Monday, August 26, 2013
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Somewhere west of the Black Kingdoms a small fleet of three slave ships runs headlong into a raging storm. The ships are dashed against the rocks and smashed to pieces throwing; slaves, slavers, and sailors alike into the rolling ocean waters. Dozens drown in the torrent but a lucky few are washed to shore somehow alive after their ordeal.
Heimdall shook his head hoping that his vision would clear up as he lay in the sand on some sort of beach. It was hot and bright. The sun was high overhead. Must have been near mid day or a little after. He was not sure how long he had been laying on that beach and wherever he was it was a long way from his home in Asgard. As he reached up to rub his head he pulled his hand back in disgust almost forgetting that the slave traders in the Barachan Islands had shaved off his long blond AEsir locks to shame him and his current owners had kept up the practice. It was all coming back to him now. Captured some months ago in a border skirmish with the Vanir he was then sold into slavery in Aquilonia. He then was taken by ship to the Barachan Islands and sold again to a large dark skinned slaver named Balooka. After spending weeks as a galley oarsman his ship sank during the storm. But how long had he been unconscious and what was that chanting noise? A woman's voice. The language sounded familiar. Nemedian? No Aqilonian and in a quite polished accent! Perhaps he could communicate with her. He had picked up some Aquilonian in the slave markets. Slowly he pulled himself up and looked up the beach in the direction of the chanting. He saw a woman there, clearly a slave, wearing only the scant clothing that the slavers allowed her. She was pale and soft like most Aquilonian women but her hair was long, straight, and black as a Zamoran princess's. What was she doing kneeling over that dead slaver? Praying.... Praying to Mitra! Praying over the corpse of a slaver dog. Well whoever she was it was time to find out.
Alenna closed the eyes of the dead slaver and finished her prayer of deliverance. She scolded herself for taking the dagger from the dead mans belt. She knew stealing was a sin. Even stealing from the dead but she prayed Mitra in his infinite wisdom would understand and forgive her. She wondered how she had ended up in this gods forsaken place. Not but a few short months ago she had been in training to become a full priestess of Mitra in Tarantia where King Conan the Cimmerian ruled. She had been out running errands for one of the temples priest and the next thing she remembered she was standing in a slave market in the old city docks stripped of her vestments. Her head had been swimming from being drugged she guessed but she remembered being sold to a pirate. After that her memory was fuzzy but there was another slave market in a strange ramshackle town. There she was sold to a big black man she thought was called Balooka. They had been at sea for several days. There was a storm then she awoke on this beach next to the body of a slaver from the ship she was on. She caught something out of the corner of her right eye. She looked over her shoulder and saw a large wooden crate and two barrels had washed up on the beach. Perhaps she could find some food or at least clothing. She looked down at her nearly naked body covered only by some scraps of leather. She felt ashamed. The clergy of Mitra were to be chaste and above the carnal passions of the lay people. Then she noticed a large shadow looming over her. "Why you pray for that slaver dog?" came a thickly accented male voice. She looked up and saw a large well built bald man with a heavy looking tree branch in his hand standing over her. Her first instinct was to run but she froze instead. The man was wearing a dirty fur loin cloth and nothing else and he looked like a galley slave. He probably was. She started to reply "Everyone deserves....". "No matter!" he said. "We need food and sleep place. A camp". She pointed down the beach at the crate and barrels. "There! We might find something there". Slowly she got to her feet and started to walk towards the large crate. The stranger followed.
As the two slaves approached the crate and barrels the man pointed at a symbol on the crate. "Balooka" he said. Suddenly from behind the crates and barrels four large rats sprang out and attacked them. Instinctively the AEsir took a hasty step back and just as quickly brought his crude club down on one of the rodent's head dashing the creatures brains out. The priestess let out a short surprised yelp and thrust her dagger blindly towards one of the rodents impaling it through the rib cage as it lunged at her. The creature writhed on the ground squealing a high pitched death cry. Deftly adjusting his footing the man swung his weapon again. This time in a low underhand arc that caught another rat under the chin shattering the jaw and breaking the creatures neck. The final rat turned to run. The northman brought his club down to kill it as it fled but he missed and only succeeded in throwing up a cloud of sand.
For a few moments the two slaves stood there breathing heavily and looking about for more threats. When they realized they were not in immediate danger the man pointed at the woman's dagger. "Give!" was all he said. Carefully the woman held the dagger out to the man. He took it and began to work the blade under the lip of the crate trying to pry the top side loose. After he has loosened the rusted nails enough to get fingers underneath the two lifted the top free.
