Conan Acheronian Edition

Session II: The Wicked Slaughterhouse
The Shadow of Acheron creeps upon Forsaken Mountains...

The stillness of the mountain night was broken by the sounds of war. Somewhere, not far away, steel clashed with steel and men cried out, in rage and pain and fear. The four men assembled, arguing what to do next. Alcemides, bored of the discussion, slipped away to scout ahead and keep an eye on the enemies. The sounds of battle continued to ring in the air. Sliding in the forest like a true Pict, he suddenly heard a different kind of clamour ahead – sounds of an armoured man forcing his way through the rough terrain. Hiding in the bushes, he soon saw a pale man, wearing anancient scale hauberk, leading ahead a loaded horse, in a great hurry. Not taking any chances, Alcemides assaulted him, battering the man unconscious and then dragging both the horse and the stranger to the camp.

Tying up both of their prisoners, the Nemedians decided to move their camp to a better location and to try getting some rest. The sounds of battle were already fading – they had tarried too long. It would be better to rest to recover their strength, interrogate the prisoners and avoid detection. That said, they laid down to ease their aching bodies with sleep, dreaming of wine and women. There were no further distractions and the tired warriors rested late in the next day.

In the morning Noam and Alcemides went hunting, while Barathus and Tyrus set to interrogate their prisoners. The pale youth, alost a boy, turned out to be a Nemedian like them, Dionysos by name, sent to Aquilonia just a short time ago. Although arrogant and aggressive, he was capable of convincing the two men to let him free. He had been with the larger group of Nemedians, when they had been attacked by jinettes. As the battle seemed to be lost – they had been taken by surprise – he had fled with as much equipment as he could carry. The Zingaran mercenary, Valenso by name, promised that there would be ransom for him in the nearest town across the border. He did not know anything useful, other than local geography and did not seem like a bad sort of fellow – just a man down on his luck trying to earn a living. The hunters brought back plenty of meat and the party decided to rest a full day, continuing their journey come next morning. As the woodsmen sneaked to the battlefield, they found only stripped corpses.

The next two days were uneventful. The Nemedians marched ahead, dragging along their prisoner, in the trail of the Zingarans and their prisoners. Valenso willingly told that the mercenaries planned to sell the prisoners as slaves, to gain some extra silver to spend. The passage widened into a valley, dominated by tall conifer trees. There were remains of a road running through the valley, a memory of the time when Zingara was not embroiled in civil war and merchants used the pass to transport their wares. As they made camp, Alcemides found a cobbled road, almost completely devoured by the forest, as he hunted for food. Curious and a bit bored, the men investigated, finding a once magnificent marble building. Searching the ruins it became obvious the place had once been a temple or a tomb dedicated to some fallen hero of Mitra. Somewhat alarming however was, that the almost intact statues and carvings of the place had been desecrated only a short while ago. Someone or something had been poking around in the ruins, obviously looking for something – and vandalizing the mausoleum while at it.

In the morning, the men continued their journey, keeping a slow pace to avoid running into any rear guard of the mercenaries. The suggestion of Alcemides to stay in the forest for a few days was rejected by the others. Although hunting might yield food, they had little in the form of other supplies. Besides, there was still a faint chance they could rescue their countrymen. After a few hours of travelling, the trail split in two. The mercenaries had went right and on the left seemed to be a village – a silent village, with the air of something being terribly wrong.

Alcemides and Noam went scouting. The village, surrounded by a circular palisade, might have been inhabitated by fifty people but now seemed almost devoid of life. Near the great hall in the center there were three horses – two starving wretches and a black stallion, great and powerful, with saddle and bridle enbroidered with gold. Guarding the horses were three strange men. Two were clad in ancient scale hauberks made of bronze, their leather parts rotting away, faces hidden beneath equally ancient helmets. The third was a black man, dressed in rags and holding a big club, drooling mindlessly, a bronze slave collar around his neck. Tattoos of snakes covered his body. Alcemides thought of stealing the beautiful horse, but it seemed that the black man spotted him through some unearthly means, letting out a terrible wail. The strange armoured men searched the village, but the scouts eluded them. From insade the main hall a female voice barked orders for them in an unknown language. Shortly after, another female voice begged for mercy, pleas ending in a gasp of pain and gurgling sounds. The scouts had seen and heard enough.

The five Nemedians halted to argue what to do next. They could just bypass the village – but on the other hand, they were short on supplies and curious about what was happening in there. Finally a decision was made. Alcemides and Noam would sneak inside the village and prepare themselves for sniping, if things would turn violent. A little while later, the three other men would ride inside with full gear, drawing all attention on themselves. They would try to negotiate first – but if that would fail, they were ready for battle. After all, they were in a desolate mountain valley and people of the border areas were often both violent and treacherous.

