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Shattered Star #8: Bloodsports

12 Apr

boxing

8th day of Lamashan, 4712 AR

The party returned to the Pathfinder Lodge after lightening their load at Magnimar’s markets. There, the gunslinger Henri and the magus Joshua decided to take a short break from their adventures. Katrina had settled on yet another vocation–no, shooting bows no longer excited her, and no longer did worshipping Pharasma! She was now devoted to being a tank! She and the barbarian Grog hunched toward  each other, giving each other approving grunts.

Meanwhile, they found that Leo’s successor at the waffle shop was Lard, yet another adventurer in the family who was a cleric that worshipped Gorum, the god of battle!

Sheila Heidmarch suggested that they visit the new ice cream shop in the Keystone District, to see what was up there.

Screaming for Ice Cream

A large banner saying “Grand Opening! Free Ice Cream!” hung over the entrance to the ice cream shop, and a long queue extended out from its entrance back around the corner. Over the doorway hung sign saying “Cream Cubby” with a baby wolf licking an ice cream cone.

When the party finally entered the shop after waiting in line, they saw a surprising sight: a half-orc with sharp tusks was handing out cones of ice cream. The customers were a bit suspicious, but were soon smoothing their tongues over the delicious ice cream. The various members of the party ordered different flavors. When the ranger Lillian approached the strange proprietor, she decided to scope him out.

“Are you an adventurer?”

“Well, sort of,” the half-orc said. “The name’s Wolf.”

ice-cream“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” said Lillian, shaking his hand.

Katrina for some reason got into a fight. Two men in white robes wearing disconcerting, expressionless iron masks walked in and broke up the fight. They then silently left, with Grog and the druid Glondorfin sneaking behind them.

Lard was licking the ice cream and came upon an idea.

“This needs something… I know! It needs waffles!” Lard started to hand out advertisements for people to go to Lard’s Lovely Waffle Shop in the Shadow District.

Lillian clutched her stomach, doubled over, and fell to the floor.

“Oh! I’m sick! O I knew I never should have eaten that waffle from Lard’s Lovely Waffle Shop!” She thrashed around on the floor in a circle. “BOYCOTT! Boycott LARD’S WAFFLES!”

The customers looked at her with alarm. Wolf mixed a strange ingredient into an ice cream cone and handed it to Lillian. She devoured it and felt much better.

“It’s a miracle!” said Lillian. “And this must be Miracle Milk!”

“Yes,” said Wolf. “And I’ve learned how to mix many things for many purposes. I know a thing or two about ALCHEMY.”

“You should join our party!”

The party now had an aspiring half-orc businessman among their number. Meanwhile, Glondorfin returned from his trip following the masked men.

“They entered this temple to Razmir, but they wouldn’t let me in,” he said.

Once Wolf closed up his shop, the party took him to the Pathfinder Lodge to get acquainted.

The Qualifying Round

The_Tavern

The next day was the Qualifying Round for the Unarmed Fighting Tournament at the Matador’s Lodge. The party arrived, wearing their street clothing. A frantic-eyed man named Master Basaalee Minvandu welcomed them at the door, but told Glondorfin that his giant frog would have stay outside.

It was quite empty inside, and smoke hung low in the air. An improvised fighting ring had been constructed in the middle of the room. Wolf knew of this place: the Matador’s Lodge hosted weekly bull fighting shows and had been trying to drum up its business with the unarmed fighting tournament.

“These are the rules: NO WEAPONS, NO ARMOR, and NO MAGIC!” Master Minvandu said. “The rules will be enforced!” He pointed to a cleric in the corner of the establishment who had white pupils and surveyed the scene. “There are twelve of you, so after two fights the remaining three will qualify for the Tournament!”

At the bar, Glondorfin, Grog and Lard tried to down mugs of Dragon’s Breath, an expensive brew that had strengthening properties, if one could stomach it. Lard felt much more ready to fight, but Grog and Glondorfin felt nauseous.

At a table, a waitress served them meals and cake.

Katrina stood in the ring and prepared to fight. A lanky young man in his late teens who was missing some teeth stood before her timidly. Katrina charged forward and beat him down with two blows!

Polite applause filled the room.

“NEXT!” Minvandu bellowed, his eyes widening with pleasure.

Master Minvandu

Master Minvandu

Lillian won her fight easily. Grog, regretting having drunk the Dragon’s Breath, asked the waitress, Malena, if there was anything in the Matador’s Lodge that could cure him.

“Well, we don’t have anything behind the counter that will help you,” she said. She looked in Grog’s eyes intensely and placed a hand on his shoulder. He felt a tingle as magical energy coursed through his body and cast all feelings of illness away. Grog reported the ring, however, not returning Malena’s attentions.

A tall, muscular, but annoyingly-handsome man stood at a table nearby and squeezed her rear end as she passed.

