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Savage Al's El Dorado

by Terry Bigrigg

All know of the Barrier Mask and the Bracers of Forbiddance....but legend holds that these two items are but part of a larger artifact....the Mannequin of Ixion.
Join our PC's as they search the Savage Coast for clues about the legendary city of El Dorado....the legendary city where it is said the Mannequin of Ixion was created and possible still rests.
However, the brave adventures are not the only ones searching for the artifact. The Knights of Ixion, a hold order dedicated to their namesake Immortal, vow to bring the Mannequin back to their homeland....and perhaps launch another Inquisition. The like of which none of the other Savage Baronies could hope to stand up to.
Who will find the artifact first? What other parties have interest in the relic? Only time and an epic quest will reveal the answer....let the search for El Dorado Begin

Cast of Characters:
Andre Lemieux - Lupin Thief / Scout Agathokles (Giampaolo Agosta)
Wesh Halden - Human Ranger / Gaucho (David Headquist)
Nigel Blythe - Rakasta Paladin/Honourbound Ahzad (Terry Bigrigg)
Joben Sanlucas - Halfling Cleric / Inheritor (Patrick Sullivan)
Rawdon - Tortle Mage / Wokan
Caesar Ortiz - Human Thief / Buccaneer (Jason Goff)
Arturo Cortese - Half Elf Bard / Swashbuckler (Mariano)
DM - Savage Al (Tristan "Al" Dunigan)

After travelling on the hard-packed red dirt roads of Saragón for what seems like an eternity, you are quickly approaching the sleepy little village of Escudo. The green grass, abundant trees, and cool orchard shade are a stark contrast to the golden prairie lands that lie beyond. This IS the frontier. Saragón is widely know as the buffer which separates the rest of the Baronies from both Hule and the Yazak Steppes, and the countryside around Torre de Manzanas is the front door. The air here is sweet with the scent of apples; both from the trees and from the hearths from each home, as they prepare such favourites as apple pie, apple crumb cake, jams and jellies, but most importantly cider.

In the precise rows of trees beyond every house in this loosely arrayed hamlet, men climb ladders with baskets attached. The older boys and girls help with the harvest, gathering the fruit in bags and baskets, which hang from their hips. The younger children chase one another between the trees and ladders, never far from the loving and protective eyes of their parents.

As you enter the village you are greeted with shy, but polite smiles and greetings. The people here are indeed shy and wary of outsiders....wary but not fearful or rude. They seem more respectful than rude, comfortable in their relatively low niche in the social order of the Baronies. It is true what they say, "The best things in life are free".

There are no places of business in this tiny town. Any business that must be conducted is usually done from the homes of the residents by barter or trade, or at the market that lies within Torre de Manzanas, which lies some distance down another dirt road to the southwest. There does seem, however, to be a central gathering place. Near the hamlet's well, they have erected a covered patio-type area. There they have placed some tables and chairs and some of the locals as well as some other travellers are gathered here, some taking a well deserved rest from their harvesting, others, like yourself, weary travellers in need of a cool drink. Luckily one of the locals happens to be a vintner and makes some of the best apple wines and ciders this side of the Rio Copos. The others gathered here watch as you approach. The talk here is cheerful and quiet and an upcoming festival seems to be on everyone' s mind. One of the older residents, wearing a multi-coloured serape and head-wrap approaches you with a pewter tankard full of a cool drink fresh from a near-by barrel and offers it to you. "Welcome to Escudo, traveller."

