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Summary 307: Froalar-y-Doo, Looking For You (2022-10-22)

Giraine Summaries

You approach the riders further up the hill and Boamund sees that one is bright blue, which raises your hackles. He draws his demon-slaying sword a bit and asks if there is a demon but it does not know. You come more warily and one of them that had asked you to come up before welcomes you, saying that they are no foes, so you walk up to the flatter area along the hillside where they await. They are an interesting bunch, and Bog kicks off introductions, which they reciprocate.

They are: A Pralori shaman from Pralorela- Kurugatla Climbs-Green-Trees Antlerman: Rides a female (sister) elk Bellowing Woman. Attended by a spirit-elk fetch (“Its Hooves Are Of Wonder”) with antlers ending in snakes. “In this world I am Kurugatla Climbs-Green-Trees Antlerman and so you should name me. I am spirit-talker of our Elk of the Elms clan, from Pralorela by the Tarinwood. I am friendly with the elves there but no Elf-Friend.” His elk- “I am Bellowing Woman. Close your ears if my ire is raised.” She never speaks again while you meet, and your ears are grateful.

Moustached warrior of unnaturally huge size (SIZ 19!) with very fine half-plate armour and a decorated fur cape. His bare arms are decorated by tattoos with Beast, Fire and Dragon runes. He rides a very large male (brother) elk: Shaman introduces- “We are led by this man, Mundatar Dragontongues, hero of our clan. He earned his honour-name through brave jobs done for the Dragonewts of Ryzel, and indeed from them he was gifted his dragontongues as payment. But he has done much more.” Mundatar smiles open-mouthed and a forked tongue darts out, and as he deeply laughs he whirls his long kontos spear around above his head and flames dance off of it, ending in a hissing serpentine dragon's head.

A most unusual man atop a most unusual beast. Both are of bright blue skin with darker jagged stripes. The man wears silvery crescent-shaped pieces of armour in an entirely unfamiliar style, and a helm that looks like some sort of beast skull, and he carries a bizarre silvery hooked weapon like a sickle. His beast is even more odd. It is built like a bear but with long forelimbs and long curved claws. Its muzzle is extended and broad, sporting tusks. Weirdest of all, bright orange eyes stretch all down its back. The man rides it bareback, with just a simple rein. Intense magic surrounds them. The blue thing introduces itself in halting, accented Seshnegi. “I am Sard'Sard, proud warrior of my far-voyaging people. Fear not, my skin is blue but I am no Vadeli! We are called the Zaranistangi, although you might know us better as the Loper People, which is the kind of beast we ride, although we call them Moropus. We have always been in this land of Genertela but our powers wax and wane, and we appear and disappear. We are waxing again, as The Great Blue Ship of King Dengbalu demonstrates. [gestures to the sky] We belong here, with a long line predating Time, but you may not know of us because we have not wanted you to. Our Sword of Tolat became many swords, one of which you may know as God-Cleaver, Unbreakable Sword of the hero Arkat. I do not seek any of those swords, but others now do. Instead I offer my help where it is needed. I have quested and found my people's lost powers of Far-Leaping, so I can take those I bless with the way of The Great Blue Ship over some distance. And as the Antlerman said, so I have brought us here. His people and mine have a friendship that waxes and wanes.”

4 Pralori warrior-scouts- [2 female on male antlered elk w/o antlers, 2 male on female elk (all wed human-beast). They wear bronze banded heavy armour, carrying long sturdy spears and with either a longsword or a battle axe at their side. This is really impressive for “primitive” Hsunchen. They look like modern warriors. All have dark reddish hair, and dark brown skin like Pithdarans. But from what you can see of their heads, they shave them at the front, wearing their hair in a topknot. Unlike most modern folk, too, they are heavily tattooed. The shaman introduces them– “And these other four are no longer bucks and does; they are proven mercenaries who have ridden from Pralorela to Handra to these western coasts to Dragon Pass and back, fighting in wars or taking good jobs along the way and earning great riches and reknown.”

