Campaign of the Month: March 2008

The Nemedian Chronicles

Chapter 16 Session 1

While routing mercenaries that assaulted a small, defenseless village, Cuana, Tullweim and Xacksmith discovered a pale ruby with three veins of gold which met at a point in the remains of a looted hut. Taking the jewel, the adventurers followed the tracks of the sellsword company that had advanced past the hamlet. After fighting off a clawing, biting, pack of wolves they came across the body of a young Hyrkanian man that lay atop a meager tablet of granite in the brush off the path.

The Hyrkanian archer realized the ruby fit into an oval indentation on the tablet as the Aesir uncovered a bloody missive naming the body Doma, apprentice to Jehungir. A violent gust of wind suddenly ripped across the party and a demon with four gangly limbs manifested. The barbarians went into a crimson mist of rage and the large outsider’s voltaic breath could not stall their fury. They then followed the path to a cave entrance where a cordial hermit calling himself Ghaznavi welcomed the adventurers to dine with him.

The recluse related his story of learning sorcery with his quarreling brother Jehungir. Of how their master T’Neya had crafted a powerful bracelet cut in two and given each half to one of the brothers. Ghaznavi learned his brother had left his mortal coil and sought a map to Jehungir’s burial site. The hermit promised riches to anyone who could help him gather such a map.

Tullweim realized the granite tablet and ruby with gold veins was the very map the sage required. Intrigued by the story, and gold promised, the Aesir offered the jewel and tablet to Ghaznavi. The sorcerer took the granite tablet, cackled madly and rushed behind a curtain to a room that sealed itself behind him. From that room erupted a shaft of yellow light, which bolted out of the cave, shredding all in its wake. The adventurers rushed out the cave mouth and saw the trail of light sickly shimmering in the evening air.

Character Reflections

| Cuana Chapter 16 Entry 1 |

Chapter 13 Session 7

The Secret Entrance

Wattabi told Cuana, Tullweim, and Xacksmith that the entrance to the hidden passage into the Red Citadel was located some distance outside of Bzambei. The description given was that of a shrine to strange leonine gods of the forgotten city atop which the citadel now rested. The Waddai exile then said, ‘Your passage to the shrine may be flooded due to the rain and the nearby river. Once inside, you will need to look for the third statue on the right, a lion-headed woman brandishing two sickles. At the feet of the statue is a hole through which is the catch that holds the shrine’s door shut.’ The guide continued, ‘Once the catch is released the statue can be pushed aside, revealing a narrow staircase going down. This passage will lead you directly into the citadel. But you must always move forward. Never deviate, it is a maze down there,’ Watabbi asserted. ‘You will never be seen again if you choose to explore it.’

The journey to the shrine was not long. About two miles from Bzambei’s walls, close to the banks of the river laid the crumbling ruin of which Wattabi spoke. The river had indeed burst its banks, as Wattabi had feared, and 100 feet from the temple the flood waters became more difficult to wade through as they rose above waist level. The exiled Waddai pointed out the entrance, then told the party he would pray the cost they’d pay for finding what they sought would not be too high, and turned to leave. The adventurers had to swim to progress the rest of the way without being knocked over by the current. Inside the shine’s walls, the current abated, but the structure was completely flooded and the party plodded around chest deep in the water. The temple itself was 50 feet wide, 60 feet long, and had a partially crumbling ceiling held up by a dozen pillars to the left and right. Three large female statues with leonine heads stood watch on either side of the temple, and the statue opposite the entry had an altar before it which rose from the swirling waters. Tullweim moved towards the statue Wattabi told them of, when a fanged maw burst from the shadowed murk and bit deep into the Aesir’s arm. Tullweim shouted an alarm to his companions when Cuana and Xacksmith noticed 3 more dark shapes moving quickly towards them.

Chapter 13 Session 6

The Drowning City

Cuana, Tullweim, and Xacksmith arrived in the outpost of Aurik during a prolonged rain. Indeed, it was as if the great drought that covered so much of the northern lands did not reach this far south, and here the rains seemed never to stop. As the tributaries of the River Styx swelled to a bursting point their waters ran white as they picked up speed, their currents and eddies roared with primal fury. The waters continued to rise and the adventurers narrowly entered the main road to the city before the waves flooded over as many took refuge in Khitan-style stilted huts. While much of Aurik rested above the flood plain, many of its roads appeared washed out, and the migratory population had become temporarily besieged by the forces of nature. Amid the buffeting rains, the welcoming glow from a crowded tavern proved irresistible. Foreign prospectors, slaves, traders, and mercenaries gathered, with several bare-fisted skirmishes under way as the men-at-arms entered the smoky confines of the tavern.

