The 16th of Vor, 1329 Avard: Three years ago, a demon was set loose by the mage recruiter of Kashin, Gil Lyle. The demon destroyed the inside of the recruiter's house, and savaged his apprentice, before disappearing -- with Gil Lyle's body. The city was in a panic for several days, wondering if the demon would return.
The savaged apprentice went on to become a wizard with Lok Magius. The house was turned over to the Mages' Academy, and after a year's refurbishment, once again became the recruiting station for Lok Magius' northern circuits. An older woman by the name of Taria MacKolm became the new recruiter, and after a time, took in an apprentice of her own.
On the whole, the memory faded for the citizens of Kashin. Two days ago, an engineer from Saint Kiera's went to the recruiting station (known as the Lyle House) to investigate a backed-up privy. The engineer discovered that there was a false wall in the basement, and called upon the aid of the city's guard to investigate. The Lord Reeve himself was called in, and found a concealed door with a concealed lock. When the Lord Reeve looked through the false wall in the basement, he saw something from a nightmare -- the remains of a corpse, a nasty-looking summoning circle, and evidence of a terrible fight.
Rumors spread like wildfire through the city guard, until the Lord Reeve and the Lord Count both issued a gag order on the subject. A panic was the last thing they wanted, and the Lord Count called upon the High Priestess of the Libranum to investigate the Lyle House, immediately. The High Priestess, Aeidee Mulan, arrived with Father Korkil from Saint Kiera's; together, the priestess of Lul and the priest of Mikindim emplaced a forbiddance upon the secret summoning room of the Lyle House. The forbiddance required the burning of a heavy incense, and the sprinkling of holy water throughout the room, along with their prayers.
Once the forbiddance was in place to forbid anything or anyone from using the room for summoning or even teleportation of demons, the priests withdrew, giving the password to the forbiddance to the Lord Reeve. The Lord Reeve requested that High Priestess Aeidee Mulan contact Lok Magius, and request a specialist to go through the summoning room of the Lyle House, and search for clues as to what happened. The Lord Reeve also dispatched the assistant coroner to the Lyle House, to investigate the body that was found half in the summoning circle.
The Lord Count, concerned that a demon could still be summoned, requested special combat support for the Lyle House -- just in case. The emergency response team for the largest company in Rakore, Gideon Enterprises, was able to send a recently acquired minotaur to assist the Lord Count. The ten foot tall, eleven-hundred pound minotaur was well equipped with a shield, battle axe, and chain mail scaled up to his size, and satisfied the Lord Count of Kashin.
Meanwhile, Taria MacKolm was rather shaken by what the Lord Reeve and the High Priestess of Lul had found. A devout follower of Lul herself, Taria felt that she had to go and live with her family in nearby Boulderdash until the basement of the Lyle House was cleaned up and safe. Taria left her apprentice, an elven sorcerer by the name of Gabriel, in charge of the Lyle House and its clean up.
Unbeknownst to anyone, one of Gil Lyle's less noble spell components was alive, awake, and frightened out of her wits down in the basement. The spell component had originally been a chrysalis, imported at great expense from Nabrolia. The chrysalis had not been exactly what Gil Lyle wanted, and so it had gone into a glass jar to await further examination -- especially at the price he had paid. When the basement was ransacked by the demon, the glass jar was shattered, and the chrysalis was sent flying across the room. Days later, in the darkness of the hidden summoning room, the chrysalis hatched a rare pixie variant, known as a trixie.
The tiny trixie existed in the darkness of the basement for three long years, surviving off of slight moisture condensation, nibbling at various unseen things in the darkness, licking stagnant potions, and even fending off some small myconid warriors that had escaped from their jars. One of her wings was broken, and healed improperly. The sounds of foot steps from above, or subdued and altered voices, occasionally came down through the ceiling. Otherwise, the trixie existed in darkness, isolation, and loneliness, growing to her full height of eight inches.
The first time she saw light, was when the Lord Reeve opened the door. The glance blinded her, and frightened her considerably. The second time she saw light, was when the priests came in, sprinkling some strange, sizzling fluid, and burning a heavy, smoky scent through the room, chanting in their strange voices. The experience, coupled with the sheer size of the giants, made her near catatonic.
