Dark deeds in Daylight
– Farshad – A merchant adventurer, small of stature, blamed for more than he should be
– Dhran the White – A farmboy seeking his way in the world, owning his name to a brush with fear
– Juan José – A mercenary and healer from the barbarous West
– Jushuur – A mercenary and ranger, deadly in combat, a half-immortal Perim
– Utana – A noble and agent of the Haraxan magistrate Niralha
– Jalabu – A merchant guard with questionable skills from the far south, who thinks Farshad could be blamed for more
– Gunion – scholar and practitioner of mystic arts, currently studying secret tablets in an unknown location, a half-immortal Perim
Morning finds Jalabu still angered as, whilst trying to help someone he thought was a friend of the rescued Hurrus, he found himself betrayed and accused of hideous crimes, assaulted repeatedly, including being thrown out of a window. A night’s rest may not have lessened his anger, but his resolve for revenge has become ice cold. The motivation for the rest of the group is to find José, but both paths lead to the Rebel’s Head. They have narrowed the possible approaches to either assaulting the main door, or to see if this sunken door they spotted would be a useful way in.
I have said in earlier posts that I deviate from the text as I see fit to suit my gameworld, what I laughingly call my style of GMing, what suits the DragonQuest system better, the balance of characters, with no active magic user and whatever else seems appropriate at time. The kidnap and the attempted rescue are not part of the original unholy temple encounter. That is set up to be more of a straight combat encounter, but I thought that the NPCs might play it differently.
The hubbub in the streets has not quieted down, in fact the sense of unquiet is growing, so much so that the Temple of Ghalmerha where the group are staying, has shut its gates, in case of riots. Inside, the clergy are donning armour and practicing combat. Jushuur remains in the Temple to both be there in case of messages and to oversee some of the novices training.
The quietest time for The Rebel’s Head is the early hours of the morning, after the night crowd has gone home, but before the late morning opening and that was the time chosen. The Rebel’s Head, once a townhouse of a rural noble family, is walled around, and the steps they spotted were partly concealed by the broken wall and rubble of what was once a house outside that wall, a hidden escape route once upon a time.
Both Farshad and Jalabu The lock of the door foiled attempts to pick it, possibly a combination of an intricate lock and rust and gunk of years. Similarly the door, a sturdy piece of work, resisted attempts to break it down but persistence got it off its hinges, revealing a damp and dank passageway that they hoped was just flooded with water.
To be honest, all the dice rolls associated with this bit were failures, but I believe that dice should not rule everything, that in some circumstance, there should be a level of basic success, with good dice providing bonuses. That basic success might have drawbacks, depending on circumstances, but being stymied because of bad rolls is not a fun thing.
Dhran called out for José, but, having no answer they proceeded anyway, finding the inner door stiff but able to be opened partly, the door was almost blocked by barrels, and only a narrow space between to get through.
The room at the other side was lit, revealing what appeared to be a quickly thrown together shrine to the same goddess as the shrine where José was taken, though the figures on the wall are crudely and recently painted. At the centre of the cellar is a pit, made from an old barrel in a shallow hole, surrounded by incense burners. Rising from that is a stake to which José was bound, a bag on his head and his body up to his chest caressed by the fleshy tentacles of a demon whose body gurgles in the pit. Its stroking touch leaving marks as it sucked the life from José in a mockery of tenderness.
Revolted, Duran and Farshad pull back on the cross beamed stake that José is tied to, whilst the others use weapons to stab, shoot and garrotte the tentacles from the pit demon until it expired. Whatever its powers, it died not seem suited for combat. Jalabu’s garrotte sliced through one tentacle, which deliquesced into a vile slime as it left from the body, it
José was cut free, his head bag removed, and his clothes and equipment retrieved from a nearby box. As they helped him get dressed, he spoke to them of things that his contact with the demon had revealed to him That demon was of a low order, like an animal, purely concerned with its own lusts, but through it and its connection to its summoner he did learn some things. What José experienced here, although evil, was not part of the great Darkness threatening the city. Instead Ulaliritu, the one you thought at first was a victim, and then a priestess, was neither.
She is a demon of lust that pretended to be a goddess, and Elhiri was one name mentioned of one of the worshippers who addressed the alleged deity. Dhran showed José the knife he had taken from a fallen cultist of the Darkness, and had it confirmed that the nature of the evils was different, Dhran’s knife was a thing of the Darkness, Ulaliritu was shielded by the encroaching Darkness but was not, yet, part of it.
Although I used the characters given in the written version, I had some notes about other devotees, of different genders, preferences and weaknesses that the group might encounter, particularly if they did not follow the trail to Elhiri. Elhiri was a bit different to the character in the original version, as she was a very 80’s character class, the houri, a sub class of magic user first published in White Dwarf 13 in 1979. It’s bad in attitude to women, and men, but mostly women, and it brings “lack of consent” to the fore. We’re better than that now.
The group did not explore the room or the small side rooms further, preferring to press onto the next large room, the main cellar of the old townhouse. It was also replete with barrels and amphorae containing wines, spirits, food and oil.
