Charles Lee Ray III.
(Kaldane, Demon Prince of the Ninth House; art by Ayami Kojima.)
Another short session of Oubliette this Sunday with the usual cast & crew of rascals: Tracey, Sam & James. We met up at Sam & Traceys, opened a bottle of wine & put a couple of trays of casserole in the oven, & got down to brass tacks! The game's the thing, to paraphrase the bard. This last session was sort of an immediate sequel to the previous session, since both were sort of introducing the Characters to the warp & weft of the hellbent Decadant nation of Arioch. We start the session off with an Experience recap-- Sam buys Mount OOO to represent his character Curie First-Light of the Storm-Struck Tower's growing emotional bond with his rescued & cybernetically cured destriar, Fenrir Stormstruck. Tracey also had a tremendous brainstorm about her character Blue Glory the Nightmare Lotus that we discussed over a dozen passed notes. We followed that up with a Willpower recap, checking off character's Virtues & Vices; Blue Glory was Prideful but not particularly Prudent, Curie was a Futurist & full of Hubris, & Duke Slumbering Heart Dwells in the Blue House was Compassionate & searched for Truth. Backtracking character emotional checklists also provided an interesting lens for a sumamry of the last game.
(Apt, Slave of Doktor Ghek; "Nekromantik" by Katarzyna Konieczka.)
The previous episode ended with the semi-cliff hanger in which Slumbering Heart Dwells in the Blue House had a heartplug put in so that his leprosy could be cured. As a side note, I was thinking, maybe my next campaign will just be full out gritty. You get leprosy, you suffer leprosy, you die of leprosy. Or well, then there is also the system of Marks I've been mulling over. Regardless, the surgery-- more of an impaling, really, along with having all his blood sucked out-- left Slumberheart bedridden, but recovering. While he is laid up for thre weeks recovering, Curie First-Light has a brainstorm! Slumberheart's hand was badly burned & scarred in the burning Sinagogue & he's been struggling with the nerve damage ever since. Blue Glory tried to have his hands healed by the Four-in-One spirit of the Crystal Cave, but Slumberheart refused their price, & Curie has been itching to build a replacement for him, prototyping it in his head. Taking a cue from James' brainstorm that the Man With No Name wears a brace in For A Few Dollars More for his injured hand, Sam has Curie build a metal gauntlet, a cybernetic glove, a "vambrace." We've also been talking about "repulsor field," a sort of force field built into it, & so decide yes, in the vein of Dune & Dungeons & Dragon's braces of armor, we'll let that happen-- the Vambrace of Repulsion lets James buy a Power (at dots times five) that gives him plus one to Defense per dot. While Curie works-- not obesessed, but inspired-- Blue Glory rides her mount Herakles Nightmare through the corridors of the Underground Valley of Dor. They are wide enough for ambulences in places, for gurneys in others-- the feeling of a long abandoned & then reoccupied hospital is there. As though the Dark Ages had come to a modern medical facillity the size of a city. Doktor Ghek has left, leaving five of his facially disfigured slaves behind; the Apt, Banth & Calot along with Ulsio & Orluk.
(Pardoner Hnakra; "Baron Arena" by Craig Mullins.)
