|Rikard Le Rich||Only Son of Baron Le Rich||M 22|
|Ping Pong Aveline||Wizard of Noc, Native of Voisson||F 24|
|Nignog Gateaux||Knight of Gebong, Native of Voisson||M 21|
|Zar Queznel||Wizard of Noc, Son of Zarquon||M 17|
|Alfonso Bongo (Dunkan the Drunken)||The Wizard Under the Hill||M 53|
|Bently Tillamoore||Owner of All Magic Supplies in Machay||M 32|
30th August 2482, Voisson Village: Pay 20 gp expenses each. Arrive home at their new house. That is: the house that Nignog, Ping, and Rikard bought together. Zar's conjured-wood house is still intact in the woods. They have brought with them two demon heads.
31st August 2482, Machay Town: Order sand to make demon bodies. Go to Machay. Zar buys a summoning bridge of the AAA Summoning Agency from Bentley Tillamoore, proprietor of All Magic Supplies. Zar signs a contract with AAA, declaring that he understands the rules of summoning. The Gods want to know which Temple Plot he is in when he summons, so the owner of the Temple Plot can permit or forbid the summoning. He learns about Summoning and he and studies the measurement of longitude and latitude. The Gods use the latitude and longitude he reports to determine which temple plot he is in when he asks to summon things. He buys a sextant (to measure the altitude of the sun at noon), a compass (to measure north and south), and a watch (to measure longitude by noting the time at mid-day).
Zar withdraws 200 gp from his Machay bank account. He uses 100 gp to pay for the summoning bridge and deposits the other 100 gp in his account with AAA. All purchases from AAA are strictly cash in advance. Ping withdraws 50 gp from her Machay bank account, Nignog withdraws 100 gp.
|29 gp||179 gp||19 gp||80 gp|
|1000 gp Mi glass||1000 gp Mi glass||1000 gp Mi glass||1000 gp Mi glass|
|0 gp||100 gp||0 gp||0 gp|
|119 gp||69 gp||209 gp||70 gp|
1st September 2482, Voisson Village: Pay 20 gp to AAA to tune their summoning bridge to spirit class. Place the two demon heads through the bridge to clean off their covering of conjured matter, and to clean plaque out of their insides. They copy down the symbols on the back of each demon head before they are once again coated in conjured matter. Show copy of symbols to a AAA agent.
For the next few days, they are training in their various disciplines and settling into their house, which they call Dimwitty Manor in honor of its previous owners.
6th September 2482, Voisson Village: The AAA agent reports that he has the command word for one of their demons: the one they fought in the cavern, not the one that delivered a small lightening ball. They purchase the command word for 2 gp. It is "katchickaclatachckchck", which is something only someone who has been trained in the pronounciation of Rattikit has any hope of saying properly. Zar and Ping have both had lessons in Rattikit. But the second demon the agent cannot find in their records. Perhaps Zar and Ping copied the symbols down wrong. So they pay another 20 gp and pass the demon through again.
12th September 2482, Voisson Village: The AAA agent knows the name of their lightening-ball demon: it is Zanatakatak, which is the name our heroes expected to hear, after reading it on the portal to the dungeon of the Exshathallion Bowl.
"The owner of the command word wants 1600 gp for it," the agent says, "But she also makes another offer, an offer to buy the demon head itself from you directly for 5000 gp."
They put Zanatakatak's head in a box and think about the offer.
13th September 2482, Hills of Doom: Zar, Rikard, Ping, and Nignog set off for the Hills of Doom. Ping has white wine for Alfonso Bongo (Dunken the Drunken), Nignog brings Rum, Zar brings a jar of grasshoppers, and Rikard brings a bottle of fine red wine.
It is calm, cool, and clear. They cross the bridge of fallen logs and cross the River of Fire (see First Map). Their plan is to go back to the cavern with the red pool and find the homunculus that Zar now figures is called Aglamapootik (see The Red Pool).
Heading south along the east bank of the River of Fire, they come to a sign. "No Fighting Near the Shack", and another fifty meters later, "Do Not Pay the Chef". They come around a corner and see a shack with a chimney and three tables outside, set back about thirty meters from the river. There is a counter in one wall of the shack. Inside are two orcs and a sapien. The sapien is wearing a chef's hat. They approach and the chef serves up four plates of barbequed meat on four platters.
"What are you doing here?" Ping says.
The chef shouts at her, sweeps the plates off the counter and onto the ground outside, and slams down the wood hatch of the counter. Inside they hear him shouting at the two orcs and banging pots and pans. Ping puts her bottle of white wine on the counter. Alfonso Bongo himself arrives up the path. He wants some lunch.
The chef opens the counter hatch, accepts the wine, and serves up some more barbeque. Zar gives him his jar of grasshoppers. The chef fries them up with caramelized onions and serves them with some syrup on a plate.
While drinking rum and eating, Alfonso tells Ping that the kobolds hiding in the bushes are waiting to come out and grab the food on the ground. He tells them there are some new rules for the Hills of Doom, courtesy of "He Who Should Not Be Named."
