Wednesday, 19 March 2014

GM Tips - GMS under the Hammer (video)

Some tips for preparing an RPG session when you're pushed for time.

Paying for the Past (IC writeup of the 5th Seattle Demon the Fallen session)

As Nardy spoke her voice seemed to fill the cabin of the old truck, as though her word transported us back through time and we actually witnessed what she saw:

It was the 1860s, the frontier times and a small expeditionary force sent by Brigadier General and (former Governor) Issac Stevens made it's way through Alaska to a remote location rumoured to have been supplied from his dealings with Red Skins. The Force, led by Captain Ronald Rayner was supported by Issac's own Negro Freeman, Henry Christmas and a small academic and Prospectors corp (the United States Army Corps of Engineers) Amidst the 60 odd men  were two brothers, Willard McCabe, the elder and Academic geologist and prospector, the other, the younger, Douglas McCabe, enlisted man and Corporal; together, they had travelled for months up into the North western mountains and into Alaska.

Winter was drawing in as the party moved through the coniferous forests and into the rocky crags of a small valley lead by their Sergeant, a gruff New Yorker called Raynor, food was becoming scarce as the group reached the valley and game seemed unusually scarce in the area; eventually they set up camp near a stream and Douglas began to oversee the setting up off watches and posting guards around the area so that the scientists and geologists could do whatever it was that they did in relative safety. Henry Christmas with pride in his voice lead the group over a rise in the valley and smiled as the ground suddenly plunged away into a huge crater with a tiny stream winding through it, this was what they had come to find, he beamed and in a wood-smoked voice said "There's a prominent vein of silver runs through their i'll warrant and we're gonna tap it."

Later whilst patrolling the area (after all there were rumours of wolves and bears in the area), Douglas came across what appeared to be two strange obelisks jutting from the ground near a rock face, the obelisks were adorned with strange writing and the rockface itself had a crack or cavern penetrating deep inside it, the smell of rotten meat wafted out of the dark entryway. Running back to fetch Mr Christmas and his fellow soldiers Douglas pointed out that there were a number of wolf tracks in the area; as Christmas sketched the obelisk Willard moving into the cavern and began exploring it whilst the soldiers remained outside on guard. Inside he found the crumbling remnants of tribal wall paintings that seemed to show strange giants with lines beaming from them receiving worship from human tribes; when he reported this Christmas implied that it should remain a secret between them and that, in exchange for his cooperation, Willard would receive an extra share in his pay packet.

Whilst Christmas left to collect some more gear Willard carried on his explorations and was astounded to discover, after scraping aside some of the dust and grime coating the floor that the cavernous corridor burrowed into the rockface seemed to be made from a single piece of smooth silver alloy; his eyes lighting up with thoughts of profit and discovery he smudged the dirt and soil back over it and did not mention it to Christmas upon his return.

Outside, one of the soldier Rollins was complaining that the place gave him the creeps, Douglas agreed and then, as the curried bean rations began to take their toll, grabbed a shovel and made his way to the makeshift toilet area; it was only after he had sat down that he noticed the strange absence of normal animal and forest noises. Crossing himself, Douglas finished his business quickly and returned to camp.

Two days passed in the blink of an eye.

Willard managed to clear a caved-in portion of the cavern and revealed more of the tribal painting, he also discovered a huge door that appeared to have been crafted from metal and be worked by some form of cog and gear mechanism; Christmas had directed the soldiers to begin erecting more permanent structures in the area, but again reminded Willard that they should keep the contents of the cave secret, implying that what lay beyond the door was not for mortal minds to comprehend.

The following day there was a wolf attack on a hunting party by no casualties were sustained.

Unable to contain his curiosity any longer Willard called for his brother and showed the bewildered soldier into the silver floored cavern, advising him that the two of them could make a fortune if they handled the matter right; a little shell-shocked and bewildered Douglas agreed and returned to his patrol duties. Dying to see what lay behind the door, Willard discovered a series of five glyphs that seemed to act as a sort of control panel, theorising that they may represent the four elements plus some unknown fifth substance he pressed them and was rewarded with the clanking of the cogs and the door grinding open. 

Outside one of the other prospectors working in the crater shouted in delight, he'd discovered a small ball of a strange opalescent black metal, but the excitement was dampened when a wolf howl sounded nearby putting all the soldiers on alert, however, there was no sign of the animal (presumably the guns and shouts from the soldiers had scared it away).

Back in the cavern Willard moved through the door, something lay in the dust on the ground, it appeared to be a suit of old cloth armour, crumbling and falling apart with age.

Later that evening Douglas was on patrol when he came across the body of Rollins lying dead on the outskirts of the camp, he shouted to raise the alarm and the body was taken away as the camp went on high alert, although Rollins bore no visible injuries.

Christmas meanwhile had discovered that Willard had opened the door and, having seen what was inside, said that they may require some additional help, Willard recommended his brother, saying that they could rely on his discretion, Christmas called one of his men to fetch Douglas. When the two brothers were both in the cavern Christmas began to speak:

"Gentleman we have a situation, this place was revealed to General Stevens and it contains a power that could re-write the history books."

He went on to talk about how a race of beings from the heavens had built this place, educating early man and bringing him technology beyond that of simple savages; Christmas explained that he was building a permanent outpost here and that he wanted the two brothers to help guard and protect this place. Continuing he described a secret organisation of men who helped protect humanity against the things that lurked in the darkness, apologising that he must leave the camp soon and report to his superiors he handed a ring bearing a strange triangular sigil to Willard and said that he should show it should he every really be in trouble. Somewhat dumbfounded the two brothers agreed and wished Christmas a speedy and pleasant trip.

Christmas had been gone a few hours and two brothers still stood in the cavern, Willard showed Douglas the crumbling cloth armour and, as the soldier poked around in it he found a small pendant, without thinking he reached out a hand.

Instantly the two of the them collapsed in agony and experience a vision of a different place, the past of the creek when it had been little more than a field with the two obelisks standing in it, a huge silvered citadel rose above the field, storm rains lashed down and the skys were full of huge birds... no wait... they were people, people with wings. Balls of fire arched down from the sky setting fire to the grass and causing the tower to crumble, it began to sink into the ground as screams rent the air, twin jagged peaks of rock blossomed from the ground, dwarfing the now sunken citadel and forming the valley that the explorers would one day visit.

A ball of flame landed in the creek and then the years rolled passed like calendar pages and, sometime in the future, a man wearing hide armour walked along the creek, huge black wings grew from his back and he glanced down at a piece of black rock in a small crater; suddenly the sky was filled with a roaring sound and a huge fireball from the heavens struck the figure creating a giant crater and throwing the figure into the nearby rockface, dust and rubble rained down on the winged man, burying him. 

Waking from their shared vision the brothers agreed not to discuss it lest they were thought insane, but it quickly became obvious they were thinking the same thing; if they could find the rockface from their vision then perhaps the body of the winged man was still inside. They were easily able to locate it and, over the course of the next few days, they tried several times to excavate the rockface, but each time they were scolded and told to stick to their patch by Sergeant Raynor; eventually when Willard was making a solo attempt at further excavation he grew tired of Raynor's constant interference and, thinking there was nothing left to lose, pulled out the ring given to him by Mr Christmas.

Nodding Raynor lead him to the cave and asked whether anyone else knew about what they had discovered, shaking his head Willard said that only him and his brother knew about it.

"Do you know that once the Fallen gave up everything they had to look after man?"

Willard barely had time to register what Raynor had said when he found a small pistol pointed at him, the gun barked twice and Willard felt his blood and breath fleeing from him as he collapsed to the floor.

"It's nothing personal but he wants to remain hidden, you're going to be a loyal servant for the angel of death, I envy you... don't worry, your brother will join you shortly." 

