Session 1: Hijinks Ensue

The session started with the party having been examining the ruins for a half hour or so. It seemed to be the remains of an ancient city buried in the dunes. The tops of the city walls and the shells of some tall buildings, filled with sand, were all that emerged from the dunes, except for a the top two levels of a mighty step-pyramid crowned with a trio of weather-beaten bronze statues. The statues depicted a bearded warrior in ancient armor, a robed woman carrying a spear and a shock of wheat, and an androgynous winged child, naked except for a pair of snakes entwined around him. Alas, despite the Catechist’s theology and Spinello’s loremastery, the party was unable to identify what gods, if any, were depicted by the statues.

Pablo reported finding something on the side of the stairs that led to the top of the pyramid – a suspicious loose brick.  Pressing the brick unlatched a secret door which swung open beneath the weight of a corpse leaning against the inside. The corpse was that of a pale, dark haired man in a lion mask with a crossbow bold buried in his back. He carried only a bronze dagger, which the PCs took, along with his mask. The corpse was fairly fresh, no more than a week old, so the PCs assumed that there must be people inside the pyramid. Knowing that they would lose 1d4+1 hit points in the morning if they didn’t find food and water, the PCs decided to have Eva light her lantern, and then they ventured into the passage beyond the door.

Inside they found a niche with a crossbow pointed at the door and the door that once concealed it hanging below. They moved on and came to a very old, very dry wooden door. Spinello boldly opened the door, revealing a large chamber with three bronze columns bronze doors in them arranged in a line perpendicular to the door. Some of his fellows heard a hissing sound, so they all walked into the room, looking for snakes. They found no snakes, but they all became dizzy, so they all retreated back into the corridor and closed the door, fearing gas.

After much discussion, Thjorolf, Mercedes, and Spinello decided to rush across the room and open the doors as fast as they could. Some of them choked a bit on the gas along the way, but they managed to turn the handles on the doors, thus simultaneously springing all the remaining traps in the room. A fullisade of darts slammed harmlessly into Thjorolf’s shield, while Spinello plummeted through a trap door, knocking himself unconscious on the floor of a lit chamber, 30′ below.

Beyond the bronze doors, Thjorolf and Mercedes found tubes containing iron ladders. Light outlined doors 30′ below, so they rushed down to get to the fallen bard as quickly as they could, with Eva following and the rest of the party rushing after her to keep up with their light source.

In the chamber below, they found a trio of gigantic glowing beetles sniffing around the crumpled bard. Thjorolf and Mercedes rushed to drive them off, but the rest of the party was hampered by the bottleneck of the tube ladders, so I ruled only two people could join the fray each round. The barbarian felled the first beetle with a single blow, but was dragged down by the other two before his fellows could finish them off.

Fortunately, Eva was able to attend to both Spinello and Thjorolf before the the fight ended. The bard was in shock, and would require a week’s bedrest to recover with minor scarring. The barbarian, however, was critically wounded with a lamed leg and would die if he didn’t receive healing within the day. The stormtrooper managed to convince her familiar – the most skilled healer in the group – to try to help him. The clown failed, but told the party that the barbarian would be fine. The stormtrooper accused him of lying, and he teleported away in a huff.

The party decided to eat the beetles and take their glow glands. The room turned out to be some kind of workroom with an anvil and small forge, and a bunch of old tools and parts, but the party didn’t waste any time examining them. They moved on to find water.

There were three doors leading out of the workroom. The doors opened in, and were secured by simple wooden latches, so Mercedes opened them by fastening her grappling hook to the handle, lifting the latch with her 10′ pole, and pulling them open with the rope attached to the hook. The two doors in the west wall opened into featureless corridors that extended beyond the range of their lantern, but there were doors in the north and south walls of the corridor beyond the east door, so they headed east, dragging their wounded comrades on litters made from blankets and tents.

The opened the south door first, though they were unable to use the grapple-and-pole trick since it opened inward. Inside was a chamber sparsely furnished with ancient wooden furniture, of a type dating back to the early days of the Atlantean Empire. The old, dry wood crumbled to the touch. They found nothing else here.

The north door opened to a similar room. The table in this room was overturned and a woman’s lifeless leg stuck out from behind it. There were rending, crunching, and hissing sounds coming from behind the table, and a lurid, scaly, turquoise and orange tail lashing about. The party took time to form ranks, with archers behind spears, and the Catechist with his warhammer and Mercedes with her twin short swords in front of the doorway. Then, Walther loosed an arrow into the lashing tail (despite a -4 cover modifier from the table). The head of a giant gecko popped up from behind the table, and more archers loosed against it. They mostly hit the table, but the stormtrooper unleashed her sleep spell and put the creature down.

