"Troubled Waters" first session, 26th June 2009

Davros Thanatos was tortured and flayed for daring to love a slave girl and defying his Quarmallian masters. He barely escaped dark Quarmall with his life. Meanwhile in secret Klesh, shaman and herbalist Yucta Axotylata was exiled from his jungle home for failing to save a dying elder. This unlikely pair met in the trackless wastes of the Southern Lankhmar Continent and found a strange kinship, or at least had no initial urge to slay one another. They journeyed to the banks of the wide Zola Fel river which flows south from the Mountains of Hunger to the Sea of Stars. While crossing it, their ferry was engulfed by a gigantic protoplasm of Chaos and all hope was lost.

Yucta awoke face down in mud, to find a troupe of apes attempting to pilfer his equipment. When he roared and waved his mace around the apes retreated. He noticed Davros nearby, unconscious in the mud, though there was no sign of either their boat or boatman. Neither of the men knew where they were, or even if they were still in Nehwon. The apes had a leader who could talk some man-speech. After some negotiation, the apes agreed to lead them downriver to Corflu, the nearest town. While following the apes, the pair noticed a trio of strange runes on each of their hands, seemingly tatooed with deep blue ink.

A boat appeared with two fishermen on board. Yucta hailed the boat, which picked them up. The apes departed into the reeds. Davros showed the fishermen the runes and told their tale. The fishermen were very excited. They thought that the runes were a sign from the river god Zola Fel. They suggested the adventurers visit the Reverend Sa’ar in Corflu.


"Troubled Waters" second session, 2nd August 2009

The Port of Corflu

In the rosy dawn light of the Day of the Minnow, Kannan Kannanson, proud warrior of Storm Bull surveyed the marshy delta of the River of Cradles. A single skiff was making its way downriver toward Corflu’s rocky outcrop. On board were two river folk and two strangers. One of these was a dark skinned fellow dressed in bedraggled feathers; the other hunched at the stern, draped in a tattered black robe. Kannan shrugged to himself, and returned to his post, guarding the Corflu Trade Alliance.

On board the skiff, Sarky pointed out the stockaded town of Corflu, ringed with imported timbers, while Dagis set a course to the north of the town, toward a collection of ramshackle huts. “We’ll take you to our houses; you’ll be safe there,” he said. Yucta Axotylata and Davros Thanatos were unconvinced, but they allowed themselves to be unloaded from the skiff and escorted by the river men to Sarky’s house, where they were greeted by Sarky’s wife and several children.

Dagis and Sarky suggested the pair remain indoors while they fetched the Reverend Sa’ar. Having not much better to do, the two complied. Davros requested some wine from his hosts.

As the sun climbed towards the zenith, Kannan Kannanson spotted a river man with a flagon of wine. He beckoned the man, who came reluctantly. Seeing the wine, Kannan felt like a drink, and he got what he demanded. He offered the man some wine too. Soon the wine flagon was empty, to the chagrin of the riverman, but Kannan gave him some coins to buy more. The riverman was not a habitual drinker. His tongue loosened and he told Kannan about the strangers with the mysterious stigmata. Slapping his new drinking buddy on the back, Kannan suggested they pay the newcomers a visit.

Dagis returned to the hut with the Reverend Sa’ar, a polite newtling. He had heard of the stigmata and, after comiserating with Yucta and Davros about their plight, examined their hands. What he saw made him sink to his haunches in a kind of reverie. "The reverend is thinking, " said Dagis. Presently, the reverend blinked and stood up. At that moment there was the sound of drunken singing, and Kannan Kannanson burst into the hut with one hand on a bottle and the other arm around Sarky’s shoulders.

Unfazed by this commotion, the Reverend Sa’ar spoke of a dream he had had, in which strangers appeared with marks such as those on Axotylata and Thanatos’ hands. He revealed that the marks were sometimes seen amongst the followers of the cult of the Cleansed One of the river god Zola Fel. They were the runes of Water, Movement and Harmony and they were magical (Davros’ witch sight confirmed this). Sa’ar did not know what the marks of the god were doing on the palms of these strangers. He urged Davros and Yucta, and even the somewhat stupefied Kannan to attend his evening ceremony at the Zola Fel temple in the reeds to the north of the town, and to seek more information from the Pool of Kinope in the New Bog in Sun County. With that he slipped away into the river waters.

