boo-boo did not reply.

As we headed towards the swamp, Hoolar Mugumma-friend said, “Hungry.” Facetiously, Mugumma said, “Eat everybody.” Hoolar Mugumma-friend said, “Eat Mugumma”, then picked

  1. The equivalent of an arbalest.

him up. Picking up a horse’s leg from yesterday’s hunt, he stuffed Mugumma’s mouth. Or rather his face.

Mugumma cried, “Not hungry! Not hungry!” whereupon Hoolar Mugumma-friend started to eat Mugumma.

“No!” cried Mugumma. The hoolar said, “Oh” and then ate the horse leg. Then he started walking with us, still carrying Mugumma.

“Put me down!” cried Mugumma. So Hoolar Mugumma-friend dropped Mugumma. He was not hurt too much.

Later that day, we saw a group walking along the plains. When they saw us, they stopped and one man came towards us. When he was about 200 meters away, all of sudden he ran towards us at a tremendous speed. “Hi!” he said.

“How’d you run that fast?” asked Gorfang. “I just can”, replied the man.

“Can you teach me?” asked Gorfang.

“It’s a side effect of my affliction. My king is Jmijie.” He paused as if expecting a response. When there was none, he continued. “I also wanted to see the hoolar!”

After a token Meeting Contest in which the man chose a foot race and Gorfang chose to guess how many hands were being held up behind one’s own back, he brought the group over and we had a meal.

The man asked us where we had gotten both the hoolar and the two children with beards. Gorfang replied that the hoolar had found us and that nobody would now dare to attack us. The man was confused: why would anyone want to attack us in the first place? Gorfang said that we seemed to attack trouble, like huge faces in the sky and brontatheres and such. The man said that brontatheres were easy to hunt and kill. He said that the bigger ones are the better ones. One sneaks underneath it and then thrusts one’s spear into the belly. Then one runs and hides and then follows it until it dies. Of course, he said, if the animal dies immediately and falls, one could easily be crushed. Gorfang said he would stick to his method of hunting.

We asked him what the coast was like. He replied that it lay upon poison waters. We asked if it was salty. He said yes, but that some of the water in the swamp was fit to drink.

Speaking of the swamp, we asked what it was like in there. He said that it was dark and smelly with lots of plants and lots of frogs. We asked about any people who might live there. He said that there were some people who lived there. Some of them, he said, traded, but some of them raided others. We asked if they used metal. He said yes, but didn’t know what it was called.

Mugumma pulled out the dagger made by Hoolar Mugumma-friend. The man said that they didn’t use that metal, that was found far to the west.

The next day we bid farewell to the man and headed towards the swamp.

Chapter8

The Mansion

We walked for a day until we saw the swamp. By noon of Pamalt-day, we could also smell it. Words cannot describe the stench. All of a sudden, Hoolar Mugumma-friend stopped.

“Smell bad. Too wet. Bye-bye.” And he started walking away. After a bit, he started laughing and banging his hammers.

Nevertheless, we pushed into the swamp. Inside were animals we had never seen the like.

Big black birds, huge swarms of insects, and in one pool, leeches as long as one’s arm. The noises were deafening at times. The ever-present croaking of frogs, the harsh cry of birds, the buzz of the insects.

That night, we found a small hillock and camped. All night long, we were beset by mosquitoes and other insects. And we heard a peculiar bellowing noise that we could not identify.

The next morning, we turned roughly north-east to try to parallel the edge of the swamp. This we did for the next two days. But that night, while Tortho was on watch, he could see a light off in the distance. Wisely, Tortho noted the direction and continued to watch.

The next morning, Ga-day of the seventh week, we headed in the direction of the light, deeper into the swamp. After a few hours, we could see what the light might have come from. It was a ruined mansion on a hill.

Large it was, and also dark. Circling it, the mansion had many doors into it. The main entrance seemed to be on the west side. There was a huge overgrown garden filled with many strange plants and fungi.

We went to the main door. Mugumma clapped outside, as was his custom. Ferric, with a look of both disgust and resignation, knocked. There was no response to either. Opening the door, we were in an entrance hallway. The floor was tiled and overhead there was the remains of a chandelier. The floor was covered with dust and we raised up small clouds as we walked about. It was also quite dark in places. There were stairs leading up, stairs leading down, two doors, and two corridors leading away.

We took one of the corridors. Gorfang’s Earthsense told him the corridor went on for a distance and then turned. There were some doors which presumably led to rooms. Opening the first, we were in what was a bathroom. There was a large tub, a basin on a stand, and an empty lantern holder. Using the wooden stand, some rope, and some animal fat that Tortho had saved, we made a crude torch.

The next door we opened turned out to be a corridor which paralleled the one we were currently in. We could see that the walls had two lantern holders which were empty. Going down the corridor to the end, there was an ajar door. The room it opened on to seemed to be a sitting room. There was a table and chair, some shelves which were empty, another empty lantern holder and a painting. It was of a handsome, shining, golden face floating in the air. The face had its eyes closed. Kneeling around the face was a ring of people in robes. The robes had a strange symbol on the backs.

Leaving the room and heading back along the corridor, we opened a door that we had passed over. It opened on a large room, presumably living quarters for someone. There was a bed, a table with the remains of a meal on it, a few burned-down candles and a wardrobe. Inside it were some robes. Most were nondescript except for one which was solid black and had a symbol on its chest. It was not the same symbol as we had seen in the painting. Also in the room were a kind of

book made from wood and covered with wax pressed upon to write. It resembled an accordion when opened. The wood was heavily lacquered. Although none of us could read the language, Tortho decided to take one.

The next door down we had also passed over. It was apparently a kind of closet. Inside it was a padlocked trunk and another wardrobe. Picking the lock with ease, Gorfang opened the trunk. Inside it was long things covered in fur. They were slender rods of pure silver. In addition there was a gilt sword. In the wardrobe there were 8 black robes, 2 dull red robes, 2 pairs of leather gloves, and 2 robes of extremely fine quality: one black, one red. These two had symbols on the back, different from the ones we had seen. We decided not to take anything just yet.

The last two doors in the corridor turned out to be another bathroom and a water closet.

Going back into the main corridor, we followed it as it turned. It led to a set of stairs going up and a door as well as turning again. Following the corridor, we came to what looked to be a kind of chapel. There were benches for the members to sit and an altar of some kind. There were also two statues of armored warriors, each of which also had a real sword. Behind the chapel were two doors.

The first opened into a triangular room. There was a helmet stand with a felt helmet upon it, a stand with 2 crossed daggers made of silver but with bronze hilts, some blackened food, and another wardrobe made of solid bronze. There was a symbol on the wardrobe, again different.

There was also a door which led to the overgrown garden. Mugumma could tell that inside the wardrobe was a source of POW. Ferric touched the symbol on the wardrobe but drew it back quickly. His hand looked like the hand of a corpse. Gorfang tried to touch the symbol with his key, but it was repelled by a force82.

The other door behind the chapel led to a trapezoidal room. There was another helmet stand, another stand with crossed daggers and a wooden wardrobe. Inside were two robes, one black, one red, each of which had thin yellow pinstripes. One of the two doors in the room led to the garden, the other to a bedroom.

Investigating the rest of the immediate area, we found what were apparently guard rooms, which yielded a helmet, a sword and a spear.

Now we went up the stairs we were nearest. We found a section of corridor that apparently opened into living quarters of some kind. The room the door opened onto was a bedroom. One door led to a water closet, the other to a sitting room. But inside three of them, the sitting room was stripped down to the bare stone. There was also a skeleton that had a long iron stake driven through the rib cage area. Fearing the worst, we left the iron alone.

