Write up 17th November 2022 – Return of the Comet – Interlude 3 and End

Lapis laziuli handled copper daggerThe ivory figurines come to life turn out to be a tall, muscular male human (Smersh of Urlil) with cheekbones to die for, and a Shevam woman (Fetnah), the human stands protectively in front of the Shevam as they ask who these people arew whilst coming to terms with memories of being overwhelmed by undead cultists. Both snatched up knives from the treasure at their feet, prepared to defend themselves.

Despite the archaic language of Fetnah and Smersh, the lure of treasure proved a universal language. The hoard of copper and tin was ignored, in favour of boxes of ointments (also an inscribed copper sheet) , tablets and gold jewellery and a black scroll case covered in necromantic symbols as well as small possessions of Fetnah and Smersh.

The group reacquaint themselves with their surroundings, and become aware of the statue of Kabbaruk, holding mace and model of the house they were in, and behind that, the looming embrace of Ilot-hahas (as Smersh and Ftenah know her, Lotnyas as Arpaesis and Jalabu know) with her five dragon heads. Moreover, the group realised that, in the ancient Sorceror-King, they had a common foe, though it seemed centuries separated them. Urklil was known to Urtana, a town long since lost to the sands of time.

Smersh removes the mace from the statue and lays about it with great force, in doing so smashing the model of the house, with a fading gloom the group find themselves outside the house, which has disappeared.

As they familiarise themselves with the road, and the road with an archway of trees, the two children they saw before wave over to them, the ghost child, who was with them, drifts over back to attend Arpaesis. The children again beg for help against the monster, and for aid for their mother.

Confused, the group speculate about time, and  circular events, but José, Arpaesis and Fetnah get hints that it is more, and less than it seems, that the children are illusory bait somehow connected to the house, after all, the children made theur farewells shortly before when their bones were laid to rest, and so they enter the tunnel of trees.

Map of a chamber with couches and idolsHowever, in doing so, they found themselves back at the door to the audience chamber of Kabbaruk. The bodies of the deadadvisors remain on their couches, surrounding a metal map of Kabbaruk’s former empire, lit by green lanterns that remind one of the light of the comet and a scent Jalabu recognises as a spice used by addicts to flavour a certain drug.

Their King rises up to face the group. Smersh, armed with his dagger, proves fast, moving up as Jalabu, Utana and José bravely loose solvered arrows from the doorway. Utana’s first strike is particularly well aimed, but the undead thing seems remarkably resistant to damage, despite taking blows that would have instantly killed a mortal.

Whilst the warriors loosed arrows from a distance, Smersh and Farshad  got in close, though the damage they did was at a cost, cold numbed them and the undead seemed to grow no weaker. It was realised that his unmoving advisors were restoring his fabric. The attention of the group waa switched to destroying those unmoving accomplices.

Since her revival, Fetnah had been feeling an emptiness, a loss, her friend and Ally, the spirit Ibalkia, was not there, not in the house beyond the world and not, at first, here, and yet, now, a glimmer of recognition, a voice in her head “Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick, you never write, you never call..

Kabbaruk was responding with spells of choking, claws of ice and even a vlast of artic air that Smersh nimbly dodged, in addition to having survived enough damage to tenderise an elephant into elephant tartare.

Arpaesis reached out with his arcane sight, but whilst he realised that an item of great power was hidden under the metal map, the sight if it blinded him temporarily. He sought to get closer to the table, stumbling forward, but, just as Smersh realised that the ghost child was a form of Lotnyas known as “The Deceiver”, it was too late to warn Arpaesism the child hurled him across the room, slamming him against the wall, fufilling a prophecy of the witch near Bukrish “Beware! There is a sword blade with your name graven on it.”

Reunited with her ally, Fetnah loosed an attempt to drive the spirit of Kabbaruk from his corpse. She partially succedede, stripping away a familiar he had bound to himself. Not only was he no longer getting reconsituted by his advisors, the cold that damaged those that struck him, and the attacks chpped away at his being until, struck down, Smersh made sure of the job with the mace, beating the corpse to a pulp, and The Deceiver faded away.

Under the map was found a bronze tablet, covered in characters, one that had brought Smersh and Fetnah here to end a blight in their own time. An exhausted and bleeding Smersh removed it, wrapping it in cloth as Fetnah and José attended to the wounds of the group. Farshad looked on with disgust and possibly resentment when after receiving a cursory bandage on his injuries, saw Fetnah summon spirits to refresh all of Smersh’s lost energy whilst José showed an incredible deafness of skill and experience in sewing up Smersh’s wounds that Farshad was nearly speechless with indignation. But only nearly.

After the healing, Smersh led a spluttering Farshad, and the rest of the group, outside to the courtyard and fountain in the middle of the palace complex, as they went, they gathered a group of the mobile dead, staying at a distance, but surrounding the group on three sides.

The fountain still contained objects that were marked by bright light, so that their form could not be distinguished, but they were Isobel, This time they decided to chance reaching in and withdrawing

  • Fetnah – a bone spoon
  • Farshad – A lozenge shaped block of lapis lazuli, decorated
  • Jalabu – A Black pearl (no, not a ship)
  • Smersh – a copper tube with engravings around it
  • Utana – A silver flask with some unknown liquid in it
  • Juan José – a bone dagger
  • Arpaesis – a jade tablets written in Hao character

with more points of light, Jalabu reached in again, only to find his arm severely numbed with a painful cold.

Utana wondered aloud “I wonder what happens if I reach in again?”

“well, I got my arm numbed by a painful cold” answered Jalabu!

Utana, whether heedless of Jalabu’s pain, or with scientific curiosity, or a belief that somehow any cold that didn’t cause Jalabu’s arm to shatter and drop off wasn’t really that cold, reached in again, yet he too was bitten by the frigid temperature.

They decided to leave the fountain alone, save that Smersh used it to brace the tablet against as he beat the bronze tablet and characters into a shapeless mess, the surrounding undead sublimated into a green dust that swirled around the group in a cyclone and sooner than they could click their heels together three times and say “There’s no place like home” they found themselves at the stone circle near the path under the mound, only the path was gone and the stones no longer had a shining gems in it.

And there we left it

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Write up 3rd November 2022 – Return of the Comet – Interlude 2

The group looked at the ladder going up to the floor above and Utana, sticking his spear through his harness, laid his hand ready to go up, the air shimmered and Utana was replaced by a surprised Jalabu. Another shimmer and Arpaesis appeared. Juan José and Farshad quickly filled them in with what had been going on and it was noticed that the ghost child who had been following Arpaesis was not to be seen.

Triggering the light spell on his shield, Utana ascended, finding himself in a disty, cobwebbed empty space with four doors leading out. From how far they had risen up, it was believed that they were near the top. Looking around, Jalabu secided to take the doors clockwise from the south.

The room to the south proved to be some kind of lounge that could be opened to the elements, possibly for sleeping when the nights were hot and humid. The room to the west, a storage room full of rotting boxes and, to the north, a screen. Behind that, Jabu found a frame upon which a body had once been hung, now bones were scattered around and enough cloth fragments to identify the remains as those of the woman found in the bedroom with the adult and two child-sized beds. Farshad, examining the area more closely, found an openable panel, behind which opened up a shaft, with ladders leading down.

