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’…