Nehwon

Lord of Three Lands, 6th session, 6th July 2012

The icy void

The cold silence of outer space enveloped the black cog as the Moon grew ever larger in Landen Donovan’s viewport (well, porthole). Yucta Axotylata stood at the prow near — but not too near — the shaman Techna and the brooding sorcerer Inuridiss. Yucta scanned the moon with his spyglass and saw an approaching vessel, a black cog like their own. Landen Donovan veered the ship ever so slightly away and those on deck wrapped their heads with turban-like wrappings, like those of the men of Leng. The other ship seemed to be fooled by this ruse but at the last minute Landen remembered the fluttering flag of the Free Human Confederacy which he had bought on the Isle of Oriab. No one was quick enough to pull the flag down, but Inuridiss shot out a skinny arm and chanted some words. A white strand shot from his hand and enveloped the flag. The strand constricted the flag into nothingness, to Landen’s dismay. The other black cog sailed by silently.

A day passed in the eerie, dispiriting quiet. The crew had been released and Tech-na had even managed to cheer them up a little. Still they stayed grumbling belowdecks.

Wreck of the Turquoise

On the third day in space, Tech-na spotted a derelict vessel, which he estimated to be about two hundred years old by its style. Its masts were snapped and its hull was pitted with meteor holes. Landen expertly guided the ship alongside, and Yucta made an expert grappling hook throw. Yucta, Tech-na and Inuridiss watched carefully as Landen tied himself to a rope and hurled himself into zero gravity between the ships. Then they followed him. The ship was mostly empty except for a few weapons and a couple of corpses. From the ships’ log (which Inuridiss studied avidly) it seemed that the ship was named the Turquoise, and it had been battered and smashed in its journey beyond the Basalt Pillars of the West, and that the crew had succumbed to the dangers of space. The log also described a magical shield called Shinjurak. Landen found the shield and discovered that saying that word would make it flash with bright light. Sir Thrakus showed him the rudiments of shield fighting, although Landen complained that the shield was heavy and hurt his arm.

Dark side of the moon

Papapishu galleon.pngLanden piloted the cog past the light side of the moon and beyond tall jagged lunar mountains. The light became muted. Everything appeared as shades of grey tinged with sinister colours almost beyond human perception. Small stone huts appeared below and Yucta identified them as villages of the men of Leng. Ahead was a great black ocean on the surface of the Moon. “Brace yourselves!” shouted Donovan. He took the ship down with a mighty splash into that dark oily sea. No one was hurt.

Yucta took over the helm now that the ship was on water again. Another black galley approached from the north and once again passed by with no hint that anything was out of the ordinary. Beyond it was a city of grey cylindrical buildings. A horde of toadlike Moonbeasts was at the busy docks, loading and unloading crates of human and less-than-human slaves into crates in the black galleys. The foul stench of this place wafted across the water. Even Inuridiss had no desire to visit this loathsome city. Yucta turned aside.

The Mansion of the Moon

Presently a great roaring was heard and the current picked up. Landen realised there was a large cataract nearby, maybe similar to the Basalt Pillars of the West, and possibly a way to escape the Moon. Yucta steered the ship away and presently a tall crag came into view, topped by a dark mansion. Below was a wharf, with a black cog docked there.

“The Mansion of the Moon” breathed Inuridiss, “where dwells the Man in the Moon. His…library is said to be…extensive.” The old sorcerer was visibly excited by the idea.

It seemed a better destination than the city of the Moonbeasts, though whether they would find the Boatman Feroza there, Yucta could not guess. He looked up at the crag and realised the Mansion had a very good view of any approaching ships. He steered north, and Tech-na, Landen, Yucta and Inuridiss put ashore in the small boat in a cove near a scraggly fungus forest. Sir Thrakus joined them. “I did not journey to the Moon to nursemaid a cowardly crew.”

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Lord of Three Lands, 5th session, 1st June 2012

The edge of the world

The sailor of Dylath-Leen

The sorcerer Inuridiss was no stranger to the sinister alleys of Dylath-Leen. He knew of a sailor who had been to the Moon and back, and he led Landen Donovan and Yucta Axotylata to his house. The ragged sailor invited them into his hovel and told his tales (in exchange for some Sarrub wine). He talked of the cataract beyond the Basalt Pillars of the West and the coldness of the space journey. Landen decided to buy some furs and cloaks from the market.

At the Great Library of the Dreamlands (Dylath-Leen branch), Inuridiss found references to ‘space-mead’, a potion which allowed survival in space. It could be brewed from a herb called Yath from the Enchanted Forest. Yucta located some and brewed some of this mead for their journey.

Council of Baharna

Tech-na knew enough Dreamlands lore to know that the coasts of the Fantastic Realms were very dangerous. Accordingly, Landen steered a course for the trading port of Baharna on the Isle of Oriab in the Southern Sea. It was to be the last stopping point before the Basalt Pillars of the West.

The black cog was viewed with suspicion in Baharna, so Landen bought a fine flag (the colours of his own Free Human Confederacy) to hang on the yardarm. He was curious about document he had found in Zakarion, so he petitioned the Council for a hearing. He learned of how Griflet and his otherworldly followers had taken condemned criminal Brazzibar the Unmerciful to be sacrificed in the Accursed Valley to oracular stones. After the meeting, Landen was offered another condemned criminal by corrupt councilor Murkus, who was greedy for rubies.

