Chapter I. News of Zlatan and the Legion
Having made camp in the ancient Videssian observatory concealed on the slopes of Zatal, the great volcano overlooking the city of Zlatan, the survivors of the Silver Legion Special Missions Unit (and companions) looked down upon the ruins of the city of Zlatan. Though months had passed since the eruption of the volcano on the Night of Tears, still the waters of the Lake of the Gods seethed with heat, and gouts of foul gas bubbled upward from the depths of the lake with unpredictable violence. Of the three causeways across the lake to Zlatan, only the one from Tezat on the western shore remained intact, though the city itself appeared ruined and deserted. Cookfires over the heavily damaged Azatl suggested continued habitation, but of Zokil nothing remained but the tops of a few ruined structures reaching like skeletal remains from the depths of the lake.
Though intent on recovering their items, which they knew from the Little People’s pipe-smoke visions to be deep in the Temple of Sotek, the party first sought to scout the Silver Legion. Avoiding the prying eyes of teradon-mounted skinks overhead, the party located the Legion camp at Gemnia Pass, site of the old Videssian watch-tower. They found the Legion well-defended, having reinforced the Videssian fortifications with stout defensive walls built along the natural contours of the terrain, and defended by newly-built war-machines. But camped between the party and the Legion fortifications was a force of nearly a thousand saurians.
As the party watched, a wave of saurians assaulted the Legion walls under a dim evening sky, retreating bloodied but dragging behind them a handful of Legionnaire prisoners. An hour later, a detachment of saurians set out with the prisoners, accompanied by a cleric of Sotek and an enormous jagre, a huge viperhand creature the size of kroxigor wearing shimmering hide armor that made it hard to hit. The party attacked and quickly overwhelmed the unsuspecting saurian prisoner train, sparing only the cleric’s manservant when identified himself as a member of the human resistance.
Releasing the Legionnaire prisoners, the party was surprised to find Lieutenant Tirol and Specialist Moe Fiorendoril amongst them. Though the unflappable half-elf appeared cross at the rescue, claiming to have had the situation under control, Tirol fell to his knees with a prayer to Nuada at seeing Gelben and the rest of the Special Missions Unit, whom the Legion had thought killed on the Night of Tears. Lieutenant Tirol told the party that much was not well with the Silver Legion:
So much has transpired since you were taken from us. General Cordell and many of the senior officers who survived the Night of Tears are imprisoned in Nuada’s Port, you remember, back on the coast where we originally made landfall. There’s a small castle there now, Fort Cordell it was to be, now Fort Warwick. Aye, surely you’ve heard of him, the bloodthirsty Baron Warwick Kenilworth of Balar, the usurper, and now Regent of New Southold. He is not popular, and even the Itzapan allies wish he were gone; there have been the first reports of attacks on the Southron reinforcements there, sporadic as yet. Can you believe it, the good Ticans, the Itzapan, attacking us! Some of them at least, most still thank us for overthrowing Sotek’s religion and human sacrifices, and for defeating their ancient rivals the Zlatan. But the newcomers are different, treating them more as minions than allies.
There is rumor that Chief Inquisitor Thalargos is torturing Cordell and the officers even now—in the dungeons below Fort Warwick, trying to find where the three million nobles in treasure stashed somewhere near Nuada’s Port is hidden. Drill Sergeant Penrith is there as well, as are Daggrande, Hieronymous, and so many others. Only a few of lieutenant rank remain in the Legion. Warwick has charged all Legion officers of the rank of Captain and above with Treason for alleged plans to break away and form a new nation independent of Southold, and for stealing gold meant for the crown—all trumped up charges of course. They would probably have been killed by now, but for the influence of Lord Caernarvon, now styled Marshal of Itzapan, a Templar of Gelben’s order, who despises the new regime and insists they have a fair trial in Southold. So if Captains Gelben, KinCade, or Gilgareth are spotted, they will be arrested on sight for Treason--to be tortured for information, and then sent back to Southold for trial and execution. The lower-ranked legionnaires, if recognized, would probably be arrested for desertion if spotted by other Southrons and be sent back to the Legion.
