[Judd could not join us this week. Writing out Vitus for the session, and will send Judd a Love Letter before our next session.]
As the party’s caravan headed west, they noticed that the state of repair of the High Road was improving. At several points, they passed below what appeared to be dwellings or small settlements on the old roadway above their heads, and for many miles the decking was uninterrupted, with many sections repaired with wood, cable bridges, or steel plating. Ahead in the distance, the party saw the signs of smoke from a town of some size, and at about the same time the grasslands to either side of Low Road were tamed to farmlands again. The caravan was about to return to civilization!
Still about a mile from the town, they passed an intersection with a much smaller crossroad. The sign pointed to “Black Gold Mine” to the north. The road was deeply rutted, as if heavy wagons regularly rolled over it. The party also started to see irrigation canals crisscross the land. Continuing westward, the caravan approached a palisade made of panels of scrounged plastisteel-reinforced concrete panels, obviously scavenged from High Road. The wall surrounded a bustling town of approximately 1000 people. The town was obviously on two levels. Although they couldn’t see very much of it from ground level, the buildings constructed on High Road above the town seemed much larger and more elaborate.
As the party approached the town gates, Tarkov expressed his disdain for town life and excused himself to scout the area around town. He found a small copse of trees alongside a creek bed, and saw signs of one of his favorite prey animals: a goatzelle. [Storn wanted Tarkov to do some hunting and tracking, and used his “Survivalist” move. He got a strong hit, so I asked him to describe finding a prey animal that would yield a Sack of provisions, plus $1d8x10 in skins/horns/ivory, etc. He came up with the idea of a “goatzelle” and I asked the table to describe it. A goatzelle is a six-legged herbivore about the size of a large deer, with curling purple horns, down-pointing ivory tusks, a prehensile tongue, and a shaggy dun-colored coat of fur. The meat is delicious. Storn only rolled a 2 on the die, so I said that the horns and tusks had been damaged in the beast’s last mating ritual, but would still probably catch 20 coin.]
While Tarkov was off hunting, the rest of the party entered the open gates. The guards welcomed them to “Low Town and High,” and asked their business. Upon hearing “trade” as the answer, they were allowed in. Almost immediately upon entering town, Vitus sensed a troubling magical aura coming from High Town above. He then excused himself to investigate. [This was me writing Vitus out of the session.]
Entering the town, Ivo noticed that the support pylons that held up the platform above were covered with scaffolding, ladders, and ropes. Dozens of people short in stature busied themselves painting, patching, and otherwise maintaining the underside of the upper platform, and it took a moment for him to realize that all of the workers seemed to be children between the ages of 8 and 15… which he thought was very weird. He also noticed that there was a rectangular hole in one section of the upper level through which sunlight streamed down. Four thin posts stood at the corners of the hole, connecting the upper level with the ground. A large bronze barge floated up, its corners tethered to the four posts. That seemed to be some sort of magical lift that brought passengers and cargo between the two levels.
Ivo and Major Slayton (along with Berengar and Lady Ashla) took the caravan to Market Square to sell some of their wares. While setting up, Slayton saw something startling across the marketplace: A man in a spacesuit! Could this be the mysterious cosmonaut Dimirti Ivanovich? Slayton went over to investigate. While doing so, he observed that nobody else seemed to be reacting oddly to a man in a yellow spacesuit. As he approached, Slayton realized that the spacesuit wasn’t exactly like one from Earth. For one, there were obvious hoses that attached from the helmet to the suit. For another… the suit was bright yellow. The spaceman appeared to be looking over goods at another merchant’s table, when Slayton approached and asked him about good deals in this market. The spaceman turned to Slayton and replied that the market this town had excellent prices on agricultural goods, and seemed to always be willing to pay top price for building materials. Slayton could not see the spaceman’s face through its gold-mirrored visor, and it spoke in a mechanical tone through a speaker mounted in the middle of the chest of the suit. Slayton introduced himself, and the spaceman introduced him(?)self as Goldfob-9 of the Yellow Guild. At Slayton’s quizzical expression, Goldfob-9 explained that the Yellow Guild were the merchant and traders of the Spectrum Satraps, and were consequently some of the most well-traveled members of his society. Slayton asked what he had to trade, and Goldfob-9 spun the following tale:
“My caravan was bringing supplies to Black Gold Mine north of this town, which we intended to trade for black gold. Alas, not half a mile from our destination, my caravan was attacked by four vicious gunnipedes. We were not unarmed, and we fought the monsters, killing two and badly damaging a third. Yet they managed to kill or drag off all of my beasts and porters and shattered my wagon. I managed to fight my way out of there and retreated here to Low Town.” He paused, looking Slayton over. “You seem like a capable fellow. I would reward you handsomely if you could retrieve something that that had been on my wagon: A large metal cylinder, tapered on one end. It stands about five feet high and a foot in diameter. It is also somewhat heavy. Of course, if you go to Black Gold Mine, you might also be interested in the bounty on the gunnipedes…”
Ivo and Tarkov caught up with Slayton at that point, and Slayton introduced them to Goldfob-9. “Bounty?” asked Ivo. The Satrap said they should inquire at the Council House, as the High Mayor of Low Town has put out a bounty on gunnipedes and is offering a reward for re-opening the route to Black Gold Mine. Needing coin, they went to meet the High Mayor of Low Town. The Mayor was a middle-aged human woman with a no-nonsense demeanor, and confirmed Goldfob-9’s offer of a reward for slaying the gunnipedes and for re-establishing contact with the mine. Tarkov then pressed for a better deal, and also convinced her to provide crossbows with ammunition, and four riding steeds. After some back-and-forth, she agreed. [Tarkov rolled a 10 on Parley!]
[We decided to end the session there. I was feeling that I had an off night creatively, but they players said that the had a good time. We did have a long discussion on whether or not the characters would even be interested in going on a monster-hunt, but eventually came to the conclusion that they would in this instance. Pete reiterated that his character is not much of a combatant, and would always prefer to talk his way out of trouble, but you can’t really negotiate with a giant metal bug with guns where its eyes should be!]