Some time passed now without further danger, the Clan taking shape and with much activity all round. Here follows an account of the next journey undertaken without the assistance of Althax.
A recounting of the Maere Librum Journey, as told by Vivernicol, Weaponmaster of Clan Erathorn and noted by the Scribe Leeika
October 14th-We departed the Clan Erathorn holdings discretely, and disguised ourselves as merchants in poor wines, to make our purpose unclear, and to throw off any assassins sent by our great enemy, House Morvissen. Journeying to my holdings, we laid our plans. First, we obtained the cooperation of an acquaintance, Wolf of the Elemental School. His knowledge of the Iberian languages would enable our venture into Aragon to succeed. Here we would purchase fine weaponry for trading with House Bronze-hammer, and find a boat to Corsica. In the meantime, Her Highness Lauredana was being sent by coach to meet us in her homeland.
Little need be said of our journey through Francia, for it was untroubled, and we saw no clash of arms. Arriving at the border to Aragon our hopes were high, and though the guards were suspicious, they let us through. Yet only hours later, traveling on a dusty road on the hot plains, we were stopped by numerous horsemen of a military persuasion. They asked piercing questions, and seized upon our apparent lack of status to claim our companion had stolen his fine Garron. More horsemen arrived, and outnumbered, wishing no great battle, we surrendered to the authorities, expecting the misunderstanding to be cleared up quickly. This was not to be. After an uncomfortable night in a jail cell, we were brought before Terrius Belar, justiciar. With what appeared to be paid witnesses and without paying attention to our objections, we were condemned for numerous crimes, and condemned to be galley slaves "for the rest of your natural lives" as the justiciar expressed it. We were transported to the nearest port, devoid of all equipment, and chained to great oars in a great galley, the name "Marduk" boldly painted on the bow. Soon we were set to row, together with nearly two hundred similar unfortunates.
The following days were ones of hard work, as we moved eastwards toward the Phonecian states. Whispered plans began to take form, and Wolf, being of a technical bent, managed to jump the locks on his chains, giving us at least a chance for an escape. Yet planning was not without danger, ever-alert slave drivers eyeing our every move. The bold Hallock, Captain of the Guard, attempted to plan a takeover, but a traitor turned him in, and he suffered 20 lashes of the whip-quite often fatal. Yet Hallock lived, and bore his wounds with dignity, building his strength for the time of revenge. After weeks of rowing, and moving toward the Kingdom of Naples, our chance came. A great storm battered the ship, and oars were drawn in, most of the crew retreating below board, with only the sailing master and the occasional patrol to watch the slaves. Here Wolf slipped his chains, and continued to release Hallock, myself and Arpegatus of Moonlight, a staunch ally in this time. Now several slaves of a traitorous bent died, washed into the ocean, turbulent like our spirits. A traitor who was once a warrior tried to make his mark with a scimitar he had somehow obtained, but Arpegatus summoned me a sword of flame, and the traitor died. Now searching the ship, we found several rooms of weaponry and arms, and carried shields and scimitars to the slaves, freeing them quickly, whilst staying quiet so as not to alert the guards. Finally, the time was ripe, and the slaves charged into the chambers of the ship's marines, aided by the crew under Sailing Master Paolo Moha, who had rallied to our side. In a bloody fight they slew the marines, leaving only a handfull of enemies aboard. We pursued these into an upper level, and here Hallock slew the Ship's Wizard, Maldonado of the Black School, after said villain had paralyzed Wolf and myself with a staff of power. We continued, and meeting the captain and slave master together in the main cabin, fought them to the death, ending the struggle for the ship. Searching the ship, we found many items of use, including the weaponry brought back. Further, items of magick were our reward, for we needed all the help we could have in bringing the ship back home. Wolf was rewarded with the staff in question, and a phylactery that would increase his power. Hallock came upon a stone which seemed to bring luck, and I an armband, which, when worn in combat, allows me to sense incoming blows, and allows me opportunities to parry such blows with speed and added agility.
