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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Price of Safety

In think a little background on this session is required.  The characters were all hobbitts or hobbitt breeds (yes, Arduin people spell it with two tt’s not one).  One of the players (Jake) had bought rice wine from a village we had walked through and almost everyone half sloshed by the time we started.  If you’ve never had the stuff, it’s a demon.  Their naming stunk as badly as their breath and Jake, Cal, and Tim thought it was funny to name themselves after weapons.  They also dared everyone to play hobbitts.  For whatever reason, they thought it funny to do so and cajoled the other two into playing them as well.

Anyway, the run lasted a couple of hours and was recorded by me.  The players were set in Arduin but in the nation of Malgoreem.  I’d ruled they had past history and had run together during the excursion of the Mok from the Blood Dawn nexus two years ago.  They had all survived that bloody day when the Mok overran a chunk of southern Malgoreem before they were banished back to whatever hell spawned them.
Moarx – Hobbitt Warrior
Koch – Half Hobbitt/Human Mercenary
Wesson – Hobbitt Priest of Saren
Kimbir – Half Hobbitt/Human Warrior
Glock – Hobbitt Mage

The five had been away for a time, each traveling their own path in the world before they returned home.  They had agreed, on the stark and windy day that they had left, to return in two years time.  They met up on the road and camped, swamping stories of their exploits before taking up the road again the next morning to go into the town of their birth.  They had few ambitions:  to see old haunts, maybe an old girlfriend or two and to visit Wesson’s sister Tessa and Moarx’s sister Erin.

