Chains of Khoros

Journey to the Sunken City
In which pursuit of the Iron Duke's Scepter leads to a strange, forgotten place...

Knowing a long journey lay before them, the heroes returned to Tangkou to acquire moas and provisions. Setting out north along the slope of the crater, they journeyed well beyond the known lands of Hope’s End. After a week of travel, the party descended into lower lands which local legend portrayed as deadly to all mortal men. There were increased signs of animal life, but nothing threatened them.

Finally, they arrived at the Fist — apparently, a worked stone hand, part of some much more massive statue, now buried beneath the earth. It indeed “wept,” as the Learned Master had described, as some unknown water source dripped down from it, and beyond lay a monstrous cavern, also just as described. Thus began a long trek into the darkness, lit occasionally by torchlight or the gift of darkvision through Mazil’s magic.

The road was an eerie one – apparently all of ancient worked stone, buckled by unknown forces, yet a full twenty feet wide and thirty-five feet tall at some points. Even the Fengzhi rogue stood in awe of this mysterious craftsmanship. On the third “day” — for indeed, the heroes had lost all real sense of the accurate passage of time — blissful daylight was seen as some fissure in the roof above offered egress to the surface above. Ili flew up to reconnoiter and found a lush valley. Recalling that the Learned Master had warned them of something called the Empty Valley, and seeking the advice of the gods, the group decided to press on, leaving the beautiful daylight behind.

After several more “days,” the road descended into water which seemed to be lit from above, somewhere slightly ahead. Olca entered the cold waters and scouted ahead – he surfaced in a massive cavern, lit periodically by a mysterious, glowing lichen. Seeing a beach ahead, he returned to his companions and reported what he saw, his companions soon following him into the dark waters.

Soon after surfacing, the heroes attracted the unwanted attentions of a hungry sea scorpion. It managed to get two claws on Olca, but soon succumbed to acid summoned by Mazil’s magic. Wading ashore, the group was confronted by a mysterious subterranean city — worked “stone,” orange and slightly translucent, streets and alleyways worked much in the same way as the road here, and “forests” of massive fungi.

Some of the buildings were ruined, others remarkably intact, leaving the explorers confused as to whether the city was built beneath the earth or perhaps was sent here by the same wrath of the gods that created the crater to the south. Other than a few more permanent fixtures or random scraps of wood or metal, they found remarkably little, and certainly no bodies or artifacts, although Darnos did suspect someone or something had moved through the area. Still, exploring a few buildings, they were left baffled as to their nature and purpose.

A lone tower on an outcropping caught their attention, and as the heroes made their way across the plaza before it, they felt they were being watched, and then heard something clatter behind them. An empty cage was discovered where none had been before, and they warily turned again to the tower. Shortly thereafter, they were beset by a swarm of some sort of rat-like creatures, which were very agile and frustratingly hard to hit. The creatures nipped them repeatedly, but fortunately, the heroes’ armor proved more than enough to protect them from any harm from the creatures’ bites…or did it?

The Learned Master
In which the heroes liberate an important ally...

The battle was a short one. Mazil’s magic quickly felled a number of their “hosts,” and the rest succumbed quickly to Darnos, Olca and XXX.

A quick survey of the house failed to reveal anyone that might be the Learned Master, either upstairs or downstairs. Below the house, there was a mysterious sound of rushing water and caves leading off in the distance, occupied by some sort of giant beetles. Darnos discovered a secret passage in the basement, with stairs leading down. The group girded itself for a fight and descended the stairs. Two hapless guards at the bottom put up a brief fight before being dispatched.

A hall led to an underground “river” rushing through a 10-foot-wide passage. Using a rope mounted to the walls, they eased across, and then followed the rope down the passage to another aperture. Ili was sent inside to do reconnaissance, and a massive, temple-like room was revealed to Mazil. Knowing of three opponents inside, but numerous doors leading off from the large chamber, the group opted for the element of surprise, and sought to strike quickly.

