"Second Son of a Second Son" - An Aquerra Story Hour (*finally* Updated 04/19)

handforged

First Post
I like that in your world, treasure doesn't just come in the form of piles of coins. Participating in the market economy is a sure way to get the PCs more involved in the world, whether they want to be or not.

Can't wait for more.

~hf
 

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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #22 – “Intrigue & Alarm” (part 4 of 4)

Ralem, the 22th of Keent - 566 H.E. (637 M.Y.)

Four days after they received their last share of the treasure converted and sold-off by Euleria, the Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland gathered in the common room of Death & Taxes to celebrate their success. Dunlevey and Falco had been paid, and the latter took off soon after without saying good-bye. Timotheus tried to convince Dunlevey the Swordsman to stick around, but the sell-sword shook his head.

“Hey, I think you’re a stalwart companion and a good boss, but… Well, no offense, but all your companions as real pricks…” Dunlevey told him. “I have nothing against you… You ever go your own way and plan to put something together, come find me…”

“Where will you go next?” Timotheus asked.

“Not sure…”

“Well, you should try Schiereiland,” Tim told him. “I can write you a quick letter of recommendation, and if you go to Chalkour you are sure to get work if you go and see my father’s man at High Talon.”

Dunlevey seemed to like the idea, and so Timotheus did just that. In the meantime, the sell-sword went around to bid the rest of the group good-bye, and getting blessings and well-wishes from Victoria and Telémahkos.

On this night, the common room of Death & Taxes was louder and more packed than ever. The party had started earlier than usual, and after having their dinner up in their suites, Markos, Telémahkos, Timotheus, Bleys, Victoria and Laarus went downstairs to join the festivities. Laarus and Bleys’ training was done, and Markos had spent a lot of time trying to find out more about the situation at the docks when he was not buying needed components, or locked away in one of the suites copying spells into his spellbooks, and studying his arcane tomes and notes. Telémahkos and Timotheus slept late, practiced their swordsmanship and went out to taverns nightly, tasting from the taps all over Sluetelot.

“Ladies and gentleman! Your attention please!” Floris Tenbrook stood from his card game with a flourish when he noticed the young nobles coming down the stairs into the common room. “We are graced with the presence of the young Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland, recently returned from their explorations of the Disputed Territories and slayers of the viscous and voracious landshark whose head now graces the wall of our favorite inn!” He gestured to the mounted head, its mouth open in a fierce gesture, a small bronze plaque beneath it with the party’s names engraved.

The revelers cheered and the drinks flowed and music was struck up as they took a table. Telémahkos had to be restrained from going to dance before the party had shared a drink.

“To returning home from the Disputed Territories and to the success of our future journeys!” Victoria Ostrander of Anhur raised her mug and the other five Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland did the same. “Hear, hear! Hear, hear!”

They spent an hour down there, Telémahkos interrupting Timotheus’ retelling of the battles against goblins, ogres and landsharks as he returned from frequent dances with different women. Tim kept pushing drinks towards Bleys, who aside from the one half-filled mug he toasted with, touched no alcohol. The patrons nodded politely at Laarus and Victoria, not hiding their nervous embarrassment around the priests, and Markos drank more than he usually did. Laughing when he noticed everyone else laughing and forcing a smile when a townsperson greeted him.

Eventually, Victoria, Bleys and Laarus retired for the night, and Markos sat by himself in a corner drinking for another hour before he followed, spending time with his book by candle light before finally going to sleep. Timotheus and Telémahkos had no intentions of sleeping any time soon. The revelry went on all night, Telémahkos taking part in several hands of cards, letting people win big off of him to spread good cheer and then winning a big pot to get close to breaking even. Timotheus tried some clumsy drunken dancing, but ended up whispering with two giggling women on one of the couches at the rear wall of the common room.

As dawn approached, Timotheus finally went upstairs, carrying two bottles of wine and his arms linked with the two lusty wenches, who kept cooing over his muscled arms and broad chest. He brought them into the suite common room and after a few more drinks he let them have their way with him. Telémahkos was not done. He drowned his annoyance at not being able to duplicate his cousin’s luck in more ale and wine, and greeted Ra’s Glory with a heart-rending song he was certain would win him some attention from a woman, but most seemed unwilling to give him the kind of attention he wanted, and others frequent insistence he buy them drinks made him suspicious. But the revelry did not abate, an even as the sun was creeping into the sky and cocks were crowing and some of the eager tradesmen were setting up their stalls in the nearby market, another group of musicians arrived and started up an energetic tune. Revelers followed them from a local private party, spilling in happily.

Finally, Telémahkos felt exhaustion creeping into his bones, so he climbed the steps to the suites. As he opened the door to the suites he had been staying at he heard the tell-tale moan from within the common room of the suite that told him his cousin would probably not want to be interrupted. Sighing with annoyance, he let himself into the other suite and taking off his trousers and loosening his blouse, he laid out on the couch to try to sleep. Sleep did not come. After Victoria and Laarus awoke and headed out to find some breakfast, he crept into the bedroom and grabbed one of their beds, but sleep still did not come.

The two priests felt a mixture of disbelief and disapproval as they walked through the common room out to the market. The partying was still going on and they recognized several of the people from the night before still going at it. If anything, it was even louder, a little wilder. There were broken plate and bowls, spilled drinks and raucous laughter. Two men were arm-wrestling as a crowd cheered. Floris Tenbrook was still playing cards, a growing pile of silver in front of him. Barton had greeted them frantically trying to clean up after his patrons and keep up with their demands. He had run out of dinner and had not had a chance to have breakfast prepared. Apologizing, he had sent them to feed themselves.

Victoria and Laarus had to wait until the vendor’s coals got warm enough to heat the slabs of lamb meat he was frying with eggs and thin slices of sour dour bread.

“That’s quite a party going on at Death & Taxes…” the vendor said making conversation as they waited.

“Is it not usually that way?” Victoria asked.

“Not quite like that, Ma’am…” the man said. “They’ve been partying since before I closed up yesterday to go home and sleep… Not that I slept last night… Or the night before…”

“Children?” Victoria asked.

“Nope. Just couldn’t sleep.” The man shrugged his shoulders, dark circles under his eyes. They walked back through the common room carrying their breakfast with them. There were even more people.

Upstairs Telémahkos was going a little crazy. No matter what he did he could not fall asleep. When Victoria opened the door he sat up and groaned, wrapped a blanket around him and walked back across the hall.

“Look at this!” He cursed and the militant walked over. Timotheus lay there on a couch naked and covered in lipstick stains. His clothes were scattered, his money pouch gone. 1

“He’s supposed to be my bodyguard! He’s useless to me if I’m attacked!” Telémahkos eyes were bloodshot and he grabbed his hair and pulled at it a bit in frustration.

Victoria made a little noise in her throat as she looked away and tossed a nearby blanket over the nude brawny warrior. He glistened with the sweat of drunken copulation. She followed Telémahkos into the back room which Markos and Bleys were emerging from, having just woken up.

“There sure do sound like there are a lot of people downstairs for breakfast…” Markos noted. “Is that music I hear?”

“It is the same people from last night,” Laarus said, sitting down to have his breakfast in a chair by where Tim still slept.

“And the vendor we got breakfast from said he had not slept in the last two nights as well,” The young priest added.

“Gaaaaah!” Telémahkos came running out of the rear room. He slipped his chain shirt on. “It’s no use!” He ran from the suites.

“Where are you going?” Victoria called after him.

“I don’t know!” He cried back as he bounded down the stairs and out the front door. The militant shrugged and told the others she was on her way to the smithy to pay the down payment on her armor and from there go to the temple of Anhur. She gobbled down her breakfast, while Laarus ate slowly. Markos and Bleys went out to get their own food and investigate this strange sleeplessness for themselves.

As Markos stepped out onto the patio to take a deep breath of the salt air of Sluetelot, Bleys broke up the party in the inn.

“The party is over! Everyone go home!” He announced and while a few people immediately began to file out and the musicians stopped played, looking puzzled, the rest groused and were slow to move. “When I return I expect all good citizens to have vacated the premises and allowed Mister Digits to clean his tavern and prepare for another day!”

As the young watch-mage walked out, he lost sight of Markos in the crowd now streaming out of the inn, and he walked to the stall where Laarus and Victoria had purchased breakfast. Listening in on people’s conversations as they came out, Markos was distracted, hearing more than one of them complain about not having slept in two or three days. He walked back in thinking Bleys was still in there.

“You! Mutton!” Bleys called to the vendor.

“Yeah?” The man looked at him bleary-eyed. “Would you like something to eat?”

“How long have you been awake?” Bleys the Aubergine got right to the point.

“Uh, what day is it?” Mutton asked.

Ralem,” Bleys replied.

“Then… Uh… Since Teflem?” the man replied. Bleys the Aubergine followed this up with questions about where the man lived and whether his wife and family had slept.

“Well, my wife slept fine the night before, but she didn’t sleep lat night,” the man replied. “Said it was my fault.”

