Friday, August 24, 2012

Session #22: Its better to be late than not arrive at all...


{Game clock resumes at 11:01am 03/02/3200}

Thingerlun has wandered over to see what all the fuss is about and finds Bob, Dwight and Pat running around the Guild Sub-station and bickering with each other about how best to put out the fire, and they all turn to Thingerlun and ask if he has any spells or incantations that might work.  Everyone is perfectly willing to ignore the fact that a dragon helped them on the general theory that if you ignore something long enough it will go away.  Eventually Pat asks if the dragon is coming back and do they need to hide.

Thingerlun, beaming proudly and pustulently; “He’s with me.  And no… I don’t have anything that might help, though if I remember correctly clerics can summon water.”

Pat, frustrated; “By the time they get here the fire will already be into the buildings!  I wish there was something I could do…” at which point the faerie that has been following her ever since she ran out and hugged that tree above the mines pops flutteringly into sight just above them all.

The tiny little blond pixie looks at Pat sternly; “Well fine!  But I do you a favor, you have to do one for us!” as she finishes her sentence a dozen more pixies and their male companions the peskies pop into view and start invoking their will upon the flames.  In a matter of seconds the fire is snuffed out as these air spirits create little vacuums that starve the fire and then all but the first one leave.  The pixie flits through the air towards Pat; as the pixie is tapping Pat on the forehead she says, “Now it’s your turn…” and they both pop out of existence.

There is a stunned silence for a few moments while Bob, Thingerlun and Dwight try to process what just happened in the last few seconds.  In the end, they say nothing as they head back to the road and the train that is waiting there for them.  They see that the cleric of Thormyr has been brought to one of the two luxury suites available in the passenger car and that Hearn has converted it as best she can into a clinic for the refugees and everyone else.  Bob, Dwight, and Thingerlun arrive just in time to hear Hearn tell Archie and Ffwylldyr; “The cleric’s legs will have to be amputated and he will need round the clock care if he is to live… he has been too long without healing and he has developed the Rotting Sickness.” She turns to Dwight, “Hurry! We must prepare and Milo is unable to assist me.  I need you to use that flaming sword of yours; it’ll cauterize the wounds quite well.”

Before anyone else can do anything, the cleric of Thormyr gasps out a faint plea, “… the scroll… must… read.” He passes out again.

There are quizzical glances all around the room.  Hearn pipes up with; “Hey! Where’s Pat?!”

Bob informs her of Pat’s abduction by faeries and Hearn replies; “Should we go after her?” She looks at Thingerlun, you could summon them up or something right?!”

Thingerlun looks at her; “Nope.”

Hearn, “There must be something we can do… maybe they took her back to Silverton or something… Hey Milo might be able to divine her location!”

Dwight speaks calmly to Hearn; “You need to heal this cleric or the curse we carry might spread even wider.  Focus on what we can change.”

Hearn, moving about mechanically to get the patient prepared, “Yes, but…”

Bob, exasperatedly;  “Look, she’s gone! OK!  If they are going to bring her back they will and there’s nothing we can do about it.” He turns and heads of to the wreckage to look for the scroll that the cleric had mentioned.  He finds the way in without difficulty by following Pat’s tracks in reverse, and after a minute or two of searching he finds it under a twisted gear the size of a serving platter.  He examines it as he strolls back to the passenger car.  He notices the Imperial crest at the top and the seal at the bottom and sees that they are authentic he starts to read but his eyes stop at the words “… all able bodied citizens are hereby called to serve the Empire in this time of war…”

Bob; “Crap!  I’ve been drafted!”  In a huff he heads back up to the lounge/ galley on the third floor to show everyone who isn’t involved in the surgery.  A fair few of the refugees that still have a few coins to rub together are swapping the little wealth they have on the Daenkelder’s supply of Battle Brew.  For while supplies might be low, this stone hard mercenary had found a keg and hauled it on board and was making a mint off of the small cups he offered.  Folks were glad of the small comfort it brought: as the cleric’s screams could be heard throughout the quiet plateau.

