The Vulture or the Raven, Chapter 3


The Vulture or the Raven, Chapter 3

The rain continued to pour in the dark night outside the temple of Set in the city of Kyros in Shem. A body lay sprawled outside the outer gate of the temple, the gate ajar. Beowullf, stout Vanir warrior from the far north, dressed for battle in mail and helm, came investigating the disappearance of his comrades. He pushed aside the open outer door and entered the stables, where lay the bodies of dead acolytes and slaves. The richly adorned body of a noble lay fallen in front of the inner doors, which were propped open with even more bodies of acolytes, priests, and slaves. Beowullf pressed on. The foyer of the temple was painted with the blood and entrails of half-dozen fallen temple guardians, the floor slick with the victuals of the dead. The stone idol of Set, a giant coiled serpent, lay smashed among the corpses.

Down the hall to the left, the sound of a struggle drew Beowulff's attention. He rushed to find Athicus, the Arcadian assassin, last of his dying tribe of nomads, engaged in an unarmed struggle with a temple guardian. Beowulff quickly dispatched the distracted guard to the annoyance of the broad-shouldered Arcadian.

The pair heard several abrupt shouts and the sound of several men falling. They rushed to its source, the central tower of the temple of set. Within they found the walkway that ringed the tower's base had collapsed, dropping those that stood upon it into the dark abyss below. A flaming brazier hung suspended from the top of the tower, the acrid yellow smoke of the writhing burning infants within the brazier filled the room with the sickly sweet porcine smell of burning human flesh! The awful cries of the sacrificial infants filled the hearts of all who listened with loathing and dread.

On the far side of the tower shaft was Sakumbe, the black former slave from the Southern Isles. Sakumbe told Athicus that the walkway was rigged to collapse, and that all standing upon it, including Benit, Valerius, Irem, and two priests, had fallen into the dark pit below. Sakumbe, himself, had barely avoided the same fate by leaping back into the stairway landing. Then the High Priest and his two personal guards had escaped through a secret exit in the wall behind the now unreachable platform, but not before Sakumbe had managed to put a spear into the High Priest as he fled.

Athicus and Sakumbe then simultaneously leapt the 15-foot gap from their respective landings to the platform. They both barely made it and were forced to catch each others arms to keep from slipping backwards into the pit.

Meanwhile, down below, Benit, Valerius, Irem, and two of the priests, found themselves knee-deep in the crushed bones of sacrificial victims. The only light came from the brazier, reflected off the tower walls 40-feet above. Raindrops fell from the openining in the top of the tower with a pitter-pat on the littered bones. The bruised warriors re-gained their feet and warily eyed the dark slime-covered walls of the pit and its honey-combed holes.

From two of the hidden recesses emerged ophidian heads of unnatural size. Forked tongues tasted the air. The two priests zealously fell to their knees and began praying. The prayers of one were answered as it was quickly grasped by the giant snake, its ropy coils looping around the doomed priest with a blinding speed that belied the bulk of the serpentine beast. On the opposite side of the pit emerged another demonaic serpent which quickly engulfed Benit in its mighty coils.

Irem sprang into action, immediately severing the body of the first snake in twain. Likewise, Beowulff, hearing the action below, leapt into the darkness, falling upon the second snake with his war sword. Valerius sprang to his aid. The snake let the limp body of Benit fall and coiled around that of Beowulff. The mighty Vanir, unable to bring his weapons to bear, sank his own teeth into the scaly hide of the fell serpent while Valerius chopped and hacked at it. Eventually, Valerius was able to dash the serpent's head against the wall of the pit with his buckler, killing the thing and freeing Beowulff from its constricting embrace.

Beofulff tended Benit's injuries while Valeirus dispatched the cowering priest. Irem found the rope Athicus had left for them and began to ascend.

Above, Athicus had found the secret door. Sakumbe followed the high priest through the secret passage, emerging into the chamber of the High Priest to be attacked by the two personal guardians. Sakumbe tumbled through to allow Athicus the chance to enter. After a brief melee, he two guardians were dispatched and the hunt for the high priest continued. Sakumbe found his spear near the bloody sheets of the High Priest's bed, and a trail of blood leading out the door on the left. They followed the trail back around the temple to the foyer at the entrance, followed several paces behind by the rest of the party.

Sakumbe emerged into the foyer to meet the gaze of the High Priest, whos eyes were aglow with an preturnatural luminosity. With a gesture and a cryptic phrase, Sakumbe's spear had turned into a living cobra which coiled about his arm! As the priest escaped through the gates, Sakumbe threw the cobra to the ground and severed its head, revealing the serpent to be nothing more than an illusion. With a growl, Sakumbe gathered up his spear and continued on, following Athicus who had passed him in the chase.

Outside the temple, the rain obscured the trail of blood, but Athicus heard the closure of a door in a nearby building. Athicus and Sakumbe opened the barn-like doors of a winery housing the great casks of fermenting wine. Lamps from the rain-soaked streets cast little light into the gloom of the great barn-like building built of stout timbers and stone. Athicus climbed atop the first of the row of elephantine barrels to the left while Sakumbe advanced cautiously to the right.

