Storm Lion and the World Serpent
In her quest to gain power, Ratri seduced Troll-Mother Drugar and gave birth to a large serpent. It was not long before the deadly nature of its poison, even to the gods themselves, became apparent. No skill could heal or repel the toxin, so Hione consigned it to the oceans around Mannheim. There it could live out its existence without posing a danger.
Mother troll objected to her off-spring’s banishment, but Ratri remained silent. This began the unraveling of the relationship between Trolls and the other races of Godsheim. With Ratri’s help, Drugar fashioned a race of Sea Tolls, adapted to live in the waters around Mannheim. They would serve and protect the Serpent should the Gods decide banishment was not enough.
Even Hione did not know that a small contingent of Fishfolk had survived the primordial Godswar by escaping to the very waters to which the Serpent had been consigned. Bereft of their defeated Dark Gods, they began to worship the Serpent and taught the Trolls to do likewise. They called it “Hafnadhr” in its native tongue.
Then they warded their new God against every manner of scrying and detection, lest their old foes look upon Hafnadhr and discover their own existence. It was their worship that caused Hafnadhr to grow to such an extreme size and make it a pawn in the Great Game of Fate that was to unfold as the Ages of the World sped by.
When Ratri’s plans were ripe, she entered Hafnadhr’s mouth – what child would hurt its parent? – and called for Aru’s aid, pretending she had been poisoned. Her message to him contained secret writing only he could read, telling him where to find her. When he arrived, she cast about him a confounding Darkness and shoved him down the Serpents gullet. There Thoki waited to complete Aru’s imprisonment, keeping him from foiling Ratri’s gambit before it could develop.
UNDER THE SEA — SERPENT! (Run 1)
Intro: (For all runs)
Queen Eir asked the party to seek out the World Serpent and obtain a sample of its poison from which she might make an antidote. With Aru missing, it was the only way she could think to save her firstborn.
Two Valiant Kattrfolk answered Eir’s call. Their Valkyrie dropped them far out and under the oceans of Mannheim, before a mountain ridge across which she could not travel. Finding a pass, they saw two Sea Trolls. Through the clever use of an interactive, programmed, traveling illusion of its normal prey, a sea monster of the largest sort was called down the mounting, aimed right for the Trolls.
One of the Trolls rolled a “20” on his Awareness check. He saw the sea monster veer off. He pointed it out to his buddy the next round. The two of them stared at the chase enthralled, eventually betting on how many rounds it would take the predator to catch its victim.
The last thing to go through the Trolls minds, before the sea monster, was, “Hey, it’s getting awfully close…” Blood in the water called down a cascade of creatures to feast on the carnage. And, the wiley Kattrfolk used the confusion and dust cloud to sneak past the outpost.
Ahead the Kats crept eventually seeing an encampment of Sea Trolls and the Serpent’s Maw — fifteen miles across, with fangs the size of mountains and row upon row of “lesser” teeth, all dripping a dark ichor that killed anything it touched. For the first time in many an Age, they knew the taste of fear.
Before the Maw, the saw stone plateau on which had been carved a odd-shaped pentagram. In the center, a giant bubble of air encased a group of live Mannfolk, about the number of a large village. The robed figures completed their ritual, and a gate opened beneath the bubble.
Once the bubble was completely consumed, the figures departed to a sea city beyond.
BEFORE THE SEA SERPENT (Run 2)
Four Valiant answered this call. They made various and protracted calculations to try to supe up one character to zip in and out to collect the poison. They collected the sample, but before they could leave, they saw a new sacrifice was being prepared.
They attacked the robed figures, killing most and capturing one. Using a combination of spells including ESP, they questioned the Fishfolk and gained valuable information:
- The Serpent had been sluggish just before the Con started.
- They were sacrificing live humans to it in order to energize it for the coming Great Battle in which their god would kill the greatest champion of the ancient enemy in Godsheim.
- A group of humans also worship the Serpent as a god and were providing large quantities of live humans for the sacrifices. (See Alex’s scenario for more.)
- The leaders of the human cult were invited to witness the final great sacrifice, but the Fishfolk were going to betray them by making them the final victims.
Alas, without the priests to maintain the magic bubble, the humans to be sacrificed had died. With bitter tears, the Four returned to Godsheim with their prize.
After two days of celebrating their success in Valor Hall, the Four were summoned to Queen Eir’s presence. Drawing her sword, Queen Eir impaled her attendant and then forced her to drink what the Four brought back. Miraculously, she was fully healed.
INTO THE SEA SERPENT (Run 3)
A group of Six Valiant next went forth. They found the game had changed. The attack on the sacrifice had confirmed to their enemies that Godsheim had noticed their activities. So, an army of Sea Trolls with Ballistae were stationed around the Serpent and the altar and the sea city.
After debating several theories of why the poison brought o Eir had healed, they observed that the poison on the far side seemed to kill, while the poison on the near side did not. They reasoned that to succeed in the mission they needed to collect a sample from the correct side.
The (sole) Storm Lion follower among them proffered the theory that the oddness of the poison could be because Aru was imprisoned within the Serpent. His compatriots agreed to return to help him free the god after they got the sample to Eir.
When they returned, they quickly advanced toward the non-deadly side of the Serpent’s Maw. To the incredulity of the Sea Trolls, the Six fought their way INTO the Maw. Their observations had taught them that the Trolls were wary of the poison and would not follow.
Once inside, they sought to make camp and rest. The giant predators living among the Teeth and a dampening field against spells like Rope Trick convinced them not to dally. One last look around with Detect Magic showed the back on one Fang glowed brilliantly. Telescopic Vision revealed it was the Fatestone outlining the battle of Strom Lion and the Serpent.
While the group debated the implications of breaking it — touching means dying, freeing the Serpent from dying to Storm Lion, etc. — the lone Storm Lion among them acted without hesitation. Nothing would stop him from his glorious sacrifice. The Fang shattered, the Serpent writhed, and the (now) Five Valiant went tumbling down the Serpent’s gullet to Joe Appel’s Third Run.
The World Tree is a metaphor for the interconnectedness of all worlds. It only made sense that the inhabitants were metaphors as well. The Dragon was easiest to peg – Hunger. It chewed on the roots of the tree; it chewed on the dead oathbreakers and adulterers; and never was it full.
The Eagle, as the Dragon’s foil, therefore needed to be Fullness – in this case, self-satisfaction. It spends its existence literally “on top of the world, looking down on creation.” The Squirrel, given its willingness to spend eternity carrying insults back and forth between the other two, was Rumor – just the thing to inflate an egotist but never fill/satisfy the glutton.
After Blue Carstensen developed the rivalry of Sjinnar and the Jotans with Carrunos, the Harts fell into place. If they became metaphors for aspects of civilization and Sjinnar were to desecrate them in spite of Carrunos, could this explain why the world had entered the Wolf Age? So the Harts became Honor, Fellowship, Charity, and Hospitality.
THE WORLD TREE (Run 4)
Queen Eir asked the party to seek a prophesied shelter in the World Tree were the twin youngest gods could shelter.
Four Valiant answered Eir’s call. They were deposited on the Tree, and they decided to ask the Eagle’s advice first. So they began to climb, though the distance looked vast.
Now, the key to this run was metaphor. Distance, direction, gravity – everything practically – was a metaphor. Movement occurred by intention and need. The players climbed up or down as a signal of their intent. Two consecutive Will Save were required of the leader in order to arrive. The players’ chatter as they climbed possibly provided a modifier.
When they reached the Eagle, he gladly spoke to them. When they referred to him as simply Orn, he corrected them “…The Great.” His answer no matter what they wanted was to go talk to the Dragon. In this case, he told them the Dragon’s head was the hardest substance in creation, impenetrable to anything. It had the added benefit of being largely empty and would make a perfect haven.
And so the party started back down the Tree. As they descended, the Paladin of Carrunos began to notice his mind returning to the story of his Lord’s infidelity to Danu. The intrusive thoughts became nearly overwhelming as he realized that they were among the Roots near Baenheim, where the Dragon chewed on adulterers.
They tried to be circumspect in inquiring if the Dragon would give up his head to make a Haven. It was a noble effort. The Dragon soon divined they had spoken to the Eagle. He got them to admit what Orn (… The Great) had said. He told them to make a Haven of Orn’s nest and save him a leg of that overstuffed chicken.
