Monday, February 10, 2014

The Observatory

Samrat Yantra: Rear View by BibhushanBeatriss and Tetsukichi spent several weeks at an unnamed village in the cloud forest north of Tempat Larang. They found a guide who knew the way to the Observatory. Their guide, an old man, told them that when he was young, he was one of several boys who guided visiting sages to the Observatory, but as Tempat Larang fell further into ruin, the sages visited less frequently, and evil creatures began taking up residence in the Observatory. It was many years ago that he last brought a scholar there, and that young man never re-emerged. So, he was willing to guide them, but he point out the last section of the journey and then wait for them, returning to the village after one night if they did not return.

Beatriss and Tetsukichi brushed off his warnings, but prepared themselves for battle. They were accompanied by all of their retainers. Several young people from the village also accompanied the group to provide for the safety and comfort of the group.  

The hike to the Observatory took more than a full day. The night in the jungle was uneventful, except that Ju-May was plagued by terrible dreams throughout the night. In these dreams, he saw General Goyat, clutching at him with his long nails, pricking him with a rusty knife, and demanding, over and over, “Where’s Gwinch?” In fact, all the member of the party had experienced similar dreams since their meeting with the General face-to-face. Ju May spent the morning sipping tea and trying to clear his mind. Although his mind was so clouded that he could not cast spells, the party did not even consider leaving him behind during their exploration of the Observatory.

The last stage of the journey involved climbing an overgrown, but still easily discernible paved path. The Observatory itself was a solid building of stone with a domed roof. All of its windows had been bricked close, but the main entrance an open archway.

The group proceeded boldly and found themselves in a beautiful, blue-tiled, two-story entryway. Their footsteps echoed loudly, and the party made their way swiftly into one of the side rooms. They found a series of store rooms containing a variety of they termed “art supplies”—including different colors of ink, colored powders, waxes and oils, large sheets of papers, iron stamps, and a large variety of pronged bronze disks of uncertain purpose. Some of these rooms looked like they had been vandalized by other explorers.

After exploring several storerooms on the south side of the building, they sought a way to cross to the other side, looking especially for a way up. Entering a larger room, they noticed a light flickering on the other side and rushed toward it to investigate. Too late, they discovered that the floor had been oiled or waxed, and several members of the party tripped over themselves as they tried to cross the room. As they struggled to regain their feet, they were set upon by a dozen small humanoid creatures with baboon like faces and blue shaggy fur. Some of these creatures threw bronze disks at Tetsukichi, who had sprawled to the floor, while others clubbed Beatriss with iron stamps. A loan scholar would have had a hard time of it, but these two experienced warriors, supported by their most valiant companions, defended themselves handily and killed all of the nasty blue creatures, without suffering any significant wounds.

The light that first attracted their attention turned out to be a simple lamp burning in the blue creatures noisome den. A flight of stairs leading up was also hear. The party explored the upper floor of the Observatory and found the roof—a flat top to the domed roof. A strange bronze chair was there, tilted so that one sitting in it would be looking into the sky, but with a transparent “hood” that covered the sitters face. After various experiments had no unusual results, the party decided they should wait for nightfall.

sextant by Ian RileyAt nightfall, the party discovered the chair’s effects. Beatriss sat in it and was able and see her children. She saw them in fox form snowy mountainous place. Her emotions—fear, longing—seemed to interfere with her ability to watch them closely or for long. She looked for Gwinch and found him. Here her view was more clear, as she found that she could see not only Gwinch, but every step she would need to take to get to where she was, back through the jungles, swamps, and mountains where they’d traveled over the past few months, to a small building of bamboo and crumbling stone outside of Pasar. He was meditating and two men were watching him from the shadows. Tetsukichi remembered that they had a particular reason for seeking the Observatory, one related to their mission. He sat in the chair and asked to see the altar they’d read about in the library, the place they could go to summon the peoples’ protector and get assistance in undoing Goyat’s ritual. He sat in the chair, and he saw an alter in the jungle, but that’s all he saw. They asked Afu to try. Afu started to suggest that Ju- May would learn much from the experience, but everyone, even Afu could see that Ju-May was still in bad shape from his bad dreams the night before, and was nursing a nasty bite on his neck from one of the blue
creatures. So Afu sat in the chair. And after several minutes, he burst out laughing. “Yes, I can take you to the altar of Nung Chiang!”


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Another Group of Travelers Seeks a Way to Pasar

Krepu-San, Bushi (Fighter) 4
Sükh , Bushi 1
Shoji, Shukenja (cleric-ish) 3

Jintara, Thief 3
Tetsukichi’s wife Su-Laing, their daughter Yin Yue, and their maid Kei-Lo
Beatriss’s children and their nannies Hwian and Malee
a few other, unnamed non-combatants

Meanwhile . . . back in Menkan, things were getting harder and harder for the Sansar clan. From the North and West, the lizard folk were growing in numbers and making increasingly bold attacks. And from Menkan, larger and larger contingents of Imperial forces were making increasingly frequent and increasingly intrusive “inquiries” as to the whereabouts of Tetsukichi. What he had learned about Goyat? What had he learned about Kawabi? What had he learned about Gwinch? Had he followed those other traitors?

The leaders of the clan decided that their future lay to the west. If they were called traitors, let them be traitors, and give their allegiances to a Great Khan who offered them better protection. They would fight their way through the lizard folk and never turn back.

But Su-Laing refused to go. Tetsukichi knew where to look for her here. If she went west, she and their child would never see him again. Likewise, Beatriss’s servants (Hwian and Malee) feared the consequence of separating Beatriss’s children from their mother. If the clan was going west, the families of Beatriss and Tetsukichi would find their own way to Pasar.

