Monday, 22 August 2011

The Fane of Merax: The Expeditionary Campaign. Session 1. Part 2

Note: I've changed things slightly from the previous journal, both of which have been written rather hurriedly with minimal editing (and it shows). From this post forward these actual play reports will be written in the present tense, rather than past tense. For no good reason other than the fact I prefer it this way. Let me know if it causes an issue for anyone. I know present tense isn't exactly everyone's cup-of-tea

Player Characters:
Alexis Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Larrraitz
Ailil Shadowdancer Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 1/1.  Played by Ridh
Andros Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Aimee
Boagris Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Silv
Euthalia Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric (and Priestess) of Haestia 1. Played by Caroline
Glykeria Human (Mycenean) Female Illusionist 1 and Priestess (non-clerical) of Miranda. Played by Elle
Ki Oman Human (Foreigner) Male Bard 1. Played by Ali
Peliakos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Thanatos Human (Mycenean) Male Assassin 1. Played by Fiona
Xenos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter/Magic-User 1/1. Played by Leoni

The words of the Goddess fill the Heroes' minds with a soothing warmth, invoking half-remembered memories of child-hood and safety.

"Be not afraid, hero's and crew of The Persephone. Only one amoung you has angered the mighty Earthshaker, my father, yet as many have before you, all must suffer His punishment. You find yourselves on the Isle of the Earthshaker, a prison and place of exile for all those who have offended my father. Yet all is not lost. Those of you who prove your worth in the Eyes' of the Gods, through courage, honour and skill-at-arms, may still win your way free.

Here, in what was once my Temple, you may find warmth and safety should you purge from it the evils that infest it's sacred corridors and hallowed grounds. But beware, far worse creatures than those within these walls lurk without. Not all those the Gods curse to exile retain their human form. Serve us well, entertain us, and perhaps some of you may escape their fate."

Suffused by a sense of acceptance and belonging, the PC's suffering from wounds or hypothermia are invigorated by the powers of the Goddess. Those battered and bruised by the wrath of Pysos feel themselves invigorated. With a fiery passion fueled by this contact from one of Mysos' most revered deities, the characters throw themselves into a passionate frenzy of cleaning. Yet shortly, cooler heads prevail and it is observed that such activities are both noisy and time intensive. Perhaps prompted by the disquieting noises coming from the floor above it is decided that wisdom lies in clearing the Temple of  it's dangers and bringing up the wounded before the real work of purifying the Temple can begin.

With four fighters in front, armed with what motley weapons could be salvaged from the wreck, the party ventures into a debris-strewn corridor. Unlike everywhere else in the temple thus far, the floors are tiled in simple fired clay rather than the polished marble seen thus far. Advancing into the first room, with Thanatos left behind to guard a set of stairs in the corridor leading upwards, the Heroes of the Persephone enter a chamber littered with the remnants of smashed furniture and wooden partitions. Leaves, cloth and wooden debris lies thick on the floor, the only light (other than that provided by the two lanterns) streaming in faintly through cracks in the two wooden shutters covering the small, high windows. Ivy grows thick on the far wall of the room, though it is weak and sickly stuff when compared to that which coats the walls outside. The fighters in the first two ranks enter the room confidently. After searching the room briefly, they call the others in. While Alexias argues that the windows should remain shuttered to limit the number of entrance points into the temple, Boagris simply proceeds to rip a pair of shutters (held closed by strong ivy vines) from the wall with brute strength. Perhaps it is the noise of this manoeuvre (or perhaps it was Shadowdancer bending down to collect some shiny valuables from a pile of debris) but it is then that five rats, each as large as a house-cat, burst from the debris.

