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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 24 and Session 25

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The beast appeared at the gate dragging a mountain goat. They launched their attack. Artan and Lorco hit it with fire spells. Lorco, a Fireball, and Artan an Aganazzar’s Scorcher. The bear was then trapped in the gateway by Kalista’s summoned dire wolf. It did not fight long before they killed it. Dressing the large carcass took some hours and they returned to the Secure Shelter to rest. Lorco agreed to go to Muddy Cape and hunt clams with them but he had to cut Dalldra in for a share as well as pay for her services – albeit at half-rate.

Overland the journey was tough. Exposed to the dastardly cold north west wind that came straight off the sea ice they took comfort that at least it wasn’t snowing. Digging about with their one shovel they found a clam after an hour. Then Kalista used Locate Plants and Animals and it was easy to find another score of clams. In all they had three pearls and it was deemed enough clam meat for Madam Lim.

When they returned to Vrim it was only three days to the full moon and Don’ needed to be ready to fulfill his role to the Fey.

It was Lord Tovran who added the complication. They should have known by the serious looking man with the scars and the old wound of a shallow fractured cheek bone, Sheriff Daeus.

“You may have heard that Sheriff was investigating something to the east. That much I know was being talked about. What you may not know is that he has found a troubling thing. Tell them, Daeus.”

The Sheriff complied and let them in on what had happened days ago. A young girl had wandered in from the east frostbitten and alone. She claimed that people had been rounded up and taken by the cult of Ath-Voarnus. Those who resisted were put to the sword, and those who fled were butchered from behind. They had found abandoned farms and buildings. No livestock and a few bodies in the snow. Then they had run out of food and had to return.

“I ask you to aid Vrim again and help us rescue these people, or at least put an end to this cult’s raids on Vrim’s citizens.”

“We have just enough horses,” Daeus said quietly to Lord Mikhail.

On the ride out the next morning they asked about Herath. Daeus had seen a man briefly but assumed it was one of the few lone trappers who lived on the margins. He didn’t try and talk to the man.

Cultists had moved into the area and at first kept to themselves. Then they had become aggressive at getting people to convert. It was the little girl, the lone survivor from the nearest village, that had told Sheriff Daeus the background. Many had fought on the fateful day but the cultists cut them down and that cowed the rest of the villagers. All were marched eastwards, with every last scrap of food and feed, for the livestock. Each village was bare of people and food. Corden, Villyme and Puldup; the farthest. Don’s tracking was superb, as always, and he followed the trails as well as a bloodhound might. They past no campsites but when the reached the fifth bridge, a marker of the furthest reaches of the fief of Vrim, they found heavy destrier’s tracks – as if the horse wore barding.

“A knight?” Don’ asked Daeus.

“Perhaps invaders. Maybe the Livruss and Kulvuss left a contingent behind.” The sheriff mused.

They weakened the fifth bridge, removing recently added bolsters, and did the same at the bridge near Puldup – hiding the material in the woods underneath snowdrifts. Then they rode hard back to Vrim as was promised by Tovran so that they might deal with the Fey in the Lutemakers Woods. The lord understood the need to Don’ and his peoples’ craft guild, and thus livelihoods. The Dwarves had secured the promise of the guildmaster to aid them and continue to provide a beast each full moon. All that left was to deliver the beast Lord Tovran had provided. As he left the area outside the stables Lord Mikhail announced that Daeus would be going with the party, and that Lady Varnia Sipran would also be attending – now that the Sipran family were back in their castle.

“Is she bringing the shield guardian?” It was an innocent enough question from Kalista.

“They have a shield guardian? Why was it not used when their keep was attacked?” Tovran was angry, infuriated actually. He stalked off muttering venom about letting innocents die.

It was the end of the 98th day since they left Felk Bay, that they dined with Lord Mikhail Tovran’s family and retainers, but not Lord Mikhail, who sent his apologies at being in a mood most foul that he would not be polite company. Freyald has many tales to sing, though, and regaled them with a long epic ballad from Iron Claw; Hadramyr the Griever. It didn’t help the feeling.

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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

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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 19 review, part one

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Donhallan and Felghanis returned with the posse to the Tovran watch-house. The sergeant was a simple chap but stern. Goran being locked in the cell disturbed the sergeant.

“Breaking a window is not equal to freezing to death in a stone cell.”

The sheriff normally would sit in judgement of such things but some events had his attention to the east of Vrim. Sergeant Parvellen had the means and he sent a page to the Tovran tower to request the Lord, Mikhail Tovran, come down to judge the crime as soon as possible.

While they waited they chatted amiably. Fel’ mostly kept quiet but Don’ seemed to have one some kind of trust with the senior watchman. He was impressed with Fionnghal’s tracking and said as much.

“A great hound. Would you care for another? I have a young bitch, much like that one, that I can barely feed. The poor thing is beginning to starve and I feel terrible. Maybe you could look after the dog?”

Don’ was pleased and a little humbled, “I’d be very thankful.”

“It’s a bit odd, though, that dog. It seems when chasing rabbits last spring that the grass would sometimes seize the conies and the dog relished pouncing on them like a cat.”

