Toward The Edge Of The World

Chasing Vyse
Where we're going, we don't need roads (just Rings)

Mery drags us quickly across town to her Father’s residence. Mery’s mother-in-law quickly excuses herself while General Ovim hosts us in the library, even offering us some brandy. The General gives us a bit of background on Colonel Carasal. He had been “tainted politically”, passed over for promotion, and had prospects for a non-military. He had taken some position that the King had not found favorable (the General needs to consult an aide to recall the specifics). At a guess, the General would categorize the witnessing cavalry officer as English or German. Almost certainly not Polish. Prior to being in Logistics, Carasal was a Signals officer. Well educated, well traveled, spoke six languages, served with the Diplomatic Corps for some time. After the conversation, we leave Mery to catch up with her Father.

Mery shares her journeys with her father. In the course of conversation, she also covers needing a Royal Spymaster, and my desire to stay in a field command. The General points out that volunteering for the lead unit in the upcoming offensive, the Forlorn Hope.

Milo stops by my apartment to inform me that my axe has an appointment with the Artificer for another round of magicking. I drop off the axe the next morning after hearing the Artificer babble for a few minutes — fortunately his young assistant simplified the discussion. I grudgingly entrust my axe into their care for the day, while I visit my family.
[Add +keen on the battleaxe]

When Garrick and I get to my parent’s house, I discover my Father (Almod Hagen) is in a state about a rumor that I’ll be joining the Forlorn Hope. I work to squash that rumor — while on the list of possibilities, not anywhere near the top, and there is plenty of time (May-ish) to do so. Father thinks one of Carasal’s sons was killed during an expeditionary force (mostly British), headed into the Crimean Peninsula. At one point, he carefully inquires whether he should be attempting to dig up a family heirloom for presentation to the Queen. I work to dodge any deep inquiries until Father mentions some money is riding on nationality of the Queen’s future husband — where I reassert my patriotic nature. Safine (youngest sister) stops by on a pass-through visit and we catch up. She mentions that she had talked to someone from my unit, Ollie, at the end of September in Athens, and had mentioned heading to Cairo for some research.

Tomas spends some time on military research. At the big battle, who would have been the obvious successor-leaders to the Montenegran military leadership after the King was killed. The Prussians were most likely, in the form of General Ludendorf. He also looks into the Birthstone, and emerges convinced that it is an Elven artifact. He also manages to get a description of the birthstone, described as an infant-sized Sapphire, with veins of white that glow, is warm to the touch, and pulses with its own “life.”

Milo has a quiet conversation with the Queen.

At breakfast, I provide my updated information about Vyse, and we dispatch to pick a path to Athens and Cairo. Jared heads to the Rings to try and find a Ring to get us close. I head to Porter, Justinian, and Sebastian. Milo to Gerald and Cate, Garrick to Polarion, and Mery to Sebastian.

Upon hearing we may be in Cairo, Gerald gives Milo a name and address in the city. Milo is to pick up a box (and not look inside).

Polarion notes to Garrick that she is a tad disturbed by how quiet things are within the Castle. Patient intriguers. Polarion does not have a tattoo.

At Porter’s, I tell him Vyse’s itinerary, and inquire as to who to inquire with to learn about Vyse. He mentions we do not have an office in Cairo. He suggests checking in with the harbormaster of city watch. Also, potentially a bank or money changer may have aided in converting a draft. Some of Porter’s research indicates Vyse’s family is Guilded Merchants and reasonably well off. Vyse’s initial commission was purchased. He may be able to write drafts against family funds and not attract significant attention. The family does not have known significant assets in Athens or Cairo. Both locations have really good libraries. I leave a note with Porter for the Queen, explaining our imminent rapid departure.

My conversation with Justinian is relatively brief. He cautions me, politely, to be clear that I am only talking to Vyse. He also mentions a rumor that a certain Captain is thinking of volunteering for the Forlorn Hope.

Sebastian is intrigued by Vyse approaching my sister. He suggests watching for others looking for Vyse, perhaps by following us, and approaching Vyse as someone working directly for the Queen, not the military. Working theory, Vyse knows something important that others want to keep secret.

Jared reports the rings can get us to both Athens and Cairo. We assemble.

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Catching Up on the News
The cook?

Breakfast with the Queen. Mery keeps trying to suck me into the conversation flow.

We hear a bunch of news from Cate. The Russian Czar is ill, and there is some uncertainty in the succession, as it involves some form of challenge. Cate asks that we meet with Russian Diplomat Adarov Alexei, who is interested in things East of the End of the World. The Spanish (Elves) have pledged troops, “a significant forces” to the anticipated Summer campaign, with an Elven Officer expected to arrive soon. The French are not participating, and the English are pledging financial support. We also hear a few entertaining court anecdotes.

