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Fiction Ten Little Treasure Hunters

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Warden, Jul 14, 2016.

  1. Warden
    Skar-Veteran

    Warden Well-Known Member

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    Since I don't have an idea for the short story contest... time to post this one instead.

    [​IMG]

    In recent years, one of the few campaigns the slann mage-priest Jatzom Kuh of Mutal actively took part in was the destruction of the warm-blood colonial city of Nabar. While he slumbered and studied the Great Calendar, a band of ten treasure hunters from the nearby Bretonnian colony of Jeruga robbed the sacred temple of Kopan. Observed by hidden cohorts of chameleon skinks, the intruders were seen to take a trivial amount of gold and treasure (to the Lizardmen) from the ruins, but more importantly they stole one of the sacred golden plaques of the Old Ones residing in the ruins. Jatzom Kuh, when roused by his skink attendants, immediately ordered the death of the interlopers and return of the plaque. Despite the casualties they suffered, some of the thieves managed to escape all the way back to the colony and to the trading city of Nabar, where they attempted to sell off most of their merchandise. They were never given the chance to escape however, as Jatzom Kuh commanded the city’s destruction to prevent the plaque from being lost forever, and cast a great spell causing a meteor to fall from the sky and destroy the city. Immediately the Lizardmen swept over the ruins, killing the surviving temple-robbers and recapturing the lost plaque. The Jade Host then retreated, leaving the ruined colonial city to its fate...

    ---excerpt from the Lore of the Lost City of Mutal
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2016
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  2. Warden
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    Warden Well-Known Member

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    Prologue

    Zul-K’an, the High Skink Priest of Mutal, was troubled. It was only a few more days until the Uayeb, those five nameless days of the Calendar cycle that occurred each year. In ages past the skink priests of Mutal had heralded these nameless days as blessings from the Old Ones, days to renew their efforts and celebrate their achievements. But with each passing cycle of the Long Count, these five unlucky days had heralded nothing but ruin and disaster for the followers of the Great Plan.

    Several years ago the course of the great river Obscumacinta changed upon itself, washing away almost a quarter of one of the outlying city districts. A few years before that, the crops in the western basin had all failed, withering away due to some unforeseen ailment. Only last year the city was beset upon by another calamity: one of the carnosaur brood in training, normally held under tight control by the skinks of the Beast Caste, had escaped its guarded stable. The carnosaur slaughtered almost the entire work-crew of a nearby temple project before it was put down. The damage alone would cost the Builder Caste at least another three years’ worth of rebuilding.

    Many of the priests hoped that this year, somehow, things would be different.

    Zul-K’an knew better, sitting on his palanquin throne looking out over the city, across the great plaza towards the temples housing the slumbering Slann and the foreboding rainforest canopy beyond them. With great effort he turned his attention back to the glyph-covered codices of his studies, knowing for certain that there would be still more dark times ahead.
     
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  3. Warden
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    Warden Well-Known Member

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    Chapter 1: The Squire

    Oliver was considered a very lucky peasant. At the young at of six he was given by his parents to his lord’s household to work as a page. A few years later he was promoted to cup bearer. And a few years after that he was given as a squire to one of his lord’s sons, to care for his horse, clean his armor, and assist him in all his daring exploits.

    That might sound like an amazing life for any lowly Bretonnian peasant, even one in the New World colony of Jeruga, but at the moment Oliver did not feel so lucky. For one thing it was raining, but that was nothing new because it rained almost every day in this part of the world. The main reason for Oliver’s current misfortune was his master, Sir Rupert. His master lay at his feet, with his back against the rear wall of the Drunken Frog tavern on the outskirts of town, and sitting in a puddle of his own fluids, completely intoxicated.

    This had become a daily routine ever since Sir Rupert of House Gaunt had been thrown out of his father’s castle. Despite his status as heir to his father, Lord Guy of House Gaunt, Sir Rupert had always been a headstrong and insubordinate son, always more interested in hunting and drinking than in running the family house. Tired of disciplining his insubordinate son, Lord Guy disowned him after Sir Rupert had killed the son of a minor noble during a drunken rampage. Forcing his son to take the vow of the Grail Quest to repent for his actions, Lord Guy cast him out onto the muddy streets along with a few coins, his armor, his sword, and his hapless squire. They weren’t even allowed to take along a horse.

    Since then Oliver trailed along behind his master, moving from one tavern to another through all the low-life taverns the New World had to offer. Sir Rupert, always the merrymaker, had a strong propensity to drink more than he should; now that he was down on his luck he had spent his way through his entire “fortune” in less than a month. The two of them had already been kicked out of the last tiny peasant hovel-town, regardless of the the respect that a Knight of the Grail Quest normally would receive. Their money finally spent, and his master drunk, dirty, and passed out, Oliver contemplated leaving his master and finding his own “fortune” elsewhere.

    Turning around, Oliver was startled to find himself facing four armed men standing directly behind him. He hadn’t heard them approach on account of the drizzling rain, but fearing the worst he immediately pulled out his dagger. Oliver didn’t fool himself into thinking he could possibly overcome four armed bandits by himself, but at least he could go down valiantly defending his knightly lord before his courage deserted him entirely.

    “Put down the blade son, we don’t mean any harm to you.”

    One of the four spoke up, gesturing Oliver to back down. Oliver couldn’t see him clearly, but the figure sounded like an Empire man, probably a Reiklander. Oliver may have been only a peasant, but he was observant, and had seen and heard a lot of different kinds of people while serving in his Lord’s household.

    “The little bastard looks scared to death” the figure to the Reiklander’s left declared. Oliver reckoned him to be an Estalian on account of his flowing accent. This one was leaning casually against a long spear, with a wide brimmed and be-feathered hat, and looked like he had a crossbow on his back.

    “Yes he does, and they are exactly what we need. Look at the knight’s shield, it has the fleur-de-lys device and grail symbol.”

    “Definitely a Questing Knight, but one of the sloppiest I have ever seen. That shield is in pitiful condition.” One of the other figures spoke up gruffly. He was much shorter than the other three by almost a full head, but was just as broad, and judging by the large axe he held under his arm was just as deadly. Oliver’s face reddened in shame, he had not had time recently to clean his master’s armor recently on account of their poverty and his master’s heavy drinking.