The Legion camp is at Gemnia Pass, a great chasm, with a drawbridge crossing to a fortified tower. On the far side is row upon row of Legion tents. The Legion itself is relatively intact due to your sacrifice on the Night of Tears, but morale is very poor. There were a couple scattered revolts, and several executions. The Itzapan warriors, Captain Gilgareth’s Tazumal Recruits, have seen the most desertions as you can imagine, as they are treated the worst by the new officers. The Legion has been placed under General Alfred, a weak leader and toady of Warwick whom the men despise. His spies are everywhere in the camp, but the men know who is loyal to the Legion and who is not, and lists have already been drawn up by the sergeants of who to take out if the time comes for revolt. Warwick did his job well by removing the senior officers and placing his own men in charge. But even that has not quelled the unrest in the Legion, so Warwick has ordered the Legion to be disbanded in several weeks’ time, its units scattered among the Southron host.
That is the situation with the Legion, but much else has changed since you have been away. News of the great riches here has reached Arik, and fortune seekers of all stripes have arrived in ships which arrive perhaps once every few days; Iron Leaguer Merchants hawking their wares, Yazakh refugees seeking to resettle, Huler mercenaries working for the new regime, and so many others—all paying Warwick to ensure a pilot can allow passage through the Hellstorm. They call it the New World back home, and many see it as the source of great gold which will fund Southold’s final victory in the interminable war against the Cortals which has raged since 1508.
Even you have become well-known for your sacrificed--the bard Anson Adams has written the Ballad of the Night of Tears, depicting your struggle to hold back the Viperhand hordes on the causeway while the Legion escaped, the treasure wagons breaking the bridge, your ultimate capture, and of course, Gelben’s sacrifice on the pyramid of Sotek. Nuadan theologians have spread the word that it was Captain Gelben’s pure heart which broke the Sotek ritual, and they teach that Nuada’s power destroyed the evil city and cursed its people to become snake men. Some even call him Saint Gelben, but that is not the church’s position. Yes, I’m sure the legionnaires would rally to you if you reappeared, as if from the dead, for they call you the heroes of Zlatan. I have been in contact with Marshal Caernarvon, and he has instructed me not to lead a revolt under the current circumstances, as there are simply too many of Warwick’s loyalists, but your return changes everything. He wished to bide his time for the right moment, and then he would declare Marshal Thalargos, Baron Warwick’s right-hand man and chief Inquisitor, tainted by the Tempurian Heresy, and by association, Warwick himself. However, he insisted that no Southron blood be shed, all must be taken alive and tried for their crimes, as most are simply following orders.
The party quickly decided that Captain Gelben and Sergeant-Major Garrant would sneak back into the Legion camp to use Tirol’s speaking stone to contact Marshal Caernarvon, and to make contact with others who might still be loyal to Cordell.
Chapter II. Infiltrating the Ruined City
Through the captured manservant, the party made contact in Azatl with Hesoctl, one of the leaders of the human resistance to the Zlatani and saurian forces. Explaining that a direct attack on the grand plaza of Zlatan would be suicidal, Hesoctl offered to reveal a secret route onto the great plaza of Zlatan in return for a “gesture of good faith” – a raid on an important camp that was supplying water convoys to Tacuba’s forces that pursued the Atahuelpa’s refugees across the desert.
Noting the common interest, the party agreed to mount the raid, and were joined by Varshak – a mysterious cleric from a desert tribe who also sought entrance to the great temple – and by a mechanical dog from the Videssian observatory that Dornar had managed to control, and which the party nicknamed Tiny. To maximise disruption to the water convoys, the party sought to quickly destroy key components of the supply operation – the kilns that baked clay jugs to transport the water across the desert, and the axles of the wagons, which were made of a rare hardwood. The battle was ferocious, with powerful enemy archers attacking from atop tall guard towers, and a determined saurian force pressing across the river that divided the kiln and wagon park from the guard barracks. But the Legionnaires managed to destroy enough of the kiln and axles to seriously weaken the supply operation before they had to flee from the superior numbers of foes. Unfortunately, during the battle Dornar suffered a near fatal blow while berserk, waking up believing himself an undead revenant driven only by his hate for Garkuna. Fortunately, the party managed to convince Dornar he was not a revenant before he convinced Vogon to join him in his peculiar insanity.