The Queen also reveals that she finally learned who internal security head was. Apparently the Head Cook that made her pies when she was young was the spymaster. She had a heart attack the day after Cate’s Father was killed. Cate learned this after someone came in to apply as an Assistant Cook. Back in day, Cate recalls a number of Assistant Cooks revolving through the kitchen. Apparently this was how the Head Cook received her reports and issued instructions. The assistant cook applicant was sufficiently persistent that he was able to get someone’s attention and eventually into Cate’s sphere of awareness.

Mery stays behind for a chitchat with Cate.

Garrick and I go to visit Captain Justinian. Lt. Oliver Vyse (formerly in my command) may have been responsible for the death of a Colonel Vargas Carasal. Carasal was found a few days after the big battle, with evidence consistent that he had been killed post-battle, after the fighting was largely over. One frontal wound to the abdomen, small knife. The body was found in a location inconsistent with a man of his rank and position. Carasal was responsible for the entire logistical chain for the battlefield units, including all of the units. He had last been seen at the battlefield HQ, after the big goblin push, the King’s death, and our units’ decimation. Two different soldiers, not likely known to each other, reported someone (Captain, cavalry, light hair) claimed Vyse had killed Carasal. Later, Vyse was spotted in Montenegro.

We visit Sebastian next, since he is close by. I recruit him to continue looking for Vyse, and adding this mystery Captain to the list. Later in the conversation, he confirms he has one of the Promise Tattoos, and estimates about 1% of Europe has acquired one. Sebastian reports the Polish King has been having a number of meetings with foreigners about probably some personal matter. While some folks are a bit nervous about the mystery issue, it does not seem to be political in nature. We share the discover of the Dawn City, and the recovery of the marked sword.

Then on to Lamont Porter for much the same purpose. Lamont takes the few notes we can offer, and begins searching for our guys.

Milo heads to his Temple to join Gerald and arrives just in time for close combat martial training. After the requisite pain and healing, they head off to visit Corbin. Corbin has been researching the tattoos, and has realized there are a few groupings or families. In looking at the tattoos, Corbin noticed an embedded dragon design. There is a legend that before the Aslanti, the Giants ruled over a large empire (Zendrick), before escaping to Europe. There was a war with the Giants and Dragons on one side against some unformed darkness. Giants and a Dragon named Syberis went into the heavens. Syberis killed the foe and took a fatal wound, exploding to become the night sky. His heart fell to the Earth as a promised gift to a future generation. A giantess went to the place his heart fell, and shed a tear, which grew rose that enclosed the Heart. Then a city was built around it. The Heart was later referred to as the Gift of the Dragons. Lots of varied derivative legends. The tattoos are likely dragon marks, each with a meaning. Some have similarities. One name translates roughly to “Mark of Detection”, and another “Mark of Warding”, and the individually seem similar. The marks are magical, in some way, and are likely do different things. Probably at least 6-7 or even 10 different main variants. The legends are less than precise. Touching the dragonmark and willing it into use is the means, and they may become more powerful over time.

Mery’s Mother is out of town, so she heads to Namfoodle. His new workshop is significantly bigger than any of the prior ones, with 40-50 artificers hard at work. Mery attempts to acquire one of the new version of the blast-sticks that he is building for the Russians. Namfoodle demur’s, needing Russian permission to do so. Mery switches gears and gets Namfoodle interested in building a picture-capturing item.

Tomas looks into whether any academic groups are investigating the tattoos. He learns that the magical communities, worried about prestige and the loss of their powerbase if too many people have magic abilities. Lots of rumors of tattoo use, little substantiation.

Later, Milo visits Cate to make sure she is doing well. She is intrigued by the economy of beets, one of her nobles that is in effect the Duke of beets.

Mery chases down her mother, and presses for a status update on the investigation into Duke Synarco. She confirms that Synarco is not entirely honest.

We gather for our traditional group dinner to compare notes. Milo asks us each to visit Corbin to get our tattoos cataloged. Jared reports the Prussions are trying to bribe the Romanians with needle guns. We get engaged in a discussion about Justinian’s efforts to locate Vyse, and information about Colonel Carasal’s murder. After explaining the Colonel’s role, Mery suggests we talk to her Father, which we head off to do (after desert).

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Return to Montenegro after Meeting a King
Is the English Court always this boring?

Back in London, we hasten to enjoy the wonders of civilized lands, including bountiful hot water. I ensure the Explorer’s Society knows we can be reached through the Montenegran embassy in case our expedition comrades need to reach us. Mery makes an offhand comment about visiting the English Court, I head to the embassy to arrange it. Fortunately, her family name is enough to attract the Ambassador’s attention and from that point, all falls into place.

