Drifters

John's Log 53
Hyborian Age 14

We have normality. I repeat, we have normality. Anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem.
Douglas Adams

Dani surprised all of us – I think me most of all – when it was revealed that she was also a traveler. I mean traveler in our sense of the word – someone who travels through different realities. That explained the rapport I felt with her, I suppose – and also explained why she got a lot of my humor that was usually lost on the wenches of Shadizar.

Dani’s from some post-apocalyptic world, but not like the one where we found Jasmine and her group. What is it about ‘Mad Max’ chicks that draw me to them? Anyway, Dani’s world seems to have suffered its apocalypse far later in its progression; she’s mentioned what I can only imagine as a ‘beanstalk’, or an orbital elevator. It’s no longer in use and is broken in places, but it definitely indicates a technology we’ve never encountered before. I hope to see it one day.

Dani and some other people got to Hyboria by way of a drug that sounds a lot like gakujin, that weed that Carter used to get us here the first time. Her ‘benefactor’ is a guy named Dolph, but he sounds like the same kinda dickhead Carter turned out to be – he actively used Dani and her companions to fund his trip to the west, a place called the Isle of the Black Ones. Since that kinda touches on the ‘clues’ we’ve been following, it seems like Dani has even more in common with us than at first glance. She was already traveling with us when this all came to light; she’d mentioned that she’d never seen the ocean or snow before, and I’d offered to show her. Sometimes things just seem to work out.

We did eventually make it to Yezud. There’s a celebration going on called the ‘Feast of All Gods’, and there were some pilgrims headed there, so we tagged along. We’ve spent a couple of days in Yezud, and for a Zamorian city it’s not too bad – it’s no Shadizar or Arenjun, but not too bad at all. Of course, that might be the festival-like atmosphere right now, ‘cause worshipers of spiders just freak me out on general principle. I still firmly believe that spiders and their ilk do not – and never have – originate on Earth. I spent the time talking and hanging out with Dani – she’s had a lot of questions for me, mostly to do with the culture of the ‘early times’.

After running into the guys at the baths, we decided it was time to strike for the temple and get outta there before the festivities got so big we wouldn’t be able to act. That involved crossing a bridge that was normally reserved for the nobility of the city, but we just decided to cross it as though we belonged there; after all, who’d be crazy enough to try something like that? In any case, it worked, so now we’re preparing to enter the temple and find these two books were here for. I hope getting out proves to be as easy as getting in was.

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Steve's Log 55

“[On Female Attraction to Men in Uniform] That male military persona feeds a subconscious, passive-aggressive female desire to dominate the warrior as he is perceived an iconic example of masculinity (particularly amongst traditionally warlike cultures). The damsel in distress theme always struck me as embodying this: the hapless, innocently beautiful woman unwittingly enraptures the heroic male so completely that he would risk all to submit to her at his own peril, and quite in spite of it.”
~Tiffany Madison

Shaadazar is a great city and one that I could enjoy living in for a while. In preparation for our trip to Yezud we went to the temple of Zath and participated in the worship ritual. The best part of the ritual was something Hyboria seems ripe with, Dancing girls. These girls only wore black beads and they put on write a show. I almost forgot why I was there. When we got to the point of singing the songs of worship I mouthed the words but had no real idea what I was saying. Following the rites I spoke with the dancing girls when they came for collections and learned of a caravan of pilgrims heading to Zath.

We set out with the pilgrims the following day. The guys let me speak and I convinced them that we were new converts. Thank the gods that I read that religious text I took from Yara’s tower. It was dedicated towards the worship of Zath and gave me some insights into what to say. The journey was relatively uneventful and in a few days we made it Yezud.

Our first night in town I got drawn into a conversation about the pros and cons of different types of ritual sacrifice. I spoke my piece trying to sound like I knew what I was talking about when I was challenged to demonstrate on a slave. I looked around for Pete and the Professor, hoping they would save me by calling me away. Instead I discovered they had left me alone. I of course took up the challenge and killed the child cleanly, removing her heart. I tucked it away in under my robes for later use. The priest of Shub Niggarath was impressed and offered me a job as executioner. I took the work without really thinking only to discover that the person to be killed was our old traveling companion, Idra.

