Those Damn Cults
All at home. Tûd is not looking guilty at all.
Greyrobes in the hunting lodge (because they smell, and no one else wants to be near them). Very poor social skills, the smell, the danger.
Goddess of magic/geeks, Tyralandi priestess of her. Not staying at the hunting lodge with the smelly imp and the experimenting Nym etc stays with Forgileill instead.
Tûd’s sister in law is organising organising. Ilin over there, horses over there.
Valarnaro - Grey Elf Ranger - A cross between Ray Mears and Kate Blanchet. Sleeps out in the open.
Thranduil heads up the hill to his griffins. He's recruiting folks, in a blue surcoat, training folks, and going ommmm.... Feeling very righteous. Doing Something Useful.
Lacomfe reafaalil (the one who delivered Thranduil’s child Helleth) pops back to find out how the child is getting on. Erm, it was around here somewhere. Thbrbwbbwb to his dad. Has been to Shambelaha… Shanhallenena… Shambhala, home of ‘the Inscrutable Ones’ (who have become very popliar). Didn't find much ('cos they're inscrutable) but place in the grip of ‘se-han’ drug from Shambhala. Even Carnc tried a sample and turned him a bit dribbly and something else, and his own ilin ended up doing him in. So he's quite happy to see Thranduil practicing outrageous martial arts and austerity and no drugs at all in any way no officer.
(It is now spring - there's probably some snow and ice up in the peaks for the ice elf to rest in. Some berries and snow and a good birch thrashing in the morning will make him well. Up in the pass the snow is clear and the jalee march up to show it's still Hisran, and they march back to get to supper).
[Extra XPs for Sarah for ginger creams.]
Messenger from FG to remind him that he's welcome at the lyrond. He looks at the ice elf "It's a bit warm and fetid down there. In fact it's fetid most of the time around the hunting lodge".
Back down to the lyrond and regurgitate story about Shambhala. The place is full of drugs, and wahey. Nym says "does that mean..." and then one of his legs kicks the other. He frowns down at his britches.
Why does it always come back to us? Can't they just sort themselves out... a message arrives from FG’s real dad's half brother saying "Get on with it."
We discuss Gwathló and the possibility of "Fluffy Gwathló" in some alternative universe.
Tûd and Tyralandi do a deal with the studs that belong to the warrior maiden and some repairs (to be discussed later). FG is keen for Tûd to stay back, not punished enough; he shrugs, disappointed
They line up an expedition, separating the stay at home slackers from the expeditionary force.
There's then a pause while FG sorts out equipment. We all fall out and set fire to leaves (this is before cigarettes).
We line up again. There's more of a pause. We look at maps. The cart is full of edible stuff. It rains.
We've left. Or at least the vanguard leaves. Travel to and along Dwarf-road along the north to the west.
Anar gets to grip with his shock rings, and zaps various small animals and bungs them in the cart.
We go through North Quag, where we stop off at relatives of FG. High alert, it appears that travellers (e.g. merchants, priests, etc) are being body-melded (possessed). They are persuading those they contact to join in some sect/pilgrimage to the south – shamble-har or something. Practicing more steps to enlightenment than ever before.
Then we go through Riojar Lominlindi and have to stop off there to see relatives of Thranduil. There's a Roc abroad. Also increased ogre activity. "Challenged Inscrutable Ones; because they were sending out auras of peace and tranquillity they were driving the ogres out, so we told them to stop it" We don't believe any of it. "Raiding parties, too fast for jalee". Ogres have formed defences in the mountains, in the way between us and Shambhala.
"I don't know what we're trying to achieve" "We're trying to get to the drugs man".
We reach a small town in the foothills (of the headlands) and pause. Send a recce out. "If you keep heading up that trail you will find a hidden valley and temple, etc, etc" Or find some ogres and get deaded.
Half the party - mostly ilin - head up the road. Thranduil loses the track and Valarwen takes over. Place is covered in ogre tracks.
