Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Ballad of the Pigeon God #51: The Mark of Amber

Our heroes have been declared dead by a nefarious King, and marked for death if they prove him wrong.  While they ponder a course of action, they have decided it wise to take a job in far-off Nouvelle Avennio.  Their patron only wants them to resurrect her son....  But first let's pretend to be servants for a big family wedding!!!!!

Our undercover heroes:
Talis Makolin: Knight of the Pigeon, Bard, Lover Extraordinaire.  Half-Brother to Echelon. Just bedded a Viscountess the night before!
Echelon:  Cleric of the Eastern God of the Sea, Pigeon Aficionado, ex-Baron.
Mellandria:  Magic-User, ex-Baronial Scribe, tinkering in the arts of alchemical resurrection.
Velandro:  Pious priest of Akana. 
Dimitri Kobblecroft: Gnome Cleric and Conspiracy Theorist from Masgoth who also knew the King of Crosedes was the infamous Dread Lord.

15 Undec 1072 - Estate of Genevieve de Sephora, Principality of Nouvelle Avennio
The following morning everyone was awoken to screaming.  The cleaning staff had found a dead girl, entombed in amber! There was no sign of who did it, but fortunately one of the family members, Bricot was the Ovate of Yotia for Nouvelle Avennio, a high level cleric! (peculiar in a land than had a cleric registry).  He was able to break the girl out of her amber prison and raised the girl from the dead, although she was too weak to be interviewed by anyone.

This gave our heroes pause, as she was their supposed "contact" the night before.  With as much magical power that was flowing through the veins of this family, it was only a matter of time before they solved the case, or used just enough magic to implicate our heroes. 

16 Undec 1072 - Estate of Genevieve de Sephora, Principality of Nouvelle Avennio
The wedding day had arrived, and it was a beautiful affair, which the none of our heroes could see since they were busy as servants.

The banquet for these large families was an elaborate affair, with decorations both mundane and magical covering every square inch of the Great Hall.  In the midst of the banquet, Bricot the Ovate burst into flame and died before anyone could do anything! 
Bricot the Ovate, before immolation.
With the body still smoldering our heroes found themselves in a balcony, overlooking a far less decorated Great Hall.  To their side, they saw Antian, this time in his early 20's.  He was informing his true love that he could not be with her.  He left the balcony and everyone tried to convince him to go back to her.  Before they could even start, they heard the girl scream.  They ran to her and found the copper haired general from the previous dream holding a knife to her throat.  Talis' quick thinking, and a spell of Lubrication disarmed the general and the rest quickly descended upon him.   He did managed to escape, but Antian and the girl hugged.

Soon after they found themselves in the Great Hall again, but it was empty and at nighttime.

18 Undec 1072 - Estate of Genevive de Sephora, Principality of Nouvelle Avennio
With the wedding obligations over, it was decided to do as much research as possible within the palaces libraries and archives.  Over the next two days they uncovered:
  • That Antian's brother, Henri, had wanted the throne, but when he went up against Antian in a wizard's duel, he lost. 
  • When Antian cast his Doomsday Spell, he was transported to another plane of existence.
  • Instead of setting out a magical search party for his brother, Henri demanded he become Prince of Nouvelle Avennio, and a coronation was complete within a fortnight.
  • Despite his position as leader of the family and the Principality, Henri did not attend any wedding festivities.
  • The noble family of Nouvelle Avennio never died, due to the maximum use of potions of longevity. That would explain why the family was so big!
  • They also found the ruling inhabitants of Nouvelle Avennio were from an actual different world.  This seemed to have no effect on Antian's disappearance or anything else that they could ascertain. 
"It should be noted that these guys sound like Norm.  Maybe this is where Norm learned Trade Prythax with the weird accent." - Talis

That night they entered the dreamland again and saw Antian's dead body entombed.  The carvings foretold of Antian unleashing a curse upon his family because some supported Henri's quest for the throne 

Mellandria knew that this would be bad for the whole land, so she spoke to the Antian's body, offering to take the curse instead of ruining the guilty and innocent members of the family

After much discussion Mellandria, Velandro, Dimitri, And Echelon accepted and took the curse. Talis paused a long time, pondering the results of such an action while people started transforming.  Mellandria and Velandro turned into ogres, Dimitri became a zombie, and Echeleon transformed into a were-tiger.

Seeing the end result of the unselfish move, Talis made his mind up.

"I wasn't going to become a monster... I refused."

The tomb morphed into another tomb and the copper haired general had flipped off the lid to the sarcophagus and was sawing into Antian's brain.

They charged at the general, but a purple humanoid with tentacles coming out of its mouth stepped into their way!  The creature shot its tentacles into Dimitri and Echelon.   Talis tried to kill the monster (a mindflayer), while Mellandria and Velandro tried to dispatch the general.  Despite delivering many crippling wounds to the mindflayer, Talis was unable to force the creature to release its grasp on his friends.

By the time Velandro and Mellandria killed the general and could aid Talis, the mindflayer had already sucked the brains out of Dimitri and Echelon!!! 

Upon the killing blow of the mindflayer, they found themelves in the throne room of Prince Henri, the ruler of Nouvelle Avennio.  As they appeared to phase into the room, they could hear the Prince chastising Lady Genevieve for hiring them.  When they materialized in front of him, Henri became irate and screamed "Kill them!"

All the guards in his palace and twelve stone golems began heading towards our heroes.

From the Journal of Talis Makolin....
"I quickly analyzed the strength of the enemy and employed Echelon's Battle Tactics (in his honor).   I fought my way to the door and yelled for the others to follow.

Unfortunately, Velandro and Melly becoming ogres must have affected them, because they did not listen.

