After a long hiatus & an epic prologue, we finally got back to gaming on Saturday. Things have been rough with outside commitments like the play & new jobs & what have you, but hopefully we're back in the saddle. I had a really awesome time running the game, & I think the others did too. There was a bit of tension at the end, but I don't think it tainted the whole thing. A big part of it was my fault for failing to communicate the direction of the story. We've talked about it subsequently-- last night. Just hard to learn how to use meta-gaming for the story; like, it isn't wrong to say "that isn't going to happen this session, lets move on." Seems obvious, but as a Narrator you can get led astray trying to be mysterious or whatever.
Things were fast paced; Damocles returned from his sept in the Synod; Balthazar from the bowels of the Urth. Lorelai had stayed right where she was, on her throne in Dragonfly. Her figurative throne-- for the moment. They decided to take advantage of the winter stalemate with the Shining Horde to investigate north, in Englezarke. They knew, from the map they'd bartered from the Lobescrubber, that a comet was falling there. So off they went, leaving their apprentices behind. Damocles paused & sniffed the wind-- trouble in the north, as the worms of soil dug that way.
They travelled up the river, Lorelai tacking the sails, Damocles & Balthazar keeping their eyes peeled, slipping under enemy patrols. Along the way they marveled at the paradox of Englezarke-- fertile soil, good land, decent people, but poor as hell-- why couldn't the country get it together? It lines the riverline basin, like Egypt followed the Nile. Eventually they made landing at a fish-husbandry farm (aquaculture! Only the Hawaiians & the Chinese care about it-- well, & the modern West). They'd been told by some dockhands that it would be safe to land ashore here-- so they did, & got a decent welcome. It might be the quarter keg of ale they brought with them (just in case! My game is great-- "We better take this beer just in case.") Alexis, Piotr, & Dubbel were all there, living a simple life with their ox, Bessie (who dredges the ponds). Of course, there are odd things afoot-- faerie troubles, stuff coming up from the deep Urth & heading northward.
When the Beastie that was troubling the farm next door showed up, Lorelai was almost at the boat to get their things; Damocles was with the fellow who finds it; Baltazar was inside, looking at the stars out the window. "Bessie? Something the matter, girl?" had Damocles with his sword already drawn. Blarggg! Monster. I used the Xorn mini-- & had to explain a few times when I talked about the cow hooves left. Were they, you know, PART of the thing? It grabbed Damocles & shoved his face into its maw/slit. Grinding, mammoth-like teeth &...white tadpoles of various sizes-- some as big as cats. They cut it; Bathazar shot it; Lorelai ran at it with her science-trident. Warmongering! Strife! Instead of blood, or organs-- just more giant sperm. They killed it as it ran off (supernatural stink in the air-- brimstone, tracers, that sort of thing) & Lorelai speared all the struggling larvae-things before they could wriggle & writhe away. Then Lorelai, troubled by what she saw, stayed up all night making an elaborate scrimshaw hair-ornament as a gift to their hosts.
(Monsters. I wanted to make a horrific monster, see if I could sort of JUMP! surprise it out at them-- since normally I'm like "You hear rumors about this thing: they are wildly inaccurate. Creepy setting pieces happen. Oh the psychological horror..." about that kind of thing. I think I squicked them? But actually making monsters scary is tricky. I'm trying to add skills to my repertoire about it.)
The flotilla of boats coming down the river was the next sign that something was wrong. A whole glistening horde; kayaks & yachts & anything they could cram down the river. Lorelai, in a masterful display of watercraft, lashed herself to the sail & steered their boat between them, darting & weaving. As they passed, they heard the people cry out: "A star has fallen!" Which the campaign had been building up to for some time-- stars falsely aligned, comets in the sky, inauspicious births. A star fell down! But to the player's surprise as they rounded the bend in the river-- the star did not fall hard. There it was,nestled in the city, a gleaming, bristling, cluster of tines. Spines, pricks! Crystal shafts of blue & white. The players walked into the city of Breenhart, according to their character. The very carriage of Lorelai was enough to put folks at ease-- more even! It was like seeing the queen, or the pope, or Batman. She'll make it right! Damocles sulked into the city. He made an intimidate check! "Stay indoors. I'll handle this." Balthazar distractedly behind them-- why would he talk to regular people?
