Wednesday, May 23, 2012

NDT 21 Play Report: Hutakaan Temple

#529. Anubis by hawhawjames
#529. Anubis, a photo by hawhawjames on Flickr.

Our group left the scene of the battle, and allowed the Traldarans to escort us back to one of their encampments. Like their lowland brethren, the Traldarans are a stiff-necked lot, coarse, bad-tempered, and unreceptive to wisdom, more likely persuaded by displays of power than reason and insight. They do not know of any way out of the Lost Valley, and hope to achieve secure freedom by eliminating their Hutakaan overlords. That campaign began three seasons ago and they have had considerable success, including the take-over of the Hutakaan temple about a month ago.
The Hutakaans have tried several times to re-capture their temple. And, various evil undead things have been coming out of it. So our group proposaed and the Traldarans agreed that we should go inside, find out what’s there and destroy it.
The temple was a large stone rectangular building with a dome roof and, according to the Traldarans, an extensive network of underground chambers, most of which they had not explored. Roger climbed up on the roof and, peering through a hole in the dome, confirmed that the main Temple room was safe to enter. The Traldarans opened the main doors and our group entered, accompanied by two of the Traldarans. The most notable feature in the Temple room was a pit surrounded by blue flame and with a person-sized cage hanging over it. Roger climbed on top of the cage so that he could peer into the pit. Darkness.
Leaving the Temple room, we immediately encountered a large group of re-animated skeletons and walking corpses. Pavel and Nitely, calling on Halav, Petra, Zirchev introduced the formerly benighted Traldarans to their powerful and benevolent gods and obliterated the undead horrors.
Beneath the temple, our group discovered a Hutakaan crypt containing still more of the restless dead. Not just skeletons and zombies. But also “fast zombies” whose mere touch will kill most mortals, and who gave the stalwart Olimarus a little cold taste of death. And, in a disgusting pantomime of life above, a long-dead, jackal-headed Hutakaan despot, his mummified remains most unnaturally preserved and animated with evil, lorded over the other undead. Like the flesh-and-blood Hutakaans, this mummy was something of a coward. Late to join the battle, it was destroyed by Martin’s magic fire, by Olimarus’s hammer, and by Roger’s well-timed shot with a vial of holy water.
In searching the crypt, we claimed the mummy’s crown and scepter, and found a narrow unworked tunnel descending still lower into the earth. Eager to share news of our success with the Traldarans, we resealed the secret tunnel and returned to the surface.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

NDT 20 Play Report: Traldaran National Congress

When Pavel agreed to accompany the party to the Lost Valley, he was not, like the rest of them, looking for treasure. He was looking for a purpose. And now he's found it. A community of Traldarans, separated from the rest of their people and enslaved by the jackal-headed Hutakaans for generations, had recently found the courage to throw off the yoke of oppression. There are obstacles. These Traldarans have never even heard of Halav, Petra, and Zirchev. And it shows. They ride lizards. They originally attacked the party. They use crude weapons. Compared to the tall, slim, well-spoken, and brie-eating Hutakaans, there is something very red-state about these Traldarans. But this is where Pavel comes in. He can teach them about their gods and then together they can stick it to The Man. Or rather, first stick it to the Jackal-Man and then stick it to The Thyatian-Man. The Hutakaans with their honey tongues encouraged the party to come and talk to their high priestess so they could hear the whole story. And Martin, not yet entirely ready to free himself form mental slavery, seemed willing to listen. But Pavel asked these Hutakaans why they couldn't tell the story themselves. Why had they enslaved the Traldarans? The Hutakaans had a good story. They had taught the Traldarans about metal-working, and then they took some of them as slaves. This was what Pavel was waiting for them to say. And it was enough for Roger. He shot one Jackal-head with an arrow. And Pavel hit one wit his flail. Olimarus killed the third. The Traldarans are very stubborn. Even after seeing us kill their oppressors, they seem unsure whom to trust. Pavel is patient.

Monday, May 7, 2012

NDT 19 Play Report: The sun has rised the sun has set and we are in the lost valley yet.

Wizard Island II by Brayo
Wizard Island II, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.

The “city” on the other side of the gate turned out to be a small settlement of not more than a couple dozen stone buildings. We followed an ancient road out of that village of passed through a couple others of similar size and construction. All blissfully empty of people. The ancient Traldaran architecture is magnificently durable and well-designed. Except for the carvings of jackal-headed people. Pavel reasons that sometime after the Traldarans left the Lost Valley, some other beings entered to make the weird jackal carvings. Many of them have been restored to their original undecorated form, and Pavel has done some restoration work of his own.
Although they haven’t seen any other people, they have encountered signs of life. After we tossed a light into one of the shrines that stand by the road, the inhabitants— hundred of small green lizards— scurried out, swarmed all over the outside of the building and then rehid themselves in its nooks and crannies. Another shrine was home to evil, fire-breathing dogs. The blast of heat from their furnace-bellies would have killed, cooked, and charred a lesser man, but Pavel stood fast and slew the monster. (With some help.)
After two or three days travel we came to a clear lake surrounded by rocky cliffs and with a small stone house next to it. Again, this seemed to Pavel a good place to spend the rest of his days. If something could be done about the other party members.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Play Report: Kāi'ěrwén to Quitokai

heart of greenness by Brayo
heart of greenness, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.

