Daruna - Session Two


Play the weekend of March 2-4, 2012


Friday Night - To the River!

The party is approached by Marshak Selo and Rakshi Harth, who ask them to investigate what has happened at their relative's building site to the south. The relatives, a young couple engaged to be married, along with several guards, slaves, builders, and retainers, have vanished after discovering and exploring a ruined cellar/tunnel uncovered during the excavation. Only Loh a Harth slave, returned to the city, bringing word of the troubles. The party agrees to investigate. They're given a writ granting them authority to investigate backed by the two families, an up-front payment, horses for the journey as needed, and supplies to cover the trip. Loh, despite being a bit slow, is sent along to tend the animals and provide what limited information he has.

After the meeting the party is approached by Bhanda Masa, who claims to have heard the party is heading south and asks if they're willing to make a delivery at the village of Doy, which is more or less along the way. He offers to pay them a small fee, but the party agrees to do it for free, banking on gaining some goodwill (Bhanda proved to be a useful, if shady/scary, source of magical information / ability during the party's interlude in town). Bhanda indicates a mule loaded with grain will be ready when the party leaves at dawn tomorrow.

The next morning the party picks up the mule (which is loaded with six huge pottery jars of grain), and heads out. At the gate they run into a small snag though: their nemesis Vikus Pari and his buddy Lat Kusumera are on duty. Vikus stops the troupe and starts an inspection of their goods. There's a brief, sweaty moment, until Ramone shows Vikus the writ, and he grudgingly lets them pass. [The party suspects they're running drugs or other contraband for Bhanda at this point].

The trip to Doy is uneventful, but the village is a bit unusual. There are more than the usual number of armed and unfriendly villagers around, and their welcome is less than warm. Eventually they contact one of the two men, Charup Dhanti or Yanas Suva, they were supposed to drop the mule with, and set up camp outside the village on the bank of the Tana River. It is a good thing they stayed, as a group of river pirates attacks the village that night, killing several villagers. The party charges to the rescue and manages to turn the tide, killing the pirate leader in a pitched battle on and around his boat drifting down the river. The villagers strip the bodies in town, but Orca (with Torin's assistance) manages to beach the leader's boat, which has some minor loot and a few Smoke Bombs and Noxia bombs aboard.

The next morning the party departs for the ferry. As they near the site they encounter a rather disgruntled farmer, who tells them the ferry isn't running. The party investigates and finds the ferry is tied up at the docks, but holed and flooded. Furthermore they spot a number of odd humanoid creatures made of mud and reed swimming in the river, watching them. They fall back to the nearby inn and try to find out what happened. In a dazzling display of rolling natural 20s for gather information checks, Ramone gets the gist of the story:

Sometime after the Selo/Harth party crossed, creatures from the river started to attack fishermen, passing barges and the ferry itself. At least a few people have been pulled under or killed in these fights. The creatures are described as mud men (the reed/mud creatures seen at the sunken ferry), 'turtle men', and some kind of huge scaly fish with tentacles. They also learn that there is an ancient shrine on the far side of the river, a mile or so north of the ferry crossing, near a portage trail, a fact that at least a few of the guards heard about in the tavern when they stopped for an ale.

The ferryman proves to be a drunk and a coward, but two of his employees, brothers, are bolder. They agree to take at least some of the party across the river in their fishing boat so the group can investigate the shrine and see if they can find out more about the river woes. As the group prepares to depart, Sula, thinking that perhaps the river spirit can be placated by a religious ritual, offers up a prayer of safe passage and an offering of bread and wine, declaring the party's intent of crossing to discover what has angered the spirit and try to repair the damage. Others notice the mud-men watching this process from beneath the waters.

Apparently Sula was on the right track, the group crosses the river without incident, though they are followed by the mud-men and several larger shadowy forms they can't make out. After the crossing the party heads upstream to the shrine, leaving the brothers near the ferry crossing (well back from the river) in case they need to cross back or more more people across. The party treks north and eventually finds the shrine, a spire of incongruous stone rising from the river's edge. There is a small alcove in the rock face, with a small natural shelf at ground level beneath it. The remains of past offerings, bits of food and bone, feathers, scattered silver, lie on the table and the ground nearby. Orca shimmies up the stone and finds the alcove empty, though there are marks in the dust and grit that indicate something was removed.

Further investigation is interrupted by the sounds of a fight on the river. A barge drifts into view from upstream, a nasty bit of river that the tavern folk say is hazardous at best. The crew are trying to fight off several of the mud-men and several serpentine fish with plated bodies and tentacle like fins. As they watch several of the mud-men pull one of the crewmen off the barge with their long seaweed-like hair and drag him beneath the surface. Orca grabs a rope, activates the water-walking power of his Heron Helm, and runs to the barge while the others tie off the near end. The ploy works, the barge swings to the bank allowing the sole remaining crew member to get off (and flee in panic). That's the good news. The bad news is the party has gotten the direct attention of the river spirit Anamika, a monstrous fish-headed serpent with six clawed arms, and its mud-men and serpent-fish minions.

