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Why Mechanics & Rules Matter

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When you enter a new system there’s usually a setting attached. It doesn’t have to be provided by the publishers because it’s inherent in the way the rules allow characters to interact with their setting. If uber-powerful reincarnated gods can be mowed down by a single squad of archers when the rule descriptions say otherwise then there’s a dissonance which undermines the fundaments of the game; and that is detrimental to fun.

Of course it’ll be impossible to make perfect mechanics because of preference differences. We can see that some rulesets expect an adversarial game-table in the way they describe the game running. Others expect the GM to provide for player desires and adapt to whatever they want, implying the GM is their to provide for the players. We all come to the table to get something out of it so it is best to co-operate.

I have a little saying: “Practice the 3BCs”.

  1. Be constructive. No matter what you do try to move towards building something for your game.
  2. Be co-operative. Work with everyone else at the table. Build characters to feed of each other. Consult the GM for ways to have hooks built-in to your background, or to get place-names incorporated into your BG.
  3. Be creative. With the above provisions you can fuel the creative fires and start building an awesome campaign.

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Winter’s End: Sessions update (29-32)

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After tracking the cultists into a fortress at the end of a grotto the party blitz-assaulted their base and routed the forces. Villagers were rescued and politicking carried out. It was the magic on one of the girls who shed light on the leader of the cultists, Milel, being a mage of some sort. Milel had been feeding on the girls essence. The forces were tracked to their rallying point at Anvil Rock. A defense was prepared and battle sought that night. A mantlet assaulted from the front and scouts tried to infiltrate the rear. It was another rout. Too well-organized and supported by a pack of summoned Dire Wolves the cultists never stood a chance. Until Milel drained the girl almost to her death and summoned a huge earth elemental. It collapesd the fortress around them methodically. All escaped with minor injuries and camped in the cold night. Milel escaped and probably with what ever they were trying to dig up.

The Sheriff took the villagers back to their homes. The allies (Lorco, the vampire hunter, Dalldra, the axe-woman, and Artan the wizard) continued to accompany the party. They had split ways and were beyond the borders of Vrim. Milel’s forces were tracked for two days when it became apparent they were headed towards the Keep of Kentos. That was one of the locations the Vampire Queen Marcelline could have been. It was only another day and everyone was convinced it was no coincidence: Milel was her servant.

One night they were awoken by Lorco calling out, “Be gone in the name of the Rose.”
He had turned some form of undead creature. Perhaps a wraith or a shade.
Later it came back and Felghanis rebuked it – gaining command. It was cemented now that the queen had sent this as a scout – this Allip. With agreement Fel’ pushed it away and Lorco destroyed it.

The next day they were within sight of the keep. Spells and familiars scouted the fortification. It was stout with an outer curtain wall and inner bailey where the donjon sat proudly. At least 40 lesser undead guarded the walls and manned the gatehouse. It didn’t inspire confidence. They had to act soon. Kalista was able to make out their shelter from the walls with her Arcane Eye spell. That meant anyone else could see it as well.
As they prepared the buzzing they had not noticed caught their attention as it rose to a thrumming drone. Lorco whipped open the shutters.
“Swarm!” He yelled, and loosed a fireball.
Slamming the shutters closed he looked pale and scared. “Locusts… a mountain of them.”
They fell upon the secure shelter like some kind of dark wave and the party shuffled closer together, touching shoulders, looking nervously at the roof.
“They can’t eat stone. We need more protection,” Don’ said. “That spell, the one that shapes stone.”
The roof was under assault. A multitude of nibbling mandibles were working their way through the old seasoned timber. Kalista shaped the stone floor up into a dome with fine holes for air. It was only a few minutes before the roof collapsed and the locusts filled the shelter with their angry insect noise. The cold was too much for them and before long they were silent. Goran was sent out by Fel’ to find out what happened. The locusts were all frozen in great swathes of icy chitin.
Dalldra freed them with a few swings of her axe and the gathered their supplies.
“We have to act now.”
They advanced through the strong wind driven snow. As the ground turned rougher and more steep they stopped to prepare their forces. Kalista cast speak with animals and as she was preparing a summons something fell from the sky exploding in rain of burning oil and potsherds.
“Catapult!” It was Lorco who yelled.
They broke and ran for their lives. The girl, Nullia had fallen and it was Don’ who bound her wounds and hoisted her over his shoulder.
Chests heaving and throats raw from the icy air they gathered in a gully’s steepest point between two hard rocky outcrops. The rest of the plan was put into action and Nullia was left behind.
The dire bats were enhanced and the flew out into the snowy gusts.
As the closed on the wall, a mere 200 feet away, large arrows streaked into their flight. The first bat fell, and then the second, but the others were fast enough to respond to Kalista and catch the falling allies.
On to the walls they assaulted the watch tower. Inside they fought skeletons and Felghanis seized control of their animus. Then they stormed the gatehouse. Dalldra’s axe splitting the door in one massive strike. Here they found a Rot Reaver, running for its hide, and skeletons poured down from above – only to be struck to dust by Lorco’s turning.
The keep’s walls were breached and the gatehouse taken, but the donjon remained to be stormed.

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Kiltayre: Session 26

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With their scouting done for Lord Tovran the party gathered their things that morning to meet Don’s obligations to the Fey. Sheriff Daeus was to go with them and they were told that Lady Sipran, Varnia not Murelle, would be joining them as well.

They waited at the edge of Vrim for Varnia. A courier had told them that is where the lady would meet them. And she did, albeit a little puffed, but excited.

Through a light snow they crossed the hills to the Lutemakers’ Wood. Hours passed as they chatted about the Fey and what each knew of them. Iron shaped without fire was one thing they all seemed to know but it was Varnia who stated that they were tied to the land through the old trees, but the most potent thing that would upset the Fey was the horn of a Unicorn fashioned into a weapon.

It was nearly dark when the reached the stone circle. Three figures appeared as dusk took hold.

“The worlds met in this time, it is said.”

They beckoned Don forward and he went. Felghanis was quick to follow, as did the rest of them. The goat seemed oblivious and munched at something under the fine snow.

“You have our offering?” Asked the Fey in silver scale armor.

“Yes, I see her now,” said the one in dark mail.

“The price must be paid,” added the figure in clothes that looked like leaves and bark.

“The goat is yours,” Don’ offered the animal.

“We accept her,” said the fey in dark mail, nodding towards Varnia.

“The huntress is appropriate.” She donned in plants confirmed.

“What we offer is the goat. Do you accept the goat as the offering?” Felghanis was getting angry yet he seemed to contain himself well.

“Enough!” yelled the figure in dark mail. “It is the huntress that we take.”

“Come to us,” called the one in leaves and bark, the Seelie.