“How much do I pay for some of that!” he said, laughing.

Glondorfin called his frog, Ulf, to leap on the vagrant. Master Minvandu  ran forward and demanded the fight stop immediately. He apologized profusely to the stranger, then frowned and turned to Glondorfin. Ulf flicked his tongue hungrily.

“You realize, sir, that you have just assaulted NORRIS ARMANEI, the champion of the Matador’s Lodge? I will not have you attack him before the tournament on Oathday!” lectured Minvandu.

Meanwhile, the drowsy audience gasped in surprise as Grog lifted an opponent into the air and threw him over the edge of the ring! The befuddled opponent got up, dusted himself off, and climbed back in — only to be pummeled by Grog with a single, raging blow.

Glondorfin approached the waitress and asked for the same treatment. Malena scowled.

“Who do you think I am?” she said. “I don’t just go around helping strangers.”

For Lard, there was a vaguely-familiar face on the other side of the ring.

“YOU!” the scowling woman yelled. “You gave me those terrible waffles! I will never forgive youuuu!” She charged forward, her fingers arching above her like claws.

norris

Norris Armanei

Lard responded with a surprising move, sliding between her legs and then hitting her from behind.

“Noooo!” The woman turned around. Lard stood up and hulked over her.

“I have a surprise for you!” yelled Lard.

“Nothing can top your terrible waffles!”

Lard lifted a shirt, revealing a chest that showed… she was not a man.

The former customer’s scowl deepened and increased her ferocity. At the end, Lard fell unconscious to the ground in the party’s first defeat.

A nearly-bald man sat in a lotus position, calmly observing the fighting. Lillian walked up to him.

“You’re a monk!” she said.

The  man paid no attention. Lard, now having recovered from her fight, walked over and lifted her shirt. He didn’t blink an eye.

“I’m concentrating,” he said, observing the fighting ring. The dwarf Glondorfin faced off against a barefooted human who jumped from side to side on agile feet. Wolf had tossed a large helping of ice cream into the ring, making the floor slippery.

Glondorfin ran up to the human and pounded him with his fists, as the man tried to trip him to the floor. They avoided the worst effects of the ice cream. And the man, while agile, proved to be no match for the doughty dwarf.

The next match involved the two friends, Katrina and Lillian. While just recently Katrina was healing Lillian when needed, this new, beefed-up version of Katrina went into a rage and beat Lillian without mercy.

Grog and Glondorfin won their respective second fights, eliminating Lard’s waffle nemesis from the running. Katrina, Grog, and Glondorfin qualified for the Tournament!

The next days were uneventful, as the party anticipated Oathday’s tournament, and their possible confrontation with Norris Armanei. Meanwhile, at the Pathfinder Lodge, a messenger arrived with a note, telling the party that Tegan Coyle, a cleric from the Keystone District, had a lucrative job for them if they chose to accept it, and to meet him at the Matador’s Lodge the same night of the tournament.

The Tournament

barfight

On Oathday night, the party could hear the rowdy crowd inside The Matador’s Lodge long before they actually reached its doorstep. The Lodge was packed — Glondorfin was able to sneak his frog Ulf inside, but the bouncer shoved Lard’s camel away before it could step inside.

Lillian and Wolf furtively passed out coupons for the Cream Cubby to members of the crowd, avoiding the watchful eye of Master Minvandu.

Glondorfin was unhappy to hear that his first opponent would be Norris Armanei himself. Norris strode into the ring, flashing smiles at the females in the audience.

The ring was already cluttered with spilled beer, ice cream, and coupons.

Right before the bell signaled the beginning of the fight. Lillian slipped a flask of alchemist’s fire in Norris’s shoe. As soon as Norris stepped forward, his foot burst into flame!

Glondorfin got in a punch, but was no match for Norris’s one-two punch technique. The crowd chanted “NORRIS!” every time Norris landed a punch. Glondorfin fell to the mat senseless.

Norris laughed mockingly at his defeated opponent, spun a foot, left the ring, and joined his friends in a corner of the bar.

Lard tried to sneak up behind Norris, but was confronted by Norris’s friend, an uneven-eyed man in chain mail with long black hair who pushed Lard backward.

Lard called to his camel, who stepped to the entrance and let out an angry shot of spittle which flew over many heads in the crowd but came nowhere close to reaching Norris and his friend.

The crowd ooohed when Grog lifted up a tough member of Magnimar’s town guard and threw him over the ring. However, he landed down on the packed audience, which absorbed the impact. They lifted him back into the ring. Grog entered a rage and landed solid blows on the guard, knocking him back onto the mat.

trophyKatrina fought a monk who tried to trip her but had little success. Katrina also entered a rage and defeated her opponent handily.

