Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Expedition to the Shrine of Aesclepius-Apollo

(don't know what was wrong with the format, but I fixed it)

SEEK OUT the shrine of Aesclepius-Apollo, dual deity of HEALING and WISDOM to help Emma Brighteyes sacrifice there and regain her drained level!

In NEED of healing? Add your sacrifice to Aesclepius alongside Emma's and cast off diseases, deadly wounds, terrible curses, or lost levels ... hopefully!

In NEED of an oracle or some kind of insight? Delve into the shrine of Apollo to seek for ancient diviniatory magics!

The Party:
Barnabus Sleet (muscle wizard)
Emma BrighteyesShareneRakka (the "witchlings", human, Elf, and orc--all Sleet's apprentices)
Dale the Valet (Sleet's fighting-man follower)
Magic Meryl (halfling, former magic-user)
Pitwin Spryneedle (gnome orphan, Meryl's semi-apprentice)
Galahad (newly acquired orc mastiff)
Mario de Parma (fighting-man)
Brutal Pete (insane dwarf)
Fulvia (NPC cleric)
Livia (NPC animal herder)
and two dogs and rather a large number of goats and such headed for the dungeon for sacrifice ...

The party FLAILSNAILED into Sweetwater, a town about a week southwest of my "regular game" set in the city of Calpurnia. To the northwest of Sweetwater, about a week's travel into the wilderness, lay the old shrine of Aesclepius-Apollo, once a pilgrimage destination for those seeking healing or wisdom from the dual Lawful Good deity. Emma had previously been drained of a level of life energy during a delve into the Vaults of Vyzor (when she unwisely wrestled an orc-succubus), and now the party had gathered to help her regain said level in the healing shrine of Aesclepius.

To that end, Emma and company (Sleet, Sharene, Rakka, Dale) acquired the required means for a sacrifice--incense, wine, animals (goats), an offering represented whatever healing was needed, and a Good cleric who could perform the sacrifice properly. They spent the minimum of one thousand gold on it all--more might have guaranteed the favor of the god, but Emma didn't have enough money.

Meanwhile, Magic Meryl was interested in seeking wisdom from Apollo, and heard that if one sacrificed the right animals at his altar, their entrails and livers could be read with the help of certain divination charts and thus answer questions posed to the god. To that end, she acquired several excellent, single-colored goats and then paid a fair amount to copy the local Law cult's divination charts, a certain scroll of Vegoia's Hepotomancy.

The party then bought some of the war dogs ubiquitously for sale along the north-south trade road on which Sweetwater lies, hired Livia to herd their animals, and then set out.

I rolled truncated wilderness encounters--just one per day--and the only thing that molested them on their way out descended on great scalloped wings that overshadowed the road--a dragon! Pretty much everyone ducked for cover as it landed before them, terrible and majestic, but Barnabus strode boldly forward to converse with the worm.

It declared itself to be Ekleriath, and expressed an especial interest in the feast of goats trailing the party. Barnabus bought time by flattering the dragon, which responded by preening and showing off its magnificence; then Barnabus brightly asked if it was strong enough to lift a cow.

Lift a cow? the dragon bellowed. You think I can't, with these huge wings? Ekleriath can lift a cow as well as any roc! With that, the dragon spread its vasts wings, blew up a cloud of dust and took off, circling through the sky looking for cattle, muttering to itself, Lift a cow! Hmmph, I'll show him!

Barnabus then cast invisibility 10' on the party (everyone crammed in close), and they all proceeded invisibly for the remainder of the journey.

The shrine itself is mostly underground, a double shrine with the western half dedicated to Apollo and the eastern to Aesclepius. An above ground temple exists, built in a Greco-Roman style with great columns and a roof, but the place is a ruin--the columns and the roof barely stand. Inside, one finds staircases down, one to the east and one to the west. The party went down the eastern stair first, finding themselves in a chamber with a southern corridor and a stream flowing across it, east to west.

They were wary of the stream, but unnecessarily--though knee deep (Pitwin had to be carried by Mario), the water was otherwise harmless. The corridor led into another chamber with three further exits, with mists rolling lightly from south and east; but the party spied a number of still stone figures in the room, all finely detailed and seemingly caught in a moment of surprise or horror--worried about medusas, the party got out mirrors and continued to the east.

Following the mists east, hoping for hot springs, the party indeed found a large room with a bath fed by hot springs taking up the center. A number of doors stood along the walls--one on the west had scorch marks on the floor around it--and another corridor opened east into a chamber with an idol of a god bearing a snake-twined staff over the altar before him, which was engraved, AEΣΚΛΕΠΙΟΣ.

Fulvia identified this as the altar of Aesclepius and got down to the business of the sacrifice: incense was burned to perfume the idol, wine was poured out (and drunk), goats were sacrificed--their entrails and fat burned on the altar, their thigh meat roasted for everyone to feast on--and hymns were sung to Aesclepius ... the entire rite would take one hour, and because of the noise of it all, I rolled an encounter check for each of the next six turns. Only the third roll turned anything up, and so arrived a woman, beautiful and robed, and followed by five humans--three men and two women.

The lead woman introduced herself as Meledeia ... I fumbled through the dialogue of her trying to ascertain the party, but ultimately she zeroed in on Emma Brighteyes and rubbed up against her seductively, from which Emma lost a point of Wisdom permanently. (meanwhile, Meledeia's followers were happy to partake of the wine, though they weren't much into conversation)

Seeing Emma a bit befuddled, and he being rather protective of his apprentices, Barnabus Sleet stepped in and turned Meledeia around to face him. She wanted to feel up his muscles, but he suggested they go out alone to the other room (reactions roll) ... Oh yes, let's! she answered.