Hallock then took command of the ship, having some experience with construction of such vessels, and rallied those aboard in trying to escape the Maere Librum and fleeing to Neustria. First, we journeyed west to Corsica, knowing that it would take some time before the owners of the boat came looking. It turned out that this mysterious group of people call themselves the Starfire Guild, and that they have great power in the Maere Librum. Yet they are not honest merchants-dealing in contraband, avoiding taxation, and trapping people into slavery, and so we felt justified in treating the captured treasures as our own. In Corsica the ship was repainted and subtly changed to make it less the ship it was. Recruits were also obtained, with promises of land grants in Clan Erathorn territory. Restored, then, we set off again, this time with voluntary rowers on healthy rations. Passing along the northern coast of the continent of Afrik we recruited more troops, and set full sails for the Atlantlan Ocean. One more clash was to come, for when we sailed near Mago, the Starfire Guild found us. 3 light galleys they sent, and a race was on. A wizard entered our ship through means magickal, and while he was engaged by Wolf, I climbed into the Crow's Nest where he appeared. Swiftly, he changed into a black eagle and attempted escape, but I jumped, and with one hand grabbed his black leg, plunging into the waters below. He changed back to his natural form and attempted to fight, and in the waters he died. A staff was once again Wolf's reward, but for Hallock, the ring that changes a man into an eagle. Thus, one ship was without its wizard, and quickly fell back in the race. The second ship we outran, for our men were strong and well fed, but the third kept up, at terrible cost to its slaves, no doubt. Finally, it came within range, and Wolf fired. Inspired by the occasion, no doubt, he timed his shot to perfection and crushed the forward oars and rigging of the ship, freeing us to escape out of the Maere Librum during bad weathers. Our remaining journey was swift and hard, and though we were forced to take action against a pirate in Avillonian waters, our return was secured. Once here, Wolf was given bales of cloth for his business, the sailing master some wares and the ship he had sailed so well, and we, holding no small coin amongst the crew, left with the truly valuable goods, as well as the slaves and volunteers who would follow. Thus, our journey was ended, the task was accomplished, and we looked forward to using the goods gained for the best of the clan.
Back at Clan Erathorn, we continued our business, but it was not long before another great journey was to be our lot. It is recounted here:
A recounting of the Great Journey, as told by Vivernicol, Weaponmaster of Clan Erathorn and noted by the Scribe Leeika
Part 1: Departure
On December 15th 993, after your Serene Highness departed to have business with the King, we were informed of a ratman village within the Clan Erathorn lands. The footmen were wary of dealing with this village on their own, due to a strong magick in the area. Assuming that a dweomercrafter was present the Clan Wizard Darius accompanied Hallock and myself to the site. Once here, we met moderate resistance from ratmen, but suffered no injuries. However, as we were dispatching foes, suddenly a shimmering portal appeared in the middle of the village, and from a hiding place nearby we observed Elisia, Witch of House Morvissen heading for it. I naturally charged in pursuit, closely followed by Hallock, whilst Darius dealt with the last of the ratmen. A footman by the name of Morwick was also quickly by our side. The Witch jumped through the portal, and we followed without hesitation. This proved our undoing, for as we travelled through the portal, weapons and armour were wrenched from us violently, leaving us with no means of defence. The only item left to us was one of magick-the one foremost in our minds at the time of travel. For Hallock, this was his lucky stone, and as for any other weaponmaster, for me, the armband of parries. Emerging from the portal, we were in a dire predicament indeed, for there stood the Witch, supported by some two score orcs of Clan Spearhead. Our only hope was to flee, and this we did with conviction. After a short pursuit, Hallock noticed a cave, and we chose to escape into it. Once again, we had made the wrong choice. This proved to be the main seat of Clan Spearhead, and we were quickly surrounded by orcs. Surrender was not a tempting option, and so we scanned the area. In the middle of this cave was a pentacle, which I presume was of the exclusive variety, within which was a portal similar to the one we had travelled through. Favouring a poor chance over no chance, we ran towards the pentacle, hoping it would not prevent our entry. This it did not, and in fact, after our passage it seemed to recharge, leaving the orcs on the outside. With no means of escape and not knowing whether the Witch would be able to assault us upon arriving, we decided to use the portal before us, and clutching our remaining magicks, tentatively stepped through. The same vertigo assaulted us upon entry, but this time no force attempted to divest us of possessions. We arrived at our destination in a blink of an eye, and knew immediately that we were far from Clan Erathorn lands.