One man on a raised platform clearly demonstrated magical prowess, and as the group moved to attack, another man in chains was revealed behind the platform. As more Society men poured in to join the fray, the key to the fight became a showdown between the two men near the platform: the Society leader revealed himself to be an oni demon, but the chained man was freed and was, in fact, a tengu weapon master. An epic battle ensued, but at the end, the Society leader assumed a gaseous form and fled, unable to withstand the might of the Learned Master.

Thanking the heroes for his release, the Learned Master answered their many questions. When asked about the Iron Duke’s scepter, he went into a trance of some sort, saying, “North, to the Weeping Fist. Seek the cave, lest you have to cross the Empty Valley, where death would take you before you knew it. Go down to go up, where you will find the Iron Duke.” The heroes were left to ponder these words, knowing another leg of their journey lay before them.

Embassies & Errands
In which the characters attempt to forge a fragile alliance...

Three weeks after the beginning of the “revolt,” as the Khorosians are calling it, the heroes found themselves once more summoned to Mayor Cho, in order to counsel him as how best to proceed. The Xoltec had occupied the town of San-zu-tep, sending all non-Xoltecs packing, and with the lack of an Imperial presence in either of the eastern towns, it was clear that Governor Euseos had, for the time being, ceded control of the east. Still, throughout the rest of the colony, martial law had been declared, and every town’s Fengzhi leader had been sent a special “advisor” from Oraxabad.

The night before the meeting, the shaman Mazil had a strange dream. Waking to smoke and fire, she rushed outside to see Khorosian Legionnaires gleefully striking down unarmed civilians, while she herself was watched by a strange figure in a deep hood. When she tried to bring down her magics to fell the troops, she realized with horror that her gods had abandoned her, and when she heard her former master’s voice behind her, she turned to see the hooded figure right behind her, this time bowing and presenting a heavy scepter. In a croaking voice, he said, “The people need a symbol,” and dropped the heavy scepter at her feet.

Inside the council meeting, the heroes met Shikai, Cho’s right-hand man, Shedphis, the leader of the miners, Pu the Merchant, representing the merchants, and Nathys Lao-Ashemi, Shedphis’ second and a doughty blacksmith warrior. Shedphis and Pu expressed grave concerns about resisting the Khorosians. Seeking the character’s counsel, Cho perhaps got more than he bargained for when the ever-honest Mazil told him that his people acted like sheep and her people would never deign to assist sheep in any rebellion, suggesting the Fengzhi must prove themselves worthy of Xoltec assistance. Cho bid them journey south to San-zu-tep to treat with the Xoltec, He promised Darnos a masterwork weapon – to demonstrate to the Xoltec their superior smithing skills – and gave Mazil a handsomely-crafted figurine of a smilodon, carved out of orax, a gift for the Xoltecs.

The group journeyed south, and was challenged by Xoltec guards at the gate of the newly-renamed Quenotzin. Their officer, a smilodon knight named Ollec Nochasson, asked their business and saw them to a place of rest. That evening, the heroes presented themselves to the King-in-the-West, Teochan Metumchecsson.

The King was seated with Queen Atotoztli and Princess Itzel. The sneering Prince Nuatloc answered every utterance by the characters with contempt, but King Teochan reluctantly acknowledged suggestions that the Xoltec could not stand alone, and said he would announce his decision after the ball game, to be played in the morning.

Mazil and Olca recognized an opportunity to gain face and instructed their new friends on the rules of the beloved game. On the morrow, Mazil, Olca, Darnos and Nathys entered the newly-created ball court of Quenotzin and prepared to win glory for their cause.

The game was a rout, the heroes winning 5-1, and Olca’s mighty final blow struck an opponent full in the face and killed him. The crowd showered the heroes – particularly Olca – with flowers, and King Teochan was well pleased. He demanded only weapons, wood, and suzerainty over his town in return for an alliance with the Fengzhi.

