Saturday, 26 April 2014

Caradoc ap Segovax: An old tale ends and a new one begins (Age of Arthur, Session 4)

When my eyes opened, the shape of the mighty wyrms lightning still clinging to my vision, I could see Scotia battling against a crowd of the deathless cursed, aided by the fey knights of our Kindly One escort; falling to my knees I sunk my fingers into the soil in the hope that our outsurge of power had contained the curse. Again I was assailed by the vision of the woman, being burnt alive by followers of the false risen God, I blinked away tears as she cried out in agony, calling on the dark forces of the Morrigan to avenge her death and punished the false believers; then, in the darkness beneath the worl, I felt the Morrigan answer. Rising shakily to me feet I groaned, the curse was empowered by the goddess of death and battle, it could not be contained or stopped until she was appeased, I shouted for Scotia to lead the deathless over to where I stood, perhaps if we sacrificed the bodies of these non-believers to true death then the goddess would be satisfied.

Scotia shouted over, the cursed seemed unable to move beyond the gateway from the village as though something held them inside, she also told me that she had seen a brown robed man in the town who appeared to be fending off the creatures; I should have known, the deathless were not the ones being punished, they were Morrigans punishment on another, this figure wearing the drab joyless robes of the new religion. Pulling my raven's mantle around me I took flight and flew in the direction indicated by Scotia and felt anger flare within me as I saw the man attempting to repel the will of Morrigan with his puling faith; landing behind the man and assuming my human form I swung my staff into his head screaming "Your greed and your murderous nature have bought this doom on is all, and now you will pay for your crimes!"

The man stagger briefly and, seizing my opening, I let my hatred and loathing for his faith flow fourth from me like a black cloud which surged into his mind; the man's eyes rolled back and I felt the spark of his life in my hands, it would have required just one small effort to extinguish, but no, the man had shown no mercy when he burnt that poor woman alive and neither would I. Pouring the power of this place and of my fury, enhanced by thatr of the Morrigan into the writhing man I severed his connection to whatever powers of faith he possessed, forever after he would know that the god made by man was no match for the ancient gods of the world.

A black shape began to gather like a storm cloud as the deathless were released and began to collapse, reognising it for what it was I dropped to my knees and bowed my head as the Morrigan made herself known, Siann who had been proteting me from the deathless did likewise; from the corner of my eye I saw the fey priestess round the corner, obviously having sensed the goddess, she immediately bowed her respects.

"You have not suffered enough" said the Morrigan is a voice like rotting flesh draped in velvet, with a gesture of her hand the limp form of the monk hurtled into a nearby pile of masonry.

Seeming to calm slightly the Morrigan bid me to stand and continued, "It is good, you have found a way to exact suitable vengeance, I will remove the curse." She reached out a hand and produced a feather made from twisting smoke and shadows that I reverently accepted, explaining that I could not have carried out the vengeance without the support of our Huntsmaster Siann, our warrior Scotia, the support of the great wyrm and our Kindly One hosts.

Nodding the Morrigan lighting touched Siann's sword and the blade turned a deep black, from within the folds of her robe she produced a similarly coloured hammer and handed it to Scotia saying "You will need this for your great task metal-worker."

After the goddess had conversed with the fey in their own ancient tongue she turned to us and asked "What is it that you seek?"

"We are searching for a way to unite the people and return them to the old way" spoke Siann our Huntmaster

"Then leave this fool to live," she said gesturing to the monk "his life will be long and painful; but go you into the forest to the place where the egg of the great wyrm lies, the Fair Ones will not trouble you whilst you are about this task, build a weapon that is worthy of a new king and thrust it into the stone. When he who an draw the sword is found then you will have your king."

There was a loud cawing and the Morrigan dispersed, bursting apart into a cloud of ravens that fluttered into the sky.

With a loud thumping of wings the ancient wyrm landed nearby and beyond it in the sky was a burning burnished eye that seemed to stare down at the magnificent creature, I bowed low and said "Great one you have honoured us with your presence, if there is any way that we can repay your kindness all you need do is ask."

"Your belief in my kind will be sufficient young one," replied the great wyrm Bes "sufficient for me and my own god, thank you for the learning experience, it has been enlightening" and with mighty beats of its wings the wyrm was gone.

"How are we going to move the shell?" asked Scotia, a quick search of the town revealed a salvageable cart and some working animals, we quickly had them hitched up and ready to move, I also managed to take some useful powders and uguents from what must have been the town herballist's before the curse. Scotia was excited that she had discovered a roman forge and immediately set about unlocking its secrets and working out how to transport it with us.

The excited voice of the Kindly One Slip caught our ears as he ran back into the town, reporting that, with the curse gone, the black fungus had begun to transform into the normal red and white spotted toadstools of the woodland. The elfish priestess approached saying that they would open a fey doorway to the forest where the egg lay in return for being allowed to contribute to the swords construction, gratefully we agreed and soon found ourselves in the forest by the egg where Scotia busied herself erecting the forge and Siann pumped the bellows.

A single shaft of sunlight shone through the canopy and illuminated a mossy patch of grass that seemed almost a perfect circle, it would appear that we had found the place where our sword would rest.

Days seemed to blur by as the sword was forged, and what a sword, made of cold iron heating so as to no longer prove anathema to the Kindly Ones, blessed by the elfish priestess and my own magics, in the moonlight it shone with twin inscriptions formed from my glamour:



Heated by strange flames from fey glass that they called dragonfire the warmth of the forge and sparks suffused the clearing until the endeavour was complete and, as the sword was held high, I produced the feather than Morrigan had gifted me and instructed Scotia to incorporate it into the blade; my gifts told me that it would make the blade proof against the passage of time and protect the wearer from harm.

Scotia plunged the sword into the stone and our work was done, biding us well the Fair Ones opened a door to our home village in the north, the snows had just begun to fall and the sound of feasting and merriment echoed forth from the celebration hall.

Bidding our hosts farewell we stepped through the door, I rapped on the hallway door with my staff three times and the Huntsmaster threw them open to reveal our kin revelling within, telling ancient stories and tales of our tribes history, a smile crossed the Huntsmaster's face as she spoke:

"I have a story to tell you."

Friday, 25 April 2014

Good intentions have their own Price (IC writeup of the 7th Seattle Demon the Fallen session)

Three demons, an abusive housewife and a confused young woman walk into a diner, sounds like a joke doesn't it? Sometimes I wonder whether God made the world as a joke, if he did then I hope it looks funnier from the outside than it does when you're living it.

Helen was obviously confused, hell she'd just been pursued by killers and had been rescued by demons who'd ferried her away in a ghostly train; I did my best to explain that we were kin to the tribal spirit known as Fallen Eagle and that we were trying to help her people, but that we needed to know what evidence her father had possessed. She said that it had been an old Salem newspaper showing an unreported meeting between Stevens and the Duwarmish prior the Treaty of Point Elliot where he'd promised to respect their claims, now we all now that didn't happen, the Duwarmish got screwed and had been struggling to fight back ever since. She told us the newspaper was in a safe in her fathers fallout shelter; leaving the diner and moving to a place where we wouldn't be observed, Nardy produced the bent biscuit tin that held the Chariot of the Dead and with a hiss of otherworldy smoke we soon found ourselves racing through the night sky towards Noah's house.

Now we might not always be subtle, but you can't just go flying into the middle of a town with your ghost train, besides it was getting light so it dropped us off on the outskirts in someone's garden, we slipped around the side of the building and Frank tried to use his know how to steal a mercedes, I think that recent events must be wearing on him because he set off the alarm and then in his frustration ripped it out before hotwiring the car. Good enough.

As we sped towards Noah's the radio bought us the news that race riots had broken out in Seattle and that the streets were teeming with rioter, looting was widespread and the police were out in force; this did not bode well.

