Prologue: What the Heck’s Going On?
The action begins in the Meeting House of the Sun Dome temple. It is just after dawn of Fireday, Harmony Week, Sea Season 1621.
Each player’s character sheet describes what they’re doing in the Meeting House. These passages are repeated below. Give a quick paraphrase to set the scene…
With fresh mounts at several points along the way, you got to the Sun Dome Temple around midnight, and then had a hell of a time getting admitted. When you finally got to see the Count, he read your message and immediately began barking orders. Gongs were rung and guys with bleary eyes were running all over the place, furiously strapping on their armour. In the pandemonium you seem to have been forgotten, and, tired, dirty and cold, having ridden half the night, you just curled up in a corner of the Count’s meeting house under your cloak. The Goddess knows what the message said, but nobody wanted to answer your questions; maybe you’ll find out in the morning…
You were woken up in the middle of the night with a start by the Alarm Gongs, but the Hospital Healer wouldn’t let you get out of bed. You spent an agitated time until dawn, listening to the crunching of feet on the gravel of the parade area, and spear hafts knocking against armour. Something big is afoot, but the Healer couldn’t say what it was. You tried asking Bob, but he couldn’t tell you much either. At dawn, one of the Count’s orderlies came to demand your presence at the Meeting House and, ignoring the protests of the Healers, you pulled yourself painfully out of bed and hurriedly got your gear on. Maybe now you’ll find out what all the excitement is…
With your mistress out of action for a while, you got to spend the night in the Hawk Mews with the other cult birds, and there was the prospect of joining Invictus’s hunting party tomorrow! This was all thrown out of whack by the sounding of the temple alarm at midnight. Between then and dawn, the rune lords and other cult nobs came to collect their familiars and birds, all kitted out in battle gear. Annoyed that you weren’t part of the action, you slipped out of the Mews for a fly around. It seems that a large force were assembling and heading west towards the river. None of the birds you spoke to could tell you why, and Goldi wasn’t much help, shut up in the Hospital. When dawn came you got a summons from Goldie to meet here in the Count’s presence chamber and so (stopping only to swoop down and breakfast on a rat skulking near the granaries), you winged it to your mistress’s side…
Dozing under a date palm just outside the temple gate, you got woken up by the Alarm Bells at midnight. You didn’t know the Sun Domers got up to much at night, so you thought you’d scramble over the wall to find out. With everyone rushing about everywhere, putting on armour, getting into lines, shouting a lot, nobody took much notice of you until about dawn you wandered past a big long building that had lots of things in it that smelt good. One of the Sun Dome guys came at you with a spear, and despite your protestations of innocence, has marched you at spear-point into a big room full of gold and other fancy stuff. Maybe they’re going to let you join the cult after all!
You were standing on guard duty at the rear cellar door when the temple alarm bells. “Sun Above!”, you thought, “what could it be, a nomad raid? trolls attacking?” The sleepy-eyed temple cellarer later came to say all was fine, but spent the rest of the night supervising the loading of supplies down at the front entrance of the cellars. Meanwhile, you kept at your post. Close to dawn, you spotted a strange figure skulking around in shadows. When you challenged it, you found it to be that damn baboon who’s always hanging the temple and making a nuisance of itself. Thinking it was probably trying to steal from the cellars, you’ve marched it into the Count’s presence chamber for judgement…
Scene 1: The Count’s Meeting Chamber
This room is the heart of the government; a majestic gilded room lined with reference scrolls. The Count’s throne is severe and imposing, and flanked by two Templars.
The Count enters. He’s middle-aged, tall and thickly built. His most arresting feature the combination of his black beard and brilliant yellow hair.
GM note: Yelanda, Bob and Mars know that this is because the black-haired count dyes his hair to look more in the classic Yelmalian mould. Yelanda and Bob have also heard the rumour that the priests wouldn’t let him dye his beard, because that would constitute disguising himself as a woman, something a Yelmalian Light Son must never do.
The count is bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, and even more crabby and irritable than normal. He gestures for Yelanda and Sarshas to come forward; Mars and his prisoner are told by a dismissive gesture to wait at the door.
Bark out his orders quickly and precisely!
