Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Rumors of the Rise of Sakatha

In Quitokai, they reunited with Kreppu-Sen who informed them Imperial guards were in the area, hunting for the traitor General Goyat and the long chain of once trusted servants who had been sent to find him and in their delay or failure, had likewise proven themselves traitors: first General Kawabi, then Gwinch, most recently Tetsukichi and Golfo.  They decided together that they should leave the area and considered their options.  Most obviously, they could resume their quest to find Gwinch, Kawabi, and Goyat.  But both Tetsukichi and Golfo felt also a filial loyalty to Anca and the Sansar claim.  There had been hints from Anca that if they were to deal with the brigand problem, the local Khan, known as Eor Brunis, would reward them with titles and herds.  This seemed like the quickest route to respectability, and perhaps safer, since they might more easily hide from the Emperor’s men in the lands to the west.

So they traveled to the encampment of Eor Brunis and listened to the assembly of herders and merchants who had gathered there.  Eor Brunis boasted great herds in part because he was paid tribute by the many merchants who passed through his herding grounds on their way from one trading center to another.  They were happy to pay because he was fair and because he swiftly punished anyone who harassed them.  But now they were not so happy.  The brigands eluded capture in the Great Sea of Sand near Kumwei, once a very pleasant wayside.  When they attacked, they attacked swiftly, and the merchants’ guards were seized by a strange terror.

The party agreed to seek out the brigands and destroy them.  The next morning, they set off for Kumwei, accompanied by a merchant who had agreed both to pay them and to show them to Kumwei, hoping himself to profit greatly from a trip few of his competitors still dared to make.  They spent the first night at what, according to their guide, would be the last Wayside before they reached Kumwei.  An old seer heard were they were going and explained what was happening.  According to his song, the Earth had once been ruled by great lizards, and their king Sakatha made his court in the middle of the swamp that was now the Great Sea of Sand.  The race of men had replaced the race of lizards, but still the cycle turned and the race of lizards was preparing to rule the earth once more.  The party listened closely to song while their guide did his best to ignore it.
IMG_1955 by Brayo
IMG_1955, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.

The next day, crossing a bridge over a deep canyon, they were best by dozens of lizard-people who emerged from beneath the bridge.  They walked on two feet; in their forelimbs, they carried shields and spiked clubs.

Kreppu-sen took command of the party’s tactics.  The lizard-people were attacking from either end of the bridge.  The party’s spellcasters and archers broke up the line in front of them while the entire group moved forward, those in the lead urging their horses to trample their foes underfoot.  A few strong warriors at the rear held off the flank attack.  Once the party had crossed the bridge safely, they wheeled on their horses and met the surviving lizard-people on a single front.  Thanks to such tactics and the prowess of the individual warriors and, we may hope, the favor of a deity or deities, the humans vanquished the lizard-people without sustaining any serious casualties. 

The party pressed on for a few more hours.  They encountered a man sleeping by the side of the road.  He awakened when they approached and declared that he was a vassal of Khan Eor.  His dress, his name, and his speech all corroborated his claim.  He and his men had been attacked by brigands. The brigands commanded some kind of magic so that they easily overwhelmed his group of strong men.  He had escaped and now wanted to return to make a report to Khan Eor.  He was glad to share what information he knew.  The brigands operated near Kumwei. There was a large open grassy area between the buildings and tents of Kumwei and the shifting dunes of the Sea of Sand.  A cave there, on the edge of the Sea of Sand was used by the brigands as their hideout.  Kreppu-sen agreed to accompany this man—and also the merchant who was having second thoughts about danger-driven arbitrage—back to the encampment of Khan Eor.  Beatriss, Tetsukishi, and their retainers would continue on to Kumwei
Mojave by Brayo
 by Brayo on Flickr.

Beatriss and Tetsukichi learn that different groups of indigenous peoples claim different cultural practices.

Beatriss and Tetsukichi had plans to return with Golfo and their companions to Xitaqa, the place where Golfo had been imprisoned, and loot the wizard’s treasure.  But on their way up the River Lam, a ragged man on the shore waved frantically for their help.  Their sense of duty and fatalism outweighed their paranoia and they approached him.  He explained that he was from one of the sister villages of Quitokai and that he and several and his neighbors had been captured by slavers.  He had escaped, and needed help to rescue the others.  Beatriss and Tetsukichi agreed to help him.

