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11/16/2019 10:48 pm  #41


Re: Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday"

South we went, cutting along the marge of the desert between the sparse sandy fields around Xambaala and the encroaching dunes.  We made good time for a change, and shortly we came upon a large hut perched on a rise overlooking the sea and town both. The roughly thatched dwelling was made of driftwood and old planks scavenged from the strand.  The door was a tattered hide scraped thin. Our inquiring hails were met by a muttering old man who, with hesitant but welcoming gestures, invited us inside.

The interior of the hut was gloomy and cluttered with the detritus of the ages: worn clothing and shoes, broken tools and discarded bones. Ancient furniture loomed just beyond the fitful light of a single fish-oil lamp. Scraps of ragged netting and tattered cloth hung from lines strung between the driftwood poles supporting the roof. With a grand sweep of his spindly arm, our host offered us a light repast consisting of a portion of the glutinous stew that was burping ominously in a battered kettle. We exchanged dubious glances. He proclaimed himself “The Theosophist”, and the stew contained fish.  Both utterances inspired little confidence, but Lycos accepted his offer with enthusiasm.
As a place to rest, the hut was ideal.  It was remote from Xambaala, but I thought it would be improved immeasurably by the removal of both its current desiccated inhabitant and his noisome stew.  Portentous looks passed between us. Snowdog sat in the doorway and honed his already razor-sharp knife. However, oblivious to our silent plotting, Lycos squatted next to the pot, ladled a hefty portion into a dusty earthenware bowl, and with his lips smacking set to with gusto.  The doom-laden moment passed.

To the accompaniment of Lycos’ contented grunts and slurps, the old man regaled us with tales of Xambaala’s storied past.  I had never been so bored. It was as if a mouldering tome achieved some kind of dreadful unlife in front of us and spewed forth interminable sentences freighted with tangled subjunctive clauses, esoteric references, and unnecessarily sesquipedalian and archaic terms.  Ancient vistas, men and women of distinction came and went, wars, plagues, lawyerly disputes, passed before our eyes, all obscured by clouds of words. At some point even Lycos, his beard and face spotted and smeared with fishy juices and clutching an empty bowl, beetled his brow at the man in pained confusion. Behind even Snowdog’s stolid countenance could be seen a barely restrained impulse to sudden violence, if only to stem the rising tide of numbing verbiage.

At long last he rambled to a stop.  The only sound was the heaving and puffing of the stew pot on the fire. The old man looked at us expectantly, then dug into his ear with a dirty finger and examined the result.  He looked as if he had said all he was going to say. As if he were a child in school, Gunnar hesitantly raised a hand. “Sir, you mentioned, um, a warlord’s palace or something? And a jewel?”

Given that prompting, the man seemed to come alive again.  Yes, he explained, the Warlord’s Palace in the desert east of town concealed a great treasure, a great shining jewel, one which only he, the Theosophist, could plumb the secrets of. If we would recover and return it to him, he would give us a great reward.  To ease our way, he would give us a scroll of great potency for us to do with what we wished. We looked at each other knowing we finally had an objective, instead of just wandering about reacting. We were now masters of our own destiny.

Lycos was picking his teeth with a fishbone. “I’ll do it,” he said. “Only If I can I have more of that stew.”

-- Bytorr the Necromancer, The Theosophist's Hut

Last edited by Hackhamster (11/21/2019 9:58 pm)


"AS&SH feels like late 70’s fantasy roleplaying from a parallel dimension where Frodo was unceremoniously slain by Conan." - rpg.net review
 

11/17/2019 3:47 am  #42


Re: Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday"

😂 hilarious!

 

11/17/2019 11:58 am  #43


Re: Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday"

Thanks! Been cooped up at home this week fighting a cold so my productivity has been up. Finally, our intrepid adventurers are poised at the cusp of the dungeon crawl. Huzzah! Of course, after many trials and tribulations, we completed the adventure two weeks ago, and I'm racing to catch up before we start something else, in the employ of the Witch Queen perhaps?

Stay tuned for their further Astonishing adventures.


"AS&SH feels like late 70’s fantasy roleplaying from a parallel dimension where Frodo was unceremoniously slain by Conan." - rpg.net review
     Thread Starter
 

11/21/2019 11:11 pm  #44


Re: Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday"

Returning to the sands, we returned along the path to the village, now to all observation deserted, and past it, to where the track around the pond led into the higher dunes.  Soon we approached the shallow dell where we left the bodies heaped around the central fire. All that remained were bones gnawed clean. A curious pyramid of stacked ribs was topped with a polished skull. A circular hole showed where the brain had been.. sucked out?  Writhing tracks were tumbled all around in the sand. Snowdog peered about, his stoicism unpierced. “I think we should move on,” was all he said.

