Campaign of the Month: May 2016

Mysteria

Tales from the West
from a high tower in Bemmea....

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In a high tower in Bemmea, two mages sit opposite each other with a table between them. On the table are two filled wineglasses and a strange device. One of the mages waves his hand over this device and a dark smoke emerges from it and wafts into the room. Tiefling Wizard Erramun the Sleepless and Teifling Archmage Exarch Vermes II are both members of the Ninemage Council.

Vermes: The Great Shadow of the East grows darker, my friend.
Erramun: So that is why you summoned me, My Lord.
Vermes: It cannot be ignored.
Erramun: No, My Lord. Indeed, it cannot. But what does the guiding eye of Sutemamel see?
Vermes: It sees much, my friend, but this is a long game, extending far into the future. I think we shall need to place one of our own there, surreptitiously….
Erramun: In the Empire?

There is a grim silence as both tieflings look into each other’s eyes, gazing deep into the dark soul windows, opened by the smoky magic emanating from the small device in the centre of the table.

Erramun: Dangerous….
Vermes: But possible….?
Erramun: But Lord, all of our members are too well known for such placement.
Vermes: There is the empty seat….
Erramun: My Lord, we surely cannot announce the death of Thelosiphus Duchang
Vermes: No, but even so, a position exists….provided it is not announced. The rituals may be performed without announcement. Salary and benefits can be secretly bestowed, and council anonymity sustained. We just need the perfect candidate. Someone who is prepared to be on the Council without being on the Council, if you know what I mean. You mentioned someone earlier…a young Caelmaran, I believe.
Erramun: The Rennaus boy.
Vermes: And you have checked his bloodline?
Erramun: Pure. But even better…it seems his mother is blessed of Hecate.
Vermes: Interesting.
Erramun: He is currently in Bemmea tending to his sick father, although he holds position in the Arcane Collegium of Zobeck. A great orator and singer. He has a band – Arcael and The Oooze – you may have heard of them?
Vermes: No.
Erramun: Fairly popular in Zobeck they were.
Vermes: But we don’t want to draw attention.
Erramun: I believe they no longer play together, but the interesting thing is that this merry band are extraordinary adventurers in their own rite. They could offer just the the support he will need.
Vermes: Hmmmn……I shall confer with Sutemamel. Speak nothing of this to the boy for now. Let us watch for a few years more. We shall need financial support. The Council cannot be seen to be involved. I think I may have to approach our old friend, Alexei.
Erramun: My Lord, as luck would have it, Splitleaf is already a sponsor of Arcael and his Ooozes.
Vermes: The plot thickens. Let us keep an eye on this brew. Put markers on this Arcael and all of his companions. Let us watch these folk for a while.
Erramun: Yes, My Lord!

With the last of the smoke dissipating into the air, the two tieflings, relax and extricate themselves from their telepathic state, uttering mere words instead.

Vermes: A fine burgundy this.
Erramun: Morgau and Doresh.
Vermes: Darakhul have their uses.

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More Tales from the Empire
The Kangaroo Court

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All newcomers of lower ranks who arrive in the City of Harkesh have to live in the New Foreigners’ Ghetto until their paperwork is sorted out. There is no specific time scale for this but officials are notoriously slow and there are such a list of demeanours specific to life in this ghetto that in many cases, delays are inevitable. Delays are usually set and extended by the kangaroo court of Delilah Ali.

This is a court specific to the New Foreigners’ Ghetto and specifically geared towards misdemeanours occurring within that place. Quasi-statutory infringements include:
Being late, Appearing to be late, Disrespecting a superior, Complaining, Appearing to be preparing to complain, Talking Utter Hogwash, Losing a Day Pass, Loitering, Disobedience, Not having a Day Pass, Destroying a Day Pass, Backchat, Fighting, Arguing, Unsavoury Whistling, Bad Singing, Reading Poetry in Public, Being Impatient, Climbing the Wall, Crossing the Boundary after Dark, Being Outside the Ghetto without a Day Pass, Abuse of a Day Pass, and other such misdemeanours.

