Saturday, February 17, 2018

Far Isles #80 - All the Wiggly Things

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 6) 
Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 5)
Zombie Jaz (Zombie)
with a late appearance by:
Chaff (Vivimancer 6), with familiar Pretty Bird and riding dog Puppy Whuppy
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 6), with familiar Hermes
  
But I Thought We Were Friends?
The party paused to take stock and pick up the pieces. With two members down for the count, there really was no choice but to return to the "No Man's Sea" and regroup there. They made it back to the ship late in the day and without any trouble. Rodrigo joined them from the galley to discuss what to do next. The swashbuckler was determined to get something out of this venture; revenge if nothing else. While Torak stayed behind aboard ship to tend to the fallen (and Kwinsea stayed with him to make sure they didn't come back to find a new zombie-Chaff), Rodrigo strong-armed Awg into making another delve into the temple caves. They took zombie-Jaz with them, several doses of dinosaur sleep poison, and as many flasks of oil and supersaturated brine as they could carry. One they reached the dry hilly centre of the island, Rodrigo used his simian sword to summon a small band of monkeys. His plan was to quietly take one aside and kill it, stuffing the body with sleep poison to use as giant slug bait. Unfortunately the monkey was too wily for him, and in the ensuing monkey-hooting struggle, the rest of the band fled and Rodrigo gained a new monkey-bite scar across the neck before killing the simian. 

All that done, the three headed back into the caverns and straight (but carefully) towards the slug slime filled cavern. A little scouting about made them believe there was another giant slug at the end of the slime trail leading north, so the party set up an ambush. In the narrow passage, they poured out all their oil, then topped it off with a sleep poison stuffed monkey corpse. Extinguishing their lights (except for Rodrigo's lit cigar), they pulled back against the cave wall and waited. After about  a half hour, they heard a squishing sound, followed by slurping. Figuring their foe had come, Rodrigo stepped forward and flicked his cigar into the oil pool, which lit up into a wall of flame. Reveled in the light was another giant slug, in the process of turning around after eating the monkey, but now trapped, roasting in the fire. Awg tried shooting it with his/her laser pistol, and zombie-Jaz tossed a brine bomb, but both missed. The slug now turned enough to loose a steam of acid spittle at the calmonari and zombie, both of whom were lucky to survive. The slug by now was in bad shape from the dying fire, and a few good hits from the laser pistol, Rodrigo's wheel lock and swings from the zombie-wielded Terminaxe ended the gastropodic threat. 


Eww, Leeches.
The great corpse blocked most of the tunnel, so they had to climb over the body to access the cavern beyond. This one proved to be of huge scale, the ceiling disappearing into the darkness above. In the centre was a mound, shaped almost like a step pyramid but apparently a natural formation. From the top of the pyramid emanated an eerie blue-purple glow. Worried about getting trapped in the chamber if there was a third giant slug, Rodrigo and Awg sent zombie-Jaz to investigate. She crossed the chamber no problem, and then had to climb the 50' tall pyramid, using some convenient hand holds to help her get there. Once at the top, the two adventurers saw the zombie bend down to pick up a large handful of gems, several of which were glowing with that eerie light. But before zombie Jaz could return with the haul, the holes she used to climb to the top started to disgorge vast swarms of what looked like leeches, their black slimy bodies shimming in the strange light. These thousands of creatures slithered up the sides of the pyramid, intercepting the descending zombie Jaz. In moments they had covered her body, and she/it fell into death a second time. After a minute or two the leeches moved away, leaving a now completely fluid drained husk behind. They then proceeded to collectively push the gems back up the pyramid, until they were once more collected in a neat pile at the top; the creatures then returned to their holes.

Determined to get the gems, another cunning plan was hatched. Gathering all their rope, a lifeline was looped around Awg, who then used his sword to levitate to the ceiling and hand-walk across the cavern until he/she was above the pyramid. Lowering down, the calmonari hauled out a small sack and used his cutlass to scoop the gems into the bag. At that moment, the leeches once more swarmed out of the holes. As Awg levitated away and hand-crawled back to Rodrigo, the leech swarm turned to cross the cavern to follow him and the gems. That got Rodrigo and Awg moving fast, to get ahead of the swarm and back to the ship's boat. As they pulled hard on the oars, the swarm burst out of the cave entrance and into the water, continuing to mindlessly chase the boat until they made it to salt water which stopped the swarm cold . 

