Legend of the Fleet of Nazran
The Sea of Jade is the defining feature of the center of the Great Land. It, as well as the towering and enormous Stone Forest (a petrified forest thousands of miles long), occupy the very center of the Great Land and have rendered thousands of miles of the land in the central basin, from the Mountains of Ghujhang to the Mountains of Desperation, into rocky, waterless waste.
The story of the Great Curse which turned the waves of the sea to shining jade and the forests to stone must be saved for another time; it is one well known to the people of the Great Land. But one consequence of the Great Curse has created the ancient tomb known as the Fleet of Nazran.
Nazran was a servant of the Priests of Han Tsarng, and was widely called "the Truest Son of Han Tsarng". A peerless warrior, Nazran sought to defeat the greatest enemies of Han Tsarng, the powerful empire of the Jjiyong.
After decades of ceaseless warfare back and forth across the Bright Sea (as it was then known), Nazran went before the Priests of Han Tsarng in their high city of Tsarng Ptur.
He proposed to them that never before had the Jjiyong been so weak- they still reeled from their terrible defeat the Mouth of Heaven (the mountain pass into the Holy Kingdom of Han Tsarng), wherein they had lost most of their army. Many, if not all, of their automatons and sorcerous things had been destroyed in that battle, and much more was left rusting into useless junk in the wake of their retreat.
Thus, proposed Nazran, it would be possible to strike at the heart of the Jjiyong Empire- to destroy their capitol of Ushreng and topple the Idol of Thodol once and for all.
The Priests of Han Tsarng conferred, and decided that Nazran should indeed undertake this invasion. It was well with the Gods of Han Tsarng that the Jjiyong be destroyed.
For months the preparations commenced. Smoke rose in the hinterlands as entire forests were stripped bare. Civil wars and rebellions broke out among the tribes of the Holy Kingdom in defense of the ancient forests and their gods, but the warriors of Nazran sent down the righteous fist of Han Tsarng's judgement. So great was the undertaking, that the Holy Kingdom (never a fertile or forested land) was stripped nearly bare of food, wood, metal, and men in preparation for the greatest invasion ever seen in the history of men.
This was the Fleet of Nazran.
It was a veritable nation of boats, a floating countryside, an armed tribal migration, crossing the Bright Sea, leaving behind it a vast wake of filth and garbage which was swallowed up soundlessly by the sea. It was the mightiest army the Great Land had ever seen, even in this, an age of warring tribes and battling kingdoms, where plains swam with the blood of soldiers.
Smoke rose from the Fleet as if from the thousand-thousand chimneys of Haiban, the City of Thieves (which is called the City of Six-Thousand Smokes), and it echoed always with the racous sounds of a city on the water; it was truly a community. Children were born, marriages and holy ceremonies continued, men trained for war. It was as if the Holy Kingdom itself had uprooted at the order of Nazran, the heavenly warrior, and moved into the sea.
The Priests of Han Tsarng, who had come with the Fleet to bless the holy endeavour, brought with them the wondrous Holy Treasures of Han Tsarng, a treasure so great that it is said to rival the wealth of the Empire of Flowers itself.
It is said (by Chreng Razdakh, the Fleet Survivor, and the so-called Last of the Han Tsarngi) that Nazran went before the assembled Army of Han Tsarng (gathered on the Great Holy Flagship Heaven Moth with members of the Priests of Han Tsarng) in the days before the Fleet would reach Jjiyong.
He gave to the men a mighty speech, and with a great blessing called down from the Gods of Han Tsarng by the Priests who were there, he said to them:
"Never in the history of all the Earth has there ever been, and will there ever be, a victory as invincible as ours."
Unfortunately, fate does not smile upon hubris. For as the fleet came near to harbor of Ushreng, there was a great storm, and the Fleet, whose great ships had been lashed and chained together, became a tangled island of smashing and groaning wood, as the thousands of smaller boats attached or floating amongst and alongside the fleet became mangled within the striving warships and freighters of the Holy Kingdom, until the Fleet had become a wave-tossed island of flailing wreckage.
And as fate would have it, it was this very storm which heralded the Great Curse.
The ships of the Fleet of Nazran were frozen in the jade waves, trapped in their crumbling poses, some sinking into the shining stone, others wrecked upon the surface, massed together into a huge mountain of wood.
Thousands of Han Tsarngi perished within the storm and the changing of the Great Curse; tens of thousands more died attempting to survive in the wreckage of the Fleet, or in trying to flee across the shining expanses of the new jade desert. Small, brutal battles broke out amongst the inhabitants of the wooden island over water and food.
Eventually, the Fleet of Nazran became a whistling mountain of death amidst the expanses of the Sea of Jade, inhabited only by ghosts and dark remnants of the population who clung to life, sustained by blood and fear.
That Sounds Pretty, But What Does It Mean?
Somewhere out past the western coast of the Jade Sea, east of the ancient, deserted ruins of Ushreng, there is the legendary Mountain of Boats, the Fleet of Nazran. Not only does it contain all of the treasure of the Han Tsarngi people and all of their ancient weapons and mechanisms, it also contains the Holy Treasure of Han Tsarngi, the greatest treasure of them all. In addition, the Mountain of Boats has attracted all manner of adventurers since the time of the Roaming Wars. Many have coveted the treasures of Han Tsarngi, and many have died on the way, or within the Mountain of Boats, leaving behind their possessions and treasures as gifts to the next generation of dead men.
Of course, you must have understood by now that the Mountain of Boats is not exactly ripe for the taking. Multitudes have died just trying to reach the ruin; for the deserts which surround the Sea of Jade are nothing compared to the trek which awaits those who wish to cross the Sea itself, even the relatively short distance to the resting place of the Fleet. Water is nonexistant; it must be packed in from the shore, and human beings cannot exactly eat jade. In addition, the nomad raiders who travel the Sea are vicious, and leave no prisoners; some are cannibals. Renegade war-machines from elder times sometimes are seen wandering the expanses of the desert and the Sea; other stranger creatures exist in the great desert of precious stone, such as ravagers, giant devouring insects of the desert which also roam and starve upon the jade plains. The heat is nearly unbearable for most, and can be fatal in midday.
At about 50 miles away from the site of the Fleet, heroes will notice a very strange phenomenon- their compasses, way-stones, and path-machines all register new bearings for north- as the heroes proceed, they realize that this new bearing points straight towards the Mountain of Boats.
But in the event that the heroes do, in fact, reach the Fleet (the best way is to follow the various trails of wreckage and abandoned detritus left by other travelers or by the fleeing inhabitants of the Fleet), it is not without it's own dangers.
The Fleet can be imagined as resembling a great city of wood constructed on the backs of boats, wherein a great hand has taken all of the huge warships, titanic freighters, delicate nobleships and priest-barges, and the thousands of junks, dinghys, tattersails, ragstopped rafts, coracles, and the masses of other boats, and thrown them together, gripped them in a fist and smashed them into a great island-like mass of shattered, twisted wood and metal and canvas, and then frozen them there motionless, with the hot wind blowing through their mummified sails and tattered banners and lanterns, and the shattered and intricate waves of jade statuesque about them. The Mountain of Boats resembles nothing so much more as the most perfectly-chaotic city of wood ever created.
There are ships also beneath the jade waves, accessible by tunnels frozen or hacked into the desert's surface, and deeper chambers blasted out of the green stone by desperate people.
Spread throughout the whole of the mass, amongst the huge clouds and canopies of nets, ropes, riggings, tattered sails, and crossed masts, there are strings of bells; these were ancient signalling and communications on and between the Han Tsarngi ships, but now, these many ten-thousands of bells at times create an eerie atonal music which rings and pierces through the Fleet on the slight hot breeze, like ghostly windchimes, a jingling mockery of antique nautical life and death.
Another eerie reminder of the ancient Fleet's life are the kites which are omnipresent throughout the Fleet. Han Tsarngi sailors (as well as modern sailors of all stripes) found the kite to be a useful tool- as range- and view-finder, and also as an ornamental and amusing addition to the ship. During the storm, many of the kites which were fastened to the ships were blown loose, or smashed into the surface of the sea. But many also remain, tied to masts and handrails or even pinned to the decks, and in the right conditions, in the desert sirocco, they rise like a ghostly paper flock, dipping and dropping and bobbing in the sweltering air, as if some invisible hand still held their string
There are many things which dwell in the Mountain of Boats. As a landmark amidst the endless green-blue Sea of Jade, as well as freely available source of shelter, and possibly food, the Fleet attracts all manner of creatures and beings who dwell in or are lost upon the Sea, and hosts populations of it's own descended from older generations of inhabitants and comers. This, among all other dangers, makes the Mountain of Boats a dangerous place to be.
Describing all of the multitudinous adventures that the Fleet can offer would be impossible- it is the size of a small city in area. But general regions can be described.
The Outer Wake
The Outer Wake surrounds the Fleet proper in a nebulous circle. It is the shattered remnants and frozen ships which composed the vast amount of small junks, coracles, tugs, canoes, rafts, and other commonfolk ships which sailed in multitudes around the Fleet like a swarm of flies on an enormous animal. Most of these ships were smashed to driftwood and frozen into the Jade Sea in a form which much resembles a smashed and jumbled floor of hardwood planks. Sections of these silvered wooden boards cover areas of the Outer Wake, some smashed to slivers. In other places, sturdier boats survive half-sunken into the jade, with their hulls standing into the hot air like gravestones. Others have been hurled into piles of splintery spars, or mangled together into intricate arches and masses of boatwood. Some of the most disturbing regions of the Outer Wake are those places where individuals fell into the water as it transformed- the molds of their dead bodies, or their bones encased in jade, can be seen throughout the area. Most of the boat remnants are fairly spread out; the city-like cluster of the Fleet proper is visible from almost all parts of the Outer Wake.
Though the Wake is not the strange and eerie maze of wood that the Fleet is, there are still dangers within it.
Encounters in the Outer Wake
-A pack (3-7) of ravagers, huge, strange, devouring insects covered in spiny hair; ravagers in the Fleet are most likely starving and thus frenzied to consume the heroes
-Ten or twelve withered, mummy-like cannibal corpses; these zombies will generally lie together amongst the boats of the Wake in various poses of a hungry and dejected death. They are slow but inexorable, and only die once hacked to pieces (more difficult than it seems)
-A group (5-15) of silent, albino beings with their eyes covered in strips of cloth. Most are terribly sunburned and have veritable sloughs of skin peeling off. If they hear or smell the heroes, they attack en masse with chipped jade weapons, howling horribly (their howls may draw other beasts).
-A pack (6-12) of carnivorous, wolf-like lizards. They are extremely dextrous and quick, but not terribly intelligent. Their hissing death-screams alert other monsters to the heroes, especially other packs of wolf-lizards.
