Castle Death


The hours leading up to your departure from Elzian are spent checking and double-checking your equipment and provisions. But, no matter how hard you try to concentrate on these preparations, your mind is constantly invaded by the shadowy image of Kazan-Oud, an image identical to the vision that appeared the previous evening in the well of the council chamber. You are filled with a deep dread, as you contemplate the probable site of your own grave. However, coupled to this terrible sense of foreboding is a far greater and irresistible desire to discover the Lorestone of Herdos.

Shortly before dawn, your thoughts are disturbed by a knock at the door of your chamber: it is Rimoah. The time has come for your mission to begin. You follow him through halls and galleries to a rooftop platform nestling among the crimson towers of the Temple of Truth. Here you are greeted by a young man. He is tall and dark-skinned, with plaited flaxen hair and sharp, cat-like eyes, and he wears the gold and scarlet tunic of a Vakeros—a warrior-magician of Dessi. ‘Hail, Paido!’ says Rimoah, bowing to this proud young man.

‘Hail, my Lord Rimoah,’ he replies, respectfully. ‘We are ready to sail.’

The first rays of the dawn light shimmer along the golden hull of a magnificent skyship that hovers above the rooftop platform. As the hum of its powerful engine rises, you thank Rimoah and bid him farewell before following Lord Paido to the boarding ladder at the edge of the platform. Once safely on board, the skyship rises into the chill dawn air, and Lord Rimoah and the Tower of Truth shrink swiftly beneath its golden keel. You look down with growing fascination as the sleek, bat-winged craft passes over the circling waters of the Elzian Canal and speeds northwards above the jungle of central Dessi. As the grey Chasm of Gorgoron looms into view, splitting the emerald-green land like a deep and terrible wound, Lord Paido joins you at the rail. Time passes in conversation, and you learn much about the people of this untamed land and their history. You learn that the Elder Magi are all that remain of a race of great magicians who ruled central Magnamund many thousands of years ago. They were wise and powerful, and their leadership was great until their numbers were decimated by a plague that swept across the world. Those who survived sought refuge in Dessi and have lived here, in the mountains and the jungle, ever since. The Vakeros are native soldiers of Dessi who have been taught the art of battle-magic by the Elder Magi to help them defend the northern border against invasion by the war-like Vassagonians.

When you tell Lord Paido of your own past battles with the desert warriors, you sense a sadness within him. ‘How I wish my brother Kasin were here with us now,’ he says, staring thoughtfully towards the distant horizon. ‘He could tell many a brave tale of the great desert wars.’ You ask what has become of his brother. There is a long pause before he replies solemnly: ‘Kazan-Oud.’

The land of Dessi is now spread out beneath you like a gigantic map. To the northwest you can see the foothills of the Carcos Range and a faint ribbon-like glimmer that is the River Doi; to the east, a bank of grey storm clouds advances unchecked across a sea of jungle vegetation. Shortly before noon you sight your destination. The low-domed buildings of Herdos appear on the horizon, followed by the waters of Lake Khor and a blackened finger of rock upon which sits Kazan-Oud. Even at this great distance, the awesome sight of the terrible fortress sends a chill along your spine.

Lord Paido orders his crew to prepare for landing, and within the hour, the great skyship is casting its shadow upon the flagstones of the Plaza of Herdos. You are welcomed by Lord Ardan, Elder of Herdos, and a detachment of his Vakeros guards. They escort you through the streets of the ancient town, past the tiny stone-walled dwellings of fishermen and miners, to a quay where a glass-domed tower several storeys high commands access to the busy harbour. As you enter the tower, you notice that the glass dome radiates a greenish light that, in spite of the blinding glare of the midday sun, can be seen quite clearly.

Later, as the sun sinks slowly behind the peaks of the mountains, the light emanating from the tower becomes more visible, covering Lake Khor with an umbrella of ghostly luminescence. Lord Ardan explains: ‘This tower, together with five others that encircle the lake, generates a shield of magical energy that imprisons the evil of Kazan-Oud. No creature, living or dead, can enter or leave the Isle of Khor so long as our shield remains intact. We dare not lower our guard, and, to allow you to land on the island, we have devised a means by which you may pass through the shield unharmed.’ He takes a gem the size of a small apple from the pocket of his silken robe and places it in your hand. It is a dull translucent red, but within its core a swirling mist of glittering sparks flickers with gold and silver fire.

‘It is a Power-key. Guard it well, for so long as you possess it you may fulfil your quest; lose it and you will never escape from the Isle of Khor.’ (Mark the Power-key on your Action Chart as a Special Item, which you carry in the pocket of your tunic.) ‘At midnight, my Vakeros will take you by boat to the edge of the shield. On board is a small coracle in which you can pass through the shield and make your way to the Isle of Khor. We shall pray for you, Lone Wolf.’

Midnight finds you standing on the deck of a square-rigged fishing boat. The sighing night wind and the creak of rope and timber are the only sounds that accompany you across the black waters of Lake Khor. You arrive at a wall of shimmering, green light: the power-shield. The Vakeros whisper their goodbyes, and you paddle through the wall, drawing closer with every stroke to the sinister island fortress.

Two hundred yards from the glistening black shoreline, you note two places where you can make a landing.

If you wish to land at a stone jetty to the west of Kazan-Oud, turn to 135.

If you wish to land at a sheltered bay to the east of Kazan-Oud, turn to 288.

Project AonCastle Death