Author Topic: Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow - A Norbayne Campaign Log  (Read 225 times)


  • Megas Domestikos
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Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow - A Norbayne Campaign Log
« on: March 28, 2020, 02:16:40 PM »
Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow: A Norbayne Campaign Log

Welcome once more, my friends, to a campaign log set in the world of Norbayne. With our previous main game, Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword now complete, our attention turns swiftly to the next chapter of the story. Over the course of who knows how many years, I will be posting 7 Stones here, a full two weeks before anywhere else, giving Exilian members exclusive access to the chapters as they are completed.

I hope you will enjoy our story as much as we do.

Table of Contents:
Prologue: Many Paths Converge on Stonebridge
Session 0.1: The Swordsman and the Idealist: In which we are introduced to the southern town of Stonebridge and witness the meeting of Michael and Ailbhe in the Pallid Mare inn…
Session 0.2: The Shadow, the Healer and the Woman From the North: In which we see the haunted Viltshaws north of Stonebridge and meet Shadow, Brynhildr and Marwolaeth…
Session 0.3: The Minstrel, the Hunter and the Smith: In which Syntherion leads his companions, Hadrina and Ignus, to Stonebridge, to experience the Festivale…

Arc 1: Another New Beginning
Session 1.1: A Dark Night: In which the companions meet each other in the streets of Stonebridge, Marwolaeth suffers an unfortunate accident and the Chéserquine comes and goes…

In the next post, I will introduce our players and their new characters.

Also, while you're at it, go check out the game's Instagram page. There's heaps of artwork and photographs which will surely keep you entertained or something like that.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2020, 02:16:23 AM by Phoenixguard09 »
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Re: Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow - A Norbayne Campaign Log
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2020, 02:45:06 PM »
Dramatis Personae

I must beg your indulgence dear reader. A few of the following profiles are absent the stat-lines of the characters they detail. I will be providing these soon, but I have not gotten around to it yet. Rest assured, it will be attended to very soon.

My lovely partner in crime, Ladyhawk is the first of our players for this chronicle. Having been a founding member of the Three Coins group, Ladyhawk has now developed quite a significant mastery of the system, even running her own one-shot, Old Timers in early 2019. True to form, she is returning to the Mage class for this story, however this new character will be quite different from any of her previous ones, despite them all being primarily casters. Ladyhawk played the Danann Mage, Maebh Preachain-Eite in Three Coins, the Dunscarth Necromancer, Mathlynn Cild-Ailith in Great Maw and the Danann Warlock, Bedelia Ceanndorcha in Forgotten Glories.
Spoiler: Ladyhawk95 (click to show/hide)

A very old friend of mine, Dev’s been with us from the beginning as well. With Whispers in the Dark, Dev became the first person other than myself to attempt to run this anal retentive trip to hell of a rules system. He provides a strategically clever and innovative mind to the party. Has a tendency to prefer more martial characters, and for the most part his new character, much like his previous one, will lean into this, particularly early in the game. Dev played the Invarrian Duellist, Harold Oakenshield in Three Coins and the Midlander Shaman, Angus McFyfe in Great Maw. His character in this story is Angus McFyfe’s nephew.
Spoiler: Duke Dev (click to show/hide)

My sister, LD is also one of the founding members of Three Coins. Greatly matured from the early days of that first campaign, LD transitioned from a child to an adult as we played, and views the campaign as being a significant factor in her own growth as a person. Her new character has a neat little link to her old one, and has been described as being just like that character, minus the trauma and angst. LD played the Leathe Assassin, Breanna Blackrose in Three Coins and the Invarrian Ranger, Assar Eilert in Great Maw.
Spoiler: Lady Darkmoon (click to show/hide)

The last of the founding members of Three Coins, Sins is also a good friend of mine from many years ago. A major factor in building the system itself, Sins has been a constant help and friend over the years. Unlike the previous three, Sins’ new character is a vast departure from any he has played in the past, though it is fair to say that the mysterious layers which have been a hallmark of Sins’ play will probably emerge sooner rather than later. Sins played the Danann Ranger, Kel’Serrar Naya in Three Coins and the Midlander Binder, Whylith in Great Maw.
Spoiler: Sins of Dusk (click to show/hide)