Also on this floor was a large viewing room to the garden with a set of stairs that led to the same. There was an L-shaped room that was a portrait gallery. Among the many paintings was another of the floating golden face. There was also an audience room that had two doors and a set of stairs leading up.

We took the stairs up to a room that had three doors, one of them a set of double doors. There were many windows and in the center, the remains of a fire. The coals were still warm. The double doors had a glyph on them, and Mugumma sensed POW in it. Touching a spear to the glyph had no effect. So Mugumma opened to doors. They opened into a library. Inside it, Mugumma could sense two sources of POW. As Gorfang crossed the threshold, a sudden loud whistling started and Gorfang took two points to his abdomen, undoubtedly from a Warding spell.

From behind us, one of the other doors opened. From it stepped a person wearing lacquered armor of some kind. The person had a flanged sword, a shield, and wore a mask which covered all of the face except the eyes.

  1. Like trying to push the same two poles of a magnet together.

“Greetings,” said Gorfang in Arbennan. The person stepped forward slightly.

Thingol then greeted the person in all of the 12 languages he knew. There was no response.

With its sword, it waved us away from the door. We decided not to resist. The person, always facing us, went to the door, closed it, then opened it. The whistling stopped. Then a male voice spoke to us in Veldang.

“Put your weapons down and your hands over your heads.” We asked why and got no response. After a brief discussion, we did so and the man relaxed slightly. We asked if he was responsible for the fire. He said he was. We asked who he was and he asked/told us not to go into the library. When we agreed, he asked us why we were here. We told him we were looking for a city in the swamp and he seemed to grow more interested.

“You’re looking for Panar? You’re not from the swamp?” When we confirmed that, he said, “I used to live there. Where’d you get the bleached guy?” looking at Thingol. He told him where he had come from then asked the man what he was doing here. He said that he had been here 15 years doing research.

It turned out that the face in the portraits was of a god called Zetroit. This place was apparently a place where some of the priests stayed. Though he didn’t know much about the symbols, he knew from his research that Zetroit was some sort of a fire god. He was considered benevolent and only sacrificed animals. In Engure, which was what the nation was called, he was a minority cult.

When we evinced interest in Panar, he gave us directions to get there: “Go directly south. If you haven’t reached it in a week, turn east. If you reach the coast, turn around and head west. You can’t miss it.” The ruler of the land is called the High Wizard. Most of them, said the man, were mainly concerned about maintaining their power. We asked about the availability of iron there. He said that only the soldiers wore iron. They comprised about 2 percent of the population, which at the time before he left was around 100,000. Asking what the inhabitants prized (as trade goods), he said, “Luxury foods, skins, leather, bone goods. All the kind of junk the savages make. And of course, magic items are always useful.”

We asked if there was any danger in us staying here, at least for the night. He told us that the two towers in the north wing of the manor were probably not safe. And, he said, the servants wing on the first floor is full of ghouls. He suggested that we stay in the deacon’s room just behind the chapel. When we asked about the brass wardrobe, he said yes, he could open it and that it held sacred items too valuable to leave lying around. And when we asked if it would be safe to remove the iron spikes, he said that he hadn’t studied it yet, but that he probably wouldn’t.

Then he escorted us to the deacon’s room, down a different route that took us through the

garden.

That evening, we had a large discussion as to what we were going to do. If our ultimate goal

was to go to Panar to get iron, were we going to buy it, steal it, or trade for it? Stealing was definitely out, so would we trade or pay? In either case, we needed items of value. We thought about returning the sacred items to the temple in Panar, but decided that they wouldn’t be grateful enough to give us iron. A question was asked about the art, but the paintings were done on wood, not canvas and would thus be nearly impossible to transport. There was of course, the silver daggers plus the items we already had. Those should be sufficient to trade for a small amount of iron.

But why did we need to go to Panar? There were the perfectly good iron stakes just one floor down. But we didn’t know what the consequences would be if we removed them.

We had just about decided that we would take the items of value that we could find, except the iron stakes, and go when a question about the man was brought up. Perhaps he had a message or messages that he wanted delivered to Panar. Perhaps we should ask if he needed any help. After

all, he had been here 15 years, and it was sure that he didn’t get many visitors. So, we decided that we would ask him if he needed any help or wanted anything done for him back in Panar.

When we put the question to him in the morning, he seemed dubious. He asked us what we could do to help him? Actually, he said, he could use some help. But only of a certain kind. He would have to test us to see if we were the kind he needed. When asked if the test was dangerous, he replied that it was, but so was life. In the end, Tortho, Gorfang, Mugumma, Cimex, and Maac decided to take the test. Thingol had grave doubts and asked Gorfang about the Quest. Gorfang replied that he would give the key to Thingol if he decided to quit the Quest.

Gorfang went with him first. A short while later, he came back minus two crossbow bolts. He told us that he was not supposed to tell the rest of us what the test was. Cimex went next. He came back as white as a sheet. Then Maac. Then Tortho. Then Mugumma, who came back as though he were running for his life.

The man told us that of those who had taken the test, Gorfang and Mugumma passed with flying colors, and that Tortho and Maac might fit his need.

The test? The man took the person back down to the first floor and down the set of stairs in the entranceway. Then he attempted to Demoralize the person. If it worked, he immediately Dispelled it. Then he let loose the basilisk. The test was one of bravery and common sense in the face of adversity. Gorfang had shot at it twice, and when he had seen them both bounce, had left.

Mugumma, not realizing what it was, tried to throw his javelin at it. When the basilisk gazed at him, but didn’t kill him, he ran. Cimex had run at the first sight of the ugly creature.

Since some of us had at least tentatively decided to help him, they asked him first his name, and then what he was trying to do. He said to just call him the Philosopher. What he was trying to do was to summon and control Sreng of the Seven Swords. He had hopes that he could control Sreng, but that he was not sure. The sacrifice to him was ghouls, so we would have to capture some. Then, said he, we would go to Engure and take over. If he succeeded, then he would reward us with iron, magic, whatever. We would gain much personal power, said the Philosopher.

The Philosopher knew where a bunch of ghouls lived on the first floor. His plan was for himself and Gorfang to go into the room where they lived, incapacitate them and then pass them back to Mugumma, who would bind them with strong chains.

We thought it over for some time. ghouls were not fun to face. Their bite was poisonous and their howl Demoralizing. In the end, Gorfang and Mugumma went to fight, Thingol to cast a Palsy, and Cimex to guard Thingol until he cast the spell. In preparation, Thingol had cast Damage Resistance on both Gorfang and Mugumma, Intensity 8, Duration 6.

So those four and the Philosopher went down to the first floor. As the Philosopher and Gorfang burst open the doors and jumped in, the 8 ghouls in the room began to howl. But the Philosopher had forgotten one thing. A ghoul’s howling is matched against the victim’s INT, not POW. Gorfang and Mugumma were Demoralized. The Philosopher raised his shield and a bright glow waxed and waned.

The ghouls howled again, Demoralizing Cimex, who immediately ran to escape. Thingol’s Palsy spell went off, overcoming four of the six ghouls he had hoped to immobilize. Two went down, Palsied in the head and abdomen. Another went down, immobilized in the leg, and so was another’s arm. The Philosopher’s shield glowed again, then a ghoul collapsed with steam rising from it. Gorfang parried a bite, and let another’s scrape over his armor. One clawed the Philosopher but bounced off his Damage Resistance. Mugumma began walking forward to help, trusting to the Damage Resistance and the Protection 6 he had put up. Gorfang smashed the leg of one, the Philosopher clubbed down another and Mugumma broke the arm of another.

