Write up 9th March 2023 – Journey from Babilim – Part 5

It is a week since the journey down the well ended with Jalabu both embarrassed and injured by his possessed underwear, and the palace is being tidied and prepared for the incoming conference.

However rest is not forthcoming, Jalabu is somewhat traumatised by his experience and the rest of the group have their sleep disturbed by his screams. Smersh has his own problems, he has visitations of a religious nature. His gods are reaching out to him, but he cannot hear their words.

It is early morning, Fetnah is doing her morning rituals as Smersh, accompanied by Arpaesis, goes to the Temple. It is in a better state than it was when the group first arrived, when Smersh did a little cleaning, but Smersh had not attended the Temple since, or really shown much devotion.

There they found strange wet footprints, which, under investigation, proved to be a large group that had come up the cliffs from the sea, gathered in the Temple, then split into three groups, two returning to the sea, and a small group heading to the the older central palace building. There they followed the footprints, part of the group clambering over the compound wall as did the intruders, others, like Utana, being more dignified and using the gates.

Each well in the Palace complex had, on Smersh’s advice, been covered with a cover to stop anything coming up the well.

Jalabu could hardly wait to drop his clothes, tie a rope around himself and head down the well, accompanied by Fetnah and Farshad, with spells of seeing cast by Arpaesis, well, mostly cast, for some reason something went awry with Jalabu. Arpaesis also provided inflated goatskins to be used to provide flotation or emergency air as required.

Down the well, again a sloping passage going under water, and again a chamber with strange tables. Fetnah’s dive did not go well, but Jalabu managed it, finding a set of plaques. Meanwhile Farshad rested in an air pocket, lying on a collection of the inflated goatskins, gods alone know where the cocktail came from, or the little umbrellas, or indeed the concept of either.

Jalabu, emboldened by his success so far, decides to explore on, a passage leaving this chamber towards the one he had been in previously, he swam on but only just reached the air pocket in that chamber, breath heaving and gasping, at the limit of his ability. There he looked around, it was unchanged, but the rope was at its limit and going on would be a risk. It never came to that, something dark and mysterious swam towards him, Jalabu experienced the strange effects of Arpaesis’s botched spell, instead of the reality of what was in the water, he saw a fearsome sight, a jagged toothed, razor horned sheep, angling towards

Him, panicked, Jalabu tugged the rope, and he was hauled out, gathering Fetnah and Farshad with him.

Settling down afterwards, the aftereffects of a submarine Nantucket sleigh ride making underwater adventures a sore trial for Jalabu twice in a week, Farshad and Arpaesis examined the tablets.

Written language

Writing of the North and  East
Shamek The most common current writing system. it is alphabet based.

Ebbarisi A cuneiform system used before Shamek, still used as a scholarly form. 

Habbarisrri A more pictographic ancestor of Ebbarisi. 

Writing of the South and  West
Shehkhami The most developed glyph based system of Ta-Khamet, Menasveh, Bedewah and Damat

Shehhemnet The ancestor of Shehkami, the glyphs are closer to pictures

Writing of the Haozi
Haozi The writing system of the Zhau, where each character representing an idea. 

Other writing
Adshir musical notation also used in ciphers

The script on the metal plaques was Shamek, but the way of expressing ideas seemed to indicate someone more used to Ebbarisi than the modern alphabet. It read

“We are the Keteaorum, we dwell here for centuries, why do you visit us?”

Between the group, they pooled what they knew of the Keteaorum, an aquatic folk, with strong magic that allows them to work metal underwater and to exist on land. In times past, they were brought by priests from some other realm, and bound as temple guardians. They spread under the waters, in both fresh waters and salt, and from time to time they raid the land and take captives.

The group checked out the Temple again, there they found more of these message plaques, at the pantheon statue, at the crypt and the room of offerings.

The day was further complicated by new arrivals. Soldiers to garrison the palace, put under José’s command, hunters reporting back that a unicorn had been found, and was being herded to a more convenient location for an organised hunt, and news came of entertainers descending in droves tomorrow to be selected.

Smersh then went around the complex looking for vulnerabilities. Particular attention was paid to the main palace buildings, as both would be used for meetings, especially those when some of the parties probably would be unable to stand to be in the same building as each other

In the cellar of the older building Smersh found a door disguised behind a false wall, leading down to a meeting room. This was a strange room, a table like those underwater, chairs for both mortals and the strange physiology of the Keteaorum. Leading away from the room on the other side was another passage leading underwater.

A reply was written, and placed where the Keteaorum might find it. They would meet with them in the secret room under the palace.

The next morning, Smersh held a service, aided by Farshad as cantor. The other workers and guards who attended the service were satisfied, but Smersh could not feel his connection with his gods as clearly as he once did, but he did feel his bond grow closer.

The peace of prayer was soon lost, as entertainers descended on the palace. Birds of Prey were brought to each of the group as they settled down to audition the acts. Each act was judged and, if found wanting, the judges hit the buzzard to signal rejection.

The evening grows near, the meeting draws near, and there we left it

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Write up 23rd February 2023 – Journey from Babilim – Part 4

Morning began for Fetnah as it often did, with her finding a quiet spot to clear herself of the influences of the spirits she had been dealing with and ready herself for a new day. She had found a likely spot by a pool in the trees, near the rock tomb, She was aware of the spirits below, but they kept their influences to themselves.

However, her plans are unterupted by the sight and sounds of a large crowd come through the gates of the walls of the Palace of Nashwa, pack animals and bearers amongst them. Rousing the rest of the group, Smersh making sure a dagger is in his hand, if not held high, at least visible.