Over the next few days Douglas was sent out several times to hunt, each time bringing back precious supplies, although as the days went on they lost more and more hunters in the woods; there was not sign of Willard, but it was not unusual for him to lose himself in his studies and so Douglas thought little of it.
That was until he was dropping off a brace of connies in the cookhouse when he happened to glance in the offal and refuse bucket and saw, amongst some stomach churningly human looking pieces of bone, the shining ring with it's triangular sigil; pocketing it, Douglas crept behind the cook, placing his pistol against the cook's skull he spoke in an emotionless voice:

"Where has all this meat begin coming from?"

Cook began to babble that he'd just been following orders, but didn't get halfway through his sentence before Douglas squeezed the trigger and blasting his head across the inside wall of the tent.

Drawn by the sound of the gunfire a crowd gather outside whilst inside Douglas hunkered down behind a wooden bench, lining his rifle up aimed at the door; outside Raynor shouted for the men to stay back and that he would deal with the matter personally. As he entered Douglas repeated the same question that he'd asked the cook, this time allowing his subject to make an excuse about Willard having died of natural causes and supplied being short before the gun barked out an answer.

Collapsing with blood pouring from his chest, Raynor laughed and began to babble that he could not be killed, he had been blessed; not really understanding anything other than this son of a bitch had killed his brother, Douglas placed his rifle against Raynor's head and fired at point blank range.

Incredibly Raynor continued to laugh in a burbling voice saying "This vessel is already dead, but I have tasted the flesh, you cannot kill me."

Douglas continued firing until he had emptied both his rifle and pistol of ammunition, but somehow Raynor still moved with unholy life, grabbing a cleaver and a lantern Douglas emptied the scant amount of oil onto Raynor's body intending to burn the godless fiend but, realising their wasn't enough oil, began pouring through the cook's supplies. As he located a barrel of oil, he turned to see Raynor rise to his feet, wounds closing and bullets falling from his mending flesh.

"I whispered such sweet things to your brother as he died, such pretty words; you cannot burn me" began Raynor, but his sentence was choked off when Douglas hurled the cleaver through the air, it embedded itself in the creatures face; before Raynor could recover the soldier kicked the lid off the barrel, sending it rolling into Raynor, splattering a wide trail of oil across the tent.
As the Raynor-thing began to curse and scream, Douglas lit a handful of matches before shouting "All the pretty words in the world won't save you from me!"
The burning matches tumbled through the air, striking the oil and the entire building burst into flames.

Gasping as Nardy finished the story that she had got firsthand from the spirit of the dead brothers we all looked around the inside of the cabin, she looked at us, "So what now?"

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

When Someone else Pays the Price (IC writeup of the 4th Seattle Demon the Fallen Game)

Disclaimer: Please note this is a fictitious in-character write-up of a roleplaying game session.

I was quite surprised when I turned up to work the next morning, my producer Sue looked flustered and the clip notes that had been prepared for the morning show were rushed and shoddy, nowhere near the standard that i'd come to expect for the team; it appeared that Eric my young student had failed to turn into work in the morning and so Sue'd had to rush the notes through herseld, he'd given no explanation and nor had she been able to raise him on the phone. I was forced to improvise a lot of the show but oddly enough it was one of the best i've done yet, perhaps i've been letting myself get a bit lazy and have just been coasting along? Maybe I need to knock things up a gear?

Worried about the uncharacteristic behaviour from Eric I grabbed his address from Sue and then spoke to Frank on the way out of the station, i'd managed to get him some small techy jobs around the station, nothing major but it beat the welfare cheque and would hopefully keep his wife off his back for a bit. Frank agreed to accompany me and, as we drove to the avenue where Eric lived, we chatted about his wife and how he was going to tell her about his change of circumstances; I warned him that it was going to put a major strain on his relationship but that he owed his wife the truth, hell, who was I to talk about relationships, i'd be married once and it had ended badly, she'd got the kid and i'd got death and then this.

Frank used his abilities to get us inside the appartment, place was a damn mess, looked like it had been turned over; when we eventually found Eric I felt a brief surge of an old and familiar rage as I looked down at the beaten body of the young man, an innocent whose only crime had been to try and assist me down at the radio station. He tried to speak through the pain of broken bones and bloody lips, I motioned for him not to speak and knelt down beside him

"Eric, don't be afraid, I can heal you and make you well again - but before I can do that I need you to believe and to have faith in me, do you believe Eric?"

As I spoke a smouldering ember of my previous celestial majesty burned in my voice and I saw him nod slightly; words were not needed to seal the pact only his agreement, I took his face and returned a part of it to him, willing it to knit flesh and bone back together until (aside from some slight bruising) he was healed.

Now healed Eric was able to describe his attacker, it was clear from his description that our "friend" from Connor's TV repair had paid him a visit; I cursed and felt the flames of my anger grow higher as I realised that all this had been my fault, I offered to ring the station and claim that Eric had been ill and couldn't use the phone, Sue was also one of my thralls and would understand, it seemed the least I could do given the circumstances. Realising that our associated my be in danger Frank attempted to ring his wife but their was no answer; fearing the worst we leapt into our vehicles and sped down the highway to Frank's house, the place seemed unusually clean but otherwise it all seemed fine, until I noticed the red light flashing on the answerphone and pressed the button.

"Frank... Frank... I don't know where I am... Frank... please come and get me"

Whilst Frank raged at the message, venting his considerable (and understandable) anger on the nearby furniture, I went and checked the mail, the accumulated pile of bills and papers told me that she'd been taken in the last 12 hours. A small piece of yellow paper was sticking out of the mail pile and I felt my stomach lurch as I turned it over to reveal the inevitable Connor's TV repair leaflet, the address of the warehouse that we had visited previously was circled in biro.

A few moments later we pulled into the warehouse, not in a mood to mess around Frank virtually smashed through the door but the place was empty, empty besides for a TV set with a camera attached to it; on the TV screen was a picture of Frank's wife tied to a chair and gagged, but it was soon replaced by the smug face of a man I recognised, Leeroy Christmas.

"You've been interfering in my business, if you continue to do so there will be unfortunate consequences."

Leeroy continued to outline how those we cared for would never be safe unless I let the matter with the Duwarmish tribe drop; for a moment I considered defying him, after all what was the life of one human compared to the glorious truth we could bring to their race, but then I remembered how before we had given up our world for little more than a handful of primitives who showed great promise and I knew then that I couldn't let Pauline die for my ideal. I agreed to cease my interference in return for two things, Pauline's safety and (thinking back to what Kulikov had told me) the location of the Russian bunker containing the serum that would enhance the human condition.

Christmas agreed and told us that his man was on the way and would take us to Pauline and that from there we would easily be able to locate the bunker; the TV went blank. Quickly I pulled out my mobile and told Nardy to meet us at the warehouse but to hold back a bit so she wasn't seen by Christmas' flunky, she agreed and said that she was on her way. Sure enough a few moments later the TV repair murderer walked in, unrolling a scroll covered in angelic script and placing it atop the doorway; I bit back my urge to deal with the murderer, both Frank and myself stepped through the doorway and instantly found ourselves plunging through blackness into freezing cold water.

Pulling ourselves out of the water it appeared that we had been transported to some sort of abandoned mineshaft, it didn't take us long to locate Pauline who was tied up on a chair nearby; in response to her sobbing enquiries about events that had occurred Frank began to talk to her about the Fallen (it seemed he had decided to come clean) but he began to babble and tumble over his words, eventually resorting to transforming into his demonic form to illustrate the point. Although clearly terrified Pauline showed impressive strength of will in holding herself together at the sight and with my natural way with people I was able to calm her down.

