Author Topic: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword - A Norbayne Campaign Log  (Read 17691 times)


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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #30 on: March 28, 2020, 02:19:26 AM »
Session 4.4 (b): Flying Shadows and a Night of Knives

Welcome back everyone to Session 4.4.

We took a break here for dinner, chats and snacks. And then unfortunately missed Delphi’s care-bear reference with regards to the loot picked up by the characters.

Oh yes! The loot!

Harold Oakenshield:
- A Masterwork steel cuirass, with a runic sunburst inscribed on the chest. The runes are currently not functional. Engraved with Runes of Stone and Blinding Light. Provides an additional +1 to all armour values and has a chance to Blind opponents upon being struck.

Maebh Raven-Wing:
- A dull red sash, embroidered with magical sigils along the edges in gold thread. Provides +15 Soulfire to the wearer.

Breanna Blackrose:
- Rune-encrusted light helm, made of leather and banded with steel. Engraved with a Rune of Perception, providing +10 to Perception to the wearer.

Kel’Serrar Naya:
- Ring of True-Sight.  The wearer is able to see through magical illusions. Sins chose to have Kel’Serrar raid the Windrider Palace for jewellery, and found a fair few pieces which could be sold on for a substantial price. Amongst it all, he found a Ring of True-Sight, which he kept.

Tremor Ironfist:
- The Windrider axe, a heavy hand axe of Masterwork quality engraved with a Rune of Fire and a Masterwork quality steel shield, engraved with Runes of Warding. The equipment of Orrin Windrider, this is Tremor claiming his legitimacy. The axe adds Fire Damage to every strike and the shield, when repaired, soaks D10 Damage from each strike the bearer takes. Once the soak is beaten, the runes fall lifeless and must be recharged once more.

Aeva Nordur-Vatn:
- The Vampyre spear, named after the haematophagic creatures of legend and a thick leather belt engraved with a Rune of Speed. The spear drains Soulfire from those it strikes, equal to the Damage the strike causes and the belt grants the wearer +5 Initiative.

I pointed to everyone as I recapped what they got, which was pointless because I couldn’t see myself pointing in the audio recording anyway. Luckily, I wrote it all down.

The days after the taking of The Crag pass busily. Marya is found in the highest levels of the Windrider Palace, alive and apparently unharmed. Physically, she is well but mentally she seems broken. She speaks to no one, a far cry from the spirited girl Tremor left behind all those years ago.

Of Edrik Blackhand, none can say. The miners who have been recovered from the cave-ins confirmed that he was down there with them, but he never emerged. That being said, many miners and guards were killed in the assault, the bodies unable to be recovered and it is possible that Blackhand was amongst them.

The mood is sombre. The army the companions have with them is still greatly outnumbered by the defenders, but without their lords, the common people have lost the will to fight.

In fact, the Resistance plans to use them in the upcoming conflicts. The Crag may be taken, but it is only one fortress after all and the war goes on.

Mordin Grimstone was found in the dungeons, alive, but weak. He is taken to a wing of the palace to recover from his captivity, the Dwergar unwilling to let outsiders see their lord so weak.

* * *

Three days after the taking of The Crag, at dawn, a procession arrives at the south gate. Freida Grimstone leads the procession, at the head of her personal forces. The other lords of the Resistance flank her, also accompanied by their retinues. Next to the heavily armoured dwarves of The Crag march hastily equipped militia from Lord’s Ridge and hardy woods-dwarves from the Valleywood.

Along the main road leading to the ‘Windrider’ Palace, Harold has organised an honour guard evenly made up of the Resistance forces which took the fortress and the defenders of The Crag who stood against them, in a show of solidarity.

Harold notices that the lords of the Resistance appear to be quite disconcerted at the fact that the noble dwellings close to the Palace have been replaced by a noble hole in the ground. The companions have gotten work crews in to try and clear the mess, but it’s not done much good.
It was almost like sliding the trash under the bed and putting a sign up which reads, ‘Do Not Approach.’
Let’s be honest, the nobles aren’t too happy about the massive hole in the ground. The companions’ clean up job involved the application of a plank-
“Several planks!” – Delphi, like that makes it better.
The application of several planks almost like a band-aid across the gaping wound in the earth.

This goes down about as well as you would expect…

Most of the companions wait for the procession in the throne room, Tremor, Barandin and Maebh standing on the stairs leading to the throne. Kel’Serrar is hidden in the corner of the room and Breanna and Aeva are standing at a respectful distance flanking the throne.

The errand-runner Tremor sent to have Mordin Grimstone fetched to present to his daughter returns, without the lord.
“I am sorry Lord Ironfist. I was halted at the door by Grimstone soldiers who told me that Lord Mordin is missing. I came as quickly as I could.” – Errand-runner, catching his breath.
“****.” – Tremor, facepalming.
“Freida probably had him killed. Dwarves, remember?” – Dev.
“She killed Papa!” – Ladyhawk, in an Italian accent.
Ladyhawk and LD spent most of the rest of the night cracking up about this line.
“Don’t be upset-y, have some spaghetti.” – Delphi, in the same accent.

This is another five minutes of discussion regarding where they want to stand. Or in Ladyhawk’s case, well…
“I want to sit in the throne.” – Ladyhawk, laughing.
“No, you can’t do that.” – Dev, frustrated.
“Well she can, but it would be highly advised against.” – Sins.
“In that case I’ll stand on the stairs too with Tremor. No, one step behind Tremor, so I look more imposing.” – Ladyhawk.
“You could sit on the floor in front of him and look more imposing.” – Sins.
“You could sit in the throne and look more imposing. And I’ll sit next to you on a little mini-throne and throw accusations. ‘You killed Papa!’” – LD, cracking herself and Ladyhawk up again.

As another aside, who knew that Adele’s Set Fire to the Rain could be so pertinent to the siege of The Crag?

Freida Grimstone enters the Palace, followed by the other lords of the Resistance and their retinues. They are stony-faced, obviously not happy with the damage to the fortress, but Grimstone’s face lightens when she sees the throne left vacant for her. She walks up the stairs to come face to face with Tremor.
“Has there been any news of my father?” – Freida, quietly to Tremor.
Ladyhawk and LD lost it again at the question, barely able to wheeze out, “You killed Papa!”
“I think we broke them…” – Delphi.
I was too busy laughing to restore order.
“I’ve never seen Ladyhawk cry before.” – Dev.

Maebh and Breanna snigger to themselves, but no one present remarks upon it, though some of Freida’s retinue look disapprovingly upon the lack of decorum. Freida ignores it all.
“No word. He has thoroughly disappeared.” – Tremor, gritting his teeth.
“So be it. The throne of The Crag is mine to take, and so I will. I pledge my continued support to the Resistance, until my fellow lords regain their seats.” – Freida, turning to acknowledge the other lords of the Resistance.

She then climbs the remaining stairs and sits upon the throne.

And with that, the Grimstones are back in charge of The Crag, and the Resistance officially has a stronghold.

* * *

A council meeting has been scheduled for the evening, to discuss the next move for the Resistance. In the intervening hours, the companions entertain themselves as they see fit.

The Invarrian, who has been formulating a plan for the last few weeks, does a few rounds among the newly arrived members of the Resistance, looking for Invarrians. He finds four, two farmers, a miner and a settled raider. He resolves to train them as reavers, ostensibly to help the war effort, but the others think he may just be lonely and pining for Invarrian company.
A succession of Command Checks passed as Harold trains his would-be reavers over the course of a several hours. He focusses on improving their individual abilities, as that is his own speciality, and the Invarrians agree to meet up again the following day to continue their training.

While this is happening, Tremor chases up information on the Blackhand Mines outside The Crag. According to his sources, the mines are unlikely to have anything more than a skeleton crew of miners there, most of whom would, like as not, feel no loyalty to the Blackhand clan beyond being paid.

“Perhaps we can have some forces go there? For ‘protection.’ – Aeva, stressing the last word.
The others agree, but it will probably have to wait until after this council meeting.

There is some discussion here about Dwergar society and how the Resistance is currently viewing the companions.


Breanna and Aeva:
Seeing as they have some spare time before the meeting, Breanna and Aeva head off to the market district. Aeva is in need of some general gear and equipment, and Breanna feels an urge to look at more stabby implements of death, so they go off together to ensure each other’s safety.

Aeva goes on a shopping spree, picking up a new set of finer clothes, sheafs of parchment, writing equipment, a sewing kit, a selection of dyes, a length of rope and a tent. They then go to the armoury where Breanna picks up some finely tooled leather bracers and some more bolts for her crossbow and Aeva picks up four throwing daggers.

Aeva and Breanna did not leave alone as Kel’Serrar is with them for a short while, but swiftly blends into the crowd and starts rumour mongering. The slight ranger is completely unrecognisable, and anyone following him would quickly lose him in the crowd.

As could be expected, the common people are not particularly pleased with how things have turned out over the last few days. For one, they aren’t happy about the destruction caused by the companions. Secondly, the bat plague, which it is rightly assumed, the companions were responsible for. Thirdly, Freida Grimstone. Her father was a popular ruler, and now he is missing and she so conveniently happens to be present to pick up where he left off.

Naturally, there are plenty of cynics.

And then of course there’s the fact that where Mordin Grimstone was a well-liked ruler, he was probably too nice. The treasury was a mess when Windrider took over. The Crag’s reputation as a military powerhouse was in ruins, simply because old Mordin didn’t see the maintenance and upkeep of armed forces as necessary.

Grimstone, while just and fair and generally likeable, was just not very effective. Windrider on the other hand, he got **** done. In a short time Windrider returned The Crag to its position of prominence. The mountain fortress was Bain’s jewel in the crown, the ace in matters both military and mercantile.

Windrider may not have been particularly well-liked, but he inspired pride in the citizens of The Crag.
“I love the fact that I just sat down and listened to one old guy rant for a few hours.” – Sins.

Tremor and Maebh:
Tremor meanwhile retreats to private quarters to write out some legally binding contracts to try and lock in the lords of the Resistance. Maebh goes with him to assist him. The mage has turned her keen mind to the political situation, and the two of them spend hours hashing out the exact terms of these agreements.

* * *

The house the companions have commandeered following the assault is one of very few still standing in what was once the noble district. It is a nice place, especially now that work teams have repaired any damage from the explosions and cleaned up the shattered rock and dried guano.

It is two storeys tall, built from solid rock and has more than enough rooms to accommodate the party. A pen sits against the wall too, built for a small herd of livestock which must have escaped in the chaos of the assault.
Cue jokes about wild pigs and goats roaming the underground halls, hungry for dwarf-flesh.
The pen has now been claimed by Toirneach and Amadeus. Breanna and Harold have given up on trying to keep Wolfgang and Bach contained though. The beasts are both large and clever enough to escape, and too mischievous by a mile to be left unattended for more than a few minutes. They have already rampaged through a butchery in the last few days, and have threatened to do worse. 

Before the meeting, the companions gather together once more in the parlour of their new home, to discuss what has happened.
“How did the rumour mongering go?” – Breanna, to Kel’Serrar who sits at ease upon his chair.
“Not too badly. They aren’t happy with us at all though.” – Kel’Serrar, master of understatement.
“Can you blame them? We blew up parts of the city, covered it in bat-**** and then killed their leaders.” – Aeva, sitting at the table.
“Don’t forget we caved in their mines and completely showed up their supposedly excellent military by taking this place with a handful of fighters.” – Harold, over in the corner maintaining his weaponry.
“Forgetting that, they liked Freida’s father. And then Windrider took over, and they liked him too. But we killed him, and it is only a matter of time before they start pinning Grimstone’s death on us too. They’ve already started to say it was Freida herself. And we just put her in power. We look like her servants.” – Kel’Serrar.
“We need to start spreading some propaganda on the sly then.” – Harold.

Silence falls over the company as they think about the situation they now find themselves in.

“So how did the writing go?” – Harold, to Tremor and Maebh.
“Well, I think. We’re pretty happy with what we’ve got. We want to make sure that they agree to being subservient to me, with it being a bit ambiguous as to whether they continue to hold to that after they get their lands back. A little bit of uncertainty there would not hurt us.” – Tremor.
“We also need to make sure that it is clear how we are spreading the wealth of the Blackhand Mines. With Edrik missing, presumed dead, we can parcel them out as we wish, our spoils by right of conquest.” – Maebh, looking up from the depths of the focus stone she wears at her throat.
"So, I assume that's what we have done?" - Kel'Serrar, quietly.
"Pretty much. One quarter of the mine's wealth to each lord of the Resistance, minus Stonehammer as he is not really a lord." - Tremor.
"That's only three quarters then. What of the last one?" - Breanna.
"That's ours." - Maebh, with a wild grin.

* * *

The lords of the Resistance meet once more in a hastily organised audience chamber in the palace of The Crag. Lords Blackbear and Redclay are present, along with Lady Grimstone and their retinues. Also present are the companions and a small party of Mountain Finches, attending their ceannasai Rhen Featherwind.

Tremor sits at the meeting table, Maebh and Harold on either side, as equals with the lords of the Resistance. Behind him, acting as his retinue are Barandin, Breanna and Aeva. Kel’Serrar has made himself inconspicuous and taken a place in Arald Redclay’s retinue, the better to keep tabs on dissenters among the parties of the lords.

Again, Godsman Harrick Stonehammer convenes the council meeting.
"Things have certainly changed for us now, but most of the faces I see before me are familiar. My Lady Grimstone, as this is your hall, I shall sit and allow you to continue."- Harrick Stonehammer, before taking his seat.

“After the tragic death of my late father, I have taken up my clan’s ancestral seat. I pledge to continue my support of the Resistance until my fellow lords have also been reinstated.” – Freida Grimstone, beginning her spiel.

Breanna and Maebh struggle to hide their amusement at Grimstone’s pronouncement, but other than a few sideways looks, no one calls them out.

“I said as much publically and I hold to that behind closed doors too. I believe we have some pressing matters to attend to? I invite everyone to speak their minds.” – Freida Grimstone, opening up the floor to the others present.
“Do we know the location of Bain Ironfist?” – Maebh, leaning forward on the stone table.
“My spies report that Ironfist is currently just south of Nordtarnet Fortress, pillaging the countryside. A few villages surrounding the fortress have been withholding taxes and harbouring our agents. Somehow, Ironfist has gotten wind of this and they have paid the price. I am led to believe that we will be seeing refugees seeking shelter at the Southgate within the week.” – Arald Redclay, leaning back in his seat.

There is some muttering around the council at this.
“They’ll never make it this far. We’ve left those poor people to die.” – Concerned Dwergar near Kel’Serrar.
“Aye, they’ll never escape Bain’s riders.”  - Another Dwergar, presumably the friend of the first.
“Might be a good thing. We would struggle to feed more mouths.” – Third Dwergar, coldly calculating.

“That brings me to another point. How are repairs and reinforcement of the city coming along?” – Harold.

“Well enough, Herrn Oakenshield. The work of your own people before we even arrived was greatly appreciated and I have had my people join their efforts since. The Westgate is devastated, but we have begun work on a postern gate to provide access to and from the western road. We expect that to be complete within a fortnight. The Westgate itself may take a year or more to repair.” – Freida Grimstone, throwing a dark glare at Maebh, who coldly returns the stare.

“And troops? How many warriors can The Crag provide us with now?” – Ersun Blackbear, gruffly.

“We have the remnants of The Crag’s military, along with the forces who accompanied me to the Valleywood. That is over a thousand troops. I have my steward conducting an audit of The Crag’s military capacity as we speak.” – Freida Grimstone, defensive.

“And now what of our next target?” – Harrick Stonehammer.

The muttering grows louder.
“Grimstone gets her keep, but what of my lord?” – One of Blackbear’s retinue.
“You wait for it, Ironfist will back out of his oath.” – Another of Blackbear’s retinue, nodding in agreement.

“What of Valewatch? Is it feasible to take with, say, five hundred?” – Harold, keen to talk matters of strategy.

There is some laughter at this.

“Ha! Never could Valewatch be taken with such a small number. Your tricks may have worked here, but my people are far cannier. No less than a thousand will suffice. You will find Valewatch a tough nut to crack.” – Ersun Blackbear, amused.

“We just took The Crag, supposedly the most heavily fortified stronghold for many miles around with a handful of fighters.” – Maebh, quietly.
Many of those present are laughing to themselves, but Rhen Featherwind looks at the companions approvingly and Stonehammer is shaking his head at the reactions. For her part, Freida Grimstone is not sharing in the laughter, but has a dangerous glint in her dark eyes.

Tremor tries to speak calmly over the laughter, but is just ignored.
“Quiet! Lord Ironfist wishes to speak!” – Harrick Stonehammer, smashing a hammer down on the table with an era-splitting crack.
“Aye, thank you Godsman. Lord Blackbear, are there any back entrances we might know about? Ways we can enter without the knowledge of the defenders?” – Tremor, to Ersun Blackbear.
“Well, you might not be too keen on going down there, but one could potentially go in through the sewers.” – Ersun Blackbear, still chuckling to himself.

“Who else knows about it? Will the sewer system be guarded?” – Aeva, from where she stands behind Tremor.
“Guarded? Most likely not. It is not a closely guarded secret for all that.” – Blackbear, deigning to respond.

"Valewatch is some distance away and we have enemies closer to The Crag. We should make for Black Hill and destroy it." - Freida Grimstone, to the approval of her own retinue.

"Dame Grimstone, Lord Ironfist has made a vow to retake Valewatch next." - Harrick Stonehammer, to growls of assent from Blackbear's retinue.
Tension starts to grow.

"We have already retaken The Crag for you Lady Grimstone. We must do what we can for others now." - Aeva, blunt.
Grimstone sneers at the Selkye druid, but does not respond.

"The way I see it, we need to take Valewatch. But we need to take it in summer, once we have a large body of well-trained troops. We must also be wary of Ironfist's counter-attack. It is inevitable, and we should not strike out again until we have beaten it off." - Harold, expressing his point.

This is met with some derision around the room.

"Summer is another half a year away. We must move quicker than that." - Stonehammer, so often the voice of reason, this time condoning hastier action.

"A small party, from the inside. It can be done again." - Maebh, with gravity.
"We cannot pull the same stunt again though." - Aeva, from behind the mage, who nods in agreement.
"A veteran force then, storming the keep?" - Harold.

The ceannasai of the Mountain Finches nods at the companions.
"Though this cause is not our own, the Valleywood is our home and therefore the Valewatch situation is one my people must play a part in. I will volunteer my archers to aid you in this endeavour." - Rhen Featherwind, solemnly.

"That may not be necessary. No, I'm speaking of just two or three people, taking out key targets. Victory through assassination." - Maebh.

That gets a reaction once more, generally praising. Assassinations are a topic dear to every dwarf's heart, and a favoured method of warfare, business and settling domestic disputes. Redclay does look less than pleased, though probably not due to any moral difficulties with the activity.
"He won't be happy about that. Potential powerbrokers getting offed is not good for trade." - One of Redclay's attendants, whispering to a friend.

Kel'Serrar's undetected presence in the crowd is proving quite useful.
If only as an exposition device for me.

Freida Grimstone inclines her head, a small smile etched on her cold features.
"I approve of this course of action, and would happily support such a motion." - Freida Grimstone.
"Yeah, that's no surprise." - Ladyhawk.

"Well, we do have an assassin." - Harold, looking towards Breanna, who had been generally ignored up to this point by the assembly. As such she quickly drops the peach she was messily devouring to the floor and licks her fingers, grinning at the lords and their retinues.

"She sneaks in, kills the commander and then we can head in and take advantage of the confusion and their lack of direction and we take over with little to no difficulty." - Maebh.

The debate rages further, but no counter-points are made to this. Grimstone is content to let this play out as the others see fit and Blackbear just wants to gets his keep back. Redclay obviously disapproves of the whole affair, but says nothing to countermand the decision.

"My lords, the hour is growing late. Do we have a decision?" - Stonehammer, eager to get a plan in place and sorted.

"As Herrn Oakenshield suggested, we shall move troops to Valewatch as soon as the season changes. Winter is no time for large troop movements in the mountains, especially since The Crag is so vulnerable at this moment.

Dame Raven-Wing's plan to assassinate the key figures of Valewatch is one I highly approve of. I suggest we implement that as soon as possible." - Freida Grimstone, to nods of assent from the other lords.

Arald Redclay gives his only grudgingly.

Aeva is suddenly struck by inspiration.
"To divert attention from us as we launch our assault on Valewatch, could we not have rumours spread that we are holing up in The Crag for the rest of the winter? Even though it is true, take attention away from our eminent assault on Valewatch by focussing their attention on what we are doing here." - Aeva, to a chorus of agreement.

There are a few other local matters brought up in the council which the companions do not embroil themselves in and then Tremor speaks up.

"Before we bring this meeting to an end, I have a few legal documents I wish to circulate amongst you and have you sign, to confirm your allegiance and continued support." - Tremor, bringing forth the documents he and Maebh prepared earlier.

The documents are circulated, and the lords read them with interest.

In base terms, they are Tremor's demands.

Quote from: Tremor's Demands:
- Continued support of Tremor as the rightful Konungr.
- Troops and supplies according to their means.
- Military alliances at least until the death of Bain Ironfist.
- Shared training and outfitting of troops.

In return, Tremor offers the aid of he and his retainers and a quarter share of the yield of the Blackhand Mines. As Stonehammer is contributing no troops, he gets no silver.

The lords find this reasonable and sign the documents, though Stonehammer hesitates slightly before he does so.

Ladyhawk asked me to sign a piece of paper as all the lords, offering to sign for Grimstone herself. I took this as an opportunity for the group to have a bit of fun and asked them all to sign for a particular lord.

For brownie points readers, guess who signed as each lord.
Spoiler: Signatories (click to show/hide)

Now these documents are not exactly worth all that much themselves, but it does give the companions the moral high ground if the lords do not hold to their word.[/color]

"Very well. Lord Ironfist, I will leave you to organise your companions on their mission. With the permission of Dame Grimstone, I call this meeting to an official end. May the Old Gods guide us all." - Harrick Stonehammer.

* * *

Back in a minute...

And we are back! :smallsmile:

On their way from the council chamber to their own dwelling, the companions are joined briefly by the ceannasai of the Mountain Finches, Rhen Featherwind.
"We were sent to aid Breanna Blackrose and her companions in this endeavour, an oath we have fulfilled. As I stated in the council meeting, though our goals do intertwine in places, this is not our fight. For all that however, Valewatch lies close to Imreitibh and though we are to return home, we would be honoured to provide an escort to your hunting party until we must part ways." - Rhen, not unkindly. Though losses amongst the Mountain Finches were very low in the conflict, he has still lost personal friends in this struggle, a loss compounded by the sorry fact that they were participating in a war that was not theirs to fight.

"We would be glad of your company." - Breanna, simply.

It is all that needs to be said.

In reality, more was said.
"We'll arrive at Valewatch with two very fat Danann and one conspicuously absent archer corps." - Sins.
"If you eat them, I swear to God I will murder you." - LD, laughing.

* * *

Over the next few days, the companions seek to complete their own individual tasks.

A city-wide celebration is to be held in honour of all those who took part in the siege on both sides. Breanna travels to Imreitibh with an invitation to the clan elders of the Mountain Finches to attend as guests of honour. 

Harold continues training his reavers, joined by Kel'Serrar who has tried to gather up some archers for the same reasons.

Tremor though has been engaged in kingly duties, dealing with all manner of complaints and issues with the lords and nobles. Aeva has maintained her place on his shoulder, and the kite-hawk becomes a widely recognised symbol of Tremor's presence.
"I just sit on his shoulder, watching over him. Whispering obscene things in his ear. 'Look at that girl's tits!'" - Delphi, to general laughter.
"When I have free time I'll just bounce ideas off her too." - Tremor.
"I could totally be his advisor." - Delphi.
"Cause Incitatus worked out so well for Caligula..."

While all this going on, Maebh has been examining all their equipment, particularly the new additions they picked up. In addition to this, she has been seeing to Toirneach and honing her magical abilities. She knows that Bastaird is still hunting her, and wants to be prepared.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

A remembrance of the names of the fallen is recounted on the fifth day after the siege, at dawn, at several points throughout the city, many hundreds of names read out as the people of The Crag remember those who were lost. Harrick Stonehammer himself leads the ceremony in the fountain court before the palace for the lords and nobility, but other godsmen are recounting the names at various points through the city to ensure that all get to pay their respects.

The rest of the day is carried out like a Selkye viesla, Aeva having prevailed upon the lords to be allowed to organise the event. All work is abandoned for the day as the people of The Crag revel and make merry.
"I do like to party." - Delphi.

That night, a feast is held in the dining hall of the palace, with the archers of the Mountain Finches held in high honour. For their part, the provincial clansmen of Imreitibh are taken aback by the whole affair, but the companions hope that it might go some way to acknowledging the loss of the Leathe in the fighting and the appreciation of the Resistance for their aid.

* * *

Ahead of the companions lies a heavy task. First, they must travel through the Valleywood, a dense forest with a fell reputation. A reputation well-deserved due to the predators, pools of dark magic leaving lingering parties of undead and a malicious fey court. Making the task more difficult, the Sons of Wyre are still in the area, a hard-as-nails company of elite mercenaries. On top of that, reports from the Mountain Finches suggest that there are Krowavir tribes in the area.

Spoiler: The Krowavir (click to show/hide)

And then there's Valewatch itself, a well-defended fortress filled with heavily armed woods-dwarves.

Spoiler: Map of Valewatch (click to show/hide)

This is not going to be easy.

I cannot hear many things in the recording as Ladyhawk, LD and Delphi keep chatting about something or other in the background. Whatever it is must have been really funny because they were cracking up about it for a good fifteen minutes. Snippets I was able to glean include:
- Conversation about my cat, Satan, who does sound like she just crawled up from the depths of hell.
- Delphi's yawn can and indeed does sound like a Velociraptor.
- Dev's Kingdom of Heaven reference flew straight over all their heads.
- Sometimes Ladyhawk mishears me and that makes me sound like an alcoholic.
- We are making shirts and jackets for the group... I already have a shirt.

There are three commanders present in Valewatch:

The first, Magnar Runestone, new lord of Valewatch.
- An elderly, grey-bearded Dwergar.
- Was once one of Ersun Blackbear's foremost advisors, but was instrumental in his downfall.
- Never remarried after the death of his first wife. Has only one surviving relative, his heir, Brannigan.
- Has now become grotesquely fat. He's had the run of the place. And the larder by the look of it.

The second, Boris Mordrickson of Clan Yealblade, captain of the guard.
- A tall, dark-haired, heavily built Dwergar.
- Was the captain of the guard during Blackbear's reign. Opened the gates to Bain Ironfist's forces.
- Is not of noble stock, but was elevated thus following his role in deposing Blackbear.

The third, Brannigan Magnarson of Clan Runestone, heir to Valewatch.
- A young, well-built, russet-haired Dwergar.
- Is well-liked and charismatic.
- Disapproves of political machinations. Because of this, is seen to be a little dull by other nobles.

Following the feast, most of the companions leave The Crag, along with the Mountain Finches returning home. The Leathe are not going to aid the companions in taking Valewatch, but the ceannasai is more than happy to provide an escort for Maebh, Breanna, Aeva and Kel'Serrar.

Of Tremor and Harold, they remain at The Crag for now, keeping a close eye on the disparate parts of the Resistance. In three days time, Ersun Blackbear will march on Valewatch with 500 Resistance troops. Harold and Tremor will join them.

* * *

Maebh, Breanna, Aeva and Kel'Serrar:
The Mountain Finches make swift time through the Blackspine passes and part ways with the companions just east of Imreitibh. The ceannasai, Rhen Featherwind offers his blessings to the group and a carved stone to Breanna to remember him by.

And then it is just the four of them, alone in the wilderness, in a very foreboding forest. Ignoring the sinking feeling in their stomachs, the four companions set off to the south-west, to Valewatch, the early morning sun barely glinting through the dense canopy.

Unnervingly, they saw very little in the way of wildlife on the trip to Valewatch. A good thing considering the potentially deadly creatures which inhabit the Valleywood, but also very strange. In essence, no giant death-bears is good, no birds, caorigh or deer is bad. It isn't like their party made much noise, the Leathe skirmishers and three of the four companions all at home in the woodland. Of the fourth companions, a hawk overhead is hardly out of place.

The companions eventually set up a campsite about two miles from Valewatch, hidden deep within the woods. While the three do so, Aeva continues on to get an idea of the layout of the place from the air.

The kite-hawk sees no sign of Lord Runestone himself and cannot pick out Yealblade from his men, but the Runestone heir, Brannigan is easy to find. Indeed, he makes himself very busy, at ease amongst the soldiers. It seems they like him too, their spirits lifting where he goes. He's obviously quite popular.

The keen eyes of the kite-hawk also reveal that the crafts-dwarves of Valewatch are very busy. Smiths, carpenters, masons, tanners, all of them are hard at work. They are cranking out equipment, weapons and armour loaded onto creaking wagons in huge quantities. Fortification of the curtain wall and the construction of more dwellings is also taking place at a feverish rate.

When Aeva returns to the companions' campsite, they cluster around a small fire and discuss what they intend to do around a quick meal of dried meat, hard cheese and foraged berries as the weak northern sun fades. 

"So the plan is for Breanna and Aeva to perform the assassination itself, while the two of us provide a reserve force." - Kel'Serrar, leaning back and munching on cheese.

"That's it. If we need to pass on information, I will send you a whisper, which Maebh can pass on to the others if required." - Aeva, sitting on a fallen log.

"Now they are xenophobic little bastards, so I either need a disguise from Kel, or to go over the wall under the cover of darkness." - Breanna, chewing on a couple of berries.

"Well, it will be dark soon. You might as well get on with it." - Maebh, lying down, looking at the stars above.

* * *

The guards are patrolling the ramparts of Valewatch, as they are meant to, but no one notices the small shadow flit over the southern wall.

* * *

Overhead, a kite-hawk soars on the rapidly cooling night air, keen eyes seeking out the commanders. She will probably be grounded soon though, the large bird needing the thermals to stay aloft for such a long period of time.

* * *

A wind carries a faint voice to the campsite where Maebh and Kel'Serrar sit around the fire.

"Give me an hour, then set fire to the forest just north of the keep. Something which appears dangerous, but won't be." - Aeva's whisper.

* * *

In the deepest shadows behind the eastern inner-tower, Breanna lies in wait, knives ready on the off-chance she is discovered. She waits for the call to strike, a signal from Aeva that her first mark is ready to die...

* * *

The kite-hawk lands on the thin blanket of snow covering the ground just north of Valewatch, out of sight of the keep. With a shiver, Aeva throws her usual form back on and begins scribing arcane sigils into the snow around her, entreating the spirits to aid her. When she finishes, she sits down in the middle of the sigils and with a wild cry, a pulse of blue coruscating magic bursts forth from the druid.

Aeva of course doesn't want here wildfire plan to harm the wildlife in the area, so she is using her magic to repel them from the area. As a Spirit Magic Ritual, this took some time to complete, around half an hour. The next half an hour gives the animals time to get clear and Aeva time to get back into position.

Shrugging back into the shape of the hawk, Aeva wearily takes to the night sky once more.

* * *

Now just north of Valewatch, Kel'Serrar watches on as Maebh gathers up a roiling blast of flame and unleashes it upon the Valleywood. The mage artfully controls the gleaming golden flames, weaving it through the trees, doing so in such a way as to prevent any completely unnecessary damage.

For Kel'Serrar, his vigil over Maebh is constantly interrupted by the crackling of flames and memories of burning pain and ashes wafting on a chill wind.

* * *

From her vantage point, sitting on the southern gatehouse, the kite-hawk that is Aeva sees the roaring inferno Maebh is creating to the north. So too can the guards upon the walls, many of which start to abandon their posts to better see what is happening to the north.

Her keen eyes pick out her first mark, a tough, scarred Dwergar in heavy grey plate and chain shouting orders to the defenders to return to their positions. Guard-Captain Boris Yealblade, mostly unattended on the southern tower.

On the wall to the north, surrounded by awestruck soldiery, the second mark, Brannigan Magnarson. He too stares out at the growing fire, amazed by the deadly beauty of it. A weaving wall of death, flickering with golden light through the darkened trees.

* * *

"Now Bree. - Aeva's whisper, to Breanna.

With a slight flash of blue light, Yealblade finds himself momentarily paralysed, but he is of hardy Vale-dwarf stock, and Aeva's snare barely finds a hold on him.

Aeva rolled to determine the amount of time Breanna had to get there and take advantage of the Snare. That did not go well, granting the assassin only ten seconds to cross most of the fortress.

Anyone else could not have done it, but Breanna's athletic and acrobatic feats are now legendary, and so I offered LD an opportunity. Spend a Luck Point and if you ace the Checks I ask for, you get there in time.

Trusting to her dice rolling abilities, LD agreed without hesitation.

05, 01, 00, 03.

Cue round of applause from all present as LD collapses into hysterical laughter.
"****ing dice Jesus!" - Dev, which is his way of congratulating her.
"Give me your crown." - Ladyhawk, who takes LD's crown and adds a subtitle to it.
"So the possum basically teleported across the fortress into this bloke's face. How far did he get sent?" - Sins.

Breanna sprints across the streets of Valewatch, vaulting over a startled guard without breaking stride. She is travelling so fast that he never even saw her, just heard her whistling overhead. A split second later, she is on the rooftops, gliding from roof to roof with practiced ease.

Ahead of her lies the southern tower and her keen eyes can just make out the stocky, heavily armoured figure at the top.
She knows she has but seconds left to take advantage of the captain's paralysis. She tumbles forward, landing lightly on the ground in a roll.
She springs out of the roll, launching high into the air with a single, powerful bound. Her blunt claws latch into the timber and heave her up further again.
Muscles burning with the exertion, she realises that she is too late. She can't possibly make it in time as she flies over the parapet of the tower.
Yealblade frees himself enough from the snare to start to look back to the north, just in time for the flying Leathe assassin to kick him solidly in the jaw with a resounding crack.

Yealblade flies backward, released by the snare, neck and jaw shattered, to fall to the ground many feet below, impaled upon the wooden stakes driven into the base of the fortress.

Not only did Breanna accomplish this in ten seconds, she managed to do it without alerting anyone to her presence.

* * *

Magnar Runestone sits on his throne, surrounded by a few councillors and attendants and a single huscarl.

"My lord, the fire to the north is spreading ever further. We must organise troops to go out there and fight the blaze." - Councillor.

"No, the fire is just a ruse. It will not harm us. It is merely a distraction to get us to send guards out of Valewatch. Did you not read what happened at The Crag?" - Magnar, disturbingly well-informed.

"But my lord, this fire is out of control!" - Second councillor.

"The Resistance wants Valewatch. Blackbear, wants Valewatch. They cannot afford to have it burn." - Magnar, again disturbingly well-informed.

The councillor is about to respond but he is cut off by a piercing scream from the western wing of the inner keep. The huscarl, councillors and attendants immediately run from the throne room, trying to find the mystery woman. Magnar tries to get up from his throne, but is too fat to do so by himself, and promptly gives up.

While their backs are turned, a dark shadowy figure, short but well-muscled flits into the room, a wicked knife held in either hand. Magnar tries to yelp out a call for help, but Breanna's  daggers find his throat before he does.

Wiping the blood from her blades, Breanna grins and melts back into the shadows.

* * *

"Send word to Tremor, Valewatch is ours." - Aeva's whisper to Maebh and Kel'Serrar.

* * *

A few days later, Tremor and Harold arrive at the head of the Resistance troops which have arrived to claim the fortress.

* * *

The attendants and councillors who were the last to be with Lord Magnar Runestone alive were all executed on the spot by the huscarl present in the throne room. You see, when they heard that woman scream, that huscarl was the first to turn his back on his lord to find her. In that moment, those councillors took the opportunity to slit his lord's throat.

Or so he figures...

* * *

Brannigan has taken over the lordship of both Valewatch and clan Runestone, and at the very least is more likely to be able to be treated with than his father.

And we left it there...

The Wrap-Up:
Wow, what a gargantuan session. It was thoroughly enjoyable though, despite the raw throat I had afterwards.

Delphi really impressed me with how easily she integrated into the group. Aeva is a very strong support character, a force multiplier if you will, which will definitely help this party. Already the Aeva / Breanna tag-team is causing some serious damage.

We are certainly nearing the end of Arc 4. I believe we may only have one or two sessions left before Arc 5 begins. That doesn't mean that Arc 4 has nothing left to give us though, I assure you that some very big secrets are going to be revealed, which may change a few things about this conflict.

I know that this particular write-up was not huge, but that's mainly because I didn't have anywhere near as much OOC stuff to type up this time. If anything, adding Delphi has helped this group stay on track, something I did not think would happen.


That's just about it from me. We are going to play 4.5 of 3 Coins and 1.2 of Whispers on Sunday, and I still have a write-up to finish for Rayncrann before we play that next session.

That's it I think, thanks for reading and have a great night,

« Last Edit: March 28, 2020, 02:28:40 AM by Phoenixguard09 »
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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #31 on: March 28, 2020, 02:29:27 AM »
Session 4.5: Of Bastardry

Tremor Godriksson of Clan Ironfist sits alone in his rented room in the Blackmane Inn of Urik's Landing. He takes a long draught from a tankard of ale and sets it down on a small wooden desk.

With a curious glint in his eye, he takes up his sack and withdraws the mouldering head of Wilmund Brewer.

"What exactly were you trying to accomplish? You were supposed to have been an innkeeper, not some daemon summoning madman." - Tremor, voice breaking.

A fell green glow surrounds the skull and balefire gleams in its sunken eyes.

"Accusing another of being a daemon summoning madman?" - Wilmund Brewer's whispering voice from beyond the veil.

"Why do you continue to torment me!?" - Tremor, yelling, anguish and alcohol affecting his self-control.

"You are the bastard who killed me...." - Brewer's shade, before the balefire gutters out.

Welcome to Session 4.5 of Three Coins.

“No one said The Game yet.” – Ladyhawk.
“We are awful people.” – Dev.

We left off with the taking of Valewatch, the woodland fortress in the northwest of Nordtarnet. Brannigan Magnarsson of Clan Runestone has taken command of the fortress, but he is struggling to deal with the aftermath of Breanna and Aeva’s joint assault.

The entire council of the Resistance has arrived alongside the other companions, at the head of 500 troops, mainly Vale-dwarves loyal to Ersun Blackbear. Joined by Aeva Nordur-Vatn and Breanna Blackrose, the Resistance forces stand outside the gates, bearing the standards of Clans Ironfist and Blackbear foremost.

Brannigan Runestone stands on the gatehouse looking over the Resistance’s small host, a slate grey flag beside him, embroidered with a golden runic sigil of peace. A flag of parley, such as the Dwergar recognize them.

“Surrender you Runestone dog!” – Ersun Blackbear, opening proceedings.
Harold Oakenshield rolls his eyes, but despite how much he wants to say something, does not rebuke the dark-haired Dwergar lord.

“What are your terms?” – Brannigan Runestone, not biting at the taunts.

“Come down and we shall discuss them!” – Tremor Ironfist, sick of having to keep looking up and shouting to talk.

“I am not that great a fool as to leave my position. Not yet at any rate.” – Brannigan, slightly affronted. To his mind at least, the only reason he survived the assassinations which claimed the other commanders of Valewatch is because he was surrounded by guards that night, patrolling the walls. He knows that the moment he is separated from his own men, he is easy game.

“Fair enough, I’m just sick of having to look up to speak to you.” – Tremor, trying to appeal to Brannigan as one straight-talking dwarf to another.

“Look, I know I cannot keep Valewatch, and truth be told, I do not particularly want it. Give me some land around here, allow me to take a position as a lord of your Resistance and promise safe passage and an opportunity to serve for my men and I will pledge myself to your cause.” – Brannigan.

“We will give your Southbridge Fort as Clan Runestone’s seat, as soon as we take it from my brother.” – Tremor.

“And I have your word that no harm will come to me or my men?” – Brannigan.

“You have it. No harm will come to you and yours by my hand or those of my retinue. That is all I can guarantee.” – Tremor, admitting that his position is tenuous.

“Nor will it come from you and yours…” – Harold, growling in an undertone to Ersun Blackbear.

“Then by those terms, I surrender Valewatch to you.” – Brannigan Runestone.

Ersun Blackbear claims the keep as his own, granting rooms to each of the lords and their retinues. A council meeting is called for that evening, and Harrick Stonehammer looks particularly grim.

* * *

The companions find they have a few hours to spare before the lords are called together. Harold does his best to continue providing some training to his band of Invarrians, joined by Kel’Serrar’s archer corps and Bach.

Ladyhawk showed LD her ‘octopus dance’ here. This led to LD dying of laughter, preventing me from hearing much of our conversation.

Maebh goes into the forest with Toirneach, to both spend some quality time with her familiar and to scout out the surrounding area. She passes swiftly through her own handiwork, the burned woodland to the north and then spends some hours out on the wooded paths.

And then, some miles away from Valewatch, she spies tracks on the ground, heading north and away from Valewatch. Toirneach’s reaction confirms what she herself thought.
“Minotaurs!” – Delphi.


“I freaking knew it!” – Delphi.

For the Leathe, the next few hours are quite pleasant, frolicking with Wolfgang in their own room off the side of the companions’ parlour. A pleasant interlude to their otherwise harsh lives.

“So you are with your marcwolf, Wolfgang von Markus…”
“Every time he says it, we win.” – LD.
“Now Wolfgang is a bit large than Bach, because you take better care of him. He’s also a bit fatter than Bach, because you feed him bad food.”
“Like people.” – Delphi, brightly.

Wolfgang is a bit larger than Bach, and it will not be long before Breanna is able to ride him into battle.

The Invarrian duellist proves to be quite an impressive teacher and commander, at least of sentient creatures. His Invarrian duellists and the archers are coming together quite nicely, forming a handy little band of skirmishers. His efforts to integrate Bach are not coming along quite as well.

A few of his band are former farm hands and have some skill with animals, but even they struggle to deal with the unruly marcwolf, who seems to really only listen to Harold himself.

The Danann ranger can avoid being noticed if he wishes, and so he sets himself to the task of determining the general feeling of those who were attached to the Runestone household. On the whole, he finds that most don’t seem to be that fussed switching from the Loyalists to the Resistance.

Their opinions on Brannigan differ wildly. The common people find him quite dull, and a bit stupid. This is probably due to his reputation as being quite honourable and forthright. The soldiers however, love him, probably due to those same character traits. He is a commander who will actually ensure the safety of his own men.

Tremor and Aeva:
Tremor, with a kite-hawk sitting proudly on his shoulder, strides to the parlour of Brannigan Runestone himself and is eventually allowed in by the increasingly alarmed huscarls.

“Are you standing or sitting?” – Delphi.
“I’m sorry?” – Wings.
“Which one? It’s important.” – Delphi.
“Ah walking and then sitting?” – Wings.
“Okay, when you sit down, you find a small black and white cat curled up in your lap.” – Delphi.
“Aww, kitty.” – Ladyhawk.

Brannigan and Tremor take one comfortably upholstered chair each and servants come bearing a pint of ale for each of them. Tremor has no fear of being poisoned by this man and drinks happily.

“So, Tremor Godriksson has returned to take his place at the head of Clan Ironfist. But why would he come see me?” – Brannigan, quaffing his ale.

“I wanted to know just how you felt about this business. Are you actually with us for the long haul?” – Tremor, setting his half empty tankard on the table. The cat in his lap purrs contentedly.

“Having surrendered to you, our lives are now forfeit if we ever meet your brother. It is in my own best interests now to ensure we are successful.” – Brannigan. He is known to be a very poor liar, and both Aeva and Tremor feel he is telling the truth.

Aeva picks herself up and curls up in Brannigan’s lap instead. For his part, this day has just been so weird, he just absent-mindedly starts patting the little creature.

Maebh and Breanna:
Maebh is eventually joined by Breanna and Wolfgang, who add their own tracking ability to the cause. Maebh sends Toirneach back to Valewatch, telling him to stay safe, before the mage and assassin take to the trees, Wolfgang questing along on the ground beneath them.

They follow the tracks.

Tremor and Aeva:
After their visit with Brannigan, Tremor wanders through Valewatch with Aeva on his shoulder, familiarising themselves with the fortress.

Likely to be useful in the future...

Maebh and Breanna:
The two companions follow Wolfgang through the undergrowth, and do not lose the trail, albeit it is easy enough to recognise. After some time however, they realise that if they want to be on time for the evening's council meeting, they had best head back.

They do file away that this particular pack seems to have a range of at least two miles from their den.

Tremor, Aeva and Kel'Serrar:
Unfortunately, wandering through the streets of a recently conquered fortress is a dangerous pastime.

Perception Checks from Tremor and Aeva and a Luck Check from Kel'Serrar. All pass.

Ahead of Kel'Serrar, looking around the corner stands a single dwarf, clad in dark leathers with a knife in hand. While the Danann does not know that Tremor and Aeva are nearby, the buildings concealing them from his sight, he does realise very swiftly that the Dwergar assassin before him is likely up to no good.

"I think I hear something..." - Tremor, whispering under his breath.

"There's more than one something." - Aeva's Whispering Wind. 
At that moment there is a cacophony of noise emanating from the ground beneath the assassin, and he cannot help but jump in fright. He panics and bolts directly into the path of Kel'Serrar's arrow, which catches the unfortunate assassin in the temple, dropping him immediately.

At the sound, two more would-be assassins leap out, one swinging a shortsword at Tremor, causing Aeva to flutter slightly on his shoulder as the engineer dodges away. The other levels a loaded crossbow at the pair and shoots, but the bolt passes harmlessly over Tremor's shoulder.

Aeva glares at the crossbowman and he gives a growled curse before he is unable to move.

The other assassin dodges a number of Tremor's strikes before another arrow smashes into the side of his head, killing him instantly.

"Thanks Kel!" - Tremor, recognising the arrow, before running towards the still Snared crossbowman.

Before he gets close however, the assassin breaks free, throws his crossbow away and frantically begins running. Aeva takes off and manages to hit him with enough of a Snare to slow him for a few moments, which is all Tremor needs to cut the gap between them.

The engineer smashes into the assassin with the force of a dwarven battering ram. Tremor's quite a heavy little guy, so when he gets some speed up it takes a lot to stop him.

The assassin is rolled over onto his back, groaning in agony. Above him, Tremor puts a heavy boot on his chest and Aeva lands on his shoulder once more.

"You're not going anywhere." - Tremor, before punching the assassin in the face.

* * *

The companions are gathered in their quarters, the assassin Tremor carried in tied to the table on his back.

"Who are you working for?" - Tremor, holding the vial of Red Potion threateningly above his head.

The captive refuses to speak, so Tremor forces him to swallow a drop.

He screams in agony.

"Again, who are you working for?" - Tremor, holding the vial threateningly once more.

The captive still refuses, and so this scene repeats itself for some time.

"Surely throwing him in the dungeon and repeating this over the next few days would be more productive?" - Harold, under his breath to Maebh and Aeva.

"If we did that, we would need to check for any kind of poisons he might use on himself." - Maebh.

"Very good point." - Harold, nodding in agreement.

"The dungeons are not exactly the safest place amongst these people though." - Aeva, pointing out that bad things happen in Dwergar dungeons.

"This is getting nowhere." - Breanna, to the room.

"Before we put him in the dungeons, you'd better strip-search him." - Maebh.

Tremor and Breanna set about the task ruthlessly, with more enthusiasm with ability. It isn't until Kel'Serrar offers his trained eye to the task that they start to uncover some items of interest.

First is a small pouch of coins, which they split equally in front of the would-be assassin with much glee. Then, two more daggers which were missed earlier. Then, a little white pill which Breanna sniffs and identifies as a fast-acting poison. And finally a small note.

Quote from: Assassin's Note
Tremor Godriksson is your target. Eliminate him.

Spoiler: Tremor's Name (click to show/hide)

* * *

After stripping their captive, rather than taking him to the dungeons, the companions decide to take him with them to the council meeting and see if they can determine who wants Tremor dead.

The meeting is convened in a long hall in Valewatch keep, and is again headed by Harrick Stonehammer, although this time Ersun Blackbear is in the head place.

This time, the meeting is joined by Brannigan Runestone and his small retinue. He is accompanied only by the huscarl who slew his father's councilors and an old dwarf-woman.

"I shall begin by telling you all that the situation across the board has become quite grim. Gamrick Odensson, Dame Grimstone's steward, and now Castellan of The Crag, has sent ill tidings. The Crag is currently besieged by a force approximately two thousand strong. The enemy commander has, as yet, made no attempt to storm the city, which has led Odensson to believe that there is more to it than meets the eye.

Reports from my own godsmen to the south suggest that the southern border-forts are being stripped of their garrisons. They are joining together on the plains around Borsa." - Harrick, his face grim.

"They are coming for us here then." - Tremor.

"In addition to this, now that we have become an open threat, the Sons of Wyre have abandoned the Valleywood. They too are currently heading south, and have razed massive portions of the forest behind them. Many valley clans have been driven out, south onto the plains or east, deep into the mountains. We don't know what the Sons are doing either. Every village they have come across has been pillaged, which suggests they have gone rogue. And with them currently between us and Borsa, they may prove to be an issue moving against that city too." - Harrick.

"Contact with the Mountain Finches has been lost too. And there is a not inconsiderable amount of troubling information regarding the other valley clans." - Ersun Blackbear.

"Aye, but that is not the only information we have. In fact, it may not even be the most important..." - Frieda Grimstone.

"Aye, first of all I have correspondence from one of my godsmen in the south specifically pertaining to you Tremor. According to Bonil Fredriksson, Bain is claiming that Tremor is here is only a bastard, and not actually Lord Godrik's heir. Bain apparently has a letter, signed by your lord father, explaining the presence of the Bad Blood in you, when none of the Ironfist bloodline has born that taint in seven generations." - Harrick, eyes glinting with a steely light.

Everyone turns to the companions, and there is anger and dissent in their eyes.

"Is it true?" - Harrick, simply, putting the letter down.

"I do not know." - Tremor, quietly.

"That is not good enough!" - Frieda, angrily but she is cut off by Stonehammer.

"Enough Dame Grimstone! Let him speak." - Harrick, with authority.

"I believe I am the heir, and was raised as such before my exile." - Tremor.

"According to Bonil, your father's signature and seal are authentic and he believes it is proof that,  before he died, your father believed you to be a bastard." - Harrick, quietly.

Arald Redclay stands.

"Do you not see? None of this matters. We have already thrown our lot in with him, bastard or no. If we turn him in now, and claim we are duped, our lives are still forfeit. We must see this through, if for no other cause than self-preservation." - Arald Redclay.

Everyone in the room accedes the point, though that does not make them any happier about it. Arald retakes his seat and returns Tremor's grateful nod.

"Okay, now here's a pretty little offer we have been given... I have word from Theyne Balof Redclay, the current lord of Lord's Ridge. He offers us his alliance and all of his troops in exchange for allowing him to keep Lord's Ridge." - Frieda Grimstone, with a slightly unseemly amount of glee.

From what the companions can make out, Grimstone and Blackbear seem quite keen and seem to believe replacing Balof with Arald would be quite difficult. After all, Arald was not very popular to begin with, which was why Balof was able to take over so easily. Stonehammer and Grimstone seem much harder to read, though Stonehammer at least seems to be thinking about it. Redclay himself of course, is totally against it and looks to already be planning an escape, his retinue all fingering weapons.

"I believe this would be a bad move. The Resistance would get a bad reputation very quickly if we appeared to drop an existing ally in exchange for an unproven one, who appears to be asking to join simply to be on the winning side. We have taken two strongholds, in the middle of winter. That is winnig my friends. We have the momentum, we can win without him." - Harold, with a triumphant flicker in his eye.

"You are correct Herr Oakenshield, but look around you. The situation has changed in those very same two weeks. The Crag is besieged by a force numbering in the thousands, and Valewatch is surrounded by a burnt out wasteland. What we have taken in two weeks, we stand to lose immediately. We have the momentum yes, but momentum can only carry you so far." - Frieda, laying out her desperation.

"Indeed, we are hardly the winning side. There must be somewhat else going on..." - Harrick. thoughtful.

"Hang that, at the very least it is easier for us to keep a ruler in place than to depose yet another, and replace him with one the people have already risen up against. If we do not need to commit troops to Lord's Ridge, that just pushes our eventual assault on Bain's fortress forward." - Ersun, putting it bluntly.

"We would need to take Borsa before we take Nordtarnet Fortress anyway." - Tremor, grim.

"I'm pretty sure Lord's Ridge was to be the next target, was it not? That was our agreement I believe." - Arald, icy.

"If we take Lord's Ridge by force, we leave our flank open to attack from the force mustering outside Borsa. We must strike there first, and secure Valewatch." - Ersun, pressing his advantage.

"But then if that force may be led elsewhere, and away from a position to strike, even ambushed and destroyed, then that would eliminate the need to take Borsa..." - Harold, thoughtful.

Indeed, Harold's words are taking root even amongst the retinues of Grimstone and Blackbear. Interestingly, Brannigan Runestone has said nothing throughout the meeting, but the old woman has been whispering in his ear and he nods in agreement every now and then. Clearly, she is providing him with sound advice.

Tremor then stands, having thought about his next course of action.

"Due to this new information, I request that we postpone this council meeting for an hour. I must convene with Lord Redclay in private. Dame Grimstone, I request that you keep that offer secret and do not let that information become common knowledge. Herr Stonehammer, I ask you do the same with the knowledge of my parentage." - Tremor, regally.

"Because it is all bull****." - Harold, with finality.

* * *

The companions take a moment to pick each other's brains in the dining room of their parlour  before meeting with Arald Redclay.

"This is a **** situation isn't it? Obviously the younger brother is hedging here, trying to play both sides of the conflict. I do feel for Arald, but it would be pretty handy just having a stronghold handed over to us." - Maebh, thoughtful, lounging on a low leather chair.

"I'll just voice the obvious thing I think everyone is thinking, namely that it's a trap." - Kel'Serrar, sitting across from the cold fireplace, staring at the ashes.

"Yeah." - Harold, sitting at the table with his head in his hands.

"I'm just thinking, that we have made this alliance with Arald, and that if we break that off it would not be a good look for us if we broke that when they seem perfectly willing to hold to their side of the bargain." - Aeva, leaning against the wall.

"He did sign your contract, did he not?" - Kel'Serrar, deep in thought.

"Arald? Aye, he did." - Tremor, pacing the length of the room.

"Anyway, the younger brother sided with Bain. Screw him." - Breanna, lying on the floor, throwing and catching a peach.

"True, we can screw him. Say yes and stab him in the night." - Maebh, warming to the theme.

"The offer does seem too good to be true. We've had a lot of luck, and therefore our tricks have worked, but our luck won't hold forever. We need a good show of force, something tangible we can use to put us in a favourable position. Once there, we may not need Balof, and we can dispose of him. Unfortunately, this offer comes at a time where we are looking vulnerable, so naturally it appears in our best interests to take it, to improve our position. What we need is a pitched battle we can win, which takes some pressure off us to show we actually have a legitimate chance to hold what we take." - Harold, caught in a tangent.

"But can we win a pitched battle Harold?" - Barandin, sitting at the table too.

"That's the only problem I guess. At the moment, with forces tied up in The Crag and enemy forces mustering outside Borsa, we're not in a good spot, but they are still reacting to us, and that is a good thing. It's just like duelling. If you force your opponent to go on the defensive and start countering you, eventually he will make a mistake and you have your opening. We need a place which is no longer heavily guarded, somewhere we can crush, and force them to react." - Harold, warming to his theme.

"So a river assault on one of the southern border-forts?" - Barandin, trying to be helpful.

"Maybe..." - Harold, getting frustrated.

"So a distraction then, to draw the forces from The Crag?" - Maebh, an open question to the room.

"No, the longer The Crag is besieged and holds, the better." - Harold.

"Yes, that fortress has supplies to last well and truly into the summer. On the other hand, that siege ties up two thousand soldiers who could be garrisoning Nordtarnet fortress or Borsa for instance. The longer they stay out there in the winter, the more they will lose due to desertion, the conditions, perhaps lack of food, any number of things can occur to a campaigning army in the depths of winter." - Tremor, perking up a bit.

"And they are besieging a fortress whose defensive tactic is to literally sit tight and let the enemy die around them. We only stormed it because we were desperate and we had a plan. They don't seem to have that, so far as we know." - Harold.

"So we need something else then..." - Barandin, to the agreement of the other companions.

“What about the Sons of Wyre then? Can we hit them?” – Maebh.

“The Mountain Finches told me that they were around three battallions, each around five-score strong.” – Breanna, thoughtful.

“Historically, if I remember correctly, the company has numbered around five hundred.” – Tremor, recalling the numbers from the war against Rivervind.

“Both sets of information are now out of date anyway, so we can’t set too much stock in either of them.” – Barandin.

“True, but I think we could probably handle even five hundred…” – Aeva, thoughtful.

“They are said to be quite savage, and by all accounts their leader lives up to his title.” – Kel’Serrar, referring to Ragnak the Butcher.

“Oh, speaking of savage creatures in the woods, Breanna and I tracked a pack of Krowavir north. We didn’t find their den, but they do seem to be active in this area.” – Maebh.

“I may be able to communicate with them…” – Aeva, trying to formulate a plan.

“Beasts like that are unlikely to want to listen lass.” – Barandin.

With that, the, companions split, with Tremor and Harold finally going to see Arald Redclay and Brannigan Runestone respectively. While this happens, Kel’Serrar takes the opportunity to gauge the mood of the Blackbear and Grimstone camps and Breanna and Maebh taking some time for a bite to eat and a chat with Wolfgang and Toirneach respectively.

Tremor and Aeva:

“Before we go any further, I want to assure you that I have no intention of breaking our contract. As far as I am concerned, your brother has done to you what mine has done to me. Which, as you can imagine, makes me more inclined to stay with you than side with your brother.” – Tremor, cutting all the bull****.

“That is actually quite the relief. Despite your brother’s most recent gambit, your word and actions still carry a lot of weight. If I can take you at your word, and so far your word has been good, then I shall rest easier.” – Arald Redclay, looking marginally more relaxed than he did when Tremor came into his quarters.

“Yes, speaking of that, my brother has well and truly dragged my name through the dirt. If you can offer me any assistance in trying to control this situation, I would appreciate it greatly.” – Tremor, concerned.

“I’m afraid there really is not much I can do. I will have my agents go to work halting the rumours, but such things have a way of getting out by themselves. And if I back you more openly, you risk turning your own people against you even more.” – Arald, falling back into political manouevering mode.

“That will have to be enough. I trust your spy network is still in place?” – Tremor, acceding the point and taking another sip of Redclay’s excellent mead.

“It is, though I have cause to doubt the efficiency of my agents after they failed to alert me to my brother’s most recent play. Actually, having said that I do have something to bring to your attention, evidence of insurrection within your own retinue.” – Arald, pulling a letter from his pocket which he hands to Tremor.

Tremor takes the surprisingly heavy letter and is astounded to learn that it is addressed to Breanna Blackrose.  He opens it to find two crowns, and gasps at the sheer weight of gold in this little envelope.

Then he reads the note attached:

Quote from: Breanna’s Pay Slip
As promised, payment for the successful killing of Mordin Grimstone.

10/10 would use this service again.

“You killed Papa!” – Ladyhawk and Delphi together, as LD laughs in the background.

On the contrary, Breanna did not actually kill the late Lord Grimstone, but did claim the contract after his death.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)


“Now you know that you will not be able to stay here and guard this place right? Blackbear won’t trust you.” – Harold, blunt.

“Oh, I know. I was planning on moving out with a small force to harry the opposition around The Crag, provided that course of action is ratified by the council.” – Brannigan, equally blunt.

“On the contrary Brannigan, we have an alternate course of action, one which will strike a more decisive blow. We want to use your force to wipe out the Sons of Wyre. Now, do you have any sway over or accord with any of the Valley Clans?” – Harold, with an ambitious gleam in his eye.

“I have neither, but I would certainly be willing to lead that force.” – Brannigan, proud.

“Very good.” – Harold, before sharing a toast with his new lieutenant.

Back soon guys. :smallsmile:

The meeting is reconvened and Harrick Stonehammer cuts straight to the chase.

“Right, let’s get straight to it then. Who is in favour of courting Balof Redclay?” – Harrick Stonehammer, getting to the point.

Frieda Grimstone puts her hand up immediately, and surprisingly, so does Brannigan Runestone. He doesn’t look happy about it, but judging by the satisfied look on her face, his elderly off-sider won that particular argument.

“I wish to see how Herr Ironfist votes before I cast my own.” – Ersun Blackbear, which draws raised eyebrows from plenty gathered for the council.

“And there is no way in hell I am going to agree to it.” – Tremor, with a growl.

Ersun Blackbear nods his head in affirmation. The vote stands with two in favour and three opposed, and Arald Redclay maintains his place on the council.

“Okay, our next piece of business, reports from Nordtarnet Fortress. With Bain out pillaging and what have you, the castellan of Nordtarnet is General Tarik Hammerstrike. Under his rule, almost everyone in and around the fortress have been reduced to thralls. And apparently, our recent activities have made him very paranoid.” – Harrick.

“Paranoid? How so?” – Frieda Grimstone.

“He’s offering a bounty on every bird or bat shot down. Six sulvers per wing.” – Harrick.

“Whoops. I am now officially a cat on your shoulder, not a bird.” – Delphi.

There is a fair bit of concerned muttering amongst the various camps before Stonehammer gets everyone back on track.

So, my lords, what is our next move?" - Harrick.

"Well, I do have a plan, and it is quite bold. We take six-to-seven hundred troops out, leaving a fair garrison here in Valewatch. And then, we take down the Sons of Wyre. They've been a thorn in our side long enough and they have made no friends among the hill clans. So we let it be known we want them dead, and that we will accept any aid from the clans they are willing to offer. Lord Runestone and myself will lead the force." - Harold, sweeping his hand over the map in the centre of the table.

"Well the other option that we may have would be to offer them an improved contract..." - Harrick, sitting back in his seat.

That suggestion is knocked back vehemently by the assembled lords. They have no intention of allowing their recently acquired mining assets from The Crag go to some feral mercenaries. No, killing them off would be a far better option.

"From there, we go south to scout around Borsa." - Harold, continuing his plan.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

The lords agree with this plan in a unanimous vote, leaving Harold to sort out the details. Amazingly, somehow, Harold has ended up as the Resistance's military mastermind...

"This will end fantastically...." - Dev, voice dripping with sarcasm.

"With that, my lords, our meeting is adjourned." - Harrick, getting ready to stand.

"Actually, I have one more piece of business." - Tremor, standing up.

He beckons to Barandin who leaves the room and swiftly returns with their captured assassin, who is thrown bodily onto the centre table.  As the incapacitated dwarf is thrown onto the stone surface, the companions scan the faces of everyone present.

"This one. Who knows him?" - Tremor.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
The companions have their eyes trained on the other lords, but only Kel'Serrar notices that both Blackbear and Grimstone have momentary flickers of recognition. It could just be a trick of the light, but he is convinced they know of the assassin.

"They're in cahoots! Cahoots I say!" - Delphi.

He looks around surreptitiously, but no one else seems to have noticed what he did. Thinking quickly, he starts casting under his breath.

A soft silver light begins to emanate from the assassin, and then Grimstone and Blackbear. It is very subtle, and hard to notice, but a few notice it and look around, to mutters of discontent.

"Thank you again Kel." - Tremor, under his breath.

