Friday, November 15, 2013

Beatriss and Tetsukichi reach Tempat Larang

Like any truly onerous journey, the hardships of this one served to reduce most distinct memories of this one to a blur.  A blur of light green and dark green, a blur of itches and stings, a blur of rotten fruit trampled by rotting boot leather, a blur of sleepless nights and groggy marches.  In repose, the travelers have found their fevered imaginations agree on a few points:

There was a soldier, a remnant of Goyat's army.  Or Kawabi's?  He had seen the wonders of Tempat Larang.  And knew the terrors that his one-time master hoped to re-awaken.  For every poison there was an antidote, and there was a Library in Tempat Larang that held all questions and all answers.  There was an Observatory on the cliffs above the city from where one could see through time and space and from there the soldier had watched the death of a village whose rice he'd stolen.  What would they see from there? 

bat by BrayoThere were bats, lots of bats.  One bat who asked of them a favor.  Or was that a man?  He slept in a tree during the day and led them on a forced march at night-- he knew all the dry places in the swamp, and brought them to the village of Gigit where, according to him, he was the rightful leader.  Beatriss and Tetsukichi reneged on their promise to fill in the moat surrounding Gigit.  In the ensuing combat, the villagers (whose teeth were filed like the bat-man) seemed unsure of whether to support their old, chief, or their old chief.  Beatriss and Tetsukichi did not tarry long.

They crossed rivers on rafts, hacked their way through jungles, and trekked over mountain passes, spending most of their gold on provisions at the occasional settlement, but at last reached the ruins of Tempat Larang.

The Mothership have landed! by YYZDez
The Mothership have landed!, a photo by YYZDez on Flickr.
The ruins appeared to me the remnants of a city larger than Khanbaliq or any city that Beatriss or Tetsukichi had ever seen.  Roughly two miles wide and a mile deep, the ruins were surrounded by a deep gorge on three sides, and by steep cliffs on the fourth.  While most of the city lay in ruins, those structures that remained-- slender, multi-tiered, towers, massive stupas, metal-sheated domes, and monumental statuary, both figurative and abstract-- suggested a place of splendor otherwise impossible to imagine.  A swinging bridge of wooden planks-- seemingly recent construction supported by the stone pylons that would have once been part of a larger stone bridge-- gave the party access to the ruins.  Armed men, still wearing remnants of imperial armor, excitedly introduced themselves as General Goyat's men and offered (with understated forcefulness) to bring them to the general himself.

The General was a decrepit-looking old man, stooped, shrunken, and half-blind, he hobbled with surprising speed, meeting them in the middle of a large, circular court, tiled with slabs of colored stone.  He gripped Tetsukichi's hand with speed and strength, and cut him with a knife, to squeeze a few drops of blood upon the ground.  "You're not Gwinch," he pronounced, with disappointment and derision.

Blades were drawn, and the original welcoming party were cut down by Beatriss, Tetsukichi, and their companions, while the General acquainted himself with each member of the party.  The old man emerged uninjured, and thoroughly frustrated that none of the party was the Gwinch.

"We know who you're talking about," Beatriss volunteer.

The General softened a little, but deflected further efforts at conversation, and ordered them that they should find Gwinch and bring him to Tempat Larang.

Promising to do as they were bidden, Tetsukichi instead sought out the Library and Observatory they'd heard about from the renegade soldier they'd met in the jungle.  They found the Libray, and in the Library they found information about a Protector of the People, whose simple altar could be found in a glen up on top of the cliffs above the city.

The party searched the long northern perimeter of the city, and found a number of caves at the bottom of the cliffs.  Also in this part of the city, they found statuary depicting strange half-human, half-serpentine creatures. As they continued to explore, they came across nearly intact building adorned with similar reptilian imagery.  And, in time, they met living specimens, whom they attacked on sight.  The snake-people fought back with terrible ferocity, but with divine help, artful tactics,and by force of sheer numbers, the party were victorious.  They ventures into the caves.  Here they found more strange creatures-- plus relief for their half-guilty consciences in the form of wretched human beings enslaved by the snake people.  After a series of combats against the snake-people and their minions, the party found an escape tunnel, and led the human prisoners to the relative safety of the jungle.  The freed prisoners were escorted to their home village.  Their grateful families welcomed the party with humble hospitality.