Ancient Mes Campaign - Sessions 2 & 3

Arkobla Conn

NOTE: This is lengthy and there are spoilers to the Ancient Mes campaign within...

Session 2 – Upon the Sacrificial Altar

The last skeletal bones crumbled to an inanimate heap as everyone regrouped and assessed their situation. Ishtim was babbling incoherently and had to be restrained, but otherwise the group was not in bad condition. Still, it was a long way from the Oasis.

As everyone prepared their mounts for the long journey back, Hadrathus noticed a black blight upon the horizon where no stars could be seen. Ailim, the Saramite guide tending Ishtim told them that it was a windstorm coming across the Red Waste toward them – they didn’t have long to make a decision.

Instead of going to the abandoned City of Ibnath, the group made for Dragonclaw rock. Traveling as fast as their camels could carry them, the group made excellent time, finding they would make the lee side of the mesa in time. Just as they were nearing it, however, Ailim fell off his camel while trying to shift Ishtim. Ajonga and Lady Maja reined in while the others rode forward. Maja’s camel shifted abruptly and she fell as well, despite her years in the saddle. It was an incredible amount of bad luck. Ajonga dismounted, helped both to a seat on his camel and slapped it’s backside, prompting it to rush toward the others. Ajonga himself was left behind.

Ajonga ran, hoping his size, strength and stamina were enough to get him to the Mesa before the windstorm finally caught him. Unfortunately, these forces of nature were not to be denied. As if taking a cruel cue from a malicious god, the winds picked up speed and overtook him a few hundred feet from the Mesa.

Hours passed for the group and Ajonga never appeared. Fearing the worst, the group made their way along the base of the mesa when the winds died down looking for the tall man from the black kingdoms, leaving Ailim to tend to the incoherent Ishtim. Unbelievably, they found him huddled under a layer of dust, breathing shallowly. Cleaning his airways, some first aid on his cuts and abrasions and water went a long way to reviving the warrior.

Upon returning to their original spot, they found Ailim and Ishtim missing! Searching the area, it was easy to find signs of a struggle and tracks of many horses riding into the distance. Another short visit from the druidess of the rock confirmed that cultists who would sacrifice the pair to their god had abducted their charges. Wasting no time, the group began a hasty chase.

The trip led to a large crater in the desert. In the center of the desert was a open chasm leading down into the earth. Easily twenty feed wide, it was ominously (and apparently) devoid of guards. Actually the group met and dispatched their first cultists just within the chasm. Another hard fought melee was fought above the pits used to keep prisoners. One of the Jailers confirmed, as he coughed up blood and mucus, that their charges were even now being delivered to his god.

Rushing toward the sacrificial altar, Raz, Hadrathus, Abaddon, Lady Maja, Belyara and Ajonga found a surreal scene. Four people were attached to a rock alter by a single chain and manacle. Standing aside were more cultists, one appearing to be a leader in his brownish gray cloak. The thief moved toward the prisoners while the others attacked the cultists.

The melee was only just engaged when Belyara looked around the corner from the altar. His facial expression turned from intense concern to abject horror in that split second. He saw the god coming up from a wide tunnel and he fled in terror.

A loud scream and hiss came announced the god’s arrival. As it came around the final bend, the group saw the largest beast they had ever seen. It slithered on its serpentine body but had the maw of a shark and the fin of bony skin around its head. It bellow-hissed again and stuck forward quickly, taking one of the prisoners into its mouth and yanking, pulling the arm out of the socket. Blood spattered the woman prisoner on the same side as Ailim and the screaming Ishtim watched in horror. They redoubled their efforts to get free, almost dislocating shoulders, elbows and wrists in the process.

Ignoring the Cultists, Raz and Abaddon rushed forward while Hadrathus and Lady Maja were also overcome with horror and turned to flee. Ajonga stayed in melee with the cultists, but kept an eye on the monstrous conflict in front of him.

Leaping up onto the crumbling altar, Raz attacked and wounded the beast in its mid-section. Abaddon was ineffectual against the same section. The beast bellow-hissed in rage and attacked the barbarous Raz who was almost rabid with his own internal anger. Twisting in time to keep his head out of its mouth, the beast bit down with its needle like teeth. Armor, Skin, sinew and bone were bitten clean through and a great gout of blood followed the retreating mouth. Raz trembled in pain and anger for a moment, then recovered, striking a blow that shook the altar, god and cave it seemed.