The tracks of the man-eating cultists led further to the East, and thence we followed warily, backtracking them to their lair.  Several dusty but uneventful miles later, we came across the fabled Warlord’s Palace. It was a dump. High walls of plastered mud-brick extended between tumbled-down towers on the corners.  A broad dome, cracked across the middle surmounted the whole thing, which was being consumed by a towering dune from the rear. The plaster was cracked and the bricks crumbling. In the center of the wall, the tracks we followed entered a massive pair of splintered wooden doors strapped with greening copper bands.  The doors were just open enough to permit a single man to pass.

Well, of course, you never enter the first door opened to you, and even though we had destroyed several of the cannibals, there was no sign we had reached the end of them.  And despite the ramshackle condition of their lair, it was huge and it could conceal a great number more foemen. We resolved, therefore, to work our way around the perimeter and search for a less obtrusive entrance.With Snowdog in the lead, we passed around the site to the south.  We saw no movement on the battlements, but the walls held enough cracks and gaps that innumerable eyes could have observed our progress with ease.  We passed around the south-western corner, and the looming wall blocked the sun, wrapping us in purple shadow. Along the southern wall, we traversed in single file, while above us flaking murals showed the triumph of a Warlord long dead.  Everything was quiet. Of a sudden, Snowdog paused and sniffed the air. He slowly approached the wall and poked into the sands beneath it with his spearpoint. He sniffed again. “Meat,” he said. “Dig here.”

Naturally, I keep certain tools with me to expedite my researches, so the shovel and pickaxe were quickly grasped by burly hands and the sand flew.  In no time at all, a gap in the wall showed a downward slope leading into darkness. Snowdog crept into the opening, and then slid down out of our sight.  In short order, we heard a softly called all clear, and we followed in a file. Below, we reassembled in a dimly-lit broad low-ceilinged hall awash in sand.  Indeed, a strong odor of searing meat was in the air, and it seemed to come from a closed door to the west.  “Shall we, gentlemen?” 

-- Bytorr the Necromancer, the Warlord's Palace

Last edited by Hackhamster (11/21/2019 11:16 pm)


"AS&SH feels like late 70’s fantasy roleplaying from a parallel dimension where Frodo was unceremoniously slain by Conan." - rpg.net review
     Thread Starter
 

12/12/2019 10:09 pm  #45


Re: Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday"

I really like the perspective of the necromancer as you continue the campaign!  Keep up the great work!


Other bands play, Manowar kill!
 

4/11/2020 9:29 am  #46


Re: Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday"

With a mighty blow of Birgir’s shoulder, the door splintered and gave way as the hinges ripped free, and our warriors were through with battle cries and bared weapons.  From the rear, all I could apprehend of the melee was a great clash of arms, shrill screams, and potent oaths. A potent aroma of roasting meat perfumed the air, and to my horror, I salivated.   Snowdog charged past me and buried his spear in the breast of a dagger-wielding figure in priestly garb, whose mouth gaped wider in agony than it seemed possible for a normal man, revealing fangs and hooked teeth in a silent shout as it died.  Another started to make an arcane gesture but fell to a flurry of wicked axe strokes that rent gaping holes in its robes. An ophidian stench arose to compete with the savory scent of a dead man trussed to a spit over a hot bed of coals. The four anthropophagi rose from their cooking implements a beat late and were summarily dispatched before they knew their doom was upon them.  Spatulas and roasting forks were no match for the plunging thrusts of sword and spear.

Three bound and gagged captives writhed against the far wall, their eyes rolling in their heads in their transports of emotion.  We freed them, hauled them to their feet, and without a backward glance at their roasted compatriot, they fled out the door in a headlong gibbering rush.

“So much for gratitude,” grunted Roark in a huff. A quick search of the room discovered naught but crude weapons, broken crockery, and roasted haunches of presumable human origin. Snowdog knelt by the snake-men who had been flung into the corner, curiously fingering their now ruined finery.  Nothing was to be found on them, and nothing explaining their presence here. All of us save the dimmest had heard of the evil legend of the snake-men and their hatred for all the walked the lands of Hyperborea. To abruptly find a myth made real was at the least disconcerting.

There was another splintered wooden door exiting the room, and we formed up preparing to leave I had a sudden thought: was this cycle to be never-ending? Find the door. Open the door.  Rush in and slay some miscreants. Rifle their belongings and pocket their paltry treasure. Find another door, and so on.  I saw a vision in my mind’s eye of a seemingly infinite series of rooms receding into the future, ending at last in an ultimate chamber that contained not blood, screams, and the rape of grubby reward, but my doom. I pondered this sudden insight for a moment, weighing its significance until I was startled by Lycos’ sudden ejaculation.

He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, “What about him?”