A good friend of mine from our school days, Yohan and I fell out of touch for some time, but reconnected when Sins suggested he approach me about joining the Three Coins group. Yohan was the last player to join the original group, his character joining the party in Arc 5 of the campaign. A wise and protective presence in the group, Yohan provides a wealth of experience in table-top gaming and a keen mind for strategy. Yohan played the Feartarbh Guardian, Xander Wrothgar in Three Coins and the Bruin Artificer, Uday Ramirez in Great Maw.
Spoiler: Yohan Yorrvaskr (click to show/hide)

Initially a friend of Ladyhawk’s, LaPD has become a great friend of mine too over the past few years, even living together for a year in 2017. The significant other of SgtPugsley, LaPD runs the Libra’s Will campaign and, as such, is one of a very select few who have GM’d Norbayne, and one of only two to GM it for a group comprised entirely of players not part of the initial group. She also runs the Norbayne Campaign Instagram page, a link to which can be found below, where she regularly posts artwork and photographs from our sessions. LaPD has a tendency to play larger than life characters with pretty out-there personalities, but her aim for this character is significantly more subdued. LaPD’s first foray into Norbayne was with the Dunscarth Berserker, Aracaeda Cild-Ailith in the Great Maw episodic campaign, but she is probably best known for the Invarrian Alchemist, Kari Folgesvard in Forgotten Glories.
Spoiler: LaPimpDaddy (click to show/hide)

Sins’ significant other, Redshirt has been with us for quite some time. If Three Coins were to continue longer than it did, Redshirt probably would have been invited to play in that game, but alas, with it starting to wrap up when she was introduced to the group, I was hesitant to introduce a new character at that late stage. Redshirt’s first foray into Norbayne was with the Feartarbh Warrior, Aella in the Great Maw episodic campaign.
Spoiler: Redshirt No.482 (click to show/hide)

Our final player, Pugsley is one of mine and Ladyhawk’s oldest and greatest friends and LaPD’s significant other. Late to join our gaming group, Pugsley followed the Three Coins story loosely for several years and took the group photograph, which features everyone in this group save, sadly, for himself. While Pugsley has been playing for the shortest period of time amongst everyone in the group, his system mastery is impressive, as is the thought and care he puts into his characters. Pugsley’s first foray into Norbayne was with the Jeleni Ranger, Harper in Forgotten Glories. 
Spoiler: SgtPugsley (click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: March 28, 2020, 03:07:59 PM by Phoenixguard09 »
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Re: Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow - A Norbayne Campaign Log
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2020, 02:54:18 PM »
Session 0.1: The Swordsman and the Idealist

”Michael…. Michael….

Go on Michael. I’m waiting.

Set me loose on your enemies Michael.

I hunger…”

Welcome, one and all, to the very first session, if you will, of Seven Stones and a Pale Shadow. Our two players for this session are Lady Darkmoon and Duke Dev.

Our story begins in the year 1731, in the Pallid Mare tavern, a relatively small establishment in the large southern town of Stonebridge. Situated on the swift-flowing Adhainn River, Stonebridge is quite prosperous, all tall buildings and ordered cobblestone streets, having sprung up around the Main Thoroughfare, the first bridge which was constructed over the river, centuries ago, back at the height of the Bovus Empire. The populace is rather varied, though, as a town in the Southlands of Norbayne, Midlanders, mainly Southrons and Lowlanders at that, are most common.

In the Pallid Mare however, on this afternoon, it is to a Leathe our attention is first drawn. Sitting alone in a booth, is a small, young Leathe girl, wearing finely-tooled boiled leather armour. Her fur is a mottled grey, black and brown merle and her long hair, dark brown, is done up in a loose ponytail. She looks around the establishment, a tankard on the table in front of her, still full. Her long tail twitches with nervous excitement as she sits there, taking in all the sights, sounds and smells to be experienced. The seat is too tall for her, so her legs swing freely as she sits.

“This is it Ailbhe. You’re a real adventurer now. Just like her.” – The Leathe, in an excited whisper to herself.

