Monday, April 17, 2023

Unknown Armies Play Report: A Dungeon Too Many Part 2

The Four Adventurers left the bloody pulp zone and returned to the vestibule. The trap in the entryway was triggered and the corpse was gone, but there was no dead cockroach in sight. The group decided to get one more soul before returning to the surface. Rope Trick had been patient with the other group members' selections, but she really wanted to try the door marked with the guy reading.

The door with the book led to a mysterious portal, almost covered by strange purple ferns growing from the lichen on the walls around it. A jungle of fantastical foliage was visible through the shimmering gateway, and Rope Trick decided to test it out herself. She would go through, and if she couldn't return she'd use her ring of blinking to teleport back to the group.

Rope Trick made it through the portal in one piece. The "jungle" on the other side was a big terrarium, lit by carvings of heavenly bodies on the ceiling, watered by gargoyles on the wall that dribbled liquid. The portal was closed to return-trips, but there was a command-word written on the inner rim in Enlightenment cipher that she was able to read. She spoke it and the portal opened, permitting the return trip if she so desired. Satisfied that the group wouldn't be trapped, she waved and invited the rest of the adventurers through.
The gang set off into the jungle. Fever River noticed they weren't alone. There were mutants looking at them through the foliage, former-humans covered in purple growths and badly grafted animal parts. They also noticed snares on the ground, indicating the mutants were intelligent tool-users and hoping to capture visitors to the grotto. This gave them an idea. Fever River did a headstand and pretended to be caught in a snare, hoping to lure the mutants closer. The animal-people emerged from the bushes to net them, and Rope Trick sprang out of a bush yelling at them. The horde of mutants tossed a net on her and tied her up. Dacian swatted them with his staff, and Marrow Bone went in swinging with his club, killing three of the unfortunate creatures with a single blow.

Fever River gave the powers of the Self another try, assuming correctly that the mutants still had their sanity and would be more amenable to communication than the horned men. They scraped their blades together to get the mutants' attention, and pointed at the open portal. The adventurers had come to free them, not to fight. They didn't need to attack anybody anymore.

The mutants explained the score. They were adventurers, captured by The Unnatural and its Faithful Assistant, subjected to hideous medical experiments that left them mutilated and transformed.With no hope of ever escaping the jungle, their usual modus operandi was capturing new visitors to the dungeon and offering them up to the mages, in order to ward off further torture. The Four Adventurers quickly devised a plan. They would pretend that Dacian had been captured, and the mutants would offer him up to the wizards as a sacrifice. 

They led the adventurers to the edge of the forest, where a gap in the stone wall led to a large chamber furnished with lacquered hardwood. On one side was a cord, connected to an enormous chime on the ceiling. On the opposite side, across a thick dividing line drawn on the floor, was a giant sheela na gig. The stone statue's eyes glowed red with evil intent. Its gaping genitals held a door leading deeper into the dungeon. The mutants warned the Four Adventurers that crossing the line would make the statue fire a laser at them.

The mutants deposited Dacian "bound" on the floor, then rang the bell. They retreated a safe distance. A handsome man with purple blotches on his skin came out of the statue's vagina, clad in a purple robe. He came across the line to drag Dacian back with him. Rope Trick tossed her rope and bound the wizard's hands. Marrow Bone threw his goedendag and knocked the wizard down, nearly killing him. Dacian melded his hand with the wizard's ankle, ensuring he couldn't escape. Panicking, the wizard shouted a verse:

O fish, art thou constant to the old covenant?

Rope Trick recognized it as a Cult of Enlightenment call and response. She gave the answering phrase to identify herself as a fellow conspirator:

Return and we return. Keep faith, and so shall we.
Faithful Assistant was eager to explain what he was up to, and Rope Trick promised not to let the mutants tear him to shreds if he explained. He was a seeker of knowledge just like her. He was keeping records of all The Unnatural's experiments, a vast hoard of magickal knowledge that could make them all gods on the surface world. They could just pick it up and leave, right now. Rope Trick agreed, provided he allowed her to cross the line without being lasered by the statue. The mage whitelisted her, and she used him as a human shield in case the eyes lasered her anyway.

Satisfied that he hadn't double crossed her, Rope Trick ran Faithful Assistant through with Sword-Drink, killing him instantly. It was a spontaneous decision and it was the right one, but she wasn't the kind of person who killed defenseless enemies, even ones who vivisected defenseless victims.