Don’ laughed politely but he knew the hound had to be fey-touched in the same way as Fionnghal. He was happy to take it under his wing and went with the sergeant.

Back at the Whalers’ Retreat Kalista was developing an idea. Bolstered with sudden courage she swept out without the dwarves seeing. In the heavy snow she headed over the river and towards the Sipran Keep. As she closed on the narrow path that led to the gatehouse a broad figure was walking towards her; wearing the colours of the Church and the red bear rampant on a black background. It had to be Jonas. The Scour stopped and held out a hand somewhat in her path.

“If you please, miss. Stop a moment.”

Kalista stopped, her heart was racing though, and kept her composure as best she could. This ‘man’ was said to be far more powerful than Thiridea and that ‘woman’ had nearly defeated them all, almost single-handedly.

“Jonas, I presume,” she tried for the upper hand.

“Yes and you must be… Kalista. Is that right?”

She nodded politely.

“I would speak with you. Out of this harsh weather, if you would,” he said, gesturing towards some partially standing buildings. Ever-present reminders of the attack by the Kulvuss and Livruss fleets.

Kalista thought to run but it might provoke Jonas to use force.

Out of the wind and snow it was more comfortable but still cold. Jonas set about making a fire, simply rending the shutters from the frames, and once it was burning he stood back – giving Kalista plenty of space.

They fenced, politely, with words at first. But Jonas was amiable and shared information. The books were for the Church. He had recovered one from the Iron Tower and it was back in the Vatican.

“There is a conjunction coming, of stars, planets and the tidal forces in the ley lines of the whole island. With it comes winters, harsh and long, and these cycles allow the Hrimpursar to return. Without the winters the ritual from the tomes cannot even be attempted. We need to make sure these tomes cannot be used. There’s no safer place in Kiltayre than in the Vatican under the Saint’s protection.”

Kalista was humbled. It made sense but she still had distrust from her time in Dwarf Town. She shared her knowledge of Fenris.

“He summoned a giant in the sea, that’s why we think he serves the Frost Titans,” she finished.

“It does not sound like that to me. Frost Titans do not swim if they can help it and definitely do not live in the ocean. I think he serves another player in this. The elemental lord of water.”

Again, the Scour made sense. Snow was water and it explained how he left no tracks, perhaps in relation to who it was Fenris had made a pact with.

Jonas’ hand fell to his weapon and his eyes looked out into the snow.

“Who goes there?”

Kalista could hear crunching of boots through the icy flakes.

“Jonas?” A voice called back.

“Mellevictus?” Jonas responded recognising the voice.

Kalista put her back against the other opening, opposite to where this Mellevictus was approaching from.

He entered the house wearing the vestments of a scour but on the normal field of the Church’s colours was the heraldry of the Inquisition Exarcanum: witch finders and demon hunters.

Kalista’s heart raced. She felt like a cornered mouse between two Scours. One a werebear, the other an inquisitor, and her alone.

“Goran has been arrested,” Mellevictus said.

“For what?” Jonas seemed to be getting angered.

“Breaking into the inn where… her friends are staying. He sought the book to redeem himself.”

“It matters not. His treachery has ever been a burden. If it weren’t for his cousin the Cardinal of Fergusdale, I’d never have let him in the group.”

“Then we let justice prevail,” Mellevictus said vehemently.

“Aye, but Kalista, what will you let prevail? The risk of the book falling into the hands of the Hrimpursar? You know it will be safer with the Church. Directly under the protection of the living Saint.”

Kalista said, “It would be good, but what of the other book in the Sipran Keep?”

“Lady Murelle would not see me, but she will, in time. The book is not in the keep but in a space between the keep and Stonecrest. A library in a space between space. A kind of pocket dimension. There needs to be a way we can convince Lady Murelle to see us and hand it over for the good of all Kiltayre.”

“We could work together, but separately, aiding the recovery of the last book. That way we can read it before it is taken back to the Vatican.”

“Aye we could,” Jonas said.

Kalista, had she been from a city or wealthy social family would have seen the slightly sad glance at Mellevictus, and then the nod the inquisitor returned, but she was not so savvy.

Mellevictus let the spell be triggered, “You know, Kalista, that the book would really be safer with us. Hand it over and we’ll make sure it can’t be used to bring back the Hrimpursar.”

The still spell was strong and Kalista succumbed instantly, “Yes, of course, Scour.” She took it out and handed it to Mellevictus.

Jonas nodded with a grim smile.

“And there is no need to worry your friends with our meeting. We know that Felghanis, at the least, would not understand at all.”

It was true, Mellevictus was right and clearly trustworthy and Kalista nodded, “Yes. Of course. The Saint will protect the books better than we can.”

“We must send this back to the Vatican, Jonas,” the Inquisitor said, and with that they left Kalista to make her way back to the Inn. She had no idea the Charm Person would last nearly half a day.

Don’ and Felghanis left the Tovran watchtower. Lord Mikhail would arrive after midday and the trial would begin. But until then they may as well get some food and sit somewhere less austere than the watch-house.

The Whalers’ was busy, full almost, with people mainly talking. Kalista was sitting near Aenir and Kellor but the dwarves were regaling a well-dressed man with war-stories. The Felk Bay people sat together and shared a meal. People began to leave and so did the whole group, albeit separated, to the trial.

