The Tékumel Foundation

News about the World of Tékumel® – the creation of Prof. M.A.R. Barker

Archive for the month “November, 2013”

Journey to the Naqsái Lands

6 Hasanpór 2372

At breakfast I met Mridék and Chatán, who looked a bit haggard. Chatán said that he heard that that the land to the south is desolate and filled with Hokún. I told him my concern for Vakúlaz and that he was still missing. I also mentioned that in all the time we’ve been here, we’ve never seen any Mu’ugalavyáni or any foreigners for that matter, even though the Mu’ugalavyáni have supposedly been in this city. Mridék was also concerned with finding out more about the demon creature, the Gemél, and more about their goddess. We approached Ardána, but she had no interest in the city at all and maintained that there was nothing of value there. She told us that the tower is a temple to their goddess and that of anybody here, Davé would know something.

So we went to Davé’s cabin. Through the door he told us that we would all be destroyed, that there was great danger, not only here, but also from many other planes. Once again he urged us to leave. He told us of how he had a plate that he obtained at the last port that showed him things. He refused to show us the plate. Mridóbu assured us that he was telling the truth and that we should believe him, but he claimed to know little about the situation himself.

With nothing left to do we asked some of the Shén to accompany us into the city to retrieve Vakúlaz. Mridék, Oténeb, and I, accompanied by two Shén attracted a little attention, but no one seemed frightened. We went back to the entrance of the old city that we remembered from yesterday, but once inside the gate, nothing seemed familiar. We stopped some urchins and asked them to guide us to Vakúlaz, and described his appearance. The fearless boys seemed more intent on playing with the Shén, which annoyed the Shén greatly.

Eventually they led us to a square tower. One boy went inside, but the rest of us stayed on the threshold. One of the boys tried to persuade us to go in, but I had no intent on traipsing through someone’s temple without permission, even if it looked abandoned. The first boy came back and told us that it looked as if the building was empty, but that Vakúlaz might be inside. He said that we probably wouldn’t understand, but that Vakúlaz could be in there, but would not want to leave.

We peered up at the temple. It looked to be five storeys high, but with no windows. One of the Shén poked his head inside. It was a great empty hall lit by high candelabras and a central staircase that led up to a great stone block. An altar perhaps?  With a feeling of dread we turned and found that our guides had run off. We tried to find our way back to the marketplace, but we quickly became lost and could find no one from whom to ask directions. All the buildings were closed and some gateways barred.

Eventually we found a building where some young men were hammering copper and bronze into bowls. They told us that one of them could guide us back to the city and asked us if there was anything we would like to buy. They told us that they mostly traded directly with other people, but also traded with other creatures across the desert. Mridék traded some cloth for two goblets. The metalsmith said that only one goblet contained his essence and the other did not. The metalsmith  explained that they created goblets that matched one’s soul. Some of the items they created had their own “spirit soul”; that they contained the essences that were attuned to the soul of a living being. Mridék asked them about the wax figures we’d seen. The smith explained that wax, metal, or other media could be used to make an object to contain a spirit soul for anyone and that by injuring or destroying the object, the act could cause pain or death to the person attuned to it. Mridék also asked about the Gemél demon. We were told that they came from the desert and that some people go with the Gemél voluntarily. The Gemél are not part of their religion, but are individual spirits. The goddess protects her worshippers from those demons. The smiths themselves often made copper bowls while looking at a Gemél, and by so doing, would incorporate its spirit soul into the bowl. By that means the Gemél could be controlled or destroyed. He pointed outside where we could see various copper and bronze pots outside doorways. He explained that those were wards set out to protect the residents from a Gemél and other hostile spirits. He explained that it was foolhardy to stay in the old city without wards like those. Foreigners like Vakúlaz are not harmed here, but they may harm themselves by coming here.

By now it was the heat of the day and they offered to let us stay there until the day was cooler. I was anxious and all the talk about demons and the manufacture of spirit soul bowls made me nervous. The commander felt assured that no harm would come to us, so we were led to a cool inner room and were given cool water and wine to drink. Mridék amused himself by trying to bang the Shén with a goblet hard enough to get a reaction, but the stoic Shén never flinched. I wondered if we were being watched from some secret place while our spirit souls were quickly being hammered into bowls and pots.

After a while we were led back to the city and returned to the ship. There was no sign of Vakúlaz.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is the end of the story as I have written it down. As I recall, in the game we all entered a nexus point either that day, or the day after. It was Phil’s way of ending an adventure without killing off the characters but it did leave the story open ended. For me it was often frustrating because I wanted more of Tékumel Prime, and often we would wander the planes rather aimlessly until Phil put us where he felt we should be, or just started another adventure.

