[Campaign Journal] Sword, Sorcery and Rayguns #03

by Kalman Farago
In the city of Immah Wel

As you’ll remember, we were preparing to leave the island city of Khonón and sail for the ruins of Immah Wel, where we were tasked by the magic shop-owner Artothrokus to assassinate three sages, men of power and unknown magical powers who were also exploring the place for their own purposes. While preparing, Licar had the great idea of asking for sponsorship from the local temple of Fedafuce in the form of a high level spell he could learn. Well, for better of worse they agreed, and now our Imperial wizard will need to return with some pretty spectacular haul to pay off the loan.

But anyway, off we were, and a short sailing took us to the island where we hid the boat and headed for the large complex visible even from sea. Near its northwest corner, we found an abandoned amphiteatre with strange translucent orbs hovering in the air and breaking with a loud noise when touched. Our dextrous thief Zaxtaros weaved his way through them and found a trapdoor to a storage cellar, where he looted a couple of player’s masks of some value. As he was coming back, we became aware of a dark procession approaching from the east, and hid in the theatre. As they passed by, the marchers were found to be translucent human shapes, the spirits of the dead. Remembering something mentioned by one of our Khonón contacts, we joined their columns at the end as they turned south along the main complex’s outer perimeter. Soon we reached a gate which opened for the dead, and we slipped in before it would close. Inside, we waited a bit for the spectral procession to move away, then started exploring. There didn’t seem to be much of either value or peril in the immediate vicinity, except for some melon-sized poisonous spiders which we managed to torch by throwing flaming oil into their web-filled room.

Soon we reached a tiny abode with healing herbs and various healer’s supplies along the southern wall, where we found a secret passage to a large grove outside the complex – unfortunately, inhabited by some predatory vines that would try to strangle anyone who comes too close. As we were exploring, Gwyddion noticed a building to the west, which our map indicated to be only accessible from this direction. In the face of glaring stupid indifference from his mates, he walked up to it while the others were, I guess, kicking around the dirt or something – except for Zaxtaros, who also left the others and went back inside to explore some corridors to the west.

Beyond the door to the mansion, Gwyddion found a small entrance hall with a second door, and a pile of canine bones lying around the ground. Convinced that something valuable — or at least interesting — was beyond, he reached for the second door. As soon as he touched the handle, a brilliant flash blinded him as the dog skeletons rose and attacked! With a -4 penalty to hit AND a -4 penalty to AC, it was a good thing his companions heard his call and rushed to his help — with such penalties in effect, he wouldn’t have lasted very long.

As the battle with the skeletal dogs raged, one of the wizards cast a Levitate spell on the grievously wounded Gywyddion so he could rise to safety; but a few moments later, a bearded man in red clothes appeared on the upstairs balcony and broke into some incantation — surely the Red Sage, one of the three we were hired to kill! One of the wizards cast a Web and temporarily paralyzed the magician, while Gwyddion floated up and knocked him unconscious, quickly turning the tide of battle.

Upon waking up, the Red Sage was questioned — we wanted to know why our contact in Khonón wanted the three Sages dead, and more importantly, we wanted to know if he would be willing to pay more if we left him alive. He quickly explained that the three Sages were originally a single person whose identity was split into three by some powerful curse; and that they came to these ruins on an oracle’s advice to search for the key of their reunification. He also told us the White Sage lived nearby — in the very hut we entered the grove through -, and might be back any time. We also learned that the man who put out the contract on them was known for trafficking with demons. Considering the new information, we decided to help the Sages, looking for clues to lift their curse in exchange for whatever help they could give us. After the White Sage returned home later in the day, the two of them told us all they knew about the place. We learned the approximate location of the minotaur, the location of a magical but protected axe that’s supposed to be the only weapon which can harm him, and some more stuff about the general layout of the place.

We decided to continue our exploration by visiting a nearby section inhabited by the Beast Lord, a powerful servant of the minotaur. He lived in a couple of rooms with his gnoll guards — and as we learned, his cerberus pet. We approached like the well-oiled commando death team that we are, silencing his guards one by one; then eventually we stood in front of his room. I don’t recall exactly how, but an alarm went off — I think a gnoll wandered out of their nearby barracks –, and the Beast Lord emerged from his room. Gwyddion held off and quickly mopped up the gnolls in the barracks, while Licar cast a Lightning Bolt. Excellent aim! The bolt went clear through both the cerberus and its huge, whip-wielding master, rebounded from a wall, and hit both of the again. The Lord fell, but the cerberus had just enough time to leap at some of us and breathe powerful fire from its three mouths before being finished off. As a victory prize, we took the Beast Lords magical suit of armour — even though it was too big for any human to wear — as well as a couple of cavemen whom we rescued from one of the rooms and who were meant to be eaten by the gnolls later.

