Grievous Grimoire

Imaginary Turtles

Finally, it is launched and as a project manager, it has been a huge learning curve on getting a group of volunteers on different sides of the Atlantic to work in a meaningful way. Grievous Grimoire is a large tome and was not the reason for the group forming, but when Zatnikotel had the idea, we could see the advantage in the developments to the Open00 ruleset. It has meant that Falling Summer, our originally intended first publication, has had to take a back burner, but it does mean that we can use the rules to support a wider range of characters.
Want an insider’s biased unboxing? Yes, it is great! What do you get for the price of a PDF?

Open00 core rules (Against the Darkmaster) are a great set of relatively simple d100 rules that deliberately mimic the old Middle Earth Roleplaying rules but have a few tweaks. So as a player you have only 6 class main options (vocations) and the scholar as a quasi playable one. With Grievous Grimoire you can spend background points to gain additional benefits and a tweak to vocational bonuses that give you 28 classes called Vocational Initiates. The intention with these has been to give players (and GMs) the chance to play class concepts akin to those found in Dungeons and Dragons and Rolemaster. Reading through these classes and their Milestones (something that is left rather vague or mechanical in the core rules) there are echoes of the path feats of D&D.

Content page to Grevious Grimoire

Each of the Vocational Initiates (VI) gains a unique skill or spell list that helps create a distinct specialisation to reflect early training. Overall, the bonuses and development points (DP) for VI don’t change from the core Vocation. However, the skills/spells can make VI feel a little more powerful in certain situations compared with the core version. However, you do need to remember that a Background Point was used to access this career path. There is also the fact that the aim is to give a special focus for a character to shine. A Swashbuckler is not the best fighter in all situations but if you want them to swing from a chandelier and engage in a little repartee while disarming an opponent then this is the VI for you.

Sample of Spell Lores in Grievous Grimoire

The Unique Spell Lores for VI provide a way of creating thematic effects for a High Fantasy game. A mistake a GM might make in adopting optional rules would be to allow all Spell Users access to the Spell Lores. This would result in a huge power creep in your game. The idea of having these limited to VI is the way DP buy restricts the rate at which a character can acquire a Spell Lore. A few of the VIs have been given the ability to resurrect characters. In MERP, the most you could manage was Lifekeeping III (something that Weaves eliminates in Open00) and then you had to transport your fallen companion to a powerful healer. I don’t think anything could be worse than reaching the closing points of your campaign at level 10 and losing your character just before the final battle. The resurrection spells are those sort of the last roll of the dice thing. You should be close to the Darkmaster’s lair and at a cost of some of your and your patient’s heroic status you return them to the fight. It has been made sacrificial for just that purpose and it is no more powerful than the Wizard’s Eldritch powers at that level because you wouldn’t want to do it more than once or twice. Spells themselves have been given weaves similar to the mechanic effects of other spells even if they don’t share the same thematic effects. In the Grievous Grimoire, a number of additional sections support the GM in applying the effects of some of the new Spell Lores e.g. Spirit Worlds and Animated Objects.

Specialty Skills are a way of showing a specific training focus in Grievous Grimoire

The other major addition to Open00 is the creation of Specialty skills (I’m afraid we had to adhere to American English Spelling rules having made the style choice many moons ago). There are 43 Specialty Skills to enhance the ones that already exist in the Core Open00 rules. This is not “skill bloat” but rather a way of refining an area that a character that might have some form of specific training. First, the rules are adjusted to define how many a Vocation can have at the start and how much the Specialty skill costs. The DP cost alone will prevent players from choosing a wide array of Specialty skills but the clever part is that it synergises the Core Skill in certain situations with a +1 for each rank. This gives a small competitive advantage in certain circumstances. It could leave players to think “Why bother?”, as spending the DP on the core skill would be more beneficial. However, there are also low-level passive advantages. On top of this, the Grievous Grimoire defines how a Drive Point can be used to create a heroic moment in the game that will bring character concepts to life. Of course, there is always the risk of failure and the consequences of failure result in some interesting complications.

Background Flaws provide a way of giving characters more Background Points. But should be used wisely by the GM to create characters with depth.

The final set of rules you could use in your Open00 game is Flaws to support character development. I am not sure I would use Flaws much for my characters as I often associate it with a minor adventuring inconvenience for some large bonuses collected elsewhere. However, having said that the Flaws presented in Grievous Grimoire are the flipside of existing Background Options. They return a background point for a tier that is the opposite of something existing. I like the balance of this and feel it at least offsets the way Open00 Background options work.

That is pretty much it for the walk-through of the book. There are, as I have mentioned, some supporting material for the rules introduced such as Animated Objects, Golems, Elementals, Spirit World, Doppleganger Forms, and Mana Crit tables providing examples and guidance but there is little need to describe these in detail. We were very aware as active GMs that quick reference is an important aspect of running games so everything has been recreated in a series of summary tables that can be either printed out to sit behind your GM screen or left on the table for the players to reference.

The Grievous Grimoire is definitely a high-quality product and you can get it from the storefront on we plan to release a Print on Demand product probably through DriveThruRPG when we have managed to remove any major errata in the next couple of months when of course you can update your PDF copy for free if you generously choose to support us. Remember we are all volunteers with demanding day jobs and none of us are going to be getting any royalties or being paid by the word. We just love roleplay games and writing but we do want to support artists who make their living through the images they sell.