I returned to my room with plans to meet the priest at sunrise for the execution ceremony. When I told my friends they immediately wanted to go to the rescue. I suggested waiting until the ceremony was underway. This way I would be next to the priest and be most able to take him out before he could use magic. The guys are idiots and decided to go right now. I chose to sit it out. They left to do their business and I got out my book to read.

I was reading to Zeus and Apollo and Apollo was being quite vocal in his like of the material. I am not sure if Apollo is actually able to talk or not but lately he has been talking to me in Zamoran. I am concerned that I may be going insane. Pete came in with his bow and went to the window. I asked what he was doing and he said, “rescuing Idra”. I got up and headed for the door with the dogs in tow. I wanted no part of this. I took a job and couldn’t be involved.

The dogs an I made it down stairs when a man came in and was running right at me with sword in hand. I loosed the dogs on him. Zeus was stabbed and Apollo killed the man by ripping out his throat. I grabbed the wounded dog and ran for my room to work on him. To make this long story short, the guys saved the girl, I saved the dog, and in the end was paid by the sorcerer for my time when I showed up the next day for the execution.

When I got back to my room I and the dogs hopped into bed and I noticed Idra was laid out naked on the other bed. I then looked around the room and saw Pete asleep on the floor in one corner while The Professor and Ming were fucking like bunny rabbits. At one point The Professor had her bent over the bed Idra’s unconscious body was on as he pounded her from behind. I wonder if he got some kind of sexual cybernetics put in because the little kung fu princess was whimpering like a chipmunk. It was rather arousing just listening to her squeaky little noises. The whole time I could hear the beds pounding in the next room and wondered how Corey would take all of this when he found out.

The next morning the guys decided to kill the sorcerer. I am so conflicted by it all. Well we are now in the noble section preparing to enter the temple. Why do I feel like something is very wrong?

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Corey's Log 24

We arrived at Shaadazar and got some well needed sleep. We got back on the road when my horse became injured. Ming put it down. I walk the remain way until we got to a place where I was able to rest and get another ride I find myself conflicted with this hold that Ming has on my heart and my feeling of guilt of killing Kuma. Maybe I am the animal or demon that she says I am just trying to play human.

I find myself trying to focus and gain control by practicing my “thought bomb”. Occasionally trying to stun people and robbing them. I spent a lot of time trying to get the heart strings of Ming. Even in just dueling with her for practice.

I must fight this hold and allow myself to be freed. I have started to give into my darkside again. I am willing to fight full heartedly. I follow behind my brothers and sisters willing to do what it takes. Even though I take women as I go along …I still want Ming and I tell her that
For now it is time for me to let go and enjoy.

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John's Log 52
Hyborian Age 13

The true man wants two things: danger and play. For that reason he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything.
Friedrich Nietzsche

We got into Shadizar the night before, and since the guys were doing their own thing I decided to do the same. That involved making my way to a tavern, the Unrepentant Scribe, where I knew two saucy wenches awaited, Dani and Anastasia, Of course, as things usually go I got distracted as I made my way across the city. As I passed an alley I heard a cry of fear from a woman – not a particularly unusual occasion in Shadizar, and it was more curiosity than concern that made me look. I could see two figures fighting – the smaller, obviously a woman, was attempting to avoid the larger, cloak-draped shape. By chance she stepped into the moonlight, and that’s when I realized she was Dani! She saw me and cried for help even as the brute she was trying to evade grabbed her. He – or it – then jumped and swung himself and the girl onto the roof.

I immediately gave chase, and I felt a short pang of sorrow as I remembered running across some of these very rooftops with Caitlin such a short time ago. Whatever form of man or beast had the girl, it was very strong and extremely agile. It first led me across steep and slippery rooftops, where it almost lost me when I lost my footing. However, I quickly regained some of the lost ground as it jumped across a gap between buildings – Dani’s struggles caused him to nearly lose his footing and slowed him down. Next the chase led a battlement-covered wall; he thought to lose me by stealth here, but my enhancements allowed me to find him fairly quickly – I thought Dani must be dead or unconscious (hopefully the latter), as she was no longer struggling or making any noise. As I closed the distance between us my quarry climbed up a nearby tower using only one hand and his feet. I followed as quickly as I could, and soon joined my prey at the top, where he realized he was cornered.

