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Necromancing Xuun Pt.12: Funny Little Death Games Pt.3

That evening half-hill-giant Skull-Smash whom the odds favored would be the opponent to Skull BashBludbaer as finale to the Pit Games. The official gladiatorial games would kick off with a fair the next day. Then the crowds and their money would flock to the bigger venues.

Jíen the necromancer greeted the morning sun with little enthusiasm. He stared out over the walled courtyard from the second story bedroom window. There were throngs of people trailing brightly colored streamers and waving flags everywhere. It made no difference to the dark mage. Through his eyes all was insubstantial. The sun drenched sky was a dull grey and an ethereal cloud obscured the distance even on the clearest day. The throngs of the living were as transparent as an army of colorful ghosts.

There were also bands of paladins and guardsmen on patrol among them. The young Deadlander thought it best if he stayed inside until he was to take his fighter to the match. He occupied himself by brewing potion (Aura of the Dead) using the adobe villa’s kitchen and a few secret ingredients. Later he stored it in one of the empty potion bottles he had been carrying on his person. The potion was of the highest quality.

The rest of the day he spent repairing, mostly stitching and channeling negative energy, the massive damage Bludbaer the mindless Dread Guard had sustained the previous day. It was nearly sundown when Jíen had finished his work almost restoring the creature to full capacity.

Evening came and the young necromancer brought his fighter/creature to the arena with no incidents on the way. There were a few prize matches beforehand then came the main event, Bludbaer versus Skull-Smash. All proceeded as before and soon the large heavily muscled opponents were facing off against each other in the ring. Bludbaer though huge was dwarfed by the half-giant who was wielding a heavy wooden great club.

The bell for the first round rang and Skull-Smash came out swinging landing two massive bone-crunching blows on Bludbaer one after the other dropping him. Immediately Jíen played it up doing the pantomime of a bereaved and ruined manager imploring the crowd to cheer for the miraculous rise of the fallen gladiator. It actually worked, the crowd roared for Bludbaer. So, the necromancer had the fallen fighter rise again. (Out-of-Game I did it to steal away Skull-Smash’s crowd bonus against my guy which Gladiators can get when being cheered on.)

It wasn’t long before Bludbaer was again smashed down without landing a single blow. However, Jíen playing his part as flamboyant fight manager worked his crowd-magic again and once again Bludbaer slowly, and what appeared to all, painfully rose to his feet. The look of disbelief on the half-giant’s face was priceless (unfortunately he didn’t suffer any morale penalties). Jíen however knew that if his creation dropped once more it would be the last.

Skull-Smash landed another horrid blow onto the battered corpse of Bludbaer but on the backswing the Dread Guard parried with his great sword catching the half-giant in a clinch. The crowd went wild. Suddenly, Bludbaer broke free and chopped into the giant, the crowd began to flip completely over to Bludbaer. Skull-Smash nearly silenced the crowd with a mighty roar and put all of his power behind a horrifyingly powerful finishing blow.

The crowd gasped and was silent for the instant before they let loose a deafening roaring cheer. The boneless mess of a corpse in the dirt of the arena that used to be Bludbaer lay at the feet of the triumphant Skull-Smash. Jíen stood wide-eyed and stunned. He was out of a lot of money. Then horror struck him and he rushed into the ring to salvage the corpse before the Disguise Undead rune branded on its forehead faded in its power.

All would see that Bludbaer was really a mass of rotted meat pilfered from the grave if that should happen. In fact, that’s what the potion of Aura of the Dead was for. He would shout that it was a vial of poison to his accusers, drink it, and then feign death. Fortunately a cloaked and hooded stranger helped him with his frantic work of hauling the broken but still very heavy body away on a cart that the stranger had conveniently helped the necromancer procure.

The Stranger: “It’s me.”

Jíen (Played by Me): “What?”

The Stranger lifted up his hood revealing himself to be Trantox the assassin.

Trantox (Played by Jenn): “It’s me. You tried to get me killed!”

Jíen: “What me? No! No I did not!”

Trantox (with a Yeah-Right scowl on his face): “I was there about 5 ft. away when you talked to that Naga. Hiding.”

Jíen: “Oh. Um. I thought I’d get paid more. He ripped me off.”

Trantox: “You know I should totally kill you right now.”

Jíen: “Um, uh. Hmmm. Don’t you have bigger problems right now? Like the Shakai.”

Trantox: “That’s why I found you. Um, huh what?”

The necromancer looked at the assassin like he was crazy before realizing his attentions had diverted to talking to the intelligent dagger. Jíen shuddered.

Trantox: “Naw we won’t kill him yet. We won’t kill you yet but the dagger wants bloooood, so don’t cross us again.”

Jenn was wagging her finger at me. Sheesh.

The necromancer and the assassin delivered the mutilated, rotten pile of meat and shattered bone to the charnel house. The pair decided to walk back to the Troll and wait for whatever would come besides Jíen had a debt to pay off. On their way out of the charnel house a street rat stopped them and passed them a message that Dravor (played by Gil) had skipped town with the dark priest Exvorum (Gil couldn’t continue the campaign as his work schedule had changed). The pair shrugged and continued on.

The dark duo made it to the Whiskey Troll Tavern later that night very near the middle of the night. The place was mostly empty save for those huddled at a table in the corner. These were the Half-giant Skull-Smash, his manager the faun, a human fighter in chainmail (probably a bodyguard), and a saloon bum. All were fairly drunk and the table was packed with mostly empty vessels and half-eaten food.