There is a large building of holding cells near the gate of the ghetto, where those found guilty are imprisoned after sentencing. All sentencing is carried out by the chief official, Her Royal Magistrate Deilah Ali and sentences usually amount to extra time spent in prison, tedious labour, counting rice grains, and, in some cases, lashes; although this is usually avoided, as the primary function of the kangaroo court is to waste time and irritate people, to soften up foreigners before processing them into the system, but not to harm those who may later turn out to be important members of the trading society.

The court is generally more lenient towards Kobaldi and Sekban and harsher towards Jambuka. Edjet and higher ranks are not forced to stay in this Ghetto and any such newcomers will have their papers processed immediately.

The court is well served by a large number of well-armed and particularly surly dragonkin guards, and Delilah Ali’s personal Prismatic Drake companion, Eros Verbrinski makes sure that all court decisions are enforced.

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Tales from the Empire
The Justice of Captain Temujin Khitai

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Captain Temujin Khitai was one of three officers who alternated as Commander of the Triolan Quarter in Harkesh, a ghetto for lowly Jambuka (soft skinned races) who were not native to the province, most of them having some sort of Trade Permit that granted them the right to trade in the Grand Bazaar closer to the city centre. He worked directly for Governor Vladimir Potemkin, a corrupt military overlord who stayed in the Royal Palace and spent most of his time in the Quarter visiting the local Jambuka dignitaries and traders. Judicial matters within the ghetto were left mainly to the ghetto itself, or to the Scriptorium of Thoth-Hermes, but Temujin liked to “get dirty” in such affairs, and so it was that he now intevened in a local human dispute.

Two women had been found arguing over the ownership of a human child, each claiming to be the mother. His dragonkin soldiers had brought them to their Captain on Duty, to listen to the claims and make judgement. Both women seemed to have equal claims and so he pronounced his verdict.
“Each of these Jambuka females appears to have equal claim to the child, but do they show equal love?” He gazed around at the small crowd – mainly humans, a few sniggering Kobaldi at the edges of the crowd. “I order that the child be sliced in half and each mother be given an equal portion.”
With this, there was a sharp intake of breath among the crowd, but one of the women moved forward: “Great Captain, if this be the judgement, I drop my claim – better that the child may live.”
Temujin nodded triumphantly. Surely, this was the real mother of the child, he thought.
“I give the child to this woman,” he said to the crowd. Now go and be about your business."
*******************************************************************************
Later, Temujin had both women brought to him privately. To the one with the child, he gave a sword and commanded she cut the head from the other. Holding the child in his sharp dragonkin claws until the deed was done, his soldiers then disposed of the body of the other woman. He gave the distraught mother a gold piece and told her never to speak of her act, or her child would be next on his list. She nodded in fearful understanding. Captain Temujin hated all Jambuka, but those that were victors under his command must remain strong.

Here endeth the lesson…

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Home Sweet Home

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After a sumptuous final feast at the Palace of Siwal, Arcael and the Oooze travelled by sandship to spend three glorious days in the capital NURIA NATAL, where they attended a performance at one of the arenas, and as part of the tour, visited The Hall of Stars (where every God-King’s name is carved into the Obsidian), the Embassy of the Sultan of the Oasis of Figs and the Emissary of the Spider-Prophet. They also spent a day at The Screaming Court where they witnessed fanatical cleric of Aten, Anwar el-Ibrahim being torn apart by a troop of vicious mandrills as his punishment for trying to kill the party during the CURSE OF THE HOWLING GOD. Each member of the party was given a Magical Image Papyrus that helped to enshrine their memories of THE SOUTHLANDS in material form. Highlight of the tour was a visit to the High Oracle of Nuria Natal where each character’s Divine Avatar presided over the dealing of cards from the Deck of Many Things.

The party then flew by Dwarven Airship all the way to Zobeck where they were met by Truman Click, Alexei Splitleaf of Allain and Tad Familiar and taken to their improved accommodation at 33 Kingston Lane to settle into “normal life” for the next nine years…

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Return to Sender

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With Xavier and Karn Gudin both annihilated by the Ushabti Guardians and the Dimensional Engine in the Pyramid of Black Sands, the party headed into the final room of the arcane building with two temporary allies. By the will of the Gods, dwarven paladin, Bobarus the XXIII and human oracle Karakay were not whisked away by the Dimensional Engine were able to accompany Arcael, Goran and Saabu Theet through the last doorway.