Varnia was struck by forces of enchantment and began moving towards them. Chaos quickly ensued.

Entangle was cast and Don’ tried to tackle Varnia out of the circle but she had good training and was strong. She shrugged him off and he fell flat on the ground.

The Fey were unaffected by the Entangle and moved freely. The one in silver scale armor seemed to frown and separated from the others.

“Help us cousin, she resists,” Called the Unseelie in dark mail.

“No. The pact is broken. You have contravened it!”

With a snap the circle was empty. Only the party stood about. The Fey were gone.

Confused the left the goat in the circle at Don’s insistence. He wanted to make sure he had done everything to hold up his end of the pact. His power relied on it.

At the top of the hill Kalista glanced back. The sheriff was unhooking his cloak from a snag. The were all clear of the ring.

It was well dark by the time they made it out of the woods. Kalista called into being a Secure Shelter and they took their rest in it. The Daeus and Varnia were ready and willing to ride back in the dark. They both had commitments in Vrim. The sound of their horses’ hooves pounding off left the party’s ears quickly.

Uneasily the settled in the small hut of stone and clay but it was warm and the had good food. Soon they slept soundly.

It was just before dawn when they were awoken with a sharp snapping sensation. Some massive amount of mana was just poured into a spell. It was like a roaring storm of power that stank of time, ice and bitterness coming from the East.

In his mind’s eye Felghanis pin-pointed the location compared to the maps he had been studying a long time. It was the Iron Teeth Mountains.

“Oh no…” he despaired.

“Tell me it’s not,” Kalista was hopeful.

“I think it must be,” Don’ added.

“We failed. The ritual has been cast,” Kalista said, down-trodden but angry, too.

“The tear! It is there. Alabrahni told us it was there.”

“In the crypt of a Frost Titan. What do you think might be in there?” Don’ said cynically.

“What we need to break this curse,” Felghanis spat back.

Don’ conceded that well and nodded.

Aenir woke up, “What’s gong on?”

Of course, thought Kalista, they did not feel a thing. They have no sensitivity to the mana.

Kellor awoke too and the filled the Dwarves in on what had happened.

“It’s decided then.” It was Aenir who spoke. “We head to the mountains for this tear.”

They all nodded sombrely.

“Doesn’t seem to have made the weather any worse, yet.” Don peeked outside to the dim light of pre-dawn and saw it much as it was when they stopped here. “I want to see if the Fey have accepted the offering.”

Before they even reached the circle it was obvious something was wrong in the woods. Old trees that were vigorous just yesterday seemed to be dying.

“What has happened here?” Aenir asked.

“The Fey… they are gone.” Don was bewildered and Kalista’s face echoed his sentiments.

In the circle, with a small heaping of snow gathered about it, the kid lay dead. Its ribs pierced by a heavy dart of black horn.

“This is unicorn horn,” Don said pulling the dart free.

They tracked the area but it was only their own footprints from yesterday that they found.

It was the last rise that the dart probably came from.

“Daeus,” said Kalista. “He was last over the rise.”

“But why? And how did they get a dart made from a unicorn horn?” Felghanis asked, truly puzzled.

“Who knows? But we know that Lord Tovran knew about the gate to Stonecrest.”

Don’ kept the foul dart and they all left. More questions on their minds.

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Kiltayre: Session 23 review, part two

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Lord Tovran had asked the rest of the party to lodge at his keep.

“You will be my guests and have my hospitality. Your services to Vrim are worthy and I wish to repay you in at least this way.”

When the party reformed they had been to the Whalers’ Retreat to find their arrangement settled by Lord Tovran and a message from Arthur.

“Lorco is looking for you lot. He seemed a little annoyed.”

Walking into the keep felt strange. They were moving up in the world. Guards eyed them carefully but were respectful. It was the retainers, Lord Mikhail Tovran’s knights, who were a little snide, but only the one named Freyald. They ate lunch and were entertained by a bard but Lorco’s annoyance was tugging at Kalista’s conscience.

“We should try and catch him. If he only left this morning he can’t be more than 6 hours ahead of us at most.”

Don’ agreed and they quickly assembled their gear setting off at once. They pushed hard across the foothills of the Great Frost Mountains and did indeed catch Lorco on a wide mountain trail. His distinctive hat giving him away.

Lorco was with Dalldra, the Corssiff mercenary, and another plain looking man, Artan – who bore the trappings of a wizard.

That night they slept in a Secure Shelter that Kalista conjured and were waited on by an unseen servant. It was a restful night not having to stand watch outside the warmth of the campfire. Heavy shutters made the hut defendable and strong. When they arrived at Highgate Monastery they were wary. A vampire queen was no trifling enemy. Even Jonas would be challenged, it occurred to the dwarves Aenir and Kellor, and would be careful in his approach.

Bear tracks were in the snow. Fresh and deep.

“It must be a big grizzly,” Don’ said checking them.

The creature had been lairing in the old stables. Inside the monastery they found it abandoned but in pretty good repair.

“Wait.” Felghanis was looking at the doors ahead. “I sense undead in there. Four of them, and strong.”

They carefully opened the doors and saw a large room with four translucent figures circling a raised pillar-like sconce, chanting in distant haunting voices. Lorco called to them and they talked.

“Bring us the abbot, let us have vengeance, for taking the bowl of Ath-Voarnus,” the ghost hissed.

Artan knew of Ath-Voarnus. It was a spirit, of sorts, that could prevent ageing and increase vitality to those that gave it services. Ath-Voarnus longed to be made physical and lured people to it wherever it went.

“Sumbrad told me of this in the Red Stagg. He is pursuing what he claims to be  the cultists of Ath-Voarnus and looking for their hideaway & temple.”

“Another complication, then, it seems.”

They talked at length and then settled in to wait for the bear. It would be worth a lot of coin.

 

 

 

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Kiltayre: Session 24 ideas

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SUMMARY

Five fingers of stone
Five swords of bone
Many yards of silk
Many of strange ilk
Two bears and three deer
Two trees and a titan’s tear

The five fingers of stone: the Hand of Gulresh. Houses a deep earth crystal mine that is worked by Goblins who are being controlled because Scours have all the goblin-females prisoner.

Kentos’ shouldermen guarded their liege’s tomb and a book of Fimbulwinter. Each of the fie shouldermen bore a sword of bone.

Silk draping through the Sipran keep library led to Stonecrest; a place with many of strange ilk.

All three books are in the possession of the Church. The two bears have the three deer.

The Titan’s Tear has been located by Felghanis after questioning Allabrahni. What are the two trees?

NEXT

We’re in the final run, now, and the players need to figure out a course of action. I think they’re a bit lost as to what they can actually achieve regarding the books. With that in mind have some events planned which can help nudge, or have them trip over, a decent course of action.

