(The Malazaria, or The Malazariad, or The Carcassaria or The Carcassariad, (all so very pompous!) or maybe just Flintlock Fantasy, still struggling with a name for this game....)
We kicked of with a solar eclipse over Malazar City, calculated and forewarned by the Royal Astromancers. Eclipses on Arkha are bad. When they happen, the Jugger Behem slide down the moonshadows to maraud and molest. Malazar City, like most urban centres, has standard procedures in such times: shut up the shops, shut down the city, slap a curfew on everyone and send the city guard out in force. Specially trained monster hunters known as cazadors prowl among them, eager to capture any monstrosities.
Watching these events unfold from the rooftop of the Welcome Arms — a discreet establishment on the waterfront favored by arms dealers — were four friends, recently brought together by happenstance and otherwise:
- Gabby played Lucinda Martin, the gifted budding alchemist who ran the tavern
- Tom played Nym the Mog, the curious investigator who shared Lucinda's love of chemistry
- Kurt played Ramon Sánchez de Castille, a recovering veteran of the Siege of Lapramada
- Gus played Pedro the Bruxi, an aspiring and helpful naval gunner who'd befriended Ramon on his return journey
(I'd already received four fantastically rich background ideas, and written a recent history for each of the characters, so they're all weighed heavy with secrets and subplots mwahahahahaaaa.... everyone introduced their characters just so the players were up with who was who.)
Across the city the bells tolled until the moon swallowed the sun and all was plunged into night. The city guard called for all to head in, and one by one they headed down to the tavern to wait out the eclipse. Nym lingered, and as he was about to head down another Mog landed on the rooftops. "Where is your pride?" he asked then sprang down into the gloom.
Inside, the three gathered for drinks (not Lucinda, there were several other customers to serve waiting out the eclipse in the Arms) and they talked over scuttlebutt of the city including the war against the Emulatine Renegados and the monstrous Hydiac that was prowling the city slums (each session I'll supply the players with a onesheet of local events and gossip from the city's papers, you can read the first one here: CURRENT EVENTS). Pedro, ever helpful, was checking the shutters were indeed shut when he heard slow footsteps on the wharf alongside the Welcome Arms. He looked out to see four ill-favoured men sneaking towards him.
He darted back inside to warn the others, then dashed to the bar where his musket was stowed. One of the other customers — a local ragwoman — ventured to the door and looked out; the four men burst in, each wielding a pair of cruel looking machetes. It was the Machetza Gang!
Weapons were drawn: Ramon rising to his feet and unsheathing his rapier, Nym coolly placing his blade on the table before him, Lucinda reaching for a knife, and Pedro quietly priming his musket from behind the bar.
One of the Machetzas pushed the unfortunate woman against the wall, as their leader stepped forward, weapon pointed... at Nym!
"We're here for the Book. Hand it over, or you'll die."
Nym politely refused as Largo the Bouncer positioned himself between the Machetzas and the rest of the patrons. By some curious design the centre of the tavern was open to the water below (great for a pint and a fish, we decided) and more Machetzas were crawling up over the railing around the fishing pit. Ramon saw their plan: stall with words until enough Machetzas arrived to make negotiation unnecessary. He hobbled over and kicked the first one back into the water below, the pain of his injury coursing through his leg.
The Machetzas responded with violence. The first blow didn't kill Largo, but the second one definitely did.
(Lady and Gentlemen, please roll Initiative!)
Ramon squared up against the two murderous Machetzas while a third charged at Nym as he quaffed one last dreg from his mug (actually an alchemical extract he had handy). The fourth let the woman go and moved towards Lucinda at the bar (who also skolled an extract she had on her). Pedro popped up from behind the bar and fired at the leader, grazing him, while two more Machetzas scrambled up over the railing in the centre of the room. Lucinda's knife went wide, and she darted for the flammable liquors at the end of the bar, while Ramon duelled two, and then three Machetzas by himself.