Back at the village, we order another pint. It's quite fetid; Nym is brewing up some stuff for some arrows +10 and some healing-lite potions. Ryzaim is eating beans. And there's the dwarf who's never been out of his armour.
Up in the pass, the scouts spot a typical ambush. We counter ambush. Val gets off her horse but fails to milk it, draws her longbow. Shalbai (not Erlini here, she's back with the fetid arm of the party) charges up the slope, looses an arrow and hits one. Val drops her bow. Chita and Oruro ride out to outflank them. One of the ogres makes a break for it, Thranduil goes after it. At the back, one of the ogres spots what is going on and stands up to look around. Chita and Oruro outflank; Oruro gets off his horse as he's suddenly rubbish at hitting things and knocks it in the chest at 30' - he's nervous as it's not far enough away. They're very big at 14' in heels. The last crouched ogre notices what’s going on and gets up and charges the two of them.
Thranduil closes with the running ogre, and (408!) with a rapier knocks it forward to the ground, it bounces to the floor and back up, then he skewers it to death in one impressive move. It will take some time running on before it realises it's dead. Shalbai right behind reins around and gives up. Val misses again.
Oruro gets back on his horse and gallops off, loosing an arrow that knocks the heavily armoured ogre's helm off. Chita misses.
Chainmail-shirt-one finally notices, gets up and sees Val out in front. He heads for her. Erlini sees this from some way away, Val gets on her horse to run (we'll make an ilin of you yet) and Shalbai shoots despite the long range and (271) knocks it out of direct action and into a heap (51 hits). Other ogres stagger over to where Oruro and Chita just were. We circle them. Oruro gets around the back of them (00+)
Shalbai heads past the chainmail-shirt-one she's shot and shoots the unarmoured-one further on. Thranduil follows behind and tries to finish off chainmail-shirt. Val comes up to it and sticks it with her sharp stick. It dies and falls over. Oruro turns his horse tightly and with style and panache drops an arrow out of his block into his hand, and shoots the plate armoured one through the chest dropping him in the ground. He carries on past getting caught between the remaining live ogre and the hillside, though not close enough to get clobbered. Shalbai comes thundering after him, loosing an arrow over her shoulder and drops it.
We wonder about killing them off but it's very scary, we look around and check positions etc. We notice another three, one towards us, and we head towards them. Chita hits the one heading towards us as the rest hurtle past it, getting it through the arm - it stops, stunned, drops his tree and holds his arm howling.
Back at the crew, Oruro is trying to get his horse going, which is still trying to remember where its legs were after the rather impressive manoeuvre getting around the previous turn (the equivalent of a stall). Thranduil wheel-spins off at speed after the running away ogres.
[More XPs for sweets. Not sure who though. Must be me.]
Val looks around for arrows and information. Oruro pretends he was never going anywhere and shoots the one still holding its arm, hitting it in the hip, cutting its belt and dropping its trousers. The ogre shifts from holding its arm to holding its hip - start of the Macarena. Chita stabs it in the rear end and it falls to its knees to die shortly.
The others catch up with the fleeing ogres. Thranduil encourages one on with a sharp stick with an excellent initial attack. But it sidesteps into the path of the galloping horse which bunches and barges into it (66 - shoulder strike sends foe spinning, some concussion, stunning ogre), taking no punishment itself. Thranduil holds desperately on.
Shalbai shoots the other and while it's not very well it's still going. Thranduil tries to turn his horse but on top of everything else has to pull up, sort himself out. Oruro and Val settle down to looting, er, examining the ogre corpses. Shalbai shoots hers again, and it goes down frantic to avoid death. Thranduil gets himself together and closes. It is gradually beaten to a pulp.
It all goes quiet...
Six dead ogres, and one crippled. We interrogate the ogre, but with difficulty as we don't speak Ogre. But wait, Thranduil speaks German (Perren), so it's time to interrogate in German! It is time to make you talk. Ve ask ze kveschons.