Imaginary Turtles

You would think from the silence that nothing RPG has been happening in my life. The Mirkwood campaign went quiet as the summer holiday season kicked in and certain members of the group moved house. Even now we can’t seem to organise a day before Christmas to play. My work on the next part of the Cloak of Zahara has become bogged down in me doing a bit of world-building for the plot to work and my commitments to the Imaginary Turtles Collective, which I can finally start to mention.

It has been a bit of a slog and a lot of mission creep but we are in the final stages of publication. Check out the website for more information.

A Matter of Trade – The Silken Thread

The loss of the mule has made the mulemaster Gulstaff even glummer, if such a thing were possible, this does not help the mood in the party I can tell you. Even with the advantage of elven eyesight the gloom is hard to penetrate and the strain of constantly keeping watch is beginning to strain even Gerran’s optimism. Fryancryn chats easily with those who are nearby and I enjoy his company. He is clearly a man of the road and it is the journey more than the trade he lives for. We exchange tales of travels around the fringes of the Great Wood. It seems he has not met many of the First born and to have three, even if one is only a half blood, for company peaks his interest. I, of course, deflect much of his interest in me and my comings and goings, instead focussing his attention on the Noldo, Talaras and his reasons for wandering so far from the Havens.

Uphead a glimmer across the path catches my attention and I call for a halt. It is clear that there is some kind of silken thread stretched across the South Road. While giant spiders are rare, they are know to live in the depths of the dark heart of the forest and are hunted mercilessly by my fellow wood elves. I advise caution and scan the area for any further sign of the foul beasts but all seems quiet.

My plea for caution and care goes unheeded as Gerran strides manfully towards one of the great silver threads strung across the road. Behind him scuttles Talaras, bow drawn looking far more cautious but none the less too close to use the bow should Gerran be attacked. I pause for a moment, unsure whether to stay with Fryancryn and the mules or to cover the other two guards. I opt to follow at a distance comfortable for the range of my bow.

There is a faint sound of something passing through the air near the pair up front but I do not understand its importance until Talaras yells ambush. He does so as six misbegotten orcs slip from their hiding places in the thick rose thorns that line the path. There are four between Talaras and myself and two more beyond him unseen by Gerran. I let my arrow fly with a cry of warning; darting sideways Talaras looses his bow but both flights miss their mark. The warning is enough though to allow Gerran to turn and defend himself.

Too quick the foe is upon me. I have no time to pay heed to how my companions fare as I am forced to hurriedly defend myself against two orcs. The first lashes a lucky blow beneath the guarded of twirling quarterstaff, my calf is slashed and I am badly bruised by a heavy handed blow from the flat of the blade. I go down on one knee and fear it will be over soon. The sight would be comical if I were not so injured as I watch the other orc drop its blade but I am busy parrying the attack of the first. A second flurry of blows smash the the sweeping guard of my quarterstaff and the world goes black.

I awaken and the pain in my calf sears straight to my vocal chords in a cry of anguish. I bite down hard not wanting to alert any enemies nearby but it seems that they have fled. There is only my companions and I still here but a distinct lack of slain foes to suggest that the others were not any more successful that I. Gerran has an arrow shaft protruding from his leg which Talaras is currently trying to remove and staunch the bleeding. It seems that outnumbered the pair retreated scooping up my fallen body as they passed. Fortunately, a bruise to the lower leg and the concern over Gerrans wound has meant they have not checked me thoroughly and discovered my secret. Of Fryancryn and Gulstaff there is not a sign also, it must be said, of the mule with all the food supplies. However, we do have plenty of grain and weapons on the remaining mules.

We are making plans to dump some of the grain to free up two mules for Gerran and I to ride when we hear some muffled groaning from the depths of the rose thorn thicket. If it wasn’t so pitiful we would be really worried, not to mention in deep trouble given the wounds taken. But is turns out to be Fryancryn dragging Gulstaff through a hidden passage among the bushes. He tells us he and the mule man had pursued the orcs but were overcome and he is little pleased with the realisation that two thirds of his grain will need to be dumped to let his guards make it to Buhr Widufiras.

Then again, as I said, he is more about the travel and adventure than making the largest profit and travellers in peril can’t be choosers. So we limp on towards the Buhr a few days further along the road. I would attempt to forage some herbs and berries to supplement our scant supplies but I cannot limp for long enough to be successful. I am concerned also by the bold presence of orcs on the South Road.

We meet a pair of woodman travelling the road. They appear to be some form of patrol and escort us to the Buhr in safety. By careful questioning, I discover that they are worried for a missing scout called Windlore, who is a bit a totemic hero among the Woodman of Buhr Widufiras. The presence of the orcs on the South Road has also caused some concern, not least since, though they appear inept, they have caused more havoc on the roads than the normal pattern of raids by orcs.

At Buhr Widufiras we take the time to rest. Fryancryn bids us farewell as he plans to move on with a new cargo and, I believe, he is only to happy to be rid of such an inept set of guards. Harsh if you think about the number of foes encountered in the ambush. It would have needed two or three times as many fighters to protect the mules in such a limited space. Still there it is and he does at least pay us a half of the original fee. I spend most of mine hospital fees and a pack of herbs that will aid recovery in any future combat.

