No updates in quite a while. Why is that?
I’m writing and improving my art skills. With over 14 projects to write and another 2 to illustrate I have to brush up on everything.
Simple 2d6 is simply sitting there attracting a few sales. Have you bought a copy? Drop a comment below.
Rune Paths d20 is also attracting a few sales.
Combined the two products paid for some art supplies. Nothing much but it’s nice to have done them.
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No updates in quite a while. Why is that?
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
Fionnghal was excited as Don’ awoke. The fey-touched dog reaching into Don’s thoughts said, “Close tower. We moving.”
Don’ knew that meant they had to be ready in case this lone person was hostile. Fionnghal didn’t have the smarts to figure that out but given this person was feeding the dog scraps of meat and offal that he’d hunted he at least had a soft spot for stray animals.
They prepared an ambush at the top of the cut-stone stairs which led up the rocky butte to the stable’s area. Don’ gathered a few heavy rocks and Kallista was surprised at the doughty lad’s strength. They waited, looking, whilst Felghanis scratched away on some salvaged parchment.
His writing was a little poor from long days of not handling a pen but Felghanis managed to assemble a lot of his notes from the lost journal in a tight small script. His Uncle might even be watching, now. Felghanis recalled his experience after being struck by the lightning trap. He hadn’t shared what he saw; his near-death experience, but it still haunted him.
The amethyst column thrummed with mana. It had a sliver of what it could potentially hold and that felt like enough energy to raise a mountain. The others were stuck in the passage fighitng the steel dog, but the column kept drawing Fel’s attention. What was it about this incredible thing that kept pulling him back?
The sounds drifted away as he began to see something within the faint purple glow. An image; there but not. In two places and neither of those places was really in the column. An arc and a dome, and a rim around the bottom… it was the bell of Thulemon.
“Oh my god,” Fel cried out and rushed forward.
There was a thunderous crack and then, nothing.
“Felghanis?” Uncle asked, surprised and annoyed. “What are you doing here?”
The room was so dark he could barely be sure he was there and Fel struggled to make out anything.
“We weren’t meant to meet again like this, nephew. You need to go back.” Uncle sounded disappointed and a bit angry.
“Go back? Where? Where am I?”
“Just go back Felghanis.” To Fel’ it sounded like Uncle was very annoyed. Like something he had hoped he could put off was now a pressing urgency.
“But where? How?”
“Can’t you feel them calling for you?”
“No! Who’s calling me?”
“Your friends. They are bringing you back. Go to them. We’ll meet again later.”
“But how? What’s happening? What have you got to do with the bell?”
“Go back Felghanis. The bell is outside of even the Saint’s reach. Rejoin your friends.”
Fel’s breath rasped in his chest and if he was conscious there would have been great pain. He rested and was given care by his friends. Kallista fussed over him and tended his wounds. By morning Fel was well enough to stand and help forage for food, but he bore the scars of the lightning bolt that killed him – burns and stitch-marks over the left side of his torso and up his neck. It did kill him because the phylactery was gone. Nothing left of it but some black ash.
Absently, Felghanis scratched a message on the parchment, “Uncle, if you can see this message, send me a sign?” It was a long shot but worth taking, Felghanis felt.
“I see him,” Don’ called out.
The figure seemed to just appear at the base of the rocky butte atop which perched the Iron Tower. Fionnghal broke from trotting along in the man’s shadow and sprinted up the stairs. Happy little whimpers escaping as he rushed back to Don’. Much happy licking from the dog and pats and ear rubs from Don’ as they were reunited after weeks.
The man who approached looked tanned and rangy. He was dressed in ragged bone-scale armor and wore his hair long. Carrying some spears and a longspear he gave the impression he was a hunter in his element.
“State your purpose,” Don’ yelled out.
“Let us meet, face-to-face, and talk. I don’t yell out to shadows,” he said without breaking his stride.
The whole party stood to face the newcomer. Weapons were held in their scabbards, or points upward, in uneasy tension.
“I seek an end to spring and the Old Mountain has said this is the first place to look,” Herath, the hunter said after they realised there was no enmity or deception happening.
“We’ve been through the whole place and found that the winter is some books of Fimbulwinter. There is meant to be one in Kentos’ Barrow, to the east, near the mouth of the Greywynd River,” Felghanis said.