The crystal ship is odd; there are veins of bloody gold within-- or gold the colour of blood-- or something-- orichalcum! The orichalk. It loops & whorls, moving within the glass. Perhaps it spells words, though none can read it. They see in places crackling-- breaks in the crystal. Eventually Balthazar coaxed a needle to the surface-- then another-- then another, a whole keyboard of sharp points! His Alien Hand (recall: Balthazar has had his corpus callosum cut) danced across it. Which caused his glossolalia to act up, end of line. So he talked crazy for the rest of the session. Inside was mysterious & strange! But not that strange to them: they'd been to the Secret City in Lalala & have grown used to thinking of Malake as the ruined remnants of a Karnak settlement. For yes! The Karnak. The karnak. They zig-zaged through the twisting arteries of the ship, almost immediately losing track of "down"-- which is clearly purposeful. Many corridors were blocked; with more of the loopy writing, & another finger-prick stud; down one tunnel a SARLACC! Mesmerizing them, or projecting a holographic illusion; Balthazar stumbled into the ant-lion-like hole! Lorelai was held at the edge by Damocles, who thanks to his increasingly
Eventually they wound their way to a crystal chair, with a huddled figure before it. There it is pierced by the glass fragments that make up the ship, mutated, changed, ruined. They knew the ship was contaminated! Without any coaxing, Balthazar sits on the chair, which send filaments of orichalk into him, spooled out of the crystal points & into his blood stream! & he starts communicating; & opens the walls before him! Thousands of Sleepers! People in glass coffins, tubes filled with milky white liquid, all in a state of hibernation! The spines of the ship-- of which there are twelve-- each have as many stacked within them! 120,000 souls! Oh but Balthazar says six of them are "contaminated" & three are "unknown." But also within the room:
This mess! Which recognizes the Imperial Goblin Balthazar speaks to it. There are three individuals awake on the vessel at all times: the dead one & this one are part of the "crew" that was awake when the ship was infected. It sits in a tub of garbage water & demands Balthazar remove the quarantine protocols. Which he considers doing for a moment! Thinks better of it almost immediately (when Damocles & Lorelai ask "What did it say?" & he tells him & they freak out). Then, fine! STRIFE! It pulls out of the tub-- legless! Tentacled! The tentacles have mouths! Cyborg tentacles! Extra tentacles! Buzzing with flies, writhing with maggots! Remember those guys from last campaign!? Fuck those guys! So the players fight the hell out of it! Swords flashing! Guns blazing! Tridents popping organs! & this thing...EW! Barfs flies on them-- & then the flies barf acid onto them! WHY. & he's wrenching at them with his arms & legs & he's bigger than he has any right to be...& they just hew away at him, till the brink of death, when he finally collapses! Twenty three wounds dealt!
Then comes the tricky part. Between Balthazar's nonsense-Hybrid talk, Damocles decides to immerse himself in a tank. So, Balthazar finds one with a dead body in it, & opens it. I figure, sure; who knows how long this has been floating towards Urth (I do, but you know)? There has to be dead people out of the 10,000 in the room-- maybe there was a malfunction, or they had cancer, or whatever. So he gets in, hoping it will heal some of his injuries. Then he holds his breath! Until he's finally forced (after like, minutes) to gulp it down & breathe the liquid. Lorelai thinks about getting in; then Tracey reconsiders, but only after I make a joke about it "Okay, you guys get into the cryogenic tanks. Next session: 1000 years later..." & the I chuckle wickedly. A joke! But now Tracey is worried that her changing her mind is meta-gaming, & doesn't know if it is what she should or shouldn't...but we talked about it. She doesn't get in; she waits with Balthazar outside, since he's badly hurt as well.