The first to arrive is a Rakasta of medium build with gold fur turning black around his face. He dresses in red studded leather, with the studs accented in yellow, with the white sash of a Honourbound wrapped about his waist. The red, circular ceramic pendant of a Honourbound around his neck sways with the pace of his march. He wears his Mishiya stuck in his sash on the left side, and a matara on the other side. A weather beaten pack is slung over his back, and the sandals on his feet look worn from travel. He walks with an easy gait, tall and straight, purposeful, yet not hurried. He approaches the patio where the locals have gather to break from their harvest activities. Flashing a smile, the Honourbound accepts the offered beverage and replies, "My thanks, friend....this will surely hit the spot and wash away the trail dust." After draining the vessel, he turns to those present and announces, "Good afternoon, I am Nigel Blythe, Honourbound Company of One, recently of Cuzco, and I'm at your service". After placing the mug of cool cider within the furred hands of the wandering Rakasta, he recognises the obvious sash and symbol of the Honourbound. His behaviour becomes a bit more formal and reverent. "Cuzco you say, Sir? How can that be....Word has it that there were no survivors of the Cuzco raid?" Realising his mistake at questioning a Honourbound, the man becomes a bit tense. Nigel visibly bristles at the questioning of his word, but quickly relaxes realising that tales tend to grow with each retelling, and that it's a simple mistake. He moves on to another subject as well seeing the elder's discomfort, "How goes the harvest this season?" "The harvest?" the local replies, "Well, it looks like we will have a bumper crop this season. We were lucky enough here to have just the right amount of rain....just the right amount of sun...and, most importantly, just right amount of Yazi trouble! Too bad that looks to be changing. Its a good thing Don Luis has sent soldiers into the prairie....makes one feel that much safer." "And the Festival, how soon before it is ready?" asks the Rakasta. When the festival is mentioned, the mood lightens considerably. "Ah yes...only another week till the festival. All the best food, drink, and music the Baronies have to offer. You should make it a point to be here for the Festiva de Manzanas. Don Luis promises that this year's festival will be the best yet! Ahhhh, Lord Manzanas .. never has a more noble man graced the face of the World!" To which several voices call out in agreement. "Is there anyone in town who puts boarders up for the night, where one may acquire a meal, and a place to wash the road dust away?" Nigel inquires, "I'm willing to pay or do chores in return." "Now Lord Honourbound," the local replies, " As far as a place to lay your head and a hot meal, I'm sure you will find a more than adequate place to stay here in the village. We have no Inn, I'm afraid, but several families here have spare beds and are willing to let them exchange for whatever you may have to offer. I myself would be happy to give you shelter for as long as your stay lasts, in exchange for a little help making my homemade brew. What say you, Sir Honourbound?"

Before the lone warrior can answer, move travellers are spotted coming down the trail and to the centre of the village. As they approach the patio, the man who was speaking to the Rakasta quickly offers them thirst quenching drinks and a spot on a bench to rest. One of them, a halfling, standing only a little over 3 feet tall. He would be easily confused for a human child were it not for the definitely adult redness of his skin and his adult attire. He has orangish-blonde hair and dark brown eyes. He wears normal travelling clothes accentuated by several red metal trinkets around his neck, a very short crimson cloak, and a backpack, which looks enormous against his small frame. Near his right hand is the hilt of a red steel mace. "Much obliged, sir. Allow me to introduce myself: Jobber Salukis, at your service." the halfling announces as he extends his hand in greeting. "Ah, Nigel...good to see you again," he then says to the Rakasta, having met him and travelled with him a short while before. " This seems like a pleasant enough place to rest the ole feet." He then drops his pack in the dust and hoists himself up onto a seat near Nigel. Another stranger looks to be in twenties or early thirties. His skin is very tanned and weather worn. He stands an even six feet and is of medium build. A bandanna covers his baldhead and perspiration is evident on his forehead. His deep brown eyes squint against the afternoon sun. His feet are wrapped in simple sandals, and his pants stop midway between his knees and ankles where they are pulled tight to his body with simple laces. His shirt bears no sleeves and is as just as simple as his pants and sandals. His shirt is open from top to bottom and there are holes along one side suggesting that it used to button, however it appears that the buttons from the other side have been missing for quite some time. Under his shirt you can some odd designs that appeared to be tattooed on. He carries no noticeable weapons and on his back is a pack that is made of oilskin and looks as if when properly closed would be waterproof. Something about his walk looks a little funny and you come to realise he walks as if he expects the earth to shift under him at any given moment. "Bloody sea legs," he mutters. After taking a sip of the drink offered him he inquires, "Sarh, not to be rude but have ye got anythin' a wee bit stronger?" Never announcing his name, he moves to a shady spot and sits. The local "barkeep" looks the new arrival up and down and tries to place his accent...obviously another Baronial...."Vilaverde...or Texeiras perhaps," he wonders quietly to himself, "but definitely a seafaring type.", making that last observation from the salty smell of him. "I'm afraid this isn't a tavern, Senor...all we have is what we make, which you are welcome to. Are you sure you wont have any? Our quaint little hamlet is far from the seas, but we will try to make you feel at home." "Well then sarh if'n it's all ya got then it'll have ta do," the mariner replies. Then another figure approaches, a tall but sturdy Lupin. The rusty brown fur of his body is partially hidden under the clothes of a Guardiano peasant. Even though the Lupin's bearing does not seem different from that of a simple farmer, some details of his equipment, like the soft boots and the well strapped backpack, give him away as one of the many explorers and pioneers that reach this frontier land. His outfit is completed by one of those long chopping blades used to cut sugar canes and cacti, strapped to the right side of the backpack, and a large dagger hung from the belt. It is quite evident from the condition of his clothes that he has been on the road for quite a long time. Accepting the offered tankard, he says, "Merci bien! Je... uhm... my name is Andrè." He then takes another sip and continues, "Andrè Lemieux, from Renardy, at your service." Noticing the Honourbound, he lets his conversation die, and waits to hear what he is saying to the villager, finishing his drink. While many Los Guardianos are aware and knowledgeable of the "furred races", it is rare that they are seen in the Baronies....let alone two in one day in such a small village of Escudo. Once the Scout announces he has come all the way from Renardy, many are curious. "Such a long way to travel to reach our tiny village. Surely you must have many interesting stories to tell. Perhaps in exchange for some tales, one of us could give you food and shelter for a time?" "A tale from my travels?" Andre replies, "Bien sur, you'll have it. I'll tell you of Tortles and goblins, and flowers that spell doom for the unwary traveller. Mais, it'll be better if I begin the tale from its start.....I had always been acquainted with a number of tortles, dwellers of the sandy coastal lands south of my home village back in Renardy, but I'd never expect them to hire me for a journey, let alone one to a place so far from their "tribelands". But, when the old Tortle showed me the gold and rest of the provisions for the travel, I had to convince myself that he hadn't just gone mad. He really wanted me to travel with him to the Baronies. But my surprise was even greater two days later when, arriving at our meeting point to depart for our travel, I saw a number of them, and some other guides. What all that Tortle were going to do in the Baronies, and how did they manage to pay enough guides and guards to fit for an LB caravan, is still a wonder to me. Même, since I wasn't paid to ask questions, but to lead some traveller, I prepared for the travel. We crossed the sandy wastes, full of high dunes, which seemed made to let the traveller loose his direction, up to the borders of Eusdria. Many tales could be told about the land we crossed, all of which the Tortles call their "tribeland", but nothing is more mysterious or wonderful than the tall, smooth stones that dot the landscape, like trees of rock. Who, or what, made them, only the Saimpts know." As the Lupin continues his tale as the locals listen.

