Friday, 27 June 2014

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Serpents Fall - All Game Material

Since my Fate Accelerated Serpents Fall game has unfortunately come to a premature end (due to changing schedules amongst the players) and I am unlikely to pick it up again in the future (since i'm not a fan of returning to previously run games) I thought that I would make available the various notes and materials that I used to run the campaign up to and including the plot wiki.

All of the electronically stored material that I created for the campaign is now hosted on my Google Drive and can be accessed via the following link:

Even though the game unfortunately didn't reach the conclusion that I was hoping I had some good fun running it and the players certainly seemed to enjoy it while it lasted; hopefully someone will get some use out of the information in the files.

Please note: Some of the graphics from the wiki have been removed to save space and I will not be making any attempt to further organise or sort the information stored on the Google Drive.

The actual-play videos from the campaign will remain on my Youtube channel the Red Dice Diaries:

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Sapphire Islands - Dungeon World Mini-campaign - Session 2

After their encounter with the orcs on the south-eastern coast of the mainland, Will manages to limp the damaged boat to the shoreline and is just about to jump down from the boat when his keen spot one of the planks of the decking is a little raised from the others; nearly down he pulls out a dagger and pries it loose from it's brothers, underneath is a small leather pouch containing many coins worth of shining blue sapphires, jewels common in the Sapphire Islands (and indeed the foundation on which much of their wealth is build) but rare here on the mainland. Korra also finds a shipping manifest or log book in the cabin, there are strange scrawlings in the margin but she pays them little mind. Following his directions the band begin to range further out on the beach, looking for driftwood and flotsam that can be used to make repairs to the boat. They are stopped in their task by the sound of cheerful whistling as a middle-aged man pulling an empty cart behind him comes walking down the beach, hailing them the man introduced himself as Tibbs a trader who has recently made a killing selling stone in the town of Three Rivers; he quite happily explains to the group that Three Rivers is expanding and there is great demand for materials to make new buildings to houses the blooming population. Tibbs pats a bulging coin purse hanging from his belt to demonstrate his good fortune, for a moment Will's eyes widen at the sight of such wealth.

Demanor has been exploring the woods searching for additional materials to patch up the boat, all around the animals chatter in their own tongues, a language as clear as her own and the word they shout is the same, no matter the animal, "Elfmeet! Elfmeet!" Summoning a parrot from the nearby trees Demanor questions it and discovers that the elves have asked the animals to spread the word and that they are all gathering in the one remaining elven city to make a big decision.

Arriving back at the boat Demanor explains to the others about the meeting, Will meanwhile has been talking to Tibbs and has offered to give the trader a lift aboard their repaired boat to his destination, the village of Crossmount in the shadow of the Great Peaks, where he intends to pick up another concession of stone and sell it on for a profit; they agree to drop Demanor and Korra off in the town of Three Rivers (which Demanor says is near to the elf city) while the boat continues north to Crossmount. On the way they pass the village of River Morton, a procession of villagers is gathered along the riverbank, ferrying the arrow riddling bodies of their dead to burial holes prepared for them, priests of River Morton are saying prayers over their dead whilst the nearest and dearest of those dead, wail for their loss. The dead are heaped into pyres and burnt, once the flames have faded, grim faced gravediggers turn their ashes into the earth; Will finds it all strange and not at all like the burning boat burials that he is used to, he finds the whole thing lacking in spirit whereas Demanor finds it all a little barbaric, elves preferring to return their dead straight back to the earth.

Slowing down, they investigate the arrows riddling the bodies, finding them of curious manufacture; peering at them closely, Korra is put in mind of the tales of 'Edwin the Great' about the last great battle when elves and men joined forces, the arrows are graceful and seem of elven manufacture, but they are black and use the same ravens feathers as the orc arrows that they saw earlier. A woman from the shore hails them, she tells them to be careful if they are sailing north, that orcs are abroad and that they did for her husband Ted; as a mark of honour Korra begins to play a mournful tune of solemn respect as they continue their journey north, the locals tearfully hum along with the tune until they are lost from sight around a bend in the river.

A few days later they arrive at the town of Three Rivers, Korra has not been here for eight months, but the town has almost doubled in size since then; as they approach they are hailed by one of the local foremen working on the new buildings whose skeletons litter the outskirts of the town, the man called Roberts tells them that if they get any stone and give him first refusal then he'll give them more than a fair price.

After leaving the boat Demanor and Korra make they way through hidden ways into the jungle, Demanor leading her bardic companion through trails and hidden byways until the land drops down into a secret valley, a large ziggurat rising from the centre of it, vines and leaves gathering along the surfaces of the stone, not destroying it but seeming to caress the masonry, as though they were both part of the same whole. Roughly a thousand elves gathered around the sacred building, all of them looking towards the wise figure of an elf clad in brown and green robes. Demanor recognises the elf as Silanthus, the wisest of the elves in the settlement; the gathered crowd is discussing the recent imbalance in nature and the strange anger that many of them feel building in the natural forces, Demanor steps forward and tells them about the Ent massacring the human village nearby.

Meanwhile, back on the boat, out of sight of civilisation, Will's knife flashes out so quickly that Tibb's barely feels his life slip away nor the northlanders hand close around his coinpurse and push his body silently into the flowing river.

Demanor visit Silanthus in his chambers, they are passed by an angry elf on the way there, there is much discussion in the chambers and Silanthus tells them that the light of the elves has faded from the world, most of them are planning to leave this world on the last  of the Great White Boats. Korra asks Silanthus whether he can decipher the strange notes scrawled in the ship's logbook, the old elf looks at the book and says that it is a simple crpytographic code discussing a secret exchange of precious sapphires from a quantity of stone and that apparently the writer believed secrecy was imperative.

