Sunday, 4 February 2018

Thieves of Shem - to the Square of the Green Peacock!

Bagwa Grey Tusk
We left our heroes the survivors of a brutal fight in the Square of the Silversmiths in the craft district of Belthaar, a Shemite town on the edge of the Red Waste. Asantha and Baphtor the Red had met in a knife fight with Jahwar, a Shemitish street gang leader, whom they had almost stabbed to death, only managing to restore him to something resembling life with a healing potion. The sorcerer Bagwa Grey Tusk was lost, seeking Baphtor, while Borderlander Rigby Gathorn had been left to finish off the remnants of Jahwar's gang on his own. We pick up the story as Asantha and Bapthor return to the Dirty Dog inn with the unconscious Jahwar...

Arriving at the Dirty Dog, Baphtor was able to bluff his way past the night watchman, claiming that Jahwar was drunk (helped by the fact that the Shemite had been stabbed in the back). Upstairs in his room, Baphtor and Asantha frisked the brigand for some coins, then tied him to a chair. The duo sat up, keeping an eye on Jahwar, but eventually, exhausted by their battle, they both drifted off.

Baphtor awoke in the morning as Bagwa returned to the inn, having searched fruitlessly for the Zamoran thief. Asantha, however, was missing. There was no sign of her or the ancient dagger she had had in her possession. Bagwa and Baphtor questioned the inn keeper who said that Asantha had left around six in the morning, that he had spoken with her, but she had ignored him and simply stalked out of the inn.

Mystified, the two set about interrogating Jahwar. The rogue tried to threaten and cajole his way to freedom. Judicious application of hot wax to his face led him to admit that Taziz had stolen the dagger from the tomb of a wizard called Ikhtanabu Xul, a powerful sorcerer who had once dominated Belthaar, but had died many years ago. His tomb was rumoured to also contain treasure. Jahwar explained that Ikhtanabu had an apprentice called Arakshat, a magician who had since fled Belthaar but who had asked Jahwar to locate the knife that belonged to his master. Arakshat communicated with Jahwar via courier, and Jahwar said knew not where Arakshat now dwells, but did not think he was in Shem. He also revealed that his gang regularly meets in a drinking den with a red awning on the Grand Plaza, and that surviving gang members might rendezvous there.

Threats and bribes were not enough for Jahwar to win his freedom, however, and eventually he was brutally murdered; Baphtor pulled a hood over his head and cut his throat. The body was concealed under the bed.

Meanwhile, Rigby was searching for Asantha.  He finally learned from the owner of a fruit stall that Asantha favours, that the Argossean was spotted that very morning heading in the direction of the Square of the Green Peacock. Rigby set off for the square, which was small, nay compact, with a building with mighty iron doors at one end, and what looked like the entrance to a temple, complete with a pillared portico, on the eastern side. He investigated the temple, and discovered the entrance to a kennel with several caged guard dogs that barked at him.

Leaving the inn, Bagwa and Baphtored started looking for Asantha. Eventually, they asked the very same tangerine seller, who pointed them in the direction of the Square of the Green Peacock. The store keeper also mentioned that he had seen Asantha keeping company with a surly northerner. Bagwa knows the square, as it holds the entrance to the city's catacombs, and the Shrine of the Keepers, the cult tasked with mummifying the dead of the city and interring them in the catacombs. He also said he had heard dark rumours that some of these priests are actually ghouls in disguise.

Entering the square, they noticed a street magician performing near the south-west corner, but it was the shrine and the entrance to the catacombs that grabbed their attention. The square was busy, but the two made for the shrine for a closer look, at which point they spotted a surly northerner retreating down the steps of the shrine, pursued by the noise of dogs barking. Poor Rigby almost walked straight into Bagwa, whom he recognised instantly from the night before.

[At this point the GM went to make a cup of tea, leaving the players to catch up and decide what to do next.]