The watch-mage moved on to see out any local herbalists in the market, hoping he might find some natural remedy that would help people sleep. As he walked, he saw Telémahkos run past with a floppy hat decorated with a feather. He was still acting frantically, looking left and right wildly, and then dashing for Death & Taxes.

“People sure are acting strangely this morning,” said the herbalist Bleys purchased some clay vials of something that supposedly helped people to sleep. She did not have much, so the watch-mage wandered about looking for more. The herbalist closed early for the day, as she had gouged the watch-mage on the price. Noticing the well, and deciding to eliminate the possibility early, he checked it for poison with a cantrip. There was none.

Giving up on sleep, Telémahkos walked up to the bar at Death & Taxes to order a drink, but looking up to catch sight of Barton Digits, he noticed the barman pointing him out to one of the town-watch.

“You there!” The watchman said, but Telémahkos did not wait to hear what it was about, his eyes going wild with sudden fear. He dashed out the back door. At that moment Markos came back downstairs from looking for Bleys back in the suites, a little confused.

“He’s another one…” Barton said to the watchman, so Markos was approached and given a message to be relayed to Bleys.

“Bleys!” It was Markos coming jogging out of the crowd still milling about the inn as he finally spotted his companion “There was a message for you!” But before he could relay it, they were both momentarily distracted by a screaming fight between two women in the market. They could also hear the barking, growling and whining of dogs fighting a few streets away. “One of the town-watch came by looking for you, Captain Firth sent for you… Something is going on at the gaol and you are needed.”

“I am sure this is related to this sleeplessness… I have purchased some draughts of a sleeping remedy that may help, though they are made by different hands and have different strengths… Let us go…” Bleys said.

They headed to the gaol, which was in the northern part of Old Town, as not too far away Telémahkos was ducking into the enclosed cellar steps of an abandoned house, hoping to catch some sleep there. As he sat down with his back to the corner of the doorway, and pulled his newly purchased floppy hat over his eyes, he heard a growl from the top of the stone steps. Looking up, he saw a large filthy dog looking down at him with malevolence.

“Nice dog…” Telémahkos said gently, but he drew his magical rapier and pointed it at the creature.

The gaol was square windowless building of large bricks and two stories. The outer door was thick and made of iron, but it stood slightly ajar, and as Bleys pulled it open he started. The corpse of one of the town-watch lay just within the doorway, his throat torn out.

Back at Death & Taxes, Laarus Raymer of Ra finally finished his breakfast as he heard Timotheus stop snoring. He looked up as he sensed the brawny Briareus bastard sitting up, but something was not right… Timotheus’ eyes shone a bright red, and his lips were swollen and his mouth disfigured by sharp teeth dripping with yellow saliva. Timotheus snarled and smiled an evil smile as he started to get up and move towards the priest of Ra with no good intent. The naked fighter’s flesh seemed to twist and change, and he began to look like someone else.

End of Session #22

-------------------------------------------------
Notes:

(1) I asked Timotheus’ player to simply subtract an amount from his sheet that seemed like a reasonable amount that he would be carrying with him for a night of revelry and carousing.
 

handforged

First Post
Well, I was expecting for something to happen soon, but not quite that quickly. What an interesting start to an adventure!

Nemm, can we assume at this point that you have finished school for the year? How did it go?

~hf
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
handforged said:
Nemm, can we assume at this point that you have finished school for the year? How did it go?

~hf

It went well! Another 4.0 semester! ;)


In other news, Sean (aka Rastfar aka Bleys) and his wife, Terri welcomed a new gamer into the world on Sunday, June 8th. The delivery went smoothly and little Griffin T. is healthy beautiful boy. :)
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #23 – “Sleepless” (part 1 of 4)1

Victoria Ostrander of Anhur was walking from the Dwarven Quarter towards the temple of Anhur when she noted Bleys the Aubergine and Markos Ackers pausing before the door of the gaol.

“What is happening?” she asked as she walked over.

“I have no idea,” Markos said.

“Why are you going into the jail?” she asked, frowning.

“Apparently there is some kind of disturbance,” Bleys said, pointing down at the dead guard. “Captain Firth!” he called in with all the authority he could muster. There was no answer. “Ready your weapons,” he told his companions, putting his hand on his saber hilt as he walked in.

Just beyond there was an office. There was a large desk, and a long rack along one wall bearing clubs, spears, a man-catcher, two heavy wooden shields, and five sets of manacles. A quick search of the rack and the desk revealed no keys, much to Markos’ disappointment. There was a wooden door around one narrow corner that seemed to go down to a lower level, but it was the large steel doors lined with bolts and reinforced at each corner that led into the main holding area. The door was open slightly, and they heard a frightened whimper from within.

Taking a lantern off the desk and lighting it, Markos held it up as Bleys pulled open the door and Victoria stood ready with her spear. Beyond was a hall, fifteen feet in length and twenty feet wide, at the end of which was another door similar to the open one, but it was sealed shut. Cowering in one corner was a man dressed in studded leather armor and clutching a spear, wearing the cream-colored tabard with the embroidered blue ship sigil common to the town watch. There were bruises on his face and neck that came into view as he raised his head to look at the three noble adventurers, but then he scurried back, trying to increase the distance between them and himself.

“What has happened here?” Markos demanded.

“Where’s Captain Firth?” asked Bleys coming forward.

“She’s… She’s still in there…” The man was clearly sincerely scared; his hand shook as he pointed to the large metal door.

“Who attacked you?” Victoria asked, the man turned and looked at her, his brown eyes growing large behind his long brown hair made slick with the sweat of his fear.

“It… It was my mother!” He let go of the spear and buried his hands in his face and wept, shivering as he did. He looked up at them suddenly. “Wait! Maybe you’re not really here… Maybe they got out! They come and go…” He began to shimmy back away from them again.

Markos walked over to the door and put his hand on the large handle and looked to Bleys. “Are you ready?”

“No…” the watch-mage replied.

“Well, tell me when you are because there may be people dying in there,” Markos frowned.

“They may also be dying out here if we let loose twenty or thirty bloodthirsty prisoners,” Bleys replied.

“The striking dockworkers are in there,” Markos protested. 2 “Not exactly hardened criminals…”

“They broke the law, and while I have no desire to see them hurt, we must consider the welfare of the law-abiding citizens of Sluetelot first,” Bleys explained. “Something strange is happening here and I plan to learn more before hurrying into danger or risking releasing some danger on the town…”

“How many prisoners are there currently?” Victoria asked the man, not hiding her disdain for the man’s broken and emotional state.

“Uh… A few dozen…” the guard replied.

“Start from the beginning… Tell us what happened here,” Bleys the Aubergine said to the man with authority resonating in his deep voice.

“Well… The prisoners hadn’t slept in a couple of days,” the guard explained. “They are mostly the striking dockworkers… You’re right, they were just being held until the work situation was cleared up to keep anymore brawls from starting up in the meantime… But yeah… They couldn’t sleep or wouldn’t sleep and it was starting to get to them… They were growing irritable… Seeing things… Some of them fought among themselves and had to be moved to other cells… It was getting bad…”

The guard paused and let out a shuddering breath before continuing. “So the warden had the idea of having one of our watch-wizards…”

“Watch-mage?” Markos asked.

“Watch-wizard…” the man said. “Members of the watch who are wizards…”

“Let him finish,” Bleys said to Markos without looking at him.

“…of having one of them cast a sleep spell on one of the prisoners and see if that might help them… So Captain Firth was asked to bring one of the watch-wizards over here, and when it was tried the prisoner slumped over as if asleep and then suddenly leapt at the watch-wizard! His eyes were glowing red and his skin creased with scales, his limbs wiry and his mouth full of sharp teeth and hit bit he warden and he fell asleep, and that was when chaos broke loose!” He covered his face and shivered again.

“Go on…” Bleys insisted.

“Uh… I don’t know… Captain Firth was fighting it; the watch-wizard changed as well, and jumped on the warden, who I was trying to lead away. I felt something grab me around the neck and when I turned it was my mother!” He was weeping openly now. “I… I smashed her in the side of the face with my club and she slapped me hard, sent me flying… The prisoners were screaming and… and… I just ran and closed the door behind me…”

“What other way out from the cells are there? Can the lower level be reached from in there?” Victoria asked, always cognizant of the tactics of s given situation. The guard shook his head.

“Where are the keys to cells?” Markos asked.

“The warden had them…”

Markos’ head sunk. He looked to Bleys but the watch-mage was deep in thought. Victoria stood nearly at attention, waiting for Bleys’ command. The one-time sailor grew impatient. He got up on his toes as he slid open the narrow panel that served as a peephole to the area beyond. He held the lantern up, but still the view was not good. There was some dim light coming in, but the ceiling in the next area was much higher at its center, but some kind of walkway cast a shadow darkened by some kind of structure in the middle of the great room.

“Markos, be cautious…” Bleys warned.

“Hello? Is there someone there?” A voice came echoing from within. It was strained and frightened.

“Quiet!” Another voice hissed. “It’s gonna hears us!”

“Captain Firth? Are you in there?” Markos called in.

“She’s dead! It killed her!” came the first voice again, cracking.

