dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
​​Dramatis Personae
  • Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Radovan Venclovic, Romani ex-soldier
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
​It was a ten hour train ride to Sofia, and the party used the time to catch up Rosaline on what had happened in the forest and explain what they were up against to Radovan. To their relief, Radovan accepted their story of secret cults, lands of dream, and vampires without much question, and when the story was done, the countess proposed a toast "to those who are no longer with us." The party drank gladly, though with some tears in Jazmina's eyes as she thought of Demir.

As they lowered their glasses, Jazmina spotted her father's friend Radko Jordanov, sitting alone at the far end of the dining car and taking notes on some documents spread on the table in front of him. Led by Jazmina, the party approached, noticing over his shoulder the words "Sedefkar" and "Simulare," as well as "Dzhudzheta" underlined several times. Jazmina greeted him and he responded warmly, astonishment that they were on the same train. The party asked him his business, and he said that he was on the way to Sofia to catalogue Dr. Moric's possessions and was studying a student's old paper that had some remarkable similarities. The student Ivo Pinev found a statue head that he claimed he bought from a farmer and spun a fantastical tale of a prehuman race, which he named after the Dzhudzheta of Slavic myth. His paper was full of gross inaccuracies and he was laughed out of academia, but Dr. Jordanov added that he was surprised to see that the strange words like "Sedefkar" that he thought were simply fabrications were reflected in the papers from Mr. Moric's cache.

As he spoke, Jazmina and the countess noticed that one of the waiters had stopped doing serving and was blatantly listening in to Dr. Jordanov's conversation and taking notes in his serving pad, ignoring all of the summons from the diners. When he noticed the party's attention, he turned and began moving toward the far end of the car. When the maître d' asked him why he was leaving, the waiter drew a knife and slashed at him!

As the panic started in the car, Radovan jumped up and began leaping from table to table in pursuit, while Jazmina tried to force her way through the crowd. Radovan was notably more successful, forcing open the door at the far end and struggling with the assailant as one of the conductors tried to dissuade Jazmina pursuit. She was not delayed long, however, and arrived as the waiter was trying to leap off the train and Radovan was grabbing at the briefcase the waiter carried. As he grabbed at the satchel, the strap broke and it went tumbling off the train. Soon after, the pair were able to restrain the waiter, after which the conductor arrived with several men to haul him away.

Radovan followed his nose and found the corpse of a young man, stripped to his underclothes and missing his right hand.

The party reconvened and discussed the situation. They couldn't think of of a reason why the hand would missing, and Jazmina, the professor, and Rosaline eventually decided to go check on the man himself. When they arrived, the guards told them in confidence that the waiter had killed himself while he was in the cell. Jazmina spun a tale of a ring that the waiter had snatched from her, which got the professor entrance to the cell. The waiter had killed himself by stabbing himself in the eye, and after a moment controlling his stomach, the professor inspected the body. The waiter had both hands, no rings, no tattoos, and nothing suspicious about him. His search fruitless, the professor exited the cell and they all returned to their rooms, where the awaited their arrival in Sofia.

In Sofia they were met by a grizzled police inspector, Major Kristova, who took them to the station and questioned them about the events on the train. He seemed to accept even the strangest of their stories about cults, and when Rosaline asked if these events were common, he replied in the affirmative. He seemed like he wanted to say more, and at the countess's urging he revealed that there was a group of slavers operating in Sofia called the Butchers, who kidnapped people and occasionally took body parts as trophies. He urged them to be careful and report anything they saw, and led the group out to the street. As they left, the investigators noticed that the other policemen snickered at the inspector as they walked out.

Dr. Jordanov offered the use of his car to the group if they would drop him off and the investigators accepted. They took rooms at the Hotel de la Bulgarie, and while everyone else went to bed, the professor and the countess ordered up wine and cheese and had a quick meal before retiring.

In the middle of the night, Radovan and the professor were awoken by scuttling in the middle of the night and awoke to find disembodied hands clambering toward them! They began to scuffle, dodging the hands' attacks. Radovan grabbed his hand and hurled it out the window, and the professor tried to hurl blankets over it but failed.

In the other room, the countess was awoken by cold fingers as the hand plucked out her eye!  photo emot-gonk.gif

Rosaline and Jazmina were also under attack, but after the hands strangled them for a moment, they let go and began to run toward the heating vents. Most of the party let their hands go, and the professor's attempts to capture his were unsuccessful.

As the countess screamed in agony, Rosaline ran over and treated the wound while the professor called the front desk and demanded a doctor. Radovan closed the heating vents and searched the room before the doctor arrived and began to treat the countess. The professor said that he and awoken to figures in the room, but they fled as soon as they noticed their targets were awake. The doctor replied that this fit with the times, gave the countess some laudanum, and said the police had been called. The police took a statement, looked around, and then left, and the group drifted into an uneasy sleep.

As she slept her opium dream, the countess had visions of running through back alleys and climbing into a black car, leaving the city and speeding off into the country.

In the morning, Major Kristova was waiting for them in the lobby. The major did not buy their story of disembodied hands, and left in disgust after telling the investigators not to call him again. As they returned to their rooms, the countess told them about her visions and had another, of the car driving through the mountains, which had a very distinctive outline.

About this time, Rosaline, the countess, and the professor remembered what had happened to the priest whose eye was taken during the Fourth Crusade.

As they were leaving, the hotel staff took the professor aside and told the professor that an eye was found in the alley behind the hotel, but it was green and her eyes were brown. The professor thanked them and the group continued on to Dr. Jordanov's house, where after an awkward explanation and breakfast, he wrote down the title of the monograph and the party split up to search. Rosaline eventually found it in the library.

As the countess was searching, she had another vision, a stronger one almost crystal-clear. A person walking through a cavern carved out of the living rock.

In the study again, Jazmina sat down with the manuscript and began to read it. It claimed that the idol was created by prehuman dwarves, ridicules the academic establishment, and says the idol was sent to Dr. Todor Mativ at Sofiiski Universet. At that name, Dr. Jordanov pales and says that Dr. Mativ had killed his wife and sons and was found wearing their skins. He rushed at the police and was shot down like a mad dog. Years later, his assistant killed herself by stabbing herself in the eye. Dr. Jordanov sat down and said that he was done with the investigation, but the countess managed to drag a promise out of him to contact the Sofiiski Universet and arrange and introduction with Professor Chedenko.

As the investigators were leaving, the countess had another vision, again in the same cave. On a huge overhang, images were carved of mammoths and men wearing antlered headdresses.

At Sofiiski Universet, the staff were supremely uninterested in the urgency of the party's plight, until a professor of English took pity and, in a roundabout way, asked for a bribe. The countess gave over the money and he led them to Professor Chedenko's office, Jazmina knocked, and the investigators entered. Professor Chedenko was slightly absent-minded and easily distracted, but when Jazmina mentioned the Dzhudzheta Idol, Chedenko opined that it was probably a fake, maybe plastic. Rosaline tried to impress the urgency of their mission onto him with Jazmina's help translating, and Chedenko offered to show them the idol. Up a stair and down a hall lined with armor, was a door, and through the door was chaos. A headless man, spurting blood, and two seriously beaten men lay in the scattered parts of the workroom. Most of the investigators were okay, but for the professor this confirmed that Le Comte truly was after them, and he fled screaming.

The others saw men in dark clothes climbing out the window. One escaped, but the others turned at the opening of the doors and moved to attack. One of them had a shotgun, but his wild firing missed as Radovan charged in toward them. The other hurled a grenade. Jazmina tried to kick it back and Rosaline tried to throw it, while,the grenade man pulled a handgun and shot Radovan in the chest, dropping him. Then the grenade exploded.

Rosaline and Jazmina were seriously wounded and the countess, though she had run, was still shaken by the explosion. She stood up and treated Radovan and Rosaline, but her attempts to save Jazmina were unsuccessful, and Jazmina bled out on the floor of the Sofiiski Universet.  photo emot-ohdear.png

As Rosaline worked, the countess looked out the window and saw the men in black standing by a large truck with a covered back. It screamed out of the parking lot and right into another car that moved to block it, plowing through the car and sending its driver flying. This knocked off the tarp and revealed a maxim gun, which the assailants fired at all the other cars in the parking lot as they fled.

The countess applied first aid to the only one of the survivors in the room, who muttered "Men. Robes. Who wear shoulders not their own," before passing into a coma. She checked on Professor Chedenko, but found that he was dead, and as she stood up she had a vision of a group of men in black robes walking through a fanged maw carved from living stone.

The students and faculty of the university arrived and, after some panic and worry, doctors were called, and Major Kristova was there as well. He said that he would protect them from the rest of the police, taking them in as witnesses, and he warded off the rest of the police when they tried to question the investigators and took the group away.

He managed to arrange some time for the investigators in the library, and the countess asked about the mountains. The librarian recognized it as the Sredna Gora, a local mountain range. Rosaline and the professor did some general research into eyes and heads, finding a few fragments about the eyes being the windows to the soul and cave paintings being symbolic representations of the animals. Then they left the library, went into a truck, Major Kristova whispered a password and the truck drove around randomly to confuse pursuers until it arrived at an abandoned bakery, where, after an exchange of knocks and passwords, they were admitted. In safety, they shared stories with the Major, explaining the cults that chased them, and the major replied that he had been chasing the Butchers for three years and now, the location of their base was finally known. The major said they would need a plan, and then attack tonight. Then he offered the base as a place to rest.

As they rest. The countess had another vision of horrific mutilations performed by something not quite seen. Limbs ripped out with impossible force, screaming faces torn apart, before something rushed at her and vanished in an explosion of light. As the countess panicked sightlessly, her brain refusing to see anything at all, she realized that the pain and itching in her eye was gone. Perhaps she was safe?

As they were resting, the group received a call from an informant saying that they saw a truck passing near full of bullet holes. The major stood up and said that this was their chance, and after passing out weapons, they all left to take the fight to the cult.
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
  2. Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic, devoured by the living lair of the Baba Yaga in the forests outside Orašac, February 13th, 1923.
  3. Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist, killed by a thrown grenade during a battle with the Butchers at Sofiiski Universet, February 15th, 1923.
The deaths are coming faster now.

I forgot about the eye! And those cultists in the library were much deadlier than most of the opposition we've faced this far. Shotguns and grenades? We're going to need to start carrying tommy guns like the most stereotypical of Call of Cthulhu protagonists. At least now we have a group of heavily-armed paranoid conspiracy theorists on our side. It's almost like we're playing Delta Green again!

When I failed the SAN check in the library, I drew from [ profile] mutantur's deck of failed SAN rolls and got unshakeable belief, so the professor is now even more convinced than ever before that the hand of Le Comte is behind everything. And honestly, I don't see why that's not correct. Once you admit that there are vampires, well.
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
    • Drifting Snow, chuzan former farmer.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Just before dawn, Amos decided that he should scout out the necromancers' camp and see what it was that they had to face. Without waking any of the others--the Green Knight was already awake--he crept out of the camp to the north to within sight of the enemy camp. There were three figures sleeping near the fire, one large, one medium-sized, and one small, but that was all he noticed before he realized that the sapling next to him was a pole, on top of which was a skull, which turned and glared balefully at him before opening its mouth and letting out a sustained, ear-piercing wail.

Amos leveled his musket and fired at the shapes and then ran. He wasn't even sure he hit anything in the darkness, but he did see that the walking dead were coming for him. He arrived back at camp and explained, and after trying to start a prairie fire and failing due to the sodden grass from all the rain, the party mounted up and rode south for a mile in the lightening sky until they were sure that they weren't being pursued. They debated going back to try again, but eventually decided that now that knew where the necromancers were headed, they would go back to Gyere and see if they could raise a mob.

The ride back to town was uneventful and they were let in with only minimal hassling from the militia. They rounded up the militia captain and went to the tea house Three Wheat Sheaves, where they found the Band of the Red Dove drinking and dicing within. So they decided to call the mercenaries over as well, and with Captain Crimson of the Band of the Red Dove, they sketched out a map of the local area and asked the militia captain if there was anything that the necromancer could be heading for, a graveyard or a place of power or something. The militia captain recalled, in broken Floral and then in Muskalan with Bonnie translating, that he had heard stories of a cursed cave to the west of Rockfort during his childhood and maybe that was their destination. Then the party drew up a contract with the Band of the Red Dove and rode out at the head of a company of mercenaries.  photo 58-2nsylaw.gif

There was some side discussion of getting mounts for the mercenaries to try to beat the necromancers to the cave, but it was eventually dismissed as unfeasible due to the cost of horses, the likelihood of actually finding thirty riding horses in a farming community, and the fact that oxen aren't suitable for riding.

The mercenaries force-marched, and Shining Star called up the witch-sight as she traveled, and by mid-afternoon she saw a grove in the distance with a shadow hanging over it like a cloud. Bonnie immediately drank spirit-flower tea when Shining Star mentioned the miasma, and she saw pairs of eyes watching them as they approached. The mercenaries sent out scouts, and when they reported back, the party drew up a plan.

The grove surrounded a cave mouth that reared out out of the ground in a tiny hill, with two skulls on posts in front of it. There were no walking dead or necromancers visible, and the party decided to move closer and take up positions in the surrounding woods and try to lure the necromancers out by activating the skull guardians. Elaphe would send his bob-omb familiar above the cave mouth and, when the necromancers appeared, it would drop on them and then they all would attack. The Green Knight gave a brief sermon to Drifting Snow and then summoned the power of the forest to armor him in bark. The bark split through his skin...but it was gnarled in strange ways, with odd purple moss growing on it. Drifting Snow stared, unsure if this was what was supposed to happen, as the mercenaries began their plan.

Two mercenaries charged forward into the sight of the skulls and, as they started to shriek, they tossed off small bombs that made loud noises and then ran back into the trees. As zombies started filtering up from the cave mouth, mercenary archers began firing at did Amos and the Green Knight. The other members of the party waited as more of the walking dead appeared from the cave, as well as one ghul, which Amos and the Green Knight focused on until it ran forward and the mercenaries fell on it with swords.

Then, another figure walked up from the depths of the cave. Skeletal, with green balefire burning in its eyesockets and wearing black robes, it looked around the clearing, taking in the walking dead full of arrows and the shapes it could see in the trees, and shouted something back down the cave mouth.
Elaphe's player: "Are there any signs that this is a necromancer?"
Me: "Other than the obvious necromancy?"
At his signal, Elaphe's bob-omb ran over the edge of the cave mouth and exploded as it hit the ground, sending the walking dead flying in all directions. The necromancer was barely visible in the smoke, fleeing back down the cave mouth, as the mercenary heavy foot charged forward, tossing a few bob-ombs as they did, and began dismembering the remaining zombies to prevent them from acting.  photo emot-black101.gif Then, the party configured. The cave didn't seem harmed at all by the explosion and the opening had jagged edges that were uncomfortably reminiscent of teeth, so collapsing the entrance didn't seem like it would work. The Green Knight opined that it might be the corpse of some unholy beast that the necromancers were attempting to raise and they would have to go in after them, and that is ultimately the course they chose. One of the mercenaries pulled a crystal out of a pouch and squeezed it, producing a flickering orange-red light as bright as a bonfire, as the mercenaries and party together moved into the cave mouth.

I expected the party to ambush the necromancers, but I suppose that is what they tried! Maybe if Amos had done better on his Stealth roll.

The players were originally thinking of bringing along a bunch of the town militia, but once they realized the mercenaries were still there they immediately thought about hiring them. Trained warriors beats farmers with spears, especially when fighting the walking dead and necromancers. And thanks to some good tactical planning by Amos and outnumbering the walking dead (so far), they've done very well. Going into an evil cave? Well.

We stopped a little early because there wasn't time to run the final battle in the last twenty minutes we had, so exploring the cave will be next game.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
​​Dramatis Personae
  • Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic
  • Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
At the Filipovics' house, the dinner party began. As they sat down, Todor Necic mentioned that dinner was earlier than normal due to the ceremony, and when the professor asked what ceremony he meant, he said that tonight was an ancient Cigany fertility ceremony and that the investigators were welcome to come. The professor agreed that that sounded fascinating, and they all sat down to eat. The dinner was classic Eastern European fare, hearty and beet-centered, held in a room decorated with dozens of clay pots and knickknacks. The countess asks about the clay pots and Father Filipovic said that they were often dug up in the fields, dating from Roman times.

As she was looking, the countess noticed an old bone flute, almost ivory-colored, and asked Nedic if she could examine it. He handed it over, and she examined it, noticing the intricately-carved vines on it, but there was something that seemed odd. She couldn't place it, and neither could the professor, and after a time she handed it back.

As the dinner wound down, the professor asked about the old woman who lived in the forest. Nedic spoke of her with slightly caution due to an old woman who lives alone in a dark forest and hasn't been to the village for forty years. He said that she was just called Baba, "grandmother," and she lived alone and spoke to no one. The professor asked how long she had lived there, but Nedic said that he didn't know and had only spoken to get once.

After dinner, preparations for the ceremony began. While the people gathered, an old woman was seen arguing with the Cigany and stormed over to the countess, demanding through Jazmina's interpretation that the investigators refuse to attend the ceremony. The countess said that she would go pray, but that the professor should watch because of the academic value. The woman eventually grew frustrated with translation and stormed off.

The ceremony invoked a young Cigany girl, dressed in a cloak of leaves and painted with mud, being led to every house in the village and having water poured over her in the February cold. By the end she was shivering, and while she was taken back to one of the houses to warm up, the professor's memory was jogged. Something that the masked man in dream Zagreb had said in his torrent of words crawled out of his memory, and he muttered, "The Black Goat of the Woods." The countess asked him what he said, and the professor explained that the Cigany ritual had some elements similar to protective ceremonies dedicated to the Dark Mother. He couldn't explain any more than that, and eventually shook his head.

After the ritual, Todor Nedic told one of the Cigany that the party was planning to go into the woods. The old woman was dismissive of foreigners being in the town at all, but when she learned they could be dissuaded, she said that she would send her nephew with them. Before she turned away, the professor and the countess noticed that she had a bone whistle around her neck, very similar to the one in the Filipovics' house. Then, the party split, with the professor and Demir going to the priest's house and the women going to the Nedics'. The priest noticed that the professor was looking at the flute, but he was unable to answer the professor's questions about it and expressed surprise that the Cigany had a similar whistle. Then he asked if the professor wanted to tell stories, and the professor and Demir gratefully accepted, staying up late and drinking into the night.

At the Nedic house there was a much more subdued night, and the women eventually get to sleep. Jazmina awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of voices talking in low tones in the kitchen. She couldn't understand the language, so she woke up the countess and they discussed what to do. Eventually, Jazmina tried to sneak downstairs, but a squeak of an errant board silences the voices instantly. When Jazmina descended the stairs, she found Anna alone in the kitchen, making tea. She accepted Anna's offer of tea reluctantly, and drank one cup while listening to Anna's imprecations against the Cigany before excusing herself and going back to bed.

In the morning the investigators assembled in the silence of the Nedic house and the chaos of the Filipovic house, other than Rosaline, who stayed in her room due to a sudden bout of sickness. As they made to leave, Todor Nedic's sister walked up to the professor and pressed a bone whistle into his hands, explaining through pantomime that it would offer protection from the forest spirits. The professor, knowing what he knows about the forest, gratefully accepts.

Radovan Venclovic, the nephew of the old Cigany woman, was waiting for them and introduced himself as their guide. He said that he was wary of the forest but this was a request, so he would take them to Baba's hut, and they began walking. The villagers watched them go as Radovan mentioned that they got few foreign visitors in the town, pointing out the lush fields, the smoke arising from the Cigany encampment, and the verdant grass with no livestock grazing on it. Then, the investigators entered the woods. There was no path, but they followed Radovan as the woods grew darker and darker, the trees slowly began to gain coatings of mold and slime, and all other sounds vanished. Except one--the professor noticed a faint hum, just under his hearing. He stopped, looking around warily, but none of the rest of the investigators heard it. The countess offered the professor water and Radovan suggested that he stop to rest, but the professor said that he would rather get through the woods.

After several hours, the party smelled the scent of freshly-baked bread and came on a brown hut, alone in the forest, surrounded by a fence of thorns. The professor and Demir both felt eyes watching them, but there was nothing out there, and eventually they entered the hut, though not without Jazmina pricking her hand on the thorns as they entered.

The inside of the hut was cluttered with dozens of bits of statuary, with an oven filled with a roaring fire and a young woman sitting at a tapestry. Radovan immediately noticed that she looked very familiar, almost like the twin sister of a girl he knew who had gone missing, immediately making him wary. She introduced herself as Kcerca and was surprised that Radovan recognized her, but brushed it off as a strange coincidence. Kcerca said that Baba was out, but she would be back soon.

As they waited, Jazmina and the countess examined the statuary. The countess accidentally knocked over a shelf containing a bunch of statue pieces and Kcerca rushed to help her pick it up, apologizing for the mess, while Jazmina looked at the tapestry she was working on. It's a picture of a peasant village, and as Jazmina looked at the village she noticed that it was definitely a picture of Orašac.

As the statues were put back into place, a cold wind blew outside with the sound of sheets ripping and the door opened. An old woman entered, hunched over, and nodded at the party and then moved over to Kcerca and began to speak with her in an unknown language. After a moment, she asked what the investigators were there for, and when the professor said they were looking for a statue, Baba smiled and said she had plenty of statues and they would have to stay for dinner. Radovan turned down her invitation with as much grace as he could muster.