Screeching into the street we quickly located where the fallout shelter was, hell, Frank had lived next to Noah for years and it turned out the fallout shelter was next to some berry bush that he was particularly fond of; the safe inside quickly yielded to Frank's tender ministrations and I pocketed the plastic sealed newspaper, there were also loads of other cuttings about people disppearing covering a number of years and a map with lots of points of it, shrugging I also pocketed some of them thinking that if we got caught I could hide the real newspaper and palm off our opponents with the other clippings.

We needed to get the paper carbon dated and identified, a quick tap on my smartphone told me that Seattle-U had the facilities, upon arrival after fighting our way through the streets the academics seemed flustered and unwilling to move our project to the head of the queue, but I can be quite persuasive when I want to be and they were soon taking a small sample of the paper.

Now all we need to do was get the story out on air and the truth would be out there for all to see.

Like I said, pride goes before a fall.

"Might I have a word Mr Price" said a voice as we ran past my office, I turned and saw Mr Christmas standing there a look somewhere between worry and smugness lining his eminently smackable face.

"Frank, get Helen to the booth and get her on air" I shouted, "I'll deal with this. Okay Christmas, let's talk."

A few moments later I was joining Frank in the booth and starting the show, introducing Helen Siall.

"You may recall that recently we were due to have a local man Noah Siall on the show to talk about the plight of the Duwarmish people, unfortunately he passed away, and now we have his daughter Helen joining us," I waited for Helen to introduce herself and then turned off the microphones.

"I'm sorry Helen, you'll hate me for this, but at least you'll be alive to hate me - I did this for you," she looked confused as I finished speaking and turned back on the mic.

"Unfortunately, as a journalist you have to go where the story takes you, even if it's not a place where you want to go; recent evidence has come into my possession that connection Noah Siall with the disappearances of numerous people during his long life, evidence discovered in a fallout bunker that Mr Siall hid in his garden. When this broadcast has finished I intend to turn this evidence over to the police."

Helen's eyes had widened and a look of fury come across her face, she stormed out as the vulture-like paparazzi had already begun to gather, all I could hear was the sound of my career tumbling in ruins around me - the evidence that I had was circumstantial at best, but it would bury the story about the Duwarmish in scandal for years.

Frank looked like he was about ready to pitch a fit as I stepped out of the booth, he stammered "But we were going to... all that... Max, what the...?" 

I just shook may head and though back to my conversation with Christmas:

"I know that we will never be friends, there is too much spilt blood between us, but I appeal to you to do what is right, I have killed people to hide this secret, but I have made sure to kill only those necessary. If you bring Fallen Eagle into the light then it's anger will be terrible and many people will die over a patch of land, Helen will be among them, how many more have to die over an old grudge?"

I walked outside to find that the crowds had departed, I could hear the police getting closer, for a brief moment I looked at the newspaper that could see the Duwarmish realise their dream and heard a voice echo in my head 'how many more people must die?" I grimaced and felt the anger of my situation, of the trap that my good intentions had lead me into, the paper smouldered and burst into flames, falling to the floor as so much ash, along with all my hopes and dreams for helping the Duwarmish; all sacrificed for the life of one person, I hoped in my heart it had been worth it.

Frank appeared, apparently he'd caught up with Christmas and had been offered a well paid job at Heartstream, I nodded numbly and said that he should take it; all I could see was the burning remnants of my careers and my hopes falling around me, a gray wisp of ash dropped from my hand, danced briefly in the wind like a dimmed star falling, and was gone. 

The Price of Innocence (IC writeup of the 6th Seattle Demon the Fallen session)

After trekking for a number of hours we finally came across sign of civilisation, the black iron line of a railway stretching across the otherwise barren landscape and in the distance the soft chuffing of an approaching train that squealed to close ready to take on cargo; grabbing what we could we dived onboard one of the cars, I have to admit that, had we been in other circumstances, I might have laughed at the 'american dream' unfolding in front of us, but after our time in the wilderness I was in no mood for it.

We had decided to seek out Helen Siall and see if we could find out what the information was that her late father had possessed, that he was so certain would see the Duwarmish claim on downtime Seattle ratified; we knew where she was, now we just had to get there.

There was a bump as the heaving ponderous bulk of Frank scrabbled into the car, plopping down next to his wife; as the train started to pull off, oblivious to our presence, Pauline looked over at Frank and said the words I know he'd been dreading hearing, "I think it's about time you levelled with me Frank, what the hell is going on?"

Frank began to get fluster and blabber something, stammering and falling over his words, I couldn't help but smile, Frank had once been an angel, like all of us Fallen, striding across creation, and then a demon brooding beneath the soul of the world; in a way he still was, but he was also so very human, I think that might be the greatest gift and also the biggest curse that humanity has given us. I began to talk about angels and spirits, hoping that Frank could get himself together.

Whilst he started going through his explanation, allowing his form to ripple slightly and show some of his angellic glory, I turned my attention to where we were going, after all a man deserves some privacy in a delicate moment like this. I could hear Pauline talking about her dream of two beings dancing in the grass, but my ears really pricked up when she mentioned a meteor and one of the figures being drawn to it, over the course of the next few minutes she talked about successive meteor strikes, seperated by many years, all in the same spot. Is it possible that she was talking about the Fallen Eagle's lost partner and that somehow the black rock was a trap for our kind? If so how was Pauline connected to it?

Nardy also mentioned that Stevens had met one of our kind before and that he was one of the people from Pauline's dream, he had apparently come into possession of a means of conveyance called 'The Chariot of the Dead' presumably some sort of Slayer artifact from the time before.

Frank had finished his explanation and Pauline had turned an ashen grey as her mind struggled to process everything he'd told her; I told Frank to take care of her, the train was pulling to a stop and we needed to get some supplies. Jumping down from the train into the shitty little town I quickly went to a store, but realised that everything was priced in Canadian dollars, luckily I had my American Express card and about maxed it out buying food, water and some warmer clothes.

When I got back Frank looked a bit flustered, apparently he'd been trying to get water from the rail tower and had got his foot caught in the track, it had only been thanks to his powers that he'd escaped before another train hit him; guess we know why Pauline was stressing about him going near the railways now don't we?

A few moments later a scream echoed through the cabin as Pauline sat bolt upright, after she calmed down she said that she had a terrible dream, there were other men after Helen Siall and they were going to kill her at the university near the clock tower; in Pauline's dream we had gone their and attempted to confront them physically, she said that i'd turned into a horned horror (my stomach turned as I recognised the physical manifestation of what I had been in the abyss), Frank had died being hit by a subway train and I had died with my hands locked around the throats of one of the killers.

As our train reached it's destination I finally got a signal on my mobile, it seemed from Pauline's dream that the physical confrontation was a one way ticket back to the abyss, but there were other ways to achieve our aims, I tapped in 911.

"Hello... police... I'm at the university... i've just seen two men with guns headed across the campus, they said that they were going to kill someone Helen Siall at noon near the clock tower"

I hung up before they could ask any further questions and then I followed the others towards the campus grounds, but things didn't pan out exactly as in the dream, the police were already there alerted by my call and I could see Helen about to enter the nearby subway, two suspicious looking figures broke from the crowd and began to pursue her, firearms bulging conspicuously beneath their coats. By the time we got there the train had already left, "Damn it, we're too late" I shouted

"We're not too late yet" said Nardy pulling a battered old biscuit tin from her rucksack, she opened it and a thick cloud of smoke coalesced into the outline of a spectral coach driven by an expressionless cadavar.

"The Chariot of the Dead, you found it" I started, but any further questions were cut off as she gestured for us to get onboard and the spectral coach set off at full gallop in pursuit of the subway train.

Drawing near, Frank reached across the gap between the two vehicles, his fingers brushing the metal of the door, I felt a spark of electricity as his powers forced them open and we jumped inside, the chariot dispersing behind us. Finally, hear in a train surrounding by the minds of mortals, I was in my element, spotting the killers (and recognising one as the demon who had killed Noah) I reached out with my soul, forcing power into my words as I gestured at the killers

"They've got guns, they're trying to kill that woman WE MUST STOP THEM."

