Rebels of Cydoria

The Mountain of Power, first session
The Collector's mission

Two dissidents arrive in the refinery town of Tagrum on the Sea of Messages. Kitra, a Demetrian noble and embittered veteran of a lost war; and Felix Tarse, an apparently clean and upstanding Norukarian merchant who secretly dabbles in smuggling and techno-heresy.

On the low-tech outskirts (Ruside — named after the wild lands of Haru to the west) of the refinery town the two meet up with the mysterious hookah-smoking Collector, an alien epicurist and smuggler, and his steadfast Awan guards. The Collector wants them to investigate a mountain in the western wilderness of Haru, where he has located large amounts of valuable and powerful elements. Unfortunately this mountain has been claimed by a rather xenophobic group of Samirian warriors. Furthermore a previous expedition by another techno-heretic, the Bone Man, has not returned…

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The Mountain of Power, second session

New arrivals at the Hotel Borse

While they awaited the Collector’s ‘package’, Felix Tarse and Kitra of House Vlaros were staying at the Hotel Borse, near the aeroport in Newt’n. The hotel started to get some strange visitors. The first of these was Alpha One, a Cyberdroid wanderer from the far north. Another was the Deru pilot Groo. Each had been recruited by the Collector for this mission.

Around Tagrum

The Deru couldn’t wait to see Tarse’s fancy aeroship Tears of Chador. He scrambled aboard. Felix Tarse wandered around town while Kitra ventured outside into Ruside, looking for Samirians (but she found none). Tarse returned to his hotel to find that Stig of the Dump had delivered a crate of material from the Collector (much to the interest of the hotel staff). All was in readiness; it was time to depart Tagrum.

The Mountain of Power

The Tears of Chador lifted off from Tagrum aeroport and flew westward over the badlands of Haru, a broken land of forests and gullies. Once during the journey, some bandit shot a few potshots at the vessel.

The aeroship approached the Mountain of Power at dusk. It was a squarish mesa jutting out from the hills around, on top was a jagged array of huge rock spikes at crazy angles. A cleft in the mesa contained some huts, with a wooden stockade and a small lake at the bottom. Groo gave the Mountain a wide berth, circling around to the forested back hills. They threw down the anchor and disembarked, leaving the aeroship swaying gently in the breeze.

Sanctuary

It was cold and dark; snow crunched underfoot. The trees rustled in the the wind. Fortunately they had come prepared, thanks to the Collector’s stash. They donned environment suits and night vision goggles. Alpha One noted a humaniform through the trees. This turned out to be a barbarian gathering wood. He seemed friendly and offered to lead them back to his nearby village. The four followed.

The village turned out to be a small collection of huts, camouflaged by mats of twigs and leaves. Inside the main hut was a warm fire and about twenty villagers. Some were Samirians, some were Awan. At the head was a bearded smiling man, who greeted the humans telepathically (Alpha One was confused because he received no signals). He was the Mystic, once a priest of the Power Seekers death-cult of the Mountain of Power. He had questioned too much and been sacrificed to the Cave of Power, but had found an escape route and made it to the forest here. He welcomed any and all other escapees from the Mountain.

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The Mountain of Power, third session

Into the Mountain

Attack of the Oso

Alpha One heard a fearsome roar which extended above and below human hearing range. The Mystic looked worried. “It’s the Oso!” he shouted, forgetting to use mindspeech for a moment.

Groo and Alpha One rushed outside, quickly followed by Kitra and Tarse. Indeed, a huge bearlike creature, taller than a man was bearing down on the village of Sanctuary. It roared and charged.

Groo scampered off to one side. Alpha One readied his sword — he was an honourable assassin, and carried no guns. Kitra and Tarse blazed away with their guns as the monster approached. Kitra hit it but it shrugged off the pain. Tarse, grinning madly, threw one of the Collector’s grenades. There was a huge flash and boom, and the Oso backed away into the dark woods.