The cloaked figure paced quickly and silently, and I realized uneasily that he had made no sound whatsoever during the entire chase across the rooftops of Shadizar. Then I felt the cold stare of his eyes, even concealed as they were under his hood. Suddenly, he threw Dani at me and jumped off the tower. I managed to catch her, but the foe had gotten away – I knew even before I looked that his body would not be on the ground far below. At least Dani was safe.

She thanked me ardently, hugging me with all the strength she possessed. As I led her back to the Unrepentant Scribe, she told me her story. It seemed Anastasia was dead, killed a week prior on a trips to the Temple of the First One. Dani had an engagement that night, so Ana had gone alone and never came back to the tavern. Two days later her body was found in an alley. At this point Dani started shaking and sobbing uncontrollably, and it was all I could do to calm her down. When I did, she took a deep breath, and then told me she was sure that whatever it was that attacked her was the same thing that must’ve attacked Anastasia. I asked her to describe the thing, but all she could remember was a pungent odor, and something shimmering, like silver, under its hood.

When we arrived back at the tavern, the barman – one-eyed Jozum – sent Dani to her room to wash and rest. Jozum’s got a rough countenance, but he cares for his girls – one of the reasons I liked this tavern over some others. He poured some wine and thanked me, then confirmed Dani’s story about Anastasia. He filled in some gaps as well, such as the gruesome way Ana had been killed – she’d been skinned like a rabbit. The city watch had looked into the murder, but a dead whore isn’t the biggest priority in the best of Hyborian cities, let alone this one. Of course there were no suspects. A scream from upstairs had me react immediately, and I cursed profusely in many of the languages I spoke, knowing I’d be too late. I shouldered though the door to find the room in disarray, the shutters on the window shattered inward – of course, Dani was missing. A strange pungent smell lingered in the air, one I would not forget. I looked out the window to the rooftops, but there was no sign of my earlier foe. I returned to the room to search for anything that could give me a lead – I found a tuft of long, brown fur on the floor, though I didn’t recognize what manner of beast it might be from. I also found Dani’s amulet, a symbol of the First One’s faith. Jozum noticed the tuft of fur in my hand; he had no idea what beast it had come from and suggested speaking to someone at the Great Library.

Apparently the Great Library never shuts down, though the doors were closed and guarded. I was admitted inside to find it filled with activity, and it took only a short time to find an expert in exotic animals, a scholar by the name of Enerius. Unfortunately, he was of no help and soon sent me on my way. As I was leaving though, I happened upon an old man sitting on a bench and eating a peach. He greeted me and asked me about my troubles. His name was Velastios, called the Old, and he was able to examine the fur and tell me what it was – the fur of a Royal Ape of the Cannibal Isles. I’d never heard of these things, and he mentioned they were rather rare, coming from the Western Ocean as they did. He also said I might find out more at a place called the Arena, where all sorts of exotic animals fought to amuse the crowds.

At the Arena I spoke to a man called Runikos, who worked the beast pens. A few silvers loosened his tongue, and he told me they’d had a Royal Ape, but it was gone. Its trainer, a Kush named Ndami, had left with it and two other beasts – an old tiger and lion – a few months back. Ndami lived in a villa just outside the city walls, so I spent a few more silver to bribe my way past the guards at the gate and gave Ndami a visit. At the villa, I nearly soiled myself when the first thing I encountered was a tiger in the garden. The second thing I encountered – as I took a step away from the tiger – was the lion. Thankfully, Ndami was the next thing I encountered, and he called the two cats off, laughing at my expression and telling me they were only curious, being too old to be a danger (an assessment I wasn’t entirely convinced of). During our following conversation he told me of the ape, and that it had died a month ago. To his shame, though, he had sold the corpse to a man who was a follower of the First One for one hundred silver lunas – after all, big cats need a lot of meat.

Then the crows attacked, maybe a hundred of them. Forget that it was the middle of the night, and most birds would be asleep. I fought side-by-side with the old gladiator – he still knew his stuff! Dharma and Roghro – the tiger and lion – still had their form as well, and eventually we were surrounded by the corpses of the crows, all of us bloodied but unbeaten. The strange thing was that the birds all seemed to have been embalmed, and on their heads a strange silver symbol was painted; the symbol faded away after a few minutes.

My next stop was the House of the First One, to discover who might have bought the ape’s corpse. It turned out to be the Caretaker, who admitted to buying the corpse – he thought it might’ve been a man and thought it his duty to give him a proper burial, but he in turn had sold it to a sage of the Great Library, who wanted to embalm the body for study. So back the Library I went – I knew it must be Enerius, who had denied knowledge of the ape’s fur earlier.

