[Campaign Journal] Sword, Sorcery and Rayguns #09

by Kalman Farago
Dead Man Walking, or The Plot Thickens, or <^(#, how could I miss three saves in a row?!

After freeing the captive souls in the last session, the party set sail to the next island. (Note: only myself and Licar’s player were there, so everyone else was “guarding the boat” for pretty much all session.) It was a forested island with small clusters of decayed ruins and two slightly larger sites. At the first, we found a wide and deep pool under a large corroded metal pavilion, with a stone platform extending above the pool. Checking with rope and a tied stone revealed the pool to be about 100 feet deep — a good thing I always equip my characters with two coils of rope. Though the water was kept relatively clear, likely by some underwater tunnel connecting it to the ocean, it was way too deep to see anything down there, even with a light spell. Earlier we spotted some stone carving of a strange, upright lobster creature, and Gwyddion got the idea that maybe something like that lives in the pool — possibly fed by sacrifices thrown from the platform –, that might be fished out for fun, experience and treasure; but fishing attempts with a rope, grappling hook and some rations proved unproductive, so the two of us move on to the second sight, which turn out to be a similar pool, but instead of a platform there was only the wafting scent of some heavy perfume — but I’m getting ahead of myself. As we were heading there, you see, we heard some slithering in the dense forest right outside the circle of ruins. We took up a position on a small pile of rubble, and out slithered from the undergrowth a terrible cthulhoid entity. Aye, it was a pitch black mass the size of an ox, with two golden yellow eyes burning in malevolence as it slithered towards us, its eight mighty tentacle undulating and a wicked beak emerging from the mass of it cephalopodic body. A terrible Amphibious Octopus, but the fight was short and furious, magic and steel bringing it down in a few moments, but not before its beak punctured throught Gwyddion’s enchanted plate several times. Since it was obviously this beast that was oozing the heady perfume, Gwyddion cut it out and removed some sort of sperm gland which we’ll hopefully sell in town for a nice prize (which we later forgot to do, so here’s a reminder to myself: sell the thing next time we play).

A good fight, but lean on treasure. As we were heading back, Gwyddion had a sudden greed-driven idea and the two turned back to the first pool. We tried to use our grappling hook to trawl the bottom for possible sacrificial offerings (preferably jewellery, not corpses), and the hook got stuck. After messing around for a while, the fighter dove down to unentangle the hook. Down there he found a large metal diving bell with some air still in it, and saw a subaquatic tunnel extending underground with some light at the end. Resurfacing to report on this, he convinced Licar and NPC-d Tyraxus Targ to enchant him for a more serious dive. He was made invisible, given the ability to breathe water, and he was given a Flight spell which some experimentation revealed to ease his movement enough to wear armour underwater without sinking, and his sword was lit up to show him the way.

He made his way down the pool and through the corridor, passing, but not being bothered by a few Amphibious Octopi, and emerging in a chamber which had a metal grating above the water for a floor, a relic of the ancient times. There were dark tunnels heading off in several directions, and faint light coming from one. He went that way, sheathing his invisible sword — which temporarily turned off the Light spell cast on it. Bloated walking corpses in old finery shuffled past him, but the invisibility and reasonable stealth protected him from detection. At the end of the corridor he came upon a sight both scary and promising: an altar, inlaid with pearls and shells, the squat glowing golden statue of an octopus sitting on it. There was a large pile of silver and electrum coins on the floor, and about eight aquatic zombies standing around as if in a trance. He slowly and quietly scooped some third of the coins into an invisible bag, and then made the wrong decision. He wanted the figurine. The zombies would come to their “senses” as soon as he touched it, that was a given; but he’d still be invisibile and quicker than some shambling undead, and could make a run for it. The glow of the statuette was unsettling, though, so he removed his invisible black robe, took it in his hands, and prepared to swipe the statuette into the robe with one swift motion, avoiding direct exposure.

Isle-hopping: Three Sessions


He moved for the swipe, touched the statue, and… stopped moving, paralyzed by some mental force. The statuette’s tentacles started undulating, slowly reaching for Gwyddion’s face. They touched him, and they weren’t gold, or any other metal — they were soft and leathery, and everything went black.

Time passed, and Gwyddion came to again, by their boat, the two spellcasters standing over him. “Ah, almost bit the dust this time” — he said, moving his fingers in front of his face to pump some life into them.
“Well, actually…”
Oh dear. “… Oolar’s Time?”
“Oolar’s Time.”
“That… certainly throws a wrench into some long term plans I was having.”
(See some of the previous session reports for explanation.)

