Sunday, June 30, 2013

Akwamu's way, pt. 3

The evil priest lay unconscious at our feet. We stripped him of his armour and belongings, many of which had the look of items of quality, and bound him securely. We noticed that his entire body was scarified—no doubt the result of some foul ritual.
City guard: "I used to be an adventurer like you..."
Credit: Windmaker
      Upon emerging from the warehouse, we found four town guards waiting for us. They claimed that they had been sent to our last known location to arrest The Hammer on charges of treason: it was alleged that he was a spy for a foreign power. In our haste to report our findings to the clerics of St Cuthbert, we allowed the guards to depart with our comrade, hoping to sort this obvious misunderstanding out later. As it turned out, we misjudged our peril in the moment of our victory, for we would soon learn that these were no city guards and that we had been deceived.
      The clerics of St Cuthbert and paladins of Heironeous listened to our story and recognized the name Oeridien. He was an archmage who lived long ago, before the Cataclysm, and who went insane and joined forces with a necromancer. We now had to ponder our next move, but as it was late and the guard commander had not yet arrived, we settled down to rest—another mistake born of complacency, for we assumed that we would be secure in the midst of the clerics. But it was not so: in the middle of the night, the church compound was attacked. Bakari, who had taken the wise precaution of sleeping near the prisoner, awoke to strange sounds and muffled cries. No one responded to his hails, so he set forth to find answers, only to find several of the priest of St Cuthbert dead or unconscious in the halls. When he returned to the gaol, he saw that our prisoner was
Oeridien
dead—beheaded, in fact.
     By this time, the rest of us were awake. (I might have woken sooner, but Davos's deafening snores blocked out the commotion.) It turns out that most of the priests had fled in panic when the attackers struck. It also became apparent that our attackers had been invisible. We quickly enlisted the clerics to aid us in our search for answers, first by using their divine spells to detect the presence of any remaining evildoers and then by communicating magically with the corpse of our prisoner. We also had them employ their various powers of divination. Here is what we discovered:

  • the cultists of Nerull had already gathered the four ingredients for the ritual (blood from a dragon, a vampire, a deva, and an old god)
  • they were gathering near Koidarra, the old capital of Artuare, to perform the ritual
  • their goal was to achieve "true death and rising"
Unable to rest, Bakari went to seek out the guard commander while I remained with Davos, who needed to rest so as to prepare some much-needed spells. Synast also went forth, returning to the inn at the sign of the Hopping Leprechaun. Both came away with unexpected news. Bakari learned that the guard commander had not ordered The Hammer's arrest and that a great fire had been set in the slum district just about the time that the temple of St Cuthbert was attacked, no doubt a diversion to keep the real city guards busy. Meanwhile, Synast was approached by a mysterious woman who claimed she knew of our purpose and had valuable information for us.
     The following day, with Davos having identified several useful magical items we'd taken from the cultists' headquarters, we set forth to meet Synast's contact: Alinestra. We were all shaken by the deceptions and treacheries of the last day and so were understandably suspicious of her, Bakari most of all. Alinestra, too, was initially tightlipped and reluctant to say much. But little by little we came to an agreement to work together.
Alinestra
      Alinstra is a cleric from a temple devoted to Wee Jas. It was from her temple that the cultists acquired the blood of a god, in the form a living being who is "god-blooded." This person, likewise a cleric, had voluntarily joined the cultists, presumably for self-interested reasons. Over the last six years, Alinestra has been investigating the cult and seeking the traitor to her temple. In that time she has killed several creatures like the one we fought below the streets of Bahor. Perhaps nine now remain.
      We agreed to allow Alinestra to study the book of Oeridien, and in return she divulged more of what she knew of the cult. The purpose of the ritual was to bring Oeridien back to life. Long ago, Oeridien had been a follower of Pelor, but after the tragic death of his family during a war between humans and elves, he went mad and turned to evil. He was wont to kidnap people and sacrifice them to Nerull, then raised them as zombies. He acquired powerful followers from the church of Hextor by promising them great power. One of these was a half-demon priest named Kirenifor. At one point, he is said to have constructed a great airship out of the bones and skins of his victims.
      Though our enemies now have the four ingredients for the ritual, they yet lack one crucial thing: the body of Oeridien. According to Alinestra, the latter is located near the old capital and this is why we must go there at once. If we can prevent the evil ones from retrieving the body, we can prevent the return of Oeridien.
      One more revelation awaited us. Bakari now informed us all that he had formerly been a martial follower of Hextor who had repented of his ways after being resurrected by that dark god's agents. Now this follower of St Cuthbert is being drawn, with the rest of us, into a confrontation with the worshippers of Nerull and Hextor. As a hero of legend once said, "This time, it's personal."