Baba told a story about her father, a professor in Sofia who kindled her interest in Roman architecture and statuary, and she became something of an amateur archeologist. She sold statuary to fund her habit, but now she was old. As Kcerca put wood in the oven, the professor told her about the statue arm they were looking for and gave it its name--the Sedefkar Simulacrum. Baba perks up at the name and begins looking around, directing a search. After a short time, she pointed it out on the highest shelf, and Demir volunteered to get it. He climbed up the shelves and grabbed it, trying to tug it free from the shelves as Kcerca put more wood in the oven. Then, several things happened at once.

The statue arms near Demir reached out and grabbed onto him as the other investigators noticed that the roof wasn't actually thatched, it was composed of writhing tentacles! Baba reached out and grasped a giant breadpan, scooping up Demir while cackling and dumped him into the oven, now a giant rugose mouth ringed with tentacles, that clutch at Demir hungrily! Kcerca pickled up a large kitchen knife and turned on Radovan, charging forward, as the shelves revealed themselves as conglomeration of bones that grasped at the professor and the countess!

The countess ran over to Demir and tried to pull him out of the oven, but Demir yelled something in Turkish and pushed the arm into her hands. Radovan, surprised, took a nasty wound from Kcerca's knife and tried to grab at her, but as the professor pointed out the door and the countess pulled the arm away and moved toward the door. The investigators jumped out of the now-high-up hut, hitting the ground lightly except for Jazmina, who twisted her ankle, but not enough to prevent her from running, which they made haste in doing. Behind them they heard a horrible discordant singing and the shrieking of Baba, answered by many other voices, crashing through the woods with their own answering song that reminded the professor and the countess of the shepherd calls of the terrible Men of Leng.

Knowing that now was the time, the professor pulled out the bone whistle and blew it. A shrill noise seemed to fill the air, growing louder and louder and filling the air until the whistle shattered into fragments, cutting the professor's face, as they ran past the briar fence, now revealed to contain hundreds of bones. Behind them, the cottage tore its tentacle-like roots free from the earth and stomped toward them, but the sound of the whistle cut through Baba's singing and the answering cries from the woods. The house staggered around, confused, and a flailing root hit Baba and knocked her off into an old oak tree with a sickening crunch.

The delay did not last long, but the investigators wasted no time in running. After a few moments, they heard the house and the other things in its wake crashing through the forest behind them. They ran as fast as they could, finding a deer path and following it to its end, and when they smelled smoke, Radovan recognized his camp and shouted that they should go there.

As they burst out of the forest, the leader of the Cigany, Marco, approaches and asks Radovan what had happened. The investigators told their story as the Cigany edged away from the arm the countess carried, and then Jazmina noticed a woman who seeemd to be an older version of Kcerca. She pointed out to her in the crowded and shouted, but Radovan shushed her, saying that the woman wasn't who Jazmina thought she was. In Romani, he told Szuba that he had seen someone who looked like her sister who they had thought lost by wolves, leading to Szuba wailing in anguish and collapsing.

These two stories combined infuriated the Cigany, who start to gather torches and pitchforks and assembling a mob. They asked the investigators if they want to join them in seeking vengeance. The professor was reluctant, but assented when both the countess and Jazmina expressed a desire to find Demir's remains. They steeled their courage and followed the angry Cigany into into the woods.

They reached the location of the house before too long, but the clearing was mostly empty. Only dead brown grass remained, though as the mob spread out to search, Jazmina and the countess found a pile of viscera, barely recognizable as having once been a man, near a tree. The countess blanched and turned away, but Jazmina carefully checked Demir's remains, finding the Mims Sahis--untouched by the horrors that he had endured--and a strange red gem that radiated an almost palpable sense of hate. Jazmina asked the others about it, and the professor recognized it as the gem that Madame Bruja had employed against the sorcerer in the Dreamlands. After a brief conversation, they took it and continued.

Before they left, the professor noticed a patch of dirt blown away from bare stone. An ancient mosiac, depicting images of tree-like abominations devouring sacrifices.

Further on in the forest, the mob entered another clearing and found, crouching like a wounded animal, the horrible house that had chased the investigators through the woods. Radovan staggered about as though blinded and JAzmina fainted away, and while the professor an the countess dragged them to safety, the mob charged forward and set upon it with axe and torch. They took horrible casualties and over half their number fell, but eventually the house collapsed and lay, hacked and burning, on the ground. The Cigany thanked the investigators for their help in pursuing vengeance and led them back to their camp, where they had a hearty meal and finally slept.

When they arrived in Orašac, they found it in the same condition as they left it...except for Father Filipovic, sitting vigil in the church over the twisted body of his wife. Nedic said that she had collapsed during the night, in front of Father Filipovic, and the investigators exchanged knowing looks before leaving him to his grief. They told Rosaline what had happened, accepted Radovan's offer to travel with them and purge the earth of this evil, and took the morning train out of the town.

Their trip back to the Orient Express was plagued with problems. In one small town the investigators were attacked by an enraged mob of black chickens, leading to a pitched battle in the streets. When the battle ended, the chickens were the white of normal chickens, and only money offered by the investigators prevented a mob of villagers from seeking redress for the death of their flocks. AS they arrived in Belgrade they were stricken with boils and spent the night in feverish dreams, but awoke clean and whole. As they prepared to board the train, they saw many figures watching from doorways, like old woman shrouded in heavy clothes, but no one was there if looked directly at. And finally, after they bought Radovan a ticket and settled into the train and sped through the countryside, a terrific storm broke and they saw, silhouetted against the hills, illuminated by flashes of lightning, something large, like a giant headless bird, keeping pace with the train but never drawing closer. Rosaline suggested that perhaps the Baba drew its power from the natural world and the iron of the train kept it away.

As they crossed the border into Bulgaria, the investigators noticed a broken-down hut near a river. The hut's thatch twitched like branches in the breeze as they passed, waiting for them, but it did not cross the border.
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
  2. Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic, devoured by the living lair of the Baba Yaga in the forests outside Orašac, February 13th, 1923.
This one is extra-long!

This is one of the moments in Horror on the Orient Express I've been most waiting for because I hated the presentation in the original. Then, Baba Yaga was just that--Baba Yaga, flying on mortar and pestle and all, and it was very hard to square her existence with the rest of the Mythos around her. Here, it's much more like "Baba Yaga" is the human mythology that sprang up around something older. Something that lurked in the forests before humans ever came to the Balkans.

Demir's death and the arrival of Radovan are due to a player shuffle, so next session we'll have Radovan Venclovic the Romani ex-soldier as a permanent party member. This does mean that the combat potential of eh investigators is steadily increasing, which is good as we head into the more dangerous parts of the campaign.

Thus ends Horror on the Orient Express, Book III. Next time, Book IV: Constantinople and Consequences!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Final met for another game!

Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
The party huddled with Black Salted Earth in the Three Wheat Sheaves, ordered food and mushroom beer, and planned. Black Salted Earth went over the situation--Gyere was again terrorized by a vampire who now was even attacking people in their homes, making the old advice to stay indoors useless. She mentioned that they had already considered the obvious suggestion to assemble everyone in the town square at noon, but the refugees and farmers from the surrounding countryside made it impossible to keep track of who was in town. Shining Star and Bonnie consulted a moment and suggested that the vampire might be a shedo, a group of vampires who could assume the forms of those whose blood they drank and who were vulnerable to silver's touch. That led to some more outlandish suggestions--wear silver rings and shake everyone in town's hands--and then they asked Black Salted Earth to send for Sigeferth and ring him into the discussion.

He arrived moments later, ordered food, and with Bonnie translating into Sarasan the party filled him in. He was troubled by their story of the vampire attack in the wilderness, mentioning that he had once hunted a brood of jiang in Sarasa, but they had been half-feral and the Veiled Ones had been able to flush them out into the sunlight. An intelligent jiang and a shedo working together was a bad sign. He hadn't seen anything, but said he would keep a look out, especially now that he had a description of the jiang. He asked if any of them could scry and try to find the necromancers they were looking for that way, and Shining Star said she could not, but that they should consult the old amanita who had helped them look into Old Three Eyes's disappearance, so that was their next destination. The seer asked if they had any items from the person they were looking for or something affected by their sorcery, and they handed over the old sword they had found on the battlefield. The seer performed the ritual, lighting candles and pouring water over the sword, and then their hand tapped the table and slowly moved a handspan westward.

With some idea of where to go, the group made final preparations. Shining Star and Bonnie sought the aid of Gyere's healer and performed surgery on Elaphe, trying to make sure that the wounds he received from the vampire wouldn't lead to permanent disability. After several hours, and with the aid of Shining Star's hedge magic and Bonnie's alchemy, Shining Star was satisfied that Elaphe would recover, and they all went back to the tea house to rest.

Amos and Sigeferth went up to the roofs to scout out. They didn't speak a common language, but with Sigeferth using the Royal Speech and Amos pantomiming, they were able to have a brief conversation about where Amos came from and whether he had ever fought a vampire before. They didn't see anything during their watch, and some time after midnight Amos went to bed.

The Green Knight rode in patrol down through the village, and when he heard the sounds of combat he approached the southwest wall. He asked the militia captain what had happened, and in broken Floral the captain said that there had been a few walking dead but the militia had taken care of them. Seeing the assembled crowd, the Green Knight made a speech about the glories of the Way of the Forests and the downfall of mortal civilizations. Then he turned to go and he was halfway down the street before he realized the someone had actually listened to him. A young female chuzan, brown-furred, clutching a spear and a wooden shield and wearing homespun undyed wool. The Green Knight didn't speak Muskalan and the chuzan didn't speak Floral, but through the Royal Speech he was able to learn that she did mean to follow him and he had finally acquired his first disciple. Flush with success, he returned to the tea house and went to sleep, though he had sure to caution his disciple when she climbed into the bed that the things built of mortal hands were all impermanent.

The others were shocked to find someone else in the room when they awoke. Elaphe had dagger out almost before his eyes opened, and Bonnie let out a shocked squeak. She asked the chuzan's name--Drifting Snow--and bundled her off to the baths with some soap after noticing that she hadn't taken a bath in probably days or weeks. The Green Knight explained himself while she was gone, and while the Shining Star and Bonnie were dubious, they weren't going to stop Drifting Snow from following them, and they certainly weren't going to let only the Green Knight talk to her. They welcomed her when she returned from the bath, and she followed as they checked in about the village--no vampire attacks the previous night--and then mounted their horses and rode out into the rain.

They left Gyere heading west, past some abandoned farms and a few still being worked and watched over by wary-eyed farmers with bows close at hand, scavenging food from the ripe fields. Elaphe took some of the trow weapons, a sword, spear, and shield, and gave them to Drifting Snow to use. Her eyes almost bugged out of her head, but Elaphe just waved it off.

After midday, in the middle of a small copse of trees, they came on a pipe standing alone. Bonnie asked Drifting Snow if she knew anything about it, and the chuzan said that she had heard of a pipe that led to somewhere warm and overgrown, like a jungle, and this might be it. That piqued Bonnie's curiosity, and over the objections of the rest of the group she went down the pipe. It did indeed deposit her in a jungle, steaming hot, in front of a plaza overgrown with weeds and small trees between the stones. In the distance, rising out of the jungle, was an immense ruined ziggurat. Bonnie returned and excitedly told the party about her find, pushing the treasure angle to try to get them interested, but Amos pointed out that they were chasing necromancers and on a timetable. Bonnie marked the pipe on the map, and they pressed on.

Before dinner they found the remnants of a campfire, but the rain had washed away all the tracks. The Green Knight used his sorcery to speak to nearby plants and learned the necromancers had gone north, and after half an hour Amos managed to pick up the tracks again. They kept going through the night, guided by Amos, until they saw a campfire in the distance with figures milling around it. They set up campfire in bowshot range, without a fire, and waited for the dawn. During the night, Amos saw figures continually milling around during his entire watch, and the Green Knight noticed someone setting up some object on the edge of the firelight, but the others did not seem to notice them and the night passed without incident.

When dawn came, we stopped for the night.

The Green Knight's endless speeches finally worked! His player even spent XP on the Followers Background to cement her loyalty, so she'll stick around and earn XP. Though come to think of it, Henchman might be better for that, though she's starting from a lower base. "Subsistence farmer" is a classic D&D start for an adventurer, but the combat ability of a farmer is pretty low. She might have Melee 1, or more likely, Melee 0 (Spears +1). And Survival 2 (Farming +2)

The next session won't be in five weeks, barring a sudden cancellation. I was expecting a hunt for vampires in Gyere, but the players surprised me again. Next time, a fight against necromancers and the walking dead!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Since Elaphe was seriously injured, the rest of the party left him to rest in the abandoned village while they decided to scout out the battlefield that Spring Breeze had mentioned. They rode the entire day through the rain, seeing no one except a few animals that fled at their passage, and as the sun was setting their search bore fruit as the Green Knight found a rusted sword hilt poking out of the ground.

All of them spread out to search for any clues. Amos muttered one of the incantations he had learned and asked the birds in a nearby copse of trees if they had seen anything, and after some prodding he learned that there were a large number of the walking dead that had passed through the field and gone away to the northeast, a fact confirmed by the Green Knight's questioning of the local flora. That also revealed there had been three figures that had performed a ritual to call up the dead from the earth, but they had left as well. Shining Star sensed the remnants of dark magic pooling in low places in the earth, but it was faint. Whatever had been done there was fading and not a continual source of problems. Finding nothing else, the four spent the night in an abandoned farmer's house after burying the partially-eaten bodies of the amanita farmer and their family. The night was uneventful, and they left in the morning, again seeing no one as they traveled back to the village they had left Elaphe in.

They found Elaphe peacefully relaxing in the house, looking slightly better but still injured, and spent the night in the village. Near dawn, the Green Knight heard voices outside speaking in Muskalan, and he woke Elaphe who took a look through a shutter. He saw an amanita, a mycon, and a chuzan sitting around a fire, talking in low tones about the walking dead, how one of their number had been killed, and the lack of easy pickings in Fontina. Elaphe woke Amos, who readied his bow and snuck out of the house to get a clear shot, but after observing the group for a few minutes he snuck back into the house and shook his head. They weren't worth the trouble, and indeed, in the morning when the party woke up the bandits had moved on and left only the ashes of a fire.

The group saddled up and rode north toward the town of Gyere, which they had left a few days before after fighting a vampire in the streets. The roads were mostly empty, but just after midday they heard the sound of marching feet and overtook a company of three dozen chuzan mercenaries under the banner of a red dove holding a sword.
Bonnie's player: "Is he cute?"
Me: "He's grizzled."
The group slowed their riding and questioned the captain, who said that he had planned to winter in the Scarlet City but they had heard there was money to be made in Fontina fighting the walking dead. He was less than amused when Bonnie and Shining Star told him about the vampires they had fought, but seemed confident in his soldiers' ability to hold their own. He thanked the group for the information and they kept riding. A mile later, they spotted a speck in the sky slowly descending, and the Green Knight readied his bow, but it turned out to be a pigeon that landed on the head of Elaphe's claw strider. There was a message tube attached to its leg with a note inside that said:
"Vampire in the city. Come quickly."
They reached Gyere just before nightfall, where they found a cold reception. The militia kept the gate closed and demanded they identify themselves, leading to some disbelief until Amos fired off his musket and they quickly opened the door. Elaphe rode straight to meet with Black Salted Earth while the others questioned the militia captain. They learned that six people had been attacked and four were dead, but all of them had been in their homes. They knew the jiang they had seen before couldn't enter structures built by mortal hands without an invitation, so something else must be afoot...

Elaphe met Black Salted Earth, who after asking Elaphe to prove his identity and accepting the Black Rose code phrases he offered, explained that there must be a shedo in town, a vampire capable of disguising itself to look like others. The town was in a frenzy of paranoia because of it and Black Salted Earth didn't have any means of distinguishing a vampire from the person it was impersonating and asked if Elaphe's associates did. He conceded they might, and led the amanita back to the Three Wheat Sheaves, the tea house they had stayed in last time they were in Gyere, and we ended there.

The session this time was a bit shorter, since Elaphe's player has just returned from a two-week trip to Paris and hasn't entirely recovered. We're going to play again next Monday, though, and that's when everything becomes a paranoid search of the town. How do they find a creature that can disguise itself as other people and stop it? Good question. I'm looking forward to what they come up, though I do think they'll heavily consider "burn down the whole town" based on their past performance.

Gyere is, of course, based on "Gruyere," since in classic Mario tradition everything has a cutesy name.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personae
  • Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic
  • Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
The train pulled up to Belgrade at 9 a.m., disgorging the investigators amongst a swarm of children eager to help them with their luggage and calling in a variety of languages. Demir snatched his suitcase back from a child and the rest of the party tried to keep track of their luggage when a young man called out to them in accented English. He introduced himself as Pieter Riticht and offered to guide them during their stay in Belgrade, suggesting the Hotel Moskva as a good place to stay. After a moment's consultation, the investigators took him up on his offer.

After dropping off their luggage at the hotel and arranging for Pieter to return in an hour, Jazmina called the National Museum to ask after the director. The secretary replied that Dr. Todorovic would not be available until 3 p.m., so the investigators decided to go to the Turkish Bazaar first and then go to the museum in the afternoon. They waited until Pieter returned to the hotel and allowed him to guide them to the bazaar.

The rest of the group was astonished to see the chan in Demir's mannerisms at the Turkish bazaar as he laughed, told jokes, needled the merchants, and was generally jovial while the professor followed along as best he could with his textbook Turkish. Rosaline wandered off to go look for antiquities and the others looked for new sets of clothes--Demir's clothes had a conspicuous hole in it, but the others' clothing was a bit worn after a month and a half traveling across the continent. As they were shopping, they noticed a fortune teller, an old woman of indeterminate ethnicity with a black hen at her feet, and the professor and countess went over to have their fortunes told. After a moment and with some reservations, Jazmina followed them to translate.

The woman reached into the hen's nest and pulled out an egg, and after waving it three times widdershins over their heads, she poked a hole in both ends and blew the contents out onto a plate. She peered at the contents and told them that they had lost someone or something, both recently and in the distant past. They seek something that was once whole and now is not, and they are on a journey. She told them to "Beware the one who is unseen" and that "The three who greet you are old as man," but did not explain and ends her divination.

As she was speaking, Jazmina had noticed that her hen was staring at the professor and countess fixedly, almost with anticipation, and as the divination ended, she questioned the fortune teller about it.
Jazmina: "Your chicken is staring."
Fortune Teller: "It is a chicken."  photo emot-colbert.gif
She was dismissive and broke off conversation, grumbling that she didn't have to explain herself, and Jazmina did not pursue the issue.

As they left to look for Rosaline, someone called out to them from the crowd and then a man walked up and asked them to help find his lost child. Demir brushed him off, but turned back to find that his brass knuckles had been stolen. When Pieter noticed this, he apologized profusely, blaming the Roma in the city. Demir scrutinized him carefully, but he seemed genuinely remorseful and not as though he was the point man in part of a scheme to rob travelers, so they accepted his explanation.

When they met with Rosaline in an area of the market devoted to antiquities, Jazmina spotted something that looked very similar to the simulacrum! They entered the stall and asked the man about the arm, but as he brought it out to be inspected, a burly mustachioed man ran into the stall, shoved Rosaline aside, and grabbed the arm, running off into the market! The seller shouted about thieves as the investigators gave chase, followed by some of the dealer's friends. They shoved their way through a narrow alleyway, leaped over a carpet seller, and pushed into a dense crowd. At this point Rosaline and Jazmina caught up with the thief, who swung the arm at them and a melee broke out. It was brief, ending as the man smashed the arm into Jazmina's right side, causing it to shatter into pieces and severely lacerating her. The professor ran up to administer first aid as the thief withdrew to join his associates, and as the shouts of the police drew closer, Pieter urged them to run and they followed him advice.

After a leisurely lunch and a visit to the hospital for Jazmina, the investigators went to the National Museum to meet with Dr. Todorovic, which they found in a museum hall, inspecting a statue of Venus. Throwing caution to the wind for once, the professor introduced himself and his companions, explained that they came on behalf of Professor Smith of London, and sought the Sedefkar Simulacrum. Dr. Todorovic wasn't familiar with the statue, but he knew of Professor Smith and mentioned his antiquities contact in the countryside, including showing some pieces provided by said contact, but said that there was a prohibition on exporting antiquities without a specific permit and would not give the name of his contact without a permit. The professor arranged a meeting the following morning and they went over to the government offices to get a permit.

Jazmina spoke to the secretary and after being led down several corridors, through stairs, through rooms, and down a stairway that almost certainly should have led to the boiler room, the investigators arrived at a small office. The man inside was unloved by their protestations until the professor revealed his station, at which point the man mentioned the poor of his village, the orphans left by the war, and gave the professor a knowing look. After a brief bit of haggling, the professor handed over £12 and the man wrote up a blank permit that the investigators could fill out later, and they were almost pushed out before the offices closed. They went back to the hotel and had dinner, after which they spent the evening relaxing and Demir went to have his tattoos repaired by a black market tattoo artist. Then, everyone went to sleep.

In the morning Dr. Todorovic arrived at their hotel to inspect the piece of the simulacrum. He was astonished at what he saw and said that he was unable to determine its provenience or its material, but he said that when he looked at it under the microphone, the arm appeared to be carved entirely out of entwined smaller arms. After asking if he could examine the other pieces and being told there was no time, he gave the investigators the name of his contact--Father Christian Filipovic, the village priest in the town of Orašac south of Belgrade. After offering to examine the statue when the investigators make their return trip, Dr. Todorovic bade them good day.

