Friday, November 15, 2013

God, I want to run another Beasts and Barbarians game

Last Saturday, I was at my monthly Pathfinder game where we playing the Carrion Crown Adventure Path. Not that it is remotely relevant to this blog but I play a Paladin named Vors.  Anyway, two of the players in the group, Chris and Amy, are a married couple that were in my Beasts and Barbarians game.  I was talking to Amy and we both agreed that we both missed her character Hawk, the Amazon warrior that slew the only man that she felt was worthy of sharing her bed.  It got me reading the Beasts and Barbarians supplement Beasts of the Dominions.  Good stuff.  Hopefully, in the not to distant future, I can return the land of the Dread Domains and I write of the adventures of Hawk and Sylyph once again.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Crypts and Things: The Temple of the Serpent

With Ludaius no longer possessed by the shade of Ikhtanabu Xu, things return to “normal” in the city of Zul-Bazzir.  Motard the northern barbarian and the warrior Ludaius turned to drinking and whoring while Zardoz continued his experiments on the necromancer that had been captured by party on their return trip from the Temple of the Bull God. Zardoz had seen the necromancer slay one of his trusted henchmen Chellick with just a touch.  Removing the necromancer’s hand, Zardoz was determined to use it to create a magical rod or wand that was capable of duplicating the “death touch”.

One day, Zardoz went to down to experiment further on the necromancer only to find that he had died in the night.  Not considering that death would prevent him from learning more from the necromancer, he kept the body.  By the end of the day, the body had re-animated as a zombie with red boils and red patches on his skin.  Still not deterred by this (rather, he was intrigued) Zardoz keep the zombie tied down to slab in his lab for further experiments.

Soon, the party was contacted by the merchant Belcore, a man known to the party as an associate of the group’s occasional patron and ally Aetius, the master Slaver of Zul-Bazzir.  Belcore offered the party a very large sum of gold if they would accompany him on an expedition to the southern deserts in search of a forgotten temple to a god known as Yigthrahotep.  The offer being far too much gold to turn down, the party readily agreed, despite the fact that they had been unable to speak with Aetius regarding Belcore.  According to Thayne Darkblade, Aetius’ captain of the guard and right hand man, Aetius was unavailable and he was uncertain as to when that may change. Motard, Ludaius, Zardoz and his henchmen assembled horses, wagons and supplies and headed south, with a new hire, the “scout” Torvir, who had been recruited by Motard.

Realizing how dangerous the zombie necromancer would be if he were to escape, before leaving, Zardoz placed wards over his laboratory and left a number of heavily armed guards back in the House of the Dragon with strict instructions not to enter the laboratory under any circumstances.  Nor were they to allow anyone to enter the laboratory either.

After traveling south for some time, the group arrived at a water well and oasis.  While there, they party also broke bread with nomads from the Eagle Claw clan.  While they were eating with the nomads, the group was attacked by a number of giant scorpions.  The party and nomads fought off the scorpions but not before Zardoz’s henchmen Seth was struck down by the poisonous sting of one of the scorpions.  Only the intervention of the nomads saved Seth from dying from the toxins.  Having fought together and shared salt and bread, the party forged a blood alliance with the Eagle Claw clan. The enemies of the party were the enemies of the Eagle Claw and vice versa.  With Seth still disabled by the scorpion poison, the party left him with their new allies and continued south.

Scorpions Attack!

Following Belcore’s map, the party arrived at a cave opening in the side of a cliff.  Motard scouted around and discovered that there were fresh prints leading in and out of the cave entrance.  Judging from the prints, the creatures living in the cave were some kind of large ape.  The party took positions and watched the cave from the bushes.  They waited all night but in the early morning, they watched as a group of large apes left the cave, obviously to hunt.  The characters then setup an ambush in anticipation of the apes return.
The apes returned carrying the corpses of deer and antelope and party sprang their ambush.  Motard charged in with his axe while everyone else unleashed a barrage of arrows and crossbow bolts.  (Ranged attacks are not Motard’s style.)  The Apes were dispatched with relative ease and the party entered the cave.

On the first level, the party discovered that the cave was indeed an ancient temple.  The walls of the temple had pictures that depicted hordes of apes and primitive humans bowing down to images of serpents and humanoid serpent beings.  There were stairs leading down on the far end of the temple and in the center of the main room, there were vines hanging down that lead into a chamber above.  A group of apes jumped out from the vines and attacked.  After a brief fight, the apes were dispatched.

Motard and Talos climbed up the vines and could hear that there were indeed more apes in the chamber above and quietly climbed back down.  Deciding not to climb the vines, party took the stairs, descending further into the temple.

Deeper in to the temple, the motif of serpent worship continued.  Zardoz noticed that many of the pictures of the humanoid serpents showed the serpent men as wearing crowns.  He remembered that he had seen a crown like that before….on the head of Aetius, slave master of Zul-Bazzir….

Using hammers, the character broke through a wall into a burial chamber that was guarded by a number of animated human skeletons. These were also easily defeated and the party found itself in a altar room filled with gold artifacts.  As the party ran down to gather the massive amount of treasure, Belcore went to the altar, turned to party with his hands held up high and spoke.   “Oh, great Yigthrahotep, I have come to awaken you from your slumber and release you from centuries of imprisonment! I now offer you these humans as a celebration of your freedom!” From the altar rose giant serpent with dazzling eyes and humanoid arms with a scimitar in each hand.

Yigthrahotep Rises!

Never truly trusting Belcore, Zardoz had his men immediately open fire on the Belcore while Motard and Ludaius attacked Belcore’s flank.  Before Belcore could unleash his fowl magic upon the party he was slain and his true form reveled.  Belcore was a serpent man!  The party then turned its attention to the newly risen Yigthrahotep.  Yigthrahotep was nearly defeated when he unleashed his hypnotic gaze at the party.  Although Zardoz, Motard and Ludaius resisted the gaze, Torvir and all of the henchmen did not and they immediately turned on the characters.

Belcore assumes his true form in death

His spells exhausted and after being stuck by a number of arrows, Zardoz fled the temple, leaving Motard and Ludaius to their fates.   Yigthrahotep slew Ludaius but the badly wounded Motard managed to kill Yigthrahotep, breaking the hypnotic spell that had taken over Torvir and the henchmen.  The survivors gathered up their much deserved gold and left the temple.

Zardoz did not wait around to see what happened to his companions and fled with all the horses that he could.  Eventually, he allowed the rest of the group to catch up.  They had the treasure after all.  Fully believing that they had been betrayed by Aetius, Zardoz vowed vengeance.

Upon arriving at the Eagle Claw camp, Zardoz immediately began recruiting as many of the nomads to return to the city of Zul-Bazzir to raid the home of the slaver Aetius.  One hundred and fifty of them eventually agreed.  Now with a small army on their side, the party headed back to Zul-Bazzir with vengeance on their minds.

However, upon arriving back at Zul-Bazzir, all was not well with the city.  From a distance, smoke and even fire could be seen coming from the city and a number of refugees had fled the city.  The characters approached what appeared to be a makeshift fort occupied by all manner of city dwellers.  The fort was guarded by a mix of city guards, merchants, artisans, beggars, prostitutes and even slaves.  Zardoz demanded to know what had happened.  One of the guardsmen told them of the Red Plague.  A disease that turned all it killed into the walking dead.  The Red Plague spread by both claw and bite.  The Shrine of the Keepers had been infected and the zombie horde spread from there but there were demons and hordes of flesh eating insects infecting the city as well.  He also told them that the epicenter of all of this was not the Shrine of the Keepers.  The true outbreak started from the House of the Dragon, the mansion that the characters called home...

Next time, Red Plague Part One.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Crypts and Things: The Knife of the Necromancer

It has been around two or three months since I ran this so the details have faded with time but I will do my best to relay the story of the Knife of the Necromancer

Zardoz the magician, Motard, a barbarian from the north, Ludaius the warrior and Seth, one of Zardoz’s henchmen were returning home one night after a night of carousing when they came across of group of thugs that just killed and robbed someone.  Not wanting to leave any witnesses, the thugs attacked and all but one were quickly dispatched by the group of adventurers.  The leader of the thugs ran off into the night.  The group looted all of the bodies, including the robbery victim.   They found a few coins and, on the robbery victim, they found a very nice silver dagger.   Zardoz left the dagger in his basement lab and everyone retired for the evening.