The group decided to check out the other rooms first, the first seemingly a servant’s room, but the second and last was locked from the outsid. Opening the pinned bolt revealed a room made into a makeshift bedroom. The were piles of used utensils, a comfort corner and a third corner with two small beds of rags and a chest. Investigating this chest of sad and simple toys, and a bed concealing small, human bones.

The group were aware of two, small, child ghosts, the exact duplicates of the children that they had met outside but these knew that they were dead. They were friebdly enough, but also did not want to be abandoned and seemed upset at the notion, so Farshad suggested bundling the bones, and looking for family grave or crypt.

They went back to the ladder down, uncaring of how the child ghosts might view the remains of the person the group suspected was their mother. As Jalabu hit the bottom of the various ladders to the space at the bottom of the shaft, he became aware of a low, unintelligible, guttural chanting. He became obsessessed with finding the origin of this, leading on, ignoring side passages, having almost to be restrained as they passed the slab covering the tomb where the children, and their mother were meant to be interred.

Jalabu grumbled as José get it uncovered and Arpaesis and Farshad laid the bones in their coffins. The children gave the two one last hug before vanishing from sight. In the hands of each there was suddenly a gem, a bluish white gemstone that Farshad identified as a very rare form of emerald (in that you don’t get blue-white emeralds, which is why it is rare and Farshad knows it). José had a slightly different reaction, his empathic sense gave him feelings of tears and regret, Arpaesis has a niggling feeling that it has an Arcane purpose, but whilst he cannot call it to mind, he knows which works to consult to find out, when he can get to a Library.

Impatient, now that is over, Jalabu leads the group on, again ignoring side passages, coming to some kind of changing room in front of double doors, covered in brass plates depicting, in relief, worshippers bowing before a figure, behind whom was a large version of the five dragon headed woman they have seen in statues and paintings often of late.

Jalabu, confident and eager to prove his skills in the stealthy arts, looked to the door for traps or tricks, he stumbled hard against them, and the doors swung open to reveal a shrine of some kind, four robed people bowing to the shrine with statue version of the relief on the door, Kabbaruk in front of Ilot-nahas in dragon-woman form, treasure scattered in front of them.

Shrine to Kabbaruk and Ilot-Nahas

Must be a combat, the GM has spent time on a map

Jalabu picked himself up, José stuck with his bow and silvered arrows as the figures turned and intoned

“He is the gate, his knowledge is the path, the key is death, one must die, one must die,

He is the gate, his knowledge is the path, the key is death, one must die, one must die”

The figures, mortal but looking as if they have long been decaying, looked at the newcomers, possibly expectantly?

They repeated their chant and, not being answered, they moved to attack, hissing and claws out. The rearmost figure started creating a spell.

Just as well that Arpaesis cast a spell of protection, as a spell failed on José, arrows flew from jom back at the oncoming horrors. Farshad found his attempts to sneak around the edge of the room failed and, already seriously injured (like a smaller version of José in a way). Jalabu twirled his moustache, realised he usually let Utana take point and thought “By Jove, I think I am the tank!“. He acquitted himself well, fending off two attackers at the cost of fatigue as he moved like a blur, fending off attacks.

Although silvered weapons cut away at the rotting cultists, claws ripped at Farshad and cold infused him, slowing him down. Despite his protection, Arpaesis found the very air solidify and throttle him but, at the cost of an even more battered Farshad, the foes were vanquished.

Then attention was grabbed by the idols, in amongst the treasure were two exquisitely and realistically carved ivories, two mortals exact in every detail. They started to shimmer, and grow, becoming two fully sized mortals. There was a sense of “Dearie me, what now?!” from the battered group then, one of the figures opened their mouth and said “Hello, where am I?” in a very archaic form of Idarit.

And there we left it.

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Write up 20th October 2022 – Return of the Comet – Interlude 1

This interlude takes place after the end of Episode 10, directly, and came about because, as happens in real life, a few players had other commitments and I think the next part will be the end of the adventure and this stage of the campaign. This is adapted from a pre-written adventure. I’ll link to it at the end.

José, Utana and Farshad crowd the door, looking into this room in the palace where corpses on couches lie around an eerie lit mapboard, when one of the corpses, in a position of honour, turns to stare at them, the eyes flashing a shade of green that they have seen all too often of late. The green expands to fill all of their vision. When it fades they are no longer in a palace under an earthen mound, but standing on a dusty road at a crossroads, the weather is gloomy and dull, they cannot tell where the sun or what the time is.

The roads in each direction are free of traffic, the terrain is rocky, with only the only plant life José can find scrubby, not of use in medicine but some use in cooking or for water. Utana examines the terrain and the soil is reminiscent of a plateau at the northern Haraxan border, but that area is not as desolate as this, as wells, reservoirs and irrigation have aided farming and supported a reasonable population.

Here the only sign of habitation is a walled villa, the house large, at least three stories high, looking like a trincated pyramid made of mud brick. Looking around, Utana spots that once there were other houses, but they are ruined, the bricks mostly dust, those left looking like rocks jutting out of the ground.

The group speculates not only where they might be, but when. Depictions of the night sky in the tomb complex showed, to Utana’s Navigator’s eye, that some guiding stars were not where they should be. As they speculated, two young children appeared from the gate to the villa, a girl and a younger boy, the boy held a wooden doll but neither that nor his sister could comfort him as he sobbed.

They stopped, hesitantly, half way between gate and group, the boy hiding behind his sister as she pleaded for help, that there was a creature of some sort living under the villa. They heard the whispers of formless words, and the screams of this creature terrifies them. Please will the group help them.

The group did not ask the children’s names (Parigul and Taimur btw) but later asked about their parents. Their father had died when young, their mother, Ramineh has been sleeping, for a long time. The villa is owned by their uncle and aunt, and they forbid the children for going under the villa, where the creature is, not that they would want to. There is no basement, or cellar, yet underground is where it is.

The group were perturbed, and suspicious of the children, but they seemed as real as they themselves were, though José, perhaps through some premonition, did not use his empathic abilities on the children

And so to the compound, which was as far as the children would go, the crumbling brick surrounded by fading and cracking plaster, indifferently decorated in an alien style perhaps related to decorations seen in the tomb.

The door into the house was similsarly decorated, and opened into a reception area, with stools and tables. However the striking thing about the room was the wall decoration. Above the door opposite was the black and silver figure of a woman sitting crosslegged, arms outstretched, her face obscured by shadow. Along the walls at either side were figures, those in the left facing right towards her, those on the right facing left, all in supplication. The figures closest to the woman were older and there were gaps between the furthest away and the door they entered by.

The next room seemed more of a family area, lit by oil lamps, the room had couches and tables arranged around a fireplace over which were a bronze headed spear and a large single edged slashing sword. The fireplace, set for a fire, was primitive, but a proper fireplace, with a narrow chimney. The utensils on the tables were a mixture of wood, bone, some copper and one silver, but there was no sign of food or drink laid out. Apart from the silver spoon and a couple of oil lamps, the group took nothing, not even the spear and sword.

