Exodus, Session Two
Heeding again the clarion call of the “Tomb of the Seeker,” the party once more traveled south from the port village of Bier. The only surviving member of the original party of two, Mardun, recruited the help of three additional adventurers in an effort to discover just what it was that had the limping madman raving as he collapsed just outside of town some two weeks ago. Joined by the human rogue Stiev (ostensibly charged with watching the madman for the thieves’ guild of Bier), the elven cleric Kython who hails from the Dearthwood, and the half-elven barbarian Zirul who has no home among the elves of the wood nor the men of the City-State, Mardun the fiendish alchemist led the group southward.
The group made good time, keeping to the Old South Road and straying from it only to make camp for the night. A chorus of unknown pilgrims passed the camp in the night, but Mardun had no interest in them and let them pass, as they came past the camp during his watch.
The next day, travel continued amid light rain, and the group discovered a strange manor on a scarp where the hills thinned eastward and the woods haunted by the Mystic Eye tribe of giants and orcs thinned to the west. Stiev’s initial reconnaissance indicated that this was unlikely to be the “Tomb of” anything, unless whatever it was died in comfort and was buried in its home. The manse was ostentatious, constructed in a style unfamiliar to the midden-age sensibilities of the communities outlying the City-State, with open galleries and pillars of quarried and sculpted marble. Caryatids held up the vaulted ceilings in the central hall, in which hundreds of wild birds made their home and stained the marble with their droppings.
The party explored the mansion (which was actually a slightly retooled take on Widdecombe’s laboratory) fairly thoroughly. The idea of open doors bothers Mardun somewhat, so the party first scouted the lay of the mansion before venturing past any portals. Thus they met the fish-golem Adapa (though they never learned his name nor his penchant for powerful magic), whose lapses in memory made them unsure about the place and its purpose.
In reverse sequence, they discovered the various laboratories and living quarters into which the mansion had been converted. In particular, Mardun felt a strong connection to the place, in its function if not the exact experiments. Kython, by contrast, recoiled at the amorality of the place, and chalked it up to the ephemeral lives of Men, who learn so very quickly during their fleeting lives that it sometimes erodes their ethic and their sanity.
When they eventually discovered the old scientist’s offices, after meeting the genocidal brass constructs, the fractured aristocrat, the idiot fowl-woman, the vats of caustic acid, the flesh incubator, and the nacreous gut of the mollusk that had overtaken the vestibule, the party declared the eugenicist’s journals a trove. Mardun pledged to study them, which Kython decided to be the lesser of possible evils, arguably better than selling them to a buyer whose own aims might be more dubious than Mardun’s personal quest for redemption.
Such lofty ambitions faced immediate peril, however, when a tribe of dog-men, warned by a scouting party of their fellows that had been dispatched by the adventurers, came calling. The explorers had barricaded themselves inside Widdecombe’s sanctum, and when a warlike humanoid came hammering on the door with more dog-men in his retinue. The monstrous fellow was a dumb brute but deadly, and the dog-men wielded strange javelins that allowed them to generate and direct lightning, no doubt artifacts of Widdecombe’s menagerie, which used a great deal of electricity to provide the divine spark that animated some of its denizens. The dog-men had stricken Zirul with Levin-bolts at their first encounter, and Kython’s divine magic had brought him back from death’s hearth. As Stiev tumbled past the hulking horror during the midnight ambush, however, he greeted the second gang of dog-men, who electrocuted him beyond any hope of return.
Rogues are 0-for-2 so far in the Exodus campaign.
Zirul, in a barbarous rage, cleft the brute almost in twain, like an ox at a sacrifice, and the wretched thing barely held on to its own destructive capacities, lashing out in response. More swordplay and the elixirs crafted by Mardun brought the thing low, and the dog-men routed.
The next day, the remainder of the party chose not to press its luck, and returned to Bier with a sledge crafted from one of the lightweight but durable metallic doors Stiev had removed during the laboratory’s plunder. Laden with anachronistic treasures, the party cashed in and formed a rough article of incorporation. Hereafter on explorations and adventures, those in attendance will set aside an additional share, which will be held in a company trust, to be used for supplies and other sundries.
This session went much better than the first, which I attribute to both having ample party members to handle the expedition and to more comfort with sandbox exploration. I was happier with my presentation — the group was genuinely weirded out by some of the situations they discovered, and that’s the sort of homage to the hobby’s roots in strange fiction that I like to create. The players have well-formed (or well-forming) personal agendas in mind that serve as their motives for exploring the world, which makes me happy. Some of the group even wanted to clear Widdecombe’s manse and use it as their own stronghold, reasoning that free buildings are hard to come by, and that they might save some hard-earned gold by reworking the existing structure rather than building a new one from the ground up, which I was enthused by. Others reasoned that the place was too hard to defend, however, and that they had plenty of exploring of the world left to do before settling and establishing a stronghold. I’m sure Mardun will find an excuse to return, whatever comes of the group’s will.
I’m also pretty proud of the reasonable sense of adventure we’ve eked out of three meager hexes worth of map space. The Wilderlands of High Fantasy are rife with ruins, forgotten people and cultures, and bits of life and history that have simply been… lost. It’s an amazing thing to discover, hex by hex.