List of Scarran NPC's
Believe it or not but I was recently far closer to you than I have been since that little episode in Philea last year, and back upon the sacred soil of Scarra. Much were the blessings of Slumbor upon me that I should return and I was indeed doubly blessed by finding there a man who could further my studies into the martial arts... but I get ahead of myself. As the wise man Po Shin said, let us start at the beginning.
As I told you in my last letter the tension between our new northern kingdom and that of the south increases day by day. Our survival will depend on safe borders and good trade, most importantly with Scarra, and the northen province of Xian Shen that lies across the mountains. As I explained before I have been occupied in writing letters for the King to the Satrap of this province, offering diplomatic realtions and agreements on trade. These letters were well recieved and at last the King decided to send a party of ambassadors to the Satrap's capital, and chose the Avenging Hand to do it! With my knowledge of Scarran ways and the Scarran tongue I was to be very important on this mission so I spent my time consulting with the priests, traders who had recently crossed the mountains, and others with knoweldge of the scarran court, to prepare myself.
All too soon the date to leave arrived and we set out on our journey. Our route took us past Pavel's castle.. and then on through Telidan wastes till we reached the one mountain pass and beyond that Scarra. I had come the way once before, on foot, when first i came to the land, but then I had moved in summer and even I was not prepard for the harsh conditions of the road and the perilous pass through the mountains. Luckily we travelled in the company of experienced traders and so were safe enough for the most part except for the occasional attack by roving orcs.
Telida, Temple of Slumbor, March 22nd
Into the Mountains
The journey through the high cold mountains took no less than three weeks and we were soon all missing the comfort of Telida. Pavel solved the problem of boredom by staying, as far as I could see, perpetually drunk, while I and Sarastro buried ourselves in scrolls we had brought to study with. Kazir, for some reason which is beyond my comprehension, however seemed to decide that the best idea was to go without any clothing but a loincloth! I have heard legends of those whose Chi was very strong walking barefoot through the snow and minding it not, so perhaps he was trying to test the theory? The only effect I saw was chillblains but who knows the ways of these Parsee?
After what seemed a lifetime of snow and rocks one day we came to the border of Scarra. Even I, who knew what to expect, was amazed as I saw the sheer wall of the border rise up across the pass. Nothing in telida could compare to this simple border defence and for once Pavel and Alex were silent as I led them to a sumptious Inn where fine food and hot water were brought at once. We stayed with some relief in this border town, where I was glad to be the guest of the military commander who was kind enough to let me make tea for him. He sent his men ahead to herald our arrival and promised us a guard on the road to the capital. Ahh master I was taught in the monestary not to place too much value in material things but I can tell you that I was very glad to be back in Scarra once more.
After we had rested we set out alongthe imperial highway, resting each night in a well appointed way-inn. Legionaries protected the road and runners had been sent ahead to announce the coming of our ambassadorial mission. All in all even our journey down the road was of a standard Telida could not match. This is not to say that it was entirely uneventful. Firstly we were halted at a bridge by some local minor lord who insisted we stand aside while his retinue passed. Since we were already on the bridge I knew that to back down would be an awful loss of face and so refused. He was so incensed at this that he produced a champion and challnged me to a duel.. which I accepted. We fought unarmed and he was a fine fighter but I was better man and defeated him, so they had to give us the bridge. More serious than this was a concerted attack on us by what appeared to be a large bandit force. We defeated them with ease, and were told by the surviors that someone hald told sotries that our caravan was laden down with treasure and so these desperate men had come to rob it. Perhaps there was indeed no more than this, or perhaps some enemy incited them againsyt us, I fear we will never know.
These obstacles past we arrived at the provicial capital of Han Xing, called Xian Shan. Though simply the capital of Satrap this city far outclassed the primitive towns of Telida and impressed all of the party except perhaps Sarastro, who is from Byzant after all. After being greeted by the gate we were led through the crowded streets, past temples the size of Telida's castle, the homes of nobles and the fortresses of the legions till we came to the Inner city and there to a beautiful estate, surrounded by gardens and decorative ponds, where we were to be guests of the Satrap until we were able to formally meet with him.