    “We waste time. This boy and drunkard are useless to us” the fourth intoned. Oliver did not recognize the accent this time. The speaker sounded irritated and did not have a good command of the language when he spoke.

    “Don’t worry Shen, trust me. These two are exactly what we need.” The Reiklander took a step towards Oliver, hands outstretched in a gesture of peace. From the flickering lights of the tavern Oliver could see him more clearly. He was taller than Oliver, with a thick droopy mustache and big feathered hat. Oliver also took note of the sword and very dangerous set of pistols the man had on his belt.

    “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Konrad Hoffenheim, recently from Swamp Town. To your right is Geraldo de Ahumada, from the Estalian colony of Santa Margritta. The short one is the dwarf Skuddi Garlsson, lately of the good ship Marduk’s Hammer. And the other is Shen Wu, a Cathayan, who comes from very far from here. My companions and I have a proposition for you and your master, the Questing Knight at your feet.”

    “We waste time” hissed the Cathayan again when Oliver refused to lower his knife, along with a few choice words in his native tongue that Oliver didn’t understand, but could certainly recognize their scathing delivery.

    The Reiklander only smiled.

    “It’s ok kid, we really do want your help. Here is something in advance, I am betting you didn’t have much for dinner tonight.”

    He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small purse, which he threw at Oliver’s feet. Oliver’s outstretched arm quivered a little when he realized the bag was filled to the brim with shiny gold coins, more than he had ever seen in his lowly peasant’s lifetime.

    His stomach growled, betraying him.

    The Reiklander’s smile only broadened under his thick moustache. “I see you may be interested after all.”
     
  4. spawning of Bob
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    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    Dude, you could have just said the nameless days of Uayeb are heralded by a conjunction ... Then had Hoffenheim telling Oliver to make a choice for double theme compliance goodness.

    I still approve of the story though :)
     
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  5. Bowser
    Slann

    Bowser Third Spawning

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    Well, we have 6 of the 10, working in conjunction. Probably going to be too long for a short story, but liking it so far!
     
  6. Warden
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    Warden Well-Known Member

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    When you put it like that I DO see how it could fit the theme. :eek:

    Anyway total I have almost 6000 words on paper and nothing clear-cut enough to crop into a short story, without upsetting the mighty Scalenex...

    Lots of fixing still to do on the next chapter before I can post it, hopefully this thread can keep me motivated long enough to finish it!
     
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  7. Warden
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    Warden Well-Known Member

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    Chapter 2: The Drunken Frog

    Upon returning back into the Drunken Frog, Konrad formally introduced Oliver to Aldred von Ehrhard, originally a merchant of Marienburg, and now the proprietor and bartender of the establishment. Aldred, on the receiving end of more of the Konrad’s gold, was now furiously shaking Oliver’s hand and sputtering his welcomes. It was hard for Oliver to believe that this was the same man who had flung both himself and his drunken master out of the tavern only a few hours before.

    “I am so glad you two could join us again! I truly hope there are no hard feelings between us; after all its just business!”

    “Just make sure this Questing Knight has your best room for the evening, inkeep” ordered the Reiklander as he instructed the band to head upstairs. “Time to get upstairs to Mathus to discuss our proposition.”

    The Marienburger was positively beaming as he offered Oliver some mutton (which he accepted ravenously) and politely shuffled Oliver and Konrad towards the stairs with cries of “you mustn’t keep the others waiting!” The Estalian and the dwarf followed behind, weapons on their backs, hoisting the drunken Sir Rupert along with them. The Cathayan, Shen Wu, in filled up the rear in sullen silence.

    Upon reaching the landing Oliver was guided into a dimly lit room while his inebriated master was taken to a washroom to be “sobered up.” Inside was an elderly man, pouring over a map stretched across the wooden table in the center of the room. The man was dressed in an old and patched brown robe, frayed on the edges, and wore a black eyepatch over a scarred and wrinkled face. Oliver saw what looked like his walking stick against the wall, though at the time he failed to notice the human skull perched atop it.

    “Oliver let me introduce you to two more of our merry band.” Konrad motioned to the wizened man leaning over the table. “This is Mathus the Ugly; a not-so-prominent local hedge-wizard and the brains of the operation.”

    Oliver recoiled slightly in fear upon hearing the words “hedge-wizard.” He, like most of his fellow Bretonnian peasants, were naturally afraid of the powers of magic, and the reputations of the hedge wizards who lived outside of the polite society of the Bretonnian colonies did not paint them in a good light. They were abominations, outside the grace of the Lady. Mathus however made no move during his introduction. His one good eye was still fixed on the map at his fingertips. The Reiklander chuckled and pointed behind where Oliver was standing.

    “Also I would like you to meet Squato, originally of the Red Jaguar or Monkey Tribe I think; but since his outcast due to a slight misunderstanding a few seasons ago he is now a member of our party. He will be the guide for the first part of our journey through the jungle.”

    Oliver whirred around and found himself face-to-face with a dark-skinned man with a large head and very small stature, standing on a chair, and leering directly into Oliver’s face with a big, sharpened-tooth grin. Oliver almost fell backwards into the table in fright, having not noticed the pygmy when he entered the room. Oliver had only ever seen one pygmy before. It had been captured during one of the knight errant raids into the jungles and brought before his old lord as a prize. Seeing one this close was certainly a shock: the pygmy’s large head and scrawny arms were covered in streaks of white and red face-paint, and he reeked of blood of questionable origin.

    “Get down from there; you are scaring the poor kid.” The Estalian Geraldo had reentered the room and pushed the pygmy out of Oliver’s face.

    “How is our Questing Knight?” asked Konrad.

    “He is drunk, but Shen Wu and the dwarf are bringing him around. He will join us shortly.”

    “Good.” The hedge-wizard Mathus had looked up from his map. “Bring him here when he can talk. We have much to discuss with him.”

    ************

    A short time later Sir Rupert was escorted into the room, flanked by the dwarf Skuddi and the scowling Cathayan. After being introduced and thanking the assembled audience for the food (and additional wine) he demanded to know more of the venture of which the dwarf had made him aware. Sir Rupert had never been the most pious knight, but was smart enough to realize that whatever deal this motely band was offering was better than lying in the gutter they had been found in.