The riverfolk were very excited by this news. They crowded around Yucta and Davros, wanting to touch the marks, now that the strangers were now River Voices and celebrities.The afternoon passed. Yucta analysed the local herbs and plants, brought to him in great piles by giggling children. Davros practised his riverfolk disguise with the help of Sarky’s family. When Kannan spotted Davros’ livid features he felt sympathetic for his past suffering. Thanatos however wanted no friendship or sympathy, only wine.

When evening came, Kannan, Davros and Yucta followed Sarky and Dagis to the Zola Fel temple, an open space in the reeds where a spring ran from a stone altar into the inlet. There were questioning looks toward the strangers until the Reverend Sa’ar appeared and gave his sermon.

The Cleansed One Hears the Voice of the River

“His eyes opened through the arts of the Three Bean Circus, the Cleansed One perceived the tragic perversion of his condition, and he despaired and would have destroyed himself. He wandered disconsolate and unknowing, and coming upon the river Zola Fel, he threw himself in the swift, deep waters that he might drown. He sank to the bottom, and tumbled along the river bottom, buffeted by the current. But miraculously, surrounded by darkness and despair, at the brink of death, he discovered within himself a mysterious hope and desire for life. His spirit cried out, and was answered by Zola Fel, for suddenly the Cleansed One could see through the dark river depths and could breathe the pure river waters.

“And he felt a hand grasp his right hand. The Cleansed One quailed, for he knew his nature was unclean, and he sensed the hand on his was pure, and he would withdraw in shame and fear, but the hand held him tight and drew him to the banks of the river. And then it seemed to him that on the river bank he slept the refreshing sleep of the pure and innocent, yet all that time his spirit was awake and speaking with a Voice. This Voice spoke to him of mysteries and quests, of tasks and trials, of duty and service, of paths that might be traveled to the Heart of the Sea and the secrets of purification that might be found in the Deep Waters.

“And when the Cleansed One awoke, he found he had new faith and purpose. And when he looked upon the palm of his right hand he saw the mark of the river god’s Runes, and knew whose hand had taken his in the darkness, and knew what Voice had spoken to him in sleep. And with the river god’s marks he also saw the Rune of Harmony, and knew that this mark was his own, the gift of the insights gathered from the Three Bean Circus. And by those marks on his hand he swore forever to be a friend to the river, and to serve it in gratitude for its gift of life and purpose.

“So you see how the Cleansed One swore to be a Voice of the River, to praise its gifts of life and purpose, and preach to all of their duty to serve the river and keep it pure, to respect its gifts that they might not be lost to waste and corruption, and to admonish those who through weakness of wit or poverty of spirit were blind to the great debt owed to Zola Fel by those who shared its bounty.”

As the Reverend Sa’ar spoke, he raised his palms. All of the worshippers did likewise, as did Yucta and Davros. The stigmata in their palms flashed with a radiant glow, causing quite a stir. While this was going on, Davros Thanatos felt a strange sense of familiarity. He became convinced that the story of the Cleansed One had urgent relevance to him. In a daze he allowed the worshippers to touch and kiss his hands. Yucta Axotylata allowed no such familiarity. In the lands of Klesh, priests were to be feared but not trusted.

After the service, Davros Thanatos eagerly pressed the Reverend Sa’ar for details about becoming an initiate of Zola Fel. Here was purpose! Back at Sarky’s house, Sa’ar told the adventurers that he had organised a boat for them north to the city of Pavis. He also asked a favour: to help hunt some mudsharks which had been terrorising his newtling followers in the swamp. The three agreed to help out.


"Troubled Waters" third session, 2nd October 2009

The Mudsharks’ Den

Early in the morning of the Day of the Turtle in Wolf’s Moon, a small boat slipped out of the port of Corflu and into the wetlands. On board were Davros Thanatos, Yucta Axotylata, Kannan Kannanson, the Reverend Sa’ar, and a few riverfolk including Sarky and Dagis. The boat passed several curious excavations in the swamp, but its destination was the den of the mudsharks which had been molesting newtling workers. Yucta, Kannan and Davros had agreed to hunt them down.

