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The Gebong Conjunction, 2482

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Cast of Characters
The Gebong Conjunction
Prestor's Proposal
The Opening
Yram and Drachir
Squires of Gebong
Napiza Explores
Abacuscraft Surveys
Current Accounts

Cast of Characters

Rikard Le RichOnly son of Baron Le Rich of CaravelM 22
Pong Aveline (Mistress Pong)Mistress Pong, mayor of Voisson, political refugeeF 57
Ping Pong AvelineWizard of Noc, native of VoissonF 24
Nignog GateauxKnight of Gebong, native of VoissonM 21
Nignog SchuneMaster of the Order of GebongM 79
Zar QueznelWizard of Noc, son of the Zarquon the Great of Noc (deceased)M 17
Sheriff TromboneSheriff of Voisson, former mercenary-fighterM 41
Joe HansonPlumber of Voisson, former adventurer-thiefM 36
Jeane MalliusOwner of the Trollhammer Tavern, former adventurer-fighterM 52
Bradley ButchermanButcher of Voisson, native of VoissonM 32
Napiza StrudleHalf-elf assassin, Nignog Schune's nephew's daughterF 21
Helene MalletEditor of the Voisson Village News, political refugeeF 48
Ralf MalletBlacksmith of Voisson Village, former adventurer-sword-smithM 45
Judith Mallet (Judit the Inebriated)Artist for Voisson Village News, political refugeeF 45
Gene ClairmontWealthy man of Machay, philanthropistM 37
Yram RosdniwSister of the Queen of Claire of AranashF 33
Drachir RosdniwDuke of Cloffus in AnaranashM 29
Table: Cast of Characters. Ages given on 15th August 2482.

The Gebong Conjunction

The Gebong Conjunction, CSMS1, connects Clarus to Makrinos. The Knights of Gebong occupy the mansion beside the site of the Gebong Conjunction and maintain the walls and lawn about and beneath the site. The Order of Gebong was founded in the year 2234. They call the mansion their "Lodge". The order gets its charter to guard the conjunction from the Claran Watchers, who pay 1000 gp to the Order for each occurrence of the conjunction, to compensate the knights for their seventy-eight days of labor checking the passports of travellers trying to enter Clarus, stopping orcs and other hellspawn from sneaking off Clarus to Makrinos, and stopping citizens of the Open Worlds from forcing their way onto Clarus. The Order has the authority to issue Free-World passports to citizens of the Free Worlds, at a fee of 50 gp. The Free Worlds are Clarus, Feras, Comitor, and Vagor. Anyone born on Clasus is automatically a citizen of the Free Worlds, but to demonstrate this citizenship when returning to Clarus, or entering any other Free World, a citizen must carry a Free World passport. The knights have the authority to bestow Free-World citizenship and issue Free-World passports to people desiring to enter Clarus from Makrinos. For this service, they are authorized to charge up to 500 gp. The Knights pay the Claran Watchers 10 gp for each blank passport paper, and keep these papers in a safe in the Lodge. They fill out the papers themselves, and keep two records of the passports they issue, one they keep at the Lodge, the other they give to the Claran Watchers. They keep the entire 50 gp fee to cover their expenses when they issue a passport, but when the issue a citizenship, they keep 200 gp and give the remaining 300 gp to the Claran Watchers. These exchanges of funds occur after the conjunction closes, when a representative of the Claran Watchers will come to settle accounts. The Knights are authorized to allow natives of Clarus to visit Makrinos through the Gebong conjunction, by means of Temporary Passes, provided the visitors return through the same conjunction before it closes. These Temporary Passes they sell for 1 gp. The Knights of Gebong make up the Temporary Pass documents themselves, and keep copies of each in their safe in case the Claran Watchers ask to inspect the copies. All three types of travel document record a detailed description of the traveler, in the hope that fraudulent use of such passes will be discouraged. And so it is that, every seven years, the Knights of Gebong have 78 days of work to do, and the hope of some profit to keep their Lodge in good order.

The FXMS1 conjunction is 133 km away to the south-east on Makrinos, and leads to Fyloxenos. Here is a map of the region around CSMS1 on Makrinos. On the Fyloxenos side of FXMS1, 50 km to the south-west across Fyloxenos, is the site of FXMS6, which leads to the planet Heima Heima. Every copule of centuries, CSMS1, FXMS1, and FXMS6 are open at the same time. Travelers can pass from Clarus to Heima in a matter of days.

CSMS1 2942 2037 78 {37.8 22.1} {-36.2 -0.7}
FXMS1 -47 189 5 {15.9 -102.9} {-37.3 0.0}
HAFX6 -803 948 33 {-60.8 -87.8} {15.6 -102.7}

Here is a summary of the route from CSMS1 on Clarus to HAFX6 on Fyloxenos in 2483.

