Sunday, April 7, 2013

Session 7: The Valley of Silence, the Cloud Bridge and the City in the Sky.

We begin play as two swarms of Ka Nam, predatory birds once trained by the Haakora, descend upon the band of adventurers as that try to make their way along a narrow mountain path.  The narrow path makes this a very dangerous fight as it would not take much for someone to get knocked off the side of the trail and down the side of the cliff.  Fortunately, the heroes make short work of the swarms with their strength of arms and the magic of Kiran. 

Heading through the mountains.

Bird attack!  You can't see them but they are there.

After the battle, Kiran checks the bodies of the fallen birds. "These are wild specimens, not trained ones.” He says. “In my time, these beasts were very rare and precious.”Then he sighs. “If my people let the Ka Nam go wild, it means they are in deep trouble.”  Sul’khaz makes another cynical (but realistic) assessment of the current state of Kiran’s people.  Kiran overhears and glares at him but the group continues onward. 
The temperature continues to drop as the journey continues and as night falls, the group is forced to take shelter in a narrow ditch where they all must spend the night together.  It is far from comfortable but it will have to do.  In the morning, everyone packs up and heads out.  “Today, if the gods favor us, we’ll reach Haak.” Kiran says.  This leads to yet another comment from Sul’khaz. 

After about three hours or so of traveling, the party finds a bad surprise: the path is blocked by rocks. Kiran curses and mutters in his language.  The boulders are far too large to move and the terrain is far too dangerous to climb.  “There is another way to Haak.” Kiran says, grimacing. “But it is very dangerous, and I hoped to avoid it. Well, it is now clear that we can’t.” The King of Haak leads the party back along the trail for a couple of hours and then takes them along a secondary path, a narrow passage between rock walls. The fissure gradually becomes wider and it soon turns into a rocky valley. “We call it the Valley of Silence” Kiran whispers. “Because being quiet is an absolute necessity here. Do you see those rocks?” He points at some large boulders high on the edge of the valley, which surround it like a crown. “They are very unstable and the mere sound of a human voice is enough to cause a landslide. So, we must keep quiet. Very quiet.”
With Hawk in the lead, the party begins to make their way through the Valley of Silence.  Everyone does so with the grace of cat….except for Shangor.  Shangor moves with the grace of drunken sailor.  A deep, hollow sound rips the silence. Everyone is rooted on the spot for a moment, and then the sound of the first pebble hits as rocks start falling all around! “Run!” Kiran shouts. “Run!”  The party is bombarded by pebbles, rocks and flat-out boulders.   Nearly every ends up battered and bruised and, in few cases, wounded, but eventually the band of adventures makes through to the other side. 

With the group finally safe, Kiran says: “I would recognize that sound anywhere. It’s the Guarding Trumpets of Haak, sounded to trigger this deadly trap to deal with approaching enemies.  Someone in the city must have noticed us, and they aren’t happy we’re coming. We must proceed with caution.” After the terrible experience in the Valley of Silence, everyone marches on, wondering what other dangers might lie ahead. 
After marching for another two hours, the heroes finally see it: a fantastic city made of polished stone perched on a peak! “Haak… I am home.” Kiran sighs, his voice full of emotion and reverence. But the city is on a nearby mountain and apparently there is no way to reach it. 

“Fear not.” Kiran assures everyone with a smile. “We are a flying race and we built our city so that no walking enemy could access it. But we have ways to let visitors in.” Kiran walks to the end of the path, just in front of the city gates. There are two hundred yards of open air between our heroes and the city gates. Then the King of Haak turns to the group as if in doubt. “I know how to access the city on foot, but it will drain most of my energy. I need your help.” Kiran says.

Everybody join hands!

Join Love Train!

Kiran has everyone to join together in a circle with everyone hold hands.  The King of Haak’s voice begins an incantation in his native language.  A few members of the group feel their spirits aiding Kiran’s casting.  Then, the wind starts blowing, shifting the clouds around the city, but not in a casual way. Their gossamer threads look like they are being woven by a skilled weaver. In front of the astonished eyes of the party, a bridge made of clouds appears between them and the city gates. Kiran smiles and says: “Fear not. You can walk on it safely. It will last till dusk.

Katrina’s fear of magic kicks in and she refuses to walk across the bridge.  Shangor grabs her and swings her over his shoulder.  As she continues to struggle, Kiran leans over and asks her is she wants to be shown up by Sylph (the whore)?  With that, Katrina marches, on her own, at a furious pace.   
Halfway across, everyone hears strange shrieks, similar to the Ka Nam’s, coming from the city. “The Aviary.” Kiran says. “These calls come from the Aviary, where my people breed Ka Nam and Ka Ram. So someone is still alive in the city.” (Sul’khaz still isn’t convinced of that.)  Everyone agrees that if there is someone in the city, their intentions are not necessarily friendly so everyone enters the city with weapons drawn and ready.   