People got out of his way, forming a semi-circle with, at its centre, a better dressed individual, a Kurrim. He introduced himself as Jumab, who was recognised by the group  as an official from the household of the Magistrate of Eshtaband. He had been sent here by Tingis, deputy to the major-domo of the Palace, to take on the role of steward to the Palace of Nashwa, at least until the conference begins. The people with him were cleaners and workers here to repair the Palace.

Behind them another group with pack beasts made themselves known. At the head of this caravan was a man wearing a camel-hair robe with sheepskin trim, open at the chest revealing gold amulets. He announced himself as Abmetep, his accent and name betraying him as Ta-Khameti, a dealer in furnishings and household goods to the gentlefolk, known as the “Geezer from Giza”.

“You knows the gentle-folks. They don’t want to use a bowl or a goblet that has even been looked at by another. So you are gonna need new bowls, new cups, new utensils, new rugs. I am the one to supply them. Urns from the Anaxoi, animal shape cups from the Sardic Empire, all sorts of wares from the Zhau and more besides. What sez you we make a deal?”

Farshad took on negotiations, and barely scraped a useful price in the haggling, Abmetep’s notion that the goods could be sold on the souvenir hunters apparently falling on deaf ears. However he did take Abmetep aside when the latter suggested a “consultancy fee” that the two could divide. A little extra profit for Abmetep, a little bit of cash for Farshad. A deal was struck, and the goods started to be unloaded into some of the empty buildings.

The entertainments were discussed, in particular, and Utana’s area of expertise, the great Unicorn hunt. Styles of hunt were the first descision. Previously the thought had been to capture one, and bring it to be placed in a park fotr the gentry to hunt, the realisation was that, for the honour that such a hunt represented, it had to be real, not staged. They sought and found two hunt guides, Osen and Feffa (*), to form a party and try to find a unicorn and, if successful, try to force its range closer to the Palace.

There was a bad joke here. The Scots term for a hunt guide is ghillie, from the Gaelic “gille”, boy and that ids the term some of us used as it is what we are familiar with.

So, ghillie ghillie Osen Feffa……..

The next concern is basic physical security. The bays in the shoreline that a boat could get close to and use were identified, the vantage points to observe them noted and the wall inspected for climbable spots, which cost Fetnah a winding, luckily Smersh caught her to break her fall.

The next places that were inspected were wells. Fit youngsters were lowered on ropes down each, still immaculately lined with clay but going deep before the clean water was reached. Not wanting to take chances, the group arranged to securable covers to be made to each well.

All were unbroken save one to the east, in which a side passage went off. Farshad was lowered for an initial scout, but the side passage sloped down to the water line to the North-East, and then continued. Farshad returned to report. The fear of the creature that tried to seize Farshad in the watery tunnel under the ruined tower returned, it must be investigated.

Farshad and Jalabu then prepared themselves, Jalabu stripping to his small clothes and carrying only his magic buckler that gave off light, went down the water passage, Farshand hanging back in support. The water soon gave way to a large chamber, with, fortunate for Jalabu, a very small breathable pocket of air at the top.

Diving down, Jalabu found stone tables of an unusual type, there being two tiers, there being a gap between the two. The chamber went on, but he could not determin the end or an exit, and so he returned, his air in short supply, the rope tying him growing heavy and waterlogged.

Back up top, the group considered how to properly explore the chamber, goat skins filled with air were proposed and then Fetnah hit on the idea of seeing if a spirit inhabited the chamber, one that might be able to help.

The issue was how to make contact, it would require water from the chamber. How to get some? It was thought that Jalabu’s small clothes, sodden with the water of the chamber, might provide enough to use. A bowl was found and a measure of water carefully extracted by cautious wringing.

Fetnah set to work. This would be difficult, but, cleansed as she was, surely she could summon a water spirit from the chamber, if one was there?

She could! However, her rapport with it was incomplete, the spirit was angry, and violent, it inhabited the water remaining in Jalabu’s loincloth, twisting and contracting, raising welts of bruised flesh and even nblood as Jalabu howled in agony, and then in Terror as Smersh and Farshad lunged at him, knives drawn.

They were able to slice off the garment, leaving a bleeding Jalabu writhing in the dust, clutching himself and swearing off nether garments for life as the underclothes leapt at Fetnah like a soggy and malodorous face-hugger, only to be caught on the point of Smersh’s knife, and pinned to the ground, where the water drained out into the dust.

Jalabu’s composure returned enough for him to cover his shame with the shout “it was very cold in that water” as Fetnah laid on healing hands and José applied soothing unguents, returning his body somewhat

And there we left it

The organisation is not the main focus of the adventure. The group are management, and they are involved, but the conference will be arriving soon, and protocol and intrigue will be the daily concern


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Write up 9th February 2023 – Journey from Babilim – Part 3

The group left some of their number to get accommodation in the palace complex sorted (ie folk who could not make it) the others approach the gates carved into the large rock in the middle of an unkempt area of trees and woody shrubs to the east of the penninsula.

In front of the gates are two braziers, like the gates and much in the complex, is down at heels, but maintained enough not to be falling apart. The braziers have ash and unturned wood, left there long enough for some of the ash to have turned to paste with rain and dew, but the remnants still giving off aromatic scents.

Under Utana’s knowing scrutiny, Farshad checks the gates, wooden with strong, complexly embossed hinges. He determines that they are both unlocked and well enough maintained that there are traces of lubrication on the hinges, all of which Utana established with a critical but perceptive glance.

The group remembered what the local spirit told them about the spirits under the earth demanding respect, and so gathered such dry fuel from the woody shrubs as they can and, sprinkle herbs and spices donated by Fetnah so that, when set alight, they gave off a pleasing scent. This they hoped would be appreciated by the dwellers underground. (Note. It was. It made the attitude of the dwellers below a notch friendlier)

With the offering being made, they opened the doors, revealing a short hallway coated with the clay they had spotted lining the wells before steps descended. The stairs were a square cut spiral down that went down 6 flights, a little over 3 metres per flight. At the base of the every second flight, two of the walls held three alcoves, five of which were occupied by painted, life sized statues of warriors.