“After that pathetic display you subjected us to yesterday, it’s a wonder that we should ever ask you to perform an important task for us again. After our priests have cast the necessary enchantments and charms (which we could not do last night, as they must be done in the light of day), you are to deliver these gold rings to our trusted general Lord Invictus at our town of Harpoon, and await his further commands. You must do this in all haste, and arrive there by midnight tonight. Be wary of Orlanthi who would ambush you and take the rings as prize. Know that your future standing in our depends on how well you acquit yourself in this task.”
The “gold rings” the count refers to are in fact huge circlets, marked with runes about 30 cm in diameter. In the dim light of the audience chamber, they glow visibly. As the Count speaks, a pair of temple functionaries lift them up and take them out of the room.
“Know Lunar, that your governor’s message included a post-script to me that, in the interests of better relations between our two governments, you should be enlisted into my service for the duration of these momentous events. I put you under the command of my servant Yelanda here then, and you may escort her to Harpoon.”
“Manpower is very short at the moment. You, man, go with this Light Servant as guard.”
If Mars begins tries to bring forward his prisoner, Solanthos peremptorily cuts him short:
“Yes, yes, this preposterous creature is known to us, the priests have told us about it. Whatever it did, we can use it now. It looks broad-shouldered enough; get it to carry the rings. If it does that well enough it shall be spared my further wrath.”
The Count is in no mood to answer questions from anyone and replies along the lines of, “For now, all that’s required of your is obedience. You’ll find out what’s going on when you get to Harpoon”.
The ill-assorted group is led into the temple kitchens for a breakfast of date mush and weak barley beer. The kitchen staff are all very tired, having been up since midnight getting provisions prepared for the departing army.
If asked, they only know rumours about what’s going on:
- The Lunars have decided to invade Sun County once and for all, and make us worship the Red Goddess.
- The Bison Riders/Impala Tribe/Morokanth etc. have risen up to drive us out of the valley to die in the wastes!
- Wolf Pirates are sailing upriver, burning and looting the Sun Dome villages as they come!
The characters are forced to cool their heels in the kitchens until almost noon waiting for the priests to return the rings (if they wish to wander around the temple, improvise a description of gilded rooms and cool cloisters. The temple currently only has a skeleton staff, because those who didn’t march off last night are now resting). The same temple functionaries return with the rings, in a thick hemp bag which is warm to touch. The bag has an ENC of 13. The temple functionaries know that nothing more about the rings than “they have been blessed by the Son.”
Scene 2: Setting Off
Everyone knows that the town of Harpoon is on the River of Cradles, about 20 kilometers from the Sun Dome temple. The quickest route is to follow the Pavis road to the turn-off at Haymon’s Gate. The whole journey should take about 6 hours. It might chagrin Sarshas to learn that the others are going to travel on foot, as Sun Domers no longer ride. He can still take his horse if he wishes.
The town of Harpoon is famous for great spear-throwing machine, which is used to prevent marauding sea monsters or pirates coming further up-river. Yelanda actually saw the machine in action once, during her days in the militia. It’s mounted high on a cliff and shoots huge arrows over many hundreds of meters.
It is up to Yelanda to organize her party. Despite the Count’s words, anyone could carry the pack containing the rings, which weighs a total of 13 ENC. It could conceivably be slung onto the horse as well. Yelanda may wish Mars or someone else to carry her javelins (remind her that Light Servants usually get some flunky to do these things). She may even demand to ride Sarshas’s horse, as leader of the group.
The road is well-made and winds through flat farmland with the occasional gentle hill. It is quite cool, and the sky is cloudy: the clouds over the distant ranges look dark and ominous.
Scene 3: Grumbling Farmers
Farmers are busy at work preparing the soil for the spring planting (Mars may grumble it’s time he should be getting down to this himself). As the PCs approach, they can observed fitfully trying hide an ox from view (by standing in front of it and whistling innocently, hiding it behind a haystack, etc.) If questioned, they can report on the huge host that travelled down the road during the night, and how Templars came and commandeered every oxen in the district. This detail is repeated by all farmers along the way.
Scene 4: Crying like Refugees
The party encounters a group of peasants heading past them down the road, all carrying their worldly goods on wheelbarrows, in baskets etc. They say they are fleeing the invading Lunars – why else would the entire Sun Dome Templar forces be rushing to the borders in the middle of the night? Various wild rumours abound, eg.