Far to the north, Will arrives in Crossmount and purchases a quantity of stone from a paunchy, red bearded stonemason called Erik with his newly acquired wealth and begins his journey southwards towards Three Rivers where he plans to sell it for a healthy profit.

Leaving Silanthus' chamber, Demanor sees that the angry elf they spotted previously (a younger member of the race called Zephandius) is saying to his fellows that the recent decay of nature and their relationship with it is a sure sign that their previous policy of inaction has resulted in nature forsaking them as they have forsaken it; Zephandius says that they must act as parents to the younger races (who are as children) and that sometimes parents must exercise a firm hand. Demanor is worried about Zephandius, he is very persuasuve and seems to be swaying many of the crowd to his point of view. 

Will, meanwhile, on his journey to Three Rivers has come across a small fishing boat floating unrowed along the river, in it is the body of a dying man, he tells them that his party was set upon by elves and that he is trying to get to the capital to warn the King; Will tells the dying man that he will see the message delivered and then closes his eyes as the fisherman's dying breath leaves him. His boat later makes its way into Three Rivers where Will takes the opportunity to rest and spend some of his recently gathered wealth int he local taverns, he overhears some of the locals saying that they have heard a rumour King John V is planning to announce it illegal to mine stone in the Great Peaks, although they don't know why. A few hours later Demanor and Korra arrive to meet up with him as arranged and Will tells them about the "elf" attacks.

Taking the two of them back to the elven settlement Demanor tells Silanthus about the supposed attacks and gives him the strange hybrid arrow, the old elf looks troubled but tells them that most of the elven people are leaving this very night about the last of the White Ships, although it grieves them greatly some (like Demanor) have decided to stay; not wanting to seem unhelpful though the old elf performs a scrying ritual with Demanor as the willing subject (despite his warning that it can be a little intense even for those as experienced as himself). In her vision Demanor rushes as a disembodied presence throught the woods until she hovers before a huge, corrupted, blackwood tree, bones and skulls litter the floor around it and seem entwined with the very structure of the vegetation, even as the roots writhe and pulse obscenely. Most disturbing is the fruit of the tree, giant blood coloured fruit that pulses as though something lives within it; one of these bloody fruits falls to the ground, spilling it's juices as a creature crawls forth from the collapsing skin. The creature stands, it bears the beauty and chiselled features of an elf, although they seem to reflect cruelty rather than the radiant beauty of the elves, but the albaster skin fo the elf is replaced by the warty grey hide of the orc and bloody, yellowed tusks jut from it's jaws as a bellowing roar echoes from the creatures drooling lips.

Demanor awakes and tells the other about the strange 'black elves' that she has seen; the other elves are climbing aboard the White Ship and waving farewell as they set sail, between the persuasions of Demanor and Zephandius 150 of the once widespread race of elves remain, the druid feels her heart grow heavy as the majority of her people pass from the world, their light lost forever.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Jade-xalted: Sample assets

Below are some sample assets built using the system described in earlier posts.

* * *

White Jade Warstrider (Device)

Cost: 3 refresh

  • Harmful - +2 shifts of damage on attack (up to a max of shifts scored on attack roll)
  • Protective - reduces shift value of successful attack by 2
  • Sturdy - has 2 stress boxes
  • Jade construction - +1 to rolls when used by a terrestrial exalt, may activate the 'blessed by the elements' aspect at will.

  • Demanding - requires a scene of preparation and a great (+4) sorceror roll to activate the warstrider.

Warstriders are ancient suits of magitech armour from the First Age, designed to not only protect the wearer inside their enormous armoured hides but also to increase their strength and prowess, only scant few function in the present and these require extensive maintenance (normally in the form of barely understood annointing ceremonies) to continue running.

* * *

Door-Evading Technique (technique)
Cost: 3 refresh
  • Exceptional
  • Consuming

At the cost of a fate point the user of this technique may completely bypass one inanimate obstacle (such as a door for example) that impedes movement between zones.

* * *

Beastman warband (allies)
Cost: 2 refresh
  • Professional x 2 - Warrior +2, Assassin +1. 
  • Resilient - Ally gains a mild consequence slot.
  • Sturdy - Gains an additional 1 stress box.
  • Numerous x 3 - 8 total allies. 
Troubling ("Hunted and despised in civilised lands.")

Having lurked on the fringes of civilisation for so long, many Lunar Exalted have bred half beast-like offspring and are served by their savage children.

* * *

These are just three examples of assets that can be quickly created with the Jadepunk style method of handling assets once you are familiar with the system, it is flexible but provides enough structure to enable you jump straight in and start designing.

Jade-xalted: Celestial and Terrestrial circle charms

The two asset features following are additional to those listed in my previous post (, and may be added to an asset in the same way.

Techniques (amended from previous post)

No technique can have the troubling flaw.

  • Exceptional
  • Harmful
  • Flexible
  • Protective
  • Focus
  • Sorcery
  • Celestial Circle
  • Terrestrial Circle

Additional Feature Descriptions (those not listed are in previous post)

  • Celestial circle (counts as two features, a celestial circle technique must have the consuming flaw) [this feature may be added to a technique only and may only be taken by Celestial Exalted (Solars, Lunars, Sidereals and Abyssals)]: When a fate point is spent to activate this technique the celestial exalt pours power into themselves, doubling the bonus that would normally be received through the use of the technique, however, once such a technique is used the exalt will be surrounded by a glowing aura of light coloured appropriately to their exaltation until the end of the scene. This is potentially very dangerous given that the Dragonblooded hunt the exalted.