“Shut up!” The second voice said. Markos strained to tell which direction it came from as the voices were bouncing around in there. The scream that followed confirmed that it was from the right. There was an uproar of voices from within, moving along what must have been cells on each side, but then a sudden silence again.

“Are we ready to go in?” Markos asked turning to his companions.

“We need a plan…” Bleys replied.

“How can we make a plan when we don’t know exactly what is going on?” Markos asked. “It seems to me we just need to avoid being bitten…”

“Is that not always just a matter of course?” Victoria asked.

“Sure, but more than usual…” Markos pointed to the frightened guard. “He made it seem like the bite changed people, just as the sleep spell did.”

“Then we’ll keep them at bay at spear point,” Victoria said. “And if turns out they are mad and try to attack us anyway… Well, we have no means to stop their madness save the point of a spear…”

“No. We should not kill them, even if they are mad…” Bleys replied, he walked back out into the office and grabbed a spear and one of the wooden shields. “Markos, you should take one of those shields to help protect yourself…”

“Uh… I feel more comfortable with both my arms free,” Markos replied. “But I was thinking… If you plan to keep them at bay as we search for Captain Firth or a clue as to what is going on here… Perhaps you’d like more reach?”

“No,” replied Bleys.

“I mean, do you want to be larger?” Markos asked again.

“No,” replied Bleys.

Victoria called to Anhur for the strength to subdue those beyond the door, and cast bull’s strength on Bleys and shield of faith on Markos. She then went on and cast light, having it emanate from her helmet. Markos looked at the guard and said, “We’re going in there, so we need you to pull yourself together and guard this door and not open it unless one of us gives you the password.”

The guard agreed, nodding and then shaking his head clear it as he got to his feet. Marko pulled open the door staying behind it. Bleys stepped into the doorway. “I am Bleys the Aubergine, watch-mage of Sluetelot! I have come for Captain Firth and the warden.”

“Honored watch-mage, you bless us with your presence…” Bleys looked up to his right. Up on the walkway platform that reached the upper cells stood a figure holding up a lantern. It was a man with a tall bush of black curly hair and salt and pepper beard. He was rather frumpy in build and wore a wrinkled woolen suit. “I am Warden Pumdrove Sail…”

“Get down here, now!” Bleys the Aubergine commanded.

“Of course!” the warden stepped forward slowly and casually, his expression of amusement becoming clearer as he walked along the catwalk to the staircase down to the lower level on Bleys’ right. “Now, what seems to be the trouble?”

“Don’t believe him! Don’t!” One of the prisoners hissed from the darkness of one of the lower cells.

“Something is not right, don’t let him get too close,” Markos said to his companion, peeking his head out from behind the door.

“Stop on the stairs,” Bleys said to the approaching warden as the man got to the top of the stairs, and the he did stop, but at the very top, making it difficult to see him without stepping forward because of the angle.

As Victoria stepped into the large holding area to stand shoulder to shoulder with Bleys she was startled by a sound coming from the other side of the large cross-shaped structure in the middle of the chamber. The inner building seemed to have a door leading into its central enclosure from the end of each ‘tie’ of the cross, and was only slightly taller than the lower level. She thought she heard the feint laugh of a very young child, ending in a gurgle.

“What? Is there a child in here?” she asked aloud. Bleys looked at her with a confused frown and then turned back to the warden.

“We are here to ask you about the trouble,” Bleys said to the warden. “What has happened here? Where is Captain Firth, and why do the prisoners all seem frightened and too quiet?”

“Why… yes… Something strange has been going on… That’s certainly true… the lack of sleep was getting to people and some prisoners had to be moved around to keep the peace… but Captain Firth is not here…”

“How long has it been since you have slept?” Bleys asked.

“Me? Oh, I’ve slept fine… Like a baby…” Victoria stepped out into the room a few steps, gripping her spear tightly. She had thought she had heard the child’s voice again. The warden continued, coming down a few steps. “But some of the guards and prisoners have gone three straight nights without sleep.”

“That is longer than we observed at the inn,” Markos said, still listening in from behind the door. “Perhaps we are closer to the origin of this phenomenon…”

“Captain Firth is here,” Bleys told the warden with certainty.

“You are free to come up and check…” the warden half turned and gestured with an upturned thumb back up the stairs.

“Throw down the keys!” Markos commanded, still out of view.

“Whose voice is that?” The warden’s voice grew stern as he turned back around. “Is someone forgetting who the warden is here?”

“It is my companion, Markos Ackers,” Bleys replied.

“Wait a moment…” The warden stepped back up the steps a bit. “Are you here to break someone out?”

“No, sir… I am the acting watch-mage, as I am sure you know, and I was summoned here by Captain Angeleena Firth to secure the gaol, and you are acting in a manner that I would characterize as suspicious… Not the least reason being that you lie about the captain not being here, when I know she summoned me from here…”

“Oh! She was here… Sure! But she left! She’s not here now…” the warden replied. He was walking back a step at a time.

“Warden, stop!” Bleys commanded and the man obeyed.

“Ask him some questions to make sure it is really him,” Markos whispered to Bleys. He looked to the guard who was hiding in the corner on the other side of the door, shaking. “You! Tell me the names of a couple of the prisoners or guards… What’s your name?”

“Uh, I’m Alex… Alexander? Um… Elbert was in there, too…” the guard replied.

Meanwhile Victoria of Anhur stepped over to the cells along the western side of the big room.

“Psst! Victoria!” The sing-song voice of a very young child called to the militant from the other side of the cross-shaped structure. She whirled around, but a voice from one of the cells caused her to whip around again.

“No! Don’t listen to it!” The prisoner warned. It was a young man with a few days of patchy growth on his otherwise fresh face. Another man in the cell was balled up behind a cot. He was older. “Something evil is in here… It started with the sleeplessness and then Jeroen kind of went mad…” The young dockworker explained. “You have to let us out of here before it gets us all… When the warden tried to do something about Jeroen, it got him too!”

“What do you mean by ‘got him’?” Victoria asked.

“Made him change… Go mad too, start whispering and changing… Don’t talk to them, that is how they lull you before they pounce!” The prisoner warned.

“I hear a child…” Victoria said.

“I heard it, too… Stay away from it!” And then as if suddenly realizing he had spoken too much, he stepped away from the bars of the cell.

The child’s laugh came again, and once again Victoria began to slowly and steadily walk in that direction.

“Whatever it is we have to get away from it!” the prisoner insisted, talking to her back more loudly. “It can change shape! It can read minds!”

“What are these games you are playing?” The warden finally asked with insult in his voice, when the questioning regarding the names of guards and prisoners, trying to trip him up were failing to work. “I have no idea why you are acting so suspicious of me…”

“Warden! You were standing here in the dark!” Bleys replied, growing tired of the tricks and banter.

“I have a lantern,” Pumdrove said.

“It was unlit when we arrived,” Bleys said.

“No… You just didn’t see it,” the warden insisted.

“As I have said, I was summoned here by the Captain of the watch to secure the jail and you should submit to her will,” Bleys said, holding up manacles handed to him by Markos around the door. “Agree to put these on peacefully…”

“Sure, that seems perfectly reasonable,” the warden sneered. He stepped back to the top of the steps and turned his lantern all the way down. He disappeared into the dark shadows.

“Turn the lamp up!” Bleys commanded. There was no response. Bleys asked Markos to hand him a torch and he threw it up to the top of the steps. The torch illuminated the area at the top of the stairs, but the warden was nowhere to be seen. It did reveal the closest cell in that upper corner.

“Warden! I do not seek conflict with you!” Bleys warned into the darkness, and suddenly a figure appeared behind the bars in that corner cell. It was Captain Angeleena Firth. She had bruises on her face and neck.

“Master Bleys! You have to let me out of here! The warden has gone mad!” she called.

“Don’t believe her!” came a chorus of prisoner’s voices.

Meanwhile, Victoria was still slowly making her way around the perimeter of the cellblock, holding her spear ahead of her. She noticed a metal ladder attached to the wall of the cross-shaped structure, near where she has heard the laughter and decided to climb up to get a better view of the whole area and the upper level. The top was clearly designed to allow guards to stand watch from up here and get a good view of all the cells. She was not up there long when suddenly a yellow robed figure came leaping out of the shadows of the upper level catwalk.

“Take this…” Bleys said, hefting his spear as tried to hand the shield to Markos, but the mage held his hands up, not wanting it. He finally came into the large room, pulling the door closed behind him.

The man’s yellow robes were covered in embroidered black and red snakes, and about his neck a silver holy symbol in the shape of a serpent. The Setite’s scimitar bounced off the militant of Anhur’s helmet.

“Setites!” Victoria called out as Bleys let loose his spear and the evil priest crumpled as it impaled him from the side. Her eyes widened as the foe was suddenly transformed into a man with the look and calloused hands of a common laborer.

“My thanks, Master Bleys,” Victoria said, admiring her companion’s martial skill and quick action. “But it looks like it was not a Setite after all… There is some kind of subterfuge here.” She kneeled beside the dying man and called to her god to stabilize him before he bled out. The sound of a child-like laugh drew her attention, and she looked to her left to notice the form of a toddler, not more than three years old climbing over the edge of roof of the cross-structure. The child looked at Victoria as she looked up from tending the dying commoner, and an expression of confusion and dismay formed on her face.

