The Westgate movie theatre has just closed, a few days after I saw U-571. It's a bit like last year, when I saw the Iron Giant at the Capital Square the week before it closed. That leaves World Exchange and Rideau Center as the next easiest to get to, and the next likeliest to disappear. Fortunately the Coliseum 12 is doing well enough to persist, though it costs a lot.
On with the story of our RuneQuest role playing game, currently about our band of adventurers' trek back across the desert to the city of Pavis.
We spent a day resting up at fort Zanderneuf, watching the Lunar work crew repairing the hole we made in the wall during the attack on the Zombie master a few months ago. Oh, you don't know that story? Well, to keep it short, a semi-insane Lunar sorcerer was doing some Lunar military magic R&D into making zombie soldiers, the idea being that you can reanimate your fallen soldiers. He took advantage of a Nomad attack and zombified the wounded but not yet dead soldiers in the sick bay against their will. The attack went on for a couple of days, so the sorcerer had time to convert most of the guards, until the last survivor shot him with a crossbow through a skylight before leaving for help. He then fell into his magic cauldron and Zombified himself, leaving the last survivor's friend semi-conscious in sick bay and everybody else zombified. As the Zombies last order was to stay on guard, they remained on guard even after the Nomads had given up and left, setting up an interesting Beau Geste style adventure for us.
Actually, the gamemaster has a few corrections:
It is spelled Zinderneuf. C'est francais, comme la Legion Etrangere.
The Zombie Master was working on the dead and the wounded. And he wasn't so much taking advantage of the nomad attack to do some R&D as he was desparately using his special R&D magic to try to save his hide in the face of an unexpected nomad attack, these were not ideal conditions for beta-testing a new ritual. First he reanimated the dead to bolster the defenders, but as the attack went on he started zombifying those who were too wounded to fight effectively but weren't dead yet. That is why Beau nailed him, to protect his buddy in sickbay who was next in the queue for the cauldron. Then after the nomads gave up, Beau went for help; again risking his life for the sake of his buddy in sickbay.
We exchanged gossip with the work crew, mostly about the scandal of Persephone's night of passion with most of the Moonbroth garrison and the horse. The rumours said that she had gone back to Furthest, or gone to Pavis to file a law suit against the governor, or was summoned to the capital by the Moonson. Cam mentioned that she was seen going through Sartar, which rules out a few of the rumours. Before departing, we left a description of the Broo gang we fought a few days ago, in case they show up again.
From a distance we spotted vultures flying over something on the road ahead. As we got closer, we saw that they were eating dead Lunars: a mixture of Antelope Lancers, Peltasts and Hoplites. We estimated there were about 40 of them. No equipment was left on the battlefield, other than broken Nomad arrows. Bison and Impala prints told us which tribes did it, as did a Lunar staked out on the ground with hands, feet, eyelids and tongue chopped off and flies buzzing around him. We had to use a mindspeech spell to talk with him, "End it now" were his first words. Apparently his heavily armed regiment from the Lunar Tarsh province, on their way to Pavis, were ambushed by over 100 of the Nomads, with bison popping out of the ground after the cavalry had been distracted by a feint attack. Later, we found some more bodies, some staked out too, bringing the dead up to 80.
OK, that was a gruesome sight, but they were Lunars so it wasn't all bad. We continued on, with a detour to get across a gully where the bridge was out. While hunting for a place where the wagons could cross, we encountered a tired looking soldier riding a sable. He guided us back to the five other survivors of the Nomad attack: some infantry, some rangers and a merchant, with 4 pack Llamas and a couple of ponies. We had a little debate about killing the Lunars with our Storm Bull travelling companion, who views them as evil chaos spawn, but decided that since we worked for the river god, we had to promote harmony.
Before guiding the Lunars back to Pavis, we wanted to search their baggage just in case the city gate inspectors find something incriminating. It was mostly sacks of dried fish sauce and some bronze, according to the merchant. He was unwilling to submit to a search (why did they carry cargo rather than more survivors?) but the soldiers didn't care and we offered to leave his stuff behind if he didn't want it searched. Well, well, inside the fish powder were several hundred kilos of silver ingots, the Lunar's pay for the whole region for a goodly chunk of the year. No wonder there were so many Nomads and Lunars involved. Not that we need the money, but taking it would crimp the Lunar occupation force severely as the soldiers in Pavis were already forced to accept script rather than real money, with the locals only accepting it at a big discount. Taking the silver would hurt the Lunars in a big way and would be a very good thing to do for our original god, Orlanth the lord of the wind and foe of Lunars.
So, take the money and kill the Lunars? Possible, we could get away with it, but murdering them would not be honourable. Take the Lunars and pay back to Pavis? That would help the Lunar occupation forces, something we don't like to do on principle as we were exiled because of the Lunar occupation of our homelands. It would also be very embarrassing to help the Lunars, setting our fellow outlaws and exiles against us. We could leave both survivors and silver behind, but then the Lunars could die or the silver could get back to the army. We settled on the logical alternative, take the survivors and leave the silver.
After noting permanent landmarks, we buried the silver in one spot with the help of the Lunars and buried our honey barrels in another, and left the wagon nearby. Later that night, Inyana surreptitiously whistled up some magical gnomes and directed them to move the silver underground to a spot several meters under the honey barrels. We can't be sure they did the right thing since it was dark and Inyana couldn't supervise the gnomes.
Without the wagon, the trip back to Pavis was quick and uneventful. We resupplied, and people who might have been contaminated by disease in the Broo attack were healed. We quickly went back with a rented wagon and found the Lunar patrol already busy digging holes all over the place. We dug up the honey, but lost the wagon, only finding a few wagon parts (leather bits - the wood is valuable in the desert).
The honey made a profit, and we were able to use some to pay off the healers. The merchant wasn't completely devastated since his fish sauce was popular with the troops, the soldiers enjoyed home style fish sauce for a week or two, and the Nomads had an extra easy time harassing the Lunar digging patrol.
As for the treasure, the only way we figure we could make money from it was to sell treasure maps. Having too much freshly minted silver would be dangerous, so we're leaving it there for now, kind of like the boat which "disappeared" into the swamp for a year before we "found" it. So now you know how treasures are made.
Copyright © 2000 by Alexander G. M. Smith.