Hot Springs Island

Hot Springs Island: Session 2, the Bathhouse

Previously: Hot Springs Island: Session 0/1

Cast for this session:

  • Ruber Valis, elementalist
  • Hootford Jr., guard and associate of Ruber
  • Anvil, master artisan

The characters are standing in the entrance hall of the bath-house. Music is playing throughout the area. An elvish waiter has just walked straight through Anvil.

Slowly the party realized that they were looking at some kind of illusion as they moved through the throng of elves. The elves appeared to be waiting for something to begin.

Soon the crowd parted, and another group of elves entered; each dressed in deep blue robes whose colours changed and shifted as they walked. The newly-arrived elves walked down the entrance hall and into the large chamber at the end, and were closely followed by large animated stone statues in the forms of various animals. Each of these statues carried a chest on its back.

The parade moved onwards into the grand chamber and the party followed it. The chamber opened up through all three levels of the bath-house to a large dome at the top, through which a blue sky could be seen. From the topmost level streams of steaming water gushed down channels to the levels below, forming a pool in the base of the chamber. In and around the pool are terraces of white stone seats, the water flowing between them until it circled around a central stage. Through the clouds of steam can be seen flowering plants and vines, growing up the walls to the terraces and walkways above.

The grand chamber of the Bathhouse.

The blue-robed elves are greeted by other important-looking elves and begin to make their way to the next level of the bath-house. The party notice two of the group who peel off and walk down a corridor to the left, and the party decide to follow them.

They enter what appears to be a changing room. Elves in various states of undress chat and prepare themselves for bathing. Some elves are opening and shutting lockers, seemingly using long thin objects as keys. The two elves that they are trailing meet a third, wearing only a loincloth, who follows them into a curtained-off nook, and one of the pair draws the curtain shut. The party examines the changing room and realizes that some of the furniture seems to be incorporeal. Hootford suspects the use of magic and lowers the visor of his anti-magic armour — passed down through his family for many years.

With the visor down Hootford is shocked to find that the room they are standing in is in a state of disrepair. He is able to see through the illusion of the elves, and notes that many of the seats have crumbled, which explains why they seem “incorporeal”. At this point the two blue-robed elves depart the curtained room, drawing the curtain closed behind themselves, and make their way back to the grand chamber. The party checks the nook and finds the lifeless body of the third elf sprawled across a chair: he has been strangled!

The party quickly returns to the main chamber. The parade of elves and statues has progressed up the stairs to the next level, where some kind of presentation is being held. At the centre is — as Ruber identifies — some kind of water elemental who is receiving gifts from the blue-robed elves. Each of them takes her hand in turn as they offer her the chests carried on the backs of the animated stone animals. Finally, she is given a beautiful sparkling silver tiara.

The blue-robed elves disperse and make their way back down to the lowest level and begin to choose seats. Some of them direct other important-looking elves to the front rows; clearly some kind of performance is about to start. Other helpers bring large cloth-covered objects down to the lower level and arrange them around the outer perimeter of the seating. The remainder of the seating is taken up by other elves, and many more gather around the rims of the terraces above.

After everything is ready, the water elemental descends from the second floor and takes the centre stage. A blue-robed elf presents her to the audience, and a small ceremony is held where she is presented with two statues crafted in her likeness, which are placed upon the stage alongside her. After this, the lights dim slightly as her performance begins.

The water elemental, now holding an amphora, begins to sing. It is a beautiful, if plain, song, but as she sings, she pours water from the amphora onto the stage. The water splashes and burbles as she pours and it begins to sound like the water is singing along with her. In fact, it definitely is — it sounds like a choir. As she finishes pouring the water, from the pool around her rise many other smaller water elementals, singing and swaying to the music. There must be fifty of them now, standing around the stage and in amongst the seated elves.

As the song draws to a close, the elves clap. The main elemental bows and begins to sing the next song, and as she does so a low noise begins to come from the audience — the elves are singing along. The water elemental smiles and continues to sing but soon has a puzzled look on her face; something is wrong with the way the elves are singing. Hootford (who has a musical past, having sung songs with fellow soldiers for many years) realizes that they are singing the song backwards. Nevertheless, the water elementals continue their song, until it reaches a peak, but at the height of the music the elves standing next to the curtained objects tear off the curtains, revealing empty picture frames.

