Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ballad of the Pigeon God #10: Wedding Crashers

Our active heroes trying to finish a long term quest of returning the Bell of Chardastes:
Rolf Wolfsblood:  Bald-headed barbarian from the Plains of Galmar
Kane: Student of Eastern mysticism, controller of water.
Ashe - highly skilled elven ranger
Maloran Alberhold - human fighter, ladies man sans charisma.
Talis Makolin - a rakish bard avec charisma
Echelon - a pigeon loving priest of an eastern god of the sea, escorted by his charmed wolf, Pathfinder.  He recently discovered that his henchman sold all his stuff and bought a house for the young orphan in town (per his instructions).
Velandro - a pious priest of Akana with a kobold following.
Kannex of Cymril (NPC) - Mysterious sorcerer from parts unknown with a penchant for fire.

13 HepDec 1070 - Chateau d'Echelon, Village of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
With the group reunited, it was time to finally deliver the Bell of Chardastes to the Archbishop Adolphus in Hydincall, and drop off Kannex to the Magic Lyceum to help him get home.  Pathfinder and Dag & Family were left at the Chateau, much to the amusement of Timmy. They did add a strapping young man named Wrath to the cohort.  He was a self-proclaimed holy warrior of Akana, who everyone knew only as a part-time farmhand for the estate. He seemed tough, reliable, and best of all, had his own sword.
15 HepDec 1070 - On the road north to Hydincall
Without Echelon's menagerie, the party was making great progress to the capital.  Unfortunately for their mission, a lone rider in fine armor approached from the north.   He hailed the heroes and requested a moment of their time.

He introduced himself as William, knight from the Kingdom of Aragain.   He had been invited to the wedding of Athelstane and Iris, but instead he was rushing there to stop it.

"A great evil has befallen the couple.  For the security of your kingdom, we must stop the wedding."

"I guess the Archbishop can wait awhile longer." - Velandro.

To shave time off the return journey to Eding (and to have a chance to keep up with William's warhorse), the party acquired a motley group of horses on their way to Eding.

16 HepDec 1070 -  Village of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
The day of the wedding was upon them, as they pushed their animals to get home before noon. William's warhorse was already near exhaustion when they first met, so despite the great lead William could extend on the party, they discovered the dying horse just before the Chateau. Assuming the knight continued on foot, Echelon quickly rallied Carthon, Jenny, and Pathfinder to the cause (Dag was instructed to guard the Chateau, alongside Timmy).

As the remaining adventurers reached the village green, where the cermony was taking place, they realized that they were almost too late.  William had just arrived and was slaying militia and baronial guard alike that were between him and the soon-to-be wedded.  The heroes tried to maintain some order, evacuating the townsfolk in attendance, healing the wounded, and trying to reach William before more chaos erupted.

It seemed all for naught,  Barrak, the commander of the militia, knocked back Talis and his swordplay kept most at bay.    Holy Warriors of Akana who were escorting Archbishop Adolphus blocked Velandro's group.

(This immediately seemed odd to the cleric of Akana.  Outside of ridiculously expensive magical travel, the only way from Hydincall to Eding was the road they had travelled on. They should have passed the Archbishop's ensemble, or at least knew about their prior arrival in Eding.  How did they get to town?)

Nothing stopped William, until he finally was in front of Lady Iris. Before Athelstane could do anything to stop him, the knight slew the fair bride.  Her body transformed into a hairy, twisted, arachnoid mess.

Three of the guests still standing around began to shudder, then convulse, finally transforming into living compatriots of the imposter Iris.

The spider-people of the stone dimension of Baraxus the Destroyer had arrived in Eding.
Now, a smaller contingent of the party had stopped the spider-people in Baraxus' dimension back at the Brimming Stein.  Amongst the chaos, and discovering that at least some of the "innocents" could be doppelgangers, this was going to be far more difficult.

Then Kannex cast a Fireball.

Few had actually seen a fireball cast by a wizard, but even the stories and legends of old described them as balls of flame streaking towards a dragon, a giant, or even an opposing wizard, until the exploded upon impact.

Kannex's version seemed to combust every breath of air within the entire village green.  Dozens died, a few more converting into spider-people before their crackling carcasses hit the ground.

The fireball also hit most of the surrounding buildings, including completely engulfing the Blue Wizard Inn.  Maloran and Ashe ran into the burning buildings, rescuing a number of people surprised and trapped by, the flames.