Before arranging tickets, the investigators went to the national library to research Orašac. In addition to some national propaganda about how the village was the birthplace of first Serbian uprising against the Ottomans, they found a record about a Byzantine expedition by Nikephoros I against a local cult of Cybele, where during the burning the form of the goddess rose out of the flames, hair waving like serpents find screaming with many mouths such that hardened soldiers fled in terror, but in the morning there was nothing in the temple but ashes.  photo Emoticon.gif

They went back to the hotel and packed their luggage, among sure to arrange storage of the pieces of the simulacrum with the hotel since it was far too dangerous to bring with them and too dangerous to leave unguarded. As they were packing, Demir reached to move the Mims Sahis after noticing that it had somehow come unwrapped and accidentally brushed his skin against it. Before he had realized quite what had happened, he wrapped his hand around the handle and thoughts filled his mind of skinning and using the skins to achieve...something. He made half a movement toward the pieces of the Sedefkar Simulacrum before he managed to put down the dagger and, carefully wrapping it up again, he tied it with string and put it away.

The train to Orašac was extremely crowded, mostly with Serbs, though there were also some animals as families brought food home into the countryside. At one point, the countess left her seat and when she returned, she found it occupied by a large, stubborn-looking, and very determined to remain in place rooster. Nothing she did could dislodge it, when it pecked through a coat that Demir threw over it, the investigators decided to leave the seat to it for the remainder of the journey. After fighting through a crush of people to change trains in Mladenovic and taking a small rural train to Arandjelovac, the investigators disembarked in a rural area as the sun began to set. Seeing their confused looks, a local pointed to a set of wagon tracks and Jazmina managed to convince a farmer to allow them to ride in his wagon to Orašac.

Orašac was a rural town, with dirt roads and animals visble from the road. Children stopped playing when the investigators approached, and things seemed like they might be difficult until a housewife approached and asked them their business in the village. Jazmina explained that they were looking for Father Filipovic, whereon the woman offered to guide them to his house at the top of the hill. They were greeted by the father and his wife Ibrisa, as well as the local mayor, Todor Nedic, and his wife Ilija, all of whom are happy to meet foreign guests. The priest asks the investigators their business, and when told about Dr. Todorovic directing them to the wilderness, he asks if they wish to meet "grandmother." She is a local woman who lives alone in the woods, as long as anyone can remember, but who is sharp as a tack and who has made good money from the National Museum with the sculpture she sends on. The investigators cannot go there tonight, however, since it is already very late, so the priest and mayor offer to allow them to stay in their homes and the mayor invites them to dinner.

As they leave for dinner, Rosaline notices a photo of the priest's wife from their wedding day. A younger Father Filopovic, and his best man Todor Nedic, beam out in wedding finery, while Ibrisa is also radiant. Rosaline does notice, however, that while Filopovic and Nedic look their age, perhaps in their sixties, Ibrisa appears to be her in late thirties at most now, little changed from her appearance in the photo...
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
This is the section of the original Horror on the Orient Express that I remember the most about and part of the reason for all the [REDACTED] in my earlier posts. I thought it was one ridiculous nonsequitur the first time I listened, but [ profile] mutantur has said that they've made more of an effort to blend it in with the rest of the campaign, so I'm eager to see what happened.

I really want to harness the black chickens and unleash them on our enemies, though. There was some frustration over the inability to move the chicken out of the seat, since it was set up as a moment of weirdness but without enough context to explain why it was that it refused to move or why no effort by the investigators could move it either. Fortunately, we eventually gave up and moved on without taking too much damage from the Immovable Chicken's claws of doom. I have seen HotOE players who were not so lucky.

Also, as [ profile] mutantur was describing the camaraderie on the train and the way the villagers welcomed the foreign guests with open arms, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I kept confirming everything he said. We have real-life experience with that kind of thing, in Japan. Of course, this is Call of Cthulhu, so they could be setting up for the Foreigner-Skinning Festival, but I guess we'll see!  photo shrug2.gif
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Bonnie dragged Shining Star away to give her time to summon a Knowing Whisper, a spirit servant of Nyarhé that can detect lies and read others' hearts, as Amos and the Green Knight questioned Spring Breeze. The amanita claimed that they hadn't seen any people as they walked, only wild animals, and asked again if there really was all that trouble to the north. Amos confirmed that the walking dead were rampant north of them as Shining Star and Bonnie returned, and Shining Star told the spirit to verify Spring Breeze's story. The Knowing Whisper confirmed that Spring Breeze was not secretly a necromancer in disguise or some kind of spirit-possessed monster and that they believed their story. They did ask about locla battles and were told about a story that mentioned a battle between the Kong Imperium and an unnnamed enemy that took place there long ago during the Imperium's attempt to expand into Agarica.

And so after advising the amanita to turn back and take the longer road around to get to Etemenanki, the party turned around and rode north as the amanita's whistling faded into the distance behind them.

They spent the night in the ruins of the same village that they had left that morning, stabling their horses and eating trail rations in an abandoned house. They go to sleep and Shining Star's watch is uneventful, but in the middle of the night, the Green Knight hears something prowling around outside the house. He grabbed his shield and crept outside, but banged the shield on the doorframe as he left (botched the Stealth roll). As soon as he stepped outside, something grabbed him from behind.

As the other members of the party all groggily woke up, the Green Knight grappled with his unseen assailant. He tried to claw them with his wooden claws, but was seized with an unbreakable grip--and then fangs plunged into his neck!

Elaphe and Amos exited the house to find a chuzan holding the Green Knight's arms to the sides with its mouth over his neck, and Amos circled around to try to get a better shot with his musket. Elaphe threw the torch at the assailant, but the chuzan sidestepped without seeming to move, not crossing the intervening distance but avoiding the torch entirely. Amos fired, blowing off the creature's ear, but as they watched, the blood flow slowed and the wound began knitting itself closed. It lifted its mouth from the Green Knight and hissed, revealing blood-covered fangs and blood-matted fur. A vampire!

Shining Star summoned up blazing chains of light that closed around the vampire as it threw the Green Knight like he was a toy, hitting Amos but failing to injure or even phase him as he reloaded his musket. Elaphe darted forward and slashed at the vampire, ripping open its chest with his dagger and using the secret arts of the Black Rose--unlike with Amos's musket blast, this time the blood flowed freely. Bonnie sent her iron jaws to attack the vampire, but it dodged aside as its claws blurred. Elaphe blocked the first strike with his dagger, but he was unable to block the second, which torn a chunk of flesh out of his side and sent him reeling backward.

Shining Star blasted the vampire with white flames and the Green Knight stood up and readied his shield. The Green Knight and the vampire charged toward each other to little effect--the vampire sidestepped the Green Knight's claws, and the vampire's strike impacted on the Green Knight's shield. Elaphe retreated into the house as Bonnie hurled a flask of glue which her familiar caught and then it ignited on the torch that Elaphe had thrown, and it bit down on the vampire's shoulder and began to gnaw.

Amos fired again, and the vampire tried to get out of the way, but not fast enough. It reeled back and hissed, and as Shining Star hurled another beam of holy fire at it and Elaphe threw a dagger from inside the house, it fled, moving so quickly that it left only a blurred afterimage in their eyes, around the corner of the house and out of sight.

Injured and bleeding, the party decided not to pursue, and Elaphe drank a cinnamony Hero's Recovery while Shining Star administered first aid to him and the Green Knight. Real treatment of his wounds would require a longer period of surgery, but for the moment he slathered on an alchemical paste to prevent his wound from becoming infected and the party mostly went to sleep. The vampire did not return that night.

In the morning, Amos and the Green Knight tracked the vampire north to a stream, where the tracks vanished. The Green Knight spoke to the local plantlife which, after some prompting, said that their quarry had killed a deer and then flew away to the north, confirmed by a monjara hiding in a nearby bush that Amos asked. With their leads exhausted, they returned to the village, everyone climbed on their various mounts, and they rode out to the north.


I was a little worried partway through that I was going to have at least one death on my hands. The vampire could have killed Elaphe in a single blow--it did 2/3rds of his health with one attack--but beyond using a Charm that let it convert damage dice into damage successes, it didn't roll very well, which is a pattern with my NPCs. It's also possible that that vampire would have died, since several attacks only barely missed. But it got away to fight another daynight.

Elaphe doesn't wear armor--Black Rose Style forbids it--which is why he took so much damage. Enough damage to be seriously injured to the point of disabling. He has a crippling wound requiring surgery (or sorcery unavailable to the party) to heal, but it would require several hours of downtime the party isn't willing to spend yet. Maybe after they check out that ancient battlefield to see if there's a necromancer there causing this zombie problem!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
With Shining Star as a translator through the Royal Speech, the party questioned the lurker about his business. He gave his name as Sigeferth, son of Osric, a Veiled One from Sarasa. Unfortunately, he did not know much. He told them that the Dragonbone Speakers had sent him to investigate the "darkness in the south" and that he had only recently been sent south, as well as that he had seen witchhunters from the Temple of the Holy Flame traveling in Fontina. He disavowed the accusations that he and his "brothers and sisters" were the ones causing the disappearances and was surprised to hear that ghul were working with the walking dead, but seemed very interested when the Green Knight revealed that he had seen a strange, bat-winged figure fly in front of the moons. There was little moonlight as both Tharu and Diang were crescents and Nyarhé, while full, was dark and gave off little light, but there were few clouds and so the group took to scanning the sky. It was Amos who spotted it, just as he turned his head, a figure diving from the sky and falling into another part of the town.

Elaphe immediately slipped off the roof and moved toward the shape as the others raced over the rooftops. Elaphe found it first, tall and bulky, towering head and shoulders taller than him in an alleyway and shrouded in a large cloak. He could barely see it in the gloom, but it seemed to be waiting for something, so he stepped out into the courtyard to invoke a hedge ritual to enhance his resilience. When Shining Star arrived, she spotted him and told him of their arrival in the Royal Speech, and Elaphe gestured at the alleyway and put up a hand. Sigeferth made a gesture and shadows enveloped him as he slipped off the roof. Unfortunately for Elaphe's plan, the rest of the group grew tired of waiting, and while moving into position across the rooftops they made enough noise that the figure heard them and dashed out of the alleyway.

The Green Knight and Bonnie immediately gave chase, keeping pace with it as it dashed across the town's dirt roads, now sprinting, now running on all fours. Shining Star tried to bind it with sorcerous chains, but it scuttled sideways as they closed on it and escaped their grasp. It was less lucky when Amos stopped running, took a moment to aim, and shot it with a flaming arrow from his bow, which sunk into the creature's flesh. To the party members on the roof it seemed to disappear, but the Green Knight and Bonnie saw that it just moved so quickly they could barely see it, down the street and around a corner behind a house. And then it took wing and flew above the rooftops. Shining Star hurled a blast of searing flame at it, but it corkscrewed through the air and dodged before flying away to the north.

During all this, Elaphe had attempted to give chase, but timed a jump badly and hit a wall face-first.

(Don't botch, kids!  photo ashamed2.gif Or, as summed up by Bonnie's player...)

The group reconvened afterward and Bonnie shared what she knew. From the wings, the appearance, the speed, and the apparent desire to hunt, she guessed it was a jiang, a type of vampire almost more beast and mortal. They could not enter structures built by living hands, but she was less clear on their other vulnerabilities--silver or garlic or running water, she could not say. The party decided they needed to tell the militia, and so they walked over to the militia staging area where they were waiting for the upcoming attack by the walking dead. On the way, Bonnie got Sigeferth to talk to her in Sarasan, so she could study it using her sorcery, and he sang a lay of the Sarasan's coming to their grasslands that Bonnie didn't understand a word of, but after which her sorcery granted her knowledge of his language. He seemed surprised at her sudden mastery of Sarasan, but mostly took it in stride.

Shining Star and Bonnie told the militia captain, a grizzled amanita who had probably been a farmer until a month ago, that there was more to worry about than the walking dead--that they had a vampire loose and needed to set up a curfew since the jiang couldn't enter their houses. The captain reacted with disbelief, pointing out that a curfew was impossible since the people of the village needed to be ready to defend against the walking dead who always attacked at night. The group did not really have a response to that, and after making sure they weren't needed against the night's attack--there were only a handful of walking dead, so they weren't--they returned to their lodgings to sleep. In the morning, after buying food and questioning some of the refugees, who worried about the food supplies in Fontina with winter coming on and so many crops abandoned, they left the town of Gyere and traveled south.

The weather was misty but not raining, and the whole first day they saw no one. There were some bodies on the side of the road, not badly decomposed, and after a debate over time vs propriety Shining Star settled for making a small blessing over each of them as they passed. It wasn't until they found a merchant caravan all dead that they stopped and build a pyre for them from the ruins of the wagon, piling the raptok's body, the bodies of the amanita guards, and the empty red robes and mask of a Silent One onto it. They spent that night in an empty farming village, in a house with a broken-in door but shutters that still worked. They wedged the door shut and piled furniture in front of it and lit a fire, but nothing troubled them in the night.

The next day, they were a few hours on the road when they heard singing from the distance in Muskalan heavily mixed with Floral. They thought about hiding, but on seeing that the figure was alone they waited until they saw it was an amanita traveling alone. Bonnie questioned the amanita, asking them why they were traveling alone in the wild. The amanita introduced themselves as Spring Breeze and said that they were a traveling minstrel from town of Tannin to the south and were hoping to make it up to Etemenanki before the winter hit to make money in Tower Town, and when the group expressed incredulity, they asked if there was something wrong. Bonnie explained the zombie plague, and the amanita was shocked--they said they hadn't heard anything about this Tannin, though they had noticed fewer travelers from the north.

At this point Bonnie, overwhelmed with suspicion, scribbled a note and ensorcelled it with a message to Shining Star, asking her to fake a sickness so she could call up a Knowing Whisper, which might be able to determine whether the amanita was lying. Bonnie dragged the "swooning" Shining Star away from the confused amanita into a ruined farmhouse, and we ended there.

Vampires! Oh no!

The party seems to have found that the walking dead plague is confined to the kingdom of Fontina specifically, but what will they do about it. Keep going, or turn back to defend the kingdom? They don't seem to have very strong goals at this point other than following the map, though previously they went far afield thanks to finding a ghost by a roadside. Is this wandering minstrel another divergent point, or will they turn out to be another victim of Elaphe while the rest of the group isn't looking?
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personæ
  • Asinius Ravila, Iberian medicus
  • Belasir of Tihama, Arabian sagittarius et speculatore
  • Emeric of the Suevi, Germanic auxiliārius, and a Christian
  • Galerius Evodis, Constantinopolitan optio
  • Milonius Kanmi, Carthiginian sagittarius
The legionnaires returned to the fortress with their prisoners, immediately reporting to the commander. After the local medicus saw to Emeric's injuries and they explained the bat-monsters they had fought to Longinus, he urged them to question the prisoners and learn what he cult was planning. They first tried a good cop/bad cop routine, but the two cultists just smiled with far-off expressions and ignored their questions. It wasn't until Galerius hit the boy across the face that he reacted, and that single hit opened the floodgates. The cultists began ranting about the doom and plague that would sweep over the Empire, and claimed that the "Army of Skin and Blood" was even now on its way. The legionnaires immediately reported the news to Tillius Corvus and Centenarius Longinus, who begin making preparations. At the legionnaires' urging, the refugees were brought within the walls and bonfires were kindled. As the soldiers made preparations, Galerius gave a rousing speech about the glory of Rome and the fortitude of the legions, sending up a wave of cheers from the men.

Almost as soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, the army arrived. Groups of skin creatures and bat monsters, mixed with howling cultists with strips of their skin ritually flayed off. Emeric was more far-sighted than his companions, and beyond the army he saw a skinned parody of horse, bearing a robed rider that lifted a curved knife above its head. Overwhelmed, Emeric began to babble Christian prayers in Germanic as the army moved to the wall and began to scale it, paying no heed to the arrows and javelins of the Romans.

Several of the monsters gained the wall and combat dissolved into melee. One of the skin beasts latched on to Belisar and began to drink his blood, only to be shoved off and then chopped to ribbons by Galerius. The other monsters are quickly dispatched now that they don't have the element of surprise, a process that repeated itself across the came. Apparently, necromancy was no match for Roman steel.

After the battle, Emeric felt slightly ill, though he waved it off as the effects of his earlier fight. Tillius ordered the legionnaires not to pursue the fleeing army, but rather to wait until morning. After several hours of fighting, they were glad to obey that order, and they went to sleep. In the morning, they met with the centenarius, who assigned another group of legionnaires to accompany them as they followed the trail to the cult headquarters. The trail required no expertise to follow, littered as it was with blood, the bodies and greasy remnants of monsters, and discarded weapons from the Army of Skin and Blood. It led into the mountains, through a narrow defile that there would have been almost no chance to find if they hadn't had the army's trail to follow. As the proceed into the mountains, Milonius notices that the other legionnaires have abandoned them and turned back for the fort, but Tillius orders them to proceed with the mission.

After a few hundred yards, the trail opens up to a bowl-like depression in the mountains, with seventeen tall menhirs, half again the height of a man, each covered in weathered hieroglyphs and with a skinned human corpse lashed to the stone. In the midst of the menhirs was a pit, descending into an unnatural darkness. A dropped torch vanished into the darkness, and it wasn't until they spread out and searched that they saw a cunningly-concealed stairway descending down the rim of the pit. With no other choice, the legionnaires descended, finding a pool of liquid blackness near the bottom. A spear poked into it came out clean, and so the legionnaires steeled themselves and kept walking. The blackness felt slightly unclean and seemed to leave a thin film on them, but they were not further harmed.

At the bottom of the stairway was a cave complex, with three tunnels leading away and mosaics of implike creatures all around the floor and walls menacing primitive humans armed with spears.
Me: "Did you say, 'Impolite creatures'?"
Belasir's player: "I also heard impolite."
The floor was covered in a curling mist and the legionnaires heard the faint sound of whispers. As well, the sound of footsteps echoed through the caves, and so the legionnaires took one of the corridors that led to the cult's food stores. Milonius suggested destroying the stores, but Tillius was against it, and so the legionnaires continued, finding a barracks with two injured cultists who they quickly slaughtered and then hid the bodies in the human skin hammocks and covered them with the human skin blankets that furnished the room. When the patrol's footsteps had vanished again, they continued down the corridor and found the cult's main room. The mist was stronger here, coming out of holes in the wall, and there was a column in the center with a flayed human figure and some kind of instruction or ritual area in the back. After ambushing the patrolling cultists and killing then, Milonius and Emeric examined the column and were stunned when it transformed into an image of their own faces, each seeing his representation. The others examined the ritual area and the rugs and wall hangings made of human skin, drawing their swords as the skins began to move and attack. There were three against six legionnaires, though, and when they were cut to ribbons another passage was revealed leading further into the cave.

Through that passage was a floor carpeted in human scalps and walled with the skins of legionnaires. Bone windchimes hung from the ceiling and in the back was a bone bedframe with human skin sheets and bedding. In the center was the cult leader, who lifted aloft a curved knife with an unnatural sheen to its blade and babbled that "Your skins are mine!" and then the skin the chamber animated to surround the cultist as he started chanting in Gothic. The legionnaires charged, but Milonius was overcome by the cult leader's magic and attacked Emeric. Emeric managed to block the blow with his shield as the others attacked the skins, and when they were shredded, the sorcerer's skin fell away. Most of it became a strange insectile monster, slithering to attack, except for the skin of his face which animated as a bat-like flitting abomination. But none of it mattered as the legionnaires charged in, and Tillius drove his blade into the sorcerer's heart, causing all the skins to crumble to dust and the mist to fade away.

But the blow unleashed a fountain of blood, much more than a human body could contain. The flood knocked Tillius over, and when it faded Asinius examined him, noting that he was still alive but in a coma. The other legionnaires picked him up and carried him out, back to the fort, and arranged for transit back to Constantinople, where the magister militum offered them two months' leave and a year's pay in exchange for a promise never to speak of this again. He also demanded that Emeric surrender the knife he had taken from the sorcerer, which he did with extreme reluctance--at this, the professor and the other investigators reading the account stopped and looked at Demir, who simply shrugged.

The legionnaires all took that offer and, after their leave, they gathered for Belasir's wedding to Nona and then, when Tillius finally awoke, his wedding to Eudoxia, held on her family's barge on the sea. Just before the wedding, the magister militum summoned them back for one more mission, saying that the the knife has vanished. All of them except Belasir agreed to the mission, but first they attended the wedding.

Tillius gave a toast to the men of the Fortes Falcones, commending them for their bravery...but ended it by saying that Tillius was dead, and then snarled at the wedding guests as a wave of pain and nausea spread through the group. Before anyone could react, he tore out his new bride's throat with his bare hands and began drinking her blood! Milonius, Belasir, and Galerius died of the poison almost immediately, but Emeric and Asinius managed to fight off the nausea and crippling pain and flee to the side, deliberately knocking over several lanterns into their flight. They leapt into the sea as the tapestries and decorations caught fire, and looking back, they saw Tillius killing the wedding guests until the flames grew too high, where he transformed into some flitting winged thing and took off into the night. They knew they were not strong enough to swim back to the Golden Horn, but a passing fishing boat saw the flames and came to investigate, hauling them aboard.

