A Sundered World: Episode 101

  • Agron (level 1 scion psion)
  • Devi (level 1 deva fighter)
  • Katra "Crazy Gin" (level 1 kobold pirate)
  • Sirus "Ironhide" (level 1 tarchon battlemind)
  • Waive (level 1 scion nomad)

The trip from the sword vault to Metacarpolis took a few days (not that there are days in A Sundered World, or even a way to consistently track time), which gave everyone enough time to recover.

Metacarpolis was built upon the hand of some forgotten dead god, and inhabited by a combination of cthon and devils. The cthon maintained an enormous, walled garden that covered most of the palm, while the devils claimed the fingers and thumb.

They pulled in along one of the finger-districts, and as they looked for an empty dock Katra spotted a black ship adorned with numerous skeletons. Though the color and decoration were fairly commonplace for cambion vessels, there was no mistaking the arrangement of the skeletons: it was the ship that had attacked and claimed her previous crew.

This caused Katra no small measure of distress, even though she honestly didn't expect them to try anything. See, devils are inherently evil and have a complex legal structure. This meant that if the cambions even recognized her ship and succeeded in taking out her new crew, they'd probably end up violating a myriad of laws, which would likely result in any survivors being imprisoned, enslaved, and/or executed.

Maybe even in that order.

Still, Katra wanted to get out as soon as possible, so they docked just long enough to resupply their food stores from a cthon crawling orchard before leaving. Unfortunately it seemed that the cambions were waiting for them to do just that, as not long after they departed Katra realized that the ship was following them.

Devi hit it with a ballista bolt, while Agron used his telekinesis to unravel their rigging. The impact, combined with their sails whipping about, caused it to veer off course. At their speed they would be able to easily out distance them, but Agron's sword, Geist Zerstörer, knew that souls were required to power an anima reactor; since drinking souls was basically its thing, it wanted to go back.

Sirus also wanted to turn around, if only because he didn't like fleeing from a fight, but they were out-voted three to two, one of which included the captain. So, Agron tried another approach: he told Katra that when the cambions had originally raided Katra's ship, they had likely created some kind of magical beacon so that they could easily find the ship again. Truth be told he had no way to detect such a thing, but told Katra that he could feel something somewhere in the ship's cargo hold.

And, when Katra and Waive went below deck to investigate, Agron took the wheel and turned the ship about. By the time Katra recovered from the abrupt turn and made it back to the deck, they could already see the cambion ship rocketing towards them, anima reactor shrieking. It veered up, twisting about and coming to a stop upside down "above" Katra's vessel.

They looked up to see a group of scions flying towards them. Their flesh was covered in profane scars. they were wild-eyed, frothed at the mouth, and they wielded only serrated blades. A smaller squad of cambions followed them. They were clad in black hides and wielded cutlasses made of a dark metal.

Sirus flew towards them, but the cambions lobbed a volley of black flame. The fire didn't harm him, but still caused him to hesitate long enough for the scions to swarm and haul him back towards the deck of Katra's ship.

Agron saw a winged cambion perched on the mast of their ship. Though he couldn't clearly hear his thoughts, he knew he was trying to complete a complex spell. Figuring that Sirus could handle a mob of mostly naked berserkers, he manipulated a coil of rope to bind the chanting cambion's arms. He then called out a warning to Devi, who zipped past the cambion squad and closed the distance just as the chanter burned the ropes away.

Devi sliced off one of his arms, but he scream-vomited a torrent of boiling blood at her. She shielded her face, and as he turned to flee Agron appeared and impaled him with Geist. The chanter's flesh paled and withered as the blade drank up his soul, wreathing Agron in a dark, oily mist.

Two of the cambions pursued Devi and Agron, while the other two engaged Waive. With a twist of space Waive appeared behind one and drove both of his swords into him. The other turned and slashed at him with his cutlass. Waive tried to parry, but his swords were lodged in the other cambion's corpse and he was forced to kick away in order to avoid getting himself skewered.