In short order, we had six unconscious, gagged, and bound ghouls. The other two were

dead. As they dragged them back to the library, the Philosopher hoped they would be enough, seeing as how Sreng had seven swords.

The rest of the day we rested until an hour before midnight. But as we rested, there was a large argument over who would help summon Sreng. The Philosopher had said that anybody who went with him would have to be willing to die for the party. “Anyone who runs will escape, but the rest of us would die.” Finally the decision was given to Mugumma. Does each individual have the right to decide whether to go or not to go, or doesn’t he? Mugumma said that each person could choose and that he would trust anyone with doubts about their potential for self-sacrifice would not willingly endanger the rest of us.

The time for the ceremony came. The Philosopher, Gorfang, Tortho, Mugumma, Cimex, and Maac left the room and went back to the first floor via the nearest stairs. Then they descended into the darkness below.

Chapter9

The Summoning of Sreng

The party made their way to the bottom floor. From there they came to a large room. The room had in it only a table bent into a quarter circle. The Philosopher went over to a section of the wall. He tapped a certain spot and quickly cast a magic spell. A door then opened that led to a square room. This room was filled with magical items. Mugumma could see all the POW in the items, though they were all less than his.

“This room was made by the original inhabitant,” said the Philosopher. “But it’s really an intent to deceive. The items here are powerful, but not all that powerful. It took me three years to realize that this was so.”

Then he went over to a large case holding assorted crystals and matrices. He removed the legs of the case, tapped the wall above it and cast another spell. A section of the wall, connected to the case, swung inward to darkness. The darkness was such that none of the light in the room shown through the threshold. The Philosopher snapped his fingers and a light formed a foot above his head.

Inside, we could see that the room was the exact size as the previous room. This room, however, had two doors leading out. Also inside were more magic items, some with a POW about that of Mugumma’s, but some with much more.

The Philosopher opened one of the doors. It opened onto a perfectly circular room with a large pentagram on the floor.

“Leave the ghouls and come in here. I want each of you to stand in one of the outer sections of the pentagram. We’re not going to summon Sreng yet. We’re going to cast an Oath spell. The oath will be for you not to attempt to harm or kill me unless I attempt to harm or kill you first.”

Then the Philosopher went back into the other room and shortly came back with a huge crystal. It looked to weigh about 35 kilograms.

“I’m going to put 100 magic points into the Oath spell. That will leave us a couple of hundred points to summon Sreng with.”

Each Oath spell took about an hour to complete. When it was all finished, we went back into the other room and picked up the ghouls. Then the Philosopher picked up a belt of crystals and, with the huge one still in hand, opened the other door. This one opened onto a hallway. As we walked along it, the Philosopher explained, “That room back there can’t summon the likes of

Sreng.”

We came to another huge, dark room. The Philosopher went around the room, Igniting brackets on the wall. In the ensuing light, we could see a large casket close to the opposite wall.

“That’s the lord of the mansion. Or rather, where he lies. Now wait while I open the door.” Then he went behind the casket and began casting a spell. It took three minutes to cast83.

Then, bright lines outlined a section of the wall which seemed to dissolve before our eyes. A hallway that immediately split in two was now visible.

“Check the ghoul’s gags. Down one of them is a huge nest of ghouls.”

  1. A 150-point spell!

As we went down the other hallway, the Philosopher seemed nervous. “Part of the danger is that I don’t know how the old lord sacrificed the ghouls to Sreng. So you have to be ready to kill them in any way that Sreng wants to. Even if it means tearing out their hearts with your own

hands.”

At the end of the hallway was a room with only three stone walls. The fourth was a slightly vibrating whitish-colored mass.

“I’ll bet none of you have seen anything like this before!” he exclaimed as we gaped in awe. But of course Gorfang had seen something like it before. It was what he, Thingol, Slagstone, and Grosko had seen behind Urrquong, the Barrier of the Door to Chaos. Gorfang mentioned this unique experience.

“Well actually this isn’t really Chaos itself. That’s behind the barrier. This stuff is just the part of our universe that’s been affected by Chaos. But, as they say, Chaos is just another source of power!”

Tortho asked about the possibility of the participants becoming tainted by Chaos.

“I understand that there is some prejudice in the outside world about Chaos. But I don’t think you need to worry too much.”

And so the summoning began.

After about ninety minutes, from out of the barrier to Chaos groped a large hand. It was grotesque, covered with open sores and scabs, with gnarled fingers and sporadic growths of hair all over it. Then all fifty feet of it stepped out.

The shape was humanoid, but there all resemblance ended. The face had no nose and the eyes were in the wrong places. The mouth was tilted, and the tongue and teeth were rotten. The arms were of differing length and one had an extra joint. Its legs were relatively normal except for one knee which bent the other way. Overall, the body was covered like the hand was, a mass of flesh that looked ready to collapse on itself. At its waist was a belt that held seven swords, all different, all some 10 to 15 feet long, all seemingly made of iron, and all magical.

The Philosopher, as scared and revolted as we were, began casting a spell as Sreng looked about. “Sreng!” yelled the Philosopher.

“Sreng!” it slurred. Its breath was the stench of unimaginable death and decay.

“Any ideas?” asked the Philosopher as Sreng started shifting from one foot to the other. Gorfang took one of the ghouls and pushed it forwards towards Sreng. Sreng picked it up,

looked at it, bit its head off, and then threw the body on the ground. Gorfang then killed a ghoul with a spike through the eye and pushed the body towards Sreng. Sreng examined the corpse, then placed a finger on the wound and pressed. The crushed skull and brains began to stain the floor.

The Sreng looked at Gorfang. It then started to reach for one of its swords, but stopped.

Mugumma then slit the belly of the of the ghouls and heaved it at Sreng. The body bounced off his leg and fell. Sreng did not notice.

“Food! Food!” bellowed Sreng as it pulled out one of its swords. The head of the ghoul he had bitten off now fell to his feet, but Sreng took no notice. It then looked at Tortho and began to reach for him. As Sreng stumbled towards Tortho, Gorfang pushed a ghoul out in front of Sreng.

Sreng stepped on it and continued towards Tortho, who began backing.

“Should I shoot it?” asked Gorfang.

“No, he’s not attacking,” said the Philosopher. “If he were, he’d have both swords out.”

Tortho then threw his shortsword at Sreng, hoping to discourage it. It didn’t. Sreng grabbed Tortho in one filthy hand, then began to orient the sword on him. Dumbfounded, we watched as Sreng sliced at Tortho’s chest and abdomen. His armor stopped most of the damage. Tortho then cast Firespear 3 and stabbed at Sreng’s hand, slightly hurting Sreng. Sreng responded by bellowing and slicing Tortho down from the neck to the crotch. Tortho’s call to Lodril for Divine Intervention failed, and so Tortho died. Sreng then smeared and rubbed Tortho’s body all over itself.

The Philosopher seemed to have a brainstorm. He cast his spell again and said, “Sreng! I offer you death!” Then he took the three remaining ghouls and pushed them towards Sreng. Sreng grabbed them, and smashed them over its body, just like Tortho had been. Sreng then put the remains in its mouth and echoed, “Death!”

The Philosopher looked around him. “Any ideas?” Gorfang said, “Send it back!”

“I can’t! It goes back only when it wants to!” “The ghoul’s nest! how about the ghoul’s nest?” “It probably wouldn’t understand.”

The Philosopher then cast his spell again and said, “Sreng! We’ll help! We can help!”