“Brother…?” She murmured. 3 The child smiled revealing a distorted mouth of unnaturally sharp teeth. Laughing it leapt at her, biting at her neck. She barely had time throw her forearm up to keep the thing at bay.

“Alex, I am of sound mind,” Markos said to the frightened guard. “Lock this door behind me and don’t open it unless I say…”

“Yes! Sure! Will do!” Alex the guard hopped up and started to hurriedly push the door closed.

“…Outhouse… Remember, like we agreed…” Markos added.

“Yep! Yep! Sure!” The door was about to click shut, but Markos pushed back against it. “On second thought, keep it open and just close it if someone other than me, the watch-mage or the militant of Anhur tries to get out.”

“Are you sure?” Alex asked, but Markos did not get to reply, noticing movement on the steps out of the corner of his eye.

“Bleys! Look out!” The watch-mage turned at Markos’ warning as a ghoulish-looking version of Captain Firth came leaping down the steps and grabbing at him.

Sagitta Aquom!” Markos chanted and two arrows of undulating watery light slammed into her.

“Surrenderrrrrr!” She grunted as Bleys withdrew, drawing his saber.

…to be continued…

----------------------------------------------------
Notes:

(1) Session #23 was played on Sunday, January 20th, 2008 in Brooklyn, NY.

(2) The party first heard about the striking dockworkers in Session #21 and Bleys and Markos questioned the Sluetelot Harbormaster about it in Session #22.

(3) Victoria Ostrander’s brother died when he was child, killed by Setites during the infamous Barhyte Killings.
 

handforged

First Post
I like the horror direction of things at the moment very much. I am a bit confused about the gaol layout though. Do you have any diagrams, or could you redescribe it?

~hf
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
handforged said:
I am a bit confused about the gaol layout though. Do you have any diagrams, or could you redescribe it?

~hf

I have attached a scan of the quick and dirty map of the gaol I made as a reference for when I drew it out on the battlemat (actually, we use Tact-tiles, but same difference.

But basically, imagine a large two story structure, except instead of a ceiling/floor separating them, three-quarters of it is a wide catwalk that allows access to the upper cells, two rows of which (on both floors) flank the building.

In the center of the huge room is an inner-building that is cross-shaped and its roof is only a few feet higher than the floor of the catwalk.

Hopefully between that and the scan it is clearer now.
 

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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #23 – “Sleepless” (part 2 of 4)

Meanwhile, at Death & Taxes Laarus called on Ra to aid or smite his friend, “Almighty Ra! If Timotheus has fallen and become an abomination against life and Anubis then send him from your willful order for this realm!” The young priest channeled divine energy through his sun-shaped holy symbol, but the demonic vision of Timotheus only smiled, his features melting and changing. Laarus had no time to react as Timotheus now looking like Laarus’ brother Shuward1, wrapped his muscled arms around the priest’s waist, pinning and arm and lifting him up momentarily to bring them both slamming to the floor. The burly warrior’s full weight landed painfully on the priest upon Laarus.

“You always were a disappointment, Laarus,” Shuward hissed in his brother’s ear. “A weird little egg of a kid no one liked…”

Laarus turned and strained to get bend a leg and get a foot down beneath him and push them both up, but Timotheus’s weight and strength was too much for him. They fell back together with another groan, which was quickly followed by a cry of pain from Laarus. Tim-Shuward bit a chunk out of Laarus’ neck, blood pouring down his chin. Laarus felt a wave of drowsiness wash over him but he was able to shake his head clear.

“Get off!” Laarus cried as he tried for a sudden burst to break free after pretending to relax for a moment, but it did not work.

“Disappointment…” Shuward-Tim whispered in his ear with mocking intimacy before biting him again.

“May Ra show me the truth behind this false visage, for a long time my brother has not been whole!” Laarus grunted as he finally managed to slip a hand under Tim’s grip and pry it free and stagger to his feet. Timotheus, still looking like pale-faced Laarus’ dead older brother lunged from his knees, but the priest skipped back out of the way, wary. He made a break for the door and the changed Timotheus stood and lunged again, slamming the priest against the door as he took another bite. “Running? You always were a coward! Heh.” Timotheus spoke in Shuward’s voice as Laarus felt his consciousness ebb.

----------------------------------------------

The bruised and possessed captain of the Sluetelot Watch recoiled as Bleys slammed the heavy shield in her face as she grabbed at him again. Markos winced instinctively and it was all the opportunity she needed. She bounced off the shield and turned wildly pulling the thin-framed mage into her grip, her muscles bulging unnaturally. She spun to use Markos as a shield as Bleys stepped in to slap her on the side of the head with the flat of his saber.

“Fncking Bleys!” Markos barked as he struggled, looking up to see the watch-mage step back, drop the heavy shield and began to cast a spell. 2 “What in the Hells is wrong with you?” He wedged his dagger between them and pried. Captain Firth looked down at him, hissing and snarling.

“You are under arrest, Markos,” she drooled.

“Come and play with me, sister,” The toddler whispered as Victoria leapt away, off the cross-shaped inner building, landing with a grunt, the wind knocked out of her momentarily. She looked up as she stood in time to see the form of her long dead brother…a bowl of dark hair on a round face twisted with a grimace, eyes in circles of bruised black, with deep purple around his little neck… come leaping down upon her with a snarl, grabbing at her neck with his little hands and bringing his sharp teeth to bite her. She winced and felt a wave of drowsiness come over her, but she shook it off. She grabbed the baby and slammed it against the wall of the cross-building and it squealed in pain.

“Sister! No!” He cried, as it pulled her grip open with preternatural strength and slid from her grip down to the floor. She reached down to grab him, but he ducked deftly, and then tumbled aside awkwardly to avoid her powerful kick. “You are NOT my brother!” She roared. “How DARE you?!”

“Get the fnck off me!” Markos continued to struggle, his thin arms straining in her apish grip. She spun him around again and this time Bleys’ sword clipped the other mage’s thigh, drawing blood. 3

“BLEYS!” Markos cried.

“Let go of her, Markos,” Bleys replied, still monotone. He was hypnotized for half a moment by Markos’ blood on his blade. He began to look for another opening, as the possessed captain grabbed a big hunk of Markos’ neck in her teeth.

“Bleys… You’re an assh0le,” Markos gasped, yanking his head free before she could sink her teeth in. She raised her head to go in again. Bleys dropped his sword and stepped in, placing the heel of his hand under her chin and using Markos as a lever to pull her away. “Let him go!” The smaller wizard stumbled away awkwardly, as Bleys took his place locking arms with the captain as if dancing.

“Victoria, stop playing with that thing and come help us,” Markos called to the militant as he stepped over to the stairs and began to cast a spell.

Victoria of Anhur could not get a grip on the little creature appearing as her brother Ephram. It ran between her legs and sunk its sharp teeth into her calf. Again she felt the swoon of sleep wash over her, but she stamped her foot, and took a jarring half-step to the side to keep herself awake. The little monster leaped up at her and she batted it away, drawing her morningstar.

“Victoria! What are you doing?” Bleys was alarmed, concerned that that might really be a possessed child, an innocent pawn in whatever was going on. He turned his body trying to get the possessed captain into a headlock.

“This desecration ends now!” she replied, swinging it heavily. The boy sidestepped and snickered. “Why are you trying to hurt me sister? Have I not suffered enough already?” He scurried away and tried to take advantage of Bleys’ preoccupancy with the grappling captain, but the watch-mage lifted his leg and kicked in time to avoid being bitten.

“Bleys! Be careful, that’s my brother!” Victoria warned, her attitude suddenly changing when she saw someone else threatening the child-like form. She stepped over and punched down at it with morningstar still in her hands. 4

Markos stepped out of the shadow; his hand crackling with blue white sparks of lightning and touched it to Captain Firth. Her body jerked in spasms of agony, and Bleys was thrown free of her grip. She stumbled and nearly fell, but then looked up, a look of fear and confusion on her face.

“Huh? What happened to me?” she asked, looking around. While still bruised, the monstrous aspects of her face and her unnatural musculature were gone. “The last thing I remember the warden was chasing me!” She hurried over to the door out and turned around. Markos grabbed the manacles off his belt and reached out with them towards her.

“You need to get in these for your own good,” Markos said, but she backed away, raising her hands in fists, as she had no weapon.

“Captain Firth, trust me! You were not yourself! You must submit to the manacles!” Bleys said, turning to flank Ephram between him and Victoria. “You say this is your brother? Who is this child?”

“He is in the guise of my brother…He… he passed when we were children…,” She replied, punching at the thing with her morningstar, but now being overcautious. Ephram giggled and jumped out of the way, but then shrieked when he realized he leapt right into Bleys Winter’s strong arms. The watch-mage stooped down and scooped him up around the head and shoulders, and Victoria quickly grabbed the child’s kicking legs. They tightened their grip and the child stopped squirming, its form melting and changing, until suddenly they held a stout halfling in their arms. “Hey! What’s going on?” the halfling cried with alarm. “Brutality!” He desperately began to try to break free again, but with much less strength.

