The Aztlan Campaign took place on Sierna.
Player Characters Edit
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|Al the Dwarf||Sean||It's Al, the Dwarf.|
|Kelly McNiall||Tom||A smuggler and special operator in the service of The Knights Mercantile.|
|J. Paul Getty||Lan||Addicted to gambling.|
|Mimir||Seth||Genius Elven head in a jar.|
Important Non-Player Characters Edit
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The Pyramid Edit
The Session began with party being assailed by strange, shadowlike monsters. Doctors Lungren and Sera decided that the sanest course of action was to ram the invisible horde with an armored car. Dr. Jonesse, Marcel and Godehard instead congregated around the machine gun, which was manned by the five janissaries. Sera and Lungren crashed, badly, and were nearly torn to shreds as they retreated toward Getty. Lucjo, the troll, was getting chunks torn out of him about as quickly as he could regenerate. With the workers either fleeing into the pyramid or getting ripped apart by the shadows, Getty decided to enact a tactical retreat and ran into the pyramid after his men.
After a bit of running and gunning, Getty reached the center of the pyramid. By this point, a clever application of a peculiarly occluded glass shard to the front of an electric lamp allowed everyone to see the shadows for what they were — a horrifying mixture of bird and man. Getty reached the top of a gantry rising up over a deep pit. Lungren followed a chute directly above and reached some sort of Panopticon (he failed his senility roll, though, and reached some highly erroneous conclusions). Everyone eventually followed him when it became clear that the shadows, though moving more slowly, were still giving chase.
Inside the Panopticon, Getty discovered what Dr. Jonesse identified as an Angel of Baradun (a nine-foot tall, mummified corpse with wires and gears still turning under its desiccated skin) seated inside a massive control throne. The party was running out of ammunition (this prompted a ridiculous one-liner from Lungren "They'll run out of blood before we run out of bullets"(Imagine this coming from an elderly gnome with a rifle bigger than he is...)) when the shadows suddenly began to recede. Then, a horrible dread took over the party members, an almost compulsive "call of the void", beckoning all into the pit far below. A strange shaking from the half-dead angel led Sera to conclude that the pyramid, which was apparently a superweapon that would generate a negative etheric zone and destroy vast areas in the ensuing calamity of reality, reshaping itself, was about to fire.
Getty saw Dr. Niels and his three mercs (who had been oddly absent for all of this) running up the gantry. Marcel and Jonesse overruled Lungren and kept the Panopticon open long enough for the four of them to reach Getty. Unfortunately, this meant that he spent a crucial few seconds exposed to the full horror of the fabric of space and time being punctured somewhere below. Everyone made will saves, and everyone took sanity damage except Dr. Sera (she rolled a nat 20, and gained forbidden knowledge). Getty, unfortunately, experienced some of the worst of it. His mind was suddenly exposed to a horrible absence of feeling when the chamber was finally sealed. He and several others found themselves suffering from sensory overload. In essence, their senses become so heightened trying to find some sort of stimulus during those horrifying few seconds that they overcompensated (those affected now get +4 to perception, but intense light or sound requires a fortitude save to avoid being dazed (+4 to listen/spot)). They also took some sanity damage (11 points each).
When all this was over, the party took stock of its situation: Most of the workers were dead, one of the Janissaries was catatonic, and another was in the same condition as Getty. The surviving workers, who were outside the Panopticon chamber when the firing occurred, have all gone irreperrably insane. All of Dr. Niels' mercenaries became hypersensitive (Niels seemed fine, as did the other scholars (high will saves, after all)) and, using the strange magnifying properties of the Panopticon, the party saw that the settlement of Gate Town was set ablaze by the firing of the weapon (Gate Town is about one hundred and sixty miles away).
The party gathered itself up and tried heading back. The radio came back online, and Getty tried hailing the airship's captain. He was incoherent and eventually hung up. Getty managed to reach Dr. Casimir, the librarian, but he was killed by two assailants, whom Marcel recognized by voice as the dwarf and the man he had slain at the tower. The Panopticon also revealed an oasis a few days' walk from the pyramid so the party headed there. En-route, Getty was broadcasting a general distress call, which was was finally answered by, of all things, an officer of the Aeldrum Trade Company. It seemed that the ATC disembarked not long after the pyramid was fired. With few resources and almost no men, Getty told the ATC the party's current location and offered to trade knowledge for their assistance.