Haak is a spiral-shaped city, built around the mountain peak, with the king’s palace at the very top. Its architecture is exquisite: the buildings are made of polished stone and look so light and slender that they look like they might soon fly away. But all around there is an atmosphere of desolation. The paving stones are cracked and weeds grow in their fissures, the doors and the windows of the houses are broken and, above all, there is no sign of life. Kiran seems lost and bewildered.  “Where are all my people? What happened here?” It is a good question. The streets and houses are all empty but there is no sign of violence. It is as if the whole population had simply vanished.  “We must go to the royal palace.” says the King of Haak. “If any member of my family still lives in the city, they will be there.”  As our group begins to make their way to the royal palace, there is the whistling sound of an arrow and thick “thud”.  Hawk stops suddenly as she stares down at the arrow that has pierced her breast.  She drops her sword, drops to her knees and the crashes face first into the pavement.   There is someone in the city and they have inflicted a likely mortal wound upon the Amazon. 

Amazon down!

With Hawk down, nearly everyone ducks for cover while Sul’khaz and Sylph drag Hawk’s body to a relatively safe place.  Katrina tries but fails to spot the sniper while Shangor starts calling the sniper a coward, daring him to attack him.  The sniper obliges Shangor and starts firing his arrows at him.  Although Shangor is hit a few times, he shakes it off and cries out “Is that the best you got?” 
Katrina goes for higher ground by heading the second story of a ruined tower. While Sul’khaz and Sylph tend to Hawk who is still alive.  After a few rounds of arrows and insults, Sylph manages to spot a winged human flying among the ruins.  She then runs to Kiran and tells him that the sniper is one of his people.  Kiran steps into the open, shouting in his native language. A winged man, armed with a bow descends.  Katrina fires her bow at the winged warrior but misses.  The winged warrior and Kiran obviously know each other and with tears in their eyes, they embrace.  Kiran introduces the warrior as Kodor, one of the king’s generals and oldest friends.  A barely conscious (and still seriously wounded) Hawk complements Kodor on his marksmanship. 

Kodor relates the fall of Haak to the king and the party.  “No sword or spear defeated us, majesty, but a pestilence.” The old soldier says. He looks up, showing the old scars on his face. “A few months after your capture, the people started falling ill. The cause, we discovered later, was a herd of infected goats, brought here as tribute by the jungle tribes. Men, women and children developed blisters all over their bodies and then simply died. Very few survived and – it grieves me to tell you – no member of the royal family made it. In the end I was alone, but I have kept watch, awaiting your return. And now you have come!” As the two Haakora are looking at each other in silence, their eyes filled with tears, a familiar and very unwelcome voice is heard.

“In the end, we meet again.” Everyone turns and sees Druun the Gorgon with Kumal and what is left of the Valk warriors. The Valk are wild-eyed, beaten and dirty, but their bows are ready to strike. They clearly have seen horrifying things in the jungle and mountains. Nonetheless, they are ready to kill and plunder as usual. “I have been chasing you throughout the jungle, avoiding quicksand, wild tribes, and many other dangers. But I am finally here! We have found a lost city!” Druun exclaims. Then, he turns to Kiran and threatens him: “Now, tattooed man, you’ll tell me where all the gold is hidden, or, for Kumra’s horseshoes, I’ll pull your entrails out of your belly!”

“Nobody speaks like that to the king!” Kodor shouts enraged, as he draws his sword. It is a very unwise move. Before the blade is fully out of its scabbard, three Valk arrows have pierced his chest. “Kodor!” Kiran cries out and runs to support him. “My friend, you cannot die! Not now!” But the old soldier dies right in the arms of his king.“So, you see I am not kidding!” Druun grins. “Stand up and take us to the treasure, or you and your friends will die just like him.”

“You demand treasure?” Kiran snarls. “You demand treasure in my city? YOU’LL HAVE ONLY DEATH!” Kiran’s face transfigures. The King of Haak lifts his head and lets out a terrible shriek, so strong and alien that it can’t possibly come from a human throat. Somewhere in the city, something answers his call. Everyone recognizes the sound – it is the same that was heard while you were crossing the cloud bridge. There is a flapping of wings and a shadow covers the sun for a moment. The heroes and the Valk look up and see the Ka Ram for the first time. They are mighty fighting birds, as big as horses and with razor-sharp talons and beaks. They swoop down on the Valk, who start screaming….

This is where we left off.  We play again to two weeks.

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