The villager led the party into the jungle for about an hour and then stopped to point ahead at a wisp of smoke.  There was a clearing there, he explained where the prisoners were held.

The party approached until they came upon a path, where they were spotted by one of the slavers’ sentries.  Before they could raise their bows to fire, the sentry ran away down the path, shouting the alarm.  The party pursued him to a clearing and there a battle ensued.  Beatriss and Tetskuich led the charge, but they were knocked to the ground, stunned, by a hidden spell-caster.  Afu and Ju-Mei called on the power of the Sun Goddess to apprehend the slavers’ archers.

The slavers, numbering about half-a-dozen, commanded another 10-15 men from the jungle.  Hunters rather than warriors, several of these men fell quickly under the blows of Golfo, Naron, and Al-Fitar, and the others fled.  Beatriss and Tetsukichi recovered from whatever spell had affected them.  The villager found his captive friends and began freeing them from their bonds.  Immediately, the freed villagers began attacking the other prisoners with sticks and stones.  Beatriss intervened.  “What are you doing and why are you doing this?”  The man they’d met at the river explained that, several of the captives were not village people, but jungle people.  “They are the ones who help the slavers to find us and catch us.  If you free them, they will kill us later.”  Beatriss ordered that the “jungle people” should not be killed and should not be freed either.   The party ordered the “village people” that they should follow them out of the clearing so they could be taken back to Quitokai.  Golfo stayed behind to free the remaining captives, leaving them to find their own safety. 
Kauaʻi by Brayo
, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.
The company returned to Quitokai without further incident.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Do you need a reason to go back to the Moathouse?

A few days after their expedition beneath Burne’s tower, Thimbur and Fezziwig were summoned to the local Church of St. Bocrates where Brother Calmer explained that Panyus had informed him of what had happened and that he had a theory regarding its cause.  Predictably, he believed it had something to do with the lingering evil that resided in the moathouse.  Brother Calmer introduced Fezziwig and Thimbur to Godith, the survivor of another party of adventurers who had recently ventured into moathouse.  Some of her companions (“the brave paladin”) had been killed and others had slunk out of Hommelet under reekish clouds of churlish suspicion, but Godith, somewhat inexplicably, had remained.  Thimbur and Fezziwig agreed that they would be glad for the assistance of someone with current knowledge about the moathouse, especially one who boasted some talent with magic, and welcomed her to the party.  The party shared their plans with other long-time residents of the Inn, and so their numbers swelled to nine, including their long-time associate Fernac the card-shark, Brother Doobius, an acolyte cleric, Clever Riff, and three from among Burne’s Badgers.  Panyus issued to each of the Badgers one of the peculiar items that the party had taken from the blue people under the tower.

Well-outfitted, the party made their way to the Moathouse along the usual path, and tried to enter by the main entrance.  A few of the giant frogs which infest the area attacked Fezziwig as he crossed the swampy moat by way of a pile of rubble and debris.  Although he was pulled from pile of rocks into the mud, he slew his attacker and the rest of the party killed or drove away the other frogs with arrows.
I think I found something! by Brayo
I think I found something!, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.
The party passed through the courtyard into the moathouse itself.  They explored the upper rooms, killed two giant beetles, and harvested their glowing glands for use as a light source.  Godith showed them the way to the lower level, warning them of the many dangers below.  Thimbur threw a beetle gland into the pit, illuminating it enough to satisfy that no undead creatures were lurking immediately nearby and that the floor was cleansed of slime and mold and mushrooms.  They tied a rope to a spke in the floor and descended into the pit.
Doge's Dungeon by ferrisnoxIn the lower level, they did not at first encounter any living thing while exploring dungeon cells, a torture chamber, a store room, and several small, smashed up rooms whose original purpose they could not determine.