The party used the merchant’s directions and followed the northeast branch of the Lam River upstream out of Kāi'ěrwén, opting for the south bank so they could avoid having to make a crossing when they reached Mǐ shā’s Ferry. At about noon, turning a bank in the river, they rode right into the middle of an armed encampment of brigands who, while seemingly prepared to ambush someone traveling on the river, assaulted the party instead. Beatriss, Tetsukichi & co. made short work of the surprised archers, riding over them with horses and slashing them with their swords. They then turned to assist Tsao Ho and his monks who were less capable in defending themselves against the spear-wielding brigands. By the time the battle was over, one of the monks had been killed and most of the others had been badly wounded. Ju-May and Afu tended to the wounded monks while they hastily buried their brother. Two more hours of riding brought them to what they assumed was Mǐ shā’s Ferry— there was a stone building, in the same style as the ancient guardhouse where they’d sheltered in the mountains, on the opposite shore, and there was a boat adrift in the middle of the river. Most importantly to this goal-oriented party, there was a rough road leading south, which according to the merchant’s directions, would lead them closer to Quitokai. They traveled for about an hour before reaching their final turn-off point, the narrow footpath leading east that was supposed to take them to Quitokai itself. Late in the afternoon, they began hearing voices, and through the thick screen of trees, thought they could see the light of a clearing. Continuing on, they smelled the smoke of cooking fires. And then it was quiet. They dismounted and marched into the trees, bushwhacking through the jungle. One hundred yards into the jungle, they didn’t reach a clearing, and feared losing the path. At last they decided to get back on their horses and keep following the path. And after another half hour of riding, they began to see a clearing before them, and then see building, and hear the river and muffled chatter. There was a group of armed warriors waiting for them on the bridge that led into Quitokai. They did not attack, but they were suspicious. When Beatriss mentioned Gwinch, the warriors agreed that Beatriss and Tetsukichi would be allowed to talk to the elders. They were frank with the elders. Gwinch was their friend. They had heard rumors that he had allied himself with the slavers who operated in the border reason and hoping that it wasn’t true, wanted to confirm. The elders responded that Gwinch had been a friend to them and had helped defend them against the slavers. And they welcomed the entire party to stay in Quitokai. Over the next several days, the party debated what to do next. The people of Quitokai explained that after leading a raid on the slaver’s stockade, and rescuing a number of captives, Gwinch and his companions, including two powerful sorcerers, had resumed their mission of chasing down Genral Goyat and General Kawabi. For Beatriss, this was enough, and her first thought was that she was ready to return to Kāi'ěrwén and then Menkan, and then find a way to reunite with her family in Anca Sansar’s grazing lands. But for Tsao Ho and Golfo, it was equally clear that there mission was not only to get an update on Gwinch’s mission, but to take up the search for Goyat and Kawabi themselves. Tsao Ho in particular voice his intention to follow their trail deeper into the jungle. And there was a third option. The escaped captives explained how Gwinch’s sorcerers had released a horrible creature that savaged the residents of the stockade while giving him a chance to rescue them. But he didn’t rescue all of them. There was a dungeon below the stockade where many more were imprisoned. They knew that the horrible creature had likely killed them along with their captors, and yet the hope peristed that they, too, might be rescued.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

NDT 18 Play Report: We find the lost valley

Every boy’s been warned by his loving father against reaching into dark holes: “You leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone!” Poor Martin grew up an orphan. Olimarrus is a son of the Earth, and the Earth doesn’t teach its lessons plainly. And Roger, I don’t know about Roger. So not only did the three of them climb down the cliffside to peer into dark (and large!) cave, but when something popped out, they stayed to fight it. Because it had insulted them. Or because it had offended their sense of justice. Or because they thought it might have cursed itself with a treasure that they hoped to convey upon their own person. With magical fire and trickery, they slew the beast in its home and then ransacked its middens. That lady-priest Knightley is a smart girl and the guide from Threshhold isn’t stupid. They stayed on top of the cliff with Pavel and enjoyed a hot meal of boiled beef jerky with moss.
fortress by Brayo
fortress, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.

We followed the road and the road led us deeper into the ravine and then, as roads do, it ended, and left us to find our own way across the ravine to the door on the other side. To the bottom of the ravine they lowered Pavel on a rope and then they lowered Knightley but the rope broke, and so Martin struck a deal with the spirits of the air and on an invisible throne, lowered the rest of them one by one. We made our camp on the floor of the ravine, on the grassy banks of a bright and gurgling stream where Pavel asked himself if this was the lost holy place that he’d long sought, the secret treasure of Traldar. But in the gray hour before dawn, a pair of metal-eating monsters assaulted him and disabused of his naïve dream—the world was not right, even in this secret pocket. He awakened his companions who drove the monsters away. And then, after a quick breakfast, they began their ascent to the other side of the ravine. And again, Pavel marveled at what his ancestors had accomplished, having crafted a pair of stone doors set between two mountain peaks as a portal to the hidden valley belong. Martin once again called upon his magic to lift the party members first up to the narrow ledge before the doors and then over the doors to the other side where a small valley contained a well-crafted, but seemingly deserted city.