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

Monday, May 13, 2013

Session 11: FINALLY, an honorable foe!

The battle has begun.  One row of Amazons fights the mountain tribesmen in hand to hand combat while a second row of Amazons protects Shangor and fires arrows at the tribesmen that have boarded the Blue Arrow and those that remain on the war canoe.  Some of the tribesmen continue to fire their bows at the Amazons from the canoe but they are distracted by the dire wolf that Sul’khaz has summoned amongst them.  Hawk marks the tribesmen’s leader as her opponent.  The warrior in the gray fox cloak readily accepts Hawks challenge.  The Amazons and the mountain tribesmen move to attack.
The Battle Begins

The battle has just barely begun when Sylph moves forward and invokes her magical power of distraction which impairs the fighting ability of all of the men around her.  
The Power of Sylph renders men useless in battle!

Gray Fox, the leader of the tribesman swings his axe wildly and as her curses his enemies as dishonorable for resorting to cowardly and foul sorcery to win the fight.  Hawk yells at him to step back and he will able to see clearly.  
The Battle Rages

He does so and finds that Hawk speaks the truth.  Hawk moves forward and the mountain warriors move to attack her but Gray Fox orders them to stand aside and let her through.  Together Hawk and Gray Fox move to bow of the ship and they begin their deadly dance.  Hawk finds herself smiling.  Finally, Hawk faces an honorable opponent, so unlike the cowardly Drunn the Gorgon or Kumal the Smiling.  As she narrowly avoids and an axe blow that should have disemboweled her, she openly declares that she is enjoying this. 

Finally!  Hawk fights a foe with honor

Sul’khaz attempts to jump on board the war canoe but he slips on the wet shipboards and falls in between the ships.  The ships move and bounce as Sul’khaz cries out in pain as his body is ground between the two vessels.  Ignoring the danger, Shangor runs past his guards and pulls Sul’khaz to safety. 
In the meantime, Katrina has managed to sink the two remaining war canoes before they can recover and re-enforce the tribesmen currently trying to take the Blue Arrow.  With that task completed, she takes up her bow and fires at the tribesmen, usually at the ones that are just in front of her dear friend Sylph in the off chance that she might accidently put an arrow into “the whore.” 

Sylph’s magic does much to turn the tide of battle against the tribesmen as twice she unleashes her sorcery upon them, rendering them almost useless in battle.  Despite the distraction, one of the mountain warriors manages to wound Sylph and four of the Amazons fall in the battle. 

Axe and sword meet at the bow of the ship as Hawk and Gray Fox battle.  There is a growing mutual respect growing between the two of them.  Grey Fox realizes that he is no match for Hawk but still he fights on until finally Hawk’s ancient Gorgon Blade finds a way through his defenses and cleaves his heart in two.  Dying, he embraces Hawk and tells her to take his fox cloak and wear to it proudly.  He also asks that she do him the honor of burying him in ground high above the shore instead of dumping his body into the river.  She agrees as a single tear rolls down the side of her check from her remaining eye.  

Gray Fox falls and Hawk, his slayer, morns over him.

As the rest of the crew rejoices in their victory, Hawk mourns her fallen foe.  As the Amazons clean up the carnage of the battle, Hawk takes Gray Fox’s body to shore to honor his request.  

Sul’khaz and Sylph mack out while Hawk weeps

One of the Amazons (played in the battle by Sylph’s player) throws her bow overboard as twice she hit her sisters in the battle, including Cassandra, the leader of the Amazons.  With the battle won, the Blue Arrow continues its voyage to Teluk’Ammar. 

The royal party arrives in Teluk’Ammar and they are greeted by a number of dignitaries and the warrior Jirro.  “I am Jirro, Maquen of Teluk’Ammar. The Shah apologizes for not being here in person, but his many duties have kept him at the palace. He asked me to escort you there. We have brought horses, if you’d like to ride. It is a short trip to the palace.”  Marduk whispers to Shangor that the title Maquen means “General of the Calvary” He also tells him that Jirro is Tokarim Shah’s nephew and his right hand. 

A number of horses are brought for the royal party to ride.  One of them, a magnificent white stallion stands out.   “This is Cloud,” Jirro says. “The best horse in my stables. I hope you can ride it into many battles. Consider it my personal gift.” Then, a one-eyed warrior gives the Maquen his horse so that he can personally deliver the gift to Ulesir Shah. “Thanks, Ruman Gask,” says Jirro.  Jirro is able to do so despite being distracted by Sylph. 

