Delving in The Dreamlands

Sessions 11 and onwards

Our plucky heroes, laden down with supplies for adventure – and also laden down with possibly mis-placed optimism – strike off for the Screaming Pass to find the naughty wizard‘s tower and sort out of the over-due library book of D’harsis.

Once they gain the promontory of the Screaming Pass they see the tower before them in the distance. They have to get there first though. Traversing a natural walkway to the dilapidated structure – that seems to go the long way around the entire valley – the party are attacked by wild insect-mammal creatures and then a grumpy manticore beast that hurtles out of its cave to try and stick them with its poisonous stinger.
A bandit camp is found, already ransacked. Some of the bandits even have strange wounds to their heads that look like their brains have been removed. Loic Sadiq feels evil afoot and manages to consecrate the ground and ease the departed souls’ journey to the afterlife.

The next obstacle is a natural rock bridge. Cautiously stepping across in single-file, fireballs suddenly erupt from an opening in the tower and fly across the pass towards our startled heroes. They scramble, slip, fall, hang, climb up again and eventually gain the solid ground on the other side of the gap despite the hail of arcane flames around them.

The tower is guarded by magically reanimated skeletons who are quickly dashed into bony scraps. Justin heaves the ancient portcullis open and so starts a macabre dash through the ascending floors of the towering ruin, each one stranger than the last…

Chanting of mad cultists can be heard coming from above. Robed, hooded fanatics throw themselves at our heroes. Strange insect-fungi creatures attack with odd technological weapons when their makeshift laboratory is invaded. More dead, brainless victims are found. Floating, translucent salamanders gather around the outside of the tower, sucking the magic out of anybody who comes near. Strange tree roots are growing through the stonework from above. An impromptu library of piles magical books pilfered from all over is found, complete with a team of manic librarians eager to spill and scorch our adventurers’ blood for invading their ill-gotten treasure trove. “None shall stop the Forest Queen!” They scream, hurling arcane blasts and scattering ancient pages. The final cultist’s death-grip is fast on a book… With glowing sigils filling the pages! It’s The Fourth Book of D’harsis, recovered at last! But what’s this? There is another, similar tome just next to it. The glowing sigils on it – unmistakeable and unforgettable – purport that is The Fifth Book of D’harsis..! No scholar even knew this existed. What a discovery! Magic-users Kelek, Pfiista and Orla are beside themselves!

The excitement only lasts so long though, the chanting from above grows in louder and faster, “Sheol Nagamat!” come the frenzied shouts. The top of the tower is a wind-blown ritual locus packed with cultists and a powerful leader crackling with eldritch energy. He must be Kihangir! He leads the chanting and a tree growing out of the top of the tower seems to writhe under the resulting spell. Insect-fungi creatures with wings buzz around overhead. The group chants again, “Shaloub N’grath!”

Battle is joined and cold steel, hot guts and insane magic fly through the air in every direction. The floor piles high with bodies. Other corpses plummet off the edge of the tower. Kihangir lives just long enough to dump his last remaining scrap of energy into the tree-trunk and wheeze… “Shub Niggurath.”

The tree explodes, sinews become writhing tentacles and gaping mouths full of black teeth open. Something not meant to exist in this world is unleashed. The top of the tower starts collapsing. The weary adventurers fight the maddening beast and eventually it is chopped into submission. it screams and seems to explode and disappear. The masonry all around is now sliding, falling into mid-air. Dust clouds billow and our party jump from stone-to-stone as they crumble underfoot, somehow surviving this final collapse.

The dust is blown away, all is still and silent, all threats have been survived and only the wreckage of the supreme carnage remains; a mangled, ramshackle stone tower missing its top with a few brave souls left perching upon it.

The day has been saved.

The land has been saved.

But for how long..?

Session 10
Be Prepared

Our heroes mull over their options in terms of gainful employment for a while. Deciding on the option that will couple the most money with the most crazy sh*t, they take Nodar up on his offer of recovering one of the Books of D’harsis from the rogue scholar.

Nodar – who was just about to leave before the party came to their decision – is pleased that the library could have some new friend and tells them all about Kihangir, the once-wholesome scholar who seems to have become drunk on power and stole the spell-book.

The party are assigned Oyun – the acolyte librarian who was accompanying Nodar – as their guide to the Library. They draw a small fee for expenses from the treasury and then head into the main part of the library itself to take a look at the remaining Books of D’harsis,for reference. Moving to a sub-level from the main hub of the underground library, they glimpse other great halls like the one they entered by radiating outwards, each with its own place name hanging on a great sign from the ceiling.

Safely in a darkened and well-watched room, the other Books of D’harsis are brought to them to look at. They are over-large and completely indecipherable to the casual reader, but they are written in glowing blue ink!

Looking to their coin purses for the journey ahead, Justin remembers the Bag of dark red gemstones looted from the unsavoury types with the travelling prison cart at the start of their adventures. He pulls out the gems to seek Oyun‘s appraisal and the youth starts visibly quailing! Asking why he fears a bag of shiny rocks so, the young acolyte goes on to explain that the gems are traded by queer merchants from black galleys who trade around the major ports of the Dreamlands. They wear large headdresses or turbans and flowing robes, and don’t quite fit the physiology of any of the other humanoids in the Lands of Dream. Some folk welcome their rare red gemstones they buy goods with, others fear and shun them and their currency.