Nym was cut bad by his attacker, who watched in amazement as the Mog sprang away and darted for the stairs that led up to his room where the book the Machetzas were after lay upon his table. Ramon fought desperately, parrying and riposting against the six blades he faced (this Swashbuckler class is cool!) but failed to fell them. Pedro saw one of the Machetzas rounding the end of the bar to get at him, raised his musket once more— FZZZZTzzzzzzz... a Misfire! His assailant was almost upon him, when a bottle smashed over the Machetza's head. The other patrons had joined the fray, coming to the defence of their favourite watering hole!
Ramon knew he was outnumbered, and saw only a desperate chance of escape. He feinted, then went to make a wild jump for the chandelanchor hanging over the fishpit. (attacks of opportunity all round!) but the leader left himself wide open (fumble!) as Ramon swung his blade in a wild retreat (fumbles in my game grant an attack of opportunity). Ramon's blade swung round... and found its mark as he leapt away, grabbed the chandelanchor, arced around behind the leader, and landed right behind the leader just in time for his head to topple off his shoulders!!!!! (CRIT. OF. THE. NIGHT.)
Of the two Machetzas still standing to face Ramon, one threw down his blades in the face of such skill and bolted for the door, but the second pressed on! Meanwhile Pedro fell back from the Machetza behind the bar. It could have been the broken bottle in the patron's hands, or the knife that Lucinda jammed in his gut that felled him, but that Machetza was slain as well. Lucinda glanced up to see the dark haired woman by the door unrattled by the attack, unfaxed, mumble under her breath and then vanish! Was she in league with the Machetzas? She had opened the door that let them in... where had she gone? Lucinda threw a bottle at where she last saw the vanisher, but it failed to find its mark.
As Ramon and the patrons finished off the last of the attackers (another fleeing for his life), Nym reached his room in a flash, powered by the curious extract he had prepared that made him exceedingly fleet of foot. Inside, he grabbed the bundle of tightly bound cloth that was wrapped around the book, grabbed his crossbow and a few other items, and was about to make for his window and bolt... when the woman from below was at his door.
"Don't make me do this," she warned as she held her hand out for the book Nym was holding. He got a good look at her: dark hair cut short in a bob, a pleasant but worn face, haggard eyes and attire that marked her as a fishmonger, perhaps... but her odor was terrifying. Unnatural. And her hand... her hand was shaking so violently that it shimmered and danced in the strange eclipselight through the window. "Give. Me. The. Book."
Mogs are exceedingly fast and nimble, and Nym even moreso: he was out the window in the blink of an eye, and scrambled up onto the roof of the Welcome Arms. But whoever this strange woman was... she did not follow. Instead, from his vantage point he could see the eclipse in the heart of of its transition. All around was dark as night, dark enough to see the stars, to see the Aurora Arcana dancing across the sky... and yet on the horizon, the glow as of dawn in every direction. The city lay in silence, not a single bell tolled in alarm— and then he noticed that the few city guard he could see in the streets and alleys below all were standing with their backs turned to the Welcome Arms. Surely they'd heard the musket fire, the screams? Or had they been bought off by the Machetzas? And where was the woman?
It was Ramon and Pedro who found her. Lucinda was tending to Largo's fallen body, and gave orders to the rest of the staff to clean up quick before the guard arrived. Limping up the stairs (his war wound bleeding heavily now) Ramon reached the top and looked down the corridor to see the woman closing the door to Nym's room. Nym's stolen notes were in her shaking hand, and she did not see Ramon, nor Pedro as he scrambled up behind him. Pedro wasted no time and fired his musket once more as Ramon hobbled down the corridor towards her, rapier drawn. The shot hit her, but did not fell her— yet the pain have distracted her for Ramon attacked before she could act, thrusting his blade through her shoulder and pinned her to the wooden panels behind her.
