Friday, August 26, 2016

"The Fate of Atlantis" - Escape from the Hollow Earth, Chapter 5

PROLOGUE - A SURPRISE ENCOUNTER
Bodak Danger helped the flight crew of the Icarus in retrieving the wreckage of the crashed airship. The trio, with the help of Roald Amundsen, dragged the salvaged machinery and parts across the jungle to the tree village. With no day-night cycle to judge time the group worked until they were tired and slept until they were rested. Bodak bade his farewell upon their return to the tree village. He followed the trail left by the other members of the Hyperion Society through the jungle to the Atlantean ruins at the base of the waterfall.

Bodak descended the cliff face to the swampy lowlands where he was surrounded and captured by a group of savage green-skinned reptilian humanoids. When Bodak failed to understand the hissing nonsense of their primitive language, the Welshman shouted back in slow loud English, "I SAID TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER YOU DISGUSTING COLD BLOODED BRUTES!"

Bodak was bound and carried to their chieftain, a tall reptile man with bumpy red skin. Again their attempts at communication were met with the Welshman's increasingly impatient reply, "I SAID LET ME GO YOU BOW-LEGGED SALAMANDERS! I HAVE IMPORTANT BUSINESS ELSEWHERE!"

The chieftain clubbed the Welshman over his head with his own shotgun, knocking him unconscious.

(cue theme music)



ESCAPE FROM THE HOLLOW EARTH
CHAPTER 5 - "THE FATE OF ATLANTIS"

Noted scholar and literary historian Cedric Justice,
along with his manservant Panda,
has embarked upon an expedition to
the North Pole to find the fabled island
known as Ultima Thule.

With him are four famous associates
of the world reknown Hyperion Society - 
Bodak Danger, the Welshman with fists of stone!
Jack Flash, myserious and ageless Englishman!
Hiroshima Overdrive, Japanese inventor and adventurer!
Edith Odinsdottir, beautiful Icelandic psychic and occultist!

They have found themselves stranded in 
a mysterious inside-out world of perpetual noontime
filled with deadly jungles, giant dinosaurs, and savage beast-men.

With the help of native guide Utuk,
they found and explored the lost catacombs
beneath a strange and power pylon.
There they discovered a machine that could
open a portal to other worlds - 
only to learn that the key had been stolen long ago! 


ACT ONE - AGAINST THE REPTILE MEN!
The Hyperion Society stood at the exit of the ancient Atlantean catacombs, staring across the gap made by the crumbling bridge at a group of twelve reptilian humanoids. The reptile-men were primitive in appearance. Each carried a quiver of javelins and a club tipped with obsidian blades.  There were eight reptile-men on the bridge on the opposite side of the gap and four clambering along the debris of the fallen section of bridge near the water.

Their leader was a large red-skinned specimen. At the leader's side was Bodak Danger. The Welshman was bound with vines. The chieftain brandished Bodak's pump-action shotgun like a club.

Jack Flash immediately drew his pistol but held his fire at Hiroshima's request. Hiroshima lit the fuse on a stick of dynamite and handed it to Jack. Jack hurled the stick across the gap and into the midst of the reptile-men on the bridge.

The reptile men responded with a barrage of javelins. Two hit Utuk and one hit Hiroshima so badly that he fell off the bridge into the water!

The dynamite exploded sending reptile men into the lake and causing another section of bridge to collapse!

Bodak Danger immediately fell to the ground and wriggled his way out of his bonds. The chieftain clubbed Danger with the butt of the shotgun. Danger, his hands now free, grabbed the butt, pulled it to pump a round into the chamber, and pulled the trigger! The blast caught part of the reptile-chieftain's neck and the red monster screamed in pain.

Jack Flash drew the blade of his sword-cane and leaped off the side of the bridge. He aimed for a reptile-man on the rubble. He hit the reptile-man blade first and used its body to cushion his fall. Jack then dove into the water to assist his Japanese associate.

Edith Odinsdottir put her fingers to her temple to aid in focusing her telepathic ability. She concentrated on one of the nearby reptile-men, listening to its thoughts and fears. She learned that the reptile-men had worshiped the  plesiosaur of the lake, the very plesiosaur she and her associates had killed as it attacked their raft. The reptile-men were seeking vengeance for the desecration of their tribal god at the hands of the white-skinned strangers!