To the rear was a set of stairs up, and a short corridor with a door left, another ahead and an open doorway right leading to a kitchen. Carefully opening the door to the left first revealed a combination taxidermist workshop and study, divided by an obviously bespoke dresser which, on the workshop side had drawers of tools, on the study side with its table with three thin bone cups and flask of fluid, fur covered seating, stuffed bear and animal heads, Farshad unlocked the dresser to find bronze headed javelins, bronze hunting knives and a shortbow with bronze arrows and spare strings. There were belts, scabbards and quivers for these, as well as a bone gameboard, obviously a form of “Balatu”, and spare thin bone cups matching those on the table. The group took the weapons and left the furs, tools and drinking materials behind.

The kitchen was clean and set out as if ready to be starting to be used. The fire was set, utensils out, plates laid out, cooking pots well used but clean. There were alcoves, some with food, they didn’t taste any but the honey they found in a jar looked fresh rather than aged and a final alcove had a hole in the ceiling above, a tray and a pulley system.

The door at the end of the corridor was stuck fast, seemingly blocked from the other side, but Utana noticed something strange. The wall at the rear of the workshop did not extend to the same level as the door, though the kitchen wall did. Some gentle tapping then later heavy thumping revealed a hollow space, though one behind solid walls.

The primitive but functional kitchen did not hold interest for long, and so they went upstairs to a dim landing, with three doors off it. In the gloom the oil lamps and torches taken from downstairs were of use to reveal that nature of shapes against the walls. On one side of  the hall stood three wooden mannequins dressed in heavy bronze armour of a very, to the group, antique style of overvapping plates, greaves and arm guards, holding a bronze spear and with a short, single edged cutting bronze sword hanging on a baldric.

On the wall side where they came up was a relief in painted plaster showing two groups of humans. A richly dressed and accessorised couple, a man and a woman, looking disdainfully at the other, plainly dressed, group, a woman with her hands resting on the heads of a boy and girl that, to no one’s surprise, resembled the two met outside.

Of the doors, there was a plain door and an intricately carved door to the north, and another carved door to the south. The plain door revealed cubicles, servants quarters most likely, with plain cots, a small table and a chest that also served as a chair, but no sign of occupancy or personalisation, the hole in the kitchen ceiling matched up with one in the floor that went up through the ceiling here also. The carved door to the north opened up to some kind of scriptorium and library. There was a work desk with blank papyrii and writing materials, and along one wall the bronze age equivalent of a Kallax containing papyrii and clay tablets. The writings were mostly oin an older script, now only used by sacholars, but enough symbols and illustrations were held in common that they got the feeling that some were religious texts, others mythological tales, others works on alchemy and herblore, still more on farming and household matters and even accounts.

One set of shelves proved to be movable, by holding handles built into a sturdy shelf, the whole thing could be dragged forward to reveal a space behind. There were more shelves to tablets, which were ignored, as the attention was focused on a chest in the back over which were the bones of some long dead mortal, clothes rotted to rags, most of the bones fallen to the floor. In what might have been the chest cavity once, were hollow bronze quills, sharp and discoloured at one end that they suspected  were part of a poison trap. Farshad determined that the chest was now safe and the primitive lock held no challenge to him. Inside were a wooden and a bone box, the wooden contained small ingots of copper and some silver, the bone sewing utensils and spools of silver and copper wire. The silver they took.

There was also a tablet, written in the ancient Ebbarrisi script but though they were barely familiar with it, the meaning impressed itself to them, as well as the name “Kabbaruk”, the name of the long dead king in whose tomb they had been before being transported here.

“His sublime and noble lord, Kabbaruk, King of Kings, first servant of Ilot-Nahas, upon whom her power on earth is granted, admits to your existence.

“You have sent him accounts of your deeds, hoping to gain favour with the dread mistress of the untameable chaos, the true state of the universe, may her name bring awe and fear to all who deny her, he has read them and found them pitiful. 

“Your claim to power, estate and rank in her name, the mighty lord Kabbaruk rejects, and bids you consider yourself fortunate, had he not been amused by your tawdry acts, lacking in wit and imagination, he would have you expirated for your presumption.

“Crawl in the dust and prays he takes no further notice of you, as this may yet occur.

“Sealed by his hand Okkuristes, in the 129th year of the lordship of Kabbaruk”

With this combination of treasure and threat, the group turned to the last door, also decorated, which seemed to open onto a performance area. A slightly raised section with various musical instruments, including a pair for flutes Farshad took, and an audience section. There were paintings on the walls of dancers and musicians, though the group paid then no more attention than they did to the other decorated surfaces.

There is much conversation at various points to here about the abscence of people in the building so far and were the children real? They seemed as real as the group themselves, but the circumstances just scream “these kids are ghosts” but so far, whilst the place is obviously antique and there is a feeling of being lost in time, there is no proof.

Ancient Greek LinothoraxFrom there they went up a floor, finding again a gloomy landing with four doors off it, one to the north, two to the west, between which stand three wicker mannequins dressed in light linen armour and a door to the south.

The armour is made of layers of cloth bonded with resin (the notion of glued layers has no real evidence behind it for the historical types but in this world it is) and the mannequins also hold short bronze headed spears and shields.

I didn’t mention it at the time, but should have, the armour is decorated with script sewn into it in silver and copper wire.

They try the door to the north first, finding a well appointed but dusty and cobwebbed. The group take just a cursory glance, though they note that they have seen webs, but no spiders, and decide to look through the other rooms first.

As they move to the nearest western door, the mannequins start to move, one slams at Utana with a spearbutt as an opening move, and a fight ensues. There is some concern from José as to whether they have the right weapons with which to fight spirit driven constructs, until he remembers that the three have silvered or magical weapons. Farshad also makes use of his torch, thrusting it into a mannequin like a club and sticking it in, unfortunately it is knocked free by a later blow. However, after suffering some bruising themselves, the mannequins are brutalised to a point of destruction, including one being knocked downstairs.

After all that, the western rooms prove to be an anti-climax, a guest room, also dusty and cobwebbed, and a store for bedding and cleaning materials, though after being so fatigued that using the full powers of his sword would have cost him his true lifeforce, Farshad  does  crash on some bedding. at least momentarily.

The room to the south has three beds. One is an adult sized, the other two smaller as if for children. There are chests and tables here, and the impression is of  making it look like a family suite, but it is dusty and uncared for. The whole impression is of plainer and simpler decoration and work than the bedroom to the north.

The group looks around, Utana going to the adult bed, there is no body there, but the figure of a woman, resembling the women with the children in the plaster relief downstairs, rises up. Before the others can react, she shrieks at Utana and José, freezing them where they stand. Farshad trades blows with her, his shortsword vs her raking claws, and the damage she suffers breaks the concentration that holds José and Utana in place.

With them unfrozen, the spirit does not last long , a figure of sadness and pity now rather than terror as weapons of silver or infused with magic rip the fabric of her being apart.

