Sunday, April 7, 2013

Down the Devil's Railroad - HMS APOLLYON Play Report

The hardened band of scavengers led by Quartle the frogling water elementalist and Semm, anointed priest of Lyriss had successfully cleansed a demon haunted mansion in uptown, seeing sunlight for the first time in months, and returned to a hefty reward.  Still greater rewards beckoned and when news got out that the factors had an offer for 30,000 GP to anyone brave enough to undertake an expedition deep into the hull, Semm and Quartle began to gather themselves a skilled group of delvers in the hopes of claiming the reward.



Annar the Northman was easy to find, still holding court in one of the less filthy dram shops around the soup market and showing off his demon shattered shield to any who hadn't yet heard the story.  Elsjinn the diminuative monk as also in town and her ferocity, despite her outwardly conciliatory nature, was a welcome addition to the group.  Two brawny looking layabouts, salt still staining their clothing, were also brought in.  Gustav the Belligerent, a well equipped warrior from strange lands and Mister Mister, who claimed to be an "Earthman", but had also seen his share of strife.

Seeking out Mecham, a grizzled scavenger who was acting as an agent for several wealthy Factors and the marines, the party learned that a survivor of an ill fated expedition into the hull had stumbled, whip scarred, famished and insane into the Sigil Maze.  Upon his rescue the man was identified as one of the scavengers who left the Sigil gate several months previously with Rangvar the Crowbar's well equipped expedition.  In his ravings the dying man spoke of a golden wall, spotted beasts and wild men.  I the lucid moments before his death he explained that the expedition had been captured by cruel wildmen in an old entertainment district far to the Starboard.  Furthermore he made the daring claim that Rangvar had discovered a safe and secret passage into the ancient sealed armory/brig on the stern of decks 12,11 and 10.  The prizes in the long sealed fortress would be beyond price: ancient armors, beam weapons and artillery pieces were all whispered of. The Factors and the Marines offer 30,000GP for the return of the map, ideally with any of Rangvar's survivors to explain it.

Heading off into the hull, a marine scout takes the party through the dusty silence of the sigil maze and tells them to ring a convenient gong hanging from he wall when they return for an escort back through the traps and death magic.

The adventurers quickly enter the ancient rail station claimed by Malchris the Devil.  A suprisingly affable baron of Hell who the party has had past dealings with, having most recently made safe ancestral mansion of the Devil's human kin for squatters (and looted it).  Semm deals fairly with the diabolical nobleman, who's grandson, the last living member of the Haldicar family has grown a surprising amount in the months since he was reunited with the unnatural side of his family. Semm explains the situation with the Haldicar mansion, and the devil is non-plussed, though his young ward seems perturbed.  Family items are returned, but Elsjinn refuses to give up a certain heirloom sword cane, and may be marked down for later attentions.

On this unpleasant note the Devil refuses to allow the party to use his railroad for travel to the entertainment district he knows of the the Starboard.  It's unclear what will happen, until Annar takes up Malchris's standing offer to exchange a his soul for power and friendship.  Annar signs an elaborate contract, and the viking is no longer destined for Valhalla - but for some place much warmer.  Malchris agrees to lend the party two of his spider centaur soliders as guides, his goodwill and a pump cart to take the party to thier destination.  He glowers at Elsjinn and reminds her that he has asked politely for the return of a heirloom, even after she ahs broken into his home and stolen it.  Annar is gifted a vial of strange liquid, which he drinks, growing an inch taller, gaining muscle mass and developing an oddly metallic purple twinge to his flesh.  Malchris promises greater boons in exchange for doing the work of the Haldicar family or delivering souls.

Travelling on the hand cart through low steel tunnels along the surprisingly well maintained rails, switching down spur-lines and rattling past diverging tunnels seemingly at random under the direction of the two spider centaurs.   As the cart is pumped down a long straightaway suddenly the sound of screaming begins to fill the tunnel and from the distance a glowing light, a hurtling inferno of flames, pounds out of the blackness towards the party's vehicle. Thinking quickly, Semm halts the cart and the entire group leaps to the side, pressing against the rust flaked tunnel walls as a ghost train, seemingly afire and filled with screaming phantom passengers thunders by disappearing into the darkness and leaving behind only small ectoplasmic deposits on the handcar.

Moving on the group again encounters something strange, having apparently gotten the drop on another group who are chatting loudly down a side passage.  Stopping the cart, Elsjinn hops off  to ambush whomever is speaking.  As she stealthily creeps down a side passage, to find an abandoned pipe room,  the pack of cray dogs, waiting amongst the ceiling girders and pipes leaps down, charging the cart full of adventurer.  Elsjinn quickly discovers that the voices were the mimicry of another group of dogs, as five more of the part crustacean part canine scavengers charge her from the pipe room.  Retreating to the cart Elsjinn is able to find off the dog's attacks, while the guns of the party tear apart several dogs before they engage in melee.  One of the spider centaurs is torn apart and several adventurers injured before Gustav seizes the pump handle and sends the cart hurtling through the ambush with a mighty heave. 

The remaining spider centaur seems unperturbed by his companion's death and wraps him quickly in a silky cocoon.  The part stops to grill craydog claws in a dead end side tunnel before arriving early the next morning at a blasted train depot, beyond which Malchris promised the entertainment district began.

