Thursday, August 29, 2013

Called to a Winter World

Ok, it's been a month since I posted a play report. It's summer and the wild beaches of PEI were calling and not a lot of gaming related stuff got done. But here finally is the write up of the last session.

In the house were:
  • Jensen the Warrior - Trevor
  • Barcephelas the Elf - Todd
  • Bran the Thief - Jeremy
  • Chez the Warrior - John
  • Ryan the Cleric - Sebastien (absent)
Ah, the local entertainments...
So, following the events of the People of the Pit, our band of adventurers were recouping in the town of Lusates.  In fact, the people of Lusates were so grateful that the region had been saved from the waking worm god that the Mayor bestowed upon them the deed for the old, abandoned Silverjohn mansion on the outskirts of town. Though empty for a few decades, a couple of days of cleaning and fresh painting from the locals spruced the place up nicely, rumors of it being haunted not withstanding.

It had been a few weeks of resting, drinking, researching and pursuing local entertainments when five of the band found themselves sitting about the kitchen table, satisfied after a dinner of roast goose (provided by a

kindly neighbor, of course) and enjoying a lazy warm summer evening.

That was when Brand heard his name whispered. It seemed to float in through the front door on a chill breeze. When the whisper came again, it wasn't just Brand that heard it. The others sat upright, all now feeling an odd sensation, the impression of cold wind blowing from somewhere else. Brand went to the front door, grabbed his armor and weapons and crept out. The others waited patiently but no sound or call was heard. Definitely worried, each grabbed their weapons and one way or another (in pairs, after looking out the window etc) stepped out the same door.

They did not find themselves in the pleasant front garden, heavy with summer, as one would have expected. Rather they stood beneath an alien sky filled with raging, glowing cloud, pouring into and out of a black sun (or perhaps an immense hole in the sky - who could be sure?). Surrounding them were endless snow covered forests of massive twisted trees, bending and groaning beneath the bitter, blasting ice wind. Just behind them was a stone arch, incredibly ancient with unknowable symbols - obviously the portal through which they just came. And rising in the cold grey light before them was a towering mountain, oddly straight, with a flattened top almost touching the clouds. An ominous, narrow road lead from the arch up to the top of this mountain, beckoning.

When confronted with such an obvious road (rail-road someone coughed into their hand, but was stared down by the Judge) it is only natural for any group of adventurers to immediately seek an alternate way out. This began with half-hearted attempts to step back through the arch and read the indecipherable symbols, but to no avail. It was discovered though that the symbols were similar to characters on the mysterious coin
Like this, only more dramatic.
that Brand had purchased with the female face so like his own (only far, far more beautiful). Here is where the blaming began, and never really stopped, with Brand insisting that this would all end well with loads of treasure and the others quite sure that it would not.

As the threat of frost bite started to loom, the band decided to make a run through the deep drifts for the forest where they discovered less snow and less wind but, discouragingly, the distant sound of hooting and howling. It was Brand with his big ears that also heard the much closer and quieter sound of movement through the trees. He stealthily crept forward and hid in the shadows to observe what appeared to be a small group of tall pale, fur wearing ape men armed with spears cautiously approaching the rest of the band with murder in their eye. Surmising these were scouts of a much larger war party, Brand did a rapid hand signal and the rest of the gang immediately engaged. It was a swift fight, though one almost got away and the gang was rewarded with a number of insulating furs and boots. The wild hooting started up again and much closer, and Barcephelas the Elf estimated that there were at least 30 more of the ape men. seeing little choice, the band beat a hasty path to the road and started the long climb up the mountain. A large party of savages broke from the wood behind them, too distant to be an immediate threat, but gave chase. After a few hours though, with the adventurers halfway up the mountain side, the ape men appeared to give up and headed back to their primordial frozen forests.

The rest of the way up was relatively quiet, broken only once when a large winged white centipede sort of creature hummed out from behind a rock outcrop and was dispatched when it flew too close. The top of the mountain was flat, the edges rough as if torn from the plain below. There was little snow here but everything was covered in ice. Strange alien building rose up, like immense shells of sea creatures, blackened with time. Most were in ruin, collapsed, open, a jumble of basalt rock. But a small complex at the center remained largely intact, with a dark round entrance obviously crafted for bodies very unlike those of men.