The first set of statues  encountered were examined closely, though not destructively. The statues were clad similarly, but with slight differences of decoration, making each individual. The fabric of the statue proved to be plaster. There was no sign of the empty alcove that it had ever had a statue. These findings were repeated on the next two sets of alcoves.

The base of the stairs led to a short corridor, thoroughly decorated with complex designs. Close examination revealed to Farshad that what appeared to be a complex and confusing story, was actually five stories of different monarchs with spaces in the interlinked narrative for a sixth.

This carried onto the next room, a wide chamber with a grand exit ahead, but three doors either side, three on the left decorated, two on the left decorated, one plain. Each decorated door had a pair of guardian statues flanking the door. The symbology they had seen on the statues was put into more context here, a progression could be seen from the first door on the left, along the left them over to the right, suggesting some sort of inheritance or transfer of power,

From the grand entrance came music and voices, though indistinct. Stealing forward, Farshad saw a shrine, of an ancient style, but clearly dedicated to The Cold Ones as it looked similar to other shrines he had seen in Bardij and other places. With that in mind he recognised that the music was drums, some indifferently played flutes and some slightly off singing. The flutes and singing suffered no doubt because the musicians were actually desiccated corpses, dried out husks of mummies.

Upon Farshad’s return to the group, they examined the first door on the left. It was painted as a door, but actually seemed to be functional. Utana’s gentle but insistence shove did nothing to open it, but it did indicate that the door could open. Further prodding and scrutiny looking for secret switches or locks revealed that decorative beading down the side concealed a simple bronze knocker, disguised by the paint that fitted it to the rest.

Using it led to the door being opened by another desiccated corpse, a very well spoken door warden, though their diction was affected by their lack of lips and whatever state the rest of their mouth was in. Over a very civilised conversation the group learned that the mistress of that household was Yuwannah, once Sharatum. From that house were those of her nephew the Sharrum Shisuthrus (that name especially mangled)  his cousin the Sharatum Harekah then to the other side, Harekah’s son the Sharrum Navaah and then his daughter the Sharatum Uchani, the last door is for the one to come.

Questioned about the connection, it was confirmed that these were monarchs of the local kingdom. Though the warden did not volunteer its name. These monarchs were bound by family bonds, though that did not stop them removing other family members who threatened their reigns.

Although the group could see past the warden to see, at the end of a hallway, other household members, as dedicated and decayed as the warden, peer back curiously at the group, the warden makes no move to let them in, but instead points towards and past the chamber with the musicians, indicating that there the monarchs held Council.

The group took their leave, and moved on. The music had changed from religious to more maudlin, homely music, but it was not much improved. Beyond the shrine, the chamber proved to be an incredibly decorated audience chamber in which well dressed mummies stood in knots of conversation in front of a dais upon which were 6 stools. As before, five were decorated, 1 plain.

An entranceway stood at either side of the dais, three guards at one, two at the other. The whispering, croaky conversations died down and all, err, places where eyes might have been once, turned to face the strangers.

Juan José addressed one, and explained that the land above would soon be busy and possibly disturbing, and they would like to discuss this with those that ruled these halls. The one they spoke to beetled off through a doorway, leaving the group to make extraordinarily awkward small talk as they waited.

In not too long a time, the messenger returned and beckoned them into the Council Chamber, a well lit by magic that shone through coloured glass lamps and panels in the ceiling giving an illusion of a sunlit chamber.

Juan José opened negotiations, explaining what was to occu above, to apologise for the disturbance. He asked what might the dwellers here desire and if they would care tp send observers. The Council deliberated and responded. They thanked the group for the invite, though foresaw problems that might arise should they attend, so they thanked them, but declined.

As to what they could do, offerings from each feast, each celebration held during the conference, a portion should be delivered to the gates to the tomb, some burned as offerings, some left intact.

The group agreed, and received cups from the court as a gift, before they left. They climbed the stairs, and two realisations for Utana. Once, that the statues they had seen were not just statues, they were the right size for a mummified warrior coated in plaster, remaining in place perhaps for centuries. The other was that the complex extended from the rock towards the palace, his sense of direction made that clear.

The group ascended the steps out of the tomb, towards the accommodation prepared for them, and there we left it.

I wasn’t sure how this would go. I wasn’t sure what the players would do, it might have gone all dungeony, but it was all very social, explore and discussion. I enjoyed it, I hope the players did.

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First impressions of “Swords of the Serpentine” RPG

First Impressions of “Swords of the Serpentine” RPG

by Emily Dresner and Kevin Kulp with Matthew Breen

On Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th Feb 2023, I played in a game of “Swords of the Bosphorous”, Martin Cookson’s (@mcookie123 on Twitter) “Swords of the Serpentine” game set in Byzantium in 1450, still the last remnant of the Roman Empire, a shadow of its former self, only three years before its fall in a great siege, but the characters don’t know that of course.

The characters were a random assortment of city folk, an Orthodox Priest, a wine merchant’s daughter, a captain of the city watch and the character I played, a city engineer. I am not going to discuss the scenario, because *spoilers* but what I thought of the game, I have wanted to try the game’s “Gumshoe” system since “Trail of Cthulhu” but i found that book physically hard to read, my eyes just counted cope, so firstly, “Swords of the Serpentine” is definitely easier on the eyes.


I still think it Swords of the Serpentine could do a better job of explaining itself, but that might be a feature of the simple, but separated system that is different to most others. I think, if it was me, I would have a truncated character with a couple of each of the features with explanations as a sample

At the heart, it has a skill system, but two kinds of skills, Investigative and General Abilities.

