Sunday, March 18, 2018

Seven Zhounese Brothers Part 3 (Unseen Evil)

The next morning, Bunko, Bug, and his new friend Bo Jing made plans to retrieve Bunko’s statue. They visited the Monastery of the Two-Fold Path and solicited the assistance of Sum-Dank, Batzorig, and Sukh. Sum-Dank took an immediate liking to Bunko and the plan to recover Bunko’s statue. Sukh was a little more wary, especially when she learned that Bunko would enlist the help of the Seven Zhounese Brothers.  A compromise of sorts was reached.  They went to the Brothers’ house and Bunk induced them to apologize for their previous behavior and for what “those crazy dogs did to your friend.” Sum-Dank, at Bunko’s urging accepted their apology and Sukh could little maintain the grudge herself. Indeed, the Brothers seemed less than half-aware of what their own actions.  In preparing for the expedition, they brought out a cloth sack obviously full of weapons—which were illegal in Pasar. And seemed to not be sure of each other’s names. Nevertheless, Bunko convinced the others, including Sukh, that they were fearless and thus great in a fight.  “I need you all because of your good minds, I need them to be the meat shields.”  As a final compromise, Bug would stay behind.

They passed through the gates of Pasar and collected their weapons. (The Brothers had been convinced to leave their illegal weapons at their house and did not have any to claim at the gate.  However, Bunko convinced one of the guards that an unclaimed cache of spears belonged to him and so the entire party ventured out well-armed.  Except Bunko, who apologized that he was more of a leader than a fighter.

They ventured on the East Road for a few hours and stopped to rest at midday at a campsite just off the road. And then they beat a path north through the forest. Bunko proved a very adept trekker, passing almost unimpeded and silently through brush and vines.

They encountered a group of armed men, some of the wearing scraps of Imperial armor and one with the badge of the Black Flowers. The two groups sized each other up, with some half-casual, half-challenging question about what they were doing in the forest. “No, what are you doing in the forest.”  When the groups parted, Sum-Dank suggested to Bunko that they should follow the other group.  “They might lead us to their hideout.” Bunko agreed it was a fine plan.

The other men seemed to know they were being followed, taking a circuitous path back toward the road. But the Black Flowers made too much noise to escape pursuit. Towards nightfall, they reached the same campsite where Bunko & friends had eaten their midday meal.  Sum-Dank and Batzorig climbed trees to watch them.  The Black Flowers called out, “We know you’re there, what do you think we’re doing?”  Challenging words soon led to a standoff.  The Zhounese brothers entered the clearing and at a mild provocation, attacked in a violent rage.  In the fray, one of the Black Flowers escaped, but the rest were killed.  Most of the Brothers also sustained injuries, likely at each others’ hands.

Bunko’s friends that that they, too would need to camp for the night in the forest. Sukh set up a watch system, establishing among her old friends (Bat, Bo Jing, and Sum Dank) that at least one of their number should be awake at all times.  Sukh herself, took an early watch with Sum-Oov, one of the Zhounese Brothers, who revealed to her that he was not Zhounese at all, but Tuigen like her, and the other men were not even his brothers. He began to complain to her about Bunko, “The only good thing I can say about him right now is he gave me a chance to meet a nice girl like you.” Sukh, indeed, was nice to him, encouraging him to share his feelings and expressing sympathy for his misfortunes.  

Sum-Oov, at last, decided to confront Bunko.  “I knew it would come to this, Sum-Oov, it always does . . .” Bunko woke up Bo Jing, “I think it’s our turn to watch, my friend.”  Sum-Oov drew his weapon. Bo Jing was ready to defend Bunk and Sukh had to intervene, pleading with Sum-Oov to think about his future. “Just go to sleep and think about it in the morning. Lie down here, next to me.” Sum-Oov was placated.

Bo Jing, Bunko, and Farang, one of the Brothers began their watch.  About an hour in to the watch, Bunko saw something in the forest, “You saw that right, eyes watching us?  And did you hear that?”  Farang had fallen asleep.  Bo Jing wanted to wake everyone up. “No,” Bunko said, “let’s go see what it is.”  They walked out into the forest, following the noise, but found nothing.  When they got back to the campsite, Bo Jing was tired.  “Go to sleep,” Bunko suggested, “I can finish the watch alone.”  Bo Jing did sleep.  Later, Bunko woke up Sum-Dank an told him about the watcher.  “Just stay alert.  Bi-er should watch with you, he’s the least drunk.”