Up above the basement, the assistant coroner was detailed by the Lord Reeve to go the Gideon Enterprises offices, and escort a 'special operative' to the Lyle House. The assistant coroner, Cassandra (known as 'Spooks' to the members of the Guard) was detailed four members of the Guard to assist her in escorting the 'special operative' to the Lyle House. The operative turned out to be the minotaur, who went by the shortened name of Tor.
When asked about his name, Tor responded, "It's the first thing I did to a human; I tore one in half. How else was I supposed to know if it was edible?" After a moment, he supplied, "They're a little tough. I don't much like em. To eat." He did not actually tear a human apart, and eat one, but it made for a good introduction (or so the minotaur figured).
Cassandra and Tor then proceeded to the Lyle House with their four Guard escorts, causing something of a stir in the city. Tor wore the tabard of Firestorm, Gideon Enterprises emergency response team, and so the crowd responded somewhat favorably to the minotaur, although they got out of his way rather quickly. Firestorm itself had a reputation for being something of a hazard to any community it arrived in, because of 'guilt by association'. New rumors began to circulate about the city, and many shop owners began quietly closing up.
A strange duo caught scent of the minotaur and his entourage, and curiosity got the better of them. The two -- and several others -- had arrived in Kashin almost a year before, from the Alekdan Principalities. They were escaped slaves, former pit fighters, and more. One of them was a half-elemental warrior who called himself Bjarne. He had been kidnapped at an early age, and forced to fight in the pits. Due to his good standing in the betting arena, he was forcibly bonded with an earth elemental, killing the elemental, but gaining its powers. The other member of the group was a feral gnoll that was beaten to make it meaner. The gnoll, however, had taken a liking to Bjarne, who had named him Hrothgar. The two were soul brothers, despite their different races and backgrounds, and were hardly ever separated. Out of curiosity, Hrothgar the gnoll began to follow the minotaur, wondering if the giant creature was something like himself.
Bjarne, for his part, could only hope that the minotaur might lead them to riches of one sort or another. He had apprenticed himself to the local armorer, Vaden Stonegrudge, for most of the past year. After a time, Bjarne's natural artistic ability, coupled with his fair experience at making his own armor, coupled with the powers of the earth elemental, allowed Vaden to take a chance with the young barbarian. Vaden allowed Bjarne to work with some carefully procured ebonite, and was quite proud of the results. Vaden, being a fair and respectable dwarf, asked only that Bjarne pay for the cost of ebonite, as it was fairly hard to get. Bjarne could just afford to pay for the raw ebonite of his armor (and it was a beautiful suit of chainmail), but he could not, yet, afford to pay for the raw ebonite of his battle axe. Even though the axe was complete, Vaden could not let the axe go until the monies balanced.
And so Bjarne and Hrothgar followed the easily seen minotaur through the mid-morning streets of the city, hoping for a change of pace.
Along their way, Hrothgar also picked up the member of another of their group, from the Alekdan Principalities. A young ticata named Kerri was in the city from Boulderdash, to procure rare herbs for her druidic master. Kerri had not seen Hrothgar or Bjarne in several months, and found them by scent.
Bjarne began to suspect an auspicious change beginning.
Lok Magius, meanwhile, had received the request for a specialist to investigate the Lyle House. Mistress Brin, the head of the Mages' Academy, had a special interest in seeing the situation through. She had known Gil Lyle, and that the mage recruiter had dabbled in demon summoning was a problem for all the mages. Ironically, the best expert she had in demons was Gil Lyle's former apprentice, whom had been savaged by the demon, and spent nearly three months in bed recovering from its attacks. The attacks had left the apprentice horribly disfigured and scarred, and one eye was a bilious green color, infected with the demon's poisons, and transformed by the long healing processes.
The former apprentice was summoned to Mistress Brin's office, and the situation was explained to him. Mistress Brin explained to Norion that, as Gil Lyle had no heirs, Norion stood to inherit whatever was found within the basement. This added incentive was more than sufficient to arouse the young mage's curiosity and quest for power, and so he went through Mistress Brin's special doorway, teleporting to the Lyle House.
All eight of them met at the Lyle House, as Norion teleported in, and Cassandra arrived with Tor -- and Hrotgar, Bjarne, and Kerri following, sensing something about to change. Gabriel and the trixie were already there, though the trixie was in the basement, half out of her mind.