Rainbow Gems
Back on the "No Man's Sea" with their bounty, the party now decided to head back to the Anchorage to have Chaff raised before he got too ripe and rotten. Eight day's uneventful sailing found them back at their home away from home. For the first time in a long time there were ships at anchor; the trader Dravos in the "Barbaric Wind" and the three masted "Imperious". But the party was uninterested in any chit chat. They shipped over to the beach and off to Bellephrone right away. Swapping her the bulls-eye shield in return for her services, they stuffed Chaff in the cauldron to let her do her work. Returning a few days later, they found a fresh pink Chaff awaiting them. Except his left hand had been replaced by his intestines; the hand could be seen occasionally pressing against his belly from the inside. Chaff was fine with this, but everyone else was a bit grossed out. 

Now back to full strength, the party sailed back towards the Land of the Silver Lotus and tired to figure out what to do next. They decided to go back to Barana village and try to talk privately with the witch-doctor Batutu. He seemed to know things he was unwilling to say in front of King Tiku, and the party hoped he might help them decided what to do with the gems and maybe he could point them in the direction of Empyrius as well. Speaking of the gems, no one had actually seen them since the cavern. Awg protectively and snarlingly kept them to himself, and was occasionally seen sitting alone on deck and staring wide eyed and dazed into the open bag. There was definitely something not right about those gems. 

With the "No Man's Sea" anchored off the village once more  Chaff cast his transparency spell on Kwinsea. The aquamancer, being the only one who understood the pygmy language, would swim ashore and accost the witch-doctor for questioning. Reaching land, she waited awhile before she noted two guards emerge from King Tiku's chambers below the eastern headland. They marched through the village to a door in the western hill, and after talking to the guards there, the witch-doctor Batutu emerged and accompanied the original guards back to King Tiku. He was gone about an hour, and when Batutu emerged, he slowly walked across the village, this time unaccompanied. Kwinsea saw her chance, and intercepted the old witch-doctor along the way. Once the old man got over the shock and figured out to whom he was talking, he led the unseen Kwinsea out into the yam fields beyond the village palisade so they could talk without being overheard.

Batutu
Kwinsea asked him about the gems and the Forbidden Mountain. Batutu told her the story of a race of Ancients that once lived on the Forbidden Mountain. They were ruled by a great sorcerer named Kwalu the Rainbow Stealer.  It was he who made the rainbow gems, objects of great power, but which also spread greed, discord and treachery. Eventually, two pygmy brothers made their way onto the mountain and stole three of the gems. The two brothers fell to fighting over the gems,and one killed the other, splitting the pygmy tribe. Losing three gems also lessened the power of Kwalu, who was overthrown by four kings of the Ancients. After that, the Ancients become addicted to silver lotus and eventually died away. Batutu did not want Tiku to get any of the gems; the witch-doctor feared the power mad pygmy king would destroy the tribe if he got his hands on the powerful artifacts. Tiku's obsession was also fairly recent; he'd been fed the idea by a tall stranger named Ugar who'd arrived in the village a few months ago from some far off land.  Batutu once more implored Kwinsea to not go to the Forbidden Mountain to get he gems for Tiku. If anything, they should take the gems and destroy them. The gems had been enchanted from the rainbow that once graced the thousand foot waterfall which disgorged  from the mountain, and could only be destroyed by throwing them off the waterfall precipice and into the mist. 

Kwinsea finished up by asking again about Empyrius. Batutu knew nothing, and suspected that Tiku didn't either. Most likely the pygmy king faked knowledge of Empyrius to fool the party into gathering them gems for him.  Asked of his opinion of King Tiku the crafty witch-doctor said only the village was not getting all it was due from the King's trading with foreigners; perhaps it would be good if that changed. 