“Then it’s true what Old Mountain said,” Herath growled. Then he launched into a rhyme.
Iron mount once held bell of the dead
Where giant-slayer rests his head
Lost titans wait for ice’s return
The tree and tear must surely burn
Or spring’s last breath will pass us by
Find the way while the chance is nigh
“The titans are returning? Oh that’s just great,” Felghanis crowed. “Now who is Fenris working for: the Hrimpursar, or the Church?”
“Or someone else?” Don’ asked.
“Who is Fenris and why are you so afraid of him?” Herath asked bluntly.
They retold their story to this point, the trip on the stone ship, everything. Herath listened carefully and never interrupted. “What kind of power is that?” he asked once they were done.
“Birthright, ordained, or some kind of pact,” Felghanis said miserably. Then his tone lifted, “If we are to travel together we should start now.”
They agreed and continued on their journey, chatting and sharing information as they walked.
Rocky beach the color of dark clay led them east. The forest was thick once back from the high-water mark, and high enough that the tree-roots weren’t exposed to salt water. It was the Greywynd Forest according to Fel’s map and they kept looking for signs of Garren. Those territorial markers of skulls pinned to trees by long arrows. They didn’t see any and that made them nervous.
Picking up the trail of a bison herd the party moved into the forest. The bison were down from the high plains to find food in the harshest winter for decades and the party needed meat. The hunt was quick with Fionnghal’s fey power, Entangle, launching roots out of the ground to seize three bison. One escaped and the party only slew one more. They would have more meat than they could carry otherwise.
Don’ and Herath had barely finished packing the meat when everyone became aware of the smell of wood-smoke. They looked about and a pall was rising to the north. Disturbed they returned to the beach, which was frozen firm, and trekked north towards the smoke. As they closed on the source of the pall a pinned ogre skull was spotted and they sought cover.
It was Aenir who suggested they prowl forwards to see what was going on. Herath joined him and the dwarf surprised the tribal hunter with his stealthy movements. Felghanis made it moot as he rustled and grunted along after them. They came to a small creek, frozen over, and it seemed to be a border for the burning settlement. Humpbacked structures had mostly burned to the ground.
Bodies of Garren littered the spaces between. Hacked and left sprawled in dark stains of blood in the snow. Among the tall wiry Garren were some thickset goblinoids with dark skin: Hobgoblins.
“We’ll find their camp and kill’em all,” Aenir said with a snarl.
Herath spotted something moving. Like a hemisphere of darkness it glided through the village and away from the men laying on their bellies in the snow.
“There,” Herath whispered, pointing it out.
“Blakh,” Aenir said, shaking his head.
They returned to the others to report.
Felghanis led the argument to go into town for survivors and Kallista quickly jumped on board. They gathered together and entered the town. So many dead. Even the giant beetles the Garren kept as livestock had been slain in their pens. Just speared, until they bled out, by the merciless hob’s.
Finally they found a survivor but it was one of the hob’s, barely alive.
It was Kellor who hefted the large creature on to his back and carried it back. He wasn’t gentle but neither did he try to injure the hob and push it over the abyss’ edge.
Back at camp Kallista saw to its wounds and by morning it was awake. They interrogated it, dismissing Felghanis’ overtones of using torture, and found out that there were two camps, with three Blakh between them. The Hob’s and the Blakh had been in the woods for three days and this was the second village of Garren they had razed.
“It is orders, for the glory of our people,” the Hob, Breakfinger, answered.
Bound tightly but kept warm the Hob was left laying on the ground while the party planned their next moves. As the day drew to a close and camp was established they were in good spirits. The weather had been clear and the sun warm on their faces. Greywynd Woods were no longer a dark threat that hid Garren behind every bole.
The next morning they travelled on and the dwarves insisted that Breakfinger carry all the meat Felghanis had preserved. With lots of food available they spent the day walking and gathering firewood, whilst keeping Breakfinger in their sights.
The day after that Breakfinger started making a fuss and nodding ahead. Slipping his gag down they heard him say, “The camp is ahead at the river mouth.”
Wisely Felghanis asked the hob to draw a map. It held up its bound hands and when let loose it drew a crude map in the sand with a stick Fionnghal had been idly chewing. Four tents on the edge of the river mouth with three trenches. Guards picketed in pairs, too. The camp looked well defensible and the party had Breakfinger lead them around it – a mile out to avoid the patrols which the Hob’ said were to half a mile. It worked.