Lord Mikhail’s guards were about and the public were rowdy, yet not violent. Goran sat manacled, looking at his feet, on a stool between two knights. The trial proceeded and Felghanis was asked what he had lost.

“I have lost a sense of safety in this town, a trust of the lord’s watch, and of the inn keeper Arthur’s property.”

“And what was taken?” Lord Mikhail asked.

“I cannot be certain. I have many notes and journals that were strewn about the room. There has not been enough time to read them all again to see if anything is missing.”

“Goran, what say you in your defense?” Lord Mikhail said strongly.

“I have done this because I am cursed,” Goran said meekly but his voice rose in volume as if gathering confidence. “Cursed by Demons from the Pale of War.”

“Cursed? Stop this man from speaking. Gag him and take him from the court.”

Lord Mikhail looked troubled. “Goran of the Church, you are found guilty and must pay the sum of repairs to Arthur’s property plus 10 gold pieces to Ghanis.”

Vrim’s people were still railing at the admission of a curse. Run him out of town, burn him, drown him under the ice, where the various cries. Lord Mikhail bowed to his scribe, Tivvus whom Kalista was trying to find, and they whispered in the din of the folk of Vrim. Don’ boosted his hearing and caught some words.

“That is the lady’s dominion to judge, yes?” Lord Mikhail asked.

“Aye, m’lord. He must be sent to the keep in chains,” Tivvus answered.

It was over quickly.

They filed out of the court, Don’, Kalista, and Fel’. They took shelter under the eave of a large house near the watch and threw ideas about. The folk of Vrim were hurrying back to their houses. Heavy dark clouds were rolling in from the west and a sudden bolt of lightning lit up the town with harsh blue-grey shadows.

“Oh no,” Felghanis said. “It was all a diversion.”

“I was troubled by the same thought,” Donhallan affirmed.

“How?”

“He was meant to be caught so they could get Goran in the Sipran Keep.”

The storm drove them back to the inn.

Herath had his bags and was agitated, fearful even. “My friends. We must leave,” he said gravely.

“Why?” Felghanis asked.

“It is the Shadow of the Face of the Dragon. There will be death this night. Much blood will be shed in this town. We must leave while we still can.”

Donhallan and Felghanis looked at each other. “It must be bad if we agree.” Fel’ said.

“I am leaving. There is little time.”

The storm was closing in on Vrim. Thunder and strong wind shook the roof and window shutters. Arthur interrupted politely and Kalista cast Mend on the shutters Goran had broken.

“In this we will need protection.” She cast Endure Elements on everyone.

Felghanis nodded, “We must get to the keep as fast as possible.”

“No, we need to leave Vrim this night. The omen is clear. There will be death and blood.”

“Are these omens always right? Does anyone even try and stop them in your tribe?”

Herath’s hand twitched towards his large knife but stayed away. “I leave with or without you.” The tribesman went to the door of the Whalers’.

“As I do in heading to the Sipran Keep,” Felghanis hefted his bag and strapped on his rapier. The staff lay unclaimed in his room.

“I can’t let you go alone,” Kalista said reluctantly.

“Neither can I,” Don’ added.

The dwarves looked at each other. Their kind were superstitious, too, but they were soldiers and they stuck with the Felk Bay people.

“We agreed to stay with you and aid you all in this quest of yours. We will go to the keep with you.”

Herath nodded, “I will be heading East, up river, if you change your minds.” He left without another word. They were fools, to his mind, not to listen to the fates.

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Kiltayre: Session 20 ideas

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The players have encountered the “diversion”: a sword demon. A feararkh blade from the Pale of War. It has been giving them a serious smack down. All the foreshadowing of its power was ignored by one player and the rest stuck with them anyway to try and keep Felghanis alive.

Fate Points were burned! No-one has more than two left after starting with four each.

I think they can salvage it without spending more and technically they can’t spend more since the Fate Point wasn’t intended to ignore a blow and stay in the fight. It was intended to keep the PC alive after the blow and use the narrative to explain why they didn’t die. Good example is Kellor after being struck by Thiridea’s poleaxe. It certainly looked like the dwarf had his head smashed in but when they checked him Kellor was alive, unconscious and missing his ear along with a swath of skin off the side of his head – making the mess they thought was his skull’s contents.

Unfortunately I was caught up in the excitement and fear of the confrontation with the Feararkh and allowed, if not encouraged, the use of the Fate Points in that way. And to top off the bad GM’ing brought in Fenris as a TPK preventer (god mode Sue?). I reneged on that and ret-con’d it after the session ended. It was fairly pointed out to my face that was what I had done and although it cut a bit it felt good to “undo” it.

Given the party are in a bad tactical situation I have to think of some narratives to save the day.

1) The fate points already spent will still do what they were meant to. OOC explanation will be made up front to clarify how FP are intended to work and what the IC ramifications are going to be. That is PC’s will be “saved” by the FP already spent but still go down and look dead. In future that is all that FP will be able to do.

2) Intervention: there is a caster within the keep, Lady Murelle, who could intervene and possibly save the party.