There was no treasure nor food nor clothing. The crate contained a kind of portable kitchen. The kind that might be used by Aquilonian legionnaires on the march. There were two small tables designed so that they may be broken down and stored flat for travel. A few cast bronze pots. Some wrought iron skillets and a small wrought iron brazier suspended on chains from an iron tripod. The man smiled broadly as he pulled a heavy woodsman's ax and four hatchets from the crate. "Good!" he said. "Ah!" the man exclaimed as he reached into the crate again lifting out an Aquilonian gladius. The weapon looked to be a simple soldiers model. The words LEGIO X were engraved on the top of the scabbard. The sword belt was simple brown leather with bronze tacks spaced a palms width apart and clasp with a simple iron buckle. "You." the man said as he held it out towards the woman. She took the weapon with a bemused smile but then buckled the belt in place firmly about her hips. The crate also contained a sturdy set of cooking knives and utensils and a small box of simple spices.
The man then turned and pulled the barrels upright out of the sand. Using one of the hatchets this time he pried the lid off the first one. It was filled to the top with hard tack. "Food!" he said. Then doing the same to the other barrel they quickly discovered it was filled with salted Herring. "Good Food!" the man said again. The woman smiled weakly clearly not impressed.
Suddenly the man slapped his hand down forcefully on the empty crate. The woman jumped back startled. The man smiled and pointed to a small hillock on the land edge of the beach. "Make house. Beach bad!" he said. "Yes we certainly don't want to be caught down here when the tide comes in." the woman replied.
First they moved the contents of the crate up to the flat top of the hillock. Then with some effort they pushed the crate to the top as well and laid it on a side so that they could use it as an open shelter.
They then went back for the barrels but as they were starting to push them back up the hill the woman reached out and grabbed the man's forearm. "Wait I hear voices!" she said in a low voice. Then the man heard them to. A foreign but all to familiar language. "Slaver dogs!" the man growled. "Hide!" the man pointed up the hill at the crate. They ran up the hill and both hid behind the large crate. They saw the men coming up the beach from the north. Each man wore the black robes with red sashes of the slaver crew. They were also adorned with black turbans that some of them had draped across their face. Still others wore theirs loose showing their full black beards. There were five of them armed with a short scimitar in one hand and a flail in the other.
The party of slavers stopped at the bloody rat corpses. One began pointing at the barefoot tracks. He then started to argue with another man. In moments they all seemed to be arguing with each other ignoring their surroundings.
The northman turned to his companion and made a pushing gesture towards the back of the crate. She nodded. Together they heaved with all their strength and the heavy crate toppled down the small hill directly into the party of arguing slavers. Two of the slavers in the path of the tumbling crate narrowly avoided being crushed by jumping to each side but the slaver standing in the middle of the group was not so lucky. The surprised man took the crate squarely in the face and went down hard under the weight of the thing. He did not get back up.
The next moment the battle was joined! The slavers rushed up the slope of the small hill. The AEsir hurled a hatchet at one of them but the poorly balanced tool flew wide of target and landed harmlessly in the sand below. The slavers attempted to push their way to the top of the hill but the slaves were not having it. The northman made a wide sweep with his ax that clearly missed the first slaver to make it to the top of the hill. Thinking he had a clear shot the slaver pulled his scimitar back high over his left shoulder for a back handed slash grinning wildly. The miss had been a feint however and before the slaver could deliver his blow the AEsir pulled back reversing his swing and smashing the back of his ax into the mans head. With a sickening wet thud the right side of the man's skull caved in and he rolled backwards down the hill to his death.
The woman slashed and parried madly as two of the slavers pressed her. She gave ground and the attacker on her right made a lunging slash for her head. Instinctively she dropped to one knee with a horizontal slash. The slaver cried out clutching his mid section in a vain attempt to hold his guts in as he fell. For a moment the woman froze at the sight and the slaver on her left lunged. She barely managed to dodge as the blade cut a deep scratch across her left shoulder. Now it was the slavers turn to be off balance. She pulled herself to her feet quickly holding her gladius point down with both hands above her head. Before the slaver could move she sunk the blade into the man's chest up to the hilt with a loud scream.
The final slaver shocked by the sight lowered his guard just enough for the northman to catch him with the haft of his ax. Dazed the slaver stumbled around for a moment. The AEsir lifted his ax high but did not deliver the blow. Instead he smiled a broad mad smile and waited until the slaver looked up. As the two men's eyes met he brought his ax down hard and cut the slaver from the shoulder to the middle of his torso in a single blow. Without making a sound the slaver fell to the ground. The woman fell to her knees exhausted and shaking.
"You fight good." the northman said. She did not reply.
After resting for what seemed like hours the man started cutting vegetation from the jungle to cover their makeshift campsite. Without saying anything the woman began to help. They then gathered up the weapons from the slavers. The woman took one of the slavers robes and sashes to cover her near nakedness. They each found a suitable pair of boots as well. One of the slavers had a large full water skin. At least they could prepare a meal without having to boil sea water down first.