It only takes Curie a few weeks to build the gauntlet; the spirit of invention is a pyre in him. Blue Glory takes him & Fenrir Storm-Struck out hunting the strange moths & giant catapillars of Dor, & Slumberheart's mount White Bodhisattva Annointed by Rose Water comes with them. Rosewater is ornery, strange; she's carved swirls & spirals into the walls with her horns & hooves, & challenges the apex predator Herakles Nightmare for the kill on one of the hunts. When told about it, a resting Slumberheart seems troubled & weary. Apt, Banth & Calot all take care of Slumberheart, being more than adequate nurses-- Apt mentions, when asked, that she was the daughter of pearl divers, sold into slavery when pollution killed the oysters-- & there is some slight melancholy slapstick comedy as Slumberheart is unable to keep them straight. After two weeks of recovery-- putting them two & a half months out since The Festival of Lights-- Slumberheart feels well enough to get out of bed, leaving him with one aggravated wound yet to heal. The Pardoner Hnakra, Slumberheart's ally from his time spent in the gladiatorial pits, meets with them to tell the group that he is leaving. As a member of the Hierarchy he was able to justify his stopping here for a time by saying he was "updating the wards against the Haemophages"-- apparently a duty of the Hierarchy-- but that the well of his excuses has run dry. Before he goes, he tells the party that he's called in favors & boons & found someone who knows where Carkoon has gone-- Carkoon's sibling, the Demon Prince Kaldane. Because-- as Hnakra reveals-- Carkoon was not just a member of the secular guild of the Adeptus, but also secretly the youngest heir of the Arch-Prince. The least of the royal bloodline...though there has been a rash of killings, leaving Carkoon & his older brother Kaldane the last. With that, Hnakra-- giant bulk shifting-- says he must leave to attend to the court of the Arch-Prince, & that he'll slowly muster his forces there in anticipation of backing whatever play the party makes.
(Xat & Zode of the Ordo Ursa; Concept art by Dan Blomberg.)
With Pardoner Hnakra & Doktor Ghek both gone, the medical complex of the Valley of Dor was empty except for our protagonists, their mounts, & the slave girls. The group is trying to decide where to go next; there is a little bit of confusion about where they are-- the boat was from an island to the mainland-- that isn't helped by me constantly saying "east" when I mean "west." Oops. The goal is to rendezvous with Miss Glass, the proported heir, but the only one who knows where she is happens to be Carkoon, & they don't know where he is. They are loading up the scavanged hull of a boat "just in case" when Blue Glory-- her senses heightened to preternatural feline levels-- & Curie-- his senses augmented by the sensor suite in his Gleaner Armor-- hear something! A hissing, like natrium-- elemental Sodium-- dumped into water, or a spot welder in fast-forward. Paranoid from what Hnakra said about the "wards against Haemophages" the party prepares for conflict. The two with inhuman senses hear what they can only describe as the sounds of someone moving at impossible speed-- ending in the appearance of two identical figures, one with a sword, the other with a large firearm of some kind. "Oi! On yer knees, slaves!" they say, with a sort of miserable Cockney accent. My brutal interpretation of it, anyhow. "Slaves! Grovel!" Duke Slumberheart recognizes them as the twins Xat & Zode, themselves together the champion of the Ordo Ursa, but though they spot him-- & Curie, but not the well hidden Blue Glory-- they don't acknowledge him or seem to recognize him. Curie is afronted by their manner-- he's no slave-- & goes so far as to use the painful taser-like Agonize ray he's built into his prosthetic arm. Blue Glory is out of the shadows with her transparent glass blade at the other's neck; there are a few terse moments of back & forth & flickering super speed-- both the twins & Blue Glory have Celerity, it seems-- but when Kaldane comes out, things settle.
(Kaldane, Xat & Zode; photograph by me.)
Kaldane of the Ninth House (pictured above) is nude underneath his robe, & his robe is tattered, but artfully so as though it were some incredible heirloom worn as fashion. Like going to a party dressed in the Shroud of Turin. He speaks Baal, but not Argot, so he talks predominantly to Slumberheart, who is also his only peer in the group, though Curie knows Publix, a dead language, that Kaldane also knows. Blue Glory had a well-schooled upbringing so she can recognize key phrases-- about as much as I could piece out of French, for instance, without knowing it, but knowing a bit about Romance languages. Kaldane is a cacogen, pale, with a hairless tail & black claw hands, as though a pit fiend's talons were on the ends of his wrists. One of the Demon Princes, the Ninth House is the imperial bloodline. In Baal his voice is harsh, sort of a cross between the pidgins of Star Wars & how you might imagine the Baatezu might sound, but translated he comes across slinky, seductive; a little effeminate & very insightful. Pleasantries observed, Slumberheart & Blue Glory have the slaves prepare the room formerly used as Ghek's bedchambers into suitable accomodations for the Demon Prince. There are four sort of adjustable beds pushed together to make one large bed, which Kaldane slips into, pulling the covers up to his chin almost child-like. The protagonists say they are here to meet with Miss Glass to pursue her claim to the throne, & that they were brought here in an airship to do so. He does know where Carkoon is, or claims to at any rate, saying that last he heard Carkoon had gone in search of the "Weeping Thern," which Blue Glory & Slumberheart have heard of in folklore-- a mountain-sized bust that was said to be waiting for someone to make it laugh. The Weeping Thern, according to Kaldane, is in the Blighted Ruins to the
(The Weeping Thern; "Shrine of Loyal Legions" by Igor Kieryluk.)