As for Tékumel, Phil was always cagey about giving us too much information. He wanted the mystery to be there for us, and wanted to hold on to secrets to use for later adventures. Over the many years we gamed with him, Phil was amazingly consistent in the details of Tékumel.  He never had notes except for a couple of small tattered pieces of paper with calendars that were obscured by decades of pencil marks all over them. He would mark significant events on these and could somehow decipher the various pencil scratchings. When I looked at them I couldn’t make head or tail of what was written on them, but every evening he would make a note of the date we started and any significant events during the game. The only other notes were contained in a few boxes of 3×5 index cards. Each card had the name and details of a character, either a player, or an NPC. We all had cards for our characters that went back into the box at the end of each game. No cards were allowed to leave the basement. That way he could keep an archive of every known person on Tékumel.

But, as I said, the story ends here. I enjoyed recalling those evenings in the basement. I hope that you all have enjoyed it and that you found some useful bits for your own games. If there are any details I left out, then perhaps one of the other Thursday Night players will be able to fill in gaps or provide more information about what came after this.

I will continue to hunt around through my notes and see what other adventures I can put up here.

Giovanna

Journey to the Naqsái Lands

5 Hasanpór 2372

We woke around noon. There were plenty of aching heads, but soon the musicians began gathering again. Mridék spent the day trying, unsuccessfully, to find the local harbourmaster’s office. I decided that I wanted to trade for some of the local clothes, a couple of their clay pots and one of their remarkable clay knives.

At the ship, Davé woke to find that all his clothes were gone and native clothes were put in their place. He was not amused.

Chatán and I returned to the marketplace. It was mostly raggedy tents and lean-tos. The produce was such poor quality that even the Shén turned it down. Eventually I found a stall with an old woman who had some knives.  I was curious about the use of the clay material that they used for knives and weapons. Most of the knives the Naqsái make are plain, double-edged and almost two hói long. I picked up one and asked if I could trade it for the spare kilt I brought along. The woman indicated that the kilt was far too valuable and that it was worth the whole of her shop. I produced a small scarf and I was able to buy several knives, hammers, and tools. I also got one of their “writing shells”. Since there is no parchment or paper, all documents are written on thin slabs of clay or on large, flat, oval shells. The writing is curious and unintelligible. I have no idea if I bought a piece of a famous poem or the list of the woman’s inventory.

Another vendor we saw sold wax statues. These were supposed to represent one’s enemies and could be melted down to cause them harm.

Chatán decided that he wanted to trade for some perfume for his slave. We found a dealer who specialised in scents and oils for skin protection. It smells of fish oil and is applied to exposed areas of the skin to keep it from burning. Since the sun is so hot here, during the day most people wear clothes that cover their body for protection and coat any exposed skin with the oil. The merchant also carried jars of scent similar to those used at the Temple of Dlamélish back in Tsolyánu. He only had perfumes used by men to attract women, but there were none for attracting men. We were told that we could buy a scent like that in the Old City. We sent one of my servants back to the ship with our purchases and the merchant provided us with a boy who could be a guide for us in the Old City.

On the way to the Old City we passed a caravan. Since they know nothing of chlén, carts, or palanquins, everything must be carried by hand. Caravans here consist of many men who have a thin plaited fabric that cross their foreheads and go back over their shoulders to support a sack that hangs at the middle of their backs. They dress in long robes and trek into the desert to trade with the nomadic tribes there. Occasionally we saw people who were plainly more official, or of a higher status. They wore much newer clothes that were often dyed in different colours. All of the local people also wore cosmetics of red clay mixed with oil. It gave their skin a more even-looking colour and texture.

We passed through a decrepit brick gateway that marked the entrance to the Old City. From there we passed through many series of gates and alleys. The Old City is composed of short, squarish buildings about two storeys high, constructed either of clay or stones made up of compressed shell. The roofs are flat and many have tents or awnings so the residents might enjoy the cooler breezes from the ocean. The town goes inland and eventually up into the feet of the low hills that border the desert. Occasionally we saw old neglected gardens with the dried stalks of dead plants. Our guide told us that it had been twenty or maybe thirty years since anything bloomed there.

Eventually we stopped at a dark doorway. A pleasant looking middle aged woman greeted us, but I still felt wary and uncomfortable. I came to understand that this place was a kind of safehouse and brothel. One could come here and hide out for a while. We all went in except for my servant, who opted to wait outdoors. The woman began busying herself with bottles and jars of cosmetics. She told us that inside she had a room where people could worship the goddess. When pressed, she explained that the goddess tells people how to behave and foretells people’s futures.