They made it to the river which was frozen over in a thick sheet ice. Herath tested the ice and pronounced it safe to cross. Once over the river it dawned on them how can they find a barrow in a forest.
“I recall the Codger saying they used to plant trees of certain types on top of barrows. Not sure which types, though. Usually thought to be protective,” Kallista said.
“We need a view,” Don’ said.
Herath found a tall tree and asked for a rope. He used it to scale the giant fir and once high in its branches he could see the distant Hobgoblin camp. The two figures of the guards he could just make out right where Breakfinger said they’d be. To the west he could see a long barrow. The trees on top of it were giants and darker, and more dense, of needle than the surrounding fir and birch.
“I’ve seen it,” Herath said once back on the ground.
Everyone was nervous about revealing anything more in front of Breakfinger. They whispered and decided to let the Hob’ go free, here. Breakfinger backed off about 20 yards then ran for his life. He was out of their sight and ear-shot within seconds. The party was still for a few heartbeats.
“Alright. Let’s go and I’ll cover our tracks,” Don’ said.
They did a sterling job and before much time had passed Herath led them to the barrow. It was long, some 100 feet or more and five giant silk yew trees had grown over the mound. Their massive roots could be seen, thick as a man’s leg, over the side of the barrow. At the southern end a mossy slab of stone was mostly concealed by roots and shade.
“Looks like the door,” Kellor said and strode towards it.
Kallista brushed the moss of the slab revealing a worn carving of a figure carrying a long spear in old-fashioned mail armor.
Don’ took his crowbar from the pack and started to pry at the door but couldn’t make it budge.
“Here, lad, let me,” Kellor took the crowbar from the young man and worked the slab loose. “Grab it here and pull.”
Together they opened the slab. A gasp of air rushed in then a small puff of dust escaped. The darkness inside had the party staring for a brief moment in total stillness.
Kallista said firmly, “Lux!” The top of her staff burst into white light and they entered, Don leading.
As soon as Don’s foot fell across the threshold an inky form seeped out of stone-slab sarcophagus at the end of the small chamber. It began to form a figure, just like the small statue on top of the casket.
“What-for you enter the tomb of Lord Kentos, giant-slayer, servant of Davinus?”
Don’ took to one knee almost instantly in a sign of humble respect. “We seek the return of Spring, and the book of Fimbulwinter we believe will aid us in that.”
The form, now almost solid, in a long chain hauberk, carried a bone white sword that seemed flecked with ice-crystals. It levelled the blade at Don’. “You may enter but touch nothing save the book.” It warned. Then it faded away back into the rough stone casket.
There was little to say. Felghanis had studied the apparition with Detect Undead and it was strong; at least the match of any two of them, possibly more so. Pressing inwards the great roots seemed to cling to the walls, adding strength to the structure. They passed two more stone-slab sarcophagi and standing in them, through the stone, were two more apparitions of what must have been Kentos’ shouldermen. Each warned the party, levelling one of the bone swords at them, and let them pass.
The final chamber was larger than the others. A tall stone column split the entrance and was carved with runes. Felghanis took a rubbing and as he did managed to translate a phrase that was repeated a few times in the passage.
“Three deer?” he asked aloud.
“That matches the seerwoman’s vision,” Kallista said excitedly. The fact she was in a tomb of active spirits seemingly dismissed.
Beyond the column a great spear, glowing with magic, was lain across a large ornate stone casket. It lit the room well. Behind the casket, in an alcove of stone, a tall statue depicted a fierce warrior some seven and a half feet tall. On his hip was a satchel, part of the carving of stone, holding a large leather bound book.
“That must be it,” Felghanis hissed.
Don’ and Fel started whispering on how to beseech the spirit of Kentos for the book when Fel suddenly inspired dropped to one knee, hands outstretched.
“Lord Kentos. We seek the book of Fimbulwinter to find out how to stop it from taking over our lands. To bring back Spring, and prevent the return of the Hrimpursar.”
His words had barely finished reverberating from the stone when the clash of steel echoed from the entrance to the barrow. A battle had started and they were already in a tomb.
