Chris Gilmore is a member of the RuneQuest Rules List. After using a creature I dreamed up in one of his adventures, he sent out some notes. I thought it was a really good example of Role Playing, both from the players and GM’s perspective. He has kindly shared these notes here for all to read and hopefully gain inspiration from.
This is an excerpt from the Tribes of Eyha campaign log, a campaign which is currently being played by four players plus game master. The campaign can be classified as a Bronze Age fantasy campaign which draws inspiration from many sources, both historical and fictional. The specific inspiration for the first session comes from an episode mentioned in the tales of Sindbad from the 1001 Nights. A similar myth is also described in the travels of Marco Polo. The inspiration for the second session comes from a creature created by Tony Den (the Razor Shells) and featured on his website.
The inspiration for the third scenario is the Fritz Leiber tale “The Howling Tower” which appears in Swords Against Death published by Ace Fantasy.
Characters: Baran and Clovis are two Tribelanders from the distant north. Baran is on a quest to discover something of the strange tattoos which adorn his body. Clovis, his brother, has come along as his protector. Clovis was a respected March Warden of the Tribes, and likes to blow his Warden’s Horn before charging into battle. Eshubir and Lugesha and both agents of house Suzur in the southern city of Pavonis. The two Tribeslanders helped them out with a spot of trouble in the City of Pavonis, and they now travel together. Maram, a slave girl of unknown origin, is a non-player character recently rescued from scorpion men.
Location: The Kingdom of Assaria which, landscape-wise, can be likened to Iraq in our own world. This story takes place in the summer, and so the weather is hot and dry.
In previous sessions, the party had been travelling westward, following the course of the great river. After a series of adventures in the hinterland of the Empire of Pavonis (which involved freeing slaves from the larder of Scorpion men in an ancient desert city and a desperate chase on the river by pole-propelled reed barge) our Heroes have finally crossed the border into the Kingdom of Assaria, where they hope to finally be free of Pavonian political intrigue.
This session begins in a small Assarian village not too far from the border. There is a merchant’s enclave here where the heroes have put up for the night where they hoped to sell two of their donkeys to earn some money.
In this village, the Heroes were introduced to Pap Hallu, a small Assarian man with a long beard, and who offered to purchase their donkeys. By means of payment, he offered a small handful of crystals which, upon inspection, turned out to be uncut diamonds. Eshubir estimated that these were worth more than the donkeys and so the group was naturally intrigued by the whole transaction. After some discussion, Pap Hallu offered to pay them yet more diamonds if they would perform a service for him. Needing money, they agreed to meet him the next morning in the village.
SESSION 1: THE VALLEY OF THE DIAMONDS
The next day Pap Hallu was waiting for our heroes in the village with one of the two donkeys he had bought from them the day before. He led the group away from the village on foot, trailing the donkey with a tether. They travelled in a vaguely southeast direction, passing through fertile and irrigated farmland with young crops of corn, wheat, flax, and barley.
The Assarians, like the Pavonians, have dug numerous canals in from the river to assist with the growing of crops. After some hours, the farmland gave way to a tall grass savannah, and they followed what they took to be a game trail through the grass. Lugesha, the tallest of the party, was given the task of scanning the horizon looking for beasts or other things that Pap Hallu called ‘dancing sticks’ (evidently the long spears of Zalamaran tribesmen, when seen over the tall grass in the distance, look like dancing sticks).
Luckily they did not see anything except for an occasional flat-topped tree on the horizon.
By mid afternoon the little band of travellers could to see an elevated piece of ground in the distance, and by late afternoon they were climbing up the sides of some sort of old volcanic plateau. Nothing grew on this rock outcrop except for the sparsest of weeds, and there were signs of small animal life and birds. Pap Hallu led them to a small, roughly circular valley near the middle of this plateau where a jagged chasm cut across the floor.
He set most of the party to keeping a lookout in various locations while he proceeded to kill, skin, and butcher the donkey he had brought. Baran and Clovis, who had the most experience with these things, helped him. When finished, Pap Hallu threw the pieces into the chasm at various points while the rest of them watched. He then instructed everyone to keep a lookout in the sky and said that soon great birds called Rukhs would come.
