Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Urban Adventuring - the Tale of Ujin Tohl - the Conclusion

Black on ebony on dark, Ujin saw a wall of night that stretched on as far as the eyes could see, half of the world was an abyss of nothing, towering upwards to the heavens and hanging down for miles below his feet. The other half was the world Ujin had left behind, still night, but bright in comparison.

Ujin had never seen such darkness, it took away his breath and replaced it with a dizzy exhilaration. 

The gods, Ujin thought, the gods must walk like this.

He looked down and focused his mind, slowly resolving his view until he could see the stairwell he was just standing in moments before, it’s unlit length was far more visible in comparison to the darkness of the realm of shadows.

He pulled back and refocused until he could see beyond the door at the top of the stairs. The room behind it took up the entire floor of the tower, it was luxurious, rich silks and fine crystal, marble statues and golden idols. Rare artwork adorned the walls and exotic animal skins were on the floors.

The room reeked of power.

But the most remarkable aspect of the room was the creature Ujin saw lurking in the shadows.

It was man sized and apelike in the torso, with dark black feathers on the body, four limbs with claws and three raven heads, each human sized, and each pointing in a different direction. The heads were black at the neck shading to a deep crimson red at the face. Their beaks were glossy black.

With those heads it would be impossible to surprise, and those claws looked vicious. 

The perfect guardian.

Ujin grabbed an emerald from his pocket and walked the space between worlds, emerging in the room across from the creature. When he appeared in the room he spoke the words, "Rang kshetr" and threw the emerald at the beast. It transformed into a glowing green sphere, and when the sphere hit the monster it exploded into a cloud of noxious green and yellow gas.

The creature coughed and gagged in the miasma, and stumbled out, disoriented. Ujin ran over and touched the creature and walked into the shadows with it, taking it to the space between worlds, where he pushed it forward and into the realm of shadows. He watched as the denizens of that world swarmed over the creature, pitch black and hungry they drank its life force and left it a withered husk.

Ujin shuddered, turned and walked back through the shadows to the room.

He did not know how much time he had until the guards found the dead body he had left behind, so he worked quickly. 

Ujin opened up the second sack and took out the severed head of Imiran Shinn. There were two words inscribed on the head, Ujin took the head and set it on the Guildmaster’s bed, facing forward so the words could be read.

Ujin smiled.

He then walked to the shadows again, and disappeared from the Guildmaster’s room. Ujin walked slowly between the planes, and located Jal Bhains’ camp below him. He looked down and around until he saw Bhains, he was sitting cross legged in his tent casting bones in front of a small, smoldering fire with guards outside and his dragon coiled upon the floor. Jimnir sat across from him, drinking from a flagon and watching the bones.

Ujin walked downwards until he emerged in the tent. The dragon was asleep and did not immediately wake. Jal Bhains, however, watched with wide eyes as the phantasmist emerged from the shadows. Jimnir almost spit out his drink.

“Ujin Tohl!”, Bhains explained, then he laughed loudly.

“You live!”, Jimnir added.

Ujin nodded, “For now, we will see how the Guildmaster takes my message. How did the meeting go?”

Jimnir responded, “Well enough, we proposed that the cult of Yama take a more active role in the guild, he argued that there was no need for this. We suggested that it might be useful to have a branch of the guild that was hidden and could be used to do jobs that the guild itself might not want to own. He seemed reluctant but did not specify why.”

Jal Bhains snorted and spit, “It is obvious why, he worships that bitch goddess Kali and does not want to share power; he does not trust me.”

Ujin nodded, “I suppose we will have to wait and see.”

Jal Bhains responded, “Have you decided if you are staying?”

Ujin replied without hesitation, “What do the bones say, Jal Bhains.”

The witch doctor smiled, “I asked Yama if you would stay when I communed with him, he said you will.”

Ujin raised an eyebrow, “Then I will stay, mighty Jal Bhains, hand of Yama, scourge of the Bhavisyavani Houses, and master of the lizard tribes.”

Bhains smiled, “A wise decision.”

Jimnir chuckled, “Be careful, the last phantasmist we had met an untimely end.”

A devilish smile crossed Ujin’s face, and he reached out his hand towards the men, “I cast a powerful spell tonight, it allows me to walk between worlds through the shadows, it is still in place, come with me and walk like the gods before the magic ends.”