3) Aftermath: FP based survival has the characters “wake up” to the aftermath.

I don’t know what’ll happen, and I have a few more ideas that I won’t list, but I’m hoping to get it back in the good zone after my GM stuff-ups.

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Kiltayre: Session 19 ideas

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The trial should be fun. There’s a bit of a twist in that for the players that will put them off balance and realise that the NPCs are actually thinking & strategising. Also one of the PCs will gain a visit in an uncomfortable way. I’m hoping to arrange a one-on-one time before the main game so this can take place. It’s possible that they party will try to intercept a creature they can’t handle so it will be likely that Fate Points are required.

But this is conjecture. The main thing is that a reveal is coming up which should really make it a bit more confusing about the main plot element, yet brings the realisation that much more is at stake than they realise.

Probably too much information but I have to put it up anyway.

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Kiltayre: Session 16 Review

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The inn was warm and cosy. It was a great change not to breath freezing cold air all night. They slept well, except Don’. He was visited with a vivid dream. Figures in a mist forest circle were milling about, as if edgy with each other, and they kept looking about for him as if sensing Don’s presence. When we awoke he was a little disturbed, but it was just one dream.

After Kalista rejoined them from her long bath they discussed their plans. All the fine weapons they’d looted from battles past had to be sold. The money would be helpful even if the food Felk Bay needed was not to be had. They had asked Arthur, the Innkeeper, about the Rhett attack and he had no news of it. Too far north it seems for the news to have travelled.

Aenir and Kellor would pursue weapon and armour smiths to trade the looted items with. They had been in that business in Dwarf Town and Aenir was described as a silver tongue with other merchants, by Kellor, and the older warrior was skilled in crafts able to easily recognise good work versus pretty work.

It was barely decided when the door opened and a quartet of guard stamped into the common room of the Whalers’ Retreat. They rubbed their hands and glanced about settling their sight on the group. Nerves ran high as the guardsmen approached, rattling in their mail with weapons at their hips.

“Well young ones. Where have you come from?” The sergeant started.

The questioning was short. Hard eyes of the sergeant watched them all and relaxed as they answered.

“From the south of the island?” he laughed incredulously.

It was enough for the guards to think the young troop were no threat and they left. Likely back to their warm watch house somewhere near or in the Tovran tower whose heraldry they wore.

With that stress over the party split up to deal with their various needs. New boots, clothing, backpacks, trade-in weapons and armor, and find supplies for Kalista’s spell working. It was a long list and in a new town it might take some time.

Madam Lim’s was the apothecary everyone pointed them to and when they arrived Kalista was so happy to see the variety of materials that she almost cried. Lim had everything, from canis root, to fulgurites, to quartz, to mummified donkey hoof. It was amazing.

Whilst Kalista rummaged the store and looked at every last thing in case it was what she might need the others, mainly Fel, asked Madam Lim about the history of the area. They were richly rewarded. She told them that Vrim, and most of the coast from outside the Saints Valley all the way to the Greywynd River, was awarded to Kentos by the Great Thane Davinus. Kentos later divided his lands and awarded Vrim to a Sipran lord. Many Sealer Nomads chose to live on the land instead of in the fleets and changed their life. A century or two ago the land was divided again with the Tovran being awarded the south of Vrim in murky details, or secrets.

Madam Lim asked the group if they would be willing to collect clams from the Muddy Cape, over the mountains to the north, and they agreed. She said that any pearls she found in the clams she’d give to them on top of a fee. The clam meat being useful in boosting the power of healing potions – which many needed after the attack by the Livruss and Kulvuss fleets.

They met the Dwarves at lunch and the battle-brothers were excited to share they’d found the two armorers in town. One had less stock than the other but rumor had it Cyne, who had more stock than Alfwin, sold cursed weapons. With bellies full of food that wasn’t seal or bear meat they visited Alfwin. It was true. The smith had little stock and nothing they were interested in so it was off to Cyne. A good salesman Cyne traded most of the group’s won prizes for a few hundred gold coins and some other weapons: a long spear of giant bane, a staff of rapid attack, and more.

Lorco was next on their list and with the dwarves they located him easily enough at the Red Stag. Aenir had already come across him that morning. They entered the Red Stag only to have Kellor and Aenir depart to talk to a Margad woman in a bright yellow cloak. She was broad and massive with purple eyes and bright bronze skin. Herath followed looking on with infatuated eyes.

At a small table Lorco pondered a map. His broad hat and long arming sword sat next to it with a tankard of ale. Rough old travelling clothes and fine brigandine armor gave him the look of a well travelled ranger or scout. His long beard and wild hair made him look like a typical travelling wizard.

“What do you know of vampires?” Felghanis opened.

Queen Marcelline was Lorco’s target. He claimed to have killed 6 vampires before and aimed to make her the 7th. Lorco said she was turned away from her fief, banished, by St. Fergus in the early part of the church’s ascension to power. That was some 400 years ago. Felghanis swooned over the knowledge a creature like Marcelline might possess.

“Don’t worry about him,” Don’ said.