Part II: Journeys Afar
We felt a great heat, as in a desert, the sun beat down on our exposed heads, and a fine sand covered the land as far as the eye could see. Examining the land in detail, we finally made out a rocky region and started a slow march towards it, hoping to find shelter. As dusk came, and weary from the march, which upon later reflection was no more than an hour, we felt rock under our feet. Continuing into the rocky region, we fell victim to a sudden ambush. With no warning, we were surrounded by a score or so men wearing a heavy form of leather armour. These spoke to us in an unintelligible language, and brandished knives and what we assumed was a magickal form of crossbow. The meaning was clear-follow us or die. Still unarmed, and unsure of our position, we followed, and were dragged blindfold to a subterranean area, where we were thrown into some sort of prison hole. This contained about a score of men, dressed differently from those first encountered. They wore ugly leather armours, and bore many scars. Their short, reddish hair was unkept, and they looked at us with the appraising glances of condemned convicts. One approached us, sized us up, and then testingly offered a word. This he repeated several times, as if hoping for a positive response. The word was "Harkonnen." When we responded in the negative, the attitude of the men changed, and several more identifiers were offered: "Sardukar" and "Ordos." Finally, we responded, telling them "Erathorn." For the time being, nothing further. Later, our captors returned with water for the prisoners. A particularly large "Harkonnen" then came over and attempted to take my water. Aware of how precious water is in such an area, I decided to set a precedent and killed him. This temporarily dampened the aggressive tendencies of our fellow prisoners, and caused a substantial change of attitude amongst our captors. They brought us out of the prison cell, and to a room where sat an aging man who seemed to be of a sedentary bent. It was clear that he was to be our tutor, and we were to learn their language. For the next several months our days were filled with new words, and we used each other to keep our fighting skills up to date. Though what we learnt from the old man, whose name was Khaliff, was probably tailored for our ears, we got a rough understanding of the situation. The Fremen as they called themselves, are desert dwellers, living in underground complexes in the rock. The Harkonnens are their mortal enemies, and control the more heavily populated regions of the planet. Both factions rely on the spice melange, which grows only on Arrakis, the planet. To the Harkonnens, the spice is money, and to the Fremen, the base of their existence. The scene is thus set for conflict. However, this was not our concern. Our thoughts were of the Clan Erathorn holdings, and of how to return. Yet to have any chance of returning, we had to survive, and so decided to play along with the Fremen. They seemed to fight exclusively with knives and the strange projectile weapons which they had captured from their enemies. Having little skill with knives ourselves, we asked for a sword. After a lengthy discussion, they agreed to let us have some of the metal from captured Harkonnen knives, as they used a crystalline material for their own knives. Improvising a forge, we managed to produce a rather crude broadsword, which I was entrusted with. We were given sets of "stillsuits" which the Fremen called their leather armours. These would also recover our water (perhaps some form of alchemy), and enable us to travel through the desert. An expedition was to set off, carrying packs of the spice, which would be traded with smugglers from House Ordos (it seems that the power factions were solely Houses). This would be our chance to prove ourselves worthy allies. The patrol, consisting of 10 people-7 Fremen and ourselves, set off at dusk, and travelled across the land on foot. We were instructed to adopt an irregular walking pattern to avoid attracting worms. This took some time to get used to, but finally we began to adopt it unconsciously and were safe. According to the descriptions, the worms are extremely large wingless drakes attracted to vibrations in the sand. It seems it was only blind luck which had saved us from them during our initial march. Even more so, as all our magick was drained, and we had no power left, neither in dweomercraft nor herbalism. Our items of power, however, seemed to function still-indicating that not all sources of magick were blocked. The march was hard, but we persevered, having superior training to the Fremen. On day three of our march, moving through a mountanous area, we were ambushed by a Harkonnen patrol. These were easily dispatched, and we snuck up on the remainder of the enemy force and finished it. The Fremen demonstrated some skill in this, wielding their knives