Iralun – Session 10

Hard choices make heroes

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbarous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more, but more of that later

– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

The scenario has been gathered by Kellri  – “The Rising Dark” And also the city itself Irilian Remastered

Grogtalk podcast with an interview with Daniel Collerton, author of Irilian 

For this last session, Gunion is still off being mystical, Jushuur couldn’t be there, so some catch up is required. I’ll add any decision to this blog later. For once, I’ll reserve my thoughts to the end of the blog, rather than interjecting 

White Dwarf Book Club Issue 42 | The GROGNARD FilesThe tunnel, dimly lit by bio-luminescent moss awaited. At least it was tall enough for all to walk down in comfort, and wide enough that they could walk two abreast. The way seemed clear, Farshad leading the way with the magic lit shield. That light was a temporary and hollow comfort. For soon the darkness spread down the tunnel from the well, reaching through and beyond the group, tendrils of darkness reaching beyond and through the bodies of the group, chilling them to the very marrow, leaching their body heat and energy, continuing growth on, stealing light from every source, the moss on the walls, the lantern José lit, even the light from Jalabu’s shield, all drained and diminished.

Trying to push on, the group are interrupted by the sound of rushing feet behind them, they turn round, to see three warriors of an unknown tribe coming at them with war axes. Combat is joined, Jalabu and Utana facing the enemy, José and Farshad doing what they could to provide light, at least until Farshad and Dhran were seized by two shadow creatures, emerging from the darkness with life draining grasps.

Utana was beset, injured whilst Jalabu fared better, switching to two weapons since Farshad had his shield, and some of his hits got through, but Utana got stunned, dropping his spear. Despite managing to break free, Farshad using his silver dagger, which seemed to cause the shadow creature to recoil, and Dhran’s sacrificing life force to his cursed knife to wound the creature holding him, the returning attacks drained and stunned them.

? ? ? l l l ? ? ? ? (animorphing into space crab) on Twitter: "hmm.. "gown"  okay, crown sucks, but the 5000 year old obviously cursed sword is cool  Google: “Dhran, already fatigued by powering the spell of the cursed knife, was cruelly injured and dropping his precious knife. José, holding up his lantern with one had, did what he could with his khopesh, but the group was battered, things looking bleak until, with a shock, light came down the tunnel racing to them and past them, dissolving the Shadow creatures and blinding the Dark allied warriors, allowing Jalabu and a recovering Utana to finish them off.

José did what healing he could, before, leaving the bodies of their attackers undisturbed, they continued, battered but able to move under their own power until they come to a round chamber, arched columns meeting at the centre to a point where a crystal lens focusses a light into a ball of fire about four feet from the ground under it. Where the light that the crystal focussed comes from could not be determined, and no one wanted to disturb it, the ball seemed like unsupported energy, not attached to anything.

When the group walked into the chamber, a voice spoke the Prophecy,

Out of the West,
The Dark comes crawling,
Higher and higher.
Till it touches the sky.
While in the East.
The Light, still burning.
Sends the Hero, Gifting the sacrifice pyre
One shall gift all,
the most precious of gifts
Or all shall gift one,
A gift of meaning, or not at all

These words, and moreover, the extra words, make the full meaning clear. Either one of the group sacrifices their life to the Light, or all sacrifice something that has true meaning and value to them. After some brief discussion, they each thought on it.

The first offering was Utana, with his golden armour that he had found in the tomb, even for a noble the value of that could have bought an estate. It glowed even after taken from the ball of light, and Utana found his injuries healed, his own body glowing.

Others considered what they might offer. A helmet Dhran had had made, whilst personal, was not accepted.

Jalabu made a great gesture. He forgave the debts of Farshad, took the responsibility of them onto himself, making repaying his family his responsibility, he offered documents that he had, copies of the bonds and charges, as token. He too felt invigorated, and glowed now.

Next, touched by Jalabu’s offering, Farshad offered his flute, that enhanced his ability to charm others, and had so recently saved the lives of all by charming the rats that otherwise might have ripped him and his companions apart. Healed and glowing, he stepped back.

Secret passage - WikipediaJosé had thought about this hard, and his amulet that enhanced his skill as a healer was the thing he offered, the thing that aided him in his aid to so many. He stepped back, as the others.

All eyes were on Dhran, he knew what the most suitable offering was, but did not wish to relinquish it. He was a poor farm boy, seeking his way in the world, and this was a thing of value and usefulness, but to give so much more, to him, than even the gilded armour was to Utana, was too much to ask. But, he did it, the fire blazed, the knife was washed away of its curse in a great blaze, it now seemed blessed. Now all were healed, refreshed, cleaned and now glowing with a pure light holding purified versions of their offerings, also glowing and seemingly more powerful.

The voice spoke again, saying

From the Light to the Light
From the Source to the End
From the Earth to the Temple
The gift will be accepted
In the Goddess’s Fire

The group understood what the words meant, that their next destination was to be the Temple of Mamdedmerha, to the main offering fire, to complete their sacrifices. They checked for any alternate exits from the chamber, but the only route back was the tunnel, still lit by the light from the chamber to the well.

Clambering up some knotted ropes helpfully left by the attacking Warriors of the Dark they emerged from thee Rubis Weg well, and found themselves in a city at war. Where they were was behind the front lines though they could hear the sounds of battle ahead in the main square. The stars were hidden by the darkness arching over and infusing the city with a chilling gloom that also seemed to strangle artificial light.

Daily Dwarf on Twitter: "No. 6 The Irilian map. Not much rhymes with Irilian,  y'know?"A choice faced the group, to try and relieve the pressure on the beseiged Iralunii, fighting their way to the Temple, or to try and find a way to sneak to it, a bit of an issue since all glowed and repelled the dark around them.

They decided to take the back lanes, south of the main square, to avoid conflict,coming up on the eastern side of the city, coming to the Temple from the rear. Crossing the Temple Lane, they saw the central square, the priestess Aslahya and her victims still hovering above it, the victims circling her, as Irlaniis made a last stand,some on the roofs hurtling things down at a seemingly unending wave of attackers. Although most of the attacks came from the West, they could see that the militant order. the Children of Mamdedmerha, were besieged in their fortress House.

Despite the steady lines of the Irulanii defence, still the circle was pushed inwards, and occasionally one of them, touched by the Dark, would turn on their neighbours as committed as any of the worshippers of the Dark, further adding to the pain suffered.

The eternal fire, dark atmospheric landscape with stairs to ancient columns and font of fire, fantasy background

The group slipped into the Temple via the door in the Temple’s adjoining quarters, forgotten in the defence of the Temple as no enemy has come that way, to find the main temple doors being held closed by worshippers, whilst others prayed, Offerings were being made at the main fire as well as the lesser fires around the Temple, but to the main fire came the group, each in turn offered their gift, which was consumed and the fire glowed brighter and bluer with each gift.

The reluctance Dhran showed in offering his knife again resurfaced, he offered the helmet once more but, though personal and valued, a goal he had long sought, all knew that the knife had become precious to him over the last few days, becoming his most prized treasure. None forced him, they knew that it had to be voluntary or not at all, and none forced him, but none could offer him comfort either. Eventually, reluctantly, at a cost to his sense of having a big step in making his way in the world snatched from him, he made the offering.

With Dhran’s last gift, the Light of the Fire of Mamdedmerha exploded from the offering basin, strong with power and yet not blinding. It forced the doors of the Temple over, flinging the worshippers to the ground. across the central square, and up against the Dark. It seemed to leap from person to person, from house to hous, challenging the lightning in the sky, until the whole of Iralun is ablaze with sapphire blue unconsuming fire, whose light seems to make even the most run down building look clean and new.

The Dark, driven back to the walls, grows thicker, and curls up over the city again, the Light rallies, blasting the Dark from the sky, and all in the city lose consciousness.

The group wake up, the doors of the Temple are still open and a golden sunned dawn is rising into a cloudless sky. The Dark is gone, most of its adherents are either fled, or have woken up from a numbing dream, both scared and yet with some sense of freedom from horror. Soldiers come to the group and kneel, begging that they come with them to the House of Thirteen to meet with the Council. Others are cleaning up damaged, and attending to the fallen.

They are brought to the House of Thirteen, whose main chamber, that last time was arranged as a court, is now arranged for a feast. Those remaining of the Council of Thirteen, Teralag of the Temple of Ghalmerha, Tamordiu, the Priest of Sikavilmerha who sheltered them the night before they entered Iralin, Girlahaz, sub priest of Mamdedmerha in the stead of the unconscious and injured Aslahya, her and her satellites having fallen from the sky when the Dark was driven away, and various citizens who distinguished themselves in the fight are here, being fed and refreshed before a speech is made by the Lord of the Council, Elisim Deorsin.

To those that we once feared as agents of the Dark, you proved to be our rescuers, and those in the city owe their lives to you. We did not know why you came to the city, but we thank you for all that you have done.

We cannot reward you as you should be, the city is long from its time of wealth, however we declare you Freefolk of Iralun, you shall never be subject to taxes for entry or import to this city for as long as you live. By the time you leave, charters will be presented to you, confirming this, as will symbols of rank.

In addition, as the Council of the City of Iralun, heirs to the Satiryas of the City of Iralun, the governors appointed by the Rule of Haxamanis, we grant you land and rule in our name in the lands beyond the River Baika! Now, that is not as generous at it seems, those lands are covered by the Great Forest, I doubt that you will ever claim them, but you will also be presented with patents of lordship, you never know when a bit of prestige might be valuable.

Finally, you came here for a reason, all that can be spared to help you in your research will be done done, though much needs done to bury the dead, repair the buildings and deal with the lost souls left here when they awoke from the touch of the Dark. Aslahya herself is confined, her body lives, but is weak, and she sleeps, no one knows if she will wake or what state she will be in. All are injured from the fall, when the Dark was banished.

You are our guests until your work is finished, here at the House of Thirteen, or back at the Temple of Ghalmerha if you prefer. Rest, Study, Recover.

The group rest up, and enjoy some comfort and start to think about using their time to hone their skills, whilst the Temple of Ghalmerha study the documents they brought to see about a translation when, three days after, the city is abuzz again. The sounds of drums hammer from the east, the rumour goes of an army, cavalry in their hundreds and tents being put up. The guard, militia and some of the temple troops rush to the eastern gate. The group goes, perhaps reluctantly, to the gate, and are shown up to the walls by the soldiers, with awe and reverence that has not yet worn off with familiarity.

Dhran looks out, his sharp archer’s eyes spotting the banner of Harvan, agent of Niralha, the magistrate of the Haraxan kingdom that is your current employer. Harvan has arrived with a small guard and some Quulbari guides, certainly not the hundreds or even thousands spoken of, and he has come as he said he would do, to seek the translation of the books you found in a forgotten tomb thusands of kilometres to the East, all those months ago.

And, vouching for their employer to the city guards, welcoming him to the city, and guiding him to the Temple of Ghalmerha this session, and this adventure ends. They have saved a city, but at a cost of terror, and things of worth. What will the future hold?


Why Startups are like the Kobayashi Maru – Information MavenSo, many weeks later, it is done. We discussed this quite a bit after the session. This is a bit like the “Kobiyashi Maru“, from the point of view of your average player, it ends in a no-win scenario, you get massacred, or one of you gives up a character, one that has taken ages to get up the levels to be able to play. It’s a choice, it’s a great gesture, as Andy playing Jalabu said, it would have been a hell of a thing at the time, that kind of self sacrifice wasn’t part of adventures, but I felt it was a bit of a gotcha.

As I have been wrestling with the notion of meaningful sacrifices in the RPG that this DeagonQuest campaign is testing the world for, the notion of such a sacrifice, but one shared by the party, occurred to me.

The original prophecy is pretty explicit, the fate is pretty damn obvious

Out of the West,
The Dark comes crawling,
Higher and higher.
Till it touch the sky.
Whlle in the East.
The Light, still burning.
Sends the Hero,
To the funeral pyre.

My changes were maybe too subtle, so I added on the extra verses to make it clear that there was the choice of solutions when they got to the Source of the Light. Not sure why it was where it was,but there you go.

