Episode 19 : The Congress Of Animalia

We had travelled these past two weeks uneventfully apart from the dreams and now stood before Tornburg. The fortress city was perched upon a cliff top at the end of a peninsular overlooking the city below. At the tip of the peninsula stood the fortress proper. The city was mostly wooden buildings and ran from the fortress proper to the great barrier wall at the end of the peninsular. The fortress city had a small populous of about 3,000 people and a standing army of about 1,000 men. This was the capital and the biggest city in the Princely State of the East Rose.

Tornburg is famous for its coal which is mined in the catacombs below the city. This coal burns with a blue flame and heats the hottest fires. Most of the populous is western human. The law dictates that no magic is allowed. There is some channeling and lay healers as well as two Alchemists and three magic users. The Alchemists mostly brew healing potions or work on enhancing further the coal from the mines. There is a Temple to Hesh the farming God and there are lots of Druids. There are other Temples here, including Temples to Wendinni and Lumina.

The druids are located outside the fortress city in the forest nearby. In fact there was a sign posted on the wall indicating the druids were in the forest yonder. We decided to head down this path through the forest to there lodgings. We came to a stone wall covered with vines. The gates permitting entrance were shut. The sound of chanting and singing came from behind the wall. A sign on the gate read, "The Congress of Animalia.". Crayg Rydorsson went up to the gate and banged his fist upon it. A few minutes later an elderly druid appeared. His head was shaved of all facial hair, including his eyebrows, he looked us over and said, "You will have to come back tomorrow, this is our singing time and we can not be disturbed.", he closed the gate again.

The party looked around the area and saw a good campsite a few hundred yards further down the track, so we camped here the night. Crayg Rydorsson had also noticed that when he worn a glove covering his silver right hand none of the powers of the silver hand would work.

That night Grimwold Mindbreaker did dream of the beautiful Elfin maiden that the halfling had seen in the scrying device. His dream began with Grimwold Mindbreaker as a wyvern flying high and fast above the world. As he flew he saw a veil that separated this world from the next, he sped through it and the next and the next and the next. He past through 16 veils before the wyvern began to slow and descend, but it was morning and the dream was over.

We went back to the druids residence and found that the gates were open. Inside the walled area was a small community of druids. There are about 300 in total and they are all men, women are not allowed. There was a blacksmiths hut and other huts in the enclosure. Most noticeable was that all the druids were men and that they were shaved of all facial hair. The elderly druid of the day before came over and inquired as to how they could be of assistance.

We indicated that Vernon Zarck had shattered his shoulder in a fall from a rooftop and that it had not healed properly and still caused him pain and was not fully functional. The elderly druid asked Vernon Zarck to remove his shirt, so he could make a closer examination. Vernon Zarck removed part of his shirt over the shoulder area. Silence fell over the compound. Vernon Zarck had his tattooing revealed for all to see, scales upon scales. Garack prompted "What a rash?". The elderly druid indicated that this would require time to fix, two days at least and that Vernon Zarck must indeed be blessed in some form.

Crayg Rydorsson spoke up with his nasal drawl "Any chance of fixing my nose?", the elderly druid looked over "How did you damage your nose so badly, where did it happen?". "It was down the coast a few weeks ago.". "Well it looks as if it was bitten off!". "Well we won't go into that.". Harry Mata said, "Well if you must know it was bitten off by a wolf.". "You didn't fight the wolves on Pentyce Island did you.". "No, no, we didn't fight the wolves on Pentyce Island, but we did fight and kill all manner of wyverns!", silence again fell on the community and this time the elderly druid walked away. "That put our feet in it.", said Serra Ibin Raaviat. "Why the hell did you tell him that?", said Crayg Rydorsson. "I thought that it was funny at the time.", said Harry Mata. "Don't be funny!", said Crayg Rydorsson.

A minute or two later the elderly druid appeared with an equally elderly Doctor. The Doctor spoke "So you have been to Pentyce Island, have you?". "Yea, we killed lots of wyverns, some trolls and entered an abandoned ruin while we were there.", said Harry Mata. The Doctor spoke "Well it is almost 500 years since our chapter split and half moved across to Pentyce Island, they have become corrupted by the wolf cult.". "Did you know that they can Shapechange as well, and not just into wolves but a crow as well.". "Ah, now this does not surprise me that they have descended so low.".

"Let me see the herbs you have found.", said the Doctor. "I have not seen this plants like in all my ages, but what it is and what it does, if only we had a seed.". Serra Ibin Raaviat dug into the bag of the herb and pulled forth a small branch which had 25 seeds on it. "Will this do?". "Yes, yes that is excellent.". "How about we trade say five seeds for our treatments, I'm sure that you can spur the plants growth.", said Crayg Rydorsson. "Yes, indeed we can we will give you back a similar number of seeds and herb in return.". "How about you also provide us with the information on its use, and say enhance some doses of it as well.". "All right, that would be fair for a healing herb that has no seen the light of day for a hundred years.".