The long tunnel

The Mystic agreed to take them to the site of the escape tunnel. It was an uninviting hole in the ground. Alpha One lowered himself down and found a regular square tunnel of some man-made stone-like material. It extended as far as his eyes could see. The others joined him and they began their march.

After a while they became aware of a faint greenish glow from panels overhead, which made visibility no problem (especially with their various night-vision enhancements). In a small side alcove Kitra found a cupboard containing white suit of some cloth-like material.

Eventually, they came to a pit, square, dark and endlessly deep. Ladder rungs set into the wall descended into blackness. Down, down they climbed, until they dimly perceived the cave opening on the other side, just as the Mystic had claimed. With amazing agility, Groo half-jumped, half wall-walked to the cave mouth and secured a rope for the rest to follow.

The new cave was dark, rough hewn and probably natural. Rounding a bend, they breathed fresh night air and saw the bright stars. Below them was the village of the Power Seekers

Power Seeker Village

Kitra sneaked down from the cave to the first of the visible huts. The first one was large and she saw sleeping forms inside. The next hut also had a sleeping form, but on a workbench were various tools and a white suit similar to the one she’d seen in the Mountain. Could this one be the Bone Man?

Bone Man, awakened.

Kitra took a chance and sure enough it was he. The Bone Man was confused. He said he had been sacrificed by the priests, but inexplicably returned carrying some of the Collector’s precious material, which he’d recovered from below. The priests had wanted to kill him but the chief intervened when he’d made an axe head out of the strange alloy. The Bone Man happily accompanied Kitra back to the others, after grabbing his tools.

Return

Kitra realised from talking to the Bone Man that the Power Seekers used the cave as a sacrificial area, and rarely if ever ventured inside. That meant that with the co-operation of the Mystic and his village, a minor mining operation could be set up to retrieve the material under the very noses of the Power Seekers. The Mystic agreed to help, and the group flew back to the Collector with the Bone Man to make the arrangements.

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City in the Mirage, first session
The expedition begins

An Invitation from Magister Reeg

Felix Tarse received a mysterious invitation from fellow Norukarian Magister Reeg, a notable of the University of Vrildar. He was assembling an archeological expedition to western Markania, and wanted the assistance of Tarse (and his airship, and tough crew).

The expedition members

Tarse, Kitra, Alpha One and Groo arrived at Reeg’s apartment via lightning-train and were shown into a well-appointed room. There they met the other expedition members:

  • Magister Kulik Reeg, scholar and professor
  • Chief expedition backer, war hero and known tomb robber Lord Garrus Kendrick
  • his Norukarian bodyguards Trin and Kabak
  • his Targan retainers Dergo and Frunk
  • Five Varzan students: Osso, Bonn, Somon, Dani and Pagi

After some negotiation, Tarse agreed to join the expedition.

Remember Demetria? Anyone?

Kitra of House Vlahos searched Norukar for any tidbits of information she could get from the Demetrian resisistance. But the search was dispiriting. Norukar was one of the first cities to join with the Vrildarians; there was no sign of any resistance. Kitra even risked public callsigns, but Alpha One warned her away from attracting the unwelcome attention of the Octavium.

Embarkation

The Tears of Chador lifted off from Norukar Aeroport with the deft Deru Groo at the helm, and the bustling city slipped quicky astern. The journey would take several legs, with recharge stops every 7-8 hours. During the trip, Lord Kendrick insisted on smoking his pipe and telling war stories, which offended Kitra (who had fought on the other side).

Norukar — Tibris

First port of call was Tibris, a smaller Vrildarian city. Osso the student showed interest in Kitra and she in turn was keen to pump him for information, so they disembarked while the deru charged the aerostats. Kitra skillfully got the young student tipsy. He expressed his student ideals, confessing that he sought to change the Vrildarian government.

Tibris — Tagrum

The Tears of Chador crossed the Sea of Messages to Tagrum.

Felix Tarse and Alpha One visited Azarello’s Bar. The grumpy bartender greeted them. Business was doing well

Meanwhile, Magister Reeg invited Kitra for a drink in Newt’n. He enjoyed himself, but warned Kitra to stay away from Osso.