A sudden voice sounded coming from near the top of the shaft, it appeared that Nardy had followed us through and had been able to climb out of the mine, she swiftly located an old winch and was able to get us all into the upper levels of the mine. The mine was filled with a jumble of old 1940s structures and stuff that looked like it had come straight out of an old west dime novel, but eventually we found what must one have been a foreman's office and inside a map, showing that we were now apparently in a place called Aggie's Creek in Alaska. Frank shouted that he had found six bullets, a rifle and a wolf pelt in one of the storage lockers and, not knowing what perils we might face, we decided to keep them with us.

Eventually finding our way out of the mine we were in what looked like a small, crumbling ghost town, Nardy seemed to recognise it and said that she believed it had been mentioned in her researches on Isaac Stevens; a large crater occupied the center of the desolate place but the sight that took our breath away as we moved closer was a perfectly preserved fossil of an eight foot tall man with huge wings extending from his back. Even at this distance I could feel an older and purer faith emanating from the corpse of the angel (for what else could it be?) and I snapped a few photos.

There were wolf howls in the distance, both Frank and myself glanced nervously at the treeline and then at the silver bullets.

Moving into the town further we discovere da small log cabin in an overgrown area, inside were some ancient supplies and a mattress, bones and skins littered the floor; lying on the table was a photo of a man that I recognised from the history books, Isaac Stevens. Nardy looked excited as she sensed death energy in the room and pulled back the sheets from the mattress to reveal a skeleton; she reached down to the bones and concentrated for a moment before looking at me with panic in her eyes.

"We need to go, now!"
"Why?" I asked
"This isn't Stevens, i've spoken to the spirits here and the wolves are coming for us, they protect this place, we need to leave!"

Frank had discovered an old truck nearby and was working on gassing it up from the remnants of the old generators and repairing it as only he could when we heard numerous wolf howls amongst the trees and glowing eyes started to move in on our position; lifting Pauline and Nardy up onto the truck I handed Pauline the rifle and silver bullets telling her shoot anything that moved before leaping into the driving seat.

The howls were closer now.

I screamed for Frank to hurry up.

Furred shapes moved just beyond the treeline.

Frank swore as he dragged the remnants of the fuel to the car.

A huge wolf (bigger than any i've seen) emerged from the treeline.

There was a zinging sound as Pauline fired the rifle.

The wolf was joined by more and seeming to grow as it ran forwards, becoming something primeval and terrible, lashed out with it's claws.

Then Frank leapt into the back of truck.


I floored the accelerator and the truck screeched into motion, blasting forward powered by the alchemy of the malefactor, we drove until we had left the wolves and the ghost town far behind, until the diesel ran dry and the engine died, coughing and spluttering.

After a few moments had passed and we dared to breathe again I looked over at Nardy.

"So what did you see?"

Serpents Fall - Session 9 (video)

Session 9 of our Serpents Fall game.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

What is the Price of Truth? (IC writeup of the 2nd and 3rd sessions of Seattle Demon: the Fallen game)

Disclaimer: This is a fictional in-character write-up of an RPG session.

"Given how old I am you'd think that i'd not be surprised at how layers of lies and deceit always obscure the truth, building up as time passes; we learned that trick from you, oh and Angel can refuse to tell you the truth but they can't disassemble and pretend one thing is another, well, we never used to be able to. The gravel crunched under the wheels of my car as myself and Nardy pulled up outside the offices of Connor's Cable Company, Frank's huge van accompanying us into the parking lot; in my mind I had already skipped ahead and started rehearsing the following mornings show, call it the perils of an over-active, high pressure career. The powers that be (I smirked at the thought) had handed down the word that due to my implying that the mayor's office had deliberately obfuscated the facts surrounding Noah's death I would have to make an on air apology and that the deputy mayor himself was coming down to be on the show and to receive the apology, good, right where I wanted him; being handed down orders from a higher authority and being expected to just follow them without asking didn't sit well with me and I felt a faint stirring of the hatred that had kept me warm for all those millennium in the abyss. 

I was bought back to the present by the sound of Nardy and Frank discussing the best way to get through the door of the cable company; not having time to spare and eager to get to the truth of this mystery I ordered my large companion to put his shoulder against the door, he did so and we were rewarded with a satisfying thunk as the door came off it's hinges. Looking around the dusty office it looked like the place old machinery and computers go to die, but it looked as though someone had knocked through from the TV repair office (obviously a front) into a building next door, they were a number of monogrammed pieces of what looked like geological equipment bearing the logo and name Geoserv. I retrieved a book of matches that had the name "The Devils Dice" on it (i'd heard of it, some kind of club down in the bay) and also a post-stik that had the name Coolikov written on it, I was remembering where i'd come across the name before (some king of arms dealer or shady underworld type) when Frank shouted across he'd found some sort of sample cabinet that held a number of dirt or rock samples in them. Glancing through them none of the samples held much interest for us until we reached a drawer labelled "Edenite", as soon as it was open we could all feel that the substance inside was not for us, it's very molecular structure screamed out a silent hatred for those escaped from the abyss.

We hastily shut the drawer containing the Edenite when we heard the sound of someone entering the building, a tall figure whom Frank identified as the TV repairman who had visited Noah entered; immediately Frank went on the offensive, shaking off his mortal form like a (large) garment, twisting upwards into a behemoth of metal and smoke, he slammed the person against the doorframe and we demanded answers. After the veiled threats i'd expect from a scared flunky we managed to get the names Q'why Temoch and Heartstream out of the man before cutting him loose (we're not the cops after all), I had no idea what Temoch was (although it sounded Indian) a quick Google search on Heartsream though, using my smartphone, revealed that it was a medical company in downtown Seattle.

Next morning I settled into my comfortable chair whilst the deputy mayor sat opposite me, you didn't have to be a demon to sense the righteousness that fairly rolled off the mayor's deputy in waves; I smiled, the mayor was obviously a shrewed opponent, why risk exposing himself when a minion who sincerely believed in the rightness of his cause would be a far less bitter pill for the public to swallow? Deputy Daryl Smith looked at me with a contented smile on his face as I issued my public apology and read through the list of pre-prepared everything was going his way and any initial tension slowly drained from him, he'd already won after all; gradually so as not to draw any attention I gathered strands of my faded celestial power around me, pulling them to me, although weakened I was still Sitri the angel who made men and women weep, laugh and fall in love, in ages past my word had caused people to kill and to die for their love. Pushing my power towards Smith I felt my celestial will tighten around his and then asked my question, "Deputy, what do you think has prevented the Duwarmish tribe from regaining their rightful land."

After the broadcast the deputy left without a word, he had waxed lyrical for a number of minutes about how the Mayor's office used their knowledge of the legal system to frustrated the Duwarmish efforts and how they had been unjustly conned into signing the original treaty by Isaac Stevens that had been used to deny them their heritage; I smiled at the worried look on my producer's face as I left the booth, with one fell swoop the Mayor's deputy had caused more damage to his own office than I could have ever done. My producer Sue looked more than a little pale as she started to protest about me having gone of topic and having lead the Deputy along, I hushed her fears with some platitudes about all publicity being good, all that really mattered was that the truth was out there; Sue was a woman who had witnessed the faded glory of my celestial presence and her faith fed me, she had given me that most precious gift in return for my help in finding love, I knew she could be relied on to help should I need it.

Meeting up with Frank an hour a later we decided to visit a local Duwarmish Lodge and enquire about the name Qwhy Temoch, despite some initial resistance we were eventually directed to a man named old Bob Redwood, a retired tribal storyteller who drank most days in a bar called Jackie's. Old Bob didn't seem too keen to tell us the story of Qwhy Temoch, seemingly surprised that we even knew then name and advising us to refer to the tribal spirit by the name 'Fallen Eagle' lest it hear us, I raised an eyebrow at the mention of the word 'fallen' and the notion of someone or something hearing when it's name was used; every syllable Old Bob muttered went further to confirming to me that Temoch was in fact a demon that had someone escaped from the Abyss many years before the rest of us. 