Emeric quickly succumbed to his injuries, the shock of the sea, and the poison, but Asinius lived. He finished the journal stating that he planned to change his name and take ship to Iberia or Gaul, traveling as far as he could from Constantinople and the horrific sights he had witnessed. This was the last page.

Mr. Johnson!  photo shaking_fist_emoticon.gif

I was expecting something to go wrong, but I was not expecting the commander to turn into a vampire. Maybe a bit more explanation would have been nice, since the historical Constantinople scenarios seem partially set up to explain where le Comte came from and why a Call of Cthulhu game has a vampire as a villain. Or, okay, an evil sorcerer who just happens to have all the legendary powers of the vampire. But it doesn't, really. Was Tillius possessed by the blood? Does the Gothic cult leader live on? Is it unrelated? Who knows. It's fun to play Romans, but this didn't actually seem to serve much story purpose.

I did like the combat, though. It turns out that our modern-era investigators should probably go buy some chainmail, since that, our shields, and our high combat skills matched with Fight Back meant that we slaughtered our opposition without much effort. We need more combat prowess from our elderly academics.

I like to think that Asinius is the ancestor of Professor Durand, but assuming he had children, he died probably around 360 or so. He's undoubtedly an ancestor of the entire group of 1920s-era investigators.

Next session, back to the 20s and on to Belgrade!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Woohoo! Twenty sessions and still going!

Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Sakuya led the group to Old Three Eyes' house, built away from the wall in a cluster of other houses with their backs against a courtyard. The inside was spartan, wooden floors with an opening to the dirt for a fire pit, a table and chair, cupboard, and a chest next to the mats set on a small platform above the floor, all in one room. The group spread out and searched, finding the remnants of what smelled like stew in the pot over the fire and an eating knife in the dirt and ash nearby, a few coins in the bedding which Elaphe pocketed, and--more damning--a few scratches on the windowsill. Amos muttered a few words and summoned up a witchlight, leaving the blue foxfire bobbing near the window as he walked around outside to the courtyard and checked the windowsill again, finding more claw marks on the underside. Shining Star opened her senses to the corruption of the darkness beyond the Star Road, but smelled nothing but dust. Elaphe and Bonnie climbed to to the roof and looked around, and Elaphe found a tuft of black and grey fur caught on a corner of the roof tiles. After about twenty more minutes of searching turned up nothing, the group decided to go back to the tea house and catch a few more hours or sleep.

In the morning, they split up. Shining Star went to the where the injured from the battle against the walking dead were kept and ministered to them, finding another victim of ghul fever and using her magic to aid them. She told the militia standing around to let her know if the victim's condition changed at all and, especially if they fell into a coma, to fetch her immediately.

Elaphe went looking for any kind of criminal underworld, and eventually outside a tea house he found an amanita named Black Salted Earth who understood his comments about rose gardens and led him to a more secluded table. Bonnie had secretly followed Elaphe, somehow managing to stay hidden, but she wandered off bored as the amanita asked Elaphe if he was in town on business. When he said no, she visibly relaxed and chatted with him about how her quiet life had been disrupted by the animated dead. She didn't know about the source of the plague, but was happy to keep an eye out, and took Elaphe back to her house briefly to introduce him to her pigeon, Zephyr, saying that it would provide a way to carry messages between them if necessary.

Amos went back out to the courtyard to talk to the other people who lived nearby and the refugees who had fled to the safety of the walls. They had not seen much, but they mentioned that Old Three Eyes had mentioned eyes watching him, and had sometimes trailed off in the middle of a conversation and then seemingly snapped out of it, returning to the previous topic without any sign of time having passed. One older amanita also mentioned that they had seen something flying high, silhouetted against the moon. Probably not a roc--it wasn't big enough and they didn't know of any rocs that nested nearby--but they were not sure what it was.

Around this time, Amos noticed a beroringa nearby licking some of the damage to the buildings and spoke it to. The spirit turned, seemingly surprised, and poked Amos for a moment with its tongue, which felt like being poked with a slightly warm feather even though it was larger than his arm. Amos asked it if it had seen anything, and the spirit mentioned the "darkness in the south" and that it could feel the rot in the earth, in a voice that Amos both heard with his ears and felt in his mind. Being a spirit, it didn't entirely understand Amos's perspective, but it did promise to keep watch any tell him if it saw anything. At this point Bonnie arrived and, seeing that Amos was speaking English to the air, quickly pulled out an old dose of spirit-flower tea and choked in down. She was delighted as the swirling colors resolved into the beroringa's body and questioned it in English, since that was what she heard Amos speaking, but the answers came to her in Chaian. However, she didn't learn much more than Amos did.

The party regathered near where Shining Star was administering medicine and shared what they had learned. They quickly formed a plan to stake out the courtyard near Old Three Eyes' house and watch for anything strange, along with some members of the militia, and returned to the tea house, this time paying for a private room and sleeping until sundown. The militia roused them, they ate a quick meal of stewed rice and mushrooms, and then took up their places on the roof.

Shining Star had summoned a Knowing Whisper, a spirit of knowledge in service to Nyahré, and as they waited on the rooftops it alerted her that there was something out there. She told the others and Amos, who could see in the dark thanks to the crystal he carried, gripped his musket and began to creep across the rooftops toward the distant shape as the Green Knight looked up and saw a shadow pass over the moons. There were arms, and legs, and wings. Perhaps one of the pidgit-folk, but with what they knew was happening in the town, that was not an assumption he would make.

Amos got close enough that the could see a shape shrouded in scarves or wrappings crouching next to the chimney of the tea house, and he remembered the rumors in Rockfort about people being attacked in an alleyway. He raised his musket and shouted out in Floral not to move, and the shape, clearly hearing him, looked up at him, letting him see the bridge of a nose and eyes peering out from the wrappings. Amos summoned a witchlight, illuminating the area, and asked who the shape was. He received an answer, but it wasn't in Floral, nor was it in Muskalan, which Amos didn't speak but had spent enough time around it being spoken to know what it sounded like.

The others arrived as the shape stood up, a tall mandragora- or human-shape with a red eye and teardrop embroidered on the chest of its clothing. When Shining Star saw it, she thought to use the Royal Speech, and greeted the shape. In a moment, she received a reply: "The Dragonbone Speakers sent me here to scout out the darkness in the south."

Mysterious! The Dragonbone Speakers are the shamans of the Sarasans to the northwest, which are a group of thunder lizard-riding grassy plains tribesmen that I based on the Hengist and Horsa-era Anglo-Saxons, so I can already say that this guy's name is "Sigeferth, son of Osric." I was tired of every horse-based riding culture either being based on the Mongols or the Native American plains tribes and wanted to do something different. Something different with dinosaurs and dragon-worshipping wizard priests.

The hordes of animated dead is something I thought that the players would want to go after earlier on, but I'm glad that they're checking it out now ten sessions after I expected! That also means they're better armed to deal with the enemies they might encounter, too, so it should all turn out of the best.

Elaphe's player pointed out they're amassing an army. A veiled one, the spirit of that courtyard and the buildings, the town militia...will it do any good? Hmm.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
In the comfort of the salon car, surrounded by his fellow investigators, and one new addition, Profesor Durand opened Chronicon de Tillius Corvus and began to translate the classical Latin into English.

Dramatis Personæ
  • Asinius Ravila, Iberian medicus
  • Belasir of Tihama, Arabian sagittarius et speculatore
  • Emeric of the Suevi, Germanic auxiliārius, and a Christian
  • Galerius Evodis, Constantinopolitan optio
  • Milonius Kanmi, Carthiginian sagittarius
XII mensus Martius, F. Gallicano et A. Valeriō consulibus

The men of the Fortes Falcones were in Nova Roma, supervising construction crews for the Imperator's new capital. All of them had served long years in the legions and were looking forward to finally retiring and getting their pensions and land--other than Galerius, who loved the soldier's life and was grumbling about being forced to leave. As they went about their various tasks, their tribunus Tillius Corvus found them and told them that the Magister militum had told him that he had one last mission for them, and they needed to assemble immediately. Grumbling slightly, they did so.

They waited in the magister's office, along with their fellow veteran legionnaires Laurentius (Lorenz) Germanicus and Nabidius Ursus, both of which looked very disgruntled. Galerius asked the magister's aid why they had been summoned, and while the aid demured, eventually he explained that a courier had come from Lydia, and after hearing the message, the magister had the man imprisoned and immediately summoned Tillius.

Eventually they were invited into the magister's office, and he explained his tasks. There were rumors of plague in Sardis and the Ghilian Outpost in Lydia had been out of contact for days. He required a small force to investigate in absolute secrecy. The people were saying that this was the work of a Satanic cult, and it had to be dealt with before the Imperator opened his new capital. He brusquely commended them for not trying to speak with the courier and then ordered them to leave in the morning before dismissing them. Outside, Tillius apologized for the summons and the sudden calling away from their duties, but he said he was asked for his best men. He wouldn't force them to go, but he urged them to flee the city immediately if they had second thoughts. For his part, he was going to celebrate since his amica Eudoxia had promised to marry him as soon as he returned. The legionnaires eventually joined him, though some took care of other business first--Belasir said goodbye to his own amica Nona, and Galerius and Milonius both made sure to make a sacrifice to Aesculapius. Then, with much praise to Tillius and much ribbing of Belasir, they went to sleep.

The next morning the legionnaires assembled, minus Laurentius Germanicus and Nabidius Ursus, and they boarded a ship and crossed the Sea of Marmara. On the other side, as they were relaxing, other soldiers asked them what they were doing, as is the way of soldiers, which they deflected with varying degrees of skillfulness. Then, in the morning, they left.

They rode for days through the countryside, the villagers getting less and less friendly as they went until after three days the they hid at the legionnaires approach, shouting of plague. Finally, they arrived at the fort and several outriders rode out to meet them. The soldiers anxiously asked where the reinforcements were, and Tillius assured them they were only a few days behind, having been delayed by washed-out bridges. Then, they were taken to meet Curio Longinus, the local commander, who explained the problem. There was a local cult called "The Flayed," who were harassing the villagers, and there was an illness. The Valerian Plague, it was called, and it caused fevers and hallucinations, eventually leading to death. Longinus said his men had also been attacked, and so he finally ordered all of his men to remain within sight of the fort walls. The legionnaires ask if they can speak to the refugees, and Longinus agrees, so they go to the refugee camp.

The legionnaires split up and ask about the situation. They learned that the villagers were being attacked by bats and strange, flat ghost-things, that the plague had a 40% fatality rate and there were always six days of symptoms, that whole villages had been depopulated, and that the cultists were in the mountains to the east.

While Asinius was speaking to the refugees, a plague victim surged up from his bed, raving, screaming to G-d to save him from his fate. Asinius shook him off...only to have the man's skin come off in a single piece and fall to the ground. The man vomited black bile and stopped moving, and the camp's medicus and his assistants carried him off toward the trench in the north, where they had put the bodies of those who died of the plague. The legionnaires followed, and when the oilskin over the trench was removed, they found that all the bodies were skinless and piled haphazardly, and there were no flies or smell of decay. The medicus was shocked by this, saying that they had treated the bodies with respect, and the legionnaires carefully approached to examine the trench. Belasir found a strange trail, like a man walking dragging something, and followed it to the east to see where it led. Meanwhile, Emeric heard something moving in the bodies, and as Milonius readied his bow, Asinius and Emeric drew their swords and began moving the bodies, only for something leathery and white to surge up out of the pile at them!

Despite the initial surprise, they made quick work of the thing, which seemed to be made of human skin, but there were more sounds of movement in the trench. The thing's body burned away in the sunlight, and when it was nothing but an oily stain, Tillius arrived and asked the legionnaires for a report. He agreed with their plan to check the rest of the ditch, and when Belasir returned, they pulled the oilcloth back and found three more of the things, which surged up to attack as the sunlight began singeing and blackening them. When they were dead, Tillius ordered them to follow the trail immediately, and they did, eventually finding a farm with several corpses on the ground and an ominous silence.

The legionnaires began their search by opening the barn, and again they were surprised as three chiropteran, chimeric monsters rushed at them. Emeric howled at them, foam flecking his beard, but Tillius and Galerius met the rush with their blades, cutting one to ribbons immediately.
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and me simultaneously: "Die, monster! You don't belong in this world!"
The remaining two beasts were harder to kill, with one latching onto Emeric as he barely defended himself in the depths of his berserker rage and drinking his blood, but they finally chopped down the creatures. As they did, they noticed two youths running from the smokehouse. Their skins were marked with ritualistic scars, and they were wearing black robes and carrying knives, so the legionnaires chased them down and overpowered and bound them. The youths had far-away smiles and said nothing, and Tillius ordered the legionnaires to return to the fort and report what they had found.


One of the reasons I've been looking forward to this section is that in the modern world, bat monsters running around and attacking people tend to raise questions among the players. How come they aren't being reported? Where are the photographs? In the past, where so many people already assumed that there were monsters, the gloves can come off. Bring on the Draculas.

I wasn't a fan of how two of the PCs are archers but everything we found so far takes half damage from impaling weapons. That's always been a flaw of Call of Cthulhu, though. I mean, Pickman's Model has Pickman deal with the ghouls using a revolver, and yet ghouls take half damage from impaling weapons. Mi-go take minimum damage from guns even though in The Whisperer in Darkness, a guy with a shotgun kills like a dozen of them. Monsters being unstoppable in the face of modern weaponry is a trope of Cthulhu RPGs, not the original media, and I suspect is mostly just to prevent the investigators from solving everything with tommy guns and dynamite. I just wish it wouldn't extend back to arrows.

This could have been a very frustrating scenario, what with having a commanding officer, but [ profile] mutantur struck a good balance by characterizing Tillius as a wise leader who listens to the advice of his men--i.e., lets the PCs make the decisions. Some of the orders above were made after listening to us discuss our course of action, so it was more like an imprimatur than explicit orders. If we have to have NPCs telling us what to do, having us do what we were going to do anyway is the best way to go about it.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personae
  • Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic
  • Jazmina Moric, Croat Linguist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
The group borrowed a car and, after loading it up with weapons and alcohol to make Molotov cocktails, drove it toward the medial research facility. They told the guards at the city checkpoint that Jazmina was going into the countryside to visit a family friend, and while she couldn't provide an exact address, the soldiers let them through with some suspicion. Rosaline drove the car to a side street and parked it, and the investigators made their way through the woods to the building. After listening to the guard patrols and throwing a carpet over the barbed wire, Demir slipped over the wall and hid in the shadows. It wasn't long until the guard approached again, but the one-armed guard now had two arms--and one of them was the arm of a gorilla or some kind of monkey. Demir gasped, revealing himself, and the guard carefully advanced, but it wasn't carefully enough. Demir stabbed the guard to death and hid behind the wall as Rosaline slipped over the wall and the countess took her place on a box behind the wall.

Our improvised miniatures during the battle. Notice the inked-in corpses of the guards. Photo credit to Demir's player.

Another guard walked around the corner but was shot to bits by the investigators. Demir, after a shot whizzed past his shoulder, turned and snuck around the corner of the building Rosaline and now Jazmina were hiding behind. At that moment, the door burst open and another čudovište appeared, this one with the clawed bear hands and the head of a sheep. The party opened fire on as Demir, hearing gunfire, began to move faster around the building.
[ profile] mutantur: "You kind of hear, far off around that corner, a terrible bleating."
The other guard appeared behind the čudovište , but could not get a clear shot, and after a moment he turned and ran into another building in the back of the facility.

The čudovište bit Rosaline, but it fell under a hail of bullets and the professor shot it again as it lies on the ground. Demir arrived from his circuit of the building, and the party opened the door to the building they had been hiding behind. It was filled with animal cages--wolves, a bear, gorillas, sheep, cats, and dogs. Rosaline and Jazmina opened the prey animal cages, and with the keys that Demir found on the bodies of the guards, they opened the front door and let the professor and the countess in the main complex.

Carefully advancing on the final building, the investigators were ready when the door opened and revealed the final guard, who dropped as the professor shot him. Behind him was another čudovište, this one with human arms that ended in both human hands and the trotters of a pig, and the head of a wolf. A melee ensued, and at first, the guard and čudovište seemed to be getting the upper hand, with Rosaline, the professor, and the countess all being injured and knocked unconscious and the čudovište seeming almost to ignore the bullets that hit it. But the investigators prevailed, and Demir administered first aid to the party. Weapons in hand and at the ready, the the group opened the door and looked into the facility.

As expected, they saw Dr. Belenzada, standing in the midst of a group of twitching bodies, one a gorilla, one a pig, and one a human. All were dead, but all were clearly still moving, twitching and moaning in a way horrible to hear. Dr. Belenzada was wearing a medical smock, and carrying in his hand a strange knife. It looked to be made of ebony stone, with a bone handle, and it faintly glowed in the dim light of the room. The doctor shouted at the investigators that he had important research to be done, and otherwise continued his work. The professor told Dr. Belenzada that his research had already taken one life, and how much could it possible be worth it to continue if he led to more deaths? He brought up the use of chemical weapons in the Great War, but it was Dr. Moric's death that really got through. Dr. Belenzada dropped the knife and cried, sobbing about how Dr. Moric had come to him for help and he had shot him in the back like a dog. Jazmina managed to restrain herself from taking vengeance, especially when the doctor whistled into the darkness and six more horrific chimerical monstrosities shuffled out of the darkness. He shot all of them with a heavy pistol and then, before he could turn the gun on himself, Jazmina stopped him. She told him to turn himself in, to clear her father's name, and he agreed without hesitation. Then, after burning the bodies of the dead men and monsters, the investigators went to sleep.

In the morning, they discussed what to do with the knife they had found. It was clearly the Mims Sahis, the Serpent's Claw, and Demir argued that it would make a powerful weapon against the forces arrayed against them, specifically mentioning the čudovište who had taken so many shots to kill. The professor argued that it was too dangerous to be wielded, and that they had already seen it drive Dr. Belenzada mad. As well, he pointed out that they were being followed by Le Comte and by the cult, and what would happen if they got their hands on the knife? Jazmina stated that she wanted to fulfill her father's last wish, and that seemed like it swayed Demir. He agreed that they would go to the cement factory and leave town the following day.

The cement factory turned out to be a dead end, with the guards only grudgingly letting the investigators in and the foreman flatly refusing to throw anything into his equipment. He offered to write to Zagreb, where the owners of the factory lived, and Jazmina gave him her information. Of course, that was not the end of it, and while the professor, the countess, and Rosaline rested in the hotel from their injuries, Jazmina and Demir returned to the factory under the cover of night. They found the gate open and several bodies inside, all of which had been killed without much of a struggle, and some of whom they recognized--one at least was the reporter, or at least, someone who was now wearing the reporter's face. Neither Demir nor Jazmina were able to operate the machinery, and they didn't want to push random buttons and hope for the best. After searching the bodies and finding strange pouches containing herbs, bits of bone, and other, unidentifiable debris, and after Jazmina secured a promise from Demir that they would attempt to destroy the knife at a later date, they buried the bodies and left. They had to sleep in the wild, leading a patrol of Serbian soldiers on a merry chase, and did not return to the hotel before morning.

In the morning over breakfast, Jazmina checked the local paper and found a note that the National Theatre in Sofia, their next destination, had been destroyed by fire, but there was no particular note about deaths or further čudovište attacks. The was a note that the army had captured some local anarchists and the Orient Express was running again, so the investigators took their luggage, went down to the train station and endured the complaints from ssome of the other passengers who had been unable to board the first train through about how provincial Vinkovci was, and waited for the train. They were able to board and secure Jazmina a ticket, and as they settled into their compartment, Jazmina looked back. She noticed several policemen beating a man as a screaming woman tried to shield him from their blows, and could not help but notice that the man and woman were Croats and the police were Serbians. And as they pulled out of the town, they saw a convoy of army trucks leave the city. One truck, in which four pale faces were visible through the windows surrounded by soldiers, took a dirt path into the woods and did not return.

As they sat in the lounge car, Demir revealed that the knife had not been destroyed, but the professor accepted his reasoning. Demir further said that the knife remained wrapped and in the secret luggage compartment, and mentioned that he was carrying another object of power with him, from the Dreamlands, but not elaborate and no one in the group asked further. He then said he was going to sleep, as he had spent much of the last night running and not slept well, and the professor said that he had to make notes on the Chronicon de Tillius Corvus so that he could translate it for the group later. And then, the train left Vinkovci behind.
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
I'm surprised that things went so well! I was expecting another death at least, but it turns out that overwatch is useful in more circumstances than while playing XCom. We got a lot of bonus dice that helped the shots of the countess, the professor, and Rosaline, who are not particularly good marks(wo)men. But we shot that second guard to pieces. It was the third guard and the last čudovište that gave us all the trouble.

Next session is Professor Durand's storytime, where we learn about a group of Roman soldiers. I've been waiting for this for literally over a year, so I'm looking forward to next time!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
A few hours before dawn, Elaphe's keen hearing picked up the sounds of movement and voices outside over the crackling of the tea house fire. After listening, he woke up the others and they grabbed their weapons and walked out into the town square, pausing a moment for Shining Star to murmur a blessing to Nyarhé that left all their weapons gleaming with a faint silver light. They heard commotion from the south and made their way toward it. Elaphe, Amos, and Bonnie climbed to the tea house roof and leapt from building to building, and the Green Knight and Shining Star walked through the maze of streets.

