[Campaign Journal] Sword, Sorcery and Rayguns #14

by Kalman Farago
A ruler turns a beast

Arriving to the isle of Immah Wel, we hide our ship in a small grotto and make for the temple complex, carrying our four barrels of salt-fermented goat wine. We decide to circumnavigate the site at a distance and approach it from the south, since we knew of several unguarded entrances on that side. As we walk along arguing about various aspects of our plan to attack **TRAGOS MEGALOS**, Melan inconspicuously rolls a d6 for random encounters… a 1!

Someone (might have been me…): „Great, looks like we won’t even need to search for either Tragos or the dragon…”
Everyone else in unison: „Shut up, don’t give him ideas!”
Melan smiles, rolls again… and it’s another 1!
Everyone: *groan*
Melan: „Now, 1 to 3 is **TRAGOS MEGALOS**, 4 to 6 is the dragon…” *clunk of die* „You hear drums from beyond a hill’s crest, and like an army of ants a great host of Tragoi appears. As they swarm towards you, a pair of giant horns rises above the crest, belonging to the 15-feet-tall goat-god…”

We only had a few seconds to prepare. Most party members (whom **TRAGOS MEGALOS** would have recognised) are turned invisible. Gwyddion quickly instructs the five Teloi who volunteered to accompany us to inject half the Reversal into one of the barrels, and a moment later Licar casts Polymorph on Gwyddion, turning him into an armour-clad, goat-headed Tragoi.

„Ho, but what do we have here?” – the goat-god booms as we’re noticed, and it’s up to Gwyddion to think on his feet. „My Lord, I am… erm… Mekelek*, from the distant north, and I have… er… made this pilgrimage with my slaves here” — a gesture towards the Teloi and Devadatta — „to bring you these barrels of fine salt-fermented goat milk.”
„Goat milk!” — the lactose-junkie deity exclaimed. „Excellent! You may as well join us for our planned little festivity… and those slaves of yours will make and excellent dessert.”
Indeed, the Tragoi seem to have come for some celebration, bringing food, amphorae of drinks and other accroutements — including a grisly pole holding up the mummified body of Tyraxus’ former hechman, the poor Xulunder Kham!

As the more than hundred Tragoi broke into drinking and cavorting, Gwyddion started to spin the story of his fictuitious northern Tragoi tribe. „But we are in dire straights, my lord. A dark warrior, calling himself the Entomaar has been committing hostilities against the Tragoi, and they say he’s even sworn to kill you, the mighty **TRAGOS MEGALOS**. These slaves — who are now mine -, they allied with him for this purpose, originally…” The best lies are the ones were every word is true…

As the evening sky grew darker and the others’ invisibility spells were drawing closer to expiration, Gwyddion started bringing the barrels in front of the god. „Make the poisoned one the first” – Devadatta’s player suggested via OOC shout-ins, but I heeded such terrible advice not — and it was a good thing, too, since **TRAGOS MEGALOS** insisted that Gwyddion partake of the first barrel alongside him. Long story short, he drank the first two barrels and started getting decidedly plastered, when Gwyddion pointed at the Reversal-laced one.

At first, nothing seemed to have happened. Then, as he was reaching for the fourth barrel, the goat god stopped and leaned forward on the mighty throne he was sitting on. „There’s something wrong… traitor! Trait…” And he flopped forward as we swung into action.

Located on the periphery of the celebration, the wizards opened up with spells, as the Teloi and Devadatta drew laser pistols and covered the god in a barrage. Zaxtaros, hiding under the mighty throne, activated his laser sword and stabbed, while Gwyddion started hewing at the god’s nape (to little effect, as his sword was turned aside by an invisible force barrier. As the reversal started to afect him, **TRAGOS MEGALOS** lost his divine and magical powers, and even the strike of his mighty flail went piteously foul (on a natural 1).

By the end of the very first combat round, even as the army of Tragoi were just starting to realise what has happened, the god **TRAGOS MEGALOS** was nothing more than an ordinary goat (thanks to the genetic devolution of the Reversal), scattered into numerous fragments as if by a grenade. In a few devastating seconds we slew a deity and utterly destroyed the world of the savage goatmen. Confused and panicked, they ran towards the temple complex with cries of woe and despair. And thus passed **TRAGOS MEGALOS**.

It was already dark, so we took his mighty, magical flail — a two-handed weapon for humans, assigned to Devadatta until we can identify its properties — and headed towards the complex at a forced march. Tyraxus Targ, seemingly lacking morals as well as standards, was hauling Xulunder Kham’s corpse after him, as he decided to see if Oolar’s Time would work on a body in this state of dilapidation. We walked past the burnt-out remains of the Red Sage and proceeded to the White Sage’s hut via the secret door (where we dumped the corpse), then stopped to discuss our next step. Carrying Tragos’ severed head and anxious to sacrifice it, Gwyddion announced his intention to head for the sanctum of Uthummaos right away, but he ran into the unreasonable stubbornness of his party members, who insisted on heading straight for the unexplored northern part of the temple city and loot the Tragoi’s area which lies somewhere there. Neither side was willing to budge, so once the party got to the central courtyard, Gwyddion split off from the others and entered the dark shrine, while those proceeded northward.