Bob was about to leave, I could feel the truth slipping away from us, and I thought of how we had been lied to in the first days, how if we had just asked for the truth so much pain might have been avoided, I felt the lie of Max's, of my wife as she promised to love me forever and couldn't allow this one truth to disappear from our grasp. Following Bob out of the bar I pulled back the veil of my mortal appearance and bright light burst from the radiance of my soul; it is an odd thing to show your celestial appearance, it feels both bad and good, kind of like pulling a bandage off a wound, it stings at first as you look and are reminded of the original injury but you know the only way for it to heal is to let the clean air get at it. Words poured forth from me, I spoke about the truth and how, if mankind could shed their lies and schemes that, although heaven was lost to us, we could make this earth into a new paradise and we could all dwell in it forever; reflected in Bob's eyes as he fell to his knees I could see his thoughts reflected, he saw the glory that I was promising and I knew, in that moment, that he was a good man and would tell me what I wanted to know, as I let my glowing aura fade I reached out a hand towards him and raised him to his feet.

"Be not afraid."

Bob told us the tale of the tribal spirit Qwhy Temoch who, with his mate, had lived in harmony with the Duwarmish tribe, dancing amongst the grasses with them (I thought back to an earlier dream/vision of Frank's wife) and sharing much knowledge with them; then one day the Fallen Eagle's mate disappeared and, despairing, he forsook the tribe, the land fell out of harmony and began to suffer. Much later a white man called Isaac Stevens came asking many questions about Temoch, but the tribe were unable to give him any information, having long fallen out of favour with the Fallen Eagle, in his rage Stevens set out to make the tribe pay, forcing them into all manner of unfavourable treaties and giving up their lands. A neighbouring southern tribe called the Squarmish believed that Stevens survived the battle where records say that he died and came back to these lands looking for the Fallen Eagle.

Thanking Old Bob for his assistance we left him as he headed back into the bar for a drink, a flickering reflection of the vision that he had seen still dancing in his eyes.

That only left the Devils Dice, the warehouse conversion club that was apparently owned by the infamous arms dealer "Papa" Coolikov; after gaining entry we circled the dancefloor for a bit before noticing a VIP area, I was forced to use my abilities on the bounce near the curtained off area to get him to tell us how we might gain admittance, turns out it just required the right application of funds (I might have known). Unfortunately it seems my use of my celestial powers tipped someone off inside, myself and Frank were quickly ushered through to a meeting with the club's manager John Hamish (a known felon) who apparently ran the club for Coolikov; following instructions from his boss he had us taken to what he called the "Final Offer", a battered old ocean liner moored at the docks, it seemed "Papa" Coolikov had a taste for the theatrical and we were quickly shown into a private office onboard the liner whose decorations reminding me of vaudeville.

We listened to the Coolikov, who projected a mercilessly business-like aura, as he unveiled a tale of soviet experimentation, a project to create a chemical weapon that would "enhance the human condition"; the project had been scrapped and Coolikov had been searching for it, without any success. A rival of his knew where to find the soviet research station, a demon named Leeroy Christmas (I recognised the name as belonging to man who had been attempting to borrow books on Duwarmish mythology at Seattle-U when this business first began), although Coolikov admitted to having supplied the knives that killed Noah Siall, if we located the soviet research station for him he offered to help us discover more of the truth.

I paused for a moment as I felt the disquieteningly familiar sensation of standing on a precipice looking down into an Abyss well up within me, then something of the proud Angel I had once been stirred within me, reminding me that there was no evil in the truth other than that lying in the hearts of men and angels.

Nodding, I once more stepped over the edge.

Serpents Fall Session 8 (video)

Serpents Fall - Session 8
"A Cold Wind from the North"

Friday, 7 March 2014

Caradoc ap Segovax: The Festival of Lughnasadh (Age of Arthur, session 1)

The old stories were once again told as the great hearth fires were lit in the village for the celebration of Lughnasadh, the harvest time would soon begin and all of the the tribe, young and old, gathered in the village as those amongst the eldest (like myself) passed along the ancient tales of our people; I presided over the dutiful kindling of the hearthfire in our small inn and lead the procession as the burning brand was carried to a large bonfire that the youths of the village had built near to our well. As the flames caught and the heart of the village once more awoke and burnt with flame, the face of all the people in the village both young and old were briefly illuminated in tones of burnt orange and yellow. I lifted my voice and, although my summer years are far behind me, I felt the winter recede a little in the glow of the fire as I lead the village in a prayer of thanks to the spirits.

Our chief, a mighty warrior who still strode through the village like a giant despite having many seasons behind him, thanked me and beckoned for the warriors of the village to come forward and tell a tale of their deeds so that we might acknowledge our present as well as our past; as each of the warrior stepped forward and told their tale one of the stories seemed to shine for a moment brighter than the rest. I cannot say whether it was my own connection with the person who told the story or the tale itself that drew my attention, but the young daughter of the village druidess (my female counterpart and balance), a rough a tumble young urchin who continually evaded the chiefs attempts to have her settle down with a warrior from the village, spoke of going to battle with her father and seeing that most mighty of men laid low by the treachery of the unbelievers. Thanking her for the story, but admonishing her to beware the black road of vengeances, the chief made a gesture to me and, with a handful of young helpers, I began to pour out the ceremonial mead for the villagers, handing to each a cup as they told their own stories, each of them weaving together into a tapestry that forms the history of our people. Raising his cup the chieftain said "We drink for all the fallen, in three nights the hunt begins," I would be expected to lead the hunt for the stag with twelve horns, it's presence (or lack of it) boding either good or ill for our next years harvest.

The chieftain sought me out after his speech, he had apparently been talking to Siann (daughter of the druidess) and Scotia (a young woman who had become the village blacksmith) and attempting to persuade them that part of their duty was to help produce the next generation of warriors for the village, but it appeared that they did not agree with him; he told me of a dream of vision that he had where he had walked across a battlefield littered with the bodies of our Roman enemies and our own people, the Morrigan walked amongst the fallen, her black robes flowing our behind her like crows wings, but she would not take the souls of those that had died. Troubled, I spoke of how the old ways were slowly being washed away like sand on a beach as the tide of unbelief took root in our lands and that those who forsook the old ways, the right ways, would be forsaken by them in turn and would know no rest in this life or the next; ancient legends and stories passed down to me had spoke of the living death, souls who could not pass from this world but were no longer living, forced to linger for eternity in the bleak grayness between realms, it was not a fate that I would wish on anyone.

At the urging of the chieftain, over the few days leading up to the hunt I talked to Scotia and Siann to see if I could discover why they continued to defy our chieftain; both of them were extremely headstrong and proud (as only the young can truly be), raised by warriors who fought with faith and sword to protect our way of life it seemed that the two had their doubts about the worthiness of the village's younger warriors to be a husband to them. Seeking to find a solution that would satisfy both parties I suggested that perhaps, when we held the May festival, the two of them could set a challenge for the youths of the village where they could prove there prowess and then select a husband from those they deemed suitable, this would satisfy the chieftain and would also give them far more choice in the matter; my solution seemed to be acceptable to both parties and I began to seek out the village druidess for spiritual council as the hunt approached.

Finding the druidess in our sacred glad, we spoke at length about how the stories of the world were changing but that as long as tales were told then the gods would listen to them, both of us were old and our time, our world, was passing away but still we strove to keep the old faith alive so that the new world to be born afterwards would not be a faithless dark place where the old gods lay forgotten. We spoke of her daughter and her quest for vengeance, a dark, black road that is often dangerous to travel, but sometimes necessary if a stain is to be sponged from the soul.