Ffwylldyr snatches the missive out of Bob’s hands; “Let me see that!”  He scans through it then clears his voice: “To all Imperial Citizens. The Scourge have broken the treaty of Ashaven and are marching southward along their entire front.  Longdale and Ashaven have both fallen to the Scourge, even now the towns and villages along the shores of the Blueblade and White Tip Lakes and the Verden Forest is in flames!  All imperial citizens are to report to their nearest deployment center.”  His voice trails off in shock and a general hubbub ensues as the characters and NPC’s realize the radical shift in paradigm.  At one point someone pipes up with, “Does your world have the equivalent of Canada? Probably not...”

Storyteller, “Actually you could always head north to the kingdom of Morrain, but is there any where you can go that will allow you to escape the end of the world?”

Archie walks into the room lounge laughing, “the looks on our faces are priceless… the passengers, the bard, and Thingerlun are the only ones who’ll have to go off to fight.  The rest of you are road marshals and subject to Guild Law… you can’t be drafted.”  Giggles some more as he starts tinkering with some greasy bits of clockwork. 

Ffwylldyr, “I’m afraid not my friend…” and he quotes from the missive again, “… By order of the Imperial Court, the Plenary Defense Clause has been invoked, effective from the 1st of March, 3200.  All...”

Archie is off the stool and grabbing the missive from the Bard’s hands faster than anyone thought he could possible move, his eyes angrily scanning the document. “PODERON’S BALLS!!!   They actually did it…” he was shaking now, but from anger or fear no one could tell and he stood there reading and re-reading the scroll looking for a way out.  Ffwylldyr says to everyone in the room, “The Engineer’s Guild hasn’t gone to war since the second Demon War; when Ghorrene the Black Eagle landed is forces on the south eastern shores of Crieste back in 2894.”

By this point heroes and refugees are both scrambling to remember everything they can about the Scourge, Ffwylldyr clears his throat and in a voice that commands attention he says, “AHA! Now this is something I can help with… I’m a Bard you know, I’ve studied up on these things.  ‘The Scourge’ is the general term for the tribes of orcs, ogres, and giants that traditionally roam the wild lands of the northwestern portion of the Midar-Luminar Steppes where it runs into the flanks of the Ul-Dominor Mountains and the Daenkelder that live there.  For uncounted centuries the orcs were content to build their numbers until they would raid south and east… their numbers would dwindle and the orc would retreat again for a few years.  In 3185 everything changed.  They raided east at the end of that summer and advanced as an organized force against the unprepared Grand Duchy of Leherty, also known as ‘Old Kothia’.  For all the wonders and splendorous achievements in art and civilization, they were ill prepared, poorly led, and it wasn’t long before the great capital of Araloges was overrun and its libraries set to the torch while the green bloods gathered slaves and treasure.  But the orcs didn’t go home… they overwintered in the shattered province and continued their eastern campaign only to be thwarted by the arcane might of the Barony of Koranth.  Undaunted, the Scourge then began their relentless march southward into the heart of the Empire.  With the Provinces striking out independently, they couldn’t call upon Imperial forces for aid and the Provinces of Thire and the Theocracy of the Lance were hard pressed to keep the Scourge from advancing.  The Scourge has proven to be the greatest threat to Humanity since the war of Divine Right.

However, by the autumn of 3198 the advance of the Scourge had slowed to a crawl, no one knows why, but it is thought that the territory held by the Scourge was simply too large for them to control.  Whatever the reason, Tarkhan Khurzog; Master of the Scourge, was brought to the bargaining table and the Treaty of Ashaven was signed in the summer of 3199.  It set the straight line between Hali in the west and Helsuk in the east as the new border with the Scourgelands… conceding all occupied territories to the green horde.”

Dwight had joined them near the beginning of Ffwylldyr’s recital, having fulfilled his duties in the clinic, and he says, “Well, I guess we’re going to war.”

Thingerlun, “That’s fine and all, but there is the matter of this curse we are traveling under that is more important at the moment.” The lounge goes silent.  He continues, “How long until the cleric is well enough to perform the necessary rituals?” 