much as eastern assassins. We continued undaunted, though a flying creature, which we later learned was a vehicle called a carryall (a truly remarkable piece of heka-forging-we could not even see the magickal symbols) passed over our heads. Time passed, and our only encounter was with a desert lizard which I dispatched, before being told it was extremely poisonous. On Day 14 of our trek, we came to a larger section of rock, where our scouts told us a Harkonnen force was fortified. We attacked at night, in two groups, and with limited casualties defeated the force before moving on. Evading enemy "Ornithopters"-another flying marvel, we proceeded with little incident along to our destination, arriving 29 days after setting out. A large fortification was hidden in the mountain, with one of the aforementioned carryalls ready to accept our loads. Here we encountered Michael Brentin of the Ordos. He had grave news-the Harkonnens were planning a large offensive, employing many of their "rifles" which we had learnt were dangerous in the extreme. We therefore decided to leave the Fremen, after making sure they were warned, and departed quickly on wings of metal (a remarkable experience, though quite shocking). Mr. Michael Brentin (his title unexplained) offered us a deal. He would allow us to join the Ordos, and be thoroughly trained, and even offer us a small gift of our choice. We naturally obliged, and were somehow moved to another world (yes, several planets bustling with activity) to an Ordos fortification. For six months we were trained here, learning the use of the powerful rifles, how the Ordos fought, and how to fight with shields. Naturally, we know how to employ shields, but through another feat of heka-forging, the inhabitants here have been able to produce belts, which, when activated protect the wearer from all direct blows. This was quite difficult to adapt to, as normal armours work quite differently. However, after much training and a few battles, this too was no longer a handicap. The noble Hallock found the new situation much harder to deal with, but our advantage lay in our greater weapon skills, enabling us to keep weapons from hitting us at all, and being able to rely on the shields when they did hit. The entire training period, and dealing with this highly exotic environment was made much easier by the appearance of a Damius Ravenlocks, elite mercenary-who seemed intrigued by our skills and foreign appearance. We joined this worthy through the training, and were put in the same "platoon" upon finishing our training. We were Trike Platoon OP-4048 (Trikes being a strange form of land-going carriage powered by heka). Setting off for our first assignment we encountered an overturned trike and investigated. The two men there quickly attacked and paid for it. Searching the trike we found several packs of spice, and decided to hide these from our Sergeant. We were then assigned to rearguard, and suddenly set upon by a number of Sardaukar. Ravenlocks and Spitz (an Ordos soldier) in particular seemed worried, and we drew into a tight square formation, engaging our shields. The Sardukar closed and we fought for what seemed like hours. Through the gargantuan efforts of Ravenlocks and myself we defeated the Sardukar, but not without the loss of Spitz and scratches here and there. There and then we knew that more than 2 Sardukar could spell doom for even the most adept warrior. The Sardukar had fought with Scimitars, somewhat like the ones I had had made as part of our deal with Mr. Brentin. We gathered our items, and set off on the Sardukar bikes, to catch up with our Sergeant. Later that same day, our Sergeant, true to form, wanted to pass through an extremely dangerous mountain range to save time. Listening to the advice of Ravenlocks, we refused, taking a round route (this was technically desertion, but we had never had any loyalty to House Ordos from the start). Arriving at our assigned fortification, we attempted to sell the spice to various shady dealers, and succeeded in part. However, our Sergeant had somehow surpassed all expectation and survived his foolhardy trip, and we were now fugitives. Recovering the rest of the spice and preparing for a fight, we captured the local Ornithopter, just fighting off the first Sardukar as they came for their revenge. We fled quickly to a large island city were no House held sway, and prepared to make another sale, hoping for enough money to take us to a safer planet. This was not to be. Attempting a sale in a disreputable bar, we were attacked by a large number of local roughs. Opening with several rounds from our rifles, and then activating shields, we dispatched the unarmoured thugs with negligible difficulty. The innkeeper, however, managed to escape, and we pursued him. Seeing him leave another inn, we foolishly decided to inquire inside. As we were making enquiries, several men with large