He explained that these great birds would fly into the chasm to retrieve the donkey meat, which would now be studded with uncut diamonds from where they grew on the bottom of the chasm. He said that the bottom of the chasm was inhabited by dangerous snakes, so this was the only way to retrieve the diamonds. Explanations done, he crouched under a rock, sheltering from the hot sun while our heroes stood on the rock ledges and watched.
After a while Clovis noticed some birds approaching and called to the others. Everyone descended from their lookouts and hid near Pap Hallu in the shadow of the cliffs. Soon five very large birds arrived and perched at various places on the cliff-tops which circled the valley. The Rukhs stayed there for a while, looking around apprehensively until they determined that it was safe to descend. Then one by one the giant birds left their perches and flew into the chasm, and one by one they re-emerged with a large hunk of donkey meat in their talons and returned to the cliff tops. Once back on the cliff tops, they set to tearing at the donkey meat with their colossal beaks.
At this point Pap Hallu told Adventurers it was time to climb up, in pairs, and kill the birds and to be sure to bring back the donkey meat when they were done.
Baran and Lugesha chose to attack the bird on the west side of the valley while Clovis and Eshubir chose the bird far to the southeast. Maram the slave girl and Pap Hallu remained below, under cover of some rocks. While Baran and Lugesha were climbing up the west side, Clovis and Eshubir began to attack their bird from the bottom of the valley by launching arrows and sling stones at the bird.
This drew the ire of Pap Hallu, who came out of his shelter to scold the two – telling them go up on top and fight like men so that they could bring the donkey meat back. Slightly chastened and slightly annoyed at this bossy little man, Clovis and Esh began to haul their bodies up to the top of the cliff.
Baran and Lugesha reached their bird first and, while Baran distracted the bird by limping around, Lugesha threw his combat net over the bird’s head, preventing it from flying away. The two then quickly killed their bird with a few quick blows from their spears.
Meanwhile, Esh and Clovis had reached the top of their cliff and drew their melee weapons. From their cliff-top vantage point Clovis surveyed the surroundings and noted the four remaining birds scattered about, tearing off pieces of donkey, and he also saw that Baran and Lugesha were already engaged with the fifth bird far on the other side of the valley. A familiar idea formed in Clovis’ mind.
He drew out his March Warden’s horn from its case. He held it up above his head and let it catch the light of the afternoon sun for a moment, admiring it. It was a family heirloom, won by a distant ancestor from the King Ram of the Mountains in a bygone era. The bony ridges of the horn had been worn smooth by the hands of generations of esteemed March Wardens, and the marbling of the bone was clearly visible in the western sunlight.
Both ends of the horn were plated with bronze, and the bronze was in turn embossed with raised images depicting the victories of Clovis’ ancestors. The horn sat comfortably in his hand, like the breast of Mother Noahe Herself. It was like an old friend, a mentor, a lover, and a reminder of the nobility and greatness of the Tribe. He smiled at the horn and it smiled back at him.
Clovis arched his back and drew in a great breath of air. Then he put the horn to his sweaty, eager lips. It had the taste of blood, and of victory. With a great exhalation, he blew into that horn for all he was worth, and from it came the sound of Mothers of the Tribe crying over lost sons, of lambs bleating in the folds, of waves crashing onto the shore of the lake, and of all the proud songs of tribesmen rolled into one. It was the sound of home, and it brought a tear to Clovis’s eye.
And the moment he blew that horn, the great birds caught a frisson of fear that told them a mighty warrior was nearby, and one by one they put to flight, lazily winging their way toward the west and taking their hunks of diamond studded meat with them. Only the bird that Baran and Lugesha had killed remained behind, slumped over the cliff top.
Well, needless to say neither Pap Hallu nor Clovis’ brother Baran (who held the party’s purse) was very pleased with Clovis. Both gave him a stern talking to for foolishly scaring away the Rukhs and tried to make his see the error of his ways (which, I think, he did). And the group stood about for a minute looking at each other, wondering what to do next, for most of the diamonds they had risked their lives to get had now flown away.
And then Baran said “I have an idea.” Everyone looked hopefully at him.
”What is it?” asked Clovis, hoping that this would mean the end of the negative attention he had been getting.
“First, let me see that horn” Baran replied, stretching out his hand.”
”Sure” said Clovis, handing it over. And what followed will forever be etched in Clovis’ mind, for with a rebel yell, Baran heaved the priceless horn over the brink of that demonic chasm, and it tumbled into the depths to lie like a fallen warrior in eternal silence amongst the poisonous snakes and precious diamonds at the distant bottom.