The nearest elementals are sucked into the frames as the elves continue to sing louder and louder, disappearing one by one until none are left on the stage. The main elemental, furious, screams and raises her hands and a wave of boiling water and scorching steam erupts from the stage, obliterating the front row of elves in a moist explosion. The rest of the elves in the outer seats continue to chant, their faces fixed in grim concentration, until at last, the water elemental appears to be ripped in two with each half sucked into one of the two statues standing on the stage.

Silence and a cloud of mist descend upon the scene, and after a moment the elves begin to grin and clap, turning to each other with excited faces. Whatever they were doing, it has been accomplished.

The party look at each other, confused, until there is a blink, and the lights increase in brightness again. The grand chamber is empty, aside from a few elves walking around the perimeter.

At the entrance to the grand chamber, the party can see some elves talking to each other and laughing, and as they make their way over, they realize that this is the same gathering that they had encountered on their way into the bath-house. They seem to be encountering some kind of loop in the illusion. With no idea what is going on, they decide to leave and come back later, so they descend the staircase to the outside…

…only to find themselves walking back up the staircase into the entrance hall again. They attempt this several more times until they realize that they are unable to leave.

With little else to do they decide to watch the proceedings again. This time they follow the parade as it progresses up to the second floor and notice two blue-robed elves splitting off from the main group as they ascend the staircase. They follow these elves into another room on the second floor which seems to be split into two large sections, containing hot and cold baths. The two elves turn toward the cold end, inviting a nearby elf to come with them. Together they wade toward the end of the pools and then up a narrow corridor from which the coldest water seems to be flowing. The three enter a smaller and colder room, which must be the coldest in the complex; there are no other elves in here at the moment.

After a short and suddenly heated discussion the two blue-robed elves seize the other one and drag them towards a large glowing blue crystal near the water inlet. One of them grabs the victim’s head by the hair and forces their face against the crystal: they let out a scream which is quickly cut off as their face begins to turn blue and icy. The two murderers release the body and the dying elf’s skin turns a frosty white as ice creeps along their limbs.

Hootford checks through his visor; while there is no water in this room there are some shards of the crystal from the vision on the floor. He directs Ruber who collects them into his satchel: perhaps he can study them later and discover what kind of device it is.1It’s an ice elemental core.

Back in the grand chamber, the rest of the performance plays out as before. Once the time loop resets, the characters start to cough and splutter water. Realizing that something is going wrong, they try to find a window to climb out of, only to discover that it looks like the bath-house is deep under water.

Eventually, feeling like they are choking on thin air, they make their way to the very top level of the bath-house where they find a circular chamber. In the centre of the room is a portal with an attached device containing elven symbols, but around the outside of the room are a series of statues depicting various humanoids: people, some large brutish creatures, and lizard-like men, until at the end of the row they find realistic statues of themselves. Crawling on their knees by this point, coughing up salty water, they crawl to the base of their statues, where they collapse, gripping at the stone.

At once the illusion vanishes. Spitting out the last of the water they realize the statues have all disappeared. The portal in the centre of the room remains, but after some examination they decide they are unable to operate it without knowledge of the elven language. They descend the stairs back toward the base of the bath-house, which they can now see is in a decrepit and overgrown state.

As they descend the stairs from the upper levels, they are greeted with a round of applause. Sitting on the stage in the middle are the four people they had seen earlier outside in the city. “We never thought you’d make it out, well done!” says the man in brightly-coloured clothing, who introduces himself as Jack the Jeweller (“Surely you’ve heard of my work? No?”)

The two groups chat and discuss how they came to be on the island; Jack’s group is here because he is looking for a rumoured elven forge, and invited some friends — as well as paid mercenaries — to sign up voluntarily with the Martell company in search of the forge and other riches. When they realize that the Martell name is unfamiliar to the party they invite them to come back with them to The Unbroken anchored in the harbour. It is the ship of Captain Rand, who is in charge of the “adventurers’ guild” around here, and can probably help them out.

Eunice — Jack’s wizard friend — mentions to Ruber that it is unsafe for mages to remain in the city after dark, and suggests that they all make their way to the boat. So, all together they make their way down the central staircase of the city to where Jack’s party’s boat is tied up at the bottom. They row out to meet the ship and find many other people waiting on the boat: these are the members of Rand’s adventurers’ guild.