"What, you mean Abacuscraft?" Ping says.
"Shhh! The new rule is No interference with any party unless they have committed a crime of theft of violence. So you can move around now safely, in theory, until you steal something. Of course, many of the creatures who live here are not very good at obeying rules. My this rum is good."
After their meal, which is delicious, although the grasshoppers are not for everyone, they leave with Alfonso to go to his place. Ping questions Alfonso about Abacuscraft, but Alfonso is already drunk on the rum that Nignog gave him. He passes out and Nignog must carry him.
13th September 2482, Hills of Doom: Arrive Alfonso Bongo's cavern at 1 pm. Carry him down the ladder. Ping wakes him up with a bucket of water and sits him down to talk about taking him to Ursia. Nignog, Rikard, and Zar set off with their head lamps in their helmets and descend to the Cavern of the Pools.
The cavern is occupied. There are six sapiens in there, searching the pools and the neighboaring passages. They speak the language of Lakh, the nearby barbarian nation. One is a big man in plate armor with a big sword. There are two women, one wearing leather armor and one wearing ring armor. A man in leather armor carries a staff and appears to be a wizard. Another man wears ring armor and carries a sword. The last one has his leather armor set aside and is searching the green pool.
Zar greets them and says he left something in the red pool, and he has come to get it. The wizard speaks Latin. Zar, Rikard, and Nignog approach the red pool. The adventurers from Lakh smile and nod. Nignog notes that the strangers have spider guts on their clothes.
Before Zar can get to the pool, the strangers attack. Our heroes stand up to the first rush, in which the woman in ring armor screams a battle cry while charging with a spear. They put their backs to a wall. Zar blinds the woman with the spear using a Flash and causes Fear in the man in plate armor. Nignog kills the man in ring armor. The wizard runs away. The man stripped to the waist has by now put on some black clothes. He goes after the wizard and forces the wizard back to continue the fight. Nignog fights the man in plate armor and knocks him out. Rikard knocks out the woman in leather armor.
The wizard turns to run again. The man with his shirt off stabs the wizard in the back. The killer is an assassin. The wizard falls dead. The assassin retreats to a side passage. The blinded woman cradles the dead warrior's head in her hands as her sight returns. Zar picks up the dead wizard's wand. Nignog ties up the big guy in plate armor.
Our heroes search the Red Pool but find nothing. Perhaps Aglamapootik was found by someone else and taken. The assassin is creeping about. He fetches his leather armor. The unconscious woman comes around and runs off to join him. The assassin rushes out cuts the bonds on the guy with plate armor, but Nignog bashes the big man again, and ties him up once more. So now there are two of them hiding in a side passage, one tied up, one dead warrior, one grieving, and a dead wizard.
Zar gives up on the Red Pool and searches the wizard instead. He takes the wizard's rune cards, which are waterproof and well-drawn, a staff with a luminous stone in the top, and a thick notebook full of the wizard's writing. Nignog takes the big guy's plate armor. They take a spear, 23 gp, 3 bows, and 60 arrows, and three swords. With these things, they leave the cavern and return to Alfonso's cave. Zar sits down immediately to look through the wizard's notebook. He soon learns that the wand is a Wand of Confusion, which allows you to cast a first level spell to obtain the third-level Confusion effect. The wizard's notes describe the runes needed to prepare the first level spell that the wand amplifies.
Alfonso Bongo offers Zar 75 gp for the wand. Zar says no, and just as well, because the item is worth closer to 500 gp.
13th September 2482, Hills of Doom: Depart from Alfonso Bongo's cavern at 3 pm, climbing up the ladder. Ping appears to have convinced Alfonso to come back with her to Voisson so she can take him to Ursia via Endromis in disguise. But he won't go with Zar, Nignog, and Rikard because they are carrying a sack full of plate armor, a spear, a staff with a luminous stone on the end, and three swords.
"You'll be attacked," Alfonso says, "Leave all that behind, and you can go home without trouble. Just take the wand, don't bother with the armor."
"It's worth three hundred gold pieces," Nignog says, "We're not leaving it behind."
And so Alfonso and Ping agree to follow half an hour later. Zar, Nignog, and Rikard walk down the hill to the spring of Ogre Brook. There they see an ogre chopping up a human corpse next to the brook, on a table made of half-logs. The ogre is wearing armor of 2-mm steel plate. The plate armor in the large sack over Nignog's back is only 1-mm plate. The ogre stares at them for a few seconds and they stare at him. He leaves his cleaver sticking in the table, puts his horned helmet on, picks up his spiked club and shield, and charges with a terrifying roar.
Zar casts Will-o-Wisp and tries to dazzle the ogre. Nignog and Rikard receive the charge, jumping aside at the last moment. Nignog uses the spear planted in the ground, and scores a good hit, but does not penetrate the Ogre's armor. [Ogre: 45 hp, 3 dp, ap = 30, sp = 40, sa = −4.] The ogre swings his club at Zar, and Zar has a momentary vision of himself being splattered into a mist of blood, with his body flying twenty yards through the air. But he rolls aside and the club passes overhead without touching him.