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City in the Mirage, second session
Across Markania by aeroship

Tagrum — Pyrnis

Sky pirate attack

From behind a bank of clouds came a fast pirate aeroship above the Strangling Swamp. Groo could not evade. Tarse, Alpha One and Lord Kendrick fired burst after burst of plasma at the enemy vessel. Singed pirates fell from the sky and the ship broke off its attack. They hadn’t reckoned on such difficult prey.

Pyrnis was a small Rakkadian mining town, smaller than Tagrum. The locals knew nothing of Sweetwater. After some minor mechanical trouble, the aeroship was soon aloft again.

Pyrnis — Sweetwater

The Tears of Chador crossed the wide lands of Markania, and the twisted rock spires of the Loca Loca Mountains. The sun was setting across the desert as they arrived at Sweetwater.

Arrival at Sweetwater

The local kingpin and his shady-looking honchos met the crew of the Tears of Chador at the landing strip. Magister Reeg and Lord Kendrick were invited to stay with the governor; the rest were left to their own devices.

Drinks at the Golden Goblet

Sweetwater was a one-horse town and a one-bar town. The bar was the Golden Goblet. Its proprietor was friendly and chatty. The usual petty gamblers, local drinkers and pretty whores were present.

The Crazy Old Man from near the Dune Sea

At one point a crazy old man came in, ranting about Demetria and his special powers. Kitra bought him a jar of drink and stepped outside to chat.

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City in the Mirage, third session
Into the Wasteland

Sweetwater Night

Ismir

The stars were bright in the desert sky above Sweetwater. The saloon doors of the Golden Goblet swung open with a brief burst of laughter and light. Kitra stepped into the street and the already drunk Ismir, who was babbling about his time in the War of Unification and his special Oudh powers. Eventually he wandered off and Kitra strolled back towards the aeroship.

Tsagreb

Felix Tarse had remained inside the Golden Goblet, determined to enjoy himself in this town. He struck up a conversation with the smiling merchant Tsagreb. Tsagreb wanted to transport some goods on Tarse’s aeroship.

Muric

On the way back to the aeroship port, Kitra noticed the distinctive silhouette of a Demetrian helmet, worn by a lone figure standing on a ridge in the dark. She investigated and the figure turned out to be Muric, a ruggedly handsome Demetrian who questioned Kitra about her ship and the expedition.

Roll out!

Osso was up early, and had organised wagons and Girah sand lizards for the expedition. Groo had planned to stay on board the ship, but while no one was looking he hid himself in one of the wagons. The others walked alongside, and the wagons rolled out of town. Also with them was a Guernan warrior in a smart (but a little frayed) uniform, named Agra. He had been working for Baron Donahee of Sweetwater, and the Baron had asked him to go along.

Attack by night

The wagons rolled slowly into the desert, pulled by the placid Girah. The landscape was monotonous: low hills and rough ground dotted with occasional cacti. At night they pulled up and made camp near the edge of the Wasteland, a dried salt-lake bed encrusted with white powdery acid salts.

That night, they were attacked by a large group of Tintazi, Sand People. Kendrick and Magister Reeg and his students were separated. However quick action by Agra, Kitra, Tarse saw the sand people driven off. Lord Kendrick and one of his bodyguards had been injured in the fight, but there were no casualties.

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City in the Mirage, fourth session
The Ruined City

The acid lake

The Wasteland was a salt lake of fine, corrosive particles. Alpha One took a step and his power notifiers went haywire. He took another step and all his systems shut down. Lord Kendrick’s Rakhadian eyes and arms also ceased functioning. Both Kendrick and Alpha One were consigned to the wagons.

Sand Squid attack

Kitra’s sharp eyes spotted movement in the sand ahead, ripples below the surface. ‘Sand Squid!’ squealed their guide and ran off in the opposite direction, as the sands ahead erupted in tentacles. Tarse threw one of the Collector’s energy grenades. Direct hit! The sand squid retreated.