There is now the matter of these orcs and who controls them. I look for a way to get the message to my master but there appears to be no fellow traveller to carry a coded message and I cannot afford to travel far from Buhr Widufiras without attracting attention. There will be nothing for it but to return to where the grain has been stashed and explore the tunnels through the rose thorns. I’m sure my companions will be looking to transport the grain back to the buhr but unless they plan to carry it on their backs I doubt they will see coin from Fryancryn’s cargo, even if the woodland creatures have left the sacks undisturbed.

A matter of trade – Wumbahad

Burgh Ailgra is pretty much a one horse town and that horse is dead. The Wumbahud is where most of the merchants preparing to pass through Mirkwood and onto Buhr Widfurias gather. No such luck at the moment. Looks like I missed them and my chance of being able to scout the south road without travelling alone. The bar room is empty save for three of us. One looks like he is known locally by Tostig, the inn keeper. Dark hair and grey eyes mark him out as a Noldo, which is strange given the down at heel look and that he seems to live near here. There seems to be something strange about this one and a story that would interest my Lord. A Noldo abroad so far suggests something is afoot.

Then there is the dark-haired, half-elf who entered long after I’d arrived. Mistook me for a boy and headed straight for the bar all burly and manly. Seeking to dull his senses in ale and talk proudly of his prowess in arms to any (Tostig) that will listen. By the time ten minutes have passed he has revealed his given name to all in the room, Gerran, and I am sure if it wasn’t for the arrival of the merchant, every detail of his life within the half hour.

Thankfully, we were all saved by the arrival of a rather flashy merchant by the name of Fryancryn. Cherry travelling cloak and clothes appearing to dazzle the other occupants of the inn but I’m not fooled I can see the frayed edges beneath the mud and road dust. Says he is late on the road and looking to hire some guards for security on his final leg to Buhr Widfurias. Gerran of course is first to proclaim his fitness to role, gesturing at the pair of short swords strapped to his side and ensuring that all look at his shiny mail coat. I am beginning to wonder if he has the wit to do more than show off. Soon the Noldo – Talaras – has expressed his interest after a healthy nod from Tostig and so I know that I have a good chance of travelling with this caravan without having to resort to anything that might get me noticed. I gracefully unwind from my place in the corner and offer my eyes to the party but perhaps it is the bow that tips the balance in taking such a callow looking youth with them.

Overnight, I check on Fryancryn and his cargo; he has a mule man, slow, sullen and bullnecked man who seems more at home with the beasts he looks after than company. The goods appear to be just as he says a supply of grain and a few iron weapons.

The morning is a good day to start travelling. The mule train is led by Fryancryn with Gulstaff (the mule man) in the middle. I let the gaudy Gerran take up the vanguard and the Noldo with mace and shield seems best suited to guarding the rear, which is just as I need it to be. I travel towards the middle roving up and down the train keeping a weather eye on the surroundings. The journey to ….is uneventful and from there we enter under the eaves of the Mirkwood.

Once this Southern wood was full of light and shade. Ents and Entwives cared for the trees and the creatures that dwelt there. Now the trees grow too close and cut the light on the south road until it is almost permanently twilight. Thorns clamour in the spaces between the trees seeking to choke the remaining light. My Lord’s fear that things are amiss in the Southern Marches of Thranduil. We travel a few days and during each night I am worried by nocturnal visitations. Nothing more than the glimpse of eyes in the undergrowth but I feel we are being trailed by more than just a natural nightly visitor.

On the second day, we are halted by a tree fallen across the path. I’m worried, the tree is large and we can’t get the mules over such and obstacle. The undergrowth is thick and I can’t even worm through a gap. This could have been an ambush site. The tree looks like it has been felled. There has been no storm to bring down such a large and healthy tree. However, not much is going to get through and if they are in the trees our only hope is to run. Gerran decides to show off and wave his two swords about, blunting them on the thick undergrowth in the process. It is fortunate that the Noldo discovers some loew aglor and the blades are resharpened. Some hours later, a section of the tree has been hacked clear and the mules are able to pull the block clear.

Another night and the eyes are back, this time though they are bolder and the wolves attack in the early hours when Gerran and I are on watch. The lump takes a nasty gash to his cheek but I am too quick for them and from a vantage point in the trees rain arrows at the retreating beasts. Soon they are among the mules and it needs the strength of Talaras to drive off the wolves. Meanwhile, Gerran continues to attack the bushes before realising that his target is at the rear and provide support to the flying mace but not before one of the mules is injured beyond saving.

Taure Rana

A bit of a change in tone. I’m taking a break from running the game. Firstly, so I can avoid GM burnout. Second, so that I can work on the next section of the story arc, which was getting a bit last minute. Finally, it gives the other players who have all been GMs a chance to remember what its like on the other side of the screen. So within these posts I’m going to write a personal diary from my character in the game.

Meet Taure Rana (Bre: Wood Wanderer) a Silvan elf of Mirkwood. Dressed in typical elven traveller gear the youthful (for an elf) mopes around the fringes of civilisation like a hormonally challenged teenager; not here to do any work, but they are here to keep an eye on what is going on around the fringes of Mirkwood for their master.

Sanctuary – Jazirat Alburunz part 4

After the horrors of the mine, the party rest overnight and refreshed,but still with the taint of the touch of the undead, they set out through the jungle with the intention of investigating the central peak once again. The Jungle is thick and dark, but a pathway leads across the central ridge of the island.