Route from CS 37.8 22.1 to HA -59.4 -88.2
    0 km    0 Cdy CS   37.8   22.1  CSMS1   37.8   22.1
  133 km    3 Cdy MS  -36.2   -0.7  FXMS1  -37.3    0.0
  183 km    4 Cdy FX   15.9 -102.9  HAFX6   15.6 -102.7

Here is a list of the Gebong Conjunction opening and closing dates in the recent past and future.

2438:May:02-2438:Jul:19 (Nignog Schune attends as Knight of Gebong)
2455:Jan:24-2455:Apr:12 (Alicia Schune attends as Knight of Gebong)
2460:Aug:22-2460:Nov:08 (Nignog Schune attends as Master of the Knights of Gebong)
2477:May:16-2477:Aug:02 (Nignog Schune only remaining Knight of Gebong)
2482:Dec:13-2483:Mar:01 (Nignog Junior attends for first time as a Knight of Gebong)

Here are the times when the Gebong and Fyloxenos conjunctions occur together. It is these occurrences that are busy: people travel between Fyloxenos and Clarus via Makrinos. The most exciting occurrences, are those in which the conjunction from Fyloxenos to Heima are all open at the same time. The last time this happened was in December 2298, almost two hundred years ago.

2449:Jun:27-2449:Sep:13 CSMS1 open
2449:Jul:05-2449:Jul:11 FXMS1 open

2455:Jan:24-2455:Apr:12 CSMS1 open
2455:Mar:15-2455:Mar:21 FXMS1 open

2477:May:16-2477:Aug:02 CSMS1 open
2477:Jun:14-2477:Jun:20 FXMS1 open

2482:Dec:13-2483:Feb:28 CSMS1 open
2483:Feb:22-2483:Feb:28 FXMS1 open 
2483:Feb:20-2483:Mar:25 HAFX6 open

2499:Sep:06-2499:Nov:23 CSMS1 open
2499:Sep:14-2499:Sep:20 FXMS1 open

2505:Apr:05-2505:Jun:22 CSMS1 open
2505:May:25-2505:May:31 FXMS1 open

2527:Jul:27-2527:Oct:13 CSMS1 open
2527:Aug:25-2527:Aug:31 FXMS1 open

During the conjunction, travellers are welcome to stay in one of the ten guest rooms in the Lodge of the Knights of Gebong, which is the mansion inhabited by Nignog Schune. He is the Master of the Order. After the death of his daughter, he was the only Knight of Gebong, but now there is Nignog Gateaux as well, making two of them, and a promising new relative who may be invited to join after suitable service: Napiza Strudle, the half-elf second-cousin of Nignog Gateaux and great-nice of Nignog Schune. She just graduated from the School of Espionage in Jitain, the capital city of Caravel.

Prestor's Proposal

Prestor the Prospector arrives at the Trollhammer Arms on 10th December 2482. He has a map and a description of how to get to a site rich in spessartine garnets on Makrinos, about a hundred kilometers south-west of the Gebong Conjunction. His map is one of the one hundred full-color copies Alicia Schune had made of the large map hanging in the Lodge. There are thirty-six copies left, and the Lodge sells them to travellers for 2 gp each. On the back of the map is an account of a journey made to the garnet vein during the 2455 occurrence of the conjunction.

Rikard, Zar, Nignog, and Prestor talk in the pub. "My grandfather wants help watching the conjunction," Nignog says. "He and I are the only remaining Knights of Gebong. I'm sure he'll welcome your help, Prestor. Rikard and Zar have already volunteered. None of us are being paid, but we get to stay at the Lodge. Food and hot water are provided. And my grandfather's cook is very good."

"And all his maids are pretty," Rikard says.

"Hands off my grandfather's maids," Nignog says.

"I'll volunteer too," Prestor says, "Perhaps we can persuade your grandfather to watch the conjunction himself for a week while we go and find some garnets."

"I will support you in that," Nignog says.

The Opening

The conjunction opens for the first time at the east end at about 14:00 on 13th December. In the conjunction passage there are twenty men in loin cloths, with leather harness, armed with sticks and staffs. They jump out of the expanding aperture of the conjunction. Nignog and Rikard come forward with swords drawn and block the passage, but not before four men have escaped. Zar blinds two of the fleeing men with a Flash. Napiza and Prestor follow the other two into the stable. Napiza cuts one down and Prestor bashes the other into submission. The sixteen men in the passage do battle with Rikard and Nignog. Four of them are able to come forward at a time. Nignog breaks one man's leg and cuts another man. Rikard cuts one severely. The sixteen retreat to the far end of the passage, which is on their own world.

