Chronicles of Khaldun: Bread and Circuses

Session 2

Waterday, Harvester 12, 552 CY (50 AN)

Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh Burntscale, and Southie move behind the horde of gladiators as Ashraf Scarscale spurs them forward. When they reach the end of the hallway, there is a set of stone double doors that does not budge and does not bear any sort of lock or doorknob. Croitus strides forward, pushing through the crowd, and utters the phrase, “What is the center of the world?” A grinding sound emits from the door as its features shuffle and move, forming a face. It responds, “”/wikis/scandshar" class=“wiki-page-link”> Scandshar. What is the center of you?" Croitus responds, “My heart,” and the doors swing open.

While everyone is still recovering from their surprise at Croitus’ hidden knowledge, Ashraf goads the gladiators forward. As they rush forward into the hallway, the doors close behind them. All is quiet but for the tromping of feet for a few moments, until the man at the front of the line appears to panic. Inexplicably, he is pulled into the air, his screams strangely muffled as he begins floating. His skin starts to burn and a cloud of scarlet forms around him. As the torchlight glints in the hallway, the sheen of a blubbery cube that has formed around the man is visible, and a cry of, “Gelatinous cube!” is raised among the gladiators.

After acid burns suggest that their weapons are not terribly effective, Ashraf, Nobody, Resh, and Southie begin driving the thing back with torches. Croitus responds by setting one of the other gladiators aflame and then throwing his flaming body at the gelatinous cube; several gladiators then turn their attention from the gelatinous cube and instead begin advancing on Croitus, who responds by shouting the passphrase at the magic door and fleeing through them, fleeing back to the gladiator barracks with a small throng of gladiators at his heels. When he finally makes his way back to his own cell, he releases Thawtham’s corpse from a canopic jar to batter down the door while he attempts to avoid the blows of the enraged gladiators. When Thawtham smashes his door open, he dives into his prepared burrow, leaving Thawtham behind to fight off the gladiators before the revenant himself dives into the burrow. Croitus reabsorbs him into one of his canopic jars and then climbs through his secret tunnels into the sewers.

Meanwhile, the assembled party manages to melt the gelatinous cube to slag. As a small contingent of guards file out of the mess hall, Southie rushes forward to meet them, carving through their ranks. Resh sends a spear into the middle of them as Nobody rushes forward to engage, and as battle is joined, Ashraj notices a hidden trap in one of the walls. Shouting to his allies to duck, he throws his spear, he hitting the trigger and sending a thin blade at roughly neck-height blasting through the mortar of the stonework and through the necks of the assembled guards. As their headless bodies fall, the group scavenges equipment and moves forward.

Reaching another stone door, Ashraj attempts the passphrase he heard Croitus say, and is surprised to find that the door responds appropriately and opens. The group sees another contingent of guards apparently preparing for an engagement, forming a phalanx formation and sending arrows down the hallway. While Resh stays back and returns fire with a scavenged bow, Nobody and Southie rush forward into the fray as Ashraj cautiously hangs back and Khuna stays in place to treat the wounded. Their combined might — a plague of blood and dismemberment upon their foes — ends the battle with most of their opponents dead. Some few escape, although most of the runners are hunted and slain.

Khuna surprises the others when, having been injured in the fray, she slices the neck of a dead guard and laps up some of the blood, healing her wounds. Southie tearfully offers her a dismembered piece of flesh, calling her “Songbird.”

According to Khuna’s directions, as she has apparently determined a vague layout of the gladiator pits, the passageway to the left will lead to the armory, while the passageway to the right leads to the beast pens. As per their plan, the group decides to breach the armory.

Ashraj actives the magic door with the passphrase dialogue, and the group of gladiators spills inward, gathering weapons and armor. Once they are armed and armored, when someone hears boots tromping down the hallway, Southie rushes down the hallway to engage, and the mayhem is begun anew. He notes that a guard with rank is apparently leading them. As Ashraj, Nobody, and Resh join him, and Khuna provides support, Resh manages to kill the sergeant with an arrow before Southie can cut his way to him, and the rest of the guards are handily slain. Those who flee are chased down and killed. Feeling relatively confident in their tactics and victories, Ashraj again spurs the dwindling horde of gladiators forward, and they disappear through the door while Ashraj, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie decide their next move. Seeing movement amidst the bodies, Southie, having recoved his axe, slices through a rat. Given its state of decay, he determines it probably came from Croitus, and so regrets his decision. As partial recompense, they decide to harvest the sergeant’s brain for Croitus to devour later; Southie gets to work, removing the crown and placing the brain in a soldier’s helmet for easy carrying. Deciding to go forward, Ashraj spears to the door, uttering, “What is the center of the world?” and it responds, “Scandshar. What is the center of you?” Ashraj responds, “My heart,” and the doors swing open.