There’s a real-world time-limit on this game. It has to be wrapped up in about 9 sessions. Given the ground we can cover in one session I think this is entirely possible, but probably not at L13-15 like we discussed at the table.

However, there’s some cool side-plots to resolve first. Some of which may tie into the main plot arc. I’ll keep you all posted.

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Kiltayre: Session 22 review

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As they were raised back to health, Kalista’s spells were spent, and they were all confused.

“It’s paradox, don’t you see,” Captain Villeroy said. “I’ve tried to press information from the librarian but he asks me three questions of which I can only answer one and then says that I wouldn’t understand.”

Villeroy repeated the questions and Felghanis opened his mouth to answer then the exceptions and contradictions came to mind. It was far more difficult than he first thought.

“I’ve heard it said that these are Chrono-loops. If you make them touch the past they can expend their energy to snap the loop shut. It is meant to be terribly destructive.”

They talked at length and it was decided that informing their past-selves was too dangerous. They had to hide. In a small sitting room they packed in and rested. Each of them was sore and weary. The healing was painful and it took time.

“It seems that I am in this loop, too.” Villeroy added. He stood up suddenly. “I think I have a scroll that can help,” he said excitedly and rushed upstairs.

He was gone for some time and the party talked about what they ought to do. What the books meant and what the motivations might be for the Scours and the Church to retrieve them all.

When Villeroy returned they had decided to play it safe. The Scours had defeated them handily and it was only luck that saved them. None of the party remembered what distracted the Scours from finishing each of them.

“This scroll has a spell called Body Outside of Body and with it I have a plan. Unfortunately the scroll is very expensive and I have to pay the guild back, so anything you can do to help would be appreciated.”

“We already did… oh wait. That hasn’t happened for you yet.”

“Did what? Pay me for the scroll.”

“You’ll see… if it works,” Felghanis answered.

Captain Villeroy Moragne gathered his things and just before they left cast the scroll. There he was standing next to himself. Without a word the copy went to the counter and nodded back to the original.

“Let us be off then.”

Traversing the Rift was not anywhere near as intense.

“Can I ask it questions?”

“What, the Rift Weave?”

“Yes. When we went through before I saw a vision of my Uncle scrying me. He seemed force to answer my question.”

“I… I don’t know. I’ve had visions in my experiments, although they were neve strong so I paid them no mind, but I never performed them when a storm was coming.”

Kalista seemed to have a grasp of that and she nodded.

The wind was the same as last time: biting, cold, horridly cold. They built a berm of snow and sheltered in a small depression a few hundred yards from where they exited the rift. Villeroy used a wand on all of them and Endure Elements removed the threat of deadly cold turning it into simply cool discomfort.

Five figures appeared out of the intensifying Rift Weave. They gathered around one of their number. Then they all saw the battle play out again. However, it was right in front of them. The temptation to try and change it was strong but they held their position. None of them knowing what might happen if one of these ‘Chronoloops’ snapped shut or willing to risk it.

The Scours were attacked by the watery form and they pursued it. Fiery rays, that seemed to emanate from above and behind Mellevictus, lanced through the elemental and blew it to steaming fragments. They gathered together then set off at a jog, hustling west.

Once the Scours were out of sight the party returned to Stonecrest. This time Villeroy asked for aid.

“I can move us to after you left the first time getting us past the loops and making it safe again,” he explained.

It was made so. Villeroy rushed of to rediscover his map to the Deep Earth Crystal mine and the party limped back towards the markets. Merchants and storekeepers were shutting up or outright leaving. The storm seemed to be having the city closing up.

“We need to rest.”

“How about the Wainwright Lodge?” Aenir pointed to a sign right near them.

It seemed as good as any. They entered and purchased rooms. Taking some ale and food  they all rested, save Felghanis.

“I have to stop my Uncle,” he seemed on the edge of a rant. “I’m going to the library. Maybe Brannighan, or his parents, can help?”

“At least let Don’ rest.”

“I will stay with Don’,” Kellor volunteered. Yet the doughty dwarf was still burned and sore.

“This has to be safer than the Whaler’s Retreat,” Kalista agreed.

The market square was deserted. There were few people about, however strange, and of those few most seemed to be darting from cover to cover.

On the short walk to the library they noticed a narrow alley just past the markets. On one corner a pillar fashioned like a skeleton marked the entry. Down its narrow cobbled way signs and shingles bearing arcane symbols of necromancy hung in the increasing wind of the coming Rift Weave storm.

It took them quite some time to find Brannighan in the library. He smiled at them.

“Why do I get the feeling that those who refused my help seven times have come back to ask for it again?”

“What do you know of Davinus?” Felghanis asked.

“Davinus,” Brannighan mused. “I think that is the name of an old and faded Ascendant.”

“The Saint is the son and Davinus the father,” Kalista suggested. “Maybe the son seeks the throne of the father?”

“That’s what I’m thinking,” Felghanis answered. Then he expanded, “The Saint uses the winter to force prayers towards him. He has sent priests all over the island, even to our Felk Bay, and they are ready to help the people in winter. Spells for protection from the cold, for making food, and those who refuse to believe will perish.”

Kalista couldn’t process it at that moment. Too much corruption and evil in a body she’d long thought was good and benevolent.

“It is my Uncle, though that worries me. He claims that he will use the Bell of Thullemon to raise and army. Then with it seize the throne of Davinus.”

Brannighan was interested, “Really? He has the Bell?”

“No, but he knows where it is and so do I.”

“You must tell me at once and I will tell my mother. She will be most interested.”

Kalista, Felghanis and Aenir shared glances: a real angel? The powers and dominions were aligning. Maybe the conjunction Jonas spoke of with Kalista was real. None of them voiced it, though. Felghanis spoke more with Brannighan but the half-angel, half-archon, seemed distracted as if carrying on two conversations.

“Mother is waiting for us outside,” Brannighan said gesturing to the library doors.

With little more ado they left. Bright white light shone from the bottom of the stairs and in the gloom of sunset in the angry sky of the Rift Weave storm it was plainly pure and good and peaceful.

“My boy,” she said in a beautiful clear voice that rang with music.

Brannighan blushed and met her affectionate embrace.

“Oh it is so good to see you again. Are these your friends?” She turned her gaze on them.

Each felt the same in differing degrees. All that was good in them she weighed and saw. All that was angry, or traitorous, or flawed felt like it was plainly in her sight. They writhed in their emotions and could barely meet her eyes.

“Yes. She’s quite nice,” Brannighan indicated Kalista.

“Ah, Kalista, is it?” Brannighan’s mother greeted Kalista.