Nigel picks up the conversation with the local elder where his inquiry was last answered, "I accept your kind offer shelter, though I know nothing of brew-making, but I'd be glad to help in anyway I can, and Nigel is just fine if you please." Nigel then turns to the rest of the arriving strangers and greets each one in turn while looking them over, before strolling over to a nearby table to sit and talk with Joban about the sudden appearance of so many travellers in this tiny village, at once no less! "Joban, I'm not sure what to make of this all these strangers appearing at once, surely they can' t all be here for the Festival can they, at least not this early?" "Festival?" When Nigel tells Joben about the festival, he agrees, "I'm sure they can't all be here just for the festival. Perhaps the Immortals have deemed this the proper time for us to gather at this very place. Or perhaps others, like me, have come to pay their respects to his grace the Baronet." As Joben continues to chat with Nigel he mentions, "This land seems very comfortable--the people here seem better off than even those of Almarrón. It is a true testament to the wise rule of Senor Manzanas. But I cannot help but feel we would be of more use elsewhere...." After listening to the lupin's stories for a few minutes, and with a large grin upon his face Cæsar interjects, "Oh that's nothing I know of this lass with very large..." Suddenly realising he's in mixed company Cæsar stumbles for a moment then says, "Oh nevermind yer story is far finer than one what I could tell." After this the sailor returns his mug to the elder and asks, "I'm havin' but little money but I'm a fair good climber and would be happy to help get yer apples from yon trees, and I can cook so if there is anyone who needs a cook or help with some cooking I'd be happy to help them so as to help out for I can get a nights rest." Some of the local women, fascinated by the strangers dress and accent ask, "Pardon Senor...perhaps you would help us. We are preparing different dishes and trying to decide what to take to the festival .. perhaps you could recommend some delightful dishes?" The other ladies simple giggle shyly and look at isn't often men other than those of the village come around after all. Their fathers gaze on....unapproving, yet unoffended. "Well ladies, I know a bit of cooking though I am in doubts as to whether or not I could match your own tend towards large groups of men who truly care little how it tastes and more towards whether or not it fills the gaping hole in their bellies...however I would be happy to help you come up with something suitable for the fine people here...just show me towards the pantry and we'll see what we can accomplish." He gives a wink to the lady that spoke, and is quickly led off towards a kitchen. The others gathered cant help but be amused.