Upon their return, Hesoctl revealed to them the secret route into the pyramid of Sotek, which followed a forgotten aqueduct through the centre of the causeway from Tezat to Zlatan. Hesoctl also revealed what he knew of Garkuna’s plans. Garkuna, Hesoctl explained, was animating a mighty statue of Sotek deep within the great temple through powerful hishna rituals. Once it was complete, he intended to use it to finish off the Zlatan exodus – and then to destroy the Southron and Itzapan forces which had laid Zlatan low. Garkuna even intended to use the Statue to attack the saurians, believing them to be untrue worshippers of Sotek. Hesoctl feared that, with the Statue, Garkuna would be unstoppable, and urged the adventurers to stop him from animating it.
Accompanied by Varshak and Tiny, the party crept through the aqueduct within the causeway to Zlatan and made their way through the ruined city, avoiding an encounter with an enormous hydra by refusing to be lured by the glint of gold in the rubble. They bypassed the large army encamped on the Great Plaza, following Hesoctl’s directions to enter the great temple through a secret passage from the basement of a ruined building outside the Great Plaza.
Within the temple, the party crept stealthily through twisting passages, seeking always to descend deeper into the basements that they knew held their items – and Garkuna’s Statue. As they descended, they passed through several rooms which appeared to hold giant-sized pieces of bronze armour or weapons, which they surmised might be for the Statue once it was animated. Having dodged several patrols, the party reached the bottom of the temple, standing before a great door which they recognised from the pipe-smoke vision. Through a combination of magic and lock-picking expertise from the three rogues, the party managed to bypass several magical traps and open the door, though Sett was nearly killed by a powerful magical trap just beyond the open door.
Chapter III. The Statue Awakes
Bursting through a final door, behind which they could hear chanting, the party encountered Garkuna and several priests and jaguar knights in the final stages of animating his Statue – with most of the party’s missing magic items clustered about the Statue’s feet, apparently ready to be drained of their power to animate the Statue. Vogon, first through the door, was struck by a powerful spell from Garkuna that siphoned out a cloud of his blood that began to float slowly toward the base of the Statue; apparently a critical component for bringing it to life. As Garkuna fled through a door at the rear of the chamber, fierce fighting broke out as the other Zlatani in the room attacked the party.
Varshak, the mysterious cleric who had been accompanying the party, ignored the fighting and raced to the Statue, suddenly supernaturally quick. Scrambling up it, he prised out the two enormous rubies that served as the Statue’s eyes, and dashed for the exit, ignoring the shouts from the party to stay and fight.
Meanwhile, as the fight raged on, Vogon’s blood reached the base of the Statue, bringing it to life as it absorbed this final component to the hishna ritual. Roaring with anger at finding itself blind, the Statue felt about and snatched up one of Garkuna’s priests. Wrenching the priest’s head from his body, the Statue shoved the head into an empty eye socket and peered blurrily about, before stomping out the door through which the party had entered, trampling in the process the last of Garkuna’s defenders as the high priest himself fled.
Finding themselves momentarily alone, the party quickly scooped up their items and what loot they saw on the corpses of the defenders, and beat a hasty retreat. Alas, some of the items were gone—the obvious weapons and such no doubt used by the Saurians—but over half of their old possessions were recovered at long last. They found the halls of the pyramid deserted, though they could hear the roar of the crowd outside in the Great Plaza as the Statue emerged from the temple. The party crept back through the ruined city to the causeway secret tunnel, pausing only long enough to snatch a ring and cloak from the hydra’s lair.
As they returned to their camp in the Videssian observatory, the Silver Legion Special Missions Unit could see the mighty Statue of Sotek stomping southward in pursuit of Atahuelpa and the Great Exodus.
Go to next section of the Log, Interlude 7: From the Ashes