“Help!” echoed Sreng as it oriented on Cimex. “Help!” it repeated as it reached towards

him.

Gorfang screamed, “Control it!” to which the Philosopher replied, “I’m trying to!” Cimex, as he saw the hand stretching to embrace him, held out the dagger that had been

made for him. Sreng ignored it and grabbed Cimex. Slice went the blade and Cimex died, his Divine Intervention failing. His remains decorated Sreng’s body.

The Philosopher mused, “He wants help. I wonder what kind of help?”

Perhaps driven mad by the sight of his compatriots being slaughtered before his eyes by a Chaos thing, Maac charged towards Sreng with his spear leveled.

“What are you doing? Get back here!” yelled the Philosopher. When he received no reply, he closed his eyes and put his fingers in his ears.

Mugumma began running towards Tortho’s still-flaming spear just as Maac hit Sreng in the leg, burying the head deeply. As Sreng bellowed, Maac let go of his spear and ran for Tortho’s spear, reaching it well before Mugumma. Sreng turned to watch Maac.

The Philosopher cast his spell and yelled, “If you harm him, we’ll kill you!”

Sreng bellowed, “Kill!”, pulled out another sword, and chopped at Maac. But Sreng fumbled and fell, nearly crushing Mugumma who dodged just in time.

The Philosopher began to dance and shout. “I’ve got it! I know the secret! Mugumma get back here!”

As Mugumma did so, Maac charged towards Sreng. With Tortho’s flaming spear, Maac

plunged it deep into one of Sreng’s eyes. In an unbelievable bellow of pain, Sreng swung one sword at Maac. The blade sliced him in two. Maac called for Divine Intervention, but nothing seemed to happen84. Sreng then picked up the two halves of Maac and threw them through the barrier, presumably out into the void. Then he said to the Philosopher, “Help!”

The Philosopher cast his spell and said to Sreng, “Serve us and we’ll kill you!” Sreng then said, “Death!” and put away his swords.

The Philosopher cast his spell, said, “Sreng! Follow!” and began to leave the room. When Sreng did nothing, he repeated the spell and command. This time Sreng obeyed.

Heading back to the others, Sreng had to go on all fours to make it through the corridors.

The Philosopher seemed euphoric.

“It all makes sense now! What more would a Chaos creature want than its own death?

Anyway, it looks as though Sreng can be hurt, but not killed. That’ll make him near-invincible in my takeover. After I do, Sreng will probably get impatient and want me to kill him. Maybe by then I’ll have found out a way to do that. But for now, he’s mine!”

Sreng was left in the room with the table. Upstairs, the three remaining noticed that of the six who went down, only three returned. The Philosopher removed his veil, revealing a handsome man appearing to be in his late fifties.

“Only lost three!” were his first words to the waiting people. “Good thing they came along! Glad they didn’t run. Hope their souls weren’t eaten by Chaos. But I’ve got him! And I’ll teach anyone who wants the spell to control Sreng. You won’t need to Intensify it, just use some magic points.”

As Gorfang and Mugumma told the tale of the summoning, those who had not participated were shocked at the description of Sreng and the manner of the deaths of Tortho, Cimex, and Maac. Only Mugumma and Gorfang wanted to learn the spell, but they had no free intelligence in which to hold the spell. Thingol vehemently denied wanting to learn it.

Thingol asked sarcastically, “So what’s next?”

The Philosopher seemed not to notice the sarcasm. “Why now we can go to the Tower of Chaos and get more power! It won’t be the likes of Sreng…”

“Good!” interrupted Gorfang.

The Philosopher continued, “… but it’ll come in handy for the takeover.”

By now, all of us were starting to have doubts about going to Engure and attempting a coupd’etat. We asked about how difficult it would be to wrest control from the High Wizard.

The Philosopher began describing the High Wizard at the time he had still been in Engure. It was a sorcerer named Goniax. As he continued, we began to think that we had met him before. It sounded like the wizard we had met and Thingol had studied under back at the Veldang encampment.

After some questioning by the Philosopher, our belief was confirmed. “It’s a good thing you didn’t anger him,” he told us. “His special power was to Tap at a distance!”

We all uneasily thought of what our fate would be in the weeks ahead.

  1. Actually, he had made his cast, but his plea was to take his soul to heaven

Chapter10

Welcome to Engure

The Philosopher came to us ten days later and told us that the next step was for us to go on a scouting party to Engure. Since he didn’t know what the current ruler’s defenses were like, it was logical. It was also logical that he shouldn’t go for someone might recognize him, plus the fact that he had to stay close to Sreng.

What he wanted to know mostly was the current ruler’s defenses were, how prepared the police force was, and how the ruler enforced his rule. We asked whether we should determine how much the peasants could help, but the Philosopher shrugged them off as scum who obeyed whoever was in charge.

The directions to Engure, he said, were simple. Head south for four or five days, and then turn east. If you’ve gone for two days without making it, turn back west and you can’t miss it.

We asked about any denizens in the swamp to be careful of, for instance, giant frogs. He said they were not dangerous, though Ferric disagreed greatly. Besides the frogs, there were some large reptiles, the goblins, the gulpers, and the hydras.

The biggest topic of discussion was how to get back to the Philosopher once we had completed our scouting mission. He rummaged through some stuff and came out with a brass pot with two handles and covered with a clay lid. When we got near where we thought the mansion was, one of us would hold the pot down, break the lid, cast the Ignite spell and hold on no matter what.

The pot would put out a brilliant beam of light which, when the Philosopher saw, he would do the same with one here at the mansion, which we would see and home in on. The drawback was that the person holding the pot would probably lose both hands. We asked if we could brace the pot. He said that the pot needed a supply of magic points from the user. As if guessing our next question, he said that it would probably melt a magic point-storing crystal because of its immense heat. He, of course, had special gloves that resisted heat, yet conducted magic points.

Then we thought perhaps Telepathy would work. But Thingol’s lack of enough free intelligence, plus the spell’s vulnerability to being dispelled, dismissed, or neutralized killed that idea.

Finally, what we came up with was this. Thingol learned the Homing Circle spell and created one in the mansion. Then, with the help of a Teleport matrix, when we headed back, he would try to Teleport a small rock back to the Homing Circle. When the Philosopher saw the rock, he would wait some days and then light his pot to guide us back.

Learning the spell took another 50 days, not counting the Holy Week. On the tenth day, Witch-day of the 10th week of winter, another person came to the mansion. His name was Martlet, and he came from the land called Pabraid. He had been a guard for a caravan to Zamokil which had been ambushed. As far as he knew, only he escaped. He decided to come with us on our journey.

During the 50-day period, the Philosopher put Sreng back through the wall, claiming that he could now control Sreng enough to not need his presence. Once this happened, Mugumma and Gorfang began to think of assassinating the Philosopher. But the Oath that they had sworn prevented them from carrying out this plan.

Once Thingol had learned the spell, he then created the Homing Circle. At the same time, Mugumma, with the help of one of his ancestors, summoned and bound a salamander, or fire elemental.

Finally, on Ga-day of the 6th week of spring, 1625, we all left. The Philosopher said that he

would wait a maximum of 36 days before assuming we were dead.

But eight hours out, Martlet, who was towards the front, saw movement. From out of the plants came 10 small, short green beings, some of whom wore armor.

“Goblins!” shouted Martlet as he began to move away from them. An arrow flew but missed as eight of the ten charged forwards to engage. Of the two that stayed behind, one wielded a bow, another a standard. Gorfang, Ferric, and finally Martlet moved to melee with them. Another arrow hit Martlet but bounced of his lacquered, lamellar armor.