The guardians of the conjunction transport their four prisoners to the conjunction tunnel. They resolve to call it Tunnel A, and the other one will be Tunnel B. Tunnel A will remain open for another three quarters of an hour, give or take five minutes. Meanwhile, on Makrinos, they assume that Tunnel B is open at the same time. One of their prisoners is bleeding of the wound he suffered form the blade of Napiza, and may die. Zar, Son of Zarquon, is a Healer and a Wizard. He spends twenty minutes working on the wound to stop the bleeding and saves the man's life. These men are well-nourished and healthy, but they are not as muscular as trained soldiers, and they are suffering from sunburn. They are tanned, but otherwise fair-skinned, with brown or black hair, but sparse beards and chests. Down the other end of Tunnel A, the leader of the twenty men is bleeding badly and another has a nasty broken leg. At Nignog's invitation, the men leave their fighting sticks behind and come to the near end of the passage where Zar binds the leader's wound, an accomplishment of which he is rightly proud.

During the course of these efforts, the guardians find that all the twenty men speak Greek well, and Latin poorly, in addition to their own language. They come from Aranash, a large island in the Sea of Obit on Makrinos. Their own language is some evolution of Greek that none of the guardians of the conjunction can understand.

"We are bookkeepers in the court of Queen Claire," they say, "We are fleeing the Dark Times that are coming to Aranash. We completed a census of the population of Aranash and found it to be some two hundred thousand souls. Queen Claire commanded that all families raise many children so that our land will be strong in arms to fight the demons of Grellack, the Lord of Death, if he should ever return, bringing demons to slaughter and enslave our people. But we consulted the old books, and we paid heed to the words of the wisest of our druids, and we believe that the Lord of Death arises when our land is burdened by too many mouths to feed, when conflict arises over land, and when the poor go hungry. Out of such conflict evil rises. Even now there is rumor of Black Druids gathering support for rebellion against the Queen. None of us have wives or children. We do not want to live through the Dark Times. We do not believe that good will triumph over evil until nine out of every ten of our people have perished. And so we sailed across the sea and walked across the desert to come here, hoping to flee to this world of yours and live in peace. We are educated. We can read and write. We are willing to work hard. Surely we can find a place here?"

Tunnel A closes. Soon after, Tunnel B opens, but it is empty. Over the next two days, the bookkeepers come in smaller groups to talk to the guardians. Zar sets the broken leg. The men understand that citizenship of the Free Worlds costs 500 gp per person. They have only 100 gp between them. But this is enough to buy food, which the guardians have delivered from Voisson: fresh bread and cheese and meat.

Yram and Drachir

At 5 am on 17th December 2482 it is raining and cold. Zar and Napiza watch the opening of Tunnel A by the light of a luminous stone on a pole. The opening reveals a man in plate armor and a woman richly dressed for warm weather, with long brown hair and a sunburned face. The man has his helmet under his arm, a pack in one hand. His skin is dark brown, with a short black beard and hair. The woman carries a pack also. They stand close together. Behind them are six of the bookkeepers. Zar blows his whistle.

"We wish to enter your world," the woman says in Latin. "We have money to buy passports." She is shivering in the sudden cold of the Claran rain. "We are in haste."

"Stay there until our commander arrives," Zar says.

Napiza moves to one side, out of the bright light of the stone.

One of the bookkeepers, their leader, says, "These two are from Aranash. She is the sister of Queen Claire."

The armored man turns and shouts at the bookkeepers. His tone is angry and discourteous. The bookkeepers move back. The woman looks at the bookkeepers with what appears to be disgust. Nignog, Rikard, and Prestor emerge from the Lodge, all in armor, in which they have been sleeping. Nignog introduces himself and asks to see their money. The woman hands him a bag containing three items of jewelry. These Nignog hands to Prestor who examines them for less than a minute before declaring them to be worth at least two thousand guineas.

"We think these are worth two thousand guineas. The price for two of you is one thousand."

The woman holds her hand out for the bag of jewelry and Nignog returns it to her.

"You have seen our money," she says, "We will pay you when you give us our papers."

"No, we are not sure of their value. Give us the jewelry and we will keep it safe. We will settle with you tomorrow when we give you your passports."

The armored man is displeased. The woman says, "How can we be sure you will return half their value to us?"

"You will have to trust me," Nignog says.

The armored man says something that they take to mean, "Up yours!" He takes the woman's hand and leads her out of the tunnel. She protests, but follows him. Nignog stands in his way. He shouts at Nignog, but when Nignog does not move, he puts his helmet on, draws his sword and attacks. Their steel blades clash.