At the Library I had no trouble finding my target – Enerius saw me coming though, and darted off down a corridor. I gave chase and found myself at a locked door. It took a few moments to kick it open, and as I entered I was doused in liquid from above. Luckily the acid missed my head, but the shoulder it covered was in agony. Across the room I could see Enerius ducking out another door, but he had set up several more acid traps that slowed my pursuit. That door led to a large gallery, filled with embalmed beasts on display – cats, snakes, dogs, and even stranger beasts. Here I was attacked by the ape – clearly embalmed and yet given a form of life by the symbol I could see on its forehead. We fought – its teeth and claws against my two swords, and though I was injured I could only think of Dani at the mercy of the madman who would flay the skin from her body if I failed.

Eventually I stood over the dead-again body of the ape, my blood running from a dozen wounds. I took but a moment to recover and rushed after Enerius, only to find a dusty hall with empty bookshelves lining the walls. There were no more doors, so he was either hiding or there was a secret door somewhere; a quick search of the shelves led to its discovery. The passage beyond was dark – darker than normal, with a palpable sense of evil. I had to steel myself to enter that passage, but yet again the thought of the unspeakable horrors that would befall Dani pushed me onward.

As I passed from the darkness into a dimly lit room, I remembered to breathe again. The room was large, its ceiling lost in darkness above. There was a large number of bookcases, and a number of books on each one. But it wasn’t the books that caught my attention – Dani lay naked in the middle of the room tied to a rack. The gentle rise and fall of her breasts let me know she yet lived. Then I turned to face Enerius. He gave some attempt to explain his actions; I didn’t wait for him to finish before falling upon him in my fury. The very shadows of the room rose up to fight me, and though my swords caused them to disintegrate it seemed that two more would rise for every one that I dispelled. Then I noticed the tattoos upon the madman – words flowed like ants across his skin, crawling from the books surrounding the room to cover his skin, closing each wound I caused him.

In a flash I understood! The books in the room were the source of his power, so I grabbed one of the torches from a sconce in the wall and started lighting the bookshelves on fire. The shadows flew around me now, slashing at me with their claws, but as each shelf caught on fire I could sense their power lessening. Eventually the room was ablaze and I could hear a thousand shrieking voices coming from the ancient pages filled with forbidden knowledge as they were destroyed. I could see the shape of Enerius through the flames, but I had no time for him. I gathered Dani into my arms and fled the room before it was too late.

It took all night to contain the fire, but we managed to stop it from spreading to other parts of the Great Library. The guard wanted to jail me, but Old Velastios put in a good word for me so I was free to go, after answering a great many questions. I made no money this night, but I did get the gratitude of a beautiful woman. There are worse ways to spend an evening.

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Steve's Log 54

We entered Shaadazar in the night and found an inn to rest at. I wanted to keep moving but The Professor and Corey insisted on stopping for a good night sleep and a bath. So here we are and I was bored. I wandered the streets looking for fun when I saw a shop with mystical symbols and a palm on a large sign. I went in and felt like I had entered a gypsies home. An old woman came forth and offered to tell me my fortune. I paid her a silver and took seat.

She pulled out a deck of cards and started laying them out one at a time. She played the part well as she told me the story of my future. Then suddenly she seemed to freeze up like a body in rigor and her head twitched to the side. A strange sound came from her throat that sounded much like to noises the ghouls made when they spoke their odd language. I did not understand what she was saying. She rose into the air and hovered for a time and a wind blew out all of the candles. It was then I felt the breath of some vile beast upon my neck. I froze in fear.

The seconds passed but at the pace of hours. I felt death was upon me. My heart raced. I tried to cry out but no sound came from my lips. Then a light appeared and the dread was gone. I saw my gypsy hostess looking at me with a queer ness in he eyes. She handed me a pouch and told me I had been chosen. She said I was to smoke the Nepora Weed before I laid down to sleep. Then she rushed me out of the shop and told me to beware harming the cats of Ulthar.

