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Monday, October 24, 2011

More Maruk and his Seven Sevens Quest

Saying that Maruk was a cunning tactician sums up the player/character’s ability quite well. Of course, he had his fallacies as well. For instance, the player thought he had a knack for reading me as a GM. =] Now, truly he was pretty good at getting in my brain but as any wily (and evil) GM will tell you: thinking you know what the GM is up to is asking for him to hand you your head! Let me give you an example.

Maruk, in this case, wanted to pursue the Imp Queens of Hro. Now, he had spent several game sessions (and lots of in game time dallying with courtesans and rougher ilk of their work) prepping for this particular mission. Hro was a pretty small island kingdom in the Southern Ocean in the Caincol Island Group. While not particularly thickly populated, the island was divided into nine parts; seven held queens and two were used as neutral/trading areas. Hro’s “queens’ were short aborigines with a build that would put the stoutest dwarf to shame and more homely than the ugliest throon! Maruk knew this and planned accordingly. He needed to get his mark on each of them and conceived a very interesting plan that involved the use of force, some stealthy undertaking at night, a little kidnapping and some really strong rope.

Now, a friend of mine had come into town a week or so earlier and joined in the game. He and I had gamed from way back when and we hatched a little plan together too, so Maruk’s player wasn’t as cunning as he thought he was in reading his ole GM. While we played and Maruk made his way across the ocean with a group of friends and henchmen, my old pal was sneakily shooting me a steady stream of notes. We’d agreed ahead of time that in order to give Maruk’s player a good spin, my pal was actually going to direct the game via notes! Nominally I was the GM but he was calling the shots on all the real sticky parts. It was interesting and tough to keep secret (they caught on about 3 or 4 hours into play…). We kept it under wraps long enough that Maruk’s little nighttime raid was turned into something else entirely!

Maruk ended up in some interesting negotiations, whereupon he found himself pressed to “service” each of Hro’s queens and provide each with an heir (it took some time too…). Only then would they allow him to press his “symbol of power” against them…. Most of the henchmen ended up in the cooking pot (it took the players a little bit to figure out where all the meat was coming from…) but only one of Maruk’s companions died on this venture (torn in half by two jealous island women…go figure).

Maruk took the greatest blunt of it all. He overlooked a couple of interesting things about island culture. Mainly that each of his new “wives” (oops) had a call on him and each demanded it simultaneously. When he couldn’t provide it and tried to run (oops again) and then got caught (oops three), they decided the best compromise was to tear him into equal pieces! With no way to just fight it out (doing so would violate his word given earlier [can you say oops again?] which bound him and his companions), Maruk found himself spread eagle on a big rock with a lot of aborigines dancing about and seven women sharpening cleavers to hack him into pieces.

I said he was smart, didn’t I? He had a friend use magik to render himself undetectable by any senses the aborigines possessed and to hold a certain package. He had several other companions on lookout watching the proceedings and ready to pass the word when the started and when they were reaching the finale. Another stood ready near the massed supplies in the trading region of the island while a last also stood ready to summon. His undetectable friend stayed near him and stood ready, waiting for the signal. Maruk’s plan was as follows: He had their priest cast a time delayed Flaming Fires of Critical Healing on his body and took his ruby of regeneration and kept it in his mouth under this tongue. When the women descended on him at the height of the ceremony and started hacking his body into seven pieces, the lookouts gave the signal for the other near the supplies to light them on fire and the last one to call forth a giant throng of beasts to run through the ceremony. The ruby kept Maruk going when he should have died and the mass of beasts and flames in the distance distracted the aborigines. The queens backed away when Maruk’s body exploded into near flame as the spell went off and his friend swooped in to scoop up what little remained of him while putting a straw figure filled with meat and bone in his place.

All in all a hard adventure on Maruk (he swore off all women for the next three years…) and a great case study of how a beautifully made plan was wrecked and turned into something horrifyingly opposite!

Maruk’s adventures were always challenging. You asked for another, so let me tell you about the Five World Ice Walk. Like its name hints at, its path spans five worlds, all connected by nexus, a shared artic clime and a preponderance of shaking, quavering, moving, swaying and trembling landscape. The worlds are Khaas (Arduin), Quine, Khortuus, Vou and Glinterim. Looking back at my notes, Maruk actually finished this quest of the Seven Sevens before he took on the Imp Queens of Hro or Thoughtshear, so I’m a little out of order but I hope you will bear with me.

