Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Our Poet Lauerate of SLÜGS

The winner of the poets-only SLÜGS lottery has been decided: Wizard Lizard, who entered using this fine sizain, meant to evoke the tapering form of a shell:

Crawling along my skin
Cool through the summer breeze
Both naked we begin
To jerk and shake and sleaze
You provide all I need
With your slimy slick tail

Your mantle is hard
The tail underneath
I crave and reguard
I will be your sheath
If you show me how
(I can't really tell)

What's that you say?
I love risqué
And you can bite

What are you
doing to me
that hurts too

Please stop
No more


The runner up by means of being the second contestant was Skullface Q, who provided "The Worm Quest":

I cant walk if my legs are cut
Cant say why the king eats mud.

For every footprint, a trail of death.
For every spell, a loss of breath.

Nothing chains me to daylight, as i see my life drains under this moonlight.
Screwed demon, filthy slut

Come here to try my steel and win a copy of slugs.

Although I had only but one prize to give I thank you both equally for participating! SLÜGS may have touched all of us, but SLÜGS should truly touch you both the most of all.

Friday, June 24, 2016

World of the Lost, Session Seven: A Performance of the Law

Last session they didn’t make it into the plateau after all, and things were a bit brief, because a player was unable to make it. We had to reschedule the next session too, but then that one ended up getting cancelled. In any event, we’ll be back to the regular schedule this weekend.

The Adventurers were joined by a new player, but her first character died during creation (via a delightful Playtest rule).

There was a French woman named Edith, who traveled to Khirima. There was another too, named Meredith, who had also come to Khirima. She had come for the same reasons that Edith had, she was drawn by rumors of the forbidden temple, and a fortune in silver to be taken from within it. The two would never meet, however, as Meredith was torn apart by an unseen beast on the Savanna before she had ever laid eyes upon the city.

Edith was alone. She had arrived with a small group of companions, but these had been taken from her quite shortly after their arrival in the marketplace. After all but she had been caught gawking at a particular contingent of armed men, a distinct out one of the many moving through the city, they were taken away to an unknown but presumably grisly fate for violating this most important taboo.

After some wandering directionless through the marketplace Edith laid eyes on a much more horrible sight than the sudden loss of her companions, dragged away by surly guardsmen. A great and grotesque slug creature that stood 9 feet tall with a toothy shark like maw seemed to be holding court in the marketplace. Despite its indisputable loathsomeness it was surrounded by a significant line women and men, some clutching large sacks of what seemed to be grains and other dried goods.

Both nauseated and intrigued, she crept closer to listen in on what these people could possibly be saying to this nasty beast. She overheard as it negotiated sale prices, of all things, in a gurgling voice. Strangely enough, though she heard the people around it speaking in the various native tongues, the creature seemed to respond to them in eloquent French, with a perfect accent. After brief negotiations with each person who had gathered it then directed some nearby servants to pay them for their various goods, and these were then carried over and set next to a pen of very well-fed cattle.

Edoni, Gerald, and Dietrich walked the streets of the marketplace, towards the hated slug, but noticed something unusual once they arrived at its tent. They had noted a precipitous drop in the population of outsiders in the city of Khirima in the weeks since they had arrived, so a certain woman in the crowd was most conspicuous. She spoke French when they approached her, and they asked if she might join them as a translator. She agreed to this, and now the four of them turned their attention to the mutuyally despised thing before them. Gerald boldly walked up, ignoring the waiting line, and tried to speak with it. Before he had scarcely opened his mouth the creature shifted its shiny black eyes towards him and croaked at him, asking if he could please, kindly wait his turn with the others. He could do nothing to refuse this simple request.

Dietrich had grown tired of the slugs legal and social dominance, and then approached the waiting cattle. He thought he might withdraw his rapier and pierce the heart of one as a sacrifice to the powers of darkness, so he might summon forth a creature to do his bidding and slaughter the stupid, ugly beast before him. While Dietrich could imagine all this quite vividly he could not compel his body to move to do this, and so violate the property of another.

The laws of Khirima did not comment so directly upon the mere act of casting a spell, however. Dietrich spat out the secret words and then out of the sky descended a tiny speck at great speed, which as it grew closer was seen to be a pair of filthy, stinking clamshells, and when these opened there was a tremendous growl of thunder and a lingering mildew stink that bellowed out of them. A searing jagged line of lightning appeared, shooting into the earth from between those two shells. It remained there, connecting a spot on the earth to the interior of the clam like a rippling line of white hot glass in the roasting afternoon sun. The cattle immediately began to panic, and the crowds scattered, and ran off in every direction away from this bizarre sight.

Dietrich had with this summoning at long last called up something over which in this universe he had influence and a distinct authority. With great satisfaction he told it to go forth and kill the wretched slug beneath the canopy. Yet it would not move to violate the prohibition of murder.

After gazing upon the clam and electricity the slug approached Dietrich, somewhat bemused.

“Ah, how very different! Is that thing yours?”

Gerald had not fled, once he was certain Dietrich had achieved control over the demon from the sky. He approached the slug once again and tried to get its attention a second time. The slug turned to face him now, and at this moment Dietrich then quickly pulled out the forbidden book of Necromancy given to him by the Edo priest, intended for use in a different scam, and then stuck it on the slugs lower body. It was held there by slime. The slug then turned back to him and brushed it off with disdain. Dietrich then asked a question of his own: Is that book yours? The slug denied it.

Drawn by the sudden chaos of the crowds a group of guards arrived with their spears drawn and pointed. They walked towards the hideous nine foot slug, preternatural levitating clam, and supremely irritated German and were wholly unsure of what precisely ought to be done, although all were quite sure some sort of crime must have been committed by at least one of the things which was there. Edoni moved closer to them, and then whispered “Look, it dropped that book!”, while pointing towards the slug. The guards then moved in, eager to investigate the most despised slug. It continued protesting the accusation Dietrich had thrown at it.

“That book is not mine! Perhaps it is yours, you are the one accompanied by floating monsters!”

One guard had approached that floating monster, and slowly moved his spear-point close to it, closer and closer, finally close enough to provoke it the electrical energy of its lightning tongue to dance off his spearpoint and onto every bit of metal on his body, and all through his flesh, blood, and other liquids. In a sudden flash the stench of burning hair and skin filled the air and the guard fell over, his skin cracked and crackling with burns, his eyeballs evaporated from the sockets, and his heart exploded inside of his ribcage. Edith ran up to him and plainly saw there would be no way to revive him. Dietrich dismissed the creature then: the lightning ceased, its shell snapped shut, and then continued to snap shut past closing causing it to vanish from the world.
The slug moaned.

“I know nothing of magic! Perhaps it is you who is the sorceror?  I am a simple merchant! People will speak of my honesty!”

The remaining guards now pointed their spears towards at Dietrich, but also the slug as well, and began to close in. His plan not going as imagined, Dietrich then attempted to fling himself into the air, and away from trouble, using the a spell stolen from the cult leading Magic-User they had encountered recently on the savanna. Unfortunately he had not adequately prepared this spell for use, and it went terribly awry.

Instead of flinging Dietrich into the air his spell was drawn to another object that his magic had worked upon before: the great boat which had carried the slug and his servants through the sky. It launched upwards from the docks and hurtled towards the marketplace, its sudden shadow barely evacuated before it suddenly stopped mere inches from the ground and bobbed in place once again. With the guards once again bewildered and distracted, the slug slithered towards it and spoke again.

“Ah, how very interesting. I had thought this was depleted of all magic! I think I might leave this place after such rudeness, though I was becoming quite fond of it.”

Gerald then spoke up, and talked highly of the wondrous treasures of the land of Japan, perfect for hurling off the sides of ships, as well as their most intricate systems of law and etiquette. He could not be sure if this piqued the interest of the disgusting creature, however, as the guards gathered their wits once again, and marched the bastard slug. his retinue, and Dietrich also off to the judges, leaving Gerald and Edoni with the boat and fearful audience of onlookers.

The slug chuckled at Dietrich as they walked away, and gestured towards the Greeks who were bound to it by law.

“Oh, haven’t you got anyone to testify about your trustworthiness?”