“And Felghanis?” The angel gestured to him. “Aenir?”

They all nodded in reply.

“The Bell of Thullemon, you know where it is, Felghanis?”

“I think so. In the base of the Iron Tower.”

“Then let us go. There is no time to waste.” She furled her wings and gestured for them to lead her in the right direction. “We will collect your other friends and then the Bell will be retrieved and destroyed.”

“Destroyed?” Felghanis almost baulked.

“Of course. You know why, don’t you?”

Felghanis dissembled and the angel was plainly unimpressed.

“No. It’s simple, Brannighan?”

“Nothing good comes of evil,” he responded.

Felghanis could only look at the ground as they walked.

“Mother you really ought to hide your wings. There are people here who would try and take them from you.”

“Oh, very well.” With that she quickly changed shape, in a heartbeat perhaps, she looked like a tall woman and suddenly she pulled a cloak about her. None of them saw where the garment came from.

At the Wainwright Lodge they met with Kellor and Don’, who was feeling a lot better.

“Oh my,” she said sadly. “You are wounded.”

With a touch all of the batterings and punctures that Kellor had withstood from Thiridea’s poleaxe were mended and he bore a bright smile.

“Thank you fair lady,” he managed.

“Oh forgive me. Most of you carry wounds.” And she laid hands on them healing their ailments. “Now we must leave. Join hands with me.”

Kalista almost rushed at the chance and took her right hand. Felghanis summoned courage, or at least looked like he died, and took her left, the rest making up the circle.

“Where are we going?”

“The Iron Tower to destroy the bell.”

“I want to stay, Mother,” Brannighan said.

“Of course my love.”

They were in clouds that seemed to conceal ground, or were ground, they couldn’t tell. A host of winged men and women were far above singing beautiful choral music. It had the sound that it was just one passage that was part of a long tale of defence of innocence and the pursuit of truth.

Brannighan’s mother bowed with a broad smile. “I serve in a different way.” She turned her face upwards towards the light that the host were singing towards.

Crashing waves and a strong bitterly cold wind shook them all. Dark clouds were above and thick forest to their right. In the distance the spike of dark iron rose above the butte of stone. It was the Iron Tower.

“Not as close as I hoped. Let us walk,” she said and retook her natural form. Tall, over seven feet, and fair she walked with slow power and purpose.

They followed her lead and Don’ struggled to keep up. She kept taking his waist and setting him forward. After seven touches Don’s exhaustion was gone. After seven more touches he felt fresh again.

Swinging open on its impeccable hinges the door to the Iron Tower revealed it to be as they left it. Brannighan’s mother glowed with powerful light and they saw well in her illumination.

“You said there were creatures here? Of course, there were undead abominations. Where is the bell?”

She led, insisting to be ahead to protect them, the party downstairs. As they came closer to the pillar containing the crystal where Felghanis saw the bell she bade them to halt. “Wait here and I will deal with the trap.”

It was no threat at all, it seemed. The lightning bolt leapt towards her but she dodged it with ease. She halted before the pillar and looked intently for many heartbeats. Long enough that they began to doubt her ability to do anything. Then she vanished and reappeared cradling the bell in her arms, bearing its great weight.

She triumphantly pronounced, “For his glory!” With a soft flare of light she was gone.

In the silence and almost pitch darkness Kalista spoke first, “Do any of you have any food?”

Before they could answer the angel returned bathing them in her glow.

“My deepest apologies. I should have let you know I was coming back.”

The relief was evident even on Felghanis’ face. Thunder pealed and a metallic shattering rumbled through the rock into their ears.

Felghanis laughed. “I’ve beaten you, Uncle.”

“Now, my friends, I can take you anywhere in Kiltayre. Where will it be?”

“We want to go home,” Aenir ventured suddenly.

“Of course,” she said.

“But we promised to help them to complete their quest,” Kellor said.

Aenir seemed saddened but his resolve returned quickly. “Yes. Yes of course.”

“The Black Tower,” Kalista said. Everyone agreed.

"Brannighan’s mother concentrated for a few heartbeats. “I am sorry. The tower is surrounded by orcs and blakh. I will not take you within sight of the tower for your own safety.”

“Then back to Stonecrest,” Felghanis pushed. “I have research I want to do and more importantly Goran’s body must be buried correctly.”

“Goran’s burial is not our concern,” Donhallan said.

The angel seemed to narrow her eyes slightly but her voice was still peaceful. “To Stonecrest then?”

“Yes.”

They were standing right back in the Wainwright Lodge. If it weren’t for the darker room and less people they may not have even left.

“Thank you my friends. In the morning I will return and until then I would have you think on a reward suitable to further your defence of the people and your revelation of truth.”

The possibilities began to enter their minds but sleep beckoned with more strength. Within the hour they were all asleep in their rooms carrying a peace they had not felt for months upon their hearts.

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Kiltayre: Session 21

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“In business we have a saying. Deal with a problem before it grows too large and becomes beyond your ability to fix,” Aenir said.

The group had be back-and-forth over options and tactics.

“Well, the Beaming Censer is on the way to the North Gate,” said Kalista. “We can see Lady Sipran on the way.”

“And keep our pledge to Lord Tovran,” Don’ added.

“I really must ask you to reconsider. It is quite dangerous in Stonecrest,” Brannighan’s careful voice warned.

“Thank you but we must perform this task,” Kalista responded.

“Then, seeing as you have refused my aid and counsel seven times, I am realised from by bonds to protect you. I wish you luck in finding who, or what, you pursue.” With that he left and went about his business.

They too left the library and entered the streets. It was not as cold as they expected but the sky was  strange bruised peach colour. Dark clouds, grey-purple, striped the sky. The streets were busy with foot traffic and people pulling rickshaws carrying richly robed figures.

“I expected wizards flying about the city and displays of powerful magic,” Kalista muttered.

“That would be wasteful,” Felghanis answered.

It was a dozen yards or more before they identified what was disturbing.

The Beaming Censer was close and they entered quickly. It was richly appointed with polished wood panelling and carpets from wall to wall. They felt out of place and even Aenir seemed unsure of himself. A concierge approached them with a warm smile.

“Are you seeking rooms?”

“We seek a guest here, or at least we think she’s here, Lady Sipran of Vrim.”

“Ah, yes. Please won’t you wait in the lounge whilst I pass on the message. Who shall I say seeks her audience?”

“Lord Mikhail Tovran sends us.”

The concierge bowed his head politely and departed.

Hanging on the walls of the lounge were numerous paintings. Most depicted the city under wheeling clouds that spiralled over the tall tower dominating Stonecrest’s skyline.

“What is that, you suppose?”

“A storm?”

“Who is it that seeks Lady Murelle Sipran?”