Our heroes consult maps of their journey to ‘the Screaming Pass’ – the tower where Kihangir the Scholar is reputed to be holed up is located – using the maps hanging on the walls of the Great Library.
Strolling back into Inquanok, they enquire after a cart and mule to carry their supplies and – wait for it – to haul back all the treasure they’re no-doubt going to find on their journey.
The stable-master who sells them a mule is another follower of Astarte and gives them the animal at a knock-down price. He throws in a bag of feed too.

And so, our brave band set off back into the unforgiving, barren plains of the North from whence they came.
On their way on the Western trail out of Inquanok they meet trading caravans bound for the big city from ‘Selarn’ and other towns along the earth-bound, East-West trading route of this landmass.

The party can’t enjoy such company for long though, as they must turn Northwards off the well-trodden road and head for the pass.
Untitled No.57’s not sure, but he might have seen some more of those Dark winged shapes that attacked their former captors flit behind the clouds at the edge of his vision.

Making camp for the night, the living construct volunteers to keep watch. It’s not his night for sensory experiences though, as there’s some kind of minor malfunction in his vision… Occasionally it looks as if there’s some kind of round, metal tunnel encroaching on the edge of his vision. He definitely has no loose parts around his ocular sensors and it only seems to happen when he’s not concentrating on anything else.

How strange…

Session 9
Situations Vacant. Adventurers Also.

Justin is rudely awoken from broken sleep by a polearm being dug into his ribs. Grabbing the weapon and lurching to meet his attacker, he sees the innkeeper’s wife who had just been cleaning the tavern floor. The tavern floor where he had been sprawled, asleep.

Before the situation can get much more awkward, Kelek appears from his room upstairs and asks what’s for breakfast. The pair manage to keep down the food that’s obviously not intended for hung-over, nightmare-tormented travellers and go off to the gardens of the Temple of the Elder Ones in the centre of the city to meet up with Untitled No.57.

Having spent the night in the gardens, staking out the temple, Untitled No.57 informs them – possibly with slightly more passion in his synthesized voice than usual – that nothing’s happened all night after his seeing figures or shapes looming in the spire windows. To make matters worse, no passing guards have commented on what a fine-looking statue he is either.

Our brave trio reunited – and only nursing minor wounds to their pride – they all set off to meet Geb the Metalworker at his forge in the artisan’s quarter. Geb walks with them to the entrance to The Great Library of the Dreamlands on the other side of town, to keep their appointment with the librarians there.

Geb takes advantage of the stroll to sound out these warlike pioneers on a job they could do for him. His brother’s ashes need to be taken to a shrine to the Great One Nodens in the mountains nearby. He says he’s too old to do it alone and he wouldn’t risk taking his two boys with him, lest more of his family perish. He offers a fee. Our warlike pioneers say they will think about it.

Passing an old alchemists shop, our canny heroes decide to enquire on the exact nature of the flasks of glowing, healing liquid they picked up in the caves in the mountains. An old alchemist takes their money for an opinion, pronounces it’s a healing potion, but where did they get it, and could he buy it from them..? However, his attitude suddenly changes when Justin tells him it came out of a cave in the North. “The North..?” He stutters, "not an underground cave in the (gulp)… Plateau of Leng?" The alchemist smartly puts the vail back down on the counter. The party understand that anything to do with the bizarre and terrible Plateau of Leng is enough to kill anybody in the Dreamlands’ buzz: it is the most nefariously evil place in the entire land. Our heroes take their leave of the fearful potion-peddler and carry on.

In the Oynx Thoroughfare of the city, there’s a great wooden stall or stage that’s been constructed. It flutters with pennants, flags and painted canvases. A large red banner with two seated lions with intertwining tails set in black flies from a tall pole. The party recognise the emblem of ‘New Sarkomand’, as worn by the merry party of soon-to-be-ex-patriots they met in the inn the night before. Dark-robed-and-turbaned figures shout about the new life on offer in this new colony to passers-by. One approaches the party and thrusts some literature at them, explains all about the marvelous cliffs, mountains, beaches, rock formations, ancient ruins, fishing, archeology and so on, and says that ships regularly leave the docks bound for the new colony, and – eyeing the amount of steel the party are carrying – that the fledgling city is always in need of guards, soldiers and mercenaries.

Our brave – and calculating – heroes decide that starting a new life on a rock sticking out of the sea isn’t very high on their to-do list right now, and stroll on.

Once at the Library, the group are shown to the same (or is it a different one? It’s hard to tell) waiting room and soon Nodar the Deputy Librarian appears flanked by a younger, also blue-robed librarian who’s carrying a stack of books, papers and the weapon the party looted. Nodar’s eyes light up when he sees the group and he seems to hold them in more esteem that he did previously.

Nodar goes on to explain that the only thing they’ve been able to find in terms of context on the Small red creatures and their gold-silver weapons is a chronicle of one of the storied antagonists of the ancient city-state of Tyrhhia. A wizard called ‘Wo Tsa Hi’ – famed for his harem and his worship of Yog-Sothoth, one of The Outer Gods – was sometimes accompanied by small, red familiars with weapons that the defenders thought were made out of precious metals.

