Nehwon

The Savage North, session 4
Day of the Lizard, Harvest Moon, Year of the Titan

The Oracle of Crag Don

Inside the Long House of Crag Don the feasting continued. Medicine Woman Quinn beckoned to Yucta and the others. They followed her outside into the snow. They climbed the hill to the standing stones, where the great caldron bubbled over a fire maintained by two white-cloaked acolytes.

Quinn threw some herbs into the caldron (Yucta was unable to identify them) and breathed the fumes.

“You carry the skull of a wizard. Such things are always dangerous. This one is sought by Khaakht, the Ice Wizard, who would use it to bring woe and ice to Nehwon.”

“Let’s destroy it!” said Ockasiola

“Not a good idea,” replied the oracle. “A wizard’s bones sleep ever uneasy. Instead you should take it away from here, where Khaakht’s power is strong — lands too close to the ice and the land of Death. Take it somewhere warm, where life is all around. Somewhere Khaakht will be unable to perceive it.”

“The Jungle of Klesh, my homeland, is such a place.”, said Yucta uneasily.

Illik-Ving

Medicine Woman Quinn thanked the heroes for their efforts against the Wodemen, and offered them sleds and guides to take them to Cold Corner. The barbarians knew their lands well, and four days later they had descended the great plateau of the Cold Waste and arrived at Cold Corner, a meeting point of sorts between the barbarians and the folk of the Eight Cities. There the northerners left them. Yucta negotiated favourable terms as caravan guards on the way to Illik Ving.

“A good thing too,” one of the merchants muttered, “something terrible has happened to the Marshmallow route between Sarheenmar and Kleg Nar. The market has all but dried up. No wagons get through. Monsters in the woods. I heard of a wizard in a golden mask…” He lapsed into silence.

However neither wizards in golden masks nor floating globes of ice menaced the adventurers; the guard work was mundane and a week later they arrived in Illik Ving. It was a frontier town, not much to look at and smaller than Pavis, but a metropolis compared with what they had seen of late. They ate and slept well at the Double-Tusked Boar Inn.

The Forest Road

The party bought horses and set off south on the road to Kvarch Nar. The Great Forest closed about them. A couple of days later they heard cries for help and sinister laughter. A merchant was defending himself with a stick against three robed foes with sharp swords. They spun to face their new attackers and their faces were alien, sunken, corpselike. They were skilled with their blades but they were up against tough heroes. They did not flee but Blundar, Yucta, Ockasiola and Kee Ree cut them down. The merchant was grateful. His name was Mylo, a brandy seller of Kvarch Nar. He offered his hospitality if they were ever in that city.

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The Savage North, session 3

Day of the Minnow (2nd), Harvest Moon, Year of the Titan

The Cold Waste

Bandits of the pass

Griffin Pass was behind them. Yucta Axotylata, Ockasiola, Blundar and Kee-Ree Nigh Ran-ax observed the Cold Waste before them: a desolate land of snowy forests and hills. Behind a nearby boulder there came a noise and out stepped several bandits, natives of the area. They demanded a toll, but their smiles faded when they saw the toughened warriors before them, and the Icewyrm head they carried. The bandits melted away into the hills.

Crag Don

A day after meeting the bandits, a smallish eagle appeared, landed on a tree for a while, then flew off a short distance before landing again. Ockasiola took it as a sign from Storm Bull. They followed the bird to a raised mound which was clearly inhabited — or had been recently. Smoke rose from the hill and around and about were Northerner bodies and signs of a recent battle. The adventurers hurried to the hilltop. This was Crag Don, a holy place for the barbarians.

In the Druid’s hut

Ockasiola recalled that the Northmen were ruled by their women. Sure enough they found a wounded Great Druid being tended by her acolyte. The Druidess was Quinn: Medicine Woman. She told them that the mound had been attacked by Wodemen from the foothills. The Wodemen had taken prisoners, including Quinn’s neice Gwyneth. She urged the adventurers to give immediate chase, offering fresh horses. Ockasiola agreed at once. Quinn spoke to the eagle who had guided them here and it transformed into a bald man. He was a druid called Aranduil, who had accidentally been trapped in eagle form on the way here. He decided to join in the hunt for the Wodeman war party.

The Wodemen hunt

cibo00_Haida_Indian_Tattoo.pngA chill wind blew across the plain as the riders pursued their quarry. The tracks were easy to follow. Near the end of the day they spotted a dead Wodeman, his corpse withered sucked and drained by sorcery.

On the second day of the hunt they found the ashes of the Wodemen campfire and encountered two trappers who had seen the war party headed for the sinister Forest of Ayoon nearby.