Often, the ogre swings at Zar or Rikard, and Nignog gets to strike at the three-meter high monster without any fear of being hit back. But it is surprizingly hard to deliver a good blow. He is certain of hitting the ogre on the leg or body, but the ogre's armor is so thick that he must strike a mighty blow to cause any damage, and the ogre moves randomly as it attacks Nignog's comrades. [The ogre attacks one person each round, and does not bother to defend itself against the other two. So the other two need a 1 to hit, which is more than they would need if the ogre tried to defend himself.]
Zar dazzles the ogre with his will-o-wisp and defends himself with his small swords. Nignog gets in several fine hits. After eight rounds, the ogre turns and runs to the entrance of his lair and bars the double-doors behind him.
"Let's open the doors and go after him!" Nignog says, panting and leaning on one knee. [He is down to 2 dp.]
"Are you crazy?" Rikard says, "Let's go home."
They pick up their loot and head for home. A couple of hours later, they are almost at the bridge of fallen logs when they are attacked by twelve kobolds with bows. They run. But Zar is hit twice. He feels his muscles near one of the injuries starting to stiffen. But he is able to keep running, and they make it home safely. He figures there must have been some kind of paralyzing poison on the arrow tips.
Alfonso and Ping, following half an hour later, set off from Alfonso's cavern. They walk at Alfonso's slow pace all the way back to the bridge of fallen logs without being molested in any way, although Ping is almost certain they are being watched by kobolds on the stretch of road with the trap door. They arrive home after dark, walking by the light of one of Alfonso's luminous stones.
[Award 2000 xp, so 500 xp each.]
On 16th September, Nignog and Zar ride to Machay and visit All Magic Supplies, the magic shop run by Mr. Bently Tillamoore the adjutant. He has purchased Alfonso Bongo luminous stones from them in the past, and he sells thunder-eggs and other things they are interested in purchasing. They take with them their second demon head. Bently examines the head and says he'll do some research and decide if he wants to buy it. The next day he offers them 2000 gp. They will take this offer back to Ping. But Bently is not done with them yet: he has a job offer for them.
"In the Hills of Doom, if you go over the Iron Bridge and turn right down the River of Fire, go past the Giant Willow, and proceed for another few kilometers, before the River of Fire joins with the River Boome, you will come to an ancient road of giant paving stones, all cracked now with the grass growing up between them. That road once crossed the River of Fire and the River Boome. In Voisson you have the ruins of the stone bridge by which this road crossed the River Boome, and when you come to this path by the River of Fire, you may see, if you look carefully, the ruins of another stone bridge across that river also."
Bently takes a drink of water. Zar says, "That's very interesting, Mr. Tillamoore."
"Take this left turn along the Ancient Road, and follow the road up into the hills. It is a dangerous road. You may be attacked. You may be spied upon. But supposing your persist and make it to the top, you will come to an open space with trees and hills around the outside. The road passes along the edge, broken up now by trees. But in the center of this flat space is an area where no trees grow. And there you will find a low plant with red, fleshy leaves, which is called the Mandalus Fern. This plant contains a chemical known as Mandalic Acid. This acid is valuable, for it is used in certain medicinal and wizardly preparations."
"You want us to go get some for you?" Nignog says.
"I am willing to pay you well to fetch some, if you can," Bently says. "But you cannot simply bring the leaves back, for Mandalic Acid is unstable, and by the time you get back, it will have decomposed. So you must preserve it while you are at the place where the ferns grow, by the following procedure. First, you press the leaves to force out the juice. You pass this juice through gauze cloth to remove fragments of the flesh of the plant. You take this purified, red liquid, which is mostly water, but has a foul bitter taste, and you add to it a clear reagent solution that you shall make up separately. This reagent solution will be made of two hundred grams of a white salt I shall give you, and be mixed with one liter of clear, warm water, and mixed until there is no remaining salt, and the solution is clear. Mix the reagent with equal parts of the red juice from the plant. Immediately, the combination will turn bright yellow. A percipitate has formed in the solution. Pass the liquid through a clean gauze to separate the percipitate from the liquid. Dry the yellow percipitate in an oven. All this must be completed within twenty-four hours of picking the fern, or else the mandalic acid will be lost."
"Sounds strightforward enough," Zar says.
"If you can obtain one liter of the juice, and mix it with one liter of the reagent, you should obtain one hundred grams of yellow powder. For this powder, it being a compound of mandalic acid that will survive indefinitely, I will pay you one gold piece per gram for up to one thousand grams."
"This yellow powder is worth ten times its weight in gold?" Nignog says.
"Yes. If you agree to do this job, I will equip you with 2000 g of the white salt and two thunder-eggs to help keep you safe."
"Interesting," Zar says, "We'll think about it."