With the aid of the River Eyes magic of their stigmata, the heroes quickly located the entrance to the mudsharks’ lair. Swimming inside they emerged in a muddy cave with three entrances. Angry mudsharks emerged from each, amphibious, each as large as a man with a mouthful of sharp teeth. The three heroes stood shoulder to shoulder and fought the creatures. Kannan pierced one with his spear, Yucta smashed two with his great mace, and even Davros managed to injure one. The mudsharks were defeated. Yucta found an ancient Elven navigation globe in the mud, the remnant of a long vanished port.

Reverend Sa’ar and the riverfolk were very grateful. Cries of “River Voices” rang out at the celebration of the heroes’ victory. Newtling and riverfolk gifts filled their small boat.


"Troubled Waters" fourth session, 6th November 2009

Against the Current

Yucta, Davros and Kannan boarded ‘Grandpa’ Shing’s boat and set off from Corflu on the Day of the Newt with a good breeze. Grandpa was a cantankerous fellow who quickly put the three to work on the ship. He knew his boat and the river though, so his company was not too odious. That night they stayed with the fishermen of Lokazzi, where Davros told their tale again, building on rumours carried upstream by fish servants of Zola Fel.

The next day they entered the South Bog and progress slowed in a mire of channels. There they found the boy Greyreed and his intelligent otter companion Moonsilver. The otter’s den had been invaded by a gorp and the boy begged the three to help. The entrance to the otter’s den looked uninviting, a narrow muddy submerged hole in the bank, but Yucta dug a hole at the top to gain access to the den. Davros, Kannan and Yucta lowered themselves into the den and squeezed their way through the muddy crawlways. Davros got stuck in the crawlspace, but Kannan pushed him through to face the gorp. It was a small one, but it could only be harmed by fire, pure water or magic. The three had little enough of the latter, but Davros had a wineskin of purified water and each of them had flaming torches. Davros was injured, but the gorp was vanquished. The boy and the otter were overjoyed, and that night the three were hosted once more by grateful fisherfolk at Easy Ford.

The next day was uneventful. Yucta began to grow weary of his travelling companions. He walked by the river at nightfall near Five Eyes, but he could not shake his gloom. Why had this Zola Fel picked him, an unbeliever? He viewed the stigmata on his hands as an affliction. Davros Thanatos seemed to have embraced the river god, but Yucta viewed all gods with suspicion. He had seen what had happened in his homeland of Klesh.

The following day, the Day of the Scorpion, was ill-omened, overcast with bad winds. Everyone in the boat was subdued as they rowed hard against the current. Midafternoon they sighted plumes of dark smoke along the riverbank: distress signals, said Grandpa. They hurried to the source of the signals and found a fortified farmstead. The farmer’s shocked wife told the three that beastmen had abducted her son and one of her daughters. Her brother and husband had set off after them and she assumed all were dead (“Fools!” said Grandpa). Kannan, Yucta and Davros set off in pursuit. The trail took them up the escarpment on the river side. There they found the farmer, Tros half-dead from a fall (he was revived by Yucta), and his brother-in-law Gidet hiding in the cliffs from where they had been ambushed by beastmen. Following the trail they found the mutilated body of the boy. They continued following the beastmen’s tracks until nightfall.

"Troubled Waters" fifth session, 6th February 2010

Night of the Scorpion

Sunset on the Day of the Scorpion found Davros Thanatos, Yucta Axotylata, Kannan Kannanson at the top of parched limestone cliffs, carefully following the trail of a Beastman band who had abducted a farmer’s children. The farmer, Tros Gubrana and his brother-in-law Gidet Kevro, accompanied the trio.

Kannan held up his hand and pointed: two rat-men lookouts were visible on ridges near a streambed which divided the cliffs. Thanatos used sorcery to conceal himself and went to investigate. Sneaking through the disused passages of Quarmall was very different from picking his way over rocks and boulders. Thanatos found two caves. One seemed to contain herd beasts and carcasses; the stench was terrible. The other had eight Beastmen cackling and boasting around a fire, and a darkened second cave. After conferring with the others, Davros put his plan into action. He crept up on the first sentry and made short work of him with his strangle cord. Then he spied a third sentry; he too suffered a silent choking. The third sentry was on top of a ridge, and Thanatos could not approach stealthily. Davros ran him through with his rapier. He cried out, but was unheard in the cave below.

