Dark Sun: Gladiators of Urik

Session 6.1: Waking the Baby
In which "Oh god the wizard's dead, holy shit!"

You combed the Jackal’s Den Tavern but nothing was to be found but more booze and a few odds and ends. The silence began to press on you—the only sign that the patrons had ever been there were footprints leading out the door into the howling desert night.

You began to explore, cautiously, the rest of the property. Clearly the shapeshifters were biding their time—it was an opportune moment to loot the premises! At least, that’s what you thought until a chest of darts in Matron’s shack out back shot Wander full of holes. You did manage to find a hidden journal written by a dead visitor, a sad tale of lost love. You also found human skins under Matron’s floorboards. Stylish.

There was a knocking at the shack’s door. You all frittered over who should answer it—when your orphan Slip, the half-dwarf kid with the power of healing, called you all ninnies and pulled it open. A woman made of sand stood there: a rogue elemental who didn’t share her brothers’ hate of mortals. She gave Slip the gift of rain, before being devoured by her fellows. You all dithered some more before someone noticed with a passive Perception that someone new was entering the tavern. (Start of Session 6)

Wander recognized it as their resident thief, Tiz, absent since the fall of Urik. What a coincidence! It wasn’t until later they realized that the shapeshifter barkeep Hakir had taken the form of Queen to lure the thief out of the desert and into the tavern.

You managed to rescue Tiz—but before you did, some THING in the barn dragged the wizard, Sol, to an untimely death! You were suitably horrified. Seriously, what the hell?!

After recovering his orb and spellbook, you hustled to the bar to save Tiz—just in time. The jackal Matron had put him to sleep using a primal charm power, and was about to slit his throat with a sickle! You laid some hurt on the Matron and her bartender thug, killing him and driving her into the sandstorm.

The fight wasn’t over, of course. As the storms worsened, you delved into the last area not yet cleared: the Barn, where your wizard was murdered. You found stalls full of bones, a vat of lye for tanning skins, and a number of holes gnawed in the ceiling. The holes disgorged tentacles covered in. . . lace? The tendrils began to pluck the meatiest bones from the mess, and started feeling over the player characters as well. You all played “corpse” and the arms took Wander, your cloth-shardmind monk!

Up Wander went, into the den of evil, lit by a single lantern. . . The room had a small fence piled with artifacts, and a single, enormous baby’s cradle from which emerged the probing, lacy, knitted ropes of evil. The “Baby” laid Wander in its collection, thinking the shardmind was an object. . . The others, intending stealth, tried to sneak up on the thing and ambush whatever-it-was, but it snagged the thief and pulled him into its sticky embrace. Underneath the crib’s blanket were. . .

Teeth. Just a giant mouthful of teeth. The Cradle was a Mimic, and the combat that followed was manic and furious—the thief dashed the lantern on the beast, setting it aflame and the elven Fighter used a Fortune Card to keep the creature from rolling a save. Eventually, faced with your combined might, the beast turned to ooze form and fled through the window—another enemy unleashed to stalk your party from afar.

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Sessions 5: The Jackal's Den
In which the party finds a curious little tavern. . .

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Flubbing your Survival and History rolls to orient yourselves, your whole group became completely disoriented in the Great Alluvial Sand Wastes. Your only meals included giant ant lion legs and the elven Queen of the Desert’s trail rations. . . Until you came upon a shop.

The ominous phrase LOCAL hung above the door, a fact your wizard identified immediately. (Isn’t it great to have a literate person in the party?) You entered to find a pair of gith: hobbling, freakish brutes of the desert, accusing you of touching “the precious things of the shop” and calling you “degenerates” right after you stepped in the door. Brilliant customer service, really.

They talked a big game, but your Intimidate rolls worked beautifully: the yokels decided your “city powers” were too strong, and retreated—not without some cryptic warnings regarding the sandstorm building outside. The female gith gave you two waterskins, and told you that your future was dire, and not all was as it seemed. . . Or something. You weren’t really listening.

Wander, your resident library of lore, could hear voices in the wind. You didn’t think much of this until the sandstorm began whispering “BLOOD” and actually chasing you through the desert! You fought to survive, losing several healing surges until you finally came upon civilization. . . After a sort.

What you found was a run-down, out-of-the-way tavern in a small dusty valley. The fence around it was encrusted with rusted old wire, the hitches in the front were empty, and a large barn loomed to one side, with a light glimmering on the top floor. The sign beside the door of the pub read THE JACKAL’S DEN in faded lettering. You entered the rickety building to find it packed with patrons! What luck—they even had some water in stock! The proprieter introduced herself as Matron, a heavily pregnant curly-haired tavern wench with a perpetual tray of ale on hand. It was a stroke of luck that you’d even found this place at all. . .