- The Crimson Bat is coming, flee before it eats you!
- The Lunars are going to defile the Sun Dome, and carry off its treasures!
- Lunar soldiers are killing all the men, raping all the women and spitting babies on their scimitars!
When the peasants see Sarshas, they begin hurling insults and start picking up rocks. It is up to Yelanda to defuse what could become an ugly situation, and ensure no Sun County citizens get hurt.
Note that a wheelbarrow could be used to carry the rings, peasants could be impressed into service, etc.
Scene 5: Flying Free!
As the day progresses the clouds grow thicker, and darker. It looks like it will begin to rain before they’ll get to Harpoon.
If Bob is flying free, or smarting on Yelanda’s arms, he notices some movement in the barley stubble in a field to the right. Scan: it’s probably a quail or some other small flightless game bird. Emphasize that its been ages since he’s been allowed to go hunting. Does his mistress forbid him? Do he ignore her anyway?
If Bob goes after the bird, describe the fabulous feeling he gets focussing his eyes on his quarry, narrowing the world down to the hunter and the hunted, followed by the mighty rush of wind through his feathers as he streams down at his victim.
Meanwhile, with Bob distracted, the party mounts a slight hill and comes across the following scene:
(If Yelanda somehow reins Bob in, and keeps him on flying watch, the party get some forewarning, and you can describe to them the dying seconds of the combat. If Bob quickly swoops down to within spell range, he may be able to save the horse or attempt to Heal the rider. Otherwise, afterwards Yelanda will get a great opportunity to chew Bob out for not staying on task).
Scene 6: Mad Prax
Before them, the characters see a huge man in a horned helmet attempting to hamstring and otherwise maim a terrified horse. The horses’s rider, a Lunar judging by the uniform, lies shuddering in the ditch by the road, and the ground around him is splashed red with fresh blood. The huge man’s alticamelus (high llama) nonchalantly pulls at the stubble on the other side of the road.
Riding through Sun County towards a rendezvous with the Cradle, Mad Prax came across this Lunar messenger and decided to kill him. Why? Well, for start the rider was a Lunar, that would’ve been enough of itself. Even worse, the chaos-moon bastard was riding a horse!
Mad Prax has the mad gleam in his eye of a Berserk (explain to novice players the finer points of the Berserk spell, eg. attack chance doubled, cannot be downed until killed, will attack anything in his path, falls exhausted at the end of the spell, etc.).
Various party members have reasons for reacting to this situation.
- Yelanda has the geas “never permit a horse to suffer needlessly”.
- Sarshas notices that the Storm Bull’s victim was a fellow Lunar.
- What a trophy that alticamelus would be if Bob could down it: now that’d really show those other hawks!
- Melo Yelo just loves the taste of fresh horse meat: will his craving for it override his desire to act like a good Yelmalian? (roll over his CON x3 to resist the urge). Mars has never eaten a high llama before, but they look tasty too!
- Mars might just want to survive this encounter, by avoiding the Storm Bull berserk and his dripping sword, but because Yelanda cannot to talk to the foreigner directly, might call on him to be her mouthpiece.
Mad Prax has cast Berserk on himself, and is too mad to bother remounting his llama, Dalhi. Instead, he’ll just level his bloodied lance and charge the characters (pausing only to take a swipe at a “chaos milepost” and pile of “chaos alticamelus droppings”). He later fights with his sword.
Mad Prax is in total chainsaw mode (sword attack chance is 160%!), and will obliging chop the entire party into chutney if he can get to them. Note, however, that in about 12 minutes Mad Prax must collapse with exhaustion, and this is the PCs’ key to survival.
The PCs should try to avoid a lengthy fight; in fact, they should try to avoid fighting Mad Prax at all! Here are a few possible ways the PCs might think of to avoid becoming Mad Prax’s next victims:
- If they can keep beyond Mad Prax’s grasp for another ten minutes, he must collapse anyway due to the Berserk (an ideal spell here is Melo Yelo’s Slow spell; another is Sarshas’s Befuddle).
- If successful, Sarshas’s Madness spell will make Mad Prax catatonic (but note that if the spell is too successful, the “Paranoia” result only makes Mad Prax even more pissed off, particularly at Sarshas!)