In Tangkou, Cho took all the news in stride, and suggested he could supply King Teochan with all his needs…save one. He expressed doubts that the people would rise, as Teochan demanded. His council demurred, and then Cho remembered a legend among his people which might rouse his people: the Iron Duke Wugong had been among the first of the Fengzhi to be brought to Hope’s End, but when his people submitted to the Khorosians, in disgust he left for the lands to the north, never to be heard from again. Still, he suggested that his scepter would be returned when his people were ready to throw off their yoke. Could this scepter serve as a rallying point for their beleaguered people? No one knew, but Shikai suggested the Learned Master might.

Nepthys recognized at once the name – the Learned Master was something of a bogeyman to the people of Tangkou. Depending on whom one asked, the Learned Master was either a 15-foot, blue-skinned giant, a shriveled old man, a savior who would rescue the people of Tangkou in their darkest hour, or a demon who stole dead children away in the night.

Deciding that the Xoltec must see men of strength among the Fengzhi, and fearful of the petulant Prince Nuatloc, the heroes sent Ma Bai Tian north with the Prince and four knights, to show him the might of the Monastery of the Seven Harmonious Winds. Meanwhile, the rest of the heroes journeyed north into the highlands to seek the residence of the Learned Master.

Only three days later they came upon a remarkable sight – a great mansion, a small castle, in truth – clinging to the mountainside. Upon their approach, they were greeted by servants, and brought to a table, to which a hooded figure was brought.

The hooded man suggested that resistance to the Empire was futile, and as the conversation progressed, the more suspicious the heroes became of this hooded figure and his host of servants. As more servants poured in, Davnos attempted to distract their host, and Mazil called upon her strange gods to lay them low…

Den of the Cave Bear
In which the heroes confront a fearsome beast...

Mayor Cho tasked the heroes with disposing of the Legionnaire dead so as not to draw the wrath of the Empire down upon his town. The characters took the equipment, bodies and moa mounts back towards the north, in order to make it look like the soldiers had never reached Tangkou. As luck would have it, the group stumbled onto a campsite that appeared to have been used by the Legionnaires; although rigor mortis had set in, they set about arranging the bodies to mimic a bandit attack, hiding the valuables and chasing off the moas. A campfire in the distance drew their attention, and approaching, two Khorosian guards were seen. Mazil’s stumble brought one of the guards out to investigate, but a mighty blow from the berserker Olca felled him in an instant. The battle that followed was short – the remaining guard and those awakened were quickly dispatched.

Moving into a cave at the site, the characters entered a large cavern full of bones, and recently dead Xoltecs. A strange Khorosian man sang to a massive bear, seemingly asleep, chained to the cavern wall. When Ma Bai Tian challenged him, he did not even try to mask his contempt, ordering the heroes to leave at once. When they did not, he loosed the bear and battle was joined. Bai felled the arcanist with a single strike from his kusari-gama, but the cave bear proved to be a formidable opponent. Mazil brought forth fire to scorch it, Ili distracted the beast, and though it almost felled him, Olca withstood its mighty blows. In the end, the bear lay dead, infused with orax crystals in some strange manner, which glowed even as it expired.

The arcanist’s notes indicated he was performing some experiments involving the crystals, which seemed to strengthen the bear, but little is known at this point about his goals.

(GM: Guillaume)

Rescuing the Mayor
In which the heroes liberate Mayor Cho...

Fighting through the depths of the mines near Tangkou, the characters slew a squad of Khorosian Legionnaires and their NCOs. They rescued Cho, the mayor of the town.

(GM: Patrick)

First Session
In which the rebellion is started...

Guillaume, Stacey and Valerie made up characters and then we ran a short fight to start getting used to the system.

Guillaume is playing Darnos, a former Khorosian officer and Hunter.

Stacey is playing the Berserker Olca, a Xoltec most notable for his 20 Strength and a two-handed heavy flail.

Val is playing a Spiritualist named Mazil, also a [Xoltec Culture | Xoltec]].

All three characters were on the scene when a riot broke out. The newly-reinforced Khorosian guards manhandled an old man, and the villagers nearby got ugly. Insults gave way to rock throwing, and before long the guards responded with deadly force. Seeing civilians being cut down, the three PCs engaged the guards, killing six of them. We learned that Stacey’s character can really dish out the damage…

(GM: Patrick)


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