Travelling with the dwarves was easy. They were both friendly and straight-forward dwarves of principles. It was those principles that made them stand against taxation by the Church, and that led to their arrest. Kellor and Aenir ran a small crafting concern, Kellor making items and Aenir mostly selling them. Both were well able to assist the group’s survival requirements.
Food was thinning after some foul weather. The party made some good time whilst on the flat ring-like ledge which seemed to circumscribe Plateau Point. When they came down of the raised land they were faced with thick old fir forest and a pebble beach that stretched to the horizon.
In the afternoon, many days after leaving the stone ship wreckage & Captain Morgaine’s camp, Dom and Kalista spotted an ogre with its back to them, sitting against a thick fir tree.
The party went silent and Aenir whispered, “I can sneak up and check if it’s alive.”
Dom replied, his Fey sight granting him a brief few seconds of incredible detail, “No need. It’s dead. There is no clouding of breath and I can see ice over its skin.”
The party closed and saw the ogre had bled out on the spot. Some fresh snow not enough to cover the deep red stains. Yet it was the missing leg that disturbed the most. Some creature had removed it, likely for food, and then departed.
It was the next day, when they were faced with a broad river that had not iced over, that they heard a creature.
“Some kind of ape predator. I’ve not thought they could be in this part of the world. They’re meant to only be on foreign shores.” Dom was concerned. He knew they were powerful and fast.
The concern was justified even though they did not see the predator. Traipsing a few miles inland they found the river iced up enough to cross safely.
On the pebble beach they saw signs of a one-man camp. Was it Fenris?
They couldn’t be sure.
“I think it’s 50/50 that it was Fenris,” Kallista pronounced.
That night a pair of emaciated ogres attacked them as they prepared their campsite. The hairy giants were little match for the combined might of the party. Aenir’s speed and dwarven combat training turned out to be the hammer against the anvil of Felghanis’ blindness curses. His powers had grown. The ogres had little salvageable gear but the large snares drew Dom’s appreciation.
It was a few more days later that they found sign of a large camp. Maybe 6 people arrayed around a fire.
“Has Fenris found allies?” Dom thought aloud.
“There’s not enough evidence,” Felghanis put forward.
It was towards the end of that day the Iron Tower came into few. A rust streaked needle in the distance, sprouting from the top of a high butte of rock that protruded into the waters.
The shore turned rocky and they travelled in heath and frozen marsh. Then they heard seals on the rocks below. With the aid of a summoned shark they managed to secure a young seal. 35lbs of meat ought to last a few weeks.
Felghanis said, “I can help preserve it. At least for four days before I need to cast again.”
As the closed with the Iron Tower its shape became more apparent. There was a large gallery around the base, above the entrance stair, that likely was for defensive counter-attack. Full of murder holes and the like. Before the tower’s base a stable had been erected.
The climb to the tower was up a series of carved steps. They were far apart to ease the ascent for horses and once at the top the party investigated the stables. Its roof was covered in iron tiles and it was well weathered but serviceable. Inside they found the remains of a camp and a few travelling packs. Rifling those quickly they found the Canon of St. Fergus, oil, and coal. They hadn’t been there long because the damp had not seeped into the material.
“They may be inside and needing aid,” Kallista was concerned. Even if they were part of the Church that wrongly charged them, they still deserved aid.
“Why help people who will make our lives harder?” Felghanis muttered. Clearly he had no inclination to aid anyone from the Church of St. Fergus ever again.
“It is the right thing to do,” Kallista protested. “And they will likely know nothing of us and Dwarf Town.”
Dom was in agreement and Alassiel piped up.
“If we’re going in the tower my psi-crystal will scout ahead. Like at the Hand of Gulresh.”
It was agreed and the crystal scuttled into the tower at a rapid pace.
Inside there was a kind of staging room. Or a holding area. Easily defended with further access to the tower on the opposite side of the entrance. Some debris and potshards indicated nothing but age and abandonment. Stairs led up and to the level with the gallery and its further defences. A combination of reception areas and the archers’ galleries filled out that level.
It was on the next level the psi-crystal found some movement. Two large figures approached it, as if sensing its life-force, and Alassiel pulled it quickly back. Unwilling to risk it against the unknown entities.
“Well, let’s go in, then.”