Gerald saw that the Necromancer's book had been taken by the guards. He boarded the ship, but found it as empty as they had left it back at the docks with only a few scraps of seafaring equipment strewn about the deck. Edoni, meanwhile, observed the still-smoking corpse of the guard while Edith held his two dogs. He might be able use these remains as components in a spell of his own, but he instead had another plan.

Edoni had with him a canopic jar, a tool for use in his forbidden necromantic practices. He boarded the ship and then quietly placed this jar in a corner of the deck where it might be noticed easily, or at least pointed out with little difficulty at the right moment. The people of Khirima were too frightened of the mystical boat to board it, so he was able to do this without interference.

Dietrich and slug were stood before a tribunal of severe and humorless judges, one of which was familiar to Dietrich. Unsure of how to properly interact with the legal system Dietrich immediately harangued the slug, daring it to reveal its true name, speaking of how it dominated the Greeks with it through the use of magic, was certainly a demon, could not explain where it had even come from, and could not be trusted. Dietrich, however, was a champion of the Edo faith, and was covered in the scars to prove it!

The judges placed the two in cages once this ceased, and then convened among themselves before they returned and gave their judgement: No Outsider could be trusted after the discovery of a Necromantic tome. A quest must be performed, a wicked beast slain to prove their honesty and purity, and to reveal the identity of the wicked sorcerer through unwillingness to cooperate.

The weary and confused guards laid eyes on the jar as the slug began to board it's floating vessel, all too happy to cooperate by contributing use of the fine ship to the quest for innocence. With pure, cold hatred in their hearts and eyes they smiled as they surrounded it. It immediately began to blurt out, furious and scared.

“No, this is false! It is not mine! This is conspiracy! It is not true! No! no!”

It went along with them though, passive as a beaten down dog, as they lead it back to the same tribunal of judges. The jar was presented to the judges as the slug whined, then screamed in protest. The sentence was passed down immediately: death, and as soon as was possible. The familiar judge looked at Dietrich and smiled, after delivering the sentence.

The slug continued bellowing as it approached, and then lay down to lower its head onto the slab of execution, face up from the deeply axe carved surface stained with countless liters of spilled guilty blood.

“Lies! All lies!”, it cried out steadily and uselessly as the executioners approached.

There were three of them, all very large men carrying equally large and wickedly sharp axes. They arranged themselves around it very carefully, two on one side and one on the other. They stood so that they would each have ample room to get in strong swings on a similar area of the beasts body decided to be the neck, a spot just a bit below the mouth. The slugs voice was interrupted then by the beginning of a then nearly ceaseless rain of axe blows, its’ words turning into wordless squeals and screams as its head was gradually removed over the next quarter of an hour, falling into the dust with a wet thud. After this its body was chopped into pieces and burnt, the crowd jubilant to see it be finally destroyed.

The judge found Dietrich, and thanked him profusely.

“The letter of the law has been truly followed this day! You are one of the good ones!”
Dietrich then implored him to return the book that had been found, as he had sworn to destroy it for the Edo temple. It was delivered to him in a satchel shortly thereafter, much to his relief.

Gerald and Edith returned to the market, hoping to perhaps claim the fallen slugs orphaned goods for themselves. When they arrived they were disappointed to see a number of guards gathering up everything once known to be the slugs as the conquest and property of the King. They also saw that the slugs boat had begun to slowly rise upwards into the air, and was now too high to be boarded.

In an attempt to provide a distraction for thievery Edith began making eyes at one of the guards, who was then quite taken by her exotic personality. He offered her a chance to meet with him by the mysterious watery Tomb of an Unknown Sorcerer later that day, but Edoni interrupted this invitation to a tryst with the fact that the Tomb had been destroyed. Unshaken, the guard offered instead a chance to gaze upon the most wondrous Fountain of Ants instead, but Edoni dispirited him by describing how that too had been destroyed. Remarking on the prevalence of bad omens this represented, the guard was then hurried away by his captain. Edith then tried to snatch a bag of silver from the cart, but as soon as she lay her hands on it the guard swatted her hand away with scorn, angrily spitting out that he felt foolish to have ever trusted an Outsider.

The streets had a more jubilant air than had been common lately, due to the slaying of the universally disliked slug, making the walk towards the Merchants Guild a very pleasant one. Odafin quite happily received them, and gave a healthy portion of silver as a clear token of his appreciation. After these pleasantries he sternly told them that they must soon be taken to the Temple as he had promised, as even the usual things were becoming more difficult in Khirima with every passing day. They must leave in the morning, he said, or not at all.

Some of them hurried to the market, and they gathered mules and carts and rations. They acquired weaponry, and numerous goods and tools to attempt to ensure safe travel to an unknown place. At the inn, meanwhile, Gerald experimented with the strange liquids he had recovered from the slime pits in the world of Vilnid.

He had five semi-permeable spheres before him, and each was filled with a strange liquid. Each of them smelled of something, and looked different from the other.

There was the amber-colored sphere that smelled like the world after a much needed rain, there were red droplets suspended throughout it. He tasted it, and he felt sentimental for the comforts of hearth and home.

Next was the cinnamon smelling one, made of a swirling green and red. When he tasted it he was unsure of what it did, but when he spoke this aloud Edith swore his voice had emerged from a few feet before him instead of his mouth.

He mixed these two together, this new liquid creating a smell like wet cinnamon. It was now a suspension of red and green marble droplets in amber. He tasted this, and when he spoke his voice echoed out from where he stood just a moment before.

After this was an orange liquid with the perfume of fresh, ripe strawberries. After a quick taste Edith saw his face rearrange, his nose on his forehead, eyes askew with his mouth near an ear. He added this to the pinkish slime that was covered in a brown crust. It smelled of chalk, and when he tasted it his lips went numb. Edith saw this was because they had turned to stone for but an instant. The resulting mixture was a gradient of pink and orange beneath a brown layer of crust.

He drank up the last one, a metallic smelling blue liquid that sloshed about like it were much heavier than it was. It drizzled slowly down his throat like cold syrup, nearly causing him to cough. For the next half hour or so he was physically unable to move even one inch from the place he was, except for some limited vertical movement of his feet along a perfectly straight vertical path. Once this had passed he was satisfied with his experimentation, and turned to the scrolls they had gathered from the Living Library, and once Edoni and Dietrich had returned they devoted their last waking hours to them.

After many hours of study it seemed to be all mostly useless trivia, however. There catalogues of ephemera, manuals of floral astrology, directions on fashionable eldritch attire, and mystical architectural follies. They had found the most useful portion before, a method to make a Salve of Invulnerability. This required materials they could not acquire, and processes they could not perform, and with such little time left before they would depart to the Temple they instead opted to finally lay down for rest, prepared as best they could for their long awaited departure at dawn.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Pöems for SLÜGS

I managed to get ahold of two copies of SLÜGS today.

While no person needs two copies of SLÜGS, all persons should have at least one copy of SLÜGS. For this reason I am going to give away a copy of SLÜGS, by lottery.

Entrance to this lo
ttery will be open until the 26th of June, 12:01AM PST. A winner will then be selected at random and I will mail this winner their copy of SLÜGS for free, once they provide me with an address. That’s right, I'll pay for shipping. If I didn't this would just be shopping, wouldn’t it?

The Rules of the Lottery:
This lottery will be open only to those who honor the SLÜGS of SLÜGS through the noble and refined art of pöetry, and the creation of a pöem.

To enter yourself in this lottery demonstrate your ability as a pöet of SLÜGS in the comments below. In this comment give the title of your pöem, it’s rhyme scheme, and most importantly the text of the pöem itself. Make sure that your comment (or the account attached to it) has a way for me to get ahold of you in case you are chosen by the fickle hand of fate as the winner.

A SLÜGS Sönnet is the standard form for a pöem, but any correctly executed SLÜGS Sëstinas will be accepted, and also likely honored and admired all through the hallowed halls of the OSR. Furthermore, Simple Häiku will not qualify, but Hän-käsen will be sufficient. An Öde or a Ghäzäl would also be perfectly acceptable. Off rhymes and clever umlauts are also acceptable when creating a pöem.
I'll update this pöst once the winner is chosen. Now, off to your pöetry chambers!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Deformation in Subterranea: the Gnomus

There will be landscapes like this one, from here.