I walked the streets back to my room without a word. That night my dreams were troubled. I could not seem to sleep for more than a few minutes. I kept waking and looking at the pouch. Finally I said fuck it and grabbed the pouch and looked within. Inside was a nice clay smoking pipe and some herbs that smelled like pine. I examined the pipe and saw it was covered in strange symbols that hurt my eyes if I looked at them for more than a moment. I filled the bowl and lit the weed. The first draw made me cough but each one that followed filled me with euphoria. Soon I felt sleep coming upon me and laid down on my bed.

I awoke with a start. A staircase like the endless staircase was before me, I descended for hours and passed many doors. Each one held the promise of adventure but something in my lizard brain told me to run away. When I reached the final step two robed men awaited me. The questioned me about the workings of magic and when I had answered enough they opened the door and let me pass. Beyond was a forest full of Terrance piping sounds and birds with many colors. I saw two suns in the sky and the clouds were purple and pink. I wondered where the guys were and how it was I got here.

For weeks I traveled and never once did I become hungry or thirsty. Soon I came upon fields where farmers cultivated mushrooms that were taller than a house. They gave me directions to Ulthar and I thought of the cats. Was I dreaming or was this real. It felt real. It felt wonderful and yet something nagged in my brain that danger was near. I reached for my ax but realized I had none of my gear. I was only clothed in a robe of silk. I popped my solvers and they were present which gave me much hope.

The road to Ulthar took me three days and then I saw the city in all of its majesty.Cats were as numerous as people and they spoke freely as men did. They are strange creatures with motivations that are alien from a human perspective but somehow endearing. I will never look at a cat the same way again. One of the cats, Jooka, told me of the Temple of the Elder Gods and suggested I travel there and speak with Barzai the Wise. I remembered the warning about cats but paid it no heed.

At the Temple I met the Patriarch Atal and he told that Barzai was gone for a time. He welcomed me to stay and wait and I did. The days passed quickly as I studied the books and learned the secrets of the Elder Gods, of Unknown Kadath, and of Leng. I saw many visitors come and go and I marveled at the numerous species I had never seen before. I saw the strange peoples of Leng, the blasphemous Moon Beasts, a delegation of the Seprent Peoples, and many more. Some I spoke with, while others I hid from. The Serpent People visited me many times over the weeks and months and spoke of the glories of Valusia. They showed me how they could transform themselves into men and how they could control the minds of the weak willed amongst us.

My days were spent reading the many books, tomes, and scrolls. The books within the temple taught me of the histories of Hyboria and the age of Atlantis and of the age before Atlantis when man was created. After a time Atal took me into a room and showed me his treasure, and ancient series of scrolls called The Pnakotic Manuscripts. He allowed me to study the scrolls and showed me the riddle within. Many of the things I saw hurt my head but I persisted and learned much. Eventually Barzai returned and greeted me as an old friend. He told me of his travels to the Basalt Pillars, through the Seventh Sea, and even to the lands of Faerun.

As we spoke over many nights of drinking he sparked in me a desire to travel and soon I said my good byes. I first went north because it was there that I had hear the Gods could be found dancing under the starry sky. I met cultist who worshiped the Black Goat of the Wood and I danced with them and joined them in their orgies. In another town I met a man who introduced me to the captain of a ship, the Anabella. He helped me to secure a job as a sailor and soon enough I was traveling the oceans from port to port. The months passed by like seconds and one day I discovered that I longed to go home. My hair was long and my skin weathered and when I looked in a mirror I hardly recognized myself for the years had passed by so quickly. I asked about the way back to the enchanted forest and searched for many months for a way home. Then one day I found myself walking into the forest of many colors and many piping sounds. I knew I had found my way home. I searched for the gate and climbing the stairs. As I passed the many doors I felt a yearning to open them and it was almost impossible not to. Only the thought of returning to my beloved Sam kept me on course. I opened the final door and passed through.

The next day I awoke in my bed in Shaadazar and discovered that only a night had passed. Had I dreamed it all? I quickly looked in a mirror and discovered I was still young but something had changed in my eyes. They had the far away look of someone who had lost something. I went through my gear and discovered the pipe and weed were still there. Enough for a dozen more bowls or so. I am scared of smoking again for what if I cannot find my way back the next time. My dreams now are filled with visions of far away places. My sleep is not as restful as it use to be and I worry that perhaps I am going insane. I can only focus on completing Merlin’s quest and getting back to Sam, She is my anchor and I need her now more than ever. Before the memories fade I just write down what I have seen and learned.