The room has one  other suprise, a secret cubby with a ladder upstairs, but after finding that, the group go back to explore the first bedroom, searching it, and the rooms off it, including a small observatory platform. A thorough search of the main bedroom reveals, secreted in a hole in the floor under one side of the bed,  a small chest, chased with silver and semi-precious gems, containing two golden rings, one of which has a pearl mounted in it, the other has a seal, and a necklace of semi precious beads strung on copper wire.

And there, with some new found wealth, we left it.

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A three day RPG project – Tales from an Ancient Empire

On Twitter, the subject of cheesy 80s movies comes up now and again in UK RPG Twitter, usually Hawk the Slayer or The Sword and the Sorceror. You might see Excalibur mentioned, but it is stars above the other two.

This time I mentioned that the title of the proposed sequel to “The Sword and the Sorceror” was to be “Tales of an Ancient Empire” would make a great title for an RPG. In fact it would make a great title for an RPG I am working on. There is a sort of suspect sequel done 28 years later, so I won’t pinch it, but someone else (Alister Davison @awdscrawl on Twitter) made the mistake of showing mild enthusiasm for the idea, so I spent the weekend writing a simple, un-playtested RPG for handling one shots or small campaigns of 80s Fantasy films.

And here is the PDF of it

Tales from an Ancient Empire – Cover

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Write up 7th October 2022 – Return of the Comet Episode 10

The group considered the steep, dark, descent under the statue, situated as it was in the room of screaming faces and considered what might be below.

And so they turned around, and had another look at the corridor of deadly pits/ Farshad, a rope tied to him, maneuvered the ledges and, with only a minor slip, prevented by Utana, he flipped to the end. With the rope tied taut to the doors at the other side the others were able to negotiate the way.

The room revealed was strange. A hemispherical room with a mosaic floor. Lit by a golden disc in the centre, over which hovered a golden key, a partner to the silver key recently found in the city model room. Around the golden disk is a series of concentric circles, each of which had a disk of its own.

The domed roof shows a night sky, though Utana’s nights of navigating by the stars showed that their positions were slightly off, as if from a long time ago.

Arpaesis saw this as a kind of map of the wanderers around the Sun, and thought to cross to the place corresponding to the world. In fact, as he examined the design, the wanderers seemed to slightly move, with no visible mechanism or moving parts. As soon as he crossed the outmost ring a strange creature appeared over the outermost disk, a flying serpentine creature, claws at the end of the bat like wings, the end of the tail like a knife, screaming at Arpaesis, the force of the focussed shout numbing him.

Utana loosed an arrow, wounding it. Farshad rushed to the rescue, crossing the line, and causing another flying monstrosity to appear. Arpaesis cast “Bar the Way”, keeping the beasts away from him, though Utana, Farshad and Jalabu entered the fray. Jalabu and Farshad soon found the creatures launching themselves at thems, claws rending at them, causing wounds and clamping to them.

Utana blithely stabbed at the creature wrapped around Farshad, luckily managing not to skewer his friend and ally, useful as Farshad was having some difficulty wrestling with a creature larger than he is, but, as Jalabu easily slew his odd creature, Farshad rallied and dispatched his foe, only to have it wrenched off his body by his best friend in the world, Jalabu.

Jalabu mulled over events, and started to walk, nor across the concentric rings, but from disk to disk. This seemed to be safe, as no other flying monstrosities, or anything else appeared. He crossed to the centre and took the golden key. The room dimmed, a little, and outside there was a noise, as the pits sealed with lids, making the way back safer.

There was nothing to do now but go down the dark, narrow, steep stairs under the statue. They emerge on a broad avenue in a city, lit from above by a pale, diffuse green light. To all intents and purposes, although with an unfamiliar architecture, they are in a recognisable city, except that the inhabitants going through their daily routine are not living, but ambulatory dedicated corpses. The look around, the city is walled, the soldiers there are not dedicated corpses but constructs as built by the grandfather of Rasghan Ilyhan Gharsemi.

Arpaesis, concerned that they could retreat, saw that where they had come was both simultaneously the gates to the city, and also the narrow passage back upstairs.

The group looked around and saw that the layout of the city seemed to fit the model they had looted upstairs. Being cautious, they went to the side streets and alleys, the better to hide from the soldiers on the walls though none of the inhabitant seemed to react to the group or even notice them.

In time they were forced by the wall of the Palace/Temple complex to come again to the main avenue to the palace, a colonnaded way that led to a raised pool surrounded on three sides by buildings,temple on the left, palace ahead and treasury and store room ahead.

(Being short of time, I created the floor plans for this with very simple sketching on a graphics package. Crude as anything, but better than nothing)

The square had better preserved and more richly dressed animate corpses, many bearing staves topped with five headed dragons, symbols presumably of rank.

The pool was decorated with reliefs of a five headed dragon and other, somehow disquieting, symbols. Looking in the pool revealed dark water through which glinted objects that exuded a pale, painful bright light, similar to that seen before at the stone circle and surrounding the impossibly huge gate to the mound. Utana listlessly prodded it with an arrow, the water didn’t dissolve the arrow, it touched the bottom, but still no one felt like reaching for any of them.

From there the group looked around for there to go next, and decided to go through the portico of the building that corresponded to the palace part of the model upstairs.

The portico opens into a large chamber, focused on a throne under a domed roof. The empty throne, which appears to be carved from a meteorite, has a back that rises up in the form of the five necks and head of a five headed dragon is surrounded by more living dead, richly dressed, but waiting and focussed on the throne. Elsewhere there are knots of scribes working together, and other courtiers mingling.

The group looked around and saw that the walls were a mural telling a story. From the left of the portico it showed a warrior who rose to become a king, codifier of laws, conqueror and student of the stars and observer of a comet.

A being depicted as a woman with the five dragon heads that have become familiar as a decorative theme came down from the comet, and the king kneeled to her, receiving a tablet from her hands.

With this tablet, the armies of the king defeated his enemies, his soldiers succumbing to the symptoms of the Freen Death, but his enemies stricken with the disease. Later the soldiers seem dead but yet still animated, until they were replaced with the familiar constructs. In the last sequence, the king succumbs to the Green Death whilst under the light of the returned comet. With the tablet, and led by the women with five dragon heads, he and his undead servants, descended under the mound to the new tomb-city.

Unlike in the main part of the city, the courtiers here seem vaguely aware of the group, but they did not seem interested in actively interacting with them.

Arpaesis walked forward to examine the throne and dome. He felt that the throne was made from a meteor, with glints of pure iron here and there. The dome is gold and the base is bordered with intricate designs, but the main decoration is a depiction of the night sky, with a comet streaming across it

The group considered the room, and decided not to engage here further, and to explore the Temple, heading through a side door. It turns out not to be a direct entrance to the Temple, but instead a passageway with two doors before reading the end.

Considering the options, the group opened the topmost door, finding a room with six couches arrayed around a relief map of these lands. The map itself was lit by six lamps, fitted with reflectors that guide a green light over it.

