Monday, 23 January 2012

Session X: The Demon King of Thyatis part I

The Party:
Ailil Shadowdancer. Elf Male Assassin 2/Illusionist 1. Played by Rhidh
Alexis Human Male Fighter 1. Played by Larraitz
Andros: Human Female Fighter 2. Played by Aimee
Boagris: Human Male Fighter 2. Played by Silv.
Bombata: Human Male NPC.
Euthalia: Human Female Cleric 2. Played by Caroline.
Kallias: Human Male Cleric 1. Played by Elle
Ki Oman: Human Male Dual-Classed Assassin 1/Bard 2. Played by Ali
Merithena: Human Female NPC
Thanatos: Human Female Assassin 2. Played by Fiona
Thera: Human Female Paladin 1. Played by Niall
Thot: Half Elf Male Cleric 1/Magic User 1. Spare Character
Xenos: Human Male Fighter 2/Magic-User 1. Played by Leoni

Missing/Unaccounted For:
Anitpater: Human Male Ship's Master NPC
Kallisto: Human Female Fighter 1. Played by Jackie
Minerva: Human Female 0 lvl Priestess/Royalty. NPC
Peliakos: Human Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Sparious: Human Male Fighter 1. Spare Character.
Day 13:

Morning dawns dull and overcast after an eventful night. Still tired and weary from their travails over the last two weeks, the Stranded begin clearing their campsite. It's not long, however, before a not-too distant roar startles the sleepy companions to wakefulness. Quickly, Alexis helps Thoht and Merithena drag themselves into cover while the rest of the group forms a hasty shield wall. The wait for brief moments while the roaring beast, preceded by a frantic crashing burst into view.

It's a bear, blood-streaked and foaming at the mouth. And it's not alone, behind it come two of the Grey Demon's in hot pursuit.

After a tense, but ultimately successful confrontation the bear and Demons are down- but so are half the party, paralysed by the foul, black, dripping ichor of the Grey Demon's claws. They are merely incapacitated however, not dead. Though, once again, the same can be said for the Grey Demons. Though one lies headless, it's mouth keeps snapping in a silent snarl at the companions while it's body attempts to crawl over to it's head. The other keeps thrashing beneath Shadowdancer's spear, going still for one moment, only to thrash again until the elf twists his spear in the beast's heart once more.

Reluctantly, the companions (at least, those that can still speak) agree there is nothing else for it. They'll have to light a fire and burn the foul things, knowing full well that the smoke will be seen from the city.
Merithena scampers forward, only now "remembering" a few things the party should really know about life in the city. Firstly, she explains that women may only speak when first spoken too by a man and that failure to follow this rule will result in being brutally whipped. She also explains that while it is not, strictly speaking, illegal to follow "foreign Gods" in Thyatis, any act of open worship or preaching is punishable by death. That includes openly wearing holy symbols. For obvious reasons, Euthalia the Priestess of Haestia and Thera, Paladin of Meerax, are doubly displeased. Kallios is not overly pleased either, but hides his holy symbol without protest. Thanatos simply mocks the other women and adopts her male guise. Andros, on the other hand, fumes quietly.

Finally, the Thyatian girl turned to Thanatos and insisted -no, demanded- that the red headed women go by another name. She refused to say more on the matter, but relented only when Thantos and the others agreed that she would go by the name Sparious for the time being.

By the time the last of the paralysed Stranded begin to flex blood back into weary, numbed muscles, the party scouts report the approach of a patrol. Once again a shield wall is formed, though with spears held in marching order rather than set to receive a charge. A few moments later, a party of around a dozen armed men, of various ethnicitys, step from the woods. All wear identical armour of studded black leather and carry sword and spear. About half carry bows. All wear the same enclosing helmet of black iron - two small horns protruding like a Bull's from either side.

