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“You have a one track mind, Val.”
“You of all people know that isn’t true, Meresiel.”
“Keep dreaming…especially after what Ameiko told me.”
“That was a misunderstanding, Ameiko…”
“…didn’t like sharing her champion with half the women of Sandpoint?”

Our favorite bickering adventurers return at last, departing the comforts of quaint if oft-beleaguered Sandpoint for the far off climes of Wati…a half abandoned “funeral city” filled with empty streets and palatial buildings bereft of human occupancy.

Of course, it doesn’t take long before they’re in the middle of a fracas, and Valeros is chasing after a new skirt or two…and damn if Meresiel doesn’t sound more than a tad jealous again…

“We need to stop this…we didn’t come all this way to be thrown out of the city on our first night!”
“All I wanted was a quiet cup of tea…”
“Just keep swinging those little fists of yours!”

“We have new friends to get to know.”
“I like the sound of that…”
“I bet you do.”

But the history of Wati is marked by a plague of madness and the undead, and the name of Runelord Lamashtu makes an unwelcome reappearance in association thereto…

“So her word is law, is it?  Well, I’m not too good with rules and regulations.”
“Are any of us?”

When the city opens up the gates to their long-sealed necropolis for a lottery-determined archaeological expedition cum treasure hunt, an ancient evil is unleashed upon the present day…

Shades of Roky Erickson, Valeros goes hand to hand with a worm infested two headed dog!  There are ghouls and haunts, doru and fiendish flying heads, plus a few Indiana Jones/Tomb Raideresque traps for the unwary grave robber.

But it’s something of a shift, particularly for those accustomed to how things played out in Rise of the Runelords.

Things start off surprisingly slow, as there are several sequences of plotting and background not involving the main cast…and unfortunately, every time our heroes are off center stage, things decline into turgid plotting and scheming among a cast of unlikeable locals.

While there were occasional forays outside the Sandpoint axis during Rise of the Runelords (the trip to Magnamar, the mission to Hook Mountain, the fortress of the stone giants), listeners generally had an expanded cast of likeable regulars (well, OK, primarily barkeep cum adventuress Ameiko Kaijetsu and Sherriff Belor Hemlock) helping our heroes to carry the action.

“There’s no point arguing, is there?”
“None whatsoever.”
“I think I preferred you when you were possessed.”

By contrast, at least to judge by this introductory installment, the non-core roles are peopled by schemers, rivals, and the untrustworthy, several of whom are forced to adopt unrealistic-sounding Egyptian-style accents.  Even Valeros’ intended new squeeze Velriana (Ashleigh Loeb) would, at least at first*, appear to fall more under the classification of such past innamorata as the lamia than the Ameiko type.

* as we move into the second episode, perceptions do begin to shift.  Time will tell.

That said, when Alexander, Skinner, Brooker and Littledale are front and center in the proceedings, we’re right back in familiar territory, with all the lively banter, grumpy bickering and enjoyable jibes among friends fans have come to expect from an excellent first season.

Look, the first time around, this reviewer picked up on all sorts of minor concerns that seemed important at the time, but which faded into a more warm hearted appreciation with successive installments and repeated listens (many times picking up all sorts of little asides that were all too easily missed on the first few runs).  There’s no reason to think this won’t be the case once again with the second season.

And better yet, this time around we appear to be on a less torturous monthly schedule (as the more we got into this series throughout the course of the Rise of the Runelords season, the more painful the wait for the next episode became!)

While it definitely feels like the story only comes alive when the regulars are on mic, prior experience leads me to believe that there’s at least a fighting chance that fellow adventurer cum love interest Velriana may achieve some measure of affection akin to that of our late lamented Sandpoint standbys.

A respectable start to a long awaited second season from our household’s favorite Big Finish series.