Session/Game: Conan #5
Episode 5, "Headless"
The heroes prepare to invade Mekakset’s estate. The plan involves sneaking over the wall, taking over one of the blockhouses, and protecting it as the Limburger and Turpin get into the manor house and return with the map. A shopping list is drawn up and all manner of items are purchased. Everything goes as planned at first. Turpin and Limburger scale the natural stone walls of the estate with ease, dispatch a sleeping guard, and then move to the top of the blockhouse. There they quickly slay the two guards standing watch. With the blockhouse secured, the two thieves must get rid of the two nearest sentries patrolling the walls before the others can climb into the blockhouse. Limburger drops silently from the blockhouse and drives his blade into the throat of his victim, murdering him instantly. Turpin, on the other hand, crawls his way along the parapet in the little shade of darkness he can and sets up a bow shot at the approaching sentry. Turpin rapid fires, and both shots go completely awry. The guard is momentarily shocked, unable to pinpoint the origin of the two arrows that just whizzed by his head. The guard’s hesitation gives Turpin another moment to bury two more arrows in the guard’s chest. The guard slumps, and falls to the courtyard where he awakens the half-starved guard dogs from their kennels.
A rope is lowered and the others climb into the blockhouse. Lord Hieronymous is last, with his heavy armor being drawn up with the rope into the blockhouse. As Hieronymous climbs into his armor, the guards arrive at the blockhouse door. Finding it locked they begin to bang on it, asking what has happened to the dead guard being mauled by dogs. “Do you have the bucket and shovel? No? Well get it and come back, it is a real mess in here! ”, Lord Hieronymous calls to them. The guards are befuddled, and the savage dogs leave the guard’s body a bloody wreck, keeping them from discovering the true nature of the guard’s demise. The guards assume that their mercurial master has ordered a surprise inspection and do as the Aquilonian says.
Meanwhile Limburger and Turpin have thrown a rope from the battlements to the manor house. Turpin begins to shimmy across, but he looses his grip and nearly falls the three stories to the compound ground. Adding insult to injury, Limburger tiptoes over the dangling rogue and achieves Mekakset’s roof with ease. A guard catches a glimpse of Turpin dangling by one hand and raises the alarm. Guards begin to pour out of the barracks and make their way into the compound. Vegeta takes a potshot at the shouting guard, but the arrow buried in his thigh is not enough to slay him. The wounded guard flees into the safety of another blockhouse. Turpin and Limburger have no time to spare, so they start doing some amateurish roof work on the Stygian’s house. Meanwhile, several of the PCs in the blockhouse sneak out into the compound. They are confronted by two attack dogs. Both dogs are slain. Turpin and Limburger finally trash the roof enough that they can drop into what they find is the Stygian's bedroom. In an effort to find and disarm traps they manage to pull an alarm bell and set off a deadly gas trap just outside the Stygian’s room. The two rogues find a young, handsome, dusky man with dark hair chained to the wall. He bears the signs of torture. They release him, and come across a lovely South Island woman with a map tattooed across her torso. The thieves escort the two back up onto the roof, where they lower another rope to the ground of the compound and join their fellows there. With the mission accomplished, the heroes exit the estate the way they entered.
The heroes return to Romeo who throws a crazy party for them in Genovla. The next morning, headaches and hangovers raging, Romeo tells the group the bad news. He does not have the one-hundred and thirty pieces of gold for each of the participants after all. However, now that he has the map, he believes he can make even more money and eventually pay the heroes off with interest. He explains that Renudo had gone to the Southern Islands in hopes of finding a lost colony of Xuthal. There he hoped to find the secrets of how to raise the Golden Lotus and produce the Golden Wine of Xuthal. Romeo goes on to explain that from Renudo’s correspondance Romeo believes that his colleague has managed a way to cheat death altogether. The heroes are intrigued, so they put off slaying Romeo for now. The South Island woman comes with the PCs, and the poor handsome man found in Mekakset’s torture chamber is ransomed back to his trading house for 100 silver coins.
Many of the heroes, wary of the dangers of taking a plunge into the ocean in full battle dress decide to pare down their equipment. Lord Hieronymous comes up with a most brilliant plan for cheating watery death by connecting himself to the main mast by a ten-foot length of chain attached to his ankle. Grodd declines the boat trip in favor of spending more time meeting Zingarian women. Turpin purchases an entire crateful of dry, crumbly biscuits for the voyage. The party sets sail.