We meet the Ambassador at the Court entrance, where we’re given a quick protocol briefing, then announced and ushered into Court. We mingle in the Court for a while, and watch King Charles work the crowd. The King actually approaches me to meet and chat, which was a bit of a surprise. He was interested about the Big Battle and I discern that he had a near-death military experience at some point as well.

When I ask Milo later about the King’s background, I learn that he almost died at age 12 in a battle, shortly before he became King. About three months later, Charles’ father died, and Charles ascended the throne.

As a group, we largely find the English Court somewhat boring. Certainly, not as exciting as the French with their oft-manufactured drama. The next day, the London papers have more about the spread of the rash, now including unsubstantiated rumors of people with magical powers.

We pick up a few minor supplies on our exit from London, then headed back to Montenegro. We agree to spend a few days resting and finding out what we’ve missed. Mery heads to the palace to arrange for us to brief the Queen, Milo heads to the Chuch, Garrick heads off to scout our first leg, and I head off to Lamont (thanking him for our possessions being at the London Embassy) and later Sebastian (to warn hi Mery was incoming). At “home,” I find that Captain Justinian has left me a note asking to contact him next time in town. I send off a messenger suggesting we meet the next mid-day or so.

We meet for dinner to compare notes and discuss plans. Among the conversation topics, we learn that Tammerlin was the Priest attached to the King’s Guard during the battle, when the King was killed. We also learn that Montenegro is now building blasters (Namfoodle’s work) for the Russians. And we discuss in part what the upcoming Spring buildup and Summer offensive will mean for us. I resolve to find a senior officer to piss off just enough to scuttle a promotion, so I can stay with a frontline field unit. We agree to stick around for week to take care of our local obligations.

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Leaving the Dawn City
You have to get married first. No, *you* do!

After checking on our rashes, we decide to spend a day or so investigating the City. Barringer maps out a number of locations that based off of the city layout show some worth for further investigation.

One of the first places we visit is a massive space, possibly some form of Church. The area has immense statues of figures in vaguely “heroic” poses, and a raised platform at one end. Possibly the speaker’s platform. All of the stonework is immensely worn, with a lot of damage from age. We find a clogged stairway to a lower level, which we work to clear. With Tomas’ expert guidance, we make fairly quick progress and get into the lower level.

Once we make our way out of the stairway, we pass through narrow-for-Giant-and-big-for-us tunnels filled with skulls, from Giant down to nigh-human size skulls that are probably juvenile Giant skulls. After a bit more study, we realize that there are at least 3-4 different races of Giant skulls represented in the inventory. Lots of pooled and stagnant water. Garrick reports that we seem to be the very first visitors in at least Centuries.

We end up in a room with three Giant statues. One of an ugly guy with a big club. Another of a woman with a big Scimitar, posing. And the last of a guy with a sextant peering up. One faces North, another East, and the last South. A few of us spot something shiny under the woman-warrior’s hair, and Milo reports something up there is magical. Between Garrick and Kell, they figure out how to pull the woman statue’s arm down, which triggers the facemask to lower, which reveals a large Emerald. When given to Mery, she manages to elicit a pleasant glow sufficient to illuminate our immediate area. After further investigation, we don’t find much else of interest, so we continue on our circuit.

In another basement, we find the remnants of a chest, with some items of interest. These are more normal-sized, not Giantish. Some jewelry, gems, and other pretty things. Not much else there left sufficiently intact. These could be Aslanti items, making them even more valuable to the right collectors.

During our work, Mery opens a conversation about the explorer’s society. This led to a revelation by Berringer, that he is a friend of the current King of Poland. And that the King is likely in need of some non-Polish adventurers. Later the conversation somehow turns to Mery’s upcoming nuptials, without a date being set. Mery protests a bit and states that she cannot get married until I do! I quickly attempt to extinguish that line of questioning, with limited success.

Our remaining stops around the City yield a variety of minor finds of “significant historical value.” We collect a sampling of various elements.

We work hard on our way back to avoid undue attention, and are successful. We safely recover the boats, and fairly quickly get back to the expeditionary base, arriving on the 1st of January 1912. Along the way, Barringer suggests that we not mention the Spike or the undead guy we killed — primarily since that would indicate that we were not the first Europeans to visit the City in millenia.

In Stormreach, we check again on our rashes. By day three, the rashes had started to itch badly. By day six (Dec 31) we were all squirming with unrequited itching. In Stormreach, we learn that everyone there has been experiencing the same symptoms, including most and not all of the crew of the Swiftwind, which was just returning as we arrived. Through our nightly message tube, I ask Queen Cate if anyone there has been experience the same things, and we learn that the morning after we broke the Promise, Europe started being affected, with reports streaming in. After days 7-8, the rash peels, with some form of intricate pattern, tattoo-like, appearing. Many, not all, people showing the symptoms.