The rest of the night passed without incident.  In the morning, it was noticed that Sum-Oov was dead, strangled in his sleep. A couple of the brothers looked at Sukh suspiciously but Bunk defended her. “She wouldn’t have done this, we were being watched last night. By the jungle spirits.”
Wi-Pei was much affected by the death of Sum-Oov and led the other brothers in a wailing funeral. Bunko returned to Pasar.  The others made their own way back by the end of the day.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Seven Zhounese Brothers Part 2 (A Real Friend)

A couple days after being rescued from the Seven Zhounesee Brothers, Bug began talking about “Bunko,” a “very nice man” who had visited the brothers at their house when he was a captive there and, taking pity on him, shared his food, including some very delicious sweet buns.  

Bo Jing was intrigued and agreed to go with Bug to meet Bunko, who lived in a large house near the brothers. They arrived at a peculiar moment as Bunko’s house seemed to be on fire. Bo Jing wanted to help, and a woman came running out with her children and asked him to rescue her servants. At this moment, the front door to the house next door opened and a squat man with twinkling eyes appeared. He was Bunko. “Don’t listen to her, she doesn’t even have servants? Why not come inside where it’s cool?”

Bo Jing and Bug accepted his invitation, and were treated to a delicious meal featuring lots of sweet buns, and many hilarious stories about Bunko’s life of heroic deeds, one-of-a-kind artifacts, and a string of fair-weather friends who one after another had betrayed the trust of the all-too-trusting Bunko. “But I know you won’t be like that, right Bo Jing? You’re a real friend, aren’t you? Because I don’t think I can take any more heartbreak.”

The party was interrupted by repeated knocking at the door. Finally Bunko answered it.  Bat Bo Jing could hear the sounds of crackling flames outside but as Bunko told the fire brigade, he was quite comfortable inside his house. “You have better things to do than interrupt my party.”

Bunko showed his visitors around his house, showing off many interesting curios before arriving at an empty pedestal. He had owned a statute, of a beautiful hunter goddess, but some of his so-called friends had stolen it. And the local watch, known as the “Brothers of Pasar” were of course “useless, or worse than useless, someone suggested to me that they’re probably in league with the criminals.  I never would even think of that because it’s not my nature.”

Bo Jing agreed that would help Bunk retrieve his statue. Bunko was very grateful. “But now, you must be tired, and you’ll have a big day tomorrow.”

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Sacbe 5 (Jaguar Vanquished)

Food was running low. It was time to start traveling again. But the travellers decided they could pass through the ruined city one last time and look for the missing porter.

They followed the stream and found a shallow place where they could run across without being threatened by the fish. They headed for the pyramid. It was still largely intact though the jungle grew ride to its foundation. The party heard voices and stayed concealed.

It as the last of the Jaguars-- the leader and the last of his men. The leader stood high on the pyramid, shouting orders at his minion who was poking at the foundation of the pyramid.

Divemoye and Omachaka crept closer. Their noise attracted the man's attention, calling out to his leader that he heard a deer. When he raised his deer, Omachaka shot an arrow into his heart. Zolin stepped out and challenged the leader to fight. Rightly suspecting an ambush, the leader at first refused, instead giving Zolin a chance to flee. But Zolin stood his ground, taunting the powerful warrior. Forced by the insults to his courage and by the practical. As he neared the bottom, Omachaka, Divemoye, and Atl shot arrows at him. He couldn't retreat and was forced to charge. Zolin met him with his spear.  He was a fierce opponent, but with the travellers surrounding him, and the porters harassing him with thrown stoned, he had no chance. He lunged at Omachaka and dealt him a mighty with his maca.  The others immediately attacked him from behind. When he turned on them, they fell back. He pursued Zolin and again the others attacked him from behind. No matter how fast he turned and how hard he swung his weapon, they escaped any heavy damage and wore him down until he could be killed. The porters kicked his dead body and the travellers stripped him of his jewellery weapons, and armor.  He carried a peculiar amulet of hard metal and also a map.

The travellers explored the rest of the city. They found a store of good maize but did not find the missing porter.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Sacbe 4 (Last of the Dog People)

The travellers spent the night on the cliff, too broken-hearted even to speak. A thin and dirty, ragged man appeared, as if from nowhere, and welcome them to his home. He was the last son of a large family that had once lived on the cliffs. His name was Omchaka and he explained that the Jaguar knight had come from Nexal, demanding tribute. His family, being dog people, owed nothing to the gods of Nexal, and refused.