The six bookkeepers rush forwards, as if to escape from the tunnel opening. Zar casts Flash and three are blinded. Nignog finds himself duelling against a swordsman more skilled than he, and with heavier armor, but Nignog does not give ground. Napiza approaches the woman from behind and garrots her, dragging her back to the conjunction. The woman cannot speak with the rope of the garrote around her throat, and her companion is unaware that she has been taken away. The three bookkeepers who still have their sight try to escape. Zar casts Flash again. Another bookkeeper is blinded, leaving two running into the darkness. Zar and Rikard chase after them, shouting that they will use deadly force if necessary. Both the bookkeepers stop and return. Prestor corrals three blinded bookkeepers into the tunnel, but one has disappeared.

The man in plate armor sees that the woman is now being held by Prestor. He abandons Nignog and rushes back to her, but Zar envelops him in spong and he tips forward, hovering a meter above the ground. The woman shrieks. Zar, Rikard, and Napiza search for the lost bookkeeper. They hear a cry of pain from the top of the wall. The bookkeeper drops back to the ground. Napiza stands up out of the shadows behind him and knocks him down with the edge her hand.

Prestor releases the woman, who rushes to try to hold the man, but cannot get through the invisible material. "He's going to be fine," Prestor says. Nignog pushes the man in the enveloping sponge across the wet grass and into the tunnel of the conjunction. All eight foreigners are now once more contained within its roof. Zar binds the one bookkeeper's hand, but the poor fellow is going to lose the finger he cut on the glass at the top of the wall. "It is my writing finger," the man says, "I shall never write again. What kind of bookkeeper shall I be if I cannot write?"

Six minutes later, Zar's Enveloping Sponge decays, releasing the armored man. He and his woman confer and decide to trust Nignog and hand over their jewelry bag. "Good. Welcome to Clarus," Nignog says, "Come and stay in the lodge, you must be cold."

And so Yram, sister of Queen Claire, thirty-three years of age, as well as her newly-wed husband, Drachir the Duke of Kloffus, twenty-nine years of age, arrive on Clarus and take a room in the Lodge of the Knights of Gebong. Out in the rain, Zar and Napiza make sure the bookkeepers stay in place until Tunnel B closes. They cross to the other side of the Celesti and watch Tunnel A. It opens soon after. It is six in the morning.

At 11 am on 17th December 2482 a male elf calling himself Alzeviar, accompanied by four male sapien guards, arrives at the Gebong Lodge. He buys four temporary CSMS1 passes for his guards, presents his own passport, and enters the conjunction at 1 pm. On the lawn about the conjunction, Zar has built two guard shelters, one outside each of the two entrances to the conjunction. One person is on guard at all times, watching the entrance that is open or about to open. The openings take place every hour, give or take ten minutes.

On 19th December, Yram and Drachir receive their Free World citizenship papers from Nignog Junior, who has filled them out, stamped them, and sealed them himself. They receive 1000 gp change as well, and set off for the Trollhammer Tavern, where Prestor assures them their money will last longer than if they remain at the Lodge of the Knights of Gebong. The next day, two hours after midnight, Nignog and Rikard are on guard at entrance A. It is before dawn on Makrinos, so they are surprised to see three people in the shadows of the tunnel when the orifice opens. The travelers are from Aranash. They are Ailed, Trebor, and Kaj. Ailed is a woman aged thirty-eight. She wears leather armor dyed dark purple, brown, and black. The other two are men in their late twenties wearing banded armor and carrying swords. They are all three sunburned and dirty. They give Nignog 15 kg of gold coins. He checks them for purity in the Lodge while the newcomers bath and rest in two rooms. At 6 pm, Nignog presents them with Free World Passports and they set off towards the village center. Napiza follows them at a distance. It is raining.

It is the morning of 20th December. Ailed leads her two companions to the Trollhammer Arms. Napiza follows them in. Ailed leaves. Napiza tries to follow Ailed, but loses her. There is a commotion at the Trollhammer Arms. Napiza rushes back to find Drachir beaten up in the common room, being lifted to a chair.

"What happened?" Napiza says.

"The off-worlders have taken Princess Yram," the innkeeper says.

Napiza rushes back to the Lodge. There she finds Nignog and Rikard fighting Trebor and Kaj, while Ailed is firing arrows from a behind the conjunction. A flash of light tells Napiza that Zar is there somewhere, and she sees him standing behind Nignog and Rikard. Yram is lying on the damp ground in the rain un-moving. Napiza revives her and helps her towards the lodge. Ailed runs out from her hiding place, heading for Yram. Trebor and Kaj pursue Yram also. Another flash of light, and a vigorous assault by Nignog and Rikard, forces the off-worlders to turn and fight. Zar casts fear upon Ailed and she runs away. Napiza pounces upon Trebor from behind and puts a knife to his throat. Kaj flees. He and Ailed end up in Tunnel A. Napiza takes Yram inside. Nignog and Rikard tie up Trebor and Zar marches him to Tunnel A.