Turning a page, our companions see a symbol of Yog-Sothoth in the book: circles and rings linked. It seems to match the appearance of the structure they found the Small red creatures leaving votive offerings to in their cave!

Nodar buys the gold-silver weapon to add to the Library‘s collection of artefacts.
Turning to our heroes, he is clearly impressed with their bringing a new item from across the sands of time to the Library’s collection, and offers our companions a job on behalf of the great institution..!

It seems that much like any earthly library, there are books overdue.
However, this overdue book is one of The Books of D’harsis! Kelek‘s usually-reserved visage cracks, it was tales of D’harsis that made him want to be a spellcaster in the first place. Nodar opines, “Knowledge is a precious thing, and used wisely it can benefit all. However, too much in the wrong hands can warp minds and do terrible harm…” He explains that a once-trusted academic has made off with this precious book from the library collection and has holed himself up in the mountains to the north where he’s getting up to all kinds of mischief. The librarians are too stretched to go out there and do anything about it. Could the adventurers help out, to become friends of the Great Library..?

There’s gold in it for them!

Session 8
Civil Unrest

Wandering the halls of the Great Library, our heroes decide that this is all a bit too bookish for them after all, and that’s time for some of the carnage that they’re more used to. Lacking any nearby monsters to perform that carnage upon, they decide to perform it upon themselves instead with the help of alcohol. They start looking for a pub to have a drink in.

Waving goodbye to Geb outside, he says he’ll meet them at his forge the next day. Remembering what Enver the Farmer who gave them a lift into town said about choice of drinking establishments, they head for ‘The Crooked Chisel’ inn in the malaise of hostelries between the Merchants’ District and the Artisans’ Quarter.

Pushing open the inn door, all kinds of Inquanokian life seem to be in attendance; Merchants in flowing robes sip liqueurs from fine golden goblets, blouse-clad artists mince and gulp down glasses of colourful spirits and workmen find relief in stone tankards of the local ale brew.

Enver gives the party a wave from a corner where he’s set up with his family and our heroes sidle up to the bar. Untitled No.57 doesn’t drink. Anything. Kelek goes for whatever it is the artists are drinking. Justin starts ploughing the party kitty into getting himself an entire barrel of ale.

The staff shift one of the barrels onto the bar for the half-giant and a party of happy revellers enter the bar. They’re all in high spirits and seem to be celebrating their imminent migration to start new lives in somewhere called “New Sarkomand”… They all wear red rosettes or badges with a symbol of two seated lions with their tails intertwined.

They seem to be surprised that the party haven’t bumped into any of the New Sarkomand Delegation’s stalls out in the streets – the ancient ruined city of Sarkomand along the coast is being reinhabited and reinstated by a plucky few and the rewards and riches are vast, apparently. Baronies and titles are in the offing, there are minerals to be mined, pearls “the size of yer fist” to dive for, rare animals to hunt, relics to unearth… The possibilities are endless, apparently. The now very merry Justin ploughs even more of the party’s funds into buying them all a drink and wishing them good luck in their new lives.

A pair of Inquanok‘s black-clad city watch enter with an armful of rolled-up paper and stick up a poster depicting some heroic-looking protectors of civic justice and declare to all in the bar that the watch are ’accepting new recruits’. On their way out they spot our increasingly drunk heroes and say they’ve got some spots for hired mercenaries too…

The people of Inquanok seem to be a disgustingly responsible lot, and the bar empties fairly early into the night as the hard-working cityfolk head for their beds.
Faced with an inflated sense of worth, diminished responsibility and nothing to take it out on, the party spill out onto the otherwise quiet streets and decide to head to the Temple of the Elder Ones because it was a bit odd.

Passing through the ornamental gardens surrounding the Temple, our heroes are stopped by a pair of black-clad city watchmen, who ask them what they think they’re doing in the vicinity, where quiet contemplation is the order of the day. And night.
Truth be told, it seems this duo are more likely just unused to seeing rock ‘n’ roll adventurers being places where they shouldn’t really be. Short lectures are given about the civic duty of citizens and visitors to conduct themselves in a responsible fashion. None of this works on Untitled No.57, who manages to shoot down every argument with his automaton logic. After being gruffly offered an escort back to their lodging, the party climb down and try and make a good show of returning to the inn.

Now, Kelek the Spellcaster whips up an audible illusion of some brazen kerfuffle going on in a nearby hedge-lined avenue and the guards fall for it, running off and assuring the party that everything is under control.
The group now use this window to hot-foot it towards the imposing temple!

They all pile in behind one of the ornamental hedges. All is quiet and still. There’s no-one else around. Lanterns are lit in the spires that sit above the many doors of the Temple of the Elder Ones.
Kelek once again makes gestures and speaks arcane words. He throws he sense of sight into one of the lodge-houses positioned in an orbit opposite the doors. He sees candles burning around a strange stone altar carved into an abstract, tapering shape, with a band of what almost look like fingers or toes carved around its base. A bowl of smoking, steaming incense sits before it, making the entire room hazy. Kelek then moves his sight down a set of steps as the back of the room, and sees an underground corridor leading back to the temple. Are those figures moving around at the other end of it..? He’s not sure. The spell peters out and his mundane sight returns.