 Negotiations prove tense, and only grow tenser for a brief moment when Ki Oman gestures for Merithena to step forward from behind the shield wall. Given the girls bedraggled appearance and recent wounds, it's no wonder the sight raises the ire of the guards. Fortunately, Merithena is able to calm things down by explaining that these outsiders rescued her from captivity. The guard leader, a man named Vragg, rudely demands to know the fate of Bombatta. To the relief of all, the girl affirms that he was killed in the ambush along with the rest of her guards.
Once again, despite being a princess, Merithena shows no surprise at the rude way in which she is both treated and spoken too by a lowly guard. As the party forms up, interspersed among the Thyatian's, one whispers to Boagris:
"By the Skull God man, why do you actually allow your women to cover their breasts. It's indecent. And the armour...."
Before Boagris can answer, a nearby Shadowdancer (once again wearing his full face veil) intervenes, demanding to know why the man thinks how the party members treat their "property" is any of his business?
The guards bows his head and apologises for his rudeness. There is no more conversation with the guards for quite some time.
Thyatian Women
Clearing the woods, the Stranded realise that Thyatis is not so much ruined as abandoned. The few buildings that still appear inhabited seem to have been rebuilt from rubble. Coming up from the south, they spy a huge temple shaped like the head of a bull, with two "horn-shaped" towers guarding the main entrance and the long, paved promenade leading to the bronze doors on either side of the Temple. Each tower bristles with ballistae and catapults. 
Nearing the Temple, they begin to catch their first glimpse of the locals. All the men are armed andarmoured much as their escort. Few seem to be involved in any actual work. Most merely supervise small bands of women collecting fruit and berries. Most of these women are older, past child-bearing age, but few are elderly. All work with their breasts exposed, wearing strange, waist-coat like garments that fasten at the naval. Heads look up as the group passes, but any woman who looks set to follow is soon roared at by a male guard. Some of the men think nothing of watching the group as they pass by, with the female members of the party being afforded the hardest, most hostile stares. More than once they hear the word "whore" muttered by Thyatians as they pass

Continuing on, the Stranded pass a small artificial harbour filled with ships -low, sleek raiders built for speed rather than trade. Some whispered conversation ensues regarding hiring boats as a way of the island -until a quiet voice from the back of the party reminds them all of what the Goddess Meerax revealed to them at the Temple: none of them will be allowed off this island until the guilty have been punished. And yet, some of the party muse, it seems that not everyone on this island has been exiled here. At least, not if the presence of those ships is anything to go by.
For almost a quarter mile past the Temple, there are no more inhabited buildings. The few structures they pass are little more than heaps of stone piled upon stone. Finally, at the end of a long, poorly cobbled road, they find themselves outside huge bronze gates leading to a walled compound. The guards at the door inspect the group closely, but Vragg is able to gain the group entrance with a few guttural words and emphatic finger-pointing at Merithena. Eventually the huge gates swing open.The party is admitted into a large, bustling, clearly thriving town -a town within a greater, ruined town. All activity ceases at once. Every eye turns towards the party, some with curiosity, most -especially those directed at the female characters- with hostility. As Vragg and their escort elbow a path through the throng, the party keep a grip on their weapons.

Every building they pass is clearly designed for defence. Stairs lead to the only entrance. Each roof is flat and crenellated. The paths and alleyways are winding and confusing. There are far less obviously residential buildings present than one would expect for so many people. Merithena whispers that most women reside in the public slave quarters until bought as a wife by a successful raider and that most men of fighting age live in barracks. Only a few of the richest and most successful raiders own their own home, their own slaves and servants. The other men and even most children, save for those born to "free" raiders, live in barracks along the walls. No where, do the Stranded see any sign of craftwork or manufacture. The few homes which seem to serve as shops appear to sell goods from many lands, but no-where does anyone appear to be actually making anything.
At the great, golden gates of a small palace, the group halts beneath two huge, bronze statues of Bull-Headed men. Vragg approaches a senior guard standing by the gates who, after a whispered conversation, directs one of his men to sound a bronze gong.

"Now we wait." mutters Merithena, already pale from her wounds and the heat of the cruel sun climbing towards it's Zenith. All around, men and woman of Thyatis lay down whatever tools or task they work at and gather in the square before the palace gates. Soon, perhaps two or three thousand people - at least two women to every man- have gathered. For many hours the throng continues to wait in stifling heat and humidity while the sun climbs. No-one speaks. Sensing the mood, the party remain silent. It's not hard to tell from even a brief, side-ways glance that these people are scared witless. When Merithena wilts, Thera attempts to steady her, only to have her efforts shaken off. Even so, the sudden movement attracts attention. One or two voices can be heard to whisper the words "weak" or "doomed". These whispers seem only to strengthen the girls resolve until she stands tall once again.