Breezing into town, everyone greeted them friendly especially when they realized who they were.  Once or two people looked at them nervously but the five wrote it off to fears of old quarrels.  Moarx sister offered to take two of them into her home while Wesson’s agreed to have the other three.   
The five, the two sisters and few old cronies from the old days met up at the only establishment that went for a place to eat and be merry, Crangstons.  It was much improved since the old days, with new beams along the ceiling and better ale.  The night went fast, as did the next day.  Partying tended to do that.  A few more people began to look at them nervously and it made them curious.  Everyone denied it but the town magistrate, Accias, did stop by with an inquiry on when they planned to leave.  Wesson, just to pull his toe hair, mentioned potentially staying.  Accias just harrumphed like he always did.  He frowned and said Wesson would have to ask the town for permission.  Regardless, he wanted the lot of us troublemakers out by tomorrow.
Of course, that did nothing but pique their interest.  They laid heavily into the two sisters who pale but determined, refused to say anything.  Angry, they went out and roamed around the town.  It was sad but they had to hear the truth of it from the town drunk,  March.  He told them that a few months after the five had left, kobolds had raided the town from the Lead Ridge hills.  It seemed endless and they were carting off everything.  It stopped as abruptly as it started and a Manticore had landed outside of town the next day.  It had two farmers, and sent one in to tell the town that it had slew many kobolds and would keep the town safe as long as they paid it tribute.  It would hold the other farmer until it had its tribute.  It demanded meats, freshly slain and a live victim once every couple of months.  The town, unwilling to submit, sent out a team of militia, hardened veterans of the Mok invasion and the recent Kobold attacks.  They found the Manticore in its lair in the nearby Silver Crown woods.  The manticore slew them all and devoured them in the air over the town, raining pieces of the men everywhere and fouling the Saren’s Fountain in the town circle.
Powerless, Accias had given in.  The Manticore demanded its tribute though it accepted a wagon of skins, furs and carpets in place of a victim; it had already eaten well.  
Unhinged by this news, they demanded how the people were picked.  The drunk only knew there was a lottery.  Everyone who lived here participated in it.  No one was exempt.  Outraged they return to the houses but the sisters locked them out.  They spend a cold night in the streets.
The next day, more braced and hardened they attend the town meeting about the lottery.   The meeting was in shambles from the beginning as they yell and curse the townspeople.  Who roar back and warn them against acting.  They had tried, they pleaded, not once but three times to kill the beast.  Once when it showed, again three months afterward with a near dozen men hired from High Wall.  They were strong, sturdy men who died like flies when it rained death down on them and gouged their hearts out.  The Manticore demanded more tribute after that and the town paid with a living sacrifice per month.  It lasted three months before, Prandial, the priest of Saren returned from his pilgrimage to the Sun Scorch Mountains.  Hearing of the tale of horror, he marshaled his faith and confronted the beast.  He never returned.
Finally, the town watch get the players to shut up.  The lottery is done and Wesson’s sister is chosen.  The five go completely bat shit and argue vehemently about the justice and right of the shrine.  Eventually they have to be throw out.  Wesson goes to the fountain, now clean and sparkling with the sun, and calls on Saren but gets no answer even though he asks so desperately (GM Note:  He blew the roll with a fumble).
Out in the street, Glock and Koch are all for marching on the beast immediately and putting it to the sword.  They are loud about it too and chase down Wesson to say that they should kill it, whether Saren is on their side or not. It’s the right thing to do.  Numerous townspeople try to talk them out of it, including a blustering Accias.  Kimbir and Moarx finally track the other three.  They tell them to shut it, apologize to everyone and drag them away.  They meet at the sister’s house.  They are debating on what to do (she’s left and went to a friend’s house) when several members of the militia show up.  They tell them to stay in the house and to not interfere.  To make sure it happens, the guys are going to keep a watch on them.  No sneaking out the back either!
The five just look at each other and shut the door.  Later when their relief shows up, Glock puts the whole lot to sleep.  They truss them up and sneak out of town.
Tessa, Wesson’s sister, though, she finds them.  She always knows where her brother is (it was hell growing up!)  and meets them not far outside of time.  She confronts Wesson and the other four, telling them it is fate and that she doesn’t want to see him or the other die trying to kill the Manticore.  Wesson refuses to hear her out and they fight; eventually she runs away weeping.  
Disturbed but still determined, they move on.  The Silver Crown woods is alight with thin tendrils of smoke and moving lights, making the silver bark of the trees and the mantle of leaves glimmer to live up to its name.   They are not long in the wood before they run afoul a nest of Argo Caols.  Moarx had discovered them and told the rest.  His capacity to talk to and be liked by insects made it easy to see why he was an excellent scout.  He gets a picture of how the three of them are lounging in the trims (ready to drop on prey below) and the five of them attack instead.  They butcher them quickly, without much effort.  Koch took down one with his ax in a mighty blow (surprise + an awesome damage roll), Glock froze on stiff and watched it shatter when it fell, while Wesson and Kimbir sliced the third simultaneously (snake sushi).
They quickly moved away from the noise and bodies.  They thought they had gone far enough but a Sepithidan (a monkey like thing that attacks from the trees) picked up their scent and followed them, throwing rocks and pieces of tree s well as making an unholy racket.  Moarx got a lucky shot on it, pinning it to a limb and Glock got off another freezing dart that immobilized it.  It didn’t take much after that to kill it and Moarx shoved it in a hollow tree to feed the bugs.
Moarx led them farther in towards the lair, using the insects for a guide (even they knew where the big predators laired).  They almost stumbled into a spirit haunt (ghosts locked to the land) but caught their steps in time.  It took a few hours to skirt around it and while traversing a lowered, marshy part of the trees the group ran smack into a clump of screaming scarlet itchies.  They loved Moarx, who was unbothered but crawled all other the rest.  It took all their willpower to back out and retreat far enough that Moarx could get them off the rest of the group.  By that point, it was coming to morning.  Wesson prays to the morning sun (Saren) and is rebuked (second fumble of the night on this).  Chastised, he must return to the Saren’s fountain (in the town; it’s the shrine to the god locally) to be cleansed. (He won’t get mana or faith until he does; it’s part of the fumble).  Frustrated but unwilling to do it without him, they return to the town.
The townsfolk are upset with them.  The slept guards were found and this time they are totally surrounded.  The townspeople are glad to hear they did not anger the Manticore but they suspect the players will do something and cause the Manticore to kill more of them.  They demand the group leave.  The five of them confer and make a plan.  Tessa forces her way into their council and insists that if they must be mad, she will join them in their madness.  They hesitate but agree, changing the plan to incorporate her.
Wesson talks to the guards.  He insists he be allowed to the fountain.  Mollified by the groups compliance with their demands, they allow it under guard.  Wesson prays at the fountain and is filled with mana and faith though Saren doesn’t answer his most ardent question.  Seeing no alternative, he enacts the plan.
Wesson says he is to take his sister’s place.   Seeing as how he just prayed and visibly was blessed by the gods, the townsfolk are encouraged to believe him.  And to think it is the will of the gods.  The townsfolk meet and agree, but only if they can lock up the other four in room when they pay tribute.  
After some arguing, the others agree.  The other four are locked up in a room while they truss and strip Wesson down to nothing but a cloth to protect his modesty.  Someone stays on guard while the rest of them go get the remaining tribute.
Simultaneously, Glock casts an illusion that the 4 are in the room.  Koch knocks out a floor board (quietly) and the slip away.  Moarx goes into the woods covertly to find the swarm of screaming scarlet itchies.  He has Wesson’s equipment.
The other three meet Wesson’s sister Tessa behind the butchers (she is also a butcher).  Pale but determined, she dunks them with blood, and has them get into the wagon and then puts them in the big bags that hold the meats to go to the Manticore.  Tessa pads each one in a ball of meat.  She then hands them over to the men that come to get the meats.  The men pound on each bag with a hammer.   Glock gets hurt but manages to suppress his cry of pain (nice roll too!).
The men take the wagon out of town, meeting the other with the trussed up Wesson.  They all dismount and put Wesson in the seat.  They then draw straws to see who has to drive him and the tribute out to the Manticore.  The baker draws the short straw.  
Once in motion the four cut air holes to breath better (I was making them make checks to not pass out and suffocate).  When they get to the arranged spot the baker rolls out the bags.  Koch gets hurt but Wesson was making noise and it covers his cry of pain.
Once unloaded, the baker mutters an apology to Wesson while averting his eyes, and places him next to the bags, still trussed up.  Wesson lays there, the sun on his face, praying to his god.  Moarx has made it to the edge of the wood and can barely see them.  It’s a good run across rough ground but he’s confident he can get into it.  He has the screaming scarlet itchies wrapped around him like a cloud and he’s keeping them on him to blanket his form from sight.
The Manticore comes, drawn by the scent of blood.  Wesson tells them while it circles and they cut the bottoms of their bags open so they can get up and move better.  Satisfied no one is laying in wait, the Manticore drops to the ground and comes slowly up to Wesson, pawing the ground and cackling with hoarse laughter.
In a rough voice it taunts Wesson, telling him it is going to eat him.  Wesson ignores it and quietly chants a prayer to Saren, the sun god.  When he ends, the others free their weapons and then burst out of the bags.  Seeing them do it, Moarx starts his run, the screaming scarlet itchies moving around him like a cloud.   The Manticore rears back, not only surprised by their appearance, but by the blinding sunlight aura that rings Wesson.  