Boo-boo then threw a spear at one of the goblins but was blocked by its shield. Another arrow hit Martlet and bounced. The goblin engaging Ferric had its helmet fall over its face. In return, he hit the goblin in the right arm. Both Gorfang and his opponent missed. Martlet chopped at the leg of a goblin and it fell over. Mugumma cast Protection 6 on himself and then moved forwards. Another arrow flew and would have caught Martlet square in the heart if he had not had his shield in the way.

Again an arrow flew and hit Martlet in the chest, who was advancing towards the bow- wielding goblin. Boo-boo impaled a goblin in the abdomen, who promptly died. Mugumma hit a goblin with his slarge-metal dagger in the abdomen. The goblin fell over, wounded. Ferric now fought two goblins. One hit, but was parried. He hit the larger of the two and wounded it in the head. The other goblin stabbed Ferric in the chest, and he fell. Gorfang cast Demoralize at one of the two fighting him, and both of them missed their attack. Thingol Palsied the standard bearer in the chest, then unlimbered his crossbow and began to crank it.

Another arrow flew at Martlet, hitting his shield. Boo-boo now stabbed at the goblin Mugumma had felled. He hit the abdomen, but didn’t kill the goblin. Mugumma now slashed at one of the two fighting Ferric, cutting its right leg off. The goblin who had fumbled now managed to get its helmet off. Gorfang parried a blow as the other one missed him. He then buried his hammer in the goblin who was not Demoralized, killing it. Martlet healed himself, and continued moving forward as another arrow missed him.

Another arrow bounced off Martlet’s right arm as the standard bearer got to its feet. Boo- boo stabbed again, and killed the goblin. Mugumma then moved and began to heal Ferric. As the goblins began to heal themselves, Gorfang hit the left arm of the other goblin which had been fighting Ferric. The Demoralized goblin missed Gorfang. Again an arrow bounced off Martlet’s armor, who was within five meters of the goblins.

Boo-boo moved to the next downed goblin and stabbed it into unconsciousness. The three remaining goblins then simply vanished, disappearing into the brush, as one of the others began to run. Thingol shot at the one running and hit it in the chest, felling it.

Examining the bodies, we noticed that their ‘armor’ was simply toughened leaves cunningly wrapped around their bodies with vines.

The next day, again Martlet scanned something ahead. It was a gorp. Crying out, he jumped back. Mugumma cast Disruption at it, but it was Reflected back at him, injuring his head. The gorp began oozing towards Gorfang who shot it twice with his crossbow to no apparent effect. Then Ferric chopped at it with his axe. Too late, he remembered as his blow struck. Now where there was one gorp, there was now two!

One oozed towards Ferric who dodged its embrace, and the other at Gorfang who jumped out of its way. And then we all began to run. Fortunately for us, we outran them, even Ferric and Gorfang.

For three more days we traveled, and then turned to the east. After two complete days we had seen nothing but swamp. We decided to go for one more day to the east. The next day, Gata-

day of the seventh week, we saw some dry land.

Slowly the swamp turned to a marsh. And in the distance, we could see a house sitting upon dry land. But Mugumma saw one thing more. Between us and the house, he could see a huge shimmering curtain of Power.

We realized that in a nation of sorcerers, they probably thought that no one could see the Power in the curtain, or even the curtain. We hoped this would be an advantage for us.

After ascertaining that the curtain also went into the ground, we decided to go through it. Mugumma went first. But as he stepped through the curtain, an outline of him suddenly became visible in the plane of the curtain. This outline glowed a dark pink. Realizing that this curtain was probably a means to indicate the number of people trying to enter, Boo-boo and Ferric each stepped through the outline left by Mugumma. But as each of them went through, the outline of Mugumma became more and more reddish. Martlet decided to go through the curtain somewhere else, but he too left an outline. Gorfang and Thingol each went through Martlet’s outline, darkening the outline.

An interesting observation that was made was that the change in the color of the outline was directly proportional to the Power of the person going through the curtain. Thus, Mugumma made the curtain change color the most, and so on.

So we continued towards the house on the hill. There were a few animals grazing in a pasture. They looked like rabbits but they were the size of sheep.

Reaching the house, we clapped and knocked on the side, but there was no answer.

Suddenly we noticed a flash coming from the direction of the curtain. Thinking we had nothing to fear, we waited for it. It was a bad mistake.

It was a large disk, some six meters in diameter, perhaps made of iron. It was rolling along the ground with its razor-sharp edge leaving a furrow in the ground. And it was heading straight towards us.

Mugumma and Boo-boo jumped into the house, which held six people, as the rest of us ran around behind it. The disk plowed straight through the house and came out the other side.

Everybody dodged the disk as it went some distance past us all, then spun in place and headed back towards us. As it did so, we could see another disk heading towards us, though it was some distance away.

Gorfang and Martlet began running back towards the curtain despite the fact that it was about 2 kilometers away. As the rest of us watched, the disk followed the two, aiming at Gorfang. He jumped out of the way and the disk spun and headed towards Martlet. He too dodged, and the disk then aimed at Gorfang, who didn’t dodge. The disk neatly sliced off his right arm.

The disk then headed towards Thingol and Ferric who ran to put the house between the disk and themselves. Again the disk plowed through the house, but as it passed through, Mugumma attempted to knock it over by hitting it with his spear. Though he was successful at the latter, he was not at the former. The disk was aiming at Thingol, but he jumped out of the way, yelling that they surrendered.

By now the second disk had reached us and it headed towards Gorfang, who had healed himself, as the first headed towards Martlet. As Martlet jumped out of the way, Gorfang again failed to dodge. The disk sliced off his left arm.

Both of them now headed towards Thingol and Ferric, one to each. Both of them managed to dodge. Again they attempted to strike down the two and again they managed to avoid near-certain death.

Now the two disks began to whirl a deadly circle around Thingol, Ferric, and the demolished house. They did this for a few minutes and then one broke off and headed towards where Gorfang and Martlet had been. Gorfang had managed to heal himself, and they had both hidden in some brush. The disk circled the area as though searching, and then went back to circle with its twin. Mugumma threw his spear, again to try to knock over a disk. It barely noticed.

Looking up, we could see a balloon floating towards us, with a basket hung from the balloon. Inside we could see a person, carrying a long, wicked lance. Strangely, the balloon seemed much too small to lift the person. It motioned the four encircled by the disks to move. They did so and as they did, the disks kept their circling around the four.

They walked along a large paved road towards their goal. They saw a few people, tending their crops. The one thing that they all had in common was that they were all naked. Off in the distance, perhaps 15 kilometers away, they could see a city.

Finally, the four reached their goal, a large stone ring some 20 meters tall and 4 meters in diameter. Around the ring for about a hundred meters was just plain dirt. They were herded into the ring, and then the balloonist Form/Set the ring, enclosing the four.

The balloonist then floated away, leaving the four all alone.

Chapter11

The Gong Show

Inside the circle, Mugumma could see that the place we had entered through had a POW which was higher than his, but less than his fetch’s. He could also see another enchantment in the walls, with a POW about equal to his. Above us, covering the top, was a mesh of wire, presumably to stop anyone from climbing out. Not that we intended to as the walls were slick with water.

Mugumma then Discorporated to scout out the area around us. He could see the same things we had seen as we had walked here. Fields of crops, with an occasional farmer working them. Strangely, none of them seemed to use animals to help them. He also discovered what the smaller source of POW was. It was an undine bound into the stone circle.