Five of the couches are plain, one is more ornate, but all have corpses lying on the them. The corpse on the ornate couch turned its head and staring at the group

And there we left it.

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Battle report and comments on Midgard Heroic Battles

Midgard Heroic Battles logo

For the past few months, I have been playtesting the, under-development, Midgard Heroic Battles by James Morris (https://mogsymakes.net/). These will eventually be released by Reisswitz Press (aka Too Fat Lardies) but there is no release date yet.

Midgard uses armies built up of units comprised of figures mounted on set bases 120mm wide and tables at least 6′ by 4′. As I started during social distancing, and we don’t have the space for the usual sized table, so I used 40mm wide bases (from Games Workshop’s 2005Battle of Five Armies”) and a smaller battlefield, either 2′ by 18″ or 3’x 2′.

120mm unit width vs 40mm

In Midgard, whilst units have the usual attributes of attack, how easily they suffer casualties and how many casualties they can endure, the real thing that causes armies to fall apart, even while they still have a coherent force on the field, is their morale.  If the army’s morale fails, the army falls apart.

The things that can cause an army to falter are heroes not living up to their name, or units being destroyed, what bolsters an army are those heroes leading from the front and doing deeds of reknown.

Midgard uses a mixed phase turn, in the main each phase belongs to one side, attacker then defender, rather than standard IGOUGO, and I found it a very fast game, with straightforward rules that gave me a feel of a decent core set of rules that give a good feel of handling “straight” wargaming, as well as fantasy with a better feel for fantasy than I have seen in decades.

And so to a battle report

The Threat to Laketown

It is the Third Age of Middle Earth, rumours abound that Sauron, though still bereft of the Ring, has grown in strength. Word has come from the Elves of Mirkwood that two of the Úlairi, the dark shadows bound to Sauron, are leading Goblins. including warg-riders, trolls and bats north through Mirkwood to assault Lake-town.

A blocking force of Iron Hills Dwarves and Men, aided by Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey and some of the Great Eagles seeks to drive the invaders back.

Specific rules for this battle

The terrain is a forest, the units can pass ‘through’ the trunks, but they are rough terrain, slowing progress. If the Free People units are forced off the field of the battle then they are gone.

Seeing as I used a Loke Battlemats book for the battlefield, with a comb in the centre, I just have to live with it, if units need to cross it then they measure to the edge then from the other edge, units can be either side of the comb and in contact. This also means the distances are 1/3 of the “rules as written” distance.

There is a ruined fort astride a road defended by the Free Peoples. If the Evil armies clear that ruin, then they have opened the easiest route to Laketown, Dale and Erebor, and gain a boost to morale.

The Evil Forces are the Attackers in this battle and start first.

The armies

Evil army as deployedSauron’s evil forces are led by a Nazgûl on fell beast. The lesser commanders are a Nazgûl on horse, a chieftain of goblins, lesser goblin champions including one on warg and a troll chief. They lead 12 units of goblins, three of trolls, three of bat swarms and two units of warg riders.

Good is commanded by Dain Ironfoot, who has two lesser dwarf commanders under him. They lead six units of dwarf warriors and three of dwarf archers. The Men are led by King Brand of Dale, who has three units of Men with spears, and three of Men with bows. Aiding them are Saruman the White, with Dain at the ruins, Gandalf the Grey, with Brand, and three groups of the Great Eagles of the Mountains.

The morale for the Free Peoples starts slightly higher than the forces of Sauron

The Battle

The line of evil advances, most of the goblins in columns under their leaders, though having to maneuver through the trees, as well as units failing to respond to the urging of their leaders, means some fall behind, slowing the advance. Clouds of bats fly through the forest under the watchful eye of a Nazgûl on Fell-beast, positioning themselves to strike ahead of their advance.

Movement begins

The Free Peoples, aim to hold the fort ruins and the road, but, outnumbered, find it hard to counter all the lines of advance, and themselves spreading their main strength to the wings, leaving the centre held lightly by Dain’s archers.

Bat attack

On their right, the Warg riders try to outflank the Men, but the Men move to intercept, weakening the centre further, the Dwarves holding the ruin are struck by swooping bats, though to little effect, despite the bats being frenzied by Nazgûl sorcery. The bats are pursued by the Eagles who drive them off, starting a chase and dogfight across the battlefield. (I used the rules as they were at this draft, I believe they have been updated with more specific aerial combat rules).

Eagles pursue

The first attack by the warg riders was repulsed, the unit destroyed, the goblins and trolls suffered light damage from archery, but the advance continued, the lead goblins under command of a champion. He was called out by Dain to single combat and, overmatched by Dain, the goblin leader was slain, and that attack faltered.

the counter attack by the dwarves was so savage that it not only slew the unit facing it, but managed to inflict casualties on the unit behind it, which must have perturbed the goblins somewhat.

The Nazgûl on horse joined in the next attack, the Nazgûl’s dread aura causing fear in the ranks supporting Dain’s front line, and it was only due to the words of Saruman that the line held. The remaining warg riders held back and loosed arrows at Brand’s warriors but they suffered losses in return, but that pinned Brand’s forces in place as the delayed trolls and goblins got closer.

On Evil’s left, the superior numbers of the goblins was grinding down the dwarves, despite the bolstering from Saruman, at the cost of heavy casualties themselves, the superior armour and determination giving the dwarves a slight edge over their foes.  High over the middle of the  battlefield the units of bats split up and tried to get the eagles into a position of disadvantage. The Free Peoples can ill afford the losses but overall the morale of Sauron’s slaves is suffering more.

To raise morale, both sides use leaders to charge in with the warriors, however that backfires for the goblins as one of their champions is killed, but the Free Peoples also suffer as the Trolls hammer Brand’s Men. Brand shows courage, challenging the Troll’s leader to single combat, which he wins, slaying his foe.

The Nazgûl general on Fell Beast flies over to take command of that side of the battle, the other Nazgûl routing the light dwarf screen of archers in the centre, this allows the goblins there to try and flank both dwarves and Men. In response, the Men move to their left to shorten their line, and join with the dwarves.

Gandalf, having joined a unit of men, engages  the mounted Nazgûl and wins, though he is wounded and rendered less effective, but the unit of Men he attaches himself to destroys some goblins.

Flyers dogfightThe bats did manage to wound one unit of Eagles but at the cost of two units of bats, and the Eagles started to swoop down and injure a couple of units of Goblins, one of which breaks and flees.

Both sides are broken into two separate battles but, overall, the losses on Sauron’s side have been great, and with the repulse of the Trolls, their nerve breaks and despite the screeches of their shadowy commanders, they flee the field. Laketown, Dale and Erebor are safe, for today at least.

Conclusion

Although points costed, Evil was costed at a little over 10% higher than the Free Peoples, giving them one advantage, and the Free Peoples had a strong incentive to defend the ruins, or lose morale, making their life more difficult but, despite that, this was a fairly fluid battle with some maneuver, mostly from Evil as they had the advantage in numbers and cavalry.

