Attack of the Lunar Knights
The black vapours emitted from the alien thing swirled around in the entry hall of the Mansion of the Moon. Somewhere inside the cloud clanked two of the dark-armoured Lunar knights; their sounds were muted.
Yucta Axotylata pulled Landen Donovan to his feet in the library doorway. Sir Thrakus stood warily nearby. The gaunt figure who had attacked them lay broken and smashed at the foot of the stairs.
“WHO DARES DISTURB MY HOUSE?” came a loud voice from the top of the stairs. It came from a very tall pale man in a dark cloak. Next to him was a little girl in a pink dress with an evil expression. Surrounding them were four more of the animated armoured suits. “Get them!” roared the man in black. The suits clanked down the stairs, brandishing their spears. “Yes, get them, Vredni!” grinned the girl.
Yucta and Sir Thrakus leapt to defend the bottom of the stairs, hoping to constrain the lunar knights. They were big and tough, but slow. Sir Thrakus bashed them with his shield while Yucta laid about him with his double-handed mace. Landen readied his stun pistol, aimed and — click — out of power.
From the kitchen came a yell. Captain Own’ey and his hulking first mate Jeth Sinterlaine, recently prisoners, came running. Own’ey was brandishing a metal meat-hook. The wizard Inuridiss came running too — straight into the open door of the library. He drooled at the sight of three stories of bookshelves.
One of the Lunar knights went down, collapsing into shards of black metal and oozing black sludge. The tall man at the back furrowed his eyebrows and began chanting a spell. Tech-na began flinging his ‘lucky’ sling stones wildly at the Man in the Moon. Landen changed the power pack on his stunner and blasted the tall man, but to no avail. Sir Thrakus tried to bowl the black knights over with his shield; they were hard to budge but eventually the front knight fell over backwards, slipped on the ooze of its predecessor, and crashed into the knight behind, also knocking it over. The battle began to go the adventurers’ way. The Man in the Moon and his child protege started casting more spells. These were distracted by a flock of chickens which Techna had dreamed into existence. The chickens clucked and flew from the balustrade. Landen blasted the girl with his stun gun, knocking her backwards. The Man in the Moon gave Landen a look of pure rage. He prepared a special spell. Landen ducked into the library (ignoring Inuridiss who was squatting in a pile of books nearby), and began to climb the tall rickety ladder to the top shelves, where a ledge doorway was just visible.
The Man in the Moon had lost sight of Donovan, so he unleashed his curse on Sir Thrakus, who was climbing the stairs to fight the armoured knights. Sir Thrakus writhed with agony and fell back as the marrow of his bones turned to molten lead. Vredni Vorastor, the Man in the Moon, laughed to see it. Sir Thrakus collapsed, but with a superhuman effort he pulled himself to his feet, grabbed a spear from one of the fallen knights, and threw it straight at the Man in the Moon. The spear
impaled him and he died gurgling. Immediately, the remaining armoured knights fell to pieces.
Escape from the Moon
Landen soon found his way from the third floor back down, to find the enemies defeated. Yucta, Tech-na and Landen searched the mansion for Feroza the Boatman, calling his name. They heard an answering cry and found him in a locked room on the third floor. Feroza was very grateful to be rescued, but Tech-na did not trust him; he demanded he hand over the river god’s pearl and the mysterious flat black stone he carried. Tech-na had heard that the Man in the Moon could not be permanently killed there, so he told Jeth Sinterlaine to bring Vorastor’s body along.
The group left the mansion — all except one. Inuridiss informed them he would be staying, risking moonbeasts and whatever else; he would make his own way from here. The rest shrugged and departed, not particularly tearfully. Wizards after all, are wizards.
They bounced across the dark lunar plain back to the scraggly fungus forest where they had left their ship (Tech-na dreamed a giant and familiar-looking pot into existence for his trip). Fortunately the crew had been too witless and fearful to sail away. They boarded the black cog and tied the corpse of Vredni Vorastor to the bow, with the corpses from the space-wreck Turquoise. Yucta steered the ship to edge of the great Lunar Cataract to the south. Dark water thundered into the depths of the Moon below as the ship launched from the rim into interplanetary space. Landen took the helm and, after traversing the dark mountains of the moon, aimed the ship for the blue marble of Earth.
Shortly after takeoff, Vredni Vorastor’s corpse stirred and twitched. Sir Thrakus was watching and ready; he killed the Man in the Moon immediately for the second and final time. Three days passed in the cold darkness of space. Captain Own’ey advised Landen that returning via the Basalt Pillars of the West would be safest. Nevertheless, Landen made a bad job of it when they approached, sending Own’ey tumbling and cursing around the wheelhouse as the ship splashed and crashed between the great Pillars. The sea beyond was exceptionally calm, and they had good winds all the way to Dylath-Leen.
The Boatman’s tale
During the voyage through space and sea, Feroza the Boatman told his tale:
I was a fisherman on the Zola Fel River, but I dreamed of having great adventures. One day, this man [Yucta] and a dark robed one boarded my boat to cross the river, not far from Pavis. Half way across, a huge gorp loomed out of the river, overturned the boat and I lost consciousness in the water. When I awoke I was on a mud bank. I saw my passengers sprawled unconscious nearby. When I went to wipe my face I saw these runes [shows the blue runes on his hands]. I knew what those runes meant — after all, I was once an initiate of Zola Fel. He had cursed me to give my life for the river. I did not want to die. I did not want to be cursed in that way. I fled. And because I knew that the runes would be recognised wherever I went on the river, I fled there too.
I feared the nomads to the west so I travelled east to Vulture Country. There I had the misfortune to be captured by Ogres and imprisoned in a lightless cave below their stead. I despaired. I prayed to every god except Zola Fel for release. And one heard me, a dark god. He showed me how to reach this marvellous Dreamlands, but there was a price. I had to use a black stone He gave me to lure sorcerers into the Dreamlands. So I did it. I don’t know what happened to the ones I lured, though now I fear the worst. When I saw Yucta again I knew the game was up. I ran away. For a little while I was free. But then His servants came for me, the Moonbeasts. They captured me and took me to the Man in the Moon, another servant of Him. Now you have rescued me, I am in your debt. I am sorry now for the trouble I’ve caused.