Monday, March 4, 2013

Aborted Pimp-My-Stronghold entry converted to Blawg Post

[The following was found in a strange metal cylinder, washed up just off the coast outside Stavros, these writings/drawings are of an unknown age, although their relative robustness indicates a fairly recent origin]
Find herein a small account of the travels and travails of the Most Venerable Sage Ibn Tal Ibn-Salgrem of the House of the Most-Accumulated, as well as some scratchings that purport to be cartography by the same hand.
My abbreviated tale shall begin as our ship, the war-galley Three-Eyed Slattern of the City Infinite, turned east toward the ancient Western city of Larm. Our guide, onboarded at Crowkeep, was upset at the distance our ship kept from the shore, as he would prefer us to practically scrape our hull on any offshore rocks might exist than to be too far from the coast. The captain, although sympathetic to the fellow's nervous condition, opted to remain at a standard distance from the shore and it was because of this that the lookout was able to spot quite a sight, that of two ships bound together to our north, one a dark and suspicious ship that could only be pirates, the other being a tall merchant caravel of the Western Isles.

Upon sighting the ship being towed away, the captain gave the order to give chase, which alarmed our guide greatly, to the point where he had to be restrained and taken below decks, such was the intensity of his disapproval. His force of feeling was illuminated when a great lance of red light, traveling at a speed faster than any arrow, came from the northern horizon and with one blow split our craft from stem to stern. As though waiting for this very thing to occur, launches full of of pirates appeared on top of the wreckage and those of us who believed ourselves to be fortunate to have survived (oh how wrong we were) were scooped aboard. It was here that I began to realize the horrors that were to come, for these pirates were not men. Or at least they were no longer men, for each of them was horribly distended, each a flesh-made sin against the gods. Some had holes where flesh should be, some had too much of one thing, others, not enough. They gibbered and leered at us, such as they could, as they secured us with manacles and ropes and took us aboard their ship.
We sailed north, the disabled merchant ship still in tow, until we came to the northern sweep of the great bay. Once we were an hour out from the shore, a great tower dominated the skyline, skinny and dark and somehow ominous, it stood solitary and with a malicious air. It was with a growing sense of depression that I realized that this was our destination. As we drew closer, the style of the architecture, even from a great distance, indicated that this was a relic of times past, of the people of whom we know very little aside from their strange magics, those who we sages call Hyperboreans, amongst other names. Also, my initial assessment was incorrect, for there were a significant amount of other structures coming out of the sea around the tower, most of them being wrecked walls and spires, although there was a smaller, squatter tower that was still usable, for a launch set off from it and skillfully boarded the towed merchant-ship and began maneuvering it through the submerged ruins. We were taken from the main ship, which was anchored not far off from the smaller tower, and loaded aboard smaller ships, which carried us toward the main edifice...

Here I will cut short my tale, as my paper and ink is limited and I would write for eons on the first horrible hours in that tower. Instead I will endeavor to detail the overall situation in which I now find myself and hope to be extricated from, as well as such particulars of my daily existence that I find relevant.
The pre-eminent aspect of these ruins is the tower and the pre-eminent aspect of the tower is the "firelance" that sits at the top of it, for this is the device that destroyed our ship and allows these pirates to avoid the steel hand of justice and maintain their hideous hold on the surrounding environs. I have only seen it from a distance, its bulk however is great and I have seen various depictions of it in my time in the tower. These depictions indicate a device not unlike a spyglass, allowing the operator of the firelance to target any ship so long as it appears on this side of the horizon and given the height of the tower, that horizon is a great distance away. A single shot of this great ballista-like device is enough to shatter the largest ship completely.
However, the great power of the firelance comes with a secret -- it requires ammunition, and that ammunition is limited. The main driving force of the pirates, far moreso than their disrupting of shipping, is finding the "fire-tubes" that are used to power the firelance. The total number of remaining fire-tubes is a closely guarded secret; it must be small indeed for the nervousness and fear of the pirate leadership is palpable and is additionally easily inferred from the weight that they place on activities that center around gathering more of these tubes, the main number of which have been found in exploratory missions in the warren that lies beneath the tower.