There was some concern over the presence of the three from the Alekdan Principalities, but Cassandra decided that Tor could handle the situation. Gabriel's familiar, a wolf pup by the name of Ash, decided to frolic and play with Hrothgar -- deciding the apprentice on the matter.
Gabriel led Cassandra and Norion to the kitchen, and to the trap door that had a ladder down to the cellar. The hidden door to the basement was easily found, once one knew where to look, but the cobble-stone that hid the lock was considerably more difficult. Norion, however, had a spell prepared that managed to open the door with but a knock.
Armed with the password from the High Priestess, Cassandra, Norion, and Gabriel went inside the badly damaged room to begin their investigation.
The trixie, meanwhile, scared out of her catatonic state by the intrusion of yet more giants into her darkness, especially as the giants brought considerable light with them, in the form of ever burning torches, and Gabriel's spell of light that infused the room.
The trio half thought a tiny demon was trapped in the room, when the trixie used some bardic abilities to project sounds away from her, and then camouflaged herself in the debris about the room. Norion, once he was assured that the trixie was no demon, let her go.
Unfortunately, at that point, the trixie began to realize she had been surviving off of the 'giant's' body for three years, as Cassandra remarked that one ear, and a great deal of skin and tissue showed tiny bite marks.
The trixie wretched, and Gabriel took pity upon her.
Norion verified that the body was, indeed, that of Gil Lyle. Cassandra noted the cause of death as shock; although the demon's claws had disemboweled Gil Lyle, the claws were apparently hellishly hot, and had cauterized all of the arteries and veins that had been severed. This, apparently, was what allowed Gil Lyle to survive long enough to banish the demon from his house. Cassandra also found several rubies -- one of which was slightly magical in nature. About Gil's wrist was a bracelet with two tiny keys.
Norion found several odds and ends as his inheritance, including Gil Lyle's spell book, but little else remained. Some things were broken by the demon, while others were damaged by the priests' casting of the forbiddance spell. The spell book, incidentally, required two tiny keys to open its iron-bound cover.
Norion and Cassandra proceeded immediately to the Chapel of the Guard, to make further inquiries into the items, and analyze them and the book, followed closely by Tor.
Gabriel, feeling comfortable leaving the Lyle House in Norion's care (since he was a former apprentice, and fellow mage), left to report their findings to Taria MacKolm. The trixie took comfort in being under Bjarne's ever-present hood, and stayed with him. Kerri left to finish her errands for her master in Boulderdash. And Bjarne and Hrothgar were kicked out of the Lyle House, and left to their own devices.
The two soul brothers shrugged, and then the gnoll went gallivanting down towards the docks. The gnoll had decided that he wanted fish for lunch, and also to play in the water. Bjarne shrugged, being rather broke, and took the time to simply sharpen the battle axe he had on him -- wishing that he could afford to release his ebonite battle axe from Vaden.
The feral gnoll, Hrothgar, had a strange affinity for water. He could hold his breath for hours at a time, playing around under the water. Most often, they would find a more secluded part of the river to play in, but the gnoll was feeling particularly frolicky, since it had seen Kerri, and met Tor. Towards sunset, the frolic paid off.
A sloop had sunk in that part of the river, several years back, and because Hrothgar rarely swam there, he had never really explored the wreck. Buried in the hold, beneath several inches of muck, was a small chest -- amidst a great deal of other debris. Hrothgar swam back to the surface with the small chest, and Bjarne helped him open it. Much to their surprise, the chest was full of black-tarnished coins, and a fist-sized jewel of marbled greens.
Working quickly, the two brought the treasure to the city's best jeweler, Dagvulf Stonefist. The dwarf kept good hours, and charged only ten percent for the chest's contents -- over a thousand coins of silver, and the large jewel of peridotite. Dagvulf even knew the name of the sloop, as he had thought the peridotite lost after it had been purchased from him three years prior.
By then, Kerri had re-found the two. Her master, upon hearing of the trixie, had asked her to return to Kashin, and make inquiries. The trixie was, possibly, of the forest, but her druidic master was not sure -- and so asked her to find out more about it. There was the possibility, he said, that the trixie was not natural. The trixie, for her part, had begun to rouse after an afternoon's sleep -- sleep brought on by terror, the bright light of the sun, and her consumption of a thimble-full of the most delicious drink she had ever known: spring water. Unfortunately, the trixie went berserk in Dagvulf's jewelry, having never seen 'such pretties' as gold or silver, before.