And surely, there are many experiences to be had. The Leathe has been in Stonebridge long enough to understand what the locals believe is going to happen in the next few nights. Stories of the Chéserquine have been circulating since she arrived in the town. Apparently, on one night, when the stars and the moons align in the heavens above, the great unseelie fey lord will ride out from the Viltshaws, that haunted forest to the north, with all his court, wreaking havoc across the countryside under the silvered light of the twin moons.

Or so the people have been saying anyway. Apparently anyone who did not have shelter for the night would be taken by the Hellequin’s host, never to be seen again. Ailbhe was reminded of a story she had heard, of events from more than eighty years ago, of a village assailed at night by a horde of spectral foes which would drag unfortunates off into the night, and of how a brave Leathe girl and her friends helped defend a tavern full of frightened villagers. She positively couldn’t wait for night to fall.

“Can I get you anything else?” – Mallida, the innkeeper.

Ailbhe’s attention is snapped to the short, portly Southron woman.

“Just the usual please.” – Ailbhe, with a winning smile and handing over a copper.

A short time later, a young, skinny Lowlander boy in an off-white tunic runs out to the Leathe’s booth, a small wooden plate in hand, and upon it, a single piping hot potato.

“For you.” – The serving-boy, placing the plate upon the table.

“Thank you.” – Ailbhe, grinning cheerfully at the boy as he deposits her food and runs back to the kitchen.

She then proceeds to burn the roof of her mouth on the hot vegetable.

* * *

A heavily-built man, armed and armoured, stops in Tamrend for a quick drink. He intends to press on towards Southbridge, the town he can see, maybe another hour’s walk away. He’s been walking for so long, it feels like it is all he can remember now, just the dull monotonous action of putting one foot in front of the other. His throat hurts, and he wipes the sweat from his brow and runs his hand through his short, russet brown hair. For the south, it is not a particularly hot day, but this man is not from the south, and he is used to significantly colder climes. He stops at the village well and sends the bucket, hanging on its chain, swinging down into the water below.

An old man, olive skinned and dark haired, though age has begun to shoot streaks of grey through the black hair, approaches the traveller.

“Friend, do you have a place to stay for the coming nights?” – The old man, offering a hand to the traveller.

“Ah no, why?” – The traveller, thickly accented voice cracking slightly from recent disuse. He returns the old man’s handshake. 

“You don’t look like you’re from around here. Have you heard of the Chéserquine?” – The old man. Indeed, the traveller’s russet red hair and beard and his pale, though now somewhat flushed, skin mark him out as a foreigner, likely a Highlander from the far north.

“Vaguely, but it is not an issue where I’m from.” – The traveller, somewhat dismissively.

“It certainly is an issue in these parts friend. Definitely recommend finding yourself a place to stay, inside, safe. Unfortunately, the inn here in Tamrend is completely full, but if you press on to Stonebridge, you should be able to find a place there.” – The old man, rather fervently.

“Thanks old timer. Appreciate it.” – The traveller, retrieving a partially filled bucket of water from the well and refilling his own waterskins.

They part ways, the traveller continuing south and on to Stonebridge. He looks out over the settlement ahead, marking the wide fields, home to both crops and livestock, and dotted with hamlets. Beyond the fields, lies the stone-walled town of Stonebridge itself. He can see the road, leading to a fortified and seemingly well-guarded gatehouse. To the left of the gate however, the northern curtain wall of the settlement is damaged, in some places not a wall, but merely piles of stone rubble, clearly the detritus of some siege the town had weathered in the not-too-distant past. Finally, as the sun dips into the horizon and shadows begin to creep across the land, the traveller arrives at the northern gates of Stonebridge.

“State your business.” – The sergeant of the gate-guard, a tall, yet relatively lightly-built Feartarbh, dark-furred and clad in chain, over which sits a dark blue tabard. Behind him, in the gateway, and above, upon the wall itself, stand a handful of other guards, similarly attired, mainly Midlanders by their appearance.

“I seek shelter for the night. I heard there was an inn here, in town.” – The traveller, coming to a halt, careful to make no false moves. Immediately he can perceive the wariness of these guards. They are on edge, and he does not wish to provoke them.