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Professor’s Log: Never Ambush a Wizard

C-3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.
Han Solo: Never tell me the odds.

Once again, I fucked up. I won’t say we lost good men because of it, since none of us deserve to be called good men at the moment, but we lost men. We found out from Yaakov what it would cost to put together the size expedition we needed and it turned out that we didn’t have enough cash on hand. No problem. We could just do what we do best and get some more. I heard about a merchant coming in all the way from Vendhya. That’s half way around this world, so I figured that anybody coming that far had to have something worth that much travel. Steve still wasn’t back, but we decided we could do the job without him.

About four days out from town, we saw the merchant caravan in the distance, so we decided to set up an ambush while John scouted ahead. We dug some shallow pits to hide ourselves in and waited. We obviously did too good a job of hiding ourselves, because on the way back, John missed us entirely. He ended up riding right past us. In the meantime, the caravan approached.

We could feel the vibrations of them approaching through the ground. That didn’t bode well, so I snuck a peak. I expected a well-guarded caravan, what I didn’t expect was 4 dozen armed and mounted soldiers, complete with a handful of elephants. I also didn’t expect to see Steve sitting in the middle of them. I didn’t know if he was a captive or a guest, and I didn’t have time to figure it out.

I know in hindsight that we should have just stayed in our little holes and let them pass, but we had been out there in the heat for days, and had no other options to make the money we needed for our expedition. Besides, we’ve faced tough odds before, and we had surprise, cyberware and a couple of guns on our side. I decided to go for it.

We leaped from our cover right in the middle of them. I let out a roar to stun our enemy and then our archers let loose. That was pretty much the highpoint of the battle. It went south from there in a hurry. Our archers were overrun by the mounted soldiers, most of our men were cut down, and I got hit with some sort of spell that left me writhing in the dust. When I recovered, I tried to salvage the situation by going invisible and trying to find the wizard who was protecting the caravan. When I found him, I snuck up and shot him in the back of the head. Maybe not sporting, but at the time it seemed like the thing to do. As he went down, I yelled for the soldiers to surrender, and that’s the last thing I remember before waking up in chains.

The only ones from our group that had survived the attack were me, Corey and Kinfe. Steve wasn’t a prisoner. He had simply joined up with the caravan, and so he tried to stay out of most of the fighting, to mixed success. The wizard I shot apparently survived, and I fully expected him to execute the lot of us, or at least leave us stranded in the desert. Instead, he challenged me to a game of seega. The stakes were our lives, so what choice did I have?

I lost. Again, instead of executing us, the wizard, who we learned was named, Jatesh, told us that since we lost, we would have do a job for him. We had to head north to the Zamoran city of Yezud and recover a book of prayers. Again, what choice did we have? Jatesh sent one of his warriors, a woman named Ming Xedong, to keep an eye on us. We sent Kinfe to go back to Shushan and let Pete know where we were headed and then have both of them meet us in Shadizar. Now we wait.

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John's Log 51
Hyborian Age 12

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
William Arthur Ward

The guys got back from their hunt, and I guess all went well. There was a snafu with the contact they’d made with Yaakov; in the excitement of their haul of silks and spices, they forgot to cut the local in for his share, and they forgot to set some money aside to outfit the trip we were all gonna be making. That meant we needed to hit another caravan.

John did some digging around town and heard about some big shot coming all the way from Vendhya. That’s like half a continent away, and would probably mean a good amount of money as well. Since we were still waiting for Steve to get back from Arenjun and had some time to kill, we figured on a plan and headed out to meet the Vendhyan merchant and his goods. The trip was hot and dry, but our spirits were up so the journey passed quickly enough. Some days later we could just make out the dust rising from the caravan in the distance, maybe two days away or so.

I set out to do some scouting while John and Corey led the men in setting up an ambush site. It took a day for me to get there and I was surprised by what I saw – three elephants, maybe thirty or so camels, and at least four dozen soldiers mounted on horseback. Not exactly easy pickings, but if the guys had set up well, it could be doable. I set back immediately to inform the group but in the night I missed them; they’d dug shallow holes covered with reed mats to hide and I’d missed them entirely. If the radios hadn’t been getting all that interference things might’ve worked out better, but as it was, not so much.