I was preparing for a game I ran last year when I learned about the Gnomus. I wanted to have some kind of familiar mythical being in the adventure I was writing up, but I wanted to reimagine it and take it in a different direction so might be a surprise instead of just another whatever it usually was. For some reason or another I thought about looking into Gnomes, and after some research was very happily surprised by what I learned about them. The original ideas behind them were delightfully insane.

What were eventually called “Gnomes” were first called “Gnomus” when first described by the great and learned philosopher, physician, and occultist Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, also called Paracelsus, in the 16th century. He described a number of other beings that existed analogously to humans throughout the world. The Gnomus lived in the earth, but there were also the Undina, Sylvestris, and Vulcanus in the other various elements as well. He described what they all looked like, their usual personalities, and even a bit of their social structures, and what they sometimes sought from mankind, and thought of them as well.

So I created something from those ideas of Paracelsus, and I made a dark underground place to put it in. I threw in some other historical figures and a grim situation to round things out as well. Unfortunately the game fell apart, and I never got to use all of my materials. This old post about cave passages was actually a part of that, but there’s a whole lot more I never got around to presenting. I’ve been polishing it up now for quite a while though, since I couldn’t get it out of my head, and it’s now growing into something.

It’s called “Deformation in Subterranea” (DIS, for short). It’s an adventure set in England, around the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, or even after that. There will be ways to be suddenly transformed in the dark by unknowable and unseen forces, a number of possible encounters with the mysterious Gnomus, and even hostile centipedes which will surely interfere with the pursuit of all the earthly treasures found within.

Once it’s ready I’ll be putting it out into the world as a complete product (and before then I'll be play testing it), but until then I’ll be sharing pieces of it. Here’s something about the Gnomus, to give you a bit of an idea of what they’ll be like.

The Gnomus lives in the same world as humans do, but they live in it differently. Earth stops or slows human movement, but it is as “chaos” for the Gnomus, and they pass through it like we do the air, which is our chaos. The form the water takes for them is as the earth, which provides food for them as the earth does for us as it also stops their movement. What we’ve felt as fire is their water, with the vast burning underworld being like oceans for them. Air is their fire, which gives them a light that is visible through any minerals, as the sun is seen through any air for us. Through the transparency of the earth around them the world is lit with the glow of thin air through the fissures and cracks of the earth, and they swim through underground infernos and walk through stone to seek out flavorful pools water. Vast underground aquifers form for them what would be like fertile hills and valleys for us, then. They know of Humans, but Humans are seen by them only when they enter the earth for mining, or when they live inside caves. Gnomus could not tolerate the overwhelming brightness of the atmosphere beyond that, nor for them the roaring heat of the atmosphere. Humans to their eyes are a miraculous blend of both earth and water, we are seen carrying thirst-quenching vessels of fire through glowing stalks of brightness. The craft of mining to the Gnomus would seem like us gathering pieces of the sky, like carving up a breeze and carrying it away.
Humans know of them also, but the human mind sees humanity wherever it goes, as when it sees faces in trees, and so our image of the Gnomus is perhaps a great distortion. They are seen by us as kinds of tiny almost-men which are only two hands tall,  near-transparent and so only barely visible when they peek out from the stones, and gaze at us in the hot fog of oxygen with their small faces wrinkled with awe, wonder, and envy.

Their envy is because humans are known by them as the things which carry an eternal spark of life, a soul. This theory has been proposed by Gnomic scholars, based upon the observation that while single humans do not last for long (or are gone when the air comes down on them in mine collapses) they are always replaced by others, while Gnomus have always been as they are, and no new Gnomus have appeared (unlike the humans, who have multiplied). It is proposed that Gnomus might not exist forever as well, and although the notion confuses them and causes great dread many Gnomus feel it to be true.

It is rumored among the Gnomus that one might find a way to live forever, as the humans do, if the proper union could be achieved with one. This is only a folktale for them, so only the most courageous or mad of Gnomus might approach humans and seek to speak with them about this, but it does indeed occur. It is also true that a union between man and Gnomus can in fact be achieved, in very certain circumstances.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Of Shrines & Sacrifices

The Perfect Illustration, found Here.

One of my players asked if there was a way they could “store up” sacrifices for Summon, since they were level one and kept failing their domination rolls. That seemed like a modest enough request, so here’s a modest proposal.

A Magic-User may create a Shrine devoted to the evocation of unearthly beings, and use it as an aid for their spell-casting. Shrines are objects created from pure intention and willed specificity, and are empowered only through the singularity of their purpose and consistency in their use.

A Shrine is like a Thaumaturgical Circle or Sacrifice, it provides bonuses for a Magic-User when casting the spell Summon. What is different about them is that they continue to exist after use, and can be used more than once, but must also be “charged”.

A Shrine can be “charged” with up to one Hit Die of bonuses provided by a Sacrifice for each Level the Shrine has. This Hit Die bonus may later be expended by the Magic-User while casting Summon as if the Sacrifice were being performed at that moment, so long as they are within a reasonable distance of it, close enough for it to “hear” their incantations. (Remember that a 1 hit die sacrifice is a bonus of +1 for Animals, and +2 for those of the same species as the Magic-User)

The forms a Shrine might take take are both numerous and limited: It could be a vessel or a statue, or a bas-relief, or a pedestal. It could even be a painting, or a decorative fountain, or even an ornamental mirror. Some even resemble holy reliquaries, or are simulacra of ancient artifacts, but these betray their falsity on any close inspection.

What is crucial and immutable is that a Shrine must be a fundamentally useless object, one that has only aesthetic qualities as opposed to functional ones. If a Shrine ever serves any purpose besides being an aid for evocation it ceases to function as a Shrine forever.

The Magic-User must describe the basic form of the Shrine. A few sentences are fine, but they really ought to have fun with it, and it should not be a typical example of whatever kind of thing it is.

If a Shrine is ever deliberately used for any purpose by the Magic-User, or the Magic-User witnesses, allows, or benefits from its use for any other purpose it will no longer function as a Shrine. This cannot be undone; they’ll have to get a new one. It is at the Referee's discretion if or when this occurs, but basically being used as anything beyond “decorative fountain or bowl” or “weird mirror” is too much.

A Shrine cannot be functional furniture, even a stepping-stool. However, a thing like a stepping stool that is covered in small upward pointing knives would be perfectly fine, as that would make it impossible for use as a stepping-stool, and thus clearly dedicated to something else. Much like this is.

If a Shrine imitates a religious icon or an archaeological item of some kind it does not hold up to scrutiny, at best it only seems like a familiar sort of cross/urn/icon during a hurried first glance.

Shrines vary in their degree of potency as magical tools, and also in their wondrousness and intricacy as physical objects, but these two things are invariably correlated: A potent Shrine always costs a fortune to create, and even the most simple of Shrines are still precious, costly objects.

The power of a Shrine is measured in Levels. A Shrine must have at least one Level, and may also have as many Levels as the Referee permits, and the Adventurers supplies of money and artisans can allow.

To create a Shrine at least one artisan must be found to perform the skilled labor made necessary by the will of the Magic-User. Ideally this artisan would be of great talent and great ignorance, one who will not become aware of the meaning of their work, or prone to superstition. Even better still is if they are a known and trusted associate of the Magic-User, or someone who is given patronage by them.

The Magic-User must hire an artisan to create their Shrine, as the devoted study required to become a Magic-User precludes the learning and mastery of any lesser arts and crafts. As there are no Player skills relevant to this task (no, not even Tinker) this work may not be done by another Adventurer.

Less than ideal craftspeople might require bribes or threats to prevent gossiping once the work is finished, if they are even willing to do the work in the first place. The worst sort will politely decline, or even worse still accept the commission, only to report the Magic-User to religious or secular authorities immediately afterwards.

This process should be handled exactly like hiring a retainer, in particular a Craftsman. Materials might be included in the cost of labor, at the Referee's’ discretion.