"I’m not telling you that we're not working for Pan-fried-chicken" (what? Pan far Thessilick. Oh) . What sorts of secrets don't you know? "I don't know that we'll get the whole of Perren when the incautious ones win the world bwahahah". How many of you are there? "One!" Where is your leader etc.
The GM gives up ("you will get XPs for role playing but we haven't time"). Inscrutable one came by in a human body and then flew away on a Roc, leaving the body to eat. Val finds the human remains. Seven bags containing 3 gold coins for the ogres.
We get ourselves sorted out and shaken down.
The fetid party are being fetid. A band of pilgrims come down the road towards the Dread Pagoda of the Inscrutable. Tyra detects magic and identifies the possessed one: Karl Sen Sen Shirat. We can't work out how to get the possession out, so we think about following them. We wear cloaks so we do, pretending to be pilgrims. One of the ilin ('old' ones) comes back to pick up the dwarf who couldn't be so disguised.
We process with the possessed to follow the pilgrims in to the Pagoda of Doom. Oruro hands over his main armour and horse to the others, taking only his sword under his travelling cloak and joining the pilgrims.
We pass into a valley and the pilgrims thread their way through boulders. Two earth elements leap out of the boulders and head for Oruro - he backs away and one elemental trips and falls back into the boulder and disappears - possibly scared by Oruro's ugliness. The other chases Oruro around the field a bit. Suddenly Oruro stops and rejoins the pilgrims. He points at Nymraith and says "he also is an impost---" [I can't remember why, there was a Really Clever Reason for this that would have earned vast XPs, no, really] and his mouth seals over (Erlini) and he rushes over to grapple Nym but fails to get him. A yak is seen in the boulders. Some chasing by Oruro of Nym. Nym hastes himself. The following riders, watching, etc, plan to attack the Yak hiding in the rocks. Anar sneaks in and gets a shot in with his shock bolt. Hits but only a bit.
Oruro gets himself back and hits Nym just because he can. He's still got no mouth. Nym dances away, faster.
Oruro heads off up the slope to the yak.
Erlini attempts to turns the yak pink and reduce its skin hardiness but fails.
The 'old' party comes charging over the hill to face two earth elements. Oruro waves his sword through one of the three Yaks that he's suddenly facing, it passes through. Ah. That'll be an illusion then. Anar shocks another and gets it, the smell of burning yak hair, lots of dancing mini lightning and stunned shocked for a bit. Nym shockbolts a yak but also gets the wrong one.
Tyra manages to undo the possession on the lead pilgrim. Which saves us from a lynching.
Thranduil attacks: leaps off the horse and with an amazing forward flip he launches himself at the elementals with style and swashbuckling panache. He knocks back an earth element, stunning it.
In the space left the others charge through at Mach 4 (which is a measure of dirtiness) and Val heads for the yaks.
The yak expires and the other yaks disappear. Erlini lets her mouth-removal spell on Oruro lapse. Anar turns an earth elemental into dust - but it resists quite easily. Tyra launches into one with a mace and manages a minor dent. Nym races over, still Charlie Chaplin hasted, and shocks it. It grounds, briefly stunned.
Shalbai attacks to try and knock it over, and manages to only inconvenience it.
Tyra beats one with a mace and chips away. Nym fails to use his wand; he takes the batteries out and rubs them a bit and puts them back in. Shalbai kicks it but it fails to fall over again.
After an hour of careful analysis Chris realises the dwarf missed. Oruro rushes up. Thranduil kicks it. Very impressively.
The elementals begin to recover, Thranduil kicks one again, and it disappears into dust. Shalbai tries to trip one and fails to even get a good grip. Nym shocks one lightly. Tyra whacks it with a mace and (awesome strike +50 hits) it looks a bit uncertain. Anar's shockbolt stings it. Erlini has been preparing a waterbolt for ages and finally lets it loose. Under the accumulated assault it dissolves into muddy dust.