The coach exploded into a near riot as my power raced through the minds of the people onboard, amplifying the people's natural desire to help the victim and their indignation towards the killer; one of them was pulled down by the baying mob (humanity at it's finest as the weight of simple people pulled down a demonically enhanced murderer) but the other advanced on Helen Siall who was backing herself into a corner. I attempted to sway him with my voice, but it was clear that his master had proved him against such attempts as he drew a gun and pointed it at Helen, reaching down inside myself I felt an echo of the bile & hatred that had engulfed with within the abyss and a part of my soul darkened once more as I spat an acidic ball of hate at the murder, he screamed as it hit his flesh and hissed.

"We're here to save you" I said, reached out and taking Helen's hand as the mob surged passed me and we headed for the door where a reformed Chariot (now in the form of a steam locomotive) waited for us; Frank was holding the other killer to the floor trying to prevent him drawing a sword made of the strange meteor metal, I could almost feel it's hatred for our kind.

"Get on, i'm right behind you!" shouted Frank, punching the guy attempting to draw his sword.

The giant malefactor hurled himself across the gap between the train and the Chariot, I grabbed him and pulled him aboard as we came out of the tunnel; seeing him onboard Nardy made a gesture and the train soared into the air carrying us away from danger.

I couldn't help but feel proud of what we'd achieved, but what it is humans say about pride...?

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

GM tips - Failing Forwards (video)

GM Tips - Failing Forwards

A more interesting way to resolve 'failed' rolls.

Caradoc ap Segovax: A Darkling Village (Age of Arthur, Session 3)

With our escort of the Kindly Ones we made our way through the forest, guided with all speed past the natural hazards of this great place, heading southwestwards; my heart grew heavier as we neared the darkling village and I contemplated what doom the unbelievers and worshippers of the false god had bought down upon all of our heads. Whilst Soctia marvelled at the shining arms and armour of our guides we began to descend into a valley, the air growing soupy and quite unlike the pure clean vapours of our northern home. We stopped a days walk from our destination and built ourselves a small campfire, once more seeking to divine the will of the gods I stirred the ashes of the fire, peering into the swirling cauldron of red and black; I glimpsed a tall structure many leagues from us, some sort of building rising in a point into the sky as though foolish men had tried to reach the heavens. I sensed a great blackness that had experienced it's birth within that strange place; but the gods showed me that the darkness did not extend to all places equally it seemed to have most affected those places who clung like drowning men to the false faiths, had it just affected them I might have been content to see it as divine punishment for their lack of true faith, but now it festered and threatened to corrupt the entire land, such evil could only lurk in the hearts of men.

Made cautious by my vision our fey guide pulled Sianns shadow over her to shield her from unfriendly eyes whilst I pulled natures mantle around my shoulders and, testing my new feathered wings, followed them towards the village. Siann quickly spotted a strange blood ref fungus with black stems that appeared to be blanketing the marshy land around the village, I examined it but it was like nothing I had seen before, our guide also seemed puzzled but said that he could sense that the spores were causing the land to rot and that it had grown by no natural means. As we left the trees a hazy black cloud of evil hung over the village and, believing danger to be close, we diverted back to collect Scotia from where she had remained with the rest of our guides; we appeared to arrive just as two of the more important Kindly Ones, a horned man and green woman, were having a heated arguement about how to deal with the village. The horned man told us to take 'Slip' a more human looking fey who bowed and wove a disguise around himself from glamour with us as his eyes to the village.

As we journeyed back to the cursed village my divinations revealed that the toadstools were park of some curse or pox on the new faith, but it was one that now threatened to spill outside its boundaries, one empowered by pain and loss terrible to comprehend; a mournful tolling sound accompanied our approach as a funeral bell rung from the top of the largest building in the village although it rose nowhere near as tall as the strange point that I had seen in my visions. Once more becoming one with the creatures of the air I soared up to where the bell tolled and could see how the haze seemed to carry the cursed spores from elsewhere, my ravens eyes spied the distant steeple that I had seen in my visions, leaping from the roof I flew towards the source of the evil infecting the land.

As I alighted and shook off my raven feather cloak the land around the spire was burnt and parched, I could feel in my bones that a follower of the old ways had been burnt here, and that in his death throes he had cried out for justice... no, not justice... vengeance, for that is the way of our gods to punish those who do us wrong; the death cries of the sufferer seemed to fill the clearing for a moment and I could sense the tremendous energies and agony that had infused their final curse. Pushing back with my own power I felt the strength of the curse bend but not break, here was more rage and pain than could be dealt with by any single man, druid or no.

Flying back to where I had left Siann and Scotia I heard an urgent knocking from the centre building; flinging the door open I saw a shambling horde of lost souls pursuing my companions, dead and yet kept suffering through the power of the curse, Siann slammed the door and, I gestured for torches to be made as we purified the building with cleansing fire.

Slip emerged from the shadows, seeming anxious to leave, I told him what I had seen and that the power of all of us, mortal and Kindly Ones, would be required to break the curse; gesturing at a shimmering in the air he lead us through a fey doorway back to his fellows, after some debate they agreed to accompany us. As we arrived near the birthplace of the curse, more of the cursed dead shambled from the darkness, as the fey warriors and Scotia held them back through force of arms, the remainder of the Fair Ones prepared their magics to batter at the resistance of the curse; I had one last gamble, with a need born of desperation, I screamed the name of the great wyrm Bes in my mind and was rewarded by the crash of thunder in the distance.

Above the roar of the thunder and the groaning of the dead I shouting for Siann to place her spear into the ground and call on the blessing of the Huntmaster to aid us, myself and the Fair Ones joined together forcing our power through Siann and into the spear, and through it into the ground, seeking to cleanse and purify it.

"Bes, we need you, the land needs you!"

A forked tongue of lightning struck the spear and I felt the power of the ancient wyrm rip through my body.

Then everything went black.

Caradoc ap Segovax: Ancient Spirits of the Forest and Air (Age of Arthur, Session 2)

I was awoken during the night by Scotia, the soft sound of laughter and other strange noises filtered through the forest trees that were illuminated but dimly by the flickering embers of our campfire; pulling a burning brand from the fire I blew gently on it, sending a small cloud of ash spiralling into the air and I peered into the patterns that it formed, seeking the will of the ancients in the chaotic swirls of grey.

"They are spirits of the forest" I said, almost as much to myself and to my companions, "we must show these guardians of the old ways respect."

Picking up a handful of the seeds that lay scattering around the small clearing I spoke into the darkness, saying "May new growth spring fourth from these seeds that we spread, and may this great forest exist in the future as it always has done."

After a few moments the noises seemed to have quietened and, deeming that my words had been accepted, I rolled over and soon drifted into a satisfied sleep, Siann remained awake on watch, but then the young have always required less sleep.

In the morning I awoke to find Siann not at her post by the fire and,  instinctively grabbing a nearby branch, I careful woke up Scotia and motioned for her to prepare her weapon for possible attack as I whispered a prayer to the old gods, asking them to make me one with the wild and the woodlands. Looking around as my senses became sharper, I spied some tracks and we set off after them, eventually catching up with Siann who was nearby; it appeared that she had tracked a giant wild boar that was roaming the area, this could only bode well as a good omen for our endeavour, and was surely a sign of Cerrunnos favour. Scotia seemed a little put out by the size of the beast, saying "The forest doesn't want us here, it's trying to repel us"

"Be assured that the forest could have been far more wrathful had it chosen, all it has done is shown us some of it's true majesty; this is a place of the old ways and respects those who honour it" I assured her in a low voice.