The trip is full of peril. First of all, Lord Hieronymous finds himself the target of a barrage of dry biscuits. Turpin stands fifteen feet away, just out of the Aquilonian's reach. After that incident left the Aquilonian itchy from crumbs which managed to finesse their way past his armor, Hieronymous decides to always carry a loaded crossbow in his lap when chained up on deck.
The ship hears the trumpets of a nautical pirate code horn. A puny pirate vessel named the “Razorclam” attacks the heroes. Although rumored to be the scourge of the seas the pirate ship had actually fallen on hard times. The ship’s Zingarian crew is exterminated including the grey-bearded captain and his first mate. The heroes have their chartered ship sail them back to Shem where they dismiss the original ship and take on Shemitish sailors of their own to sail the newly acquired "Razorclam".
However, the delay in returning to Shem has put them behind schedule. They spot three of Mekakset’s vessels making their way southward. The heroes glimpse a gigantic sea monster approaching the ship. The beast does not attack, but its presence rattles the crew. After one long, tense night there is no more sign of the leviathian.
Finally the map’s destination comes into sight. A lone island in the Southern ocean all on its own. Evening approaches, and a powerful lightning storm forms over the island. When the companions reach a point about two miles from shore, the storm moves to engulf the heroes’ ship, as if guided by some sort of malign intelligence. As the rain from the storm starts to pound the deck, headless undead putrid with seawater and blue-congealed blood start climbing onto the ship. The headless zombies start to tear the vessel apart board by board and drag it to the bottom of the ocean. The ship is destroyed and pulled to the bottom of the sea along with all the loot and equipment on it. Along with the lightly equipped Limburger, Lord Hieronymous drops everything save his precious greatsword and manages to swim through the unnatural storm to reach the shore. They reach the sandy beach of the island and collapse in exhaustion. All other hands are lost in the storm, and are presumed dead.
Hieronymous and Limburger are awakened from their ordeal by a deep rumbling in the earth. The two heroes begin to search the island along the shore. They soon happen upon a group of savage cannibal pygmies systematically beheading the last of the sailors of their vessel with a wicked serrated knife. The rest of the heroes along with Romeo and the mute South Island woman are bound and prepared to be executed next. Limburger rushes in and slays the pygmy witchdoctor performing the wretched killings with one well-placed stab of his weapon. However, in doing so he leaves himself open to the attacks of six of the unnatural cannibals, and he is severely wounded. Meanwhile Vegeta has snapped his bonds and uses the pole he was tied to as a quarterstaff. Blood splatters as the South Island barbarian begins to beat the brains of his former captors to pulp. Turpin manages to wriggle out of his and picks up a fallen pygmy war club to do the same. Lord Hieronymous cuts several of the pygmies down and the other heroes are released from their bonds.
Unfortunately the newly freed heroes are without any of their equipment. They make due with what they can pick up from the pygmies or take from Limburger’s stash of equipment. The heads of the slain sailors must have been taken into the jungle for some obscene purpose. The heroes decide that they should track whoever took these heads into the jungle.
At one point, Vegeta loses the trail and pauses for a moment to catch his bearings. The jungle comes alive with a pygmy ambush and much blood is spilled. Following the ambush, the heroes have lost the trail.
They stop by the skeleton of the leviathan and Romeo collects a few bones for further study later. They get a real feel for the size of the monster that followed behind them by standing in the shadow of this gigantic skeletal corpse of the sea monster. They then go to the wrecked ship and find some old, rusty cutlasses and poniards. They spend an entire day resting and manage to recover from their wounds. Finally they discover a pygmy village, but it is empty. Another earthquake rocks the small island, and the group decides to investigate the volcanoes.
They find the entire village of pygmies praying to the volcano for mercy. They chant, “Skulls and brains, appease the flames”. The heroes move in cautiously, covering themselves from flanking attacks to keep the more sneaky pygmies from doing serious damage from sneak attacks.
The pygmies react. Another pygmy witchdoctor begins to chant, and an unnatural wind is conjured out of nowhere. A huge elemental monster made of jungle wood, dirt, leaves, and rocks is conjured right next to the companions. It begins to beat on Vegeta and Conrad. Another monster is conjured, and the pygmy horde moves to surround the heroes in a noose of death. Horsa manages to land the killing blow on both monsters, leaving the jungle quiet for a moment. The heroes' labored breathing was the only sound to be heard.