Jíen settled his debts with the faun and while doing so had noticed the bulging sack of gold at the faunic manager’s side. Skull-Smash’s winnings were substantial. The necromancer returned to his coconspirator’s side and together they hatched a plan. They ordered drinks for the whole place and before the waitress took the pitcher to Skull-Smash’s table the assassin dropped some paralysis toxin into it. Then the villains sat back and waited.

After an hour it was apparent that the poison had only affected the faunic manager and the fighter. The giant, though extremely drunk, showed absolutely no sign of the toxic effect. The saloon bum on the other hand seemed a bit stiff in the joints but otherwise he was okay as well. Trantox began mumbling to his dagger again and was preparing for a fight by oiling its blade with poison. Jíen was getting nervous.

Suddenly, a naga in a black-dragon hide cloak wearing a golden snake mask with emerald & onyx scales appeared right in front of the dark duo’s table. The creature pointed at Trantox and then his dagger shouting, “Thief! Return what you have stolen now!”

Another naga slithered from behind a pillar equipped with a naginata, there were undoubtedly more slithering about in the shadows of the musty tavern. Trantox stood and seemed to want to give up the dagger but simply could not bring himself to do it.

Cris (the GM): “Its not gonna let you do that. It’s want blood.”

Jenn (after failing the dagger’s ego check): “Awe man. I guess I’ll attack the cloaked guy then.”

Trantox (gnashing his teeth and sneering at the Cloaked Naga): “You’re gonna have to pry it from my cold dead hands!”

The assassin lunged at the cloaked naga but the one with the polearm leapt in front of the blow taking the point and the poison. The cloaked naga, recognizable as a mage, cast a spell that Jíen recognized as Bone Blast. The assassin’s left arm went limp as the bone shattered. The necromancer, while no one was paying him any mind, calmly but quickly moved over to the half-giant’s table.

Skull-Smash was completely embroiled in the fight before him. The necromancer eased over to the side of his unconscious manager and drew out a black pearl from his robe. The naga mage cast another spell and Trantox froze in place as another naga fighter slid from the shadows over to him.

Jíen noticed on closer inspection that the body guard was actually dead ( rolled a Natural 1 on his save) so the necromancer cast Animate the Dead and shoved the black gem into the corpse’s gaping mouth with orders to attack the drugged and sleeping manager. It immediately rose and coup de graced Skull-Smash’s manager. But the giant hadn’t noticed as at that same moment another naga fighter used his curved sword to decapitate Trantox.

So harnessing his experience as a gladiator manager, Jíen shot up and shouted, “Look! That evil wizard has cursed your companion and he’s killed your manager!”

The howl of anguish that escaped the mighty lungs of Skull-Smash rattled the bones of everyone in the place and froze the naga mage in his place his hand inches from plucking the prized dagger from the assassin’s headless corpse. The table splintered and flew as the half-giant kicked it away and charged the naga assassins wielding his great club. Jíen absconded with the sack of gold just before the carnage began.

Later, safe back at the villa, Jíen found that the sack held 20 gold talons stamped with unfamiliar hill-lander brands, 600 platinum pieces, and 1,000 gold pieces. Combined with his stash he was pretty well off. However, his companions were either dead or fled away. There were paladins patrolling the street and the city was probably going to carry out a no tolerance policy for the 7-day while the games were taking place.

Jíen the Deadlands necromancer thought hard about the direction his life had taken and quickly decided on what he would do with the rest of it. After all, managing fighters was very profitable and he knew where to get a real champ in need of a manager. Even if the champ didn’t survive the fight with the nagas Jíen could always fix that.

The End

Campaign Played between February and May 2016

Afterword: Skull-Smash did survive that fight by the way and Jíen was able to talk his way into becoming his manager. Go figure.

Necromancing Xuun Pt.11: Funny Little Death Games Pt.2

Game day, the morning the pit-games were to begin. The pit-games functioned as an amateur Weapons fit for a fighterfighter-league apart from the formal and in some respects over regulated official gladiatorial circuit. The fighters matched according to general size and weight with some attention paid to their respective physical prowess and strength. Armor restricted to the arms, legs, and the center of the chest. Other bits legal if both opponents are equipped similarly. Weapons were similarly regulated and rigorously inspected more so than the fighters.

Just before dawn Jíen got his fighter to the arena. It was a large stone building with coliseum seating covered by an awning-like ceiling under which lay the vault-ceilinged galleries. The wounded tended to and fighters vetted and equipped within. Also under the stone step-seats was the entry gallery where vendors sold their wares and bets tendered. The ring was a dirt floor surrounded by a shallow moat meant for the handlers, referees, and judges. On opposite sides of the arena were the gates through which the fighters would enter the ring.

Jíen’s fighter Bludbaer was to face off against one Zurat, a Westlander savage armed with a double-sword. The place was bristling with flags, banners, and ribbons of every color imaginable. The fight doctor cleared Zurat, his face painted with evil blue designs. The doctor moved over to Bludbaer as Zurat jaunted out of sight to await the match behind his assigned gate. The doctor cleared Bludbaer after a cursory glance. Jíen let out a relieved breath.

The Swampers’ Guild was backing Zurat and Jíen couldn’t resist making a gentleman’s bet that his fighter would win. Pit fights continued until one of the competitors couldn’t. They were almost always a death-match. The bookies gave Bludbaer 2-to-1-odds in his favor. Jíen took that bet.

It wasn’t long before Jíen collected 290 gp from the swampers but Bludbaer had taken a fair amount of damage (a whopping 20 Hit Points). Fortunately the wine-blood gambit had proven believable to all onlookers. So much so that White Star healers kept approaching and offering their services for a small charge. So the necromancer quickly shuffled his fighter into a quiet corner of the hospital gallery and repaired the undead thing’s damage the best he could using his Necrology (and spell slots).