Fraud reveals his snake-head. Their reaction is mild surprise, nods, smiles. Elk let out little brays. But the spirit-elk kneels down in a bow. Shaman: “So, it is one of them. Most auspicious. Its Hooves Are Of Wonder sees it is no fakery. And there are no smells of more wicked folk near. Let us sit, let us sup, let us talk, and all the living and the watchful ones beyond will teach and learn.” And so you do.

Fraud had spoken of Froalar so the shaman says, “Froalar's spirit is but a tiny whisper of what it was, and it has been harnessed to trap Seshna Gira here within her Sepulchre. Hrmph, you remind me of dreams I have had, and dreams I have sent because of them. Have you dreamt of a spiralling tunnel and a snake-woman's serpent-birth?” Fraud confirms this… “Well then you are one I've sought. And the time could not be better. We had aimed to go within the Sepulchre, but you are better to do this. Its Hooves Are Of Wonder has smelled things within that we do not know. Maybe you will. And this cipher, while we have managed to read it with the aid of our spirits, is of your kind. If you go inside, you may take it, and we can guard outside. I will give aid to some of you with our spirits, if you will accept them. The cipher offers aid against hazards therein, but there is other danger that we do not understand. We understand that it was written not long ago, by some city scholar under the influence of the Golden Poppy of Beauteous Dreams. We found it on a fallen enemy wizard on the battlefields of Nolos, maybe the same scholar.” He waves around some weathered parchment as he says this, then hands it to Mundatar.

Boamund introduces himself and mentions he follows Arkat and a shadow crosses Mundatar Dragontongues' face. “Ahh. Arkat , yes. We and our ancestors do not smile at that name. So maybe we can be friends, but never good friends.” Queried, he politely but somewhat coldly explains that the Pralori army fought against Arkat long ago in Ralios [psst, they were allied with Nysalor's Bright Empire], were sorely beaten, then in Pralorela (their homeland) he came later and “cleansed” it but not fully, so wounds remain today. Those wounds don't sound good; implying Chaos and such.

While you talk, the spirit-elk lifts nose and sniffs noisily toward Fraud, then others, then the shaman says “Yes, the snake-headed one indeed has the beast-blood, not just the beast-head, but he is not of our kind. His kind have lost Korgatsu. He is of another kind, not of the Alliance.” And Mundatar replies, “But the Alliance needs allies. Korgatsu is ancestor of all, so it is within them, too. I can feel its strength. They have been touched by Oren Fanath.” The shaman ponders quickly, then grunts and nods. “So it is. Alliance, yes, we should speak of it.”

“Once the Blue Dragon's Head returned to the Sky River, many other shamans joined the efforts of our Serpent Beast Masters. And so a new Beast Alliance is forming. Here a story that Its Hooves Are of Wonder told me, coming from a Wolverine Folk shaman's spirit. This story prompted us to cross the dark sea, using the new travelling magics of our friend Sard'Sard, to come here.” The shaman tells a story of The [Serpent Beast] Alliance, which is a colourful tale of the coming together of Hsunchen (in Ralios) to form a spiritual unity and heroquest into the Orggee Snake Caves, ending in description of one shaman's vision of a spiralling labyrinth full of snaky sounds and scents, and a comment that a Dragon soon will rise, and they are the Children of Hykim who will “bring about a new Golden Age” (this is ominous in tones for non-Hsunchen). Then Antlerman says that they have come to another, smaller labyrinth here, a dream fragment of that greater one. It is the Sepulchre of Seshna Gira and she is trapped within by ancient foreign magics. This was once her temple and birthplace for her children, but now it is her crypt.

Mundatar says, “This place is best to enter around twilight. We will keep watch here, in the Mortal Plane and the Spirit Realm. If you emerge having freed Seshna Gira, we will know of it and celebrate with you, our task complete; and then we will move on to our next goal.” There's time left, so you eat and drink and talk more.