Baphtor the Red scouted the front of the shrine, and noted the locks on the doors, with three doors leading off the portico, along with the entrance to the kennels. A cunning plan was then hatched. Baphtor and Rigby loitered on the steps of the shrine, while Bagwa challenged the street magician across the square to a contest of illusions. He eventually - after a couple of aborted efforts - moulded a paving stone into a statue of a peacock, creating a considerable stir and distracting most of the people in the square (and earning himself four Renown points for his public display of magic). With the ruckus going on across the square, Baphtor made up the steps and tried to surreptitiously pick the lock to the main entrance to the shrine, which he succeeded in doing, although not before being spotted by the plain clothes cult member in the square, set there to keep an eye on the entrance.

Baphtor and Rigby entered the shrine and found themselves in a torch lit hall, facing a priest armed with a quarterstaff and wearing purple robes and a skull mask. He immediately challenged them, and their situation was made worse by the entrance of the watcher from outside, who accused them of picking the lock. Baphtor made a solid Influence roll, explaining that they were just looking for their friend, and claiming that he suspected she had been subject to some kind of foul sorcery. He asked for the high priest to be summoned, and the guard went to fetch him, leaving the other acolyte to keep an eye on the intruders.

Eventually the high priest arrived, wearing a gold skull mask no less, and listened to Baphtor's claims of magical kidnapping. He said he had not seen Asantha, and that really, this was not their responsibility, and could Baphtor and Rigby please leave the sacred precincts? Baphtor then changed tack, and explained that he had another friend who had sadly expired from alcohol poisoning only last night. Would it be possible to bring his body to the shrine for burial? The high priest said that not only was this possible, but in fact compulsory. Baphtor was provided with a purple shroud, and instructed to bring the body to the shrine immediately.

Leaving the shrine, Baphtor saw the young acolyte watching them warily as they walked back across the square. At a signal from Baphtor, Bagwa wowed the onlookers by animating his peacock statue, making it walk across the square, up the steps of the shrine, and roosting on the portico, where it melded with the stone of the shrine. The acolyte fled indoors.

The thieves left the square, returning to the inn, where they wrapped Jahwar's body in the shroud, and carried it through the streets back to the square. Returning to the shrine, they were met by a masked priest who showed them to the morgue. While Rigby and Bagwa were nauseated by the stench of the bodies here, Jahwar was laid on a slab. The priest told them it would cost 50 silver pieces to have Jahwar interred in the catacombs, or alternatively it was free to have him cremated. No contest really. Jahwar would be ash by dawn.

With dusk approaching, Baphtor suggested they repair to the Great Plaza for some cheap wine at a certain drinking den with a red awning. Here they spotted a young man whom they last saw in the skirmish in the Square of the Silversmiths, when he had shown a clean pair of heels as Rigby was busy bashing in the head of one of his comrades.

When confronted by the grinning Bagwa, the youth admitted he was part of Jahwar's gang, but did not know who the courier was that Jahwar had used to communicate with Arakshat. He did tell them that Arakshat had been just one of Ikhtanabu's apprentices, but that the rest had all been killed in the infighting that broke out after Ikhtanabu's death. Intimidated by Bagwa, the young fellow agreed to show our heroes Jahwar's hovel in the warehouse district. Ransacking it revealed Jahwar's stash of 140 silver coins and some letters written in code on parchment.

Night was falling over Belthaar. It was time to return to the Square of the Green Peacock, only this time a nefarious plan had been hatched. Approaching the square, the thieves were discomfited to discover the entrance to the catacombs was guarded by four skull-masked priests with two of the guard dogs. They explored a side alley, and using Rigby's climbing kit, got access to the roofs of the buildings on the west side of the square. From there it was a simple matter to reach the roof of the entrance to the catacombs. Baphtor located some loose tiles, and started removing them. Below, their lamplight shone into a large, pillared hall, from which led tunnels to the catacombs of Belthaar....!

This campaign is being played using Mongoose RuneQuest (1st edition, 2006). The setting is Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age.


  1. You've captured the Howard feel!

  2. Very nice, I used the setting in SGB and ended up not running the adventures but it turned out to be a great tangent. You might find Raleel's Hyborian Age useful, I used it for the Grimoires, Cults, and "Substances of Note"

    If you put "spider god's" into the search on the Mythras Encounter Generator there's a bunch of NPCs setup

    1. Thanks very much for pointer. I'll check it out. Hopefully we'll be continuing Thieves of Shem in the near future and it won't go off on a tangent...!