Session 2: In Which I Roll 6 for Wandering Monsters 5 Times in a Row

A week has passed since the events of the last session. In this time, the Spearmaidens have moved the PCs from their altar chamber to their dormitory – a large chamber with an open hearth, several bunks, and a chicken coop. The Spearmaidens feed their guests nothing but meat and eggs for the week, as Spinello and Thjolstoff convalesce. In the name of modesty, the Spearmaidens bring the PCs masks from Cynidicea Below: new masks of their choosing for those PCs willing to spend 1gp on them (as much as a nice hat); old, worn, random masks for everyone else.

With the help of the Spearmaidens, all the PCs who speak Atlantean – these being Spinello, Simbra-Nar, and the Aisha Alendi the Atlantean stormtrooper – learn the Cynidiceans’ strange dialect. They ask many questions of the Spearmaidens, and learn many things. They learn that the camel-masked Cynidiceans that they met were wakedreaming under the influence of blackspore brandy, the preferred drink in Cynidicea. They also learn that there are 13 Spearmaidens, a similar number of Brothers of Gorm and Magi of Usamigaras. They also learn that there are nearly twice as many Chosen of Zargon, and they are reinforced with a garrison of 50 or so zargonian beastmen at their temple, and hundreds of zargonians in the caverns of Zarakadur below the city. Thjolstoff swears to slay this monster Zargon, but Dalyaa-Nush, the High Spearmaiden, explains that Zargon has been slain many times in the past, but always returns. Aisha explains that there are many possible reasons for this; it may be that Zargon is some kind of demon or other spirit, as spirits are often merely banished from the mortal realm for a year and a day when their mortal form is destroyed. When asked how she would deal with the monster, Dalyaa-Nush explains that she wishes to build a wall around the city and train a garrison capable of destroying Zargon whenever he appears. unfortunately, to do that, she would need to seize control of the city and its revenues.

Spinello has also spent his time trying to seduce the athletic young Spearmaidens, only to find they lament that he did not arrive a few days earlier, or seduce him back just as well, only to abandon him at the last moment, saying “I’ve taken vows; You’ll have to wait for the Festival.”

When they have all healed and are ready to journey to Cynidicea Below, the PCs are joined by Ilalia-Nuz, a 1st level Spearmaiden who will serve as their guide through the Pyramid. The party enters the rotating corridor, orients it to the north, and opens the door (turn 1).

They start down a long corridor heading north, then hear voices ahead (turn 2, wandering monster check 6). Aisha is able to understand the strange dialect of Infernal in which the mysterious speakers converse. She overhears them gloating that the humans cannot see them in the dark, and another saying “One of Madarua’s whores! We’ll have some fun with her!!” The party attacks, firing arrows into the darkness and felling most of whatever is out there before they can respond (thanks to several PCs having initiative counts of 7+ and rolling well enough on attack throws to overcome the -4 penalty for firing blind). Their enemies manage to hit Thjolstoff with a sling stone, but then fall to the barbarian and Catechist Dunstan as they charge into the darkness. The next round, the cleric and barbarian exchange blows in the dark – fortunately failing to strike one another other – before their henchmen are able to bring the lanterns forward and reveal that all their enemies have fallen. The creatures appear to be some sort of 4′ tall, hairless, yellow-skinned baboons wearing leather armor and carrying shields and bronze spears. “Zargonians,” explains Ilalia. The PCs loot the bodies, but the Zargonians have nothing except their weapons. Mercedes takes a sling and a load of bullets, just in case she runs out of arrows.

The PCs move down the corridor (turn 3), then, again, hear voices from around the corner (turn 4, wandering monster check 6). This time, it is a woman’s voice speaking the Cynidicean dialect of Atlantean, and asking “Where did the others go?” A raspy voice explains that he send them to scout ahead. The woman asks, “Is that is a light ahead, around the corner?” Spinello decides he will speak to this woman. He is joined by Thjolstoff, the Catechist, and the light infantry henchmen, who bring the lantern with them. The rest of the party remains hidden in the dark around the corner. The bard and his companions find a shapely woman wearing a red silk robe and a brass mask depicting a lizard-thing with a horn above its single eye and tentacles dangling from its chin. She is leading another gang of zargonians, and a dog.

The woman is at first confused as to why the PCs are here, and demands, in the name of Zargon, that they explain themselves. Spinello turns on the charm and manages to convince her that he and his friends are just lost and not any kind of threat. She is taken by him for a time, and tells him she has been sent by her so-called superiors to investigate rumors that the Spearmaidens have a band of strangers hidden somewhere in the Pyramid. Spinello explains that they are simple travellers, and the woman becomes suspicious. “Travellers from where? No one comes to Cynidicea.” Aisha assumes the bard has failed and starts casting sleep. The minions of Zargon aren’t surprised, and the Acolyte starts casting a spell of her own. The PCs are too quick for them, though. Between the archers and the sleep spell, they down their enemies before any of them can act.