The Swift Wind docks back in Plymouth on the 12th of January. The Society expedites our return to London via the teleportation stage. The news is full of people that have been acquiring the rash and patterns. There are similarities and groupings of the acquired patterns, about half a dozen basic designs, with extensive unique sub-elements. Mostly humans seem to be affected, though that is likely by numbers.

Berringer provides us with a letter of introduction to the King of Poland, suitable for presentation at an Embassy or to the Court.

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A Rose By Another Name
So many stairs...

The 10-day voyage from Plymouth to Xendrick is not the most comfortable. The Swift Wind is fairly small, and we are cramped. Mery badgers Milo incessantly trying to learn how being poisoned feels, how to treat it, and a whole slew of topics I didn’t bother to remember. I work on learning Polish with Twaine, Makepeace, and Milo.

After far too long just watching mostly-featureless ocean, we finally sight land (10 December 1911). And on that land some kind of clearly ancient and abandoned city of some kind. This turns out to be our destination, as we anchor and start offloading supplies. After some observation, we realize the scale of the city is larger than we first observed — this is a Giant city (Stormreach)! On shore, we’re greeted by the expeditions camp supervisor, Benjamin Cleary, and taken into their camp. Horses, oxen, goats, animals, many people, tents, supplies. Clearly this is a larger and longer-established organization that we first suspected.

The air is incredibly hot and humid, like walking through a dwarven sauna. The City is surrounded by an incredibly tall and dense wall of green foliage. The worksmanship of the buildings is incredible. Hand-joined, minimal-gapped, still-whole buildings and walls of assembled stones. Did I mention this place was hot? The camp team has a sand table, showing what looks to be about a roughly five mile range around the city on the river delta. Benjamin reports that the locals are some kind of Elves, a variety of humans (one serves as a scout/guide for the expedition). Rayna Ingle is the cook and quartermaster. Garrick promptly disappears into the jungle/forest with the guide, ShoSho. Jacob Rand is the guard captain, leading a group of about 10 guards that rotate through a bunch of assignments. Clancy is the blacksmith and resident animal wrangler.

Makepeace initiates a planning session with us. Their original plan on this expedition was to continue the excavation, and spend a week at an up-river settlement. They also mention the Curse(!), that of the ever-changing land. Two groups leaving from the same place, heading in the same direction, at slightly different times will not end up in the same places. Mery mentions that this sounds just like the Romanian Mists. The local humans appear less affected by the Curse.

In reviewing our map with Twaine, we learn that our map is magical, likley of European origin, and inked by a Slavic-trained artist, possibly Russian. The map may be an artifact from one of the prior expeditions from Europe (some little-documented Russian ones, a few unsuccessful French ones), of a long time ago.

The local Elves are called Drow. There are signs they may have been, post-Giants, a major civilization of their own. No longer.

The Swift Wind is loaded up with things to be returned to England. We notice coins, ore, gems, and artifacts heading out to the ship. A few days after we arrived, the Swift Wind heads off to sea.

We head inland on the 14th. Berringer is the only Explorer that chooses to come along with us, and Jared decides to stay at camp and try his hand at archeology. We take three boats, giving us enough room to cart supplies and have a spare hull for emergencies.

2015-08-26
-———-
(14 Dec 1911) We begin our journey upriver. This river is immense at the outlet. Berringer, Tomas, and I split across the three boats and serve as the main rowers. We periodically take arrow fire from one shore or another. Not very accurate or sustained, probably not even totally ill-intended. Casual-like shooting. We don’t get very far the first day, and our ashore overnight is uneventful.

Over the next few days, we take less fire and as we get acclimated and accustomed to boating upriver, we start making some consistent progress. We spot some ruins peeking over some of the foliage halfway through the second day that are new to Berringer, as we’ve gone farther than they’ve had opportunity to explore. Despite Mery’s pleas, we keep on going. On the third day, we cross through a really shallow part of the river, smooth-stoned bottom, that we surmise must have been the remnants of a large bridge, now collapsed into the river. Mery is surprisingly successful at fishing! Milo keeps us healthy, generating clean water and

On the 22nd, we reach what we hope is the tributary branch that will get us close to the Dawn City. Another day of travel leads to seeing more signs of ruins, with quickly increasing density. We arrive late, so don’t have all that much time to look around. What we do see is immense. Definitely the remnants of a large city.

That night we’re woken abruptly during Jarod’s watch to the sounds of fighting. Jarod is engaged in a serious fight with a freakishly large snake. After a fairy quick battle, we dispatched the snake, which had apparently dropped down from a tree. Jarod was bitten a few times, and Milo quickly took care of that. We dragged the corpse away after Berringer grabbed some samples of venom, scales, and other parts. Getting back to sleep wasn’t easy.