The forest of Ayoon

Dusk was falling as they entered the darkening forest of Ayoon. They had not gone far when arrows started flying their way – from Wodeman sentries high in the trees. The sentries were quickly killed, but not before they sounded a warning. Blundar scaled a tree and spotted a clearing containing a mound of ancient standing stones. There were drum noises coming from the clearing.

Battle at the old mound

They entered the clearing. The shaman was there, wielding a huge sacrificial knife over the hostages, who were tied to the standing stones. With a roar the Wodemen charged over the crest to do battle! Ockasiola, Blundar, Yucta and Kee-Ree fought off the horde. Aranduil changed into eagle form and launched himself screaming at the shaman. The eagle raked the shaman with its talons, then transformed back into the druid and CRACK! broke the shaman’s arm with a blow from his quaterstaff. Meanwhile, the Wodemen were being beaten back in spite of their fanaticism. Soon all were dead, the shaman’s demonic ritual prevented and the prisoners freed.

Three days later the heroes returned to Crag Don, where a the druids prepared a feast in their honour.

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The Savage North, session 2

Day of the Squirrel (26th), Satyr’s Moon, Year of the Titan

Lost in the forest

The quiet snow-covered forest stretched all around. The three southerners were lost. The heavy clouds hung low. Yucta Ockasiola could not get his bearings. Blundar Oddly was a man of the soft cities; he knew only legends of the northlands. Ockasiola prayed to Storm Bull. A bolt of lightning from the heavy clouds overhead struck the forest somewhere ahead. A rumble of thunder followed.
“Thank you, Storm Bull!”

The others shrugged. One way was as good as another. They began to walk, picking their way between the trees with Krassius Vror’s horse and the sled carrying the Icewyrm’s head. Then the heavy rain came down.

The apple glade

After an uncomfortable night the skies cleared somewhat and the cold wind blew through the trees. At noon they came to a clearing. In the centre was a gnarled apple tree, lush with bright fruit. Around it were bright red poppies. Yucta was suspicious, especially when he spied a skull among the flowers. He would not set foot in the clearing. Ockasiola and Blundar saw the fruit and greatly desired some. Their food had been icewyrm steaks for days. Ockasiola shot an arrow; it pierced an apple and knocked it off the tree. Cautiously, Blundar ventured into the clearing to collect the fallen apple. He took a bite, and declared it delicious. Ockasiola tasted some too. By this time Yucta had made it around to the other side of the clearing with the sled, and was moving on. As Blundar stepped from the clearing with an uneaten apple in his pocket there was a rustling sound. Eight thin figures stepped forth from the trees, gnarled like wood. They carried shining swords which they had unsheathed from the bark of the nearby trees.

“Trespassers, none shall take the fruit of sacred Donya from the grove” came a voice like rustling leaves.

“We are very sorry. We meant no disrespect to holy Donya” replied Blundar, dropping the apple and motioning Ockasiola to do likewise. There was a pause, then the figures stepped back into the trees, mollified by his words.

The cold dead men

That night Satyr’s Moon was a mere sliver. Yucta stood on watch and thought he saw a dark globe pass in front of the moon. The night was so dark he did not see the figures until they were almost upon the campsite — eight eerie dead men creeping unnaturally through the snow. Yucta heard a rasping whisper: “Give us the skull.” He shouted a warning and the others struggled to their feet as the zombies attacked. Ockasiola was slow and a zombie clubbed him badly. Yucta swung his mace at the attackers. He was confident he could send several back to Hell but eight against three? He didn’t like those odds.

The whirling blades of Kee-Ree nigh-Rahn-ax

From out of the night came a cry, and a fresh attacker launched himself at the zombies, whirling his blade so fast it was mesmerising. The newcomer was fast, very fast, and between the four of them the zombies were soon dismembered and twitching on the snow.

Fellow traveller

The stranger was Kee-Ree nigh-Rahn-ax, a demon hunter from the Eastern Lands. He was short, dark-skinned and always moving. His family had been killed by demons and he had dedicated his life to their destruction. In such pursuit he had been transported by a magical portal to these frozen lands. Certainly he seemed ill-dressed for these cold woods, though he claimed not to feel the cold. Nevertheless he was grateful to share the fire.
mountain_range_300wide.png

Griffin Pass

griffin.pngOver the next few days the land gradually rose and sheer mountains loomed ahead. Fortunately, there was a pass dead ahead. The four spotted a huge nest up on the cliff side. Although they moved cautiously, it wasn’t long before the owners of the nest — two enormous Griffins — came to investigate. A shot from Blundar’s Arbalest and a Flame Arrow from Ockasiola was enough to frighten them away however.