A faint scraping sound can be heard, and a pool of candlelight falls upon the paving slabs near them. The door of the lodge house Kelek was peering into has just opened by itself!

Justin sends his faithful hound Muggerscum to the doorway to investigate for any children trapped in wells or suchlike. The dog reaches the threshold of the door, sees the tableau before him and quails. He will go no further.

Now Justin goes up to the door himself. He stands next to the dog, takes in the same scene, and still can’t bring himself to step inside. Wondering where his courage has gone, he hears another soft scraping sound… The door of the Temple itself closest to him has now slid open by itself as well. The same sputtering candlelight and smoky incense vapour falls onto the ground in front of him. Are those figures moving at the end of the corridor that’s opened up before him..?

He bottles it and returns to the most bold of practices: hiding behind an ornamental hedge.

The fleshy members of the group now decide they may have peaked too soon, this is all a bit much and they’re sobering up. The not-all-fleshy, metal Untitled No.57 offers to keep watch over the temple while his companions turn in. He finds a hiding spot and simply watches to see if anything else weird is going to happen.

Eventually the doors of the temple slide closed again. Peering at the building, he’s not sure if he can see figures stationed behind shutters in the spires looking at him. Or is it just his sensors playing up thanks to Justin’s breath..?

Back at the crooked chisel, Kelek goes to bed and Justin beds down on the tavern floor underneath his barrel of ale. Slumbering, they both have strange dreams. They can see the dome of the Palace of the Veiled King behind the eerily-lit spires of the Temple of the Elder Ones. Light seems to be coming from within the great translucent dome as well, shadows cast over it by something they can’t quite fathom. The tension and discomfort builds, until they think they can hear a leathery sound as well. The sound builds until they can take no more and then… Suddenly they snap awake!
The tension is gone, but is replaced with a new uncertainty.

Back in the ornamental gardens, Untitled No.57 is having a great time admiring the statues…

Session 7
City Break

After their ordeals at the hands of gibbering terrors and the harsh elements of the wilderness, our plucky heroes face a new challenge: not sticking out like a sore thumb in an otherwise-civillised city.

Leaving Ganzorrig the Merchant‘s office and heading off in search of Geb the blacksmith, they leave the fine porticos and frontages of the merchants’ district behind and wend their way into the tumbledown charm of the colourful artisans’ quarter.

Loic asks a passer-by where Geb‘s forge is and is directed to the open ground floor of some squat buildings. There is a man who eventually turns out to be Geb and his two young apprentices. The strange gold-silver weapons picked up from the Small red creatures are shown to him in order to get his expert opinion. Geb seems intrigued and after much scrutiny declares he’s not sure, but if they’re for sale he’d like to buy one.
Possessed of silver tongues as well as good sword arms, our heroes wrangle a free kit repair out of the deal too. Untitled No.57 – whom the metalworkers can barely keep their eyes off – uses the facilities to patch himself up again, while Loic turns the fixing-up of their gear into a small religious ceremony as only one as religiously prepossessed as he can, complete with much anointing of other people’s tools.

During the work, Geb mentions in passing that he’s a follower of the god Zo-Kalar, one of The Great Ones and the god of the mortal cycle of life, death and renewal. When the work is done, Geb suggests the party visit his friend Nodar at The Great Library if they want any more information.

Once again the group are moving across Inquanok on foot – with Geb too this time – at first towards the centre of the city and the gardens surrounding the Temple of the Elder Ones. Bells can be heard chiming and townsfolk seem to be heading towards the temple with a kind of quiet, habitual purpose. The many doors of the temple are seen to slide open and a robed, hooded figure bearing a bowl of steaming incense walks out of each one, making for the lodge house opposite each door. The lodge house doors slide open and the celebrant disappears inside, and then the doors close.
The assembled townsfolk – who’ve been keeping a reverent distance and hush – all seem to acknowledge that this is the end of the entertainment and start to filter away.

Loic wracks his brains; he can’t bring to mind any religious ceremonies or deities that carry on in this way. This is obviously what Enver the Farmer referred to as the, “queer processing,” that took place here.

Deciding they should be elsewhere too, the group make their way across the city’s central Oynx Thoroughfare to the Great Library; A vast building with a great classical stone henge entrance that carries its visitors underneath the level of the paved piazza it’s set in.
Apparently the library has entrances and exits in different cities scattered across the Dreamlands, making it a wondrous place. Visitors clutching books, scrolls and papers scurry to and fro.
Geb enquires after his friend – deputy Librarian Nodar (who he describes as a good sort, even if he is from cat-loving Ulthar) – at the front desks that separate the throng from the vast racks of books towering into the air. The racks run away into the distance and join others, like spokes running towards the centre of a wheel.

The party are ushered into a side room and find themselves perusing a few books left there, including the memoirs of King Kuranes, ruler of the Dreamlands from the central city of Celephaïs. Before long, deputy librarian Nodar joins them. He says to leave the weapon with them while it’s researched and in the most library-like of manners, issues them with a ticket for its retrieval.