Fel huffed and stood up. Leaving without a word. Kalista and Don’ were surprised. Not understanding but Lorco was here now and they kept talking to him. Highgate Monastery and a large fort on the edge of the marches were the two locations Lorco suspected she was holed up in.

“Experimenting on creatures,” he said.

“Like otyughs?”

“Yes. She seems to do this everywhere she goes, experimenting.”

They talked at length and decided when the group was ready Lorco would be accompanied to investigate Highgate Monastery. Lorco had Daldra on retainer for the expedition so he’d have a potentially strong mercenary at his side. It was agreed that they’d leave in 2 days and the group would part ways once Lorco had enough information to determine if Queen Marcelline was in the old monastery – the group heading on to the Muddy Cape to clam for Madam Lim.

Don’ chased after Fel and caught him in the street. Heated words were thrown about and a threat from Fel had Don’s back up. They parted company.

Felghanis walked the streets then decided to find the chapel that Frellan had said the Scours were using as a base in Vrim. As Felghanis got closer to the area known as Manduran’s Hill he could see that the chapel was being rebuilt. A snowball crunched at Fel’s feet and he glanced about for who threw the thing. From around a wall the hard weathered face of Fenris beckoned him with a hand. Too curious to refuse Fel’ approached and Fenris spoke in a rushed whisper.

“I know you’re not following me so you’re safe. Jonas is inside. Consider this an apology.” Fenris looked like he was physically making himself stay, against some compulsion. “There’s more going on here than you can know. I don’t know what it is, yet, but it’s more than the Church and these books.”

Felghanis nodded then said quickly, “Next time you need something send a message.”

Fenris managed a thin smile, “I’ll try.”

Whatever force was compelling the traitor, the Night Wolf, it won and Fenris trotted away nearly silent. But what brought a look of shock to Felghanis’ face was the man’s feet never broke the surface of the snow.

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Kiltayre Session 15 Review

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The blizzard had set in. Camped in the hollow of a once enormous fir tree’s trunk the party had good warmth.

“Seal meat, again,” Felghanis moaned.

“I can barely eat it any more,” Kalista agreed in sentiment.

“At least we know where the third book is.”

“It could be in two places. What might be Stonecrest and almost certainly Vrim.”

“After you rest maybe you can use the spell-structure in the book to locate the first volume?” Fel asked.

The Felk Bay people speculated about the book, the ritual and the Church’s involvement. Fenris’ name came up again and Felghanis vented his frustration.

“He killed members of the Church, but not us, why? If only he would talk to us.”

It was a moot point but they dwelled on it for some time.

“Perhaps the tear of the Elder’s could break the competed ritual?” Don’ suggested.

Felghanis set aside his notes and referred to the book, “No. Once complete it’s like any other ritual and has to be dispelled or otherwise negated. That might be difficult considering the tier of magic involved.”

Kalista nodded. It was in concordance with the laws of the arcane that she understood.

“Here, read this,” Felghanis said handing out a page of notes to Kalista.

They call him Codger and he likes it! How I’d rail against such impertinence. Such disrespect. My brother was ever the one to smile and bear fools. I shall not. How the visions grow but so does my plan. An army, a horde, a sweeping ocean of the raised dead will be lifted back to the mundus. Why must my brother be so close? It matters little, if at all, he could never discern anything through my scrying-guards and other obfuscations. I long to say he is a fool but the evidence is contrary. He is cunning, if somewhat deluded, animist.

Kalista’s mouth opened, “Your Uncle is Codger’s brother?” She was incredulous.

“He might have been keeping an eye on my Uncle, even scrying him to see what he was doing. Maybe trying to prevent him from finding the Bell of Thullemon.”

Don’ was no so sure, “The Codger was kind and a bit doddering. He didn’t seem on the same level as your Uncle.”

“I don’t know about that,” Kalista said. “Although it was your Uncle, Fel, that realised I had talent for magic. It was Codger who trained me in the ways of the Wizard-Animist. I still remember my mother baking a pie and sending me over to deliver it to him. That was the first day I started studying. It was a few months later that he sent me into the hills to find some quartz with Don. That was when I missed the chance to go with Felghanis to Vensing to study at the college.”

Fel rubbed his chin, deep in thought, “That just supports my idea.” His voice was soft.

The conversation drifted and the eventually slept, or took their watch. The next morning Kalista prepared her casting. The energies were quite great, at the top of her spell tiers, and she delivered them into the spell-structure of the book.

She sensed the book. It was east, and a bit north, in a massive stone building. Like two towers on either side of a domed cylinder. It had to be the Vatican of St. Fergus. Glowing light pulsed and reached for her as her focus began to narrow on the book. A presence pressed her soul and it felt like an archangel.

“You are not welcome here,” the archangel said.

The light’s intensity grew and it became like a solid wall against her reaching sense then threw her back.

Felghanis, Don’, Aenir, Kellor and Herath saw a dim glow about the girl flare then fade away as she gasped. It was barely two heartbeats from when she touched the book to the light being gone.

“What happened?”

“It sensed me… I felt so dirty, so unworthy.” She went quiet, solemn, and stared at her feet.

Don’ touched her on the shoulder. “Almost certainly part of its magic.”