-A pair of hunched, robed beings are seen walking in the distance (either towards the Sea or towards the Fleet); they vanish behind the hull of a boat and are not seen again.
-An ancient machine of Han Tsarngi construction- it is four-legged, with a central pod; most of it is covered in plates of iridescent which apparently was originally painted red. The exposed portions of machinery are incredibly complex and tiny clockwork. It wheezes toward the players, and large swords and blades slide out of it's carapace and it attacks.
-Twelve to sixteen mysterious beings pour out of a solid wall of wood (or a hull) and drop on the heroes, slashing them with ice-cold claws. They resemble monkey or dog-like masses of swirling, cold shadows, and are easily destroyed but very fast.
-A small group (3-7) of starving bandits; they are armed, but weak from exhaustion and thirst. Some are crazed from the heat and the hunger, while others are lucid enough to demand food and water, or attempt to take it by force.
-On the other hand, it may be an organized group (5-10) of well-prepared bandits or warriors who came to raid the Fleet for treasure. They have a sled of supplies which they have dragged with them from the shore, and are well-armed. They are, of course, aggressive and ready to fight (though they may, perhaps, be reasoned with, and may perhaps even be allies!)
Locales of Interest in the Outer Wake
-The House of Kuhu: Kuhu is a an ancient, wizened old man, with a long, silver-white beard and equally long eyebrows, who lives inside a slightly-off-kilter junk on the outer western edges of the Outer Wake. He has lived here for, as he says, "a great number of years", and is quite friendly. If it seems mysterious that such an old gentleman would live in such a hostile place, where at any moment monsters and raiders might smash in his door, and where neither food and water are readily available, one would be correct in assuming that Kuhu is not all that he seems. He offers the heroes his hospitality, along with cups of water he produces from a locked room in the cabin of the junk, but if they comment on the strangeness of his situation, he quickly becomes distrustful. If pressed beyond this point, Kuhu will become violently angry, and his formerly grandfatherly features and twinkling eyes will become a dark and wrathful mask of hatred, with eyes of glinting red flame.
The truth is that Kuhu is an ancient and unfathomable demon; under his long, trailing robe, he hides a body made entirely from bizarre, skinless organs and entrails. When enraged, he sheds his robe, and attempts to envelope and strangle the heroes with the ropy tentacles of his intestines.
If Kuhu is destroyed (whether via being hacked to pieces, fire, or other means), the previously well-kept junk quickly deteriorates into a ruinous hulk; the locked room from which Kuhu produced the water is found to be a closet containing nothing but a withered body whose face is frozen in a rictus of fear. There is nothing else to be found in this place.
It is, however, quite possible that the heroes are not curious as to this old man's strange presence and will not press him further. If this occurs, they will either go about their business, and never again see Kuhu, or take Kuhu up on his offer to stay the night- if they do stay, they will awaken to find Kuhu (in demon form) hovering over them, preparing to devour them whole.
-The Porcelain Birds: Circling through regions of the Outer Wake are small flocks of white birds, which, upon closer inspection, turn out to be small figurines of birds, made out of painted porcelain. These flocks were ancient weapons, made to be released against the Jjiyongiz during the invasion. Now, they circle the plains, and when they spot an "enemy" (any individual not bearing a Han Tsarngi insignia or clothing), they dive down upon them, smashing their small porcelain bodies into lacerating slivers, and scattering a thick poison dust into the wounds. The poison is curable, and if the wounds are quickly washed they are not serious, but if left to fester, the victim will die as his or her air-passages close up like a tightening fist.
The Decks are simply that- the decks of the Fleet. As the heroes pass from the Outer Wake into the Fleet proper, they ascend a sloped heap of shattered and twisted wood and metal (in some places, this is the remnants of small boats smashed against larger ones; in others, places where old hulls have bulged outward and collapsed). From here, the heroes can explore to their hearts' content over the huge expanse of tilted, collapsing, and intricately-interlocked decks of the great ships of the Fleet of Nazran. Most of the ships are canted slightly uphill towards the center of the Mountain of Boats; this gives the Fleet the shape of a heap or hill (and endows it the name of the Mountain of Boats). Many of the ships' sails and masts are tilted or snapped at crazy, clashing angles; in places, this creates a sort of canopy of tattered sails. Much of the danger of the Decks comes from the fact that they are quite weakened with age, and many are near to collapse. It appears in many places that ramshackle bridges and scaffoldings of rope and planks have been thrown up around and between ships, and it is difficult to find a deck which cannot be accessed. However, all of this decking, planking, masts, sails, ancient banners, ropes and riggings, piles of crushed wood and twisted metal, can together make the Decks a rather confusing and overwhelming place, easy to become lost in, and especially dangerous for those who are exhausted from the arduous journeys that precede it. The Decks are host to many creatures; nomads of the Sea of Jade, carnivorous birds, more albino creatures, and more bandits (though significantly fewer, in that most consider the Mountain of Boats to be cursed).
As the heroes wander the Decks, they notice that in many places, ancient banners and intricately-carven wooden deck-friezes have been defaced with snaky strings of symbols in the ancient language of Jjiyongiz (language of the Empire of Jjiyong). They continuously see the same emblem written in Jjiyongiz, and if they have the capability to translate it, they will find it reads "Domain of the Water Giver".
Encounters on the Decks
-A group (6-9) of Jade Sea nomads; they are dressed in heavy leather cloaks and strings and chunks of jade, and are armed with whirling bladed machines and springbolt weapons, as well as weapons of jade and stone. They are not openly hostile, but warn the players (in a debased dialect of Jjiyong speech) to stay away; they suspect that the players are either disguised demons or foreign sorcerors, and if the players disobey, they will be forced to "defend" themselves.
-A huge flock of large carnivorous birds are gathered together on the deck of one or some of the ships, variously cawing raucously at each other or devouring the remains of some unidentifiable, bizarre creature; they are mostly black, with small clusters of red feathers, and vicious curved beaks. When the heroes approach or are noticed by the birds, they become eerily silent, and then abruptly begin to attack violently in a whirlwind of talons and beaks. Each bird is easy to destroy, but as a flock, the birds are a formidable danger.
-Another group of the blind albino beings (8-20); they carry tanned leather-sacks gurgling with water, marked with a sentence in ancient Jjiyongiz. As before, the albinos attack when they realize that the heroes are present, but one or two of them are armed with machine-weapons (much like the Jade Sea nomads in other places on the Decks).
-A thing rises up out of a wrecked pit in the deck of a ship. It's body is composed of pieces of smashed wood and wreckage, and attached to it are strips and streamers of sails and ancient banners, with Jjiyongiz symbols painted on them in lines. Attached to it's "head" is a smooth, black mask. The golem-thing attacks with smashing leaps and fists of wood and metal, and when destroyed, it collapses thunderously into a heap of twisted wreckage.
-In the riggings and sails of an ancient ship crawl enormous hairy spiderlike creatures, relatives of the ravager insects of the outer desert. These creatures travel in packs of 4-8 and are roughly the size of a small dog, but they have strange heads which are disgustingly reminiscent of the faces of human beings. The heroes will most likely sense them following behind, eerily scuttling amongst the sails and spars, seen only quickly out of the corner of the eye. They will ambush the heroes by leaping down upon them with slashing claws and talons, and attempting to encase them in webbing and ropes.
-A pair of Haints. These strange creatures, remnants of ancient Han Tsarngi who were collected and spoken to by an ancient darkness, lurk in the shadows of a hollowed-out boat shell, pale and emaciated, with tendrils of darkness spilling out of their eyes and soft whispers on their thin lips.
Locales of Interest on the Decks
-The Fire Pit: It seems that the Great Curse has given the wood some of the properties of stone (though the ships have not become rock); they are not easy to burn. But it seems that something quite fiery occured here not too long ago, with disastrous results for all. Some time ago, though not long enough ago for the ashes to have been blown away in the wind, a massive fire occured here. It charred one ship to ashes, and reduced several others around it to blackened skeletons of boats. Amongst the ashes, the heroes can see strange remains- a group of human bones, clustered together, but also an enormous charred ribcage of some unidentifiable beast. There are small heaps of ash spread throughout the area.
But this aside, if the heroes set foot on the ashes, they discover that all is not as it seems; the heaps of ash which the heroes saw are actually some of the local dog-lizards, sleeping off the noon sun; these specimens, however, are larger than the other dog-lizards the heroes encountered in the Outer Wake, being more like the size of small calfs or deer. They burst from the ash and attack ferociously.
When (or if) the heroes dispatch the lizards, they discover that each lizard has kept a "cache" of sorts in it's heap- it appears that they gathered the belongings of their victims and placed them in their nests in the ash. Most of the objects are so damaged as to be valueless and useless, though some small things can be gleaned out of the ashes.
-The Rust Cave: This ship appears to be overflowing with rust and oxidation. The decks are studded with large lumps and masses of rusty metal, which, upon further examination, are ancient machines. This ship seems to have been a carrier for some of the Han Tsarngi army's ancient mechanisms and automatons. As such, there are many bladed contraptions and spidery machines lying in wreckage on the deck. The inside of the ship smells of strange oils and alchemy, and is encrusted with rust and oxidation- there is a thick layer of rusted metal flakes all over the floor. The machines inside wheeze to life when the heroes enter; all are, to some extent, caked or encased in rust, but they attempt to attack. Some only click and wheeze and cannot reach the heroes; others can sweep or chop with their blades. In the back of this rust cave, there is a single working machine, a strange one-legged thing with whirling bladed arms. When the heroes approach, it awakens and leaps at them, and can only be subdued by destruction. When disabled, the heroes find the Jjiyongiz emblem on it.
In sealed cabinets throughout the Rust Cave, there are ancient springbolt weapons and crossbows, as well as bladed machine weapons and other mechanisms of obscure function. Most of these have been destroyed by rust, but one cabinet (containing several ancient, high-quality crossbows and a springbolt gun) has miraculously escaped this fate.
-Ship of the Damned: This ship seems to have been used as a "residential" boat. The upper decks are studded with small, collapsing temporary huts, and if the heroes venture into the lower parts of the ship, they witness a grisly sight- the hold is crammed with dead, packed with corpses, some mummified, others skeletal, lying together in knots, or huddled as if clutching each other for safety, and others apparently stacked like firewood. But not all of the dead on this boat rest easy- as the heroes attempt to exit the boat, they find themselves assaulted by a trio of hungry ghosts (the three spirits look alike, taking the form of starving men with blood pouring in streams from their mouths). It seems that they cannot be slain with normal weapons, but when attacked with magic or when beaten away sufficiently, these spirits shriek piteously and flee into the hold, where they loom over their old bodies.