Sword-Drink was okay with that. There was a first time for everything. And a second time. The cursed sword wielded Rope Trick's arm, drawing itself like a dowser's wand toward Dacian's torso. The point burst the rings of his mail shirt and skewered all four chambers of his heart.

Dacian coughed and nearly bit through his tongue. The pain went up his body and straight down again. Rope Trick stumbled back and almost vomited. She cast Sword-Drink aside. The metal sang like a giant tuning fork and the eyes on the flat of the blade appeared to wink.

Dacian stood up. He hadn't spent his whole life buffing his max HP with fleshwarping spells just to let fifty two damage put him in the ground. He dropped a curative spell to stop his heart ripping in half and told Rope Trick to stop being such a baby. To be honest, that shit felt good.
Rope Trick tried not to think about it. The dead Assistant had a Knife that Drank and a Wand of Solvents, allowing the user to gain charges by stabbing people and then spend them to shoot acid. The roof of the statue's birth canal had a command word in the Enlightenment script, allowing Rope Trick to deactivate the laser eyes and allow the rest of the group to cross. None of the mutants wanted to accompany the adventurers, and the adventurers didn't pressure them to push further into the laboratory.

Andrey Kiselev

The vivisection lab featured a dead adventurer on the table and shelves full of occult science. The dead man was presumably a colleague of the dead adventurer in the vestibule, and had suffocated on purple spore growths filling his throat. The shelves had vats of preserved organs, a strange blue paste for reattaching limbs, and strong spirits that would heal the mind by destroying the body.

Fever River scouted ahead to the next room. It was a study, with huge cabinets and a swarm of insects flying around. Occult energy sparked between the bugs, indicating their great magick power. Fever River reported back to the group. Was this swarm of bugs The Unnatural? Rope Trick wanted to find out. She struck up a conversation with the swarm, which coalesced into a pile of bugs wearing a purple robe decorated with skulls. She asked where she could find The Unnatural. The swarm replied it had been looking for The Unnatural for as long as it could remember. Rope Trick asked if it had written any of its discoveries down. The swarm invited her to check the library in the chamber beyond, then went back to flying around exploring different states of matter.

The last room of the Laboratory was a honeycomb of shelves, holding scrolls and books. The writing was the same Enlightenment cipher that Faithful Assistant used for the command words earlier. Rope Trick could read the text, but there was no filing system or index for the tomes. There was powerful magick somewhere in there, but would take years to read it all. Fever River played with the "printing press", which used a set of silver hands to transcribe anything written on a wax tablet into tiny script, making maximally efficient use of the parchment.

With no way to extract Old King destroying power from the books, it looked like the Four Adventurers would have to kill The Unnatural to take its power. They asked the bug swarm if it had any last words. It asked where they came from. They explained about the surface world. It was excited to hear this. It asked if there were more people on the surface. It was happy to hear that there were a lot of people on the surface, to share its secrets with. Rope Trick was happy to hear this, it seemed like the wizard was insane but he wanted to make the world a better place with magick.

The wizard paused in the laboratory. It was unfortunate that the man on the operating table died. But there would be plenty more like him on the surface. He'd share the Secret freely with them all. The Four Adventurers understood that The Unnatural wasn't actually talking about helping people.

The Unnatural realized it was about to die and split into two swarms, presenting a pair of targets. Dacian splattered one with the power of The Violence, and the rest of the adventurers laid into the other with their weapons. Blades and clubs alike passed through the swarm, inflicting minimal damage. The bugs unleashed a plague of purple spores, hoping to panic the characters with the same effect that killed the dead adventurer. Dacian fired a second blast with The Violence and it was all over.
Rope Trick absorbed the soul of The Unnatural. The walls of Heart-Of-The-World spasmed. It was time to leave. Most of the mutants had already vacated the dungeon, and the Four Adventurers led the remaining humanimals up the stairs with them, toward the surface. The vast space surrounding the staircase had contracted to a narrow tunnel, forcing them to crouch in places.
But they all made it out alive, with the power needed to slay the Old King.

The Four Adventurers toppled the Monarchy and killed the Old King. And Dacian killed and killed and killed. The power of The Violence dissolved his mind in a red haze. Rope Trick cast a clever spell to stop him, and Dacian killed her. Fever River opened their mouth to plead with their friend, and Dacian killed them. In the ruins of the Monarchy, the mad monk raised a monument to the deity who granted him this final, bloody victory.
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