Loot:

*chain maille
*ring of protection +1
*cloak of resistance +1
*flail
*periapt of wisdom +2
sack of gold
*wand of shocking grasp

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Diary of a bounty hunter, pt. 2

Credit: Richard Pace
Something I ate shortly before leaving Kawa'ho violently disagreed with me and I spent the next while below deck, fevered and barely conscious. As a result I missed some interesting events: a sighting of a mysterious ship at sea, and the destruction of a barge full of the living dead. At our next landfall, on a larger island, my comrades reported the zombie plague to the authorities and for their pains we were attacked in our rooms at the inn. (Apparently I slept right through it, exhausted as my body was from fighting back to health.) Our attackers were not zombies, but a pair of mysterious ninjas whose faces were tattooed entirely black.
     We were told later that these "dark ones" or "shadowed ones" are creatures of legend and nightmare, feared and despised among the Togapa. Still weak but mostly recovered, I was able to conduct some research in local records and learned that the dark ones seem most associated with high seas piracy on the fringes of Togapa territory. The local magistrate, a thirty-something woman named To'kau, reported that some of the shadowed ones may, contrary to popular belief, actually have "normal" tattooed faces and thus be capable of blending in. This, of course, only makes this organization more dangerous. We could only assume that they attacked us because of our role in trying to prevent the spread of the zombie plague, but we have no proof.
Credit: Skokloster Castle
      Recognizing our efforts, the magistrate allowed us to take useful gear from the armoury. All of us found something to our taste: a new helm, or shield, or weapon.
      We then set out to recruit local followers—ideally clever street urchins who could run messages to the authorities and blend into the crowds, perhaps even detecting any who attempted to follow us. On a tip from our innkeeper, we set out to find one such prospect, but en route Dolly noticed we were being tailed. She confronted the man, but he made excuses and vamoosed. It was perhaps not surprising that we were soon ambushed by five hooded men. Although we were caught off guard, Sarkona's tail swipe almost ended the fight before it began and Archimedes proved might handy with his cane. Our attackers turned out to be from various Togapa clans—evidence of some kind of organization that crossed factional lines. Could they be somehow related to the dark ones?
      In the end we did locate and hire a young man: Koa Malaui. He recognized one of our attackers as a local tough and led us to the street our attacker frequented. We saw several of them loitering in doorways. Taking the initiative, Sarkona and I walked boldly into their midst. As they closed in about us, trying to intimidate us, I slashed out with my claws which I'd coated in a powerful drug. My victim fell unconscious immediately and his companions, facing an angry lizard and an unpredictable cat, fled. Perhaps if we enter their hideout, we will find some explanation for the motives behind their involvement with the hooded attackers....

Monday, June 24, 2013

Akwamu's way, pt. 2

After the paralysis inflicted by the ghouls wore off, I was able to take stock of our surroundings. The room was dominated by a 30’-tall statue of a vile horned demon in a sitting position, a great brazier held in its lap. The statue’s surface was so polished as to defy my best efforts to climb it, but a rope cast over its out-thrust arm allowed Synast and myself to ascend. Its eyes were great red gems, and Synast quickly set to work prying them out. Meanwhile the others discovered an alcove in which a solitary candle was lit. The candle’s flame was clearly magical; it gave off no warmth, nor could it be extinguished by any means we could discover.
Iconic looting

      We continued to explore the rest of this underground complex with Synast carefully searching for trapped doors, of which we found not a few. One such trap involved blasts of flame; another, spikes on springs. The cultists were clearly determined to prevent anyone from uncovering their diabolical schemes. In one room we found annotated maps showing the locations where they planned to acquire the ingredients needed for the ritual. In another, we found a great book, laid out on an altar surrounded by candles, that outlined the history of the cult and identified someone named Oeridien as its leader.   It revealed that the highest followers of Nerull can turn into an abomination called an animus, a lich-like creature whose mind is linked to Nerull and Oeridien. We are fortunate that Synast can read the Abyssal tongue, which the cultists seem to use for all their communications.
      We also found references to a mysterious name: Tsenix. In one room it was written in blood on a wall, apparently the dying act of a man opening a trapped chest. In another, it appeared on the base of a statue of an undead creature bearing an expression of grief. We will have to find out more about this Tsenix and his or her importance to the vile followers of Nerull.
Priest of Nerull
Credit: YngvarAsplund
      The foul practices of the cultists were much in evidence in a series of chambers designed for torture and confinement. In one we were attacked by a sinister cloud of shadow with glowing red eyes; its very presence seemed to suck the air out of our lungs. Our mundane weapons passed right through it, but magical ones and spells allowed us to destroy it. Other rooms contained sarcophagi, faded tapestries depicting all manner of disturbing magical activities, and a massive painting of a screaming face—apparently another reference to Tsenix. Davos’ ability to detect magic proved most valuable, as he discovered a number of items emitting dweomers of one kind or another.
      Finally we stumbled into a great room from whose centre, a stone throne atop a round dais, a prematurely aged young man in rich attire challenged us. Unsure of his powers, we slammed the door and prepared ourselves for combat. Upon re-entering, we found that he had summoned a great hound from Hell as well as a weapon of Nerull to destroy us. He exerted his evil will against us—each time we made to strike at him, a dark presence in our minds sought to dissuade us. He himself wielded a great spiked chain, whose wicked edges cut me deeply. Gritting my teeth and resisting the effects of his will, I used my sai to disarm him while the others dispatched the hound. With his summoned weapon of Nerull also fading away, the creature saw the tables turning and tried to hide in the midst of a magical obscuring mist, but Bakari, magically enlarged and strengthened, charged into
Bakari
 the cloud and grappled the evil thing. I do not know if this enemy feels pain, but the embrace of an angry man in dragonscale armour cannot be very gentle. Thus restrained, the foul priest—for such I deem he is—was an easy target for my fists. I did not seek to kill, however, but rather to subdue. Now our prisoner, he shall, we hope, provide more answers to the mysteries of this place and of the cult itself.