"So it appears none here know of this man? What do you wish to do with him?" - Harrick, oblivious to the light.

"Lord Redclay, do you have anyone who is particularly good at interrogation?" - Harold, thinking to assure the man that they do not suspect him.

"Why don't we torture him?" - LD, helpfully.

"Yeah, quick suggestion. Why don't we torture him right here and now, in front of all the lords and then keep an eye on them to determine who is getting all uppity?" - Delphi.

"Because torture is only for amateurs and sadists." - Dev, primly.

"Well, yeah." - Delphi, rolling her eyes and not elaborating on which she is.

"I've got a ****-ton of Hypnotism." - Ladyhawk, also trying to be helpful.

"I have skilled interrogators." - Ersun Blackbear, gruffly speaking up.

"You do?" - Tremor, taken aback.

"I do. It's my castle." - Ersun, taking the opportunity to remind Tremor just where he stands.

"That will not be neccessary. If we want secrets pried from him, then I can take care of it." - Maebh, standing and rolling up her sleeves.

"Most of you, I would hope, are unaware that this man and his compatriots made an attempt on my life earlier today. If not for my retinue, I would likely not be standing here. As such, I wanted you all to be present for this cretin's... confession." - Tremor, malevolently before taking his seat once more.

With that, Maebh applies her mental power to bending the barely conscious Dwergar to her will. Her fingertips glow with an amber light as they dance before the assassin's unfocussed eyes. Just as he begins to come to, he finds his gaze locked by the mage's stare, unable to turn away from her terrible golden eyes.

"Who hired you?" - Maebh, calmly an surely.

The Dwergar has an insanely strong will, but against Maebh he is unable to resist.

"It was..."- The assassin, before biting down hard on his tongue.

The mage applies another surge of will and the captive's resolve falters. His hand rebels against him and he points to one Dwergar standing in Ersun Blackbear's retinue.

That councillor looks around at the room and makes a run for the door, where Harold's Invarrians stand guard.

"Hold him!" - Harold, commanding his men.

The councillor has a fair crack, even managing to shrug off one of Aeva's Snares, but is eventually brought down by the Invarrians, who grab him by the arms and force-march him to the table.

"Did Ersun Blackbear order this attack?" - Maebh, to the gasps of those around the table. Blackbear himself looks tense.

The assassin shakes and groans but eventually shakes his head, looking dejected.

He then turns his head to look at Tremor, but his eyes never focus on the Ironfist scion.

"Your half-brother wants you dead." - The assassin, voice raw.

"Of course." - Tremor, before jumping onto the table and violently shoving a dagger into the would-be assassin's throat.

He then kicks the body off the table, jumping down after it.

"Next prisoner." - Tremor, angrily.

Maebh flicks the blood off her hand in vague annoyance before grabbing the squirming councillor and throwing him onto the table. As an aside, the map of Nordtarnet is thoroughly ruined now.

This captive proves far easier to dominate.

"Who do you work for? Did you order the hit on someone else's orders?" - Maebh, serene despite the bloodstains.

"Bain Ironfist..." - The captive, completely monotone.

"How did he get the order to you?" - Maebh.

"By raven." - The captive.

"What do you know of his plans?" - Maebh.

"He wanted his half-brother dead. I got money to organise the assassination and to ensure it was carried out." - The captive.

"How much money?" - Tremor, hoping to capitalise on this information.

The captive names a considerable sum.

"Where is the money?" - Maebh.

"In my living room." - The captive.

"Where is your house?" - Maebh.

The captive gives the address.

"Bye." - Kel'Serrar, who swiftly leaves the room.

"Did anyone in this room know of the assassination attempt?" - Maebh, exerting her influence once more.

"Arrrrgh.... No!" - The captive, straining under the pressure. Maebh gets the impression that he has fought the compulsion just enough to lie. She redoubles her efforts.

"Again, did anyone know of the assassination!?" - Maebh, starting to lose patience.

The captive groans and writhes again, and then nods.

Maebh gives a small sigh of exasperation and holds a flaming hand to the captive's face.

"If you don't tell me now and make this easy, I will burn your eyes out one at a time." - Maebh, menacingly.

The captive nods and points out a Dwergar each from the Blackbear and Grimstone retinues and a Northmann from Redclay's. Redclay's councillor immediately takes something small from a pouch at his belt and swallows it, while Grimstone's and Blackbear's leg it. One of them is caught by Harold's Invarrians, the other gets through them, but is completely immobilised by Aeva's Snare.

Redclay's councillor has fallen to the ground, mouth frothing and writhing around in agony.

"Is there anything else we should know?" - Maebh, quietly, as the other conspirators are apprehended.

The captive is straining and trying to get free but is unsuccessful and this experience is breaking his mind.

"No." - The captive, gasping in a ruined voice.

"Then you no longer serve any purpose to me." - Maebh, before snapping his neck with a brief surge of magic.

Harold then replaces the corpse with the immobile body of the councillor who made it past the Invarrians.

The process repeats itself, and they discover that this particular captive was not particularly high up in the chain, only responsible for passing on information. Harold puts it to him that he is to work as a double-double agent, and the captive councillor agrees, though not without some snarkiness.

"Before we put him to work though, I will see him punished." - Ersun Blackbear, very grim, who has two of his huscarls take the traitorous councillor away.

The other councillor is more of the same when his turn comes up, until Harold asks who in this room is higher in this conspiracy.

No one else notices it, but Aeva, in the form of a small black and white cat, paws engulfed in flames, sees the man's eyes flick over to Frieda Grimstone. A split second later, he denies anyone being present higher than himself.

Aeva then turns back into her usual form, takes a knife and holds it to the captive's throat.

"Do not presume to lie to us. We have ways of ferreting out the truth." - Aeva, coldly.

The captive actually appears quite subdued by this and provides them with the name and details of a Dwergar who is currently acting as the spymaster in The Crag.

"I shall have word sent to have him executed immediately." - Frieda Grimstone, upon hearing of the spy.

"No, we should not just kill him. We kill him and another we do not know of takes his place. Better to somehow limit the information he can send out. You should not kill spies until they have outlived their usefulness." - Harold, who then takes a dagger and runs it across the last captive's throat.

"Had he outlived his usefulness, Herrn Oakenshield?" - Harrick, disapprovingly.

"Indeed, we got all we needed from him." - Harold, trying to assert the companions' dominance.

"I would be tempted to agree with you, but this spy is too dangerous. And beside that, I am the ruler of The Crag, and you, Herrn Oakenshield, will not tell me how to run my own keep." - Frieda, asserting her own authority.

"This is not about your bloody pride! Do you want to die? Because I sure as hell don't. I still have things I need to do. So if you want to win this war, and hold your keep, then you will capture this spymaster and use him against Tremor's traitorous prick of a brother." - Harold, impassioned.

After that, the other lords shout Frieda down and agree with Harold's plan.

"Very well, if it is indeed the will of the council. I will have word sent that he is to be captured and not harmed." - Frieda, dejected.

"I wish to see that message before it is sent." - Tremor and Harrick, practically simultaneously.

Frieda agrees to that request and writes it out immediately.

* * *

Unfortunately, actually obtaining the troops neccessary for the plan is much harder than the companions anticipated. Brannigan is able to bring 100 trained soldiers, and the other lords are eventually talked around to pledging around fifty warriors each.

The composition:
- 100 heavy Dwergar skirmishers, under the command of Brannigan Runestone.
- 80 archers of mixed race, drawn from Arald Redclay's men and those Kel'Serrar has been training.
- 50 Dwergar skirmishers drawn from the recently defeated garrison of Valewatch, ostensibly Ersun Blackbear's offering.
- 80 Dwergar heavy infantry, Frieda Grimstone's tithe. They are well-equipped, but poorly trained.
- 12 lightly armed Dwergar partisans, all that Harrick Stonehammer has to give.
- 4 Invarrian duellists, Harold's personal guard.

"What of these Krowavir? Can we use them somehow?" - Tremor, to the other companions as they make ready to leave Valewatch.

"Well they will travel as far as they need to for food. This particular pack ranged at least two miles from their den, but as far as we could tell, never got to within a mile of Valewatch." - Maebh, telling what she knows of the species.

"Bringing them into this could be very dangerous for us." - Kel'Serrar, splitting the party's latest ill-gotten gains equally.

Remember the money the captured conspirator was paid to have Tremor assassinated? And speaking of ill-gotten gains, Tremor has kept Breanna's payment for 'killing' Mordin Grimstone.

The companions give a lot of thought to the best way to lure the Sons of Wyre into an ambush, and after a lot of debate, which goes around in circles completely. Maebh is set on using the Krowavir, trying to kill two birds with one stone, but Harold disagrees strongly. He can't see how the troops the companions have at hand would survive a drawn-out retreat, not only with an experienced band of professional mercenaries, but the second variable of uncontrollable slaughter-beasts.  He does have a point.

They also discuss how just defeating the Sons of Wyre is not the only objective. Harold is adamant that the Resistance needs to show they are capable of winning an honest pitched battle to command the respect of the other lords of Nordtarnet. It is hard to disagree with him on this point, but Maebh and Aeva in particular feel that this is too much like underestimating the Sons of Wyre.

"We're taking on a large, experienced band of veteran mercenaries, who have been kicking around for decades now, if they are the same company that fought with Tremor before his exile. And we're going to take them on with a smaller, poorly-trained force. I'm just trying to come up with advantages we can use to reduce casualties." - Maebh, making some excellent points.

"There are any number of advantages we can use, in terms of favourable ground, chokepoints, flanking manouevres..." - Harold, countering.

"Yes, and we should use them too! If we do not, this is going to be a bloodbath. Let's not forget who the real enemy is here. If the Sons of Wyre go down, I don't think Bain gives a ****. But we can't afford to lose any men, or we weaken the force we really want to be hitting Bain with. We don't have anything like enough to begin with." - Maebh, growing impassioned herself.

"Using the Krowavir might cost us even more again." - Harold, stubbornly refusing to yield the point.

"But we don't even need to send any troops... I can reach the Krowavir and lure them to a point. Then we get in touch with the Sons of Wyre, tell them Tremor's on the move and give them a location and watch as the two paths intersect." - Aeva, quietly.

In the commotion though she is ignored. Only Breanna seems to have heard her.

They resolve to send out scouts to determine a reasonable holdfast to lure the Sons of Wyre to. Meanwhile, Maebh, Aeva, Kel'Serrar and Breanna head out to get an up-to-date idea regarding their numbers of composition.  While they are doing that, Tremor goes about his kingly duties.

Messengers sent to the hill-clans return over the next few days with grim news.
- The Baersonling tribe fled the Valleywood and drifted south, seeking refuge on the plains around Borsa. The entire tribe has been enslaved and put to work fortifying the city.
- The Rocklad and the Grey Crows were also driven out of the Valleywood by the Sons of Wyre, and are currently disposessed and roaming the lands south of Valewatch. The scout sent to find the Rocklad has not returned, and disturbing reports have suggested that the Rocklad, in their desperation have resorted to cannibalism.
- The Mountain Finches are shooting at anyone who encroaches on their territory. The scout sent to them returned with three arrow wounds, and no news regarding their wellfare.

It would appear that no aid will come from the hill-clans.

Maebh, Kel'Serrar, Breanna and Aeva:
The companions learn that, as far as they can tell, the reports the Mountain Finches gave Breanna were correct. They find three battalions, each approximately 100 strong. The northern-most battalion, a well-organised and drilled company of hardened skirmishers appears to be engaged in a running engagement with the Rocklad.

As for the Rocklad, they appear to have quickly turned from a large clan of nomadic hillmenn, into a horde of shrieking, murderous lunatic beasts. Kel'Serrar, Breanna and Maebh are astonished to find that the Corpsewalkers seem to have followed them so far north...

"I do wonder if they can be communicated with..." - Maebh, during the couting party's limited down-time.

"I would be willing to bet they can be communicated with, in the sense that they will know we don't like them when we set them on fire." - Kel'Serrar, maintaining his arrows.

Aeva has asked them to hang around for a while as she goes off to acquire a little more muscle. She returns that night with a very self-satisfied look on her face...

Harold has picked through his scout's reports, and by the Golden God, have they found a spot for him.

A long winding canyon through the hills leads to the ruins of an abandoned fortress, long since forgotten by civilisation. It boasts three easily-defensible chokepoints, easily-repairable fortifications in addition to reasonably intact walls and a potential escape route under the hills.

Endelige-Faestning, the Last Redoubt.

He spends a fair amount of time going over a ground-map of the Redoubt with Tremor, who gives his own input on the re-fortification.

Over the course of the week, Harold and Tremor oversee the troops heading to and rebuilding Last Redoubt. They spend particular time carving two waiting bays into the canyon walls, which will conceal large portions of the defenders ready to ambush the Sons of Wyre when they assault.

* * *

It is made known to the Sons of Wyre that Tremor Ironfist will be making his way to a ruined fortress in the hills, with only a small honourguard. They are also led to believe that Bain has tripled the bounty on his brother's head.

And so the battallions, trailed by the Rocklad, make their move north towards Last Redoubt.

* * *

Within the fortress, the companions stand ready. Breanna waits above the entrance of the canyon, a pile of heavy boulders hidden beside her, ready to be dropped upon the unsupecting mercenaries.

Further inside, Brannigan and Tremor stand ready with their personal troops around them. When the enemy commit to their assault, Brannigan will lead his force forward, as the first line of defence. Before them stretches a pit of stakes, covered with cunningly engineered planks which will drop away when stepped upon, leaving only a very narrow path through. Harold and Aeva stand on either side with their skirmishers, on either side of the canyon, hiding in the constructed alcoves. Kel'Serrar and Aeva have spent quite some time perfecting an illusion of a rocky wall, to hide the warriors within.

Above, Maebh and Kel'Serrar lie in wait with their archers, ready to rain down hell.

Another hidden ditch lies before the reserves waiting with Tremor, the force of Grimstone heavy infantry.  Further beyond them, the horses and marcwolves are tethered within what the companions are referring to as the keep. It is really just a small area partially surrounded by another palisade which blocks off the path under the hills.

* * *

A small party of light horsemen scout the canyon out. They dismount and look around, but do not pass the line of bushes the companions have left to grow at the mouth of the canyon. As such, they do not see anything of importance, save for perhaps the potential landslide Breanna is watching over.

The companions are, of course, very tense, but the scouts go no further, obviously fearing an ambush.

Overhead, the sky darkens. Heavy clouds scud across the sky and a light misting rain falls. The scouts mount up once more and leave.

From her vantage point, Maebh releases her hold on the weather and smiles.

* * *

The next day, the weather has not improved and the scouts return. Fifteen light horsemen dismount and start to hack their way through the shrubbery.

They are careful however, and uncover the pit of stakes. Concerned by this, the scouts immediately rush back to their horses.

Thinking quickly, Breanna tries to startle the mounts with a Corpsewalker shriek, but is wracked with daemonic energy as she draws on too much. She is successful, and the horses panic and bolt. The scouts appear much the same, seeing as they have been dealing with Corpsewalkers themselves for some time now.

In pain, Breanna cannot help but elicit a groan of pain, and is astonished that it made no noise. She tries to whisper to herself, but with a growing panic, realises that she cannot make any vocalisations at all.

Due to the Miscast, Breanna cannot vocalise for the next five hours.
"Hooray!" - The party.
Unfortunately, without her voice, she is also without her magic...
"Luckily I have knives and rage." - LD.

The scouts return, having found their horses, around two hours later. Behind them are a troop of approximately 50 skirmishers, well-equipped and hardy veterans. Further behind them are a small group of around 10 men carrying wide wooden planks. They are armed only with daggers and wear no armour, and the companions deduce that they are sappers, combat-engineers.

The scouts dismount.

"We heard Rocklad in the area, so you must be cautious. That pit ahead is going to cause serious trouble going in, so we need to make sure we can clear it." - The lead scout.

Only Breanna is in a position to hear or see him, but of course has no way of warning her companions.

With that, the skirmishers beat their way through the gorse, the front ranks with axes at the ready, the rear with shortbows, arrows already nocked. They come to the pit, and still wary, cross after the sappers place their bridges. Ten of the archers follow the axemen, the other twenty remain on their initial side of the pit, arrows trained on the slightest of movement. The sappers retreat beyond the gorse.

The axemen spread throughout the canyon floor, covering ground, looking for traps and ambushes. They are a well-drilled unit, and have probably performed sweeps like this plenty of times. They keep looking up at the ledges where the companion's archers remain hidden. It is obvious that they are well-aware that this is a killing-ground.

Tremor takes the initiative and reveals himself at the head of his eighty Grimstone spears, walking out to stand just before the rebuilt palisade at the end of the canyon.

The axemen immediately run for cover, and the archers loose a volley. A few arrows land amidst the Ironfist scion's troops, but they are ineffectual. One literally bounces off Tremor's chain hauberk. The ten archers scatter too, finding plentiful cover on the canyon floor.

"Tremor Ironfist, we are coming for your head!" - Random Son of Wyre skirmisher.

The companions all have a bit of a laugh at that.

The squad of twenty archers however do not spend their arrows. Instead they hold, waiting to shoot at any new threat. Which is no laughing matter.

Tremor, having spooked the skirmishers, pulls back beyond the palisade. In return, the skirmishers fall back themselves, flitting from cover to cover.

The retreat is going well for the mercenaries until Harold comes charging out of his alcove, a wave of furious Dwergar behind him in a wave of hacking, bearded maniacs. Aeva commands her force to charge too, and then wills herself into a new, powerful form. A moment later, a gigantic tawny dagger-lion leaps from the alcove, tackles two axemen to the ground and leaves them for dead. Already, Aeva/Lion is hunting the sappers. She takes two minor flesh wounds, but they do not deter her from her targets.

Harold scythes through skirmishers like a hot knife through butter, dropping twelve in a matter of seconds. The Invarrian is quite literally a whirlwind of death, leaving no survivors within reach of his blades.

Meanwhile, the sappers try to retreat in the face of Aeva's ferocity as she downs three of them. One manages to get back up, cradling a lacerated arm, but the other two are not nearly so lucky.

In the chaos, Harold is able to put another two skirmishers to the sword, but with his own troops around him, he is starting to run out of targets. On the plus side, such is the Invarrian's skill at arms, none can touch him.

The sappers finally lose their nerve and leg it, despite the fact that outrunning a dagger-lion is not likely. They split up, thinking that she can only go after one of them at a time. Sniffing, Aeva/Lion turns around and tries to push the sappers' bridges into the pit, hoping to slow down the retreat.

The final skirmishers either escape beyond the gorse or are put down and the companions have a quick chat about how to approach the next phase of the siege. While they chat, Kel'Serrar and Aeva do their best to patch up some injuries, and Tremor sets about raising as many of the enemy corpses as possible, then leaving them prone on the ground where they died to act as an ambush.

And we left it there as LD had to go to her dancing.

The Wrap-Up:
I honestly thought this was a pretty good session all up. We had a quite a bit of in-character chatter at the start, mixed in with a bit of action, then more chatting and political manouevering. And then we finished off with the opening stages of what was going to be a large set-piece battle.

In hindsight, this strikes me as a pretty good session, but I remember at the time feeling a bit disappointed that we didn't get anywhere near as far as I hoped plot-wise.

We have scheduled our next game for February 14th and hopefully we will get a pretty substantial session done. At the moment, it would appear that we will play the first session of the next arc, with an interlude dropping in between this session and the next.

I hope this was worth the wait.


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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #32 on: March 28, 2020, 02:29:54 AM »
Interlude 4.6: Onwards to Varr

When birds clash in fields of Summer, the struggle will be resolved by those who dare wield the Gilded Sword…
- The opening line of the Greyflood Prophecy, as delivered by Raelda the Seer of Meleret.

To start with, this Interlude is going to cover a fair bit of time. Due to the personnel change within the gaming group, it was decided that the end of the 'siege' of Last Redoubt should be skipped over. So we're going to cover the end of the siege, the companions subsequent journey to Varr and then another scene which takes place in Valewatch at roughly the same time.

As before, Session 5.1 will begin with me recapping the Interlude to the group, so I will edit this post to include the best of the commentary and dialogue.

The companions do not have much time to reassess before the Sons of Wyre commit their heavy infantry. A large force marches into the canyon in good order, armed with heavy shields and longspears.

Breanna attempts to drop her landslide on the oncoming phalanx, but the wall of rock is held back by some quick thinking mages, a multi-coloured aethyric wall shimmering to life before her eyes. The Leathe bolts from her hiding place, unable to warn the other companions of the new assault, as she is still temporarily mute.

Taken by surprise, the companions' forces are unable to reset their ambush and are caught in open ground when the phalanx arrives. Caught in a pitched battle, against a phalanx of heavy infantry with far superior reach with flanks secured by the canyon walls, the Valewatch skirmishers drop like flies.

Faced with such opposition, Harold orders a retreat and does well to prevent it from becoming a rout. Seeing the phalanx brushing aside the skirmishers, Kel'Serrar, Maebh and Breanna, the Leathe having joined them up on the canyon wall, order their archers to loose their arrows. Unfortunately, the enemy shields and armour absorb much of the projectiles, and it isn't long before enemy archers follow the heavy infantry and start shooting back. Maebh's attempts to blast holes in the enemy infantry are generally unsuccessful, the enemy mages, while probably not as powerful individually, are able to curtail her effect on the battlefield by working together.

Frustrated, Maebh unleashes everything she has, tearing apart their attempts to stop her and the sky opens up. Heavy rain starts to lash the battlefield, quickly turning the dirt to churned mud. Golden lightning flashes down into the midst of the melee, giving Harold's skirmishers enough space to disengage completely to regroup with Tremor and Brannigan's reserve forces.
"Steady on Maebh." - LD.
"Nah, I do what I want ay." - Ladyhawk.

Momentarily spent by her exertions, Maebh is helped along by Kel'Serrar and Breanna as enemy skirmishers start to scale the canyon walls to take out the archers. Many enemy arrows are deflected by glints of amber as they impact with Maebh's weakened shield, but some get through. Breanna takes an arrow to the shoulder which almost causes her to lose her balance and Maebh takes a stinging cut along her cheek from a glancing strike. Weary and wounded, the three companions make it back onto the ground behind Tremor and Brannigan's reserves, who have formed up at the end of the canyon, along with a handful of their archers. Up on the wall, the last of the archers are being butchered by the skirmisher Sons of Wyre.

On the ground, Aeva/Lion is looking a bloodied mess, her golden hide rent from many wounds, turned red by blood, much of it not her own.
"Aww savage mate." - LD.
Now disengaged from the combat, safe behind a line of Grimstone infantry, she takes a moment to turn back into her natural form, and grimaces in pain. One spear-strike has opened her forearm up to the bone and Kel'Serrar silently binds the wound with a clean bandage.
"You've leveled up! You're now a proper medic." - LD
"Lol, jokes, it's actually poison sumac." - Ladyhawk.

Calm descends on the battlefield as the Sons of Wyre finish butchering the stragglers from the retreat. The rain beats down heavily upon the field, but the lightning has stopped, Maebh leaning heavily upon her bloodied spear. The ditch before the reserve has been revealed by the weight of the rainwater, and so the phalanx comes to a halt a mere spearthrow away.

One man steps forward from the phalanx. He is clad in an articulated suit of fine bronze armour, similar in design to that worn by the heavy infantry, but more extensive and far more ornate. He removes his tall, full-face helm and reveals a long, craggy face framed by long grey hair and a thick beard.

"Where is the Bastard of Nordtarnet? Where is Tremor Ironfist?" - Ragnak the Butcher, captain of the Sons of Wyre.

Tremor steps forward, shield and the Windrider axe held at the ready.

"I am Tremor Godriksson, of Clan Ironfist, rightful heir of Nordtarnet." - Tremor, defiantly.

"You are the bastard son of a weak king, and your brother will pay me a handsome price for your head. Your troops will all die here if today continues like this. But it does not have to be that way. Your brother will pay for your head, but he cares not for those of your men. Face me in single combat, die with honour and spare their lives. I give you my word." - Ragnak, smug.

"I should trust the word of a man who encourages the title, 'The Butcher?" - Tremor, incredulous.

"Well that's your call. You will die here either way." - Ragnak, shrugging and placing his helm back on his head.

Tremor looks back at the faces of his troops, his companions, the rag-tag group of misfits he has tentatively come to regard as his friends.

"Very well captain, you shall have your wish." - Tremor, lowering his wolf-helm visor and charging forward with shield forward and axe held high.

Grinning, Ragnak hefts his greataxe and brings it down on the charging dwarf, who raises his shield and grits his teeth. They exchange a handful of blows each but it is clear that Tremor is woefully outmatched. Tremor is knocked back by a savage punch to his face which knocks his helm from his head. He spits a gobbet of blood and a tooth and adjusts his grip on his weapons before throwing his battered body back into the fray.

For a moment it looks like Tremor might gain the upper hand, fury serving to redouble his efforts and the Windrider axe melts a long gash in the fauld protecting Ragnak's left thigh, but in doing so he leaves himself open to the Butcher's counterstrike, which hammers the blade of his greataxe deep into Tremor's body, cleaving through armour and shattering ribs.

Tremor falls to the ground, face up in the mud, peering at the grey sky slowly turning red.

"We have the bastard. Now kill the rest." - The last thing Tremor hears before the axe comes down one final time.

As the phalanx closes in on the still shell-shocked companions and the last of their troops, screams can be heard from outside the canyon.

"Sounds like our distraction has arrived Maebh." - Aeva, stone-faced and grim, but the time for mourning would come later.

A bestial roar rings across the battlefield, and the phalanx halts again as Ragnak directs more troops to the rear. More roars bellow out in response to the first and the screaming gets louder and closer. Something is tearing its way through the rearguard of the Sons of Wyre, and it sounds very big and very angry.

And then, there it is, at the far end of the canyon, ripping its way through a company of archers, a massive creature, in shape similar to a Feartarbh but much greater in both size and ferocity, easily fourteen feet tall. Six horns crown its massive, fanged head and it wields a club fashioned from a small tree. It lets out an earth-shaking bellow and more roars ring out in answer. It has not come alone.

"You brought the Krowavir anyway?" - Harold, furious, grabbing Aeva by the arm.

Maebh breaks the Invarrian's grip on the druid.

"It was my idea Harold, and it's a damned good thing we brought them here. Come, quickly, we must escape now." - Maebh, grabbing the duellist and pushing him towards the escape tunnel.
"If they follow us, we can bring it down on their heads." - Kel'Serrar.

"Retreat! Make for Valewatch!" - Harold's last command to their troops, as the companions abandon them to their fate.

* * *

Last Redoubt is left in carnage.

The last of the Krowavir are driven off, dragging corpses with them into the woods. Though victorious, the Sons of Wyre have suffered heavy losses, and will likely not play any major part in any continuing hostilities.

On the other hand, Ragnak the Butcher has claimed the heads of both Tremor Ironfist and Brannigan Runestone, who gave his life in a desperate rearguard action as the underground tunnel was collapsed behind the fleeing Resistance troops.

As for those troops, they make their way piecemeal to Valewatch. Many never make it, and those who do are greeted by a great surprise when they get there...

As for the companions, having gathered their horses and wolves, they make their way west. Harold's sister, Helga, has called him home, and has offered the companions safe haven whilst he deals with their 'family situation.' Harold will give no more details, claiming he is sworn to secrecy on the matter.

The mood is quite subdued as they make their slow and winding way to the coast, avoiding patrols, roving Rocklad and even a splinter group of Krowavir, which Aeva manages to ward away.
"We went that way!" - Delphi, as Aeva to the Krowavir.
The defeat was a bit of a wake-up call to the companions, as was losing one of their own.

Quote from: Kel’Serrar’s Personal Journal
We have suffered a defeat, something very much foreign to me. While we have been forced to leave places in a hurry, sometimes with a great amount of damage to all along the way, never before have we been unsuccessful. Never before have we actually failed our missions. It hurt to lose a companion, especially one that has been there, with us for so long, but it was nothing to the reminder that we are not infallible, we too can lose, we too can die.

That moment was a portent, and a question. The question being, was it a portent for how difficult things are going to become, or was it a turning point for the usefulness of this group?

Is it perhaps time we went our separate ways, or more to the point, Is remaining with the companions still within my best interest, or is it now an unwritten death-wish?

Conversation is scarce at night when camp is struck. For Kel’Serrar, this suits him well enough. He takes up woodcarving, and while his first efforts are questionable he keeps at it long into the night by the fire. Breanna too seems withdrawn, especially compared to her usual self. During the days she scours the wilderness for potentially useful poisons and at night sorts them into ingredients which will complement each other. Sadly, she cannot find any peaches, which only serves to further deteriorate her mood.

Despite her being such a recent acquisition to their party, Aeva appears to be the one most affected by Tremor’s passing as she and the dwarf were quite close. For her part, she viewed him as a friend who would never let her down, and now feels her hands are stained with blood as she was not able to protect him at the last.

Maebh, still angered by what she sees as Harold’s failed plan is very withdrawn and spends most of her time practicing her magic. She communicates little, and when she does it is usually with Toirneach.

It takes the better part of a month for the companions to reach the port-town of Kabysholm on the west coast of Drakon. The companions do not tarry long in the town, but take two days to replenish their supplies and see to a few last matters before leaving Unterguardt.

Harold, who wishes to do one last thing for the people of Nordtarnet before leaving them to their fate, spreads the story of the last stand of Tremor Ironfist, who fell with his companions, bravely defending the rights and freedom of the people. In addition to hopefully providing a rallying cry and a martyr for the cause, Harold hopes that the rumours might help to conceal their passage from any enemies who might still be hunting them. The companions also visit tailors and smiths to repair or replace damaged clothing and equipment.

After accompanying Harold while he purchased the party’s galley, Kel’Serrar abandons the others for the evening, obtaining a collection of small blades for carving purposes before finding a small inn for a warm meal and soft bed. He is not looking forward to the sea voyage on the morrow.

For Breanna, the time in Kabysholm passes too swiftly. She purchases a handful of vials to keep her poisons in and commissions a specially-built hand-crossbow and a dozen darts. She has to splash out a fair bit of gold for the work to be completed in a timely fashion, but the assassin is quite literally loaded.

From Kabysholm, they travel by sea to Ravnsalm, the village Harold reveals is ruled by the Oakenshield family. The voyage will take a couple of weeks, and in foul weather, but compared to the squall they weathered on the trip to Unterguardt it is nothing to complain about.

* * *

The small galley, named The Tide Tremor by the companions in memory of their lost friend, is a perfect size for the small complement of crew available to Harold. Generally speaking, the Invarrian just about does everything, with the others chipping in when they feel like it. They do however, make good time and with Maebh’s control of the weather, sail adjustment is kept to a minimum. Aeva’s days are mainly spent on the masthead, looking out over the ocean with her hawk-eyes. A pack of three hakal, carnivorous toothed whales approximately seven feet long and native to the northern oceans, approach the ship on a calm day and Aeva takes the opportunity to acquire the form of one of the creatures. After that day, the Selkye spends a significant period of time under the water, exploring.  She even manages to dredge up some treasures from the sea-floor in the form of salvageable valuables from shipwrecks.

When not bending the elements to her will, Maebh retreats to her cabin and pores over books and scrolls of spell-craft, ones both discovered across their travels and a few purchased at a reasonable price from Kabysholm. Her mantikor egg finally hatches on the voyage, the hatchling emerging without difficulty. She is smaller than she should be, likely a result of the temperature the egg was kept at being too low and stunting her growth in the shell. Still, for all that she is strong enough to eat and will probably survive. Her scales are grey with a blue iridescence to them when the light hits them right, and Maebh names her Crithtaluin, after one of the Danann gods, the Mountain Shaker, one of the most powerful of that pantheon.

Quote from: Kel’Serrar’s Personal Journal
When Harold mentioned we were journeying to his homeland, I was mildly surprised that we were neither going to a kennel, nor back to whatever remained of Summer Hill. Instead we would be travelling to another Naya-forsaken island with completely unreasonable weather. It didn't take long before my mood soured. Boats, it would seem, are not my friends.

On one hand, there are always people moving around who need to be somewhere, on the other, everything is wet. And I mean everything, it makes it very difficult indeed to be an archer of any description, that the boat does not stop moving doesn't aid my archery or my carving.

Speaking of carving, I have continued my efforts to properly learn how to carve, however this is not the simple task I originally had intended. I have yet to have made... well anything really, unless someone wishes to purchases malformed sticks, those I have a plethora of.

I have also resumed my observation of the companions, and generally everyone seems to have mostly recovered from the death of Tremor, however there are still moments when it is obvious that it still weighs heavily. I also feel that Harold is about to show us what he has been hiding.

At least my efforts are not wasted, the rest of my companions believe that I am working hard to learn a new trade, and I have not let my healing abilities lapse. Thankfully, there have been no new injuries since our retreat from the Last Redoubt, but boats seem to be very dangerous, and not just due to the creatures of the sea...


The town where Harold was born and raised looks quite different from what the companions expected. The town itself is built on a high cliff overlooking a small bay. Long, winding roads lead up the cliff-face from the substantial docks along the shoreline up to the town proper.

It is a rare bright morning when the companions finally arrive, gulls crying loudly in the sky and the warm sun behind them. 

The docks are busy, merchant ships and Invarrian longships crowding the bay and it is lucky that the companions’ galley is so small or it would have been a far more difficult approach. As it is, Harold is able to skilfully guide the small ship into shore and a team of young Invarrian dockworkers tie the galley in. As they work, the companions can overhear them speaking quietly of Harold in awestruck tones, which Harold ignores stoically.

Upon disembarking, the companions are stopped from wandering the dock-side markets by an elderly Invarrian standing beside a beast-drawn cart. The creature drawing it is fascinating and most of the companions have not seen it’s like before.

“This is a seilbak, and yes that does just mean sail-back. I am well aware that we are not the most imaginative when it comes to naming things. They are very strong and are about as easy to tame as a horse, so we use them as beasts of burden. A seilbak may not be as fast as a horse, but it is far stronger and has much greater endurance. You will find that many of the animals here are probably quite different to anything you have seen before.” – Harold, to his companions before greeting the old Invarrian.

I have a few pictures I drew of the seilbak, but for now just picture a fluffy edaphosaurus.

“Well met Harold Oakenshield. It has been a long time but I am glad to finally see you home.” – Ansgard Av-Kaerhund, and he and Harold embrace each other warmly.

“It has been a long time indeed my old friend. I take it that Helga has sent you down to collect us?” – Harold, indicating the seilbak-drawn cart behind the old Invarrian.

“Yes, that’s right. Hop on in folks and I will take you up to Ravnsalm proper.” – Ansgard, mounting the cart himself and taking the reins.

* * *

The long, winding path up the cliff to Ravnsalm is very busy, carts packed to bursting with trade-goods, either freshly delivered or to be taken to buyers over the sea.
“Of course, trade-goods is probably a slightly misleading term, as that suggests that the goods were traded for. Most of these wagons are filled with spoils from the reavers.” – Harold, to the other companions, he and Maebh riding behind the cart.

“So Harold, this is where you grew up?” – Aeva, trying to make small-talk.

“Yes, this is my home. I spent most of my life here, when I was not away reaving of course.” – Harold, quietly.

“And when you weren’t in the capital acting as the Stormlord’s First Reaver!” – Ansgard, the old Invarrian’s voice brimming with pride.

“The Stormlord’s what now?” – Breanna, incredulous.

“First Reaver to the ruling Stormlord Bjarn Tordenwulf, granted the title many years ago for saving the then-prince’s life in combat.” – Ansgard, oblivious to Harold’s growing discomfort.

“Exactly Ansgard, that was many years ago. I put that aside when the Stormlord sent me south.” – Harold, unable to stay quiet any longer.

“You mean, you never told your companions of this? That they were travelling with one of the most honoured warriors on all of Varr?” – Ansgard, astounded.

“The years had not been kind to me my old friend. They would not have believed me even if I had told them when we met. I am in far better shape now than I was then…” – Harold, wondering.

It is something that has had the Invarrian somewhat confused for some time in fact. The years of solitary travel in the Midlands of Norbayne since leaving Varr had indeed been tough on the old sea-wolf. He had lost a lot of his old muscle-mass and his skills fell into disuse. Since becoming embroiled in these recent travels however, he has quickly reached a physical condition which, while it may not surpass the days of his youth, at least rivals them. While the high-pace lifestyle he has been living over the past half year or so would have had a beneficial effect on a young warrior, at his age he should be slowing down, not speeding back up again. And it is not just him. The accelerated physical development is also very prevalent in Breanna, who has packed on a truly obscene amount of musculature in a short period of time. That, coupled with the companions swift recovery from reasonably serious injuries, has had Harold thinking that there is something unusual at play here for quite some time.

* * *

Ravnsalm proper is a bustling little town, with tall, somewhat ramshackle-looking wooden buildings lining the packed dirt streets. Townsfolk and wagons crowd the roads and street-side vendors hawk their wares over the sound of the traffic. Thankfully, Ansgard is a skilled navigator and the companions find themselves at the gate of Herregard, the seat of the Oakenshield family.

“Brother, it is good to see you.” – Helga Oakenshield, warmly embracing Harold.

“It is good to see you too sister. How are the pups?” – Harold, warmly.

“Growing strong and eager to meet their uncle.” – Helga, proudly, before turning to the other companions. “As friends of my brother, I consider you my friends too. Please be welcome to Ravnsalm and avail yourselves of what comfort we can provide you. Sadly, the task I must ask my brother to perform will see you leaving my home swiftly, but I hope that your time here will be pleasant. Now, my servants will show you all to your rooms for the night to allow you to freshen up after your voyage and I will have them bring you to the private dining hall in an hour for lunch and a proper talk.” – Helga, who beckons the servants forward.
"I really like her. I hope she doesn't die." - LD.
"Or at least that we aren't directly responsible." - Sins.
"True. At this stage, anything more than that is probably too much to ask for." - LD, as Dev looks on uncomfortably.

The rooms granted to the companions are spacious and far richer than anything they are accustomed to. The furnishings are an eclectic, but for all that charming mix, a reminder that practically everything in the room caught the eye of a reaver, who grabbed it, probably at the point of a sword, and took it home. Laid out on the sumptuous beds are warm, high-quality clothes in the Invarrian style to replace the cold-weather gear which is currently being cleaned, or in some unfortunate cases, burned.

After tidying himself up, Harold hurries upstairs to find his sister’s pups and spends the better part of an hour playing with and getting to know the boisterous children. He enjoys himself, but with a certain melancholy, can’t help but wonder about what might have been had he rejected the Stormlord’s request and instead settled down with the love of his life…

* * *

The private dining hall is a small affair, and even during the day requires a fire for warmth and light. A light lunch of various fruits, dried meat and bread is laid out on the table and the companions sit around one end of the table, Helga at the head.

“I’m just going to cut to the chase Harold, you’re needed at Isenhjem. You probably haven’t heard about them, but there’s been drownings. No one really knows what is going on, but it seems like they’re connected. Bjarn fears that the Greyflood Prophecy is finally coming to pass.” – Helga, grim.

“Aye, I fear that to be true. Worse, I think I may in fact be caught up in it all.” – Harold, unhappily.

“To make matters worse, Bjarn’s not getting any younger and after the business with his brother, there’s no heir.” – Helga, worried.

“Reinn? What of him?” – Harold, alarmed.

“He was found delirious in the wreckage of a longship on the south coast. The remnants of his crew were strewn about the place, torn to pieces. Most of them looked like someone had begun eating them. Apparently he was ranting and raving when they found him, covered in blood. Being the Stormlord’s brother, they couldn’t execute him, so Bjarn had him sent to Stillhet. That was maybe six months ago now.” – Helga, quietly. It is obvious that she is still quite upset by the business with Reinn.

They finish their lunch in relative silence and then spend the rest of the afternoon and evening either exploring Ravnsalm or in their rooms. In the morning they will take ship once more to Isenhjem, the seat of Bjarn Tordenwulf, Stormlord of Varr.

* * *

Within the main hall of Valewatch, Ersun Blackbear sits upon his throne, crossbow resting across his lap and a great cave-bear resting at his feet before him. Huscarls have allowed the other lords of the Resistance into the room with their retinues and they stand before Blackbear’s throne.

“Lord Blackbear, we have not had word from Last Redoubt for some time now, and now reports have come to us which suggest that it was soldiers under your command which attacked my scouts. What is the meaning of this?” – Harrick Stonehammer, clutching the polehammer of his office tightly.

“Harrick, it is time that your eyes were opened to the truth. We cannot win this war. Tremor Godrikson has been revealed as a bastard, and with the death of his legitimacy dies the legitimacy of the Resistance. This war is no longer about reinstating the rightful heir. It never has been, but now he has been revealed as false and is probably dead anyway.” – Ersun Blackbear, voice rising with every word.

“You have no way of knowing if he is dead or not!” – Barandin Stonefist, angrily.

“You are his cousin, and so your judgement in this issue is clouded. We must look to life after the bastard.” – Blackbear, with some venom.

 “Our lands are still under threat from Ironfist though. We cannot halt the war now!” – Frieda Grimstone, fully armed and armoured. Behind her, her huscarls grip their weapons tightly.

The doors into Blackbear’s hall close and everyone present can hear great wooden beams being dropped into place to bar them. Panic ripples through the gathered lords as they realise they are surrounded by Blackbear’s own huscarls.

“I thought you might say that. It has occurred to me that we cannot win this war. My only remaining course of action was to strike a deal with Bain.” – Blackbear, quietly.

“You traitorous bastard!” – Arald Redclay, roaring and drawing his sword.

“Skremmende, kill them.” – Blackbear, taking his crossbow and putting an iron pellet through Redclay’s eye.

The great bear rouses himself and ploughs through the lords and their retinues as the Valewatch guards fall upon them from the sides. The fighting is brutal, but over quickly. Only Barandin Stonefist, clad in the armour Tremor forged for him in Dreven, still stands. One of Blackbear’s huscarls holds an axe to a wounded Frieda Grimstone’s throat and is about to swing when Blackbear halts him with a hand on his shoulder.

“Wait, we can give her to Bain… Take her to the dungeons. Finish the others.” – Ersun Blackbear.

Barandin, axe and shield in hand lays about himself at the slowly encroaching huscarls. He is a formidable combatant, and fells a few of them before he is eventually overwhelmed and his head hewn from his body by the vengeful axes.

Harrick Stonehammer, lying prone on the floor, scrabbles desperately at his polehammer, his legs a mangled ruin. Ersun Blackbear stalks towards him, greataxe cradled in both hands. Hvitt, Blackbear’s white weasel-fox looks at the felled godsman with an evil, predatory gleam in its eye.

“I always despised you and your kind Harrick. Die knowing that your machinations were for nought, that the rightful king will rule Nordtarnet and that Hvitt here will devour your corpse.” – Blackbear, bringing his axe down on the priest.

The Wrap-Up:
I originally intended for the players to actually play the scene in Valewatch out themselves. I got them all to put in a request to play their choice of a list of characters present in the scene and we were going to do it until recent events.

Harrick Stonehammer – Chief Godsman of Nordtarnet (Sins)
Frieda Grimstone – Ruler of The Crag (Ladyhawk)
Arald Redclay – Rightful ruler of Lord’s Ridge (Dev)
Barandin Stonefist – Tremor’s cousin (Wings)
Haelda Disdottir – Frieda Grimstone’s ‘handmaiden’ (LD)
Lyria Fisher – Arald Redclay’s swordbearer (Delphi)
Gladrek Threksson – Brannigan Runestone’s second in command (Possibly Scotticus)

Unfortunately, I decided that, for pacing reasons it would be best to just move on from the Nordtarnet conflict completely, so chose to represent this as an epilogue of sorts to the arc.

I hope that this was entertaining for you all. Session 5.1 will be played tomorrow, our first for the new year. I’m pretty excited.

*EDIT: I have incorporated the pick of the OOC comments when we went through the Interlude at the beginning of Session 5.1. I think the Interlude was received well by the group, and it definitely tied up most of the loose ends in Nordtarnet.

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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #33 on: March 28, 2020, 02:30:14 AM »
Session 5.1 (a): A Matter of Prophecy

"Beasts with skin as grey as a stormcloud and sharp as a razorblade. Teeth and talons like swords. Eyes black as pitch, and a heart to match. They came out of the waves, shrieking and hissing and dragged them all into the water. The foam around our ship turned red with blood as they tore them apart beneath. Poor wretches never stood a chance. To this day I still do not know why they were taken and I was left..."

- Reinn Tordenwulf, recounted to the court which sentenced him.

Welcome to Part 1 of Session 5.1 of Three Coins.

We played this on Valentine’s Day, which happens to coincide with Delphi’s birthday and is only a few days after Dev’s, so the game day was used as a vehicle for birthday celebrations as well.

The city of Isenhjem, capital of Varr and seat of the current Stormlord, Bjarn Tordenwulf, is similar in style to Ravensalm, though quite a bit larger in size. Built along a wide bay, the city has a somewhat ramshackle appearance, with tall, wooden structures dominating the settlement. The Stormlord’s citadel is similar to the other buildings, save much larger and extensively reinforced with stone.

The dockworkers admit the Tide Tremor with no incident and ensure the companions’ animals and gear is taken off the ship and to the Stormlord’s stables and their quarters in the citadel respectively. As for the companions themselves, they are taken to the Stormlord’s reception hall.

* * *

The Stormlord of Varr appears to be of a similar age to Harold. He is heavily built, though now his bulk is not all muscle, having led a rather sedentary lifestyle since his reaving days, the marks of which are still prevalent in the form of a handful of scars. In colouration he is predominantly black, with some small patches of white fur. He stands from where he sits on his throne and walks down the hall to meet his old friend, flanked by two heavily armed reavers and a younger seneschal.

“Harold, it is good to see you again. You and your companions are most welcome here in Isenhjem.” – Bjarn Tordenwulf, embracing Harold.

The companions nod their thanks and Bjarn continues. 

“I assume Helga filled you all in on the situation here?” – Bjarn, leading the companions into a small side-room. He takes a seat at a small table and invites the companions to join him.

“A little, but she wasn’t able to give us all the details.” – Harold, taking his seat.

“To be blunt, I fear the Greyflood Prophecy is in the process of being fulfilled. As you know, the Gilded Sword has a major part to play, but no word has reached us of the sword’s whereabouts. All we have to go on is an old record which says it can be found in the ruined temple of Werencha. As far as where that is, we assume it is somewhere on the eastern side of the Dividing Range.” – Bjarn, grim.

“And I assume that no one has gone and mapped out the eastern side of the Dividing Range in my absence?” – Harold, sarcastic.

“No one has properly charted the eastern coast of Varr in centuries. That is not something which changed while you were gone and is unlikely to change in the future.” – Bjarn, laughing.

“And why is that?” – Aeva, speaking up.

“Well the Dividing Range splits the island down the middle and is practically impassable.” – The Stormlord’s seneschal, Fjorn Av-Baern.

“And the east coast is shielded by a maze of razor-sharp reefs, which makes a coastal approach exceedingly dangerous.” – Bjarn, finishing the thought.

“Awesome.” – Breanna.

“So let me get this straight Bjarn, you want us to go look for a semi-mythical temple, the location of which we don’t know, save that it is probably somewhere dangerous to get to?” – Harold.

“Wait a minute, semi-mythical?” – Breanna, who is enjoying the peaches brought out by the Stormlord’s servants.

“Well according to the legends and early chronicles, the temple did exist at one time, but it has not been seen in centuries. It also had a foul reputation.” – Harold.

“So you’re saying that not only do we not know where it is, but it might not even exist at all.” – Maebh, growing concerned.

“Ah yeah, something like that by the sound of it.” – Kel’Serrar, quietly.

“Well we do believe we know where it is, more or less.” – Fjorn.

“But that may have changed. Legend says that our Gods would ensure that sacred places would remain so by changing where they could be found. Part of the Game and all that.” – Harold, thoughtful.

“The Invarrian Gods are *****.” – Breanna, still enjoying her peaches.

“Well one is, sure. The Golden God’s pretty good really. The God of the Waves, yeah, he’s a bit of a ****.” – Harold, getting way off topic.

Spoiler: Very Poor Map of Varr (click to show/hide)

“So this prophecy that we’ve only just heard of, that Harold thinks is about him… Can we hear it?” – Aeva, speaking up.

“Of course. Fjorn, fetch the skald please.” – Bjarn, who then sits back patiently, thoughtfully chewing on some salted meat.

“What’s a skald?” – Breanna, quietly to Harold.

“It’s like a bard.” – Harold.

Fjorn returns shortly with a tall, rangy Invarrian skald in tow. The newcomer is heavily swathed in furs, his own pelt a mousy brown. Many golden rings pierce his left ear and a nasty scar runs down his face. His voice however is surprisingly deep and powerful as he introduces himself.

“Well met travellers, Ser Oakenshield. I am Morolf Bittersong, the Stormlord’s skald.” – Morolf, solemnly.

“Morolf, please recite Raelda of Meleret’s Greyflood Prophecy to us. We must hear it once more.” – Bjarn, formal.

The skald takes a small pouch by his side and opens it, revealing a collection of glass vials filled with strange powders and liquids. He takes a few of them to the open fireplace in the corner of the room and sprinkles measures of some of the powders in. The fire roars up in response. He then takes a draught from one of the vials full of liquid and turns back to the table of his audience.

His eyes, where before they were a bright blue are now blazing with the intensity of the flames behind him. Quietly, he begins to hum, a deep baritone which at first is barely audible, but soon pervades the room.

“When birds clash in fields of Summer, the struggle will be resolved by those who dare wield the Gilded Sword.”  - Morolf Bittersong, his voice seeming to weave in and out of the almost hypnotic humming. Behind him, two indistinct winged shapes, comprised entirely of flame, fly out of the fire and circle the room before meeting over the table and clashing together. For a moment, the flames form into the shape of a beautiful blade.

”Artefacts they shall possess, three in number and forged into vicious circles, coins of an ancient and powerful currency, an eternal link to the Aethyr. Only those of the utmost strength and the purest of intentions will bend the true power of the coins to their will, and they shall do so, bringing fire and death to the lands of the Queen of Eagles.” – The skald continues, and behind him the fire shows a desolate landscape, which even in the light and life of the flames, somehow appears dead and grey. A lone great eagle, wounded, sits atop her nest which lies on a hill and screams defiance at her enemies.

”The wielders of the ancient artefacts will be heralded by the demise of the Lord of Wolves, who will rise again before the end, the Bastard King, cursed to hold power for but a short while and the Storm’s Scourge, lord of the waters, yet undone by them.” – Bittersong’s saga strikes a mournful tone and behind him the fires die down considerably. First, a great wolf on its hind legs, a crown on its ferocious head, is decapitated by a curved knife. The crown falls away and is lost. The wolf falls and is buried and a taloned hand rises from its grave, the wolf pulling itself free once more, whole, save for its crown, which it starts to look for.

Now a short, indistinct figure, crown resplendent on his head, despite his otherwise ragged appearance, rushes at a heavily armoured giant. Weapons clash and the giant’s axe overbears the shorter figure and ends his life.

Finally a longship, in the Invarrian style, sails on a sea of flames and ashes. A golden crown floats above the ship until a great wave crashes over, sending the ship and crown into the depths.

”If fail these companions do, death will reign in all the lands and the Devourer will come forth to reap its harvest.” – Bittersong, reaching the end of his saga. A dark hooded figure appears in the flames, scythe clenched in skeletal hands. 

“If success they can achieve, the Devourer’s reaping will be postponed for two-score, four score or fifteen-score years, but one cannot halt destiny forever. Thrice before has the Devourer been defeated, but it is ever poised to swing the Scythe of Doom and unleash the Greyflood.” – The last stanza of the saga complete, Bittersong falls back into the low, deep humming and his eyes close as the fire plays out the last act of this incredible story. The hooded figure swings its scythe and a great wave of ash erupts from the fire, smothering the flames into nothingness and sending the room into darkness, with only the skald’s humming breaking the silence.

Finally the humming ceases.

“I thought you said skalds were like bards? Cause bards are useless. That was nothing like a bard.” – Breanna, incredulously to Harold.

“Wait a minute… Artefacts… Three of them… Coins… Three coins… OH ****!” – Harold, facepalming epically.

“What? What is it?” – Bjarn, leaning forward with how intently he is listening to Harold.

Fjorn meanwhile helps Morolf from the room.

“Under my nose this whole time. Three coins! We have them! Well, we had them…” – Harold, his face in his hands, despair in his voice.

“Oh no, you think the ones we took from Brewer are the ones in this prophecy?” – Maebh, worried.

“Yes, I do.” – Harold.

“So, Tremor was the Bastard King, and we dealt with the Lord of Wolves… Who, or what, is the Storm’s Scourge?” – Maebh, questioning.

“So, according to prophecy, the Wolf King, this Lord of Wolves, might not be properly dead… ****.” – Harold, who is getting more depressed the more of the prophecy he figures out.

“So back on those coins… I have one.” – Maebh, pulling hers out, the coin forged from a dark gold.

“I have another.” – Breanna, the silver coin gleaming as she flicks it over her furry fingers.

“Yes, and Tremor had the third…” – Harold, almost in tears.

“So about that third coin… Did it look anything like this?” – Kel’Serrar, pulling a thick copper coin from his pocket.

“Would it be wrong to say I love you?” – Harold, beaming at the thin ranger.

“Yes. Yes it would.” – Kel’Serrar, totally deadpanning.

“Bless you and your kleptomania Kel.” – Breanna, laughing.

It is decided that the companions can spend the next few days in Isenhjem, resting and procuring any more supplies they might need before striking out for Werencha. Bjarn gives them a map of Varr which shows a rough indication of where the legendary temple might be found.

The rest of the day sees the companions let loose on Isenhjem. Aeva commissions some steel claws to help get through armour when in her lion-form. Most of them ensure that their equipment is all in an optimal condition. Breanna purchases 50ft of rope, simply because it might be useful and she has money to burn.

* * *

It is now night, and the palace of the Stormlord is quiet. The companions are in their own personal quarters. Breanna and Aeva are sleeping, Harold sharpening a knife which really needs no sharpening while talking to his brother, Hosker, an officer in the Stomlord’s guard, Kel’Serrar starting again with his attempts to craft a longbow and Maebh reads softly to her mantikor hatchling.

Somewhere in the palace, a commotion stirs the still night air. Instinctively, the companions all head to the Stormlord’s reception hall. They do not know why they are being pushed there, only that they should go, some sense telling them that is where they need to be.

The companions open the doors and before them, a figure is holding another man’s head in a large bucket of water. As they enter, the figure pulls a dead Bjarn Tordenwulf’s head from the water, draws a large dagger and charges at the companions.

“For the Lord of the Waves!” – Fjorn Av-Baern, the late Stormlord’s seneschal as he charges.

The Invarrian is immediately buffeted by a gust of wind, which forces him to his knees, Maebh barely expending any thought to halting his charge. Kel’Serrar sends some tendrils of malicious magic into the man’s brain and Harold steps forward and smashes a fist into the side of seneschal’s head.

“Combat over. Sorry guys.” – Dev, to the players who hadn’t acted yet.
“I’m just going to keep the casting going if that’s okay?” – Sins.
“Oh yeah, no problems mate. Of course.”
“Great, you’ve cast it on me haven’t you?” – Dev.
Sins and I crack up laughing.
“No, but that would have been absolutely hilarious.” – Sins.
“What was the spell?” – Dev.
“Cruel Disappointment.”

Guards rush into the reception hall, and a few questioning looks are pointed the way of the companions, but Hosker manages to quell these suspicions, confirming that Fjorn is the man responsible.

The unconscious seneschal is taken by the companions to the underground dungeons.

The Stormlord’s body is taken away to be prepared for the funeral rites.

* * *

“Brother, I want to interrogate the seneschal.” – Harold, to Hosker quietly.

“I will come with you.” – Hosker, nodding in agreement.

The companions make their way to the dungeons to go and interrogate Fjorn Av-Baern.

“Is there an heir?” – Aeva.

“Well yes. His brother, Reinn. But apparently, he’s insane.” – Harold, darkly.

“Is there a council who can take care of the realm then?” – Kel’Serrar.

“Yes of course. We will ensure that Varr remains strong.” – Hosker, proudly.

“Of course Ovar Windchase would be considered to sit on that council.” – Harold, darkly.

“What’s wrong with him?” – Maebh.

“The man’s a cretin, and has a feud with our family. He has also sworn bloody vengeance after my sister publically revealed he had stolen longships in his possession. The feud between our families goes back a long way, but he’s just a ****.” – Harold.

Upon finally arriving at Fjorn’s cell, Harold awakens the still unconscious traitor with a bucket full of water. He sputters back into consciousness, only to find himself kneeling on the ground, manacles around his wrists which are chained to the side walls, and surrounded by malicious eyes.

For their part, Harold, Maebh, Kel’Serrar and Breanna stand before him, Hosker with them and Aeva/Hawk sitting upon Kel’Serrar’s shoulder. The ranger currently looks like Harold, because he never looks like himself these days.

“I’ll sit on Sins’ shoulder.” – Delphi.
“How do you know which one is me?” – Sins.
“I can smell you, you ****. Accept your fate.” – Delphi.
“No.” – Sins, unable to let another have the last word.

“Let us start with something easy then. What is your name?” – Harold, darkly charming.

“My name is Fjorn Av-Baern, formerly seneschal of Isenhjem.” – Fjorn, bleary eyed.

“And do you know why you are here?” – Harold, still darkly charming.

“I presume because I have killed the Stormlord.” – Fjorn, in a matter of fact manner.

“And now we come to the crux of the matter. Why would you kill the Stormlord?” – Harold, his emotion starting to slip through.

“For the glory of the God of the Waves.” – Fjorn, quietly.

“Why would the God of the Waves want the Stormlord dead? He has granted the Stormlords His blessing since the first Stormlord calmed the tempests which surrounded Varr!” – Harold, impassioned.

“How the God of the Waves treated with the Stormlords past matters not now. The Devourer is nigh and the God requires sacrifices. The Stormlord is the greatest sacrifice we could offer our Lord.” – Fjorn.

“But we reave to satiate His hunger for sacrifices. The Great Reaving itself was because the Brine-Priests demanded more to give Him, and we did so. We met the demands His priesthood made of us. Good Invarrians died in order to appease Him! Why have we angered Him?” – Harold, confused.

“It is not anger. The Devourer comes and it is poised to unleash the Greyflood upon the world. Our Lord requires greater sacrifice in order to have the power to halt the Devourer. The Greyflood Prophecy has failed. You and your band will never find Werencha, the temple was lost centuries ago, if it ever even existed. Even if you do, it will be too late. We must put our faith in the God of the Waves, it is only he who can save us now.” – Fjorn, convinced of the righteousness of his cause.

Silence descends on the room for some few minutes as the import of that statement sets in, the quiet only broken by Fjorn’s ragged breathing.


“Feel free to ask him more questions, he is currently under the influence of a spell which makes him very susceptible to making big mistakes.” – Kel’Serrar, in an undertone.

Aeva lands on the floor and turns back to her natural form in a flash of ice-blue light and a swirl of feathers.

“I see. Do you have any money?” – Aeva, to the captive Fjorn.

“No, you will have nothing of mine!” – Fjorn, desperately as unbeknownst to him, his hands scribble a detailed map of his home on the dirt floor, with where he keeps his valuables clearly marked.

Aeva and Breanna take some detailed notes of the map themselves and then surreptitiously slip out of the dungeon to go and relieve the traitor of his wealth.

“So what do you believe is going to happen to you now, what with punishment and all that?” – Harold, darkly.

“I believe that I will be killed. I ask only that you drown me, so my death may serve the God of the Waves.” – Fjorn, solemn.

“Let’s set him on fire then.” – Maebh.

“Actually as his last wish, we might actually have to honour it.” – Harold, not entirely happy.

“Are you serious?” – Maebh, incredulous.

“Well, it might be frowned upon to take this into our own hands, but well, who’s going to stop us?” – Hosker, pointing out to his brother that only the Stormlord himself would have the authority to censure Harold over that particular transgression.

“Have you been over the Dividing Range recently?” – Harold, to Fjorn.

“No, I certainly have not, and you are a fool to think that anyone has.” – Fjorn, vehemently.

“When did you feel the urge to kill the Stormlord?” – Maebh, menacing.

“The plans have been in motion for several months now.” – Fjorn.

“Who are your co-conspirators?” – Harold.

“I… will… never tell!” – Fjorn, struggling to break the compulsion brought about by Kel’Serrar’s insidious spell.

“Who is the head of your order?” – Harold, not dropping that line of questioning.

”You will find out soon enough cretin, and you will wish that you never knew!” – Fjorn, laughing manically before the compulsion kicks in.

“The God of the Waves.” – Fjorn, simply, while in his head he still laughs maniacally about how the companions will never be able to find out his true master from him.

“Oh ****.” – Harold, quietly, before Fjorn snaps back to reality. Well, in a sense, as he still hasn’t realised what he has revealed so far.

A split second after being brought back to the present, he finds himself staring deep into Maebh’s amber eyes, entranced by the golden orbs.

Fjorn is now Hypnotised, along with Kel’s Cruel Disappointment. With Harold Charm bonuses, Fjorn is now at a massive -70 to Willpower Checks to resist telling the truth. If he fails the Check he must reveal absolutely anything he knows about the topic, and thanks to Kel’s spell, will not know he has done so until after the spell is released or its duration runs out.

This scene really nailed home for me just how terrifying magical interrogation can be.

“Ha! Your mind-tricks will not work on me!” – Fjorn, moments before he gives a completely blank look, falling under Maebh’s compulsion completely.

“Who is the mortal head of your order?” – Harold.

“The beasts from under the waves…” – Fjorn, quietly.

At this point, Cruel Disappointment has gone into recession as the Hypnotism took over with regards to how Fjorn failed his Checks. While Hypnotised, Cruel Disappointment basically just blanked the whole scene from Fjorn’s recollection. He will have absolutely no memory at all of the questions he was asked, nor the answers he gave while under Maebh’s power. The negative Cruel Disappointment grants to Checks however, remains in effect.

Aeva and Breanna:
Going through Fjorn’s house with some large sacks, the two companions ransack it, collecting the money to split reasonably evenly through the party and any potentially valuable items and artefacts in the sacks to try and sell off to merchants on the morrow.

The two girls decide to split the sulvers equally through the party, so everyone gets 11. The coppers and the proceeds from the valuables are kept to themselves.

Harold, Kel’Serrar and Maebh:
“Is the Brine-Priesthood involved?” – Harold, wandering aloud.

“Yes, of course they are.” – Fjorn, still very much under Maebh’s control.

“You mentioned ‘we’ earlier. Who is this ‘we’ and where and when do you meet?” – Maebh.

“We are the people who will see the Devourer stopped. And we meet down by the river every Sevenday.” – Fjorn, who proceeds to carefully draw out another map in the dirt, this time of a meeting place to the north near some ruins on the riverbank.

“And the other drownings? Are they your order too?” – Maebh.

“Yes, they are. We do it by divine mandate. They are sacrifices to the God of the Waves, to aid Him against the Devourer.” – Fjorn.

“And Reinn’s ship and madness? Was that your order too?” – Harold, in a stroke of genius.

“The beasts told us what needed to be done. Some of the crew were loyal to our order and made the ambush possible, turning upon those loyal to Reinn and butchering them before turning their blades on each other. We do not know why our Lord needed Reinn dishonoured, but they told us His will must be done.” – Fjorn, moments before Kel’Serrar’s spell finally wears off.

“By the Gods, I have just told you everything, haven’t I?” – Fjorn, still oddly emotionless due to Maebh’s hypnotic power.