After an hour of hardship, Denig spots a large creature that to Dwarf and Half-elf resembles a dragon of old. It sits in the sunlight dappled path. Heavy lidded eyes gazing at the interlopers with defiance. The party are stuck in a quandary. Aerandir and Dagaard fear the creature to be a baby dragon, but believe them to be much larger and to have passed into legend. Denig is torn between fear of an attack from a monster and a desire to protect the life of innocent animals. For sometime the adventurers debate whether to attack or avoid the great monster, which sits ahead of them, forked tongue flicking in and out.

Eventually, Fulton decides that he can charm the monster with song. Singing a gentle song he, with the party forming a defensive wall around him, approaches the dragon-like creature. The monster makes no aggressive moves and the party pass on into the jungle beyond.

They have travelled about another hour when, except from a last moment warning from Dagaard, a grey clad figure steps out of the jungle. She pulls down the hood of her cloak and greets the party with an Elven greeting in archaic Silvan. Seeing that only Aerandir comprehends, she switches to the more widely used language of the region. The grey-eyed Avari explains that her name is Astamo and that she is the Dayr of the Maladh Alsalam (Sanctuary of Peace) on this island. First greeting, Alqatris and then the others. She bids the wanderers to return with her to the Maladh to share a meal and rest the night.

Red Gem by Yang Liu

Through the evening the adventurers ask other questions about the island and it’s inhabitants. Discovering the reasons for many of the encounters they have had on the island. They learn that the children are Maghnia and servants of Latif who have lost their purpose beyond remembering that they sing songs of forgetting. One of the purposes of Astamo’s order is to bring healing and respite, but on the island they are also guardians of the Lost Children.

The companions also discover that there is a curse on the treasure on the island and that this may have something to do with the mine and the ghosts that they explored the day before. Soon though the party retire one by one and awake refreshed. A day is spent in recuperation. Denig wanders the olive grove behind the Dayr and Aerandir rests in shade of the olive tree. On the following day, Fulton and Dagaard wish to return to the ship and continue the quest but Aerandir is reluctant to leave the restful sanctuary. Denig through his own sense of obligation feels unwilling to leave without Aerandir. So after, one unusually poor attempt to convince Aerandir of his duty to the ship. Fulton, Dagaard and Alquatris return to Ulmo’s Beard.

The next couple of days are spent by the remaining pair at the Maladh. Astamo suggests that their quest may fail if they do not rejoin their ship but also offers them sanctuary for as long as they need. Aerandir shows every sign of wishing to remain but for Denig the thought of the ship sailing without him is too much. Even now he worries that Alquazam will have left, so it is with regret that he prepares to leave and join the ship without Aerandir. Perhaps it was this spur that Aerandir needed all along to leave as he immediately gathers his few belongings and joins Denig.

The pair return to port and find the treasure scattered around the square but no sign of the crew. Fearing the worst, they hurry to the shore. They are relieved to see that the bay is not empty and riding at anchor is the Ulmo’s Beard. One problems remains. How to get our to the ship? They resolve this by calling on Cloch and the Valar for some divine solution and are able to walk across the intervening water to the ship.

Birdman – Jazirat Alburunz part 3

The journey south through the thick jungle to the lighthouse is punctuated only by the odd sighting of wild life. Aerandir and Denig are too slow with their bows when a small deer is fleetingly sighted. However, later in the day, Aerandir is more successful with a shot at a peccary disturbed by their passage. The small pig felled by the arrow is soon dispatched by Alquatris with his improvised spear and the group pause to butcher the animal before moving on.

Eventually, the party emerge from the jungle onto the coastal plain. The lighthouse in sight, Alquatris bids the party farewell; fearing his presence may aggravate Nasik. But he bids them join him at his camp around the bay, with a warning to not to tarry too long for night falls quickly on the island.

The four adventurers approach the lighthouse but find no-one at home and so settle down to wait for the return of Nasik. It is not long before the occupant returns. Distracted, he barely notices the unusual group before he reaches the main door where they wait. His wild hair floats like a halo around his wrinkled features and he is soon engaged in a prattling discourse on the bird life of the island. Throughout the almost ceaseless monologue Fulton and the others try to discover what he knows about the light at the centre of the island, which seems to be very little. During his monologue he tells the party that there are warnings not to take its treasures, by which he seems to think the birds.

Remembering Alquatris’s warning the party set off with plenty of time around the bay and arrive at the sailors camp round the bay. A small stream runs onto a beach where a makeshift hut stands near to a campfire. Soon they are feasting on the roasted pig meat and discussing plans for the next day. The central peak is still of interest but the explorers feel that a smaller western peak might provide a vantage point that will help with their exploration.

The next day, the party with Alquatris in tow, he is desperate to leave the island and would rather travel with them than miss his ticket off the island. They follow the small stream towards the western peak. At the foot of the peak they discover an abandoned mine. which peeks Dagaard’s curiosity. However, the entrance of the mine makes the party feel uncomfortable, especially Fulton. Seeking divine wisdom, Denig casts around the entrance for any sign of evil, but finds none. Assured, they turn their attention to the western peak. Unlike the main peak that rises slowly to a final steep climb, the western peak rises sharply out of the surrounding jungle. A few hardy trees and plants cling stubbornly to the barren rock face. Lacking an easy way to gain a view of the main peak, Fulton climbs a nearby tree and is rewarded with a better view of the land. They decide to hike across the saddle of the island, through the jungle to the main peak and expend their climbing efforts there.

