Thursday, 1 March 2012

State of Play - Shneckes' Wolves - 27th February, 2012

7/7/1472 – 16/7/1472 – Moon of Fury heads north, towards Cran'Aurym. Party get settled into cramped quarters, and Lia, Jaeger and Varracuda take note on how Takeshi flies the vessel. By the end of the 12th, they are confident that they could, if needed to, fly it themselves.

Grigori spends the first two days breaking down spare magic items into residuum, and creating upgraded or new items for several party members. Shnecke spends the time trying not to eat anyone.

On the 9th, Akemi (who it is noted has some kind of bond to the ship – being able to soothe its engines with words, and to “heal” damage it sustains with softly spoken chants and gentle stroking), announces that the fuel (the “Black Ingots”) are almost exhausted, and that the Moon will not make it to Cran'Aurym.

It is late morning on the 16th, in the midst of a tropical storm that the Moon's engines give out, and the ship crashes in fertile savannah some 20 miles to the south of the southern Island of Gembu (Cran'Aurym, once an impossibly vast city that in the 2nd Age covered over 1,000 miles, is now spread over 12 huge islands, the vast bulk of the ancient city having sunk beneath the waters of the western Sea of Splinters). The group agree to head out into the wilderness to seek out the artificer Ajendu, who lives on Zebora, the largest, and most central of the Aurymite City Isles.

By nightfall on the 16th the group have made it across the dangerous landscape, to a trade outpost a few miles from Gembu. They chat with the locals (who are black-skinned folks, with tightly curled black hair and a penchant for coral jewellery), and decide to push on towards the city proper.

17/7/1472 – They cross the wide bridge that leads from the main landmass to Gembu, and at once notice that almost every structure is decorated with Vothniir plated skulls. There are also numerous columns, pyramids and other decorative structures made from skulls, femurs and others bones absolutely everywhere.

Grigori explains that the Aurymites do not worship the deities that most other people do, and instead worship their ancestors. When someone dies, their body is either burned or put into one of the millions of tunnels that honeycomb the rocks beneath their feet, as they are deigned to be unimportant. The skull, the seat of the soul however, is plated with gold by their spiritual leaders, and set in open view – thus allowing the spirit to see into, and affect the mortal world.

This also explains the clouds of scented wood smoke that continually shrouds the city – offerings to the dead (which have the beneficial side effect of masking some of the stench of sewage, dead fish, animal dung and other less than savoury things that would otherwise be strong).

Jaeger makes it clear to the group that he will personally kill anyone that tries to pry a skull away, or to strip any sacred objects of their valuable, golden metal.

Exhausted the group pay for rooms (using gems) at the first inn they find within the crowded, stinking docks of Gembu's southern district.

17/7/1472 – 27/7/1472 – The sheer scale of the task before them become apparent the next day when they realise that the Island of Zebora is some 350 miles to the north of their current locale, and that they will have to travel through at least two other city isles to reach it. In the end they decide to hire a guide, and soon meet with the mongrel aelwyn Arjaen; a friendly fellow originally from Fey, who not only speaks their native tongue, but knows the city inside out, having lived and guided here for over 20 years.

For the next ten days the party are immersed in Aurymite culture, their guide enthusing about everything from the local cuisines, to their history. They learn about the ancient wars that shook 2nd Age Cran'Aurym, the legendary Solumite crusades (all of which stopped in the city at some point – often trying to “educate” the “savages” about their “barbaric” beliefs), and the more recent wars (some 50 years past), between the islands, after several tried to secede from the others to form independent city states. They drink sap wine, distilled snake venom shots, and consume some things they would have puked even considering eating before. Jaeger sees his first elephant (and declares it the “most ridiculous thing” he has ever seen), and everyone tries to ignore the fact that both of the undead seem well fed the entire time they move through the city...

27/7/1472 – The group meet with a Unified Order mage named Naskem Ardron, who is walking his pet (an ugly weasel/cat/dog thing he calls a Leucrotta). The portly wizard is very happy to see the party, and makes a number of racist comments about the Aurymites. He, it seems, it in no hurry to return to active duty for the Order, and states that even if he were, it is unlikely they would be in any state to give him work anyway. When asked what he means, he tells the group that the has heard that the most powerful mages in the order were “consumed by their own magic” as the sundering hit; some going insane and rampaging, others simply “burning out” with lethal effect for themselves and anyone too close to them. He has also heard “from a little imp” that the legendary high-security Unified Order prison, the Durance Occulta, failed when the sundering struck, and that many of its deadly inmates have escaped.