Merecedes the rushed across the room to cut the beasts throat, and was ambushed by another giant gecko lurking on the ceiling, which dropped her to 0 hp. Hjordur and Spinello’s henchmen ruched the beast with their spears, and Catechist Dunstan finished it off with a blow to the head. Meanwhile, Eva had dragged her sister away from the creature and treated her wounds, which resulted in Mercedes being merely dazed and otherwise unharmed (26/6 on the Mortal Wounds table).

They examined the woman behind the table, and found that she was quite dead, having been disemboweled by the lizard. Her  wounds were still bleeding, so they concluded that she must have been killed very recently. She was wearing the remains of tight, green leather armor, a yellow cloak, and a strange bronze mask depicting a stylized woman’s face. A broken spear lay nearby, and she was carrying a key.

Having been exploring the dungeon for almost an hour, the party decided to rest in the gecko room. However, while they were resting, they heard voices approaching from outside. Only Simbra-Nar could understand the strange dialect of Atlantean the voices were speaking. They seemed to be terrified, and fleeing from snakes, and decided to hide in the room the PCs were staying in. A group of three men and three women, all wearing wood and cloth camel masks, burst into the room, and were shocked to find the PCs there, and disturbed that they weren’t wearing masks. They tried to warn the PCs about the snakes on the floor anyway, but, as far as the PCs could tell, there were, in fact, no snakes on the floor at all.

One of the camel-women was able to decipher the dialect of Atlantean spoken by Simbra-Nar and the other PCs that spoke Atlantean. Through them, the party asked them where they came from, but the camel-masked people seemed pretty out of it, and muttered only disjointed things about a temple somewhere deeper in the pyramid. They eventually came to the conclusion that they had interrupted the PCs en flagrante, and apologized and started to leave.  The PCs tried to bluff, explaining that they had been robbed and needed to get new masks, as well as food and water, and healing for their fallen friends. The people in camel masks continued walking away, telling the PCs they should go to the temple. One of the PCs reminded them that they couldn’t leave because of the snakes, and the camel-people panicked and ran.

The PCs gave chase, leaving their wounded friends in the gecko room. They caught up with them when most of the camel-masked people tripped running down a wide spiral stairway. They demanded the camel-people take them to the temple. The masked men reluctantly agreed, and then realized that they had no idea how they had gotten here. The PCs forced them to continue down the stairs, hoping that something would jog their memory and they would figure out where they needed to go.

The winding hallway at the bottom of the stairs met a dead end at a bronze door that would not open. The two remaining camel-men were there, panicking and wondering how they could get out. The PCs decided to go back to fetch their fallen friends, leaving the Simbra-Nar, Hjordur, and Spinello’s henchman to watch over the camel-men. They hadn’t been able to map during the chase, but Pablo was able to remember the way back, thanks to the much-maligned mapping proficiency.

They recovered their wounded and slowly made their way back to the door where the henchmen waited, taking the time to map the way. When they came around the last bend, the henchmen saw that they were being followed by a pack of more than a dozen giant rats. The rats didn’t seem particularly interested in the party, but kept wandering slowly down the hall towards the dead end. The PCs took a quick look at the door and found a group of magic runes engraved in the wall next to it. Hjordur pressed one of them at random, and there was a grinding noise followed by a click. Mercedes tried the door and discovered that it would now open. The PCs and the camel-people piled through the bronze door and slammed it in the rats’ faces.

The found themselves in a corridor that extended beyond the range of their lantern. The PCs asked the camel-people if they knew how to get to the temple from here, and when it turned out they didn’t, got kind of upset with them. Catechist Dunstan grabbed a camel-person at random and tried to pull off their mask. It turned out he had grabbed a woman, and the camel-masked men, assuming he was sexually assaulting her, pulled their daggers on the cleric and backed away into the darkness with their women. The PCs heard and other metal door open and shut, and then the grinding noise started again, and the corridor moved laterally.

The PCs opened the door where the rats had been before, and now there was instead a short corridor that dead ended at a bronze statue of  an androgynous winged child, naked except for a pair of snakes entwined around him – a smaller version of the statue at the top of the pyramid. Before the dead end, there was a passage leading south, but the PCs decided to investigate the other end of the moving corridor first.

They walked to the other end of the corridor, found another bronze door, and opened it. Beyond was a pair of statues of warrior-women in leather armor carrying spears that formed an arch over a corridor leading north-east. Assuming the women in the statues might have some relation to the woman they found in the gecko room, the PCs entered the corridor.

At the end of the corridor they found a door of much more recent construction than the rest of them they had found encountered in the pyramid. The door was made of strange white wood, and had a well made steel lock built into it. The PCs decided to check for traps before trying the key they found on the dead woman in the door. Before they finished, however, the door opened and they found themselves facing the spears of 8 women in tight, green leather armor, yellow cloaks, and bronze masks of stylized female faces.