Climbing once more, the group encountered The Squirrel who promptly invited them to tea. The players graciously traded stories with Rattatosk, who mentioned in passing how odd it was that he hadn’t seen any of the Harts recently.
So off the party went looking for the Harts. They found three of them – murdered and desecrated in ever more horrible ways in insult to Carrunos. It was clear that it was deliberate and the work of Giants. They decided to take the bodies to Carrunos – a move I must admit I had not quite anticipated.
Carrunos confirmed that it was the work of Sjinnar and charged his paladin to find and save the last Hart. At their request, he leant them his best hound to help track it. He would need to confer with Danu if restoring the Harts was possible.
Back on the Tree, the search was going nowhere. Then it occurred to someone that they might have more luck tracking those responsible for desecrating the other Harts instead. And, lo, they soon found themselves face to face with a Jotun hunting party.
With righteous wrath the paladin smote his sworn mortal enemies. The Jotuns barely knew what hit them. Questioning a momentary survivor, the group confirmed there were no other hunting Jotuns on the Tree and that the last Hart still lived.
Returning to Eir, the party reported their exploits. She thanked them for their service although the Haven had not been found.
To find the Haven, the party must take the twins with them and let them “lead” the climb. Upon finding the Haven, they will be welcomed by Risna (Hospitality). Alas, they will also have led the Jotuns to the last Hart also. Battle ensues. Or, so it was planned. biggrin
Nevertheless, the service done to Carrunos and the piety of the paladin went a long way to convince the Nature deities to support the gods in the Final Battle. Please see Blue Carstensen’s write up for why this was particularly important to the Con. Well done!Read More
THE BACKSTORY: The background fiction made it clear to me that Drugar, the Primordial Troll, had a specially profound hatred of Daglir. At the same time it seemed clear that trolls, being essentially made of living stone, were excruciatingly vulnerable to the Lord of Stone. So I decided that two of the giant races were pulling a switcheroo: the Trolls gave the Tetrakheires charge of Daglir’s Fatestone and consequent assassination, while in return accepting a commission to take Danu’s Fatestone and see to it that Danu met the Fate inscribed thereon.
1. Luruk Kraagh, Tomb Raider: In terms of the overall plot this existed only to reveal some clues and point the way to more. I also wanted to have a short, straightforward run where PCs could get some useful items and get quickly back to Valor Hall. The situation was that some trolls had broken into the tomb of an Axe Age king to steal one of his grave goods, a set of magical Runestones that were a powerful prophetic device. (Malice aforethought, the item would allow players to extract additional information from any GM running for them and I figured with all the plots and counterplots running around the players could use as much help as they could get.) Part of Hrolf’s funeral ritual was a promise from the Gods themselves that any violation of his rest would be punished. The Valiant are, among other things, the Gods’ enforcers. So, the trolls open the tomb, thereby desecrating it, and *poof* a party of Valiant materialize to show them the error of their ways. I tried to make it clear on the poster that, although *players* had a free choice of whether to go on this run, the *characters* were, in concept, drafted without warning — in the blink of an eye you go from kicking back and relaxing in Valor Hall to being full-armed and armored, standing in a tomb confronting some trolls. No time for in-game prep like casting lasting spells.
The characters fought well but found themselves overmatched (there were only three trolls but they were higher level than the PCS). They fought effectively (among other things, they kept the Troll Guardian from ever managing to cast anything until he ran out of the room to break LOS) but they were running out of spell and prayer points faster than the trolls were running out of hit points. Magical characters who were low on power started looking around for useable items. The cleric found a magical horn which he decided not to use until it was a last resort, but a mage who was completely out of spell points rummaged up a dagger which put him into mental contact with King Hrolf’s ghost. The ghost offered help if the character would drop his saves; he assented, and was promptly possessed by Hrolf and went charging into battle berserk with Hrolf’s combat skills and Hrolf’s enchanted axe. This boosted the party’s damage potential enough that they finally managed to take down the trolls. Hrolf thanked the PCs for their intervention and gave them leave to take all of his magical grave goods back to Valor Hall — he’d arranged to be buried with them specifically to preserve them against the ultimate need, namely now. He also advised them to seek out the wisest man in the world.
One clue that emerged was a rainbow-colored stone enchanted with power stolen from Bifrost. A structure built from such stones could create an additional bridge between Mannheim and Godsheim.
2. Nikto the Undying: Following up clues the PCs went looking for the wisest man in the world, Nikto the Undying, whose last known residence was the mountains north of Hekla. Arriving, they found a cave on a high ledge with signs of recent occupancy and a door that opened onto a blank stone wall — they inferred that there had previously been a Dimension Door behind the stone door. Unfortunately they realized that a party of Tetrakheires was climbing the ledge toward them. While the rest of the party prepared to attack from the cave, the Storm Lion-worshipping berserker mage Black Sun used ashes from the cave’s firepit to make his hair look gray and charged out of the cave to make the giants think the cave’s aged inhabitant was fleeing from them. Diving over the side of the ledge, he failed to arrest his fall and ended up sliding painfully down a steep (but not vertical) slope. As it happened the lead giant chasing him didn’t manage to stop in time and joined him in skidding down the slope. A vigorous fight ensued, highlights included the sliding giant clambering back up to the ledge only to be knocked off again by a well-timed Trip spell, the Tetrakh Guardian being blinded by summoned Jub Jub birds, and one of the party’s heroes being beaten to a pulp in one round by getting caught between two gargantuan clubs (two-handed weapons for Tetrakheires, who are merely Huge, but it was wielding one in both right hands and another in both left hands, and could do massive extra crushing damage if it caught a single target between both clubs.) I should mention that this combat encounter also involved a great deal of argument between Black Sun and the Storm Lion cleric Thunder about what was or was not fair in combat.
After the fight was well over, an ancient wizened white-bearded Mannfolk arrived, riding on an oversized flying mortar (and apparently making it fly by continuously pounding its pestle into it). He summarily told the players to follow him to his current home and “led” them by simply flying off without checking to see if they would, or could, follow. Fortunately the party had some flight-capable characters who followed him home and then went back to help the rest of the party find the way (get over terrain obstacles, etc.) When they arrived they were curtly informed that they needed to clean out his stables and tend to his horse before he would talk to them; Nikto remained rude and overbearing throughout. The party worked well and industriously on this project despite a “horse” with a flaming mane, “feed” that included sulfur and mineral oil, and “manure” more appropriate to a toxic waste dump. In-character conversation between Markus the Danu cleric and the “horse” produced some genuinely delightful roleplaying. Ultimately Nikto greeted them back in his house proper and began behaving like a gracious host, now that the PCs had demonstrated that they were capable of humility as well as valorous glory. He revealed many crucial pieces of information, including the two key plots. Drugar had hidden Danu’s Fatestone inside Drugar’s own torso, opening her own flesh with a magical blade, putting the Fatestone inside, and letting the wound regenerate over it. (Drugar is female despite having somehow fathered the World-Serpent on Ratri. Examining the sex lives of deities too closely endangers one’s sanity.) The Trolls were using Bifrost-infused stones to build a tunnel from Mannheim to Godsheim, specifically from the northeast of Jannmark to underneath Alfheim; Danu’s Fate would allow them to erupt from their tunnels to abduct and slay her. Nikto could tell the Valiant that there existed a magical weapon that could pierce Drugar’s invulnerable hide and shatter the Fatestone within, but he had not yet ascertained where that weapon might be found. Meanwhile the Tetrakheires had denuded many forested slopes in southwest Stoenheim to build a huge wooden raft anchored in a sheltered bay there. Atop the raft was a wooden tower; atop the tower a vast wooden pot filled with fertile soil; growing from the pot was a majestic live-oak; and embedded in the oak’s trunk, with wood grown all around it, was Daglir’s Fatestone. For multiple reasons, one of which was his special relationship to stone, Daglir had the unique ability to destroy his own Fatestone, something no other god could do. The fate inscribed on the stone decreed Daglir would die in ambush, alone and far from the stone of his domain. The Tetrakh plan was to isolate the Fatestone as far from any stone as they could get it, and to ambush Daglir when he came after it; Mathiron-Grund the Primal Tetrakh was itself on the scene to deliver the deathblow. Nikto provided the party with a variety of useful items from his stores and wished them well.