  • Investigative Abilities. You have one of these, and you will, then you can just use them as part of your interactions with the world, eg, you know City’s Secrets, so you can find your way about the city and know some of the things strangers don’t. Need to get information by criminal means like blackmail or spying? Your Skulduggery skill will help you there. However they do do more for you, more on that later.
  • General Abilities, your “normal” skills. Eg hitting people or sneaking about. You have a skill, you roll a d6, get 4 or over, you succeed. Sometimes it might be difficult, and you need A 5 or 6, but it is all a single d6 die roll.

However, straightforward as this seems, you can modify things. You have levels in both your Investigative Skills and Abilities, but these are expendable resources, like Power in RuneQuest, things you spend but can get back.

General Abilities

For a General Ability, e.g you want to increase your chance of Jumping from roof top to roof top, well, you have 6 points in Athletics, spend 2 of them, and you can add 2 points to the roll, and have 4 more points for later use.

The more points you start with a skill, the better you are at it.  If you are an Expert in a General Ability, ie you start off with 8 or more, then you get a Talent, which gives a special advantage. E.g. If you have 8 or more points with Athletics, you can try to Dodge attacks that otherwise would have damaged you.

In attack Ability use, though GMs might use the idea for other abilities, can have “critical effects” if you do really well.

Investigative Abilities

With Investigative Abilities, your options are broader. These are not just “I do this” but also “How do I do that” and you can use them to

  • add to your success chance for your General Abilities
  • increase the damage you deal
  • reduce the damage you take or increase the amount you take
  • influence others
  • substitute for a skill you don’t have

Your character should, however. have a narrative reason how this works. In the jumping attempt above, a character might use their knowledge of City’s Secrets, to give a bonus to crossing the rooftops as the character knows of a gargoyle sticking out that they can use as a ramp, making the jump effectively shorter. Or, if they did not have the Athletics skill, then they could use that Secret to give it to them.

Allegiances and What is best in Life

There are also Allegiances, organisations characters owe fealty to, or enemies that might counteract them, that you can use with Investigative moves to gain information or things with that influence, and “What is Best in Life”, three things your character values that not only help you figure out who your character is but, once per adventure, you can use to gain a bonus for an Ability use.


To boost chances or use special features of Investigative Abilities, you need to spend points that the Abilities have, the same for the one per adventure use of Allies or What is Best in Life. Normally these only refresh per adventure, not per session, though a GM might allow that for a long multi-session adventure. However, succeeding at goals and defeating enemies can gain the characters refreshes, as can rest and carousing. Refreshes come from a communal refresh pool, so there might be negotiation (arguments) between the players about who needs it more, perhaps the merchant/thief who has only picked the one lock today needs it less than that Sorceror who saw off three angry mobs by themselves.

Taking damage

The last thing about the mechanics, instead of “Hit Points”, your character has “Health” but also “Morale” meaning that attacks are not just against the physical fabric of a target, but also their willingness to even be there, which can be hit by social abilities or foul sorcery. (All sorcery is foul in this world, even of used for good, it stems from Corruption).

Playing in the streets

So, how does it play? It is is light game that encourages players to narrate their actions, not just “I hit them with my hammer” but, when boosting with an Investigative Ability, to describe what is going on “I taunt them as I attack them ‘Last time I saw something like you it was rotting unloved at the bottom of a fish barrel’ and spend one of the points you have in the Taunt Investigative Ability.

In a chase sequence, my character boosted their chances with City’s Secrets and other Investigative Abilities, coming up with reasons why they applied help not only give some history to the character but also help shape the world. This idea that spending points with Investigative Abilities can have the player add details to the world, physically, culturally, legally, helps, I think, the player buy into the world, as it becomes part of the creation, rather than something that only exists to the extent that the GM describes it to them.

Having said that, we played in Byzantium, “Swords of the Serpentine” has its own, reasonably described, city, Eversink. The feel of that, from my totally casual read, is a combination of Renaissance Venice, Camorr from “Lies of Lock Lamora” and Dunwall or Karnaca from “Dishonoured”. There are many factions, someone in one world might have no contact with anyone in another but, then again, perhaps that priest has a secret vice that gives them contacts with disreputable merchants, so there is definitely scope for politics and intrigue in the noble courts, as well as those of monarchs of thieves or of the church, as well as thievery and violence. The set up looks like it supports a decent range of campaigns and adventures.

Swords and Sorcery

One of the goals of the authors was to be able to do “Sword and Sorcery” games. That it should, s well as the more social heist style of game emulating, say, “Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser”, that it could cope with “Conan” and his imitators. The world of Conan gets cited in a few examples, as does the definitely not Sword and Sorcery “The Hobbit”.

As far as Conan goes, there is more to Conan than the film version, fun though Arnie was. In the books he is intelligent, educated (the first film nodded to that), speaks many languages and is more athletic than powerlifter.

Obviously the “What is Best in Life?” rule is inspired by the quote from the film “Conan the Barbarian” though John Milius lifted that from a 1927 book about Genghis Khan, with the Great Khan asking that of an officer. The author, Harold Lamb, wrote for the pulps and Robert E. Howard enjoyed his stories, so it is all good, but, despite that nod, and examples to bring Conan in, I suspect you have to pick your Conan. Conan in the stewpots of Shadizar or the back alleys of Tarantia sure, running across on a quest such as in the film “Conan the Destroyer” or pirate raids wih Belît, not so much. However characters will probably find themselves facing seemingly impossible odds against foes without end to cut a bloody swath through, as the game is set up with glass cannon mooks to fill out the numbers.