The red-skinned chieftain took another swing at Bodak with the shotgun. The swing missed and the chieftain smashed the shotgun against the stone surface of the bridge. The shotgun shattered into pieces. Bodak stood up and began to fight the chieftain hand-to-hand.

The reptile-men on the rubble began to climb onto the top of the bridge. Utuk and Panda stepped forward to defend Edith and Cedric. Utuk fell before the reptile-man's attack. Edith, for her part, fired her pistol at the remaining reptile-men hurling javelins from the rocks below.

Hiroshima Overdrive swam over to Jack Flash and grabbed the Englishman in an embrace.

"Now see here!"

Hiroshima replied, "Hold tight." and activated his rocket harness. The two rocketed out of the water and towards Bodak and the chieftain. There they tumbled onto the surface of the bridge and slid to a stop.

The chieftain grabbed Bodak's head and bit down with his small piercing reptilian teeth. Bodak continued to punch at the chieftain. Jack Flash rushed up and stabbed the reptile-man with his sword-cane. The chieftain fell.

Suddenly, the two were beset by three more reptile-men who ran forward to assist their chieftain. Bodak set into them with mighty fists.

Hiroshima used his rocket harness to fly back to the other side of the gap to assist Edith, Cedric, and his other associates. Utuk had fallen to a reptile-man's attack but Panda was ably dispatching the others, even as more climbed the bridge to replace their fallen allies.

Edith tried to use her mental powers to command the actions of one of the reptile-men but served only to confuse the primitive creature. It was quickly kicked off the bridge by Panda. Overdrive knelt and gave medical attention to the fallen Utuk.

Flash and Danger finished off the last three on their side when they saw another dozen reptile-men running towards them on the bridge from the direction of the temple island. Bodak cracked his knuckles as Flash said, "Excellent. Bring them forth!"

They saw movement in the sky over the lake. It was a shiny metallic discus about ten feet thick and fifty feet in diameter. The disk hurtled through the sky over the lake and came to hover over the approaching reptile-men.

An aperture appeared in the bottom of the discus and beams of light shone down upon the reptile-men. The reptile-men fell the moment they were struck by the beams. A few fled in terror by diving into the lake.

The members of the Hyperion Society expedition and their associates defiantly stood their ground and faced the saucer head on. The saucer hovered over them. Beams of light were shone upon them and they fell to the ground.

ACT TWO - CAPTURED!
Hiroshima Overdrive slowly gained consciousness and groggily took in his surroundings.



The interior of the strange flying disk was circular with rounded edges. A pilot sat upon a pedestal with two hands manipulating strange futuristic controls. The panel in front of him consisted of a large round glass port through which one could view of the sky ahead of the craft. Several smaller circular displays pulsed with light and color, the meanings of which were apparent only to the pilot.

The pilot was pale-skinned with straight dark black hair. He wore a metal helmet with a tall metal crest or fin. His clothing consisted of dark curiass over which was draped a toga. He wore Roman-style sandals tied up his calf. He was flanked by two similarly dressed pale-skinned men. Each carried a spear tipped not with a blade but instead with a strange conical emitter. A curious bulbous pistol was holstered on each of their hips.

The concave walls of the craft's interior was lined with smooth round metal disks. Alternating between then in a random interval were identically shapped glass portholes. Overdrive watched as some of the portholes faded and became opaque metal disks while some of disks became clear portholes. He remembered that the exterior of the craft was smooth unmarred metal with no such portholes. He was amazed at the technology that could produce such an effect.

The other members of the Hyperion Society expedition and their associates were unconscious, tied, gagged, and otherwise bound. They were stacked like cargo in a hold in the rear of the craft along with twelve of the reptile-men. All captives of a strange new foe.

Through the portholes he could see ocean passing beneath. Evetnually, the ocean became land and he could make out the shore of an island that he estimated to be sixty miles wide and ninety miles long. He could see a large sophisticated city on the far end of the island at the base of a low rocky mountain range.

One of the guards noticed that Overdrive was awake. The guard levelled his spear at Hiroshima shined its light upon him. Hiroshima Overdrive was once more compelled into slumber.

ACT THREE - THE ARENA OF DEATH
The sound of a roaring crowd could be heard far away.

Bodak danger stirred and looked around. He and his companions were in a round stone room. The floor was covered in loose sand and pebbles. The only illumination came from a trio of dimly glowing crystals embedded in the walls near the ceiling. The ceiling was adorned with a pinwheel pattern that spiraled in towards its center. Cedric Justice and his manservant Panda were missing.