It will take the Craftsperson 1d4+3 days to complete their work on the Shrine. Roll twice for their estimate, but use the higher roll. This is what is used to determine the base cost, which must also often be paid up front, and in full.

Roll twice to see how long it actually takes them to make it, again using the higher roll. In addition, if a 4 is rolled roll that die again, and add that second number to the first total. Continue as long as fours are rolled, describing the sources of delay and setback. A Morale roll is made for the Craftsman at the beginning of the labor, upon the occasion of any delays, and again once it is completed. If any of these are failed there is some sort of complication, such as a crisis of suspicion on the Craftsman's part, or a possibly disastrous spread of rumors about the Magic-User. If the Craftsman initially does accept the work there’s not much chance for repercussions, unless the Magic-User was interacting with a most suspicious and hostile kind of person in a very cautious and frightened kind of land.

If averse to using a morale system the Referee should at least roll in secret to determine if the commissioned artisan does something the Magic-User would very much not prefer, a 1-in-6 chance on 1d6 is recommended.

A Level 1 Shrine requires only one Craftsman to create it, but each Level beyond that must be added by another, different Craftsman.

There are many varieties of Craftsmen, and creativity is encouraged in their selection. One might commission a Glassblower, Bonecarver, Alabasterer, Stone Carver, Painter or Miniaturist, Blacksmith (or Goldsmith, or Silversmith), Woodcarver, Cabinet-Maker, Arkwright, Brazier, Bellfounder, Gemcutter, Potter, Glazier, Ivorist, Joiner or Carpenter, Tapicer, or Wiredrawer when making a Shrine. These are not all that might be found, but not all of these are available for hire everywhere, or even in most places besides the largest of cities.

Each Craftsman adds their unique talents to a Shrine: the Arkwright creates a fine oak chest that is also a perfect cube and not hollowed on the inside, then the Miniaturist covers it in tiny painted devils and two-legged fish using only the color blue, while the Brazier casts four brass clawed feet for it to stand on.

A Shrine may be improved upon once it is created, as long as it has been used for no other purpose. A Magic-User may hire a new Craftsman whenever funds are available to add additional Levels to it.

While all Shrines might resemble works of art, not all works of art can be considered as a Shrine. Nor can a Magic-User simply use a found art object as a Shrine, nor can they repurpose icons and relics of the religious faiths as Shrines for their own purposes, except for use as raw materials.

The existence of Shrines as described here does not imply that all art objects in the fictional world of play are used as Shrines, nor does it imply that anything a Summoned creature appears from must necessarily be some kind of art object.

Things that weren’t made as Shrines through the will of a Magic-User can never be Shrines and never were one before (unless they were fully destroyed and then reformed into one). Assemblage sculpture does not count, it must be on the magnitude of, as an example, melting down a golden altarpiece stolen from a church and then having it recast in a new mold.

“Ruined” Shrines, one that no longer function due to being used as something else can be discovered, and a Magic-User could even steal an unruined Shrine and make it their own, although they would have to provide new sacrifices for it.

While those who are trained in the use of Magic will be able to see a Shrine for what it truly is with very little effort even those wholly ignorant of the Art will likely see them as possibly malign objects of a most curious nature.

Shrines always detect as magic, if you are using a spell system with Detect & Read Magic. If you are using Clerics, or a Good/Evil Law/Chaos alignment system a Shrine will always detect as Chaotic and Evil as well. Any Magic-User should be able to discern that a Shrine is in fact a Shrine after a brief period of examination, and usually are quite obvious to them.

For almost everyone in the world art collection is an alien and unknowable hobby, and this is especially the case in any Early Modern setting. “Don’t worry about that, it’s just some art/a carved stone pillar with a laughing skull on it/an oil painting of a goat surrounded by flames and flowers in a hand carved frame/a polished black stone urn with phrases in medieval latin phrases drawn on it in gold leaf” is not a persuasive explanation when being questioned by a possibly hostile person.

Shrines are obviously a strange thing to have around, so owning one is at best seen as extremely eccentric. It's easier if you're rich, because then you could at least surround your Shrine with more mundane strange things and disguise it through context. Although it’s obviously bad to be caught hiding a Shrine it’s still something an Adventurer should probably keep hidden.

While a Shrine is not a necessarily fixed and immobile object it is not a simple task to move one from place to place.

Each Level of a Shrine adds one level of Encumbrance to those carrying it. (Count it as 5 individual items if its loaded onto a pack animal)

Any Shrine above two Levels is remarkably difficult, if not impossible, for any single Adventurer to move without assistance. Try moving a 4’x6’ painting of the hell-dimensions, or even a small hermetic glass coffin through a dungeon by yourself.

A Shrine must fully receive any sacrifice to be infused with its occult energies, and makes it's true nature clear when put to use for its intended purpose.

In addition to all the normal restrictions on what can be counted as a Sacrifice, for a Shrine to store the sacrifice must performed on, at, or into the Shrine in some indisputable and deliberate way. Any damage this would otherwise cause to the Shrine is restored during the process, with stains fading away and all foul liquids are mysteriously absorbed. Likewise there is always some sort of unnatural display once the Summoning is performed and the stored bonuses expended, like all those stains and foul liquids seeping back out.

On Ritual Garb
A Magic-User may also create clothing that is more conducive to the calling of outside forces to our world, which is to be worn when performing a Summoning. These things are created using methods similar to those used for creating a Shrine.

This is what Ritual Garb looks like.

It’s like a Shrine that you wear, and the Magic-User must provide a description or visual aid of some kind. It is clothing that must exist only for use in Summoning. It must not resemble sane or normal fashion in any way, and also must have no value as armor or as protection from the elements. Ritual Garb has even less plausible deniability during manufacture than Shrines, not to mention while being worn. It must be worn while performing a sacrifice to "charge" it. In addition, a "charge" will go to Ritual Garb before it goes to an uncharged Shrine, if both are present.

Each Level of the Ritual Garb still adds one level of Encumbrance to the wearer due to it's awkwardness, bulkiness, limited ranges of movement, and so on (even if the Ritual Garb involves significant partial nudity). If a Magic-User casts any other spells while wearing Ritual Garb it is ruined.

When seeking out a craftsperson there are curriers, embroiderers, button makers, canvassers, shoemakers, dyers, feltmakers, hatters, tailors, lacemakers, milliners, weavers, drapers, and wig-makers in addition the those mentioned previously. Remember, each Level requires an additional Craftspersons contribution, you can’t just get the same jacket fitted again and again. You get the idea.

An Adventurer could certainly make use of a great Shrine while wearing elaborate Ritual Garb inside of a Thaumaturgical Circle while performing further Sacrifices for vast and hilarious bonuses, but if the Adventurers really had that kind of budget to spend on casting Summon, and actually pulled off all the logistics to set up that situation up they've truly earned it.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

World of the Lost, Session Six: That Being Most Repulsive

some bad things happened to some dogs in part of this one, so if you really hate that you won't enjoy some of this at all

The fleeing crowd of mangled cultists vanished in the distance, while the Adventurers turned their gazes towards the mysterious ship that had appeared in the sky above. It bobbed one hundred paces in the air as if it were floating in seawater. After a time it began to sail towards a rockier part of the foothills, and this brought it closer to the ground and made its cargo more visible: statues of men and women standing around the perimeter of the ship, dangerously near the edge.

As they pondered the meaning of this sight one of the statues fell, colliding with a large stone as it reached the ground and fragmenting into many pieces upon contact. They examined the remains: It was carved and painted marble, a sculpture of a woman. Even the broken pieces were exquisite; it was a masterpiece before being ruined by the fall. Shortly thereafter another equally magnificent specimen fell from the sky, this time a man, and then another woman.

The ship was only thirty-odd feet from the ground due to the sloping of the foothills, and they could see it was of a certain Mediterranean design. Now that it was closer to the earth Gerald was able to fling up a hook and rope to the railing of the ship, and as he climbed up towards Dietrich followed after him. After pulling themselves over that railing their eyes fell upon the backs of a dozen or so humans, and the most loathsome and repulsive thing they had ever seen.

