Marco Colombo is best known as the explorer who "discovered" Lustria, although it was really discovered years before by the Norse. Marco was, however, the first Old Worlder to establish friendly relations with the Lizardmen – not an easy thing to do! Before Marco's epic voyage to Lustria, he had visited Araby as a merchant taken part in various sea fights along the coast of Araby and around the pirate stronghold of Sartosa. Marco was therefore already a seasoned campaigner known as a mercenary captain before making his name as an explorer.[1a]
On his return home from Lustria with a great fortune in gold and gems, he took over the army of his patron as a mercenary general and made himself Prince of Trantio. After that he led the army of Trantio against rival cities on several occasions, as well as occasional expeditions beyond the Apuccini Mountains. He also sent further expeditions to Lustria, in order to seek the fabled Norse colony of Skeggi, which they eventually discovered after several years of searching. Marco is one of several famous Tilean mercenary generals who not only led armies in the wars of Tilea, but also in distant tropical regions against strange and unknown opponents.[1a]
Marco is an expert huntsman with the crossbow, who enjoys chasing big game and gigantic monsters on his tropical expeditions. Marco is armed with a crossbow which he can use while mounted and may move and shoot from the saddle. Marco has a special high-power telescope which he uses at sea. It is so powerful that he can use it to spy out hidden enemy troops lurking in cover or in the midst of a regiment.[1a]
Marco Colombo was a Tilean merchant who 'acquired' a map from a drunken Norse adventurer in a tavern. Inspired by the map, he set about planning an expedition to Lustria. After trying for several years to raise funds from the Tilean cities, who were often too preoccupied with civil wars to be bothered, he obtained finance from one of the Condotteri mercenary lords and fitted out three ships. Unfortunately he had to hire some rather dubious crew who caused him a lot of trouble. Marco reached Lustria and after many adventures, returned to Tilea with enough treasure to fit out an army of his own and make himself lord of a minor city state. He then found the leisure to recount his exploits. Marco was extremely clever in his dealings with the Lizardmen and attempted to establish friendly relations based on trade rather than pillage. What follows are some of the highlights of his tale of adventure in the land of the Lizardmen.
Amazingly, the Lizardman account of Marco's expedition also exists. Skink scribes wrote down an account of the events on clay tablets and Marco managed to acquire several of these which he brought back with him to Tilea. He went to great effort to translate the glyphs as best he could. When compiling the tale of his adventures he included extracts from the Lizardman version of events to show both sides of the story.
The Tale of Marco Columbo
- On the eve of the feast of sacred Myrmidia, our lookout in the crow's nest sighted land. I was sure it was Lustria at last. We had been at sea for one hundred and forty-four days and the men were getting restless. For the last few days I had seen mutiny in their eyes. Now everybody cheered and the prospect of fresh water, food and perhaps riches banished all thoughts of mischief from their minds. We anchored offshore and prepared to land the next day.
- The next day I ordered the Skaven captives. that I had purchased at great expense from Giacomo of Marigliano, to be brought out of the hold. They stank and squealed their foul curses at us. All the crew were glad to be rid of them at last. Their presence aboard ship was one of the major grouses which the men held against me. However, I knew what I was doing. and the inconvenience would soon bring forth the rewards for which I had hoped. The captives were rowed ashore and staked out on the beach. together with a heap of treasures I had collected from all over the Old World. These treasures had been looted from Lustria over the centuries and again at great expense I had sought them out and bought them for this expedition.
- Then I ordered the men to row back to the ships. When all were safely on board again, I ordered that the great guns be fired to attract the attention of the inhabitants. I repeated this order every hour even though the men thought I was mad to waste so much gunpowder. Sunset was appfoaching and I myself was wondering whether all this effort was in vain. when they appeared. We were anchored close enough inshore to see them clearly without a spy glass. There were about fifty at least of the smaller kind which are called Skinks. Their leader was a magnificent fellow, decorated with great plumes and accompanied by a drummer and one carrying a standard in the form of a coiled serpent. We watched them inspecting the heap of treasure.
- They became very excited. Then their leader ordered them to take up the Skaven captives, which they did with great enthusiasm, binding them to carrying poles and disappearing back into the jungle. The treasure was likewise bundled up and taken away. Next day, at sunrise, we observed a huge pile of fruit and gourds on the beach where our gifts had been. I sent several rowing boats out to fetch it. Our breakfast turned out to be quite a feast. The fruit was most welcome and necessary. since many of the crew had scurvy. The alcoholic beverages in the gourds were very potent —excellent stuff indeed! The dried insects were also most agreeable.