The Basalt Pillars of the West

Mutiny on the Mxplates

After two weeks in the southern seas, the crew members spotted the Basalt Pillars of the West rising from the cloudy horizon. They were dismayed to realise their true destination. Landen tried to bribe and cajole them but failed miserably. Sir Thrakus and Yucta were also ineffectual. The crew got agitated. Inuridiss mesmerized the bosun with a spell, leaving them leaderless. Then the old wizard levitated into the air. Pulsing lights emanated from his head and his voice boomed unnaturally. He demanded that the ship continue. Panicked sailors ran for the side but Yucta used a Glue spell to stop them from escaping. Sir Thrakus tied them up below decks.

Over the edge

Full moon luc viatour by merlin2525The black pillars were a mile apart and between them the waters of the Southern Ocean spilled downwards into nothingness. The current picked up and Yucta needed all of his shiphandling skills (with no help from the crew, now) to steer the cog over the cataract at the edge of the world. The ship rocked tremendously and launched into space. Landen was slightly injured by a loose crate in the tumult.

The temperature dropped away. Out in the blackness swarmed bizarre phoshorescent shapes pulsing with ghostlike feelers and tentacles – the Larvae of the Outer Gods. They surrounded the ship. “Az, Az, Az!” shouted Landen to no avail. Inuridiss rolled his eyes and spoke the dread last name of Azathoth, dismissing the things. One stupid thirty foot larva remained. Although initially puzzled by the primitive controls, Landen managed to steer the ship away from the slow-moving larva and towards the Moon.

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Lord of Three Lands, 4th session, 24th February 2012

Beyond the Cerenarian Sea

Landen Donovan examined the black cog from fore to stern but could find no obvious astrogation equipment. This ship was to travel to the moon — exactly how? Nevertheless it was loaded with supplies and rubies and would definitely travel the shimmering seas of the Dreamlands. There were charts on board and with the help of the bright stars above he plotted a course which would take them from the black tower of the Moonbeasts to the nearby town of Lhosk.

Lhosk

Lhosk was a trading town on the Cerenarian Sea. There, Yucta, Landen and Tekna sought supplies, information and sailors to take them to the moon. The latter were hard to find until Tekna changed the advertised destination from the Moon to the “Island of Delights” — whereupon eight crewmembers immediately signed up. A mysterious wizard called Inuridiss also joined them. He professed an interest in visiting the moon for his own researches.

An audience with King Kuranes

From Lhosk it was two days to Celephaïs. There they were given an audience by King Kuranes himself, that city’s wise ruler.
“We know of this ‘Boatman’, this Watcher of the worlds. He brings trouble to our lands. It is appropriate that a representative of each of the worlds goes to find him: the land of Dream (King Kuranes nodded at Tekna) and the waking world (Yucta), and the land of Death."

“Why Death?” Landen asked.

“Do you not travel in a cannister loaded with weapons of destruction, filled with soldiers intent on dealing same to their targets, sailing through a void of lifelessness?”

“Well, when you put it like that…” said Landen.

Sir Thrakus, a noble knight of King Kuranes, offered to accompany them to the moon, to bring glory to himself and the King. King Kuranes gave his blessing and suggested more information might be found from the sages of Zakarion, four days sail from Celephaïs.

The sages of Zakarion

Two days from Zakarion, Tech-na spotted a monstrous Sea Elephant cavorting in the waters to starboard. They decided to leave it alone. Zakarion was an ancient city where sages recorded events on timeless scrolls. With some persuasion, the three were able to consult the sages’ records. They learned that the way to space was through the Basalt Pillars of the West, at the edge of the Southern Sea.

Dylath Leen

Dylath leenSeven days’ sail from Celephaïs, the black cog approached Dylath-Leen, the dark city of sharp-angled towers and black basalt streets, mysterious ships from all ports and shuffling, unfriendly folk. There were more black ships in port resembling their own, but neither Tech-na, Landen nor Yucta particularly cared to bother their occupants.

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Lord of Three Lands, 3rd session, 2nd September 2011

The Forbidden Lands

Before dawn an odd party left the north gate of Celephaïs. On the lead dromedary was a sour-faced Yangeer, followed by Yucta, Tech-na and Landen, each on his own beast (paid for with Yangeer’s rubies). Their destination was the Forbidden Lands, though Yangeer urged them to claim to be mere ice-gatherers if they were accosted. They were not.

After a day in the rugged Tanarian Hills the landscape hardened: a dreary desert with high rock ridges, sickly light. That night as they camped around a low fire a small hairy figure with claws and fangs launched itself from the darkness and hurled itself at Yangeer. Yucta knocked it unconscious with his mace and a fist-sized beetle emerged from its buttock. It fled into the blackness leaving a trail of chewed paper. Yucta and Tech-na assembled the paper shards into what Landen called a Driver’s Licence for a being named Stephen Moulton.

On the second day in the Forbidden Lands they saw an oasis in the distance (but Tech-na perceived instead a rotting fungus forest). Yucta gathered some spores and they moved on. On the third day a ridge opened a ‘mouth’ of blackened rock-teeth and howled in a booming voice. Tech-na howled back. They rode on.

On the fourth day they investigated a green flash to the south. They topped a rise and saw a small robed figure coming towards them. Tech-na thought he could see glistening tentacles in the dark cowl of the creature’s robe.
“Where is the man in black?” asked Yucta.
A gleaming black tentacle emerged from the hood and pointed straight up at the moon. Then the creature turned and shuffled on its way.