If only all thrilling adventures and derring-do had a layer of bureaucracy to make sure they ran smoothly…

Session 6
National Lampoon's Dreamlands Vacation

Amidst the smoking wreckage of the Small red creatures’ makeshift lab, Untitled No.57 avails himself of some raw materials to patch up his fine filigrees and twirly bits.

Seemingly noticing Justin for the first time, Orla opines that there might be a bit of Gug blood in the exceptionally tall individual. Less controversial are her administrations to Justin’s smelly necklace. She can tell there’s something alchemical or enchanted about it, and when she tries to magically inspect it, her spell gets sucked straight into the device.
But what could this mean..? And why is life so confusing in general since she was snatched by weird science from her woodland home..?

The party decide that they can’t be bothered to traipse all the way through the blackened, corpse-strewn tunnels they’re familiar with and instead push on through the small opening in the uneven carvern with the enormous, exploded contraption.

Orla the sprite flutters on ahead and reports that she can see sweet, blessed daylight again! And a small, red sentry. The party edge along the small tunnel and prepare to jump to poor little thing. Orla shoots a gout of magical thorns at the creature’s back and takes it out in one shot. The creature is on the floor dying, whimpering; possibly silently bemoaning the fact it could be the very last of its kind and it’s just been killed in cold blood, but who knows..?

Now finally back outside, the party is treated to a sweeping vista of The North of the dreamlands from their lofty perch high in the rocky hills. Stony plains sweep down in front of them to the sea reflecting the mid-morning sun in the far distance, and could that be a city on the horizon too..?

Deciding they’re in need of some stiff drinks and a comfy chairs, the party set off the down the sloping plains in search of some civilisation.

Seeing what looks like dust being kicked up by travellers on a road ahead, Orla sends her feathered friend the Little Owl into the sky to scout for her. The simple telepathic link between the two informs the sprite that the dust trail is being produced by what seems to be a cart pulled by two yaks with a family on board.

The party hot-footing it towards their potential ride, the cart’s occupants look slightly nervous at this rapidly-approaching, warlike band. The father of the family hails them and is rewarded with Justin jumping into his cart and lifting one of the wheels off the ground as he settles down. The family decides this is probably a good deterrent against bandits and strike up polite conversations with blood-stained and singed group who’ve now all flopped down on top of their load on the back – black quarried oynx stone.

The father introduces himself as Enver, his wife Berna and their son Emir, taking a load of oynx he’s dug up from a secret deposit near their farmstead to the city of Inquanok, where he has an arrangement with a merchant called Ganzorrig, who’s glad to take it off his hands and keep Enver, his family and his yaks in root vegetables.

Reasoning that there’s probably some good, stiff drinks and comfy chairs in Inquanok, the party decide to stick with their new friends and are treated to all kinds of cheery banter about oynx – Enver thinks his deposit is an offshoot from the fabled Giants’ Quarry – mead – Enver makes his own from the scarce barley and berry fruits he can get to grow – and Iquanok – Enver says hooded clergy process around there in the most queer fashion.
There is a very good tavern there called ‘The Crooked Chisel’ though.

Yearning for a tankard (or barrel) of something and some home-cooked food, Justin tells Muggersucm to hunt and the faithful hound ranges away. Eventually he returns with a brace of foxes in his jaws. The cart stops for the night and after Untitled No.57 impresses with his fire-lighting skills (servo motors are good at producing friction), fox is fired for dinner. The group settle down and leave the construct on watch for the night, his head slowly rotating around on his shoulders for the entire night like a concerned light-house.

The next day, the road trip reaches the mighty Inquanok, the oynx city. Great black blocks of pure oynx form a circular wall around the city and spires and a dome can be seen reaching skywards.

Passing through a city gate, party witness some unpleasantness – a group of half-dressed unfortunates are being theatrically cast out of the city “into the barren North” by it’s black-garbed watchmen. A plumed helmet and a taste for laying it on too thick marks out the watch commander as he extols the virtues of living correctly in the city and how these “Ravishers” have broken the laws all citizens hold so dear. A crowd of townspeople have gathered to see this spectacle and are rewarded with seeing some real suffering as the sorry-looking prisoners are pelted with vegetables, stones, and even some near-miss crossbow bolts thanks to the local constabulary. They flee and limp back the way the party have come.

On his way to the merchants quarter of the city, Enver tells the party all about The Temple of the Elder Ones they pass by – a sixteen-sided round tower with sixteen spires, sixteen gates and sixteen companion lodge-houses, all set in a tended garden. While the trees and plants are pleasant enough, It’s here that the hooded clergy do their strange processing that Enver so disapproves of.

Next up on the sight-seeing trip is the seat of Inquanok‘s ruler, The Palace of the Veiled King : walled gardens, forbidden ornamental terraces and parapets rise into the air and are crowned by a great translucent dome. Our companions are still craning their necks upwards to take it all in when Enver stops the cart and says they’ve arrived at Ganzorrig the Merchant’s warehouse. The farmer dismounts, backs are clapped and he soon has a purse of money for his precious black stone.

Justin would like to know more about the trinkets and baubles the brave companions have been accumulating in their subterranean escapades so far, so he strolls into the merchant’s office and lays down the curious gold-silver metal weapons and flasks of softly-glowy healing mixture they’ve found.
Asking what Ganzorrig thinks of them, Justin has to swiftly stop the merchant from buying them straight off him, but does does manage to get the name of a certain expert ‘Geb’ the blacksmith in the artisan’s quarter to chase up, along with a recommendation to try any old mystic on the outskirts of the same quarter with the mixture.