Captain Rand is a large and intimidating man, but offers the party the use of his services, and Rand’s Retreat — a small outpost established on an island to the south — in return for a cut of anything they remove from the island. He has been given sole dominion of the island, which is now being called Hot Springs Island, after the Martel Company found that their marines were ill-equipped for the exercise of exploring and exploiting the island (not to mention the attrition rates suffered during the Company’s early expeditions). Jack’s party mention that many of the “adventurers” are here under duress, having had their debts on-sold to the Martell company.

The party agree to Rand’s terms and have their first proper meal since being shipwrecked on the island.

Later that evening, Ruber pens a letter:

Dearest Father,

I do not know when or even if this letter may find you, but I call upon the majesty of our house for its speedy delivery to you.

I find myself once again on a strange boat. We have been delivered to Captain Rand, a merry if somewhat intimidating man. We were escorted here some new acquaintances: Jack, Eunice, Baxter and Audrey. We met these fine fellow adventurers during a thoroughly confusing trip through the island’s bath house. As you know father, I have never frequented a bath house nor even entertained the thought of it. Mother would be horrified for one, but as you know I have yet to outgrow the adolescent shame of one’s body. I know you have brought the rod upon my back numerous times to overcome this shame, yet I fear it still takes hold of me.

Anyway, we found ourselves in a bath house. And not just any bath house but one of the ancient elves. Despite your insistence to say otherwise, my books have indeed come in use. The elves have proven to be the erotic race that my images in my books portray them as. This is not the “fantasies of a confused and feeble libido” as you once yelled at me but is instead historical fact. I pray that you respect the work of scholars more in future.

I write to you however not to change your mind about my disposition but instead to ask you for your input. Having entered this bathhouse, we found ourselves in some sort of historical time loop, viewing an elven festival or practise, as if we were there ourselves. We were able to interact with this loop only in that we could walk about and view, but not physically interact with, different parts of it. Once again, your decision to allow Hootford to travel with me proves a wise one, as he soon discovered he had the power of HelmView. He could easily switch between this historical view and a contemporary one. I have tried to ask him more about how he achieved this, but he seems reluctant or unable to explain.

What we viewed during this loop was somewhat troubling. We saw multiple murders, and it seemed that the highborn were being targeted. This, of course, sent shivers down my spine. Yet the worst was to come, as it seemed that during this ceremony the elves interacted with some elemental creatures only to then trap them in something like a painting.

While viewing this horror, we as a party become physically uncomfortable. This discomfort soon became panic as we all felt that we were drowning, despite not being under water. Eventually, we made our way into some sort of control room. In the centre of this room was what we surmised was a planar portal of some kind, and behind this we’re strange statues of ourselves. We tried to this portal to escape to no avail. Thinking quickly, I groped at my statue…

It was not until we touched our own statues that this “loop” ended, and we found ourselves back in the present day. We were soon faced with that friendly band of fellow adventurers, who have since brought us to this boat. I am still trying to make sense of what has happened to us. Do not fear for I also continue to work on our little colonial project. I will not fail you father, but I must again seek your advice. What do you think this “loop” means? What is the connection between the elves and these elemental creatures? Are the events we saw somehow connected to the apparent abandonment of this city? Most importantly, are you proud and do you love me?


Hot Springs Island

Hot Springs Island: Session 6, The Forge

Cast for this session:

  • Ruber Valis, elementalist
  • Hootford Jr., guard and associate of Ruber
  • Rickard Astley, healer (cutter?)

The party awakened to the sun rising above the misty jungle below. They were encamped on the edge of a grassy field partway up the mountainside.1HS-21-03 Across the field lay the Egg and a flock of horned beasts who gazed at them warily while chewing their morning cud.

During the previous evening Ruber and Hootford had managed to properly identify the items that they had found during the Topaz Spree:

  • Ruber has the Blasted Wand, which works the same as the WWNWWN Worlds Without Number (2021), a ruleset (and more) by Kevin Crawford spell The Howl of Light, except that it forms a column extending from the end of the wand. Each time it is used some of the end of the wand is burned off; roll a 1D4 and on a 1, the wand is destroyed.
  • Hootford has the Shield of Sunrise which can be activated to emit a blast of light, blinding anyone looking towards it for 1D4 rounds (reflex save to avoid). It is recharged by being exposed to light from a sunrise.