He also tells the group that “Fey is a disaster area”, and that when he tried to scry Irin, “My scrying crystal shattered. All I saw were giant mushrooms before that.”

It is at this point that Naskem shows them a mutation he picked up when his own magics backfired during the Sundering – a half-open human eye, which oozes tears from his left palm.

Naskem also lets slip that there is a known apostate in the city – one Vacris Rhethe – who may have been in Irin when everything went insane. The assassin asks where this man can be found; “The 'Tear of the Ancients Winery” within the Hrujja districts”.

The group ask Arjaen where this district is, and the half-aelwyn tells them about two days to the east of their current locale.

Jaeger asks Naskem if he has any messages for anyone on Fey. The portly mage tells them that a mage named Azoll owes him money.

The group agree to keep their guide on for a few more days – partly because they need him, but also because everyone really like him – and that they will seek out Vacris before they head into the heart of the island to find Ajendu.

They make their way to an inn named the “Ugara'Juguntu”, which sits atop a bridge of basalt that arcs over a lower road, and are soon drinking agave beer in its gardens, enjoying the night air.

28/7/1472 – At 01:40, a huge Mythen Stone begins to fall from orbit, and plummet, trailing fire, towards the very district in which the group currently reside. Roughly 2 miles above the island, it shatters into a hundred smaller shards, many of which are large enough to survive their fall and hit the ground.

Initial shock and panic turns to action. The streets resonate with fearful moans and screams as the fiery shards snarl and crackle towards them, and Arjaen tells the group he knows a place “no one else will go”, where they can hide. There is some arguing amongst the group as they try to decide whether being underground or on the surface will be the least deadly option, and eventually they decide to follow their guide.

They are taken to a side alley, which ends in a small shrine. The shrine is filled with unadorned skulls who's eye sockets have been filled with what looks like tar. Before the shrine, facing it, is a semi-circle of gold plated skulls, all of which bear a triangular glyph on their crowns, and it is clear they are “keeping an eye” on the undecorated skulls. Thatari realises – and Arjaen confirms – that the undecorated skulls belonged to criminals, and that those watching them are keeping their spirits confined. Behind the shrine – which the group can now see has been roughly jammed into a tunnel carved into the rock of the island – is a set of crude steps which fall away into darkness.

The shrine is smashed down by the barbarian, and the group tumble into the narrow stone tunnel, and run down into the darkness, only the bobbing light of the cleric's lantern showing the way.

They are about 40' down the stairs when the first of the meteorites hits, the shockwave and concussion blast screaming down the tunnel, collapsing it. Arjaen is killed in the cave-in, his body lost. Everyone else is thrown forwards by the force of the blast, Grigori suffering significant injuries, Lia and Thatari also suffering wounds from flying debris and being thrown forcibly into the darkness ahead.
More impacts rumble through the rock of the tunnel, and still terrified of being killed, the party pile on forwards, suddenly finding themselves in a badly damaged chamber, carved into the basalt of the island.

More skeletons adorn the walls of this place, all of them undecorated, and everyone can immediately feel the sudden presence of coiling, hungry evil in the atmosphere as five misty, black figures rise from the darkness; vaporous things that emit terrible icy moans, and whose very presence weighs on the soul like despair.

Wraiths.

A fierce battle ensues, the immaterial undead falling with surprising ease thanks to the ardent, who's psychic aura wreathes her allies weapons with dimensional energy, enabling them to strike the vaporous spectres as readily as they strike physical foes.

As the last of the horrors is sent, wailing, back to the grave, so the group become aware of the cacophony of horror echoing down the passage from the city above. They are shocked to hear not only the roaring of flames, and the screams of the dying and wounded, but the distant, unmistakable sounds of blades impacting flesh, and savage voices raised in apparent praise to “Adathraine! The Great Devourer!”

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