My review of the D&D 5E Players Handbook.
Saturday, 30 August 2014
Wednesday, 20 August 2014
RPG Bugbears video about background noise in G+ Hangout games:
Tuesday, 19 August 2014
Wednesday, 13 August 2014
Monday, 11 August 2014
Saturday, 9 August 2014
I recently ran a session of the Tremulus RPG, a game using the 'powered by the Apocalypse' engine in a mythos horror setting (you can find a write-up of the session here - http://reddicediaries.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/ebon-eaves-tremulus-session.html) the game went really well despite having had minimal prep put into it; to show how little prep went into it i've put below all my prep notes for the game.
Index Card Map and Character Details
Close-up of Map
As he walked down the corridors of the Academy Philosophica, morning light streaming in through the windows, Athrialix' attention was drawn to a circle of his peers eagerly discussing matters of import; an elderly scholar was addressing them, a man that Athrialix recognised as Coptarix, a particularly learned (if somewhat eccentric) gentleman. Coptarix was telling his younger colleagues about the 'Trial of the Magi', a great tournament that was reputed to be both a test of intelligence and wisdom, it happened only rarely (indeed Coptarix had only known it occur once before in his lifetime) and was the only way to become a magus legally within Arrakis, those who took on the challenge either came back mystically stronger and with the support of the Sorceror King or they did not return at all. Those who took the test were sworn to secrecy and thus no-one knew exactly what they involved although, if rumours were to be believed, the test was different for each person; those who succeeded would appear again (after a suitable period of training) wearing the deep azure robes of a sorcerous apprentice.
Meanwhile, having heard a man in the local cantina discussing that Pharnish agents were behind the recent sabotage on the city's ancient waterworks, Bloodtide, Hurgen and Tk'Tak made their way to the college, built in a fairly normal quarter of the city, Tk'Tak transformed into a desert firebird on the way, thinking it less suspicious than a Thri-Kreen trying to gain access to the college. Arriving at the gate the Bloodtide explained to the guard on duty that they were here with a special delivery for Athrialix and, after a few moments, the guard sent a porter to fetch Athrialix. Arriving at the gate the scholar accepted the delivery of the firebird and ushered his friends inside to his own quarters, attempting to fetch them some water from the nearb pump, however the barest trickle emerged; Bloodtide showed the locket to Athrialix and explained about the Pharnish sabotage and the green slime that somehow had been used to effect it. Hurgen had notice some of the slime adhering to her boot still and went to scrape it off, she was surprised to find that it had dried out and had a spongey consistency, ash she touched it though the slime appeared to absorb the moisture from her hand, causing her skin to wrinkle and dry, wiping it off she quickly washed her hand under the trickle from the pump and appeared to suffer no further ill-effects.
There was a loud cry from the corridor as one of the academic collapsed, he appeared to be having some sort of seizure, green splotches had broken out on his skin; before Athrialix could get a better look the college apothecaries whisked the spasming man away on a makeshift stretcher, although just to be on the safe side Athrialix advised his colleagues not to drink the water.
Moving to the library (despite some initial problems with the portly librarians 'no animals' policy) Athrialix turned to Bloodtide asking "So are we resolved that we're going to try and solve this water problem then?"
"Yes, otherwise everyone will die" replied the Bloodtide in his usually matter-of-fact way.
Throwing himself into the research Athrialix discovered a reference in an old, badly translated tome pre-dateing the apocalyptic transformation of Athas into the desert world that it is now to something called the Creeping Death, a plant-like organism that devours water wherever it comes into contact with it, using the moisture to reproduce itself and repeat the cycle; Athrialix suggested that the best way to proceed might be to force Pharn itself into providing an antidote whilst the Bloodtide wondered with the Templars did not seem to be doing anything about the current situation. Athrialix took the sample of the slime that Hurgen had scraped from her boot and passed it to one of his colleagues for examination.
In response to Hurgen's queries about the fate of her people (now that slaves to power the waterworks were no longer needed) Tk'Tak, still in his firebird form, soared high above the city; to the north, outside the wall, a makeshift shanty town of tents had been erected and, under the watchful eyes of the Kings Templar, chain gangs of half-giants were digging huge trenches. As they walked through the streets heading for the northern gates, Bloodtide heard a familiar voice from a couple of streets away, one of his old opponents from the arena the Sultan of Death was addressing a small group of chained half-giants.
Resplendent in his green and yellow robes (strictly this were the colours of Pharn but then the Sultan did play the villain in the arena), the Sultan stroked his enormous waxed moustache and offered the half-giants a place of glory fighting in the arena, saying that instead of remaining as slaves and digging fruitless wells for water that doesn't exist they could spill blood on the sands and bathe in the glory and accolades of the cheering crowd. Bloodtide had to admit that the Sultan make it all sound pretty good, but he knew the truth behind the gilded lies, kicking a crate out of his way the Bloodtide hurled his sword at the Sultan striking him a glancing blow to the shoulder; in the chaos Hurgen snapped the chains of the half-giant prisoners, who immediately began to attack their jail guards with all their formidable might.
Striding forwards Bloodtide called out the Sultan, challenging him to single combat, the moustached villain responding by striking out with his mace, Bloodtide felt the blow crash upon him and tasted copper in his mouth, spitting out blood onto the sand he grinned and said "Is that all you've got?"
