Wednesday, 30 November 2016

[Actual Play] Behind Gently Smiling Jaws: Session 3

[Previous session report can be found here. I should briefly mention how I am dealing with having a rotating cast of PCs. Usually my games operate on a kind of implicit weird quantum space-time oddity: if a player is absent one week his PC is not there and never was. If he returns, his PC is there and always was. New PCs for new players, and replacement PCs for the dead, are generally introduced as quickly as possible if not immediately. However, since this is practically at the beginning of the campaign we just acted as though the new PC, Linga, had been there from the beginning, and didn't bother giving him an actual introduction.]

PCs present:

  • "Bash" (real name unknown), a Danish mystic, played by C
  • Raphael de Fonseca, a Jewish-Dutch scholar, played by M
  • Linga, a Malabar specialist, played by P

Here is what the PCs managed to map out in this session:

The goby fish left the PCs alone at the spot marked with the red [x] near chamber 25 on the map, which was a boggy area leading out into a sunlit realm of jungle. While the walls here were icy rock as elsewhere, a large open space of apparently natural equatorial forest stretched out before them. High above the canopy they could just make out areas of blue sky and sun.

The party knew they had to head East in order to meet the wise woman the goby fish had told them about, so they went more or less due East through the hot, dense forest. Eventually they reached another wall that was perpendicular to their advance, so they decided that to follow it South. This lead them to map out some of the contours of this big jungle "cavern". They found some tunnel entrances leading off it at various points, before eventually finding themselves back in the boggy area where they had begun. They retraced their steps East and this time followed the wall North, hugging it all the way, until eventually they discovered it curved back on itself and they were heading South once more.

It wasn't long before a stone-tipped spear flew out of the forest and hit the wall in front of them. Appearing as if from thin air, a number of reptilian humanoids emerged to warn them that they were entering hunting grounds. These humanoid things could not speak Dutch, or any other language that the PCs understood, but nonetheless when they spoke their odd chittering tongue the meaning was clear. 

The PCs attempted to explain they were looking for a woman, a concept which these lizard men did not understand very well; eventually they were satisfied with the description of an "egg layer" and a rough description of the difference between a man and woman. They thought that she might be found if the PCs headed North and then East. The PCs duly turned around, not wishing to fight, and the lizard men disappeared back into thin air, like Cheshire cats.

After travelling North for some time the PCs came across another wall and traced it East. Here, they discovered three alcoves. One of these contained a carved wooden snake, around 5' long, with seven stripes on its back; its mouth was open and it appeared hollow. The others contained wooden bas-reliefs of a man and woman respectively, with exaggerated genitalia. All of these wooden idols gave off warmth of some kind, but did not react to offerings; however, lighting a fire before them seemed to bestow an air of sanctity on Linga.

Between these alcoves was a very narrow tunnel which gave off the smell of the sea. Bravely, Bash volunteered to crawl inside and soon came across a large number of spiny red sea urchins which covered the ceiling and walls. Using his shield as a protector he slowly but surely forced his way through and managed to do so without being stung; eventually he emerged into a cave in which he could stand and which was full of yellow-blue urchins. These urchins gave off a strange, urgent susurrus which seemed to him to suggest he should touch them. Aware that they were likely poisonous but also reminded that he had been perfectly happy to lick poisonous toads in order to enter the crocodile's dreams, Bash decided to go along with the urchins. Touching them and being stung then allowed his brain to become chemically attuned to the urchins' hormonal communication method. The urchins revealed that they had been in their cave since time immemorial and were desperately hungry. They promised Bash that if he brought them living meat they would provide guidance to him about the woman he sought.

The gang decided to press on and continue following the wall. It curved around to the South and soon they found themselves coming to the end of the jungle: they were back in an oceanic zone, walking on a sandy sea floor and looking at the surface far above them. They stayed here pondering what to do for some time. They had realised by now that it seemed everything in the crocodile's dreams was somehow sentient. They had also realised that all of these sentient things seemed rivalrous. They did not want to kill anything or bring it to the urchins, because that might result in them making enemies. They were also increasingly dubious about their mission to help the goby against his hairy foes. Nonetheless, they decided that it might be desirable, if they could find something that was not sentient but alive, and take it to the urchins to see what guidance they could offer about the "wise woman".

Shortly after entering the oceanic zone they were confronted by four man-sized sharks. They beat a hasty retreat to the border between the oceanic and jungle zones [marked with a green squiggle on the map], assuming that the sharks would not be able to cross into the forested area. The sharks seemed about to attack, but Bash put on a show of bravado and aggression, waving his machete around and implying that trying to fight him would be a big mistake. This at least encouraged the sharks to parlay. 

In this conversation, the PCs were able to understand a bit more about the nature of this place. The sharks revealed that ever since "the ruler" had arrived, everything had changed: forest was mixed up with sea, but also all living things had become hunters. This is because "the ruler" enjoys hunting so much: his spirit had touched everything and the desire to hunt had pervaded all life there. 

The PCs did not want to fight the sharks, so they decided to try to ally with them in finding food for the urchins, and asked what the most delicious thing was that lived in the sea. The sharks without hesitation said that it was a giant clam which lived nearby. The PCs hatched upon a plan: they would open the clam and give it to the sharks. In return, the three strongest sharks would give the PCs the weakest one, which they could then take to the sea urchins. The sharks, being sharks, and each thinking of him- or herself as the strongest, agreed to this.

The sharks led the PCs to a nearby chamber in which, sure enough, lay a giant clam. The PCs informed the clam that they were its doom: they were going to drag it away to be eaten. Bargaining for its life, it offered them a safe sanctuary in which to stay - no sea creature could enter its lair and cause harm, nor on its guests. If the PCs let it live, it would provide them a safe place in perpetuity. Linga agreed to this and got given a pearl into the bargain (the removal of which was a great relief to the clam). But he was quickly persuaded to go back on his word: Bash and Raphael both reasoned that this "sanctuary" was useless as coming and going would involve traversing a shark-infested sea each time. The clam wailed and moaned and complained, but was dragged away in short order. The PCs took it to the very boundary of the jungle and ocean zones, so that they could open it up, give it to the sharks, take their weakest member, and escape into the trees if it all went awry.

The sharks were good to their and bullied the weakest of their number out of the sea area to be caught in a net by the party. Raphael and Linga then hacked open the giant clam and gave the meat to the sharks, while Bash dragged away the still-living captive shark to give it to the urchins before it ran out of air.

The session ended with the sea urchins slowly eating the shark alive while telling Bash the following information:

1. The wise woman is actually the Aunt of "the ruler", and she lives on an island between two rivers. On no account must a visitor touch the water from either of those rivers with any part of his body, because if he does so, his essence will be drained away and dissipated and he will simply become part of the crocodile's dreams.

2. The Aunt will react favourably to anybody who professes to know her nephew, "the ruler", by name. And his name is Sese-Mahuru-Bau.

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