    Mathus the hedge-wizard explained their plan, showing Sir Rupert the map as he began. Oliver stood nervously behind his master as he listened.

    This little group of travelers were treasure hunters. Ever since the discovery of gold in the New World, treasure hunters from all corners of the Old World and beyond had flocked to the growing shantytowns and colonies appearing on the shores of this new continent. This band of treasure hunters had successfully raided several minor ruins in the past with relatively good results. This was enough to garnish a reputation worth the attention of the colonial authorities further to the north, and as a result they had been forced to make their way south, eventually ending up the Bretonnian colony of Jeruga. It was here that Mathus had discovered the map he now held, and the existence of several large ruins to the west of their present location.

    “Our target is this set of ruins, labelled the ‘temple of Kopan’ by the original Estalian mapmakers” Mathus stated.

    “Looks like as good a place as any to find ourselves some treasure” muttered Skuddi in approval, taking a swig from his tankard. The rest of the treasure hunters clustered around the table murmured in assent.

    “Your plan seems in order…” intoned Sir Rupert, still a tad unbalanced from his recent sobering, but none the less intrigued. “yet I fail to see what part I play in your plans. What use do you have for a knight sworn to uphold the Lady’s Quest?”

    “That’s an easy one” Geraldo answered Sir Rupert’s question, with a wink at Oliver from behind his glass of wine. “We need your name.”

    “Or rather we need your position in this haughty society” corrected the Reiklander. “Your Bretonnian customs are quite rigid. While we as freemen of other Old World countries may move about unmolested and unbothered in most societies, here in Bretonnian Jeruga we fall under scrutiny due to your quaint social structure.”

    He gave poor Oliver a sympathetic look as he continued.

    “Your lords and counts and dukes, which may have been so gracious to let us pass through their borders, lay positively alarming toll fees upon anyone who passes through their territory. Not only that, but if we were to, say, return from a fruitful venture in the jungles near their territory, there is nothing to stop them from taking the lion’s share of our profits.”

    “And all of our gold” muttered Skuddi from the background. The Cathayan muttered a few choice foreign words in agreement.

    “Well-spoken dwarf.” agreed Geraldo, turning towards Sir Rupert, “Your king has decreed that all gold found in his realm is the property of the crown, and he claims the all the jungles along this stretch of coastline.”

    “It doesn’t help that most of us have questionable records either” continued Konrad. “Between former mercenaries, hedge wizards, and other questionable professions, your colony would have no reason to give us any leniency.”

    “So then I must ask you again” intoned the knight, waving his hand in frustration, “what use could I (or my squire… like normal the Bretonnian knight had forgotten about his peasant servant) have to your venture?”

    Konrad smiled. “The answer is simple: your Quest! A knight who has taken the Questing Vow is above all social or political rules. While you currently may not be able to pay your way through all the bilgewater taverns and brothels in Jeruga on account of your present misfortune, you do have the authority to travel wherever you please, freely from the scrutiny of any prying eyes. Because of your station, no border guard, customs official, or even noble for that matter would question your actions or prevent you from travelling from one end of this grand colony to the other in pursuit of your holy Quest!”

    “And of course, your retinue would be completely immune to questions or border customs, as we are your loyal servants in your grand mission of virtue” Geraldo finished.

    With this, the Estalian flourished a large bow before the seated knight, almost in a mockery of the chivalrous customs of the country. The Reiklander continued outlining the plan:

    “You and your squire will provide us a façade with which to travel through the width of the Bretonnian colony to the border, free from interference thanks to your holy Quest. One we reach the border, our resident pygmy pathfinder Squato (helped by Mathus and his map of course) will guide us through the first leg of our journey, through the jungles to the confluence of the rivers labelled on this map, whereupon we will secure for ourselves another guide to escort us the rest of the way. The rest of our little band is well acquainted with the perils of travelling through the jungles of this continent, and our experience will more than guarantee our successful travel from the ruins and back. All the while, our faithful scout Notomori will ensure we are safe from prying eyes while we venture through the jungle itself.”

    Oliver received his second jolt for the evening as he suddenly noticed the man perched in the windowsill. Dressed entirely in black with only his eyes visible and bearing a long, thin sword upon his back, he climbed down from the window without making the slightest of sounds and made a very low, formal bow in front of the questing knight.

    “Notomori hails from almost as far away as our good friend Shen Wu does. He might not talk much, but he will keep us advised of any dangers that may come our way as we travel.”

    Sir Rupert nodded his approval, though Oliver could not help but shiver despite himself. He could not read the symbols on the map, but he clearly could see monstrous beasts drawn upon its edges and all around their target destination. Growing up on the shores of the New World colony, he knew very well the dangerous jungle animals prowling the undergrowth. And that didn’t even include the stories about savage pygmy cannibals, of which there was one now right behind him in this very room, or other vicious jungle tribes and rumored “lizard-men” that lurked within its depths. Glancing back at the pygmy sitting behind him leering with his sharpened teeth, Oliver could only pray his master had enough sense to decline the offer of this obviously deranged group of lunatics.

    However Oliver’s nagging fears were completely lost upon his master who, being a knight of the Quest and no stranger to chivalry, valor, and glorious deeds, immediately agreed to join this quest of fortune seekers.

    “Great news!” exclaimed Konrad. “We shall have two horses brought up. They will serve you until we reach the river landing.”

    “You will not be displeased with our venture, we have made great profits in the past!” assured the Estalian as he prepared to usher them to their room for the night.

    “I thank you for your enterprising offer, and look forward to our business together!” exclaimed Sir Rupert, as he was handed another glass of wine by the dwarf and led out the door to his quarters.

    “Very well” replied Mathus as he folded the map into his robes. “We leave in the morning.”
     
  8. spawning of Bob
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    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    The first casualty of war is all of the hapless warmbloods. - jAeschylus*




    * Or that's what he would have said if the had thought of it.
     
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  9. Bowser
    Slann

    Bowser Third Spawning

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    Even the drunkest of Knights has his uses! Quite the cast of characters so far. I look forward to when the Lizards get them!
     
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  10. Warden
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    Warden Well-Known Member

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    Having a lot of fun finishing this short story! I am attempting to improve on some of the stuff I learned from reading all the great reviews and critiques of the last short story comp, especially the ones for my story. For one thing characters actually have names this time...