The black tower

Moon beastThe next day they awoke to find Yangeer and his camel gone. Yucta found his tracks. They led to a hidden inlet of the Cerenarian Sea. There was a huge blackened tower next to a dock with a black cog at anchor. A couple of half-naked humanoids were lounging around a fire pit outside the tower. Tech-na recognised them as Men from Leng, a sinister and unfriendly race.

They decided to charge for the boat. The Men from Leng saw them, and one ran inside the tower. Yucta beat the other with his mace as he rode his camel by. The camels thundered down the narrow dock. Two more Men from Leng popped their heads up from the gunwales, brandishing weapons — one with a spear. Tech-na and Yucta spurred their camels and jumped them on board. Tech-na thumped one of the Lengites with his staff as he jumped, sending the creature overboard. Landen was no camel jumper; he left his camel and climbed the gangplank. But then from the tower emerged three more Lengites, and behind them a vile grey eyeless toad beast with pinkish tentacles and a strange bejeweled vaguely cat-like thing. This shining thing swiftly closed the distance to Landen, raking him with several flashing claw limbs. The cat-thing jumped on board, still savaging Landen, as Yucta fought the nearby Lengite and Tech-na severed the mooring rope.

A swift battle ensued. Yucta’s mace smashed the Cat from Saturn into gleaming shards and the wounded Landen severed the Man from Leng’s leg with his vibroknife. The shore-bound Lengites threw their spears and entered the water but could not get on board. Tech-na saw the toad-like thing engaged in what looked like powerful sorcery. He flung one of his ‘lucky’ sling stones and hit the thing right on the snout, disrupting its spell. An electric blast from Landen Donovan’s stun ray finished it off. The other Men from Leng fled, and Yucta guided the ship back to the dock.

The moon quest begins

A quick search of the boat revealed a couple of spyglasses, some Lengite weapons and a small fortune of rubies.

The tower was hollow all the way to the top. On the ground floor was what looked like a torture rack, with several bones scattered around. A long stairway twisted around the inside of the tower. It led to a prison room. Hidden in a bottle was this message:


I write these words convinced that I am soon to die. My captors will not speak of my ultimate fate but I fear it will not be a pleasant one.

To whomever may find this, you will have my eternal gratitude if you would tell my wife Selene and my daughter Luna that my last thoughts were of them.

Feroza, of Zola Fel

Above the prison chamber was an observation deck where the light of the moon shone in.

Tech-na emptied his mind and tried to visualise the prisoner, as he had done back in Celephaïs. Sure enough he saw the Boatman being taken from the room by Lengites. This time when Tech-na described the man, Yucta recognised him at last. He — this Feroza — was the ferryman who had first taken Yucta and Davros Thanatos across the Zola Fel, when they were engulfed by the giant gorp. But there had been no sign of him when they awoke in the mud near Corflu. Now this Boatman had led them all on a merry chase into the land of dream. But was he alive or dead?

Tech-na glanced up at the yellow moon above the observation deck. He thought he saw a dark speck there. He lifted the spyglass to his eye and saw — a black cog drifting slowly across the face. He moved the spyglass downwards and saw a similar black cog at the dock near the tower. He put away the spyglass and glanced at Landen Donovan, the space ship pilot. A crooked smile crept over his lips.

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Lord of Three Lands, second session, 25th Feb 2011
The trail of the Boatman leads to the marvellous city of Celephaïs

On the trail of the Boatman

At the docks

Following the lead of the Yellow Minotaur’s inkeep, Yucta Axotylata, Landen Donovan and Tech-Na-Chuk-Chuk-Wakae-Hazar wandered to the docks of Hlanith in search of Captain Aramsham of the Andorak. The captain greeted them cordially and confirmed that his ship was sailing to Celephaïs in three days’ time. Tech-na warned that it was not soon enough, and spun a tale about an impending wild storm which would wrack the harbour. Landen concentrated in the way he’d seen the shaman do, and an ominous gust of wind rocked the boat. The captain hastily agreed to set sail on the morning tide, with deferred payment.

Celephaïs

MinaretsAfter a short quiet voyage over the deep blue Cerenarian Sea they came to Celephaïs, in Ooth-Nargai. Hundreds of ships from all ports of the Dreamlands were docked in the gleaming harbour. After farewelling Captain Aramsham, Yucta sought the harbourmaster. He learned that a waking worlder fitting the Boatman’s description had arrived recently and stayed at the Steel Eel inn on the harbourside. The Steel Eel’s proprietor, Janakovich Stron, told the trio that the Boatman had indeed stayed there and, strangely, caused no trouble. He had dropped out of sight recently, along with another regular called Yangeer. Tech-na helped some sailors at the bar by ‘removing’ their ‘curses’ and they happily told him that Yangeer and the Boatman were often seen together. With luck (and a bribe), the Boatman’s room was now available to the three.

Tech-na dreams the Boatman

That night, Tech-na focused his Dreaming powers on recalling the former occupant. In a lucid dream he saw the Boatman clearly; not just his eyes, his face too. He was sitting on a bed with a packed bag, waiting expectantly for a visitor. Several rubies sparkled on the bedspread. With some effort, Tech-na progressed his vision. There was a knock on the door and Yangeer stood smiling, but with cold eyes. The two of them left the room.

In the early morning light, Tech-na arose and went down to the common room, where the fire was yet unlit. He tried to sketch the faces of those he had seen, but without much success. Presently his companions joined him and he told them of his vision. It seemed that Yangeer had not killed the Boatman, but taken him somewhere.