The depot is still, it's air filled with dust and tiny rust flakes stirred by the handcarts creaking arrival.  A dim grey light leaks through the Southern wall of the station area, made of jagged soot stained glass and partially crushed by a burnt and destroyed train engine, derailed and smashed against the supporting beams of the station.  Through a door marked maintenance the party discovers a partially looted train maintenance shed, with a few larger tools untouched amongst piles of rusting rail stock and a looming construction exoskeleton that seems in decent repair.  The depot is explored fully, and a real prize discovered - a small oil burning engine, wrapped up for storage and sitting next to two large tanks of fuel atop the roundhouse turntable. 

After spending several hours repairing and refueling the train and exoskeleton and loading as many tools as possible onto the engine the party ventures out through the shattered front of the station, leaving the spider centaur to keep the train ready to depart at a moment's notice.

The grey light glimpsed before proves to be natural, as in the distance great windows, some obviously smashed gazed out over the endless sea. Between the depot and the windows were a number of buildings, some obviously tumbled into ruins.  Immediately before the depot stood a monumental statute of a clown, standing 100' tall, with it's arms raised as if supporting the ceiling. The enormous clown was made of shaped copper plating over a frame of thick metal beams and had once been painted bright colors, but was now corroded to a verdigris green.  The legs, a skeleton, as the plates covering them had been scavenged long ago  sheltered a small shop, perhaps once a cafe, between them, and Elsjinn heard sounds coming from the shop and saw the flicking light of a fire from within.

Appraoching stealthily the gnome managed to reach a window of the shop and peered in, witnessing two naked, hairy men, bodies covered in tattoos and scars crouched over a small fire and a craydog puppy. Engrossed in torturing the puppy the two wildmen fail to notice their murderous visitor until its too late and neither can reach either their weapons or a large hand cranked siren before they are smashed apart by Elsjinn's tiny fists.

The party advances cautiously, fearing more watchers.  The discover that to the East there is a playground, merry go round and rotted garden of dead trees and fungal growths, but decide to avoid it.  To the South there are some larger buildings and to the West ruined apartment blocks that appear to have been shelled at some point in the past.  Drawn by the promise of natural light, the band infiltrates Southward through a ruined apartment building.  Quartle's elemental atunement senses something magical in the building, moving above them amongst ruined apartments, but the impression is fleeting.  The left half of the building has collapsed in on itself, but on the right at least four of the stories are more or less intact and the party climbs to a second level, concerned about what might be stalking them through the ruins.  Moving towards where Quartle sensed something, the band soon finds two doors, swollen shut, and pushes them in, with Semm going into one and the rest of the party another. 

The adventurers were right to be concerned, because while the rest of the party discovers an slaughterhouse of rotten meat, Semm is suddenly attacked from behind, but the assailant is unable to breach his magical plate armor.  As he turns Semm shouts for aid, and sees his attacker.  Seven feet of lean muscle and greyish flesh scarified with demonic symbols, the attacker appears human, except for his head, which is the partially decayed head of a giant hyena stitched crudely to the body.  A human face seems to peer from the mouth of the dead hyena, howling incoherently with rage as it thrusts at Semm with a short symbol carved bronze spear.  The hyena headed attacker fends off Semms blows, and then leaps, with astonishing dexterity at the rest of the party approaching from behind.  Filthy teeth tear into Gustav (it is unclear if they are the teeth of a human or the mask) and he is stunned with terror and fear.  Quartle's ice magic slashes at the hyena man, searing his torso white with deadly frost, but it keeps attacking with unnatural speed.  Weapons and bullets skitter off the powerful glyphs carved into the beast's flesh, but the party still manages to drive the creature off after a few desperate moments of struggle.  As it vanishes into the rubble, the adventurers search its lair and discover a bundle of cloth with a Steward issue short sword (engraved and gold chased as a reward for long service) and several gems, including a magical pearl. The dirty, bloodstained apartment where the Hyena spawn dwelt looks out towards the Starboard windows, and the party sees several buildings, a golden domed edifice, perhaps an opera house, and an amphitheater with a fountain in front of it.

Deciding that the amphitheater is a likely spot to find prisoners, the party cautiously continues Starboard, and discovers that the stagnant fountain is filled with a mess of blood, gobblets of flesh and stinking water.  Keeping well away they proceed onward towards the arena and manage to stealthily peer around the pillars, surprising a large pack of hyenas, some giant, and a man, covered in strange tattoos and scars who wears a large rusted and demonic looking helmet.  The helmeted savage appears to be training and playing with the hyenas, but no more is discovered before Quartle summons a conflagration that rips through the arena and wipes out the majority of the hyenas.  The coughing, badly burnt handler is shot down as he tries to escape, as is the largest of the surviving hyenas, but another giant beast escapes down a passage under the arena, where baying laughter can be heard.  Not wishing to be in the arena when any other wildmen come to investigate the explosion, the band scoops up the helmet and runs back towards their waiting train.

Escaping through the ruins, Semm looks back to discover that wildmen are pouring from the intact apartments and running, armed with spears and rifles, towards the arena, but none seem to have noticed the party.  As the train prepares to depart the station, a trio, and then more, ghostly children press their spectral hands against the windows and peer playfully at the party.  Not wanting to discover the sorts of games that spectral children play, the scavengers fire up the train and the spider centaur cuts loose a shrill whistle as the loaded locomotive hurtles away from the Entertainment district.

Returning to Malchris' holdings the adventurers are able to trade the train and tools to the Devil in exchange for an item each of magical power.  A deal they repeat with the Marines in exchange for the exoskeleton.  These items an be found here.

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