Should a priest of some stripe be among the heroes, there is the possibility to lay these tortured souls to rest. If the priest offers the ghosts freedom, one of the spectres, in gratitude, will offer up a hidden treasure- an ancient, noblemade sword, impressively sharp, and a helm decorated with gold and jewels; both are hidden under a layer of greasecloth on the floor of the boat, and are seemingly untouched by age.
-The Sun-Swallower: As the heroes cross thsi deck, a creature emerges from the darkness of the lower levels. At first, it seems to the heroes that this creature is a frightful and ugly gorilla-sized mandrill, possessed of enormous straining muscles and ropy ape-strenght, its bright nasal crest inflamed and brilliant and its mighty tusks exposed; its coarse, spiny fur is a brilliant golden color, and its eyes are a deep, inky black. But it is much more than this; it is the foul Sun-Swallower, an ancient demon of unfathomable origin. As the creature mounts the decks toward them, the heroes see that its shadow is gigantic, far larger than it should be, and is utterly black, staining the sails and decks behind the Sun-Swallower into night. As the beast roars at the heroes, the huge shadow leaps to life, filling with a strange animation independent of the mandrill, extruding tentacles and limbs and menacingly expanding like the line of a solar eclipse.
The creature attacks them with a screeching howl, slapping at them with mighty heavy fists and with snapping jaws. But as the heroes fight, every wound they strike at the beast seems to heal instantly.
Soon, the creature's shadow begins to flail at the heroes with tentacles and tendrils of darkness. As they are touched, the heroes are struck blind; if they are touched again, they find their limbs paralyzed by a foul chill.
If any of the heroes possess spiritual sight, they will recognize the truth immediately; if not, they may discover it as the battle drags on. The true Sun-Swallower's body is not the ape; it is the great shadow. This enveloping darkness is not corporeal, but is still the vessel of the Sun-Swallower's demon soul, and in order to destroy the creature, the shadow must be slain. This requires either great force of arms (amazing strength and skill are necessary to wound this tenebrous thing) or spiritual force (ancient magic or enchanted weapons).
If the shadow is destroyed, it quickly breaks up into small blots of darkness which shatter into smaller shreds and vanish. The mandrill body collapses forward onto its feet and decays into a festering pile of rotten filth, and then to dust, leaving behind only a foul scent.
The Warrens are the mazy regions of wreckage between the hulls, nearly impossible to navigate and incredibly confusing. These take a form not unlike thousands of tiny alleys, galleries, and open clearings, walled by ancient hulls and jammed with wreckage- broken spars and twisted wood, pieces of ancient warships, piles of rusted metal, messes of rope and canvas, bones, and all manner of other things, piled and contorted together to fill the Warrens with a nigh-impenetrable continuum of devastation. The heroes will quickly discover that they must brave these mazes if they wish to proceed further into the Mountain; they will find them to be dangerously unstable and generally unsafe. Many of the Warrens are infested with bright, blue-green snakes, native animals of the Jade Sea (these snakes are large, and thus quite intimidating, but are not poisonous or aggressive). In other places, the Warrens are host to the omnivorous dog-lizards. Finally, in some dark alleyways of the warrens, the heroes may encounter a group of the blind albinos, feasting upon an unfortunate bandit.
The Warrens contain many discarded objects, though most are to some extent ruined. In one place, in the crossroads between three galleys, a chest of jewels was cast into the waters as it froze to jade- the treasures and gold can be seen within the jade surface, just beneath reach. It appears that somebody attempted to smash open the surface to reach these tantalizing treasures, but was unsuccessful.
As the heroes navigate the labyrinth of the Warrens and come closer to the central cluster of the Fleet, the alleyways begin to be so jammed and roofed in with wreckage that they resemble collapsed mine-tunnels. Within these collapsed areas, it is dark, very dark. Out of the shadows, strange and bizarre shapes, clad in tentacles, jointed limbs and strange fans of tissue, loom nightmarishly, threatening the players with skittering claws and slithering grasps; these are the ghosts of ancient and unseen sea creatures, their armored living forms lost forever in green stone. These bizarre spectres shun light and draw back from patches of sunshine, release an otherworldly shriek when wounded, and even those that die are never quite seen by the heroes, but their blood is gluey and stinks abominably, and inevitably the heroes wear this foetid bloody jelly from this point onward.
The Jade Tunnels
In various regions of the Fleet, heroes can see rough tunnels, hacked into the surface of the jade. In others, natural tunnels, resembling whirlpools, meet with underpassages carved out of the Sea by generations of dwellers in this strange place. These are the Jade Tunnels.
They can generally be described as slick, green, and dark. The little light that filters through the surface of the sea is tinged green, giving things within the Tunnels a corpselike pallor. They do not seem extensive- it must have taken generations to chip out these tunnels, and in that time, whoever did it carved out several large galleries and a mass of tunnels which connect to the various entrances.
At the very center of these tunnels, like the center of a spiderweb, is the foul den belonging to the albino tribe, whose warriors the heroes have encountered throughout their journey.
The chamber they are in is a large one, crammed with junk. The albinos are crouched around a dim central hearth, roasting a decayed body on a spit. The room is stacked with bones and ancient remnants, as well as huge pieces of wood and an entire small boat, overturned, to use as a shelter. Around the walls of the chamber, several nursing mother albinos slump, with pale, strange-looking children at their breasts. A party of warriors are preparing for a trip to the surface, it appears. They are tying strips of cloth around their eyes, and readying jade and stone weapons for battle. Many of the albinos appear to be starving, or at least in need of a meal, and it seems that this expedition may be a hunting party (It seems that the albinos, raised in the darkness, are dayblind, and blind themselves to make the best use of their other sense; hence, the blindfolds). The albinos are widely tattooed with Jjiyongiz slogans and symbols, and most have the Jjiyongiz emblem on their property somewhere.
When the albinos realize that the heroes have breached their sanctum, they react with panic. The mothers immediately scuttle into darker corners under junk piles (disturbingly reminiscent of cockroaches); the warriors take up their weapons and extinguish the fire, throwing the cave into almost-total darkness (but for a gleam of light reflected in from the outer tunnels). With this light gone, the heroes are forced to fight the cannibals on their own terms- silently, blindly. Unless the heroes are skilled at blind-fighting, or have the ability to cause massive destruction sight unseen, they must find a way to get back the light (torches, lighting the fire again).
Should the heroes be victorious (and after vanquishing the warriors, there is still the problem of the mothers and other unarmed albinos), they will find the lair mostly crammed with junk. But hidden amidst spars of wood under the ancient boat, there is an amazing find: an ancient sword, with a bright, polished shine, in a close-fit lacquered sheath. It is one of the fabled Fatal Swords of antiquity.
Within The Ships
Having navigated the fearsome obstacle of the Warrens, the heroes have reached the "core" of the fleet- where the seven blessed priestships and the Holy Flagship sailed, surrounded by military carriers. These boats appear to have been physically tossed together into a mass, closer than all the other ships; many of them were chained or roped together (one is led to wonder why the Han Tsarngi naval officers did not forbid this). This has formed a structure much like a fortress of collapsing wood- the decks and spaces between and within the ships forming a mass of strange hallways and mazy tunnels. The broken, crumbling vaults and hallways of these freighters form a seemingly-endless series of interlocking chambers and short hallways.
This region is composed of the ancient war-freighters, and is thus, generally, about three stories tall. Each level is crammed with ancient, rusting weapons; in some places (naval armories, perhaps?), the rust cakes the walls and floor in layers. In other places the ancient galleries and hallways sag and buckle under the heroes' feet.
These ships are also filled with a grislier cargo- the dead. It seems that many died within their confines; it also seems that many corpses were thrown or loaded onto these ships at some point in the past. In some galleries and rooms, the dead lie side by side in eerie rows, as if waiting to be taken away to the underworld.
As the heroes proceed deeper and deeper into this strange netherworld of ships, the destruction of the ships becomes more and more bizarre and surreal- the damage in these places (including huge whirlpool-like sinks in the wood, entire walls missing, strangely patterned damage, and gigantic gouges along the walls and ceiling) cannot have been caused by the buckling of the ship, no matter how intense. Disturbingly, in some places, mummified corpses and heads seem to have become trapped within the planks of the floor and walls, making some hallways a hideous gauntlet of protruding arms and faces.
And of course, the heroes encounter many hideous dangers within the ships; their interior is as dangerous, if not more so, than any place in the Fleet.
Encounters Within The Ships
-The dead which crew these ships are not all easily-rested. Many corpses silently rise from their places to devour the heroes; in some locales, the rooms are so choked with stumbling zombies that the heroes cannot possibly cut them all down.
Among these dead, some (1-3 per room of undead) seem more agile than others- armed with ancient weapons they pick from the walls and floor. Others (5-8) are ghastly heaps of shambling rust which seem impossible to wound or destroy.
Last of all, there are the undead who are trapped inside the walls and floor- these creatures reach and trap the heroes, trying to strangle and rip at their flesh from their wooden traps.
-The heroes enter a cavernous space, a ship that is almost totally hollowed out. The place is dark, very dark, except for light which shines in through gaps in the boards. The walls and floor appear to be covered in a heavy, thick black crust, resembling encrusted mud or blood. Sprawled out at the back of the hull, filling much of the space, there is a hideous, bloated corpse. It's sides are plated with spiny chitin, and is decorated with hundreds of harpoons, hooked spears, and arrows which jut out of it. It's body is coated in a layer of dried black ichor (the apparent source of the disgusting crust). When the heroes approach, the hideous corpse shudders, and rises up on staggering jointed legs, attack with huge pincers and blades, as well as a long segmented tail, spewing vile congealing fluids and releasing a deep rumble. The beast is huge and clumsy, and extremely strong, and is only felled when it's innards are ripped apart from beneath.
-Three creatures drop out of the rafters above the heroes' heads, crashing to the floor and releasing rattling hisses. They resemble disgusting combinations of a human corpse and a lobster, with plated backs, claw-like hands, distended faces and eyes on stalks, as well as emaciated ribcages and trembling, skeletal legs. The creatures are fearfully fast; when slain, their blood causes a blistering rash on those whose flesh it touches.
-A group (12-20) of strange, eel-like creatures, as long as a man, who wriggle across the decks and leap at the heroes with lacerating jaws and pincer-mandibles.
-A pack of sea-spiders (5-10). These hideous creatures resemble shriveled human corpses with gigantic fangs, their bodies covered in thin white hairs, and with giant, splayed hands and feet. Though these spectres are ghosts of the oceans, this pack seems to have inhabited the Fleet, and attack the heroes with hideous screams.
-A battle-group (3-5) of ancient mechanical men. These strange machines resemble intricate statues of men made from unknown metals, their faces covered in jade masks; they are standing in a row within a chamber behind an iron door, and awaken with a wheeze when the heroes enter. Their arms and legs are long blades, and they move with amazing quickness, seemingly unaffected by the rust which is pervasive in the Fleet. When destroyed, they collapse into piles of gears and ribboned metal.