  • Terrestrial Circle (counts as two features, a terrestrial circle technique must have the consuming flaw) [this feature may be added to a technique only and may only be taken by terrestrial exalted (dragonblooded)]: The terrestrials were fashioned to work together as units and be soldiers in the armies of the gods even their very exaltations work better as a group; when a character spends a fate point to activate a terrestrial circle charm they receive a +1 to their action for every other allied terrestrial exalt in the same zone who also has a terrestrial circle technique. Once such a technique is used the exalt will be surrounded by a dazzling display of their element (as appropriate) until either the end of the scene.

Sample Assets

Below is an example of both a solar and a terrestrial circle asset built using the asset rules as laid out in Jadepunk and with the additions made in this hack.

* * *

Protective Wall of Golden Blades (technique)
Cost: 2 Refresh
  • Celestial circle - doubles bonus of technique, when fate point is spent to activate the solar is surrounded by a very visible glowing nimbus of golden light for the rest of the scene.
  • Exceptional - on a successful defense, deal shifts of harm equal to margin of success (this is doubled by the celestial circle charm)

  • Consuming - technique costs a fate point to activate.
  • Limited - can be used once per scene.

When the solar with this technique is attacked they summon up the energy flowing through them and the air around them fills with phantasmal blades of golden light that hack and slash at their enemy, inflicting a number of shifts of harm to their attacker double to the margin of success on their defense roll. Although the blades fade, the golden light from them remains surrounding the Solar until the end of the scene.

* * *

Strike of the Dragon's Fury
Cost: 2 refresh
  • Terrestrial circle - When a character spends a fate point to activate a terrestrial circle technique they receive a +1 to their action for every other allied terrestrial exalt in the same zone who also has a terrestrial circle technique. Once such a technique is used the exalt will be surrounded by a dazzling display of their element (as appropriate) until either the end of the scene.
  • Harmful - +2 shifts of harm on a successful attack (max equal to the number of shifts scored on the attacking roll)

  • Consuming - technique costs a fate point to activate.
When the terrestrial exalt possessing this technique makes an attack, with a striking motion they send out a short ranged blast of their element (flames, rocks, water, etc) that strikes their foe doing +2 shifts of harm on a successful attack.

If there are allied terrestrial exalts who also possess terrestrial circle techniques in the same zone then the exalt also pulls on the power of her allies and the elemental blast reflects this (for example: if a fire aspected terrestial made the strike whilst back up by a wood aspected terrestrial then the blast might be a barrage of burning wooden spikes), they add +1 to their attack roll for each such terrestrial in the same zone.

* * *

Jade-xalted: Assets

This section refers heavily to the excellent Jadepunk game, no challenge is intended to any copyrights and I have attempted to omit any rules specifically featured in the book - you will probably need a copy of Jadepunk to make use of this, but I would advise you to pick up a copy anyway as it is an excellent book.



Step One: Asset Type

Ally: Helpful NPC assocate, sidekick, contact or secret society.
Device: A weapon, tool, or other piece of equipment including items made from the magical materials.
Technique: Personal capabilities either gained from special training, knowledge or as a result of the exaltation.

Step Two: Function/Guiding Aspect

Allies and Devices come with an aspect describing it's function as per the rules in Jadepunk, it can be invoked or compelled as with any other aspect, but it tends to be more focussed on the role that the ally or device plays in the character's life.

Technique assets don't have function aspects, they are connected to one of the characters existed aspects (called it's 'guiding aspect') as detailed in the Jadepunk rules.

Step Three: Features & Flaws

These function as per the rules in Jadepunk, each point of refresh you spent on an asset gives it two features, each asset also comes with one flaw. More flaws may be taken to give an asset additional features on a one-to-one basis.

Full rules for this can be found in the Jadepunk book however there are a few additional  list of features and flaws differ, they can be found below.

Ally Features

When you spend a point of refresh to create an Ally, in addition to any other features, they start with one application of Professional, Resilient and Sturdy for free.

  • Aspect
  • Resilient
  • Numerous
  • Professional
  • Sturdy
  • Independent
  • Talented

Device Features

The function aspect of a device featuring one or more of the magical materials must make reference to each material.

  • Aspect
  • Harmful
  • Jade construction
  • Moonsilver construction
  • Orichalcum construction
  • Protective
  • Starmetal construction
  • Soulsteel construction
  • Exceptional
  • Numerous
  • Flexible
  • Focus
  • Sturdy


No technique can have the troubling flaw.

  • Exceptional
  • Harmful
  • Flexible
  • Protective
  • Focus
  • Sorcery

Step Four: Determine Refresh cost

Determine asset cost as listed in the Jadepunk book.

Feature Descriptions

As listed in the Jadepunk rulebook (with the following additions):

  • Jade construction: See magical materials section for details.
  • Moonsilver construction: See magical materials section for details.
  • Orichalcum construction: See magical materials section for details.
  • Sorcery (counts as two features, asset starts with consuming feature, many only be applied to a technique): Allows a technique to be perform over distance as long as the character possesses something taken from the location or something of significance to the person that they wish to affect; if the target is within the same zone then the technique can be performed at range without the requirement of the component.
  • Soulsteel construction: See magical materials section for details.
  • Starmetal construction: See magical materials section for details.