As he rushed forward, brandishing his weapon, Bloodtide's instincts saved him as the Templar rushed in from the side and hurled a bolt of sorcerous energy at the one-time gladiator; hurling himself to one side, Bloodtide impacted heavily with the wall, the eldritch bolt missing him by mere inches. Looking up, he could see that in the chaos the Sultan of Death had made good his escape, howling his frustration the Bloodtide barely registered Hurgan's voice in the distance shouting "Fight your oppressors!" as she lead the half-giants in a bloody rampage towards the city gates.
Bloodtide took a savage blow from the Templar on his wrist armour, quickly tying his wrist wrappings around the Templar's arm he pulled his enemy in close, driving his punch dagger into the unarmoured neck of the Templar, the Templar spasmed, gurgled and then dropped to the floor. Seeing that the half-giants were already some distance away and that the Bloodtide (formidable though he was) wouldn't be able to catch them on foot, Tk'Tak transformed into a Kank, the Bloodtide swung onto it's back and they raced through the city streets in pursuit of the berserking half-giant mob.
In the chaos Athrialix took the opportunity to follow the directions to the abandoned tunnels that Tk'Tak had given him and soon found himself standing beside an algal green expanse of slime that used to be a reservoir, it seemed as though the slime was spreading, looking around he saw the remains of Bloodtide's war spade still sticking from the slime and (carefully) grabbing the handle he was able to pull the, now slime-covered, body of the Pharnish saboteur from the muck. Leaning down next to the body Athrialix called on his mystical powers and spoke to the spirit of the deceased, learning that the man had indeed bought the Creeping Death here (contained in a silver locket) to poison the water supply; as the spirit began to fade, Athrialix called on the power of things living nearby, using defiling magic to hold the shade in place longer, discovering that a traitor lurking within the city had provided the saboteur with access to the waterworks.
As he let the spirit depart Athrialix looked around him, a circle of the plant growth had been reduced to ash and destroyed, could defiling magic somehow be part of the solution to this problem?
The rampaging half-giants smashed through the northwest gate of the city, battering aside the guards that stood in their way, outside were more chained half-giants digging what looked like wells under the watchful eyes of city guard and two Templars, one of the free half-giants was hacked down by a Templar as the Bloodtide charged through the ruins of the city gate, leaping from the back of his mount and barreling into the murderous Templar. As the sorcerous soldier attempted bring his eldritch powers to bare against the gladiator, Hurgen chopped the other in half, sending his blood pluming into the air whilst the Bloodtide head-butted his opponent, forced him to the ground and stabbed him with a punch dagger. Looking around they could see that the half-giants had freed their kinsmen and, with reinforcements now fighting with them, had quickly finished off the guardsmen; a young half-giant warrior called Ruusal seemed particularly impressed with the Bloodtide and asked to follow him as an aide, seeing something of his own eagerness for battle in the half-giant's eyes the Bloodtide accepted.
The half-giants quickly discussed what to do next, the majority of them wanted to make for a dwarven city that was rumoured to be in the mountains far to the north, perhaps they would find some allies or at least respite from persecution there; Tk'Tak agreed to sneak back into the city and buy provisions for themselves and the 20 half-giants that survived so that they could make the perilous trip through the desert to the north.
Meanwhile Athrialix had been attempting to create a ritual for solving the city's water problem and believed that he could do so but that it would take him several days, he would also require a sample of pure water and help from someone who understood the natural flows of energy; he was relieved when Tk'Tak arrived (thinking that the Thri-Kreen druid could help in the ritual), but was less relieved when Tk'Tak told him about the half-giant breakout and their plans to head north towards a dwarven city. Athrialix agreed to prevail on his uncle Kallisto to get them a good deal on the supplies in return for Tk'Tak's help getting a sample of clean water from outside the city and his aid in casting the ritual; the mantis-man agreed and, after some haggling with Kallisto (who was not happy that they had still not supplied him with the Rampager body parts as originally agreed) they got most of the provisions necessary for the northwards trip.
Meeting up with the rest of the group they distributed the supplies and began moving northwards, planning to stop off at an oasis that Hurgen knew of nearby (she had rested there after her initial escape from slavery) before continuing, Tk'Tak would take a sample of water from their to Athrialix for use in the ritual and would meet up with the ground afterwards.
The last words that Athrialix had said to Tk'Tak before they parted ways still rang in the mantis-man's ears, "I have to undertake the test of the magi."
Friday, 8 August 2014
As the group crested the sand dune, creeping slowly to the top they witnessed a scene of utter devastation, the camp beyond the dunes had been smashed until it was almost unrecognisable, one of the archaeologists lay on the floor, blood staining the sand from a deep wound in his side whilst the Templar was engaged in a pitched battle with a long sinuous creature combining the worst aspects of a centipede and a crustacean, a small crate attesting to where the beast had burst fourth from beneath the ground and attacked. Raising her shield Hurgen charged down the steep side of the dune into combat, Tk'Tak ran forward to assist but lost his footing and tumbled down the dune, open-mouthed the Bloodtide shook his head, seeing that any chance of strategy had now gone and charged after them. Athrialix meanwhile took full advantage of the distraction that his berserking comrades were providing and silently slipped into the ruined camp.