They broke camp and traipsed through heavy snow back on to the beach. It turned from rocky, to smooth, to icy, and then rocky again. Days passed and Felghanis mused that they were lucky for the trees or they’d all be snow-blind by now.

Fionnghal whined and kept sniffing the air behind them. Don’ sensed the dog’s concern they were being tracked. Whatever it was could not keep up with them and he did not worry the others with this news. Another day passed and it was clear that the creature tracking them had fallen too far behind for Fionnghal to scent.

It was late on the 7th day that they saw distant lines of chimney smoke. As the sun set small yellow lights, the windows of buildings, lit up their destination.

“That must be Vrim!”

“Aye, and I bet they have beer!” Kellor added.

The all picked up their pace and pushed their speed to double-time march. It was tiring but worth it as the opened the door into the warm interior of the Whaler’s Retreat. The inn was recently thatched with heather and the well-made furniture was worn to glossy wood.

Arthur the inn-keeper greeted them and they arranged a trade. All the seal meat for rooms, meals and as much as they could drink from below the top shelf.

Other patrons sat about, talking and eating. A tall woman with bright copper hair approached Kalista and they talked for a while. She was Daldra Urrdon, a Corsiff mercenary, and stood an impressive six-feet and eight inches tall. Daldra recommended Kalista talk to Colle, a dwarf, who was searching for something called Bilof’s Stronghold.

Felghanis settled into the nook by the fire and read one of the Canon of St. Fergus books that they had claimed at the Iron Tower. He couldn’t reconcile why he hadn’t started weeks ago. Still, it was comfortable and warm here and easy enough to concentrate. Local hunters bemoaned the sighting of a tentacle beast with a huge maw of fangs. Sounded like an otyugh to Fel. He just listened in for a while and heard that they were finding it hard to feed themselves so many were travelling further into the marches to the south to hunt for meat.

People began retiring and soon the only people left in the common room were Fel and Arthur, who kept yawning.

“Seems there’s a lot going on around here. Lots of weird things. What’s the strangest you’ve heard?” Fel asked Arthur.

“Well, there’s a person who was staying here but moved to another inn who thinks there’s a vampire in the mountains. Can’t say I believe’em though. Why’d a vampire come here? There’s hardly anyone left after the Kulvuss and Livruss fleets attacked before the ice set in.”

Fel nodded and kept his tongue.

“I’ll be retiring now, if you don’t mind. Have this mulled wine to keep you warm and stoke the fire as you please. Good night young sir,” Arthur said and excused himself.

Felghanis sipped the warm beverage. Most of the alcohol was gone and that was good. It wasn’t something he enjoyed, but a vampire? That was something he could enjoy taking control of. A wry smile crept over his face.

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Kiltayre: Session 14 (part 1)

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The Scours were bound, including the werebear Thiridea, and Fel took Kallista aside.

“We bury them up to their necks and leave them in the snow.”

Kalista was shocked, “Torture them? Leave them to their death? No! I’m not doing such a heinous thing.”

Fel was momentarily silenced.

“Let us see if Kentos’ spirit will allow us to take the book,” Kalista changed the topic.

They walked through the barrow in the harsh white light of Kalista’s Lumos spell. Rough hewn stone all around and not one of the black smokey forms of the wraiths. Until they came to the chamber of the giant-slayer.

“You can take the book but touch nothing else,” said the spirit gravely. Its hand touching the long sword of bone at its hip.

They both nodded then edged into the room. Fel carefully picked his way around the spear that lay across the sarcophagus. It was a massive weapon. Fel could scarcely get his hand around the haft if he had tried and the blade was like a full bastard sword mounted on the end. It shed power and dim light but Fel was not tempted. He had no love of weaponry.

Touching the book the leather was soft and smooth. He eased it from the carved stone satchel of the ancient hero. In his hands it felt heavy but when he scanned it with Detect Magic there was no enchantments. The book was mundane, per se, even if it did contain a ritual of never-ending winter.

When Fel turned back to Kalista the wraith was gone and he felt an emotion being sent. Kalista seemed to be feeling something too. Thanks.

They left the barrow and met with Herath, Don and Aenir. Kellor was still unconscious and his face bloody.

“We have it so let’s set camp and so we can rest and read it,” Fel said.

“At least let us scout the are before we start that.” The shepherd boy said.

Herath nodded and they went together through the deep snow. They had gone perhaps 300 yards when to the south Don’ heard the rattle of armor. They stalked towards the sound and dropped behind a snow drift. Figures were probing the ice of a small lake. Six of them, four lean dark hobgoblins out front in light armor, and two hefty stout orks, Tharkhor, behind in sooty-grey half-plate.

“That’s not good,” Herath said.

They slinked back and ran to the others.

“Orks. Pack your things, we are leaving!” Herath said loudly.

Felghanis and Kalista bit back their fear. Both were spent of their magical energy and desperately needed to recoup before they could face orks. There was chaos as everyone ran about gathering their gear.

“Leave them for the orks,” Aenir said bitterly.

“No. We take them,” Kalista was emphatic. “I’ll not have their deaths at the hands of orks or Garren on my conscience.”