Doge's Dungeon, a photo by ferrisnox on Flickr.
  At last they came upon a pile of “fresh” refuse, and heard voices nearby.  They prepared an ambush, and largely because of Godith’s sleep magic, very quickly dispatched of a group of men wearing black cloaks emblazoned with the symbol of a yellow eye.  They allowed one of the sleeping men to rest peacefully, while they killed the others, stripped them of their black cloaks, and hid their bodies.
When this was done, Thimbur and Fezziwig donned the black cloaks themselves and woke the sleeping man.  “It’s okay,” they told him, “we arrived just in time.”
Although suspicious at first because he didn’t recognize them, Thimbur and Fezziwig convinced their captive that they were his friends, and that while some of his companions had been killed, most were resting in their bunks, and the intruders had been driven away.  Yes, they said, they had come from the main temple, and they had come to check up on how things were being managed.  The captive was careful to avoid saying anything bad about “Master” while also emphasizing that he was new and didn’t know much about what was going on.  He did admit that some of the men were frustrated that they weren’t having as much fun as they expected.  “But I tell them, it doesn’t come all at once, you have to work for it.”  He was surprised to learn that they had entered by way of the pit and hadn’t yet checked in with Master.  He suggested that he should take them to check-in with Master, pointing generally to where they would find him.  And then he reached for his dropped sword and, not wanting to take any chances, Fezziwig and Thimbur killed him.
The party retreated to the dungeon cells and hid the informant’s body with the others.  They agreed that Godith’s sleep magic had very useful and that because it seemed quiet in the area of the pit, and because that wasn’t a commonly-used entrance, they should spend a few hours resting, tending to their wounds, praying for continued protection, and give Godith an opportunity to study her magic books and prepare the necessary ingredients for more spell-casting.
Soon, however, they were distracted by a strange grating noise.  After investigating several potential sources, they returned to the place near the refuse pile where they had met the black-cloaked guards.  Here, they met more black-cloaked guards.  Several of the party members were still similarly disguised and so rather than attack, they initiated a conversation.  This group was suspicious and wanted to know about a missing patrol.  When Fezziwig suggested that they had returned to their bunks, the guards attacked, one of them stabbing Fezziwig deeply with his spear.  Their leader sent one of their number to go and sound the alarm.
In the ensuing battle, two of Burne’s Badgers were killed.  Fezziwig’s wound was very severe and the party fully expected reinforcements to pursue them.  Thus, they abandoned their dead, made a swift retreat to the pit room, and climbed up the rope to the upper level.  They cut the rope behind them and, half-carrying Fezziwig, made their way back to Hommelet.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Realm of the Technomancer Play Report Part 2

It didn’t take long for Panyus to understand that they were not returning with news of victory.  But, dead hirelings aside, they did manage to pique his interest—mainly by talking about the exploding metal canisters and various other oddities (giant mushrooms, glowing fungus, a severed head wrapped up in wire tucked inside a niche in the stone column that rose from the bubbling mud)— and agreed to show him a little of what they’d found.  Evidence of their success—the dead blue men and the dead furry white monster— forced him to agree that the job was bigger than he’d previously imagined.  They returned to the presumed safety of the tower and discussed what should happen next.  Fezziwig, (for reasons not entirely understood by the other party members, something about an upcoming holy day he needed to plan for) would stay behind.  But Panyus would replace him, accompanied by two of Burne’s Badgers (or, as they prefer to be called, “guards.”)  Another guard would take Panyus’s place guarding the steel doors between Burne’s laboratory and the weird mud world beyond.

After a few days to recover from their wounds, the newly formed party returned to the mud world.  As soon as they opened the steel doors, they were attacked by another one of the furry white monsters.  An unseen second assailant flung one of the metal cannisters, but this one merely filled the area with smoke without injuring anyone.  Although surprised, Deah dodged the blows of the white monster, while holding its attention long enough for the rest of the party to fire their arrows and stab it with their long spears.

under the church by BrayoWhen the white monster was dead, the party made their way down toward the mud lake, stopping along the way to harvest a couple giant mushroom caps.  They noticed that there was a new head in the box—this one looking like it came from one of the blue men.  They decided that this time, they’d just leave it alone.

The mushroom caps were useful as both sleds and rafts.  The party split into two groups and using their spears, propelled themselves across the lake on the mushroom caps.  They approached a beach and landed there.  There were several huts on the beach and perhaps some movement on the distant side.  Thimbur went ahead to scout the area.