Moving into one of the surviving tents undetected Athrialix saw a microscope, numerous local specimens of fauna and what appeared to a scale drawing showing the size of the rest of the state (assuming that the body attached to the giant obsidian hand held to normal human proportions), he could barely stifle a gasp, the thing was huger than anything that he had ever beheld, a veritable collosus. Rifling through the papers he came across what looked like an itinerary and scratched his chin, it seemed that the original purpose of the dig had been to invest some interesting flora called the 'Dead Man's Cactus' and that the party had only chance across the hand by accident after also being set off course by a sandstorm, the Templar had insisted that they prepare a report and charts for the Sorceror King before returning to Arrakis.
Outside the Templar stabbed at the Ankheg screaming "Thus perish all who oppose the Sorceror King!" Seeing that the immediate danger was past Hurgen offered her hand to the Templar, but the armoured warrior just sneered at the prospect of shaking hands with a slave, before he could utter a biting retort the Bloodtide (having suffered the tender mercies of the Templars before stabbed his punch dagger into the man's neck killing him. Tk'Tak was examining the tunnel left by the Ankheg whilst Athrialix bought out the information that he had found, musing about an old legend concerning a Giants Graveyard far to the north of the continent and that perhaps it was connected with the great hand, perhaps these ruins were even the remnants of Hazak Simm, the lost city of the giants - who knows?
The sands around the group suddenly burst into life as a dozen or so insectile figures that bore a startling resemblance to Tk'Tak rose from the sands, one of the Thri-Kreen who had irredescent insect wings and referred to himself as 'the Caller' stepped forward to speak with Tk'Tak and explained that they were the guardians of the 'Father of Giants' set here to prevent him from rising again; he asked them to leave explaining that it was not safe for them here, he pointed at Athrialix and continued "especially not for one such as him."
Eager not to have to kill the remaining scholars from the dig, Hurgen ordered them to not to go home (since no doubt the Sorceror King's agents would get the location of the ruins from them), providing them with rations and suggesting that they make for the City of Shades to the east; as they walked off into the distance over the dune, Bloodtide turned to the Caller and said "You do realise that they will tell the Sorceror King and the Templars will be here in weeks?"
Nodding the Thri-Kreen Caller gestured to two of his clutch mates and pointed eastwards after the scholars saying simply, "Kill them."
Reacting violently to the proposed callous murder of two fellow scholars, Athrialix reached out his hand summoned fourth a wave of magical energy that blasted out towards the Caller, the matis-man leapt nimbly to one sided, raising his own twin sets of arms in return; a huge sharp fragment of rock raised itself from the ground and flung itself towards Athrialix, striking him through the shoulder and causing him to grimace as blood stained his academics robes. Stepping between Athrialix and the Caller, the Bloodtide managed to smooth over the situation by explaining that the man were like the Caller's clutch brothers, this seemed to smooth things over and the Caller shook hands with the Bloodtide; meanwhile Tk'Tak had transformed into a silt serpent and quickly dragged the injured Athrialix below the sands, emerging behind one the ruined tents, away from the other mantis-men.
Rubbing some healing herbs into his injuries, Athrialix gestured to Hurgen and the two of them headed for the Mekillots, riding northwards away from the ruins, the Bloodtide shook hands with the Caller once more and both himself and Tk'Tak followed after their companions whilst the mantis-men returned to their vigil.
Days later they arrived in Arrakis, the whole city seemed to be in an uproar as they rode through the gates, there was talk that the ancient waterworks below the city had somehow been damaged, Tk'Tak spoke to some passersby who blame everything from ancient curses to the work of Pharnish spies for the destruction of the only stable water supply in the region. The crack of a whip and shout alerted the group to the presence of a templar and five soldiers leading a chained gang of half-giants down the street towards the gare from the city; although she glared at the Templar and worried for the fate of her people if the news of the sabotaged waterworks was true, Hurgen chose not to make a scene, the Bloodtide, having once been a slave himself, was sympathetic to the plight of the half-giants.
Athrialix travelled to see his uncle Kallisto in the merchants district of Arrakis and rote a letter about the mantis-men tribe sacrificing people, the rough location of the ruins and a mention of the obsidian hand, he was interrupted when a half-giant escaped from a chain gang burst in shouting "Help, they'll kill us all given the chance!" As Templars began to burst into his uncle's shop, Athrialix decided that discretion was the better part of valour and slipped out of a side door, making his way towards the academy and his dorm as quickly as possible.
Hurgen meanwhile had given Tk'Tak directions to the abandoned tunnels that she had originally used to escape from her slavery in the waterworks below Arrakis; transforming into a small domestic lizard and snuck into the waterworks, however, the normally clanking ancient machinery was silent, there were signs of explosive sabotage and a bloody struggle. Seeing few guards (perhaps because the damage had been done) Tk'Tak returned to where he had left the others and lead them back to the underground caverns full of ancient stone pillars and ruined pieces of the pre-cataclysm mechanisms that had once provided water for the entire city. Heading down to what had once been the underground reservoir they were horrified to find that the water appeared to have been replaced by a sticky green slime, a rough notice was pinned to the water of the tunnel:
"Stay Out, by Order of the King's Templar"
His eyes drawn to something glinting in the slime, the Bloodtide spotting a body slowly slipping below the muck, grabbing his war spade he sunk it into the corpse and pulled it to shore, as he did so a wonderous sight met his eyes, a silver locket ("metal, real metal!") tumbled from the Pharnish uniform that the corpse wore, a red ruby was studded into the lid of the locket and inside were traces of a greenish powder. The dead body also had six Pharnish coins showing the image of Jom'Ul Sorceror King of Pharn on them, the Bloodtide sneered, throwing them back into the slim before pocketing the locket.