At the edge of town, Elaphe peered over the roof onto the wall of wooden stakes around the town. On the dirt ramp behind the wall was a motley militia of chuzan, amanita, mycon, and a few mandragora, as well as two kappa each holding a pair of battleaxes, and on the other side of the wall were dozens of of the walking dead. The townsfolk were holding them off with rural weapons--spears, pitchforks, and bows--but the wall was starting to creak ominously, and Elaphe noticed that some of the walking dead seemed to be moving more purposefully and their eyes were shedding a faint red light.

He leapt down to the wall, followed by Bonnie and Amos, and hurled his bob-omb into the middle of the walking dead. It exploded in a burst of silver fire, hurling bits of dead flesh everywhere and stopping the press of bodies against the wall, but drawing the attention of the red-eyed monsters, who jumped onto and over the wall. Up close, with the stink in her nose, Bonnie recognized them as ghuls, the hungry dead, eternally driven by empty stomachs that could never be full and whose bites were infectious.

The ghuls were vicious combatants, but not very skilled. Perhaps the bob-bomb explosion had damaged them enough that they were slower than normal. Amos used his musket and blew one ghul off the wall, and Elaphe followed it down, running down the wall and leaping toward it, and hacked off its head. He then turned and hurled a dagger into the eye of another ghul that was strugging with a chuzan militia soldier with a spear, also destroying it.

One ghul ran toward Shining Star and, while it dodged the bolt of holy fire she hurled at it, it could not dodge the Green Knight's wooden claws, which extended and wrapped around its neck until they took off its head. Amos shot another one before it started grappling the kappa next to it, prompting Bonnie to grab it from behind. It leaned back and bit her, tearing into her shoulder, and then Shining Star incinerated it with white fire and it burned to ashes in Bonnie's arms, leaving her untouched.

The last ghul was ripped in half by one of the kappa, and the other administered first aid to Bonnie while she admired the smooth curve of his shell and the pointiness of his spines. Shining Star also looked at Bonnie's wound, and when Bonnie told her about ghul fever, Shining Star murmured some words over the wound and made a note to keep an eye on it. As Amos continued to shoot flaming arrows at the walking dead, the others questioned the kappa.

In Muskalan heavily accented by the tongue of the Kappa Wastes, he gave his name as Sakuya, and said his clutchmate Ayumi and he grew sick of the Dragon Emperor's sacrilegious abandonment of the ancestors and decided to go somewhere where they wouldn't be bothered. This softened Shining Star's attitude toward them considerably, and Bonnie next asked about the walking dead. Sakuya replied that they first showed up a month or so ago, first only a few and occasionally, but gradually increasing in number until now they attacked almost every night. The kappa cursed the king of Fontina, saying that he hid in his palace with mercenaries around his town and refused to help his people.

The party asked Sakuya about the rumors they heard in Fontina, about shrouded figures attacking and people on rooftops. Sakuya replied that there were often people on the roofs, but a chuzan named Old Three Eyes had vanished after complaining about seeing eyes in his window. A local wise woman had tried to find out where he went, but turned up nothing, even when using his precious locket given to him by his dead wife as a focus. The party asked if they could see his house, and Sakuya considered and then agreed to lead them to it.

Combat can take a while. I was expecting to get a bit more time in for investigation, but it looks like that will be the focus of next session. There isn't really anywhere in the town for someone to disappear to, especially now that there are walking dead outside the walls, so what could have happened to Old Three Eyes? Will the party actually have to talk to people and do detective work, or will they get bored and decide to just kill their way to a solution? I guess we'll find out!

Bonnie is infected with ghul fever now. Bitten is not as good as dead, but Bonnie also has a Stamina of 1, so it's closer to that meaning with her than it would be with the others. Though maybe not. I realized when I went to check that I hadn't actually written the rules for ghul fever yet, though it'll probably end up being a less severe version of The Embrace of Decay from canon Exalted, which niche it fills. So I doubt she'll die, but she might be unhappy for a while.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personae
  • Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic
  • Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
The party headed to the newspaper office to ask about the article on the dig site, written by one Vesna Femic. The receptionist was dismissive to the point of being hostile, but after some persuasion by the professor, including mentioning that the subject of the article's daughter was there and would they pass up this element to the story, she revealed that Fenic was nothing but a gossipmonger, scarcely better than a village fishwife. She provided an address as well, and that was the investigators' next destination.

The small cottage was in a residential area nad when they reached the door, they noticed signs that it had been forced open at some point. Checking for people nearby, the group swiftly entered and searched the rooms. They found bloodstains in the bathroom that had been hastily cleaned up, a darkroom stripped of film and negatives, a missing rug, a few loose teeth behind the couch, and a note that said:
He knows. Fired us and closed down. Summoned daughter. Acting weird. Tell you more tonight at Rose Garden. Same room.
Jazmina mentiond Lazar, one of her father's grad students, who might be this L.

The next destination was the dig site. Gianni attempted to pick the lock but accidentally jammed it shut, and Demir snapped it off after checking to see if anyone was nearby. Inside, the dig was covered by a tarp, and opening it revealed a set of stairs descending into the dark. In the light of Demir's flashlight, the investigators searched the cross-shaped building. Most of the site was empty, though it was obvious where the artifacts had been, but there was a small sarcophagus or font in the center with the lid on its side. The entire interior was lined with lead, as was the bottom of the lid. There was a strange symbol in the center which the professor did not recognize, and Demir snapped it off after a moment. As he did, he felt a forceless wave pass through him, and the professor suddenly realized what had happened.

Dr. Moric had found the Serpent's Claw, the knife possessed by Sedefkar and hidden by the Order of the Noble Shield. He planned to destroy it, which is why he mentioned a cement factory in his notes. Dr. Belenzada had tried to talk him out of destroying an old artifact and had hidden this fact from the investigators, and may have taken the knife and harmed Dr. Moric. They would have to return to the research facility.

At this point, the investigators split up. Demir went on to the Rose Garden to ask about Ms. Femic, and the others went back to the hunting lodge. The attendant at the Rose Garden unhelpful until Demir handed over a large stack of bills, which jogged his memory. He mentioned both Vesna and Lazar and the room they had rented, but mentioned neither had been there in a week and what's more, the rug had been stolen. Demir asked about possessions and was told that they were thrown in the alley out back, so that is where he went. Digging through frozen garbage, he found two rugs...with bodies in them, whose faces had been skinned off. They had no clothes or other possessions, and he moved them so they would be obvious to passersby and then left.

On the way back to the hunting lodge, almost back, the other investigators were surprised by a hideous shape that emerged from an alleyway. It was wearing the shirt and hat of a man, but was a horrifying chimera of forms--the head of a boar, the arms and body of an ape, but the legs of a human being. At the site, the countess, professor, and Gianni immediately ran. Rosaline bravely grabbed a board and swung at the monster, but was struck down in a single blow and lay unconscious in the street.

Jazmina drew her pistol and shot the monster, hitting it in the throat, but not killing it. It pursued Gianni as the professor threw a rock and missed, reaching him and grabbing for him. Gianni tried to flee but it trapped him with its long arms and, catching the Italian in its grasp, it tore off his arm and hurled it aside, squealing in triumph. The professor hammered on a nearby door, shouting in German until he caught the attention of the inhabitant, who let him and Jazmina in. Jazmina explained what happened to the inhabitant as the monster prowled outside, until eventually they heard rifle shots and the sound of boots.

The countess ran until she reached an army checkpoint and, finding they didn't speak English, French, or Russian, tried to use gestures to explain what she saw. This is where Demir found her, and the two of them successfully convinced the army to investigate. They find another patrol had already discovered something, and the professor and Jazmina exited the house to see Rosaline being treated by army medics...and a sheet lying over Gianni's body.

All the investigators cannot help but notice that the missing arm, lying near the body, is his left arm. The same arm whose partner they have sculpted in mysterious stone, sitting among their luggage.

After pausing to collect themselves and hearing from the army that they would come speak to them the next day, the remaining investigators went back to their hunting lodge, where they ordered several drinks and toasted to Gianni's memory. The countess aluded to an incident in her past where Gianni had been of great aid to her and her late husband, and they all drank and ate dinner. Demir did not order any food.

The professor ordered boar.

The next morning at breakfast, after reading an article about a čudovište ("monster") who had been seen prowling the city, they received word that the body of Dr. Moric had been found in the woods of suicide. Jazmina was disbelieving, saying her father would never do such a thing, and after going to the hospital to pick up Rosaline, who had made a very quick recovery thanks to Call of Cthulhu's generous healing rules, they traveled into the forest.

After some convincing, the army permitted Demir to examine the body since he was suspicious due to the lack of blood, but soon objected to his treatment. While the Serbian army medic questioned Demir's credentials at increasing volume, the others used the opportunity to examine the body closer. The professor found a bullet found in his back with no front exit wound, probably indicating a punctured lung; gray dust around his shoes from granite, a component in cement; and tracks like the body had been dragged her.

Jazmina tried to explain what they had found, but the army brushed her off, and she angrily told the investigators that the army said they would not put many resources into investigating the death of "a Croat." The army wanted to question them further, but Jazmina successfully convinced them that "the women" were feeling faint and needed rest, and so after saying they would be by to talk to them later, the army let them go.

At the hotel, the investigators borrowed a series of rifles and prepared to travel to the medical facility to retrieve the Serpent's Claw, and we ended there.
Annals of the Fallen
  1. Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist, arm torn off by čudovište in Vinkovci, February 8th, 1923.
Our first death!  photo c9a2ed93dbfb11e324f5b3e281e5e1b2.gif

We've done pretty well in avoiding danger until now, since few of our characters are good in combat. I should have known that a random encounter would have been our bane. We should have been advancing in close ranks with shields in front and the rogue scouting ahead. Or at least, start carrying pistols. Or maybe the professor should do a quick dive through the books and learn Red Sign of Shudde M'ell or something.

I'm worried about the plan we have to attack the farm, but fortunately I have some time to think it over. If there's a way for an assault to turn them against each other so we're not fighting guards and monsters simultaneously...hmm. This need some consideration.
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
The first half of the session or so was taken up with more logistics from last session in the Scarlet City. Buying a few more hedge magic spells and equipment, getting various alchemical concoctions to deal with future injuries likely while fighting the walking dead, and so on. After all that way accomplished, we picked up back in the Kingdom of Fontina.

B'rabht had been hot and sunny, but in the city of Rockfort it was pouring down rain and much colder. The party clutched their cloaks tighter around themselves and made their way through the crush of refugees to the closest tea house they could see, the Gateside, on one side of the square. They negotiated for a place in the stable and bedded down for the night, sleeping comfortably on the straw, though they were unpleasantly woken up early, shivering in a sudden cold snap.

Shining Star went to offer her services in the temple of the Blue Lady, the Fontinan goddess of love and the family, healing the refugees. Most of those she treated were wounded by exposure and malnutrition, not the claws and teeth of the walking dead, though there were some who had been injured in fights with other refugees. Amos prepared his armor and weapons and then went down into the tea house and spoke to the patrons, asking them what they had heard. They mentioned the walking dead coming from the south, and that some villages had to post guards around their graveyards because while the bites of the dead were not infectious except in the normal sense, their very presence seemed to raise other bodies nearby into unlife.

Elaphe pretended to sleep by the fire and listened to the chatter, and he heard people talk about shapes on rooftops and mysterious attacks by shrouded figures. The chatter wasn't clear on their appearance or exactly what they were wearing, but Elaphe remembered the rumors they had heard three weeks ago, about Sarasan Veiled Ones being seen in Fontina, and wondered. He also heard that the mercenaries from Etemenanki had arrived, but they were being used to guard Rockfort.

Bonnie went to visit Onyx to ask her to teach a spell to keep off the rain and bask in the wisdom of the sorceress. Onyx seemed pleased that the party had found what they were looking for, but she and Bonnie did not speak long. Onyx mentioned that killing the walking dead would probably be a good idea, and Bonnie made her excuses and left.

After lunch, the party took their gear and rode out the south gate, heading toward the place where the walking dead were coming from. They didn't meet any zombies on the road, though they occasionally saw corpses, both fresh and rotted, by the roadside. They didn't take the time to bury them, and Elaphe thought better of looting them to avoid trouble from wraiths, but Shining Star offered a brief benediction over every corpse they found. At sundown, they rode into a town surrounded by a palisade and took space in the common room at the sign of the Three Wheat Sheaves, and we ended there.

It took a while for people to figure out what else they wanted. Having not been in civilization for well over half the period of this game and finally being in a major city for a longer period--they were in tower town, but only for half a day--they went on a shopping and XP-spending spree.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the party does to deal with the zombies. Are they going to try to just kill all of them? Find the source? Blame the Sarasans? Bring in the witchhunters? We'll see!

Amos's player asked for a preparation montage, so I played the Shatterhand stage select theme. I also played the Super Mario 2 Underworld theme for B'rabt and then cut to the Link to the Past Opening Theme for rainy Fontina. I have so much music to draw on for this game. It's fantastic.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personae
  • Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic
  • Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
Tossing and turning, most of the investigators managed to get some sleep, but Demir awoke just before dawn and noticed that the train was moving extremely slowly. He questioned the night conductor, who replied that there was some difficulty ahead, but didn't receive any elaboration, and eventually went back to sleep. After dawn, when the others awoke and ate breakfast, the train was still moving slowly, the passengers were grumbling, and the conductor made an announcement: there has been an "incident" on the tracks ahead, and the train will have to make a stop in Vinkovci while the track is repaired for three or four days. This caused some grumbling and arguing, but the conductor was firm that nothing else could be done.

Newspapers were passed out and, while they're written in Serbo-Croatian, a local English teacher spotted the professor scanning the paper for anything familiar and offered his services. He translated an article about a local archaeological dig being conducted by Dr. Dragomir Moric on "The Crusader's Tomb." The article was a hit piece, accusing Dr. Moric of hiding his discoveries due to some ancient secret, but it did prominently mention the name of Sir Miho of Dubrovnik, which the professor recognized as the man in the Latin account of the Fourth Crusade who had come to remove the treasures from Constantinople. He showed the translation to the other investigators, and they agreed that as long as they're stuck in Vinkovci, they may as well look into this tomb.

As the train slowly pulled into Vinkovci, the party noticed the conspicuous line of policemen with rifles who were awaiting them on the platform, and then there was an announcement that everyone must disembark for inspection. Grumbling, the passengers all alighted from the train and lined up in a queue to be questioned. The policemen inspected their passports and then asked if they've ever been in the area before, their profession, and if they are veterans. All of the investigators answered honestly and without any attempt at concealment or disdain, and the policemen let them go after some suspicious glances. Other passengers were not so lucky--some of those who were too self-important and demanded that the delay be ended immediately had their luggage dumped in the mud for "inspection." There had been a bombing, they heard from the chatter around them, and the police suspected an anarchist group.

As Demir assisted a man he saw being backhanded by a policeman, Rosaline spotted an agitated-looking woman and a man in a fisherman's hat who seemed to be following her. The woman ducked into the bathroom and Rosaline followed, briefly spoke aloud to herself about how competent her traveling companions were and how great they were at helping someone in trouble, and then left when she received no reply. Her announcement bore fruit moments later, however, when the woman left the bathroom, walked straight up to the professor, exclaimed her greetings, and kissed him.

As she hugged him, she whispered that she was being followed and needed help, words which were soon confirmed when a delivery van pulled up, boxing in the taxi in which the investigators' luggage was being loaded, and two men jumped out as the man in the fisherman's hat ran toward them. A melee ensued, with the party trying to prevent the assailants from reaching the woman, and the woman trying to get away. After one of the assailants was stabbed by Demir, the other two ran, and a shot rang out from their getaway vehicle, hitting the fallen man and killing him instantly. The woman introduced herself as Jazmina Moric, the daughter of Dr. Moric, and said they needed to leave immediately because the police would have them shot. The investigators didn't need to be told twice, and they piled into the taxi and sped away.

Jazmina said she was here looking for her father since she had received a strange note from him in English, talking about his excavations and how some things should remain secret. There was a message for her at the Hotel Lehrner, and she knew that he was staying with Dr. Goran Belenzada, and Jazmina asked if she could direct them to the Hotel Lehrner. After the group's assent, the taxi took them to the hotel, where she did find a strange note waiting for her:
Zagrebacka / Zvonarska / Kralja
Be careful. I love you.
Also in English. She didn't recognize any of the words, however.

After lunch and a visit to the Belenzada house, finding that the doctor was not home, they took another look at the letter. Demir suggested that they might be addresses, and consulting a map they found a streetcorner at the intersection of Zagrebacka and Kralja Zvonimia. Traveling there revealed a few stores and the book shop Odlika Knjiga, a famous seller of rare and secret books. Rosaline's eyes practically blazed as the investigators immediately entered and spoke to the owner. The professor asked about Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon, which Dr. Moric had mentioend in his letter, and the owner demurred and said that he had sold his last copy and it was being held for the daughter of the buyer. At this point, Jazmina intervened and introduced herself, and the bookseller gladly handed over the book, warning the investigators to be careful as it was a first edition. This produced a moment of tension between the professor and Rosaline, but Jazmina checked the book and found a claim ticket inside with the number 187 and the note:
Go to Pouzdan Zalihi. Use your mother’s maiden name.

Key submerged in the nearby Roman Bath. I’ve left instructions. Be careful.
Rosaline left her card with the bookseller and the professor asked him about a copy of Unaussprechlichen Kulten by von Junzt. The bookseller apologized and said he did not have the German edition, since the copies were all in libraries and universities, but he had a copy of Nameless Cults, the Bridewall translation that the professor had flipped through in the library in Trieste. The professor purchased it for a considerable sum of money, and the bookseller handed it over with a note to be careful--there were only twenty known copies remaining.

After a trip to the hospital to ask about Dr. Belenzada also proved fruitless--the orderly said that he came and went with irregular hours, though he did give them the address of a medical research facility on the outskirts of the city--the investigators ate dinner. As they did, they saw a large troop of military entering the town, probably over a hundred soldiers, and they speculate that they'll probably be under a curfew soon. But not yet, so they go to Pouzdan Zalihi and after some initial confusion, find the key submerged in a birdbath in the park across the street with a statue of the emperor Valens, who was born in Vinkovci when it was still called Colonia Aurelia Cibalae. The claim ticket is for a box, some eight feet long and four across, that when opened revealed a number of artifacts packed in straw and a journal written in Serbo-Croatian. The artifacts include a silver coin labeled Unas ex tr etc, "One of the thirty" [pieces of silver], which Gianni takes particular interest in; a box with a stone carved with a pentagram-and-eye symbol and the engraving obex sancti gabrielis, "The Barrier of Saint Gabriel," which the investigators urge Jazmina to carry; and a number of texts, some of which are in Latin and Arabic and catch the professor's eye. Chronicon de Tillius Corvus, "The Accounts of Tillius Corvus," a hand-written Latin work dating from the Imperial Roman period; Kitab Rasul Al-Albarin, an Arabic text which the professor's Arabic was not good enough to understand without further study; and Sapientia Maglorum, which the professor translated as "The Wisdom of the Magi." There were also a large number of documents related to the Order of the Noble Shield, mentioned by Dr. Moric in his initial letter.

The group retired to the hotel to rest before bed. As Jazmina worked on translating her father's journal, Gianni and the professor begin reading Sapientia Maglorum. They read tales of leaping flames, of beings that danced amid the fires, of ancient Persian sorcerers calling out to the void and the stars that burned as fires in the heart of the black, and the things that answered their call. They were named with words obviously transliterated from Arabic into Latin and Greek. Words which the professor was unfamiliar with, though something in them recalled phrases he had heard the cloaked stranger in nightmare Zagreb speak--al shabb al muthlim, an Arabic phrase meaning "The Young One of Darkness," and the Greek word Ξαστυρ, "X'astur," accompanied by the sobriquet Magnum Innominandum, "The Great One who is Not to be Named."

The professor loosened his collar as he worked. He smelled smoke, and saw movement in the corner of his vision, until as he read of sacrifices being given to the flames, something in him...broke. He stood and ran from the burning building, out into the snow, where it was cold and no fire could catch, with Gianni running after him shouting his name. The other investigators, awoken by the commotion, found him in the center of the square outside, glancing from left to right, rubbing his hands with snow. It took some convincing for them to get him back inside, and only after firmly showing him that the building was not on fire, that the smell of smoke was only from the oil lamps, and that the fire in his room had been banked could they convince the professor to sleep. Demir asked him if he needed someone to watch at night, and after a moment's thought, the professor thanked him but demurred. Then the group all slept.

In the morning, they were informed that there was indeed a curfew, ending at 7 p.m., which still gave them plenty of time. They traveled to the medical research facility, but Dr. Belenzada was not there, only some taciturn guards who grudgingly served the investigators vile tea and said that Dr. Belenzada wasn't there and didn't tell him his schedule. The party waited the two hours before their taxi was scheduled to return and then went back to the hospital, where they finally found the doctor.

The doctor told them that Dr. Moric had indeed been staying with him, but that he had not seen him for three days. There had been an argument, with Dr. Moric saying his discoveries were dangerous and needed to be hidden and Dr. Belenzada appealing to his scientific mind and the desire to share knowledge, but to no avail. Dr. Moric had gone missing, and so had one of Dr. Belenzada's shotguns. The doctor says that he may have gone to Kunjevci, a forest to the south of the city, close to the lodge where the Orient Express had arranged lodgings for those who were displaced by the bombing. The investigators make plans to go on a hunting trip, and we ended it there.