A few minutes later we returned the remains of our campsite to the forest and continued our journey, mindful of the forces that lurked in the forest, ready to destroy us should we disrespect them or trespass where we were not wanted I ask Lugh to bless us with his sight that we might see our way clearly to our destination. Unfortunately not even the blessing of Lugh was able to prevent that clumsy girl Scotia from tripping over what we first took to be a rock and then, on further examination it appeared to be a clump of metal, the soil around it would seem to indicate that it was perhaps the remnants of a shooting star, surely an auspicious omen.

Drawing near the metal caused me great pain, it was though I could feel that part of me that I share with the Kindly Ones burning in my blood, although I agreed with Scotia that it could be useful should the fickle and capricious fair ones choose to act against her; perhaps it wasn't simple clumsiness that lead her to discover it, the gods work their will through us all. I scattered seeds around the area as a sign of respect to the forest and Scotia began to see if she could extract some of the metal, but each time her hammer struck it, their was a rumble from somewhere deep within it.

Ignoring the stabbing pains that lanced into my arm as I got closer to the silver sphere, I gestured for her to cease and placed my ear and face against the metal; it was warmer than I expected and, as the throbbing beneath it's surface continued, it seemed that there was something alive within the sphere. My eyes widened, could it be? Surely not? One of the great wyrm eggs of legend, it soon became obvious that I was correct as a small egg breaking horn cracked through the metallic shell but the beast appeared to be struggling; mindful that we had perhaps caused it's struggle I focussed the powers of healing that I commanded into the egg and the majestic wyrmling emerged from the egg, it's cry echoing through the forest.

As the magnificent beast gobbled up some of our rations, it's cries were answered by a loud rumble of thunder that was in the distance but seemed to be growing nearer. The clouds parted and a huge wyrm, like an ancient god rising from the mists, lightning crackling around it's form descended, a loud voice that seemed to sound in all our minds booming "You are not elves or of the fey?"

Taken aback at being addressed by such a living embodiment of the ancient ways we respectfully explained that we were from the north, beyond the ridiculous crumbling wall built by the unbelievers, and that we were seeking a way to unite those tribes who still respected the old ways under a single banner, we believed that the Fair Ones could help us with this. The creature seemed to appreciate our caring for it's young and, after saying that we may address it as Bes, gave us directions to where the local Kindly Ones held court before flying off with a "fare thee well" and it's youngling clinging to it's leg.

Following the great wyrms directions I soon started seeing tell-tale signs of the Kindly Ones, toadstools grew in spiral patterns and trees seemed lined with aged faces; Scotia could have hardly been more noisy stomping through the trees, I believe her heavy footfalls would put even those of the great wyrm to shame. I held out a head for her to stop as my senses, attuned to the magics of the Fair Ones through the history of my blood, detected a hunting pit wove about with disguising glamour; indicating it's boundaries to Siann and Scotia we moved on, a slight mist now covering the forest floor. I could sense the glamour and Fair Ones moving unseen all around us and, reaching to the power of my blood, wove together the stray strands of glamour into a glowing ball of faerie fire and a way of respectfully announcing our presence.

With a swish of wind it was as though a veil had been pulled back and the Fair Ones crowding the clearing suddenly were made visable perched on every tree and scamping through every glade, as mark of respect (both to them and the forest) I sunk my staff into the ground and bid it take root and grow leaves. As a terribly beautiful figure strode forward, our Huntsmaster Siann explained to them that we sought their aid and great wisdom to unite the clans; the figure nodded and said that they would grant us aid and passage but that they were troubled by a village with a darkness festering at it's heart, if we would help them in their quest then they would aid us in ours.

Remembering the village from my earlier vision I nodded to Siann and, as the leader of our troupe, she nodded our agreement.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Memorable Quotes from Session 9 of our Serpents Fall Game

"Don't mind me, just gotta drain the dragon" - Me( as Cenhelm)

"Horesh... why don't you just send out the raven?" - Carvell( as Moroveer)
"Yeah... good point Moroveer" - Pige( as Horesh)

"A lot of minuses there, I think your dice are broken" - Afrodave

"I've got a horrible feeling that if I stick with that roll that whatever it is will conveniently turn out to be a bird catcher and my raven will go the 

same way as my pig" - Pige
"I am convenient bird catcher... SURPRISE!" - Afrodave

"Oh, I knew he was old, but didn't think he was massive beard reet old" - Pige

"So if the weather is localised, what was at the centre?" - Carvell( as Moroveer)
"I... umm... didn't think to check that out" - Pige( as Horesh)

"First of all, Ozuchi what's happened to your hand" - Pige( as Horesh)
"Something to do with the cold, Benito says the frost has 'bitten' me, it must be a spiritual thing" - Afrodave( as Ozuchi)

"Ozuchi, before you run out, what are you wearing?" - Pige( as Horesh)
"A loincloth, my Stygian grundies" - Afrodave

"So what you're saying is that he could possibly lead the Regent's men right to us?" - Carvell( as Moroveer)
"Possibly..." - Pige( as Horesh)

"Sorry, have I been out here a long time? I'm having a bit of trouble... only I wasn't expecting it to be so cold" - Me( as Cenhelm having a piss)

"There is a sibilant tone to his voice" - Me(GM)
"Snakey" - Pige

"Lord Wulfric puts on an impressive turn of speed following you" - Me(GM)
"Of course he does, he's got my familiar inside him, ungrateful b*stard" - Afrodave( as Ozuchi)

"You see in some places where water was dripping from Kron that it has frozen and formed icycles" - Me(GM)
"Oh sh*t son" - Pige

"Oh! It's deviltry!" - Me( as Asec)

"Try to get as close as possible without getting sucked into some cyclone and dying, i'm getting a bit paranoid about the death of my companions now" - 

Pige( as Horesh)

"We've also only got 5 days, the norsicans are about to invade and attack Winchester" - Afrodave( as Ozuchi)
"Yeah, about incoming attacks... with the raven checking out the centre of the storm, I could see shapes bigger than a man moving in at it's heart" - 

Pige( as Horesh)

"Another epic roll, give me the details son... tell me what I want to know!" - Pige

"Would I know if these things had any frost related abilities" - Pige( as Horesh)
"Given that the one in your vision rose up out of a snow covered landscape, it's a fair assumption" - Me(GM)

"Well it looks like some kind of norsican demon is coming to kill Kron" - Pige( as Horesh)
"... or everything" - Afrodave( as Ozuchi)

"I want to create an advantage by setting up a ritual around it with incest and the snow i've collected" - Afrodave( as Horesh)
"With what?" - Pige
"I think you mean incense again" - Me(GM)

"The norsican warriors do the will of the ancient one" - Me(GM)
"Oh... bad times" - Afrodave( as Ozuchi)

"So who wants to go back to chasing pirates? Ain't nobody got time for this" - Fozz( as Benito)

"I have a working knowledge of weather systems because, you know, ships need weather" - Fozz( as Benito)

"So we're gonna hide him in this small farmhouse? It doesn't have many hiding places, just a cloth" - Afrodave( as Ozuchi)

"Don't forget, i'm still in the spiritual zone, right by the window" - Pige( as Horesh)
"Chuck a blanket over him!" - Fozz( as Benito)
"Wake up! * slap *" - Afrodave( as Ozuchi)

"Get on your way or i'll release the dogs! And i'll slam the door" - Carvell( as Moroveer)
"And i'll stand behind him going 'Yeah!'" - Fozz( as Benito)

"Two of your fate points you say... interesting... I will take your damage" - Afrodave

"My question from before remains... why?" - Carvell
"Because i'm a bad boy" - Afrodave

"So, good job we didn't go to sleep then lads" - Pige( as Horesh)

"I'm going to leave sneakily... and it's not going to go well for me" - Fozz( as Benito)
"Did you come out with a one man band or something?" - Pige

"I'm gonna go at him like a Stygian martial arts bad boy" - Afrodave( as Ozuchi)

"STYGIAN... BITCH!" - Afrodave( as Ozuchi)

"I call dibs on the bag" - Carvell( as Moroveer)
"I kill it, I keep it" - Fozz( as Benito)

"Eight Days of Winter" - Serpents Fall Session 9 - Writeup

The group are resting, wary of pursuit by the Regent's forces in a small farmhouse owned by Cenhelm and his wife Aesc, Moroveer plans to sneak into Winchester disguised as a trader whilst Horesh wishes to ally with Celts. The spear Aelfgar, having once belonged to Godric the deceased king of Winchester, has been disguised and given to Kron whilst the body of the soldier who originally carried it has been buried a short distance from the farmstead; before searching the soldier our heroes searched him but found only a broken dagger and a picture of a beautiful blond woman painted on the inside of it, Moroveer also took the man's chainmail shirt. 