I was a couple of hours past the spot where the guys had dug in when the radio signal cleared up. John let me know they were getting ready to attack, and I immediately wheeled my horse around and started galloping back as quickly as I could. I knew I’d be too late to help with the ambush, but I might be able to help out in some way if things went against us. I let John know the odds he and the men were against, and to my surprise he decided to go for it. I probably would’ve made the same decision he made, and things would have turned out just as well for me… in the end, only John, Corey, and Kinfe remained. Steve was among the living as well, but he stood on the caravan’s side – he’d met them on the road during his trip and had been traveling with them for a while; he’d done his best to stay out of the fight, which meant he was unable to help our side out.

In the end, Jatesh, the Vendhyan scholar and sorcerer in charge of the caravan, gave us a choice – work for him or be put to death. Okay, so not really a choice. There’s a book of prayers in the Zamorian city of Yezud that he’s been looking for, and we’ve been sent to acquire it for him so that he won’t have to detour on his journey to the ruins of Khet. By the time I made it back to the ambush site, all that was left for me to do was to join the guys on this new quest. Kinfe has headed back to Shushan to let Pete know what’s happened, and if they can they’ll meet us in Shadizar before we continue north to Yezud. I’m not happy about this crap, but what can I do? I’ve got to help the guys, but I really just want to finish Merlin’s effin’ job and get back to Jasmine. I know the rest of the guys feel the same way about their girls, but we’re all over the place since Merlin’s last message to us wasn’t what anyone would call ‘clearly worded’… I hate wizards and prophecy.

We’ve arrived in Shadizar with minimal fuss throughout the journey. The highlights include Corey’s horse coming up lame and needing to be put down; that cost us some time since Corey decided to walk instead of asking for a ride from one of us (pride’s a bitch sometimes). He picked up a new one in Arenjun and we were soon on our way. We also ran into a pack of ghouls, but Steve was able to talk to them – they’re creepy and disgusting, and according to Steve they’re waiting with anticipation for us to succeed in Yezud so that they can enter and feast to their fill… great, now we’re caterers for the undead. We’re gonna see if Pete’s and Kinfe have arrived yet, so I’m gonna go skulking about the Wicked City one more time.

Our next stop is the City of the Spider God… let’s just hope it’s not our last one.

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Corey's Log 23

Well some battles should not happen.

We got our asses handed to us.

Prof and I went to setup am ambush with the guys. John went a head of us to keep look out. Our radio were not working due to some kind of interference.
Well the group we attack was way bigger than we thought ….they had war elephants and a lot of people. At one point, found out that Steve was traveling with them. Our radio started working again but it was too late.
These big things were nearly on top of us when we jump up and attack. Yes it was stupid but we stayed committed to the plan. I broke down and lost control when I saw a huge war elephant crash down on the prof and Pete. Then I lost it. I was leaping around and slashing at anything. I felt myself trying to release a new wave of power. By the time I regain my control, many were down including Kuma dying body at the end of my weapon. We were capture by the leader Jatesh and given a task to complete or die.
He had a warrior join with us to make sure the job was done. This warrior was most beautiful woman that I have ever seen name Ming. I fell for her at first sight. However, she thinks that I am a demon that works for Prof because of my berserk rage and red eyes.

Now I find myself drawn to her and wanting to telling her the whole truth about us. But she is still doesn’t believe

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Steve's Log 53

“It was a colossal and nameless blasphemy with glaring red eyes, and it held in bony claws a thing that had been a man, gnawing at the head as a child nibbles at a stick of candy. Its position was a kind of crouch, and as one looked one felt that at any moment it might drop its present prey and seek a juicier morsel. But damn it all, it wasn’t even the fiendish subject that made it such an immortal fountain-head of all panic—not that, nor the dog face with its pointed ears, bloodshot eyes, flat nose, and drooling lips. It wasn’t the scaly claws nor the mould-caked body nor the half-hooved feet—none of these, though any one of them might well have driven an excitable man to madness.”
~H.P. Lovecraft, Pickman’s Model

I thought I was done with Zamora for a time but alas I was wrong. It seems this nation sucks me back in at every turn. I had headed south towards Shushan only to get caught up in the craziness of my friends once again and now I am in debt to the wizard Jatesh and am on my way to the city of Yezid to retrieve a book for him. Now the fact that one of the books of the Golden Peacock are there is more than enough to motivate me to go. Jatesh put his kung-fu princess, Ming, amongst us to make sure that we do the job.