Captain Firth seeing the transformation was convinced and put out her wrists for Markos, who snapped the manacles around them. “What in the gods’ names!” The captain suddenly swore, looking up “What is that?”

Markos looked up to where Angeleena Firth looked and there crawling down the wall head first was the figure of the warden, his hair sticking up wildly, his eyes glowing deep red, and his clothing tearing from the undulation of his muscles.

“Aw fnck!” Markos swore as the possessed warden leapt off the wall at him. The skinny mage managed to push Captain Firth back, as he jumped back himself, and the warden landed between them, hissing and cackling.

“Close that door!” Markos commanded Alexander, and the frightened guard did not hesitate to obey. “Sagitta caustus! An arrow made of acid came flying out of Marko’s hand and slammed into the warden. The man howled as his skin and clothing smoked.

“Victoria, put him in a cell,” Bleys said to the militant, shoving the halfling roughly into her arms and turning to help Markos. The little man now hung upside-down from where Victoria held his ankles. He swore in his high voice. Bleys the Aubergine stepped over and slammed a heavy fist with all his might into the side of the warden’s head, and the man went down.

“Captain Firth… Where is the watch-wizard?” Bleys asked, wary of more possessed people that might attack.

“When we were fighting off Jeroen he was injured and bleeding, but we managed to bind him before he died,” the captain explained. “He should be on the upper level…”

“What’s going on?! Let us out of here!” There was a sudden roar of prisoners’ voices filling the gaol, now that the sound of the fight had stopped.

“Quiet!” Bleys commanded. He turned back to the captain. “And what of Jeroen, the dock master?”

“I don’t know…”

Victoria put down the halfling and he immediately scurried away, putting his back to the wall of the cross-shaped building.

“You!” Bleys turned to him, holding out another set of manacles. The halfling had a dark hair cut short to his scalp, and a round face disfigured with dimples of fat. “Either you are going to put these on your feet, or you are going into a cell…” 5

“I’m not doing either!” The halfling protested.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah!” The halfling snarled. “It is the injustice of us being locked in here so long that led to us being in danger in the first place!”

“Regardless of what has happened here, you and your fellow dockworkers have broken the law and deserve to be here… We have defeated the enemies here and until you are safely confined, we cannot make sure that all of them have been taken care of…”

“I am not doing it…” The halfling replied. “I’ll help you look…”

“No… You will comply, or I will simply have to sit on you while we search,” Bleys threatened.

“You can’t do both at once!” The halfling snapped back.

“Just grab him and throw him in,” Markos growled. “He’s just a halfling!”

Victoria took a step towards the prisoner who moments before had looked like her late brother, and the halfling looked up at her nervously.

“Okay! Okay! I’ll go in myself,” He said, and began to walk towards the stairs, which was where Bleys gestured. There was an open cell at the top there. “But I won’t be locked in…” He added.

“It is safer in the cell than out anyway,” Victoria said.

“And it is even safer out of the prison altogether,” the halfling reasoned. “Why not just let me go? I can just go and be out of your hair…”

“No, no you can’t…” Victoria replied.

“We are all locked in…” Bleys said, pointing to the large metal door Alexander had shut.

“You’re all crazy! You locked yourselves in here?” The halfling began to climb the steps with Bleys in front of him and Victoria behind.

Once he was in the cell, they found the bound form of the watch-wizard in another open cell, and it did not take them long to realize after looking everywhere they could, that the unconscious form of the prisoner who had appeared as a “Setite” and attacked Victoria was actually Jeroen. They carried him over to the cell with the halfling and put him in there as well, much to the little person’s chagrin.

“What are you putting him in here for? What if he wakes up and bites me again?” the halfling complained.

“He is not waking up…” Bleys replied. “Not for some time anyway…”

Barakis the Bold would never have handled it this way…” The halfling said.

“Barakis is passed. I am the watch-mage of Sluetelot for now…”

“Let us out! Let us out!” Once again the prisoners were yelling and banging their metal cups against the bars of their cells.

“We have the keys now!” Bleys addressed the prisoners, holding up the ring of them. “As long as you remain in the back of your cells away from the bars, you should be safe from any other possessed beings seeking to bite you…”

“I bet this whole thing is a Weirspierogen plot!” One of the prisoners yelled in the ensuing silence, and then they erupted again, cursing and threatening the people of Weirspierogen and the nobles of House Devenpeck.

It took some time to convince Alexander to unlock the prison door, even with the safeword that Markos has arranged, but once they did, Captain Firth was unmanacled so that she could gather up the town-watch to help deal with the crisis.

“Send word to Havesting, we need to declare martial law in town,” Bleys said to her.

She nodded, headed out, and was heard to blow her whistle.

“We need to figure out the source of this sleeplessness and possession,” Bleys said to his companions. “I think that the sleeplessness makes people go mad and thus open to whatever malevolent force is taking them over…”

“We need to seek out someone who would know about these things,” Markos said.

“Yes… It is for that reason that I am going to call a meeting of the watch-mage’s council,” Bleys replied. Markos was left behind at the gaol to await Captain Firth’s return, while Victoria jogged over to the temple of Anhur to see what help she could gather there. Bleys the Aubergine headed back to Death & Taxes.

…to be continued…

---------------------------------------------
Notes:

(1) In central Aquerra, where the gods of Ra’s Pantheon are worshipped, it is not uncommon for twins to be given names that are variations of the names of the twins gods, Shu and Tefnut.

(2) Bleys cast mage armor on Markos.

(3) Markos provided cover to the captain, and Bleys struck an AC high enough to normally strike her, but failed to because of the bonus provided by Markos, thus Markos took the damage.

(4) This was where I turned to Victoria’s player and asked “How does one fight to subdue with a morningstar?” I do not recall the answer, but I did accept it, though in retrospect I am once again dubious of the notion.

(5) The halfling’s wrists were too thin for the manacles to be effective on him.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #23 – “Sleepless” (part 3 of 4)

Timotheus Smith shook his head back and forth to try and clear it. He was leaning over awkwardly on the suite couch, and he winced as he felt the bruises of his battle with Laarus, though he remembered nothing of it save as the shadowy recollections of a quickly fading nightmare. He noticed Laarus lying on the floor unconscious and hurried to kneel beside him, only taking a moment to slip on a pair of trousers.

“Are you all right?” Tim asked, and Laarus’ eyes snapped open. The priest of Ra’s face began to bubble and change, his mouth opening to reveal rows of sharp jagged teeth. “Sweet Nephthys! What’s wrong with you?”

Timotheus jumped back as Laarus got to his feet, but before the priest could do much more, he grabbed him in a headlock, noticing immediately how much stronger than normal Laarus seemed. He looked down in Laarus’ face, but it was no longer Laarus’ face, it was the sad and scared face of his sister, Ivy.

“Tim? What are you doing to me?” She asked pathetically.

“This is isn’t right…” Tim said, trying to adjust his grip into something equally as restraining but less painful. She broke free in the process.

The transformed form of Laarus sprinted to the door, throwing it open and heading out into hall. “Hey! Get back here!” Timotheus called, giving chase. He grabbed at the back of his sister’s dress, but she yanked free and turned left down the hall. Timotheus came around the corner in time to see her leap over the banister of the steps that led down to the common room, and without hesitating he leapt as well. He heard a gasp and outcry from those sleepless partiers still left in the inn as his legs collapsed beneath him, and looking up he saw that Laarus no longer looked like Ivy, but like some kind of fisherman.

Laarus now wore a long dirty yellow canvas coat. He had floppy fisherman’s hat that covered his ears, and his face was that of a worn older man with a curly red beard. The barmaid he landed beside turned towards him and screamed when she saw him, dropping her tray of drinks.

Weirspierogen will burn Sluetelot to the ground!” Laarus-turned-fisherman declared. The crowd in the common room roared in anger, and then shrieked when he charged at a man sitting nearby with cards fanned in his hands and a small pile of silver and copper coins on the table before him. The possessed priest grabbed the man around the head and bit deep into his neck, tearing a big piece of flesh as blood billowed out and the man slid to the floor, dying.

“He bit Clive!” Someone yelled. Chairs fell back and tables shook as the crowd drew away from what now appeared to be a demonic Weirspierogener fisherman with a mouth full of sharp teeth and blood pouring over his chin.

“I shall slay him!” It was Floris Tenbrook, rapier suddenly in his hand as he leapt over a table in Laarus’ direction. His left hand deftly pulled a dagger from his other side.

“No! Don’t hurt him!” Timotheus yelled, getting to his feet. “He’s enchanted! He’s under a spell!” He tried to get at Laarus, but too many people were in the way as they scrambled to get away from the site of the melee.

Laarus the fisherman grabbed the barmaid and yanked her in front of him, blocking Floris momentarily as he tore into her as well. She screamed and fell to the ground. Floris jammed his rapier into the fisherman’s side.

“No! No weapons!” Tim cried pushing his way forward. He slammed a fist into the back of Laarus’ head with restrained might. Floris Tenbrook looked at him as if he were mad. “What exactly is going on here?”

