Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NDT 14: Area hermit, dwarf nearly bite it

After seeing one of his associates enveloped by a semi-intelligent mass of neurotoxin in the form of an eight-foot tall, transparent and gelatinous cube, Pavel, Bishop of the Thicket tentatively set about attempting a single-handed rescue only to stumble into the cube himself. According to an unidentified eye-witness, the cleric, who had recently assisted his fellow “adventurers” first in “defeating” that weird-guy-in-a-yellow-robe-who-actually-bought-one-of-those-dragon-beds-from-the-sharper-image-catalog-as-if-he-actually-expected-a-woman-would-want-to-look-at-that-while-well-let’s-not-even-go-there-he-was-living-in-a-TOWER-can-you-say-compensating-much . . . and then in “outsmarting” the weird guy’s pet steer, was perhaps burdened with excessive hubris beyond even that commonly associated with a holy scourge of law. According to witnesses, after standing there and watching the rest of his “party” (woo-hoo), put distance between themselves and the aberrations which had so no-handedly incapacitated their companion (who is an outlander), Pavel moved in the exact opposite direction and actually got closer to the cubes. Contrary to the expert opinion of sages who state that all cubes, regardless of their composition, have no means of locomotion and that the self-important and deluded fool must have been “seeing a vision” and just walked right into what by all rights should have been his final and complete demise, Pavel himself asserts that “The unnatural composition of deadliest poison so animated by the evil intelligence that labors in constant rebellion against the unchangeable and insurmountable precepts of law went aquivering and ajivering and slidng across the stone floor just as if it had slipped off a porcelain platter onto a lopsided buffet table.”

dans la Congélateur by Brayo
Gelatinous Cube (detail), a photo by Brayo on Flickr.

His quick thinking companions, following through what one explained “was the whole plan all along” assaulted their gelatinous foe with burning oil and magic fire. Stefan, an area horse-trader whom the adventurers had found tied to a chair on the third floor of the weird guy’s tower (Related story in Life, D5) explains that this wasn’t metagaming since, “It’s just common knowledge or even logic that a sword just isn’t going to do much to something that lacks a skeletal, circulatory, or nervous system. But fire—or heat of any kind— will affect most any substance, whether causing rapid oxidization or a state change. In this case, it was the latter, and the liquid form proved to be entirely inert. Again, I want to thank Pavel, the dwarf, and their thoroughly capable friends for extricating me from what was starting to look like an inextricable situation. Now if they can help me find my lost tapestry.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

NDT 13: Rescue!

We’ve rescued Stefan! Or, anyway, we found where he was being held-- tied to a chair, in a room with a minotaur where everyone who steps into it becomes invisible. But I think we’ve got him out of there, and so, assuming that he survives the surprise the evil wizard must be preparing for us, then rescuing him will just be a matter of escorting him over the moors back to Rifilian or Threshold or Sukyskin.

The Minotaur, a photo by STEHOUWER AND RECIO on Flickr.

Surely we are a holy scourge of law. Entered the old library with the two giant black widow spiders: zip, zip! Spiders dead. Cut through the cobwebs and up stairs to the back entrance to the tower and encountered the hobgoblin chief and his frost-breathing wolves: full-on magic assault and they’re dead. Then up the tower. Yes, the minotaur made Pavel feel something he hasn’t felt for a long time: pain. But only for a minute. Now let’s go get that wizard!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

NDT 12:

Although deprived of the advice of his genius for several days, Pavel accompanied the party in their “quest” [his word] to find the lost city of Xitaqa, supposedly with the hope of rescuing some hostages. (Pavel is beginning to believe that the hostages may have already perished—and for the greater purpose of bringing himself and his associates to this fabulous construction that could only be the work of Traldaran hands.) On the way, the party encountered a giant (whom they slew) and trolls (who slew, one of their number, the brave warrior Fyodor, and put the survivors to flight.) Disheartened, the party was on their way back to civilization, but decided to rest in the cave where they had encountered the giants. This cave was now occupied by a Traldaran warrior, name Spear Hunter, and an outlander whose name is characteristically unpronounceable. Pavel, once again animated by his guardian angel, declared that these two wanderers were worthy of trust and should be made fellows in the quest. The rest of the party agreed and their number was brought to six: Pavel Bishop of the Thicket; Knightly, the lady-priest; Martin the “Ineluctable” (Thyatian word meaning “half-breed”); Roger Agrippa, an honest Traldaran; Spear Hunter—who hunts the foes of Halav, Petra and Zirchos with his spears; and the short but strong Outlander whom Pavel believes may actually be a Traldaran under some kind of curse.