The day though is passing and the thought of camping in the jungle when there is the potential of a shelter in the entrance to the mine is too much of a draw. Besides, Dagaard is still keen to explore into the depths of the mine to see what treasure lie within. The rest of the party agree, if only to make sure there is nothing that will attack them in the night.

The gloom of the upper workings of the mine are quickly explored. Dagaard is unable to see what it was that was once mined here but a ladder to a lower level suggests that perhaps the upper level was worked out. Although the ladder looks sturdy, Denig is dubious about it holding his weight. So it is that Dagaard makes the first foray down and discovering a network of tunnels below is joined quickly by Aerandir and Fulton.

The light from Dagaard’s miners helmet and Aerandir’s lantern flickers of rough hewn walls as the trio begins to explore one of the side tunnels. Echoes of their movements and whispers bounce back eerily from the darkness. Perhaps it is a sixth sense or a movement in the air that alerts Aerandir’s Elven senses but he turns in time to raise his scimitar and step to one side in an act of self preservation from an onrushing ethereal miner. In doing so he exposes Fulton to the onrushing phantom who is fortunate to be able to raise his cutlass at the cry of the half-elf. The ghost passes through both Fulton and Dagaard, whose weapons pass through with no effect, physically knocking them backwards as it passes through them howling about its treasure.

Within moments, a second phantom miner approaches from behind Aerandir, who again is fortunate to be aware of its approach. He again leaps into the junction of the passage in an attempt to avoid its touch but is not so fortunate as it passes through him and in the act knocks his shield from his arm. In the ensuing mayhem of ghostly miners and recovering the lost shield the trio make their escape towards the ladder. Their progress is not without peril as ghosts appear down corridors blocking their exit. Bravely, they rush through the ghosts shrugging off the discomfort of every encounter. Unfortunately, as he approaches the ladder, Fulton’s shield is knocked from his arm but he chooses to race to safety rather than recover it.

Soon, the party has regathered on the upper workings deeply regretting their encounter with the spirits of the dead miners. All three feel a depletion of vitality by the presence of the ghosts, a feeling not relieved by the prayers of Denig. Dagaard, mildly protests that they should try again, for the ghosts had spoken of treasure, but even his desire for wealth has been muted and he accepts Denig’s assertion that only magical elven weapons will aid them in dispatching these spirits to Arawn’s halls. Morosely, the party withdraw to the jungle outside the mines to set up camp away from the mine.

Seven sleeps – Jazirat Alburunz part 2

Meanwhile, Fulton watches his companions from a nearby hill, below him Dagaard kicks stones and waits. Seeing his companions enter the village, Fulton watches as they cautiously explore. He notes the occasional child flitting between buildings but the Half-elf and the Dunlending appear to be in no danger. He is never concerned when they pass briefly out of sight into or behind buildings, as they always reappear soon after; until they don’t.

Seconds stretch to minutes and these expand pause so worrying that he feels that they need to investigate. Calling to Dagaard the pair make their way down to the village edge doing their best to approach unobserved. Around them they hear the occasional snatch of childhood songs and the laughter of children. It soon becomes clear that their presence is known when Dagaard looks over to see a sweet-faced child peeking through a gap in the door way of one of the huts. She beckons them over and fearing some hideous monster to be revealed they make their way towards the hut. Inside another child, a boy, is playing with some stones in the dirt of the hovel.

“Come play with us,” they sing and beckon the two adventurers to follow them to the centre of the village where a lopsided pole stands. Fulton and Dagaard, wary of the centre of the village, move away towards the edge of the village looking for their friends. Very quickly, they are surrounded by a group of singing and dancing children and fall into golden slumber.

The adventurers awake cold, slightly damp where they fell asleep. It is dark and their memories of the recent past are hazy and difficult to recollect. All feel refreshed and freed of some of the concern and travails of the past. They are also very hungry suggesting it has been sometime since their last meal.

Golden Slumbers – Original by Dana McMunn: “Sleep, pretty darling, do not cry, and I will sing a lullaby.”

Soon reunited and feeling hungry the foursome debate satisfying the hunger they all feel. Perhaps it is the feeling of release from their troubles or that the children have not attacked them but they decide to build a fire on the beach and have a breakfast cook out. Their enjoyment soon attracts the children and when the adventurers next awake the sun is shining in a blue afternoon sky and they are hungry again.

Even though they have forgotten more cares and worries the companions have enough sense of self-preservation to remove themselves from the village before preparing food and discussing recent events. Dagaard offers to deal with the issue by using his war hammer but the others get the sense that these are not merely children and are something more than a weapon could defeat. So they turn their thoughts back to exploring the rest of the island for signs of life, although starting this will have to wait as night is drawing in.

The night passes without an incident apart from Dagaard reporting hearing a ghostly wolf howl during his watch. The explorers decide to attempt to scale the mountain at the centre of the island, reasoning that if they can make it above the tree line of the jungle they will be able to see any habitation and begin to make their way there. As they approach the edge of the jungle that covers the foot hills. The companions notice a flash from the top of the mountain. It does not repeat but they wonder at its significance.