The woman’s voice was strong, commanding even, and when they turned to face her she wore a veil covering her face from below the eyes all the way down. Behind her stood a shield guardian.

“Lord Tovran sent us to find Lady Murelle,” said Don’.

They exchanged words and Varnia was bristling; even defensive. She took a fighting stance.

“Who are these people, Varnia?” An older woman’s voice approached.

“They claim that Mikhail sent them, Mother.”

“Why did he send you?” The lady asked as she entered the lounge. She seemed very old and moved slowly as if in some pain yet bore it with dignity. Varnia hovered at her left seeking to attend to her. The shield guardian was at the doorway.

“To find out why you fled the keep.”

“To save my family line,” Lady Murelle said simply. “We are the last four of the Sipran blood. The last women of the line and against the fiend that attacked our home we had no chance of victory.”

“But your a powerful spellcaster?” Don’ protetsted.

“Who told you that?” Lady Murelle was wry. “Once, I was a competent sorceress. Age has taken that away leaving me with only a few talents and my visions.”

“You did not see it coming?” Felghanis was incredulous.

“No. My visions have never been so accurate and simple. I had a recurring dream in these last months. The winter…” she waved it away.

“We seek to stop that winter from returning.”

They explained the books of Fimbulwinter and Lady Murelle did not know them. Even after Felghanis stated that Lord Kentos had left one with the family generations ago she had no idea.

“It makes sad sense, though. I saw a hand of stone and bears, a pair of them, chasing three trees that even though didn’t move were elusive. I saw winter setting in all the year round and far away an empty throne. The empty throne of Davinus.”

“Davinus? That was Kentos’ liege,” Kalista said

“Davinus, was the great-thane of Kiltayre, the first king, and ascended to become the true god of the Church and all Kiltayre.”

Felghanis, Donhallan, Kalista, Aenir, and Kellor were all stunned.

“What? Davinus is the god of the Church?”

“Yes. It was Davinus who ascended to the throne of Kiltayre and founded the Church. It is why in Vrim we do not follow the teachings of the Saint. But I must leave you now. I am so tired and so struck with grief. I take my leave.”

Varnia escorted her mother from the room and the shield guardian followed them with heavy footsteps.

“Someone is trying to become a god,” Felghanis conjectured.

“In business we have a saying. Deal with a problem before it grows too large and becomes beyond your ability to fix,” Aenir said.

Kellor nodded, “We need to stop Jonas and take back the book.”

The party flew into a torrent of speculation. Kellor and Aenir stood to one side and spoke quietly. It seemed to motivate the others and they collected their gear to head out into the streets again.

North of the Beaming Censer was the markets. A large square filled with stalls, stands, tents and carts selling goods ranging from mundane food to exotic focii, and services from basic healing to forging of magical staves.

“Maybe we can find a way to heal my arm?” Aenir said. Together with Kellor the split off to search the sellers for a cure.

“There’s the Amorrensis Trade Guild chapter house,” Donhallan pointed to a three storey narrow-house near the north gate.

Felghanis, Kalista and Don’ pushed open the doors and came into a small room with a counter. Two men were standing to one side waiting. Each was kitted out with packs and ropes as if going on an expedition. They gestured to go to the counter and made room. A man in lead-grey robes looked up as the door closed and Kalista saw the Captain from the stone ship.

“Ah, this a surprise.” The Captain said. “Have you brought me Fenris?”

Kalista’s heart skipped a beat; he remembered them.

“No. We have not but we did see him.”

Felghanis chipped in, “He’s compelled by some force, probably the lords of Elemental Water. I don’t think he’s in control of himself.”

“That may be the case and could explain a few things,” said the Captain, musing on the idea.

“How did you come to be here?” Kalista almost blurted out.

“Well, it was a bit of bad luck and good luck. After the ship was destroyed I was going to be banished from the guild. Luckily I had, well stole, the crystal you were carrying and that enabled me to purchase my station but with a transfer to this chapter house. I will miss the sea but at least I am still with the Amorrensis. I really should give you my name. Villeroy Morgane, Captain.”

“Morgane; isn’t that Fenris’ name, too?” Kalista asked.

“Yes, he is my cousin. Thankfully he takes no issue with me personally. He is a dangerous man, and luckily I can keep tabs on him through his sword. Which I knew I’d probably not be able to prevent him recovering. Maybe I should have had twice as many guards.” He sighed, “It is done now. He has it back that horrid blade of man bane. But enough of me, how can I help you? Maps, guides, travel, other services?”

“We plan to go through the Rift Weave, can you help with that?”

“There is a storm coming so at the least tie yourselves together. The guards told me that some people left recently through the gates.”

“That’s who we pursue.”

“People from the Church?” Villeroy asked. “Well they left nearly two and a half hours ago. You’ll have a hard time catching them, if indeed you even can. I could help you for a price.”

“Well, we know of a place you can get more of those crystals, possibly.”

“That seems a fair trade to me,” Captain Villeroy was excited. “There’s even a way I could perhaps help you close that gap in time. You see after some research over the last weeks I have found that with enough spell energy and will one can travel a short way through time’s passing by riding certain currents in the Rift Weave.”

Felghanis was drawing a map on a scrap of parchment. He finished it and handed it to Villeroy.

“Ah, I know this place. It makes sense that a mine may be there.”

They talked a little more and it was decided. Villeroy would help them cross back to when the Scours left in exchange for that map of the Deep Earth Crystal mine at the Hand of Gulresh.

“My arm!” The door flew open and Aenir burst in with Kellor beaming a huge smile behind him.

“It’s healed.” He flexed his hand a few times. “I think it’s even stronger than it used to be. Kellor, let’s test it.”

They gripped hands and tried to crush each others palm.

“Aye, I think it is stronger,” Kellor nodded.

With a renewed Aenir they left Stonecrest to be met with a roaring wind. The Rift Weave was ahead of them. A swirling mirage-like scene of wavering landscapes covered in snow and backed by tall mountains. The storm was closer and the Rift Weave seemed almost alive. Parts of it seemed to reach and grasp. They tied themselves together and approached.

“You may see some things in the Rift Weave that appear as visions. Pay them no mind. It’s some time of time leak. In the storms they are more active and will be quite visible. Head forwards,” Captain Villeroy said loudly to be heard.

They walked forward, a bit stumbling because of the rope at first, and entered the Rift Weave. Creatures or spirits started swirling around them pulling at their clothes and brushing their cheeks.

“Pay them no mind, they’ll leave soon …”

But Felghanis bristled at the attention. He surged with negative energy and the things harrying the others surged away to congregate on Fel’.

“Don’t do that. They feed on that energy. You’ll have them all trying to drain you,” Villeroy warned.

