Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Maze of the Blue Medusa: Session 2

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. Missing her right leg from the knee down after an incident with the sun room, she has fashioned a makeshift peg out of vines.

A month later, the full moon rises again and the party enters the eerily still room of the former Ashen Chanterelle, now a corpse slumped against the southern wall. She hasn't begun to decompose yet, and the blisters on her arm stumps are fresh. Clearly time works differently within the maze.

Heading north, the party is surprised to find Lady Capilli is nowhere to be found. Traumatized by their last foray west ("the sun room," as they've taken to calling it), they decide to head north. This leads them to a long hallway, paved with stones forming a mural of a large blue serpent who comes to life as they enter. It whispers a cryptic poem insinuating that the fourth to cross the room will die, leaving the party with a choice: who will they leave behind? Kellen decides to sacrifice himself to the snake, but not before having Eizen chop off his arm. Kellen is devoured after the rest of the party crosses.

DM's Note: I love how this played out. Kellen sacrificing himself to allow the rest of the party to proceed is so evocative of classical mythological, and suits the tone of the dungeon perfectly.

The party finds themselves on the same rope bridges they crossed in the last session. Kellen's gambit has paid off, as his body begins to regrow from its largest part, the whole arm in Eizen's possession. This takes time, however, and meanwhile the rest of the party decides to head west and investigate the locked door. A puny non-magical lock turns out to be no match for the strength of Eizen, and soon the party is through.

In this room is a wheezing, tottering old man, and in this old man are three broadswords, run through to the hilt. Colored gas seeps from the wounds in his body and erupts from his lungs with every forced gasp. Nemora takes pity on the forgotten king and begins to remove the swords, but struggles as the gases, all that remains of the kings former knights, take corporeal form and attack the party. The knights are defeated, and the old man manages a meager "thank you" before fading to dust, and to a rest long deserved.

Investigation of the swords reveals that each was designed around a particular motif, and slid effortlessly into the scabbards built into the three thrones they found in an adjacent room. With a soft click, the lock to the door leading north from the king's chamber opened...or it would, had Eizen not crashed through it moments ago. At this point, the party decided to rest and let Kellen's form restore itself.

With the party reunited, they set out south into the sun room, making sure to go one at a time to avoid casting unnecessary shadows. This brings them back to The Gardens. Heading northwest, they enter a chamber completely overtaken by vines, twisting and weaving around a central form in the figure of a sleeping woman. As the party enters, the vines caress and slide over their bodies, leaving a trail of sticky, sweet sap. Nemora, that rakish charmer, embraces the female form which the party has christened "Vine Bae." He's been magically charmed, but doesn't know it yet. One of the other adventurers pulls him away, and with a heavy heart he and the rest proceed deeper into the overgrowth.

The room beyond Vine Bae's chamber is covered floor-to-ceiling with glistening spores that quiver with each movement the party makes. Kali takes point and, summoning her powers of fertility, withers them in seconds. Dessicated leaves crunch underfoot as the party enters the next room, a large octagon dominated in the center by a massive, beating approximation of a heart. It's connected to the ceiling and the floor by large vines, and as the party crosses the threshold three figures scramble over its surface to sit atop it.

The figures begin a verbal assault of the party. The first, a dog-like construct of twisted black thorns, accuses Eizen of leaving Kali to die in the Sun Room. Before Eizen can mount a counter-argument, the second creature chimes in. Sinister insinuations slither past its lips of dried grass; its body is that of a naked scarecrow. Nemora steps forth to defend his companion. The third monster, a dusty tangle of crushed vegetation, comes to the forefront making passive-aggressive jabs at Nemora and his friends. The combined fury of the three wears at Nemora's psyche, and he is forced to admit that, if it came down to it, he would sacrifice one of his friends to save himself.

At this revelation, the three monsters attack. Kali unleashes a plague on their plant forms that slowly strips away their very essence. The scent of burned and withered grass fills the room as Eizen summons a massive stone, swinging it with the fury and precision of an orchestra conductor. Kellen rushes forth to attack the heart, but its skin is toughened and every attack is like chopping at rawhide. Assailed by the thorn-creature, Nemora hardens his skin to an impenetrable degree and begins summoning swords from thin air to strike at the foes.