TOTAL XP
11540*

GAINS

3 rainbow gems [blue, indigo, violet]
10 other gems (100gp x2, 25gp, 250gp, 50gpx2, 10gp, 750gp x2, 1000gp)

KILLS
1 Giant Slug

LOSSES
Fishguts (for good)
Jaz (again)  

* 2xp/gp house rule in effect

Monday, February 5, 2018

Far Isles Session #79 - Swamp Pygmies and Slug Gods

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Chaff (Vivimancer 6), with familiar Pretty Bird and riding dog Puppy Whuppy 
Torak (Cleric 6) 
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 6), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 3)
Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 5)


Leaving the village of Barana (and their cook) behind, the party ordered Lynessa to sail the "No Man's Sea" east towards the swampy end of the main island where the swamp pygmy village was purported to be located. The reef prevented close approach in the ship, so the party (less Rodrigo, who was now on galley duty) lowered their fancy shore boat into the water and rowed towards shore. The shore was anything but solid; a thick mangrove swamp pieced by numerous creek openings and little more than patches of mud masquerading as dry land. They spent a few hours rowing past the shore, looking for signs of a village. There was nothing to be found; even sending Pretty Bird aloft didn't work as the jungle canopy was nigh on solid. The familiar couldn't even see signs of smoke from campfires; any such would have been swallowed by the thick layer of mist that cloaked the swamp. Unable to see where to go themselves, the party decided to draw the swamp dwellers to them. They started to make a racket, clashing weapons together and yelling "We come in peace" in every language they knew. Jaz, watching the tree line through her spyglass, soon spotted signs of movement. There was obviously someone or something watching them from the shore. Further exhortations of peace didn't draw a response, so the party put a small gift of trinkets and treasure into the boats bailing bucket, and propelled it towards shore. It was just starting the drift into the shadows and mist under the trees when the sound of multiple bow 'twangs' were heard and the bucket, now peppered with arrows, rolled over and sank to the bottom. 

Their first attempt having failed, the party returned to the "No Man's Sea" for the night. Next morning they hatched a new plan. First, they summoned the ebony fly and jammed the ring of invisibility on one of it's feelers. They then once more rowed towards shore, and once more they were watched. Chaff then ducked into the bottom of the boat, stripped down and cast transparency on himself. Then the little vivimancer leaped aboard the ebony fly and the invisible duo buzzed off into the swamp to search for the pygmy village, Meanwhile, the rest of the party lingered offshore as a distraction to the watchers. Chaff weaved through the swampy maze for about a half hour before seeing a large pool or pond ahead. He climbed higher, and could now see signs of habitation. There were about a dozen reed huts in the middle of the swamp, all raised above the water on stilts.  One hut was much larger than the others, while there was also a smaller hut sitting on the one patch of dryi-ish land. There were lots of signs of people, both on the balconies and rope bridges that surrounded and connected the huts, as well in dugout canoes moving to and fro. 

Swamp Pygmy Village
There seemed to be no one around the small island hut, so Chaff decided to land there and investigate. This hut was quite dilapidated, and had no windows or other opening except for a door covered by the hide of some large creature. Listening carefully, he could hear the sound of what he thought was a girl crying. Still transparent, he whipped open the door flap and looked inside. Once his eyes adjusted to the light, he could see a man and a woman, their hands bound and tied to a beam in the ceiling, cowering in the corner. They were very dirty and disheveled, and the stench in the hut was overpowering. The two were terrified, whimpering and crying, and starting to raise a racket. Chaff barked at them to be silent before they drew any attention, explained he was magically invisible and was there to rescue them. The vivimancer examined and questioned the two more closely. Thankfully the young woman spoke Common. Her name was Izana, and had come from the city of Visryi to the island with her merchant father Irrihim. They had come to trade with the pygmies of Barana village, but her father had tried to swindle the natives. The two of them were tossed into King Tiku's dungeon, but she escaped into the jungle. Only to be captured by the swamp pygmies. The man, who spoke only a bit of broken Common, called himself Korun. Izana said he'd been here when she was brought in, and she'd been teaching him Common so she would have someone to talk to. He was from a group of islands called the Coral Cays quite a few days to the north. Korun called himself a Creekman, which seemed to be some sort of pirate or brigand. Interestingly, he also had a noticeable blue coloration to his skin. 