Felghanis ceased instantly and then there was a pull on the rope. The landscape swirled and darkened. He saw a flare of purple lightning and a tear of blackness. Beyond his Uncle seemed to be sitting at his desk.

“Uncle?”

The dread necromancer unlocked and opened a drawer, retrieved a large crystal ball and began peering into it.

“Uncle?” Felghanis asked again.

“Felghanis? What… what are you doing?”

“What is your plan, Uncle? What are you doing?”

“I…” Fel’s uncle seemed to be struggling against some force. “I won’t tell…”

Faint traces of purple electricity ran from the orb up Uncle’s arms.

“Tell me!” Felghanis pushed.

Like he was straining against it physically, a compulsion of the mind, Fel’s uncle suddenly seemed to wilt. “I… I will seize the bell and with it raise an army. Then, then, I will take the throne for myself!”

With a mewling scream Uncle fell forward.

Kalista was in silence. The Rift Weave seemed to have gone quiet. A curved wall seemed to loom into view. There was the sound of battle and fallen bloodied men lay about. It was the Iron Tower’s library where the Scours were killed by the steel dog. Jonas and another man fought the construct and suddenly Fenris seized the other man driving a dagger between his ribs from behind.

Jonas pushed them both away and felled the steel dog with a might blow from his war axe. Fenris scrambled to his feet and Jonas seemed to simply no longer be there. The Scour had seized the book of Fimbulwinter and moved through a door. He pushed it closed as Fenris rushed him with a wicked looking arming sword. Try as he might Fenris couldn’t get through the door.

It was suddenly dark. Kalista could see a figure kneeling in prayer before an old altar. Suddenly a second figure was standing there. The scene lightened and Kalista recognised the chapel at Vrim. Jonas stood and turned to Mellevictus and they seemed to be talking but she could not hear any of their words.

They were standing before Goran. This time she could hear.

“You will go to the inn and ransack the necromancer’s room. Then place his rapier under the girl’s bed.”

Kalista could see Felghanis’ old rapier in Goran’s hand as the Scour went out into the snow.

A swirl of deep purple like the worst type of contusion. Jonas and all the Scours save Goran were standing at the narrow path to the Sipran Keep. He drew out the Iron Flask.

Mellevictus protested, “You can’t do this.”

Jonas said some arcane phrases and threw the flask down. The demon appeared in a haze of rust streaked smoke and surged up the path with its terrible blade held high.

Twisting, a wrenching sensation, in her perception and Kalista saw Goran in a cell. Jonas approached and seized the door. The Scour, the werebear mentor of Thiridea, ripped the door from its hinges, iron bending like clay. Jonas seized the cowering Goran by the collar and threw him through the portal to the waiting demon. It cut Goran down in two swings and that was just enough time for Jonas to step through and cast the Dismissal which sent it back to the Pale of War.

“They’re evil. So evil and cruel. The Church is lost,” Kalista thought.

Like a ship heaving beneath them they suddenly found themselves in a cold biting wind. Ahead of them the Scours were gathered around Jonas.

“Quick, hand me the book,” Jonas says to Mellevictus.

Thiridea reacts first. “Enemies!”

Before anyone can respond she hurt Felghanis, some telekinetic effect launched him with enough force to nearly knock over the dwarves crushing him in the rope, and advanced with her poleaxe.

Felghanis cried out, “I claim sanctuary in the Saint’s name.”

“Necromancers have no protection from the Church,” Thiridea yelled back.

“Wait!” Jonas commanded. “I would hear what he as to say.”

“My uncle plans to steal the throne using the Bell of Thullemon.”

“You know where the bell is?”

“I think so. In the Iron Tower, the crystal in its base.”

Jonas nods and then, annoyed, pulls Thiridea back. “Get back here.”

Felghanis pushed, “My Uncle wishes to overthrow Davinus.”

“Has he retrieved the bell already?”

“No I don’t…” That was as far as Felghanis got with his response.

Jonas cast a spell. Fire and divine force smashed down on the party. Felghanis, Kalista and Aenir fell to the ground. Then Thiridea leapt to the attack. With Willem’s long spear and Frellan’s Spiritual Weapon to support her she finished them quickly.

“Finish them…” Jonas commanded but he was struck by a powerful blow of ice.

A figure had risen out of the ice to attack. Thiridea lead the charge.

Guards, the lizardmen, came out of the Rift Weave.

“Ah, there. The fire of gods led us here. See… it is as the old one said.”

They gathered up the party and bound their wounds.

“We take them to Villeroy. He might help.”

“And he close,” added another.

In the trade guild Kalista was woken first.

“This is a surprise. I didn’t expect to see you again. Have you found Fenris?”

“No… didn’t we already have this conversation?” Kalista strained against her disorientation.

“I haven’t seen you since you left me at Plateau Point…” Captain Villeroy trailed off. “The guards said they found you outside the Rift Weave. Had you just left Stonecrest, by any chance?”

Kalista nodded sadly. They had come back before they left and this Captain Villeroy had indeed never met them since Plateau Point.

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Kiltayre: Session 20 review, part 2

Comments Off on Kiltayre: Session 20 review, part 2

A large pavilion tent had been raised in the courtyard of the keep. The stables were cleared out and long sheets of silk were being hung as if to dry. Don’ looked it over in awe. A small fortune was in front of him.

“Ah, Ghanis,” Tovran addressed Felghanis. “I’m glad you have brought your friends. We have found something… odd. Perhaps you can tell what it is?”

The bottle that he showed them was polished iron with a brass stopper. Inlaid in silver were arcane runes and glyphs. It had a faint trace of magic when Kalista cast her spell. Together Fel and Kalista figured out what the Iron Flask did and reported to Lord Mikhail Tovran.

“It’s an Iron Flask. It’s used to summon creatures from other planes into the container. With the right command words one can release them into  a service after which they return. This one has a fine crack in it, like it was only ever meant to be used once.”

“Where was it found?”

The guards showed them the base of the path to the Sipran Keep. Don’ checked carefully for depressions in the mud under the snow and he found some. Five sets of boot print at least three of which were people in armour. Again the guards of Vrim were awed with his skills.

It was now that Kalista confessed her encounter with Jonas and Mellevictus.

“I gave them the book,” she said.

“You what?” Felghanis yelled. Then he stamped about cursing in Draconic until Lord Tovran’s face wrinkled in disgust.

“Cease this man’s rantings. They offend my ear,” he ordered the guards.

Kalista explained.

“Jonas was… friendly. He willingly offered information. There’s a conjunction coming, of the stars and planets, and that’s worsening the winter. It is only in this time that the Fimbulwinter can be brought back and the Church aim to stop that by securing all the books in the Vatican. Under the Saint’s own protection they will be safe.”