"Now what?" Rikard says.

"I'm thinking," Nignog says.

Drachir arrives at the Lodge, and is greatly relieved to find that Yram is still there, and that the Knights of Gebong risked their lives to keep her from being taken back to Makrinos. He is standing in the foyer of the lodge with Yram in one arm, talking to Nignog Senior, who is resplendent in his red velvet smoking jacket, with the beautiful Rathshiba from Kiali standing beside him holding his evening sherry glass on a tray.

"How can I repay your grandson and companions for their courage?"

"Ask him," Nignog Senior says. "I'm sure he'll think of something."

Ailed and her companions are at the far end of Tunnel A. Nignog stands at the entrance. An arrow, fired from the far end of the tunnel, glances off his armor. Another thumps him in the chest and shatters, but pushes him back on his heels. He steps away from the opening. "Let's just wait until this passage closes, or they try to come out."

Sheriff Trombone arrives at the Lodge. "Where is the woman in the purple leather suit?"

"In the conjunction," Napiza says.

"If she comes back, arrest her. She's wanted for kidnapping, assault, and breaking and entering."

Tunnel A closes without any further action taken by Ailed and her comrades.

"She'll be back," Drachir says, "She won't rest until she's dead, the conjunction closes, or she has Yram in her custody."

Squires of Gebong

On Monday 21st December 2482, Nignog Senior holds a simple ceremony in the Lodge, appointing Rikard, Zar, Napiza, Prestor, and Drachir as Squires of Gebong, each with arm bands, brass medallion and a certificate. For the next three days, nobody passes through the conjunction. On the 23rd December a woman wearing a black sheet over her entire body comes to the Lodge, escorted by an elderly man. It is 4°C out, and sunny. The man gives his name as Molassus Aleef. He describes the woman as a princess, and gives her name as Sheherezad Al-Quatan. He asks to buy two temporary CSMS1 passes to visit Makrinos, "So that the princess can see the enchanted places, and view the palace of Gebong." Nignog asks to see the woman's face so he can write down a description on her pass. "I shall tell you: she has long black hair, curling and shining like the sun, dark lustrous skin, and brown eyes." But Nignog insists. Eventually, the compromise in this way: Napiza gets to look upon the face of Sheherezad privately. The alleged princess is fair-skinned, about seventeen years old, with a scar beneath her right eye, blond hair, and blue eyes. She weighs about 45 kg and stands about 157 cm tall.

"Here are your passes," Nignog says, emerging from the lodge ten minutes later. He has been paid two gold pieces for them.

The next day, the 24th December 2483, from 3 pm to 4 pm, Nignog Senior and Drachir watch the conjunction while Rikard, Nignog, Zar, Prestor, and Napiza enter Tunnel B. It is night on Makrinos, 10:24 pm local time, and the season is early summer here in the southern hemisphere. At the end of Tunnel B on Makrinos, they look out. They are on top of a hill, but the hill-top is surrounded by steep, stoney banks, as if the conjunction were in a caldera two hundred meters across. Two of Makrinos's moons illuminate the barren rock, casting black shadows among a silvery landscape. They emerge from the entrance and creep around the entire conjunction. The ground is cut sandstone blocks, cracked in many places. The conjunction sits in a one-hundred meter diameter flat circle with pillars, each one meter in diameter, standing up to five meters high, all spaced every five meters around the perimeter. They see no sign of man or woman, but they hear a cough from somewhere up the bank, and some rocks sliding. There are small animals among the stones, and a bird of some sort catches something that squeaks like a mouse. From a distance, beyond the summit of the hill, they hear the laugher of a company of men. When they return to Tunnel B, the shadows of the pillars have moved farther than they would on Clarus: the planet Makrinos makes one complete rotation in only twelve hours. The tunnel closes and they return to Clarus, where it is a cool, clear day in late autumn.

Figure: Nignog Junior's Personal Crest. The five themes present in any crest of a knight of Gebong are the orange circle of Makrinos, the sword of the warrior, the conjunction, the helm of the watchers, and the black tower of the orcs, all set upon a field of green. Nignog Junior's crest incorporates the lodge itself, an orc woman, and other themes.

On the 25th December, a party of thirty men and women arrive at the Gebong Lodge. They range from disheveled old men to ambitious youth to assertive young woman. They are dressed for work, after their individual fashions, some with sandals, some with boots, but none with delicate clothing. They carry picks and shovels and buckets. Prestor talks to a few of them and determines that they are thirty prospectors who have together purchased a map that shows the location of a vein of emerald-rich rock in the mountains south of the conjunction on Makrinos. It's a busy day for the Nignog making up temporary passes for thirty people and accepting 30 gp payment. Three hours after noon, the prospectors enter the conjunction. Napiza, Zar, Prestor, and Nignog enter with them. The tunnel closes on Clarus and opens on Makrinos. The prospectors step out into the sunshine of a bright desert day on Makrinos. They set off down the staircase. Once they are gone, Zar casts a Flash spell successfully once, then unsuccessfully [10% chance of success]. The prospectors stop at the base of the hill where there is water. Prestor watches them from the road near the hill-top, which commands a fine view of the mountains in the distance, past the heat waves over the desert.