She offered us cosmetics with scents. Every scent has an effect that is tailored to the individual. For me she offered a scent that indicated that I was shy and virginal, but willing to experiment. For Oténeb she chose a scent that would create the illusion that she was veiled and mysterious. We were told to keep at least a dhába away from Chatán, since he might not be able to control himself.

A woman entered from the back room and wanted to take Chatán back with her. The older woman laughed and indicated that Chatán was not well equipped enough for her, and handed him a salve that would increase his endowment. Chatán was immediately hauled away. After being assured he would come to no harm, Oténeb and I decided to return to the ship, asking the boy to guide us back. When we stepped outside, there was no sign of my servant, and after a brief search we walked back to the ship to see if he was there.

When we reached the dock, I tipped the boy with a piece of cloth. He was very pleased.

On the ship there were a number of local merchants and girls. Mridék was trying to find out some information about the demon woman we encountered months ago on board the ship. He was told that we would have to seek out the information in the Old City. When he asked about how one would defend oneself from such a creature, they told him that there were no defences, and continued to tell him that he needed to seek the answers in the tall building in the centre of the Old City. I turned to Oténeb and asked about the goddess they worship here. She told me that she had no name.

A quick look around the ship revealed that my servant hadn’t returned and that Vakúlaz was also missing. I was concerned because Vakúlaz was so reluctant to leave the ship.  Trying not to worry, I took my shell plaque with the Naqsái writing on it to see if Mridóbu could interpret it. I went down to Davé’s cabin, but he wouldn’t let me in. He sounded terrified, and after some convincing, he allowed me to slip the plaque under the door. It was quickly slid out again and I was told that Mridóbu was unable to read it. I continued to look for Vakúlaz. A couple of sailors told me that he went into the Old City looking for some fun. Things seem to be getting more and more out of hand. Vakúlaz and my servant are missing, Davé is hiding…

Chatán had returned to the ship and immediately went to sleep. Mridék was also indisposed. Having no one else to talk to, I visited Tékuna in his cabin. He was studying a plaque similar to mine that he also brought back from the city, although his was made from local clay. He was also concerned about Vakúlaz.

Journey to the Naqsái Lands

4 Hasanpór 2372

The shore was nothing but desert sand and rocks. Up in the crow’s nest, the crew can see that the land is flat, extending many tsán back from the shore. Occasionally people come to the beach to see us. They were dressed the same as desert-folk in long dun-coloured robes. The weather has become unbearably hot and awnings have been spread over the deck to provide shade for the crew. No one felt much like moving.

Later in the day a ship was sighted. It was not Mu’ugalavyáni and as it approached we saw that it was a Naqsái merchantman. We slowed our ship as we came near to a cove where a tower stood at the entrance to a bay. Tékuna, Zagár, and Mridék took a dinghy to the shore, and the Naqsái captain did the same. The rest of us stayed on deck under the shade of the tarps. We watched long, pale grey, slender fish-like snakes that were about a dháiba long. One of the sailors said that they are called m’bór and that they have pod-like “hands” with little hooks on them. The mouth on the creatures goes all the way down the side with hundreds of hooked teeth. I could see that they had great black splotches where the eyes should be.

The commander and the rest returned. The local trade goods consisted of oil, cloth, wine, and bars of metal of the ancients, but they didn’t do any trading. They did however, obtain some useful information. As far as news of Dalái, the Mu’ugalavyáni raided the city and left. The Mu’ugalavyáni wanted to set up a base there, but the Dalái weren’t interested. As far as local information, the Dalái are fond of chewing a grey root called horóch. It’s very chewy with a sweet and fresh, but astringent flavour.

The Dalái have never heard of chlén and know nothing of modern metalworking. For weapons they carry swords and knives of a special hardened ceramic. They use throwing sticks to launch arrows and spears, but have no bows. Gold is considered a useless soft metal, and they don’t differentiate between glass and true gems. Since the region is mostly desert, wood is extremely precious. Livyáni have been known to strip their ships of wood for trade.

The conversation was interrupted by an explosion. One of the m’bór tried to climb through the portal to Davé’s room and he killed it using a rather loud spell called the Missles of Metallgia. The portal is now a little larger. More of the m’bór hung on to the ship’s hull. We started to move out into deeper water where we wouldn’t be bothered by them when a small craft came out to meet us filled with 15-20 people. The craft rode low in the water and the crew rowed it with paddles made from the same clay as was used to make their swords. The people wore their hair long and curly, much like Salarvyáni. The men wore large shell earrings. They warned us that the m’bór would chew up the wooden sides of our ship.