Tears begin to fall from his eyes as Breanna and Aeva choose that moment to re-enter the cell, burdened with sacks filled with valuables, handing out the traitor’s reappropriated money to the other companions.

A rebellious gleam bursts into life in his eyes and he tries to wipe the map of the meeting place away from the dirt, but a quick glare from Maebh re-asserts her dominance.

“You will not wipe the map away. Sit down on your hands.” – Maebh, staring hard at the prisoner.

“I will not wipe the map away. I will sit down on my hands now.” – Fjorn, who proceeds to sit back down on his hands, willing himself to break the mage’s hold on his mind, but unable to do so.

Kel’Serrar, stolen paper and quill in hand, takes down the map for posterity.

“Are there any significant events coming up for your order? Any meetings planned?” – Harold.

“I have told you too much already. There is a meeting tomorrow night, by the river as usual. Just drown me already and be done with it. I beg you.” – Fjorn, dejected, the hypnosis slowly wearing off.

“One last question traitor. Who is next to die?” – Maebh, hoping to get one more usage out of the hypnosis.

“I know not. We are usually told at these meetings. Go there and have your eyes opened to the truth.” – Fjorn, resigned to his fate.

“I think we are done here. As he has been helpful to our investigation, I feel we should honour his final wish.” – Harold, to Hosker, who nods in agreement.

“Guardsmen! Prepare a bucket! This filth is going to drown, and may the God of the Waves be unmerciful to the wretch.” – Hosker, calling to his guards outside the cell.

* * *

The next day sees the companions preparing themselves for the meeting on the riverbank at sundown. Amidst this, Aeva enlists Harold’s aid in a more personal matter, enquiring after her family’s whereabouts.

After a few hours, they do uncover a lead.
“Which goes around Harold’s neck.” – Sins.

Apparently, Selkye matching the descriptions of her clan have taken up a nomadic lifestyle on the southern coast of Southreach. If her family managed to escape the Wrothdar which overran her homelands, then that would appear to be where they have gone. It is a fair way from home, but her people are excellent seafarers and the climate and terrain is very similar.

As to the night’s plan, they intend to crash the party subtly. Hosker has already spread the rumour that the man responsible for the death of the late Stormlord has not been found, allowing him to show up at the gathering without any problems. No problems, other than the traitor having been drowned in a bucket of course. To this end, Harold has enlisted Kel’Serrar’s aid to help disguise himself, giving the companions an insider. Unfortunately, he will have to leave most of his gear behind to do so, but does have Aeva/Cat in his pocket to help him out. The others will be concealed in the woods, with the rest of Harold’s equipment if it all goes downhill.

Spoiler: Crude Joke (click to show/hide)

They make their way to the meeting site in the late afternoon.

* * *
And that's it for now. Back shortly. :smallsmile:

And we are back. :smallsmile:

The meeting site is on the riverbank. Around 200 yards from the water, in amongst the ruined remains of what used to be a farmstead and inn, a huge pyre burns, warding off the coming cold. All up, upwards of fifty cultists are gathered, either chatting around the fire or presumably praying by the water’s edge.

Harold, unarmed and unarmoured, accompanied only by Aeva/Cat makes his way into the midst of the gathering, trying his hardest to appear inconspicuous. He does not draw any undue attention to himself and the companions collectively breathe a sigh of relief. Their relief however, is short-lived.

A figure rises from the waters of the river, grey-skinned and humanoid in shape but menacing. It begins to speak in a rasping tone and an unfamiliar language, but only Harold is close enough to be able to attempt to decipher what the creature is saying. It seems to him to be an ancient form of the Invarrian language, but he cannot make it out for sure. To do so, he would have to get closer and he definitely does not wish to do that.
Willpower Checks from all the companions for the Creature Under the Waves’ Fear effect. Everyone passes, although Maebh spends a Luck point.

Spoiler: Beast Under the Waves (click to show/hide)

The cultists by the riverbank speak back to it in that same language and the creature appears to get quite irate. It rasps a command and then extends a single talon to point at individual cultists. Out of the forty-odd cultists by the water’s edge, the beast picks out five and one by one they simply walk into the river until they are completely submerged.

They do not emerge.

It barks out an order, the horrible rasping more urgent this time and the cultists give their acquiescence. With one last keening shriek, the beast disappears.

The Creature Under the Waves voice was like trying to speak a Norse dialect of Parseltongue. My cat, Satan, is a lovely little girl, but has the strangest voice. I modeled this thing’s vocalisations off her.

Stormclouds billow above the meeting site, strange since the day was quite clear…

With the creature gone, the cultists visibly relax and set about getting completely and thoroughly drunk around the fire. Not wanting to stand out, Harold partakes of the alcohol and then pretends to be feeling violently ill, retreating to the shadowy embrace of the forest, where he quickly relieves himself in the bushes and then finds his armour and weapons.

We have a houserule that whenever a player goes to the bathroom, so does the character. If you’re in the middle of combat, you’d better hold it in. :smallbiggrin:

As soon as Harold is clear of the gathering, Maebh moves forward, golden fire crackling in her hands. Cultists look up at her in surprise moments before she immolates them, gouts of flame rushing from her outstretched hands. The mage turns and an amber bolt of lightning crashes down into the midst of the drunken cultists.

Reflexes dulled by alcohol, some of cultists try to get up and escape the killing grounds, but those that do find themselves pinned by snares of icy-blue magic, as Aeva/Cat prowls in the shadows.

LD finally gets to do what she has been planning on doing since the very first session. The last few level ups has seen LD invest in Breanna’s Riding ability, and now that Wolfgang is a reasonable size, we have decided that Breanna is able to use Wolfgang as a mount in combat.

With carving knife in hand, Breanna charges forward on the back of her wolf and takes out two of the cultists as she rides past. She has only a split second to appreciate this before she has to hold on for dear life as Wolfgang pounces on another cultist and rips his throat out.

Harold, having buckled on his sword-belt takes out his blades and starts to cut down any cultists trying to flee the flames that have avoided Aeva’s snares. He is clean and efficient about it, taking no joy in the death and destruction going on around him.

One cultist flees north, rather than south through Harold and so Kel’Serrar looses a long shot at the running man. The cultist doesn’t make it to the treeline.

Aeva morphs into a lion and starts to maul any survivors, cleaning up with Breanna and Wolfgang while Maebh directs a flurry of lightning bolts into the river. A few survivors who had been snared by Aeva are tied up by Kel’Serrar. Very few stragglers managed to escape in the fighting into the river. Whether they were taken by the current or predators, managed to swim to the other bank or were fried by Maebh’s lightning, the companions cannot say.

Kel’Serrar and Harold take the captives one by one and sober them up by the river.

“You have a handful of cultists. They are drunk, but at least they are conscious.”
“Splash water on them.” – Dev.
“You do so. Now they are wet.” – Completely deadpan.

“How much alcohol is left anyway?” – Delphi.
“Well the really strong stuff was immolated in the flames, but most of it was wine and ale anyway, and that won’t burn. So there’s still quite a bit.”
“I think we can sell that then.” – Delphi.

So the companions line their seven captives up in order of perceived weakness and intelligence, all of them tied around a large tree.

“Cruel Disappointment.” – Sins, announcing his successful casting.

“Hello.” – The supposedly mentally weakest and weediest captive, whose face has brightened considerably in the last few seconds. He thinks his hangover is gone.

“What’s your name?” – Aeva.

“Travys. What do you want?” – Captive, still brightly.

“Want to tell us stuff?” – Aeva, enjoying this interrogation business.

Travys believes he has spat in Aeva’s face and looks really quite smug and pleased with himself. In actuality, he has said the following.

“Yes, this is crazy. I have no idea what is happening, but I think that the gods are telling us to drown people.” – Travys, smiling.

“What do you mean, you think?” – Harold, trying to get to the bottom of this.

“I know right, it is unusual for me to think, but this time I really have! I gave it a lot of thought, and well, I think this is insane!” – Travys, who thinks he has been silent.

“Pull down your pants.” – Aeva, thinking she will just embarrass the captive.

“I will never! You can’t make me do anything!” – Travys, as he shimmies out of his pants with his hands bound. The other captives on either side look at him in disgust and in some cases, horror.

“What is wrong with him?” – Another captive, in an undertone.

“He is no help at all.” – Ladyhawk.
“You did say you wanted the least intelligent first.”
“Good point. Next time we should try the most intelligent.” – Ladyhawk, laughing.
“So how long does Cruel Disappointment actually last?” – Delphi, to Sins.
“Oh yes, a number of rounds.” – Sins, who rolls poorly to determine. “Uh-huh, yeah party-time’s over.”

All of a sudden, Travys brings his bound hands to his head and winces in pain.

“Argh, my head. Wait, why are my pants off?” – Travys, confused and very hungover.

Leaving Travys to his vain attempts to pull his trousers up, the companions move on to the next captive they wish to interrogate.

“Your name?” – Breanna, menacingly chewing on a peach.

“Grigor.” – The captive, quietly.

Sins succeeds with Cruel Disappointment once more, doubling the casting value. Grigor is about to have a very bad time, with all Willpower Checks to resist the effects of the spell taking an additional -20%.

“So, Grigor… Are you going to tell us stuff?” - Aeva, who enjoys this far too much.

“No, I will never tell you anything!” – Grigor yells at them, nodding his head energetically as he does so.

“The beast in the river, what did it want?” – Harold cutting to the point.

“What creature? Do you mean the creature that came out of the river and told us to drown everyone?” – Grigor, animated.

“Yes.” – Harold.

“It wants us to drown everyone.” – Grigor, still animated.

“Yes, but why?” – Harold, rolling his eyes in exasperation.

“I’m not sure, but if I had to guess I would say that it would be because doing so grants it power.” – Grigor.

“Have you stopped to consider that this might be bad?” – Aeva.

“I have no doubt in my mind that this will turn out perfectly for everyone. Except those who have been drowned.” – Grigor.

“Which will be everyone.” – Aeva.

“Which will be everyone, yes.” – Grigor.

“I’ve had enough of this, take your pants off too.” – Aeva, frustrated.

“I will never do that!” – Grigor, aggressively doing just that.

“Actually, one more question. How can we summon the creature in the river?” – Aeva, serious.

“There is no way to summon it. It summons us. Or you could try drowning sacrifices, but you didn’t hear that from me.” – Grigor, confidentially and in the middle of trying to remove his trousers.

“What is this beast? What is it called?” – Harold, inquiring.

“I will never tell you that its name is unpronounceable to modern tongues.” – Grigor.

“What language is it?” – Harold.

“Ancient Invarrian, presumably.” – Grigor, conversationally.

“Where did you learn to speak Ancient Invarrian?” – Harold, confused.

“It came to me in my dreams. Only a few of us have been able to master the language to communicate directly.” – Grigor. The other captive cultists stare at him like he is a madman, except for Travys of course, who just looks relieved that whatever is happening didn’t just happen to only him.

Aeva takes on the shape of a dagger-lion and pads towards the visibly terrified Grigor and leans her muzzle against his ear. The captive perks up and then looks happily around at the other captives.

“It’s okay everyone, this lion just told me we can trust them!” – Grigor, who is completely lost in the depths of his own fantasy right now. He’s currently up to the part where he is kicking Harold’s head in while strangling him with the ropes that currently bind his wrists. The other captives just look at him like he has completely lost it. Which he has, if ‘it’ is a firm grasp on reality.

“The lion also says that continuing to follow the beast will make you as crazy as I am!” – Grigor, brightly, to murmurs of consternation amongst the other captives.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

“Tell us everything more you know.” – Harold, serious.

At this stage, everything suddenly sinks into the captive Grigor, who groans and promptly just looks utterly ashamed, then embarrassed as he realises his trousers are half removed. He was just in the middle of disemboweling Breanna and then rescuing a group of stunning Invarrian women from an oncoming avalanche in his head, and then he is brought back to a very real, and quite embarrassing present.

“You will tell us everything now, right?” – Harold, hoping that the knowledge of everything he has spilt, or would have spilt over the course of the spell’s effect, might loosen his tongue in itself.

“They call us in our dreams and we can’t resist their orders. If we do, they drown us. Now please, just put me out of my misery. Drown me.” – Grigor, miserable.

 “You’ve just said that if you do not do as they say, you will be drowned, but now you say you want to be drowned anyway.” – Kel’Serrar.

“Yes, I have failed them. I must be punished.” – Grigor, still miserable.

“You’ve also said that the drownings grant them power, so why would-“ – Aeva.

“Drown me.” – Grigor.

“No…” – Aeva, who then laughs a bit to herself.

“You can understand this creature, no? You said that you learnt to speak their language.” – Maebh, curious.

“When speaking to the creature, we go into some kind of trance, completely under the creature’s power and control. It knows our minds and commands us to speak in a language we only half know.” – Grigor, struggling to express the facts of something he doesn’t really understand himself.

There is silence as the companions think over this new information.

“So we are agreed that we will not be drowning him?” – Harold, eager to move on.

“No, drown us, please.” – Grigor, who is then joined by a chorus from the other captives, each of them begging to be drowned. It is impossible to hear any alternatives from the other party members as the shouting overpowers them until Harold is able to quiet them by threatening them with immediate execution-by-decapitation.

“Never mind, I’ve got this.” – Aeva, as with a flash of blue-tinged magic a massive pit of darkness yawns into being under the line of captives and their tree. They begin to fall, flailing wildly in the darkness.

Well, kind of. The pit is not actually real, they just think it is, and they are not really falling into a random sinkhole, they are just flailing wildly at the air as they sit tied to a tree. One by one, the companions take a captive and, with Maebh’s speciality with ropes, hang the cultists from tall branches, who if they do not suffer a broken neck from the sudden drop, they spend the rest of their short lives suspended by a rope, air supply slowly choked off as they believe they fall through an endless pit.

With the captives out of the way, the companions make their way back to Isenhjem, Harold specifically hoping he can find some way to find out more about this threat. To help him, Aeva spends some time producing six sketches of the grey-skinned beast from the river and then gives one to each companion, keeping one for herself.

Upon returning, they discover that the city is in a state of panic. The fact that the Stormlord could be killed in his own inner sanctum has the populace very concerned for their safety and a few small-scale riots have occurred. In addition to this, there is no heir. The brother, Reinn Tordenwulf, being an imprisoned lunatic, is not considered to be much of a safe option for the throne. Naturally, no one has attempted to go and collect him from Serenity, the asylum/prison for nobility built from a ruined fortress on the northern coast of Varr.

As for a plan, in the morning Harold, Maebh and Kel’Serrar are going to find the Stormlord’s archives and hopefully find someone to question regarding the creature. Failing that, poring through records might turn up some information too.

For Aeva and Breanna, the next day brings an opportunity to loot the houses of traitors and to question random civilians regarding the creature Aeva has sketched. Sounds like fun.

The companions sleep fitfully, safe in their rooms in the late-Stormlord’s palace, as the city around them remains in a state of disarray.

Harold, Maebh and Kel’Serrar:
Upon entering the Stormlord’s archives in the morning, the companions are informed that the head archivist has fled Isenhjem and no one knows where he might be following a brief riot in which the archives were disrupted. The remaining attendants let them in, telling them not to wreck anything and get back to cleaning up the mess from the night before.

Harold takes Aeva’s sketch of the Creature from the river and shows it to the attendants.

“Can you tell me what this is?” – Harold, blunt.

“Well, it is terrifying isn’t it? A good likeness. Don’t know what it is, but it’s a very impressive sketch.” – Attendants, amongst themselves.

“You’ve never seen or heard of anything like this?” – Harold, hopeful.

The attendants all agree that, no, they’ve never seen or heard of anything like it and that they would assume it to be a mythical creature. Harold shares that the beast seems to be capable of domination, meddling with dreams and a lot of other advanced magics and that they seem to be very old and have a connection with ancient Varr. In response, the attendants point him to the earliest records they have of the island kingdom, which might not be much help due to the way the Invarrian language has drifted over the millennium, and to the myths and legends of Varr’s formation and the first Stormlord’s pact with the God of the Waves. If there is anything about the creature in the archives, the information would most likely be found in those parts.

“Does anyone here speak Ancient Invarrian?” – Maebh, questioning the attendants.

“The head archivist does, though not fluently I believe. Of course that won’t help you very much.” – Attendant.

Maebh decides that they may have to try and find some kind of Ancient Invarrian dictionary in the archive. The three companions resolve to do their best to find something relevant in the library.

Aeva and Breanna:
After ransacking the houses, the two girls go around the streets of Isenhjem, picking out random civilians and questioning them regarding Aeva’s sketches and what is depicted upon them. Most deny having seen or heard of the beast before, but one takes a single look at the picture before drawing a knife and cutting his own throat. Breanna and Aeva flee the scene promptly, not wanting to be implicated in a murder as foreigners in a city which is on tenterhooks.

They resolve to find a tavern to question the innkeep regarding mind-controlling fish-people. And to buy lunch.

Harold, Maebh and Kel’Serrar:
Kel’Serrar finds the original scribing of the Greyflood Prophecy, as made by the Seer, Raelda of Meleret. He struggles mightily to read it, only having a basic grasp of the written Invarrian language, but does figure out that this version differs slightly in places to the version told to them by the skald in the Stormlord’s reception room. He sees a mention of the Devourer and notices that the root word for ‘devourer’ and ‘shark’ are the same…

While Kel’Serrar struggles with Raelda’s prophecy, Harold has found records of the very first Stormlord, who foiled a menace which wished to cover the world in what the records refer to as the Grey Death. It is very vague and the lingual drift is just too great for Harold to make out any more than the very broadest of strokes.

Maebh meanwhile is searching through folkloric accounts of unusual sightings. Fishermen have been reporting sightings of unusual sharks and shark-like creatures for centuries. This is unusual because in the northern oceans, most creatures are mammals or birds. As such, fish, such as sharks are quite uncommon, at least close to the surface where they can be seen by fishermen. The sightings are hardly common, but they do occur. Attacks have been reported to, and in fact most close encounters supposedly lead to a fatal or near-fatal attack. There are, however, no mentions of mind control in these reports.

They are joined by Aeva, Breanna and Hosker, and they sit down to discuss recent events together.

“I do have news first. Word has gotten out that you were all present when the Stormlord was murdered and Ovar Windchaser has gotten wind of it and tried to turn public opinion against you. There are already calls amongst the small council to have you apprehended.  To add to that, Bjarn was well-liked and the populace might just decide to take matters into their own hands. The situation is difficult enough already what with the riots. I suggest you all leave Isenhjem as quickly as you can and return only when this has all died down.” – Hosker, quietly to the companions.

“Nah, **** this. We need to deal with him. He’s been a problem for our family for too long Hosker. I’ll challenge him to a trial by combat.” – Harold, regarding Ovar Windchaser.

“Wait a moment Harold, we’ve got some possibly more pressing issues and we may not be able to afford to be distracted by personal grudges.” – Maebh, laying a comforting hand on the Invarrian’s shoulder.

“She’s right. And the way the small council talks are going, there is a good chance you will just be arrested for inciting violence, imprisoned and then drowned quietly out of the way when no one is looking. Leave now, come back to fight him another day when all of this is settled.” – Hosker, pleading with his brother.

“All in favour of trial-by-exceedingly-long-ranged-combat?” – Kel’Serrar, quietly.
“All in favour of letting Sins do that thing that he does?” – Delphi, laughing.
“No wait, he comes home and someone has summoned a lightning storm to be conveniently waiting inside for him.” – Sins, warming to his theme.
“We could fly across the rooftops and then I’ll kick him off a balcony.” – LD.
“Okay, unfortunately these are not really viable options right now. Off to the asylum!” – Ladyhawk, to the assent of the other companions.

“If we leave, what do you think the chances are of him following us?” – Harold, to Hosker.

“Well if he does find out when and where you are going, then yes I’d say he will. He’s been unsuccessfully hunting you ever since Helga went and pissed him off, and he’s been pretty intent on that, even if he’s not had any success. Now here you are, so close to him and circumstances have prevented him from trying to get you while you are well protected. But the moment you leave, if he knows of it, he will be right on your tail.” – Hosker.

“Okay, Hosker, stay safe, thank you for your help and stay away from Windchaser. He wouldn’t dare attack you as one of the Stormlord’s personal guard, but that position might not afford you the safety it used to with Bjarn dead.” – Harold, embracing his brother tightly.

“Best of luck brother. I’ll see you when you return.” – Hosker, returning the embrace and then farewelling the rest of the party.

The companions gather their gear and animals from the palace and make their way swiftly to the dock and their waiting galley. They do not wait for the cover of dark and instead hope that they can leave unnoticed in amongst all the bustle on the docks.

They are followed out of the bay by a longship flying a black flag with a silver wolf-skull mounted on two crossed sabres. Harold recognises the description as being the flag of the Windchasers. Aeva contemplates the idea of trying to knock a hole in the hull of the ship, decides against it and then just convinces a handful of gulls to **** all over the Windchaser ship. Maebh turns her magic towards the task of outrunning them, blowing a gale into the Tide Tremor’s sails while using the same gust to try to blow against the longship. Aeva/Hawk’s keen eyes, now above the Windchaser ship pick out the Invarrian at the helm is absolutely huge, at least a foot taller than Harold, sleek and black-furred.

Well out of bowshot and being aided by the wind rather than hindered by it, the Tide Tremor is well and truly away and out of sight and danger within an hour. The companions decide that if the ship reappears they will go full nova and burn it down. The bird**** was a warning shot of sorts.

They continue north, to the coastal asylum of Serenity, hoping that Reinn Tordenwulf will at least be able to shed some more light on the menace beneath the waves…

And I shall cut it here so that at least something is posted. The rest of the session will be in Session 5.1 (b): Shades of the Past.

The Wrap-Up:
Obviously this is just Part 1 of Session 5.1. On the whole I felt that this was a really solid session, with everyone getting at least some kind of spotlight, but it isn’t until Part 2 that things get really memorable.

The scene with the skald did not actually occur on the day. I planned for it, but cut it because we had just had a lot of exposition at the start of the session as I recounted the entire previous interlude. As such, I didn’t want to make them sit through an extended scene where they just had to listen as I info-dumped them again, so I cut the scene back into just a recitation of the Prophecy. A pity as I would have liked to have seen their reactions at the time, but a decision I think needed to be made.

Ovar Windchaser is a villain who has been waiting to be introduced for a long time. In fact, I would say that the build-up for Windchaser before his eventual on-screen moment was second only to one other personal nemesis who has not actually been revealed in its entirety yet, but I am very much looking forward to. All I will say on that count is that Breanna has made some powerful enemies in her time and that things may get a little bit dangerous for her.

This particular arc is going to be pretty brutal, which is a good thing I think. The characters are getting very powerful individually anyway, but the addition of Aeva has given them an absolute force-multiplier. She may not get many kills herself, but she enables the others to cause some serious damage and has become the go-to scout for the party. Correspondingly of course, the dangers that they may run into are going to be the greatest they have ever faced.

I warned the players at the start that this arc may see some deaths if they don’t play smart. They’ve gotten powerful enough and the stakes are becoming so high that I will definitely not be pulling any punches. So far, they’ve been pretty good, but we’ll see how long their luck lasts I guess.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the write-up and I apologise for how late it is. We haven’t played since February due to some seriously busy schedules, but we are hoping to have a session soon.

Stay tuned for the next update,
See you next time,

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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #34 on: March 28, 2020, 02:31:03 AM »
Session 5.1 (b): Shades of the Past

Welcome to Session 5.1 (b): Shades of the Past.

”The things under the waves, grey skin, sharp teeth and claws. It came for us, it knew where we were. It could see our minds and knew our thoughts! It turned us against each other, one by one…”
- Rantings from a Stillhet inmate.

It takes around a fortnight for the companions to reach Serenity by sea, and they do so unmolested.  They pass the time quietly, all of the concerned that the Beasts Under the Waves might make an appearance, but luckily that does not occur.

It is just after midnight when the Tide Tremor reaches Serenity. The abandoned fortress looms ahead in the darkness against a starless night-sky. The only light comes from the sickle-moon above as the companions doused their lamps a few hours ago to avoid detection. No torches can be seen on land.

They choose to wait until morning and drop anchor for the night.

* * *

Spoiler: Map of Serenity (click to show/hide)

The next day, Harold informs the party of the history of Stillhet.

Stillhet, or Serenity, used to be a functioning keep owned by a wealthy family, but when their house died out, the Stormlord at the time decided that it was a good place for a facility to house nobles who were insane, whose families no longer wanted to be bothered with them. Supposedly the patients were cared for, but the place has a fell reputation. Torture, unsupervised and unethical experiments and deaths amongst both the patients and the staff led to Serenity being closed and then reopened multiple times over the course of its history, but every time it reopened, it apparently devolved into the same cesspit it was before. Before Reinn was taken there, it hadn’t been used for many years.

“We could probably use this as a house. It’s an asylum, so it already has everything we need.” – Sins. I’m not sure if he was being pragmatic or intentionally ironic. Knowing Sins, probably the latter.

They dock the ship, disembark and walk towards the gates, which are unmanned. They are open, and the whole place looks abandoned. On the far side of the stone gatehouse lies a small wooden bridge which spans a deep ditch, at least 15 feet down, which stretches all along the wall. That explains why the walls seemed so short from the outside. A number of Invarrian corpses lie, decomposing in the grey mud of the bottom of the ditch.

Aeva sits down upon the sparse grass and concentrates, trying to commune with the nature spirits. She’s unable to get anything like a human construct of time from them, but they are able to tell her that some people did arrive, escorting another who had been touched by darkness. They brought him in, and since then, no one has left. The spirits themselves are weak, like they are dying, which is troubling. She passes this information on to the rest of the party.

“Hello! Anyone here!?” – Harold, trying to get some kind of reaction from the silent keep.

Only a slight moaning wind answers him, coming from the gaps between the buildings.

Harold walks toward the building built into the wall splitting the courtyard from the asylum proper, but stops at the door. He pushes it slightly, and it creaks open, unlocked. Aeva joins him and rests a hand on the stone wall, asking the spirits within if there is any life present within the walls. They tell her that other than themselves, a few rats and some insects, no.

I ask here what the others are doing, and if anyone is going to back Harold up. I also point out that the circle on the map is a well. Which was a mistake.
“Well, well, well…” – Just about everyone.
“I want to go check out the well.” – Sins.
“I have a feeling he’s going to throw something down the well.” – Dev.
“That could only end well.” – Sins.
“It’s a good thing I’m not feeling well or I’d throw you down.” – Dev.
That didn’t get too many laughs.
“And the Pun-King retains his crown.” – Dev.
“All shall tremble before me?” – Sins.
“I might be putting the rat-poison in your food tonight.” – Delphi.
“Take her out for dinner Sins, take her out for dinner.” – Ladyhawk.

We recap what everyone is going to do.
“Maebh, Aeva and Breanna are following Harold through, Kel’Serrar checking out the well right?”
“One of us had to check out the prison well.” – Sins.
“Very well.”
“Good one.” – Ladyhawk, as the others groaned in agony.
“Might as well.” – Delphi.
“We’re going to be here forever.” – Dev.
“It appears we’ve fallen in a hole…” – It takes them a minute to get that one.

But moving on…

Harold, Breanna, Maebh and Aeva:
Upon stepping inside the building the companions are greeted with an old, musty scent of blood and rotting flesh. It smells foul, and where they have smelt a great many things which smell like death and decay, this is not a familiar one. This is old, and somewhat malevolent.

An overcast day outside it may be, but inside it is pitch black. The few windows there are inside are boarded up. Maebh and Aeva take a second to conjure a flame each, and light a torch each for Breanna and Harold. Strangely, the firelight does not seem to penetrate the shadows as it should, and their visibility is poor.

“Hello?” – Harold, calling out to the darkness. The only answer he receives is his own dull echo.

A long hallway stretches ahead of them. It is quite bare, save for old torches set into sconces on the wall. A flight of stairs leads up, which will presumably lead them up onto the wall. Aeva lights each torch behind them.

I ask for Perception Checks. They all pass.
“You notice nothing.”
“Good one.” – Ladyhawk. I can’t figure out if she was being serious.

Upon going upstairs there is another set of stairs, these leading down, another hallway and a closed door. They all choose to go downstairs, not wishing to split the party.

I ask for Perception Check again. All pass.
“You notice nothing.”
“You’re wasting all my good rolls! We get into combat and I’m going to punch myself in the face, that is how badly this is going!” – Delphi.

The ranger looks down the well and can see at a glance that it is far more full than it should be. Bodies float on the surface, merely feet away from where he stands at the edge, and the water is obviously fouled by the corpses. The ‘water’ if you could call it such, is like reddish-grey sludge. The grass at the base of the well, where most of the grass in the cold courtyard is yellowed and dying, is black and completely devoid of life, like it has been strangled.

Harold, Breanna, Maebh and Aeva:
Upon going downstairs, the companions are met with another long hallway another door, this time to the left which would, presumably, lead to the main part of the keep. They have no way of knowing without opening it however, as there are still no windows. Harold opens the door, and a chill breeze buffets them. Ahead, two smaller structures which join onto the towers on the walls, a much larger structure, several stories high which must be the main part of the asylum.

The ground is rocky, with sparse pockets of dead and dying grass. There is no sign of life anywhere. The companions wander around the courtyard, trying to find evidence of what happened here.

After investigating the well, Kel’Serrar decides to find the rest of his companions, and enters the building to follow them, using the torches Aeva lit behind her as a guide.
I ask for two Perception Checks. Both are passed.
“You notice nothing unusual. It’s creepy, but nothing happens.”
The players are starting to get really nervous.

Having gone up and then downstairs, Kel’Serrar is about to exit the building to join the others in the courtyard when a strong gust of wind blows through from behind him. The torches snuff out and the door slams shut. 

I ask what their next move will be.
“Well there’s five of us, and five structures we can investigate…” – Sins, with a ****-eating grin.
“No! No splitting the party.” – Dev, a sentiment expressed by everyone else at the table.
I’m feeling pretty good about this. They’re panicking.

The party decides to check out the main building, approaching the large, carved wooden double doors cautiously. Upon opening the doors, they are greeted by a large, somewhat decrepit looking entrance hall and a large, ornate flight of stairs, leading to a floor above.

On the floor above stretches a long hallway with four doors. All are closed, but the one on the far left is boarded up with planks nailed to the wall.  Like moths to a flame, they go for the boarded-up door first.

I ask for Perception Checks from everyone. Most pass, Harold and Maebh get just slightly over. I start to scribble down some information.
“Are you writing down what Sins, LD and I see but they don’t?” – Delphi.
I don’t answer, but just keep up the manic writing.
“Is he even listening to me?” – Delphi, to Sins.
“I don’t think so.” – Sins.
“He’s just writing down, ‘You notice nothing’ over and over again.” – LD.
I finish writing and hand the paper to Dev and Ladyhawk.
“No it must be, ‘You notice the GM is screwing with you.’ – Sins.
“So they fail and they get information? What is going on?” – Delphi, somewhere between confused and panic.
“What the hell man!?” – LD, to me.
“Oh, because we’re seeing things, right?” – Dev, to me after reading his note.
“Are you?”
“Aww ****. Ladyhawk, I think we’re seeing things.” – Dev.
“Just keep in mind, whatever it was, it affected both of you…” – Trying to creep them out just a little more.

Both Maebh and Harold stiffen for a moment. They could have sworn they saw an Invarrian woman in a white dress walk along the hallway and through the boarded-up door. She was only there for a second, and badly illuminated by the uncertain torchlight, but the mage and duellist turn to each other, their reactions confirming to themselves that they both saw her. Maebh curses under her breath and casts a quick spell which will allow her to see illusions for what they are.

None of the other companions seem to have noticed anything.

Shrugging to himself, Harold takes his boarding axe and hacks his way through the planks in short order. On the other side of the doorway, the small room appears to have been undisturbed for many years. It is cluttered with detritus, and an array of what appear to be tables with wheels attached to the legs and thick leather straps on the table-tops. A wooden bench is set into the back left corner of the room and it is covered with a wide variety or rather nasty looking metal instruments which would not look out of place in a master torturer’s lair. Behind the tables, on the left wall there is another door, again boarded up with planks and nails.

Harold sniffs the air, but despite what he feared he would smell, all he gets is the musty smell of damp and age. Despite this, all the companions have a very bad feeling about this place. They push the tables aside and Harold takes up his axe once again, hacking through the boards with ease.

They find another long hallway, the dust in which suggests it has not seen use for many, many years. The hallway is windowless and bare, made of piled stone and white wooden panels. After going through the doorway, they turn left to follow the hallway, as to their right is just a featureless wood and stone wall.

Perception Checks once more. All pass.
“Very good, you see nothing of note.”
Sins and Ladyhawk, as Maebh and Kel’Serrar have magically aided sight, Maebh from her spell and Kel’Serrar from his ring he got a couple of sessions ago, are getting quite nervous. Well Ladyhawk was. I’m sure Sins was probably coming up with some sort of cunning plan to somehow become a ghost or something. I can never tell with Sins.

They reach the end of the hallway and turn right and come across a room filled with coffins which have been stacked upon each other in a very haphazard fashion. Many haven’t been closed and so the companions can see that each holds an ancient Invarrian skeleton. The coffins in many places stack up to over six feet tall, in a flagrant display of disregard for the dead.

“All skeletons here, as far as we can see, right?” – Aeva, investigating some of the bodies.

“Yes, that’s right.” – Maebh, poking through the coffins.

“But the bodies outside in the ditch were killed for more recently than everyone in here.” – Aeva.

“The well too. It is packed with corpses, no more than a month old.” – Kel’Serrar.

Aeva starts entreating the spirits in the area to try and bring anything living to the company, but she is unsuccessful. The spirits either won’t, or can’t, listen to her.

“That is not promising.” – Aeva, sitting back on her haunches.

“I can try something, but you’ll have to watch my body cause I’ll have to sit down for a while, and I‘ll be more or less helpless while I’m doing it.” – Kel’Serrar, to the nods of the companions.

He sets himself comfortably on the ground and starts to attune himself to the area. Upstairs, he can just hear the breathing and slight movements of something approximately man-sized. It is probably alive, but not moving all that much. There is nothing else but the tiniest signs of life in the walls, termites and other insects and spiders and slightly larger vermin like the occasional rat.

Sins passes his Woodland Senses Checks. The only Major Talent taken by the party, it really has gotten a lot of use.

“We are not alone… It’s above us.” – Kel’Serrar, in the midst of his trance.

“That isn’t good. We’re going to have to see what it is though.” – Harold, thoughtfully as Breanna carefully shakes Kel’Serrar out of his reverie.

“And we’ll need to find a way up too.” – Maebh, quietly.

The companions head back out to the hallway at the top of the grand staircase. There is a doorway to the left of the stairs and two more to the right. Harold and Kel’Serrar take the closest door, Breanna and Aeva the next and Maebh takes the one at the very end of the hallway.

Harold and Kel’Serrar:
I ask for Perception Checks once more. Both pass.
They open the door and reveal what appears to be a mess hall of sorts. Long tables line the room and an empty fireplace sits unused against the far wall. On the tables sit plates of uneaten food, many weeks old, spoiled and attacked by rats.

“Can you smell… roast meat?” – Harold, quietly to Kel’Serrar, who wordlessly shakes his head. Harold is just confused, but he gets this irrational feeling that dinner has just been served…

Aeva and Breanna:
Again I ask for Perception Checks. Both girls pass. They see nothing out of the ordinary.
Ahead of them lies an expansive room filled with what appear to be cells. The doors to all of them are iron bars, and all but one, are closed and locked. The locked ones have decomposing bodies within, but the open one is empty, the door creaking gently in a gentle wind blowing in from a gap in the wall.

I ask for Perception Checks again from Aeva, Breanna and Maebh.
Aeva and Breanna pass.

Aeva and Breanna slowly make their way across the room to the staircase which leads upwards to the next floor. They see nothing much of interest within the cells and they choose not to bother with the corpses within.

Maebh of course, failed her Perception Check.

The mage opens the door before her and is confronted with a large, ornate mirror. The silvered surface reflects a ghastly fanged face for but a split second, which seems to loom out of the darkness towards her. Maebh takes in a sharp breath and then all she can see in the mirror is her own reflection.

“Everyone, we’ve found a way up!” – Aeva, calling out to the rest of the party.

Maebh shakes herself, makes sure that her arcane sight is still active and then makes her way to the rest of the group.

* * *
And we are back. :smallsmile:

The companions reunite at the staircase which Aeva and Breanna found. Upon climbing the stairs, the companions come to a large and empty room, with mounds of dead rats and other vermin on the floor. There is a door to their left and what seems to be a boarded up wooden wall. Another door lies on their right. Aeva rests a hand against the boards on the wall and is taken aback when she hears an ear-splitting scream.

“What was that!?” – Aeva, panicked.

“What was what?” – Harold, confused.

“No one else heard that?” – Aeva, to the shaking heads of her companions.

Attempts to recreate the sound are unsuccessful.

“Okay, so what are we actually looking for in here?” – Aeva.

“Well, Reinn is supposed to be in here somewhere, but I am interested in trying to find some records or an archive or something.” – Harold.

“There is something alive above us. Hopefully that is Reinn.” – Kel’Serrar.

“So, we split up then, yes?” – Maebh, standing at the left-hand door.

Breanna, Kel’Serrar and Maebh decide to take the left door while Aeva and Harold take the one on the right.

Aeva and Harold:
I ask for Perception Checks again, and an Intelligence Check from Aeva.
Everyone passes Perception, but Delphi fails Aeva’s Intelligence Check.
“Can I use a Luck re-roll for that one?” – Delphi.
“You certainly can.”
“Will I be getting more information if I do?” – Delphi.
“Yes, you would.”
“Okay, yep, passed.” – Delphi, re-rolling.
“How many Luck points do you have now?” – Dev, curious.
“Uh, yeah, one.” – Delphi, slightly abashed.
“Oh no…” – And there it is, proof that I really was concerned on her behalf for what she was about to get into without the Luck point safety blanket.

I’m really a nice guy. Promise.

Aeva thinks about the screaming wall a little logically and realises something. The spirits in this place are long since gone, either departed or deceased, insofar as they can be actually considered dead. So whatever it was could not have been a tortured nature spirit or something of the like, but rather an actual echo of something which occurred in the past.

She shivers, and not from the cold.

We all hummed the X-Files theme here.

Harold and Aeva decide to go through the door on the right hand side of the room, and come into a smaller room, empty and bare save for a large, high-backed leather chair and another staircase.

Cautiously, Aeva moves towards the chair and reaches out a trembling hand. For a moment she can see an old Invarrian man sitting in the chair, a small glass of alcohol in his hand.

And then he is gone.

“Harold, did you see that?” – Aeva, concerned.

“No, what?” – Harold, startled.

“There was an old man on that chair. He was drinking something.” – Aeva.

“I didn’t see him. Did he look threatening?” – Harold, quietly.

“No, he was… Reflecting on something.” – Aeva, still looking around the room.

“I’ve been seeing, smelling, feeling things too. Earlier in the dining hall I swear I could smell fresh roast meat. And then of course when we came into this building I saw a woman walk through that boarded up door. I’m pretty sure Maebh saw it too.” – Harold, thoughtful.

“So I’m not going mad. I thought stuff was only happening to me.” – Aeva, rubbing her temples.

Breanna, Maebh and Kel’Serrar:
Breanna’s eyes widen in shock as the door swings open before her. The floor of the room beyond is covered in a thick pool of blood. She closes her eyes for a moment, and when she opens them once more she sees the ghostly figure of a slave mopping the blood over the floor. He gives a chilling grin and vanishes.

“Are you okay Bree?” – Maebh, to the visibly shaken Leathe.

“Yeah, it was nothing.” – Breanna, shaking herself.

“No, I saw something too. An Invarrian, hanging from the ceiling, throat slashed open, blood pouring from the wound. Is that what you saw?” – Maebh, to the wide-eyed Leathe.

“No, I saw a man mopping blood over the floor. With that said, they’re probably connected.” – Breanna, walking over to the wall before her.

“Now, if my theory is correct, that screaming from earlier should have come from, just about… here.” – Breanna, pressing a furry palm against the wooden wall.

Nothing happens.

The Leathe shrugs and makes to turn away, but Maebh groans in frustration and she blows a hole through the wall with her flames.

Aeva and Harold:
The Selkye and the Invarrian walk down a long hallway, with three doors set into the left wall. They open the first one and reveal an empty room. They do not bother exploring it and open the second door which reveals a long room filled with a maze of bookshelves.

The two companions search through the records and realise quite swiftly that the newer ones are closest to the door and the filing system seems to be just to push the older documents to the back of the room.

“Can we find any on your friend?” – Aeva, quietly.

“He’s not really my friend. I didn’t know him well. In fact, I always thought he was a bit of a pretentious prat.” – Harold, before picking up a random file and starting to read.

Aeva shrugs and follows suit.

“Ah, I have it. Oh, look at this. Apparently he didn’t stop ranting about some ‘Grey Devourer’ since he got here. He believes that its kind ate his crew and the End Times are nigh.” – Aeva.

“Check this out. Apparently servants and staff here and other inmates started ranting about the same stuff after coming into contact with him too. This servant, ah, yeah there it is, Ranulf, drowned himself hours after cleaning Reinn’s room.” – Harold, darkly. 

This does not bode well.

“The last date I can find here is from about two months ago.” – Harold.

“Yes, that’s more or less what I have here. Here, it looks like whoever was writing in Reinn’s file at the end here ended up the same way.” – Aeva, handing the parchment over to the Invarrian. A single note is scrawled at the bottom of the page in a spidery hand.

They are coming.

Breanna, Maebh and Kel’Serrar:
Maebh’s flames have revealed a very, very small room. A stone wall is before them, but it is the gaps between the stones which causes the companions’ consternation, for the wall has been constructed using the remains of the dead as mortar. Skulls and other bones jut out from the wall in a macabre fashion, and on the floor lie yet more corpses. Amidst them is a small, golden amulet. Both Maebh and Kel’Serrar can clearly see that it is possessed of some very dark magic and that touching it would probably be a very bad idea.

Breanna for her part goes very still and seems to be staring at the wall, locked in a trance of sorts. Suddenly, with a huge gasp of air, she falls to the ground, shaking. The Danann look at her, but she shakes her head as she stands.

“It was nothing. Don’t mind me.” – Breanna, breathing heavily.

Aeva and Harold:
Aeva prepares a spell to contact the others before trying to find old references to the Grey Devourer in the records.

”Come to us, we have found the archive.” – Aeva’s Whispering Wind.

Breanna runs to them, trying to ignoring the prickling on the back of her neck like she is being watched…

Kel’Serrar and Maebh:
Kel’Serrar looks on as Maebh swiftly undoes the curse on the amulet, rendering it safe to hold.

“I believe it was some kind of mind-altering spell.” – Maebh, to the ranger who nods.

“A cruel trick to play in an asylum.” – Kel’Serrar, sagely.

Kel’Serrar carefully picks up the amulet and inspects it. On one side it bears an image of the waves with a large and powerful looking Invarrian emerging from them. On the other, a grinning Invarrian is depicted, flipping a coin. He resolves to ask Harold about it and the two make their way to the archive to join the others. When they arrive, Maebh, Aeva and Breanna start poring through the records, with the Leathe and the Danann looking at everything recent and Aeva looking through the older records, albeit those not written in Old Invarrian.

Kel’Serrar meanwhile takes Harold aside and shows him the amulet.

“Aye, they’re religious symbols, showing our dedication to the God of the Waves and the Golden God. We, like our gods are the same coin, but with two faces. We bless in the name of the Golden God, who represents all that is good and fun about our nature, while the God of the Waves represents our darker and more dangerous parts and so it is by him that we curse.” – Harold, going into theologian mode.

“So how would it have come here?” – Kel’Serrar.

“Well they are quite common amongst the nobility. Hell, even peasants might have them if they had any wealth at all. When you consider the history of this place, there should probably be dozens around here. Well here, look, I have one too.” – Harold, pulling out his own, practically identical amulet and showing it to Kel’Serrar.

“Okay, the earliest reports of the Grey Devourer I can find and actually understand were approximately five centuries ago, but details are extremely scarce.” – Aeva, sharing her findings.   

“In the last couple of decades though, there have been several people who have claimed to see shark-men in the waters. A few have even said they have some kind of mind-controlling powers.” – Breanna, who has had more luck with details.

Harold finds an old book of mythology and flips it open. It is hardly a record of anything, and he has no idea of what it is doing in this archive, but he finds that it details stories of the first Stormlord. Apparently he fought a great beast called the Devourer and defeated it with the Gilded Sword.

“Looks like someone was on the same track we are.” – Harold, laying the book out and showing it to the companions.

* * *

After going through everything they could find in the archive, the companions move on. The next room they discover is almost like a maze, portraits hanging from every wall. Aeva gasps as she realises that she recognises one of the faded paintings as the Invarrian man she saw earlier, sitting in his chair. The plaque under the portrait reads Lord Steelshield.

“Ah, Steelshield. He was the first lord of this keep, well before it became an asylum.” – Harold, reminiscent.

Harold recognises other names, but he does not recall any details.

The last picture on the wall looks like a real bastard of a person, but there are no plaques revealing identities after the first row, which means that the plaques were abandoned upon the death of the Steelshield family line.

The subject of the last portrait bears a ring, showing the sigil of the Stillhet asylum, which leads the companions to deduce that this was one of the people in charge of the asylum.

A stairway lies ahead, a closed door at the top. They open it and reveal one more room. In the centre of the room lies a chair, within which sits a black-furred Invarrian. He is wasted away, chained to the chair and wearing a thick leather muzzle. He looks up at them and groans weakly.

And we left it there…

The Wrap-Up:
Sorry this took so long to post, but I have been seriously busy lately. We have another session this weekend, plus I am also one session behind anyway.

Suffice to say this campaign is not dead by any stretch, and in fact things are just starting to rise to a crescendo.


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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #35 on: March 28, 2020, 02:31:29 AM »
Session 5.2: Of Haunted Mansions and Poor Decisions

You can feel the hatred in the very walls. This place is altogether evil. The air we breathe is a poisonous fume, which drives us all to madness and death. I would not wish to be here, not if it were the last safe place in the world. Do you hear me? You savages! Do you hear me? Let me out!


- The last words of Ogruf Safeport, warden of Stillhet in the year 1411 CE. Safeport then hanged himself in front of the archivists he had held hostage in the asylum’s archive for the past three hours.

Welcome to Session 5.2: The Siege of Stillhet.

We begin where we left off, in the top room of the asylum of Stillhet, or Serenity.

Harold barely recognises the sorry figure bound before the companions as Reinn, the brother of the late Stormlord.

“Oh Reinn, what happened to you?” – Harold, sorrowful.

There is a large window behind Reinn’s chair which looks out over the bay, and Breanna finds herself drawn to it. There, below, pulling into the docks beside the Tide Tremor, is an Invarrian longship. She recognises it immediately.
“Oh ship.” – Delphi.

“We have company.” – Breanna, over her shoulder to her companions, who then join her at the window.

“Silver wolf-skull on sabres. Windchaser.” – Harold, growling under his breath. He walks over to Reinn and cuts the muzzle from him.

“So, Reinn, how goes the Game?” – Harold, friendly.

Reinn looks at Harold with a horrified expression.

“Quick, you must leave now! Leave! Get out! Run, run now!” – Reinn, practically screaming in Harold’s face.

“Unfortunately, Reinn you’re the heir presumptive. We need to get you out of here.” – Harold.

“No, you cannot. I must not leave, they told me!” – Reinn.

“You will die if you stay!” – Harold.

“I cannot die. Do you know how long I have sat in this chair, with nothing to eat, nothing to drink? I have been here an eternity, and yet I have not died. When they took me, they changed me… I cannot be killed.” – Reinn, to the silence of the companions.

Breanna, still at the window, sees Invarrians disembarking from the longship below.

“Okay, we’ve got some trouble now. Let’s hurry.” – Breanna, trying to get them to get a move on.

“Do you at least want to be unbound?” – Harold, to Reinn.

“No, I cannot be trusted. Leave me and run! They can make me do their bidding at any time, with no warning. I can do nothing about it, and they force me to do things, horrible things! If I am free, I might turn on you, and you cannot kill me. They told me I am the Grey Devourer’s herald, and that I cannot die until my purpose is complete. Once they have hold of me, nothing you do can stop me. Now go! Now!” – Reinn, frantic.

“GO ASHORE! TAKE ANYTHING VALUABLE! LEAVE NONE ALIVE!” – The magically amplified voice of Ovar Windchaser, directing his reavers.

“I hate that bastard. I can’t be killed, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be hurt. I don’t particularly want to be stuck in a chair with that sadistic bastard stabbing me incessantly. Do it, release me and I will try to aid you.” – Reinn, who recognises Windchaser’s voice from years at court.

“Will shortswords do?” – Harold, to Reinn as he cuts the ties. The newly freed Invarrian nods and accepts the blades.

“Good, now don’t stab us in the back.” – Kel’Serrar, quietly.

* * *

The companions devise a plan to defend the fortress with Aeva’s and Maebh’s spellcasting. Maebh will put up a blade-wall on either side of the gatehouse, with Aeva snaring as many as she can as they run through the gates. Maebh will then move the blade-walls towards each other, basically mincing the reavers stuck in between them.

“Someone is about to have a **** day.” – Sins.

Spoiler: Map of the Battlefield (click to show/hide)

With a growl, Maebh causes two walls of golden aethyric blades to spring into existence on either side of the gate. Beside her, Aeva takes the shape of a hawk and flies to the roof of the main structure before planting a magic snare on the gateway itself.

A stream of Windchaser's reavers come through the gate, a half dozen of them caught in a flare of ice-blue magic as they try to enter the complex. They seem remarkably well-drilled, and they do not panic at the sight of the spinning amber blades. Instead, they do their best to get past them.With some effort, Maebh begins to push the blades towards the reavers, slashing into and through the tightly-packed Invarrians.

Maebh’s initial assault decimates the first wave of reavers. Of sixteen Invarrians, none have managed to get through the ephemeral blades without injury. Six of them were mulched instantly, and another four slump to the ground with serious injuries. More of the sea-wolves get through the gate behind them.

She feels a strain on her consciousness and redoubles her resolve, shrugging off the attempt to control the blades.

To Kel’Serrar’s magically assisted vision, it is clear that tendrils of some power are coming from an individual near the Invarrian ship.

“Something is trying to take control of the blades.” – Maebh, to the other companions.

“I know, I can see it.” – Kel’Serrar.

“Can you shoot it?” – Harold.

“No, I can see where the power is coming from, but not the target itself. I just know it is near the ships.” – Kel’Serrar, frustrated.

“Set fire to the ship then?” – Breanna, trying to be helpful.

“If I do that, the fire could easily spread to the dock.” – Kel’Serrar.

“And then to our ship. Yeah, not good.” – Harold, making a very good point.

A few reavers coming ashore have bows, so Kel’Serrar and Breanna put a couple down with extreme prejudice.

Aeva throws another snare just in front of the door to enter the main part of the asylum, which entraps another eight reavers, most of them still bearing severe wounds from Maebh’s bladewall.
“You know, this name is a bit misleading. How are they getting through?” – Ladyhawk.
“It’s a collection of ethereal blades, loosely held together with magic, spinning randomly. It is possible to get through, just very dangerous.”
“See, if it were really a wall though, they wouldn’t be able to get through.” – Ladyhawk.
“Right, yeah fair point I guess.”
“So it is more of a blade-curtain then, right?” – Ladyhawk.
“I don’t mind that actually, we might rename it.”
“The hanging drapes of blades?” – Sins.

Nine reavers manage to evade the blades and Aeva’s snares and get through the door and into cover. Half a dozen arrows answer Kel’Serrar and Breanna’s shots. One arrow grazes the Danann’s cheek and another thuds into his shoulder. The Leathe also takes a shot which manages to just punch through her chest-armour.

Maebh, standing at the window, directs the movement of both blade-curtains. One presses towards the gate, the other to the doorway into the asylum. The sheer power involved in maintaining and shifting the blades is immense, but it leaves her slightly vulnerable to the reaver mage’s attempts to steal control. A gigantic mental force buffets her mind causing her to reel away in shock and anger. She beats him off, and still her blades keep spinning, but she knows that she might not be able to retain her hold for much longer.

“We need to get rid of that mage.” – Maebh, to her companions.

“Don’t worry, Bree and I are on it.” – Aeva, calling down from the roof above.

“Harold, if they set fire to this structure, we will all burn as they laugh. We need to spread out and engage them. They won’t burn their own.” – Reinn, quietly.

“Skirmish with them?” – Harold.

“Aye, out in the halls and on the stairways. We can hold them off throughout this accursed building.” – Reinn, determined.

The two Invarrians head out to protect the stairs up to the room.

Kel’Serrar takes another archer out with an arrow and Breanna leaps out of the window. Aeva, in the shape of a giant hawk, swoops down and snatches up the falling Leathe in mid-air. The companions share a grin at the consternation of the reavers as they notice the sight of a truly gigantic hawk bearing a large possum replete with daggers, knives and a wicked smile.
“I’m not too heavy am I?” – LD.
“See LD, it’s not a matter of how heavy you are, but where she grips you. I assume by the husk.”
I have been waiting for the opportunity to make that Monty Python reference for years.

Aeva/Hawk and Breanna finally get a look at the reaver-mage, a hunched and greying Invarrian, who looks up at them and snarls.

“Bring them down!” – Invarrian mage.

Four spears and seven arrows fly up at the two companions, but Aeva is able to evade the missiles without too many problems. One arrow flies through the feathers on one wing, another hits Breanna but doesn’t penetrate her armour. Only one spear gets close to the two companions, but Breanna is able to parry it away with a knife.

To Aeva’s sight, the mage has a multitude of spirits roiling around him and she knows that he is preparing a powerful piece of magic. So she drops Breanna from her talons as she flies past and then lands on the prow of the Windchaser longship before changing her shape into that of a dagger-lion.

“Okay LD, Agility Check to stick the landing.”
“Can we just make a rule that she doesn’t need to roll to pass these anymore?” – Dev.
“I got a 6.” – LD, to the laughter of the rest of the group.
“****ing dice Jesus.”
“I think it saves time to just rule that she doesn’t need to roll.” – Dev.
“In fact, let’s just not have her touch the dice at all to spare our feelings.” – Sins.
“Okay LD, you’re surrounded by four reavers and a preoccupied druid, but you’re being backed up by basically a smilodon. What will you do?”
“I’ll shank someone in the kneecap.” – LD.
“Isn’t it flank someone in the kneecap?” – Dev, questioning.
“No, shank in the kneecap equals flanking. It’s a note I actually have on my sheet.” – LD.

As an aside, Sins owns a sentient dice which actually seems to loathe Dev. It constantly rolls high when he says he wishes to roll to hit, but never higher than a 3 when he states he is rolling to wound.
“We need to microwave that mother****er.” – Delphi.

One last note, I have referred to the Invarrian magic user as a mage, because that is what the companions guessed he was, but he was in fact a Druid if I remember correctly.

Breanna’s attempts to strike at the reavers around her are thwarted by their blades and shields, and without the advantage of surprise, the Leathe finds herself overmatched.

Aeva/Lion meanwhile has more luck, pouncing on an Invarrian and ending his life with her fangs.

Maebh, Kel’Serrar and Harold:
The companions can clearly hear screams from the building the Windchaser reavers just entered.

“What the hell is happening out there?” – Harold, from the stairs where he waits with Reinn. They have exchanged their other weapons for two spears Harold picked up on his travels and which he carries with him for just such occasions.

“You know how you have all been dealing with hallucinations and ****? Well to get to us now, they have to go through all that too.” – Kel’Serrar, calling back to the Invarrian.

Nine reavers managed to enter the building. Five stagger out, terrified and hoarse, clutching at their weapons. One is missing his arm, torn off at the shoulder, the flesh blackened and dying where the limb had been removed. He staggers out into the light and stops for a split second, relief evident on his features. To the horror of the watching Maebh and Kel’Serrar however, the reaver’s ordeal is not yet over as a taloned ghostly hand reaches out from the yawning darkness of the doorway behind him, grasps him by the shoulder and swiftly draws him back into the shadows.

I ask for a Perception Check from Dev. He passes.
“Okay, keep in mind that you passed this time.”

From the dark stairway below, Harold and Reinn can hear the echoes of a violent past. Screaming, shrieking, moaning, the rattling of chains and snarls of insane savagery waft up from below as if on a foul wind. Footsteps can be heard coming towards them, ever louder.

Cue Nazgul screeching. Because, of course.

Harold looks over at Reinn swiftly and the heir looks absolutely terrified, fists clenched around his borrowed swords. They can hear doors opening at the front of the building and they prepare themselves to fight off both the shades of Stillhet and the approaching reavers.

Breanna and Aeva:
Back on the longship, two reavers press in on the cornered Leathe, but she moves like lightning and is able to avoid most of their strikes, two heavy hits connect which batters her a bit, but she is able to get free of them. The others on-board move in on Aeva/Lion, swords, axes and boarding pikes ready. The beast that is Aeva takes a few flesh wounds, but nothing too serious.

“Take the lion alive!” – The reaver-mage, who is staying well away from the blades and fangs.

“Oh no, that doesn’t sound good.” – Ladyhawk.
“I don’t like this at all.” – Delphi.

Aeva finally realises that the reaver-mage must actually be a druid as at first, he entreats the spirits around him to form a terrible storm overhead. Then he becomes irate as it is taking too long, and he begins forcing them to do his will. Aeva is disoriented as all around the spirits of nature scream in agony.

“This is really not good.” – Delphi.

Maebh, Harold and Kel’Serrar:
Dodging arrows from the handful of reavers below, Maebh leaves the window and moves to aid Harold and Reinn on the stairs. With a quick incantation, she shields herself in lightning and takes up her spear in between the two Invarrians.

For his part, Kel’Serrar alternates between loosing accurate and deadly shots at the reavers below and taking cover under the windowsill. Locked in an archery duel, the Danann’s preternatural senses and abilities hold him in good stead. He has the high ground and stationary, heavy cover. Though outnumbered substantially, his foes never really stand a chance.

On the stairway, Harold manages to put his spear into the throat of what he initially believes to be the first of the reavers to appear below them. The Invarrian vanishes into a pool of black blood which splashes over the stairs and walls before the companions’ very eyes. They have only a few seconds to marvel at this before a tide of Invarrian revenants stream up the stairs, eyes gleaming with a fell light in the shadows, jaws stretched impossibly wide. Only three spears hold the stairway, but any that get too close to Maebh are struck by the swirling tempest of magic which surrounds her.

Aeva and Breanna:
The Leathe manages to disengage from her opponents, sprints past her companion, vaults over the longship’s railings and legs it for the comparative safety of the asylum.

Aeva, affronted and physically hurt by the torment of the spirits which is happening around her decides to put everything into a flat-out assault on the reaver-druid. She wears the attacks of Windchaser’s boarding-pike armed personal guard, taking a long and horrific gash down her side and flank, and pounces on the surprised and distracted druid on the pier, ripping at him with claws and fangs.

The torment of spirits ceases, but now Aeva is in a completely untenable position. Cut-off, wounded, surrounded and with no support.

At this point I gave the players an option. Their companion was in deep trouble, and also, crucially, out of Luck. So to help her escape, I bartered with them. A single Luck Point each to give her a chance to get free.

Despite most of them being down on Luck, they all accepted without hesitation. I have such a good group. :P

Aeva leaves the reaver-druid on the wooden pier, bleeding and battered and leaps into the ocean, upon which she turns into her whale-form and swims slowly for the beach, lifeblood trickling into the salt-water.

Breanna sees that Maebh’s bladewall is still active in the gateway, the amber blades still spinning due to the Danann mage’s indomitable will. She stops, turns, and readies herself for the handful of reavers pursuing her from the ships.

But the strikes do not come.

Windchaser has told his men to halt, and strides up to the diminutive Leathe.

“Tell Oakenshield that I will meet him out here for single combat.” – Windchaser, allowing Breanna to leave.

Breanna gulps, nods and scurries over the wall back to her companions.

“Ladyhawk, we’re not going to do a proper combat, you’re just going to fry them.” – Dev, laughing.
“I don’t think I can just fry them Dev, I don’t think I have enough points for that. Cause someone changed the system.” – Ladyhawk, pointedly looking at myself. Ladyhawk is still upset about the addition of Soulfire.
“Yeah Sins!” – I exclaim defiantly.

* * *
And we are back. :smallsmile:

Maebh, Harold and Reinn:
The tide of spirits hurling themselves up the stairway at the companions halts. Reinn starts to run downstairs.

“Reinn! Stop!” – Harold, but the mad heir does not stop. Harold follows him.

“Harold, what are you doing?” – Maebh, who takes up her spear and follows the two Invarrians.

Having made her way to the beach, the critically wounded Aeva changes her form once more into a seilbak and shuffles along, trying to find cover. Thankfully, if any of the reavers see her, they ignore her.

Delphi chose the seilbak because it has the highest health of any of her available creatures, along with the hakal, but she was concerned about staying in or near the water due to the possibility the reaver-druid might still be alive and capable of calling up some nasties from the deep.

Finally, Aeva/Seilbak finds a rocky outcrop to hide behind and changes back into her regular form, grimacing in pain. She finds some bandages, and with shaking hands, manages to bind the worst of the wounds. She sits with her back against the rock for moment, trying to get her breath back.

Now abandoned up in the asylum’s main building, Kel’Serrar picks off the last of the reaver archers outside. His keen ears can hear the screams of the reavers which have entered Stillhet’s buildings. The Danann smiles, which if anyone had seen it, would have confirmed everyone’s suspicions that Kel’Serrar is a raging sociopath.

Seeing no targets from his window, Kel’Serrar sits down on the floor, trusting that his companions will be able to prevent any enemies from gaining access to the room while he is vulnerable, and enters a trance.

Sins activates Woodland Senses and enters the trance, but is not able to detect anything yet. He does however, remain in the trance so he can try again next round.

For the Leathe, she has two options. The first option, to climb and leap over the high internal wall is possible, but difficult. The second, to follow the reavers inside the buildings where they are screaming in terror, is easier, but by the sounds of it, might be more dangerous.

She sticks with what she knows, and climbs the wall with no real trouble and darts around to the front of the main structure, where a few reavers are entering. Most of them are haggard and gaunt, and not a few are missing body parts. The Leathe flickers into shadow and then flits into the midst of the reavers, her knives flashing, and she puts two of the wounded Invarrians down. She then darts from reaver to reaver, slashing throats and shanking knees, all the while doing her best to get back to the room she left her companions in earlier.

Now alone in a hallway, Harold notices puddles of what appears to be dark blood on the ground. He has lost Reinn and Maebh in the labyrinthine halls.
I ask for a Willpower Check here from Dev. He passes, but not by much.
A phantasmal clawed hand reaches out from the wall and claws at the Invarrian, tearing into his very soul. Luckily, the Invarrian’s will is strong enough that the phantom is not able to gain much purchase on him, but it is enough to hurt.

The mage has now lost Harold in the darkness of Stillhet, the hallways illuminated only by the constantly crackling shield of lightning around her.

With no warning at all, an Invarrian reaver strides out of the shadows and plunges a blade into the Danann’s midriff before exploding into mist. The strike hurt her considerably, but when she looks at where she was assaulted, there is no wound, just a small mark, like a bruise.

Ladyhawk couldn’t believe that she still took damage despite passing the Willpower Check I asked of her. She was also taken aback by the fact that she saw this obvious ghostly apparition despite her True-Sight spell being active.