2015-09-02
-———-
In the daylight, a number of us climb up to a higher vantage. We can see a variety of stone structure jutting out of the jungle canopy for quite a ways around. Once we get organized, I use the Wayfinder to get a bearing on the Black Spike, which leads us to the Southwest.

We learn quickly that this is a really old old place. The sheer size of some of the structures make travel deceptively longer. We clamber over hidden rocks, duck under jungle leaves, and slowly work our way along.

Our peaceful journey is wantonly interrupted by two large rocks slamming into Tomas and Jarod. We prepare to respond, but whatever tossed them our way stayed out of sight and faded away rather than following up the attack. After a bit of looking cautiously around, we resume our trek.

A bit later, more rocks, same targets plus Mery. This time, we narrow down the source to be up in the trees. Once again, we resume trekking.

A while later, Garrick shoots some arrows at some leaves. On instinct I dive for cover. The rest are somewhat slower, and Mery gets tagged with a rock. We observe enough to hear something moving away through the canopy. Milo quickly heals Mery. A bit later, Tomas catches sight of a moss-colored Gorilla. A bit later, Mery and I almost walk over a sharp precipice overseeing a long drop.

We look across a fairly well-defined scoop (meteor crater) out of he land, about a mile across. Within the crater, there is no jungle, and there is a dense packing of Giant structures. In the middle, is a Ziggurat. The crater is about 300’ down, and the Ziggurat pokes above the level of the crater probably another 100’. Berringer starts making frantic notes and quick sketches. There are 12 obvious routes down from around the edges into the city.

We head down to the right where a series of what appear to be really low Giant stairs (each 3-4’ high) that proceed down/around the crater edge. By the time we’re even halfway down, the limited breeze up top can no longer be felt, and the stones start serving as a very large oven. Fortunately, Milo whips out a wand of some kind (Endure Elements) that makes us immediately comfortable in site of the heat.

In spite of the great age and obvious disrepair of much of the stone walkways and buildings, there is not vegetation growing outside of sporadic and structured plots of land. Nothing popping up in the cracks of the walk-stones. The streets feel immensely wide, and probably only 2-3 Giants wide (60’) at our best guess. We’re a bit disturbed by the quiet after the cacophony of the jungle.

We reach the Ziggurat in the middle. Tomas has estimated the city has been abandoned for 30,000 years, and the Ziggurat is “only” about 10-12,000 year old. How do people figure this out? The stone blocks here are noticeably different, younger, than the rest of the city. A terrifyingly large number of stairs lead up the edges of the Ziggurat. Rather than tackle this immediately, we set up a camp nearby and wander the local parts of the city until dark.

After nightfall, after a while of checking and re-checking, Kell and Tomas identify a light emanating from the the top of the Ziggurat. Not a regular or consistently sustained light. While keeping a wary eye out, we ignore it and head into slumberland.

2015-09-09
-———-
After our morning routines, we begin our ascent on the outside of the Ziggurat. After way too many oversize stairs to count, we reach the top. We end up being faced by a roughly human-sized doorway that is dark and forboding, and stays dark despite bright sunlight and Mery’s light spell. After a brief moment, I step in. I’m immediately met by an absolute flood of lies swarming out and around, biting all of us. I step back out while Tomas waves a lit torch and Mery sets off a gout of flame from her hands, clearing the cloud. Upon re-entering, no further floods of flies. Inside, the light is rather dim. A shout from Tomas tells me they can’t see me from outside. The inside is intricately decorated, at a glance identical to Jarod’s charcoal scribbling on his asylum walls. In the middle of the floor is a large 6×6′ hole (though there is ample room around the edges to move around safely) with a similar shadow effect as the entrance. Mery plays with a bead on a string, which when lowered into the hole disappears from sight. Jarod produces a segmented haft which he assembles into a 12’ pole. Poking with that does not yield a floor within range. We confirm a foot-deep rim to the square hole, with a widening to an open space beyond that, edges beyond range. Milo tries a war hammer tied on the end o fa long rope, lowering that down, and we still don’t hit a bottom. Finally, we lower Mery down for a look around.

Mery reports a kind of platform-based stairway winding around the inner walls of the ziggurat, however the upper end, to our hole, has been broken, with wreckage at the far far bottom. The ziggurat appears to have been built around some object down below, a giant glowing rose. Milo mentions that the flower has the object we seek, something he gleaned from reading the writing on the walls. Jarod concurs. The damaged stairway is not immediately accessible. After a brief debate, we lower Tomas the engineer down for a more detailed survey. He quickly outlines a solution and we rig up some lines to shimmy down to the stairway. On his way over, Milo has some form

The stairway platforms are wood, preserved probably by magic, mounted on poles stuck into the walls. Lot of elvish writing, better formed than the samples outside. The broken parts of the stairway are clearly intentional — the upper poles are burnt to cinders into the wall. Proceeding down, having to carefully plot our path down the platforms, sometimes going up to get over to get back down, takes about an hour. The wreckage at the bottom obviously includes humanoid bones. Milo figures out the dead had been fatally wounded, but not immediately killed, and probably lasted several days before expiring.