It was as the crystal had reported. When the reached the landing above the gallery they saw what the psi-crystal had retreated from. Two walking sarcophagi. It was so unnatural. What was worse, bony arms with large sabre claws lashed out and struck Dom with two severe blows. Wounding him badly. The dwarves rushed to drag Dom to safety.
Felghanis could sense they were some kind of undead. He surged up the stairs and sought to command them in the fashion he was taught by his Uncle. They were too strong and too resistant to the energies involved. As if in reaction to his following spell the things lashed Felghanis and he fainted from the shock.
“Retreat, retreat!” they yelled.
“I have to get Fel,” Dom called. He channelled his Fey energy and greatly enhanced his speed. Running past the open arch that the things were attacking through he managed to evade their cleaving claws and retrieve Fel. Back on his feet, Fel recovered his breath.
“What are those things?”
“We’ll regroup in the stables and think of our next move,” Dom answered.
There was no further discussion.
The game session went well. Full-house of players at the table and air-con to stave off the heat of a 37C degree day (99F for our imperial friends).
Play started out with the players incarcerated. Alassiel retrieved her psi-crystal. It’s fine size allowing it to make an unseen path to its mistress. She spent her time in the cell deciphering the memorized script of Felghanis’ Uncle’s journal.
Kallista, poor Kallista, was suffering the most. She cried and screamed for a priest. The gaoler asked it if was for a confession of her crimes. Kallista agreed to confess to trespass on the church’s road. The meeting didn’t come for hours.
Felghanis went for the top. “I need to speak to the Prelate.”
Eventually, some 6 hours later, the Prelate met with Felghanis.
Both meetings were between somewhat desperate prisoners and skilled diplomats. Each time the priest or the Prelate was well-used to dealing with such a situation. The prisoners were sent back. In Kallista’s case with a bucketful of guilt.
They persisted for a time until the lack of water began to take its toll. When they finally were given water Kallista attempted to create more but without her focuses and spellbook she failed the spell; drenching herself and her bedclothes. She passed out after less than an hour from the cold.
It was at this time, nearly 48 hours after being incarcerated, that they were moved by cart to a huge stone ship that sat berthed on the river of Dwarf Town. It had no sails and the populace seemed unwilling to come any closer than the shore to see it, or they ignored it. In the hold was like being in a cave. Time passed. They were fed, watered, and witnessed a fight over food. Callan, a murderer, pulled the eye from the prisoner who stole his bread, adding another soul to his victims.
Fenris was another prisoner, a self-confessed traitor, and three brothers; Tomasso, Dean and the eldest, as well as two dwarves, were there for tax-evasion. In chains they travelled in the belly of this stone ship. Alassiel shared that it was known generally as demon stone ships, and the church really ought not to be trucking with the likes who might have one.
After a lost amount of time, Kallista awoke to see Fenris apparently meditating. She heard the mutterings and recognised some words of summoning. It appeared he was calling in a pact, that had elements of summoning in its request. Alassiel awoke and drew the same conclusion. It was Felghanis who attempted to intervene (with his Charnel Touch channelled through his foot). Yet bad luck prevented Fel from managing to reach Fenris. Kallista was first to notice that the traitor had slipped his manacles.
Things began moving very quickly. Something smashed the ship and it wailed. Fenris started bending the bars, just enough to get his head out, and Fel called for the guards before he could escape. Like a wolf he lunged out and punched Fel nearly knocking the young necromancer unconscious. Dom quickly placated Fenris with promises to keep Fel quiet.
“Good. I don’t want you to drown,” Fenris’ reply was frightening.
“I’m going to get the key,” Fenris answered. With a few more efforts he bent the bars and squeezed himself through, popping a shoulder, and replacing it once out.
More massive blows to the ship set it to screaming. Suddenly Fenris was back, with a sword and armoured, to see Dom and the dwarves were brute-forcing the manacles open. He threw in the key and then left. The part set about freeing everyone. Callan was last. Felghanis helped him loosed but the guards had beaten him so soundly he couldn’t walk properly.
“I’m not leaving without him,” Fel said resolutely.
Kallista nodded and joined the dark young man in aiding this murderer to get free of the hold.
The ship listed dramatically and then righted. They rushed up to the decks only to be blocked by thre guards with spears. They were shaken and desperately trying to carry out their orders.
“Get back below!” one bellowed.
“We’ll drown and you will, too.” Dom tried to reason with them.