On the day before the hunt, with the chieftains blessing I announced that the true test of a warrior was not simply killing, any fool with a stick could kill, sometimes the true test was in the capture of the prey; I told the young warriors that, with the blessings of the old gods, I would take on the form of the stag and that their goal would be to hunt and capture me without killing. The person who succeeded would have be marked in the eyes of the great god Herne and our Hunter.

Come the morning of the hunt I arose with the dawn and cleansed myself in the cool stream that runs through the village, giving thanks for the new day; it is necessary to cleanse the body and mind of impurities before assuming the form of a beast, lest your mind be lost and you become so lost in the tangle of the wilds that you cannot find reason and your way back to your own life. As the hunters gathered I repeated that their goal would be to return me unharmed to the village then, whispering a prayer to Herne, I pulled the tanned stag skin around me, feeling it hold fast to my own flesh and shrank down into the form of a shining white stag; kicking my now strong legs I bolted into the woods behind the village, my ears picking up the sound of the warriors moving in pursuit, slowly and clumsily in the way of man.

I darted through the woods with time and the trees flowing around me, I don't know how long it was before the real pursuit began, time seems to move different when seen through the eyes of the beast, perhaps man does not really understand time or perhaps the way we see it is the only way we can understand it? A noise to my flank startled me and I raised my head to see Siann (I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised) closing on me, I lead her a merry dance through the woods until it became obvious that I would not be able to escape and that she had succeeded. Standing to my normal height I felt the stag skin slip from me, with it's usual reluctant, clinging for a moment before allowing me to return to the form of man, I sometimes wonder when it is our time to leave this world whether we simply throw off the shape of man and move on to something else, but that is a question only time and the gods can answer.

Throwing Siann's arm into the air as the other warriors crowded around her I lead them all back to the village where our chieftain proclaimed her the village Hunter, it was at this moment that he also chose to announce that both Scotia and Siann would be chosing a husband at the end of the May festival, whoever could best their challenges.

As was tradition the new Hunter went to the sacred glade in order to speak with the druidess, as the Hunter, Siann would be given a test, the success or failure would judge how the gods favoured us for the coming year; emerging from the glade Siann informed us that both myself and Scotia were to accompany her south through the Great Forest and the unbeliever kingdom of Vinovia, our goal was to successfully broker a peace or understanding with the Wild Ones that lurked in that area, ancient spirits in human-like forms whose ways were not our own, but who had existed since the time of the gods themselves. If the dying words of my old tutor the previous druid were to be believed, my own mother had been one of these creatures and something of their blood flowed through my veins; I had studied the old tales of the Wild Ones and new something of their ways, as precaution I directed Scotia to craft us some beaten iron weapons for the trip should the Fair Folk prove to be hostile.

Days later we travelled through Vinovia, I swallowed my distaste for the kingdom of non-believers, reminding myself that this task was set us by the gods and that my own personal likes and dislikes were not of importance, I was here to help the Hunter accomplish her task and return to the village, heralding a year of prosperity for us all. We passed by a huge ruined wall, a Roman folly that they had built to keep our people out before they had realised that Britain would not be cowed by the likes of them and had left these shores, their "great work" now lay in ruins, crumbling as the green mosses and lichen reclaimed it for the land; the old tales are changing indeed. As we travelled further south the air became warmer and richer until it felt like a soupy broth that left us all feeling quite light-headed.

We reached the Kingdom of Eberauch and began to move further inland, all around us were signs of what the unbelievers called 'progress', huge trenches and wound where they had cut into the land with their machinery and their tools, seeking the riches that lay within, in their blasphemy they had even gone so far as to redirect the flow of the rivers, ignorant that they were more than simply a source of water, that they were the lifeblood of the land itself. Not willing to let this simply stand I channeled my own anger and the seething, brooding will of the land, pulling it around the place as I wove small totems from the rocks, bones, wood and grass that I found and hung around the area, laying a curse of bad luck and ill-fortune on any who sought to profit from the desecration of the land here.

Our only real sign of other people so far had been an encounter with a solder who shouted at us in a language we didn't understand and then moved on, other than that we had barely seen a living soul and so decided to make camp in the forest; whilst our Hunter was bringing down one of the many wild boar that roam the area I took a stick and poked the embers of our camp fire, gazing into the smoke and flames for a glimpse of the gods great pattern. In the embers I saw a village of the new faith and lurking at the centre of it, like a great spider was a deep and terrible darkness. 

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

RPG review - Feed (video)

RPG Review - Feed (Video)

Reviewing the vampire RPG feed, available on a 'pay what you like' basis from Drivethru RPG

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Memorable Quotes from Session 6 of our Serpents Fall game

Memorable Quotes from Session 6 of our Serpents Fall game

"A shadow over Winchester" - Serpents Fall : Session 6 (written summary)

Our heroes leave the small Saxon village of Wulfrincingas, accompanied by Lord Wulfric (who is still recovering from his injuries with the help of Ozuchi's medicinal ministrations); after a couple of days of travelling they make camp and, after a little discussion, Benito and Lord Wulfric decide to take the first watch. Benito asks Wulfric why he is so keen to come along on the journey to Winchester, Wulfric tells him that it is a matter of honour and that he wished to set an example for his own people by dealing with his own affairs; in turn Benito explains that he is trying to find someone who can tell him more about the curse that prevents him sailing on the seas and, if possible, remove it.

Tossing and turning in his sleep, Horesh has been dreaming about being bitten by an animated snake statue during his initiation as a death priest and wakes up, shouting about his arm and flailing about; Kron and Wulfric both go for weapons, assuming the camp is under attack, Ozuchi however realises what is happening and tells them all to go to sleep before nodding off himself. Benito checks on Horesh who has also begun to fall back to sleep after the initial commotion and sees that he is unharmed. As the group is about the change watch Kron hears what sounds like a stampede of heavy footfalls in the distance coming towards them and Wulfric spots smoke or dust on the horizon; woken once again by the commotion Horesh sends his raven familiar flying up into the air and, peering out through it's eyes, sees a herd of stampeding Shield-beast heading in their direction.

Shouting to the others Horesh begins running for it; glancing around Kron spots a rocky outcropping and howls for the others to head for it as the rampaging beasts thunder towards them. Slowed by his injuries it looks for a moment as though Lord Wulfric will be trampled when Ozuchi grabs hold of him and, with a stunning display of Stygian martial arts, flips the old warrior onto the stone platform, although in the process he is buffetted by the panicked creatures. Benito disappears beneath the dust swirling cloud of the stampeding herd, but a few minutes later he hauls his bedraggled and bloodied form up onto the rock along with the others. Gasping for breath Wulfric wonders aloud what could have caused the stampede, Gunnar Kron looks around and sees a huge bipedal Fanged King running behind the herd and heading in their direction; with the herd now having passed them the group dive into the shadow of the rock, pulling Horesh's huge cloak of them and the giant lizard king runs past without seeing them.

After a few days travel northwards they reach a slight valley dotted with farming villages, in the distance they can see the splendour of the capitol, Winchester and the stone majesty of Castle Harcourt at it's centre; Ozuchi in particular seems affected by the scale of the building, having never seen anything like it before. Kron, in his past, raided in this area previously, although his people never made it to Castle Harcourt and he thinks back to the legends of Just King Godric, slayer of the Dragon of Celtia, who bore the blessed spear Aelfgar (known as 'heartseeker' amongst the Norse), capable of slaying any man or beast. The spear had been used many times to turn back attacks from his own people and also to slay the Dragon of Celtia, whose skull now hung over Godric's throne according to the tales. Interested in Kron's tale Ozuchi asks some questions and his barbarian associate related that the spear could only be wielded by the pure of hear and was passed down through the Kings of Saxony when they each proved themselves.