At Spinello’s insistence, Eva revives the fallen Acolyte. The minion of Zargon is in shock, and they arrow that struck has left her face horribly disfigured, but she lives. The PCs take her back to the Spearmaidens’ dormitory as a prisoner (turn 5). They take the Acolyte’s robe, mask, and keys, as well as they keys held by the zargonian champion, and leave her with the Spearmaidens. The PCs rest (turn 6), and Dalyaa-Nush heals Thjolstoff’s wound. Then, the PCs are on their way again.

The PCs traverse the rotating corridor and move back to their last position as quickly as they can (turn 7). They arrive at a door, only to find someone opening it from the inside (turn 8, wandering monster check 6 – 3rd in a row, since they didn’t have one while in the haven of the Spearmaidens’ dormitory). The meet 8 3rd-level thugs, who demand all their money, and threaten to kill them when they only turn over 3gp. Spinello steps up explaining that they are simply a band of wandering entertainers, then produces his mandolin. The thugs laugh, escort the PCs into the next room (which is some sort of ruined chapel with a shattered altar and no other visible exits), and say, “Well then, entertain us.” The bard plays, and the thugs enjoy it enough to go on their way without further hassling the PCs (which is good, because they were wererats, and the PCs have no silver or magic weapons), but not well enough to return the coins they took.

Ilalia walks to the corner of the room, and the floor beneath her slowly swings down, becoming a ramp leading to the next tier. The chamber below is a tomb containing a small sarcophagus and murals depicting Sabban-Ka, the ancient hero-king of Cynidicea, being entertained by a midget juggler. Ilalia explains that this level of the Pyramid is a tomb, but that the dead here have been unquiet since the Chosen of Zargon desecrated the temple long ago. Mercedes and Thjolstoff decide to loot the juggler’s tomb anyway. They tie the grappling hook to the end of the 10′ pole and use that to pull the sarcophagus open from a safe distance. Inside are only bones. The Spearmaiden is offended and mildly horrified by their actions, but is determined to fulfill her duty (turn 9).

The party leaves the juggler’s tomb though the only door, and follows Ilalia west down the corridor outside. At an intersection, they see a tiny, flickering, ghostly green flame floating towards them down the corridor, from the north (turn 10, wandering monster check 6. Again.). Mercedes tries to put an arrow in it, but it passes harmlessly though the spectral thing. Thjolstoff charges it with his axe and misses. The flame floats menacingly towards the barbarian, who deftly dodges it. Walther readies his one vial of holy water, then waits for the Catechist and the Spearmaiden. Ilalia hesitantly invokes the name of Madarua, but this is enough to turn the thing, and it flees back the way it came, disappearing around a corner.

Ilalia says they need to continue to the west, but the lantern reveals a door to the north, and the PCs decide to investigate. They spend a turn checking for traps (turn 11), find none, and then it is time to rest for a turn. While they rest, a pack of mangy dogs wanders down the corridor, but ignores the PCs (turn 12, wandering monster check 6).

The room beyond the door is another tomb, this one with mummified skeletal warriors standing against the walls on either side, and another mummified corpse standing at the far end of the room wearing metal scale armor (lamellar) and carrying a glaive, both of which seemed to be in decent condition. To no one’s surprise, the corpses animate and attack when the PCs enter. Between the Catechist and the Spearmaiden, they are all turned, and the rest of the party smashes them as they cower in corners. The Catechist takes the armor and gives the glaive to Odgrim, and the PCs move on.

Following their guide’s lead, they travel down more corridors until they are confronted by a pair of apparitions resembling Sabban-Ka and his queen Ulzain. The apparitions command them to “Beware!” and then rot away before the PCs eyes. Most of the PCs are struck with fear and run screaming through the dungeon. The rest of the party chases after them, trying to catch up with their light source. The party winds up back in the juggler’s tomb. The ramp has risen back into the ceiling. They have no idea how to summon it and are in no condition to search for it. The inexorable Atlanteans are not amused, but their impish familiars find the whole escapade hysterical. The party hides here and waits two turns for the fear effect to wear off.

