This adventure was obtained from the author’s blog, with permission, and reprinted in the March/April 2017 issue.
Gaea is an archaeologists paradise. In the Gaean jungles there are one hundred and fifty catalogued temples built by unknown architects for the Jala’lak. An estimated three hundred are yet to be found, the ferocity of the jungles defying all but the most dedicated explorer.
The temples are unusual in that they are all built to exactly the same specification—no two are different. All are constructed from stone which had to be transported from quarries which are well away from the jungles and the size of the blocks alone indicate that the Jala’lak could never have performed this feat. Then who did it?
Whoever it was, they were almost certainly responsible for the transportation of thousands of Jala’lak from Midway to Gaea. While the temples are of a similar design the Jala’lak are different. Physically similar, mentally they are far apart, with the gentility of Midway matched against a frightening savagery on Gaea. The Jala’lak are especially dangerous when a tribe has moved to occupy one of the temples.
This has been baffling archaeologists for as long as the jungles have been explored, and they are not much closer to solving it. One riddle that may point in the right direction is the legend of the God-Monster. In the few years since discovery, the God-Monster has caused more argument than anything else on Gaea. The reason is simple, it is the only markings found on the temples which can be attributed directly to the Jala’lak—all the others were carved during the process of construction.
The players can read this in the local guide books, but they probably become more interested the moment that they are contacted by Sabitha Tomksh. She contacts one of the adventurers in particular—her nephew. Sabitha offers a job, the players are offered a place on a expedition to find her son, and the adventurer’s cousin.
Sabitha is rich, powerful, and dying. Nothing in modern medicine can stop the crippling disease which wracks her frail body. She does not have long left. She is also the leading authority on the Jala’lak temples, and has a burning ambition to solve the mystery for once and all. She refuses to die until she finds the God-Monster.
Through her extensive information network she discovers that her nephew (one of the players) is on the planet. As she is forming an expedition to rescue her son, perhaps the players would like to help?
The expedition is due to set out soon, waiting only for a few supplies and a full crew. A convoy of tracked ATVs will head out to the last known location of Joseph Tomksh. His ATV stopped broadcasting some time ago, not an unknown phenomena considering the battering it gets in the jungles. It is unfeasible to airdrop a team in because of the tree cover—the trees reach three or four hundred metres in height and are exceptionally strong. Tracked ATVs are the only vehicles which have proved hardy enough to take the terrain.
The trek through the jungle is beset by all manner of problems—Jala’lak, territorial animals, impassible cliffs, torrential rain, quicksand, rival archaeologists, undiscovered temples…
Eventually the expedition reaches the last known location of Tomksh’s ATV. As they approach the general area the Jala’lak encounters grow more and more frequent. Eventually they reach the site of the temple, an ancient building reaching up to the trees like all the others. The ATV sits before it, rusting merrily.
Examining the ATV reveals that it has been rammed several times, possibly by a large territorial herbivore. The insides have been ransacked and destroyed. There is evidence that a Jala’lak tribe was here recently, they are known to be able to encourage jungle animals to help them. There is also an arrow, and the words READ THE INSCRIPTIONS scrawled on the side.
The memorials in question are the ones painted over the carvings provided by the unknown builder. The scrawlings indicate, after some thought and consideration by more experienced archaeologists, that they should proceed onwards. There the expedition would find three temples sitting close together, and between them, the God-Monster.
Also inside the temples are the gnawed remains of some of the archaeologists that accompanied Joseph Tomksh. There is no sign of Joseph, but the players do not have to be geniuses to figure out where he went. His expedition was ruined by Jala’lak—there are many tribes here and this is a sacred place to them. They attack frequently, hurling spears and arrows at the convoy as it passes beneath the tree in which they perch. It is only when they coax one of the larger life-forms that the attacks become dangerous.
Following the directions in the temple, the expedition does indeed come across three temples in a clearing, and between them, a pit. Approaching the pit will be difficult should there be any Jala’lak present, otherwise this will be easy. Before the pit is reached, the arrow studded corpse of Joseph Tomksh is found. He never made it.
The God-Monster is at the bottom of the pit, or at least, the remains of it. Now that its location is known, Sabitha will clear away the jungle to keep away the Jala’lak, and examine it in detail.
Eventually the remains reveal that at the bottom of the pit there once sat some sort of construction machine. Who built it, and why, is still as bigger mystery. At least the question of how the temples were built is answered.
However, all is not lost, for the God-Monster has one vital clue. Etched onto a diamond which was found deep in the wreckage, obviously intended to be preserved over a period of time, are maps. They lead to a place on a planet far away, and it is not long before Sabitha call upon the players again.
- Gaea/Albadawi 0702 A986986-E. (Link to Traveller Map) This is the subsector capital and is a thriving, prosperous planet. In its jungles is one of the more unusual archaeological riddles—the Jala’lak and their temples. As such then, Gaea has become a mecca for archaeologists across the Solomani Rim.