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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 15 ideas

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Swathes of information are on the table now, after session 14. It’d be hard for the players to struggle come up with an agenda. I think that they’ll be swamped with choices and struggle to make a choice about what they ought to do next.

It really will be game-altering which direction they choose. Vrim or Stonecrest. The latter is nearly 300miles away. If they choose Stonecrest it’ll refocus the game on travel and survival for a time. Covering that kind of distance in the harshest winter in living memory will be tough. It also raises the question, what if the winter doesn’t end? The prophecy that Herath brought from the shaman Old Mountain seems to think it will not end unless the return is stopped.

It’s clear that the players have some antagonists. Thiridea and possibly her Scours. The potential threat of Jonas who Frellan insists would not have died in the Iron Tower. Fenris as an enemy if they end up on his trail again. The Prelate of Dwarftown and his “secrets”.

I know if I was playing that I’d be heading for a town. At the very least a hot bath and a fresh loaf of bread before going elsewhere. Vrim is close enough that it’s worth doing and heading back through the Greywynd Woods, and the vengeful Garren, might be a suicide-mission. With all this going on it’s still 2 weekends until we play again (May 6th).

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Kiltayre: Session 14 (part 2)

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Felghanis stowed the book and with Herath at the lead they all headed back to the coast. As they travelled, slowly, Kellor got used to swinging his axe again for their firewood needs. The dwarf seemed happy to be useful again. Aenir and his battle-brother were in good spirits. May have been relief that they were still alive together.

With most of the day ahead of them they pushed as far as they dared whilst collecting wood. After setting camp Felghanis began deciphering the book. Kalista tried as well but she couldn’t make heads or tails of the writings. It may as well have been in ancient Lecorrean for her.

It was written in ancient Hrimpursar runes and the phrasing was esoteric since it described the Ritual of Fimbulwinter. The book revealed that the ritual also summoned a kind of dire elk that the Hrimpursar loved to hunt and eat. There were many other secrets in the book:

  • Hrimpursar claimed a right to blanket the land in winter.
  • This was the second of three books.
  • It described the ritual.
  • And how the ritual must be done at least 60feet from any tears of the elders. “There must be no regret or the ritual will fail.”
  • Each book could be used to find the others. It held a kind of empty “spell structure” that could be fuelled with any spell of the first tier. The heading and rough distance to the book being asked about would be given. However, this could only be used once per day.

In the morning they would have their energies returned enough that Kalista could cast the necessary spell into the book and determine where it may be. She gathered herself and charged the spell-structure. The sensation was wrong. It was like two shadows were competing for her attention and neither could be trusted. One sense was the book lay in Vrim. The other sense that it was in Stonecrest, or at least where the place was marked on Felghanis’ map. Confused she shared it with the others.

“We should go to Stonecrest,” Felghanis. “My uncle said they have a grand library.”

“The high plains are dangerous. Moreso than these woods,” Herath cautioned. “And far colder. It may not be possible to travel in the winter. Even the bison leave the high plains at this time.”

“But it’s not that far. We’ve been further. We can go back along the mountains’ foothills and cross to the high plains further west.”

“Vrim is far closer and Vrim will have hot food,” Don’ said.

Aenir and Kellor glanced about the party, “Vrim is so much closer. We should go there first.”

“If the book’s not there we can head to Stonecrest afterwards.”

Felghanis looked dismayed but said no more on the matter.

“Either way,” Kalista added diplomatically, “We still need to rest this night.”

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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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Kiltayre: Session 14 Ideas

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I’m hoping the players certainly have some questions:

  • Why were scours attacking the barrow?
  • What the hell is a werebear doing as a Scour at all?
  • Are these Scours, Thiredea’s band, connected to those that died at the Iron Tower?
  • Will Kentos’ spirit let them take the book now?
  • What about the Hob’s & Blakh?
  • Is there a Garren revenge warband on the way?
  • And where is Fenris (if they even care any more)?

Session 14 will be back to plot and information with a very good chance that the party will make it back to civilization for the first time in nearly three months! I know I’d be lusting after a hot bath, a real bed inside of four walls and a roof, and a fresh baked loaf of bread after that amount of time in the dirty wilds.

However, the party do have the entire Scour group as prisoners: two soldiers, a priest and Thiredea the werebear.

Interesting choices and possibly dilemmas ahead.

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Kiltayre Session 13

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Clash at the Barrow of Kentos

When the party asked if they could take the book, again, a voice rolled out of the sarcophagus, “Until my tomb is safe you cannot touch the book.” They ran to the sounds of battle to protect Kentos’ tomb.

Two martial scours and a turn-specialist, who managed to destroy two wraiths, were leading the attack on the Barrow of Kentos.