The hanged man

The pass led through a high-walled valley, a little warmer and greener than the cold forest they had traversed. Near the entrance to the valley a bloated, unrecognisable corpse hung from a tree. Civilisation, of a sort, then?

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The Savage North, session 1

Day of the Bat (25th), Satyr’s Moon, Year of the Titan

Into the forest

Yucta Axotylata helped Krassius-Vror to rig up a small sled. They loaded the Icewyrm’s head upon it. Krassius was keen to get moving back to town to claim his reward. The party set off into the vast snowy forest which surrounded the ruins of Olathoe. The snow crunched underfoot as they made their way slowly through the still, white woods. Evening came down quickly, and the chilly stars began to come out. It was time to make camp.

Spiders of Leng

They took watches. On Blundar’s watch, he sniffed the cold air. Something was not right. He looked up and saw five gigantic purplish spiders — each as big as a small room — descending quietly from the trees. He shouted a warning and loosed his loaded arbalest at one of the monsters — splattering its abdomen. Krassius-Vror hurled an axe and a second spider retreated, dripping green ichor. The remaining spiders squirted sticky webs which covered Yucta, Ockasiola and Blundar.

“The Spiders of Leng!” cried Tech-na as he jumped back from the webs. Then the spiders were upon them.

Krassius-Vror and Tech-na found themselves fighting for their lives while the others struggled to free themselves. Krassius-Vror nimbly dodged the poisonous mandibles and Tech-na interposed his staff. Blundar ripped the webs from himself and impaled one of the spiders with his rapier. It shrieked and turned to flee, dripping green goo from the wound. But then — disaster! Just as Ockasiola was struggling free Krassius-Vror tripped and fell on his back and the spider was upon him, biting and stinging. Krassius arched his back in agony and green foam came from his mouth. He was dead. Tech-na was distracted by the sight and the second spider bit him too. Agony wracked him from the poison and he knew no more.

Finally Yucta escaped from the webs and he, Blundar and Ockasiola killed one spider and drove off the other. The spiders retreated into the tree tops. Enraged, Yucta lit a huge fire at the base of the tree, but the spiders were no longer visible. They had disappeared back to the dream dimension.

Dreams up in smoke

The three survivors of the attack watched as the pyre consumed the bodies of their companions. Tech-na chuk chuk Wakae Hazar who had voyaged to the Moon and seen Thran the Beautiful was no more. Krassius-Vror’s dreams of wealth were at an end also. Yucta took the rune-engraved sorcerer’s skull and Tech-na’s pebble ring from Sarnath. Ockasiola took his sacred staff.

The next day, the ashes were cold. Yucta Axotylata, Blundar Oddly and Ockasiola the Zebran trudged onwards into the snow without looking back.

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Horn Gate, session #4, 30th August 2013
Day of the Shrew (24th), Satyr's Moon, Year of the Titan

Horn Gate, Ice-cursed

The stone box

Once again, Tech-na examined the runes which covered the stone box in the star chamber below the cold ruins of Olathoe. They were definitely magical, and they matched those on the shields of the warrior frescoes which surrounded the chamber. Blundar Oddly stepped forward and cast a spell of trap detection. “It’s trapped —” he said, before slumping into unconsciousness. Either the spell had worn him out or something particularly sinister was in the air.

Ockasiola watched Blundar until he awoke. Meanwhile, Krassius-Vror wandered back the dead Icewyrm to hack off its head. Yucta Axotylata also tried to harvest as many dragon parts as practical for potions.

When they returned to the star chamber, Oddly had regained consciousness. Krassius-Vror strode forward impatiently and reached for the box lid. He opened it a crack, then staggered back with a brief screeching in his brain. The lid fell closed, but he noticed that the box was moveable. He pushed at it and there was a grumbling sound. The stone frescoes stepped out of the wall as armoured warriors!

Stone warriors attack

Cold blue lights burned behind the warriors’ helms. Krassius-Vror leapt on to the stone box as the warriors advanced — all except for one which succumbed to Ockasiola’s Glue spell. The magical warriors fought grimly and defended well. They wounded Ockasiola and Blundar. But back-to-back the adventurers cut down one, then another until all lay in piles of rubble and the walls were blank. It had been a tough fight though and Tech-na suggested they rest and return the following day. They returned to the cold air above and sheltered in the necromancer’s tower. The night was quiet.