What followed was the kind of argument that only brothers can have. Clovis accused Baran of abandoning tradition for the sake of a little money, and Baran pointed out that Clovis blew that blasted horn each and every time they needed discretion (which was most of the time), warning the foes that the rest of the party was trying to sneak up on. It seemed the rest of the group sided with Baran and so Clovis was cowed and apologized, saying that what he had hoped to do was to scare the birds away, but thought they would leave their meat behind.
Luckily for the group, Eshubir thought he had seen where the birds had gone to, so as a group all four of the warriors scrambled over the broken, volcanic landscape for a difficult hour to find the Rukh’s nest in the west on a flat-topped pillar of rock. Maram and Pap Hallu followed a little way behind
The four young Rukhs were now perched safely in their nest and were finishing off their meal of delicious (if gritty) donkey meat.
So the four adventurers tried to climb up the side of the rocky pillar and into the nest to grab what they could of the diamond-studded flesh from the Rukhs. Esh was up first, being the nimblest, and Baran next. But Esh took a blow to the head early in the battle and was knocked unconscious. Clovis climbed up next and he and Baran fought the birds for as long as they could, killing two of them.
Lugesha, in the meantime was stuck halfway up the side of the rocky pillar, not being able to find a foothold to move any further in any direction.
Then with a lucky scan Clovis spotted an even larger bird approaching from the distant west, the Mother Rukh, and called for a retreat. He picked up the unconscious Esh and was about to attempt to leap down to the ground with him (or throw Esh down first – this part of the tale is not clear) while Baran fought off the other two young birds, scaring them to take flight out of the nest.
Baran then called on the spirit of Elienna to heal Eshubir, and Clovis and Esh climbed down. Baran picked up what scraps of meat he could still find in the bottom of the nest and followed seconds later. While Baran was still climbing down, Clovis killed one of the circling young birds with an arrow from the ground, and as the great mother bird approached, all three of them were running for the shelter of the cliff face. They looked back only to notice poor Lugesha still clinging to the cliff face, unable to find his way down.
At that point, the great bird arrived and circled the great rock pier on top of which the nest was perched. It grabbed Lugesha by the head with a single great claw and tried to lift him into the air. But Lugesha is a big boy, and the bird struggled with the dangling warrior who writhed beneath. Lughesha grabbed at the leg of the bird and held on, which was lucky as he was unable to see very well. Seconds later the great bird was filled with arrows (and sling stones), for Baran, Eshubir, and Clovis had returned to rescue him.
The great bird was knocked unconscious by an arrow to the head, whereupon it let go of Lugesha who dropped to the ground and sprained his ankle. Half a second later the great Rukh fell on top of him. Luckily, Lugesha escaped being wounded by this as it seems most of the bird’s bulk was feathers. Lugesha killed the great bird with a spiteful blow, but it was decided not to take souvenirs since they might cause more trouble with the local tribes (who held them sacred) than they were worth.
They harvested what remaining diamonds they could and made a camp for the night in a sheltered location. The next day they returned to the village and Pap Hallu gave them another handful of diamonds for their trouble. They parted ways amicably enough, but they could not help feeling that Pap Hallu would be hiring other people the next time he needed Rukh hunters to do a job for him.
The party of five then proceeded to the west, entering the City of Assaria a few days later. It was here that, through a chance encounter, Eshubir and Lugesha found their old employer from Pavonis, the traitorous Procurer Sagga Mal.
With the help of a rival agent from their own house (a man named Sharuris the Shucker for his habit of leaving fish-eyes (pearls) as a calling card with his victims) they finally put an end to their political troubles back home. They decided to reward themselves to a stay in the city of Assaria, and to hire a master to train their bodies to greater strength. The master’s newly developed ‘Beer Swilling Technique’ looked promising…
SESSION 2: THE RAZOR SHELLS
Having trained for 7 weeks with no result in an effort to build up some muscle tissue (which they hoped would allow them to carry their heavy armour better), Baran and Lugesha decided they needed to give the training another go. Unfortunately the first bout of training depleted their funds, so their trainer introduced them to a friend of his who was willing to hire them for a service. This man was named Gigiris – a chariot maker.
