The Light that Never Warms (All for One: Regime Diabolique) – Campaign Report 6

Campaign: The Light that Never Warms

 Story Two: I Came for the Waters
Session 2 Scales of the Dragon

This is the sixth installment of reports for my current face-to-face campaign using Triple Ace Games’ fantastic All for One: Regime Diabolique ~ a game of supernatural intrigue and swashbuckling action in a dark reflection of 17th Century France. This campaign emphasizes mystery, dark magics, and verbal sparring, but includes a dash of chasing and escaping mixed with a healthy portion of wine and revelry. This session had the characters their mission out of Paris and taking the first step in their war on the Order known to them as the Crimson Dragon.

Cast:
Jean Archer, musketeer, PC
Xavier Pinchot, Physician (Alchemist), PC  (Avery’s supposed lackey)

Avery Sisko, musketeer, PC
Vincent, man of the world (Homomancer), PC (Jean’s supposed lackey)

Phillipe ‘Didier’ Auberjonois, musketeer, noble in thin disguise, NPC (now)
Patrick Picard, former Inquisitor (Medium), NPC (now) (Phillipe’s supposed lackey)
Robert Renault, former novice Inquisitor, NPC, Patrick’s actual lackey
Robert deToile, tailor to the elite, NPC, Patrick’s actual lackey

Yves LeMouton, seemingly unworthy musketeer, NPC
Claude LeMouton (no relation), seemingly unworthy musketeer, NPC

Notes:

This session was delayed and ended up running a little short, but the players covered a lot of ground physically and in their information gathering. As we had ended the previous session on a cliffhanger, and as the title for this session was Scales of the Dragon, the players were ready for a real fight. By the end of the session, they realized that the word scales has more than one meaning. That did not prevent them from rushing headlong into danger once again, however.

I have you where you want me

Bold as brass, and just as cold, the martial-looking priest strode into the warehouse, with his eyes fixed on the slumped captives dressed in Yves and Claude’s uniforms, and guarded by Renault and Didier in the clothes of their former captor.

On cue, as he crossed to a clear open space, Jean and Avery kicked the door shut as a way of introducing themselves. Yves and Claude rose into position from the partial upper floor of the warehouse, muskets aimed at the tanned and scarred priest, while Xavier waited behind them with his blunderbuss at the ready, but the use of his disorienting potion on his mind.

Jean leapt at the priest to grapple him, but a cold spectral force buffeted him backward a good five feet; it’s leering, eyeless face and ropey arms clearly visible in the dim light.*Avery, mastering his reactions, ignores the effect and tries to engage the fellow in a conversation that might lead to learning something about the forces arrayed against them, but discovers that the lone man is actually looking forward to taking them all on…  He opts not to disappoint him.

Renault holds position with the captive thieves, but Didier moves in to limit the space the fight might take. Patrick takes up position by the door, and unnecessarily warns everyone that the priest is employing magical forces. Vincent, still outside, checks the bonds of his dozing victims before coming to join the fray. Yves and Claude track the villain, but hold fire for fear of accidentally striking Jean and dying by his vengeful hand.

Xavier, not liking where this is going, hurls a vial of his disorienting fumes, but it falls short of its mark. The priest, a slight smile on his face and a taunt on his lips, moves deeper into the darkness in the left wing of the warehouse and prepares to meet the rush of Avery and Jean. From his sleeves he produces a pair of twin fighting knives and drops into a well-practiced defensive crouch. Jean, roaring and drawing his blade is beside himself with fury, but Avery – blade already drawn, slips in to engage. His slash is deflected, and he barely manages to parry the twin slashes he receives in return. [Flurry, Style spent]

Jean, still screaming, rushes in, so Avery takes the opportunity to try to divide the priest’s attention. Throwing his blade “at” the fighter, he tumbles after it to come up on his left flank – the opposite side of the man from Jean. The blade sticks in the floor, ready to be grabbed [Style], and the priest turns his back to the rolling Avery, blocking a deadly assault by Jean and returning twin cuts of his own, one of which finds flesh! [3 HL].

The fight turns deadly then with both Avery and Jean committing to taking down the foe. In a quick reversal, both manage to mark the man, but Avery also takes a slash of his own. Each with blood flowing appraises the other. The spectral force which protects the priest does not seem to do so consistently, but always appears after blood has been drawn. Whatever the case, the priest is no longer smiling, and he shows every sign of regretting his earlier bravado.

As each fighter circles to disadvantage the other, the priest mutters a twisted, growling word and flies like a witch up into the darkness of the rafters. The word will not stay in the ears of those who hear it, but coils there vilely for a moment, before slithering off into the hell from which it came.