Then Grog and Katrina faced off against each other, building up their strength with a series of grunts. What resulted was a titanic battle in which they yelled bloody murder and landed heavy blows on each other. Katrina gained an early lead, but Grog switched to a two-fisted technique that wore down Katrina. Near to being knocked out himself, he landed a punch that sent Katrina to the ground. The two of them grunted mutual respect to each other afterward.

As everyone anticipated the Final Match, Wolf noticed the sparkle of a flask in Norris Armanei’s waist pocket. He grabbed it and noticed that it looked like a potion!

“What’s this!?” Wolf demanded. Other members of the party crowded around them. Wolf examined the contents and observed that it had once contained a dose of bull’s strength.

“HE’S BEEN CHEATING!” Wolf announced.

Norris laughed it off.

“Me?! Cheating!? Why, I would never need to cheat, what with THESE muscles,” he flexed his biceps, eliciting oohs from the crowd. “Potion of bull’s strength? Pfft! Like I’d need it anyway!” He strutted away.

The Lodge staff wiped down the ring for the Final Match. Grog stood in one corner opposite Norris. The crowd was about evenly divided between chanting Grog’s name and Norris’s.

When the bell rang, the crowd yelled out of excitement, then fell into a hush as a large beehive fell directly onto Norris’s head. They heard laughter from up above.

Lard laughed from the hole she had created in the ceiling. Norris yelled in agony and ripped the beehive off his head. His face red with sting bites. He threw the hive aside in disgust.

Grog and Norris engaged in a titanic battle that shook the entire Lodge to its foundations, so ferocious were there are blows on each other. Norris started with two punches on Grog that sent him reeling, but once Grog entered his rage he was nigh unstoppable. Norris and Grog gnashed their teeth and fought with a terrible fear. The crowd went wild.

“Norris!” “Grog!” “Norris!” “Grog!”

And Norris, slumped backward, dumb, spun around, and fell down to the mat with a triumphant Grog leering down over him. The crowd cheered! Grog had won!

Master Minvandu leaped into the ring.

“Welcome your new Champion, Grog!”

“GRRRROOOOOOOOGGGGGG!!!” yelled the crowd. Master Minvandu led Grog him away from the ring. Customers slapped him on the back with hearty congratulations. Back in his office, Minvandu handed Grog the First Prize of one thousand gold pieces.

An Undercover Offer

Tegan Coyle

Tegan Coyle

Meanwhile, in a corner of the Lodge the party sat down to meet with Tegan Coyle, a cleric of Erastil from the Keystone District.

“We have a problem with a new religion in town,” Coyle began. “They pretend to do good deeds, reducing crime in the area by publicly beating up criminals, and giving out food to the poor. They also claim to follow who they call their ‘Living God,’ a man named Razmir. You may have seen them walking around Keystone wearing iron masks.”

The party had moment of comprehension.

“The men who stopped the fight at the Cream Cubby!” said Glondorfin.

“Well, they also make large demands of contributions from the businesses they protect,” Coyle continued. “They justify everything with references to their god, but in the end they are your classic racket, bullying the populace into giving them money and spreading fear. And I will not lie to you; they are a direct threat to the churches of Keystone and we need them eliminated.”

“We can’t trust the authorities to handle this — we have seen them publicly beat up people who don’t give them contributions, with town guardsmen looking the other way. We don’t quite know how deep into the city government they have spread their influence. We need some resourceful, talented people who are relatively unknown — no offense — to go in there and find evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Evidence that we can present to the city government to bring the law down on them and eliminate them from the city.”

“How about I sneak in myself and try to infiltrate their higher ranks?” said Lard.

“That would be highly risky. You see there, is much we do not know about them: their numbers, their organization. We cannot tell how many of them there are because of their matching iron masks. You would need to be a master infiltrator indeed, to convince the highest-ranked among them to believe you are one of their own, one whom they  have known for a long time and one they trust. We know little more, than that most of them wear white robes, a smaller number wear gray robes, and a very few wear black robes, and that one of these priests in black is a powerful spellcaster. A frontal assault would be unwise, at least until we know more information.”

“What would we get if we accomplish this mission?” said Katrina.

“One thousand gold apiece,” Coyle said. “And you are welcome to keep anything you find inside their temple.”

The party agreed. It was well known that the Temple of Razmir held a recruitment meeting every Starday evening in a tavern called The Ranger’s Lament, which was situated across the street from the Temple. When the party arrived, they found themselves alone with the tavern owner and a young man named Evlar. Evlar had just run away from his father and wanted to prove that he actually was “somebody,” and understood the Temple to be a good organization that helped the poor. Before they could talk much further, several figures in black and gray robes and one figure in white walked into the tavern. The man in white bellowed out in a deep voice:

“Razmir has found you all worthy! He is proud of you for taking this, the first of 31 steps to enlightenment, the path of righteousness, the stairs to power and glory. Razmir is the one true god. What other god so richly rewards those who follow him? What other god lives among his people, guiding them with his wisdom and his might? None of them! Only Razmir can offer you the power, the fortune, and the glory that you desire. Will you join him?”