At this point several of the refugees start to fidget and ask questions like “What curse?” and other problematic questions.  During the course of the explanation it is determined that the heroes aren’t the only ones suffering under this affliction.  This information comes to their attention via the two main reactions to the revelation of the curse… many of the refugees swarm the heroes and demand a cure… several others jump out the windows and doors turning into hybrid rat-humans and run for their freedom.

They decide to wait on the plateau until the cleric is well enough to perform the ritual and after two days with little to do but discuss how they are going to cast a ritual large enough to help this many people, as only 4-5 of them ran off into the hills.  Milo and Hearn are managing to feed everyone with the Food of the Gods ritual, but even their greatest efforts wouldn’t be enough to feed everyone, but the Gods are merciful and everyone is gifted with a handful of granola mix and dried fruit.  Hearn notices that there are some rather lavish accommodations available on the luxury level, and that maybe the shower or steam room could be made to deliver the holy water as efficiently as possible to larger groups.  Which in turn led to the general discussion of the boiling point of holy water, whether the deity mattered, and would boiling it nullify its ‘holy-ness’?

Hearn eventually recovers from the horror of realizing that she left all the other folks behind and infected with this awful curse.  She redoubles her efforts to cure the folks that she can save, realizing that if the world dies… everyone dies.”

Thingerlun spends the time getting to know his new and best of friends, Sythrixis.  It turns out that he is only 42 years old and rather young for a dragon to be off on his own, but he sought out Aristemis as a Patron in order to help him gain the most from his draconic casting abilities.  She commanded him as sign of his loyalty to her that he should answer Thingerlun’s call for a Familiar.  To Thingerlun he says, “Our Lady of battles calls us to war my Arcane Brother, IT SHALL BE GLORIUS!!!”

And in the tiny portion of Thingerlun’s mind that was all his own, he thought “Oh great, A Gun-ho lizard…”

During this time the Heroes of Silverton meet one of the passengers that had here-to-fore gone unnoticed.  She is about 7ft tall and dressed in a black travel worn oiled-cloth coat and a wide, stiff brimmed hat of a circular cut. There was a veil of gauzy black silk attached on either side of her head, just above the ears in the fashion of the people of the Southern Province.   The drape of fabric hides all but her green eyes.  She has no obvious weapons beyond the longsword at her waist or the short bow and quiver on her backpack.  She moves with an unnatural grace.  The first time they interact with her is when they find her reading the missive and checking to see if it is a forgery. 

Bob is in the lounge and the rest of the party are off setting up the bath-works on the floor above them; “And you are?”

Tall Dark Stranger; “Lex Anne” and she continues to examine the document. 

Bob: “I haven’t noticed you around here,” pauses for a moment, “quite a trick.”

Lex just shrugs.  “I was in Silverton when everything happened, but I managed to hide in the hinterlands above the valley.  When you folks said you were heading east I tagged along, as I was heading in that direction before the snows fell.” 

Bob; starting to get frustrated, “And you were traveling because…?”

Lex; “I work for an import company in Kassantia.”

Bob sighs, “Doing…?”

Lex, looking at him now; “I’m in acquisitions.”

Bob, understanding blossoming through him; “AHA!  Southern Ditch Diggers contingent!”

Lex; "I’m an Imperial citizen like the rest of you, that’s why I’m so interested in this.” She throws the page to the counter.  “I guess I’m traveling with you folks for a bit longer than I thought.”  And she wanders off to think about things.

Later that evening {03/04/3200} the Cleric of Thormyr speaks to everyone from his bed via the intercom and tells them the story of what happened here on the plateau.

“The major reconnections for the road had been made and the paving work was in progress while the secondary functions were being laid out.  That is when the Giants attacked; it took us completely by surprise… and we were seriously under staffed for a long trip into the mountains.  No reinforcements came in answer to our messages and every day the danger of being attacked grew heavier upon us.  I set watches as for out from the encampment as I dared, but it was for nothing.  I still don’t know how they managed to sneak up on us, but one minute I’m mitigating yet another dispute between department heads and the next we are fighting for our lives from the onslaught of boulders and debris falling from the sky.