On the 18th September, our heroes sell Zanatakatak's head to an anonymous buyer on Olympia for 5000 gp. They pass the head through a spirit bridge to AAA summoning agency. The money is deposited in Zar's AAA summoning account, and from there he transfers 1250 gp into the Machay accounts of Ping, Rikard, and Nignog. During the day Ping has been watching Alfonso, making sure he does not get drunk, and developing for him a disguise. But she is not feeling well today. Zar sends a message through his summoning bridge to Throm Beausex, saying Alfonso has agreed to go to Ursia, and what support can she give? They await her reply.
On the morning of the 19th September, they find on their doorstep a letter to Alfonso Bongo, addressed in large and perfect letters. It is from Abacuscraft, the manager of the Hills of Doom, inviting Alfonso Bongo to tea on the afternoon of the next day at the Black Tower. The letter tells Alfonso he is permitted to bring guards.
"When Abacuscraft invites you to tea, it's best to accept," Alfonso says.
After lunch the next day, the 20th September, Alfonso dons his new spirit cloth cloak, which he made himself. He, Nignog, Rikard, and Zar set off for the Hills of Doom. Ping wants very much to come with them, but she is sick. She is layed up in bed with a fever and an aching body. Her mother is telling her to stay in bed.
Alfonso hates horses, so they walk. There are scattered clouds in the sky, and it is warm but not hot. They arrive at the Black Tower at about three in the afternoon. There are four orcs guarding the entrance to the tower, in heavy armor. One of them introduces himself to Nignog. Alfonso translates between Orcish and Caravelli. This orc is named Mick, and he is Nignog's third cousin. He is thirty-two years old, and the son of Beth, who is in turn the daughter of Okh, the brother of Nignog's grandmother Jen. Jen and Nignog Senior, whose full name is Nignog Schune, had a daughter Alicia Schune, who married Claude Gateaux. Alicia was Nignog's mother, who died in childbirth while fleeing persecution in Caravel. And so the rumor that Nignog might be a half-orc is confirmed. He might be, if he carries his grandmother's orc genes. Nignog's orcish relatives work in the Hills of Doom, even though their home is far to the south in the orc nation called Garaz. And so Mick is here, and so are some of his other relatives.
After waiting ten minutes, the adventurers leave their weapons at the front door and ascend the stairs of the tower. They enter Abacuscraft's office. Abacuscraft is a black orc. Alfonso he invites to sit. The three young men stand. Abacuscraft asks what he is to do with Alfonso's belongings in the Cavern under the Hill. Alfonso says whatever Abacuscraft likes, and Alfonso wants to go to Ursia. Abacuscraft says good luck to him.
Abacuscraft knows Nignog's grandfather, and has some kind of truce with the retired adventurer. But he says to Nignog now, "You have done well here, in the Hills of Doom. But your time adventuring here must come to an end. Tell your grandfather that the time has come and that my debt to him is paid."
"We have one more thing to do here," Nignog says, "We have agreed to fetch Mandalus Fern from the Hills of Doom, and we will not break our commitment."
"Very well: you have until the end of this calander year. Come the start of 2483, you will no longer be welcome here, unless you come in peace. Do not come to take from us."
"We agree," Nignog says. He must talk to his grandfather. What deal was made with Abacuscraft?
On the balcony outside is a tree bearing brightly colored and various fruits. Beside the tree is a black wyvern. The fruit on the tree is fascinating to Nignog and Zar. Abacuscraft invites them to pick one each, and they do, one at a time. Rikard eats a small, perfect blue fruit. Nothing seems to happen to him, so he goes back into the office, where he talks to the orc woman who brought them tea. But Abacuscraft says, "That one may be the most dangerous of all."
Zar eats an orange pepper-shaped fruit. He looks out from the balcony and wonders what is going to happen. The world seems new and fascinating. He notices things about trees, the river, and the sky that he has not noticed before. He realises that familiarity breeds blindness, and this blindness can stop you from understanding. This exhilerating sensation lasts for a few minutes, and then he must sit down, for his mind is tired.
"My favorite one," Abacuscraft says.
Nignog takes a fruit shaped and colored like a gold coin. He, too, looks out across the land. It's so warm and the forest is so natural. Why is he wearing all these clothes? A minute later, he is standing naked and happy on the balcony, his armor and wepons at his feet.
"That one is fun when other people take it," Abacuscraft says.
The orcs are laughing. One of them slaps Nignog on the back. It's Mick. He picks up Nignog's belongings. Meanwhile, Rikard has been talking in sign language to the orc woman. Her name is Bra. The way she smiles around her tusks, and the way she stands with her hand on her hip and the tray on her other hand, is so entrancing that he things his heart will break. When it comes time to leave, he does not know what to do. He learns from Alfonso the words for, "I want to see you again" and says them. The woman laughs and nods. And so they descend the stairs and go home with an escort of four orcs. Mick is carrying Nignog's belongings. Zar is contemplative and excited, Nignog is striding along naked with a big smile on his face. Rikard is biting his lip wondering how long it will be before he sees that wonderful creature again.