The party decided to continue to move inland and up towards the volcano’s peak (Ruber: “shall we summit this mountain?”), and set off through the early morning sunlight.

Further up the mountain,2HS-17-03 the jungle parted to reveal a bubbling pool of magma, surrounded by red-gold plants shimmering in the reflected heat. Beyond the red-hot pool was a cave going deep into the volcanic cliff-face. The plants around the pool are each topped by puffy fronds like those of pampas grass or toi-toi. Hootford immediately approached the plants to collect some for his master, but as soon as he disturbed them, he was showered by a cloud of pollen. He immediately found himself dizzy and stumbled toward the magma, only to be stopped quickly by Rickard.

Across the other side of the pool, a woman erupted from the cave in the cliff. She drew her bow on the run and loosed an arrow back towards the cave entrance, from which emerged two large scruffy-looking birds with large beaks. One of them swooped at her and managed to cut her arm with vicious-looking claws.

Rickard sprung into action, throwing his scalpel at the nearest bird. The throw went wide and the scalpel embedded itself in the dirt at its feet. In response the bird flew towards him, battering him with its filthy wings as it raked and bit at his unprotected flesh.

Ruber began to sing as Hootford moved to shield him. Ruber forcibly exerted his will over the other bird, entering its mind and impelling it to fly to him and coat its talons in one of his fast-acting poisons.

Now unarmed, Rickard ran to fetch grab his knife from the soil, as the bird inflicted a deep wound on his shoulder. It shook its filthy wings and from within the feathers of the bird a shower of writhing maggots dropped onto the fresh injury. Some of the maggots fell directly into the wound and began to bury themselves into Rickard’s flesh.

Rickard struck back with his knife, cutting the horrible bird’s horrible throat, and it crashed to the ground. Blood pooled around it and the wriggling maggots started to dig into the bloody soil.

The main threat removed, bird-Ruber flew into the cave to check for any remaining enemies. After finding the cave clear, he flew high above the magma pool, licked the poison from the bird’s talons, and experienced first-hand the ordeal of pitching head-first into molten rock. The bird’s feathers sizzled and burned as the fat maggots roasted and popped upon the red-hot surface.

With the fighting over, the woman introduced herself: she was Joni, a ranger who had come to the island looking for her brother. She had also signed up with the crew of Jack the Jeweller to look for the fabled Forge of the island, and was out in the jungle searching by herself, as she thought that Jack’s current plan of scouring the Elven city would be fruitless: “the sooner we find the forge, the sooner I can get Jack to help me find my brother”.

She spoke fast and excitedly; she believed she had located the Forge in the cave and was eager to return to Jack to tell him the good news. Thanking the party for their assistance, she warned Rickard to seek medical attention quickly or the maggots could eventually be deadly.

Rickard used his medical experience to successfully fish out the maggots one-by-one from his wound. Joni was impressed by the skill with which he removed the infestation and bade them farewell, saying that she would meet them back at Captain Rand’s ship.

The cave appeared to be constructed by hand, hewn from the volcanic rock. Channels cut into the walls and floor guided molten lava from the inside of the mountain to the pool of magma outside, and in the intense heat Hootford removed his helmet, revealing an astonishingly handsome face.

At the end of the tunnel they found what appeared to be a large forge of Elven construction, decorated with symbols of fire and the burning sun. Beneath the forge was a contraption of some kind and Ruber recognized that it was designed to store an elemental core of some kind — probably that of a fire elemental. It was at this point that he also realized the cold crystal fragments he had in his satchel were those of an ice elemental, and — given time — it would be possible to “reincarnate” the elemental core.

However, the immediate problem was to obtain a fire elemental core. Ruber consulted his notes upon the subject and found that fire elementals were attracted not just to fire but to accumulations of combustible materials. His notebook recorded that a large cloud of flour could be enough to draw one’s attention. Between the three of them, they hatched a plan…

The noon sun beat down upon Rickard, sweat streaming down his cheeks from beneath his bird-beaked doctor’s mask — his only protection from the clouds of soporific pollen that now surrounded him. Dancing and twisting in a bizarre manner, both of his arms grasped large bunches of the fluffy-topped plant. He waved them through the air, casting showers of white dust in every direction.