Felghanis used his Blindness spell to devastating effect on the attacking Scours. He took a hit from an oversized crossbow bolt from a sniper. After the first of them was downed the other two ran but the sniper kept on. One of the Scours fell to his knee in surrender claiming a rich cousin, a Cardinal no less, when it appeared this “Thiredea” they kept calling to for help was not forthcoming.

The leader of the Scours, and sniper, closed on the party as they took the three other Scours prisoner. She tried to imperiously take charge of the situation expecting her authority would be enough out here in the wilderness to make the party do as she said. They quickly blocked Thiredea and met her words with harsher ones. It was straight after this that battle began again. Aenir and Kellor quickly flanked her and landed two hard blows. She erupted into the form of a werebear and began raining heavy damage about her with a poleaxe in one hand/paw.

Herath was downed, as was Felghanis, and Kellor looked like the side of his head was smashed in, by the time they brought Thiredea down. Kellor’s wound turned out to be a nasty but non-life-threatening one. His ear was ripped off with bits of his helmet and scalp. The party were grateful.

GM’s notes:
It was a long session primarily focused on the battle – which was split in two chapters. Thiridea turned out to be a capable enemy but ultimately out-numbered and with her massive strength quite damaged by Ray of Enfeeblement, she succumbed. It went down pretty much how I had hoped except I expected the martial scours and the turn-specialist to get inside the barrow. All the plot information will be put together next session.

Kallista’s player was quick to spend a Fate Point to save Kellor when I put the option on the table. It was almost a race between Don’s player, too, for the privilege. I thought that was great. Players invested in their party and their NPC companions helps keep the energy of the game in good shape.

Chris’ journal is here and goes into more detail:
http://www.buygameshobbies.com/stories/journals/winters-end-session-013-kallistas-journal/

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Kiltayre Session 13 Ideas

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So many ideas in such a short time. The characters have heard of a town on the other side of the Greywynd Woods. A Sealer Nomad settlement on the shore of Jelno Bay. This will, hopefully, be a good lure to get them headed in that direction. Quite frankly I’d not expect them to do anything else. A place to get real food, real beds, and some company as well as news of the war – and possibly an update on what happened in Felk Bay after the invasion of the Rett barbarians.

The settlement has really sprung to life with lots of ideas creating lots of information and plots. Plots coming out of my eyeballs. But ultimately all those plots are a distraction from the main one.

The battle at the Barrow of Kentos will be a good decider on how the next segments play out. It has a lot more gravitas than might be perceived. And there’s some awesome twists I’m bursting at the seems to share, but can’t until the game-session reconvenes.

Instead I’ll just list a few rumours that can be encountered once they’re back in civilization:

  • Dwarven miners have discovered a new vein of silver on the edge of the glacial shelf (East)
  • Bizarre monsters have been encountered in the Queens March Heath (South, near the Scarred March)
  • The boss of the Sipran Guards is conspiring to overthrow the leader of the Southern Keep (Sipran Patriarach)
  • Lady Lande Tovranen’s new songbird is actually a polymorphed dragon
  • A sidhe court has been seen in the woods outside town (SW)
  • The chancellor of the watch is conspiring to overthrow the Sipran family patriarch
  • Rewyn the goldsmith was killed by goblins in the hills outside town
  • The old monastery on Highgate Hill is haunted by ghosts
  • Bizarre monsters have been encountered in the Scarred March (part of the near High Plains)
  • Cyne the merchant deals in magical weapons, but they’re all cursed
  • Lady Enora Sipran, is also the master of the Shadow Knives (assassins)

Exciting stuff for the GM and hopefully the players.

May have an illustration and map to be posted, soon.

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Kiltayre: Session 12 review

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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.

“Why?”

“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.

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Kiltayre Session 12: Ideas

Comments Off on Kiltayre Session 12: Ideas

Session 11 really put the rudder on the party, I felt. The books of Fimbulwinter show the means of what is happening. It’s the motive and whom that remain unanswered. This is a good thing because can’t have it all revealed in the middle; it ruins the climax of the tale.

What’s coming? The players are likely to head to Kentos’ Barrow. Greywynd River, and its surrounding woods, is the territory of Garren. They’ll risk encountering the Wood Wraiths and all that entails.

My feeling, as GM, is that we’ve regained some cohesion with the main plot and put the direction back into the group (in-game). It’s looking good for the next few sessions.

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Kiltayre Session 11: ideas

Comments Off on Kiltayre Session 11: ideas

Well, the big hook in the Iron Tower still hasn’t got enough bait on it to  get the players to bite. They are giving me the impression that intentions are for exploring the whole tower. After encountering the boneclaw-sarcophagi they are rightfully cautious.

We may have a new player joining us in a fortnight which would be great. The dynamic will shift a bit with that player able to bring a lot of energy and characterization to the table. Still too early to say, though.

Other plans are for some more revelations on the big plot which they’ll likely be able to piece together most all of what is going on. But that will present them with the “what the hell can we do about that” conundrum. And that is where the fun begins!

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