The next morning it seems that Kaldane, along with Xat & Zode, have left without waking anyone. Blue Glory, Curie & Duke Slumberheart debate what course of action to take. They recognize that Kaldane could be setting a trap, that Kaldane could be the one assassinating the other heirs...but the same is true of Carkoon. Either of them could be murdering their siblings, or there could be some other game afoot. They decide to go to the Ruined Blight, since it is nearby & they don't really feel like they have any other choice, beside press on across unfamiliar country to the capital. Slumberheart also decides that he wants to purchase the Apt, Banth, Calot, Orluk & Ulsio from Doktor Ghek when they meet again, though Blue Glory warns that with just mean that Ghek will seek out new, younger girls to fill his retinue. It is a sticky conundrum without an easy answer, but Slumberheart tells the women to tell Doktor Ghek of his intentions to buy them when they return to their owner. & off they go. Blue Glory, exploring the Valley of Dor when Slumberheart was healing & Curie was working on the biomechanics of the gauntlet, had found a big sort of slanted metal door in the heights of the abandoned hallways, & she leads our heroes & their mounts up & out into a tundra. A cold plateu of ice & scrub. They haul across it; the distance is comparitively short, since they left the Valley at the edge, but the snow drifts & cold temperatures take time. Their day of travel brings them to the edge, & like the zig-zag of an old logging road, they descent from the heights into a relatively warmer climate.
The ground here is grey, the dirt thick, like ash or drier lint. Monitor lizards-- Komodo dragons-- & cockroaches are the only fauna, & the only flora are a snaky sort of tree with tumerous growths that tremble & shake when the party gets close. Curie, examining the mossy-grey of the dirt (& rolling something like seven successes) realizes that this sort of grit is found in layers of digs where Gleaners sometimes get sick with the Bad Light. A disease that leaves you with a sunburn, then vomiting, the runs, then bloody vomiting, then death. Luckily-- seriously, Sam rolled seven successes when it was a really good time to-- the Gleaners have a treatment. Kelp. Eating huge amounts of dried kelp. (Fun fact, kelp is a natural producer of potassium iodide, which in large enough doses can prevent radiation sickness, up to a point). The Blight, once they have taken a detour to the coast to dry copious ammounts of kelp, is dotted with patches of craters & patches of hills. They wander it for a day, with no luck finding the "Weeping Thern" which you would think would be easy if it was the size of a mountain. The sleep in the pea soup fog & the next day of searching bears fruit! They think they see something on a hill top, but they can't quite figure out how to get there; towards evening they figure out the sort of Escher-loop of foot hills, however, & ascend to the Weeping Thern. Certainly not as big as a mountain, it is still imposing. It is slick with the sort of ceramic that the two automata they found were made from, & the coils descending from it are buried in the ground, something between Doctor Octopus or Omega Red's tentacles & burrowing worms. It is inactive, but Curie thinks that it is something poised on the edge of...well, call it Clarke's Maxim. "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," & all that, so Occult & Theosophy are both at play, here. Slumberheart is telling jokes-- a version of "The Aristocrats," & even the "Interupting Cow,"-- & Blue Glory is standing ready, so when Curie gives it a spurt of vitabaric energy & a tentacle suddenly snakes out for the access port he has surgically installed in his palm, she catches it in her hand. It squirms, metal sheathing revealing some almost bungee-rubber like threads writhing inside, but Curie tells her to let it plug into him...& we end the session there.