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Actual Play

Castle Xyntillan – Session #29 – Into the Maze of the Occult

The Company:

  • Hendrik (MU5)
  • Jürg (F5)
  • Bern, Beath & Sarah (heavy foot)
  • Leon & Julian (porters)
  • Jan (T2 retainer)

Loot:

  • Four canopic jars
  • A bag of gemstones
  • An emerald-studded ring

Casualties:

  • Jan, burnt to a crisp by Hendrik’s fireball
  • Beath & Sarah, dropped from large heights by vindictive harpies

Report:

In the lead-up to the next expedition, a man named Jan approaches the company. He claims to know the location of a remarkable magic item known as “the ring of spirits”. He says it is hidden in a laboratory on the upper floor of a part of the castle called The Maze of The Occult. He wants to join the company to go and find it, in exchange for a mere half share of any mundane treasure they find along the way.

Hendrik, for some time suspecting his wife Ronja of harboring ill intents, shadows her while invisible. He follows her to The Tap where he sees her have dealings with this Jan character, as well as other unsavory types.

The company agree to take Jan up on his offer, secretly plotting to make short work of him before he can do any harm. On the way to the castle, Hendrik fiendishly extracts directions to the lab and the ring from the none-too-bright Jan. At night, while camping in the woods, Jürg and Hendrik sneak up on the hapless brigand. Jürg lifts up his mace to cave in Jan’s head, but he wakes just in time to dodge out of the way and run for the brushes. Not missing a beat, Hendrik casts a fireball at the receding figure’s general direction and burns the brushes to a crisp along with Jan in it. Job done.

***

When they arrive at the castle Jürg first climbs down into the dried up moat near the gatehouse in search of the magic sword once left there by the late Buerghedorn, known as The Blade of Rel. With some help from Hendrik he manages to locate it and when he wields it he is able to resist its attempt at domination. Jürg being thoroughly chaotic like the blade itself, he suffers no further harm. He also has an inkling that, beyond being magical and mildly intelligent, the blade also has some other powers yet to be revealed.

They enter through the rose garden, and make their way to the stairs leading up from the storerooms area. Along the way they take a quick detour to the previously visited fountain to fill a skin with water from it.

Before heading up they can’t resist inspecting the room right next to it, which remains unexplored. It turns out to be a storage room holding the man-sized lacquered statue of a dancing girl with six arms, each holding an actual dagger. Behind a curtain they also find a closet holding a sarcophagus and four canonic jars. They take the jars, leave the rest undisturbed, and head up the stairs.

They emerge into a spacious hallway, red carpet on the floor, family portraits on the walls, and an eery female signing filling the air. Large double doors immediately catch their eye. Inspecting it, it is evidently magically locked. Glowing letters across its surface read: “Here be the laboratory of Aristide Malévol the Patrician. If you know this name, you know you have no place here; if you know it not, let this warning suffice.” Stymied, the company turns another way.

The next room reveals a room filled with awful wax figures in the image of obviously dead people. A crate of candles piques their interest and they decide to take it.

The next room holds shelves with glass bottles. Broken glass crunches underfoot. An invisible entity occasionally picks up a bottle and tosses it at a dummy in one corner. When Jürg enters the spirit takes aim at him. Not easily impressed, the company make short work of the thing with a combination of magical weapons and spells. Searching the room, the discover several bottles with high-proof alcohol. Noticing a hole in the dummy, Jürg reaches inside, cuts his fingers on a bunch of razors, and extracts a pouch of gemstones.

Heading further east, they next enter a hallway. To the south they see an ominous door with skulls and mechanical bits and an inscription that reads “THE MASTERPIECE OF DEATH”. They decide not to mess with it.

Continuing east, they bump into a dapper gentleman dressed in a nightgown who introduces himself as Vincent Godefroy-Malévol. He inquires after their purposes in the castle, they exchange some pleasantries, after which Vincent continues on his way.

They open the next door, and see a massive gallery, walls covered in torn canvases, several large nests of rags on the floor, broken windows, and the sound of flapping and eery signing coming from just outside. Having some inkling of what they might be dealing with, the company carefully head back out. They take the box of candles, and plug their ears with wax. They then set the door ever so slightly ajar, and wait…

Yikes… (Gustave Doré)

Not much later, six women with wings for arms and claws for legs flap in through the broken windows and settle in their nests. Harpies! Jürg unboxes his toy soldiers. Hendrik turns himself invisible and sneaks inside. He then throws a fireball, hitting but not killing three. The rest of the fighting force runs inside to protect their prized mobile artillery high-level magic-user. The harpies try their mesmerizing singing, but the wax makes the company impervious to the monsters’ charms. So then the harpies fly at them, and Jürg, the toy soldiers and heavy foot rush forward to engage them in melee. The toy soldiers can’t quite reach the things without standing on each others’ shoulders. At first they appear equally matched. Several harpies are cut down. But then, Beath and Sarah are both grabbed by a harpy and lifted up to great heights before being dropped back down again, instantly killing them. The fight continues, more harpies are slain, but the last remaining one manages to reach Hendrik and tries the same trick. Hendrik is unable to avoid being lifted up, the harpy flies through the broken skylight into the morning air, and lets go. Hendrik plummets to his demise from sixty feet, but somehow, miraculously, survives. The harpy, disgusted, leaves.

They toss the nests and find a torn of arm and hand in an iron gauntlet. Removing the gauntlet, they recover a ring set with an emerald. Frustrated and relieved at once, the company make their way out of the castle, and back to Tours-en-Savoy.

Referee Commentary:

A fun session as usual. Two players only, but each running a fifth level PC as well as a bunch of retainers, so still well-matched with the castle’s many dangers. The whole Jan episode was a fun bit that emerged from an ongoing storyline we mainly handle during downtime related to a wife Hendrik once picked up while carousing (thank you Mr. Rients).

It was also cool to see players circle back and revisit some previously explored sections and things, like with the blade, and the fountain. I finally have a player running a fighter with an intelligent sword in my game! So exciting.

The harpies were excellent as well. I couldn’t believe my luck when the players matter of factly stated that they were going to jump in and fight them. My simple grapple rules served me well again. With flyers it’s a lot of fun to bypass AC and do massive damage by means of falling (c.f. the fight with the pigeons from hell). I did forget about the charm on touch power they also had. In hindsight it would have been awesome to have the final harpy charm Hendrik and turn his powers against his compatriots. But the likelihood of that succeeding are very slim given the high base save and bonuses a MU has in Hackbut.

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