- Extract from "The Tale of Marco Colombo", circa. 1492 IC [2a]
Marco is Admitted to Tlaxtlan
- Our presents had been well received by the Lizardmen, so I decided to risk going ashore with a small party of men. We took only our daggers and swords in case we had to defend ourselves, yet not wanting to appear ready to make war. We made a small camp on the beach, then, leaving a few men to guard the boats. I led the rest of the party inland. We came upon a small, ruinous platform. On top of this were arrayed a group of Skinks and the larger and more ferocious warriors called Saurus. Sat in front of them on a golden carrying throne was a creature like a great. bloated toad. This I had not expected. though some Norsemen I had questioned back in the Old World had told me that such creatures existed and were indeed the priests and rulers of the Lizardmen. They were called Slann. I did not know whether this personage was the king of this region, or perhaps just a high official. The Skink nearest to the carrying throne spoke. At first I took his rasping words for their own language. then I realised that I was being welcomed in — of all things — Bretonnian!
- Fortunately I knew Bretonnian quite well. although it was very difficult to understand the Skink interpreter who could not get his reptile tongue around the words easily! First of all he informed me that the offerings had been most acceptable to their god. Sotek. I replied that I was Marco Colombo of Remas. a Tilean and that I came in peace and friendship to trade. The Skink spoke in his own tongue to his master. The inscrutable expression of the face of this dignitary remained unchanged. Indeed he seemed far more interested in the mosquitoes buzzing around in front of him, than in us! Upon asking who this great dignitary was the Skink replied that I was in the august presence of Mage Sleetoch of Tlash. Then Sleetoch uttered a single word. The Skink nodded and asked me why I had come to their land. To this I replied that I wished to discuss trade. Sleetoch croaked once more and the Skink translated "We do not need to trade!"
- This was something I had not bargained for. I had to think on my feet. So I said "Hey! I can make you an offer you can't refuse." The Skink looked interested. in so far as I could tell. "You have many enemies: the Ratmen, the Norse, the Naggarothi, the Arabi corsairs and the rest". The Skink nodded in agreement spitting vehemently at the mention of the names of his people's enemies. I have three ships. with many mighty cannons. You have heard them firing. With these I can sink the ships of your enemies before they reach the shore. If we catch any that are returning from your land. we will recover the treasures which they have taken and return them to you". The Skink explained all this to his master who was observing a large fly hovering in front of his face. Then he quickly gobbled it up and assuming a satisfied countenance. croaked once. The interpreter then asked me why we should bother to fight their enemies for them. I replied, "We will do this for two reasons: they are also our enemies and... in return for gold or gems." At this point the Lizardmen stopped the negotiations and carried their leader back into the jungle. A strong contingent of Saurus guards remained behind to bar us from going any further inland. We therefore returned to our camp.
- Extract from "The Tale of Marco Colombo", circa. 1492 IC [2a]
Marco is Questioned by the Mage Priests
Some days later, a contingent of Skinks, together with the interpreter I had spoken with before. approached our camp. I was summoned to follow them to their city. Apparently I was to be honoured with an audience with their ruler. Sleetoch. it appeared, was merely a lesser ranking priest in their hierarchy. I was to go alone, but several of the Skink officers were to remain behind to demonstrate that they intended me no harm, and to reassure my men that I would be allowed to return. I left Giovanni in charge of the men with instructions to flog anyone who broke discipline. I knew he would be only too vigilant for an opportunity to use the lash!
- They took me to their city called Tlash (sic: Tlax), upon a carrying chair, which I took to be a great honour. The route followed winding jungle tracks and causeways across wide expanses of swamp. Then we proceeded along a straight, wonderfully paved road. flanked at intervals with ancient mould encrusted statues carved in the form of grimacing lizards and toads. After a long time we entered into a wide plaza, teeming with Skinks engaged in all manner of activities. As a stranger in their midst I aroused a great deal of interest. I was conveyed across the broad paved area towards one of the enormous pyramids which it flanked on three sides. The bearers carried me up countless steps towards the highest platform of the pyramid.
- Looking around I could see the entire plan of the city from above. There were many small pyramids clustered around the larger pyramids. and as well as these there were terraces. numerous rectangular pools glinting in the sunlight, tall obelisks and other structures. All of these were intricately carved and painted. One building was still under construction. I could see huge beasts which looked like a cross between a dragon and an elephant, dragging massive blocks of stone up large ramps. The din of thousands of Skinks chipping away at the stones with chisels reached my ears. as well as the rasping orders of the foremen directing the work. The smell of incense wafting in the breeze, drew my attention to the great doorway which we were about to enter.