Katra rushed to Sirus's aid, hacking apart a pair of the branded scions. Sirus stood up, clutching the last two by their throats. With a loud roar, he transformed both of his arms into blades, severing their heads and lobbing them at the cambion that was attacking Waive. They struck hard, giving Waive enough time to fold one of his swords into his hand. He drove it into the cambion's chest, and to his surprise it exploded, engulfing him in black fire.

Alive, but just barely, he retreated to Katra's ship.

Agron tried to convince the last two cambions to surrender, but Giest wouldn't stand for that. It continued forcing him to attack, and once they were both butchered pulled him to their ship in search of the soul tank. Devi stopped him, telling him that she would not allow his sword to devour any more souls. In his mind, Agron could feel Geist commanding him to end her, but he managed to resist. Indignant, the runes on Geist darkened, and it became so heavy that it was all Agron could do to drag it around.

Katra didn't want to get any closer to the cambion vessel than she already was, so everyone else descended into its bowels to search it. They found more of the branded scions inside, though unlike the others these cowered and fled. Sirus honestly expected this, but when Waive received a similar treatment they suspected that like the berserkers they had also been "conditioned": they wouldn't, or possibly couldn't communicate.

Since the slaves weren't posing any threat, they continued to scour the ship, but only turned up some iron coins and supplies. At the rear they found the anima reactor. It was made of iron and gold, adorned with spikes and barbs, and scratched with symbols similar to what they had seen on the slaves and warriors. It wasn't moving, glowing, or thankfully shrieking, so they suspected that it had been turned off.

There was a large glass tank attached to it, filled with a roiling green mist in which they could occasionally see a distorted, wailing visage: the soul tank. Devi told Sirus to smash it, which would free the souls and allow them to move on to wherever it was that souls went. Agron didn't argue, and in fact seemed resigned to this course of action, so Sirus struck it.

A torrent of wailing souls washed over them. At their touch, Agron, Devi, and Sirus could feel the souls leeching their life force even as they fled and vanished, but those that drew too close to Giest were pulled into the blade. Its runes on began to glow a bright green, and it whispered into Agron's mind, "All according to plan."

Behind the Scenes
We took the random island generation tables for a spin, ending up with the following:
  • Dead god
  • Huge (large enough to sustain a couple city-sized steadings)
  • Plenty of food & transit (an angel gate)
  • Inhabited by elementals (mostly water-essence cthon) and devils

Melissa declared that it was just a dead god's hand, so I had the palm be a kind of massive garden that the cthon tend to, with the fingers carrying districts mostly inhabited by devils and their ilk. I didn't draw the other side, but it was similarly covered in buildings, including a devil fortress.

Why do the devils and cthon work together, or at least coexist? Who knows: they didn't stay long, so I didn't have time to flesh it out, but it'll be on the map in case they ever want to head back. The main thing I created were the crawling orchards, which I envision as mobile, long, rectangular constructs that bear numerous fruit-bearing trees on their backs.

We also got to use the ship-looting tables. They're similar to the monster treasure table, except that you get what you roll, plus everything above it. So, if you roll a 6, you also get the 1-5 results. This way you don't end up looting a ship, only to get a bag of coins or some food.

Agron's sword is using a mechanic that makes me think of a combination of 2nd and 4th Edition D&D artifacts. The sword has an agenda, and if Agron wants to resist it, he has to roll+WIS-the sword's EGO. On a 10+, he can act normally, on a 7-9, he can act normally but is at -1 ongoing for a while, and on a miss the sword gains control. He can also ask the sword what it wants, and if he does it he can gain XP.

Over time if he continues doing what the sword wants, it'll gain new powers, or allow him to choose from sword-exclusive moves, effectively making it a kind of artifact compendium class.

I'd like to refine these rules, and maybe use them in the next 10+ Treasures collection (which will probably be Grave Goods or Incidentals From Beyond).

Chris also wants to add a kind of jedi mind trick move to the psion. We'll see what he cooks up, and then add it to the book when its done.

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