Here we go, final entry for the Bardori campaign. This will be a long one, the Storm Season arc was something like 4-6 sessions, comparable to our Prax and Pavis episodes. The last few sessions occurred right at the beginning of the pandemic, so we had to adjust to online play.
After the horrible events of Dark Season, everyone's main concern was purifying the clan of the sins of Chaos and kinslaying. The Clan Ring and chieftain consult with Ynga the Rock, the Storm Bull representative on the tribal council, and a Bardori herself. Her proposal was that HWSAD go on a quest to a Chaos Nest and placate Storm Bull by killing a priest of Chaos (and returning with a trophy). The clan is placed roughly equidistant from Snakepipe Hollow, Devil's Marsh, and Larnste's Footprint. The players agonized about where they should go at first, out of character. Garkar's player suggested an easier "get-in and get-out" quest, possibly with some extra support from a local Storm Bull cult, so he supported Devil's Marsh.
The others however, felt that because their clan had been shamed, they needed to go all out and "do the dangerous thing." It was a close choice between Snakepipe Hollow (where Jareen and Borni had apparently joined the cult of Cacodemon) and Larnste's Footprint. They decided to go with the Footprint, because it presented the bigger threat to the clan's own territory, and because there were currently armies of monsters pouring into Heortland. HWSAD wanted to go into the Footprint itself and take on Queen Gagix directly. The others counseled a "let's see when we get there" approach.
Journey to Whitewall
They made ready for their journey, and left as soon as they could. Durri (the clan's healer) ended up joining them because he felt partly responsible for what had occurred in Dark Season. They were also joined by a young militia man from the clan, and one of the "ergeshi" from the Sun Dome Temple who had fled to join the Bardori. HWSAD insisted that both of these become lay members to Storm Bull before letting them come along (they basically became his squires). I can't remember these other characters' names to be honest!
Their route took them through Sambari, Balmyr and the former Kultain territory on the Royal Road, 2 or 3 days. This leg of the journey was uneventful. I think I rolled a random encounter for some Wasp Riders, but Egajia managed to intimidate them into staying away.
They stopped at a caravanserai on the edge of Hendriki land, close to the Troll Woods. They met many refugees fleeing from the south, from the depredations of either Wolf Pirates, or Scorpion Men who were rampaging across central Heortland. The party planned to stop at Whitewall the next day, as one of their distant Bardori kin was an Earth Priestess there. That night, both HWSAD and his ergeshi companion had the same dream. A dark pool with a waterfall at night, surrounded by black trees. A woman's voice whispered, "come to me, to receive my blessing." He Who Spits and the ergeshi both woke, and felt a call to enter the forest. They both knew that what they had seen was in the Troll Woods, and the ergeshi seemed to know which way to go, although he couldn't explain why. They both agreed to go and find the pool, and tried to sneak away without waking the others. They failed of course, and the rest of the party woke and followed them into the woods.
Although it was night, the ergeshi knew the way, and led the party deep into the Troll Woods. They risked torches, in spite of the likely presence of trolls. They were not ambushed, although they felt as if they were being watched. After a time, they found the same pool from the dream, lit by starlight. Kneeling by the pool was a woman with pale skin, naked, with long black hair. She introduced herself as a priestess of Xentha, and that the pool was sacred to her goddess. She was also a speaker for the "people of the woods," and that she wished to help He Who Spits in his quest by giving him a gift. She explained-
"Zorak Zoran is our greatest and most terrible warrior, an evil that fights a greater evil. He would give you his weapon, if you could prove yourself by besting him." A dark troll appeared, wielding a maul. HWSAD engaged him in a duel to first blood, and ended up crushing the troll's leg. The priestess called for the fight to stop, and said that he had proven himself worthy. The "people of the woods" also feared the spread of Chaos in their region, and did what they could to stop it. She invited He Who Spits into a hidden cave, where a maul of enchanted lead awaited him. She then spoke with the ergeshi, saying "You are one of us, though you have forgotten. Will you join your people in the darkness?" HWSAD reminded him that he had sworn to serve Storm Bull as well. After a passion roll, the ergeshi decided to stay with the party, at least until they had completed their quest. They left Xentha's pool and returned to the nearby village without incident.