In the scramble for cover, we lost two of the engines over the side of the cliff as the giants pressed their attack using their clubs as levers.  There must have been at least 2 dozen of them and while they were attacking the cars and engines they could reach, the rest of us managed to man the defenses of the rest of the vehicles.  It was a standoff for about a day and a half, when suddenly the stones on top of the hill exploded with such titanic force as I could never have imagined before.  It took off half the top of the hill with it, but the force and the debris killed the giants and sent yet another of the engines to the savannah below.  It also crushed the engine I was in as it was rolling and tumbling towards the edge of the cliff, which is when my legs were crushed.  I hadn’t the strength to do more than bandage the few survivors in the wreck and cast the sanctuary spell, hoping Thormyr would see to the rest.  The zombies were hammering upon the wreck for… I don’t know for how long actually…”

{As to the ability of dispensing holy water through the pipe works, I left that up to a luck check against a DC of 15… Milo got a 19. } So the clerics set about sanctifying the various pipes and fittings with the proper runes and sealing them with the proper rituals.  It still takes them two days to get everyone through the process while the Cleric of Thormyr performed the cleansing ritual over and over again.  The process didn’t finish without at least one death threat.  Bob didn’t want to go through the ritual and wanted to be a were-rat.  He even went to extraordinary lengths to avoid being noticed when the groups were being shuffled into the water works, but eventually Milo threatened him, “You get in that shower or I’m going to have to kill you.  Nothing personal, but you are cursed… and you need to keep spreading it and killing people to get the most out of it and I simply can’t have that.”

They have to resort to grabbing Bob and forcing him into the shower; but eventually everyone is cured, whether they wanted it or not. And they must start planning what to do next.  Dwight finds Archie looking after some equipment on the exterior bridge, of the engine.  “Hey Archie, where do we go to find one of these deployment centers the scroll spoke of?”

Archie wiping grease from his hands with an equally greasy cloth; “Well lad, the road only goes in two directions at the moment.  Where we’ve been, and where we’re going, and that’s down into the lowlands.  Imperial missive or not, I only have the authority to travel between Silverton and Vaquaria.  And I’ve usually reported in by now and gone on vacation!”  He throws the cloth into the tool box that Hank is carrying as they move on to the next project of tending to the shutters on the passenger car to make sure they are all functional, undamaged and secured shut.

Dwight and some of the others are helping out with this and other preparations as the conversation continues.  Archie goes on; “Frankly I never though this line was a good idea, the lowlands between here and Vaquaria are extremely dangerous.”

Dwight: “Why?”

Archie looks at him; “They don’t call those the Demon Plaines for giggles boy!”

Dwight; “But there is a regular service through here, or at least there was.  It can’t be that bad can it?”

Archie; “Yah the trains ran regular, but they did it by being well armed, and as I said I’m usually on vacation by the time the demons and demon blooded push too far into the mountains.  Most of them prefer the heat of the jungle lowlands and savannahs between here and Kassantia ever since the demonic armies of the Black Eagle were defeated in 2899.  Now we are late in the season, I haven’t reported the road clear for the season yet and all we have are a few inexperienced road marshals and a gaggle of terrified refugees to defend the train.  And unless y’all have a cash of magic weapons for everybody we’re in serious trouble.”

Dwight; “So what’s the plan then, communication is out so we can’t wait for help.”

Archie finishing the last of the shutters; “We do the only thing we can.  We head downhill and I will engage the steam drive and both of the clockwork motors at the last moment hoping to boost our speed to levels that will deter any unwanted demonic attentions.  The rest of you will either strap yourselves down to your seats or to the roof with the rest of the road marshals in case our speed is insufficient to save us.  The real trick will be to do this hauling so many cars.”

Hearn asks, “But what is the road like between here and Vaquaria, how far is the trip?”