Fun thing about the tunnel encounter, there is supposed to be a Death Knight on

Death Knight on Nightmare

 Nightmare in there. It’s seven feet, a little over two metres, high, so HOW!

The only way I could imagine that is a Hobbit Death Knight on Shetland Pony, no way can the normal thing fit in there. 

In the tunnel fight, there is an option for the Light to rescue the party if they are doing badly, and I was prepared to have more warriors follow down the well to attack, but DragonQuest has a deadly combat system, so the party, constrained in the tunnel, were doing badly enough as it was to fulfil the rescue criteria.

After they come out of the tunnel, there is supposed to be a running fight, one that the power of the Light can help with, but it is still possible to fail. This is easier in AD&D, with fighters getting multiple attacks and mowing down low hit dice creatures. Less easy in DragonQuest, but I think that the route they took, glowing as they were, was one where they could have avoided the few creatures I had ready had they gone to the main square.

The party have sacrificed items of power, so I think I will have to resist compensating them for that. Jalabu’s offer is going to mean that the player plays to that, meaning any backsliding into old habits will see the character penalised in terms of XP, but bonuses for good use of it. Will Farshad’s investments prove shrewd or foolish?

Utana, though a noble, giving up the value of an estate, I am not sure what might result from that, but I feel it will have consequences.

Dhran seems to have a quest, and I think that we should see something that plays to that, his desire to find security and a place in the world.

Will José find a way to reconcile his trade of being a mercenary captain with his new vocation as a healer?

One problem for this party in dealing with some of the things they should encounter is, no magic. The one magic using character hasn’t been around, because of calls on the time of the player. Yes, any DragonQuest character can start with magic, but they traded that for other skills. This meant that a couple of the specifics of the adventure I had to change, because they had no way to deal with it. Another obstacle had an alignment element, not being AD&D, that wasn’t viable either

DragonQuest doesn’t have clerics either, and healing is limited. So there isn’t the usual AD&D recovery options, and as combat can be more quickly brutal, the “throwing large numbers of opponents at players” is going to get them killed, unlike throwing kobolds at level 7 AD&D fighters.

This was an amazing adventure in its day, and still holds up, but I think anyone running it should run other adventures in Irilian first, introduce them to the factions and personalities first. If nothing else it might be seen as a waste of the city to use it for a solitary adventure, and you might as well meet the people before they risk them falling to the forces of the Dark.

It also would make some of the connections easier between sections of the adventure, players knowing who might be the best person to talk to, or to know alternative NPCs who might know answers.

If running again though, I would use things like the above, and anything else I can think of, to try and allow players have the possibility of finding their own solutions. 

One last thing, always say your weird names out loud a few times, Mamdedmerha isn’t really that hard to say, but unpracticed, it can trip you up, other names can be worse, so, see if that unfamiliar name works out loud before committing to it.



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Iralun – Session 9

Why does everyone we meet die a horrible death?

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbarous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

I’ll say that this session, for my performance as a GM, was he least I have been happy with myself for, a while, not just because I was feeling sleepy, but for other reasons I will discuss later.

The group considered their approach to the House of the Children of Mamdedmerha as Dhran appeared, breathless, ahead of the mobs searching for the group, who seemed to be getting the blame for all that had been happening, at least when the mobs weren’t fighting each other. The House looks more like a small castle than a a religious institution, as befits the Children as a Militant arm of the Goddess Mamdedmerha, yet Pilgrims come seeking a holy experience, even as the city falls apart.

Priests, armoured as heavily armed soldiers, in armour of plates rivetted to leather, check the Pilgrims over and guide them in, and when the group approach the guards do not seem particularly perturbed to see strangers approaching. They tell the guard that they need to see someone in charge, that they are sent by that High Priestess Teralag of the Temple of Ghalmerha. That satisfied them enough to escort the group to the refectory of the House, past a hospital building being readied for casualties from the chaos outside.

The courtyard inside is clear, giving views to the chapel where the few pilgrims are being escorted, or the stables where the House cavalry’s mounts are kept. The refectory was busy enough, some meals being taken but also a meeting of some sort. One of those present, a large, well-armoured man with a florid face, though only armed with a knife. This was Krisaef, the First Seneschal of the House.

The group laid out their needs, a book of evil that only a truly Holy Relic would destroy, a relic such as the sceptre held by the Children . If they could but borrow the sceptre, to use against the book, then that might free the city of the madness gripping it. Krisaef refused. He stated that the book was not his problem, and that he could not help them, that for them to touch the sceptre would be a profane act. The group was escorted out of the House, to be met by Irakandil, the lieutenant who had escorted them from the Council House.

I was kind of surprised that José, who often takes on these negotiations, didn’t use his Empathy to try and get some understanding of Krisaef, and if he had doen then there was a chance, had he been slightly more persuasive, that Krisaef might have decided to allow it and roll with it not working, but they group weren’t quite that charming.

However it does strike me that, to the group it must have looked as if the GM was just being obstructive, why wouldn’t the Children want to defeat an artefact of the dark?

Pondering their next move, they spoke about leaving, taking the book away from the city, but Irakandil took them up to the wall, there a mist concealed the horizon, the sharped eyed could see stakes surrounding the city, the sharpest eyed saw apparitions in the mist. Escape was no longer an option.

The group considered ways to perhaps steal the sceptre, and decided to go in disguised as pilgrims. Irakandil knew of a place near the House where pilgrims borrowed robes before going to the House, and Irakandil stashed the large weapons of the group there, and escorted them back to the House, secreting himself in a doorway until they returned.

This bit disappointed me a wee bit, they went for the default option as presented in the scenario, but I had wondered if this would have seen Jalabu and Farshad stealing over the walls, sneaking in and lowering Farshad on a rope like a taller Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, to snatch the sceptre in the middle of a service.

Just as before, the examination of the pilgrims seemed just to ensure that they had no large weapons rather than any examination of piety, instead rather they were welcomed and escorted to the chapel, noting the large stables for the House cavalry, and to the House Temple, decorated with carvings and paintings relevant to the faith. The inside is lit brightly by the glowing sceptre on the altar, the gold and silver triptych backing it focusing the light down the main hall, where pilgrims knelt on mats and joined in the service.

The group pretended to do likewise, though the light was not without a sense of cold and fear, they managed to not be obviously out of place, save Dhran. After the service concluded, the Priest officiating came over to question him. It is hard to say whether or not he accepted Dhran’s explanation of being newly brought to the faith of Mamdedmerha, but that was rendered moot by the actions of Jose and Jalabu, Jose was cautiously moving toward the sceptre with the book, when Jalabu rushed forward and, despite the icy cold of the sceptre threatening to burn him, Jalabu smashed it against the book.

The Book was unharmed, but the sceptre broke apart, the top flew off, leaving Jalabu with the stub out of which poked a rolled up parchment. The Priests in the room were stunned, genuinely surprised and horrified, too stunned to seek revenge. This let Utana and Jose read the document, which seemed to be a component of a false relic spell, not the spell itself, but a binding charm, created by one Zhoraqam.

The place is still silent, apart from gasps and a couple of priests hitting the floor, stunned in shock, until a group lead by Krisaef the First Seneschal shouldered their way through. It might have surprised those there that he did not decry the group for heresy or crimes against the Goddess, but seemed aware of the fraudulent nature of the relic. After some initial discussion the group were invited top follow him to the Armoury next door, leaving the gently sobbing pilgrims and priests in the temple.

The First Seneschal seems brazen about the deception, and although Jose’s claim to know everything falls apart when Krisaef tells them that the relic was always a fraud, that the story of searching out the sceptre as part of a quest was just part of the lie, rather than Jose’s hope that the House had pawned an original that could still be found. His original plan to enhance the reputation of the House got out of hand, but, once committed there was little he could do about it.

Instead he offers to help the group talk to Zhoraqam, creator of the false relic, and the only truly powerful magician in the city, now resident in the ancient Haxamanis Wizard’s Tower behind the House of the Children of Mamdedmerha. He would send with them the Third Seneschal, Sister Aestagyu to speak for him, though she was unaware of the deception. Sister Aestagyu, a strongly build woman almost as well armoured as Krisaef, keeps her own council, but he wants the silence of the group.

That is not enough for Jalabu, who suspects that once away from the House and the scent of scandal, Krisaef would arrange their quiet murder. Jalabu hints to Krisaef that this would be a bad move, and Farshad suggests that their memories might grow worse if distracted by shiny money. Krisaef balked at actual payment for silence, but, upon a suggestion from Jalabu, offered weapons freshly silvered, soemthing the armoury is busy doing as the Dark gets ever closer. 12 arrows, a silver shortsword and a silver dagger. The archers split the arrows, the shortsword goes to Jalabu and the dagger to Farshad. The group leave the House, being led out the Gate and round the wall to the Wizard’s Tower.

The streets outside are still deserted in places, but with sounds of fighting ringing down to where the group emerge, scuttling round as quick as they can. The wind is picking up as they approach the green, slightly glassy tower, built in a generally Haxamanis style but without the usual exterior decoration for such a buiding, steps spiral around the outside, piercing buttresses that support the walls and flow out from the top to form horns. The group rope themselves together, as the wind is getting stronger, what was a breeze at the base grows to be storm force by the time they near the top, so strong that sounds of fighting in the streets is drowned out. Utana and Farshad slip, proving the worth of the ropes, as the group dashes from the relative safety of one buttress to another, until the top is achieved, on where is a font like object, with instructions to place your hand in the found and state your business.

Jalabu places his left hand in does so, and the group hold themselves onto the found and each other for a minute until a doorway opens in the floor to reveal a stairway down into the interior. The group seeks the welcome refuge from the storm and descends, finding themself in a large area with a tall ceiling, well lit, one half a workshop with shelves of mysterious ingredients, strange symbols and odd stains. The other half had a table and chairs, looking more concerned with relaxation and thinking in peace than formal dining. The largest chair is occupied by an androgynous figure, who remains silent, a cat seated on their lap, and flanked by two strange creatures, one resembling a man but with the head of an ibis, the other shorter and with feathers instead of hair and clothes.

The seated figure’s rough, patched and stained work clothes seem at odds with the carefully arranged white hair, held back with a golden headband with a glowing red jewel. As they wait for the group to explain their problem, they tease the cat with a carved bone wand. After all is explained, they chuckle and answer.

“As you will no doubt have deduced, I am Zhoraqam, creator of the false relic. I am truly sorry that you have had to suffer such inconveniences apologise especially to you Aestagyu, although for reasons which l cannot explain, I am not entirely to blame. Do you not find it amusing that the Children of Mamdedmerha, dedicated to truth and the law, should guard a fake relic? No? Well, perhaps not. Still allow me to make some small reparation; perhaps I can gain some information to help you.”

They invite them to an inner chamber, through a door guarded by a solitary bronze statue, The servitors furl up embroideries depicting various magical operations, opening up the room and showing it to be a more formal version of the room next door, with true silver symbols on the floor, racks of ingredients and even another table and chair set up for non-participants to wait. As the group take refreshment served by the strange servants, Zhoraqam conducts a ritual in one of the circles on the floor, seeking to find answers in the Realm of Light. Their chanting is interrupted by a sigh of exasperation, and they open up the circle and face the group.File:Alchemist's Laboratory, Heinrich Khunrath, Amphitheatrum sapientiae  aeternae, 1595 c.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

“By the Seven heads! This is intolerable.. The routes to the Realms of Light have been closed to me! WHO!!” They turn to the group “YOU! To have this closed off to me by a power that I cannot break, and yet you have blithely interfered with little difficulty. How? What power do you have? What patron aids you? Why are you still sane matched against it?”

The group, unsurprisingly, can supply no answers, and they attempt another ritual, though the group seems concerned by it and ask if this statement by Zhoraqam

“I will try one of the Lower Reaches, see if I can find one there who can aid me”

is a good idea.

The sorceror’s second attempt seems to go better,  their chanting changes to a more measured pace, then they will stiffen then relax. They gasp, blackness starting to pour from his eyes, ears. nose and mouth as they whispers. ‘It comes. Leave.’