Locales of Interest Within The Ships
-The Animals: This ship held many of the invasion's pack animals. It appears that part of the hull was sucked away into the waters (judging by the flat surface of jade at the back), and many horse and goat skeletons stick out of the water at various angles, or can be seen below the surface. Others of the poor beasts seem to have died within their pens, some slumped against the wooden walls, others collapsed into heaps. One group of goats, at least, seems to have wandered out and died in the region just outside this chamber, for reasons unknown. The place is tragically scattered with the bones of dead pack beasts.
-The Prisoners: This chamber is a ship's brig. The locked cages in this place are packed in tight- they are slightly shorter than an average man, and thus, the prisoners were stooped constantly. Tragically, it seems that when the Fleet became stranded, these prisoners (whatever their crimes) were abandoned here, to starve and die. Some corpses lie with their arms out of the bars, others curled in the corners, as if in resignation. At the back of this despairing chamber, there lurks a ghoulish creature, a shriveled being who sits atop a small heap of human bones. This creature has bulging eyes suggestive of starvation, and it's black lips are peeled back from yellow, fang-like teeth. The creature is barely sentient, and responds only with violent rage when provoked, but is otherwise quiescent. Clutched in it's hands at all times is a sharply-curved bronze dagger.
-The Husk of the Whale: Lying amidst the wreckage of this ship there is a bizarre and hideous sight- the corpse of a huge leviathan of the deeps, at least as long (if not longer) than the ship that it lies amidst, and cursed with eternal rot. It's huge head is plated with segmented shields of chitin, and its jaw lies slack, revealing rotting, clotted sheets of baleen and shattered teeth. It's grey-green sides are swollen and pockmarked, and in places, the flesh has collapsed inward, revealing bizarre, blackening organs and bones; some of its bloated innards spill outward around it. The magic of the Great Curse has made it so that the whole of the thing is eternally rotting but never rots away.
This whale-corpse is the host of a number of grotesque parasites. Enormous scything beetles, strange creatures like cockroach-men, and other bizarre insectile creatures swarm amidst the gory cavern of the whale's body, and are ravenous for any food; some have created strange, spiny nests within the whale's innards, built out of resin, and have hauled inside the human objects which they collect. When the heroes approach, the creatures emerge sinisterly, snapping and clicking, and attack en masse. On the whale's outer hide, there dwell strange, triangular monsters with hides like stone, that launch off with spinning fan-wings to snap at the heroes' heads. In the baleen of the corpse live crawling, six-legged creatures with anvil-shaped bodies that attack in a pack with scything leg-blades. Enormous, centipede-like worms with snapping beaks and acid blood, creatures like chitinous monkeys, hairy serpent-spiders, masses of writhing spiked tails, and crawling octopid horrors... The chitinous horrors which dwell within that corpse are limitless.
The only thing of value to find in the corpse can only be dragged out of the spiny burrows within the whale's innards, and then only at great danger to health and safety. Most of these items are so slimed and decayed as to be useless anyway.
The Priests of Han Tsarng each had their own priestship, a lavishly-outfitted yacht of their own to carry their belongings and retinues. These ships have lain mostly undisturbed for generations, by virtue of the guardian spirits of the Priests. These spirits were created by the magic of antiquity, each a dual of the spirit of the Priest to which they were linked, but though the Priests have now perished, the guardians are trapped, unable to break their spells and dissolve into the pleroma or escape into the wild, and thus continue to guard against nothing.
-Ship of Xa Sauth: This ship is lying in chunks against the side of another freighter, and resembles the silvery bones of some wooden monster. The upper decks have caved in, and the inner finery has long since been worn or torn away. Amidst the wreckage of this sleek cruiser, there lurks the guardian spirit of the Priest Xa Sauth. This creature resembles a mixture of feral man and gigantic wolf, it's filthy grey fur cascading over an emaciated frame; beads and rings are woven or tangled into it's pelt, and around it's neck, it wears a brass cartouche of it's name (Xirukh, meaning "Destroyer"). It stands menacingly over a pile composed of greying cloth, bones, and gold; this is the corpse of Xa Sauth. Xirukh protects the corpse of Xa Sauth from all intruders; mad with starvation and loneliness, the creature has taken this commandment to mean that it must kill all those who come near. Despite it's emaciated appearance, it is a formidable adversary, with talons and fangs as sharp as shards of obsidian, and a howl that can drive mortals mad.
-Ship of Irgsharng Dran: Irgsharng Dran was a man of great girth, and his priestship was made to fit his stature. The central chamber of the ship is a large dining hall where a low, Han Tsarngi-style table has been cast to the wall. The walls, formerly painted with verses from the holy books of the Priests of Han Tsarng, are coated in dust. Sitting upon the last remaining chair in this chamber is the guardian spirit of Irgsharng Dran, as tall and spare as the man was short and girthy. It resembles a man, thin and ascetic, dressed in a featureless black robe but rather than a face, it possesses a black mask of a boggle-eyed war god with shining fangs. When the heroes approach, the creature warns them off with an eerie wordless shout, and exposes its arms, of which there are four, each armed with a shining weapon (a heavy sabre, a long axe, a mace crowned with bells, and a trident). If the heroes further approach, the creature will shed its robe to reveal its thin, pale body, armored in a cuirass of jade scales and bells (as well as a cartouche of its name, "Dizang", meaning Lightning), and attacks with supernatural acrobatics, spinning, diving, and leaping to cut the heroes down.
If the heroes should defeat this menace, they will discover that Irgsharng Dran has left to them a gift which in this place is priceless- it is an ensorcelled cabinet which has preserved a platter of fruit and a jug of wine, free from rot or death. When the food is removed, the cabinet crumbles to dust, but the fruit and wine remain edible and healthy.
Also within Irgsharng Dran's ship are his priceless holy vestments, an intricate enfolded robe made up of layer upon layer of ancient water-silk and other beautiful fabrics; this heavy article of clothing would be worth a fortune in any market from Xi Kah to Bukdek.
-Ship of Hraznad Tsu: This ship's bow has ground into the side of one of the military freighters, destroying much of the finery of the forward cabins. But the rest of the ship is preserved, and reveals the beauty of ancient Han Tsarngi workmanship- intricately carven chambers, outfitted with painted silk banners (now dust coated and fragile) and decorated with verses from the Han Tsarngi holy books. In Hraznad Tsu's chambers, the floor is covered in a woven carpet which was ancient even in the time of Han Tsarng- it is woven with a pattern of ludicrous antiquity, and mankind has lost the knowledge necessary to decipher the glyphs in it's design. Lurking near this carpet is the guardian spirit of Hraznad Tsu, which resembles a huge and majestic peacock in colors of red, gold, and black. This avian (with a cartouche bearing the name "Xho Ru", Fire Wind) greets the heroes with a human voice, saying "I warn you, do not enter the chamber of my master. I smell no invitation upon you." If the heroes persist, the bird spreads it's massive wings and attacks with gouts of spiritual flame which burns the soul but leaves physical things intact. If the heroes should survive it's initial assault or somehow wound the bird, it will ascend through the ceiling of the chamber onto the deck of the ship and begin to smash the deck down upon them, raining broken spars and heavy beams down onto their heads. The only escape is to retreat and destroy the monster upon the deck, where it has greater freedom of movement (one possible option is to trap the creature in the riggings or the sail).
Treasures within the ship of Hraznad Tsu include the carpet (though it would indeed be a feat to carry this massively-heavy thing away), a chest containing ancient scrolls of Han Tsarngi magic (which the heroes cannot fathom, but which many in the Empire of Flowers would kill for), and a well-made sword which bears only repairable damage. In a chest upon the ancient carpet, there is a small fortune in ancient Han Tsarngi gold pieces.
-Ship of Bok Laizang: This ship is all but destroyed; pieces of it jut out of the jade, and just below the surface, the heroes can see the trapped remains of some of Bok Laizang's retinue, forever clawing toward the surface in the chill embrace of the Jade Sea. Perched atop some of this wreckage is the guardian spirit of Bok Laizang. It is a hulking machine-creature, a mechanical man. It's face is a sculpted mask of jade which smiles merrily; it's metal body is colored in tones of green and pale yellow, and is marked with holy Han Tsarngi verses. The creature wears a tattered filthy grey cloak, and absurdly resembles some sort of particolored human wanderer. Unlike some of the other guardians, this creature (named "Tsubrang", Flying One) attacks without warning, flying from it's perch into a spinning kick at the nearest hero. It further attacks with blindingly-fast Han Tsarngi hand-to-hand combat styles. If it seems to be losing the fight, the machine's arms reconfigure into a long blade and a hook, respectively, and it leaps at the players with unrestrained aggression. As a last resort, if the guardian cannot seem to defeat the heroes, it will iniate it's final weapon- a self-destroying pleromatic explosion which immolates the spirits of those engulfed, destroying Tsubrang, but also causing spiritual wounds which can only be healed with strong magic.
-Ship of Tsui Hgiru: Tsui Hgiru's ship is miraculously intact; it sits atop a wave crest alongside the Flagship, it's noble bow arcing out of the jade. The interior of the ship is carpeted in thick rugs, and the walls are painted with murals of the history of the Han Tsarngi people- struggles at riversides, marches through deserts, a battle in a forest, the raising of monuments, and so on. Tsui Hgiru's chamber is filled with amphorae, in which are contained all manner of oddities and sorcerous reagents. The Priest's intricately-carved mahogany alchemy table remains in place (it was bolted to the floor), though the holy charts and glyphs that were carved into its surface have been erased by some acid which spilled across it during the fateful storm. At the back of Tsui Hgiru's chamber, there is a stairway which leads up to an unusual addition to the ship- a private, elevated platform for the Priest. It is on this platform that the heroes first encounter Tsui Hgiru's guardian, swooping down upon them to slash their flesh. It is one of the fabled People of Tou-Chou, the bizarre lizard-bird-men who once dwelt in the region of the Jade Sea in great profusion, before the Great Curse; the People of Tou-Chou were fierce and cruel predators who dwelt in the ancient forested mountains, and worshipped the mysterious gods of the open spaces with their shrieking calls (they were, by any other name, pterodactyls). The creature, bearing a tattoo upon its leathery chest of its name ("Chrangshing", Heron-Beak), attacks with its razor-sharp beak and talons, and attempts to buffet the heroes from the narrow platform. If the heroes repulse the monster (no easy feat, considering that it is the size of a large man, easily outmatches them in strength, and can fly above and away from them), it will call out for aid, and soon the heroes will have as many as five other specimens of the People of Tou-Chou to deal with.