While Mugumma was Discorporate, Gorfang and Martlet emerged from their hiding to try to help us. Using one of Martlet’s daggers, Gorfang tried to make a grappling hook with which to attach his 30 meters of rope which he had carried since we had left Harmast over a year ago. But the hook failed as Gorfang tested it.

Also, it had rained for about an hour, filling the circle to a level of about six inches. We hoped that we could leave the circle before the water got too high.

By now it was the early afternoon and the balloon was floating back towards the circle. Quickly, Gorfang and Martlet hid themselves as the balloonist got out on top of the wall of the circle, then sent his balloon some distance away. The man was, of course naked, but he was smaller than even Ferric! He addressed us in first an unknown language, then switched tongues until we understood him in Arbennan.

He asked us why we had come to Engure. We told him that we had come to trade for iron.

After a few more questions, he confided in us.

He told us that he was a part-Brithini sorcerer. Like all the other sorcerers, he was controlled by the ruler of the land, who was called the Master.

The way the Master got control of a sorcerer was to have the sorcerer make a small gong. Then, by means of a spell, the sorcerer’s welfare became tied to the gong. Whenever the Master rang it, the sorcerer’s face appeared in the gong and the two could communicate. The catch was that it the Master were to break the gong, the sorcerer would die.

What he wanted was for us to steal his gong. It seemed that as the Master created more and more automatons, more and more sorcerers were ‘phased out’. He wanted to get his gong and leave before he was phased out.

Gorfang and Martlet had overheard everything and they then revealed themselves. The man, who was named Ir, seemed pleased that there were more of us to attempt the theft.

Gorfang asked where the Master lived and how well it was defended. Ir then described the central fortress. It was laid out somewhat like a cross, with a central tower. But no part of it was open to the sky. Surrounding the area was a 2 meter moat of potent acid.

Seeing no alternative, we told Ir of our true purpose, to scout out the area for the Philosopher’s planned invasion. Ir then asked us what we thought the Philosopher’s chances. After all, the Master did have 80 sorcerers who would all help him defend his land. We told him about Sreng and the basilisks the Philosopher had. But before he could invade, he had to be notified somehow.

Eventually, an agreement was worked out. Ir and Thingol would go in the balloon to head towards the Philosopher’s manor. Then, at midnight, Thingol would Teleport a pebble to the Homing Circle he had enchanted there. Then the Philosopher would fire off one of the dwarf flares to navigate by. All this time, the rest of those inside the circle would remain, despite Gorfang’s insistence to the contrary. Before he left, Ir commanded the undine to continuously drain the water from inside the circle.

To circumvent the curtain was impossible, so they stripped themselves of as much POW as possible. For Thingol this meant leaving his familiar behind. However, this was impossible for Ir, since his familiar was the balloon!

So that night, Ir and Thingol left Engure in Ir’s balloon. After an hours flight at a speed of about 40 kilometers per hour, Thingol Teleported a pebble. About 10 minutes later, a massive green bolt of flame lit up the night sky. Heading towards the bolt, they quickly found the Philosopher.

Explaining the situation to him, the Philosopher then said that he would invade in four days. He would fire off another flare when he was near the curtain. He also said that it would be helpful if we were to attempt the theft while the Master was fighting since the Master would probably not be inside his palace.

Floating back to Engure, the rest of us were still waiting for us. But there was a large rip in the wire mesh covering the tower and Mugumma was now outside the circle. Gorfang explained. After the balloon had left, Gorfang successfully made another grappling hook. With it, he had climbed up to the top of the circle and lowered the rope for the others to climb up. Mugumma had made it up and over with no problem, but Boo-boo had fallen and would have died but for Gorfang’s Healing. Afterwards, he decided to wait until he was let out.

Thingol explained the situation to the others. We then moved to the shed where Ir kept his balloon. There we would stay for the moment.

The next day we spent trying to come up with a plan to assault the Master’s palace. But they all depended on more accurate information of the layout of the place. We decided that someone should go and check out the place the next day. It had to be someone resourceful, since none of us spoke the language. He would also have to look like a native.

During that day, the Master rang Ir’s gong and demanded to know what happened to the prisoners he had reported. Ir said that he had drowned them. The Master asked if any of them were sorcerers, non-humans, or shamans. Ir replied that there weren’t. The Master said that he was lying and that at the end of the month should report to the Grand Palace for a Tap. Then he left.

The next day, Mugumma and Boo-boo walked the 24 kilometers to the city of Hugaba, where the Grand Palace was located. Fortunately, they met no one. Approaching the acid moat, Mugumma could see with his Second Sight that there was some kind of shimmering void about where the moat was. It was difficult to tell since there was no POW, only this void.

There were three automatons standing on the other side of the moat, but they seemed to take no notice of them.

The moat itself was only about 2 meters across and looked to be only about 50 centimeters deep. The moat itself was glass-lined. Boo-boo tossed a pebble into the acid. From the spot where it landed, a green gas puffed out as the pebble was dissolved. Both of them got a whiff of the gas and were staggered for a moment. They then avoided all further contact with the gas.

Boo-boo then tried to toss a pebble across the moat. The stone landed in the moat. He threw harder. It landed in the moat. Then he threw with all his strength. The rock landed in the moat.

The trajectories taken by the rocks were all the same. They would be normal until they got

to the area over the moat. Then they arced sharply down into the acid.

Thinking that perhaps gravity was much higher than normal over the moat, Boo-boo perhaps foolishly, tried to Disrupt one of the automatons. His spell worked and a beam of light streaked across the moat. But the light quickly red-shifted and disappeared before it crossed the moat.

When they returned and told the rest of us what had happened, we quickly figured out that this void was somehow warping distance, turning 2 meters into at least 50 meters, possibly more. Gorfang figured that a simple bridge would make it across, but the rest of us were unsure. The rest of us began to think of how we could cross.

One thing we had to know was exactly how far this void warped distance. So Mugumma Discorporated and went in search of a spirit. He returned a couple of hours later with an undine spirit. So that night while Gorfang was busily making a bridge, the rest of us snuck over to the moat. Forming the undine in a spring near the moat, Mugumma commanded the undine to cross the moat. When it hit the void, it disappeared, but, some seconds later, it reappeared and made it to the other side! Crude calculations put the distance to the other side of the moat at between 150 and 180 meters.

But we still didn’t know how we could get across. Then we realized that we might be able to use a gnome to travel under the acid. But besides not having a gnome, we would have no air while traveling inside the gnome.

Another idea that was tossed around was for us to wade through the acid while protected by a large Damage Resist. However, once the Damage Resist wore off, all the acid had better have been removed from the person. We figured that we could use an undine to wash off with. Unfortunately, we didn’t know if the depth of the acid was not also warped to huge depths.

Seeing no immediately useful plan, Mugumma began calling his ancestors for help in summoning and binding a gnome. This took the rest of the day. At this time, Gorfang realized that his bridge was faulty and began constructing another.

On Six-day with morale very low, Ir went among the other sorcerers, trying to find another sorcerer who would be least likely to turn Ir in to help us. He found one named Thorazon, who was apparently the head of what could be called the secret police. Ir let him in on the planned coupd’etat.

Thorazon told us that if we did manage to get inside, then if the gongs were destroyed, but not with the special hammer, it would hurt the sorcerer, but not kill them. Thus, he suggested that if we found them, we should destroy them all.

He had some spells that he thought could be of use. One of them was Haste. He could either haste the gnome or, perhaps haste us as we waded through the acid. He cautioned against high intensity as we would want to neutralize it once across so that we would not tire excessively. Similarly, he cautioned against using too much on the gnome, for it might confuse it.