The next match and the last of the day for Jíen’s creature would be against a double-axe wielding fighter named Scarnor but the odds were again on Bludbaer’s side. Again, it was a short bout and the necromancer took 2,075 gp in winnings. At the end of a very bloody day the fighters left in competition were Baenox Blood-Axe, Zarcar the faun (Rantcor’s “guy”), Skull-Smasher a half-hill-giant, and Bludbaer. After some of the officials began making off-hand comments that Bludbaer had an uncanny resemblance to another fighter, one who had come in second place last year Jíen took that as a sign to get out of there quick. He was long gone when they remembered the second place fighter’s name, Baercor.

Later at the Troll packed and noisy with fight fans, Jíen fed Bludbaer red wine which several fans were also sending over to the table. It was soon crowded with bottles, tin goblets, and wood cups by the time the necromancer retreated with his fighter back to the tomb.

The next day at midday, Bludbaer was again in the arena facing off with Zarcor the Rockhollow faun armed with a trident and gladius. The odds were 10 to 1 in favor of Zarcor. Jíen bet 2,000 gp on Bludbaer. Emboldened by his observation of the pit doctor, Jíen had cast Invigoration of Unlife into his creation just before leaving the tomb that morning heightening his fighter’s abilities a few notches.

The fight was a desperate one nonetheless. Bludbaer fell quickly and Jíen mentally controlling the undead fighter from the sidelines put his charisma to use. He howled and pulled at his hair and actually got the crowd to begin chanting Bludbaer’s name. That’s when he allowed the creature to rise again to wild cheers from the bloodthirsty throng. Though as a result it’s Negative Aura (the animating force behind the undead and their abilities) diminished (permanent -1).

The second round was brief. Bludbaer chopped down the unbelieving faunic warrior. The arena was erupting with chants of Bludbaer! Jíen’s take on that fight was a respectable 18,000 gp. Only 8,000 of it was given in coinage however, the rest was in a Writ. The matches concluded with Skull-Smash wining his match in quite the messy fashion. The other fighters were either dead or too wounded to continue progressing through the ranks. It would be Bludbaer versus Skull-Smash the next day with 5 to 1 odds in Skull-Smash’s favor. Jíen was hoping for a massive payday as he had a plan forming in his wicked little brain.

Jíen with his bandaged fighter in tow (just to keep the healers away) went straight to the betting tables to make a 10,000 gp wager. A grizzled faun introducing himself as Skull-Smash’s manager approached the young necromancer and the two began a bragging contest which the faun won. After a little more verbal sparring the young necromancer became flustered and ended the conversation with “oh yeah”! He then went on to place the 10,000 gp on Bludbaer to win on the morrow because “that’s how unsure” he was about his own fighter. The young necromancer walked hurriedly away back towards the tavern eager to leave the arena behind when he stopped suddenly in his tracks as a sudden realization smashed into his brain.

Me (Jíen’s Player): “$#!*”

Cris (the GM): “Ahahah! That’s right! You were supposed to bet AGAINST yer guy! Nope! You already made the bet! Ah-hahaha!”

Later at the Troll the necromancer again found himself talking to the faunic manager of Skull-Smash. After a few rounds, on the faun of course, they decided to wager a little side bet; 2,000 gp each winner take all. After that Jíen sat back, drank, and ate a little more.

Later in the night, the necromancer saw some Scael Nagas surround a peasant in a dark corner of the tavern as they harassed the poor man with questions about the theft of a certain star metal dagger. He also spotted the mark of the Shakai tattooed on their arms. After they dealt with the peasant he approached the one that appeared to be the leader and was paid 150 gp in exchange for some information about Rantcor and the Broken String. The necromancer was disappointed as he thought that the information provided was worth more but he shrugged and left the Troll with Bludbaer following.

Instead of retreating to his familiar old tomb this night though, Jíen decided to crash at the haunted villa instead for safety’s sake. He simply had the resident wraiths open the locked gates to him. During the night before going to sleep the necromancer had a conversation of sorts with the “boss” wraith. At least as much, a conversation a mindless undead creature can provide. Wraiths only retain a few negative emotions and the thoughts tied to what they used to be both of which replay like broken records in random combinations.

They do harbor some of the knowledge and secrets they knew in life though that can be brought out through careful and clever manipulation granted the thing isn’t trying to kill its interrogator. The withered-horror revealed to the necromancer a long undisturbed cubbyhole, unfortunately empty, in the bedroom wall. So Jíen used it to stash a small horde of 8,520 gp.

To Be Concluded…

Necromancing Xuun Pt. 9: Poison Phantoms

The dark duo stood before the looming adobe villa under the light of the white moon. It was time to face the wraiths of the house and earn some gee-pees. They had met up at the Troll, as usual, earlier that evening but Dravor the blackguard had been late.

On the way back from their initial inspection of the villa Jíen the necromancer and the blackguard had encountered a minor but loud argument in the street. A couple of town guardsmen were harassing a small group of peasants. One of the guards was holding a wanted poster aloft which was bearing the likeness of Dravor.

Jíen immediately pivoted and began walking, calmly, the other way away from the blackguard and the small group of guards and townsfolk.  The necromancer burst into a panicked run when Dravor cast Banefire on the wanted poster. As the Deadlander skidded around a corner he heard shouts of: “Over there! That’s HIM!”

After things had calmed down Jíen met Trantox the assassin from Poisonwood at the Whiskey Troll Tavern and the assassin had passed him 2 vials of paralysis toxin to be used to complete the gas grenades he had already ordered from the Deadlands necromancer.