Stopping in to a loal far to get some provisions (and animal feed for Horesh and Benito's pet piglets) they warned against going to Winchester by the farmer, who said that things hadn't been the same in the kingdom since Godric left a few years ago on his crusade against the noth, the Regent has been in power since and was squeezing the lifeblood out of the nation, lining his own pockets and charging high taxes so that he could host lavish functions and run ridiculous tournaments at arms; the farmer waved a flyer for an upcoming tournament in their face as though to prove what he was saying. Seeing that the prize for the tournament was a purse of gold coins and that participation was only for those of noble blood, Benito asked to keep the flyer; as they left the farm some discussion occurred between Kron and Ozuchi about whether a Norsican walking into Saxony undisguised was going to cause problems, Wulfric allayed these fears by saying that he would claim the party as his retinue (as was his right as a noble of Saxony).

Winchester, the capitol of Saxoy seemed a lot more wealthy on the whole than the smaller provinces they had explored, it was clear a lot of the wealth from the nation flowed here although the streets were still crammed with the poor and hungry, and with flouncing nobles trying desperately to avoid noticing the downtrodden. Benito begins making himself at home, winking and smiling at the local ladies as they pass whilst both Kron and Horesh try to ignore the strange looks they are getting fro people; Ozuchi is oblivious to all of this as, excited by the opportunity to explore a new culture, he runs about purchasing all manner of foods from the street vendors and sampling the culinary delights of Saxony. Noticing some starving urchins standing near a roadside pork vendor, Ozuchi buys some meat and gives it to the waifs, seeing this Benito removes the ruby ring that he took from Hannibal Hawkins and buys the entirety of the vendors stock, he then begins distributing it to the people, gathering quite a crowd; climbing atop the rotisserie he introduces himself as Benito, King of the Sword Isles, feeder of the poor, defender of the weak and helpless.

Having sold all of his stock the vendor is about to leave when Kron offers him two of the piglets from their provisions asking him to cook them as well, nervously the man says that he doesn't want to trade with Norsican since the northern people were responsible for the king leaving; not wanting to cause trouble but weary of the stigma attached to the place of his birth, Kron thrusts the two piglets into the mans arms and allows him to leave. A large crowd has gathered and are chanting "Benito! Benito! He's amazing, he's come here to save us! He'll bring back the king and save us from the Regent!"

Standing on the edge of the crowd, Kron notices five aroured Saxon guards moving down the main thoroughfare from the castle, still annoyed about the prejudice he faces in this nation, Kron interposes himself between the guards and the crowd saying sternly "We don't want any trouble." The captain of the guard tells Kron that they are here to disperse the unruly mob by orders of the Regent, Kron is attempting to explain that the people are just hungry and aren't a mob when, behind him, Benito tells the crowd that if he wins then the purse of gold will be used to buy food for the people of Winchester; the people start screaming and cheering, hearing this the captain goes to push past Kron but the Norsican is unmoving so the captain shouts for his men to arrest Kron and disperse the crowd. The only thing that stops the situation escalating is when Wulfric steps out of the crowd, holding up his seal of nobility and asks if there is a problem with his retinue; seeing and recognising Lord Wulfric the guard captain backs down and has his men escort the group to the castle.

On their way to the castle Kron and Ozuchi thank Wulfric for his help, he replies "After all you have done for me, you do not need to thank me my friends." Horesh shakes Lord Wulfrics hand and offers him some support since the incident has taxed his (still not 100% recovered) strength a little. Ozuchi points out that the dark colour of his and Horesh's skin may mark them out as different to the people of Saxony, Wulfric nods but says that he chooses his companions based not on the colour of their skin but on the strength of their hearts and spirits, he asks them not to form too harsh an opinion of the Saxon people saying that they are frightened, these are uncertain times and fear can often easily turn to mistrust and suspicion. There is a brief delay at the gate to the castle when one of the soldiers on duty there questions the inclusion of a Norsican in Lord Wulfric's retinue, Wulfric threatens to report the man for impeding a noble on business with the Regent and they are quickly allowed inside.

Inside the main hall of Castle Harcourt there is an atmosphere of luxury and opulence, it is full of silken drapes and sumptuously attired courtiers; a gaunt, middle-aged man with a close-shaved head (unusual in Saxony where most men let their hair grow to shoulder length) sits on a large throne with a huge draconic, horned skull hanging above it, along with shields and weapons. Sat next to him is a beautiful and cruel looking woman who looks very similar to Ceolwyn (the women from Wulfricingas who attempted to poison Lord Wulfric), sitting on the other side of him is a beautiful, pregnant woman. Coughing, the shaven headed Regent welcomes Lord Wulfric to Winchester, he gestures for his attendants to provide seating and food.

Wulfric glances at the seal of the Regent, taken from those who attempted to poison him and gripped in his hand, considering his next move; Kron feels a bit conflicted given his history as a raider and his previous views of the people of Saxony, but he gives Lord Wulfric a re-assuring nod. Ozuchi and Horesh are taken aback at the opulence on display gazing wide-eyed around the room, Benito, on the other hand, feels very much at home and comments on the splendour of the palace and how preferrable it is to slumming with the poor (attempting to ingratiate himself with the Regent). Regent Harcourt says that he is honoured to receive such a guest as the reknowned Pirate King of the Sword Isles, and asks him what his business is in Winchester. In response to Benito's mention of curses he says that the enlightened nation of Saxony has no use for heathen magics, Benito replies that the journey is not wasted because he has got to experience the opulence of Winchester and the well-reknowned hospitallity of the Regent; smiling, the Regent offers to waiver the fee for Benito's participation in the tournament.

The pale woman (whom the Regent identifies as Morwrei) requests that the Regent allow the group to stay as guest in the castle and enjoy the hospitallity of Saxony, the Regent agrees and bids his men make quarters ready for them. Whilst this conversation is occurring, Ozuchi turns his attention inward, communing with the spirits to find out whether any form of unearthly or spiritual power is being used to favour the Regent; he has a vision of Anlaf and Ceolwyn being executed by soldiers back in Wulfricingas on the orders of their captain Aedelred, they are be-headed. Reflected in the dead eyes of Ceolwyn, Ozuchi sees a raven taking off from the nearby trees. Back at Harcourt Castle he sees Morwrei stood in the castle window, a raven lands on her arm and whispers into her ear, she lets out a cry of rage and pain, her hand clenching and crushing the bird. Coming back to his senses Ozuchi gestures to Wulfric not to show the seal, the old Lord slides the seal back into his jerkin and nods.

Regent Harcourt asks Benito to tell a tale of daring do or perhaps for Kron to chill them with a tale from the north, nodding the Norsican tells the tale of King Godric's great spear Aelfgar and how it could only be wielded by a man pure of heart; Benito notices that Morwrei's eyes have never left Ozuchi during the whole encounter, although her face remains impassive. As Kron tells his tale, the Regents pleasant mask of civility becomes cold and in clipped tones he suggests that the court retire for the evening; before they leave he asks whether or not Kron will participate in the tournament, Kron agrees and the Regent offers to waive the fee for his participation before retiring along with most of the court. He orders the pregnant woman (who he calls Emma) to retire, she appears about ready to speak to the PCs but thinks better of it.

A simpering old seneschel of the castle called Silas leads the group to their guest quarters, it appears from the conversation that the Seneschel knew Wulfric's father, although he does seem slightly addled; our heroes are lodged in single rooms next to each other, the larger rooms having already been taken by other nobles and their entourages who arrived earlier. Silas tells them that Regent Harcourt has invited almost every noble family in the nation, Benito and Horesh mention their piglets and Silas seems confused that they are keeping them as pets, offering to have the castle chef prepare them; eventually he agrees to them keeping the pigs in their room on this one occasion.