Sula steps to the fore and starts talking, offering the party up as a means to cleanse and re-dedicate the shrine (at this point the party believes the guards stole something from the shrine). After tense negotiations Anamika grants the party a quarter cycle of the moon to recover the icon stolen from the shrine, with a clear threat to turn not only her own river realm against the locals, but to incite the other spirits in the area against them as well. The party falls back to the ferry, has the brothers bring across the last party member and enough supplies to last them a few days, and sets off for Madhas, the village near the villa building site. They're nervous going in, since the locals at the tavern view the villagers with suspicion, claiming they are heretics and cultists.

The village proves to be pleasant (or so it seems), and the headmaster offers the party use of the village hall for the night. They also discover that Nishuru Vadura, the master builder hired by the Harths, is in the village with his crew, doing some work to pay for their room and board. The party seeks him out and gets a bit more detail on the events at the villa. He tells them the ruin uncovered was likely early Darunite construction, and that he warned the others against going into the ruin, citing possible gas pockets in the sealed tunnels and chambers. His recounting of the events allows the party to determine that everyone from the Selo/Harth party except two of the slaves ended up descending into the ruin. His own men and the local laborers he hired in Madhas are all accounted for. He agrees to lead the party to the site so they can investigate.

The party reaches the site without incident, and does a bit of exploration. A search of the tents scattered around the partial foundation uncovers the missing icon of Anamika in short order. A few minutes later the party is "surprised" by three kids from the village, who followed them to the site and have been "scouting" the area. They are proud to show the party a dead horse, one of the strays from the Selo/Harth group. As the party investigates they're attacked by a trio of animate tree-stump creatures with spiny branch/root tentacles that leave behind burrowing finger-sized splinters. They destroy these things and decide to head back to the river via Madhas and restore the shrine so they can repair the ferry and get their own horses and the rest of their party across (and allow Nishuru and his crew to get back to the city with a report on current progress).

Back at the shrine the party replaces the icon and Anamika appears, and as a reward for returning the icon it "baptizes" each of the party members in the river, marking them with its sign and telling them "When in need you can visit my realm." The party later determines that they have the ability to breathe underwater for short periods of time. With the shrine restored the party heads back to the ferry and works with the locals to get it repaired using timber taken from the barge they tied along the river. They also encounter a group of lizardmen led by some sort of shaman offering a sacrifice at Anamika's shrine, and make a small exchange of gifts. The shaman seems pleased by the restoration of the shrine, and the party gets the idea that perhaps Anamika has arranged some better protection of its icon.

Saturday - Rescue Mission

The party, along with men at arms, horses and Loh, head to the building site via Madhas. After establishing their camp next to the Selo/Harth party's site, the core party members descend into exposed ruins. It quickly becomes apparent that the ruin is an ancient house of some kind, and after poking through a few rooms they find a rough cave with a tiled floor, a well and an ancient dead tree within it. Clearly this was once an open courtyard of some kind, before the structure was buried. They also discover three of the lost guards sprawled around the well. Their relief is cut short when they discover the guards' movements are actually caused by the swarms of giant roach-like bugs that have taken up residence inside their corpses. The bugs stream forth and form two swirling swarms that close and attack the party.

The group quickly discovers that mundane weapons are mostly useless. They also find themselves gagging and half-blinded by the stinging chemical cloud emitted by the creatures. It takes a while but eventually they realize there are larger bugs within the swarms and that these creatures seem to be directing the focused attacks. A concentrated effort against these 'brain bugs' eventually leads to the swarms being dispersed, the stragglers swirling away and down the well in disorganized retreat.

Though wounded the party decides to press on a bit, descending a nearby stair into the old basement of the structure. There they find stairs leading further down (the bronze door marked with Daru's sunburst and Nityada's burning wheel) and stairs leading back up to a different section of the ruin. They decide to explore more of the upper area, since they had discovered a too-small passage leading away from the buried courtyard near the well. At the top of the stairs (where they find the corpse of one of the missing slaves, they encounter a gargoyle-like creature guarding some sort of workshop or laboratory, destroyed long ago in some catastrophic explosion. After a brief fight they destroy it, and uncover the remains it was guarding, along with several interesting magical items, a golden sash, a silver ring, a golden spiral pendant, and a bundle of papers and scrolls.