Since arriving at the farm Moroveer has been collecting the necessary components for his disguise and, under his instruction, Cenhelm has been collating the information that Moroveer requires in order to carryt out his scheme of buying a share in the farm. It is the 20th and final) day of the first month of summer, called Pallisade in Saxon but the weather has begun top turn unseasonably chilly and, as night falls, there is a frosty chill in the air. Our heroes are maintaining an informal watch, occassionally checking through the windows of the wattle and daub hut, Moroveer wants to keep it informal so they look less suspicious if anyone should happen this way. They are interrupted by a shout from Ozuchi, who has noticed that snowflakes have begun to fall outside, seeing his lack of comprehension concerning the "white rain" Moroveer laughs and tells him it's called snow, explaining that it is as plentiful in the north and sand is in the south. Thinking to have a joke with his companion Benito tells Ozuchi that it is magical, but the medicine man fails to realise and rushing outside to collect some in one of his stonewear vials.

Moroveer realises that the weather pattern is extremely uncharacteristic for the summer months in Saxony, but the snow outside has begun to fall heavier, seemingly defying his meteorological prediction as Horesh begins to note potential methods of leaving the farmhouse so they don't get snowed in and suggests that he commune with the spirits incase anything unnatural occurs. Trying to sound casual Benito says that it's just a freak weather condition and no doubt nothing to worry about. Moroveer suggests that, since they are on the flat that him and Horesh should walk in opposite directions to determine the extent of the snowfall but he is interrupted by Cenhelm comes stumbling out in his long-johns desperate for a piss, Horesh warns him about the snow but, until he opens the door, the farmer doesn't believe it; as his mouth hangs open in shock Cenhelm tell them that Pallisade is normally one of the warmer months and that they normally only get heavy snowfall like this in the month of Nightdays, the last snowfall was 3 months ago.

Wanting to learn more Horesh sends his familiar into the air and, through it's eyes, spies a lone shrouded figure trudging through the snow towards the farmstead from the direction of Winchester; exasperated Moroveer asks Horesh why he doesn't just use the raven to check out the extent of the snow? In response Horesh tells Moroveer about the lone figure but they decide it an unnecessary risk to approach it.

Wanting to ask Kron about norsican shaman and how they deal with snow Ozuchi approaches the sleeping norsican and reaches out a hand to nudge him awake, the instant his skin makes contact with the slumbering norsican a painful cold runs up his fingertips giving him the first signs of frostbite, it is like nothing Ozuchi has experienced before; having experienced cold weather condtions Benito shouts for Ozuchi to warm his hand by the fire, he then asks Moroveer to get a blanket and help him turn Gunnar over, but warns him not to touch Gunnar's skin. Rolling Gunnar over they can see a thin covering of frost across his entire body, he is breathing but his skin is very pale, he is still holding the spear; Moroveer wraps a blanket around his hands and slides the spear out of Gunnar's hands, but the weapon doesn't appear that cold. Moroveer has heard vague rumours and legends of it being an heirloom of the Harcourt family and that it is able to kill the most hardy of beasts, but nothing concerning any powers over weather or the cold.

Horesh, through the eyes of his raven, can see that the snowstorm is a local phenomenon, it appears to be moving southwards from the northlands and the farmstead is on the edge of it, he wonders whether the weather front has made it's way towards the spear rather than rising around it; his caution about the struggling lone figure overcoming him, he directs the raven to swoop down towards the lone figure. The man wears saxon armour, has a grey beard and is covered with a thick rough cloak, there is a noticable patch of reptilian scales around his eyes. Ordering his raven home and snapping out of his trance Horesh heads back in and tells the others that the weather is localised and that the figure approaching may be Wulfric, he tells them that the weather doesn't seem to be centrallised on the spear.

Horesh asks Ozuchi to explain what happened with Wulfric before they met Moroveer, but the Stygian shaman is too excited that he may be meeting Wulfric (and his familiar who now resides within the Saxon Lord's body) and rushes outside to meet him; Horesh explains that they helped the nobleman Lord Wulfric escape a plot to poison him, seemingly on the Regent's orders and that was how they came to be embroiled in this whole affair, when they travelled to Winchester the Regent seemed affable but he attempted to fell Wulfric with a poisonous enchantment in the form of a snake. Desperate to save Wulfric, Ozuchi fused the komodo dragon spirit of his own familiar into the Lord's body, making them effectively one entity, it saved his life but had some unexpected side-effects, not least amongst them was Wulfric taking on certain reptilian traits. Benito throws some furs over Ozuchi as he runs out and follows him. Horesh suggests that perhaps Wulfric has a link with Ozuchi and that is why he was heading to the farmhouse, at this point he realises that Cenhelm hasn't come back in yet; Moroveer goes out and finds him, he's struggling to have a piss in the cold by the side of the farmhouse.

Benito catches up with Ozuchi and they continue towards the figure, and sure enough the figure is revealed to be Wulfric, there is a sibilant tone to his voice, he has forked tongue, patches of scales on his cheek and solid black eyes, he regards Ozuchi angrily as they approach saying that after they disappeared from Winchester the Regent convinced the people (using Wulfric's new appearance) that they were evil sorcerors and turned them against him. Wulfric and Asinor the celtic warrior woman split up to give their pursuers the slip but there is a small mob of panicked citizens following him; although capable of defeating the mob Wulfric chose to flee saying that his pursuers are just frightened people, they are not evil. They begin heading back to the farmstead, but Benito has fallen quiet, he is a little taken aback since Wulfric's appearance hits a little close to home given his own relationship with his curse.

In the farmhouse the ice on Kron has started to thicken, as he enters Benito checks the large norsican, but he is still breathing; trying to help, he stokes the fire up whilst Moroveer has Cenhelm wake Aesc to get her to put water on boil. Meanwhile Ozuchi apologises to Wulfric for the effect of his ritual on him, but said it was done to save his life, offering to do whatever he can to help to get Wulfric back to his old self.

Horesh sends his raven to investigate the centre of the storm, unlike normal storms where the centre is calmest, the opposite appears to be true here, shapes move at the centre of the storm at the speed of a horses gallop and the storm seems to be keeping pace with them. Shocked, Horesh snaps out of his trance as Aesc and Cenhelm start warming towels and broth for Kron.

Wulfric continues his discussion with Ozuchi, in clipped tones saying "I understand that what you did, you did because it was your only choice, but I am now an outast, a demon amongst my own people." He continues saying that he can't go home and put his own people at risk, he had a feeling that he had to go west, and was surprised when the feeling took him to Ozuchi, he thought that he'd seen the last of them when they vanished from Winchester. Puzzled, Lord Wulfric asks how they did escape? Ozuchi relates how they escaped thanks to Benito and his knowledge of hidden smugglers passages. Ozuchi offers to attempt to remove the spirit to see if Wulfric returns to normal but Horesh cautions that removing the spirit might not solve the problem and may weaken him; Wulfric agrees with Horesh and says that, if they are going to deal with the Regent, that they will need all the strength they can muster - he cannot afford to be weakened, they can deal with his problem after the Regent is deposed.

