[Campaign Journal] Sword, Sorcery and Rayguns #13

by Kalman Farago
Denouement in Khonón

The negotiations were over. As described above, Khonón would give the refugees aid and transport them to the Isle of Diaphane to start their lives anew. The ships were to leave the next morning, but we weren’t in the mood to just wait patiently. Using spells of invisibility and the secret passage connecting the docks to an out-of-sight corner of the castle courtyard, Tyraxus Targ and Zaxtaros snuck out late in the afternoon to check on the party’s ship, which — as we’ve overheard in the confusion following the refugees’ appearance — was impounded for some unclear reason.

They found the small ships still moored at the docks with only a solitary guard standing at the near end of the pier. Under the cover of invisibility and dusk, they snuck onboard to see whether the ship’s been tampered with in any way. A brief search turned up nothing, but they noticed how the crates and barrels of supplies we’ve already loaded aboard for the next voyage were, somehow, arranged in a more orderly way then we’ve last left them. Looks like someone must have been going over the entire ship and failed to replace everything exactly as it was. Further search finally turned up something: some green dust on the planks right in front of the door of the aft cabin. Examining it up close, Tyraxus realised it was jade dust, used to construct a Magic Mouth on board the ship. They didn’t know when the Mouth was supposed to activate or what it was supposed to say, but the two decided to play it safe and deconstruct the spell with Tyraxus’ Dispel incantation.

(As a note, their first idea upon arrival was to cast Detect Magic to find any arcane traps or other spells placed on the ship. Only they didn’t realise that being a divine gift from the long-gone goddess Diaphane, the entire ship radiated magic…)

After this, the wizard and the thief have split up. Zaxtaros headed for the jewellers’ shops located around Fedafuce’s temple to acquire some pearls for Identify spells, but couldn’t find any and thus decided to just perform some ordinary burglary instead while invisible, which netted him a very valuable ornate (empty) metal box. Meanwhile, Tyraxus headed for Fedafuce’s temple itself. Talking to one of the clerks… adepts, he inquiried about magic spells and items that would offer protection from fire (remember, facing a dragon and a magic-using monster god on our agenda!). The temple had nothing of the sort on hand, but promised to look for such goods and, if found, transport them to the Isle of Diaphane, where the party would be spending some time helping the refugees set themselves up. On the upside, he managed to buy a pearl suitable for an identification ritual.

Meanwhile, back in the fortress, Gwyddion engaged in some small talk with a member of the Archosynod and learned that Megamarkhos is not very highly regarded by the city’s rulership, who are apparently ignorant of the man’s puissant ancestry.

Soon after the conversation was done, the guards appeared looking for Gwyddion, telling him there was a visitor at the gate looking specifically for the warrior. Responding to the summons, Gwyddion found a young woman wearing the blue veils of the adepts of Ishtar. The girl handed over a note and quickly left:

Ishtar, the Mother-Goddess sees the action of Gwyddion, and what she refused before she will grant tonight. May the cover of darkness protect and his companions protect the hero, for there is treachery at the city’s gates, and he must meet his enemy before the voyage.

Not sure I’ve mentioned before, so I’ll put it down for the readers: When they last returned to Khonón, Gwyddion approached the temple of Ishtar to seek some permanent solution to his grievous medical condition of being dead (sort of) and regularly requiring Licar’s sustaining magic to keep him alive; but was sternly refused. While he had some reservations about the authenticity of the message, this award was certainly worth investigating!

He and Licar waited until nightfall when Zax and Tyraxus returned, then the two of them left discreetely thanks to Licar’s invisibility and flight spells. Zax and the Tyraxus stayed behind and woe! Their presence well might have turned the story around in a most fundamental way.

The front gate of Ishtar’s temple was closed and locked — which was strange –, but we found the messenger girl waiting by the backdoor in an alley. Approaching still invisibly, Gwyddion announced himself to the startled adept while Licar stood back. The girl claimed to wait here because the front door was under surveillance by Khonón’s spies — and, lending credibility to the claim, Gwyddion suddenly noticed a dark figure lurking on the roof of a nearby building. The girl led us to the back entrance, asking us to remove our invisibility to avoid triggering the temple complex’s magical alarms. We complied, but remained suspicious and kept our hands near our laser guns and lightning wands.

The Chamber of the Dais

The door opened into a softly lit, colonnaded large chamber with a dais at the centre, bathed in a blue light from above. „Approach the dais” — the girl said — „to receive your reward from the Goddess for your saving of the people of Anadyomai”; and foolish puppies — suspicious but foolish puppies –, we complied. Directly above the dais there was a glittering crystal sphere which immediately hypnotised Gwyddion; while Licar heard a man’s voice shout „Now!”, immediately followed by the chanting of some five separate voices surrounding us from all direction — and he recognised the spells being cast as Hold Monster.

This was way too many saving throws, and both of us were paralysed before Licar could go for his wand or cast some countermagic. Then we heard a familiar voice say „Game over”, there were two hard thwacks on our napes, and it was lights out.