"We need to see what Athrialix makes of this."
For a write-up of the first session and the thoughts behind the campaign please see my previous post: http://reddicediaries.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/creating-dark-sunesque-campaign-for_10.html
Athralix' uncles Kallisto explained to the group that the iron hard chitin and razor sharp scythes of the ravagers who were a king's ransom and that, since they always travelled in packs, it was entirely likely that there were some more of the arachnoid beasts lurking in the dunes surrounding the city of Arrakis, he explained that he would pay them handsomely for the creature's body parts and introduced a guide to the desert that he had procured for them, a mantis-man who introduced himself as Tk'Tak through clicking mandibles. As the group walked through the city streets (having accepted Kallisto's offer and some money up front as a goodwill gesture) their new guide mused that there must be a reason that the Ravagers were attacking the city; these thoughts were interrupted by a ragged beggar man from the side of the streets shouting that the gods had returned to Athas and that he had seen them with his own eyes, Hurgen shook her head sadly whilst the Bloodtide sneered, everyone knew that the gods had long forsaken Athas, the man was obvious made from the heat. Athrialix and Tk'Tak had both seen strange things in their time though and spoke to the man, who told them how he had been lost in the desert and had seen a huge obsidian hand bursting forth from the sands amidst ancient ruins.
Visiting Sung-Ki, a local trader the group purchased a bull-mekillot to carry their provisions and equipment before making their way into the desert, Hurgen checked their rations whilst Tk'Tak plotted the route and the Bloodtide ranged ahead as a scout; they had been travelling for some days when the Bloodtide spied a tell-tale whirling of sand and wind approaching and shouted back "Sandstorm! Dig yourselves in!"
Tk'Tak concetrated and shed his own form turning into a silt serpent and effortlessly burrowing into the sand whilst the others covered themselves as best they were able; emerging several minutes later it seemed that they had wandered far off course to the south, Athrialix peered curiously at several strange, spikey cactus like growths that dotted the landscape around them, but his investigations were cut short when mummifed hands burst from the sand and ragged, sun dried corpses lurched into a horrifying semblance of life, their hands grasping for the living. Diving backwards Athrialix threw out his hand and a bolt of arcane force smashed into one of the creatures, whilst the Bloodtide and Hurgen drew their weapons, wading into the creatures, smashing them to pieces.
Once the adrenalin of the combat had been spent the party had chance to inspect the (now truly) dead bodies, one of them was dressed in the uniform of a King's Templar from Arrakis, the uniform was tattered but unmistakable, tucked into the pocket of the uniform was a rough map showing the location of some ruins nearby, there was also a large X on the map with 'the hand' written under it in arcane runes. The talk of the hand reminded Hurgen of an ancient myth concerning the father and mother of giants who all other giants are descended from, creatures so big that they blotted out the sun.
Deciding to visit the site on the map the group made camp as it started getting dark, whilst on his watch Tk'Tak heard noise from over a couple of dunes and, sneaking forwards, spotted the signs of some sort of archaeological dig being conducted under the watchful eye of a Kings Templar, they seemed to be excavating the fingertips of a giant hand protruding from the sands, they were so dark in colour that all light seemed to be absorbed by them and they stood out even amidst the darkness of the night. Returning to camp Tk'Tak woke the Bloodtide and told him what he had seen, Athrialix had also woken up, complaining of a bad dream, any further explanation was cut off by an ear-piercing scream from the direction of the dig.
Thursday, 7 August 2014
It was a damp, cold November evening when Franklin Weed dropped into the newly opened Kensington Antiques, just down from an old crumbling chapel on the main street of Ebon Eaves; Franklin had barely known his uncle Henry and so had been surprised when the old man had left him the tottering pile known as Weed Manor in his will; as might be expected of such a place, it was crammed with all manner of oddments and assorted objets d'art that had been collected through his uncles life. So it was that young Mr Weed had scoured the local directories for someone to help him inventory and catalogue the assorted items and had come across a small advertisement for the newly opened Kensington Antiques, proprietor one Ms Kensington, a young woman with a round face and plain, smart clothing.
The two of them had been amicably discussing arrangements for the inventory the bell on the door of the shop rang and a young woman's voice called out "Hello there, shop!" Excusing herself Ms Kensington walked to the front of the shop where she was met by a young woman wearing black clothing of the latest city style and a pair of tinted spectacles; the young woman introduced herself as Tiffany Blaine, she seemed delighted that there were at least two more younger people in the town, remarking on the aged population of Ebon Eaves, something that Ms Kensington had noticed herself since moving there. Whilst the two women haggled over the price of a chaise long said to have been smuggled out of Napoleonic france, Ms Blaine revealed that she was a widow and lived in Blaine House up on Castle Hill, one of the three large hills surrounding the town, the others being Barrow Hill (where Weed Manor was built) and the other Wyrm Hill, home to the abode of the town Mayor Mr Finch. Ms Blaine finished making arrangements for one of her domestic servants to pick up the chaise whilst Ms Kensington mentioned that she was planning to host a small get-together, Tiffany seemed delighted, saying that she would almost certainly attend and that Ms Kensington should send her invitation to Blaine House.