Looking up they noticed the sun had barely moved. It was still early in the afternoon. Not nearly as late as they imagined. They also noticed something else. Rising out of the foliage was a stone tower that was actually quite close to their camp. Looking closer they could see perhaps a couple other buildings at the tower's base. "A tower! We should have a look." the woman exclaimed. "No!" the man said. "We eat. We sleep. Then we look in morning". "I suppose you are right. It does look a bit ominous and old. This island looks too small for a village. I wonder if it is some kind of lighthouse." the woman said. The man only shrugged and held out one of the bronze cook pots towards her. "Oh no you do not want me to cook!" she said. "Not if you want to be able to eat anything". The man grumbled something in his native tongue then stomped up the hill to make a fire. They sat around the fire eating over cooked and over salted rat meat, dried fish, and hard tack. The food was barely edible but for months they had both had only gruel and stale bread and so they ate without complaint.
Heimdall sat near the fire as night fell. His companion had barely finished her supper before she passed out on a bed of ferns she had made inside their makeshift shelter. She looked at peace breathing there quietly. Pretty, for a soft southern woman. But she wasn't that soft. She had killed two men today and he thought most likely that was a new and unwelcome experience for her. He had seen more than a few men freeze up after their first kill as well and not snap out of it so quickly.
The jungle around him was full of strange noises. The sound of insects was almost unbearably loud. Strange birds cried out a myriad of different calls and there was some kind of creature howling an awful and unnatural howl. He had heard wolves howling while camping on the tundra in Asgard. When he was young it filled him with fear but as he got older he got used to is. It had even become a comforting sound. How he wished it was wolves howling tonight instead of those wretched beast. "Ymir you bloody bastard. What have you gotten this northman into?" he thought to himself. He could feel himself drifting. As much as he hated to admit it he was going to have to wake the woman for her turn at guard duty.
Alenna paced about the edge of the camp. She should feel something after killing those men. Remorse, guilt, sadness, something at least. Instead she felt nothing. Nothing she thought she should be feeling anyway. Killing was not the way of Mitra's clergy. Of course she was only training to be a priestess of Mitra. She had been abducted before she had finished her training by those bastard slavers! Damn them and all their kin! Damn their mothers and their fathers and everyone else they knew! No she was feeling something. Anger! She was angry. Angry at the slavers for taking her. Angry at the priest of Mitra for not protecting their flock. Angry at the ignorant barbarian she was stuck on this island with. Angry at Mitra! Yes if he was any kind of loving god how could he allow a devoted follower like her to fall to a fate such as this? She was angry beyond all reason. Then, quietly, she started to cry.
"We need wood for fire" she heard the man say. Gods it was already daylight. How long had she been setting there crying?
Without a word the man stood up and walked into the jungle picking up branches as he went. After he had been gone a little while she heard something. Voices again! Voices speaking the language of the slavers. Quietly she crept to the edge of the camp and looked out towards the beach. About a hundred feet from the shore she saw a large raft with a makeshift sail. Crewing the raft were about eight slavers and she saw others among them. Three slaves were tied up and sitting on the deck of the makeshift craft. "They could spot me at any time! What was that incantation brother Brennus taught me? Oh yes!" Alenna began to chant an incantation and make practiced somatic gestures with her hands. "Did it work?" she wondered. If it did she would not be able to tell being that she was inside the spells area of effect. The slaver raft passed the small island by and then turned to the north west.
Heimdall had gathered all the dry wood he could carry. Turning back towards camp he was back at the campsite in minutes. Or at lest he thought he was back. Had he gone the wrong way? The camp should be just ahead on that small hill in front of him. He couldn't see it. Or at least he wasn't sure what he was looking at. "Hey!" he called out. "Hey woman! Hey!". "Over here!" he heard her call out. "Where?" he answered. "Walk straight ahead." she said. And so he did and within in moments there was the camp right ahead of him where he left it where he couldn't see it before. Heimdall glared at the woman. "Evil magic" he said in Aquilonian. "No. Not this kind." she said. "This is of Mitra!" she explained.
He thought for a moment. Perhaps it was just a some kind of trick. He as seen the Gothi of his clan preform tricks that would fool the eye that they ascribed to Ymir. Perhaps the priest of Mitra had similar tricks. Before he could finish his thought the woman pointed out towards the water and said "I saw a raft full of slavers out there with some captured slaves. They passed close to the island but I do not think they saw us. They turned north west towards that island over there". Heimdall shrugged. It seemed to him that perhaps more of the slavers had survived that storm than he hoped.
"Come we look at tower" he said and then turned and walked towards the ruins.
