Posted on August 24, 2012
The Acts of the Lords of Rannick, LXXIII
Last night was slow to get going, but went long and got some important stuff done. Maybe. Splitting the party is almost always a bad idea and a raw deal for everyone who doesn’t get to play the game for a while. That said, if you can make the Away Team’s misadventures as comic as possible, well, at least that is entertaining. One reason for the slow start was that I had the city description to get over and some questions to answer which is fine. But I’ll save last night’s exposition dump for the end of this post as the party listens to Morgiv’s tale.
Halvard and Arradin present a problem for stealthy efforts… but only in the same way that Halvard not taking any healing spells presents a problem for party members bleeding to death. Halvard can reasonably expect party members to get important bits of their body opened up, and so prepares accordingly. Similarly, after spending weeks with the two melee specialists it is reasonable to assume that all that clanking doesn’t have an off switch that they’ve been withholding. So, I’d advise preparing accordingly.
Anyway, last time we left them on the threshold of Xin Shalast. Gazing down upon the vast city beneath them, they spent a while figuring out what things were. They decided to send an advance party ahead, composed of Albedon, Kerplak and Dagfinn. Their mission: to scout out the entrance to Xin Shalast and the black walled fortress which contained, and I must stress this, no fucking spires.
Dagfinn and Albedon hung back, invisible but also behind some rocks, because you can never be too spellcaster. Kerplak, splitting the party for a triumphant third time, advanced on his Phantom Steed, invisible walking through the air. He had spotted that the gateless entrance to the fortress has a rough fence built across it, behind which massive Aurochs occasionally strolled.
Closer to the towers, he could see that the balconies, walls and towertops were peppered with ratty looking nests, too large to be common birds and too small to be Rocs, which apparently Kerplak fears. Who knew? So he shot a Sunrod onto one of the tower tops, a little known trick in the Stealth community called “Let everyone know something funny is going on” that eventually causes death by overwhelming curiosity.
A few short moments after the sunrod lit up the top of the tower, several loud booms were heard; the familiar percussion of Thunderstones. After that, a gluttony (that’s the collective noun) of Kuchrima rose from the fortress and spread out over the walls, searching for whoever dared to… oh look, a horse, in the air.
Approaching the horse, they suddenly snatched up their bows and began filling the air with arrows roughly at the level of a horse’s rider. Kerplak, flung his Cape of The Mountebank over his shoulder and was likely in the middle of cackling, when he realised that it had not worked. Similarly, Dagfinn established that Dimension Door was not an option. Kerplak began beating a retreat, but Albedon was busy doing magic science.
- Can I kill these Kuchrima with spells?
- Magic works, although not teleportation effects, because those Dancing Lights worked.
- Hypothesis: Kuchrima will still be susceptible to frying with Magic.
- Applied a Chain Lightning, Fireball and Scorching Ray spell to the Kuchrima chasing Kerplak.
- A bunch fell down dead.
- Hypothesis upheld.
Meanwhile, the Kuchrima had tired of My Little Ghost Pony cantering off with Kerplak, so they shot the horse out from under him. He fell 50ft to the ground and they descended. Dagfinn, took care of the Kuchrima flanking party with some well placed Deafening Song Bolts.
The remaining Kuchrima fled the fight as quickly as it could. Albedon, Dagfinn and Kerplak didn’t spend much time lingering either and returned to the rest of the party. That should have been an interesting check-in. I think the initial plan after that was to return to the tower and rub Kerplak’s nose in the sunrod and then hit him with a rolled up newspaper, but they settled on a different plan.
Descending into the city as the light was failing, they picked their way around the road that led around the fortress, sneaking as best as they could. Kerplak noticed that the road had been messed with – the piles of rubble were a little too manicured. Picking their way through those though, the party progressed into the nearest streets in the city.
They checked out some buildings and began looking for one that could accommodate the secure shelter. The Secure Shelter is actually pretty small, so they really had their choice of venues. They chose a vast pagoda, sized for giants as all the buildings are. On the fourth floor, some 60-70ft in the air, Tersplink set up his Secure Shelter and Kerplak trapped the stairway beneath them.
Arradin had first watch while she rested, but didn’t notice anything untoward during the night. In the morning, however, Kerplak found that one of his traps had been carefully disarmed.
After a Heroes’ Feast of a breakfast (no-one was maintaining their fast at this point) they set out through the broad streets of the seemingly abandoned city. As they moved along, Halvard spotted a ripple moving slightly in the wall of a nearby building. As he pointed it out, a high hooting sounded from the area near the wall and seconds later, a patrol of six Hill Giants appeared at the end of the street.
Kerplak and Ron sought the shelter of buildings, while Dagfinn cast a Song of Discord and Albedon opened up with his Chain Lightning again. Halvard, meanwhile, decided to track down the ripple in the wall which had moved quickly along the surface. He cast True Seeing and then Invisibility Purge; at some point in the process he saw a flabby figure clinging to the edge of the building, but it turns out he wasn’t invisible, just amazingly well camouflaged.
