VII Madness in Liberportus
AVGVSTVS XIII DCCCXCI
The party dresses in their finest togas to attend a grand feast at the home of Sealord Antonius Hibernius Drac in the Old City. As only Lucius, Etrusicus, and Gaius received invitations, Gaius takes Titus Pullox as his guest. Lucius invites his employer and soon to be father-in-law Quintus Hortensius.
The villa is lavishly appointed and decorated. Of particular interest is a mosaic detailing a local legend of a type of men who once lived on the island that were both man and fish.
The party hosts nearly all of Liberportus’ wealthy and elite individuals. The PCs find some familiar faces in Julia Felix, Julius Fulvius Lydon , Abudius Pupius Eucharis, and Magnus Larcius. Other movers and shakers present are Pollux Renatus Nemo, Iason Ovidius, Nymphidius Vindex, the prefectus vigilum Duccius Sittius Thurinus as well as the entire Council of Magistrates. Also at the party is the immensely wealthy Tadius Receptus who makes a point of ignoring those whose name the banquet is in honor of.
The party is formally introduced to Tarmun the Philosopher, whose school they have visited previously, and Estus Talbus the playwright. Lucius and Estus chat about the arts and Lucius recites the lines he found on a parchment scrap found in the old temple of Orcus when the PCs evicted the Children of Bacchus. Estus displays obvious concern as the lines recited by Lucius are identical to ones he has written into his latest, and as of yet unfinished, work.
Etrusicus, the young politician, is introduced by Julius Lydon to Exomnius Gargilius, leader of the anti-Drac faction within the Council and possible supporter of Lydon.
Arias Tullo makes a big show of friendship with Gaius and Titus proudly proclaiming that it was he, after all, who discovered them and made them the heroic vigilies of Liberportus that they are today.
After no small time spent mingling the party retires to couches where they listen to fine Greek musicians, watch Egyptian jugglers and Gaulish tumblers. Dinner includes cow udders stuffed with dormouse, salad slathered with garum, Trojan pigs, rice from beyond Parthia and all manner of spiced delicacies.
Antonius Drac silences the room with a powerful throat clearing and gives the following speech:
Friends and Romans! today we honor Lucius Aemilius Rufus, Gaius Severus Commodus, Etrusicus Superbus Invicti, and the late Marcus Corvus Rutilius. They, through their own volition, rose up against the traitor within our ranks! Yes, I speak of that fell creature, Titus Villemus Verlaine. He who betrayed our trust and faith and cast aside the good Roman gods of his forebears in favor of vile foreign gods!
But these men, these men here, struck back against his corruption, against the liar, and revealed his terrible ways to the light of the people. For that, the Council and People of Liberportus present Lucius Aemilius Rufus, Gaius Severus Commodus, Etrusicus Superbus Invicti with the Order of Drac. Named after my ancestor and the first Sea Lord of Liberportus, it is the highest honor our city can bestow. Hail the viri of Liberpotus!
With that, young comely slaves place electrum laurels upon the PCs brows and the room erupts into an applause rarely heard outside of the arena.
More feasting and drinking and politicking occurs. The party, perhaps with not such clear heads, accept the offer of Magistrate Manlius Vibius Mettellus to hear a private word.
In a private room Manlius unleashes a a frightful tale. He knows of The Brotherhood of the Yellow Sign and further more he knows that Drac is in league with them. That the great lighthouse of Drac is but a tool, a beacon to summon some dread into the world and destroy Liberportus. That it will destroy the minds of all the wealth who hath arrived from all throughout the empire. That those who have came to view the structure said to be as tall as the pyramids of Ægyptus will suffer at the hands of Drac's god!
The visibly shaken Mettellus tells them that there is only one option available: they must kill Antonius Hibernius Drac.
The decision is brief and unanimous, Drac must die. Mettellus reveals, from behind secret panel, V pugio. The plan is for Manlius to lure Drac into the private room. Once they are both inside, Manlius and the party will murder Drac, preventing him from carrying out his horrendus plan.
The conspirators wait to commit murder but in the midst of their lurking the door to the room flies open to reveal vigilies standing outside at the ready. Over the shoulders of the vigilies are the guests of the party gazing in as if into a mummers show. Protected by more vigilies and at the side of Mettellus is Antonius Drac who cries out “Arrest the traitors!”