The humans were fine people, not dreadful at all. Seven women and six men in total, dressed in simple tunics. The vile thing with them appeared to be a tremendous slug. It’s body rose up higher than than those humans were tall, easily three yards. It’s sticky flesh was a pale and phlegmy greenish color, and along each of its sides were what looked like five puckering mouths beside a row of limp, stringy limbs. As they watched unobserved the slug slid towards another statue, also wonderful and perfect, and gently nudged it off the edge of the boat so that it might also plummet to the earth and shatter into a dozen pieces like the others before it.

They tried to obscure themselves behind a pair statues, but it was too late. One of the women saw Dietrich, and she drew the attention of all gathered there to them. The wretched slug turned its’ awful visage to face them too, revealing its face to be only two black orbs and a triangular shark-like mouth that hung open, filled with rows of menacing teeth.

Ah, hello and welcome!” it croaked as it slithered closer, it’s mouth never moving with the words simply emitting from it like the sounds of a toad in a dead log. Dietrich and Gerald both understood its words, and saw both their reflections in its’ orb-like eyes, and also imagined the joys of burning this thing alive. It towered over them as they were crouching by the statues, and gazed down at them with a menacing sort of propriety.

Gerald meekly asked “What are you, why are you here?”

I am but an orderly and law abiding creature. I commissioned this vessel so that my companions and I might travel to an isolated place where we could most safely destroy these statues of mine. I had imagined we would not need to go very far, but we seem to have found ourselves quite a great distance from Athens presently.” Its eyes did not blink as it reached towards another statue with an extended tentacle to tilt it over the railing, waiting for the thud to continue. “That one was called Athena, I believe! Goddess of wisdom they say, isn’t that funny?”

“Are those...gods?” asked Gerald, somewhat confused.

No. They are statues.” it said flatly, as yet another was tipped into oblivion. The humans gathered with it were clearly unhappy beneath their thick layer of decorum, some gasped as the statues fell. None of the adventurers could understand their murmurings, however.

“But who are these people? Are they followers of yours?”

“These are a sort of cult who sought my guidance so yes, you could say these are my followers. They called me forth, and are now bound to me by a contractual obligation. They shall serve me until that contract is expired, as is the law.”

“And when will that be?”

“Until I am finished with them, I suppose. They were not specific.” it then leered at one of them. “Menandros, do come here. Would you please take care of that last one over there. Zeus is it? That one, Yes.”

The oldest among them, a man with wild hair and an equally voluminous beard then went over to the last remaining statue. One could see the objection in his eyes as he reached for it, but the crack of marble on rock echoed up to the deck shortly thereafter. He closed his eyes and sighed deeply. "Excellent. As you were, Menandros."
Gerald continued the conversation, after a short pause “Do you have a name?”

“I would prefer that you call me Sir. And what happens to be your name?” It extended a limb towards Gerald, who despite the taste of vomit rising in his throat could do nothing but receive it in a proper English handshake. He felt his body go through the motions of politeness despite his loathing.

“I am called Gerald, Sir.” he said. Although he was caked in blood and dirt from his encounter with the cultists earlier this conversation was still somehow more repulsive to him than the vague smells of viscera and gore that wafted into his nostrils as he spoke with the slug.

“What sort of creature are you, then?” it said, with a plausibly deniable but clearly intentional tone of mockery in its voice.

“Oh, just a man I suppose!” Gerald then continued on for some time, most politely explaining himself in great detail to the unresponsive heap of filth before him, despite wanting to see nothing more but the complete annihilation of it. He gave a most pleasant and thorough introduction of himself nonetheless, despite all his thoughts being only oriented towards ways of violently expressing his distaste for the slug.

“Ah, isn’t that different!” it chuckled dismissively. It set its gaze onto the horizon.

“I am most unfamiliar with this land. But you have spent some time here, yes? Would you be so kind as to tell me what you might know of it? This vessel is only enchanted until nightfall, and I would much prefer that we make anchor in a more...civilized place.”

The Adventurers all knew that attempting to travel back without assistance promised only likely starvation and other unpleasantness, so Dietrich replied “There is a city, to the West.” The slug turned it’s loathsome gaze towards him.

“Ah, wonderful! I'm so glad to have found you. I would most gladly bring you and your companions along as thanks, if you were to provide directions. If you have any others with you do invite them up, we should leave as soon as possible.”

At Dietrich's’ urging Edoni climbed up to the ship as well. He made every effort to avoid speaking with the creature, hating it with as much passion as all the others upon seeing it. It still introduced itself, and learned his name. Once they were all gathered the sails were adjusted and the ship turned in the sky, coasting along an ocean of air high above the vast savanna.The thing simply gazed to the west, towards Khirima, for much of the journey. After some further interactions the Adventurers found that Menandros, the leader of the seemingly enslaved humans, could speak a bit of Medieval Latin. They questioned him about what precisely was going on, but learned very little. "I do not know!" he said desperately. "We summoned it, offering ourselves as dutiful servants in exchange for its wisdom. We have made a contract with it, and must do as it says." His voice went low "and it so ugly! so terrible!". They rested as best they could in such detestable company. Once Khirima became visible on the horizon it approached them them once again, while they eagerly studied the tome they had stolen from Rosalind.

“Ah, what is it you all do? You practice sorcery? How very interesting. I myself have an interest in aesthetics, and fine craftsmanship, but you have seen that already. You're not practicing any forbidden necromancy, I hope!”

It chuckled as it slid away. They had revealed their occult practices to it while making small talk, as would be proper, but had told the slug nothing of the taboos against necromancy. Edoni refused to look at it, as best he could.

“We shall descend a bit as we approach, we wouldn’t want to startle them!” it said, amused.

The vessel slowly descended into the waters of the vast lake, and quickly floated to the shore. There was already a great number of soldiers there, gathered in case the many crocodiles that had been massing on the beach became aggressive. The numerous fisherman and sailors stared at the arriving ship and its occupants, mouths agape and visibly perturbed and the plank was extended.

“We seem to have arrived! Do tell me, where might I find the marketplace? I would very much like to do business here.” Dietrich gave the thing some cursory directions in the interest of getting rid of it, and then the slug spoke towards its followers.

“Unload the wine, please.”

They set to work rolling out great and ancient casks as the beast disembarked, and went towards the soldiers. Their faces were frozen in scowls of hatred as it neared them, but the crowd only nodded in reply as it waved its slimy tentacles in an approximation of a local greeting, their spear tips glinting in the sun. The adventurers crept off the boat as best they could, hoping to avoid being noticed in the company of the slug.

“Good day, and thank you gentlemen! Take care! Until we meet again.”

With that the hated slug slowly slid towards Khirima, its followers lugging the casks behind it, while all who saw it bemoaned how hideous and awful a thing it was, as soon as it was out of earshot.

Thoroughly unnerved by their inability to simply lash out with violence at the hated slug the Adventurers headed back towards the Regal Elephant to rest and recover from their experiences with it. Throughout Khirima there was much unrest, with much movement of soldiers towards Akabo and many people loudly exclaiming their disgust about the nauseating creature that had been seen passing through the marketplace. They caught a glimpse of the creature themselves, its followers arranging the casks of wine under a large tent, and it conversing with the few merchants who were willing to approach it.

Having already seen enough of the off-putting thing themselves they hurried themselves to the Regal Elephant, for a much needed rest. Upon paying their bill they realized that their prior journey had depleted their funds quite significantly with little to show for what had been experienced: they were in dire need of silver. They went back to the Edo temple, to present the evidence of their having delivered the widow as they had promised so they might receive some award. They were presented with a scroll, which described a “Holy Hammer” of the gods. This brought great strength in battle, and could change history itself with its blows, but it was not money. They returned to their quarters at the inn. After some conversation with a merchant there they were given another task, one very familiar to them, and with half payment up front as well. They were to escort an Ambassador through the jungles to the south, a two-day journey. The merchant told them there were very few mercenaries available, due to the troubles in Akabo, and offered to pay quite handsomely for this service. They agreed to depart the next morning.

Now intimately familiar with the sorts of disasters that could occur in the wilds the Adventurers sought to hire a guide, and found a man called Kunle who would travel with them. They bought new pack animals, and a large supply of rations as well. A glimpse of the slug could not be avoided as they navigated the marketplace: it was now moderating an auction of sorts with a small crowd gathered around it, all were bidding on those same casks of wine seen before in a most orderly but enthusiastic fashion.