Pandemonium ensues, with the Heroes seeming to panic and impeding one another wily-nily. Xenos manages to throw his Bolas backwards over his shoulder, causing several of his companions to duck or leap aside to avoid injury. Peliokos almost manages to stab his own foot with his trident and as for Boagris?  Well, Boagris decide to actually throw his heavy wooden burden (the shutters ripped from the wall) across the crowded room, clubbing Alexis, Shadowdancer and even Ki Oman in the process but failing to strike even a single rat. While Shadowdancer ducks outside to call Thanatos in to help the "useless imbeciles" inside the room and the others flail around uselessly with an assorted collection of spears, javelins and lumps of driftwood, Glykia hits upon an idea. Throwing some of the fish she recovered from the beech towards one particularly fat and aggressive looking example of giant-rat-kind, she finds her quick wits rewarded. Lightning fast, the mangy beast snaffles the fish up it's jaws and flees the room. Two more quickly depart in a similar fashion, a fourth is slain by a well-aimed spear-point and the last, the runt of the pack, what of it's fate?

Kicked out the now-open window by an irate Peliakos on a natural 20. Wheeeeeeeeeeee splat!

After a moment's silence, the party erupts into a cacophany of chuckles and curseing when nearly a dozen voices each began to decry the, frankly, shocking display of martial ineptitude in the initial stages of the attack. The noise that quickly dies at an urgent hiss from Shadowdancer. The source of the noises from the floor above finally reaveals itself, making an appearance at the top of the stairs warded by Thanatos.

Edging out into the corridor, the group takes up fighting positions at the bottom of the stairs (on the instructions of Alexius and Peleikos) while listening to an odd klick-klacking noise from the halls above. In due course,  a pair of long, chitinous, scythe-like mandible came into view,  beneath two red, bulging compound eyes while a fanged maw wreathed by flickering tendrils opens and shuts before the party's very eyes. While the Heroes stand below, loudly debating whether Alexius should try to drive the monster off with a sling-shot or whether Xenos should simply throw an oil flask (followed by a flaming lump of driftwood) up the stairs, a second, then a third creature appears. Each hungrily -and curiously-studies the group below. For some minutes the stand-off continues, until Ki Oman finally points out that the use of fire and oil riskes collapsing the wooden floor above . Glykeria flatly refuses to part with another of her precious oil flasks to fuel such a risky venture. "We're supposed to purify this temple you fools!" she hisses, laughter glinting in her mad, prophetic eyes, "Not burn it to the ground."

Meanwhile, Boagrius, peering intently at the ivy-wielded shutters he carries, finally realises that with two iron handles on one side large enough for anyone other than he to slip an arm through, the shutters could be fashioned into make-shift (albeit heavy and somewhat flimsy) shields. Quickly, he arms the other three fighters in the party (excepting Xenos) with these devices and, for perhaps the first time in his life, curses his own mighty thews that preclude him from employing the shutters similarly.

Finally, solidly grounded good-sense prevails and Alexius fires a stone from his sling up the stairs. Not being particularly skilled with such weapons (lacking a proficiency in slings) he misses the target completely, but the light impact of the stone rebounding from the ceiling is enough to drive it and it's companions back from the stairwell, making a strange ripping noise all the while.

Quickly, a door hanging from it's hinges is fashioned into a make-shift barricade, alongwith other, scattered bits of debris. Though it cost the party half their remaining nails and spikes to fashion, all agree the effort is worth the time and the resources required. Satisfied that the stairs are as well barricaded as can be under the circumstances (enough to give a few minutes warning of an attack, at least) the party continues onwards. Xenos remains behind to act as a sentry (the player having to leave early).

Meanwhile, the rest of the party continue to clear the first wing of the Temple, encountering no dangers, until arriving at what must have once, unmistakable, have served as the Temple kitchen. Immediately, the PC's note that this room, alone of all so far encountered, has not been ransacked or defiled. Noting a vast wealth of bronze and copper pans, pots and skillets, Andros the blacksmith happily announces that, shoud they later find a suitable furnace and forge, he can, in time, fashion bronze armour and weapons for the group. Meanwhile the others, rightly suspicious, set about lifting pot lids and examining every scrap of wall and floor space. At the same time both puzzled and alarmed by the room's mysterious cleanliness. Shadowdancer, however, is not so puzzled. With his elf-eyed vision he cautiously approaches the rooms fireplace -big enough to mount a boar on a spit and still leave room for a sizable collection of cauldrons and stew-pots- and, grabbing the spit from it's hook on the wall, quickly braces in on the ground, point upwards, before peering into the darkness of the chimney.