At the bridge of fallen logs, Nignog hugs Mick goodbye and says it's been great to meet him. Mick hugs him back and says he must come and visit his family in Garaz one day.
It is the 22nd September, a sunny, breezy, Autumn day, and Nignog visits his grandfather, who is shooting arrows at a target two hundred meters away in his huge garden. Nignog Senior has at least ten staff employed full-time looking after his estate, which extends for several kilometers in every direction in the borderlands. He wrote the deed for the property himself when he moved to Voisson. This is the Borderlands. If you can take it, it's yours.
"What deal did you make with Abacuscraft?" Nignog says.
"There was no deal. I merely informed Abucuscraft that my grandson wanted to go adventuring, that I was lending him my family heirloom, a longsword of good but not spectacular quality, and I expected him to be treated fairly."
"Do you know Abacuscraft?"
Nignog Senior fires an arrow. It strikes the target three seconds later. One of Nignog Senior's staff watches through binoculard. "Fine shot, sir, ten centimeters left of center."
On 23rd September, Nignog and Zar visit the Machay library. They learn that Mandalus Fern contains a chemical that is used in Paralyzing Stones for use with the Poison Cloud spell. They go to see Bently Tillamoore and accept his offer. He gives them 2 kg of sodium iodide, this being the reagent that turns Mandalic Acid into a yellow percipitate. He gives them two Thunder Eggs and plenty of gauze cloth. When they return to Voisson they find that Rikard has been to see the orc woman of the Black Tower. He and she had lunch together: pig's trotters and saurkraut. Her name is Bra. She is twenty-six years old and has three full-grown children (that is to say: they are all over nine years old).
Nignog and Zar spend the next week planning their expedition. Ping and Alfonzo are working in the laboratory. Alfonso is going to the pub every night and having a few drinks, but Ping is able to stop him drinking during the day. Alfonso seems happy with the good food, the company in the pub, and his warm bedroom. Rikard is walking into the Hills of Doom every couple of days to see Bra.
Equipment: steel cups, weigh scale, spoons for chemistry travel kit (20 gp). Tent for 4 people with poles that collapse (10 gp). Three cegotun stones for the Hot Stones spell (30 gp). Ten diamond glass marbles for the Luminous Stones Spell (20 gp). Blankets, 10 kg flour, tarpaulin, jars, morter and pestle, 30 kg of oats (10 gp), 8 kg more of sodium iodide in case they can get more of this mandalic acid (80 gp). Zar has a plan to dry out the yellow percipitate by placing it on top of an inverted pot with a hot stone underneath. This will give even heat.
The morning of October 1st is warm, clear, and calm. Nignog, Zar, and Rikard set off on horseback, in search of Mandalus Fern. They cross the bridge of fallen logs by first covering the fallen logs with spirit sponge, then leading their horses across. The map below reminds us of what lies in the Hills of Doom. On the lower right is the path by the River of Fire.
They reach the Iron Bridge at 9 am. Rikard turns left to visit Bra at the Black Tower, saying he will rejoin them in an hour. Nignog and Zar proceed down the River of Fire to the Mad Chef's Restaurant. Nignog puts a gold piece in the tip jar, despite the notice that says, "Don't Pay the Chef." They have saurkraut, rye bread, and sausage, and it is very good. Rikard is twelve minutes late. He is both happy and thoughtful. Bra has given him a red fruit with worm holes in it from Abacuscraft's magical tree. She told him that this fruit will reverse the effect of the previous fruit he ate, which Rikard thinks cast a Love Spell on him, making him fall in love with Bra.
"Are you going to eat it?" Nignog say.
"I don't know," Rikard says. "I'm thinking about it."
They proceed down the road by the river. They come to a turning on their left, and on the other side of the river are stone ruins. This turning is an ancient road of huge, granite flagstones. Some trees have grown upon it, but it is still easy to ride along. This is the way they must go, and they follow it uphill to the east. After an hour and a half, it is mid-day, and they see the tracks of four horses leaving the road and going into the forest to the north. They also see a watch tower on the hill to the north-east. It is occupied by an orc soldier. The road proceeds up between this hill and another to the east.
They follow the horse tracks into the forest, and soon encounter a man in blue leather armor and another man in chain mail with a bow. There are four horses tethered in the background.
"Halt!" the man in blue leather says. They stop and introduce themselves. He answers, "I am Grimfeld, a wizard, and this is my comrade Drako the Sure Shot. Our two companions have gone up to the top of this hill to capture the orc guard who keeps watch on the road. We plan to find out from him where his lair is, and then go there and slay the orc tribe.
"Why?" Zar says.
"To do what we can to clense the world of these hellspawn," Grimfeld says, and winks, "And to steal their treasure too. Orcs are rich."
"I hardly think so," Rikard says.
"Why not join us?" Grimfeld says.
"No thank you," Zar says.