    More Lizardmen to come later, for now they are just watching unseen from the shadows... :blackalien:

    First part of chapter 3 is ready!


    Chapter 3: The Jungles of Ceiba

    Oliver was truly astonished the next morning when he realized the events of the night before were not a dream. His first clue was when woke up in the loft of the tavern, and not a pile of horse refuse in the stables. Second he woke up to the incredibly loud snores of the dwarf Skuddi, who was using his ax as a pillow.

    The rest of the morning did little to decrease Oliver’s sense of wonder at his turn of fortune. After eating a feast of a breakfast: a slice of tree-chicken (iguana meat), two eggs, and a piece of bread, he was whisked outside to the stables to attend to his master’s new horses. He was amazed to see two sleek brown riding horses, not as large as a true warhorse, but well bred and kept, and wearing the customary green cloth-barding of a questing knight. One of the two horses was for his master to ride; the other was for the baggage. Obviously the second horse was not for Oliver, because peasants are not allowed to ride horses. Geraldo met Oliver in the stables as he prepared them for the trip, and promised the horses would come in handy on the return from their little venture.

    A short time later the band was assembled in their “questing” attire. Sir Rupert was cleaned up and looking especially dapper in his freshly-scrubbed chainmail and new coif. His shield had also been cleaned. Skuddi had volunteered to do that for Oliver, despite much grumbling as he did so about “shoddy workmanship.”

    Except for the pygmy, who was just wearing a chain leash held by Mathus the wizard, and the hooded and mysteriously absent Notormori, the entire ensemble was dressed as the devoted followers of their lord the Questing Knight. Oliver was impressed by their thoroughness. He had seen such pilgrim processions before, and this group had done their homework. Out-of-country clothing was covered up with long robes, weapons were cleverly hidden and replaced with staffs, incense burners, and fleur-de-lys icons mounted on wooden poles. One even had a musical lute. Foreigners were disguised with monkish hoods, while the Reiklander and the Estalian were so thoroughly disguised with dirt and paint as to be almost unrecognizable from your everyday Bretonnian pilgrim. To complete the effect, the dwarf led the rest of the team in sonorous chanting as they marched out of the stables and towards the main roadway, to the bewilderment of the peasant passers-by outside.

    Sir Rupert led the procession out of the impoverished town to the edge of the Jerugan border. The several guard-posts and toll-booths they came across bowed to let the Questing Knight through. Oliver was secretly glad their expedition was not going anywhere near his home territory. He wondered what Lord Guy would think if he saw his son, resplendent in his cleaned-up questing attire and basking in the adulation of the paupers on the roadside.

    Upon leaving the town the hedge-wizard Mathus and the pygmy took the lead. They set a brisk pace through the increasingly narrow jungle road, a much faster pace than Oliver would have expected from the duo considering the age of one and the stunted legs of the other. Oliver continued to lead his master’s horse over the tricky ground through the undergrowth. Konrad and Geraldo followed behind with the baggage horse, with Shen Wu and the dwarf staying in the rear, the latter huffing to keep up and staying as far away from the horses as possible (“infernal creatures”).

    After departing the confines of Jeruga proper, the procession meandered through two more small border-towns on the outskirts of the county of Castol. In both towns Oliver experienced more royal treatment; though this time he stayed in the stables with the horses. Konrad paid for everything while the others handled the details. Sir Rupert was enjoying himself immensely, mostly from being well fed, but also basking in the affection of the townspeople (especially the tavern-maids). On the evening of the second night, Mathus revealed to the group that they would be reaching the river the next day.

    Oliver had never seen such a huge river before. As a child he had spent many seasons with the other castle children down by the “river” flowing near his lord’s manor, but that tiny creek paled in comparison to the behemoth before him. The river was a deep green-blue color underneath the thick jungle undergrowth. Many tiny tadpoles flitted about under the surface of the water. Konrad assured him that this river was only a tiny tributary of the Obscumacinta river, but it could have been the mighty Amaxon river for all Oliver had ever experienced.

    Oliver felt as terrified to be on the long canoes than the horses were. The only one who enjoyed the boats less was the rotten pygmy, who spent the entire trip upriver throwing up over the side of the boat, and the silent ninja Notomori, who showed up to ride just as the canoes were about to depart. Notomori sat unmoving and unflinching in the center of the boat for the entire journey without making a single sound.

    That night Mathus revealed the next part of the plan by the light of the dinner fire. Another day upriver and they would be reaching the lower falls, and have to hike inland and maneuver the boats. There they would find their new guide to take them the rest of the journey. They continued to elaborate the details of the plan to Sir Rupert, but Oliver was too exhausted to listen and quickly fell asleep.

    ************

    For Oliver the excitement of this adventure had run its course. He was miserable again, though he could say nothing to bring down the spirits of his master or the rest of the companions. Forcing the canoes up the rapids had been hard labor, and now supplies were growing short. The fish Konrad and Skuddi were catching this far upriver were rotten and tasted bad with barely any meat on their bones. No one could eat any of the flora or plants for fear of poison, and due to the pace of their trek there was now no time to boil water, forcing to conserve what they had on their persons. Fortunately it was the wrong time of the year for disease-ridden mosquitoes, but Oliver didn’t know this.

    Breaking for a short halt, the band paused to consume a fraction of their rations for a meager lunch. Oliver unpacked for Sir Rupert a few small morsels of dried fish from the baggage horses’ pack. As he returned to his master’s side he saw Konrad, Skuddi, and Shen Wu move past their position and further down the trail ahead of them, following the silent Notomori. As he watched them pass the Cathayan wrinkled his nose at the smell of the fish Oliver was carrying, and spat something in his native tongue that made the Reiklander and the dwarf chuckle as they moved away.

    “Don’t take it too hard, little squire.” Geraldo assured him as they disappeared into the jungle undergrowth, “I doubt very much that he would murder you on account of your smell, considering all you Bretonnians seem born with a natural musky ‘fragrance’.”

    Oliver looked up shocked, having not heard the Estalian come up behind him.

    “The Cathayan is a most disagreeable foreign” stated Sir Rupert bluntly when Oliver presented him with his food, having related to his master what had occurred. Turning to Geraldo, who had sat on a stump nearby cleaning his crossbow, he demanded “Estalian, tell me how a group such as yourselves came into being?”