The ruby trail

The rubies on the Boatman’s bed in Tech-na’s dream were a clue, and from asking around it seemed Yangeer paid with rubies frequently. The three headed for Celephaïs’ Red Bazaar, where such gems were sold. There Tech-na (in exchange for ‘decontaminating’ some ‘cursed rubies’) learned that Yangeer had been seen in the Northern Caravanserai, paying rubies to outfit an expedition to the north. Tech-na also acquired a camel into the bargain. The Northern Caravanserai was initially deserted due to a holy day, but on a later visit it was filled with activity. The trio equipped themselves for a journey, but after only a short distance up the road it was clear that Yangeer’s expedition had turned off the trail. Somewhat frustrated, the three returned to the city.

Yangeer’s return

Yangeer returnsAt the Steel Eel once more, Yucta heard that Yangeer had been seen in town again, at a tavern called the Mouthful. There, he saw a bearded, turbaned man, dusted with sand with a curved dagger at his hip. When he saw the three he exclaimed “Gods preserve us from these waking worlders!” and put his hand on his dagger. This was too much for Yucta, who dragged him outside and began to beat him — to the dismay of Landen and Tech-na, who hung back in the gathering crowd looking for escape routes.

Yangeer admitted that he had met the Boatman and in a fit of drunkenness showed him a treasure map whose hoard was in he Forbidden Lands beyond the Tanarian Hills, the land which King Kuranes of Celephaïs had decreed no man could enter. The Boatman had not been afraid of the legends of the Forbidden Lands so they set out together. But after several days in the Forbidden Lands, the monstrous landscapes must have driven the Boatman mad. He had left their camp with the map and most of the supplies. Yangeer didn’t think he could make it alone, so he had returned to the city. Rubbing his bruised jaw he agreed to take Yucta back to that cursed spot.

next: Into the Forbidden Lands

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Lord of Three Lands, first session, 14th Jan 2011
In which three follow a dark stranger into the land of dream

The Three Who Were Called

Yucta Axotylata was weary. Weary of Pavis, Lunars, barbarians, newtlings and river gods. In the cool of the evening of the Parrot in Satyr’s Moon, Year of the Titan he wandered north of the town to where the bullrushes of the great wetlands of the Zola Fel valley surrounded him. The sun set over the wide river and the plains beyond. He listened to the rustle of the wind in the reeds and the sound of frogs croaking. After a time he looked up and saw a distant dark figure whose eyes only were clear.
“Come,” said the figure “and great power will be yours.”
Yucta scoffed, until he saw on the figure’s beckoning hand the runes which marked his own — the runes of the River Voices of Zola Fel.
“Davros…?” Could his Quarmallian friend have somehow returned from the dead?
With a start, the figure turned and fled.
“Wait! Stop in the name of Zola-Fel!” Yucta gave chase across the reeds. Ahead he saw a low mound, dark against the evening sky. Light spilled from the outline of a door in the mound. The dark figure was frantically trying to slam the door, but Axotylata was gaining too fast and he fled inside. Yucta followed him down some torch-lit steps. Even now, Yucta realised that the figure did not move or act like Davros Thanatos. But the runes — who was this man?

In the pilot’s chair of the Free Lunch, Landen Donovan committed and locked in the course he had plotted. Interplanetaries were easy, mostly mathematics, very little precog. Mostly waiting, in fact. Landen didn’t enjoy waiting. The ship was quiet: time to relax. He took a stim mixed maybe with just a dash of hallucinogen. After a time he heard footsteps. He turned and saw a stranger dressed in dark clothes — a stowaway!
“Hey you!” Donovan gave chase, and his quarry clambered down an access ladder. Donovan climbed after him. After a while, the rungs reached bottom — and it was rock. Donovan allowed himself a small smile. Something was happening, something neither entirely unfamiliar nor unwelcome. He lightly stepped from the bottom rung of the access ladder and down the stone steps beyond.

In the land of dream, Tech-na-chuk-chuk-wakae-hazar needed to clear his head of that thrice-damned pot. Not a drug, like that smoked by Grandfather Wa’aii to prolong his time in the Dreamlands, but an imaginary one, a pot which the old man had Tech-na endlessly visualise and mentally destroy. Day after day, Tech-na had sat alone in a dark room in Wai’ii’s fine house in Ulthar imagining the pot, imagining every detail of it. Now he needed fresh air and space. He walked from Ulthar across the bright fields to the Enchanted Forest. As the forest closed about him, a dark stranger suddenly shot across the path at great speed. Tech-na tried to follow but could not catch him. Strange wisps of darkness lingered where the stranger had been, slowly vanishing like morning mist.

Into the Dreamlands

Yucta Axotylata and Landen Donovan emerged from tunnels and faced each other curiously across a large cavern illuminated by a pillar of purple and white flame. Two bearded priests were there. Yucta noticed a brief trace of surprise of their faces. One looked into their eyes and turned to his companion. “We cannot interfere. They must pass.”
Nasht, the second priest said:

“Your lives and souls are in great peril. There is One who covets them, and you have fallen into His trap. I say this but once — the only way you can escape Him is to find your friend, who has passed before you. Find him and return with him and that which he carries. Return here and thus back to the waking world. Fail in these things and you are lost.”

The other priest, Kaman-Thah, gestured to stone table with wine and parcels of food. “Shambhala, food for your journey.” Landen sniffed the food packets with approval and helped himself.

