[Campaign Journal] Sword, Sorcery and Rayguns #12

by Kalman Farago
In the Depths of Khonón

The Library of Khonón, Upper Floor


There we were, beneath the Khonón library, with 700 weary and confused refugees. Luckily, there was a domed hall and some other large rooms in the immediate area, approachable through only two chokepoints. We told the refugees to sit down here and wait until we prepare their emergence into the city, took a few of the Teloi with us, and went exploring. Sure, we’re going to help them, but we originally entered the library to acquire information about the mysterious Morreion — a bit of searching before the grand reveal sure wouldn’t hurt.

Using some discretion and a few Detect Magic spells, we quickly went through the library, a not too large, two-storey complex. Didn’t find any of the forbidden books from the from the index the backstabbing Megamarkhos gave us, but did find a few things of interest. A sort of shrine stood in front of a great statue, which the Teloi recognized with a gasp, for it was the image of Mesomakhos himself! In front of it was a pedestal with a gorgeous sceptre, but protected by some sort of crystals emitting a field of light, and the party quickly and forcefully persuaded Zaxtaros to forget even going near it. We also found the statue of a hooded, humpbacked figure holding a seven-tubed musical instrument, but we figured it might be a warning device and left it well alone. A hidden wall compartment was discovered behind a bookshelf thanks to the magic radiation issuing from within — we found a box containing a transparent, soaplike block with a few small articles inside it. Deciding the block was probably protecting its contents and might be dangerous, we put it in our packs and moved on. Soon enough, we found a seemingly unfinished room in the library with empty, dusty shelves — except for one. Moving it aside revealed a full-body fresco of Mesomakhos, located — obviously — on a removable wall panel which was hiding a staircase leading down and some footprints in the dust. Surely, this must be the forbidden library!

Carefully advancing down, we came upon a massive door with the writing „Say the first”. After a moment of hesitation, Licar took out some of his notes — a transcript of the text written by Mesomakhos, carved into the three monoliths on Khonón sacred forbidden island. We read the first one out loud, and the door opened. Beyond was a room with stairs leading downwards, and a table with a pile of books and scrolls, and a copper plaque displaying one set of the sacred monoliths — the same symbol that marked the forbidden books in the index. Quickly browsing through the titles, we found some of the stuff from Megamarkhos’s index and took them with us for later reading, then proceeded down.

The Library of Khonón, Lower Floor


We found a second door: „Say the second”. Reciting the second passage caused the massive door to swing open with an unnatural human sigh, and chilly air rushed at us from beyond. Beyond was a small cluster of rooms with shelves protected by locked grates, holding the books of second-degree proscription, and some other finds. One was a large, heavy wooden box with an ornate front, two dials, and the word „Transcaster” on it. Gwyddion recalled seeing one of these — beings from another time and plane would know them as transistor radios — a long time ago, in the citadel of the city of Famful, now retroactively erased from history thanks to the meddling of, hmm… some clueless adventuring group. Let’s leave it at that…

Next to the Transcaster stood three large crystal blocks, each holding the motionless body of a man, metal spikes entering through their eye cavities and connecting them to the blocks’ bracing. They were perfect humans, superiour even to the Anadyomaians in the way they, in turn, were superiour to us — but there was a palpable feeling of evil about them, so we decided not to bother the sinister display. In the neighbouring room we found three sarcophagi-sized metal boxes, each bearing an inscription: Srataggar — Barzon. Barzon was an island to the north known to us, where the locals worshipped giant flesh-eating hornets as divine creature, but Srattagar we never heard of. Despite some protest from the magic users, Gwyddion lifted the lid on one of the boxes while Zaxtaros peaked in and saw… a skeletal face of brass resting atop a similar body. We immediately decided to let the thing be and replaced the lid.

