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.