Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Campaign Journal: AS&SH - The Anthropophagi of Xamboola (Session 1)

SPOILER ALERT: This journal is extracted from an unpublished and upcoming Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea adventure I am close to completing. This account eventuates from the playtest. You have been warned!

Visitors to the desert-city of Xamboola beware! Demoniacal cachinnations and dull totemic drumbeats sound nocturnal from the outskirts of the city. Too, vile shrieks echo in response to the nightmarish noises, making even those of heroic aspect shudder in repulsion. Residents do not tarry to lock themselves in their homes at night, for something sinister lingers in the fringes of the black of night. Whisperings and warnings intimate that foreign guests residing at the inn of one Aramis D’athak oft disappear at night, never to be seen or heard from again. Where they disappear is not known, nor do the people of Xamboola speak of the hellish noises that darken their oasis city in the gloom of night.

Session 1: The Cannibals On The Edge of Town

After describing Xamboola (and the Hyperborean setting) the party introduced themselves.

The Party
Sint the Pict Ranger (Level 1)
Heron the Kimmerian Druid (Level 1)
Moloch the Male Ixian Witch (Level 1)
Grimnear Hothgar the Viking Berserker (Level 1)
Estorane the Ixian Thief (Level 2; Hireling)

Part I: Drums in the night

The group congregated at Saturn’s Luck Hall – a popular drinking hall named in honour of Xathoqqua. There Sint, and eventually the others, met a merry patron named Tartok. Tartok, while sipping on pomegranate wine, provided some interesting rumours for the party – a strange census is being undertaken in Yithorium targeting children with magical ability (who then disappear from their homes); locally in Xamboola a priest at the temple of Helios is rumoured to have murdered someone; horrendous caravan raids have been occurring on the outskirts of town; and finally Tartok spoke of…. the ominous troubles plaguing Xamboola.
No sooner had the skies darkened for nightfall when dull, pounding, drum beats resounded from the edge of town, accompanied by shrieks and hooting. Local patrons vacated the hall immediately, presumably for their dwellings, while the owners hastily boarded up the hall for the night. At the owners' insistence the group had to pay to sleep on the floor or else leave immediately. The group chose the former. The loathsome noises moved closer into town, though they seemed to linger in the western portion. The odious noises were soon accompanied by the bloodcurdling shrieks of one being attacked or worse. Sint and Grimnear were willing to go out and hunt whatever was causing these noises but due to the lockdown, and after some thought, decided to wait until the morning to take action. They instead spent time questioning the owners of Saturn’s Luck, discovering that cannibal slaves were allegedly responsible for these abductions. The horrible anthropophagi mostly target foreigners, thus the satrapy and locals tolerate it, especially as the slaves extensively outnumber the free-people. If it came to open warfare there would be much bloodshed and disruption of commerce. The witch-queen of Yithorium forbids the satrap to take violent action. Thus, the best one can do is lock their door and pray to whatever god/s they worship their family will be spared. Whenever a foreigner is abducted the locals breathe a sigh of relief. Another rumour of potential verity was discovered: at a caravanserai owned by one Aramis D’Athak, visitors are said to go missing. The inn is located on the edge of town, bordering of the old, ruined greater city.
After spending a restless night on the floor of Saturn’s Luck Hall, the party awoke. All the horrors of the previous night had vanished in the night, and Xamboola returned to its normal self.
Suspicious that these activities stemmed from the edge of town, the party decided to investigate further.
Part II: Friggin’ Apples & Espionage
Breaking fast with a meal of hot pan bread, the adventurers decided to visit the caravanserai of Aramis to discover his connection with the nightly horrors. Sint had other ideas. Being in Xamboola he insisted on acquiring some fresh fruit from the bazaar, so the party grudgingly followed him in his dreams of fruit finding. Within the chaotic bazaar a raving prophet, seeing the group, beckoned them over. He warned them vehemently of the dangers in the town, and repeated what they already suspected. After a bribe of 1 silver coin, and some equally silvery talk they elicited that this man too, had heard rumours of Aramis’ involvement.