rifles appeared and opened fire on us. Hallock, Ravenlocks and myself managed to activate our shield before the minute projectiles landed, but Morwick was too slow, and was hit in the head, dying instantly. We fled the scene, and observed that our Ornithopter was now guarded, blocking escape. Trying the only alternative, we snuk up to the Ornithopters of the local forces, and distracting attention with a device producing a crude heka-blast, we captured one and set off. Thus we walked right into a trap. The Ornithopter was virtually drained of heka, and we had to turn back and land on a beach to save ourselves. Finally, we tried one last desperate tactic, found an isolated Ornithopther belonging to a merchant, and captured it, traveling fast to the closest and largest city we could find. Here, it was brought to our attention that transport was available back to Arrakis for those willing to enlist with the Harkonnens. In this place of such great chaos, where nobility is scant and lives cheap, we decided to offer our services to the Harkonnens, thinking that Arrakis, where the whole adventure started, might also be where it would end. During the next three months we worked for the Harkonnens, locating Ordos raiders, guarding their precious spice, and now and again fighting Fremen, who killed more than their share of Harkonnens in return. Yet we survived, for survival was our aim, and the fight was not ours. As we patrolled our section of desert, in an Ornithopther belonging to the Harkonnens, and promoted to the rank of Captain, two individuals were spotted by my trusty "pilot" Friedrich of the Harkonnens. We "touched down" some distance from the intruders and challenged them. Quickly our wariness turned to joy, for they answered in fluent Neustrian. They were Wolf of the Elemental School and Baron Agonar of Neustria. Hastily leaving to avoid worms, we transported them back and passed them off as assistant and mighty warrior. They wove a tale similar to ours. Baron Agonar had discovered a strange cube of a magickal nature on his lands, and had enlisted the help of Wolf in deciphering it. This he had done with skill, identifying it as a transport device requiring a gem of much value and a great amount of heka to activate. The two had supplied these quantities and been presented with a shimmering portal, through which they ventured, whereupon they were suddenly stranded in the desert. These had not lost any possessions, but were woefully poorly equipped. We supplied them with the proper equipment, and started our search for a cube matching the description, thinking this our only chance of returning. To our advantage, the Harkonnens favour vulgar displays of wealth, and so our "base" commander had let us see his priceless crystal, captured from enemies on some backwater world. Secondly, our magick was very slowly returning, the power seemingly coming from the spice in our food-for as we increased the intake of this, the amount of heka energy available to us increased as well. Wolf found himself without heka, as we had, but he had brought several items which proved helpful. His direct heka reservoirs were still functional, though the rate at which they replenished was almost negligible. His wand of power, enabling him to strike down an enemy with pain, also functioned, though it relied on heka from his other devices for its operation. We waited for a sign, and without our knowledge we were pointed in the right direction. An Ordos smuggler camp had been located by our scouts, and we decided to test its strength. Bringing our Neustrian group as well as some Harkonnen troopers, we voyaged in Ornithopters and stealthily approached. Our stealth was not enough, it seems, for we were attacked by well armed raiders in defensible positions. Both escape and advance were impossible, and we crouched for safety behind rocks. Here our shields came in handy, for though forbidden by the Harkonnens on account of them attracting worms, we had brought our shield generators. Using these, we could stand up and charge our enemies. By this time, I was acquiring quite some skill with the rifles issued to officers, revealing it as an extremely potent and easily employed weapon (woe be to the day when such a weapon is discovered on Aerth). We found an entrance to the smuggler camp, and defeating some poorly trained guards moved through tunnels towards the main rooms. By this time we had lost all our Harkonnen troopers to misadventure, and once again attempted to rely on stealth. Stealth is not our strength it seems, for once again we were spotted, and set upon by a single Fremen who wounded Hallock grievously before being dispatched-this even though Hallock had his shield up, and the Fremen should have no foreknowledge of such a device. A general alert was up, and we retreated, knowing that a full scale assault would be most costly. Returning to base, we decided that while