Gigiris’ business had been very busy lately, with a lot of Akkanians wanting to purchase chariots. In a normal year he would collect all the young wood he needed for the chariot rails in the winter, but this year he ran out early so he sent his young apprentice (Amar) and a labourer (Degdega) to go and cut some more. These were cut from a specific copse of Dimshilum trees located about a day’s travel out in the Savannah to the southeast of the city.
Unfortunately, it had been a week ago since he had sent them and neither the boy nor the labourer had come back. Gigiris’ business was about to stall, his client was getting anxious, and the apprentice’s father was starting to ask questions. So Baran, Eshubir, Lugesha, and Maram agreed to go and look for them. They tried to find Clovis to go with them, but he wasn’t around – probably out with his latest girl – so they left on this venture without him.
The party made their way south into the savannah by foot. They camped the first night in the long grass and carried on in the morning, following what appeared to be a week-old wagon trail. By noon, the shoulder height grass of the savannah started to become shorter and then rapidly fell to nothing. They had come to a clearing in the tall grass that was about 300M across. The floor of the clearing was caked with mud which was dry and cracking on the surface but still moist down below – it appeared to be an ephemeral lake which was now drying up. Annoying flies of all types buzzed around the place, never settling long enough to swat. Clear tracks of a man on foot, an ox, and a four wheeled cart led straight into the heart of the clearing, and at it’s centre could be seen a wagon lying on it’s side, and in front of it a dark lump which appeared to be a dead ox.
The group started to walk out into the clearing toward the wagon when first Baran and then Lugesha felt a sharp pain in their foot. They had not been wearing armour due to the heat of the season, and whatever had stung them cut right through their skin. On looking down they found that they had each been pierced with a small barb attached to leathery tether that disappeared in the mud. The tethers had the appearance of tough intestines and were about 2M long when pulled taught. Baran reacted first and tried to run back to the edge of the clearing, but was almost tripped up by the tether which held him fast to the place where it emerged from the mud. So instead he hacked at the tether with his axe until it broke, and then ran for the edge of the clearing with Maram still at his side. He was narrowly missed by another barb as they ran, but she was struck and cried out in pain. Baran rapidly cut her tether and the two of them dove for the edge of the clearing where they gingerly removed the barbs and healed themselves with magic.
Lugesha had a harder time of it. Armed only with his spear and net and lacking a good cutting edge, he decided to try to pull the offending dart-launcher from under the mud while the barb was still stuck in his foot. After several good heaves, though, he couldn’t dislodge the culprit (though he could see the mud heaving slightly where it was buried), so he resorted to yanking the barb from his foot instead, causing himself more pain and leaving a large purple wound. He limped to safety at the edge of the clearing.
Meanwhile, Eshubir, being light of foot, managed to avoid getting barbed at all and sat on the side of the clearing shouting advice to the others.
Rather than attempt to cross the mud again, the group circled the clearing to the west. After travelling around about a third of they way, they discovered a flattened spot in the grass – a place showing signs of recent activity by many people. Examining the ground here, they also noticed a series of small, round holes leading out towards the fallen wagon. These holes were about 2-3” in diameter and 6-12” deep, but the party could make no sense of them. The party then followed the flattened grass as it lead away from the clearing to the west came to a north-south running game trail.
They followed the game trail north for ways, then south and found that it led to a copse of trees that had been pollarded for the harvest of many supple young stems. This was apparently the place Gigiris got his wood. Upon seeing this, Baran had the idea to cut two long straight stems with his axe. He then drove one knife into the side of each of them at about waist height, tying the knives in place. He held the posts upright and stood on the horizontal knife handles and found that they just might hold his weight and, with some agility, he could walk on these artificial legs, which he called ‘stilts’ after his uncle Stiltibris back in the Tribelands who had long legs.
They returned then to dried up pond and Baran coaxed Esh (who was the most agile of the group) up onto the makeshift ‘stilts’. Esh practiced a bit on the makeshift legs and then walked carefully out into the mud where he could hear the occasional popping of a dart beneath him. He made it to the fallen wagon without incident and upon investigation found it to be empty.