Sociability and Sorcery

Hitting folks with big bits of something is not the only way to combat someone. There is a “Morale” score that can be affected by “Sway” attacks or by the use of Abilities that might cause opponents to think twice about attacking you, whether through fear or you grabbing their interest.

Sorcery I didn’t use, but saw a few uses. It seems to attack either Health or Morale meaning the the Sorcerer can choose what their vile manifestations get up to. Either their summon plague of ants nibbles you to death or they crawl all over your body giving you the heebie-jeebies.

I really liked that opposition was social as well as physical, meaning a fast talking but feeble thief might, by use of their voice, daunt as big a crowd as a more violent type might do with their blood dripping battle axe.

Eis ten polin!

While there is some scope to leave the city, my impression, based on far too little reading of the book or play, is that it is really intended for urban play in a sprawling metropolis, but a GM could introduce new Abilities and organisations to cope with those icky outdoors if required, though, given the way the rest of the game seems to work, involving the players into establishing their ties to the world beyond the walls might be fun.

That the city is seen as the main focus of the game is covered by a conceit of the description of Eversink, that those who are there think it is the best place in the world, despite its mysterious descents to the depths that means that a new storey is required each generation. This seems magical in nature as people lose that feeling when they leave, but regain it if they return.

However, this sinking city with his drowned and buried levels just shows you why you never need to leave, dungeon levels, like the buried parts of Edinburgh, Paris or the layers under the cities of Tekumel, are right in the city, no uncomfortable trips into the cold and wet wilderness when it is all on site.

GM’s section

The advice to GMs is concise, but seems useful and covers how to run the elements of investigation, adversaries,  combat against superior numbers, customising it as to world and  and how to tweak it to your preferred style. Want more experienced heroes in a work where vulgar fisticuffs doesn’t take place? Here is how…

There is a gazeteer for the world, nothing too in depth, and a sample adventure as well as earlier chapters about wealth, magic items and how to build your adversary.


I played this as a one off, so my experience is limited, but it was fun. There are simple, and seemingly appropriate rules for character growth, but obviously I have not experienced them, or how a campaign plays out. (Hint: I would love to play in a campaign of this) but it looks workable.

Although it took me a while for me to get my head around the system, once in it is very easy, though how to balance spending your points in play is probably a matter of experience, it was easier for us at the end of a set one off adventure to blow points to achieve things than a player who does not know how long this might go on for. Players and GMs will get there no doubt.

Despite what I said about finding it slight more tricky to find the nuts and bolts at the start, the book is chock full of advice, most of it brief but to the point, and I found the font much, much more readable than “Trail of Cthulhu”.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable smooth game (or at least the one game I was in was, obviously GM and players make a difference, but my experience was great) and it worked with a comparatively few number of characters, and the book even has advice for one GM and one player play.

The system is coherent and mostly unified, with little in the way of extra subsystems, so once you learn the basics, you learn the whole game. Which is very attractive for the point of one-shots or fitting in players, so that they can concentrate on the world rather than flipping through the pages looking for mechanics.

If urban fantasy with intrigue, factions and a variety of social settings where sorcerers are just tampering with evil forces and your off-work preferences can influence your success in adventuring in surprising ways is your thing, “Swords of the Serpentine” is a damn fine choice!

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Write up 26th January 2023 – Journey from Babilim – Part 2

The day in the Palace of the Magistrate of Eshtaband opens as it usually does, with servants seeing to the needs of the officials and priests in the Palace. Rooms and food are prepared, passages swept and, in the quarters of the agents, Fetnah makes her peace with the spirit world, to clear her connection and enhance her powers.

The first order of business for the group comes from Shararah, the duty liason between the group and Harvan, once a position occupied by Utana before he became their, in Harvan’s eyes, leader or, to put it bluntly, the one to blame if things go wrong. Shararah takes them to the Palace armoury, there weapons and armour are made available to them, though José prefers to buy his own, which has been fabricated since he ordered it. The archers also had more silvered arrows made,

The group improve their protection, though, of course, wearing armour normally is frowned upon, on penalty of arrest as a possible bandit or rebel, and decide to get recruitment of the army of servants that they will need for the conference, started. Shararah points them at Tingis, the deputy to the Palace major-domo.

As this is very much in Tingis’s normal day to day work, he is more than happy to help though, of course, as he is doing the group’s work,  they should pay him a consultant’s or finder’s fee. Fetnah and Utana persuaded him that instead, his fee would be expenses of the conference. Tingis drafted a requisition on a wax tablet, and got Utana’s mark authorising it.

That being done, they saddled up to ride the hour to the Palace of Nashwa, this ancient Hassaryu palace was once the home of Governors and before that, local monarchs. Within the walled pennisula, roughly six square miles, are a complex of buildings and, to the east some older ruins. In a small wood of trees, a large rock, the entrance to the tombs of the monarchs, south of that, a Temple to the cold ones, old, in need of repair, but sopunder than it looks, and to the east of that, a ruined tower.

The gates through the walls were closed, but opened to some pushing from Utana, after Jalabu’s attempts to open it with his head had failed. Inside the comple, they noticed the lack of upkeep, it was not fallimg down and it was untidy and, finding the head caretaker, Armon, an elderly human whose assistants, he said, were not much younger. The Palace gets maintenance once a year, but that is not, from what can be seen,  enough to do all that is needful, the supplies are only enough for the current staff, and the bedding and accoutrements of a working palace are inadequate.

As they go, they check the wells, being surprised at how deep and sweet the water was, The lines were ling, the wells lined with smooth stone and lay

Confirming what they should have known about the state of the place, they decide to check out the ruins. Summoning a reluctant and surly spirit of the area, Fetnah learns that the area above ground is home to that one, underground in the tombs were the unquiet spirits of the dead monarchs, 5 of them and their servants, who resent their descendants no longer ruling. The local spirit offered two notions, the unquiet monarchs would have to be destroyed or placated with offerings, to show respect. The local guide did ask that, to persuade it to do what it could during the conference, offerings of incense and flowers be, made at the Temple.