The group considered setting a conflagration here and retiring, but Jalabu found that an empty sort of revenge, and so they proceeded, Farshad and Jalabu stealthily climbing the stairs into the main bar, slowly, quietly, secretly right until the point that they throw the trapdoor open slamming onto the floor.
It’s been a while since I had a party set fire to a town.Last time was to evade Justice, rather than some warped sense of it.
This disturbs the sleeping barman in the main bar, who is still groggy and slow to react. Despite getting the jump on him, Farshad and Jalabu wound him only lightly, and he strikes out with a tapman’s hammer, slamming Jalabu but though it took a few strokes to finish the barman off, he is still to bemused to shout for help.ul
Despite what Andy, playing Jalabu, said, the barman does not always survive, though this time the barman did not get it worst of all.
From there Jalabu led the way to Elhiri’s room, finding her asleep in the arms of Ulaliritu, still in her form as an inhumanly beautiful woman though there is no sign of her priest Dzhughael. It became apparent that not only did Elhiri betray Jalabu, who was trying to help someone, Harris, supposedly her lover, whom she denied, she actually set him up to be tortured and sacrificed by Ulaliritu,
Jalabu, coldly, with no sign of remorse, uses his garrotte a second time that day, choking the life out of Elhiri as the others use their weapons on Ulaliritu. Surprised, she cannot muster her usual charms and illusions, but her fists hit with an unearthly cold, doing such damage that Farshad feels compelled to hit out with the full power of his magic shortsword, though that is fuelled with his own energy to finally despatch the demon, who, like the pit demon, dissolves into unholy goo.
Jalabu, having made his displeasure with Elhiri’s betrayal evident. reenacted his exit from the building though Elhiri’s corpse left by the window, rather than him.
So yes, this whole lead to the empty house, unholy temple and brothel is all, as written, false with a dead end. However it points to other evils, other things that could be happening in the city and the world, with potential for other adventures, so I used that.
Farshad and Jalabu pause further only to loot the room of small valuables before they left the grisly scene. Farshad commented on how he had saved Jalabu’s life and how well they were working as a team. Surely all their activities are drawing the pair of them together, that past misunderstandings should be left there, and bygones should be bygones, but Jalabu points to this night’s work, insisting that this is more typical of how he deals with those that have dealt with him in bad faith.
Retracing their steps, they break open the spirit barrels and the oil amphorae and set a blaze in the cellar before retreating out. By the time they exit, smoke starts to be seen from The Rebel’s head, A bystander heading to the central square notices it, but despite his “fire kills but smoke kills in seconds and there’s no smoke without fire” comment, he seems remarkably unconcerned, following a stream of people to the central square, they are astounded to see that the roof of the main temple, that of Mamdedmerha is the focus of a huge crowd, their attention gripped by a robed figure shouts from the rooftop.
Farshad and Jalabu pause further only to loot the room of small valuables before they left the grisly scene. Retracing their steps, they break open the spirit barrels and the oil amphorae and set a blaze in the cellar before retreating out. By the time they exit, smoke starts to be seen from The Rebel’s head, A bystanders heading to the central square notices it, but despite his “smoke kills in seconds” comment, he seems remarkably unconcerned, following a stream of people to the central square, they are astounded to see that the roof of the main temple, that of Mamdedmerha is the focus of attention, as a robed figure shouts from the rooftop.
‘…Fools Vermin! You come scutting from your holes to hear me who was Aslahya Radeshvili, High Priestess of Mamdedmerha, Chief of all the Clergy of Iralun, yet you know not what you hear. I, who saw you into this world, will see you out, for I have seen the Darkness and it is good.
“I have welcomed it and it has entered me as it shall enter you. So shall we be as one. But I see that you do not understand. Look!’
As if this wasn’t dramatic enough, having said her piece she walks off the roof, suspended as if on a path into the air until she is at the centre of the square, declaring
‘You shall be as these.’
Gesturing into the crowd, five luck less victims burst into black flame and rise screaming until they are on the same level as her, forming a pentacle of black flame, circling, orbiting about her.
Utana, José and Dhrana loose off silver arrows at Aslahya, but only Dhran’s finds its mark and then he may well wish that it had not, for it flew straight back at him, enveloped in black flame, injuring him.
At this the crowd panics and the group panic with them, sustaining some minor injuries, though others in the crowd are less fortunate, some being trampled to death, the one who was Aslahya screaming mad laughter that chills the blood.
They make it back to the Temple of Ghalmerha, where they are brought through the locked gates and to the Temple hospital, because they always need to. Wounds are tended and life restoring infusions brought to restore fatigue whilst one of the clergy, Ilela, questions them about the nature of their injuries. José gets special treatment, a few prayers and amulets to help draw residual demonic evil from his abused body.
Dhran injured and singed by black fire, in likewise treated until he reveals the knife he took from one of their attackers some days ago. That causes more charms and prayers to be brought. The main group cannot hear what is said but the impression others get is, “argh, this is evil”.
With the group not quite decided where to go next, except to somewhere else, at speed, there we left it.
One of the many sections where the next act, as written, is not totally obvious to the party, so I may have to adapt, thankfully they have given me material to work with to extemporise.