Street fight!

In the morning, everyone filed in for breakfast…except for Ludaius.  Upon further investigation, Motard discovered that Ludaius was not in his quarters and Zardoz discovered that the silver dagger was missing.  Enraged that someone, even a trusted companion had breached his lab’s defenses, Zardoz immediately contacted the members of the watch that he had in his pocket and began the search for Ludaius and the missing dagger.  The watch quickly referred Zardoz to a street operator known only as “Grey Eyes” to find Ludaius and his location.

During the course of the search, a would-be assassin attempted to murder Motard.  Striking from behind, the assailant failed to surprise Motard and Motard slaughtered him in the street.   Motard quickly realized that his attack was none other than the leader of the thugs that they had gotten the silver dagger from.

Zardoz, along with his henchmen, the recently recruited Talos and Seth, meet with Grey Eyes.  A fee was determined and Grey Eyes men began to search for Ludaius.  Later, Zardoz was able to determine that the silver dagger had belonged to Ikhtanabu Xul, a powerful sorcerer that had died some ten years ago.

The following the day Zardoz received a message from a very angry Grey Eyes.  Apparently his men had found Ludaius in the catacombs beneath the Shrine of the Keepers in the Square of the Green Peacock.   The reason that he was angry was because Zardoz had told me that Ludaius was a warrior that fought with a scythe.   However, when Grey Eyes’ men attempted to apprehend him, he unleashed a devastating fireball and commanded a group of ghouls to attack.   Only one of his men escaped to the surface.   Zardoz agreed to investigate himself and Grey Eyes assigned the survivor (Adrick) from the first expedition to guide them to location in the catacombs were Ludaius had been encountered.

Zardoz rounded up Motard and his henchmen and, using the Grey Eyes’ man Adrick as a guide, they entered the catacombs through the basement of an abandoned building.  They party quickly fought a group of ghouls. They ghouls were quickly dispatched but Adrick proved to be useless in a fight as he fled from the ghouls.  He did not make to the surface and once again, he found himself a reluctant guide.

Adrick lead the party to tomb in the catacombs that had recently been opened.  The party moved in and immediately encountered more ghouls.  The next room had a light source.  Instead of charging, Zardoz called out for Ludaius, and then called out for Ikhtanabu Xul.  Ikhtanabu Xul, with the voice and body of Ludaius, answered.  He told them to get out of his way as he was about ready to leave the city. Zardoz stated that he Ludaius was a valuable asset but if he needed a body, they could provide one.  Adrick tried to run but Talos and Seth grabbed him and held him.  Ikhtanabu walked into the room, took a look at Adrick, shrugged and a black mist left Ludaius’s mouth and entered Adrick’s.  After a few moments of resistance, Adrick/Ikhtanabu gathered up his things, tossed Adrick a few scrolls and was on his way. Zardoz told him to avoid Belthaar to the east since it had been taken over by a mad demigod.

No alligators in catacombs, just ghouls 

Fighting ghouls in the tomb of  Ikhtanabu Xu

Everyone returned to the surface and Zardoz told Gray Eyes that Adrick was killed by ghouls and all was back to normal.  Thus concludes the  tale of the Knife of the Necromancer.  Next up, Scorpions in the Desert and the Temple of the Serpent.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sessions 14 and 15: The Monastery of Shadows and the Keepers of the Black Flame.

Having marched for several hours, our heroes find that the air is cold and bitter, but not as cold as they expected at this altitude. “We climbed a long way.” Jimpah says. “Now we are quite high. These mountains remind me of Lhoban. I should have realized the Keepers would choose such a place for their hideout.” After a while, the path joins another one, a little larger, and by proceeding along the latter the party reaches their destination in less than an hour. The fortified village of the Mountaineers is built on a large terrace on the far side of the deep valley you are in now. A steep road is the only way in and, to make things worse, it is flanked by a stone wall and protected by a gate, guarded by sentinels. “A few good soldiers could hold that gate against a large army for weeks,” Jimpah frowns. There is a second terrace several hundred yards above the village. A strange building stands on it, its features completely different from the architecture of the village. There are pagoda-like towers and crammed buildings huddled together to form a structure unique in its kind. “That’s the Monastery,” Jimpah says. “If we want to rescue Karmella, we must find a way in, and it won’t be easy.”

There is something spooky about Monastery that no one can quite define, but after a while everyone understands that the mountain above it keeps it in constant shadow, so that it is never exposed to direct sunlight. It is a place of perpetual darkness, no light comes from its narrow windows, and it seems lifeless.

While our group of heroes is surveying the Monastery, a loud gong from deep within the mournful building echoes through the whole valley. Then, a black cloud rises from it and swoops down the entire valley, like a huge, malevolent hand. “Bats!” Jimpah orders. “Quick, let’s hide behind these rocks! These beasts could be something other than they appear!” The beasts pass over your head, apparently without noticing the party, and then return to the dark domes of their cursed home. A single, twisting passage leads from the village to the Monastery.

The party quickly deduces that there are two ways in.  They can climb the cliff and try to enter the Monastery that way, or they can dress as mountain folk and try to sneak in. Originally, they decided to climb but with nearly disastrous results.  After that, the party donned mountain folk gear that they had taken from their fallen foes and entered the village.  Following the crowd, the party enters a large Common Hall.

The Common Hall is a big wooden hut, smelling of sweat, smoke and sheep’s droppings, but at least it is warm. Long low tables are arranged all around with sheep’s skins to be used as cushions, and many Mountaineers are sitting in silent groups.

After they sit down, some shy Mountaineer women, wrapped in heavy clothes, serve them a hot soup of mutton and mountain garlic. It isn't very tasty but at least it warms their bones. You notice that alcohol is banned from the table.  With a little careful listening, they hear in whispered tones that the Korras will be formerly be named Lord over all of the Mountain tribes.  An hour before midnight, the gong in the Monastery sounds again and the people in the Hall start murmuring. Then, some monk guards, Mountaineers wearing the same armor as Ruman Gask’s soldiers, come in. Their leader, a stocky fellow with a fanatical light in his eyes, speaks to the gathered crowd. “Tonight you’ll witness the power of the Black Flame and of Korras, Lord of all the Mountains. Put on your cloaks and be ready to follow.” All the Mountaineers bow their heads. Then, lifting their hoods against the cold temperature, they make their way to the Monastery of Shadows. Our group quietly joins the procession.

The interior of the Monastery is huge and it is an easy task for the party to separate off from the rest of the procession and being to search for Princess Karmella.  After wondering through the labrityh of the Monastery, the party hears a conversation between an old servant and a young one.

Old servant: “Jinzu, you lazy moron, you are late once again!” Young Servant: “I am sorry, Pelai; I was busy feeding the bats…” Old Servant: “A lame excuse, as usual! Now, take these towels to the Princess, before I have you whipped!” Young Servant: “As you command!” The party hears the young servant walking their way.  The rest of the party attempts to hide while Sylph steeps out of the shadows and asks the young servant Jinzu if he can help her.  Jinzu, a novice of the Black Flame, KNOWS that the woman should not be in this part of the Monastery but at the moment as he stares at her cleavage, the really doesn’t care.  Jinzu tells her that he must take the towels to the Princess.  Sylph assures him that she would be more than happy to follow him to the Princess’s cell and then he can help her find her way back to the main hall. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, Jinzu realizes that he should call the guards and have the woman arrested but he is not thinking with his brain.  Another party of his anatomy is calling the shots by this point.  He readily agrees.  (Sylph can be VERY persuasive.)  With the party following, Jinzu leads the party to the Princess.