[--- dog walks]
[.....and chocolate and tea...]
Chat to pilgrims. Unrepossessed bloke is keen on taking the pilgrims out. He chats to Thranduil - obviously in charge because of his clothing (Thranduil? Wearing clothes?) - he's picked up some stuff from being possessed. The yaks have been growing in the idyllic hideaways in remote places. Have become adept at manipulating politics. Kidnapping key players before they become key players.
Stone steps up out of standing stone valley. Hewn from the very living rock. 10' wide steps 1' high, quite shallow (fine for yaks hooves).
"Yak librarians go mad". That's the plot.
Every 1,111 steps is a lay-by. (?)
Oruro collects suitable bits.
We collect the yak's magic stick, his robe, and his pearl necklace (ahem). Necklace appears to be mundane but expensive. Nym examines the stick. Charged somewhat <10. Nym attunes to it: Staff of charming.
We rest to let the Greyrobes recover. The dwarf and Oruro head up first, the others can catch up. We do at around the second landings and catch our breath.
Tyra notices up that there are some small birds floating above. They circle down and down and get larger and laaaaarger. Rocs. We are between Rocs and a hard place. We wait. They circle. We wait. They circle. We give up and head up; waving sharp pointy bits. The Rocs eventually drift off.
We reach the top. Nicely made formal gardens. All very peaceful and contemplation like, warmer than expected. Pagoda in the gardens. Very nice pagoda, thick walls, big paper doors. Stream splits garden into two. On one side is small pagoda (bath house), and a supply house (supplies!), and the main pagoda. Pilgrims seem pretty normal.
We go into the main pagoda, servant bows and hits gong. We bow back. Bloke turns up. Heskain. He's a janni – a minor genie. Oruro only just notices him. He says "hello, what can we do for you" hello we're here to clean the pool. I would like a licence from my pet fish. Ahem. We cut the chatter and say we'd like to become enlightened. We get the sales pitch for the cult, viz. bowing to all superior Yaks (not by cutting off their heads, say, and keeping their staff). We all nod at each other thinking how wise these things are. As we are led into the hall of the enlightened ones. Statues of bovine headed Shows us around, bathrooms, meditation rooms, servants rooms. Shown to some rooms for us. Four stories up. Library. Locked doors. Most others are just latticed. Lots of pilgrims; leopards (no, lepers), priests, scholars, disaffected soldiers.
Anar tries to persuade them to let him into the contributors library, bit of flattery and he gets taken off t'library, Shalbai in tow. Nym heads off to the bath house. The library annex has bunks and scrolls being transcribed; to the south is a brain in a jar and a yak-headed statue.
We get shown to a meditation chamber before lunch. The yak statues display the ignorance of humanoids vs. the yaks. Chamber in the back - he's not keen on us seeing it. Oruro hangs back on the way out and looks in; there are some statues in there with a human on all fours with a ribbon on his neck, and another human disfigured to look like a yak. Spiritual Possession and slavery. Definitely.
Library takes up half the building, but doors are locked.
We eat sparingly, and night falls (bang). It appears not to be poisoned.
At night, we hear jann and a yak warrior-type wander around. We sneak quietly up to the library door.
Nym long-ears to the janni and yak warrior, talking to the janni: Hiscai lives with a female janni called Hibbahibba. Generally spend their time together when they're not out enforcing their will on the slaves.
We sneak up to library door. Erlini opens door and it opens. We sneak Anar, Erlini, Tyra and Nymraith in.
In the library, the books are ceramic plates, heat etched, lots of writing. Big centrepiece chamber, lots of shelves, windows to the outside...
Anar interprets a couple of slabs. Another family tree slab, marking magic users and scholars etc. Marking for kidnaps.