The professor's first serious SAN loss! It was 2d6 for the Sapientia Maglorum and I rolled 9. Gianni only lost 4, so he maintained his presence of mind. I'm up to 29% Cthulhu Mythos as well, so I'm well positioned to follow in the footsteps of Professor Armitage and become the old guy who knows everything and helps combat the horrors. That's the path I'm trying to go down, anyway. The professor isn't going to be that much use in a fight. I failed all of my rolls in combat and got slashed for my trouble.

This is not something I remember from the old Horror on the Orient Express. I wonder if it's new for this edition? It might be, since it seems to tie in heavily with the past interstitial pieces, which I know are new.

Next session, hunting party!  photo 58-2nsylaw.gif
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personae
  • Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic
  • Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
Having successfully evaded two cults for most of the day and boarded the Orient Express, the investigators finally had a chance to relax. They settled into their cabins and, when the time came to go to dinner, turned out of their cars and made their way to the dining car. On the way, though, they found a man in his dressing gown, standing between cars, staring off into the distance and repeatedly muttering to himself, "He called, and I have come. He called, and I have come." The professor laid a hand on his shoulder to wake him, and found it easy. The man was profoundly embarrassed, claiming to have had no dreams, and quickly made his excuses and retreated to his cabin.

At dinner, after a delicious meal, the waiter Maurice brought out a bottle of Sauternes from another guest and offered to pour it. The investigators agreed, and after the professor inspected the wine and the cork was pulled, a soothing sweet scene filled the air, bringing calm to everyone and more than a bit of envy from the other tables. The countess asked Maurice his opinion, and he took a taste and nearly swooned, saying it is the best wine he has ever tasted and that it is for such moments that he would not trade his job for a dukedom. The group--except Demir, who refused--drank their wine, luxuriating in the taste, and then looked expectantly to the corner when Maurice indicated their benefactor...only to find an empty table. Apparently he had slipped out during dinner.

Full of delicious food and drink, the investigators went straight to their beds after dinner, falling almost instantly asleep, only to be awakened just after three a.m. by the night conductor, who told them that they had arrived at their destination. He was unmoved by the party's protestations that they were going through to Belgrade, showing them a list of departures at Zagreb with their names clearly printed on it, and said that their luggage had already been unloaded. As the investigators reluctantly glanced at the fog-shrouded platform, they saw a cloaked figure, muttering to itself, and holding something gleaming white in its hand.

Since their luggage was already on the platform, they debarked and approached the cloaked man, who greeted them with a strange speech:
"What ho! Abed so early? And you too? sluggards! Did you plan to slumber like swine and forgo one of Europe's great cities, hurrying onwards to your gathering task? Bah! Come, come. I have arranged your stay here. Time flows swiftly, and we have much to talk about ere dawn. Perchance you will permit me to tell you the full strange history of the Sedefkar Simulacrum, and of what you can expect to find on your arrival in Constantinople. Hah! Follow good fellows, and let the Devil steer the course."
Before the investigators can ask him anything, he walks forward into the eddying fog, vanishing in moments. As the bells rang in the distance, the investigators found a nearby area with a lock to stow their luggage and followed him. Where he stood when giving the speech was a crumpled page from a diary, and Demir stooped to pick it up, but he quickly blanched and handed it to the Countess, who handed it to the professor. It read:
We were always destined to be together. From the moment I saw you I loved you; so beautiful and cruel, so heartless and perfect. I, your vile servant, was not fit to worship at your feet. Yet I caressed your alabaster limbs. I kissed your shining eyes. I held you close, closer than skull to skin.

I knew from that first moment of ecstasy that we were doomed to part, that you would use me and discard me as a snake escapes its old skin.

I tried to write down all you were. I thought that way I would remember you. I thought I could pin your essence down like a flayed hide and hold you forever in my heart. I should have known that any attempt to describe your loveliness was doomed from the start. Yet I wrote in a fever of longing, and I drew you on scrolls of skin. I hoped and dreamed that you would always be with me. But now you are gone. All I have left are a hollow hide and words, empty, useless, tormenting words.
There was no signature and no clue in the handwriting, but something about it seemed ominously familiar.

The investigators wandered the city of Zagreb, encountering no one, but occasionally seeing the cloaked figure of their host, always just out of reach above on a bridge or across a canal or around a corner. They followed the sound of hissing and squawking and found a statue of a gryphon and a serpent locked in mortal combat; a fish dying on the cobblestones that Gianni picked up and threw into the river; a shadow on the wall following their own, with pointed ears and long talon-like fingers, that on inspection turned out to be cast by a tangle of leafless trees; frosty message on bare earth that spelled out "But do they dream?"; a river of milk and a flagstone under which was a tarnished silver ring. And at each place they found another strange passage, written on tattoos on skin, or diary pages, or on a swirl of snow in the air. One, in particular, written in blood on the inside of a straightjacket, caught the professor's attention:
I lust. I hunger. I thirst. I rave. I cannot live without you. You are under my skin. You are my self. I had you once. Then I was perfection, killing and reveling and laughing with joy. I lost you and became a brute. Mad with desire for what I have lost I want to kill myself but I cannot. My shriveled skin resists the knife-thrust, my dead heart cannot be stopped again. I will kill all those pathetic would-be lovers who stand between us. When I seize you at last I will despoil you, ravish you, consume you. You will be me. I will be perfection, and laugh and kill and revel once more.
After the professor read it, he stood, looked off into the distance, and muttered to himself, "Le Comte."

In one square was a woman laughing and weeping alternately about a man ahead ("a man, a head"?), and when asked about the shrouded figure, she told them to:
"Ask the Tide, and name the one you seek by his proper title. She can tell you where to find him."
And she walked away, smiling, with blood on her lips. The professor addressed the black waters of the river as to the whereabouts of one Brother Merovac, called Le Comte Fenalik, but there was no reply other than the sound of the river sluggishly flowing in its bed.
[ profile] mutantur: "Is it the Styx? Perhaps. Chunks of ice whirl in lazy spirals, quiet testimony to the biting cold of the dark water. No bridge dares to conquer this slumbering wet beast."
Me: "...I'm pretty sure I saw Slumbering Wet Beast open for Seraphim Shock."
There was a man in one square turning over flagstone after flagstone, searching for something, and when Demir gave him the ring, he exclaimed with joy that now he could be married and Death should be his bride. When asked about the cloaked man, he told Demir to find the One Who Knows, and ask for "He Who Knows Great Men's Secrets." Then he stepped off the quay onto a patch of ice and sailed off over the black waters until the fog swallowed him up.

Lashed to a statue of Mary was a woman who cried out about her crime, that of assuming that as her son also suffered as all men suffer, and her toil was as onerous as all mother's toil, why was he not as worth as the son of G-d? When asked about He Who Knows Great Men's Secrets, she directed them to fort at the center of town and told them he awaited them there. She refused food, and when Demir spent time cutting her free, she fell to her knees...and as the party turned away for merely a moment, they looked back and found unmarred ropes bound her again to the statue.

When the party reached the fortress they found the shrouded man was indeed there, and after a brief acknowledgment he lets them in. Doors, bars, and gates all opened with a mere touch, and finally at the top of the highest tower, he bade them be seated. He told them he also once sought all knowledge, and he would be willing to impart what he knew, but there was danger. He claimed the skull he bore was his own, blasted by its inability to contain what he knew, but the party have already paid the price of his assistance, and so he would grant his knowledge.

And he did. As the investigators sat down, words poured almost in a torrent from his lips, burrowing into their brains. Of the secret history of the Earth, and the species that dwelt there before there were any humans. Of the ultimate futility of all human endeavor and the end of history, of the cruel Empire of Tsan-Chan thousands of years hence, of the feeble attempts humanity made to reach for the stars and the desperate retreat back to the mother world, and the dark conquerers fifteen millennia in the future. Of the Great Old Ones that lie dead but dreaming, and wait for the stars to be right. Of the ultimate source of reality, the blind idiot god Azathoth, who dances mindless to the piping of demoniac flutes from the blasphemous Throne at the center of the universe, and of its voice and soul that is the Crawling Chaos, Nyarlathotep-

His brain reeling with what he had heard, the professor wrenched his attention away from the shrouded figure's words to find that his companions had already stopped listening--except for Rosaline, who also shook her head violently and looked away just as the professor did. As the figure saw that his words fell on deaf ears, he stood and shrieked:
"You are lost anyway! For if you have not returned to your beds at dawn, you are doomed to walk the endless night of this place with the rest of us!"
As his voice died away, the bells began to toll, pitilessly and relentlessly, and the investigators rose from their seats and scrambled down the stairs from the tower in a headlong dash through that maddening City of Bells and Towers, shrouded in fog and horror. And as they ran, stumbling in panic, as the sixth bell tolled and their doom approached, they saw the lights of the Orient Express in the distance and they flung themselves aboard as it pulled away from the station, dashed to their rooms, and opened the doors--to find they were too late! For there they were, safe in their own beds, starting awake at the interruption! And as the knowledge of their doom pierced their brains, they fell into a swoon-

-and awoke in their beds, in the middle of the night, as a violent wrench threw open their doors and they came face to face with themselves, gasping and white-faced, with staring eyes filled with fear, and oblivion took them back into its embrace rather than face what terror it was that they themselves fled from.

Only to be awoken just after three a.m. by the night conductor, who told them that they had arrived at their destination. He was unmoved by the party's protestations that they were going through to Belgrade, showing them a list of departures at Zagreb...but then he looked again and apologized profusely, for their names were not on the list. After an assurance that this mistake would not be repeated, he bade the investigators go back to sleep and exited the car.

That morning, at breakfast, the countess fussed over the professor's health...and he poured her a cup of tea.

I did not remember this at all!

[ profile] mutantur last session mentioned that this wasn't in the original HotOE and I would be surprised, but it turned out that it was, it was just much less relevant. Originally it was all quotes from The Journal Of J.P. Drapeau by Thomas Ligotti, but in the revamped version it's all quotes from the various players in Horror on the Orient Express. The first quote is from Sedefkar himself, who wrote the scrolls, and I correctly guessed that the second one in the post--the third one we found, I think--was from Comte Fenalik. There were a half-dozen others, but this is already over 2000 words long and quoting them all would add a ton of space. It's especially ironic because the session only took about an hour and a half to play through.

The professor is no longer Sanity Man. He's now Cthulhu Mythos man, with a score of 26% after the shrouded figure's knowledge dump. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
During the night, Elaphe took the shield that Summer Rain was possessing and snuck into Dim Ember's room. As he opened the door, he saw the raptok's eyes open, and as she hissed out something in Raptok, he dropped the shield on the floor and returned to his room. In the morning, Dim Ember's party was gone, as was the shield, but there was a note underneath the door addressed to Shining Star. After a brief, wry expression of gratitude for the "present," Dim Ember assured Shining Star that she has a way of dealing with spirits, thanked her for her aid in killing Kurome, and said that they had to leave before dawn. She left a location that Shining Star could leave word if she needed to get in contact with her, at the Inn of the Three Coins on the Street of Clouds in tower town.

In a driving rain, with Shining Star nursing her wounds and the Green Knight and Bonnie slumped listlessly over their mounts, the party climbed the scaffolding around the pipe in the center of town, and entered the pipe. They emerged on a hillside under a cloudy sky, and spread out below and ahead of them was the Scarlet City.

It was bigger, and more consistent, than tower town. Inside the crimson walls ringed with cannons were dozens of tall towers topped with turnip-shaped domes, slender walkways spread between them like a web. Some of the walkways were even thinner, and the party was confused about their function until they saw some kind of car going between them. And above it all, anchored by ropes to the highest towers, was a giant floating balloon with some kind of cabin beneath it that they could see, faintly, movement on it as Silent Ones swarmed over the scaffolding.

The Scarlet City was order, but there was a riotous collection of buildings outside, and that's where the party went. After a bit of asking around, mostly done by Shining Star, they found their way to the Floral Quarter, where Shining Star visibly relaxed as she was surrounded by the clean stone lines and intricate metal grillwork of Floral architecture and as the amanita cast their eyes down and the mandragora nodded to her as she passed. She knows how Floral towns are built, and so she followed the roads to the center, where the temple of the goddesses is. Elaphe waited outside while they entered.

In the center was a pool surrounded by three statues of the goddesses. To the left was Diang, her long hair bound in braids around her head and her arms bare and she forged a blade on an anvil made of solid rock. To the right was Tharu, crowned in lightning, and her statue had been designed so that it was crying, and the water flowed down her cheeks into a bowl, which overflowed onto a small plot of rice and then into the pool. And in the back was Nyahré, robed and masked so no part of her was visible, and bearing a closed book in her left hand and a dagger in her right hand.

Shining Star spoke to the acolyte, who started and then bowed when she saw Shining Star's eyes. She said there was no priest of Tharu there on duty, but that she would go get one, and she came back later with an older mandragora man with a long light-green beard who walked with a cane. Shining Star explained their situation and then man agreed to look over Bonnie and the Green Knight. He couldn't diagnose their illness immediately, and so asked them to come back the next day after he had some time to research the symptoms.

The party took a room at the Inn of the Blooming Rose and settled down to heal and recuperate. Elaphe sent out some feelings to sell Kurome's black sword, eventually finding a Silent One who was willing to buy it, no questions asked, for a sum of money that was less than it was worth but with less trouble than selling the probably-cursed sword of a warlock would normally bring. Bonnie took a trip to the local outpost of the mandarinate in the Chaian Quarter, reported in and signed the forms in triplicate. The Green Knight grumbled about civilization. Shining Star sought out another doctor to treat her own wounds, allowing the priest of Tharu to treat her friends' Void Sickness without any distractions. And Amos wandered around the outskirts of the city, looking at the sheer variety of people. The kremling venomancer and his yojimbo, and the enormous, mutated kremling they had with them, almost twice as tall as the others and bearing a mace even taller than it was. The party of Veiled Ones from Sarasa, who had left their grasslands on an unknown purpose. The people from Makai, pale and hunched over, who spoke in low tones and kept to themselves. And, despite his searching, no other humans.

One day, the party bought day passes into the Scarlet City and passed through the gates under the watchful eye of the Silent Ones. Inside was the whirring of gears, the hiss of steam, and slow shuffle of robes, and...silence. The Silent Ones went about their business in complete silence, and the only voices were those who had bought day passes. They looked around, finding a few stores they didn't enter, and a library with a place to leave word if they wanted to hire the services of the Somnambulant Calculators, the Silent Ones' strange oneiromantic sorcerer-engineers. They left without buying anything.

After a week and a half, the party had fully recovered their strength and made to leave to return to Fontina and investigate the plague of walking dead. The temple of the goddesses threw a feast for them the day they left, with vegetarian Floral cuisine and wine aplenty, and then the next morning they took a pipe they had learned about that led to B'rabt, and which wasn't far from the pipe in the square in Rockfort, capital city of Fontina.

B'rabt was blazing hot in the morning and almost unendurable during the day. Shining Star took off her robes, Amos removed his armor, and Bonnie suffered in her fur, but the party rode north on the rode by the shores of the Kintai, with the Berha desert off to their left and boats going up and down the river and travelers on the road. They passed through several towns and villages along the way, and after nightfall, just as the temperature started getting very cold, they reached the next pipe they were going for and entered it, emerging in Rockfort.

And we ended there.

This session was mostly recovery from the battles in Greenwall and people healing, spending XP, and buying new items. The party still made out with a net gain in wealth with even after spending more money than a peasant family would make in three years on a private room at an inn and stabling and feed for their horses and Elaphe's claw strider--owning mounts is expensive and also peasants are very poor--and on training in hedge magic. A couple people are thinking of picking up hedge sorcery for their characters. They thought their characters had to be sorcerers to learn it, but that was a mistaken impression, so they might add cursing people and summoning spirits to their repertoire.

I'm also really happy I got to play the Temple of Time Theme when the party went into the temple of the goddesses.

But next session, we'll see what's happened in Fontina in the almost three weeks since they were there last!
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Shining Star attempted to diagnose the strange illness affecting Bonnie and the Green Knight that was turning their skins a greyish color and making their veins stand out black against their skin, but after a close examination she simply had no idea. Elaphe searched through the burning building to find the pieces to reassemble his bob-omb, while Meohan the hedge wizard sat despondently and Ringo and Dim Ember tended to their wounds. Amos got the idea to ask the nearby birds if they have seen Kurome, so he cimbed to the top of the tea house with Bonnie's help and began chanting the words of the Discourse with Birds spell.

The first set of starlings Amos asked flew away without an answer, but then he took some of his travel rations and scattered them around the roof. A pair of crows took the bait, and Amos asked them if they had seen anything of the warlock. They answered that they had, tripping over their own words and interrupting each other, and indicated the overgrown orchard to the northeast of the town center:

 photo Greenwalltown.png

The burning town hall is the building south of the central plaza area.

Elaphe sent his claw strider familiar to the east to search out that area, and the party asked Meohan about his scrying spell. He said that he could cast it, but he would need a reflective surface, and Elaphe went off to find one while Shining Star searched to the west, walking around the town and looking for any spot where she could smell lingering taint. The whole town smelled faintly like rancid meat to her sorcerously-enhanced senses, but she found a few houses where the smell seemed stronger. One house was empty, with a table set as for a meal but abandoned mid-feast, but another had a barred door and shuttered windows, though Shining Star could hear the sound of movement within.

The Green Knight walked around the town hall to the trees in the south and summoned up his connection with the forest, asking the plants nearby if they had seen Kurome. The grass did not remember, but the tree said that two rains ago, Kurome came from the rising sun. The Green Knight moved northeast and asked the trees the same question, and they told him that they had seen Kurome enter the orchard several times.

Elaphe brought out a bottle of wine, after taking a long drink for himself, and poured it into a bowl in front of Meohan. The hedge wizard stared at it for a moment, then shook their head and began moving his fingers over the liquid and chanting. Shining Star returned to the town center, as did Elaphe's familiar, and the group moved into the orchard, following the crows. Elaphe remained behind, some distance from Dim Ember, Ringo, Cheerless Sword, and the chanting Meohan, eyeing his bob-omb and considering.

The party searched the forest and, where Shining Star smelled the strongest odor of rancid meat, dug into the ground. They found several chunks of obsidian, shallowly buried in the dirt, and Shining Star recognized them as a ritual tool for summoning demons. She wrapped them in cloth and took them with her. The party then returned to the town square to find a distinct lack of explosions.

Meohan finished his scrying ritual and began searching the places that Shining Star pointed out. In the barred house there was a family of mycon who had pushed a table against the door and were cowering behind the bed, and another house was empty. But at the final house, to the northwest, Meohan frowned and said that something was interfering with the spell.

The party, accompanied by Dim Ember and Ringo, immediately traveled to that part of town. Elaphe climbed up to the roof and dropped his bob-omb through the smoke hole, and after the explosion, the door and windows were blown open. The house was empty of mortal inhabitants, but in the middle was an ever-moving, vaguely humanoid shape of greenish liquid. The ground hissed where it stood, and curls of smoke arose from the dirt. Shining Star and Bonnie recognized it as a metody, a demon formed of liquid corruption!

Amos fired an arrow, which went straight through the demon, but the arrow's fire singed it. The Green Knight charged forward to engage, swiping with his wooden claws, but the metody flowed out of the way and then dissolved into a green foam, washing over the floor--and the Green Knight's feet, eating away at his boots and flesh. Shining Star thought of using the last of her Essence to cast a spell, but chose to fire her bow. The arrow sunk with a splash into the metody and began dissolving to no other effect.

Bonnie pulled out some of her alchemical glue and began to craft a crude bomb as the Green Knight leaped out of the acidic foam. Ringo danced forward and swiped a claw through the metody, and its color changed to a slightly darker shade as it began moving slower. Bonnie gave the bomb to Elaphe, who tossed it into the foam. The bottle began dissolving, leaving flaming liquid in the demon. Amos shot another arrow at the house, setting part of it on fire, and Elaphe and his mount leapt into the wall, knocking a piece of flaming debris onto the demon.

The Green Knight, seeking more flammable material, crossed the street to another house and opened the door...and came face to face with Kurome! He made to shout a warning, but the sound died in his throat as he stared into Kurome's good eye and felt like he was falling into it. Kurome swung his black sword at the Green Knight's head, but the briarwitch retained enough presence of mind to turn it aside with his claws.

Galvanized, the Green Knight yelled "Kurome!" and charged, swinging his claws, but the warlock blocked with the flat of his blade and escaped injury. Bonnie and Shining Star spun around, and while Bonnie tried to silence the warlock's voice, Shining Star saw her chance. She called up the power of Nyarhé and hurled a bolt of white fire at Kurome. The warlock raised his sword again, and the fire split on the blade...but not far enough. It hit Kurome on both sides of his body, and as his arms and shoulders kindled in white fire, he threw back his head and soundlessly screamed. Then, smoking, he crashed to the ground. The demon pulled itself back together from its foam and, to everyone's eyes but Amos, vanished. Dim Ember stepped forward and fired an arrow at Kurome's head, and in a rain of floral blossoms, the warlock's breathing stopped.

Shining Star and Dim Ember both made the sign of the goddesses over the dead warlock, and in the most formal way, Dim Ember thanked Shining Star for her help. Shining Star also expressed her thanks, and she leaned down and stripped Kurome's eyepatch from his body, handing it to Dim Ember. Then they bowed to each other. Meanwhile, Elaphe searched the warlock's body, taking the warlock's sword--an unattuned enchanted item, so it was incredibly heavy--and a black crystal that is freezing cold to the touch. Then the party withdrew to the tea house to regroup.