Of course, not everything was sunshine and rainbows. Crouched at the bar, studiously avoiding the massive barkeep Hakir, was your old enemy Belthis Val. The noble was clearly drunk, royally pissed, and armed to the teeth with protective spells—he was not having the time of his life as literally everyone else in the tavern appeared to be. Curious, you buddied up to the wealthy defiler wizard—and began to figure out something wasn’t right.

At first, the eerie warnings Belthis murmured to you made no sense. The patrons had been drinking for 18 hours, he claimed; the Matron of the bar had “the wrong shadow” and the place was miles from any main roads. Immediately the group began to debate furiously: Wander was convinced Belthis was playing the party for fools, while Sol merely wished to understand the puzzle before them. “Queen,” your elven knight, went from convinced the wine was poisoned to chugging pints of ale when Belthis warned not to “give yourselves away” to “the enemy.”

A game of cat and mouse ensued. With Insight checks and Arcana, it became apparent the taverngoers were not human, but some sort of shapeshifters, stuffed into human skins. . . Matron Delilah, the bar’s owner, became more and more overbearing until Belthis decided to strike out on his own into the sandstorm. You heard a scream, and never saw him again.

On that pleasant note, the group decided to take the only refuge left to them: the second floor. Matron’s “husband,” Lodd the tiefling, came by with sheets—and Sol used “Instant Friends” on him. The roll failed, but not without results—Lodd was desperate to help the Den’s next victims, and warned “Don’t wake the Baby” before fleeing downstairs to an unknown fate.

As an hour slithered by, the party refusing to sleep in Matron’s comfortable beds, Wander noticed a shadow moving strangely on the wall. . . And tackled it! This turned out to be a good move as the blotch of darkness came alive and a bizarre combat ensued. Finally, Queen managed to do enough damage to the Insubstantial creature that it was torn to pieces. The group charged downstairs, only to find the bar empty. . .

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Sessions 3.5, 4, and 4.5: Brains, The Dragon's Rage, and Escape
In which everyone pretty much just shits their pants

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In an intermission from the main plot, you took Nigel up on his offer to cleanse the basement. Naturally, the basement had been divorced from reality and was filled with unholy wriggling terrors from beyond the pale! You killed the shit out of them. Good on you. There was also a giant eyeball and a cameo by the minotaur ardent, Odris. You told Nigel he was a jerk, did no further research on the eyeballs and brains, and went on your way.

Your adventures in Urik came to a sudden halt in session #4 when you chased down a lead to Thanok’s conspiracy: Ar-Yana the Pure, a golden-haired human spellcaster belonging to the purist Veiled Alliance. Her interests included saving the oppressed, liberating the unprivileged, and generally being better than everyone. You managed to catch yourselves an orphan in the Elven Market, an important investment that would pay off later.

Ar-Yana’s personal documents, liberated by Tiz, indicated she was up to something. Unfortunately so was your new enemy Belthis Val, who had bought Thanok’s home out from under him! Your mission to tear Belthis a new one brought you to the Slave Yards, where the slaves whispered rumors of a nameless fear: a killer that lived in The Hole, a tunnel lined with obsidian.

The Hole turned out to be an underground passageway to Belthis’ basement—and you were not alone there. Belthis’ son Strocchus turned out to be quite the artisan, kidnapping people and “sculpting” them before throwing them into kilns. You killed him (twice) and snagged a magical whip from the noble family’s stash before destroying the foundations of the mansion and swaggering off like a bunch of badasses.

Your badassery did not last long. The slave tithe arrived. . . and so did Ar-Yana, as you quickly put together her plot to snipe the Last Dragon of your world with a giant crossbow. This absurd plan would’ve gotten the whole city killed, so you climbed a building, beat up her zombie servants (surprise! Purists turn to Defiling Magic very easily!) and threw Ar-Yana off the roof, snapping her neck.

It wasn’t enough.

The Dragon, meeting in his ritualistic tribute with the King of Urik, made an unusual decision: he picked up the King, tore him in half, and threw his torso over the city walls. In the ensuing panic, the Dragon cast a defiling spell that blasted the souls from citizens and slaves alike, turning them into skeletal, murderous husks.

Things happened very fast after that. You met a human wizard, Sol, on the run from zombified slave children; you almost snagged the Spear of Kalak, a magic item responsible for killing a king—but rolled too high on a d6; you escaped the city, sacrificing the mutant goliath Gavor the Claw to do so. He went out with a bang.

Outside the city, you met the king’s decapitated upper half, who begged you to solve the mystery of this carnage. He gave you one clue: “999” and died. You set off into the desert, killed a giant ant-lion, and immediately became lost. That’s when things began to get weird. . .

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Sessions 2 and 3: The Basement, and Public Relations
The party stabs some brains, and solves a conspiracy!