It was dusk before all three were finally around the damp boards of their customary table. The newly united trio was again destined to split as Trantox had some mysterious “business” to take care of. The blackguard and the necromancer had decided to go on the ghost hunt come nightfall.

Both exited the place leaving the warm yellow light of the raucous and overcrowded tavern behind and trading its thick pipe-smoke rich atmosphere for the fresh empty night air of the city streets. They had little trouble finding their way back to the accursed villa.

They entered the place; Zarkar had lent the necromancer a key, and immediately the duo noticed that they had forgotten about the corpse in the kitchen.

Cris (the GM): “HA-HA Ha! That’s right! You guys left it right there! It’s all rotten!”

Me (Jíen’s Player): “Damn. Well, I guess after I’m done here I’ll drop the body off at the charnel house.”

Ignoring the sweet stench of rotten human flesh, Jíen began to use his uncanny sense of the undead to “sniff out” their quarry. It was no surprise that he was able to sense something hovering about the kitchen where the maggoty corpse lay.

Suddenly, emerging from the shadows was the wraith of the dead cook bearing a butcher’s knife. Its flesh appeared pale blue and withered which stretched it tight across the phantom skull underneath.  Jíen tried to rebuke the creature but to no avail. But, unable to resist its aura of despair (he rolled a natural 1), the young necromancer collapsed to the ground rendered utterly helpless at the feet the monster.

Dravor’s faith in his demon lord preserved his sanity. It slashed at him fumbling the attack badly losing grip on its weapon. The wraith’s butcher-knife flung across the room landing point first into the butcher’s block in the corner.

The blackguard used his Hold Undead ability against it stopping it in its tracks. He smashed his zanbato into its strange demi-corporeal phantasmal flesh then fumbled the follow up blow flinging his weapon across the kitchen floor. As he ran to fetch his horse-cutter Jíen was finally able to shake off the effects of the monster’s unholy energies.

The blackguard readied his weapon after snatching it back up and waited for the necromancer to work his magic. Jíen seized control of the shriveled monster (a successful Rebuke Undead). Upon questioning as to where the one who turned it the creature simply pointed up.

They guessed that in the upstairs bedroom they would find the “head” wraith. So without hesitation the daring duo stomped up the steps and found the heady old wooden door ajar. Just inside they could it. Its skull was bald and its mummified face hideously withered with its skin pulling away from the wet black rims of its eyes and gums. It was dressed in fine blue-green garments which appeared as if new. In its claw-like right hand it clutched a mace.

The pall of despair that surrounded the creature failed to take hold of the young necromancer’s mind but the blackguard backed off and wept that it was a losing battle. They were going to lose and die and if they didn’t die here they would eventually die anyway.

The creature struck out at the necromancer thumping him with the mace. Jíen felt a little of his life-force seep away (he suffered a Constitution point drain) so the young necromancer tried to seize control of the creature but failed. The cook’s wraith put itself between the necromancer and the mace-wielding monster granting Jíen some cover. Dravor fighting through his deep misgivings and loss of drive tried to cast Hold Undead on the creature but failed.

The necromancer tried with all of his will again to try to control the monster but again failed. The blackguard readied his weapon should the necromancer fail again.

Me (Jíen’s Player): “Aw man, don’t kill it! I want this thing as one of my minions!”

Gil (Dravor’s Player): “Okay. It’s your funeral. But if I get a chance I’m going to destroy this thing!”

The necromancer’s last rebuke attempt was successful. Jíen dismissed both wraiths to the astral plane “until further notice”. The creatures faded back into the gloom from whence they came.

Later that night, the duo split up and went their separate ways, after collecting the 25 gold pieces Jíen headed back to his tomb. He was certain he had a new place to hide out besides the stuffy and somewhat crowded tomb even though Zarkar had taken his key back. As he laid back on the slab to sleep Jíen counted the days until the games. He figured only 2 or 3 more to go.

Next morning Jíen headed back to the Whiskey Troll and passed by a sight that caused him to rubber neck, stop, then cock his head to one side. There were wanted posters, a lot of them, and everywhere. All of them had the woodcut likeness of Dravor on them.

The bills listed his crimes. He had robbed the Silver Coil, roughed up the clerk at the Golden Feather Inn, a place he had also robbed, and killed a couple of city guards. The price on his head was 1,500 gp.

To Be Continued…

Necromancing Xuun PT.7: Golden Wind, Silver Gauntlet

It was night, the white moon was full and bright its light dancing on the black waters of theHoping for a Templar blood-moon lagoon-bay. Rows stirred by the blackguard Dravor sloshed in the water as the dark trio made their way towards the three-mast lugsail Templar ship, the Golden Wind. The trio was about to take action for Korvo-Doom against the Hyvalian Theocracy having just barely avoided some town guards on the night-watch.

Dravor had been extremely nervous at their appearance as if the authorities may want him. For what exactly was unknown to Jíen. As the guards neared them the young necromancer threw a Gnat Swarm their way and thus distracted, the trio beat it to the harbor. For the meantime, Dravor found himself rowing a rented boat which cost an additional silver-piece to keep its owner’s lips sealed. As he rowed he wondered why he hadn’t just murdered the man.

As the Ivoran-style flat-bottom row boat clunked lightly to the planks of the Golden Wind’s stern the team decided to go over the plan one more time. Jíen had failed in his part as they simply couldn’t track down a sailor from the ship. So, it was the assassin, Trantox that would have to silently scale the ship’s side and slip onboard killing the man on watch and then lowering a rope for the other two.

Jenn (Trantox’s Player): “Wait. I have to climb?”