Back on the road at 12:30 pm, they see a man sneaking up the watchtower ladder behind the orc sentry. They wave, because the orc is watching them on the road. The more they wave, the more he watches them, until the sapien man gets behind the orc and knocks him down.
"Oh dear," Rikard says. "I hope that's not one of your relatives, Nignog. Or Bra's relatives."
They proceed up the road, between man-made cliffs cut a thousand years ago. At 2 pm, Nignog and Rikard notice the tracks of around twenty humans wearing boots, traveling west, while the adventurers are traveling east. "I did not see where the tracks leave the road," Rikard says. "We could go back and look."
"Let's keep going," Zar says. He wants to reach the Basin of the Mandalus Ferns before dark. And so they continue, and follow the tracks the way they came, until they arrive at a small clearing around the road. The bodies of two sapien men lie beside the road with some cut branches covering them. They are naked and have been beaten to death, not cut. There is a great confusion of tracks all about.
"There was a battle here," Rikard says.
They find a broken jar and traces of what Rikard believes is pickled herring. There are several palm leaves that once wrapped some kind of starchy food, and some twine, on the ground behind some bushes. On the other side of the clearing are the tracks of five horses coming from the west. But there are no horse tracks leaving to the east. There is a crashing in the woods, and a man in a torn and dirty red cloak comes out of the trees. "Thank Alamasius, I am saved!" It is 5:00 pm.
This character says he is Fendall Krass the Wizard. He and his five comrades were returning from a successful adventure, having followed a True and Valuable Map, and decended into a dungeon to the Third Level. They were carrying plenty of treasure when they were ambushed in the late afternoon yesterday by a company of orcs. Fendall ran into the forest and escaped, but left all his equipment behind. Two of his companions are dead. The other two may have been taken prisoner. He does not know what happened to the horses.
Further investigation of the clearing uncovers a patch of ground heavily soaked with gore, and a horse's ear. "This is where they slaughtered the horses," Rikard says. "Bra loves horse meat. So I think the horses were butchered and carried off."
"Did they take the entrails as well?" Nignog says.
"Waste not want not," Rikard says.
"My poor horse!" Fendall says.
Fendall wants to come with them, but they give him some food and send him on his way, saying he won't be attacked unless he steals something. Fendall is convinced by Zar's explanation of the rules of the Hills of Doom, and sets off on foot to the west. The adventurers continue to the east.
At 6:30 pm, they have half an hour until sunset, and they arrive at the edge of a basin several kilometers across. It is forested except for the level center, where it is a steaming swamp. At the center of the swamp is a lake a kilometer across, which bubbles and steams. All around are hills. The road descends a steep slope here, switching back and forth. Some of the flagstones have slipped down the slope, but the road is still easy to navigate on horseback, and in places there are the remains of a low stone wall on the downhill side. The road enters the swamp, and after two hundred meters, disappears into the wet ground. Now that the adventurers are at the edge of the swamp, they note the smell of rotton eggs.
They proceed along the road. They pass a clear pool of hot water with two wood-and-rope ladders. There are many kobold footprints on the grass and reeds that cover the flagstones of the road, and beside the pool. "They come here to bathe," Zar says. Twenty meters farther along, he finds a vanadium steel measuring cup, marked with Ursian numerals, half-buried in the muck and grass. He cleans it off. It shows no sign of rust.
At the end of the navigable part of the road, surrounded on three sides by swampy ground and water, they pitch their four-man tent and get ready to spend the night. They go back together to the forest and gather firewood. They light a fire and prepare tea and camp bread. It is a cloudy night.
"We will need wood for fire to dry the percipitate," Zar says.
"What about your idea to use those hot stone marble things?" Rikard says.
"Oh yes, we'll try that too," Zar says. "Tonight I think we should keep one person on watch at all times."
To this they agree, and Nignog takes the first watch, sitting away from the fire and looking all around. Autumn is coming, and the night is getting chilly. But there are still mosquitoes and black flies in the air. The time is 9 pm on 1st October 2482. The 3rd of October will be the night of the half moon, when the moon will set at midnight. Tonight the moon is almost half-full, and Nignog figures it will set in a couple of hours.
On this very same evening, in the castle of the King of Mokul, a few hundred kilometers away, Quayam, Gristel, and Thristen are watching the Herrningbones perform in front of King Trackandslay.
One hour after midnight, it's Zar's watch. The moon has set. Starlight shines between scattered clouds and illuminates the swamp, the surrounding hills, and the camp. There are no shadows out in the open, but the space beneath the trees a few hundred meters away is absolutely dark, and in that darkness, anything could be lurking. Zar watches.
There are flickering lights over the lake. Zar sees them out of the corner of his eye. When he looks straight at them, they disappear, as if they know he is watching. He stares at the lake. A light appears. It is a dim, swirling glow of yellow, purple, and blue. It extinguishes and reappears nearby. Over the three hours of his watch, Zar decides that there are several sources of these flames, and these sources move about the lake. Sometimes they are all making flame at the same time. Once, they make flame in the same place, and the flame is large and bright. What they might be, he cannot guess. They are not willo-o-wisps.
