Monday, 24 January 2011

Chapter: Show Me Your Hand

Cast: Gryff Galan, Velimir Tito, Yolander van Zaar, and Toadface. Also, as NPCs: Master Severa Septimus of the Ordo Hermetica, Don Avanti of the Black Hand, Master Kazeem al-Askari of the Awakened Viziers.

The following takes place on 8 Novium, YE 1022.

Having left Cora before the siege was laid, the cabal spent some time discussing the state of affairs with their Hermetic allies, as well as amongst themselves; they followed van Zaar back in time in search for an Arcane Tool, before they prostrated themselves before the Light of Aziz.

As they parted from Octavian, he advised them to seek out Severa, the smouldering Hermetic Master. She had, he informed them, more information on the Red Death, as well as on the Redlands of Diemed, where the plague raged most severe. Back in Petra, they called on the raven-haired wizard, and she received them in her Castle of the Mind [Mind 5/Space 2 Hermetic rote].  Seductive and cold as usual, she nevertheless gave the heroes several good pieces of information. She told them about the plague-demon, Mekelrad, a fallen Bane Lord, and about the Duchy of Diemed [here I got to use my pre-prepared rumour-table]. She also let them know that she had a Proximus, one Redmayne, in the area, and that they should feel free to contact him directly. The rendezvous was concluded by Galan trying to persuade Severa to join the Pius Cabal in their upcoming sally against the Red Death -- despite a long and intimate dance, she declined this offer.

Once back from the dance, van Zaar solicited the other magicians's aid in a venture of his own design. He had decided that he needed a mask to reach Mastery of Death, and of course, not any mask. He needed a mask made by the Maskmaker of Cortona. This man had once made the death-mask of Franko da Cola, the man become god. The problems here were many, but none enough to deter the dauntless heroes. So it was that, despite Galan's reluctance to leave the ship, the Pius Cabal found themselves in the misty streets of the Corinthian canal-city.

The wizards masked their presence, each according to their arts; van Zaar, using his command of Death, killed his aura, Galan took control of his, the Theurge Tito stepped through the Gauntlet, while Toadface knocked a random messenger senseless and stole his appearance. Thus disguised, the cabal ventured forth.

As the Fates would have it, the messenger was carrying two crates of masks, and after a short debate, the magicians went to complete the delivery. After an hour of navigating the labyrinth that is Cortona, they found themselves by a narrow canal, facing the back door of a mansion. Toadface the delivery boy, in his customary literal manner, swam the canal and knocked on the door. It was opened by a disdainful servant who, despite the smell emanating from the sewage-drenched simpleton, didn't say a harsh word. Toadface delivered his parcels, and got a few coins for his troubles.

As this happened, the rest of the heroes made their way around to the front. Here they pulled the bell-cord, and presented themselves to the doorman. They had a mind to speak to the master of the house, they said. Had Galan and van Zaar not looked like proper eccentric adventuring gentlemen, they would no doubt have been told to vacate the premises. As it were, they were let in, but only after having been stood on the stairs for a while. Remember that Tito was still in the Shadow, and thus not visible to mortals. While they waited for the master's pleasure, they noticed a few significant details about the house they were to enter. Galan spotted some disturbing heraldry above the door, and quickly recognized it as belonging to the Ordo Manus Nigrum. Tito, on the other side, found that the door was warded in a crude and simple fashion. This ward broke as Tito entered.

Meanwhile, Toadface deemed it cunning to remain at the back door, just in case. 

When they were let in, the magicians had decided that the visit would not just be one of courtesy, and as they met their host, they were in no mind to play games. The well fed Don Avanti, a judge of the city, however, proved to be a devious sort. While van Zaar attempted to corner the Black Hand, Galan were trying to skim his thoughts. Don Avanti, no doubt having dealt with occultists before, answered the questions in a non-committing manner, all the while reciting his extensive family-tree. Galan quickly tired of this game, and forced his way into the enemy's memories, but not before he had tasted the excellent port-wine -- and become affected by the poison [result: -1 Gnosis].