Moroveer suggests that they disguise Wulfric as a leper and that they may be able to use that as a cover to get back into Winchester, Wulfric recognises Moroveer as a trader he's previously seen in Winchester during the summer seasons; Moroveer greets Wulfric and tells him that the Regent double-crossed him and imprisoned him, in return for his freedom he offered two years of service to Benito. Wulric agrees to the plan, but Ozuchi reminds them that they only have five days until the norsican force arrives. At this point Horesh's eyes focus as he leaves his spiritual trances and tells them about the shapes he has seen in the storm.

The darkness of midnight has fallen outside.

Still thinking about the legend of Aelfgar, Moroveer recalls how it is passed down through male heirs of the family but that it's powers only become active when possessor proves themselves and that the name Aelfgar comes from the fact that the Great Dragon spirits passed it to the first of the Kings of Saxony. He still can't think of any connection to the frost though, Benito however, has been thinking about the frost wolves of the north who can freeze themselves into hibernation when food is scarce and asks Horesh to see how close to death Kron is. Horesh holds his hand over Kron's heart and concentrates.

Suddenly Horesh finds himself standing in a thick snow covered pin forest, snow is falling all around him, he can just make out the silhouette of a mountain or huge peak a few miles in the distance, after a few minutes pass he realises that the mountain seems to be moving towards him and, as it gets closer, he realises that it's not actually a mountain but the single point of a gargantuan crown. A huge face wearing the crown rises out of the ground and is soon followed by the body of a giant armoured colossus, he can barely see the person beneath the armour but gets an impression of something otherworldly writhing beneath the surface, as though the armour was filled with snakes or worms. The Armour is vaguely reminiscent of that norsicans wear but is covered in all manner of etchings written in an unknown script, it hurts Horesh's eyes to look at it. Trying to divine the meaning of this vision his concentrates on Kron and a stone sarchophagus with a carving of Kron on it bursts out of the soil, the phrase "Blood of norsica" is carved on the side of the sarcophagus.

Horesh pulls out of his vision, as he sudders into wakefulness he gains an impression of a fading voice saying the words "Iad Oroburos", as Horesh repeats the word, Ozuchi recalls a similar term on the oldest most ancient writings of his people, a collective term referring to the most ancient of demons of the outer darkness; a worried expression crosses his face as he helps the very shaken Horesh into a sitting position. Horesh explains his vision and theorises that perhaps it means a norse king is approaching and that somehow Kron's death is involved, Ozuchi says that they must be using dark magics of some kind. Khemrians retained more writings from the time of the Serpent Empire and Horesh (now he has recovered somewhat from the strain of the vision) recalls Iad Uroboros being a collective term for the oldest of the demons, the Great Dragon spirits battled with the Iad to first bring forth the world from the darkness that existed before, he remembers odd references to them either not existing, that they shouldn't exist or that they existed outside the world.

Worried, Ozuchi says that they need to find a way to snap Kron out of his trance and he begins to set up a ritual with Horesh's help, calling on the spirits of knowledge to provide him with information. After fifteen minutes of chanting they have gained the knowledge that Kron is under the spell of something called the Winter King, and that to release him they must remove the influence of the Great Mountain from him. The Great Mountain is the tallest peak on Serpents Fall from where, legend says, it is possible to see beyond the northern edge of the world; unfortunately the spirits also tell them that the Iad are moving through the blood of the norsicans sweeping southwards and that their advanced scouts ride within the storm.

* Horesh sends out his raven once more to get an idea of the direction that the storm is going; Benito also attempts to see if he can work out the storm's behaviour from his knowledge of natural weather patterns, but not being able to see the stars or any known landmarks he is unable to work out anything useful. The raven flies straight up and attempts to gain an aerial view of the storm by flying above it, through it's eyes to the south Horesh can see eight figures carrying torches making their way towards the farmstead. Moroveer is sat by the window smoking his pipe as Benito hears shouting voices and says that they must be the townspeople coming for Wulfric, Wulfric suggests that he could attempt to lead them away from the farm but Ozuchi says that's not a good idea, the Saxon Lord re-iterates that these are just frightened people and they are not evil. Aesc offers to hide him in the back under skins and blankets, everyone agrees and she hides him in the back.

A few minutes later there is a bang on the door, Moroveer says that he should answer the door (since they wouldn't recognise him) and send them on their way, outside is a group of about eight angry saxons holding torches who shout "Send out the demon, we have to burn the evil out!"

Moroveer claims ignorance and says that it is impossible they could have tracked anyone to the farmhouse due to the snow, playing the part of irritated farmer he refuses to let them in, slamming the door in their faces; he quickly grabs a pan of boiling water incase they kick the door open.

From outside there is some confused shouting that quickly turns to screaming, Benito draws his sword as something slams into the door; Ozuchi climbs out of one of the farmhouse back windows and runs around the front of the farmhouse; a huge norsican warrior wielding a hammer, sits astride a giant winter wolf that stands over a dead saxon. A few metres beyond more large silhouettes are moving about within the storm and occasionally there is a scream or snarl, Ozuchi leaps up to attack the wolf rider who swings his hammer, it strikes Ozuchi around the head causing his ears to ring as he falls to the ground. Inside, as Moroveer bends down to pick up his dropped tobacco pouch, a round object hurls through the window just missing him, it is a severed saxon head.

Moroveer runs out with the spear, intent on fending the frost wolf away from the door of the farmstead, he shouts for Ozuchi to make for the door; the norsican warrior on frost wolf slowly pads towards the dazed Ozuchi, testing the weight of his hammer and relishing the oncoming kill. Benito exits the farmhouse through the same window as Ozuchi, attempting to sneak around the side of the farmhouse but one of the wolf riders pounces on him and rakes his chest with it's claws. Benito staggers back and then darts forward, jumping up level with the wolfs nose, he stabs it through it's head, running up the neck of the beast as it lowers, he slices the throat of the warrior and lands nimbly as the warrior and wolf both fall dead.

Horesh has been communing with the spirits to aid his companions but feels a dark, strange presence bearing down on him, the presence of something old and incalcuably evil, he feels it trying to influence him but, with the aid of his training, he manages to shrug it off. Drawing his daggers Horesh moves to the nearby window and signals Ozuchi to get inside. As Ozuchi picks himself he sees two more of the winter wolf riders circling around him and he attacks one of them, striking several vicious blows, seeing this Horesh runs to support, willing the spirits to aid Ozuchi; plants and roots burst from the ground restraining the wolf rider, Ozuchi takes advantage of this and finishes it off. One of the wolves dives at Ozuchi but he dodges, another rider hooks Ozuchi's legs out from under him with his hammer, causing the Stygian to fall prone.

Benito looks up as two more riders gallop towards him, leaping over the body of their fallen companion, he quickly dodges one (it crashes into the wall of the farmstead) and forward rolls under the other as it leaps at him, he rises to his feet, spinning round and attacking the wolf with his sword, his blade seems to glance off the tough hide of the winter wolf though. Moroveer thrusts Aelfgar into the wolf near the farmhouse wall, piercing both rider and wolf, slaying them. Horesh calls on the spirits and leaps at one of the remaining wolves, swinging his daggers in two figures of eight he slices both rider and wolf to shreds, blood fountaining into the air whilst Ozuchi leaps at another wolf, grabbing it's neck he twists, there is a loud crack as he lashes out with his foot snapping the neck of the rider.

Only one wolf remains, facing Moroveer and Benito, Moroveer spots there are some large objects in the saddle bag of the final wolf rider and shouts "I call dibs on the bag" as he throws the spear; seeing this Horesh calls on the spirits to guide the weapon, a phantasmal dragon forms in the air around Aelfgar as it sails towards it's target, it hits the side of the norsican, puncturing both rider and mount, they fall to the floor dead. Moroveer runs over and opens bag, inside is a decapitated Saxon head wearing a small gold crown. Looking around they can see that the agitated villagers are either all dead or have run away. 