A quick scout of the ruined buildings resulted in very little of interest, and so the band headed to the opening on the central intact structure. Within they found a massive hall, hundreds of feet long with an arched ceiling with high narrow windows that let in a dim light. The hall was curved so that the end could not be seen and it felt as if one were standing within an immense shell of some sea creature. The sides were lined with ominous stone sculptures, at least they seemed to be sculptures, brooding and strange. Much further in was discovered a massive mound of desiccated bodies, skin dried by the cold. They were twisted and horrible, with too many limbs, or only one or two, far too many mouths or eyes or not enough. They formed a ring surrounding the mummified body of a woman that must have been very beautiful in life. In fact it was quickly realized, she was the woman from the coin. A thing mostly made of teeth was at her long dead throat. The mutated bodies showed evidence of being blasted by arcane magics, directed from the body of the beautiful woman, and it was theorized that she had died battling these creatures.

There were a number of large "doorways", rounded holes really, along the sides of this great hall and the group chose one to explore. Within was a massive room filled with strange apparatus made from metal and stone and glass, many fallen with age. A few looked to have been cleaned and repaired. But the room was dominated by a great silver cage in its center. A colossal primordial centipede like creature lay inside. It had a great lamprey mouth instead of a head and its body appeared to be largely fossilized. Keeping a wary eye on this beast (though it had shown no signs of life) the crew began exploring the repaired devices. They found three that appeared to function:

  • A floating stone globe with red crystal on its equator. The globe could not be moved from its spot in a back corner, but can be slowly swiveled in any direction. 
  • A tall, ominously human sized booth with a steel door that appears to have been greatly repaired and modified. A metal box on the side had a bewildering set of switches, levers and push buttons. 
  • A machine comprising of three tall glass tubes, each filled with a quantity of fine crystals, one purple, one, black and one orange. The three glass tubes met within a metal box with a switch below each tube and a spout below that.
Playing with the floating globes resulted in nothing, other than the sense that it contained a great deal of power. Jensen the Warrior seemed particularly fascinated by the tall booth and fiddled with the buttons which caused a number of threatening swishing and snapping sounds to emanate from within. He managed to open its door but found the interior featureless. There were a few tense moments when he nearly convinced Brand to step inside, but even Brand proved not to be so foolhardy.

It was when Jensen and Chez focused their attention on the machine with the three tubes of fine crystals that the great centipede thing rumbled in its cage. It turned clumsily and a hellish orange fire glowed from its alien
What could go wrong...?
lamprey mouth. Tiny pale blue eyes opened and blinked, staring intently at Jensen. Obviously uneasy, the others started moving towards the exit. Chez, however, despite the warnings of his fellows boldly walked up to the cage and the creature did appear well contained. Clearing his throat he attempted to speak with the thing, but received an unintelligible deep clattering whir in response. Meanwhile Jensen attempted to use the crystal machine and pressed the purple and orange buttons. There was a clunking sound and a small jar filled with a pinkish fluid appeared from the spout below. Trying the purple and black resulted in a greenish fluid. Jensen pocketed both and on the insistence of the others, who were obviously spooked by the creature in the cage, joined everyone else in leaving the room. 

The gang came back to the great hall and tried another doorway along the other side. Down a long narrow tunnel they found a throne room of sorts, with a large black basalt seat inscribed with the now familiar looking but alien writing. Waiting on the throne was a beautiful but sad looking woman - the woman from the coin, the woman who lay dead in the great hall beyond. She appeared solid but had an otherworldly presence. She stood as the band entered the room, searching their faces until she found Brand. 

“I knew you would come. I knew you would rescue me, my brother.”

Realizing they were speaking with the ghost of the woman who was responsible for their predicament, the band seized the opportunity to understand their situation. In the conversation that followed they learned that the woman was named Ivrian and that she had come to this ancient place to learn the secrets of building an
Don't hate me because I'm beautiful. And evil.
undying, imperishable body. During the course of her research she had uncovered one of the original inhabitants and had attempted to help the ancient creature (called a Volooz), who seemed noble if ugly. However, at the last moment, just as she was to start the process to inhabit her new immortal body, the creature had turned against her and sent abominations to slay her. Do not speak to it, she warned. It is evil.