Jirro speaks little but is courteous to the group but everyone quickly figures out that the holds no love for Ulesir Shah, or, in the reality, Shangor.  Despite this, the party moves on towards the palace. 

Many people have come forth the see Ulesir, Shah of Shan’Ammar.  Many want to touch his cloak or to receive his blessing.  Then, the unexpected happens. A dog slips past the guards and starts barking at Prince Ulesir’s horse. Cloud’s reaction is extreme. The mighty beast rears up, whinnying and kicking out. A soldier riding next to Ulesir is thrown out of his saddle. At this point the beast runs toward the crowd, while everyone desperately tries to get out of harm’s way. Panic breaks out as Cloud bolts into the crowd……
Until next time….

Monday, May 6, 2013

Session 10: Rolling on the River

Session 10 begins with Sylph and the Shah’s advisor Marduk undertaking the less than enviable task of trying to teach Shangor how to act like a prince.  Although Shangor proves to be a decent dancer with a surprisingly good singing voice, his attempts at poetry drive Marduk to drink and opium.  One of the royal barbers nearly committed suicide after washing and trimming Shangor’s hair.   In the morning, the whole group boards the Blue Arrow, an Amazon Hawk ship and they begin their journey to Teluk’Ammar.

During the course of the first two days of the trip, Sylph and Marduk continue their work with Shangor while everyone else attempts to play the roles assigned them.  Shangor does make some progress as at one point, he sings a song so well, the entire crew stops what they are doing to listen.  However, his performance of Shah Ulesir’s poetry would send even the most powerful of demons running back to Hell.

On the evening of the second day of the trip, Shangor retires to his chambers after a very long day of training.  He longs for his iron battle axes and wishes at least one of the Amazons on the ship would be joining him in his chambers.  As he begins to get into bed, he notices that there is a soaking wet man in his chambers, definitely not what he was hoping for.  The man looks to be a bald Jademan with a stone amulet in his right hand.  Before Shangor can reach for his hidden battle axe, the mysterious visitor chants and the stone amulet in his right hand begins to glow.  Shangor is paralyzed!  The Jademan closes in…..

Meanwhile, Sylph and Sul’khaz have “retired” to the cabin that they are sharing.  Hawk and Katrina are on the deck of the ship when they notice a Amazon sentry watching out over the river.  Hawk senses that there is something amiss and checks on the sentry only to discover that Amazon is dead; her neck broken.  Hawk discovers a trail of wet foot prints and sets off to follow while Katrina raises the alarm.  The trail leads to Shangor’s cabin.

Hawk attempts to break down the door without much success until Katrina arrives with three amazons that quickly hack the door down.  What they find is a tied up Shangor over the shoulder of the mysterious Jademan.   He is almost to the cabin window when by the time they get through the door.

He's got Shangor!  

Slaughtered Evil Monk

The Jademan drops Shangor on the floor and moves to attack with his bare hands.  The fight is every short as one Amazon disembowels the Jademan and a second cleaves her short sword deep into his chest.

Now freed from the foul sorcery of the amulet, Shangor is enraged.  He attacks the corpse of his would be assassin, in VERY non prince like manner and rubs the blood of the assassin on his chest.  Having never seen the Ulesir behave in such a manner, the Amazons stare at their employer, some of them seeing him in an entirely new light.  Hawk quickly declares that the he is still under the influence of foul sorcery and she and the newly arrived Marduk ushers the Amazon’s out of Shangor’s cabin.

Katrina retrieves Sylph and Sul’khaz while Marduk examines the body.  He finds a stylized black flame on the dead man’s neck.  Marduk recognizes the tattoo which marks the dead man as a Keeper of the Black Flame, an order of evil monks that rule the clans of the Iron Mountains.  “We suspected that they secretly supported Korras and this only confirms our suspicions.”  Marduk identifies the amulet as a Prison Stone, a magical device that is typically used to trap demons, not human souls.  One thing that Marduk is surprised by is that the assassin could have easily dispatched Shangor while he was under the power of the amulet.  He doesn’t understand why the assassin seemed intent on kidnapping Shangor rather than killing him considering that Korras wants his stepbrother the Shah dead.  Eventually everyone retires for the evening with a pair of Amazons guarding the now ruined door of Shangor’s cabin.  Shangor’s cradles his iron battle axe as he sleeps in his bed.