The naked scarecrow lunges at Kali, claws like razors. A nimble dodge from her is enough to avoid them, but a cloud of dust puffs up from the creature, and her head begins to spin. It seems like she can see the body of a human within the bundles of grass. She continues burning away their outer shells, but this image weighs on her mind. Meanwhile, Kellen's persistence has paid off, and he rips a large hole in the side of the heart. A viscous purple liquid begins to pour out and covers the floor of the room within seconds, rising slowly. Each of the plant monsters scream as the floracide melts them on contact. The vine creature attempts to flee, but a quick bodyslam from Nemora leaves no escape, and no survivors.

The party licks at their wounds as the poison laps around their knees. To open the doors at each cardinal direction would be to unleash a torrent of plant killer, and their past experience has shown that wanton destruction often has disastrous consequences. Eizen decides to erect a permanent thigh-high wall around the room to hold the poison, and the party continues through the door to the west.

The west door leads to a long hallway, overgrown like the rest of the gardens with thick tendrils of ivy. They weave between the cobblestones in intricate geometric patterns whose beauty is not lost on Kali. At the end of the hall are two doors facing each other, one to the north and one to the south. As Veronica's map was getting a bit crowded, the party decides to head north into a room filled with hissing pipes. At the other end is a massive, mangy rat with a twisted crown of iron and a massive pipe wrench. It cackles madly to itself and continually repeats the phrase "water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink!" in a childish lilt. The party gets its attention and it lopes over, presenting Kellen with a large sack of severed, shrunken goblin heads. It refuses to answer any questions about itself and seems to disregard the party, preferring to fiddle more with the pipes. Kellen slips a head into his pocket before leaving, intending to present it to Lady Capilli as art.

DM's Note: I changed this area quite a bit. I removed the nursery entirely, as it served no mechanical purpose, and indeed seemed to serve no purpose other than as shock value. I also changed Carnifex from a giant toad to a giant rat, both because I felt it fit more thematically with him as a plumber and also because one of the players has a terrible phobia of frogs. Remember, know your players and practice grown-up judgment.

Before that, however, they return to the hallway and peek through the opposing door. Beyond is a large sunken chamber, its floor nothing more than a bog of waist-high mud. Several rusted pipes lead into this room, but not a drop of water runs from them. In the center of the room is a tendrilled beast rooting around in the swamp. It looks up at the party, then fishes around under the mud before pulling up a perfectly preserved corpse. The beast wraps a tendril lovingly around the corpses' head, and the corpse begins to speak.

The monster introduces itself as No-Face, and speaks congenially to the party, occasionally pausing to scoop up another corpse that may have a better understanding of the current topic. No-Face is mad that the rat demon Carnifex has disrupted the Garden's water supply, and wants it restored. It explains that Carnifex has tremendous power over causality, to the point that it can explicitly forbid a creature within earshot from taking the same action twice; this was used to devious effect on one of a corpses companions, the goblin head that Kellen took, who was forbidden from taking another breath.

The party hatches a plan to distract Carnifex long enough to redistribute the water. Kellen slyly insinuates that there is an even greater source of water in the maze, which piques the demon's interest. His insatiable greed drives him to drop his pipe wrench and demand that Kellen show him the way to the other well. Carnifex grins slyly, and the party internally debates the merit of leaving one of their own alone with a creature of unspeakable power. But Kellen has faith in his plan, and with a wink turns and heads back down the darkened hallway, with the cackling rat not far behind.

Carnifex and Kellen loop back through The Gardens. The Rat King is wary, but his greed leads him on. Kellen strides forth into the Sun Room just as the light is passing in front of him. His shadow isn't big enough to trap the Rat King: he's too large, his body too misshapen. But Kellen's the avatar of luck, and as he moves forward his cloak and pack swing outward just far enough to eclipse the demon. He falls, and the pit closes above him. His last whispered words are unheard amidst his cackling.

Kellen returns to the party, who have successfully managed to reroute the water. No-Face is thrilled, and leads the party to a secret compartment where he has stored a brittle bonsai tree. No-Face claims the tree has magic powers, and with the water flowing freely it can be nourished back to health. The adventurers return to the central corridor of the maze, making certain not to inadvertently cast a shadow over Carnifex's prison, and come face-to-face with Lady crucem Capilli. With nothing to offer but the demon's pipe wrench, the Dragon Queen is less than pleased, but accepts it after the party regales her with the story as to how they acquired it. Lady Capilli then requests another piece of artwork from the east wing, but warns that the area was the site of great tragedy and is overrun with the dead. She hands Eizen a key that will open the locked door at the bottom of the twisted stairwell, and departs.

With that, the company returns to the painting, stepping back through to the real world and beginning their plans for the next foray. They have a month to do more research.

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