Yucta and Landen took their leave of the priests and descended Seven Hundred Steps of Deeper Slumber. The rock of the tunnel gradually became dense green vegetation. Yucta frowned “An underground forest?”. Landen just grinned. They emerged from the tunnel into a dense wood, filled with strange rustling sounds. Lying on the ground in front of them was the wild-looking shaman Tech-na-chuk-chuk-wakae-hazar, throwing dirt in the air. He sat up and peered at them, smiling crookedly.

The three dreamers shared their tales and soon realised that they all sought the dark stranger. They resolved to travel together. Not really knowing which way to go, they picked a path and headed off. While in the wood a strange orange serpent crossed their path, and Yucta freed a trapped Zoog. Eventually the wood thinned and they found themselves on the banks of a wide river. Tech-na said upstream. Landen said downstream. Yucta used his River Eyes and decided on upstream, so thence they travelled. They came upon a great temple with seven spires of emerald which spanned the river. Entering, they found four small pools surrounding a great central shaft, below which the river rushed. From these pools emerged four watery priests of the River God. Yucta heard his name as Zola Fel; the others might have heard another. When asked of the dark stranger the priests replied coldly that he had come that way a week past and stolen the River God’s pearl. They demanded that Yucta (as a River Voice of Zola Fel) return the pearl. Wearily, he agreed. Tech-na mused that the dark stranger seemed to have compressed time somehow, or perhaps time merely flowed in strange ways in the land of dream.

The travellers crossed the great river at the temple and now they needed to go downstream. Tech-na concentrated…and made real a boat with more than a slight resemblance to that pot, bobbing on the river. The three boarded the pot-boat and floated down the river (using some oars which Tech-na also dreamed up, and Yucta’s boating skill) singing

“Rub-a-dub-dub
Three Men in a Tub
And who d’ye think they’d be?”

That night they stayed in the barn of some river folk, a couple and their visiting granddaughter. The couple said that the dark stranger — who called himself the Boatman — had stayed in their hamlet and was heading downriver to Thran the Lovely. As they drifted to sleep on the warm hay Landen and Yucta overheard the grandmother telling a fairy story about how bad children are taken away by Vredni Vorastor, the Man in the Moon, to live in his mansion of bones and fungi.

Thran the Beautiful

Thran’s golden spires and impossibly high walls were visible long before they reached that city. There, a red-robed sentry demanded three impossible dreams in order to enter. Only Tech-na could come up with such, but the guard let slip that a merchants’ quarter on the far side of the walls was open to all. Tech-na entered and marveled, but the Boatman had not entered here. He rejoined his companions in the Merchant’s Quarter. Their quarry had indeed been there, drinking, brawling and causing a nuisance of himself. He had headed a few days ago to the great port of Hlanith, via elephant caravan through the Jungle of Kled. Landen managed to trade his PDA (which wasn’t working anyway) for passage aboard a ship to Hlanith, which would be much faster than a caravan. He even persuaded the ship captain to leave immediately.

Hlanith

Hlanith was a bustling port city famed for trade but little else among dreamers. Asking after the Boatman, the three were directed to the Yellow Minotaur Inn, which they found on the waterfront closed for repairs. The proprietor was within, but the place was a mess. The Boatman had stayed there, run up a huge bill, drunk excessively and started a fight which had caused the damage. In exchange for some help cleaning up the place the innkeep told them that the Boatman took a ship for Celephais only a couple of days ago. He even mentioned the name of a captain who might likewise take them to that timeless city. Yucta quickly sought out and found a few able bodied men that he hired to assist in the clean up of the inn and ensuring a timely departure.

next: On the trail of the Boatman

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"Troubled Waters" tenth session, 25th June 2010

The Black Pool

On the afternoon of the Mouse in Wolf’s Moon, a riverboat floated down the Zola Fel in the direction of Ogre Island and the broken ground nearby called the Devil’s Playground. On board were:

Beaching the boat on the west bank of the Zola Fel, the ‘River Voices’ and their companions (Teuche’esta remained with his boat) climbed the escarpment to the tumbled-down ruins overlooking Ogre Island, where the second geyser had erupted the night before. The source of the geyser was a crack in the earth, choked with rubble, but the group had brought picks and shovels. Within a couple of hours the hole was big enough to enter. A foul stench and a faint gibbering wailing sound wafted up from the darkness.

Yucta secured a rope which trailed down the black hole. Davros Thanatos went ahead. The shaft descended for about twenty-five metres then levelled out slightly. A great split or rift in the tunnel seemed to open out into a large cavern, from which the stench and the wailing noises emanated. The stench of gangrenous wounds was so bad it made Davros retch. Nimbly avoiding this rift, Thanatos followed the tunnel to where it submerged in black water which seemed to swallow the torchlight. He then returned to the stinking, wailing rift. Yucta had descended with his glowing globe strapped to his back and stood on the opposite side. Davros threw torches down to illuminate the cavern.

The cavern was large and its floor was composed of a series of limestone terraces, slick with moisture and slime. The source of the wailing was not yet visible in the light of the sputtering torch. Davros began a cautious descent from the tunnel. The floor was extraordinarily slippery, and Davros lost his footing more than once, but managed to right himself. Yucta followed cautiously, and the light from his glowing globe illuminated a hellish sight. At the bottom of the fifth terrace ledge, about fifteen metres down was a pool, black as blackness. Mindlessly milling around the pool were many stunted things, wailing like tormented infants. They would occasionally take bites out each other, or pause to feed on the corpses of the fallen. At one point, a huge arm-like tentacle emerged from the pool and swept three of the stunted things beneath its oily waters.