At the tea house, they drank mushroom beer and wine, and Bonnie told Dim Ember about the ghost of Summer Rain. Dim Ember explained that Summer Rain's father was a merchant who sold arms to the Dragon Emperor during the way and used that money to fund a dowry for his daughter, ending with, "But what good will that money do him now, I wonder?" and taking a drink of her wine. After more drinks, everyone went to sleep. The villagers did not come to the tea house that night, and they slept undisturbed.

Kurome is dead! I made the map and chose a location for Kurome beforehand to give the party a chance. He picked a ruined house to hide and stuck a demon nearby, figuring that the taint would be enough to metaphysically disguise him and that the party wouldn't be able to search every house without bothering the residents. And he was right! It was pure chance that the Green Knight went off looking for flammable material and opened the right door.

The party got lucky in other ways too. If Kurome had hit with his first attack, he could well have incapacitated the Green Knight, dragged him into the house, and then made his escape. If the search had taken longer and the Green Knight's disease had been further progressed, Kurome could have commanded him to fight his friends. There was a real chance that Kurome could have won and driven them away to lick their wounds.

And that's good! The best way for an RPG to go is for the PCs to win...barely.

Next session, the PCs are thinking of going through the pipe at the center of town to the Scarlet City, stronghold of the Silent Ones, to sell their loot and figure out what to do next. It'll be nice to be in civilization again after a half-dozen sessions in the wilderness.

I made the map in Cityographer and projected it onto our TV during the game, so the players could always see it while they were planning. Maybe I should do that with the world map, if I expand it from its current contained-sandbox boundaries.

Also, I have to post this great quote:
Me: "I've got rules for dysentery, too."
Bonnie's player: "Great!"
Me: "Don't fail those Survival rolls, is all I'm saying."
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
We pick up in the middle of a battle against demons.

The enormous kong-like demon rushed toward the group, battering aside the Green Knight's attempt to stop him and deftly dodging Cheerless Sword's axe swing. It raised a hand, its claws glowing orange-red as it brought them down on Ringo, but the raptok's tail snaked out and batted the demon's attack aside. In retaliation, the Green Knight struck back, carving a deep furrow on the blood ape's back and making it roar in fury, but not as much as in a moment when Shining Star called down the fury of Nyahré and obliterated the demon in a blast of white fire.

Elaphe finally made a decision and hurled his bob-omb into the town hall, causing a partial collapse and setting the front of the building on fire. However, he couldn't see anything through the smoke.

The demon possessing the townspeople launched itself out of the amanita in one corner of the town square toward a chuzan on the other side, narrowly missing Amos. The Green Knight started moving toward the demon's new host as Elaphe sent out a call to his claw strider through the familiar bond, ordering it to attack one of the demonic hosts close to the stable. He then moved close to the town hall, peering through the smoke, but still couldn't see anything.

Bonnie ordered her iron jaws familiar to go harass one of the demon-possessed hosts as Dim Ember fired another arrow at the host which currently housed the demon. The arrow hit in a shower of rose petals, and the host soundlessly screamed as smoke poured out of his mouth, but the demon was not defeated. Nor was it defeated when Shining Star reached out with her magic, burrowing rays of Nyahré's light into the demon's host and trying to force the demon out. The demon forcefully repelled her attempt, sending her staggering backward.

Elaphe saw movement in the smoke and turned to go. As he ran away around the burning building, he felt a sudden enervation. Bonnie and Amos, who were watching, saw black wisps of something rise from Elaphe and float into the burning town hall. Kurome was obviously in there, and close enough to affect them.

The Green Knight reached the possessed chuzan and tackled him, bearing him to the ground. The demon reached out of the host and bit the Green Knight repeatedly on the shoulders and arms, but he maintained his grip and squeezed tightly with his wooden claws, popped the chuzan's head off. As the head fell to the ground, Amos saw a green pillar of flesh, asymmetrical and pulsating slightly, rise from the body. Dim Ember saw it too and fired at it, but this time her archery skills failed her and she missed. The demon, banished from the material world, moved through the air toward the burning town hall.

Elaphe mounted his claw strider and the group gathered near the town hall. Meohan, the other party's hedge wizard, ordered his pippi to enter the burning building while they debated what to do, and a few moments later he staggered backward, muttering about the link being broken. Dim Ember mounted on Ringo and road around the building, confirming that there was a back door, and the others quickly formed a plan--Dim Ember, Cheerless Sword, Meohan, and Amos, who were all relatively uninjured, would go around the back and try to go through the back door while Shining Star and Bonnie kept Kurome busy.

With Shining Star feeding her tidbits of information, Bonnie taunted Kurome as a dog of the Dragon Emperor, always the servant of one master or another, and for a moment then there was no response. Then they heard someone muttering something in the tongue of the Kappa Wastes, and then a terrifying shriek that seemed to crawl over their skin and into their hearts. Elaphe was far enough away to be unaffected, and Amos, Dim Ember, Cheerless Sword, and Shining star managed to throw off the effects of the dark magic, but a cold hand gripped Bonnie and Meohan's hearts and seemed to drain all the energy out of the world. It was followed by cold, mocking laugher until Bonnie called up a bit of Essence and sent it out, cutting off the warlock's speech.

Behind the inn, Cheerless Sword managed to use a sturdy wire device to remove the bar from the poorly-constructed door. Dim Ember opened it and revealed an enormous kappa, holding a black sword that seemed more llike a hole in the air than a weapon, and with his other hand not visible. Dim Ember made a few hand signs, and she and Amos raised their bows, and fired together, Amos launching a flaming arrow and Dim Ember sending four shots in preternaturally quick succession. All of the arrows hit Kurome, and he turned around to face the assailants. One eye was covered in an eyepatch but the other was black, like a hole into the void, and he glared furiously at the party. Dim Ember took a step back, her bow slipping in suddenly-nerveless fingers, but Cheerless Sword stepped into the doorway and Amos was unaffected.

On the other side of the building, Shining Star moved to the front door of the town hall, stepping into the smoke-filled hallway and seeing Kurome. The warlock turned and noticed her, and he made a quick gesture with his hand. As the shadows rushed in toward him, Shining Star hurled a bolt of white fire at him...but Kurome was quicker, and the star fires passed through the spot where he had been as the shadows fled.

Dim Ember and Shining Star both realized that he can't have gone far--warlocks can step through shadows, but not to any great distance--and made ready to search the town. And we ended there.

So close! At the end, I had a Wits + Occult roll-off between Kurome and Shining Star to see whose spell went off first, and it came down to a tie, which means the defender won and Kurome vanished just before the Star Fires would have hit him. It probably would have killed him if it hit, or at least incapacitated him. And now I do have to make a map of the village because they're going to do a house-to-house search to find Kurome before he can get away again. That will be the next game, and I'll need to come up with a way to make sure that whether Kurome gets away or not is impartial and there's a fair chance to find him if the players outthink him.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personae
  • Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic
  • Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
After the altercation with the Turk the previous night, Demir was still convalescing and unable to travel far (and his player was absent), so he remained in the hotel while the investigators went to another museum elsewhere in Trieste, since they were just waiting for the translator to finish his work with Herr Winckelmann's diary. On the way to lunch, though, they noticed a man was following them through the streets, who looked very like the man that Demir had described in the library, having the pages of his book turned.

The investigators turned down a small alleyway and waited, and the man walked right into the alleyway and up to the investigators, making signs that they should follow him. After some hesitation, they did so, and he led them through the streets to a house in a run-down area of town. Entering, they found a single-room hovel with papers everywhere. The man rummaged through the papers, finally finding a sheaf of them and thrusting them at the professor, while Rosaline and the countess noticed a photo of the man, smiling, with two intact hands resting on a woman and a young boy. As they left, the man gestured frantically toward the northeast, and when the investigators began moving in that direction, he seemed satisfied and went back into his house.

At lunch, the professor read the papers. They were the diary of one Helmut Grossinger, and while fragmentary, they described a series of fantastical events. Cults living in caves beneath the earth, "human fish," limbs grafted onto other bodies and moving on their own, and names he had never heard of like "Ghatanotha" or De Vermis Mysteriis. As they talked and ate, they noticed the man with the red hair and black streak was standing across the street, watching their cafe--until a van pulled up just past him and two Turkish men jumped out, bundled him into the car, and then sped away.

After lunch they went to the library for research. They found the Postumia Caves were northeast of Trieste, and while there was a cave that was closer that was fully explored, another cave closer to Postumia had much that was still mysterious about it. The professor researched the unfamiliar terms in the diary and found nothing, but Gianni was more successful and learned that the library in Trieste had a reference copy of Nameless Cults, the Bridewall translation into English. The professor could tell that the translator had either been incompetent or taken extreme liberties with his work, but he still found himself disturbed when he opened to a random page and found an account of trees moving on their own or when commanded by the will of another.

At the hotel, the front desk told the professor that he had a message from the translator, so the investigators left again to get the translation. The professor paid the man, with a bonus for his quick work, and left. The translation spoke of Winckelmann's mission in Trieste of the "Beasts" and "Them" who were hunting him, of the need to hide the medallion before Archangeli got his hands on it, and of the need to have the amulet to enter the caves safely.

On the way back to the hotel, the professor noticed a pale-faced man dressed in antique clothing, far behind them on the street. He turned to tell the others about it, but when he turned back, it was gone. It was merely a foreshadowing of the events that would occur at dinner, however. The table rose, seemingly by itself, before falling back to the floor. Gianni cut into his chicken to find it full of writhing maggots, but when he spit out the moving piece in his mouth, it was merely normal chicken. The wine glass rose into the air, filling with blood, which poured out and made an image of Bacchus. The professor's knife moved his hand seemingly of its own accord, brandishing itself in the air. None of the other hotel guests noticed anything, and eventually the investigators left dinner before coffee and retired to their rooms.

At the professor's suggestion, they conducted a séance. Gianni had a Ouija board on his person, and the group pulled it out began chanting Johann Winckelmann's name after the professor improvised some Latin invocation. The planchette moved slowly, spelling out the letters M·A·R·C·O·P·O·L·O before the planchette shattered!

That night, they didn't get much sleep either. In the two other rooms, the candles refused to light, escalating into chairs moving, pillows exploding, the doors opening and shutting, and light bulbs shattering. Eventually, they were all ejected from their room and the doors would not open. The professor slept soundly until he woke in the middle of the night to find the fire had changed to a strange blue color and the room was freezing cold. Frost formed on the window, creating an image of Bacchus and his maenads in some pastoral scene--and when the professor took out a sheet of blank paper and pen, a similar image was created after the presence tried to write and found only scribbles coming out. When the professor got out of bed and touched Winckelmann's diary, radiating bone-chilling cold on the desk, the fire roared up, the frost melted, and the room returned to normal as a knock came on the door.

The others found the professor nearly hypothermic and bundled him into a blanket and sat him near the fire as the investigators relayed their experiences. The hotel staff thought that the rooms were ruined as a joke, or at least so they said, but they fixed the room and the investigators went back to bed. In the morning, they went immediately to the library to research Bacchus's involvement with Trieste. After some time, they found an artist named Nicholas Burnette who had been on a tour of the continent and had sketched a frieze in Trieste of Bacchus, reproduced in the account they found. It was on the "Via Marco Polo," only a few streets away.

The investigators made their way to the house and found the frieze, above a gate that was heavily padlocked. Asking a neighbor, they found that the building was abandoned, but the key was held by a widow, and the professor posed as an interested buyer. The widow was surly and suspicious, but she handed over the key and asked that they bring it back when they were done, so the party went back to the building, opened the door, and entered the dilapidated building. It was in extremely poor condition, with multiple holes in the floor and ceiling, but after the professor leaves to buy a lantern and comes back, they are able to make their way down the basement. Then, as they are examining the room, a pale-faced man in antique clothing, slightly translucent, comes down the stairs! He makes his way into the room, to a flagstone, pries it up with a pry bar, and places an oilskin bag into the hole. He moves the flagstone back into place, walks away, and vanishes before he reaches the stairs.

Working together, the investigators manage to raise the flagstone and, among the fragments of rotted leather, find a gleaming amulet, the last of Winckelmann's medallions:

Gianni picked it up and as he touched it, he heard a howling, as of a great wind roaring down from the north, and in an instant the cold of Trieste's winter seemed much more bearable. He slipped the medallion around his neck and the investigators replaced the flagstone, returned the key to the old widow, and went back to their hotel to sleep. This time, their sleep was undisturbed, though Gianni dreamed of a strange hunting call.

In the morning, they took a train to the Grotta Gigante, the closer caves, and took the tour, but found that there was nothing to learn there, so after the tour they went on to Postumia, arriving just in time to take the tour there. A man named Carlo was their tour guide, and he took the opportunity to play up the mysterious caves, pointing out formations that looked like body parts and menacing Rosaline with an olm pulled from a cave lake. All of this becomes much more siinster when Carlo turns off the cave lights, lights a flashlight, and more lights appear in the darkness. A group of men, led by Antonio Tremona, surrounds the group and demands the medallion as a tentacle falls from Tremona's "empty" sleeve. Gianni says "What medallion?" and Tremona snaps at him to hand it over...and then other figures move in the darkness. The Brotherhood of the Skin had come!  photo emot-black101.gif

As the two cults engage in pitched battle, the investigators flee through the caves past scenes of chaos. Cultists being eaten by giant olms. A Brother of the Skin flaying a fallen tentacle cultist and placing the skin on his own wounds while chanting. Brothers of the Skin impaled by tentacles, fighting on. Eventually, they pass through a formation that seems like a series of sharp teeth and arrive at a subterranean lake, surrounded by treasures encrusted with a thin layer of limestone...including the right leg of the Sedefkar Simulacrum, iron oxide around its end, making it seem as though it were covered in dried blood. As they entered the cavern, a voice boomed in the investigator's minds: AT LAST YOU HAVE BROUGHT THE MEDALLION!

Rosaline kicked the leg free and took the Simulacrum piece, and the group turned to go. As they did, a giant water shape formed, like a gigantic serpent, and roared GIVE US THE MEDALLION! After a moment of hesitation, Gianni complied, flinging it into the water. The shape collapsed, the cavern went silent, and the investigators ran for their lives. They stole a car when they exited the cave and found the outside was also a battleground between cults, went back to Postumia, and stayed in another hotel that night. When they went for their baggage in the morning, they found it in place, but with two mangled corpses there, mutilated beyond recognition, and the pieces of the Simulacrum had been assembled into the shape of a human body...

The next morning, they made their way back to Trieste, retrieved their luggage, and boarded the Orient Express. As the train pulled away, they saw the shape of Johann Winckelmann on the platform, who lifted a hand and smiled, and then faded away with a beatific smile on his face.

Next up, Belgrade...maybe! [ profile] mutantur implied that something mysterious and unexpected might happen, so we'll see!

This section was a bit of a Mythos Hoedown. An amulet with an image of Ithaqua on it, the Brotherhood of the Skin, cultists of the Lloigor, a legitimate was a bit much. But we made our way through it, even if we did give the medallion up to the Lloigor and furthered whatever their presumably nefarious plans are. To return, I'm guessing.

I'm not sure how I feel about legitimate ghosts in Call of Cthulhu. There's a danger in mixing horror sources, I think. When human horror, with ghosts and the afterlife, is mixed with cosmic horror, with monsters from beyond the stars, it can dilute either. If there's an afterlife and an immortal soul, does that mean that people who die are beyond the reach of the mythos? Does it dilute the impact of tentacle arms when glasses are filling with blood and light bulbs are shattering?  photo emot-iiam.gif I think it does, a bit. It's like having good human magic and bad mythos magic, in that providing a human source of power dilutes the "true nature of the universe" aspect of the mythos.

I mean, not as much as [REDACTED] does later, assuming that's still part of the campaign.

Also, a brief amusing aside--the professor is learning Arabic faster than Turkish, even though he's learning Arabic from a dictionary and scrolls written by a madman and he literally has a native Turkish speaker he can talk to at any time he wants. That says something about our man Professor Durand, I think.
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
The next morning, the members of the party separately and slowly came down to the tea house's main room to eat a breakfast of bread and gruel, Elaphe making sure to keep apart from the others to dispel any notions that he was particularly friendly with them. Ringo, the raptok member of the other group in town, was also eating, and Bonnie sidled over and sat down at her table. Bonnie didn't speak Raptok and raptok's mouths aren't suitable for speaking most other languages, but through pantomime Bonnie managed to convey that she wanted to hear Ringo speak, and after an hour she had enough practice to cast the Language-Learning Ritual, granting her perfect knowledge of the Raptok tongue.

Near the end of this period, Shining Star slipped upstairs to summon a Knowing Whisper, a minor servant of Nyahré in her aspect as goddess of secrets. She borrowed the senses of the Knowing Whisper to see the world of spirits and immediately noticed a purplish-black haze all over the room. Shining Star came downstairs and exited the tea house, followed by the others, and immediately noticed a haze in the town square as well, strongest around the town hall on the other end of the square. As the party was standing around wondering what to do, Elaphe slipped out and made his way around the edges of the square, sticking to the shadows and trying to move closer and Bonnie drank a dose of Spirit-Flower Tea so she would know if there were demons about. And then, she saw one. Shining Star and Amos saw it too, the same gigantic spider-thing that Amos saw when they first entered the town, crouched on the roof of a building near the town hall.

Bonnie ran inside to put on the armor she had bought while the rest of the other party, Meohan the hedge wizard, Cheerless Sword the yojimbo, and Dim Ember the Knight of the Rose, filtered outside. As Elaphe reached his position on a small road near the town hall, watching the square, Shining Star walked forward to the base of the building. She was tired of hiding and tired of waiting, so she reached out, called up her Essence, and dropped a Cloak of Night on top of the building. A moment later, she was rewarded as the demon leaped down on her from above, but Shining Star backflipped out of the way (something like 11 successes on 8 dice to dodge!) and then several things happened at once.

Dim Ember shook her walking staff and grabbed it with her other hand, and suddenly it changed, bending and turning green, deep grooves appeared on it and crawling over its surface, forming vines all over its length, until she was holding a bow. As Cheerless Sword and Ringo started running toward Shining Star, Dim Ember raised the bow and an arrow of twisting green Essence appeared as she drew back the string, trailing red and gold rose petals as it flew. It hit the demon, but didn't seem to injure it much.

The demon lunged at Shining Star again, biting her but not seriously, and she felt a tingling sensation at the wound which fortunately soon faded. The Green Knight looked around the square, noticing a few villagers who weren't running and were instead slowly walking toward the group with dull expressions on their faces. He knelt and touched the group, summoning up the Bramble-Commanding Aura around the largest group of villagers, and vines and weeds sprouted up from the ground and lashed around their legs. They didn't seem to notice, but it definitely slowed them down.

Amos shot at the demon with his bow, but missed and the flaming arrow hit the building behind it, which began sizzling. Ringo bit at the spider, tearing off one of its legs, as the spider attacked Shining Star again, but she stepped back and called up the Chains of Searing Light. Unfortunately, the pain distracted her and the demon easily slipped between them.

Elaphe did nothing, watching the old chuzan that was slowly and purposefully walking down the road near him.

Suddenly, the chuzen opened his mouth impossibly wide and a green pillar of flesh forced its way out and rocketed through the air, hitting Ringo and carving a chunk from her flesh, before continuing across the square and entering the grotesquely-open mouth of a mycon on the other side of the square. Dim Ember drew back her bow again and launched a flurry of arrows at the demon, two of them hitting and sinking into its flesh. It began to bleed black smoke as Cheerless Sword shouted to wait and attack on his signal.

Amos fired another arrow, this time hitting the spider, as Bonnie ran out of the tea house clad in her armor and Elaphe stepped forward and brutally half-decapitated the old chuzan from behind. The Green Knight moved up toward the demon spider as the door to the town hall was hurled open, nealry off its hinges, revealing the hulking form of a blood-ape--a monster a foot taller than a kong, with black fur, spikes on its joints and shoulders, and glowing patches as though its blood was burning and shining through its skin. As it began to move forward, Shining Star, Cheerless Sword and Ringo all struck at once, carving the demonic spider to ribbons and dissolving its physical form. Though, as Amos and Bonnie saw, not destroying it--immaterial, it began to run back toward the town hall.

The mycon's mouth opened wide and the green mode hurled itself across the square in front of the town hall, hitting Dim Ember a glancing blow, and disappearing down the mouth of an amanita across the square. As Amos fired at the blood ape, hitting it as it charged forward and the Green Knight moved to intercept it, Shining Star raised her hands and they began glowing with an eye-searing white light and she called up Star Fires and hurled them at the possessed amanita. The white light washed over them, and they began to cough black smoke and smoke drifted out of their eyes and ears. Dim Ember followed it up with an arrow which vanished in the air, but to Bonnie's tea-enhanced vision it turned into a cloud of rose petals which enveloped the possessed amanita.

Then a horrific shriek filled the square, emanating from the town hall. For those at the far end of the square it was merely blood-curdling, but those closer felt the sound crawling over their skin, seeking and entrance and trying to settle inside them...

...and we ended there for time.

Combat! It actually only took up the last half of the session, it's just that the first half was a lot of minor conversations and wondering what the group should do? The answer turned out to be "frontal assault," I think partially because Shining Star's player wanted something to happen and partially because she thought that Shining Star was tired of waiting. And for a combat with twelve participants--thirteen if you count Kurome--I thought it went pretty well.