The urgency of this is reinforced by streams of dark pouring out of every orifice, EVERY ORIFICE, in Zhoraqam’s body, a flowing mass with tendrils that spreads out, flowing across the floor and walls, the group chop at reaching tendrils, but there are more, and eventually they touch the servant spirits. These start then leap towards the fallen Zhoraqam, hands transforming to claws. The shorter is despatched by Dhran, who pulls out his cursed knife and slams it into the servant’s back. Dhran’s face is almost as white as his hair, this seems to have cost him a lot of effort.

The servant dissipates, sloughing its fleshy form and leaving the non-corporeal spirit behind, the other is tackled by the bronze statue, whose arm reaches from behind the group to snap the servant’s neck and it too, dissipates. The group now realised that the statue at the door was another kind of guard. Zhoraqam regains consciousness briefly, and casts a protective spell that the tendrils seem unable to penetrate and, though it tests the barrier, generally it retreats.

They then say to the group ’Seek for the source of the Liquid of Life; Delve in the dark for the secret of Light.’

Then, with a low mutter, ‘Needless obscurantic doggeral as usual’. and loses consciousness again, the Dark again flows forward, though it seems to rise in a hemisphere above Zhoraqam.

As the group discusses what the words mean, the cat, now transformed into a human, has a greater sense of urgency, and ushers the group to the stairs and urges them to flee. The cat triggers the door and joins the statue in fighting the dark whilst the group make a retreat, back into the storm.

Pausing only to rope themselves together, and to ponder the carnage that they leave in their wake, they descend the tower, seeing the square to the north and streets to the North-East full of angry mobs. The only clear route is to the west, towards the city’s main gate. Their progress is noticed, and the mob starts to give chase. Irakandil, shouted “RUN!” and then charged the mob, seeking to buy the group time as they hammered west, seeking refuge though the noise ahead did not seem hopeful, cries of mobs and the sounds of weapons.

The way ahead is blocked by a mob spilling into the streets ahead, but the group is beckoned into a building in the jewellery quarter by Erea, one of the councillors who had spoken up for the party only a few hours before. Her family were taking refuge in their business, their home above, and they barricaded the door.

Mob violenceUnfortunately Erea’s hope that the group had solved all the problems of the city were dashed, but they told her the rhyme and their belief that the ‘Liquid of Life’ referred to a well, but which well? Erea was able to supply the information that the well closest to the building, in Ruby Way, was the oldest well in the city, it’s first well, and they decided to investigate that, but how, with the streets full of a violent mob seeking their death, as well as an encroaching darkness?

That problem was made more urgent by the hammering starting on the doors and windows, as the mob had found benches and beams to use as rams to break in, the group shored up the doors and windows as best as they could and, with Erea and her family, retreated to the roof, which had some planks on it that, at the narrowest point, could be used to make a bridge to the roof opposite. Although the winters in these parts can be harsh, summers can also be excruciatingly warm, and many houses have areas to rest, and even sleep out of the heat of the house.

The group left the councillor and her family making a new fort in this empty house as they rushed to the well in Ruby Way. The well looked deep, and the walls slimy with moss and what to do next was obvious, they attached a rope to Farshad and lowered him down. He used the magical buckler that Jalabu had, that had a light spell on it, and with that he was able to see a patch of moss that looked different, about 6 fathoms down.

Holding on for dear life, he levered away a wooden cover to reveal a tunnel, which he clambered into . The others followed, seeking this one hope that they were on the right path and, as Jalabu followed up at the back, he saw the moonlight and stars above cut off by the dark flowing over the well.

And there we left it, the next session should be the end of this adventure

So why was I unhappy with this. I have remarked before that this adventure is on rails and it is never more apparent as with this whole section. It is not only predicated on going to a place, and then to another place, possibly with no reason to do so, but the clues are unhelpful.

So, your players have to do exactly as expected or be shunted onto the path, rather than nudged. And in this session we see another flaw, they session starts trying to find an answer to this book, a method to destroy it, by the time it ends they are seeking SOMETHING, they don’t know what, and the book?

The book? Who remembers that? Though I think I might be using it if the players want to continue with this campaign after this session.

I have rewritten and amended this adventure, and hoped to be responsive for alternate methods that the players find to advance this adventure, but, with them outsiders coming to a strange place, I think that hasn’t happened. An alternate would be to run a campaign set in Irilian for a while, get the players familiar with the place and the people in the city and then run the plot, but not as written.

I am grateful for tolerant players.

It prompted a brief discussion about old adventures, classics  rightly held up as so, and steps forward in the “state of the art”. Unfortunately, in this case and in the case of one mentioned by Andy, who’s character Jalabu is, the state of the art has progressed somewhat.

Out of the West,
The Dark comes crawling,
Higher and higher.
Till it touches the sky.
While in the East.
The Light, still burning.
Sends the Hero,
Gifting the sacrifice pyre.

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Iralun – session 8

Failing the escort quest

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbarous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

Picking this up four weeks after the last session, with the notes for this session written five weeks ago, even after rereading it took a couple of starts to get me on track with it, but we got there

Dhran is still under care of the Temple of Ghalmerha, and Jalabu is still coming to terms with who he is (ie the players are off this week), so Farshad, José, Jushuur and Utana ponder where to go next. Do they flee the city? Do they try to deal with the High Priestess of the main temple, currently hovering over the central square in a corona of Black Fire and predicting the coming of the Dark.

They speak to Teralag, priestess of Ghalmerha, wondering if her Temple would remain safe from the Darkness and bolts of Aslahya, pondering that they might be able to shoot the High Priestess from afar, protected by wards in the Temple grounds.

Teralag was unsure, and reluctant to put it to the test, particularly as even if the Temple is proof against the magic of the Dark, it might not be proof against physical attack should Aslahya take people over and send them against the Temple of Ghalmerha. Instead the group decided to see if there were any clues in the Aslahya’s own Temple of Mamdedmerha or in her quarters.

Hans Holbein's Dance of Death (1523–5) – The Public Domain Review

Once outside, the streets showed evidence of building chaos and fear gripping the city. Soldiers were barring the gates against townsfolk trying to flee, the streets to the river quays were likewise barricaded. In some places the streets were empty, but windows and doors were being reinforced, cavalry were on patrol, and here and there knots of people seemed to be trying to find reassurance from each other. Groups of the desperate even seemed to be considering assaulting the towers of the city walls , to get up to the walls and down the other side.

Trying to build a bit of atmosphere here, things are not going well and there should be a palpable tension, but I did not want to just say “there is a tension in the air that you could cut with a knife.” I wanted to convey that. Occasionally you get an argument about “Are GMs storytellers” which is about how much agency a player character has in an RPG. In a sense though, all players, including GMs, need to tell a story now and again. 

The group skirted the main square north, in order to elude the gaze of the hovering priestess and by a roundabout route came to the rear of the Temple, which seemed devoid of visitors, and only one priest visible, who was nervously standing across the street, seemingly trying trying to work up the nerve to go in. Their resolve was undermined by the apocalyptic ravings and unnerving laughter of the High Priestess Aslanya and the screams of her five victims.

The group approached the priest, learning their name was Garidth, and asked them if anyone was inside. They said no, that all had fled. The group manage to overcome Garidth’s terror of returning inside on condition that they  but agreed to accompany the group and ensure that they committed no sacrilege and to act as a witness to their deeds in the Temple.

They proceeded around the main temple, looking for anything out of place, noting faded grandeur in the wooden pillars carved with stories of Mamdedmerha, paint fading and peeling frescoes, however the holy fires still burned pure blue, unsullied by the Dark, so far.

The Ninth Gate: occult and tarot-like symbolism in the engravings by  Aristide Torchia and Lucifer, plus wider meanings of the movie | David J  Rodger ¦ Science Fiction & Dark FantasyThe main Temple being clear, they went through the robing room to the stairs up to the accommodation on the side building. The first level up proved to be a dormitory, obviously deserted in haste, looking like it had been turned over and ransacked as people fled. Garidth gathers his personal effects, some amulets, a few tablets and a cheese sandwich in a bag.

Heading to the next stairs, Farshad stealthily went up, to be halted by a goat footed figure, stomping about. Farshad, just as stealthily stole back down again. Utana and José readied their bows and, suspecting that this opponent was supernatural, silver arrows. Utana’s first shot skewered one leg of the figure, which reveals itself to be a camel headed monstrosity, mocking the shape of mortals, that then seemed to fade partly into shadow, becoming indistinct.

With an arcane gesture the creature scrambled José’s wits, leaving him useless in the fight, stuck in the spot not sure of who he was, wha he was doing or what a stair actually was for. Farshad tried to slip past the creature, but couldn’t make it, as it stamped about, claws ripping at Utana. Jushuur tried to slap José to his senses, but although he caused him a bit of damage, José was left still out of it, his brains even more rattled. The creature leapt over Utana, trying to crash into Jushuur, but it overshot, it’s back to most of the fighters.

For an old fashioned tactical combat map game, in fact a version of the DQ combat system was published as a stand alone game, the system does have a nice “try anything” mechanic, which works for leaping NPCs as well as PCs.

Frustrated, its barbed tail darted forward, slicing through Garidth, killing him instantly. Another of the creatures appear but, as the first is near death and José has recovered his wits, it is not long before the two are despatched, dissolving, deliquescing and sublimating into nothingness.

Having watch Aliens this week, it was really hard not to turn this Shadow creature into a Xenomorph. I did not entirely succeed.

José laid Garidth’s body, on a bed, as tidily as he could manage,  laying his possessions beside him, except for the cheese sandwich, which Farshad took. After a decent interval, they proceed to the top level, seeing three doors, two plain and one more intricately carved. The two plain doored rooms both proved to be simple, sparsely furnished and  mirror images of the other, a bed, a desk, shelves of tablets and scrolls, a fireplace. The first, however, had a body stuffed into the fireplace, still smouldering, the second had the bed up against the wall and a rope made of sheets obviously used to clamber down and escape to the roof of the kitchens.

Most of the documents were internal matters of religious works of little interest, but on the desk of the second room was the start of a note about how the inhabitant was worried about the unorthodox statements and theology the High Priestess had started to utter.

The final room was a slightly larger version of the first two, with a couple of chairs for visitors and more texts and a few symbols of the Goddess Mamdedmerha,  However amongst those texts were more recent notes that indicated a disturbed mind, fixating on some abstruse obsession, the fresher the notes are, the more worrisome they become.

On the side table, however, was a lead bound book that to most seemed harmless, if perhaps unusual. To José, however, it screamed evil, to a degree that shocked him even more than Teralag was shocked by the knife Dhran carries. No doubt recent mental contact with a, minor goddess, and injury by a weapon of the dark made him receptive to it, but, despite the abhorrence, found himself drawn to it. 

He grasped the hateful thing and it was only with a supreme effort of will that he managed not to try and read anything, save the title, which meant nothing to him “Simartad Signih“. The group debated what to do with this artefact. How could they destroy it, and where was a handy axeman to try and cleave it with his father’s axe? In the end, they gathered combustibles and set a fire, ready to throw the book upon it, yet not one was able to put it into the flames.

This whole “One Ring” thing going on here was unintentional, it was just the way it worked out, but the quotes were there because we are obsessed fans.

After more discussion, they settled on putting it into a box and taking it to Teralag, maybe she would know what to do with it. Outside the streets were still a strange mix of empty and crowded, the crowds attracted to places of exit or potential sanctuary. The crowd outside the Temple of Ghalmerha was getting immense and the armed priests had to shove desperate citizen aside to let the group through to find High Priestess Teralag.

She looks but refuses to touch the book, and tells the group what this “Simartad Signih – The Book of Truth” is. It is a work dedicated to evil and the destruction of the cosmic order. It can only be read in relative safety by those who know the rituals and charms to render themselves safe, and those have been long lost. Tt is said that even then,  no one escapes unscathed, the mind of the strongest becomes corrupted and rendered receptive to evil.. If this item is the source of the evil, then it can only be destroyed by a holy relic. Alas the cheese sandwich Farshad mentions, but does not offer, is not holy enough. There is perhaps only one relic left in all Iralun that is perhaps holy and powerful enough to destroy this book,  the Sceptre of Mamdedmerha, kept in the House of the Children of Memdedmerha, a militant order of warrior-priests.