Flaw Descriptions

As listed in the Jadepunk rulebook.

Gaining and Improving Assets

Functions as per the Jadepunk rulebook.

The Magical Materials

The five magical materials below are easily enchanted by those with the right knowledge and each one resonates with a different type of Exalted.

Please note: In order to have an item made of a magical material (or several) a feature must be taken (it must be taken once for each magical material involved in the item construction).

  • Orichalcum: Gold purified by the Sun, Orichalcum is noted for making equipment which is good at everything. Orichalcum artifacts are used by Solar Exalted.
  • Moonsilver: Moonsilver is silver touched by Luna, and lends some of Luna's protean nature to the material. Moonsilver is considered sacred by Lunar Exalted.
  • Starmetal: Rarer than all other materials, because the Sidereal Exalted must predict where this congealed essence of dead Gods will fall. Starmetal shines with the nature of the Five Maidens and warps fate slightly as part of its basic nature.
  • Jade: Commonest of all the Magical Materials, and used to make the weapons and armor of the Terrestrial Exalted. Jade comes in five colors, one for each Aspect.
  • Soulsteel: Comprised of the bodies of ghosts and scrapings from the Mouth of the Void in Stygia, soulsteel mutters and moans with the pain of the spirits trapped within. This horrifying black material is the trademark of the Abyssal Exalted.

An item made from one of the magical materials will function especially well in the hands of the type of Exalted that it was intended for (adding an additional +1 to any rolls made using the device, if a device does not use a roll but increases or reduces shift values then it increases/reduces it by an additional +1). This bonus only becomes active when the device is in the possession of the appropriate type of exalted.

In addition, the correct type of exalted may (at will activate the following effect):

  • Orichalcum: Device sheds light, bestowing a 'light of the Unconquered Sun' aspect on the wielder.
  • Moonsilver: Gives the owner the 'master of disguise' aspect.
  • Starmetal: Bestows the aspect 'touched by fate' on the owner.
  • Jade: Bestows the aspect 'blessed by the elements' as appropriate on the owner.
  • Soulsteel: Device sheds darkness, bestowing a 'shrouded in darkness' aspect on the owner.
  • Aspects gained from carrying items of the appropriate magical material can be turned on and off at will as long as the exalt still possesses an item of the appropriate material.

Jade-xalted: Finishing touches to character creation


Refresh functions as per the rules in Jadepunk, however, the levels of refresh that people start with differ slightly.

  • Mortals and equivalents begin with 5 refresh.
  • Terrestrial Exalted begin with 7 refresh.
  • Celestial Exalted (Solar, Lunar, Abyssal and Sidereals) begin with 10 refresh.

Refresh is reduced by purchasing assets, you may not reduce your refresh below one.


Assets are purchased in a similar fashion to those listed in the Jadepunk rules, there will be additional options available to represent exalted charms and how the construction of magi-tech style items differs between Exalted and Jadepunk, these will be covered in more detail in a later post.

Stress and Consequences

Every character begins with three stress boxes and three consequences (mild, moderate and severe); these function as per the rules in Jadepunk.

Jade-xalted: Constructing a Concept

One of the complaints/issues that I have often heard laid at the door of the Fate system is that, because there is such a lot of leeway when it comes to designing aspects, that it can often be bewildering for players, especially if they are unfamiliar with the setting or RPG-ing in general; in the forthcoming Cthulhu supplement for Fate (which I have been privilieged to do some of the writing for) it offers a little more guidance for creating aspects and even (should the players/GM wish to use them) a series of random tables for creating aspects. I plan to adopt something similar for the Jade-xalted conversion, the constructed aspects will be quite general to allow for the players to customise them, but should hopefully create a good jumping off point for anyone who is a little bewildered by all the choice available in the Fate system.

Obviously you do not have to use this system but it should help anyone who is struggling.

Concept Aspect

Under this system a concept aspect uses the following format:

"I am a/an [adjective] [type] who is skilled at [verb]"

List of sample adjectives:

  • Angry
  • Calm
  • Clever
  • Clumsy
  • Elegant
  • Famous
  • Fancy
  • Fierce
  • Glamorous
  • Handsome
  • Helpful
  • Honourable
  • Innocent
  • Lazy
  • Mysterious
  • Old-fashioned
  • Peaceful
  • Powerful
  • Scarey
  • Scarred
  • Sly
  • Thoughtful
  • Thoughtless
  • Ugly
  • Violent

List of sample types:

  • Mortal
  • Solar Exalted
  • Lunar Exalted
  • Sidereal Exalted
  • Air aspected Terrestial Exalted
  • Earth aspected Terrestial Exalted
  • Fire aspected Terrestial Exalted
  • Water aspected Terrestial Exalted
  • Wood aspected Terrestial Exalted
  • Abyssal Exalted

List of sample verbs:

  • Athletics
  • Blackmail
  • Craft work
  • Gambling
  • Fighting
  • Larceny
  • Leading others
  • Oratory
  • Research
  • Running
  • Sociallising
  • Sorcery
  • Stealth
  • Storytelling

So, for example, using this system and sample list I could quickly create a 'violent Solar Exalted who is skilled at leading others', a 'sly Lunar Exalted who is skilled at larceny' or an 'honourable Fire-aspected Terrestrial Exalted who is skilled at sociallising.'

The aspect could be invoked or compelled whenever the adjective was applicable or when the character's specialist skill or talent comes into play.