Cuana and Xacksmith made the rounds around the alehouse. While the Cimmerian was met with scowls and warnings about his questioning of the Scarlet Hand, the Hyrkanian searched for a fat coin pouch which could be liberated from a drunkards’ belt. Xacksmith found little to pilfer, as the cooped up patrons of the tavern were little more than wanderers and tradesmen spending their last coppers on drinks and shelter from the torrential rains. After the better part of an hour trying to get answers and silver exchanged to loosen tongues about the Scarlet Hand, Cuana learned of a Wadai ruler, High Chief Haza, who dwelt in the Red Citadel. It was believed Haza’s adviser, Quaridan, was the real power behind the throne, and the Scarlet Hand was said to be controlled by the High Chief’s mysterious council. The nervous merchant then directed the Cimmerian to speak with the barkeep, a dour Iranistani named Sharam. Cuana thanked the tradesman and approached the bar with his questions. Sharam asked why the Cimmerian wanted to know of the Scarlet Hand and Cuana responded that the cult had taken something of his, and he would have it back. The barkeep nodded in understanding and reinforced the tales the barbarian had heard of the cult already, but then added a name to the mix, Watabbi.

Chapter 13 Session 5

The Secret Valley

A cobblestone road led from the cleft to the pyramid, but was overgrown with dense foliage from the wild jungle within the valley. The stirrings of feral game dwelt in the primeval forest within, which was crossed by numerous small streams and ponds. The pyramid towered in the middle of this valley and appeared to be many miles from where the party stood. Xacksmith noted Erishka seemed unsteady on her feet from lack of rest through the harrowing mountain passage. The Hyrkanian helped the young Atlaian woman along as Artelios and Kophethu tiredly limped behind. Like the borderer, Cuana and Tullweim were untroubled by the relentless trekking through the Atlaian bush. If not for the many gashes and hastily sewn stitches on their bodies, the northron men looked as if they had had a full night’s rest. But all the combat had aroused a voracious appetite, and it was decided hunting for food and fresh water would be their next move before closing in on the looming pyramid’s face.

Among the many sulfurous hot springs, the Cimmerian was able to locate a shallow pond of fresh water. The Aesir located a brace of hares, and with the alacrity of an accomplished woodsman, trapped, gathered, and skinned the lot. Xacksmith knew they could not risk a large fire, but was able to scavenge materials to warm coals and cook the meal. With the rumblings of their belly quieted, water quaffed and splashed upon their faces, the party pressed on. Before long, the temple at last reared high above the adventurers as they stealthily broke through the jungle line to a clearing around the great edifice. The massive pyramid stood 200 feet high, with nine successive layers cut through by a great staircase leading to a colonnaded temple at the top. Great stone braziers rested at each of the four corners of the base and the top, along with smaller braziers along the length of the staircase. Midway along the staircase rested a large stone entrance, from which two double doors were spread wide open. All of this was most impressive, but the matter most concerning to the men-at-arms was four dusky-skinned soldiers, dressed in silks and holding scimitars. One of the men carried an ivory horn at his belt, suggesting there were more warriors nearby. Cuana growled at the sight of the men, who were from a race he found to be wholly despicable, for from their features it could be seen these men hailed from the cursed lands of Stygia.