Regaining their composure, the party heads back out. The wandering monster dice are kind to them, and they manage to travel for a time without interruption, proceeding at Ilalia’s direction down a strange corridor that spirals back into itself until it reaches a dead-end. Here, their guide lifts a tile on the floor, revealing a bronze ring. This she lifts to open a secret trap door. The party descends the iron rungs affixed to the wall below, arriving in a short secret passage. The rotating door at the end of the passage is obvious from the inside, and they have no problem opening it once Ilalia shows them the mechanism. Beyond the door is a passage leading east to another passage and west to a door. The passage, unlike those on the tiers above, is elaborately decorated, with mosaics depicting Sabban-Ka on the floor and the pillars of the supporting arches carved into images of Sabban-Ka and Ulzain. Ilalia wants the party to head east, but, against the Spearmaiden’s objections, the PCs decide to open the door.

The room beyond is full of shelves and crates. Well-hidden, chameleon-skinned lizard-people materialize from the walls, surprising the party. Fortunately, the lizard-people decide that they like the PCs, and ask them (in a dialect of Draconic that only the Atlanteans understand) to help them carry the loot they found in this storeroom – 100 stones of iron ingots and 30 stones of lamp oil – back to their lair nearby. In return, they offer to ask their chief to grant them safe passage through their lair. The PCs agree, and they carry the load down several more corridors, moving too fast for mapping. They arrive at a huge chamber – far too large for their lanterns to illuminate – with galleries above. There is a campfire burning at the far end of one of the galleries. More lizard-people are waiting inside – nearly 50 of them. Fortunately, Ssikidass, the chief of the lizard-people, decides to honor his subordinate’s bargain. Aisha tries to invoke ancient Atlantean pacts to convince the lizard-people to aid them in their fight against Zargon, but Ssikidass laughs her off, saying that the Cynidiceans have become weak and that they are coming to reconquer the lands the Cynidiceans took from their ancestors. With that, he sends the PCs on their way. As they leave, Ilalia explains that these creatures are the Scaly Ones, and that the Cynidiceans’ ancient ancestors drove them out of the caverns below the city, and into the Labyrinth of Graal to the north, long ago.

Following their guide, the party leave the lair of the Scaly Ones through an elaborately decorated, 20′ wide corridor leading north. They enter another chamber too large to illuminate with their lanterns, this one supported by columns. The PCs notice elaborate mosaics on the walls, but do not take the time to examine them further. Ilalia overturns another loose tile revealing another bronze ring and another secret trap door in the floor. The PCs descend into a long corridor which leads to a large room with a huge square shaft in the floor and the ancient, rusting remains of an elaborate system of chains and pulleys on the ceiling above it. Ilalia leads them down a ladder on the side of the shaft. The ladder leads to a landing, which leads to another ladder and another landing, and so on and so on, down and down and down, for four hours. The PCs are fortunate in that nothing molests them during their descent.

At the bottom of the shaft is a large chamber, on the floor of which are the shattered remains of a huge wooden platform with ancient, rusting chains spreading from it. A huge doorway leads from the chamber into a vast cavern. Pinpricks of bioluminescence adorn the ceiling, nearly 200′ above. A wide boulevard lined with crumbling columns leads from the doorway towards the lights of a village, perhaps a quarter-mile away. Beyond the village, to the southeast, shines a dim, red glow. Ilalia explains that this glow is the Eye of Zargon – no, not his literal eye, but a place the Chosen of Zargon hold sacred and forbidden to those outside their order.

As the PCs walk to the village, their lanterns illuminate the dark forms of abandoned buildings – similar in design to roman insulae, but with tall, narrow windows protected by horizontal bars – on either side of the boulevard. They see the shadows of things scuttling away from their light to hide deeper in the dark ruins.

As they approach the inhabited part of Cynidicea, Ilalia points out the vast bulk of the Temple of Zargon on the Main Square at the intersection of the two main streets of Cynidicea Below: the Avenue of Sabban-Ka, on which they travel, and the Way of Ulzain. She also notes the lights of the great Tower of Madarua, and of the smaller twin towers of the Fortress of Gorm, to the east. She suggests they head to the Tower of Madarua right away. However, being adventurers, the PCs decide they should investigate the local taverns first. Ilalia points out that the Temple of Zargon is the largest and most popular tavern in town, but the PCs balk at  walking directly into their enemies’ lair. The PCs ask if there is anywhere where they can get anything to drink other than blackspore brandy, and Ilalia mentions Bozev’s Place, saying that it is run by the last telkaynie in the city.

At this the PCs perk up. “What’s a telkaynie?” Their guide explains that they are little, gray skinned people, and asks if there are no telakynies on the surface. The PCs say they have never heard of such a thing, and so they head there immediately. On the way, Ilalia points out another tavern that they pass – The Quiet Place, where no one is allowed to speak, so that the other patrons can dream undisturbed.