(The party also discovered that Nikto was “Undying” because he was a title rather than a person; a secretive order of sages and magicians hidden among Mannfolk had been gathering knowledge for generations, with the wisest among them being appointed the new Nikto [a name meaning "Nobody" in an archaic language] upon the death of the previous incumbent. The party also learned that this order favored neither the gods nor the giants but rather was concerned with insuring that whatever world existed after the coming death-struggle, whether the old world preserved or a new world reborn, would be a fit place for Mannfolk and other mortals to live.)
3. Tetrakh Tetris: With the weapon for use against Drugar still missing the Tetrakh Sea-Tower was the target of this expedition. The party gambled that with stealth and guile a party of mortals might accomplish what a God in full power could not do by brute force. They landed in the hills of Stoenheim just out of sight of the great raft, and recruited local birds to scout it for them. Knowing that Tetrakheires, unlike all other giants, are diurnal with no innate ability to see in the dark, they decided to slip in by night, with one mage keeping the party airborne in a Levitation Sphere and another with a Fly spell towing them. Careful scrutiny as they approached revealed the hidden watchers with Darkvision spells, and because the watchers were scanning the sky through small slits (in order to remain hidden), delicate timing allowed the PCs to reach the pot and the tree unseen. They had planned to use lightning to burst open the trunk where the Fatestone was embedded, and use Clerical Silence to keep the noise of the blast from being noticed; but this plan failed when a Magic Mouth cast on the tree trunk began bellowing about the approach of intruders. In a hectic battle the PCs managed to retrieve the Fatestone and fight their way clear of the flying Tetrakh who accosted them, warriors who obviously had benefited from multiple spells cast by others. Once clear of the melee the players learned that they could outfly their pursuers, but that invisibility was of no avail against See Invisible. When they were halfway to the safety(?) of land they saw a flying boat emerge from the tower and chase them at a speed greater than their own; they made landfall before it overtook them and hid in rugged terrain while summoning the Valkyries to retrieve them. Although they dodged the ship, a high-level Tetrakh Guardian with a Locate spell tracking the Fatestone teleported after them with a warrior passenger. The teleport landed low, killing the caster, and while the warrior was formidable the party was (narrowly) able to overcome him. The Valkyries retrieved the party, who presented the Fatestone to Daglir; the God broke the Fatestone and rewarded the party richly.
4. Last Chance to Save Danu: The Great Weapon needed for use against Drugar was finally available; a spear that could be used in melee although its true metier was being thrown. “Fatebreaker” was a sentient weapon with various senses, an eager personality, and the power of speech. The small party (only three, a Hero, a Mage, and a Cleric) that set forth to break Danu’s Fate had a simple plan; since there was no way for them to overcome the vast numbers of trolls surrounding the Mannheim end of the Rainbow Tunnel (and the Godsheim end had not broken the surface, and would not until the trolls were actually in the act of abducting Danu), they would approach Drugar by stealth and get close enough to make a single cast of the spear against the scar on her belly. (Their plan was partly shaped by their possession of an item that could guarantee one attack roll of natural 20.) They approached cautiously, and so survived their discovery that the Troll encampment contained numerous casters and was protected by magical as well as mundane sentries. They were also somewhat nonplussed to learn that Drugar was already in the tunnel, traveling toward Godsheim. Indeed, while they were nearing her location the Locate spell broke, indicating that she had passed the Rainbow Arch within the tunnel that connected Mannheim to Godsheim. Ever adaptable, they went to the spot on the ground just above their last location for Drugar and used a Dimension Door to go to the last spot the Locate had indicated. They knew she was traveling at a walking pace and were quick enough that she would be no more than 100 to 200 feet ahead of them. They had not, however, realized that the tunnel was packed across its full width with the army of Trolls marching with Drugar. (Actually only three abreast, but Trolls take up a lot of space.) Since the tunnel was arched, there was room for the party to fly above the heads of the middle rank, and this they did, swiftly overtaking Drugar. Casters cast at them and warriors swung at them, but the party’s mage kept them alive with judicious use of Power Word: Web. Desperate improvisation kept them alive long enough for Yew the Alf Hero to get in front of Drugar, activate the “Strike True” magic, and make the spear-cast; at that moment Thunvald the Cleric was alive only by having Decreed Fate to minimize the damage of a deadly spell cast on him, and Ozymandias the Mage was alive only because of an item that would (once only) cause a killing blow struck at him to instead leave him with 1 hit point. (Ozy didn’t know his item would do that. I love the hotlist!) While magic guaranteed the true strike, it was the Hero’s own skill that caused the True Strike to also be a confirmed critical hit, doing devastating damage to Drugar herself as well as shattering the Fatestone. Fatebreaker perished (as must all mortals who break a Fatestone), wailing in agony; her destruction lit a fire in Drugar’s belly that would not be quenched until the Primal Troll was crippled. With the other Trolls now cowering in terror it was easy for the PCs to escape and return to Valor Hall.
AFTERMATH: The Tetrakh scheme against Daglir was completely defeated, but Mathiron-Grund was never harmed. (Actually, the PCs avoided ever encountering it, which probably helped their survival.) Unfortunately Daglir managed to die anyway — the fact that you’re no longer doomed to die in a specific way doesn’t mean you can’t be killed. Danu was rescued and survived, and Drugar was crippled for the next Age of the World, the War Age.Read More
PrinceCon 40: Twilight of the Gods
March 13-15, 2015
Valor Hall, part 1
“But Dad, I can fight!”
He scoffed. “You can fight in the tavern.”
“I’ve taken Self-Defense and Arms And Armor just like everyone else!”
“I’m not contesting your skill on the training ground. But listen to me Thorlev,” he continued, emphasizing every word, “You are not a Warrior. You are a Fisherman. There’s no shame in it. I’m a Fisherman too.”
“So what then, we’ll just fish the giants to death?” I couldn’t keep the bitterness out of my voice.
“Do you even listen the histories? Why are there giants alive today?”
“Gnut the Mighty led an army of five hundred thousand men, elves, and dwarves to crush the giants in their hills.”
Everybody knew that. Gnut’s army marched well over a league per hour, carrying their packs on their backs. It was almost half again as fast as an army was supposed to be able to travel. For the Dwarves, it was virtually inconceivable. It seemed brilliant, and he had the giants completely back on their heels.
“So why aren’t the giants all dead?”
I couldn’t think my way out in time. “Because they burned the villages and fields as they retreated.”
“So there was no food left. So our whole army starved. So when Gnut returned in the Spring he had seven thousand men. So that was like three Ages ago.”
He took me by the shoulders and waited until I looked him in the eye. “We have Warriors to fight the giants. And we are the Fishermen who feed the Warriors. Without us, they will die just as surely as if a giant crushed their skull to pulp. Which, by the way, is what will happen to any Fisherman stupid enough to challenge a giant. Do you understand me?”
I looked away, furious. But there was only one way to get out of this so-called conversation. “I understand.”
* * *
I had to bite a fishing rod while I did it, but I managed to cut right through the catch I was gutting, straight into the flesh of my hand. I barely had to fake the cry as I spit out the rod and grabbed my palm, bleeding profusely. My left, of course. Mom came running, and took my directly under her wing.
Dad, of course, was furious. “The Valkyrie leaves at dawn! What am I supposed to do with a short crew?”
She would have none of it. “The same as you did when Armand got tangled in the net. Work harder and fish longer.”
“But now we’ve got the entire defense force to support!”
“And there’s an entire fleet of fisherman to do it. They’re not relying on you alone.”
“I will not. Shirk. My duty.”
“You will not give a hireling time to recover and then force your own son into slavery with a gored hand. You will leave at dawn and Thorlev will not. Or you will find a new wife when you return.”
He was an idiot to even argue. He had married the woman, he ought to know he wasn’t going to talk her out of this. I couldn’t help but smile while I eavesdropped. The entire thing had worked beautifully.
* * *
“And you have your parents’ blessing?”
This was the moment of truth. It must have been obvious to the Sergeant that I did not. But if they didn’t want every warm body in the field, why was he attending the recruiting post in the dead of night?