Returning her attention to Mr Weed, Ms Kensington agreed to accompany him to Weed Manor and inspect the collected goods, unfortunately a storm was brewing outside and Franklin struggled to start his car, a kindly old woman rushed over to help, holding an umbrella over Mr Weed whilst he struggled with the mechanics of the car; the woman introduces herself as Sheila Bradley and it turns out that she knew Franklin's uncle Henry, calling him a fine figure of a man and remarking that it was a sad way for such a kind man to end his life. Having heard no real accounts of his uncle's death Franklin pressed her for me information and was told that he has been struck by lightning whilst on Barrow Hill, Sheila says that her son Peter (who works for the local constabulary) had been one of the first on the scene; further attempts at conversation were cut off by the car suddenly spluttering into life, Ms Bradley bid them farewell and headed off across the street. Ms Kensington had been distracted by some strange blobs of light that she had seen hovering over the church tower, but there was a flash of lightning and when she blinked her eyes the shapes had gone, leaving not even an after-image.
The car chugged down the road, Mr Weed squinting against the rain pounding down on his car windscreen, there was a sudden flash as they reached the bridge crossing the river on the round to Barrow Hill, a forked tongue of lightning struck the decaying stone structure and most of it tumbled into the thrashing water of the river and disappeared beneath the spray; pulling the car to a screeching halt Franklin got out to inspect the bridge, it appeared that enough of it had survived for them to edge across it on foot but they would have to leave the car behind, not wanting to have come all this way for nothing, Ms Kensington agreed and stepped out into the rain.
Eventually after a long water (and thoroughly drenched) the two of them arrived at the old greystone buildings of Weed Manor, the building had once been a farmhouse many years ago and had gradually grown into the stately home that it was now, although clearly it had seen better days; having been in the town for a while, Ms Kensington remembered hearing a story about how the previous occupant had dismissed all of his staff a couple of years before his own death, giving no explanation. As they walked up the driveway to the house a furtive,m shadowy figure lurked near the door, Franklin stepped forward to challenge him and the figure resolved itself into an old man with sparse grey hair, wearing a flat cap and long coat; the man introduced himself as Jeremiah Tompkins, explaining that he had once been a manservant in the house and, hearing there was a new occupant, had come to see whether or not there was any chance of future employment. A little unsure of the fellow, but eager to perhaps find out more about his uncle, Franklin bid Jeremiah make some food for himself and Ms Kensington whilst the two of them explored the old house further.
Upstairs Franklin found an american civil war uniform in a wardrobe, the southern clothing was in remarkable condition, in the pocket was a woodcut showing a man wearing the uniform who bore a remarkable resemblance to Jeremiah, who was even now clattering around in the kitchen downstairs making food; Ms Kensington meanwhile had been poking around in a dusty linrary, most of the books were useless and long decayed but when she pulled on a remarkably well preserved book the bookcase slid aside to reveal some sort of concealed staircase heading down, thinking that she must tell Franklin she slid the passage closed and began to make her way upstairs. As she left the library Ms Kensington's eye was caught by the frame of a large painting, it had a plaque bearing a date 100 years previous to the day and appeared to show the gathered people of the town, one of them looked remarkably like Franklin, but more shocking was that two of the people looked strikingly like Sheila and Jeremiah. Screwed up at the foot of the picture she found a piece of paper containing the names of about sixty people ('must be everyone in the town' thought Ms Kensington) plus another ten that were crossed out, two of the crossed out names were Sally Tompkins and Tom Bradley listed under Jeremiah Tompkins and Sheila Bradley.
Walking back downstairs Franklin poured over Ms Kensington's finds, he also showed a note that he had discovered:
"I know what we did was wrong now and I intend to make amends for my part in it - all the time in the world isn't worth the price we paid. H.W. "
Leading Franklin to the library Ms Kensington revealed the secret passage, pulling a flickering torch from her coat pocket and shining it into the darkness to illuminate a stone staircase heading down to a strange underground tunnel, odd scratches covered the wall and, as they walked down it, roots began to protrude through the ceiling letting them know that they were reaching the boundaries of the Ebon Wood behind the Weed Estate.
From up ahead of them a strange chewing, grinding sound echoed down the tunnel, Ms Kensington swung her torch but with a spluttering flicker the torch died, plunging the scene into darkness, Ms Kensington's foot knocked against something and she reached down to feel a human skull beneath her fingers, scarred with bite marks that resembled the imprint of human teeth, "We need to get out of here" said Ms Kensington, aware the the chewing noise had suddenly stopped.
Scrabbled feet sprinted down the tunnel towards them, both Franklin and Ms Kensington shrieked and turned around, running back down the tunnel, Franklin leapt up the staircase into the library, but Ms Kensington stumbled, fearing that any moment she would feel the hot breath of her pursuer on her neck, instead she heard the voiced of Jeremiah saying "Quickly Miss lets get you out of there" and strong hands pulled her up the stairs before sliding the secret door shut. Whatever had been pursuing them banged on the other side of the secret door for a few minutes and then all fell silent.
