Sunday, August 13, 2017

Maze of the Blue Medusa: Session 1

Our Heroes

Kellen Nancy, child of Anansi. Words are Endurance, Luck, and Passion. Born of the spider gods dream, he has made it his mission to find and help the worlds most hopeless person. He has reason to believe he (or she?) resides within the maze.
Eizen, son of Atlas. Words are Earth, Might, and Sun. A thrill-seeker who has spent a lifetime travelling the world in search of fun and profit. His journey in the maze was sparked by boredom, and a lust for unique sights and experiences not found in our world.
Nemora, son of Apollo and an unnamed Titan. Words are Earth, Endurance, and Sword. Trapped in a cave by his parents at a young age, he befriended Gaia, who eventually freed him. Since then, he has wandered the lands, training in every style and stance. He has entered the maze seeking a sword with the power to kill his parents.
Kali, daughter of Hades and Persephone. Words are Death, Fertility, and Health. Born in Erebus, she knew her mothers touch only four months out of every year. After earning her freedom, she set out on a quest to find a way to give her mother the same.

We began our session with the party having recently stolen the infamous painting, The False Chanterelle. The painting -- that of a naked woman chained from the ceiling in an opulent parlor room -- came with strange instructions: to explore the hallowed maze, touch this painting with a moonlit gaze. Under the next full moon, the party hangs the painting on the wall and flings open the shutter; in an instant, the painting comes to life. The woman turns her head and pleads for the party to touch the painting and rescue her. After briefly debating the relative merits of blindly trusting the words of an erotic drawing, the party decides that courage is nothing without a dash of recklessness, and steps forward to touch the canvas.

Inside the painting, the four interrogate the woman a bit more, learning that her name is Ashen Chanterelle and that she is being held here as a prisoner by Psathyrella Medusa, the warden of this place. She tells the party that she can open the locked door to the north, granting them access to the maze. However, Kali is a naturally distrustful person, and attempts to murder the prisoner nearly immediately. The other members manage to stop her from outright killing Ashen, but not before Kali has chopped off her hands. The rest of the party swiftly attempts to cauterize the wounds with a nearby torch, causing the woman to pass out due to shock. However, as the chains recede into small holes in the ceiling, they hear a click, and know that the door to the north is unlocked.

DM's Note: I deliberately changed this encounter from how it is written in the book (in which she is a treacherous backstabber who speaks nothing but lies). I knew my party would be suspicious of Ashen Chanterelle, so I decided to make her speak nothing but truths. In this way, I could foreshadow key aspects of the maze while still feeding into the players paranoia.

Ashen Chanterelle is still catatonic, however, and without the constant presence of Kali's stabilizing aura would perish in moments. Eizen hefts her onto his shoulders, and the whole party progresses through the northern door into a large, shadowy chamber. From deeper within they hear muttering, and upon approach they witness a very tall woman talking about destroying the maze. The lady, who sports midnight blue skin and a set of rams horns on either side of her head, introduces herself as Lady Crucem Capilli of Nyctopolis. After a short conversation in which she half-heartedly admonishes the party for nearly murdering an innocent captive, she requests the party bring her a piece of art from within the maze, alongside a detailed report on where it was found and what purpose it serves. With this, she fades back into the shadows and continues her conversation with herself.

Exploring the room, Eizen finds a trapdoor built into the east wall. He opens it, and immediately notices that something is wrong. The gravity inside this room has suddenly shifted, and Eizen finds himself falling sideways down a set of stairs towards the center of the new room. He swiftly rights himself and got his bearings: he is in a room with three staircases, each reorienting the gravity in the room to allow them to be safely traversed. Eizen attempts to open the door on the eastern side, but finds it locked. He motions for the other adventurers to follow him as he heads up the northern staircase.

The next room is even darker than Lady Capilli's, and the party halts before entering as they hear a light tune being hummed from within. Knowing that discretion is the better part of valor, they allow a moment for their eyes to adjust to the dark and walk forth to discover a strange, hermit crab-like creature cradling a malformed infant the size of a large dog. The shell lifts an arm to its mouth and whispers "shhh" before continuing its song, and the party heeds its warning and continues further north to a set of rope bridges.

Heading north from the bridges, the party enters a brightly-lit room dominated by half of a giant chessboard. The black pieces are all in place, minus both rooks, and on the other end of the room is a large, white, grub-like creature flailing spastically with a blunted toy sword. The party is speechless. After a spell, they attempt to make contact with the creature, but to no avail: the man-grub only babbles like a toddler and continues its forced, jerking movements. Nemora and Kellen get the idea to stand in the rook's position on the chessboard. As they do, they are immediately assailed by a psychic force. Nemora is overwhelmed and, with a forced flail, throws a sword at the grub. It misses by inches, and the spell is broken.

