Session/Game: Conan #17 Date: 12/5/2004
Episode 17, "Fickle Fate"
"Where have you hidden the crucible? How were you able to find it? What have you done with it? Stop lying. We know you are aware of its power. Where is the crucible?"
Of course, Leyden does not know where the crucible is. He doesn't even know what it is for sure. He thought Mobvet took him because he had planned on running off with the assassin’s daughter, Persephone. However, the battered thief knew that should his captors find out that he was not the one who stole the artifact known as the 'crucible', Mobvet would surely have killed him.
Leyden was feeling the pain of his torture. The time on the rack would have broken the limbs and back of a lesser man, but Leyden's training slipping bonds to become an escape artist helped to lessen the damage. The thief vowed revenge on the torturer -- a wiry Zamorian with a bald pate and pocked complexion.
Leyden eventually escapes, slaying two burly Shemite guards in the process. His face ruined, the Zamorian makes off into the world to plot his revenge on those who did this to him. Mobvet has to die.
Another famed adventurer in escorting the lovely Queen Bathshiva joins Valanus. Vegeta’s reputation for violence and bloodshed has grown. Queen Bathshiva of Koth has managed to win the South Islander’s services through a careful amount of flattery, networking, and gold. The Queen has offered Vegeta a small parcel of land in the South along with a bordello of slave girls and a lifetime of carefree living. She only asks that the barbarian accompany her on a quest to retrieve “The Crucible” – an artifact that is rumored to make its user invincible.
To be truthful, Vegeta cares little for land, slaves, gold, or titles. Vegeta knows more about this artifact than he has let on to everyone else on this errand. “The Crucible” is in fact a solid jade tub that was created by a witchdoctor of the South three generations ago. It was said that warriors who survived the ritual purification process of being boiled in “The Crucible” would become nearly invulnerable to mortal weapons (+5 natural armor rating). “The Crucible” was stolen and presumed lost ten years ago.
The Queen is also joined by Sire Sergius Anthonicus, a Kothic knight who is desperately in love with the queen. Along with several cartloads of supplies and some carefully picked soldiers, the group starts on the road into the Southern wilderness of Koth.
As the Queen’s group nears their destination, an aged Shemite shaman challenges them with about forty Hyrkanian nomads who begs them to turn back. “The Valley of the Ancients should not be defiled!” the shaman calls out, “Turn back now, or face our wrath!”
Valanus charges the mass of Hyrkanians along with his trusty knights. The shaman releases a series of fiery blasts that destroy all three of the carts in the group. Sergius charges and is surrounded by three of the elite swordsmen. Sergius’ henchman is slain, as is Valanus’ horse by a withering barrage of arrow fire. Valanus falls from his mount and trades one of his knights for his steed. Moments later Valanus falls from that beast as well as one of the swordsmen critically wounds this second horse, swallowing the bitter draught of fate. Many of Valanus and Sergius’ henchmen are culled by the arrow fire of the Hyrkanians, but the tide of the battle turns when Vegeta scales a low hill and delivers a brutal slash to the shaman with his new two-handed sword. Sergius and Vegeta rage through the remainder of the archers killing them all.
Meanwhile, unknown to the Queen’s group another cadre of adventurers has already reached the destination valley. A mysterious man who calls himself “Prince Elgar” had hired both Grodd and Turpin. Turpin was one of the first to learn the rumor that a group of Kothic nobles had learned the location of an artifact known as “The Crucible”. Of course once word got around that this item could make its user “nearly invulnerable” Turpin realized he had to have this bauble for himself. The Prince is a strange fellow who hides his face behind a cowl continually. From glimpses of his tortured eyes, and the slightest limp in his step, Grodd and Turpin surmise that the fellow must suffer from some sort of disease or disfigurement. Elgar’s offer is a joke for thief with reputation as large as Turpin and Grodd's. However, the two of them suppose that this fellow may have something. Along with insisting on his privacy, the Prince asked that Turpin and Grodd bring their best climbing equipment.
From the looks of the “valley” it is a good idea that they did. The trio arrives at a near-vertical wall of stone approximately five stories high. The valley looks more like a crater, or perhaps a nearly square gigantic ruined city. Prince Elgar watches as Grodd and Turpin begin to scale the walls of the valley. As the two climbers near the top, three masked assassins appear from hiding and start launching poisoned arrows at the three adventurers. Grodd and Turpin crest the lip of the valley and exchange fire half-heartedly with the assassins. Prince Elgar takes three arrow shots, but manages to stay hidden and jump all three assassins when they approach him. Once the last of the three is slain, Elgar swoons when the poison overcomes his tolerance. Grodd and Turpin descend from the valley lip and inspect Elgar. His face is in fact ruined by torture. Grodd and Turpin briefly conjecture that this man may in fact be the thief Limburger based on his phenomenal hiding skills, but they never confirm these suspicions. Nor do they care. “Prince Elgar” has on him an ivory jar with a monkey head – the “Crucible” as he explained it to Turpin and Grodd before starting the trip. Confused, but happy at their good fortune, the two adventurers leave Elgar for dead.