Barnabus had Meledeia stand on one side of the hot spring and told her that he was going to leap into her arms from the other side; but what he was really doing was an Anime Leap Attack, some FLAILSNAILS shenanigans that lets him do excessive damage on an attack from thirty feet away--and he hit Meledeia with a good wallop, and then was a little concerned when I informed him that she'd taken the damage, but was not only not dead, but now shedding half of her human form.

Indeed, the illusion around Meledeia dropped, revealing the lower body of a scorpion topped by her here-to-for attractive female human top. She attacked Sleet with scorpion claws and sting, but wasn't able to pin nor poison him.

Magic Meryl got the drop on the humans and slept the lot of them, and then Mario and Brutal Pete charged out to join the melee against Meledeia. Between that round, a critical hit from Pete, and a winning initiative the next round, the party managed to slaughter poor Meledeia, cutting her fully in half, and she died with a wail, scorpion-half writhing, and then lay still.

Then the sacrifice continued, while Magic Meryl tied up the sleeping followers.

Nothing else bothered the party until the rites were complete, and then Emma had to "incubate" in the healing airs of the hot springs for a while (until the end of the session, I ruled), and so the party briefly looked into the doors around the springs. They found yellow-moldy robes behind some, and behind the scorched door, several chests full of treasure (lots of gold, plus a tafl board and pieces). The treasure also included a suit of mail, which Mario hastily donned, and immediately regretted it as it shrank over his frame, becoming heavy, tight, and awkward.

Everyone then agreed to head to the western shrine to help Magic Meryl find some oracular answers from the wisdom god. They went back up the first stair and then down the western stair, and immediately found a chamber with four exits (N, E, S, and W), and decorated with images of a lyre-playing god, one image of him riddling a sphinx, the other playing for animals.

They went north and found a room with a sphinx statue. At its base was an inscription: "Reaching stiffly for the sky, I bare my fingers when its cold, in warmth I wear an emerald glove, and in between I dress in gold." Tree! Barnabus blurted immediately (and correctly), but nothing happened. The party got a leaf and touched it to the statue, but to no avail.

It's probably some sphinx that got stoned by a medusa here, and then some adventurers carved a riddle into it for fun, Brutal Pete opined.

With a shrug, the group continued. Inside a room that was once a barracks, they found an old chest with a music book inside; then, at the door back to the corridor, they heard voices speaking in orc ...

They agreed to send Rakka out to talk (she's an orc), and when she stepped out, she heard the orc-voices complaining about some Werewolf-Lord taking their loot from their raids as "tribute" and how mad it makes them. There were eight of them, not quite orcs, but with horny, calloused fists and thick hides. Rakka hailed them and talked them into letting her companions help them destroy the werewolves. The orc-things were taken aback by Rakka's comrades, but the ever useful reactions dice suggested helpfulness on the orcs' part, and so they gladly led the party south.

There, they passed through a large chamber with a pipe organ along the west wall, and intrigued, the party stopped to play it. Pete set out the music book and tried to play a song, but he couldn't make sense of the notation (and no yellow mold came out of the wheezing organ, to everyone's relief). Meanwhile, Magic Meryl and Dale positioned themselves in the middle of the room in a good vantage to magic anything coming up the hallways--and lo! from the south came four figures, wondering about the noise of the organ.

That's them! the orc-things hissed, and Meryl and Dale blasted the four oncoming figures with a lightning bolt each. The poor creatures were instantly killed; the man-skins they were wearing split open, and out spilled four cooked and very dead wolves.

Inspecting the chamber whence they'd come, the party found some more loot (a gilded chariot among other things); but the Lord of Werewolves was out, it seemed, so the orcs were cajoled into leading the party to the shrine of Apollo (after a brief confusion that led to the fabled Well of Memory).

This shrine was similar to the one to Aesclepius, except it lacked a hot spring; rather, the ceiling was worked with images of constellations, and the inscriptions on the lyre-holding idol read, AΠΟΛΛΩN

Fulvia again sacrificed some goats, thought it was a much shorter ritual as she only needed to look at their entrails and the lobes of the livers and to cross-reference their appearance with Meryl's copied charts--thus to answer the questions brought by Meryl and Pete.

Asked Meryl, How might I regain the full magical powers I lost when I was reincarnated as a halfling?
And Pete, How might I escape the curse laid on me by the armor and warped soul of Ule Oakenballs, to go mad when I reach my limit of experience as a dwarf?
(the answers to these questions need deeper thought, and I a still mulling them over)

Their goals all met and our time nearly out, the party then set out for Sweetwater once more, not neglecting to collect Emma and to haul out their lucre. Emma rolled a success on regaining her level and her lost Wisdom; six of the eight orc-things agreed to accompany the party back to Vyzor, to avoid the wrath of the Werewolf-Lord; and the party led the erstwhile followers of Meledeia back to town, once they ascertained that they had been her slaves (and they found on the way back, moreover, that these individuals can barely take care of themselves and seem as naive as children and muddled in their thinking--it seems all of them had their Wisdom drained pretty badly).

They went invisibly as before, and managed to avoid any further encounters--though they did note a number of wolves howling in the distance, and coursing their trail (to no avail). Finally back in town, they sold their loot, and set the former slaves up with the local Lawful Good Cult of St. Ursula (founded not long ago by Lailith, a character from my "regular game"), with Pete giving a "bounty" of 500 gold for whichever adventurers are willing to take the five back to the temple to be healed by Aesclepius, while Meryl donated money for their care until then.

All in all, a rather successful expedition ...

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