Tsui Hgiru's ship is practically stuffed with treasure. Ancient magical salves and potions, as well as scrolls of priceless spells, are stowed away in profusion upon this vessel. In addition, a chest full of pleromatic equipment and magical graphing tools, worth a life for any sorceror, can be found in one of the forward holds. A pair of beautiful gold bracelets, studded with small rubies, are found in a cabinet in the Priest's sorcerous workroom. Stowed away in the lower chambers, covered in an oil-cloth, is a four-legged, mechanical chariot, oiled and in pristine condition; should the heroes discover how this fantastic artifact functions (or should they already possess this knowledge), they will have a potent artifact and means of transport.
-Ship of Xireng Hsharg: Xireng Hsharg's ship is canted downward, its bow slicing eternally into the waters. Its sides are decorated with intricate wrought-iron patterns of serpents and birds, and the bird-serpent symbol of the Priest is still visible on the ship's tattered sail. As the heroes mount the deck of this ship, a watery mass soaks upward through the decks, and takes the shape of a serpentine dragon-like lizard, six-legged, a brilliant cyan blue in color, with great clusters of crimson-pink feathers. This creature is Yaungzar (meaning "Brightest"), the guardian spirit of Xireng Hsharg. The creature speaks in a hissing growl that approximates mortal speech-"Beware! My master does not look kindly upon intruders. Turn back now, or be destroyed!" But of course, to heroes as tested and toughened as ours, these warnings will be quite pointless. The creature will respond to their attacks with an echoing howl, and begin to snap at them with its crocodilian jaws, and slash with its talons. If it feels pressed, it will reveal its true power; Yaungzar can, at a whim, transform into a large water mass, bearing all the weight and force of a geyser, which can slam into the heroes, melt into the floor, and engulf the heroes to drown them. And if that were not enough, the lizard can electrify itself in this state, making it a crackling, blue-shining mass of water and sparks surging toward the heroes.
Should the heroes manage to overcome Yaungzar, it perishes in a flailing mass of water and dissolves into an inert mass of watery jelly on the deck. The treasures of Xireng Hsharg will be open to the heroes, but they will find that the Priest was an austere man whose only true luxurious possession was his bright spirit guardian, and wished his servants to be similarly austere. Some little clothing, and a few ancient, rusty blades, are available; in addition, in the Priest's quarters, they will find a set of holy religious scrolls and historical works which can be sold to sages and philosophers of history (who will find them priceless) and at antiquities marts in Xi Kah and Bukdek (though in other nations they may perhaps be bluffed and sold ostensibly as "powerful magic"). In the back of one of the small cabins, there is a wax-stopped pot half-filled with bronze and silver coins, and a slightly-tarnished silver necklace. Otherwise, the impressive guardian that Yaungzar makes guards practically nothing at all.
The Great Holy Flagship Heaven Moth
At the center of the Fleet, the dark heart and crown of the diadem of corruption which is the Mountain of Boats, there is the Great Holy Flagship Heaven Moth, the mighty and beautiful grand warship of the Han Tsarngi fleet. This ship, the pinnacle of ancient Han Tsarngi nautical craftsmanship, is enormous and proud, it's bow arcing forth even through the storm-wave which it is lodged in. Even after a thousand years, the bright, sanctified hues of its hull, and the wrought-iron designs upon its bow and hull remain as bright and beacon-like as when they were made. The great segmented sails of the Flagship hang limp, but upon them can still be discerned the scriptures and holy poems painted upon them in Han Tsarngi glyphs. The great ship seems strangely untouched by the weathering and decay of the Fleet around it.
But Heaven Moth's phsyical beauty belies its supreme spiritual corruption. The palpable evil of the place perverts the pleromatic flow of the entire Fleet (which is chaotic and disrupted to begin with).
As the heroes climb aboard the ship, they are struck by the cleanliness of the decks and their ornate finery. As they explore, not a single hair of nautical equipment seems to be out of place. The only sign that everything is not exactly as it was is that there are long strips of parchent tacked to the masts; these strips bear long incantations in ancient Jjiyongiz symbols.
But as they descend into the first lower deck, they discover something awful- the first level of cabins are filled with corpses. These are the mummified bodies of the crew of the Flagship, lying in their bunks or on their benches, dressed in the same robes which they wore on their death-day. In addition, these dead are not inert- as the heroes listen, they will notice that these corpses whistle. Slightly. Not extremely loudly. But it is clear to the ear that these dead release an eerie, atonal, tuneless whistle. If the heroes dare to listen more closely, they will realize that some of the dead whisper at their places- placing their ears to shriveled ancient lips, the heroes hear soft, soft words in Han Tsarngi, a quiet whispered babbling; who knows what secrets or lies these lost souls speak.
Disturbed, the heroes move on, descending further into the flagship. The next deck is an armory, it appears; it is a large open area, with the hatches unbattened. Ancient machines, most of them resembling huge crossbows, sit on metal tracks, waiting to be ramped into the hatches and fired at an enemy which the Fleet never reached. Cabinets line the walls, once filled with weapons, but now mostly empty (the only weapons to be found are a few unsharpened swords and a broken mechanical weapon which resembles a viciously-curved pair of giant scissors). On a rack in the back cabin of this level, there is an ancient cuirass of Han Tsarngi noblemade armor on a stand, its intricate fins and spikes resembling the carapace of some strange insectile undersea creature. This armor (though not at the level of the ancient enfolding-armors of even further antiquity) is very fine indeed, extremely powerful armor which is also light and flexible, by virtue of its ancient mechanics and alloys.
Descending further, the heroes pass through another war-deck, and enter a deeper level of cabins, these the well-appointed chambers of military officers and minor religious functionaries. Few of their possessions are to be found- it seems that most took what they could in attempting to flee the Fleet. Nowhere in these places is found a speck of dust. Proceeding onward, the heroes reach more richly-appointed chambers belonging to generals of the Han Tsarngi army.
In one chamber the heroes come across the ancient Hide of Hrong Khutarng, the Sacred Speaking Bull of the Gods of Han Tsarng. The Speaking Bull was once the high priest of the Holy Kingdom (in ages of antiquity so hidden by time that they are never even believed to have existed), but in an act of ultimate self-sacrifice, gave up his immortal soul to the Gods of Han Tsarng to save the Holy Kingdom from great danger. The Priests of Han Tsarng took the body of Hrong Khutarng and, with ancient alchemies, preserved the hide of it, so that their great protector would always be with them. When the heroes enter the chamber, they see that it is sanctified (much like the Priestships) with prayers on the walls, and painted in holy pigments. In the center of the room, there is a great iron statue of a bull, carven with holy glyphs, over which the Hide of Hrong Khutarng is draped. The hide is preserved, in a way that is strangely revolting; it's hair is the color of old papyrus, and the (truly enormous) horns of the bull remain attached to the skin. But the heroes have broken the sanctity of the Fleet, and as they enter the chamber of the Hide, it rises up, ghostly and strange and silent, rushing toward the heroes. The Hide seeks to envelop one among their number (the one who has most profaned the sanctity of the Fleet's holiness, which includes the killings of guardian spirits) and suffocate it, wrapping them in it's leathery folds. The Hide seems to turn all weapons away from it, and cannot be damaged even with spiritual power; only by feeding the skin with blood or by proving that they are faithful to the Gods of Han Tsarng (such as by reading passages from the holy texts or by presenting an object of the Holy Treasure) can they cause it to revoke its grasp upon the most unholy among them. With enormous feats of strength, the Hide can be pulled away from its target, though it will then struggle to envelop one of its assailants. The heroes will mostly likely find that the best way to be rid of the thing is to flee and lock the doors to its chamber, returning later when they possess an item of Han Tsarngi holiness.
Finally, the heroes come to the stairway which leads upward into the private suite which was the planning-chamber, council-house, and quarters for Nazran himself, the Truest Son of Han Tsarng.
The heroes climb the stairway upward into the council chambers. This beautiful chamber contains a bolted-down circular council table; in each corner of the room there is a small, ornate shrine to the Gods of Han Tsarng. The walls are decorated with holy verses and sutras from the sacred books, and hanging from the ceiling are silk banners of the Holy Kingdom. At the intricately carved table, Nazran's battle-charts still sit, brittle and old in their wooden frames.
As the heroes study the charts, they hear a voice speak to them in sepultural tones.
"It would have failed. It was not a workable plan with the resources he possessed."
They turn, to see, standing in the doorway to Nazran's private chambers, a tall, spare man, his skin the color of mahogany, with brilliant green eyes and complex white robes, decorated with red.
The man gives a thin, close-lipped smile. "Do not be decieved; this was indeed a mighty fleet, a mighty force, but it was doomed to failure.
"The Jjiyong were quite prepared for this 'deathblow'. We allowed the Han Tsarngi and their babbling priests think we were crushed, and all the while were preparing the ultimate counterstrike. All that had to be done was to lure the priests' bastards into the trap; Nazran provided the perfect opportunity."
The heroes are wary of this man. Who is he? Why does he know so much of ancient things lost in the mists of time?
"Unfortunately," the man says, "they were never allowed the chance to use it... We were Cursed."
Following this, this strange man invites the heroes into Nazran's chambers. Warily, they eye this man. Why should they trust him?
"I see that you are mistrustful. Typical in these dark times. My age was so much more... idealistic.
"Be not concerned for your safety. I certainly have no intention of impinging upon your hard-won lives; your souls have been too long on a precipice now for me to sway them back or forth. Shall you dine? Or am I to be eating alone once again?"
The heroes are invited to dine with this strange person. They ascend the stairs warily, hands upon their weapons, into the private chambers of Nazran. The chamber is spare, not luxurious in any respect, save that there is a thick-woven carpet on the floor, and the divan-bed is likewise piled with soft pillows. The ancient table is set with a meal- a platter of fruit and strips of grilled meat for each hero, spiced in strange but delicious ways, and silver cups of cold water.
As the heroes finish eating (or, on the chance that they are mistrustful enough to ignore their own hunger and thirst, when they show no signs of continuing), the strange man interrupts them with a strange story. He begins speaking, at first slowly in a measured tone, and then quickly, as if the words are spilling out of him, years of pent-up loneliness falling away. He has a distant look in his eyes.
"It was a marvel of engineering and of theurgy, our counterstrike. We called it Tsutrig Majjalai, which in our tongue meant 'Price of Hubris'- it was a magnificent weapon. We would have taught those damnable Han Tsarngi who the real gods were, had we had the chance. Thodol smiles upon the man who is virtuous and powerful.
"But perhaps Thodol was not smiling that day. A chill wind swept out of the south... A great storm darkened the sky. In the south and the west, there was a color, like thin jade in the clouds, as if the sky was turning turquoise. The thralls cried to us, 'Is Thodol angered? Is the sky breaking?' And of course, we laughed. But thunder came, strange lightning, and in a night our whole world was changed.