- It was flanked by several of the Saurus warriors, clad in bronze and copper breastplates and greaves, embossed with snarling lizard faces. The room was lit by means of shafts, and all around I could see wall paintings depicting glyphs, lizard-creatures and what appeared to be maps of the heavens and the earth. At the end of the long chamber I dimly perceived an impressive creature enthroned upon a golden palanquin. It was set on a carved plinth which formed an island in the middle of a small rectangular pond. There were several guards and Skinks in attendance around him, and numerous fan-bearers in ranks behind. As I was taken closer. I could see that it was another of the Mage-Priests, except that he was even bigger and more bloated than the one I had met before.
- It was obvious that these gigantic toads acted as high priests and rulers over the Lizardmen, and I assumed this one to be the big chief of the city himself. My palanquin was set down before the potentate and he began to regard me with intense concentration, blinking first one eye and then the other. Huinipachutli. the interpreter, began to speak to his master in his outlandish tongue. Occasionally, the Great One responded with a rather cursory and dismissive croak and a blink, or simply wafted his elaborate fly whisk. Then Huinipachutli introduced us; "Lord Xtli welcomes you". I replied that I was greatly honoured to be received by such a majestic and mighty prince and ruler of this strong and prosperous city". This went down very well, thank goodness!
- This ritual of exchanging diplomatic pleasantries continued for some time, until I became impatient to proceed with some proper negotiations and to strike a deal. "Lord Zee-tlee. I want to make you an offer you can't refuse!" The interpreter paused for a moment, then spoke a few words to the big toad. He seemed pleased. I continued with the details of my offer and what a bargain it would be for a nation who had no ships to guard their shores. but a lot of treasure attracting thieves like flies to a carcass. Huinipachutli continued translating, and all the time the great toad just blinked and looked pleased with himself. I was becoming frustrated. Did he like the deal or not? Then I realised what the Skink was doing "You're not telling him what I'm saying are you? What did you say to him?".
- It was true for Huinipachutli replied: "I told him you said "Isn't that a nice amulet you are wearing" and "May the lord's pond always be deep". This angered me. "Why don't you tell him exactly what I say, I thought I was brought here to make a deal!". Huinipachutli winced and became agitated. "You are a very rude barbarian. Very ignorant! It is not polite to ask Lord Xtli a direct question, especially concerning such mundane matters!" I resigned myself to allowing the Skink to take charge of the negotiations. before I ended up offending the big chief, and then who knows what might happen? Huinipachutli then said "Lord Xtli wishes to ask you some questions".
- Extract from "The Tale of Marco Colombo", circa. 1492 IC [2a]
Marco is granted an Island Stronghold
- As it happened, I did not need a further audience with Lord Zlee-Tlee to clinch the deal. Instead in the days that followed I met with the High Skinks. who took care of everything so that the Mage-Priests were not troubled by such trivial matters. Huinipachutli translated everything, rather more accurately this time. The High Skinks. Ylopulqua. Manquoxutni, Anquipanqui. Dotpechuini, and Mancixapati, debated my offer for a long time. Then they said that they had consulted their oracles and were expecting further visits from barbarians, and that these would not be reasonable people like me. This being so, they would hire my services, but not for gold. which was reserved for sacred artifacts. I asked what they were prepared to offer.
- They showed me many products of their land including spice. grubs, various potions and tusks from the great reptiles that they used as beasts of burden. Some of these looked like they might fetch a high price in the Old World, but it would be a gamble, and my men were expecting gold. Then I noticed that one of the Skink scribes had an abacus for doing his calculations. I looked closer at it and could not believe my eyes. The beads on it were the most perfect and enormous pearls I had ever seen. Immediately I asked. "Have you got any more of these?" To this they replied that they had countless amounts. They were even in the habit of spitting them out after a good meal of freshwater clams. "They will do very nicely" and to my surprise they offered me as many as I wanted. With my usual quick thinking. I added "Throw in the spices and potions and it's a deal." They seemed amazingly satisfied with this arrangement. As well as this Huinipachutli said that I could occupy a small offshore island as a base for my ships. and that all provisions would be provided. Furthermore. payment would be delivered for every enemy captured and rendered up to Sotek and a hefty reward for every sacred artefact returned to its rightful owners.