This done, the party decide it’s time to look up those stiff drinks and comfy chairs at ‘The Crooked Chisel’…

Session 5
Big Explosions. Loads of Them.

Just as the snaking network of cables on the floor of the workshop they’re in trails further into the cave system, so must our party of brave souls.

Picking their way in the darkness over the top of the ever-bulging lines and wires, there’s a great sound further ahead and a rumble. The lights go dim and some kind of whining can be heard ahead.

Suddenly a huge bolt of blinding energy explodes just above their heads, showering them with melting slag and chipped rock. Looking up, they can see a red creature standing on some kind of framework in a rough cavern ahead, brandishing a smoking cable like a gun. The creature squeals and another blast leaps from the contraption towards the party—and hits the floor next to them, blasting holes in the blanket of cables there.

Problems of unity seem to exist in this underground society too, as another large red creature appears next to the first one and tries to wrestle the makeshift weapon out of its companion’s gnarled red hands!
Untitled No.57 takes the opportunity to loose a couple of crossbow shots at the pair but his bolts fly wide too. Loic Sadiq bounds into the cavern and leaps up onto the large metal ring structure the pair of assailants are standing on. He deftly manages to land a blow with his spear and flick the spitting cable out of one of the creature’s hands!

Untitled No.57 enters the new cavern too and takes in his surroundings. The walls, ceilings and floors are all pock-marked with the bubble-like recesses encountered in the tunnels previously, only much bigger, more numerous, and all seeming to emanate from the centre of the room, where a large horizontal metal ring construction the size of a house sits level, propped up by boulders on the cavern floor or make-shift scaffolding.
Rocks have fallen from the ceiling and smashed some parts of the structure in the past, but the cables snake around the stones, connecting the whole. The fat wires also run to a platform and pedestal on one side, where another red creature is frantically tapping at some kind of controls.

The entire cavern starts juddering and light and energy course through the construction! A strange kind of light show appears in the air, one of shimmering spheres or bubbles of different sizes moving around each other!

There’s a spark and small pop in mid-air, and a new creature tumbles out of part of the shimmering lights… A small winged person. She looks completely flabberghasted to find herself in this crackling, chaotic cave and flutters up to one of the many recesses on the ceiling.

Thinking that there must be no end to the fresh wonders of the world, Untitled No.57 is caught daydreaming as a new creature charges the shiny man and thwacks him with a large monkey-wrench, smashing his veneer and breaking many of his filigrees.
Knowing that he has not only anger on his side, but also respect for the arts, Untitled immediately caves the creature’s torso in with his shiny warhammer in retaliation.

Battle rages as the shaking construction seems to be doing its best to commit a kind of noisy, bright-lit suicide. The enemy creatures fall to cold steel and the searing bolts of arcane energy unleashed from the hands of the new flying arrival – as well as magical thorns and even… Bubbles? – as she flits around the smoky crevices in the cavern ceiling, out of reach of the creatures clumsy swings.

Only one enemy now remains: the creature at the controls for this nightmare contraption. Its console now in flames, it jabs at the controls one last time and a bright white rent in reality bursts into existence in the void at the centre of the construction. The creature makes a dash towards it, slips on the edge, scrabbles up again, then flings itself through the air towards the light!
There’s an explosion nearby and a sickening squelching sound, and the light blots out. The creature has disappeared!
It does, however, seem to have left its legs behind.

Another chain of explosions rock the cavern and everything is in flames!

Always good at making the most of a bad situation, Loic glances down and spots a trinket on the floor: some kind of bracelet? He quickly pockets it as the fires lick closer.

The party spy a new way out among the crevices on the other side of the room, but mob rule takes over and they run back the way they came, hopping over the cables in the tunnel as they too catch ablaze!
Back in the makeshift workshop, the fire follows them all the way to the ends of the cable network around the workbenches. The party back away even further, not wanting to end up as crispy by-products of whatever was going on here.

Now that all’s safe, the small winged person decides to make the situation even more safe by casting magical vines at the survivors to entangle them up, so she can make sure they really mean no harm!
Seeing the vines whipping towards them, Loic throws up his shield and appeals to the newcomer to recognise them as wholesome worshippers of Astarte and the The Great Ones – the kind of people your granny would approve of. The Sprite (for that is what she is) recognises these names and institutions and manages to whip back the magical vines before they can make contact with holy shield or filigreed metal. Maybe this lot are alright after all.

Seeing that things are really, really safe now, Loic decides to look at the bracelet he just found. It seems to have channels running all over it with a milky liquid bubbling through it.
Slipping it over his wrist, he gasps to see all the flesh removed from his hand!
And his other hand! And his arms… And the rest of his body… Glancing around, it’s like he can see through things! He can see the inner workings of the pieces of strange machinery dotted around, and the mottled interior of stones!

This could come in handy, he thinks, and slips the bracelet back into his pocket.

Session 4
What Has Science Done?