I got to the door and bolted.  If Melly and Velandro wanted to stay, that was their problem.

Besides, with me on the outside I could sneak back and spring them from jail under the cover of night. When I got to the stable and mounted Eccentricity, I saw a huge explosion from the throne room. Nothing could have lived through that, so I rode off...."

DM Notes:  There you have it, the catastrophic end of "The Mark of Amber" for 2nd Edition AD&D.  A pretty sub-par module, in my opinion, but not one that I anticipated getting TWO PC deaths!  

Just for the record, we have a prophetic storyline that might have three PCs wielding ancient weapons of power to stop the apocalypse (or cause it, things are still fuzzy).   One character (Norm) is off waging war on the front lines. One character (Ashe) is missing, and one character (Echelon) is now dead. 

It was a lousy prophecy anyway. 

RIP: Baron Echelon and Dimitri, for real!

And now, in our "Conversations with Mohammad" series, Baron Timmy at Yule.

The 1st Day of  Yule 1071 Chateau d'Echelon, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes *Flashback*
The first Day of Yule always had a special place in the heart of young Timoth d'Echelon, Baron of Eding.  Having been orphaned as an infant, he never had any particular family memory, but the first day of the Yule was always when people were the most generous.

Two years prior, he had become part of a family.  Carthon d'Echelon had fallen in love with Jenny Bircan, Sergeant of the village militia and had gotten married.  They had purchased an old estate outside of Eding with the proceeds of Carthon's assumed deceased employer, Echelon the Cleric. 

Timmy found Echelon to be not the nicest of men, but he had a softer side that showed when he did a good job tending to all of the cleric's animals. 

Two years ago, Carthon and Jenny announced to the world that Timmy was now their son, following the final wishes of Echelon.  Timmy had found a home. 

Last year, that home was almost destroyed by a ruthless moneylender (and plague, drought, and tornadoes.) Still, the 1st Day of Yule came and everyone he loved came home, the Chateau was saved, and Echelon (who never really was dead) was named Baron!

Oh how a year can change things. 

Timmy knew that Echelon was really dead this time, as well as his father Carthon, and Dew Xyclone, who may have been a noble housekeeper, but was the closest thing to a Grandmother he had ever had.    He didn't understand why the new King named him Baron, but he certainly was going to be the best Baron he could, once he learned what that all entailed. 

But now he was stuck in the drafty old Baronial Manor.  Jenny was still there for him, but she spent more time teaching him everything he needed to know.  And looking over her shoulder a lot, like someone was hiding. 

Lady Iris was nice as well.  She did a good job doing Timmy's job until he was old enough. 

Still it was the 1st Day of Yule, and all the adventurers he had grown attached to: Echelon, Talis, Mellandria, Velandro, Ashe, Rolf, and Norm were all gone.  Even the Dag Family of Kobolds had left the Chateau over a month ago.  Everybody seemed to be leaving Eding.

The Chateau was still a busy place when he visited for the great feast.  The new housekeeper, Zoe, put out a delicious first effort, even with her little boy Luke constantly at her feet as she cooked.  Babette had her twin babies, who were just over a year.  "Baron" Felix was a nice man before Carthon died, and nothing changed, except a little more respect to the true Baron of Eding.  The greasy part-ogre didn't like kids, so that meant a lot of time would be spent in the barn with Pathfinder.  Echelon used to be able to talk to him, but for now he just wanted leftovers and belly rubs.  He seemed sad too...

After the great Yule feast, the grown-ups went by the fireplace to talk, and Timmy wandered about the second floor of the Chateau, trying to find trouble like he used to, only a few months.  Many of the rooms were empty now.  Timmy found the window seat at the end of the hall and stared out into the frosty darkness, arms wrapped around his bent legs, with an intermittent sniffle the only sound. 

"Who's there?"

Timmy was confused.  Again a muffled voiced asked,

"Who's there?"

Timmy hopped down off the seat and ventured towards the broom closet. Inside was Mister Mohammad, Echelon's teacher.  Everyone had told Timmy that he was odd, but he had saved the village countless time, and was allowed to do such silly things.

Mohammad stared at the boy...
"You aren't Nicklaus.  Did you bring presents?" 

"No Mister Mohammad.  Were you expecting a friend.?"

"Nevermind me, my child, why are you crying?"

"Me? I don't cry!"

"Sure you do, everyone's gone, the King is a fool, and sometimes, like when you think you're alone in a hallway, you wish you were still an orphan again."

Timmy's shoulders slouched and eyes welled up with an impending tears.

"Now, now, Master Timmy.  I did not mean to make the Baron, of all people, upset.  Heroes come and they go, child, they come and they go, but people need a Baron more than some flashy person with a sword or a spell.  You have now seen more "Barons" of Eding than most peasants see in their lifetime.  Lord Athelstane was a good man, but secretly a selfish one.  Prince William couldn't trust people, and I'm sure a lifetime of communing with the gods will not tell me  how Echelon got to be Baron.  I would have expected Talis to earn that title, but perhaps the King didn't want all those bastard children.... anyway..."

"I do want to be a good Baron, Mister Mo, but I don't know who I can trust, or who is left to trust."

"Child, trust your Mother to learn love, trust Iris to teach you how to keep your Barony safe, and trust me when I tell you that the fires of the apocalypse will soon be upon us.  Fear the onslaught of terror, shiver and shake at the deceit and treachery that abounds around you.  But stand your ground.  The people need their Baron, no matter what his size, and if you do that, you and your people will be safe."


"Now go downstairs and find Kane, he was supposed to bring up some food after the meal.  I need food before Niklaus visits." 

Next #52 A Dear Norm Letter...

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