The black ox, though, was clearly dead and was lying on its side and was still harnessed to the wagon. A thick cloud of flies hovered over ox, buzzing angrily when Esh came near. From this vantage point on top of the ‘stilts’, Eshubir could see a single set of human footprints heading from the wagon to the opposite (east) side of the clearing. Judging by the tracks, whoever had made them must have fallen about halfway across, then got up and continued but this time dragging something behind them. Esh shouted his discovery to the others and, wiping the sweat of the afternoon sun from his brow, set off on the stilts again to the east.
The others ran around the south end of the clearing and joined up with him. Lying in the long grass a few yards from the edge was a human body – probably that of Gigiris’ labourer, Degdega.
The body had been dead a few days, too. One of the sharp barbs was stuck into the inside of the upper thigh and this connected to a two yard long tether. Attached to the other end of the tether was an oblong object caked in dried mud. It was about 1M long and 20cm wide and 5cm thick and seemed to be made of two hard shells held tightly together with a round protuberance at one end from which the tether extended.
Baran pried this thing open and found it to be fleshy inside – like the inside of a clam from the lake near his home in the distant Tribelands. He cleaned out the insides and fashioned a makeshift pair of ski-like shoes, tying them to his feet with rope. He was about to set off again toward the wagon when Eshubir spoke up.
”Hey – wait a minute. Didn’t they see that those tethers are about 6 feet long? Those shell shoes of yours aren’t going to protect your groin! Look at this poor sap lying here dead, pierced in the upper thigh!” he said, pointing to Degdega’s body.
”You’re right.” said Baran, and so took off the shoes and donned his armoured pants, then put the shell shoes back on, and at last marched out toward the wagon.
On the way, he could hear the pops of more darts, but nothing penetrated his pants. He reached the wagon just at the moment that the ropes holding his shoes on fell apart, and so he jumped into the wagon and tied them up again. Then he hopped back to the ground and untied the ox harness and, with a great heave, righted the wagon. He then took hold of the harness and, walking backwards, slowly dragged the wagon about 3M closer to the edge of the pond, whereupon he hitched a rope to it and, with the help of those on the edge of the clearing pulling on the rope, pulled the wagon the rest of the way. In the last few yards he heard a ‘POP’ sound and a dart nailed him in the groin, just piercing his armoured pants through the seam. With a yell he cut the tether and leaped for the edge of the grass where he once again lay down and healed himself.
The group spent the rest of the afternoon hauling the wagon through the long grass to the copse of trees and set up camp there for the night. The next day they awoke to find that all those who were stuck by the barbs had a fever, and deduced that they had been weakened by a poison which came from the barbs. One of the effects of this poison (besides a physical weakening) was a loss of memory which seemed to impact Lugesha the most.
They spent that whole day recovering from the poison and taking turns (when they had the energy) cutting stems with Baran’s axe and piling them into the wagon. On the third day in the savannah, they set off north again, this time following the game trail they had previously discovered. It was a tough slog, but taking turns they managed to make progress. They camped one more night in the open, and on the last day they came across a party of Zalamaran nomads coming south, their long spears seen dancing high above the top of the grass long before they themselves were seen.
Eshubir seemed to be able to communicate best with them, despite not speaking their language. First he tricked them into selling a number of exotic striped animal hides for a pittance, and then he seemed to get across to them that they were looking for a boy – one who might be injured. At this, the Zalamarans gestured that they had seen just such a boy and rescued him (making stilt-like walking motions) and brought him to some farmers at the south of Assarian territory. With that, the two parties left, the Zalamarans continuing south and our Adventurers heading north.
Soon the adventurers arrived at a small farm on the edge of the settled lands of Assaria. Sure enough, they found the boy in the care of the farmers and so they took him back to Gigiris. The boy, it seemed, had been so impacted by the poison of the razor shells that he had forgotten who he was and where he belonged. Gigiris was happy to have his wagon load of wood (and paid the adventurers fairly for it) but not too glad to hear about the death of Degdega and to now have an apprentice who couldn’t remember any of what he had learned.
“At least,” said Baran “he also doesn’t remember his bad habits.” Gigiris only sighed and paid them their money. Our party then departed to get a good night’s rest in a reasonable bed and look for Baran’s brother Clovis, whom they had not seen now in four days.
SESSION 3: THE POTION-MAKER
Upon returning back to the ‘inn’ (so called, it seems to the Tribesmen, because these camps are located ‘in’ the city) from the escapade with the Razor Shells, Baran was hoping to find Clovis, his brother, in the room they shared. But there was no sign of Clovis having been in that day, nor in fact for any of the last several days.
