Monday, February 12, 2018

Expedition to the Shrine of Aesclepius-Apollo 2

During a showdown against the Elf-King who dwells in the dungeons beneath the Azure Tower of Vyzor, in his own throne room, Barnabus Sleet was attacked by the Elf-King's guardian creatures and had his right foot ripped off and a life-energy level drained from him before the throne room collapsed and the battle ended as both sides retreated. Laurantha also had her left hand mangled, and you can read her account of the battle here.

Because of these grievous hurts, Barnabus Sleet gathered a small company with him to go and seek out the Shrine of Aesclepius-Apollo where, on another expedition, his apprentice Emma Brighteyes had been cured of her malaise from a lost life-energy level.

the Party:
Barnabus Sleet (muscle wizard)
Jaina, Son of Folg (thief)
with Dale (fighting-man valet)
Magic Meryl (halfling, formerly magic-user)
with Tiberius (normal mercenary) and Galahad (orc mastiff)
Frigga (a witch)
Fulvia (NPC cleric of St. Ursula)
Laurantha (B/X Elf, my own character, but she was just along for the ride)
various livestock being taken to the shrine to be sacrificed
and some lackwits formerly enslaved by a lamia

The party started off in the city of Calpurnia, because IRL the plan had been to go to the Old Forest Keep, until the battle with the Elf-King happened and Barnabus needed healing. In Calpurnia, they acquired what they needed for the sacrifice to Aesclepius--Barnabus spent 1000 gold on flawless oxen, good wine, and fine incense, as well as a little bronze foot and another token to represent what needed healing. Frigga purchased a sheep and a chicken because she was interested in sacrificing them to Apollo and divining places to learn more arcana.

They then set out for Sweetwater, a town south west of Calpurnia on the King's Highway, and the town nearest the abandoned shrine. This journey took a week, so I rolled once on my On the Road table ... and in the middle of the week as the party was traveling along, they were suddenly attacked by insectoid horrors that burst out of the ground to attack Tiberius and Laurantha. But the attacks missed, and Meryl cast phantasmal force to create illusions of more party members with the intent that the illusions be attacked by the insects and the party could flee. But I rolled a morale for the insects being suddenly confronted with so many more things than expected, and they actually started digging themselves back into the earth. And so the company continued on their way.

In Sweetwater, Barnabus hired Fulvia from the local shrine to St. Ursula, as the sacrifice to Aesclepius requires a cleric of Good alignment to do it; they also picked up the lackwits left at the shrine last time, intending to take them to the shrine and have them healed of their lost wisdom (lost from the lamia's touch). The party then set out for the shrine; and immediately discovered that two weeks of their rations had spoiled (it was a random roll on one of my wilderness encounters charts), so they had to go back to Sweetwater to pick up more rations. They also considered casting a curse on the merchant who sold them the bad rations, one Thidrek of Calpurnia.

The only other encounter I rolled on the way was with hippogriffs, which meant merely that the party happened to see a herd of the creatures cavorting in the air over the hills to the east.

I did also mention the dragon that dwells in those eastern hills and mountains, which they glimpsed at a great distance only as a shadow of a serpent soaring through the air on great wings.

What I failed to mention was that the stars are singing--even this far south of Brakeridge and the Greyhame mountain, people can still hear the stars singing at night, though it is fainter.

Anyway, the party arrived at the shrine without trouble and looked on the old ruin of the shrine above ground, which is essentially a shell of classical-style columns and carvings, with a stair down in the far east wing where is depicted a man bearing a snake-twined staff; and another stair down in the far west wing, where are carved images of a handsome young man with a lyre charming birds and beasts or riddling with sphinxes and old gods.

There was some confusion as to which stair to take, but Fulvia ultimately pointed out that Aesclepius is the healing god, and that his accouterments include the snake-twined staff. So down the eastern stair they went. Meryl had a map from the last expedition, and so they quickly traversed the first rooms to the great hot spring pool where supplicants incubate to receive healing from Aesclepius. To the east of the hot spring is a smaller room wherein stands the altar and idol of Aesclepius; but looking into this room, the party discovered that another idol had been erected behind the altar, a crude idol carved from a great tree trunk with one thick limb in particular jutting up with a clear resemblance of an erect phallus.

Barnabus took down the new idol and had it chopped up to burn (to use in the fires required for burning the sacrifices), and then Fulvia took over and began the sacrifices. These are like any classical sacrifice, with the oxen slaughtered, their thigh bones, entrails, and fat burned on the altar while their steaks are cooked up and eaten by the supplicants and priest. Wine is poured out over the fire and then drunk in great quantity, while incense is burned and its smoke blown over the idol to please the god. All this takes a while, so I rolled a few wandering monster checks--alas! nothing came by to check out all this noise.

After the sacrifice was completed, Barnabus, Laurantha, and the lackwits still needed to incubate at the hot spring for a while, and so the rest of the company took their leave--Frigga, Meryl, and Jaina all set out back for the stairs to head down the west side and seek out the divining room of Apollo. Meryl had some trouble reading her map and took the party into a room labeled as having an Apolline statue, only for the party to find themselves confronted with a giant and his cronies and a large pack of wolves.