Ghosts in Whitewall
The PC's arrived at Whitewall the next day to find it in a semi-ruined state. Still, there were hundreds of people still inhabiting the area below the walled city. Most of these were loyal to the remnants of Broyan's Free Army. The party sought out the Earth Priestess, Indrina. She welcomed them and explained more of the situation in Heortland. The small army at Whitewall followed a powerful Storm Voice who had been one of Broyan's companions. Other leaders in the Free Army had broken away and seized their own domains and steads after Broyan's death, so the original band was fractured and much reduced in size and power. On the coast, Wolf Pirates had seized the cities of Karse and Sklar, limiting control of the rivers and keeping the cities somewhat isolated from one another. The "Queendom of Jab" had expanded greatly in the past year, ravaging much of the Gardufar region and killing off the local Bull Priests who protected the people. In Earth Season the Chaos horde had sacked the city of Backford, leaving it in ruins.
The Bull Priest of Whitewall, one Ondur Ondur's Son (I was running out of ideas for names) went south with his followers to Jansholm to organize a counterattack on Backford. Indrina recommended that the party meet up with him to learn more about the Chaos incursions in the area. They also learned that the Free Army in Whitewall was working on rebuilding the Upper City, but this process was hampered by lingering Lunar magic, ghosts and mad spirits in the ruins. The Free Army warriors even mentioned seeing the Crimson Bat in the Upper City, although these rumors were widely dismissed as hallucinations. Still, several scouts had gone missing while exploring the upper city ruins. Before leaving for Jansholm, the PC's decided to investigate these disappearances as a favor to Indrina.
(I'm a little fuzzy on this next part TBH, because I didn't write my notes down for the Whitewall session).
The PC's went at night, to see if there was any truth to the Crimson Bat sightings. It didn't take long before they did see the Bat, in all it's tentacled glory, perch on a ruined tower. However, they noticed right away that it wasn't creating a Glowspot (at least not a real one), and while it was frightening, they weren't gripped with the supernatural fear the real Bat inspires. It attacked with it's whipping tongues, and Garkar, Erindros, and HWSAD were all engaged. Egajia realized that the "Bat" was actually some kind of embodied spirit, so she engaged it in spirit combat while the others fought off the tongues (I can't remember if this was a rules allowance, or if she had discorporated). The spirit had high POW, but so did Egajia, and she managed to drive it off.
After some more exploring, they eventually found the body of an old man in a ruined building. He was marked with the tattoos of a shaman, although it wasn't clear from which tradition. After examining the body, they realized he was still alive, although just barely. The false Crimson Bat appeared again in incorporeal form, this time rising from the man's body. Egajia was forced to destroy it through spirit combat this time. Once she had done so, she experienced a vision of the same old man. He was in Whitewall, fighting off Lunar soldiers while his fetch battled hostile spirits. She witnessed Broyan himself joining in the battle. Suddenly, the Crimson Bat appeared with a horrible shriek. The vision became blurred, as the moon grew larger behind the bat. Red light enveloped Egajia, and she heard the man scream at the sight of the monster. She managed to survive the vision with sanity intact. They found that after the spirit was defeated, the old shaman was dead.
The "Crimson Bat" was apparently destroyed, so the party left. Indrina and the other Free Army leaders were grateful for what they had done, and gifted them with supplies and some treasure.
(The idea behind this session was that the shaman was driven mad during the Bat's assault on Whitewall, and his fetch became corrupted as a result. The spirit they fought was actually the man's fetch. I can't remember if they figured this out or not).
Jansholm and the Battle with the Scorpion Prince
The party then set off on the Hendriki road, heading south to Jansholm. They met even more fleeing families on the way, many of them from western side of the Syphon River. They arrived in Jansholm without incident. The city had become a huge mustering ground for many of the warbands in western Heortland. After asking around, and dropping Indrina's name, they found Ondur Ondur's Son, who was drinking with his warriors. He was short for a Storm Bull, but quite fearsome. HWSAD managed to pass a Reputation roll, and Ondur had heard of his deeds at the Battle of the Queens. He agreed to let the party join his warband if they so pleased. They had planned to attack Backford within the week, and drive out the Chaos beasts that inhabited the ruined city. The Jondalaring Tribe of Jansholm, and many other local militias, were preparing to join them. The Jondalaring king had recently attempted to make an alliance with the Wolf Pirates on the coast, but negotiations were not successful.