After several hours spent provisioning the Adventurers discovered that prices in the marketplace were beginning to rise, there were some shortages here and there due to disruptions of various caravans. Edoni found a trainer of dogs, and spent a very significant sum of money on a well-trained one that he took a liking to very quickly, and it to him. Back at the Regal Elephant the owners debated how they might gather enough money to bid for one of those incredible casks of wine, said to be hundreds of years old and unparalleled in flavor and quality, brought by the vile and hideous slug. So caught up were they in this discussion that hardly took note of that well-trained hound as it came in with the Adventurers when they returned.

Gerald would remain at the Regal Elephant, but Everett found himself feeling at long last strong enough to join them. In the morning Everett, Dietrich, and now Everett met with the ambassador Eduwa, who had traveled from the Songhai empire. She was quite concerned about the rumors of undead fiends lurking in the jungles, as the rumors of the tragedy that had befallen Akabo were on everyone's lips, along with tales of wandering hillsides, and the ruination of many relics of the old Sodality of Conjurers. She wanted nothing more than to quickly bid Khirima farewell, and return home by means of a caravan she would be meeting with in the South.

Despite those numerous bad omens the weather was clear as they departed, but the trail became difficult and quite tiring soon after. They had made less progress than they had wished once they set camp for the night, but the jungles seemed calm, even quiet, and so they were not too dispirited.

They each would take watch in turn, the two Adventurers sleeping while their guide sat by the fire. Dietrich and Edoni slept very well, until Edoni was awoken by the growling of his hound, and Dietrich by the horrified screaming shortly after. They scrambled out of their tents to see that Kunle had vanished into the night, but before they could even shout for him they saw a figure at the dim edge of the firelight, scuttling towards them. It was a thing on all fours, with a horrifyingly ripe stench of decay announcing its approach like a bank of fog. A grotesquely bloated body, the corpse of a large and powerful man now distended to near unrecognizability as something once human.

As his hound bayed at it Edoni called forth a beam of white light which pierced through the darkness of the deep jungle and punched through the haunches of the fiend like a sharpened pike, while Dietrich willed the very darkness around it into a dense cluster of sharpened edges and needle-sharp points that whipped around it like a frenzied butcher with a surplus of knife-wielding arms. This separated it into numerous torn chunks and pieces that fell apart in a nauseating heap as it closed in on the firelight, with black blood and decomposing ichor spilling onto the ground from the numerous gibbets. It moved no more. Eduwa retched in her tent, while Edoni moved the ruined pieces of the thing as far away as he could, recognizing it as an obvious product of necromancy but being simultaneously not immune to its stench. Dietrich was able to find the missing Kunle after a brief search, and brought him back to camp after much assurance of safety. Despite his cowardice they still had a use for him, after all.

Now certain that the rumors were true, that the dead did indeed walk the earth, Eduwa was as eager as one could be to leave Khirima behind. The next day they arrived at the rendezvous point, and she left with her caravan after giving the Adventurers a token to indicate her safe arrival, thanking them profusely and imploring the gods to guard them. The Adventurers were most thankful for an uneventful journey back, returning once again to the Regal Elephant with a newfound distaste for this sort of delivery work.

They thought they would investigate another sorcerers relic, and decided they would visit the Tomb of An Unknown Conjurer. It was was said to be contained under a mass of water, so after purchasing some bladders to aid in swimming they went towards where it was said to be found in the Guild Square.

Dietrich also wished to acquire the altar he had commissioned from Saro, the stone carver, and visited him along the way. Despite his somewhat obnoxious behavior previously Saro now acted with a remarkable air of reverence and professionalism. With a great flourish and an obvious sense of pride he pulled away a cloth which covered a low label to reveal his creation to Dietrich: a series of large black stones, flattened on the top and polished to a mirror-like shine, with their natural edges still retained and the roughness refined along the sides. The bottoms were made even so that the stones could lay flat, and stable. Through each stone was an unbelievably smooth and even channel, carved out in such a way that when all the pieces were laid out correctly a very clear image of a great dragonfly was formed through the interaction of positive and negative space between each portion. After examining it closely in silence, and finding it to be perfectly suitable for use as a sacrificial blood-altar, Dietrich gave a most Teutonic salute to Saro, who reciprocated with a nod and subtle bow absolutely unaware that this sculpture, one of the finest he had ever created, would soon be drenched in goat's blood.

After needing some additional direction they found the Tomb in a familiar sort of place, another isolated lot behind more typical structures. The Tomb was small and rectangular, with an open front displaying the vault inside. It stood above the ground, but was covered with a dome of what appeared to be water held in place by an unknowable force. The dome of liquid was filled with all sorts of detritus, making it clear it was often disrespected by the locals, or at least tampered with by them. Looking into the water it could be seen that the various pebbles, stones, and bits of trash all gently floated in it at various heights, some near or on the bottom and others on the top with a great many still in the middle. It was as if all were of different weights, and the fluid of different viscosities, despite it all appearing the same. They stood there and threw several stones in to observe what might happen. One floated higher than the other, they both seemed to drift, and all were unsure of how they might best approach this inscrutable structure. After a few moments of deliberation Edoni withdrew his air bladder, filled it, and then flung himself into the dome of water towards the tomb within. As he entered the water he was held several feet above the ground, feeling both like he was floating and sinking at one. With his vision somewhat blurred by the liquid he made out a form like a skeleton lying inside, with a pair of bracers on its arms. He swam towards it with determination.

Moments after Edoni entered the liquid sphere Dietrich performed a spell that had been recovered from Rosalind's’ stolen spellbook. This magical act opened the yawning gullet of subterranea in the ground just outside the tomb entrance, forming a temporary mouth into the bowels of the earth into which the mysterious waters of the tomb began flowing, and would soon vanish once the portal closed. The bracers, Edoni, and the Skeleton, begin to be pulled towards this as well.

Everett leapt towards the edge of the rapidly draining water, the form of the dome flattening down from the top. He reached in towards Edoni, and his arms drifted slightly upwards as they plunged in only barely allowing him to get a firm hold in his ankles. Edoni then grabbed the bracers as they banged about in the tomb, about to be pulled away into oblivion along with him. Moments after this Everett dug his heels into the firm ground and pulled Edoni out to safety, as the last few hundred gallons of liquid quickly drained into that nostril-like hole in the dirt which soon after sealed up without any trace of it ever having been there. Dietrich was quite amused by all this, despite Edoni being quiet irritated by his poor timing.

The three examined the bracers. They were a sort of dull metal, quite plain in their overall form. Of interest was their decoration: they were covered in numerous simple line drawings of both animals and men. All of these had discrete parts, such as limbs and heads, depicted as partially separated from their respective wholes. In some instances it was also clear that parts had been exchanged between the various subjects: there a dog-headed man, a half-horse-half-woman. A man with four arms, in addition to the usual two.

Edoni decided he would try them on, and they fit quite perfectly. He felt an invigorating tingle and vibration in his fingers and hands. When both he and Edoni tried one on they each felt nothing, so it was decided he should wear both. He took notice of some chickens wandering the plaza, and ran towards them. He tried to get ahold of them, as he had a notion of what these bracers might do, but was unsuccessful. He then recalled that there were other sorts of feral creatures to be found in Khirima, such as dogs. After getting ahold of some fleshy scraps from a tanner he followed a dog into a dead-end alley, and offered threw the scraps to it.

He gradually drew closer until it allowed him to touch it. He stroked its back and head, feeling an unusual sort of “looseness” in its overall anatomy. He placed one hand on the base of its neck, and another just behind that one. He held the body still with his second hand, while the first pulled at the base of the neck. The entire head of the creature detached in his hand as he did this, still panting and seemingly unawares of how unnatural this was; It’s tail still wagged. At the base of the neck and the front of the torso its muscles, bones, and blood vessels could be seen, suspended in time unmoving and undisturbed while separated into these two halves. With each part sticking to his hand like a faint magnet he brought them back together. The two halves stuck back, just so, and the dog scampered off after a brief moment of discomfort and a quick shaking of the head. Edoni then detached his own arm while wearing them, and although it was had been a bit uncomfortable to do so, he was able to reattach it quite easily.