“For no reason at all,” added one of the dwarves.
“Get back,” the guard was seeing the sense but fell back on his obedience to orders.
“Come on man, let us live, and you can, too. We can help each other get of this ship.”
Suddenly the prow pitched up and the ship ground over rocks to a halt. A flash of lightning from stern-ward lit up the night. Ahead was a looming cliff and above it a stretch of scrub. Motes of ice were driven in the strong wind and it was very dark.
The guards agreed and they used the mooring lines to make an escape.
At the rear of the deck a mage flung a lightning bolt. He was aided by a cluster of a dozen soldiers and they seemed to have driven off something huge. Into the dark water a massive neck and shoulder were swallowed by the midnight waves. Fenris was nowhere to be seen.
The ship went pale and the guards with their mage as leader arrived. Channelling raw mana, and then his own blood, the captain held the ship together enough for everyone to escape. including 6 guards who had salvaged three chests all marked with the sigil of the Church of St. Fergus. Once they were all off the mage leapt into a feather fall, and the ship collapsed in a fractured cacophony of stone shattering.
Assembled at the top the shock of the wrecking was passing. The captain ordered the soldiers to secure the prisoners. In what seemed like a whole minute, Kalista and Dom exchanged glances and then fled into the snow.
”Don’t pursue the,” the Captain said. “They will be back.”
He was right.
In return for the agreement to try to return Fenris to Captain Morgane the prisoners were given back their belongings (minus the deep earth crystal the party had acquired in the Soucairn of Thulemon) and set free. Seeing Felghanis’ with his map the Captain pointed out their current location.
“What do you thin Fenris’ agenda will be?” Dom asked.
“He was robbing old tombs before he was arrested. I’d say he’ll be aiming to do that again.” The Captain’s eyes fell on the mark for the Iron Tower inked on Fel’s map.
The three brothers and Callan opted to head west and attempt to find Fenris that way. The dwarves joined the party and headed east.
Again Chris has written a journal entry of the session. It is here.
This is the best one yet, I think, because it lets us in the character’s thoughts & feelings.
The characters finally made it to the five fingers of stone. Also known as the Hand of Gulresh. It was where the “nastier” Goblins lives. Those the captured Goblin in the Soucairn of Thulemon had said his gang fled. On the shoulder of the “thumb” was a stockaded settlement, or fort, with tall watchtower of wood.
It seemed to be manned by Scours of the Church of St. Fergus. Somehow one of the guards saw the party and a group of 8 were sent to investigate. The party hid from the Scours and were successful in evading them by hiding their tracks and just plain waiting them out.
Later they tried to circumvent the fort and enter the mountain. They found the mountain was a jail, and the keepers were the Scours. Using the Goblins’ females as collateral there was some bargain with the Goblins and they didn’t like it any more. Mobbing the watchtower the party heard thunderclaps break-up the riot.
Reconnaissance by the psi-crystal of Alassiel found that shipments are being sent and the latest wagon went out just that morning. They fort also requested reinforcements. The party chased the wagon and caught it, feigning to be travellers, they joined the wagon group. 3 soldiers and a priest.
Felghanis handed over his Uncle’s journal to the priest in the hope of being aided, or at least giving the damning evidence to people who have the power to take action – much to Dom’s horror (unfortunately Dom’s player was absent and we missed out on the potential for some great RP).
Pestritto, the priest, invited Felghanis on the wagon for some more assistance in learning the Uncle’s strange ever-shifting cipher (shifts from entry to entry). Fel saw a large trunk, metal-strapped, and bearing the sigil of the church. On the last watch, Fel’s watch, Pestritto confronted Fel about what they really were doing out here in the depth of winter. Next session we find out what Fel’s answers will lead to.
As the party travelled Dom’ realised their food supplies were low. One harsh blizzard could see them trapped for long enough to run out of edibles. Dom’ led the party to gathering surplus off the land and storing it for later use. The cold climate aiding the preservation of foods. However, they still had to balance their firewood requirements should it become harsher – and it would.
As they entered the woods a blizzard approached. Felghanis suffered that night. They ran out of fuel and he could not be roused. Being cold to the touch they worked at getting him warm and gathered around him & the fire. He had been travelling in just simple outdoor clothes and not the thick quilted cold-weather gear the rest of the group had been wearing.