The glowing rose has a stem about 18" diameter, complete with thorns, five leaves along the way, up to the bulb. The material is odd, looking a bit like wood but feeling more like metal. The stem extends about 100’ up to the flowery bits.

No other entrances down below, just about six skeleton bits, fallen wood and such. Milo reports a glimmer of evil up near the flower. The “leaves” turn out to be large enough for a couple people to stand and rest. On the 3rd leaf, I find a sabre wedged point first into the leaf. After some distant assurances that there appears to be magic, and no evil here, I go ahead and pick it up. A symbol on it reminds me of something Russian-ish, possibly Polish or other slavic. I stow it and keep going on up.

On the fifth leaf, I come across a spiked body. Ahah! After a close examination, the spike’s point is protruding up through the heart space. Clearly stabbed from behind, or fell onto a conveniently-placed spike. Kell joins me and we check the body. After assuring ourselves we can move the body without dislodging the spike, we lower him down. Then Kell and I ascend up to the base of the flower, where climbing gets tricky. Kell keeps going up, and reports a “pearl” nestled in the middle of the rose. She pulls the pearl out and we work our way back down to the base of the stem.

Milo checks the body. Neither the spike nor the body currently register as evil. The spike appears to be obsidian, a few inches across and 18" long. After a bit of debate about procedure, Kell returns the pearl back to the flower for safekeeping while we deal with Davenar. I show Milo the saber, and he recognizes the markings as belonging to the Bodarco family (previously seen in Anapold).

We prepare carefully, including Milo consecrating the immediate area around Mr. piked, and have Kell pull out the Spike. Immediately, the body starts “reinflating” and starts coming back to life. We hit him with everything we have, from fire to sharp pointy things. Moments later, he rises from a prone position to an upright standing position, hitting us with some kind of lightning, and demanding our treacherous names! Another few trades of everything we have and getting lightning back, Milo finally gets a powerful whammy of goodness off. Mr. Spiked bursts into a flock of crows that start flying off and dissolve into ashes and vanish.

We regroup, with Kell. Milo places the Spike into his ever-handy backpack. The Spike falls out the bottom of the bag and Kell snatches it right before it hits the ground. The hole in the backpack vanishes shortly after the Spike finishes exiting. Mery takes custody of the Spike.

We turn our attention to the pearl. Kell places the pearl within Milo’s consecrated area and a give it a big whack with my mace. Enough to crack the pearl, and it explodes into bits shortly afterwards. A euphoric moment later, a red glow spreads and then fades.

We spend the rest of the day getting back out of the Ziggurat and back to our campsite from the night before. The next morning, we each, independently, discover a form of rash somewhere on our bodies. Milo checks us out and reports that there isn’t much more we can do, at least while still out in the field.

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Arrival, the Real Dawn City
For I would climb ten thousand steps... to fall down at the top.

In the daylight, a number of us climb up to a higher vantage. We can see a variety of stone structure jutting out of the jungle canopy for quite a ways around. Once we get organized, I use the Wayfinder to get a bearing on the Black Spike, which leads us to the Southwest.

We learn quickly that this is a really old old place. The sheer size of some of the structures make travel deceptively longer. We clamber over hidden rocks, duck under jungle leaves, and slowly work our way along.

Our peaceful journey is wantonly interrupted by two large rocks slamming into Tomas and Jarod. We prepare to respond, but whatever tossed them our way stayed out of sight and faded away rather than following up the attack. After a bit of looking cautiously around, we resume our trek.

A bit later, more rocks, same targets plus Mery. This time, we narrow down the source to be up in the trees. Once again, we resume trekking.

A while later, Garrick shoots some arrows at some leaves. On instinct I dive for cover. The rest are somewhat slower, and Mery gets tagged with a rock. We observe enough to hear something moving away through the canopy. Milo quickly heals Mery. A bit later, Tomas catches sight of a moss-colored Gorilla. A bit later, Mery and I almost walk over a sharp precipice overseeing a long drop.

We look across a fairly well-defined scoop (meteor crater) out of he land, about a mile across. Within the crater, there is no jungle, and there is a dense packing of Giant structures. In the middle, is a Ziggurat. The crater is about 300’ down, and the Ziggurat pokes above the level of the crater probably another 100’. Berringer starts making frantic notes and quick sketches. There are 12 obvious routes down from around the edges into the city.

We head down to the right where a series of what appear to be really low Giant stairs (each 3-4’ high) that proceed down/around the crater edge. By the time we’re even halfway down, the limited breeze up top can no longer be felt, and the stones start serving as a very large oven. Fortunately, Milo whips out a wand of some kind (Endure Elements) that makes us immediately comfortable in site of the heat.