We pulled the ship in towards the dock where we were given a warm greeting by the locals. Everyone here seems very open and inviting and many of the men offered their wives for the pleasure of our crewmen. The women here dress in short tunics with an open bodice and a knee length kilt of wrapped fabric. Their teeth are either plated or replaced with glass, making them look like diamonds. The men also wear wrapped kilts and wear many bone and shell ornaments. Older men wore sleeveless tunics.  Some men chose to forgo kilts and instead displayed large shell ornaments on their penises.

Tékuna generously loaned me the small golden ball that he uses to understand people. It is a wonderful device of the ancients that provides immediate understanding and translation of languages. It has to be held in the mouth and is a bit awkward at first, but I managed to tuck it between my cheek and gum so that I didn’t accidentally swallow it.

The city of Dalái is complicated. The streets seem to go in any direction. The buildings are rounded with round windows, and built of the same white coral stone that we had seen before. Large brown dogs seem to be everywhere.

We came to a long open building with a courtyard covered in cloth awnings. We were offered a choice of cool water, fruit juice, and a juice made of local crustaceans. All the locals were curious about everything we had and expressed interest. Apparently everything is communally owned and shared. The concept of private ownership seems somewhat foreign to them.

In the late afternoon the local people brought out clay flutes and drums. Others spontaneously got up and danced. I noticed now that the liquor I was drinking was stronger than I originally though it was. A few local men expressed interest in me, but they felt I would be far more beautiful with glass inserts on my teeth and bone implants on various parts of my body. The descriptions of the processes sounded painful, but the men insisted that all of that was necessary in order to be beautiful.

Food was served. There was no meat, but many types of fish. The spices tasted very nice. I don’t know what they were, but they would fetch a high price in Tsolyánu, if only for the novelty of a new flavour. The locals were also fond of a fishy flavoured oil that was poured on top of everything. They had no bread or anything like it, except for some cakes made from rice flour. For fruit, they had sea cherries. These were round soft grey fruits about 2-3 chóptse in diameter with no stone or seeds.

The party continued late into the evening and I opted to stay in the city with Mridék, Tékuna, and the rest rather than try to find my way back to the ship.

mbor2

m’bór

Journey to the Naqsái Lands

2 Hasanpór 2372

The New Year begins.

There was little celebration over the Intercalary Days, certainly nothing like the celebrations in Tsolyánu. I am a little disappointed, but will make up for it when we reach land.

Today the coast turned towards the south after following a rocky headland. Mridék called a meeting to decide what our goals will be when we reach Dalái. The consensus was that some of us will continue to observe and note natural phenomena, while others will scout out what the Mu’ugalavyáni are up to and try to ascertain the best course for Tsolyánu to take in stopping them. As usual Davé requested that we stop now and return to Tsolyánu.

Journey to the Naqsái Lands

 Turúgdashe

The shore is rocky and sandy. Sometimes the sand is as black as a moonless night.

 

Journey to the Naqsái Lands

Ikáner

An island was sighted off the starboard. Actually it was more of a rock than an island. Tékuna was worried and warned us that these rocks often turn out to be gigantic beasts. Vakúlaz took us closer and we saw that his was not only an island, but that it had shipwrecked survivors. We lowered a dinghy and brought them aboard. Our new members were three Mu’ugalavyáni officers, two men and one woman. They were bound for Dalái to set up an outpost when their ship was destroyed in the night by the ákho.  The survivors spoke Tsolyáni well and are obviously people of quality. The woman’s name is Ardána. We also had Utúnish Qáran, a priest of Hrsh, and the captain Mshkúmish. The said that they had been to Dalái before. Ardána seemed to be their leader and often spoke for the others. Mridóbu said that he could tell that she was a high member of a secret clan. It was arranged that she bunk with me.

Toward evening we saw lights on the shore, and a village set in among the rocks. The water was deep and clear here and so we decided to anchor for the night. We made plans to trade for fresh water in the morning.

Two villagers came paddling out to us in a boat made out of bundled reeds. The older man spoke in strange language that Tékuna explained was a dialect of Naqsái. The man told us that theirs was a small village, but that the great Naqsái are farther on. While the villager negotiated with Mridék for water, the boy, who we learned was the man’s son, jumped off the boat and swam to shore as quickly as any fish. He returned swimming and holding a box over his head. Once on board he showed us that the box contained a feast of local delicacies. There were long, fleshy grass-like vegetables, rice, and fish. I was more fascinated by the box which was made of a translucent white, light-weight material that was both vitreous and slightly flexible. It also had a close-fitting lid that seemed to lock into place without any catches. The man noticed my interest and said that the box came from an ancient cave back in the mountains. He said that there were many rare and unusual things there. He expressed interest in trading the box for my tunic and sandals. I quickly concluded my bargain and was quite happy with the transaction.