Yves and Claude, often the last to know what is going on, are the first to react. Both fire their muskets and Yves’ shot strikes home. Jean, unwilling to let vengeance slip his bloodied grasp, charges the prisoners, and runs up the body of the thieves’ captain, to leap off of the man’s shoulder and up to the railing of the second floor. From there it is certain he will hurl himself at the fleeing priest in the darkness under the roof.

Downstairs, Vincent, who has slipped in unseen and unheard (still enjoying augmented stealth and perception), openly casts magic seeking to cloud and confuse the mind of the priest and so prevent his escape. The priest himself is likewise spewing vile words, and gesturing like a madman at the ceiling above him. As one, their chants end and each sees their spell take hold ; the priest on the wood of the roof**, and Vincent on the mind of the priest***

The bright light of afternoon streams in through the roof as the wood rots away, but the priest seems lost, and cries out, unable to find his way to his escape route. Jean, not missing his chance, hurls himself into space to grab the priest – not considering what to do should he miss, or he not be able to drag the man back down to the floor. He makes his leap, but the spectral force around the priest, and the man’s own flailing, throw him off and he plummets toward the wooden floor below. Making eye contact with Renault [Style] Jean silently implores a softer landing be provided. The former inquisitor tips over their chairs so that they might provide a cushion for the falling musketeer. He makes excellent use of it and rolls smoothly to his feet, none the worse for wear, sword in hand.

The priest, unable to maintain a coherent thought as Vincent maintains the effect from the shadows of the doorway, follows Jean’s drop to the wooden floorboards of the warehouse, and begins to thrash. Jean seeks to knock him out, striking him not once, but twice on the head with his pommel. The man finally succumbs, and falls still. Badly injured, and desperately needed for information about the traps awaiting them, Xavier jumps down from the second floor somewhat awkwardly, and rushes to the man’s aid. Using one of his elixirs of vigor (+2 HL) and passing one each to the bleeding Avery and Jean, he turns to his mundane arts of healing to staunch the flow of blood from his sword and bullet wounds.

Again, foregoing subterfuge, Vincent chants and gestures openly as he approaches the wakening foe. Calling forth thoughts and images from deep within his mind, listening to the whispered words and flashes of insight the spirits of this world send him. As he does his best to sort through the wash of images of dark stone caverns, twisting passages, child sacrifice, and overall the leering, looming visage of Satan and the waving banner of a widespread league of sorcerers and warriors, called by many names, but all representing the Order of the Red Dragon, Xavier trains in vain to save the man’s life. It is an effort doomed to failure however, as despite the application of another elixir the healing process is being slowly undone. The man’s flesh is darkening and roughening into that of a weathered and dried corpse. His face is distorting into that of a meat eating fiend, and his intelligence is being replaced by a demonic hunger that drives Vincent’s mystical connection out of his head. Pushing his allies aside, Jean drives his sword home deep into the transforming man’s chest, then ripping it out for a second blow, lops of its head.

The body, deprived of its original life, and now of its possessing force, begins to decompose into thick, viscous ooze. Xavier, ever the alchemist, gathers some up, despite the revulsion of his compatriots.

“We need to talk,” many say, and so they do.

Sharing is caring

Yves and Claude missed the transformation of the priest, but as he was no doubt a warlock, they do not question the removal of his head, assuming Renault and Patrick had it done. Didier, fastidious as always, keeps well away from the whole mess, watching the road and noting that Vincent’s captives in the street are gone.

Vincent, in his own charismatic way, gets the group to focus on key details. This man was working in this town under the guise of a priest, and the mark they placed to draw the Crimson Dragon agents here was near a small church. He was obviously a well-trained and loyal fighter, and quite possibly a regional leader. He and Jean press for an immediate attack on their lair – if such the church is – before they can regroup.

As one, they head to the church, listening to Vincent tell them about his insights into the mind of the priest, Michel. “His goal is to topple the Church, and this organization of evil is much larger than we thought.”

Jean, already bored with talk of the dead man, contributes the idea that whatever else this assignment is, it requires quick and decisive action. On the voyage south, Didier and Patrick shared their thoughts that no matter what results from this trip, the Cardinal and his cronies win. If the musketeers succeed in retrieving the frail old bishop and bringing him to Paris on time, then Richelieu was wise in having chosen them. If they fail, he has every excuse to enhance and expand his own personal guard. If the King’s best and brightest musketeers cannot successfully escort a beloved Priest from one part of France to another, then… what good are they? If they die, he is rid of them, and if they succeed… they owe him for their continued fame.