Costa Rica stream by Brayo
Three brave adventurers volunteered to lead the way: Sükh , a young warrior of the clan, plus Shoji, the Shaman, and Kreppu-San, a foreigner and friend to Beatriss and Tetsukichi from their days in Zipang.

The group set off to the southwest, following the course of a river that led to a legendary “lost valley” and more practical to their immediate purposes, a road to Pasar. They traveled light, and with a spare horse for each rider, and made good time. As they traveled further from the Sansar grazing grounds, they began to find signs of the llizardfolks’ prescence—tracks, totems, and the remains of a campfire, strewn with gnawed bones, likely human. The adventurers left the non-combatants here, and made a trip into the jungle, following lizardfolk tracks. As they climbed in altitude, the air thickened with mist, and their visibility became very poor. Fearing an ambush, they started back down to the river. On their way down, they heard the noise of something following them. The heroes moved faster, with Jintara springing ahead to warn the others. Back down at the river, they took up a defensive position, and waited. Horrible undead creatures loped into view, gnashing their teeth, and dragging their long-mailed fingers across exposed stones. Kreppu-san and Sukh shot them with arrows, and Shoji transfixed them with magical light.

Emerging from this battle unscathed, the party took a second trip up the trail, and took a little more to explore the area. It was a place for disposal of the dead. Decaying lizard folk bodies, in a posture of peaceful repose, many with weapons at their side, were laid out on the ground, surrounded by stones. Also decorating the resting places of several lizard folk warriors were stakes topped with human heads and skulls. At the center of all of this was a small hut.

The party charged the hut with their weapons ready. A screamed pierced the air as they made their approach, emanating from the hut. Without hesitating, Krepu-San, shouldered through the flimsy door, and the party fell upon the hut’s occupant, a Lizard folk shaman. They killed her and then ransacked her hut, to find several pieces of amber and a holy scroll.

D & D Figurines 003 by ShadowWolf13
D & D Figurines 003, a photo by ShadowWolf13 on Flickr.
The adventurers returned to the river and their charges, and continued their journey. That night their sleep was interrupted by the sounds of drumming carried over many miles. They broke camp early and breakfasted on horseback, urging their mounts to travel as fast as was safely possible on the uneven ground. Krepu-San observed that not only were they being pursued by a large enemy force, it was likely that they would run into an ambush if they did not exercise caution. Reaching a place where the ground became much steeper, with ravine walls rising on either side, and boulders strewn along their path, Krepu-San insisted that they should proceed with extreme caution. He and Jintara found a place where they could climb up the walls of the ravine and see what lay before them. Reaching a look-out point perhaps two hundred feet above the trail along the river, Krepu-san looked downstream and see faintly the mass of the pursuing forces. And, sure enough, not more than 50 yards upstream, he counted a dozen lizardfolk warriors prepared for ambush. He sent Jintara back down to tell the other party what lay ahead and to prepare to assist. Then he found a hidden place from which to shoot the ambushers with his bows. Soon two of the lizardfolk warriors were on the ground, pulling arrows out of their chests. The rest of the ambushers, not seeing that the arrows had come from above, charged down the trail. The party was ready to meet them. Shoji used his magic to transfix them while Shuk drew his sword. Meanwhile Krepu-San identified and killed the leader of the ambush force. Not until most of their force were killed did the ambushers realize they were being attacked from above. By then it was then it was too late for them. Both Shuk and Krepu-san were wounded, but once their enemies were destroyed, Shoji healed them both, and the party pressed on.

After several more hourse, the party reached a pool at the bottom of a waterfall. Their most likely way forward lay through a large archway in the wall of stone. As the sounds of the drumming and the main force of the lizardfolk drew nearer, the party saw the archway was their only option for safety. Jintata and Krepu-san confirmed that the way was wide enough for them to enter with their horses. The party entered, and climbed a ramp carved into the stone, that spiraled a few hundred feet before emerging at the top of the waterfall. A bridge crossed the river above the waterfall and in the middle of the bridge was a small tower.

As the party got closer to the tower, they found the crushed bodies of three Lizard Folk warriors. In the valley below, the advance army of the Lizard Folk were gathering by the pool and pointing at the party on the bridge. But none entered the archway.

Krepu-San and Jintara got closer to the tower and opened the door. Inside there were two statues, made of gleaming metal, and in the shape of human-like creatures with canine heads. It was a single room, with a door on the opposite side, and littered with bones and rusted armor fragments.

Jintara saw something she wanted among the bones and debris that littered the floor of the tower: a slim piece of wood, about a foot long, dyed a rich red color and banded with a golden metal. She grabbed for it, and as she did, one of the steel statues swung at her with both fists. Jintara grabbed her prize and Krepu-san pulled her out of the tower. The statue chased them. Cheers came up from the Lizard Folk in the valley. Sukh shot the statue with an arrow—and the metal was absorbed. Krepu-San and Jintara were faster than the statue, but there was nowhere to run. Jintara threw the wand. The statue kept coming.

So Krepu-San and Jintara stopped and ran toward the statue—and tried to slide past it. Krepu-San took a glancing blow, but kept running—they both reached the tower. The statue turned and came after them. They entered the tower and—as they expected, had to dodge the blows of the second statue as they opened the door and ran for the safety of the far side of the bridge. The rest of the party likewise made a mad dash across the bridge, the hardier members of the party on foot, and seeking to distract the statues, while the non-combatants rode by on horses. One of the spare horses was struck down and left on the bridge. More tragically, Su-Laing’s faithful maid Kei-Lo was struck with such force that she flew off her horse and over the side of the bridge. The party did not linger to see where she landed. Only after they reached the road on the far side of the bridge and had run for some distance did they turn to see that the statues were not following them.