Hallock was preparing for the Harkonnen attack on the base (the number of soldiers within the base a sure sign that a load of great value was present), Wolf, the Baron and myself would try to infiltrate. We walked across the desert this time, employing the tactics learnt from the Fremen-not without incident, for two of our Harkonnen troopers fell victim to the worms. Finally arriving, we executed an ambush on the guards and proceeded inside, meeting fair resistance. Pursued by numerous Ordos guards and Fremen on site, we fought our way to the central chamber, and swiftly absconded with the Carryall therein, forcing the pilot to take us out after eliminating the guards. Within the hull of this vehicle we found what we were looking for, an obsidian cube like the one that had brought Wolf here-with one difference, this one was black. Destroying the carryall to cover our tracks, we carried the cube back to the Harkonnens and hid it in the stonework of our rooms (heavily assisted by the expertise of Hallock). We then pooled our talents to come up with a plan: We would delay the assault on the Ordos "facility" until we were sure they had departed (after the loss of their carryall there was little for them to defend), and then we would move in noisily, suffering moderate casualties in the traps they surely would leave. We would leave one ornithopter behind, hidden from view, and stage a crash with our other ornithopter, to fake our deaths. Then we would stay in the installation for as long as required to generate enough heka for activation. A swift Ornithopter trip would then bring us back to the base, where we would ask to see the commander, and seize his gem to open the portal. The plan was executed to perfection, with one drawback. As we were funneling the last quantities of heka into the cube, a great force of Sardukar in Ornithopters was moving towards us from the horizon (we must assume that the Sardukar have some concept of honour so that they would follow us from one planet to another in search of vengeance for their dead comrades). We boarded our own Ornithopter, and Friedrich brought us safely back to the Harkonnen base, where we rushed into the Commander's quarters. We explained little, but claimed that the cube was a new secret weapon which would help against the incoming Sardukar. The commander was sufficiently flustered to supply the gem for "fuel" and we activated the cube. Sure enough, a shimmering portal appeared, and we hastened through it, followed by 2 Harkonnens. Where our last appearance had been into a scorching desert, this one was into water, and we swam ashore, delighted to be away from Arrakis. Here, one Harkonnen paid for his attempt to attack us, and the other fled into the wilderness, never to be seen again. So it was that Wolf, the Baron, Hallock, Friedrich and myself were returned to Aerth, for this was Magmur, and the first stage of our return to Neustria was complete. No longer would we hear of the conflict of the great houses, the terror troops of the Emperor, strange devices of exotic magics, the House of IX which produced them, the Mentat "Computers" or the Bene Gesserit "Witches." We were far from home, but we were on our home ground.
Part III: Aerth, the way back
The land was lush here by the coast, and fish aplenty swam in the clear waters. Our rifles and other devices from the far lands ceased to work, but we were not worried, for our skills would come into their own here. Following the shore, we soon came upon a small village of natives. These were almost universally friendly, and we decided to make the little community our home, where we would prepare our journey. A ship seemed the obvious answer, and with great energy Hallock set to preparing the plans. Wolf was to liaison with the natives, learning their language, Hallock was to direct, and the Baron, Friedrich and myself would provide labour for the project. First, we set off on a small expedition to a nearby mountain range, there to obtain iron ore. The ore we formed into crude tools for the construction, and for the next 6 months we laboured, thoughts of home driving our efforts. To our surprise, we were still completely without heka, Wolf theorizing that the spice might be responsible. Finally, the day came when sails were ready, the last plank was fastened, grease was applied to the boards, and our supplies were loaded. A number of natives were willing to come with us. These were RomRom, Natik, Dobin and T'Kaa-Hallock's newfound friend. We left with fond farewells to the village, and our hearts filled with new hope. Of our waterbound journey to the coast of Afrik little needs be said, except the voyage was perilous and taxing, and only the inspired efforts of Hallock at the helm enabled us to stay afloat. Yet all this was for nought, for after putting in to land to avoid a storm (here Hallock found a parentless monkey and named him Brutus), we were