    Geraldo grinned under his hat as he continued to work, glancing over at Mathus and Squato who were consulting with one another over the map.

    “It was mostly Mathus. He has travelled and thieved across the entire coast of the New World. He brought us together because we all have everything to gain and nothing to loose.”

    “And you have no compunctions about serving under a user of dark magics?”

    “Not really. Magic users are never to be trusted, but most of us take a less harsh view on male magic-users than you Bretonnians. It comes in handy to have a magician during a scrape.”

    “But you do admit your compatriots have criminal records?” demanded the knight, passing his water-pouch back to Oliver to be refilled.

    The Estalian shrugged. “We have had many hard lives in this forsaken New World. Most of us came here in order to escape even worse ones back in the Old World. Take Konrad for example, he used to be a mercenary hired to fight in blood-feud wars in Tilea. The Cathayan came here to escape persecution and intrigue in his family after killing his own brother. The dwarf was a slave trader. The wizard is of course a practitioner of dangerous arts, and this has made him enemies. Just ask to look at the scar under his eye patch sometime. And I think occupations of the hooded assassin and that sharp-toothed pygmy speak for themselves.”

    Oliver glanced over to where Squato and the wizard were discussing the map. He shuddered to think that the bone necklace around the pygmy’s neck might actually be human bones.

    “I also understand that you have had your own misdeeds to atone for as well” Geraldo asked.

    “That is true” Sir Rupert bowed his head, “I am responsible for the death of Alphonse Carnuel, son of Lord Carnuel, a vassal of my father. Through this venture I hope to make amends for my transgressions.” He finished off the rest of the water-pouch and tossed it back to Oliver. “What about you Estalian, what crimes have you committed?”

    “It is no small thing, be sure.” The Estalian smiled as he pulled his rapier from his belt, and showing the knight the knife in his boot. “Of all my transgressions, the simplest is that I was an accomplished dueler back in my homeland, between this blade and my other knives I have taken the life of many of my enemies. I shall relate the rest of my sinful tale later, our scout has returned.”

    While they had been talking, Notomori had returned and had given his report with Mathus and the pygmy. Turning to them, Mathus gave instructions.

    “Our guide has been spotted. Geraldo, go with Notomori he will put you in ambush position. Rest of you gather your arms and come with us now.”

    ************

    As Oliver trudged through the undergrowth following the hedge-wizard and his master, he couldn’t help but brood about their present situation. All this talk of surprise and weapons, it sounded more like they intended to take this “guide” by force rather than barter for their services. Continuing the march, he wondered if the chains the pygmy had been wearing at the beginning of their journey were for more than just a show.

    Oliver’s musings were cut short as the companions reached another clearing. Konrad was already there on guard, peering through a gap in the jungle plants down toward the river in the valley below. Geraldo and Notomori departed upstream, and the others took up fighting positions next to the Reiklander to peer down into the valley. Oliver followed and crouched down next to his master, and beheld a breathtaking sight.

    Down in the riverbed were three of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. From what Oliver could see from his perch they were tall, with long hair and powerful physiques, far more beautiful than any peasant woman Oliver had ever seen, or noble lady for that matter. They were completely naked except for some assorted jewelry and feathers adorning their persons, and presently were bathing in the river as the band observed from their hidden position.

    Oliver was startled again as he heard Notomori return and speak in a hushed voice to Mathus.

    “Dwarf in place to stop escape. Shen Wu and Gerado ready with bows to kill ones on shore. Rest waiting to attack.”

    Konrad, his sword already drawn, grinned and leaned over to Sir Rupert and Oliver. “Be ready, its time to catch ourselves an Amazon.”

    Oliver could hear the pygmy cackling with glee as he watched Mathus raise his hands. A giant shadow-creature grew out of the wizard’s fingertips, and with a ghastly shriek it launched itself at the unsuspecting targets below.

    ************
     
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  11. Bowser
    Slann

    Bowser Third Spawning

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    Oh the suspense! This is going to get messy fast!
     
  12. Warden
    Skar-Veteran

    Warden Well-Known Member

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    Still working on finishing chapter 3 and onward.

    But I have been doing some more drawings recently; I am not happy with my sketches of any of the other characters so far, but this random one of Squato the pygmy was pretty funny.

    Squato WIP.jpg

    Also I finished uploading some of the lore for my Lustrian Bretonnians over at the Round Table for anyone who is interested in the non-Lizardman side of the lore that I have been creating.

    Edit: also added a cool new intro picture!
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2016
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  13. Warden
    Skar-Veteran

    Warden Well-Known Member

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    Chapter 3: continued...

    The skirmish was over after a few chaotic minutes. By the time Mathus’ spectral apparition had faded away, three of the four Amazons were dead; the fourth was unconscious and bound in the pygmy’s chains. Shen Wu held one of the chains, Konrad the other. Much to his displeasure, Squato was ordered to leave the bodies of the dead alone. Instead the dwarf and Geraldo dragged them off a ways into the jungle to hide them.

    When they returned the Amazon woke up from her head wound and immediately attempted to escape. She was as powerful as she was beautiful, and would have succeeded had not her holders been prepared for this. Despite her struggling and furious shouting she did little more than tire herself out, breathing heavily as she finally collapsed between her guards. When she was sufficiently calmed down, Mathus addressed her about the nature of their venture, explaining that she would accompany them the rest of the journey, all the while using the pygmy to translate. Notwithstanding another string of Lustrian profanity, she appeared to resign herself to a defiant silence as they regrouped and returned to the boats.

    “Move, Akula” spat Shen Wu, yanking one of the chains as they made their way through the foliage. Squato had identified her as a member of the aku’la, meaning “turtle tribe” based off her tattoos and jewelry. The band had decided this would serve as her name, since in her stubbornness she refused to give her real one.

    “Thank goodness Akula here is not as dangerous without her knives, or else she would make you regret your rudeness” cautioned Konrad, as he and Geraldo assisted dragging her towards the canoes.

    After being tied to gunnels of the boat, they continued travelling up another set of serpentine river tributaries. Taking advantage of the calm, Sir Rupert turned to Mathus.

    “What purpose does this savage woman serve to us?”