Chapter 13 Session 4

On the Trail of Orafa

As Cuana awoke from his slumber in the early morning light of the jungle wastes of Atlaia, he took stock of the camp his companions drowsed in. All seemed well among the sleeping forms of Artelios, Erishka, Kophethu, Tullweim, and Xacksmith. Though the Cimmerian became alarmed when he did not see the Nemedian, Ambrose, who had taken the last watch of the night. The barbarian roused the rest of the adventurers and all set their gaze to their surroundings, searching for any clue as to where the scholar had gone. The Nemedian’s gear was no longer in the encampment and Ambroses’ tracks led west, away from the men-at-arm’s camp. No other marks were found, and it seemed the scholar had simply gathered his things and left. The Aesir shrugged his shoulders, stating the civilized man could no longer bear the trek through the jungle towards the unknown the men had embarked upon and likely wished to return to the harbor of Zabhela, where he could purchase passage to Argos, and from there, his homeland. At a loss to further explain the departure of their sword-brother, the men cooked a meager meal and set out again towards the Ogun Mountains, to close the distance on the rogue, Orafa, and retrieve the map stolen by the Ghanata slaver.

Along their path, the party came upon the carcass of a horse saddled in the same manner as the Tibu raiders which had ambushed them, with a wooden spear jutting out the slain beast’s side. Xacksmith uncovered tracks from 2 mounts nearby, 1 appeared to be carrying the burden of 2 riders. The adventurers hastened their pace, and few hours later discovered another lifeless horse, though no injury was found among its cadaver. Tullweim opined that the beast had died from exhaustion and noted their quarry’s steps were fresh. Artelios insisted the party catch up to the Ghanata quickly, or risk losing the map they sought. At midday 3 men, 1 on a horse, 2 on foot, were spotted several miles in the distance. 1 of the men shambled along with a limp as the brute beside him mercilessly goaded him along. The rider stalled his horse to wait for his companions to catch up, looked back upon the trail they had trod, spotted the adventurers and spurred his troupe forward towards a thick copse of trees.

Chapter 13 Session 3

Bloody Ambush

Withered crones in Stygia speak of the mysterious Atlaians, giants among the fiercest tribes of the Black Kingdoms, dwelling in stewardship over the ruins of an empire so ancient they cannot even name it. Great armies led by chief-kings gather before crumbling temples stretching like mountains into the sky. They participate in harrowing ceremonial battles in honor of the powerful Orisha who rule the lives of these mysterious people. It is through their war-torn lands Ambrose, Cuana, Tullweim, and Xacksmith traveled as elite men-at-arms of Artelios’ caravan. The Argossean exile led the troupe and brought Kushites acting as guards and caravaneers. The shackled Nemedian scholar lamented despite the numbers of the caravan, they had fallen victim to a fierce raid. Members of the feral Tibu nomads could not resist a plump Kushite wagon train and the men who had left Zabhela weeks ago were now captives or lay as corpses amid the savage land. A powerful Ghanata captain called, Orafa, stripped all in the caravan of their armor, weapons, and rations. He had also taken Artelios’ coveted map.

The adventurers walked chained on a hot, arid track of land, a great cloud of dust hovered in the still air as dozens of shackled feet shuffled along a dry river bed. Ambrose felt thirst, hunger, and sunstroke far worse than his barbaric companions. Even Xacksmith stoically trudged along, the accomplished woodsman showing none of the ill effects of the forced march which threatened to rob the Nemedian of his senses and vitality. Fierce masked warriors on horses rode back and forth, periodically goading the chain of the captured men onward. Occasionally, a slave collapsed and did not get up again. A Tibu raider stopped only to remove the iron shackles and jab a spear through the dying man’s ribcage in a rare act of mercy. Though there were perhaps 100 slaves, the 30 Tibu warriors and their fierce Ghanata captain more than made a match for the road-weary, sun-beaten prisoners. Whispers among the slaves, who were a mix of Zamballan peasants and Kushite caravaneers traveled up and down the line. The troupe had been mercilessly pushed onward for three days now, continuing east with amazing speed. Not ten minutes gone, the Ghanata captain road ahead with three scouts, to the crest of a jagged hill overlooking the basin. In the distance, the party’s keen eyes spotted an additional rider, with whom Orafa seemed to be discussing business.