They contemplated Farshad going on his own to steal away the Sceptre, but decided that they would have better luck with the talents of all the group. Again by circuitous routes  the group headed to the House, only to be stopped by one company of soldiers to their front, and another coming up behind. A lieutenant approached them and told them that the Council of Thirteen demanded their presence. Pleas that they were on a mission from a Goddess went unheard, they were lousy pleaders. To the Council House they went.

The Council House is on the main square, across a lane from the Temple of Mamdedmerha and too close to Aslahya, so rather than use the grand entrance, they went to the staff entrance at the back, most of the troops remaining outside. They were still “guests” rather than “prisoners”, no matter how insistently their presence was demanded, and so they retained their weapons though, once in the Council chamber, they were asked to lay them on a table to the side of them. 

At the far end of the Chamber was an intentionally imposing dias and high table, behind which sat most of the Council of Thirteen and, in front of these,  Erihim, Lord Chairman of the City laid out the Council’s concerns.

‘Several days ago, the Kotharimi caravan arrived in lralun with you forming part of its escort. I hear that it had an “exciting” journey. It left a few days ago. this time without you, but returned after two days: This time with the escort nailed to the sides of the wagons.

“Yesterday. you were poking around Khalkedon Way and carting around Kurrim corpses while Aslanya, the leader of our most holy Temple, appeared on the Temple roof and. after some nonsense about it being Dark, caught fire along with five of our Citizens. They are still there!

“In the panic which followed many of our citizens were killed and more injured.

“You were later seen in her quarters. “s there, I wonder. any connection? Some of our citizens about three hundred in all, left Iralun yesterday evening heading south. However, our patrols now inform us, those soldiers that returned that is, that the heads of our former neighbours now form a ring around the town.

“You were also in the Griffon when a brawl threatened to break out and then just as mysteriously went away, as if by magic.

“You were at the Astrologers when she had her ‘accident’. What is going on?’

“Oh, oh, yes, and you were seen near the Rebel’s Head before it went on fire, leading to many deaths. Everywhere we turn, you are there!  You were in the Temple of Mamdedmerha, where we found two dead priests. One of you is even now covered in blood! What have you to say to that?

The group tried to defend themselves but it was not a strong defence, tales of kidnap did not absolve them, especially when Jushuur admitted that the location of the kidnapped José was that same Rebel’s Head that had had a mysterious and unexplainable fire. Tales of demons that left no trace did not seem to be convincing.

Outside a mob had formed, almost overwhelming the soldiers, and demanding that the group be brought out to be lynched, some rumour that these were the architects of the City’s woes had got out. Hurling insults and rocks, they seemed almost any minute ready to break in. The shock of this allowed silenced the Council long enough for the group to get the gist of their mission across, and the Council hurriedly debated whether or not to trust the group and take a chance that they could solve the whole City’s problem in one go.

In the end, the answer was “yes”, they would be lead out by secret means and taken to the Sceptre. After they had gathered their gear, and swapped weapons so that each left with what they arrived with, the lieutenant led them out the Council House via the cellars and out to the street through another house, and by shadowed alleyways until they reached the doors of the House of the Children of Mamdedmerha and, about to hammer at the gates, there we left them.

Next part kind of assumes something that is not appropriate to this party, so that is going to be interesting. I only hope I am up to the role-playing challenge that it might present.

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Iralun session – 7

Dark deeds in Daylight

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbarous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

Morning finds Jalabu still angered as, whilst trying to help someone he thought was a friend of the rescued Hurrus, he found himself betrayed and accused of hideous crimes, assaulted repeatedly, including being thrown out of a window. A night’s rest may not have lessened his anger, but his resolve for revenge has become ice cold. The motivation for the rest of the group is to find José, but both paths lead to the Rebel’s Head. They have narrowed the possible approaches to either assaulting the main door, or to see if this sunken door they spotted would be a useful way in.

I have said in earlier posts that I deviate from the text as I see fit to suit my gameworld, what I laughingly call my style of GMing, what suits the DragonQuest system better, the balance of characters, with no active magic user and whatever else seems appropriate at time. The kidnap and the attempted rescue are not part of the original unholy temple encounter. That is set up to be more of a straight combat encounter, but I thought that the NPCs might play it differently.

The hubbub in the streets has not quieted down, in fact the sense of unquiet is growing, so much so that the Temple of Ghalmerha where the group are staying, has shut its gates, in case of riots. Inside, the clergy are donning armour and practicing combat. Jushuur remains in the Temple to both be there in case of messages and to oversee some of the novices training.

The quietest time for The Rebel’s Head is the early hours of the morning, after the night crowd has gone home, but before the late morning opening and that was the time chosen. The Rebel’s Head, once a townhouse of a rural noble family, is walled around, and the steps they spotted were partly concealed by the broken wall and rubble of what was once a house outside that wall, a hidden escape route once upon a time.

Both Farshad and Jalabu The lock of the door foiled attempts to pick it, possibly a combination of an intricate lock and rust and gunk of years. Similarly the door, a sturdy piece of work, resisted attempts to break it down but persistence got it off its hinges, revealing a damp and dank passageway that they hoped was just flooded with water.

To be honest, all the dice rolls associated with this bit were failures, but I believe that dice should not rule everything, that in some circumstance, there should be a level of basic success, with good dice providing bonuses. That basic success might have drawbacks, depending on circumstances, but being stymied because of bad rolls is not a fun thing.

Dhran called out for José, but, having no answer they proceeded anyway, finding the inner door stiff but able to be opened partly, the door was almost blocked by barrels, and only a narrow space between to get through.

The room at the other side was lit, revealing what appeared to be a quickly thrown shrine to the same goddess as the shrine where José was taken, though the figures on the wall are crudely and recently painted. At the centre of the cellar is a pit, made from an old barrel in a shallow hole, surrounded by incense burners. Rising from that is a stake to which José was bound, a bag on his head and his body up to his chest caressed by the fleshy tentacles of a demon whose body gurgles in the pit. Its stroking touch leaving marks as it sucked the life from José in a mockery of tenderness.

Revolted, Duran and Farshad pull back on the cross beamed stake that José is tied to, whilst the others use weapons to stab, shoot and garrotte the tentacles from the pit demon until it expired. Whatever its powers, it died not seem suited for combat. Jalabu’s garrotte sliced through one tentacle, which deliquesced into a vile slime as it left from the body, it

José was cut free, his head bag removed, and his clothes and equipment retrieved from a nearby box. As they helped him get dressed, he spoke to them of things that his contact with the demon had revealed to him That demon was of a low order, like an animal, purely concerned with its own lusts, but through it and its connection to its summoner he did learn some things. What José experienced here, although evil, was not part of the great Darkness threatening the city. Instead Ulaliritu, the one you thought at first was a victim, and then a priestess, was neither.

She is a demon of lust that pretended to be a goddess, and Elhiri was one name mentioned of one of the worshippers who addressed the alleged deity. Dhran showed José the knife he had taken from a fallen cultist of the Darkness, and had it confirmed that the nature of the evils was different, Dhran’s knife was a thing of the Darkness, Ulaliritu was shielded by the encroaching Darkness but was not, yet, part of it.

Although I used the characters given in the written version, I had some notes about other devotees, of different genders, preferences and weaknesses that the group might encounter, particularly if they did not follow the trail to Elhiri. Elhiri was a bit different to the character in the original version, as she was a very 80’s character class, the houri, a sub class of magic user first published in White Dwarf 13 in 1979. It’s bad in attitude to women, and men, but mostly women, and it brings “lack of consent” to the fore. We’re better than that now. 

The group did not explore the room or the small side rooms further, preferring to press onto the next large room, the main cellar of the old townhouse. It was also replete with barrels and amphorae containing wines, spirits, food and oil.

The group considered setting a conflagration here and retiring, but Jalabu found that an empty sort of revenge, and so they proceeded, Farshad and Jalabu stealthily climbing the stairs into the main bar, slowly, quietly, secretly right until the point that they throw the trapdoor open slamming onto the floor.

It’s  been a while since I had a party set fire to a town.Last time was to evade Justice, rather than some warped sense of it.

This disturbs the sleeping barman in the main bar, who is still groggy and slow to react. Despite getting the jump on him, Farshad and Jalabu wound him only lightly, and he strikes out with a tapman’s hammer, slamming Jalabu but though it took a few strokes to finish the barman off, he is still to bemused to shout for help.ul

Despite what Andy, playing Jalabu, said, the barman does not always survive, though this time the barman did not get it worst of all.

From there Jalabu led the way to Elhiri’s room, finding her asleep in the arms of Ulaliritu, still in her form as an inhumanly beautiful woman though there is no sign of her priest Dzhughael. It became apparent that not only did Elhiri betray Jalabu, who was trying to help someone, Harris, supposedly her lover, whom she denied, she actually set him up to be tortured and sacrificed by Ulaliritu,

Jalabu, coldly, with no sign of remorse, uses his garrotte a second time that day, choking the life out of Elhiri as the others use their weapons on Ulaliritu. Surprised, she cannot muster her usual charms and illusions, but her fists hit with an unearthly cold, doing such damage that Farshad feels compelled to hit out with the full power of his magic shortsword, though that is fuelled with his own energy to finally despatch the demon, who, like the pit demon, dissolves into unholy goo., having made his displeasure with Elhiri’s betrayal evident. reenacted his exit from the building though  Elhiri’s corpse left by the window, rather than him.

So yes, this whole lead to the empty house, unholy temple and brothel is all, as written, false with a dead end. However it points to other evils, other things that could be happening in the city and the world, with potential for other adventures, so I used that.

Farshad and Jalabu pause further only to loot the room of small valuables before they left the grisly scene.  Farshad commented on how he had saved Jalabu’s life and how well they were working as a team. Surely all their activities are drawing the pair of them together, that past misunderstandings should be left there, and bygones should be bygones, but Jalabu points to this night’s work, insisting that this is more typical of how he deals with those that have dealt with him in bad faith.

Retracing their steps, they break open the spirit barrels and the oil amphorae and set a blaze in the cellar before retreating out. By the time they exit, smoke starts to be seen from The Rebel’s head, A bystander heading to the central square notices it, but despite his “fire kills but smoke kills in seconds and there’s no smoke without fire” comment, he seems remarkably unconcerned, following a stream of people to the central square, they are astounded to see that the roof of the main temple, that of Mamdedmerha is the focus of  a huge crowd, their attention gripped by a robed figure shouts from the rooftop.

Farshad and Jalabu pause further only to loot the room of small valuables before they left the grisly scene. Retracing their steps, they break open the spirit barrels and the oil amphorae and set a blaze in the cellar before retreating out. By the time they exit, smoke starts to be seen from The Rebel’s head, A bystanders heading to the central square notices it, but despite his “smoke kills in seconds” comment, he seems remarkably unconcerned, following a stream of people to the central square, they are astounded to see that the roof of the main temple, that of Mamdedmerha is the focus of attention, as a robed figure shouts from the rooftop.

‘…Fools Vermin! You come scutting from your holes to hear me who was Aslahya Radeshvili, High Priestess of Mamdedmerha, Chief of all the Clergy of Iralun, yet you know not what you hear. I, who saw you into this world, will see you out, for I have seen the Darkness and it is good.

“I have welcomed it and it has entered me as it shall enter you. So shall we be as one. But I see that you do not understand. Look!’

As if this wasn’t dramatic enough, having said her piece she walks off the roof, suspended as if on a path into the air until she is at the centre of the square, declaring

‘You shall be as these.’

Gesturing into the crowd, five luck less victims burst into black flame and rise screaming until they are on the same level as her, forming a pentacle of black flame, circling, orbiting about her.

Utana, José and Dhrana loose off silver arrows at Aslahya, but only Dhran’s finds its mark and then he may well wish that it had not, for it flew straight back at him, enveloped in black flame, injuring him.

At this the crowd panics and the group panic with them, sustaining some minor injuries, though others in the crowd are less fortunate, some being trampled to death, the one who was Aslahya screaming mad laughter that chills the blood.

They make it back to the Temple of Ghalmerha, where they are brought through the locked gates and to the Temple hospital, because they always need to. Wounds are tended and life restoring infusions brought to restore fatigue whilst one of the clergy, Ilela, questions them about the nature of their injuries. José gets special treatment, a few prayers and amulets to help draw residual demonic evil from his abused body.