- Extract from "The Tale of Marco Colombo", circa. 1492 IC [2a]
Marco observes a Battle between the Dark Elves
- I remained in Tlax for two more days after clinching the deal, and was about to set off on the third with many Skink bearers carrying a down payment of pearls. spice and potions with which I hoped to impress my comrades and damp down their mutinous hearts! Unfortunately this was the day that the Dark Elves, the same evil brood • that had sacked Remas in my own country. fell upon the city of Tlax. The city was taken by surprise. The raiders, a strong force. had penetrated up river to the north and approached the city from the west. At least that meant that my men were probably safe. Indeed they would not know my predicament and could not intervene to rescue me. It was Huinipachutli who informed me what all the commotion was about. We both took up position on one of the pyramid platforms to observe the battle.
- All the Skinks had hurriedly marched out at daybreak with their standards, to the sound of the drum. It was a fantastic sight to behold. Behind them had gone several cohorts of Saurus in massed ranks, growling menacingly. Last of all came a lumbering monster, with huge horns and a great bony crest. On its back, swaying precariously was a tall structure, overloaded with Skinks armed to the teeth with bdws and javelins. Huinipachutli said that there were other troops going into action as well, but these were far out on the flanks. and would approach stealthily through the swamps. Command of the army had been delegated to Mage Zltoc whom I had first encountered. This was because Lord Xtli was too deep in thought to be disturbed. The left and right wings were to be commanded by the Skink captains: Copacetl and Wochuluquinat.
- The Lizardman army vanished from view into the jungle but we could hear the din of battle in the distance. This went on for some time and gradually seemed to be coming nearer. Suddenly scattered groups of Skinks rushed out of the forest across the plaza, followed by depleted groups of Saurus, retreating rather more reluctantly, turning to face the jungle then falling back and turning to face the jungle again. Agitated Skink officers were rushing to and fro rounding up their men and brandishing standards. Eventually they managed to form some sort of battle line across the plaza facing the jungle. Huinipachutli was very agitated. swaying from side to side and gnashing his teeth. "Not good!" he kept saying to me. Then the enemy surged out of the jungle onto the plaza and hesitated, forming up into a massed wall of warriors clad from head to foot in dark blue robes and black armour. Deep red banners fluttered over their heads and their shields were engraved with hideous skulls. In their midst and easy to pick out were a throng of demented Witch Elves. Oh yes, I had seen them before, and I knew to fear and loathe theni. Here they were prancing and taunting the Lizardmen, already smeared with blood, they urged on the rest. Clustered together among them were a group of sorcerers, both he and she-elves distinguished by the crackling energies emanating from the rods and orbs which they brandished menacingly. One of these was clearly their commander.
- The dark horde ignored the hail of arrows discharged by the Skinks and began to press forward with great discipline. They clashed with the Saurus and swept away the Skinks who once again began scurrying away. This time there was no room to retreat in the confined space of the plaza so the Skinks fled up the steps of the pyramids. The Saurus were now falling back also and I witnessed at least one unit of these brave warriors refusing to give way and disappearing beneath the blades of the Dark Elves. The cries of the Elves and the roaring of the Saurus was a terrible sound. The remnants of one cohort of Saurus retreated up the steps of our pyramid. There would be no escape for me or Huinipachutli. If these Saurus fell, so would we. -Are we doomed'?" He shook his head vigorously and said "Not yet! Not yet!" The enemy had advanced across the plaza and forced the Lizardman line to swing around, pivoting on our pyramid where the Saurus were putting up a spirited fight from the steps. savagely striking down on their assailants pausing only to tug the crossbow bolts from their thick hides. Despite this, the situation looked grim. The Great Pyramid to the right of us seemed to be overwhelmed with Dark Elves, and looked as though it was lost.
- Suddenly we heard the haunting sound of many reed pipes and the thunder of great resonant drums. A procession of Skink musicians and bronze clad Saurus brandishing halberds appeared from a great dark portal on the platform of the pyramid. Behind these came an extraordinary sight. Four Saurus wearing armour made from the bones of gigantic monsters, beating on a palanquin what appeared to be a bundle of rags tied up with string and bedecked with colourful plumes and glittering gold objects. Strapped to the head of this object was a golden mask fashioned in the form of a grimacing Slann. Its huge, staring inlaid eyes of shell and topaz were very disconcerting. The palanquin swayed and lurched from side to side as the bearers danced to the rhythm of the drums and pipes. It was a strange hypnotic tune which I shall never forget. Even to this day it still haunts me! This bizarre group descended the steps towards the enemy. Huinipachutli was now beside himself with excitement. His cheeks and throat were swelled up as he let out a bellowing croaking sound. On all the steps of the Great Pyramid. the Skinks and Saurus who were fighting in small beleaguered groups seemed to take heart at the sight of the advancing bundle.