The sorcerer’s skull

Ben tatoo skullThe next day they returned to the stone box. Krassius, Ockasiola and Yucta heaved the lid off. A ball of flame engulfed Krassius as the others leapt clear. Krassius screamed and rolled about on the floor. The others succeeded in dousing the flames and tending to his serious burns. The box lid lay on the floor. In the box was an old skull, covered all over with mysterious runes. The skull of Anothep-Soth! Tech-na recognised the name as that of a powerful sorcerer of the Li’Tan order, a group of wizards who travelled to the Dreamlands and beyond. He thought such a skull might be useful, so he tried ventriloquism to make the skull appear to talk. But the others saw his lips move. They laughed, but let him take the skull anyway.

Ghost of the watchtower

Before they left the ruins, the adventurers investigated the lone tower beyond the ruins, which seemed to be intact. It was some way beyond the city ruins toward the mountain pass. Piles of rubble marked with strange faces covered the door. Tekna recognised the faces as warning masks made by the Inutos, a savage northern people long gone. Krassius and the others cleared the rubble, while Blundar deftly scaled the wall (still wearing his armour), peered through the dark window, slipped and fell heavily on top of Ockasiola. The doorway was cleared, revealing a dark stone staircase winding up the inside of a hollow tower. They climbed to the battlement at the top. There, a hollow-eyed ghost stood, with sword and spear of ancient appearance.

“I was the watchman of the city of Olathoe, last outpost of Lomar,” sighed the ghost. “Magic made me sleep at my post when the Inutos attacked, and now I am doomed to stand at my post forever.”

“How can we help you, spirit?” asked Yucta

“There is no way.”

“What about this skull?” asked Tech-na.

The ghost said: “That is the skull of Anothep-Soth, who opened a gate for the people of Olathoe to escape when the Inutos came. The Inutos’ master, the wizard-thing Khahkht sought him here.”

“Wizard thing?” Yucta queried, rolling his eyes. But there was no more answer from the ghost, so they left it and descended the tower.

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Horn Gate, session #3, 2nd August 2013
Night of the Mole (23rd), Satyr's Moon, Year of the Titan

Horn Gate Traversed

The gate chamber

The corridor was wide enough for all four of them to walk abreast: Yucta Axotylata, Ockasiola the Zebran, Blundar Oddly and Tech-na Chuk Chuk Wakae Hazar walked cautiously forward into darkness, softly illuminated by Yucta’s magic globe.

They came at length into a domed chamber whose roof glittered with crystalline deposits. In the centre of the chamber was some sort of gray monolith. Before they could observe more, there was a shimmering in the air and thirteen green translucent humanoids materialised and charged!

“Beings of Ib. They destroyed Sarnath!” muttered Tech-na as he readied his staff. Yucta, Blundar and Ockasiola swung their weapons at the things. The Beings of Ib fought and died silently, spurting green ichor from their wounds on to the ancient cavern’s floor. All was still once more.

Through the gate

The far side of the stone monolith had a dark trapezoidal opening about as wide as a man. Yucta’s light could not illuminate it. Tech-na translated some of the runes on the obelisk, and confirmed it was a gate to – somewhere.
“Why don’t you go into it then?” asked Yucta, half-jokingly.
Tech-na shrugged. “I’ve already been transported through time, space and stranger dimensions. Why not?” and with that he stepped through the dark gate and was gone.
Ockasiola turned to Blundar “Let us go and fight Chaos. For Storm Bu-”
His voice cut off abruptly as he disappeared into the portal.
Blundar figured no one would know him or his deeds in another world. He stepped through.

Yucta paused for a long moment before reluctantly following them.

Mountain range 300wide

Ruins of Olathoe

Yucta blinked in the sudden daylight, grey and leaden as it was. A cold wind blew across the marble ruins of a city. The dark grey sky hung low over distant dark mountains. The wind was freezing; he shivered. His companions were nearby, rubbing their eyes.

The mercenary

Krassius Vror heard voices, and he stalked to investigate a round plaza among the tumbled walls of the ruin. He had walked for days since the cursed minstrel had died, choking on poisoned mushrooms of the forest. This was the place though, where the Beast he hunted laired, or so the minstrel had hinted. Krassius saw a strange collection of folk. A Kleshite with elaborate headdress and a huge spiked mace; a weird-looking man with wild hair and tattered robes; a barbarian with black and white spiky hair; and a well-dressed (yet poorly for northern weather – all of them in fact) mercenary type. He greeted them. He didn’t understand a lot of their reply, but all agreed that night was coming on and it would be well to find shelter in one of the semi-intact towers ahead.