On the road I made use of the evenings to study and practice my incantations and I feel I am making good progress on my research of the Golden Peacock. I hope someday to master the rites and rituals within. We traveled back to Arunjun where I purchased a couple of large war dogs. I named them Zeus and Apollo. They are vicious beasts and will make fine guard dogs.

Enroute from Arunjun to Shaadazar I was awakened by the two vicious beasts I had purchased only to discover they were cowering in fear. I grabbed my ax and shield and went outside to take a look around. I was expecting a giant spider. Instead I encountered a pack of ghouls. While the guys roused and prepared for battle, I walked out to meet the monsters. I hoped they were open to conversation and my hopes proved true. I learned much as I bluffed my way through the conversation and I thank the gods that the Serpent People marked me as one of their own. Apparently there is a truce between the ghouls and the serpent people and the seal I carry is a part of that pact. The Serpent people told me of a war they wanted me to lead. They told me that they wanted me to become Thanatus (the Hand of Death) and to restore the glory of that name. It seems the ghouls think I am important as well. They told me that they would run free through Yezid and devour all, once the seal was placed and the war had begun. They asked me several times if I was the one to bring the war. I wonder if Jatesh knew these things and set us up to trigger this war. Only time will tell but I could care less either way. Have I not always prayed for war? Besides I took a job and I plan to finish it. Plus I need that book to continue my studies. In the end the ghouls left to hunt for better food and I returned to my friends with the hopes that we would not be on the menu.

That night my dreams were vivid. They were filled with visions of the Steps of Great Slumber and beyond into a forest where I traveled to the City of Ulthar, “where no man may kill a cat”. When I awoke it felt as if days had passed but really it had all been just a dream. Now we are off to Shaadazar and then onto another great adventure. Before heading out I gave John B. the grail. I figure this way John, The Professor, Corey, and myself each carry a piece of the puzzle. This way we can protect it all a little better.

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Professor’s Log: Into the Desert

“One mile farther and I come to a second grave beside the road, nameless like the other, marked only with the dull blue-black stones of the badlands. I do not pause this time. The more often you stop the more difficult it is to continue. Stop too long and they cover you with rocks.”
― Edward Abbey, Beyond the Wall: Essays from the Outside

Well, we found Corey. Apparently, he got here ahead of us, and joined up with a group of bandits. We found them, or I should say, they found us when they tried to ambush us. Uncharacteristically, the encounter ended peacefully, and we ended joining them too. At least, most of us did. Steve took a side trip to Arunjun without telling anyone. Our radios are working, so I figure he can rejoin us later.

That night, Pete put everybody in a good mood by cooking dinner. Even the cook he replaced seemed to be impressed. After dinner, Pete told the group that we were headed to retrieve the lost treasure of Khotan, and offered a share of the treasure to any man who would join us. A dozen of the bandits took him up on the offer, including a Kushite, named Kinfe and a Cimerian kid, named Cuma. Bassus, the leader of the bandits didn’t join, but he did let us know of a man named Yaakov in the city of Shushan, who might have information we could use.

The trip south to Shushan was pleasantly uneventful, except for a city we had to bypass because our new found friends had some, shall we say “legal issues” there. Once in Shushan, we found the man we were looking for. He seems like a lying scoundrel, but who are we to talk. He also does seem to have knowledge of the lost city we’re headed towards, so we arranged to meet up with him in a few days and have him act as our guide.

That gave us a couple of days to get the resources to outfit an extended expedition into the dessert. In need of cash, we did what we do best. We found a merchant caravan to waylay. It was well guarded, but nothing we and our friends couldn’t happen. We didn’t get much cash out of it, but we did manage to get the merchant’s cargo of silk and spices. Now, the Silk Road was kept in business for well over a thousand years on the value of silk and spices, so I knew we had something worth keeping. We took the entire caravan and headed back to town.

On the way back, we ran into a large, well-armed group of soldiers. We were badly outnumbered, so discretion seemed the better part of valor. We bribed them to let us on our way. It’s somehow comforting to know that no matter which world we’re in, some things are universal.

Once back in Shushan, we sold the silk and spices for a tidy sum and outfitted ourselves properly. With Yaakov as guide, we’re headed out. I’ll try to reach Steve on the radio to let him know where we’re headed, and then we’re off into the desert.

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