The city in the mirage

After a few hours crossing the dry lake-bed, a dark blob became visible on the horizon. It got larger as they approached but was still unclear. Suddenly, like passing through a waterfall, a city on a raised platform became visible. It was in ruins. Alpha One’s sensory and power units re-activated after a period of nothingness.

Scouting

Kitra, Alpha One and Groo investigated the ruins for danger. There was a large plaza at the entrance to the city, and many collapsed buildings, but no signs of life or other guardians. The acidic lake-dust covered everything.

Magister Reeg in charge

This was what Magister Reeg had prepared for. He set up camp, drew up rosters of students and guards, and assigned two teams to explore the ruins building by building. Kitra, Alpha One, Agra, Groo and Tarse went with Master Osso’s group.

The temple and the Terax

After painstakingly auditing the contents of a few buildings, Kitra was drawn to the central temple complex in the middle of the ruins. It had an intact courtyard and some inner buildings, one of which gaped with a dark fissure. Groo noticed ancient reptillian tracks around the temple building. Kitra entered the courtyard. As she did so a huge roar shook the rubble, and a gigantic Terax — a mutant monitor lizard, pushed its way from the hole in the right hand building.

The students ran in all directions. Alpha One opened fire and Felix Tarse threw a grenade at the thing, seemingly to no effect. Kitra dashed up to the central temple building. There she found an altar with an ancient eight-pointed star symbol. She pushed the symbol and stairs silently opened up behind the altar. She dashed down them. Alpha One also dodged past the might lizard, which was close to cornering him, and up the stairs to the strang stairs.

Felix Tarse ran towards the plaza encampment in a panic. Groo ran more slowly and tried to get the Terax to follow him. With a sinking feeling he realised he had been successful. With a roar the great lizard lumbered after the Deru.

The puzzle chamber

Down below, Kitra found herself in a small chamber. She faced a metal door inlaid with odd numeric patterns and an indecipherable plaque of ancient writing. Alpha One clanked down the steps and they peered at the patterns in silence.

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City in the Mirage, fifth session
Guardians of the temple

Terax attack!

Awake and angry, the Terax lumbered down the ancient avenue in pursuit of Groo, who wisely ducked into a nearby archway. Agra withdrew into the nearest side street and took an aiming stance. The Terax roared and gave slow chase. Coming up the side street was Lord Kendrick and his retinue. On his command they opened fire, splashing the side of the Terax with plasma bolts. Felix Tarse, who had been fleeing, turned and opened fire also.

Below street level, in the puzzle room, Alpha One heard the roar of the Terax. Alpha One shouldered its plasma rifle and headed up the secret stairs. Kitra followed it. When it reached the top it opened fire on the Terax from behind. With a huge roar it toppled, crashing into masonry. Agra ceremonially stuck his spear in its eye.

Return to the puzzle room

When the dust settled everyone descended to the puzzle room. The metal door was surrounded by eight movable metal tiles with domino-like patterns of dots and an ancient Sdara Vatra symbol. Magister Reeg translated the old Nazarian inscription beneath:

No two siblings shall abide
To sit together side by side
Up or down, left or right
Nor corners touching even slight
Once the siblings are aligned
Pay your homage to the divine

Alpha One quickly calclulated an optimal arrangement of non-intersecting consecutive numbers. Not quickly enough for Kitra however, who impatiently punched the symbol early. Soon, Felix Tarse smelled gas and everyone except Alpha One had to evacuate until the poison dispersed. But Alpha One’s combination worked and the door clicked open.

The Ossuary

Accompanied by Kendrick’s house guards, they descended a steep metal ramp to a large vaulted underground ossuary, with the remains of ancient priests in niches around the wall. Stairs led up to metal vault doors with a five centimetre keyhole in the centre. Agra inspected the keyhole, but when he touched the doors a glowing diamond portal opened in the floor. A metal guardian armed with a halberd ascended from the floor.