Maruk had dwellings all over Khaas but he primarily dwelled in either Melkalund (Arduin) or Ilshadmere (Ithalos). The reason I point this out is the events that transpired to bring Maruk to take up the Five World Ice Walk. Maruk had acquired over his life quite a substantial amount of things: from magik to the mundane, he had an interesting and somewhat esoteric collection. Anyway, while away seeking information on his quests, one Huenhwyr the Haeft, a well renown and skilled “purveyor of fine goods” (or thief, if you prefer), paid his home in Ilshadmere a visit. Huenhwyr was rather discerning and selective of the items he pilfered, outwitting and disabling dozens of complex traps, spells and wards; he also only slew Maruk’s pet Wyvergon in sacking the manse.

Needless to say, Maruk was riled and a little judicious tracking brought him to Huenhwyr’s doorstep, armed, pissed and backed by two handfuls of friends! Rather than die, Huenhwyr chose to deal instead. He gave up the majority to Maruk, pointed him to where the rest had went and handed over just about everything else he had. Mollified but still pissed, Maruk cut off both of his hands and then pronounced the greatest curse he could to ensure they would never heal but instead bleed Huenhwyr’s life blood every time he thought with avarice, dwelled on his exploits or dreamed of illicit doings.

In the mess of things he took from Huenhwyr was a journal of one Njouls of Siesierte (which lies on the Talafarian border with Marmachand). In the journal, Njouls spent some time penning his surprising shipwreck and subsequent exile to a forsaken cold sheet of ice. Excited by the lead, Maruk tore into the journal, correlating its information to other tidbits he had gathered from before. Its pages held the key to the location of the Five World Ice Walk on Khaas and his communions with the divine told him where he must lay the mark. Somewhere on the path lay a point where the five worlds all touched as one and the ice fall from the worlds to dance dizzyingly out into an abyss of nothing. The ice makes short lived mazes as it falls as the chill of the abyss is so cold if freezes the air and ice solid for a short time before the weight of the falling ice shatters it and sends it spiraling in to the deep. Here Maruk had to go. Therein also, he had to take his mark and lay it upon the special place where the ice from all five worlds has frozen as one.

Which he did. With near a dozen comrades, he crossed the chilling ocean about Khaora. Several died on the way but found within them the will to carry on when called back. The nexus they found on a small island in the far north looked like a great white hook, curving to pinion the sky. The winds were fierce, but with magik and will they crested its top and entered a billowy gate to another world. The world Quine resembled the vast endless tundra, the sky constantly shrouded and the skin so cold it flayed the skin away. The land seemed to sway and jiggle, constantly, weeping a dark watery oozes from crevices in the frozen ground. Jubaal was devoured by an inky mass of semi-sentient bacteria (the ooze) and nothing was left of him but his boots (which they kept as a tribute). The nexus on Quine was a madcap dance of quivering ice shards, perpetually grinding to so unheard beat. The eleven of them made it through to Khortuus, though not without each of them taking some sort of bruising from the nexus (broke both of Maruk’s legs, though he was able to heal them once through). Khortuus had weak air (bad atmosphere) and at times lances of vacuum would spear down from the void (space) and suck things away. It also consisted of small island of icy stone, rocking and bobbing in an ocean of a liquid helium type substance. A truly terrible place. Five of them permanently lost limbs to the helium ocean and Deug (of the Teal Spear of Uulon) was sucked into the great void of space (turned inside out and frozen). They took the nexus (glimmering mirrors)

However, on Vou they found the abyss and the fall of ice from five worlds. At this particular point, no one wanted to brave the short lived ice paths and bickered for a while about how to proceed. Naoun de Lia (and the player) got tired of it all and caught Maruk by surprised and heaved him bodily onto the ice path, crying “you might want to hurry!” It was, you might say, quite a laugh! (Right from my notes, quote and all.) He succeeded in running like hell and used magik to dimension tunnel rapidly through the ice to where he needed to go and then back out again.

All in all, one of his milder ones.

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