The journey through the jungle is difficult. The vegetation is thick and finding a path is difficult. What is more, the party seem are inconvenienced by local poisonous wildlife. Denig is bitten by a spider whose venom cause him some discomfort for a few hours and Aerandir disturbs a viper which he beheads after being bitten on the leg.

Gaining the flanks of the mountain the wind mysteriously drops and the air stills. The heat of the sun seems to be intensified. The elevation gives the party a better a view of the island to the south. A river flows from a source somewhere in the jungle below and meets the coast as a marshy delta. They begin to trek round the flanks of the mountain looking for a way up as they feel the light they have seen at the top may be a significant part of the island’s protection.

The still air is unnerving and the heat is close as they pick their way through the rocky terrain. Sometime after midday they are alerted to shouts and hollers coming from the jungle below. Looking down they spy a dark-skinned man; wild, wiry hair held in check by a bandana; dressed in ragged trousers and wielding a crude spear making his way towards them.

His name is Alqatris Abayad, a ship-wrecked sailor, who, unsurprising, is very pleased to meet someone new on the island. He has been marooned many months and is naturally keen to take passage off the island. He tells the companions that when he arrived on the island he was cared for by the Dayr Astámo, an elf who tends the Maladh Alsalam in the north east of the island. He claims that he cannot remember the exact location but he assures the explorers that should they go that way Astámo will find them. He on the other hand has preferred to remain on the south side of the island near the shore where he could watch for ships. Here the only other humanoid he meets is an ornithologist called Nasik who he really doesn’t understand and who prefers to avoid.

He agrees to guide the party to the lighthouse where Nasik lives on the south coast. Travelling through the jungle below the mountain Aerandir angers a solenodon that scratches him badly and spits venomous saliva before Denig prays for the rat-sized beast to be calmed and it scuttles off into the undergrowth. Although, he is unaffected by the poison of the saliva, the wounds he received are severe enough to need the aid of Denig and his god.

Jazirat Alburunz – Landfall

The breeze is light and the sun sparkles off the water like gold. The Ulmo’s Beard sits low in the water such is the bounty of her provisions and the crew line the deck dressed in new uniforms of blue and gold. At the edge of the quayside, the finest baldachin covers the Amyr and his closest advisors. Aerandir has bid farewell to Vanwa earlier in the day having assured himself that she is happy to remain on the island.

“My Friend and Companion at arms, it is with great regret that I bid you farewell,” announces his eminence Amyr Fatih Albahr across the deck to where Qubtan Alquazam stands. “It is a perilous quest that you embark upon and there is no guarantee that you will be successful. Remember, that it was your actions that brought this doom upon you; that you travel the seas until you return with the cloak of Zahara.”

Ulmo’s Beard slips its moorings and sets sail upon the ocean. The ship and crew travel southwards towards distant shores at Alquazam’s orders. As they do not know the location of the the kingdom with the cloak, he has reasoned that they should first seek rumour of its location. As he explains to Denig on deck one day, it is unlikely that rumours of an island hidden or under special protection will have gone unnoticed by Sea Farers.

After several weeks of sailing from the Southernmost tip of the Mustiq Eali island chain. An island is sighted on the horizon: a welcome distraction from the monotony of days at sea. Is it luck or fate that there appears to be a town on the northern shore? Either way, Alquazam is all for a shore party to talk with the islanders and Captain Reiss wishes to replenish the ship’s water stores and food. 

A few hours later, Ulmo’s Beard anchors in the bay of the port. From the port itself there is no sign of life. It has been clear as the ship closed in on landfall that something was amiss; the lack of smoke and sound carrying across the waves. This close it is clear from the lack of activity on the shore and the boats that would be expected to be harvesting the bounty of the sea. Only the lonely cries of the seabirds and surf on the shore can be heard.

The heroes, led by Alquazam, with Chad and Beowulf to man the skiff, form a landing party to investigate the port. Ashore it becomes very clear that the port has been deserted for some time. Dust and dirt have invaded houses and plant life has begun to reclaim the port. The nearby windmill continues to operate, millstones turn without grain to mill. The shore party head to the centre of the port and what looks to be some sort of town hall.

By the small river that runs through the centre of the port, stands a long low building that the heroes think may be a town meeting hall. In front of the steps that lead up to the double doors, stands a bronze statue of a fisherman with a trident and net. Nothing seems amiss in the large dirt square before the hall so the companions cautiously enter the hall.

With some effort, Denig and Fulton swing the doors open to reveal the dark interior of the hall. Light filters down from windows set under the eaves of the roof onto a glittering horde of gold, opal and jewels. The eyes of the party glimmer in interest until Denig advises caution and spends a quarter of an hour investigating the approaches for any sign of a trap. Satisfied, he allows the rest of the party to approach the hoard. Seeing the wealth left unguarded forces them to consider why it has been left untended for so long. Alquazam is most pleased and says that this is a bounty from Wahid Eali. Some of this treasure can be taken with them on the voyage and will pay for supplies and repairs. The rest can be recovered on the return voyage when they return in victory for it will avail them not if they keep it with them at the bottom of the sea. However, Denig and Fulton feel that a little personal wealth is due to them and pocket a small number of gold coins.

Having investigated the treasure trove to their satisfaction, Alquazam gives orders to his fellow lesser nobles. The island is certainly curious and it will help with understanding why the treasure has been left to scout the island for any more information. This is a task for those with experience of adversity. So it is to Aerandir, Denig, Dagaard, and Fulton that he assigns this task. He will return to the waiting skiff where Chad and Beowulf wait and organise the resupply of the Ulmo’s Beard.