Not knowing what kind of trouble they may find, it was deemed wise to find a hireling or two of mercenary persuasion at the bazaar to ‘bolster’ numbers. After meeting a boastful barbarian clad only in loincloth, shield and scimitar, a dour thief named Estorane was finally hired. She agreed to accompany the party for a share of 15% of all gold and gems acquired. After agreeing with the terms Estorane accompanied the others to the nefarious caravanserai of Aramis D’Athak.
The caravanserai, as the adventurers discovered, was walled mud-brick, containing a lavish courtyard and a two-storied inn. A greasing sycophant – Aramis himself – brought cool water over to the table, and took their orders of goat’s milk. The group felt uncomfortable, sensing that something was amiss, especially after their conversations with the creepy and sweating Aramis. Sint felt particularly uncomfortable and stood to leave. At the warning of Estorane and the others, he realised how conspicuous he’d look leaving so hurriedly, and instead excused himself to the bathroom. In his prying he overheard a muffled and indistinguishable conversation coming from another room. The group left soon thereafter, even more suspicious than before. 
To allay or confirm their suspicion, it was deiced some remote spying should take place. Grimnear and Estorane camped on the roof of a shack not far from the Caravanserai to survey it by night. They made a little too much noise climbing up, though no one within investigated. The others spent the night back at Saturn’s Luck. The night appeared to pass uneventfully for the spies, though that’s not to say the night was uneventful…
Part III: Temple Butchery
Exhausted, Grimnear and Estorane came back to Saturn’s Hall upon dawn, sleeping at a table all day, while Heron kept an eye on them for their safety. While the two slept Moloch and Sint tracked down the man whose daughter had allegedly been murdered by the priest of Helios. Teary, the father of the deceased swore he would give his entire life savings – a sapphire – to any willing to extract ‘justice’ on the priest. He informed the party the priest’s name was Jak’n.
Later in the evening, when the two sleepers awoke, it was decided to approach Jak’n at the temple to ascertain his innocence or his guilt. Thus the looming temple of Helios was the destination. A statue of the fiery god was mounted on the rooftop looming over the interlopers as they approached. Within the temple a perpetual fire burned beside two prodigious copper bowls filled with blood. Pious worshippers wet themselves with the blood and whispered prayers and petitions to their god. A stony priest stood in every corner of the room and one in the centre. After asking one such acolyte where Jak’n was located, and assuring him the matter was pastoral, Sint boldly confronted Jak’n amidst the sombre congregation, insinuating Jak’n’s guilt.
Seeing the defilement of Helios’ sanctuary, and the disrespect for one of Helios’ chosen, a fellow priest began chanting an unknown, portentous ritual: ‘Abjuda Dilhooth Varket!’ The group, sensing their shifting luck attempted to leave. Too late: the priest ended his chanting, shouting ‘DIE!’ in the common tongue. Sint dropped to the ground as if dead. This was too much for Grimnear, who, being a berserker of little patience or respect for civilisation drew a mighty sword shearing Jak’n in two. Blood and gore showered the worshippers, who at this point, lost in worship thought it was a divine manifestation from their deity. Thanking Helios profusely for this actualised miracle they resumed their worship, eyes closed, hands towards the heavens. As they worshipped in blissful oblivion the slaughter continued. Moloch wove slumberous threads of magic enchanting two priests with sleep, thereafter slitting their throats. Small rivers of red flowed upon the floors. Heron and Estorane set upon another two. The slaughter was complete. In the aftermath of battle it was discovered Sint (and Grimnear who had succumbed to another spell) were not actually dead, rather under the compelling influence of the priestly magic. They were soon revived, as hale as ever. Finally coming to their senses, and discovering the bloody horrors in their midst, the shrieking worshippers fled their beloved temple, traumatised. Running to the satraps palace, they mean to raise a mob.
Wild with adrenaline the bloodied butchers began conceiving a plan to escape…
Adventure Rewards
10 gp plundered from the coffers of Helios.
65 xp for defeating the Helios priests.
375 xp for attending the session.
200 xp for problem solving.

NOTE: If you'd like to listen to the 2.5 hour version of this as it actually happened feel free to follow the link to my DropBox and Download/Listen.

Next entry - Session 2: The Wrath of Helios

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