Most of the cultists fled the scene, allowing Ajonga and the recovering Lady Maja and Hadrathus to focus their efforts on the snake god. Spear, Arrow, Axe and Sword were all bent upon the titanic struggle. Getting to close to the beast, Abaddon was similarly bitten in the shoulder and chest. Unlike Raz, however, he was tossed aside and dropped into unconsciousness in an instant.

As the Meadow Shemite fell, the others redoubled their efforts and hard steel finally won the day. The beast was slain, it’s great body falling forward to crush the female prisoner tied to the altar.

Days later, they found themselves back at the Oasis. Ishtim was delivered and cured of his affliction after a spiritual ritual performed by the tribe’s shaman. The group was allowed to stay and was honored at a great feast for their success in returning the wayward son.

Session 3 – The Black Ziggurat

Using Grey lotus leaves as incense to promote restful sleep produced side effects unexpected for the group. Without remembering how they got there, they found themselves standing in a hall, looking into a crypt. Inside, they found a large sarcophagus, several urns and a lovely Shemite woman. She wore ribbons on her red skirt and a maroon and gold headdress. A green amulet hung between her bare breasts on a gold chain.

“Please save me” she implored as the amulet gave a single green pulse of light.

“Who are you?” asked Hadrathus, the inquisitive Bossonian.

“I am Nika” she responded.

‘Where are we?’

‘In the black ziggurat, in the desert.’ She responded, and the amulet pulsed again.

‘What…’ and the scene disappeared, to be replaced with the reality that was time spent in a lotus stupor in the tent at the Oasis.

The Saramites knew of the ziggurat, but did not know of ‘Nika’. Using their good will, the group once again procured the use of the camels and headed off at sunset.

Within a few miles of the ziggurat, men on horseback attacked the group. These men wore white clothes and silvery veils. Four men attacked the right flank, while four more attacked from the left. They were dispatched with an ease that surprised the attackers, the last of which throwing down his sword from his blood soaked hands. Without mercy, the group gave him a single skin of water and sent him and a horse with the severed heads of his comrades away, stating that the dwellers of the desert would not tolerate such attacks again.

Nearing dawn, the group found the black Ziggurat. Several outbuildings and a 20-foot high wall surrounded it. Searching the buildings, the group found skeletons and bones. Some creature gnawed at these to get at the marrow within. In the last building, a broken tablet was found and pieced together. This tablet told the story of a priest and a woman who became his prisoner. Most of it was not readable, however.

The night passed as the group rested during the heat of the day. At dusk, they began to climb the 150-foot staircase leading to the top. Half way up, giant hawks, hungry for a meal and looking to feed upon the innards of these intruders, assaulted them. The group avoided the combat however, running up to a room with two broad bronze doors blocking the way. As the hawks screamed in frustration, the group spent almost an hour trying to open the door, finally doing so when the thief was able to pick the lock.
Entering the dank ziggurat, the group went to the first antechamber. Inside, they could smell the incense that must have once permeated the entire interior. As they approached another door, this one ajar, the ghostly visage of a man appeared, soared to them and stopped short. It groaned ‘Turn back’ once before disappearing.

Moving into a narrow hall, the group noted the presence of ‘newish’ murals upon the wall. A beautiful woman was the easily seen as the centerpiece of the pictures even though there were several places where older frescoes bled through the newer picture.
After completing the inspection, the group again prepared to go forward, but someone stepped on a tile and a pit opened up beneath Belyara and Hadrathus. Both were able to leap aside as a low rumbling began all around them. Pebbles and dust began to fall from the ceiling as Lady Maja and Belyara found themselves on the outer side of the pit. With it being only seven feet across, they decided to make a jump for it so everyone could retreat beyond this area.

Unfortunately, ill luck and malicious gods defeat the best plans. Lady Maja fell into the pit, spraining her shoulder. As Belyara jumped the hole and turned to help, Abaddon rushed forward with his 30-foot rope, but found it was ten feet short. As more rubble and a large stone appeared to be slipping out of the ceiling, Hadrathus grabbed his legs and Abaddon leaned deep into the pit. Maja jumped for the rope once and then a second time before grasping it. She gasped in pain as she scrapped her knees and wrenched her shoulder. The men above began pulling but the rope snagged twice and a cry from Ajonga helped Abaddon pull back far enough to avoid the multi ton stone that fell into the pit, slicing through the rope and crushing the trapped lady.

Railing against life, gods and fate, Raz took out his axe and smashed all four walls before cursing in the guttural Cimmerian language of his forebears. Downcast, the group realized they could not move, nor break the stone and that they were now trapped on the inside of the ziggurat.