In spite of the great age and obvious disrepair of much of the stone walkways and buildings, there is not vegetation growing outside of sporadic and structured plots of land. Nothing popping up in the cracks of the walk-stones. The streets feel immensely wide, and probably only 2-3 Giants wide (60’) at our best guess. We’re a bit disturbed by the quiet after the cacophony of the jungle.

We reach the Ziggurat in the middle. Tomas has estimated the city has been abandoned for 30,000 years, and the Ziggurat is “only” about 10-12,000 year old. How do people figure this out? The stone blocks here are noticeably different, younger, than the rest of the city. A terrifyingly large number of stairs lead up the edges of the Ziggurat. Rather than tackle this immediately, we set up a camp nearby and wander the local parts of the city until dark.

After nightfall, after a while of checking and re-checking, Kell and Tomas identify a light emanating from the the top of the Ziggurat. Not a regular or consistently sustained light. While keeping a wary eye out, we ignore it and head into slumberland.

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Yet Another Giant Snake
Let's not make this a habit

Professor __________:

It is my very great pleasure to inform you that I may be able to continue to provide some information to you regarding your study of ophidiae. I encountered a startlingly sizable specimen of jungle snake recently, and can hopefully provide information that is of use to you.

Accompanying this letter, please find a set of measurements for the aforementioned viper. And yes, they are fairly accurate, to within a few centimeters. Also enclosed are skin and fang samples.

I can attest to the poisonous nature of the creature, and recommend extensive protective and recuperative resources be available if attempting to deal with a live specimen. Luckily, there was no lost boot this time.

Your most humble servant,
Sir Tomas Kosic

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Arrival, Outskirts of the Dawn City?
Snakes drop down from trees?

(14 Dec 1911) We begin our journey upriver. This river is immense at the outlet. Berringer, Tomas, and I split across the three boats and serve as the main rowers. We periodically take arrow fire from one shore or another. Not very accurate or sustained, probably not even totally ill-intended. Casual-like shooting. We don’t get very far the first day, and our ashore overnight is uneventful.

Over the next few days, we take less fire and as we get acclimated and accustomed to boating upriver, we start making some consistent progress. We spot some ruins peeking over some of the foliage halfway through the second day that are new to Berringer, as we’ve gone farther than they’ve had opportunity to explore. Despite Mery’s pleas, we keep on going. On the third day, we cross through a really shallow part of the river, smooth-stoned bottom, that we surmise must have been the remnants of a large bridge, now collapsed into the river. Mery is surprisingly successful at fishing! Milo keeps us healthy, generating clean water and

On the 22nd, we reach what we hope is the tributary branch that will get us close to the Dawn City. Another day of travel leads to seeing more signs of ruins, with quickly increasing density. We arrive late, so don’t have all that much time to look around. What we do see is immense. Definitely the remnants of a large city.

That night we’re woken abruptly during Jarod’s watch to the sounds of fighting. Jarod is engaged in a serious fight with a freakishly large snake. After a fairy quick battle, we dispatched the snake, which had apparently dropped down from a tree. Jarod was bitten a few times, and Milo quickly took care of that. We dragged the corpse away after Berringer grabbed some samples of venom, scales, and other parts. Getting back to sleep wasn’t easy.

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Explorers Ho!
Why is it always curses?

The 10-day voyage from Plymouth to Xendrick is not the most comfortable. The Swift Wind is fairly small, and we are cramped. Mery badgers Milo incessantly trying to learn how being poisoned feels, how to treat it, and a whole slew of topics I didn’t bother to remember. I work on learning Polish with Twaine, Makepeace, and Milo.

After far too long just watching mostly-featureless ocean, we finally sight land (10 December 1911). And on that land some kind of clearly ancient and abandoned city of some kind. This turns out to be our destination, as we anchor and start offloading supplies. After some observation, we realize the scale of the city is larger than we first observed — this is a Giant city (Stormreach)! On shore, we’re greeted by the expeditions camp supervisor, Benjamin Cleary, and taken into their camp. Horses, oxen, goats, animals, many people, tents, supplies. Clearly this is a larger and longer-established organization that we first suspected.

The air is incredibly hot and humid, like walking through a dwarven sauna. The City is surrounded by an incredibly tall and dense wall of green foliage. The worksmanship of the buildings is incredible. Hand-joined, minimal-gapped, still-whole buildings and walls of assembled stones. Did I mention this place was hot? The camp team has a sand table, showing what looks to be about a roughly five mile range around the city on the river delta. Benjamin reports that the locals are some kind of Elves, a variety of humans (one serves as a scout/guide for the expedition). Rayna Ingle is the cook and quartermaster. Garrick promptly disappears into the jungle/forest with the guide, ShoSho. Jacob Rand is the guard captain, leading a group of about 10 guards that rotate through a bunch of assignments. Clancy is the blacksmith and resident animal wrangler.