“The only thing open to us,” Jean says is to succeed, and do so by crushing this Red Dragon. That way we not only accomplish our mission, but we eclipse the Cardinal in so doing.”

“Hear, hear!” say the others, and it is decided.

Into the Halls of Death

The group strides to the church and splits up. Jean, Avery, Vincent, and Xavier go in. Didier, Patrick, and Renault stand guard outside. Yves and Claude return to their unused lodgings to gather up the rest of their belongings.

Inside the church, the group finds it not only empty, but with every appearance of having been abandoned for quite some time. Searching the back rooms, they soon find the trap door to the cellar, and from its coolness the scent of wax and incense. Descending, they find a small underground chamber of stone with 4 decorative pillars defining a square, central space, and a large white stone altar at the end. Calling for the other three, they examine the chamber very carefully.

They discover the pillars came from elsewhere, and their patterns and the altar suggest to Patrick that this spot and the decorations on its walls and ceiling owe a lot to Mithraism. He says so, but at the blank looks of the others he grows quiet, and simply says, “This place once belonged to a cult from at least Roman times.”

After more investigation and a final aha moment where they notice that not only do the pillars not touch the ceiling, but the altar does not actually touch the floor, they find a secret staircase into a narrow and winding tunnel below the city not unlike the catacombs of Paris. The moss and other foul growths on the walls and corpses speak loudly of the damp, but the clean surface of the floor of the tunnel shows clearly that it has been well-used recently.

Sending Didier, Patrick, and Renault back to the harbor to search for suspicious individuals and get horses and supplies for the overland trip, the rest explore the tunnels…. for hours. Eventually, following the flow of water, they choose a way out of the tunnels near the waterfront and seek out their companions, still unsure of how these tunnels might be used but quite sure that there are no underground chambers or dark churches to be found.

Drink and be Merry, damnit!

After a quick cleaning, the Musketeers and their lackeys head down into a local tavern to get drunk and investigate life in the town. While their fame is fading in Paris already, it is in full bloom in this small sea town and they are easily able to swap stories for ale and wine and wenches… and rumours.

First among these is the relief the locals have that the King has sent three such fine musketeers to deal with the disappearances of so many local children. Always singly, and on the dark of the moon, these abductions were at first thought to be accidental deaths or runaways, but now, months later with nary a corpse nor sign, but always on the same night and regardless of protection, they know better.

With that buzz-kill in their hearts, the musketeers focus more on teasing out details concerning Michel and less on getting laid…. well, a little less. They discover he and his two novices are beloved members of the community, and they enjoy his services. They further discover that the seemingly abandoned church they investigated is in use seven days a week and the most recent service should have been an hour ago.

They go.

Arriving at the church they find it lit and warm, and with a few older parishioners very concerned that Father Michel is not here. The place looks well-used, and full of the little things that show daily prayer and care.

Cursing, Vincent realizes that they fell prey to an illusion**** and that the men they seek could have been in this very place the whole time they searched it. Returning to the chambers of the priests they see signs of hasty packing and muddy footprints going to and fro from down below. Putting two and two together they split up to check all the gates from the town, and send Renault to question local stable hands about sudden departures.

When they regroup almost an hour later they have solid leads. Two men claimed their horses, bought an old wagon, loaded it with barrels, and headed out the South gate, toward a road which will take them into the mountains….mountains which Vincent knows will house the secret stronghold of the Crimson Dragon!

“Let’s get our horses!” says Jean.

“Let’s party awhile, and then ride really fast tomorrow morning!” counters Avery.

Agreeing that there is nothing quite like a morning ride, the group agrees to enjoy the hospitality of the town a bit before racing off into the face of the combined guns, swords, and spells of a Satanic league of sorcerer-warriors and their demonic patrons.

Next Session: Pending ~ Tipping the Scales

* Aeromancy+Necromancy:

  • Spirit Shield – Provides a +2 to Defense, but requires blood to function

**Floramancy+Necromancy:

  • Rot Wood – rots wood

***Homomancy:

  • Confound the Foe – Provides Opposed Roll versus Target’s Intelligence to overwhelm them with confusing echoes, images, and chaotic disorientation, success “grapples” the opponent’s mind and prevents or reduces lucid thought

**** Astute readers may wonder why Patrick’s ability to sense magic was not triggered by this illusion. The truth is that it was, but the illusion itself was crafted so that the characters would find nothing unusual about their circumstances. As there was nothing unusual, there was no need for Patrick to comment. This conclusion was handled in play by checking to see if Patrick was affected by the illusion (he was) and awarding him two points of Style for the inconvenience. As he is an NPC, he did not thank me, but the players will appreciate those Style points later when he uses them to help out, I am sure.

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