Wednesday, 26 June 2019

THE LOST CITY, PART 2

Actual play narration adapted from module B4: The Lost City. Will contain spoilers.

After losing their way in the desert, the four surviving members of a pilgrimage to the Holy City - Ser Luke, Kostas, Romulus and Xavi - stumbled upon a seemingly abandoned ruin of a metropolis. Desperate for food and water, they entered the structure and were accosted by a group of masked men. Provided refreshment and respite from their hardship, the survivors had a difficult choice to make. Read part one here
After gorging themselves on a simple yet copious meal, Ser Luke's party lay down to rest. The Holy Knight's conscience was troubled, however, as he wrestled with a dilemma. He went next door to parlay with leader of the group some more.

The party had not yet been divested of their weapons, and the leader seemed comfortable to allow Luke to join him in his study for a private conversation. Luke pressed the leader, Kanadius, for more information. Kanadius answered Luke's questions as fully as possible, yet all the while remaining masked.
 
The follower of Gorm explained that Luke now found himself in the central temple of once-great Cynidicea, the ruins of which now lay half-buried beneath centuries of desert sand. He explained that once they worshipped a a trinity of gods: Gorm, the father; Madarua, the mother; and Usamigaras, the child. However, his people had fallen to worshipping the corrupt Zargon, whose decadent priesthood kept the ordinary Cynidiceans in a state of delirium. The ancient culture and its people had dwindled, all that remained was an underground city, numbering perhaps fewer than one thousand citizens.

Kanadius explained that they had long ago severed their ties with the outside world, and what remained of their culture was entirely self-sufficient. He had not left the pyramid in his entire existence, fearing the wrath of the gods or demons of the desert. If Luke wanted to find such information, it might be best to travel deep into the city itself, but he warned that such a journey would be fraught with danger.

Luke learned that the followers of Gorm, Usamigaras and Madarua were each fighting their own, pathetic crusade against the followers of the evil Zargon, but were unable to unite. When pressed by Luke, Kanadius foisted the blame on the shoulders of the other two cults, stating that they were unwilling to accept their respective gods' subservience to the father-figure of Gorm, which he said was in line with the natural order of the family and the patriarchy. Sensing Luke's genuine concern about the unhappy state of affairs, he once again pressed Luke to join with his cause.Luke said he would consider, and left.

DECISION TIME
Returning to the dormitory, Luke addressed his party, explaining that their perilous situation necessitated extraordinary actions: they would need to unite with the cause of this Brotherhood of Gorm, and join their order. The Brotherhood were lawful and well-intentioned, and offered food, water and protection. Kostas, a pragmatic man-at-arms, agreed without hesitation. Simple Romulus even seemed to believe that they had been brought to Gorm by divine intervention, and was already halfway to becoming a believer. Only Xavi seemed reluctant: the devout acolyte was shocked to see his master set aside his faith so readily. Luke explained that it was for the greater good, as well as hinting that the divine transcended what ordinary men perceived as anthropomorphic gods.

So, united in their decision, the now fully-rested party went to Kanadius to express their desire to join the brotherhood of Gorm. 

INITIATION
Prior to joining the order, Kanadius removed his mask and helm and replaced them with another, all the while keeping his face concealed. He explained to Luke (who was the only member if the party proficient in the ancient tongue) that he needed the knight to translate his questions: the prospective candidate need only answer him in their own words, and he would be able to divine their intent.

Satisfied after the short interview, the party were escorted by an honour guard of six brothers through the dark, stone corridors of the pyramid. Romulus lit a torch, as it seemed that none of the brothers required artificial light to see in the near-perfect darkness. He also brandished the antenna of the recently slain fire beetle, which glowed with dim bioluminescence.

Down the stone steps they were led, and further into the labyrinth. They arrived at a door abutted by a bronze panel with eight buttons, which once depressed, seemed to cause the corridor they occupied to move. The door opened onto another dim passageway , before they stopped before a heavy bronze door, itself emitting an eerie blue glow. Kanadius spoke:

"By the great  god Gorm."

...and the glow faded, before the door slid open to reveal the ceremonial chambers of Gorm. Here, the party received their initiation rites, including a fetching blue lightning bolt tattoo to the shoulder. They removed the ceremonial white robes, replacing them with sky blue tunics, and each man was handed his own solid gold mask of Gorm.
Almost immediately, Luke was explaining his intention to petition the Sisterhood of Madarua. Kanadius patiently explained that the two factions were operating an uneasy truce, and they were not able to cooperate together. Nonetheless, he gave Luke directions to their small shrine on the same level.