The boy Baran had paid to give a message to Clovis hadn’t seen him, so Baran started to worry and expressed his worry to his friends Eshubir, Lugesha, and Maram. They agreed to look for him.
First they went to this ‘inn’ with the dancing girls that Clovis had been frequenting. They spoke to the owner there and a few of the girls and found that the girl that Clovis had been seeing, one Ilati, had also not been seen in several days. When they suggested that maybe foul play was afoot, the owner of the establishment agreed to help them. Together, they convinced one of the girls who knew Ilati to lead the adventurers to Ilati’s house, where Esh discretely climbed over the roof, let himself in a window, and then let the others in the front door.
A thorough search of the place revealed a broken sandal strap under the bed apparently from Clovis’ sandal because it matched one from Baran’s sandal, and they had purchased them together in the now distant town of Telpa. They also found a number of small containers on a shelf, most of which were empty but one of which had a bit of lemon-smelling liquid in it.
They asked the girl who led them to the house about the vials and she said it clearly wasn’t perfume – in fact it could have been a love potion which she believed Ilati might have been using on Clovis. When asked where Ilati might have bought a potion like this, they were directed to a seller of elixirs in the fashionable east end of Assaria.
Taking the potion to this seller, she recognized it immediately as being the shoddy work of one Geshpapalis, a potion-maker who had tried to sell his poor work to her on numerous occasions. She didn’t trust this Geshpapalis, however, and refused to deal with him, so she consequently didn’t know much about him. The party asked if she could direct them to a reputable potion-maker to identify the ingredients and tell them whether it was addictive or not (which she did) and also to a less reputable shop-keeper who might agree to sell Geshpapalis’ poor potions (which she also did).
Here the party split up. Eshubir took the sample of love potion to the reputable alchemist and found out that it would take many experiments and more of the sample potion than was available to suss out the actual ingredients, but a quick sniff of the stuff led him to believe that it likely wasn’t that addictive over the short term (which had been one of their fears). Esh (keeping the remaining love potion for his own potential use) left and returned to the ‘inn’ where our heroes were staying and waited for the others.
Meanwhile, Baran and Lugesha went to the disreputable shop keeper in the west end to inquire after Geshpapalis. After warming the man up by purchasing some Crotch Crab ointment, they finally offered him a small amount of money to reveal the location of Geshpapalis’ workshop out in the country, which the man gladly took. As they left, Baran turned and said threateningly to the man “And remember, we haven’t been here.”
To which the shopkeeper jingled his newly earned bag of shekels, smiled a toothless grin, and replied with a wink “And they remember that I ain’t been here, neither”. With this new information, Esh, Baran, and Lugesha marched out into the country that evening to find this Geshpapalis. Following the disreputable shopkeeper’s directions, they came across a lonely wood-and-reed house in the middle of a wooded area surrounded by bushes and date palms. There they heard the faint sound of Jackals attacking prey as they approached.
Esh crept up to the window of this house and looked inside – and the sounds of jackals grow louder as he did so. Peering in, he saw that the room was hung with dried herbs, animal intestines, and other parts of things less easy to describe. The walls were lined with clay amphorae and there was a variety of smaller containers on shelves on the walls. A man was puttering inside over a copper cauldron.
When Baran and Lugesha tried to sneak up to the window, this man apparently heard them and made a hasty retreat out the back door, leaving it open. Esh watched him as he slunk across a fenced in enclosure and into another, smaller hut on the other side of the yard.
Baran and Lugesha entered the main house and looked around for a moment before following the man out into the fenced yard and to the door of the smaller hut. Esh, meanwhile, crept around the outside of the yard and climbed onto the roof (ever the refuge of a small man) of the hut. When they entered the fenced enclosure, Baran and Lugesha heard the sound of the Jackals quite clearly, but still there was no sign of any such beasts to be seen. They hesitated only briefly at the door of the hut and then, with two hasty kicks, they broke in the door while Esh listened from the roof. What they saw inside startled them, for Baran’s brother Clovis was lying unconscious on a bier in the middle of the small hut and was swathed in bandages, some of which were bloodstained. As they looked on in horror, they saw Clovis’ body jerk and a fresh patch of blood spread across an otherwise clean bandage. The potion-maker, Geshpapalis, stood behind the bier looking at the two intruders over Clovis’ body…
Baran and Lugesha circled the bier on either side of the tiny room and trapped the man between them. Esh, meanwhile, dropped down into the open doorway and blocked all escape. And so they put the question to him: “What in the name of the Great Spirits is going on here?”