The ATC reached the oasis a few days after the party (in the meantime, Getty and Jonesse concluded jointly that the oasis was actually the reflecting pool of a massive Church of Kirva). On arrival, Dr. Sera realized that the commander, Captain Pacius, was her former fiancee. What was already an awkward reunion was made still worse when Pacius arrested her on charges of "Dynastic Complicity in High Treason" (namely, her father and brother were implicated in an assassination attempt on the Serene Doge of Aeldrum, and later also convicted of laundering money for a separatist movement on Aeldrum).
So now Getty has joined up with the ATC for the time being. They seem to be interested in the pyramids and a possible etheric route over the planet's wastelands. Cpt. Pacius appears to be advised by a mysterious elf (definitely not Aeldman) in black, silken robes named Chenueva, who appears to owe the Company some sort of debt.
So to summarize this summary,:
- The party was attacked by what seem to have been the negatives of long-dead souls, flash-burned into the background ether by some massive release of energy
- The black pyramid is apparently a source of negative energy, used to rip apart the farbic of the ether and trigger a chain reaction of destruction as reality re-stabilizes (Sera and Jonesse theorize that a full blast could literally set the atmosphere on fire -- what you saw was a very, very, small taste of the destruction)
- The pyramid fired again shortly after your arrival; whether the party triggered it is unclear. In any case, a lack of etheric energy avoided the full chain reaction of the original firing (there may also have been other pyramids involved the first time)
- The ATC showed up, and you've now joined them as a survival measure
- The sky is now dark even during the day, and there's a massive rift far to the north
Journey to Tl'azt Edit
After slaying Roisin in the depths of the Difference Engine complex and defeating the warbird-mounted raiders on the surface, the party turned to unraveling the mysteries of the experiments of the Mage Princes. The party concluded that the Difference Engine was constructed in an attempt to translate between the mind-shattering Elder Script used in most occult rituals and the more mundane language of Vedlys. The purpose of this translation was unclear, though it seemed likely to have been an attempt to create or modify Eldritch rites without taxing the sanity of the scholar.
In the course of the battle with the mounted raiders, Coyote faced down their leader, a shaman of shocking power who ritualistically executed the shunned natives in his tow and reanimated them before the party's eyes as twisted undead. The resulting horrors swiftly attacked Coyote. Already weakened by repeated blows from the raiders and their warbirds (whom he had, in turned, burned with extreme prejudice), the gnoll trudged toward the shaman, a pair of hunched undead clinging to his plate armor and gnawing fruitlessly at his joints. Seeing their minimal effect, the shaman spoke a further word of power, causing the undead to detonate in a shower of gore and oddly durable bone fragments, nearly felling Coyote. Undeterred, however, the gnoll proceeded to grab the shaman's warbird by the neck and throw it to the ground, setting it aflame in the process. The shaman, however, survived the battle, though his legs were crushed beneath his burning mount. When interrogated by Kelly, Mimir, and the party's native scout, Ilo, the shaman explained that he and his raiders had come from the southern city of Tl'azt (known to the party as one of Aztlan's likely places of power) in search of sacrificial victims when the voices of his numerous gods had steered him toward the party. He spoke gleefully of the great sacrificial pyres of the city and offered to lead the party to Tl'azt and, thence, into its heart by secret ways through the catacombs, so that the adventurers would not meet death until they had reached the high temples of the basin gods and could thereupon be slain in view of the shaman's divine masters.
In addition to the discovery of the Difference Engine's purpose, Mimir performed an experiment of his own with the Glass Mind discovered by Getty, a device which apparently contained a partial mechanical facsimile of the persona of a Mage Prince. Following their encounter with Roisin, Getty and Mimir gained access to a deeper chamber of the complex and found six man-sized alcoves, four of which contained human bodies in stasis. Mimir successfully transferred the contents of the Glass Mind to their original repository in the brain of the fourth body, thereby reviving its intelligence and returning a fragment of a Mage Prince, Qualos, to the waking world. This long-dormant vestige of the Mage Imperium carried only a small portion of his own memories, partially cognizant of his project on this forsaken planet but painfully aware of yawning gaps in his recollection. Qualos and, to his knowledge, the five other mages had come to the world in vengeful search of a seventh Mage Prince once part of a rival faction in the Imperium's widening civil war but since turned renegade in the search for godhood. Qualos could not recall the fate of his nemesis, only that he had been found on this world and that the stasis had been a protective measure. From inside the Difference Engine complex, Mimir would spend the next several days conversing with Qualos in order to discern his knowledge of Aztlan and other powers of the Basin while bringing the Mage Prince up to speed on the past ten thousand years of history.