Franklin attempted to press Jeremiah about what had just happened but all the uncomfortable looking old man would say is that the woods were dangerous and that it was best not to go in them, not if the two of them wanted to fit in around the town, he seemed almost ashamed as he talked but re-iterated that he thought some new blood was just what Ebon Eaves needed. Ms Kensington had recovered and grabbed some books from the library shelves, flipped through them she came across very little due to the damaged condition of the books besides a legend about a tree in the woods being struck by lightning and petrified about one hundred years ago. Taking a gamble Franklin offered to re-employ Jeremiah in return for further information, he seemed about ready to talk when there was a rumble of thunder and a sound of exploding glass, a jagged spear of lightning smashed through the bay window of the library, striking Jeremiah in the centre of his chest; Ms Kensington ran over to him expecting the strike to have instantly killed the old man, she was surprised that he clung to life, lasting just long enough to say "Sally, i'm so sorry."
The storm was getting worse outside and Franklin reached for the telephone to call the emergency service when it rang shortly before he could put his hand on it, as Ms Kensington covered up the body with a cloth Franklin answered it, he recognised the crackling voice of Tiffany Blaine on the other end of the line, she told them that the Mayor and police department were gathering all of the locals in the abandoned church to keep everyone together during the crisis, then the phone went dead. Still shocked by events, but realising that they might find some police help at the church the Mr Weed and Ms Kensington made their way back through the pouring rain to the main street of Ebon Eaves and to the old church where most of the locals had gathered inside, Sheila Bradley was making mugs of steaming tea and passing them around trying to comfort people.
A few minutes passed and a woman's voice from outside shouted to be let in, it appeared that another one of the locals had made their way to the crumbling sanctuary, an elderly resident of the town opened the door to let her in and was rewarded when a lightning strike hit him, blasting him back across the room as a smoking corpse. "This place has a lightning conductor you said," mused Franklin to Ms Kensington "how could the lightning strike through the door like that?"
"It can't" whispered Ms Kensington in reply, her voice on the edge of ragged panic
Looking around the room Franklin noticed that both Ms Blaine and Mayor Finch were conspicuously absent (he remembered seeing both of them when they had arrived less than an hour ago), he could hear raised voices coming from a side chamber, realising that he might hear better from the confession booth that back onto the side chamber, Franklin slipped inside and cupped his hands to his ear, pressing it against the back wall of the confession booth.
"I didn't think it would be like this?" said a woman's voice
"This is the price that you have to accept Ms Blaine," replied a masculine voice "I think you could be a good fit in Ebon Eaves"
"But you never said it would be..."
"I didn't think it would be, normally have more time, but perhaps including you in our bargain has bought the deadline forwards?"
"But the people, the lightning..." stuttered Ms Blaine
"Think of what we're offering though, you'll have time to make up for the price, all we're asking is two young people that you barely know, then you'll be one of us, forever" replied the voice of Mayor Finch.
Slipping out of the confessional Franklin whispered "We need to get out of here" to Ms Kensington and the two of them began making their way towards the door.
"I don't think so Mr Weed" said the cruel voice of Mayor Franklin as he emerged from the side-chamber lifting a spike of petrified wood in his hand, "now don't struggle and you have my word i'll make this as painless as possible."
Ms Kensington had been rummaging in her coat pockets for something to help and her fingers closed around a bag of magnesium powder that she had used to help take some publicity photographs of her shop, she hurled it into one of the lit church candles and a bright flash filled the room dazing most of the townsfolk; unfortunately it didn't seem to affect the mayor who lunged forward, batting aside the candlestick holder that Franklin was attempting to defend himself with and sinking the spike of petrified wood into Franklin's chest, Franklin screamed as he felt his own blood pulsing down his shirt.
"Ms Kensington, run!" shouted Franklin as, with the last of his fading strength he hurled himself towards Mr Finch, seeing the gleefully mad gleam in the man's eyes.
Sprinting out of the door to the church before the townsfolk could recover Ms Kensington didn't look back, her heart pounding in her chest as she ran towards the border of Ebon Eaves, behind her a scream that sounded both like Franklin and wholely unlike anything torn from a human throat rent the air and overhead the rain began to stop and the clouds to clear, blue sky showing through the grey as the lightning's price was paid.
After three days of travel food and rations of water on the small ship begin to run perilously low, Strike attempts to fish but is used more to ice-fishing that catching his food on the open river, more successful is the elven Druid Demanor who transforms herself into a dolphin and swims alongside catching fish and throwing them (still squirming) up onto the deck. A thick fog has drifted in and the group, intent entirely on the task of catching enough food to survive, are taken by surprise when a large galleon looms out of the mist, Korra recognises the green sails as belonging to House Folder, oone of the merchantile houses of the Sapphire Islands, hoping that her family ties (via a distant cousin) might stand her in good stead the bard hails the ship. The hail is answered by Mikhail Folder, captain of the vessel, a rugged looking man in a long green wax jacket who is happy to see a fellow islander and invites them all aboard to have dinner on his vessel.
During their discussions in the galley they are fussed over by a the chubby red-haired ships cook, a man called James, who seems delighted to have some more discerning palettes to provide food for, he shoots Captain Folder an exasperated glance when he asks for just his normal bland bowl of porridge. As they all tuck into their food, Strike tells them about the two armies of dark elves and of the northlander dead that are slowly heading up the mainline towards Royal City, as he talks Strike begins to feel a little light headed and too late he identifies the sweet taste on the meat he had been served, oil of tagit, a sophorific, glancing around he sees that Demanor and Korra appear to have already succumbed to the poison and he attempts to stand but it is too late and he falls into a deep sleep.