Seemingly when Joben and Nigel bring up the festival once again, as if on cue, another traveller enters the city centre. A 6 foot tall man with long black hair appears, his features are slightly exotic with high cheekbones, slightly slanted green eyes and pointed ears - the left one sporting a silver earring and three small green stones. He strides into the square with a bright smile. All dressed in black with splashes of brightness - a green sash, a bright green feather on his hat and silver buttons down the sides of his pants. Shiny black boots and a well-crafted belt holding a thin sword and dagger complete the dashing picture. Slung on his back is a leather covered, odd-shaped bag. Like an announcer he exclaims loudly, "Buenos dias, mis amigos!" He removes his hat, bows low, snatches a tankard from the closest table, and take a long drink all in one seemingly fluid motion. "Aaah! Just what the Judge ordered! Gracias!" He then jumps upon the nearest bench and proclaims, "Señores y Señoritas ... My name is Arturo Cortese - you've probably heard of my lyrical and literary exploits - you seem to be in luck, since you are planning a fiesta and I can make it truly great with my singing repertoire! Who can I speak with to ensure your friends are graced with my presence at the festivities?" The townsfolk gathered here look at one another with blank expressions......wondering what they have just witnessed and if they should applause or not. They just aren't sure what to make of the dazzling display of daring do.... "Arturo Cortese? Hmmm....Arturo Cortese. Nope...cant say that I've ever heard of you before....but if you are truly as tremendous a troubadour as you're touting, I'm sure you'd be more than welcome at the festival," the elder says. "In the meantime, you re but one of an army a strangers that has graced our village today. Make yourself at home and meet your fellow travellers." Obviously disappointed that a larger fuss was not made over his announcement, the bard finds a seat and watches the others.

Soon after the bards entrance the rumbling of horses hooves can be heard. A tall and slim figure then rides into town on a magnificent stallion. He has brown eyes, and brown hair under his wide brimmed hat. He rides his horse as though he was born on it. He wears leather breaches and a shirt under his leather armour. On his right hip he wears a wheellock horse pistol, and on his left he wears a cavalry sabre. He appears dirty and dusty, but in good spirits... He tips his hat toward the toward the towns folk as he passes em. When he comes upon the "elder" he dismounts, accepting an offered drink. "Where can get some food and water for my horse?" The elder points to the western most groves, "Si, Senor. There is a stable between the groves over there. I'm sure you can barter some arrangement to have the folks their tend this fine steed." The local gingerly approaches the dusty cavalryman and pats his horse. "This is a beautiful creature, I must say. You must have a keen eye for such things." "I do indeed, the dusty rider replies and heads for the stables. After tending to his horse and removing the saddle and such, the rider returns to the patio area. "Good Day, names Wesh Halden..." Wesh, being a gaucho of few words, simply sits and soaks up the local flavour.

After waiting for an appropriate lull in the conversation, Joben asks the brewer, "How long is the walk to Torre de Manzanas from here? "He replies, "It is but a two hour trip to the south-west....but as it is getting close to dusk, I'd stay in the village. Many a nasty beast roams the steppes at night!" Joben ventures another question, "What can you tell me about its Lord, Don Luis?" It is said that much can be learned body language. When Joben mention this village's patron Lord, he gets a definite reaction. The old man who welcomed you here removes his head wrap, straightens his posture, and speaks in a firm voice, "You wish to know about Senor Manzanas? I will tell can travel from the cliffs of Slagovich to the deepest, darkest jungles of the Orc's Head, and never...NEVER, will you find a more noble, honourable, and decent man. He is also one of the first Inheritors and if not for him, every soul on this coast may be an afflicted wretch this day. Why this man is so brave...just last week he personally saved one of the village women from a band of marauding thugs. They had come for food and water and...well..."entertainment". It is a good thing Senor Manzanas was in the village that day. He is our Lord and protector and every man, woman, and child in this village loves him dearly." By the tone of the mans voice, all know that he is telling the truth, and perhaps somewhat understating the tiny villages fondness for the Lord of the region. In response to the man's comments about Senor Manzanas, the halfling says "I have indeed heard many times that he is a truly honourable man. The tales I've heard back at the Vulture's Shoulders speak highly of him indeed." Joben then continues, "Thank you kindly for your assistance. While I am eager to see Torre de Manzanas for myself, I would be honoured to spend the night here and assist you in any way that I might. While I fear that I might not be quite tall enough for apple picking, I was raised in an inn in Smokestone City, so I know my way around the kitchen, even if I am not the best cook. I 'd be happy to help anyone in any way that I can in return for a place to stay the night. Perhaps I can peel apples or something...". The elder nods in the affirmative. "You are indeed welcome here, all of you in fact."