Kannan, Yucta, Tros and Gidet gathered outside the cave. Davros slipped past the Beastmen around the fire and investigated the second cave. When he lit a candle he saw a disgusting sight. A giant toadlike Beastman was raping the young daughter of the farmer. Davros charged, the toad-thing yelled and the Beastmen were alerted. Kannan, Yucta and the farmers prepared for battle and charged, after loosing a couple of volleys at the charging Beastmen.

Davros Thanatos traded blows with the Toad shaman. The toad-thing got the worst of it, so he leaped over Thanatos and into the main melee. There, pig- and dog-men battled with the heroes. Axotylata’s mighty mace felled beastmen here and there, including the toad shaman who tried to escape. Kannanson easily fended off blows, but found it hard to wield his spear in the close quarter fight. Tros (who had already been badly wounded by the beastmen) lost his life to a mighty maul swung by a Pig-man, and Gidet was impaled by a dog-man spear. Behind the pigs and dogs was Bigmouth, their fanatical leader, with a mouth full of sharp teeth, and a chicken beastman dropping rocks from above. Bigmouth ferociously attacked Yucta, but was slain by Kannanson’s spear. Greenpee the chicken man attacked Davros, but was killed by him.

The heroes were victorious, but a boy and his father were dead; the sister alive but shockingly abused and her uncle badly wounded. The group made their way slowly back to the homestead. On the way, they encountered the rescue party from Duke Raus’ fort. The mercenaries praised their efforts against the beastmen and offered the healing and hospitality of the Duke. The three left Gidet and the the girl at the homestead with Tros’ wife and, with Grandad carefully navigating by moonlight, made their way to Raus’ fort. After a very late but welcome meal in the mercs’ mess hall, they were granted an audience with the Duke. He was impressed with the trio’s bravery and he rewarded them for their efforts.

"Troubled Waters" sixth session, 6th March 2010

Pool of danger

Taking their leave of Duke Raus and his mercenaries, Davros Thanatos, Yucta Axotylata and Kannan Kannanson continued their journey upriver, stopping overnight at friendly fishing villages and telling their tale of the River Voices to eager listeners, Thanatos eagerly and with fervour; Axotylata more reluctantly.

A couple of days’ sail from Raus Fort the trio encountered an Agimori (a fierce and proud tribe known for their great strength and endurance) hunter who had found dead and dying newtlings by a pool. Accompanying the hunter inland, the three found the pool and the newtlings, and Thanatos managed to revive one with appropriate physicking. The newtling, Ge’hechya had tried to help his unfortunate friend when he was burned by acid in the pool, but had himself been overwhelmed. He prayed to Zola Fel and saw Davros Thanatos as his deliverer.

Peering into the pool with the power of Zola Fel, Davros spied a seemingly inert Gorp at the bottom. The heroes realised they must slay the gorp, but lacked holy water or fire which might work underwater. Yucta used his herbalism magic to locate a nearby plant which could purify the water over time. He, Kannan and the Agimori, Pachala, gathered the herbs while Davros escorted the injured newtling and the remains of his friend back to the boat. Yucta worked all afternoon and into the evening to prepare his herbs and place their distilled essence into the pool. That night, the potion took effect and there was a loud explosion in the middle of the night: the gorp had been destroyed. The three saw smaller gorp in the remains, and realised the thing had been some kind of breeder. They returned to the boat and the Agimori returned to his hunt.

Brighteye and the Pool of Kinope

Soon Grandad’s boat entered Sun County, a land of religious zealots and farmers. The boat was searched and they were allowed to pass. After a couple of days of bad weather, Grandad negotioated his boat through the quiet pools of the North Bog to the Pool of Kinope. There they met Brighteye, a giant catfish, who was also last priest of the cult of the Cleansed One. Brighteye was grumpy and peeved that Zola Fel’s attention had fallen on an outcast human and Quarmallian, but he grudgingly agreed to tell all he knew about the gorp plague, and to train either or both of the divinely visited heroes as initiates of the Cleansed One. Davros was excited by the idea; Axotylata far less so.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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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