Loot:
magic candle
maps
2 red gems (from demon statue)
2 small pearls
3 smoky gems
3 daggers
Book of Oeridien
wand of cure light wounds (5/50 charges)
divine scroll of ?
wand of (evocation magic)
potion of mage armour
vial of ?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Diary of a bounty hunter, pt. 1

Old gods, pirates, and zombies. Welcome to my world. And I was trying to run away from trouble.
      Things went south on my last contract and I ended up in a heap of trouble with clan Hamoa. You know: one of the most powerful Togapa clans out there. I figured it was time to get out of town and set sail on a ship headed up the archipelago. Just my luck: not long out of port and we get boarded by pirates. Clan Hamoa pirates, no less.
Syl
      They didn't spare any of the crew, but me and some other non-Togapi ended up in the brig. We were an odd bunch: me, Syl, a gurahl; a male Zentrayan named Sarkona; a human outsider named Merek; and a female half-orc magician named Dolly Lama. It was only a matter of time before the Hamoa figured out who I was, but luckily — that may not be the best word here — the pirates' ship was attacked by an immense shark. They thought it was an avatar of the Devourer, the Togapan god of destruction. Whatever it was, it gave us a chance to break out of our cell, thanks to the weird properties of Merek's outsider clothes. We managed to grab some gear and commandeer a lifeboat to get us away from the sinking ship.  In the process I got a close look at the Devourer. All I remember is the teeth. Lots of teeth.
      After some days at sea we made it to a neutral island called Mahoa
Sarkona
where we were able to sell the lifeboat. Sarkona also located a supply of some pungent spice he needs to eat. Things were going well until Dolly spotted some Hamoan sailors eyeing us in the square. They were pirates, survivors of the Devourer's attack. Well, they didn't survive too much longer. I joined Dolly in attacking them — she seems to have quite the vengeful streak — and by the time the constabulary arrived two were dead. Fortunately, the elders of clan Hawai believed our story and were only too happy to punish the Hamoan for piracy. They feted us with food and Po'an (a drink of fermented coconut milk) and found us berths on a ship so that we could continue our journey. Merek decided to stay behind, so we said our farewells.
      We embarked on the Luamoi the next day. About a week into our two-week voyage, we made landfall on an island to take on fresh water, only to find that the harbour was crawling with the walking dead —animated corpses that stank of rotting flesh. Zombies. The same was true of another, smaller fishing village where we went ashore. Here we found a crude diary that suggested the people had started turning into zombies about four days before we arrived. We also saw where a large barge had somehow gotten inside the reef and run ashore on the coast. Some zombies, still "alive", were trapped aboard. They were wearing clothing typical of clan Mamoa, but there's no way a barge from the Mamoan home islands could ever have floated here. That barge was brought here deliberately.
Dolly Lama
      The Luamoi crew blew a conch shell and we heard a reply from the interior of the island — some unzombified people remained on the island. Although it was getting dark, we launched a rescue, aided by a hulking religious man named Maulao who was among the crew. We hoped his clout with the Devourer would help him deal with the zombies, but in the end it was Dolly's electrical magic that did the most to keep the things off us. Also, it must be said that zombies are very easy to surprise from behind. My katana sliced off the tops of many skulls that night.
      We found the survivors — a group of youths led by two teachers — and escorted them back toward the ship. On the way we ran into another outsider, a human named Archimedes Newton. Believe it or not, he was actually trying to teleport between worlds. I reckon he wished he'd stayed put. Anyway, he joined our gang and soon we were hard pressed by the zombie hordes standing between us and the shore. Good thing those teachers turned out to be handy in a fight (especially that old woman with her trident). We managed to carve our way through to the launch and made it back aboard.
      Still in need of freshening our supplies, we sailed to the nearby island of Kawa'ho (clan Hawai).  Thankfully, no signs of zombies here. Some villagers said they'd seen a ship at sea towing a barge, some eleven days previously. We guessed this was the barge we saw wrecked. Looks like someone was behind this zombie infestation.
      We had a chance to rest on the island and to see the local sights. They have a deadly carnivorous plant here called the thresher that paralyzes its victims with a poison. We managed to collect a sample and it looks like I'll be able to concoct some unguent to apply to my arrows or even my blade. What more could a bounty hunter ask for?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Akwamu's way, pt. 1