Don Avanti would not give without a fight, and even if Galan managed to discern that the Maskmaker had been sentenced by the judge thirteen years before, he was thrown out again. Instead of making a run for it, Don Avanti quickly grabbed his ring, gave it a hard twist, and died within seconds as the poison tore his heart asunder. The heroes were of course not to be foiled by such trivialities as the death of their only source of information, and Toadface was called into action. Shedding the guise of the delivery-boy, he now took on the appearance of the fat judge. The real, and now quite dead, judge was crammed into a chest, and his replacement took up position behind his desk. Thus situated, Toadface proceeded to order the servants around.

As the judge's journals were brought up, Tito ransacked the study, while Galan and van Zaar struck up a dignified pose. Despite the best efforts of the magicians, no compromising information about the nefarious Black Hand was discovered. In the journals, however, they found the address of the Maskmaker, as well as the details of his trial. He had been accused of necromancy, idolatry, worship of gods, witchcraft, sedition, and an assortment of other crimes, proclaimed an Enemy of Man, and duly sentenced to Forfeiture of the Soul, and burning of the body. By now the magicians noticed that a force was closing in on the Avanti mansion, and so they made a quick exit out the back door.

Fleeing through the narrow streets, van Zaar had his hands full keeping the cabal from being noticed. Galan, never one for subterfuge, had to be stopped from waving his gun around, while Toadface, still looking like an important noble, had to be told not to show his impressive rings off to the commoners. Still, despite their rather noticeable appearances, they managed to arrive at the Maskmaker's house without any commotion.

Now van Zaar cast a powerful spell, and took the heroes's minds back in time, to the last hours before the Black Hand came for the Maskmaker. Here, or should that be then? they observed the artisan working on his last mask. All the while, van Zaar wove another spell, this time one to let the last mask be overlooked by the Black hand enforcers when they carried away the possessions of the accused. The hour came, and as the thugs stormed the workshop, the wizards left the scene. Van Zaar collected his prize, and the Pius Cabal left Cortona.

Back in Petra they decided that a pilgrimage to the White Tower was in order. They travelled there, as is their custom, by Captain Galan's magic, and so they found themselves at the Altar of the Sacrifice of Aziz. On this site, where Aziz, may His name be forever blessed, gave his life so that Morfeus could slay the fallen Daeva, a temple had been risen. This temple is one of the two sites where pilgrims gather to pray for the love of Aziz. The heroes, led by the normally atheistic van Zaar, now undressed and prostrated themselves before the altar.

After their spiritual cleansing, they dressed outside the temple, and it was here that van Zaar noticed the Purple Robed Man. Last time he had encountered him was in the minaret in Petra (see last chapter), and at first he had to make sure that the other magicians could see him as well. Once he had been assured that that was the case, he led them to the man, and threw himself on the ground before him. The other members of the cabal, perhaps still drunk on humility, followed suit, and they all remained with their faces in the dust until the Purple Robed Man told them to rise.

The man, his name Kazeem al-Askari, received them as friends, and gave them his water. He also allowed them to enter the Library of the White Tower. 

Here we leave the Pius Cabal for this time.

Storyteller's note: For a long while now, the lads have been trying to train their sights on Caracalla, and/or the Painted Man, and this session they talked quite a bit about how they could accomplish that. They appear to be targeting the Painted Man, and in the library they looked for information on him. Now, they are master of zigging when I think they'll zag, so I'm not putting any of my hard earned on them actually going after the tattooed dude, but my current project is building a Nefandi.

We'll see.

As before, leave a word.

[Picture source: unknown]


  1. My dear Storyteller.

    Our sweet, sweet Severa the Seductress and I, we did dance. And she did not decline our offer. On the contrary, she said she would join us, was she permitted by her Master, our friend and ally, Septimus.

    As for our surprising, yet utterly pleasant, visit to a minion of the blackish hand, you say we were in no mind to play games. I say it was quite the opposite, nothing, butt a game. I believe I said as much at the time. Thoroughly enjoyed it. The Deep Port, and all.

    And was it Van Zaar who threw his body face down in the desert sand, or was it I, showing him a different approach than the one he applied in his previous encounter with The Esteemed Kazeem?

    Finally, build your Nefandi, but don't hold your breath.

  2. Oh, rest assured, I'm not holding my breath. Getting Magnus Émil to deal with the Painted Man has already been sugggested...

    Good thing I have my own plans ;)