Greeted by another group of guards, this time having captured the remaining gladiators, the five fearsome and blood-drenched gladiators again make their assault, crashing into the phalanx of the guards who are swift to let their prisoners go to prepare for the assault. With everyone fully armed and armored, this battle is swift, decisive, and gruesome, resulting in the deaths of all guardsmen present. As Khuna directs the others that the passage to the left leads to the taskmaster quarters as well as other important people in the gladiator pits, while the right passageway leads to the guard barracks, Ashraj decides to booby trap the corridor. Ashraj and Resh work quickly to arranging pikes and punji sticks among the corpses, hopefully hidden enough so that any guardsman coming through will risk impalement.

Safely navigating the corridor, the group comes to a spiral staircase. The way up leads to the tunnels underneath the amphitheatres and the city streets of Scandshar, while down leads into the lower gladiator and slave pits. While the group debates its next move, they hear bootfalls on the lower stairs. Prompting Ashraj and Southie to head down to engage, the rest of the group follows and crashes into the guards, slowly cutting their way down the stairwell and through the column. However, Khuna and the few remaining gladiators still traveling with them hear footfalls coming from the upper stairs. Khuna presses herself against the wall as the remaining gladiators encounter the force from above — apparently being a contingent of Scandshar city guardsmen — crash into the few remaining gladiators and slaughter them to a man. Southie does an about face to face the Scandshar soldiers, while Ashraj dives through the column of guardsmen to gain access to the lower levels of the gladiator pits.

Faced with the prospect of fighting Southie, one of the Scandshar guardsmen dives back into the gladiator pit tunnel, shouting for help and assistance. Southie quickly catches up to him and cleaves him apart, silencing his cries. As he returns to the stairwell, however, a cold mist is seeps from the passageway behind him.

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Session 1

Waterday, Harvester 12, 552 CY (50 AN)

Ashraf Scarscale, Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh Burntscale, and Southie enter Blackgem Amphitheatre to the roar of the crowds. As the announcer indicates they will be reenacting the Battle of the Wizard’s Tower, they note that a stone tower — perhaps thirty feet tall or so — has been built in the center of the arena. As far as they can tell, there are no traps or any such thing around. As they are acting on the part of the wizards, a pack of five gnolls will be acting as the gnoll contingent in this engagement. Three gnoll archers, a gnoll warrior, and a gnoll priest or magic-user of some sort enter the arena at the introduction. The goal of the “wizards” is to defend the flag atop the tower from being acquired by the gnolls; conversely, the gnolls hope to capture this flag.

At the signal, battle is joined. Ashraf and Resh take the center of the field, barking orders. Khuna deftly avoids an arrow as she runs for the tower. Croitus opens one of his canopic jars and summons the cadaver of a one-armed dwarf. Nobody and Southie immediately charge into the throng of gnolls. Nobody takes an arrow to the shoulder and a nasty stab from the gnollish priest, but takes his hand with her greatsword and sends him careening to the ground in response. Resh lets fly a spear that pins the gnoll priest’s other arm to the sandy ground of the arena. Southie begins antagonizing the sword-wielding gnoll, who stands his ground and gives as good as he gets.

Still reeling from multiple injuries, Nobody retreats to the tower. Meanwhile, Khuna is scaling the tower, and makes it to the top, viewing her surroundings. Seeing nothing untoward, and apparently still unimportant enough to merit attention from the gnolls, she notes Nobody and scales back down the tower to treat her. Although Nobody passes out from shock, Khuna manages to keep her stable.