"Mathura Young Sadhu"
by Tom Carter
I arrived in Bahor a few days ago, and discovered the place in uproar. The local temple of Pelor had been razed overnight by powerful magics and desecrated by the symbols of Hextor, the Herald of Hell and Nerull, the Hater of Life. What is more, many of the clergy of Pelor had disappeared as well. 
      Beginning my investigations, I heard rumours of strange noises heard at night and people gone missing. Unable to find any actual eyewitnesses, I resolved to keep watch at night myself on the rooftops. After a morning of practice and meditation, I lay down to sleep in my room at the Hopping Leprechaun so as to be well rested for the night's vigil, only to be awakened by a loud knocking late in the afternoon. A pair of strangers stood at the door, claiming to be volunteers investigating the mysteries. They struck me as a pair of rather desperate mercenaries. One, an unkempt spellcaster named Davos, seemed most eager to position himself at the head of this volunteer association he was cobbling together.  The other, a grim but astonishingly well-groomed cleric named Bakari, seemed obsessed with meting out retribution for various evil deeds. 
"Temple Ruins" by Jonas De Ro
      Despite my initial misgivings, I was impressed with the information they'd already gathered and the contacts they'd made and so agreed to join forces with them. Together we began our night's watch, with myself on a high roof over the city.
      In the middle of the night I heard a sudden sizzling noise, as if of electricity.  I quickly set off toward the source, motioning for Davos and Bakari to follow.  What we found was horrifying: hundreds of corpses, all very pale and cold like the grave, lying in the middle of a plaza. They were all dressed in the same brown material. Where had they come from? Were they the missing townsfolk? Our questions would remain unanswered, for just then I spotted a shadowy figure on a nearby roof and set off in pursuit. When I reached the peak, the figure was gone, but what I saw looking back down into the plaza chilled me to the bone.  The bodies had been arranged in a pattern
      We had just made this disturbing discovery when another pair of strangers appeared on the scene: a massive fighting man who called himself the Hammer, and a rather stealthy elf from the north named Synast.  They too were investigating these strange goings-on. Examining the pattern, Davos concluded that it was a symbol of some ancient summoning ritual. We began moving the bodies, hoping to disrupt the pattern and thereby prevent any summoning that was to take place.  When the Hammer threw a body, it disintegrated into nothingness! The mysteries were deepening, and we needed answers.
      Davos and Baraki hastened away to inform the city authorities while I remained in the plaza to confer with Synast and the Hammer, only to come under a surprise attack: some evildoer cast a magical ball of flame at us from a nearby roof! Despite our burns we gave hot pursuit (no pun intended), but the creature eluded us. Upon returning to the plaza we were astonished to discover that the corpses had disappeared. 
Nerull as depicted in
 Deities and Demigods
      In the aftermath of these perplexing events we spoke to the clerics of St Cuthbert (Bakari's order), the guard commander, and the mage's guild. We learned that the pattern we'd seen was indeed part of an ancient necromantic ritual known only to the highest followers of Nerull. Its purpose was to raise massive numbers of the dead in the evil god's service. In addition to the symbol, four types of blood were required: that of a dragon, a vampire, a deva, and an old god.
      By this time it was nearly dawn and, with Bakari complaining loudly of his need for sleep, we returned to the Leprechaun. After rest and a breakfast that received strangely mixed reviews, we returned to the plaza where the city guards were keeping watch. Amidst the crowd I spied a strange cloaked figure watching us intently — the caster of the fireball!  Once more we gave chase, and this time Synast's stealth paid off: she shadowed the creature to a secret door in the side of a building in the warehouse district. We entered and descended into an underground complex where we soon found ourselves beset by foul undead creatures. In one room we quickly destroyed one such abomination before it could complete some kind of spell. In another, we encountered a group of  ghouls whose touch caused paralysis. Stricken in this way, I would have surely perished had not the others pulled me aside and cut them down. Now we must continue our search, hoping to forestall the terrible evil that seems about to descend upon Bahor's innocent population.