Unaware that Demanor does not need to eat and had only sampled the barest mouthful of the food (and is only feigning unconsciousness) the Captain leaves to fetch his men, instructing James to keep an eye on their slumbering guests. As James returns to the kitchen, Demanor risks opening her eyes and, turning into a rat, bites Strike on the nose, waking him from slumber, after a brief discussion she makes a loud noise like she had just started to wake up and Strike hides behind the door; when the chef re-enters Strike swiftly knocks him out and enters the kitchen, he finds only a young kitchen boy who he also renders unconscious.
Meanwhile Korra slumbers peacefully, through a drugged haze she dreams of an ancient elven tale that tells of the Tree of Life, from where all life is descended.
Hiding the bodies of the kitchen staff, Strike and Demanor hear the Captain returning with his men, realising that they are outnumbered, they return to their seats and pretend to be asleep, allowing the Captain's men to take them to a prepared cabin; the Captain laments having to drug them saying that he simply couldn't allow them to ask questions about the cargo, but that they are still guests and all due care should be taken of them.
Once they are left alone, Demanor returns to her rat form and sneaks out of the cabin past the two sailors on guard, eventually finding her way to the cargo hold where a squat, thick set figure stands unmoving, secured with numerous chains and girded in stone armour; being one with the spirits of natural things Demanor attempts to communicate with what she assumes to be a statue, but is unable to make contact with the spirit of the thing. She returns to the cabin and bites Korra, waking her, Strike's commanding voice cutting through her drug-induced haze, "We need your intelligence."
Listening to Demanor's description of the strange statue-like being, Korra remembers an ancient legend that talked of the mythical stoneborn, the creatures who built the oldest section of the wall that now surrounds the Kingdom; deciding that enough is enough Strike confront the Captain, who explains that he was concerned that they were Kingdom customs officials, but given that they know about the cargo and haven't attempted to raise any alarm that is clearly not the case. Mikhail apologises for drugging them and takes them down to the hold where the strange statue creature rests, remembering that (in Korra's tale) the Stoneborn had dealings with the ancient elves, Demanor tries a number of phrases in ancient elvish; none of them have any affect until she says "The wall is in danger", the stone creature reacts to this by taking hold of her arm, although it moves slowly and remains silent.
One of the sailors tells them that the statue had a hammer when bought on board and, following instructions from Strike he runs to fetch it, the hammer is presented to the Stoneborn at which point it releases Demanor's arm and holds the hammer aloft, jagged lightning flashed through the porthole striking the weapon and, in a strangely echoing voice the Stoneborn says "The wall is threatened."
Captain Mikhail explains that they were paid a kings ransom by the Emperor of the Sapphire Islands to illegally smuggle one of the statues (one of thousands discovered below the Great Peaks by a recent Kingdom dig) out of the Kingdom, Strike wonders whether this is connected with the news of a recent ban on quarrying in the Great Peaks that had reached his ears, apparently order by royal decree of King John V. Distracted, Captain Folder fails to notice when Strike pockets the small container of Oil of Tagit, the northlander tells the Captain to move the Stoneborn to his boat and then he can legitimately tell the Emperor that the northlanders took it and hopefully escape any reprisals from the leader of his homeland; nervous of the creature in his hold the Captain agrees.
An hour later the two ships part company, the Stoneborn standing on the deck of Strike's vessel, as they near shore, with a low grinding sound it steps overboard and disappears like a stone weight below the water, seemingly unconcerned it walks up the beach as our heroes disembark and begins to walk in a methodical fashion in the direction of Royal City.
Days later as they reach the outskirts of Royal City the Stoneborn continues to walk forward pushing through the assembled city guards that gather around it, barely seeming to notice them, Korra hears one of the guards say "It's heading to the wall, just like the others."
Theorising that the Stoneborn have become active now the wall is threatened, Strike says that they should head to the palace and warn the King of the many dangers his kingdom now faces, the Stoneborn may help, but that depends on whether they prove to be allies or not.
As Demanor reflected on the departure of her people (well, most of them) from the world of men she felt a lingering disappointment that they had so easily abandoned the world that had been their home for so many years; Strike was a good deal less introspective in his opinions, mocking the cowardice of the elves for "running away" from their responsibilities and leaving their "mess behind them." Korra for her part was quiet, no doubt her head was still whirling with the thought of all the stories that she had collected from the elves prior to their departure, stories which were now entirely unique.
Zephandius (one of the younger, zealous elves who had chosen to remain behind) was talking to his fellows saying that they must guide the humans and show them the error of their ways, Demanor listened by counselled caution lest the humans see the elves as another enemy, Korra advised them to visit smaller settlements first and give the humans time to adjust to the idea of accepted elven aid in current affairs.