The PCs arrive at Bozev’s Place and ask the serving girl to get them a round of the house brew – a mushroom-based ale that turns out to be an acquired taste – and the proprietor. Bozev Begedinusht the telkaynie turns out to be a 3’4″ man with scrawny arms; oversized eyes, ears, and hands; gray skin; bristly white hair; and a round fuzzy beard like an anime character. He wears no mask, but is horrified when the PCs are relieved by this and start to take off their masks. The telkaynie recognizes that the PCs are strangers and tries to find out where they are from, quickly running though a list of places the PCs have never heard of  – Koth, Sha-Thon, Chevatugi. The PCs respond with non-answers and change the subject, asking about his situation. He tells them that the telkaynie caravans haven’t risked the trip to Cynidicea in years, not since Krothedus united the Scaly Ones in the Labrynth of Graal, leaving him nothing to sell other than blackspore brandy and the mushroom ale he brews himself. He mostly survives on rent, as he owns the whole building his shop is in. He believes the Cynidicea is coming to an end and would like to move to his family home in Chevatugi, but, between the dangerous journey and difficulty he would have selling the building, he simply hasn’t.

The PCs decide that they will try some blackspore brandy then continue their tour of the city’s taverns. This is the last straw for Ilalia, and she leaves, calling the PCs fools. Spinello follows her, trying to smooth things over. Mercedes and Odgrim end up trying the brandy. Both of them begin acting irrationally and try to leave the building.  The rest of the party tries to stop them, and manages to pin down Odgrim and tie him up. Mercedes however proves too strong for them and escapes, fleeing into the streets of Cynidicea.

Meanwhile, Spinello has caught up to Ilalia and placated her. She chides him for allowing the rest of party to do such foolish things, when it’s obvious that they all look up to him. They go to the Tower of Madarua together.

The remaining PCs at Bozev’s Place – Aisha, Thjolstoff, Walther, and Catechist Dunstan – leave the henchmen to watch over Odgrim while they search for Mercedes. They pass the Stronghold of Usamigaras and another tavern with many serving girls. Walther loses the assassin’s trail at the Main Square. They ask people nearby (Cynidiceans seem to live outside for the most part, so there are always people about) if they have seen a woman wearing a lion mask. Someone says they saw a couple of women in lion masks heading for The Cat House, so the party heads there.

The bouncers at The Cat House refuse to allow them in because they are not wearing cat masks. They head to a nearby merchant and purchase cat masks (thereby acquiring the last of the 1gp masks available in Cynidicea this month). They return to the tavern and are allowed in.

They find it to be a bizarre place, stinking of fish, and full of fishermen and other tough, surly laborers, all in cat masks, as are the women with them. Several small brawls are occurring around the tavern, while the rest of the patrons watch and encourage the fighters. The chaos is overseen by a strange old woman in a pink gown and cat mask. Aisha asks one of the female patrons what the rules of the establishment are, but she is ‘shroom-addled and doesn’t understand the question. So the Atlantean asks the huge gentleman sitting next to her. He turns out not to speak Atlantean, but only the dialect of Infernal spoken by the zargonians. She explains that this is their first time in the Cat House, and, before she can continue, he says “First time?” and tells this to the guys sitting next to him. The both start banging on the tables and shouting “first time!” Soon the whole tavern has joined in, and other patrons start sizing up the PCs. Tholstoff takes the initiative and punches out two nearby patrons. Then the large, 3rd level, gentleman that Aisha was talking to earlier taps him on the shoulder and they start trading blows. Walther and the Catechist each take out the brawlers coming after them with a single punch. The barbarian and his huge opponent trade blows for several rounds, but Thjolstoff is eventually triumphant. He takes the big man’s chair, and sits Aisha triumphantly on his lap. The Atlantean is not amused, but her familiar is.

Composing herself as best she can given the circumstances, Aisha strikes up a conversation with the older fisherman sitting next to them. She asks where she can find his boss, hoping to make contact with a non-religious faction in the city. The surly fisherman explains that there is no boss; people who want to fish, and who can sell what they catch, fish. People who don’t, or can’t, do other things, like work in the mushroom fields for the Chosen, or make and sell other things. Sensing that this is a dead-end, the PCs retire to the Tower of Madarua.

After several hours, Mercedes comes to. She finds herself being yelled at by a strange man wearing a robe covered with dangling, multi-colored strips of cloth, almost like feathers, and a silver baby mask reminiscent of the masks the torturers wear in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. The assassin can’t understand what he is saying, so her first instinct is to stab him. She thinks the better of it when she realizes that there are a bunch of people around, so she tries to run away instead. She doesn’t run fast enough to escape the Magi’s sleep spell however, and she is soon unconscious again.

And here, the session ends.

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