Flashback:
Licar and Tyraxus waited by the pool until evening, worried. Gwyddion’s water breathing spell has long run out by now, so him being in great trouble was a given. Finally, Licar scrounged up his courage, cast Water Breathing and Invisibility on himself, and dove to find the warrior. He made his way into the underground complex and avoided the zombies easily. He came to the altar room and found Gwyddion’s collapsed body in front of the statue, hole drilled, punched or dissolved into his helmet and some brainy red material oozing out. But how to get him out of there? — The zombies were still standing in one place, but seemed a bit more agitated now, plus the wizard was no weight lifter. He WAS, however, a commander of great arcane forces, and cast a spell on his friend’s dead body — Polymorph. Specifying the proper animal, the corpse turned into a normal-sized dead mussel in a cracked shell, and was quickly pocketed. Trying to grab the sword, armour or bag of coins seemed to bother the zombies, so the wizard turned and went back topside, where a second Polymorph turned the dead mussel back into a dead Gwyddion, who was then raised by Oolar’s Time, to fall again in nine days (when he might be raised again, according to how the spell’s advertised).

This was bad. Gwyddion was not keen on sending the remainder of his existence as a constantly dying puppet, animated by Licar’s formidable magic. This is no life. A true-blooded Etunian horse nomad (turned sailor), he’ll find a way to fix this, or die in a bloodbath that will make women weep. But the first option will be a rough ride, and he needs the proper equipment for it. Next day he convinced the wizards to give him the diving spell complement again, went back, picked up his sword, armour and loot, and ran from the slow zombies.

***

We decided it was time to return to the isle of Khonón again, to get our bearings and decide on our next move. And help Licar finally get into some library for some research. We made a pit stop at Soteiras, Khonón’s fortress outpost at the other end of the isle, then eventually sailed into town. And what should they see as they sail into harbour? The Medeia, the pirate ship poor old Melkar was captaining until his mutineers marooned him! Were Melkar still with us, he’d foam at the mouth and probably do something foolhardy; but with him gone and assumedly dead, cooler minds might concoct better plans.

In the harbour we immediately noticed a heightened military presence, with guards everywhere. Since it was less than a week ago that we desecrated their most holy site on a nearby island and massacred the garrison, this did not bode well for us. We were lucky, though, and no questions were asked. Pressed by worries of final death and a failure to live out his high dreams, Gwyddion announced to the guards that he and Licar must speak to the captain of the guard immediately — in past sessions he has tried sowing a seed, and now he wanted to see if it could be reaped. Once admitted to the captain’s presence, he started spinning a tale with two element of interest for the Khonónians. One element was that the Medeia in harbour might be a pirate ship, and maybe the guard will want to look into the matter. The other was, in this land of cat-obsessed people, the sad story of a cat. Remember how the party’s wizards polymorphed the last survivor of the holy site massacre into a cat and abandoned it on the other forbidden isle? Well, that’s a good story with some modifications. In Gwyddion’s telling, it was some other group of desperate pirates who kidnapped a cat, which was probably some rich Khonónian’s beloved foreperson, probably with intent to ransom later; but then decided to abandon it on that island. All this, of course, we learned from one of the pirates whom we captured. Poor, poor little kitten, alone in that place, who will go and fetch him?

Well, the guards, probably; at least that’s what Gwyddion surmised from the reaction. So with a bit of lucked, we’ve just done two favours for the city of Khonón, warning them of pirates in their midst, and of a VIK (Very Important Kitten) stranded in a hostile place and waiting for rescue. If either situation works out in our favour, maybe they’ll be grateful enough to give Licar special access to the library.

The City State of Khonón


Next we went to Fedafuce’s temple, as Licar wanted to bargain about the 5000 gp loan he had there, hoping for a rescheduling of the payment scheme. In the temple courtyard we’ve overheard two priests talking about some very important divination that the Khonón government was about to conduct, related to some terrible transgression. Well… if that’s our slaughtering of the holy island garrison, we might be in big trouble soon.

Anyway, we went in and the clerks brough out the paperwork relevant to Licar’s loan — and much to our surprise, it showed that Licar has paid it back in full three days ago! What the hell is happening here? We got to see the subbursar who was handling that transaction, and sure enough, he recognized Licar as the person who was here three days ago, paying back the loan. Gwyddion pulled aside the clerk and spinned a rather unlikely tale about him being Licar’s bodyguard who was left behind on that day and how it’s very imprtant that he learn where his master went then, and with whom. Very unlikely, as I said, and of course the moneylenders wouldn’t give out such information; but it was a good enough to tale to end with a very generous bribe offer, and if there’s one thing the clerics of Fedafuce will never say no to, it’s a very generous bribe. As it turned out, “Licar” was accompanied by Megamarkhos Periptekhos, the wealthy collector of antiquities we’ve already done business with during our last stay.