Nym heard the gun fire below, the ruckus of combat— and a sudden movement in the air caught his eye. Descending from a great height to land beside was a royal cazador, one of the brave souls trained to hunt down the Jugger Behem. He was a Tylluan, an owl man from the far north, white feathered, golden cloaked, and armed with a long and curved scimitar. "Return to your quarters immediately!" he croaked. Nym quickly explained what was happening, without giving everything away.
The woman was defeated, unconscious, notes slipping from her fingers... but she did not stop shimmering. In fact it was getting worse, vibrant in vibration. Ramon new sorcery when he saw it, and fell back down the corridor to a safer position as Pedro bravely rushed forward to cover his friends retreat. Pedro looked at her slumped form, blinked...
... and the corridor was filled with tooth and tentacle, eye and maw, groaning under the sudden weight of the horrendous creature unfolding into the world before the rat man.
Pedro turned and fled, squealing in terror (Save vs Fear: failed!). Nym and the Cazador caught his cry, and leapt back down into Nym's room. The door to the hallway creaked and groaned. "Open the door," order the Cazador as Nym readied his crossbow, then flipped the latch. The door burst in, a wall of bestial meat pressed upon it. The bolt flew, struck the monstrosity; the scimitar dug deep into the flesh. Whatever it was, it pushed hard against the constraints of the hall, wood cracking, and with a horrendous shriek the side of the building burst open. The creature spilled out and down into the street below; Nym grabbed hold of the shattered doorway as his room toppled forward. The last Nym saw of the Cazador was a flick of golden cloak and scimitar as the hunter gave chase— and they were gone, leaving Nym's notes slowly floating down in the vacant air.
(Crap this has turned into a story writing exercise, sorry).
When the group came together again in the tavern below, Lucinda led them to a private room beneath the building. Nym had questions to answer, and quickly, before the city guard arrived.
Placing the heavy bundle on the table, he explained that he was given the book by his friend and mentor, after a deal with the Machetzas went sour and his friend incarcerated. He unwrapped the cloth and revealed what the Machetzas were after: a book made entirely of stone. It must have come from the Stoneland Wastes, they reasoned, where a decade ago a terrible accident occured in the city of Kvantio, and everything within a hundred mile radius was completely turned to stone. People, creatures, forests, possessions, water, clouds... everything. FOr several years explorers had been salvaging what they could from the Wastes. It was highly likely that the book had come from there.
Each page was paper thing but hard as granite, and Nym gingerly turned each one. The ink had turned to obsidian. The book was written by Doctor Palso Anduriac in Luzori, the language of the region. None of the four could readit, but it was clear from the illustrations that it was notes and experiments with a new kind of firearm, that appeared to be more powerful and deadly than anything they had seen; the book also contained depictions of strange and monstrous magical rituals. Hideous creatures cavorted in the margins, while arcane diagrams filled each page.
Pedro had been most efficient in looting the bodies of the Machetzas, and he shared the spoils with the others:
- roughly 30 silver crowns
- 5 machetes
- a scroll, clearly stolen, containing title deeds of some sort
- a pouch containing a number of strange clear cubes
The all agreed that the money should go to the repair of the Welcome Arms, as well as to Largo's family, and then decided how much they would tell the authorities about what they knew; but the four had so many questions themselves!
- Who was the strange woman?
- Was that the Hydiac?
- What was her relationship with the Machetzas?
- Why do they want that book so much?
- Who bribed the City Guard to avert their attention during the attack?
- Who was the Mog that approached Nym on the rooftops?
- What happened to the creature after it fled?
- Did the Cazador Tylluan survive?
- Should they find a safehouse to wait out the inevitable revenge attack by the Machetzas?
- Who was coming to question them, bribed City Guards, or the Royal Cazadors?
- How fast can they translate the book? Both Nym and Lucinda can prepare concoctions that will aid them in comprehension... but should they?
- and perhaps most importantly... when's the next game??!?!?!?!?!?!?
As listed above
Defeating the Machetza Gang: 1200XP/4 = 300 each
Defeating the Mysterious Woman: 600XP/4 = 150 each
TOTAL XP = 450XP each