Monday, 24 May 2010

Post War Group - 23/5/2010

Before the group can even act, Schnecke is hit by a crossbow quarrel, a mask of cloying darkness engulfing his head and blinding him as the dark magics bound within it are released. Simultaneously, almost all the party are surrounded by writhing tendrils of psychic gloom, which burn them with mental anguish and shackle them with semi-solid pools of slimy darkness; and without the group even having a chance to fight back, they find themselves sorely wounded and surrounded by mostly hidden enemies.

During these surprise attacks, Jaeger is able to make out soft chanting from a rooftop nearby, and he pinpoints the direction that the crossbow that hit Schnecke came from, and is able to give the rest of the group direction as the battle gets underway.

Three robed and masked rogues harry the party on the ground, whilst the hidden crossbowmen and spell caster continue to plague them from above. The rogues are quickly brought down (though one fakes death), and two of them are kept alive for questioning. Grigori uses his incredible powers to heal the significant harm his allies have suffered by this time, the darkness of the Roughs streets being thrown back by the radiance of his regenerative magics, which means the difference between life and death for several of the group as the attacks continue.

The spell caster is a serious problem for a while; his shadowy spells infesting the Warlord's psyche with dread visions. However, using the shadows as his portal, the assassin silently teleports to a spot adjacent to him, and with two swift, precise strikes, stops his attacks, the robed and masked cadaver sliding limply from the rooftop to crunch brokenly to the filthy streets below.

With the rogues and illusionist dealt with, the group turn their attention to the shadow wielding crossbowmen. Jaegar warns the party that like him, they can manipulate the very fabric of physical darkness, and they prove him right by stepping through thin air, to teleport away from the group and onto nearby rooftops. The party give chase; Varracuda and Jaegar running across the rickety rooftops, leaping over the streets in pursuit, whilst the wounded, and blinded sorceress calls upon her magic to lift both her and Grigori to the rooftops. Filled with rage, the barbarian hauls himself up like an enraged ape, his axe moaning in the darkness as he charges towards the flitting, shadowy figure.

One of the shadow wielding Rookery footpads makes good his escape, leaping through the darkness and evading the party. The other is not so lucky. Surrounded by foes, he is caught by the assassins shadowy blade, which not only finds a vulnerable spot, and not only carries the additional weight of Jaeger's tenebrous magic, but is also slathered with poison, which bites deep into his ribs, ravaging his body and filling his limbs with burning weakness.

However, it is a very real kind of burning that finishes him, as Varracuda intones a potent incantation, swirling his suddenly blazing sword in increasingly rapid circles in front of him, creating a devastating blast of magical flame which screams into the night, casting chartreuse radiance into the darkness below and engulfing the screaming footpad in consuming fire.

Burning, the footpad smashes into the streets below. Dead. The battle is over.

21:16 – 21:21 – Aware that another wave of enemies could arrive at any moment, the group are eager to get off the streets and to find somewhere quiet where they can interrogate the captured thieves. Jaeger tells the group to keep quiet, and slips into the darkness to seek a place out. He quickly returns, having kicked a drink soaked and flea infested war veteran out of his piss smelling hovel, and bids them follow him.

21:23 – 21:55 - The group bundle the shaking thieves into the stinking darkness of the hovel. The thieves are blindfolded, beaten, and then split up; kept near enough so that their screams can be heard, but far apart enough that what is being said by them cannot.

Seren, with her naturally cruel streak and ability to psychologically break people with her cunning and dark personality, is assigned as the primary tool of information extraction, whilst Emmiven and Schnecke operate as more physical, less complex tools of intimidation. The sorceress revels in this task, using her magics to physically torture her charges, backing this up with her purring promises of release and life if they cooperate, of death and torment of they lie.

The first thief is highly belligerent despite his serious predicament, and the effectiveness of Seren's intimidation. However, he reveals that although the Rookery guild has hideaways across the city, their leader – one Corvus Corvax – lairs beneath a ruined tower at the eastern edges of the Roughs; a former border tower from an older city limit. The rogue warns that Corvus is a canny foe, and that he has a clan of Gorashym mercenaries as his personal guards. He also explains that the front of the tower is watched over by a formidable force of guards, who respond with immediate violence to those that fail to deliver the correct series of coughs before approaching.

This information is confirmed by the second thief; a weeping, gibbering man who begs for his life and tells the group that he will help them however he can.

In order to ensure that the information they have been given is true, both thieves are dragged into the same room and secured. The mouthy thief is then shot in the head by Jaegar, his body slumping forwards, blood pumping in a gentle, pulsing arc from his temple, whilst his horrified companion watches,. Almost incoherent with absolute dread, the second thief confirms that everything he told the party is true. He then begins to blub and shake uncontrollably, begging for mercy.

Two hammer blows from Emmiven silence him...

...And one of the restraining runes on the vial burns off, a sharp icy pain lancing though Grigori's leg where the vial makes contact through the cloth of his robes' pocket.