We had all seemingly forgotten the roasting corpse in the middle of the room, the grisly guest of honor at the interrupted feast.  Without the rotation of the spit, it had begun to char and smoke on one side. Suddenly another uncomfortable frisson of mixed disgust and lust for flesh passed over me, and I remembered my porcine experiment in mobile rations. My mouth watered.  Maybe if I, but no, Birgir, as usual, had preempted me. He trotted over the rotisserie hominidis and gave a quick sniff.

“He ain’t done yet." Did he glance at me when he looked up? "Let's go.”

-- Bytorr the Necromancer, the Warlord's Palace

Last edited by Hackhamster (4/11/2020 9:32 am)


"AS&SH feels like late 70’s fantasy roleplaying from a parallel dimension where Frodo was unceremoniously slain by Conan." - rpg.net review
     Thread Starter
 

4/21/2020 5:45 pm  #47


Re: Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday"

Beyond the door lay an abandoned stable, rotted and stinking.  Whatever fine mounts of the Overlord’s cavalry were long gone. Moldering mounds of fodder spilled out of ramshackle stalls. In one lay the disarticulated skeleton of a camel splayed out in forlorn repose.  The rest were deserted. Snowdog went into the noisome stalls, probing with his spear after the glorious treasure that surely lurked under the piles of ordure. Maybe a couple coppers lost in a drunken carousal, or a lost horseshoe, if that.  This incessant scrambling after lucre was not to my taste, but at least the stable wasn’t filled with file-toothed savages cramming their maws with the barely roasted haunch of some potboy abducted from town, which had been our previous experience.  Frankly I was surprised there wasn’t at least one shaggy idiot loitering about with a basting brush or carving knife to be seen anywhere. Snowdog was welcome to whatever pittance he found. The rest of us carefully moved to the doorway to the north, a high arched opening blocked by a double door just ajar.  A soft indirect glow of light appeared, as if from a room partially lit beyond.

​Carefully peeking around the door revealed an immense circular chamber surrounded by thick pillars and surmounted by a dome high above riven by some ancient catastrophe.  Lambent rays of Helios shone through the rough oculus high above, illuminating a ruined scene of pagan pageantry. Tattered banners hung from the walls, which when not covered were indited with strange hieroglyphs and scenes of carnage.  Over all of it, a giant comet streaked across the dome, its tail cracked and sundered by the great gap in the stonework that had fallen to the floor. To our right, a wide vine-choked stairway ascended to some platform above. Tangled in the vines was the skeleton of some hapless explorer, still clutching a tarnished sword. To the left a wide passageway exited the chamber, presumably to the entry gates we bypassed.  Otherwise the place was deserted.

A quick search showed the wide corridor was pierced at intervals by arrow loupes, indicating guard rooms beyond. Behind a pillar to the right of it was a darkened passage leading to the northwest of the palace.  And from it wafted the scent of cookfires and… meat. As we quickly discussed our feebleminded plan for scouting down it, Snowdog silently reappeared at my elbow, filthy from his scroungings. To my chagrin, around his head orbited a slender prism of ruby.

-- Bytorr the Necromancer, the Warlord's Palace

Last edited by Hackhamster (4/21/2020 5:46 pm)


"AS&SH feels like late 70’s fantasy roleplaying from a parallel dimension where Frodo was unceremoniously slain by Conan." - rpg.net review
     Thread Starter
 

4/21/2020 5:57 pm  #48


Re: Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday"

Down the silent hall we crept, to find a village of sorts in a large square room. Haggard women and their squalling brats all dressed in rags slurped noisome stew from wooden bowls, and of course several brutes of the type with which we had become familiar lounged about the smoking fires.  They took no notice of us in the dim light, and we withdrew without incident.

After a short consultation, where we made and discarded several plans, I had a stroke of inspiration.  Maybe we could intimidate them and drive them out, scattering the thralls and their spawn, leaving their warriors confused and disorganized.  I sent Snowdog back to the kitchen where he retrieved the robe of the ophidian priests we had slain. Our largest warriors donned them and we returned, intending to cow them with our mastery of their prior masters.  Or so we thought.

The moment Birgir came forward, bellowing, cursing, and waving his axe belligerently over his head, the savages sprang to their feet and raised blowguns to their lips.  A quick shower of darts pelted Birgir, most bouncing from his armor, but one lodged in his arm. We withdrew yet again pursued by the howling maniacs who showed no sign of intimidation.  We quickly took up positions back in the domed chamber and met a sudden rush of foemen. Crammed together in the narrow hall, they could not come at our broad front but singly, and were quickly dispatched.

The lull after the melee was broken by Birgir’s frantic panting.  He had entered his berserk frenzy, overcoming the numbing agent from the dart that had pierced his shield arm, but the fight had ended too soon for it to abate. Consumed with unsatiated bloodlust, he let out a bellow that shook the ruined marble halls and, with the clashing of his hobnails on the gore spattered pavers, he sprinted back into the darkness waving his axe on high, ululating a wordless howl of doom.