Finally, just as it seems the group can take no more, when the sun has already descended almost half way to the horizon, the great gong booms again and all present -including the Stranded- prostrate themselves accordingly. They hear-but do not see- the great gates swing open. At the third sounding of the gong all stand and face the bull-headed King.

A wizened, wrinkled old man of some ninety years, head bowed by the weight of the great, silver horned helm upon his brow.

"Come," he gestures with one crooked finger to the baffled group below. "Vragg, you and your prisoners may approach."

This? This is the gamed bull-headed king everyone is so afraid of? And yet, Merithena  trembles as she leads the group up the granite stairs towards the King and his bodyguard -from fear as much as exhaustion. Wisely, the group elects for caution, allowing the locals to speak first.

Vragg explains how the prisoners had rescued Merithena after her capture and the death of Bombatta. At this, the wizened old king grunts loudly, the somewhat scathing, contemptuous expression he previously wore melting into something altogether more calculating. But only for a moment.

"You. Girl. Look at you! Blood of my blood? Hah! You're pathetic. Weak. Tonight, you'll dance the seven veils for your rescuers. Our guests. And if you fail, you'll die. Take her away!"

From behind the palace doors, a dozen beautiful women of various ages scurry from the cool depths of the palace to usher the stricken Merithena to her rooms. As she is dragged away, she looks pleadingly at Ki Oman and mouths the words, "you promised" before she disappears into the depths of the palace. Even so, no-one fails to note that their status has quickly changed from "prisoners" to "guests".

Merithena
Ki Oman clears his throat and, along with other members of the party, begins to sing the girl's praises, but the wizened old King waves their comments away. The Bull Headed King informs them they will have time to talk at the feast in their honour later this evening. As he turns to leave however, the party's female members catch his eye. Spitting his outrage, he demands to know why the women are so dressed? Shadowdancer steps forward and explains that their group was shipwrecked and forced to dress their property in any rags they could find. He explains that he and Ki Oman are merchants, and that Euthalia is their prize stock and the other, armoured women her guards. Euthalia bristles at this, but plays along, as do they other women. The King seems momentarily intrigued, eyeing Euthalia with something of a lusty eye, but then waves his wizened arm nonchalantly and order that, as outsiders, they shall be given some lee-way.  He orders all present to help instruct the newcomers in the laws and ways of Thyatis and to punish them only for the gravest transgressions. With that, he turns to leave, but not before Shadowdancer begs to know where he might find more appropriate attire for Euthalia. The King orders Vragg to act as a guide. 

As suddenly as he came, the Bull Headed King vanishes back into the Palace. Euthlia glares daggers at Shadowdancer but, on further consideration, decides that the chance to blend in with the local women -and spend some time learning their ways- is worth the trouble of going about half-naked. After all, she remarks, many of  Haestia's most sacred rites -including pre-marriage rituals for the bride- require all present to be naked. This, alas, takes some of the wind from Shadowdancer's sails. He'd been quite relishing the thought of causing Euthalia some discomfort.

Ki Oman turns to Vragg and suggests that the group needs some water. The raider agrees readily and leads the group to the well in the Square of Sublime Enjoyment, nearby. They find the well -and what appears to be the local tavern- easily enough. Trying to wind up Euthalia further, Shadowdancer suggests that Euthalia go and bring him an ale. Ki Oman, playing along, instead insists that she go to the well and bring water for the group. Proudly, she almost refuses until a passing, rather drunken raider, remarks in quite a friendly fashion that if Ki Oman can't control his women, he'll be only to happy to oblige by teaching the girl the price of disobedience in Thyatis. He fingers his wickedly hooked scourge somewhat menacingly while he speaks. Ki Oman thanks the Raider but insists that won't be necessary. Euthalia's high spirits are one reason she commands so high a price. Not in the least put out, the raider grunts and moves on.