    Mathus, engrossed in the surrounding environment and the map before him, dismissed the question with the cryptic answer “she is our insurance.”

    “We need her so the Lizardmen don’t kill us” Konrad answered in his stead.

    “But the Lizardmen are a myth!” piped Oliver without thinking. He too had been shocked enough to learn the stories of beautiful warrior women were true, but stories of the Lizardmen? Huge, hulking men in the form of snakes and reptiles of the earth, scaled and deadly? Some stories told of them as cannibals, servants of the Fell Powers; others told of their secret cities hidden deep in the jungle from which they would one say seek to attack the colonial cities. They can’t be real too, can they?

    The Reiklander gave Oliver another sympathetic look “Believe that if you want to young one.”

    “The reptilians and Amazons have a long, complicated history. But they prefer their best to stay as far away from each other as possible” Mathus spoke without his eyes every leaving the map in front of him. “I have done this once before. The Lizardmen should not interfere.”

    Should not,” muttered the dwarf.

    Geraldo rested a hand on Oliver’s shoulder as he whispered into his ear “That last time is probably why the old one wears an eyepatch now, eh?”

    Oliver tried not to think about the covered up scar on the wizard’s face as they continued upstream. He was glad the wizard at least had a good sense of direction, for he was completely lost in labyrinth of tree, leaves, and vines.

    “We have arrived,” the wizard announced.

    Slowly a pair of statues came into view on the waters-edge up ahead. Twice as tall as a man, they were carved in the likeness of giant crocodilian heads. Mouths gaping, each jagged stone tooth was easily as long as Oliver’s arm.

    The group pulled the long canoes up the small dirt-and-stone landing between the statues and steadied the horses on the earth. Completed, Mathus ordered the Amazon brought up front to lead the procession up the path and under the jungle canopy. In the distance, Oliver could just make out some mountain-like structures through the gap in the treeline. They looked like the pictures on the map the wizard carried; overgrown with ruins and larger than any building, or even castle, that Oliver had ever seen.

    ************

    Canul the chameleon skink materialized next to Zul-K’an as the skink priest deliberated in his private meditation chambers. The chameleon chief was the head of Zul-K’an’s information network, each night bringing the high priest news on the intrigues of the temple courts or information on his priestly or political enemies. Aside from his expected reports, tonight he had something different.

    “A group of ten warmbloods have violated the boundaries of the temple of Kopan.”

    Zul-K’an, who up until this point had been studying the murals of his meditation chamber instead of truly listening, looked up from his work. “Why have you permitted them to penetrate this far?”

    “They have with them a daughter of Rigg.”

    Amazons. Thought the high priest. This is far from their territory.

    “Have the warmbloods from across the sea aligned with the daughters of Rigg?”

    “We don’t believe so.” answered the chameleon, his large rounded eyes continuously scanning the room, though unblinking. His tongue flitted each time he spoke. “She appears to be their hostage.”

    The high priest returned his eyes to the mural before him, though now his thoughts were far from the secrets painted on the wall. Turning back to the chameleon, he could tell the spy chief was uneasy.

    “You have more?” Zul-K’an demanded.

    The chameleon chose his words very carefully as he continued. His scaly skin darkened as he did so, almost disappearing from the light of the burning brazier as he did so.

    “The taint of the Ancient Foe is upon one of their number.”

    With this Zul-K’an’s nostrils flared and muscles tensed. The chaotic presence of the Ancient Enemy had not been felt near these shores in centuries, certainly not near the city of Mutal.

    Why now? What is their plan this time?

    “Do not interfere.” the high priest instructed. “Let them take useless trinkets and ensure they depart our borders. If they approach any closer to the city ensure they are misdirected. Make your reports to me immediately upon any changes.”

    Canul had already faded away into the shadows by the time Zul-K’an had finished. The skink priest returned back to the mural before him. The Uayeb, the five-day unlucky month of the calendar round, had begun today. His tongue tasted the humid air around him as he brooded this new course of events.
     
  14. spawning of Bob
    Skar-Veteran

    spawning of Bob Well-Known Member

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    But which one is tainted? What is his / her endgame?

    Write faster!
     
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  15. Warden
    Skar-Veteran

    Warden Well-Known Member

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    Tis a secret... o_O

    Still working on the next chapter... to be finished this weekend.

    Thanks for the support guys! I am experimenting with dialogue, trying to do get it to 'flow' better.

    And actually naming characters this time too... Any suggestions will be very helpful!
     
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  16. Rednax
    Cold One

    Rednax Active Member

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    very much wow. keep on typing, i must know the outcomes D:

    :D :D :D
     
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  17. Warden
    Skar-Veteran

    Warden Well-Known Member

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    Took a while :banghead:, but here we go.

    Chapter 4: The Ruins of Kopan


    Oliver was very conscious of the fact that this journey was the furthest he had ever been from home. As a young peasant born to a Bretonnian colony in a dangerous land, he had never been outside the province up until a few days ago when they first set out. Now, many miles away and deep in the deepest jungle he could have imagined, Oliver beheld a gigantic group of ruined buildings, where the smallest was easily twice as large as his old lord’s castle.

    The claustrophobic jungle path from the boats had led the band of treasure hunters into a broad, overgrown clearing. The ancient plaza had been taken over by shrubs and tough jungle grass which erupted bugs and other tiny critters as they brought up the horses. Several large stone slabs stood at seemingly random locations around the plaza. Upon closer inspection Skuddi exclaimed they were in fact highly detailed sculptures, so elaborately carved with depictions of lizard-humanoid creatures as to be almost incomprehensible to an untrained (or Bretonnian peasant) eye. Shorter, rounded carved stones stood at the base of some of the sculptures, reminding Oliver of millstones. Skuddi guessed they were altars of some sort.

    Partially obscured in the overgrown jungle around the plaza were the towering buildings themselves. Some were small, and so covered in greenery as to be nearly indistinguishable from the green mountains looming behind them. Some of the larger temples stretched deep into the wood line behind them, with giant galleries of broken columns visible on their rooftops. The main buildings commanded the far edge of the plaza, piercing the sky high about the canopy. The largest structure, labeled the palacio on Mathus’ map, had suffered a great deal of erosion damage due to the dried-up river bed that flowed perpendicular through the plaza. From their present location, Oliver could see where huge chunks of the grand pyramid-structure had fallen upon the plaza and the ancient river bed.