“Of course, I have the full support of my family.” I held up the wooden sword and padded practice armor I had stolen from the training ground. Just as if my father had sent me fully equipped.
“Can you fight with that hand?”
A bit of an ironic question, since he was missing an entire arm, and apparently it hadn’t disqualified him from service. I waved the bandages at him. “Just a scrape. I’ve trained to strap on my shield, in any case.”
“Excellent.” He handed me a sharpened stick of charcoal, and laid down a half-filled sheet of blank lines. “Certify here.”
As I scrawled my signar, I couldn’t help but think it had been too easy. Even if they needed every warm body in the field, there should have been some resistance to an injured, underage, illicit recruit. Could the situation be more desperate than we knew?
“Uh, it’s sort of the middle of the night. When do I report to the Academy?” I wasn’t terribly looking forward to the three-week Indoctrination, but at least the Academy was inviolate when it came to reluctant parents.
He guffawed. “You’ll report directly to the Second Tinglith, Fifty-Seventh Hafna. Pick any of the nags out back, head for the East Gate, the guards will direct you further.”
I gulped, suddenly wishing I was holding the signed canvas instead of him.
He smiled cruelly. “You’re in the army now. Desertion is punishable by death.”
Valor Hall, part 2
“Name?” the Sergeant in charge of arrivals asked.
“Hroar,” the man next to me, well, roared. He was twice as thick as me in every dimension, and all of it looked like muscle. If I had his size or even half his enthusiasm, maybe I wouldn’t have spent the whole ride brooding on the note I had left my mother.
“Name?” he asked me next.
“Hroar, Thorlev, you are shieldbrothers. Whatever you do, you will not leave each other’s side.” He pointed at Hroar. “If he eats, you eat.” He pointed at me. “If he pisses, you piss.” Then he grabbed us both by our padded jerkins. “If I see one of you without the other, you’ll be cleaning latrines for the rest of your sharply abbreviated lives. Now get out of my sight.”
Some introduction to military life. On the way out, I heard him snap at someone to get the horses back to town.
But this was the middle of an improvised camp that served as the mustering point for half a dozen small towns. We didn’t know where to go. I pulled up short, and Hroar stopped as soon as he noticed.
“You two! Frogs! Over here!” someone else commanded. I looked, and he was pointing to us. Frogs?
“Because we’re green,” Hroar muttered.
The next Sergeant issued us a large canvas square, a couple of sticks, and a pair of boots each. They were too big for me, too small for Hroar. Then he pointed out the fifty-seventh hafna, and ordered us to pitch our tent.
“Uh,” I waved my wooden practice sword inquiringly. He grimaced at me and looked at Hroar expectantly. Hroar produced an axe. It must have been for chopping wood; it was much too small to fight with.
The Sergeant pointed at me. “You — take one of those.” There was a pile of weapons behind him. I couldn’t help but notice they were all battered, chipped, and blood-stained. Secondhand, to say the least.
Then he looked Hroar up and down. “Yours will have to do. You can take his sword when he dies.” I stiffened, though the Sergeant ignored me. “Whatever you do, don’t take one from a giant. You’ll think you can handle it, but you can’t. In the time it takes you to swing, they’ll crush your skull to pulp.”
“And armor, sir?” I asked. I thought the emphasis nicely conveyed my opinion.
“None for you; not worth wasting the time to fit. You though,” he looked back at Hroar, “you can ask the armorer when you reach the lines. Probably they can find a set that fits.” Off a dead man, unless I missed my guess.
“Don’t worry,” Hroar said quietly as we made for the fifty-seventh. “There’s no way they talk to each other. We’ll tell the armorer to get sets for us both.” I thanked him, though I was starting to expect the armorer might take one look and make the same assessment as the last guy.
* * *
I’d like to say we pitched our tent for a sound night of sleep before a full meal and a thorough introduction to our unit, weapons, and tactics. But that was just what I wished for, while I force-marched in a sleep-deprived fog. We were struggling to fit the canvas to the sticks when the order came to march. I even smiled at the joke, before I noticed that Hroar had reversed course and wrapped his boots into the tent.
“Wait, they’re not serious?”
Hroar shook his head. Then I noticed that everyone else was already packed, and forming up into a line. My boots and sword were still on the ground. I grabbed for them. “But what about–”
“Shut it, frog!” somebody yelled. “Get your ass in line before you catch a fly!”
I thought it was a bit much, but if I had to line up, I could line up. At least in a line, we could go to the chow tent together.
Fifteen leagues later, I still hadn’t eaten. I could barely walk another step; the only thing forcing my feet to continue one after the other was the fear of what might happen if I stopped. My hand blistered and the tip of my sword dragged on the ground — apparently none of the dead men had owned a scabbard. I would have given my right arm to be out on the Valkyrie. Still at sea. Dad didn’t even know. I hoped Mom was taking this better than I was.
* * *
I dragged my head up when I heard the shouting ahead. Six days of marching, and I would have cheerfully jumped into a giant’s pot. I guess I knew the front lines weren’t right there, but I had envisioned a carriage. Or at least a horse. Or something. My legs were long since numb, and when my good hand periodically cramped, I switched the sword to the injured one. At the moment, the hand was bleeding down the hilt to my blade. Mixing my life with the blood of men and giants already there. I couldn’t imagine what anybody was yelling about. I would have liked to yell for a rest, but if I got one, I would simply fall to the ground and it would take all the heroes in Valor Hall to move me another inch.
Suddenly Hroar knocked me aside. I summoned the power to squawk, but the sound was drowned by the crunch as a massive club shattered his chest. I simply gaped at the one-eyed giant that stepped into the space. It grunted, shook the wreckage of my shield brother off its weapon, and drew it back to swing at me. In that moment, I knew my end was nigh.
A burst of flame sizzled through the air from behind, leaving bright streaks in my vision. I hadn’t even known there was a mage in our escort. The fire smashed into the giant’s eye, and over the creature’s roar, I could hear the pops and hisses as its large white orb boiled away. Blinded, with the juicy remains of its eye dribbling down its chin, it still managed to smash its club wildly into the ground. Thankfully, and miraculously, not into me.
I finally jerked my sword up, slashing the creature’s ruined face. It stood tall and roared, then leaned back down to swing again. I sidestepped the blow, and tried stabbing instead. My sword dug deep into its face. The great monster roared one last time, and then its legs collapsed out from under it. It shook the earth when it fell, and flung the sword right out of my hand.
“Fifty-Seventh! To me!” a voice called fiercely through the mayhem. There seemed to be giants all around, and the wizard’s work was the only thing keeping any of us alive. I ran for the battle standard.
Three steps from safety, or three steps from armed defenders at least, another massive club smashed my left arm and spun me around. Pain exploded into my head, and for a moment, all I could see was red. Then I saw dirt, streaked with the blood of men. I lay face-down on the ground, while the battle raged above. When I tried to push up, the pain in my arm almost broke me. And then I felt an amazing thing — my other hand was pushing against the hilt of a sword.
“Fifty-Seventh! Fifty-Seventh!” I heard. The Merkismathr holding the standard pounded the staff into the ground. A surge of energy propelled me to my feet, and I felt the wounded arm no more. Flame whooshed overhead, another giant roared, and I smelled its burning flesh. My blade followed the trail. Even Hroar could never take them one on one, but with a little aid from this wizard, I would hunt each giant to the grave.
The next time the enemy swung at me, I couldn’t help but notice how slowly its weapon moved. I ducked out of the path with ease, and sliced open its side under the arm that had passed.
The fools were barely wearing armor at all, only mismatched animal skins. My sword cut through them, as easy as gutting a fish.
In the mists of my peripheral vision, our band of defenders seemed smaller.
Something crashed into my leg, but it was only a little bother.
The next “Fifty-seventh” sounded almost half-hearted.
No more fireballs passed over my head.
The battle standard wavered.
I fought my way back, grabbing it from the dead hand of the Merkismathr as he fell.
The world narrowed around me. I could see the broken and bloodied tip of my sword, I could feel the torn standard fluttering in the wind, and I found my enemy before me.
If these creatures thought they could destroy the Fifty-Seventh, they had another thought coming.
My sword ripped another giant open from knee to groin.
Darkness closed in.