At this stage, the companions realised that earlier the hauntings were merely residual energy which they were reacting with, but the things they were seeing were not real as such. Now, however, the blood and activity has riled the ghosts of Stillhet and now they have become something real and tangible.

From a pseudo-scientific perspective, due to the horrible events which took place here, Stillhet has an unusual concentration of electro-magnetic energy, which caused the characters to hallucinate earlier, which is why they only saw things when they failed Perception Checks and Maebh and Kel’Serrar with their True-Sight abilities were largely immune to it.

Having lost Harold and Reinn, the Danann turns and makes her way back to the room they found Reinn in, where she hopes Kel’Serrar is still safe.

“Okay, so I’m thinking, is it possible to try and influence these spirits?” – Dev.
“What, like charm them?”
“Yeah, kind of. At least get them to stop attacking us?” – Dev.
“Like me or else, right?” – Sins.
“Not sure what the, ‘or else’ is though…” – LD.
“So basically, Charm Check. Punch the wall?” – To a smattering of laughter.
“Yeah, okay Charm Check.” – Dev.
“What are you doing sorry?” – Ladyhawk, who wasn’t listening.
“I’m going to try and address the spirits.” – Dev.
“Ah right, go on then.” – Ladyhawk, who then turns very attentively to Dev as if waiting for a grand speech.
“Oh **** off.” – Dev, laughing.
“Nah mate, you can’t say that to them, that’ll just offend them.” – Ladyhawk.
“I like it.” – LD.

“Denizens of this house, hear me! I am Harold Oakenshield, First Reaver of Varr!” – Harold, trying his damnedest. He can feel centuries of rage and hatred around him, but to his relief, he is not attacked. He figures it might well be worth trying to continue this conversation.

Maebh and Kel’Serrar:
At the very edges of his perception, Kel’Serrar can hear and feel Maebh shaking him and calling his name. He opens his eyes and slowly stands up, nodding a greeting to the mage.

And there goes about half an hour talking about Tobuscus.

“Kel, there’s some pretty freaky **** going on down there and I think we are safest if we try to stick together.” – Maebh.

“Cause she’s scared.” – Dev.
“I’m not scared Harold!” – Ladyhawk.
“You’re a chair.” – Setting LD up for an ASDF Movie joke.
“I CAN DREAM HAROLD!” – LD, who caught my reference expertly.

The two Danann go downstairs together, hoping they’ll find their companions still in one piece each. The ranger casts a silvery glow around him as they run, hoping that it might deter some of the asylum’s supernatural entities.

“Okay, Harold, what are you doing?”
“Still trying to talk to the ghosts.” – Dev.
“Still talking to the walls then, got it.”

Convinced that he is capable of getting through to the hauntings, Harold keeps trying.

“Residents of Stillhet, rest in peace. You have passed from this world… There is nothing here for you. The Golden God has now blessed you with peace, so please, leave. Be at peace, your game is over.” – Harold, doing his best to call upon the Invarrian traditions and psyche.

“Okay Dev, roll your Charm Check.” – We were all quite impressed by his little speech. It was perfectly in-character with an impassioned delivery, which only made the following even funnier.
“Ah ****.” – A despondent Dev, as he rolled a 99.
After the gales of laughter have subsided, Dev re-rolls with a Luck Point and ends up with a far-more reasonable total of 36.

Harold’s impassioned plea has a calming influence on the house, and the oppressive feeling lessens slightly, but other than that, there is not much effect. One positive however, Harold is not attacked.

Maebh and Kel’Serrar:
The two Danann come across Harold and silently watch the Invarrian give his speech to the invisible ghasts of the asylum.
“Leave him, he’s done!” – LD, laughing.

“We need to stop killing in the buildings.” – Harold, turning to face Maebh and Kel’Serrar.

“Ah, no. They attack us, they need to die. Spirits of the house, please excuse us for a few moments.” – Maebh, feeling a lot more confident now that the three of them are together. Her words are met with an intensification of the oppression they felt lessen moments earlier.

“Great, they’ll never listen to me now. Let’s go find Reinn, and don’t kill him.” – Harold, and the three companions leave together.

Now inside with the reavers in the main hall of Stillhet, Breanna is the reason for the main concentration of violence within the asylum presently. A great spectral wolf bounds through a wall and pounces on her, biting down on her upper arms with great savagery. With a cry, she slams a knife into its head and it evaporates, but the damage is done, a grey bite-wound left on her bicep.

Grimacing with pain and holding her arm, Breanna retreats into her Shadowskin and makes her way upstairs, ignoring the last of the reavers, which are swallowed up behind her.

A grey wisp of mist approaches her and takes a hold of her arms with an iron grip. Slowly and inexorably, it forces her against a wall and starts to try and tear the Leathe apart.

This was getting quite dangerous for the party. Harold and Maebh had both taken damage, Aeva had dropped to 5 health before her first aid efforts and now Breanna was trapped and sitting at 4 with a Willpower Check to determine whether she took D10 or D5 damage next turn.

Recovered slightly from her ordeal, Aeva takes the form of a hawk and flies over to the gate, outside which Ovar Windchaser and his personal guards, the badly injured druid and what is left of the reavers have congregated. She tries to land a single-target snare on the druid, but with a snarl he smashes the butt of his staff against the ground and her hasty weaving is dispelled.

Maebh, Harold and Kel’Serrar:
The companions come to the main hall and see a horrific sight. Against the wall, Reinn is pinned by a spectral grey mist, writhing in agony as it tries to tear him apart. Already it has torn an arm away from his body, but despite this the Invarrian does not appear to be close to death, merely in horrific pain.

Against the opposite wall, the keen and magically-aided eyes of the Danann see Breanna, caught in an identical embrace, straining with all her might to keep her limbs attached. Maebh’s eyes flash with amber light and a wave of golden fire sweeps the room, burning away the phantasms and the mists binding Breanna and Reinn.

A wide range dispel using Remove Curse from Maebh.

Harold picks up the mangled Reinn and carries him out of the main hall of Stillhet, followed by the others, Maebh helping Breanna stagger out herself. Behind them, the building groans and the screams of the long dead can be heard, still railing against their fates.

The hawk above the reavers tries to snare the reaver-druid again, but with another irritated snarl, he is able to ignore it. He looks up and his eyes gleam with a feral light as he notices the shape of Aeva/Hawk above.

“I only have enough Soulfire for one more cast guys.” – Delphi. While she has been unsuccessful in actually snaring him, Aeva has been able to prevent the druid from doing anything other than resisting her spells, which has given the companions time to deal with the situation inside, without dealing with the negative effects of the druid’s magic.

Aeva gives it one more go, desperately trying to ensnare the druid, and this time she finally succeeds. Ice-blue tendrils of magic wrap themselves around his legs and he curses to himself as he finds himself pinned. Aeva/Hawk throws herself into a swooping attack, but has to pull-out before she can take out the druid’s eyes as she notices the pike-armed guards nearby and she knows that in her current shape she would struggle to avoid them. Instead, she flies to the gatehouse, lands and turns back to her regular form.

She takes out a dagger and hurls it with all her strength at the druid. The silvery blade flashes into his eye and he drops to the rocky ground.

“Spears! Take her down!” – Ovar Windchaser, roaring in anger and hatred.

Two spears are hurled at Aeva, but she is able to evade them and drop down from the gatehouse, taking cover behind the wall.

There is some discussion here about how Reinn is feeling.
“Considering he’s just had an arm ripped off, he’s actually surprisingly comfortable. His main concern, where most people would be worried about bleeding to death from their arm-hole, he’s most concerned with living eternity without an arm.”
“Well he does have an arm.” – Sins.
“Yeah, that was his spare. Who wants to be down to their spare?”
“He can console himself with the thought that he doesn’t really need both to be king.” – Dev.
“He’s actually not so keen on that either. He doesn’t believe that a king should come with the possibility of turning into a rage monster and trying to eat all his courtiers.”
“Ah, yes. This is true.” – Dev, pensive.
“We haven’t really thought this through at all, have we?” – Ladyhawk.

Breanna scrambles up the inner wall and lets a rope down behind her so that the others can follow her up, none of the companions wishing to risk going through the buildings of the asylum. When Harold, still carrying Reinn, reaches the top of the wall, Windchaser calls out to him.

“Oakenshield, you finally show your cowardly face!” – Windchaser, loud enough to wake the dead.

“Get wrecked Windchaser!” – Harold’s response, before he wearily makes his way down from the wall to the gatehouse, where Aeva waits patiently.
As funny as this was, it actually fits as an Invarrian threat/insult.
There are half a dozen reavers around Windchaser now, the only survivors of the ill-fated siege. That said, it doesn’t look like Windchaser really cares overmuch.

“Okay, so I want to use what’s left of my Soulfire to call up a serious storm. I don’t want this combat to get close to one of those other reavers and have him just finish Harold off with a sneaky stab from behind. If they’re distracted by being struck by lightning, they’re not going to be able to do that.” – Ladyhawk, to torrents of laughter.
“If they’re distracted by, you know, death.” – LD.
“It might shake up Windchaser too.” – Ladyhawk, deadpan.
“Yeah, it might have a slight effect, seeing his crew disintegrated around him.” – Sins.

“Windchaser, I am more than happy to duel you, but do you mind if we move this engagement to another spot, say a mile down the coastline? Blood spilt here is, well, this place doesn’t react well with blood.” – Harold, trying his best to prevent anymore horrible spirit events.

“I don’t really care Oakenshield. I don’t intend to tarry here any longer than it takes for me to remove your head from your shoulders.” – Ovar, pacing with shield and axe in hand.

"Before we commence then, what happened in Isenhjem after we left?" - Harold, trying to buy just a little time to get his breath back.

Surprisingly, Windchaser takes the bait.

"I followed your pathetic ship out of Isenhjem harbour, so I was not present for what occurred next. I received word that just hours after we departed, the entire small council was found dead, drowned in the council room. Aeluf Av-Bitterskjold was made castellan, as the only lord left of any real rank. Thanks to your speedy and inconspicuous departure, you've been declared a heretic and traitor to the throne, to be killed on sight if you approach Isenhjem. Your brother, who hid so desperately behind Bjarn's shield and happily took a seat on the small council, died with his head in a bucket of brine." - Ovar Windchaser, grinning murderously.

Harold stands still and ready, eyes searching desperately for any hint, any sign that the gigantic reaver might be lying, but to no avail.

“So be it.” – Harold, striding forward from under the gate, saber and axe at the ready.

Overhead, the skies grow ominously dark, the clouds almost black, promising destruction and death…

* * *

Blades clash together under the darkening sky as Ovar Windchaser finally gets his chance to bring down his rival. Within minutes, both combatants are breathing heavily and they disengage for a moment. Both are bleeding from a few minor injuries, but neither are close to being incapacitated.

One reaver from the ring of observers around the combatants draws a dagger and makes to strike Harold from behind just as the old duellist resumes combat. Maebh though has prepared for this exact eventuality, and a golden lightning bolt sears down from the sky and the reaver disintegrates into a pile of fine black ash. The crack of thunder is enough to throw even the most seasoned warrior off guard, and Ovar Windchaser stumbles in shock. Harold though is used to Maebh's powers, and follows up on the distraction with a solid hit to the face with the hilt of his sword.

"What was that?" - LD.
"That's a bit half-hearted really. It's not really that honourable. You've just hit him anyway." - Ladyhawk.
"Seriously, you have a sword." - LD.
"Why not hit him with the other end? You know, the pointy bit." - Delphi.

Harold stands back and allows Windchaser to get back to his feet.

"See that Windchaser? That was our mage. Next time one of your reavers tries to interfere, it'll be you on the receiving end." - Harold.

Windchaser nods his agreement and waves a hand to call his men off.

Another crack of thunder splits the air as a golden lightning bolt smashes the mast of Windchaser's ship.

Breanna and Aeva, who has come down once more and taken the shape of a dagger-lion, make for the ship, thinking to take some of the valuables likely onboard before it burns and sinks under the waves. A handful of reavers move from the ring of observers to intercept the Leathe and druid. Four more lightning bolts are hurled from the sky and they immolate a few reavers. Aeva rips through two more with claws and fangs and Breanna's knives claim another. Both scamper onto the ship and start rummaging through the valuables onboard.

They are confronted on their way off, laden down with a few choice treasures, by another reaver who clutches a sabre in one hand, and a horribly burnt face with the other, having been caught near one of Maebh's lightning bolts. Suddenly, an arrow bursts through his head, and he falls to the ground, one of Kel'Serrar's enchanted arrows flickering in what is left of his eye-socket.

Harold meanwhile manages to bear Windchaser to the ground, and while his first strike is turned aside by Ovar's shield, his second bites through the vambrace and severs his combatant's hand at the wrist.

Biting back a howl of pain, Windchaser drops his shield and draws another axe from his belt with his remaining hand. He swings wildly, but Harold sidesteps neatly and bats the weapon out of Windchaser's hand.

Windchaser surrenders.

* * *

Directly following the duel, Windchaser's ship sinks swiftly, a few choice trinkets and such recovered from the wreck by Aeva, Maebh and Breanna.

Harold forces Windchaser to sign a contract binding him as a vassal and as a witness of the party's innocence for the events which occurred in Isenhjem. As soon as their backs are turned, Windchaser draws a concealed dagger and slits his own throat.

They retreat to their ship for the night and see to their wounds. For his part, Reinn seems to be coming to terms with living life without an arm. In fact, as a positive, he figures it might be harder for him to kill and horribly mutilate people in the future if he is missing an arm.

Reinn offers to show them exactly where Werencha lies. He knows, more or less, where it is. It seems that when these creatures designated him their Herald, it was almost a two-way exchange of information. He believes he can find the location.

The heir's wound would kill any normal person. In fact, it probably should have killed him already. Even with Kel'Serrar's and Aeva's ministrations, it is a wound which would have killed most people. But of course, Reinn believes he cannot die, and so is quite happy to accompany them to the temple.

The companions set sail with Reinn on the Tide Tremor, a course set for the lost temple of Werencha.

And we pretty much left it there...

The Wrap-Up:
So this session was actually played months ago, but I've been so busy I haven't been able to finish the write-up.

I have a whole session, plus a solo mini-session with Dev to still go up before we are up to date.

We are also hoping to play another session of Whispers in the Dark within the next fortnight, and then Three Coins as soon as LD finishes up with her rehearsals in November.

Hopefully, I will be able to put at least Session 5.3 up before we play the next 3 Coins game.

Thanks for reading.

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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #36 on: March 28, 2020, 02:32:01 AM »
Session 5.3 (a): You Were Right, Werencha Baby?

“Veita ek inn ofrelismadr vid brjota inn firar er standa orr leid. Sasi verold munu vera heimtamt inn Shakarli. Inn solbjorg munu andlit nokkurr verold grar logr. Inn saevargangr ek inn mestr kala koma. Banahogg bida…”
- Reinn Tordenwulf, the late Stormlord’s brother.

”Give me the ______ to ____ those who stand in our way. The world will __ _____ the Devourer. The _____ will ____ a world of grey water. The _______ and the great cold comes. The murder-strike waits…”
- Harold Oakenshield attempted to translate Reinn’s words in the days before his disappearance. He was only partially successful.

Welcome to Session 5.3 of Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword.

A fortnight has passed since the companions set sail from Stillhet, or Serenity, on The Tide Tremor. Short sea voyage, largely uneventful, did not lessen the dread any of them felt now. Somewhere above, beyond the clouds, an ominous presence builds. Each day, the light of the sun grows weaker. The Devourer's gaze has been drawn, and soon the world will feel its wrath.

Reinn's condition has steadily worsened the longer he spends onboard the ship. Whether his injury or long confinement is finally catching up to him, or if it is the close proximity to the water and the entities which dwell below which is causing his distress, none can say, least of all him. He is reduced to standing at the bow of the ship, wordlessly staring towards what the party can only assume is the site of Werencha. When he speaks it is only in Ancient Invarrian…

After almost a week of sailing, with the skies growing ever darker every day, the companions finally go ashore on the largely uncharted eastern coast of Varr. Reinn leads them wordlessly inland, for several days of what feels like hopeless wandering in the thick mist and labyrinth of razor sharp rock. Finally, they arrive at a great lake, set deep in the ancient mountains. A worn road leads directly to the edge of the water, and a small camp of what appears to be pilgrims is congregating near the water's edge.

The companions decide to wait and see.

The next morning they awake to find that Reinn has disappeared. Despite setting watches during the night, no one saw him leave. They are concerned, but resolve not to let it bother them too much. He seemed to be close to death as it was, despite all his earlier assurances that this was not possible.

Basically they decide that if he were important, he’ll crop up again later. If he’s not important, ah well.

Something stirs the pilgrims by the water's edge and the companions watch in horror and wonder as an ancient temple emerges from the depths of the black lake. A causeway links the temple to the worn road, and the pilgrims begin filing through the mouldering stone doorway.

They then discuss how to get inside, and then once inside, what to do if it goes under once more.

"Does anyone else here actually have ranks in Swim?" - Ladyhawk.
"I do." - Dev.
"I can turn into a fish." - Delphi.
"You turn into a whale..."
"Same thing really. How many people can fit inside the whale's mouth?" - Delphi.
"Pretty much just Breanna. You're not a big whale."
"You know with that new talent I can go whale and then just keep my usual arms and hold their hands as I swim." - Delphi.
"Why don't you turn into an octopus and then you can grab up to eight people?" - Yohan.
"I don't have an octopus. Yet. I do hope to basically become Ursula and take over the world." - Delphi.
"With the terrible power of your eight arms..."
"Yeah, and what was it called? Ah yeah, Illusory Pit?" - Delphi.

The companions follow the pilgrims along the causeway, doing their best to just appear to be joining the march.

Spoiler: Map of Werencha (click to show/hide)

On either side of the doorway leading into the lost temple sit two statues which resemble the Beast Under the Waves. They give off an imposing aura, and the companions feel quite unsettled by their close proximity. They stop before the Watchers and have a quick chat.

"Are these anything like the Watchers of the Way from Lord of the Rings?" - Dev.
"Uh, no?" - But they totally are.

We dissolved into a lot of off-topic chat here.

"Did anyone bring a hammer?" - Harold, quietly.

"You're a walking armoury and you didn't think to bring a hammer?" - Kel'Serrar.

"I have a spear and a compass. We can make a hammer." - Aeva, mock brightly.

"You won't have a compass anymore, but we'll have a hammer." - Breanna.

"You also may not have a compass anymore." - Kel'Serrar, quietly to Aeva.

"You stole my compass!" - Aeva, irritated.

“Somehow it comes in handy when he steals our stuff.” – LD.
“Handy is a strong way to put it…” – Dev.
“I have four throwing daggers too.” – Delphi, still reading out her gear.
“Ummm…” – Sins.
“You stole my daggers too? LD, how could that be useful?” – Delphi.
“You could steal my claymore. I wouldn’t recommend it though. I’d probably notice.” – Yohan.
“They all thought that once mate.”

“**** this.” – Harold, who steps forward and prods the statue with the haft of a spear.

Nothing happens.

“We set fire to the statue!” – LD.

The companions walk inside, and so do they enter the lost temple of Werencha.

The stone room opens before them, floor still slick with water. In the far left corner, a group of pilgrims have gathered. An archway lies before them too. The companions panic slightly at the thought that if the pilgrims turn around they are all in plain sight.

“Dev, what are you doing?”
“He’s now a pilgrim.” – Sins.
“Okay, Sins, what are you doing?”
“I’m now a pilgrim too.” – Sins.
“How far can I make Aspect Mastery extend?” – Delphi.

Aeva picked up a Major Talent last level up, called Aspect Mastery. It allows her to perform partial Wildforms on allies she can touch.

“Cause I have a dog, right? So if I just give them the dog’s head and fur, they would, at least in the dark, pass for Invarrians, right?” – Delphi.
“Yeah, I guess. They’d have the vocal capabilities of a dog though, so no speech, which means no spellcasting. They can only make dog noises.”
“You guys cool with that?” – Delphi.
“Woof woof mother****ers.” – LD, to great laughter.

"Okay, they're both puppers now." - Delphi.
"So we have two... dog-monstrosities now." - Kind of concerned.
"You know, we're not really thinking about other uses for this new ability. It would, for instance, make a hell of a frightening experience for a captive. We could easily use this for interrogation." - Sins.
Let the nightmare fuel commence.

In the end, Kel'Serrar and Harold take point, disguised as Invarrian pilgrims using Kel'Serrar's illusory abilities. Maebh and Breanna walk behind them, appearing like Invarrians themselves, but unable to talk. Aeva herself sits in Harold's pocket as a mouse.

The companions join the group of pilgrims ahead of them, Harold nodding a curt greeting to any who look.

They go through the doorway, mingling with the other pilgrims and continue down a long, stone hallway. Water drips from the ceiling constantly, a reminder that this whole structure was underwater until very recently.

Ahead of the group of pilgrims lies a shrine, of sorts. What appears to be a wooden block, chased with silver filigree sits upon the ground, and a statue forged of presumably dark iron stands upon it. The statue depicts one of the Beasts Under the Waves, one taloned hand reach out for the companions. Its eyes glint with a ruby gleam in the firelight emanating from the handful of torches held by the mob of pilgrims gathered around it.

"It appears to be an offering to the god of fireball targets Ladyhawk." - Sins.

The statue gives off an overwhelming aura of dread and disquiet.

"That's it, leaving right now." - Dev.
"Yep, going, going and gone." - LD.

Aeva/Mouse vacates Harold's pocket and scampers across the stone floor, avoiding all the feet around her. She climbs up Maebh's leg, the mage having stayed hindmost of the companions.

For the others though, the situation is a little more difficult. Harold, Kel'Serrar and Breanna are now stuck trying to get away from the statue, but the pilgrims around and behind them are pushing forwards, and the three companions are starting to draw a little attention to themselves.

There is a horrific grinding sound, and the statue's head moves. The head tilts until the eyes are resting firmly on Harold, who is trying to surreptitiously shuffle along the wall and failing miserably. Murmurs of discontent start to raise from the crowd.

"They're starting to think there's something not quite right about you all."
"Yeah, these people have weird dogs." - LD, referring to Breanna and Maebh.
"Well they haven't actually noticed Maebh yet. She's not done anything to draw attention to herself. Neither has Aeva."
"Squeak squeak mother****er." - Delphi.

The stony claw reaches up until a single talon is pointing directly at Harold, who has given up on trying to escape, and is now looking around, as if to determine who the statue is pointing at.

Aeva leaves the safety of Maebh's person and scampers to the rear of the pilgrims before turning back to her regular form.

"He's the chosen one!" - Aeva, before turning back into a mouse and making for the safety of Maebh's leg once more.

The pilgrims around Harold seem to be getting quite irate. A few pull out daggers and other short blades. Harold answers this with his own blades and the **** really hits the fan.  As the pilgrims fall on Harold, Kel'Serrar takes the opportunity to pull on an invisibility glamer and Aeva undoes the dog Aspects she placed on Maebh and Breanna, allowing both to cast if they wish.

"Okay, so should I go lightning, or something more direct?" - Ladyhawk.
"Lightning might be difficult, seeing as we're inside." - Dev.
"Actually I took a Talent that allows me to call up storms wherever I wish." - Ladyhawk.
"I was wondering about that. I was also wondering about what was more direct than lightning." - Yohan.
"Could you Blade Wall again?" - Sins.
"I could, but it takes so long to get it up." - Ladyhawk.
Cue snickers.
"The pilgrims are packed wall to wall." - Sins.
"Could you do the sandwich press manoeuvre again?" - Delphi.

Violence suddenly erupts in the hallway. Maebh drops a curtain of aethyric golden blades in the enclosed area, which causes a few of the pilgrims to fly apart into pieces. Breanna punches the nearest man in the stomach and Harold starts cleaving through them with swords flying. 

Breanna is able to avoid the retaliatory strike from the cultist she hit and watches as one of Kel’Serrar’s arrows erupts from the man’s head.

“Aeva, watch my back.” – Maebh, to Aeva, who drops back to the floor and takes up her spear to engage the handful of pilgrims on their side of the blade wall.

Maebh turns to face the oncoming cultists coming into the hallway from behind the companions and calls up a devastating gale which throws bodies into the air and into the walls. Bones snap under the pressure and the pilgrims are left broken and ruined by her power.

The dozen or so surviving pilgrims are caught in a blast of ice-blue magic, held helpless in place by Aeva’s power as the companions mercilessly slaughter them.

The statue remains, pointing unerringly at Harold’s chest.

“Speak, or I will beat you with an axe.” – Harold.

Unsurprisingly, the statue does not speak.

“The statue is rock, no? Cause if it is, I might be able to use my Druid abilities to talk to it.” – Delphi.
“Ah, no it is dark iron, so not really rock but metal.”
“Metal is just refined earth really though. You should know this, from, say, Avatar.” – Dev.
“We could use Speak to Sword...” – Sins.
“See when you are using that ability, you’re not speaking to the rock as much as you are the spirits within the earth. So the spirits within the earth are no longer present due to it being worked.”
“What if it has a spirit because it is a sword?” – Dev.
“No it’s not a sword, it’s a ****ing statue and there are no spirits inside it.” – Says God.

“Okay, whatever.” – Harold, who starts whaling on the statue with his axe.

It has no effect.

“Maebh, can you call up some fire on this thing? Can we try to melt it, or re-shape it or something?” – Kel’Serrar.

Maebh presses a flaming hand into the iron statue, but it remains icy-cold to the touch.

Ignoring the disconcerting effect of the continued pointing, Harold saunters up to the statue and begins prying the silver scrollwork from the wooden base with a dagger, figuring he should be able to sell the scraps.

“Don’t worry Yohan, we’ll drop you in as soon as these guys stop faffing about.”
“Meanwhile, he’s just sitting there asking himself if he really does want to join now.” – LD, laughing.
“All good, I haven’t actually finished rolling my character yet.” – Yohan, who was busy putting together one of the tankiest tanks to have ever tanked. While tanking.

Breanna meanwhile is slowly being overcome with the sheer evil of the place. The statue positively radiates dark energy and the temple is permeated with it.

Maebh takes a moment to augment her senses with magic while Kel’Serrar sits down and tries to attune himself to the environment. His efforts are stymied somewhat by the maze-like structure of the temple, but he does know that both a large creature and a party of presumably pilgrims are somewhere nearby.

The statue itself shows no signs of life. Because it is a statue.

They resolve to forget about the statue for now and head back to the main room where they take the other doorway. They reach another hallway and follow it, trying to ignore the drops of water steadily falling from the ceiling. Another doorway opens out into a bare stone room, slick with water and algae. There are two doors at the other side of the room, one straight ahead, the other slightly to the right.

Following an unusual scent, Harold could perceive, the companions take the door on the right. Directly ahead stands a group of pilgrims, all bearing blades of some description. Before them, tied to a stake is a large Feartarbh, a heavily scarred warrior. They appear to be preparing him for some kind of ritual, but the companions are having none of it.

“Am I chained to the stake?” – Yohan.
“The chains in my inventory are the ones binding me then, yes?” – Yohan.
“Yeah, that’s cool.”
“Are they using my padlocks?” – Yohan.
“They can, why do you ask?”
“I have two padlocks, but only one of them has a key…” – Yohan, to the laughter of the party.

To the left there is dark water of indeterminate depth, and a very small island, upon which sits a small chest.

Spoiler: An Amusing Aside (click to show/hide)

Aeva immediately springs into her dagger-lion shape and pounces on two of the pilgrims, bringing them down in a flurry of claws and fangs.

Kel’Serrar, still invisible to normal sight, creeps over to the captive Feartarbh and picks the lock holding the massive warrior. In moments, the lock falls loose and Kel’Serrar stands back with a self-satisfied smirk.

“Sweet, I’m free. Do I have my kit?” – Yohan.
“No, but it is all intact and in the corner of the room.”
“Ha, who needs weapons? I am a weapon.” – Yohan.

He’s not wrong.

Harold whirls through the last four pilgrims within a matter of seconds and the companions start riffling through the corpses for loot and small change. The Feartarbh, trying to rub some feeling into his arms has staggered to the corner of the room and arrays himself for battle. He’s seen enough weirdness in his life that he is not questioning the armed band smashing their way into the room with a lion, murdering everyone within seconds and his restraints just falling off for no apparent reason.

Instead, he does the one thing which makes sense.

“Greetings, my name is Xander Wrothgar. Thank you for your assistance.” – Xander, introducing himself to the nearest of the companions, who just happens to be Harold.

“My name is Harold Oakenshield, and you are welcome.” – Harold. Behind him, Aeva transitions back to her natural form and offers a hand to the hulking warrior.

“And you no longer have an arm.” – A running joke based on the truly obscene Strength and Toughness scores Xander boasts.

Yohan asked about the money here too, which caused us to go quite in-depth regarding the coins and their values. I honestly don’t remember why I went with 12 coppers to a sulver, but I’ve stuck with it.

“Why not make it easy and go with 10?” – Ladyhawk.
“Because that would be six-ist.” – It took a moment before the collective groan went up.
“I’m ****ing done hey.” – Delphi, laughing.
“That was just bad.” – Ladyhawk.

Various other greetings are exchanged, and they pretty much just assume that Xander will tag along with them, at least until they get out of the temple. Safety in numbers and all that.

Back shortly. :smallsmile:
Welcome back. :smallsmile:

“So that chest over there…” – Aeva, pretty keen to check out the chest on the other side of the water.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t. There’s something in the water. I can’t see what it is, but I’m guessing that Xander here was probably going to be sacrificed to it. Good chance it is one of the Beasts.” – Kel’Serrar. If Xander is alarmed by the disembodied voice beside him, he doesn’t show it.

“So swimming is out of the question… What about flying?” – Breanna.

They ask how high the ceiling is. I answer around 16 feet above the water’s surface.

“I can fly over there, but I wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to break into the chest if it is locked.” – Aeva.

“Can you turn into something big enough to carry me over there?” – Breanna.

“Potentially, yes. Maybe. Even better, I might be able to just give you wings…” – Aeva, thinking about the suggestion.

“That ceiling is not really that high. Whatever’s in the water might still be able to jump out and get you.” – Xander, cautious.

“I’m going to try and communicate with it in what little Ancient Invarrian I can. I succeeded on the Charisma Check.” – Dev.
“Right, but, well, what are you going to try and say?”
“Ancient thing, come out so we can discuss things with you.” – Dev, to the laughter of most of the table.
“This is the same guy who tried to charm people by punching them repeatedly.” – Sins.
“Like me or die!” – Dev.
“Would you like to discuss politics? Maybe have some tea and a scone?” – Delphi.

Kel’Serrar quietly mumbles an incantation under his breath and the water is illuminated by a soft silvery light, revealing a dark shape against the rocky bottom. His earlier guess was correct, the silhouette matches that of the Beasts Under the Waves.

“I think we’ll go anyway.” – Aeva, who grabs Breanna by the shoulder and concentrates briefly before great brown wings spring from the excited Leathe’s back.

“Okay, let me just tie this around you.” – Xander, who ties a rope around Breanna’s waist.

“What’s this for?” – Breanna.

“If the Beast jumps out and gets you, this way we can pull your mangled corpse back in.” – Kel’Serrar.

Aeva shifts into her hawk shape and she and Breanna quickly fly over the water, hoping that the creature below them will not attempt to harm them in flight.

They are left unmolested and safely arrive on the far bank where Breanna pulls forth her lockpicks and sets herself at the task of opening the chest. Inside lies a pile of ancient coins, a handful of arrowheads, some truly gigantic pauldrons, a couple of knives and daggers, a necklace and a rich, black cloak folded in the bottom. The chest looks like it is simply radiating preserving magics, which explains both the intact state of the items inside and the blueish sheen emanating from the steel of the knives and pauldrons.

Aeva turns back to her natural form and they split the loot between them, leaving the coins behind. They turn and fly back over the water.

The Beast erupts from beneath and grasps Breanna as she flies, pulling her down into the strangely illuminated water. The Leathe’s left leg is left lacerated by the strike and she is struggling to swim with the sodden great wings around her and the Beast’s claws still deep in her flesh. The rope Xander helpfully tied around her was shorn apart in the Beast’s initial strike. Seeing her fall, Xander and Harold start to strip off their armour once more. The Invarrian takes two daggers and dives straight in. Xander tries to be a little more circumspect and readies himself on the bank, massive greatsword in hand.

Kel’Serrar nocks an arrow and readies himself to shoot at the Beast if it resurfaces, but is taken aback for a moment by Aeva taking the form of a hakal and plunging into the water herself.

“Before Maebh’s turn, LD, I need you to roll a Strength Check.”
“Oh ****, 89… I’m going to re-roll that one.” – LD, preparing to use a Luck Point.
“Actually, you pass. It was a Grapple Check, you only had to roll better than the Beast did.”
“Far out, what did you roll?” – LD, amazed that an 89 could still be a pass.
“Yeah, not well, but I never do.”
“Unless rolling to hurt important NPC’s. Then your rolling turns deadly.” – Sins, rubbing salt in the wound.

Bleeding profusely from the gaping leg wounds, Breanna feels the Beast’s hold on her lessen, presumably due to the shock of having a whale fall on it. She struggles to the surface and tries desperately to get out of the deadly, ice-cold water.

“Couldn’t she just fireball the lake?” – Dev, pointing at Ladyhawk.
“No, she’s in the lake.” – Pointing at LD.
“No, her.” – Dev, pointing at Ladyhawk again.
“Yeah I know, but she’s in the lake.” – Pointing at LD once more.
“So am I.” – Delphi, helpful.
“So are you Dev.” – Sins, quietly.

Breanna is startled at first by a gentle nudge beneath her, but it is only Aeva, who guides the wounded assassin to the safety of the shore where she is seen to by both the druid and Kel’Serrar. Harold and Xander follow them out, dripping wet. The Beast has disappeared.

Maebh starts a small fire and the companions take some time to rest a little and dry out, particularly Breanna, who is still in a fair bit of pain.

“Seven degrees of success on the Heal Check, with Aeva’s aid.” – Sins.
“Seven degrees! Far out, good stuff!” – LD, echoed by the cheers of the rest of the party.
“I did actually optimise Healing from the start guys, remember?” – Sins.
“No, we just remember the poison sumac.” – Ladyhawk.

They take the opportunity to have a quick bite to eat, and to hand out the loot from the chest. Harold gets a large curved dagger of an ancient Invarrian design, the blade of which carries a green sheen. Kel’Serrar takes the five arrowheads, ensorcelled bodkins, and starts fixing them to the shafts he has been crafting in his downtime with some enthusiasm. For Breanna, a keen knife, again glinting with that same greenish sheen as Harold’s dagger and Kel’Serrar’s arrowheads. The necklace is taken by Aeva as she recognises the jewellery’s affiliation with spirit magic, while Maebh takes the rich black cloak. Lastly, Xander takes the gigantic pauldrons. 

They resolve to head back out to the previous room and try the other door. Xander takes point, tower-shield first, warhammer clenched in a meaty fist. Harold is next, followed by Aeva, Maebh, fire wreathing her spear and providing light to the companions, and finally Kel’Serrar. Breanna sits on Xander’s shoulder, holding on to his horn with one hand, mini-crossbow in the other.

“I have a turret.” – Yohan.

Xander opens the door and the party troops into the room. Ahead of them lies another expanse of black water, presumably a separate body of water due to the lack of silvery light emanating from it. Kel’Serrar casts his illumination spell once more and the water glows with silvery light, revealing a massive shape under the water, a creature of great size with many limbs.

A few minutes pass where they discuss how they would escape if the temple sinks. They all have a potential way out, save Xander, who they decide would be best served by tanking the water.

Arms burst from the surface of the water and the calm of underground lake is disturbed by an ancient beast rising to the surface. The arms flail at the party.

“Arms or tentacles?” – Delphi.
“Can it be both?”
“Do krakens exist in Norbayne?” – Yohan.
“They do now.”

I basically made the kraken’s attacks play out as an environmental hazard. Simply remaining in the vicinity of the beast would open up the possibility of taking a hit. Characters with high Agility would be relatively safe. Characters with low Agility… Well, we’ll see how that turns out.

Some of the tentacles flailing about are tipped with bony blades, and all the tentacles are coated in some kind of viscous slime. Xander is knocked over by the impact of one of the tentacles, thankfully one of the ones without a bladed tip. Breanna flings herself free before the Feartarbh crashes to the ground, and even manages to retain her grip on her crossbow.

The kraken’s strikes are answered by a golden bolt of lightning which springs forth from Maebh’s outstretched hand. The creature roars in agony and it is smoking and blackened by the powerful arcane strike she delivered upon it. The lightning bolt didn’t kill the kraken, but it really didn’t like it.

From where she sits on the floor, hopefully out of range of the tentacles, Breanna looses a bolt from her hand crossbow, ostensibly at one of the kraken’s eyes. If she hit, it gives no indication.

Kel’Serrar and Aeva both back away from the creature, the former back out the door with an arrow nocked and aimed at the kraken’s body, the latter with spear in hand and spell ready to cast. She then rethinks the situation, and turns into a mouse. And then turns invisible.

“I’ve almost died too many times lately. I’m taking no chances.” – Delphi.

Xander picks himself up and takes an almighty swing at the tentacle which rests nearby after knocking him to the ground. The heavy head of the warhammer pulverises the fleshy appendage, severing the last foot of it. What is still attached to the kraken retreats back, black blood spraying everywhere as the creature trumpets its pain yet again. The severed end of the tentacle spasms on the ground.

Harold meanwhile takes out his boarding axe and hurls it with all his strength into the kraken’s face, figuring that targeting the body would be more likely to cause significant damage than going for the tentacles. It hits home and the beast’s agony intensifies, as does the thrashing of the tentacles, but the Invarrian does not think he caused any lasting damage.

“Ladyhawk, use a telekinesis ability to take my axe out.” – Dev.
“And then use the same ability to put it back in. But harder this time. More deadly.” – Sins.

The tentacles lash out once more and both Harold and Xander decide to try and take the blows head-on. Xander receives the strike on his shield, and his knocked back slightly. Harold meanwhile shears through one of the bladed tentacles, but the severed appendage whips around and tears a rent through his armour and across the Invarrian’s chest, splattering his fur with a corrosive mucous. Gritting his teeth and ignoring the slight sizzling on his chest and neck, Harold continues the fight.

We took a moment to view the Shark-ira video here, which is a gift to humanity.

Breanna, ignoring the pain in her leg, pounces upon one of the tentacles and plunges a knife into the flesh. It jerks away from her, and she faces a split-second decision. Does she let go of the knife and possibly lose it, or does she hold on and let the tentacle take her?

LD failed the Dexterity Check to retain her weapon, but I was feeling nice, so I asked LD for a Strength Check to see if she had the opportunity to hold onto the knife, which she rolled a 00 for.
“So you have two options. You can choose to let go of the knife, or you can-“
“Or you can just strangle the whole kraken with that roll. Your choice.” – Ladyhawk, to great laughter.

In a heartbeat, Breanna decided that while her carving knife has sentimental value, her life has infinitely more, and she lets the blade go.

Wrapping his arrow in magics which ensure it will fly truly, Kel’Serrar steps forward and looses in one smooth motion. The arrow sails across the cavern and punctures the creature’s eye. With a few spasms, its blackened and smoking body flips in the water, belly uppermost, tiny central brain skewered on a grey-fletched arrow.

The ancient kraken of Werencha is dead. Aeva goes into hakal form and retrieves Harold’s axe and Breanna’s knife.

“So the kraken is dead. Sorry guys, that is literally all there was in this room.” – With a laugh.
“See I told you I wanted to opt out of this room.” – Yohan, to Dev, both laughing.

The companions take another few moments to try and take stock. Harold does his best to patch up his rent cuirass, and he and both Breanna and Xander were spattered with corrosive mucous, which they spend a fair bit of time scrubbing out of their fur in the ice-cold water.

Until repaired, Xander and Harold are both operating at -2 to their torso armour values due to the kraken’s acid mucous stuff.  I ruled that Xander’s shield and their weapons were unaffected.

Sins again rolled very well to heal, this time to patch up Harold, who took a nasty strike in the battle.
“I noticed that there are no healing spells for the Guardian.” – Yohan, while we’re all getting drinks after a hectic combat.
“Healing spells? What healing spells?” – Sins.
“There are no healing spells.” – Dev.
“Can that be a thing?” – Yohan, curious.
“No.” – Deadpan, just about everyone in the room.
“Is there any kind of magical first aid at all? Like just a wound-closing kind of thing?” – Yohan.
“There is a Talent available to most spell casters, which gives a bonus to Healing Checks which is supposed to represent using their magic to try and help the process.”
“There’s also battlefield cauterising. If you’re bleeding out, I can cause a little bit of damage to stop that bleeding by setting you on fire basically.” – Ladyhawk.
“That sounds like you would make it hurt more than the bleeding.” – Dev.
“Take your medicine Dev.” – Ladyhawk, the stone-cold killer.

After recovering once more, the companions troop back to the room they found Xander in, hoping to find another door. After a few minutes of fruitless searching, they eventually decide to just have Xander make one in the wall directly to the right. Doing so opens up a long hallway, which they walk down until they find a closed wooden door, banded with iron.

Opening this door reveals another long hallway, which Harold starts to walk down before he is stopped by Kel’Serrar.

“Around ten paces ahead there is a snare trap on the floor.” – Kel’Serrar, quietly, with a hand on the Invarrian’s shoulder.

Harold nods his thanks and Kel’Serrar helps to guide everyone carefully over the line. Despite all their searching and magically assisted sight, Maebh and Kel’Serrar cannot determine the purpose, nor function of the trap.

Beyond the trap there is another heavy door, which leads to another long hall which opens out into a room, the stone floor to the left of which falls away into more dark water. Kel’Serrar illuminates this body of water too, revealing a moderately sized doorway approximately eight feet beneath the surface which leads into another cavern.

Unfortunately, Delphi was struggling at this stage, feeling a bit nauseous and unwell, so Aeva pretty much dropped out of the session for this part as Delphi tried to recover for the finale.

“So who is going to go explore?” – Maebh, clearly hoping it won’t be her.
“I would, but there are no spirits here. I am growing weak. I must rest.” – Aeva, who has turned very pale in their time in Werencha. Shaking a visibly weary, she sets herself down on the ground, with the injured Breanna. Xander places his, admittedly musty and dirty cloak over the two of them.

“I will go, for as far as my breath can take me anyway.” – Xander, once again stripping his armour.

And I will leave it here for now…

The Wrap-Up:
This session has taken an absolute age to write up. I am not quite three hours in, and quite a bit of the action of the temple of Werencha hasn’t even occurred yet, but it has taken me around twenty hours of work to try and complete even this small offering.

I was really happy with Yohan’s first session with us. Xander is a really entertaining character and Yohan himself really fits the group well I think.

We’re going to play again this Sunday, so hopefully I can finish Session 5.3 by then. I also hope to have an interlude up by Sunday too.


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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #37 on: March 28, 2020, 02:32:26 AM »
]Session 5.3 (b): Our Goal Has Been Reached

“Ek njota smidad vid foerad brenna vid inn myrkr, daudr vid inn verdr eda lif vid inn firar Varri.”
- Inscription on the blade of the Gilded Sword of Werencha.

“I was forged to bring light to the darkness, death to the deserving and life to the people of Varr.”
- Harold Oakenshield’s reasonably accurate translation.

We resume with Xander Wrothgar, who is currently walking down a submerged hallway, able to see only by the light of Kel’Serrar’s Starlight spell, which is illuminating the very water Xander is walking through.

Meanwhile, back on the bank, the other companions watch over the Feartarbh and take a well-deserved rest. The harsh conditions are taking their toll, particularly on Aeva.

“So why did your people build an underwater temple?” – Maebh, to Harold.

“It wasn’t always underwater I believe. Plenty of parts of this structure look like the ground was solid rock before whatever event occurred to drive it into this lake.” – Harold.

Xander re-emerges from the water and shares what he found.

“There is an underwater corridor through that archway. The corridor leads back to the kraken room.” – Xander, drying himself off near the fire Maebh quickly conjured.

“How do you know this?” – Harold, likely not thinking clearly due to the heavy hit he sustained earlier.

“I know this on account of the giant kraken corpse still floating in that room.” – Xander, blunt.

“Fair enough.” – Harold, with a slight smile.

“Unfortunately that was as far as I dared to go. I was running out of air fast.” – Xander, strapping on his armour and then helping Breanna up onto his shoulder once more.

“I think I may have some strength left.” – Aeva, getting to her feet.

“If you intend to go scouting we can’t have you getting hit.” – Kel’Serrar, laying an invisibility enchantment upon the Selkye.

Now invisible, the sick druid slips into the water as a hakal and with a slight splash and a ripple, is gone, visible only as a faint grey shadow in the light of Kel’Serrar’s illumination spell.

She swims down the corridor and comes to the corpse of the kraken, where she makes a promising discovery. Hidden away in an underwater alcove under the shore where they fought the kraken not that long ago, is a tunnel, which leads down into the darkness.

Having found a potential way forward, Aeva goes back to her companions and informs them of the tunnel. They resolve to meet in the kraken room and Aeva sets out underwater again, this time to scout out her newly found tunnel.

Carefully, so as not to disturb the still water any more than necessary, Aeva/Hakal swims through the black tunnel, using the echolocation of the hakal to try and guide her way, hoping that anything in the area will not be able to pick up the high-frequency sounds.

She emerges from the tunnel in yet another submerged hallway, but this time she is not alone. Judging by the faint shape she can make out in the water, it seems to be one of the Beasts themselves. Thankfully, it does not seem to have noticed her presence yet. As quietly as she can, Aeva tries to turn and head back to the kraken room.

She is not careful enough.

The Beast launches into action, unable to see her, but able to feel the disturbances in the water and just sense her presence. The talons of the Beast manage to catch a glancing blow on Aeva/Hakal’s tail as she swims, but it doesn’t manage to get a good hold of her. It does however keep pace with her as she swims at full pelt back up the submerged tunnel towards the kraken room.

Aeva practically flies out of the water and beaches herself on the bank, which immediately puts the companions on alert. They can only see her as a very vague outline, but they hear the splashing and shuffling as she tries to pull herself up onto land. The water is still illuminated by Kel’Serrar’s earlier spell, and it reveals the shape of the Beast well under the surface.

Kel’Serrar and Maebh stand ready as Aeva turns back to her natural form and tries to pin the Beast in place with a magic snare. She succeeds, and the creature is unable to keep swimming. It drops like a rock to the very bottom of the underground lake.

Harold grabs a spear and tosses it to Xander before taking another for himself and the two of them stand on the very edge of the bank, ready to stab anything that comes to the surface.

Breanna meanwhile, ignoring the fact that losing control of a daemonic entity while receiving a piggyback ride would be quite unfair to her steed, tries to fling an aethyric dart at the Beast, but is unable to hold the power together long enough to coalesce it into a dart.

Aeva feels a straining in her mind, and then a sharp pain as the Beast breaks free of her trap with a surge of will. It knows there is a powerful caster among the companions, and can sense that Maebh is the most powerful of them, and so it tries to sink some insidious tendrils into Maebh’s mind. The Danann shrugs it off with some effort, but is quite scared by the ancient and otherworldly power which just brushed against her consciousness.

While this is happening, Breanna manages to fling a dart down into the silvery depths, but the magical attack has no real effect on the Beast. Xander and Harold look at each other and dive straight in, spears outstretched. Together, they pin the beast on the polearms.

Between the two of them they rolled 72 Damage on it, before Toughness reduction though.

They bring the skewered corpse back up the surface, and again set about trying to dry off and warm up around Maebh’s conjured fire. They study the corpse for a small while, noting the massive black eyes, razor-sharp talons and the sandpaper-like grey skin. Repulsed, they throw the corpse back into the water.

Aeva heads back to the corridor she encountered the Beast in. There are two heavy doors which seem to be holding the water in this room. Aeva picks one at random and bashes it down with her snout, which causes the water to drain out all over the floor of the room it reveals. She sends a Whisper back to the other companions.

“I am safe. Go back to the room we found Xander in, and then head through the southern door. Follow the water.” – Aeva’s Whisper.

In the far right corner of the room is another dark cavern, filled with black, salt water. The cavern leads downwards into a tunnel, and the companions strip off most of their armour and their outer clothing. So far they’ve done their best to try and stay out of the water as much as they can, but now they all need to swim to go any further.

Breanna checks over her books, and is both surprised and glad to see they survived her earlier submersion. They all leave the majority of their weapons behind, putting their faith in unencumbered speed.

“Xander, can you lock this door behind us?” – Harold, not realising that there’s an exactly 50% chance this could go horribly wrong.

“Yeah sure.” – Xander, thankfully choosing the lock he carries a key to.

Having left a lot of their gear behind, the companions dive into the black tunnel.

* * *

They emerge after some underwater twists and turns, into a rocky tunnel. It is completely without light, until Kel’Serrar uses his power to conjure a faint silvery light everywhere. The floor of a stretch of the tunnel ahead is covered in water, which they traverse as quickly as they can, Breanna still using Xander as her own personal steed.

There are two passageways on the other side of the watery section.

“Which way are we going?” – Maebh, after they have crossed the stretch of water.

“Left. Always go left. If you always go left then you can just default right out. Doesn’t always work, but it is a reasonable bet.” – Xander, sharing his wisdom.

“We could possibly split up?” – Aeva, weakly. The swim seems to have sapped the last of her strength, and she leans very heavily on her spear, skin pale.

“No. Several of us are wounded already. Let’s not do that.” – Kel’Serrar, testing the edge of his dagger.

They move forward, Xander first with his claymore, Breanna on his shoulder with knives ready. Kel’Serrar with his longsword and dagger is next, and crucially his Ring of True-Sight which they want right up at the front of the party. Following him is Maebh, with Aeva/Mouse safely in her pocket and last is Harold, two swords in hand. They figure that if anything sneaks up on them, better that Harold is there than one of Maebh or Kel’Serrar.

In this formation the companions follow the tunnel, which winds ever so slightly down. Several parts are quite narrow, which is hard enough for Harold, let alone Xander. Luckily they had already left their bulkiest equipment back in the main part of the temple, and so they are not hampered by their gear.

Finally, they arrive at a massive double door, made of a dark iron. Whatever the material is, it looks similar to the material used to forge the statue of the Beast Under The Waves which they encountered earlier.

Upon the door is a carven scene depicting a great flood and destruction being wreaked upon the world. Engraved in the iron above the door is the following inscription in Ancient Invarrian.

Quote from: Inscription upon the doorway.
Inn firar er bella vid vada sasi dyrr munu falla, nema inn firar eiga inn megin vid heimtamt vid Marglodmaegir. Gaetinn vid Shakarli. Gaetinn vid Hossaevargangr…

After taking some quick notes to keep the inscription for posterity, Harold nods to the others and opens the doors. A room is revealed before them. To the left is yet another stretch of dark water, presumably a waterway which leads to another section of this gigantic complex. To the right lies a massive shrine, crafted from the same dark iron metal that these creatures seem to favour. It depicts almost a hundred statues of the Beasts Under the Waves, which seem to be engaged in some kind of rite, or perhaps combat.

But it is the denizens which were kneeling in front of the shrine, which now stand and produce all manner of rusted and corroded bladed instruments of death, which command the attention of the companions.

These people were once Invarrians, pilgrims of the same kind which the companions faced and defeated earlier, but these look as if they have been down in the depths for far too long. They have been blessed, in their fashion, by the Beasts they have taken as their gods, and have been remade to suit the world the Beasts wish to bring into being.

These pilgrims have almost all lost their fur, but are covered in skin similar to that of the Beasts’ themselves, like grey razorblades. Their heads are great fanged maws, like those of sharks, with teeth like serrated knives. Their fingers are webbed.

But it is the eyes which are most disconcerting, black and lifeless.

“The Invarrians are the dog-people right?” – Yohan.
“Yo.” – Dev, in acknowledgement.
“Yes. Dev’s people.”
“Dude, your people are ****ed up.” – Yohan, to Dev.
“Aye, at the moment, yes, they are.” – Dev.
“So does that mean these things are dogfish?” – Sins.

Silently, the dozen mutated creatures stalk towards their new prey.

“Can I try a Charm Check?” – Dev.
Collective groans and a few facedesks.
“Ah, yeah sure. For everyone who wants to rely on Dev’s Charm attempt, feel free to skip Initiative.”
Everyone, including Dev, rolls Initiative.

I’m all for them trying to talk their way out of situations, but, well, does anyone honestly think that a shark can be reasoned with?

“I understand that you probably want to kill us all, but can we perhaps try to discuss just what is happening here?” – Harold, swords held before him in a tentative guard.

The lead mutant lets out a bestial hissing sound and charges Harold, axe raised.

“You get the feeling that they didn’t even understand you.”
“That’s a solid feeling right there. I can understand why you would feel that way.” – Yohan.

Kel’Serrar surprisingly springs forward with his longsword in hand, striking at the lead mutant, but the blow is deftly parried by his chosen target, the ranger’s lack of experience with the melee weapon evident.

Maebh looses a ferocious gout of flames from her outstretched hands, which incinerates two of the mutants where they stand, and causes another two to recoil in instinctive fear of the fire. Taking advantage of the confusion, Harold springs forward into their midst, blades flashing. Unfortunately, these are quite formidable opponents, and Harold is only able to fell one of them, one of his blades severing the horrific creature’s head.

Xander pushes his way forward, and a golden orb of energy springs into being around him, which grants some protection to his allies.

Xander pulled off a Shield of Courage, which grants armour bonuses to all allies within a certain radius. It is one of the highest casting value Guardian spells in the game.

The Feartarbh immediately draws the attention of four of the beasts, and the hulking warrior trusts to his inherent toughness to weather the two strikes which hit him.

Even without armour as he is, with Shield of Courage Xander negates 15 Damage from every strike. Against many enemies, with his plate armour this makes him almost untouchable. But then, this happened.

*rolls Damage*
“Okay. Exploding dice.”
*rolls Damage again*
*rolls Damage again*
*rolls Damage again*
“Right, sorry Yohan, that’s 40 Damage on you…”
“That puts me at… Just below half health. That’s bull****.” – Yohan, laughing.

If that strike had hit anyone else in the party, even a fully armoured Harold, they would be dead, probably at least twice over. But Xander is a truly ungodly tank.

Unfortunately, Xander either forgot he had left his armour behind, or underestimated the savage ferocity of his opponent, because one of the mutants cleaves an axe straight into the Feartarbh’s side and then rips a ragged chunk of flesh loose from his shoulder with a ripping bite.

“Hold on LD, I’m going to Frenzy.” – Yohan.
“Oh ****.” – LD.
“You’re not even going to try and restrain it?”
“Well I can roll, but I won’t be able to stop it.”
*Yohan rolls his Willpower Check*
“Yeah, that’s a 90.” – Sins.
“I’m bracing myself.” – LD, laughing.
“I should probably look at getting her a saddle or something.” – Yohan, hopefully joking.

“Hold on Breean-AAAAAAARRRRGHH!” – Xander, as he goes into a blood-rage.

The Leathe manages to not only hold on to the giant Feartarbh’s horns, but is actually almost looking forward to the ride, as Xander goes fully on the offensive.

“Awww yiss. I’ll call out occasional directions to you.” – LD, to Yohan.

One mutant strikes at Kel’Serrar, but the ranger is surprisingly able to parry the blow.

“This is up there with the weirdest sessions we have ever had.” – LD.
“You think? I’m not sure. The murder mystery in Urik’s Landing was just, ‘what the **** man?’ the whole way through.” – Dev.
“Yeah that one and then Bat-**** Insanity were the two weirdest ones before, but this one is up there I reckon.” – LD.
“This one overtook them as soon as I started making melee attacks.” – Sins, to general laughter.

Back in a moment. :smallsmile:

And we have returned once more. :smallbiggrin:

Harold takes a glancing blow from a mutant’s knife as three of the creatures converge on him, but the duellist’s speed and skill is able to keep him safe. Kel’Serrar backs off slightly behind the Invarrian, his initial burst of optimism ruined by his abject inability to cause any damage in close combat. Maebh readies an action just in case the mutants overcome their fear of fire and try to engage her.

And then Xander cleaves into the mutants with his claymore, splitting one completely down the middle with an earth-shaking roar.

“Can I roll to Intimidate the rest of them?” – Yohan.
“Yeah sure. If you’re using the whole splitting an enemy in half, then the roll is keyed off your Strength, with any Intimidation modifiers you might have.”
“Does that include the bonus to Strength that Rage gives me?” – Yohan, questioning.
“Yes of course.”
“Right, so with Rage, my Strength is actually 105 at the moment. So my Intimidate roll just needs to be under 130.” – Yohan.
“Holy ****!” – Just about everyone.

The three mutants still on Xander back off, respecting his prowess and sheer strength. Two of them move towards Harold, while the third attempts to engage Kel’Serrar. One of them lands another glancing hit on Harold, but does not cause any significant damage. Kel’Serrar, now facing two of the mutants decides to fight as defensively as he can.

“Maebh, help, please!” – Kel’Serrar, desperately ducking and weaving.

The mage releases another gout of amber flames, washing over the mutants attacking Kel’Serrar, immolating both of them. Half of the horrific creatures have been felled now. Only six remain, and four of them have Harold surrounded. The other two are stalking Maebh and Kel’Serrar, trying to avoid both the mage’s golden flames and the enraged Feartarbh in the middle of the conflict.

Caught up in the whirling of blades, Harold puts a mutant down and causes a serious injury to another, simultaneously avoiding all their return blows. He is soon joined by the roaring Xander, who charges in claymore first. Yet another mutant falls under the warrior’s blade and the Feartarbh’s charge carries him into the one Harold injured earlier.

“So Strength Check to knock him Prone thanks to Smite.”
“What’s your Strength again?” – Ladyhawk.
“Yeah, 105 at the moment. *rolls* And that’s a 05 on dice.” – Yohan.
“Right, ten degrees of success… That is obscene.”

The mutant pilgrim literally goes flying, pulverised by Xander’s attack. He smashes heavily into the stone wall on the other side of the room and crumples to the floor, undoubtedly dead.  From her vantage point on Xander’s shoulder, Breanna throws a dagger into the throat of one of the mutants stalking Maebh and Kel’Serrar, who both gang up on the other one and put it down with spear and sword.

The last mutant is despatched by Harold’s blade, and silence falls on the room once more, punctuated only by the heavy breathing of the combatants and the last little spasms from the butchered mutants.

Xander falls to his knees, the red-rage leaving his eyes as the extent of the damage done to him becomes apparent. He is seen to immediately by Kel’Serrar, who pronounces that the giant warrior will live, and applies what bandaging he can.

The companions take a little time to study the statues before them, which show no signs of movement, though the angle of the carven waves gives an illusion that they may be crashing over the scene. Of the statues of the Beasts themselves, their eyes glint with a ruby gleam and they appear to be locked in some kind of internecine war.

Harold takes a few moments and tries to pry out the ruby eyes of one of the statues with his dagger, but doesn’t get anywhere.

On the other side of the room is yet another dark underground lake, and once again Kel’Serrar exercises his power and illuminates it, revealing a large archway, again submerged. Together, the companions dive in, and eventually emerge in a round room, most of which is submerged. There is a small section of stone floor, and right on the edge of the floor and the water, stands a tall podium, roughly hewn from the rock, and within which, embedded almost to the hilt, is an ancient blade.

“In true Arthurian fashion, a sword in the stone which apparently can only be drawn by the worthy.”

The companions get up onto the stone floor and then stand there, observing the blade with wariness. To those who can see such things, the blade is fantastically magical and almost seems to exist in multiple realities at once.

“So, who is worthy?” – Kel’Serrar.

“Honestly, probably Harold. I’d be concerned about whatever power might be watching over this temple knowing if someone other than an Invarrian touched the sword. Harold’s our best chance I think.” – Xander, which the others agree with.

“So what happens if, say, the temple starts coming down around us if we take it?” – Maebh, concerned.

“Right, so here’s the plan. You all head out, except you Maebh. We’ll give you around ten minutes headstart before I try to take the sword. If the temple starts falling apart, you’ll at least have a reasonable chance of making it out alive. If it doesn’t, we’ll meet in the entrance room. If the sword won’t release itself, Maebh can send you all a Whisper and you can come back and we can try someone else.” – Harold, coming up with a very reasonable plan.

They agree and the party troop out, save for Harold and Maebh, who hands the sleeping Aeva/Mouse over to Kel’Serrar before they leave. The minutes pass with agonising slowness until eventually Harold and Maebh decide it is time.

The Invarrian approaches the podium carefully, and gently, reverently, grasps the hilt. He pulls, again gently at first, but then harder until he is straining with all his might, until finally, the blade shifts and he draws it out, revealing a gleaming golden blade, impossibly sharp and etched with runes in Ancient Invarrian.

There is a sound like distant grinding and Harold and Maebh immediately dive back into the water and swim for their lives. They race past the statue-shrine, ignoring the alluring glint of ruby eyes. When they reach the camp the companions had set up before, they discover that the others had already grabbed their gear, and so they do not stop running and swimming as fast as they can.

Finally they round a corner and see their companions standing in the entrance room, warming themselves around a fire Kel’Serrar managed to light using scrounged up axe-hafts from defeated pilgrims. They are all rugged up, and Aeva is almost being force-fed soup in an attempt to try and help her recover from her ordeal.

“Did you not hear that grinding sound?” – Maebh, as Harold grabs a spare bit of oilcloth and wraps up their newly acquired ancient relic.

“No, we didn’t. Doesn’t look like the place is coming down around our ears though. Want some soup?” – Breanna, replying to Maebh, with a bowl of piping hot soup in hand.

* * *

The companions make their way to The Tide Tremor, which is somewhat surprisingly, still in good shape and unpillaged, moored on the eastern coast. Xander resolves to join them after hearing of how the Devourer is not just a local problem, but a potentially world-ending one. He and Breanna strike up quite a close friendship, but with that said, Breanna just about gets on with everyone.

“So the Prophecy of the Three Coins right, the prophecy I was sent to Norbayne to properly investigate to begin with? You know how the theory is that we are the ones who carry the Three Coins?” – Harold, sitting the group down to have a quick chat in the captain’s cabin. A world map lies on the table before them.

“Actually no. Breanna told me a little about it, but she didn’t tell me everything.” – Xander.

“When birds clash in fields of Summer, the struggle will be resolved by those who dare wield the Gilded Sword.” – Harold, reciting from memory.

“Birds clashing in fields of summer must be the conflict between Elspeth and Naille around Summer Hill. The eagle and the robin, or whatever the Naillish sigil is.” – Kel’Serrar.

”Artefacts they shall possess, three in number and forged into vicious circles, coins of an ancient and powerful currency, an eternal link to the Aethyr. Only those of the utmost strength and the purest of intentions will bend the true power of the coins to their will, and they shall do so, bringing fire and death to the lands of the Queen of Eagles.” Now if we are the bearers of the Three Coins, then we’re supposed to bring fire and death to the lands of the Queen of Eagles, presumably Elspeth, which suggests to me that she might be quite involved in all this business. - Harold, offering his own interpretation.

“Seeing as that is where the coins themselves are from, seems like a good bet.” – Maebh.

“We don’t know the coins are from Elspeth, do we?” – Harold, questioning.

“Not really, but we do know that Brewer was working for Elspeth, and had occult connections there. There is a good chance the coins were a gift from someone of Elspeth. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were from the Queen herself. She’d have the resources to at least procure artefacts like these coins and would probably be better served by lending them to someone who could use their power in enemy territory than try to use them herself.” – Kel’Serrar, delivering his own well thought-out theory.