They continue past the gargoyle lair into several other chambers, all half-buried in earth and rubble. They uncover a hidden cache of gems and blackened metal bars, and a very nice mosaic of Daru's sunburst on the wall in a narrow hall. They also find the other end of the too-small tunnel from the courtyard, and conclude that they've pretty much explored the upper area of the structure, leaving only the deeper stairs or the well as their options. They opt for the stairs, having no desire to encounter any reinforcements from the swarms.

The stairs lead down quite a distance, eventually leading to a narrow landing with another bronze door in one wall. The far end of the landing ends in a sheer drop with a narrow and crude stair spiraling down to the right along the wall of what must be a very large cavern. Unwilling to make that descent, the party checks out the door, which bears the same marks as that above, and finds a crypt. Exploration is cut short when Orca hears moaning and scratching coming from one of the stone sarcophagi in the chamber. They dig away the fallen stone blocking the lid and open it. Within is a well dressed man covered with bug bites and delirious with thirst and hunger. Sula ministers to his wounds and the group brings him to their base camp, hoping Loh will be able to identify him. He can, the man is Arupa Harth, the missing groom.

The next morning Arupa is at least semi-stable and tells his rather disjointed story. They were exploring above and found the courtyard. The swarms came out of the well and attacked the group. The guard captain ordered the couple to retreat while he and his men tried to drive off the bugs. The captain followed the couple as a rear-guard but the trio made a wrong turn and ended up in the crypt room, swarm in pursuit. Seeing the empty coffins Arupa put Tula (his bride) in one and closed the lid, then dove into another and pulled the lid down over himself. He heard some kind of fight out in the hall, then only the sound of the buzzing bugs outside the sarcophagus. Eventually that faded. He was getting ready to get out, free Tula, and try to escape when he heard something big outside the coffin. There was a loud crashing noise and a scream from Tula, then silence. He tried to get out, but the lid was blocked by something (the stone piled on his sarcophagus was a fresh fall).

Leaving Arupa under the care of their two men at arms and Loh, the party descends into the cavern beyond the crypt. The narrow stairs lead down the wall and across a rather tricky jump. The party was facing a second, longer jump when a huge creature swoops out of the darkness and slams into Torin, a chimera! The party fights back, but the narrow stairs hamper their efforts. Finally Lister uses a fly potion to flank the beast and eventually hacks off a wing. The creature plunges to the cavern floor, dead.

Torin decides to try one of the party's new healing potions while Lister takes advantage of his flight and finds the beast's lair. Within he finds the fresh remains of another well-dressed man. The seal he carries proves his identity as the missing Harth retainer. Scattered among the debris are a number of coins, a small cloth bag holding several gems, a strange amber orb, and a verdigris encrusted bronze box containing something magical. Lister gathers the loot and returns to the group as his flight potion wears off.

Despite Torin's unconscious state (the potion was very potent but sent him into a coma-like sleep), the party decides to explore a bit more, and Orca takes the lead, using his stealthiness to explore the lower cavern. He returns after an hour or so, with a curious shield and a rough layout of the cavern, including a rubble heap that might hide a passage onward.

Rather than retreat, the party elects to split, leaving Lister and Torin in a small cave on the stair while the rest of the party continues exploration. Torin comes around shortly after Orca, Ramone and Sula head down, so he and Lister join the others.

The party climbs over the rubble pile and discovers an even larger cavern. The southern wall is finished brick and plaster, part of a strangely illuminated structure flanked by statues of lion-headed men posed in a warding stance. The doorway into the structure glows with swirling red and blue lights. They avoid the lion-headed guards for now, and head north-east, into more caverns and more or less back beneath the original structure above. They find an underground stream that runs through a series of natural caves eventually finding a spring-fed pool with a shaft that leads upwards. Orca scouts across the pool using water walking and determines the shaft is very likely the bottom of the well from the courtyard above. On guard for more bug swarms the party backtracks and explores several side-passages, eventually finding a massive hive-like structure of paper, clay and debris in one of them. Bugs!

Another pitched battle, but the group is better prepared, targeting brain bugs and tossing a vial of liquid fire at a swarm right from the start. Eventually the hive's queen comes forth and Sula nails it with an arrow through the head. With the swarms dispersed and the queen dead, the party spreads several flasks of oil over the hive and burns it all (after a fruitless search for loot or signs of victims). Injured by the battle the party retreats to the base of the well and rests a while, reasoning (correctly) that nothing is going to wander into the swarm's territory. While camped out they do a more detailed search of the pool, and eventually pull out the partial remains of three more unfortunate guards. This brings the tally of the still missing down to Tula, the bride, and one of the slaves.