Everett then ran to Edoni, and insisted that he be given these bracelets, as the others had artifacts of their own. asked After he took them he also asked where he might purchase a dog, just like the one Edoni had. After acquiring the bracelets, and heading off in search of dogs, Edoni returned to the Regal Elephant.

Dietrich had an idea all his own, inspired by the possibilities of the bracelets. He uttered a brief incantation, after which a single drop of blood fell to the ground and spread out in five rivulets. Each of those threads of blood rose up like a loose netting, the blood ballooning as it dripped down from the parts that rose up; this form soon creating a group of five bat-like wings of scab, vein, artery, and plasma. These throbbed, pulsed, and spun around that central point where they had formed like a savage pinwheel, wildly lashing out at Dietrich.  Realizing that he had once again called up a thing over which he had no authority, he called up an invisible binding which held the things in place until they crumbled in ash and dust in the afternoon sun a few short moments later. He walked back towards the Regal Elephant disappointed but still dreaming of flight, and recalled the rumors he had heard of winged man-sized figures some claimed to have seen above the great plateau.
Everett hand waved the innkeepers concerns as he marched back to his room his own three hounds. The innkeeper was not fond of dogs, but was fond enough of the silver being tossed his way to not protest too much, as he would soon regret.

Once inside the room, with Edoni fast asleep, Everett tied one of his dogs to the side of the room, and placed the two others on each side of him. He then placed one hand on the head of one dog, and his other on the shoulders of the second. He took a slow breath and then with a sharp tug pulled on the head of that first dog. It came off easily, cleanly dividing from the torso fully unharmed by the separation.

The torso, however, behaved exactly as one would expect with the head so fully detached at the base of the neck. It fell to the ground, unsupported by any strange magics, and it’s contents began gushing out onto the dirt floor soaking into the simple rug and splattering the area with blood. The third dog immediately began yelping in terror, while Everett brought the detached head towards the second dog and then placed it firmly upon its shoulder.

Such cruelty was not without consequence, as both heads on the now combined dog began to growl and thrash about in pain as they were united by the magical bracers. The both began snarling and yapping in a bestial tone, and they foamed at the mouths and bared their teeth after Everett's hands came loose. It lowered to the ground for but a moment and then lunged towards him with both mouths pointed towards his throat. Edoni awoke from this noise, and after comprehending what Everett had been trying to accomplish then only looked upon him with disappointment.

Each head took its’ turn barking and snarling while the other gnashed at Everett viciously, he struggled to get a firm grasp on the creature so that he might pull it apart into a less dangerous form. As the two desperately struggled for dominance Edoni stood by and did nothing, as he found thia manipulation of the living most distasteful.

This struggle was as mess-making as it was startlingly noisy, and the innkeeper was soon pounding on the door in a rage demanding to know what was happening, and bemoaning that he allowed dogs into his fine establishment. This shouting only became worse when the pooling blood began to seep beneath the door, spilling into the hall.

At long last Everett managed to solidly grip the two-headed dog with both of his hands, and he detached the second head with a single sharp tug, flinging it across the room as it detached. This added yet more gore to the surrounding architecture, while doing remarkably little to diminish the aggression of the still-vicious dog. While it continued to nip and gnash at him he solidly grasped it once again, this time in the mid-section between head and tail, and cleanly pulled it into two nearly equal sized portions as he spread his arms apart. He then dropped these to the floor, the spilling forth of their contents adding a great and truly unnecessary volume of innards and body fluids to the already thoroughly saturated and profoundly ruined surroundings.

The innkeeper still pounded, now screaming, at the door. Everett approached it, and tried to open it only slightly so he might attempt to reassure him that all was under control. Once the door was opened but a sliver though the innkeeper flung it wide open, and instantly becoming both apoplectic and thoroughly horrified after surveying the sickening tableau before him unleashed a furious barrage of invective and incredulity at both Edoni and Everett, permanently banishing them for all eternity from the Regal Elephant for operating what seemed to be a sort of canine slaughterhouse inside of his once-fine and now ruined establishment. Everett threw numerous coins his way in an attempt to stifle his anger, managing only to get the innkeeper to allow them a few moments to gather up their blood spattered belongings before he called in the city guard.

The innkeeper then pounded on Dietrich’s door, awakening him from slumber as well. Once made aware of the situation Dietrich remarked that the place had truly gone to the dogs, and with that the innkeeper then ejected him from the premises for all eternity.

So ended the Adventurers long stay at the Regal Elephant, and the whispers traveled fast among the patrons of the bar as they walked out into the early night, two of them covered in dogs blood and Dietrich only partially awake.
As they wandered through the marketplace in search of better lodgings they happened to pass by the ever-larger area of the market now occupied by that most hated slug and his cohorts, with the nasty thing still there awake and active even in the night. There were still more than several merchants in conversation with it, despite the seemingly universal loathing of the pest an ever growing number of people seemingly sought to do business with it. Some now even lurked about it like aspiring courtiers, or supplicants in need of guidance. A great bonfire burned behind it too, a truly impressive heap of rolled cloth and fabrics.

The three adventurers then wandered into perhaps the most extravagant of lodgings in the whole of Khirima, a place called the Dancing Antelope. One would think it was the royal palace, were the actual one not in view beyond it. As soon as they entered an attendant looked them up and down, and began to profusely apologize.

“It brings me great and abundant sorrow, but there are absolutely no rooms available!”

Everett placed an overbearing amount of coin before him. The attendant looked at the silver, then the blood-soaked Everett, then the silver once again.

“There is perhaps one room. Please come this way, and my assistant shall guide you to your chambers.”

Everett followed, and then attendant ignored both Dietrich and Edoni as he gathered up the pile of coins left by Everett.

“There is nothing for you here. Go now, and try some other place.”
And so they did, but even at a more modest establishment the owners seemed wary of allowing an Outsider a place to stay, much less with a dog! There were rumors of strange dog-butchery committed by Outsiders, with blood said to be pouring out of the Regal Elephant like a river!

Dietrich was forthright, and stated that it was in fact another Outsider they were possibly somewhat familiar with, who had made other arrangements elsewhere for the evening. They swore they were not there to commit butchery of any kind, and after Dietrich pointed out his extensive Edo scarring, and offering a somewhat inflated payment, he and Edoni, along with his dog and the third one purchased by Dietrich were permitted to stay the night.

Meanwhile, at the Dancing Antelope, Everett luxuriated in a perfectly lovely bath prepared for him in a large ceramic tub, which was scented with a variety of enchanting aromatic oils and perfumes chosen for this very particular occasion. He emerged from this lengthy soak fully unstained, with a faint aroma of vanilla and exotic spices instead of the former stench of dirt and dogs blood.

Dressed in a fresh sort of toga or tunic he was then guided to a kind of dining hall, where a most glorious feast had been lain out for all guests to consume at their leisure, a feast consistently kept fresh and updated with appropriate dishes throughout the day. A good number of  people were seated very comfortably around this feast, set atop a large and finely carved table. Everett joined them, the one and only Outsider in the establishment.

They were immediately quite amused by his presence, and began eagerly asking him all sorts of questions about him, especially what land he was from. They had never met a German before, having only heard of them a bit, and were utterly fascinated by his attempts to convey the idea of snow to them. This went on for quite a while, but the exchange took a sudden turn from the patronizing to the paternal once several of these wealthy merchants began warning him that not all he met would be so friendly towards him.

As they put it, he was a target. The many troubles in Khirima (the monstrous dead wandering the jungles, the city of Akabo perhaps destroyed by them as well, the very hills shifting across the land, a strange flying ship landing in the lake, sudden shortages in the marketplace leading to rumors of famine, not to mention the gigantic and terrible slug that is quite rapidly dominating what trade remains, even the relics of the lost Sodality being destroyed here and there) could easily be blamed on a powerless Outsider in times as troubled as these. Such a scapegoat would be killed without a second thought. Even they, rich as they were, would be leaving Khirima as soon as it was possible, and if he were wise he would do the same.