Dhran injured and singed by black fire, in likewise treated until he reveals the knife he took from one of their attackers some days ago. That causes more charms and prayers to be brought. The main group cannot hear what is said but the impression others get is, “argh, this is evil”.

With the group not quite decided where to go next, except to somewhere else, at speed, there we left it.

One of the many sections where the next act, as written, is not totally obvious to the party, so I may have to adapt, thankfully they have given me material to work with to extemporise.

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Iralun – session 6

In which Farshad and Utana offshore their jobs

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbarous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

The group take stock of their situation. They have a dying Kurrim, , recently taken down from a sacrificial frame, and, through a good deed taken advantage of, have left the villainous priestess and priest of the Temple of some unknown deity go, and, in so doing, they deceptive two have absconded with an apparently compliant José.

Dhran, Jushuur and Jalabu attend to the expiring sacrifice, Utana and Farshad quickly find a duty urchin, lurking outside in a doorway, and sent them off to alert her gang members, “Be on the look out for the three that fled this place, an unnaturally beautiful woman, her male companion and Juan José, the big western mercenary who should be known to them.”

This leads to a discussion on whether the whole of their adventures could be run from a decent tavern, and by dispatching a sufficient quantity of urchins, all quests could be undertaken with the minimum of fuss and inconvenience, to the party at least.

The Kurrim, croaking, calls himself ‘Hurrus’, and begs for his body to be taken home, back to the village of Marshtown, across the river from Iralun. The group, having bound his wounds as best as they could, their healer stolen away, they think that there is no way Hurrus can survive the journey, him being so close to death. They make a stretcher from the robes of one of the possessed dead and some wooden staves and, tie Hurrus to it, gently pull him up the ladder and take him out the house and into the street towards the Temple, seeking better medical attention there.

There is a problem in scenario design, I’ve done it, this scenario has it, that unless the party do exactly the one thing expected of them or, worse, make a roll to persuade someone, or spot a vital clue or research some essential fact, then the adventure cannot progress. There are other ways to approach this. Adventures using the Gumshoe system will always give you some basic clues, the group can chose to invest in getting more information, other systems have tasks with discrete chunks, and the characters gain chunks of the task and there should always be room for role-playing to clever ideas to perhaps speed up, or slow down, the process.

On the route they are stopped by four of the citizen watch..

“Evening all, what’s all this ‘ere then? Is that a Kurrim? Don’t you know that iy is han hoffence for a Kurrim to be within the city walls unless on a market day, and honly then in possession of a proper licence? What are you doing with one, and carrying him about too?”

I noticed I’ve been tending to a bit of third party GMing of late “They say X to you” instead of acting out the NPC. I’m trying to get more into acting, I did for this, but I exaggerate in the report above.

Utana shortcircuits the potential for trouble presenting the bona fides given to them by the priestess Teralag, the citizenry look at them in suspicion, and decide that the best thing to do is to escort them to the Temple. If they are accepted then the authorisation is genuine.

There is some kind of hubbub in the streets, groups of muttering folk, side eyed glances at other but, of course, the group are accepted by the Temple and the watch are slightly satisfied, though they await outside. The acolytes  Senyag and Annuran are in the courtyard at weapons practice. Seeing the group they escort them to the infirmary and Hurrus is treated, stabilised and going to live. The group, wanting to find out more about what Hurrus was doing in town, find him reticent, and they discuss drugging him to find out what he knows. That plan founders, not through inability, but because Jalabu, alchemist as well as assassin, as distracted as a six year old in a sweet shop, being given full run of the Temple’s pharmacopeia  to actually go through with the plan.

The decide to do as Hurrus asked, and take him to Marshtown. Grabbing the 4 citizen’s watch outside, they are escorted to the Watergate and beyond, to a bowshot outside the walls. Crossing the ford, they follow the road till they reach the edge of the marsh proper, where they can see, built on artificial islands propped up on log piles, the village, huts forming a perimeter around a central communal area, and they start along the causeway to the village.

As the group get closer, an older, brawny Kurrim sees the procession, recognises Hurrus, his son and, runs screaming at them, taking an axe from his belt. The group stand there, dumbfounded and it isn’t until Jalabu is hit by an axe that they loudly tell the violent newcomer that their charge is alive.

The Kurrim introduces himself as Tassus, apologises, and invites them to a feast while his shaman attends to Hurrus. He explains that he thought the group were Iralunin, bringing his dead son, Hurrus, to dump the corpse in the village, as is the habit of the arrogant city dwellers. He knows Hurrus was visiting a human woman in the city, a prostitute, by the name of “Alhyri” or “Elhari”.

The group enjoy the feast, and see the healing of the Kurrim, involving scrapping skin and snipping hairs into a potion that, when finished, is fed to Hurrus, who drifts off in a healing stupor. The potion is sampled by members of the group but, unsurprisingly, lacking the elements of body to ties the potion to them, just get an unpleasant sensation of having hairs in their mouth.

In the morning, having slept in Tassus’s hut, they learn more from Hurrus. The woman he was seeing works in “The Rebel’s Head”, a low dive named for the tarred heads of failed rebels hung from ropes from beams outside A former mansion fallen on hard times in what is now a rough part of Iralun. Hurrus also supplies the name of the two in charge, the woman, Ulaliritu, the man Dzhughael and, from what he saw, Ulaliritu was in charge, Dzhughael was very deferential to her. He also tells them how he got in and out of the city, using a forgotten and supposedly sealed postern gate that can be moved, exposing to a gap between the walls where the filling has collapsed. It is a tight squeeze for all save Farshad.

This episode is odd. In the original the found sacrifice is a lizardman, and they expire immediately after asking for their body to be returned to their village. Firstly, why couldn’t the characters use magical healing? Certainly more available in AD&D than it is in DragonQuest.

Secondly, would the characters every time cart a corpse back out to its home, rather than just leave it there and avoid awkward questions? It’s a bit of an assumption.

Returning to the Temple, they find a group from rent-an-urchin awaiting them. They sell them the information that they know where the group’s captors and friends went. For some more silver the gang will sell them the actual location. Utana the generous pays the cherubic extortionists, though not without some grumbling. Surprise surprise, it is to The Rebel’s Head. The group, minus Dhran who stays at the temple in case of any more urchin reports, head off, and guided by urchins to the Rebel’s Head.

The Rebel’s Head, having once been a mansion, is beyond a wall, though the gate is long gone, the advertised heads dangle in front of the town house, and four bouncers guard the door. They make the group check in any weapons larger than a knife, issuing clay chits and placing the weapons into a cupboard built against the wall.

Inside the place is a crowded den of drink, underhanded deals and unsavoury conversations. The bar is opposite the door and, at either end of the building are two fighting pits, a smaller one for animals and a larger one for fights between mortals. Drink is bought, a vile spirit, called raki, but unlike the spirit of the same name in the southlands, this is rougher and does not have the same flavour. Farshad is also supplied with some tsipouro (ancestral ouzo) which does seem like the genuine article.

Scoping the place out, and engaging some of their near neighbours in chat, they learn about the diversions and entertainments here. One of those they speak to is a huge human, named Zhigul, the resident champion of the fighting pit. Utana places a bet on him, and wins, though the odds mean that the return is not good. It is the judgement of the group that Zhigul makes the fight look harder than it is, to encourage betting and new challengers, but it does not tempt any of the group to take their chances.

The other topic that the group bring up is to look about for or ask after a preternaturally attractive woman, and had such a one been seen in the Rebel’s Head, but no such beauty has been seen. On the upper level, they do see some young women, and men, apparently prostitutes engaging customers from the bar. There is another door, but most who go through that door seem more desperate, and those that leave seem glassy eyed and unable to engage with others.

Jalabu eventually approached the bar, and enquired after “Alhyri” or “Elhari”.

He was directed upstairs to “Elhiri”, and one of the bouncers gives him further guidance when he got there, introducing him to Elhiri, who seems to be in the mid twenties, and is simply, but sparsely dressed, though with silver jewellery with lewd themes.

Jalabu follows her into a neatly but sparsely featured room. Elhiri, is up front about the transaction, 10 silver pieces for an hour, and Jalabu pays up. He is intrigued by the offer of a bath, and is led into another room for that, the water uis mostly clean and still warm. As she ministers to him with oil and strigil, Jalabu questions her about Hurrus.

Downstairs, drink is consumed, Farshad in particular seems to prefer the tsipouro to the raki, though both get the job done.

Upstairs Elhiri denies all knowledge of Hurrus or Ulaliritu, though seems distracted and one of her nails scratches Jalabu. She starts back as Jalabu starts to become aware that she had attempted some magic upon him. He does not have time to react to this as Elhiri jumps back, pulls a rope and shouts all sorts of vile accusations as loudly as she can.

As Jalabu struggles out of the bath, bouncers arrive, grab him by the arms and throw him, and his gear, out of the window, though luckily he is bruised rather than injured. He garbs himself, goes around the front, presents his clay chit and gets his weapons from the bouncers, who eyeing up this damp and dishevelled stranger.

In a rage, Jalabu pulls out his sword and attempts to go in, stabbing at a bouncer who gets in his way, he is clubbed to the ground, stunned and unable to do more as the rest of the group hurry out to see what is going on. Seeing the situation, they retrieve their own gear, and carry Jalabu back to the Temple. They spot at the time, but it doesn’t really register, a half sunken side entrance to the Rebel’s Head.When Jalabu recovers, he is still angered, and the group watch him like a hawk lest he go back in a violent rage but, by morning, a more calculating, cold desire for revenge takes him.

And there we left it, José is still unfound, but they know something is up 

As far as the vile accusations go, I wish I had used comedic accusations rather than the one I had used. We were all adults but still and all, if I had my time again I would have used “barratry, impersonating a clergyman of the Church of England, possessing a dog without a licence“. That sort of thing.

In a playtest of the latest edition of RuneQuest, I found new players, in their late 20s and early 30s, felt uncomfortable with some themes that we took in our stride in the 80s. This was not them being delicate, but a changing realisation that being flippant about some things is perhaps not the way to approach them.

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Iralun – session 5

That’s not a knife, that’s a LUCKY knife!

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbourous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

So, for the first time in running the White Dwarf scenario “Irilian” by Daniel Collerton, this game sees a material plot divergence from the rather linear original, a consequence of me adapting it to my game world, my, what I laughingly call my GM style and reducing the almost constant combat. Other changes in the order of things happening or details have not been significant, maybe this one will be.

Having found Tamiz the sage as suggested, and extricated him from a potential bar fight so that he can research and explain the verse told to them by the priestess Teralag. He is using alchemical means to sober up and, whilst looking pale and unsteady, seems resolute to the task, to try and get some meaning from the phrase

Out of the West, 
The Dark comes crawling, 
Higher and higher. 
Till it touches the sky.
Whlle in the East. 
The Light, still burning. 
Sends the Hero, 
Gifting the sacrifice pyre.

Reasearch will take time,givingrthe group have a day to their own devices, to get gear, for the mechanics of the XP Spend to take effect and to rest, whilst Tamiz consults his books.

Dhran buys a helmet to go. with his armour, Utana has his armour repaired and Jushuur is measured up so that his plate armour can be made to actually fit him. Silvered arrows are replaced, as they have found them so useful in combatting various creatures and Dhran looks to have a scabbard made for his weird hooked dagger, taken as war booty from a cultist. The rest of the group look askance at him keeping this, it bearing all sorts of unholy symbols and which Teralag seemed to sense. He, however, insists that is is his lucky dagger, and he will return to this theme throughout the session. The armourer was reluctant to actually touch it but enough silver changed hands to change his mind.

That evening, guided by their on retainer urchin, returning to Tamiz, they find that he has tidied up a little, and tried to be more presentable, and a responsible host, before giving what explanation he could on such a short verse. There is disagreement about what the Dark is, is it merely a philosophical concept, a drawing together of many evils, or one evil gaining power from gathering lesser evil to itself?