The Ruined City of Immah Wel

We went back to the White Sage’s hut — which operates as our base camp — and started discussing our next move. Gwyddion strongly pushed for a visit to the temple of Uthummaos not far from here, but the others were strongly against it — can’t really blame them. The most vocal opponent was Tyraxus Targ, who has cast some sort of divination spell earlier and claimed to have received a most dire prophecy about what something very, very evil that would happen should the party go to that place. Strangely, he did, and still does, refuse to share the exact contents of the prophecy with the others.

The argument went on and on (and in fact started in the previous session, for this is the point where we enter our recentmost one), and eventually Gwyddion just lost his temper. Even though he already explained — in vague terms — that he has good insider knowledge about how useful it would be to visit the temple, he received one too many questions of “And just why exactly do you want to go there and perform a sacrifice in the first place?” Rising, he thundered: “For I am Gwyddion ap Cwllich, the Entomar, and Champion of Uthummaos; and I will go there with you, or with these primitive cavemen; and dare you not stand in my way!”

The party was taken aback a bit at this point, but I believe a moment of reflection made them realize that Gwyddion always has been a dependable member of the party, and is unlikely to start slitting their throats in their sleep just now. Eventually they agreed to escort him to the temple’s entrance, and Licar was even considering going inside, if only to to make sure what Gwyddion is really up to.

On the way to the courtyard and the temple opening from it (along with a gaping entrance to the Underworld in the middle of the place), the party started making plans to loot the also local temple of evil Shodoggua; and they also found a trapdoor under a large pile of rubble, leading to some tombs belonging to one “Darz Ennon”; which they decided to tackle later. At the entrance to the temple of Uthummaos, the party refused to make one more step forward, so Gwyddion entered alone. I will not detail that dark place and its spectral guardian who only lets true followers pass and whose chilly hand quite literally touch a man’s heart; it’s sufficient to say that Gwyddion, who started calling himself the Entomar, has sacrificed a great ruby, a pair of protective magical braces, and the last two spikes of the dead sluglike demigod Uuaram — and dedicating that creature’s death, suffered at Gwyddion’s hand, to Uthummaos. The dark god was pleased and generous. He gave powerful boons — single-use spells — to his champion, and enlightened him about the mystery they’ve encountered earlier (and I’ve described above). The false gods and true goddesses who show the way according to the old engraving were long dead and gone from this time; but the not-too-distant isle of Barzon — which we’ve visited before, left in a flurry violence, and I’ll describe some other time — still holds a portal to the Underworld where these deities might be contacted. Finally, Uthummaos advised Gwyddion about two improtant things. One, should the party break into the temple of Shodoggua, that evil god’s servants would be pursuing them to the end of times; and the city of Khonón where we’ve come from, and which seems to be the power in these waters, has long fallen under their sway. He also told, in secret, that the party’s two wizards, Tyraxus Targ and Licar were both the unknowing vessels of a great and dangerous power. Should it be allowed to bloom, these two spellcasters would reach a level of power far beyond even that of Uthummaos’ champion.

Gwyddion exited the temple and shared the information — save the last part — with his friends. Giving up on raiding Shodoggua, we all went back to the tomb of Darz Ennon. The first really interesting thing we found inside was a shrine of the frog-god Tshatoggus with some nice-looking loot guarded only by what we assumed was a winged frog statue that would animate. At this point, Zaxtaros spoke up. “You know, we probably don’t want to loot this shrine.” A storm exploded. Zaxtaros was — up to this point, secretly — a follower of Tshatoggus, fine. But this is the third temple or shrine the party’s not supposed to loot because it would hurt some party member’s religious sensibilities, within this single session!? This was terrible.

After some arguments, Zaxtaros was given some privacy to lick his precious frog idol, after which he exited the shrine news that Darz Ennon — who turned out to be the first prophet of the Tshatoggus — was still here in a state of undeath, and would share with us untold knowledge. Good. We went down some corridors, Zaxtaros made a paltry sacrifice of 160 gold pieces, and he was admitted to the presence of Darz Ennon and his giant frog mummy guards; while the rest of us were eavesdropping by the door. “Untold knowledge” boiled down to being “I’m not telling you jack for such a small sacrifice, now git”, and Zaxtaros also had a strong premonition that we should leave these tombs fortright. Oh, well. At the very least, we’ve all caught a glimpse of ancient undead prophet’s bejewelled sceptre of uncalculable value (but certainy exceeding 8-10 000 gold pieces, an incredibe wealth on Fomalhaut!), and our two wizards have started putting their heads together with some talk of “surely, he can’t take four fireballs” and other such stuff. I have a feeling we’ll be back.

Next, we started exploring the southeast areas. We found some ancient ceramic statues of people and animals, and took the nicest pieces. Nearby, we came upon a closed door and heard some whispers. Zaxtaros crept closer, and heard fragments of some conversation about some sort of conspiracy. One of the participants started walking to the door, it opened, and… there was an empty room on the other side. Wary of ghosts, Gwyddion and Zaxtaros entered. As they crossed the threshold, they disappeared from the sight of their companions; while they found themselves in the room — but many centuries in the past! A small exchange with the room’s occupant, a merchant, revealed that in this time, the Immah Wel was still a flourishing city under the rule of the Bull King. Unnerved by this temporal dislocation and committing a few faux pas-s, the two of us took our leave and started to explore the corridors, vary of any patrols. Luckily, we happened to make our way back the direction we came, and as we crossed one particular door, we found ourselves in our own present time again. We went to find the others who have been waiting in front of the mysterious room, and discussed our brand new options.