Me & Gil (Jíen’s & Dravor’s Players respectively): “YES.”

Jenn: “Uhm. My Climb skill sucks. So…”

Me: “Let me see that, um, WHAT!? It’s at negative TWO!”

Jenn: “Well yeah. My strength sucks. But my DEX ROCKS!”

So, Trantox pulled out his trusty grappling-hook and promptly tossed it into the water unintentionally with a profound splash. The trio froze and listened, they could hear the muttering of at least a handful of sailors. Suddenly, a head popped over the edge of the railing and before the sailor could yell Jíen cast Gnat Swarm on him. While the sailor swatted at the flies sputtering Dravor rowed the skiff to the opposite side of the boat.

Sailor: “Hey! They’re over here! I see ‘em!”

Another Hyvalian thrust the business end of a crossbow over the railing and shot at Trantox. The assassin barely dodged the bolt. The deck bell began furiously ringing and the trio thought it best to abort their mission especially since none of them could swim.

Cris (the GM): “What? Really? None of you can swim? Huh.” He jotted something down in his notes.

Fortunately the trio had a wide lead over the other two boats which were in pursuit that first had to be lowered from the ship into the water. The trio was already dissolving into the filthy alleys of Xuun before the theocrats were halfway to shore.

Next morning the dark trio met back up at the Whiskey Troll Tavern. Dravor came to the table with some info on a couple of Templars whose morning routine was to head from the Golden Feather Inn to the Silver Gauntlet, a tavern that catered primarily to Hyvalians and a favorite of those theocrats that hadn’t given up the vice of drink.

On his way to the troll one Zarkar had approached Jíen as the man required the services of someone that could deal with “spirits”. Apparently the man was a landlord of an adobe villa which was haunted and he wanted the ghosts gone when his current tenants, a trio of adventurers, got back. It paid 25 gp and the necromancer had already promised to do the job but on the morrow. The other two weren’t particularly thrilled with that idea when Jíen  had brought it to the table and declined as “backup”.

Trantox however, was determined to seek out and eliminate his target, the Scael gladiator. His companions once again declined his plan. So in a huff the assassin got up from the table and headed for the Silver Scale. After a couple of whiskey fortified ales, Jíen and the blackguard took their leave and headed into the north-side of the city seeking the Silver Gauntlet. It would be an even two-way split on Korvo’s bounty.

It wasn’t long before the pair of miscreants with zombie-girl in tow, were skulking in the shadows of an alley that looked out onto the “good-guy” tavern. After some time the duo saw a group of four Hyvalian Templars approaching the mouth of the place.

The Templars were decked out in full chainmail suits with gold-trimmed white surcoats bearing the golden sun and rays on their chests and open helms. A golden chalice medallion hung around each of their thick necks. Each armed with a straight one-handed great sword and dagger. One of them was also carrying a light crossbow.

The group of churchmen immediately took notice of the scrawny one-armed necromancer near the mouth of a nearby alley especially when he shouted at his partner in crime: “Yeah! Get her Dranor! She’s a follower of Boahng! Let’s do her right in this alley!” They could see the large blackguard apparently dragging a struggling girl into the dark recesses of the alley. So of course they immediately pulled their weapons and jaunted heroically into the shadows.

In the alley the blackguard took a high guard stance with his zanbato as he and the necromancer waited to waylay the Hyvalians. As the first Templar charged in Dravor took an attack of opportunity. The blackguard smote the Templar on the helmeted head wounding him badly. The brained churchman responded with his great sword carving a nasty gash into Dravor’s side.

The second Templar into the alley grabbed the zombie in a mistaken attempt to rescue her. The third stopped about 10 ft. from Jíen and shot him. The zombie smashed her tiny fists into the second Templars face in a completely unexpected attack. He reacted instinctively by chopping her down in a single stroke, sudden horror smeared over his rugged but still boyish features.

Jíen cast Dread Invigoration and stepped in towards the first Templar touching him. The energy drain nearly stunned the man. The Templar then lost grip of his great sword which he flung deeper into the dark alley when he clumsily struck at Dravor. The zombie slowly rose back up.

The second Templar even more horrified chopped her back down again. The third Templar reloaded his crossbow. The first deflected a blow from Dravor’s horse-cutter with his dagger. The fourth who was lagging behind the group, charged at Dravor his sword narrowly missing the blackguard’s chest. The zombie rose for a second time.

Jíen tried to cast Animate Necrosis on the first Templar’s wounds but the church-warrior easily resisted. The second Templar shouted, “Undead!” and hacked into Jíen’s zombie, the sound of steel breaking through bone echoed down the filthy alley. The zombie however was still on her feet though she was now wearing her entrails as an apron.

Jíen hit the first Templar with another Dread Invigoration and Dravor followed up with a sword blow finally dropping him. The blackguard tried to cast a spell but failed distracted by the heat of the battle. The crossbowman nailed the necromancer with a bolt but dealt little damage through his magic amulet of armor. The second Templar chopped Jíen’s zombie down for the third time.

The zombie painfully lurched back up. Jíen hit the fourth Templar, the only one currently facing off with Dravor, with his Exsanguination spell wounding the churchman badly and healing his own wounds in the process as he gulped down the blood forced from the Hyvalian’s body.

The zombie slammed her mutilated body into the second Templar dealing no damage. His horror now turned wholly to disgust. Dravor struck the fourth Templar hacking a gory wound into his side. The Templar retorted wounding Dravor severely. The second Templar cleaved the zombie in two finally destroying it. The third reloaded his crossbow.

Dravor clinched with the fourth Templar on a parry and the second zombie-gore encrusted Templar hacked into him while he was helpless.

