The Adventures of Annalax: Volume XV
The session started off so well.
Annalax – suitably chastised – spent a pleasant morning with his new girlfriend (he would say paramour, of course, but for our purposes, girlfriend is easier*). He told her about Waking World Drow, and their worship of Her Ladyship. And he started to teach her the Drow Language – of which Dreamland Drow are ignorant. So, yes. He was trying to turn her into something like her Waking World self, just less homicidal.
*To clarify: this relationship wasn’t simply about the
kinky sex chastisement, though that was obviously part of it. It was about power. Annalax knew that sleeping with the trusted assistant of an incredibly powerful wizard opens up opportunities. He is a Drow, remember. He’s a manipulative bastard, even in bed.
Annalax spent the rest of the day off-loading certain accumulated items. Alan the Wizard’s filched silverware, carpet, and telescope, together with the merchant’s pepper, nutmeg, and silks went for 1,800 gold. Which Annalax split evenly with the party. He does that, to encourage buy-in with his schemes. After discovering that the city’s Quartermaster was not interested in his stockpile of muskets, he shrugged, and headed out to purchase some real-estate.
Not just any property. A house next to a graveyard. Ostensibly because Annalax wanted some gloomy inspiration for artistic endeavours. He decided he liked watercolours, for some reason.
This was actually a plan to kill multiple birds with one gravestone. So to speak. This allowed a safe and secret way for the (tunnelling) Ghoul to access a food supply, while also allowing the establishment of another shrine to Her Ladyship.
Alas, the Property Commission made it clear that this property was not to be used for unauthorised religious purposes. Annalax shrugged. He’s from the Waking World, after all, and knows how to be surreptitious with his faith. For now, it was only 250 gold, and a great treat for the Ghoul.
The Ghoul did not need to be told twice. He had a very tasty snack on an ancient Arcadian war-hero, and emerged with not just an understanding of military matters, but also a valuable sabre and medallions. Annalax’s eyes lit up on seeing this, and headed down to the local tavern to get the inside word on wealthy collectors in the area.
Sure enough, Annalax located an elderly and wealthy gentleman with a taste for such memorabilia. A deal was reached, and Annalax cracked open a bottle of his own “fancy-ish wine” to celebrate. There was much to celebrate. A cool hundred platinum (split 50-50 with the disguised Ghoul) easily made-up for the property investment. Then Annalax decided to push his luck. He was still carting around two Tiefling horns from his time in Leng.
Annalax – discreetly – marketed them to the gentleman as rare aphrodisiacs.
The gentleman’s response? A perfectly understandable “why don’t you just take the horns of dead Tieflings?” Annalax fobbed him off with bullshit about regulations – he didn’t have the presence of mind to say that the Tiefling horns needed to be taken from living Tieflings, not dead ones. Bugger. But with sufficiently good Deception rolls (hooray for Expertise…) he somehow pulled it off anyway. A further fifty platinum (again, shared with the Ghoul) in the coffers. Our poor Dungeon Master is starting to think money is meaningless.
But then there was another question… how are the horns supposed to be used? Annalax suggested an ancient and secretive method of powdering, which requires accessing an ancient manuscript. Excusing himself, he told the gentleman that he would be back the next day with the manuscript. The Ghoul knew a couple of ancient dead languages, so a bit of forgery and gobbledygook created a passable copy that very night… Annalax just had to go back the next day, to make even more money…
But it wasn’t to be. We’ll get to that shortly.
The rest of the party? The Ghoul has been covered. Ember and Elknel were off befriending nocturne orphans. They care about orphans, apparently – Annalax does not see the point. The Dreamland Cat Sorcerer was having a nap. And Tarsin, our mad Druid? He was outside the city, gleefully turning sections of the forest into swamp.
Poor Tarsin. He was just doing what he does. But completely isolated? He was a sitting duck for the Fae, who attacked him unawares, and knocked him unconscious.
Tarsin woke up to discover himself a Fae captive. Some Charm Person and insincere Fae promises later, and Tarsin agreed to be a Fae agent inside Arcadia. Not that anyone else (in-game) knew about this, of course.
That night? There was a War Council. All the important people in Arcadia were at dinner, discussing what to do about those pesky Fae. Godriel was there, Annalax’s girlfriend was there, the elderly collector of memorabilia was there… you get the picture. Our party was not sufficiently important, so Annalax and friends had dinner in a different part of the castle. Thank goodness.
With help from Tarsin, a group of Fae snuck into Arcadia. A combination of poison and judicious application of Cone of Cold later? The Fae literally wiped out the entire collection of Arcadian grandees, Red Wedding-style. Including Godriel and Annalax’s girlfriend. Oh well. Our Drow will have to find other avenues for power and
kinky sex chastisement.
On learning of the assassination, Ember tried to take command of the disastrous situation. Realising the Fae armies were on their way, he tried to get all the city civilians inside the Inner Walls for safety. Annalax? He basically found himself with a ringside seat to the sort of shenanigans he associates with Drow Great Houses. Hell, the very idea of taking out an entire political leadership with poison made him positively homesick.
(It also ties in with Annalax’s religious fanaticism. Arcadia prevented him building a shrine to Her Ladyship… and look what happened! The city leadership was taken out via the most Drow move imaginable).
But Annalax knows what happens when one Great House takes out another. It’s an opportunity for free-for-all, so long as you stay out the way. After coldly grabbing some items from his dead girlfriend’s corpse, he headed to Godriel’s House with the Ghoul.