Dawn breaks over the bloody aftermath of their night-time combat, but the storm has begun to fade away and the temperatures have slowly begun to rise to something more typical of summer.

Moroveer throws the Saxon crown to Benito who puts it on whilst Horesh takes some frost wolf teeth and makes them into a necklace (he also makes one for Benito) and Ozuchi takes their fur with the help of Cenhelm & Aesc.

By the time they have finished they are tired almost beyond words and retreat inside the farmhouse, the ice on Kron appears to have melted but he has not woke up; they barricade themselves in the farmhouse and sleep.

Next morning Horesh sends his raven up, the localised storm has disappeared, but far to the north (about 6/7 days away) a far larger storm front is rolling slowly southwards.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

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

Moroveer languishes in the dungeons of Winchester castle where he has been for last 6 months since being double-crossed on a slave deal by Regent Eadweard Harcourt.

Horesh stands in the courtyard at Castle Harcourt, having attempted rouse the mistreated people to rise up against unjust rule of the Regent, calling on them to support the rightful ruler Emma Harcourt (wife of King Godric); he looks around for support from Gunnar Gunnar Kron but the norsican has disappeared down into the dungeon to assist the others. The Regent click his figures and archers file out onto the battlements of the castle, surrounding the courtyard; the Regent lowers his hand and a single arrow is loosed. The arrow pierces Horesh's robe, but instead of killing him it hits the small piglet concealed within his robes, killing it instead; the Regent smiles and raises his hand again.

Horesh removes the dead pig with a look of distain and anger, hurling it's limp porcine body at the Regent, but two of the Regents bodyguards cover him with shield and the pig bounces off with a dull clang. Horesh dives down the steps into the dungeon as arrows thunk into the floor where he was standing.

In the dungeon the sage Mervane explains that Benito's ancestry and the power within his Lemurian blood is attempting to fight off the curse inflicted on him and it is this that causes his nausea near the sea rather than the curse itself. The curse is more powerful than a single mortal could conjure, something connected with the bloodline of Lemuria has been used to boost the power of the curse - only the power of Benito's blood saved him from death. Mervane says that the curse wouldn't actually stop him travelling on the seas but that strange fortune would be attracted to it; unfortunately Marvane suspects that the only way to cure it is for Benito to expose himself to travel on the sea and give it time, or he could gain access to whatever boosted the power of the curse in the first place.

Benito offers to free Mervane, but the sage explains that the Regent has threatened that should Mervane escape he will kill Emma Harcourt and her unborn child, he continues "The fate of that child is worth far more to me than my own freedom." Before Mervane can say more Horesh lands at the bottom of the stairs with a thump; Ozuchi sees the blood splattered on Horesh's robe and checks he's not injured, the Khemrian tells them breathlessly that there are archers covering the only route out of the dungeon.

Moroveer suggests that they focus on freeing the Queen and re-uniting her with her husband, Ozuchi & Horesh agree, saying that she has to be freed as a high prority and that the Regent must fall. Moroveer theorises that if the Queen flees her people will be made to suffer by the Regent, he says they should make it look like she was kidnapped against her will to spare her people and that they should use the river next to the castle to flee.

A loud voice from outside shouts "If you have any sense you will surrender, if not then there will be immediate and deadly consequences." Horesh falls to his knees and attempts to contact the spirit world for aid whilst Moroveer begins exploring the other caves that comprise the dungeons (with Ozuchi in tow) looking for air inlets, he locates some small ventilation shafts but they are far too narrow for a human to pass through, he shouts to the others that they'd be better off fighting in the open, saying that the only way they'll get out is to feign capture to avoid being shot straight away.

Horesh has summoned an ancestral spirit of the Harcourt dynasty who promises to aid Horesh in return for his help restoring the rightful honour of the Harcourt dynasty. Moroveer is examining the ventilation shafts when something obscures the end of the ventilation shaft as though someone was covering it, he shouts to the others saying that they might be trying to suffocate them out. Horesh suggests that perhaps Gunnar Kron might be able to break them out; Benito has been sat thinking for several minutes and recalls that castles like this often used to have smugglers passages or secret entrances/exits, they all fan out and begin frantically searching.

Eventually Moroveer locates an area where there appears to be airflow coming in from somewhere and he directs Gunnar Kron to pick up one of the metal prison bars and begins to work the stones of the passage loose; it appears as though there once was a small passage here and it has been bricked up a while ago, Gunnar Kron uncovers the passageway. They all begin crawling through the tunnel with Benito in the lead, but the tunnel ends in a metal grate that is fastened into the walls of the tunnel but it looks a bit rusty, Benito boots the grate but is unable to loosen it.

Benito suggests switching places with Gunnar Kron but there isn't really enough room in the narrow confines of the tunnel; Moroveer shouts for Benito to take of his jerkin, tie it to the bars of the grate and then, using a chair leg (that he passes forwards), twist it round and round and the force will break the bars, he is successful and the grate bends, they are able to push the bars aside allowing exit from the tunnel. The grate falls out of the tunnel with a loud splash.

The tunnel emerges at an inlet besides the castle, above the river running westwards away from the castle towards the coast; they hear a metallic sound from inside the dungeon behind them, and a strange acrid herbal smell drifts to them, it appears the Regent's forces are attempting to gas them out of the dungeons using an incense burner full of poisonous plants.

Without further word Benito dives into the river whilst Moroveer heaps debris near the entry of the tunnel and sets it alight to discourage anyone following them; Horesh is next and looks down after Benito, he can see that Benito is attempting to swim to the river bank but is being swept further down river by the undertow. Horesh jumps after into the freezing cold water and seems to be doing better swimming, Gunnar Kron leaps in afterwards and swims towards the bank.

Ozuchi leaps in the river and is swept quickly past Horesh, flailing his arms about, Moroveer is the last to jump in and is also swept down the river waving his arms about. Benito quickly struggles out of as much clothing as possible and hurls it at the bank, swimming with the current he begins striking for the bank of the river; Horesh has reached the shore and is running along it keeping pace with his comrades, he scoops up Benito's gear as it lands near him.

Benito swims to where Ozuchi and Moroveer are flailing about to assist, over the course of the next few minutes, with shoreside help of Horesh and his spiritual allies, Benito is able to get Ozuchi and Moroveer to the shore. The ancestral spirit summoned by Horesh looks at Winchester, a sad expression on his face, he nods at Horesh and then his body collapses into the river becoming one with the water.

It is midday on the 18th day of the fifth month ('Pallisade' in Saxony).

Benito suggest that they lay low for a bit since the Regent's forces will be out looking for them, Horesh pulls Benito to one side, gives him his stuff back and asks whether he though to rescue his pig; a look of horror crosses Benito's face as he hears a squealing from the water and sees his piglet thrashing about in the river. Benito dives into the river, grabs the pig and begins struggling back towards to the bank but with the pig wriggling about he finds it difficult to swim to the bank. Horesh strips down and jumps in, assisting Benito and his cargo to the bank of the river.

Moroveer suggests stealing guard uniforms and using them to sneak back into the city, the plan is considered but it is felt that they look too distinctive to use such subterfuge; Horesh suggest that, since they gave the money from the fighting competition to the poor, they could use the aid of the local commoners to help them. Eventually it is agreed that they should lie low in a local farmhouse and they agree with Moroveer's suggestion to head down river for a few miles incase the Regent sends animals after them.

Benito scales a tree and spots a farmhouse, it's about a day and half to the southwest of Winhester and is little more than a few fields and three ramshackle buildings. As they approach the farm they spot a weather-beaten old man ploughing the fields, a ruddy complexioned woman is talking to him. Benito approaches, planning to make a bit of an entrance and, as he draws closer, he can hear the two of them arguing about someone throwing money about in the capital and the Regent being in uproar.

"What kind of person gives out free money?" scoffs the man, at this point Benito steps in and replies "This kind of person."