Meanwhile, Queen Bathshiva’s group makes camp. Things are rough since all the supplies were lost with the carts in the attack earlier. However, Sergius’ minstrels and herald make the evening light with their singing and playing. Not to be outdone, Valanus composed and sang an epic rhyme a capella to try to please the queen. Both performances had merit, but the queen was not able to pick out which of the two was better. The group lay down to sleep in the cool spring night as best they could, and one of Sergius’ minstrels found him knocked into a bonfire, cooking off his hair and singing his hands badly and preventing him from playing the lute in the future. He said, “A bat had in fact shoved the poor minstrel into the flame”.
The next day, a giant flying predator attacks Grodd and Turpin. This beast had the face of a woman, the body of a lion, the wings of a dragon, and the stinger tail of a scorpion. Grodd charges and beast, whilst Turpin flanks and Slink moves off to safety. The stink of the animal is significant, and it makes the horses in the Queen’s group nearby shy away from the area. However, Vegeta, Valanus, and Sergius all hear the fight and charge into the fray. Grodd falls as the predator grievously wounds the Cimmerian, and Turpin is paralyzed stiff by its poisonous tail. After falling a bit behind Sergius, Valanus decides to leave the fighting to Vegeta and return to the Queen’s side. Vegeta arrives just as Turpin and Grodd had fallen, and jams his magical war spear (the “Ghost Spear”) into the beast’s guts, snapping the shaft off.
While Sergius tries to make sense of the situation near the giant predator, Valanus is poisoning the Queen’s opinion of the knight Sergius. Sergius returns and questions Valanus’ bravery. The entire group arrives on the site. Valanus asks to have Turpin’s body searched. Slink protests, throwing her body across her lover’s rigid form. Guards pull Slink off Turpin and he is checked, but nothing out of the ordinary (for Turpin) is found. Valanus then demands that Slink be searched. Vegeta has his female slave girl search the girl, but she does a horrible job of it. Vegeta and Slink speak privately for a bit, and the girl finally does give up the ivory jar that her love took off Prince Elgar, and she in turn took off of Turpin’s. The group talks amongst themselves for a bit, with the Queen insisting that Turpin and Grodd accompany them to the valley since no one can know of her leaving the king’s side. However, Sergius hears Slink mention Turpin and Grodd’s suspicions that “Prince Elgar” was in fact Limburger and he rides off immediately. Slink and Vegeta, with Turpin’s rigid form slung over a horse ride off for the valley next. Finally Valanus and the rest of the Queen’s entourage continue with Grodd’s unconscious body carried on a hastily made litter.
Meanwhile, Prince Elgar’s resistance to poison managed to keep him alive. He removes the cowl that he had over his face. Prince Elgar is in fact Limburger. He drags himself to hide in the shadow of the valley. Several more assassins pass him circling the valley walls, but Limburger does nothing to disturb them. Near dusk, Sergius arrives and begins to call out the name of “Prince Elgar”.
Vegeta, Turpin, and Slink arrive by the valley next. They confirm Vegeta’s suspicion that the “Crucible” that Turpin took off of Elgar’s body was in fact a fake by breaking the lid open. Once Vegeta explained that the actual crucible was a tub of solid stone, the three decide that they would not be able to get it out of the valley anyway, so they make plans to leave.
The Queen’s group arrives after dark, and the Queen asks the followers to search for Sergius and Vegeta. However, with assassins roaming the countryside and hungry abominable predators from the valley feeding on stray guards, the Queen soon finds only Valanus as her escort. The Queen agrees to accept the terms of Valanus’ father’s agreement and make plans to leave as well.
Limburger hears Sergius calling for “Prince Elgar” and makes contact with him. Although the thief remains hidden from sight, he begins to explain to the knight that the Crucible that they had found is needed in order to attain the “real” crucible – available in the valley. Sergius continues to listen, question, and agree until he finally locates where the thief is hidden. Sergius knocks the Zamorian unconscious.
Limburger awakens in a cave several miles to the North of the valley, specially prepared with a raging fire and implements of torture. Sergius removes his full helmet and armor as well as an elaborate disguise to reveal that he is in fact the assassin master Mobvet in the flesh. The unique, stylized eye tattoo across the man’s chest leaves nothing to chance. Mobvet begins to torture and question Limburger about the location of the crucible. In an amazing maneuver, Limburger manages to slip one hand away from his bonds, grab a nearby torture scalpel, and bury it in the assassin’s left eye – breaking the blade off in the process. Mobvet staggers back, his life’s blood streaming out of him, but miraculously remains standing. He reveals to Limburger the iron collar that the Zamoran thief had worn himself when he was a lackey of Renudo’s to keep him from perishing from just such a wound himself. A struggle ensues, and Mobvet is stabbed two more times – but Limburger is unable to free himself.
Just then, a woman appears at the cave entrance and fires a crossbow bolt into the thick of the assassin’s throat, killing him. Persephone, Mobvet’s daughter and Limburger’s one-time love takes a moment to speak to the Zamorian. “We’re even now, lover. Don’t even think of coming after me. You will find that it will not be worth your while. “ Limburger makes a move to grab the last torture knife and cast it at Persephone’s unprotected back, but let’s her leave in peace with a sigh.
A thoroughly bloody and broken Limburger then butchers Mobvet’s body, keeping the iron collar of Renudo. Limburger takes the one identifying mark of the master of assassins, the stylized eye tattoo, by flaying the flesh from the assassin's chest with his own torture knives.