Resuming the quest for Xitaqa, the party spied a tower on the top of a ridge with a road cut into the escarpment. They avoided the obvious approach, and instead climbed the ridge several miles to the west and approached the tower from the side. They reached the outbuildings—small houses carved into the sandstone in the dry rivulets radiating out from the base of the tower.

look for the horizon by Brayo
look for the horizon, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.

This area was inhabited. The party came upon a group of goblins and baboons. The party killed the goblins—and despite Pavel’s attempts to win some simian allies—drove off the baboons. After poking around some of the buildings, the party at last found the monumental stone doors that appeared to lead into the tower itself.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

frustrations in Pasar

A small but bustling market-city and with a constant influx of travelers, including many from hundreds of miles away, Pasar seemed a cosmopolitan places—and yet Gwinch received an inordinate number of long stares. He was not the only foreigner-- was he really the most foreign-looking foreigner? Well yes-- under his monks robes, battered armor and travel-grime-- he probably was the most foreign-looking, but still the way that people looked at him-- not hostile, but not welcoming, and several shades deeper than mere curiosity-- was a little disconcerting. ("I've got a big red sunburned nose, get over it!")

There was a monasterey of the Two-Fold Path in Pasar. Gwinch and his associates were welcomed there and the abbot gave him some useful information. Indeed, the Governor Kawabi had been there, only some few months earlier, and with a small band of weary, and world-weary, desperate men. The Governor wanted information about Tempat Larang. Everyone in Pasar had heard of Tempat Larang, an important, now-ruined city in a great, now-vanished empire. But they didn't know where it was. South. West. Southwest. Somewhere in the mountains.

And the Governor had also wanted to know the legends about the foreigner from beyond the Celestial Sea. Everyone knew that story-- or at least that they should do when they met him or what would happen if they did. Kill him? Welcome him? Buy him a new set of clothes? Would he revive the the old empire or would he destroy the last remnants? Would he aid one faction in subduing or converting its factions? Peaceful reconciliation? Or obliterating all-out war? Good luck in business? The abbot himself rejected such fantasies.

The Governor didn't like the answers he heard, and he visited the wrath of his frustration on several nearby villages. But he at least accepted that no one could give him a definitive answer and moved on.

The General also passed through, asking the same questions. He was satisfied to at least get news of the Governor.

And now Gwinch was chasing both men? The abbot assigned 8 novices to his command, giving them the opportunity to see first-hand the traps laid by ambition.

The party spent several weeks in Pasar, staying at the local Monastery of the Two-Fold Path. Gwinch trained his men. Kishi just disappeared for a while and then came back. During their time in Pasar, Gwinch met Genzo, a warrior, an aristocrat, and a liege of the Emperor Khan Kobra. Genzo was interested in Gwinch’s background and his quest and offered to come with him on one condition. Like Gwinch, Genzo did not have a horse. And he was used to traveling with at least two horses, one for himself, and one for his armor and equipment. He had heard that there was a treasure buried in a village near Pasar—if they discovered the treasure, they might each buy horses and continue Gwinch’s mission in style.

They found the boulder that marked the place where the treasure was buried, according to stories, the tomb of a rich and evil man. Gwinch asked Saisho to do some research, and they discovered that in the days when Tempat Larang was a great city in a great empire, that empire’s greatest threat was a pirate named Chan Chiong. The governor of Tempat Larang hatched a plan to create strife among the pirates, and Chan Chiong was captured by his own men. As punishment, he was sealed inside a vault near a village on the Northern villages of that empire. Although less than certain that they would actually find a treasure, Gwinch and his associates worked with Kenzo to move the boulder that sealed the vault and ventured inside.

The party overcome several traps and magical guardians, but were stymied by a pair of stone lions that stood on either side of a secret door.
IMG_0487 by Brayo
IMG_0487, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.
They could hear Chan Chiong on the other side of the wall, first engaged in counting something, and then begging them to free him so that he might avenge himself on the rulers of Tempat Larang. But he could offer no advice. Gwinch tried waving food in front of the lions and singing the songs that had helped them open other doors within the vault, but the only way to get the statues to do anything was to attack them. When hit with weapons, the statues briefly came to life, but then returned to the wall. Gwinch devised a plan for killing the lions before they could resume their stone form, but this left him only with two dead lions, a blank wall, and the voice of Chan Chiong, promising riches if only they would move the wall. Sorry!

Monday, January 2, 2012

through the jungle

The part had been traveling for about 2 days when they encounter a group of four teenaged forest-dwellers carrying, lashed to a pole, the body of a dead spider the size of a large deer. The young men were very proud of their trophy, and although only Deng could understand any of their language, the party all soon came to understand both that the jungles was crawling with spiders and that killing the large specimens was an important rite of passage. They also learned that the young hunters hailed from a village on the edge of the forest about eight days away. Although this represented a significant change in direction, the party chose to travel to the young men’s village.
Tarantula II by Brayo
Tarantula II, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.