TAS RAYA PRADINNA! YA BRABDA DANYA ZARKAN TE AKKAT!”

Without further ado, it attacked Agra.

Metal guardian

Kitra and Agra duelled with the metal monster, but their blades had little effect on its iron skin. Alpha One joined the fray with his katana but the enemy cyberdroid swatted it into a pillar with its halberd, then pivoted and slammed Agra on the other side, knocking him out cold. Kitra backed up while Tarse and the soldiers opened fire, but the shots glanced off the golden exoskeleton. When Tarse’s pistol ran out of power it was time to retreat.

The robot advanced up the corridor, intoning “AKASSAS YABANNA! TASAS-YURO VANAR VAHEEN GARU!” Lord Kendrick and his men in the puzzle chamber opened fire with their plasma pistols. The menacing cyberdroid exploded and ground to a halt.

The way is shut

Back in the ossuarry, they helped the woozy Agra and Alpha One to their feet. They could find no key to open the vault doors. Felix Tarse noticed a tracery of circuits across the door which he reckoned might be linked to the lock. He tried to manipulate the delicate patterns, but a second set of steel doors closed the vault tight.

“Ah well. the key is bound to be in the ruins somewhere!” suggested Magister Reeg. “We’ll just have to continue our archaeological cataloguing..”

No one else replied.

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City in the Mirage, sixth session
The vault opens

The massacre room

With the vault door closed, Magister Reeg suggested the ruins should be searched for a key. Felix Tarse thought the aboveground parts of the temple itself might be a good place to start. Lord Kendrick sent his soldiers along too, just in case. The eastern wing was largely collapsed by the Terax; Groo warned it could easily collapse. In the western wing Kitra had powerful visions of a long-ago massacre, and Agra felt unwell. Alpha One located a five-centimetre wide rod hidden under a loose flagstone, and he smuggled it out under his robe. Later, he concealed it near the campsite.

Temple by moonlight

At third watch that night, Felix Tarse woke his companions and led them through the ruins by moonlight. They recovered the key and descended the steps to the Puzzle Room and the ossuary beyond. Sure enough the key fit in the lock and first the steel doors, then the vault doors slid aside. Inside was a plinth with a glowing sphere floating above it and a number of coins, art objects and relics.

Alpha One hacked!

Suddenly, Alpha One experienced wild system fluctuations. The Aya spirit which had inhabited the golden cyberdroid now invaded his cortex. Target acquired! His metal fingers clenched into a fist and he punched Kitra in the face; she fell down the steps. Agra tried to grapple him and Alpha One struck back, unable to control his own body. However, he found that with concentration he could announce his attacks, thus allowing Agra to evade them more easily. Tarse grabbed the orb and ran out of the room. He threw the orb to Groo, who had been standing guard. When he returned to the vault, Agra had Alpha One in an awkward lock. Tarse and Agra immobilised the rogue cyberdroid and tied him up with Kitra’s mountaineering gear. Then they attempted to revive Kitra, who had suffered a bad knock to the head from her fall.

Decision time

Groo hid the orb, and while the moon sank on the third watch the party debated what to do next.

Kitra, although wounded, was adamant that the orb should not fall into the hands of Lord Kendrick.

Alpha One, still mostly controlled by the Aya-spirit, suggested eliminating all of the other expedition members. But Tarse, also a Norukarian, balked at the idea of killing his countrymen (and his own reputation and status).

In the end they chose to conceal the orb and carry on with expedition. They returned to the camp.

Expedition’s end

Alpha One and Kitra were disabled by the Aya sprit and injuries. They did not have to wait too many days before Lord Kendrick and his men descended to the temple and ‘found’ the vault treasures. There was some suspicion evident between Kendrick and Magister Reeg. But the orb, never mentioned as the expedition goal, could not be located. To Tarse’s disgust and relief, the ‘archaeological’ part of the expedition was pretty rapidly curtailed, and it was time to return to Sweetwater.

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