I know from previous play test games that when both sides have cavalry then they can cause infantry problems if the battlefield is not just an edge to edge line of troops, but not even they are as mobile as wheeling and dodging flyers. I look forward to see the completed rules with their updated aerial combat rules.

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Write up 22nd September 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 9

From their perspective at the stone circle, the group can see the mound in the distance, the gate visible from an impossible distance, from what Utana can determine, the distance is an hour’s walk away, but it and the shining crystals that surround it are visible to the group that long distance away. It was noted that the shining crystals and the mound are not visible from anywhere other than the path from the stone circle.

Farshad’s man that acts like a crow is still perched on his spare mule, Arpaesis’s ghost-child is still there, its face as indistinct as ever, though it seems closer to him, almost see,in to reach up to hold his hand.

As they get closer, and the road is straight as an arrow and descents, gradually but constantly, until, by the time they reach the gate, they are far below the ground level, a ground level that was sodden on the way here. Why is it not flooded? Why, as they got closer, did the mound and and gate seem to shrink in proportion, so that the field of view occupied by t remains the same no matter how close they get?

The gate frame was engraved with ancient symbols, seemingly related to the antique Habbarissi script used for older forms of Idarit. This Arpaesis could translate parts of. The words he could puzzle out were
– Lord
– Kabbaruk (which seems to be the name of a Lord or King)
– Negation
– Illot-nahas (Who is referred to as Lord or King of Negation)
– The gift of Illot-nahas- The kiss of the gift
– The green gift
– This is their home

Farshad had his memory stirred, he took some documents, part of the evidence in the case of the Rasghan Ilyhan Garshemi, some of his grandfather’s notes, going beyond the anatomy and medicine of the notes taken by José, the ones where his alchemetical studies crossed into abhorrences of nature. Some of the symbols on those notes are close to some of those on the surround.

(This part of the session was hampered as player’s looked at character sheets for written languages, but the names for the various writing systems had changed in the world setting between the time that the original character sheets were created, and now, so that didn’t help)

In the bright, harsh light of the crystals, Utana marshalls his strength, using the butt of his spear, looking to force the stone gate open, his strength is prodigious but the gate does not open, but he pushes it enough to show where the gate splits. Using cheap swords taken from previous enemies, Utana and José force the portal open.

The air is stagnant, the corridor ahead dark, only lit by the light from Jalabu’s magic buckler, the corridor leading to bronze doors, is amazingly clean, the walls blue glazed brick with a sharp waveform of yellow brick through it, the flow a mosaic of repeating pattern, with no obvious meaning.

Jalabu was convinced that the floor would break away under their weight, so Farshad, spreading himself over as broad an area as he could, moved along the floor. Impatient, Utana hammered the floor with his spear. Seeing this, Arpaesis touches each, and the corridor is revealed to

However, when each was touch by Arpaesis, their sight was cleared and they saw that the corridor, far from being perfect, was filthy with dust, the bricks and mosaic dull, and some cracked. This convinced Jalabu that his fears were unfounded and, after ensuring that the door ahead did not seem to be booby-trapped, the doors were opened, the handles pushed inn triggering a mechanism whose descending weights actually opened the door.

The room ahead was slightly oval, narrower sides where they entered from the south and to the north, where a bronze statue of a woman warrior stood on a marble plinth. Two other doors were West and East.

The walls are covered with painted reliefs of screaming faces of all sorts of mortals, the different varieties of face shapes, headgear and painted skins suggest a variety of peoples from different lands, though they are united in that all the faces are screaming, horror evident on their faces.

The statue is shaped, depicting the warrior in armour of an unfamiliar style, her cap covered in curved sections that are wide at the rim, narrow at the peaks. There is more of this work on the corselt, the curves alternating, greaves and vambraces complete the armour.

The right hand of the statue is resting on a shortsword on its right, the left arm is outstretched, the palm out in a gesture suggesting halt, between her feet is a depression in the plinth, the edges scalloped.

Engraved on the plinth is some Ancient Idarit of a more obscure than usual form, in the antique Habbarissi script, which Arpaesis could read.

“I guard Kabbarruk, the Great Lord,
most treasured of Illot-nahas,
wisest of all, skilled in the arts,
master of Narmatsyana.

“None shall pass that do not leave tribute

Neither the name Kabbaruk nor Narmatsyana meant anything to the group, save that Kabbaruk was mentioned on the writings surrounding the gate. They thought that Illot-nahas might be a form of the name of Lotnyas, the adversary of the religion of the Cold Ones, the one who wishes to reduce the universe to primordial Chaos.

Considering the depression on the plinth, the group considered that perhaps a liquid would be the correct offering. They tried at first a decent vintage of wine from Utana’s personal supply, but it seemed as it it was rejected, the faces on the walls moved, the faces wailed and the eyes rolled, the mouths moving as if in pain. The outstretched hand of the statue folded its fingers into its palm, leaving two fingers remaining, but the consensus of the group was that this was not a benediction.

They considered what to offer next. Utana pulled a decorated bowl from his collection of bowls he now seems to have with him. None of us could remember anything of Thais bowl, but it was noteworthy enough to be on his character sheet, so I guess it was one he picked up or was given, but whose properties, if any, have never been revealed, or established. Into that José let some blood, and that was poured into the depression *. Again the faces wailed and writhed, and only one finger was left raised.

The group decided to leave this alone whilst they thought. The headed West, finding a corridor broken by three, seemingly bottomless pits, with only narrow ledges along the walls to try and traverse. Utana established that the nearest pit was, indeed, real as far as he could feel with his spear. Farshad, although skilled and intrepid, is used to being sent alone into dark and horrible places by the rest, so he established right up front that no way was he being sent down these unfathomable gaps.

The group saw no reason to continue, so went to the other door leaving the statue chamber, this corridor was lined with po;I shed sheets of copper acting as mirrors. Jalabu got close to one and it seemed to try to draw him to itself, he resisted, aided by an amulet he possessed, and they found a narrow centre path would keep them clear of whatever baleful influence these mirrors possessed.

The room beyond had no exit, but did have a dais upon which was set a model of a city of an unknown style. It was populated mostly by painted pottery figurines, but near one end, which seemed to be the palace.temple complex, the figures were better painted, and there were some silver figurines. On the city walls were bronze figures of soldiers clad in armour either similar to the warrior in the main room, or of a long tunic reinforced with plates.
ancient city model
Farshad spotted that the sides of the dais were panels, removing one of them showed that under the palace, there were a few depressions as if there were compartments extending under the city streets. That caused the group to start removing the tops of the larger buildings, finding a silver key, a vessels in the form of a richly decorated pony, wearing fittings of gold, silver and saddle and blankets of enamel, containing some fluid, the golden figure of a king, and an obsidian dagger hilted in gold. That dagger gave off a feeling similar to one once possessed by Duran, currently outside looking after the man-crow and the mules.

The group considered what could be tribute in the statue’s terms. Jose and Utana made some allusions to wealth obtained by Farshad from the group however he, wounded by these jibes, pointed out that he had, with the agreement of all there, had invested the funds and provided a profitable return, the money now banked with a temple in Haraxa, and that whilst Farshad’s family had once had debts with Jalabu’s, those were now Jalabu’s to pay, and that Farshad’s character was free of stain.