Laarus crumpled over, but took the opportunity to scramble away towards the door of the inn. Floris and Timotheus moved to follow, but this time instead of scattering, the crowd fell upon the fisherman with fists, cups and even a chair. Timotheus forced his way through the crowd as they gasped as one. Instead of a fisherman, there lay Laarus’ unconscious form. Timotheus ran over to the barmaid. She was bleeding out.

“Quick! Help me bind her!” He called to Floris, but the young noble shrugged. “What do I know about healing people?” Barton Digits came rushing into the came out of the kitchen followed by the other barmaid and the cook. “Oh my Gods!”

“Well… At least try!” But it was too late, the barmaid was dead, and the other barmaid, her sister, howled with grief.

“Clive is dead, too…” said one of the other patrons. The crowd murmured their displeasure, and there was a general sense, despite Laarus’ appearance, that the people of Weirspierogen were somehow behind this. 1

“So, does this have something to do with the sleeplessness?” Floris Tenbrook asked Tim.

“I don’t know…”

“Where is Bleys and the others?” Floris asked.

“I don’t know…”

Floris ordered two men to carry Laarus up to the suites, and as Timotheus moved to help there was a commotion from outside. Screams echoed in from the marketplace. A man rushed into the inn.

“Someone call the watch! There are a group of old wives ripping each other apart out there!”

Timotheus turned to go outside, but Floris Tenbrook stopped him. “See to your friend, I will take care of this…”

“If people are in trouble I am going to help!” Timotheus insisted and moved to continue, but again Floris stepped in front of him, putting a hand up to the bigger man’s chest.

“I told you…” Floris’ usual gay tone gave way to a stern voice filled with authority. “See to your friend. See to yourself… I shall handle this…”

Timotheus fumed, standing there shaking with anger and shirtless, covered in the blood of barmaid. “You are a fool!” He turned to follow the men carrying Laarus upstairs.

“I will not forget you said that,” Floris replied with menace in his voice. He left.

---------------------------------------------------

Bleys the Aubergine spotted the temple of Isis on his way back towards the center of town and ran up to the ornate door covered with silver runic moons and ankhs. They were shut, so he knocked on them.

“Fair maidens of Isis! It is I, Bleys the Aubergine! Sluetelot is in need of your aid!” he called.

At first there was no response, but he knocked again and soon the door began to open.

“Master Bleys!” It was a dark-haired woman approaching middle age. She wore a white gown decorated with a burning heart emblazoned with a golden ankh. She wore a read headband. “I am Aphia of Fallon. The sisters are all sequestered. They have been called by the high priestess to discuss a vision.”

“When?” The watch-mage asked the Medicus.

“Last night as moonrise,” she replied. “The Silent Sisters and I have been asked to watch over the temple until they emerge…”

“Very well… When you can, please tell Leisel of Isis that I am convening a meeting of the watch-mage’s council in two hours at Death & Taxes.”

Aphia said she would. Bleys made his way across the marketplace well plaza and spotted a group of the town watch manacling a group of middle-aged and old women by a shattered stall. Floris Tenbrook was among them, and he looked up and noticing Bleys, made his way to intercept him.

“Ah! There you are!” Floris said.

“Here I am,” Bleys said in his flat tone.

“These women were causing a disturbance,” Floris explained. “They were fighting like animals over some fish… Most of them haven’t slept in days. Something is going on…”

“I agree. It is for that reason that I am calling a meeting of the watch-mage’s council,” Bleys replied. “I have sent word to Liesel, and was coming to find you, and now I need only to find Darbold the Gay.”

“I can show you the way to his house, but then I need to come back here to keep things calm…” Floris said. He ordered the guards to bring the women to the gaol, and then began to do just that. “When we get a chance later, I need to talk to you about your companion, Timotheus…”

Bleys did not respond.

“Oh! And your other companion, Laarus Raymer, attacked two people at the inn and killed them,” Floris added. Bleys raised an eyebrow.

Back at the gaol, Markos was using his sleep spell, which he had prepared in place of a spell he already had ready, and found that putting people to sleep seemed to be what initiated the possession.

“The end of all order comes…” A prisoner isolated to his own cell hissed at him.

“That doesn’t sound too bad,” Markos chuckled. 2 “So who are you? What are you doing in this man? Where did you come from?”

The possessed man murmured something Markos could not hear. “What?” the mage asked and the man murmured again.

“Come closer… It’s a secret…” The man said softly, and Markos leaned in and then jumped back, as the possessed man grabbed at him, his mouth transforming into one filled with sharp teeth, his eyes glowing and smoking.

Markos walked over to Alexander. “When Captain Firth returns tell her that sleep triggers the transformation. I need to go warn Bleys and my other companions of this fact…” And with that he left to try and catch up with Bleys. He had not gone far when he saw Captain Firth returning, along with several guards, the arrested old women from the market and Floris Tenbrook. The captain and the young noble were disagreeing about putting the women in the gaol.

“It is being put to sleep that triggers the possession,” Markos told them. “If we keep them segregated in their own cells, we should not have a problem… I only worry that the longer someone has not slept, the more likely they are to spontaneously fall into a slumber and thus become taken over…”

“I have not slept in almost three days,” Floris Tenbrook replied.

“Then you are a danger…”

“Some of us have stronger minds than others,” Floris smirked.

“Regardless, I need to go talk to Bleys…” Markos said. Floris agreed to accompany the wizard back to the inn.

“You know, your cousin Laarus killed two people,” Floris told Markos.

“What a shame…” Markos replied with no real sympathy.

Floris looked down at Markos and smirked again. “Where is Telémahkos?” 3

Markos shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know… All my weak-willed companions are acting oddly… And speaking of acting oddly, I believe that if you have not slept in three days, we should put you in a cell before you collapse and are overcome… I am sure all the alcohol you imbibe is no aid in resisting whatever is going on…”

“Excuse me?” Floris Tenbrook stopped.

“Drunks are not exactly consistently reliable,” Markos replied.

“You had better reconsider your words and attitude, young Markos…” Floris replied with tension in his voice. “You are speaking to one of your betters and a member of the watch-mage’s council… Not trading salty insults with seadogs…”

“My betters?” Markos laughed. “If only being noble really made someone better, except perhaps better in the favors of those who hold power…”

“It seems the Signers of the Charter of Schiereiland have trouble with their tongues…” Floris said. “I must speak to Master Bleys about this…” He started to walk again, his hand tightly gripping the hilt of his rapier.

Markos stood there for a moment and then hurried to catch up. “I may owe you an apology…”

Floris was silent.

“I mean… I apologize… It has been a stress filled morning…”

“Apology accepted,” Floris said. “See? You are learning… Perhaps you need to emulate your companion, Bleys. He is the most respectful of your band…”

“Most respectful? He is the least respectful!”

“I am sure whoever has been the target of his indignation has brought such treatment onto themselves…” Floris replied.

“Then anyone talking to him for five minutes about anything must be enough to bring it on themselves…” Markos quipped.

----------------------------------------------------

At Darbold the Gay’s house, the bard’s wife was at her wit’s end, as all three of their young children were wailing endlessly. Rose was significantly younger than her husband, and her hips, widened by multiple childbirths in a short time, gave her a pear shape. Her face still had all its prettiness, despite the deep creases and dark circles of sleeplessness.

“Darbold was called to Havesting this morning and he has still not returned,” Rose said. “I wish he would come back. Little Barakis and the girls have not slept and I am worried about them… They just won’t stop crying…”

“Lack of sleep is causing a sort of madness,” Bleys told her. He reached into his satchel for the herbal sleep aids he had purchased in the market earlier, and gave her two of them. “See if you can feed them these. Sleep will cure them…” 4

“Thank you, Master Bleys,” Rose gave a short stiff bow.

“Please have your husband come to Death & Taxes when he returns,” Bleys told her. “I am convening an emergency meeting of the Watch-mage’s council…”

Bleys headed back to the inn, and found Timotheus running down the steps into the common room to greet him, having noticing him coming from the upstairs window. The tall Briareus had gotten dressed and strapped on his armor.

“We have a problem… What are you looking at me that way for?” Timotheus felt stung by Bleys’ dark penetrating eyes.

“Do you have more to say?” Bleys asked.

“Laarus turned… Well, he turned into my sister and then into some mad Weirspierogen fisherman and killed two people…”

“So I have heard…” Bleys responded.

“Something bad is happening because of this sleeplessness,” Timotheus said. “Where is my cousin? Where’s Victoria?”

“Victoria is recruiting help from the temple of Anhur,” Bleys said. “She saw a halfling that turned into her dead brother… So you are not alone in seeing people transform into family members…”

“Is she alright?” Timotheus asked with genuine concern.

“She is a militant… It would take more than that to shake her…” Bleys replied. “Tell me in detail what happened…”

“I woke up on the floor, half leaning on the couch… I don’t know how I got there…”

“Last I saw you, you were laying there with two bawdy wenches…” Bleys said.

“They aren’t bawdy wenches, they’re just a couple of nice town girls,” Timotheus protested with a grin.

“And Laarus was awake?” Bleys asked.