“The wielders of the ancient artefacts will be heralded by the demise of the Lord of Wolves, who will rise again before the end, the Bastard King, cursed to hold power for but a short while and the Storm’s Scourge, lord of the waters, yet undone by them.” – Harold again.

“Well I put the Lord of Wolves down.” – Breanna, smug.

“Yes, but according to prophecy he’s getting straight back up again by the sound of it.” – Kel’Serrar.

“The Bastard King was probably Tremor.” – Aeva, quietly.

“And the Storm’s Scourge, I reckon was the Stormlord of Varr. Lord of the waters, yet undone by them? Fits a reaver-king who drowned in sea-water.” – Harold, darkly.

“So the Wolf King may not be completely dead… Do we go back to Dreven and try to put him down properly?” – Kel’Serrar.

“I don’t know about that. I’m concerned about Elspeth. I think we might be running late on the fire and death in Elspeth. I fear that they’re much closer to their goal than we realise.” – Maebh, worried.

”If fail these companions do, death will reign in all the lands and the Devourer will come forth to reap its harvest. If success they can achieve, the Devourer’s reaping will be postponed for two-score, four score or fifteen-score years, but one cannot halt destiny forever. Thrice before has the Devourer been defeated, but it is ever poised to swing the Scythe of Doom and unleash the Greyflood.” – Harold, finishing his recitation.

“Scythe of Doom sounds quite… Problematic. Let’s go with problematic.” – Xander, quietly.

“On the plus side, if we succeed, we put their plans back by at least two-score years. There’s a good chance that if we do this, we may not ever need to worry about it again in our lifetimes.” – Breanna, not realising that Maebh and Kel’Serrar at least probably still have quite a long life ahead of them.

“First things first though, let’s just try and stop them.” – Harold, rolling up his map.

"Now I know we are on a time limit, but if we are up against the end of the world, then I really need to try and find my family. Harold and I heard rumours when we were in Nordtarnet that they were in Southreach. My mother is a Seer herself. She might be able to help us." - Aeva, hoping to convince her companions to come with her.

"Aye, family is important. I would like to go and talk to Helga myself before we leave. Shall we got to Ravnsalm and then Southreach?" - Harold, putting it to the rest of the party.

"Family is everything. Yes, we go to Ravnsalm to ensure Helga's safety, and then we find your family." - Breanna, solemnly and turning to Aeva.

Maebh and Kel'Serrar silently nod their agreement.

"I owe you all my life. Amongst my people, this means a great deal. I will follow you, wherever you may go, until you release me, or death takes me." - Xander, hand over his heart.

The companions look slightly awkward.

And we left it there…

The Wrap-Up:
This session was a pain in the arse to write up. Most of the writing in Part A was actually documenting only 20 minutes of gameplay. All in all, these two write-ups took me approximately thirty hours to write, which is really not an efficient use of my time. :P

We have a session on Sunday, which should be fun. We are pretty sure at this stage that everyone is going to make it. I will be very disappointed if this is not the case.

We also have an interlude, or we might do, which was supposed to cover what everyone wanted to do on the voyage from Varr back to Norbayne. I also haven’t gotten a definite on just where they are going, which has made trying to prep for the session an absolute nightmare.

We shall have to see.

I hope this was enjoyable. As always, please comment on here if you enjoyed reading it or have any questions.

Thanks for reading,

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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #38 on: March 28, 2020, 02:32:42 AM »
Session 5.4: The Vaults of Ravnsalm

“It would appear that there was a lost way of fighting in the fall of the Bovus Empire. Set on the shoulders of the greatest Legionnaires, Leathe auxiliaries from the Wardenfells could strike at the foes of the Bovus from an elevated position, or even weave magics from the safety of their companions’ shoulders. Specialised saddles were apparently crafted for this very purpose, but none seem to have survived to the present day…”
- From the works of Eohelm Byre-Wulfric, Lord Historian of Araecan.

"Welcome to Session 5.4."

"You actually have maps today!" - Dev, excitedly.
"Yes, I actually have maps."
"Not like in the write-ups. I was reading them last night and Sins asked me if I had seen the maps, which of course I hadn't. So I clicked the spoiler, and boop! INSERT MAP HERE." - Yohan, disappointed.
"The INSERT MAP HERE piece is without a doubt Norbayne's most common artwork."

With that said:
Spoiler: Map of Varr (click to show/hide)

It takes the better part of a week for the Tide Tremor to make it to the safety of Ravnsalm. Thankfully for the companions, they do not encounter any of the Beasts From Under the Waves, nor are they attacked on their voyage at all. Finally, after days of sailing, they are approaching the port of Ravnsalm, late in the afternoon.

In the distance, three Invarrian longships, moving very quickly and flying the banners of the Oakenshields. They hail from Ravnsalm, and it doesn't take long before they are within shouting distance.

"Who are you? State your purpose here!" - Captain of the lead longship.

"I am Harold Oakenshield and these are my companions! I wish to go home and talk with my sister!" - Harold, shouting back.

"We will escort you to the shore! I am sorry Lord Oakenshield, but we are under orders to question anyone who approaches!" - Captain Ironhull, who then gives orders to his crew to head back to shore.

The companions, aboard the Tide Tremor, follow the longships, wary of the welcome they may be about to receive.

* * *

Ravnsalm looks a bit different from the way it did last time they were there.  A very light snow falls upon the town, muffling footsteps and the sounds of town-life. They disembark at the northern docks and make their way through the lower market and to the Winding Path, the narrow road which climbs the sheer cliff between the port, the lower market and the town of Ravnsalm proper. The market is a sad sight, a far cry from the vibrant, bustling place it was almost a month ago. A handful of vendors still try, vainly to hawk their wares, but no trading ships are being let into the harbour, and so most merchants have simply given up. Almost a hundred stalls lie broken and abandoned.

Upon reaching the top of the cliff they see the craftsmen's district to the north, which is just about the most active part of the town. The clamour of hammer on anvil rings throughout Ravnsalm as the populace prepares for civil war.

"What is it?" - As Yohan starts laughing to himself.
"It's just that when you asked us all what we wanted to buy in the interlude, I finally thought of something. A saddle for Breanna." - Yohan, to general laughter.
"I am running off around three hours of sleep. This will probably keep happening." - Yohan.

"Why is everyone leaving?" - Xander, turning to Harold as they walk along the road in the centre of Ravnsalm.

"I've been denounced as a traitor and a heretic." - Harold, quietly.

"So no one wants to be under your rule? That's understandable." - Yohan.
"Well my sister actually rules the town, not me." - Dev.
"Yeah, but family names are easily tainted when your brother is a dangerous traitor." - Yohan.
"Basically, Harold is divisive and Helga's a bit of a ****-stirrer."
"Awesome, I love this town already." - Yohan, sarcastic.

Xander approaches one of the merchants, a fruit-seller, who is loading most of his goods onto a small wagon.

"Hello there. Why are you leaving friend?" - Xander, handing over some small-change for fruit.

"Our lord, Helga Oakenshield has, in her wisdom, declared that Ravnsalm is a safe place for people to come and escape the drownings." - Fruit-seller, irritated at this turn of events.

"So why would you wish to leave?" - Xander, taking the fruit he purchased.

"It's made this whole town a target, hasn't it? Brigands to the east are killing anyone who tries to bring food in to the town and burning the outlying hamlets. Hells, they've been bold enough to actually raid the town itself. We're slowly starving to death, and what's more, the drownings themselves are starting to occur even here. As much as Helga may wish it to be so, the town is no safer than the hamlets, and it is only going to get worse." - Fruit-seller, saddened.

"Surely a sanctuary like this is still safer than on the road?" - Xander, finishing his fruit.

"This is no sanctuary. It's a tomb, and I would prefer to take my chances in a large group with the brigands than stay here any longer. Half the guard plans to join us, so we will have just as much protection on the road as here in the town." - Fruit-seller, who bids Xander farewell.

The companions continue upon the road before coming up to the main gate of Herregard, the fortified keep on the northern edge of Ravnsalm, seat of the Oakenshield family. At the gate stands Helga Oakenshield, fully armed and armoured, with an expression of great displeasure upon her face.

"Tell me you didn't kill them." - Helga, her voice breaking with sorrow.

"I did not. I ended Windchaser up in Stillhet, but if you are speaking of Bjarn and Hosker, no, it was not me." - Harold, solemnly.

"I had to ask. The rumours coming from Isenhjem, I just... I had to ask." - Helga, distressed.

"It's okay sister. We will avenge him. Hosker will not have died in vain." - Harold, embracing his sister.

She returns the hug and then shakes her head.

"Please, come inside all of you and we will see to your clothing. You smell awful brother." - Helga, with a sad smile.

"Hey, we've been fighting ancient underwater beasts in their own territory and we're most of us wounded. There's a reason we smell." - Harold, gently laughing.

"Please, come on in and get yourselves cleaned up. After that, lunch and then we will discuss your next move." - Helga.

The companions follow Helga inside and are shown to rooms for their personal use. Baths are drawn and they find warm, comfortable clothing laid out on the beds when they return to their rooms. The fact that the clothes fit quite well for all shapes and sizes is simply part of the beauty of a raiding culture, which takes everything which might have some value.

After cleaning themselves up, they join Helga for an impromptu luncheon.

"I have gifts for all of you. First, I will open the Oakenshield family vaults to you. Centuries of takings have been stored in there, and you are free to take from that what you will. Secondly, I have for all of you letters of receipt, entitling you to a share each in the Oakenshield Trading Company. My personal thanks for keeping my brother safe and for doing what you can to help my home." - Helga, ushering forward the servant bearing the letters.

The companions receive the letters with varying degrees of gratitude.

"So these letters won't really help you out in the campaign as such, but it is a nice reward for your epilogue and life after the campaign finishes for your characters."
"Aww, neat." - LD.

"So, Harold, you found the Sword? May I see it?" - Helga, anxious.

Harold withdraws the blade and hands it, with great reverence, to his sister, who inspects the ancient craftsmanship and the inscription upon the blade.

"I do have a question for you, if you wouldn't mind." - Helga, handing the sword back to her brother.

"As you know, I have made it common knowledge that I consider Ravnsalm to be a safe haven from the encroachment of this cult, or whatever the hell these drownings are. However, this has led to quite a few events I am starting to believe, as is much of the populace, are repercussions. My question is thus: Should I continue admitting people and openly declare Ravnsalm against this business, or should I shut the gates now and try to prevent anyone from coming in, keeping everyone here already as safe as I can?” – Helga, deeply troubled.

“These cults are powerful sister, and are growing more so by the day. We cannot stay either, we have business to attend to, both personal matters and ones which pertain to the prophecy.” – Harold, grim.

“Essentially if things go downhill here, we won’t be able to save you. You would be on your own.” – Aeva.

“Especially since half the guard looks like deserting to go with all the merchants who want out of here. You’ll be very much defenceless.” – Xander, applying his recently acquired knowledge.

Helga nods to the Feartarbh. She already knows of the plan among the guards.

“Lock yourselves in, choose carefully those you trust.” – Kel’Serrar, looking surreptitiously around the room. After all, they don’t know who may be listening.

“I shall keep Ravnsalm secluded then. I cannot seem to prevent the party who wish to leave from going, but I would not see them murdered on the road. If I could ask one more favour from you all…” – Helga, sadly.

“Bandits?” – Harold.

“Indeed. Brigands in the wilderness to the north. They’re raiding, pillaging, killing. Preying on farmers. Picking off any merchants we try to send out to trade for food. I also cannot afford to send any guards out. I have no idea when we might be attacked again.” – Helga, sadly.

“Do not worry, we will take care of them for you.” – Kel’Serrar, quietly.

Helga nods her head in gratitude and makes to stand, but then remembers something.

“Oh yes, did you ever find Reinn?” – Helga, questioning.

“We did. We found him. He believes himself an immortal, uh, being… You know how Stillhet was considered to be inhabited by fey or something? I can confirm that. It’s a ****storm. We may need to get priests or druids or shamans or something over there...” – Harold, petering out.

“So you found him, yes?” – Helga, confused.

“Yeah we did, but, well, he, uh, how do I put this?” – Harold, uncomfortable.

“He ran away I guess.” – Breanna.

“Vanished might be a better term for it.” – Kel’Serrar.

“The heir… vanished?” – Helga, astounded.

“Ah, yeah. He didn’t really want to be the Stormlord anyway. He believed himself too dangerous for the role.” – Harold.

“Yep. Ran off into the wilderness or some ****.” – Breanna, to Helga’s astonished expression.

“Hey look, this whole trip has hardly been a great time for me personally.” – Harold, quietly laughing.

Helga gives the companions directions to the Oakenshield family vault, and a key to get inside.

“Would a locked door actually be any kind of deterrent to any of us at this stage?” – Sins.

The general consensus is in fact, no, but Helga would like to keep her door intact.

Upon reaching the vaults, they open the doors and uncover several rooms of cluttered junk. Plenty of it has already been picked over by Helga when she needed to outfit her militia, but there are still many, many pieces left behind.

I told them they could ask for anything at all and I would roll to determine whether it was there. Yohan went first and asked for a shoulder-mounted saddle for Breanna’s use. I rolled very low, and lo and behold…

Xander searches for only a few moments before he discovers the saddle of his dreams, chocolate brown and crafted from the finest Northland leather, it is clearly intended for some usage other than a common steed. He takes it eagerly and happily leaves the vaults, taking Harold’s armour with him to get it repaired.

In the end they get the following items:
- Breanna: A hoard of crossbow bolts and finely tooled leather vambraces.
- Xander: The saddle.
- Aeva: Claws made of electrum, engraved with Runes of Rending.
- Kel’Serrar: Reinforced leather jerkin.
Due to the players talking about bacon, eggs, potatoes and vitamin C, I cannot figure out what else they got. They did get two enchanted rings with unidentified effects and Maebh picked up some kind of improved armour.

* * *

It is early evening when Kel’Serrar points out a disturbance in the woodland to their right. They have been on the road for a good few hours now and the weak sun is slowly sinking under the horizon. Xander and Harold have point, with Breanna and Aeva/Hawk sitting on the Feartarbh’s shoulders. Maebh and Kel’Serrar walk behind them, eyes darting around looking for any sign of the brigands.

“There are Invarrians in the undergrowth over there to the right.” – Kel’Serrar, who immediately cloaks himself in invisibility.

Eight arrows fly through the air towards the companions, from both the left and right hand sides of the road. Thanks to Kel’Serrar’s quick warning, Xander is able to get his shield in between three of the incoming arrows and the party. One arrow punches into Harold’s shoulder, barely penetrating the plate of his cuirass.

Aeva flutters into the air, barely avoiding two more arrows which flash over Xander’s shoulder.
“I’m a pretty bird.” – Delphi, laughing.

Maebh’s eyes glow gold and the sky overhead grows swiftly darker. Thunder cracks above and rain starts to sheet down, making archery even more difficult than the already failing light did. Despite this, Breanna takes her crossbow and looses a bolt at random into the bushes to the right of the road, aiming roughly for where the arrows came from. To her delight she hears a strangled yelp from someone she hit. Giggling a little to herself, she reloads the weapon. Maebh takes note of this, and resolves to send some lightning in there the first chance she gets.

Kel’Serrar, invisible, makes his way stealthily through the undergrowth and uncovers a group of four Invarrians with longbows in hand. Two of them are wearing chain, which immediately makes him think they are too well equipped for mere bandits.

On the road, a band of seven Invarrian brigands, armed with a mix of spears, axes and shields charge out ahead, angling for Xander and Harold. There is a particularly large Invarrian at the front, armed with a broadsword and a massive roundshield. Even in the deepening shadows of the overcast evening and the steadily increasing rainfall, Harold recognises the man as his own cousin, Dagor. One of the brigands hurls a broad-bladed spear at Xander and the hulking Feartarbh turns it aside with a deft movement of his shield.

“Dagor, you traitorous bastard!” – Harold, drawing blades and charging towards his cousin.

“Harold! I missed you cousin.” – Dagor, taking his sword in his shield-hand and drawing an axe from his belt, which he hurls with all his might. The heavy weapon sails far wide.

“You certainly did. Your aim has not improved!” – Harold, mockingly.

Xander concentrates for a moment and a golden orb of energy blazes to life around him, matching ones doing the same for Maebh and Harold. The Feartarbh, shield still covering Breanna as much as it is him, keeps pace with the furious Invarrian beside him.

Above, Aeva/Hawk flies over the group to the left of the road, and unbeknownst to her, over the invisible Kel’Serrar. She alights on an overhanging tree-branch and prepares to unleash some kind of clawed assault on them.

Maebh, following Xander and Harold into combat, raises her hands and with a great cry causes a wall of sheer force to smash into the majority of the brigands. Five of them are blasted backwards and left broken on the ground some yards away. Golden lightning flashes down from the skies above, immolating three archers on the right-hand side of the road and one on the left.

Harold bashes Dagor’s shield to the side and thrusts a blade into his cousin’s chest. Dagor roars in pain and swings wildly in return, which Harold deftly deflects. Xander moves up beside the duelling pair, ready to support Harold if necessary. Breanna draws a knife and flings herself onto the surviving raider, tackling him to the ground and repeatedly stabbing the little blade into his throat. She then sits on the corpse and pulls out a peach to munch on as she observes the remainder of the combat.

Kel’Serrar, still concealed and invisible in the treeline, spies Dagor and Harold duelling and decides to play some part in this. Weaving some malicious magic together, he sends the tendrils of confusing magic deep into the brigand leader’s mind.

Dagor immediately drops his blade on the ground.

“I have defeated you cousin. You should have realised there was no way you could have defeated me!” – Dagor, fully caught within Kel’Serrar’s Cruel Disappointment spell.

Confused by this turn of events, Harold’s blow stops a mere hair-breadth from Dagor’s throat.

Aeva takes the shape of a dagger-lion and springs from her vantage point above the archers, crushing one instantly and sinking her sword-like fangs deep into another’s neck. The last archer there looses an arrow at the gigantic predator, but the arrow flies way wide. He curses and runs, but Aeva/Lion is far swifter.

The last archer, on the other side of the road, takes aim at Maebh, but he is obviously distracted by the fact that his three compatriots around him were all spontaneously immolated just seconds before. The arrow does not trouble the mage in the slightest. She responds with yet another lightning bolt.

Breanna gets a bit annoyed with Dagor’s continued ranting and shanks him in the heel with her knife and he goes down.  Xander involuntarily flinches.

“You filthy scum. How could you believe you could stand against me!?” – Dagor, lying on the ground.

“Why are you here?” – Harold, eyeing Breanna disapprovingly.

“You think you can question me? Filth! I am one of Ovar Windchaser’s favoured. He ordered us here, and promised me lordship of Ravnsalm if I could disrupt your bitch-sister’s plans.” – Dagor, with obvious pride in his voice.

Aeva pads around to the party and takes her natural shape. Beside her, Kel’Serrar rematerializes.

“We have only a few minutes before he snaps out of it.” – Kel’Serrar, quietly, as the rainfall starts to lessen in intensity.

“Right. Tell him to lose his pants.” – Aeva, laughing.

“No, spare him his dignity. He fought honourably.” – Xander, gruffly.
“Why am I the only damn good character? Harold and Kel are unapologetic murderers, Breanna’s a borderline psychopath, Maebh’s a torture-nut and Aeva is…” – Yohan.
“There’s no borderline with Breanna’s psychopathy…” – LD, quietly.
“Aeva is?” – Delphi, sweetly.
“Adorably evil I think.” – Yohan, laughing.
“I am not evil!” – Delphi.
“I am not evil, I just… I just don’t care anymore I think.” – Dev.

We then get a little bit sidetracked talking about the meanings of the characters’ names.

“How many men did you have?” – Harold.

“Ovar Windchaser himself placed his trust in me and I will never betray it. He gave me twenty-two of our finest reavers. The five who aren’t here are out on the east road at this very moment, laying a trap for those fools leaving Ravnsalm.” – Dagor, again very proud.

“Do you have a stash and where is it?” – Harold.

“Everything we took, we either ate it or burnt it.” – Dagor.

“Okay, remove your pants please.” – Aeva, who has had enough of this.

Dagor starts to try and remove his trousers, but Xander steps forward and tries to stop him.

“No! No! Get your filthy hands off me!” – Dagor, screaming his defiance, all the while trying to wriggle out of his trousers.

“Why?” – Harold, who can only muster enough enthusiasm for a single syllable.

“I’m just trying to lighten the mood with some light-hearted entertainment.” – Aeva, sweetly.

“This is not light-hearted entertainment, this is evil, taking advantage of someone while their mind is not their own. This man fought valiantly and you are disgracing him.” – Xander, who has picked the writhing Dagor up by the back of his trousers to prevent him from taking them off.

“I am in command of my own mind!” – Dagor, still sprouting obscenities and trying to remove his pants while hanging from Xander’s ferocious grasp.

“An unrepentant brigand who mercilessly slaughtered innocents on the road is excused by a moment of heroism?” – Maebh, quietly.

“There’s also the matter of turning against his own family.” – Harold, a little louder.

“No family of mine you filth!” – Dagor, still hanging from Xander’s fist.

“Oh he will still answer for his crimes, but this is sadism, not justice.” – Xander.

“You’ve not been with us very long Xander. Sadism is kind of what we do.” – Breanna, trying to diffuse the situation. Or enflame it further. I’m not certain. 

“Why did you betray us, your family?” – Harold, quietly.

“Ravnsalm. Windchaser promised me Ravnsalm.” – Dagor, just before Kel’Serrar’s malicious hold over him falters.

“Oh gods, what just happened?” – Dagor, who is released by Xander and falls to the ground.

“Would you like the mercy of a swift death cousin?” – Harold, quietly.

“Didn’t I just kill you? No, it seems you killed me.” – Dagor, realising the severity of his wounds.

Harold hands the defeated reaver his flask of rum, and helps him drink some of it, then draws a knife.

“It hurts cousin. Please, make it quick.” – Dagor, weakly.

He bares his throat. The knife flashes.

The companions make a large pyre and pile up the corpses before heading back to Ravnsalm.

* * *

“Dagor… Our own family, I can scarcely believe it…” – Helga, visibly upset by the news.

The companions are seated in Helga’s meeting room once more. Various alcoholic beverages have been served, and Harold in particular is making steady use of it, obviously shaken by the run in with his cousin.

“Five more of Windchaser’s men are on the road to the east too.” – Maebh, solemnly from where she stands in the corner of the room. She alone is not seated at the central table, instead looking out the window at the grey sky.

There is silence for a time until Wolfgang puts his forepaws up on the table and looks around for any treats. Breanna pushes him back down with some difficulty. Both of the marcwolves have grown quite significantly in size now, and they are both quite unruly. One positive though, is that Breanna is fully capable of riding Wolfgang into battle if she chooses.

 “I will make sure guards are sent to ensure they are dealt with. You have more important issues to deal with.” – Helga, who pours a hefty amount of brandy in her glass before downing it in one draught.

“Indeed. Southreach, to find Aeva’s family. We will resupply there and then go on to Norbayne.” – Harold, putting their plan forward.

“Then I wish you all the best of luck. May the Golden God and the God of the Waves smile on your voyage.” – Helga, who then turns to Aeva. “And may you find your family safe and well.”

She then turns and embraces Harold fiercely.

“Come back to us Harold. I’ve already lost one brother. Don’t make me farewell another.” – Helga, whispering in Harold’s ear.

“I will return. I promise.” – Harold, quietly returning the hug.

And we will leave it there…

The Wrap-Up:
So this was actually just half a session, but it seemed that this was the best way to wrap up Arc 5, since the second half of our session after lunch seemed to cover what we wanted to do in the interlude and set up our next arc quite nicely.

Apologies for the length, or rather lack of.

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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #39 on: March 28, 2020, 02:33:02 AM »
Session 6.1: How to Disappoint a Farmhouse and Alienate People

…Such clubs were rumoured to be the meeting places of ‘persons of quality’ who wished to take part in socially perceived immoral acts, and the members were often involved in politics. Neither the activities nor membership of the club were easy to ascertain, for the clubs were rumoured to have distant ties to an elite society known only as The Order of the Second Circle…
- A Dissertation on the Helvetilds of Southreach, penned in the year 1242 CE.

Welcome to Session 6.1: How to Disappoint a Farmhouse and Alienate People

The companions arrive in the Bay of Spears, approaching the town of Southreach, ostensibly the capital of the realm of the same name. It has been a journey of about six weeks since they left Ravnsalm, and they have spent the time recovering from their exertions. They have been completely resupplied out of Helga’s treasury and each have a number of nice warm outfits to ward off the cold northern winds. Interestingly enough, Harold's birthday passed on the voyage, quite uneventfully.

“Here it is. Southreach.” – Harold, as the Tide Tremor glides into the quiet dock.

I was asked here about the various animals the companions have picked up over their travels.

Down in the hold, Toirneach and Amadeus are calm. By now, both are old hands at these sea voyages, and the creaking and confined spaces no longer worry them as such. Kel’Serrar sits down there too, a lantern providing him with just enough light to practice his woodwork.

On the deck above, Aeva/Hawk sits on the mast, observing everything quietly, hoping that her family can be found. Below her, Breanna plays with Wolfgang, throwing a stick from port to starboard for the young marcwolf to chase and bring back to her. Harold stands by the ship’s wheel, expertly guiding the vessel with Bach standing vigilantly beside him. Xander sits nearby, ready to lend his considerable muscle and weight to the cause if anything physical needs doing. In the main cabin which she has commandeered, Maebh sits reading, a glowing ball of amber energy illuminating the text. Slumbering on the floor beside her, Crithtaluin, now the size of a large dog, makes slight rasping noises with every breath.

Spoiler: Why They Are Here: (click to show/hide)

It is early morning when the companions arrive, and the rising sun illuminates the massive stone castle on the eastern edge of the township, around which the town was built, well over a century ago. On the surface, Southreach looks peaceful but it is a façade.

Setting out into the town, it is quickly apparent that, in what is becoming somewhat of a common theme, Southreach is being deserted by the populace.

Spoiler: Map of Southreach (click to show/hide)

Aeva sits down on a rocky waterfront and enters a trance to communicate with the spirits in the area. They are just starting to awaken once more after a long and harsh winter, slowly bringing some life back to the land. One small water spirit approaches the druid and curls around the arm of her astral-form.

”What is happening around here little one?” – Aeva, in a gentle and friendly tone.

The spirit explains that they are all frightened by a powerful daemonic entity which is focusing its power on a small area somewhere in the northern part of the town. It also shares its concerns regarding irregularities in the tides and how much it longs to be swept out to the greater ocean one day.

Understandably, Aeva only shares the information about the powerful daemon with the rest of the party. Breanna agrees to go and find a map of the town somewhere so Aeva can point out exactly what part of the town to avoid/investigate.

Xander sees a marketplace, with not a lot of merchants plying their wares. He finds a fruit merchant and buys two coppers worth of fruit. (Another recurring theme.)

“What brings you to Southreach my friend?” – Fruit-merchant.

“We are searching for the family of a friend. Rumours said they had been seen in the area. I would like to know though, why are people leaving?” – Xander, munching on a pear.

 “A few things. First of all, the business with Nordtarnet to the north. That bloody Dwergar won’t stop expanding his borders. The hysterics say his armies are moving south as we speak.” – Fruit-merchant, darkly.

“The others should be pretty familiar with what happened in Nordtarnet…”
“Yeah, yet another recurring theme actually. Everywhere you guys go, things go pretty badly.” – Yohan.
“Well we did rescue one town.” – Sins.
“You did? Which one was that?” – Sarcastically.
“The one which is now probably in ruins since I said that.” – Sins, laughing.

Xander spends the next few hours helping out around the docks, offering some muscle for hire in loading ships and shifting goods, earning a little coin.

Harold takes his equipment and finds the town’s last blacksmith, a stocky and dirty Dwergar, and gets it all looked over, an excuse to engage in much the same kind of small-talk as Xander.

“Two reasons. The first is because of that bastard up north. Haha, he wasn’t the bastard was he? That was his brother if I heard it right? Doesn’t matter, this one is a right prick and he’s attacking everyone he can get his grubby little hands on. He’s got some queer ideas regarding people who aren’t of Dwergar stock too, namely that they need to die. As you can imagine, most everyone in this town wants out. I’ll probably be alright though. I’m a dwarf, same as him, and I’ve got some skill with a hammer and forge. I might get forced to outfit his army, but that’s less work than relocating at my age.” – Dwergar blacksmith.

“What did you think of Tremor?” – Harold.

“Who?” – Blacksmith.

“Tremor.” – Harold.

“Who?” – Blacksmith.

“Tremor.” – Dev.
“Yeah I heard! The character doesn’t know who you’re talking about.”
“He doesn’t know who Tremor is.” – Yohan, in a stage whisper.

“So those rumours I tried to spread about Bain being the real bastard didn’t work.” – Dev, upset.
“If they did spread, they might not have spread here. Or this guy might just not be that clued in.” – Ladyhawk.


“I see. You mentioned a second reason people were leaving?” – Harold, fishing for more information.

“Oh aye, the Helvetilds. They were thought to have gone extinct, if you can use the term for a club, but they’ve re-emerged now what with all the crap going on to the north. They say they’re daemon worshippers, boys who are looking for a bit of a thrill.” – Dargrim, the blacksmith.

“What else do they say about them?” – Harold.

“They practise blood magic and they go around wearing masks made from animal heads. Or so they say. Sounds pretty messy to me.” – Dargrim, rolling his eyes.

“Thank you for your time.” – Harold, taking his gear and leaving.

“Oh, the authorities are blaming them for some fires in the last few months. They’ve been ‘arson’ around! Get it!?” – Dargrim, laughing at his own brilliance.

Harold smiles politely and walks away, groaning inwardly.

Harold rejoins the other companions and they make their way to an inn for lunch, a cosy little establishment on the edge of the town’s main road. Maebh takes the horses into the inn’s stable, having left Crithtaluin safely asleep on the Tide Tremor. Wolfgang and Bach are left tied up outside the establishment, where they happily doze together, in the process preventing a few potential clients from entering. The companions take a table in the corner, struggling to fit Xander’s massive frame into the booth, despite the increased scale inherent in all Northmann manufacture.

Harold and Aeva head to the bar to order food and drinks for the group, and Aeva strikes up a quick conversation as the burly, bearded Northmann pours the ale.

“Other than myself, have any Selkye been seen in the area? Refugees or anything like that?” – Aeva, earnest.

“Not for a little while now. Last Selkye I saw was a little family who headed down the coast to the fishing village of Breddvind. They wanted to build a new home I recall. Literally just a fifteen minute walk out the south-east gate lass.” – Gilvar, the friendly barkeep. 

“Do you recall what they looked like? How many of them were there?” – Aeva, desperate for information.

“Ah short, and dark-haired, as your people tend to be. A man there was, and his wife, and a daughter. The daughter looked like you, and had one of those strange sea-dog things your people like to keep. And the man’s eyes, pale blue they were, just like yours.” – Gilvar, scratching his chin thoughtfully.

Aeva leans over the bar and gives the massive man a hug, tears glistening in those pale blue eyes.

“Thank you so much.” – Aeva, quietly.

She and Harold return to the companions’ table, drinks in hand and share the news.

“Everyone used to comment on how similar my sister and I looked, and she took our hafhund, Narta with her when we fled. She loved that dog. I’m sure it’s them. I can’t believe that now, after all this time I am so close.” – Aeva, happily to the others as they settle down for their meal.

* * *

During the time between landing in Southreach and meeting up again in the tavern, Kel’Serrar went and bought himself a light chain hauberk to wear under his jerkin, and he takes a couple of moments to go and put it on.

Coming back downstairs, he is just in time to catch the end of another argument between Harold and most of the party. It has been a fair while since Harold has been able to properly relax and have a drink, and that is just how he would like to spend the rest of the day. The others though would prefer to investigate a few things, namely the presence in the keep, the actions of the Helvetilds and the whereabouts of Aeva’s family.

“I will burn this place to the ground if you get drunk today.” – Maebh, hissing under her breath to Harold.

“If you and Aeva go look for her family and Xander, Kel and Bree go looking for the Helvetilds or whatever, you don’t need me. I haven’t been able to properly sit and have a drink for ages now.” – Harold, already looking forward to another nice, cool flagon of ale.

“Helga gave us plenty of alcohol when we left Ravnsalm. You’ve been drinking the entire trip over here.” – Breanna, quietly.

“Disclaimer kids, don’t drink and drive. Don’t be like Harold.” – Dev, laughing.

“Come on Harold, you should go with Maebh and Aeva to protect them if they run into trouble.” – Xander, cautious as always.

“They’re going to go find Aeva’s family in a fishing village down the coast, not heading off to battle.” – Harold, dismissive.

“Exactly, a fishing village down the coast. Do you honestly think anywhere near open water is safe now?” – Kel’Serrar, sitting down with a biting comment.

“Fine, I’ll go.” – Harold.

Breanna produces a finely drawn map of the town and lays it out on the table, allowing Aeva to mark down where she believes the spirits told her the daemon was exerting its influence. It appears to be right on the northern edge of the Craftsmen’s District, which is dominated by tanners.

“Right, let’s finish lunch and get on with it.” – Breanna, cheerful.

* * *

Aeva, Harold and Maebh:
The three companions head out the southern gate to the village of Breddvind, Bach trotting along happily behind them. It is only a short walk to the village, passing a couple of isolated hamlets on the way. One man drives a cart along the road, hauled by a shaggy ox and stinking of fish. Aeva smiles a greeting, but is ignored.

They arrive in the village and see a few people going about their daily lives. One middle-aged Northmann woman sits on the porch of her house, repairing a large net and Aeva approaches her.

“Hello there. Would you happen to know of any Selkye in the area?” – Aeva, cheerful.

“Oh no. I am sorry…” – The woman, who then silently points across the village to the burnt out wreck of a house.

“When did this happen?” – Aeva, now less happy.

“About a week ago.” – The woman.

Aeva shoots a dark glare at Harold, who has the good grace to look at least somewhat apologetic. Their sidetrack back to Ravnsalm likely cost them over a week.

“Was anyone inside?” – Aeva, daring to hope.

“One body was recovered. A young girl.” – The woman, sadly.

Aeva bows her head.

“Let’s go examine it closer Aeva. We might find something in the ruins.” – Maebh, placing a consoling hand on the Selkye’s shoulder. She takes Aeva over to what is left of the house, but Harold remains behind to question the woman further.

“Did they have any enemies in the village?” – Harold, quietly.

“No, definitely not. They were well liked, for all that they were not here for long. They seemed happy enough, and then one night we could hear these otherworldly noises, screams and roars coming from the house. We all locked up our doors and hid. The next morning the blaze was dying down and we were able to search the wreckage. No one looked too closely though.” – The woman, making a warding sign with her hand.

“Why is that?” – Harold.

“I don’t know what made those noises friend, but I will never forget them. It was altogether evil.” – The woman, who folds up her net and walks into her house, the door swinging shut behind her.

* * *

Xander, Breanna and Kel’Serrar split up to try and find some more information. They have assumed that the daemonic presence Aeva was able to discover in the northern part of the town must be connected to the Helvetilds, and so decide that they should do what they can to find out about both.

They split up for a few hours, wandering around the area trying to find something, anything at all.

Xander treads warily down an alleyway, and has some luck. Before him, on the ground lies a dusty brass amulet, the chain broken. Engraved upon it is a rather daemonic look goat’s head sigil. Naturally, Xander’s first reaction is to pick it up.

“Okay, let’s get a Willpower Check here then.”
“Aaaaaaah ****.” – Yohan, who takes his dice out of their bag.
Dev starts laughing.
“What is your Willpower?” – Ladyhawk, concerned.
“28…” – Yohan, who is already preparing for failure.
“I believe. You will succeed.” – Delphi.
“That’s a no.” – Yohan, upon rolling a 57.
“Yeah, not good.” – LD.
“Do I feel that this thing is going to do bad things to me?” – Yohan.
“It will do very bad things to you, yes.”
“Bad touch indeed.” – Delphi.
“So Luck Point yeah? ****!” – Yohan, re-rolling and then failing again.
“Can he spend 2 Luck Points and, just, pass?” – Dev.
“Yeah, no.”
“He can use a Luck Point and re-roll though right?” – Ladyhawk.
“He just did.”
“Oh crap. He can do it again though right? Pretty sure you’ve let me before.” – Ladyhawk.
“I may have, but that would have been very rare. As a rule, you can’t re-roll a re-roll unless expressly stated otherwise.”
“What about if I spend another 2 Luck Points to re-roll again?” – Yohan.

As this is what the Luck Point system is all about, providing almost a ‘barter’ between the GM and the players, I was happy to do that. Seemed fair.

As soon as Xander picks the amulet up he feels it start to burn in his hand and there is a slight pushing at the corner of his mind.

“Nah, **** that.” – Xander, throwing the amulet down on the ground once more. It stands on its edge where it lands.

He leaves it on the ground, but takes a mental note of where he left it so he can bring Breanna back later.

“Can I just ask what would have happened to him there?” – Ladyhawk, concerned.
“He would have been possessed by a powerful daemon.
“Oh ****.” – Ladyhawk.
“Yeah, there’s a good reason I threw it away from me.” – Yohan.
“We would have had to put you down somehow…” – Aeva, thoughtful.

They then spend a fair bit of time discussing the best way to take Xander down.

Being the hardened and unscrupulous criminal she is, Breanna spent most of the afternoon breaking and entering peoples’ houses and rifling through their personal belongings. She was generally unsuccessful when it came to finding any information regarding daemons or the Helvetilds, but she was able to line her pockets with some loose change along the way.

After Harold shared what he found out about the Helvetilds, Breanna did her best to confine her searching to the houses and rooms of well-off young men, and eventually this tactic paid off. Under the pillow of one young man’s bed she found a letter, the wax seal broken, but clearly depicting a goat’s head wreathed in flames.

Quote from: Formal Invitation from the Helvetilds
Dear Master Bogrufsson,

Your interest in joining the esteemed Helvetilds, or the Order of the Second Circle has been noted by several initiates and so we extend this formal invitation to attend the ceremony to be held on the Fifthday of Tenthmonth at the Lysirkel Estate at midnight.

You are expected to maintain a calm and respectful manner while engaged in activities with the Order. Please meet with the two initiates at the north gate of the town at a quarter-to the hour. They will be expecting you.

We look forward to your presence.

Breanna takes the letter, a small pouch of coins hidden under a loose floorboard, and flits out the window and back to the rooftops.

The Danann finds somewhere quiet to attune himself to his surroundings, and is almost overloaded with the feedback his senses receives. He can feel the presence of everything, the couple of hundred people who haven’t left Southreach yet, his companions, the horde of rats infesting the sewers beneath the town, even, at the very edges of his consciousness, the people in Breddvind to the south, and a small wolf-pack in the marshland to the north.

And a presence, not really alive but very powerful which dwells in the keep….

That place Aeva pointed out on the map earlier seems to be just about bereft of creatures, suggesting that they have fled, or they avoid the place now that the daemon has manifested there.

* * *

Aeva, Maebh and Breanna:
Aeva sits down at the edge of the foundations of the house and enters a trance. There are a handful of seelie spirits nearby, all of them busily trying to return some life to the land after winter, and Aeva is able to get some information from them.

The spirits share that the people who lived in the house were very friendly with them, and that they fled to the west one night before the fire. They aren’t able to share much more than that, but Aeva asks them to pass word on to them. The spirits are happy to try, but can’t guarantee it will work, as spirits are usually confined to an area. With that said, they may be able to try and pass a message along, and hope it doesn’t get too distorted by the time it reaches its destination.

”Brilliant. Thank you my friends. Please tell them Aeva is coming.” – Aeva, daring to hope that they may still be alive.

Fair bit of concern regarding how this could go horribly wrong here. They’re basically playing Chinese Whispers with spirits.

”Was the little one able to escape?” – Aeva, hoping that the girl found in the wreckage may not have been her sister.

She gets conflicting answers. Some spirits inform her that the little one left with the others, but others tell her that she was unable to escape the burning.

Harold and Maebh inspect the ruins of the house and Harold is able to find an amulet in the ashes, carved from nahvalur tusk into the shape of a stylised crescent moon. The very same amulet that Aeva herself wears around her neck. Harold hands the jewellery to Aeva and she accepts it wordlessly.

Asking around the village, it seems that everyone is blaming the arson on the Helvetilds. It is their way after all. As the Selkye were newcomers, the authorities have not exactly done much about it, much to Aeva’s disgust.


“Aeva, I think if we are going to find out what happened to your family and where they went, we need to find these Helvetilds.” – Maebh, gently.

* * *

It is early evening when the companions meet up once more in the tavern, the Old Speckled Hen, and discuss what they have learnt.

“Should we wait for Breanna?” – Harold, already into his third ale for the evening. The stocky Leathe has not appeared yet.

“No, she should be here any minute. What did we find?” – Maebh, taking charge.

“Well that place Aeva told us about near the Craftsmen District is dead. Nothing living wants to go there. There’s also something within the keep. One entity, I can’t tell if it is alive or not, but it radiates power.” – Kel’Serrar.

“I found an amulet on the ground not far from there too. It tried to attack me when I picked it up, so I left it behind. I don’t know enough about magic to say any more than that.” – Xander, still a little shaken by the event.

“I’d like to check that out.” – Maebh, quickly.

Just then, Breanna strolls in, Wolfgang trotting happily behind her. The Leathe sits down with a slight jangling of coins and throws the letter she procured on the table.

“We have an invitation to a private party. Can we go?” – Breanna, grinning.

“Why is it always midnight?” – Harold, reading the note.

“Full moon tonight too.” – Aeva, quietly.

“Typical.” – Harold, grumbling.

* * *

Back soon. :smallsmile:

And we are back! :smallbiggrin:

There are still quite a few hours until the midnight meeting, so the companions eat a quick dinner at the Old Speckled Hen and then head out to find Xander’s medallion, both Maebh and Breanna keen to have a look at it.

Xander is able to find the medallion again, and in the fading light, the companions cluster around it. Maebh and Breanna both bend down to examine it, careful not to touch the damned thing. Aeva meanwhile shies away as she can feel the spirits in the area warning her of the danger, screaming at her to get away from it.

All Maebh can determine is that the thing is definitely of Black Magic origin and that there is a horribly malevolent presence held within it.

Breanna though has far more luck. Immediately she can tell there is a daemonic entity bound within it. The daemons she drains of power are reasonably weak, ‘snaglings’ if you will. Occasionally she will attempt to draw in and drain a daemon of greater power, and that has backfired on her in the past. The thing within this medallion is at least five times more powerful than those. Whatever, or whoever, managed to force this entity into this receptacle must have been extraordinarily powerful or very, very lucky.

Breanna mainly tries to call upon Level 1 Daemons. Occasionally she will go after Level 2’s, but this is pretty rare. This entity is the equivalent of Level 10.

“Can daemons manifest in the material plane?” – Yohan.
“Yes they can, but they need to be brought into it.” – Sins.
“So if it is forced out of the amulet it will?” – Yohan.
“Probably be very angry.”

Aeva puts together a little carry-bag almost out of rope and a tarp from Xander’s kit and they are able to pick the amulet up. She can feel the presence within it is starting to get irate at being disturbed and the spirits are still telling her to drop it and run, but she steadies her mind and keep hold of it.

“Can we use the tarp as an improvised weapon?” – Sins.
“And then we need to kill the now-possessed enemy…” – Ladyhawk, pointing out the obvious flaw.

“I wonder, will my poisoned bolts work on a possessed enemy?” – LD.
“Poison bolts?” – Dev.
“For my crossbow. I’ve got half of them poisoned for damage and the other half poisoned to sedate.” – LD.
“But do you have any poisoned to seduce?” – Yohan.
“What?” – LD, laughing.
“Yeah I don’t know what that was about. I’ve got an alchemist character in another campaign and he uses pheromones to screw with people. I still don’t know what it was about though.” – Yohan, to more confused laughter.
“To answer your question LD, yes the bolts will work on the possessed enemy. Can’t guarantee just what effect they may have though.”

They still have a few hours before midnight, but decide to try and get an advantage on their enemies and scout the place out beforehand. They leave Southreach proper and approach the Lysirkel Estate as stealthily as possible. The hamlet appears to be deserted and possibly has been for some time, judging by the state of the iron gate across the path, propped open by the unruly undergrowth. Harold and Breanna briefly check out the dwelling’s interior and can see that whoever lived here did not have to leave in a hurry, but packed everything up and left at their own pace. Their departure was probably voluntary, and several months ago at least.

Any livestock they would have kept in the pens outside are gone, either taken by the inhabitants, turned loose or sold.

Aeva can tell that the handful of spirits in the area are apprehensive about what is to happen…

For Breanna, it is almost as if the air itself is crackling with darkness…

But it is Maebh who is most apprehensive. She knows a major magical event causes the equivalent of ripples in the material around it, like throwing a stone into water. The ripples that stone produces spread in the water both before and after the point of impact, and so it is too with magic. She can feel a dull vibration in the ground, the faint smell of ozone in the air, a feeling of wrongness all around. Magical shockwaves. Something big is about to happen and the companions are going to be caught in the middle of it. 

The companions spend a fair bit of time setting up in some kind of formation around the hamlet. Kel’Serrar makes himself and Xander invisible and alters Harold’s and Maebh’s features to appear like young Northmenn. Breanna cloaks herself in shadow and Aeva takes her hawk form and flies to the top of a nearby tree, depositing the bag with the medallion in it on a branch.

Kel’Serrar enters a trance once more and attunes himself to his environment, hidden in some long grass and guarded by both Xander and Harold. He can sense some animals around, birds in the trees, some rabbits and the like, but over time they start to vacate the area. Something seems to have spooked them.

Far to the north, a wolf pack howls up at the moon.

“So you’re saying that cute little bunnies can feel black magic, bad stuff?” – Delphi.
“Yes. They can.”
“How long before they start to throw fireballs?” – Delphi.
“They can sense it, not use it.” – Laughing.
“So far that’s been a recurring theme actually. The wildlife in the area has known about bad **** happening before we did.” – Ladyhawk.
“It’s primal instinct. People are just bad at it.” – Yohan.

I would have liked to have heard what they were planning here, but unfortunately I just got Yohan’s anecdotes regarding his colour-blindness and he and Sins discussing Hearthstone tactics.

It is almost an hour until midnight when a single figure is seen wandering up the path from the south. He is an Invarrian, quite young and lightly built. He carries a dagger at his belt and a large sack over his back, dripping a dark liquid behind him. He doesn’t seem wary of anything, and the companions allow him to walk through the gate, up to the house and enter unmolested and unaware of their presence.

Some minutes pass and there a crash from inside the dwelling and a startled curse.

To Kel’Serrar’s enhanced senses the shift in the air is palpable. All of sudden the air around the house gets very, very hot and for only a split second there’s an immensely powerful entity present inside.

As soon as he hears the curse, Xander starts moving towards the door, alert for any danger, joined pretty swiftly by Breanna. Aeva takes flight too and perches on the windowsill, looking inside. The Invarrian youth is standing before a huge round table, immobile as a gigantic flaming entity forces itself down his throat.

”The game is on everyone. He’s done something bad touch. Looks like he is being possessed by fire.” – Aeva’s Whispering Wind to the companions. Her nose starts to bleed as she casts it, but it is only momentary discomfort.

As soon as they hear Aeva’s message, the companions start to ready themselves. Taking up her spear, Maebh moves up, taking cover behind the fence of one of the livestock pens. She’s wary of disturbing the entity in the middle of the possession as it might view her as a more appealing target. Despite that, she does start to prepare some kind of casting. Kel’Serrar does likewise in his own manner, taking an arrow and nocking it.

Xander focuses and manifests an aura soft golden light around each of the companions, except Kel’Serrar, who would prefer to remain invisible. Xander’s own invisibility is dispelled by his casting.

The window before Aeva shatters, but she is able to avoid the storm of glass which whips out. She swoops back down and looks inside, seeing that the youth has disappeared and the table is charred and smoking. The air smells very strongly of smoke and ozone. Aeva/Hawk flies back to Maebh, landing on her shoulder.

“He’s not there anymore. I lost track.” – Aeva, panicked.

Harold turns around and notices with growing dread that the iron gate they walked through to get in is glowing cherry-red with heat. Slowly, the bars making up the fence levitate out of the ground and with a crack, shoot out at Xander and Maebh, leaving flashes of red in the air. Maebh is clipped by one of the bars and snarls at the burn across her shoulder, but Xander merely turns and accepts to projectiles with his shield, deflecting them into the house.
“I am wall.” – Yohan.
Xander focuses once more, this time on increasing his magical armour even further.

Kel’Serrar cannot see anything inside the house, but he knows there is something there and so he prepares an enchantment of accuracy on his arrow and lets it fly. The grey-fletched missile swings through the air in flight, disappearing behind the wall.

Harold has been keeping a lookout on the road, and now can see three more figures approaching. He runs quickly to Kel’Serrar and nudges the slightly built ranger in the ribs.

“Three people coming up the road.” – Harold, whispering intently.

“You take care of them then.” – Kel’Serrar.

I ask for a Perception Check from everyone and then a Willpower Check from everyone but Harold.

None of the companions can see inside, but from where they are it sounds as if there’s something throwing a tantrum in there. Things are being hurled around and hitting the walls, from pots to furniture. The house itself is starting to creak and the air itself is getting ever warmer.

Maebh’s body crackles with power as she cloaks herself in golden lightning, and then she manifests a glowing disc of aethyric energy in front of her, hoping to protect herself from those burning iron bars. Aeva/Hawk springs off Maebh’s shoulder and lands on one of Xander’s horns, and drops an arcane snare inside the house.

And then the house explodes.

I ask for Agility Checks from Aeva, Xander and Breanna.
“I’m not going to make that. Can I plant my shield and just try to take the brunt of it? My Agility is like 16. Let’s be honest, he’s not even going to try and dodge.” – Yohan.
“I have +30 to Dodge with Skill bonuses and Talents and I rolled a 1.” – LD, demonstrating the breadth of difference we have.
“What did you need to roll under to pass?” – Dev.
“Agility 56, +30 bonuses, I needed an 86 or under to pass.” – LD.
“But she could have 10 in Agility and still pass. ****ing Dice Jesus.”

Aeva is able to flutter up and away from the blast and is only slightly singed, some tail feathers smouldering in the night air. Breanna is able to avoid the blast entirely with her preternatural agility. Xander on the other hand grits his teeth, plants his shield and holds steady as the fire billows around him. He roars in pain as the fur on his arms and face is singed but he refuses to yield and eventually the flaming gale dies down.

The entire front of the house, and most of the floor of the second storey, has blown away, revealing a figure within, approximately ten feet tall. The head of the figure, if you could call it such, is reminiscent of a massive horned skull. The ‘body’ of the beast is made up of furniture and parts of the wall, feeding the infernal flames wreathing it, almost a parody of armour.

“Are we fighting a house golem?” – Sins.
“Kind of. A big, flaming house golem.”
“Still not the worst golem I have fought.” – Sins.

While Yohan decides what exactly he would like to do here, Sins starts going through his own options, and then finds one he really likes.

“Hmm, that might be cool.” – Sins.
“What is it?” – Dev.
“Cruel Disappointment. I could cast Cruel Disappointment on an entire house.” – Sins. Surprise surprise, right?
“Look at PG’s face!” – LD, noticing my confused expression.
“I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure how to even play that, but hey, we can give it a go!”

Xander sees the beast and feels something he hasn’t felt properly in quite a while, just the very first onset of fear, not so much for himself, but for the situation his new friends have found themselves in. Recognising the very real danger, he pulls out yet another magical trick, reinforcing their resolve and hardening their flesh before striding up to the flaming creature shield first, hammer gripped tightly.

Xander casts Last Gasp, which prevents him and his allies from dropping beneath 1HP for a whole turn. It burns a fair bit of Soulfire, and is really of limited use, but if you think you might get hit with a one-shot kill, it can save some lives.

“Okay, Sins, you’re up.”
“Cruel Disappointment on the house. And, I cast it.” – Sins, rolling and succeeding.
“I really don’t know how…” – Rolling the Willpower Check to resist and failing horribly. I just dissolve into laughter. I can hear LD screaming for no apparent reason in the recording.
“I think after this I need to retire Kel. I will never be able to top this.” – Sins, laughing.

The three Helvetilds coming up the road approach Harold, who still looks like a young man.

“What happened to the house!?” – The lead Helvetild, who can’t see the figure inside, only the inferno.

Dev gets a bit weird here. He says something like, “I am sooooo high, I have no idea bruh?” in what was, quite possibly, the most cringe-worthy impersonation of a stoned teenager I have ever seen or heard, before bursting into hysterical laughter, along with most everyone else.
“Roll that Charm Check Dev.” – Sins.
The bastard rolls a 03, which is something like 7 degrees of success for Harold.
“Today is a good day for the party, but the worst possible day for PG. I’ve made the house lose the will to live, but Dev did one better.  Dev actually made the campaign lose the will to live.” – Sins.

“I am so high, I have no idea.” – Harold, actually able to pass himself off as under the influence of some narcotic.

“So am I!” – One of the Helvetilds at the rear, a young boy with sandy hair under his hood. The other two don’t share the other’s enthusiasm.

“The bloody house is on fire! And what the **** is that!?” – Lead Helvetild, who seems older than the others they have seen.

He is, of course, referring to the gigantic figure which has just reach a flaming wooden hand out towards Xander and attempted to crush the Feartarbh, who rocks under the blow, grimacing under his shield.

“It probably looks like Heaven vs Hell in that house.” – Yohan, musing.
“Kind of, except in this case, Heaven also looks like a massive horned beast.”

“Okay Delphi, you’re up.”
“I’m going to try and Snare the mother****er and then Illusory Pit the mother****er.” – Delphi.
“This poor house is going to be driven insane. First it is having an existential crisis, so it just thinks it is a normal house, then it starts falling. And it’s just going to be like, ‘What is everything?’ I’m actually legitimately feeling sorry for this daemon. All it wanted to do was help a few kids destroy the world and we are breaking its mind.” – Yohan.
“Wait a minute, so if the house fails the roll to resist the Snare, due to Cruel Disappointment, it is going to think it succeeded… So, how does that work?” – Sins.
“See this is where I got stuck earlier when you said you wanted to Disappoint it earlier. Like dude, it’s a house. What is it going to do? ‘They sold me. They don’t want me anymore.’ I don’t know!” – To the ‘aww’s’ of disappointment from Ladyhawk and LD.
“See that is depressed house. Disappointed house would just be bemoaning not getting the kitchen wall repainted.” – Sins.

Aeva throws yet another Snare down, but if it has any effect she cannot tell.

Breanna thinks about it and decides to try something. She focuses and tries to harness some of the obviously daemonic entity’s power for herself. It roars in recognition at what she is doing and starts to stride toward her.

“I’m going to try and drain it.” – LD.
“Okay, roll over its Willpower. Good luck, it’s really high.”
“Just some casual boasting there.” – Ladyhawk.
“Not boasting at all. A warning, rather.”
“94!” – LD, triumphant.

The creature shrinks in size by about half a foot after Breanna’s mental attack, and the fires around it lose a degree of intensity. Now of course, it is the Leathe it sees as the main threat and it moves past Xander, intending to hit the little assassin.

Harold mutters a quick incantation and a couple of molten silver arrows fly out of the blade of his sabre, killing the lead Helvetild immediately. He then beats the other two unconscious and hides the bodies in the undergrowth.

After using the Silver Arrow Rune Tremor inscribed upon his sabre many moons ago, Dev was going to have Harold kill all three of the Helvetilds.
“Dev, are you killing children again?” – LD.
“Yeah.” – Dev, unrepentant.
“No! Come on Dev! Don’t do that, I need to ask them if they know anything about my parents.” – Delphi.
“They’re kids. People can be helped. Aren’t you supposed to be a ‘good’ character?” – Yohan, who obviously doesn’t know Harold that well. He then makes a sound which honestly sounded a little bit like he was breaking internally.
“Okay fine, I want to use Deathsword to knock them out.” – Dev.
“Different use of the Deathsword ability, but okay…”
“Calm down there mate.” – Dev, jokingly to Yohan.
“Argh! I just don’t get how you thought you were Chaotic Good?” – Yohan.
“Yeah in hindsight, not sure why I thought that either…” – Dev, thoughtful.

This conversation continued a little longer as Dev rolled Damage.
“These kids are probably not all evil. A few of them might be daemon worshippers, but I don’t think all of them are.” – Yohan.
“They’re just doing it to be edgy. Cause it’s the cool thing to do.” – Ladyhawk, nodding in agreement.
“It’s like a cult of ‘dab-ers’ and you’re killing them.” – LD.
“Ah, even I would probably kill a cult of dab-ers though. No offence intended. Anyway, point is, that kid you just killed might have just been part of the club cause it was the cool thing to do, and now you have to go knock on his mother’s door and tell her what happened here.” – Yohan.
“Haha, no I won’t.” – Dev, laughing.
“Yes, you will. I will drag you.” – Yohan, also laughing. I am pretty sure they were just joking about this.

Maebh smashes the creature with a torrent of magical water, causing it to roar in pain and stagger back a few steps, steam billowing from its ephemeral form. It shrinks in size again, and is now about same size as Xander. Hurt and disoriented by Kel’Serrar’s curse, it is unable to retaliate, though it believes it has blasted them with a roiling blast of flame.

Xander smashes into the creature shield first, trying to get its attention again. His warhammer smashes into the wooden board the daemon is using as a chestplate and cracks a sizeable hole in it, which liquid fire spews out of, burning the Feartarbh’s arm.

Seeing the opening Xander has made, Kel’Serrar enchants another arrow and looses it directly at the daemon’s heart. 52 Damage here from Kel’Serrar, which is probably the highest damage we’ve had on a single target.

Breanna tries to siphon some of the daemon’s power again, but is unsuccessful. She feels something inside her overload and break as the power drains away.
LD failed her opposed Willpower Check by a lot and then ended up losing a Magic Level for five days.

Maebh hurls another blast of water at it, hurting it badly. The creature drops to its knees and shrinks again in a burst of steam, roaring in pain. Hunched over, it looks up at Maebh, infernal flames billowing from the eyesockets of the skull forming its head. Flames blast forth from its mouth, but Maebh’s arcane shielding holds strong and Breana is able to dodge out of the way again, hissing in pain at the minor burns on her tail.

“Creature! Are you the one burning the houses down!?” – Aeva, trying to get some kind of answer from the daemon.

It stops roaring fire and then screams in agony and rage.

“RELEASE ME AND I WILL TELL YOU EVERYTHING YOU WISH!” – A raging bellow from the daemon which sounds like fire and destruction unleashed over a millennia.

“You’re going to trust a daemon?” – Dev.
“Do we have anyone who could potentially bind it?” – Delphi, who is doing no such thing.
“Maybe Breanna.” – Ladyhawk.
“Just a warning, this thing was approximately Level 10 and she usually deals with Level 1’s and struggles with Level 2’s.”
“And I’m now Magic Level 1 for five days. So that’s a no.” – LD.

“Careful! It’s going to try and take someone!” – Breanna, who has a split second to warn the others to shield their minds.

Xander stops, eyes wide and starts to shake violently where he stands. The creature disappears, the fire goes out and all the burnt furniture and wooden boards, the skull, everything which made up its body falls to the floor, charred and ruined or even in ashes. The golden auras Xander willed into being flicker and fail.

Xander stops shaking.

Yohan burnt a heap of Luck Points from the entire party to try and resist the possession, but failed three times.

Xander’s mind is burning, and he is trapped within it.

The daemon sits there, deep in his mind, pulling the strings to control the Feartarbh’s body like a puppet. Bars of red-hot iron and pain manifest around him, confining him, burning him even as he rails against the entity which has captured him.

“I AM KHUBUDEYN AND YOU ARE MINE!” – Khubudeyn, the daemonic entity which has taken Xander over.

Xander turns to the party, eyes blazing with infernal flame.

“YOU’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!” – Xander, a blazing inferno roaring in voice. The possessed Feartarbh drops his shield and warhammer and draws the massive claymore on his back, and the blade bursts into dark flames.

Kel’Serrar tries to enchant an arrow with unnatural accuracy, but is obviously thrown off a little by the events of the night and loses control over the casting. Grimacing as a cold wind blows through the area, Kel’Serrar fights off the headache from the arcane backlash and looses one of his three armour-piercing bodkins straight at Xander’s heart. The arrow hits home and rips straight through the Feartarbh’s heavy armour, almost dropping him.

We’ve finally met something Kel can’t drop in one hit. He did do 22 Damage with a single shot, and that’s after the 8 negated by Xander’s Toughness.

Locked in the confines of his own mind, Xander can’t help but lose himself in the ancestral rage of his bloodline. He smashes his fists against the mental cage the daemon has trapped him in and roars his anger and frustration to the daemon’s mocking laughter.

“No! I can save him! Don’t kill him!” – Maebh, brain working overtime to try and contain this situation.

“Feel free to do so. I’m going to keep shooting him until he goes down though.” – Kel’Serrar, calling back and nocking another arrow.

“So what’s your plan Ladyhawk? Cause I’m not that keen on dying.” – Yohan.
“I’m thinking Remove Curse, and if I pump it full of Soulfire it might be enough to just rip the daemon out.” – Ladyhawk.
“Will that work?” – Yohan.
“Sounds painful.” – LD.
“Yep, it can definitely work, and yes, it will probably hurt.”
“I’ve got a fair bit of the daemon’s own power I’ve drained from it. I can Channel that to you Ladyhawk.” – LD.
“Problem is, I’ve got to get up close and grab him cause the spell is on touch.” – Ladyhawk, who obviously doesn’t want to get too close to Xander and his now flaming claymore.
“I’ve got sedation bolts. Might work.” – LD.

Breanna darts forward, knowing that her little handcrossbow is not going to even get close to getting through Xander’s heavy plate armour, and so she darts forward, ducking under the possessed Feartarbh’s swing and flinging herself up and into her saddle. From point-blank range she pulls the trigger and watches the little bolt sink into the slab of muscle that is Xander’s neck.

Harold leaves the gate and starts sprinting towards Xander, blades in hand. He knows he is unlikely to get close enough, but figures he is more likely to be able to withstand a blow than any of the others.

“I am sick of daemons! Come attack me creature!” – Harold, brandishing the Gilded Sword.

The beast stops laughing and contemplates Harold, and Xander can see that its attention is drawn by the golden blade the Invarrian holds.

“That, would be a worthy prize…” – Khubudeyn, musing to itself.

Listening to this was quite interesting, as Yohan did his best to come up with something the party could do to put Xander down without Maebh using any Soulfire.

Aeva/Hawk pumps herself full of arcane energy and increases her size by an order of magnitude, now almost the size of a Warden Eagle with a nine foot wingspan and swoops down, grasping Breanna in her talons and pulling her clear of the rampaging daemon/Xander.

Xander forces the bars of the cage open and charges Khubudeyn, wrestling with the daemon for control of his body. For a moment, he is himself again, burned and bloodied, but he knows that it is only momentarily. He has only a few seconds.

Xander hurls his claymore as far as he can away from himself and then drops to his knees, hoping his companions will be able to kill him before he kills them.

And Kel’Serrar looses, an arrow flashing into Xander’s hip, punching through the Feartarbh’s armour, this time just a normal arrow.

“Aeva! Fly me down! I need to be able to touch him!” – Breanna, to Aeva/Hawk, who turns and swoops down again.

