We left the Hollow Earth Expedition game last week with the characters in a cliffhanger showdown with pirates in the muddy streets of San Antonio — a trading outpost in “the World” that was a melting pot of different races on the coast, a few days downriver from Argatha, the City of the Devi, where the Eye of Shambala deposited them.

The fight was on, with Lady Zara taking a pop at the pirate captain, only to come zero on the successes. He drops her with a smack of his pistol. Hunter, a former Marine during the Great War, proves supremely effective with his spear and take two of the pirates.  Gustav, furious at nearly getting his head blown off, pummels the captain insensate. Zara’s monkey, Rigoletto had distracted one of the men by jumping in his face and scratching him, allowing Gould, with some judicious use of style points, to takes out another, and injure a second. Finally, Zara drops one of the baddies with her bow.

While they are taking stock and grabbing guns and other things from the pirates, they are surrounded by more — Asians, this time, and led by a 7’2″ African named Tongo. Tongo and his crew are “black flags”, pirates under the chua te or “lord” Van Trihn, the pirate king of San Antonio. They were called by Phan Li, the brother owner who watched them take out Captain Santiago –a troublemaker at the best of times. Trihn himself arrives to thank them and drag Santiago and his remaining thugs off to a certain ill fate. After Zara charms them, and vice-versa, they are invited to dinner at the Citadel.

There they meet other captains — Papa Tome, the French Creole from Louisiana who sailed into a fog bank off of Bermuda in 1889, and emerged here; Tomas Franco, an acquaintance of Zara’s uncle Trevor, who was lost through a “vortex” in an Olmec temple he’d discovered in the Yucatan in 1924; Trihn arrived after his ship came through a storm in the South China Sea when he was a young man. None of them look as aged as they should be. Franco speculates, having traveled all over the “Inner World” as he calls it, that people with a particular psychic resonance or character are drawn into this place, that it seeks them out.

Through the party, the characters get roaring drunk and gorged on food. Zara lets slip that they are looking to return to the Surface World, and that they hope to return. Gould drunkenly hints at Atlanteans and Atlantis to Franco. Eventually, Trihn figures out one of them has “the blood”… He tells his story, of how he has secured the prosperity of San Antonio by protecting the crews of the town from the monsters and creatures that roam the waters of the Straits of Varuna. He shows them this insurance policy — a mermaid named Osha that is either the daughter or an important personage in their pod or school or whatever they call it. None dare attack their ships, now.

After dropping off, the characters (save Zara, whose “deep sleeper” flaw came into play) find themselves captured by Trihn’s people. They want to trade Gould to the Vril-ya, who will pay well for those with the blood. gould tries to negotiate his way out, offering to broker modern gun deals to the pirates from the surface world in exchange for their freedom. It looks like the pirate might go for it, but his mistress Phan Li is more savvy, and we broke on the characters in cells under the palace.

The guards had missed Hunter’s stiletto, and he is just waiting for the chance to pick the lock of the door. Zara has been hurling invective at the guard and anyone else who will listen (or not), and Gus is recovering from the savage beat-down he took fighting the mighty Tongo.

They players were formulating escape plans from picking the lock and scooting for Argatha, to dealing straight with the pirates (who would most likely want to keep the women hostage to insure their return), to escaping and going the way they wouldn’t expect — to sea, possibly with the aid of their fellow prisoner, Captain Santiago.

These are all good setups for continued adventures, and showed the players were really getting into the world and situations. Also, we’ve been falling into a nice pattern of cliffhangers for the end of the evenings, something I hope to maintain.