Chapter 13 Session 2

Seeking Elder Counsel

With little else to go on, Ambrose, Cuana, Tullweim, and Xacksmith again entered the Shanty, the squalid home of the Gallah. There they learned even the locals were being terrorized by the frenzied cultists of Jullah. Many young women had been kidnapped and a few men as well, the males’ partially devoured corpses found on the outskirts of Zabhela. An elder, called Eshiba, had taken up arms against the followers of Jullah for the kidnap of his daughter, son’s wife, grandchildren, and the death of his son. It was this man the adventurers sought, though the instructions given them led only to an empty household. The party questioned 2 Gallah men and a woman, found near Eshiba’s abandoned home, about the whereabouts of the Kushite. The Nemedian noticed whenever Eshiba’s name was uttered the Gallah became nervous. Ambrose spoke to his allies in Nemedian, stressing the need to avoid repeating the moniker of the man they were seeking. One of the Gallah swains stated the elder Kushite had left the city and now dwelled in Shemanza, a farming hamlet near the coast. Tullweim was curious as to the cause of the nervousness of the frightened locals and they babbled of how Eshiba was a powerful shaman not to be angered. The Kushites feared anyone risked drawing the elder’s wrath by saying his name. With the knowledge of where to find Eshiba, the adventurers left the Shanty.

The journey to Shemanza was mostly through lush, cultivated farmland dotted with the huts of peasant farmers and shepherds. The men-at-arms arrived at the village after a few hours’ walk. From there, Zabhela was all but invisible in the distance, swallowed by the dense tree line, with only a handful of spiraling towers from the Upper City still seen. The scent of the sea hung thick in the air as the adventurers arrived at the village. No children were seen playing games, no farmers hocked their produce, no craftsmen mended tools and no shepherds tended their flocks. The village was eerily quiet and only a few furtive souls moved about, mostly men, who quickly slammed shut doors and barred windows. In the center of the community was a great object not unlike a maypole, its base surrounded and decorated with dozens of human skulls. At the top of the post hung a body, strung up by its legs. The pole was red with the crusted blood of the hanging corpse. Cuana noticed the fastened cadaver was naked but for an armband of the cultists of Jullah.

Chapter 13 Session 1

The Arrival

Several months had passed since the horrors of Stygia were left behind. Ambrose, Cuana, Tullweim, and Xacksmith returned to Messantia without incident, receiving their much deserved reward from Saevio. Having already tired of the wonders in the City of Riches they were eager to find adventure which would take them away from the metropolis. The party encountered a one-eyed Argossean, called Kalamos, who needed a ship to carry him, and crates of goods to the southernmost port-city of Kush. Few men would brave the waters of the Black Coast, but Kalamos promised ample riches for the task from a man named Rand Artelios. Artelios was known as an exiled merchant who had fled Argos to make his fortune in Kush. Kalamos told of how Artelios had married into the ruling class of Zabhela and seemed to be paying vast quantities of silver for safely bringing the cargo to the port-city. And so, the party used some of the coin acquired to hire a crew, lifted anchor of the Stygian galley captured from Ankh-Psamtek which they’d re-christened the Crimson Wolf a year prior, and rode the waves for leagues, battling Stygian war galleys and pirate ships through the southern waters of the Western Ocean to Kush.

The adventurers braved the notoriously dangerous waters of the Black Coast and arrived at the bustling seaport docks of Zabhela on a hot, humid day. The streets were packed with dockworkers, foreign merchants, sailors, and slaves. As landfall was made, hagglers, beggars, and hungry children besieged the men disembarking from the ship for food, coin, and sales. Kalamos left the ship for the Upper City, promising to meet the party at a smokey local tavern called, “The Sailor’s Folly,” to deliver the pay from Artelios and arrange for his men to pick up the cargo. A young Kushite child with a pet monkey tugged on Ambrose’s arm, begging for food. Nearby, a tall Stygian slaver and his Puntish bodyguards offered to sell a medly of young women who had all been captured from nameless tribes among the Black Kingdoms. In the distance, a circle of sailors and locals formed around two men who had at last met to settle a blood debt; each man attempting to bleed the other with wickedly curved blades. In the midst of all this, a nearby vessel attempted to load an immense cage, which hung precariously from a block and tackle. Pacing back and forth within the cage were a pair of lions, which moved with nervous fury at their fate. The loading ship hailed from Stygia, where the lions were most likely destined for the gladiatorial pits.