"What are you doing in here, man-things?" the giant boomed at them. "Come to raid this place, eh? Well get out, before I crush you!"

But as the giants approached to do just that, Frigga piped up, declaring herself a witch of the north, come to look for lore in the divinations through entrails.

"You know some lore, then, do you?" the giant asked, and a light came into his eyes. "Well--perhaps you can divine something for me then, too?" The party agreed--Frigga had brought an extra animal just in case she needed extra entrails--and the giant introduced himself as Vargir, son of Vanr, and then started leading the way to the proper chamber (not the one Meryl had just led them to). Along the way, some of the wolves peeled off and went in another direction, boding ill ...

Soon enough, the giant showed them into a room with an altar and an idol to another god, the handsome young man with the lyre, and a ceiling set with glittering stones in the shapes of the constellations at night. The giants gathered along the west wall and eagerly awaited to see some sacrificing and entrails-reading. "Tell us how to slay Yamir," Vargir ordered Frigga (who then had Fulvia do the sacrifices).

The answer to that question was, Fulvia declared, "A sword of truth." To which answer the giants fumed and stamped their feet. "We already knew that! That is his doom--but what is it?"

Frigga then stepped up and tried to read the entrails for more information, but found nothing. But she agreed to "read the entrails" of the other animal for the giants while secretly telling Fulvia to answer her question, which was, "Where can I find more witch-arcana to learn?"

So Fulvia did the whole ritual again, with Frigga "helping" and ultimately Frigga declared that a sword of truth must be made from the teeth of the dragon in the mountains that they had seen, as dragons are very ancient and powerful, and because of their ancientness closer to the truth at the moment of creation, or some such humbuggery. "Eklereath's teeth?" Vargir grumbled. "He seems rather a young dragon for such a thing ... still, if that's what you say ..."

Meanwhile, Fulvia whispered to Frigga that she had read something about "nine eyes" and "crows in the forest" and "an old castle", from which clues the party came to the conclusion that Frigga could learn her crow-summoning arcana from the crows that dwell on or around the Old Forest Keep.

Now, while all of this was happening, Jaina son of Folg was pickpocketing Vargir. She (yes, she, I don't remember the particulars as to why Folg's son is a girl, but so she is) pulled out a couple handfuls of gold with successful checks and but then decided to go big, because Vargir's bag looked like it contained quite a lot of coin. So she started emptying her own backpack and large sacks in the background, comedia dell'arte style, while everyone else was paying attention to the sacrifices. She then slit the bottom of Vargir's bag and, with another successful check, managed to gather 5000 gold in her sacks.

A great howling began to ring through the stone corridors of the dungeon at this point, and Vargir pricked his ears and then declared, "Sounds like Navitnir has got wind of your presence. You'd best be out before he catches you." Because the party had done him a good deed, he allowed them to flee out the door--and just in time, as a huge pack of wolves came surging out of the darkness to the west. The party fled, wolves panting at their heels; at the top of the stair, Meryl used her halfling stealthiness to hide nearby while the party fled down the eastern staircase. Then, as the wolves boiled up, howling, Meryl cast phantasmal force creating illusions of the party fleeing down the hill, out into the wilderness ... and the wolves howled and went straight for them. Meryl then fled down the east staircase after her fellows.

Returning to the hot springs, the party found more than just Barnabus, Laurantha, and the lackwits--with them now, was a great turtle, its shell mossy but with glittering gold inlaid below the growths, pontificating about esoteric metaphysics and turtlian dialectics; and interrupting the lecture constantly with crude jokes or bad faith arguments, and shrieking with weird laughter at the turtle's discomfiture, were a gang of yellow-eyed hyena-headed creatures--obviously gnolls.

The party was confused by the presence of these things: "You guys weren't here last time!" Meryl said to the gnolls, to which they laughed and responded, "Sure we were!" It came out that the idol that the party had destroyed was theirs, and now they needed a new one, so they sent their human slaves out to collect a tree and drag it back in, down the stairs to the hot springs. The party was content to wait and kind of play along, but when they saw that the slaves were just going to hack out a crude image, taking even more time, Meryl decided to try to scare the gnolls off. With another casting of phantasmal force, she created an image of Melodeia, the scorpion-lamia from the last expedition, rising from the hot springs.

In response to this, the gnolls got spooked, but rather than running turned menacing. Their laughter became eerie and forced morale rolls for NPCs (who all failed and started to try to flee), but the party got the drop on the gnolls with high initiative and Barnabus leapt to the attack. He and his floating fists (he has two or three that follow him around anymore) killed four gnolls in his round alone, while Meryl cast sleep over another four gnolls. These losses were enough to scatter the gnolls, and the party then elected to depart the dungeon, as their healing was complete, and they had managed to acquire a fair amount of loot.

Through the use of invisibility 10' they returned back through the wilderness without incident, and that was that--Barnabus had a new foot and had regained his level, the lackwits were (mostly) restored from their idiocy, and Laurantha was healed of her wounds (though her lost fingers she actually replaced with magic fingers created by powerful wizard Pete Loudly).

No comments:

Post a Comment