Goran avoided the first trap and led the way into a plain room with mystical hieroglyphs and double doors. The accomplished rogue dismantled yet another trap but failed to detect the double trap setup and triggered a Symbol. Luckily his essence endured and the others had had the good sense to remain some way behind, but on the sudden opening of the double doors, the party were confronted by four Ushabtis busy at work in a small chamber, chopping at the pulpy mass of oozing flesh and blood that was the continually forming lich Vaashkennathka.

Defeating the Ushabtis, Goran set off the Breath of the Desert trap, inflicting horrible cold damage on some of his allies, before using a mage hand to retrieve a small adamantine cube covered in ancient snake-like runes – the phylactery of Vaashkennathka!

Having discovered through various attempts and some astute divination, that the phylactery could not be destroyed, intense discussion took place, with the party remembering Ushabti parts in the torture room of the village nearby. Perhaps the villagers could help. The party set out for the nearby village, but both paladin and oracle dissolved into dreams on exiting the pyramid. It seemed the plan would need to be carried out by the three survivors.

Through some skillful negotiating and not a small amount of intimidation, the leader of the village, fiendish human Mouth of the Council, Kesophoth was convinced into donating his three Ushabtis to the pyramid if the party would replace the phylactery and inter the Ushabtis in the final resting place. In doing so, the world would yet be spared from the terrible rising of the Serpent Lich.

But all was not well in the village. With Arcael and The Oooze busy in the pyramid, Kesophoth had time to regroup his followers and when the adventurers emerged from the pyramid, they were run out of town. Long and dry was the journey back to Siwal, but eventually the three survivors returned and sought the wandering priest of Aten, Inkhnaton of Siwal who cast the two True Resurrections, paid for dearly by the adventurers, to bring both Xavier and Karn Gudin back to life.

HERE ENDETH THE ADVENTURES OF ARCAEL AND THE OOOZE IN AND AROUND THE DESERT CITY OF SIWAL.

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Nightmares and Dancing Furniture

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The Oozes left the DIMENSIONAL ENGINE room with heavy hearts, for they could not even stay to say a prayer for their slaughtered brethren. Tired and weary they finally exited the constantly teleporting chamber, ending up within the VAULT OF NIGHTMARE a place where the barriers to the Dimension of Dreams had worn precariously thin. This strange chamber with half chiselled, smoothed walls the other half consisting of smooth uneven curves, like waves, or tides in the stone, giving off the appearance that some great being of fire had melted the very rock itself.

Here wandered a denizen of the chaotic and volatile dimension of dream, Frank. An unfortunate creature in any circumstance, created by the nightmares of a powerful night hag, upon awaking she’d attempted to enslave her new creation. Fearing for its existence it’d fled the dimension of dreams though a small tear, ending up trapped within a small melted chamber for years, alone, but now there was now a small glimmer of hope. A group of living beings had entered this room, all he wanted was a hug and perhaps a small amount of energy too, was this so much to ask?

They’d attacked him, again and again forcing him to retaliate. To kill, he hadn’t wanted to do it, really. All he’d done was take the smallest amount of power from one of them and they’d tried to kill him. Again and again he attempted to push them away, his limbs passing through their soft bodies. Yet they refused to leave and let him be, one, a creature with a hairy face and pointed ears had slumped to the floor after his last attempt to flee. Out of nowhere another duo of bulky creatures had entered the room. The short one with white fluffy, wispy stuff on its head had shout such terrible insults and HAD to be answered, he would pay for those comments. (Frank died under the murderous attacks from the evil invaders, all he ever wanted was to exist.)
Another hard-earned victory was achieved, an evil spirit put to rest. However, the hard-bitten group had no time for rest and introductions for the unexpected new arrivals, for there was no knowing when another nightmare would arrive in this dreadful chamber. Bobarus the XXIII and Karakay were their names. Bobarus a Holy Dwarven servant of Moradin, the True Father and Berronar Truesilver, the Mother of Mothers the other was Karakay a man who spoke very little. Neither was sure how they’d arrived in this pyramid of nightmares, Karakay claimed to have been asleep and Bobarus on a mighty charge towards the horrors of Deeps. However, they were here and neither seemed to have bad intentions and every piece of help would be welcomed.