As the sky begins to darken, Andre finishes his tale about the weird Eusdrian customs, and then looks back at the path, his nose in the air as if the wind was bringing news about other travellers. Indeed soon, another lone figure waddles up the path; approximately 6 feet high and almost three feet wide. He's got Olive-green leathery, reptilian skin, and a shell on his back . In short he is a Tortle. His back shell is somewhat darker and the front shell considerably lighter almost yellow, though it is quite apparent that some water would do wonders now. Two large straps come over his shoulders and cross where the stomach would be on a human. From the straps hang leather pouches and two waterskins and on the back the straps hold a large leather bag. Judging from the bulges the bag seems to be filled with some large items and maybe some books.. In the right hand he holds a quarterstaff used for walking. Initially his massive limbs and his slow movements makes him appear rather clumsy, but upon closed inspection, his eyes rarely miss a thing. Clearly more of an observer than a fighter, however. When he notices the group of people, he slows down somewhat and when he is about ten feet from the group his gait comes to a halt. "Greetings Señors... What a wonderful smell...", he says, seeming a bit distracted while he slowly turns his head left and right, taking a good view of the people, the village and the apple trees. Again he speaks, "Greetings Señors. I'm Rawdon of R'nak. I must say that you have a wonderful place here. Sorry but I ran out of water several hours ago and the heat and the sun have been almost killing me, is there anywhere I can get something to drink to cool me down a bit?" The elder watches the slow and cautious approach of the Tortle. "Greetings, Shelled One. You have nothing to fear here...just humble villagers and weary travellers here this day." He motions to a young boy nearby to bring some water to the Tortle, which the youth does obediently. He hands the waterskin into the large, olive, leathery hands of the shelled one...mouth agape as he has never seen one of his race before. He takes the opportunity while the Tortle drinks to sneak behind him to feel his shell...knocking on it just to make sure its real. He then flashes a boyish smile to the stranger and runs for his friends. "Thanks, kid. That was wonderful, wonderful indeed." He announces again," Yes I'm Rawdon, Rawdon of R'nak." He starts to slowly approach the others, but after taking a few steps he stops and looks around again. Then he turns around facing the dirt road from where he entered the village and shouts loudly, "Wilbe, WILBE, Wilbe"! A short time later a large brown and black dog comes sprinting into the town and runs up to the Tortle.. "Ahh good dog, good dog. Why are you always chasing those birds? You know you can catch them," Rawdon says as he pads the dog lovingly. He then turns around and walks over to the group, finding some place to sit on the ground, relax and listen to their stories.

The remainder of the day passes uneventfully and peacefully with the songs and tales of 7 strangers.....travellers that just today met among the groves of Escudo. Unknowing that soon their futures would be forever intertwined and that the very balance of power and peace along the Savage Coast would rest in their unassuming hands.

As night falls, lanterns around the tiny hamlet are lit bright, and the local gentry begin to slowly filter from the fields and the patio to their humble abodes. As the night becomes ever more still, the weary travellers go to the homes that agreed to give them lodgings. Soon the lights of the stars above begin to shine pink....the vermeil in the air changing their hues. The distant sounds of wolves and coyotes as well as the other natural sounds of the prairie begin to fill the night....and soon all the travellers drift into a peaceful sleep. But for a routine patrol of scouts that rode into town late last night, the night passes uneventfully and peacefully. Each adventurer is roused from his bed with the smells of food being cooked.

Since there were so many travellers arriving the previous day, the townsfolk decide to place a large table and several chairs out at the patio so the wandering adventurers may have breakfast together and enjoy the atmosphere of the prairie in the early morning.

As the sun sleepily rises over the groves, the adventurers gather at the patio for the morning meal....but not before whatever chores they were responsible for are completed. The townsfolk have spared nothing and soon a full spread, fit for a Lord, is arrayed on the solid oak table. The smell of fresh breads and newly picked flowers fill your senses. Eggs, bacon, fresh milk, and, of course apple juice are provided for their dining pleasure.

After the wanderers and tended to, the townsfolk leave them to their discussions and go about their daily routine.

There is the end of so far once the next part gets wrote up I'll post it.