We hurried to the market square located at the border wall between the Foreigners’ Quarter and the Inner City and sent a messenger boy to Megamarkhos’ residence, asking for an immediately meeting. Licar was originally against the idea, but Gwyddion pushed hard for it: whatever’s happening here, someone has access to some pretty advanced illusion magics and a pretty deep purse, which means they probably want something really bad — but what? If Megamarkhos is behind it, then let’s confront him here and now when we might catch him off his balance. While we were waiting for the reply, we spotted a confident man, obviously a foreigner, ordering some merchants around while taking furtive glances at the guards and the defensive works. Twenty to one he’s from our former party member’s mutineer ship, the Medeia! Deciding on a bold, direct course of action, Gwyddion walked up to the man, introduced himself politely and initiated some small talked. Sure enough, them man, Lozos by name, was captain of the “merchant” ship Medeia, and the bad-faced merchants were his crew helping him sell some “legitimate merchandise”. “By the way, Captain Melkar is dead” — Gwyddion slipped in in a low voice. “Ah!” — the captain was somewhat surprised. “Not unwelcome news, but who are you and what does that have to do with me?” “Well, let’s just say news float on the ocean’s water like coconuts. Figured you’ll be happy to hear.”

Lozos turned out to be a nice enough chap for a mutineer and pirate. Away from the guard, we quickly established that we don’t mind his profession or what happened between him, his crew and Melkar, and that our own party might be interested in some future cooperation in a few days. In fact, since Gwyddion has already spun some plans and schemes today, he figured one more couldn’t hurt, and dropped some hints that we know of a risky but rich haul which nobody would miss, and agreed to meet on the Medeia later to discuss it. Meanwhile, the messenger boy came back with Megamarkhos’ instruction to meet in three hours.

We visited Lozos on board the Medeia to discuss plans and to ask if he knew anything about Megamarkhos. Indeed he did, having done business with him in the past, though never meeting him in person, and not being able to tell much about him. As for the other plan… Even since the party messed up big time on Immah Wel and was ran out of town by a dragon, a demigod and the latter’s follower, Tyraxus Targ was aching to go back there and take revenge. How exactly he wanted to do that I was never quite clear on — if those foes could beat us handily when were on a lower level, they could still beat us now. But these pirates, they might be useful in this vengeance venture, we just have to play our cards right and have them end up in the cannonfodder position. Well, we told them about Immah Wel — they’ve heard about it and its dangers before –, briefly showed them our map of the place, and told them we’ve already been there and are familiar with many of the dangers. Lozos seemed rather interested, so it looks like once we’re done with things in Khonón, we already have our next step planned.

Time passed, we said goodbyes to the pirate, and went to meet Megamarkhos. Last time we’ve seen him in a fine kaftan; this time he was wearing utilitarian clothes and looked really, really tired and somewhat harried. Looks like our spoiled collector has some sort of secret, probably rather illicit second life… He was surprised to see us, especially just three days after “Licar” showed up, sold him some really valuable goods, then asked him to accompany him when he went to pay back his loan to the temple of Fedafuce. Huh. Either he is a good actor, or he himself was duped by whoever’s pretending to be our purple-skinned Imperial wizard behind the reall one’s back. If it’s the former, let’s play dumb and trusting and be ready to move when he moves, Gwyddion thought, and if the latter, then let’s ally with him, as he’s our only lead to the mysterious impersonator. We told him of the duplicity, and he seemed surprised and alarmed; and Gwyddion asked if his newly acquired wares were checked for magical qualities. They weren’t, so he advised Megamarkhos to do so as soon as possible, for the mysterious impostor might have possibly sold him some dangerous curses, for all we know. He agreed it would be a good idea, and that’s where the session ended.

Personal notes: So, Gwyddion’s living on borrowed time, and he’s not happy about it. Neither am I. For one, the character would hate such a dependency, two, I would hate such a dependency (as a player), three, if anything happens to Licar, Gwyddion can’t be raised again, and four, I myself am running a campaign in a hybrid mesh of Melan’s game system and AD&D, and as such, I’ve read the former’s Referee’s Guidelines; and while this is not in the PHB description, the spell is not 100% reliable and the reanimation will eventually fail. So either Gwyddion dies for good in the foreseeable future — which I’m okay with if a proper bloodbath or heroic sacrifice is involved –, or he pulls something spectacular ot of his ass quick. That’s why the sudden turn and his new-found support of Tyraxus’ vengeance expedition plan. Either the dragon or the god of the goat-headed Tragos creatures would make for a powerful sacrifice in Uthummaos’ shrine, conveniently also located in Immah Wel. Maybe powerful enough to get a proper life restoration out of even a dark evil mad death-god.

(Originally posted November 28, 2009.)

Referee’s notes (2011): Relatively little to comment on. As mentioned, this was not the high point of the campaign, but better than the previous two sessions. We were coming out of the valley, and while the random-side-area-turned-deattrap was something I could have made more out of, at least things started spinning nicely in Khonón. From here on, at least in my obviously biased opinion, the campaign suddenly starts to be full of win, plotlines converge, agendas clash, and the result is just the right kind of creative tension. I must also reiterate that while we, as a game group, agreed to try and slowly steer the campaign towards a finale, no railroading was involved in the actual adventures. What the PCs won, they won on their own merits; what they lost, they have themselves to blame for.

One Response to “[Campaign Journal] Sword, Sorcery and Rayguns #09”

  1. Imran Khan:

    That was a really fun article!!

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