For example: Our violent Solar could invoke his aspect when involved in violent action but may be compelled when he struggles to resist being provoked into such action unwisely, the player of the exalt could also invoke when attempting to lead others in some sort of action but may also find others naturally looking to him for leadership or seeking his advice on important matters (when the aspect is invoked).

Invoking the concept based on the type of Exaltation

Players can also invoke their concept aspect based on what type of exaltation they have received, this is not as immediately obvious as the preceding invokes and so I provide guidelines below for appropriate invokes/compels, anyone familiar with the Exalted setting should feel free to use their own judgement though.

  • Solar Exalted: The Solars were created to lead the gods forces against those of the primordials, a solar concept may be invoked when vastly outnumbered in a combat or in an attempt to rally/lead others against a foe; however the Solars eventually found themselves becoming detached from the humanity that their powers raised them above eventually culminating in the first age solars becoming brutal and violent, a solar concept may be compelled when a lack of empathy could cause issue or when a lack of restraint may cause a problem.
  • Lunar Exalted: Originally the Lunars were bound to their Solar counterparts, but fleeing the wyld hunt they now find themselves uncomfortable in civilisation. A lunar concept may be compelled when a lunar is confronting a Solar Exalted or when their lack of familiarity with civilised society may cause problems; it may be invoked when the characters knowledge of the wild would aid them or when attempting to resist the blandishments of the civilised world.
  • Sidereal Exalted: Manipulators of fate, a sidereal concept may be invoked or compelled when chance may play a part in unfolding events, since people tend to forget sidereals their concept can be invoked to aid with stealth or avoiding detection.
  • Terrestrial Exalted: As rulers of the realm a terrestrial concept may be invoked to aid in any social roll within the realm, however they may likewise be compelled should the exalt be in a situation where knowledge of their heritage might be disadvantageous. Terrestrials may also invoke their concept aspect if there is a significant quantity of their particular element is present in the same zone or if they can convincingly weave the element into their description.
    Please note: If a terrestrial features their element in their description then that element is actually produced (causing no additional game effect beyond the invoke but potentially giving away their heritage); for example, a fire-aspected terrestrial invokes his aspect by describing a flaming punch, his attack will actually produce a momentary gout of flame.
  • Abyssal Exalted: Created as dark reflections of the solars by the Deathlords, abyssals may invoke their concept aspect when dealing with undead creatures or spirits or when manipulating the energies of the underworld is advantageous, however they are ill-suited to the lands outside the underworld and the concept may be compelled in situations where their deathly aura and lack of warmth may prove complicated.

But what about castes John?
Castes were the game 'splats' in the original Exalted and were basically used to govern what powers and abilities you could possess, since Fate is a more freeform and i'm hoping to create a quicker more action-packed gaming experience that with the original WOD rules i've chosen deliberately not to focus on castes.
However if you are desperate to include castes then I would simply suggest that you assign a character's caste based on the highest of their professions at character generation, the five professions were created based on the skill spread of the original castes so this should be a fairly close fit. 

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

RPG Questions - Asides in Online Games (video)

Asking the question 'How do you handle asides and side conversations in online games?'

Video Response - RPG 3 questions (video)

Video response to 'Adventure Story Games' questions.

Player Tips - Character Goals (video)

Talking about the importance of character goals in RPGs.

Dungeon World - Sapphire Island mini-campaign - Player write-up session 1

This is a write-up by one of the players (Kelly Grimshaw) of our first Sapphire Island Dungeon World session, Kelly plays the elven druid Demanor in the campaign.

Walking through my home known to the rest of the world as the Wildlands I could feel the piece and serenity of the land. The air, usually sticky and humid. The heat from the living forest made the animals and insects sluggish and their music would not be heard until the sun went down leaving the air cool and fresh. That was in summer.

Now the summer Lady had made way for old man winter and the crisp air hinted with the tin twang of snow on the way.

I had been asked by my mentor to go down to the old ruins of our people where a group of southern mainlanders had made a temporary home to collect various materials to aid the development of their way of life.

They had asked permission from the Elven council knowing that they would agree. Before I was born they knew that our time in this world begun to dwindle as with all growth something’s must fade and die. Our time with this world had nearly passed to make way for the time of the Humans. As with all young the Humans sometimes got over enthusiastic if unsupervised and the task was given to me to make sure that the land was not over worked.
Accompanying me was my friend Korra and Will.

Korra, a fiery eyed human bard from the distant Sapphire Isles. She told me she is the bastard child of a noble, receiving little other than some basic schooling by way of compensation for the social stigma that she faced;. She is desperate to add something to the status of her noble house and bring some glory to their name and hopefully gaining acceptance of herself in doing so. Something that thankfully does not happen in Elvan life she travelled to the mainland in search of ancient legends and to carry news to the mainland outposts of her house.

She had hear that a ship of her house was to dock on the coast and wanted to hear news from her homeland.

I met her very briefly while collecting herbs, barks and berries in the heart of the Wildlands. She had been exploring the jungles of the mainland eager to discover stories, from whom I do not know. Whilst there she was bitten by a venomous serpent and was if I had not have fallen over her she would have died.  I saw she was responding well to the treatment and I carried on my collection. She told me she often thought of our meeting and employed our other companion Will or Strike to his friends to find me so that she could tell the world of my adventures. Although I am still not sure the Humans would like to hear stories of an Elven Druid.