There, though startled by the red eyes of the hissing, four-limbed thing spread-eagled like a spider in the chimney space, the Assassin-Illusionist retains sufficient presence of mind to keep the spit angled perfectly. So it is then that the demon drops itself onto the upraised iron shaft, impaling itself through the arm. Now hunched upon the cold flagstones at the base of the chimney, illuminated by lantern light, it is revealed as the demon it is: a grey skinned, long-tongued feral humanoid abomination, claws claws and teeth as dark as night dribbling a foul, sizzling poison onto the tiles below. Though the beast flails and spat, it fails to land a blow on the agile Shadowdancer, still clutching the other end of the spit, and is quickly wounded again and again by the spear wielding Alexius and trident wielding Peleikos. Yet even as their blows strike home the demon thrashes and squirms until Andros, leaping forward, spatters it's brains all over the chimney with a well aimed (and hastily grasped) skillet.

Unwilling to take chances, the group wisely cut the head from the beast then, realising that the smoke from lighting a flame in the hearth would reveal their position to any similar beasts for miles around, forgo immolation in favour of dismemberment. This quickly proves a wise move, for when Boagrius lifted the ichor-dripping head to fling it through the high window, it hisses and bites at him. Even after Boagrius throws the head through the window,  the party places the remaining body parts into separate pots with the lids weighted by stones. Again the wisdom of this precaution is demonstrated but mere moments later, when the pots began to rattle and jump with the movement of the limbs and portions within. Meanwhile Euthalia and Glykia fill their arms with the biggest pots they can carry. When asked why by their curious companions, Euthalia casuallycomments:
"You want to carry everything in your arms or shall we simply place useful items in these pots?"

Later, finding the meat-store with it's many hanging hooks, those party members who are thus far without weapons equip themselves with bronze meat-hooks, Ki Oman (crucially) among them.

In the last room of this wing, the group stumbles across the pantry. Miraculously, two amphorae of grain remained sealed in this near pristine room. Only one other amphorae stored in the room remains. Alas, this too had once held grain, though the grain now lies scattered all across the floor, engulfed in mould. While the wiser heads in the party wonder why rats and other denizens have not chewed or burst through the door to feast upon such delights, Peliakos, his empty belly rumbling considering, breaks the wax seals on the two undamaged amphorae both contain wholesome, unspoiled grain. The fighter moves to cross the mouldy grain spilled across the ground with the intention of collecting some empty sacks from a pile near the far-wall. However, he is forestalled by a warning hiss from Shadowdancer. The uncanny elf perceives a certain, unhealthy yellow tinge about the mould. Ordering everyone out the room, he stands in the doorway and throws a stick at the mould. At first sight of the yellow spores exploding outwards, he slams the door closed and instructs everyone to move away. Pausing to explain the dangers of Yellow Mould to his companions, it slowly dawns on the elf that they seem less pleased with his warning than they should.

"Perhaps!" growls Pelekios, "next time you might first allow me to replace the seals on the untainted-grain amphorae FIRST before testing your theory". Wisely, for once, the stealthy Shadowdancer gives no reply.

Taking a moment to rest and re-fill one of the two lantern with Glykia's rapidly-dwindling stock of oil, the party ponder their next move and decide to continue clearing the ground floor of the Temple and move to the second wing. It quickly becames clear that the layout of the second wing mirrors that of the first, save that here the walls and flooring are once again of polished marble rather than fired clay tiles. Correctly, the party deduce that the previous wing had been the "working" part of the building and that they were now moving towards the living quarters.

As expected, the heroes come across a second set of stairs in the sport that mirrors those encountered in the other wing. Having come prepared (with materials for a barricade) they set about blocking the second stair-well. This entails using the last of their small supply of nails and spikes, an action unanimously deemed a sensible and worthy sacrifice on the alter of caution. Though they hear (but do not see) no sign of the insect monsters from earlier, the party are menaced by a strange thwupp-thwupp noise from time to time. Strange, flickering shadows are also visible through small holes in the barricade. Again, Xenos is left to stand guard.