By this time, Euthalia is already filling the party's water jugs. One of the younger girls sidles up to her and asks, 'Are you an Amazon? Have you been to the hills?" Seeing her confusion, the girl adds, "You and your friends look like Amazons. If you are, please take me with you when you leave." One of the other women, much older and grey-in-the-hair, drags the young one away before she can say anymore. Thoughtfully, Euthalia returns to the group, but on the way back one of the women from the well (no-one spots who) shouts the word "whore" and throws a wet towel at her, striking her squarely on the back of her head. All the raiders present, including Vragg, laugh uproariously. Seeing their credibility in jeopardy, Shadowdancer angrily stalks forward and demands to know who assaulted his property. At this, the raiders stop laughing and the women, huddled in a group, pale visibly. Some even begin to cry. Now that Shadowdancer has made this a matter of law, the jovial atmosphere around the well suddenly grows chill.

A burly, red-bearded raider steps from the shadows around the tap-house. He bellows a demand that the women responsible step forward. When the only response from the women at the well is to huddle closer and cry louder, he angrily reminds them all that the price of disobeying an order from a man is serious indeed. If one (the players did not fail to note that he not ask for the "guilty one") does not step forward all will be punished.

At this, they Grey-Haired women who pulled the young girl away from Euthalia steps forward. It's clear to all that she could not possibly have been the one to throw the towel. Her eyes are completely blind, stark white with cataracts. Other women step forward, wailing, from the group and try to pull her back into the crowd. Yet though the old woman trembles with fear, she takes another quivering step.. In a voice croaking with fear and age, she states "It was me".

Almost before she even closes her mouth, the red-bearded man strikes. The old woman's tongue roils from a spinning head, her decapitated body drops lightly to the sandy soil. Women wail in unearthly misery while the old woman's the eyes continue to blink for a few moments before growing still. Without so much as a grunt, the bearded raider wipes his sword on the old woman's blood-soaked dress, nods companionably at Shadowdancer, announces he needs a piss and wanders back to the tavern.

Vragg comments, "That's how we deal with insolence in Thyatis." He turns to look at the rest of the party, many of whom are glaring at Shadowdancer with undisguised horror or hostility. Vragg nods at Euthalia meaningfully. "Keep a good eye on that one. The women won't seek revenge from her, but a lot of lusty eyes have noticed her now. They like to break a proud one in these parts. Some will try to buy her, but if they can't?", he shrugs, "They'll try to take her by force. You could make a fortune hiring her out now, but if you want to keep her pure for more money, I wouldn't leave her unguarded. We Thyatians steal our wives as often as we buy them."

[A few players -the ones that read my blog regularly- caught on to who the Thyatian's are at this point, but kept stumm to avoid spoiling the surprise].

The stunned party ask about where they can buy equipment. Euthalia stammers for a moment, but manages to ask where she can go in order to dress properly? Vragg glares at her for a moment, and reminds Ki Oman that women should not speak unless addressed but agrees to lead the group to the Public Slave Quarters.

There, Andros and Thera are left behind to keep an Euthalia while the rest of the party goes shopping.
Euthalia (seated, left) is Pampered in the Public Slave House.
Inside, the three women discover a veritable paradise to rival the greatest palace or richest temple in Mysos. Dozens of breathtakingly attractive women laze or lie about,playing games, bathing, chatting or dressing one another's hair. Meanwhile, down another corridor, they can hear the distant grunting of men taking advantage of the women's presence. Euthalia is soon shown to a stone bench where gossip-starved women in their droves are only too keen to help her out of her barbaric clothing and pamper her every need. Meanwhile, Thera and Andros, much ignored, walk around quietly, keeping their thoughts to themselves.

4 comments:

Ray Rousell said...

Epic!!!!!!

The Angry Lurker said...

Epic and damn readable and interesting....

Dangerous Brian said...

Thanks guys. I really wanted to give my players a bit of a moral dillema here. The Thyatians are clearly a bunch of evil b'tards, but they have the only city around as far as the players know. Would they make a deal with the devil for the sake of "civilised" comforts?

Chickenbane said...

Well written and obviously well thought out. Nice one!