Jal Bhains did not hesitate, he stood and grabbed Ujin’s hand, Jimnir grabbed the other, and Ujin walked them to the border between the realm of shadow and their world. The three men saw the city stretched out below them, a glittering jewel in the coal black night.

Ujin wanted to pluck it out and hold it.

“With this magic I can gain entry anywhere, is there anyone you wish to visit Jal Bhains, Jimnir?”

Jal Bhains spoke up, “No, let us walk and see the world from above for a few more moments, then back to the tent.”

The three men walked between the worlds for a time before returning the camp to discuss the night’s events, and pray to Yama before sleeping.

Nissal Kinn stood at the entry to his room, his guards had escorted him to the base of the stairs and he had discharged them there, he did not want to be walked everywhere like some child, he could take care of himself. The meeting with Jal Bhains had been frustrating and unproductive. He had thought that Bhains asked him there to beg for his life. Several assassination attempts had been made on the saan, all sponsored by Houses that found him vexing, and all had failed, but more would no doubt be coming. 

However, he had instead suggested some form of alliance, and Nissal had rejected the idea outright.

Presumptuous, arrogant fool, he thought, Nissal Kinn did not share power with anyone.

The guildmaster took out a key from around his neck and turned the lock, only that key would work in the door without triggering a scythe trap that would easily decapitate a man.

Nissal had tested it extensively and it proved very efficient.

The door opened and the guildmaster immediately sensed something was wrong. His darsolge, that never left its spot, was not there or anywhere to be seen. Nissal looked around the room and saw the severed head on his bed. 

He screamed for his guards, and four of them were beside him in seconds.

“Secure the room, alert the keep, we have an intruder!”

The men carried out their orders, moving around the room, pulling back curtains, and within moments one of the guards had brought in dogs to sniff out the intruder. Dozens of guards were alerted and began to scour the keep, and the guild’s warlock, Chathiss Rak the Bane, was woken to be brought to the guildmaster’s chamber.

Once they had secured the room Nissal entered and walked over to the severed head.

And then the severed head spoke, its bloodless lips curling as the words came out.

“Ujin Tohl brings you the gift of Imiran Shinn’s head, Guildmaster, send anyone after him again, and the next head will be yours.”

Nissal growled and spit on the ground in a red rage.

Then he noted the writing on the forehead of the head, it said, “Never again”.

Nissal suddenly felt a wave of rage, pure blinding hate, he drew his sword and stabbed one of the guards in the back, the glistening blade protruding from his chest.

The other guards moved, thinking that perhaps the stabbed guard was a spy.

Then the Guildmaster almost decapitated another one of the guards.

One of the surviving guards shouted and more men poured into the room, each one attempting to disarm or restrain the enraged assassin. Chathiss Rak the Bane appeared and began to cast a spell.

Somewhere in the marsh, Ujin Tohl smiled.

End of journal

Some thoughts on the sessions

1. From the encounter where Jimnir and Ujin attacked Rizzal I was running both characters, my DM knew that I usually run two PCs at once, and he was happy to have that off his plate. Mid-level 1e MUs are my happy place, and this adventure confirmed it. Jimnir's spells were rolled randomly and I loved the flavor that produced, no fireballs flying around but he still managed to be badass.

2. I love urban adventures, the constant RP, the activity in the background as you adventure (something is always going on), and the possibilities, there are always things to do. I had a PC with a high charisma and it made interaction with the game world so much more engaging.

3. I only used improved phantasmal force in this adventure three times, once for deception (the bull at the tree), once for flourish (the ravens) and once for redirection (the trees and the pursuing lizards) - and note never to make an illusory monster to attack anything. Hypnotism, detect invisibility, phantom steed and even illusory script were particularly useful. The illusionist toolkit is bigger than just the "generic" illusions.

4. Alliances are key, I love playing in a game where I'm in over my head and I have to make alliances to survive. I know many here bemoan the power creep that sets in as you level, but a good DM can make it challenging anyway, and necessitate finding resources to survive. 

5. I had the opportunity to play in a game world I created, I can't overstate how awesome that was. It also confirmed to me that my setting was functional, I knew I could run it but someone else running it means it's viable. That makes me happy.

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