Orsattus asks about the snaky nature of Hsunchen and Antlerman says he can only tell of his people's ways; it is not his business to tell of others' secrets. “Desdoval the Antlered was the father of all the deer or elk folk of the hills. His children called to him, and showed him the growing Darkness, and asked what they should do. He led them out of it with new ways, in the form of a great horned serpent. Those that henceforth learned the art of shamaning knew that he was a scion of the serpents, and so they were grandchildren of serpents. They called Desdoval the Horned God, and called themselves the Serpent Beasts. This is our secret, but we impart it to you in friendship.”

Bog asks Mundatar about draconic mysticism and seems to earn some trust, so he talks; albeit superficially; about what he has done with the dragonewts of Ryzel and how he uses this path they set before him to come closer to Korgatsu [the Cosmic Dragon], especially Hykim. Of “Oren Fanath”, who he says is what you call the Night Dragon, he doesn't admit to knowing much except that it was mentioned in linkage to Arkat.

In further conversation, Antlerman says, “We did not appear precisely here; strong as Sard'Sard's Far Leaping is, we had to wander these mists, guided by our kin and our spirits. We came across a wonder that we did not expect. There is a gorgeous field, lush with grazing and browsing for our elk. But it is an old place where spirits of both prey and predators linger; it was a land of Pendal and Pralor. Old indeed; maybe stretching back before Time, like this place might. And from a distance there, through the cold fog, we saw a most stupendous tree. It hurt my Second Sight to look upon it, but that was enough to know that this place is of great sacred power. It is, however, not why we came here. If you go there, go with great care, as it is not your place.”

Twilight comes. The sun sets to the west in a gloriously colourful pattern, bathing the cliffside in rich lavender shadowy hues. Antlerman gives you each choices of spirits, in fetishes made of elk hide and twine. Mundatar gives Fraud the “puzzle”– papyrus, aged but not fragile. It depicts a map involving a snaky labyrinth design. Written on the back of it are Seshnegi words, the second phrase repeated over the map's top:

“Let thy finger slide over the sigils Let thy chosen path be shown And it shall drink of thine sorb And so shall secrets be seen And so dangers shall be passed Sleepers shall slumber still Sanctum's wards unbroken will”

You muse over this, figuring that it must involve some magical energy input to open ways through the labyrinth, but it remains puzzling indeed. You go to the doors. Dragontongues calls out, “There is another way in, to the east, but we looked and the spirits said the Bad Man had touched that place too. Holes are eaten into the hillside, weakening the rock. Something foul is there.” That doesn't sound good, so you avoid it.

The doorway is just how Fraud had envisioned it, and described it to you. The six ancient torch-fires around the doors are not of wood, it turns out, but some ever-burning material. The copper serpents on the doors divide copper shields below, embossed with the emblem of Froalar, from a copper wheel-like structure above that seems like the sun but is not quite that. A leering guardian demon face above the arch bears vigil, and it is unnerving to look at, as if it moves subtly. There is not only broken pottery and other trappings of temple life or tomb artifacts outside the doors, but also several skeletons and many scattered bones, mainly looking human, and relatively recent, not ancient like the rest of the place. Indeed, there is rotting meat still clinging to some bones, with maggots writhing in it. Now, on closer inspection, indeed things are not right at the entryway.

Fraud experiments with trying to open the door and eventually you figure out that it will open with a little mana/sorb and a gentle push; although you don't quite realise you were tracing your finger over the map at the same time. The doors open inward with a little effort. The demon-face vomits out a cloud of bright green, rancid gas with a hiss; Orsattus feels weak and woozy, Fraud suddenly breaks out all over in bloody, chaffing wounds from wearing his heavy armour and must take it off but still is sorely wounded by that time. You apply some first aid and he is a bit better, but shocked at the danger you've faced without even entering yet.