Something appears to be in the library. We all look at it wondering if it's each other or Anar: "Who are you?" "I'm not afraid of nuffink". This isn't nuffink. It's a middle-aged woman with inky fingers rearranging ceramic tiles. Anar wonders if her brain has been removed and kept in a jar somewhere. She appears to be breathing quietly, so she's not completely dead.
Tyra has a good think. She casts death's tale and we hear that ye olde lady was held by the arms, taken before the statue with the brain, her soul and brain contents ripped out into the catalogue. Then maybe they make the tiles. What happened to the others? There's not much agriculture.... mmmm soylent green... Nym thought the food tasted vaguely familiar....
All the Greyrobes are thinking that the pagoda would make a good Blackrobe tower...
There are other exits; by each is a big space-hopper of death. Beholders?
We leave, aiming for another day of questions. Nym successfully deploys the Dust of Ages, now it looks as though no one has been there for thousands of.... oh.
We sneak off back to bed. Next day there are meditations etc. Erlini visits the bath house.
Amongst the yaks there appear to be the Master, the Defender, the Archivist, the Scourge of the four mountains. There is a tea room for the superior yak folk. In the upstairs of the pagoda is a bathroom.
Erlini shape changes herself and Anar into Yak-folk to get into the tea room. We sit around outside whistling innocently and looking meditative. Inside all is lovely. The Master's Garden, with brightly coloured fish in a pool. Master Zingru, and an old yak, is in here meditating. He looks a bit haggard. We can't speak yak though. What do they speak? Yakkity-yak.
The silvery room. Grey and featureless, vague edges. Anar looks about and recognises a room that duplicates an astral projection effect. Walk in with a bar of silver and it is destroyed and you transfer to the astral plane.
Nice place. Seating, and cafe and cushions. Two silver bars. There are some mephits keeping the water warm.
They take two silver bars and step in.
They appear in the astral plane: Big mile long body of goddess, curled up, long chain to elsewhere, Anar thinks "there's no place like home" and appears in the hunting lodge. Charges in - a rent in the astral plane appears back at the lyrond, Forgileill is in the bathroom and Anar writes a message in the mirror. We need reinforcements and someone who knows about planes. Not Tûd as... well, just because. Not Kam as he's not keen. Not Ryz because he's got no firepower. See? "Well it will take me weeks" Well I got here in no time. "How long have you got". About -
Forgileill goes to ask the wood elves - she meets some balties (small onion elves), who say yes there's a spot there, in exchange for a chicken. FG exchanges a chicken token for chickens. She tries it - and finds herself in an island in the sea. Introduces herself to the local elves. Oooh look Denis, come and see this. Give her some herring. We can take you to your relatives. On the boat. Round the island. Ryz is a bit ill. Introduced to family, Kcasamenzay is there. Hello cousin. Hmm, what are you doing here? Bit of a story, yeah but no but. Two days now. Shipped off to Mongolia next stop. Orodreth (uncle) bit of banter. He's been already thinking about sending his ilin and dealing with the ogres, yaks are mostly insular. She tells him there are four. Hmmm.
Back at the pagoda, most of the folks leave in a panic to the bottom of the steps. Nym stays as our contact amongst the pilgrims. Oruro heads off into the surrounding hills.
Orodreth teleports FG to Thranduil, at the bottom of the steps.
Nym: there are a few contributors in the library, using magical styli, inscribing stuff given magically by the brain. Another master stylus somewhere - that does cut and paste from brain to page. They are tired and worn out, and one is ready to turn, but have to scurry to prevent being punished by the beholders. Chief Librarian, Zodkil, a beholder, holds the master stylus. Five beholders. Normally in the head librarians office.
Pilgrims in the gardens, few left who came with others. Every now and then someone disappears. Nym eats lightly and sparingly. Scourge turns out to be a fire elemental. Top geezers live in the top floor amongst the tea rooms. Dozen jann. And eightish yak warriors. Three mephits gossiping; were five yak bosses, but one went a bit mad and took too much, and is now locked in the basement or the attic. ‘Ir-ak-shassar’ [a rakshasa!] also stays in the guest chambers with two hellcats.