She then turned to address Brand more directly. Our bloodline is powerful, she told him and she had made the coins to seek through time for powerful members of the family, those with great destinies, so that she may bring them here to share her knowledge. Obviously this was way Brand was called, she insisted. But before she could share the secrets of immortality she needed the assistance of Brand and his companions. They must help her finish the ritual of transformation.

At this point everyone was very suspicious, not least of all because the idea of Brand being from a great bloodline seemed quite ridiculous. But they asked how they may help to complete this ritual nonetheless. She continued; at the end of the great hall is the summoning room in which is a demon guardian, holder of the vessel of souls. If the vessel is brought to her so that she may enter it and then brought to her new body, lying waiting and complete in the the workshop, she will then live once more. She would then fulfil their wishes, whether that be treasure, knowledge, immortality or simply to open the portals home. But she warns Brand - do not touch the vessel of souls, it is attuned to my soul and will therefore devour yours.

Ok, said the band, knowingly nodding their heads, we'll go and do that right now. And promising to return they headed back out into the hall. They quickly decided to search everywhere before doing anything else.

The came across a number of curious and disturbing rooms, all directly joined through round tunnels to the massive main hall.

One was a cube shaped chamber, roughly 30 feet aside, made from a pale, luminous rock. There was writing along the walls which felt like it moved slowly when not looked at directly. Barcephelas the Elf was especially curious, studying the strange text. Slowly he became aware of the sensation of whispers, as if there was something trying to speak with him. Concentrating brought the whispering closer and he realized that he was hearing, in his mind, the beginnings of spells. He became certain that by concentrating on one he would hear it in it's entirety, and perhaps retain it. But the room was infused with magic, and there was certain to be a cost associated with attempting this. Barcephelas, excited, focused on a particular spell (I forgot which!!) and felt it burn into his mind. His body writhed with spellburn and magical corruption. He fell to the floor weakened and his skin darkening to an outlandish shade of blue. The spell he had "learned" appeared too powerful for him to cast now, but he was certain he would be able to master it in time.

Another area actually turned out to be small cluster of small rooms converted from their original unknown purpose into living spaces. There was small kitchen, privy, which contained little of consequence and a bedroom and sitting room. The bedroom door was trapped with an ancient gas vial, which was disabled by Brand. Within were the usual - bed, clothing or a rich nature, a few baubles. But hidden at the bottom of a chest was a long sword, slender and feminine, with stylized flowers at the hilt. It was beautiful and graceful and hummed with an arcane power. Brand immediately shoved it in his pants, while the others sighed and rolled their eyes. While handling it though, it muttered a word that only Brand could hear - "Nightraker" - and he knew it was the sword's name. Moving to the sitting room they found a comfortable chair, with a side table on which sat a glowing orb that was most pleasant to look at. Chez took this. There were a number of books in a book shelf, most indecipherable, but one appeared to be Ivrian's diary. Again written in a unrecognizable language, it was fortunate that Ivrian appeared to be a gifted amateur sketcher and the band was able to view the following scenes of Ivrian:
  • coming through portal that brought the band here
  •  repairing and altering the portal
  •  exploring of the ruins at the top of the mountain
  •  discovering and digging the great centipede like creature from the rock and placing in a cage
  • communing with the centipede
  • sitting in the cube room with the writing all over the walls
  •  activating great stone vats filled with some fluid
  •  manufacturing the coins - each containing one of Ivrian’s hairs - and casting through another portal
  • capturing people coming through the portal (holding the coins) that have a familial cast and killing any accompanying companions.
  •  flensing the flesh from the screaming bodies of those captured and casting it into the stone vats.
  •  experimenting with strange and horrible vat creations, twisted things like the ones pilled in a mound in the front of the great hall
  • throwing deformed vat creatures back into the vats and keeping a few as servants
  •  retrieving a body identical to her own from the vat
  •  speaking with a horse headed demon who holds a strange alien jewel
Taken together, these spelled out a rather morbid story of the beautiful Ivrian. The worst suspicions of the band seemed to be confirmed.