The Jaguars had departed, and took up residence in the long-abandoned city. Over the next several weeks, the Jaguars had hunted and raided Omchaka’s family into extinction. A few might have escaped successfully, but to his knowledge, he was the last. He told the travelers that he had been hiding and watching them, and had come to believe that they were good folk who did not eat people. He could see that they too had lost one of their own to the Jaguars.  If the travelers wanted to kill him, he hoped that they would instead allow him to attack their common enemy. The travelers welcomed him and fed him and said that they would not eat him.  They had heard that there was plentiful food in Nexal and were traveling there. Omchaka asked to join them and was accepted.

As the travelers were making plans to return to the road, the porters thought they noticed some fruit trees in valley below.  The four of them went down to investigate and hopefully return with something no one had tasted for a long time.  They returned quickly and very distraught—one of their number was missing!  Down in the valley, they had spotted a wounded animal and tried to capture it. This proved to be a trap. The Jaguars from the ruined city were lying in wait. They had jumped out and captured one of the porters. The porters were desperate to rescue their friend from the fate that likely awaited him. They agreed to take up weapons if the travelers would lead them. 

After some discusssion, the travelers did agree. They followed the same path they had followed previously and, when they reached the stream, Zolin found the place where they had crossed it on branches. He crossed first and the others followed, but one of the porters broke the branch while crossing and fell into the stream. He was attacked by a dozen viscous fish, but Divemoye rescued him before he suffered too greatly.  The travelers resolved to walk along the stream, with members of the group on either side until they found another place to cross. They walked a long distance.  As they drew closer to the city, there were fewer trees and no likely crossing places.  As they walked, they noticed they were being followed by vultures. The huge birds circled, occasionally diving to a height where they could almost be shot by an arrow.  The travelers walked past the city, still looking for a good place for Divemoye and the last of the porters to cross. At last they found such a place.  This time, while the porter was crossing, a pair of vultures dived toward him, slashing at him with their talons. Omachaka shot one of the vultures.  It fell into the water.  Two more vultures dove to grab the first vulture and pull it from the water. Divemoye killed one of them with his axe. Another vulture was shot out of the sky while the remainder flew away.  The vulture in the water was not attacked by fish. Divemoye and the porter crossed. Zolin suggested that they collect the dead vultures and cook them.

The smell of roasting vulture attracted the attention of Jaguars.  They attacked the travelers pushing them towards the stream. The leader of the Jagyars grabbed the roasting vulture and ran with it into the forest.  The travelers did not pursue him, but instead surrounded and killed three of the lesser warriors.  The fourth escaped.

In the battle, Atl and one of the porters were badly wounded.  The group found a safe place to rest further down the stream. While resting and tending to the wounded, Divemoye noticed that the flying vultures had returned and seemed to have discovered the site of the battle. Omachaka, Divemoye, and Zolin crept through the underbrush to get a closer look.  As the vultures descended on the dead bodies, the Jaguar warrior and the last of his men jumped out to attack them. The vultures were quick and flew away unharmed. The two men shrugged and dragged away the body of one of their dead companions.

Omachaka, Divemoye, and Zolin returned to the group and discussed their options. Both Atl and the porter needed close attention. Soon the vultures would find them and when that happened so would the Jaguars. Atl and the porter would not survive such an encounter.  They decided to return once more to the cliff dwelling


Friday, February 23, 2018

The Sacbe 3 (Ball Game)

The next morning they explored the empty dwellings. They found people, none of them alive.  The furnishing were smashed or burned. The granaries smelled like urine. The travellers maintained their camp on the shelf outside the dwelling houses. In the hazy sky there was prospect of neither sun nor rain.

They rested for several days on the cliff. There was a stream of almost-clear water that that spilled from higher on the cliff into a shallow pool. It was a comfortable place for Divemoye to recover from the scorpion sting. And they had plenty of food for the time being. The porters joked that when the time came to return to the road there would be much less food to carry.

One day, Atl noted a trail that led higher up the cliff. From his new vantage point, he spied a green valley and, beyond that a city. He watched for hours and saw no movement, but thought that maybe he detected a shimmer in the haze that could be the smoke of a cooking fire.

When Divemoye was strong enough, four of the traveller went out to explore the city—these were Atl, Zolin, Young Savage, and Davimoye. Huasteco remained with the porters.