Breanna holds a furry hand out and for split second her hand brushes over the back of Xander’s head. The moment she feels contact, she pours all the magic she can into him, trying to force him into a magical coma.

Because Xander was able to suppress the daemon, this was resolved against Xander’s Willpower and he failed. Kuhbudeyn is now trapped inside Xander’s unconscious body.

“WHAT IS THIS!?” – Kuhbudeyn, throwing Xander’s consciousness away and raging against the forced lethargy Breanna has inflicted upon them.

Xander smiles tiredly, battered in the depths of his mind, and is trapped once more in a cage of red-hot iron.

Harold moves up with Maebh, ready to pull her away if Xander stirs. The Danann rests a slender hand on the Feartarbh’s head and prepares to receive Soulfire from Aeva, Breanna and what little Kel’Serrar has left.

Maebh burns more than 70 Soulfire to try and get enough bonuses to pull Kuhbudeyn out of Xander.

“AAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!!” – Kuhbudeyn, screaming as Maebh starts to exert her inexorable will over it. All Xander can do is watch and roar in pain as the daemon is forcefully ripped from his mind. It tries to grab hold of him as she pull it loose, and he can feel its claws tearing his consciousness into shreds.

“Kel, throw me your coin!” – Breanna, who has just been set down by Aeva.

The ranger pulls out one of the Three Coins and hurls it to the Leathe, who pulls her own out and then fishes around in Maebh’s pack to get hers too. Now with all of the coins, Breanna latches onto the dark tendrils and tries to split the daemon across them. The coins in her hands are starting to glow and burn with power.

Harold grabs Maebh around the waist and hurls her away, blades still held to threaten Xander just in case he makes a move. At the moment though, the Feartarbh is just shaking and convulsing on the ground.

Success. LD is able to completely bind Kuhbudeyn in the coins.

“Did it work Bree?” – Kel’Serrar, who has moved up to join the other companions near the prone Feartarbh.

“I’m sorry?” – Breanna, still panting.

“Did it work? Can I start patching him up?” – Kel’Serrar, still with arrow on his bowstring.

Wordlessly, Breanna nods. The coins in her hands burn hot and then slowly, start to cool. And then, thirty seconds later, a collective roaring groan can be heard, faintly emanating from the coins.

Kel’s Cruel Disappointment ended here.

Aeva, Maebh and Kel set to trying to patch up the unconscious Xander, and are able to remove the arrows and staunch the bleeding, but it is some time before the Feartarbh awakens from his dark dreams.

Xander cops an Insanity with six degrees of failure on the Willpower Check.

“I’m glad we didn’t kill you.” – Ladyhawk, with a hand on Yohan’s shoulder.

Maebh finds a cart in the barn, and Harold and Kel’Serrar replace the broken wheel with only a little bit of swearing. With a lot of straining, the companions struggle to bundle Xander and the two unconscious Helvetilds into the cart and Aeva takes the form of a seilbak to draw it back to the town. They leave Lysirkel Estate in flames behind them.

And we left it there…

The Wrap-Up:
So the next session stays in Southreach, trying to find some information about Aeva’s family and to determine what this presence is in Southreach’s keep.

We still have Session 6.2 to come, and Session 6.3 is being played this Sunday.


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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #40 on: March 28, 2020, 02:33:25 AM »
Session 6.2: There and Back Again

”...Whatever those companions found in that keep, it was not of this world. Flesh rotted and simply died under its touch. Flames would gutter and die. It was as if all life simply suffocated in its presence. How they managed to kill the thing, no one knows…
 - From the records of the Southreach guardhouse on the events of the 30th Day of Secondmonth, the year 1649 of the Common Era.

Welcome to Session 6.2: There and Back Again.

The companions head back to Southreach and Xander wakes up along the way, insisting on walking. The guards at the north gate try to stop them, but one look at Xander is enough to make them reconsider. The evil amulet is rolled up tightly in the tarp-bag Aeva manufactured for it, and lies in the bottom of the cart.

They all go and find beds, except Harold, who sits up in the common room of the Old Speckled Hen, drinking himself into a stupor, and Aeva who awakens the unconscious Helvetilds in the cart first and interrogates them, but they aren’t able to give her any important information.

None of the companions know what happened to the captured youths, and none of them dare to ask…

* * *

The next morning the weather has made a turn for the worse, grey and overcast with a promise of cold rain in the clouds above. The companions gather at their table in the Old Speckled Hen, tucking into a breakfast. Xander is much the worse for wear, various injuries packed with bandages and concoctions to try and ward away infection. Despite this he is putting away a prodigious amount of food with what appears to be pained enthusiasm.

Harold is eating far less, having drunk far too much the night previous.

“As much as I want to help you find your family Aeva, I think this thing Kel’s told us about in the keep is too important to leave behind us.” – Xander, breaking the bad news to the disappointed Selkye.

“With that in mind, I think this presence in the Craftsmen DistrictAeva told us about may be more important again.” – Maebh, concerned.

“That’s a good point.” – Xander, head in his hands.

“After all that presence in the keep is just there, and for now at least, minding its own business. Whatever that entity was in the craftsmen district is probably connected with the Helvetilds and was in the open where people can stumble across it.” – Maebh, eating an apple.

“Quiet, I’m trying to listen.” – Kel’Serrar, under his breath as he slips into a trance.

The thing in the castle, whatever it was, is gone.

“It is gone. No idea where it is now.” – Kel’Serrar, snapping back to reality.

“Not good.” – Breanna, quietly.

“This daemon in the Craftsmen District, you think it is connected to the Helvetilds?” – Aeva, upset.

“Yes, seems logical.” – Maebh, as Breanna nods.

“Right, let’s go then.” – Aeva, who then physically pushes an inebriated Harold to the door.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

* * *

Southreach predominantly exports leather, and so the Craftsmen District smells foul due to all the tanneries. The sky overhead still looks ominous as the companions make their way to where the spirits inform Aeva this entity has been focusing its power.

There is a small patch of ground which is completely pitch black, and a shrub nearby which looks like it has been choked of all life. Nothing grows in the blackened earth. Breanna bends down to examine the ground.

“Whatever this was, it is related to the thing we fought last night. It isn’t the same though… If last night’s daemon was fire, this one is death… This is where it came into our world. Right here, on this very patch of ground, in the shadow of the curtain wall.” – Breanna, musing to herself.

“So it isn’t here anymore… But this is where it… was born?” – Xander, trying to wrap his mind around this.

“Yes. About two weeks ago… It is a daemon of death. It wants to take lives and steal life-force, but there’s no trail to follow.” – Breanna, still half to herself.

“Not true. It takes lives you say? We need to find records of people who have died in Southreach over the last two weeks. Any strange deaths we may be able to attribute to this thing.” – Maebh, shaking the crouching Leathe by the shoulder.

The companions find a guardsman and ask about any records of deaths in the town.

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that personally as I am on duty. All records are kept in the guardhouse in the keep though. The captain of the guard should be on duty down by the docks. You can ask him for a key.” – Young guardsman, inexplicably nervous.

The companions decide to hang asking for a key and figure that any door or lock they find won’t be able to withstand their combined power.

* * *

Aeva pauses at the gateway before entering the keep and tries to commune with the spirits in the area. The spirits around the castle are few and they are scared, unwilling to come and talk to the druid for fear of being seen by the entity nearby.

And while the creature is not in the keep at the moment, it is surely nearby, possibly even waiting for the companions to enter before springing its trap…

A wounded and weary Xander advances to the guardhouse doorway, shield and warhammer in hand. Breanna sits on his shoulder, crossbow in hand, and Aeva/Hawk sits on one of his horns. Harold comes next, sabre and arming sword drawn, and then Maebh and Kel’Serrar last, their own weapons ready too.

As soon as the Feartarbh opens the door they hear a commotion from several storeys above in the keep, and then, a distant, muffled howl. Before them, the guardhouse appears scarcely used, dust coating most of the surfaces. The archives lay in the next room beyond a pitch-black doorway. Row upon row of parchments sit in dusty shelves, only barely illuminated by the golden flames burning fitfully in Maebh’s upraised hand. They swiftly browse through them, trying to find recent reports of deaths.

Breanna finds a map of the town, and then starts to mark down the locations of all the deaths which have occurred in the last few weeks.  In the end, she has made seven marks on the map, all of which are spread around the township, save for one in Breddvind: Aeva’s family’s house.

Quote from: The Deaths of Southreach
1st Death:  On the Twelfth-day of Secondmonth 1649 CE, the body of a 22-year-old female Northmann was found by guardsmen under the curtain wall to the north on the very edge of the Craftsmen District. It appears she fell from the wall.
2nd Death: On the Thirteenth-day of Secondmonth , the body of a 67-year-old male Northmann was found in his house, which lies on the northern border of the main Residential District, by his family. Cause of death unknown.
3rd Death:On the Fifteenth-day of Secondmonth , a family of four Dwergar, two adults and two children, were found deceased in their home in the Residential District, next to the Old Speckled hen Tavern. All appear to have suffocated, but no cause could be found. Area was quarantined for several days, but no repeat occurrences led to the reopening of the area.
4th Death:On the Twentieth-day of Secondmonth , the body of a 9-year-old female Northmann was found under the first pier of the docks. It is believed she drowned.
5th Death:On the Twenty-second-day of Secondmonth , the body of a young girl, likely Selkye, was found in the burnt-out remains of a house in the fishing village of Breddvind, to the south of Southreach proper. It is believed she perished in the fire. The location and fate of the other inhabitants, remains unknown.
6th Death:On the Twenty-third-day of Secondmonth , the body of a 22-year-old male Dwergar guardsman was found in the southern-most tower of the southern curtain wall. His throat was slashed, probably by a knife. No leads on the potential murder as yet.
7th Death:On the Twenty-fifth-day of Secondmonth , the body of a 12-year-old maleNorthmann was found under the tower on the southern-most edge of the keep-wall. It appears he fell from the wall, although some strange injuries were present around the eyes and mouth.

One little spirit dares to come inside and flit around Aeva’s head, imploring her to leave. It doesn’t want her there. She is in danger.

“Discounting Aeva’s family, it has basically just done a crescent if all these are connected. The burning seems to be unique among all of these, and these Helvetilds are supposed to do that.” – Maebh, putting it all together.

“I managed to get that much out of our captives. The burning was the Helvetilds. This thing looks like it is killing independently.” – Aeva, downcast.

“Quiet, I need to concentrate again.” – Kel’Serrar, slipping into a trance once more.

Above, something is raging, moving at great speed. It is large, and does not seem to be alive.

“It’s coming, it’s coming! Move, move, move!” – Kel’Serrar, snapping out of his trance and taking position right at the doorway, arrow nocked and ready.


Breanna tries to focus on the entity rampaging through the castle above them, trying to determine what it is and just how powerful it might be. The ring on her finger blazes to life and helps her concentrate as her mind encounters the daemon.

“Ah ****. It is at least as powerful as the one we fought last night.” – Breanna, preparing herself as best she can.

“How long do we have?” – Xander, gruffly.

“Thirty seconds, give or take.” – Breanna, the terse reply.

“More powerful than the other one! ****!” – Delphi.
“We dealt with the other one perfectly well.” – Dev, laughing.
“Yeah, no we didn’t.” – Delphi.
“Well no one died.” – Yohan.
“About that, you’re welcome.” – Ladyhawk, laughing.
“Someone died….”
“No one died PG. No one died.” – Sins.
“Oh right, someone did die. He only died cause of Dev though.” – Yohan.
“I choose to believe that the important thing is that none of us died.” – Dev.

Maebh takes a second to try and replenish her reservoir of magical energy. She knows that last night’s exertions took a lot out of her and another encounter of that magnitude might see her stripped entirely of power. Over the last year she has been able to develop some control over her soulfire and now she uses this ability to try and accelerate the process. Better this exhausting process now than having to sacrifice precious life-force in the midst of battle.

Maebh has a Talent which allows her to make a Channelling Check once per day to try and squeeze a little more Soulfire out of herself in exchange for increasing the Casting Value of all her spells by +2 for a day. She uses that now, as the fight last session caused her to drop pretty low from her 115 Soulfire base.

Kel’Serrar’s arrow starts to glow with brilliant golden light, illuminating the room with power. Xander too glows with similar energy as he tries to shield the party and Maebh creates a wall of force between the party and where she assumes the entity will emerge before cloaking herself in golden lightning. Aeva takes the form of a dagger-lion and prepares a Snare, ready to drop it somewhere the daemon will be affected by it.

A roiling black mass bursts from the ceiling, blasting all the companions with tendrils of dark force. Where the tendrils hit, flesh turns black and necrotises, metal rusts and leather wears through, as all the forces of entropy are brought to bear.

Kel’Serrar brings his bow up, arrow pulsing with golden light, and shoots, the most powerful arrow he has ever loosed. The missile flits through the air over the short distance between the ranger and the daemon, shining brilliantly in the cloying darkness and strikes home somewhere deep within the entity’s incorporeal form. After negation, the True Shot still cause over 40 Damage, and Stunned the daemon.

Seeing it hurt by Kel’Serrar’s arrow, Aeva tries to snare it with a pulse of ice-blue magic and manages to get ahold of it, but only for a short moment.

That is all the opportunity Maebh needs to blast the creature with bolts of golden lightning and the creature is repulsed again, blasting into the archive and causing records to go flying, or even simply disintegrate. Xander follows it, as is his wont, with shield and hammer at the ready. He tries to hit the ephemeral being, but can’t seem to pin it down.

Harold meanwhile finds that he has, without realising it, drawn the Gilded Sword. Knowing what he must do, he calls upon the latent powers within himself, that have been there, dormant in his blood for many ages, since the very first Invarrians travelled to Varr and the first Stormlord calmed the tempests surrounding the island. Harold pushes, and there it is, control of the Bri that force which governs the weather and allows practitioners to master it. The Gilded Sword glows in his hand and then discharges a bolt of lightning at the creature, causing it to recoil yet again.

Maebh charges in with her spear in hand, the same spear gifted to her by Aeva, and attempts to strike the daemon, which is still stunned by the sheer force of Kel’Serrar’s arrow, but she too is unable to find any purchase with the spear-blade.

“So this thing has huge modifiers to hit right? Because it is ethereal?” – Sins.
“Yes that is correct.”
“Can I see if my ring is a ring of, say, Ethereal Striking? I rolled a 9.” – Sins.
“Congratulations, you get a Ring of Ethereal Striking!”

Kel’Serrar, Xander and Harold all attempt to hit the creature, but only Kel’Serrar’s arrows seem to have any effect. The most effective thing they do though is actually Breanna’s flurry of dart spells, which must punch into something vulnerable. It roars in anger at the companions, and even the walls themselves seem to shake. Seeing this, Aeva hurls a magical dart at it too and the creature tries to retreat through the back wall of the archive.

It pulses again with dark magic and all the companions are hit again with necrotising magic, which this time causes significant damage to them all. Even Xander is close to falling now.

And then the rage blinds him once more, and Breanna is almost thrown loose by the Feartarbh’s bone-crushing charge. Both of them take yet more damage as Xander practically dives into the ethereal entity, hammer swinging wildly. The Feartarbh takes the heavy hit, and Breanna is forced to react in a split second, leaping out of the saddle, and only just avoiding being completely eviscerated.
Breanna is on 4 Health at the moment.

But it is Maebh’s wall of aethyric blades summoned right in the depths of the monster which causes the daemon to try and flee. It has already shrunk noticeably in size, getting weaker the more they chip away at it, and now able to move and react clearly again, it tries to escape. It mentally probes at all of them, searching for a weakness, and then flings a tendril out at Aeva, knocking her on her side before trying to force an opening into her mind. Snarling, she mentally wards it away, but her side is marked by the daemon’s touch, fur and flesh slowly rotting. The dagger-lion which is Aeva roars and pounces into the middle of the entity, trying to find purchase with her enchanted claws.

Between the two of them, Aeva and Xander are able to cause some kind of damage to the creature which gives out a primordial roar and unleashes a massive wave of force at them, knocking both of them over and stunning Kel’Serrar and Breanna. Harold focuses once more and unleashes another lightning bolt from the Gilded Sword which strikes the centre of the daemon directly.

The daemon flickers, shrieks and then disappears through the hole in the ceiling, coils of black smoke and dark magic still permeating the air. All around the room are splatters of a dark, viscous fluid, still wisping and sparking with the daemon’s power.

“Surely it has to be dead?” – Harold, panting, his sword still smoking in his grasp.

“No, ‘tis only running.” – Maebh, hefting her spear and preparing to chase it.

She is taken-aback however by Xander’s enraged bellow as the badly wounded Feartarbh smashes a hole straight through the stone wall separating the guardhouse from the rest of the keep. Hammer flailing wildly, Xander widens the gap and ploughs on through into the throne room which has long since been abandoned, save for the six automatons, stone statues bearing large black halberds. They turn their ornately carved heads to face the oncoming Feartarbh, heft their polearms and step down from their podiums.

They still seem to love discussing how to bring Xander down.
“Breanna would be the one with the best chance.” – Yohan.
“I could.” – Sins, quietly.
“How would Breanna be the one with the best chance?” – Ladyhawk, curious.
“Xander has really low Willpower and Sleep checks against Willpower. She can magically coma me and then slit my throat.” – Yohan.
“I have to get close enough to touch you first, and I’m currently on practically no Health, so I don’t think that’s happening.” – LD.
“How would you take Xander down?” – Dev, to Sins.
“An Aimed True Shot with my armour-piercing bodkins. Should just about one-shot anything.” – Sins, who is probably correct.
“Personally think Aeva would cause troubles too. Snare keys off Willpower as well, and can be cast at range. Go lion and cast Snare, doing as much damage to an immobilised target as possible. When Snare wears off, go bird to get out of range and Snare again and go lion once more. Rinse and repeat until dead.”
“No range weapons would make that pretty nasty. Can Aeva get through Xander’s shielding spells though?” – Yohan.
“Aeva can actually dispel those shields, and for much less Soulfire than it costs to cast them. So yes.” – Delphi.

Instead of immediately following the Feartarbh, Meabh and Kel’Serrar sit down to try and perform some kind of first aid on themselves and the others. Kel’Serrar has to pull out a knife and start gouging chunks of flesh away from where the daemon has made contact with their skin to prevent the necrosis from spreading. Maebh then uses her flames to cauterise the wounds before the two of them apply bandages. They are able to get the process done quite quickly, save for Harold’s injuries, which the still inebriated Invarrian insists on seeing to himself. He quickly botches it, his shaking hand accidentally pushing the knife a little too far into his flesh, carving away a bit more flesh than he needed to.

Harold’s Heal Check on himself was pushed to over 100 due to the effects of the alcohol, so he takes 1 Damage.

It was here that I in fact took 1 Damage myself in real life. I have an allergy to peanuts, and the group cracked out the peanut m&m’s at this point in time. I copped a fair whiff of it and my throat started closing up. I had to step out of the room for a couple of minutes and get some fresh air and a drink.

“If I killed PG, I’m going to be very upset.” – Delphi.
“He doesn’t look too good. Peanuts get him pretty badly.” – Dev, as I am retching outside on the other side of the glass door.
“I’m worse, which reminds me, I should find my epi-pen.” – LD, leaving the room herself.
“Is anyone here medically trained other than me?” – Yohan.
“I did scouts for like three years?” – Delphi.
“That doesn’t count.” – Yohan.
There is silence for some time until LD re-enters the room.
“You lost The Game.” – LD, who is a real bitch.

Xander crashes into the first automaton, knocking it to the floor and smashing it apart with a few savage blows from his hammer. He then turns aside a thrust from another automaton and delivers a similar swift end to it as well.

Breanna, having been patched up by Maebh and Kel’Serrar, is the first to follow Xander through the hole. She avoids the automatons deftly, and for their part, they are still far too focused on the immediate threat of Xander to be too concerned about her. Coming upon the sumptuous, but dusty and long abandoned throne, the Leathe notices a dripping from above, that same dark liquid. Using her ring once more she is able to determine that this liquid is essentially the daemon’s blood, and that touching it would probably be a bad idea. The fact that it is dripping from the ceiling suggests that the daemon is above, likely trying to reform itself.

Aeva comes into the room next, padding around still in the shape of a dagger-lion. She takes up a position behind Xander, hoping to stay out of the combat unless he gets flanked. As she does this, the remaining four statues close in on the Feartarbh.
“The four statues converge upon Xander.”
“No.” – Yohan, deadpan.
“Yes.” – Both Dev and I.

Only two of the automatons manage to hit Xander, but both strikes are deflected by his aethyric shielding with flashes of golden light.
Xander actually negates a strike of 24 Damage here completely. He is truly an obscene tank at this stage in the game.

And then Maebh strides in and encases all four of the automatons in golden ice, locking them in place.

“Please hurry up and smash them. I don’t know how long I can hold them all.” – Maebh, sounding like she could hold them in place all day if she had to. A slight trickle of blood drips from her nose, but she doesn’t notice.

Kel’Serrar rolls his eyes seeing Harold’s failure at self-administered first-aid and practically forces the Invarrian to sit still and accept medical aid.
Sins rolls well enough that Kel actually fixes things wrong with Harold that Harold didn’t even know were hurting him, pushing the Invarrian back up to full health.

Xander smashes through the immobile statues in a matter of seconds, charges the throne and smashes that too before looking for some stairs to get to the daemon once more. The others can only look on in bemusement.

“Xander, calm down!” – Maebh, hoping to get some sense out of the thing.

“WE NEED TO KILL IT!” – Xander, lost in his rage.

“Xander, please, I need to find my family. If we follow this thing we might die.” – Aeva, back in her natural form and quite shaken by the whole experience.

“We followed the deaths here Aeva! Your sister’s death led us here! WE KILL IT NOW!” – Xander, howling his triumph as he finds the stairway to the next floor.

Back shortly. :smallsmile:

And we return. :smallsmile:

The companions follow him up the stairs and from there to the very top of the tallest tower of the entire keep, struggling to keep pace with the Feartarbh, even with the severe injuries he has withstood.

Eventually they come to the highest room of the tallest tower, where a shadowy figure, approximately the height of a Northmann stands before a huge glass window, back turned to the companions coming up the stairs. Xander doesn’t even break stride, striking at the figure with his hammer, but the daemon flickers out of existence as the hammer passes through where it stood.

Breanna takes out the Three Coins and tries to pull the daemon’s essence into them, draining it of power. Doing so diminishes it substantially, leaving it a small, smoking lump on the floor, which flicks a tendril of power out in retaliation. Breanna dodges aside and Xander takes the strike with his shield, ignoring the slight pain it gives him. The Feartarbh roars with rage and smashes it with his hammer, leaving a black paste on the floor. Breanna tries again, and the paste appears to be sucked straight into the coins.

To the touch, one side of each coin is burning hot, the other deathly cold.

We had a bit of discussion with regards to Xander Raging and whether or not that should mean that he should charge the coin, which is of course where the daemon is now hiding. Of course if he does that, the wounded Breanna is in the way and most likely dead.

Which then lead to more discussion on how the Guardian spells work, namely that they work on allies, but if forced to deal damage to an ally through Rage, would that ally no longer be considered an ally, and so therefore no longer affected by the spells.

We decided that spells which required active concentration would probably be dropped as soon as Rage is entered, whereas just flat “Remains in Play” spells would probably continue to act as normal.

It would seem that Southreach was the preying ground of two separate daemons, and now both have been defeated and then trapped by the companions. Aeva contacts the spirits in the area, informing them that the time of fear is now over and they can go about their tasks without danger. The spirits pass on their gratitude to the companions and lay a blessing upon them.

Every character picks up a Luck Point as the spirits’ reward for helping them. At this stage, a reward far more useful than loot.

The next three days pass quite uneventfully as the companions do their best to try and lay low and recover from their recent trials. Maebh and Harold both explore the castle in their downtime, looking for anything interesting.

Spoiler: What they found…: (click to show/hide)

Aeva spends her time communicating with spirits and forming a bond between them and her companions. Over the course of the three days she grants a wisp to each of the company, which will watch over them and be able to inform her if any of them are in need or danger.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

* * *

Dev decides he doesn’t like the fact that Ladyhawk is taking an interest in this castle and so resolves to give it away as quickly as possible. He finds the captain of the town’s guard, an irascible veteran of several wars by the look of him.

The conversation does not go well. Harold begins by telling him to take the castle now it is cleared out and declare his rule. When the captain does not agree to this, Harold tries to intimidate him into it.

“Who do you think you are to come here and tell us how to run our town? We have a system, and it works for us. Now bugger off.” – Captain Ulfrum.

“Why the captain of the guard? What makes him suitable for rule?” – Ladyhawk.
“Cause he is military. And cause he’s one of the few around here that the people would respect and obey.” – Dev, who you would not imagine from this is actually against ‘strong rule the weak,’ mentality.
“Surely there’s a village elder or something who you wouldn’t be forcing it upon?” – Ladyhawk, who is so close to just giving up on the whole thing.
“I’ll list all my titles and bring him around.” – Dev.

“I am the scion of the Oakenshields, champion of the late Stormlord and the First Reaver of Varr.” – Harold, hoping to get his way through personal connections.

“Aren’t you the lucky one? Pleased to meet you, I’m the Emperor of Drell. Now **** off.” – Ulfrum, sarcastic and thoroughly unimpressed.

And then Harold punches him in the face.

“Oh here we go.”
“I join in on the guards’ side.” – Ladyhawk.
“If I were there, I would be punching Harold in the face. You have to show some sort of respect to your superiors.” – Yohan.
“He isn’t my superior though.” – Dev.
“He is in this town. You’ve got no kind of jurisdiction here.” – Yohan.
“I’m a reaver. I’ve got jurisdiction anywhere.” – Dev.
“That attitude is exactly why I would be punching you in the face.” – Yohan, laughing.

“Get your arse in that castle, take the job and start cleaning up this mess.” – Harold.

“Take him to the dungeon lads.” – Ulfrum, rubbing his jaw where the Invarrian hit him. Four of his guards run forward, weapons threatening Harold.

“Deathsword to knock them all on their arses here.” – Dev.
“It’s okay, he’s not killing them, he’s just using Deathsword.” – Sins, sarcastic.

One of the guards manages to lay a hand on the Invarrian, and Harold throws him off without pause, completely contemptuous. The other three hang back now, concerned by the ease with which their comrade was despatched.

“Stop this ****! You’re all children!” – Xander, who has come roaring from where he was helping out on the docks.

“Eight successes on the Intimidation Check.” – Yohan.
“I roll to resist.” – Dev, who fails.
“Did he just… He did! He used a Luck Point to re-roll that!” – LD, as Dev burns some Luck to resist.
“I can’t believe you’re wasting your Luck on this.” – Ladyhawk, quietly.
“**** it. And…. I fail anyway.” – Dev.

The guardsmen still standing are edging away from the obviously furious Feartarbh and even Harold is given a moment’s pause. Ulfrum on the other hand still appears singularly unimpressed.

“Thank you. You’re not wrong, but mind your own business.” – Ulfrum, nodding to his men to continue trying to take Harold.

“This is my ally. He is my business. I know he’s probably being a prick, but we’ve had a trying few months.” – Xander, attempting to negotiate with the grizzled captain.

“Fine. Stand down men. And you, Invarrian, if you ever try to even talk to me again you are going to be locked the **** up.” – Ulfrum, signalling his men to stand down.

For his part, after the initial startle given to him by Xander’s sudden appearance, Harold looks keen and ready for a fight. It has been a good while now since his last real fight, the business with the daemons and the Helvetilds not really counting.

“Harold, not now. We can come back and deal with this when the world isn’t at stake. Better to walk away now than to have to bust yourself out of a dungeon.” – Xander, quietly to the Invarrian.

The duellist’s ears flick and he stands down.

* * *

The companions, minus Harold, travel west for around a week. Harold will meet them in Urik’s Landing with the Tide Tremor, but the others go overland in case Aeva’s family is on the road between the two towns. Eventually, they come upon a familiar sight. Well familiar for Maebh, Breanna and Kel’Serrar anyway. They approach the port-town of Urik’s Landing.

“Burn it to the ****ing ground!” – Dev.
“Time to put on my Dhara costume.” – Sins.
“Do you really want to do that?”
“No. Definitely not.” – Sins.


For their entire journey, Aeva has been in constant contact with the spirits, entreating them to go on ahead and tell her family to wait and that she is on her way.

The eastern gate is guarded by two Northmenn with spears. The lord’s hall sits on a hill on the north-eastern edge of town. The guards inform the companions that if they wish to stay in Urik’s Landing they must sign into the ledgers of one of the two inns along the main road, and then allow them in. Despite the reasonably pleasant weather, the marketplace looks reasonably abandoned, presumably again due to the wars to the north.

They find Harold in the Blackmane Inn, enjoying a drink and a chat with the innkeeper, Alrik up at the bar. The other companions take a seat too, and Aeva asks the brown-furred Invarrian if he has seen any Selkye come into the town.

“There’s a family in the Irontusk Inn actually, arrived just a couple of weeks ago.” – Alrik, who is taken aback as Aeva drops everything and runs outside and across the road.

Ignoring the man sitting in the booth beside the inn’s door, Aeva dashes inside and sees some familiar faces. With a little scream of delight and a couple of quick dance steps the girl runs across the common room and embraces her father, who has stood from the table he shares with two other Selkye, a massive beaming grin on his face.

“Aeva!” – Aeva’s father, picking the slightly built girl up and spinning her around.

She disengages from her father and shifts to her mother and sister who have both stood as well.

“My sister’s alive?” – Delphi.
“Yes, she is. Sadly, the dog is not, but your sister is.”

Aeva’s father tells the Irontusk innkeeper to pour drinks for everyone, and the social war between the two eminent families of Urik’s Landing is postponed for a day as everyone enjoys the unlikely event which has just occurred in front of them. The drinks flow all afternoon and evening, and all share in the happiness of a family reunited in the midst of war and devastation.

Over the night, Aeva’s family shares the events of their flight, from the initial Wrothdar assault on the Nordur-Vatn lands during which they were separated and their escape north, as far as Nordtarnet for a time, hiding in the woods along the riverbank in the west of that realm. They tell her of their time in Southreach and the fishing village of Breddvind, of the months they spent there, trying to make a new life. By then, all those of their tribe they had travelled with had been picked off, by the cold, brigands, wolves or some unseen menace from the depths. They tell her of the death threats they received while living in Breddvind, made by a group who called themselves the Helvetilds.

They share a tale of fear and fire as the Helvetilds attacked in the middle of the night, lighting a blaze which consumed their home, their faithful hafhund and Aeva’s father’s apprentice. Lucky to escape with their lives, their flight began anew, and they braved the cold northern weather with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, fleeing the burning wreck of the short period of peace they just lost.

“But Father, all of this came about because the Wrothdar came down from the mountains those years ago. Why? How did this all start?” – Aeva, to her father, later in the night when most of the revellers had withdrawn. Her sister lies on the seat beside her, head in the druid’s lap, sleeping soundly, still smiling.

“How well do you remember the myths of our people my dear?” – Blaevar, Aeva’s father, quietly nursing his latest alcoholic beverage.

“Reasonably well. It has been some time since I heard them recited.” – Aeva.

“Do you recall the stafbrigdi around the village at the time of the attack?” – Blaevar, referring to a Selkic custom.

Spoiler: Stafbrigdi (click to show/hide)

“The World’s End...” – Aeva, realisation slowly dawning on her.

“A great wave sent by the Golden Eagle to destroy the world, yes. Before we fled, I observed a Wrothdar shaman come forward and perform a rite or a ritual over the site of our village, using our stafbrigdi as some kind of focus.” – Blaevar.

“Father, this event, it isn’t just a myth. The Invarrians have a prophecy regarding the same thing, a flood which will destroy the world.” – Aeva.

“I believe it. The power this shaman brought to bear… You cannot imagine it, the screams of the spirits as he tore them asunder to fuel his ritual. He bound it to a timeframe. This flood, it will occur on the Harvest Moon.” – Blaevar, staring into his ale.

It is clear that her father was quite shaken by the events of the fall of the Nordur-Vatn. After all, many of those spirits ruthlessly crushed were probably friends of a sort.

Blaevar is a Shaman himself, though not of any particular power. Aeva’s mother is a Druid, like her daughters, and quite powerful, though by this stage, Aeva herself is probably more so.

“Four weeks before the end of the world…” – Aeva, finishing her drink.

* * *

It is early the next morning and a slightly dishevelled group of companions in various stages of hangover have gathered in the Blackmane Inn.

“One month until the Harvest Moon.” – Aeva, obviously distressed.

“Do your peoples’ legends say anything about how to stop it?” – Xander.

Aeva shakes her head.

“The legend does say that the flood is sent by the Golden Eagle though, yes?” – Maebh.

Aeva nods.

“Elspeth’s sigil is a golden eagle on a field of blue.” – Kel’Serrar, quietly.

“Back to Summer Hill then? According to the Greyflood Prophecy, we’ll be seeing war in fields of Summer or something like that. Good chance Queen Esmerelda will be with her army.” – Harold.

“Or she’s a smart ruler and is safe in her castle, letting her army do the war part while she ends the world.” – Maebh.

“I would like to go back to Summer Hill myself.” – Kel’Serrar, not letting on his reasons.

Breanna at this stage is just sitting back eating a peach, happy to go with whatever the others choose.

“Do we have the time to do that? It will take at least two and a half weeks to get to Summer Hill and that is with the absolute best of luck and going through Morne. We’d be cutting it fine to get to Elspeth in time for the Harvest Moon if we’re wrong about her being in Summer Hill.” – Maebh.

“Did we ever find out what connection Dhara had to Elspeth?” – Sins.
“Only that she was the daughter of the mayoress of Summer Hill.”
“Dhara should be in Summer Hill then? We go to Summer Hill first, she needs to die.” – Ladyhawk.

“We need to take that risk. Remember, Elspeth cared enough about Summer Hill that they tried to summon the Lord of Winter to pave their way inside. Obviously it is important.” – Kel’Serrar.

“Okay, Summer Hill it is.” – Maebh, agreeing.

Breanna stands and throws what is left of her peach out a window.

“Let’s get a move on.” – Breanna.

I then reveal some of my very finest foreshadowing.
“The end of the Greyflood Prophecy guys, talks about the Devourer reaping a harvest.”
“The Harvest Moon. Of course!” – LD.
“And what was the name of Wilmund Brewer’s tavern in Summer Hill?”
“Oh you bastard!” – Sins, the first time I have actually seen him properly impressed by foreshadowing.
“Get out! Right now!” – Delphi.
“Harvest Wolf… Is that two references in one go cause of the Wolf King too? I hate you.” – LD.

The companions stand and get ready to leave, with one very notable exception.

“Come on Aeva, let’s go.” – Breanna, furry hand on her friend’s shoulder.

“I’m not coming Bree. I set out to find my family and, well, I’ve done that. In the process I’ve found out that the world is about to end. I have a month or so before we are all dead, and I have over a year of lost time with my family to catch up on.” – Aeva, quietly, but with finality.

“Aeva, come on. We need you with us.” – Harold.

“Don’t you see? We’re all going to die Harold! After all this time, after everything I went through to find them, we’re all going to die and it won’t mean anything! At least let me spend my last days with them. All I wanted was to find them again.” – Aeva, angry.

“Stay safe then Aeva, and may fortune smile upon you.” – Maebh, who then walks out, followed by the others, leaving Aeva behind.

The Wrap-Up:
A pretty good session, which wrapped up a few loose ends and really ramped up the pressure time-frame wise. Revealing all the harvest foreshadowing felt pretty good too after so many years.

Losing Delphi was a bit of a blow. Unfortunately she has some personal stuff happening at the moment that she felt needed to take the front seat and didn’t feel entirely comfortable juggling her time and efforts. Of course we wish her all the best for her future, and there remains some hope she will rejoin us one day, although I imagine that 3 Coins itself will be over by then.

So now we’re off, back to Summer Hill with the original band, plus a gigantic Feartarbh.

Hopefully I will have Session 6.3 up and ready to go before we play Session 6.4, but I can’t guarantee that at this stage.

Until then, suffice to say there will be corpsewalkers. Lots and lots of corpsewalkers.


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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #41 on: March 28, 2020, 02:33:43 AM »
Session 6.3: Three Coins, No Birds and Two Gilded Swords

"...Having travelled back to where this all started and seeing it in ruins, I have to ask, have we actually ever succeeded in any of our goals? Everything we have done has played into this prophecy, each town we have "saved" has supposedly been ravaged in our wake.

We've left companions behind, not always even alive. We've ruined the hopes of a nation and left chaos where our goal was order. More than one king has met his end around us. Now we march willingly towards the end of the world. We've so many defeats behind us, but this next battle may be the only one that counts and if we succeed here then at least all we have lost along the way will have had some meaning.

Each of us fights for our own reasons and that will have to be enough. Naya willing, mine may even live to see another day..."

From the journal of Kel'Serrar Naya...

Welcome to Session 6.3.

The woods around Summer Hill come alive with unearthly screeching and the companions ready themselves.

We started this session with a huge set-piece battle, which I intended to have last for a lot longer than it did. I also expected it to be at least slightly more dangerous than it was…

From the woods to either side comes a handful of corpsewalkers, and an entire horde has appeared on the plains ahead. But that isn’t all of them.

“Careful, they’re coming from underground too!” – Kel’Serrar, whose keen ears have picked up the tell-tale scrabbling of tunnellers.

"This is rocks fall, everyone dies guys." - LD, mock upset.

For moment, the ranger disappears and then a slightly translucent copy appears some way to his right with sword in hand.

Kel uses a Mesmer spell which grants him Invisibility and creates a cloned copy which he can control. I don’t remember the name of the spell at this time.

Harold spurs Amadeus into action and draws his sabre, Bach darting along beside him. Arcane energies arc from the Invarrian’s sword, blasting a shrieking corpsewalker apart as Harold thunders into a clump of its compatriots.

Xander takes up his two shields and takes a central position on the centre of the road. He gives a great roar, and with some mental strain he manifests golden aethryic shielding around his allies. The Feartarbh shakes his head, the strain having caused him a headache and a slight nosebleed, and one eye is bloodshot with burst vessels.
“You’ve all been Xander-d.” – Yohan.

Breanna, riding Wolfgang charges in herself, knives flashing, corpsewalkers falling apart in their wake.

While her companions rush into combat, Maebh takes a moment to coalesce a shield of lightning around herself, and then manifest a wall of blades across the road, between the companions and the main horde of corpsewalkers on the plain ahead.

It doesn’t dissuade the attackers. Corpsewalkers are approaching in great numbers, from the woods all around and the plains ahead. Every moment the engagement lasts, even more are attracted by the sounds of battle and the smell of blood.

Fingertips worn to bone claws, hands stretch up from the ground, grasping at Xander, who crushes them without mercy. Another springs up from the ground beneath, tackling Breanna from Wolfgang, but the Leathe and the marcwolf turn on it and put it down in seconds.

Charging towards the glowing Feartarbh, a mass of growling and shrieking corpsewalkers hurl themselves into Maebh’s blades. Two get through with serious injuries, the others get minced. Those two are simply thrown aside by the hulking Xander.

And then they hear it, in the distance. Warhorns, signalling them to stand firm. Help is on the way.

Still mounted on Amadeus, Harold charges down three more corpsewalkers, blades flashing. On the other side of the road, Breanna and Wolfgang are able to put down another between them, but it is Maebh who causes the majority of the damage. A great storm manifests overhead as Maebh projects her power into the sky and golden lightning crashes down into the horde, a corpsewalker spontaneously immolating with each bolt. Within moments the corpsewalkers have been cleared off the road and the companions get just a little bit of time to reassess.

They can hear more of the walkers coming from either side of the road and of course the great horde approaches from the west. The lull is over all too quickly, and again the companions enter the fray, the sounds of blades puncturing flesh punctuated by the constant crashing of Maebh's lightning bolts.

One corpsewalker makes it through Maebh's bladewall and charges straight at Xander, claws outstretched.
"Well that's a mistake." - LD.
The Feartarbh plants his shields in the ground and the corpsewalker scrabbles desperately at the lacquered wood, with no success. A few more walkers force their way through the bladewall, and start to try and climb over the Feartarbh's shields and even more emerge from beneath the ground, two charging at Maebh and others swarming Xander and Kel'Serrar's illusory copy.

"Xander, push!" - Harold, scything through another corpsewalker as Bach pounces on another which was about to pull him out of the saddle.

Gritting his teeth, Xander takes a step forward, and then another, forcing the corpsewalkers back into Maebh's wall of golden spinning blades.

Harold passes a Command Check to give Xander an extra half-action to make a Strength Check to push the corpsewalkers into the Blade Wall. Very handy work from the team as a whole.
"I like this plan. Do you like this plan?" - Dev.
"It is a plan, that's for sure." - Yohan.
"Better than my plan. I'm just going one at a time here." - Sins.
"Still putting one down every ten seconds basically. That's pretty good."

Behind him, the illusion of Kel'Serrar is overwhelmed by a tide of walkers, but upon doing so they are put down by a flurry of arrows from the ranger's real position and lightning bolts from above.

I intended this combat to be a long set-piece full of imminent danger for the party. Unfortunately, they deal so much damage and Xander's high-level Guardian abilities mean that they're just about impossible to challenge, or even damage really, without magic or high explosives... Ah well. I ended up calling this combat off about halfway as it was abundantly clear that I was never going to get through their damage resistance. I was also rolling some absolute trash, which really didn't help.

On the plus side, I had quite a bit of fun rolling Wolfgang's attacks in tandem with LD. I felt like part of a team. *sobs*

It took the better part of an hour, but eventually even the corpsewalkers learnt the meaning of fear. These creatures, which know nothing but hunger and rage, retreat in the face of the companions. With hatred in their black eyes, the corpsewalkers fall back, wary now of the flashing blades and the golden lights which unerringly strike them down. 

Rather than try their luck against the companions, the corpsewalkers turn their attentions towards the approaching brigade, who bear the eagle banners of Elspeth. They fall upon the brigade, but the legionnaires stand firm under the onslaught, blades flashing.

Xander leads the companions into the fray once more, and it is mere moments before the last of the corpsewalkers are put down with extreme prejudice. The Feartarbh is then confronted by the commander of the Elspeth brigade, a tall blonde Lowlander woman in half-plate armour. Wary, but not aggressive, the commander introduces herself.

"Captain Sevara Ironhawk of the Third Legion of Elspeth." - The Elspeth captain.

"Xander Wrothgar, mercenary. What news do you have of Summer Hill?" - Xander.

"Not much, and the little I have is not good. What is your business here?" - Ironhawk.

"I was travelling with my companions here to the town and we were ambushed by the corpsewalkers you see behind us." - Xander, motioning to the mountain of dismembered bodies on the road behind.

"Mere travellers? I think not, but that is none of my concern." - Ironhawk, with a knowing smile.

Xander has the good grace to look at least somewhat ashamed at being caught in the lie.

"I will offer you a detachment from my company should you wish it, though I doubt you would need them." - Ironhawk, continuing.

"No captain, I think we should be able to manage. I daresay you will need them more than we." - Xander.

Behind the captain, the troops of her brigade are busy checking the bodies of the dead, decapitating the corpsewalkers. They look haggard and tired, yet professional for all that, the cream of the crop of months of hard fighting. A few men are grimacing in pain as they are administered needles full of some glowing green liquid.

"What is the purpose of the injections captain?" - Xander, curious.

"An antidote to the corpsewalker virus. The mages of Elspeth have managed to produce some kind of cure of sorts, but it must be administered to the bloodstream before the changes start to take effect. None of your companions were bitten in the conflict were they?" - Ironhawk, suddenly suspicious.

"No, not to my knowledge, and my companions have faced this foe before, so they know the dangers." - Xander.

Ironhawk's eyes narrow slightly at this, but she doesn't pursue it further.

One of the members of Ironhawk’s company is quite familiar. A reconnaissance specialist by the look of her, dressed in worn leathers, accented with dark red cloth. A familiar tanned face, framed by shoulder-length dark hair. A hated face.


Spoiler: Dhara (click to show/hide)

“She is at the top of the murder list.” – Sins.
“We can’t afford to get involved in a pitched battle against these guys.” – Yohan, thinking about Xander’s Soulfire reserves and how low they are getting.
“You could try to Intimidate your way into becoming the new captain?” – Sins.
“We could do that perhaps, but I fear that if it goes wrong, we’re low on resources. This isn’t the main fight remember.” – Yohan.
“That’s true, something is waiting for us in Summer Hill.” – Ladyhawk, quietly. [/color]

For her part Dhara tries to avoid the companions as much as she can, and despite a few pointed glares, particularly from Maebh, she is unmolested. Kel’Serrar can’t help but brush his fingertips against the fletching of an arrow whenever he sees her however, and Breanna lapses into a pleasant daydream about murdering the scout where she stands.

"We must be on our way. Safe travels friend. I hope that you find whatever it is you seek in Summer Hill, but be warned, it is vile nest of the creatures, and the monster that rules it is both clever and fierce." - Ironhawk, shaking Xander's hand.

The two companies part amicably.

"That was nice. Not all Elspeth people are bad." - LD.

* * *

Summer Hill. It looks quite different from the last time the companions were there. The wide golden fields, the farmlands which sustained it, are now gone, replaced by a dry, ashen wasteland. Smoke rises from the township itself and the deep forests which directly surrounded it have been replaced by copses of burnt trees. Nothing seems to be alive.

"We did good guys." - Sins.
"Good saving. Really love our work." - Ladyhawk.

They got a little sidetracked here talking about how everything they try to save ends up dead. They have a point.
- Summer Hill: Look at it.
- Dreven: Apparently the Wolf King wasn't killed properly.
- Urik's Landing: Actually turned out okay. They killed the serial killer and the horrific beast, but left the 'good' doctor alive. Hope he doesn't turn up again...
- Nordtarnet: Thanks to their efforts, the Resistance imploded and Bain is now the undisputed ruler, ready to expand his tyrannical rule.
- Varr: Couldn't save the Stormlord, managed to lose the heir, pinched the sword and buggered off.
- Southreach: Well they did cripple a cult and kill some kind of daemon monster in the castle, but they also killed a couple of kids in the process.


“No chance of meeting Rangard I wouldn’t think.” – Harold, pointing out the burnt-out remnants of the farmhouse they last saw the merchant lord in.

“So, why exactly are we here?” – Xander, asking a good question.

“We’re checking on some things. We’re hoping, in a way, that this is where the Queen’s strike will fall.” – Maebh.

“According to the prophecy, the conflict will be decided upon the fields of Summer. That suggests that it is here, or in the general vicinity, that we need to be.” – Harold.

“So we are here because of prophecy.” – Xander.

“Yes.” – Harold.

“Great.” – Breanna, sharing an eye-roll with Xander.

They continue on into the town.

* * *

More soon guys...

And so we return dear friends...

For the most part, Summer Hill is abandoned, but near the main hall where Redwyn once ran the town from, a horde of corpsewalkers lie in wait. Some still wear armour, the bestial remnants of what were the guardsmen. Most carry weapons, and shrieking their awful cries, they fall upon the companions in a tide of blood, bone, claws, fangs and steel.

At the top of the stairs leading to the main hall stand three corpsewalkers, all armed, the one in the middle carrying a large greataxe. The axe-armed walker retreats into the halls as the two others join the horde rushing at the companions.

A wall of glittering golden blades materialises across the main road, eviscerating a handful of the corpsewalkers, but these seem more intelligent than the others the companions have faced, and they do not rush headfirst into the wall in bloodlust, but instead seek a way around.

On the right-hand side of the road, mounted on Amadeus with Bach loping alongside, Harold charges into the midst of the creatures, lightning and molten silver arrows flashing from his blade. Between the Invarrian and his marcwolf, a knot of corpsewalkers clad in the tattered remnants of their uniforms are brought down.

On the other side of the main road, a shadowy dervish on a shaggy grey blur whirls into another cluster of corpsewalkers, scything through another three in an instant. A fourth is picked off by a gleaming arrow to the eye.

Another knot of corpsewalkers masses around Harold, trying to pull him from his steed, but the wily Invarrian is able to avoid their clutches. A few have managed to make their way around Breanna and Wolfgang too, but are confronted by Xander, who hefts his shields menacingly.

The axe-armed corpsewalker reappears in the doorway of the hall, and the companions can see two more figures within. One is just a man, quite slender in build.

"That's what scares me the most." - Yohan.

The other is a gigantic Feartarbh, at least as large as Xander.

A few gasps here, and not a few of recognition.
"Ah, the ambassador! Alright." - Sins, in a tone that may have been admiration or disappointment. I'd like to say the former, but knowing Sins as I do, it was probably the latter.
"Is that the one I hugged? Is he still my friend?" - Ladyhawk.
I shake my head sadly.

"What is this? Ebeurnus, call the horde. Kill them." - The rasping voice of the shadowy figure they assume is Edmond Carhold.

A thunderous horn-blast rings out from the doorway as the gigantic jet-black Feartarbh strides out, a silvered war-horn grasped in one hand. In the other meaty fist, the bodyguard carries a truly gigantic greatsword, inscribed with glyphs which seem to change and shift. It is also gold, but not a wholesome shine like the Gilded Blade they recovered from Werencha, rather a sickly, tainted gold.

"This sword, how big is it exactly? Like is it just a big greatsword, or is it big to everyone else, or is it actually big to him?" - Yohan.
"It is about the same length as he is tall, so it is about eight and a half feet?"
"Oh hell, I want it so badly." - Yohan.
"You don't even use greatswords anymore." - Ladyhawk.
"Only cause we've never seen one this cool before!" - Yohan.

Another horde of corpsewalkers approach the conflict on the street, this time from behind the companions. At their head is someone they recognise, Royan Setllamach, the captain of the guard, sword and shield in hand. He has, of course, been corpsewalker-ed. Shrieking and screaming they charge towards Maebh, who drops her wall of blades and blasts the oncoming mass with a devastating gale. A score or more and Setllamach are obliterated where they stand, and that many and more again are sent flying back down the road from whence they came, but an even greater number are coming, drawn by Ebeurnus' horn-call.

With the hulking Feartarbh now out in the street, Harold and Xander make their way towards him as quickly as they can, fighting their way through yet another knot of corpsewalkers. Another group tries to fall on them from behind, but Maebh conjures up an icy blast which freezes them in place, a situation which Breanna immediately capitalises on, daggers flashing as she dismembers them.

Standing invisible beside Maebh, Kel'Serrar steadily picks off the corpsewalkers drawn towards the battlefield one by one. His keen ears can hear the sounds of the innumerable hordes still scattered around the township and he resolves to keep shooting.

Going back over the recording and Kel just quietly picked up a nice little kill-count in this encounter. In game terms he only got twelve to this point, which is still good, but I feel from a narrative standpoint, he probably picked off a good few more.

With a roar, Ebeurnus charges Xander and the two behemoths clash. The guardian grits his teeth and expertly turns the massive golden blade aside with a shield, but the sheer impact rocks him where he stands and it takes all of his strength not to be overborne in the charge.

In game terms, Yohan rolled a hell of a Parry, but Ebeurnus' greatsword is an Impact weapon, so Xander still takes half damage on a successful Parry. Xander's damage reduction is so obscenely high that it barely hurt him though. In addition to this, Ebeurnus has a Talent which causes his Charge attack to inflict an opposed Strength Check. If that is failed, Ebeurnus' opponent is knocked prone. This is all well and good, but while Raging, Xander's Strength goes to somewhere above 110, making it very unlikely he'll fail the Check. (Norbayne's stats do not normally go above 80, let alone 100)

That said, Ebeurnus is such a tough customer that he did actually come close to knocking Xander over.

"Well he managed to do 16 Damage despite the Parry and almost knock me over on the charge. This guys would hurt like HELL if he attacked anyone else in the party!" - Yohan.
"Yes, well, why do you think he's attacking you?"

Burning the last of his reserves, Xander refreshes his wards and tries to buffet his massive rival into submission with his shields. He is not particularly successful.

"Okay, Kel's up."
"Successful cast, no doubles." - Sins.
"What are you casting?"
"True Shot." - Sins.
"Ah, of course." - To the victorious laughter of all present.
"Someone is going to die!" - LD, maniacally laughing.

I'll say this for them, they do all seem to enjoy seeing the others succeed. I don't generally need to worry about members of the group being upset that another one is going to trivialise the encounter anymore. Instead they just pat the offender on the back and congratulate them, all while laughing at the forlorn look on my face.

"Okay, so 13 degrees of success on the hit." - Sins.
"With the armour-piercing arrows, yes?" - Yohan.
"Of course. Now PG, does Dev's Lightning Aegis affect my arrows?" - Sins.
"Yes, it does." - Sadly watching as they prepare to take my big impressive boss down in one shot.
Sins gives a little giggle before he rolls.

All up, Sins does 74 Damage, which is reduced to 66 Damage by Ebeurnus' Toughness. Dev asked me if armour might apply some more damage reduction, but I think it was just a sneaky ploy to get me to say once again that the armour was negated by the arcane bodkins.

Just as Xander starts to wonder how he will ever manage to bring the other Feartarbh down, a golden streak flashes past, exploding in Ebeurnus' face with force of a wrathful god. The ground itself shakes with the power unleashed by the ranger's arrow, and even the massing corpsewalkers are momentarily halted by it. When the dust and smoke clears they can see that Ebeurnus is still standing, but not much remains of the Feartarbh above the neck and the handful of corpsewalkers flanking him were likewise destroyed. A long, silent ten seconds passes and what is left of the corpse finally falls to the ground.

"He also misses his next action." - Sins, to the uproarious laughter of all present.
"OH! Wait a minute...." - Rolling.
"So you see guys, Ebeurnus has an ability which allows him to stay up for a single Round after being dealt the killing blow, and you see here, he passed his Willpower Check, so he does in fact get another Round, but he cannot use an action. Well played Sins."

"Noooo!" - Carhold, from within the main hall.

Harold answers the man's cry with a bolt of lightning from his blade, and the fallen ambassador screams in agony.

"Are you angry cause I can shoot lightning now too?" - Dev.
"No, cause mine is better." - Ladyhawk.

Carhold runs out of the hall, grasping a sword and slightly smoking.

"Wait, he's still alive? I thought Harold hit him with a lightning bolt?" - Ladyhawk.
"The bolt did 9 Damage."
"Oh right, I just didn't realise how much better my lightning was." - Ladyhawk.

The ambassador hurls three gleaming daggers out, one each at Breanna, Harold and Xander. Breanna dodges and Xander is able to get a shield between the dagger and his flesh, but Harold takes a minor flesh wound.

With the corpsewalkers fleeing following Ebeurnus' demise, Breanna finds the dagger which flew past her and examines it. It is masterfully crafted and enchanted with an armour-piercing rune, not dissimilar to that adorning some of Kel'Serrar's arrows. She resolves to keep it and obtain the other two from Harold and Xander later.

Calling upon her reserves of power, Maebh calls down a massive golden bolt of lightning from the sky and fries Carhold where he stands.

And so it is that the township of Summer Hill is liberated from tyrannical rulership once more.

Xander picks up Ebeurnus' fallen sword and Maebh sidles over to examine it with him. She quickly determines that this blade grants some kind of power over the corpsewalkers, and it is inscribed with the Carhold sigil on one side of the crossguard and the flag of Elspeth on the other . It is no heirloom however, and seems to be only a few years old at most.

Spoiler: Carhold (click to show/hide)

Kel'Serrar starts bandaging the handful of wounds the companions have had inflicted upon them and then starts collecting his spent arrows. Harold takes the silvered warhorn hanging from the belt of the mangled remains of Ebeurnus and of course, Xander takes the Corpselord Blade.

"That was a pretty quick session guys, only like two and a half hours."
"Oh good. Reckon you'll get it written up on time?" - LD.
"No, probably not."

I picked that pretty well.

The Wrap-Up:
First of all, I apologise for how long this session took to write up. I have been really, really busy lately, and as such haven't been able to run a game either for several months now.

Thankfully though, this is changing pretty soon, which should be a bit of fun.

Thanks again to Sins for putting together the opening quote for this session too.

Hope everyone enjoyed the read. See you all soon,

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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #42 on: March 28, 2020, 02:34:03 AM »
Session 7.1: Ambush on the Road

”I tried to escape.

Oh how I tried.

I took up the bow and the blade, fled my homeland and set out to find my fortune, away from the cloying influence of my father. Years passed, and I thought myself free.

How wrong I was.

He came to me in a dream last night, told me what had happened to him. How he had come to a ****-hole of a town in the Midlands, Summer Hill. As chance would have it, I was there too.

It was there, or rather, in a complex of underground ruins on the outskirts of the town, that he met his end, or so he told me. His associates were meddling with entities beyond their control again, seeking to influence the turning of the world with their meddling and schemes. Their efforts met with failure, and my father was murdered in the dark.

At his words, I felt a sense of relief. I asked him if he wished to say his farewells, if perchance he sought a reconciliation before shuffling off the mortal coil. He smiled.

“No boy, I have no intention of leaving this world so swiftly. You are not free of me yet.”

Even now sitting here, having awoken, I can still feel his presence, like a dark shadow on my very soul. He’s here, watching my every action, laughing at my helplessness. He wants vengeance, and has given me a name to hunt.

Breanna Blackrose, the one who has consigned us to this fate.

She is as good as dead.
– Excerpt from the personal journal of Malis Svartu-Orrin.

Welcome back to Three Coins, one of the last sessions of this campaign. We were joined by Redshirt and LaPD from the Great Maw campaign for this one. They did not play, but will occasionally provide us with amusing witticisms as the game goes on.

The companions leave the ruined and abandoned remains of Summer Hill as swiftly as they can. Having picked carefully through the town, and only finding scattered pockets of corpsewalkers, they are resolved to the fact that the town is now nothing but a den for the voracious predators. They deign to head west, towards Elspeth City itself, the seat of Esmerelda’s power, to finally confront her.

Xander takes the lead with Breanna sitting upon his shoulder. Behind ride Maebh and Harold, with Kel’Serrar in the shape of an Invarrian which looks suspiciously like Harold, walking behind. They are wary, having only recently beaten off yet another pack of wandering corpsewalkers. It is late in the afternoon, and a slight breeze drifts through the darkening woodland on either side of the road. There are no birds.

The silence is unnerving.

Breanna takes a deep breath and the breeze brings with it a scent and a memory.

“Oh no, what is that? Dreven… Wolves and… Oh no.” – Breanna, sifting through the memories of the last time she smelt this particular scent.

“What is it Bree?” – Xander, concerned by the Leathe’s muttering upon his shoulder.

“I think, I’m not sure, but I think we’re about to be attacked.” – Breanna, racking her memory.

By complete happy chance, Xander sees a short cloaked figure, almost shrouded in the shadowy woods flit between two trees on the northern side of the road.

“I think you’re right. Someone is shadowing us.” – Xander, quietly warning Breanna, nodding in the direction of the figure he saw.

“Kel, to the north.” – Breanna, calling to the disguised ranger. He nods, bow already in hand, keen eyes scanning the treeline.

The companions halt on the road, ready to spring into action.

The silence stretches out into minutes, the companions wary of their silent and invisible hunters. The air grows cold, and despite the afternoon sun, fog starts to slowly waft from amidst the trees. Frost rimes the grass underfoot and their breath mists before their faces.

A fell wind blows over the road, and on it, a sinister voice, one which at first chills Maebh, before awakening a white-hot rage within her.

”You cannot escape me Maebh. We are destined to be together.” – Bastaird Asal-diog’s whispering wind.

“Bastaird…” – Maebh, under her breath.

An arrow smashes into one of Xander’s shields as a figure breaks from the treeline ahead. It is a tall Danann woman on a horse, longspear couched like a lance as she charges at the companions.

“She’ll be going for Xander as well.”
“That’s okay, I’ve got another free Parry from my other shield. That’s 47, with a +20 from my bonuses to Parry. Good enough?” – Yohan.
“67? Not quite.”
“Oh hell, she’s got some good Combat Skill guys.” – Yohan.

An arrow grazes Maebh’s cheek and immediately she can feel a very slight drain on her reserves of power. Not enough to really affect her too badly, but enough to be concerned about what her enemies have brought to bear. It is clear they are trying to take as few chances as possible.

By that same token, the air around the companions feels dead, like a great weight is pressing down upon them. Maebh can feel it getting harder and harder to tap into her power.

“One of the Danann has cast the extended version of a Spirit power called Aethryic Deadening. Power costs and casting values of all spells in the area are doubled for the duration of the spell.”
“Oh can you not?” – Ladyhawk.
“I’m looking forward to my casting value of 60+” – Sins.
“I’m not going to be able to give any of you guys extra armour. I literally do not have enough Soulfire to pull it off, especially with the 48+ casting value.” – Yohan.

The lancer charges down Xander and inflicts a heavy wound on the hulking Feartarbh. He roars in anger and pain, losing himself in the frenzied rage of his bloodline and hurls himself into the fray, dropping his shields and drawing forth the massive greatsword of Ebeurnus. Breanna sits on his shoulder, simply holding on for dear life.

A roiling orb of balefire rips from the cover of the treeline, smashing into Xander with a ferocious concussive blast. The Feartarbh is driven to his knees for a moment, but is swiftly up and fighting again Breanna flips out of the saddle and away from the flame, and is able to avoid the daemonic flames, but not before she notices something which chills her. It curved in the air as she jumped, as if it were seeking her out. It was hunting her.

Kel’Serrar sees the figure which hurled the fireball and swiftly looses an ensorcelled arrow at it, but the man dodges out of the way and back behind a tree with preternatural speed. The Danann snarls silently and nocks another arrow. The figure looks like a Selkye, and his presence in amongst this Danann pack makes little sense, but Kel’Serrar pushes the thought to the back of his mind. There will be time enough to puzzle it out later.

Seeing the result of Kel’Serrar’s shot, and fighting with the aethyric deadening in the area, Maebh shapes a massive ball of fire and hurls it at the tree, flooding the spell with so much essence that it blows the tree apart and sends the Selkye flying. The body, smouldering, starts to twitch and writhe where it lies on the icy grass.

An answering fireball shoots out from a hidden caster in the treeline, smashing into the ground between Harold and Maebh, rocking the Invarrian in the saddle and hurting him badly. Maebh is able to avoid the worst of the flames, throwing herself out of the way.

“Is the fireball cold by any chance?” – Yohan.
“What do you think?”
“Why do you ask?” – Dev.
“I’ve got cold resistance.” – Yohan.
“I don’t think that’s how it works.” – LD.
“Is it possible that the fireball’s so hot, it feels cold?” – Yohan.
“You should have stopped when you started grasping at straws. Then you started scraping the bottom of the barrel, went even further and hit rock bottom.” – Sins.

“I’m thinking I’ll grab one of my old daggers at throw it at the chick on the horse.” – LD.
“That’s a pretty good option for dealing with her, yeah. Go ahead.”
LD rolls a hit, but the Danann warrior dodges it.
“Now you can throw another. You’ve got enough actions to do so.”
“Yeah, do I have another dagger though?” – LD, to the laughter of everyone present.
“You’ve got like 70!”
“Ah yeah, the two originals, the carving knife, another knife, the cool dagger we found, a couple of throwing knives and the three armour piercing knives from Summer Hill. Looks like I do have another one to throw.” – LD.
“And you call me a walking armoury.” – Dev.
“At least all of Breanna’s are small. You’re walking around with swords, axes and a pike shoved up your arse.” – Sins.