"The sea turned to jade before our eyes, the water began to vanish. And of course, we were Jjiyong, nothing could defeat us, and Thodol praises the man who raises his own fist to power. So we tried to hold the empire together.
"The thralls rose against us. The Idol of Thodol was toppled. We turned against each other, broke into squabbling factions. The empire was torn apart, as an ailing elk devoured by starving wolves.
"The powers we once wielded were lost. I think none remain who know the secrets of the Jjiyong. Save me.
"You see, I ran. Thodol curses the man who turns his back on power, but I fled, into the sea, and it opened its arms to me. It was as if the awful floor of Hell had taken me in.
"Not even Thodol's magic could sustain me. My soul clung to my destroyed flesh, I could not escape the Wheel of Life. I wandered for days, weeks, perhaps. Months, years. I cannot fathom how long I wandered. I died and was reborn. My mind was broken and reforged.
"Eventually, I came to this place. I suspect that I must have wondered for a very long time, for I found it bloodstained but empty.
"But I found something else... My water-source. A water source is indeed a treasure in these lands, more a treasure than that pathetic 'Holy Treasure' that the Han Tsarngi carried.
"With my water-source, I came to control this place. I am the 'Water Giver'. To all these... distasteful monstrosities... I am once again Master, as I was in the empire. I have thralls again. I suppose that Thodol must smile upon me somehow. I control them with water. My insignia is everywhere.
"I find it.. After all this time, I find it pleasantly ironic. To rule, that is, to control the ancient remnant of my enemy. And here, I can find the root of the Curse, the root of this pleromatic teratoma, and destroy it, and when the Curse is cleansed... I shall once again raise the Idol of Thodol."
Here, the Jjiyong man (for that is who he clearly is or believes to be) stops. He chuckles a little.
"In more ways than this I control the remnant of my enemy.
His smiles grows wider.
"Of course... I cannot abide by your presence here. Thodol's commandment is to destroy he who challenges your power. And you know far too much. There are those in the world beyond who would destroy me. Powers who would defeat my Great Work.
"In this, I shall not need to raise a hand against you. The remnant of my enemy shall do quite properly..."
At this, as the heroes (presumably) draw their weapons and lunge for the man, he leaps away from the table, scattering food to the thick carpeted floor, and with his eyes blazing with passion, makes a strange cry.
Out of the ceiling slops a mass of strange ooze, slapping down between the heroes and the Water-Giver.
As the heroes watch, this ooze explodes outward into a tentacular shape and transforms, taking on a loathsome appearance, eventually resolving itself into a hideously abnormal creature.
This creature resembles a thirty-foot long squid, its foul tentacles whipping through the air. Its bloated corpus floats four feet off the ground, and the creature moves by eerily crawling through the air with its slime-decked arms. Its rotting hide is plated with thick, chitinous plates, studded with urchinous spines, small, mutant fins, and unblinking eyes. Its armored, bloated bulk scarcely fits within the confines of the chamber, and indeed, its sweeping tentacles smash out the walls, collapsing part of the chamber and making it open to the hot air.
This creature is the abominable undead remnant of Nazran himself, awful slave to the Water Giver, and girded in the shape of some ancient leviathan as a defense against his own insanity.
The creature speaks, in a watery howl:
"I am Nazran the Repulsive!"
Nazran launches to the attack without ceremony, whipping and slamming with his loathsome tentacles, and attempting to pull the heroes into his awful snapping toothy jaws, at the nexus of his arms. From underneath shifting plates of chitin, Nazran fires tiny blade-covered insectoid creatures like darts, to buzz, arrowlike, at the heroes and burrow into their flesh. The creature vomits forth a seemingly endless supply of half-digested corpses which rise or crawl to attack the heroes, clad in burning acids. As the battle rages on, Nazran wails in an otherworldly voice. "You are the children of hatred, you are soldiers of the evil one, you enemies of gods," he snarls, and withdraws through the hole in the boat and out onto the surface of the Sea, slamming his arms through the windows and decking to smash, slap, and stab the heroes.
Our valiant heroes must follow the beast outside, only to find that it has somehow smashed apart a large section of the Jade Sea and burrowed beneath the protection of the shattered boulders of green stone. The heroes must strike at the limbs to draw Nazran out from under the rock, or risk death by crawling in amongst the mass of shattered seascape to wound the beast directly. The creature hurls huge chunks of jade at them, and unleashes upon them great swarms of foul insect-parasites (roughly the size of dogs) to snap and dive-bomb them. He continues to discharge the awful acid-zombies, and now begins to release more noxious and impossible creatures from his slavering maw and from under the folds of his armored hide- crawling masses of arms and legs which lack any sense organs, horrible hairy corpses, huge worms with jaws like wolves, feathery lizard-carp, leaping protoplasmic octopus-things, and more. They quickly discover that the creature's ichor is venomous, and burns the skin like hot oil, creating disfiguring swirled burnscars. Throughout the entire battle, Nazran never ceases to rave about "my sorrow" and "the horror of existence". He speaks of "boundless interfolded devil-gods" and "the great black evil heart" and yet more insane and meaningless babble. Occasionally, he will unleash a terrible piercing cry, like the call of a great eagle mixed with the sound of scraping metal; those who hear these terrible cries become mesmerized with them, hearing in them some song of ancietn madness- in this way, Nazran stuns various heroes and attempts to destroy them one by one.
It is a hard-fought battle, and a long one, and more than once the heroes stare death in the face, but eventually, with great skill and great luck, they manage to hack the monster down and uncover it in the great pit it has created, incapacitated and armless. However, as they near the great bleeding trunk to wound Nazran unto death, they see a bizarre sight- the puffy, bloated flesh of the monster retreats in under the armor plates, which seal around the undead abomination as if they were welded iron sheets. Nazran cannot be destroyed, but neither will he come forth. Rather, he vilifies the heroes with piteous, inhuman sobs, pathetically spewing his tale of woe.
"The pain! Oh... The pain. You are horrible tiny things, you have no sense of the Great Work... The pattern rejects you, you awful, awful monkey-things! Servants of the terrible Curse! You have wounded me so... You will never win! The Master holds my heart in his guard, keeping it unto him... You horrible servants of evil! You hideous barbarians! I shall never let you kill me! The Master will keep my heart safe!" The monster continues to babble like this for as long as the heroes can bear it- clearly, very little remains of the man Nazran once was except for the craven, demented, and petulant child that this creature is.
The Water Giver Revealed
As the heroes turn away from the impregnable sphere of armor which Nazran has become, they see that the great Heaven Moth has suddenly, and inexplicably, become ancient, its tiered decks suddenly sagging with age, its huge sails tattered and shredded, its hull wrecked and guttering, the colors and lines of the ship faded and dull. The Flagship's former state of pristine maintenance has faded, and upward from the ship rises a stench of hideous rot and some other, unplaceable and acrid odor, like the tang of burning metal.
Watching them from the deck of this ship is a horrible apparition. Though the heroes have seen many horrors and many awful monsters in their journey through the Fleet of Nazran, this relatively tame sight, for some reason, shocks them most of all.
It is the dark-skinned man, the Water Giver, but everything about his being is wrong, fundamentally. On the surface, it seems that little has changed. The Water Giver has the same sad brown face, though this time, that broad face, with its high cheekbones and heavy brow, bears a sardonic smile. the same tall frame and broad shoulders. The robe which he wears has become an ornate construction of black, blue, and gold, with an intricate mantle about his shoulders.
But despite this sameness, the heroes cannot dismiss the wrenching, creeping feeling within them that this being is not right, the strange feeling that he should not be.
The Water Giver scans the heroes with sardonic, predatory eyes, and claps lightly, his smirk lengthening into a strange grin.
"So. You are powerful enough even to defeat my pet... My enemy. I underestimated your resolve, and the strength of your destinies.
"I will not make the error of believing that your destruction shall be easy. But it must be done."
The sorceror's face becomes grim.
"I possess a heart, the heart, in fact, of that hideous being Nazran. A creature enviously godlike until I took command of his heart.
"This heart gives me the power of water which I have used to control this place. It shall also give me the power to destroy you.
"Prepare! The candles of your destinies are soon to be extinguished!"
The Water Giver pulls the robe and mantle away, revealing his bare chest. His fingers sink into his flesh, pulling away the skin to reveal his innards, and there, amidst his lungs, there are beating two hearts.
Battling the Water Giver:
The Water Giver vanishes, but he leaves behind an echo, a strange doppelganger of himself, who attacks the heroes with an inhuman hiss.
In this first battle, the heroes fight the Water Giver's echo in human form. It rises up and walks through the air as if on solid ground, and with its ancient magic, summons swords and arrows and spears from thin air which rain down upon them. Water pours from its open chest cavity, pumped with furious abandon out of its loathsome second heart. When wounded, the echo cries out, but soundlessly, its shouts having no substance, and it can only hiss monstrously as it dies, becoming a mass of water which crashes away.
But the echo is not gone. A second echo takes up where the first left off. This one does not resemble the Water Giver as the heroes know him. Instead, it takes on the shape of a hideous serpent-dragon, coated in fins and arms and soft crimson-purple hair. This creature leaps and dives and swoops at the heroes like a massive snake, writhing to destroy the heroes with its snapping jaws and claws, attempting to mash them between hard plates and ridges of dentin. This echo also speaks magic, but it is an animal magic- from the ground shoot up great pillars and spikes of jade which smash and stab at the heroes before crumbling away. This echo howls as it dies, and becomes a dissolving river which washes away into nothing.
The third form of the echo is a bizarre crustacean being, a twenty-legged creature of radial symmetry with no head to speak of. It scuttles across the heaped jade and the hulls of the boats, attempting to leap down upon the heroes and crush them, or rip them apart with its spiny, spearlike limbs. From its underside, it sprays a disgusting biochemical slime which hardens on the heroes like a shell of foam and must be broken apart to fight again. When this echo is smashed, it vanishes in a geyser of water.
When this occurs, there is a peal, as of thunder. They see a fourth echo of the Water Giver, a ghostly form like a translucent image of the sorceror. It flies ahead of the heroes, and descends into the shattered crater where the raving armored form of Nazran lies, sinking into that undead thing's surface.
The heroes are struck with a darkness so great that they black out.
The heroes hear the voice of the Water Giver. "I did not wish to bring the full brunt of my power against you, for your sake, but you have refused to die, again and again!
The Final Battle (Epic Option)
The heroes awaken.
Before them, they percieve a horror which could only be the Water Giver.
It looms above them, having lain to waste a vast swath of the ships around it, including collapsing much of the Holy Flagship; the region now resembles a vast arena of shattered wood and smashed jade.