After dropping of the towels, Sylph suggests that perhaps they investigate one of the empty rooms down the hall.  With a song in his heart, Jinzu agrees.  Sylph only planned to distract him a few minutes, but, with some very lucky dice rolls, Jinzu turned out to be an exceptional lover and she ended up being distracted herself, multiple times as it turns out.

While Sylph “distracted” the young monk, the rest of the party entered the cell where the Princess was kept after Sul’khaz picks the lock.  They open the elegant door in front of them and stop on the threshold of a large room in semi-darkness. For a moment they contemplate the woman that has cost you so much pain and effort. She sleeps in an enormous four-poster bed. She must be having a nightmare, because she tosses and turns, a pained expression on her delicate face. A thin silver chain secured to the wall and locked around her slender wrist keeps her captive. As the party moves in, out the shadows spring two bat hounds.

At last, the Princess!

Bad dog!

Dead bad dog....
The fight is over rather quickly as the hounds are quickly dispatched.  As Shangor frees his would be bride, the Princess awakes.  “Oh, my Lord,” she murmurs, “you shouldn't have come here. It is a trap!”  After waiting for several minutes, Sylph finally returns with a very giddy look on her face.  Now, they can try to make their escape.

The party had just left Karmella’s prison when the gong is sounded three times. “Something’s happened,” Jimpah says, with urgency in his voice. “We must move on.”  While the party is cautiously crossing a room that they hadn’t seen before, they spot a group of guards coming right their way. There are too many of them. “Come on!” The fat monk says, leading them into the dark corridor. Going on, the passage ends in one of the strangest rooms they have ever seen.

It is a wide, round hall, with tall walls and a sort of gallery, like the ones seen in theatres or Imperial arenas, running along the whole perimeter. But the strangest thing is in the middle of the room: a massive flame, at least five yards tall and made of pure darkness, rises from a fissure in the ground! The flame is erratic and flickering, as if it were about to go out, but it continues to burn without anything visible fueling it. Despite its absolute blackness, you can see people approaching.  They party quickly realizes that they are seeing a reflection of themselves.  As they turn to leave, they are cut off by a large number of monks and warriors.
Their leader is a tall, bald man, with a large scar on his face. He is accompanied by a group of monk guards and Mountaineer Warriors. Despite his rough appearance, Korras, the evil mind behind this whole mess, bears an unmistakable resemblance to Prince Ulesir.

“My hated brother,” he says, “I never imagined you’d be able to wield an axe one day but, when I watched you kill Ruman Gask, you surprised me, I must confess.” He points his finger toward the Flame. You understand you have been spied through the Flame for quite some time. “I thought about sending someone to capture you but, well… you foolishly came all the way here by yourself. So, why bother?” he adds with an evil smile. “Well, brother. Now you are here, and we have a little matter to settle. You see the Black Flame? It is faltering after centuries of perpetual burning. The Keepers, masters of this place, know the reason: once every century it needs a soul, a very specific one, the soul of a Divided Man to keep burning. And you, my brother, are the Divided Man of this century!” Just then the group notices tall, gaunt figures on the balcony, monks hundreds of years old come back for the rite. They are the oldest members of the order and are here for the Rekindling of the Black Flame. They raise their skeletal hands holding stone amulets, like the ones possessed by the assassin on the Blue Arrow and by Ruman Gask, and they point the evil objects at Shangor.  “And now, it is time to die!” Korras says, with an evil smile on his face, while the monks direct the power of their wicked weapons against the Shangor.  The final begins!

Crashing Evil Con.

Evil Con from a different angle

Evil Con from the Player's point of view.
Shangor and Jimpah step up to fight Korras while Hawk charges the monks and warriors.  Sul’khaz summons wolves to attack the old men in the balcony while Katrina begins firing arrows into at the old monks in the balcony as well.  Most of the mountain warriors fire their bows and Sylph is wounded.  As Shangor and Korras exchange blows, sudden both men cry out in pain.  Korras has a surprised look on his face.

“Fool!” Jimpah spits. “The soul of a Divided Man means that two people shares part of the same spirit: in this case you and your brother! The Keepers will sacrifice both of you to the Flame!”“No! It cannot be!” Korras shouts, full of anger. Suddenly, the monks attack the mountain warriors as well, ending their barrage of arrows.

Shangor feels intense pain, as if his very soul was being torn from him, and this is actually what is happening: his spirit is draining away from your body to feed the Black Flame. The strange fire blazes and roars, satisfied for a moment, then it sputters and start to fade again. The Keepers, the guards and everyone else stop, amazed and terrified at the same time. “You live in darkness, and darkness has blinded you!” Jimpah thunders. “You haven’t seen that this man isn’t Prince Ulesir? He is only a double and his soul cannot rekindle your flame! You have polluted it, and now it is going to die!” Terror appears on the Keepers’ ghastly faces! Then, as one, they raise their amulets and point them at themselves. “They want to feed the Flame with their own souls!” Jimpah shout. “We must kill them before they do!”

Leaving the monks on the lower level to fight the mountain warriors, Hawk charges up stairs and dispatches one of the Keepers with a mighty blow from her Medusa blade.   Katrina finishes off another with her bow.   The remaining keepers do not go down as easily.  Sylph moves up to fight the Keepers but is nearly dispatched.  Korras, though weakened, is getting the best of Shangor.  Shangor is bleeding from two wounds while he has yet to score a single one on Korras.  However, before Korras can kill Shangor, the finally Keeper is finally killed.

The fight starts

The monks turn on the mountain warriors

Shangor and Jimpah battle Korras while Katrina fires into the balcony
When the last Keeper is dispatched, the Black Flame shrinks becoming, if possible, even blacker. “Let’s go!” Jimpah shouts, and the party to do so. The Black Flame explodes. You sense a sort of black wave passing through walls and solid objects as if through air. Strangely, you feel nothing. Suddenly all your enemies start moaning and crying desperately: “Help me! Help me! I am blind! I am blind!” This is the call you hear from everyone you meet. In the meantime, the bats fly around wildly. “Let’s leave this cursed place!” Jimpah urges you.  Shangor stares down at his hated foe and leaves him to his fate and the party leaves the Monastery of Shadows for good.

They party travels for a few days to get back to Rusty Lake.  It has become apparent that Princess Karmella is grown very fond of Shangor know that she realizes that he is not Prince Ulesir.  When they reach the Rusty Lake, they see a cloud of dust in the distance. It is a small army coming from Shan’Ammar. Prince Ulesir leads it… well, he is actually in a little well protected van surrounded by his most trusted guards. When the vanguard of the small army meets you, you are hastily sent to the Prince. Many soldiers watch in amazement as the exact double of their lord stands, dirty and battered, in front of them.

Prince Ulesir, seated in his heavily protected litter, shows in his sophisticated way the concern he feels for his wife’s safety: “My dear, when Marduk sent a message bird to say you were in the hands of that evil brute, I had to do something! I gathered my soldiers and rushed to save you!” He adds in an affected tone, before continuing. “I am happy these brave men and women saved your life and they will be greatly rewarded. Now, my wife, take your seat by my side.” Ulesir points at a decorated litter next to his.” Karmella sighs and then, ragged and dirty as she is, she climbs into her rightful place with a sad, longing glance back at Shangor. “My dear, you might want to take a bath before joining me for the dinner!” adds her husband, with a slightly disgusted face.  Shangor just shakes his head….

The party takes their money and heads off for further adventures, all except for Katrina, whose skill both horse and bow has won the admiration of the Valk warriors and their ruler.  She will stay. Thus ends my first Beasts and Barbarians campaign. This group rotates systems and GMs so it is someone else’s turn.  It was a blast and I hope to run it again in the future with this group or maybe another if need be.  I hope you have enjoyed reading the log.  Now, I am four sessions behind with my Crypts and Things game and need to write up sessions for that.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sessions 13 and 14 of my Savage Worlds: Beasts and Barbarians game. A battle avoided and double cross

With Shah Tokarim in a RAGE, the group of adventurers offers to ride off with the Shah to punish his banished nephew Jirro, who obviously took his banishment as a chance to run off with his beloved cousin, the daughter of the Shah Karmella.  The Shah has roughly one hundred men, about the same number of men that his nephew has.  With the edition of the adventurers and their twenty or so Amazons, the Shah believes that this will give him the edge that needs to crush his nephew and drag his daughter kicking and screaming, back to the alter.