Moving deeper into the wing, the group enters and searches a ruined dormitory. Like most other rooms in the complex, it has been ransacked and vandalised. Only a few items -empty perfume bottles, scraps of rotted clothing, sandals and the like- identify the room as once having been home to female occupants. Some small items of value are located within the room, but the noise of the groups rummaging attracts the attention of other denizens. Out in the hallway, Ki Oman and Thanatos call an alarm. Three, foot long scuttling beasts skittered across the floor, their many legs undulating like the waves of the sea, a deadly green ichor dripping from parted mandibles that click and clatter with a mindless hunger. Though Boagris and Thanatos both take nasty bites during the ensuing fracas, neither succumbs to the deadly poison. Yet it is a warier, wiser group that continues their explorations.

With the four fighters once again taking the lead (this time with two-spears, a trident and a spit held at the ready) Boagris flings open the door to a second dormitory but nearly heaves at the smell of shit emanating from within. Yet as severe as the gladiators revulsion is, it is matched by the stunned expression of the red-faced male baboon resting within. Utterly astonished by the intrusion into it's territory, the baboon lunges forward to drive these intruders away, only to impale itself upon not one, not two, but FOUR readied pole-arms  Remarkably, not one of the four worthies failed to hit and so the poor, bewildered baboon took 6D6 and 2D4 points of damage in a single round. The result can only be described as messy.

Though not as messy as searching through the baboons great big pile of poo, one hastens to add, which reveals some useful treasure as well as some less immediately useful items (ie: money).

The group continues searching through the private chambers of what they deduce to be the senior lay-staff of the temple, including one room that holds a king-sized bed, a pair of empty plinths and a scattering of smashed pieces of sculpted marble across the floor. Here the group finds a complete set of Stone Masons tools (which receive the biggest treasure-cheer of the night, the players having already figured out that anything mundane that can help them survive is worth a hell of a lot more to them right now than something conventionally valuable but equally useless and shiny).

Exploring the final chamber, the group, having so-far conquered all threats-before them, let their guard down a little. Rather than simply poking his spear under the ruined bed in the final room on the ground floor, Peliokos gets down on his knees to peer under the bed during his poking -and wind up with a furiously angry giant rat clinging to (and clawing at) his face! Catching sight of Ki Oman approaching with an intent look upon his face and bronze S-shaped meat-hooks in hand, the Peliakos manages to scream (through a mouthful of angry rat) "Gods no! No meat hooks! You'll kill me too!" Too which the assassin happily replies, "Then I'd better not miss!" Ali then proceeds to roll a natural 20 with each meat hook and spits the now very dead rat with uncanny precision, the points of each hook coming to rest only a rats hair away from the eyes of the very, very nervous Peliakos.

Upon investigating further, the reasons for the rats rabid assault become apparant - a litter of baby giant rats (each the size of a normal rat) bundled up in a nest made from an old fur cloak. Despite the protests of those party members who wish to breed the giant rats as a food source, the rat-hating Alexis squishes them all with a single stomp of his iron-nailed sandals. " I hate fuzzies!' He explains to his angry companions.

With the (real-time) hour now growing late, the group decides that the ground floor is now sufficiently secure to dismantle the beach shelter (recovering some nails, spikes, canvas and other useful items in the process) and bring the wounded up to rest in the Fane under the watchful eyes of the Goddess. This proceeds without a hitch. We close the session with Minerva, Glykeria and Euthalia tending to the wounded, Xenos, Thanatos and Ki Oman (the shifty ones) standing guard and the others doing what they can to tidy up and fortify the worship area. Next time, play will resume at about 3pm on the first day of the Expeditionary Campaign.


Caliban said...

Great stuff, Brian. The present tense works really well!

The Angry Lurker said...

Bloody great so far, well enjoyed.

Ian Coakley said...

That Giant Rat picture is both freaky as Hell and perfect!

Also, small edit - it was I, Peliakos the Average, who punted the rat from Alexis' leg - and I wish the proper recognition!

Otherwise, spot on! Can't wait for the next session!

Dangerous Brian said...

Glad you're enjoying the write-ups. I'll stick with the past tense then. @WTF The notes have been updated accordingly. Let me know if you spot any other errors.