There is no light within. Iphara's mist continues. Boamund throws a Glow spell on Orsattus's sword. The hallway is 4m square in cross-section, and its walls and floor have matching jade mosaics of serpents (and some cavorting human companions) that continue, from tail to head, all the way down the hallway to the chamber beyond. But the one on the right (east) wall is different, being literally chopped in two where a narrower passage intersects it; the mosaic here seems to depict the serpent giving explosive birth to many others that ring that passage entrance. Yet something is not right about the whole hallway. The air stings with an acrid taste and smells oily and rank. All of the mosaics are marred as if the decorative stone itself has been deformed, even smeared around.

Orsattus uses his elk spirit to sniff the way forward to Seshna Gira, and he knows that the way is down (to #20 on your map; under the hole in the floor of #2).

You go down toward room #2 and at the end of the hallway there is a sudden grinding noise as dust descends and a huge block slides from the wall across the passage. Bog was not near and the other three dive nimbly to safety in the chamber beyond, regaining their footing soon enough, as the slab retracts. Phew! That was close.

This is a great circular hall of 3m vaulted ceiling supported by six pillars, through which a lovely green carpet proceeds to a statue of a great coiled green serpent, with six others along the walls between the pillars. Offerings or burial treasures lie before those six statues. Although there is no sunlight, green vegetation abounds in spaces along the walls, which are lavishly carved with depictions of Seshna and Old Seshnela. Five other passages, narrower than the entry hallway, snake into the room from different spots. Yet a rough hole, cracked at its edges, mars the beauty of the hall at its centre. The hole faintly shimmers with violet energy, and an odd humming might be emanating from it. A snake-woman is there, having come out from between the pillars with two more snaky-humanoid creatures. She declares, “Halt. This is a dead place. Only the dead may pass. If you pass, death will befall you. I am dead Seshna Gira and I insist that I continue my death-sleep.” Fraud doesn't buy it; this isn't right. He challenges her and she changes her tune, saying to him that he is wounded and she is full of Life; she can kiss his wounds away if he comes to her. He feels a compulsion of lust and realises his mind is being grappled with, but he pulls back and argues further. She gets angry and rattles her tail, telling you all to leave whence you came. Fraud uses his spirit fetish to shake off the fear it instills, and all but Orsattus resist. Now it is clear that there is mortal threat, as her snake-person defenders back her up, and combat begins.

She casts a spell at Boamund that does nothing but felt like it was slowing him down. The snake-men conjure protective shields. You cast some magics and Orsattus Calms himself. Boamund asks his demon-sword if there is a demon before him, and it explains yes, this is a lamia, a foul seductive demon of Chaos; a vampiric blight. The snake-men throw spells at some of you trying to tie up your tongues like coiled snakes, and Bog is left incoherently babbling. The lamia tries to throw a spell on herself but her energy fizzles around her. Fraud throws his Curse Chaos but she shrugs it off. Orsattus blesses your main weapons (except Bog's) with Bypass Armour. Boamund rushes in with his demon-sword to the lamia, while Bog closes with a snake-person and is grapped around his chest within its coils, which start to choke him, but then he clobbers it in the chest, knocking it down with a gasp. Soon enough, Boamund swings a mighty blow at the lamia's chest, cutting deeply into her, and black ichor flows forth; she falls with a surprised wicked hiss. The remaining snake-person watches, confused, and Bog bashes ineffectually at the other. Soon you talk with this snake-person and stop Bog, as Boamund hacks the lamia to bits.

The snake-people are confused by “Seshna Gira”'s demise, at first falling upon her body with loud hissing wails of grief or staring just confounded. Some gentle words from Fraud gradually bring them back to their senses, still unnerved by what has happened and at first maintaining the claim that she has been killed. Sooner or later though, they come around, and talk (Old Seshnegi). “We are of a line of Seshna Likita's great-grandchildren, devoted to her temples as guides to the faithful. We remember… an unfamiliar song echoing through these halls, shaking them. Sleep fell upon us despite our best efforts, and we dreamed as the Age passed, but slowly awakening in these past weeks, to behold the glory of what we knew as a wakening remnant of our goddess, now Seshna Gira. We shall return to our duties. I am Skan'ss; my brother here is Snuss'tt.” They don't remember a lot but, responding to your questions, say that in #17 “We remember a great immortal serpent, beloved nursemaid to the children in the temple.” They cannot leave now and haven't left this area since they awoke. Pondering this awakening, you reason that this lamia/Chaos blight has come here very recently. The fresh bones etc. outside the front doors begin to take on a clearer context…

