Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Loquista Session 4 - "Chooser of the Slain."

Callie Tealeaf, Halfling Ranger and demon-hunter.
Vaina Moynen, Half-Orc Barbarian-Fighter and thug.
Kavarus, Tiefling Bard and social butterfly.
Pheobus Arouk, the Radiant Light, Goliath Warlock.
Eoighan, Order Fanatic and Dwarven Druid.
Landar Farshield, Half-Elven Rogue/Fighter and spook.

The Heroes of North Corner, recuperating in the Broken Fang Inn wafter their high-profile murder of Radoslig, gathered at breakfast after five days to find a member of the party, Durlin, has fled in the night. A brief respite for the cabin-fever of the Inn afforded them a view of the Loquista public: tense, twitchy, on the verge of protest -as the grain shortages hit. Their own ship, The Sea Spider, was nowhere to be seen at the docks, as was the vast wealth their grain speculation had accrued and most of the pirates. The insectile wizard Durlin had taken to the seas on a quest of his own.
The party decided to devote their time to the return of another misplaced party member – Pheobus Arouk, the Radiant Light, who had swan-dived into the endless chaos of the Positive Plane to escape the fury of the Clockwork Wyrm the week before. To that end, they explored the vast libraries of the Loquista Collegiate, climbing the great sky-piercing tower that menaces the Loquista skyline.

Upon entry, our heroes were stopped in their track by Cerelesta’s doorman: a grotesquely overweight imp, hanging from the door, vestigial wings utterly incapable of propulsion. Kavarus tried and failed to bargain with the creature, yet it met every verbal thrust with a speedy riposte – demonstrating an intellectual alacrity not matched by physical presence.

Vaina, every the pragmatist, grabbed the imp by the throat and held him over the edge of the tower. Thus they were granted an audience with Cerelesta, the Dean of the Collegiate and member of the Council of Nine.

This precise, angular woman sat on a throne carved from manticore-bone, surrounded by circular beds with a harem-canopies on which frolicked a rotund panoply of imps writhing in sexual excitement, yawning in deep repose, smoking opiates or grinning behind transparent cerise.  She ignored the heroes and continued to breathe deep of her opium-pipe.

Kavarus spoke up first, asking if Cerelestra could find a means of travelling between planes. She responded by activating her Planar Orrery above their heads, clockwork clicking into life. Kavurus then intoned that they were looking for a certain Arouk. The Magi exhaled, the smoke forming a representation of Arouk. 

Kavurus then asked what the Dean could possibly want by way of recompense. Cerelestra exhaled, the smoke forming a representation of a singular object: a hourglass-shape filled with motes of dust; belonging to a certain hag in the swamps of Loquista known as Black Annis.

The Heroes of North Corner soon strode out to the city gate and whilst being processed by the Loquistan Guards they came across Landar Farshield. A terse conversation revealed that the grizzled Half-Elf also desired Teshei’s overthrow for reason of his own, and he agreed to help them in their current endeavour in return for being inducted into the Resistance.

In the swamps, past where Arouk had once meditated to create a lasting connection to the Positive Energy Plane they first witnessed the silvery, transparent form of Arouk. Deep in the brilliant abyss of the Positive Energy Plane, Arouk had meditated and found a way to project a simulacrum of his spirit into the Prime Material to aide his friends. Incapable of touching any object or individual, he could only imbue others with his light. To demonstrate his mastery, he briefly possessed and humiliated Kavurus*.

Trawling through the swamps, trying to triangulate Cerelestra’s prize with judicious use of Find Object, they come across a party of Lizardfolk performing some kind of ceremonial dance beside a tree. Arouk, deciding that it was completely within his programming to impersonate a deity, emerged from the tree in order to beguile the Lizardfolk into the party’s service.

Using his newfound religious calling, Arouk quickly learnt that Black Annis was not the only supernatural terror haunting the endless mire outside Loquista – there was also the Crow Queen, a wandering spirit who constantly harried the Lizardfolk for their peaceable ways and tried to drive them towards viciousness, vendetta and violence. Black Annis largely left them to their devices, but occasionally would snatch an errant child who wandered too far from protection.

The Heroes of North Corner pledged to combat the Crow Queen, and staged an elaborate duel at twilight to attract her attention. Vaina and Eoighan agreed to stage a duel, forming a circle. As Eoighan began by taking the form of a bear and swatting at Vaina – sure that they were simply sparring – Vaina assaulted him with utter violence, testing to the phenomenal power of his new blade, Voidwalker. Within minutes, Eoighan was at the point of death, and it became apparent that Vaina was fighting to the very knife. For Voidwalker, veteran of a thousand duels, was cursed to drive its master to accept any duel offered, and ensure that it was combat to the end. As Eoighan shifted form to form, mirroring his opponent’s bloodlust in animal shape, it became clear he was outmatched by the swallow-swift lacerations of the unseen blade. He fell, and Vaina, quivering with rage, anticipation and bloodlust, managed to hold himself back from slaying his friend, giving the Druid a disfiguring scar instead.

Seeing this contest, The Morrigan came: a towering, leather-skinned, knife-sharp crone astride a horse fit for a Storm Giant: with raven-black hair and eyes cold as polar skies she observed Vaina’s prowess. Unseen, Landar crept nearer The Morrigan, crawling through mire and fen until he could see the fog of her breath and smell the sweat of her steed.

Then, he leapt, slicing her with cold steel. The brutal sneak attack would have easily ended a mortal, but the Morrigan survived it easily. Kavarus and Callie followed suit with a flurry of arrows and damaging magic, which the Morrigan ignored, surrounding Kavarus and Landar in a Blade Barrier with casual disdain. Kavarus gave Landar a leg-up to scale the Barrier, feet missing the whirring storm of death by inches, dropping to one knee and rolling, eager to cross steel with a goddess again. Seeing himself outmatched, Landar offered his sword -and claimed he was simply showing his courage to the Chooser of the Slain. Amused by such vainglory, The Morrigan demanded Landar pass a singular test. She focussed her power on him for a second – his skin cracked and decayed, his flesh shrank and drooped and his heart quaked, humming-bird fast, as he resisted the deathly power.

Having survived, The Morrigan named Landar one of her champions – a Knight of the Crow. The party directed her to seek death and battlefields in the streets and arenas of Loquista, rather than the swamps, earning the affection of the Lizardfolk clans.

Returning to their camp, Arouk delivered a divine proclamation. Knowing that Black Annis would only be tempted to feed by a youth, Arouk demanded that the Lizardfolk give up a child from among their number to be trained in the warrior-ways of the Gods – the same arts that allowed them to drive away The Morrigan. The Chief’s precocious son, Sessassurak was volunteered in an instant – the Clan Mothers in rapt adulation that such a warrior come be from the ruling line.

Camp was made as twilight fell at a spot known to be a prowling ground for Annis. Against the crackle of the campfire and the endless buzz of swamp-life, Sessassurak babbled with question – was Loquista, the great shadow on his swamp home, as splendid as they said? Was it sinful, avaricious; a shark-sharp place of subterfuge and salt, as the Clan Mothers said? Would he be mightier than Quizitsutsch? Mighty enough to hew an oak? What tribe was Kavarus from?

Against the fusillade of questions, there was a sudden silence in the swamp.

In the distance, a keening wail.

Night falls.

"The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance..." Hamlet

Religions Founded: 1
Faustian Bargains: 3
Villains Vanquished: 0.
Treasure: 0gp
Sacrificial Lambs acquired: 1

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