Three months passed and the group’s initial mining operation soon turned into a major manufactory. The mines brought up tons of metal ore, charcoal pits consumed the woods, and forges melted the ore and refined it into raw ingots.
No one, however, took a leadership position and much was lost to inefficiency and general lawlessness. Petty bickering, particularly among the camp’s medieval Cornishmen and Persians, often disrupted operations, sometimes shutting them down entirely. Alex, in particular, was much disturbed by the environmental cost exacted by the camp as well. In the end, the group decided to pick up stakes again and set off on their quest downriver. Burton and his crew had already done so (although not before Burton imparted a tale of his awakening in a strange chamber sometime before the Resurrection, a massive space filled with millions of floating, hairless bodies). They had continued upRiver; the PC group elected to continue down.
They took with them weapons and armor they had commissioned from their best smiths at the camp: bamboo bows and iron-tipped arrows, spears with iron heads, and a brace of iron swords for Alex for weapons; light chain and metal bucklers for armor.
They rode the River for three months straight, finding little variation from that previously encountered. Every 10,000 miles or so the vines on the irontrees seemed to switch between flowering and non-flowering; that was the most variation they observed in the landscape. However, the human population did indeed seem to be changing. Where once they had encountered, at most, loose tribal affiliations, now they were finding more and more organized nations, some of which bestrode both sides of the River and stretched for many miles. These nations were not always welcoming, particularly when the glint of the group’s iron equipment was noted.
Still, the group managed to avoid trouble until they entered a large lake area. On the west bank stood a proper town consisting of bamboo houses with thatched roofs and a large wooden stockade somewhat reminiscent of a medieval castle. Even worse was the fleet of war canoes departing the piers built at the River bank and making for the group on a course to intercept.
After a brief fight, the group was captured, disarmed, and brought into the stockade. There they met the town’s ruler, Roger de Flor—ex-Templar and would-be Emperor of Byzantium. De Flor was most interested in the group’s armor and weapons and made them an offer they couldn’t refuse: serve him in his upcoming war against a neighboring country and he would release them on the condition that they tell him where they acquired the iron to make their equipment.
Each of the three party members were put in charge of a company of infantry. The attack, meant as a pre-emptive strike, was to come in two weeks and was to be an amphibious assault. The group familiarized themselves with their units as best they could, training with them in tactics and naval warfare techniques. At last the fleet set out at dawn, floating downRiver in a mass of barges, canoes, and ships. They met the enemy fleet, under the command of notorious Chinese pirate queen Cheng Shih, coming to launch its own pre-emptive strike. A naval battle thus ensued.
Long story short, the dice rolling went against the group—to say the least. Not only did de Flor consistently miss his Strategy rolls, the PCs’ Misfortune rolls kept coming up Criticals. Alex in particular took a real beating, nearly drowning twice while sustaining a host of near-fatal wounds. Tim, on the other hand, showed remarkable heroics, clearing off one ship and causing another to crash into an allied vessel (albeit causing one of Alex’s near-fatal wounds in the process as the ship ran over his canoe). The expedition ended in disaster and the group was taken prisoner and swiftly executed.
They awoke on the banks of the River, surrounded by strange creatures twice their size covered in fur and sporting outsized noses…