Many of the plants in the green valley were different from those they knew at home. The leaves had a gray tint and the wood was brittle, small branches snapping easily. They explained to each other that this place needed rain even more than they did, but even with this explanation, they couldn’t imagine ever living in such a place. They came to a wide stream, murky green with sediment. They walked upstream, reasoning that the water coursed through the city.

In time, they began to catch glimpses of the city through the leaves on the other side of the stream—the long lines of a palace, the jagged teeth of a pyramid.  These glimpses suggested a settlement larger than they had ever seen. They hurried—and then stopped every time a gap in the forest gave them another view.  What was that sound?  I didn’t hear anything. Do you see something?  Yes, but it was nothing. Should they cross the stream? Yes, they should cross it here.

When Divemoye and Paal entered the water, they were attacked by ravenous fish. Their companions pulled them out and knocked off the several fish still clinging by their teeth. They walked further until they came to a ruined bridge. They needed another way to cross the stream.  Zolin had noticed that the trees growing next to the stream looked healthier than those higher in the valley.  Their branches stretched over the stream meeting branches from trees on the other side.  Thick vines seemed to complete the natural bridge. To prove the virtue of his idea, Zolin climbed up one tree and found his way to the other side. The others followed. Paal came last. A branch snapped and he fell into the stream. Young Savage threw a rope and pulled him to safety before any fish could attack him.
They walked into the city. There were more stone buildings than they had seen before, and at the far end, a pyramid twice as tall.  In front of the pyramid, set below street level, was a stone-paved ball court. Back in Otoch, they had played Ulama on a hard-packed dirt court. They were the best, that’s how they’d been chosen to take all the food they could carry and leave.
Without a word spoken, they climbed down the steep sides to the court. As their feet slapped the pavement, a ball rolled out, shiny and smooth. And a voice, challenging them, “Who will face death today?” The speaker was a powerful man wearing ragged jaguar armor. His four companions wore jaguar fur on the wrists and ankles.

The travellers accepted jaguar knight’s challenge, and listened to his terms— a feast at the conclusion of the match. 

“We have some beans at our camp.”

“No. Meat.” The jaguar knight pointed at one of his men. “Him. Or, one of yours.”

The travellers expressed their disgust. Zolin started to walk away. But for Divemoye, the risk of his life seemed a worthwhile price for a chance to remember happier days. Atl, Paal, and Yung Savage were easily convinced, and Zolin was at last persuaded, though he insisted to his companions that he wouldn’t join any feast as either diner or meal. The others brushed off Zolin’s fears and set aside their weapons and shields.

Two things became obvious. The Otoch travellers were much more skilled. And their opponents were deadly earnest. The Otochs passed the ball among themselves.  After failing to intercept the ball, the Jaguars directed their attacks at any Otoch who neared the goal. When the Otoch dodged these attacks, the lead Jaguar attacked Paal with his fist.  Zolin intervened and tripped the big man, and Atl scored a goal.*  

The Jaguars showed one skill that was new to the Otochs, who were used to playing on a stone court with slanted sidewalls. The Jaguars took the ball and, and bouncing it up the sidewall, chased after it toward the hoop. An impressive feat, but without profit. The Jaguar lost control of the ball, Atl passed it to Divemoye and Divemoye scored another goal.

The Otochs took the ball again almost immediately, and the Jaguar players dropped all pretence of playing for the ball, instead slamming their bodies into the Otochs, or seizing hold of them and trying to throw them down on the pavement.  While bruised and battered, the Otochs evaded the worst attacks and Yung Savage scored another goal.

As the Otochs celebrated, the Jaguars stormed off the court, cursing them as cheaters. They returned, fully armed with large shields and macas. Yung Savage ran to retrieve the Otoch weapons while his friends did their best to defend themselves with their fists and, in Divemoye’s case, the Ulama ball. When Yung Savage returned, the Jaguars surrounded him and before his friends even knew what was happening, killed him.

“Sacrifice!” The Jaguars cheered. “The gods are appeased.”

The Otochs watched as the Jaguar’s carried away their friend’s body. They collected their weapons and returned to the place on the cliff.

*This game was played according to rules written by John Hild and Hoover Dam. Although written for 5e, I found it easy to use in my 1e/2e game.  My previous understanding was that the Aztecs and Mayas played with the near-impossible winner-take-all goal of putting the ball through a stone hoop.  The rules I used, like the rules in the 2e Maztice, and like the modern version of the game allow for endline goals.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Sacbe 2 (Interlocution)

After an absence of three days, the old man reappeared one morning with three gifts. First, there was a shield, decorated with feathers woven to depict four figures. Second, an axe, carved from as single piece of hard, dark wood, the wooden blade shod with sharpened copper. Finally, a pair of sandals, decorated with animals. Atl wanted all of them, claiming first one, then another, proposing bargains to his companions, arguments as to which they should prefer.