They did consider if Farshad’s musical talent could be a tribute, given the mention of art on the plinth, but it was difficult for them to see how to offer that without potentially losing Farshad. So in the end they decided to put the better of the figurines into the bowl, and offer them. The rest was taken, the knife Jalabu took, handling it with gloves, he put it in his pouch, though the sharp blade still cut a little through the leather.

Tomb of Xusia - The Sword and the Sorceror - walls of the chamber

Returning to the room, they tipped the bowl into the depression. The faces screamed louder than ever, and started weeping blood, the last finger of the statue was curled down, but the tribute seemed acceptable, the figurines disappeared, a gap in the plinth opened up, and the floor dropped away to reveal a narrow stairway down. Jalabu skipped to the side to avoid falling down the stairs, but Utana was so surprised that he tripped backwards and slipped onto his backside.

So, one way remains only partially explored, another has just opened up, and there we left it.

* (If the bowl with the blood had been placed on the depression, rather than tipping the blood in, I might have thought this bowl valuable enough as tribute, if I could have remembered what it was for)

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Writeup 9th September 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 8

The group are only a day from Bukrish, the start of their true mission. Concerned about having revealed their identities, they reflect that the only ones who know are in the custody of soldiers and are unlikely to blab to anyone who matters.

The road should see them arrive in Bukrish by the late afternoon, and they are steered by the craft of Utana, and the chorus of “It’s that way” by soldiers, villagers, signs and the tail of the comet in the sky.

Utana shows other skills by shooting a deer down injured. he despatches it, and gets it ready to carry, but the smell of blood spooks the mules and horses and there is some chasing and shenanigans before bolting mules are calmed.

Bukrish started off as a place where bog iron was retrieved from a nearby bog, then iron mines were discovered, but the iron mines are played out and the return of the bog iron trade is not as lucrative as it once was. It still has some value so, although some houses are empty, the furnace is still smelting the iron and a smithy makes tools from it.

The villagers mostly seem to bring food to the Common House where the food is cooked and the villagers talk and exchange gossip. Newcomers, bearing most of a deer carcass are welcome, fresh food and fresh gossip are even more welcome.

Isolated as they are, the villagers do not seem to know much of the Green Death, or of the stones, even though they are closer. They do tell of their healer, the one who might know more of a dread disease or the stones, a witch who lives an hour away, on a small hill on the lonely heath.

The heath is rough land, with areas of bog, not as extensive as the bog lands that the Bukrishi search for iron, but there are green patches that are water under floating vegetation and other traps of nature.

The path they follow is raised, and they find the home of the witch, a wicker and wood surround around a tent. In there the witch greets them, and tells each a fortune.

Arpaesis is told “Beware! There is a sword blade with your name graven on it.”

José was told to claim them.“Love is knocking upon your door. You need merely answer.”

Utana is told “Swords all around you, but with courage you can win your way free.”

Farshad is told something in secret.

She knows of the stones, and directs them, and gives them herbs that are of use should they be stricken by the Green Death.

The group carry on, until, at some point, Arpaesis is aware of an unearthly child following by them. They seem to have a face that defies focussing on, they walk as evenly on the treacherous ground as the solid, they are clothed in a shapeless long tunic or smock.

The child did not seem to respond to any questions or statements, so they continued on. Later they encountered a mortal, human looking, in a dark robe of nomad pattern, woven through with metallic threads in strange patters. The robe is ragged and stained at the bottom, the wearer is, however, more intriguing. They do not speak, but caw like a crow, they hop and cock their head to look, they try to peck the ground and the group, they do not respond to talking, but after being given food they hop up ion the horse Farshad is leading.

For some reason, the child seems more responsive, it jumps up behind Arpaesis, standing behind him, cold hands on his shoulder, not ice cold, but cold.

The path they follow, given them by the witch, longer, but quicker as it avoids the pitfalls of the heath, gets them within sight of the stones, five menhirs surrounded by a sickly green mist. Looking at the menhirs from a distance, there are markings, some crystal that reflects the light in symbols not recognisable as any script that the group are familiar with.

The mist is contained in a dish like hollow around the rise upon which the menhirs stand. The mist causes the group some concern, but they can circle the depression, and come to the other side.

On the other side, they see a new sight, from the circle of stones a long, artificial road slopes down into a round valley, in the centre of the valley is a huge mound, facing the group is a door, shining as if encrusted with more of the same crystals as the menhirs.

A thing the GM did not make clear, is that
1) The mound is indeed, 6 miles away, but is huge
2) the mound, in a valley as it is, should have been visible before the group rounded the depression, and yet it wasn’t

Anyway, there we left it

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Writeup 12th August 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 7

The group confer with the priest in the Temple by the graveyard, who invokes Divine Power to stabilise Rasghan Illyan. They ask the priest if it will be safe to stash the Rashan there, and they were informed that for two nights they would be undisturbed, but on the third day, a festival would mean that the temple would be in use.

The group decide to take the Rasghan to the _*Temple of the Sacred Pool*,_ there he would be safe and a message could be sent to the nearest garrison for help, both to take the Rasghan for judgement, and to get word of the complaint made against Abadhir and the village of Qalharbarh.

They did not question the Rasghan much, only enough to get his story that his grandfather, though misguided and with abhorrent results, had experimented from pure motives, to create soldiers for Haraxa who could fight for her, and whose loss would not lead to bereaved families. His methods were to try and use experimentation to produce a method that could be followed by anyone, a scientific method and thus Illyhan brought forth the creation of his grandfather to animation.

As to why Abadhir might have it in for Illyhan, as an officer of the state, all Illyhan can think of is that he curbed Abadhir’s excesses. Whether acting as moneylender, merchant or landlord, Abadhir would cheat and abuse his power.

On the topic of the Green Death, Illyhan did say his grandfsather noted that at certain times of the coment, baleful magics were stronger and strange ailments afflicted mortals. There might be more in his grandfather’s documents.

The group headed to Qalharbarh, to investigate the complaints made against Abadhir by Illyan, and Farshad discussed the pillars of his latest work, an epic concept transforming the art form. There was some speculation that the artform was macramé.

Arriving, they headed into “”The Singing Goat””, named after the song that is taking the borderlands by storm, and proving to be the bane of its creator, an animal shed converted to a community space for drinking and assembling into an impromptu angry mob.

After a round of drinks, some gentle conversation with the locals, pitchforks, ancient weapons and heap of torches to hand, just in case, broke out. Over the period of chat they learned more about the alleged murder of Kira, betrothed to Shunif, and the description of the injuries, and the monster who allegedly caused them , The monster was described as squat, dagger toothed and sword clawed, which is not what they saw.

They learned that only one of Kira’s family remained, a young, shy boy, Nariman, as their father had died in the assault on the castle. Speaking to Nariman, who is tending horses that had been recovered from the castle, they learned that Shunif often abused both Kira and Nariman, and that Kira would have broken off the betrothal on many occasions if it was not for the insistence of her father, who thought only of the wealthy future for his daughter.