“Uh… He was laying on the floor when I first saw him, and he was covered in bruises and bite marks… Don’t know where they came from… Oh no!” Timotheus put meaty fist up to his mouth and bit it nervously. “It must have been me! I must have been possessed while I slept!”

“Perhaps passing the infection cures you of it…” Bleys speculated.

”I don’t know… Laarus bit two people and they just bled to death…” Tim replied. “And he only stopped when Floris and the crowd beat him down…”

“You can tell all that occurred at the council meeting,” Bleys said.

“A council meeting? I hate fncking meetings!” Timotheus swore.

…to be continued…

---------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

(1) Sluetelot and Weirspierogen have long had rivalry that goes all the way back to the days before the establishment of the Magocracy of Thricia.

(2) Markos is Chaotic good. In case you couldn’t guess from his behavior…

(3) Telémahkos’ player could not make it to this session and would also end up missing the next session. Luckily, the confusion of the events in the town and the splitting of the party made it easy to explain his absence.

(4) Bleys purchased these in Session #24.
 
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handforged

First Post
What a trouble all of this is turning out to be. I bet that even if things are figured out, the political suspicions that will arise from such confusion will not go away so quickly.

~hf
 

Fimmtiu

First Post
I'm a new reader (haven't read OOTFP either). Thoughts:

Pro: You're an excellent writer and a very clever DM -- two rare qualities that are even rarer to find together. Well done! The links, in particular, are a very nice touch for communicating the setting.

Con: I found that I had to stop reading about halfway into the second page. I just couldn't take the neverending inter-character arguing, caviling, backbiting, sniping, and general irritability. With all of the arguing back and forth about every single little decision, it started to feel more like the minutes of a debating club; I was half-expecting them to start slugging each other over what flavour of jam to eat for breakfast. Does it keep up like this? I mean, I respect that the players are sticking to their characterizations so well, but it makes for poor drama.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I'm a new reader (haven't read OOTFP either).

Thanks for giving us a try! :lol:


Thoughts:

Pro: You're an excellent writer and a very clever DM -- two rare qualities that are even rarer to find together. Well done! The links, in particular, are a very nice touch for communicating the setting.

Thanks! I appreciate the compliment.

Con: I found that I had to stop reading about halfway into the second page. I just couldn't take the neverending inter-character arguing, caviling, backbiting, sniping, and general irritability. With all of the arguing back and forth about every single little decision, it started to feel more like the minutes of a debating club; I was half-expecting them to start slugging each other over what flavour of jam to eat for breakfast. Does it keep up like this? I mean, I respect that the players are sticking to their characterizations so well, but it makes for poor drama.

Well, I am just relaying the events, and yes, early on the bickering was paralyzing. Frustrating on one level, but also an opportunity to develop character personalities. . . I cannot say that it ever goes completely away (at least at this point), but it certainly does not continue at the rate found on the second page - However, I am not sure exactly how far you got in terms of the actual events of the game - so I cannot give a precise description of how it changes from where you are.

There is one last huge group argument/debate in Session #5 - but after that the action becomes too thick to argue very much for a while until downtime comes again - and by then the forge of battle have made them bond a bit more.

Anyway, hope you'll give us another chance ;)
 

Fimmtiu

First Post
You're quite right -- it was partway through session #5 that I threw up my hands at the bickering. After slogging through that, the rest of it is much better. Keep posting, please; I'm looking forward to more!
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Session #23 – “Sleepless” (part 4 of 4)

The meeting was held in the common room of Death & Taxes. Captain Firth arrived with news that Havesting was locked up and was not allowing anyone in or out. This included Darbold the Gay.

“Who commands Havesting?” Bleys asked her.

“Holy Admiral Korwait Tenbrook,” Angeleena said.

“I see you’re better,” Laarus said to Timotheus when he came downstairs after a healing spell from Victoria awoke him. She had come with the only militant present at the temple when she arrived, Custus Frod. All the other priests of Anhur were at some ceremony at the High Temple of Ra in Lilly City.

“I see you’re better,” Timotheus replied.

“You killed two people in a fit of rage,” Bleys said, flatly.

“It wasn’t quite rage,” Tim disagreed. Laarus Raymer of Ra was filled in on all that had happened, and Markos gave the news of his theory that sleep was not the answer, but the problem.

“Putting people to sleep triggers the possession…” He said for about the fifth time. No one was quite taking his suggestion very seriously.

“We need to go to Havesting and see what is happening there, for I was relying on their help in locking down the city,” Bleys said. “On the way we will stop at the house of Darbold the Gay and test your theory…”

“How?” Markos asked.

“I gave his wife herbal sleep draughts to use on their children,” Bleys replied calmly.

----------------------------------------------

“What did you give my children!” Darbold’s wife was frantic. She held the wailing infant, ‘little Barakis’ in her arms.

“Rose, what happened?” Bleys asked. She let them into the house and they could see for themselves. In the sitting room a crib was turned over and upon it were a large cast iron pot and two large decorative bricks. Held captives by the crib’s rails was a vicious little creature, a howling feral child that tore at the wooden slats with claws and unnatural strength. When it saw the party it shrieked and transformed into the form of a little girl of barely two years in light blue jumper. “Momma! Out, out! Momma!”

Another child of about three years was lying on a sofa with a bruise upon her head.

“They were just sleeping draughts…” Bleys said.

“I fed them to them, and they eventually drifted off, but then they woke up and… and… looked like the walking dead!” Rose’s voice had a tinge of hysteria to it. “I was able to trap Anemone under the crib, but I was forced to hit Daisy with the broom! She bit me!” Rose lifted her skirt and turned her leg to reveal the wound on her calf. “I felt woozy for a moment when she bit me, but luckily Isis was with me and I was able to shake it off.”

Laarus walked over and examined the injured child. “Cousin, heal its wounds,” Markos said to him, but the priest shook his head. Markos looked at Laarus with disbelief. Tim, who stood nearby, echoed the mage’s skepticism regarding Laarus’ lack of sympathy for the child.

“We don’t know what she will be alike if she awakens,” Laarus said. Instead, he had Rose set up a blanket and pillow on the floor, and another crib was laid over the tiny unconscious form.

“What of the possessed one?” Markos asked. “Maybe we should try to put her to sleep somehow, so she cannot hurt herself?”

“Know a good lullaby?” Timotheus joked.

There was nothing more to be done for them. Bleys told Rose that her husband was trapped in Havesting and that was where they were going next.

Bleys, Laarus, Markos, Timotheus, Victoria, Custus, Angeleena, Floris and three of the town watch marched east towards the imposing walls of Havesting. They drew a crowd of sleepless complaining people that Bleys admonished to return to their homes and remain inside. While everyone made a show of leaving, some just hung back following from a far and drawing more attention as they walked.

Bleys called up and announced himself, asking to be allowed within the great thick wooden doors, reinforced with bolted slats of thick iron, allowing entrance into Havesting from the Old Town side, but the guards atop the wall tower refused him.

“We are to let no one in or out by order of Holy Admiral Kortwait Tenbrook,” the guard called down.

“Then summon him, and tell him that Bleys the Aubergine, acting watch-mage of Sluetelot and member of the Charter of Schiereiland wishes to speak to him regarding the plague that afflicts this town,” Bleys called up. “Tell him I am here with Captain Firth of the town-watch and his kindred, Floris Tenbrook. Also, if possible please have Darbold the Gay of the watch-mage’s council accompany him.”

It took some time, but the Holy Admiral did eventually arrive at the wall. During that time much of the crowd dispersed, growing bored. It was hard to make out his features from forty feet below, but they could note his graying hair and his iron-colored beard. Darbold was not with him.

“Hail, honored watch-mage!” He called down. “I would allow you access, but I fear what might happen if the plague of insomnia were to spread too far among the ranks that defend the port. I have already ordered that no ships or ferries be allowed to depart, nor for any to be allow to dock here. The canal is closed…”

“Do you know what caused this plague of insomnia?” Bleys asked.

“No…” The Holy Admiral called down. “We had a guard return from leave complaining that he had not slept in three days and acting irritable and irrational. Darbold was summoned to put him to sleep with bardic song, and when the soldier fell asleep, he was possessed by some fiendish spirit…”

“We saw evidence of this at the gaol…” Bleys replied.

“Darbold was attacked and he too fell asleep and was possessed, but luckily he was quickly subdued,” Korwait Tenbrook continued.

“We have discovered that a shock to the system, like a great pain can break people out of the possession,” Markos called up.

Korwait supported Bleys’ desire for declaring martial law, but he did not want to open the fortress to lend him the troops to accomplish this.

“We shall investigate the source of this and report back to you our findings,” Bleys said.

“What could be the reason behind this?” Timotheus asked. “I mean, is someone behind this? What does it accomplish?”

“We’ve seen once already how people can be changed en mass,” Laarus said.

“The pearl…” Tim replied. 1 The priest nodded.

“This is different,” Bleys said.

“I don’t know, those who are changed seem pretty savage,” Markos said.

“Maybe it is something in the water…” Tim guessed.