The inner sanctum

The ancient citadel was burned and collapsed, but the walls and a couple of towers still stood silhoutted against the dark sky. The walls had many gaps, and a huge pile of rubble allowed access to the former inner keep. Near the wall were two mutilated warriors’ corpses. Krassius Vror tethered his horse and cautiously scrambled over the rubble, followed closely by the intrepid gate travellers. He literally stumbled over two more headless corpses, about a week or two old. Below him was the former hall, now roofless. In the center was a squat, tentacular sculpture of some vile deity. And twelve skeleton warriors moved jerkily toward Krassius, weapons drawn. Blundar Oddly looked at his slim rapier, then plucked a battle axe from one of the corpses at his feet. Then he charged with the others into battle. The battle was swift and the skeletons were quickly destroyed, but Blundar’s lack of skill with the battle ax caused him to accidentally wound Ockasiola.

The necromancer

Having vanquished the skeletons, the adventurers saw movement in the ruined tower and ran to investigate. They soon found a fearful necromancer, who could only stammer that he was looking for something for his master when he suddenly fell dead, his skin rimed with frost. Tech-na knew powerful magic when he sensed it. They lit a fire in the tower and Krassius shared some of his food. They settled down to rest, taking watches. They heard strange high-pitched shrieks but were unmolested.

Lair of the Icewyrm

The next day, the group ventured into the cold dawn light to the dark ruin of the second tower. A great foul-smelling hole descended into the dark. Lowering themselves carefully they found themselves in a large black-marbled hall. They entered a corridor lined with old statues. With a hiss a great dragon head emerged from the darkened end of the passage — an Icewyrm!

Attack of the Icewyrm

Icewyrm corridor
The Icewyrm breathed a cloud of choking, freezing crystals, enveloping all. Yucta and his friends began to cough and choke. Blundar fired his arbalest with a mighty report. The wyrm roared. Yucta slammed it with his mace and Ockasiola slashed at it wildly, his vision blurring as liquid filled his lungs. The dragon opened its jaws wide and Yucta struck it dead with a mighty swing from his mace. The choking cloud dispersed and the victorious adventurers looked around at each other weakly.

The star chamber

The Icewyrm had partially emerged from a deep pit filled with the skulls and bones of the wyrm’s victims. After a long search Ockasiola found an ancient star-signed pendant and not much else. Beyond the pit the corridor continued to a cave-in, but it was possible to wriggle through and descend some steps into a large domed circular chamber whose roof glittered with a star map of semi-precious stones. Around the walls were statues of warriors of the old empire in full armour. In the centre of the room was a square stone chest, covered with runes. Tech-na translated the runes as best he could, and declared that the box contained the skull of a long-dead wizard, Anothep-Soth.Elder sign nubldoff 01r

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Horn Gate, session #2, 5th April 2013
Day of the Swan (22nd), Satyr's Moon, Year of the Titan

Horn Gate Revealed

Tech-na’s dream

As the waning moon rose over the oasis of Horn Gate, Tech-na dreamed. He dreamed of a little girl and a wizard of the blue-eyed folk. He dreamed that the mystery of Horn Gate might be revealed with persistence.

He awoke, and decided to stick around for a while. That meant getting rid of Duke Raus’ henchman Daine.

The bones don’t (always) lie

Yucta told his plan to the others, who agreed. Yucta, Blundar and Ockasiola disdained Duke Raus’ offer. Yucta prepared some hallucinogenic herbs to put in Daine’s food, but he couldn’t slip it past Daine’s mercenaries. Meanwhile, Tech-na put on a great performance of chanting in strange voices, smearing his face with ash and throwing the bones. He warned Daine about omens. Daine was unmoved, although his mercs were somewhat flustered. Daine departed Horn Gate, not to anyone’s great displeasure.

A day in the life at Horn Gate

Horn Gate was a bustling town of about a thousand. Ockasiola spent his day at the Bazaar, watching passerby. Yucta returned to the hill, where he questioned the Healers about the caves and the blue-eyed folk. Tech-na prepared himself for a night of dreaming, crafting effigies of reeds which he concealed that evening in the blue-eyed hetman’s hut.

Portentious dreams

That night, Tech-na directed his dream self first to Daine, camped out on the plain to the west. Tech-na mischievously filled Daine’s dreams with trouble and foreboding. Then he dreamed his way to the hetman’s hut. Once more He saw the little girl, the hetman’s daughter and the wizard. The wizard grinned at Tech-na: “Show me your power!” he said.

The messenger

The next morning, the little blue-eyed girl waited patiently at the tent flap. She was probably about seven. She motioned for Tech-na to follow. In the street, a couple of Sables swaggered past, kings of the oasis. They shoved the little girl aside so that she fell. Tech-na tripped one of the Sables, trying to make it look like an accident. The Sables stood up menacingly. Ockasiola sucker-punched one of the Sables and he fell in the dust. “Better take your friend and get out of here.” The Sable backed off, dragging his unconscious friend.

