[Campaign Journal] Sword, Sorcery and Minarets #04
by Kalman Farago
As we were discussing our next move — we intended to leave the City of Vultures behind for a while, at least until the disarray over Khojar Mirza’s death and the slaughter of a patrol settles down –, we spotted a mighty army heading for the city. While the others chose to remain hidden behind the hills, Burzasp and Ambrosius went and, pretending to be travellers of no importance, took a closer look. They learned it was the army of Lord Khair Rabani Daneeshwar, returning to the city after collecting taxes from the nearby town of Avendar. They also received information about two travellers accompanying the army, who were recently rescued from a sandstorm and who were looking to join up with likeminded fellow spirits. These two — Marasura Aamir Nazar and Yar-Shalah by name — were taken back to the others for introductions, and they decided to travel with the rest of us for a while. Yar-Shalah was a nondescript traveller in a ragged, torn burnous, armed with spear, scimitar and composite longbow; the other also seemed to be a drifter, lean and muscular. Both had been waylaid by the robbers of one Razi Yazeb, who had let them go without much harm, but left them to the mercy of the elements.
“And this terrible sandstorm we got trapped in, it tore the bone and skin from the meat… I mean, it tore the bone and the meat from… no, wait.. the skin and the meat…”
Deciding to head south and check out Arfel — pilgrimage site of the zombie-worshipping cultists of Ozolba — then perhaps move on to other location, we boarded our boat and started rowing. A few hours later it became obvious that no one on board knew how to navigate on sea, or even row a boat in a relatively straight line. By then, the shore was getting out of sight, and we were taken northeast by the wind and the currents. Failing roll after roll, we passed an island that looked like an ominous bunch of dark walls, then eventually made landfall on a second one, but the lights were already dying by now. As darkness fell, Marasura put on a heavy sack-cloth hood with two eye slits, averting his vision from the seas. This was understandably suspicious, but he refused to offer an explanation.
As the sun was setting, we explored the shore we landed at, and found a metal grate in the side of a cliff. After making sure it could not slam shut, we moved in to investigate, leaving Marasura and Vifranavaz behind as guards. A long, winding set of stairs led downwards and into the cliff; the walls were decorated with bas reliefs of strange heads, and several puckered mouths. Avoiding two traps, we’ve entered a large cavern with a two-storey structure hugging one of the walls. Inside we found several crates of well-oiled swords — seemingly brought here not too long ago –, and a pile of mysterious cylinders embedded in some gelatinous material, which were emitting heat and a faint vibration. In another part of the cavern, we also a path leading deeper into the earth, guarded by two strange statues: these beings appeared segmented, slightly wormlike, and were both wielding metal tridents. From this direction, we could hear the sound of rolling waves. Some rather silly provocation on someone’s part caused the statues to spring into combat. We have prevailed, but some of us took some nasty blows, so we decided to retreat outside and rest.
The next day, we started exploring the rest of the island, putting off further descent into these caves until later. Long story short, we’ve found an abandoned palace complex named the Palace of Tulashwar, an opulent ship without anyone aboard, a patch of dangerous-looking vegetation identified as “1000-tooth bramble”, and eventually, as we followed a winding path through the island, a merry and well-armed group of people. They were led by Dur Lani, a lord from the City of Vultures, here on a pleasant excursion. After some misunderstanding and narrowly avoided violence (as bloodshed seemed certain, Vifranavaz quickly calmed manners with an illusionist’s show showing a princess trapped in a golden cage, a sequence of musical notes, and a swarm of bats, which gave Burzasp time to get out of sight and don Khojar Mirza’s luxurious robes which he took during the first session and carried in his backpack ever since), he has accepted us as a fellow noble traveller (Burzasp) and his retinue, stranded here after some maritime mishap. Joining forces, we’ve explored a locale the nearby sign called “Cycloptic Cave”: as our new companion suggested, sending a reconnaissance team consisting of a soldier and Marasura in front of us.
Fighting and killing a pair of two-headed snakes, one of which bit and almost killed the soldier at the fore, we entered the cave proper and found a most peculiar site. Cacophonic noises and stroboscopic lights were rising from a deep well of a disturbing expressionistic design, while leaning over the mouth of the well was a threatening idol with a ruby-red crystalline tongue. A brass plaque read: “Shriwasnar the Flayer. 14th Pan-Apocalyptic Dynasty, Bedalla Period”. Burzasp and Dur Lani were mesmerised by the lights and sounds, but the former had the presence of mind to tether himself to his companions before approaching the well, so he was pulled clear of the magic’s range of effect. While Dur Lani was still looking into the well — but fortunately not doing anything else, like trying to jump into it –, his chief bodyguard, Rajap tried to curry favour by pulling the idol’s crystalline tongue out to offer to his liege as a thoughtful gift. (Admittedly, some of us might have been giving him the idea.) As he touched it, the cogwheel-like mechanisms inside the idol’s mouth (which, admittedly, some of us might have noticed before) sprang to life with an earsplitting whine, turning the poor man’s sword-hand into a bloody stump. As the rest of the bodyguards watched in horror, we quickly gave him first aid and shook Dur Lani out of his hypnotic reverie. Seeing what happened to his man, he sent him back to the barque with a few men, and decided to leave this sinister cave for further, greater adventures.
Burzasp (trying to appear trustworthy to the two new PCs, total strangers): “You know how it goes with travellers – sometimes, there is a time when it is best to be distant from the city until they forget your face. … Yeah, come with us, my companions are right behind this hill.”
Vifranavaz: “After we have rid the city of a bunch of insane mass murderers…”
GM: “…by leaving the place…”
Originally posted on Dragonsfoot
Original date 12 February 2011.
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