Having decided on a course of action the party leave the hall and prepare to leave to scout the island. Alerted by the groaning sound of the bronze statue moving the party quickly come to arms. Aerandir, who is closest, leaps away; drawing bow and seeking to cover his fellow adventurers. Perhaps, thinking that their small petty larceny is the cause of the sudden animation of the statue, both Denig and Fulton run back to the hall to divest themselves of their misappropriated coins. Meanwhile, Alquazam leaps straight into the fray calling on the others to support him in the attack. Only Dagaard follows the call to battle, leaping in with his normal fearlessness.

The battle does not start well, Dagaard is imperiously brushed aside by a blow from the bronze statues trident. Aerandir continues to cover the melee but does not fire. Racing quickly back to the fray Denig leaves the hall and moves to take up a secondary position to support Aerandir in firing on the statue. Ignoring the blows of Alquazam the statue swings towards Denig. Meanwhile, Fulton remains safely in the hall awaiting a chance to escape.

Wondering if the it was his misdeeds that have brought the statue to life Denig flees from the square and the guardian follows with huge implacable strides. Behind them follow Alquazam and Aerandir, neither able to mount an attack against the rapidly moving target. Dagaard remains stunned on the ground, while Fulton hides until the Bronze statue has left the square in front of the hall.

Noticing that the Bronze giant is continuing to follow him and feeling that he cannot out run the fisherman forever buys himself extra time by calling on the power of the bat-winged brooch to haste him. This he uses to pray for aid from Cloch in defeating the animated statue. As the bronze fisherman crosses the river by the bridge an 8ft pit opens in front of it. The lumbering monster manages to avoid the hazard moving to one side to attack the stone man. Desperately, Denig parries the trident thrust at him while Aerandir and Alquazam race to catch up. At that moment Dagaard finally recovers and his able to groggily follow; calling Fulton to aid in the battle. Feeling, he is not the target of attack Fulton decides now is the time to join the battle when there is a chance of attacking a foe from behind.

The battle continues with Denig desperately defending himself against the fisherman. Aerandir risks a couple of shots that do little damage to the bronze behemoth; at the same time, Alquazam hews at the frame attempting to disable the sentinel. Soon he is joined by Fulton and eventually Dagaard, now fully recovered, joins the fray. The combined blows of the three begin to tell on the structure of the statue, Alquazam’s blows being most telling. But, Denig defences are brought low when the statue slings its net and grapples the Dunlending. Trapped, his shield side is exposed and he is badly wounded by the following trident thrust. Fortunately, it is at this point in time that the blows of his companions finally tell and ichor gushing from a final wound the bronze fisherman is finally stilled.

Having healed his wounds and the party having readied themselves for exploration they set out to scout the island. Choosing to travel west from the port, the soon come in sight of a small fishing village. Like the port, the village appears abandoned, but the group decide to scout round the hills. Grudgingly, Dagaard follows the party until they decide that he should remain behind the hills while they observe from a distance. Up on the ridge, they hear the sound of children singing and occasionally glimpse childlike forms dancing through the abandoned buildings. Deciding to investigate a bit closer, Denig and Aerandir move cautiously down into the village while Fulton watches from above.

Approaching the village, Aerandir and Denig are again met with laughing song of children. In and out of the abandoned village children flit alway beckoning them on. Until, finally, a group appear and dance and sing around the pair and that is the last thing they know of the world.

The Doom of Alquazam

The meeting at the gate

After days of feast held in their honour, it is time for the heroes to turn their attention to other mundane matters. Aerandir, with the honour of an elf wishes to return to the his duties; Denig and Dagaard are keen to set sail for Caras Celairnen somewhere to the North; and Fulton is slightly less keen, given the praise and adulation he receives. Nonetheless, it is a lightly armed party that sets off for the dock and Ulmo’s Beard. The usual mercantile bustle fills the streets of Mustiq Eali. Despite the party’s general alertness, Aerandir feels a sudden tug at his elbow. A shabbily dressed vagrant with an eye patch implores him “Here,! Here! Master there are many attractions in the bayt daeara of Zahrat Allayl! Come, come I show you. If you enter with me, there is a BIG discount!”

Arabic Market in Kaloun by Alberto Rossi.

With his keen elven senses, Aerandir sees through the disguise the 7′ Qubtan Alquazam has adopted, even with the added stoop.“A word my friend,” he croaks harshly into your ear, steering Aerandir towards a side alley.

Using the natural advantage of Westron in a foreign land, Aerandir quietly tells his fellow adventurers to follow and seeing through the disguise they do so willingly. Alquazam leads the party through a myriad of side streets until he is sure that they have not been followed. Whereupon he tells the heroes of his woes. He has returned as advised but discovered that his wife was still alive, but was receiving suitors in marriage. He is torn. Does he announce himself and discover his wife no longer loves him? In which case he puts her in an awkward position. Is she marrying to protect herself and the son he has not yet seen? This would mean that the suitors are after his estate and would soon see him dead rather than risk his presence derailing their chances. He implores the new nobles to seek news of his wife’s feelings towards him so that he can make a decision.