Cris (the GM): “Man, you could always just drop your weapon.”

Gil (Dravor’s Player): “No way! I need my weapon! My Zanbato.”

The blackguard was able to break the clinch and swung his massive blade around opening the fourth Templar’s chest dropping him. In a panic the crossbowman shot Dravor. The second Templar then hacked into the blackguard with a vicious strike and then easily parried the Dravor’s retort. The third Templar dropped his crossbow which clattered to the cobblestones and drew his sword.

All the while Jíen cast spell after spell but the Templars were either able to withstand the damage or resist the crippling magic of his spells altogether. In desperation Dravor power attacked the fourth Templar splitting his mail wide open and cleaving him into two gory halves. The last Templar charged and parried Dravor’s attack. The Templar responded with his sword and Dravor barely parried the desperate blow.

Again the Templar resisted the necromancer’s magic and Dravor eager to finish the fight put all his might behind another power attack hacking off the Hyvalian’s head in a single stroke. The trash strewn alley an abattoir soaked in blood, still warm guts squirmed over the filth.

Of course, before collecting their heads the duo looted the bodies for a grand total of 18 gp, 75 sp, and 70 cp. The pair split the take evenly and headed off to see Korvo-Doom with 4 bagged heads, after Jíen harvested a couple more long-bones, that is.

To Be Continued…

Necromancing Xuun Pt.6: Blood Feast of Doom

Exvorum the dark priest led the trio to the hall of the master slaver Korvo-Doom. The Blood Chalice of Doombanner of the Golden Devil West Company wafted dreamily over the heavy wooden double-door, the entrance to his hall. The flag bore the smiling horned yellow demon with a crown floating above its head against a white field bounded by a blue border.

Jíen briefly contemplated on how strange it was that a creature like the Company should exist. To him it was a landless country with a fleet, an army, and lords, granted a Board of Lords. However, the idea that such a beast could survive on money alone did make a sort of sense, as money is power, the most material kind anyway. But knowing the impermanence of all things he brushed those philosophical concerns aside.

The priest with the shaved head approached the door and knocked with an uneven staccato. When the door cracked open, he whispered what the trio assumed to be a password but couldn’t overhear. A servant threw open the doors and Exvorum gleefully led his guests into the hall which was abuzz with activity.

A tall skinny Ivoran man in fine silk robes also with a shaved head greeted the group. He introduced himself as Ilhand interpreter and right hand of Korvo-Doom. He enjoined the trio to sit at their places beside the dark priest’s neophytes. The five young men were dressed in black robes similar to their master each also with a shaved head. Tattooed around their wrists and their necks were the links of black chains.

The table was already set with wood-ware and tin plates as well as wine, ale, and especially whiskey. There was also bowls of fresh fruit and nuts from all over the Westlands and along the Ivoran Coast. It was not long before the slaves and servants had everything in place for their master’s feast. It was not long after this that his guests began to ooze into the hall one after another.

Before long the hall and thus was populated with Doom’s guests, top members of the Swampers’ Guild, an ogrish fellow with a bullwhip pulling along 3 gladiators with spiked collars on golden chains, several roguish men and a few women, and an out of place noble couple in fine clothes. Naked pleasure slaves in chains lined the hall, both male and female humans, their flawless bodies and soft skins oiled and gleaming. Jíen found the atmosphere in the crowded hall a bit stifling, too many warm bodies.

After a while, the chatter amongst the presumed villains rose to a constant low rumble with the occasional outburst of raucous laughter. A slight fog of incense and pipe-smoke coalesced above their heads. Suddenly Ilhand emerged from a stairwell behind the head of the long table and announced, “The Prince Scourge of Hyval, Defiler of the Light, Whip of the Enslaver, I present Lord Korvo-Doom!”

Only after the last syllable had died which had been dragged out for effect did the master-slaver Korvo-Doom emerge from the very same stairwell. Draped in fine white gold-gilded silk robes with a golden chainmail shirt underneath he approached his tall-backed black lacquered chair in a surprisingly graceful manner as a downcast slave scooted it out for him.

Korvo’s shoulder-length platinum-blonde hair was square cut so as to exhibit his flawless pale face which had the appearance of an angelic very young man with scintillating crystal blue-eyes. It was in contrast to his heavily muscled and sun-tanned arms and broad muscly chest, he had to weigh in somewhere around 250 pounds and was very tall around 6’5”.

As the master-slaver sat he signaled with his hand the rounded sapphires on his gold bracers glittering in the bright lamplight. A slave began to pour out assassin-berry wine, a few of the more refined guests could tell just by the strong sweet smell.

Korvo-Doom made a short speech to which Jíen paid little attention. Then those wishing to squeeze in a little butt-kissing session began to purpose ever more pompous and increasingly ridiculous toasts by turn in the evil-angelic figure’s honor. Dravor cut-off the ogrish fellow in his enthusiasm and purposed a surprisingly brief and slightly awkward toast which seemed to please the slaver slightly. Jíen rolled his eyes.

When it came time for the priest Exvorum to mount his toast he first produced a spectacular chalice from a black lockbox that one of his neophytes had unlocked and then took away.

The chalice was silver with a gold inlay and had five large rubies inset in the cup and five bloodstones on the base. He held it aloft presenting it as a gift to Korvo-Doom. In response, Ilhand then produced a black box of his own which when opened revealed a gold mask in the likeness of a grinning demon encrusted with gems. With some ceremony, they exchanged both items.