Behemoth and demonic, this is a creature of nightmares. The hideous form taken by Nazran the Repulsive can only have been an incomplete imitation of this indescribable creature, a mixture of colossal segemented crustacean, vampiric amorphous squid, and bristling armored urchin, titanic and unbelievable, with enormous tentacles clad in sharp fangs rather than suckers, a near-impregnable armored body, pulpy clusters of tiny staring yellow eyes, with six twitching, jointed arms (abominably like those of a human mixed with those of a crab) ending in webbed talons. Every plate crowned in spikes and tines, and the edges are encrusted with strange branching fungi, fluttering sea-growths, and shelled cephalopodic clam-creatures. Feathery fins swoop along the sides of its body, crowding around two sets of twelve bleeding gills, releasing a haze of ichor into the water. The central mouth of the abomination is ringed in shifting fangs, hooks, and clashing plates, and resembles the gullet of an unbelievable hell. Crowning this awful sight, the horrible creature's body is ornamented, all over, in gold and jade, filigreed iron and shaped brass; floating above its hideous head is a strange carven disc of gold which spins as the monstrosity gathers its power. The Water Giver is now easily one-hundred feet long, and swoops around the heroes, writhing through the air and filling it like a dark god. The heroes cannot possibly hope to fight this creature it seems.
As they struggle, striking at it in a vain attempt to defeat this monstrosity, it discharges all manner of insane and horrifying monstrosities, including hundreds of decaying corpses and rotten biomechanical things, vast amounts of bizarre chittering parasites of all configurations (each the size of a small dog), huge blood-swollen tick-like creatures, foul skeletal beings covered in wet, stinking hair, giant buzzing mosquito-moth creatures that swoop and dive in hordes, and yet more nightmarish creatures disgorged from the very nightmares of the insane Nazran, or from the fevered imagination of the Water Giver.
There is only one hope- one amongst them must contrive to be carried within, amidst the terrifying dangers of the tentacles and their fangs, and the clashing horror of the mouth, to cause the creature to bleed and die from the inside, to destroy the Water Heart. Carried up by one of the large fanged tentacles, or perhaps by the arms, or by any number of smaller subordinate tentacles, this bravehearted one must survive, or the heroes are lost.
Once the lone hero is within the beast, he forces his way through its bizarre innards, slashing up into the creature as it becomes more and more enraged; along his way he encounters yet more nightmarish parasites and beings who dwell amongst the body of the demon creature. In some locales, the very organs and flesh of the beast rises against him in attack; he is bathed in acids and caustic ichors, slapped by veins and fleshy filaments, until he comes to the location of its two great hearts. Outside, his companions are assaulted now by a stream of protoplasmic, cephalopod entities which leap and scream like lost souls, and around them, while the great Water Giver writhes and smashes, pieces of the Fleet around them spontaneously fly at them like javelins or arrows, and the air around them crackles with bizarre electricity; sometimes, bolts of lightning strike at them, burning them with blue flame.
Deep within the monster, while his or her companions battle outside, the lone hero faces a strange chamber. This is a round chamber, with a single fleshy entrance from the rest of the beast's innards. Its walls are composed of some kind of hard bone or shell, and are studded with small spines and hairs. Floating in the center of this chamber, orbiting like a pair of spheres, are the two hearts- the human heart, and the more vital heart, the Water Heart.
All that is left is to crush it.
Final Battle (Not Epic Option)
The heroes shake off the darkness in their eyes. The percieve the shattered corpse of Nazran, burst apart as if by a Hzursaungi grenadier. His bizarre organs and entrails lie spread across the jade.
Standing amidst these is the Water Giver, once again. His chest is gruesomely open, and water flows forth in a practical stream which has soaked the sorceror's body. The sorceror's shadow has been replaced by this water, and next to him, like a strange double vision, is a watery, splashing form, connected to the Water Giver by the stream of his heart as if by an umbilical cord. Decorating the watery creature are beads of jade and a strange halo-like disc of gold which spins behind its head.
This water-being swells and crashes towards the heroes and engages them in combat. It is nigh-invincible- how can the heroes wound something which is made of liquid?
This aquatic assassin smashes the heroes with the force of a waterfall, and explodes over them to drown them in a rushing ambulatory tidal wave. With a word from the Water Giver, there is suddenly engendered amidst the water-being a thousand spinning and swirling blades; the creature is now doubly dangerous. The assassin attempts to swallow the heroes in the form of a massive maw filled with sword-teeth and daggers.
While the heroes battle the creature, the sorceror summons forth hordes of bizarre monsters who attack the heroes; these creatures rise out of the cracks in the shattered jade floor and sweep to the assault- decaying corpses and rotten biomechanical things, vast amounts of bizarre chittering parasites of all configurations (each the size of a small dog), huge blood-swollen tick-like creatures, foul skeletal beings covered in wet, stinking hair, giant buzzing mosquito-moth creatures that swoop and dive in hordes, and yet more nightmarish creatures disgorged from the very nightmares of the insane Nazran. These creatures quickly dissolve into filthy water, but that water is absorbed into the burgeoning bulk of the aquatic monster, which has by now become a fearsome and massive serpent of a monster, its jaws crashing to slice apart the heroes.
The only end to this battle is to slay the Water Giver- his body is shielded by a magical hex, which shatters after enough good blows. However, reaching the sorceror will be a great challenge- between the heroes and him stand a horde of his summoned monstrosities and, of course, the watery assassin, still connected to the Water Giver by an umbilicus of pure water.
If the heroes manage to reach the Water Giver and break his howling hex, he must defeat the Water Giver's (entirely human) strength, reach into the sorceror's chest, and crush the Water Heart. Around them, the watery assassin rises in a huge nebula and then explodes.
The end of the creature is sudden. With a sound like a great thunderous detonation, the whole of the being becomes a gigantic mass of water. The gold and jade which ornaments the beast sublimes away into shining light-gas, and the golden disc which blasphemously floated above its head explodes like a bomb, shattering into a thousand glittering pieces. The heroes are suddenly drenched with water like the force of a hammer, including their brave compatriot (crusher of the Water Heart).
As they lift their aching, blood-stained, water-soaked, slashed, beaten, and burned bodies off of the jade, they see a shriveled black mass of rent flesh, lying in a rotting heap amidst the water and the wreckage.
Out of that heap rises, yes, unbelievably, the Water Giver.
He is changed beyond recognition. Deprived of the power of the Water Heart, and the energies of his control over this place, the sorceror's true undead nature is revealed.
His withered, mummified skin pulls tight against his bones, and his jawless brown skull snarls at the heroes, sparks of dark light burning in his eyesockets. In his chest, they can see his green-glowing true heart, thumping horribly.
A dark and hideous buzzing growl emerges from the throat of that corpse:
"I curse you! I curse you forever for what you have done! My Great Work would have changed the world!
"May you carry my vengeance with you for all time!
"And should our destinies ever cross again... You shall find the hell that awaits you when the vengeance of Xai-Jjithranqu is aroused!"
The stunned heroes see the withered lich, Xai-Jjithranqu, the Water Giver no more, turn its back to them; there is clap of thunder, and the undead creatures body dissolves into a teeming flock of scaled black-feathered seqor-birds which leap to air and fly away into the hot distance of the Jade Sea air...
The Holy Treasure of Han Tsarng
The center of the Fleet has been almost completely leveled. However, amidst the wreckage of the Great Holy Flagship, the heroes see that a section has survived, against all reason.
They quickly determine that this section of the ship, which was buried in the hold beneath the chambers of Nazran and the meeting chamber, is not a chamber of the ship, but a metal tabernacle, ribbed with hammered iron, marked with holy verses, and inlayed with symbols of jade, gold, and malachite.
The twin iron doors hang open, one bent quite too much for them to lock any more- the silence and darkness of this ancient tabernacle is broken for the first time in over a thousand years.
Within, the heroes have found the Holy Treasure of Han Tsarng, the treasure over which a thousand years of adventurers and historians have slavered and died...
It is five objects, and five objects only.
The Arm of Retaining All Greatness: This treasure is in a heavy black iron cask; the cask itself is wrapped in a blessed cloak and set inside a small shrine of gold. Marked on this shrine in Han Tsarngi characters is a sentence describing the relic within: "This is the Sanctified and Eternal Arm of Retaining All Greatness, given unto the Holy Kingdom by the God——————" (as was traditional in Han Tsarng, the God's name was written and then marked out to illegibility). As the heroes pop open the gear-lock which holds this cask closed, they hear a sound, half like a sigh and half like a whispered word.
Revealed to their eyes is a mummified arm from the elbow down. The withered flesh of the arm is blackened and shrunk against the bones with age, and the fingers of the gruesome hand have tightened and curled into a stiff claw. It certainly does not seem special or magical, as a god's arm should be. But to the spiritually sensitive, though the Arm's power is invisible even to the spiritual sight, it can be felt, extending away in all directions like pleromatic hands.
The Eye of Opening The Way: This treasure is within a hinged, spherical golden reliquary, set upon a staff like a brazier. Marked on the golden top-plate which seals the sphere is a Han Tsarngi sentence: "This is the Sanctified and All-Seeing Eye of Opening The Way, given unto the Holy Kingdom by the God———". The hinged sphere opens with a hiss which seems to the heroes almost like some doomed soul's dying breath. Within there is a sphere of stone, jade, in fact, carven to resemble an eye. It seems slightly heavier than it should be, and is a bit larger than a true human eye. Its spiritual image is invisible, but the spiritual senses register its gaze of power, blazing into each of the heroes and off into the distant skies.
The Cloak of Defying All Fears: This cloak is hung across a high golden rack so that its enormous length hangs just off the ground. The top of this rack bears a golden plaque reading: "This is the Sanctified and Brilliant Cloak of Defying All Fears, given unto the Holy Kingdom by the God———-—-". As the cloak is slipped off of the rack, the sound of the cloth sliding against the metal seems like a gasp. If the cloak were worn by a tall man, it would still drag about a foot in length along the dirt. It is made up of long strips of brilliantly-colored silk, each inner row longer than the other (so that the bottom edge of the cloak is V-shaped), each strip sewn with a holy prayer in Han Tsarngi glyphs. Spiritually, its unseen power can be felt sweeping off of the cloak's sides like feathers off a bird's wing.
The Mask of Becoming The Darkness: The reliquary of this mask is a simple box of beautiful wood inlayed with malachite in a swirling, serpentine pattern. Around the lip of the box is carven the legend: "This is the Sanctified and Shadowed Mask of Becoming The Darkness, given unto the Holy Kingdom by the God—-—-". As the box is open, the squeak of its hinges sounds like the chitter of an eerie midnight insect. The mask is round and smooth, and made of some opalescent black stone which gives it a disconcerting quality of being both very black and colorful at the same time. It is chill to the touch, and supernaturally smooth. The spirit senses can feel its power like tendrils of damp fog which cling to the area around the mask in an amorphous, invisible pleromatic cloud.