You struggle a lot with the door to #7. As you do, a bronze snake-head decoration swings down, biting Fraud in the midriff and leaving a nasty wound but he feels no venom overcoming him. Boamund tries the door again, after convincing a deluded Fraud that this is best, while Fraud and Bog smash the snake-head to bits. But the door doesn't open. You ponder, frustrated again and again by failed attempts to budge the door. Finally, you get some insights that the map is involved, not so much physical force with the doors, and so you experiment more with that, and Orsattus reasons that you must (1) trace your finger snakelike around the “serpentine” labyrinth as you travel, and (2) touch the door (or enter a room?) when doing so and your sorb will be donated. This works!

The passage to room #7 has crumbled around its edges, cracked and dusty. The door opens into a half-collapsed chamber with little but rubble left. Where there is original stone left uncovered, it is faded but shows some fine remnants of frescoes of the birth of a great, smiling woman-headed serpent from what might be an old, frowning woman, seated on a stool or something. This event is deep in a cavern, surrounded by supplicant spirits, beasts (especially lions and snakes) and people, and gifts. The gifts flow like a river down a tiny hole at the base of the mother's seat. A smooth passage, decorated with jade serpent tiles along its sides, descends from the northern corner of the room. Orsattus is sure that this shows the bribery of Seshna Likita by the Godlearners, but Fraud tries explaining that, no, the fresco is of the birth of Seshna from the equivalent of Asrelia/Bountiful Earth/Gata; a greater Earth goddess. It's nice, anyway. And the room is not foul as #1-2 are.

As you descend the sloping passage toward #19, while the long mosaic patterns are pleasing for some to behold, all of you have a growing feeling of disquiet. Some otherworldly presence watches you, and your hairs stand on end as your skin prickles from the energy of that presence, as if from a million needles – or fangs. You try opening the door but are repelled by nauseous feelings, staggering backwards, and that presence feels stronger, watching from all around. You give up and go back. The snake-priests of Seshna Gira (isn't it good that you didn't kill them!?) are more composed now and you ask if they can heal you. Indeed they can! Their powerful Heal Body spells heal wounds on Orsattus and Boamund (finally!) but they didn't feel confident that Fraud's could be healed thusly; this may be a curse or disease or other malady.

You go to #6. The crumbling passage winds to a fork, where a circular stone door decorated with bas-reliefs of two snakes facing each other, as the entry doors, is on the left. Here at the fork, nasty black goo coats most surfaces, diminishing along the fork and suddenly stopping at the door, but visibly thicker further down the passage, where the stone structure also becomes progressively more ruinous, just wide enough to let someone through. The slime ripples with motion. The doorway slides open with a grinding hiss (taking a payment of sorb), showing a 4m cubical chamber with some structural damage to the edges, but still holding its integrity. Some decorations of warriors and battles adorn places where the damage is not so severe. There are a few shattered shards of pottery amidst rubble on the floor, and some old bronze implements, but most noticeably there is a desiccated human skeleton in the room's centre, lying supine in worn old copper armour with lavish serpent designs, still barely holding onto an ancient great-axe. It is an ancient temple guard, you figure, and Orsattus pauses, realising that looting this could be very bad, even though its snakiness interests him. He throws a bit of old metal from that room at the gooey wall of the hallway and it slides down with ripples but nothing else happens.

You don't like the idea of taking that passage. So maybe going via #8 will work; you debate this vs. other routes.

Until Friday! Maybe the real Halloween Special? -John

© Copyright - 2000-2024 - John Hutchinson, Tim Evans, Pete Nash, Colin Driver and Gordon Alford

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