The Proscribed Archives, Upper Floor


Some further search, a failed lockpicking roll and Gwyddion’s application of a crowbar yielded us some more of the books from the index — a brief illustrated catalogue of demons, and a tract about electrodemons, specifically — these monsters turned out to be nothing else but the buglike robots guarding the Megasphera generators in Anadyomai. The catalogue also identified „Srataggar” as some type of metallic demon – good thing we left the thing alone!

We went down another flight of stairs and opened it, reciting the third and final of Mesomakhos’ sacred texts. The door slowly swung open, revealing a large, circular chamber, a small door on the far side… and an occupant. An armoured human torso, itself larger than a man and a half, sitting atop a huge scorpion body. The Scorpion Demon was holding mighty, glowing weapons, and its eyes pierced us with a malevolent gaze. „WHO ENTERS THE FORBIDDEN LIBRARY OF KHONÓN?” – it thundered.

While his companions were busy retreating into the previous room, Gwyddion stood in front of the monstrosity. „We come from Anadyomai at the bidding of Mesomakhos, Khonón’s founder” – he said in a firm voice. „We are to remove certain tomes. Will you let us pass?”
„ANADYOMAI, THAT PLACE HAS NO MEANING TO ME. IF YOU WISH TO ENTER, YOU MUST SPEAK THE NAME OF MESOMAKHOS, RULER OF THE MIDDLE WORLD.”
Gwyddion turned back to the others and the two Teloi. „True, Mesomakhos was originally a title. Does either of you know what the last Mesomakhhos, the one you knew and who founded this place, was called?”
At their suggestion, Gwyddion then intoned the founder’s name: „He is Hyppatos Zosimos!”
„HAD YOU COME AT A TIME WHEN HYPPATOS ZOSIMOS’ WAS STILL ALIVE, HIS NAME WOULD HAVE GAINED YOU ENTRY. BUT HE IS LONG DEAD NOW, AND I WANT THE NAME OF THE PRESENT MESOMAKHOS.”

The Lower Archives


This was a bit of a problem. There were no more Mesomakhi, Khonón was ruled by an Archosynod of aristocrats. „Can we get some thinking time, here?”
”I HAVE ALL ETERNITY.”

Gwyddion conferred with the others, and someone — was it perhaps Zaxtaros? I’m not quite sure — made a suggestion that at first seemed a rather wild stab in the dark, but at second glance made much more sense.

„It is Megamarkhos Periptekhos!”
„SO IT IS. YOU MAY ENTER.”

Damn. Megamarkhos the antiquities collector, the shady thief who lured us into the library and transported us to Anadyomai. Some of us wanted to simply break his neck the next time we met, and Zaxtaros in specific has some more elaborate plans with a similar end result, but this complicates things.

Well, we went around the towering scorpion demon and entered the small room. It held a table with some books and a chest, full of incredible knowledge and items:

The Proarchikon


A book titled Proarchikon. Full writings in an unknown text and drawing of strange, unearthly plants and vaguely human-like creatures. After hearing Melan’s description of the tome, I had a nagging thought. „So, Melan, is this book, in fact, the Voynich Manuscript?” „Yes, pretty much.” Well, except for one difference. The last page, obviously in a different, much more disorganised handwriting, depicted some sort of tower along with some writing in unknown characters. Also, a map fell out of the book as we browsed it, showing an unknown tract of the ocean with more mysterious writings near islands unrecognised by us – but both the map and the last page of the book had one word we already recognised: MORREION.

The second book was titled Solon’s Grave, and contained a history spanning a great stretch of time. We quickly scanned it and found a disturbing relevation: the first Mesomakhos of Anadyomai was a direct descendant of Solon Arkhon, founder of civilisation on Fomalhaut — and if the title was inherited (not quite sure about this), that would make Megamarkhos the same!

The book also mentioned something else: „Two islands touching two worlds. Mesomakhos has wandered there, and after returning home he wrote the declinations.” It also said „a forbidden and cursed land”. A mystery, but one that brings to mind the Isle of Water Sprites, a place eerily similar to the description, that we visited briefly before an ill-worded wish spirited us away from there.