Ondur explained that while Queen Gagix more or less controlled the Chaos horde in Heortland, she rarely left Larnste's Footprint, and delegated many tasks to her favorite sons, the "Scorpion Princes" (I was subjected to many Dwayne Johnson jokes at this point, probably should have gone with Scorpion Lords). These were powerful scorpion men who were priests of Bagog, and of Gagix's own hero cult. The party decided that one of these Princes' heads would make a good offering for Storm Bull, and made up their minds to defeat one personally. One of the princes, named Ur-thokka, was leading a horde of scorpions, broo, and other things across the Syphon. Another prince named Than-ugra supposedly controlled Backford. Ondur claimed the war leader as his sworn enemy, and would not allow He Who Spits to kill him, but said the prince in Backford was fair game.
The PC's agreed to go after Than-ugra, but they faced a difficult choice. A large chaos horde was currently running amok south of Jansholm, estimated to be about 6000 strong and led by the other scorpion prince. Ondur and the Jondalaring tribe were preparing to face them in the open field in the next few days with a force of barely 5000 warriors. The party could join this battle, or they could find another, quieter way into Backford. Ondur suggested that they might try negotiating with the Wolf Pirates in Karse or Sklar. If they could succeed where the tribal king had failed, they could sail a boat with a small force up the Syphon. They could also just steal a boat if they were willing to piss off some pirates.
Partly due to Erindros' fear of Wolf Pirates, they decided to join the battle with Ondur and take a more direct route. Over the next few days the party prepared themselves and replenished some lost Rune points. On the chosen day, the marched south and east with Ondur and the Jondalaring king. They caught the Chaos army ravaging an abandoned village, devouring crops and cattle. It was composed mostly of scorpionmen and broo, but there were also walktapi, jack-o-bears, and other things less easily classified.
The battle was like nothing else the PC's had experienced so far, as their opponents were not human, and fought like monsters. Although they were outnumbered, there were hundreds of Storm Bull initiates and several priests in the front line, led by Ondur. HWSAD joined this company as well, while the others stayed back and supported the militia. The Storm Bull unit led an insane charge right into the center, calling on their magic, and then letting the rage of the Bull take them. Blood sprayed and pedipalps flew. The rest of the army, mostly green militia, simply held out in a shield wall while the Storm Bulls carved a path toward the center. All the PC's succeeded in their Battle rolls, although I gave them penalties due to the savagery of the attack. Egajia was discorporated for most of the battle from what I remember, so she was mainly providing bonuses to other rolls. He Who Spits at the Devil fought a Walktapus one-on-one, and while he took some light wounds from the thrashing tentacles, he successfully crushed it's head with his new troll maul. Ondur faced the Scorpion Prince Ur-Thokka, and with some abstracted rolling on my part, managed to kill it (had he failed, it would have become the PC's problem).
With the scorpion prince's death, the morale of the Chaos army broke, and they fled in various directions, some returning to Backford. Many had died from the Jansholm force, and one of HWSAD's "squires" met his end as well.
The Jansholm army split up, with some mopping up the scorpions and broo who had fled, and the Storm Bull contingent going on to Backford. Durri the healer (who didn't have much to do on this trip actually) stayed behind to tend to the wounded. The PC's joined Ondur and the Storm Bulls in driving as many of the scorpions and broo into the Syphon River as possible, where the cursed water burned them, as well as drowned them. Many of the monsters managed to escape over a makeshift bridge apparently supported by gorp. Ondur made a temporary camp, and everyone settled in to plan the next move.
It was decided that the Storm Bulls would wade across the fording point and assault the city directly, while the party would cross the river further down and sneak in from the south gate. From there they would have to find the other scorpion prince and kill him. Ondur contacted some fishermen from a nearby village to the south, and hired them to ferry the party across. The people there worshiped the Syphon as one of their chief gods. The fishermen had their own, somewhat gruesome plan for helping the PC's sneak into the village. They had brought along a few captive Wolf Pirates, and planned to sacrifice them to the river in order to create a fog spell. This would mask their approach. There was some hemming and hawing, but since there was no love lost with the Wolf Pirates, they agreed.