Geshpapalis stammered out an explanation, saying that Clovis was here to do a job for him. But a little threat of violence can often straighten a man’s tongue and the truth came out:
Geshpapalis had been selling a love potion to Ilati to help her in her amorous conquests. It wasn’t a particularly good potion, so she had to buy a lot of it. One day she told him about this fierce northern barbarian who she was seeing and Geshpapalis developed an idea. Instead of love potion, he gave her something to knock this barbarian unconscious for a few days.
Sure enough Ilati came running to him worried she had given Clovis an overdose of the potion and that he was dead. Geshpapalis told Ilati that he would “take care of it” and that she should go into hiding for a week or two. Geshpapalis then loaded Clovis into a cart and brought him home, tied him to this bed and fed him another potion to send him into the spirit plane. Geshpapalis explained that he was haunted by the ghosts of the jackals he had captured, mutilated, and killed over the years in this very enclosure, using bits of them for his potions. He had sent Clovis’s spirit in alone to fight these jackals, while he watched over the body and healed its wounds as well as he could.
Baran looked down on the body of his brother. It jerked occasionally and his lips were pursed as if blowing into a phantom horn. At that moment another bloody patch spread across a bandage and Baran realised Clovis had been lying here for days now and this travesty must be stopped. He told Geshpapalis to put an end to it now, but the potion-maker explained he couldn’t bring the body back so simply – the only way for Clovis to come back was for him to kill all the jackals.
He then said that, if Baran and the others would be willing, there was enough potion left to send the adventurers into the spirit plane to help Clovis fight, and that this would end the battle sooner and ensure victory. Geshpapalis would take care of their bodies while they were gone, so they needn’t fear. Baran and the others stepped outside the hut to confer a moment while Geshpapalis dabbed at one of Clovis’ fresh wounds with a healing compound.
In conference outside, the three friends agreed to go into the spirit plane if they must, but said that Geshpapalis must be forced to go first. So they re-entered the room and told the alchemist they would do as he suggested. Lugesha then took the potion and, at that moment, Baran reached across for Geshpapalis in a grapple. Unfortunately, he missed the wiry old man and grabbed Lugesha’s arm instead.
Alarmed, the alchemist climbed onto the bier and dove for the door of the hut, intending to knock Eshubir aside and run away. But Esh kneed the man in the groin as he did so, causing him to fall to the ground in pain and the three friends pounced on him and forced that potion down his throat.
As soon as Geshpapalis swallowed the potion, the baying of the Jackals grew wild and large gashes started to appear all over the alchemist’s body. He writhed in pain as his flesh was flayed by ghostly teeth, and in moments it was over. The alchemist lay dead, and Clovis woke up. They explained to him what had happened and tended to his wounds.
Afterwards, the party spent a little time searching through the alchemist’s belongings for valuables. They found a number of vials and skins of suspicious liquids, as well as a number of dry ingredients. They took these, hoping to get some money for them from another alchemist in the city, and then they left to return to the ‘Inn’ and finally get that good night’s sleep.
No-one noticed as Clovis, lingering behind in Geshpapalis’ house for a moment, pocketed one item of particular interest from the potion-maker’s apparatus. It was apparently some sort of bronze tube-like instrument with a long, straight neck and a flared end down which liquids would be poured, apparently useful for getting liquids and powders into small-necked jars.
Clovis gave it a quick rinse in a barrel of water and wiped off the small end of the funnel. With a twinkle in his eye, he put this narrow end of this object to his lips and held the other und up high. But then a wiser thought crossed his mind, and he quietly tucked the instrument into his pack and left to follow the others with a smile on his face. He was sure it would come in useful later.
From here, the Adventurers eventually travel into the lands of the Akkanian Empire where they fall into the clutches of Amalnukris, the Sharru of Kish, who imprisons them and puts them to work in the Lirum, an ancient arena where gladiators fight beasts of legend and race chariots around. It is in the catacombs beneath this arena that they will learn something of the strange tattoos which adorn Baran’s body…
This article was originally published on VII July MMIX