Saturday, 9 May 2015

Campaign Journal: AS&SH The Anthropophagi of Xamboola (Session 4)

SPOILER ALERT: This journal is extracted from an unpublished and upcoming Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea adventure I am currently completing.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 4: The Warlord's Mirror

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: The Death Of The Eight

Arrows flew, magick was woven, and iron wreaked havoc on the cannibals. Taking respite from the usual diet of human flesh, the cannibals were entirely surprised when five armed and dangerous intruders of mercenary persuasion began attacking. Before they could react feathered shafts were protruding from them, and the rest succumbed to the witcheries of the strange Moloch. A fresh pool swelled upon the floor: the life blood of the slain cannibals flowed as their throats were cut while they slept. 

With little adieu, the wanderers exited the kitchen, and began exploring the remainder of the complex. After sleeping, selling acquired goods in the bazaar of Xamboola, and returning to the ruinous palace, the group continued with their prior explorations. One room, a cube of 20 feet by 20 feet, was entered. Two filthy beds were within, and a mural depicting Xamboola razed in violent conquest. It looked recently painted. The room was turned upside-down, but scant was discovered, besides Sint happening upon a letter opener. Leaving, the adjacent room was entered, albeit cautiously. This room appeared as a once-armoury, with bits of rusting metal sitting on a rack, and a mouldy drape pooling on the ground. Grimnear poked at the drape with his sword, while Estorane and Sint scanned the walls for possible nooks and crannies. Nothing of worth was found.

On the other side of the complex a room filled with women and children was discovered. They all appeared to be akin to the cannibals. After questioning them and discovering little besides the existence of some certain 'wise masters' Grimnear decided to steal a grotesque statue they seemingly revered. Despite cowering in the corner and protecting their children, one women was brave enough to prevent Grimnear from snatching the idol. He shoved her away and attempted to grab it again, but she had enough: drawing a makeshift dagger she slashed him across the arm. The Viking's patience was depleted and drawing steel he hew through muscle and bone, decapitating her. The women and children whimpered and cowered. Eventually the brute left with the idol in hand.

A nearby room, appearing mostly collapsed was explored. Grimnear shoved the queasy idol into one a chamber pot, piled with defecation, as this room appeared to be where they relieved themselves. Poking around Grimnear and Sint unearthed a brood of venomous vipers. Ironically the vipers proved to be much trouble for the group, compared with the nil challenge of the now-dead cannibals. Tirelessly the vipers attacked injecting their poison into Sint and Grimnear. After the near death of the two it was decided to return to Xamboola; those bitten appeared very sickly. 


Part II: Fugly Attackers

Back in Xamboola the wounded employed the services of the priest of Rel to remove any residual venom. A ceremony was undertaken one in the evening, one the next morning for Sint and Grimnear respectively. After recovery the party returned to the palace yet again, this time descending into the depths of the basement. Below, a wine cellar was discovered, though any remaining wine or foodstuffs had long evaporated or been devoured by rapacious rodents. And rodents there were. As the group busily pried and poked around the room, a group of giant rats sized as canines attacked, drooling for the taste of flesh. This time Moloch fell prey to diseased ailment. Again the party returned to employ the priest, who lamented Moloch's demise would have been imminent without his steadfast assistance.

And yet again the group returned to the underground of the palace!

Listening at a door and hearing nothing the wary explorers forced another door. This one led into a vast storage chamber, with arched columns supporting the palace roof above. Seeing or hearing nothing they continued into a hallway lined with dungeon cells. Two contained a skeleton, while one showed evidence of escape attempts, however futile they ended up being. The other cells were not examined, for another door held the party's attention. Without any thought to safety the door was pushed open, however on the other side awaited two horrible anthropoids. They were not human, yet appeared roughly so, standing at most 3 feet tall. They were sinewy and broad, yet held none of the sympathies or curiosity associated with humanity. Instead, these dark and sour creatures attacked immediately, targeting Moloch. They proved both deft and hale, at last being bested with the weapons of Heron, Estorane, Grimnear and Sint. Moloch in a panic, departed with haste from these fiends lest they tear him to pieces in their savagery. When the hostilities expired the corpses were stripped of their chain armour. The room was thoroughly searched: a torture chamber with a secret doorway. In addition was a stone bench with bloodstains and two strange stone closets lined with hideous spikes.

Opening the secret door Grimnear, Sint, Heron and Estorane entered a strange hallway lined with four stone statues flanking each side of the passage. Moloch remained in the 'safety' and relative darkness of the dungeon, while the others tiptoed into the hallway with slight trepidation...


Part III: Smoke & Mirrors

Being a man of haste, and not given to bouts of elongated musing, Grimnear gazed upon two diadems on the heads of two statues. Overcome with gold-lust he grabbed the first. An otherworldly voice filled the air. 

"I didn't quite catch what they said, but it sounded good" said Grimnear as he adorned the crown with little contemplation. He walked over to the second diademed statue as no ill-effect befell him. In as much haste, he grabbed the other diadem. This time a voice spoke illy, bespeaking the intruders' imminent deaths. That's when a noxious gas began to fill the corridor, and the door between Moloch and the others slammed with a deafening "BOOM!"