The group enjoins on a philosophical discussion on the nature of evil, and in particular the lesser evil in the group, namely Farshad, being lesser both in scope and stature. Whatever “The Dark” is, it is known to draw those lesser evils to it, and can bring out the evil in those that might otherwise be thought of as good and, whatever the Dark is, as it gains power it will certainly act as a coherent entity. It cannot be wholly defeated unless all that is evil in the world is destroyed, but without that, it can be delayed.

Tamiz suggests that the next person to consult is a Sakah astrologer, Tothagoz, who might be able to provide further insight, for surely the evil will mark itself in the stars.

At the astrologers, they are brought in by a tall, cadaverous man, her servant and shown upstairs to a chamber where Tothagoz comes to meet them. Tothagoz is a Sakah, a nomadic peoples from the East who form some of the nobility of Quulbaqr, the state surrounding the free City of Iralun, but she has overdone the costume and jewellery, possibly to appeal to her customers as a more exotic figure. She listens to the group’s tale, finds out their birth dates and places and makes notes and calculations. She declares that there are links between the groups as shown in their Birth Aspects (DragonQuest’s equivalent of character horoscopes).

This takes some time, and it is now dark enough to observe the stars. The group are lead to the roof, an open area, screened at the sides with a tent like arrangement at the centre and some stools set around. Tothagoz uncovers the “tent” and collapses the frame to reveal an arrangement of lenses in a frame, each lense linked by wires of truesilver. She takes some preliminary sightings before turning it west and to make her proper observations. Whatever she saw, proved too much for her, and she collapses, blood coming from mouth, nose and ears.

At this problem, one of the issues of running such a well known, in fact legendary, scenario rears its head. One of the players remembers this portion, and intimates that that has triggered memories of the ending, and what the ending requires of the group. My response is that is now, because of my changes, that requirement is not the only only way that it can be interpreted, and that there is another way.

Jalabu decides to have a look through the lenses also, and he swoons, though is not injured. José does what healing he can, whilst Jushuur gets their guide to run back to the Temple of Ghalmerha, to get healers from there. Between them all, Tothagoz is stabilised and Jalabu brought round.

Whilst Jalabu is less affected, between them, the group get the impression that a formless intelligence to the west, one that mocked and dismissed Jalabu and, while mocking of Tothagoz, it drew her in, examined her and spat her out contemptuously. She did, however get an address, 3 Khalkedon Way. The group leave Tothagoz in the hands of the Temple Healers and plan what to do next.

The group, apart from being pleased that they now have, they think, ultimate evil’s home address, go back to the Temple to rest. Suspicious about what they are getting themselves into, the ensure that they all armed and armoured as best as they can be, before setting out to tackle evil in daylight. This fully armed and armoured mercenary approach worries the local citizen watch who shadow the group, archers ready.

What the group would do if ultimate evil was not in, they never planned for. I assume that they’d scribe on a bit of clay “We tried to deliver your doom but you were out, you can collect your doom at the Temple of Ghalmerha during the following hours.”

The building they ended up at was in disrepair and closed up, the lower floor blocked by mortared stone, the upper by nailed boards. Farshad’s inspection revealed, at the rear, a hidden, and well maintained, lock in the blocked rear door that, when  he picked it, revealed that the blocking stone was a thin layer on a working door. What neither he nor Jalabu found was the release that tripped an alarm elsewhere. Inside the place was bare apart from rubble, lathe was exposed, chunks of plaster were fallen, rocks, broken furniture and the corpses of dead rats.

In the scenario as written, the next fight involves giant rats, I changed that, as they had recently tackled giant rats, but left the corpses of the rats in to commemorate them. Not finding the alarm changed what happened later, allowing those inside to prepare

Proceeding upstairs to the first floor, the way is blocked by a floating, flaming skull with skeletal arms descending from it, a creation of necromancy (as opposed to healing magic). It casts a spell of agony, affecting all but in particular Jalabu and José, who are locked in pain and blocking the stairway.

In DragonQuest magic resistance is based on Willpower with modifiers, like casting counterspells or what college of magic you are in and its relationship to the college of the caster. If you are NOT in a College of Magic, that in itself provides a bonus and, with an active group entirely of non-magical characters, they al got it, but it did not help for the agony spell.

The skull then conjures mortal shaped constructs made of the rubble, who seek to attack the group with sharp claw like endings to their arms, though seemingly vulnerable to silver. A short fight was hampered, on the group’s side, by the pain of the agony, and Jushuur was hurt by some clutching spell that seemed to grip his heart, but after the realisation that the attackers, save for the skull, was illusory, then the swift application of silvered arrows and a smashing blow the skull was felled. The skull was decorated with engravings, semi-precious stones and metal wire, which Jalabu pocketed.

The two rooms of the upper floor were also bare, save for two boxes of assorted discarded and stained clothing, as was the attic space, but a pile of broken furniture in the corner of the main room proved to be a secret trapdoor over a ladder which went down a chimney breast like space to the cellar, or possibly below the cellar.

The group descended, assembling in an ante-chamber in front of a simple door. Prepared, they proceeded into a large room, and it seems apparent that this space extends under neighbouring buildings. In front of them are six posts, each with someone tied to them, facing that door. From the left a woman then a man, both seemingly in their late twenties and attractive, the other four are occupied by robed and hooded figures.

Above, on a T shaped cross is hung a heavily tatooed Kurrim, hanging by his arms and not moving. As Jalabu is about to untie a robed figure, José uncovers its head, the figure is obviously dead, but that hasn’t stopped it moving. The robed figures prove that their restraints are fake, looped ropes, and they attack. Jalabu is grappled, the others manage to handle the remaining dead with light wounds.

Durign the struggle, they ignore the desperate pleas from the woman to be set free, and the listless groans of the man, probably asking the same thing if anyone could understand him. Eventually Jalabu shoves the dead figure back, allowing the others more freedom of action to cut it down. Despite Dhran’s most powerful exercise of will, he cannot see anything untoward in the pair that are left, no illusions or disguises, and the two other prisoners on the posts are released.

José, helping the woman up, guides her to the ladder and out. Jalabu, not unfamiliar with torture, notices that the wrists of the man seem barely damaged, rather than the rope burned and abraded ones he might expect, however as the man thanks all, he explains that he was recently enticed into an alley by the sound of a child in distress and set upon by the four dead folk in the robes and dragged here. Still thanking people on his way out, he claps Dhran on his back, and a weird touch of kinship sparked between them, perhaps delighting or perhaps upsetting Dhran, who can say. Maybe both.

The Kurrim is gently lowered. Their tattoos are of a sort the group has not seen before, certainly not those of the worshippers that they have followed. He seems close to death, but the first aid he is getting, allows him enough strength to reveal that he too has a story of kidnap, only in his story, the woman and man that the group freed were priestess and priest of this underground temple.

However those two, and José, are gone

And there we left it 

So I was less prepared for this than usual, real life stuff taking over meant that no prepared maps and being tired the patter was less “show” than “tell”, must work on that.

There are a couple of things going on, including the disappearance of the two from this temple and with them a party member, that are not as the scenario as written intends, so we’ll see what we all make of that in future. There are a couple of other player/character things going on, which is great for me, not knowing everything that is going on. These being so, I have not written about some of the things that have been going on, I will reveal all later maybe.

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Iralun – Session four

If we drink we will die, if we don’t drink we will die!

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbourous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

First again to reiterate, I am running the White Dwarf scenario “Irilian” by Daniel Collerton, but I am adapting it to my style and reducing the almost constant combat, at least in the approach to the city. I have also adapted details to my campaign world. This means that some things don’t occur, or occur in the wrong order compared to the original scenario.

We wound back time and revisited the approach to the city, as it has been a rush at the end of the previous session. Utana and Jushuur ride ahead in case the armed forces that they have seen evidence off on their journey west are camped in siege of the city of Iralun.

The pair ride ahead and both push on when they hear the horns of the city call the dusk shutting of the gates. No entreaties to the guards could induce them to cease the closure of the gates, “more than my job’s worth mate”. While this is going on, the rest of the caravan drew close, and the group contemplated setting up camp for the night, or seeing what the walls and buildings that they see to the south of the road, outside the city, are, and if they will provide shelter, when they noticed that the heavy clouds that had been gathering, amidst thunder and occasional lightning were now rolling south, close to the ground and, at the fringes could be seen corpses, moving, staggering, jerkily but moving, being lead by three demonic seeming figures, indistinct, but less than human, and a monstrous aspect to them.

José shoots at a demon with a silver arrow, but misses, Utana looses another, and scores a glancing blow, which causes the material of the demon to smoke and raises a howl the gates to the south opens and a figure, claws in a blood red cowled robe,  a death’s head visible from under the hood, a bronze skull pectoral over the robe, beckons from the gates.

Figure painted by Phil Hendry, that fortuitously fit this non-player character, Tamordiu, Priest of Sikavilmerha, the Goddess who guides the dead on their way.

Given this vision, the group contemplated the options, face the shambling dead and demons to the north, or accept the invitation of this skull headed apparition to the south, they went to the south.As they drew close, the figure stepped to the side to allow the caravan to enter the revealed graveyard, as he held up a hand, and light poured forth, slowing the advance of the dead and their demonic leaders.

As the last wagon entered, the figure croaked for the gates to be closed, and he held the light, retreating into the precincts of the graveyard, the light fading as the gates closed and were barred, the figure staggered and leaned against a fence post as they recovered their breath. The group placed two wagons close to the gates to provide an extra barricade, others placed behind the wall to use as a firing step behind the wall.

The unclean foe came to the wall and gates, but could not  penetrate it, some force kept them at bay. It was not the wall, which was not high enough for a fortification. More arrows were loosed, and some minor damage caused, in return a demon picked up a moving corpse and hurled it at Dhran, a piercing and dreadful howl escaped the corpse as it crossed the barrier of the wall, and it was dead meat when it hit Dhran, knocking him back and winding him.

One of the demonic figures threw a dagger, also at Dhran, again mildly wounding him, and yet more damage was done when he withdrew the blade.

DragonQuest rules have it that any pointed missile that causes damage, has lodged in the body and potentially causes a wound when pulled up. After consideration I am changing this to weapons that cause Endurance damage only.

Another demon hurled a corpse, this time at Utana, the corpse clutching a broken hafted spear ahead of itself life a spike, luckily for Utana, it missed.

By that point the figure, introducing himself as Tamordiu, priest of Sikavilmerha, the Goddess of Death, she who guides the dead on their way, had recovered enough to offer hospitality and shelter. He points out that this is a holy placem, and that the unclean connot enter its precinctsa. He can offer food and rest in his quarters to the rear of the Temple of Sikavilmerha and it was decided that, as the unclean could not penetrate the barrier of the wall, it would be best to move the wagons out of harm’s way, and rest for the night.

Dhran takes the dagger that wounded him, a strange hooked knife with sigils upon it looking familiar from recent encounters, wraps it in cloth and secretes it next to his breast.

Rested, they set off the next morning with the blessing of Tamordiu, heading to the main gate, and the queue of early arrivals for the opening. Some negotiation with the guards and they paid the toll into the city, but resisted the blandishments of some urchins who offered to guide them for pay.

The city, like the trading post, is built on old Hassaryu imperial foundations, this was a provincial capital at one time, and it still shows. The group split, Jalabu accompanies Farshad to the Merchant Factors, where Farshad will collect the payment for escorting the caravan to safety.

The rest go to the Temple of Ghalmerha, their original destination as sent by Harvan, all those many weeks ago, though that may have slipped their minds given recent hardships, with the leader of the Kotharim, Irikdin, who bears a small chest from their cargo, and the tablet and messahe given to them by the Perim who rescued them all some days ago. They and are eventually brought to the Archpriestess, Teralag, who reveals the message of the tablet, just two words, “Dark Rises”

This recalls to her mind, this old rhyme of prophecy,

Out of the West, 
The Dark comes crawling, 
Higher and higher. 
Till it touches the sky.
Whlle in the East. 
The Light, still burning. 
Sends the Hero, 
Gifting the sacrifice pyre.  

José recalled the words of the Perim, that a great evil had been in the East, then extinguished, and wonders, how does this relate to the rhyme? If the evil was in the East, then why is it coming from the West. A mystic voice in his head supplied a thought that the Eivil had been in the East, past tense, and they had followed signs of it from there, but that those elements they had followed were heading West, with all signs being that they were part of a larger muster.

