Alright, it's been a little while since I've had any drive to do this. This is mostly due to a slump I got myself into after running the first session of the new arc. I felt that the session didn't go as well as it should have, and that kind of plunged me into a state of uncreative-ness. Or, maybe it was the other way around... At any rate, I didn't even feel like thinking of 109, let alone writing about it. But now I'm back!
Our heroes gathered their essentials and embarked on what could quite possibly be the most brave venture of their lives: dive into a dark cave with the not-always-quite-there Byra as their guide.
The small and well-hidden entrance led them down into a long and winding cave path, spiraling deep into the heart of Lud. The first obstacle they came across was a raging river. The river cut through the path and carved out a new cave leading even further into the island. On the other side, they could barely make out that the path they were on ended shortly after the river. Years of the running water had eroded the walls smooth, eliminating any way to safely climb down, and the water was running too fast to swim. Byra stepped up to solve their dilemma by summoning the first of her tattoo creatures: a large half-snake half-turtle sea creature named Hile. 109 was able to climb onto the creature's back and ride down the river.
The river brought them to a massive cavern so deep they couldn't even see the bottom. The sheer size of the new room gave the impression that Lud was actually mostly hollow. The ceiling was far above their heads, opening to the surface in several places and allowing in the filtered golden light from above to illuminate the room. A maze of massive stone cogs and gears, all moving slowly and methodically, much like the inside of a clock tower, populated the enormous area. A narrow path wound it's way along the edge of the cave, spiraling far down and out of sight.
Unfortunately, the river entered this room high up on the wall and cascaded down to the depths below. Again, Byra stepped up to the plate, summoning a huge, elegant bird named Livius. Just as Hile began to plummet, Byra dispelled her sea-monster and Livus swooped in to catch 109. Byra had her second summon bring the group to the path along the edge before dispelling him as well.
Along the way down, 109 faced smaller challenges, including a large section of the path that had crumbled away. Drained of energy from her summons, Byra was unable to help out, leaving 109 to climb on some nearby gears and make their way to the other side.
Eventually, 109 made it to the end of the path and into a carved stone door at the bottom. Inside the door were various rooms filled with elaborate wall carvings and decorations, including a massive carved mural depicting Zolo's final victory against the Alon. After a couple simple challenges, 109 was rewarded with entry into Zolo's tomb.
The tomb itself was far less decorated than the rooms leading to it, but it certainly held an awe-inspiring presence of it's own. The room itself was shaped like a gigantic bowel, with several caverns branching out along it's edges. Filling the bowl were tens of thousands of bones from animals and creatures of all shapes and sizes, creating a mind-boggling graveyard of sorts. In the very center of the room, illuminated by a single spotlight from a hole in the ceiling above, was Zolo's tomb proper: an impressive stone sarcophagus impaled with dozens of bladed weapons of many makes. Growing out from under the tomb itself was a thickly weaved entanglement of roots and vines that grew out in enormous columns to Lud's surface.
While Byra excitedly examined the tomb, 109 found a scrap of paper on the ground, written by Tenor - proof that he too had examined the resting place of one of the legendary HFN. Their investigations were cut short however, as Rafal announced his presence from the shadows. Rafal taunted 109 a bit before introducing Ruben to the mix.
Ruben was in a state of pure bliss. Surrounded by his obsession, he seemed barely aware of anything but the bones. Rafal then bode him to use his "new powers" to play. Ruben didn't hesitate to animate the bones, creating several small, mismatched creatures.
109 immediately sprang into action, Wade leading the fight while Rad attempted to snipe Rafal from a distance, Adriana dropped into the shadow and attempted to safely approach them for a close-quarters fight, and Byra summoned a hulking bipedal wolf named Jackson.
109 dominated the fight, even cutting their opponents short when Ruben attempted to animate a gigantic scorpion (again, due to Rafal's bidding). Together, they were able to send the duo into a retreat. Before 109 could finish the job however, Rafal and Ruben vanished into a dark mysterious portal in the ground. The portal vanished immediately after. Considering the fight a victory, Byra summoned Livius once again to fly them out of the hole above.
Outside, they found themselves deep in the forest, but were easily able to find their way back to the city. Along the way, Rad discovered a single red leaf floating in the breeze...
Easter Egg Theater!
I consider 109 to be one of my best RPs to date. While HFN is legendary, I always felt that it was always too crowded and jaded. The RP was at the best of times, semi-coherent. Add to it the complicated and winding stories from countless characters (both player characters and otherwise) and the fact that control of the RP was under assault for the greater part of the end (don't ask...) and I felt it was kind of a mess. To me, 109 seems not only more in-control, but coherent and with a better flow. As such, I tend to incorporate a lot of outside personal sources in it. Here are a few.
While most of the NPCs I introduced for Lud were original, I did borrow a lot for their creation. As mentioned before, Jake and Corey were named (and inspired by) two of my cousins. However, Byra's summons are an Easter Egg-fest.
Hile was inspired as a cross from the Loch Ness monster thing in Super Mario 64 and a giant turtle creature I created for a Mai HiME RP I did on gaiaonline.com a while back. Livius is named after a monk character I made for an RP that James ran a while back. Livius was a silent elemental monk with an elegant and beautiful phoenix-like bird as a familiar. Jackson is named after my character from Chris' World of Darkness RP, Werewolf. My character's name was Russel Jackson. Not to be confused with Knobb's character "Jackson Public" (I most definitely didn't name Byra's wolf after him). Gavriel is a constantly changing tiger/lion/leopard/etc. creature that Byra can summon. shortly after we got married, Penny started an RP between the two of us and Gavriel was my character and he had the large cat as a friend. Finally, Arkadios is the name of Byra's dragon summon. Arkadios is also the nickname of my Charizard from my first official Pokemon team.
I also had a lot of fun building Zolo's tomb. The tomb has a few elements that were purposely created that never really got explained in-game. First, Zolo's influence over animals was so great that they flocked to her grave at the end of their lives to lay in eternity with her, explaining all the bones. Second, the vines growing from Zolo's crypt grew from the unique properties of her blood (it was poisonous!). As such, the vines are literally the roots of the trees of Lud, which gives them the uniqueness of the Golden Fall.
The giant gear room is essentially the explanation as to why Lud not only floats, but also travels back and forth between continents like clockwork.
Finally, a reminder to my players: very few events in 109 are random. There was a very specific reason Rafal and Ruben were down there.