“They won’t like that,” whispered a passerby. Yucta ignored him and they continued out of the walls to the huts of the blue-eyed folk.

The wizard

The girl led Tech-na and the others to a decrepit hut on the edge of the village, she motioned to Tech-na and pointed inside. Curlicues of smoke drifted from the windows. Tech-na ducked under the partway collapsed door frame and entered. Inside was a crazy-looking and smelling old man smoking some kind of choking weed. It was the wizard. He offered some to Tech-na, who managed to take two lungfuls without collapsing into unconsciousness. Impressed, the wizard offered to take Tech-na (and reluctantly, Yucta and Ockasiola but not Blundar) to his secret family cave on the hillside.

The ascent

Nicubunu rpg map symbols cave entranceLeaving Blundar at the hut, the three ascended the rocky hill above the Horn Gate settlement. In spite or perhaps because of the powerful narcotic he had smoked, Tech-na bounded up the hill like a mountain goat, while Yucta and Ockasiola struggled up some way behind. In the late afternoon they reached a spot some way up the hillside. The wizard stopped, and communicated to Tech-na that this was the place. He pulled a chicken from beneath his robes and proceeded to slit its throat. Then he made a fire and sat gently rocking while he cooked it. Tech-na, Yucta and Ockasiola wandered away. Time passed and the sun sank lower across the river valley.

The cave

When night fell, the wizard was ready. He offered some cooked chicken to the three, then showed them a crack in the rock which none had seen before. They lowered themselves into the crack and found themselves in a low cave, dimly lit by the light of Yucta’s glowing globe. The wizard proudly showed them the various small statuettes in his family cave. Then he pointed to a hole at the back. “Not mine.”

The lost tunnel

Elder sign nubldoff 01rYucta peered through the hole and found himself looking down a pile of rubble into a larger tunnel, this time of worked stone very different to the cave above. The three scrambled down and found themselves in a wide tunnel, partly blocked with rubble on one side, leading into darkness on the other. On the ground was a loose greenish oval stone with a strange star-like design upon it.

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Interlude: Wandering in Prax, 8th March 2013
Day of the Skunk (16th), Satyr's Moon, Year of the Titan

Journey to Horn Gate

No such thing as a Free Lunch (in Nehwon)

Landen Donovan wasted no more time in Nehwon. He had the information he needed from Feroza, so Tech-na guided him to the riverbank beneath the full moon to return him to the Dreamlands with the black stone.

Tech-na returned to Duke Raus’ fort alone.

Duke Raus’ offer

The next day, Tech-na, Yucta, Ockasiola the Zebran and Blundar Oddly were granted an audience with Duke Raus. He was impressed with their efforts, and offered them his standard mercenary contract. Unfortunately for Raus, the adventurers refused his offer, as politely as they could. Nevertheless, the Duke invited them to tour his domain with his second-in-command Daine (perhaps so they might reconsider). This offer they accepted. Daine outlined their route. The first stop was the oasis of Horn Gate. Although a stranger to Prax, Tech-na had heard of this place, supposedly a holy place with ruins which extended deep into the mountain. It sounded interesting so the adventurers saddled up and rode out the next day, leaving Feroza to fend for himself.

The High Llama Riders

The trip across the dusty plains west of the River of Cradles took four days. On the way they met a group of High Llama Riders, searching for their lost kinsmen. Like Ockasiola they were followers of Storm Bull, so the tribesmen left in peace.

Horn Gate

Warszawianka date palmThe oasis was a bustling place with white walls. Inside the walls were many conical mud huts of a strange tribe of blue-eyed folk, farmers who produced food for their masters of the Sable Tribe. Daine went to deal with the Sables and was not back for most of the day. Yucta, Tech-na, Ockasiola and Blundar wandered up to the bone-bleached ruins on the hillside.

Healer in the ruins

In the ruins the four encountered a procession of white-robed women. Yucta recognised them as healers from the Chalana Arroy cult. The lead woman spoke to them. She said her cult had been exiled from Pavis for a disagreement with the Lunars, and had found peace here at this oasis. She offered healing for any who needed it. Yucta asked about the caves and the ruins; she replied that there were many caves, but few went far.

After the healers had departed, Yucta and the others searched the hillside for caves, entering a few. Inside they found mysterious bundles of flat stones wrapped with reeds, but no long tunnels or caverns.