Stepping over the blackened wreckage of the ruined shrine to one of the Outer Gods, the party see the light in the tunnel ahead growing brighter and a kind of whistling or humming can be heard.
The Spellcaster casts an illusion of sound – the very same whistling – to muffle the wary group’s advance towards an large opening at the end of the passageway, which opens into a vast, auditorium-shaped cavern.

The pathway leads down around the side of the cavern and below are more of the strange red creatures – larger than the ones encountered so far, with larger heads and wearing more clothing – milling around. They seem to be working at jury-rigged workbenches cluttered with odd bits of salvaged machinery and tools. Cables and lines snake from the benches over the floor, all seeming to connect to one another and eventually leading to thick coils that run out of an exit on the other side of the cavern.

A set of shelves on the walkway near the entrance offer some cover for the party to hide behind and figure out their next move while the creatures below go about their tasks.

The Changeling decides to go out on a limb and use the gifts he was born with to assume the shape of one of the creatures; the large one they met earlier on in its bedchamber. The changeling shifts, and Loic the Cleric teaches him a few choice words of Aklo he remembers from his seminary days in case a conversation needs to be held to keep up the deception. He may end up just teaching him all the swear words though.

The changeling strolls off down the sloping walkway into the makeshift workshop, casting about oaths in a dead tongue to try and look casual.
The assembled workers either ignore him or look slightly puzzled.
The the closest one says something to him in its own chittering language. The Changeling has no idea what it just said. The creature advances and speaks again, motioning to the odd human clothes the changeling has on. Locked in a bizarre staring match that neither participant seems to be unable to end, the changeling’s nerves finally fray and he suddenly casts a spell straight into the creature’s bemused face!

All of the creatures are stunned by the sudden crackle and flash of blue lightning in their work area! Some jump to attack and others cower behind their stations. Loic steps onto the walkway above them, throws his arms wide and like the best of preachers, booms out an appeal in the resounding cavern for the strange technicians to stop and submit themselves to the divine will of Astarte.

The creatures have no idea what he’s talking about.

Glad to see a chance for some good-old fashioned carnage to be introduced into this strange technological environ, Justin and his loyal hound Muggerscum bound down upon the creatures and start laying-to with sword and tooth!

The nearest creature picks up a tool of some kind and delivers two hefty whacks to Muggerscum with it. The dog falls over, unconscious!
Looking up from a longsword stroke, Justin is beside himself to see his canine companion felled and charges the offender!
The creature reaches for some of the cabling around his workbench and stabs Justin with a loose end of it – painful electric-like power courses through the half-giant’s body!

Meanwhile, the changeling finds himself in a pitched ranged battle with a creature at the other end of the room who’s popped up from behind his workbench wielding an improvised weapon! Arcs of lightning-like electricity shoot out the contraption toward him and scorch the wall or explode nearby machinery!
Returning fire with arcs of magical energy, the spellcaster is finally able to blast the creature away from its rapidly disintegrating workbench; a bolt hits the contraption it was firing and it explodes, scorching everything nearby!

Yet another creature has been hard at work behind its workbench; it now squeals at the party, slaps a few controls on the the bundle of metal and wire it has been making and tosses it at them! It lands in their midst and explodes with a furious electrical burst!
Emerging tattered from the smoke, Justin is enraged even more and lays about the nearest creature. He swings wide. Loic jumps down and nobly throws himself in front of a blow intended for the raging half-giant. Gasping with pain, he shouts rallying cries and the party finally chase down the last of the creatures and force them to submit to the will of their cold steel.

The carnage over, Justin rushes to Muggerscum’s side. Calling the dog’s name, Muggerscum suddenly gets up! He’s alright! he was just knocked unconscious. He’s taken some damage but he’ll be up and chasing rabbits again in no time.

Searching the area, the party find all kinds of odd bits of metal, wiring, machinery, tools and fixings, all of it fairly incomprehensible. A medallion on a chain is sitting in a nexus of circuity and it falls out when the party try to inspect it.
They can’t figure out if it has any purpose, so the newly-flush Justin puts it around his enormous neck like a choker. Going to pat Muggerscum, the dog turns nose up at it, it gives off a strange stink for some reason.
Justin – comfortably no stranger to lax personal hygiene – isn’t so bothered though, he can see patterns weaving across it surface, and it feels warm to the touch…

Session 3
Light in the Darkness

Undeterred by finding themselves underground in the sleeping quarters of a strange new race of Small red creatures who seem to be dedicated to killing them, the party resolve to press on further in the network of dark tunnels!

Pulling back the scrap of sharkskin-like material covering the doorway, the adventurers happen upon a kind of master bedroom, complete with an occupant! Loic Sadiq decides the that sleepy targets could be the most suseptible to the power of suggestion and calls for the creature – larger than the others encountered so far – rousing itself from the pile of straw in the centre of the room to recognise the authority of Astarte and be at peace. The creature is obviously quite grumpy and takes one look at the assorted interlopers in its bedchamber and reaches for a weapon! Snarling, it launches itself at the group!
A spear and war hammer blow later, it falls to the ground, wrapped in a sleep it won’t ever be waking from. It has treasure though! Untitled No.57‘s advanced programming routines eventually work out how to open a box at the back of the room and is rewarded with small shiny gold discs! (They don’t serve much material purpose though, he thinks. Perhaps a hole could be drilled in the middle of them and they could be used as washers the next time he repairs himself..?)