Teralag arranged for quarters for the group, and advised Irikdin to take their Kotharim home and prepare for war.

Over at the Merchant Factors, the Kotharim make their deliveries, and receive their interim payment. Farshad takes the group’s fee in coin and gems, constantly aware of Jalabu, and the wickedly pointed knife he toys with, lurking close behind him.

The pair arrive at the temple in time to have their companions fill in what they have missed, and for Teralag to return from contemplation

'There is some great evil rising although what form it takes or from whence it comes I cannot say. I have prayed to Ghalmerha, but Her wisdom is hidden. I only know that the means to lay this abomination lies somewhere in lrilun. The Darkness has touched you already, so I ask you to aid me in this search, for it is seeking you still. I cannot leave the Temple so you must be my agents in the town. 

You are not known in lrilun and so shall be able to move about without being associated with me. If it were known that l were interested in what you will have to seek., it would cause a panic. As it is, you will merely be another band of shiftless mercenaries. 

Above all, you must tell no-one more of this then you have absolute need to - the Dark feeds on fear. l suggest that you begin with Tamiz the Sage: he should be able to provide some information. Should any of you be killed or injured. I will tend you. Our rewards in the next life will be great.' 

Dhran asked what aid needed authority Teralag could offer. Teralag looked closely at Dhran, seeming to stare intently at his heart, before answering. Aid she said accommodation and healing she already had spoken of, authority she offered a seal, bearing the similar of her goddess and a request for aid. She emphasised that this was only to be used at direst necessity, and she passed it to Utana as looking the most responsible of the group.

With the first task settled, finding the sage Tamiz, an expert on ancient secrets of the city and who is reputed, for a secular academic, to have some in depth knowledge of forgotten cosmology. was the next order of business This time they were glad of the offer of a young guide, though negotiation was tough, and they found Tamiz’s house, though it was locked.

Rousing a neighbour, they learned Tamiz was usually to be found in the caravanserai known as The Gryphon. A combination of storehouse, pub, shop and trading house, they soon found out that Tamiz was there, unconscious under a table.

Dragging him to his feet and intending to get him home, José was obliged to pay Tamiz’s rather extensive tab. By this point Tamiz awoke and proved to be an emotional drunk, insecure and seeking protection, no matter what happened. He almost needed that protection, as when José, having to let Tamiz go to pay the tab, allowed the sage to stumble and stagger into a Kurrim mercenary, spilling her drink.

The mercenary, Selahak, rose up, as did her eight comrades, and it seemed as if they would vent their frustration on Tamiz. Farshad urged calm, but it was José who quickly headed conflict off by giving the owner of the Caravanserai enough money to let them drink mead for a night and more.

After a drink with their new friends, they took Tamiz home, trying to make themselves comfortable in the unkempt and untidy home whilst Tamiz secreted himself away in his library. The group worry at the sounds of clinking and gurgling and of physical discomfort, and wonder if their sage is continuing to drink themselves to death.

However, Tamiz comes through briefly, pale, sickly looking, holding themselves more upright and confidently, and explains that he is employing an alchemetical method of sobering up, and that he will be fit to speak to them shortly.

And there we left it.

As written, fetching Tamiz from the Gryphon is definitely a bar room brawl, but the way the party handled it should have had a fair chance of working. DragonQuest does not really have social skills or intellect skills like deduction. The player is expected to supply that in role-playing. I am trying to resist the generic roll for luck, but in the case of the offer of mead, there was always a chance that the mercenaries preferred a fight to a drink.

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Iralun – session three

Bear with me!

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbourous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

First again to reiterate, I am running the White Dwarf scenario “Irilian” by Daniel Collerton, but I am adapting it to my style and reducing the almost constant combat, at least in the approach to the city. I have also adapted details to my campaign world. This means that some things don’t occur, or occur in the wrong order compared to the original scenario.

The battle over, and having looted many spare arrows, the group try to see if there is any more useful information that they can garner from their rescuer. When that is exhausted, they finish striking camp and the wagon caravan proceeds on. Jushuur and Utana, acting as scouts, spot a tree fallen across the path almost, but not quite out of sight along the path. Jushuur, Farshaad, Juan José and Utana, it being Dhran and Jalabu’s turn to lend their mules to haul carts, ride round through the woods to try and take potential ambushers in the rear. Utana and José pick their way through the woods expertly, while Farshad gets left a little behind, less skilled at this, but he escapes lightly compared to Jushuur’s, whose horse stumbles and throws him. His armour protects him for serious damage, but he is still winded.

Thankfully there was no ambush. Jushuur does his “Aragorn the Detective act“. As he reconstructed events, this felled tree was cut down to cut off an avenue of escape, should they flee this morning’s attack, this tree would slow down people fleeing. Hitching up their mules to the free, they drag it clear and the caravan continues on its way.

The rest of the day is thankfully free of incident, and they are able to make it to the trading post by dusk. To all it is recognisable as an ancient Haxamanis fort, more familiar to them from their homeland as built using mud bricks, here the design is recreated in stone and wood, patched and repaired over the years. Its tower, overlooking the gate, is more wood than stone these days, but it still stands sentinel over the gate, covered in hides to give some protection against fire. The inside of the wall is divided into corrals on the south side, makeshift shops and quarters on the west and north, some empty ground on the east and, near the tower, tables and a kitchen.

The caravan wound their way in and sought someone to point them to the people in charge. A casual labourer took them over to the owners at the bar, and pointedly hinted at a drink as a reward, nudging an empty cup as a hint. Just as pointedly, the group, initially, ignore their benefactor. Eventually drinks were bought, including for casual hangers on and the group explained to the owners the troubles that they had encountered and the risks of attack that seem to be rife in the area.

Horrified, the owners told the group that, if it was earlier, they would have refused the caravan entry. As it was, they must be gone at first light. The party are given a warning, the bridge over the River Iral had been broken, and the caravan would have to cross via the southern route, using ferry, assuming the ferry was still there.The group suggested extra guards might be of value, and watched with some trepidation as a group of rather disreputable muleteers volunteered, hardy, ragged, whetting their long knives and speaking in double entendres and veiled threats, they turned out to be conscientious watchers, and the fear of the group that they would be murdered in their beds proved groundless.

The caravan left, and some Kotharim travellers were given messages to take home, and details of where the bodies of the fallen were to arrange for reburial. As they left the trading post, the land started opening up, the forest thinning out and giving way to plains. The road turned to the south before heading east again, leading to some buildings and the ferry, a large raft pulled by ropes. Haggling was short, the caravan had not much of a choice, and the ferrywoman. a strong and sturdy young woman called Salaxhwana, introduced her pet brown bear Dahlvha. The group decided to have Utana, Jushuur, Farshad and José cross together with Salaxwhana on the first ferry to established a beachhead and to help pull ropes at that side., Dhran and Jalabu kept watch with the Kotharim and prepared the next load to cross.

As the group hauled on the ropes, they didn’t notice the eight, weirdly serpentine, beings that surfaced from the river, and hauled themselves onto the ferry, armed with tulwars and bucklers, while two others emerged further along the hawsers, sawing away with knives.

Caught unawares, outnumbered nearly two for one and too close for the archery they had prepared for, In the intial attacks, all was as the group could do was endure the attacks of tulwars in the hands of immensly strong serpent-men while they drew their melee weapons, however the following attacks were different, tails whipped out, knocking Farshad, José and Utana into the river. Utana, weighed down by heavy armour, was lucky, he caught on the hawsers of the ferry and was able to hold himself up. but it took him a long time to get back onto the ferry. Farshad and José were able to clamber back on much sooner.

Jushuur, more agile than he looks, avoided getting immersed in the river, hust as well with his heavy armour.Those on the shore did what they could to help by firing arrow and throwing rocks to attack the Keteaorum, one of whom, by clumsiness, managed to throw itself into the river, which was nice. The Keteaorum were winning, threatening Salaxwhana, which drove Dahlvha the bear into the fight. She swam across, ripping through the Ketaorum with her claws.

On the ferry, Utana’s problems increased as one of the hawser cutting Keteaorm tried to stab him, but he got on that ferry. Farshad spent much of the fight stunned and disarmed, but got a cut or two in and a good throw of a spare dagger. José’s track record as a wound magnet did not seem under threat, and an exquisite parry from a Keteaorum left him disarmed again. Utana’s parry left him unbalanced and in danger, and Jushuur found his skill not quite able to overmatch his opponents.

It took Phil, playing Utana, far too many times to get back on board, it was kind of both funny and frustrating at the same time. At one point I couldn’t look at the screen , being partially embarrassed, partially paralysed with laughter.

The bear made it onto the ferry, but, once it had safeguarded Salaxwhana it seemed content to stop. Eventually though it went into action again, becoming a menace to Farshad, who needed an expert leap not to end up in the water again, still nervous as his weapons had been under the bear. Another tail whip sent Utana flying back again, the bear’s bulk saving him from plunging back into the water.  José was not so lucky, again he hit the drink and his bowstring stretched in the wet.

Alastair, playing Farshad, had an excellent Agility roll to dodge the bear charging through him. He thought about leaping onto the bear. I wish he had, that would have been fun.

With the only opponents left the Keteaorum desperately trying to cut the hawser, and one injured on left on the raft, an ursine leap into the water to tackle it combined with some skilful archery took care of one, and some hacking from Jushuur made an end of the last of the Keteaorum, though none of the party escaped without bruises and bleeding.

The ferry eventually grounded on the other side. Wounds were treated, the bear having suffered most of all, and the Kotharim with Dhran and Jalabu handled the rest of the transport and replaced the damaged hawsers. They rested for the night, saw Salaxwhana and Dahlvha back on their side of the river, with the best healing José could manage. The caravan headed of, just hearing the call for the gates to shut when almost withing touching point of the city

And there we left it

Some thoughts post this game. I am going to have to check on defences, because unless you take ranks in shield or increase your Agility, your defence does not keep pace with your attack. In fact, success as an adventurer can penalise you, as better armour hurts your Agility. There is Evade but that is sacrificing attack on the hope of a riposte.

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Iralun – session two

Fire, I’ll take you to burn!

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbourous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

As they break camp, looking to three or four days more travel, the weight of the wagon loads is evened up and the mules of the party now riding on the wagons look reproachfully on their riders as they are now pressed into service as wagon mules.

With Utana scouting to the fore and Jushuur keeping an eye to the rear, they use all their skills and talents to look for signs of movement or tracks crossing theirs. As José practices his herblore and healing on his hamster, Jushuur sees signs of something large in the woods to the east, but puts it down to a trick of light and shadow, but Utana spots a number of figures stalking the group, trying to not be seen, but definitely keeping tabs with the group.

Utana rides over to make contact, perhaps these are locals wary of strangers

meanwhile reaction roll :- /gmroll d100

The newcomers, unfortunately, react in violence, hurling javelins. Two hit Utana, one bouncing off his armour, the other lightly wounding him. Another flies past him and almost skewers another attacker on the sides. The usual lethal archery from the group kills two, fells one and sends another running. The wounded one is despatched, the fleeing one is chased, but the attempt to capture him is thwarted by Jalabu’s long range archery thus robbing the group of a prisoner to interrogate.

The bodies were piled aside, they were Kurrim, the tattoos and beads of a different sort to the tribe of Kurrim that they met and helped, and were helped by, on the deserted plateau to the north-east of the Haraxan Kingdom. In the tattoos, not on open show, but there, were those marks that they were becoming familiar with, symbols of cultists of Ahyrmya. Loading the javelins from the Kurrim into a makeshift quiver on a wagon, the train continues, the rest of the day being quiet, and finds a clearing just off the road to rest, the next day should see them come to a trading post and then a clear road to Iralun.

Watch that night is uneventful, save for Juan José falling asleep, his hamster gorging itself on medicinal herbs,Jushuur hitting the “stay awake tea” too heavily and not getting as much rest as he should, and starting the next day slightly fatigued, and Dhran(?) blinding himself with too much light on the watch. Utana bears his watch with quiet forebearance, easy as he has had a longer sleep.

