Session 9: In Which the Legion Holds A Recruiting Drive In the Pyramid of Sabban-Ka

Saturday, 11th day; 9th month (Horse); year 734

The PCs, who have taken to calling themselves the Legion of the Gods Above, awaken to find that their assassin, Mercedes, has left in the night along with her sister, Eva. Aisha is livid that they did not ask her to go with them, as she would do anything to get out of this wretched place. The rest of the Legion is livid that they took the helm of telepathy and the ring of x-ray vision with them.

Aisha and Spinello head to the Tower of Madarua with the wounded henchmen to get them healed. Spinello meets briefly with the High Spearmaiden to donate more gold to her cause, while Aisha is approached by Amalaith, one of the Veteran Spearmaidens. Amalaith explains that, while she does not trust the Legion completely due to their actions during the joint assault on the Chosen of Zargon, she believes that they and the Spearmaidens can accomplish more together than separately  As such, she would like to join with them on their adventures. The Legion, happy to have some divine aid at last, are happy to accept her.

Behind the Scenes: Mercedes’ player asked if she could turn in Mercedes’ XP reserve to bring in a bladedancer, as she prefers playing a divine character. The only reason she didn’t this time was that another player expressed interest in taking on that role, and he has since left the group. The most obvious way to bring in a bladedancer was to have her play one of the Spearmaidens.

On the way back from the Tower, they stop at the market so that Aisha can purchase some equipment, including rations for the Crusaders that the ghost of Osban-Sar had informed them were trapped in top tier of the Pyramid. She also adds to her experience reserve by commissioning a leather-worker to make a fancy saddle for her riding lizard and a team of carpenters to remodel, and lavishly decorate, the kennels in the Temple.

Meanwhile, Thjolstoff and Milnos visit the Stronghold of Usamigaras to deliver the head of Eleneah-Ebn, the late leader of the wererats that live in the Pyramid of Sabban-Ka. Mandeez and his Serpents’ Eyes are grateful, and impressed. While neither Thjolstoff nor Milnos are of sufficient level to recruit Mandeez and his thieves, Milnos convinces them to provide the Legion with any interesting information they discover, as Eyes once did for the Magi. In return, he gives them 200gp and promises them another 100gp at the beginning of every month.

Thus prepared, the Legion heads into the Pyramid to find the lost Crusaders, leaving their dogs behind so they don’t have to worry about negotiating all the ladders along the way. They make it across the Pyramid’s 5th Tier without incident, returning to the secret door that hides the ladder up to the 4th Tier. In the halls beyond the ladder, they again encounter the frightful ghosts of Sabban-Ka and his queen, and most of the party end up fleeing in terror. While they wait for their weak-willed associates to recover, the inexorable Atlanteans Aisha and Milnos search for secret doors in the area where the ghosts appeared, but find nothing.

Once the frightened PCs recover, the Legion heads to the ramp that leads up to the 3rd Tier. On the way, they pass a large pack of feral dogs. Spinello tries to put them to sleep with his magical music, and fails. Fortunately, the dogs ignore the party, and the Legion continues on their way unmolested.

Behind the Scenes: I house ruled that Magical Music requires a Performance proficiency check to work (11+ with 1 rank, 7+ with 2, 3+ with 3). I just don’t like the idea of apprentice musicians pulling off Orpheus-caliber magical performances. In retrospect, I should have just ruled that you simply can’t take Magical Music unless you are a master musician with 3 ranks of Performance. I don’t want to penalize Spinello for my mistake, though, so the current ruling stands.

The travel up the ramp in the dwarf’s tomb — where someone has placed the coffin they looted back in order — and through the rotating corridor to the stairs that lead to Tier 2. From the top of the stairs, they head to the room with the ladder tubes where they fought their very first battle against the fire beetles. Now, the beetle room is haunted by a quartet of hungry ghosts. Amalaith fails to turn the restless spirits, and Spinello’s silver arrow passes harmlessly through them. Thjolstoff cleaves his way through 3 of them with his dragonbone sword, however, and Aisha finishes off the last one with an arrow charged with her energy bow spell.

The Legion rummages through the ancient tools on the forge in this chamber, having long regretted ignoring them on their first visit. The old equipment has rusted away to uselessness, but they do find a half-dozen bottles of thick, black lubricant among the refuse.

Their looting complete, the Legion climbs the ladders to the large chamber that makes up Tier 1, the top of the Pyramid. Thjolstoff goes first, hoping he can weather the brunt of any traps that might have been reset since they were last here. Fortunately, there is no such surprise waiting for them. Instead, he is accosted by a trio of young men who demand to know who he is, what he is doing here, and why he is wearing a mask.