With the assistance of the guides, the party traveled more quickly and were able to supplement their trail rations with forest food. They met other local residents along the way. But despite their large numbers, they were accosted by a pair of spider-riding goblins who were armed with long spears and demanded the party’s surrender. Saisho found that his ring did not enable him to control the spiders, and so combat ensued. The spider-riders were quickly dispatched, but the spiders themselves, sustained multiple volleys of magic missiles and arrows before dying.
That night, the group was awakened by the sounds of large creatures crashing through the trees and undergrowth. Although the creatures were not charging their position, they did seem to be moving in their general direction. The locals responded by shouting and stomping and shaking the trees themselves. Gwinch himself tried to approach the source of the sound, using the magic sword he retrieved from Icar the slaver to light his way. Although the creatures retreated some ways from the ruckus caused by Gwinch’s group, he was still able to locate them—three creatures each the size of a small house, with tails on both ends, ears the size of shields, and each a pair of teeth so long they almost touched the ground.
Approaching cautiously, and chanting a prayer, Gwinch reached out to touch and pet one of the elephants who reciprocated in kind. The other elephants, although more reserved, gave their own signs of non-hostility. Gwinch returned to the group and told them to shut up. The next morning the group continued on their way, now accompanied by the three elephants.
They reached the village of Mata without encountering any more spiders.

In Mata, the party encountered an elder with whom Deng could communicate freely, and got more information. Yes, a large band of fighting men had passed through the village several months ago. They came from the North, wore ragged uniforms and demanded information about a lost highway. The people of Mata had little information to give them. The soldiers pillaged and continued their way south toward Pasar. And within a few weeks, another group of men tore through Mata in pursuit of the first, and piling a fresh helping of misery on the local residents. But that was not there immediate concern. Their immediate concern was the evolving cunning of the spiders who lived in the jungle. Although the spiders had always been a menace, previously it had been of a brutish sort, most dangerous to people who entered the forest without proper preparation. But of late, they had allied themselves with the weird goblin creatures who inhabited the forest. Long a subject of legend and again, no match for a brave warrior in broad daylight. Together, these two ancient enemies were becoming a real menace not only within the dark forest, but in the fields and farms surrounding Mata and the other villages in the valley. The party said they’d see what they could do on their way back, and then went on their way to Pasar. They passed through other villages where they heard similar stories, but encountered no other adversaries. Reaching the market-city of Pasar, they said good-bye to the elephants.

Under the mountain

Having dealt a significant blow to the slavers operating in the area, Gwinch agreed to Kishi’s suggestion that they should return to his assignment from the Emperor to track down the rogue Governor and General. Accompanied by Gunjar, their retainers (Saisho, Deng, Little Gamo) and Gwinch’s 12 disciples, they set off from Quitokai, seeking out the fabled Larang Highway. Because Gwinch had made the acquaintance of a sociable and intelligent band of pandas who knew of the “scare men,” the party declined the assistance of a human guide from Quitokai. Kreppu-san and Sho-ji stayed behind.
The party spent a couple days with the Panda, and helped them kill and eat an enormous two-headed snake. And then it was time to go. The Pandas showed them where the Larang Highway tunneled under the great snow-capped mountains.
subterranean highway II by Brayo
subterranean highway II, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.

The party travelled through this tunnel for two days, before emerging in a green valley, thick with trees, vines, mist, and monkeys, and surrounded on all sides by sheer cliffs. In this valley was a waterfall-fed pool that was emptied by a stream that flowed into an underground channel. Conveniently, there were 10 small canoes available. Less conveniently, each canoe could only hold one person. And no mounts. The party felled a few trees and constructed three rafts, each capable of holding four people, luggage and a fire-pot for light inside the cave. The horses and donkeys were left behind.

The caverns were a labyrinth of winding tunnels, some water-filled and others dry. They fought a couple groups of small (2-3 ft. tall) skeleton- and zombie- men and recovered some interesting and valuable magic amulets. And they found the exit—a passage that connected them to a large well-finished and paved tunnel that brought them back into day light—on a hot dry ridge bordering a steaming jungle.
Kishi used her magic to ascend into the sky and survey the area. The long shape of the jungle suggested a river. Without any clearly marked path or even destination, the party decided that they should enter the jungle and move through it directly south, hoping to rediscover the Larang Highway, or rumors of the Governor or the General, either inside the jungle or on the other side.