- I later discovered that this bundle was really a mummified Mage-Lord. a very ancient and venerated totem. Suddenly the palanquin bearers and the bronze-clad Saurus surged into the hesitating ranks of the foe with such force that Dark Elves toppled over the edge of the pyramid steps and plummeted to the plaza below, impaling themselves on the spears of their comrades who were pushing up the steps. The Dark Elf regiments flinched and recoiled as one, like some gigantic wounded beast. Seeing this, the band of enemy sorcerers directing the battle advanced, and unleashed a storm of fireballs and crackling energy towards the mummy. For a moment the whole scene was blanketed in dark fumes. The pipes and drums fell silent for a second. then started up again, if anything. louder and faster than before. The fumes dissipated revealing the palanquin and its long dead occupant still there, although looking rather tatty after the assault.
- Its bearers were now triumphantly struggling with it over heaps of slain enemies, mercilessly cutting down the reckless and demented Witch Elves who rushed at the palanquin with their daggers. I gazed around myself once again. On all sides the remnants of the cohorts of Skinks and. Saurus were rallying to their standards and were forcing the Dark Elves back. The enemy sorcerers were cursing with rage and all but the commander himself charged out from the midst of the Witch Elves to attack the palanquin. Then there was the eerie sound and searing flashes of magical weapons striking bronze and gold. Bits flew off the ragged mummy. There were more blasts and flashes of light; the sorcerers were flung shrieking in all directions and were rapidly despatched by the halberds of the Saurus.
- The palanquin heaved relentlessly onward. with serried ranks of Saurus on its flanks,. They were in the plaza now, pressing the Witch Elves and a mixed mass of what remained of their other regiments. backwards towards a great rectangular pond. There was no escape for the Dark Elves now! They were hemmed in on all sides with their backs to the pond. This made them tight even harder. but to no avail. Each time the Lizardmen surged forward a few steps, the rear rank of Witch Elves and warriors were shoved off the edge of the pond and plunged into the water. The screams of the Witch Elves were diabolical as the water frothed and grew redder and redder. Beside me the jubilant Hunipachutli was swaying from side to side and bobbing up and down with excitement: "Piranha! Piranha!" he yelled.
- I joined in with his jubilation, shouting out: "Bathe in your own blood for a change!" and "Let's see you jump out of there looking younger!" The slaughter continued until the last wailing rank of Dark Elves met their doom in the pond, now coloured the deepest darkest red. Truly I saw the fish leap into the air to bite their victims before they even hit the water. The enemy commander was the last to plunge to his deserved doom and one could see his evil soul hanging for a moment like a dark cloud above the boiling pond before it vanished forever. When there were no Dark Elves left alive in the plaza. the Saurus bore the palanquin reverently back up the pyramid to the sound of the Skink musicians playing a different tune. I must admit I shared Hunipachutli's satisfaction in witnessing the destruction of the dark horde of Naggaroth. "At last! Remas is avenged!" I rejoiced.
- Extract from "The Tale of Marco Colombo", circa. 1492 IC [2a]
- Gem of Lustria: While in Lustria, Marco acquired this strange gem as part of his reward for serving the Slann Mage Priests as a mercenary. This gem is made of a polished green stone and shaped in the form of a snake's tongue – the mark of the Lizardmen serpent god, Sotek. It enhances Marco's defenses.[1a]
- Gourd of Lustrian Wine: Marco always keeps with him his last remaining gourd of cactus juice, which he calls Lustrian Wine! This was given to him by the Skinks during his expedition to Lustria. Although it is about as potent as orange juice for a Lizardman, for a human being it is prickly stuff indeed! It enhances Marco's strength temporarily, but due to the small amount he last left, he only takes one swig per battle.[1a]
- Scroll of Araby: While stopping off in Lashiek, Marco did the usual foray into the bazaar looking for maps. One map, although uninteresting in itself, was written on an old scroll with partly obliterated, arcane writing of ancient Khemri on the reverse. The scroll give additional magical defense, but part of it turns to dust each time it is used.[1a]
- 1: Warhammer Armies: Dogs of War (5th Edition)
- 1a: pg. 67
- 2: Warhammer Armies: Lustria (5th Edition)
- 2a: pg. 50 - 55