The mounted group rides out immediately.  As they get closer and closer to the fort, Jimpah, along with all of the player characters except for Shangor, pickup on the fact that Jirro has not left behind any kind of rear guard or scouts.  Hawk and Sylph both suspect that Jirro has come under the influence of foul sorcery, having seen Shangor under attack by the mysterious assassin on the boat.  The Jimpah points out to the Shah that it is most unusual behavior for someone who had just stolen the daughter of the Shah and who was now in full rebellion.  The Shah ignores this information, chalking it up to Jirro’s stupidly and remains fully intent on slaying his nephew.  After a few days ride, the Shah and his small army arrive at Tenebar Fort. Tokarim immediately plans to take advantage of the heavy fog and launch an assault.

The Shah’s scouts, under cover of the fog, discover that Jirro’s men are mainly camped out in front of the ruined fort with a few sentries on the walls of the fort itself.  The Shah and his general Solembar determine that the princess must be inside the fort.  After a quick discussion, the Shah comes up with a plan:  He will have Shangor and his Amazons sneak to the east wall, climb over the wall, take out the sentries and then open the gate while the Shah and his mounted warrior attack the main camp in front of the fortress.  Once again, Jimpah points out that there are no look outs and that this behavior is displays an unusual lack of tactical planning on the part of Jirro, who is skilled warrior and the veteran of many campaigns.  Slyph and Hawk think that it must a trap of some sort.  Sylph, using her supernatural abilities, persuades the Shah to let her go talk to Jirro.  Although she was angry at Jirro for being an ass at the bachelor party, she still sympathized with him as she is a sucker for “true love.”  (In this point of the adventure, there was supposed to be a battle but Sylph’s character really wanted to try to talk to Jirro so I decided to let her try to persuade the Shah to relent.   She rolled, very, very, well plus she did some EXCELLENT role-playing too so the Shah allowed her to go talk to Jirro although he did send a warrior with her.)

Sylph and the Shah’s warrior made their way through the fog.  They found Jirro’s men working on repairing the fort rather than guarding anything.  She asks to speak to Jirro.  The testosterone thing quickly kicks in and the Shah’s warrior with her immediately insults Jirro and his men.   Jirro’s men retort.  Hands go to swords and once again, Sylph has to calm everyone down.    Jirro arrives and she tells him of the Shah’s small army and that the princess is missing and believed to with him.  Jirro denies everything.  She believes him.  Sylph gets Jirro to agree to meet with his uncle and Slyph returns to the Shah’s camp.

Upon returning, through good dice rolls and good role-playing, Sylph, with some help from Jimpah, manage to talk the Shah into meeting with Jirro, against the protests of Solembar.  Through the fog, marches the Shah, Solembar, Jimpah, the Shah’s bodyguards and the player characters.  The Shah and his estranged nephew meet face to face.

Almost immediately, the Shah and Jirro are ready to slay each other.  Accusations and insults are traded and once again, the hands of the warriors of both men go to the handles of the swords.  Sylph loses it and unloads on both men.  She reminds them that the princess is missing and all that they care about is their honor and their pride.  Both men are shamed.  (Rianna, Sylph’s player, really did some of the best role-playing that I have ever seen.)  Jirro offers to take the Shah on a tour of the fort to prove that the princess is not there and the Shah states that if he were a younger man, he would ride off with Sylph and make her a queen.  Sylph states that age doesn’t matter as long as the Shah can still swing his sword.  A jealous grown is heard from a number of the men on both sides.   Before Jirro can begin his tour, a ride appears with a note that he hands to Shah.

Your daughter is safe in my hands and she will remain unharmed if you do what I command. You have something I want: my hated half-brother, Ulesir. Bring him to the Anvil of the Rusty Lake on the last night of this moon. When I am done with him, I will be the legitimate Lord of Shan’Ammar and ruler of all the tribes of the Mountaineers. And I’m sure you’ll consider me a worthy husband for your daughter. Do as I order and you’ll see her again soon. Disobey, and her soul will be given to the Black Flame. 
Korras, Lord of Shan’Ammar.”

The Shah collapses into tears.  His daughter has been kidnapped and he was almost manipulated into killing his nephew.   He is overcome.  Solembar tells Shangor, who they still believe to be Ulesir, to stay in his tent as an honored “guest.”  While in the tent, the party receives a unexpected visitor:  Jimpah.  Jimpah informs that that the Shah’s generals, with the support of Jirro and his men, plan on handing Shangor over to Korras and the Keepers of the Black Flame.  He does refer to Shangor as Shangor, letting the party know that he seen through their ruse.  He does not want that as it would lead to the deaths of many innocent people, including Shangor and the Amazons that were sworn to protect him. Jimpah offers to help them escape if they will help him save the princes and destroy the Keepers of the Black Flame.  The party quickly agrees.  He tells them to sit tight until he returns.

As night falls, Jimpah arrives and ushers the group out of the tent.  The party quickly notices the sleeping guards.  Jimpah makes the comment about how effective Lotus is in someone wine.  They are stopped by a guard but Jimpah tells him that he is taking them to the general and the guard leaves them alone.  Jimpah takes the party out of the camp and off they go to rescue Karmella.

Following the instructions from Korras’ letter, the party makes their way Rusty Lake and the Anvil.  The party plans on using Shangor as bait.  Expecting a boat, a plan is made:  as soon as Shangor is on the boat the princess is safely to shore, Jimpah will throw Shangor his axe and they will attack the boat.

Shangor and Jimpah stay in plain sight while the rest of the party hides along the shore line.  Out of the fog comes a war canoe of the mountain people.  There are several burly mountain warriors.  Leading them is the one eyed Ruman Gask, the traitorous best friend of Jirro.  The canoe stops and a gangplank is put down. Ruman Gask, the traitorous dog, seems to be the man in charge. “Hand Ulesir over and I’ll let the girl go,” he says.  Shangor makes his way across and the women they believe is the princess is sent over.  However, Jimpah and most of the party realize that the girl is not the princess.  That’s not Karmella!  She is an imposter!” shouts Jimpah as he throws Shangor his iron battle axe.  The party fires a volley of arrows and the fight is on.
The Exchange

The Exchange from another angle 

The Fight begins

Karmella's Double dies

Jimpah jumps high into the air and lands in the middle of the war canoe.  He strikes down one of the mountain warriors.  Shangor attacks Ruman Gask as Sul’khaz summons two wolves, one of which appears on the boat.  Katrina starts shooting, immediately killing one of the mountain tribesmen.  Sylph moves up but is hit by a number of arrows.  Ruman Gask wounds Shangor but on his next attack breaks his bronze sword on the iron head of Shangor’s axe.  The girl tries to run away but Katrina, psycho bitch that she is, puts an arrow between the girl’s eyes, ignoring the mountain warriors that were actually trying to kill her.  Ruman retreats to pick up a new sword as Shangor begins to mow down the mountain warriors.  Sul’khaz and Hawk run onto the boat and join the melee.   Eventually Gask is brought down by Shangor and Sul’khaz.  As he dies he says “It is pointless. In the end, the Black Flame will be fed.”

One of the mountain warriors has survived the fight.  Sylph charms him into relieving the path to the Hidden path to the Monastery of Shadows, the home of the Keepers of the Black Flame.  Jimpah is excited as he and his order have long sought this knowledge in the hopes of destroying the Keepers of the Black Flame for centuries.    The mountain tribesman is dispatched and the party takes the canoe to a waterfall that hides the path to the Monastery.  They climb up the path and surprise the four guards that Ruman Gask had left behind.  Now the path is clear to the Fortified Village and the Monastery of Shadows….