"I would like to know where they are going," Prestor says, "To be sure they are not going to the same place shown on my map."

"They will leave a trail we can follow days or weeks from now," Nignog says.

The sun moves across the sky as they gaze at the surface of a planet thirty light years from their home. After forty minutes, they enter to the tunnel they arrived by and return to Clarus.

At 9 pm the same day, Tunnel B opens on Clarus. Nignog and Zar are guarding. It is −1°C with a clear sky. By the light of the luminous stone on a pole outside the tunnel entrance, the guards see Molassus Aleef and a woman covered by a black sheet emerging. Molassus presents his temporary pass and that of Sheherezad Al-Quatan. Molassus refuses to allow either of the young male guards to look upon the face of the princess, so they call out Napiza and Rikard. Napiza goes around the back of the stables to confirm that the woman under the sheet is indeed the same blond blue-eyed woman who went through four days ago. Nignog and Zar wait with Molassus. But Napiza does not return. Nignog becomes alarmed and rushes to the stable. Molassus flees. Zar casts Grand Flash on Molassus, but the old man still makes it to the door on the other side of the lodge and escapes. Napiza is lying on the ground groaning. She has been struck down.

"Ailed," Nignog says, "She has come back to get Yram."

The next morning, the 26th December. Prestor goes to Sheriff Trombone's house and reports that an unknown person escapes, probably a woman about 162 cm tall. Trombone suspects Ailed. Last night and again this morning, Rikard follows the trail of the assailant after she left Napiza. She climbed down the vertical rock bank of the River Boome and up again on the other side of the wall of the lodge. Walked through the trees on to the street, where her trail disappears.

At around 9 am on the 26th December, when Prestor returns from his trip to the house of Sheriff Trombone, Nignog, Rikard, Prestor, and Zar enter Tunnel B and wait for it to close behind them. The other end of the tunnel opens with a hiss and they step out into the early morning light of Makrinos. The sun is shining in their faces. Kaj and Trebor are standing among the rocks beyond the paving stones. The two soldiers of Aranash shout insults in their own language, draw their swords, and charge. The Gebong party withdraws to the Clarus end of Tunnel B, where Zar can cast spells. Kaj and Trebor pursue and attack within the tunnel. Zar casts Flash and then Circle. While he prepares the spell's buckler arrangement, Prestor, Rikard, and Nignog are fighting. The fight is vigorous and sustained. Prestor is in fear for his life. Zar joins the fight in round seven with his two attack bridges, which confuse and frighten their opponents. At the end of round nine, Prestor is about to quit the fight, but Kaj and Trebor exchange words and break off, withdrawing to the far end of the tunnel and leaving the conjunction.

Meanwhile, on Clarus, Yram is strolling in the garden while Drachir and Napiza watch the open entrance of Tunnel A, when Ailed jumps out from behind a bush and puts a knife to Yram's throat. "I'll slice her right open if you don't let me enter the conjunction!" she says to Drachir in Aranash.

Napiza does not believe Ailed will harm Yram. She closes upon the Ailed and attacks her with her sword while Ailed is trying to constrain Yram. After Napiza has made three respectable attempts to stan Ailed, Ailed lets Yram go, rushes for the side door in the wall, opens it, and departs.

"I thought that door was locked," Drachir says, when he has made sure Yram is unharmed.

"Ailed must have picked the lock last night and left it open."

Soon after, Tunnel B opens and the weary combatants emerge to exchange storiesĀ³

Napiza Explores

At 8 am on 27 December, it is 7°C on Clarus, and overcast. Napiza takes a walkie-talkie space bridge made by Zar and enters Tunnel A alone. She takes a luminous stone as well, but it is in her pocket. We note that luminous stones still glow on Makrinos, but they are far less bright. Napiza's job is to scout out the conjunction hill on Makrinos in the dark, and if possible find out what has happened to the bookkeepers. When Tunnel A opens on Makrinos is is two hours before dawn. She peers out at the pillars and rocks. She sees a glint of metal and figures someone is watching. She creeps out of the conjunction but she is seen. Kaj jumps up and runs towards her. She leaps onto the conjunction itself and finds a cleft in its surface that makes a good hiding place. Kaj cannot find her in the dark. He sets off down the road. Napiza follows him silently until she hears the sound of voices ahead. There are Trebor, Kaj, and Ailed talking together in a camp of three tents on the road.