The black-robed man folded his arms behind him, and looked about the room behind his impassive mask. Evlar built up his courage and said, “Yes.” The party also indicated their agreement.

The priest voiced his congratulations, and encouraged everyone to eat, telling them that the Temple would pay for their meals. Most of them ordered food and drink. However, after several minutes, they began to feel very sleepy…

Recruited to Razmir

iron-mask… They woke up what felt like several hours later, stripped of their gear and belongings, lying down in narrow prison cells. The same man, wearing black, walked before them.

“I must apologize for the way that you were brought here,” he said in a calm, even tone. “We must be sure that you are pure and properly prepared to join the faith. Today you shall fast and meditate on the glory of Razmir. On the morrow you shall be sworn in. You shall become acolytes, and allowed upon the first step of enlightenment. Rejoice! The path of glory and fortune shall be open to you.”

The priest gave them scrolls that contained “The Tenets of Razmir.” As he walked away, the party members scowled.

“I don’t like this at all,” Lard said.

“Why did they have to trick us?” Lillian said. “And look at these tenets they have. They look kind of sketchy.”

“Well, if this is what we have to do, I suppose we should do it,” said Evlar.

The day passed, as a priest came in a white robe came in at intervals with bread and a thin soup to eat. They eventually fell asleep out of boredom.

They awoke the next morning and were led upstairs to the main worship chamber of the Temple. Between two to three dozen masked figures in robes sat around them: most of them in white robes, fewer in gray robes, and four of them in black robes. They were each commanded to stand on the first step — stepping any higher was strictly forbidden — to receive their white robes and masks.

“I am Egarthis,” said the same man who had spoken to them before. “With these robes and masks, you are made one with the body of Razmir, one piece of the greater whole.”

The assemblage droned, “All hail the glory of Razmir.”

Egarthis continued.

“Krant here–” he pointed to a large, hulking figure in a gray robe — “Will introduce you to the ways of our Order. Once you are found worthy, your belongings will be returned to you and you may freely roam the Temple. But until then, you must stay with him unless he grants you leave otherwise, and you must follow his orders to the letter.”

A snort of gratification came from behind the gray man’s mask. The assembly was then dismissed.

The party was led out by Krant, and they tried to get comfortable behind their new masks. Krant gave them a brief look at their barracks and the dining hall where they were to eat. Other members of the Temple wearing white robes ignored them as they walked about. Krant had them started on some menial chores, cleaning parts of the Temple.

Krant then snorted with pleasure.

“I have a little tradition here that you have the pleasure to be part of,” he said. “You will get a chance to show who among you is the toughest of the bunch. We will go up to the courtyard and you will stand in a circle, and FIGHT! For the last one of you standing, I’ll let you have a bottle of wine from my cellar! Heh heh heh.”

He led them upstairs and out into the courtyard and had them stand in a circle. He placed a sap in every one of their hands. Evlar looked nervous. Krant then placed a heavy flail in the center of the circle.

“This will make it more fun!” he said. “Now FIGHT!”

Lillian raised her arms and chanted, “All hail the glory of Razmir… All the hail of Razmir…”

The rest of the party joined in. Krant looked back and forth, confused at first. Then he nodded in smug satisfaction and folded his arms, believing he had done well in making them obedient.

Lillian raced to the center of the circle and grabbed the heavy flail. The battle now on, other members of the party surrounded Evlar and punched him, knocking him out. They then turned on each other.

Not all of them were willing to get into the fray: Wolf and Glondorfin stood to the side. However, Katrina and Grog, strong and confident, bellowed in rage, teamed up, and started to tear into the rest of the party! Glondorfin was soon knocked out, as an annoyed Lard stood back and channeled healing energy on the weaker members of the party who were still standing. A frail Wolf tried to participate but was soon accosted by the heavy blows of Katrina’s sap.

Grog dropped his sap and grabbed for Lillian’s flail, wresting it from her grip. As she tried to fight back, a gleeful Grog whirled around and turned upon poor Wolf. He aimed directly for his head and put all his strength into the heavy flail.

A sickening crunch sounded, as blood spurted out from Wolf’s head.

Krant watched this and roared with excitement.

“EXCELLENT!”

Wolf’s limp form fell to the ground…

=====================

XP at the end of the session:

Glondorfin – 4,455
Grog – 5,240

Henri- 4,585
Joshua – 4,463

Katrina – 4,385
Lard – 4,306
Lillian – 5,605
Wolf – 4,193

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