THE SISTERHOOD

With Kanadius' guidance, the party were able to operate the mechanical corridor, which appeared to rotate about its own axis to each of the cardinal points. The door opened into a small reception hall, with two statues guarding the entrance to an adjacent corridor:

From B4: The Lost City fair use etc.
Undeterred by the ominous arch formed by the statues' spears, Kostas led the way into a long corridor, terminating in another heavy bronze door. From the corridors high ceiling dropped a very large, angry bat, which swooped down on the party, only to find itself impaled on Kostas' lance. The creature's wingspan easily exceed a yard, they were fortunate it had fallen so easily. 

The door proved not so easy to overcome: after rapping several times, they concluded that no-one was willing to let them in. Luke made the strange decision to announce the name of his new god, Gorm, and was surprised to hear the shuffling of feet from within. The door swung open to reveal a party of four warrior maidens, each wearing a bronze mask in the style of the goddess Madarua.


"What brings you here, brother of Gorm?"

Luke nervously began to explain his intentions, his provenance, and their mutual desire to remove the Priesthood of Zargon from power. The stern warriors listened patiently, never once letting their guard drop, before finally replying:

"You come to our holy place, bearing the symbols of your false god, yet state you have common cause. You are a foreigner, freshly arrived in our cursed city, yet you speak of a desire to restore its glory. Despite my better judgement, I shall put this down to naivety: leave now, and you shall come to no harm."

As Luke turned to leave, he received one further instruction, from another warrior-woman:

"You can leave your weapons, too."

"Uh.. I think not..."

As the party began to flee, the warriors almost immediately unleashed a volley of javelins upon them. The heavily armoured party were afforded some protection, in spite of their clumsiness. Unfortunately, one errant projectile found a weak point in Luke's armour, and he received a wound. The slammed the door behind them, conscious, perhaps, of laughter.

TAKE TWO

Back at their quarters, shaken but not unduly so, Romulus and Kostas settled down to some card games with their newfound brothers. Xavi and Luke discussed their plan of action, with Luke insisting that his acolyte remain behind, while he returned to the scene of the crime, incognito. Xavi was happy to meditate on what had unfolded: it had been a confusing week for the young acolyte. Luke changed into his travelling clothes, and returned to the shrine of the sisters.

Taking the same approach as before, Luke declared the name of his new god as he pounded on the door. Once again, the same four battle sisters opened the door, and after a heated negotiation, they assented to offering him an audience with their leader, Pandora. His lack of armaments and decision to arrive unmasked seemed to have impressed upon them the sincerity of his request. Nonetheless, the sisters saw feet to cover the man's eyes as they led him through a series of rooms, before finally revealing him to their leader, Pandora.

The leader was clothed identically to the rest of her comrades: bronze mail over a teal-green tunic, faces masked by the bronze mask of their goddess. Once again, Luke explained his intentions to the leader: he wanted to get home, but while stuck in the lost city felt it his duty as a lawful man to help restore order to the once great civilisation. HE again repeated that the factions needed to work together, and hoped she would be willing to cooperate with the brotherhood of Gorm.

Pandora remained unconvinced, but became intrigued once it was apparent Luke had acted under his own authority, rather than under that of Kanadius. She explained that she was, at times, jaded by their apparently lost cause, and perhaps new blood could revive hope. She was just afraid of the consequences if such hopes proved false. Nonetheless, she would be willing to enter a new coalition if the current leader of the cult of Usamigaras could be deposed: Auriga was a vile opportunist, convinced of his own sorcerous might, and had no real affinity to the ways of the Old Gods. If he could be removed, a new alliance might be possible. It would also demonstrate Luke's commitment to the cause.

Luke attempted to negotiate some assistance, until finally he was able to secure the aid of Pandora's most effective assassin, Helena. however, she would need to be summoned from the city and would not be available until tomorrow at the earliest. Besides, they would need a plan going forward, and she was keen to secure the approval of Kanadius should the scheme be a success. A meeting was scheduled for the following morning, and she handed Luke her amulet to pass to Kanadius as a token of her sincerity.  

Luke was blindfolded and led back to the stairs up to the upper tier.

APPROVAL

Seeking an audience with Kanadius, Luke returned to the brotherhood's quarters, negotiating the passages alone and without incident. Upon hearing of Luke's mission, Kanadius was shocked, before then growing suspicious of Pandora's intentions.

"AS far as I can see, she is playing us off against the mages: it will be a battle that weakens both sides, leaving the sisterhood in the dominant position."

"Perhaps: but who says this should be a straight battle? We need to be intelligent about this."

The two men debated a short  while, as Kanadius equivocated on how much he was or was not willing to commit. Flustered, he finally agreed to join Luke in meeting Pandora on the morrow, but not before all concerned had a good rest. Ser Luke returned to his new quarters, where his original party members were preparing for their night's rest.

"Get your weapons and armour ready lads."

Romulus seemed confused:

"But Brother Kanadius has said it's time for bed!"

"Not yet lads: we've got some exploring to do..."

Continued in part three...

No comments:

Post a comment