Nym examines the building; if the mad yak in the attic is there it's in the same floor as the tea rooms. Probably in the basement. Jann and yaks spread over pagoda. No apparent doors down.
Nym spends his days spying; long-earing up into the tea room. He hears someone struggle, then walk out - human. Possessed, gets onto Roc and flies away. There are also two wild Rocs.
Gets to locate mad yak, who is now a big green tree, left to one side.
FG and her crew arrive and take over the supplies hut. In prep for an assault.
Some discussion about FG wearing a black cloak or other black gear. A black catsuit. But not a cat as it's mythical. More a black weasel suit. Hmmm.
FG gives up and marches up and in "I'd like to join your group" Fuck off, er soldiers? After several milliseconds of perusal, FG decides to fireball them. No, wall of fire. Not quite wide enough - Tyra and Val flank the firewall. The rest are behind in a trench looking over the top ready to duck.
Nym at the top of the steps feels the heat up the steps and recognises FG characteristic signature. He drinks one of his own potions and feels a small jolt (+5OB/DB), and prepares a scroll of black tentacles for the steps on the way down. Oruro comes trotting down the hillside, keeping an eye open for flank attacks.
Val and Chita etc shoot and hit things, stunning a couple, putting three down.
The two Yaks just walk through the firewall. Both are slowed slightly, one only really very slightly.
Tyra whacks one with a mace but swishes through the hair.
Anar shockbolts it, a little.
Thranduil hits one, stunning it.
Hagar draws his axe and cuts one and stuns it doing so. What?
Forgileill tries a combo attack with double dagger flashy attack and hits one for 1 point. Fireballs are obviously the way forward. And any other direction
Tyra whacks again - but loses her grip, recovers, settles pose again.
Anar shockbolts again, foe stunned again. Topples back into the wall of fire and the terrible smell of burning yak fills the air. And a good bridge across the wall. Behind it a janni is reloading the crossbow. Chita shoots the other yak and he goes down into the fire too.
Hagar strides through the fire and kills the janni to death with one strike. "Well I've knocked skinny out of the way - where's the one ye wanted me to fight?"
Up the stairs Nym hears something floaty come past and casts Black Tentacles on the stairs. It grabs and holds a beholder - Nym pegs it for the window, they're nasty they are. Hopefully this has now isolated the Big Nasty Folks from the henchmen.
Four and two yaks charge down the steps to the front and Forgileill, at last, reverts to her favourite fireball - everyone ducks preparing for a mushroom cloud, but while she clobbers them all it's not up to her usual standard. Most of the party still keep their eyebrows.
Various shot, shock and arrows, generally kept on the back foot, Erlini breaking one's leg, generally making quite a mess of them, the imp killing one. Val's bowstring breaks - 6 rounds to re-string.
Nym looks out the window to see Oruro looking about for flank attacks. "Er, you've got the potion of flying haven't you?" well you've got the carpet slippers haven’t you? "Yes but I need the potion to make them work"
Downstairs they batter away at the remaining jann and yak-folk and they drop. The dwarf again reaches a target and removes the top half of his head.
Pause. We head up the stairs to see the beholder trapped in the tentacles - Oruro has relayed the message. They snipe at it. Fools. The beholder blasts Shalbai (30 + 2/rnd) and Anar resists - they all back out fast. Shortly they hear the sound of an egg breaking as the tentacles finally rip the beholder apart.
Oruro shouts "don't go near the beholder!" Yerm.
We gather and recover; Oruro as outfielder scout and Nym as lookout upstairs. Shalbai was healed a bit but not well. We set up camp, it's alright they're all trapped upstairs by Evard's tentacles. But no, there's one on a Roc heading out. And it might well come back....