Hetman of the blue-eyed folk

The blue-eyed folk seemed very servile. They fetched and carried for the Sables, who treated them with contempt. Ockasiola and Yucta tried to talk with a hetman about the caves. Language was a problem; the language of the blue-eyes was like no other, though the hetman showed some interest when Tech-na babbled in Mnarish. The hetman was evasive and claimed he did not understand, then brought some herbs and fruits for the group. Yucta sensed that the man knew more, but could see no way to glean more information.

The Sable feast

Daine returned and informed the adventurers that his business was complete and that there would be a feast that night. All attended. Wine flowed freely and Yucta wandered outside to the oasis, illuminated by the waning moon.

Sight be granted by Zola Fel,” he whispered, plunging his hands into the cool water. The moonlight filtered down through the clear water. He saw fish, lilies, but no underground water tunnels. Where were these caverns?

Next: Horn Gate Revealed

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Lord of Three Lands, tenth session, 30th November 2012
Day of the Dove (12th), Satyr's Moon, Year of the Titan

Riverside, Pavis

From the river bank came a snort. Tech-na-Chuk-Chuk-Wakae-Hazar sat up in the reeds. He showed no surprise at being transported through time and space and stranger dimensions to the River of Cradles — unlike Landen Donovan who stared glumly at Yucta Axotylata. Dawn was breaking, and Yucta immediately set out for the floating barge-shrine of Zola Fel, moored as usual near the Pavis city walls. By good fortune Grandpa Shing was there with his boat. He quickly agreed to transport Yucta and his friends downriver to Weis, where they could seek the cave where Feroza lay imprisoned.

Badside, Pavis

Ockasiola the Zebran stormed out of the Badside pub. His Chaos Hunters had point-blank refused to leave Pavis. They would be back, they would come crawling. But for now he was on his own. Well almost. A well-dressed warrior had come out with him. “Blundar Oddly, I told you the Chaos Hunters will never accept you, not after all those things you did with your sister,” Ockasiola said sternly. Blundar looked glum. “I’ve really got to get out of this place.” Ockasiola glanced over at the Zola Fel Temple barge in the middle of the river — and saw his old friend Yucta Axotylata. He waved. Minutes later he and Oddly had crossed the great water and they were boarding Grandpa Shing’s boat for the journey south.

Downstream with Grandpa Shing

BateauOf course, travel downriver was much smoother than the upstream journey. Grandpa Shing approved of Yucta’s improved sailing skills. They passed the town of Harpoon where Yucta had helped to defeat the colossal gorp, and he wondered what the Sun Domer Alalia was doing. That night they stayed with some river folk, and Yucta felt obliged (at Grandpa Shing’s prompting) to tell their eager hosts tales of the River Voices.

Raus Fort

On the following day (Falcon) the boat arrived at Raus Fort. Duke Raus granted them an audience. When he heard Yucta’s tale the Duke offered the services of a guide: a mercenary named Gregor the Just-in-time, who knew the way to Pola Stead.

Pola Stead

Pola Stead was located in Vulture Country, a dry plateau above the river. It was quite a climb and Ockasiola had to leave his zebra at Raus Fort. The stead looked innocuous enough: a few buildings surrounded by a stockade. Yucta pounded on the door. It was answered by a bemused-looking man in his fifties, the homesteader Nanni Pola. Two of his grown sons were nearby, along with several vacant-looking slaves. Yucta marched in and demanded the release of Feroza. The farmer denied all knowledge, but Yucta saw that he was lying.

The farmhouse

Tech-na and Landen went to search the farmhouse. Pola and his boys looked tense. Inside was Pola’s wife Aliuma; Tech-na convinced her to join her husband outside. In the cellar of the house was a low but wide crevice which led downwards into the earth. Tech-na investigated some distance with Landen’s flashlight. On the way back he spied a hidden larder, filled with human remains. They returned to the yard and confronted the Polas with their discovery. Instantly the farmsteaders drew knives and attacked the mercenaries.

Knife fight

Hand with knifeNanni Pola and his sons were surprisingly agile and skilled with their daggers. Aliuma also drew a knife and attempted to stab the shocked guide Gregor. Nanni Pola dodged Yucta’s mighty mace and plunged his dagger into Yucta’s stomach, staggering him. Nanni’s son Kennona slashed Ockasiola and he fell bleeding in the dirt. Tech-na slung sling pellets and Landen fired his stun pistol but to no avail. Blundar Oddly did not flinch. His rapier stabbed first one farmsteader, then another. He even managed to dodge his adversary and heal Yucta. But things looked bad for the mercenaries until Tech-na used some pyrotechnics to distract their opponents, and Landen conquered his fears of hand-to-hand combat and charged in with his vibro-knife. Soon the farmsteaders (or Ogres?) lay dead all around, though plenty of merc blood also stained the yard.