Nasty boils immediately formed on the skin of Estorane and Sint as they gasped for breath inside the acrid and choking passageway. Imbued with otherworldly strength the mighty Viking dove for the opposite doorway, yet unexplored, and hove it open with a deriding snarl. Heron and Grimnear stumbled into the distant room, and Estorane and Sint fell inside too. Moloch was on the other side of the passageway, alone in the dark. After half-heartedly calling out his companion's names, and without checking behind the now-closed doorway he returned to Xamboola - after all, terrible accidents do happen, and he dare not tarry lest death befall him too!

Inside this new chamber, the lucky survivors soaked in their new surroundings. An unspeakable cosmic presence resided in this chamber, yet none could name it. A twenty-foot idol grimly sat on the opposite end of the room, horned and ugly, behind which was a raised dais and a tantalising mirror. Three huge columns held the roof up, set within alcoves, while a foreign and antediluvian sigil was inscribed in the floor. After exploring the room to no avail, the mirror was examined. Heron examined the mirror, reaching out to it with his surreptitious ancient majick. Without warning he disappeared in a puff of blue smoke: ye gawds! The Viking and the ranger touched the mirror, yet all they received for their trouble was a bone shaking jolt. Wisely, they determined the departed witch should be summoned to retrieve their druidic friend, now gone, and divine the approximate usage of the portentous mirror.

They found the witch in Saturn's Luck Hall drinking and contemplating his fortunes. 
"Fuck you!" shouted the Viking. "Where did you go, and why did you leave us?!"
"I thought you guys were dead" was the reply.
"Did you at least check behind the door?" demanded Sint.
"No. I thought I might die, and I came back here" came Moloch's sheepish response.
"Fuck you!" repeated the massive Viking, storming away in a fury.
"Hrmmphhh!" exhaled Sint, with a scowl, turning his back on the disloyal and disavowed witch. 

That night was awkwardly quiet.

Morning dawned and Grimnear grit his teeth. 
"We're going back, and you're coming with us".
The witch knew better than to disagree. They filled him in on the way back, detailing their misfortunes.
Reentering the enigmatic chamber the Viking pointed:
"You're going to try to use that" he commanded.
The witch took the dais, eyes darting around the room nervously.
"Alright, alright"
Gazing into the mirror the blue smoke returned. Moloch was overcome by a vision...

A purple and twisted land rose up, debased and foul. A dull orb rested in the sky, not unlike Hyperborea but more sinister somehow. Heron was amidst a jungle, feverish and horrible. He talked with a man. The man had no hair, and his skin was a lurid blue, smooth and bald..dia.........wit....pur.....mir.... 

The vision faded.

"I saw him! He's in a strange land" declared Moloch with glee and bliss. 
Those in Hyperborea agreed to employ the mirror in an attempt to reclaim Heron from the odious land he now occupied. Another cloud of charcoal-bluish smoke engulfed the party as they joined hands in an attempt to travel together. A loud crack resounded and a fleeting mad cachinnation pierced the air as pain riddled their bodies. Sint and Estorane passed into unconsciousness, while the Viking was shaken: his soul felt afire. The smoke finally subsided, revealing the witch's body. Rent, and splayed, the witch had a manic grin on his face, eyes open in death. In his last his utmost thirst for power had been exercised, his joy complete amidst the pain - he had experienced a magick presence unearthly, and although he now passed unto death, the knowledge of its presence was surely worth it...


Part IV: Epilogue/Carcosa

Heron was bewildered. He had been looking at a mirror and now...

Where was he?

A strange marshland opened before him, replete with jungle trees and creeping vines. Another mirror was a stone's throw away. He began to walk towards. From behind a tree sprang a terrifying man. He was blue. 

Hairless and blue. 

The blue man spoke immediately in an accursed tongue, vile to discern, alien to interpret. 
Heron asked "who are you?"
The man pulled on a mouthpiece, incomprehensible to the druid. As the druid spoke the man fiddled with something on the side of the mouthpiece, and suddenly he somehow mimicked the druid's own voice exactly. The stranger spoke through the device in an unnatural manner.
"I need your help to locate a purple man. I'm so close!"
"Where am I?" asked Heron.
"This land is known as Carcosa", spake the blue man.
For some reason the very name sent repulsion through Heron's core.
"How do I get back to my land?" he asked.
"If you help me, I'll help you!" promised the blue man.
"I'm so close!" he repeated. "Some are in the nearby swamp, and I have a small boat and everything."
His fervour disturbed Heron deeply.
Walking to the mirror he ignored the blue man's taunts: "The only way to leave here is with my help, the purple man will be mine, he'll be mine! You'll see! Ohhh....."

Defying fate, the laws of the universe, and evoking the mirth of whatever gods watched, Heron magicked the mirror, appearing amidst his sleeping companions, in that cosmic room in that dark dungeon of Hyperborea...

Notes:

In this session I used Carcosa by Geoffrey McKinney, for the otherworldly bit.
Zak S's A Red & Pleasant Land was implemented for the random objects to roll up the letter opener Sint found. All other content was drawn from the official Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea box setor it was derived from my strange imagination.

By a twist of fate, and rebuking all odds of mathematics the dice indicated Heron returned to Hyperborea! That was unexpected. 


Adventure Rewards

216xp for defeating 9 Cannibals
75xp for defeating 3 Vipers
36xp for defeating 4 Giant Rats
160xp for defeating two grotesque humanoids
60xp for finding a silver chalice and leafy brooch
10xp for finding a letter opener
2000xp for finding two magical diadems
500xp for solving puzzles
1800xp for attendance and role-playing

971 xp each

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