From deep within the cave came the sonorous sounds of Hootford’s voice. His deep throat-singing echoed and resonated around the clearing. Rickard’s crazed dancing grew to a fever pitch as Ruber chanted arcane incantations into the air, and from the fringe of the jungle emerged two red impish creatures, beating their wings in the hot air.

“See, I told you! Look! It’s going to explode!” one screeched to the other. Rickard stopped his dancing as he ran from the area, and Ruber finished his chanting. He raised his arms, sparks fizzing from his fingertips (Elemental Sparks), and with a woosh the cloud of dust erupted into an immense fireball.

The two imps were driven to the brink of ecstasy by this display, their eyes seemingly bursting into flame. “LET’S FIGHT!” one screamed, the other shouting “ONE ON ONE, LET’S GO RIGHT NOW!”

Rickard began to step forward, but Ruber motioned him to stay still, and then raised his other hand. A powerful blast of water (Beckoned Deluge) jetted into the nearest imp, who screeched and collapsed in a damp pile on the ground. Rickard rushed up and slit the throat of the drowned imp, its body melting and fading into thin air. From the centre of its body a glowing elemental core fell to the soil.

The other imp shouted “Cheating! You’re cheating! You’ve killed him!” and, its enthusiasm for the fight immediately quenched, turned and sped off as fast as it could flap his wings. Ruber sprinted as fast as he could toward the edge of the clearing, casting another blast of water after the second imp and sending him crashing into a nearby tree.

Hootford now emerged from the cave at a full sprint, and upon reaching the edge of the clearing attempted a last-ditch throw with his dagger, which flew out of his hand as if launched from a crossbow and impaled the imp to the tree. With a thud, another elemental core landed up the jungle floor.

The party returned to the cave with their new goodies and planted them in the contraption below the forge. It began to glow internally with eerie flames of elemental fire.

Having confirmed that they can activate the forge, and so Anvil will be able to use it to construct items, they recollect the cores and begin the long journey to return to Hot Springs City, there to meet the ship and regroup with Jack and Captain Rand.

On the way back down the mountain they passed a large statue of a seven-headed dragon.3HS-17-01 It seemed to have an infestation of the insects that they had previously seen,4I rolled #4 on the Vyderac table! so they quickly passed it by. Rickard took them past the blue tower on the extinct volcano that he had noticed previously,5HS-15-02 and they found that it was positioned very high above the jungle floor on a rocky outcropping. If they wanted to scale the rock up to the tower they would need to return with equipment or magical means of transportation.

Finally, they returned to the Elven city and made a short detour to the Broken Quarter to stash some of their treasures in an old mud-brick tower. At the bottom of the central stairs they found Joni waiting for them. She used her horn to signal the ship and they returned to it upon the ship’s boat.

Safely back aboard the ship they reported back to Captain Rand. Rickard used one large chunk of the topaz they had collected to pay off his Martel Company debts for the next week.

They reported to Jack that they had located the forge. Joni recounted to the others that Rickard was a skilled healer and would be able to help them in future.

Captain Rand also indicated that the group he had mentioned last time they had seen him — the ones who had been collecting notes and mapping the island — had returned to the ship, and pointed out Zilbee, a small green goblin woman.

After a brief discussion about creatures and plants that they had found upon the island, Zilbee agreed to share with them the collection of notes that she and Matthias (a zoologist) had been working on: tentatively entitled A Field Guide to Hot Springs Island.

Hot Springs Island

Hot Springs Island: Session 0/1

This was our first time playing with Worlds Without Number (WWNWWN Worlds Without Number (2021), a ruleset (and more) by Kevin Crawford). Both sessions were on the shorter side: the first session was mostly spent creating characters, the second was online but cut short due to technical issues.

Notes that are for GM eyes only are in footnotes and hidden behind a link like this:1hi there!

The Cast

Anvil Levigne: an Artisan (Expert)
Abilities: Masterful Expertise, Quick Learner
Foci: Arms-master, Artisan (weapon-/black-smith)
Equipment: Short Sword, Throwing Knives, Small Shield, Buff Coat

Anvil is a master smith hailing from the town of Muriwai. He is following rumours of newly discovered ores and other means to improve his craft.

