Atlas Shrugged – A Tale of Unrequited Fraternal Love (A Lunchtime Lairs Adventure)

After dispatching the ill-fated Guy family the party enters the farmhouse in search of the shadowy figure spotted at the top floor window, leaving for now the mysterious force in the barn that cast one of the farm hands across the corral crushing him against the house exterior.

Inside the party sees evidence of the Guys austere bunkhouse lives as the ground floor consists of a space split between a series of simple bunks and a kitchen area providing the rudiments of domestic life. With all appearing quiet Seneca and Moloch are dispatched upstairs, and displaying unusual dexterity, take stock of the first floor unnoticed by its sole occupant.
Like the ground the first floor consists of a single open space. At the centre stands an altar bearing a bas relief sigil of a blood drop. Lying upon the altar is an apparently fresh cadaver, channels on the surface are funnelling the body’s fluids into a pail on the ground. At the far end of the room is a workspace consisting of desk, bookcase and workbench upon which is a cage containing 3 contentedly clucking chickens. Around the walls are a series of potted thorny plants that hold little aesthetic appeal in the metropolitan eyes of the thieves.

At the window stands the shadowy figure spied from below. Dressed is the robes of a conjuror, also bearing a blood drop sigil, stands the mysterious overseer of the Guy farm. Satisfied he has marked everything of note Seneca makes to return to the party to plan their next steps but he is stoped by the far wiser, observant and competent Moloch – Aside from an impressively waxed and trimmed beard lending him an air of sophisticated menace this unknown conjuror is a perfect likeness of Farqual, the party’s mage and confectioner.

Below the party regroups and the thieves confront Farqual about his doppelganger above. Farqual admits he has a twin brother, Barqual, he has not seen since his youth. They were both conjurors but Barqual disdained the confectioner’s school of magic in favour of the darker arts of necromancy.
The party forms up into their now signature battle formation, a shield wall of Romula and the impressive bulk of Hector to the fore and the unreliable ranged weapons of Seneca and Moloch in the rear. Feeling an appeal to his brother’s better nature could save bloodshed (usually his own as his mounting disfigurement attests) Farqual hails his brother and reminds him of their time as children with their mother Marqual and father Parqual. Barqual informs his brother that much has changed since their youth and as a demonstration animates the corpse upon the altar and enchants the chickens at the far side of the room which burst from their cage growing to five feet in height.

Sensing his brother may be numbed to their family ties Farqual changes track and makes a plea to his brother’s sense of civic duty to join the party in their righteous (and mandatory upon pain of boat) quest for the region’s governor. This proves a costly misjudgement of his brother’s political thinking who reveals himself to be a libertarian seeking to be free of the oppressive meddling of the state in his entrepreneurial enterprise of selling magic beans to Celebration. As a last roll of the dice Farqual decides to mock his brother’s fowl based sorcery to which Barqual announces he has more eggs to hatch and a large crash is heard outside the farmhouse.

Entering combat Moloch is quick to move and mounts the altar to fire his sling unsuccessfully at Barqual who places his cadaverous defender between himself and the party’s first line of attack. Two chickens close on the party and one jumps the altar to peck at Moloch. Showing a dramatic flair worthy of his facial hair Barqual casts invisibility over his undead protector causing a wave of unease in our heroes. Doing what he is almost most well-known for Hector the Hoplite rains two mighty blows down upon the nearest chicken cleaving its head completely from its body. As the head falls to the ground the body runs off and is quickly ensnared by one of the potted thorns.
Seeking to further even up the odds for the party Romula knocks over the pail of blood and bodily fluid and as the contents spread across the floor she notes two voids appear in the vicinity of the nearest chicken. Visualising the snow carpeted steppe bathed in the winter long moonlight of her homeland she calls upon the power of her God to banish the revenant from the field of battle. A series of crimson footprints appear and race towards to wall where, sensing prey is nearby, a thorn plant activates and ensnares the zombie causing the invisibility to fade. Feeling their more martial comrades have things in hand Farqual and Seneca rush to the aid of Moloch and attack his feathered assailant.

Not wishing the heroes to grow overconfident Barqual aides Hector in doing the thing he is actually most well-known for by casting charm upon him. Showing the usual resistance his simple mind is capable off Hector once again turns on his companions and climbs the altar to face Moloch. Identifying Hector as the most pressing threat to Moloch’s life Farqual rushes behind Hector and grabs his cloak. A combination of his considerable bulk, elevated position and surprise conspire to send this human siege engine arse over tit and he crashes to the floor. Utilising the break in the action to their benefit the thieves combine into a single competent and dexterous whole and dispatch the altar based hen.

Romula braces to fend off the final bird but quickly realises its attacks are hardly above the level of minor annoyance and its main function is a mobile shield for Barqual. In a hectic period Barqual gets Hector back to his feet and casts invisibility over him to up the ante, and Seneca and Moloch return to form and send a series of projectiles everywhere but into Barqual, save for a single hit. Farqual wants in on the projectile action and attempts to launch the blood pail at his brother but slips on the slick blood soaked floorboards and hits himself in the head.

As arrows and stones continue not to rain down on Barqual Farqual makes a last appeal to his brother and launches into a song from their childhood

“Who can take a rainbow
Wrap it in a sigh
Soak it in the sun and make a groovy lemon pie
The Candy Man…”

Barqual hesitates and tells his brother he has touched his necrotic heart. He has decided to kill him last. This touching scene is disrupted when Romula dispatches the final chicken and Barqual, shouting “screw this for a game of soldiers” jumps through the window to a chorus of excited clucks. Still singing Farqual races to the window to see six twelve foot tall chickens below and his brother disappearing into the warehouse. No longer under Barqual’s influence the thorn plant release the corpse which falls to floor once again lifeless. A disembodied confused voice asks “What’s happened here?”
The party searches the desk and workspace and find a ledger, set of blueprints and a letter addressed to an Ayn in Celebration. Piecing the information together it appears the Guy Farm previously supplied the brewing industry in Celebration with Hops but has recently moved production to a mysterious bean which, in order to avoid ‘Guberment interference’ is being transported to Celebration by means of underground tunnels accessible from an entryway constructed and hidden in the warehouse. Successful experiments with chickens have increased production due to a superior supply of guano now being available but has caused problems – the gas it produces is flammable and heavier than air so long term storage in the warehouse is dangerous as gas could pool in the tunnels.

Excited at the prospect of finally getting to burn something the party decides to shoot a flaming arrow at the warehouse from the first floor window of the house. Quite literally, however, Seneca fails to hit a barn door and the arrow falls some way short causing the twelve foot tall chickens to recoil from the flame.

The party regroups to consider their options…

(By James Leader)

Lunchtime Lairs is a weekly RPG session at Justplay Games Liverpool, Wednesdays at 12 until 2. We are currently playing the Black Hack.

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