Velandro, Rolf, and Talis waded through the holy warriors, who had all reverted back to spider-people, defending an Archbishop Adolphus, who was far more arachnid than before.
"I don't think we should give him the Bell of Chardastes"

Over an hour later, the few surviving spider-people fled south towards the hafling dales and Lansluck, most of the fires in town were either put out, or a complete loss that they let burn.  Over a hundred corpses littered the Green, including Lord Athelstane... who remained quite human in death.  

William surveyed the carnage.  He announced as a Paladin of Akana, a Knight of the Spiral Hawk, and most surprisingly, the Crown Prince of  the Kingdom of Aragain, that the village of Eding must be rebuilt, for the glory of King Nevin.  The party as a whole was not going to argue, although they rightfully questioned if William was a spider-person.  He accepted their concern and could do nothing but swear on his holy symbol to the God of Law and Order that he was not.  

William explained that he had encountered these creatures in Aragain, trying to usurp smaller baronies and duchies on Aragain's border with the Senzar Empire.  A full-blown manhunt had been declared and near the end of the bloody purge, it was discovered that a similar plot was taking place in Crosedes, Eding being the center of activity.  

The one weakness these creatures had, besides vulnerability to giant napalm explosions, was that the people they copied needed to stay alive for the charade to continue.  They were usually kidnapped and secured away until they were no longer of use.  The majority of these locations were near a dimensional portal that they used to travel from their own far-off home, planet, or magical realm.  

Realizing that the closest portal was recently sealed in Lansluck, and that the catacombs of an old abandoned monastery was perfect for hiding bodies, the party realized they needed to visit Mohammad again.  After running their plan to return to Lansluck and search out this hiding spot by the Prince, William gave his blessing, and focused his attention on working with Torm, Jenny, Carthon, and a contrite Barrak to start burying the dead and rebuilding Eding.  

Dag offered his services to visit the monastery, in the name of Akana.  His family would stay safe at the Chateau.   Velandro ordered him to stay at the Chateau and protect everyone.

19 HepDec 1070 -  Village of Lansluck, Kingdom of Crosedes
Now with better horses, the group arrived back in Lansluck in record time.  They met with Mohammad.  The portal was still sealed.  Nothing unusual had occurred during the short time they were gone.

20 HepDec 1070 -  Village of Lansluck, Kingdom of Crosedes
Two boats was purchased outright from some of the fishermen, and the party crossed the river. Thanks to Velandro (and Dag's) previous scouting, most potential problems were either previously eliminated or avoided outright.  

GM Notes: As you may have heard people say, when one door closes, another one opens.   We've established some characters in the first few episodes  The Bell of Chardastes has been the MacGuffin for the last four episodes, so it made sense to have the party return it to retire to the chateau with all their wealth.

Like that was going to happen. 

Knowing that Athelstane was indifferent, at best, of this group of amorous hooligans, he assumed that they had skipped town (no one mentioned the Bell to him).  

Lady Iris had been a peasant heroine from my "Georic 2" campaign (circa '93) turned knight and was beloved by the village.  A marriage to Athelstane was unexpected, but celebrated by the community.  Certainly a marriage of two knights would elevate Athelstane to a Baron, maybe even a Count! 

What's the deal with this Kannex guy, you ask?  Is he some sort of tide-turning Mary Sue NPC? The truth, for those not picking up on some clues, is coming soon enough.  For the second question, I'm 90% sure the answer is no.  For those familiar only D&D terminology, let's consider him a mid-level wild mage, heavy on the wild.  The airburst explosion right over the wedding was not in his plans (nor initially mine, as the DM).  It created a logistical nightmare for me.  

The heroics of Maloran aren't close to what his actions actually were.   I don't believe his player, Scott, understood the gravitas of the situation, or the extent of the fire, which is odd, because Ashe specifically noted he was dousing his cloak in a rain barrel before entering the burning building.  

With flames going up the walls, he found a fair damsel trapped in her room, and proceeded to, as politely as I can put it as possible, "forcibly seduce" her.  It took the entire table of players to reinforce the situation (including me telling him the girl was saying, "No, just save me" multiple times.    It was a very awkward situation that I've never seen duplicated again.  I'm still thinking Scott just zoned out during the whole "Stop the wedding," scene, and pushed his persona towards a swashbuckling sexual conquest.  

It should also be noted, that the girl was eventually tossed out a window and caught by Talis.  After witnessing the disconnect with Maloran, he didn't even try a classic Talis wink on her.

And yes, I did pattern the spider-people directly from X-O Manowar.

NEXT #11 - The Abandoned Monastery of Akana.

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