Naturally, Fulton is pulled by the tale of sundered love and Aerandir by a sense of duty. However, Denig and Dagaard feel that none of this is their problem and that they know nothing of the politics of court. Alquazam appeals to their honour, the shared bond of fighting against the Zilal Ramiditan and the fact that it was his presence that turned the tide in the battle of the night of long knives. They eventually agree, for passing a message is low risk and they could try Vanwa to see if she could find out woman to woman. They talk to Captain Reiss and find the ship could sail he has a potential destination for some cargo. But really the ship needs dry dock and a refit to be fully sea worthy. In her current state she is only good for short runs and pray that there are no storms.

Back at the palace, Aerandir enlists the help of Vanwa, who by some method unknown communicates with Saydia Wafairu (the wife of Alquazam and informs the half-elf that the Sayida is indeed still devoted to her lost husband. Armed with this information the companions make another trip into the port and meet with Alquazam in a quiet alleyway. The Qubtan is relieved to hear the news and presses the heroes to aid him in meeting his wife. There is much debate over the best method to get the seven-foot sailor into the palace unnoticed. Eventually, they decide to hide Alquazam on Ulmo’s Beard while they scout out guard patterns. The plan to smuggle him into the palace one evening as a fellow crew member acting as a servant. Then, knowing the pattern of patrols and using the power of the brooch recovered from Jundiin, which they have observed creates a shadow around the wearer, Alquazam will make his way to meet his wife in one of the many gardens.

It is perhaps a surprise to all involved that the plan is successful. By showing a complete lack of interest in the events and politics at court they manage to avoid rousing the suspicions of the suitors and anyone of note a court. Soon, Alquazam has had a chance to be reconciled with his wife and son; in the process hatching a plan to reveal himself to the Amyr whilst neutralising the risk to his son from the suitors.

Again the Qubtan requests the heroes help. The plan is for Wayfuiru to set a contest for the suitors so that she can choose who to marry. To wed the widow of Alquazam the suitor will need to shoot an arrow through the eye of the swinging axe head that belonged to her husband. The companions need only ensure that Alquazam can get through the cordon of guards to take up the challenge when the suitors have failed.

Following Wafuiru’s declaration that her future husband must measure up to the skill of her late husband in archery, the whole of Mutiq Eali is abuzz with excitement. The day of the contest is a festive affair. Market districts are awash with commemorative memorabilia and food sellers take advantage of the crowds that have come in from the surrounding districts. Crowds push and swirl in constant eddies making progress through the port unpredictable. The heroes struggle to deliver Alquazam to a place where he can enter the arena.

In the plaza in front of the Sultat Almina (Port Authority), an area has been cleared. A pedestal with a short bow and arrows stand fifty paces from the frame where Alquazam’s Axe swings freely. Under the shade of the colonnade, the Amyr and his closest courtiers sit alongside Sayida Wafuiru.

The hot midday sun beats down on the sandy plaza with the ferocity of a hammer on an anvil, conjuring up memories of the earlier encounter beneath the volcano. The noise of the crowd rolls round the strip of plaza cleared for the contest by a wall of soldiers. A herald reads out the challenge for all to hear. There are murmurs from someone nearby that Sayida Wayfuiru has gambled well by setting this challenge but you can’t locate the speaker. The crowd are jostling to get the best position to see as the first suitor, Akhbithkhôr, steps forward and begins to test the bow. Turn by turn the suitors shoot and fail to thread their arrow through the “eye” of the battle axe. Then, Alquazam steps into the arena begging the pardon of the Saydia, he mocks her suitors for their lack of skill. Taking the bow he shoot swiftly; the arrow arcing smoothly through the eye of the swinging axe.

Concept art of the Palace and harbor in Agrabah for Disney’s live-action ALADDIN.

There are gasps from all as Alquazam throws aside his disguise. He walks to the axe and removing it begins to dispatch the suitors one by one. Guards press forward to prevent further blood-shed and protect the Amyr from harm. In horror our heroes step back into the general crowd to avoid being noticed. The silence that follows is palpable. Alquazam, breathes heavily as he eyes the nervous guards surrounding him. The heavy axe in his grip drips with the blood of the suitors who lie scattered on the sandy floor before the steps. 

A simple command issues from the shade at the top of the steps, “Hold!” Out of the shade steps the Amyr, resplendent as ever, his face as fierce as a hawk he surveys the carnage on the ground at the foot of the steps. With a look of regret in his dark eyes he turns towards the Qubtan. “Why, my friend, why?” 

The Amyr pronounces that Alquazim must may the blood debt to the suitors families but has also drawn weapons in the presence of his Prince. The former he could possibly have pardoned for a loyal and valued friend, but the latter carries the penalty of death. With understanding of the travails of the famous sea-captain, the Amyr instead sets him a task. The legendary cloak of Zahra was worn by the beautiful Zahra when she rescued her love Bialkhati Bayd Wahida (Bold the One-Handed). It is said that the cloak grants protection to the kingdom that possesses it. It is said to be held in a kingdom far to the south, Alquazam must seek it out and return with it in penance for his actions this day. But the Qubtan has need of a ship and brave adventurers to embark on this journey with him. Thus, the Amyr calls upon the Heroes of Mustawade to fulfil their noble duty and provide the ship.

In return for providing the ship Alquazam offers to enable the repairs to the ship, a gift that captain Reiss grudgingly accepts given that it is his ship that the adventurers have just offered for a voyage into the unknown.