Chapter 12 Session 6

The Streets During Festival

The massive python advanced menacingly towards the adventurers, the scales of its bulky trunk scraping the cobblestones in its wake. Its neck arched threateningly, but before it could dart Xacksmith charged the beast, the Staff of Ibis raised above his head. The Hyrkanian brought the blade down upon the serpent’s crown with a sickening crunch. In the same moment Cuana’s greatsword flashed in the street’s dim torchlight, opening a gaping wound on the python’s flank. Tullweim followed the Cimmerian’s attack with a leaping charge, twice slicing through scales and scoring flesh. Ambrose closed the distance between himself and the giant beast, his sword seeming to dance in his hand as he searched for an opening. The Nemedian’s blade whirled and spun before he lodged its point through the serpent’s right eye, impaling the orb to the hilt of his arming sword. The adventurers wrenched their armaments free and sprang clear as the great body knotted, looped, and whipped terrifically in its death throes.

In the moment the party stood staring in morbid fascination, the only sound was the thud and swish of the snake’s tail against the stones. Then from the shocked masked votaries burst a terrible cry: “Blasphemers! They have slain a sacred son of Set! Slay them! Slay! Slay!” Stones whizzed about the party as the crazed Stygians rushed at them, shrieking hysterically. Tullweim waded into the masked acolytes and carved an arm off the closest, trailed by an arcing swath of death to the next. Cuana matched the Aesir’s stride, tearing through the 2 Stygian’s before him, flinging their heads and torso across the shadowed lane. Xacksmith brought the Staff of Ibis down on the remaining acolyte, caving in the Stygian’s left side. The masked priest of Set flung his dagger about in a panicked frenzy. The eyes behind the priest’s facade were wide in terror, for none would expect those in the streets to fight back, let alone butcher those doing Set’s will during the Old Serpent’s festival. The Stygian priest’s gaze waxed as Ambrose made a swift gesture of power through the air and cast his blade into the Setite. As the fiendish vicar floundered against the wall, the Aesir strode forth and drove his greatsword through the Stygian’s gut, stilling his curses and cries.

Chapter 12 Session 5

The Shadowy Chantry

Blood dripped from more wounds than most men could sustain as the Nordheimer, Tullweim, towered victoriously in the nude over the corpses of monstrous snake-men. Past the corridor in Cuana’s bedchamber, Xacksmith quested for a trigger which would open the secret panel the adventurers had seen the Cimmerian drug through. The Aesir recovered his wolf-head helm from his room when he heard movement from further down the lane and dashed into the alcove Xacksmith labored in. With teeth bared, Tullweim pushed the bed against the door as he urged the Hyrkanian to search faster, for they would again be in the company of ophidian men. Wrapped only in cloth bedsheets, Xacksmith brokenly remarked he was looking as fast as his laudanum poisoned limbs would allow him, when his hand pushed against a stone which depressed into the wall revealing a tunnel. The borderer cried out his success as Tullweim stacked the remaining furniture in the room against the bunk’s main portal. The 2 adventurers followed the passage several hundred feet to a seemingly dead end. Knowing there was at least one other exit from the aisle, Xacksmith uncovered a catch which opened another panel to a desperate scene.

The lights of braziers flickered in the cavity beyond, revealing a pool surrounded by 6 hideous obelisks of sinuously cut stone. In the shallow basin was clasped a nude, dusky-skinned young woman, with strikingly straight features, who struggled vainly against the iron grip of 2 Stygian bruisers. 4 more warriors stood at the ready around the pond. While beyond, Cuana and another man of Nemedian blood were each chained to an obelisk across from one another. Beqai Neb Temu was poised menacingly above the young prisoner with a ceremonial dagger of two flint blades shaped like the fangs of serpents. The wicked rector muttered a brief apology to Set for not sacrificing the doxy beneath the festival moon, and readied his blade to bite as the adventurers burst in. Xacksmith haltingly tugged back his bowstring, and cast 3 shafts at the Setite priest, all grazing the hawk-nosed Stygian. Tullweim carved the closest warrior, who held the sacrificial captive, so viciously his torso sailed from his legs in a spray of crimson. The Setite priest hurled a glass globe which burst into flames when it struck Tullweim, searing the fresh wounds on the barbarian’s hide. All the Stygian warriors dropped their human visages with wiry shifting of their face’s flesh, causing a surge of panic to threaten the Aesir and Hyrkanian. Whether discipline or providence allowed the adventurers to beat down the quivering dread threatening to overtake them, they stood their ground as the serpentine battlers around the pond stormed at them.


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