Valor Hall, part 3
When I opened my eyes, I saw nothing but granite. The smells of blood, sweat, and flesh were gone. Arches soared over my head, hundreds of feet in the air. In bas-relief, I saw each of my greatest heroes in their finest moments of glory. I heard an entire Tinglith of warriors, crashing the butts of their spears to the ground together, honoring the victories of our past. The sound echoed and re-echoed through the heights of the chamber. I turned, already knowing what I would see.
High on the far wall, opposite the Heroes, rested the Gods. Heroes and Gods as one, only in Valor Hall.
I suppose I knew I’d never survive an ambush by giants, but what cosmic mix-up of fate had delivered a Fisherman here?
I tore my gaze down from the heavens.
I stood in the Circle of Honor. Hroar knelt before me. As soon as I noticed, he bowed his head and raised his hands.
“Hroar, what are you doing? You sacrificed yourself for me! Let me offer you to the Hall!”
Hroar looked up, plainly in awe. “Thorlev, you killed seven giants today. The battle standard of the Fifty-Seventh did not fall until after the last of the enemy.” Tears streamed down his face. “You have made Heroes of us all. I am merely your witness.”
Suddenly a thousand spear hafts crashed to the marble floor, and a thousand voices rang out in unison. “The Fifty-Seventh!” I felt the tears run down my own face as I saw each and every one of my greatest heroes, fists aloft in my honor.
I raised my broken sword. “The Fifty-Seventh!” I called back, with every fibre of my being.
* * *
“So, uh, what now?” I asked Hroar. We stood off to the side, the short ceremony complete.
He cleared his throat in a way I took to be significant, and looked to the side.
I immediately straightened and fumbled my way through a bow as I recognized Ivar Erikson himself. He still had the vaguely bowlegged walk of a king who’d spent nearly his entire reign astride his warhorse. Behind him on each side walked one of his legendary Riddari — the legs and flanks of a stallion, smoothly transitioning into the powerful chests, massive shoulders, and muscled arms of elite warriors. Somehow the stories didn’t do them justice — it looked like either one could snap me in half and eat me for breakfast; just a small warm-up before moving on to the actual battle. One of them smiled at the other as they noticed me staring.
“Congratulations,” the king said, holding out a hand. Shocked, I gripped his arm in the traditional manner, before thinking it through. Probably his Riddari Guard would break me now. But he stopped me when I tried to pull back.
“No, Thorlev. No man here has claim to a title. We are simply the Valiant. And you’ve earned your place at least as much as I have. After all, I had…” and he nodded to his horse-men.
Lost for words, I just looked from him to his Guard, desperately hoping they agreed. Finally I found my tongue. “I… You do me too much honor!”
“No more than you deserve.” Finally he released my arm. “But listen, now, tell me of your journey.”
“Think back. It’ll take a moment, but then it will come to you. How did you come to be here?”
“There was a battle, the giants…” I couldn’t hide my confusion at the request.
“Most of us remember little. Just bits and pieces. Myself, I recall a soft voice, close to my sister’s, but more… innocent. A horse I knew was not my own. He moved like my armor was spun of feathers. No horse has ever carried me like that. And clouds. They tasted… cold. And… then I was here.” There was something else, something he wasn’t saying, but I wasn’t about to object. He shook himself back to the present. “The Fate Stones, though, speak of another. A man who took a longer journey. Thorlev, is that you?”
I thought back. I had taken up the standard. Killed the last giant… And finally fallen. What next?
* * *
“Thorlev,” a voice whispered. A woman’s voice, strikingly unfamiliar. The way she said my name was like no woman I had ever known. She put feeling into each syllable, as if they were gifts to be unwrapped. “Thorlev, your purpose has only begun.”
I opened my eyes, and her appearance was as striking as her voice. Lithe and beautiful, she looked almost Alfari. As she spoke again, I smelled the flowers woven into her long, brown hair. “Thorlev, Hione calls. Will you answer?”
I had to force my voice to work. “I will.”
She stood, and helped me up beside her. The remains of the battle were there, only… faded. I saw the standard at my feet, but couldn’t make out the symbols. My sword lay next to it, and I could no longer tell whose blood it held. A monstrous leg led away, to a torso with four enormous arms. How I avoided succumbing to that great beast, I’ll never know. I shuddered as I gazed over the field, but I couldn’t see much more than my immediate surroundings. I clutched the woman’s arm.
“You may call me Analia. And this is Runar.” I jerked my head around, having no idea who else she was talking about. There, snorting impatiently, was a small brown horse. He was saddled for two, and while Analia would be light, I had no idea how he’d manage to carry us both. He looked me in the eye and jerked his head as if to say, ‘let’s get on with this!’
Analia slipped onto Runar without hesitation. They both looked back at me. What else could I do? Fearing for the blood, sweat, and iron I was about to subject them to, I mounted behind her.
“Thorlev, there’s something you need to see. It’ll take some time, but it’s a story that must be told.”
Then her legs moved, and Runar leaped into the sky.
* * *
The clouds blew past frenetically as Runar strode through the air. We flew toward the coast, and a great storm loomed, washed over us with all the fury of the Storm Lion, and passed in the wink of an eye. Ships flew madly in and out of their ports. But few, too few. I looked for the Valkyrie, and thought maybe I saw it, though it was too far to be sure. A heavy winter storm blasted through, leaving the nothing but slowly spinning wreckage in its place. The sea frothed and churned, tossing the remaining ships like toys.
“Analia, what… what is this?”
She looked back at me sadly. “This, Thorlev, is what you must tell the Valiant.” It made no sense.
Runar turned inland, as summers and winters passed in rapid succession. I looked back, and counted only three ships. The entire fishing fleet?
“This will not be easy,” she warned, as Runar swooped down from the clouds.
I wasn’t sure what she meant. It was just the burned-out remains of some village. As sun and moon passed over, I saw some pathetic survivor dash out of the nearby hills, pick through the ruins, and flee again into the cover of darkness. As we watched, the sun dawned again and she came back, scouring another part of the remains. Another day, another visit. Each time, she seemed to lurk for a longer time at the ruins of one particular structure. This time she was going to pay for it — the attackers were back. Not even giants; a raiding party from the next village. They sped in and spread out to loot whatever they could, and as Runar turned to depart, the lone survivor was heading back toward her favorite place, unaware. Surrounded, and she didn’t even know it. She arrived just as I lost sight, her destination on the edge of a large clearing. If this was home, that would be the space for the market. Our house had also been on the edge, just about…
“I’m sorry, Thorlev.”
As we disappeared back into the clouds, I heard someone screaming.
Then I realized it was me.
* * *
“At least we fought the giants to a standstill,” I concluded. It wasn’t worth much. I couldn’t even see the ground toward the end, with the land sweeping Jaanmark with a winter the likes of which she had never seen. Three summers missed and it was only getting started. “I think I’m glad I didn’t live to see the rest.”
Ivar Erikson considered my story and nodded. “You’re the one, then. The Last of the Valiant.” He blew out a sigh. “We must warn the others. The end is near.”Read More
The Wyrd Sisters have spoken of the Destiny of the Gods: the time when all barriers would be broken, Ratri would be freed, and the gods’ ancient foes would march on Valor Hall to the ruin of all.
Through the long years we have waited, the army of the gods to counter the army of the giants. In life, all of us were great heroes, worthy of selection to Valor Hall. In this afterlife, we have grown soft, our skills slowly eroded by too much food and drink, too many nights spent carousing. We are not ready.
But those of us who have remained alert have sensed it, and those who would heed the lines of prophecy can see that the twilight of the gods is drawing nigh. We must prepare ourselves, and rouse our fellow Valiant to the defense of this world.
Run #1: Meeting the Ghost River People
PC’s: Macan, Notin Tolkien, Rorsharch, Guildmaster Bob, Frozen Stream, Aria, and Bob (not to be confused with Guildmaster Bob)
The adventuring team meets with Magistrate Nicholai Zed, (see the attached pic: Magistrate Nicholai Zed.png) a very old elf who is known for having some prophetic abilities and for standing above the destruction of the Idyllican Valley calming everyone by playing his wood/bone/glass flute. A spirit of his flute has told him of a place to the south west in a crack in the earth where a stone sarcophagus from Sitriph lies. The people that moved it there wrote a story of their journey on the sarcophagus detailing their trip from Sitriph to their latest home. It is his hope that they can study the sarcophagus and find out how the Sitriph citizens survived the wastelands and by studying the records of their journey they can find the exact location of Sitriph. Without the location information, the Horde may not make it there on time before the wall of Shroud magic reaches them. They leave immediately.