She knelt by Kellor. There was a scrap of mana left and she fuelled a healing spell with that last piece of soul-fire. He stirred but did not wake. The doughty dwarf’s skull was covered again on the left side but the ear was gone and it left a mass of scar-tissue.

Felghanis sighed but he had a plan. He touched the two prisoners, Goran the rapier wielder, and Frellan the ordained scour, dispelling the blindness curse he had laid on them.

“I can see. Please don’t leave us to die,” Goran pleaded.

“Why were you sent to the Barrow?” Fel demanded.

“To retrieve a book.” Goran’s answer was clearly sincere and on further questioning by Fel it was obvious he knew nothing of the nature of the book.

Fel’s heart softened at Goran’s naiveté. “Carry your wounded,” Felghanis ordered and he removed the bonds from their legs.

It was hard going in the snow, carrying unconscious bodies. Aenir had Kellor across his shoulders like a lumberjack had a log. Frellan and Felghanis carried the Thiridea. Whilst Goran lugged Willem, their hardy guisarme guard, in the same fashion as Aenir. Herath scouted ahead and picked a direction. His keen senses used to the wintery scape. Don’ covered their tracks away from the barrow. It was not worth the time to cover the battle but at least it would be harder for the orks to track them past the barrow.

They had gone quite a distance, perhaps a mile, when bellows and the clash of steel reached their ears. Everyone stopped and took heaving breaths. They felt safer knowing the orks had encountered something.

“It must be Garren on the warpath for revenge.” Donallhan’s voice had a creeping fear in its tone.

“Then let us put more distance between,” Herath called back.

So they did. Pushing their march, Herath led them back towards the coast. One less direction the Garren could approach from. However, the wind was bitter and icy so they kept within the tree line.

The camp was set and the fire kept as small as they dared. Herath and Don’ built up snow walls about their campsite. It would reflect a bit of heat and hopefully reduce the distance the fire could be seen from. Kellor, Thiridea and Willem were all still unconscious. Felghanis called everyone out of the camp.

“We bury them up their necks…” he began.

“No. I’m not doing that,” Kalista cut him off.

“At least we slay the werebear. I don’t want to fight her again,” Aenir was stern. “She can blink or teleport or whatever it’s called. As soon as she awakes she’ll be free whenever she chooses.”

“I had forgotten this,” Kalista murmured looking at her feet.

“We give them weapons and leave them to their fate, then. Right now,” Aenir went on. “By the time they’re all free we’ll be long gone.”

“Maybe,” Don’ said. “The priest, Frellan, he seemed more amiable than the others.”

“Yes, why don’t we bring him here and talk to him?” Kalista beamed.

Frellan stood in his bonds glancing about. He was a handsome man with a powerful natural presence. Everyone’s eyes kept falling on him and they didn’t even realise.

“Perhaps I can suggest something?” Frellan tested the waters after the party back-and-forth came to no resolution.

They looked on, listening.

“You leave us with one day of food each and leave right now. Thiridea will almost certainly want to pursue but with little food we’ll have to go back and retrieve our packs or starve. That should give you at least a two day head-start.”

“Still say we should cut her throat before she wakes up,” Aenir grumbled but he couldn’t meet Frellan’s eyes.

“Don’t kill her, please. You’ll have her superior, Jonas, come looking for you. He’s far more powerful. I can see you’re good folk. You don’t deserve the fate that Jonas would put on you if you killed Thiridea.

“Jonas, is he a werebear too?” Fel asked, a sneer creeping on to his face.

“They are from the chapter of Inquisition Exarcanum, called Ursa Bellor, the bears of war.”

Felghanis nodded. He had suspected as much but he didn’t know for sure until now.

“What are the duties of the Ursa Bellor?”

“They wage war on the foes of the Inquisition Exarcanum. Demons, necromancers, witches. Those who  use magic to corrupt or counter the Saint’s works, or threaten the faithful.”

It made sense to Fel that werebears were used in this chapter. Unwaveringly good and very powerful they would be great soldiers for the cause of the Inquisition. It seemed to him that they were afflicted with their type of lycanthropy as part of joining the chapter. He said as much.

Frellan countered, “It is a great honor to be asked into the Ursa Bellor. Few ever are approached.”

“What about you? What section are you from?”

“I am from the Inquisition Exarcanum. My dedication to the destruction of the wakeful dead gained my invitation. I loathe the undead and will destroy them wherever they may be.”

They talked more at length about the structure of the church. How the Inquisition Exarcanum answers only to the Inquisitor and the Living Saint directly. Frellan was sincere and listened well. Felghanis and Kalista shared the party’s story. When they brought up the Prelate of Dwarf Town and his apparent trucking with demon stone ships Frellan was suddenly stern.

“How could you make up something like that? It’s too absurd to think that is a lie you expect me to believe. I have to believe it is the truth and I will lead the Inquisition there to investigate. The Prelate will not get away with such acts.”

“We’ll leave you with two days food each,” Kalista said. “And you’ll recommend that Thiridea return you all to your packs.”

“One day. Two days is enough that she might think she can force-march us to catch up with you. Willem will still be too wounded for that. I want to make sure we can live and get back to Vrim.”