The Map to Another World


The third tome was an untitled folio, a spellbook of powerful incantations.

„Classic Declinations”. This collection of notes seemed to be astrological calculations, and the side notes „tabby”, „white-pawed”, „striped” suggested it was for cats.

The final book: „Srattagar”. Ha! More information on the strange metal demons! Alas, it was rather obscure; all we could make out was some story of a city where an army was sleeping, and some mention of a „three-legs” or tripods.

We took all but the cat astrology book, and turned to the chest, which contained three things: a metal jar with some purple pudding-like thing in it, labeled „Mezexin”, a magical bag with a shriveled, scaley, long-clawed magical hand inside — Tyraxus Targ quickly put it away, claiming it was extremely dangerous, but the bag rendered the items safe for later study –, and a small, metallic cylinder which — to the party’s chagrin — Zaxtaros was quick to claim. Why to our chagrin? Examining it, the thief turned a rotatable section, and „ZZZZoom!” – a bright white beam of light, some three feet in length, protruded from one end. Our very own lightsabre, HELL, YEAH!!! (Or technically, a Light Sword from the computer game Crusaders of the Dark Savant.) Now, there was quite a bit of resistance to the notion of Zax carrying this, since both Gwyddion adn Devadatta would be much more efficient with it. For the time being, the party agreed to let Zax have it, but strongly expressed that if he won’t be there in the front lines using it, a quick and forceful reallocation will happen.

And that was the mighty haul we found. Only two cryptic mentions of the Morrreion, but we thought it was time to go back to the Anadyomaian refugees and lead them out to the castle’s courtyard and confront the local powers with the new arrivals.

Once we emerged from the library, it was time for the big reveal. With the eleven remaining Sages and their 700 followers in tow, we just passed through the secret door into the courtyard and hoped for the best. It was still very early morning and only a few guards were about, but we certainly made quite an entrance. As the army of refugees filed out into the open, a throng of guards — then soon others — quickly gathered. Using our fame as honorary citizens of Khonón, we fast-talked a confused guard into sending messengers and calling together an emergency council of the Archosynod. The sleepy, bewildered councilmen quickly convened and met the Sages and our party in a council chamber. Initially they were incredulous of our story about a portal beneath the library to another world, but of course they were unable to come up with an alternate explanation for the sudden appearance of seven hundred people.
While cautious overtures were being made, it became clear that the Archosynod’s emerging plan was to use the refugees as an expendable army against the isle of Yaram, Khonón’s old enemies. Stalling for time, we suggested a break until afternoon to let both sides make further plans and proposals. Gwyddion also had another, private reason for this suggestion: Megamarkhos. He was rapidly becoming an important, perhaps even key figure in this whole mess. However, he was the one who sent us to Anadyomai to die, and he was the owner of the rare tomes and powerful items we’ve looted from the library. Gwyddion’s idea was to force a meeting — a confrontation of sorts — as rapidly as possible, before the nobleman could formulate his own plans; and maybe thus force Megamarkhos to make hasty move that would give us the upper hand in… whatever was to follow.

While some of the others were coaching the refugees’ Sages on the geographical, political and social basics of their new situation, Gwyddion and Zaxtaros managed to see Megamarkhos inside the palace. Well, it didn’t quite work out as Gwyddion was hoping for, but perhaps some good might still come of it.

Megamarkhos kept his cool, freely admitting his plan to do away with us for good and his surprise at our return. He readily offered the explanation that he considered us a grave danger to the safety and stability of Khonón and that’s why he tried to get rid of us; and frankly, we couldn’t really blame him for this. The conversation quickly turned towards the refugee situation. I daresay the party grew somewhat fond of these poor people, and we didn’t want to seem them screwed over by the much wilier and much less naive Khonónian leadership; thus we proposed to let bygones be bygones if Megamarkhos throws around his influence and helps us reach a resolution that would be fair to the Anadyomaians. He was willing to listen to our proposals, but pointed out that objectively, the only two places they could settle down were Yaram and the isle of Diaphane, the latter being possibly unsuitable to a people so lacking practical knowledge like agriculture.

