Thursday, 28 May 2015

Campaign Journal: AS&SH The Anthropophagi of Xamboola (Session 5)

SPOILER ALERT: This journal is extracted from an unpublished and upcoming Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea adventure I am currently completing.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 5: A Goddess In The Undergloom

The Party

Sint the Pict Ranger (Level 2)
Heron the Kimmerian Druid (Level 2)
Xechies the Kimmerian Warlock (Level 1)
Grimnear Hothgar the Viking Berserker (Level 2)
Estorane the Ixian Thief (Level 3; Hireling)
Squire Sharptooth Ixian Cannibal Torchbearer (Hireling)

Part I: The Inhumation of Moloch

It was a sombre group that carried the corpse of Moloch to the surface town of Xamboola. Weary, injured, and saddened, the adventurers hired a mortician and proper burial was conducted. In the days following his death the group went their separate ways for a time: Estorane to the Grotto of Rel to train under the tutelage of her people; Sint and Heron departed into the wildlands to hone their desertcraft; Grimnear to the arena to test his mettle against...metal. After a time of focus and up-skilling the avarice of the underworld was too great. Upon selling some of their plundered booty, a return to the derelict desert palace was imminent. Before departing a new face in town appeared: a Kimmerian with grey eyes and dark cropped hair, wielding shield and flail. Speaking of his alliances with chaos, Xechies requested to accompany the group in their delve. After promising to prove his valour and worth "or take all my items when I die" the group agreed for this new companion's company.

Scouring the top level of palace, lest the detestable cannibals had returned, the group was ready to begin their descent again. However, in one room two male cannibals guarded the remnant of the female and children anthropophagi. 
One was particular vocal: "You have blasphemed Xathoqqua and the wise masters! Was it you who caused their demise?"
"Yes" Grimnear spake.
Anger coursed through the slave cannibal: "You'll be damned for that! Only the wise masters may descend beneath the surface, and you have dealt a deleterious blow to my people."

After some discourse the cannibal decided that maybe these intruders were actually sent from Xathoqqua, and despite the death of the wise masters, perhaps this was Xathoqqua's way of bringing vengeance upon the satrapy of Xamboola, and cleansing the non-believers from his tribe.

"Come down with us to the dungeon below" Grimnear commanded.
"Me? A chosen one?" the cannibal queried, incredulous at Xathoqqua's mercies.
"Um...yeah sure"

Thereafter he was named Squire Sharptooth and was charged with the carriage of torches.

Part II: The Goddess & The Batrachian Matron

Suspecting they had overlooked something on their last descent, the group set to work. Squire Sharptooth began clearing rubble, while the others patted the dungeon walls searching for hidden entrance. At last a tunnel was found, bored into a cell wall. Stepping into the utmost stygian darkness, the sounds of running water could be discerned, and a small thatchy hut was spotted. Smoke coiled from a lone chimney, while the back of the hut had a patch of vegetables, herbs, and an array of startlingly vivid 'shrooms of every imaginable colour. 

With caution the group approached the hut, and although silence was sought, a little too much noise was made. Sint held his bow poised and nocked, and opened the tiny hit door. Peering inside the group beheld a goddess. A maiden with golden tresses and voluptuous figure sat on a bed stirring a pot, aromatic and steaming. Beside her was a curled and sleeping fox. Grimnear's eyes examined her chiffon gown appraisingly, lustful for what lay beneath.

"Hello!" She sat up somewhat surprised to see visitors.
"Who are you?" asked Sint somewhat suspiciously
"It is I" she said. "I do not know how long I've been down here" she sighed. "Perhaps it's been decades perhaps it's been centuries."
Curiously she did not look a day over thirty years-old.

Xechies asked whether she could fashion a healing poultice or brew for them. Promising recipes and concoctions of every sort, she requested the group find her a fabled gem in a nearby undercity in return. Going out into her nearby garden she began gathering a blue shroom for Xechies who apparently had a "good soul." Grimnear, with slightly tilted head watched her from behind "perving" on her, but disagreed that it was a fair price for such a priceless gem. They decided to depart from her presence, though not before Sint had tasted her fruity mulled wine, simmering within the cauldron.

The further they wandered from the fair maiden's hut, the more fixated Sint became upon her. He pondered the shape of her dress, her honey-coloured hair, and experienced a vision of her caressing his hair. He attempted to shake the feeling off, but in doing so, the desire to see her became more and more entrenched. Trying to sober his thoughts he dunked his hands into the freezing and icy river running parallel to their trail. With little avail, he succumbed to his desires. Without word he began walking back to his lover's hut.