Steaming pork dripping with fat, thick green soup, and oven-fresh bread were brought to the table on silver platters and bowls. The slaves that had been standing against the whitewashed walls of the hall moved to the guests and intermingled (as it were). The feasting began in earnest but to Jíen there was still a little tension in the air and amongst the indulgent guests as if something had yet to be finished; an incomplete ritual.

Unexpectedly Korvo-Doom turned towards Jíen. The young necromancer seated just on the other side of the dark priest’s retinue. He spoke in perfect Dead-Lander to the young necro-mage inquiring as to how he had found himself in Xuun and had a few questions about his fighter. Bludbaer was standing behind Jíen in laughable imitation of a bodyguard.

The necromancer had inquired about Shadow-Scale but found that Korvo-Doom had an unreasoning hatred of all Scaels (and maybe all Naga). When Jíen inquired of Korfin, the slaver had never heard of him. The angel-faced slaver however was familiar with the Silver-Owl. They chatted for a bit more.

Korvo then signaled the other two, Trantox the assassin and Dravor the blackguard, to lean in as he presumably had a business proposal for the three. He would consider it a big favor if the trio would help in clearing up a little matter. He continued on to say there have been multiple open attempts on his life by certain members of the Hyvalian Theocracy.

He was sure that the offenders are those that had traveled to Xuun on a ship that was currently at harbor. The ship’s name was The Golden Wind, a Hyvalian vessel with junk rigging and grand golden sun-casting rays painted on its sails. Should the church officers on that ship come to harm he would pay 200 gold devils per head (the Company strikes its own gold pieces stamped with the company’s logo, a grinning devil face, and worth about one-half a gold piece each).

He also extended the deal to any theocrat head they could deliver to him. Dravor immediately shook Korvo’s hand and accepted the deal for the whole group. Trantox wholeheartedly concurred and Jíen just shrugged. That business concluded the master-slaver clapped his well-manicured paws together, the concussion silencing the lusty party.

Without warning Korvo-Doom snatched the wrist of the naked slave-girl on his lap and slit her wrist to the bone with his dagger. He held the gushing wound over the dark priest’s gift, the silver chalice. The red stones on the vessel glowed venomously and the girl’s cries of protest cut off with a squeak.

She paled, her eyes went dead, her once milk-smooth skin curdled, and pruned about the eyes and lips. The flow of blood was an instantaneous torrent washing the entirety of the blood from within her body containing it in the impossible capacity of the small silver cup. Korvo-Doom flung the limp corpse to the side. It flopped onto the flagstone floor of the hall.

The master-slaver and apparent devil-worshipper took a drink and passed the bloody vessel to the priest who did the same and thus the cup continued around the table with each guest obligated to take a hearty drink.

When it came to Dravor’s turn he immediately stood and pledged his service to Korvo-Doom before drinking. Again, Jíen rolled his eyes and then wondered if the blackguard had foolishly become a thrall of the devilish-slaver.

Deciding to rib the blackguard a little Jíen shouted out “Hey! Where’d he go! I can only see his boots!” Of course he said it in Deadlander so only Korvo-Doom and Ilhand understood. They snickered. Dravor shot a harsh sideways glance at the necromancer.

After the blood ritual, all of the tension had bled from the room. The festivities moved to that more akin a delirious orgy rather than a ritualistic feast. Jíen pointed to the corpse of the girl questioningly as slaves began to drag her away. Korvo nodded in acknowledgment and then threw a dismissive hand gesture.

So right there, as an orgy heaved and sweated around him, the young necromancer animated the corpse of the slave-girl. Jíen left word with Ilhand, whom was coldly overseeing and not participating in the greasy festivities, on how to contact him should they require his services. The necromancer took his leave with both of his creatures.

Sometime later after leaving his creatures in the tomb, Jíen decided to have a peek at the Hyvalian ship Korvo had mentioned. He went to the docks and found that the ship was at anchor in the middle of the deep lagoon that served as Xuun’s harbor. His curiosity satisfied he figured he should be the one to formulate the plan of attack.

The next night the trio gathered once again at the Troll. Trantox brought up a plan about “eliminating the competition”, a Scael gladiator with a 5,000 gp bounty on his head. The assassin even knew where they were, the Silver Scale Tavern. Dranor on the other hand wanted to fulfill the promise the trio had made to Korvo-Doom instead. This time Jíen sided with the blackguard. Trantox sneered at him.

The plan the trio came up with after a few minutes of both planning and arguing was that they would find a crew member of the Golden Wind, assassinate him, and Jíen would then reanimate him. They would then have the zombie crewman row them out to the ship and help them get aboard. That was when they would “slice and dice” as it were.

The Poisonwood assassin oiled his dagger with venom and agreed to follow through with Jíen’s plan. Immediately, just as they rose from the table, Dravor called for a vote, which overruled Jíen’s plan. The pair even tried to get Jíen to agree to row the boat out to the ship for them after he lost that vote.

Me (Jíen’s Player): “I have one freakin’ ARM!”

To Be Continued…

Necromancing Xuun Pt.4: Gold Bit Gambit

It was time to put his plan into action. After his morning meditation on the deeperWhat gold bits buy mysteries of the Black Faith he took out his serrated knife and began to carefully cut a single gold piece into pieces of eight. Jíen then left his tomb and walked to the bazaar. It wasn’t long before after harassing a few ragamuffins that he found a group of street-rats eager for his gold bits. He told his new contact, the eldest of the group complete with a tattoo of rat’s silhouette on the side of his hand (a mark of the Ratters’ Guild), that he would pay in gold bits for a black gem, no questions asked. The necromancer told them he frequents the Troll and to find him there to get paid.