“I just had to leave my uncle,” Felghanis managed to excuse himself.
“We’ll make you a suit out of skins,” Dom said.
Kalista chipped in, “I can sew and craft leather. We can do this.”
“Only question is how long until we have enough skins,” Dom’ cautioned. “Let’s hope there’s not another blizzard like that one.”
Crossing the forest to the margins of the moorlands took two days. Two days later they saw skulls pinned to trees. Garren! Keeping to the margins they trekked north and just before sunset found a partially razed cabin some months old with a cluster of skulls fixed to the boles around. The arrows were long, over a yard, and fletched with strange material that could only be compared to insect wings. Moving hastily away the made to set camp a half mile or so further north.
Barely had they stopped to begin the preparation of their camp when Dom’ spotted a bear out on the moors. A small black bear on its own for its first winter. The hunt was on. They stalked the bear and got within 40 yards when it scented them. Alassiel’s psi-crystal charged forward scoring a nasty wound on the bear. Dom’s hound went to the bear’s rear-flank and Dom slung stones at the beast. The bear seized the psi-crystal with a lucky grab and started trying to maul it. Hard as iron the psi-crystal was undamaged but it was unable to attack from the mighty creature’s grasp. They brought the bear down with a few more attacks and the psi-crystal sprung free. Much meat was had after the bear was skun and dressed.
Returning to their chosen camp site they set their tent and fire. Dom’ noticed wolverine tracks at a puddle and they set proper watches instead of relying on the psi-crystal and Dom’s hound. Later that night the wolverine was heard seizing the largest haunch of bear-meat. The camp awoke and the wolverine ran off with the meat; settling down a hundred feet away to eat it with loud pleasured growling.
Kalista charmed the creature with a spell but it still was wary and aggressive towards her companions. Then she realised that the spell would not last a few days, as she thought, and they sent it off to the bear’s carcass back on the moors.
Three more hard days they travelled but with the large supply of meat they did not need to forage for more than the first. They camped and Felghanis was seen with a strange book. Alassiel and Dom’ had both interest in the volume that seemed to absorb Felghanis’ attention every night. This night Felghanis leapt up in excitement.
“That’s what he’s looking for!”
“My uncle. He’s looking for Kanii’s key and the Bell of Thullemon.”
Kalista had heard of these things. “They’re undead related. The key unlocks the Halls of the Dead, it is said. And the Bell animates all the dead that could hear its toll.”
“Yes. Now you see why I had to get away from him.”
They talked more and Dom’ questioned Felghanis.
“How can this be? How can this man who employed my family be a necromancer?”
Felghanis tried to explain but Dom’ was suspicious.
“What is that book made of anyway? It looks like human skin!”
“It is. That’s what kind of man my uncle is.”
“It will attract evil spirits. We should burn it right now.”
“No. Without it I can’t figure out what my uncle is doing; what he is plotting.”
“Then keep it away from me. I will not sleep knowing it is within fifty feet of me.”
Felghanis resolutely setup his bedroll at roughly the distance Dom’ stated he needed for a clear mind to sleep.
On Dom’s watch he heard the crunch of snow underfoot. Reacting quickly he spied a humanoid shape in the pale light behind a tree. A large bow and long arrows with the odd fletching he could just make out using his fey powers. Dom’ shouted to wake the camp and the figure fled. When all were awake he checked the tracks. They were uncannily shallow in the snow and as he searched a break in the clouds revealed a small faerie ring marked with stones.
“We have to leave. It was a Garren.”
Felghanis wanted proof since there were no typical territorial markers. The tracks were as described.
Kalista heard the creak of bow string, “Duck!”
A long arrow streaked past Felghanis’ head and embedded in the tree without the arrow-shaft even shaking. He looked at the arrow trying to figure out if it would have pierced his skull had he not reacted.
They sprinted back to camp. Another arrow struck a tree in sight of the fire. They hastily packed their equipment and supplies. Then fled their campsite in the flickering light of their improvised hearth. Snowflakes were drifting about them and they were in the deep dark of night.
One of my gaming buddies asked me today if he could write a story set in Ferris – the same city that “A Tale of Rum Town” takes place within. Rum Town is actually where he wants to set his story. Is this a sign of Khara Thel’s appeal, that someone who has only just started reading about, and learning a little bit about, wants to write a tale set there?