Athicus stealthily advanced from cask to cask. When he reached the 3rd cask, he was distracted by a sound in the darkness. When he drew his mighty bow, he saw that it was Sakumbe. He looked back down to meet the luminescent gaze of the High Priest of Set. With an utterance of an eldritch command, Athicus was entranced and ordered to stay his weapon. Sakumbe, hearing the command and seeing the glow cast from the priest's sorcerous eyes, rushed forward and attacked. The point of his scimitar impaled the priest, yet as he removed the blade, the priest turned as if only annoyed!

The priest, trapped between the casks with Athicus above him and Sakumbe before him, desperately attempted to repulse his attackers with a burst of flame. The effort was insufficient, though, as the two burning pursuers survived and slew the priest. After putting out their own flaming clothes, the pair decapited the priest and removed his head from the now burning barrel house. They quickly returned to the temple with their booty.

Within the temple, while Sakumbe and Athicus were hunting the high priest outside, the rest of the party had scoured the premises and had found the seven remaining infants, as well as the 1000 Silver promised to the merchant who delivered them. The party then removed the dead bodies from outside the gate and from within the stables, hurling all the corpses into the sacrificial pit. They slept in the temple that night while the townsfolk battled the fire in the barrel house.

Before dawn the next morning, the party placed the head of the priest on a spear in front of the temple with a warning that said "the fate of those who worship the serpent". They then anonymously deposited the surviving infants at the temple of Mitra and made their way back across the river on the ferry.

They spent the next two days and three nights recovering from the adventure in the inn, drinking and wenching and carousing. During this time, they learned that the king of Kyros had taken a liking to the cult of Set and had permitted the temple in the city despite the protestations of his advisors and his subjects. As a result, the city constabulary had been tasked with finding those that sacked the temple. It was no secret among the inhabitants of the city that the strangers at the inn were responsible, and the Temple of Set knew no friends in the townsfolk itself. Therefore, the strangers found a certain amount of appreciation, thanks, and protection in not only the townsfolk, but in the ranks of the city constabulary, much to the frustration of the city's king.

And so it went that on the third day, upon hearing of the approach of Jalar's Sand Devils from Asgalun, now swelled to 100-strong, the party departed the city of Kyros and headed into the hills on the east side of the river. Up in the hills, the party observed the Sand Devils arriving in the city. Meanwhile, 1200 feet downhill, an advance unit of Sand Devil scouts had spied the party. Immediately, one scout rode back to the main force while another, with a white scarf tied to his lance, cautiously approached the party under truce.

The envoy informed the party that his master, Jalar, wished to negotiate with them. The party agreed to meet with Jalar, unarmed, on the grassy plains to the north of Kyros. Several hours later, Jalar and the party advanced towards each other unarmed and with proper assurances of the absence of an ambush or other duplicity on either side.

Jalar complimented the party on its ability to use stealth, tactics, and incredible fighting prowess to thwart the town guard and his own cavalry. He explained that he was simply following the orders of a mad king. He also offered them a deal. Jalar explained that if the king, Akhirom, were to be assassinated, Jalar would be next in line for the throne. Unfortunately, the king was protected by three foreign mercenary armies: one Hyrkanian, one Kushite, and one Corinthian. No one else is allowed within the inner walls of the palace. Jalar offers the party a choice. If they can sneak into the palace and kill the king, he is certain that the mercenaries and the people of Asgalun would turn to him as the rightful king. As a reward for their help, the party would be allowed to take as much gold from the treasury as they can carry. Or, if they choose, they can continue on their way. He will give them one day's head start while his men rest in Kyros, but after that, he will give chase across the desert and return their heads to Akhirom as he promised.

The party considered their options, and chose to work for Jalar. They would return to Asgalun and slay the mad king Akhirom!

To be continued!

More adventures from the Vulture or the Raven, and from the Argosy of Blood, can be found at
After this, how could your player compare your session to the World's Largest Dungeon?
If you play relatively often I still deem it feasible to alternate game sessions as you would do with, say a fantasy rpg and a science-fiction game.
So I guess there is no need to stop one game in favour of the other, unless of course you only want play as the GM rather than a player. That's what we did in our group as we used to play often (once a week): every player was also game master for another game and each had its good points. So it was never the same fun, but fun it still was.
I am seriously going to miss these updates if your players get it on with the WLD. Your game sounds awesome. I hope you can steer the players back to Conan soon.
One of the big things I forgot to mention in the update!

When meeting on the plain outside of Kyros, Beowulff drew his sword to disarm himself, but before laying it on the ground, he turned to his horse..


We all sat there, gawking at the player.

Other players: "DUDE! WHAT THE HELL?"

Me: "You WHAT??"

Him: "I cut his throat. I'll cut his head off if I can."

Me: (goggle) "WHY?"

Him: "It cuts off my escape. It shows Jalar that I'm a serious negotiator. He should be intimidated."

Me: "The guide assigned to you eyes you warily. He thinks you're a loon!"

Other players (to the guide): "We don't know him."
If a player in my game did something like this, and gave the reasoning your player gave you, I would not only give him a +2 on all intimidate to the next person he is trying to intimidate, but also give opponents nearby a -2 penalty to defence against this players character.
I'd give him +4 on intimidate with Jalar permenently, plus a Corruption save unless he's lopping heads off on a regular basis...:lol:

Wow...that's a mean dude...I love it!