On the morning of October 2nd, 2482, when Rikard wakes them up, they find three reed stems stuck in the mud twenty meters from their camp. The reeds are hollowed out inside, and seventy centimeters long. There are kobold footprints between the reeds and the swamp.
"They could be breathing tubes," Zar says.
Rikard stands over the water where the footprints emerge. "If they used the breathing tubes to get through the swamp, how did they get back through the swamp? The footprints lead back to the water."
They discuss this mystery while making a fire, brewing tea, and eating their breakfast. They feed their horses oats. It is seventy meters to the nearest open water. The mandalus ferns grow in greatest abundance beside open water, on little islands of gray mud, where their red leaves stand out alone, for no other vegetation grows upon the islands.
Zar makes a canoe of spirit sponge using his Canoe spell. "It will last one hundred hours," he says. It weighs one hundred kilograms.
"Do we have paddles?" Nignog says.
They march into the forest to cut poles to punt their canoe around. They are attacked by unseen kobolds from the forest. Arrows thud into tree trunks near their heads. Two have red ribbons with markings on that may or may not be proper writing. Zar does not recognise the letters. Nignog persues and arrow into a bush, and his comrades follow. A huge net falls from the trees above. They dive in all directions to get out from under it. They still have not seen a single kobold, but there are kobold tracks on the ground near the bases of the trees.
They return to their camp with three stout poles and set out across the swamp, dragging and shoving the canoe. Rikard falls into a water hole. It is 9°C and sunny, but he is cold and wet.
"My armor is going to rust," he says.
Nignog falls in the water shortly after. "Mine too."
"Your armor is adamantine," Zar says, "It's not supposed to rust."
They tie themselves together with ropes and proceed. Zar falls in. Now they are all wet and cold. But they reach the open water an hour before noon, get in the canoe, and start poling around, gathering the fleshy leaves of the mandalus fern. They sometimes get out of the canoe to cut the ferns at the center of an island. When they cut a leaf, the juice is bitter-smelling, and stains their skin black.
By noon, they have gathered thirteen kilograms of fern, stuffed in their collecting sacks. Something moves beneath the water, coming towards them. It is thirty meters away. "What is it?" Rikard says. "Aaah! It's coming to kill us! We're stealing it's mandalus fern!"
A ball of fire appears over the creature in the water. The ball of fire is multi-colored. The fireball streaks towards the canoe, its light becoming brighter and more yellow as it approaches. It roars along the length of the canoe and all three adventurers duck.
"Woa!" Zar says. "Pole away!"
So they pole away from the creature as fast as they can. They turn around an island, but the creature crawls up onto the island. It is a blob of muddy jelly with green lake weeds stuck inside, and at the center a brown slug-like thing. The canoe is sideways to the creature, twenty meters away. Another fireball races towards them, striking Nignog, but doing him little harm, thanks to his armor. They pole farther away, and two more fireballs follow them. One is too high. One makes Rikard duck. But they escape. The creature, whatever it is, sinks back into the water.
They are attacked by another such creature later in the afternoon, and once again they survive by fleeing. At three in the afternoon, they have forty-two kilograms of mandalus fern and they drag the canoe back to camp. They know better how the land lies this time, but all the same: Zar falls in. They get back to camp at four in the afternoon. Rikard lights a fire, throwing on their remaining wood to get Zar warmed up. They change their clothes.
"We need more wood," Rikard says.
Zar is shivering. The clouds have hidden the sun and it is cold.
Note: New session, played in Guildford, July 25th 2015. Game date is 2nd October 2482.
When Zar has warmed up, they leave the horses in the camp and walk back along the causeway to the forest. Here they go about gathering dead wood. It takes them forty minutes to get a full load. Rikard is picking up one last choice branch when a blow dart hits his armor, hangs there for a moment, and falls to the ground. He shouts. "Under attack!" He throws himself on the ground. Zar crouches. Nignog stands looking around.
An arrow whistles through the air and thuds into a tree near Nignog. He pulls the arrow out and unwraps a piece of red cloth on the shaft. Black markings on the cloth suggest writing, but in no alphabet he knows. He passes it to Zar. Zar examines the marks while crouched beside another tree trunk. He turns the cloth upside down and sideways. He squints. He shakes his head and passes the cloth back to Nignog. "I can't read it."
Several more arrows fly through the air from the west, a couple of them thumping into wood. "I see one!" Nignog says, and charges at a kobold in a bush. Zar gets up and runs after him.
"Shouldn't we talk about this!" Rikard says, but he runs after the others anyway, because he is too frightened to be left alone in the forest. Nignog plows his way right through the bush, like the iron monster, and comes out into a clearing. There are what look like vines hanging from the trees around him, and a kobold crouched in the middle, frozen as if with fear, staring up at him. Nignog is not sure what he's going to do with the kobold, but giving it a good bashing seems appropriate.