Ozuchi reveals his vision and that he believes, had the seal been revealed, that the Regent would have gone to any lengths to silence them and Wulfric; he also tells them that the pale woman with the Regent heard of the death of her sister from a raven and that she perhaps has mastery of dark powers herself. Wulfric tells that the woman is called Morwrei and is the consort of the Regent and that she is indeed the sister of Ceolwyn; Benito tells Ozuchi that she was watching him during the entire conversation. Kron asks Wulfric about Emma and is told that she is the wife of King Godric, she carries the future heir of Saxony and was put in the Regents care when King Godric left on his crusade; it is tradition in Saxony that only men can hold positions of rulership (normally the eldest son). Wulfric explains that he doesn't trust the Regent (given the poisoning attempt) but that he will behave honourably, he then excuses himself to sleep, still not being at his full strength yet; Kron sleeps in a chair in Wulfric's room whilst Horesh sleeps on the floor wrapped in his expansive robes. Benito heads back to his own room and wedges chair behind the door.

Not feeling sleepy Ozuchi goes for a walk whilst everyone else goes to sleep, he sees a black clad person sneaking through the shadows of the courtyard, entering the tower where their lodgings are located, he sneaks after the figure but the mysterious person has locked the door of the tower behind them, sighing Ozuchi begins taking the long route back through the rest of the castle.

Back in Wulfric's room Kron suddenly starts awake, in the darkness of the room he hears a faint hissing sound coming from over by the door of the chamber; Horesh wakes up as a snake slithers across his chest towards Wulfric's bed,  the Khemrian jumps up and begins batting at his chest. Wulfric waits up to the noise from Horesh and then shouts as the snake bites him, hearing the cry, Horesh's daggers flicker out in the darkness and slay the snake.

Ozuchi arrives outside and hears the noise from inside Wulfric's quarters, he enters to see Lord Wulfric hanging off the bed, his eyes rolled back in his head and his mouth hanging open, Kron helps Wulfric onto the bed and shouts for Ozuchi to help him. Glancing up from the bed Kron spots a figure perched with one foot on the window ledge (as though about to climb through into Wulfric's room), a shocked female face looks at him for a moment; growling Kron swings his hammer at her, taking the woman's legs out from underneath her and she falls forward into the room landing across Wulfric's bed, at which point the Norsican restrains her. Snapping her head forwards the woman headbutts Kron in the face and then, wriggling free, throws herself out of the window; Horesh dispatches his raven familiar to follow the woman, who is escaping towards the stables over the rooftops of the castle.

Horesh and Kron leap out of the window to chase the woman, Benito has awakened and, seeing them jumping out of the window, follows them whilst Ozuchi remains behind to save Wulfric. The woman runs across roof towards stables, she is very agile and begins to lengthen the distance between herseld and her pursuers; reaching the end of the roof she drops through the straw ceilinf of one of the castle stables and knocks a load of barrels over to impede her pursuer, Horesh plots a rapid course through the tumbling barrels and the others follow. When they reach the door of the stables they find the woman has barred it, Kron smashes the door aside, barely slowly down in his fury just in time to see their quarry vault onto the back of a horse tied up in the courtyard and gallop off, our heroes all leap onto other horses and ride in pursuit. As the woman gallops towards the moat Kron can see that the drawbridge is up bu the woman isn't slowing down, her horse sails through the air as it jumps the moat, our heroes follow, only just making the jump and pursue her into the cobbled streets of Saxony; leaping off her horse the woman darts down a small sidestreet, trying to lose her pursuers in the confusing tangle of alleyways however, Horesh's natural cleverness supported by Benito's ability to instantly blend into new cultures allow them to chase her to a small storage house.

Kron smashes open the door, inside the woman draws a small knife and shouts "Go on then, kill me like you killed Wulfric!" Horesh melts past Kron with his robes flowing behind him, he slices the woman's arm (sending her dagger flying) and she falls to the ground with a cry, she screams "Go on, get it over with!"

Kron pins woman against the wall (careful not to get within headbutt range) and explains that they didn't kill Wulfric and asks who she is; despite initial misgivings (having seen the PCs standing over Wulfric's body) she reveals that she is of the celtic people and that her name is Asinor. Asinor had heard Wulfric was a just and honourable man, she came to ask for his aid but didn't dare walk in because the Regent has spied everywhere; she wanted help getting one of her tribles wisest seers Mervane released from Castle Winchester's dungeons. Benito says can help but it wouldn't be strictly legal, Asinor responds that if she was concerned with legallity she wouldn't be breaking into the castle would she? The celt seems distinctly unimpressed with Benito but explains Mervane was arrested for some unknown reason and confined in the dungeons below the castle, he was always trusted as an advisor by Godric and indeed, Godric had talked about peace between Saxony and Celtia. She doesn't know why the Regent confined Mervane in the dungeons.

Back at the castle, trying desperately to save Wulfric's life Ozuchi attempts something that he has only heard of before in the legends of the Komodo tribe, he attempts to bind his spirit into the body of Wulfric to heal him; the komodo spirit asks if he is sure, since it may not be able to seperate from the body of the human until he dies? Ozuchi tells it that he is sure without any hesitation and the spirit curls up on Wulfrics chest and sinks into his body;  Ozuchi begins his ritual, chanting as he dances around Wulfric's bed and burns healing incense.

The rest of our heroes plan to return to the castle and how to get Asinor inside, Benito suggests that the woman hang off his arm to get into the castle; she doesn't agree saying that she is a Celt warrior and not some whore to hang on his arm. Approving of the warriors honour Kron volunteers to carry her back across the roof and through Wulfrics window, she accepts and they do this whilst Benito and Horesh head back into the castle via the door. When they arrive they see Wulfric on the bed with his arms crossed over him and spiritual essence enveloping him, chalk marks are everywhere, the smell of herbs and incense fills the room. Ozuchi is on the floor with his eyes rolled back in his head; Horesh knows that the Celts have their own spiritual traditions and priests, the woman doesn't seem too unnerved and, although not a spirit user herself, she's probably seen or been involved in some spiritual ceremonies.

Kron kneels besides the body and finds that Wulfric is breathing shallowly;  Horesh begins apologising to Asinor for injuring her, she says an apology is not necessary and that, in his place, she would not have been so restrained. Whilst this is going on and, realising that he is still clad only in his longjohns, Benito goes to get dressed.

Wulfric gasps, rolls onto his side and vomits the poison out of his body; his eyes open but he doesn't speak, his eyes now appear entirely black resembling those of Ozuchi's one-time familiar, Ozuchi comes out of his trance and slumps onto the floor, Horesh makes sure he is comfortable, he smiles in satisfaction and passes out. As Benito returns, Kron offers a rare prayer to a norse god for Wulfric's safety and, exhausted, everyone goes to sleep.

They are all aWoken next morning by a trumpet sounding in the courtyard below and the Regent's heralds announce that the grand tournament of arms is being held, the main price a purse of gold, all applicants are to register with Silas before midday, proof of noble birth is required. Horesh wakes first and wakes up Benito who begins to prepare, Ozuchi wakes up and asks Kron if it worked, the Norsican says that he doesn't know and there has been no change but he knows Ozuchi did all he could, he also explains who Asinor is. Horesh asks Ozuchi to help with the wound he inflicted on Asinor, which he does and also helps Kron to recover from his injuries.

Asinor explains to Ozuchi that she had heard of Wulfric's wisdom and kindness and she sought his aid to free one of her tribes seers from the castle dungeons, she asks what has happend to him, Ozuchi says that he has tethered his spirit familiar to Wulfric's soul and that it should heal him. Asinor says that she hasn't heard of anything like that before and that Wulfric must means a lot to them, Ozuchi replies that he has only heard of it in legend before himself but that Wulfric is an honourable man and he had to try. 