Hrothgar, not caring much for money, allowed Bjarne to take care of the treasure from the river. The half-elemental Bjarne requested that most of the money go to the armorer, Vadent, so that the ebonite battle-axe could be freed. He also had to pay for the rings that the trixie insisted on flying off with. After that, he felt the need to celebrate -- and with good food, as well.
The four of them -- the trixie, Kerri, Bjarne, and Hrothgar -- went to the Mithril Shield, the most expensive and tasteful establishment in all of Kashin. They made quite a sight, as Kerri was a ticata -- an alien creature that was like a centaur, a fox, and a cat, all rolled into one. Many of the patrons excused themselves, especially after Bjarne took offense at some of their snobbery -- and Bjarne could be intimidating. The staff of the Mithril Shield, however, could have cared less at the loss of patrons; they were delighted with the platinum coin that Bjarne was spending.
Tor, meanwhile, had stayed just outside of the Chapel of the Guard, tossing pebbles, and striking up a few conversations with the junior guardsmen. Cassandra waited until the acerbic Norion could reassure her that the book was safe, and then went to file her report with the Lord Reeve (who, of course, was not in). Feeling comfortable to leave him at the chapel, 'Spooks' took Tor with her down to the Whiskey, a dock-side tavern where she knew she could relax and let down her hair. Norion, after found his way to the Whiskey not long after, having gone through Gil Lyle's spell book.
The final entry in the spell book was rather curious, but Norion chose not to mention it to anyone, just yet.
Tor got into a game of Siege against seven dwarves, using three tomanths per team. Siege normally consists of two dwarves and two tomanths; one dwarf throws 'his' tomanth in an attempt to knock over the other dwarf, and then they trade sides. The contest involves three throws by each side, and the loser buys the winner a round of drinks. Some games of Siege could get quite rowdy, and few humans played. The dwarves of the Whiskey felt that seven-to-one against Tor was fair odds. They lost, if good naturedly, even after they went to the second floor balcony to try tossing their tomanths down against Tor. When Tor tried the same trick on them, the three tomanths he'd been throwing proved how tough they were.
Bjarne, Kerri, and Hrothgar, along with the trixie, eventually had their fill of food at the Mithril Shield, and wandered through the city towards the Whiskey -- particularly after Kerri and Hrothgar had picked up their scent. Kerri, being a bit agoraphobic, went up onto the roof. Hrothgar and Bjarne, with the trixie, went inside to drink.
The trixie, amazed at the mass of humanity (and perhaps a bit intoxicated by the fumes of her eight inch height) flew up to the rafters and proceeded to sing. Her natural, bardic ability soon turned the crowd into a mob.
Using Tor as the point man, armed with his shield and a table, they pushed towards the exit -- and then began to hold it against the mass fight that was erupting inside. At Cassandra's direction, Bjarne went in through one window, and Hrothgar went in through another. The two soul brothers contained the fight from breaking out the windows, and Tor kept the fight from going out the door.
Bjarne was so intimidating, at six-foot-five, and covered from head to toe in black leathers and cloth, with a hood that shrouded all but his bright blue eyes... Despite the mob mentality, they all stayed back from him, giving him a wide berth. Several of the tomanths, which had climbed the walls to escape the mob, dropped down into that space, and faced the crowd, teeth and claws ready to keep the mob contained.
Hrothgar, for his part, just kept tossing the members of the mob back into the general melee. "Hey, the fight's that away!" He even managed to chuck a few of them up into the balconies above.
Tor just knocked a few upside the head with his massive fist. Anyone that came out the door, and was not a member of the Guard, went unconscious.
About the time the first of the city Guard began to arrive, the fight was breaking out the back of the Whiskey onto the docks. As more and more members of the Guard arrived, Cassandra was able to turn over the front of the building to them, and took 'her' team around to the back. There, with the help of the Lord Reeve and his grease and hold person spells, they managed to contain and then calm the fight. Norion proved particularly powerful, when his concussive spell knocked down close to a score of fighting sailors in one blast.
Once the Guard and the Lord Reeve had the situation in hand, Cassandra began to administer medical aid to as many as she could, beginning with the members of the Guard. The rest of the 'zoo' decided that it was time to get out of the public eye, and so retreated back to the Lyle House, where Norion offered to feed and house the lot of them.