“But they’d only need one book to prevent anyone performing the ritual.” It was Donhallan’s stoic logic.

“The only reason to have them all is to perform the ritual,” Felghanis agreed, then frowned. It didn’t bode well when the agreed about the diversion in this very keep.

“Nevertheless, they have the book and when we left I tried to scry its location but it was nowhere in this town. However the third book is here and we must find it. Jonas said there is a portal in the keep that leads to a library and that is where the third book of Fimbulwinter resides.”

Tovran swore them to secrecy and allowed them into the keep.

“Lady Murelle showed me this many years ago. It will not allow you back through for some time so you must be sure you want to pass.”

Everyone went through the shimmering field and on the other side were met with the grisly corpse of Goran. His body cleaved from shoulder to navel.

Felghanis quickly cast Speak with Dead and pulled back Goran’s memories. They moaned and wailed.

“Let me go.”

There was no such mercy. Of the three questions only one bore good fruit. It was Jonas who had the Iron Flask. When the spell ended the sigh of Goran’s mind leaving sent chills down their spines. The dwarves were nervous and kept looking at the portal which would not let them out.

A large shaft let in a soft pink light and in that diffuse glow was a table and three large chairs. All around bookshelves were well-stocked and there must have been a thousand books in that place.

“I didn’t know there were so many books in the world,” Donhallan mused aloud in wonderment.

Felghanis snorted.

Bloody tracks led about the shelves but they were so crossed the Don’ couldn’t tell if it was one shelf they stopped at or all of them.

The cornices were in a strange script and whilst the others helped with the tracks Felghanis deciphered them.

Stonecrest Library

Davinus, Lord of Kiltayre across all planes

Page, spine and tome. Wisdom across the ages.

Branner, Marquis of the High Western Fief.

“The book is not here”, Kalista sighed after what seemed like hours of searching.

In the next chamber they found a large statue of a bearded man seated on a large throne. The whole thing was on a dais and the inscription, although in an old form, was legible to all of them.

Davinus, Great-thane of Kiltayre.

Ahead was the last doorway. As Felghanis and Kalista walked through they felt the pull of teleportation magic. Sound still passed through and they were able to reassure Aenir and Kellor enough to follow.

Polished flagstones lined the colonnade on which they now stood. In the centre was a kind of square full of tables and what was like a forest of bookshelves beyond that. Felghanis squealed with delight.

Everyone else looked at him wide-eyed. They’d never heard him make such a noise or look that excited about anything.

I didn’t think he had it in him,” Aenir mumbled.

A vigorous discussion of higher arcane-physics was being held at one edge of the square. One elf seemed to be holding a kind of impromptu lecture. It was going well until a half-orc began to counter the elf’s points and the others left as they argued.

Excuse me,” Kalista said to a handsome man.

The man smiled pleasantly and looked up at her. His eyes were purple and his skin had a silver glow about it.

I’m sorry… but what are you?”

Quite alright. I am Brannighan and well it’s a bit complicated really. You see my father was an angel and my mother an archon. I suppose that rally makes me free of the heavenly host since I am neither. For that I am ever thankful.”

They talked briefly and Brannighan warily cast a spell, announcing it to everyone, to determine Kalista’s place in ‘the way of things’.

His eyes began to glow blue and he said gravely, but with kindness, My dear. I am afraid you shouldn’t be here.”

It wasn’t long before Kalista had asked about the Scours. Brannighan had heard that such people were in the library.

I will  look for them if you promise to wait here. Out there, people are much less… civil.”

Kalista nodded like a child. Brannighan had effortlessly cast an Arcane Sight, a tier four spell, that she only just recognised. If he was nervous then she was doubly so.

He had been gone and Kalista had shaken off most of the reverie that had come over her from being in this place and talking with Brannighan. Like Felghanis she thought to read a book that was here. It took her little time to find one and she noted that all her companions had begun to read a volume or three – like Felghanis.

Felghanis was just beginning to concentrate on the text in the Draconic tongue when a gentle voice said, “Excuse me. I couldn’t help but overhear that you are looking for someone. That happens to be my expertise, people and things; finding them that is. Who are you looking for?”

Felghanis answered, “Four men and a woman in armour bearing a quadrant of grey green blue and black. Some have heraldry on it. A red bear rampant on a black field with a gold poleaxe.” He described the complex healdry of the Inquisition Exarcanum that Mellevictus and Frellan wore.

Why ever would they have those symbols?” The thin man seemed taken aback. “It matters not,” he dismissed it with hand-wave. “They left the library a few hours ago. It was quite odd because not long after it seemed they were followed by two women and two girls. All of them having come from the same private room that you and your friends did.”

That surprised Felghanis, “After; are you sure?”

“Yes, quite. Perhaps we can come to an arrangement for me to find them for you?”

What would that be?”

You take this little quartz crystal statue to a tomb in the Iron Teeth Mountains and place it on the bier, there.”

Why? What will that do?”

The strange man, who had eyes the colour of rust and ruddy-grey-skin drawn taught over a thin frame suddenly stood up. “Never mind. Thank you for your time.”

Felghanis blinked as the man strode quickly through the forest of shelves and was lost from his sight. He picked up the book and went off to find the others to report.

Brannighan approached them all. “I have found where they went. To the Beaming Censer hotel, but they have left through the North Gate. This is bothersome because they may not find their way back to the same place as the one they arrived from.”

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Kiltayre: Session 20 review, part 1

Comments Off on Kiltayre: Session 20 review, part 1

Smoke the colour of lampblack billowed and disappeared leaving the huge form of an Ogre’s corpse, but it stood, and began brandishing a great club of knotted wood. This it swung at the sword demon but the fiend was too fast for Felghanis’ summoned help.

Suddenly the demon seemed to swell with prowess and it swung that terrible smokey-steel blade into the side of Kalista’s head. She fell and before her body hit the ground the fiend had back-stroked Felghanis. Kellor was raising his axe against what was a feint and with a snapping hiss Aenir’s arm was severed to fall across Kalista’s legs with Aenir collapsing in a heap. Kellor bellowed and the blade of the demon slid under Kellor’s guard, puncturing the gorget, sending the doughty dwarf back against the wall.

Don’ fought desperately to try and drag them away. The ogre zombie swung at the demon and connected well enough that it caused some cracking of ribs. It wasn’t enough. With a well-timed slash Donhallan fell face-down clutching the back of his head.

While the leaping-fire, the energy of life from the Fey, repaired Don’s tissues, the sword demon duelled the ogre zombie. It was brute power versus infernal competence and the zombie lost in short order. Somewhere deeper within the fiend heard a door slam and it lumbered forwards cursing in its horrid language; unused to the sensation of fatigue.