They shared looks, Fel, Kalista, Don’ and Aenir. Vrim was where they planned to head.

“One day, then, and you’ll have some weapons so you’re not helpless.”

“I suggest you do this now,” Frellan urged. “Thiridea recovers quickly and she may be regain consciousness in the next few hours.”

“Well, I for one don’t want to fight her again and face the possibility of being hunted down by a bigger and badder were-bear,” Aenir said in a hiss.

It was decided and the party left the Scours to the fate that Frellan had suggested. Don’ led the party into the Greywynd Woods. Heading south-east to throw off the idea of pursuit. But they circled around after a mile or so and headed northwards of where the Scours were left. Setting camp was done again and they settled into their watches – tired but resolute.

Soft snow had been falling all night. Occasional gusts swirled it like mist and Felghanis had kept the book in his pack – which he insisted on wearing, or keeping beside him, all night. Now he was on watch with Herath. It was the coldest part of the dark night, just before the sun would rise and he felt bolstered with the recovery of magical energy he had.

As they kept watch, Herath and Fel would walk about the camp, close in on the fire while the other was on the edge. Herath was watching Fel head to the fire. The fire that wasn’t crackling or hissing with the recently added wood. A sudden sinking fear hit his guts as Herath realised he could not hear a thing.

That was when an arm, clad in chain, seized him around the neck from behind. Herath struggled but whomever it was had him tight and the pressure suddenly surged on his neck. The hunter lost consciousness.

Felghanis rubbed his hands together and caught movement out at the snow walls. A heavily built man in chain was dropping the limp form of Herath to the snow. For all Fel knew Herath might be dead. Then he recognised the hard face of Fenris. The traitor, tomb-robber, stalked towards the slim necromancer. He tried to speak, held out his hands to placate the advancing soldier, but he was within the effect of a Silence spell. That was when Fenris jumped on him. Gods he was fast and strong. Fel couldn’t resist. Try as he might Fenris just seemed to wrap him up like a snake might coil about a rat. In desperation Fleghanis seized Fenris’ arm and hit him with negative energy; his Charnel Touch. The soldier’s body jumped at the sensation and then his arms squeezed on Fel’s neck. To the young necromancer it felt like the world rushed away.

Barking awoke the others. Fionnghal was causing a ruckus. Don’s adrenaline surged and he leapt to his feet with a spear ready. A figure was trapped in the flailing roots of Fionnghal’s Entangle. Don’ hurled the spear but his depth perception hadn’t adjusted and it went wide. Aenir was up and moving towards Fel & Herath. The hunter was choking on his own tongue and the dwarf quickly pulled it free with his dagger’s scabbard. Kalista rolled out of her bedroll and also leapt to the aid of those on guard. She healed Felghanis and his eyes fluttered open.

“Fenris,” he rasped, his voice raw from the crushing choke that had knocked him out.

It was too late, though, Fenris had broken out of the dog’s spell and had fled into the cold darkness. They quickly assembled and used potions on Herath. Kellor was awake, too, and Aenir barely had time to grasp forearms with his battle-brother before Don’ and Herath declared Fenris untrackable.

“The snow was not even disturbed,” Don’ said a little awe-struck.

“The man is a ghost in the ice,” Herath said. “He must have magic.”

Kalista brewed on this thought. She had been ruminating on the formula for Traceless Passing, but that covered scent, too. “The dog,” she cried triumphantly. She quickly held up the piece of bear fur and cast the spell Speak with Animals.

“Can you track the man, Fionnghal?”

The dog was excited, “The hunt is on. We track and chase. But not close. Dangerous man. Bit the hunter, and he fell. Then bit the dark man, and he fell, too. Scent fresh. We chase!”

They broke camp as fast as they could. The pursuit of Fenris hot on their hearts. In less than an hour it was a grey winter’s day.

Light was about them, as much as it could be, and Don’ exclaimed, “I see him!”

They doubled their pace and it became apparent that so had Fenris. Soon Fionnghal was arcing to the east and west, as if Fenris knew they were tracking him and then they came upon their own tracks.

“Careful,” Aneir warned. “He might be leading us into an ambush.”

“He’s only one man,” Don’ said. “We have nothing to fear with all of us together.”

“I hope you’re right.” Fel countered. “You saw what he summoned out of the depths. What if he summoned that?”

There was no way to argue against the necromancer’s point, so they pushed on. Fatigue grew in their limbs and they were all tired.

“There,” Don’ suddenly pointed.

After crossing a hundred yards of snowy forest they saw it. A sack tied to a branch about seven feet from the ground. It held a rectangular shape. To Fel’s eyes it looked about right to be their hard-won book of Fimbulwinter.

“No,” Felghanis said in disbelief and amusement.

He led them to the sack and gingerly untied it. Opening the hessian away from his body he was relieved nothing issued forth. Inside he found the book and carefully he began to check its condition. There was little wrong with the volume. It was obviously read and the pages a little worn at the edges as if someone had rapidly thumbed through the thing. In the fly page a hastily scrawled note read in charcoal:

“I needed to read it. I have no qualms with you but if you pursue me I will kill you.”

It was signed with a glyph of a wolf’s paw.

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