The players realize that something here is controlling the giant worm. Eizen moves closer to investigate and notices a strange bulge in what he assumes is the creature's stomach. With a mighty heave, he forces the grub to spit up its dinner: two stone rooks, slick with saliva. The forced flailings of the creatures limbs cease as the chess pieces are retrieved, and out of pity Eizen fashions a stone teething ring for the foolish child. Confident that this mystery has been solved, the party heads through the northeast arch to face the next challenge.

They step forth into a long room and immediately notice something is off about the floor. It's pitch darkness quivers slightly as they set foot on it, as if it were semi-solid. Several small disks float on its surface in random directions, but as the party enters they flip over to reveal large, dilated eyes and begin accelerating towards our heroes. Kali and Nemora make it across in time, but Eizen is caught in their gaze and is completely unable to move. As he begins to sink below the surface, a thorny vine erupts from Kali's hand, grasping and stretching through the room to wrap around Eizen's outstretched arm. The thorns dig into his skin, but he is pulled forth from the mire and successfully makes it across. As for Kellen, his godlike endurance renders him immune to the stony gaze of this room, and he strides across confidently.

However, all is not yet well. In the next room is a curious sight: a man with a crescent moon for a head, seated and drinking wine at a table alongside a giant hand and a mechanical fox. He sets his glass down and introduces himself as Mr. Torgos Zooth, chief servant of Psathyrella Medusa. He asks the party several questions: what their purpose is in the maze, how they are faring, if they've met anyone else here. As if under a spell, the party finds themselves unable to lie, and in their answers reveal the existence of Lady Capilli. This greatly interests Mr. Zooth, especially after Kellen mentions that Lady Capilli intends to destroy the maze. Torgos excuses himself, and his body fades away as the moon on his shoulders rapidly transitions from waxing to full to waning to gone.

At this point the party decides to head back to Lady Capilli's room and strike due west. The room they enter is a large and blindingly bright. A miniature sun rotates around the upper rim of the walls once a minute, casting long shadows on every object here. Eizen and Kali are the first to move through it, but as soon as Eizen's massive shadow passes over Kali she falls into it as if it were a pit. She sees the opening close above her, and makes an attempt to jump clear, but it's closing too fast. The light catches up to her just as her last leg is emerging from the pit, and it is cleanly removed below the knee.

Kali's screams echo through the silent maze. Eizen rushes back to help her, making certain that at no point do their shadows overlap. He manages to drag her into the next room, but she's losing blood fast. She demands that he cauterize her wounds the same as he did the Ashen Chanterelle's. Reluctantly he agrees, and thrusts a torch against the surgically-precise cleave. The smell of acrid flesh fills the air, and Kali passes out.

Nemora and Kali quickly rush across the room (one at a time, thankfully) to join their companions. Kali's scream has brought attention to the party, and from deeper within the Gardens a birdlike shriek is heard. Immediately, six dark, humanoid creatures emerge from the underbrush. Each wears an expertly carved bird mask, and communicate with each other in short chirps and whistles. They brandish their twisted rapiers and descend upon the party. The three standing party members form a protective wall between the bird men and the downed Kali. Eizen lifts his massive fists and immediately a stone cage erupts from the ground around the foes. Kellen subtly weaves fate to cause the creatures to stab each other in the immediate confusion, and Nemora begins stabbing his swords through the gaps in the cage. However, the bird men have another twist up their sleeve. The one farthest from the party begins to weave a magical cloud of darkness centered on the party, and the rest cast bolts of pure energy that rip through our heroes armor and force them on the defensive. With one member down and Nemora deeply wounded, the party decides that this is a fight that can be fought another day and retreat back through the Sun Room.

However, it becomes immediately apparent that the cloud of darkness surrounding the party functions in the Sun Room just the same as shadows. The entire room is now a pitch-black pit, and it's only through another twist of luck that the party manages to find their way back into Lady Capilli's room. Kali finally wakes from her catatonia, and immediately fashions a new leg out of fresh vines that sprout from the stump. Standing, she notices the sound of conversation from the other end of the room. The party moves to the origin of the racket and discover Torgos Zooth and Lady Capilli in a heated argument. Zooth is demanding that Lady Capilli forsake her purpose and leave the maze, but the daughter of dragons is unintimidated. Fuming, Torgos disappears, but not before warning Lady Capilli and the party that Madame Medusa will learn of their treachery.

After he departs, our heroes crestfallenly reveal that they have not found any artwork fitting the blue woman's high standards. She is disappointed, but not surprised. The party promises to further explore the Gardens in their next excursion, and with that, they leave the maze through The False Chanterelle.