The party encounters and talks with eight-legged squirrels and large tentacles in waterpools where they refill their water. One morning, close to dawn, they hear babies crying and after a quick scouting mission by Macan in panther form, he discovers from a distance an old religious building in serious disrepair with one baby human boy on the interior steps and possibly two more in the shadows. He also sees at least three predator beasts that look like oily horses with pointed teeth and grasping hands at the ends of their long limbs and hooves on their elbow joints. Macan leads them back to the party and the party quickly kill them. Aria picks up the baby boy on the steps and the baby starts to spit up red feathers. As the baby starts to turn itself inside out and become a bird, single named-Bob, smacks the transforming baby out of Aria’s hands. Horrified, Notin tries to burn the abomination with magic. Guildmaster Bob almost gets his eyes pecked out by the bird. Finally the other two birds attack and all three are killed. That morning, single-named Bob has bird for breakfast and finds that the birds have baby skin on the inside. It does not destroy his appetite.
Shortly before dusk under a heat-lightning filled sky the party encounters a group of six bird-headed humanoids bullying on a twelve year old naked human girl very near a huge chasm in the earth. The girl’s wrists and ankles are bound with rope and she has a sack on her head. The six humanoids have red-feathered bird heads and red feathers around their ankles. The red feathers remind the party of the birds they fought previously. They also seem to have leather loincloths and speak in a strange language.
While the lightning and thunder above hides the party’s whereabouts, they attack with surprise. Once they kill about half of the humanoids, they realize that the bird heads are masks/ helmets and that the people they are fighting are humans. The girl finds her way to one of the fallen humans and using the person’s obsidian dagger cuts her legs free. As the battle does not look like it is going well for the natives one of the spellcasters runs to the edge of the chasm and jumps! Without uttering an incantation, she begins flying away impersonating swimming movements. The girl yanks the hood off her head and Macan sees that the girl had been crying but instead of tears, blood is leaking from her eyes. As the girl also charges toward the chasm edge, Macan tells her to stop. The girl freezes in her tracks obviously recognizing the language. She says, “Must kill her!” And then leaps off the edge flying in the same way. Rorsharch starts to have a crisis of faith. He believes he has just stopped the local law enforcement from exiling a vampire and he may lose his Mavor-given powers. Macan follows along the edge as the girl and the spellcaster have an aerial battle. The naked girl finally drives the obsidian blade into the caster’s heart. The caster’s body then plummets to the chasm floor. As the last of the humans adversaries is killed, Macan returns with the girl.
The girl explains that her name is Upon A Time, and that she is (or was) a member of the Ghost River People. She was exiled for having bleeding eyes, the first signs of the Curse of the Seventh Citizen. The guards were escorting her down river and they wore the feathered masks and anklets of the red feathered Ava Birds. She laughs at the party for falling for the cries of the bird things earlier. The history of the Ghost River People is that they were originally from the city of Sitriph. When her ancestors fled persecution, they did so in a large sarcophagus to protect themselves from the wild Shroud magic present in the Wasteland. But only six citizens could fit standing in the box. A seventh citizen clung to the back of the tamed wolf that was used to pull the cart and the sarcophagus. As they travelled, the six were changed only a little but the Seventh Citizen suffered more problems and began to merge with the wolf. Even after the escapees found the Ghost River, the Seventh Citizen, now merged with the wolf, became further unstable and angry. She attacked the Ghost River People (as they were now calling themselves) and their offspring and when they finally did more than protect themselves, they delivered her a mortal blow but she would not die. They sealed her up in the original sarcophagus and hid her away. But the curse lived on. The people that she attacked and their offspring had a chance of bleeding from the eyes and eventually becoming homicidal. No one had seen the sarcophagus in about 100 years and the only one who might know where its current location would be the king. She went on to explain that there are only six variations of faces among the Ghost River People and that each person is an exact replica of one of the original six people that created this civilization. She has the face of the woman who was known as One Who Protects.
Although Guildmaster Bob, a dwarf, had some difficulty initially with the concept and related skill needed to swim/fly, everyone eventually got it. With Upon A Time disguised in one of the bird helms, she led them into the cliff-side city to request an audience with the king. It was decided that Rorsharch should be the one to formally request an audience with the king. Upon A Time told him to stand tall and not give up. Although the palace attendant put him through the ringer by first denying him and then angering him, he eventually apologized for testing him for the Curse of the Seventh Citizen. The palace attendant returned with notice that the king would give him an audience in fourteen days.
Upon being told that fourteen days was a short amount of time, they decided to go the quarters being prepared for them and possibly return in morning to insist upon a sooner audience. Magistrate Zed suggests that they sneak into his quarters and awaken him. Upon A Time used to be servant in the palace and shares her vivid living memories by puncturing the roof of her mouth and sharing her blood with the party. At about 3am, they implement their new plan to have their forced early morning audience.
Notin Tolkien, a hobbit who looks more like a short human due to his corruptions, levitates into his bedchamber window and wakes the king by casting a suggestion spell on him. “Grant me an audience” was his command. King All Fall Down reaches for a white cloth on his night table, wipes his face and agrees. Notin begs the king for the location of the sarcophagus but the king grows increasingly angrier and angrier. He accused Notin of being full of lies as he is obviously a ‘Half-man” in disguise and probably in league with the forces of Sitriph. Constantly reaching up to touch his face with the cloth, the audience escalates into a combat when the king launches himself at the now-hovering Hobbit outside his window. Notin recognizes the fury he has seen before and although the king is not bleeding from his eyes suspects that he is under the Curse of the Seventh Citizen but using a magic cloth to clean his face. Notin keeps his calm and calms the king as well. Notin tells the king that he will tell his people of his curse unless he tells him the location of the sarcophagus. All Fall Down tells him that he does not know the exact location except that it is down river. People who are under the Curse of the Seventh Citizen tend to seek it out. Until about 100 years ago, it was kept in the palace but whenever a cursed individual would seek it out it would lead the maniac to the palace where kings and queens lived. Many rulers had been murdered. One of the past rulers figured it out and had the stone box shipped away. Now when someone is found to bleed from their eyes they are exiled and escorted down river. The guards are instructed to let them go once they begin to feel the pull and move along in that direction under their own power. Notin knows they have Upon A Time and that she could probably lead them but doesn’t tell the king this.
Using Ghost River People blood magic, three wise women almost completely drain Macan to open a portal to one of his illegitimate children travelling with The Horde. Grasping vials of blood which will impart the knowledge of Long Bow creation and the Snapshot feat, the party enters the red portal and find themselves back with The Horde. Magistrate Zed and Upon A Time remain and await a new refreshed group to continue the quest for the sarcophagus of Sitriph.
Run #2: Wall of The Black Canyon
PC’s: Brock Samson, Brother Sue Cantacle, Dimo of Clan Jager, Marvin, Poppy O Rue, Thaddeus Venture
When the new party crosses through the red portal they arrive in the palace and the three wise women close the portal with great relief. They find Magistrate Zed and Upon A Time to fill them in on recent events. Poppy asks to see the flute that Magistrate Zed possesses and although he does not allow her to hold the artifact of Samedhi he does promise to will it to her when he dies. She accepts this considering it looks as if Magistrate Zed has one foot in the grave already.
Everyone sets off to swim/fly down river and only Dimo, a dwarf, has any difficulty, but he catches on. Poppy enjoys the swim immensely, feeling the ancient spirit of the river that cut the canyon all around her. They arrive in the plains of the Black Canyon as their ability to fly begins to cough and sputter. They walk across the plain following the river to a large white wall preceded by four strange towers. (see attached pic: Wall of the Black Canyon.jpg) They proceed into the carved out hole at the wall base into which the river flows. Under Upon A Time’s guidance, they eventually find their way into a long ancient chamber filled with mounds of rusty brown earth covered in vegetation thriving in the moist environment.