The old man asked Atl if he was a priest.

No, but he was a plumaweaver.

How was a plumaweaver like a priest?

They know how to please the gods.

What pleases the gods?


The old man presented the Shield of Loyalty—for the one who risked their life to save their friends.
Atl knew. That was Zolin, who had fought the red headed men alone when there was no reason left to hope. The four figures depicted on the shield were Atl, Young Savage, Divemoye, and Huasteco. “As you saved their lives, may they save yours.”

The old man presented the Axe of Justice—for the one who risked their life to save strangers.
Again Atl knew. Divemoye was the one who saw the heavy-laden slaves and charged to rescue them, not even turning back to see if his companions would support him. “When you fight for justice, this axe fights with you.”
The old man presented the Sandals of Truth—for the one who risked the displeasure of an ornery sorcerer to protect the life of an animal.
Atl hesitated, but admitted it was Young Savage who had insisted on freeing the javelina, instead of cooking it for the old man. When Young Savage put the sandals one, the animals decorating the straps began to run and jump. “Any animal you meet will know your true intentions.”

What reward was left for Atl? 

Wisdom. What sacrifice did the gods find pleasing? Did they have need for blood or tears? When Atl offered them a pluma crown, was it cherished for the weight of the feathers?

Atl’s reward, if he accepted it, would be a life of sorrow. A new priest, with no need for a knife.

The travellers returned to the road. It passed through the drying jungle to the barren plains. The white stones of the sacbe half-covered by a fine layer of ash. The bodies of their enemies from many days before were untouched by any scavengers larger than insects.

That night they slept in the open, with no shelter but the hazy sky and solitude. More days passed like this and the road brought them to a broken land of brittle black rocks, seemingly impassable from a distance. And yet the smooth white stone climbed the sharp black mountains step by steps and step by step the travellers followed them. The wind blew ash in their faces, interrupting their conversations.  Squinting, they felt their way across the hard white stones.

In this monotonous dream, the travellers half-welcomed a new sound, a clicking that rose from nowhere and echoed everywhere. Soon the sound grew louder and sharper and its source appeared.  Scorpions, large as monkeys, bright green like leaves of new maize, they sprouted from the dead rocks and swarmed over the travelers.

Young Savage insisted that they should not be harmed. Did the scorpions take his meaning? His companions did, but disregarded it. With axes and spears, they struck at the scorpions and the clicking turned into crunching. Human blood was spilled.  The scorpions’ claws were sharp as daggers. They cut at the legs of Zolin and Paal. One of the porters was knocked to the ground and would have been killed if Atl had not sent the scorpion flying with a sharp blow from his club.  But after several scorpions were killed, the two survivors seized the bodies of their fellows and scrambled away into a crevice.
Divemoye followed them into a steep canyon. Ignoring the scrapes on his back he slid down the rough black rock in pursuit.  His companions, without understanding the value of eliminating the scorpions rather than simply driving them away, followed him. Divemoye lost sight of his quarry until a stinger was buried deep in his calf.  With his axe, he killed the scorpion, but he immediately fell to his knee howling in pain.  Atl immediately began applying the healing poultice that he had learned to make with the old man of the pyramid. Zolin and Young Savage scouted for more scorprions.  They saw none, but they saw something much more interesting, a row of buildings tucked under a ledge on the opposite side of the canyon.

They picked their way down to the dry stream bed where they found a well-worn path leading up the other side to the dwelling on the cliff. At the base of the cliff, they found a jumble of broken ladders. Atl climbed up and then threw a rope down for his companions. Divemoye was hosted on two ropes.  As the sun set, everyone collapsed into sleep.

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Sacbe 1 (Leaving Otoch)

Things have been bad in Otoch.  Long-forgotten by the warring powers to the north, the southern peninsula has suffered years of drought and storm.  Hungry refugees from other places who had seen the same cycle.  And then the big one that wiped out whole villages.  In the north, there was food.  In the north, they were wanted.

The elders wouldn't let strong young children wait for the big one.  If you don't leave now, you'll be forced to leave later.

Follow the Sacbe.  Follow it to the great city in the north.  Follow it to another village.  Follow it to the pyramid of the sorcerer.  Follow it anywhere that's not here.