More of the reed boats arrived. Fortunately the captain prevented more people from boarding. He called out to them saying that we’d be glad to visit their village tomorrow for trade and feasting. The villagers continued to try and climb on to the ship, insisting that our sailors and crew must come to their party tonight, and that their women would welcome our crew members with open arms. Saíb quietly informed us that these were dangerous creatures – not even human. In Livyánu these creatures live in caves and are called Sithéb. In Tsolyánu they are known as Srámuthu.

Vakulaz managed to remove the few creatures that managed to clamber aboard and we made ready to sail. The villagers shouted protests, but the marines took their places on deck, ready to fire a volley of arrows. I worried about navigating around shoals and traps, but we made it out into the channel. As we left, the marines let off one volley that held off the villagers. Ardána told us that she had had encountered these Sithéb before. The Mu’ugalavyáni put an entire village to the torch, but even more of the creatures poured out of the desert to attack them.

Journey to the Naqsái Lands

30 Dohála 2371

Just as dawn was breaking we saw a low dome-shape floating in the sea. It appeared to be a little over two dháiba at the highest point and was a glittering brown colour. Even from this distance we could see the immense thing was rolling over. It stopped when it looked at us with one huge eye. The sailors were terrified, but to their credit they kept working. I admit it was an unnerving experience. Fortunately the ákho showed no interest in us and it slipped below the water with barely a ripple.

We skirted the area and left it behind. Soon we began to pass debris from a shipwreck. This was most likely to be the work of the ákho and the reason that the Mu’ugalavyáni ship fled past us so quickly.

Bodies floated by. We didn’t see any with tattoos, so we assumed they must be Mu’ugalavyáni rather than Livyáni.  We sailed on as quickly as we could and as the day wore on the stench from the sea became nauseating.

Ahko

Journey to the Naqsái Lands

29 Dohála 2371

Mridék asked me to look at a box of medicines and herbs that one of the marines bought. The box was made of leather sewn at the sides with a close-fitting lid. I didn’t recognise many of the herbs and medicinals since some were dried, some were ground to a powder, and none was labelled. Tékuna recognised about half of them. One bundle had a salve to cure the bite of the “foot ants”. These ants live in the sand along shorelines and impart numerous bites to people’s feet and ankles. The bites sting and can cause swelling, but are not toxic or debilitating. There were also sticks of a particular wood that was effective for staunching blood.  I took the box to my cabin in order to label those items we could identify.

As we pulled out of the harbour a Mu’ugalavyáni man of war came sailing at a quick pace from the northwest. We were unable to turn around as we were hemmed in by sandbanks and the odd submerged buildings. The oars were quickly put to use and the marines assumed their positions on deck. The Mu’ugalavyáni ship passed the mouth of the bay without a pause, and apparently without noticing us. After waiting to see if there were more ships coming, we pulled out into the main channel and continued on sailing northwest. We decided to sail on during the night in spite of the shoals, but also posted extra guards.

During the night we could hear drumming and could see fires and figures leaping on the shore. The sounds of flutes and other noisy instruments drifted to us from the shore. Large animals were being roasted on spits.

Journey to the Naqsái Lands

29 Dohála 2371

We were told that the villages continued along the beaches, interrupted by occasional ruins. The villages are located near rivers that run down to the sea, so fresh water shouldn’t be a problem for quite some time. The weather was fine with a light wind. The sailors spent the day working the deck with holey stones. Small boats pulled alongside us with trade goods. I bought some unusual fruit that grew on trees in the interior lands. They were yellow and green striped with a rind that resembled a melon. Inside the fruit was divided into many small sections.

Journey to the Naqsái Lands

28 Dohála 2371

Finally there are signs of civilisation. We put in at a neat city of white roofed buildings that run right down to the shore and some into the sea. The Shén moored the ship to rings set in the roofs of some of the buildings that are half submerged. Oténeb told us that the buildings are made from bricks carved from densely packed shells. We were still some way out, so we took a dinghy to the shore. The villagers came out to trade walking along both roads and gangways. They were clothed in flowing robes that covered their bodies and spoke in at least a half dozen unknown languages.  I noticed that some of them carried stone weapons. They offered us oils, liquors, incense, glassware, and perfumes. Mridék traded for a pot that resembled Davé’s dagger. The design that looked like the seven lights we saw in the night sky seemed to be popular here. We learned that the pot was a replica of a much older one, and Mridék was invited to the workshop where it was made. There he saw a much older pot that had similar decorations and an inscription that ran in a spiral down the inside.

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