    By way of introduction, Mathus explained on the trek up the jungle path that the ruins had been built by the ancient race of Lizard-people who originally owned the entirety of the New World. Their temples first started small, but as the centuries passed they continued to build them higher and higher, in the fashion of Kislev nesting dolls, to make them into the monumental pyramids of the ruins before them (of course Oliver had never heard of Kislev, or of nesting dolls, but he was too busy admiring the sights around him to notice).

    “In more recent history, the Lizardmen have drawn back into the deepest and inhospitable regions of the jungle; rarely coming out except on hunting patrols to guard their territory.”

    “Seems deserted enough” remarked Sir Gaunt, as Oliver struggled to secure the pack horses in the center of the plaza near a small cropping of trees. The Questing Knight was quite impressed by the craftsmanship of the ancient barbaric-heathens and expressed it to the old wizard as they surveyed the layout of the ruins.

    Shortly after Oliver was finished with the horses, Shen Wu and Konrad returned from tree line, having completed a patrol around the ruins to search for any signs of life, inhabitants, or other treasure seekers.

    “The shinobi also reports no movement” reported the Cathayan.

    “But he is certain there are hidden chameleons about” cautioned the Reiklander. “Notomori will be on lookout, but we should remain in groups as we start hunting for treasure.”

    “My favorite part” responded the dwarf, to which the rest of the band murmured agreement.

    The Amazon, who up until the arrival to the ruins, had been defiant and occasionally lashing out at her captors in attempts to escape, appeared to have finally given up. From the moment they had encountered the crocodile-statues on the riverfront and entered the clearing, she had barely spoken a word. Now that they were preparing themselves to enter the monumental temples surrounding the plaza, she knelt on the ground, hands still tied, and began fervently praying in her native tongue.

    The Cathayan immediately yanked her to her feet with her chains to keep her with the rest of the party as they prepared to investigate the temple.

    “Your false gods will not give you peace Akula,” spat the Shen as he pulled her forward.

    “Leave her be Shen,” admonished the Reiklander as he ushered the team across plaza to follow the hedge wizard “…she is terrified. To her superstitious people these lands are probably sacred. Or haunted.”

    “Or she suspects we are actually surrounded…” muttered the dwarf gripping his ax closer to himself and glancing at the jungle’s edge.”

    “Enough. Keep the Amazon close,” Mathus commanded as he lead the procession forward.

    Oliver noticed the pygmy Squato was as equally uneasy as the Amazon, and made a pagan sign of protection on himself as they approached the ruined temple. He noticed Oliver watching, and bared his pointed teeth at the squire to make him look away. Oliver took the hint, and instead turned to the Reiklander with a question.

    “What are chameleons?”

    Konrad patiently explained that they were a type of Lizardmen that could change color and blend in with their surroundings. When chameleons didn’t want to be found, they could travel through the jungles completely invisible and stalk their prey without ever being seen. This did little to console Oliver, who though acquainted with the stories of mythical Lizardmen inhabiting the jungles of the New World in ancient days, had never heard tales of invisible ones before. He resigned to looking around the jungles in even more terror as he clamored up the platform to the temple’s base.

    The wizard was consulting with Geraldo on details of the map to decipher some of the old-Estalian script. Deciding they were in the right location after all, the wizard lead the rest of the band up the steep stairway of the palacio, which upon further inspection proved to be much larger than a simple pyramid structure. The mega-complex was a giant stone compound of plazas, vaulted rooms, and overgrown corridors set on a tremendous base.

    Upon reaching the main level, the wizard had the team pause to conduct a final magical survey of the building. Hands outstretched, Oliver felt the hairs on his neck stand up as Mathus cast a scrying spell to search for any signs of magical booby traps. Finding none, he ordered the group to spread out and start searching.

    “Spread out, but stay in groups. Report anything you find.”

    Inside was very dark. Little of the light that penetrated the thick jungle canopy also made it into the dank vaults and corridors of the temple complex. Vines and vegetation made navigating through the hallways difficult, but soon Skuddi was cutting his way through one of the halls with his axe, while the Reiklander and Sir Gaunt were making progress on another avenue with their swords.

    True to form, the dwarf was the first one to find traces of gold scattered in one of the central palacio chambers. Most of the finds were small gold pieces, no larger than coins, but there were also some beautifully carve green-stone figurines that Shen Wu described as “jade,” as well as several other ornaments of precious stones. While members of the band were rooting through the nooks and crannies of the main chamber, Sir Gaunt made the observation that the room had not been entered for quite a long time.

    “Is it not strange that these valuables are so easy to gather here in this temple complex? Surely looters would have taken anything valuable from these ruins ages ago.” It was a concern that Oliver secretly shared, but concern seemed lost on the rest of the companions due to the newly discovered gold.

    “These ruins are hard to find,” stated the wizard re-entering the chamber. “Very few men have been able to penetrate the jungles this far, especially if they don’t know where to look. And fewer still are able to leave.”

    “There is evidence of the Estalian expedition in one of the adjoining chambers down the hall if you don’t believe us.” Geraldo added, following behind Mathus into the room. “The poor souls are practically disintegrated.”

    “We also have something the Estalians didn’t when they came through here.” the wizard continued, looking over at the Amazon crouched in a corner. Her eyes were tight shut as she continued to murmur her pagan prayers.

    “And they did a lot of the gathering for us!” Konrad entered following Geraldo, carrying a large bag filled with loot. Squato followed him, clutching a miniature golden idol in his grasp and smiling from ear to scraggly ear.

    “Take stock of what we have found so far and prepare to move as soon as we have completed searching the complex” Mathus instructed as he ventured deeper into the structure. “I do not plan to stay in the ruins overnight.”

    The rest of the team gathered close together to admire the bounty discovered by Konrad and the pygmy. Oliver was hesitant, torn between his desire to admire the mind-boggling quantity of riches they had discovered, and a morbid curiosity of what remained of the previous explorers down the hall. Geraldo had stated that it looks like they had most likely been ambushed, and had found what appeared to be remains of blow-darts on the floor.