Who?  The best, the brightest, the young:

"Young Savage" Quick with a spear. He knows how to make pulque.
"Zolin" Well-armed, with shield and axe. She keeps the peace.
"Huasteco" Strong like a water plant.  She knows how to braid rope.
"Divemoye" the jokester.  He fights with an axe.
"Atl" the sleeepy Plumaweaver.  He is good at making a fire.

They had slept in the jungle before and the first day was like a party.  But quiet.  No animals.

The second day was the same.  They saw the pyramid and went toward it.

Attack of the flying cat creature-- larger than the largest dog and with wings like a bat.  Huasteco launched her spear as the monster descended. Shadecian braced his against the ground and drove the blade into its armpit even as he was knocked to the ground.  The obsidian blade broke and the monster howled lashing out with its claws.  Mazateco embarassed himself by using this opportunity to strip off Shadecian's loincloth.  Wayob was scratched by the monster and fled into the underbrush.  Zolin beat the monster over the head with her axe.  When the blade broke, she beat him with the haft. The monster roared so loudly that all were stunned.  The monster flapped its wings and took to the air.

The explorers continued their way to the pyramid.  They went to the room on the top platform where they found an old man weaving with feathers.  His design looked like the monster they had just fought.  He explained that he liked to be left alone, but didn't mind the occasional visitor. 

Zolin asked the man what he ate.  He said that he was hungry and she gave him some food.  He thanked her and showed them around his home.

Soon it was time to press on.  The pyramid was a safe place to rest, but neither the travelers nor the old man had food to spare.

From the top of the pyramid they studied what lay before them.  The sacbe threaded invisibly through the jungle, but in the distance, it emerged from the greenery into a sea of brown grass, the white stones glistening in the bright sun.  From the top of the pyramid, they saw their road would join another road to become part of the great sacbe pointing northwest, to heart of the Nexal empire.

As they made their way through the last few miles of jungle, this image of the open road was by turns encouraging and tantalyzing.  Huasteco fell sick, but the others urged her on.  Night came  They slept, and woke before dawn, stumbling forward in the darkness and the fog.  They emerged from the fog and jungle onto the plains.  As the fog cleared, they saw people, other travelers.

The other travelers were a larger group than them and moving slowly, also traveling north and west.  Some were laden with baskets, others with red head-dresses and whips.

Blastoise told his companions that he was going to kill the men with the whips.  Taking his axe in hand, he sprinted forward.  The others trotted behind him and, when they came in range, shot arrows at the man at the head of the column.  Blastoiste attacked the big man at the back of the column and killed him with two quick blows.

The men in red head-dresses welcomed this opportunity for battle.  Their five captives, laden with baskets continued to walk the road.

Blastoiste fought ferociously, felling another foe and wounding two others.  His companions closed more cautiously, continuing to shoot arrows.  Their enemies hurled their spears and closed.  With two men down, the red-head-dress men numbered 5 and the travelers from Otoch soon relized they were out-matched.  Young Savage was the first to be wounded and the first to desert the battle.  He drew off two of the red head-dress men.  One was hit by Young Savage's arrow, but did not falter.  They caught him and together battered him to the ground.  One knelt to prevent Young Savage from bleeding to death and the other overpowered Huasteco.

Atl was the next to fall, followed by Blastoise, but not before he killed another foe.  As on of the red-head-dressed men, knelt to take Atl as a living prisoner, Zolin came behind him and cleaved his skull with her axe.  The other red-head-dress men jeered their friend's spectacular death and jeered at Zolin as they tried to grapple her my the shoulders.  Zolin shook them off, swinging her axe.  She fought alone against two attackers, while the third living red head-dressed men went from one friend to another, staunching their wounds and claiming them as prisoners.

Zolin was struck by a maca and fell to one knee.  As her assailant again tried to overpower her, she rose and attacked them in a blind fury.  She killed them both and broke her axe head.

The last of her foes, smiling at this opportunity to take such a fearsome prisoner or die trying, was clubbed sensenless and then to death.

Zolin called out to the burden carriers.  They stopped, awaiting the commands of their new master.  They wer carrying loads of beans and rice.  Zolin confirmed that her friends were all still breathing.  She gave them water and helped them recover their breath.

Zolin selected the best of the weapons from the fallen enemies.  The burden-carriers refused to touch any weapons, but would help Zolin bring her friends back to the old man's pyramid.