“I trust you intend to cause no trouble? You are certainly heavily armed.” – The sergeant, gruffly, gesturing to the swords the traveller carries, an arming sword at his side and the claymore slung over his shoulder, the greatsword bundled in rags and the traveller’s spare cloak.

“It would do no good for a mercenary to cause trouble in the lands in which he seeks work, and I would not be much of a mercenary without my weapons.” – The traveller, with a somewhat tired smile.

“True enough. I will trust your word. You may enter. Also, if you’re looking for work, the guard may have some for you. If you are in need, come to the guardhouse on the south-bank of the river, west of the keep. We are always on the lookout for a sturdy sword. May the Triad protect you.” – The sergeant, waving the traveller through the gate and into the town beyond.

The mood within the town is frantic as folk hurry to their homes, locking the doors behind them as they scurry inside. The sun is still up, though only barely, but the streets, which, in almost any other town of this size in the south, would be bustling with activity at this hour, are empty, almost silent. A little ways away, he can hear the faint sound of hammers beating steel on anvil, the tell-tale signs of Stonebridge’s industry. The traveller hurriedly makes his way through the streets, and as he does so, he comes to the realisation that he knows where he is going, or perhaps, that he knows where he is being taken.

He knows, for a fact, that he has never been in Stonebridge before, never even ventured anywhere near this far south before. Yet despite that, he navigates the streets as if he had lived in the town for years.

He comes upon the tavern in short order, a tall but narrow building, largely stone and wood in construction, as are most houses in the town. A sign hangs from above, depicting a rearing white horse and the name, emblazoned across the top, The Pallid Mare.

Upon entering, his eyes drift over the room, full of people. A fire burns fitfully in the corner, as do a handful of oil lanterns hung upon the walls, providing illumination to the many patrons within. The mood is relatively quiet, sombre even, and he notes that many of the folk within the tavern are likely families from outlying hamlets, seeking the safety of the larger settlement.

But it is one figure in the tavern which draws his eye, even as he stands in the doorway. A small figure, sitting alone in a booth, her fur a peculiar grey-brown mottled merle. A Leathe girl.

Go there. That’s the one. – A strange, haunting whisper it seems the traveller, and the traveller alone can hear…

“Can you close the door if you’re coming in? Don’t just stand there!” – Mallida, the short-tempered Southron innkeeper.

Without saying a word, the man enters the establishment, letting the door close behind him. He looks around the room briefly, his pale blue eyes taking in everything around him at a glance, then sits himself down in the booth, across the table from the Leathe girl, who continues to smash down her hot potato.

“Hey.” – The Leathe girl, trying desperately to appear cool and collected, but her furiously twitching tail and nose betray her excitement. She looks up at her new table-mate from her potato.

“Can I get you anything?” – Mallida, having approached the booth to serve the newcomer.

“Just an ale, thank you.” – The traveller, handing over a couple of coppers, and Mallida moves back behind the bar, pouring a generous measure of ale for the man, and bringing back a hunk of bread on a small wooden plate too.

“On the house.” – Mallida, leaving the bread and drink on the table with hardly a glance, and sweeping back to the bar.

“You should try the potato.” – Ailbhe, her mouth still somewhat full with her last bite.

“Maybe I will. You’re a long way from home little one.” – The traveller, taking a draught from his flagon of ale.

“Just a bit. What about yourself, where do you hail from?” – Ailbhe, trying to keep her voice deeper than its natural pitch.

“Crowpeak, to the north.” – The traveller, staring at the girl.

”I don’t understand. What is it about this one?” – The traveller’s thoughts, trying to address the whispers he keeps hearing. There is no response.

“Ah, yes. That’s a, ah, fair distance…” – Ailbhe, who clearly has no idea where Crowpeak is, trying to appear knowledgeable. Her statement sort of trails off into a question.

Spoiler: Crowpeak (click to show/hide)

“Yes, quite a way.” – The traveller, taking another draught of ale.

“Would you, by chance, happen to identify yourself as an adventurer of sorts?” – Ailbhe, in a sidling sort of way.

“Ah, a mercenary sure. Adventurer? Well, in a way, yes, I guess. Why? What do you see yourself as?” – The traveller, a little taken aback.