Sobbing, and desirous of revenge against Illyhan, Nariman is persuaded to show the grouo Kira’s body, lying in state in the small shrine in the village. The wounds were mostly bruising, with little external blood loss, and no wounds that might indicate dagger like teeth or sword like claws.

The group tell Nariman that they will get those responsible, and in gratitude, though destitute himself, he gave the horses to the group. José responses by giving him two, silver cah, at least Nariman can eat for the next couple of days.

The group split as they headed to the house of Abadhir, José and Jalabu to the friont, Farshad, Utana and Arpaesis to the rear, where they overheard Abadhir tell Shunif that, as the betrothed to Kira, Abadhir would be making a claim for the land owned by Kira’s father, in Shunif’s name, but it would go to Abadhir. There were sounds of violence.

José knocked at the door, Abadhir answered and Shunif tried to make a break for it, but was intercepted and brought inside. Splitting the two, Utana leant on Shunif, twirling his moustache and presenting the lad with an unpleasant vista of cutting criticism. Shunif spilled the beans, Kira, having had enough, was breaking off the betrothal, no matter what her father said. Shunif, his vile temper unleashed, beat the girl to death. Shunif’s own injuries came from Abadhir when he found out.

The whole story of the monster was Abadhir’s concoction, a way to get Shunif out of trouble and to dispose of that thorn in his side Illyhan.

Abadhir, when confronted with this, did not seem perturbed, switching from denial to bribery, but the loyal and honest agents of the magistrate would have none of it, apart from the cash they took as “evidence”.

Troops from the garrison arrived, and they handed the miserable pair over to them, and Utana made enquiries about the position of Rasghan for the area, as there would be a vacuum of power in the short term, and possibly in the long term too.

They feel certain that some of Abadhir’s estate will go to Nariman, as compensation, so, the wheels of justice having been set in motion, they set up in Abadhir’s home to rest for the night. If they wish, they can reach Bukrish, their destination, the next day.

And there we left it

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Writeup 29th July 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 6

The group woke up on top of the tower as false dawn gave way to the real dawn, and they readied themselves, taking a further look at the bloodshed and burning of the castle, the central fountain polluted with a decapitated body, the statue of the grandfather of the current Rashan untouched, hunting hound by his side, a dagger of a design (acinaces) given out to soldiers who demonstrated great skill or bravery in his belt.

The group assembled themselves, and started off to the graveyard, where rumours had placed the possibility that the Rasghan might have returned to as a place where they could spy on the village and castle and plan some sort of response.

The way there was slightly slowed, when Farshad spotted leather ropes with thorns stuck through them places in a shaded spot, presumably to catch riders and runners coming along the path. The group cut them down, slowing them a bit before proceeding on.

The graveyard was a mix of designed of adherents of the Temple of the Three and the Cold Ones, the graves with the house shaped headstones of the Cold Ones, and the ossuaries with grave goods niches of the Temple of the Three. There were larger family ossuaries of the well off in the area at the opposite side from the entrance.

The graveyard looked well tended, but that someone didn’t want them reaching it seemed more evident as an arrow flew towards Utana from the far side. They dismounted, secured the mules and Utana, shield to the fore and spear ready advanced. Farshad flanked left, José right but, when Utana reached the spot, the archer was gone.

From near Farshad they appeared again, Farshad spotting them and flinging a dagger as Jose loosed an arrow, the archer was wounded and pulled a knife, another acinaces dagger shooting valour as a soldier, but Farshad batted that aside with his own sword leaving the archer panting, wounded and helpless.

Utana sternly interrogated him, revealing the group as agents of the magistrate Niralha, in whose jurisdiction these lands are. From that they learned that their assailant was Juma, huntsmaster for Rasghan Illyhan, as he was for the Rasghan’s father and grandfather, the reputed experimenter with the dead. He was watching the graveyard, as his master had been here, and would surely return. José patched him up, but the impression they got was of a loyal retainer, honest but not complicit in any necromantic dealings, laughing at the very idea, as far as his injuries would allow him to laugh. See was dismissive of accusations from Abadhir and his nephew, describing them in unflattering terms

Utana boldly went to the family ossuary of the Rasghan’s family, but, shield up and spear ready, the place proved to be empty, save for the niches containing the bones of the long dead, and the pottery caskets of the more recently dead, over which had been laid clothes, turning it into some sort of makeshift work area, with more of these leather ropes and bits of pottery and scraps of leather.

A trail from the mausoleum was hard to find, ithe ground had been stepped over so much, but Farshad found a cunning clue to the most recent path away, allowing Utana to use his Survival skill, admittedly not tunes to these more verdant areas than his customary deserts. The group dragged the wounded Juma with them, following the path into the hills.

That trail let to a copse near a pond, from which they could hear low chanting and poetry of a sort, Farshad and Utana circled around the copse, Utana around the pond, bow strung and arrow ready as José covered the copse and Juma slumped down near them, his wounds patched up, but still severe.

Once they could see more of the copse, the group noticed that the trees and bushes around the copse were interlaced with a web of more of these leather ropes, with inserted talismans of pottery and leather. In the middle a man with a staff was speaking over what looked like a body, but one far larger than any mortal, about the size fo a Kevu. The group did not hesitate to demand surrender or information on whatever the man was up to, they launched arrows, wounding him severely.””

Injured though he was, the man slumped over the body, still chanting, spearing blood over the thing, it ropes up and, on all fours lumbered towards José, rising up when free of the webbing of talismans. It was huge and comprised of dead flesh. Utana’s and José initial attempts to use their bows did not go well. If they hit the creature they did little damage to dead flesh, though one of Utana’s arrows did well enough in wounding José, who by now must be considering better armour and private health care insurance, a revenge arrow from opined José missed its mark.

The creature too close for comfort, José wounded by both beast and friend, withdrew his silvered sword, deftly and with great style, as Farshad started cutting webbing and smashing amulets with the power of his magic sword. Utana saw what José’s sword was doing, ripping lumps out of the thing as incidentally it seemed to be waning under the assault of Farshad.

Utana’s silver arrows caused damage where his iron ones could not and the thing, a construct of flesh on an armature of wood, metal and other substances collapsed into stillness.

José limped and the rest gathered around the injured and dying man. He swore at them for renegades and letters and all sorts, murderers of his household and family, Thery group denied it and instead, again. revealed their identity as agents of the magistrate. Upon learning this, the Rasghan Ilyhan legend a complain against the mob that assaulted his castle, burned it and murdered his people.

When quizzed as “”Do you not think they had a legiitimate complaint because fo your vile necromancy”” The Rasghan told them that he only took up his grandfather’s tools after the attack, not before. When the complaints of Abadhir were put to him, he denied them and also referred to Abadhir unflatteringly.

The group, pensive, patched José and the Rasghan up as best they could, and took them, and Juma, to the temple, to seek divine healing and to consider where to go next. They were only supposed to reveal their status as agents in extremis, but now they have done so, and a formal complain has been made.

That, is for another time.

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