Next time, the heroes and Katrina will attempt to infiltrate the Monastery of Shadows.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Crypts and Things Session 3: The Temple of the Bull God and Free RPG Day

Tales of the past tell of a mysterious warrior cult that worshipped the Bull God.  Supposedly the warriors would meet in a hidden temple, high in the mountains to conduct their ceremonies and rituals.  They held a number of holy relics but chief among them was the Horn of the Bull God.  With time, the cult eventually died out and the temple was forgotten but the tales of the horn persisted and occasionally, someone would be brave enough to try to find it.  Among them was the wizard Zheng-Ya.  Commissioned by the slaver Aetius, Zheng-Ya put together an expedition into the mountains in search of the temple and the horn.  That was over two months ago and he had not returned.  Aetius turned to the group of adventurers that had taken up residence in Zheng-Ya’s abandoned mansion.  With the purchase of a wagon full of provisions and gear and the addition of two more men at arms, Zardoz, Motard and Ludaius began their mission to find out what happened to the missing wizard Zheng-Ya and, hopefully, find the Horn of the Bull God. 

The party took the same abandoned road that Zheng-Ya had taken two months before.  There would be little or no traffic on the road since it headed into the mountains and away from any of the trade routes.  Motard’s hunting skills proved valuable as they were able to feast on desert deer, extending their rations.  The trip had been uneventful, even boring when out of the desert came a storm of rocks, one of them nailing Zardoz in the head.  A primate war cry came up and out from the bushes and rocks a tribe of primate humans attacked.

Cave Man Ambush!  I used Orc miniatures.   

Remaining on horseback, Motard began smashing in the skulls of the primates that charged him.  Not wanting to get hit again like that Zardoz cast protection from normal missiles on himself while two of the men at arms lowered their spears and rode down two of the primates.  One of the men at arms stayed on his horse and fired his bow at the primates, as did the two men on the wagon.  Ludaius dismounted as his scythe was not particularly effective when he was fighting from horseback.  

Now protected from the rocks, Zardoz almost casually dispatched primate after primate with his sling, demonstrating his great skill with the weapon.   One of the mounted warriors managed to get up on the higher ground that the rock throwing primates had attacked from and began to trample them.  Motard continued to slay the savages with his axe but Ludaius was having trouble at first but eventually he was able to slay the ones fighting him as well. By the end of the fight, the primates had been defeated.  All but one of them was dead; the last one was taken prisoner.  However, one of the men at arms, the one that had remained on his horse to fire his bow, had been slain.

Realizing that typically, these savages would not leave their mountain homes, Zardoz tried to question the captured primate.   He wanted to find out what had displaced them.  Using pictures, Zardoz was able to determine that it was some kind of bull like creature or creatures that had driven the primates from their mountain home.  One word came to mind:  Minotaur.  
My favorite picture of one of my favorite monsters of all time:  The Minotaur!  I lost more than one character to the one that inhabited the Caves of Chaos.  However, my 1/2 elf ranger Markin made good use of the Minotaur's +1 Spear

Zardoz decided to keep the primate on as a possible sacrifice or bait and the group continued on towards the mountains.

As the group got closer to the mountains, a pair of horses was spotted off in the distance.  As the expedition got closer, it became apparent that one of the horses had a saddle.   The horses were rounded up and it was obvious that these horses were likely party of the missing expedition headed by Zheng-Ya.  Like the primates, the horses had fled from something in the mountains.

Following the mountain trail, the expedition made its way into the mountains.  Motard quickly found evidence of large, hoofed creates along the trail.  The tracks seemed to follow the trail, as if they had spread out from some location higher up in mountains.   On guard, the group continued.

Eventually, the trail ended at an ancient temple in valley, high in the mountain.  In front of the temple were the remains of a camp, including the wreckage of a luxurious travel wagon and an obvious slave pen.  Among the wreckage of the luxurious wagon, Zardoz found a traveling spell book.  There no signs of remains but Motard found evidence that the hoof like tracks led to and from the old temple.  He also found evidence of drag marks, indicating that many creatures had been dragged back into the temple.  Upon investigating the temple, the party found that the front of the temple had been broken into.   From the bull motif on the front of the temple, everyone was convinced that this was indeed the Temple of the Bull God.  Weapons drawn, the party moved in with the captive primate in tow.

As the party advanced down the main hall, from out of side rooms came what everyone was expecting:  Minotaurs.  Motard and Ludaius were out front while Zardoz and his men at arms moved in from the back, taking advantage of their ranged weapons and long spears.  
Guess who is coming to dinner: Motard!

Motard taking a beating

A third Minotaur joins the fun!

Three of the beasts were slain, but not before Motard got badly injured in the fight.  With the beasts dispatched, the exploration of the temple continued.  Little of no value was found in the cleansing rooms other than rings with the bull symbol on them.  What was found was evidence of a massive feast of horse and human flesh.  It was clear that the Minotaurs, dozens of them, had burst from the temple, slaughtered the humans and the horses in the camp below and then dragged them back to the temple for a feast.  There was also evidence of primate ape men remains here as well, indicating that the minotaurs had continued to use the temple as a base of operations as they switched to hunting the primate mountain people after they ran out of human and horses.  However, the party also found stairs leading down the final room of the temple:  The grand ceremony room which, like the front of the temple, had been broken into.  Motard was able to determine that even the Minotaurs avoided this place.  The party pressed on.

In the darkness, a pair of glowing red was spotted.  Zardoz cast a coin with a light spell into the room.  The grand ceremony room was littered with the corpses of armed men.  Grasped in the hand of one of the decaying corpses was a large horn:  The Horn of the Bull God.  Among the corpses, a figure in ruined silk robes was hunched down.  His skin was gray, his hair long and twisted, his fingers elongated into claws and his eyes glowed red.  With a raspy voice, he moaned that he was so hungry…..Obviously this was the final fate of the missing wizard, Zheng-Ya.
The final fate of Zheng-Ya:  A ghoul!
Instead of fighting the creature, the group negotiated with him…or rather, it.  Zheng-Ya wanted Motard to feast upon, but instead, the party offered him the captured primate.  In return, Zheng-Ya would let the party collect the Horn.  The primate was cast down the stairs and the now undead Zheng-Ya immediately began to devour him.  However, as Motard moved to retrieve the Horn, Zheng-Ya attacked Motard as well.  (Never trust a ghoul, even one that can talk.).  Zheng-Ya was quickly dispatched and the Horn recovered without anyone getting paralyzed.  Realizing that more Minotaurs could arrive at any time, the expedition immediately left the valley and found a secure place to camp with plans to leave the mountains and return to the city of Zul-Bazzir as soon as possible.  Remarkably, the expedition made it out of the mountains without encountering anymore of the Minotaurs.  Despite that though, it does not mean that the trip through the desert plains would be uneventful. 

As the expedition was returning home, they quickly noted that a large group was heading their way.  This was a trail that few, if any, used these days.  The expedition attempted to move out of the way, but it became obvious that the other group made adjustments to intercept them.  Realizing that meeting the group was unavoidable, the expedition readied for conflict. 

The group confronting them consisted of two mounted men and two groups of on foot.  Everyone was wearing black robes, which in this heat would nothing short of insane for any normal human being.  The group leader demanded that the expedition hand over the Horn of the Bull.  (How did they know about that?   Had Aetius betrayed them so he wouldn’t have to pay?)  Zardoz, Motard, Ludaius and crew’s response was to tell them to do something anatomically impossible without a great deal of alteration:  At that point, one of the hooded figures on the ground pulled back his hood from his cloak.  It was Darius Khas:  A man that Zardoz had slain many weeks ago.  His skin was pale and there was a look of pained madness in his eyes.  “At least you offered me a clean death!”  he yelled at Zardoz.  Zardoz replied “I would be more than happy to give it to you again!”  Motard declared that Darius was his and the fight was on.