On the third day of the trip, the Blue Arrow approaches a narrow gorge when suddenly, a rain of boulders and rocks comes tumbling down upon the ship.  The Amazon helmswoman avoids a very big boulder but is struck upon the head and collapses.  Cassandra, the Amazon leader cries out “The Helm.”  Hawk immediately grabs the helm and attempts to steer the ship through the rain of deadly rocks and boulders.  With the support of the crew, (including Shangor who forgets his role of Prince and grabs an oar and begins to row), Hawk manages to navigate the Blue Arrow through the gorge.  However, once the ship is clear of the boulders, there is another surprise waiting for the ship:  Four large war canoes from the tribes from the Iron Mountains are waiting for them.

Four war canoes! 

With glee, Katrina mans the catapult and immediately attacks the canoes.  Due to her skill, only one of the canoes actually makes it to the Blue Arrow for boarding.  One war canoe was sunk and the other two lost control due to damage.

Only one war canoe made the trip

The Blue Arrow!

The tribesmen board the Blue Arrow even before the hulls of their canoes touch the Blue Arrow. One of them, a large man wearing a cape of gray fur, shouts: “Go on! Kill them all, but save the Shah for Korras’ knife!  And let the others die in the Black Flame!”  Cassandra and her Amazons draw their blades as one and move in to attack with a number of them making a wall to protect Shangor who they believe is the Shah.  Hawk claims the man wearing the cape of grey fur as her own and moves to cut her way through to him.  Sul’khaz summons a wolf on the war canoes that still holds about half of the tribesmen.  Katrina continues to fire the catapult at the damaged war canoes as they try to join the battle and Shangor longs for his battle axe as the Battle of the Gorge reaches its climax…..

The Battle Lines are drawn!

The Battle Begins!

Next time, we find out if the party and their Amazon allies can defeat the tribesmen from the Iron Mountains.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Crypts and Things Session One Chapter 2

Cast of player characters:
Zardoz, a magician played by Sam
Motard of the Cave Bear Clan, a barbarian played by Kevin
Huven, a thief played by Casey.

Many in the city of Belthaar are celebrating the death of the bandit lord Ragnor, none more so than Darius Khas, Ragnor’s lieutenant that betrayed his friend and leader over a chest full of gold.  Among the poor, Ragnor was seen as a heroic figure that robbed only from the wealthy.  Those that knew Ragnor scoffed at such praise:  What is the point of stealing from those that have nothing worth stealing anyway?  Sitting beside Khas is Ithmar, the commander of the city’s mercenary guards.  He shows none of the joy that Khas displays as he finds Darius’ company repulsive at best.  As he mulls over his wine, he wishes that Darius could hang alongside the bodies of this former friends and compatriots.  Ragnor was as rotten to core as any, but he was no worse than Darius.  Besides, he thought to himself, no one loves a traitor.

Sitting beside a traitorous cur like Darius Khas was not all that troubled Ithmar:  He sent five of him men into the valley with the forgotten temple to investigate Ragnor’s fate.  Only one had returned and he had been driven mad by whatever he had encountered in the ruins.  His men deserved better than that and he would definitely sleep better if they would have returned with Ragnor’s head.  Feeling that diplomacy has been satisfied, Ithmar decides to leave Darius to find better company.

Ithmar watches as a young thief darts for the exit, narrowly avoiding the trap that had been laid for him. The thief had attempted to snatch the purse of the wizard Zardoz, not realizing that the purse was bait. Zardoz’s hireling Brutus sprang for the young man but missed.  A moment after the young pick pocket made it past the door, Zardoz’ hireling that had been watching outside (Chellick) walked in shaking his head, indicating that the lowlife had made good his escape.   Ithmar was well aware of Zardoz’s game of “acquiring” test subjects and sacrifices. As long as he kept his targets to the scum of the streets, Ithmar did not mind.  Moreover, Ithmar had employed the wizard on more than one occasion to be rid of undesirables.  It is wise to fear a viper, but they certainly are good for dealing with vermin.  Ithmar certainly found him to be better company than Darius Khas.

Indeed, Zardoz the sorcerer, and his hirelings are watching Darius Khas celebrate with cruel intentions.  Sensing the distain from Ithmar, Zardoz believes, correctly that it would not break the mercenary commander’s heart if Darius Khas would to go missing.   Zardoz is quickly joined by Ithmar, the mighty Northman Motard and the street fighter Huven.  Over drinks, Zardoz decides that that Darius Khas’s blood money would do better in his pocket and concocts a plan with the others and how they will relieve Khas of his money and probably his life.  Ithmar’s silence is a sure sign of acquiescence.   Motard and Huven readily agree to help.    Ithmar retires for the evening while Darius Khas head upstairs with a pair of women.  Zardoz and crew wait patiently for the party to wind down.