"What are you doing?!" Grimnear shouted after him.
Sint ignored him, purposeful in his destination. Hefting a stone, Grimnear threw it at Sint's head, though unusually the Viking's aim was off. The stone plonked loudly in the flowing undercurrent of the river. Estorane and Heron chased Sint and reached him at the doorway to the fair maiden's hut. Hearing the commotion outside, the woman exited the room.

"What have you done to him?!" Grimnear screamed, "Look at him!"
Drool coursed down Sint's face, but he was oblivious. It was his highest ambition realised, he was in the presence of his lover!

The maiden smiled.

Furious Grimnear began kicking at her mushroom patch. "If you don't release him, I'll destroy everything!" the Viking swore.
"Do you have no love for me?" the golden-haired maiden asked of Sint. 
"How dare Grimnear defile my mistress's sanctuary and home?" Sint thought. "Does Grimnear not realise this is for the best? I will live here forever with my maiden in pure bliss. Perhaps I'll give up the bow and sword, and take up the plough. Yes, this adventuring life is filled with peril, yet I'm safe with my maiden. Grimnear is just jealous of our undying love."
Wrestling himself free of Estorane and Heron, Sint nocked an arrow, attempting to fire it at Grimnear. All at once Xechies invoked magick, aiming it at Sint. Estorane and Heron grappled with the wriggling Sint, while Grimnear charged at the maiden who had begun chanting. That was when they all fell into a dreamless sleep...

Awakening in the hut, they were confronted with the maiden's true form. Deformed in aspect, she possessed a bulbous face, goggling eyes, and ivy-grey skin, whose surface was covered in oily acne, ulcers, warts, and seeping boils. Her fox had transformed into a hideous and croaking toad. Smaller frogs, maggots and toads swarmed over her bed, summoned from the nearby gardens and river.
"My lovers have awakened" she croaked hideously. Her breath stank.
The group beheld their new lover. Although she had revealed her true form, it was truly beautiful, compared with the homely and conventional beauty of her other self. They gazed upon her adoringly. She licked them with a slimy and raspy tongue, and they soaked it in adoringly.
"My lovers, I have a task for you" she crooned. "Over the river is an abhorrent cave filled with vile creatures. They are a bane to me. Destroy them."
"Of course!" the group chorused.
"Good" the obese and slimy toad-skinned witch cackled with glee...

Part III: The Cave & Vindication

A small barge transported the charmed adventurers across the icy river. On the other side they found a darkened cave, and crept towards it, intent on killing everything inside. Six small thewy brutes, with deformed faces, leapt out the entrance. The combat was furious and bloody. Eventually all of the male cave inhabitants were dead. Vengeance in their souls, the party pushed deeper into the cave, killing another two of the creatures who rushed down the tunnel. One room was filled with a giant forge, mining tools and buckets of chiselled ore. Further down the tunnel, they happened upon a nursery where two ugly, stooped female creatures of the same ilk guarded their young. The dozen younglings were half-maggot, half-humanoid. The maggoty surface the younglings grew within was mucous-yellow; pulsating and oozing with a nauseous quality. After some discussion with the depraved females, Xechies, Sint and Heron learned of the Toad-witch's treachery and came to their senses as they remembered her deception.
"LIARS!" Grimnear bellowed, and hacked into the hapless female brutes, lobbing arms and legs off, and filling the room with blood. Searching the final cave room Xechies gathered bedrolls from the cave's sleeping quarters and piled them upon the maggoty young, while Squire Sharptooth lit the bedrolls with a torch, filling the air with a steamy oozy stench, extinguishing all life within the cave.

Back across the river, the adventurers returned to the Toad Matron's hut. Heron, Sint and Xechies feigned their continued adoration for the sickly matron.
"My lovers, let us celebrate." The grotesque matron slipped off her dress. 
"Come to me" she croaked.
"Okay" said Xechies, who pulling out his flail hacked at her skin, marring it with pulpy gore. Sint and Heron set upon her too and soon she was little more than an ivy-grey mass of guts. Coming to his senses, and disgusted with the witch's vile magick the Viking roared in fury, hacking at the hideous pet toad the matron held dearly. Croaking in fear it attempting to flee, but the whole group invective and enraged minced it instantly. The haunted dwelling was thereafter splattered in fleshy gore, blood, and toady skin. 

But they were free...

Adventure Rewards

340xp for defeating the Toad Matron
900xp for defeating 10 dwarves
100xp for destroying the dwarf younglings
800xp for 2x love potions
1125xp for treasures retrieved
1800xp for attendance and role-playing

1013 xp each

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