“A rogue, of the dashing variety.” – Ailbhe, a note of pride creeping into her voice.

There was a fair bit of laughter around the table at this exchange.
“Oh god, describing yourself as your class in game.” – Dev, laughing.
“To be fair, she totally would.” – LD, who is completely right. Ailbhe is the sort of character absolutely would do that.

The traveller just gives the Leathe a confused look, to which she shrugs, and finishes off her potato.

“I missed your name earlier I’m sorry.” – Ailbhe, holding out a small, furred hand.

“You didn’t. My name is Michael. Yours?” – The traveller, Michael McFyfe, grasping the girl’s hand and giving it a firm shake.

“Ailbhe. Ailbhe Blackrose.” – The Leathe girl, smiling and returning the handshake.

* * *

There’s a heavy thump as someone outside hits the wall next to the door of the tavern. Most of the chatter in the tavern comes to a stop, and most eyes turn to the source of the noise. Muffled voices can be heard from outside, raised and angry.

“You haven’t paid us yet! What are you going in there for when you haven’t paid us?” – A rough, raised voice from outside, which Ailbhe alone, with her keen Leathe hearing, is able to pick up.

“I haven’t got enough to pay you. I’m just going in there for a bite to eat. It’s all I can afford.” – A quieter, higher pitched voice, which even Ailbhe struggles to hear.

“Michael, can you hear that?” – Ailbhe, in a hoarse whisper to her companion.

“I heard the thump.” – Michael, leaning forward to hear the Leathe a little better.

“There’s someone outside, young man by the sound of it. Sounds like he’s getting a shake down. Should we do something about it?” – Ailbhe, her nose twitching with excitement. 

“Look, you’re coming with me. You can explain it to the boss yourself.” – The rough voice from before. There’s another thump and a muffled groan of pain.

“Let’s go see what we can do then.” – Michael, standing with his shield in hand and striding to the door.

“Yes!” – Ailbhe, excitedly but quietly to herself, drawing a dagger from her belt.

* * *

Michael opens the door to the Pallid Mare, and the two companions emerge into the late afternoon sun. Before them, walking down the street, each carrying various weapons and clad in studded leather armour, are three men, all relatively large, Midlanders by the look of them, and held limply between two of their number, a slender Jeleni with a sack over his head.

“Oi, lads, what are you doing?” – Michael, confidently striding forth into the street.

The leader of the band turns to look back at the Highlander, while the other two continue on their way, hauling their prisoner with them.

“Hold up boys.” – The leader, who starts to stalk back to where Michael stands. The Highlander can tell just by the way he moves that this is a trained swordsman, and while he carries a thick, iron-banded cudgel in his hand, there is a well-worn arming sword at his belt. He is not particularly tall, but heavily-built and the lower half of his face is covered in a short, patchy black beard.

“Where are you taking him?” – Michael, not backing down. In his left hand he carries a light, spiked roundshield, and his right hand rests upon the sword at his own belt.

“No concern of yours friend. I suggest you go back inside and enjoy your evening.” – The leader, now right up in Michael’s face. He is a big man, heavily built, and imposing, with several scars testament to a life of conflict, but Michael has seen tougher. Hell, Michael is tougher.

“How much does he owe you?” – Michael, standing firm.

“A friend of yours then, is he? Very well, his debt is 30 sulvers, but there is a late fee as well. Normally we would double the price, or, if he cannot pay, we will take it out of his flesh.” – The leader, menacingly.

“What a **** metaphor.” – Ailbhe, under her breath, too quietly for anyone else to hear.

“You have a lot of questions for someone with no affiliations to the business.” – The leader, sizing up Michael. It would seem that he hasn’t noticed Ailbhe’s presence.

“Call it a morbid curiosity.” – Michael, gruff.

“Morbid in that it will get you killed. Again, I suggest you clear off and put this out of mind.” – The leader, turning to leave.

“How about you let the man go?” – Michael, squaring his shoulders.

“Can’t do that. We have our orders.” – The leader, turning back to Michael, a murderous gleam in his eye.

“Orders? Who from?” – Michael, head cocked to one side as he absorbs this latest piece of information.