"The herb is capable of clotting bleeding at two hits a round in its raw state simply by rubbing it on the wound. Enhanced, we can double this rate. It is also effective against mental disorders and diseases. It is also a hallucinogenic agent that enhances dreams and communion, but too much can cause addiction and induce mental disease. It usually smoked to achieve these effects but if chewed is doubly effective but the side effects and similarly twice as bad.".

"We will start the healing processes on Vernon Zarck fixing his shoulder and his mind.". Vernon Zarck was lead away into a small hut. Crayg Rydorsson was also lead away to a small hut in preparation for his nose job. That night he pulled forth the mirror and the Demon Humzaar appeared. "So you want some new spell lists, I can do it for you, just pop them into your mind.". "Just like that.". "Yes, just like that.". "And what do I have to do?". "Oh, nothing you have not done before, I was thinking two virgins would be nice.". "I bet I know which two you have in mind, they wouldn't be Princesses of the Realm would they?". "Well as it happens, um, yes, um, they are, but think about it, dark channeling! I might even throw in no spell failure.". "I'll have to think about it.". "Well while you're thinking, there is something else you just might be interested in, its in a cave about two mile out of Tornburg and ...", the Demon Humzaar whispered on. Crayg Rydorsson listened into the night and in the morning both he and Garack were gone.

During the night Grimwold Mindbreaker did dream of the druids. His dream began with him robed as they are, he wondered about the buildings and entered a larger building. Along the walls of the building were lined tapestries, one was pulled aside revealing a picture. The motion of hands moving across parts of the picture and the opening of a door. Going through Grimwold Mindbreaker went down steps into a cavern below. In the centre of the chamber stood a tree, softly glowing, about the tree druids kneeled in prayer. As they prayed a rose blossomed on a branch and leaves grew along the branch. The dream ended.

The morning also brought changes to Vernon Zarck. He had undergone a metamorphosis during the night. His eyes had changed colour to yellow and they now had slitted pupils. His eyes bulged from his face and now did not face straight on. His teeth were looser and his back molars had been coughed up during the night. His front teeth were longer and sharper. Finally his tongue was far longer than it had been, he could now lick his eyebrow if he wanted!

The druids brought a simple fair for breakfast and the young boy delivering the meal invited Vernon Zarck to talk with the Elders. Vernon Zarck was taken into the main building and saw three elders waiting for him. They spoke, "Tell us of how you came to be as you are now and who is it that you worship.". Vernon Zarck responded by saying "I came be to as I am through an unfortunate series of events, I have been blessed by the God Mahaaran but I do not worship Mahaaran.". "We did wonder how much you were influenced by Mahaaran.". "As I say I am not influenced but I would like to learn more of Mahaaran as Mahaaran has induced these changes in me.". "Blessed or cursed as the case may be, you are affected to a small extent but we cannot say how much further the effect will be upon you.".

Vernon Zarck looked about the room now, around the walls were frescos depicting many legendary creatures. "These are all beings from beyond the Eastern Veil.". He looked closely and could see minotaurs and in the lower left hand corner a large coiled snake. "I see you have picked out the God, Mahaaran.", also in the fresco were images of minotaurs, pegasi, men with the heads of elephants and giant men with only one central eye in their head. Beneath the fresco was script in a language that Vernon Zarck did not know, he later found this to be the script of the minotaur.

The Elder continued, "Mahaaran is currently imprisoned in the void between the fourth and the fifth levels of Heaven. This God is most untrustworthy, scheming and lying. We well advise you that it would not be a wise course to seek further closeness to Mahaaran. It would be best to stay well clear and not to worship one such as this.". Vernon Zarck responded that he did not intend to seek such closeness, to which the Elders seemed satisfied.

This morning Serra Ibin Raaviat started to use "Hawkwind.", having finally found out its name and having the free time in which to practise. Harry Mata acting as Serra Ibin Raaviat's opponent found that Serra Ibin Raaviat was handling the dagger far better than she had handled a normal dagger. The halfling during this time had wondered off and had a look into the few structures that were around this small village. He found that there was no wealth in the form of gold but there was a wealth of herbs and plants that could help in the healing of wounds, diseases and disorders. The druids had already started a small cultivated plot where the healing herb taken from the Temple of Wendinni was flourishing. Talking to Serra Ibin Raaviat later she gave the halfling a couple of these seeds, for later use in the Islands of the Halfling States.


(c) 1997 One Night in Middleburg Rolemaster Campaign Journal by Ross Stopford  
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