Inside the palace, he told us, there was no air. The Master used Skin of Life so as not to suffocate. Also, he told us of the many familiars the Master had, including ghosts and wraiths. The odds against us seemed to be growing by the second.

He told us straight out that he didn’t think the Philosopher would be a match for the Master, even with Sreng and his basilisks. But, if the Master were to leave his palace, and we were to get inside and break all the gongs, then all the sorcerers working for the Master would instantly scatter, leaving the Master to, after defeating the Philosopher the immense task of regaining control.

Another thing that the Master had done was to order his familiars to kill all the sorcerers by

destroying their gongs with the special hammer if the Master ever died. He didn’t know if this order also applied if the palace was invaded.

After hearing all this, some of us were thinking that discretion would be the better part of valor. But Thorazon said that he had too much at stake. He would have his shades kill us before he would let us leave.

So, with no alternative, a tentative plan came out. We would use the Hasted gnome to get us across the moat. Once there, we would dispatch the automatons with Thorazon’s help, who would cast Hinder on the automatons. Then Gorfang would use the flare to (hopefully) break into the palace. Though he would have lost at least one hand, Gorfang would stay with us to help as much as he could. Then Thingol would throw Skin of Life on everyone who went in. Once inside we would dispatch all the guardians and break all the gongs, thus freeing the sorcerers.

But the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. For Mugumma, with the aid of his ancestors, was unable to bind a gnome. Thus, to get across, we would have to traverse the acid.

Chapter12

The Master

The night before the Philosopher said he would begin his invasion, we all made our way to a hut closer to the Grand Palace. Before we had done so, though, Ir had cast Intensity 14, Damage Resists on Gorfang, Boo-boo, Ferric, and Martlet, Durationed to last 640 minutes. On our way there, Mugumma saw a child looking at him. He merely continued on his way. Finally we hid ourselves inside a storehouse.

Early the next morning, a creature crawled inside. It was unrecognizable to any of us, but it looked very bony.

“Thorazon says your cover is blown,” it croaked. “If your friend doesn’t come today, the Master will know of your presence tomorrow. I can only conceal you for the rest of the day.” It took a quick look around, then continued. “I’m here to Haste you. I can stay here for as long as you need. I’ll get hungry though. For blood.” Pointing at Mugumma, it said, “He’s big and strong and he won’t be spilling any. And I’m hungry now.”

Essentially blackmailed into providing blood for services rendered (i.e., its casting spells for us), Mugumma reluctantly allowed the creature to drink his blood. Before he could kick it off, it had drained about a quart85! Claiming that it was still hungry, Gorfang grudgingly gave it a sip of his own blood86.

We waited through the chill morning for a sign of the Philosopher’s. Then, midway through the morning, Martlet, who was outside watching, saw a large green bolt flare in the distance. The Philosopher had come.

Two minutes later, the creature said, “My master has been ordered to investigate a disturbance at the curtain.” Mugumma immediately began the lengthy ceremony to Discorporate.

Over the next hour, Martlet could see more and more sorcerers heading northwards toward what we presumed was a major battle. But there was no sign of the Master.

About a half-hour after Mugumma had finished Discorporating, a huge hole opened in the roof of the building. Out of the Palace flew many flying creatures, none of which we could identify. In their midst was a beautiful woman in a long gown that trailed magnificently behind her. The creature excitedly said, “That’s him! The Master!” Then from the Palace flew what can only be described as a 60 meter length of huge chain that had a head.

After 20 minutes, all were out of sight. We then rushed for the acid moat around the Palace. Fortunately, we could see only one automaton guard. This automaton looked like most of the others except that in one hand it held a rather large rock.

Reaching the acid moat, Thingol went to a nearby pool to summon the undine while the creature asked how much Haste each of us wanted. Gorfang went first, with an Intensity 3 Haste, Durationed for 20 minutes. Hampered by the acid, Gorfang could only splash at 25 meters per melee round. After Gorfang began, Ferric followed him, also with a Haste 3. Then Martlet, who was able to splash at 30 meters per round with a Haste 3. Then Boo-boo, after Martlet. But the Damage Resist failed Boo-boo, who was able to jump back to shore with both his legs severely burned. Last came Thingol after he had ordered the undine to cross the moat.

By now, Gorfang had reached the other side unharmed. He spent some time splashing

  1. Six general hit points of damage.
  2. One general hit point, which was not enough to alter his hit points per location.

through the undine, washing off the acid while the automaton decided what to do.

Ferric and Martlet reached the bank side by side. Ferric began washing while Gorfang ran to one side, hoping to draw the automaton away. In this he was successful. The automaton began chasing him. But as it did, it threw its rock at Gorfang. He failed to parry and it smashed his left arm. Then the automaton reeled the rock back in by means of a chain.

Martlet now began to rinse as Ferric cast a Damage Boost on himself. Gorfang healed himself and then switched his shield to his right hand as the automaton kicked at him. Gorfang parried, but the force of the blow knocked him into the acid. Fortunately, the Damage Resist held.

As Gorfang climbed out of the acid and again washed the acid off, Mugumma attacked the automaton in spirit combat, after casting a Spirit Screen 6. Ferric and Martlet split up, Martlet away from Gorfang, Ferric straight towards the automaton. It threw its rock at Ferric, but amazingly, he dodged. Ferric swung at it, but his blow bounced off a Damage Resist. The automaton then kicked at Ferric, but again he dodged it.

Now Gorfang and Martlet came to help Ferric. The automaton threw at Ferric. This time he failed to dodge, and the rock smashed his left leg. Gorfang successfully Disrupted it, but Martlet’s blow was Resisted. It then kicked at Martlet, but he parried the blow.

Gorfang cast Protection 2 on himself as the automaton threw its rock at Ferric. It hit him in the chest, killing him. Martlet hit the automaton and dented the right leg. It then kicked at Gorfang, who parried, but again he was knocked back some four meters.

By now, Thingol had reached the bank. Gorfang now came towards him for Thingol to throw Neutralize Magic on him87. As Thingol cast the spell, Martlet failed to parry the automaton’s rock. Fortunately, his heavy armor somewhat negated the blow to his left arm.

Now the automaton threw at Gorfang. The combination of his parry and the Damage Resist negated the blow. Thingol cast Neutralize Magic on Martlet as Gorfang then Healed himself.

Mugumma had by now knocked the automaton’s magic points to zero. He took over the body of the automaton but, unable to control it, it fell down on top of Martlet, slightly injuring him.

As we all rested, we waited for Boo-boo to re-attempt the crossing. He had Healed his legs as best he could, but would not survive if the Damage Resist were to fail again. The creature then offered a bargain. For a pint of blood88, it would cast Damage Resist 15 for 10 minutes along with a Haste 5 which would give him a speed of 40 meters per melee round. Boo-boo accepted the bargain, and in short order, was safely across.

Mugumma now faded through the walls of the Palace in order to scout. Inside, he saw a lighted corridor with torches that had POW. He surmised that they were bound salamanders. If so, then there had to be breathable air inside. He determined where the door was, and came back out.

With the aid of a magic point storing crystal, Boo-boo would cast the spell necessary to ignite the flare. Bracing it against the ground, with a shield propped up against the ground and everyone well away, he recited the words to the spell. Slowly the pot warmed. Red-hot, orange-hot, finally white-hot and as Boo-boo screams grew, there was a searing blast of light and heat that temporarily blinded us all. When the tears cleared, we could see three things that stood out from all else: the large gaping hole in the Palace; Boo-boo sprawled on the ground moaning in pain many meters back from where he had originally been; and almost all of his left arm attached to the smoldering remnants of the pot. We Healed the stump as best we could, then plunged in.