“Storm Bull! Storm Bull!” yelled Ockasiola the Zebran and his Chaos Hunters. They emerged from above following Kannan Kannanson, who deftly climbed down the terraces to join Thanatos a few metres above the ledge where the stunted manlings milled. As the Chaos Hunters stumbled and slipped and bumbled their way down the ledges, Davros observed large oozy bubbles emerging from the pool — the unmistakable outlines of gorp. Two medium sized gorp and two smaller ones oozed toward the ledge where the warriors were gathering. Kannan, being the best shot, grabbed flasks of purified water and began hurling them to good effect at the gorp. Davros flung a flaming oil jar at one of the smaller ones and it burned and exploded, unfortunately splashing all with vicious acid. Big Weho accidentally slipped off the ledge into the path of another large gorp emerging from the black waters, but managed to climb to safety while the heroes pelted the gorp with pure water until it too was destroyed.

With the gorp destroyed, the stunted wailing creatures were easy to kill with a few volleys of arrows from the assembled warriors, though Kannan slipped and accidentally wounded Ockasiola with an arrow. The dank cavern was suddenly, ominously quiet. Thanatos and Axotylata cautiously descended to to level of the pool. A narrow and dark passage led down and away beyond the pool, seemingly deep into the earth. Yucta followed it for quite a few metres before turning back. Both he and Davros knew that the thing in the black pool must be dealt with. “Sight be granted by Zola Fel,” whispered Davros as he plunged his scarred hands into the water.

The murky water became clear, and Davros could see at the bottom…something colossal; something hideous, covered with bud-like protuberances like eyes and monstrous jointed tentacles. At that moment Davros, Yucta and each of the warriors peering down from the ledge above heard in his mind a great voice. It spoke in an unknown language with a strange blasting musical quality, incomprehensibly moving. Davros and Yucta nodded to one another, invoked Zola Fel’s power of water breath. As they dived into the black pool, they saw Kannan Kannanson vault down, spear in hand, take a deep breath and dive in with them.

Six metres below the surface of that black water, the cool light of Yucta’s glowing globe illuminated a foulness which had not seen light for millennia. The three heroes attacked the monster, their minds filled with its insane magnificent babble. Davros thrust his rapier at its eye-like protuberances and Kannan pierced it repeatedly with his spear. Axotylata’s great mace was useless underwater; he poked at it with a borrowed spear. The ancient thing was far from defenceless. It battered them with its mighty tentacles, and directed spells at Davros which wracked his body. When Kannan Kannanson swam upwards to get a breath, a great tentacle swatted him like a fly and, unconscious, he began to drown. Another tentacle smashed against Yucta, breaking his ribs, and as he swam desparately the surface he saw another of the creature’s vile limbs strangle the life out of Davros Thanatos.

Yucta Axotylata surged from the pool and the cheers of the Chaos Hunters died on their lips. “Retreat!” he gasped. He felt Weho’s strong grasp and pain and he knew he was blacking out. Somehow through the haze of pain he stumbled and climbed was carried by someone and smelled the fresh air of the Big Rubble and he knew no more until he awoke on the temple barge of Zola Fel in Pavis.


Three weeks passed, and Yucta’s injuries healed, with the help of the Zola Fel worshippers and his own herbal poultices. Of Davros: “He is the Cleansed One and he is Glubaw Drowner,” intoned High Priest Chen. “He is safe in the bosom of great Zola Fel, who will take his spirit to the Heart of the Sea.” But Yucta did not believe it. For his friend’s sake rather than for the god, he planned the destruction of the thing in the pool.

With the help of High Priest Chen and Teuche’esta, Yucta recruited a squad of newtlings brave enough perhaps to face the denizen of that dark cave where Davros and Kannan had met their dooms. The most determined of these newtlings was Ge’hechya, who owed Davros Thanatos a life debt for saving his life at the gorp pool near Raus Fort.

A few days out from full Seed Moon, Yucta, Teuche’esta, Ockasiola and his Chaos hunters journeyed once more into the Big Rubble. Axotylata paid the Lunar tax without speaking, and he needed no ‘River Eyes’ to imagine his squad of newtlings swimming unseen below. They arrived at the Devil’s Playground and descended once more to the deep cave where the abomination lurked. A few small gorp and stunted manlings had formed on the lowest ledge, but they were easily dealt with by Ockasiola and his men. Yucta had armed himself with a two-handed spear. Upon his signal, he, Teuche’esta, Ge’hechya and the eleven other steadfast newtlings dived into the dark pool and impaled the vast monster with their tridents again and again until with a final mental shriek of rapture and terror it was no more.


Spring turned to summer and then autumn in the Year of the Titan, and no more gorp attacks took place. The menace was ended and there was celebration amongst the followers of Zola Fel. Their ‘River Voices’ (or voice, now) had saved them. Yucta’s fame grew in Pavis. His wealth too, for he had found many undissolved jewels and antiquities in the muck of the pool, treasures which his newtling allies had been all too pleased to smuggle upriver beneath the feet of the Lunar tax collectors. Some of this wealth he paid to Kannan’s widow. Chen followed through with his promise of free training, perhaps hoping that Axotylata would agree to become an initiate of Zola Fel. But Yucta was full of doubt. He did not trust the gods. Where had Zola Fel been when Davros Thanatos — who seemed to truly believe in him — was drowned and slaughtered far underground? No, he, Yucta Axotylata, would not serve such a one, or any fickle god. Or so he thought.

But the River of Cradles is long and Zola Fel is a patient god.