He reached the first hut, finding it constructed of shaggy white furs draped over a rusty metal frame.  Peering through a gap in the skins, Thimbur saw several of the blue men (or perhaps they were women) conversing with a much larger blue man who stood with his back to the door.  Thimbur returned to the group and reported what he saw.  They decided they should rush into the hut and attack with their melee weapons, in the hopes that the blue men would not use their explosive weapons inside the hut. Thimbur, Deah, and one of the guards rushed into the hut, ambushing the large blue man.  Panyus and the guards waited outside to watch for trouble.  The large blue man was a fierce opponent—despite receiving a grevious wound in the sneak attack, he returned the attack with fury.  The other blue people, however, fled screaming, and this attracted the attention of others on the beach.  Worst of all, a floating skull began flashing multi-colored lights and shrieking.

Thimbur and Deah killed the large blue man, but then, without understanding why, fell to attacking each other.  Panyus intervened, using his own magic to combat that of the floating skull.  Burne’s Badgers were as fierce as their namesake, firing arrows at the other blue men who were coming to the aid of their fallen leader.  Panyus added his magic to this fight as well.  The attacking blue men were killed without any loss of life among the party members.  Thimbur discover that the large blue man carried two of the exploding metal cannisters.  He kept one for himself and gave one to Thundar.

The party explored the beach and determined that while there were blue people remaining in the other huts, they were not an immediate threat and, for the time being deserved cautious mercy.  Thimbur discovered a rope bridge leading form the beach to a rock island in the middle of the mud lake.  He fought more blue people and retrieved more of the exploding cannisters.  Meanwhile the rest of the party discovered a corridor leaving away from the lake, and thought they detected a light source at the far end of it.  After rejoining Thimbur, the party explored the corridor.
blue bulb by Brayo
blue bulb, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.

They found its workmanship to be similar to that near the steel doors—very smooth and regular finishing.  And it was illuminated by the same amber lights they had seen in Burne’s laboratory.  At the end of this corridor, they found a single metal door, guarded by a single blue man and white monster.  After killing them both with an exploding canister, the party burst the door open—and found themselves in the engine room.

As Panyus had told them, it was filled floor to ceiling with enormous metal boxes, all of them shaking and glowing from the strangepowers they contained.  Thick metal ropes connected the engines to each other and to the walls of the room.  Small clouds of steam exploded from the pipes sticking out of the metal boxes.

But there wasn’t much time for close inspection, because the room was also filled with blue people, several of them carrying odd contraptions, all of them heavily armed.  One of their number , who stood in the corner, waving his arms and scribbling on the walls, seemed to be in middle of a ritual.  Both Deah and Thundar threw an exploding canister, one aimed at the leader of the ritual, the other tossed less deliberately into the middle of the room. The powerful blast killed several of the blue people, and also killed one of Burne’s Badgers.  The rest of the party retreated, closing the door behind them.  They stumbled down the corridor, finding the ground suddenly unstable beneath them.  They lay where they fell, shielding themselves from any falling debris.  A second explosion shook the engine room.

After waiting several minutes, the party returned to the engine room and found all the blue people dead.  And all the engines ruined, the metal boxes ruptured from within, their mechanical guts spilling out.  The party waited several more minutes, avoiding eye contact with Panyus, and scavenging for items of value among the blue people.  Thimbur pocketed what seemed to be an odd L-shaped club.  The other oddities—including what looked like a set of bagpipes filled with warm mud, a humming sword, and a leather armband with a needle apparently designed to stick into its weaerer’s flesh, were taken by memebrs of the party, but claimed by Panyus. 
55 60 65 by Brayo
When they returned back to the tower, Panysu flatly refused to pay the 250 g.p. fee.  According to his reasoning, he had hired the adventurers to save his master’s engines, not destroy them.  When Burne returned, he would summon them to discuss what should happen next.  As a sign of their good faith, he recommended that they should leave behind the bagpipes, the sword, and the armband.  They could keep a couple of the exploding cannisters.  And he never saw the L-shaped club.  If they wished, they could be permitted to stay in the tower until Burne returned.  That would avoid any awkward questions in the village about what had happened to Young Edward and Johnny the Morose.