The demons are showing no fear in combat because their bodies aren't them--as spirits, they can materialize and just dematerialize if sufficiently beaten up. Now, should any of the party show themselves capable of hurting dematerialized spirits, as Shining Star and Dim Ember can, then they'll be more cautious. Shining Star being a priestess of Nyahré is the reason why the demon spider was attacking her with suicidal fury, hoping for its poison to take effect. No such luck.

That shriek at the end obviously supernatural, but I realized after the game that I was wrong about who was close enough to the town hall to be affected by it, so I'll deal with that at the beginning of the next game. I also have to rewrite the spell that causes it, because right now it's boring.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personae
  • Demir Sadik, Turkish Revolutionary/Field Medic
  • Gianni Abbadelli, Italian Vatican Parapsychologist
  • Luc Durand, French Professor of Linguistics
  • Rosaline St. Clair, American Antiquities Dealer
  • Valentina Durnovo, Russian Countess/Gentlewoman
The wind was howling when the investigators arrived in Trieste, to the point where there were no horses on the streets, only cabs. None of the inhabitants would subject their animals to the fury of the bora (illustrative painting), as they heard some of the locals call it. They managed to find hail and taxi and check in to a hotel, a slightly lower-class/more reasonable one--replace as appropriate depending on whether you are the professor or the countess--but as they were leaving their cab, a furious blast of wind blew Professor Durand and Gianni off their feet. They weren't injured, other than their pride, but they were glad to get indoors.

After dinner where they discussed their plans in Trieste, which entirely consisted of trying to find a Johann Winckelmann at "the museum," that being the only clue they had received from Professor Smith as to the statue piece in the city, they retired for the night. The professor sent a telegram back to the University of Paris, asking that Arabic<->French translation materials be sent on to Belgrade, the next destination where they would be stopping. Demir noticed a Turkish man in a business suit and fez reading a newspaper in the lobby, but when he tried to engage him in conversation, the man brusquely said that he did not wish to talk and Demir eventually gave up and went to sleep.

That night, Demir had horrible dreams which he was unable to remember in the morning.

After breakfast the next morning, the investigators braved the bora and took a cab to the Museo Civico di storia ed arte e Orto Lapidario, where inquiring after Herr Winckelmann got them directions to the statue garden outside. It was very impressive and would have been a wonderful place to spend an afternoon without the howling winds, so when Rosaline spotted a Roman temple through a bunch of hedges, she directed the others toward it and everyone gladly took the chance to get out of the wind.

On the side of the temple was a strange frieze, of humans offering sacrifices to animal spirits. The human figure were worn, but the animals, of vaguely reptilian shape with proportions that were disquieting to look on, were unnaturally free of weathering. Something strange about the shapes struck the professor and Rosaline, but they could not place it and eventually entered the temple.

Inside, after their eyes adjusted to the gloom, the group noticed two things. The first was the large number of cats, also probably taking shelter from the wind. The second was the cenotaph in the back of the room with a dedication to Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the father of modern archeology, who died in the 18th century. A search of the premises turned up something but some archeological equipment probably left by graduate students on pilgrimage, so after speaking again with the front desk, the investigators went to the library.

Gianni looked up Winckelmann's life and found some brief biographical information while Rosaline followed a hunch about Napoleon's army, finding a reference to a document, but since she was unable to read French, she couldn't follow up on it. When the professor had a free moment he did so, discovering an account of a French soldier who brought a treasure from Paris to Trieste, but refused to give it up, claiming that it was for his "master." There were two murders, the second in revenge for the first, and the soldier died. Another soldier died as well, a third went incurably insane, and another insisted that one of the bodies was a "monster" who had attacked the first.

As this, some pieces fell into place and the professor called over the countess and explained his theory to her. From the Devil's Simulare, he knew that Fenalik had survived from the 13th century to the 18th century. He knew that the Comte had been sealed in Charenton, and that they had found a cavity in the walls when they explored in the basement. He mentioned the orderly who had been attacked, the footsteps in the empty Paris street, and hte grisly murders that seemed to be following them across the continent, and laid out his theory:

That Comte Fenalik was somehow still alive, and was following the investigators across Europe to retrieve that statue that he had held for so long.  photo emot-gonk.gif

As the professor explained this to Rosaline as well, Demir saw a man who seemed to have no hands reading a book. He approached him to ask if there anything he could do, to turn the pages or otherwise offer assistance, but when the man saw him, he fled without saying anything. Demir was sure that his tongue had also been removed...

There was a reference to a Giovanni Termona who had purchased Winckelmann's papers, including a diary, at auction, and asking the library staffs gets an address. The professor drafts a letter, mentioning the "book" he's writing and a desire to see the papers, and since it's late in the day the investigators leave to go back to their hotel.

On the way back, they see a face peeking at them from a hotel second story which does not seem to be bothered when they stare at it. Entering the hotel, Gianni asks about the room and the clerk says it has not been rented in weeks. The professor suggests that the investigators rent the room, and they do. At dinner, he reveals his suspicions about Count Fenalik to Demir and Gianni, and Demir tells the others about the man he encountered in the library. Then Demir goes back to the old hotel while the countess arranges for the transfer of luggage and the professor asks the front desk about the waiter who also received some of Winckelmann's papers.

The professor turns up nothing, but Demir finds another Turkish businessman, wearing the same suit and reading the same newspaper, in the lobby of their old hotel. He is again unwilling to speak to Demir, so Demir hides, waits, and follows him. The man walks down to the dock, to a small pensione, and enters. Demir waits and then tries the door, opening it onto the unmistakable scent of rot that he remembers from the battlefield.

The lights are off, but Demir creeps in and checks under the stairs, finding the body of an old man who has been horrifically mangled, with organs misplaced and chunks carved out of his body. He listens at the stairs, hearing the Turks above discuss what was obviously the location of the investigators, and then begin a low chanting in a hideous tongue which grated on Demir's nerves. He pulled out three bullets, left them at the top of the stairs, and slipped out back to the hotel.

There is nothing strange about the room and no sign that anyone was watching them, but that night, Demir and Rosaline have hideous dreams. Rosaline doesn't remember, but Demir remembers something enormous moving in dark water, far below the surface.

The next morning the investigators catch each other up at breakfast--the professor, remembering Sedefkar's face-changing power from the Devil's Simulare, especially asks Demir if he would remember the pensione-owner's face if he saw him alive again--and then they go to the museum to ask about Winckelmann's medallions and the dispensation of his papers. The museum curator is happy to speak with the professor, but he doesn't know much, continually directing them to Antonio Termona who may know more. So that is their next stop.

The scion of the Termona family is a young man who is missing his left arm. He is happy to speak to the investigators, and when the professor tells him about the book he is writing he brings up Winckelmann's papers and says that the diary is written in a dialect of Ancient Greek, which the professor does not know. Antonio is willing to lend the diary to a fellow scholar and provides the name of a translator who could do the work, and then they part.

As they are talking, Rosaline and the countess think they see movement in Antonio's empty sleeve.

The professor goes to the linguist to get a translation, which the man says will be done in a day and a half. Demir leads the others to the docks, down to the pensione, to see if anything has changed, but nothing has. On the way back to the hotel, the professor passes a man with red hair but a strange streak of black in it. The professor looks behind him, but the man continues down the street and doesn't seem to be following him. Nonetheless, the professor makes sure to take a slightly different route back to the hotel, continually checking behind him to be sure he's not being followed.

When they meet up at their hotel and ascend upstairs to their rooms, a Turkish man is standing outside the room door! He turns to leave, but Demir explodes into motion, running at him and seizing him by the arm. The Turk pulls a knife so Demir draws his gun, and a struggle ensues. In the struggle, Demir tries to disarm the man but leaves himself open and is stabbed in the chest. As he bleeds copiously and collapses, the Turk runs and escapes down the stair at the far end of the hall.

The countess provides first aid as people stick their heads out of their rooms, and at a nod from the countess, the professor tells a woman nearby to call a doctor. The doctor tends to Demir and asks what happened, and Gianni and the professor explain. Demir asks if his tattoos will heal, and the doctor says that it is too soon to see and that Demir should come see him in the morning to make sure the wound isn't getting worse.

After speaking to the police, who are very skeptical of Gianni's "It was a scary foreigner!" defense but eventually come around and agree to go check out the pensione by the docks, the investigators go to sleep, where the countess has horrible dreams of being in the vastness of space and something enormous rushing at her.

The professor has 98 SAN, but his paranoia here is entirely logical! The Devil's Simulare really made him start jumping at shadows, so now he's worried that everyone is either a servant of the Comte, the Comte himself, or a Turkish cultist wearing someone else's face. If/when he loses enough SAN for a permanent mental disorder, I'm going to push hard for that kind of paranoia.

I asked if the professor could go into the Dreamlands to get more study time for the Sedefkar Scrolls, but [ profile] mutantur pointed out quite reasonably that while he was familiar with the Dreamlands and their properties, he didn't actually know how to get there without Henri pulling him in. Which is true, but  photo c9a2ed93dbfb11e324f5b3e281e5e1b2.gif.

There were also several instances of the bora blowing people over that I didn't include. It got pretty predictable, at least for Gianni and the professor--go outside, get blown head over heels.  photo emot-psyduck.gif
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyahré.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Elaphe went back to sleep and Bonnie was out in the square by the pipe, but Shining Star, the Green Knight, and Amos were in the common room when one of the amanita from the group last night came downstairs, picked up a bowl of mushroom gruel from the bartender, and started to eat it. After a brief debate about how to deal with the other group, Shining Star took the initiative, stood up, and walked over to the amanita and sat at his table.

The amanita was closemouthed, but he was willing to engage Shining Star in conversation. She tried to subtly hint to them that she was in town for the same reason, but the amanita either didn't pick up on it or wasn't interested in revealing their own motivations.
Shining Star: "You come from the Kingdom of Flowers?"
Amanita: "There are many wanderers from the Kingdom on the road in these days."
She was thinking about what to do next when the mandragora companion of the anamita came downstairs and sat next to him. Shining Star tried talking to her using the Royal Speech, the mandragora ability to speak into others' minds, and had much more success.

The mandragora introduced herself as Dim Ember of the House of Hollyhock, Knight-Lieutenant of the Knights of the Rose, a Floral knightly order responsible for dealing with dangerous spirits. She told Shining Star that she had been tracking Kurome for weeks since they had heard rumors in tower town that he was in Greenwall, and introduced her companions--Ringo, a raptok sorcerer; Meohan, a hedge wizard; and Cheerless Sword, her yojimbo, the amanita sitting next to her.

As if summoned, Meohan and Ringo came down the stairs and joined them at the table, and Amos and the Green Knight--who had been engaging in a staring contest with both Cheerless Sword and then Dim Ember--also came and sat down when Shining Star used the Royal Speech to tell them what had transpired. Bonnie, who had been sidling from chair to chair to get a bit closer, sat as well, and even Elaphe woke up and came downstairs, though he affected to be unrelated and sat at the bar instead, keeping an ear out.

Most of the session was taken up with the discussion that ensued as the two groups tried to feel each other out. Now that she knew she was dealing with a fellow exile of the Kingdom of Flowers, Dim Ember was much more forthcoming, and while she didn't explain her past or how she met her companions, she did mention what she knew about Kurome--that he had fled from the wrath of the Dragon Emperor (she uses the term "usurper") to a village in the north of the Kingdom of Flowers, but a group of wandering heroes had defeated his attempt to conquer that and use it as a base to expand his power. He fled through the Forest of Shadows, somehow surviving the journey, and had come to Greenwall, and she meant to kill him.

Bonnie asked if Dim Ember is a sorcerer, and she replied that she is not but that Ringo is, and then Bonnie tried to find out if Dim Ember and her group really is responsible for killing Summer Rain. She rolls and...botches the roll, so instead of asking in a round-about fashion if the Knights of the Rose have a way of dealing with ghosts, Bonnie blurted out something about whether Dim Ember created any ghosts on the way south. That put something of a damper on the conversation, and moreso when Shining Star casts Scent of Corruption and learned that the bartender in the inn they're staying in has the touch of demonic magic on her. The spell wasn't specific enough to tell if the bartender was possessed, cursed, or under a compulsion, and Shining Star weighed the chance of exorcising the taint with the fact that she'd be revealing herself to Kurome if she did. She decided against it, and Dim Ember and her group left to do more scouting of the town.

Shining Star and the party, minus Elaphe, did the same, and they found a half-dozen individuals who were tainted in the same way. No one is sure where Kurome is, but the smell of rot was strongest in the town square and faded as they walked near the outlying houses and fields, so even if Kurome isn't physically present in the town, that was obviously where his influence was the strongest. While wandering around, they were confronted by a group of local mycon and amanita youths who were spoiling for a fight. One of them, who had the smoky haze of demonic influence around him, even went so far as to throw a clod of dirt at Shining Star, but when the Green Knight used hedge magic to disappear and reappear right in front of them, the youths all broke and ran. Back at the inn, the party conferred. Elaphe agreed to continue watching the bartender and the others went to bed.

That night, after the inn was closed and the bartender had gone to sleep, Elaphe slipped out the front and around the back and found a door leading out to an alleyway, so he chanted a quick bit of hedge magic to aid stealth and settled in to wait. After about an hour in the alley, the bartender left through the back door and began to purposefully walk north. Elaphe followed, noticing a few other people walking at night as well, and eventually climbed up to a roof to get a better viewpoint. The people all walked north into the grain fields and disappeared into the tall stalks, though he could see ruffling among the sheaves that told him they were converging on one point. He made his way back to the inn, encountering nothing other than a few drunks, and when he returned he saw steady light coming from the room that Dim Ember and her group were staying in. He decided to wake Shining Star, however, and explained what he saw and then lay down to sleep.

Shining Star knocked on Dim Ember's door and it opened onto a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth as long as her hand. But when Ringo noticed who it was, she stepped aside, revealing Meohan sitting over a bowl of water and moving his hands in languid motions. Shining Star explained to Dim Ember what Elaphe had found, and Meohan changed the focus of his scrying pool. From above, it showed ten people standing in a circle in a small clearing in the fields. The only sound was the wind, but Shining Star could see the glow of their eyes--not the verdant green of the Green Knight's eyes, but the sickly green-yellow of something poisonous. After a few moments, the group dispersed, and Shining Star returned to her room and went to sleep.

Like I mentioned, this session was almost entirely dialogue other than the spying at the end. The whole thing really turned on Bonnie's Charisma + Presence botch--without that, the party might have been able to figure out what really happened with Summer Rain and maybe resolve that. As it is, the shield was left in their room all day, so barring some kind of ghost power, Summer Rain doesn't know what happened. At least, they hope not!

Now the party has tentative allies, but the real question comes in for whether they'll be able to fight Kurome and what happens after they win. Elaphe's player does a lot of asking about the location of things so he can figure blast radii...
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personae
  • Andres of Troyes, Frankish Knight
  • Brother David, Cistercian monk
  • Eloise of Flanders, Handmaiden to the Countess and spy
  • Gilles de la Grave, Frankish Knight
  • Renault of Flanders, Frankish Knight
The group approached the Church of Saint Mokius, carefully surveying the square in front of it. They had left their horses by the bottom of the hill, and so Eloise carefully crept through the square to get a look at the church. She spotted several warriors hiding in the rubble in the square and one man dressed as a priest, and just as she entered the church door, the warriors spotted the party. As the priest yelled for the party to give themselves up and the warriors leveled their crossbows, the party charged for the door. Brother David took a crossbow bolt in the shoulder and, as the priest began shrieking exhortations to the Skinless One, felt a strange pain in his forehead and blood dripping down his face, but they managed to make it inside the church and bar the door.

Inside, they quickly looked around. The church dome was broken, with a rent gaping open to the sky, but the rest of the church seemed intact. The more martial members of the group quickly dealt with three Italians who tried to climb into the church one-by-one and then spread out to find the relic that the Venetian priest had hidden. Eloise kept Ramaldi, who was outside the church, busy in conversation until they found the relic in a nave in the southern wall, hidden beneath a statue of the Virgin so small that they had originally overlooked it in favor of the giant statues standing in the corners of the church. Then, as bricks began to come out of the damaged wall and Ramaldi's men were almost broken through, the party entered the crypt, blocked the door behind them.

Lighting torches, the group looked around the crypt. There were several sarcophagi, some of which had been smashed and the remains within strewn around the room, but most prominent was the tunnel in the corner that seemed freshly dug. With no other options but to go forward, they entered the tunnel, following it for perhaps a hundred feet, and then almost at the end, they came face to face with the horror that had been stalking the city that the Byzantine priest claimed to have called up. A serpentine horror, with long neck and horse-like head, thrust itself into the tunnel and roared at them.

As the monster took a deep breath and flames kindled in its throat, Eloise hurled a vial of poison at it, but her throw went wide. Fortunately, the monster failed to use its breath and tried to bite, snapping ineffectually at the party. At first, they attacks were similarly ineffective, with Renault's torch failing to affect the monster and Brother David's mace clanging off its scales, but Andres managed to strike a mighty blow and the dragon--for surely it could be nothing else--withdrew. Looking down, they realized they were perhaps forty feet up, overlooking a cistern, and with Italian cultists behind, they decided to jump.

They fell into the water and splashed toward the walkway, Eloise moving separately from the others and trying to sneak around the cistern out of sight of the dragon. The dragon attacked the knights repeatedly, with many blows simply failing to hurt it, until it took a deep breath and breathed flames over the party. Andres and Renault managed to deflect the flames with their shields, but Brother David and Gilles fell, seared and bleeding badly. Renault tried to save their lives as Andres fought the dragon, managing to stabilize both them through some miracle, and as the dragon stooped over its victims, Renault dealt it a mighty blow. It hissed and dove under the cistern's waters, and did not emerge again.

Some of them staggering under their wounds, the party emerged from the cistern and found their horses, where Eloise and Brother David took some time to study the package. It had a few creepy poems and a ritual that seemed designed to detect the presence of the Skinless One, and below that, a large capsule marked all over in Latin and Greek that to open it is death. Eloise and Brother David do not open it.

On to way to Merovac, the party ran into a group of Frankish knights who babbled about how the French were being taken by strange things and there were monsters loose in the city. The party pointed them at the Church of Saint Mokius and told them about the Italian cultists and Ramaldi, after which the knights charged off now that they finally had a target.

Merovac examined the ritual and determined that it needed to be performed to find Sedefkar's tower, and that he had most of the ingredients, but would need a bit of skin. Andres volunteered some of the skin of his back, and Merovac took it and dropped it into a cauldron, after which the water turned red and revealed the tower. Renault recognized the place in the city, and after Merovac gave the group some healing supplies, they left the leper ship.

On the way to the tower, the party ran into a French nobleman and his retinue, who questioned them about their intent. Eloise noticed something odd about him, a hint of marble-liked flesh, and as he noticed her looks, he denounced the knights as traitors and demanded that his men seize them before he fled. The party tried to force their way through, but the men were unyielding and the party was forced to kill them in pursuit of the nobleman.

The tower was a dull ochre color and the inside was a parade of horrors. Bodies strewn about or suspended from the ceiling, some still twitching, or sewn into new creations that writhed feebly. Ropes of intestines stretched into a diagram, blood liberally strewn everywhere, and monsters in the shapes of devils with terrible lamprey mouths. The party fought their way up the tower until the reached the top floor, where the sorcerer Sedefkar, the guise of a French nobleman, was attempting to perform a terrible ritual in front of a vast altar made of skin with still-living babbling faces strewn about its surface. The battle was terrible, and Renault and Brother David came away with serious wounds, but through coordination and their martial prowess, the knights managed to remove the sorcerer's armor and kill him. As they did, the tower's vile decorations crumbled into stinking slime, the armor pieces solidified into more of a statue, and the sorcerer hissed, "A curse on your crusade..." and then died.

The party gathered up the statue pieces and knife and rode back to the count. On the way, they saw many crusaders in shock, distraught over what they had done, and when they reached the count he was very pleased and gave them all fifty gold marks and the services of his healers, and they went to sleep. The artifacts would be turned over to Merovac for study.

In the morning, they were summoned again. The count was furious--he informed them that the leper ship had disappeared, as had Merovac, and all the guards on the ship were found dead, drained of blood. He swore that he would give the party a ship to seek out Merovac wherever he had fled, and bade them beware. If they sought to go further east, Merovac was well known and hated there, and went under a different name.


Shock! Gasp! And now, some of why I was using [REDACTED] earlier is revealed.

[ profile] mutantur did the best he could, but I thought this was a very badly designed scenario. It was basically a playable cutscene with a pre-determined ending, so whenever we ran into a situation where there was one way to proceed but we had to roll dice to accomplish that task, he was forced into increasingly-ridiculous explanations of how we succeeded or just having us win by fiat. Which is fine with me, because if the way to finish the scenario is a lot of single-roll fail points, it's a bad scenario. If there's no option but to do X, then X should just happen.

That bit above, Renault failed to heal Brother David and [ profile] mutantur had it succeed anyway because there wasn't any other choice. That was where I lost interest in how the scenario turned out, really. I made a joke that as the professor was reading it, he said, "I think there's something missing here, the account just skips ahead and the knight and monk are healed somehow."

I also didn't really like Sedefkar. This is the feared sorcerer, infamous in history, and his tower was basically Spatterpunk Blood Feast, which sounds like an amazing metal album but isn't a great way to show Sedefkar as some kind of cosmic threat. He's just a magic serial killer, which is one of my least favorite fiction archetypes. Well, at least he's dead now after our quicktime-based cutscene. We mashed X + Y like a pro.


dorchadas: (Default)

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