21:56 – 01:30 (13/4/1472) – Taking a winding route back, the group return to the their Inn, and after a few drinks, discuss what they will do next. They decide that they will wait a few days at least before making a move against the Rookery stronghold, and vow to try and seek an alternative route into it the next day. They also discuss the possibility of hunting down some monsters from the local area and selling them directly to the arena fight organisers, in an attempt to avoid having to deal with the irascible Dundorin who is their official contact.

01:30 – The group retire for the night.

08:00 – 00:00 All but Schnecke awaken feeling drained and achy. All have angry, puss filled lesions around their ankles, and swollen lymph nodes, and they realise that they have picked up an infection from the flea bites they got whilst in the Roughs. However, despite this, Jaegar and Schnecke head out to speak with the assassin's shadowy contacts in order to try and garner information about the subterranean lay of the land beneath the Roughs, whilst the rest of the party stay in bed, hoping to shake off their illness.

The assassin is given the names of several dodgy people within the city who may be able to help him by the Harrakenite priests, though their information does not come free of charge (he agrees to “manage the affairs” of one Darius Valde, a money lender allied with the banking guild, with extensive, fortified holdings in the cities High Hills district, whom the church have deigned needs removing. He agrees a reward of 5,000 gold for the job). He then spends his morning talking to these people, and learns a great deal about the tunnels and decrepit sewer pipes that connect the better maintained network of cellars, tunnels and drains of the rest of the city, and the ancient storm drains and corridors that wind beneath the Roughs.

During the morning, a black scroll bearing Archevult's seal is delivered to the Staff of Wands, and when opened it is found to be orders for the group (payment for their rooms at the inn) – namely the hunting and neutralisation of an “unfettered mage” named Balskus Morvell (though he currently goes under the name Avulus). The scroll warns that he is “very powerful”, and explains that he is “an artificer specialising in the construction of dimensionally reactive devices” who's presence has been detected by tracking certain rare books of interest to him, deliberately planted in local book merchant's stock.

This mission does not sit well with the continually jittery Varracuda, who once more questions why not being a member of the Unified Order is such a crime.

Jaeger and Schnecke return to the inn mid afternoon. The assassin heads out again shortly after to try and gather some information on Darius Valde, whilst the Ulnyrr settles down to some serious drinking in the bar.

By early afternoon, after a morning in bed, both Varracuda and Emmiven have shaken off their illness, and Grigori has killed it off with various foul tasting tinctures and chunks of “medicinal” rock. Seren however has become more unwell, though she still accompanies Grigori to a nearby temple-library of Aeon'Epoch, in order to search through the tomes and plans there, in the hopes of supplementing whatever information the assassin gets with definite, written records.

Their studies are fruitful, and by nightfall they have obtained maps and descriptions of the sewers in the area of the Rookery tower, as well as finding out that some of the tunnels were once, back in the 2nd age, home to a sub-cult of the foul, banished deity, Darkold'Sebbathor. They also realise that a clear, though possibly dangerous path directly into Corvus' underground bunker likely exists.

That evening the group meet back at the Inn. The assassin, having learned that Darius is wealthy enough to have seriously fortified his home, and to have bought both a private army of soldiers and a wide variety of traps and constructs, shares his mission with the group in the hopes of having them help him out. The group respond by describing the mission Archevult has set them, and they discuss some of the problems that tracking down and taking a powerful mage could throw up.

After some food and drink, the group retire for the night, the priest spending time with Seren trying to help her shake off her illness.

14/4/1472 (Light rain in morning, bright and warming later)

The sorceress and sword mage head to the libraries to continue their supplemental study, the formers illness somewhat diminished after a good night's rest. They initially meet with some problems after mistaking fantasy literature (by famed 2nd Age bard, Gringo Blandiblub) as a historical reference, though Seren pays for access to more obscure records, and they finally get a truly clear picture of how to enter the tunnels beneath the roughs, and how they connect to the Rookery subterranean stronghold.

During this day, the assassin tries to find out where Balskus is, though his efforts are for nothing, and Emmiven visits his new mount, now named Diabolos.

Back at the inn Schnecke drinks.

And it is whilst the barbarian drinks that he comes to meet with a curious young man; foppish, handsome, and strangely compelling to talk to. The man, who introduces himself simply as “the Traveller” seems to have heard of Schnecke's obsession with the “Sky Fish”, and seems interested in giving the barbarian a lead in his search. He tells the Ulnyrr (who keeps listening as if compelled, despite his usual response to such situations being rude words and if the hint isn't taken, a punch to the throat) that the fish is actually a kind of Dracani that lairs by a sea of black ice on Aelnaerys, the Lonely Moon. He tells him that if this beast were to be bested, that its hoard is extensive and that a fabulous, unique skyship serves as its lair.