Don’ flickered his eyes open and struggled to his feet. He was so tired. Fionnghal was lost. The poor hound’s ribs were split open and the shepherd boy turned away. Aenir’s arm was still pumping blood and he quickly used the Hyloka to stop the flow. Everyone else looked likee they could be saved and Don’ did so with the remaining oils in Kalista’s possession.

“This keep was almost our death,” Kalista said after she regained her senses. “We are leaving.”

They gathered their wits and what mettle they had left.

“What has the Saint-damned church done?” Felghanis exclaimed.

Entering the great hall and the carnage laid about they were all numb with shock. Somehow they struggled down the stairs and then heard a voice.

“Jonas said it might be waiting for us.”

“It is I, Kalista. Who goes there?”

A helmeted head peeked in the doorway. They heard a voice, male, say, “It’s those villagers from the Crypt.”

“Come back. Leave the keep.” Another gruff voice ordered.

The rattle of armor quickly vanished and the group from Felk Bay struggled into the courtyard.

“I want to check these stables,” Felghanis said limping to the closed doors.

Inside was the wagon in what Goran was transported to the Sipran Keep and a few twitchy horses that flared their nostrils at necromancer.

The snowstorm had not let up. Thunder still shook them and it was dark as night. Descending the path from the Keep they saw five figures arrayed in church colors. Each held a weapon at the ready.

“What has happened to you?” A broad gruff man called out. It could only be Jonas since he wore the crest of Ursa Bellor.

“A demon attacked the keep. We tried to fight it off but failed.” It was Kalista who answered.

Jonas said resolutely, “Then we must pursue it. Move aside.”

They complied and the Scours hustled past. Thiridea glowered at them all. In her hands she held her poleaxe. Somehow recovered, or purchased, from Cyne.

“Glad to see the back of them.”

At the Whalers’ they were almost leapt upon with concerned people. Their story made faces blanch but Daldra Urdron was inciting a group to get up to the keep and burn it to the ground.

Felghanis countered well, “Lord Tovran would not be happy about that.”

“Let’s ask him,” Daldra said and led three others to find out.

Exhausted, shocked, and fighting tears from coming so close to death they each retreated. Don’ slept, Kalista rested and meditated, Felghanis kept his counsel to one side. They took meals and slept early then rising late assembled in the common room.

Over breakfast they said little.

“I have something to tell you…”

The door flung open and everyone looked. A young guard in the Tovran colours approached their table, eyes focusing on Felghanis.

“Ghanis? Lord Tovran seeks your presence and that of your companions at the Sipran keep. He wants your counsel on a matter.”

Interrupted they left for the keep with Kalista setting aside her words for a more appropriate time.

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Kiltayre: Session 19 review, part two

Comments Off on Kiltayre: Session 19 review, part two

Felghanis was hustling along through the snowstorm. The wind would have frozen their lips shut but Kalista’s spell protected them so well it felt like a cool autumn wind. Still, their visibility was cut severely by the heavy fall of wind driven snow, and what sounds they could hear were only from a few yards away. It was like the world had gone grey all about them even the colour of the sound had been washed out and lessened.

“Jonas is in the Sipran Keep. I just know it,” Felghanis said. “If you can Locate Object for a Ursa Bellor heraldry piece we’ll know.”

They debated briefly but Kalista did as Fel’ suggested.

“Odd. There’s one that way. On the other side of that mill, I guess.”

“It could be Thiridea.”

“It could be Jonas. They’re the only two with the Ursa Bellor heraldry who could be anywhere near here. So much for Jonas being in the Sipran Keep.”

Felghanis pushed the pace and the form of the keep loomed above them in the white-grey of the snowstorm. As soon as the young necromancer saw the path leading to the gatehouse he broke into a full run, but the path was treacherously icy and he slipped. It jarred his wrist but he stood up and pressed on. The others took it slower and safer.

The gates were open, it seemed to Fel, but as he closed to a distance where detail was apparent he realised the half a foot of oak was severed as if by a massive chopper; the wood might as well have been nothing more than straws of carrot. Guards lay about in pools of blood, their bodies cleaved open in a pile of still steaming innards, each looking like they were cut down in a single massive blow. When the others arrived at the gate Felghanis was already in the main hall; guards, men, maids and children were in blood-drenched piles.

Somewhere above an inhuman voice laughed, “This door will not stop me.”

“Coward!” Felghanis yelled in challenge, the most real feeling of anger he had sensed in years. He moved past the dead and saw bloody hoof prints led up the stairs. Don, Kalista, and the dwarves caught up to him.

A splintering sound echoed from above. Screams and the smashing of armour reached the party’s ears. Together they raced up the steps in time to see an onyx skinned figure draw its double handed sword from the body of a retainer.

It faced back towards them and laughed. “More to the slaughter. Kill everyone in the keep.” It began to rush forward.

Felghanis uttered the curse of Blindness but it seemed to shrug off the magic. Don’s dogs were invisible, they could smell the infernal stench of the creature, and even though scared the hounds leapt into the battle.

Kalista wavered in her resolve. This… fiend was responsible for all the carnage and now it was bearing down on them. It was so strong, its blade swung almost impossibly fast, and it tore their defences to shreds. Even Kellor’s normally stalwart shield-work was no match for its dusky great-sword.

“Coward?” It laughed mockingly, eyes on Felghanis, and slipped past Don’ to fell the necromancer in a single stroke. “You cannot prevail.” It laughed again, berating them with its amusement at their efforts.

They stabbed at it and the hounds bit its legs trying to pull it down. Too strong, too steady on its feet, shrugging off the dogs’ attempts neither of the hounds managed to upset its balance.

Don’s shield shattered and the female dog used its Dimension Door ability to avoid what would have been a lethal blow to its skull. Felghanis hit the demon with a Ray of Enfeeblement and it visibly sagged. Kalista’s summoned dire ape battered at the fiend with little effect until the demon dispatched the conjured creature with a rapid volley of slashes.

Kellor’s shield was shattered, the dwarf knocked prone, and then in a blink of the eye Don’ was disarmed then felled also.

“I’ve been so stupid,” Kalista admonished as she drew one of the oils of curing they had after bartering with Madam Lim. With a few well-placed lobs and one passed to Aenir Felghanis and Don’ were healed enough to fight back.

But it was not enough. Kellor was trying to fight from the ground, as was Felghanis, and suddenly Fionnghal used his Dimension Door to escape the battle.

Kalista screamed, “We must run!” But she had to heal her friends, or at least try.

Aenir tumbled along the wall and got to the animist mage’s side. “You’re right, girl. Can you stop it chasing us?”

“I might be able to,” Felghanis commenced the summoning of a powerful undead creature from the nether plane.

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