The Ruined City of Immah Wel

They spotted some Tragoi, apparently in the middle of evacuation, at the northern end of the courtyard, and rapidly looted two bags of coin, then ran after some escapees but lost them in the corridors. They scouted around in various directions and with no clear strategy, finding a few sights of interest:
- A room full of densely packed corpses and a closed metal door leading into another one, bulging towards them as if it had been smitten by some tremendous force on the other side. They left it alone, probably a wise chioce.
- The mural of a skeletal figure holding a golden chalice. Zaxtaros, true to himself, reached for it without hesitation and… barely made a save against some magical effect. Whatever that was, the chalice was non-magical and not even worth all that much.
- A large, winged, flying creature approaching the courtyard and landing nearby with a heavy thud. „Where are you, my precious? Where are you hidden?” — it spoke, but with the sonorous voice of a woman. As the adventurers ran (and eventually managed to lose it), they heard the noise of ruffling feathers. While all were quick to asume it was the dragon, that tiny detail was worthy of interest, but glossed over for the time being (well, not by me, but Gwyddion was not with the party, and after they’ve been such jerks about not waiting for my sacrifice in the shrine I figured they can go suck on a sword, I’m not going to metagame to help them. :) )
- The rotting corpse of a humongous white snake. Upon moving closer to investigate, Devadatta somehow stirred the serpent’s vengeful spirit which rose as a white mist with red glowing eyes, only to be cut down by the party’s magic after a few feeble attacks.
- A set of stairs leading up and the whispering voices of the damned floating down and muttering about some „witch”. One character crept up the stairs (under the cover of invisibility, as I recall) to see the spectral form of a white-robed woman, her eyes empty black cavities; and he returned to the others in haste.
- The living quarters of the Tragoi, recently but thoroughly evacuated of both tenants and valuables.

Eventually they came to a small complex of rooms leading to what looked like an important hall at the very northern extremity of the place, and the penultimate room held a mighty stone statue with red glowing eyes. It promptly came alive and intoned „Who is it who approaches Tragos Megalos…”
„I shoot it with my laser” – Zaxtaros interjects flatly.
„Damn, it wasn’t even attacking us, but no, you couldn’t even let it finish the bloody sentence, could you?”
Well, NOW it was hostile. Zax fired his laser pistol at it, and… rolled a 1, frying the battery; and the next moment the golem’s magic spell caught Zax square in the chest and slowed him to a crawl; then it whaled into him with its mighty stone fists. As combat started, the players turned to Melan:
„Look, only Zaxtaros is IN the room with the golem, and we’re all still behind him, in the corridor, correct?”
„Are there any bars on this door? I mean on the other side, so we could just step back and lock him in there?”

Luckily for Zax there weren’t any bars, so the others decided to help him… well, with limited enthusiasm. Tyraxus’s Haste spell has undone the slowing effect, and Zaxtaros managed to replace his pistol’s battery and destroy the golem — but he was one hit away from dying.

They stepped over the golem’s rubble and into the large hall beyond, dominated by a mighty throne – Tragos Megalos’s former throne room! But there was a shape sitting on it… much smaller then the goat god and clad in black armour… and his head a human head, even though when they last saw it the figure was under the effect of Licar’s polymorph.
„That was MY golem now, and you ruined it” — Gwyddion ap Cwllich spoke from the throne – „and I think I’m due some compensation for that.”
That was certainly a surprise, but the warrior refused to offer any explanation. „What are you doing here?” „Waiting for you to arrive, and let me tell you, it was a long time. Now, can we go?”
Before leaving, the party quickly searched the throne and found a hidden compartment. Most of its contents have been taken by the fleeing Targoi, but there was still a gold amulet and a magical dagger with a curved blade of green glass.

It was the dead of night by now, so we returned to the White Sage’s hut to sleep. It was Gwyddion’s watch when he heard shuffling steps in the corridor outside it, so he quickly woke the others. They waited with breaths held, but Fortuna was not with them this time: the door creaked open, and a figure peeked in – a dead human body, desiccated but dressed in fine if ancient robes, with long, claw-like fingernails; and there were nine more behind him. Howling, they jumped us, and a brief and wild melee ensued as we tried to hold them at the door. The last of the wizards’s magic, along with Gwyddion’s sword and the laser support of Devadatta and the Teloi, made quick work with most of the wights — for such they were, only in Melan’s game they drain Constitution, not XP –, and the survivors ran and fled down the hallway. The battle was one with no losses, but two hits on Gwyddion caused him serious trouble: even though the total amount of CON points lost wasn’t all that high, it just happened to fall over a very unfortunate stretch of the scale, and so the warrior was not at about 2/3rd of his usual maximum HP — and only rest would bring it back.