Suddenly, about fifteen ragged humanoids emerge from the mounds. Each one has elongated claws on the ends of their fingers, animalistic features and angry bleeding eyes. They pause when they view Upon A Time whose eyes are bleeding with this added stress but then launch themselves at the other intruders with rage and fury. Brock wrestles one victim of the Curse of the Seventh Citizen to the ground but the numbers threaten to overrun them all. Upon A Time points toward a deep pit and tells everyone she feels the pull of the sarcophagus down it. Brother Sue instructs everyone to come towards him for he has a plan. Thaddeus gets seriously injured. Magistrate Zed starts to exhale into his flute and call forth the spirits of the dead to fight off the many many enemies. With expert precision, Brother Sue, the cleric of Daglir, cuts the stone free below them so that it gently slides downward into the pit thereby reducing the fall by more than half. Poppy knocks the native girl onto the moving platform just in time. Due to the solid spirits above, only two enemies make their way onto the white stone platform with the party. When everyone lands at the bottom and Thaddeus gets knocked unconscious, Marvin casts a web over the top of the pit. They kill the two that fell with them and run towards the now-stronger pull of the sarcophagus.
They emerge in round room under the bedrock where they hear the rush of the waterfall above them. Before them is what they seek, the sarcophagus of Sitriph. And immediately Brother Sue begins construction on a wall to seal them off from the imminent rush of enemies from the room above while others begin reading the more recent stone plates attached to the top. The stone plates describe the journey from Sitriph, the history of the Ghost River People and the tragedy of The Seventh Citizen. (see the two attached images: Carved Stone Plates 1&2.jpg,Carved Stone Plates 3&4.jpg)
They examine the box and determine it is not stone but some form of hardened ceramic and that it has been affected by the Shroud and has become part of the rough-hewn grand-patterned floor. Carved clearly on the front surface are the words, “CONTAMINATED APHAR. DO NOT OPEN”. (see the attached doctored image:Sarcophagus of Sitriph.jpg) It has a series of four locks that once open at once. But Brock does not share with anyone that he can open the locks especially Upon A Time who is getting more and more impatient and angrier until she finally breaks down and sobs. Although they were not going to open it, Magistrate Zed says he can see an important key inside that they will possess.
As the scraping sounds from Brother Sue’s wall are getting louder they realize speed is of the essence. If they plan on opening the box, now is the time. Brother Sue begins by tunneling upwards toward the sound of the waterfall. And when he begins feeling dripping, Brock disengages the locks and both Brock and Dimo lift up the heavy lid.
Poppy and Upon A Time look in and see the desiccated naked human form of a woman clinging to the back of a wolf pelt. The woman has a healed exit wound in the center of her back. Suddenly the single creature springs up onto its hind legs and stands in the sarcophagus. There is human skin forming an “x” on the wolf’s chest where the woman’s arms have been absorbed into the wolf with an entry wound of a spear is at its center. The woman’s face is a smear on the creatures back but one eye is bright and blue and begins to dart around. She is wrapped in a loose rope. As Poppy tries to speak to the combined woman/wolf, The Seventh Citizen swiped at her with a pair of claws calling her a dirty Half-man from her wolf mouth. Dimo and Brock drop the lid behind the sarcophagus as Poppy falls back. Soon members of the party start blaming Poppy for being bad. She looks at them incredulously. Upon A Time, bleeding from the eyes, steps back muttering that it wasn’t supposed to be like this. The other cursed people on the other side of the wall start going bezerk and start howling. The Seventh Citizen tells Upon A Time she can go. She refuses and joins in the attack set off by Dimo and Brock but every blow is healing slowly. So as water trickles in with increasing speed, Marvin who is up in the hole with Brother Sue starts lighting flasks of flaming oil to drop onto their adversary. Dimo sees a Dwarven key on chain partially absorbed into the neck skin of the joined creature but can’t get rip it off. Thaddeus sees one spell thrown by Poppy get obliterated before it even reaches the wolf as the wolf’s mosaic amulet hums. Nickolai Zed summons up more warrior spirits who start to guard the breaking wall as Thaddeus hurls spells into the newly formed holes. Two other warriors lift the sarcophagus lid.
Water starts pouring down from the hole above as the human cleric of Daglir, Brother Sue breaks into the water pool. Brock opens The Sevenths Citizen’s side and reveals her internal organs but she does not die. With direction from one of the spirits, Brock plunges the silver ‘moon metal’ dagger into the beast’s heart and she falls slumped over the sarcophagus edge finally dead after so long. Dimo yanks off the Dwarven key and others pull other items off her still form.
The party goes up the hole helping each other along the way but Magistrate Zed wants to be last. He chooses to stay with his spirit warriors and when they call down to him he gets into the sarcophagus and says he will not be joining them. He tells them to leave and then look in Poppy’s pack for a letter that will explain everything. Before swim flying up river to the Ghost River People they read the Magistrate’s letter. The letter along with a sealed glass bottle confesses that he was the one who set about the events that destroyed the Idyllican Valley! (see the attached image: Magistrate Zed’s Letter of Confession.jpg)
A young girl with large lidless eyes asks the group to quiet a noisy talkative man in the cart travelling next to hers. And it smells also. They enter the cart and the smell is near unbearable and the sight of this man is grotesque. His corruptions are numerable. His eyes in his sockets are rotted and black but he has a crop of new eyes sprouting on his neck. His skin is green and leathery with some of his overgrown bones protruding from it. He has small legs sprouting from medium legs growing from long monstrous legs. His mouth is frozen open but he has a second smaller mouth inside the original that he may speak with. And it is those words that exemplify his madness. Gergely is his name although no one ever asked for it. (To see Gergely see the attached image: Gergely.jpg) He claims to have visions of other areas in the Wastelands, in all times but he is sometimes unsure when they have or will occur. He described a place that they could get to by following the last rays of the setting sun. That hole under the white square that holds a mirror that shows what once was, that could be again. He calls it the Mirror of Baylis and it is in the still lake in the cave. They ask him how he could have gotten so corrupted. He claims to have travelled far and wide with his visions and that may be the reason. But he admitted to have never been lucky.
Virlinth, a very young elf a little over one year old, uses his magic to tap into the mind of Gergely to get images. Virlinth and Gergeley sees the place the party is supposed to go and suddenly the horribly corrupted man knows his time is up. His very existence unravels before their eyes and he is gone. Since Virlinth was connected to his mind when he was unmade by the sheer mass of corruptions, he asks which god claimed his soul since Gergely was a devout worshipper of the Quartet (Pantheist). No one claimed him because his soul unraveled as well. This unsettled the entire party. They exit the cart and tell the girl that he will no longer disturb her sleep. She thanks them.
The party leaves The Horde as the sun goes down and after about an hour they find themselves in an area strewn with large piles of rubble. They find the large white square seen in the visions shared between Gergeley and Virlinth and pull it up. They descend into the damp darkness. They follow the passage and fight a few monstrous silverfish of varying sizes but the adversaries do not prove to be any major concern. Down one of the dead end passages they discover a place to fill up bowls with water but it seems like it has not been used in many many years. Inscribed in stone above small platform is an eight pointed crown and the words “Gold in Peace, Iron in War.”
Behind a large locked door, they discover what used to an amphitheater now filled with water. They have entered at the top of the theater and across the still pool they see a mirror frame with one golden rod placed within a holder on the left and another empty holder on the right.
Suddenly splashing puts the party on alarm as one very large koi begins speaking to them. Another one also joins the conversation. In their story they tell of a time when they were once human and were part of the elite royal guard of Sitriph. The brother & sister pair was charged with the safety of the Baylis family, the last non-hobbit rulers of Sitriph. Before the Army of Salvation took over rulership of the city, the Baylis family was intent on sending missions into the Wastelands to open communication with the separated havens of survivors. To make sure those that went on those missions could return to their original form despite the corrupting forces of the Wastelands, they developed a special tool that would turn back the hands of time. If a person connected the two rods of Baylis to the empty frame a mirror would appear and show the person the image of what they looked like exactly one year ago. If they so chose, they could switch places and accept their younger form and when their older form looked out from the mirror they could remove the rods and banish the older form forever. This would allow someone who was corrupted to return to their original uncorrupted body as long as they were not affected for more than a year.