Strike I had known a lot longer. I had found him also wandering the Wildlands, I had helped him through his strange new lands and as a thanks and respect he bound our friendship in a Northlander blood ritual. On the long travel to the main land he had told me of how he had been made an outcast from one of the Northern barbarian tribes after he had poisoned the Chief for taking advantage of his younger sister. An act I believe he would commit again to save her. After his uncle replaced the old Chief the old warrior personally made sure he was safely stowed away in a trading ship. Although his blood still ruled the tribe Strike had broken one of their most sacred laws by using poison and not a fight to the death. I do not blame him, looking at his sinewy wiry frame he would have had no chance against a warrior of Odin. Once I had shown him though the dense rainforests he became a thief living on the streets of the cities and from the stories that make it through to me a damn good one.  

Before we began Strike had confided in me that he did not trust Korra. When he had first met her, somehow, I did not ask for the details she had recorded the story of how Will was banished for poisoning the chief after he took advantage of Will's sister. She twisted the facts, to make the story more interesting and in her version, the sister did the poisoning and Will took the blame. Worried that someone may one day hear or read the new story and take it as the truth, Will stole Korra's most treasured possession, an ancient flute given to her by her half-sister and held it as surety to prevent her account of his banishment ever being delivered to the masses.

With this knowledge I believe that Strike would never leave the bard’s side as a reminder how devastating stories could be.

But I digress, we walked on with the rainforest to our backs towards the coast. We were chattering about everything and nothing as we climbed to the top of one of the hills that littered the landscape and the conversation stopped.

In the distance, over the next rise was a dull red glow. Wisps of ash and embers rose up on the hot air against the white feathers of snow fall.

“I recognise this, stay here.” Strike said before slinking forward.

Korra and I looked at each other and both moved towards him.Stretching out below us was the smouldering ruins of the frontier settlement. Splintered timber littered the floor with the remains of the huts scattered to the four winds. Trees had been uprooted or snapped in half like twigs and the earth was black where the fire had taken hold. Stirring some ash with my foot I found the broken glass of a lantern, looking further I found several more, the possible reason for the fire. 
Strike turned my attention to huge dents dotted around the site. I had no explanation for these strange impressions and so I turned to the land in search of answers.

The unmistakeable signs of a gigantic creature had charged through the ruins and obliterated the settlement. The fire was started by the lamps being smashed and with all the curing timber around it had spread fiercely and quickly. I was answered.
Next I asked what is about to happen.

Whatever was responsible may return. If no one returns then Nature will take back the land, evident in the dwindling Elven ruins around the carnage. Feeling a little frustrated with answers I had already known I asked the final question, what is about to happen?

There are no bodies, if everyone had fled in terror who would have moved the remains? That was as maddingly unhelpful as the first two but it did make a very good line of reasoning.

“Since I was last here the settlement has expanded, the clearing is larger…” Korra began before wandering around trying to recognise anything in the wreckage.

“Could these dents be catapult?” Strike asked.

“No forget that, there are no boulders, just the holes.” He answered before we could.

“Possibly footprints.” I mused.

“There big footprints.” He replied.

“Ents.” I replied flatly.

“How big are these Ents?”

“As big as a tree.” I shrugged.

“Do they have legs?”

“After a fashion.” It is really difficult to explain a tree being, it is much easier just to show what they are.

Strike began his investigations again then returned. “Around twelve feet.” He muttered. “Can they be twelve feet?” he directed this question to me.

“Trees can be twelve feet. Trees can be six inches.” 

“Would they attack a village?”

I let out a long controlled sigh. That answer is complicated. “There are some who think that the land is worked more than it should be…”

“But would they wade in, obliterate and set fire to settlements?” Korra asked as she walked over to us.

“I think the fire was an accident, people running terrified not looking were, knock over a lantern, this happens all over the settlement and suddenly the whole village is ablaze.”

“What about the bodies?” Will asked almost casually.

“I was just going to come to that.”

“Do Ent’s eat?” Strike asked, his voice faltered slightly at the thought of the things coming back. 
“The same way plants do.” I replied, also with the image of a huge creature romping through the forest.

“What about other creatures?”

I looked at him blankly. “Don’t know about those, they’re not plants.”

“No, but you know stories and legends.”

“Yes.” Korra and I replied together.

“Well what in your lands eat human flesh?”

“Erm Ogres, giants, Cyclops…” Korra tried to remember the legends she sung of.

“Well are they round here?” Strikes voice getting more high pitched with urgency.

“Not that I know of.” Korra replied.

There was a weak, strangled sound, “h e l p!”

After searching the site we eventually discovered the back of a figure bound with thick rope to a tree; edging around the trunk we found a man barely alive, stripped to his waist. His eyes were missing, red encrusted holes stared blankly at nothing, his left hand had been cut off and a strange symmetrical web like pattern had been carved into the flesh of his chest.

I tried to get a feel of the land but a horrible sense of unease and irritability washed over me, the usual calm and tranquillity of the Wildlands had been disturbed.

“You do have a knife on you?” Korra asked Strike. Her answer was a sly smile.

“But who is he?” He asked chewing the side of his thumb.

“I don’t think he is a threat. I think he was a logger.”

The poor man was whimpering as we spoke, Strike cut his bonds and had to catch him before he fell; lying him gently on the ground Korra began tending to his wounds, singing as she did so, trying to sooth and calm him. When he was a comfortable as possible Korra tried to make sense of what happened.

“Men came from the south with some sort of priest. We were to be sacrificed to wake the sleeping

Giants. They took my eyes with a burning brand, after that all I could hear was screaming, so much screaming. They tied me to a tree. I heard crashing and splintering then silence. I have been shouting for someone to find me ever since.” It took a while for him to tell his tale but when he had finished Korra asked what he wanted.