The young men turn out to be squires of the Order of the Knights of the Crimson Blade of St. Dunsten of Glasford, which the PCs recognize as the largest Templar order operating in the Crusader Kingdoms. Their leader is Arther, an intelligent, scholarly sort who has trained as a chaplain, and who speaks several languages, including Atlantean. The other two are Urbrec mag Esteger, a strong lad who has trained as a groom, and Kennerd of Rugstowe, who was an orphaned choirboy before the Aedis discovered he had been blessed with the ability to sense the presence of evil and sent him to serve the Knights. The PCs give them the food and water they brought, as the squires are obviously in dire need of sustenance.

Behind the Scenes: A restocking roll when I was prepping for the previous session indicated an NPC party in this room, and all the NPCs turned out to be 1st level clerics. I made them Templars, my cleric-replacement custom class that can be found in the Autarch downloads section. My dungeon restocking rules are as follows: Roll d6+(weeks since PCs were in dungeon). 1-4: No change (other than expected changes, e.g. bodies rotting, etc.). 5-6: Bodies missing, traps reset. 7+: Restock using ACKS dungeon stocking table.

The Legion heads out of the Pyramid to enjoy their first hour in the sun in a month and a half, while Arther tells them his tale. The squire explains that he and his companions were part of an expedition of Crimson Brand knights who had left the Order’s fortress at Road’s End — the southernmost extent of the Crusader Kingdoms — to search the Qulari Wastes for the Viper’s Nest — the legendary hidden fortress of the assassins known as the Children of Set, who have plagued the Crusaders since the conquest of Zulakur. The expedition traveled through Um-Qular, a large, isolated domain at an oasis in the center of the Wastes, to Quanif, a small domain ruled by an order of Al-Hadar dervishes who fled to the desert long ago to escape persecution at the hands of the Zul. The dervishes claimed to know the location of the Viper’s Nest, but would not reveal it to the Crusaders until they proved themselves by slaying the Queen of the Jalakad, some sort of giant spider that dwells in the nearby badlands. Alas, the expedition became lost in the dunes while travelling to the creature’s lair, and the three squires ended up separated from the rest of the force. In their mercy, the Gods Above led them to these ruins where they could find shelter from the elements, and, it seems, a rescue.

“Lord” Thjolstoff explains that they have found a lost civilization in the cavern beneath the Pyramid, and are attempting to liberate the people there from the horrible demon that oppresses them. The barbarian asks the squires to aid him in this quest, and they are all happy to pledge him their swords in service of such a worthy cause. Aisha asks the squires if they have any idea how to get back to civilization, and they reply that they believe that Quanif is somewhere to the northwest, and are sure that Um-Qular and Road’s End are further to the west. Thjolstoff convinces his companions to stay, and, once their new recruits have been briefed on the situation in Cynidicea and the strange customs of its people, the Legion descends once more into the Pyramid to make their way back to the Lost City.

They decide to explore Tier 2 as best they can on their way back, however. From the beetle room, they head west down a hallway where they had previously seen light coming through some doors. There is no light now, however. At the end of the hall they find a wooden statue covered with chipped gold paint, and a pair of locked doors. After trying several of the many keys they have looted from the bodies of their enemies, the PCs find one that opens the southernmost door. It is one of the keys they took from the corpses of the Brothers of Gorm.

The room beyond the door is completely empty, save for a large puddle of green slime that starts slowly crawling towards them. Amalaith smashes one of the bottles of lubricant on the floor in front of the slime and sets it on fire. This burns the slime to ash, but also fills the room with thick, black smoke. The Legion stumbles back into the hallway and waits for the smoke to clear. While they wait, a gang of a half dozen 7′ tall beastmen that speak the zargonian dialect wander into the corridor, shout “Kill the surfacers!”, and attack. Aisha and Milnos neutralize 4 of the seven 3HD creatures with sleep spells, and the rest die charging into the Legion’s wall of spears. Thjolstoff is injured in the assault, but Amalaith cures his wounds with divine magic.

Once the smoke clears, the Legion continues through another locked door on the opposite side of the green slime’s room; one which opens with the same key. The room beyond is dominated with a large brass cage with a pile of sacks full of coins inside and a nest of foot-long wasps hanging from the top of it. Four of the wasps, which are black with white markings on their abdomens that look remarkably like human skulls, fly lazily around the room. Spinello lulls the wasps to sleep with his mandolin and the rest of the party quickly dispatches the slumbering insects. The sacks contain 22 stone of copper pieces and a pair of copper trinkets. The Legion assumes this is the treasure of the Brothers of Gorm that they had been asked to retrieve. Fortunately, the party now boasts a dozen members, so carrying the treasure doesn’t pose a huge problem.