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"Troubled Waters" session nine, 28th May 2010

Ogre Island

Teuche’esta the newtling was ready with his boat in the dawn light of the Day of the Butterfly. Yucta Axotylata, Davros Thanatos and Kannan Kannanson boarded and passed beneath Pavis’ New Bridge into the ancient giant city known as Big Rubble. Their destination was Ogre Island, where there had been reports of mysterious rumblings and dead fish — perhaps the source of the Gorp menace.

The small boat had not gone far downriver when it was hailed and boarded by Lunar excise men in a boat with red moon sails. The excisemen warned about removing contraband from the Rubble. One of theLunars gave the Quarmallian a strange look and muttered something about ‘the slopes of Mount Gegesti’. Thanatos recognised this as a keyphrase used by former Quarmallian slave groups who (through subtle manipulation over generations and the use of false myths) desired to be once more controlled by their former masters. Thanatos replied with the phrase ‘the blood moon shone down upon me’ (from a Quarmallian childhood song) and watched the awe in the human’s eyes. He handed Davros a scroll, his “invoice” which also contained some scrawl in bad Quarmallian: ‘I will wait for you at moonrise at the Ogre Island temple. Come alone; the newtling and Sable barbarians cannot be trusted.’

The Lunar boat dropped astern. The Big Rubble seemed quiet enough as the boat drifted beneath ancient and seemingly indestructible bridges of stone, past the entrance to the mysterious Puzzle Canal to Ogre Island. The island was low and grassy, with marshy reeds on the west side. The trio disembarked and searched the island. The ruined temple was empty, but Thanatos saw signs of old black magic and a faint trail leading to the marshes on the west side of the island.

The sinkhole

Following the trail,Yucta spotted a mysterious limestone plug, two metres in diameter and obviously artificial, lying on its side in the reeds. Nearby was a swirling whirlpool just below the surface of the river. A two metre wide hole, smooth but lined with disturbing tooth and claw-like gouge marks, plunged straight down into watery darkness.The three lunched on the grassy bank while they considered their next move.

The sun dipped towards the west and shadows lengthened. The water ebbed slightly so that the sinkhole was visible. Yucta was determined to investigate. With a rope tied to the limestone plug and held by Thanatos, Kannanson and Teuche’esta, Yucta used the enchantments of his stigmata and lowered himself to the lip of the whirlpool. The buffeting current forced him down, smashing him against the walls. He had brought his magical light globe to see in the pitch black water.After a minute or so of fast downwards movement he reached an intersection. He peered up each tunnel but reached the limit of the rope. Kannan, Davros and the newtling laboriously hauled him up against the strong current.

When Yucta had been safely hauled to shore, the three discussed his findings. Only Yucta and Davros could enter and explore this tunnel; Kannan could not breathe underwater. Perhaps some help would be required. In any case a return to Pavis was now necessary, to bless Yucta’s stigmata and restore his power. But there was still the matter of the meeting at moonrise with the Lunar official.

Meeting with the Moon Watcher

The night was dark in the tumbled ruins of the Ogre temple. Dark-hooded Davros Thanatos waited quietly on the central steps, holding a lantern. Nearby, hiding behind a broken-down wall, lurked Yucta and Kannan, the latter barely restrained from charging out by the former. At moonrise, a cowled figure approached and knelt before Thanatos. “Master, tell me your orders,” he said. Thanatos interrogated him. He was of a sub-cult of the Moon Goddess known as the Moon Watchers, who secretly awaited the return of the Quarmallians. He knew nothing of the Gorp plague, and Thanatos dismissed him, having ordered him to discover more about it.

327px grand geyser and vent geyser in yellowstone national park

Shortly after the fellow departed, a great rumbling shook the earth.Thanatos, Yucta and Kannanson rushed out of the temple ruins to see a plume of water shoot out of the water to the west of the island,glinting in the light of the gibbous moon. As the trio rushed to higher ground to get a better look, Davros spotted another geyser across the Zola Fel to the west on higher ground known as the Devil’s Playground; and Yucta spotted clotted blobs in the near geyser —Gorp! The three tried to find their way to the second geyser but were blocked in the darkness by rough terrain. Nevertheless Davros Thanatos noted the spot.

Early the next morning, the three picked their way up the steep limestone ridges of the Devil’s playground to a ruin on the clifftop.There they found where the second geyser had erupted, from the wetness of the rocks and a foul smell of corruption. But this second geyser entrance was choked with rubble which would take many man-hours to clear. Kannan suggested though did not heartily recommend enlisting the help of Ockasiola the Zebran (“a loud, impetuous, reckless fellow” according to Kannanson) and his Chaos Hunters, a bunch of similarly reckless and obtuse warriors he had recruited.

The three returned upriver to Pavis to get help. They found this Ockasiola in the Foaming Boot tavern in the Farmers’ Quarter with his ne’er do well colleagues. Kannan went in to recruit him, but returned empty-handed (well, with a tankard in one hand). Davros Thanatos entered the tavern and (revealing his flayed skin) convinced Ockasiola to accompany them. After stopping by the Zola Fel temple barge for a blessing from High Priest Chen, the three sailed into the Big Rubble again, this time with a boat full of warriors armed to the teeth.

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"Troubled Waters" session eight, 7th May 2010

The town of Pavis

Departing Harpoon, Grandad piloted the skiff with Yucta Axotylata, Davros Thanatos and Kannan Kannanson on board swiftly up the River of Cradles towards the city of Pavis. The river teemed with traffic and onlookers trying to catch a glimpse of the victorious River Voices. Two days after leaving Harpoon, the skiff approached the Big Rubble, a huge ruin built by giants. Lunar authorities searched the boat for contraband, then allowed it to pass. The river flowed through the ruin, beneath ancient and indestructible bridges built by forgotten folk; past Ogre Island, the Puzzle Canal and eventually out the other side, to Pavis.