(I have no idea if canonically the Syphon river god accepts human sacrifice, or can create fog spells, this was all just a plot device to create a feeling of moral ambiguity.)
The fog was thick indeed. It proved very useful because there were harpies patrolling the skies over the city. The PC's disembarked close to Backford, and approached from the south. The southern gate to the city was mostly destroyed, and only lightly guarded (two jack-o-bears). The party made short work of them, although Garkar was entranced. As they snuck through the streets of Backford, they caught glimpses of what had happened after the city's destruction. Giant gorps were slowly consuming buildings and walls. Corpses and wreckage littered the streets. Here is a TERRIBLE map I made to show the players where they were going. Each block is meant to be a cluster of buildings.
Their entrance into the city was timed with the Storm Bulls attacking from the ford, so there were only light encounters with broo and scorpionmen, as most of them were drawn to the river-side (they got lucky with my random encounter rolls). While they didn't know exactly where to go in the city to find the scorpion prince, the assumption was that he had occupied the fortress/palace at the northern end, so they worked their way through the back alleys. They found that the gateway into the fortress was heavily guarded, and so they poked around the walls to see if there was another way in. I can't for the life of me remember how (possibly divination?) but they discovered a hidden entrance into the Temple of Orlanth on the other side of the wall. They crawled into the altar room, finding it desecrated with filth and more corpses.
(At this point, we go on to the Boss Fight). Everyone had spent a few rune points for the battle the previous day, but Egajia had been hording magic points to fuel her sleep spells. This proved useful. They entered the fortress, encountering a few scorpion men but putting them down easily enough. They entered the audience chamber, and found an enormous scorpion man, twice the size of his brethren, guarded by about 8 others of his kind. He was overseeing the digging of a tunnel in the back wall.
The party wasted no time. Egajia unleashed the sleep spells on about half the monsters, but spent most of her magic points in the process. HWSAD charged the prince, using Berserker, while Garkar cast a few points of Shield on the Storm Bull. Erindros and Garkar then kept the conscious scorpion men engaged. Like many of the so-called boss fights in my campaign, this one was over pretty quickly due to my players being good tacticians. The scorpion prince was a rune priest with very high stats, but from what I recall he never even got a shot in. HWSAD had an attack skill of about 200% with Berserker on, and kept using aimed blows to the head (which I only learned later are supposed to go off on strike rank 12, whoops). The prince used his allied spirit to heal himself multiple times, but it was all for naught. He went down, and while his followers put up a good fight, they didn't last long either. They cut off the prince's head and stinger (I think they actually healed the head because the berserker had crushed it so many times, they wanted it to look presentable). After that they got the hell out of there. Ondur and the Storm Bulls had actually entered the city at that point, and were meticulously hunting down every monster they could find.
Home Again + Sacred Time 1626
Backford was retaken, although Heortland was far from safe. The threat from Larnste's Print was only temporarily dealt with. But the heroes of our story had played their part (and got a pretty hefty reputation bonus). They returned home with their trophies safely. The Clan Ring and the chieftain were overjoyed to see them return, although many were surprised they were still alive. He Who Spits at the Devil led a ceremony, along with Ynga, to placate Storm Bull with the offering of the scorpion prince (along with cattle and other expensive things). HWSAD received a vision of Storm Bull commending him for his deeds. Not only did he cleanse the Bardori of their sins, but also blessed their warriors for fighting Chaos in the next year.
Even though we had agreed to put the campaign on "indefinite hiatus," we still did the Sacred Time rolls, just for kicks. Here were some highlights-
- Erindros had another child by his wife, this time a girl.
- He Who Spits at the Devil also had a child (a boy), and he gets married (hard to picture, maybe it's to another Storm Bull?)
- Egajia's mentor shaman (and uncle) Mokk gets married to a High Llama woman. Egajia remains joyfully unattached.
- It is decided (independently of rolls) that HWSAD is able to finish his drinking hall on the clan's tula. His next ambition is to become a Bull Priest and dedicate it as a shrine to his god.
- Nothing happens to Garkar.
That's it! I remember this campaign very fondly. It was one of the best I've had the pleasure of running, due in no small part to fun rules from Chaosium, an awesome group of players, and the incredibly deep world of Glorantha. I hope folks have enjoyed reading my recaps, sorry again that I waited so long to do the ending!
Edited by Gallowglass