Next, to the Temple of the Cold Ones. In better repair than it looked, the local spirit told of crypts underneath. These were after a store of religious regalia and tools. The crypt was in good order, niches of urns surrounded by model grave goods. Smersh’s connection with the Cold Ones let him know that they were still connected to the temple, and he felt that the local spirit’s desire for daily sacrifices would be easy to achieve with the normal worship.

Next to the Tower, a ruin, the upper floors fallen, but the group found that fallen wreckage was, in fact, a door, opening on a sloped passage leading down and east towards the salt lake. Jalabu led the way, his magic shield lighting as they went, until Utana and Smersh almost slipped on wet moss, into water as the passage continued down.

For some reason, Farshad admitted to being able to swim, so they sent him down into the water at the end of the rope. Farshad did not far well but, more worryingly, a serpentine figure with arms and hands came for him and he was yanked bodily out of the water, narriowly avoiding smashing his head on the ceiling.

The serpentine figure with its snaky face did not follow and so they left, intending next time to go to the tombs under the rock. Not sure why, but that is for next time, and there we left it.



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Write up 12th January 2023 – Journey from Babilim – Part 1

The camp of the forces of the province of Eshtaband is split, like the governance of the nation, the larger part is the army,  furiously bustling, reinfoced patrols are coming back leading lines of captured bandits, equipment is being repair and messengers bustle about the military leadership.

In the civilian leadership area of the camp, the group is sitting in the tent of Harvan, being fed, watered and briefed. The new companions, Smersh and Fetnah have been given an advance on their earnings as newly minted agents of the magistrate Niralha.

For his first priority, Farshad took the wooden crow Fetnah had carved and into which he had stuffed the crow spirit that had formerly resided in a man Farshad found. Feeling out with his senses he surprised himself by making contact with the creature, which at least was bright enough to talk, and a short conversation was held.

Fetnah aided Arpaesis in determining the purpose of his jade tablet, which turned out to be a puzzle box containing a ring that, for a sacrifice of life force, aids the wearer in spying out hidden things. After the exertions  helping Arpaesis, Fetnah  made sacrifices or food and drink to placate her ally Ilbakia, and returned to the group. Once they are all settled, Harvan lays out the latest task he has for the group.

“I had intended to send you to the ‘Isle of Limitless Pleasures’ for some well deserved rest after uncovering the plot here as well as, so you tell me, stopping the end of the world, again. However, a delicate situation has come up. It requires tact, state diplomacy and finesse, but yet I am assigning you.

“I can tell from your aghast reaction that this puzzles you, however the situation also needs cunning, adaptability and the ability to deal with sudden violence and, more importantly, it is sort of your fault.

“There are several diplomatic missions arriving in two months to the city of Eshtaband. They are here to discuss the final disposition of the city of Bardij, so recently persuaded to our nation by your efforts, to the dismay of its ruler Idym and some concern to our shared neighbour Ishtir.

The diplomats and their entourage will be housed in the Palace of Nash-wa, a once glorious complex that juts into the Sea of Verkana just outside Eshtaband itself.

“With such distinguished guests, we need the palace brought back to functioning, we need it guarded against thieves, interlopers assassins, we need entertainments, we need the diplomats happy as they negotiate.

“That will deviousness and for that you are well suited. I do not expect you to do the actual getting on your knees, scrubbing the floors, walking the walls, serving the food, for this, you are management. In Eshtaband, find the ones you need.

“The conference will need banquets with dancers and musicians, there should be a waterborne party, hunting trips, the actual conference, and the incessant demands of noble diplomats.

“As to diplomats, for ourselves Bahareh, elder sister of our Shara Khrush of our Rule of Haraxa and a wise councillor.

“For the Rule of Ishtir, they have sent Mirnusz, magistrate of B?bilim, said to be a confident of the Saraniya, and a famous hunter. We have heard that he seeks to hunt a unicorn, the Ekasasi, in the mountains whilst he is here.

“For the theocrats of Idym, Ba-nereru. We do not think they have real hopes of regaining Idym, but they will be looking for allies.

“The Meremites, suspected by the Idymites of fomenting revolution in their nation, have sent Rumekebu, we do not know anything of them.

“The last diplomat that we know anything of is Arramah, a warlord of the Kurim people of Kutin beyond Merem. Much beyond that I cannot tell you, save that we assume that she, like most of her people, are distrustful of those of us of the nations of the fallen nation of Haxamanis, Haraxa, Ishtir and Sardes.

“Other diplomats are due from Sardes, Iramanshan, Qâde, Damat, Bedewah and Saba but they, *should* be minor players in this.”

The group *were* aghast at the task laid upon them, but more importantly, were trying to figure out their finances, between money never really having been in issue in the game and the transfer from DragonQuest, there was a bit of flipping back and forward on the manuscript, but spending in the army camp ensued.

Utana, being tired of not  looking magnificent enough since sacrificing his golden armour to save the world, decides to see what the armourers in the camp could do for him. It cost him 80% of the fortune he had with him, but he is having made a set of scale armour and a full face helmet, so shaped as to replicate his own features, from his strong nose to his carefully curled hair and beard. It will not be as decorated as it would be if the armourers  had more time, but he is paying for speed, not tiny details.

He also assisted Fetnah who was looking for some light armour, and trying to persuade the leather worker to supply some at a low cost, given her  role, but the leather worker seemed disinclined to help her until Utana wandered over and he, seeing Utana’s magnificence, reconsidered Fetnah’s request and hoew they might benefit each other. If Utana would commend the leather worker to the armourer, then the leather worker felt sure that from offcuts he felt sure ge could accomodate Fetnah at no charge.