Pavis was a new town built against the giant walls of the Big Rubble, and the biggest and busiest centre in the region. The Lunar conquerors were in evidence everywhere here and their red moon flags flew on all of the towers.

Grandad steered the skiff to the Temple Barge of Zola Fel, which was moored in the river outside the city. There, Davros and Yucta met Che’enshashan, the new newtling high priest of Zola Fel. He was in no way as impressive in person as the Reverend Sa’ar of Corflu. He welcomed the pair, examined the famous stigmata and heard their tale. But he had disappointing news: the colossal gorp at Harpoon had not been the last gorp sighting. The source of the gorp was still a mystery, and Che’en urged Thanatos and Axotylata to continue their search. The pair spent the night on the barge, an unusual honour for non-initiates of Zola Fel. Next morning, Grandad bid them farewell, and departed for Corflu. Che’en’s better-spoken human acolyte directed the pair to Ghanara Eberhell, a well-connected solicitor for the wealthy Ingilli family.

Eberhell was a man with knowledge of many people in Pavis’ society. He provided letters of introduction to Greyhame Finehand, scribe of the temple of knowledge, and a former newtling swimming champion, Teuche’esta of Badside. Davros Thanatos went to the Temple of Lankhor Mhy in the Public District to interview the former, and Yucta accompanied Kannan Kannanson to Badside (outside of the walls) to meet Teuche’esta, and also Kannan’s family.

Yucta and Kannan visited Kannan’s wife and two young daughters, and found Teuche’esta giving swimming classes by the riverside. Teuche’esta told Yucta that mysterious roaring sounds had been heard by his newtling friends around Ogre Island, and that many dead fish had been found there.

Davros Thanatos found Greyhame Finehand only somewhat helpful after his fee had been paid; he provided much information about Chaotic activity in the Big Rubble, but very little about gorp. Davros returned to the barge-temple, were he heard of the Ogre Island news from the Zola Fel acolytes. Meanwhile, Kannan spent the night with his family in Badside, and Yucta found solace with the exceptionally friendly staff of Goldfang’s Grotto, in the Riverside district.

The heroes spent the day of the Worm preparing for their expedition to Ogre Island. Yucta sourced the herbs he needed to purify water. Davros bought weapons, and (after using minor magic to distract the Blood Knives gang of Badside) arranged with Teuche’esta to ferry them to the island the next day.

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"Troubled Waters" session seven, 26th March 2010

The Battle of Harpoon

In the pre-dawn darkness of the Day of the Hawk, Grandad’s boat lay gently rocking at anchor at the Pool of Kinope. Suddenly, a fountain of chilly river water splashed over the side, shocking Kannan, Yucta and Davros into wakefulness. It was Brighteye, the giant catfish priest of Zola Fel. A fish had brought him word that a gigantic gorp as big as a temple had settled in the riverbed near the Sun County town of Harpoon. The famous spear thrower which gave the town its name had been fired several times at the monster but to no effect, and the Sun Dome soldiers were due to arrive in the town by noon. Brighteye drily suggested he would love to watch the great heroes deal with this menace. Within minutes, Grandad had the sloop ready for departure.

By early morning the skiff approached Harpoon. The air was rank and acidic as they caught sight of the gorp, fully 25 metres in diameter and partially blocking the river channel, surrounded by stripped trees and partially dissolved fishermens’ huts. The bluffs were lined with crowds of Sun Domers, and the military templars had set up a command tent at the top of the bluff. Sun Dome soldiers were everywhere.

Brighteye would not deal with the Sun Domers directly. Davros Thanatos approached the guards at the perimeter, and persuaded them to give him an audience with Lady Vega Goldbreath, militia leader of Sun County. She listened carefully and led the three heroes to the command tent, where their information was assessed by the full Sun Dome command. Although some of the commanders were skeptical, Thanatos and Yucta managed to persuade them that they were dealing with a breeder gorp like the one they had encountered in the pool with the Agimori. Davros told the council of the gorp’s weaknesses and the likely effects of its destruction.

The council discussed how to destroy it, how to protect from its acid damage, and how to destroy the micro gorp which would be released into the water upon its destruction. Brighteye provided magically purified water, and Yucta assisted Lady Vega’s bodyguard Alalia to rig the great spear thrower to be able to fling the water effectively. Davros Thanatos talked strategy for hunting the micro gorp, receiving the help from newtlings. Without delay, Lord Invictus of the Sun County Templars ordered the attack to commence.

With Yucta’s grenades of pure water, fire arrows and spells from the Sun Domers, the colossal gorp soon exploded, splashing acid all around. Beneath the waters of the river lurked Davros and Yucta, using the powers of their stigmata to breathe under water. Davros used his witch sight to help track the micro gorp, and the pair used leather bags to catch the acidic creatures and fling them to the bank, where they could be despatched by soldiers with flaming torches and swords. The huge gorp had been defeated.

Lady Vega awarded Thanatos, Yucta and Kannan with a golden wheel medal each, and the Sun Dome militia packed up and left Harpoon (with one backward glance from Alalia to Yucta as she departed). The riverfolk were far more expressive of their joy, celebrating their ‘River Voices’ deep into the night.

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