“Ha, get a load of this boys! Friend, if you need to ask that-“ – The leader, laughing to the rest of the band. His two lackeys have approached slowly since the beginning of the conversation, and they laugh too. The leader turns back to Michael, and is interrupted by the Highlander’s terse reply.

“We’re new to town, don’t have many contacts.” – Michael, his voice a deep growl.

“I don’t care if you’re new to town or not, last chance. Walk away.” – The leader, drawing his sword.

Michael punches him in the throat and the man stumbles back, struggling for breath. The Highlander draws his sword and readies himself behind his shield.

Chaos erupts in the alleyway. Ailbhe sprints across the cobblestones and launches herself at one of the bruisers holding the captive Jeleni. Knife in hand, she leaps into the air and just about wraps herself around the man’s neck and upper body. She holds the knife to his throat and stares at the other bruiser holding the captive.

“Let him go.” – Ailbhe, in as threatening a tone of voice as she can manage.

“Oi, what the ****?” – The bruiser, shoving the stunned captive to the ground and hefting his cudgel.

Sword in one hand, short cudgel in the other, the leader strikes at Michael, but it is ineffectual, the Highlander’s expert shield-play keeping him safe.

Ailbhe manages to maintain her seat as the bruiser she has grappled attempts to extricate himself from her grasp. She clings on desperately to his curly blond hair, as he furiously attempts to pry her off himself and throw her to the ground. The other man takes his cudgel in both hands and delivers a heavy strike to Ailbhe’s back, the hardwood impacting the Leathe with a loud crack.

“Ow! Look, tell me who you received your orders from, or I’ll slit his throat! Tell me!” – Ailbhe, grabbing her captive’s hair and wrenching it around to face his ally, her knife still held tightly to his throat.

“You wouldn’t. Look at you, you’re just a girl!” – The man who hit her, hefting his cudgel for another blow.

“I’m not just a girl, I’m an adventurer! Now, I’m asking you again, for the last time, who are you working for?” – Ailbhe, proudly exclaiming as she jabs her captive’s neck with the point of her knife, keeping the man’s body in between her and his ally as best she can.

“You wouldn’t do it, but if you did, you’d be in real trouble.” – The bruiser, trying to take another swing at Ailbhe without hitting his friend.

“Who from?” – Ailbhe, ducking under a wild swing of the cudgel.

“The Black Hand.” – The bruiser, trying to grab the nimble Leathe girl.

“Right. I feel like that might be enough to go on for now.” – Ailbhe, taking her intricately carved dagger and smashing the hilt into the side of her captive’s head as hard as she can.

“Ow! ****!” – The captive bruiser, trying to get his head out of the way of the Leathe’s wild bludgeoning strikes. She is still just about riding his shoulders though, clinging tightly, and she is able to land the blows with something approaching impunity, though they are largely ineffective.

“I’m sorry, I was trying to knock you out.” – Ailbhe, who genuinely does sound relatively remorseful.

While all this happening, only yards away, Michael and the leader of the band exchange a flurry of blows, neither man able to land a telling strike. The opening exchanges are swift, glittering blades clashing together in the late afternoon sunlight, with neither man appearing to hold the upper hand. Suddenly, Michael sees an opening, his sword flashes, and the leader of the band of ruffians falls to the ground, the top half of his head landing separately with a somewhat wet thud.

Several rounds pass with both Michael and the leader either missing with their attacks or parrying the ones which did hit, before Michael finally lands a 00 Critical, causing a sum total of 22 Damage to the head after Damage Reduction.

“Drop your weapons or I’ll kill all of you!” – Michael, roaring in rage, his eyes flashing with bloodlust as he turns towards the two bruisers still engaged with Ailbhe.

“I don’t want any trouble, just doing-“ – The bruiser, just about to hit AIlbhe once more, before dropping his cudgel to the cobblestone street with a clatter and letting his sentence trail off. He turns tail and begins fleeing rapidly away.

“No, please don’t hurt me. Please don’t.” – The other bruiser, the blond one Ailbhe still clings to. He too lets his weapon fall to the ground.

“Last chance. Who is the Black Hand?” – Ailbhe, trying her most menacing voice once more.