The two woodsmen sneaked inside without any problems, soon followed by the three mounted men. The number of strangely armoured men had doubled to four. When the three men rode to the centre of the village, one of the armoured men shouted inside. A woman emerged, dragging with her a terrified peasant girl, her face frozen in an expression of horror. If the woman had had some more flesh on her bones, she would have been a beauty. But now her skin was tightened on her bones like parchment, making her look like a living skeleton. Her skin was pale and hair black – she was obviously of Acheronian descent. In her hand she had a dagger made of bone, wet with blood, which she carelessly wiped at the tunic of the girl. A Fifth armoured man came out with him, brandishing an ancient bronze greatsword decorated with alien patterns.

Words were exchanged, the woman talking with Barathus but her eyes locked on Dionysos. Then suddenly, another voice intervened – a voice of a child, screaming and begging for help from inside the great hall. For a moment, the world seemed to freeze. Then Alcemides and Noam let their arrows loose from their hiding place. The woman screamed for his men to kill the others, but take Dionysos alive.

The fight was a prolonged clash of fury and skill. The armoured men all wielded ancient greatswords and attacked with insane abandon. When their scale hauberks were punctured and their flesh cut, they did not cry of pain, but moaned in perverse joy and pleasure. Tyrus was the first to draw blood, beheading a foe with one mighty blow, but when he closed on the woman, she made him fall into a helpless trance with her inhuman eyes. Barathus was struck down, with Tyrus and Dionysos wounded. A strange thing happened as well, another feat of vile sorcery, when an arrow from Noam’s bow hit true at the skeletal woman. As the woman fell to the ground, her form shifted to that of the poor peasant girl and the men heard a pounding of hooves, realising the sorceress was already on her horse, galloping away. Finally, all the armoured men had been struck down. Pulling off their helmets revealed Acheronian features.

The black man had not taken part in the fight, just standing still and holding his club. Once the wounded had been tended to, the Nemedians cautiously approached him. As he didn’t seem aggressive, they seized the man and following a flash of intuition, removed his bronze collar. The strangers eyes rolled over and he fell, unconscious. Inside the great hall the warriors found terrible carnage. The air was thick with the smell of blood and decayed flesh, the great hall full of corpses of men, women and children, brutally slain and worse, there was evidence of cannibalism. Two children whimpered in one dark corner, a boy no older than eight and a girl perhaps ten or twelve years old. The warriors laid down to rest and loot, Alcemides and the revived Barathus trying to take care of the children, who seemed withdrawn and fearful. Nothing of value or use was found in the village, other than some dried meat and the two nags.

Later in the evening, the stranger came back to consciousness. It seemed he had no idea where he was, but as the Nemedians pressed on, finally started to tell his story. He introduced himself as Thothmekri, servant and spy of a Stygian wizard, sent to investigate the doings of Xaltotun and other Acheronians in occupied Aquilonia. Somehow predator had become prey and the Acheronians had captured him, putting him in a magical bondage of some sort. Quick-witted, Thothmekri offered the men a reward. He would arrange them a free passage on a ship to any port of their choice and a hefty sum of silver as well, if they would escort him safely to Kordova. Better yet, if they would help Thothmekri to track down and capture the escaped sorceress, then help to take her alive to Kordova, much more silver would be paid. Weighting their options, the Nemedians decided to accept, though still wary of the strange man. Still weak from the battle, they decided to rest in the village and in the morning start hunting for the sorceress. Alcemides and Noam were adamant on taking the children with them – to bring them to Zingara, perhaps giving them to some temple to raise, rather than selling them to slavery as Dionysos suggested.

Thus darkness fell upon the village, stained with blood – and with it rolled a wall of fog, descending from the mountains like a thick, wet blanket.

Session I: Dragon Throne for a horse!
The battle is lost and the Nemedians flee the field

The battle was lost and the survivors fled the best they could. The file of Adventurers, already dismounted for combat, was broken under a charge of Aquilonian cavalry. Two men did exactly what their enemies did not expect – instead of running, they broke through the thin line of enemy troops. After running until their legs could carry them no more, they found themselves up in the mountains. Tyrus and Barathus were on foot, having lost their horses in the battle. They had seen others go the same way, mounted – well, now it was every man for himself. They stopped for a short rest, before they’d have to start jogging again. There were no signs of pursuit yet, but that didn’t mean they were safe.

Noam and Alcemides had been keeping watch on the flanks of the army, in case the enemy would try to encircle Nemedians. When they heard the inhuman cry from the hill where the tent of the sorcerer Xaltotun had been and saw the Aquilonian knights mow their way through Nemedian troops,they knew the day was lost. Making their way to the mountains, they stumbled upon the two resting Adventurers. Weapons were drawn, suspicious gazes and harsh words exchanged, but soon it became apparent that they were all on the same side. After a short rest, the march towards the passage through the mountains continued.

A day and a night passed, weary soldiers sleeping restlessly in a hidden camp amid jagged rocks. During the night, a group of armed and armored riders passed them, their identity impossible to discern in the dark. Another weary day of marching commenced, food already getting scarce. Then a lone rider approached – not from behind, but ahead. Getting closer, the men noticed the bright colours he was wearing. A Zingaran jinette, one of the mercenaries Conan had brought with him. The rider attempted to merely ride through the Nemedians, but Alcemides’ lucky shot from seemingly impossible distance brought him down. Now they had one horse.