We spent a number of days in rest, and then a few more walking the city itself. I took it upon myself to try and explain to the others some basic Scarran words and customs (luckily I discoverd that Sarastro, coming form a cultured land, already spoke our tongue) and to show them the temples and markets, taking time as I did so to visit first the temple of Slumbor and also some local Dojo's. At one of these I learnt of a mad but skilled sensi who lived in the nearby hills and was said to be very learned in the ways of kicking who I decided to contact. First however, robes and other formalities having been prepared for us, we began a series of elabourate interviews with functionaries of all sorts preparatory to meeting with the Satrap. As was to be expected much of the actual work of the ambassadorial mission was conducted in these meetings, so that the Satrap himself would not be laden with such things when we met him, though I suspect that every word said in those interviews was conveyed to Han Xing himself. I will not bore you with exact details of these meetings, though I have attached the names of each functionary we met in a seperate sheet, but suffice it to say that some of them were hostile to us and some friendly.
We quickly learnt that the Satrap himself was very keen on a deal for exclusive trade rights with Telida and was even willing to considor military aide in return. Other elements in his court, however, were not so keen on an allience with barbarians and sought to hinder us. One of these factions was involved witha mercenary group known as the Whispering Seahorses. Not only were the Seahorses rumoured to be in alliance with the King of the Southlands to move against Telida but they may also have been behind the so called 'bandit attack' earlier. The meetings continued apace, days quickly becoming weeks, as unseen political factions manouvered around us. On two seperate occasions the wnture party was invited to parties by important members of the local court, one a supporter of our cause and another an enemy. The two could not have been more different. At the first we were treated well, given costly gifts of Jade and seated at the best tables. We were treated to readings of poetry, to which I responded with my own Haiku, and fine food, and reciprocated with dwarven toys and fine Vodka. At the second, by contrast, we were ignored and surrounded by enemies. Our gifts were not returned, our seating was poor, and our vodka unappreicated. In revenge I understand that Pavel may have bedded with the wife of this oppsed Lord, who apparently had snubbed her in favour of certain boys about court. No doubt this hurt his standing and may have been a good move, but the next day our food was poisoned and our chef found dead... I do not think I have the right stomach for Scarran courtly life!
Despite these run-ins with assassins and politicians it seems our meetings must have gone well for we were summoned un expectantly to ride out of town to the fortress of the legion and meet there with its commander Gladius Sorbius. At last Pavel felt in his element with this military man who exchanged costly weapons with my lord and then explained to us his own military plans for how he would support us were an alliance formed. These were certainly impressive for he promised us no less than and entire cohort in defense of telida and perhaps another in offence! As you might have gathered from my previosu letter a cohort is almost equal to the entire military might of our small Kingdom so this was a great gift indeed! As if this was not enough, when we enquired about the Whispering Seahorses he let us know that they were constantly a thorn in his side and should a treaty be signed he would happily wipe them out himself. Knowing now just how much was on the table we tried the harder to impress him and it must have worked for as night fell he conducted us secretly to a meeting with his master, Han Xing himself. The Satrap proved to be an easy but shrewd man, comfortable in his great power. Clearly he put more store in the oppinions of Sorbius than in half a court of Functionaries, and though we had many more meetings still to go before our fomral presentation to the court the real deals were struck in that private meeting. He let us know that better trade with telida would profit not only us but also himself and those he favoured, increasing his standing amongst the Satraps and the power of his family, while at the same time reducing the income of those lords who opposed him, and by the same token us.
Finally the agreements were made and the plans set up, with but one provisio. Lest it seem that these consesions were won to easily, the Satrap decided to take advantage of our presence by sending us on a quest. I understood that this same quest was offered to all that sought the Satrap's favour, most recently the Seahorses for blessing in their 'adventure' against us, but all had so far failed. This quest was to enter an ancient tomb and recover from it a magical boat that the Satrap coveted. We knew it would be no easy task but nevertheless we agreed to go. This having been settled we proceeded with the formalities and a few days later found ourselves before all the Satrap's court agreeing, in great honour, to undertake this quest.