He is almost upon the creature when it jumps like a frog backwards, there are several crashing noises in the forest around, and a net five meters square, lying on the ground, surges into the air. Nignog dives to one side. Zar comes to a halt just at the edge of the net. Rikard leaps over a corner and raises a leg to avoid being caught. The net corners are drawn up by ropes, and the net is hanging in the air above them.
"A trap!" Rikard says. "Crafty devils."
Nignog examines the forest. He sees no sign of kobolds, other than the net, ropes, and weights. Now that he thinks about it, spotting kobolds in a forest is hard. So hard, that if he sees one in the future, he'll consider the possibility that the kobold wants to be seen.
"Let's get our wood back to camp," Zar says.
"What a very sensible idea," Rikard says. And that's what they do. They get to sleep an hour after dark, and sleep until an hour before dawn. It rains all night. Those on guard sit in the tent looking out. In the pre-dawn, by the light of luminous stones, Zar says, "We have 42 kg of mandalus fern."
Nignog squeezes the juice out of the fleshy leaves. In 100 min he has squeezed 2 l of juice out of 5 kg of ferns. Rikard manages to start a fire and cook breakfast at dawn. Nobody complains of the cold and wet. The rain stops. There are scattered clouds moving by overhead. The temperature by the swamp is 10°C. Zar makes 2 l of NaI (sodium iodide) solution using 400 g of NaI powder. He mixes the solution with the mandalus juice and they see a bright yellow percipitate forming in the liquid. This cheers them greatly.
They extract the percipitate with a cloth filter and Rikard starts to dry it out on the bottom of an upside-down pot over some glowing coals. By 9:30 am on Rikard's watch, they have 200 g of dried powder. "Okay," Zar says, "That's what we do today, over and over."
"Better than paddling around in the cold with that swamp monster trying to kill us," Rickard says.
They work all day. By 5 pm they have 1.7 kg of dried mostly-yellow powder. They have 6.8 kg left of the 10 kg of NaI they brought with them, and they have 2 kg of mandalus fern left. Bently Tillamoore has agreed to buy 1000 g for 1 gp each.
"We have more than we need," Zar says. "I think we should go home."
"I heartily agree," Rikard says. "It would be a pity for one of us to be slain in pointless conflict with the diabolical creatures that reside in that swamp. They would write on my tombstone Slain by Greed. That's if you were ever able to bring enough of me back to be buried. So let's count our blessings and go home."
"Nignog?" Zar says.
"Sure," Nignog says.
It rains all night. The next day, the fourth of October, is wet and cloudy. They break camp and start making their way home. They are ambushed by kobolds on the road, at close range, but they make it through. Their horses are well-rested and quick. They reach the place where they saw signs of an orc ambush, and gallop through without being harassed. At noon, they stop at the Mad Chef's bistro and have a soup of Squash and Mystery Meat. They cross the Iron Bridge. It is sprinkling with rain. The minotaur is waiting for them on the path, mounted on his warhorse, his huge lance pointing at the sky. His plate armor has a dull sheen in the rain.
"Follow me on the left," Nignog says, and spurs his horse to a charge, wielding his sword and shield. The minotaur spurs his horse to a canter. Zar and Rikard do as Nignog instructed. Nignog and the minotaur pass another one another on the right, but both miss their mark. Nignog and his companions keep galloping. The minotaur tries to give chase, but is not fast enough.
"I bet he feels cheated," Rikard says.
"Next time, I'll give him a good fight," Nignog says.
"There won't be a next time," Zar says.
They cross the Bridge of Fallen Logs at about 5 pm and are home by 6 pm. [Award 2700 xp, or 900 xp each.]
On the 6th October, the sun is shining, so they set off from Voisson and ride to Machay. They give their mandalic acid to Bently Tillamoore. He gives them 1000 gp for the first 1000 g and keeps the other 700 g on consignment. Zar instructs him that they will sell this last 700 g for no less than 2 gp/g. When they return on 10th October, Bently has sold those 700 g and gives them 1400 gp. "Which means," Nignog says, "that he received at least 3 gp/g himself. He may have made more money on this than we did."
Nignog buys a +6 Large Sword for 1920 gp. Zar buys a +6 small sword for 380 gp. The rest of their money they deposit in their Machay bank account. They divide the expenses of their expedition, which amounted to 170 gp for equipment, between them (60 gp each to keep it simple). We also pay general expenses of 10 gp/level for September. Rikard is still wondering what to spend his money on: armor or sword? He keeps talking about an "amulet of protection from everything", but Bently does not have something like that for sale. And, Rikard still has not decided whether or not the eat the fruit that Bra gave him.
Here we list the assets of our heroes. Last updated 10th October 2482.
|1279 gp||710 gp||140 gp||1980 gp|
|1000 gp Mi glass||1000 gp Mi glass||1000 gp Mi glass||1000 gp Mi glass|
|0 gp||1308 gp||0 gp||0 gp|
|60 gp||100 gp||200 gp||200 gp|
Expenses paid to 30th September 2482.