Glock throws a Landfast spell but spoils it (he blew the roll) due to the blood.  Kimbir dives at it, rolling beneath and throws a thick rope around its middle, binding himself to it.  Koch attacks, hacking at it with his axe, cutting a huge swathe in its wing.
Luckily, Glock gets his spell going the second time before the Manticore can get back into the air (better roll this time).  This time, his Landfast spell goes off and binds it to the ground.  The Manticore doesn’t know that though and tries to throw itself into the air.  It fails and almost bellies out, which scares the hell out of Kimbir.  It snarls and bites at Koch, chewing on the haft of his axe (he parried).
Moarx is in full tilt but seems a mile away (he won’t show up for a few melee rounds).  Koch gets another bite out of its wing with his ax and Kimbir slides towards his left, digging his spurs (he’s got fighting spurs on) in its belly while drawing and driving two daggers, one in each hand, in its ribs.
Wesson’s ropes are smoking (as is his skimpy loin cloth) from his sun aura.  Moarx is still running and Koch and Kimbir are fighting the Manticore.  It realizes after a second that it can move still but has to keep its feet in contact with the ground.  It heaves itself forward, sliding on its belly, hurting itself but nearly crushing Kimbir in the process.  This also puts it near Glock, who peppers it with a mystic dart spell and backs up.  Koch charges and slices off its tail (rolled a crit, yeah!) and Kimbir continues to dig in from underneath though one of his legs is now broken.
It’s a standoff, of sorts.  The two, Kimbir and Koch keep hacking at it though poor Glock slips and nearly falls into the Manticore’s mouth.  It proceeds to bite him in two (another crit, this time for the GM!).  Kimbir gets on top of it and starts stabbing from the top, still roped in.  Koch dodges in and out to hack at its wings and legs.  They keep up the dance long enough for Moarx to show up with his swarm of screaming scarlet itchies.  Koch backs off and Kimbir cuts his rope and rolls away.  Wesson manages to finally get free of his ropes.  
The swarm of screaming scarlet itchies coats the Manticore and Moarx keeps them on it, coaxing them to coat and aggravate it.  Wesson forges the sunlight with his faith (this is a ritual) and hands Kimbir and Koch spears of pure sunlight.  They cast them repeatedly into the Manticore until it slumps, finally defeated.
Moarx slips in and thrusts his blade into its neck, slicing it free with a wave of blood.  The Manticore is defeated!  
Moarx dismisses his insect friends.  The others collect Glock’s body and take him and themselves to a small pond fed by a stream that lies nearby.  They wash and cover Glock and then lay him out in the sun (he was a Saren follower too).

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