As he neared the end of the watch, he sees that the way ahead to the north east is being blocked by a few armed me with large, military shields and spears, of better quality than the attackers before. Above them hover giant, vile looking bats. To the west the attackers are less disciplined, though still better armoured  and armed than the ones  who attacked the wagon train.

The Kotharim arm themselves, for the rest of the encounter assume that, although not pictured on the map, they are engaging with other foes also not on the map, that way it leaves the field uncluttered.Utana, Jalabu, José and Jushuur let fly with their customary archery, but it is less effective, the armour and shields provide reasonable defence for the attackers. A less well armoured figure in the rearmost attackers, that they believed to be a spell caster and foolishly too far to the fore, is slain. Dhran leaps up onto a wagon.

The bats surged ahead, their cries focussed shrieks that stabbed out at the defenders. José is dazed, Jalabu manages to dodge the full part of the blast and the bat that targetted Dhran is so intent on him, that it fails to spot the war prize javelins sticking up out of their quiver, it pricks itself and reels back in pain. From behind the north-eastern line of shields launches a bolt of fire, burning the air and reality in a kind of black horror, it envelops Jushuur and Utana and the pain, agony and damage of it causes them to be stunned and drop their bows.

Dhran attempts to haul the wagon round to ride down the western enemies (strictly speaking, the carts were not hooked up to the mules at this point, but I was too lazy to do cart only tokens, so what the hell) but only gets the mules to pull it part of the way round.The ensuing battle is chaos around the wagon laager. The forces to the north-east advance slowly and methodically, relying on the distraction of the foes to the west and the bats above to get closer.

Highlights of the melee include Dhran trying to ride down foes with a slowly moving cart coming from a standing start and the foes, with baffled expressions, sidestepping carefully, only for Dhran to end up wearing a bat, after it failed to haul Dhran off the cart, as a cape. Dhran’s attempts to poke it off with his Falchion came to nothing.


Farshad, using another wagon as cover, lashes out, killing another Shevam and managing to catch the Shevam’s hat as a souvenir.

Utana and Jushuuer recover from their stunned state, and take stock of their surroundings (also here we found another difference between SPI’s DragonQuest 2nd edition and the Bantam edition of 2nd, the newer Bantam one gives a larger chance to recover)

The party is aware of movement in the surrounding woods, but of what, only time will tell. A bat grabs Utana in its claws and, flapping furiously, manages to lift the armoured warrior a few feet into the air. He stabs it with a dagger, wounding it slightly and being dropped. With his catlike reflexes he lands on his feet. Jalabu finishes off the bat with an arrow and Utana’s cat like reflexes are tested again as he has to dodge out of the way of a falling bat corpse.Jushuur, meanwhile, laughs at the concept that terrible circumstances can prevent him bypassing any defence (character’s sword skill is seriously OP :wink: )

The wood  to the north disgorge more well armoured and armed troops, more bats and more of these lighter but still skilled opponents. Dhran’s brave scheme has opened up the west of the wagon laager to easy attack, the bats now outnumber the group. Despair seizes the group, there is talk of surrender, when light arcs from out the woods to the south, arrows fly up, axes are hurled and. eventually more magical light and fire lashes out.

The group, mystified, hold their ground but their opponents instead of pressing the attack, break and flee (I could have stopped the game here and picked it up next time in the middle of things, but I did not want to – it would be having a long fight for the sake of having the fight).

The cultists to the north-east retire in good order, leaving only a few of their dead, the spellcaster priest is definitely still alive. those to the west are brutally despatchedThe leader of the newcomers introduces herself and her two chief companions

Orpoin.  = leader
Katiari = Chief Guard
Enari = Seer

Orpoin and Jushuur recognise each other as fellow Perim, half immortals and definitely not elves.Orpoin’s seer has been tracking a great evil, once far to the east, now here (everyone looks at Farshad). Things long dead are attempting to rise up again, forgotten horrors from the shadows are stealing into the light and generally it is not good. The centre seemed to be a barren and deserted plateau far to the east, sounding similar to the place Harvan sent you to explore a tomb, and now seems to be centred on the city and temple that he sent you to in order to aid translation of the books you found in the tomb.Orpoin hands you a message, and requests you to take to Teralag, priestess of one of the temples. She and her folk, having tracked a group here where it attacked you, she and hers have to return to her own town to the south.

Bodies are looted. Jalabu gains a shirt of scale armour, Jushuur a set of Partial Plate armour and enough of the rest of it to have a set of full plate made. Dhran gains coins to share, 33 silver each.

And there we left it

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Iralun (Irillian) session one

Are we there yet?

The SPI DragonQuest campaign is reaching Irillian. I have not posted much about the previous adventures, as they are all based on commercially available scenarios, and I don’t want to spoil them, but Irillian is technically OOP and 38 years old, so more detail on this. The campaign is based on the world I am building for the replacement for C&S Essence, so the world can change as I develop ideas, but also scenarios I change to fit.

Irillian is a case in point. A Classic White Dwarf adventure and city over six parts in 1983, firstly it is meant for an Dark Ages Anglo-Saxon based gameworld, not mine, and some elements I don’t like, eg the start is a combat heavy hex crawl, so this is not immune to my adaptions, probably for the worse.

A version of the Irillian adventure, redone, is available

A version of the city info from the series, redone, is available

Our Heroes
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbourous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim

Our heroes had, some weeks ago, at the behest of Harvan, a court official and aide to the magistrate of the northern Haraxan kingdom, Niralha, investigated a long forgotten tomb in a deserted city and, while disposing of a sorceror who had not quite resurrected, found the tablets and books engraved on metal plates that Harvan was seeking.

However, there are books that cannot be read, the knowledge is not at Harvan’s disposal. Therefore he has given the group rubbings of them and asked them to go to the city of Irulan, far away, across Haraxan, across the vast Rule of Ishtir, into Quulbar, a lost outpost of the former Rule of Haxamanis to which all once belonged. There should be a Temple in which works that will aid in the translation, and scholars that can read it should be found.

The journey has taken weeks, accompanying a trade caravan in which Farshad invested party funds for part of the way, then striking north, having adventures along the way, including depriving a charalatan of their earnings, putting to peace a nature spirit corrupted by dark forces and clearing an inn of some rats.

Now, they are ready for the the last leg of their journey to Irulan.

Session One
We start in the “Dancing Lamprey”, an inn on the river port city of Majinv. With foes defeated the pall was lifted from the inn, and a good night sleep was had by all, restoring fatigue and bringing the start of happiness again to the lives of owner Vuntosghan and the remnants of his family, his daughter Annranesta.

They had had that inn arranged by Katyavan, a factor working for a previous contact and employer Baltajniz. His forest sawmill was the subject of a curse put in place by a nature spirit that had somehow been raised to anger by agents of a god intent on working evil. The group had seen signs scrawled on the walls of the mill where they had made their camp after the curse had lead to the deaths of all who worked there. They had found traces of that band after they left the mill, being joined by others, but that large group left the road before they reached Majinv and they decided to inform Katyavan rather than chase a large band.

That Katyavan now comes in, full of apologies, having heard your troubles, and brings supplies and news. She knows of a barge going downriver to pick up a cargo, it will have space for the group and beasts, and will take the group to a village that is close to the main road to Irulan. From there it should just be a few days to get to the city.

The three days of river travel is quicker than the overland route, and takes them to a village, the first purely Quulbari place that they have been. These are peasants, the long term inhabitants, subjugated by the new ruling class of Qomeri invaders. Seeing armed and armoured strangers, the locals hid away in their homes, peering out the shutters at them as they rode through the village.

The group have directions and ride through the fields and head along the track that will take them to the main road, Utana scouting ahead, Jushuur guarding the rear. At noon, they came across a trail made by about 10 people the day before, cutting across the path. Using their ranger skills, they determined that the prints were made by feet wearing shoes of different cultures, finding a discarded, ruined pair that originated in Ishtir, so at least two hundred miles away to the south, across the mountains. Jushuur also found a green brooch made in the form of a leaf, discarded by the trail, but it was just a cheap knock off.

They debated following this trail, which Utana estimated would join the road to Irulan, but decided that with their riding mules, they would be better pushing on at speed and intercepting this group further on. However, maybe it would not be so long as all that, for an hour ahead Utana spotted as a varied and ragged number of attackers were ambushing a train of wagons defended by Kotharim, children and grandchildren to the nth degree of the god Hayyan wa Kothar.

The group ran in to the rescue, surprise aided them, the archery of Dhran and José did much to clear the attackers, but Utana skewering one foe with one charge with his spear, then another was frightening. Jushuur’s trademark stabbing people while their back was turned was effective, but his mighty sweep with his oversized sword in both hands, slicing through two foes, was the thing that broke the foe, or maybe it was Farshad’s sliding under a wagon to slice through an attacker’s femoral artery, instantly felling his foe.

The surviving attackers fled, most were cut down by the Kotharim defenders as they ran, but Dhran and Josê fired at the two attackers who managed to get away. Dhran killed his, but José wounded the other, dragging him back for questioning. As Jalabu is still away away with Utana’s servant, holding the riding mules, if falls to Utana to put him to the question, but the captive bites his tongue off and drowns in his own blood. He would give no answers.

The field is awash with corpses, twenty or more Kotharim and over thirty attackers are dead. The atttackers are heaped onto a mount, their gear is not worth salvaging. The Kotharim are laid in shallow graves with cairns, the Kotharim will arrange for more permanent rest later.

The wagons were rearranged, space made for wounded on one of them, with José tending to them. Fhran comforted the live beasts and dead mules were hauled from the harness and the lightest wagon would now be pulled by Kotharim. The group never offered their mules to the task.

The corpses are examined, and there tattoos are found on the corpses matching symbols scrawled on the walls of the mill they investigated three weeks ago, on the other side of the mountains. Perhaps the group remember that they followed the trail of that band for a while on the way to Majinv, wrangling over whether to follow the band or continue to the city.

The Kotharim thanked them for their help. After burying their dead and stacking the fallen attackers bodies by the side of the road, they spoke to the group, explaining that they were taking raw materials and crafted goods to Irulan, and could they hire the group to escort them there. The group agreed, it would be a few days, and there was safety in numbers. Who the attackers were, or why, the Kotharim did not know.

The first night drums started sending messages back and forward across the hills, mystifying everyone, and these kept up for the next two days.

The second day was uneventful, but at night, when Farshad was on watch, he heard weeping and howling across the sky. The Kotharim explained that it might be the Lady of Woods and Beasts with the warhound of her son. Why they should be in distress they do not know. Both are generally favourable to mortals, and why the hound should be with the Lady, rather than her son Hamman, mystified them.

During the third day, the drums stopped, causing some worry, “Too damn quiet!”. In the fading light at the end of the day, as the group were setting up camp, Utana and Jushuur heard heavy footsteps coming in front of and behind the caravan, and to one side. A large figure, a two headed giant who introduces himself as Bakbak.

This shocking appearance reminds Farshad of a little lore about mountain dwellers called Kevu, that they kidnap and eat people. They often have two or three heads, but it is rare for any to have more than one personality in their bodies. Worringly, some know magic.

Bakbak explains that he has been ordered to kill and eat the group. This he could do, but it seems like hard work. Give him food, either beasts or people, he doesn’t care which, and he will go away. Refuse, he will go away, but he will pick a time to come back, and do that hard work.

He ignores questions about who ordered him. The group refuse, and Bakbak, true to his word, orders his family away. Utana and Jushuur notice that his tracks away are visible, then vanish, obviously Bakbak knows some spells.

Dhran recalls an old story he heard about the Kevu, in which the Kevu refused meat because it was too fresh, they like to hang it a while. Quickly the group call out, hoping that the Kevu are still within earshot.

The woods came alive and chatted to them. They explain that while they are not going to give up any of their people or beasts, about 25 to 30 miles back is a mound of corpses, killed just two and a half days ago, would that be suitable?

Bakbak thinks about it and agrees, though if the group are lying, they can be back before they can go far with those carts. They Kevu head off along the road to find the promised food, and Bakbak calls out as he goes “Mazd. Their name was Mazd. A priest of the god who seeks the destruction of all.

And there we left it 

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