The goup headed down what looked like a small side passage arriving at a small stone door which Goran cautiously opened revealing a very strange circular room and a sense of peace and restfulness. Bobarus knelt in prayer to this obviously divine site, blessed by the gods themselves. Sabu and Archael worked out that this place had once housed the Tablets of Wisdom a holy artefact of Thoth and the entire room was infact a teleporter to other locations around the World.

With nothing else in the room the party proceeded back down the main corridor and down a spiral stair, leading to another small doorway, again the fearless (invisible) Goran opened the door. It oppend onto a huge, asymmetrical gallery; some of the walls ran at odd slants, while others have had more niches and angles than seemingly necessary. Great carved columns stood not in rows, but scattered haphazardly through the room. The sarcophagus at the rear end of the room was, unsettlingly enough, the room’s most normal feature. The chamber’s riches were piled around the base of the sarcophagus, rather than being inside it, and could be seen glinting from a distance. As soon as one step was taken into the room, furnature flew around the room as if possed with evil incarnates, Statues dressed in battle garb came alive and even the very pillars that held up the ceiling came to life in wrathfull countenance. The battle was another long, hard fought slog with Bobarus repeatedly hacking great chunks of rock form the statues in mightly swings, Archael blasting all torrents of fire. Then arrived a mighty ghost and crystal demon, at the end the demon begged for mercy but found none to be had. Exsausted the party rested uneasly that night.

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SOULS UP FOR GRABS!
As characters you are unaware of this, but behind the scenes of Divinity....

In the Hallowed Halls of Anu Akma, representation is made by a Servant of Death to a senior Angel of Darkness:

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Nazgill, Servant of Death, the Eternal Darkness: My Lord Khopet Anunaki, I have two souls from the Sarklan in Nuria Natal, butchered beyond belief, awaiting final judgement.
Khopet Anunaki, High Solar of Lawfulness: By the fiery balls of Aposis, it’s FUKKIN Friday afternoon!
Nazgill: Will Lord Anu Akma not receive them?
Khopet Anunaki: He’s on FUKKIN holiday, you Moron!
Nazgill: Nonetheless…
Khopet Anunaki: Whom do they worship?
Nazgill: Ogun and Seggotan, my lord.
Khopet Anunaki: Seggotan? In the desert? He obviously cares nothing for this soul. Give her 30 days’ grace in lieu of TRUE RESURRECTION at 30 000 GP. If not claimed by mortals within that time, she gets wiped. We can send her to the great UNDEAD SANDSHIPS. What about the other one? Ogun, you say?
Nazgill: Yes, my Lord.
Khopet Anunaki: And you’re sure the KEEPER OF KEYS AND DUNGEONS hasn’t claimed him?
Nazgill: I am sure, My Lord.
Khopet Anunaki: Okay, give him thirty days as well. 30 000 GP. FUKK, these mortals are worse than Gods. Anything else?
Nazgill: Both souls were members of Arcael and the Oooze
Khopet Anunaki: So what?
Nazgill: One of them was favoured of OUR LORD
Khopet Anunaki: Are you trying to tell me my job?
Nazgill: No, my Lord.
Khopet Anunaki: Just because one mortal gets a special favour, it doesn’t mean we lick their FUKKIN balls all day, you hear me?
Nazgill: Yes, my lord.
Khopet Anunaki: Decision stands. 30 days. True Resurretion paid in GOLD or we take them forever. Anything else?
Nazgill: They are in the Pyramid of Black Sands.
Khopet Anunaki: FUKK! If those fukkin assholes let Vaashkennathka back into NURIA NATAL, I’m calling on ANU AKMA myself!