The Legion enters a second locked door on the eastern wall of the treasure chamber to find a small, abandoned barracks room with bunks and a cold hearth. They find nothing here, so they head west from the treasure chamber, through yet another door locked with the same key. They find a room full of ancient furniture that crumbles to the touch. Also in the room is the mummified corpse of a beastman who carries a sack of silver coins and a pouch of semi-precious stones and trinkets, including a silver fox mask worth 275gp. The take the treasure and move on, finding themselves in corridors that loop back to the beetle room.

From here, the Legion heads west through another corridor they had not previously explored. They wind their way to an ancient abandoned storeroom, and spend some time searching through the rotting sacks and crumbling crates. They find nothing there, but, while they search, one of the Sisters of Madarua stumbles across them while paroling the area. Amalaith convinces the junior member of her order, Selexah, to join her as she tries to lead the Legion on the righteous path and, with their help, slay Zargon.

Beyond the storeroom, the PCs approach a door from which light shines and Tescorian belly-dancing music, punctuated with the occasional bang, can be heard. Inside, the Legion finds a band of foot-tall fire genies playing music, dancing, and lighting firecrackers pulled from crates that fill the room. Spinello adds his mandolin to the band, and the dancers invite the rest of the party to join them. After dancing and playing for a time, the music ends, and Aisha, who can speak the genie language, treats with their leader, who is called Sepheskhet. She makes sure to be very, very polite, fearing to offend the unpredictable Wyld spirits. The genies explain that they simply came to enjoy the cache of primitive human fireworks they learned could be found here, and that the laws of hospitality demanded that they invite the mortals to join their revelry when they arrived. They commend Spinello on his playing, and warn the party that their is a “slimy monster” lurking in the room down the hall. Aisha asks how the monster can be slain, and the genies laugh and say “With fire, of course.” The party excuses themselves as soon as could be considered polite, leaving the genies to their revel. Thjolstoff is irritated that they allowed the chaotic spirits to live, but everyone else is just relieved that they all escaped without being set on fire, transformed into beasts, or something equally horrible.

Around the corner, the Legion finds three large pottery urns standing against a dead end wall. They cautiously prod the urns with spears, even going so far as to pry the lids off from a distance with their long-hafted weapons. Two of the urns turn out to be empty, while the third is full of sand. The party overturns the urn full of sand. They poke through its spilled contents with their spears, but find nothing hidden in the sand.

Through a nearby door, they find another green slime and quickly burn it with lubricant as they did the first. The door leading out of this room completes the loop around Tier 2, but the map seeps to indicate a gap between this chamber and the room where the PCs fought the giant geckos in the first session. The search the wall in this room, but find no secret doors. After grumbling about how useful a ring of x-ray vision would be, they decide to do the same thing in the gecko room, just to be sure.

When they enter the gecko room, a one-armed zargonian screams “Not you again!” and runs to hide behind the ruined bed. Aisha, who understands the zargonain dialect, asks the diminutive beastman, “What do you mean, again?”

The zargonian explains that, some time ago, the PCs killed his entire gang, but he managed to survive, despite losing his arm. He is indignant that she doesn’t even remember the incident. “We kill a lot of zargonians,” Aisha explains.

The stormtrooper asks the zargonian if there is any reason they should spare his life now. The creature explains that he used to guard the entrance to the Galleries beneath the Pyramid, in which Zargon’s lair can be found. The entrance is behind a secret door, but, if they spare him, he can show them where it is. Aisha calls upon ancient pacts her Atlantean ancestors made with the infernal powers, and commands the wretched creature to serve her. The zargonian, who is called Lig-Vig, has no choice but to obey. He is made to carry the party’s lantern and some of Aisha’s gear.

The party searches the room for secret doors, but finds none. They continue to another area, west of the beetle room, where there is a gap in the map where the suspect they might find a secret room. They search all around it for secret doors, and eventually find one. Thousands of silver coins are strewn across the floor of the secret chamber, the sight of which distracts the party from the foot-long, bright red, blood-sucking beetles clinging to the ceiling  Several members of the party find themselves with the horrid bugs attached to them before they are able to react. Once they recover their senses, the Legion quickly dispatches the creatures. Ablos-Nar is critically wounded during the fight, however, his left eye damaged and in need of healing magic lest he die by day’s end.

After they collect their treasure, the Legion decides to leave the Pyramid. They head down the stairs to the 3rd Tier, pass through the rotating corridor, and continues down the ramp to the 4th Tier. While traversing the corridor that leads to the ladder to the 5th Tier, they see a light down a side passage. They wait, quietly as they can. The light stops, and a man’s head peeks around the corner, then quickly disappears. They call out “Who goes there?” and a voice from around the corner replies, in something similar enough to the Cynidicean dialect that they can understand it, “Who are you?”