Troubled by her vision of the pulsating, dark tree Demanor wanted to set off in search of the strange dark elven figures that the vision had revealed to her and, joined by her two friends, headed into the western jungle; as they continued westwards the feelings of anger that seemed to bubble below the surface of the natural world and that were reflected in the elven druid herself seemed to grow stronger and it was only Korra's soothing singing that allowed the elf to maintain a grip on her temper. A shout from Will caused them to stop as he pulled back the foliage revealing the greying flesh of a dead man, clad in the furs and humidity rusting armour of a northerner, an axe lay near the man's hand, a strange, thick reddish substance coating the blade; not wanting to see one of his kinsmen go to Valhalla without a weapon in his hand Strike picked up the and placed it on the dead northlanders chest. Without warning the ribcage of the corpse collapsed causing Will to fall forwards and his hand to sink into the stick red substance, immediately Strike started to feel a little queasy and suspected that it must be poison of some kind, luckily he was able to wipe the rest off before any further damage was done to him (although he still felt slightly weakened).
Trying to hide his momentary weakness from his companions, Strike began to analyse the poison using his years of experience attempting to identify it, however, it was like nothing he had seen before, it had the consistency of tree sap but was like nothing natural he had come across; Korra was reminded of an old tale where a man attempted to poison his wife but was tricked into drinking the poison himself, when he died his spirit was not allowed entry into the afterlife and wandered the land, corrupting it until the spirit killed the wife and the land returned to normal.
Without warning the dead body suddenly jerked upright, cadaverous hands grabbing Demanor's leg, Strike spun round and with a slice of his blade beheaded the creature, the skull rolled to rest against a tree, a piercing shriek emanating from it as the foliage and roots around them began to move and disgorge more of the rotten half-dead, orcs, farmers and northlanders all stumbled forward, hands grapsing and eyes blank. Korra finished off the still moving body of the original creature, meanwhile Demanor concentrated and, leaping up into the nearby trees, she assumed the form of a great jungle ape, brutally dispatching one of the shambling creatures with a blow from her mighty simian arms. A few moments later the group had destroyed the creatures, they stood panting from their extertions and several injuries Korra began to sing her songs of healing whilst Demanor applies some herbal poultices to the bard.
Demanor had been examining the trees, they all seemed tainted with the poisonous sap, she suggested burning them and purifying the area with fire but, as Strike pointed out, the wood was entirely too wet to burn; a ragged voice from the many shattered and destoryed skulls littering the clearing shouted out the word "Coward, the gates of Valhalla are closed to such as you!" Although he didn't recognise the voice, Strike looked thoughtful, he had an idea who might be responsible.
Deciding that she must risk being overwhelmed by the feelings of anger in order to find out more about their current situation Demanor merged herself with the natural forces running through the area, her eyes rolled back in her head as her spirit travelled elsewhere, in her trance she found herself standing before a huge shadowy figure that vaguely resembled a northlander in outline, twin points of red light serving as eyes. The shadow lashed out with a huge axe and, as she dived backwards, abruptly ending her trance a shallow wound opened on her chest where the tip of the axe had grazed her flesh. Once again the ragged voice echoes through the clearing, "The bloody left hand awaits."
Seeing Korra and Demanor looking puzzled, Strike explained that in northlander culture when several tribes elected a warleader they dyed his left hand permanently red as a sign of his leadership and he was known as the bloody left hand, they were interrupted by a crashing growing closer through the trees, Demanor transformed herself into a jungle grass snake whilst he two companions dived behind trees. A bedraggled looking elf burst into the clearing, seeing this the party revealed themselves, the elf told them that, after they had left the elven city in came under attack from strange creatures who swamped the elves, it was a massacre; Zephandius ordered a couple of his fatest men to flee to try and warn nearby settlements, thanking the elf for his news they suggested that he continue to warn the human settlements. The elf nodded and, after accepting some healing poultices from the druid, he left them to continue on his mission of warning.
Strike mused that the fate of the jungle was clearly somehow linked to his own people, he suggested that they head for Axeholme, the only northlander settlement on the mainland, nodding numbly after news of the potential massacre of her remaining people Demanor agreed. Days later they arrived at Axeholme, however, the once bustling village had been reduced to little more than a smouldering ruin, all except one building, the central long-house. Walking in they saw that the room was mainly taken up by a huge stone eagle, lashed to it was a battered but alive figure that Strike recognised as his uncle, the once chief of his tribe; gasping the bloodied but proud northlander coughed as Strike cut the ropes fastening his to the eagle and said "Ragnor has returned, with an army of the dead, he has killed me... but do not let me die without a weapon in my hand."
Nodding Strike passed his uncle a weapon and dropped into a fighting pose, he parried the clumsy tired blow that the tortured, older man aimed at him and then, seizing his moment, he stepped in under the older northlander's weapon and stabbed his sword deeply into his uncle's side; the old man nodded, a faint flicker of a smile on his lips as his last breath left his body and he crumbled to the floor.
A few minutes later a boat transformed into a blazing funeral pyre left the shore, carrying the deceased chief, heading in the opposite direction a second boat containing our heroes began to sail towards Royal City, Demanor and Korra listening with rapt attention as Will told them that Ragnor was the previous chief of the northlanders and that he himself had been banished for poisoning the old chief after he had laid hands on his sister.
Wednesday, 6 August 2014
Friday, 1 August 2014
A voice-over/slideshow covering a brief version of my character background from Sean Connor's (https://www.youtube.com/user/TheOutsiders68) WFRP campaign "The Ties that Bind."
Please note: With the exception of the RDD logo none of the images in this video were created by me, sound effects were acquired from the Soundbible website and the music was sampled from the Freemusicarchive website. No challenge is intended to any copyright, this video was created for purely non-profit making purposes.