The Bad Guys with an eraser as to represent a wagon

The Worse Guys:  Undead and Evil Cultists
Zardoz sent his mounted warriors to attack while the hordes of undead moved attack.   One group was zombies, one was skeletons.  Darius Khas moved with unnatural speed has began to slice up Motard with his longsword.  The leader of the undead group hit Zardoz with a magic missile while his second in command held back.  Whenever Motard would strike Darius Khas, he would cry out “Yes!  Kill me!  Make the pain stop!”   Motard was also surrounded by zombies while Ludaius battled the skeletons.  Despite that, Darius still pressed the attack on Motard, leaving him bleeding from many wounds.  Zardoz exchanged magic missiles with the leader but not before he caused Chellick, one of Zardoz’s most trusted henchmen, to fall from his horse asleep.  When he was down, the second in command’s hands glowed green as he grabbed his face.  Chellick’s life force as snuffed out.  Enraged, Zardoz hit the necromancer with a spell that forced him to surrender.  Zardoz laughed maniacally, partially because he permanently lost a point in wisdom for casting spell. In the mean time, the leader charmed Seth, Zardoz’s sergeant at arms, to turn around and attack the party.  With the necromancer out of commission, the skeletons stopped attacking and Ludaius was able to move to help out Motard.  Still enraged at Chellick’s death and the loss of some of his sanity, Zardoz let loose with another magic missile which killed the priest leader but yet again cost Zardoz another point of wisdom.  With the evil priest dead, the spell on Seth was broken.  Ludaius managed to finish of Darius Khas although Motard was barely left standing.  As he “died” again, Darius was grateful for a moment before he realized that his spirit was still head prisoner.  His body turned to ashes as his soul was dragged off to elsewhere….With the ashes of Darius Khas scattered to the winds, the rest of the skeletons were dispatched and the necromancer was…disarmed…or dis handed might be the correct term and the party returned to Zul-Bazzir. 

Upon their return, Aetius paid the party handsomely and he collected the Horn of the Bull God.  For what reason, or why he had been collecting other magical artifacts, no one knew for sure.  Zardoz had a new research subject to work on:  The necromancer.  He plans on taking one of the necromancer’s hands and placing on staff to duplicate the death magic that killed Chellick.  That will take some time and money.  If his brothel is successful, money should not be a problem.  Zardoz also came across a ritual in Zheng-Ya’s library about summoning something called “The Angel of Oblivion.”  He decides that is something that he does not want to do.   Motard and Ludaius spend their money on women and drink.  The rest, they just waste…

Now, just a note about my experience with Free RPG day:  I was scheduled to run Crypts and Things in the morning and Swords and Wizardry’s “Hall of Bones” in the afternoon.  Well, I ran Crypts and Things in the morning but sadly, I did not have enough players to run Swords and Wizardry in the afternoon so I opted to play Star Wars.  In between sessions, I also played in Kevin’s (Motard) Castles and Crusades game.  All in all, I had blast. 

For Crypts and Things, I re-ran the battle of the House of the Dragon from The Spider God’s Bride with 1st level characters.   Casey, who plays Ludaius, played the wizard as he was not there when I ran the adventure the first time.  They were a great group and they got the spirit of Crypts and Things.  It was a little sad that the that fighter was killed when his missed his saving throw vs. poison when he was bitten by the  Spawn of Yot-Kamoth but since he died in battle and the barbarian declared that he would reside in Valhalla for his bravery. Who really kicked ass was the thief.  He was killing cultists right and left.   Anyway, it was awesome. I should have taken more pictures.
Battle of the House of the Dragon 1

Battle of the House of the Dragon 2
Now, I am two sessions behind on my Savage Worlds: Beasts and Barbarians game so hopefully I can get those written up before Thursday and I become three sessions behind.   

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Crypts and Things Session 2: Wolves in the Night and the Bride of the Spider God

Having disposed of Darius Khas, Zardoz and his hirelings, along with Motard make to leave the city which has now become infected with a religious revolution.  They quickly encounter Regulius, a warrior who also has no desire to spending another minute in a city that has been overcome by madness.  As they make their way to city gates, they encounter bands of religious fanatics looking for the Darius Khas. It appears that despite his now god like status, Ragnor has not forgotten Khas’ betrayal.  Zardoz pointed up the street and yelled “He’s there, a few blocks north of here”.  Not being terribly bright, the band of religious fanatics took off in that direction, leaving the gate out of the city open.  The group immediately flees and heads for the nearest trade route.  If anything, they want to warn any travelers that Belthaar is no longer a safe place to visit

Not long after fleeing the city, the party meets a caravan with a handful of wagons headed to Belthaar.  Zardoz quickly informs the travelers that Belthaar has fallen to a rebellion lead by a power entity in human form.  Sefu, the apparent leader of the caravan thanks Zardoz for the warning.  He had hoped to stay the night in Belthaar but given that the city was in chaos, he decided that the caravan would continue on to the city of Zul-Bazzir. He and his men are escorting a single man and woman across the desert and Sefu offers the group a chance to make a little extra money by joining the caravan as guards.  Never one to turn away from money and holding to the belief that there is safety in numbers, Zardoz and company agree to join the caravan with the hopes of arriving in Zul-Bazzir for a new start.  It is clear that the man and women that they are escorting are in the silk covered wagon but they have no intention of revealing themselves to anyone.

After traveling for a day, the caravan encounters a group of riders wearing wolf’s skin cloaks.  Motard quickly identifies them as members of the wolves head clan.  Not trusting them, Motard readies his axe.  Sefu meets with them and manages to negotiate safe passage through their lands.  As he rides back to the group, he tells Zardoz, Regulius and Motard that the riders will be back and that they should be prepared when they camp.  Motard agrees with Sefu’s assessment:  There is no love lost between Motard’s clan and the wolves head clan.

Night falls and guards are posted.  As they are making camp, Zardoz and Motard actually catch a glimpse of what appears to be stunningly beautiful woman under the silk covered wagon.  Before they can linger, a wrinkled hand with a large ring closes the curtains.

Sure enough, the wolf head warriors attempt to sneak up on the caravan under cover of the night. The fight is short but intense.  Two of Sefu’s men are killed but Motard slays three of the wolf head warriors and Zardoz and the mysterious “master” slay two more with magic missiles. One of the wolf head tribesmen is captured alive but he dies under Zardoz’s dagger in the morning as Zardoz requires a sacrifice to regain his spell.  Another day on the road, the caravan arrives in the city of Zul-Bazzir.

Sefu informs Zardoz, Motard, and Regulius that they are going to head to the House of the Dragon, the mansion of the sorcerer   Zheng-Ya, a friend of the Sefu’s mysterious patron.  He tells them that they are more than welcome to stay on as he could use good sword arms and powerful magic to protect his master.  Regulius declines and leaves the group, declaring that he is going to catch a caravan to the west and head home for his arranged marriage that he had been avoiding.  Motard agrees, as does Zardoz, although he plans on getting setup with his one place.

Upon their arrival at the House of the Dragon, Sefu is surprised to find the place abandoned.  There is no sigh of Zheng-Ya.  Sefu quickly setups up camp in the courtyard of the mansion as his “master” and “mistress” take up residence in the mansion itself.  Zardoz and his hirelings head out into the city to find a place to rent, Motard heads to the tavern for food and drink.  Sefu also heads out into the city with his own shopping list.

