Sunday, September 4, 2022

Wages of Vice

I've begun to run the adventures in Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel as part of an open table campaign on my Discord. Without further ado, here's how "Wages of Vice," the fourth adventure, went for my group on Discord.

Dramatis Personae

Captain Horatio Gurthus, human barbarian

Brother Albany Palmer, human monk

A Cry for Help in a Dark Alley Leads to a Job

Brother Albany and Captain Horatio dreamed of vibrant pink flowers growing in an orchard near a steaming jungle; the flowers began to rot before their eyes. The dream segued into a vision of the people of a town making a desolate exodus--with the flowers dead, there was no reason for them to stay in their home. Both awoke knowing that if they did not intervene, an entire town would suffer. And so they set off to a destination unknown, traveling into a bank of thick mist--emerging out of a jungle, with a town of gleaming white stone in view.

After taking their toll, the two guards at the gates of Zinda welcomed the pair to the town's March of Vice festival. Inside the town's walls, they found themselves on a wide street whose cobblestones have been painted gold. Even at an early hour, the streets were filled with revelers, vendors, and street performers. However, as they passed an alley they heard a cry for help. Investigating the sounds of distress, they found a dwarf slumped against a wall in the act of expiring.

Two guards, each wearing a gold-chased breastplate, entered the alley and accused the duo of killing the dwarf. Once they had examined the body and were subjected to some exculpatory quick-talking, their suspicions were allayed. The guards were joined by a tall elf woman in a sumptuous orange gown, her hair pulled back into dreadlocks. She introduced herself as Samira Arah, one of Zinda's "Kings of Coin," a consortium of guild leaders who are the de facto rulers of the town. 

Sizing them up as experienced adventurers, Samira wished to hire Horatio and Brother Albany. Although she was the leader of the jeweler's guild she commanded the guards of the Silent Verse (the soldiers with fancy breastplates they had spotted throughout Zinda), she had need of agents who were unknown to her compatriot Kings of Coin. In particular, she wanted the pair to investigate a recent spate of attacks on the children of the Kings of Coin. She explained that the dead dwarf was Jacopo Ain, the son of Massimo Ain--the leader of the smith's guild. Indeed, on the previous day Zenia Ruba, the daughter of Nargis Ruba, the King of Coin who oversees taverns and entertainment in the town, had been attacked in the street.

Fearing that a conspiracy was afoot, Samira wanted the duo to talk to Zenia and find out what exactly had happened. Believing that the girl was being kept under her father's watchful eye at a tavern called the Thornapple, Samira sent them in search of an audience with her.

Death by Pestle

On the way to the Thornapple, a stout women in yellow and green jostled Brother Albany as she quickly made her way through the crowd. Immediately after, they heard a cry of pain from behind them. They saw a man from a herbalist's stall bludgeoning a fallen teenager with a pestle; the herbalist had a crazed look in his eye and swung the pestle with a madman's strength. Intervening, the pair managed to subdue the herbalist, but not before he brought the pestle down with fatal finality on the prone man's head. 

After the brief brawl, they learned that the victim was Arel Avim, son of Solenn Avim, the King of Coin overseeing the weaver's guild. During this sad episode, they also made the acquaintance of Captain Adann, a self-proclaimed "Bloodletter," a member of a political faction that wishes to see the overthrow of the Kings of Coin and the imposition of a more egalitarian economic system in Zinda. Furthermore, a girl informed them that she had seen a stout woman in green and yellow talking to the herbalist just prior to the attack.

Near Death by Stiletto

When they arrived at the Thornapple, they found it to be a well-appointed tavern already crowded with patrons. They were greeted by Nargis Ruba, the King of Coin responsible for entertainments and drinking establishments throughout Zinda. The Thornapple's stage was being set for a performance; as Brother Albany engaged Nargis in conversation to distract him while Horatio approached Zenia, Nargis told him that his tavern was proud to host a series of performances by Diva Luma, a famous singer from Kartakass. 

Horatio flashed the insignia that Samira had given him, causing the two members of the Silent Verse flanking the girl to depart. Zenia was impressed that Horatio was an adventurer, an interest he parlayed into getting her story. She told him that she had been shopping when she suddenly felt quite ill, and then suddenly her servants began attacking her and each other. She recalled seeing a cloud of pink ash around them when the melee broke out, and that a woman in green and yellow had bumped against her just before her servants went mad!

Just then, Diva Luma took to the stage with a cohort of dancers and musicians. The singer reached into a pouch by her side and threw a handful of pink glitter into the air. As it descended upon her, her stage-bright smile turned into a look of malice; she removed her stiletto heels, brandished one as a weapon, and began to run toward Zenia! Horatio positioned himself between the girl and the diva; he, Brother Albany, and eventually the two Silent Verse guards, managed to subdue the crazed singer, but only after being stabbed repeatedly by her heeled shoe.

Once Diva Luma had been knocked out, Nargis rushed to his daughter's side. Clasping her to him, Nargis began to weep only. When pressed, he admitted that the attacks on the children of the Kings of Coin were "his fault." He confessed that the six Kings had made a pact with a witch from the jungle known as Proud Edun. Proud Edun had brought them prosperity, but of course there was a price to be paid: the six Kings were meant to bring the witch their firstborn as payment. To avoid paying their debt, Nargis hatched a plan to lure Proud Edun into a "meeting" that was actually an assassination. 

One of Diva Luma's entourage reported that the bag of glitter, which was found to be tainted with pink ash, was given to her outside by a woman wearing yellow and green. The woman even gave her name, Kala Marbarin, which Nargis recognized as the name of Proud Edun's daughter who was presumed lost to the jungle years earlier. Apparently she was back and looking to avenge her mother.

A Side Trek, A Parade, Death Rears Its Ugly Head

Brother Albany and Horatio decided to venture into the jungle to find Proud Edun's hut to see if it would reveal any clues to Kala's plan. The hut had been recently inhabited, and the cauldron evidenced pink residue from whatever substance Kala had cooked up to turn innocent people into violent madmen. Also, they found a list of names (each of the Kings of Coin, save for Samira Arah) scratched into the dirt floor of the hut.

When they returned to Zinda, they discovered that a parade down the golden road was now underway. Revelers were begging for beads and sweets from the Prince of Vice, a masked man who they quickly figured out was Azra Nir--son of Amos Nir, one of the Kings of Coin. Spotting a flash of yellow and green in the crowd, it was apparent that Azra was to be the next victim.

Kala emerged from the crowd and ensnared the Prince of Vice's parade float with vines conjured from the pavement. Horatio and Brother Albany rushed to engage her and protect the Prince of Vice. However, Kala threw a fistful of pink powder into the faces of Azra's guards, turning them into insanely violent allies. 

When Kala was taken down, a smokey substance issued from her nose and mouth--it coalesced into the spectral form of her mother, the witch Proud Edun! Proud Edun's wraith attacked Brother Albany with a fury--killing him outright. She then raised his shade as a specter under her control. Horatio had no recourse save destroying both hateful spirits.

The danger to the children of the Kings of Coin now dealt with, Horatio collected his reward, bought a horse and wagon, and had Brother Albany's body safely ensconced in a coffin. Consulting with the Kings of Coin set him on a possible path to Brother Albany's resurrection: he was told to seek out the fabled land of I'Cath, which will be the basis of the next adventure.