The man introduces him as Cenhelm and asks who they might be, Benito introduces himself and his companions (including Aloitius the pig); the woman is introduced as Aesc (Cenhelm's wife), she identifies Benito as the person giving out the money in the tales, his clothes match the description from the stories, she asks them to come in since they are soaked. Cenhelm doesn't seem so keen, saying that you can't be too careful with strangers abroad, especially given rumours of the northmen being on the march, but he relents and invites them in to share fire and soup, complaining about the Regent taxing them dry.

Benito gives them a gold coin as he enters, which seems to improve Cenhelm's opinion of the flamboyant ex-Pirate King immensely.

The group offers what few provisions (hard tack, jerky, etc) they have remaining to go in the soup/stew, Cenhelm appreciates the offer & tells them to throw it in the pot; he tells Aesc to stir the pot, she moans about why he couldn't do it but goes over and stirs it anyway. Having been in prison Moroveer scoffs his bowlful rapidly, seeing this Horesh has a small spoon of his and passes the rest to Moroveer.

After they have warmed up Cenhelm asks them what their business is whilst Horesh asks about trade; Cenhelm says that they pay tithes to Winchester, but winter has been hard and taxes are high. Benito tells the farmer that they plan to stick it to the Regent, Cenhelm looks worried and warns them that the Regent has spies everywhere; he tells them that last Darkling month a neighbouring farmer refused to pay taxes, the Regents soldiers dragged him away in the middle of the night and he was never seen again.

Attempting to re-assure the frightened farmer Benito says don't worry i'm king of the Sword Isles, Cenhelm doesn't seem to know where that is saying that he has lived on the farm all his life.

Moroveer notices that everytime Benito looks at Aesc she glances away and her cheeks colour slightly; and, seeking to give Benito an excuse to be alone with her, he talks to Cenhelm about his countrymen having new farming techniques to enhance his crops & uses them to talk the farmer into going outside; Horesh goes with them to ask if Cenhelm has a cart. The farmer replies that he has an old wagon, but hasn't used it since his horse died last winter, the wagon is in fine repair but needs an animal, he couldn't afford a new one.

Aesc meanwhile, offers Ozuchi and Benito some more soup, Benito accepts but Ozuchi goes of to the side to meditate on the spirits; Aesc looks worried and asks Benito what Ozuchi is doing whilst ladling Benito out an extra portion of the soup. Benito explains that Ozuchi is a priest of some sort, but that he doesn't understand the details, this seems to calm Aesc a little.

Horesh sends his raven familiar up into the air to scout out the area for horses, it is early evening, some days travel to the northwest on the borders of Saxony he sees a heavily wooded copse of trees, a small group of celts is having an animated discussion on the outskirts of the wood. The group consists of half a dozen woaded Celtic warriors riding dire boards.

Ozuchi asks the spirits what challenges would they have in rescuing the queen and he is given a vision of many things, armed saxoned warriors, Morwrei the Regent's consort, a large tanned horse nomad with cruel features and Castle Harcourt itself.

Moroveer asks how Cenhelm normally gets his cart into the city and is told that the soldiers search his cart but normally let him go about his business.

Benito has noticed that the farmers wife Aesc is well disposed towards him, it's nothing serious but she is a little dazzled by the fine figure that Benito cuts; in the course of conversation she relates how they used to have lots of labourers but haven't been able to afford it with high taxes. She does as much (if not more) than Cenhelm since she helps on the farm and manages the house, but she's not sure what they'll do this year now they don't have a horse to tale their tithe to Winchester.

It is 7 in the evening when Moroveer asks about the taxes/worth of the farm, Cenhelms says that they pay half their crops to Winchester, it used to be a quarter but has raised since the Regent came to power. Moroveer expresses his wish to buy a share in Cenhelms farm and to use his cart, Cenhelms seems agreeable to the idea but explains that his horse died last winter from pox & he can't afford a new one; it will take him a couple of days to get the information together and that he'll have to discuss it with his wife Aesc. They returns to the farm building.

Horesh pulls his companions aside as Cenhelm talks to Aesc about Moroveer's proposal and tells them what he has seen through the eyes of his familiar; he says that perhaps the Celts are trying to recover their wise man Mervane and that could be useful to them. Ozuchi suggests they recruit the Celts to help in their mission, perhaps they can even borrow a boar.

Moroveer says that he's seeking credit from contacts in town to provide a horse to the farm, but it may take a couple of weeks. Ozuchi informs Moroveer that they're heading to the west coast and time is of the essence if they want to catch the black corsairs, a quest that Moroveer is completely unaware of, having only joined the party recently. Ozuchi reminds Benito that they were travelling to the west coast to stop an attack by the black corsairs on a settlement on the coast of Saxony; when Moroveer asks why they want to stop the attack, Benito says because it will bloody Horningold Blythe's nose and Ozuchi wants to find out what their plan is.

Moroveer asks how Benito is getting an edge and how he can break his curse, to which Benito replies that apparently he needs to travel the seas to allow his body to fight off the curse. Moroveer explains there are two small islands on the east that he could use as stepping stones to get to the Sword Isles whilst Benito considers that there may be more than simple raids going on, Blythe is playing with old magics and things that shouldn't be messed with. Moroveers says that, if that is the case, then Benito will need more strength at his back and that if they help reveal the Regent's treachery to the King and save his queen then Saxony may be inclined to help.

At this point Horesh tells Moroveer about his vision of King Godric dying on a battlefield in the north and Moroveer respondsd that if the Regent finds out he will no doubt just assume power militarily.

Horesh hears the sound of a horse approaching the farmstead, looking out of window, in the moonlight he sees a silhouette of a horse and rider approaching the farmstead slowly down one of the many dirt tracks criss-crossing the landscape; he can see from the reflected moonlight that the figure is wearing metal armour. Horesh asks Cenhelm if he's expected visitors and he says no, they are the first visitors in month, he tells them about the horse approaching with an armoured rider. Cenhelm immediately leaps to the conclusion that the Regent has sent men to apprehend the PCs and refuses to go outside.

Moroveer puts on a straw hat and slips outside pretending to be a farmer, with the horse being closer now he can see that the figure is a Saxon warrior slumped in the saddle, his right arm hands limply, a long, ornate spear is loosely gripped in the hand, the blade dragging along the ground. Moroveer supports the man and slides him off the saddle, his body is criss-crossed with wounds and his chainmail is covered in dried blood, the trader shouts to the farmstead to bring water and Ozuchi runs out with a wooden bowl.

Sensing the death Horesh begins to prepare himself as Moroveer gives the man water and asks the man who did this; the injured warrior coughs, his chest rattling, he lifts a hand and points northwards, the spear drops out of his hand onto the floor. Ozuchi says they need to get him into the farmhouse and, with Moroveers help, they carry him inside; examining him more closely Ozuchi realises that the man is too far gone to help and all they can do is have Horesh try to make his passage as comfortable as possible.

As life departs his body, the injured soldier grabs Horesh and gasps "Godric... gave me chance to get away" and then there is only his long, final exhalation of breath.

Still needing answers Horesh holds the warriors spirit on the threshold of entering deaths realm so that they can ask him some questions, they discover that the great Norsican force united by a warlord called Fenris-Ur is making its way south towards Saxony. Nodding, Horesh releases the mans spirit, as it fades his voice says "Guard Aelfgar" and then silence falls over the farmstead for a few moments.

Benito says that Aelfgar is Godric's spear (having seen it on a statue in Wulfricingas); Moroveer runs back outside and examines the ornate metal spear that is lying on the floor, saying that they need to guard it from the Norse and the Regent. Horesh theorises that Godric sacrificed himself so that the soldier could escape and take the spear to safety.

Moroveer suggests disguising the spear, he gets some leather thonging and wraps it around the spear; "At least we now have a horse to drive the cart to Winchester" says Ozuchi with a touch of sadness in his voice. Moroveers suggests entering the city to see if they can rouse up support for the Queen against the Regent.