The Hill Giants turned on one of their number and battered him to death in an instant. Arradin reached them for combat as Albedon’s spells continued in at them. Kerplak had to adjust to the peasant’s role he now found himself in, firing a single crossbow bolt at a time. Ron and Albedon’s efforts to add missile fire of various sorts to the affray were thwarted when Tersplink raised a Stinking Cloud, nauseating two of the giants who fled its effects. Arradin and Dagfinn ran in for combat, Arradin neatly separating one of the Hill Giants from his head.
Halvard, meanwhile, had opened negotiations with this nervous looking humanoid. He cast Comprehend Languages on himself and then asked the being a question. The humanoid said “I don’t know what that means.” but Halvard recognised it as Thassilonian. He called over Albedon because he knew the elf/dwarf had learned Thassilonian.
The naked creature’s name was Morgiv and he reverted to his natural pale grey colouring. He had been looking for them, he said and he cautiously pulled a scroll from a roll of fat and handed over to Albedon. The scroll was a brittle vellum that wax had been rubbed over while pressed to a carving. The rubbing depicted a group of eight humanoids, roughly approximating each member of the party, albeit with certain exaggerated features. It certainly looked weird to see the party represented that way. As Dagfinn rushed over, flush with excitement at this new person to whom he could loudly point out how great he was compared to them; Morgiv pointed out the tall figure with the very wide mouth on the rubbing.
Morgiv was certain that the party should follow him and that the area was being searched, so they left with him, neglecting even to search the bodies of the Hill Giants.
Morgiv leads you eastwards, towards the larger branch of the Golden Road via alleys and small streets between the huge buildings. He finds what look like small service tunnels or drainage ditches, now choked with rubble, that lead below the level of the road. Quickly and carefully he leads you under the road and through various narrow openings. For all his flabby bulk, he appears to be able to squeeze through some quite small spaces – Halvard has more problems than Morgiv slipping through grates and fallen stone slabs. He also seems quite light on his feet, able to set a fast yet quiet pace across the city.
After passing under the Golden Road, Morgiv leads you back up, although it becomes clear now that you are moving through gaps in the volcanic glacier where the flow was stopped by buildings, small tunnels link basements , preserved courtyards and covered walkways that somehow survived the encroachment, although these areas are most often very small indeed. You finally rest in what looks like a collapsed bathhouse or laundry house. It has the filthy glacier as a ceiling and cisterns choked with cracked tile and rubble but there is space here and the place feels oddly warmer than the rest of the buildings you have been passing through. Morgiv enthusiastically lays his large, slightly webbed hands across the tiles visible on the cistern floor and invites you to do the same: a small amount of warmth radiates from beneath.
Morgiv pulls out the scroll again and talks to Dagfinn and Albedon who I can only presume will translate for everyone else. Actually, I assume Albedon will.
The rubbing, he tells you, comes from an old temple that was at the heart of the territory of the inhabitants of Xin Shalast known as the Spared. The temple holds the prophecy of Mesmina, once the Priestess of the Spared, who led the Spared from their life of slavery to freedom amidst the ruins.
Morgiv knows that the Spared are remnants of the slaves that were left in Xin Shalast when some great calamity occurred and destroyed Thassilon. They were joined by the Priestess Mesmina, cleric of Lissala (Morgiv covers his mouth when he says this) the goddess of Runes that endowed the founder of Thassilon, mighty Xin, with the power to use Rune magic.
Mesmina abandoned the service of Karzoug and led the Spare through those first few years after the catastrophe. She prophesized that at some time in the future, the Spared would be enslaved once more: a band of strangers would arrive in the city and the Spared would be freed again, this time forever.
Over millenia, the Spared have guarded their prophecy, waiting to be enslaved and the freed once more. They began to adapt to their environment and after 10,000 years they bear little resemblance to the beings they once were. They evolved an array of mutations that helped them survive the extreme conditions and defensive capabilities that allowed them to avoid the more dangerous inhabitants of Xin Shalast. Their existence over the millenia has been difficult as they survive on the populations of rodents that survived the city’s catastrophe and the few plants that grow at this altitude. The city as it appears now is but one of its iterations, with every new Runelord, the city floored and walled off sections and built on top of it, sealing other buildings beneath the streets. By accessing these buried sections of the city, what Morgiv calls the Hypogeum, the Spared are able to exist amidst much more dangerous and hostile creatures.
Things were going… adequately… until about 30 years ago when an entity known as the Hidden Beast established itself in one part of the Hypogeum and enslaved the Spared. Those who go seeking the Hidden Beast never return and no-one has ever laid eyes upon it. Yet its Spared agents ruthlessly exploit their fellows and the entire tribe finds itself in bondage once again. Escape is practically impossible as the danger on the surface has only increased in the last six years or so, as lamia-kin and giants of all types flock to the city. Morgiv is convinced that this is the second period of enslavement that the Spared must endure before their final liberation. And as is evident by the likenesses carved into the temple walls, he believes the party are just the people to free his tribe for good.
He is happy to answer questions about the city, but he won’t do it forever; he believes, after all, that you have a divine prophecy to fulfill.