As night falls, everyone returns to the House of the Dragon.  Zardoz has found a place to rent that fits his purpose but it will be a few days before he can move in so he and his men take residence Servant’s house.  Motard takes residence in a guest home.  Sefu returns with three slaves and a new hireling named Ludaius, a warrior that fights with a scythe.  Sefu takes the slaves to the mansion and post guards in several positions around the courtyard.  Ludaius retires to a guest house and Motard decides to don his armor, grab his battle axe and take a watch.
The House of the Dragon.  I am including this because I forgot to take pictures of the battel
It is a dark night but there are torches about.  Motard is watching the court yard when he notices something:  One of Sefu’s men is down, lying in front of the mansion.  He approaches and notices that there is a crossbow bolt in his chest.  Motard runs back towards the guest house, sounding the alarm when he is attacked from behind the bushes by a cloaked figure.  A short sword bites into his back.
One of Zardoz’s henchmen is posted outside the servant house and realizes that the mansion is under attack.  However, before he can fire his crossbow or cry out, he is killed when a crossbow bolt takes him in the throat. Zardoz’s second henchman returns into the house, wakes the other and begins looking for a target through the window of the house.
Motard splits the assassin’s head in two and makes to Ludauis’s guest house and tells him that they are under attack.  Ludaius immediately don’s his armor while Motard continues to search the courtyard, dodging crossbow bolts the whole time.  He slays another assassin and finds that all of Sefu’s men are dead at their posts.  Zardoz’s second henchman finds a target and begins shooting at him.  They exchange shots and wound each other.  Motard spots the crossbowman and runs up and buries his battle axe in his groin.  The fight for the courtyard is over but now they must take the mansion.
As a group, they cautiously make their way into the mansion.  There is a large gong that Motard bangs to formally sound the alarm.  Sefu arrives on the scene.  He his wounded but the blood on his sword obviously isn’t his.  He tells them he believes that his master and his mistress have fled to the basement.  They make their way the stairway that leads down into the basement, with Zardoz taking a quick inventory of the master bedroom, just in case the currently occupant no longer needs it or the items it contains.  Zardoz also checks one of the bodies.  The dead man has a spider tattoo on the back of his neck.  Zardoz decides to take out his dagger and remove it for later.
As Motard and Sefu move into the basement hallway, they are immediately attacked by more cloaked figures. There are two on either side of the door and a third one at the end of the hall at a set of closed double doors.  Motard, Sefu and Ludaius make short work of the two ambushers and the charge down the hallway and dispatch the remaining crossbow man.

It appears that the three were trying to get through the door. These men also have the spider tattoo on the back of their necks. Sefu cries out “Yetara!  Daniya!  It is Sefu, it is safe for you to come out now.”  There is the sound of a bar being raised and the double door opens.

Behind the door is a beautiful woman, obviously the woman that Motard and Zardoz caught a glimpse of back on the road from Belthaar.  She appears to be in tears. Sefu moves to comfort her.  This large room appears to be a shire to some kind of spider god.  Coal burning slowly in a large brazier illuminates the room with a flickering light, casting long shadows onto the walls. The marble floor is inscribed with arcane symbols and summoning circles. To the north is a clean marble slab, five feet tall upon which lies a sacrificial victim. To the east is a raised platform, 10 feet tall, with stairs leading up from the lower floor and towards a recess in the eastern wall.  Hung on the eastern wall, left of the raised platform, is a large black tapestry embroidered with a purple spider.  More disturbingly, there is a large cocoon on the south side of the room.
“Where is Yetara?” asks Sefu.  “In the cocoon.” She says.  He conducted some kind of ritual and drank a potion and the next thing I knew, he was incased in that cocoon.”  Zardoz has found a storage room and managed to put together some flammable items just in case things go sideways.   Everyone stands around, waiting for something to happen to the cocoon.  It doesn’t take long before something does happen and a half human, half giant spider creature crawls from the silk.

Zardoz calls out for Yetara and Motard strikes the thing with his axe.  His axe strikes true and black blood spews everywhere.   The thing cries out in rage.  Immediately, Sefu and Daniya attack Motard, Daniya declaring that he will suffer for attacking the spawn of the spider god!  The spawn of the spider god bites Motard before he can strike again and he falls to the floor, a webbing substance forming around him.  Ludaius strikes the abomination but his blade bounce off harmlessly.  He is immediately attacked by Sefu and Daniya as the spider god spawn moves down the hallway.

Zardoz continues to try to talk to it by referring to it as Yetara.  When that doesn’t work, his henchmen set the hallway on fire.  The monster ignores the flames and moves to attack, taking out one of Zardoz’s two remaining henchmen.  Zardoz casts mirror image as the last of his henchmen also falls to the spawn of the spider god.

Ludaius finds himself on the altar of the spider god as he battles the fanatical Daniya and her secret lover Sefu.  Ludaius slays Sefu and then knocks Daniya unconscious.  In a last bit of desperation, before fleeing and leaving Ludaius to his fate, Zardoz manages to cast magic missile which actually slays the creature from the abyss. The fight is over.

Zardoz and Ludaius tie up Daniya and discover Motard and Zardoz’s two henchmen are still breathing but trapped in a webbing substance.  They also find a secret door.  Behind the secret door, they find the body of an old man with a look of surprise on his face that appears to be stabbed in the back.  At first they think that it is the body of Zheng-Ya but the body is too fresh.  They then deduce that this is the corpse of Yetara.  Then what was the spider spawn?  They find webs along the thighs of Daniya.  It appears that the spawn was her son…..

Zardoz eventually integrates her and discovers that she claims to be worth a lot of money to the church of Yot-Kamoth, the spider god as she is a bride of the god itself.  Disgusted and deeming her two retched to sacrifice, he kills her with a dagger thrust.

In the meantime, Ludaius and Zardoz set out to find a healer.  They are directed to Yazd, a brewer, a baker, and supposedly the best healer in the city.  They also hear that he is an opium addict.  On his way to his place of business, he finds an alchemist and purchases a large dose of opium.  Without stating a price, Yazd immediately grabs his healer kit and some scrolls and follows Zardoz back to the House of the Dragon.  He uses his scrolls to save Motard and Zardoz’s henchmen.  Zardoz immediately gives him a stack of coins and the dose of opium.  Yazd is very grateful and tells him that if he needs his services again, he knows where to find him.  With everyone healed, it looks like the house of the Dragon belongs to the survivors.

A few days after the attack, a very well dressed man and his body guards show up at the House of the Dragon.  Zardoz insists that the guards leave their weapons behind but from the look of these men, they may not need them. The man identifies himself as Aetius, the master of the slaver guild.  Apparently, he did a lot of business with Zheng-Ya and now; he wants to do business with them.  It appears that Zheng-Ya disappeared on a mission that Aetius had sent him on and he wanted the party of adventures to find out what happened.  In return, he would give them 3,000 go pieces now, and 3,000 more when they returned with evidence of what happened.  He also said that he would be more generous if they found the artifact that Zheng-Ya had been looking for:  The Horn of the Bull God.  Eventually, the party agreed and Zardoz was looking forward to what would hopefully be a very lucrative business relationship.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Season 12: Snake Dance

When last we left off, Shangor found himself on an out of control stallion, without a ride skill. By some miracle, Shangor managed to keep on the horse and avoid running down an old man. However, Shangor was far from out of the woods yet. From out of nowhere, Katrina rode up, grabbed the reins of Cloud and in a brilliant display of horsewomanship, brought the horse back under control before anyone was hurt and Shangor was humiliated. All of the Valk warriors began to look at Katrina was a new found respect and possibly some lust too.

Jirro, the Valk general that gifted Cloud to Shangor apologized to Shangor. “I am very sorry, noble Shah. I thought this horse was fully broken, but it is not so. Those responsible for this terrible oversight will be punished, I can assure you.”Despite his apology, most of the group realizes that Jirro holds no love for Shangor, who he believes to be Ulesir, Shah of Shan’Ammar. The party also notices that Ruman Gask, the one eyed warrior that brought out the horse is nowhere to be seen.

Eventually, the “royal” group arrives at the palace where they are greeted by Tokarim Shah. The old warrior seems rather neutral towards his future son in law but he is very impressed by what he has heard about Katrina. After a formal greeting, the “royal” group enters the palace.

While Tokarim and Marduk are discussing the details of the wedding, the royal entourage is placed in the garden of lemons where finally, Shangor will meet his “bride”.  She is polite and distant but Shangor attempts to impress her with his poetry (which turns out not to be completely terrible this time around) and his singing, which didn’t go so well.  The princess remains polite and formal and eventually leaves so the meeting wasn’t a disaster.

There are four days until the wedding and Shangor remains busy and manages not to disgrace himself at any of the social functions including the Presentation of the Wedding Gifts, the Courtly Hunt, the Grand Ball and, most importantly, Shangor manages to stay awake through endless discussions on political matters.