Bleys shook his head. “I checked the wells first thing this morning…”

“Where is Telémahkos?” Victoria asked, suddenly noticing his absence.

“I’ve already asked twice and no one has been able to tell me,” Timotheus said.

“I already told you, last I saw him he was running around the market in a funny hat,” Markos said with feigned weariness. 2

“Well… If we have no other leads, I am going to go find him,” Timotheus said, worrying creeping into his voice. “Crazy things are going on and Red Lantern assassins are after him…”

“We are bereft of purpose, so we might as well seek out Telémahkos,” Victoria of Anhur agreed. “Do you have a lead as to where we might find him?”

“We can start by looking in the kinds of places that Telémahkos likes,” Tim replied.

“Floris, Captain Firth, do you have any suggestions on how best to declare and enforce martial law without the help of the troops from Havesting,” Bleys asked, as the group began to march back towards Death & Taxes.

“I guess no one else cares about Telémahkos… I’ll just go on my own,” Timotheus said, huffily, turning towards the seedy quarter of Old Town. “What’s that smoke?”

Everyone turned. There was a cloud of black smoke hovering over that area of Sluetelot, and a streak of it rippling along the wind that came in off the bay from the northeast.

“Fire!” Several voices called out at once and suddenly everyone was hurrying to the well-plaza in that section of town.3 The cramped and close-packed wooden buildings ranging from one story squats to teetering four-story structures with warped beams were going up with alarming speed. People were streaming out of the narrow streets, screaming and weeping. Dogs were barking and babies were crying, and more and more people crammed into the plaza making the situation dangerous.

“The lack of sleep must have led to someone’s carelessness…” Captain Firth surmised. She sent members of the watch to sound the alert.

“Is there anyone still in there?” Timotheus asked a soot-faced man stumbling out of burning area.

“There’s still a whole lot of people trapped in there,” the man coughed. Timotheus did not hesitate, he ran right up the widest of the smoke filled streets past two columns of fire. Victoria followed him.

“Come back here you crazy fools!” Markos yelled, but either they could not hear or did not care to listen.

“I will go find more aid!” Floris Tenbrook took off.

Bleys the Aubergine kicked over a nearby cabbage cart and climbed atop it.4 He cast announce. “People of Sluetelot!” You must band together and save your city. The fire will spread if we do not act quickly, and then all shall be lost!”

With the help of Laarus and Markos, the watch-mage organized several lines of bucket brigades to get to work on the fire, while runners were sent to gather more help from the other parts of the town. A guard was sent to give word to Havesting of the new danger. As the able-bodied men and women worked, along with a great number of older children, the elderly were given command over the very young, and people were led towards the larger Market Well Plaza where it would be safer. There was still some chaos and people emerged from smoke-filled streets frightened and confused, but Bleys’ calming authoritarian tone kept the people of Sluetelot working and focused for the most part.

Markos Ackers wandered to the other side of the plaza and sat down to try to prepare a spell that would be helpful, but found the constant jeers from the commoners working to fight the fire too distracting to continue.

Meanwhile, Timotheus and Victoria ran amid burning buildings, covering their mouths with their arms as they burst through clouds of black smoke and felt waves of heat on the wind. They directed a few groups of people towards the best way out of the area and towards the well plaza where the others were organizing, and soon came to a four story building that was choking out streams of black smoke as fire licked up its eastern side, driven across the length of its floors by the wind. Two men were looking up near the top of the building and pointing. There was a scream. Tim and Victoria looked and saw an older woman with a child in her arms. “Help me!” She cried. “We’re trapped! My granddaughter!”

“I’m coming!” Timotheus hollered, he rushed into the building, leaping through a thin curtain of flame into the vestibule, and then down the smoky hall to the stairs.

“I’ll get more help!” Victoria ran as fast as she could back to the plaza.

“Laarus!” She called seeing the young priest as soon as she came out into the plaza, covered in soot and her tabard singed. “Timotheus has run into a building! We need to help him and the people he is trying to save!” She turned to Captain Firth. “Captain! Have you any men to spare?”

She noted an enlarged Bleys pouring water from an over-sized bucket into the buckets of others while still booming orders to the working townspeople.

Captain Firth ordered two men to follow the militant of Anhur into the burning streets and Laarus took up the rear, working to keep Victoria in sight despite thickening plumes of smoke.

Timotheus winced as a tongue of flame lapped against him, jetting out from an open door way. Smoke choked and blinded him. He bound up the steps letting the cry of the child above draw him past the pain. His lungs burned, and as he came around a corner on the third floor he stumbled right into a curtain of flame and yelled as he fell to his knees and rolled, patting at his side and casting off his burning cloak. He climbed back to his feet, fighting a wracking cough and forced himself to continue. Looked back and saw that the steps behind him were awash in flame. There was no going back that way. Way below he heard wood begin to collapse. The building shook.

“Call out! Call out so I can find you!” He croaked as loudly as he could.

“Over here!” The woman poked her head behind another lower curtain of flame, in the doorway of a set of apartments. She held a wailing child of about fourteen months of age.

“Get back!” Timotheus waved his hands at them as he leapt in their direction, feeling the fire lick his legs as he kicked through it. The pain was excruciating. He ran to the window and looked out. On the street, nearly forty feet below, he saw Victoria and Laarus spreading a blanket with the aid of two of the watch and two townsfolk. The militant had found it in a scattered pile of abandoned laundry beside an overturned basket.

“Go without me! Save the child!” The woman said, trying to hand him the baby. He put his hands up and shook his head.

“Climb on my back,” he told the hysterical woman she clawed at him with one hand, as the baby squirmed out of the grip of her other withered arm. He grabbed the child, who wailed again, but buried her head in his chest. He got down on one knee and the woman climbed onto his back, grabbing around his neck. “Not so tight!” He passed the child around to her. “I need my hands free…” Tim broke through what remained of the window frame and climbed out onto the ledge. He began to try to climb down the side of the building, hanging by pure strength of his arms and his indomitable will, as the woman choked him, and the baby squeezed between them.

“Jump!” Victoria called, but Tim had no choice. He lost his grip as he swung his body trying to aim for a place he could get a foothold climb down to the third floor. Down they fell, the child wailing, the woman screaming, and below Victoria, Laarus and the others called to each other directing the blanket this way and that. Timotheus twisted his body so that he would cushion the woman and child when they landed.

Timotheus felt the blanket tear past him and then everything was black for a moment, the sound of fire and voices coming to him from far away. The child was still crying. He smiled to know it was alive. The woman was dying from the impact, but the child was amazingly unharmed. A call to Ra from Laarus and the woman regained consciousness. Timotheus got to his feet with the help of one of the town-watch. Victoria held the baby.

“Oh my goodness! Thank Isis! Thank Ra!” The old woman wailed. The building groaned as the fourth floor collapsed.

“We need to get out of here,” said one of the guards, as he and the townsfolk began to run. Timotheus scooped up the old woman again. Victoria carried the child, and the two of them and Laarus hustled back to the plaza.

Bleys and his cooperating townsfolk had managed to hold the fire back at the line of the plaza, keeping it from spreading south. “We are going to need to extend this brigade east to trap the fire against the town wall,” he called to Markos.

Timotheus brought the old woman over to where some younger women were organizing groups to lead the old and infirmed towards safety. Victoria handed the baby to her.

”Thank you! Isis bless you! Isis bless you!” She kissed their hands.

“Wild horse!” a voice called out as the crowd murmured like a wave. A horse came galloping into the plaza, driven mad by its burning mane.

End of Session #23

---------------------------------------------------------------
Notes:

(1) The party first learned of the pearl in Session #7.

(2) See the end of Session #22.

(3) Sluetelot is divided into two basic areas “Old Town” and “New Sluetelot.” Old Town is divided into quarters, each with a central plaza holding a well and small local market. The seedy part of town is the northeastern quarter, sometimes called ‘The Salty Quarter’. The events of this portion of the campaign are based on “A Hot Day in L’Trel” by Ted James Thomas Zuvich from Dungeon #44 (Nov/Dec 1993).

(4) MY CABBAGES!! ;)
 
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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I was playing around with the new social group functionality on the boards and created the "Aquerra Story Hour Readers" group for those who are following this story hour and/or read the "Out of the Frying Pan" story hour.

I sent out a bunch of invites to those folks I could recall as readers, but if you were left out of those feel free to join up.

Honestly, not sure what the groups are good for, but what the hell, right?

"Aquerra Story Hour Readers" group
 


el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
The writing has been going slow. Session #24 is already written up and I am finally closing in on the end of Session #25, but I started writing it on June 2nd, which means it has taken me a month and a half to write the 17 pages of it I have so far. As soon as I am done writing up #25 I will begin posting #24 (which will be in two parts), but #25 (which will likely be in 3 or 4 parts) will not go up until I finish writing Session #26, and Thoth knows how long that'll be. B-)


Good stuff, as ever, el-remmen. You certainly seem to enjoy throwing multiple challenges at the group - here's hoping that they continue to cope. :cool:

Thanks! I like doing what I call "nested challenges," the ideas for which are usually born of thinking of some the consequences of whatever challenge I begin with.
 


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