    Curiosity getting the best of him, Oliver decided to explore and see for himself. As he slowly snuck away from the rest of the group, he heard Sir Gaunt voice another concern to Konrad.

    “If the poor Estalians were the last men to ever reach these ruins, how by the Lady did the map ever make it back to the colonies and into Mathus’ possession?”

    ************

    Continuing down the vaulted corridor, Oliver eventually found the remnants of the Estalian expedition. Just as Geraldo had said, the remains were splayed across the stone floor of a low-ceiling room. Their armor was mostly intact, but the leather straps had all but rotted away, as did the dusty scraps of their tunics. All that remained left of their humanity were their bleached bones. Hairless skulls leered out at Oliver from under their iron helmets, greatly unsettling him.

    Shaking despite himself in the cold chamber, he noticed something clutched in the hands of one of the skeletons. Reaching down, he gingerly moved aside the dead Estalian’s bony fingers and pulled up a small square parcel. The fabric covering fell away to dust as he picked it up, revealing a shiny golden artifact underneath.

    Awestruck, Oliver examined his find. It was only about a hand-and-a-half in length, shiny gold, and inscribed with numerous beautiful and bizarre symbols, similar in style to the fantastic designs on the sculptures outside or on the palacio walls. The artifact was beautiful, seemingly giving off its own brilliance under the flickering canopy light peeking through the ruined ceiling. It was also much lighter that he had expected, hefting it easily in his hands as he admired the indecipherable writing.

    “What have you found there, boy?”

    Oliver jumped, having not heard the footsteps coming down the corridor. Geraldo, with Shen Wu close at his shoulder, had come up behind him into the tiny room, also to investigate the remains of the dead Estalian expedition. Without thinking or hesitating, Oliver quietly slipped the golden treasure into his squire’s tunic as he turned around.

    “Nothing!” he tried to say as calmly as possible.

    “The boy seeks a ghoulish souvenir,” sneered the Cathayan.

    Ignoring Shen, the living Estalian looked past the squire to the remains of his former countrymen strewn about floor. “You shouldn’t wander off on your own; you don’t know what you might find hidden away down here.”

    If Geraldo or the Cathayan had noticed anything, they said nothing as they brushed past Oliver to finish rooting through the skeletons for more gold.

    ************
     
  18. Bowser
    Slann

    Bowser Third Spawning

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    Uh-Oh! Trouble is a brewing! I wonder who will be the first to feel the wrath?
     
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  19. Warden
    Skar-Veteran

    Warden Well-Known Member

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    Just finished my final proofread. To answer your question:



    Chapter 4: continued...

    Zul-K’an looked up from his bark tablets to find his chameleon chief standing before him, as silent of an introduction as ever. As always, nothing about the chameleon skink’s stance betrayed the nature of his report.

    “They have found a plaque.”

    Marlecht.

    “Are you sure?”

    The chameleon seemed to shrug as he produced a small scroll from one of his dart pouches and handed it to the priest. Zul-K’an opened it and examined the script written on the parchment. The script was written in ancient hieroglyphs reserved for the eyes of the holy-spawned.

    Marlecht. Chotec’s ashes. It is genuine.

    “Why did your scouts not seize before the warmbloods found it!” he demanded, feeling the anger and alarm rise in his throat as he did so. “Your scouts were close enough to make a few quick notes but not brave enough to prevent its capture?”

    The chameleon did not flinch, but recognized the high priest’s tone. “Something obscured it from us. We dared not intervene until we confirmed the plaque was authentic.”

    Rolling up the scroll, Zul-K’an wasted no time giving his instructions.

    “Recover the plaque immediately. It must not be lost.”

    The anger of the daughters of Rigg will be severe for breaking the peace, but there is too much at stake. The plaque must not fall to the Ancient Foe.

    Zul-K’an brooded as Canul dissolved into the shadows as silently as he had arrived. A missing piece had not been found in over a century, and now one had appeared in the hands of the ever-encroaching warmbloods.

    The cult of Sotek will be crying for blood the moment they learn of this.

    Putting the cult out of his mind, he returned to the report glyphs on his bark tablets.

    ************

    With a little over an hour until the sun would drop below the tree line on the horizon, the band of treasure hunters had reassembled in the plaza at the foot of the palacio. Evening shadows had begun to form, giving the caverous entrances to the temples around the plaza the appearance of giant monstrous faces.

    It had taken a few trips, but the bags of treasure had been finally loaded onto the horses. Gold, jade, precious stones, small trinkets, earrings, idols, and other valuable objects had been found throughout the temple complex. Not wanting to leave anything behind, Skuddi had even taken an extra bag filled with as much gold as he could carry, and slung it across his back. Squato still held onto his golden idol greedily, admiring it in the sunlight under a tree. Even Oliver held onto a personal piece of treasure, still securely hidden in his squire’s tunic.

    Excitement was high as the group marveled at their success. Oliver had never seen so much gold in his life, and even Sir Gaunt was impressed by how much they had been able to gather in such a short time.

    “This will be enough to make us wealthy men!” exclaimed Konrad as he returned down the temple steps with Mathus, having completed a final survey of the ruins.

    “And wealthy dwarfs!” commented Geraldo, poking fun at the dwarf struggling under the weight of his treasure bag. Geraldo and Shen Wu had secured the Amazon in her chains, and now held her between them in preparation to depart.

    “Well done,” Mathus praised grudgingly as he returned, his scarred face looking incredibly old as he exited the temple landing. “It is time to leave. Ensure the horses make it safely back to the boats.”

    As they processed out of the plaza, Oliver looked back at the ruins over his shoulder for a last time. Despite the grandeur of the ruins, he was glad to be leaving and heading back to the realms of men. Peasants were use to roughing it, but sleeping in a Bretonnian stable was still preferable to sleeping in the jungle mud every night.

    Turning back to the narrow jungle path ahead of them, Oliver spied the scout Notomori walking up the jungle path to meet them. Abruptly he staggered as he reached Mathus at the front of the column, falling to his knees. Two small darts were visible protruding from the black fabric at neck.

    “We are surrounded. The way is blocked.”

    Without another sound the ninja fell face forward into the mud at the old wizard’s feet.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2016
  20. Warden
    Skar-Veteran

    Warden Well-Known Member

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    Ruins of Kopan Map.

    Ruins of Kopan.png
     

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