Next morning, the rest of the party and the refugees were raised and escorted to the waiting Khonónian galleys amidst a lines of cheering crowds. „Gwyddion and Licar? Don’t worry, they’re already there” — the worried party members were told. And indeed we were, groaning as we came to consciousness with splitting headaches and a nasty surprise. Before dumping us on our ship, that sly bastard Megamarkhos — for who else could it have been? — went through Licar’s and Gwyddion equipment and enriched himself a bit, unwilling courtesy of us. Some of the books we looted from his secret library were now gone, including the Tomb of Solon and the Proarchikon — but luckily, we’ve already made copies of the Proarchikon’s last page and the map contained therein, and Megamarkhos’ spellbook was held by Tyraxus who didn’t accompany us on the unfortunate excursion. However, I was missing my laser gun, my Ring of Fire Protection, and magical scrying bowl I’ve been carrying for quite a while; and Licar was also lighter by a few small but valuable items. As a cheeky slap on the face, Megamarkhos left Classic Declinations, the book on astrological tables for cats, on Licar, and has even dedicated it! For me, he left behind a letter tucked under my armour:

My excellent friends, Heroes of Khonón and Anadyomai!

If you’re reading this message, then our recentmost meeting has concluded successfully, and the conflict of interests between us is now without debt. Do not seek me inside the walls of Khonón; I have arranged all my affairs, and the Legacy of Solon Arkhon thus leaves on a new journey. This decent city does not deserve petty vengeance. Neither do you. Remember this, and do not seek what should not be sought. What you have accomplished already is enough for a man.

Well, I have to give it to him he certainly has flair; but this is not over yet. Oh no, my precious.

As we left harbour, we looked back and saw a thin, black column of smoke rise from the city, more or less from the location of Megamarkhos’ house. Looks like he left indeed, and made sure he didn’t leave behind anything by accident.
So, we all sailed to the Isle of Diaphane: the party, the seven hundred refugees, and a few dozen craftsmen who would help them construct their initial colony. Seeing nothing but stone huts upon arrival was a bit of a disappointment for the Sages of Anadyomai, but once we’ve shown them Diaphane’s great and untended garned with the protective dome in its centre, their disposition quickly improved. We spent about a week helping them get started with the construction and hunt down the isle’s Spidergoat population — killing them all deprived the colony of a potentiall major export item (the monsters’s high-quality silk), but the Sages were resolute about the matter. Zaxtaros successfully diverted some of the construction efforts towards his own future mansion (in case he decided to retire), while Tyraxus was developing a tender relationship with a young lady among the refugees. For his part, Gwyddion spent some of the time hunting, dieing when Licar’s sustaining magic failed, receiving his next dose of said magic, and impatiently waiting for the party’s upcoming return to Immah Wel. But before that could happen, a ship arrived.

It was a delegation from Khonón, the vessel’s sails adorned with the image of a set of golden scales — Fedafuce’s symbol. The good priests of free trade, usury and alternative payment schemes were here to open their local branch…

As we learned, the refugees’ leaders have struck some deal with the temple to deliver supplies in the future, and this was the first shipment. The priests were also already looking forward to opening a local mission and had their set on Diaphane’s abandoned shrines. Gwyddion tried to dissuade them from looting and converting these holy places, citing how heavily and magically trapped they were; and for now it looks like he was successful.

With the large-scale dealing was done, the priests shared some news with us: Megamarkhos disappeared and his house burned down, and there was also another disappearance: that of Artotrokhus, the old magic dealer who introduced us to his mysterious dark wizard master, the one who wants us to find the Morreion. Also, there was an attack on the temple of Ishtar the night before we left, and the priestesses were found the next day, all tied up inside the building. Well, yes, and we know exactly why a certain someone has done that…

They also brought some of the fire-protection magic Tyraxus asked for earlier: several potions, a spell (I think, I don’t quite remember), and a ring… . A very familiar ring.
„And that, I assume, you bought from Megamarkhos before he disappeared.”
„As you know, good sir, confidentiality is…”
„Of course, never mind.”

In the end, Gwyddion parted with almost all his money and valuables to get his ring back, and even that only after he managed to lower the prize by offering up some information that the priests would be able to sell to other interested parties. He told them it was Megamarkhos who orchestrated the attack on Ishtar’s temple, that he was also the man responsible for the appearance of the Anadyomaians (which was sort of true), and that he was a direct descendant of the city’s founder, and thus the Archosynod would probably consider him a danger to their power. And on unrelated news, he told them that the shrine of Shodoggua on the isle of Immah Wel was constantly monitored by Khonón’s seemingly harmless Poetical Society, who were in fact devout followers of that evil and mad god. All pieces of information that Fedafuce could profit from; and the last one so surprising that they gave us a high-quality healing potion to express their gratitude.

The priests of Fedafuce left, and it was time for us to embark on our next expedition. Five of the highly trained Teloi volunteer to accompany us. Rested, our supplies replenished, and with some plans on how to face a hostile god and a dragon, we set sail for the temple island of Immah Wel…

(Originally posted February 22, 2010.)

Referee’s Notes (2011): Like on the previous occasion involving Megamarkhos, outwitting a group of paranoid, resourceful players with strong characters was no small feat. It also did not involve anything out of line for his resources: he was lower level than any of the active player characters (high-level NPCs are vanishingly rare on Fomalhaut; a 8th-9th level lord is a powerful individual and a 11th-12th level high priest is probably the second most powerful figure in the faith after his god), and while he had a small circle of powerful magic-users on his side, as well as his own powers as an illusionist, his most valuable asset was deception — entirely outside the simulated rules of the game. Unlike a whole lot of antagonists over the campaign, he walked away unscathed, and more or less victorious — not a bad accomplishment.


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