The black cave

They patched up their wounds, and then crawled into the crevice below the Pola’s farmstead. They wormed their way into the earth. The ceiling was no higher than forty centimetres, though the tunnel was quite wide. After about thirty metres they found themselves in a cave with a floor covered in bubbling muck. Ockasiola noticed submerged ledges. Yucta had just set foot on one when he saw the unmistakable signs of a submerged gorp approaching. However it was a fairly easy matter to evade the creature. Beyond the muck cave was another, where many candles burned and a great throne had been constructed among the stalagmites. Tech-na sensed that this cave was a nexus to the Dreamlands. Chained to a stone in front of the throne was a hunched form, bearded and dirty but unmistakeably Feroza. He grinned through cracked lips. “I knew you would come.”

The wounded mercenaries made their way slowly down the escarpment to the river. They boarded Grandpa Shing’s waiting boat and set sail for Raus Fort. The full moon rose and was reflected in the dark waters so that the little boat seemed to be travelling in space between two worlds.
Full moon luc viatour by merlin2525

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Lord of Three Lands, 9th session, 28th September 2012

The Four Who Returned

Partings at Dylath-Leen

The dreamers and the dreamed parted ways at Dylath-Leen. Captain Ow’ney and Jeth Sinterlaine happily took possession of the black cog. Sir Thrakus departed for Celepha├»s to report of his adventure to King Kuranes. The four waking-worlders Yucta Axotylata, Landen Donovan, Tech-na Chuk Chuk Wakae Hazar and Feroza the Boatman took the north road along the River Skai. They passed pleasant fields and farmhouses on the way to Ulthar, city of cats. Tech-na wondered briefly if he should visit the House of the Blue Door to present the boatman to Grandfather Wai’ii, but decided against it. The man was a charlatan, not the true Watcher Between Worlds. They continued towards the Enchanted Wood.

Return to the Temple of Kiran

The four skirted the Enchanted Wood to return to the River God’s temple, there to return the pearl. The four watery priests appeared, as did an aspect of Zola Fel (?) Himself. He rebuked Feroza for stealing the pearl, punishing him with a mild curse. Then he disappeared. Yucta was nonplussed with the god’s behaviour.

The Fears of Feroza

The travellers re-entered the deep shade of the Enchanted Wood, where they had met for the first time seventy-four nights past. As they made their way towards the old hollow oak (Tech-na remembered a certain kind of luminous fungus which grew near) Feroza became more and more agitated. Finally, he bolted. Landen had been expecting something of the kind — he spun around and blasted the wayward Boatman with his stun pistol. There was an arc of energy. an ozone smell among the forest scents of moss and slowly rotting leaves, and Feroza fell rigidly to the ground. When he recovered he found himself pinned to the ground by Yucta. “You’re coming with us,” he said.

Feroza pleaded: “Please, I can’t go back. In the waking world I am imprisoned in a dark hole beneath the earth. You are the only ones who even know that I am there. It is Pola Stead, in the Grantlands, but a few miles from Weiss. Please, you must save me in the waking world as you have saved me here.”

“Must?” Yucta was unimpressed. “You have led us on a merry chase through this world and now you ask for more?”

“Please, I owe you my life, twice over.”

“Get moving.” Yucta grabbed Feroza and pulled him towards the door in the oak tree.

Departure Hall: The Cavern of Flame

The Cavern of Flame was as they had left it. The two priests Nasht and Kaman-Thah were clearly surprised at their return.

“You have the stone and the man. You have done well. You may now return to the waking world. But beware of the One who seeks the black stone.”

“He’ll have trouble,” said Landen. “I’m going to torpedo it into a sun when I get back.”

Farewells were spoken. “See you in the Dreamlands again, perhaps!” chirped Landen. He made his way to the exit, soon losing sight of the others. He climbed a few steps and saw the base of an access ladder, and the green indicator lights of air pressure. But — strange — there was another tunnel, this one filled with swirling coloured mist. Landen’s curiosity got the better of him. He entered the misty tunnel.

Nehwon

Yucta awoke in the misty dawn to the chirping of frogs in the reeds of the wide Zola Fel River, just out of Pavis town. To his surprise, Landen Donovan was nearby. Landen looked around. “This is not the Free Lunch!” The black stone — it must have mis-translated him to the wrong dimension. Feroza had used it to lure sorcerers from many places. Perhaps he would know how to get Landen home — but he was trapped in a cave. Landen and Yucta looked at each other, and sighed.

I think that the river
Is a strong brown god — sullen, untamed and
intractable

- T.S. Eliot, ‘The Dry Salvages’, pt.1

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