The passage started to widen in to a valley and ahead glimmered a stream, flowing into a bright pond by some forgotten ruins. Thirsty and tired, the men staggered to drink and wash themselves, one keeping watch when the other three rested. It was then when four mounted men where sighted, this time coming from behind them. One of them turned and galloped back towards Aquilonia, while the three urged their horses onward. The Nemedians took refuge in the ruins, hoping the remains of the stone walls would negate the advantage horses gave their adversaries. Alas, jinettes, accomplished horsemen, merely urged their horses to jump over the walls. They had no intention of being stuck in melee – instead they tried to net their prey, pulling them with them on a galloping horse. Failing that, they had javelins. The fight was quick and brutal, but in the end, two of the jinettes had fallen and the third was galloping away. Three horses, four men – but at least they could now rest their feet in turns.

Knowing that the five jinettes they had seen had been just scouts, the men pressed onwards. Noam and Alcemides had spotted tracks – a large group of men, perhaps as many as a hundred, had passed this way a short time ago. Fleeing Nemedians, most likely, now hunted by the mercenaries on their way home. They pressed on, ignoring sidetracks and the harsh beauty of the mountains. Three jinettes they had been able to take – double the number might well be their doom.

The valley started narrowing to a passage again and rising steeply. The tired men staggered forward. They dared not to rest before a good camping site could be found, one they could hide. Finally, as darkness began to fall, they made a camp amidst jagged rocks, on a steeply rising hill. Their rest was soon interrupted, as the sentry heard a large group of horsemen moving slowly on the road. Noam and Alcemides sneaked to investigate – it seemed like a large number of mounted soldiers, jinettes perhaps, were leading their horses on foot. They had no lights and tried to move as silently as possible – perhaps hoping to surprise someone? It might be that the other survivors of the battle were closer than they had thought.

The main body of the horsemen was followed by a smaller group, perhaps securing the rear. Alas, as the scouts began to withdraw back to their camp, a loose rock clattered down the hill, hitting the trees. The noise was followed by the clang of a sword against stone, and the rear guard of the Zingaran mercenaries was alerted to their presence. One of thtem, apprentally a tracker, found with a lantern the tracks they had left moving to their camp site. Six of the enemies started climbing the hillside, lead on by their tracker, two staying behind to guard the horses. The Nemedians had now two choices – to fight or run. They decided to make a stand. That way, they might perhaps be able to run through a warning to the large group of their comrades, which the Zingarans seemingly sought to surprise.

As the Zingarans climbed up the hill, they were met by arrows from the undergrowth. All of the fighters were hampered by the darkness, but what they lacked in vision, they made up in ferocity. Soon the fight broke up into a series of duels, Barathus frustrating his opponents by striking blades from their hands through fancy swordplay. Bloodied and battered, the Nemedians held their ground. As Tyrus and Alcemides charged down the hill, hoping to capture more horses, Noam and Barathus gave chase to the last Zingaran, now trying to escape. Realising that he could not outrun the warhound on his trail, the mercenary throwed himself at his enemies mercy. A barked order from Noam stopped his hound just as it was about to sink its teeth in the mercenary’s throat. It took a longer while for Barathus to put down his sword. Tyrus and Alcemides had no success at the downhill – seeing enemies charging down the hill, the men left to tend the horses that had galloped away, taking the mounts of fallen men with them.

Wounded and tired from battle, the Nemedians began the grim business of looting corpses, the warhound keeping a watchful eye on their prisoner. It was then that the sounds of war started cutting the night air, not far away. It seemed that the Zingaran mercenaries had found their prey. Now the Nemedians would have to decide whether to hide or charge into the fray, perhaps only to die in vain.

Welcome to the Hyborian Age!
Histories of avarice, madness and corruption

This campaign chronicles the adventures of a rag-tag group on their quest for glory, wealth and power. The place and time is the Hyborian Age, as described by the great sage Robert E. Howard. All REH wrote has happened and only his writings are taken as canon. Supplements of Mongoose Conan d20 RPG are used in the game. Anything originating from pastiches is open to slaughter and mutilation without mercy. So if you are familiar with pastiches or Mongoose Conan supplements, don’t be surprised if they have been used for inspiration but vastly changed.

The game takes place immediately after the Hour of the Dragon. The original player characters are Nemedian soldiers, who flee the battlefield after the final battle is lost. During their desire to survive and get back home, they become entangled with ancient, sorcerous plots. Heroes fall and new ones join the group in struggle against a faceless enemy. At the same time, fortunes are made, ancient secrets revealed and souls lost.

Mood of the game is sword & sorcery spiced with Lovecraftian horror, moral dilemmas (being a bad guy is just easier) and occasional (mostly unintended) comedy. Some things are blatantly ripped off from Call of Cthulhu. So far the character have steadily fallen towards corruption and madness, turning more in to Howardian villains than heroes… but find out yourself by reading the stories! Check out the various house rules in Wiki, if you want to know how we play. Feel free to leave suggestions, comments questions and requests! The campaign page is both meant to be a tool for the players and entertainment to the rest of you.