spotted by slavers. Attempting to flee, Wolf summoned a wind elemental to fill our sails, but the pursuers had similar magicks, and were closing fast. We loaded our rear scorpion and prepared to do battle, but the hostile ship was better armed, and salvo upon salvo of burning spears slammed into our ship, dooming it to a watery end. In the ensuing confusion, we managed to make good our escape into the jungle, cheating the slavers of their prize. When they had departed, we continued northwards, considering our options. Even as we were recovering from the last ordeal, more enemies appeared. This time, they came from the depths of the forest, and we recognized the bestial tattoos of headhunters. Knowing the danger of poison, and possessed of no armour, we were again forced to run for our lives, just as saviour, in the form of the Marduk and our good friend Paolo Moha, the sailing master came into view. We were divided in the chase, and cursed with foul fortune, Friedrich, T'Kaa, Hallock, Brutus and myself falling into a vast pit. This even as Wolf, the Baron, RomRom, Natik and Dobin were lifted to safety and set full sails for home. In the air and falling fast, we thought all might be ended, for such a pit would surely be filled with spikes and all manner of evils. Not so, for as we hit the ground we found not ground at all, but deep water. The landing was painful, it is true, but we were still alive, and immediately tried to make out our surroundings. A voice intoned in the darkness "One would think that jumping into mantraps was something to be avoided-'tis lucky for you that I was able to remove the spikes, and one should be grateful for rain......" A bright magickal light suddenly illuminated the cavity, and we looked upon a dark bearded man in loose leather clothing sitting on a ledge. This was Muertin, and as he lit his large pipe, he explained that he had been stranded here whilst experimenting with a teleportation spell (unfortunately, he had had such confidence in his own teleportation techniques that he had never bothered to learn the standard ones, so he was as trapped as we were). However, he had found an exit in the stone. His continued presence was due to him not being fond of the idea of venturing into the tunnels a lone wizard. Our appearance was therefore fortuitous. We scurried into the tunnels, avoiding poisoned arrows from the headhunters above, and made substantial progress. A strange form of heavy-boned humanoid resided in the tunnels, and we were forced to neutralize several individuals who attempted to block our path. Coming to the end of the domain of these creatures, we found a large gate with some magickal symbols. Exercising great care, we investigated, and found that a complex system of deadfalls operated in front of the door. Disarming these, we were able to open the gate, and gazed upon a long passage with rows of metal bars along the walls. These led into a large room of some sort. Testing the safety of the passage with a stone, we saw it snapped away by a large tentacle, and immediately understood our predicament. Hallock formulated a solution involving having one of Muertin's wind elementals fasten a row of spears in the roof of the passage, for us to use as a means of transport to the other side. This ploy was relatively successful, with the exception of Hallock slipping onto the ground and only barely escaping being dragged into the mass of tentacles below. On the other side, we found a dirty prison with many men, and we released these. Making our way out, we fought our way through the guards-assisted heavily by elemental magicks from Muertin. Reappearing on the surface we found ourselves in the middle of the headhunter camp, and executed a speedy escape into the forest. We found food, recovered our strength and started following a river to the sea. Pursuing headhunters soon appeared, and we dispatched them with powerful magicks. T'kaa then suffered what I fear was a knock on the head, as she suddenly became most aggressive, and with several rather fortuitous spear thrusts slew a lion, claiming this made her a "big warrior." We carried the lion to a nearby village, where celebrations were held. The worthy Hallock was here challenged by a local thug who wanted T'kaa for less than savoury purposes. Suffering several devastating blows, Hallock nevertheless triumphed, showing the locals what power is in a carefully positioned kick. Muertin now departed to investigate our means of travel, while we recovered as guests of honour. On the sixth day, Muertin returned, and warned us that he had observed two freed prisoners heading towards the village, hotly pursued by two score headhunters. Having had enough of these savages, we carefully laid an ambush, digging out a large man-trap to Hallock's specifications. Muertin covered this with a sheet of stone, and just as the foe was charging in our direction, annulled its