While Chaff was very much interested in questioning the two further, he was more interested in escaping the pygmy village alive. Telling the two prisoners that he could only take one at a time, he untied Izana and shuffled her out the door before Korun could protest too much. The girl and the vivimancer mounted the fly and took off. The big problem was Izana was still visible, but it took a few moments before anyone in the village noticed the girl floating is mid-air. By that time, the fly was buzzing past the edge of the village. Unfortunately, they flew right over a hidden pygmy watch-post, and a cloud of poison blow-darts arched towards them. Luckily all missed, and Chaff answered with a leech blast that kept the guards from firing another volley. The fly and passengers flew back to the boat where the rest of the party was waiting. They pumped the much relived Izana for information to help them decide their next course of action. First of all, she didn’t know anything about ‘rainbow gems’. The swamp pygmy tribe was about 300 strong, and both the men and women were capable warriors. The tribe was led by an individual called Y’xatu, and Izana got the impression from her captors that this leader was not altogether human. Y’xatu was also relatively new to the leadership of the tribe, having come on the scene just a few years ago and driven out the priests of the insect(?) gods who’d previously run the tribe. The temple of these gods was on the smaller swampy island opposite the swamp pygmy village. As for the Forbidden Mountain, Izana related the story told to her by the Creekman Korun; he and his companions had followed tales of a lost city on the plateau, but Korun had turned back before they reached the mountain. Presumably all his companions had been lost as he never saw them again.

The party was disappointed to learn the gems were not at hand, although Kwinsea rightly pointed out that recovering them from a hostile village of poison-armed pygmies was not going to be a cakewalk. So there was the inevitable discussion of what to do next. There was talk of going back to the village of Barana to speak with the witchdoctor Batutu; he seemed to know things he wouldn’t say in front of the pygmy king. Maybe they should just head for the Forbidden Mountain and find the lost city themselves? Or perhaps the swamp pygmy temple would be a worthy destination; maybe the gems were there, or maybe the ‘gods’ of the temple could help them? In the end they decided to head for the swamp temple, in the process deciding to forget their deal with King Tiku and abandoning Fishguts the chef to his fate. They rowed back to the “No Man’s Sea” to drop off the merchants daughter, and then headed for the swamp temple. As the still invisible ebony fly flew top cover, the party rowed and poled their way through mud shoals, crocodiles and huge buzzing insects. But none of this interfered with their search, and a few hours later they found themselves approaching the hilly centre of the island and a large cave opening. A narrow muddy beach lay below the opening, and to either side was a roughhewn set of stone stairs. The party pulled the boat onto the beach, noting signs that someone else had landed here recently. They then ascended the left hand set of stairs and entered the cave.

Inside they found a cavernous, high roof chamber, at the centre of which was a low stone table supported on stone pillars. Behind the table were a row of five statues resembling oversized pygmy warriors with their mouths agape. Before anyone approached, Torak cast an augury to ask the Drowned God if approaching the statues would be bad. Having been told ‘no’, the cleric walked over behind the stone slab and in front of one statue. Unfortunately, it seemed that Brall was testing his servant. A gout of acidic black fluid erupted from the statues mouth, splattering all over Torak and burning him hideously. Seeing this, the rest of the party studiously avoided the statues and focused on the stone slab. Scattered on it were what seemed to be crude offerings; necklaces of bones and teeth, feathers, and so on. Finding nothing of interest, the party formed up and marched through the narrow exit to the north. They soon came to another chamber, this one filled with a pool of scummy water. Awg did a taste test and discovered it was fresh rather than salt. He/she then dove in, and discovered it was only a couple feet deep. The somewhat bruised calmonari them stood up and led the party across the pool. There were three possible exits on the opposite side, and the party choose the one to the left. This led into another vaulting chamber, this one with a thick trail of something translucent leading from a passage to the north and out of one to the west. Kwinsea examined the material closer, and it proved to be a very thick and viscous slime. This reminded everyone that this was a temple to some amoebic or insect god; so of course they needed to investigate. The full width of the northern passage was covered by slime, so they headed to the west instead where there was a narrow path along one side of the passage.