Ruber Valis: a Spare-Son Mage (Elementalist)
Foci: Poisoner
Arts: Elemental Sparks, Elemental Resilience, Beckoned Deluge
Spells: Elemental Spy, Wardpact Invocation, Cognitive Supersession of the Inferior

Ruber, an unwanted younger son, has recently come into the study of magic. His father has asked him to investigate the recently discovered Swordfish Islands for the benefit of the Valis family.

Hootford Jr.: a Guardsman (Warrior)
Abilities: Killing Blow, Veteran’s Luck
Foci: Nullifier (a suit of ancestral armour), Valiant Defender (sworn to defend the line of Valis)
Equipment: Short Sword, Large Shield, Pieced Armor

Hootford’s family have long been bodyguards for the noble line of Valis. He has been assigned to travel with Ruber and keep him safe from harm. Hootford is well skilled in survival.

Session 0: Arrival

The party washes up on a black sand beach, the last remnants of a storm beating themselves out against the rocks and trees.2This is the hex HS-15. Coughing up seawater, the characters regret the sequence of decisions that brought them here…

Waves on a black sand beach, with jungle in the background.
Black Sand Beach, Maui” by Pedro Szekely (2011, CC BY-NC-SA).

Ruber had secured passage to the Swordfish Islands for what was, in retrospect, a suspiciously cheap sum. Hootford & he boarded the ship Sandhorse, a run-down cargo transport that did not seem well-equipped to transport passengers, and the ship set out from Karkat. On the way they met Anvil, who had signed up to work for his passage to the Islands.

Part way through their journey the party became aware that a large ship was trailing them. The crew paid it no heed and when the three brought the ship to the attention of the captain, he dismissed their concerns.

As they neared the islands the ship trailed closer and closer, until it drew alongside, and the captain had his crew bind the ships together. Now the larger ship’s name was visible: The Unbroken.3A Martel Company ship. The three found themselves surrounded by the crew, with weapons drawn; they had no choice but to be bundled aboard the larger vessel. The captains shook hands, some kind of recompense was exchanged for these newly-captive passengers, and the ships departed from each other.

They were now within sight of the islands. The bo’sun motioned them over to a table, upon which lay a large ledger, when a strong wind began to blow. He frowned and told them to stay out of the way as the seamen began to reef the sails. These sailors were all in tidy uniform, dark blue with white piping and trim, and they stepped to the bo’sun’s orders with well-practiced professional competence.

The winds continued to increase, rain started to fall, and the sky darkened. The unnatural speed with which the storm grew seemed to upset the sailors, who worked with increasing speed. Despite their actions the ship began to wallow, larger and larger waves crashing over the gunwales, lightning striking the ocean, until suddenly there was enormous cracking noise and the whole deck lurched. The ship quickly began to take on water and the sailors began to unlash the ship’s boats.

The three managed to find a boat that no one else was attempting to untie. It was in poor condition, probably awaiting repairs, but with no other options they climbed aboard and cut the ropes. As the boat crested one, two waves, the ship disappeared behind a wall of water, and they were lost from sight.

The storm drove the boat towards the island and as they started to enter the surf, it capsized, throwing them and all their belongings into the turbulent waters.

… Hootford cursed Ruber’s naïvety as he spat out more sand. As the storm wore itself out, they looked out to sea. There was no trace of the ship or any of its crew.

Scattered across the beach were broken boxes and other flotsam and the party were able to recover some weapons and possessions from the wreckage.

As the sun rose, they were able to see more of the island. Black sand beaches skirted the island in both directions as far as they could see. They were sitting on a sandbar separated from the island by a small lagoon, and above the beach rose a dense jungle which seemed to cover the island. In the far distance, above the trees, a tall volcano rose. The sand surrounding the lagoon glinted in the morning light, with flecks of gold catching the early morning rays.

The party swam across the lagoon and made their way toward the jungle…

Session 1: Exploration

In the bushes they could hear snuffling and grunting noises, and pushing through the undergrowth, spotted a boar rooting around the base of a large tree.