We rested well into the morning, then for some reason unclear to me the party decided to go back to the boat to check on it. As we approached, we heard the splash of something going overboard — a Giant Death Crab of Doom, as we learned, that has climbed aboard and just finished devouring most of our food supplies. We rested some more, then Tyraxus and Licar took off with Xulunder Kham’s body to try and reanimate it.

They found a spot a short distance away — we insisted they shouldn’t be trying such unholy and disturbing magic right in front of the Teloi’s (and our) eyes; the body was laid out and the spell was cast. The shriveled, browned carcass started twitching under the spell’s power, its lidless mouth opened, and it whispered in a deathly voice. „Maaaaster! Maaaster! Why did you do this to meeee? I served you loyally until death, and now you pull me back…. The agony! The aaaagony! Maaaster, why maaaster?”
Horrified, Tyraxus rapidly cast Dispel Magic to spare his poor former henchman from the unholy torment; and the corpse stopped moving.. „Well, I think we should bury him, or maybe burn him on a pyre. I’ll have the Teloi gather some firewood.”
„[Expl. del.], no, they won’t. This is your [expl. del.], wizards, you gather the wood.” By the way, that wasn’t us, the other players who’ve been complaining about Tyraxus’ treatment of the poor dead bastard; that was Melan speaking as the DM.

Well, they’ve built a pyre and set it on fire; at which point I felt compelled by my honour to clean up some possible confusion regarding the situation:
„So, you’ve built a funeral pyre and lit it.”
„And it’s on fire. With flames.”
„And smoke.”
”Yes, I guess so…”
„That forms a nice thick black column in the air, visible by anyone — say, the dragon — from any point of the island.”
„Couldn’t you have just shut the [expl. del.] up and NOT remind Melan of that?”
„Hey, I’m not the one who built the pyre…”

Melan: „Excellent point, let’s roll for it…”

It wasn’t the dragon. Instead, it was a slight tremor of the ground where the wizards were standing, then skeletal hands burst through from below. The pyroclastic mages rapidly took to the air and blasted the spot (and Xulunder’s pyre) with a Fireball.
„You know, you could have just done that in the first place and you would have saved all the pyre-building time.”
„Shut up.”
„At this point I sort of wonder if any other random encounters that missed the pyre’s smoke might have noticed that huge explosion…”

Melan: *rolls* „Well, as a matter of fact…”
Well, as a matter of fact, in this moment the wizards noticed something large flying towards them, and they quickly rendered themselves invisible. But what appeared was not a dragon. It was a creature with the body of a lion but with mighty feathered wings, the rainbow-coloured tail of a serpent… and the head a woman. „Ah, where are you, now? Where have you hidden, little ones?” — it spoke in the sonorous voice the party’s heard in the courtyard the previous night. The wizards stayed very, very still floating in the air, and the sphynx soon gave up the search. „Maybe I’ll find you in the city, next time” — she purred and flew away.

At this ponit we all agreed it would be prudent to return to the Isle of Diaphane. The Giant Death Crab of Doom has eaten our supplies, Gwyddion was feeling sickly and weak from the wight’s attack, and we’ve made no progress whatsoever on the dragon. Rest up among the refugees and return in a few days. We also figured it would be fair to give half of the monetary treasure to the Teloi and let them take it home so the refugees can use the money trading with Khonón for supplies.

Mekk Elek, Jack of All Trades

We sailed through the night, and eventually came to the isle. As we climbed out of the ship and onto the shore, we noticed something. From ahead and above, the high ground where the Anadyomaians built their colony, there came a noise and a light. The noise of shouts and metal clashing on metal; and the light of fire…

Note: *”Mekk Elek the jack-of-all-trades” is the name of the incompetent goat protagonist of a TV puppet show from my childhood that suddenly sprang to mind. Was the best I could do on the spot. [facepalm]

(Originally posted March 13, 2010)

Referee’s Notes (2010): necromancy in the finest imitation of Mnatmuor and Sodosma, general dungeon foolishness (some “had it coming” moments that could have ended much worse without some luck) and an encounter with giant crabs Premier left out, so all in all, a productive and event-filled afternoon/evening. The random encounter dice did a lot of the heavy lifting, which is just as well. And unfortunately, **TRAGOS MEGALOS** or his followers never had a chance once Gwyddion and Co duped him.
GM: “You are so mean, not even the story of Tragohontas could happen to your bunch.”


You must be logged in to post a comment.