Archie; “Oh, well, with the road in a functional state it is less than a day’s travel without the snow mileage wise, but it normally takes about a day and a half of steady hauling because we have to go down onto the valley floor, across, then up the other side of the valley, which has a lower elevation.  Then down again for the few miles until we reach the city limits.”

They left the relative safety of the plateau in the early hours of the morning on the 6th of March so as to have plenty of time to cross the valley floor before nightfall.  Archie had stressed that this was very important when they were complaining about how early he was rousing the marshals.  It was a cold spring morning at 6000ft.  After a few hours of traveling ever downward, they began to experience the heat and humidity of the lowlands and all but Milo are uncomfortable and even Thingerlun doesn’t mind riding out on the roof because of the cooling airflow.  As they approached the last grade downward onto the valley floor, Archie activates the intercom; “OK! Places everyone, secure all cargo nets!”  They decide that with the possibility of demons, they should have Hearn operate the magical ballista since she is allowed to attack supernatural creatures, freeing Milo attack any demons that might make it onto the train with his enchanted mace.  Bob and some of the refugees defend the roof of the coal car along with Ffwylldyr, Lex Anne, and the daenkelder to defend the passenger car.  The daenkelder and Lex both dip their arrows in holy water hoping that this will fortify their ammunition against demons.

Archie then waited for them to confirm their locations and when all was secure he takes them over the last crest and down into the valley below.  A few minutes later after they reached the roads maximum speed Archie giggles to himself; “I always wanted to try this…” He fastens his goggles tight and pushes all three throttles to full power while disengaging from the road system to keep it from trying to slow their decent.  The drive wheels of the engine actually damaged the surface of the road slightly with the force of the acceleration.
Life can be scary.  Life strapped to the top of a wooden cart, all be it an impressive one, at 25 miles an hour is terrifyingly dangerous… all falls from the train are now lethal.  Everything seems to be going well and Archie is managing to keep them from crashing; if only just barely.  Sythrixis, who’s been following them for a while now, is enjoying the fact that for once he doesn’t have to keep circling back for the rest of them, but at noon he informs Thingerlun that there is a flock of something up ahead.  By this time the train is well out onto the plains and traveling upon the elevated roadway, but they are slowing now and are only at about 16 miles an hour; isolated copses of jungle occasionally pass behind them like green puddles... still lethal if they fall.

Thingerlun, who is riding upon the top of the engine with a safety line tied to his waist and one of the hooks on the side of the roof normally used to secure cargo, informs everyone within ear shot and they pass the word along as he queries Sythrixis for more details.

Sythrixis; “They are the size of a Veltoni and are humanoid, but with bat like wings.  We’re down wind and I smell sulfur.  They occasionally fly up out of the trees to get a good look in our direction and then drop back down into the trees.”

But as everyone was trying to figure out what these things are, Sythrixis reports via Thingerlun that there are at least a dozen that have darted up into the sky and are gaining altitude, but they are still out of range.  Everyone is waiting for the attack when the monkey demons swoop down out of the sky, using momentum to easily overtake the caravan.  The attack is focused upon the engine and Milo is the first to act and invokes the power of Ormazd to banish one of the demons from coming within 60ft of the train. 

Thingerlun and Hearn pool their knowledge and are able to discover that these particular demons are vulnerable to water, and Hearn then casts Bless on all of the water-skins of the people nearest to her and then steps back to man the ballista.  Lex and Bob both miss their attack, as does the Daenkelder with his clockwork spike launchers.  The monkey demons attack by grabbing and flinging their own fecal waste at the train and anyone they can reach.  They fail to hit anyone on the first round, but they are dismayed to see that where it hits the train it begins to slowly dissolve the deck.  The Sword of Conviction realizes that there are demons to be fought and tries to force Dwight into charging forward towards the two demons that have landed upon the rear of the engine, but Dwight proves the stronger of the two.  However, as he moves forward to get into a better position to defend the wizard and the clerics Dwight stumbles and falls over the edge of the deck, but catches himself at the last moment.  Thingerlun manages to pop 3 of the demons on his first volley of magic missiles due to the fact that these demons were remarkably frail {I rolled poorly for their Hp} and the breath weapon from the dragon proves ineffective at damaging the demons, but it impedes their ability to fly and they are quickly left behind.