As screams of terror and pain erupted, those of us that remained behind exchanged almost sheepish glances as none of us looked to be the first to go to his aid.  None looked to receive a wild axe blow delivered in the dark. Only Snowdog looked on impassively, his dark eyes chips of obsidian as he cleaned the head of his spear, his visage unreadable. The others might be feeling pangs of unheeded conscience that struggled vainly against cowardice, but my minion’s likely only regret was that prime slaves were being put to waste.  As for myself, I looked forward to the transformation in store for my erstwhile clear-eyed noble friend. No longer would he view himself as the protector of the weak, some carefree primitive spirit, not after this killing spree.

Soon enough, the noises stopped, and Birgir came trudging back up the passage, his axe dragging behind from a limp hand, his eyes dazed and blank.  He was soaked in gore, an avatar of wanton slaughter. The others greeted him with silence and would not meet his eyes. He shook himself like a dog caught in the rain, and fumbled with his off-hand at his face, clearing the blood from his eyes. He ran his hand through his beard, coming away with something he held in his hand and considered with disbelieving eyes full of sudden sorrow. The finger of a child lay in his palm. He cast it away with a moan, and shambled over to the wall, sliding down it until he sat with his head bowed. The others looked away, afraid to bear witness to his agony.

I must admit, I looked on smugly as he wrestled with the dawning of this unwelcome knowledge.  It is not every day one witnesses the warping of a man's soul when he is confronted by the proof of a ravening beast within. As all men must eventually, he had looked into the void and found a monster staring back. 

-- Bytorr the Necromancer, the Warlord's Palace

Last edited by Hackhamster (4/21/2020 6:02 pm)


"AS&SH feels like late 70’s fantasy roleplaying from a parallel dimension where Frodo was unceremoniously slain by Conan." - rpg.net review
     Thread Starter
 

4/23/2020 8:40 pm  #49


Re: Xambaala Nights, or "What I did on my holiday"

The exhilaration of our latest triumph seems to be confined to me and perhaps Snowdog, who was stoic as ever, so who knows?  The rest of the party are lugubrious and sluggish, moving about aimlessly.  For some reason, none wanted to examine the remains of the annihilated settlement at the end of the dim passage, and none converse with Birgir, who moves aimlessly clutching his blood-caked axe.  This episode has been an educational one for him, no doubt.

The wide hallway to our left has arrow slits on both sides, and we haven’t explored the area behind the wall on the south side, but a hallway behind another column beckons.  Snowdog takes the lead, and shortly we assemble before another door.  Quickly we burst in, and find it deserted.  The rank odor of a ball of overheated serpents greets us. There are two empty pallets in the room but a quick search finds nothing else.  Out in the hall, another door is found.  Again, we burst in, and are met with a rush of yet more of the seemingly inexhaustible supply of cannibals.  Snowdog spears the first, and then the second, and eventually all of them as they fight past each other in transports of ill-advised ferocity.  Snowdog skewers them one by one, looking almost bored as they throw themselves on his weapon.  Again, a quick survey finds little of worth, save a collection of bent and notched shortswords.

There are no other exits off the hall, and the halls are dead ends, so we return to the vaulted chamber.  The stairs upward, as I have said, were choked with old dried vines massed around a lone skeleton.  Using a rope with a hook on the end, we pulled the vines loose and found the body unresponsive with not a glimmer of unlife. It wore a tarnished suit of mail of archaic design, a sword spotted with rust, a quiver with some remarkably well-preserved and straight arrows, and a ring.  Ruark took the arrows for his collection, and as we bent over the other finds, suddenly a shadow blocked the ruby rays shining from the ceiling.

Descending on wide gray pinions, a nightmare form of horn and bone stooped at us, its eyes red slits and claws extended.  Huzzah, it was a foe that didn’t look to braise and roast our flesh, just a normal monstrous adversary.  With weapons out we faced it as it reached for our upturned faces, flapping with uncanny grace above us.  But our metal bounced from its stony hide with bright sparks and no harm was done.  Snowdog danced forward uncoiling his whip, and with a flick and crack, snagged it out of the air and flung it against the floor.  Before it could regain its balance, our warriors threw themselves upon it to grapple its stony limbs, trying and eventually succeeding to immobilize its claws and gnashing jaws.  Exposing its belly to Ruark’s bowshot, the druid sank several flights of arrows into its gut, until with a final quiver of its limbs it gasped its last.
-- Bytorr the Necromancer, the Warlord's Palace

Last edited by Hackhamster (4/23/2020 10:47 pm)


"AS&SH feels like late 70’s fantasy roleplaying from a parallel dimension where Frodo was unceremoniously slain by Conan." - rpg.net review
     Thread Starter
 

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