Vigilies pouring into the room, the once viri of Liberportus escape through a low window into Drac’s garden. They run to the high walls surrounding the villa climb them and flee into the night as fugitives.
With no where else to go and suspecting their homes to be watched they flee to the Temple District to seek refuge at the temple of Minerva. Their good friend, Aggilius Hamatus, ushers them into the temple and below, into the catcombs. Deep below the temple they meet with K'Stalloss who's months of research have finally come to fruition. The lighhouse of Drac, it seems, is some kind of summoning device meant to bring part of the realm of the Unspeakable One into their world, spreading madness to all who encounter it. This is made more dreadful as ships from across the Empire are pouring in to witness first lighting of the newest wonder of the world. The madness, K'Stallos explains, will spread like a disease until all have fallen to the mental corruption of the Unspeakable One. But there some glimmer of hope: there exists a way of stopping The Brotherhood. In the time before the cataclysm there was an artifact kept in the temple of Yig called the Jade Serpent of Yig that may be used to dispell the summoning ritual. The temple, however, was sunk with the fall of Valossa but K'Stallos believes he has found a clue to the whereabouts of the lost temple. A diary exerpt of the infamous pirate captian Canenegro, who terrorized the Ionian and Aegean seas LX years ago, mentions his buried treasure and more interestingly a terrible door absolutely covered in bas reliefs of serpents. There is but one survivor of his crew left, an ancient man who trades stories for drink in The Greek District. If they can find the old sailor they just might find the location of the temple.
In the predawn hours the PCs sneak in temple robes to the home of Magnius Larcius who is very much relieved to see them still alive. He loans them what weapons and armor he can and wishes them luck.
In a sour old tavern the PCs find the old pirate, Barnabas, who speaks to them of the location of the caves in which the treasure lies for a few hundred denarii.
With a rented rowboat they brave the sea and rocks in search for an ancient inhuman temple to an alien god on the East side of Avalia.
The cave, exposed only at low tide, is found easily enough but the lowering of the tide causes the boat to rush into the blackness. After much splashing a dry torch is lit exposing the vastness of the caves and the rotting planks that mark the way to the temple doors.
Great green stone doors, bas reliefs of serpents, horror. In the temple the party must match wits and steel with what once was the ancient glory of the Serpent Folk. They gather ritual items for a long dead serpent priest and leave the internally collapsing temple to the ages with their prize in hand. The Jade Serpent of Yig is theirs.
Rising from the watery depths of the caves the party discovers that what had seemed only a few hours in the dark has, in fact, been a while day!
In disguise once more, they flee to K'Stallos, who informs the PCs that the ritual of the cultists shall be at sunset, when all eyes are on the lighthouse. They wait until the sun begins its all to quick descent and row head into the water toward the cyclopean lighthouse.
Amazingly, the party manages to cross the waves to the rock on which the lighthouse sits without being attacked by Liberportean marines and break in through a window.
Level after level, wave after wave of cultists are thrown at the heroes who are near dying by the time they reach the upmost level; only to arrive as a rift is torn open between their world and that of The Unspeakable One. Awaiting the PCs are Sealord Drac and magistrates Manlius Vibius Mettellus and Babudius Camurius Varius the Elder, all three wearing the yellow robes of the Brotherhood.
A mere glance into the portal drains the PCs of more of their precious sanity but brave Etrusicus braves the open void of the portal to reach the altar. Throwing off a yellow crystal (which then withers into black dust after being deposed), he places the Jade Serpent of Yig on the altar allowing for a new portal which in opening destroys the old one.
As the portal of the Unspeakable falls in on itself from the new rift a great serpent head uncoils, itself made of many serpents, vomiting forth serpents. The serpent head devours the the screaming priests of The Unspeakable One, englufing them in into its maw even as serpent usher forth from it as if from a fountain. Yig withdraws its maw back into the portal as it fades out of existence.
The PCs, near collapse flee the tower and make their way back home. The council declares Drac a tyrant (making his allegations against the PCs void) and the many foreign ships in the Liberportus harbor leave with feelings of mixed terror and delight.
So ended the madness of Drac in Liberportus.
Or so the PCs thought.