José also found some extra armour, some light leg armour and a face revealing helm, not as vain, or as rich, as Utana he has to make do with showing off his own face.

Jalabu, also desirous of new armour, wondered about the value of the blue-white with green flecks gem all were given,  but his handling revealed it to be a Tear of Luck, a useful talisman that can change the outcome of an act but not, Jalabu felt, of sufficient value as to be worth good armour.

The journey to Eshtaband would take three weeks, and Smersh and Fetnah suffered as Harvan had assigned tutors to help them learn the more modern version of the Idarit language, much to Fetnah’s scorn.

Reestablished in the magistrate’s palace in Eshtaband, the group ponders their options. Utana knows that to even put on a hunt for the Ekasasi Unicorn is a sign of respect and honour, but to actually find one would be tremendous

The Ekasasi is a massive beast, looking like a thick and massive horse with thick hairy skin, it is nimble and alert and its horn is like a swordblade.

  • should they try and find and capture one and release it for the hunt
  • Could they pass off a Rhino as an Ekasasi? The problem with that even the closest Rhinos are only found a few hundred miles to the East.
  • Could they disguise Farshad’s horse as an Ekasasi? It is already used to being disguised as a camel
  • Or, lunatic idea, they could organise a proper hunt

As far as food goes, Eshtaband is known as the home of the Haraxan cooking competition “Bronze Chef”, and the winner (Shiribu of Eshtaband) and runner-up (Birmin of Gham) in the last competion,  are resident there. The latter is renowned for his hot beverage made from smoked fish, Birmin of Gham’s “kipper tea”

Other divisions of roles were discussed

  • Utana for organising the hunt
  • Smersh to use a practiced eye to check for ways that ne’er do wells could enter the palace
  • Fetnah and Arpaesis can check the abandoned palace for supernatural influences
  • Farshad can find entertainers
  • José could vet guards and look to the security with a soldier’s eye
  • Jalabu could check the food for poisons, aided by his pearl

and there, until next time, we left it

Second place winner = Birmin of Gham
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Write up 15th December 2022 – Aftermath of the Comet – Part 2

Our group found themselves back in Bukrish, a village with mixed emotions, glad that the bandits that had come there hunting the group had been defeated, but concerned that if the group stayed there, more would come. The group, mostly, decided to resupply and figure out what to do, well, mostly.

Farshad moped a bit, despondent that the crow man had been cured, the former crow man was himself talking to the villagers, trying to find out where he was, and could anyone use a scholar who had lost his way, tablets and purpose.

Fetnah decided to cheer Farshad up. She spent time preparing, to clear her own spirit and enhance her powers, and she sent her spirit forth to seek the crow spirit. She found it as it, lost, it was circling around, itself unsure of what had happened to it. She seized the spirit and placed it into a crow that she had carved, not well, recognisably a bird, but uneven of wing and bent of beak. The bird hopped around, settling on Farshad’s shoulders, pecking lightly on his ear.

Whilst this was going on, the Utana, Jose and Smersh looked around the village to see what they could find to help them in such a run down mining village, long past  its best. Utana gave Smersh some funds as a loan, and they obtained some food, some arrows for Utana and Smersh, Smersh also picking up a light bow and a buckler. After her spirit conjurations, Fetnah also traded some ingots for good quality ingredients and spices.

That being done, the group decided to chase down one of the groups of scouts they had seen, and considered that the Eastern group, on the higher hills would be easier to track than the ones through the boggy heathland. Utana led the way, and after w while the smoke of a fire was spotted. Smersh went ahead, muddy and as camouflaged as if he deliberately meant to be, seeing two scouts by a fire, preparing to move off, but he was not as quiet as he might be. One cautiously headed in the direction Smersh was, spear out, as he hunted for the source of the noise. Smersh’s arrow was keen and severely injuring. As Fetnah hid, Utana and José loosed arrows.

Lightly armoured though they were, the scouts were no match for the group, the scout closest to Smersh refused his offer of surrender, and so was downed, the other fled, but was bravely and heroically shot down, in the back.

The scout was patched up enough so that their life was not in any immediate danger, but they were put to the question, though luckily none of Utana’s more exotic techniques were required. Smersh,  Fetnah and José were able to establish that many scouts were hunting for the group, and bands totalling 120  bandits were positioned ready to come to them when the group was found.

The group seemed unconcerned, 120 was not many to cover all the territory, and the bandits were keeping most of their forces in their usual places, cowing peasants and securing the strongholds they had infiltrated and taken over.

The scouts were stripped of gear, José taking vambraces and greaves from the fallen scout, Smersh taking the heavy leather jerkin, vambraces, greaves, shoes and cooking gear from the one he had injured. Other supplies, such as their horses, some food (of poor quality, but better than nothing) , arrows and others were taken, notably some herbs that Fetnha took. The injured scout, now bereft of weapons and supplies, they left to fend for themselves.

José turned his tactical mind to the situation. He felt that the bandits, getting desperate to stop word getting out, would commit more of their forces, and their chances might be less. The way home was south west, but that was where they knew the majority of the bandits forces hunting them were.

The group decided to consult the oracular bowl that Utana possessed, Fetnah singing to it, and got this reply

South West is the way you do not want to go
South West is the way you do want to go

The group decided to achieve this apparent paradox by heading south, then cutting west, on the road back to Eshtaband and their employer. Utana took them south by an abandoned road that once served now exhausted mines. Fetnah, riding with Smersh. was looking for the forests of her youth, but here the trees, whilst there, were in groups of no more than a copse, but, as they travelled west, the road went through an actual wood. The group enjoyed the cover, though heedless of potential ambush, they were lucky and reached the edge unmolested.