Arcadia was in uproar, of course. A bit of minor sacking was perfectly understandable, and Annalax wasn’t being entirely greedy. He had an idea.
Recall the primary in-game reason Annalax doesn’t simply use his Silver Keys to flee the Dreamland. If he did that, the demons inside Ember might well destroy the world. So Annalax needs the Ember problem dealt with first. And Godriel was the only person capable of dealing with the Ember demons.
So Annalax’s plan was this. Stuff Godriel’s corpse into a Bag of Holding, and hunt around for a list of her wizarding contacts, to see who might be capable of reanimating her. Sure, she was as mad as a bag of ferrets when alive, and one can only speculate on what she would be like as an undead, but it was a gamble Annalax was willing to make. Someone needed to deal with Ember, even if they’re both unhinged and undead.
So Annalax and the Ghoul raided Godriel’s House for her list of contacts. Annalax pocketed her jewellery box and some magic books along the way, but he couldn’t find the needed list. Luckily the Ghoul – weirdly distracted by Godriel’s closet – did find it. Annalax grabbed the contact book, and headed back to Ember, while the Ghoul – under Annalax’s terrible influence – raided the memorabilia collector’s house for rare sabres and medals.
No, the party aren’t murderhobos. They’re just looterhobos instead.
Enter session 32. The Big Guns.
Having gathered together the next-in-line people for the War Council of Arcadia, there was some dispute about whether evacuation were even possible. After all, these are Fae were are dealing with… they can pop up anywhere in the surrounding forest, and wipe everyone out. One of the subservient demons can open a short-lived escape portal to a safe location, but who is to escape through that? The party doesn’t need it, of course – we can do a runner via Tarsin’s Parliament of Giant Owls. Annalax rationally suggested that we auction off portal places… after all, the people who would pay the most would be those who value escape the most. But no, courtesy of Ember and Elknel, we sent the city orphans to safety. For free.
There was also some amusing back-and-forth over defence responsibility:
- WAR-COUNCIL PERSON: “I don’t know about this stuff. Why am I even here?”
- TARSIN: “Because the Fae killed all the important people.” [Note the backhanded insult]
- TARSIN to ANNALAX: “Why are we listening to them?”
- ANNALAX: “Because they’re important.”
- TARSIN: “How do they get to be important?”
- ANNALAX: “Because they are.”
Tarsin now knows about politics, I suppose.
Someone on the Council with some knowledge of procedure then remembered something. There was one last genuinely important person left in the city. An eccentric figure named Manfrey, who wasn’t at the dinner because he never socialises. Manfrey is an Artificer who specialises in ballistics. Cannon. Guns. Explosions. You get the picture.
So we grabbed Manfrey, and put the ballistics-loving weirdo in charge of the city of Arcadia. What could possibly go wrong?
Speaking of which, there was another idea (well, actually two. Annalax suggested assassinating the Fae Queen and her top advisers, only to be told that no-one had the ability to do that). But recall the powerful demons lurking in Ember’s head? The ones that might destroy the world? What if we let them out, just for a little bit. Fae versus Demons, with us hoping that the Demons do as we think they’ll do? Tarsin actually did a deal with the chief Demon along those lines, with the price being that he needs to visit a certain temple at some point.
Ember thinks Tarsin’s insane, of course. Though to be fair, Tarsin is.
A city defence consisting of ourselves and some badly outnumbered lower-level soldiers, plus cannon, plus demons. Versus a monstrous army of genocidal Fae. Oh, and our temporary commander has never met an explosion he didn’t like.
With the demons off doing their thing on the front lines, those of us with decent Perception noticed a band of Fae trying to sneak around and enter the city from the flanks. The party decided to deal with them.
Courtesy of an
earth explosion collapsing tunnel, Tarsin was able to bury the intruders. Five survived, and dug their way out: two large variant trolls, and three smaller ones. Cue battle.
The Ghoul was knocked unconscious in the course of proceedings, while one of the trolls got a critical hit on Tarsin. These critters had a magical hair weapon which allowed for a fair amount of damage. Annalax tried an illusory cannon on his first turn, as a distraction (he hadn’t hidden yet, so couldn’t get sneak attack). Alas, the cannon did not seem to do much, so Annalax thereafter resorted to standard hide-and-shoot. Which was very, very effective.
In fact, Annalax took out two of them, including the troll that had just knocked our Ghoul unconscious. I imagine this hilarious image of the little guy celebrating his victory… only to collapse with a crossbow bolt in the neck.
Tarsin was also using his very own personal collection of zombies. One of whom was Annalax’s dead girlfriend. Not that Annalax cares, of course. He is a Drow. That relationship was based on pleasure, pain, and power. Right now personal survival takes precedence, and if zombies achieve that, so be it.
Afterwards, this did lead to an interesting theological shouting match between Annalax and Tarsin. The former – pointing out his effectiveness with the crossbow – put the victory down to the Favour of Lolth. Tarsin, pointing out the earth explosion, put the victory down to his deity, Shub-Niggurath. The revived Ghoul just wanted to eat the troll corpses, while Elknel was trying to lecture him on the importance of Healing Potions. Why yes, our Ghoul did not have any, fool that he is.
The session ended with a battle against another troll incursion. One enormous super-troll and a band of ordinary-sized ones had managed to breach the walls. Annalax put his daily Faerie Fire to use against the Big Guy, while Elknel got a critical hit against him. Even so, the Big Troll still had copious health left, and summoned a tree-monster to help. The Ghoul rolled a natural one, and was paralysed with fear.
Damn it, where is Saruman when you need him?
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