Mugumma scouted ahead with a Mindspeech cast on Boo-boo to relay any information he

  1. By now, Gorfang was down to -39 Fatigue!
  2. Two general hit points.

might find. The corridor we were in went straight ahead as far as we could see. There were rooms off of the corridor but we paid them no mind. After a total distance of about 30 meters had been traveled, Mugumma told us that there was a magical wall in front of us. Seeing no way to go around it, he passed through it. He was apparently was unharmed.

Gorfang cast Countermagic 2 on himself and went through. Or rather tried to go through. It looked like he was trying to push through a wall. But he broke through and fell, unhurt, on the other side. Martlet now tried to go through and made it. But both Thingol and Boo-boo could not make it through.89 So Gorfang and Martlet and Mugumma continued on. Mugumma recast his Mindspeech on Gorfang.

They went for about another 20 meters before the corridor ended up in a ‘T’. To the left was a set of stairs going up, to the right a room. Investigating the rooms, they found it had seven huge helmets made of a strange metal which Gorfang recognized as aluminum or sa-metal. Each of these helmets was bigger than the automaton we had fought.

Going up the stairs, which curved as though to follow some curve deeper within the Palace, they came to a landing which had 2 corridors branching from it. Taking the one that led towards the center, they came upon a huge room that had a huge fire inside it. The room was about 30 meters tall and about 30 meters in diameter. Along the outside wall were balconies with 15 people wearing robes. Mugumma noticed that the fire had a huge amount of POW, much more than his fetch.

Unnoticed, they retreated and continued up the stairs.

At the top, there was another landing with yet 2 more corridors going from the landing. The stairs that continued on was topped by an arch. An arch that had a skull with eyes.

“A dwarf,” it spoke. “I haven’t seen a dwarf in years. Where do you come from?” “I’m from Greatway,” responded Gorfang.

“Is that in the Mari Mountains?” “No, its on the other continent.” “On Jrustela?”

“No, on the bigger continent to the north.” “Ah, the land of Gbaji,” concluded the skull.

“What are you?” asked Martlet. “Are you alive?”

“I’m as dead as a doornail,” replied the skull. “Hey, you have a ghost with you!” it exclaimed as it spotted Mugumma.

“Can we go up the stairs?” asked Gorfang. “If you do, I’m supposed to give the alarm.” “What’s up there?”

“Her private things.”

Gorfang and Martlet conferred on what they should do. They decided to try to negotiate

further.

89To get through, one had to overcome a STR of 20.

“Is there anything we can do for you so that we may pass?” asked Martlet.

“What can you do for a skull?” it asked. “You know, I should really give the alarm to Sikkos.”

“Who’s Sikkos?” asked Gorfang.

“He’s the maitre’d for the Master. He has no sense of humor at all. When he gets mad at me, he doesn’t let the gremlins dust me off.”

“Do you know where she keeps the gongs?” asked Martlet.

“Gongs? She doesn’t really confide in me,” replied the skull. “Say! Are you guys hungry? Why don’t you sit and eat your lunch? You did bring your lunch, didn’t you?”

Gorfang and Martlet sat and began to eat their lunch. Quietly, they discussed their options. After a bit, Gorfang surreptitiously brought out his crossbow and began to cast Speedart. The skull noticed and said, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. I’d have to give the alarm.” So Gorfang put away his crossbow.

While they ate, the skull told its story. When alive, he had been the Captain of the Guard.

But when he died, the Master imprisoned him inside his skull. And there he must remain.

While Gorfang and Martlet finished their food and began to drink, the skull made some sniffing noises.

“Is that beer? Boy, I haven’t tasted beer in ages. Could I have some?”

Somewhat startled, Martlet poured some of his water into the skull’s mouth. Of course, the water dripped out the base of the skull. But the skull seemed to think that he was drinking fine beer.

“That sure was great beer! I think I’ll go to sleep now. Of course, if I’m asleep, I can’t give the alarm. Good night.”

Being a skull, it had no eyelids. But it made no more sounds. After about 5 minutes, Gorfang and Martlet looked at each other, then started up the stairs. Mugumma floated up past them. But as he did so, the skull said, “Hey, you’re not a ghost, you’re a shaman! I may be disloyal, but I’m not that disloyal! Robbers! Robbers! Help!”

Now all three made haste to the top of the stairs. At the top, they found themselves in a room that had five exits, each curtained.

Down below, Thingol and Boo-boo had systematically explored the rooms that were open to them. One had huge plates of iron that weighed about 150 kilograms. Two others were armories. There was a multitude of bronze weapons and armor. One had a table and chair, but nothing else.

The last had a large locked chest.

About the time the skull shouted its alarm, they heard a gibbering voice and then a clanking sound. Wanting no part of it, they both ducked into a room and hid themselves as best they could.

Examining the five curtains, Mugumma could see that they all had POW, one of them higher than the rest. He started to go through that one but was attacked by a spell. A Tap INT spell. Mugumma was overcome by the spell and Gorfang noticed that Mugumma’s comments were now totally incoherent90.

  1. Mugumma had lost 9 points of INT, from 12 to 3.

Martlet then tried to use his sword to brush aside the curtain to see what was inside it. He too was attacked by the spell and overcome91. But he realized that he could now go through, so he did. Inside he found many gongs. With what remained of his intelligence, he started smashing them with his sword.

Outside, Gorfang heard and saw a large creature coming up the stairs. It looked like a bison broo, but he couldn’t be sure. Gorfang cast Multimissile 2 and fired his crossbow. Two of them bounced off of Damage Resist, but one got through and the creature fell over and down the stairs, out of his sight.

After yelling at Martlet to hurry up, Gorfang saw a man in robes standing at the bottom of the stairs. He was wearing the same robe as the people they had seen in the central fire room.

Simultaneously with Gorfang’s shot was the man’s spell. His shot wounded the man, but the spell Diminished Gorfang’s strength92. Gorfang began to cast a spell, then was about to shoot again when the man cast another spell. Gorfang now felt very weak, very sick, and very slow93. He was now barely able to hold onto the bow, much less shoot with any accuracy.

Then suddenly, the man left. Just after that, Martlet came out from the room. Saying “All broke”, he and Gorfang began to go back down.

At the bottom of the stairs was an extremely small bison broo, with a wound. It took one look at the two, then fled. They surmised that the sorcerer had left Gorfang after he realized that his gong had been broken and then taken revenge on the broo.

Back at the curtain, Martlet was able to pass through, but Gorfang, still weakened, was unable to pass. Speed was now of the essence, for by now the Master would be all alone in her battle with the Philosopher.

Coming down the corridor towards the curtain was the sorcerer who had fought Gorfang. He was carrying a large sack over his shoulder and was wearing a necklace of fingers. On his back was a sleeping bag. He cast a quick spell, and then passed through the curtain.

We asked him what the broo was and he replied that it was Sikkos. “I’ve paid him back for his insults. Oh, by the way, your STR will be back in 10 minutes or so.”

Thingol gave the sorcerer a magic point storing crystal in return for re-casting the spell to allow Gorfang to pass through the curtain. Then, at the entrance, the sorcerer cast a spell and flew away.

The five of us, with the exception of Mugumma now had to get back across the acid. We hoped that Ir was still alive and in control of his balloon.

  1. Martlet lost 10 points of INT, from 15 to 5.
  2. Intensity 10.
  3. Diminish STR, CON, and DEX at Intensity 6, Multispell 3.

Related Pages

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