A tense discussion shouted around corners reveals that this is another band of treasure hunters. The strangers are from the city of Sha-Thon, in the land of Koth, which lies beyond the Telkaynie town of Chevatugi. Spinello convinces them to retreat to the room nearby where the Legion once fought a band of skeletons, sot they can close the door and converse in safety. The foreign adventurers agree, and soon the PCs find themselves talking with Oskal-Om, a 3rd level warrior in bright red dragonbone plate armor, who leads a trio of 1st level henchmen consisting of the male archer who poked his head around the corner earlier, and two female heavy infantry.

The distrustful parties parley from opposite sides of the skeleton room. The PCs explain that they are surfacers who have a stronghold in Cynidicea, and invite Oskal-Om and his band to come there to eat and rest. Oskal says that he appreciates the offer, but they are too close to the treasure they seek to go rest now. The Legion offers to help him find this treasure, if he will agree to a 50/50 split between the two parties. Oskal reluctantly agrees, but Milnos reads his mind, revealing that they are a band of chaotic murderers, that they have a 5th party member, a 3rd level female assassin, who is lurking outside waiting for an order to strike, and that Oskal is hoping to thin the Legion by letting them take the brunt of the traps that guard this treasure he is leading them to, then butcher the survivors and take their treasure, too. He also learns that the archer carries the map to the treasure.

As the strangers don’t speak Valgen, Milnos simply explains the situation to his companions in that language, and they attack the Chaotic adventurers. Milnos quietly puts the archer and one of the heavy infantry down with sleep, and the rest of the Legion lays into the remaining enemies. The assassin joins the fray, taking Arther down with one swipe of her dragonbone greatsword. Fortunately, Amalaith is able to get to him quickly and use her healing proficiency to revive him with no permanent wounds. Slowly but surely, the Legion is able to defeat their heavily armored foes. In the end, only Oskal-Om remains. He attempts to flee, but is cut down. The PCs retrieve the treasure map, dragonbone greatsword, and dragonbone plate armor from their fallen enemies, and also find a silver ring set with a strange, clear crystal that is cold to the touch, and several hundred gold coins.

Behind the Scenes: I don’t think I’ve ever rolled up an NPC party as a wandering monster before. It didn’t take nearly as long as I expected to generate them. Thomas Weigel’s ACKS Tools were a big help in that regard. Also, I came up with a quick way to generate NPC magic items. I have the Dicenomicon on my phone, and have saved a favorite roll of 8 d20’s, each a different color. I color coded a chart of the 8 magic item categories to match the dice. Each die that shows up the NPC’s level or less indicates a potential magic item of that category. Very quick.

The Legion makes it through the rest of the Pyramid without incident. They take Ablos-Nar to the Tower of Madarua to be healed. Amalaith is able to recruit another subordinate Spearmaiden while she is there, and then the party returns to the Temple. They end the day by finally smashing Zargon’s altar to bits with picks and sledgehammers, and then dispelling its power with a prayer led by Arther, and a vial of holy water that Amalaith had with her. They rechristen their stronghold the Temple of the Gods Above, and retire for the evening.

PC1: Milnos-Sim – Lv 2 Atlantean Tycoon; 3379/5800 xp; Damaged Knee
PC1: Sablain-Xee – Lv 1 Fighter; 1276/2000 xp; Heart & Lung Damage, recuperating until 9/17
PC1: Amab-Rah – Lv 1 Fighter; 1016/2000 xp
PC2: Thjolstoff – Lv 2 Barbarian; 3238/5200 xp
PC2: Arther – LV 1 Templar; 149/1500 xp
PC2: Urbrec mag Esteger – LV 1 Templar; 149/1500 xp
PC2: Kennerd of Rugstowe – LV 1 Templar; 149/1500 xp
PC3: Amalaith – Lv 2 Bladedancer; 2638/3000 xp
PC3: Selexah – Lv 1 Bladedancer; 149/1500xp
PC3: Manatha-Sab – Lv 1 Bladedancer; 0/1500xp
PC4: Aisha Alendi – Lv 1 Atlantean Stormtrooper; 3241/3675 xp
PC4: Lunatha-Sim – Lv 1 Fighter; 1300/2000 xp: Gruesome Scars
PC4: Lig-Vig – 1HD Zargonian; 49/3000 xp
PC5: Spinello di Lombabasso – Lv 3 Bard; 3542/5600; Minor Scar
PC5: Simbra-Nar – Lv 1 Atlantean Swordsmage; 111/3850 xp; Damaged Eye & Severed Tongue, recuperating until 9/20
PC5: Meldotia-Nar – Lv 1 Fighter; 1300/2000 xp; Gruesome Scars
PC5: Dalili-Lu – Lv 1 Bard; 727/1400 xp; Heart & Lung Damage, recuperating until 9/17
PC5: Ablos-Nar – Lv 1 Fighter; 1016/2000; Damaged Eye & Lost 5 teeth, recuperating until 9/18

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