The Sword Of Parting The Sky: This sword sits on a ornately-carven wooden sword-stand. Its sheathe is very tight, made from shark-skin, supple leather, and silk, and inlayed with jade and small jewels. The sword-stand bears this inscription: "This is the Sanctified and Invincible Sword of Parting The Sky, given unto the Holy Kingdom by the God—————". As it is drawn from its sheathe, there is a sound like a serpent quietly hissing. The sword is long and straight, with a heavy, square hiltpiece and a short handle (wrapped in red silk). It's pommel is a strange little design of a spirit-face, sculpted from gold, with rubies for eyes. The blade is brilliantly polished, like a mirror, its edges glinting blindingly like sparks of pearlescent sunlight. The spirit senses can sense the pleromatic echoes of this blade, vibrating off into infinite edges in the air around the sword.
Each of these treasures is powerful magic, sanctified to the ancient and forgotten Gods of Han Tsarng. Carrying these items will make the heroes powerful forces indeed... But they must have been such already, to have survived the horrors and dangers of the Fleet.
The trek through the Mountain of Boats has been no easy task; this grave of heroes has finally been defeated, its great treasure taken by the victorious heroes. But more treasure yet remains hidden in the bulk of this great Fleet, and more monsters; no doubt the Water Giver is not the last great evil to dwell in the Fleet. In addition, these holy objects that the heroes now carry open many doors, some to blessings and others to danger; the heroes can now penetrate some of the ancient, silent mysteries of dust-drowned Tsarn Ptur and the other ruins of the Holy Kingdom. They are also a target for ancient sorcerors and spiritual beings. They have also made a powerful enemy, the enigmatic sorceror, Xai-Jjithranqu.
As the heroes begin their trek out of the fleet (perhaps gathering some of the water which was once the Water Giver's monstrous form), armed with the ancient Holy Treasures, they can see, rising over the endless jade plain, a dark shadow like a flock of black birds...
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? Responses (60)-62
This all sounds freaking awesome!
This is a monumental undertaking. Truly gigantic, especially for me, the guy who never finishes anything. What's more, it's created a whole new setting. :D
I'm going to make a bold prediction :D
This will be the eventual Dungeon Quest winner!
Sssh, don't jinx it!
the imagry is awesome, but I do have a question. What has kept this entire mass from going up in flames? It is dried, from the constant exposure to hot air, and there are people inside, PCs like to start fires for camps and such...
I don't know, Scras... What has? *evil laughter*
Well, just say that the whole thing reacted with sea water turning to jade, which made the wood almost like stone. Burning very little, it may be ironically hard to make here fire.
Water-Giver constantly bleeds water. Anytime a stray spark pops up, he sends his servants to wash it up.
Thanks, guys, got it covered now. :D
Loved it! Keep on developing this setting, I can't wait to play it
Creepy. I really like the imagery, and the idea of a whole fleet of boats that got caught in this disaster. Question: how did Chreng Razdakh survive? I take it he was the only one. Was he just lucky, in that he not only survived the original cataclysm, but the trek back to civilized lands? Or was there a reason that he, above all others survived?
Release it, Cap!
You know, you should start considering to make it a scroll. Many of the sub-parts that are (and may still come) can be written as scroll entries. As a bonus, you will be able to cross-link what may look as semi-standalone parts.
BTW, is this now officially the longest submission in existence? just curious.
treasure: the Slippers of Hui-Dako....magical slippers which contain the spirit of Hui-Dako and his wife, sorcerers of Han Tsarng.
I may have to give Murometz and Incarnadine a co-author credit for this one....
Beware the Sun-Swallower!! He comes for YOU!!
treasure/creature: Kuta-Hrong's Hide. The complete and unbroken, animated flayed skin of an ancient bull, once rode and revered by a Han Tsarng sorcerer and treated with foul magicks. It appears lifeless at first glance, a revoltingly preserved bull's hide the color of old papyrus, but once the long-forgotten command word is spoken, Kuta-Hrong's Hide animates and serves the speaker of the command by hovering along-side or by pursuing enemies at the speaker's behest. Kuta-Hrong silently flies through the air, until its target is determined. It will then engulf a creature in the folds of its foul skin and proceed to suffocate the victim.
*sensory overload* brain melting, so much goodness... GAHH!!!!
1 for the sheer work put into it, and 4 for the creativity and greatness. Well done, Cap'n.
Alright, this won't get any better by stewing in its own juices...
You're gonna' have to wait for the full write-up of the Treasure, though (it's coming).
Anyway, be gentle, my ego is fragile.
5/5-this is one of my favourite submissions on Strolen.com
All of these comments and only one vote. Geesh come on people get with it.
Cap. I am sorry but I took .5 off for the lack of defined paragraphs. It made it an eye sore for me to read.
Yeah, I expect some of that. MoonHunter is probably going to subtract for that too, most likely. In fact, I am going to be so bold as to say that he hates it :D
It has been 'in work' for a long time Mourn. These comments came at a time when voting was impossible ;)
Comment while I am reading:
1) Huge chunks of text tires my mind.
2) A vast body of work with some shining jewels here and there.
UPDATED: More divisions between blocks of text (easier on the eyes, but it's pretty big anyway, sorry guys), and a less-epic option for the final battle (your choice between huge squid-horror or watery assassin-beast)
Am I supposed to vote on something I've worked on?
This raises another interesting question... On collaborations, who gets the 'win'?
You do! I just helped
And the massses rejoiced, as you have made the text easier to read. I would still like to have parts of it in scroll posts, but that is me.
Overally a great mind-blowing location (yes, in places it is not quite a dungeon, but in others clearly is) with an insane amount of world background and legends uncounted.
Oh, and: the 'Not epic option' is still quite epic, though I can't call that a failure. ;)
Hooray for MoB!
*CP loves self-aggrandizement*
Mind numbing! 5/5 + Gold
Goodness gracious! I just spent the past half hour reading that, and I'm a VERY fast reader by most standards...
You put a lot of work into this one Cap. Normally I don't read your works, because they're badly formatted (or seem that way to me), but this is a piece of art. Not work, art. Good job.
*Update* I thought it might be interesting to see exactly what the stats for this are:
(in Times New Roman, at size 10)
Of course they're badly formatted, who am I, the New York Times print editor?
Just kidding, of course. :D
This is GARGANTUAN. Immense. Mind-Destroying.
And AMAZING. Enough material to keep me READING for a long while, never mind USING. I'm really just blown away with the sheer volume, as well as stunningly consistent richness, diversity, and creativity to be found in this story and setting. Really just an amazing work, nothing more I can say. It's an inspiration!
*feels sorry for the dead whale*
Don't feel sorry for it... It probably ate a couple people or something.
Winner of the the Into the Dungeon Quest and 100XP!
(forgot to add this in July...my apologies CP)
If 100 XP have been added, shoulden't it have 199 XP instead of 99XP?
What they said...
This is one of the submissions that first made me realize that the Citadel wasn't just another website. It is not only unparalleled on the web, it has few equals in originality and creativity among published game adventures.
It is immense. A bit Diablo, but WOW, what a piece of work! He must have spent weeks on that thing! For the captain to focus for so long on such an epic was no less than Gold for me.
MJSs review reads as follows: Fantastic, awesome, great, perfect, epic, badass, fabulous, incredible, crazy, spectacular, delicous, pretty, wicked, brilliant and long. Very long!
You know, sometimes you find something so original you just have to use it. This sub could spark a series of books, too. And of course, the grammar and layout is just genius-level work. It has a depth and (as I said) originality that you seldom see in thise published sourcebooks that´ll cost you an arm and a leg - and here we get it for free!! Wheee!!
After reading the submission and comments, I had to go back and re-read the submission two more times. While I don't consider myself a grammar nazi, I didn't see the level of grammar that would make this a readable submission. I often had to read the same sentence multiple times just to make any sense of it, and even after that several sentences still did not make any sense. I got the feeling that in many instance the author was placing adjectives in the wrong places to support the end to be achieved, which made for disjointed conceptual reading, and in some cases resulted in the sentence stating the opposite information from what was trying to be achieved. I also found the switching perspective to be quite confusing as well. In a few instances, I found a lack of information which would have helped explain certain facets of the submission to be detrimental.
After working through the material several times, I did get an inkling of what the author was aiming for and was intrigued by the plethora of possibilities offered in the material. I generally had very little problem with the layout, and I found the overall presentation of the different areas involved quite useful. However, I think that while this material has tons of potential, without a major edit, it is not usable in it's current form.
All I have to say is... Who gave this less than a 5? Who was it?!
I've been a big fan of this site for a while, and a relatively new contributing member... I love many of the other regulars on this site... but this is without a doubt the single best submission I have read on here. Congratulations, and I hope you continue your excellence.
I must say that as an aspiring writer, my mind is polluted with your brilliant ideas... Now I have to get them out of there so I can come up with my own material... yet, I sincerely doubt that some of this submission will not leak into my own work. You sir, are an artist.
Well written and deserved praise.
Bloody brilliant! For sure the best thing I've read on this site. As some people have said it would be nice to add a few non-combat encounters into the mix (i.e. puzzles, traps, maybe in the form of ancient and corrupted Han Tsarng wards or spells, or arcane machines that don't immediately try to crush the heroes but are still dangerous in their own right). Of course, the environment provides challenges enough as it is, what with all layers of decks and so on. An enterprising DM could easily add their own puzzles to this gem. And of course the sheer awesomeness and originality of the thing more than makes up for any perceived weakness. I mean, sure its all combat, but that doesn't keep it from being extra-awesome-amazing.
I'd like to see more stuff from this setting. I think it would make for a fantastic campaign setting. Plus, you're well on your way with just this one submission!
Before I was a grammar Nazi I was a just simple fan of awesome things. And this is pretty awesome. It looks to be wonderfully playable and is full of adjectives that I need to use more of.
BUMP and HoH.
This really is a masterpiece. I especially like the two endings; it´s one of the little tricks a sourcebook allows.
If I´d have to pick the ONE post on Strolen that have inspired me the most, it´d be this one. Actually, I´d like to know more about this environment, the surrounding continents etc..
This is superb!
my eyes hurt like theyve been melted from reading so much goodness and quantity
Stunned. Simply brilliant!
Five. Nothing less will do. I'll be back tomorrow to Gold this as well.
This sub is one of the reasons I adore coming to Strolen's. You don't have the same level of creativity, depth, descriptiveness and community.
I'll need to make a new favorites category for amazing submissions!
We don't see subs this good anymore.