As they got close to the tower they saw two other buildings. One was a ruined building that looked like some kind of house. The other was a smaller building more in tact. From here the tower did look like a light house. It was clearly on the tallest hill and could easily overlook the entire island. The top of the tower was open on all sides and roofed. A signal fire could be easily seen atop it for miles if it was in use. As they approached it didn't take an expert tracker to see several large rat track trails running in every direction through the soft loam of the jungle floor. The two companions looked at each other and drew their weapons as a half dozen rats charged out of the foliage. The fight was brutal but short. After they killed the last rat they felt safe for a moment but suddenly they heard a strange sound coming from the tower doorway. It sounded like a loud chattering as squeaking.
Suddenly a giant mutated rat jumped through the tower opening and bolted towards the slaves. The thing was hideous. Twisted and covered with boils the creatures eyes glowed with a faint green light. The two slaves fought desperately against the frenzied creature. At one point the man lost the grip on his ax and it went flying into the under growth. Quickly he drew a scimitar he had taken from the slavers just in time to parry a vicious bite attack. The woman rained blows down on the beast but the creature's thick pelt turned her blows aside. The creature lunged knocking the woman to the ground. The beast reared back to pounce but with a defiant roar the northman buried his scimitar in the creature's skull. The woman then stabbed the mutant in the chest. As it died the unnatural glow faded from they creature's eyes.
As they approached the entrance to the tower they could smell the strong stench of decay. Cautiously they moved towards the doorway. The entry way to the tower was a good seven feet off the ground. Clearly at one time there had been some wooden stairs in place that had long since rotted away. "Lift me." the woman said. The AEsir boosted the woman up so that she could see inside the doorway. "It is dark. I can not see anything but the stench is awful. I need light. Set me down." The man set the woman down. She then picked up a rock and staring at it intently she spoke a short incantation. The rock began to glow with a white light. "Magic!" the man said. "A trick" the woman replied. "Now boost me up again and I will throw this inside". The man lifted the woman again and she threw the stone into the dark tower. "There are skeletons everywhere and a few rotting corpses. Even some men. Pirates by the look of their equipment. And some other creatures. I think they are called monkeys. But it is strange. They are dressed as men and have weapons even but they do now posses the intelligence of men so I don't know how they came about their clothing and weapons. Help me inside so I can take a closer look". "No I go!" said the man. "Suit yourself" replied the woman.
Heimdall set the woman down then jumped up and grabbed the lower lip of the doorway. Pulling himself up and over the threshold he dropped carefully to the floor of the tower. As the woman had said the place was littered with bones and corpses of every sort. The wooden floors and stairs of the tower had long ago rotted away and he could see straight to the top of the tower. He looked over the corpses of the pirates. Most of their equipment was uselessly decayed but he found a good bronze round shield and a serviceable battle ax. He also found the "monkey" bodies. They puzzled him. As small as a child but with tails with hands like a man and feet like their hands. They wore strange clothing and rotten leather armor. Each carried a small shield and a short sword. Two of them wore strange amulets around their necks with odd writing and a green stone. They looked to be made of gold but he dare not touch them. The one who had no amulet had some gold jewelry which he took and a superior sword and shield. He also took these which he figured the woman could use. In a moldy leather bag he found some good rope and a grappling hook. He thought he might be able to use them to get to the top of the tower. As the stones light began to fade he hauled himself and his loot back out through the doorway.
After making several attempts the man finally got the grappling hook to hold fast to the top of the tower. With some effort he managed to climb the rope until he was to the top. After that he made a simple sling and helped the woman reach the top of the tower as well.
Heimdall could see for miles from the top of the tower. To the north a large island chain spread out and turned gently to the north and west. To the south there were only a very few small islands and rocks then open ocean. He could see quite a bit of smoke rising from the island directly to the northwest and he thought he could see some coming from several of the smaller islands to the north as well. He didn't know if the fires were from potential allies or enemies. He knew some of the slavers had survived and almost certainly other slaves had as well. Perhaps he would find out soon. For now however he was content to have survived the last two days.
Alenna looked down at the jungle below the tower. She could see this island was not large. She could also see that there were many larger island to the north. One very large one at least that looked to have an active volcano. She shuttered for a moment trying to take in the events of the last two days. She had been thrown into the raging ocean and somehow had made it to shore alive. She had fought desperately against men and beast. She had even killed. She had never though herself capable of such a thing. In short she had survived thanks in no small part to her barbaric companion. She didn't even know his name. It didn't seem important. They had not had time for formal introductions. They had only had time to survive on this Forgotten Islands.
Notes: Wow that turned into a bit of a novel. I figured that since this was a game report for and role playing game that it should include more story than a war game. Anyway this was the first episode of my Hyborian based Savage Worlds campaign. Of course the first arc of the campaign will involve the player characters trying to survive and eventually escape from the Forgotten Islands. Along the way they will face many horrors and mysteries as their adventure unfolds. This will be an irregular campaign but at the moment I hope to run at least one segment a month.