“I don’t know who it is. We work for them! Please, get off me. Just let me go.” – The bruiser, nearly reduced to tears as Michael slowly stalks towards him.

“Fine then, off you go.” – Ailbhe, disappointed, dropping to the ground. The man bolts into the streets, swiftly disappearing from view.

The two companions turn their attention to the young Jeleni man the bruisers had been attempting to abduct. He is young, small and slightly built, maybe twenty years old, with sleek, sandy-gold fur and small black horns, and wears a simple green woollen shirt over brown trousers. He sits on his haunches, his back against a wall on the side of the alley, wide-eyed and fearful. As Michael and Ailbhe approach, he stands, a little unsteadily, and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, smearing some blood through the sandy fur.

“Thank you so much. How can I repay you?” – The Jeleni, clearly still fearful.

“You can tell me something. Why do you owe them money?” – Ailbhe, clearly curious.

“Probably borrowed from a loanshark and couldn’t pay it back, not an uncommon story.” – Michael, dismissive, turning away from the Jeleni and moving to the corpse of the band’s leader, rifling through the deceased man’s pockets for any loose coinage or other items of note.

“Racketeering actually. Supposedly you pay for protection against damages, but they’re the ones causing the damage, so you can’t really win. You either pay them and they might not attack you or your store, or your clients, or you refuse and they definitely will, and take the money anyway.” – The Jeleni, to Ailbhe, with a somewhat hurt glance at Michael’s back.

“Who is this Black Hand they were talking about? Do you know who it might be?” – Ailbhe, fishing for further information.

“Oh, it isn’t a person, but an organisation. I think so anyway. I’m pretty sure it’s what they call themselves. If you’ll pardon the term, it’s like a thieves’ guild. Silly concept I know, but that’s what it is.” – The Jeleni, with a somewhat sad smile.

“Okay then, let’s get this man’s body in the river before anyone else from the guild turns up.” – Michael, having finished stripping the corpse of valuables.

“Thank you again for coming to my aid. I am so grateful. If ever you need anything, come to Brandin’s Coopery on the south-side of the river. Obviously my resources are limited, but I would do whatever I can to help you.” – The Jeleni, Brandin, shaking Ailbhe’s small hand. His slender hand is not strong, but for all that, his grip is still firm.

“If anyone asks, they attacked us.” – Michael, nodding to the cooper and then taking the corpse under the arms and beginning the arduous task of dragging it to the river.

* * *

The afternoon sun is just dipping beyond the horizon, leaving the streets of Stonebridge shrouded in shade, and two figures are dragging the slowly stiffening body of a man to the northern bank of the Adhainn River. Or rather, one figure, the larger of the two, is doing the majority of the dragging and just allowing the other to feel useful, while the smaller one is carrying the feet and, admittedly, every now and then forgetting her assigned role and just letting them fall to the ground.

“Hey Michael, what’s your star-sign? You’re not a Stallion are you?” – Ailbhe, her reedy voice suddenly breaking the relative silence.

“Uh, Dragain? – Michael, not entirely sure off the top of his head.

“Aw yes! Nice, yeah, me too. How good is that?” – Ailbhe, excitedly dropping the corpse’s legs and holding up one of her furry hands, palm extended towards the Highlander.

“Um, yeah, sure?” – Michael, stopping briefly, lowering the corpse to the ground and wiping his brow free of sweat with the back of his hand.

Ailbhe grabs Michael’s other hand with her left and forces him to give her a hi-five.

“You’ve never seen that before? I’m pretty sure it’s an adventurer thing. It’s okay though, I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it soon enough.” – Ailbhe, cheerfully grabbing the corpse’s legs again and waiting for Michael to take up his load once more.

Together, they make their way to the Main Thoroughfare, avoiding the scarce guard patrols on the way, and pitch the corpse over the edge of the great bridge before making their way back to the Pallid Mare to clean up. 

And we left it there…

The Wrap-Up:
And there we have it, welcome to Stonebridge! What a great way to enter our new campaign. As the GM, I personally loved the dynamic between these two characters and the way their players saw fit to portray them.

Our next session will see us meet three new characters, as we leave these two in the Pallid Mare for now, and see just what the Viltshaws are like.

Thanks for reading, and see you next time,

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