During all of this, Hank had been crawling out onto the front of the engine with a wrench and had started to loosen the fittings on something.  Milo attempts to banish another demon, but the demon is unaffected.  Hearn fires the ballista but misses her target.  Lex wings one of the demons with an arrow, the holy water appears to be very effective in that it allowed the arrow to strike the demon rather than pass through harmlessly.  The daenkelder misses his attack on the monkey demon that has moved into melee striking distance.  Bob moves forward to try and climb up from the coal car to the top of the engine to try and flank the demons that had landed there.  This time the monkeys have better aim, Bob, Lex, are hid by acidic poo and Thingerlun gets hit in the face, {nat 20 on the attack roll; but player turns and says; “will it get rid of the pustules?”  Storyteller; “Roll your luck against a DC of 16…” player rolls a nat 20…  “Yes, but it still leaves Thingerlun scared.”  Player; “That’s OK, chicks dig scares.”}

Dwight is hanging their on the side of the engine and says to the sword; “I don’t suppose there is anything you can do to help here?”

Sword, indignantly; “OH! NOW you want my help… Maybe I should just let you fall!”

Dwight: “But then you’d be lost again.”

Sword; “I doubt it… not with these sapphires, not with my craftsmanship, no.  I’d be found and on my way again in short order.”

Dwight; “Um, but you’re a holy relic of a God who protects people…”

Sword; “Fine.  Be that way.  I’ve done what I can now the rest is up to you, so get us up there into the fight!”

Dwight; “I don’t notice anything different.”

Sword; “No, I don’t suppose you would, would you.”

But to the demon monkeys that were taking aim at Dwight, he simply disappears from their view and their attacks miss him and start to dissolve holes in the side of the engine.  Thingerlun let’s loose with another spray of magic missiles and takes out two more and seriously wounds two others.  Hank pulls out a large metal cone that has a flexible pipe attached to the narrow end of the cone and starts looking for a target.  Ffwylldyr swings his sword at the demon that has managed to land upon the passenger car.

Milo moves forward to try and kill one of the two that landed, but fumbles and hits Hearn instead and does significant damage.  Hearn casts Bolt from Above but fails.  Lex swings at the monkey demon that has landed on the roof of the passenger car, but misses.  Bob fails to strike the demon he was aiming for, and the mercenary daenkelder fumbles bad enough to hurt himself.  The Monkeys miss everyone except Bob and Thingerlun with their last volley, and one of the two demons on the engine fumbles its attack on Bob and falls in between the cars to be crushed under the train.  Bob plays it off like he meant to do that all along…

Dwight pulls himself up to the roof and moves to attack the nearest demon, not realizing that he is invisible to everyone… he still manages to miss even with all of those bonuses. {Rolled a 3 on the attack} Sythrixis zooms passed the train and tries to tail swipe a demon as he passes and misses.  Hank manages to catch 2 demons with the spray from the steam-belcher that he is holding and they dissolve.   The rest of the demons in the air fall away behind them and all that remain are the three that managed to land.  Ffwylldyr charges at the demon but nearest to him, misses, and nearly falls over the side.

Milo moves to engage the last monkey demon on the engine's roof; but is unwilling to charge, so Thingerlun kills it with an arcane bolt before Milo can get there.  Lex hits the demon on the passenger car with a well-placed shot as it was charging to grab Ffwylldyr and drag him away.  This gives Milo a chance to call down the power of Ormazd with a Bolt from Above which leaves nothing but a puff of ash and an after image of a streak of sunlight where the demon was.

It is a long and tense night, but they are lucky enough not to encounter anything as they creep the rest of the way to Vaquaria.  They are stopped about 2 miles outside of town at a very busy, but makeshift camp just after dawn on Saturday morning, the 7th of March.  There is a sense of relief as there train is billeted and they rest while they are waiting for orders.

{Game clock Suspended at Dawn on the 7th of March, 3200}

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