- Join Mad Prax’s side and help him slaughter lots of “chaos trees”, “chaos rocks” or even (gasp!) “chaos alticameli”!
- Finally, if the horse Mad Prax is torturing is killed, Yelanda no longer is obliged to protect it.
Note that it is not possible for the player characters to dispel Mad Prax’s Berserk: Yelanda and Bob know Dispel Magic-2/Dismiss Magic x1; Dispel Magic-3 or higher is required to knock out Berserk. It’d be a nice try though…
The Knot Writing Message
The players must either kill Mad Prax or leave him unconscious after the Berserk spell wears off. Tied onto his belt is a length of knotted leather cord, which Melo Yelo identifies as Praxian knot writing. Melo can have a go at deciphering it, by succeeding with his Read Praxian skill for each separate phrase:
"River……seeks aid of……Storm……join us where…..White Rock……meets……River of Cradles."
The Injured Tribune
The Lunar horseman is another Lunar tribune, who Sarshas recognizes as Tarquin Moonrise. He is dying, having been impaled in the chest by Mad Prax’s lance. He needs a large amount of Healing, possibly Heal Wound or even Heal Body. In his message bag there is a document marked with a Lunar seal. Tarquin will not permit it to be opened, saying it is a private message from the Lunar governor for Duke Raus, a Lunar nobleman with landholdings further down the river. The governor ordered that it be delivered with due haste.
If the seal is broken, the document (in New Pelorian) commands Raus to join Sor Eel in Pavis to “celebrate the most amazing event to have occurred in this god-forsaken province for seven centuries”. It does not elaborate further.
Tarquin demands Sarshas’s horse so he can continue on his way. As he departs, he tells Sarshas to “keep up the Lunar side” and to “show these Yellow bastards a trick or two if you can!”.
GM note: It is possible that Sarshas will decide to deliver the message to Raus in Tarquin’s place, leaving Tarquin behind. This happened in playtesting, and is quite in keeping with Sarshas’s personality. If Sarshas does not ride off, the player now uses Tarquin Moonrise as his character. Coincidentally, Tarquin’s stats are identical to those of Sarshas (they make ’em in the same mould at the Imperial Military College.)
|Mad Prax from Beyond Sun Dome|
Human male, Age 30
Storm Bull initiate of the High Llama People.
APP 06 Move: 3
Hit Points: 16
Magic Points: 12 (currently 08)
DEX sr 2 + SIZ sr 1 = 3
Dodge: n/a 19-20 Head 20 12/6
16-18 L.A. 18-19 12/5
13-15 R.A. 16-17 12/5
12 Chest 11-15 14/8
09-11 Abdm 07-10 14/8
05-08 L.L 04-06 12/6
01-04 R.L 01-03 12/6Travelling Gear: Total Encumbrance = n/a. Fatigue = n/a. Cuirboilli and soft leather on limbs, lamellar on chest and abdomen, cuirboilli horned helmet. Also liberally smeared with Rhino Fat. Lance and bastard sword.Bastard Sword SR-5 (1d10+1+1d6) A-160%
Lance (on foot) SR-3 (1d10+1+1d6) A-72%Spirit Magic: n/a. Note that Mad Prax has already cast Protection-6 on himself, before the Berserk spell. Note that the Protection spell only has a 5 minute duration.Divine Magic: n/a. Berserker x1 (cast). Skills: Bellow like a Bull 100%.Languages: Praxian 32/20, Pavic 12/–.
Mad Prax’s High Llama mount
INT 4 (fixed)
DEX 11 Move: 10
Hit Points: 29
Magic Points: 10
DEX sr 3 + SIZ sr 0 = 317-20 Head 19-20 4/10
14-16 L.F.Leg 17-18 4/8
11-13 R.F.Leg 15-16 4/8
08-10 ForeQ 10-14 4/12
05-07 HindQ 05-09 4/12
03-04 L.R.Leg 03-04 4/8
01-02 R.R.Leg 01-02 4/8Kick SR-6 (1d8+4d6) A-56%
Rear & Plunge SR-10 (2d8+4d6) A-31
Bite SR-6 (1d2) A-15%
*Note an alticamelus can attack only once per melee round.
Page Last updated: 2023-05-07 14:26:42