Schnecke does not know why, but he believes every word, and so agrees when the man states that the only price for his words is “that you hire a few of my...err, the God Traveller's clerics for your crew when you fly your ship”.

The man – the avatar of Traveller, God of spacefarer's – then leaves the bar, leaving the barbarian to ponder his words.

That evening when the barbarian describes his meeting, the group are divided; half thinking that he has drunk one Vossk too many, the rest – lead most enthusiastically by Girgori – believing that he has had a genuine one to one meeting with a actual, gold to platinum God.

15/4/1472 (Bright and warm, though increasingly breezy and chilly through the day. Light rain and distant thunder by night).

08:00 – 11:00 – The group discuss what to do, and decide to head into the Roughs to seek out and cleanse the slaughter house described by Salara Cooper on her terrified descriptions of the Death Loved's activities. Grigori visits the local temple of Oerdaine'Maelandra to seek out something to protect the group and he from the diseases of that area, but returns empty handed.

11:00 – 12:30 – The group move through the streets of Irin and once more enter the stinking streets and slumping tenements of the Roughs.

12:30 – 12:32 – The group enter a wide street that is markedly empty of the ubiquitous rats, pigeons and street scum that haunt the rest of the Rough's labyrinthine ways, despite a local old woman grabbing the priest to warn him that “folks up to no good, evil folks and horrible things, are found there.”

12:34 – The group locate the derelict butchers that stands atop the slaughterhouse, and notice at once the sense of stillness and emptiness that seems to hang on the air here. The front windows are shattered, and through them can be seen a dust and cobweb covered counter, piles of rubble and broken glass, the words of gang graffiti scrawled on the walls.

12:35 – The assassin carefully climbs through the broken window, and the rest of the group carefully follow.

12:36 – 12:41 – A search of the this front room reveals nothing, though an open doorway leads to a smaller room at the back.

12:42 – Within this room is a recently installed, metal trap door, which is sealed with a heavy iron bar, and locked with two well crafted locks.

12:43 – 12:45 Grigori examines the bar and discovers, written in some kind of fat, runes of power smeared onto the metal; the words of an Arcane Lock ritual; a potent spell that will make opening the trap door more difficult, and which will alert its caster to the intrusion.

12:45 – 12:50 – Jaegar also discovers that both locks contain tiny vials filled with alchemical components which will, if broken and allowed to mingle, create a cloud of deadly poisonous gas.

12:50 – 13:00 – Jaegar carefully dismantles and neutralises the traps; the lock first, and then each of the poison gas traps. Then Emmiven smashes the trap door open, the sound of the violent action booming into the darkness below.

Beyond, a stone ramp, caked in dried blood, leads into a dark cellar. The air that wafts out smells strongly of blood and decay, and the deep buzzing of large flies can be heard echoing softly ahead, accompanied by a chiming, tinkling sound, and a regular, hard-edged “THUMP”.

13:00 – 13:01 – With all care, the group slowly move down the ramp, each noting the psychic pressure of malevolence that seems to gather and thicken as they descend. Emmiven creeps ahead of the main party, and beholds a large cellar, caked in dried gore and filth. From its ceiling hang rows of rotting pigs carcasses, each speared by a hook attached to a rusted chain. They swing in the darkness as if caressed by a foetid breeze, the sound of their chains being the source of the chiming in the dark.

The source of the thumping also becomes clear a moment later.

13:02 – The warlord moves slowly into the chamber, trying to keep away from the rotting, stinking meat hanging from the ceiling. He suddenly freezes as he spots something squatting in the far corner; a huge ghoul wearing only a decaying butchers' apron and wielding a massive, notched, gore encrusted cleaver. It is squatting with its back to the room, apparently chewing on a fistful of pig gore. However, as Emmiven closes in, it suddenly stops eating, and turns to regard him with mad, burning eyes, before slowly, carefully, standing up (it towers above the warlord, having a bulk even more formidable than the Ulnyrr's). Then, with black ropes of slimy saliva dribbling over its malformed fangs, it begins to stalk towards him.

13:03 – With a battle cry, the warlord charges the horror, landing a crushing blow to its palid, waxen chest, smashing it off its clawed feet, and sending it flailing to the ground. It howls and snarls and tries to stand up...

...Until it is ignited and blasted back ten feet by a sudden blaze of blinding, glassy, fiery energy; cast forth in a cone from the priest's holy symbol. The radiance also vaporises three wraithlike spirits that were trying to possess and animate some of the pig carcasses; the souls of animals sacrificed in this vile place.

And then a short battle ensues – a very short battle indeed, for the Butcher Ghoul, caught completely off guard and surrounded by deadly adventurer's with more than a bit of experience in fighting the undead, is quickly dispatched, though it savagely tears into Emmiven's chest with a claw, and hacks a chunk of the sword mages arm free with its filthy cleaver before it is taken down.

13:04 – 13:06 – With the monster destroyed, the group set about seeking a way forwards, for this place is not the one Salara described.

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