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03 October 2016 @ 10:30 am
[CoC: HotOE] The Dragon and the Bloody Tower  
Dramatis Personae
  • Andres of Troyes, Frankish Knight
  • Brother David, Cistercian monk
  • Eloise of Flanders, Handmaiden to the Countess and spy
  • Gilles de la Grave, Frankish Knight
  • Renault of Flanders, Frankish Knight
The group approached the Church of Saint Mokius, carefully surveying the square in front of it. They had left their horses by the bottom of the hill, and so Eloise carefully crept through the square to get a look at the church. She spotted several warriors hiding in the rubble in the square and one man dressed as a priest, and just as she entered the church door, the warriors spotted the party. As the priest yelled for the party to give themselves up and the warriors leveled their crossbows, the party charged for the door. Brother David took a crossbow bolt in the shoulder and, as the priest began shrieking exhortations to the Skinless One, felt a strange pain in his forehead and blood dripping down his face, but they managed to make it inside the church and bar the door.

Inside, they quickly looked around. The church dome was broken, with a rent gaping open to the sky, but the rest of the church seemed intact. The more martial members of the group quickly dealt with three Italians who tried to climb into the church one-by-one and then spread out to find the relic that the Venetian priest had hidden. Eloise kept Ramaldi, who was outside the church, busy in conversation until they found the relic in a nave in the southern wall, hidden beneath a statue of the Virgin so small that they had originally overlooked it in favor of the giant statues standing in the corners of the church. Then, as bricks began to come out of the damaged wall and Ramaldi's men were almost broken through, the party entered the crypt, blocked the door behind them.

Lighting torches, the group looked around the crypt. There were several sarcophagi, some of which had been smashed and the remains within strewn around the room, but most prominent was the tunnel in the corner that seemed freshly dug. With no other options but to go forward, they entered the tunnel, following it for perhaps a hundred feet, and then almost at the end, they came face to face with the horror that had been stalking the city that the Byzantine priest claimed to have called up. A serpentine horror, with long neck and horse-like head, thrust itself into the tunnel and roared at them.

As the monster took a deep breath and flames kindled in its throat, Eloise hurled a vial of poison at it, but her throw went wide. Fortunately, the monster failed to use its breath and tried to bite, snapping ineffectually at the party. At first, they attacks were similarly ineffective, with Renault's torch failing to affect the monster and Brother David's mace clanging off its scales, but Andres managed to strike a mighty blow and the dragon--for surely it could be nothing else--withdrew. Looking down, they realized they were perhaps forty feet up, overlooking a cistern, and with Italian cultists behind, they decided to jump.

They fell into the water and splashed toward the walkway, Eloise moving separately from the others and trying to sneak around the cistern out of sight of the dragon. The dragon attacked the knights repeatedly, with many blows simply failing to hurt it, until it took a deep breath and breathed flames over the party. Andres and Renault managed to deflect the flames with their shields, but Brother David and Gilles fell, seared and bleeding badly. Renault tried to save their lives as Andres fought the dragon, managing to stabilize both them through some miracle, and as the dragon stooped over its victims, Renault dealt it a mighty blow. It hissed and dove under the cistern's waters, and did not emerge again.

Some of them staggering under their wounds, the party emerged from the cistern and found their horses, where Eloise and Brother David took some time to study the package. It had a few creepy poems and a ritual that seemed designed to detect the presence of the Skinless One, and below that, a large capsule marked all over in Latin and Greek that to open it is death. Eloise and Brother David do not open it.

On to way to Merovac, the party ran into a group of Frankish knights who babbled about how the French were being taken by strange things and there were monsters loose in the city. The party pointed them at the Church of Saint Mokius and told them about the Italian cultists and Ramaldi, after which the knights charged off now that they finally had a target.

Merovac examined the ritual and determined that it needed to be performed to find Sedefkar's tower, and that he had most of the ingredients, but would need a bit of skin. Andres volunteered some of the skin of his back, and Merovac took it and dropped it into a cauldron, after which the water turned red and revealed the tower. Renault recognized the place in the city, and after Merovac gave the group some healing supplies, they left the leper ship.

On the way to the tower, the party ran into a French nobleman and his retinue, who questioned them about their intent. Eloise noticed something odd about him, a hint of marble-liked flesh, and as he noticed her looks, he denounced the knights as traitors and demanded that his men seize them before he fled. The party tried to force their way through, but the men were unyielding and the party was forced to kill them in pursuit of the nobleman.

The tower was a dull ochre color and the inside was a parade of horrors. Bodies strewn about or suspended from the ceiling, some still twitching, or sewn into new creations that writhed feebly. Ropes of intestines stretched into a diagram, blood liberally strewn everywhere, and monsters in the shapes of devils with terrible lamprey mouths. The party fought their way up the tower until the reached the top floor, where the sorcerer Sedefkar, the guise of a French nobleman, was attempting to perform a terrible ritual in front of a vast altar made of skin with still-living babbling faces strewn about its surface. The battle was terrible, and Renault and Brother David came away with serious wounds, but through coordination and their martial prowess, the knights managed to remove the sorcerer's armor and kill him. As they did, the tower's vile decorations crumbled into stinking slime, the armor pieces solidified into more of a statue, and the sorcerer hissed, "A curse on your crusade..." and then died.

The party gathered up the statue pieces and knife and rode back to the count. On the way, they saw many crusaders in shock, distraught over what they had done, and when they reached the count he was very pleased and gave them all fifty gold marks and the services of his healers, and they went to sleep. The artifacts would be turned over to Merovac for study.

In the morning, they were summoned again. The count was furious--he informed them that the leper ship had disappeared, as had Merovac, and all the guards on the ship were found dead, drained of blood. He swore that he would give the party a ship to seek out Merovac wherever he had fled, and bade them beware. If they sought to go further east, Merovac was well known and hated there, and went under a different name.


Shock! Gasp! And now, some of why I was using [REDACTED] earlier is revealed.

mutantur did the best he could, but I thought this was a very badly designed scenario. It was basically a playable cutscene with a pre-determined ending, so whenever we ran into a situation where there was one way to proceed but we had to roll dice to accomplish that task, he was forced into increasingly-ridiculous explanations of how we succeeded or just having us win by fiat. Which is fine with me, because if the way to finish the scenario is a lot of single-roll fail points, it's a bad scenario. If there's no option but to do X, then X should just happen.

That bit above, Renault failed to heal Brother David and mutantur had it succeed anyway because there wasn't any other choice. That was where I lost interest in how the scenario turned out, really. I made a joke that as the professor was reading it, he said, "I think there's something missing here, the account just skips ahead and the knight and monk are healed somehow."

I also didn't really like Sedefkar. This is the feared sorcerer, infamous in history, and his tower was basically Spatterpunk Blood Feast, which sounds like an amazing metal album but isn't a great way to show Sedefkar as some kind of cosmic threat. He's just a magic serial killer, which is one of my least favorite fiction archetypes. Well, at least he's dead now after our quicktime-based cutscene. We mashed X + Y like a pro.
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