Makepeace initiates a planning session with us. Their original plan on this expedition was to continue the excavation, and spend a week at an up-river settlement. They also mention the Curse(!), that of the ever-changing land. Two groups leaving from the same place, heading in the same direction, at slightly different times will not end up in the same places. Mery mentions that this sounds just like the Romanian Mists. The local humans appear less affected by the Curse.

In reviewing our map with Twaine, we learn that our map is magical, likley of European origin, and inked by a Slavic-trained artist, possibly Russian. The map may be an artifact from one of the prior expeditions from Europe (some little-documented Russian ones, a few unsuccessful French ones), of a long time ago.

The local Elves are called Drow. There are signs they may have been, post-Giants, a major civilization of their own. No longer.

The Swift Wind is loaded up with things to be returned to England. We notice coins, ore, gems, and artifacts heading out to the ship. A few days after we arrived, the Swift Wind heads off to sea.

We head inland on the 14th. Berringer is the only Explorer that chooses to come along with us, and Jared decides to stay at camp and try his hand at archeology. We take three boats, giving us enough room to cart supplies and have a spare hull for emergencies.

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Speeding Into Dangerous Lands
Barging into the expedition

While we’re in Montenegro, Mery visits her Mother to get an update on the investigation into Duke Synarco. Learns that the Duke ensured his son was not on the front lines, the Duke is a member of several very private gentlemen’s clubs, and is certainly not entirely above board.

Garrick arrives in Montenegro with our horses, stables them, and after checking in with Porter, makes his way ring-ward to join us in London.

Tomas attends dinner at the Explorer’s Society. Sir Berringer introduces Tomas to several people: Lady Harriet Makepeace, Renfield Smith, Percival Oliver Twain (linguist), Sir Clyve Meriweather (explorer). The dinner is fairly formal with multiple courses and highly varied conversation. Makepeace clearly doesn’t trust Tomas and probes for details, trying to find out how we know about their expedition. Tomas adroitly parries the probes and reveals little. They do reveal they have made several prior expeditions to Xendrick, and have not gone very far. Lady Makepeace leaves without any commitments, telling Tomas she has to think about this (and Renfield goes with her). The rest are more accepting of Tomas’ tale.

Milo establishes a daily ritual to spend time first at the hospital, and later at the pub, relaxing and catching up reading the Journal.

London turns out to be a fairly busy and cosmopolitan sort of city, and we spend some time exploring.

A bit later, Tomas receives a letter welcoming us to the expedition. Tomas sets up a dinner party for us to host the expedition and have a bit of a meet-and-greet. I extract a promise to have something real to drink, and food with flavor, to which he suggests some delectable called haggis. Prior to the party, Garrick and I are guided away from wearing our uniforms, in the interests of appearing less official. Meriweather seems to recognize Garrick and I, at least by martial reputation. I find the “party” somewhat boring until I notice Milo pulling out a rather nice bottle of Dwarven Whiskey. With some quick hand signals to Kell, she ensures we are supplied appropriately.

Towards the end, we settle into chairs, sip brandy, and start discussing the expedition. They ask us to meet on the 1st at the Explorer’s Society, before daybreak, ready to go. We extract a few details from them, and they commit to ensuring we’ll be fed. We arrange to become members of the society, buying in for full shares (2kgp each). Once we settle the contract, they share more details.

We’ll be headed for a port of call they have named Stormreach. We’ll pick up some helpers there. When we see their map, we are able to quickly identify where we need to go. We show them our map and suggest that we head to where we hope to find the Dawn City. We are warned of natives using poison-tipped weapons (dark elves), scorpion-men (half man, half scorpion), and demon-worshipping gorillas. And evidence of dinosaurs. Sounds exciting! We’ll be gone for 2-3 months. They don’t want to tell us how we’ll get there, so I jump in with our awareness of the elemental galleys. Makepeace is amused, though the rest are astonished that we know. The next day is spent finalizing the contracts, paying our shares, and shopping. I carve out some time to send off a few letters to Porter, the Queen, and my family.

We grab our supplies and meet at the Explorer’s Society on the 1st. They take us into the basement where there is a circle. Somewhat similar to the Lantern Rings, made quite differently, and much larger. The Society’s teleporter comes in, casts a spell, and presto magico we are in a building in Plymouth. We load onto a slightly odd-lookng ship called the Swift Wind, configured with excess outriggers or pylons. We head out to sea propelled by a ring of water (amidships and in liue of a mast so we’re kind of continuously moving through the middle of the ring). No sails, and we move rather fast.

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