This is the second major aspect of the tower, the constructions that lie beneath the water and indeed, I believe beneath the earth itself, the Hyperborean warrens of chambers and corridors, a small section of which have been mapped and made relatively safe by the pirates who mainly remain in the body of the tower itself, the rest a labyrinth of ooze, creatures that have grown from the ooze and assorted horrors...and treasures left behind by the Hyperboreans. For the pirates, the greatest of these treasures are the fire-tubes and parties of the brigands, who risk great harm and do not return more often than not, are sent into the dank tunnels to search out further stores of the things. I have only been there once myself and ventured a few rooms from the great stair that descends from the tower before thankfully returning.
As for the main body of the tower, it is full of chambers that have been converted into squalid living quarters for the debauched crimes against the gods that are the pirate band. The largest chamber contains a great tub of the ooze that is found in the rooms below. This ooze is used to "convert" prisoners who are found suitable for induction into the ranks of the pirates. Those that survive...change in both form and personality. The rest of us are kept according to our purposes, some of which are too horrible to speak. Luckily, the most erudite of the pirates recognized some of my tattoos and quickly surmised that I was not lacking in knowledge of the occult and as such, I have been pressed into service in trying to decipher various documents that have been found deep inside the roots of the tower. I do my best to subvert this activity; I confess that my squeamishness in terms of pain and desire for something other than fish entrails for food means that they do get some good work from me.

Aside from the main tower, there is the smaller tower that I mention during my initial tale and a similar squat structure that sits just ashore from the main ruins. These are the only other intact structures in these ruins and have a small number of pirates in each at any time. The structure on the shore is manned by the most junior pirates and is regarded as an undesirable assignment as its landlocked nature affords no protection from the monsters and savages that live in the coastal areas. However, the structure is valuable to the pirates as there is a door just beneath it, one that they have been unable to open thus far and does not appear to connect to any of the known complexes. I have been most intrigued about the stories regarding this door as it apparently asks riddles and evades common lines of questioning that have been used to open other portals. I recognize that I would represent too much of a threat at this point to work with it directly as the chance of escape would be too high were I to unlock its secrets (and thus the door itself); however, should their desperation for fire-tubes grow greater, it is quite possible that I will join those on the shore.
The smaller tower, further out to sea, is constantly surrounded by water, even at the lowest of tides. There is a single entrance door, inches above the high-tide mark (the door must be closed during certain synchronicities of the heavens) and the pirates keep a small group of launches tied to the tower at all times and a rope ladder to allow access to the door during low-tide. Nobody lives in the tower full-time, instead, groups of pirates are rotated over time, their duties in the small tower being ready to run out launches when the main ship returns and more prosaically, fishing, as this is still the staple food of most of who live in the tower. The tower does connect to the complexes below, with a single and circuitous route connecting it to the main tower, although this is rarely used for reasons of personal peril in doing so as well as the length of time involved in comparison to simply rowing a launch to the main tower's dry dock.
The tidal range in the ruins is great, exceeding slightly a 30' difference between high and low tides, such that at high tide the waters lap nearly to the edge of the shore building and at low tide expose all except the low side of the main tower. Exceptionally low tides reveal new sections of mud and ruins and the pirates have become more adventurous in terms of sending out prospecting teams to try and find new doors or access to the lower tunnels, with poor results thus far.
My resources are now starting to reach their limits -- I shall be brief, as much as I can! Because of the lance, any major water assault on the ruins would be madness. The lands on the shore are wild and rough enough that any large force would have a very hard time of it making it to the tower and then would have a hard time taking itself. I feel the best course of action, should whoever finds this feel inclined to rescue the prisoners of the tower or to try and claim it for themselves, would be to have a small group carried along the safety of the coast in a small boat and then attempt to infiltrate the tower, either through the smaller tower or if particularly brave and foolhardy, through the main tower itself.

May Abtu smile upon you if you do.

[Ed note: (cruddy) map to follow shortly, another post relating to these pirates]

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