Napiza accepts that Ailed is on Makrinos, but only the day before she was on Clarus. She must have crept into the conjunction during the Claran night when the guards were looking the other way.

Rather than go through the camp, Napiza climbs down the hill directly, re-joins the road where it comes around the hill on its way down, and finds the bookkeepers by the well at the bottom of the hill. Two camels and a tent are there also, amid the ruins of ten or twenty stone houses. Napiza wakes up the leader of the bookkeepers. Soon the rest of them are awake and talking to her.

"A merchant came from the city of Gebong with food. Those are his camels and that is his tent. We have plenty of water in the well, and we have been buying food from the merchant. But we are almost out of money: another three days and we will be run out of money. It's costing us five gold pieces per day. You were charging us only one gold piece. But Ailed, the Queen's Assassin, has forbidden us to approach the conjunction, on penalty of death."

Napiza gives them ten gold pieces, for which they thank her profusely. She leaves, and not a moment too soon, because Ailed walks into the camp looking for her. Napiza climbs back up the hill, but she makes a noise as she is nearing the road, and Kaj, Trebor, and Ailed hear her and then see her. In the starlight and moonlight Kaj and Trebor scramble down the slope and try to catch her. At one point, she kicks Kaj down the hill. She makes it to the road and runs up to the conjunction, where she hides on top. Kaj and Trebor stand outside the entrance of Tunnel A. Napiza cannot get in, and even if she could, they could come in after her.

Figure: Napiza Strudle's Personal Crest. This crest features the Tree of Fortune, Abacuscraft, and Rikard's friend Bra, both orcs. Nignog is on the top right next to the black tower, Napiza is on the left.

Napiza creeps off the conjunction and into the rocky bank beyond the pillars. She takes out her walkie-talkie bridge and explains her predicament to Zar. On Clarus, Nignog Senior agrees to leave his bath and come and watch Tunnel A with Zar. When Tunnel B opens, half an hour later, Nignog, Rikard, Prestor, and Drachir emerge. Kaj and Trebor fight them. Napiza joins the fight. Kaj is severely wounded. Trebor stays at Kaj's side, but is forced to surrender. The Knights of Gebong take both men prisoner.

Ailed appears next to the pillars, "What are you going to do with my men?"

"Kaj will die unless we get him to a healer," Nignog says. "We will try to save his life. Then we will lock both of them up."

"Very well," Ailed says. "They are good men. Do not mistreat them."

"We will not," Nignog says. "We the Knights of Gebong, madame."

Zar is able to bind Kaj's wound, and so saves his life. They lock Trebor in the holding cell in the basement of the Lodge. Kaj is shackled to a bed upstairs, recovering.

Abacuscraft Surveys

At 11:30 am on 27th December 2482, A wyvern lands in the grounds next to the conjunction. It carries Abacuscraft, Lord of the Hills of Doom, and Bra, his Servant. He has brought Bra because she wants to see Rikard. Bra is a twenty-six year old orc with three grown children. Rikard fell in love with Bra in September after he ate a small blue fruit from Abacuscraft's Tree of Fortune. In October, she gave him a small, ugly, red fruit, saying it would cancel the original spell. But Rikard never ate the red fruit, and he is very glad to see Bra today. Her tusks are capped with gold, marking her as the servant of the Lord, and her skin is rosy from the ride. It is −2°C with clouds, a light snow falling, and frost still on the ground. Abacuscraft spends much of the day talking to Nignog Senior privately. Their laughter can be heard through Nignog's study door. But in the late afternoon Rikard and Bra join them for a game of cards.

"Have you recovered from the effects of the blue fruit?" Abacuscraft asks.

Rikard frowns. Bra has now revealed to him that the effects of the fruit only last a day or two. She gave him the red fruit so he could use it as an excuse to stop seeing her if he wanted to. This struck Rikard as a deceit, but after some discussion with Bra he has decided that she meant well. But he is not sure what to say to the tall black orc beside him.

Nignog Senior lays down a card, "I think that's a No."

After a few more cards are played, Rickard says, "The fruit is no longer important."

The Knights of Gebong notify Sheriff Trombone of the capture of Kaj and Trebor. They transfer Trebor to Voisson Jail. Both Kaj and Trebor's belongings are locked up in the lodge. Their trial will be in the village court house two days from now, on Wednesday 30th December. Zar, meanwhile, has found a book in the Gebong Library: Spellcasting as a Wizzard in Makrinos, one of one hundred copies printed in black and white with line engraved figures, one hundred pages long, hard-back, dating from 2321. The wizard was Tellionus Braggadio, a Knight of Gebong. His method was to construct a hat with a 15-cm metal bridge ring inside, separated from the head by a plate of copper, and to leave the other half of the bridge back in Clarus when he made an excursion to Makrinos. The maeon wind from Clarus would flow through the bridge into his head, allowing him to cast spells. After some more searching around with Nignog in the Stockroom of Gebong, Zar finds the 160-year old brass and copper apparatus left to the Order by Tellionus. Nignog assures him he can use it in the service of the Order, and so he signs a book and takes possession of the artifact. Zar finds that he can cast a fourth-level spell that will provide a 15-cm diameter bridge for forty hours.