Breanna hurls a couple of little blades at the mounted Danann, but only one hits. The one which hit would have sunk directly into her neck but it bounces off, leaving only the merest scratch. It seems her flesh has been enchanted, presumably by one of the casters hidden in the treeline.

The mounted warrior ignores the thrown knives and charges directly at Xander, who receives the charge with a roar. She tries to use her mount to knock him over, but he stands firm. As he stands there, desperately pushing the woman’s lance aside, he can feel a pull on his essence as a malignant curse is cast on him. He grits his teeth and roars in frustration and rage, and pushes the fell magic aside.

“Yohan, you’ll need to make a Willpower Check at -10 to resist a spell called Life’s End.”
“Well, that’s it guys, nice knowing you all.” – Yohan.
“You can do it Yohan.” – Ladyhawk.
“Ah, that’s actually a pass. 11 under 23. My Willpower is normally 33, so yeah, that’s a pass. And I even roll proper percentiles instead of picking my place values after every roll, so you can see that my roll is legit.” – Yohan, to the sheepish laughter of all my cheating players.

I’m kidding, they cheat, but it isn’t really cheating if I encourage it.

A few arrows streak from the treeline, one punching into Xander’s upper arm and another just barely flying past Kel’Serrar as he sways to the side.

Xander snaps the arrow-shaft where it protrudes from his arm and throws it away before drawing the gigantic blade of Ebeurnus back to cleave into the Danann woman, taking a light wound from her spear in the process.

“Okay, so that’s 37 Damage, ignoring armour.” – Yohan.
“Right then. She’s got 3 Damage Resistance from Toughness.”
“34 Damage.” – Yohan.
“Yeah, she’s mulched. Oh hold on, she’s got Ironflesh on her as well. So that goes down to 28 Damage. So she’s still mulched.”

The rider actually manages to get her spear between Xander’s blade and her own flesh, but to no avail, as the wooden shaft is no match for the ensorcelled blade in the hands of the furious and monstrously strong Feartarbh. With a brief flash of sickly golden light, the blade cleaves straight through the spear and smashes the warrior off her horse. The enchantment on her flesh prevents the sword from cutting through her, but cannot stop the pulverising force the Feartarbh imparts upon her. She hits the ground with a crash, completely broken, bones smashed to a pulp.

“Morrigan, no!” – At least one voice from the hidden assailants in the trees.

Still lost in the bloodlust, Xander charges off towards the voices in treeline, looking for more to kill. Sharing a glance, Harold and Breanna chase after him, Harold spurring Amadeus to greater speed.
“Mad cow, come back!” – Redshirt.

Another arrow streaks towards Kel’Serrar, this one taking the ranger heavily in the shoulder. He drops to his knees and grimaces as he pulls the arrow out.

“I definitely prefer when I’m the one doing the shooting.” – Kel’Serrar, to himself.

For a split second, there are two of the ranger, disguised as an Invarrian looking very similar to Harold. Then, there is only one, which keeps up a constant barrage of illusory arrows. The real Kel’Serrar, now invisible, simply takes a step to the left and draws an arrow back with pain, searching for a target.

Seeing a Danann archer step away from behind a nearby tree and loose at Kel’Serrar, Breanna draws her knives and springs into a leap, engaging the archer in deadly melee.

“Tree-girl! Do you know what you have done?” – Disembodied voice of what sounds like an old man.

“You’ll need to be more specific!” – Breanna, ducking under a glittering Danann blade.

“The torture you have wrought upon me!” – This time, two voices, entangled in each other, the old man and a second, younger voice, strongly accented.

“Again, specifics!” – Breanna, driving her knife into the leg of her opponent. She flips away from the melee, towards the safety of Xander’s hulking form.

”You have forced me into this half-life! To live within the mind of someone I hate! I will be stuck like this for eternity and it is YOUR FAULT!” – The voices, shaking with rage.

From the still burning Selkye’s body, a fiery spirit manifests, at first almost humanoid, but then taking the form of an ulvenseigl, one of the great predators which inhabits the coasts of the north.

A call-back here to the beginning of Arc 4, where the companions dealt with the doctor in Urik’s Landing, who used an ulvenseigl as his base for building the perfect predator. That particular questline was described as, “When we went down into the lair and Breanna almost got ****-mixed.”

Quite apt really.

The fiery, spectral ulvenseigl howls, a deep guttural roar of rage and streaks towards Breanna, enveloping her and Xander in a roiling explosion of flame. Both are driven to their knees, and Breanna looks up at the flaming figure as it rears over her, jaws opened wide, dripping with liquid balefire.

”Pathetic. We curse you to an eternity of torment, but we only wish we could drag out the agony you will feel as our fangs rend your flesh.” – The voices, melding over one another in a nightmarish, animalistic howl.

An arrow, gleaming with fell light, rips into where the beast’s eye would be, killing the magic holding it together. The fires gutter and die, and the roaring of the flames and snarling of the spectral beast starts to fade away.

NO! It can’t end like this! Curse you! CURSE YOU!” – The voices, raging as the magic holding them to the material is severed by Kel’Serrar’s arrow.

Spoiler: Breanna’s Nemesis (click to show/hide)

Maebh expends almost everything she has left to call up an orb of lightning around her and then a curtain of aethyric blades around both herself and Kel’Serrar. She doesn’t know that what she sees and thinks is the ranger is in fact an illusion and the real Kel’Serrar is actually a step to the left, but luckily she doesn’t eviscerate her invisible companion.

”Can you feel how hard it is to cast, Maebh? How much it weighs upon you?” – Bastaird’s whispering wind.

“No, I can keep casting all evening bastard.” – Maebh, bluffing.

A murder of crows wings toward Maebh and Kel’Serrar. To her witchsight, they glow with magic, having been compelled to feed themselves into the meat-grinder which is Maebh’s curtain of blades. With defiant caws they smash into the ethereal blades at full speed, immediately ground into gobbets of meat and shards of white bone. The storm of viscera splatters all over the invisible Kel, who groans in frustration, but the crackling lightning writhing around Maebh wicks most of it away from her.

And then another roiling ball of fire rips through the blade curtain, flames warring with the amber lightning shielding the mage. Maebh screams as the blast burns at her, the pain excruciating. Smouldering and swearing, Maebh unleashes a blast of golden fire of her own in return, but it is more reflexive than thought out and without a specific target to aim for, it thunders into a tree yards away from the nearest target, splitting it asunder.

Spoiler: The Danann pack (click to show/hide)

Breanna, still huddled near Xander, picks herself up and dusts herself off. Shaken and burnt, but otherwise unharmed, she draws a shortsword and readies herself. All around her, amidst the shadowy, frost-bitten trees, she can see the lithe shapes of the rest of the pack, moving into position. Beside her, Xander stands ready as well, the rage slightly abated. He breathes heavily, blood slowly dripping onto the frozen ground, thawing the frost ever so slightly, greatsword clutched tightly.

Looking around, Xander can see his companions are all a little worse for wear. Struggling to fight past the rage clouding his vision, the Feartarbh tries to channel his essence into a great shielding spell, but between his fatigue and the aethyric deadening in the air all around, he slips. The power lashes out from the guardian with a flash of golden light, and something answers.

Breanna’s backpack starts to tremble and smoulder with contained energy, and she drops it to the icy ground. The flap opens and out tumbles one of the coins, which rolls out and stands perfectly on its edge.

Back shortly.

And we're back.

Meanwhile, inside Xander’s mind, everything is on fire and he screams in pain and fear as Khubudeyn takes up residence again in the homely confines of his mind.

“Oh, how I missed you.” – Khubudeyn.

Xander is caught once again in a cage of red-hot iron bars, searing his consciousness.

“I don’t have long here, so let’s see what kind of damage I can cause…” – Khubudeyn.

“He’s possessed, quickly, stop him!’ – Bastaird, directing his pack.

A grim, fur-clad figure steps out from behind one of the trees and weaves some kind of debilitating magic around the form of the hulking Feartarbh.

“WHAT IS THIS!? I cannot move!” – Khubudeyn, raging as the Danann shaman’s curse takes hold.

An arrow flashes down and smashes into the illusion Kel’Serrar left to hide his presence. The illusion shatters immediately, leaving no trace of the elusive ranger. Several paces away, the invisible Kel’Serrar looses a gleaming arrow in return, which takes his opposite number in the eye.

Harold rides through the Danann in the woods, catching the shaman with a glancing blow. He misses the other archer, but wheels Amadeus around to continue the assault.

Maebh takes a moment to look around for a target, but none are forthcoming. She has a flash of inspiration, rushes forward and unleashes a gout of amber flames into the forest, setting the woodland alight. Her plan is to flush out the pack, or hopefully catch them in the flames and kill them indirectly. Now though, she is isolated, and a horseman breaks from the cover of the woods.

The horseman is Bastaird himself, and he draws forth a glittering dagger as he rides towards the mage, hurling it at her. The blade, and the aethyrbane poison coating it, is deflected by the curtain of blades before Maebh, but Bastaird doesn’t seem to care overmuch, spurring his horse on harder.

“Can I try to draw the daemon out of Xander?” – LD.
“Yes, definitely.”
“That won’t end his Frenzy will it?” – LD.
“No, the daemon and my Frenzy are two entirely separate mechanics.” – Yohan.
“Ah right. I don’t really understand how daemonic possession works.” – LD.
“You are literally the one character who should understand that.” – Yohan.
“As an aside, did anyone else picture the daemon just settling back into its favourite lounge-chair earlier?” – Ladyhawk.

The Danann mage, Naira, launches herself from hiding, thrusting a spear at Harold, but she is unable to break through the duellist’s defences. The second archer, Ruaridh, shoots at Maebh, but the arrow is charred and broken by the lightning which dances around her.

The forest shakes as Khubudeyn manages to free Xander’s body from the debilitating touch of Mharu’s magic, and the daemon directs its vessel through Ruaridh and straight for Harold.

“Okay, let’s have the dice decide then. 1-3, you go for Breanna, 4-6, you go for Ruaridh, 7-9, you go for Harold. On a 0, you get to choose what he does.”
“Let’s be real here, a 0 is just another result for Ruaridh.” – Yohan, who proceeds to roll an 8.
“Well Dev, nice knowing you.” – Sins.

“Sorry man, that’s a hit.” – Yohan, rolling for Xander’s strike.
“Do you have a Parry left?” – to Dev.
“It’s a greatsword isn’t it?” – Dev.
“Yes. Ignores armour as well.” – Ladyhawk.
“What do you want to do?”
“I’m jumping off the ****ing horse.” – Dev.

The gigantic golden blade comes down, Harold just avoiding it but throwing himself out of the saddle, but Amadeus is not so lucky, the horse cloven almost in two by the ferociously powerful strike.

“I’m sorry Dev. At least it wasn’t you though.” – Yohan.
“Yeah, well, at least he gets a funeral pyre.” – Dev.

Springing to his feet, Harold runs as hard as he can for the safety of Maebh’s blade curtain, just trying to get as far away from the possessed Feartarbh as possible.

Mharu binds yet more spirits to the raging form of Xander, weakening him significantly, but not enough to even come close to crippling the Feartarbh.

With Bastaird bearing down on her, Maebh gathers up as much power as she can and hurls two balls of flame at her nemesis. The first washes over the charging horseman, burning him severely, but with a shriek of tortured magic, the other explodes into shadows in her hands, washing everything around her in pitch darkness.

“Bastaird, Iolair’s down and the Feartarbh is free. Quick, let’s go!’ – A female voice, presumably Naira.

“Aaargh! This isn’t over Maebh!” – Bastaird, furious. The sound of the hoofbeats of his retreating horse fade into the unnatural blackness.

“Come back Bastaird! This is not finished!” – Maebh, hurling gouts of amber flame into the shadows all around here.

Immediately after the darkness fell, Kel’Serrar dropped to the ground and tried to meditate on his surroundings. It takes a few moments but eventually he can almost feel the trace of passage the pack leaves as it flees to the north, but only for a split second before it is gone. It seems as if their passage is being hidden by spirits, probably bound by the shaman, Mharu.

The pack may have retreated, but the battle is not yet done.

* * *

Breanna darts in close to the rampaging Xander and lays a hand on him, trying to compel him into unconsciousness with a flood of daemonic energy. Unfortunately, it seems to have no effect, and the Leathe flits away.

“Okay, rolling again to determine which one I go after. Odds it’s Harold, evens it’s Breanna.” – Yohan, who rolls a 7.
“You’ve got to be kidding.” – Dev.
“It isn’t even me. My dice clearly hate you.” – Yohan.
“I’d like to see Dev use Yohan’s dice to try and protect himself. It’d be interesting to see if they would betray him.” – LaPD.
“Luckily, Harold is just out of range.”
“Right, so with that in mind, you guys are all faster than me. Just play the Benny Hill music and keep running for like 8 more Rounds. I have no ranged capability, so you should all be safe.” – Yohan.
“Xander has no ranged capability, true.”
“But the daemon might.” – Sins.

“Maebh, help!” – Breanna, joining Harold in running back to the mage.

Gathering up what’s left of her reserves of power, Maebh ensnares the charging Feartarbh, able to exert her will over the daemon inside his mind. Xander’s body is just about encased in amber-coloured ice.

Within Xander’s head, he is still constrained in that burning cage, but now all the flames are dying, slowly being consumed by golden hoarfrost as Maebh’s magic takes hold.

“THIS CANNOT BE!” – Khubudeyn, raging, trying to regather his control over Xander’s body.

“Accept it. They’ve beaten you once before and they will again.” – Xander, before being wracked with agony.


“Time’s almost up fiend.” – Xander, smiling a bloody grin.

The daemon’s attention turns directly to Xander’s consciousness and it reaches into the cage with long, spindly claws, grasping and pulling at him.

Xander can do nothing but scream.

The companions gather around the icy statue Maebh has made out of Xander, wondering what they can do next.

“He’s warming up Maebh.” – Breanna, holding a hand near the surface of the ice, which is rapidly melting and refreezing as the mage pours more power into the spell.

“I don’t know how long this will last. We need another plan.” – Maebh, concentrating grimly.

“Where’s the coin… I can’t find it!” – Breanna, searching desperately for where the coin which held Khubudeyn has disappeared to.

Harold has a burst of inspiration and draws a dagger, cutting his palm and letting the blood well up.

“What are you doing?” – Kel’Serrar, nocking an arrow and aiming it at the Invarrian.

“You’re able to channel your vitality into other people, yes? To grant them greater power?” – Harold, to Maebh, who nods.

“Right, so maybe I can do the same.” – Harold, who then places his bloody hand on the Feartarbh’s arm, closes his eyes and wills everything he has into the battle for Xander’s mind.

* * *

A frozen hellscape greets the Invarrian’s consciousness. Before him, a massive creature, looking like it was constructed from jagged pieces of wood and wreathed in terrible flames, is trying to tear a caged Xander apart with razor-sharp claws.

“I am basically just cow-screaming at this stage.” – Yohan.
“Moooo!” – LD, Ladyhawk and LaPD.

“Okay, so time for the care-bear attack.” – Dev, rubbing his hands with glee.
“Sorry man, that’s equipment. You are not physically here.”
“Wait, so we don’t have equipment in here… That means I am naked.” – Yohan.
“Naked Xander is perhaps more mentally scarring than the daemon.” – Dev.
“It might be funny if I went and hypnotised the daemon.” – Ladyhawk.
“Would you like to join us? You’re welcome to come on into my mind too.” – Yohan.
“What would you be hypnotising the daemon for? To what end?”
“Just get it to stop being an *******.” – Ladyhawk.

“So, I have no equipment… Am I able to manifest anything?” – Dev.
“So much like last time you guys were in some kind of ethereal state like this, your will to cause damage generally manifests as a weapon. For instance, Maebh wanted to hurt someone last time and her will to destroy manifested as a spear. For you, it’d probably be a sword?”
“We’re in that really bad situation where our only option might be to try Charming it.” – Sins, to Dev.
“I already tried that.” – Yohan.
“Not Dev-style Charming. You rolled on Charisma, Dev rolls on Combat Skill.” – Sins.
“LIKE ME OR ELSE!” – Everyone at the table.

Spoiler: Dev’s Phone Call (click to show/hide)

Harold charges forward, a glowing blade materialising in his fist as he strikes at the limbs of the creature trying to rend his friend apart. The blade passes through the wrist of one of its limbs with a great cracking noise, and the daemon retreats a little, roaring at the Invarrian which has invaded its territory.

Taking advantage of the distraction provided by Harold, Xander wrenches himself out of his prison and launches himself at the daemon, holding on for dear life as it pounds and tears at him. But Khubudeyn is distracted, and while it tries to deal with the upstart Feartarbh, it isn’t able to break free of Maebh’s magic.

Perhaps more importantly though, Harold has managed to retreat to a higher level.

“So, how much can I manifest as such? Could I manifest like a viking longboat?” – Dev.
“You don’t own a bow, so Harold probably doesn’t really associate it with trying to wreak destruction.”
“No, not a bow, a boat. Like a longship.” – Dev.
“Oh right, well, uh…”
“I want to just try and ram it into the daemon if I can.” – Dev.
“That is just too ****ing metal.”
“BUUUUUUUUUURRRRR” – Yohan, imitating a ship’s horn.
“Only Dev would think to use a viking ship to ram a daemon in a frozen hellscape.” – Sins.
“Xander’s going to have nightmares about this. He finally manages to get just a little bit of control over the situation and then, BAM, longboat.” – Yohan.

Harold looks around Xander’s frozen mind. Below, his friend is being soundly beaten by the gigantic creature, flaming wooden fists and claws pummelling and rending at the Feartarbh’s consciousness. The assault is starting to tell on the mighty warrior. He looks diminished and faint, almost as if he is fading from reality, or whatever plane of existence they are currently on.

The Invarrian looks ‘up’, seeing the swirling of memories and emotions, thoughts, ideas and impulses. Like water, they flow and ripple over each other, and he is almost lost in the beauty of it. It takes him back to an earlier, simpler time, when he was merely a reaver, sailing with his friends and taking whatever they wanted from people to slow and weak to play the Great Game properly.

Like water… Sailing…

Beneath his feet, the ephemeral ground trembles as a longship takes form. A mighty mast shoots into the ‘sky’, a wide billowing sail hanging from it. Grinning, Harold runs to the bow of the ship, a glowing sabre blade in one hand, an axe formed of the same will to destroy in the other. A great gust blows, Harold’s memories filling the sail and manning the oars below-deck, propelling the ship forward and down with terrifying speed.

Khubudeyn grasps Xander and throws him heavily into the ground, roaring in triumph, but its celebrations are short-lived. It looks up, and feels fear…

With a great splintering of wood and a flood of seawater, the longship plows straight into the daemon, smashing it into the ground with the force of a wrathful god. Harold himself leaps from the bow, driving both weapons into the creature with as much force as he can.

“No matter what happens for the rest of the session, this session is Dev’s. He’s owned it.” – Sins.

* * *

“I’ve found it. Maebh, help me, it’s probably too powerful for me to bind by myself.” – Breanna, taking up the misplaced coin and running to Xander’s side.

Maebh channels the very last dregs of her power into the Leathe and watches as the assassin slowly drags the daemon out of the Feartarbh’s mind. One side of the coin burns hot, the other, icy cold, just as it was before.

“Okay, that was a long-ass combat guys, but I think we can all agree that it got pretty ****ing epic in the end there.”

* * *

Having seen off the Danann pack, the companions’ way to Elspeth is now open. They continue for a few days at a fairly restful pace, not pushing themselves overmuch as they recover from the exertions they went through.

Several days pass, and other than Xander’s recurring nightmares, the days and nights are uneventful. Breanna has taken to leaving her backpack on the ground before climbing into a tree to sleep, convinced she can hear muffled roaring from within in the dead of the night.

Weary and battered but determined, the companions pass through the quiet forests and over rivers and streams, and on a late afternoon, they eventually find themselves before the city of Elspeth itself.

Encamped before the city are two whole legions, well over a thousand soldiers, predominantly well-armed, disciplined and well-drilled heavy infantry.

“They fight in the same way my people did, many years ago.” – Xander, gruff.

“This might be a tough one to sneak into.” – Breanna, disappointed.

“The Harvest Moon is tomorrow night.” – Maebh, standing beside Toirneach with a hand on the horse’s neck.

The city itself is a sprawling, fortified settlement, with a soaring keep overlooking the cliffs on the western edge of the city. Hopefully they will find Esmerelda within, and prevent the world’s ruin.

And we left it there…

The Wrap-Up:
First of all, my apologies regarding how long this took to write. We played this game all the way back in March and it has taken over seven months just to write it up. With that said, I hope it was worth the wait.

What will probably be our final session is due to be played in a fortnight’s time, and hopefully I will have the write-up completed before 2019 rolls around.

This one was another combat heavy session, but it was definitely more successful than the ones in Summer Hill. More interesting and dangerous opponents by far.

Anyway, we hope you enjoyed reading this and you will join us for the last session next time.


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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #43 on: March 28, 2020, 02:34:21 AM »
Session 7.2: Harvest Moon Rising

”We come to it at last, the rise of the Harvest Moon. All our long journeys, the various paths which have lead us to this point have culminated, together, here, on this night. Through nights filled with wolven terrors, to storms on the open ocean, underground in the depths of the world to the mountain passes of the far north and the sunken depths of ancient temples, we’ve finally come back, full circle.

This is it, we win, or we die.”

- Excerpted from the journal of Maebh Preachain-Eite, dated to mid-1650 CE.

Welcome to session 7.2 of Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword.

“This may be the end of an era here ladies and gentlemen.” – Dev.
“There’ll be another session yet.” – Sins.
“I had high hopes we’d be able to drag this out for a decade. I’m slightly disappointed.” – LD.
“You know, the game doesn’t stop until we let him go.” – Sins.
“That seems like most GM’s experiences to me. ‘This is how my story is,’ they cry. No its not.” – Yohan.
“Write monkey, write!” – LD.

Exhausted, the companions encamp behind a slight hilly rise on the eaves of a copse of woodland. They share the watch through the night, but nothing interrupts their rest. On the field below, most of the Elspeth troop formations have either encamped in a city of tents before the city walls, or have retreated inside to rest. Moving torchlights indicate the presence of a significant force upon the walls of the city, and the tents are both guarded and regularly patrolled by over one hundred soldiers at a time, split between a picket line set and small squads moving between the tents.

The camp and the city both appear to be on high alert, but thankfully the companions’ presence goes unnoticed.

The dawn light starts to gently peak out over the hills to the east, casting a dim silvery light over the grassy plain and the white stone city walls. The light glints on the armour of the Elspeth heavy infantry as the tent city stirs into life. Labourers exit the city and begin disassembling the shelters, removing them from the field with startling efficiency. Within twenty minutes, the Elspeth army is formed up and ready, their camp broken and packed away, non-combatants retreated away and back within the city walls.

Xander, Harold and Maebh, using the cover of the treeline, stand on the rise and observe the legions in action.

“They’re waiting for something.” – Xander, quietly.

“Not us, surely.” – Harold, wondering out loud.

“No, not us.” – Maebh, pointing towards the east.

Just cresting the hills to the east, the companions can see the fluttering of banners as an army approaches. Over a thousand infantry, accompanied by a small contingent of cavalry and some siege weapons. As they get closer, the companions recognise the banners, a red bird of some kind on a green field. Naille’s army has arrived.

The new army forms up, almost a mile from the Elspeth formations. The Naillish force seems a fair margin smaller than that of Elspeth, and most of their force is made up of light spearmen and archers.

Spoiler: Map of the Battlefield (click to show/hide)

It just wouldn’t be right to not have another Insert Map Here. [/color]

The city of Elspeth is protected by a curtain wall almost 20 metres tall, anchored by tall towers arranged in almost a hexagon-shape. Atop each tower sits a heavy ballista, which, from this distance, appear to be mounted on some kind of device which allows the machine to rotate in place, giving a 360 degree shooting arc.

The keep itself is situated well within the walls, abutting the cliffs overlooking the Sea of Claws to the west. The keep’s walls are much higher, over 50 feet, the four towers taller and broader than those anchoring the curtain wall. Atop each of the keep’s towers sits a large trebuchet. Jutting out from the centre of the keep is a tall marble spire, almost like a stretched pyramid, adorned with a massive sculpture of an eagle, presumably cast in gold, wings spread back over the spire.

“A bit pretentious, no?” – Maebh, under her breath.

Kel’Serrar and Breanna join their companions on the rise, and observe the Naillish forces forming up. Neither of the armies seem to be eager to engage, both content to hold their formations out of range of the enemy artillery.

“I can see a banner down there with a crown on it.” – The keen-eyed Kel’Serrar, looking down at the massed Naillish forces.

“Must be their king.” – Harold.

“We should probably try and gain an audience with the commander down there, king or not. As tempting as it is to go down there and cause as much havoc as we can by ourselves, we should try to coordinate with them if they share our goals.” – Xander, to the general agreement of the rest of the party.

“Hopefully the commander is not the king. I think the king is just a boy.” – Harold, concerned.

“Inexperience would certainly explain their decision to try and besiege a major city with a smaller army than that of the defenders.” – Xander, shaking his head.

“This may well be everyone Naille could muster. They may have no others.” – Maebh, darkly.

“That might be true. If so, they’ll be desperate for aid. Could give us an advantage. I presume you have all pissed this king off at some time?” – Xander.

“I think the only thing we’ve really done which might have pissed him off is kill his ambassador in Summer Hill. With that said, Carhold was a traitor and in no fit state to fulfil his duties, so I feel like that may gain us some social credit instead.” – Harold, hopeful.

“If we are agreed on sending someone to parlay, I suggest we only send two. Don’t want panic them.” – Maebh.

“Aye, Harold and I will go. Harold to talk, me to get us out in case it goes poorly. Besides, both of us have military backgrounds, they may respond more positively to us.” – Xander.

Spoiler: Charisma and Strength (click to show/hide)

A warhorn rings out over the field.
Yohan provides the requisite warhorn noise, very cinematic.
“That was very good.” – Ladyhawk.
“It was, but now a real warhorn.”
Yohan provides an adjusted sound, one which devolves into a broken note at the end, like a real warhorn, which sounds, to be frank, not much like those in the movies.
“It almost turns into a screaming goat by the end. I’m imagining the company musician may in fact have an actual goat tucked under one arm and through a mixture of squeezing and stretching it, creates the noise.” – Yohan, who then mimes doing exactly that, almost playing a goat like an accordion.

“Alright everyone, Perception Checks with Evaluation bonuses if you have any.”
Everyone passes except Xander, who fails by a lot.
“Xander looks in entirely the wrong direction.” – Dev.
“When Breanna moved to get a better look, she knocked my helm around and now it is over my eyes.” – Yohan, eyes closed and arms outstretched.

Approximately half of the Naillish forces start to move forward a touch, forming a defensive line in front of the field trebuchets, which are being unpacked and made ready to launch. The other half seems to be helping the baggage train in setting up tents and pavilions, well behind the siege equipment.

“I don’t understand, they’re well out of range…” – Harold, confused, gesturing towards the field trebuchets.

“They’re just trying to stay out of range of the city’s engines.” – Xander.

“No, look at them. These things are advanced. They may be in range after all.” – Kel’Serrar, pointing out the steel contraptions on the Naillish siege engines.

“They look like they’re setting up for a prolonged siege. They wouldn’t bother with so many tents unless they intended to stick around for a while.” – Maebh, quietly.

“We should try and gain our audience before they engage, Xander. Let’s get ready to go.” – Harold.

The companions head back to their camp and prepare. Xander takes his two greatswords, binding the hilt of the Corpsewalker Blade with a spare rag, obscuring the iconography upon the hilt. To the other sword he attaches a bolt of white cloth, like a flag. Harold takes the Gilded Sword and a smattering of other weapons, but both men feel that the less weapons they openly carry, the better, and leave the better part of the armaments behind at the camp.

Together, the Invarrian and Feartarbh make their way to the Naillish camp.

* * *

A small squad of five horsemen detach from the Naillish infantry, urging their mounts towards the hills, where an Invarrian and Feartarbh can be seen descending, waving an improvised white flag. The cavalry, clad in green and gleaming steel cuirasses and armed with long lances, gallop up to the two companions and circle around them, lances levelled.

One of the cavalry, a bearded Midlander with a green feather attached to an open-faced steel helm speaks. Harold recognises that the feathered helm denotes the Naillish military officers.

“State your intentions.” – The cavalry captain.

“I am Harold Oakenshield and this is Xander Rothgar. We would like to ask an audience with your commander. We have important news.” – Harold, speaking up.

“I see you are both heavily armed. If you will surrender your weapons, that meeting can possibly be arranged.” – Naillish captain.

“I would understand if you intend to try and restrain us, but I fear you have no bonds which could hold me.” – Xander, tall enough to look the mounted captain directly in the eye.

“Do I have your word that you will do no harm?” – The Naillish captain, with an appraising look at the two companions.

“You have my word, upon my life and the honour of my clan.” – Xander, solemnly.

“That is good enough for me.” – Naillish captain, nodding in satisfaction.

Xander is loaded up like a pack mule, with all the weapons they saw fit to bring with them slung over his back, out of easy access. Then the riders slowly escort Harold and Xander to the rear of the Naillish forces.

The game was then interrupted by the players comparing their respective armouries. As expected, Harold’s collection was the greatest, but Breanna’s massive selection of knives came a close second. Yohan suggested that the saddle on his shoulder may have possibly incorporated a closed compartment of some sort, which acted as a handy storage space for Breanna’s various weapons.

The scouts lead Harold and Xander past the artillery and then through the camp. Closer to, they can see the trebuchets are very advanced, with sophisticated pulley systems allowing a swift reload, a steel-reinforced launching arm and a system which increases the momentum of the counterbalance when the payload is launched. Speaking of the payload, neither of the companions can determine exactly what they are. They look almost like large clay pots rather than a more traditional missile, but there is no way of knowing from this distance what is inside.

“Those things are going to range over a mile.” – Xander, in an undertone to Harold.

Eventually Harold and Xander are led to a large green and white striped pavilion, flags waving proudly in the morning breeze, bearing red sparrows on a green field, replete with golden crowns. A troop of soldiers in heavy armour, tall shields at their backs and halberds in hand, guard the tent and, after a brief conversation with the scout captain, allow Xander and Harold into the tent, relieving Xander of their weapons before they enter.
“And I just let it happen.” – Yohan, laughing.

Entering the command tent, the first thing they notice is the large table set in the middle of the room. Upon it sits a fairly accurate representation of Elspeth City, along with several coloured wooden blocks, which look as if they indicate the troop positions on the field before the city. Opposite the door is a high, intricately carved wooden chair, flanked by two men, one a heavily armoured, shaggy brown-furred Feartarbh, the hilt of a large greatsword visible over his shoulder and a truly massive axe, the blade of which is embedded in the patchy grass beside him. Even bigger than Xander, the Feartarbh looks over the new arrivals with a keen interest, scarred and heavily muscled arms crossed over his enormous chest. The other man is a Midlander, tall for his race, clad in a dark green robe, middle-aged and bearded. He is generally nondescript in appearance, but he does have a rather thick golden chain clasping a grey cloak.

Upon the chair between the two is a small, dark-haired Midlander boy, perhaps 12 years old. The expression on his face is that of someone who is unsure of every move he makes. His clothes are rich, and he wears a nice coat with an ermine fur trim on his thin shoulders. His hands bear three rings, all of which seem slightly too large for his slender fingers. Upon his head sits a thin crown of silvered steel, and this suits him well, unlike the other regalia he wears.

Around the table, three Midlander men stand in debate, two in the rich green officer’s uniform of the Nailish command, the third in steel plate armour, a feathered helm carried under his arm. All three have the bearing of long military service. Attending them are a scattered handful of pages, girls and boys ranging from 10 to 16 years of age, predominantly Midlanders, each carrying platters of food and drink.

As Harold and Xander enter the room accompanied by another page, the robed man is stooped slightly, whispering something to the boy on the chair. The mood in the room seems grim, and the officers are arguing around the table.

“My king, lords, may I present Harold Oakenshield and Xander Rothgar at the bequest of Captain Matthias.” – The page, ushering the companions into the pavilion.

The boy is given a gentle nudge by the robed man and, after a brief pause while he remembers his line, speaks.

“Come forward then, and speak.” – The king of Naille, in a surprisingly confident voice.

Xander and Harold walk past the war-table and approach the king, halting at a respectful distance. Behind them, the argument begins anew, but in more hushed tones. Harold bows to the king.

“King, I am Harold Oakenshield of Varr, my companion is Xander Rothgar. To get right to the point, my companions and I offer you our aid.” – Harold, straightening again, maintaining eye-contact with the young king.

“I appreciate it. How many do you bring?” – The king, already perking up a little.

“Ah, well, five.” – Harold.

The disappointment on the face of the king is palpable.

“My company is five battle-hardened veterans, one of them, one of the greatest mages of our age.” – Harold, trying to salvage the situation a little.

“I mean no disrespect to you or your companions, Sir Oakenshield, but I fear five soldiers will not avail us greatly.” – The king, disappointed.

“King, have you ever heard of The Crag?” – Harold.

The boy shakes his head, but the robed man leans down and starts to whisper in his ear. His eyes widen and his jaw drops.

“I had not heard of The Crag, but my advisor here has. Your mage… They say she destroyed a mountain?” – The king, wide-eyed and awe-struck.

“Stories are always exaggerated. In truth, she almost single-handedly took the main gate to the fortress. However, between us, we took the fortress as a whole.” – Harold.

“You see-“ – The king, who looks up at his advisor and receives an almost imperceptible shake of the head.

The king’s jaw sets and his eyes harden slightly as he turns back to the companions.

“We are here to prevent something from coming to pass.” – The king, ignoring the slight nudge from his advisor.

“The Greyflood Prophecy?” – Harold.

Now he has their attention. Silence descends over the tent as the captains’ debate turns still. All eyes are on the Invarrian as the king slowly nods.

“An old prophecy of my people. King, with your permission, may my companion retrieve one of our belongings from outside the tent?” – Harold, entreating the king.

“Is it a weapon?” – The king’s robed advisor, to Harold’s nod of affirmation.

“Would you allow Heriman here to retrieve it for you?” – The robed advisor, gesturing to the massive Feartarbh standing on the other side of the king.

“Obtaining that weapon came at incredible cost and hardship. We would prefer to have no others touch it. If your efforts are aligned with ours, then there is nothing to fear from us.” – Xander, quietly.

“This weapon is also an ancient artefact of my people, an heirloom of the first Stormlord of Varr.” – Harold, shaking his head.

I asked for a Charm Check here, which was very narrowly passed.

“Very well, please allow Ser Rothgar to retrieve their belongings.” – The king, projecting his voice to the guards outside the pavilion, who nod as Xander lumbers over to them.

The hulking Feartarbh picks up both Gilded Swords from their small pile of undisturbed arms, and returns the true Gilded Sword to Harold, who draws it gently from its makeshift sheathe.

“This is the sword from the Greyflood Prophecy, recovered at great cost from a sunken temple on Varr.” – Harold, presenting the blade to the young king.

For his part, the king is absolutely captivated by the artefact, the swirling designs on the golden, leaf-shaped blade, the intricate hilt, the almost magnetic pull it exudes and the razor-sharp edge. The king, it would appear, is a bit of a sword nerd.

“Oh, it’s beautiful.” – The king, softly.

“This entire scene almost seems like a bit of, ‘All hail King PG,’ to me.” – Sins.
“I’ll admit, at the moment, his reactions are basically me just looking at Albion’s catalogue.”

The king’s advisor however is looking at Xander, still holding his own massive blade.

“I see you retrieved a second weapon, Ser Rothgar. Should we be concerned?” – The advisor, clearly starting to worry a little.

“No need to be concerned, I simply felt we should be entirely forthright with you. This blade was captured in Summer Hill, from a man I believe, from what my companions have told me at least, was once one of your own.” – Xander, withdrawing the rag tied around the iconography on the hilt and presenting the offending designs to the king and advisor both.

Between the quillons on one side sits the inscribed and enamelled sigil of the Carhold family, on the other, in brilliant blue, the banner of Elspeth.

“I see. We had heard a little of what occurred in Summer Hill and as such had some idea of what became of Edmond Carhold. Clearly, this is the final proof, if it was needed, of him being in league with Elspeth. You won it through force of arms. May it serve you well.” – The king’s advisor.

Xander nods, and slings the sword over his shoulder with a thoughtful expression on his face, stepping back.

“So this is the sword which the prophecy speaks of… What do you need?” – The king, at first still a little lost in the beauty of the sword before him before looking up at Harold, a determined look in his eye.

“Honestly, we need the biggest distraction you can provide while we get inside the city to disrupt whatever ritual is happening in there. Any information you might have from spies in the city would be handy as well.” – Harold, wrapping the Gilded Sword up again.

“Unfortunately our spies are, well, they’re dead. We had five people in the city, but two weeks ago we received word of a public execution within the walls. Our insurgents were put to death and we began the march immediately.” – The king, sadly.

“But your spies got into the city easily enough?” – Harold.

“Sure, but that was probably over a month ago and the city was not on war-footing at the time, with an army outside the gates. It will be an entirely different task today.” – Xander, interjecting, to nods from the king’s advisor and the captains behind.

“Indeed, you will likely need cover of darkness to get into the city, and even that will be difficult.” – King’s advisor.

“We do not doubt it, hence why the bigger the distraction caused by your forces, the better. My lord, I’m sure you trust your commanders, and they appear competent men, but we might be able to provide assistance with the tactical planning. This is not the first fortified location my companions have taken.” – Xander, gesturing to the model city on the war-table.

“That’s right, we are professional poor decision makers.” – Sins.

“With that said, what would you suggest? Seeing what we have done so far, what would you have us do?” – The armoured Naillish captain, honestly curious.

“It may be best if we summon all our companions to get their input. They’re smarter than us…” – Xander, the last bit whispered under his breath.

“That can be arranged.” – The king’s advisor, clapping his hands together.

“I must warn you, they are two Danann and a Leathe, and are known to be both abrasive and up-front in their criticism and comments.” – Xander, with a tone of suffering.

“We are the most tactful members of our company.” – Harold, making a truly horrific statement, as in a statement which is both true and horrific.

“So I apologise in advance for their behaviour, because I can almost guarantee they’re going to piss someone off. If someone here takes offence to something one of them says, I won’t say they don’t mean it, because they probably do, but rather I hope that it won’t come to blows. ” – Xander, in a blanket statement to the room.

“I prefer to think of it as honesty rather than poor behaviour.” – Sins.

Xander accompanies a small squad of horsemen back to the companions’ encampment while Harold remains in the command tent, talking with the king. Before he leaves, the Feartarbh leans in to the Invarrian.

“Don’t let that sword out of your sight.” – Xander, whispering to Harold before clapping the Invarrian on the shoulder and leaving the pavilion.

* * *

Within the hour, the cavalry return. Amongst them a Feartarbh, with a Leathe upon his shoulder, a Danann riding a large black horse and an Invarrian, hooded and cloaked with a powerful longbow in hand. Two pony-sized marcwolves race amongst the horses and a large, armoured lizard lays across the back of Maebh’s horse, basking in the morning sun. Their motley band receives no small number of questioning looks from the Naillish soldiers and members of the supply train, as they are led to the command tent. Along the way, Kel’Serrar’s keen sight picks up wisps of spirit magic surrounding a small cabal of robed figures, sitting away from the rest of the army.

Approaching the command tent, the guards almost instinctively move to bar Xander’s way before letting him through. Upon arriving back in the tent, the king nods to Xander, with a somewhat surprised look at Breanna, who nimbly leaps down from the Feartarbh’s shoulder and grabs a piece of fruit from one of the serving pages. Then the two marcwolves come bounding in, to the sound of muffled shouts from outside the tent. Bach makes a beeline straight for Harold, while Wolfgang fairly tackles one of the pages and starts devouring the spilled food from the platter.

Xander helps the young boy to his feet and then retrieves a sack of dried meat from his pack.

“It’s okay, they’re trained, they’re trained.” – Breanna, having found a spare seat in the corner of the tent, she now lounges in it, eating her fruit.

Maebh and Kel’Serrar enter the room too, the latter looking identical to Harold, save for the ranger’s thick black cloak. Crithtaluin is laid across Maebh’s shoulders, sleeping.

Seeing Xander pulling meat out of the sack, Bach and Wolfgang immediately run to the corner, where Xander piles up the food for them. Draped over Maebh’s shoulders, Crithtaluin stirs, tongue flicking out to taste the air, then goes back to sleep.

“Could you spare a piece Xander?” – Maebh, absent-mindedly stroking the mantikor’s tail hanging over her shoulder. It gently takes the meat from the mage’s fingers when she offers it.

The captains move aside from the table and allow the companions to see the war-table clearly.

“First things first, we’ll need a distraction to get into the city.” – Harold, almost to himself.

“Has anyone seen the Queen?” – Maebh. 

“Not on the field. Our spies’ last reports had her in the city, but that information is old.” – One of the unarmoured captains.

“What range do you have on your siege equipment?” – Xander, looking around at the gathered captains, who all turn to look at the other unarmoured captain, a shorter, grey-haired man with spectacles.

“I cannot say exactly, but we are confident that our engines outrange the city’s defences. At the very least, we should be able to draw a bead on the curtain wall while still outside their capacity to strike at us.” – The siege engineer captain.

“You should ask about what’s in the clay pots too.” – Dev, to Yohan.
“You’re here though, you could ask…” – Yohan, confused.
“Yeah, but… No, you’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking.” – Dev.
“Xander, ask about the pots. I am too regal to do so myself. Do it for me, slave.” – Yohan, in as posh an accent as he could muster.
“Dim the lights, Xander dear.” – LD, following suit.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what do you intend to launch from those trebuchets? We saw some clay pots of some kind as we came in…” – Harold, directing his question to the engineer captain.

The captain glances towards the king’s advisor before responding.

“Yes, many of those clay pots you would have seen are incendiaries, but we have a few other options too.” – Engineer captain.

“You would possibly be the man to talk to about this. Do you have some way of sending you a signal from within the city if need be?” – Xander, to the engineer captain.

“Ah, well, yes, I guess I do.” – The engineer captain who turns and sends a page out of the tent.

Moments later, the page returns with small device and a leather pouch. Essentially, the device is like a slingshot, and the pouch contains a handful of balls made of some alchemical substance which flares with a bright coloured flame when set alight.

“It isn’t military, it’s my personal device, but it should do the job.” – Engineer captain, inspecting the device before offering it to the Feartarbh.

“Tell you what, I may not return from this venture alive. I’d like to compensate you for your work.” – Xander, who takes his coin-pouch and hands it to the man, who gasps a little at the weight.

Xander just gave this captain all his money, which included five Crowns. A truly exorbitant figure. As you can imagine, the captain is astounded at this generosity, and so he should be, but it is let down a little by the fact that Xander himself has very little concept of the worth of money. He understands how it works, but has no real idea just how much he has given away.

Xander then removes his vambrace and asks the man if it would be possible to have the device attached to the plate armour. The captain readily agrees and proceeds to leave the tent.

“So then, let us plan.” – The king’s advisor.

* * *

Back with Part 2 soon. :smallsmile:
And we're back.

The next few hours pass swiftly as the companions plan the assault with the aid of the Naillish commanders. At some stage in this, the king feels as if the discussions are starting to get into the real minutiae and approaches a visibly bored Breanna, asking her if she will supervise him while he meets the marcwolves. She does so, and is unable to restrain an excited Wolfgang from pouncing on the boy, knocking him to the ground and licking him furiously. At first, the king laughs, but Wolfgang’s claws are long and sharp and the marcwolf is heavy, and the king’s laughing quickly turns into slight cries of pain. After some time, Breanna and Xander are able to restrain the young wolf and the king rights himself, wiping the drool, tears and blood away as best he can. He gives them a somewhat weak smile and retreats back to his seat.

Discussion turns to what the companions must leave behind if they are to infiltrate the fortress. They determine they shall take only the weapons they absolutely need, and leave all their various animals behind. To best infiltrate the fortress, they decide to hide in the woodland to the south of the city, and they will leave their animals and all their belongings they will not carry behind at a campsite there.

Xander personally presents his own sword to the king, the Feartarbh’s claymore a fine example of the swordsmith’s art in its own right.

“Good king, please take this blade as a gift. I understand it cannot serve you as a blade should, but it is not something which will assist me greatly in the fight to come, and it deserves a finer home than I can give it.” – Xander, with the massive weapon, sheathed and held in two hands before him.

“This is a kingly gift. I accept it, but if one day you should seek its return, come to me and it is yours.” – The king, who reverently takes the weapon, and then grunts slightly at the weight as the hulking Feartarbh hands it over.

The king personally shakes the hand of each and every one of the companions, or attempts to anyway, as Xander’s massive grasp makes the assignment rather difficult. He wishes them well, as do all the captains, the engineer having returned with Xander’s bracer, now with the slingshot hastily riveted in place to a small bracket.

The companions make their way out of the encampment, as the afternoon sun starts to dip in the sky…

* * *

Back in the southern copse of woodland, at Xander’s suggestion, the companions pack their belongings together into their respective tents and, with Breanna’s help, sling the bundles in the trees with some lengths of rope.

Maebh takes some time with Toirneach as the afternoon sun starts to set. There is a little sadness and trepidation at their parting, but the horse understands the reasons for which his master must leave. He nuzzles her and sends a mental pulse that he will not allow any harm to befall the two marcwolves or her mantikor.

As the afternoon draws on, the Naillish army starts to mobilise, wheeling towards the fortified city. Their artillery slowly draws into position, dragged by teams of leathery-skinned great beasts at first, then adjusted by hand by the crews. Arranged outside the city, the Elspeth legions start to adjust their positions too, setting themselves into something of a crescent, designed to envelope the smaller Naillish force.

The dusk glow of the sunset as it fades into the western ocean behind the city provides ample illumination as the Naillish artillery lets loose their opening salvo, at what seems at first to be a distance well beyond their range. A wave of projectiles sails forth, and they travel significantly beyond the walls of the city, and over the cliffs on the far side. The crews hastily begin to make adjustments to their engines, and the next volley is more effective, a good few projectiles smashing into the near curtain wall and others deeper in the city itself. Smoke and the tell-tale glow of fire begins to emanate from within the city walls, and outside the sound of bells, shouts and screaming can be heard. The incendiaries are proving effective. The Elspeth legions move forward at a swifter rate, and the Naillish army moves likewise to meet them on the field between the city and the siege engines, under a darkening, blood-red sky.

Upon the wall, relatively evenly interspersed and generally taking cover from the bombardment are what seems like uniformed soldiery, clad in steel helms and mail hauberks with liveried surcoats. Most carry crossbows, some carry spears and all seem to have a shield over their backs. Many of these well-trained soldiers have left their posts to assist in the firefighting efforts, particularly those on the southern stretch of wall, the section of the wall closest to the still-hidden companions.

“Remember, we don’t want to reveal our presence until we have no other choice.” – Maebh, rasping a whetstone over the blade of her spear.

“Very well, I’ll be with you every step of the way.” – Kel’Serrar, who then appears to blink out of existence.

There is silence for a few moments, with only the sounds of the conflict in and around the city to be heard.

“Also, perhaps we should hide the big one.” – Kel’Serrar’s disembodied voice as Xander feels a hand rest upon his upper arm.

Xander too, disappears.

* * *

As the shadows spread over the fields outside the city, the companions make their move. Xander and Breanna reach the wall first, and the hulking Feartarbh holds his hands out to the Leathe, boosting her up and over the crenellations. The black-furred assassin, a small bolt clenched between her teeth, sails over the wall, and can see three faces beneath her, upturned and looking directly at her, three guards watching this immediate section of the wall. As she glides through the air, the Leathe takes her hand-crossbow and looses the already loaded bolt, taking one of the startled Midlander guards in the eye. The man hasn’t even fallen before the Leathe’s hands move in a blur, taking the bolt she held in her teeth and loading her weapon, and she shoots again, the little steel projectile punching into another guard’s throat.

Without even touching the top of the wall, Breanna sails over, landing on the ground on the other side of the wall, rolling with the impact and immediately seeking shelter in the gathering shadows behind a nearby building.

“Go, go, go!” – Harold, exhorting the others over the wall, as Xander prepares to launch Maebh to the top of the wall.

One by one, Maebh, Harold and lastly an invisible Kel, are propelled up by Xander and swiftly drop down to the other side. The body of one of the slain guards slowly slumps to the ground and topples off the edge of the wall to the ground below. The surviving guard scrabbles at his belt, face panicked, his fingers tightening on a simple horn. He raises it to his lips and blows, three short, staccato notes, and a nearby troop of guards from a different section of the wall make their way over at a steady pace.

“By the way Dev, we have the name of Harold’s next ship. The Flying Dogman.” – Sins.

A patrol of guards, at least twenty strong rounds a corner and moves down the street towards the hidden companions at a steady jog, intent on investigating the horn-call. At the fore, a bearded captain of the guard, an eagle etched onto his steel helm and a well-made sword in hand. He holds up his other hand, and orders the company to halt.

“Hold on, I’ve got this.” – Breanna, whose eyes gleam briefly red before she closes them.

The horn blast rings out in the night air once more, accompanied by the sounds of screaming, this time from a location closer to the main gate. The captain of the patrol raises his sword.

“That’s the signal lads, go, go, go!” – The captain, breaking into a run and leading the patrol away from the hidden party.

Breanna’s eyes open and she grins, her phantom noise successful.

“Very good Bree. Now what?” – Maebh.

“We wait for Xander, no?” – Harold, looking furtively for further guard movement.

They do not have to wait long before a horrible clanking sound, that of iron or steel being smashed heavily into worked stone, can be heard echoing up from the outside of the wall. The surviving guard on the top of the wall, looks down, but can see nothing. An arrow flashes through the night air, catching the guard in the back of the neck and sending him tumbling over the wall, to land on the grass outside the city.

The clanking ceases as the invisible Xander heaves himself to the top of the wall. The Feartarbh looks for a way down, but is convinced that dropping down from the top of the wall would be too loud, and he himself may be too heavy to do so without injury. He turns to his left, towards the closed door of a tower, trusting that there will be a flight of stairs he can take. Just as he reaches out towards the door, it opens outwards into him, and there is a surprised yelp and a solid thud.

Down on the ground, the companions see the gigantic Feartarbh blink back into existence as the impact of the door breaks Kel’Serrar’s illusion upon Xander.

“Who is that?” – Elspeth guard, trying to open the door enough to see who would be blocking his way. Unsurprisingly, the door does not budge, as Xander’s formidable weight is far too great for the guard to shift.

“****, can someone take him out? If I do, the whole city will know about it.” – Maebh, in a quiet hiss to the rest of the party.

“Yeah, we’re not at that point yet. We might be soon, but not quite yet.” – Yohan, laughing.

Breanna takes up her crossbow and looses another bolt, aiming for the sliver of the guard’s face she can barely see. The bolt sails wide, over the wall, missing completely. She gives the small contraption a swift rap against her thigh.

“Seriously? How could you miss that badly?” – Breanna, quietly blaming her weapon.

Xander listens carefully, and he thinks he can pick out the voices of three separate individuals in the tower.

“Well, I could try to lie to them, but my Charisma is god-awful. So then we go to my next idea, which is violence.” – Yohan.
“I thought we were keeping quiet?” – Ladyhawk.
“I’m thinking loud violence for like a split second and then I can try to disappear into the streets. Definitely more likely to work than trying to lie to them. Full strength cow-kick the door in, hopefully distract them and dive off the wall while they’re not looking.” – Yohan.
“That could just decapitate the first bloke with the door.” – Dev.
“That’s fine. Just collateral damage. Proceeding with the plan. Hmm, only one degree of success on the Strength Check. Can I spend a Luck Point to re-roll?” – Yohan.
“Absolutely. One degree wouldn’t do much.”
“That’s better. 04 under 105. Ten degrees of success.” – Yohan.

The wooden door is pulverised by the impact, as a giant, cloven hoof blasts through the wood, catching the guard in the chest. His ribs are shattered as he is propelled backwards, through the opposite door of the tower, over the wall and then off the cliff, too surprised to even scream on the way down. For a split second, Xander can see the horrified expressions on the faces of the other two guards in the tower before he takes his shield and dives shoulder-first into the ground beneath the wall. The impact is loud and bone-rattling as Xander’s shield and then his shoulder absorbs the dive, before noisily picking himself up, left arm hanging loosely at his side, to attempt to disappear into the darkened streets.

From their hiding place, the other companions can hear a swiftly approaching patrol, and they round the corner, approaching the source of the commotion. Seven guards, Midlanders all, three armed with crossbows, the others with spears and shields at the ready, a captain at their forefront, the only one amongst them with a sword at his belt, a mustard yellow-dyed leather covering over his left shoulder. They approach cautiously, weapons trained on the strange sight ahead of them.

Back against the stone wall, Xander stands, entirely covered by two gigantic tower shields held together before him, concealed by them, save for his huge, curving horns, which jut out and above the upper-most rim of the shields. The patrol edges forward, and the captain directs the crossbowmen to advance. The crossbowmen raise their weapons to shoot.

“In my defence, I was left unsupervised.” – Yohan.

In the split second before they loose, a grizzled Invarrian breaks cover, sword and sabre in hand, cleaving into the small phalanx of spearmen. The first blow opens a gaping wound in the captain’s chest before the return swing comes back and practically bisects the man. Turning, the Invarrian jams a sword through the chest of a second victim and lashes out at a third before facing down the last two spearmen, putting himself in between them and the crossbowmen.

Behind him, the three crossbowmen loose at Xander. Three bolts flash across the intervening distance, punching into the shields, and one skids up and over the rim of the right-most shield, tearing a bloody groove into the Feartarbh’s cheek.

Breanna darts into the midst of the crossbowmen, silvery dagger in hand. She has never used this particular weapon before, since obtaining it in the ancient, submerged temple of Werencha, and therefore what it does next surprises her. She punches the blade through the knee of one of the crossbowmen, withdrawing it swiftly with a spurt of blood. The guard screams, and moves to clutch at his knee. The spurting blood coalesces in the air, forming into a blade of sorts, almost a shard of magically hardened blood, which shoots into the neck of wounded guard, neatly severing the man’s head. It carries through, punching through the chest of another crossbowman, who sinks to his knees, desperately trying to control the blood pouring from a gaping wound in his torso.

An arrow flashes across the street, punching through the back of the final crossbowman’s head, as Kel’Serrar flickers back into view, lowering his bow after loosing the arrow.

Seeing his companions assault the guards, Xander drops both shields and draws the Corpsewalker Blade from over his shoulder, crossing the handful of paces between himself and the patrol with frightening speed and literally cutting the uninjured spearman in half with a single powerful strike, cleaving through the shield the man hastily tried to raise in protection.

“How about you lay down that spear, go home, and try to forget everything that’s happened to you so far tonight?” – Harold, to the final guard, himself bleeding profusely from a wound in his side.

The spearman looks from Harold to the spear in his hand, and then back to Harold, whereupon the Invarrian punches him straight in the face, knocking the man unconscious in a single blow.

“Just wouldn’t be a Charm Check without someone getting punched.” – Dev.

* * *

Having hidden the bodies and taken a few moments to patch up Xander and Harold, the companions gather not far from the wall of the inner keep. A sharp horn blast carries through the night air from the field outside the city, a charge signal, and significant numbers of Elspeth troops held in reserve within the city begin to move out the gates.

“They’re moving out.” – Breanna, from her vantage point clinging to the chimney of a house.

“If we go quickly, we might be able use this to our advantage. If they’re heading out into the field, they won’t be looking for insurgents within the city.” – Maebh, to the others as Breanna drops down to the city street.

Swiftly and silently, the party moves through the streets towards the closest stretch of the high, white marble wall of the inner keep. They have to dodge a few patrols along the way, but luckily are able to do so with little difficulty. Finally they find themselves huddled behind the corner of a house, looking up at the high wall, and the crossbow armed guards upon it.

This battalion of keep-guard looks to be more heavily armoured than the general guard of the city, with chainmail veils riveted to their steel helms, obscuring their features below their eyes. Crews nervously wait near tower-mounted trebuchets, awaiting the order to loose.

One guard leans over the wall to spit, and for a moment, sees a tall, slender, spear-armed figure standing next to a house. He spits, and starts to continue on his patrol along the wall, but turns and looks back out. The tall figure is gone, and the streets appear empty.

“Did anyone see anything?” – The startled guard, peering into the darkness below, to the rest of the patrol. The other guards give answers in the negative, and the patrol moves on.

Below, huddled against the house, Maebh breathes heavily. She’d been a little careless, and it had nearly brought them to ruin.

“Okay, how do we want to do this? We’ve been standing here wasting time for a while now, but we’re no closer to getting in.” – Kel’Serrar, peering up at the top of the wall from around the corner of the house.

“Who is in favour of me going to the front gate and lying my arse off?” – Harold, visibly frustrated.

“Honestly, no worse a plan than many others we might have.” – Kel’Serrar, nodding.

“If we can just get the patrols cleared off the top of the walls for a bit, we can get a grappling hook up there and we can climb over.” – Xander, patting the gigantic iron contraption at his belt.

“Okay, Bree and I can do that then. We’ll get to the top and try to clear it, then Xander throws the hook and the rest of you come up to join us.” – Kel, who pulls two steel claw-like devices out of his pack, and affixes them to his wrists.

“Now, hold on a minute, look at this grappling hook here. I’m strong, but I don’t think I can throw this fifty yards straight up in the air.” – Xander, gesturing to the hook, which began life as a small ship’s anchor. 

“Okay, give it here, I’ll climb up with it, set it and throw the rope down to you.” – Breanna, her small frame belying her insane strength.

“I’ll set my own hook up on the other side so we have a direct path down too. See you at the top, maybe.” – Kel’Serrar, who grins and then blinks out of sight.

* * *

The invisible Leathe and Danann make swift process up the stone wall, almost silently other than the slight metallic rasp of Kel’s climbing claws. Breanna makes it to the top first, and is startled by the presence of a guard, mere feet away. He passes by, and together, silently, Breanna and Kel’Serrar step onto the top of the wall.

The invisible Danann takes his own grappling hook off his belt, and silently affixes it to the wall, gently lowering a rope down on the far side. Behind him, Breanna hefts the gigantic grappling hook Xander gave her, and her strength fails her. The steel anchor rasps on the stone crenellation and the guard which had passed their point turns, and spots a small figure shrouded in darkness, guiltily adjusting the position of a gigantic grappling hook.

“Who goes there? Halt!” – The guard, swiftly marching towards the disturbance, torch in one hand and spear in the other. He is a tall man, for a Midlander, his face masked by a veil of chainmail. He is also clearly confused by what he is seeing.

“****!” – Maebh, who then mutters an incantation under her breath.

The guard stops, a slight golden frost riming him. He is held entirely in place by Maebh’s power. Unbeknownst to all, an invisible Kel slowly sidles up to the helpless guard, concentrating on maintaining his spell and lays his fingertips on the man’s back, the chill of Maebh’s spell quite uncomfortable. Slowly, using only the most minimal effort, Kel slides the guard towards the crenellations and tips him over the wall.

“I don’t even question the weird **** that happens around me anymore. What’s happened to me?” – Breanna, muttering to herself.

“I can catch him right? I’d be the only one that could, yes?” – Yohan.
“Yes, this is a fully armoured man falling approximately 50 metres. I’d say that Maebh or Harold would definitely be crushed, but Xander might be able to.”
“Okay, what would I roll against?” – Yohan.
“Hand eye coordination is normally Dexterity man.”
“Okay, but, like, I use Combat Skill to block incoming attacks. In a way, that’s kind of what I’m doing.” – Yohan.
“You want to, Parry him?” – Dev.
“Yeah, use that Guardian ability to parry an attack on an ally. The ground is the ally, the guard is my projectile weapon.” – Sins, who is very good at finding loopholes. an ass-hat.
“Yohan, what’s your Dex?”
“28.” – Yohan, dejected, to the disappointed sighs of the rest of the table.
“Yeah sorry man, roll away.”

He rolled a 06.

A faint golden glowing statue of a guard slowly tips over the side of the wall, to be safely caught in the gigantic arms of Xander Rothgar, who honestly looks surprised. One gigantic hand rests on the captive man’s chest, the other supports his head. The Feartarbh, holding the guard

“Hurry, there’s more guards coming.” – Breanna, in a quiet, hissing whisper down to her companions at the base of the wall. She then hugs the now affixed anchor, hoping that the shroud of her daemonic magic will hide the massive steel object from any approaching guards.

Below, Xander looks at the guard in his hands, unsure if the cold, statue-like figure is still alive after such a fall.

“I take no pleasure in this, but we can’t have you raising the alarm. I am sorry.” – Xander, who attempts to break the man’s neck, but is perhaps a little too strong for his own good, and twists the guard’s head entirely off, ripping through flesh and bone. The Feartarbh retches a little, drops the two pieces of the guard, and follows Harold and Maebh up the thick rope, as quietly as he can manage.

“I guess, I tried to pull a little more because of the armour, but, well, too much pull. Way, way too much pull.” – Yohan.

“Bree, quiet now. I’m going to try something. You’re going to look like that guard. Just don’t try any speaking or anything, cause it won’t be right.” – Kel, still invisible, who lays a hand on the shrouded figure of Breanna. To anyone watching, Breanna is now the mirror image of the now deceased guard.

“What do you mean it won’t be right?” – Breanna, in a confused whisper.

“Your voice is basically coming out of his sternum Bree, and you still sound like a little girl. Now quiet!” – Kel, his disembodied voice whispering back.

As an aside, and fittingly for our last real adventure together, Dev rolled a 99 on his Climb Check for Harold here. He re-rolled it with a Luck Point, but we got to crack out the good old, ‘Which one’s the tens?’ again, one last time.

“Wait a minute, I don’t think that worked properly…” – Kel, muttering to himself.

Before him, there’s a shadowy figure still clinging to the anchor, but protruding from the top of it, the illusory shape of the top half of the guard, from approximately the bottom of his ribcage up. It looks unnatural, and that is what Harold, Maebh and Xander see as they reach the top of the wall.

“Oh gods, Bree, what are you doing?” – Harold, disturbed.

“Shhh, just get over the wall. Kel’s set up the hook on the other side, go, go, go.” – Breanna, whispering back.

Harold darts over the wall and begins his descent, and Maebh begins to clamber her way up onto the wall.

“Stop, Maebh, stop! Stay still, someone’s coming.” – The disembodied voice of Kel, in a hissed whisper as a guard, torch in hand, approaches along the wall from the east.

The guard spots Breanna, or rather, can see a bit of another guard in the darkness, leaning out over the wall, and calls out.

“Harry, is that you?” – The guard.

Mindful of Kel’s advice, Breanna does not speak, but merely waves in response.

“Are you… Are you drunk on duty Harry? We’re at war, there’s literally a battle outside the gates, you can’t be drinking on duty!” – The guard.

Breanna, sweating profusely, just waves at the guard, in a somewhat non-committal fashion.

“Look, Harry, are you okay?” – The guard, clearly concerned. He starts to move closer to Breanna, but she just waves her hand again, and nods.

“Okay LD, I’ll get you to roll Deception please, with some pretty hefty negatives.”
“But you do get a bonus +20 from Mislead.” – Sins.
“Sweet, means a +40 bonus all up.” – LD, who proceeds to roll a 03.
“I cannot believe this is working.”

“Well, alright Harry, if you say so. Stay out of trouble, and keep your eyes peeled.” – The guard, who turns around and heads back the way he came.