Making their way further down a passageway, another entrance way another cavern is found – this one has a floor blanketed in small glowing mushrooms – and some guards patrolling. The group advances in the gloom in what passes for a stealthy fashion. Loic steps out of the shadows and holds high his shield emblazoned with the Elder Sign and appeals to the creatures to give themselves up to the truth of Astarte. Terrified and outnumbered, the creatures chitter startled oaths in their own alien tongue and Loic‘s ear picks up a word in Aklo – the profane language used by followers of the dark gods to inscribe messages on their temples – something, about a “sphere” or “spheres”!
Backed up against a cavern wall, and surrounded by the curious party, the creatures finally snap and lash out! They have to be defeated! The party’s spellcaster summons a fireball creature which quickly latches onto the nearest attacker and sets it aflame. He then casts an illusion to blanket the air of the area, to prevent the ringing of combat from travelling through the nearby tunnels. A spear cast at the remaining creature from Loic results in a skewered meat ‘n’ mushroom kebab.

In one corner of the cavern is some kind of apparatus for processing the glowing mushrooms into the gel-like liquid in flasks the party had encountered previously. A few flasks of the stuff sit around and the party avail themselves of the healing mixture.
Muggerscum avails himself of a snack of pre-barbcued red creature meat.

Moving on, a light in the passageway reveals a strange kind of sculpture or shrine… Spheres and rings made of the strange gold-silver, textured metal unique to these creatures stand in a pattern on top of a stone plinth with votive offerings of trinkets laid at its foot. Some kind of lightbulb element hangs from the ceiling, illuminating the scene.

Loic takes in the sight and his Cleric sense starts tingling; he feels he can detect the aura of The Outer Gods surrounding this structure! Disgusted, he sets about taking down the construction – the rest of the party join in and crashes and bangs resound around the cavern. Justin uses his half-giant strength to push the structure from the plinth. The spellcaster brings gouts of flame to the task and the shrine clatters and melts to the cavern floor in pieces!

But if only their ordeal in the dark tunnels could be mastered so easily…

Session 2
Going Underground

The gallant party march off from the site of the battle to gain their freedom from the unsavoury types, for the shelter of the rocky outcrops on the hills nearby. Justin’s faithful hound Muggerscum joins them, after days of trailing the cart the party were trapped in.
On their way up the hillside they almost trip over something in the mist — the smashed remains of one of the unsavoury types on the ground, presumably dropped from a great height by one of the Dark winged shapes that attacked the cart.

Once in the shelter of a cave in the rock at the top of the hill, the smashed planks from the cart they were trapped in not so long ago help get a good fire going.

Sitting in the dry, watching the plain darken and listening to the rain fall outside, the wine they liberated from the bandits (who liberated it from them in the first place) is shared out amongst the new companions, and new bonds of trust are formed.

The party goes to sleep leaving the living construct Untitled No.57 on watch – thankfully the automaton needs no rest to function.
Slumbering, Loic the cleric experiences a strange dream. He is on the stony plain below, the mist deepening all around him. Above, a single clear patch of night sky can be seen, Dark winged shapes wheeling around it. Looking closer, and feeling himself towards it, he can pick out a light shape against the dark sky, perhaps a meteor or a shooting star, or something else entirely..? He tries to concentrate on it but then suddenly finds himself awake on the cave floor.

Time passes and all is quiet, but suddenly Untitled starts – he’s seen something moving at the back of the cave! Someone or something was looking at him! He rises and grabs his axe, but it disappears into a recess into the rock!
Waking the rest of the party, they investigate: Muggerscum picks up a scent and Justin can see a trail of smallish footprints in the earth, leading into a fissure in the rock they hadn’t noticed before!

The party resolve to investigate this intrusion into their repose… Lighting a torch they find a sloping switchback passageway leading into a large cavern – chittering and the flapping of dark wings above remind them of the terror of the Dark winged shapes, but it just turns out to just be some bats leaving their roost.

Meanwhile on the ground, a skeleton is slumped against a stalagmite, seemingly dragged there from outside. The fresh tracks lead further into the caverns. Proceeding, the party is attacked at the entrance to another cavern by strange creatures!
Roughly half the height of a man, with red skin, black gimlet eyes and squashed faces, they wield weapons made of a strange metal. While, they may have had surprise on their side, their diminutive size and lack of armour means they don’t last long at the hands of the angered party and are soon taken down.
Looking at the fallen small red creatures, their weapons seem to be made of a gold-silver metal with a strange texture that none of the party have seen before.

Moving through the complex of tunnels and caverns, more of the small red creatures are found. Loic attempts to appeal to a group of them in the name of Astarte and peace, but they attack regardless, and have to be defeated — their frantic final squeals are in no language spoken by any of the party, so no understanding can be reached.

Living areas of a sort are found, with more of the creatures and utensils and crockery made of the same strange gold-silver metal. Also a strange kind of cloth abounds, worn by the creatures or used to store things in, its appearance somewhere between fish-skin and rubber.

Of more use to the new friends are some gold-silver metal flasks of some kind of drink or soup the creatures seem to be fond of. Loic takes a sip and finds some of his wounds healing by themselves…


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