Ruber used his Elemental Sparks to create a distraction for the boar as Anvil crept up and then leapt at the boar, slitting its throat. They spent a few hours butchering the boar and cooking some meat, Hootford showing the others what needed to be done.

With provisions secured, the party wandered back out to the beach to decide what to do next. Down the coast toward the south, they could see what seemed to be ruins peeking out of treeline, so they decided to continue that way.

The party made their way down the coast. The sand became blacker, with none of the golden flecks that were in the sand around the lagoon. Remnants of statuary and massive constructions began to appear in the jungle. All of the ruins were in a decayed state, with vines and flowers growing over them, but their origins were obvious to Anvil, who was able to identify the workmanship as Elven. Their civilization had fallen thousands of years ago, and it was now extremely rare to see an Elf.

As they rounded the next head, they were greeted with a view of a large, ruined city. Some buildings were submerged beneath the waves, and above them tiers of white stone buildings rose up against the mountainside. On the highest level was a large building topped by a dome.

A first view of the city.

In the harbour a ship lay at anchor; smaller than The Unbroken was, but still of a decent size. A boat was making its way to the “shoreline” where steps descended beneath the tide.

The party climbed a steep staircase up a wall into the city proper. In front of them, steaming water poured down a series of pools, which glistened with iridescent deposits. Some of the shining rock had been chipped away by tools.

They passed a large statue of a pregnant elf, which upon inspection was made from coral, and moved through the city toward the central staircase. As they passed one building, Ruber thought that he saw a pair of glowing eyes looking at him from the depths of the shadows, but upon a second glance they were gone.

When they make it to the stairs, they can see that the boat has been tied up at the base, but there is no sign of whoever was in it. They climb up the stairs toward the top of the city, and Ruber casts Elemental Spy on a pebble to leave beside the stairs and alert him if anyone is following them.

At the very top of the stairs, they find a large building which seems to be the focal point of the city. It stands three stories tall, with a frieze running around the building depicting elves fighting some kind of lizardlike humanoids. Ruber notices through the pebble two very large birds wandering slowly across the staircase. They hear a loud “Qwop! Qwop!” as one of the birds barks a call that echoes around the empty city. They continue to investigate the building, but as they are doing so they hear the sound of footsteps on the stairs, so they quickly move into the shadows of the façade.

Soon, four people reach the top of the stairs: a man with red hair dressed in bright yellow and green, a tall woman with dark hair and leather armour, a woman with a floppy hat and robes, and a shorter dark skinned man holding daggers. The first man runs toward the building but the woman with the hat calls out “Stop! You know what happened last time we went in there!” The man changes direction and the group of four turn to their right and run along the plateau.

Soon the two large birds reach the top of the stairs as well. They are not chasing the people but are looking inquisitively at each building and ruin as they pass. Hootford decides to approach the birds and steps out from the shadows. He holds his hand out with some of the preserved boar meat and “qwops” in a low voice. The bird walks toward him. It is taller than him, eight or nine feet tall, with dusty grey feathers, a powerful beak and stocky legs. As it approaches it sniffs Hootford’s outstretched hand, then, looking surprised, picks up the meat and swallows it in one gulp. At the same time, Hootford has reached out and plucked one of the large grey feathers from the bird’s chest. The bird regards him a little longer, but when it is apparent no more food is forthcoming, it rejoins the other bird, and they move off through the city. Hootford gives the feather to Ruber.

Turning away from the departing birds, the party moves deeper into the large building.

Inside they see two staircases leading upwards: one decrepit, falling apart, and overgrown, like the rest of the ruins. The other looks pristine, undamaged. As they near this staircase the owl-heads mounted on the shoulders of Hootford’s magic armour begin to spin, warning him that there is magic at work. Ruber is also able to detect the magic, and it seems very old. Nevertheless, they make their way up the pristine staircase, only to find at the top a crowd of elves drinking and laughing.

This is extremely unusual: elves are very rare and have not been seen in any significant numbers in thousands of years. They observe the crowd, who are in various costumes and states of (un)dress, some drinking, some smoking, most laughing and enjoying themselves. A waiter walks directly toward the characters, carrying a tray of iced drinks. As he nears, Anvil reaches out to take one, but the waiter continues to walk — directly through Anvil’s body!

Next: Hot Springs Island: Session 2, the Bathhouse