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You've Seen the Butcher
Three deaths, one Breath of Life

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Deep into the Pyramid of Black Sands and in dire need of rest, but discovering the floor of the pit where they stood was actually a slowly moving machine, Arcael and The Oooze elected to rest on the central area of the platforms above. All was going well until, just before the end of their final rest period, four clockwork guardians entered the area, dividing themselves along the various causeways and approaching from all directions with activated Dynastic Auras.

Never before, in the field of humnoid saving throws, have the lives of a party been betrayed by such a host of low rolls. The gods would have wept if they had even noticed. Within moments Karn Gudin and Xavier were hacking lumps out of each other, Arcael and Saabu Theet were finding breathing difficult and spell-casting impossible, and Goran was a new enemy, both silent and invisible.

The party climbed down into the pit, but the Clockwork Guardians followed them. Poor dice rolls also followed them. Arcael finally destroyed the grim Guardians with a heightened fireball, but by that time both Karn Gudin and Xavier were dead, killed by each other, mutilated and butchered by the Guardians, and annihiliated by the DIMENSIONAL ENGINE of the Pyramid of Black Sands.

Escaping into the VAULT OF NIGHTMARE, the group were confronted by an Animate Dream, thirsting for wisdom. Even although help arrived in the form of a dwarven paladin, whisked into the room through the DIMENSION OF DREAMS, it was not enough to prevent the death of Saabu Theet, restored only by the quick thinking and acting Arcael with his Breath of Life spell.

With the creature killed, the party entered the green glowing room that seemingly once held the Emerald Tables of Wisdom. A broken teleportation room suggested many places where the tablets might have been taken, but offered no other clues. However all was not lost, as some of the Divine energy of Thoth yet remained in this room, enough to heal the party and instill a genetic blessing on the Nkosi cleric.

At the “south” end of the room, the party now saw a spiral staircase going down….

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Who put the Turtle in Myrtle's Girdle?

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The mummy is dead. The Golden Goose screams: “There must be some way out of here.” Passageway down. Falling. Tumbing. Landing. Bumping. Back, up, down, falling. Like a white rabbit. There are passageways. There is separation. On top of the building. One man and his dog. It is not actually his dog but in the end the dog is his but he is in a pit. So are his friends.

The Howls of Tindaros. The skitter of the Xhkarths. The pit and possession. The dark and the grave. Fight magic with magic. Find a way. Back in the pit. Let’s rest here for now. Hey, Priest, my dexterity don’t feel too good.

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In, Out; Now, shake it all about!

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Silent and invisible. Past the first layer of guards and across the Black Sand. Into the village and up to the large room where Xavier was being held. Two guards at the door swiftly executed by Goran, the lock deftly picked, the door quickly opened, and a silent stone thrown inside. But that is not all: an Intnsified Fireball from Arcael is thrown in just for good measure. And as if that were not enough, Karn Gudin lobs in another.

With three out of four elite Descendants of Leng hurt in the double blast, things look grim for our medical experimenters. The Leng Fighter starts a dazzling display, but is downed by Goran instantly. The others are all invisible now. Xavier is on the slab, dilerious. The Leng Rogue drinks a potion and hides while the Leng Witch casts a Barrow Haze to cloud the situation. The Leng Wizard tries to attack Saabu Theet as he enters the room and is grappled and held by the cleric in zwani lion form, his summoned bats locating the mage, the lion-cleric’s sharp claws holding the wizard in a grapple.

Rogue, Fighter, Wizard all destroyed. The Witch escapes but Xavier is freed, and the party move fast now. Silent and invisible again. Into the pyramid entrance. Now rest for an hour. THOTH has told Saabu that the villagers will not enter the pyramid.

The next day, Goran opens two sets of double doors and avoids a dangerous trap before opening a large chamber with rows of carved columns and a sarcophagus. He enters slowly and carefully, suspicious of every shadow. But Xavier has no patience for this approach. Acting alone, he runs into the chamber up to the sarcophagus, disturbing the Mummified Denizen of Leng within. The sarcophagus bursts open with the bright activation of a Symbol of Insanity and Goran is attacked.

The Assault on The Pyramid of Black Sands begins…

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