“Don’t leave me here. I don’t want to be left here. I was offered the chance to go with the traders, I said I was making a new life here.” His voice trailed off to sobs.

“There are legends of giants.” Korra told us.

“The Sapphire Islands were formed when tow giants were fighting, after days and days of sharing blows and they were both about to give up, one giant punched the other so hard his teeth flew out his mouth and where they fell the smaller islands were formed. He fell hard, so hard it killed him and his body became the larger island of Mercia.” 
 “Where did it go?” Strike asked, breaking her spell.

I examined the lay of the footprints for a while before I spoke, “They emerged from the jungle behind us, attacked the settlement before bounding back the way it came. But there are Human tracks going towards the coast” I said pointing both behind and in front of us.

We discussed at length what we would do next and eventually decided to continue to the coast to try and make contact with Korra’s ship and see if they had any news about what had occurred. Taking one last look around, something caught my eye. On a large stone mantle that could easily sit four humans I noticed the same geometric web pattern drawn in blood roughly the width of a Human. I yelled in surprise and Strike and Korra were by my side.

“Is it a ritual?” Strike asked eventually.

Staring at the grotesque pattern, echoed on the man’s chest it seemed familiar yet not, “Yes but at the same time no. It is similar to the druidic patterns used in rituals but those had never been drawn in blood.” I tried to remember every ritual I had ever cast to try to find some understanding in the design.

“There are tales that tell of certain symbols and rituals that can control the energies of an area. I don’t know why they would do this but could these men have influenced this place in some way.” Korra asked standing a little way from the stone.

Strike turn to walk away and with the forward step came a slippery squelching noise. Bending down to investigate his face turned to a look of disgust when his questioning fingers pulled out a severed hand from under the plinth. Apart from it being detached from its owner the other noticeable thing was that the fingers were cut down to the first knuckle where ragged flesh hung from the bone. 
“Well I think I found the marker.” Strike said. I was not sure if he meant it as a joke or not, sometimes it was hard to tell. Korra took the appendage and studied it closely. It was easy to see that it was too badly damaged to reattach.

“Do we keep him with us?” Strike asked gesturing with a nod of his head towards the broken man. 

“Yeah, he is going to carry our equipment.” Korra replied. 

“How is he supposed to navigate the jungle floor with all its trips and pitfalls, we can’t shout instructions to him at every step.” Strike pointed out. “We could end his pain right here and now. This is a little too urgent to be dragging him around.”

Without warning this argument began to irritate me more than I could describe. I could not understand what was to discuss. Either we took him with us, left him to fend for himself or we laid him to rest. It was that simple. I tried to quell my irritation as the debate continued. 

“It’s no life with no eyes and no hand…” I heard Strike continue.

“I see your point but I am not going to help you do it.” Korra answered.

“Oh just make a decision and stick with it!” I snapped.

“Don’t get me wrong, I am going to do it…”

“Well I am not going to help.”

“Just do it then!” I yelled over them. Their look of shock echoed my own. Something was not right but I could not say what.

After making the man as comfortable as possible we headed to the coast, it took roughly half a day to reach the cliffs that overlooked the ocean as blue as the gems that shared its name, climbing to the highest point of the cliff with the salt spiked air whipping around us we gazed out hoping to see the ship already docked or at least gliding towards the coastline. What we saw was neither of those things.

The boat was stuck on the rocks, it was difficult to tell if the rocks that held it there had punctured the hull or not. The colours of Korra’s house floating in the water looked almost like they were flying in the wind. The bodies of the crew bobbing in the water, some face down others staring vacantly into the sky; we scrambled down as fast as the shifting sand dunes would allow and from our viewpoint on the shore it was clear that as well as the attack there had been sever fire damage.

“We need to get onto the ship and look at the damage.” Strike began but was cut short by the look Korra gave him. Her eyes said it all.

“If it was my people the boat would have been sunk.” He answered her unspoken question.

Wading out to the boat Strike found that the ship was not as badly damaged as first thought. In the water, close to the hull he saw a stranger in the midst of the swollen and distorted bodies of the sailors; dragging the body back to shore we helped Strike pull the Orc onto the sand. He was dressed in the heavy furs and leathers of the Northlands with a short bow still in one hand with no other signs of injury besides a clean line down the centre of his chest where he had been stabbed.
“This and a number of others were scattered over the boat and sticking out of the crew.” Strike explained handing over a black crude Orc arrow.

“Could it be Ice Giants?” Korra asked.

Strike and I exchanged a glance before he replied, “Can’t be Ice Giants, too fookin’ warm for a start.”

“You don’t know that, may be its not as much as you’d think.” 

“It’s a giant made of ice, the sun doesn’t feature much in Ragnarok.” Strike answered in a singsong voice, possibly reserved for slow children. 

“Look, we need to make this ship seaworthy and decide where to go from there.” He continued after seeing the hurt look Korra gave him.

I waded back to the ship with Strike to inspect the ship. He was right about the damage only being mostly superficial with the primitive Orc arrows embedded in the wood and the crew. There were no symbols drawn in blood or otherwise that I could see but inspecting the bodies of the sailors they did have something in common; they were all missing their left hand, I shouted this back to Korra who looked puzzled.

“What about your Orc?” I asked Strike who had started to pull the boat off the rocks.

“He was not of the same boat.” He grunted.

Back on shore with Strike busy beaching the boat and Korra scouring the shoreline for anything of use or value I found myself alone. Using this time to attempt to understand the feelings of anger, irritation and frustration I was sensing from the land.