Telida, Temple of Slumbor, March 23rd
Into the Tomb
Well I take up my pen again Master to tell of the next phase of our adventure in Scarra, which you may find a little more like my usual missivs I am afraid and a little more prosaic, but this the way of the adventurer surely.
He who must live by the blade has little time spare to sharpen his pen - Ting Lo U
We set out for the ancient tomb with trepidation, for we knew that this could be no easy challenge. We had been told that the boat was hidden deep within the vaults of a temple tomb built by an ancient cult of water and earth mages. These Mages believed in the coming of some future apocolypse and had hidden the bodies of their most important leaders where time might see them rise again at the hands of their faithful followers, followers who, it seems, died out long ago. These Mages it seems, concealed their tombs behind elabourate traps, but left clues to them, presumably for those future followers to find their way through. We could only hope that the clues would be meaningful to us. We had also been warned that both Earth and Water magic would not work well in this tomb, nor detection spells.
The tomb had ben built into the side of a huge rock mesa a few days journey into the northern desert from the capital. There was but a single door that opened only to the solution of a riddle, but luckily my ancient Scarran was to prove up to the task. I cannot tell you, master, how pleased I am that I paid at least some attention to Master Su's ancient Scarran lessons when I was younger.
Within the door we found a massive chamber where tall pillars marked with elemental symbols held up the roof. How can I describe properly the feel of this place? It was like nothing I have seen before. Everywhere we looked the rock was carved and decorated, here with swirling paint, and there with the leering images of men with the heads of beasts, monkeys, Rhino's, Elephants, Snakes, Dogs, and more. Huge stone faces looked down on us from the walls, sometimes as if watching us, sometimes as if they were demons wating to devour us, and always repeated everywhere those four signs of water, earth, earth and water, and earth and water united, that lay upon the first four pillars.
The long pools of water that ran up the length of that first chamber looked at first just like more decoration, but on closer examination contained what appeared to be the stripped bones of humans... needless to say we avoided them! Looking around we found no obvious way inwards, and no way out, for the entrance too had vanished only to return, according to the inscription, when all the riddles were solved. I have included here a simple sketch of what this area looked like.
After a little investigation we located a few interesting features, namely an iron bell before a pool of water at the far end of the main chamber, and a side room hideous to behold, for all across the walls living eyes wept acid tears of pain eternally, enough to turn even the strongest substance. After a while we worked out that ringing the bell emptied a pit of water in which we found a key. Unfortunatly for those who had come before us it also turned the long water pools into acid. Moving on Sarastro found the key to the room of eyes, by creating a bright light we closed the eyes, giving them a little respite from their pain and found a door that led us onwards.
Beyond the door puzzle after puzzle faced us. First a room where a single statue pointed back the way we had come, and away from a portcullis that barred our way onwards. Riddles and statues surrounded the room, which we attempted to follow and solve. Unfortunately we needlessly activated a bronze tiger statue that came to life and attacked us very viciously before it was defeated, for it turned out that just the combined efforts of a few of us could turn the statue and open the way forward. In the meantime, however, we found many strange things, a spade with marvellous digging powers, a burried corpse of a Mage bearing clues for the way forward and a massive stone face from which a draught somehow issued. For a long time we debated on the warning that the clue carried, about a dancer on the first great sign who might, or might not, be slain there. I reproduce the rhyme here so that you can see what we were faced with Master.
Venturing onwards into the next chamber we contended with the contents of the large stone sarcophagi we found, hideously strong undead who bore about them charms and jemstones of little value just designed to trap the unwary. Nevertheless we worked out that they could be of use, for I noticed that the corridor that led onwards led towards a huge face clearly intended to blow us back up the passage and onto the wall of blades that would drop behind us. With the coffins we blocked the fall of the barrier and in this way were able to save ourselves from harm. Beyond this trap the tombs continued, including the body of a fearsomly dressed priestess hidden within, if you would belive it, a stone pillar. Further on we entered a long corridor, pillars running down its center, which led in one direction to a richly furnished room, and in the other too a larger pillared area. Half way up this corridor stood an animated suit of mail, guarding a doorway, and we thought it wise to attack this first lest it attack us later from behind.