During this time, Sylph manages to hear several rumors:  Jirro is in love with his cousin Princess Karmella (no one was surprised to hear that), Ruman Gask is Jirro’s best friend. He saved Jirro’s life during an ambush by the Mountain tribes a year ago. He isn’t a Valk or a man of Teluk’Ammar and very few things are known about his past, Jirro has always wanted Tokarim Shah’s crown. He’ll do anything to have it and Jirro’s cavalrymen are more faithful to the Maquen than to their Shah. In case of a power struggle, they’ll be on Jirro’s side.  To perhaps improve Jirro’s mood, Sylph attempts to seduce him but instead, they end up crying together over Jirro losing his true love to an arranged marriage.

A day before the wedding, a lavish party is thrown.  The feast organized for the future husband is lavish: more than a hundred of people are attending and delicious dishes keep coming out of the kitchens. It is a great party, but only a mere shadow of what will happen tomorrow, for the actual wedding. Celebrations like this tend to become quite rowdy and embarrassing and this is why it is attended by men only. However, this time tradition is broken as Hawk, Sylph and Katrina are all present. Dancers, acrobats, and storytellers entertain the guests, while alcohol flows abundantly. In particular, the groom’s cup is constantly being refilled with Balait, a type of liquor made with horse milk. To respect the Valk tradition, he must get drunk on Balait so that tomorrow night, if it pleases the gods, he’ll beget a son who’ll have horse blood in his veins.   Although Tokarim is hosting, a server arrives and whispers something in his ear.  Tokarim apologizes and leaves, insisting that the banquet continue.

One of Jirro’s warriors proposes a toast.  "To the prudence of a man who has women guarding him!”  This is a reference to the Shah’s Amazon guards.  This toast is met with much laughter.  Shangor responds with a drunken and sprawling toast that offends no one.  Another of Jirro’s warriors makes a second toast:  “To princess Karmella who rides like a man, and to a man who will never be able to ride like a woman”.  Marduk informs that Shangor that is a terrible insult.  To the Valk, a man who cannot ride is not a man at all.  Shangor gets up and tries to retort but before he can finish his rambling toast, Jirro stands up and says ”This foreign sheep, dressed in silk and satin, is not a man. I shall not let our princess be given to one who cannot even wield a sword.”  Hawk jumps up and declares that if Jirro wants to fight Shangor, he will have to face her first.  Jirro uses this as further proof that the Shah is not worthy to marry the princess.  “Any man that has to hide behind his body guard, a woman no less, is no man at all.  So, you say you are a man? I say you and your lackeys are nothing more than stray dogs, not deserving to lick the piss of my horse! If you want to prove me wrong, here and now, play with us, play the Dance of Snakes like the men of Teluk’Ammar do” Shangor and Sul’khaz accept the challenge.

Jirro claps his hands and servants are hastily sent to find what is needed, while the tables are cleared away to make room for the contenders. The servants come back bringing twelve closed baskets. Judging by their worried faces, the content of these baskets must be dangerous. An old man, with strange tattoos on his naked chest, advances with a sort of long flute in his hands. “A snake charmer!” Marduk whispers. The baskets are placed so as to form a sort of circle around the improvised arena. “The rules of the dance are so simple, even a puny dog like you can understand them.” Jirro says. “You and your lackey fight against me and my men in the circle, while the charmer plays. His music will awake the snakes in the baskets. When the music ends, the snakes will be free, and they’ll attack the dancers. Pray to your gods before entering the Circle, I don’t think you’ll come out alive!”

Shangor and Sul’khaz enter the arena bare-chested.  Given the choice between daggers and swords, they chose swords.  Sul’khaz takes one his blades and Hawk loans Shangor her Gorgon Blade.  Jirro and one his trusted swords enters the arena, directly facing the Sul’khaz and Shangor.  The Dance of the Snakes begins.
Almost immediately, the music ends abruptly and the snakes are free to act.  They close in quickly on the combatants.
The fight begins

The enemies close

The snakes converge

What a mess....

Sul’khaz makes short work of Jirro’s warrior and grabs a snake by the head.  Jirro and Shangor both exchange insults and blows.  Sylph regrets that Katrina does not have her bow since she would like to see BOTH Shangor and Jirro shot.  Sul’khaz is bitten two or three times by snakes and becomes very tired.  Shangor strikes a deadly blow on Jirro.  He is about to finish him off when Tokarim returns.  He immediately flies into a rage.

“What is happening here?” He thunders.  Lord Tokarim has returned and orders this folly to stop. Anger reddens his face, especially when he is told exactly what has happened. The Shah apologizes to his future son-in-law and publicly puts his nephew to shame: “If you were not blood of my blood, now I’d drag you behind my horse around all the city, stupid fool! You have shamed us all! I know why you did it! Karmella and my throne will never be yours! You feel like letting off some steam, don’t you? Take your followers to the old Tenebar fort on the western border, and start renovations so that we will no longer fear the Mountain tribes’ attacks from that direction. I want you in the saddle this very night. And don’t come back until explicitly summoned!” Under Tokarim’s cold gaze, Jirro and his men leave the palace at once, while the court watches in shock. After Jirro’s departure and after Sylph has calmed him down, Tokarim smiles again and has some news for the court: “A very important person arrived here a short while ago. He is a personal envoy of King Eku of Ekul. The King, who is a friend of our city, has shown us his favor by sending this holy man to celebrate the wedding.” The king’s envoy comes in. He is peculiar fellow: an old, plump Jademan monk, dressed in plain robes, with a long, thin beard. He smiles and bows in front of the court.  The new arrival is named Philosopher Jimpah.  Marduk informs the royal party that it is indeed a great honor to have such a renowned philosopher and teacher at the wedding.  With Jirro banished, the feast continues.

The wedding ceremony is far from uncomplicated. The preparations start early in the morning: the kitchens work at full capacity and both the bride and the groom must go through lengthy rituals, attended only by their closest servants: baths in horse milk, purification rites, dressing ceremonies, and so on. This wedding includes traditions both of Valk and Ekul religion. In particular, the Princess’s apartments are closely watched as no man can see her before the ceremony.

Finally, everything is ready and the solemn wedding is held at midday in the main hall of Tokarim’s Palace, in front of the whole court. Jimpah kindly entertains the groom while he waits for the bride in front of the altar: “Are you worried, my Lord?” he asks with an earnest smile. Shangor, his feeling as if a thousand demons were banging hammers in his head, just groans.

Finally the bride arrives. She is dressed and veiled in the most beautiful garments: gold, silver, ivory and jeweled embroidery make her dress shimmer, and she is the very image of purity and beauty. She walks in slowly, escorted by a number of handmaidens throwing flowers in front of her, while the sound of cymbals marks her step. Her blue eyes are hypnotizing behind the veil and she stares at Ulesir with intensity.

The ceremony is short and very sober. The union is celebrated in the name of all the gods and for the Enlightenment of the couple and everyone present.“Now you can remove the veil from the bride” Jimpah says. You finally lift the veil over Karmella’s face, only to discover that…the girl isn’t Karmella but Serah, one of her two trusted handmaidens! (No one was surprised by this either)  Everyone gasps. “By all the demons of my ancestors!” Tokarim swears so loud that his words thunder across the astonished hall. In a surge of rage, he draws his sword to cut off the girl’s head on the spot. Shangor, Sylph, Hawk and Jimpah all step forward to prevent this.

Serah throws herself at the Shah’s feet and confesses:” Oh my lord! I did it because your daughter, whom I love so dearly, ordered me to. Karmella fled last night. Ruman Gask, Jirro’s best friend, came before dawn to take her to Jirro.  Karmella resisted for a while then she gave in. She always wanted to marry him and seeing no other way to do it, accepted Ruman’s plan. Karmella asked me to impersonate her during the wedding, to buy her some time. I beg you, don’t kill me! Everything I did I did for Karmella!”

Tokarim cursed and swore like a true Valk warrior: “In the name of all that is good and evil, I’ll have the head of my nephew on a pike and my stubborn daughter married, in chains if need be! Generals! Gather the army! We must be ready to leave in two hours!” Realizing what they must do, Shangor and his entourage volunteer to join the party to kill Jirro and bring Princes Karmella home to be wed.

Next time, the Battle of Tenebar Fort