However, the Mirror of Baylis was never tested because the coupe led by the Army of Salvation occurred and although General Teodore Valiff was able to capture the Iron Rod of Baylis, the frame and the golden rod was whisked away to the safe house by the two sibling elite guard. Although the party failed to ask again, their names were Knight Nealeo and Dame Annette Kyukaku.
The pair never knew what happened to the Baylises. They suspect the king and queen were captured and possibly executed but the young princess named Threnody Baylis had a craftiness and life about her. She would have put up quite a fight.
When they arrived at the safe house, they lived in the amphitheater intent on waiting until the right people should claim the mirror frame and rod. They waited for over a century and a half. The amphitheater flooded and due to their corruptions they slowly adapted to fit their new environment unintentionally, they took on the form of the pair of large blind cave fish. When asked how The Shroud threads had changed them into fish they replied with, “We’re lucky, I guess.” McCormik said they knew someone who viewed himself as unlucky referring to the horribly corrupted man that sent them on the mission.
They offered the party the mirror and as the party was ready to leave they asked them if they needed other items for their mission back to Sitriph. The pair of fish offered them the items they could no longer wear like their boots, glass armor and a cloak.
The party said goodbye to the elite guard and headed back to The Horde with some hope of reversing the corruptions in their hands.
Princess Threnody Baylis escaped and went into hiding for about 20 years with the early members of the resistance. When she was finally able to escape the city she and six others left in a ceramic vessel usually used to dispose of corrupted Aphar. They called it a sarcophagus and she renamed herself One Who Protects. She and the others became the first of the Ghost River People. See information contained in Run #2.
Run #4: General Electric
PC’s: Brother Sue Cantacle, Dimo of Clan Jager, Hildegard Finelli, Iggy, Knob, Naylor, Rhopinu, Winters Wisper
The party is on an advanced scouting mission and is camped for the evening, by all estimates, about two days east of the City of Sitriph. Near to dawn, a limping Hobbit enters their camp. He explains his name is Ogadai and that due to his imperfection, he was not allowed in the Army of Salvation. So he joined the city’s resistance group nicknamed the Phoenix. He drew a map of Sitriph in the dust and they formulated a plan. With help of Dimo’s Dwarven Master Key, they would enter the city via the long lost secret passage in the Southern Wall and eventually find Rich Fellstaff, a merchant man is also secretly part of the Phoenix. After loudly rousing everyone to get moving, Ogadai moves back into the wildness and teleports back to Sitriph.
The party arrives in the purple swamps to the south and makes their way to the secret passage in the dwarven made wall. They emerge in the neighborhood of Shutterland which is a large illegal market. They make contact with Rich Fellstaff who lives close to the Aphar Mill and is aware that the place that transmits the power to the Aphar Golems is hidden in the building. He agrees to help them on the condition that the Phoenix resistance and the members’ families will be allowed to enter the Fortress of Sitriph before The Shroud descends. The party agrees to these conditions and leaves the mirror frame and golden rod of Baylis in the merchant’s possession.
The party plans their assault as a group of Golems move the large ceramic ‘sarcophagi’ out of the building for disposal. Brother Sue uses his abilities to remove the lock in the metal doors and the party enters. Naylor and Dimo rush in to deliver a serious beating on a Hobbit who has exited his crude golem to handle some paperwork. Knob gets into the golem and tries to fit in with the other workers. As the party begins to see the sheer numbers of adversaries, the city alarm starts to scream. Other members of The Horde have set off the alarms elsewhere in the city and the majority of the Aphar muscle leaves to attend to the disturbance. That was certainly lucky.
Iggy and others notice a panicked Hobbit run to blank spot on the wall and enter a secret doorway that closes behind him when he enters. The party runs underneath the dead bodies on hooks being prepared to be changed into Aphar and make it to the area they saw the nervous Hobbit disappear. Brother Sue casts another spell and gains the ability to mold stone and carves open the door to allow everyone through. The party descends down a long staircase and emerges into a strange room.
An eight foot diameter orb floats in the center with seven rotating pendulums swinging throughout the room touching key points within the room. The ceramic sphere is pulsating with electricity and delivering that energy to the walls where it is absorbed and theoretically delivered through the earth to the Golems throughout the city and beyond.
Naylor and Dimo go about destroying the pendulum arms of the strange device. Hildegard goes head to head with some medium golems and gets targeted by an automatic javelin launching backpack from another. Iggy targets the running nervous Hobbit. Knob casts hold person on the lower half pilots of huge golems so that the entire golem gets knocked over by the swinging arms. Rhopinu summons a gryphon to attack the golems. Everyone participates to disable the device or fend off the golems.
The energy demand is greater with the assault from The Horde’s forces throughout the city. The remaining arms start spinning faster and the orb’s energies pulsate in a quicker pattern but without a way for it to dissipate, the orb explodes and pieces embed themselves in the walls, floors and ceiling. Everywhere, golems fall dormant. Soldiers of the Army of Salvation try to claw their ways out of their clay prisons.
From within the shattering power orb, a small blackened ribcage and skull fall to the floor. Encased within the ribcage is a blue beating heart. With each beat, bolts of electricity illuminate the ghostlike humanoid form of a Hobbit holding what appears to be a lightning rod.
Full of hate and rage, the Hobbit points his iron rod at the members of The Horde and labels them as ‘Abominations!’ With a simple statement, Brother Sue says it is The General.
General Theodore Valiff, raises the rod in the air and shouts “Iron in war!” releasing a storm of broken glass, catching both abominations and imprisoners in his malicious spell. Anyone who gets too close to the general’s form is electrocuted. But as the party surrounds him, they smash his bones, and pierce his heart, forever putting the hate-filled creature to rest. The blue light in his eye socket goes out and his heart finally stops beating. No one chooses to consume the heart, although Dimo considers it for an instance. They pick up the Iron Rod of Baylis and make their way up the stairs.
When the party emerges above ground again, the city is in chaos and they can see The Shroud consuming the Eastern Bridge. They collect the Fellstaff family with the mirror and Golden Rod of Baylis. Then they run to the Fortress of Sitriph that is being fortified by other members of The Horde and close the doors just in time as The Shroud passes over.
The last time the Dwarven Master Key was used was when the seven people escaped the city to eventually become the Ghost River people. One of those people was Threnody Baylis, the last non-hobbit ruler of Sitriph. She would later abandon her name and become One Who Protects.
The story of General Theodore Valiff:
An excerpt from the stone carvings on the Sarcophagus of Sitriph reads ‘The Army of Sitriph used to be composed of all kinds and races and their greatest hero was the Half-a-man, ‘General Teodore Valiff’. Early in his military career, his family was murdered by creatures from The Wastelands. Later, he preached the eradication of all those who were Shroud-touched. He even led raiding parties into the wastelands to destroy the vile creatures where they lived. Since he led so many excursions, he was the first to become enshrouded. When his symptoms became apparent, he was overcome by his own army and destroyed for they felt his mission was just and noble mission. And so that their excursions could continue, the Aphar was made. Aphar could shield only the Half-a-men in the army. Since the Aphar made the Half-a-men so strong, soon the entire army was made up of only Half-a-men. All other kinds were distrusted and treated as low.’
But the truth is this…
When the General’s eyes started glowing blue and crackling with a strange energy they did not simply kill the corrupted general, they imprisoned him and removed him from duty. Those working on the Aphar clay realized that this electrical energy could be used to control the clay and offer a way to power the Clay Golems. And although he was going mad with pain they could use his new found power to bring about his ideals, the eradication of enshrouded creatures. And as long as the Hobbit warriors were covered in Aphar clay, they would remain protected from the fate that befell General Valiff.
When the necromantic ceramic ball at the room’s center is finally opened they will find that it was keeping the General alive for these centuries. Inside they will find a being of immense energy. He will look simply like a blackened skull and rib cage surrounding a beating blue heart. With each beat, a crackle of electricity will travel down the ghostly image of his veins and one will be able to see his Hobbit form in those instances. Once the ball is shattered, the general is doomed. He cannot survive much longer. He is aware of this and will attack both the Horde and the hobbits that have kept him imprisoned for all these years.
Now this is cool…For insight into the choices for the symbols such as the eight pointed crown, the Resistance being called the Phoenix and the saying “Gold in Peace, Iron in War” see the attached link… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/