Next the band discovered the vat room - a large area with a dozen stone vats of various sizes set above the floor. There were steps up the sides and complex mechanisms with levers and switches on the sides of each. There was a palatable sense of something waiting in here. Chez, being Chez, climbed to the top of one of the vats and poked the pale waxy substance congealed within. He then turned, and to everyone's horror, but not surprise, started fiddling with the switches. Everyone held their breath bit nothing appeared to happen. A bit more poking around turned up three jars of a pale flesh colored liquid and a small adjacent den with a few desiccated corpses of mutated vat creatures. Feeling they'd discovered everything here, the group made to leave, but were dismayed to hear a faint gurgling come from the vat that Chez had disturbed. A quick check of that vat didn't reveal what was making the noise, and so they scurried out with nervous glances over their shoulders.

Continuing to explore the band next found the workshop depicted in Ivrian's diary. It was filled with cruel dissection tools and a pair of large stone slabs. On one slab was the dried corpse of a partially dissected vat creature. On the other was a naked, beautiful young woman, breathing as if in a deep slumber - obviously Ivrian’s imperishable body awaiting her soul. There were the inevitable rude jokes, and Jensen discovered a work table with tools for making coins and other strange mechanical things. Taking a number of blank coins but leaving the body, the band moved on.

Finally they came the end of the hall which exited back out into the cold. Before them was a rickety wooden bridge, falling apart with age, stretching across a terrifyingly deep chasm to an entrance in an opposing cliff. The cliff rose sheer and icy hundreds of feet above. Taking turns running across the bridge, they found it sturdier than it looked (but not that much sturdier...). Entering the doorway at the other side they passed through a small antechamber into a larger squarish room that had a beautiful, but ominous swirling cloud of golden dust. This dust coalesced into a tall, gold resplendent and brutal demonic being, muscled and clawed with the head of a nightmare horse.   

"I am Aagazzbagh. You may not pass" 

Com'on, just a little fight...
The gang was understandably filled with trepidation and stepped back drawing weapons, including Brand who drew Nightraker. The demon's dead eyes were immediately drawn to this and it addressed Brand. "You must defeat me, for I wish to be released". Cautiously they engaged in conversation and learned that Aagazzbagh did not know or care about what had occurred within, only that there had been a contest of wills at one point. His master was Ivrian and he was bound to this room, guarding the passage out to the
Ghost Spires and the vessel of souls. The Ghost Spires, when described sounded a great deal like other portals, perhaps capable of taking the gang back home. 

"Just out of curiosity," asked Brand of the demon, "If I were to fight you, would you take it easy on me, seeing as how you want to be defeated?". 

"No" the thing replied, "I will strive to tear you apart".

"Ya, that sounds about right" said Barcephelas the Blue Elf 

Retreating from the room, the demon almost pleading them to combat, the gang returned to the great hall to decide on their next move. Obviously wanting to go home, but unsure if they want to treat with Ivrian, and conscious of how tough that demon looked, the band discussed a number of options, with Jensen demonstrating an unhealthy obsession with the metal booth that he had played with before. So lost somewhere in time, trapped in an alien complex filled with the corpses of mutant creatures, an apparently deceitful ghost, a demon with a death wish, an immense primordial centipede creature who is apparently an evil scholar from the distant past, and a faintly bubbling vat, the band decided to SPLIT THE PARTY.

It was really a decision as such, it’s just that Jenson, Chez and Ryan got it in their heads to return to the centipede room, while Brand and Barcephelas the Blue Elf  headed to the workshop room to retrieve Ivrian's body. It was when Bran was hoisting the body off the slab and heard a low groan and growl come from the direction of the vat room that he realized that they had made a terrible mistake. Unceremoniously dropping the body, he and Barcephelas made for the door only to be confronted by a number of horrifying mutant things, hoping and slithering and crawling forward, with club like limbs and teeth and eyes. Brand attempted a half-hearted "Hello" in the dim hope they weren't hostile but quickly drew his sword as the things rushed forward.

The sound of battle quickly drew the attention of the others who turned to rush back, but were several critical moments away.  Barcephelas and Bran were sorely matched and Bran had fallen to the club hands off one monstrosity as the others arrived. They managed to hack the things down, and Ryan acquired a good deal of disapproval pulling Bran back from the dead (actually I made a mistake here and allowed Ryan one too many casts of Lay on Hands. Odd that no one corrected me...). 

So with Bran, once again on the brink of death, and the only certainty being that the vat was still bubbling away, we left it for the night.

Next session will be this Saturday - which will bring our DCC mini campaign to a close (for now!)

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