Just after midnight, Zardoz and crew creep upstairs to the door of Darius Khas’s room Huven attempts to pick the lock but fails miserably.  Realizing that the time for subtly has passed Motard breaks down the door.  Flaying about blindly, Darius tries to resist as his two bed companions run off into the night.  The fight is short, brutal, ugly ad without honor.  The inn keeper staggers up the stairs but quick turns around with the coin that Zardoz gives him.  .  In the end, Darius Khas is trussed up and dragged off to Zardoz’s dwelling.  Then the integration begins…

Elsewhere in the city, a group of cloaked figures come climbing from the sewers grates.  A city guard approaches with his sword drawn.  “Get back in the sewers where you belong gutter trash.”  The tallest of the group turns towards the guard, his eye glowing green.  Crying out in terror, the guard stabs forward into the robed figure with his short sword.  The sword thrust strikes what feels like solid stone.  The guard can’t believe it.  The short should have entered under the man’s rib cage and pierced his heart.  Instead the blade is broken in his hands.  The tall figure extends his right and grabs the guard by the throat.  He gasps out as his neck is snapped like a twig.  The guard falls to the street a lifeless lump.  “Come my children.” says the tall robed figure.  “Tomorrow the city will be ours.” More and more of robed figures leave the sewers and disappear in the shadows of the street.

By morning, Darius Khas is willing to tell Zardoz and the others the location of where he is keeping his treasure.  He tells them that he keeps a lock box under a floor board under his bed in his apartment. Huven and Chellick leave for the apartment.

While on their way to the apartment, Huven and Chellick notice that there is a commotion taking place at the city palace.  Since they are in a hurry get the gold, they do not pay much attention to it and instead make haste to Darius apartment.  Once again Huven fails to open the lock and brute force is used to open the door.  Huven looks under the bed and finds the loose floorboard.  Without checking anything, he lifts it.  Out of the opening shoots a dart that strikes Huven in the throat.  He flops down on the ground grabbing his throat as a gurgling sound escapes his lips.  He only suffers for a moment as his twitching ceases and his bowels empty.  Realizing that Huven is dead, the Chellick carefully removes the lockbox and leaves for Zardoz’s home.

Upon his arrival, Zardoz asks Darius if he has anything else that he might want to tell them.  The more valuable the information, the more likely it would be that he would live.  The hireling mentions the commotion taking place the City palace and Motard decides to investigate.

Motard arrives at the city palace and a massive crowd has gathered in front of the palace.  He can see Ithmar on his horse, leading his men, trying to hold back the masses.   It appears that the city’s down trodden have arisen against those more fortunately than they.  Leading them are a number of robed figures.  The largest of the robed figures speaks:  “Too long have you lay under the feet of those that oppress you, those who have grown fat on the work of others.  No more will you have to go without. We will TAKE what we want!  The large figure casts off his robe to reveal the Bandit Lord the people city believe to be dead: Ragnor!  A rain of crossbow bolts and arrows come crashing down on Ragnor but all of the missiles bounce off of him.  His eyes glowing green, a massive sword in his hand and a manic smile on his face, Ragnor yell’s “Take the palace!  It is yours!”  The mass of humanity moves towards the palace and the wall of guards defending it.

Ithmar realizes that clubs will not work to keep the rioters at bay, he orders his men to clear the court yard with drawn steel.   Ragnor grins at Ithmar.  “Did you lose something captain” he yells as some of the robed figures throw four severed heads in his direction.  The heads land nearby, their faces frozen in terror, their dead eyes staring at Ithmar in accusation of him having sent them to their deaths. Ithmar watches as his men are dragged down and torn to pieces by the crowds.  They are slaying as they fall but it will not be enough to turn the tide.  He looked to his well-worn longsword and said “Come my oldest and truest friend in all my endeavors.  Let us see how many of this rabble we can send to hell before we join them.”  He charges forward in desperate attempt to cut his way to Ragnor.  Maybe, just maybe, his blade will work where arrows and bolts did not.  Ithmar doesn’t get to find out as eventually he is dragged from his horse and torn to bits but he does not make that the trip down to oblivion alone. ..

Motard grips his axe in frustration as there is nothing that he can do to save Ithmar.  Realizing that the crowd is likely to turn on him as well, he runs back to Zardoz’s dwelling to relay the news.

After hearing that an immortal being that is immune to arrows and crossbow bolts has just taken over the city, Zardoz response was very short and to the point.  Let’s get the f*** out right now.  He asks Darius if there were any hidden caches out in the nearby hills that they might be able to hit on the way out of the city.  When Darius says no, Zardoz stabs him through the heart and comments “Too bad..”