It seems that this is exactly who, or whatever, designed this tomb expected us to do, for no sooner had we entered battle with the armour than we were set upon by concealed archers led by a spellcaster of most strange appearance, half human and half serpent, of the race that I believe is called the Naga. Fighting the armour on one side and the archers on the other gace us some trouble, but luckily we found out that most of the archers were illusions, conjured by the Naga Sorcerer. When we realised this and concentrated our attentions on him both armour and Naga were quickly destroyed leaving the way clear for us to enter the sumptiously decorated room I mentioned above.
More of this matter tomorrow dear Master for it is late and I must set down my pen here. I will describe to you then in more detail the contents of that strangest of rooms.
Telida, Temple of Slumbor, March 25th
A Strange Room
In this strange chamber we found an alter, and on it strange candles of black and red. Before this is a carpet and a strange hanging dominated by men with the heads of beasts that we feared that might come to life and attack us. Nevertheless Griffin and myself ventured within, boldened perhaps by our victory over the Naga, and took some items of interest from the alter, especially the candles, which after some debate we lit. The smoke from the red candle drifted away, clearly with a purpouse, and we followed it till we found that it led to a hidden door into the chamber. We realised at once that this enchanted candle must detect hidden entrances, and so we extinguished the candle quickly. In the hidden passage we found yet more pictures of animal headed men, setting us wondering.
After some more searching we found only one further way on... through the door with the camel headed man on it.
Dancing on the first Great Sign
This further passage led us to a chamber, lying beyond a closed portcullis. On the floor of this chamber lay the first great sign, the sign of water, layed out on the floor. This was clearly the chamber refered to in the riddle we had found in the chamber of the statue, I remind you of the phrase
Dancing on the first great sign,
Finds lying blades for cuts unkind,
The dancer finds another room,
And finding there a watery doom.
All of us now ferared the thought of the lying blades, clearly a trap, and yet the rhyme might imply that only by dancing on the sign would one escape the watery doom. I myself, recalling your wise lessons on the illusion of life, felt that the blades they refered to were in fact illusions. Finally I decided to venture into the chamber in a body of air, and when I crossed the sign the air exploded in a storm of blades, luckily these did not hurt me. Still we could not prove that these blades would not be our death. In an attempt to find out Sarastro stood with his back to the portcullis, and when the expected mud creature appeared he levitated it into the circle, there the blades flew up.. and in a moment the creature was gone. Sarastro assured us that he could sense that his magic still held, and so the creature was not destroyed and must now be elsewhere. Father Alex, however, pointed out that this in no way proved that the creature was alive!
Sarastro was persuaded to summon another one, this time acompanied into the blades by a wizard eye. He cast his spell but this time the creature appeared on his side of the gate and attacked him! Luckily it was quickly dealt with and he summoned yet a third, and sent it through the blades. This time he told us that his wizard eye had been transported to a great subteranian chamber with water and... at this point the eye was destroyed by something.
Knowing now that the way was, we thought, safe, we decided to venture through the sign ourselves, casting before we did many important spells, such as walk on air, missile shield, dexterity and shield, to make sure we were not taken by suprise, then we went through.
We appeared in mid-air above a great pool of water, the chamber surrounded by pillars. In this chamber we saw many foes, skeletons in armour, two huge animated statues and worse of all, what we thought was some sort of ogre mage armed with two maces, one in each hand! Quickly we spread out for combat, Sir Pavel striking out for the ogre, and the rest of us for the skeletons. Clearly these undead were more than a match for the lesser undead of the Telidan lands, armed with Kusari and the weapons on Ninja they took down more than one of us, throwing a number of us into the water where we were attacked by the hapless crocodile men we had sent through the blades. Pavel meanwhile had more success against the statues and the mage, only to tangle with the second statue.