Bodak woke the others. They heard the sound of cheering throngs far overhead. They took stock. They were stripped of their leather coats, all weapons, and all their equipment.

Suddenly, the ceiling opened like an iris and the floor began to rise. The constant noonday sun of this unnatural world illuminated their ascent.

They were in the center of a wide dusty arena resembling the coliseum of ancient Rome. Thousands of spectators filled the seats. The spectators had pale skin and either white or black hair. They wore tunics and togas but were adorned with elaborate feathered headdresses and shining jewelry. A prominent box was occupied by a tall white-skinned woman with the most elaborate headdress of all. Cedric sat to her left and behind him Panda. On her right was the evil Nazi Doctor Vortex! The entire box was flanked by a dozen armed guards with finned helmets and futuristic lances.


The dusty arena floor was littered with piles of rubble filled with bones and primitive weapons.

The woman in the box seats with the elaborate headdress stood and raised her hand. The crowd fell silent and paid her attention.

She began to speak in a strange language that resembled both ancient Greek, Babylonian, and Mayan. Utuk, who understood some of the language, translated as best he could to his own pidgin which Hiroshima Overdrive then retranslated into English.

"This is a grand occasion! My fellow Atlanteans, we will soon open the Great Gate and follow our ancestors to the celestial land of Paradise! In celebration, I give to you the warriors you see below. Let them now fight for your entertainment!"


The crowd roared with anticipation as three holes appeared in the arena floor. From the holes rose three massive bipedal dinosaurs. Although they resembled the fearsome tyrannosaur, Hiroshima Overdrive correctly identified them as allosaurs. The chains holding the allosaurs were remotely disconnected and fell limply to the arena floor. The allosaurs roared, both at the members of the expedition and at each other.


Each member of the expedition scrambled to find weapons among the rubble. Bodak Danger found a knife. Jack Flash found an obsidian sword. Edith Odinsdottir and Utuk both located spears. Hiroshima Overdrive picked up a weapon resembling a Japanese naginata.

GM Note - Finding Weapons
I had each player make a Perception check. The number of successes determined the maximum damage done by any weapon they found. 

Two of the allosaurs converged on the heroes. One bit down on Bodak Danger and violently shook him before dropping him unconscious to the ground. The third allosaur attacked one of the other two. Under the coordination of Jack Flash, the other members of the expedition focused their attacks on the second allosaur. Utuk ran forward and drove his spear into the predator's breast, killing it.

Edith, meanwhile, stared intently at Cedric, listening for his thoughts. Although she could not read his exact thoughts, she was able to determine that he was made uncomfortable by the actions below and that he was being held against his will.

The team turned their attention to the first allosaur as it fought off its rival. It was quickly dispatched.

The heroes then attacked the remaining allosaur. The monster fought back with desperate ferocity, injuring several of its assailants. Though Utuk was gravely wounded by the allosaur's bite, it too was eventually defeated.

The crowd erupted into wild exultation as the dust of battle had settled.

Hiroshima ran to provide what first aid he could to Bodak and Utuk while the crowd cheered.

The important looking woman once more stood and raised her hand, bringing the throng to silence. Utuk's, injured and exhausted, once more provided a translation for Hiroshima to interpret.

"These combatants have shown commendable courage and strength, and have brought pleasure to the people! Shall they all go free - or shall they fight to the death for their reward?"

The crowd began to chant, "Death! Death! Death!"

"The people of Atlantis have spoken! Fight on, and I shall award gold, jewels, and freedom to the one remaining victor!"

Hiroshima stood and threw down his weapon. He was soon followed by Edith, Bodak, and Utuk. Jack Flash rushed one of the fallen allosaurs, leaping atop it and hurling himself over the wall and into the crowd. He was suddenly repulsed by some kind of invisible field of force which knocked him back. Jack somersaulted and landed on all fours. He then stood up straight along with his companions in solidarity with their resistance. Hiroshima's eyes widened at the sight of the force field and he muttered, "Sughoi!" before turning to Edith, "I must build one of those!"

The important woman was furious. Her orders to her guards were interrupted by someone in the crowd screaming, "VRIL-YA!"

She paused and scanned the coliseum.

Another voice answered, "VRIL-YA!" followed by another and another.

Suddenly the entire coliseum was rocked by nearly simultaneous explosions!