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Now firmly established in your new home, you spend your time between jobs and gladiatorial combat, both of which turn out to be more dangerous than expected. Nigel’s basement turned out to be infested with Fell Taints, creatures of dark madness which nearly tore your sanity away. With the help of local mercenaries Odris the minotaur ardent and the elven mercenary known only as “The Queen,” you sliced up these mind-rending beasts, evaded a giant eyeball, and tricked the Beholder whelp “Prophet” into an endless, psionic slumber. As a reward for not killing him when you emerged from the basement, Nigel provided you all free drinks — for life! Forest Ridge vintage wine, anyone?

Your luck didn’t hold, however. After a grueling fight with the notorious Slashington Brothers, ginger gladiators who pummeled the daylights out of you in a near-draw, it was back to skulduggery and doing dirty jobs for your employer, the dwarf. During an espionage mission to steal from Aryana the Pure, philanthropist and spellcaster, you acquired an orphan! And not just any orphan: the tiny brown human urchin named Slip is cursed with strange magical markings which allow her to heal injuries with a touch. She now travels willingly with the party in exchange for regular meals, the occasional ceramic, and some much-needed parenting sessions.

Investigating the materials you stole from the noble which, you didn’t find out much of value. . . until Thanok’s arch-nemesis, Usmann Val, bought out the entire underground fight community from right under your noses! Thanok immediately tasked you to do the right thing and kill the bastard. This proved more difficult than expected, requiring a murder investigation, the recruitment of your ex-enemy Gavor the Claw, and some dungeon slogging in Val’s monster-infested cellars. As it turns out, the guy who breeds monsters for a living had some pretty terrifying guard dogs—including his son, a teenage boy obsessed with sculpting whose father’s mad experiments had turned him into a Skulk—an invisible murderer.

After burning young Strocchus in his own kill and crushed to death when he jumped back out again, you managed to bring down that Nobles ancient stronghold by knocking out the pillars in the foundations. Evidence you found pointed to the Spear of Kalak, a dangerous Relic, being in the hands of Aryana. . . who planned to use it to try and assassinate the Dragon of Tyr!

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Session 1: Escape and Employment
Previously, on Gladiators of Urik. . .

Your group—currently consisting only of a mysterious, robed wanderer and a crafty half-elf thief—was taken captive at an inn by a pair of ruthless slavers, and tied up in a caravan bound for Urik. You would not stand for this, and made your move several miles outside the city—Wander the robed monk used acrobatics and stealth to get the upper hand on the slavers, while Tiz the rogue put up such a fight that the slaver Rasp, a pitch-black thri-kreen, fled with a promise to enslave you another day. You slew Lalathan, Rasp’s elven thug, and took his name—as well as a curious scroll from the slaver crew’s last victim, the dead half-breen Gelin. During this fight you found Wander could use telepathy to coordinate a battle, a useful skill—and one the pair of you made frequent use of thereafter.

Arriving at the city gates, you tried to bribe the guards at the gates to avoid being captured for the upcoming Tithe to the Dragon, but your skill with coin was found lacking—until Thanok the dwarven arena master approached, using his status to intimidate the guards into silence. Granting you passage into the city, the gruff trainer admitted he was in need of “new meat” for his arena fights. Giving you room and board at his run-down tenement, the dwarf sent you on an errand to promote your virtually unknown fighting skills.

After a brief rest, you set out to put up exciting and bloody posters of yourselves as the new champions of the local Fight Pits! You haggled your way into a seedy underworld bar, Nigel’s Tavern, and met Nigel—a creepy figure in a full leather bodysuit with breathing tubes coming out of his face. Despite his appearance, he was very helpful—he permitted the posters, and provided useful information about Thanok’s background. He also offered a substantial reward if you would assist him with an “unusual pest problem” in the basement, but you declined. Before you left, he offered Tiz an Athasian Relic—a force staff—because in Nigel’s words, “I feel sorry for you where you’re going.” You weren’t sure what he meant by this.

After a stop at Thanok’s, where he gave you Urikite identification papers and identified the mysterious scroll as a powerful siege enchantment, you prepared for your fight! Tiz took point in the arena in the Slaveyards, while Wander scammed the crowd with acrobatic performances to raise money.

As it turned out, Tiz’s first fight was almost his last—he found himself up against Gavor the Claw, an abused goliath mutant with claws for hands! For a while, Tiz performed well—until Gavor got his claws into the slippery rogue and bludgeoned him nearly to death. Wander was forced to intervene, with Thanok paying off the reptilian referee to look the other way. Even with your combined strength, it took a vicious two-pronged attack to bring Gavor to his knees. Interestingly, you chose not to kill the mindless brute, a fact that may come to bear in later days! His artisan patron was none too happy, and swore vengeance on you. You two are getting a lot of vengeance promises lately. . .

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