Ozuchi suggests that Benito might act as a champion for her tribe and their cause; she seems skeptical, especially when Benito claims to be a king asking first of all where his crowd is and then, in response to his claims of being usurped, responding "A king without a crown or a kingdom is a not a king." Ozuchi explains that they are attempting to recover Benito's crown; when Benito tells her to ask the people of Saxony who he is, she seems critical of them, saying "The cities make men weak." Kron nods in agreement whilst Benito tells her that he is seeking a cure for his curse in this land; Asinor tells him that the Saxon people have nothing but disdain for the ways of the spirit and that none of them can help him, although Mervane might be able to do so, Kron also suggest that Mervane might tell them more of Godric.

Benito, Horesh and Kron go to sign on to tournament, Asinor says that since she cannot go out in the castle she will stay with Ozuchi and guard Wulfric.

Seneschel Silas is sat with writing implements at a small market stall in the courtyard, a line of well-armed Saxons are queued up infront of him; a burley warrior calling himself Lord Barata presents proof of his lineage, he is accepted and then goes and sits on a bench with other warriors. Eventually the PCs reach the head of the line, Silas doesn't ask for any proof of noble lineage from Benito or Kron and, seeing this, Horesh also enters. The Heralds announce that the tournament is taking place in the field behind the castle shortly and the competitors are lead to the field.

Names for first round of the grand melee are drawn at random, and it is announced that the tournament will be fought with the last man standing being the winner. In the first round Kron is chosen to fight against Captain Benito; Kron since he doesn't want to injure Benito says they should fight without weapons, Benito doesn't agree (realising that he would undoubtably lose such a fight). Horesh whistles and gestures towards a large group of urchins who have gathered and are cheering Benito, the ex-Pirate King shakes hands with Kron and whispers that he's attempting to win to help the downtrodden of Saxony rather than for his own benefit. Kron nods and says he respects Benito's views but that he is talking to a Norsican who is trying to appease a lifetime of slaughtering Saxons; using his dirty fighting skills, whilst still shaking hands, Benito draws his sword and attempts to hit Kron with the hilt, the Norsican leaps backwards, his warrior instincts allowing him to avoid the blow and swings his hammer up under Benito's chin, lifting him off the ground and rendering him unconscious.

Benito's fans start booing Kron and a few voices shout "Norsican scum!" A number of local maidens run on to the field and start tending to Benito; Kron tells crowd he fights for honour, not money and that the crowd can have the money if he wins, but they seem unconvinced and continue to boo him.

In the second round Kron is drawn against Lord Barata; the tall man, long black hair and beard, garbed in plate and chainmail, hefts a double handed axe, nods curtly and the bout begins. Kron hurls himself into Barata, putting his full weight behind it and throwing the Saxon to the ground, Barata pulls out a small dagger from his greaves and tries to stab Kron, the two grapple and roll across the field. Thinking back to his earlier encounter with Asinor, Kron headbutts Barata who staggers backwards, swaying, and then collapses. Kron bows curtly to the Regent and then gives a respectful bow to Emma the wife of King Godric; Emma nods and drops a silk handkerchief in front of Kron, he picks up the handkerchief (initialled E.H) and tucks it into his grieves, the Regent shoots her a cold look.

Some of the crowd seem to have been won over by Kron and tentatively start cheering for him whilst Ozuchi and Asinor watch the spectacle from the tower window; Kron fights his way through about 18 rounds before he is picked to fight against Horesh. Horesh walks out pulling up his hood. Kron offers to fight again without weapons and wishes Horesh luck, Horesh says that he would prefer weapons and draws his daggers. The crowd are all now cheering for Gunnar and an old woman shouts for Gunnar to "kill him."

Horesh stabs Kron, avoiding his attempts to bat away the daggers, dancing around Kron his knives slice out several times, but the Norsican remains standing. Horesh goes to sidestep a blow and stumbles, Kron takes advantage and smashes Horesh to the ground with his mighty hammer.

Kron fights another 12 bouts, winning each one.

Frowning the Regent gestures to Silas who announces Kron the winner and gives him a leather purse of gold, the crowd are all cheering for Kron. Horesh walks out and raises Kron's arm, Kron hands the prize money to Benito who says the money is for the people to much cheering. With the crowd behind them, Kron gestures to Horesh, Horesh throws Gunnar's wrist into the air shouting "This is your champion, Gunnar Kron."

Ozuchi notices a number of archers taking position on the battlements around the castle, Gunnar whispers to Horesh to focus on supporting Emma rather than overthrowing the Regent or a they'll get a lot of people killed; Horesh announces that they have come here in challenge of the Regent with Lord Wulfric and that the people now live in chains, benevolent Emma is the rightful ruler and she needs protecting. Horesh continues to shout that the royal family needs to be in charge, the Regent has been in charge too long, for too long they have lived in squalor.

Horesh is cut off from his tirade about everyone deserving fair treatment and that the Regent must be overthrown, returning power to Emma when the Regent stands and in a cold voice says "How dare you?" Decrying them as foreigners coming to his kingdom, whom they welcomed, and now who spurn their hospitallity and challenge their way of life, the Regent is interrupted by Horesh's mocking tones saying that they accepted nothing, they are here on behalf of the people, not the Regent. The Regent glares at Horesh whilst the gathered crowd seem a little unsure what is going on and who to support.

Watching the action from the tower, Ozuchi manages to wake Wulfric, a forked tongue flickers out of the Lord's mouth as he rises; Ozuchi tells Wulfric he has been chosen by the dragons to lead his people until Godric returns and that he must speak to his people. Below the Regent is shouting back, cursing the heroes for spurning the laws of hospitality and mocking their traditions when a shout goes up from the crowd as they spot Wulfric in window. People start panicking as they see the reptilian characteristics evident on Wulfric's face, the Regent's voice cries out "See these foreigners have corrupted one of our own Lords, their medicine men bring evil spirits to possess and control us!"

Taking the opportunity Kron moves closer to Emma and asks whether she wants him to seize the throne, she tells him no and whispers for him to get to the dungeons and that he'll understand; covering their conversation, she pretends to slap the Norsican and seizes back the handkerchief that she gave him earlier during the tournament. 
Ozuchi and Benito run through the castle towards the dungeon.

The Regent decries Horesh as a black robed sorceror in league with the Norsicans who has conjured demons to control them; in reply Kron shout that, despite having done many terrible things, he is nowhere near as awful as the Regent and that he has no desire for the crown himself.

There are few guards really in dungeon, Ozuchi expects they've been called upstairs to deal with the situation. Benito and Ozuchi are chatting, they hear something and Benito looks around, when he looks back Ozuchi is gone, as two guards walk round the corner Benito's fists lashs out from the shadows and knock them unconscious; one of the guards has dropped a hammer on floor outside on of the cells. A figure wearing brown tatty robes sits in cell and an old voice asks who is there, saying "I knew someone would come eventually."

The old man introduces himself as Mervane and explains that he cannot leave the dungeons, he has forseen a time of darkness for the nation, the king will fall and the land be washed away in blood.

"Ah you have seen it too, I can see it in your eyes," he says looking at Ozuchi, he tells them that the king has already fallen and the Regent will take rulership, but he will be a weak ruler; the Northern Warlord that he warned Godric about (starting the crusade, although Mervane asked him not to go) will sweep south and conquer Saxony, the future of the nation lays with Emma's unborn child, the once and future king of Saxony.

Mervane explains that he dare not leave his cell because the Regent has threatened to kill Emma and child if he escapes, if they can rescue Emma and child he will free himself and teach the child what it needs to know to reclaim the kingdom and unite Saxony & Celtia. Ozuchi picks up the fallen hammer and smashes Mervane's shackles. Benito is affected emotionally by the story because the usurpation of a throne is very familiar to him; before they leave he asks Mervane about his curse. Mervane says that he has trained with the travelling people and knows much about curses; he gestures for Benito to move closer, puts his hand on Benito's face and tells him to think back to when the curse was first placed on him.