Figure: The Nignog Family Tree, Showing How Napiza and Nignog Are Related. They are second-cousins. Meanwhile, Nignog has three orc second cousins, one of whom, Mick, works in the Black Tower with Abacuscraft.

On 28th December at 11 am, it is once again cloudy and −2°C. Nignog issues Abacuscraft and Bra a temporary pass. Rikard pays for Bra's pass. At 11:30 am Tunnel A is open and they pass through, escorted by Rikard and Nignog. The sun is lowering towards the south-western horizon. The desert of Makrinos is dry and hot and brown. In the west there is a dust cloud approaching the hill, thrown up by a party of ten or twenty people walking. The sun sets swiftly. Abacuscraft sets up his telescope and they look at the stars in the clear desert night. Less than six hours later, the sun rises in the south-east. It is summer in the southern hemisphere of Makrinos. They return through the conjunction to find it is 6:30 pm. Nobody bothered them during the night, but they hear distant voices now and then from the base of the hill. Abacuscraft is well-satisfied with his visit. He flies back to the Black Tower, but leaves Bra behind. She can stay with Rikard and help with chores. According to Abacuscraft, she can fight too.

On 29th December, at 2:30 pm, the four guards who escorted the elf Alzeviar to Narland return through the conjunction. They crossed the desert with a party of refugees from Aranash. Nignog and Napiza go through Tunnel B to Makrinos and meet Ronaldo Belgoldian, who asks to buy 17 Free World Passports. He offers fifty kilograms of gold for the passports. On the western horizon there is a great column of cloud: a dust storm is approaching.

"We must escape the storm," Ronaldo says. He speaks Latin.

"You can take shelter in the conjunction," Nignog says. He looks at the party of travellers. They have three hand-drawn carts with them. Their clothes are saturated with orange dust. One child of four holds the hand of a seventy-year-old woman. "How many of you are there?"

Ronaldo looks away for a moment. "Seventeen of us."

"Do you have eighty-five kilograms of gold?"

"No," Ronaldo says, "But we can pay a fair price."

They follow Nignog and Napiza into the conjunction, Tunnel B, and emerge into the diffuse white light of a cloudy fall day on Clarus. It is 10°C today, but the refugees from Aranash are immediately cold, pulling blankets out of their carts. Bra emerges from the house with some hot cups of tea. At the sight of her, the refugees flee in every direction screaming and shouting. When Nignog has gathered them all together again, he counts them.

"Sixteen," he says. "Who is missing?"

Ronaldo looks at the ground.

"Let me guess," Nignog says, "A woman wearing a suit of purple leather armor disguised as one of you."

Ronaldo's face distorts into a grimace and he falls to his knees on the cold grass, his head bowed. "I had no choice! She is the Executioner of the Queen of Aranash!"

Nignog exhales. He turns to his comrades. "Ailed is back" They search the grounds, but they cannot find her.

"Well," Nignog says to Ronaldo when they have given up. "Let's talk business. The price of Free World Citizenship is five kilograms of gold or equivalent per person."

"Ha!" Ronaldo says. He is standing with his hands in his pockets now. "I have it on good authority that they can be bought for two kilograms. If you are going to ask for five, we will go back to Makrinos, proceed to the City of Gebong, and then to the Fyloxenos conjunction, where we can go wherever we want with no passports, and make a good life for ourselves with the money we have."

Nignog smiles. "Why don't you come inside and have a cup of tea? We can talk this over."

Ronaldo looks at Bra. She smiles at him also, which for an orc is a bearing of teeth and a slight protrusion of the tongue. He frowns and stares at her for several seconds. He turns to his people, makes an announcement in Aranash, and walks with Nignog into the lodge.

[Award experience points at end of session for several recent adventures.]

Current Accounts

Here we list the assets of our heroes. Last updated 10th October 2482.

Location PingZarNignogRikard
Machay Bank
1279 gp710 gp140 gp1980 gp
Voisson Bank
Deposit Box
1000 gp Mi glass1000 gp Mi glass1000 gp Mi glass1000 gp Mi glass
0 gp1308 gp0 gp0 gp
on Person
60 gp100 gp200 gp200 gp
Table: Current Assets.

Expenses paid to 30th September 2482.