Really Giant Slug

 Creeping forward, Awg entered the next chamber first, followed by Chaff holding the light coin. This was another large, roughly circular space. As the two entered, the noticed right away something else in the room with them. At the end of the trail of slime sat a monstrously huge slug. It sensed their light and turned towards them. Awg and Chaff moved to allow the rest of the party to fan out inside the chamber, and combat then ensued. The party started with a volley of lasers and pistol and crossbow, while Torak cast a spiritual weapon. Most of these attacks made contact, but seemed to do little harm to the slug. Which then had its revenge: it opened its maw and spat a stream of black acidic bile at Chaff, Jaz and Kwinsea. The aquamancer managed to roll away and avoid the worst of it, but Jaz and Chaff both fell dead, their skin dissolved away from their bodies. The slug then oozed over to Awg and started to chomp on the calmonari. Meanwhile, the remaining party members struck back. Torak used his animate dead to bring Jaz back as a Terrminaxe wielding zombie, who then proceeded to chop away at the slug. Kwinsea fired a lightning bolt, then filled the beasts lung with salt water using a timely application of ocean’s embrace. Torak supplemented this salt attack with a few salt holy water of Brall grenades. But it was Awg, blasteing away once more with the laser pistol, athat delivered the fatal blow: well-aimed shot that blasted the creatures head into a spray of gastropod goo …

TOTAL XP
2000

GAINS
none

KILLS
1 Giant Slug

LOSSES
Chaff
Jaz

Monday, January 22, 2018

Far Isles Session #78 - Land of the Silver Lotus

DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Rodrigo (Swashbuckler 6) 
Chaff (Vivimancer 6), with familiar Pretty Bird and riding dog Puppy Whuppy 
Torak (Cleric 6) 
Kwinsea (Aquamancer 6), with familiar Hermes and henchman Jaz (Elf 3)
Awg Wahmn (Calmonari 5)

With business in Xin complete, and feeling a need to put some sea room between them and the rather dramatic demise of Calcidius, the party had Lynessa get the "No Man' Sea" under sail without further delay. The delay came once they were at sea, for they made slow progress. Trying to make their way into a headwind (when there was any wind at all) resulted in a rather slow passage, but the ship did make landfall on the Isle of Dread after a long but uneventful two weeks sail. Once there, they decided to make a quick stop at the village of Tanaroa. Thinking they might need a friendly place to refit and resupply at some point, they wanted to ensure they would still be welcome in the village by the wall. A strong storm drove them with hair-raising speed  along the rock and reef fringed coast, and they arrived off the village in a half day. It being much to stormy to bring the ship close to land, or to launch one of the ship's boats, Kwinsea, Awg and Rodrigo (using the shark spear) opted to swim ashore. Ominously, they all observed signs of fire scorched trees between the beach and the village. There was also a noted absence of activity on the shore, in stark contrast to their previous visit. But the three elected to push on towards the village. The jungle thinned as they approached the village, and they could now see more troubling sights. First of all, the step pyramid in the centre of the village was surrounded by the village warriors. They guarded the non-combatants who clustered about the lower steps of the pyramid, while at the top stood the village matriarch J'kal and the war chief Bakora. The trio also noted signs of destruction; burned crops and huts in addition to the scorched trees.  Kwinsea stepped forward to speak on behalf of the party, reminding the chiefs of their last friendly visit. J'kal cut her off, and demanded the party leave. After their last visit, a 'fire wizard' had arrived looking for them, and and caused mass death and destruction in the village before being driven off. Helping the party had obviously been bad taboo, and the matriarch insisted once more that they leave and not return again. Even offers of help from Kwinsea couldn't change her mind, and with the warriors  starting to get antsy, the three returned to the beach and the "No Mans' Sea". After discussion with the rest of the party, they decided to just head east in search of Empyrius. 