As you will guess from the fact that I am writing you this letter master, we won the fight, but it was difficult, and from there we set out from the chamber through yet more passages till we came to the chamber of the Ship itself.
The Chamber of the Ship
At one end of the chamber lay the ship, not large at all, and at the other a pair of huge metal doors that led into a second chamber, where we found a giant sarcophagus of an elephant headed man. We began by searching the starange ship. I say strange for it had many magical features, for a start the hold was bigger on the inside than without, for another the streering mechanism was some strange magical one. Our search was interrupted as we were attacked by some sort of awful undead, with skin like steel, claws of iron and braids of hair that attempted to strangle us. Worse than all this it was awfully strong and it had a poison touch. Luckily Sir Pavel held it down and we managed to defeat it.
By searching the ship we realised at once that we did not have the mechanism to make it go. Looking beneath the water we found that a sarcophagus lay deep under the water directly below the boat, but we feared to investigate it for none of us wanted to confront another beast such as this one beneath the water. Instead we decided to try investigating the second chamber, and the tomb within it.
We went carefully, nervously in fact for this was clearly the center of this cult and its sleeping sorcerers who had already demonstarted that they could and would rise from the grave if disturbed. The prophecies we had seen in the tomb and had been warned of scared us with the thought that some even greater evil, a demon queen of some sort, might still rest here and we might disturb it. First we tried checking the amphora that surrounded the tomb, unfortunatly some of these contained poison gas and other nasty suprises. With Kazir already poisoned and Father Alex unwell this was all we needed, so we turned to the Sarcophagus itself. This, my Master, was a mistake, and indeed one of the most terrifying fights I have ever been in, for the stone creature of the tomb arose and attacked us, and it was fully nine foot high. It surrounded itself with a shield of blackness and bombarded us with rays of deadly power from the smoking stone it held in its hands. I must confess that I thought that we had awoken the dark god himself and this would be our death. Thank Slumbor that we had Sarastro with us, for he punched a hole into the shield and the rest of us were able to strike in and eventually slay the creature, though we were badly wounded at the same time.
The fight was not without its reward however, for we recovered both its magical stone and an amulet, clearly designed to help us guide the ship. When Griffon took the stone he claimed it gave him the power to cast any spell of earth whatsoever. Using this power he decided to petrify both Kazir and Father Alex to halp them. We also looked inside the now empty sarcophagus and found there four footprints, those of an elephant, into which one might fit a statue. Questing down beneath the water to the tomb there we found it contained a golden statue that might be fitted into the footprints, but now we were wiser. We had the means to take the ship and that was all that mattered for nowLord Slumbor sent me a vision in which I saw the statue used to release the mistress of that awful beast and her army of deamons. Instead we decided to take the statue with us and see it melted down for bullion so that it could never be used.
Returning to the ship Sir Pavel donned the amulet and found that it gave him knowledge of how to control the ship. We found that there were ways to make the ship float, even move, but not to get out of the room we were in! After some investigation, however, we realised that, if we left the ship, we were able to reduce it to the size of a model and then, even more fantastic, make that model sink into the amulet itself, along with all its contents. In this way we were able to transport all our treasure and the bodies of both Kazir and Alex and take them back to the entrance.
Back at the entranceway Griffin easily unsealed the locked door by simple use of the stone he now had, revelling in the new power, only to see it crumble in his hands as we stepped out! Not only did this rob us of our treasure but also left Kazir and Alex trapped in stone form! Hoping for the best we expanded the ship and took it back to the city, finding that it was capable of travelling over the land as another ship might over water, and indeed we suspectedn that with more lore it might be made to fly as well, it was no wonder the Satrap wanted it. Luckily when we reached the city, to great adulation, the Satrap's Mages were capable of returning our petrified party members to us. After this there was only some sealing of trteaties to be done and we could begin the long journey home to Telida.