Dietrich would later be thankful that he had arranged for a messenger to retrieve Everett in the morning the night before, as he awoke with his skull almost entirely filled with that formerly unobtrusive idea, to the point where he felt as if he had a cold, or like his own memories were about to shoot out of his nostrils.

His body was becoming clumsy, stiff, and unresponsive. Where he once knew how to tie his shoes and wiggle all his fingers was instead knowledge of medicine and surgery he had never even cared to dismiss as useless before now. He in turn tumbled and shuffledto move across a room. Everett arrived just in time to cautiously walk with them to the Edo temple, the only place Dietrich knew of that might be able to intervene on his behalf before this unwanted idea left him trapped inside his own body, or dead.

After a very difficult stroll through very crowded streets he arrived, and after hardly saying a word the elder Dibia sniffed him, and looked into his held-open eyes. He poked and prodded him once he lay down on the stone slab where he had been scarred, and mumbled holy poems under his breath.

“You are filled up with a demon.” He said with utter certainty and profound pity. “Some foul spawn of Bashonie is deep inside you!” he paused, staring at him. “We can clean it out of you, but in return you must do a very great favor for us. I will not lie: the gods will destroy you if you do not repay them. Osanobua will be merciless in his vengeance if you earn it, and this cure will not be a simple thing either. Will you do it?”

Dietrich said yes, of course. He also remarked that at the very least this cure could not possibly involve any more scars, after what had happened to his face! Upon hearing this the Diabia laughed, and opened his robe: his chest and stomach was covered with a remarkably intricate field of countless tiny cuts, wrapping around to his back, and even going down his legs.

“There is much more room on you for scars.”

Dietrich then spent the next several hours upon the slab, as the Dibia first sliced a detailed pattern around the circumference of his head, and once finished with that created a thick band of cuts around his back and belly. In the agony and blood loss time ceased to be meaningful, and as he drifted off into dissociated visions he a great serpent begin to appear in the blood pouring out of his head, and this serpent slowly was pulled from his head, and then drifted up into the sun where it was incinerated.

After he was wiped down with a styptic ointment and arose from the slab woozy and weak-kneed it took him several moments to be certain that this torture had indeed cured him. The strange feeling in his head was his own thoughts filling up formerly occupied spaces, and while the knowledge he had been given by the foreign idea was gone with it his body now responded to his will as it did once before. When he thought about that book he found so long ago, on the blood-soaked beach, he recalled that he had never even read it.

The Dibia then told him what he must do to pay for this salvation. He was presented with the very same grimoire he had presented the Dibia long ago, the one recovered from the French sorcerer near Akabo. It had not been burned as he had said.

“You must take this tome of necromancy to the Cave of Wraiths to the South, and you will leave this deep inside there with these beside it. You must not be seen by anyone.”

He then handed the familiar book to Dietrich, along with a satchel.

“In this bag are symbols of the Igbo faith. Our king Ishola is greatly influenced by the Igbo priests. You see how his kingdom is falling apart now? This is due to their influence on him. The dead walk the earth, Akabo has fallen, and even the hills move! You will make the Igbo priests appear to be necromancers by doing this, and this will cause them to lose their privileged status with Ishola, and we will rise to his side as the favored ones. Through our guidance he shall follow the path of Osanobua, and Khirima shall be restored! Go forth, quickly, there is no time to be spared!”

Dietrich then left, as the Dibia had become quite passionate, and he had little to say in response.

After leaving the temple, perhaps inspired by all the spilled blood, Dietrich was eager to make use of his new occult idol, and so went in search of a slaughterhouse. He found one, and spoke with the proprietor. He told this proprietor a lengthy tale of how he had lost a very particular bet, and although it was quite embarrassing he now had to butcher a goat in a very particular way as payment for that bet. Might he make use of the facilities to do this? It wouldn’t take very long.

The proprietor allowed this, being somewhat amused by it, but only if he used his own goat! Dietrich obliged, and after returning with a fresh goat was given a corner to work in. As he performed the requisite cuts the goat was drained of all life, and the spilled blood was subtly absorbed by the black stone beneath it, charging it with strange energies by which a summoning could be later performed.

Unfortunately, a nearby group of workers began observing him partway through the process. In a moment of xenophobia they summoned a group of passing guards, who then marched Dietrich, Edoni, and Everett alike to a place that appeared to be a prison, and where a most severe person scowled at them before accusing them of practicing sorcery. He was dressed in ceremonial armor adorned with the sacred pangolin, indicating he was a prestigious member of the military faction, and had the air of being a sort of judge, or executioner.

Dietrich was quick with his reply, and quite persuasive. He pointed out that he was clearly no mere outsider, as evidenced by his extensive religious scars. In addition, he claimed he was not practicing sorcery, only a special butchery of the sort similar to what might be practiced in those religious kingdoms to the north. The man before then considered this for a time before finally speaking, while all the guards remained silent. It was not clear if he believed the bit about butchery techniques, but Dietrich’s scars did not exactly lie.

“I will let you Outsiders go free for now, but only because you are useful to me. You know of that disgusting thing in the marketplace? The slug? I would drive that disgusting thing out of Khirima in one moment and impale it on a spear point if I could, but I cannot until I know it has violated our laws. You will be much more able to get near it than I or my men ever could. It will trust you Outsiders. It is even rumored that Outsiders are what brought it! Bring me evidence of it doing wrong, and prove your trustworthiness.”

As Dietrich was becoming familiar with the legal processes of Khirima Edoni was in conversation with the people who had arrived with the slug. They were Greeks, and members of a small-scale cabal of sorts. Their leader was a Magic-User, named Menandros. He spoke the old Medieval Latin like Edoni, and so they were able to communicate. As Menandros described it, he and his companions had summoned up the slug in a mistaken attempt to gather otherworldly wisdom. They had offered their servitude to it as part of this ritual, and once it had appeared were then bound to it by this agreement despite their complete and profound hatred of the thing. They were unable to behave in any other way towards it than that which the contract had described, he said, they were compelled to follow the laws of such things. It was unfortunate that their contract was so broad, and vaguely defined.

Now owing both a god and the state itself a favor the Adventurers went to the Guild of Merchants to see what might be learned about that most hated they had brought with them to Khirima.

Upon entering they found the place to be filled with tension and unrest. Fierce debates were in progress among the merchants, with some praising the nasty thing, through gritted teeth, as a most shrewd and effective businessman to perhaps be emulated while others unequivocally denounced it as a plague. One bemoaned that it had bought his whole inventory of fine imported fabrics, only to burn it all in a great pile that very night. Yet another laughed about the tidy sum he had made by using it as a middleman. One spoke of how it destroyed her former suppliers with clever trading. Some said it never slept, and most agreed, and a small faction also raised concern over its rumored lending of money, as well as the rising food prices.

Most unusually, none present would even hint at offering direct payment for its removal using dubious means, and the very idea seemed impossible to them. Besides, it was paying all the required taxes, and even guild membership dues. What could even be done about a thing which obeyed the law, no matter how ugly?

The Adventurers left the Guild with some notions about what might be required to finally kill the vile, nauseating, despicable slug, and so headed towards to the marketplace to observe the thing firsthand before they returned to a place of rest. Upon arrival at its’ tent they were surprised to see it in conversation with a group of people who were not merchants at all, which was a new development. It was speaking with several priests of the Edo faith.

The hated slug thing is a creature from the supremely excellent Fire on the Velvet Horizon by Scrap Princess and Patrick Stuart. The voice I used for it was a throaty, gurgled mix of Mason Verger in the movie "Hannibal" (and some of the TV version) with Bane in "The Dark Knight Rises".

You might be wondering why the Adventurers haven't gone into that central Plateau towards that big-deal-main-event Temple place yet, and here's why: We haven't had all four players together for a session in quite a while, and since it's an obvious milestone they've more or less put it off until they can all go in together (and it's their decision where they want to go anyway, no one likes a railroad). While it has shown off how much "side material" is actually in WotL quite well, all signs point to our long-awaited all-hands-on-deck session being the next one. Til then!