Forbidden Mountain
With the still strong wind at their back, they didn't sail far beyond the Isle of Dread (just a half day) before making landfall again. Once more they faced a jungle coast, running roughly north-south. Roughly in the centre rose a tall, flat-top mountain with straight cliffs that ran right into the sea. Rather than land right away, the party decided to circumnavigate the island. On the southern tip they observed a village surrounded by a log palisade. Further east the land turned swampy, and there were two other islands close to the main one. Off in the distance to the north-east were signs of additional lands. The three islands were surrounded by a rocky reef which would prevent the "No Man's Sea" from approaching, but it looked like the ships boat could pass at high tide in some places without too much trouble. Having spent several days sailing around and charting the island, the "No Man's Sea" ended up back off the village. They weren't there long when they observed a half dozen dugout canoes being pushed off the beach to come out and meet them. When the dugouts got closer, the party could see the people in them were pygmies. Kwinsea, once more using her skill with languages, was able to have a stilted conversation with the apparent leader using the native pidgin she'd picked-up on the Isle of Dread. She asked the name of the islands: 'Land of the Silver Lotus' was the reply. She asked about Empyrius; the little man didn't know what she was talking about, but suggested King Tiku or the witch-doctor Batutu might be able to answer her questions. He directed the party to enter the canoes and come ashore with them. After a short debate about who should go,  in the end they all decided to go.  Torak, however, s;lipped on the ring of invisibility and brought up the rear of the party. Just in case there was trouble. 


King Tiku
They arrived ashore safely, and were led into the palisade. But their guides did not bring them to any of the huts; they were instead taken toward the hill flanking the east side of the village. At the base of the hill was a low opening flanked by pygmy warriors. The party was guided through the opening and into a pygmy height tunnel. Led this way and that, they were thoroughly confused by the time they were brought into a larger, higher ceiling (i.e. 6' high) chamber. This was the throne room of King Tiku. The king was sitting on a throne caved of some giant monster skull, surrounded by his royal guards and a half dozen slave girls. The slaves were not pygmy's, but of regular stature. The throne and the floor was covered with rugs of monkey fur. Tiku ignore them at first, and sat there devouring dishes of monkey meat and fried lizards, guzzled down with great tumblers of something. Tossing away the last monkey bone and wiping the grease off his face with a slave-held monkey fur, King Tiku demanded to know what the party wanted. Again, talking in the native pidgin, Kwinsea offered a small coffer of coins and a bottle of fine wine (which Tiku uncorked and guzzled as she spoke).She made small talk at first, and learned that ships from Visryi, the City of Glass,  had been visiting the island for some time to trade for monkey skins, exotic feathers and silver lotus. She then asked to speak specifically to Batutu as the party were seeking tales and lost legends, and hoped the witch-doctor could help. King Tiku send several guards to fetch the witch-doctor, and after some time they returned leading a wizened little man, wrinkled as a raisin. Kwinsea first tried all her languages on the witch-doctor, discovering he spoke some common and dwarven. Hoping to keep King Tiku from overhearing, she switched to common and asked the witch-doctor about Empyrius and legends of long ago. Batutu knew nothing of Empyrius, and his legends told mostly of local issues, especially the evils of the Forbidden Mountain which the party had observed from the ship. As he spoke of the Forbidden Mountain, the witch-doctor glanced sideways at King Tiku, who watched the proceedings impassively.

Suddenly the king spoke, telling the guards to take Batutu away. He then addressed the party in broken common, saying if they wished to learn anything more of the Forbidden Mountain and legends of Empyrius, they must do something for him first. He would tell them all he knew if they would recover for him the three rainbow gems from the swamp pygmies to the east. He was coy about the gems, saying only they were glowing jewels of blue, indigo and violet. Bring them to him, and King Tiku would tell them all they needed to know. But they would need to leave an 'honored guest' to ensure they did return with the gems. The lecherous little king eyed Jaz at first, but in the end the party convinced him to accept the ship's cook, Fishguts, who could cook monkey and lizard like the glutenous king had never seen. The deal made, the party transferred the nervous Fishguts to the care of the pygmies and then started to make their plans to recovered the rainbow gems ...

TOTAL XP
250

GAINS
none

KILLS
none

LOSSES
Fishguts (for now ...)