We returned to the White Sage for a rest — an earlier fight with two bronze automatons and a very, very badly aimed Lightning Bolt from Tyraxus left Gwyddion with less then half of his Hit Points. After a full day’s rest, we returned to the city-castle’s distant past by stepping through the same doorway again, but finding the merchant’s shop unattended at the moment. A quick search revealed some coins and, ominously, a silver dagger coated with dry blood — it looks like our merchant friend was involved in something really sinister! We started exploring, spooking then quickly Charming an elderly schoolmaster, and establishing a few facts about this past existence:

- The great rift to the Underworld has not yet opened in the central courtyard.
- A foreign soothsayer has recently visited the Bull King and promised that his son will be even stronger and more powerful than him.
- The Queen was expecting a child.

Knossos

It started to dawn on us that by assassinating the Queen — evil as such an act might be –, we might prevent the birth of this prophesied son, who’s very likely connected to both the Underworld rift and the minotaur in our own time. And as it sometimes happens, some players got a sudden drop to INT 3.

Me: “Come on, let’s go back to our time though that doorway, we gotta discuss this.”
Them: “No, we’re not going.”
Me: “Come on, we can’t discuss this here, we might be overheard.”
Them: “No. We’re not going back to discuss it.”

By the Kindly Ones… going back would have taken no money, no fight, and about a minute’s walk; in exchange, we could have discussed what all we heard with absolutely no risk of being overheard. Which, you know, tends to happen in a populous, lively city. But no.

So surprise, surprise, some scribe in the next room overhears the transpiring schemes, but we’re lucky to hear him as he tries to hide in a closet. We grab him, figure out what he heard, and know that we either have to kill him — which will eventually raise the alarm –, or we have to let him go — and he’ll raise the alarm. Gwyddion gets a quick, desperate idea: we know the merchant of this time to be involved in something anyway, let’s try to divert the main thrust of suspicion on him. He quickly drags the scribe back towards the traderoom, telling him to ask the man (Menolantes) about his silver dagger and the blood on it. Menolantes probably didn’t find out yet that Zax took the item, and his confused, maybe even panicky reaction might convince the scribe that he’s the real conspirator; and we might able to explain away our role in all this with some quick thinking. Well, turns out the merchant Menolantes is still not back, so Gwyddion — figuring the party will be beelining it back to their own time now — lets the scribe go, ordering him intimidatingly to confront the merchant later. After all, we just put the bloody dagger back, get out of here, and Menolantes will look guilty (just as he surely is). Then we wait a bit, come back, and explain how we were the good guys.

Then Player INT 3 strikes again. Zax is not putting the dagger back. If we take it back with us — even if that’s possible at all — we’ll have a silver dagger worth a whopping twenty gold pieces, but the past Immah Wel won’t blame the disturbance on the shady merchant. If we leave it where we found it, it might help our situation if and when we come back to the past, by implicating Menolantes in what they’re currently charging us with. And he won’t leave it behind. Better to jeopardize our future moves than to forfeit frigging 20 gp. Some people…

So we hightail it to the door that leads back to our time, but the alarms are being raised, and the guards get there before us. We turn, and Gwyddion leads the party down to a chariot stable where he has espied another exit earlier… and that doorway takes us back to our own time, and to the end of this session, luckily.

(Originally posted April 11, 2009.)

Referee’s notes (2011): Unlike most adventures in the campaign, the ruined city of Immah Well was not my original creation, but one based on Tomb of the Bull King, a Mazes&Minotaurs megamodule by Carlos de la Cruz Morales. It is an ingenious idea: the author took a map for the palace of Knossos, the original “minotaur maze”, enlarged the scale considerably to make it a structure of immense dimensions, and populated it with encounters based partly on the original functions of the rooms, and partly on his own imagination. For Fomalhaut, I changed a lot of details. Unlike the M&M version, which is heavy on monster lairs, mine was more sparsely populated; also, in keeping with the campaign style, extra fantastic and extradimensional elements were added (the time travel is from the original), and I mostly used the original text as loose inspiration, adding a lot of personal detail via improvisation. Darz Ennon’s tomb was based on another free module, The Fane of St. Toad by Michael Curtis, although, again, I made changes, used only the lower level and added Darz Ennon as the First Prophet of Tsathoggus. Unfortunately, this angle was quickly dropped (it is rather impolite to loot the temple of your own god), and the party never returned to pursue it — maybe because on the next session, a random encounter significantly changed the course of events…

Hozzászól

You must be logged in to post a comment.