A little while later, the young necromancer walked into the Whiskey Troll Tavern and noticed that even without the oppressive atmosphere of smoke it stunk quite a bit of piss and rotten ale. He also noticed that his companions had indeed survived their little mission from last night. He walked over and the other two had some harsh words for him, he tried to explain himself and kept a friendly tone. Trantox the assassin and Dravor the blackguard didn’t understand a word from the necromancer’s mouth and vice versa.

Somehow, all thought that everything had been smoothed over or that they had won at an argument or got the other party to agree to something. Regardless, they were a trio again. They sat and ate a breakfast of hot ale-mash with bits of fried meat (probably rat), ale and some whiskey. The necromancer however went light on the booze preferring to drink the cheapest grog he could get.

It wasn’t long before the first of two street kids walked in delivering for 1 gold bit, a rounded onyx obviously pried from some larger treasure. Trantox and Dravor left sometime just before midday. A little while later outside the day turned gray, humid, and dark without warning and then a sudden thunderstorm dumped warm rain turning the uncobbled streets to mud.

Shortly after the second pickpocket had walked out with his gold bit, the blackguard and the assassin came back wetted by the downpour. They again sat and ordered food and drink; they appeared to have quite a bit of money on their persons. It wasn’t long after that that a tall sun-darkened southlander with a shaved pate wrapped in a black robe walked in from the rain and directly to the dark trio’s table.

The tall man smiling made eye contact with Dravor and referred to him a few times as ‘brother’. Four others similarly dressed and lightly armed were behind him. Jíen couldn’t understand much but when the man introduced himself to the rest of the group he caught the name Exvorum. Exvorum and his men joined the trio for a few hours of friendly chatter and some whiskies.

By evening the tavern was crowded, loud with brusque voices, and fogged with smoke. Fauns, some half-giants, Scaels, and gypsies had flooded into the place all arriving in town as fans of the annual gladiatorial games. Jíen took his leave after purchasing a bottle of whiskey and made his way back to the charnel house.

It wasn’t long before he found himself chatting up the attendant of the astudan, Exandor. Of course, their conversation turned towards past champion level gladiators who’d died and were buried in the graveyard.

Exandor: “Baercor the skull-breaker. I think he died about 2 seasons ago, big funeral. Lotsa flowers, the mourners certainly earned their pay that day. A fine funeral indeed.” His bottom lip bulged with pride with that final phrase.

A few minutes after that Jíen left the half-drunk bottle with the inebriated Exandor and used his skeletal minion to excavate the grave of the gladiator Baercor. The corpse was in surprisingly good condition having mostly dried-up rather than rotted. Even his equipment was more-or-less intact. He had been buried with the implements of his profession, a dire-mace, a short-sword, a chain shirt bearing the damage of the fatal wound, an open helm, and a Westlander war-belt.

The Deadlands necromancer took most of the remaining night to ply his trade and convert the corpse into something useful, a variation of a Dread-Guard using the black gems he had obtained from the street urchins. Surprisingly both gems were genuine. The creature when finished was a mindless automaton for the most part but its shriveled bluish flesh was hardened like leather and its strength slightly greater than it had been in life.

Jíen had also carved, with his serrated dagger, a magic rune into the creature’s forehead during its creation, a Disguise Undead spell. The creature would appear as a living man of a somewhat generic appearance but appropriate to his size and massive build. Jíen wouldn’t have been too surprised to learn that the gladiator had giant’s blood in his veins.

There was enough time left before dawn for the young mage to catch some sleep before he had to go to the arena to register his fighter as Bludbaer the Dire and himself as Bludbaer’s manager. He would use the tiger-eye gem snatched from one of the hooded thief’s corpses (see Necromancing Xuun Pt.2: Squatters’ Rights). The proper games would begin in a week’s time. He thought, “ha! This’ll be easy money!”

It was near noontime when Jíen had finished putting the last few steps of his plan into action having registered his fighter for the games and was headed back to the Whiskey Troll Tavern to meet up with his compatriots with his minion and new gladiator in tow. It wasn’t long after his arrival at the Troll before fight-fans were offering drinks to his undead-fighter so Jíen had them give the creature red wine as it was “his favorite”.

Cris (the GM): “Ha-ha, like blood!”

Me (Jíen’s Player): “Well, yeah, can’t have him get wounded in the games and have no blood. Someone might get suspicious!”

The GM made a note after that crack.

After a while, Dravor wanted in on the swindle and offered to “sponsor” the young necromancer’s fighter. Of course, the necromancer would have to help the blackguard in taking out a “competitor” first. They had just finished shaking hands on it when a gaggle of armored Hyvalians clattered in. Jíen’s shadowed eyes nearly bulged from their sockets when he saw them.

There was a mutual amount of hate between most, if not all, Hyvalians and Deadlanders caused by the Necromancer Rebellion that had occurred over 500 years past. It had resulted in the loss of a significant portion of the Hyval landmass to the Solkang Ocean splitting the Deadlands from the mainland. It was still a sore spot between cultures.

The Hyvalians’ white surcoats bore the golden chalice and sunrays against azure of the Hyvalian Theocracy. The leader was in full plate armor and great helm apparently a paladin and the other four were Templars in full-suits of chainmail with steel open helms on their heads. The paladins armor squeaked with his raised arm as did his gauntlet when his finger thrust in Jíen’s direction.

Paladin: “We are here to purge this community of the evil that has infected it! We start with you!”

What Jíen had failed to note was that the paladin’s golden scabbard had a single gem of obsidian set into it. The gold mounting damaged from a failed attempt at prying it off. There were also two other empty settings from which the gems had been pried.

Trantox the assassin had already slunk away unseen.

To Be Continued…