The explosions showered the arena floor with debris and concealed all visibility with smoke and dust. A pale-skinned man with white hair opened a nearby trap door in the floor of the arena. He called out in the pidgin Atlantean of Utuk's tribe, "Come with me if you value your lives!"

ACT FOUR - MARDUK OF THE VRIL-YA
The young man with the white hair led them down a ladder and into the slave pens beneath the arena. Hundreds of gladiators from dozens of species - gill-men, ape-men, reptile-men, neanderthals, humans, and more - yearned to be set free. The young man advised the escapees, "There is no time. If you want to escape, you must leave them." Then he added, "For now."


The young man opened up a drain in the floor and led the way. The drain descended into a disgusting sewer knee-deep with filth. He activated a hand-held glowing crystal, "This way."

He led them down a tunnel that was barely three feet wide and four feet tall. After a few twists and turns they emerged into a larger L-shaped chamber, fifteen feet wide and ten feet tall. As they made their way through the chamber, the escapees spotted the ripples of something moving through the water. Someone shouted, "Look out!" as giant carnivorous sewer worms rose up out of the muck and attacked. Each worm was as thick as a man's leg with rows of needle like teeth in its lamprey-like mouth. Jack Flash shouted an order to the company, "Keep going! We'll hold them off!" while he engaged the worms in combat.

Edith was bitten as she ran past. She immediately became light headed as the creatures venom coursed through her veins. Marduk led the escapees to a ladder in the ceiling and climbed. Jack was the last to climb. He barely escaped being bitten as a worm leaped out of the mire and into the air, missing Jack by inches as he ascended the metal ladder.


They found themselves emerging from the floor in a large round room with four exits. Between each exit were several prison cells. The room and the cells were comfortably appointed with cushions, chairs, basins, and other amenities. The central room contained a table and a dozen chairs. Three men wearing black robes stood from their seated position at the table. Atop the table was a large black book bound in orichalcum.

The stranger reverently bowed with his hands together at the robed men before turning to address the escapees.

"My name is Marduk and we need your help."

ACT FIVE - THE PROPOSITION

Bodak Danger replied, "We assumed."

Marduk invited everyone to sit and rest. They were safe. He explained that this place was once a slave dungeon but was sealed off and long ago forgotten. No one but the heretics of the Vril-Ya know of its existence. They could rest and recuperate. He offered them food and water and medical attention.

He produced a glowing green crystal, "This is an Atlantean Healing Crystal. It will accelerate the healing of your wounds, though I am not very proficient with its use."

Edith asked if she could examine it.

"Are you trained in the use of Healing Crystals?" gasped Marduk in awe.

"Yes, under the tutelage of a crystal skull."

Marduk's jaw dropped in reverence, "Ah, I.. I see! By all means!" He handed her the crystal. She set about healing the wounds caused by the allosaurs int he arena and the sewer worms during their escape. Most importantly, using the healing crystal upon herself rendered the sewer worm toxin inert.

While they ate and rested, Marduk explained the situation.

"The people you saw in the stands of the coliseum think themselves Atlantean, proud descendants of an ancient and powerful race. The truth of the matter is that they are not Atlanteans. At least not true Atlanteans.  The true Atlanteans are long gone.

"Those people up there may live in an Atlantean city, use Atlantean technology, and speak what they think is Atlantean, but they are in fact the descendants of the Vril-Ya, mere mortals that lived in the shadow cast by the godlike Atlanteans.

"This is a fact that Hierophant Tiamat and the High Council wishes to keep secret. Those who claim and accept their true ancestry as Vril-ya are proclaimed to be heretics and sentenced to death. Hierophant Tiamat, the leader of the Priestly caste, knows the truth of who they are, but she and the High Council use the lie to protect their own power.

"I and the others here are proud to be Vril-ya. The "Black Book" has shown us the truth. I was once an overseer of the arena. One day, a member of the builder caste showed me the Black Book and allowed me to read the truth within. Once I opened my eyes I became a true believer and dedicated myself to helping the heretics.

"It is our goal to overthrow the High Council, abolish slavery, and establish a new egalitarian society. That I why I need your help.

"Before I make my offer, know that you are not prisoners here. You are free to leave at any time, or stay as our guests as long as you need to rest and recuperate."

Everyone nodded their assent to stay.

"Good."

Marduk paused before continuing his story.

"At one time, the True Atlanteans ruled the Inner World as gods. We, the Vril-ya, lived in their shadow. We were not slaves and they were not our masters. It would be more accurate to describe them as caring parents and protectors and us naive children. They were gods and they protected us.