As we were discussing alternate locations, Gwyddion slipped and mentioned The Morreion — a mistake. Megamarkhos made it rather clear that he knew a lot more about it than we did, and that he was strongly opposed to our search for the mysterious… place? Entity? Machine? He claimed that finding it would bring a great deal of woe to the entire world. Well, we were already aware it might not be entirely benevolent, but we have invested a lot in this quest, and there was no way the wizard Licar, for one, would just give up because of some vague affirmations of „trust me, it’s bad”. Gwyddion decided to play it straight:

„Look, we know there are powerful people who want to find it, and there are powerful people who want it to remain lost. You belong to the second, fine. But if you want us to stop looking for it, give us the straight dope (paraphrased). Tell us what exactly it is and why exactly it would be so bad to get to it. If you don’t, we won’t stop.”

Megamarkhos cracked a faint smile. „Well, then I guess that’s how it is.”

And he disappeared. Just like that. There was no spell, no incantation, no sign of him fumbling with some magical or technological item. Just turned into thin air.

We returned to the courtyard where by know the Sages — naive perhaps but not stupid — have figured out they’re not particularly welcome guests here. After some wait, the second meeting convened. Megamarkhos was not there, which was perhaps both elating the troubling. Long story short, we came to an agreement: Khonón would provide transport, supplies and craftsmen to help the Anadyomaians settle Diaphane’s Isle. In exchange, once the refugees were settled in, they would share with Khonón the fruits of their superiour technological knowledge, and maybe even help conquer Yaram.

I’m willing to bet it’s all a sham. I know our part is: while these people were accustomed to their high technology, they completely lack the know-how to rebuild them from scratch, especially in a world thousands of years more primitive than what they’re used to. And I’m willing to bet the other side also has some marked cards up their sleeve, so the next few days, weeks and maybe months will be tense with the expectation of a backstab somewhere down the line. But even then, this migration will bring us closer to the Temple of Immah Wel, and to a dragon and a god who have some payback coming to them…

(Originally posted February 19, 2010.)

Referee’s Notes (2011): Not much to say here — basically a “putting together the pieces” session, delving into forbidden knowledge about the setting and its various aspects, with links to both places already known, and to be visited. The way the archives were set up as a place of layered secrecies is based not on usual fantasy concepts, but the imagery of modern conspiracy theories: cyphers, classification, a collection of things too sensitive for the public. Something of the MJ-12 facility or Area 51 from Deus Ex, or Cold Steel from May Payne. Does it fit the world? Under the circumstances, pretty well. This place also gave the players a handful of clues — not enough to act on immediatley, but providing valuable insight to interpret later events. And of course, by this time, a major confrontation with Megamarkhos Periptekhos, collector, grand conspirator and the descendant of the Mesomakhi was an inevitability.

2 Responses to “[Campaign Journal] Sword, Sorcery and Rayguns #12”

  1. James Hutchings:

    Hi,

    Apologies for the off-topic comment, but I couldn’t find a contact email for you.

    I’ve recently put out an ebook of my writing, called ‘The New Death and others’. It’s mostly short stories, with some obvious gamer-interest material. For example I have a story inspired by OD&D elves, as well as poems which retell Robert E Howard’s King Kull story ‘The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune’ and HP Lovecraft’s ‘Under the Pyramids’.

    I was wondering if you’d be interested in doing a review on your blog.

    If so, please let me know your email, and what file format is easiest for you, and I’ll send you a free copy. You can email me (news@apolitical.info) or reply to this thread.

    You can download a sample from Smashwords:

    http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/92126

    I’ll also link to your review from my blog.

    Yours,
    James.

  2. elgabor:

    Hi James,

    thank you for your generous offer, but I am not really suited for literary criticism, so I will have to pass on the offer.

    Best,
    Gabor

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