Norion had the key to the Lyle House, and he had left it locked. The front door, however, was open. Tor, Hrothgar, and Kerri all smelled additional scents, human from the initial 'taste'. As Norion scoured the house, he figured that the thieves were very good at what they did, but were poor mages, as the laboratory had items that looked interesting taken, while other items of value only to a mage were left undisturbed. Even the money in Gil Lyle's vault was gone. The hidden door in the basement was unfound; however, the forbiddance spell would have killed the thieves, if they had not had the password.
Hrothgar tracked the scent of one of the humans around the house, where the thief had checked all of the windows, and looked into Taria's pottery equipment -- but left it intact. The thieves were, apparently, only after magical regalia and items.
With Kerri in the lead, followed closely by Hrothgar and Tor, the six of them set out to follow the scent of the thieves through the city. They lost the scent several times, but it was still relatively fresh. The thieves had either carelessly left, or carefully planted, several bags of caltrops along their route; these, Norion gathered up as they went.
The trail ended at a rather posh manor, whose rear abutted with one of the walled portions of the inner city. Hrothgar spotted someone on the roof, wearing red leathers to blend in with the red light that came from Maroth, the gas giant still rising in the east. One of Kerri's magical bolts convinced the thief not to run, and Hrothgar got a boost up onto the roof from Tor.
Once the thief was in hand -- and Hrothgar was certain if was one of the thieves -- they proceeded to move off into a back alley to interrogate him. Norion wanted to retrieve all of the magical items taken from the Lyle House, and the thief pointed back into the manor, indicating it was all inside, along with the other two thieves.
-so ends the 16th of Vor, 1329 Avard.
Fred loves his elven sorcerers, so he made another one (Gabriel), this time with a 'wolf' theme, and a wolf puppy for a familiar.
Brandy fiddled with the idea of having her cleric of Curiss have an artificial, golem arm, but tossed it out the window by the end of the session. On the other hand, I kind of liked the concept for Cassandra -- I may see if I can convince her to keep it.
Tristan's wizard Norion was acerbic and rude, but somehow charming in spite of his terrible charisma.
Paul's barbarian Bjarne served as protector and enforcer, and was willing to take a quieter, more subtle roll next to the rest of the menagerie.
Carl's gnoll, Hrothgar, was hilarious -- modeled after the hyena Ed in The Lion King, and after my wife's chihuahua, Heero.
Eve's trixie (named Trixie, so far) was, perhaps literally, crazy. She was in such good character, although her character's lack of a background sometimes makes things difficult, even in conversation.
Pam's ticata, Kerri, was very quiet, and very subtle -- but when the shooting started, she was right there with them. She preferred to hide in plain sight, begin so agoraphobic, but this could work to the party's advantage, later.
Mac's minotaur initially gave me considerable pause. I mean, a huge-class barbarian in a party? I figured that Tor would dominate the party, and the attention it got, but (surprisingly) the rolls of the NPC's came out more indifferent than I would have suspected. Tor also handled the situations quite well, and the tabard of Firestorm helps out considerably.
Rolling all of these characters together was nearly impossible. I found myself running two separate groups -- the rough-and-tumble, strange crowd (at an uptown restaurant), and the more civilized, more acceptable crowd (down in a rowdy little bar on the docks). Bringing all of them together could prove interesting.
The problem, now, is getting Brandy and Fred back into the game. Fred had some sort of emergency that cropped up, and such is why Gabriel had to report to Taria so soon. Brandy was so much into character that she didn't want to stay with the rest of the group, and so got left out of the chase through the city, to the thieves' manor. The onus of catching up lies on her, for that. With Fred, I'll have to find a way to get him back into the situation, for the next session.
(And before we play again, I'd better come up with a combat mat, since it looks like the party plans to go into the manor 'guns blazing'...)
Good job, all. And one more thing: I've decided to change my experience point rules. Normally, I award about one third of the experience necessary to proceed to the next level. This time around, I'm awarding half of the experience necessary to progress to each level. I expect the characters to level up, every other session. One problem I've noticed with people that level up too quickly, is that they don't get a chance to really work their abilities at lower levels, and therefore get a good, solid foundation in their powers. I'm hoping that with a group as large as this, they can cover for one another's mistakes, and at the same time, I may overestimate what they can handle, and throw too much against them.
Oh, well. Even if I kill four of them in one foul swoop, I've still got five characters left, right? (evil grin)