On the surface, Getty, who had swiftly abandoned all interest in the comparatively drab project of rehabilitating a Mage Prince with partial amnesia, turned to the more dangerous pursuit of taming a warbird. One specimen survived the battle relatively uninjured, albeit restrained with nets and stakes by Sgt. Atwell and his remaining men. With the use of the telepathic Amulet of Beasts, Getty communed with the bird, first attempting to soothe it but soon tapping into his own sanity-draining memories to break its will. He succeeded and took firm command of his new mount.
The party spent a week of recuperation with little interference from the denizens of the basin. On the fourth day, there came welcome reinforcements from the KM base at Chelonia. A second airship, faster and lighter than the doomed first, brought a half-dozen veteran mercenaries under a Fialta officer (much to Coyote's hungry excitement), new supplies and, at long last, the Codex Exilium in the watchful charge of a KM Quartermaster and four Auditors (the special operatives of the Knights Mercantile). The Codex was also accompanied by a scholar, now eighth in the line of those who had studied the text on Schulz's payroll.
The Quartermaster introduced himself not as an executor of Schulz and Hopkins's designs but rather as a representative of the late doctor's investors, who were now more concerned with securing the Etheric Gate located within the basin than with saving Schulz's soul. However, he shared the party's interest in defeating Aztlan, for the sake of securing KM interests in the region. After recovering from wounds suffered in the battle for the Difference Engine, the party prepared for its foray to Tl'azt. After Mimir ascertained that Tl'azt sat along a ley line running between Xol and the Tower of the Door and was therefore a place of power and judging, moreover, that such places could be undone with dynamite, the rest of the party made for the city of blood and fire. They took with them the Fialta and his men as well as Ilo and the shaman, leaving behind the Quartermaster to manage future reinforcements and Mimir, Qualos and the KM scholar to study the Codex Exilium in greater depth (while Mugin took charge of the warbird, which Kelly refused to take with the party).
Kelly, Al, Coyote and Getty chose to take the river route to Tl'azt, bypassing the fetid marshes in which the Finnegan expedition had last confronted Aztlan before sinking into the living nightmare which separated the last of Schulz's logs from the expedition's ignominious return to the KM. The river was the same as the one which ran through the native village close the Tower of the Door, though the party's route lay much further to the south. The adventurers followed Ilo's guidance to the edge of the river and, a week from the Difference Engine, to the first of the many peaceful villages which dotted its southern banks. There, they discovered an enormous canoe hollowed out from a single tree trunk. When questioned about the possibility of trading for it, the natives explained that it was "reserved" for other, imminent visitors, the Withered Princes and their retinues. The natives explained that, every five or six years, a great procession of the Princes took them alternately up or down the river (this year was down), gathering offerings and dispensing blessings along the way. When pressed, the villagers explained that the Princes were the last symbols of the old cities, as opposed to the more recent savagery of the Tl'azt raiders.
Further villages had the same canoes and gave the same answers to the party's inquiries. At last, one village did posses a sufficient surplus of lighter crat for the party to acquire sufficient materials with which to produce a catamaran. The adventurers sailed downriver, toward Tl'azt, where the shaman's deranged promises would be put to the test.
En route, the ramshackle watercraft was soon trailed by slick forms which swam under the slow-moving river surface. One night, these peculiar entities surfaced and answered the mad ravings of the shaman with unearthly songs, which drew the Fialta officer to the edge of the craft, enraptured by what he muttered were promises of impossible wealth. Kelly was the first to realize the imminent danger as the Fialta lowered his hand into the waters and grasped the clammy appendage of one of the river-sirens. Hoisted from water into the open air, the creature and its kin which swiftly followed were revealed to be blubbery, sagging humanoids with webbed extremities and rudder-like spines which shifted side-to-side as a means of aquatic locomotion, in the style of a crocodile or other marine reptile. Al took an ax to the first, while Coyote set fire to those whose backs broke the water's surface in the catamaran's wake and Kelly, Getty and the six mercenaries blasted the second river-siren from the craft in a hail of gunfire. Those creatures which did not die immediately in that brief and one-sided slaughter were left shrieking in agony and frustration as their chosen prey escaped their slimy clutches.
The party made landfall a day after the encounter with the river-sirens. Abandoning the catamaran to the impending monsoons, the adventurers headed inland toward Tl'azt, reaching the outskirts of that vile city after another week's march through the jungle. En-route, the party narrowly avoided additional raider bands, affording its members a closer look at the system of looting and enslavement which alimented Tl'azt's sacrificial fires and lunatic priesthood. The exhausted slaves who shuffled ahead of the pitiless drivers and their warbirds bore jarring signs of ritual scarification through which their captors had already begun to prepare their flesh for offerings to Aztlan and other gods, either long-gone or no more than leering masks for the basin's patron deity.