After resting the party heads back south and skirts the guarded structure once again, moving south down another natural cave. This eventually wraps around the structure (which extends back into the cavern walls) and leads to an unguarded entrance. The party enters, and after exploring several vestibules or waiting rooms, one of which features an odd mural depicting a landscape with multiple suns and moons in the sky and plants in all phases of growth, finds themselves at another entry into what they think is the opposite side of the same chamber they saw before. Within they can see a pair of huge bull-statues flanking the entrance and a pyramid-shaped structure in the center of the room. It's hard to see as the red and blue lights seem to blur and obscure vision.

After debating a bit, the party decides to advance into the room. What's the worse that could happen?

Something bad apparently. As they entered the chamber, various party members disappeared, finding themselves in different settings. Two were in a sun-lit courtyard with a raised platform in the center. Atop the platform were a number of people carrying out some sort of ritual that involved a spinning column of spiraling golden lights. Another found themselves in a chamber like the one they expected to see except there were no bull statues. Two more found themselves facing off against the bulls, now animate and covered in crystalline scales. After a few hesitant actions scenes shifted again and people found themselves shuffled between scenes.

Eventually most of the party members realize they are shuffling between three different time frames, each showing the same chamber at some point in the past. Lister and Orca are the first to realize this and also discover the sun-lit scene is pre-Cataclysm, magic is untainted by the corruption that would make it nearly impossible to use in their era. They decide the ritualists are probably up to no good and attack. This draws the attention of some of the lion-headed guards, which until now have been engaged in a running battle with several strangers on the far side of the pyramid. The pair manages to kill one of the ritualists (the entire group is protected by some sort of potent magical ward). Meanwhile Ramone and Torin manage to fight off the two bulls and Sula finds himself alone in the dark.

Things shift a few times and eventually the group figures out that all the people they see within the chamber are wearing golden spiral pendants like the one they found back in the gargoyle room. The one being carried by Ramone, who seems unaffected by the time shifts. Chaos ensues as lion guards attack party members in the ancient past while in the nearer past another rite is going on involving a strange guardian beast and a magician with a golden glowing seal. In the present the same guardian beast and seal appear to be carrying out a similar rite on a young woman, probably the missing Tula.

There is much chaos.

Eventually the party members realize they need to grab pendants or they're probably going to get stuck in another time. In the ancient past ritualists die, and in the present Sula grabs the girl and gets time-shifted away to the middle time-frame. There he helps Torin kill the guardian beast and the magician (which causes the girl to disappear). He grabs the golden seal and a pendant. In the ancient past Lister ends up fighting off the attacks of two of the lion-guards, then grabbing a pendant from one of the fallen strangers. Most of the ritualists are down but it appears they've finishes their rite. Ramone battles the guardian beast in the present aided by Orca, who reappears just as he's about to fall. The guardian beast vanishes but not before Ramone grabs the golden seal it carries. Orca ends up back in the ancient past again and grabs two pendants, slaughters the last ritualist, and grabs *that* version of the golden seal.

Eventually everyone ends up in the present, the pendants seem to pull people back to their 'proper' phase. The last of the guardian creatures falls, and the party retreats from the temporal rift and back through the entry chambers and halls. In the natural caves they find a shaft leading upward and climb, eventually reaching the surface.

Uh oh.

The world has gone mad. The sun is spinning west to east, the moon is shifting phases overhead, the Great Flame and Black Horse, major features of the night sky, are spinning the opposite direction from the stars. Plants spring up, bloom, grow fruit, wither and die before the group's eyes. Water in rivers runs backwards and forwards where it is not frozen solid. Of people there is no sign. No canals in the empty plains below, nor smoke from Madhas on the horizon.

Yeah, they broke time.

After they freak out for a while the party gets themselves together and decides to head back to the river. Maybe Anamika can provide some insight as to what's happened. Along the way they confirm Madhas is missing and discover that the seal from the ancient past is the only one that remains of the three they recovered. At the river, there's no sign of the tavern on the far side, and no sign of the ferry. The group worries about what they're going to eat, since they only have limited supplies and they've seen no sign of animal life. Eventually they discover that "electricity works." Whatever they touch is pulled into their time-frame. At least they'll be able to forage plants for food.

Oddly, they find the stone spire and shrine to Anamika intact. They make an offering of precious food, and the primordial appears. Anamika seems unconcerned by this turn of events. Apparently the primordials don't experience time as humans do (makes sense since they are at least quasi-divine beings and immortal). It offers some information and suggestions concerning the group's situation. The most important bits:

The mention of seven artifacts triggers a faint memory for Sula. He recalls a fragmentary story of the Lost Kingdoms, something about them creating seven potent artifacts to defend their realms. The artifacts were a sword, a shield, a chalice, a vortex, a seal, a mask, and a scepter. He wonders if the cup the party found in the ruins in the Twisted Lands might have been the chalice.

Group Loot