Monday, 22 March 2010

4ed Campaign -- Session 44 -- Sunday 7th March

In which the true cost of a rendezvous with Pargsmeer's whores is revealed, temptation is laid at the feet of the righteous, and the beneficiary of Pargsmeer's unearthly bargain is finally held to account...

Roster (Party Level 8th)
Berend - Dwarven Fighter
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard
Finial - Half-elf Paladin
Jonas - Human Rogue/Ranger

Various theories are tossed about regarding the visions in the crystals, but ultimately it is decided that the mystery is only likely to resolve itself by uncovering the rest of the house. The spiral stair is found to ascend another level, but emerges in a room infested with vermin, lapping at pools of blood dripping down from the ceiling above, and the company decides that another route may be preferable.

Adjacent to the room with the crystals is an all-but empty apartment, pale light filtering in through several thin windows, with a tight spiral stair in one corner. Pacing around the place is the ethereal image of a human cleric, his face bearing the scars of a ferocious beating, his eyes writ large with sadness; he moves to-and-fro, stopping in a far corner to put his head in his hands and weep.

Finial enquires of the apparition as to the source of his distress, and the ghost turns his forlorn expression upon the paladin.

"They're dead... those children, I should have been there... but I was weak, tempted by sins of the flesh... I should have been there for them, I would gladly have given my life for them. But it was taken from me, and now all those souls are lost..."
-- The ghost of the dead cleric, Pargsmeer House

Elumai recognises the cleric -- it's the very same man from the vision. He reveals he was once an aspirant to one of the churches of the plain, but prior to a life-time of celibacy, succumbed to a moment of weakness here at the Atoll. Rumours of his lapse in judgement raced ahead of him to the dioces and a notoriously unforgiving bishop, and he was summarily refused his robes. A few months later he was attacked by bandits on a distant trade-road, killed for the few coppers in his pocket.

He knows little of the church or deity he once worshipped, that solace having been stripped from him, and much less of his life before the Atoll; he is even ignorant even of his own name. He knows only that he is cursed to wonder this place until the devil that tempted him has been killed, and pleads with the adventurers to help him shake off his purgatory.

The adventurers come to a sudden realisation about the cleric and the images they have seen: Pargsmeer's whores did not, in fact, augur the future for the cleric... they *stole* it, pilfering a potential future from him as if it were payment for the deed. How many fates have been stolen in this way? How many people denied their rightful futures? Finial thinks to smash the globe containing the cleric's vision, and cracks the glass sphere in two, but the effort is useless, and the ghost merely shakes his head in sadness.

Jonas scouts up the stairs and finds himself emerging into a richly-appointed bed-chamber, apparently as pristine as the day it was built (though of course he doesn't believe the evidence of his own eyes). On the nearby four-poster, tossing and turning under a cover of silk sheets, is a pretty young woman, the very image of Eleanour Pargsmeer. She appears deep in the throes of a terrible nightmare, and utters "Father! What did you do? My sister..." as Jonas looks on.

The others join him but are unable to wake her. Thinking that removing her from the enchanted bedroom might be of some help, Finial scoops Eleanour out of the bed, and she reflexively puts her arms about his neck and her head to his chest. He carries her downstairs... but the ghost of the cleric is suddenly stricken with terror as he sees her. "Witch! Demon! Paladin, you know not what you have done!"

Finial turns to Eleanour to see she is awake, smiling alluringly at him. She places one cool palm upon his cheek and turns his mouth to her own. "Don't listen to him, my love. A kiss for your beloved?" Finial is entranced, and their lips meet.

Suddenly awake to the subterfuge, the others attack Eleanour -- or whatever she is -- and try to pry the two of them apart. After a judicious application of Force, Elumai manages to tear her off the paladin, and she lands on all fours, face rippling with devilish features, barely concealed. "Sisters! To my aid!" she screams with an ear-piercing shriek, and the upper floor suddenly erupts with the sound of footsteps pounding over the floorboards.

The succubus has many "sisters", grotesquely deformed ghouls dressed in rags that might once have been silk, but they are easily dispatched by way of a defensive line around the base of the stair, and although Finial remains under her away for the first few seconds of the fight, the devil herself is unceremoniously sent back to whatever hell spawned her when the paladin regains his senses.

Carefully pushing on through the now-empty third floor, the party ascends a final staircase to what was once the bed-chamber of the self-styled Lord and lady of this manor... and is now the lair of the devil to whom they sold their souls. Duke Venerix lounges on the massive bed, his huge frame smothering even the king-sized four-poster which dominates the room. His body is wrapped in a comically close-fitting smoking jacket, and his features are feral beneath jet black, swept-back hair and a pair of long horns which curve back from his forehead.

Reclining on the bed with him, resting their heads on his chest, are two female devils, and although their faces are now angular and monstrous, they were once undoubtedly the fair Pargsmeer daughters, now utterly transformed by the bargain their father made with the Duke. Their tails swish across the silk bed-sheets as they fondle Venerix and smile at the adventurers as they arrive. When he speaks, there is laughter in his voice as it thunders across the room, shaking the dainty statuettes still arranged on the dresser.

"Thusly arrive the bold adventurers, come to cleanse this den of iniquity from the earth! Cast down shall be the evildoers, lest they enjoy a moment of earthly pleasure!"
-- Duke Venerix to the company, Pargsmeer House

Although the devil appears in the mood for parlay with his unexpected guests, the company is having none of it, and spring to the attack. Barely able to stand in the confined space, Venerix rolls off the bed and begins pounding his fists at Berend, as Braid and Eleanour send waves of energy across the room, agony and ecstasy in equal measure which disorient their enemies and make it easy for Venerix to find his mark.

Suddenly the devil wraps his hand around Berend's throat and grins a mouth full of shockingly white teeth at the dwarf. Berend vanishes... and from inside Venerix's chest, the shape of a dwarven hand can be seen pushing feebly at the red flesh, trying to escape imprisonment in whatever hellish prison he has been entombed.

The battle in the attic bedroom is short, loud, and deadly. Berend asserts himself over Venerix's will and escapes to continue the fight, Jonas is able to duck in and out of cover with impunity, and Finial sears the devil's flesh with the light of his God. The Duke's destiny, it seems, is to be defeated at the hands of these explorers, and both he and his concubines are soon banished from the mortal realm.

1 comment:

Wedge said...

The second half of our haunted house (well, kind of haunted... more infested really) saw the successful application of a succubus to the party. I now add that to my check-list, along with the gelatinous cube they fell for last year.

To be fair, I think Finial's player knew what was going on but roleplayed his way through it like a good sport. It was fun... his notion of Finial as an agent of justice, rather than the more traditional pious warrior of earlier editions, reflects the changes to the class brought about by 4E, and he had no problem planting a big sloppy kiss on that devilish whore.

Like I've said before, DM'ing is all about the moments... which is good, because I missed a few opportunities to make the session really cool.

When the succubus' subterfuge was discovered, for example, and she called her ghoulish minions to her aid, that should have been a real zombie horde, coming at the players from all directions, the very walls of the manor rattling in anticipation of the flood. I stuck to the encounter though and the minion attack fell flat (admittedly due to solid strategy from the players).

The final encounter was a bit of a let-down as well, partly because we were running out of time, which is a sure-fire way to make me forget powers. Sure enough, this is what I did. The bad guys were a bit under-tuned as well, which never helps.

Still, Pargsmeer House was never meant to be more than a short interlude, and that is what it was.