Now, almost in the shadow of Tl'azt itself, the party deliberated on its approach. The shaman still promised to show them the way though the catacombs, swearing that they could expect only a few serpents, monitor lizards and hunger-mad slaves for resistance. Kelly, however, offered pageantry over stealth, and proposed that the party pose as a raiding band in its own right, bringing Outlander slaves as a special offering to Aztlan. Ilo would pose as the band's shaman, Kelly and Getty (appropriately disguised) as raiders (aided by their slowly developing command of the Taino tongue), the Fialta and his mercs as the captives and Al and Coyote as inhuman emissaries of the gods themselves. Of course, this plan did not call for an actual shaman with broken legs, and his head and garb were soon taken from him by Ilo.
Thus disguised, the party strode to the broken walls of Tl'azt, where one of the city's fractious cult-gangs attempted to steal its bounty of captives. Kelly, from hiding, answered with a shot from his hydrogen rifle. Interpreting the sudden explosion and incineration of one of their number as a sign of divine displeasure, these would-be rivals fled into the city itself, leaving the adventurers to enter and meet with a more organized delegation, this time composed of shamans. They challenged Ilo on his claims of directly representing Aztlan and incurred the fiery displeasure of the shaman's adamantine-clad companion. Having introduced itself to the locals, the party pressed deeper into the city, past the lesser earth-mounds which bore the temples of forgotten gods and the sunken sepulchers turned slave-pens which held their destined sacrifices in fearful anticipation of the great fires. At the heart of Tl’azt, the adventurers found the great temple of Aztlan, perfectly aligned with the faint ley patterns perceived by Al and Getty. Before the great blood steps of the temple lay the deepest sepulcher of the city, into which the party pressed, with appropriately grandiose declarations from Ilo and much snarling from Coyote.
The sepulcher held new horrors — shaman doctors finishing the crude work of the raiders as they branded, carved and twisted the bodies of slaves. Descending into this occult pit, the party took swift control, demanding that the shamans cede their sacrificial table to Ilo, that he might perform the rituals "properly." A swift, adamantine fist from Coyote quelled any doubts, and Kelly was allowed to take the Fialta captain to the table, where he covered him in powder from a flashbang. The ensuing display of light and deafening sound solved two of Kelly's problems: the shaman-doctors quailed, and the fialta died instantly, apparently overly willing to allow himself to be covered in gunpowder.
The party proceeded to take control of the sepulcher, but the explosion attracted a new host of raiders and priests, furious at their intrusion. Once more Coyote took the lead as the party's intimidating face, leveling his flamer at the already trepidating enemy. A broken vent, a malfunctioning valve, and the flame came not from the nozzle from the container on Coyote's back, engulfing him in an explosive inferno. Ever improvisational, the gnoll blazed up the stairs of the sepulcher, driving the raiders before him.
While Coyote repelled the raiders, Kelly, Al, and Getty directed their men and the thoroughly cowed shaman-doctors to gather the slaves from their pens and move them from the sepulcher. They rounded them up and pushed them at bayonet and spear point. Soon, the adventurers were at the head of a great procession of slaves and priests, swiftly gathering raiders as onlookers and poachers as they moved up the blood-stained steps of the Temple of Aztlan.
Inside, the momentum of the procession exceeded the control of the party, and the slaves were driven to the temple's marble altar, where the ritual killings began and bodies were dumped to fuel the great inferno of the sacrificial fire in the vast chamber beneath it (Coyote's own flames had since been spent). All the while, Kelly conversed with Ilo, asking the native scout (whom the party had now realized to be an agent of the Harrowed Men) about his ambitions and proposing that he carry the Harrowed Men into power in Tl'azt and make himself governor on their behalf and the party's.
As the bodies of slaves were dumped into the altar's fiery chute, Ilo's enthusiastic reply was cut short by a blade appearing from out of his throat. The woman who pulled it back out and sent the scout crumpling to the floor was the elder Roisin.
The Temple was destroyed and the sunken shrine of the Sacrificial Marshes (the second place of power) after it. Most of the party flew via airship back to the base at the difference engine, which turned out to be in the middle of being overrun by ambulant amalgams of flesh propelled against it by Aztlan's eldritch power. Mimir, back at the base, held Getty in irons for his continued foolishness with dark and terrible artifacts.