existence, sending them onto the spikes below. He followed this with a firestorm, sending the remainder back from whence they came. Their leader, a witchdoctor of some potency, was at this time fleeing for his life, and we pursued, finishing his two bodyguards in the blink of an eye. As we approached in loose formation we were worried by him suddenly turning around and looking at us in defiance. T'kaa, being the least careful, met his eyes with a cry of gleeful expectation, and promptly froze, turning to stone before our eyes. Those remaining attacked the foe, and found to our disbelief that our weapons again and again did not bite, turned away by a powerful defensive force. Yet no defensive heka lasts forever, and as our blows were hitting home, the witchdoctor swiftly snapped a gem from his necklace, throwing it at Hallock whilst shrieking "Curse you" in a language we could somehow understand. The gem turned to light, and sped towards Hallock, who somehow resisted, and sent the shining orb away towards the horizon. As our final blows hit home, the witchdoctor snapped one more gem from his chain, and speaking his final word, dropped it on the ground. Obtaining the necklace, we saw a small whirlwind forming around the released gem, and Muertin shouted "Summoning circle" as we started to depart. Some distance away, we saw a great demonling come into view, as the shining orb returned and slammed into its head. Temporarily confused, the demonling soon started to search the horizon. Using his remaining magicks, Muertin delayed the beast and we fled to the coast. Having no money to pay for our transport, we decided to board a galley, and spent the night resting, preparing for our operation. Muertin once again was instrumental, paralyzing several guards and giving us enough time to charge the ship's marines and captain. These were killed (with the exception of 2 marines), but in the meantime the doom of Muertin was sealed. The Lieutenant of the marines, an Aeropan knight, no less, engaged the invader in combat, and with mighty blows slew him. Our entrance was too late, for as we returned from our dealings with the marines, we saw Muertin's lifeless body fall into the sea, where it was not long until sharks gleefully appeared. The Lieutenant was spared however, for he had but been doing his duty, and had no quarrel with us. His story was one of a violent shipwreck, and then a continual quest to return to Aerop, there to seek employment. He held quite some coin amongst the crew, and wanting to leave before the Captain's death became known to the authorities, we departed in haste that morning, once again traveling at full speed towards our beloved Neustria.
Some days later, we were making good speed when we observed a stack of smoke emanating from some buildings on the mainland. Tentatively, we launched a boat with Hallock and myself, leaving Friedrich and our Aboriginal friends to look after the ship. After landing, we were met by a large Afrikan warrior by the name of Delmada. The smoke was from his village, which had been burned to the ground by headhunters. His fellow villagers had been either killed or captured by the headhunters, and it was most important that they be rescued before being killed. We resolved to give whatever help we could in this matter, and were lead by Delmada through the jungle. While on this trek, our ship departed, presumably a mutiny having occurred. This was the last we saw of it. Moving to another village, we found the same story, and were joined by several large and powerful warriors. Moving with great speed, we caught up with a rearguard of headhunters, and engaged them in melee. Their lethal poison took its toll, killing our two compatriots, while we were fortunate and avoided the poison. Chased from the water by large crocodilians, we hastened towards the mountains. Struggling through the harsh paths here, we finally found the valley of the headhunters. Ambushing the guards, we had a vantage point from which to plan our assault on the camp proper. Defeating a band of headhunters in canoes, heavily aided by Delmada's deadly long bow, we gained entrance to the camp, and fighting our way into a stone complex which could not possibly be the headhunter's work, we managed to free some of the prisoners. We then departed by whatever means we could find, and prepared for our journey back to the coast, there to attempt to find a new vessel. An attack by further headhunters and wolves was beaten back, and to our relief further journeying was not required, as Viceroy Althax had located us, and willingly transported us back to the Clan Erathorn lands. It had been a most taxing journey, but much had been learned. Surprisingly, we arrived back very soon after we had departed, indicating that somewhere along the line time had been somehow altered. Joyous indeed was the day that we returned, to us several years after our departure.