Peering out, they saw two massive clouds of dust, converging, one from the south, the other from the north that would cut off this road. What to do? Go north or south and try to go around, go forward slowly and quietly and hope that the groups pass and move on, letting them go forward, or race hell for leather and get ahead of them.

They decided to do the latter, swapping riders to give them all the best chance. Fetnah riding with Utana, Farshad with Smersh, and they galloped on, with only minor injuries to Smersh when he fell off that one time. On and on they went, looking over their shoulders as the bandit cavalry approached closer and closer. They crested a rise, and into an armed camp, a line of spearmen facing them, cavalry assembling behind, José spotted the banners of Niralha and raised his agent’s symbol high shouting “Agents of Niralha, Agents of Niralha!”

They were allowed to pass, and intercepted by an officer who took them to the council area of the camp and Harvan. He thanked them for the work they had done, over and above expectation, saving the world again, alerting the magistrate’s officers to the grave situation here. The forces are here to put the region to rights, to restore good order and governance.

Fetnah and Smersh were surprised, when they found Harvan spoke Idarit in a form they understood without gestures and  circumlocutions. Finding out where, or rather, when they had come, HArvan was excited, and invited them into Niralha’s service, as agents like the others. They would be paid, as the others are, well, except Utana, whose servant deals with that.

Meanwhile, he has another task ahead for them, a diplomatic conference is to take place in Eshtaband. A meeting between the powers of Haraxa, Ishtir, Idym and others to discuss the fate of Bardij, so recently stolen by the group away from Idym and the group, the group is to organise it!

And there, for this year, we left it

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Write up 1st December 2022 – Aftermath of the Comet – Part 1

The group took stock of their position, in an area they had seen before but changed, the shining lights gone, the mound and the road gone, the comet tail no longer the sickly green it had been. Fetnah and José patched people up, the rest of their aches and pains easing off as they took their ease as Fetnah performed her rituals to cleanse her spirit.

With that done, they looked through some, but not all of their haul. Fetnah used her ally to help her look at the items with uncanny eyes. First the bowl that Utana had bee carrying around, the one he had used to gather the sacrifices in the tomb earlier. It seemed the normal sort of bowl that families make and decorate, engraving or painting prayers on it to  ward off evil or sickness, or bring good fortune.

In that she sensed the elements, the trace, of a godling, and she felt the urge to sing to it, she touched something in the bowl, and a voice replied.

“You think it is over, but there is things you left behind you, that are still awaiting you”

Utana took it back, and tried the same, with the same result.

Fetnah found herself bemused by Farshad’s companion, whom she saw to be a crow spirit possessing the body of a man. She freed the spirit, releasing the human owner, who was confused and asked questions before fainting. He was strapped to a pack mule For transport to a place where he could get more care.

They took their mules and headed back towards Bukrish, the first stage of their journey home.  Seeing Fetnah’s success with the bowl, as they travelled, the rest presented their finds. Jalabu’s pearl evaded detail, save that it was used in the mouth, Jalabu tested it further, and deduced it had properties against poison. José’s bone dagger proved to be a tool for gathering herbs, those that are spoiled by exposure to metal. Smersh’s copper tube an entertainment device, showing scenes when looked through, Farshad’s tablet was a kind of musical instrument.

Finding that out was only achieved by Fetnah’s ally possessing her body, despite Smersh’s best efforts to free her, her old ally was enjoying having a body to use after so long.

Utana’s silver flask defied Jalabu’s analysis, at least with what he had with him, so that remains a mystery, the blue-white gems and other objects were not examined.

As they crossed the heaths and moorland, back to Bukrish, they noticed that, far away on both sides, they were being shadowed by horsemen, too far for a bow shots but definitely shadowing. It occurred to the group, those who were not millennia old,

They endured it until they came near to Bukrish, where they found armed humans waiting for them. Having the element of surprise, the group attacked, Smersh, José and Utana using bows, Fetnah and Farshad hiding, Jalabu running in, though he soon found himself outnumbered, and experiencing the utility of having a shield.

The fight did not last long. The advantage of surprise stood them in good stead, though it was only during the fight that the quiet question of Farshad “Are we sure these are the bad guys?” Occurred to others, well, too late. Fetnah tried to get a spirit to cast a Necromantic spell, but her earlier endeavours had left her tainted by other spirit contact, so it failed, and she remained hiding,

Enemy incompetence gave Farshad and Smersh the opportunity to hack him in the back, Jalabu held his own and he  noticed that, far from being sill-assorted bandits, they seemed well equipped, and there were three sorts, each uniformly dressed for their group.

When most were down, the remaining two victims felt, but one was hacked down by Jalabu, the other shot by José and Utana, and fell, heavily wounded. Smersh and Jalabu worked on the survivor in a good cop/bad cop act, and confirmed the growing suspicion (or hints from the GM at any rate) . They, as agents of Magistrate Niralha had been given multiple goals in their mission, one of which was a cover story as inspectors, investigating rumours of a break down in law and order in the reguion.

The agents had discovered evidence of that, of bandit gangs taking over, replacing the forces of local civil authorities, and cowing local administrators. The word of their presence had got back to some of the bandit leaders, and they had sent groups out to find and stop them. For once, the savage attack on a random group of people standing around, turned out for the best, this was one of the groups.

The group saw their shadowing horsemen ride off, presumably to spread the word, and they trudged towards Bukrish. There they found the populace hiding, having been scared by the bandits, but they welcomed the group, who they remembered warmly.

And there we left it.

(I had three short bullet points for tonight as my only prep, and it showed, and only used two of them)


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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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