Maebh alights on the top of the wall and immediately begins her climb down on the other side, joining Harold in the shadows at the base of the wall inside the keep. Following her, Xander finally clambers to the top and huddles next to the shaky Breanna.

“Well done. I can’t believe that worked. You look like an abomination.” – Xander, quietly.

“I can’t believe it either. This is a hot mess.” – Breanna, to a confused expression from Xander, who doesn’t understand what the young people say these days, or something like that.

As they sit there together, they can see the faint, almost golden glimmer of the Harvest Moon rising out over the ocean.

“It won’t be long now then. The queen’s probably starting her ritual.” – Xander, quietly.

“I don’t think my grappling hook is going to hold you Xander.” – The still invisible Kel’Serrar, who is keeping watch in both directions for more guards.

“No, it won’t. This thing barely did. I’m going to shift it over. Xander, wait here, don’t move.” – Breanna, who awkwardly takes the massive grappling hook, taking it over to the other side of the wall and tries to set it in place there. The sight is bizarre, as the upper half of a crouched Elspeth Queensguard appears to be projected from a vague shadowy shape hauling a small anchor.

“Okay, I’ll leave you to it then.” – Kel’Serrar, who slides down the rope of his own grappling hook and joins Maebh and Harold at the base of the wall. The three huddle in the shadows at the base of the wall, looking out over an empty, wide, stone courtyard.

Breanna tries to affix the hook again, and yet again it scrapes on the stone, and the noise rings out in the night air. It draws the attention of the inquisitive guard from before, who turns and starts making his way back. Seeing this, Xander immediately drops down from the top of the wall, holding onto the edge of the crenellations by his fingertips, hoping that he wasn’t seen.

“Harry! We need to talk!” – The guard, returning.

Breanna sighs, and releases the hold on her own magic, allowing the shadowy shroud around her to fall away, relying entirely on the Kel’Serrar’s arcane workings. She straightens, leaving the anchor unsecured, and stands in front of it, hoping to hide it with her illusory body.

“Harry, are you okay? I know we’ve had this talk already, and it has only been a week, but we really need to see you making some changes, yeah?” – The guard, who comes entirely too close to Breanna, the light emanating from the torch he holds down in his hand, just about blinding the Leathe, who is about a foot shorter in height than the man she’s impersonating.

“Can I just say, this has been our most successful mission by a ****ing mile. I mean, for starters, we haven’t resorted to nuking the city yet.” – Yohan.
“You’re just saying that to distract everyone from the fact that you murdered Harry.” – Dev.
“Xander’s a monster.” – LD.
“Xander’s a beast. He’d kill at cross-fit.” – Yohan.
“I think most cross-fit classes frown upon in-class murder.”

“Look, Harry, are you back on the crash again?” – The guard, concerned.

Breanna just shakes her head.

“No, don’t give me that rubbish, look at you. You’re falling asleep on the job, falling over, you’re always unsteady, hurting yourself. You’re breaking our hearts Harry!” – The guard, starting to become rather animated.

Spoiler: Crash (click to show/hide)

“Look, Laurel told me if you don’t give it up, she’ll take the kids and go. You need to stop.” – The guard, voice starting to choke up.

Breanna nods, and holds a hand up to her throat as if she too is choking up.

“Why won’t you talk to me Harry!?” – The guard, clearly distraught.

Bree can’t think of anything, so she just shrugs. She can see that, while the guard is still buying it, none of this is making sense to him. He’s starting to get suspicious.

“Harry, we just want what’s best for you. We’re your friends, your family.” – The guard, trying to get closer to Breanna / Harry, but the disguised Leathe subtly, imperceptibly, backs away. Slowly but surely, she’s getting closer and closer to where Xander is still hanging, muscles straining to stay on the wall, as still and silent as possible.

“Bree, offer him a hug.” – Xander, under his breath, as quietly as he can, hoping that Breanna is able to hear him.

Thankfully, the Leathe’s hearing is keen. She holds out her arms to the guard, as if to embrace him. The guard accepts, stepping forward to take ‘Harry’ in his arms, but the hug goes awry as his arms pass through the illusion, completely clearing the Leathe’s head. The illusion fades, leaving only a crouching, black-furred Leathe where ‘Harry’ once stood.

“Wait, what?” – The guard, who immediately reaches for the horn at his belt. As he does so, a massive, horned, black-furred shape rushes up onto the top of the wall.

Xander’s massive fist punches the man in the head and he goes flying.

“You crushed his head like a tomato can.” – In my best Texan accent.

Together, Breanna and Xander climb down the other side of the wall, joining their companions in the courtyard of the keep. Ahead lies the Eagle Palace, and presumably, somewhere within it, the Queen Esmerelda of Elspeth. So close now, to achieving their goal, the five companions steal away into the shadows, seeking a back entrance into the palace.

Out on the fields outside the city, the battle has been joined in earnest, as formations of troops from Elspeth and Naille meet on the grassy fields. Siege engines whip flaming projectiles through the otherwise still air, many of which crash into the city itself. The cries of panic, the roar of flames and the clamour of alarms has overtaken the night, and out in the city proper, chaos reigns. Within the confines of the keep however, everything is quiet, still, like the calm before the storm, or perhaps, the pocket of calm in the centre of the storm.

Overhead, beholding it all, the Harvest Moon continues its inexorable rise into the night-sky.

And we left it there…

The Wrap-Up:
My apologies again for how long this took to write up. I have been extraordinarily busy trying to organise everything in my life at the moment. I suppose in addition to that, there’s the sadness that comes with telling the end of a story. I’ve never been very good at finishing things, but this is one thing that I have. Or at least, I have for those who played it, and lived it with me for the last seven years.

With that out of the way, I think this might have been one of my favourite sessions we have ever played. It was tense, with moments of light-heartedness and some very touching scenes at times. There was also some really good teamwork, as they worked together to ensure that everyone got through. I believe we saved one of the best to the very end.

So, with that, we’re very close now to the end.

See you soon, hopefully, with the next instalment.
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Re: Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword
« Reply #44 on: March 28, 2020, 02:34:38 AM »
Session 7.3: Endgame

“If success they can achieve, the Devourer’s reaping will be postponed for two-score, four-score or fifteen-score years, but one cannot halt destiny forever. Thrice before has the Devourer been defeated, but it is ever poised to swing the Scythe of Doom and unleash the Greyflood.”
- The final stanza of the Greyflood Prophecy, as foretold by the Invarrian seer, Raelda of Meleret in the year 1127 CE.

Welcome to Session 7.3 of Three Coins, Two Birds and a Gilded Sword.

We begin with the companions huddled together in the shadows beneath a tower, hidden within the inner keep of Elspeth City, doing their best to get into the palace while remaining hidden. In the courtyard before the palace, a contingent of the Queensguard are gathering, an officer gathering them into a unit for an excursion into the city proper to find and eliminate a band of insurgents.

At the great double-doors leading into the palace, two individuals stand at ease, clad in the armour of the Queensguard. One, a Feartarbh carries a spear and a massive shield, the other, a silver-furred Invarrian, carries a greatsword in a scabbard, held easily at his side.

“We’ve still got some way to go before we can afford to get loud.” – Xander, as quietly as he can manage.

“No way of knowing how many they might have directly on the other side of that door. We might, and I say might, be able to take those two down quickly, but with no guarantee that we can do that before they alert whoever might be waiting as backup.” – Kel’Serrar, staring intently at the two door-wards.

“So we send a scout to find another entrance. Bree, you’re up again.” – Xander, prodding the Leathe.

“Man, I straight up do not want to be here.” – Breanna, as she limbers up.

“You go round, try to find another way in. We’ll wait here and remain as inconspicuous as possible.” – Harold.

Behind him, Xander does his best impression of a hedge. It is not particularly accurate.

* * *

The Leathe returns mere moments later, shrouded in wisps of shadow, having avoided a patrol of guards.

“I found a door around the side. It’s locked. Looks like a servants’ entrance or something like that. No guard posted, or none I could see anyway.” – Breanna, who then leads the group around to the aforementioned point of ingress.

The assassin takes out her dagger and jams it into the lock, her tongue protruding from the corner of her mouth, and within seconds, she has the lock undone. She swiftly swings the door open, and ushers her companions inside, and Xander closes it behind them.

Before the party lies a long hallway, made of worked grey stone, very different from the white marble-like façade of the exterior. The hallway is entirely dark, with a tall ceiling, and wide enough for most of the party to traverse two-abreast.

“This is it, we’re inside.” – Maebh, quietly, to herself.

“Kel, can you spot any traps by any chance?” – Xander, his eyes having difficulty adjusting to the pitch-black.

“Cause I’m bad at finding traps. Actually, you know, I’m good at finding them, just my version of doing so can get noisy and pretty dangerous.” – Yohan.

“If this is in fact a servants’ entrance, which I agree that it probably is, it would not make much sense to put down traps. On the other hand, if you can all give me a few minutes to sit down, I should be able to tell if there’s anyone in the immediate area.” – Kel’Serrar, who promptly sits down against the wall with his eyes closed, focusing his mind’s eye on his surroundings.

“My almighty nap powers come to the fore once again.” – Sins.

“On the other hand, don’t step on this stone here. I think it is hooked up to a pressure plate.” – Breanna, who had scampered ahead a little and found a potential trap.

Maebh focuses her power for a moment and her eyes flash with a faint amber light. To her sight, the shadows and illusions around Breanna and Kel respectively, fade away. She looks down the corridor and spies a faint sigil of ice-blue magic seemingly carved into the stone wall on the right, a good twenty yards away.

Kel’s senses, honed by years of survival out in the woods, reveal to him that the doors down the hallway open into various small rooms, many of which are inhabited. Many of those within, for the most part, sound as if they are sleeping.

Maebh carefully steps over the trapped flagstone and inspects the arcane sigil upon the wall. Closer to, she can see that it is a cunningly wrought alarm spell, and is independent from the trapped stone. She dismissively waves her hand and a light shower of golden sparks essentially erases the sigil off the wall.

“We can continue.” – Maebh, quietly to the rest of the party. Breanna nods in response and takes point.

“Come on Kel. Time to go.” – Xander, gently picking the Danann up and carrying him down the hallway. Other than a slightly difficult moment getting past the trapped flagstone, the Feartarbh has no difficulty with this. As this happens, Kel keeps up a constant whispered commentary of everything he senses, which is mainly the sleepers and a surprisingly small population of vermin all around.

“That is one loud snorer…” – Kel, trailing off as they carefully make their way down the hall.

“Which one is it? Left or right?” – Xander, halting.

“Two doors down, on the right.” – Kel, slightly puzzled.

The Feartarbh takes one of the padlocks off his belt, unknowing and uncaring which one of the two locks he carries it is. He affixes it to the door, with a slight smile lightening his features.

It is the lock without a key by the way, but Xander does not know this.

After a good few minutes of sneaking, the companions come to a large, wooden double door, clearly the portal between the servants’ hallway they are in and the rest of the palace. The doors are over six feet tall and banded with steel reinforcement. As they approach, only ten yards from the double doors, Xander’s gigantic hoof scrapes on the edge of one of the flagstones, making a distinctive grinding scuff noise.

“Is someone there?” – A male voice on the other side of a servant’s door to the right.
“Housekeeping!” – LD.

“Sorry ser, just going to the toilet.” – Harold, thinking quickly.

“Oh no matter then. Take care out there.” – The voice from the other side of the door.
Harold’s Deception Check was pretty good, and the guard behind the door rolled an abysmal 89 on his corresponding Intelligence Check.

With the crisis averted, Breanna peeks through under the double doors, the others very slowly and carefully joining her over the next minute or so. The first thing the Leathe notices is that the room is empty and quite dark, illuminated only by the natural moon-light from a window, set high in the wall to the right. The ceiling is much higher than the hallway the companions are currently in, and while there are no people within the room, there are quite a few benches and cupboards. To Breanna’s, admittedly untrained, eye, it looks like the palace kitchen. She comes to her feet and gently tries the door, but it is locked.

“It is locked. Do we want to go through?” – Breanna, in a hoarse whisper.

“Could you see a door leading through?” – Xander, also whispering.

“I couldn’t see, but it looks like a kitchen, so there probably should be one. Shall I do the picket-pick?” – Breanna, producing her thin dagger and an anchor.

“There’s no one in there…” – Kel’Serrar, voice slow and detached, still carried safely in Xander’s arms.

“Do it. We’ll just hope there’s a door on the other side.” – Harold, to Breanna, who promptly sets herself to the task of prying the lock open.

It takes the diminutive Leathe all of about ten seconds before there’s a soft click and the door gently swings open.

Upon entering the room, the companions see there are a few doors, one directly on their left and two more ahead, on the opposite side of the kitchen.

“Left seems like more servants’ quarters, much like those we just came through. Of the two ahead, one is a small room, the other a long corridor. I can’t sense anyone moving around in any direction. No wait, the corridor on the right, there’s two guards standing on the other side of the door.” – Kel’Serrar, still focusing intently on his surroundings.

“Sounds like that’s the way we want to go to get to our goal.” – Xander, under his breath.

Breanna creeps over to the door as quickly as she dares and peers through the keyhole. Two Queensguard stand on the other side of the door, black-furred Invarrians both of them, one armed with a crossbow, the other with some kind of long wooden stave. They are illuminated by a handful of fitfully blazing torches, ensconced in the stone wall to their left, which provides some light to the length of the corridor beyond.

“Alright, how do we want to do this?” – Harold, quietly.

“I’ll take one of them.” – Kel’Serrar, emerging from his trance.

“I’ll throw the Leathe at the other.” – Xander, nodding.

“Before you do that, let me check this first.” – Breanna, gently trying the handle of the door. It is locked.

“Good thing you checked.” – Xander, with a wry grin.

The Leathe expertly picks the lock with her dagger once more, her skill making the process almost silent as Harold holds the door completely still.

“Maybe we should lock the door behind us before we continue? This might be loud.” – Harold, gesturing towards the door they just came through.

“Good idea.” – Xander, who passes his other lock to Maebh. The Danann takes it and affixes it to the door, hopefully barring anyone from following them.

“Alright, I’ll shoot the one on the right, you throw her at the one on the left.” – Kel’Serrar to Xander, nocking an arrow to the string of his longbow.

“Three, two, one.” – Harold, opening the door swiftly.

A grey-fletched arrow and a black-furred streak flash through the open doorway and the two guards drop, one of them with their head removed by the flying Leathe’s knife.

“Sort of paraphrasing Arc 1, but the door is no longer between the Feartarbh and the guard the Feartarbh wishes to throw a possum at.” – Sins.

 “Should we try and hide the bodies, maintain stealth?” – Maebh, quietly.

“Bree’s made a mess in there. The head’s come off and there’s blood everywhere. We’ll try to stay stealthy, but there’s no time to really clean up. Let’s just keep moving.” – Xander, shaking his head.

“No witnesses guys, now let’s go.” – Breanna, with a slight edge to her voice.

With Kel’Serrar now capable of moving for himself, the companions redress their order of approach swiftly in the corridor. Breanna goes first as the scout, with Maebh and then Harold following her, the Invarrian ready to leap to the fore if they are discovered. Kel’Serrar comes next, with Xander making up the rearguard as the least nimble and light-footed of the group. With weapons ready, they progress down the grey-stone corridor, ignoring the chambers on either side, instead making a bee-line towards the great double-doors at the end of the hall, which gradually widens as they get closer to the doors, themselves seemingly a heavy affair of black hardwood.

Approximately forty feet from the doors, Xander halts, all too aware of the clamour his approach makes. Looking back over her shoulder warily, Breanna sees this and nods approvingly to the hulking guardian. Reaching the doors, the Leathe inspects the way for traps, but finds none, nor does she find a lock or latch. Rather these doors are intended to swing rather freely. On her hands and knees, she peers through the gap between the door and the stone floor and can make out the prodigious room beyond, the rather octagonal shape of the chamber, the rows of long tables and bench-seats lining them. An extensive array of windows lining the left side of the room allows the gleaming golden moonlight to wash through into the chamber, and a sconce upon the window-sill is home to a large amount of lit candles, they too providing some light to the room beyond. At the far end of the chamber lies a raised platform, upon which stands a large and grand wooden table.

“Seems like some kind of dining room. The queen’s personal dinner chamber perhaps?” – Breanna, in a hushed whisper to the rest of the party.

“No one in there?” – Xander, his own loud whisper carrying in the still night air from where he stands in the hallway, some forty feet back.

“No, but plenty of windows and light, so we’ll need to be careful.” – Breanna, ushering the Feartarbh up to join them.

“We go in and hug the walls then, can’t be too careful. Look for a way through.” – Harold, to a quiet chorus of agreement.

“Okay. I’ll go first then.” – Breanna, who slips her way through the doors.

Shrouded by the darkness, the Leathe softly pads her way through the doorway and towards the great window. Hanging overhead, the pale golden disc of the Harvest Moon sits in the sky, illuminating the waves of the Sea of Claws as they crash against the mighty cliffs below. In the distance, stormclouds gather, and the water is rough. Breanna’s keen eyes pick out shapes, grey, gliding just beneath the surface of the water, and far away in the distance, no, it can’t be. But it is. Sails, and there it is, one tiny little boat, a vast distance away, but approaching rapidly, propelled by the swelling storm winds.

In an almost detached kind of way, Breanna notes the lit candles on the window-sill look to have been aflame for approximately an hour, judging by the pools of wax which have settled around them.

On the right-hand side of the room there are three doorways, and one of them a rather large double wooden door, that same black hardwood that seems to be used for most furniture in the palace, but reinforced with iron bands, hidden in the intricate scrollwork and engravings which adorn it. It is unlocked.

“This way, quickly, quickly.” – Harold, ushering Breanna to take point once more.

Her eyes flashing with amber power, Maebh scans the room over before leaving, satisfied there are no traps or alarms. She looks up and can see an intricate glass chandelier, hanging more than thirty feet overhead. It flickers with a fell light in her vision, almost as if some daemonic power is playing within its translucent confines.

The Danann shivers, and follows her companions through the doorway.

* * *

The next few minutes are slow and nerve-wracking, as the companions make their way as quietly as possible through bare, stone hallways, sneaking past doors and various groups and patrols of guards. They manage to do so without incident, though it is a close-run thing at times.

Eventually, Breanna leads them to a great, carved doorway. Double doors, crafted from that same blackened hardwood, carved with intricate imagery depicting a triumphant eagle and great armies, victorious on the field of battle, picked out in ostentatious gold leaf. There is no visible locking mechanism upon the doors, and so Breanna carefully, cautiously, pushes her way through, revealing a long, wide room, or hall.

On either side of the room stands a row of marble pillars, which stretch all the way up to the towering ceiling above. Inlaid in each pillar, facing inwards towards the centre of the room and carved with considerable skill, statuesque figures, depicting the likenesses of personages of a regal and dignified air. Between these pillars and the side walls, two long pools of dark water are set into the stone ground, still and seemingly undisturbed, stretching the length of the hallway, itself nearly 200 yards long.

At the far end of the room sits a small throne on a raised stone platform, crafted from that same dark hardwood. It is quite simple and unadorned, practically bare save for the eagle’s heads carved into the arm-rests and a shining emerald set into the backrest. Beyond the throne itself, a tall spiralling staircase stretches upwards into the darkness.

The companions enter the throneroom cautiously, Xander taking point now. Breanna’s eyes dart around in the shadows, looking for any daemonic influence, but she finds nothing. Maebh’s own eyes however are drawn by the emerald set into the throne, and she swiftly recognises the arcane aura around it, and the thin tendril of emerald magic which floats away from the stone and up the spiral staircase.

“How deep is this water? Can anyone tell?” – Xander, in a nervous whisper, clearly on edge.

“Wait here a moment then.” – Kel’Serrar, who sits and slips back into his familiar trance.

To the ranger’s keen senses, it is clear that the water is churning beneath the still surface, and is connected to a much larger body of water. While the pools themselves here might only be about nine feet deep, he feels that they may in fact be connected to the ocean itself. Certainly there is a powerful magic at work here.

Within the pools he can sense the presence of two living beings, though he cannot tell what they are, or even how big they may be, as still as they are beneath the surface of the water. Also, far above, he can vaguely sense a large group of people, but can tell no more than that with how far away they are.

“There’s things in the water…” – Kel, trailing off.

As he says this, Maebh’s form crackles with golden lightning and the surface of the water in both pools erupts with movement, churning white.

“Oh hell. I need a Willpower Check from Xander.”
“Am I being attacked?” – Yohan.
“These things have mind control powers mate. It’s probably that.” – Ladyhawk.
“Can I parry it?” – Yohan, to general laughter.

Xander feels a malicious presence within his mind, inveigling its way through his psyche. He fights against it, but suddenly his body is moving, against his will. He tries to stop it as he raises his hand, the handle of his shield clenched tightly in his meaty fist, ready to crash down on the unaware Kel’Serrar. He swings, a wild haymaker with the shield, but his desperate efforts to prevent himself from landing the blow are just enough, and the strike goes wide. The presence in his mind fades, leaving behind only a sick feeling and a flash of intense pain.

Harold looks back, seeing the concerned look on the face of Kel’Serrar as he is disturbed from his trance and the way Xander is holding his own head. The Invarrian turns back towards the pool to his right and raises his sword. A bolt of pale blue lightning crackles around his hand and blade and shoots away into the water. The pools pulses with light as the bolt strikes it, the shadowy shape of the Beast illuminated for a moment as it is wracked with electricity.

A susurrating influence pushes its way into Breanna’s mind, and she finds herself attempting to summon more daemonic power. She panics as she realises that she cannot stop herself. Overhead, stormclouds start to gather in the ceiling, tiny arcs of golden energy playing through them. Thunder cracks in the room as twin lightning bolts flash down from the ceiling, one into each pool, causing them to glow with golden light momentarily. The windows shatter with the thunderclap, and a light rain blows in from outside.

Kel’Serrar, standing, quickly casts a spell, turning invisible but leaving an illusory copy of himself standing where he was before. With an arrow nocked and ready, the ranger keeps his eyes fixed upon the surface of the pools, waiting for one of the Beasts to make themselves visible.

Holding his shields, Xander crashes them together with a shout, forging an arcane link between himself and his companions. Tendrils of familiar golden energy tether themselves in a chain of magic between Xander and his friends, before turning black. Xander’s eyes blaze with a black light as he completes his spell, the magic clearly taxing the great warrior’s strength.

Channelling his power once more, Harold hurls another bolt of energy into the pool on the right with a savage snarl. A horrific screeching noise fills the room as the Beast breaks the surface of the water, its cartilaginous grey body whipping through the air, electricity coruscating around it. Enraged, it flexes its razor-sharp claws and rakes them at Harold, the black claws ripping into the flesh of the Invarrian’s throat. It is not blood which pours out however, but a strong golden light, as the thin golden chain which binds Harold to Xander flares. A tiny rivulet of blood falls from a thin gash on Xander’s own neck, a shallow furrow dug into the sleek black fur.

Behind him, Breanna draws her knife and, not knowing why she does this, aims specifically for a gap between two heavy plates on the Feartarbh’s back. She thrusts her blade, but as she does, Xander moves slightly, causing the plates to shift, and the knife skates off the edge, reducing the impact of her strike considerably. She withdraws the knife, and a thin trickle of blood comes with it, which itself coalesces into a thin, reddish sliver and slams back into the wound. Xander growls a little, but he ignores the pain as best he can. Behind him, Breanna shakes her head and comes to her senses, blood trickling from her nose and eyes and pain coursing through her head and neck.

The grey form of the Beast rises from the surface of the water once more, claws flexing as it faces Harold. It shrieks its defiance at the old Invarrian, and moves towards him, tail propelling it forward with an unearthly grace. Suddenly, as it lunges, a ball of amber fire flashes across the hall, conjured by the outstretched hand of Maebh, and crashes into the head of the Beast. It flails wildly, and its ear-piercing screams of agony set everyone on edge as it enters its death-throes.

The party gather around the other pool, waiting for the remaining Beast to re-emerge with weapons and spells at the ready, but nothing happens. Eventually Maebh, keeping her eyes trained on the surface of the water and a spell at the ready, backs her way up to the throne to inspect the emerald set within it more closely. Several more minutes pass, the stormclouds in the ceiling dissipate, and the water remains undisturbed. Harold strides to the throne to join Maebh.

“What have you found?” – Harold, to the mage, eyes flicking between her and the pool behind them.

“There’s a link, almost like a tether of magic between the stone and someone upstairs. Maybe if I…” – Maebh, trailing off as her eyes flash with amber light. Suddenly, she gives out a shocked gasp, and the light peters out.

“What happened? What’s wrong?” – Harold, frantically looking around the room for a new threat.

“No, no, I tried breaking the bond. I managed to damage it, but then whoever it is upstairs pulsed more power into the bond and I couldn’t hold it. I’m sorry. They know we’re here.” – Maebh, breathing heavily.

Kel’Serrar sits down on the floor, while Breanna and Xander stand watch over him, sinking into his trance once more.

“I think it might be gone. I can’t sense it.” – Kel’Serrar, faintly, his eyes closed.

“It’s okay Maebh, these creatures probably communicate with their minds and one just got away anyway. That, plus all the commotion we just made, there’s no way they wouldn’t know we were here by now.” – Xander, slowly making his way up to the throne with Harold and Maebh.

The mage shrugs, shakes her head and redoubles her efforts. Her fingers glint with sparks of golden light and her eyes flare once more as she pits herself against the will of the caster upstairs. This time, the Danann is successful, sawing through the link and causing the faint shining glow within the emerald to sputter and die.

“There, it is done.” – Maebh, the light fading away as she withdraws. She nods to Xander. Who hefts his claymore.

The Feartarbh brings the massive sword down upon the throne, carving a massive rent through the back of the heavy, wooden seat. The emerald cracks into several pieces, some of which remain fixed in the throne, but several of them tumble free. Harold grabs one of pieces and tucks it away in a pouch hanging from his belt.

“Okay, they know we’re here.” – Harold, adjusting his armour.

“We know where they are.” – Breanna, cleaning her dagger.

“Let’s go knock on the door.” – Xander.

* * *

The party makes their move upstairs, Xander at the fore with the small shape of Breanna following closely behind. Maebh comes next, then Kel’Serrar with Harold bringing up the rear. The spiralling staircase seems to take an age to traverse, the tension and nerves building, until finally the stairs give way to a short, wide hallway, at the end of which stands a tall, unadorned double door, crafted from that now familiar dark hardwood. There is no lock upon it, nor is there any guard stationed here. The hallway is quiet, and, if it weren’t for both the single torch burning fitfully in a sconce on the left-hand wall and the faint silvery-golden glow emanating from under the door from the room beyond, it is featureless worked grey stone for its entire length and breadth.

Within sight of the door, Xander gestures to the party to halt for a moment and he draws upon his magic once more. A faint golden light ripples around them, which turns black for a moment, leaving the Feartarbh hoping that his spell worked correctly. Shrugging, he takes up his weapons once more, nods to the others and places one gauntleted hand upon the door.

“Everyone ready?” – Harold, in a low mutter.

“Let’s do this.” – Maebh, hand beginning to crackle once more with golden energies.

“On three then. One, two, three.” – Xander, heaving the door open with a slam.

Back soon with Part 2
Welcome back. :smallsmile:

Before them stretches a wide room, roughly like a blunt triangle in shape. A short stairway, five steps in all, leading to a slightly raised platform begins on the far side of the room, maybe sixty yards away from the doors the companions have burst through. The stone floor directly before them is covered in a carved design like a pentagram, itself just over thirty yards in diameter.  The room is predominantly lit by the multitude of windows which line the walls, overlooking the storm-wracked bay beneath, the majority of the room overhanging the great cliffs below. Maybe a full hundred captives kneel over the carved design of the pentagram on the floor, none of which stir as the companions burst in. Each of the captives has a number of bloody designs carved into their flesh. On the right hand side of the room lies a rectangular pool, the water in which appears almost black to the eye.

Atop the raised platform at the rear of the room stands a woman, tall for a Midlander with blonde hair and pale skin, her back turned to their entrance. She wears pristine white and red robes with ornate gilt-edging and a thin, golden circlet for a crown. A light, ornate steel longsword, engraved and glowing with runes along the blade is carried in her hand, the other hand raised above her head, crackling a sickly green with dark energies. As they enter the room, she screams out a long, complex incantation. Outside, thunder rumbles and lightning crashes, setting the whole tower shaking. A tall, ragged Invarrian, patchy black fur and clad in black robes stalks through the kneeling captives, a bloodied curved steel knife in hand. He slits the throat of one of the captives, a young Midlander man, and as he slumps, the blood flows in a thick red sheet to fill the carved grooves upon the floor.

As the lightning flashes and the queen’s incantation starts to reach a crescendo, a vast shadowy figure can be seen in the centre of the room, for only a moment. To the keen eyes of Maebh and Kel’Serrar, it looks almost as if the shadows themselves are tearing free of the darkened corners of the room, to meet in the centre, where they join the whole, coalescing into some almost indeterminate shape. A flicker of a dark hood, ragged robes and a wicked looking scythe are all that can be made out of the gloom.

Xander was the only party member to fail the Perception Check to perceive this manifestation.
“Clearly Xander is still too focused on the queen herself perhaps.”
“Got to get that booty.” – Yohan.
“I might be bovine but you’re bo-fine!” – LD.

Around her stand the members of her personal guard, six in total, the most striking of which are the two heavily armed and armoured Feartarbh which flank her.  Of the others, two are Midlanders, the taller of which is bearing a sword and shield and wearing a fine chain hauberk and a finely detailed steel helm fashioned in the shape of an eagle’s head, his right pauldron covered in a patch of golden-yellow leather, marking him as a captain.  The other MIdlander is a smaller, slighter man carrying a thin wand and wearing rich dark red and golden-brown robes. Another guard is a tall Northmann, clad in dark chain and black robes, carrying a wicked looking sickle at his belt and a light roundshield in his left hand. The last of the guards is an Invarrian, scruffy brown fur peeking out from under well-forged half plate. As he stands there, magic flashes in his hands, coalescing into shining blades which flicker and shift with every movement the Invarrian makes. All the guards move towards the companions, their attention garnered by this approaching threat as Xander hefts his shield and charges forward, followed closely by Harold and Breanna. The queen herself turns and sneers at them, the strong features on her tanned face twisted into a mocking expression.

“You’re too late.” – Queen Esmerelda, her eyes flashing with power, identical in shade to the flaring emerald upon her breast.

Lightning cracks above, and electricity surges and crackles around the walls of the spire, glinting with fell energies. In the flash, the queen disappears. One second she is there, savouring her victory, the next, she is gone.

Maebh throws herself into action immediately, closing her eyes and calling upon the power of the storm once more. Outside, lightning crashes again, this time a rich, golden amber in colour and crackling black stormclouds begin to gather within the chamber too. The queen’s robed Midlander mage in her guard frantically waves his wand, desperately trying to disrupt the energies Maebh is gathering to her, but her sheer force of will cannot be denied. Arms outstretched, the Danann lifts several inches into the air, and despite her closed eyes, golden light floods out from under her eyelids. Golden energy arcs and crackles, the lightning playing all around her and her hair swirls in the strong storm winds as she is lifted by the sheer power she brings to bear.

The culmination of Maebh’s power here as she blasts her way through the attempted Dispel attempt and unleashes six separate bolts of lightning in a single round, each one causing a total of 31 Lightning Damage to a target, ignoring Armour. A total of 186 Damage caused in a single round before Damage Reduction was applied. That was just one spell too, as she then used Dual Casting to also throw up her Lightning Shield to protect herself from anything coming back at her. Truly, Maebh is scary.

The first bolt, Maebh directs at the Northmann, standing as close as he is. As the searing golden energies streak towards him, the tall, gaunt man waves his free hand from one side to the other, and the bolt deflects towards a knot of deceased captives, kneeling within the carven pentagram. Their bodies twitch in an unnatural fashion as they are almost simultaneously risen to unlife and then pulverised by the sheer power of Maebh’s blast, their bodies ripped apart by the roiling magic.

The black-robed Invarrian priest within the pentagram is annihilated too, a second bolt ripping down from the unnatural clouds above to strike him as he slit the throat of yet another captive. When the light clears, all that is left of the Invarrian is a few burnt scraps of clothing, the curved knife and a dense pile of smoking ash.

The third bolt arcs down for the queen’s mage. He stands under it, throwing a hand up reflexively, and a thin shimmering shield of force springs into existence around him. He grins as he sees that, for now at least, his shield is holding the full brunt of Maebh’s magic. He turns towards the Danann and begins to build a roiling ball of flame in his other hand.

“Oh no. Oh no.”
“Wow. That’s quite remarkable.” – Sins.
“Three 1’s to cast.” – LD.
I am completely stunned.
“In true PG fashion, the enemy caster blows up the whole encounter for us on a Miscast.” – Yohan.
I roll on the appropriate Miscast Chart, and, lo and behold, we get the result that makes the caster roll on the Catastrophic Chart. 
“Oh no. Oh. No.”
“This may just be unprecedented.” – Sins.
“I’ve played Warhammer with the man. I can tell you now, this is probably not even in the top ten worst Miscast moments he’s had.” – Dev.
“PG, never play a caster, yeah?” – LD.

Cackling maniacally, the mage hurls the ball of fire from his hand, fully expecting it to engulf Maebh in a roaring inferno, but in fact, it launches from his hand and peters out of existence mere inches away. Above him, the shimmering shield strains, cracks and then shatters into millions of tiny shards. The amber lightning rips down and in a deafening explosion, tears his body in half at the shoulder to the waist. Horrified, the companions watch as the mage does not fall, but rather dark tendrils of daemonic energy start to try and knit the ruined flesh back together. The blackened and utterly burnt head of the mage snaps forward with a horrific crack, and the eyes blaze with daemonic light. The mouth distends now into a gaping maw, within which swirling dark energy can be seen, pooling, seeping out and dripping onto the ground where it sizzles and burns like molten rock. The shambling creature hauls itself forward, leaving slick trails of viscera and shining gobbets of daemonic essence on the stone floor. A low humming cackles emanates from the maw of the creature, which gradually builds into a maddening howl.

The other lightning bolts crash down amidst the guards, held somewhat in check by a glowing bright blue shield the Invarrian guard cast around the two Feartarbh and the captain. The magics war with each other, and all three of the warriors are rocked by the impact, but the damage dealt by the strikes is significantly lessened.

Shaking off the impact of Maebh’s magic, the captain of the guard strides forward through the pentagram, engaging Xander, Harold and Kel with a flurry of blows. His first strike bounces off Xander’s massive shield, which the captain expertly turns into a thrust at Harold. The Invarrian misses the parry, and the blade would sink into Harold’s side but golden energy flashes, and the blade is turned away by Xander’s enchantment. Frustrated, the captain turns and throws a wild cut at Kel, but the Danann nimbly dodges away.

Or at least, that is how it appears. In fact, Kel’Serrar is standing maybe ten yards away, invisible, while his illusory copy dances away from the captain’s strikes. He swiftly nocks an arrow to his bow and draws, but then he hesitates. The invisible ranger’s aim shifts between the captain engaged with Xander and Harold and the two Feartarbh on the other side of the chamber. Who to shoot? Who to shoot indeed?

“Can I get a Willpower Check from Xander please mate?”
“Can you please stop asking for them?” – Yohan, who rolls a 02.

Xander feels that familiar insidious presence in his mind, but shrugs it off. He grits his teeth, plants his shoulder against the inside of his tower shield and pushes with all his force into the captain, buffeting the smaller man, sending him sprawling. As the captain falls to the side, he twists out of the way of the worst of the blow, and his own blade flashes out, cutting towards the momentarily exposed Feartarbh. There is another flash of golden energy as the guardian’s enchantments flare to life once more, and the strike does not connect with Xander’s flesh.

From the rear of the chamber, there is a brilliant ice-blue flash of light as the windows are shattered with the sound of tinkling glass. A multitude of spirit wisps flit and dance into the room, their soft, ephemeral forms swirling around the companions.

“Ice-blue magic? Spirits? Is Aeva actually helping us?” – Dev.
“I will neither confirm nor deny, but everyone gets +1 Damage Reduction on all hit locations.”

Seeing the flare of magic around the captain, Kel’Serrar turns his attention to the Invarrian binder hanging back somewhat.  The arrow streaks across the room, but in a flare of brilliant blue light, the arrow halts its flight, turns in mid-air, and then flies back to where Kel flickers back into existence. The arrow hits the ranger with an audible thud as golden light flares once more, Kel kept safe by Xander’s magic. He is winded, but the arrow didn’t touch him, and it drops to the ground with a tink.

“There’s too many different effects going on here.” – Dev.
“Tell me about it.”
“This is legitimately messy.” – Yohan.
“I’m slowly building up an idea of what each enemy has up though. I think I’m following it.” – Ladyhawk.
“I can’t even keep track of what we have up.” – LD, laughing.

Yohan is completely right, this combat got really messy as we had to figure out what up to four different spells interacting with each other would do, not to mention the possessed mage everyone seemed to just straight up forget about momentarily.

A small black shape flits across the stone floor, low to the ground and leaps towards the queen’s captain. Breanna’s wicked knife plunges deep into the man’s knee, tearing and ripping, causing him to stumble once more. She withdraws the blade, and a thin stream of blood swirls out and up somewhat, coalescing into a shining, red blade of solid blood which then shoots straight back down into his neck, killing him.

A thunderous impact rocks the chamber as one of the Feartarbh guards clashes with Xander in the middle of the room. Shields and weapons almost forgotten, both of the black-furred gigantic warriors stand there, horns locked, vying against each other in the most primal way. Xander’s eyes narrow and he grits his teeth as he lets out a bellowing roar, adrenaline pumping through his veins as the red rage of bloodlust descends on his vision.

“As he did damage to me, I’d like to Frenzy.” – Yohan.
“He did damage to you?” – Ladyhawk, surprised.
“Yeah, at the moment, with spells and everything, my Damage Reduction was 27, he did 33 damage. So I took 5. But now I’m Frenzied, which means I have +10 Strength, +10 Toughness and +10 Temporary Health. So I actually came out of his attack with +1 Damage Reduction and +5 Health” – Yohan.
“Holy ****, Xander’s un-killable.” – LD.

The Invarrian binder hurls a bolt of blue light up into the roiling stormclouds above, hoping to disperse them, but Maebh feels the attempt and crushes it contemptuously. Turning his attentions back to the ground before him, the Invarrian summons crystalline shards of ice. Thick, blue-white hoarfrost grows and spreads up Maebh and Harold, encasing their lower halves in the freezing cold ice. Flickering golden light flares beneath the frost, and Xander gasps as blood starts to trickle down his legs from several thin cuts and scratches, the link between him and his companions opening the wounds on him, and saving Maebh and Harold from the same fate.

The tall Northmann raises his hand and barks a word of power, and a handful of corpses jerk unsteadily to their feet. Together, they hurl themselves at Harold, Xander and Maebh, trying to swamp them under weight of numbers. Any that draw near to Maebh are instantly annihilated by her crackling nimbus of amber lightning. A sickly pall washes over the fray as the Northmann casts a spell, weakening the companions significantly as rot and entropy sets into their muscles and flesh.

“Alright, he Dual Casts…”
“Rude.” – Ladyhawk.
“Yeah, doesn’t he know that ability is for PC’s only? NPC’s aren’t allowed to have it.” – Sins.
“Okay, now for the possessed mage. This really did not go to plan.”

As the second Feartarbh guard, this one even larger than the first, auburn-furred and armed with a massive dark steel greatsword prepares to charge into the fray and cleave Xander apart, the possessed mage turns, its ruined body jerking and twisting as it levitates first five, then swiftly ten feet in the air. The deafening howl grows once more as a torrent of daemonic flame ripples across the room, briefly consuming the Feartarbh berserker in a flood of chittering fire. When the flames subside, all present can see the berserker standing there, still, flesh charred, armour and fur smoking. Parts of the flesh have melted away, revealing bone beneath, the damage perhaps most noticeable on the face, where much of the flesh has burnt away, revealing the singed skull beneath. One eye is ruined, now just a smoking sludge dripping from the socket. Roaring, the Feartarbh charges at the mage, all thoughts of Xander driven from his pain-wracked mind. He thunders towards the possessed corpse, reaching up and grasping the floating daemon host by the ankle before flinging it to the ground, kneeling beside it and literally tearing the body into pieces with a show of extreme strength and brutality. When he is done, Breanna can see the daemonic entity has withdrawn to the Otherworld and the corpse of the mage is maybe two dozen small, bloodied chunks.

Several of the captives still alive and kneeling on the carvings of the pentagram, closest to the fray, suddenly stand, and then the creature in the centre, formed of black smoke appears once more. There is a flash of silver and the captives fall into pieces, their bodies transitioning to nothing but dust which swirls away in the heavy winds within the chamber. Those other captives which still live, do not stir. That same strike carries through into Xander, who grits his teeth and wears the heavy blow as best he can, trusting to his enchantments. Despite that, he feels the otherworldly scythe rip through him, the wound ephemeral, but no less real somehow, and terrible. The scythe-strike continues, cutting through the wards of the Invarrian binder. There is a flash of warring magic before the brilliant blue light fades and the binder stumbles, holding his abdomen. He falls back, back and then over the edge of the pool and into the black water. He does not resurface.

Another flurry of amber lightning bolts streak down from the ceiling as Maebh, ignoring the encroaching frost, directs her power upon her enemies. The first again is directed at the necromancer, and again he waves a hand and the bolt is redirected towards a small knot of risen corpses, obliterating them immediately.

Two more bolts flash down into the black pool of water. The water is briefly lit by two consecutive flashes of amber light, but if anything is still within, they can’t be seen.

Another bolt streaks down towards the ruined berserker. Unbelievably, he still stands, though the impact of the lightning absolutely should have killed him. He staggers, blearily looking around for something nearby to kill in the next ten seconds or so before he finally loses his grip on life.

Two more bolts flash down on opposite sides of the carven pentagram, cracking the stone floor and disrupting the pattern. If the ritual has been disrupted by this at this late stage though, there is no way of telling. The captives who remain alive do not stir.

The lightning around Maebh flares and the frost pinning her is shattered in a blaze of light. She then turns and conjures a ball of amber flame in her hand and hurls it at the ruined Feartarbh berserker, the fires consuming the terribly wounded warrior. The Danann turns back, to look for her next target when suddenly the figure of the queen appears by her side, a slender longsword in hand. The woman thrusts at Maebh, who watches as the blade sinks into her side and then withdraws, a flood of golden light rippling out as it does so. Before their eyes, the wound closes. The anger in Esmerelda’s eyes is briefly overtaken by perhaps a shadow of fear before the lightning coruscating around Maebh flashes again and cracks against the queen. In the flash of blinding light, she disappears once more. Unbeknownst to them, under the thick, segmented armour of his cuirass, Xander now bears an identical wound to the one briefly inflicted on Maebh, blood beginning to sheet from the laceration in his sleek, black hide.

Kel stares at the space where the queen disappeared, an arrow nocked and ready. He can see no sign of her, despite the power of his ring, a worrying circumstance. He has a feeling that she is probably in and around the same area she was when she appeared to strike Maebh, though perhaps she backed off a few steps after being hit by the mage’s field of lightning. He takes a guess, invokes the most powerful enchantment he knows upon the arrow nocked to his bow, draws, and shoots.

“True Shot is cast.” – Sins.
“DO IT!” – Ladyhawk, excited.
“Should have known the campaign would end with Kel True Shotting it to death.” – LD.

The golden streak burns its way across the room, aiming for a point five yards behind Maebh. Suddenly, where empty air once was, the space is filled by a sleek, grey shape, long, finned tail whipping frantically, spraying salllamaer everywhere as it flails wildly. Long, taloned fingers spread, seeking purchase on anything as it falls into the path of Kel’s arrow. There is a brilliant explosion as the concussive force of the magic arrow caves in the creature’s chest, a golden light ripping forth from every orifice as the Beast is burned alive from the inside. It drops to the ground, still weakly writhing in its death throes, smoking and charred. As it dies, around the room, a handful of the still living captives begin to stir, groggily, as if waking from a deep sleep, though even they do not move beyond that. The rest, maybe a little more than a dozen, remain completely motionless.

“She’s probably transposed her location with the Beast in the pool.” – Yohan, to the agreement of the rest of the table.

Locked in tight with the other Feartarbh, Xander pushes hard with his horns, knocking the warrior back enough for the guardian to draw the Carhold Blade from over his shoulder. Loosing a ferocious roar, Xander cleaves at the other Feartarbh, two massive strokes which cleave through shield, armour and flesh. Badly wounded, the warrior grits his teeth and pushes back against Xander, trying to cramp him up to keep the huge blade at bay.

Outside, the pale golden face of the Harvest Moon shines brightly down from above, the somewhat sickly light bursting through the thick stormclouds. To Maebh’s keen eyes, it looks almost as if it is growing larger, almost like it is approaching slowly. On the surface of the moon, faint shadows can be seen, just a shade darker than the moon itself, flitting and writhing across its surface like snakes. As Maebh watches, a thin sliver of pale, ice-blue magic shoots directly up to the moon from below the cliffs, likely from a point upon the surface of the storm-tossed ocean waters below. The shadows flitting across the moon almost ripple and fade with the magic, as whoever the caster below may be brings their full power to bear.

Crackling energy ripples around Harold, brilliant blue lightning arcing from the Invarrian, ripping into the Feartarbh warrior engaged with Xander. Still buzzing with power, Harold shoots another bolt off at the necromancer, the lighting tearing forth from the nimbus of power gathered around the Gilded Sword.

Watching the events unfold before her, Breanna focuses as keenly as she can on the ritual itself. She has seen things like this before, not the least of which being the attempt to bind the Lord of Winter in Summer Hill, which they disrupted at the very last moment a few years ago. This though, tonight, is an undertaking of far greater magnitude again, and the entity is already drawn to the place, and bound. Now though, it must be given corporeal form for the ritual to be complete and the entity to cross over from the Otherworld entirely. A faint whisper tickles the back of her mind, and her thoughts drift to the Three Coins. She sits down on the edge of the pentagram, trying to avoid the wash of blood around it, and frantically fishes around in her pack for the Three Coins, drawing them out and beginning the invocation necessary to draw this creature, whatever it is, into the Coins. As she does so, she scans the room and notices two slivers of daemonic energy, like tethers almost, binding the entity in the centre of the chamber to both the Northmann necromancer and to a point in the corner of the room which appears to be otherwise unoccupied. Pushing the thought aside, the Leathe continues to will the magic of the Coins into being to disrupt the ritual taking place.

Xander gives out a roar of frustration as the other Feartarbh attacks once more, the fearsome warrior thrusting a heavy broadsword deep into Xander’s side. The golden light flares once more, but the sheer quantity of ferocious blows is really starting to tell, and the strike leaves a significant bleeding gash in the guardian’s black-furred side.

“Bring down the Feartarbh!” – A woman’s voice rings out across the chamber.

The gaunt, black-robed Northmann puts his hands down to his sides, fingers outstretched. He clenches them into fists and pulls upwards, a strained snarl ripping forth from his throat as his arms slowly, halting rise upwards. Around the room, corpses rise, two dozen coming to their feet, standing jerkily upwards. Together, two groups rush forward, piling towards the companions in a flood of dead flesh, mouths wide and fingers outstretched. The necromancer gives a tired smile and clicks his fingers.

A deafening explosion shakes the spire and everything turns to white.

Maebh’s vision slowly returns and she looks around from where she is sprawled, prone on the floor. She sees Breanna, stunned, lying on her back near the edge of the pentagram, the tell-tale gleam of the Coins still clenched tightly in her furred grip. The smouldering shape of Harold, still buzzing with the storm’s aegis is to her left, the Invarrian’s tabard and fur blackened and scorched. Where Xander and the other Feartarbh had been standing, only a single black lump remained, slumped on the ground, flesh and fur cooked, scorched blood streaming in rivulets from the seared flesh. She sees the tall Northmann, black robes whipping about him in the strong wind, slowly stride towards her and her fallen comrades. Her eyes blaze amber, she outstretches her hand and the golden lightning strikes again. One bolt crashes into the pool once more, and the others she wrenches, with great force of will, almost into a cage around the necromancer. The coruscating energies rip the tall man apart in a shower of golden light.

As an aside, each lightning bolt did 41 Damage. Normally Furious Storm cannot hit the same target more than once per Round, but I asked Ladyhawk for a Channelling Check to see if she could get any more of her five bolts to hit him as he walked towards her. She duly rolled a 06 under 87, so I ruled that a total of three lightning bolts hit him, for a total of 123 Damage.

The shadowy entity in the centre of the room roars and swings its mighty scythe down at Maebh, but the black blade is halted by an invisible wall. As it impacts however, she can see the edges of the material world buckle and tear slightly as the impossibly sharp blade tries to rip through. It seeps a foul, black mist, and it looks both solid and very sharp.

Shaking his head, Harold slowly picks himself up. In his hand, the Gilded Sword almost twitches and, in a daze, the Invarrian staggers towards the entity in the centre of the room, following the directions of the blade. Almost guiding itself, the Sword thrusts towards the entity, the golden blade shining with light as it pierces the veil between worlds. Where it strikes, whatever smoke-like substance the creature is made of burns and shrivels, and it shrieks hideously in anger and frustration and recoils slightly in pain. It beats at the barrier once more with its scythe, furiously trying to strike down those who dare stand against it.

Breanna, coins in hand, begins the invocation once more, body battered and bruised by the sheer force brought to bear in the necromancer’s assault. She sees that same tethering line of Black magic between the entity in the centre of the room and a point on the far side of the darkened pool of water.

“No, this can’t happen!” – That same woman’s voice, disembodied from the corner of the chamber. The shape of Queen Esmerelda flickers back into reality on the far side of the darkened pool, the point to which the tether of magic led. Her hand gathers energy, a dark emerald in colour, almost dripping and sizzling as it pools there, shining with a sickly light.

“Suck a ****!” – Breanna, in a shrill voice, willing the power to siphon into the coins more quickly through the rents in reality, hoping to finish the invocation before the queen’s sorcery is cast.

The black dart flicks from Esmerelda’s outstretched fingers, straight towards the vulnerable Leathe. It strikes and sinks into the black-furred flesh, and Breanna gasps in pain as her flesh rends and starts to necrotise around the wound. She falls back to the stone floor beneath her, her efforts disrupted and looks at the terrible wound in her side. As she watches, the wound starts to close, and shine with a faint golden light. The light grows stronger and stronger, the pain starts to dissipate and the wound closes over. She turns around, still prone on the ground and stares at the shifting, blackened mound of smoking flesh where Xander once stood. The flesh shifts, and the utterly ruined body of the queen’s Feartarbh warrior is shoved aside by Xander, himself a terribly burned mess. The guardian struggles to his knees as golden light faintly shines from a horrific wound in his chest, the equal of the one inflicted on Breanna. He roars, the golden light gutters out, his tremendous strength finally gives way and Xander slumps to the stone floor once more, unmoving and on his face.

Kel’Serrar, seeing this, takes his opportunity as soon as it presents itself, applying an enchantment of seeking to the arrow he has nocked and loosing it at the queen. The arrow flashes across the chamber but Esmerelda sees the shot made and weaves a hasty enchantment of her own. One of the kneeling captives, one of less than half a dozen still alive in the chamber, appears in her place and the arrow punches directly through the ribcage of the captive. Esmerelda is nowhere to be seen. Cursing under his breath, the ranger runs to the fallen Xander and starts to assess the damage. The massive guardian has taken a ridiculous amount of punishment and Kel is not entirely sure where to even begin. He starts to apply bandages and salves, almost in a daze, but there’s just so much blood. On the other hand, Xander is still technically alive, if only just, and Kel is determined to save him.   

In the centre of the room, the entity roars once more, and it smashes its scythe at Harold. The wily Invarrian manages to dodge out of the way, just, and throws his own cut at the creature in return. After the initial moment after the great explosion, Harold has thrown himself entirely into his instincts, dodging, weaving, slashing and thrusting at the creature, guided by the power of the Gilded Sword. The Sword itself gleams against the darkness, as do the countless small wounds inflicted on the entity, seeping golden light.

“All up, 45 Damage with the Gilded Sword.” – Dev, sounding disappointed.
“That’s 45 Damage, ignoring all Damage Reduction. Mate, that’s heaps. That’s not too much off one-shotting Xander at full health.” – Yohan, shaking his head.
“Yeah, but most of it is from the sword itself, not me.” – Dev, still disappointed.
“Most of my damage comes from lightning, not me.” – Ladyhawk.
“The sword itself ignores Damage Reduction and does 9 Damage. You’d still have done 36 with any other sword, which is hardly nothing. That would kill me twice over.” – Sins, laughing.
“I get up and kill Harold.” – Yohan, laughing.

After one particularly powerful cut, the entity rears back and then leans forward, its ghostly, skull-like face under the hood right in Harold’s own, pushing up as closely as it can to the veil between its realm the material plane. It screams in Harold’s face, and the Invarrian sees, before his vision goes red, that the entity’s shining, smoke-like skin almost seems to be made of tiny fanged maws, each of them gnashing together, slavering and gibbering in a hellish, maddening way. The Invarrian staggers back, blood streaming from his eyes, ears and nose, momentarily blinded, the sheer force of the scream almost concussing the old reaver.

Still lying on the cold floor, Breanna scrabbles desperately for the Three Coins again and begins the invocation once more. Doing so, she sees that same tether of magic on the far side of the room, the opposite side this time from the darkened pool. She inspects the tether of magic a little more closely, the clamour of battle subsiding somewhat as her focus is drawn by the weave of magic before her. She realises that, while this line of magic provides an anchor of sorts, she cannot draw the entity into the Coins. The tether must be broken.

Breanna watches on as Maebh steps forward and a golden torrent of water washes out over the pentagram, blood washing away in a great wave as the mage sweeps it clean in an attempt to disrupt the ritual. Several of the last captives are caught in the flood and torn apart by the blast, ripped into pieces by the titanic forces she brings to bear. The creature above however, what must be the Devourer, is unaffected.

“Maebh, the tether! Break the tether!” – Breanna, screaming at the mage, pointing at the corner of the room.

Clutching the Coins in her hand, the Leathe leaps forward, using the stunned Harold as cover and uses the daemonic power stored within them to attempt to seal up the cracks in the veil. The Devourer roars at her from its many mouths, and swings its scythe, but the Leathe is able to nimbly duck under the sweeping blow, pulling Harold down with her. The Coins burn with power in her hand as she holds them aloft, daemonic power streaming into the void. Hunkered down, her sheer will to succeed escapes her in a scream of rage, as beside her, Harold gets to his feet, clears the blood from his eyes and engages the Devourer once more. 

One after another, six lightning bolts smash into the stone floor in the corner of the room Breanna indicated. If it has any effect on the hidden woman there, Maebh cannot tell. She starts to cast another spell, gathering the energies in her hand and readies it for the moment the queen flickers back into reality.

The Devourer rears back with its mighty scythe and unleashes a terrible blow, sweeping through the veil and into the material plane, the otherworldly blade seeping black corruption. Harold, clearly still hampered by the entity’s scream, is too slow, and the weapon catches him, a mere winging blow enough to cause immense damage to the Invarran. He falls back, his cuirass rent asunder by the strike, his flesh steaming as the corruption sets in, the wound starting just below his right collarbone and ending halfway down his left thigh. He pants, slowly trying to get back on his feet, determined to sell his life dearly. He spits at the creature, the bloody gobbet disappearing into the void and strikes at its face with the Gilded Sword, the keen blade striking truly, causing the Devourer to recoil once more.

Seeing this, Esmerelda flickers materialises once more, amidst the cracked and blackened stone flags on the floor, evidence of Maebh’s arcane assault. She looks a little singed, and is clearly hurt, but not terribly, and she begins to gather daemonic power in her hand once more, screaming a curse at Harold in a language none of the companions can understand. As she draws her hand back, suddenly amber energy flickers around her and golden ice emanates from her form, freezing her in place. Staring at the queen from across the room, Maebh hands are outstretched, blood trickling from one nostril as the magic takes hold and the two casters engage in a mental battle of will. For now at least, Maebh’s magic holds the queen in place.

“Yes! She can’t get away now!” – Dev.
“Quick, someone get her!” – LD.
“That’s only a half action to cast, can I-“ – Ladyhawk, who stops herself. What followed is probably the biggest sign of growth we’ve seen in any player since we began the campaign.
“Yes, do it! Get her!” – LD.
“I only held that particular spell. I can’t use my other half action now, I can only hold it for a reaction. That’s the end of my turn.” – Ladyhawk, demonstrating both her mastery of the system and her own growth as a player. In the heat of the moment, with this, perhaps the most intense combat we’ve ever had, the table screaming at her to end it and the fate of the entire world on the line, she held to the rules instead of trying to barter for something more.

I was very proud.

“Kel, get her!” – Maebh, screaming, eyes aglow with amber light.

From where he is knelt on the floor, applying bandages and salves to the terribly wounded Xander, Kel’Serrar looks up and sees the situation before him. He grabs his longbow from the floor beside him, from where he had discarded the weapon to treat Xander. He looks at it closely, his eye drawn by the intricate carvings, and for an instant, as he nocks an arrow to the string, his mind wanders to all the many and varied places this weapon has seen. This bow has been with him from the very beginning, since he set out from Dev’Iere all those years ago. He draws, the fletching of the arrow tickling his cheek as he unconsciously factors in all the variables. Range, a little more than thirty yards. Wind, considerable, a swirling gale. Movement, none, thanks to Maebh. He breathes in, mutters a word under his breath, and golden light starts to coalesce around the arrowhead, building, thrumming with power. Kel exhales, and watches as the arrow streaks across the room, an intense golden blur, burning brightly, aimed directly at the head of the blonde-haired queen.

Upon her chest, set into her ornate steel cuirass, the bright green energies of the emerald there flicker, flare and then dull. For a brief moment, the snarling rage on her face transforms into a stunned look of horror, and then there is a blinding flash of light, and yet another explosion shakes the spire, this one strangely muffled by comparison to some of those which had come before, the sound accompanied by the sound of cracking and shattered ice.

When the swirling light clears, the body of the queen still stands, held in place by the vestiges of the icy prison Maebh had encased her in, but her head is gone. Slowly but inexorably, her body falls as gravity claims it and the remnants of Maebh’s ice shatters.

“79 Damage, ignoring Armour. And, just so everyone’s aware, she misses her next turn.” – Sins, laughing.

To Breanna’s eyes, the tether which linked the queen to the Devourer shrivels and burns as her life fades. The creature roars, and, looking closer, the Leathe can see a contingency of sorts built into the tether. With the queen’s death, the very last of her power travels down the line and to the entity. Fuelled by this power, it takes its scythe back in one hand and delivers two, swift, sweeping strikes, attempting to hit both Harold and Breanna in the arc. Bree dodges under the first blow, as does Harold, but the second connects with the badly wounded Invarrian on the backswing, knocking him away and cracking a rib or two and knocking the Gilded Sword out of his grasp. From within the void, the Devourer roars in triumph and its black, taloned hand reaches through the rent in reality and starts to pull it forward, through the cracks in the veil and towards a terrified, huddled Breanna.

Slowly picking himself up again, Harold winces in pain, feeling every single one of his fifty-six years gnawing at him, every single wound he has taken in a pretty violent life, every ache and pain he has ignored every day flooding back to him now. His strength sapped, he manages to sit up and he looks around for the Gilded Sword, which blessedly is not far away. Harold crawls over to it and picks it up, feeling a fresh wave of vigour flow through him. The pain of his freshly cracked ribs fades a little, just enough to allow him to think, and he looks up, seeing Breanna crouched, helpless before the otherworldly behemoth looming over her, breaching the material world. He sees the black talon, the many little fanged mouth snapping and gnashing in its flesh. He hefts the Gilded Sword once more and springs forward, the golden blade cutting through the air to strike at the clawed hand. There is little to no artistry in the stroke as the Invarrian pushes himself past his physical limits, a clumsy cut which is effective for all that. The Sword cleaves through the talons as if they were made of butter and the Devourer recoils yet again from these mortals which dare to stand against it. It screams in agony and lunges forward once again, the deafening keening shriek piercing the ears and minds of all who hear it. Harold takes the brunt of it and he simply screams back, a terrible death-howl conveying the sheer desperation and rage he feels.

Calling upon the power of the Coins once more, Breanna tries again but she can still feel a faint anchoring presence somewhere. She casts her gaze around the chamber, desperately searching for whatever could be preventing her from completing the ritual. Finally, after agonising seconds, she sees it, that faint sliver of power connecting the Devourer to the still in-tact emerald upon the breast of the slain queen.

“Maebh, the emerald! Destroy the emerald!” – Breanna, vaulting over a wild scythe strike.

Yet another flurry of amber lightning bolts rip down from the ceiling, lighting up the void in which the Devourer dwells. Its body is wracked by her power, though it does not seem to be lasting damage, the blackened rents closing up slowly as the entity begins to regain its composure. The last bolt however strikes the corpse of Esmerelda upon the chest, blowing the body asunder. Breanna watches as the tether fades completely and grits her teeth, readying herself for another assault upon the entity. She feels a hand on her shoulder and looks up to see Maebh looking at her, eyes blazing with golden light, a feral grin on her face, sharp teeth showing.

“Do it Bree. I will help you.” – Maebh, quietly.

Harold lunges forward and into the void with the Gilded Sword as the Devourer itself leans in towards him. Its great fanged face roaring towards him. The Invarrian thrusts at its hideous face, the Gilded Sword tearing through its flesh as Harold drives the blade through its face and down into its chest, golden light streaming forth in blazing ray. The Devourer flails wildly with one arm, knocking Harold back and through the rent in reality as it screams again. The Invarrian tumbles back into the material plane, a black mist seeping off his flesh and armour, and he groans as he comes to a halt, his wounds screaming at him.

Breanna, with Maebh’s help, calls upon the power of the Coins once more, and this time, the magic within them takes hold. The daemonic energy rips forth from them in a blinding stream, repairing the cracks in reality, filling in the portal to the void. The howl of the Devourer, deafening in intensity, slowly starts to fade as its doorway closes. There’s a crack and the Coins become dormant once more, simply smoking in Breanna’s burnt hand. Silence descends on the chamber, and then lightning crashes outside, in the distance.

Some way away, they can hear a muffled explosion as the battle between the armies of Elspeth and Naille rages on outside the city. There’s no way of telling for sure from here, but it seems as if the Naillish forces have not simply been swept from the field. Overhead, the pale golden moon starts to slowly recede in size. The shadows which roiled upon it have faded and there is no sign of that pale blue magic.

Maebh walks slowly to the blown-out window, the rain blowing in starting to drench her. She looks down at the open ocean beneath at the base of the cliffs, searching for any sign of life, but she sees nothing. No sign of the Beasts Under the Waves, no sign of who that caster may have been. The spirit wisps which had aided the companions during the battle, fade away, back to the wraith-realm.

A feeling of peace starts to descend on the chamber, but it is broken by Kel’s strained voice.

“I’m not sure if I can save him.” – Kel’Serrar, kneeling beside the body of Xander Wrothgar.

The Wrap-Up:
Wow, what an amazing session. While at the time I intended to have this session be the very end of the campaign, it became apparent in the following weeks that the players needed more closure. In addition to this, after the event we determined a mathematical error which occurred in this combat which would have a significant effect on what would happen next.

As such, we do still have one more session to come.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my players for being the people they are. Flawed we may all be, but I would wish for no other group of lunatics to share this story with.

With that said, the final session and epilogue will be coming very soon, so please, stay tuned and we will see you then.

Thanks for reading,

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