I felt two great weights trying to pull me up. My eyes slam open and I find my hands around the neck of the sacrificial man. The weights pulling me are Strike and Korra trying to prise me off him.
I hurriedly let go, the man falls to the ground clutching his throat his eyes closed as he gasps like a fish out of water trying to catch his breath. As I watch the white welts begin to change colour to angry purple bruises while the man looked totally confused at the unprovoked attack.

“I was mooring the ship when I looked over to find the beach empty and a strangled cry coming from the jungle. We raced to find you with over the old logger trying you hardest to kill him!” Strike said to me as I struggled to escape both their holds, as confused as the old man. 

“I’m going to let go now. Care to explain what happened what happened?”

“As my spirit melded with the land red anger and hatred filled me, as though the land had been provoked in some way and I woke up to both of you pulling me off him.”

“I did say kill him but I meant a blade to the back of the neck. But whatever works best.” Strike sniggered but stopped when I looked at him. 

“I don’t know what to say, I wanted to see why my mood had been so effected…” I began but was interrupted from the treeline being ripped open by an enormous tree figure of an Ent who stomped into the clearing. It roared incoherently trying to voice the anger it felt. I had never seen such a murderous look on the face of usually such gentle creatures and seeing the others dive for cover I tried to grab the old logger round the waist to pull him to safety.

As soon as he realised someone had grabbed him he began thrashing around wildly trying to break my hold. I could not blame the man, the last time I had grabbed him I tried to kill him; he successfully managed to break my grip and all I could do was watch from my hiding place as the massive treeherder looked directly at the screaming man before crushing him under its gargantuan rooted foot. Satisfied he had been trampled into the earth the Ent roared once more before stomping back into the trees.

“It was his anger I was feeling.” I mumbled still shocked from the actions of the treehurder. 

“At least he died in battle.” Strike tried to comfort me.

Still staring at the retreating figure I spotted the same reddish brown symmetrical symbol daubed on the creatures back, in its centre someone had nailed a severed hand to the trunk of the Ent. 

“Follow that tree?” Strike suggested. 

“Get that thing off it.” I growled. 

“What thing?” Strike replied. 

“The blood symbol, with the hand nailed to it.” I snapped. 

“Follow that tree then.” Strike answered; I am so distracted by the damage inflicted on the Ent that I did not notice the black Orc arrows rain down around me. Strike flew at me, grabbing me round the waist and flung me behind the safety of a stone pedestal with him following close behind.

“I don’t think they like us.” He smiled weakly at me.

“They won’t when I’ve finished with them.” I hissed, the image of the Treehurder still burned brightly in my mind.

Fur clad Orcs began to emerge from the treeline black feathered arrows raining down around us.
“This is not defendable. We have to get to the boat!” Strike shouted about the clattering of the arrows that fell short. 

He snatched up Korra on the way down the sand and slung her over his shoulder. The Orcs grunted orders to each other in their own language while Strike lead us down the beach, easily leaving the lumbering creatures behind us.

Strike dumped Korra into the boat and frantically began to look for weapons, any weapons.
I entered the water and using the energies of the sea transformed into the form of a salt water crocodile. This time I was ready for the flow of hatred and used the tide of rage to my advantage.
Strike emerged from the boat brandishing a spear, he tested its weigh and flung it at the Orc nearest the boat. The Orc dodged out of the way but not fast enough. It let out a bellow of fury as it scraped down the side of his skull. 

The Orcs drop their short bows, the waist deep water making it impossible to use them efficiently and as they wade deeper I lash out at the Orc nearest to me grabbing him in my jaws and dragged him under. He was not going down easily though and before I managed to get a tight hold he dragged his dagger down my side. Once under the surface I rolled twice. On the second roll I felt the life force leave the Orc and letting go his limp body floated away. 

I surfaced to see Strike launch another spear at the Orc he had wounded, hitting him directly in the neck; as he fell to his knees an Orc behind him returned a spear to Strike hitting him in the shoulder. I twisted round to find two Orcs closing in on me. I opened my massive jaws intending to snap at one while tail whipping the other but I misjudged the distance and was repaid with a spear driven deep into my shoulder, with the deep wounds breaking my concentration I could feel my shape trying to re-shift back to my Elven form. As I transformed I threw my shillelagh into the face of the approaching Orc whose axe was already high above his head ready to strike, distracting him enough that the axe whispered past me instead of burring into my skull.

Seeing my struggle to get onto the ship Korra held out her hand to help me up but the shapeshifing and Orc attacks have left me too weak to pull myself up, seeing my struggle last remaining Orc pulled his axe up over his head to fling into my back. I can see this out the corner of my eye but I do not have the strength to do anything about it; from the side I see Strike realise what the Orc fighter is about to do and picking up a spear stabs at the Orc, hitting it in the top of the shoulder. 
Distracted, the Orc pulls at the spear shaft and bringing Strike in closer rakes his clawed fingers across his chest. Strike used this to his advantage and ignoring the pain like his forefathers he gets in close enough for to skewer the creature though the neck with his trusted rapier.

The splash of the dead Orc gives me the final ounce of strength to climb aboard, I fall onto Korra and roll over onto my back, breathless, beaten but still alive.

“You two wait here, I’m going to find those bows.” Strike said before dropping over the side of the ship with a splosh. I pull myself up enough to watch my friend and savour collect up the dropped Orc weapons when he stopped and looked at the tree line, I could not see what he had seen but I had a sense from my friends body language he was being watched.