Then the pygmies attacked.
The odds did not look good for the heroes. Already softened up by the elemental monsters and lacking in equipment and armor, the group decided at that point that it was better to die fighting the nearly one-hundred pygmy braves, sneaks, and witchdoctors rather than fleeing the pygmy horde. With war cries the diminutive cannibals charged the group all at once. The heroes stood back to back, with Vegeta in the middle reaching through the ranks of his companions to strike death with his newfound quarterstaff. Pygmies begin to perish in a circle around them. Soon, the heroes spot a pygmy speaking into a bag and then raising some of his fallen companions from the dead to continue the fight.
Just as things look the worst for the companions, the earth once again quaked. This time the damage is significant, toppling trees, opening cracks in the earth, and scattering the frightened pygmies. Smoke pours from the largest volcano and the party feels a rush of warm air against their faces. An avalanche reveals part of what may have once been a huge sandstone edifice left by an ancient and twisted culture. The heroes pick up the bag that one pygmy had spoken. The heroes find the head of a Zingarian man. Amazingly the head is still alive and it moves its lips to try and communicate. Romeo identifies the head as that of Renudo, and the South Island woman takes the head and cradles it in her arms. The head of Renudo continues to communicate by moving its mouth and eyes. The head explains that the golden lotus as well as his body rests within the monolithic sandstone building. The heroes move to explore this structure.
Inside, the companions find some amazing artifacts of a fallen civilization. Although anything that could be moved by pygmies have long been removed and fed to the volcano’s wrath, there still remained fine golden furniture, including many reclining beds. Further into the complex, the heroes look down over an enormous pit full of growing golden lotus illuminated by a live pool of molten lava. The South Island woman produces some packs hidden in one of the rooms and starts to loosely sew Renudo’s head back to his body. The Zingarian scholar thanks the party for putting him back together. He revels in being able to access magic on his own again. He gives them seven jugs of the golden wine of Xuthal. Limburger hears a noise come from further up the passage. Renudo warns the companions that Mekakset and several guards approaches. The heroes quickly move to ambush the Stygian and his goon squad.
The first one to charge the heroes is Lug, the Cimmerian barbarian who made Conrad’s mercenary life a living nightmare early in his career. For all the barbarian’s power, strength, speed, and toughness, he was laid low that day by a humble bag of marbles that Limburger had managed to conserve from his equipment on the ship. Lug slipped on the marbles and crashed to the floor, where he was quickly beaten to death like a rabid dog. The Cimmerian’s final screams gave the other goons pause, and allowed Limburger to tumble past them and strike Mekakset. The Stygian ran, with Limburger and Lord Hieronymous in pursuit. Mekakset's magic turned out to be much less than his business sense, and he fell beneath the Aquilonian’s blade. The remainder of the goons were slain by the rest of the party.
The party returns from the ambush to find Renudo sitting astride a jet black winged camel that breathes living fire. Strapped to the humps of the demonic beast are the saddle bags packed full with leaves of the golden lotus. Romeo lays stunned and twitching on the floor. “Farewell” said the Zingarian sorcerer, “I am in your debt”. He streaked from the sandstone edifice out into the light, his mount carrying him upward into the clouds trailing smoke and flame behind him. The South Island woman is nowhere to be found.
The silence left with Renudo’s passing is broken suddenly by the full-scale eruption of the volcanoes on the island. The far crater spewed forth hot lava at a terrific rate. The PCs stare for a moment as a wave of molten rock incinerates the pygmy village. The companions are forced to flee the collapsing edifice immediately, and they make their way to the far side of the island where they convince the shaken sailors on Mekakset’s remaining ship to take them away from this forsaken island.
Campaign Date: Year Of The Bear, Month of Ducet 21 - Month of Qrot 5
GM: Andrew Smith
Conrad, Hyperborean, Soldier, level 3 (Joe Fryer)
Grodd, Cimmerian, Barbarian, level 3 (Bob LaForge)
Lord Hieronymous Valanus, Aquilonian, Noble/Soldier, level 1/2 (Mike Miller)
Horsa, Vanir, Soldier, level 2 (Chuck Fleurie)
"Limberger", Zamorian, Thief, level 3, (Toby Miller)
"Bloody" Turpin, Border Kingdom, Soldier/Thief, level 2/1 (Dave Nelson)
Vegeta, Southern Islander, Barbarian, level 4 (Marlon Kirton)