The leader of these spearmaidens, who eventually introduced herself as Dalyaa-Nush, was able to understand Simbra-Nar’s dialect, and demanded to know who the PCs were, and if they were working for the Gormite cannibals, or the magi, or the priests of Zargon. The PCs explained that they had no idea what she was talking about, and they had been lost in the desert and were starving and dying of thirst and could they please help. The spearmaidens, being Lawful bladedancers, took pity on them, disarmed them, took them into the altar chamber beyond the door.

The High Spearmaiden apologized for the rough treatment, and asked the PCs where they were from. She was incredulous when they said they were from the “wasteland”, as she had always been taught that all the water on the surface had dried up, making it an endless, lifeless desert. She had even gone out the door at the top of the pyramid in her youth to confirm this.

The PCs convinced her of their sincerity, mostly because it was obvious that only strange barbarians from the surface would be so immodest as to wander around unmasked in public. Dalyaa-Nush explained that she and her sister Spearmaidens were a religious order in service of Madarua, goddess of changes, such as birth, death, and the changing seasons. The PCs asked if there was anything she could do for their wounded friend, who would die if he wasn’t healed soon. She said she may be able to help him, but would only do so if the PCs agreed to help her in return.  Catechist Dunstan proclaimed that he would always help fellow lawful clergy, and so she healed both the bard and the barbarian.

While the other spearmaidens brought food and water, Dalyaa-Nush told them a little about the history of her people. She explained that long ago the city of Cynidicea was the greatest city in the land until the curse of Amun-Re, a tyrant who dwelt in the west, caused the river to dry up. Cynidicea began to die, but was saved when Sabban-Ka, the Phoenix Warrior, a foreigner from the distant land of Atlantis, arrived and found a vast reservoir in a cavern below city. He built a great waterworks to bring the water up to the city, and the people proclaimed him King of Cynidicea. When he died, the people had this great pyramid built to serve as his tomb.

Cynidicea prospered until the time of Sabban-Ka’s great-great grandson, who tried to expand the pyramid by having catacombs dug beneath it. The digging disturbed Zargon, a horrible abomination that had long slumbered beneath the city, unbeknownst to its inhabitants. The monster attacked the city, devouring anyone it encountered. The Cynidicean army was powerless to stop it. It would emerge every night, eat its fill, and return to the now abandoned pyramid. Eventually, some heartless fool had decided to start sending slaves into the pyramid, sacrifices to the beast’s hunger. This worked, and Zargon no longer emerged, so long as sacrifices were sent to him regularly.

Over time, the people of Cynidicea abandoned the worship of their traditional gods – Madarua, Usamigaras (the winged child), and Gorm (the bearded warrior) – in favor of the worship of Zargon, and the priests of Zargon took over the city. The land beyond their walls grew more and more dry, and the people of the rival cities collapsed into barbarism. When the barbarians attacked Cynidicea, the priests of Zargon led the citizens into the caverns on the shore of the reservoir. The barbarians responded be sealing all the entrances with rubble.

The people of Cynidicea eventually dug themselves out, but by then had become accustomed to being underground, and felt they would be safer from the barbarians if they stayed below. They built a new city, Cynidicea Below, on the shore of the reservoir. They brought livestock with them from above, but no surface crops would grow in the cavern. So they found new crops – various types of giant mushrooms – in the labyrinthine caverns below.

This proved to be their undoing, as the mushrooms had strange properties, rendering those who ate them ‘shroom-addled, in a state of slight confusion and disorientation. Their population has slowly dwindled over the centuries, and most of Cynidicea below has been abandoned, but at least a thousand people still dwell there today. Some of them have begun to worship the old gods of Cynidicea in defiance of the priests of Zargon. The Spearmaidens of Madarua keep this stronghold in the pyramid to avoid persecution by the Zargonites. The mysterious Magi of Usamigaras have a similar compound on western side of this floor, and the cannibal Gormites have one on the floor above.

The PCs told Dalyaa-Nush that she and her Spearmaidens should just leave, now that they know that there is life on the surface. But the High Spearmaiden refused, saying that she could not simply abandoned her fellow Cynidiceans to the priests of Zargon.  She offered to allow the PCs to remain in the stronghold for a week while they convalesce, and then send them with a guide to the passage to the Cynidicea Below on the ground floor of the pyramid so they could see the city for themselves. The PCs agreed, and that’s where we ended the session.


2 Responses to Session 1: Hijinks Ensue

  1. Sounds like a fun session. I’ve never played the module before; makes me want to investigate it now 🙂

    • I highly recommend it. One of the highlights of the OSR, for me, is looking back on the modules I ran most often as a kid (Isle of Dread for D&D and Crash on Volturnus for Star Frontiers), discovering they were written by the same person (Tom Moldvay), and then tracking down everything else he wrote. I can’t believe I missed The Lost City back then!

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