Resh throws his second spear at the archers, impaling one through the chest and sticking him to the ground of the arena. Despite their victories, the fight still looks desperate as the gnoll manages to grievously wound Southie, but the tide turns when Ashraf notices that the trapdoors leading to the tiger pits are still open. He has just enough time to warn the others as flashes of orange rip out of the ground, savaging the fallen gnoll priest and the gnoll pack leader. The two archers begin a tactical retreat, firing arrows all the way, but to no avail — while one fires arrows at the dwarf zombie, Croitus has sneaked around the back of him and nearly bisects him with a well-timed crocodilian bite. The last dies horribly under the combined might of the remaining combatants.

Since the fight ended quickly, the beast masters keep the tigers in play, but they are swiftly slain as the gnolls were.

As the crowd roars at the victory, Southie decapitates a tiger and pries off its jaw to use the head as a hat. Croitus engages in cleanup, gathering a gnoll corpse for use in his canopic jars as well as eating the brain of the gnoll priest and the tiger. He learns a partial invocation for the gnoll deity Yeenoghu and learns that the tiger seems to like the taste of macaw.

Having obtained his tiger-head hat, Southie then proceeds to throw gobbets of meat and gore into the crowd and wave his genitals at them in distain. Khuna, meanwhile, scans the crowd for a familiar face — she is surprised to see the woman she seeks, and that there is some degree of recognition.

As Southie continues his display, the group is ushered back into the subterranean corridors of their home. After being led to the mess hall to feast, they are granted the opportunity to rest and obtain post-match massages. Croitus takes the opportunity to kill and animate a rat while the others take the opportunity to recuperate after the battle.

After having an opportunity to rest, they are led back to their cells. As she usually does after returning to her cell, Nobody starts quietly weeping. In an attempt to confort her, Khuna begins singing from her own cell. It works, and although nobody witnesses it, Southie also feels overcome as a single tear rolls down his cheek.

After a few hours, the six are released for exercises and mealtime. Traveling to the training room, they begin looking for things to do. The two trainers — Zedath the Stormwall and Thawtham Titanfist — are aiding in training. Zedath addresses the six as they enter, and as Southie growls and shows his typical disdain, Zedath insults him and dares him to attack. Ashraf shakes his head, but Southie’s ire has been raised; he removes his fine clothing, folds it, and sets it aside. As the rest of the room has fallen to stunned silence, the other gladiators and guards begin forming a circle for Southie and Zedath to settle their differences. As Southie and Zedath size each other up, Resh causes a distraction by falling into a weapon rack. Thawtham begins to strike him with his scourge, but is quickly distracted by the activity in the center of the room.

Southie leaps at Zedath, and although he takes a sound thumping from his scourge, he tears into Zedath’s throat, drops his trousers, scales Zedath, and begins thrusting into the open wound both in an attempt to demoralize him and to crush his trachea. To cause confusion, Ashraf shoves another gladiator into the arena. The gladiator goes crashing into Southie and Zedath, sending them toppling over. As they collapse, Croitus’ reanimated rat scurries into the fray and begins biting Zedath while Southie bites at his face, tearing out his eyes with his teeth. Climbing back to his feet, he asks the crowd, “Are you not wicked entertained?” Meanwhile, as the rest of the crowd stands in shocked silence, Thawtham attempts to flee, shouting to summon the guards. Resh, however, tackles him and begins wrestling with him. While Thawtham is otherwise engaged, Southie retrieves Zedath’s whip and begins strangling the goliath with it. Nobody clubs Thawtham in the head as he struggles, and Resh ends the taskmaster when he splits the Thawtham’s head open with his elbow.

Southie begins to rile the crowd as Khuna implores them to take this opportunity to take their freedom. As she begins passing out padded weapons, the crowd rallies, preparing to take up arms. Croitus uses the confusion to stuff Thawtham’s body into his last canopic jar, and to devour Zedath’s brain — whereupon he learns the call-and-response necessary to breach the magic doors in the complex.

A contingent of guards rushes down the hallway, but the first is shocked as a noose loops around his neck, for while the rest of the crowd was distracted, Ashraf was quickly building a trap. Although the noose breaks after a couple of swings, dumping the guard on the floor, the rest of the guards stay in the hallway to set up phalanx positions. However, they are quickly overwhelmed by the onslaught of the armed gladiators.

As the gladiators prepare to fight their way through the tunnels, Ashraf, Croitus, Khuna, Nobody, Resh, and Southie plot, hoping to access the armory.

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