"A thousand generations ago, the Atlanteans left the Inner World. Some say they abandoned us. We believe they were banished! The Black Book tells us that they were betrayed by their Vril-ya children and banished to the space-between-spaces! They are locked away beyond the Great Gate, trapped in limbo immune to the passage of time.

"The Black Book speaks of a prophecy. It says that after a thousand generations outsiders will come, and that these outsiders will open the Great Gate! When that happens, the Black Book speaks of two possible outcomes: either the True Atlanteans will be returned to us, ushering in a new golden age, or a portal will be opened allowing the ingress of unimaginable horror!

"A short time ago, other outsiders appeared. They wore grey uniforms and black coats and carried weapons of thunder. They quickly formed an alliance with Tiamat. For what purpose I do not know. We were worried that they were ones spoken of in the prophecy.

"However, when you appeared, we knew you were the outsiders spoken of by the prophecy, and that you were sent to release the Atlanteans from their exile!

"Tiamat has in her possession the gate key once used to operate the Great Gate. It is a glowing purple crystal about as long as a man's leg. She keeps it with all her greatest treasures in her palace. We would like you to infiltrate her palace and steal the key. With the key we could open the Great Gate and free the Ancient Ones! Will you help us?"

Hiroshima looked at the rest of his party. They exchanged nods. "Yes, we will help. But it would be easier with our possessions. Where have they taken our possessions?"

Marduk replied, "They are stored along with the gate key in the Holy Palace. We have no way of obtaining them. However, we will be happy to outfit you with whatever weapons, armor, and equipment you require."

Jack Flash leaned in, "So, what's the plan?"

Marduk answered, "Atlantean slaves must wear slaves robes and cover their heads and faces. In this way they are always identifiable as slaves. This tradition works to our advantage. Thus disguised, you may utilize the slaves' entrance to the palace. Once within the palace gates, you must make your way past the Pleasure Gardens, into the palace, and to the top of the Tower of the Sun. There you will find the Heirophant's personal treasure vault.

ACT SIX - THE TOWER OF THE HEIROPHANT
The associates of the Hyperion Society moved through the streets of Atlantis disguised as Atlantean slaves. They wore body coverings and head scarves that hid their faces. They pushed a cart containing amphorae filled with exotic aquatic life forms gathered from the far reaches of the Inner World. Their plan was simple: they would gain entrance into the palace compound disguised as slaves delivering fish for the ponds. Once inside the gate, they would follow Marduk's directions to the tower of the heirophant and the treasure vault.

The heroes marvelled at the many exotic sights as they made their way down the long straight boulevards of Atlantis. Strange humanoid species of every description - reptile-men, ape-men, mantis-men, gill-men, hawk-men. They mingled and haggled and conversed with multitudes of human types: Greeks, Egyptians, Vikings, Romans, Chinese, Mayan, Carribean pirates, and more! Giant saurians used as beasts of burden. Small feathered creatures sold as pets. Giant fruits and strange vegetables sold at stalls alongside textiles and spices.

They noticed also that while many people carried or utilized items of seemingly advanced technology - many involving crystal shards or glowing spheres - much of the technology seemed old with signs of multiple repairs and modification.

They finally approached the servants' entrance to the palace compound. Two guards watched the entrance. They each held a stun lance and carried a death-ray pistol in a holster at their side. They were stopped and interrogated. Not fully understanding the language, they shrugged and responded in pidgin Atlantean. The guard sighed and asked again in pidgin. They told the guard that they were there to maintain the ponds and add more decorative fish.

 "We are not expecting such a delivery today."

"The fish arrived early. We must deliver them today or they will die."

The guard sniffed and sent his companion away to fetch some wine. Once alone, he leaned close to the disguised heroes. "Perhaps we can make a special arrangement for an early delivery?" He paused and cleared his throat.

Edith sent a silent telepathic message to her comrades, "He is expecting a bribe."

Not having any money, Hiroshima instead offered one of the fish, opening one of the amphora.

The guard leaned in and inspected but immediately showed his displeasure, "I'll not eat the likes of that THAT! Go away!"

Bodak Danger looked around to make sure the coast was clear before punching the guard out cold.

The guard was caught as he fell. They were dragging the guard to throw onto the cart when the other card arrived with a jug of wine.  The guard saw what was happening and dropped the jug in surprise!

TO BE CONTINUED...