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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 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 11 review

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Felghanis healed well and in combination with the rest of Kallista’s reserves he was fully recovered in the morning. The phylactery had worked and it renewed hope in the Felk Bay people. Still, the Iron Tower beckoned and the dwarves did not want to leave without fully exploring the structure. They assembled and once again pressed into the rust-streaked tower.

Back in the room with the tall amethyst crystal, the site of Felghanis’ fall to the lightning bolt, Kallista attempted to disable the trap. She tried to Dispel Magic, but on both counts she failed to break the inherent resistance of the node. Unwilling to risk the lightning bolt they went back up.

The double trap doors revealed a large cellar come stoe-room. It was mostly full of junk but a small fireplace held scraps of bloodied bandages. Searching around the fireplace it became apparent to Don’ that one person had camped there, judging by the disturbance in the dust. The rest of the cellar held junk: scraps of timber, iron, masonry and chain. Most of it was unusable save for the larger pieces of iron and the chains.

Being more thorough than last time they carefully searched each level. There were a few odds and ends in the detritus that could be sold for a handful of coppers or maybe a silver or two but no-one wanted to bother with that kind of thing. All that remained was everything above them at that point.

Aenir belly crawled up to the door way and peaked in at the things. They were still there and behind them he saw the racks of weapons, bundles of arrows, and an armor stand far to the right. Suddenly the things were moving towards him he almost leapt back from the doorway.

“It saw me,” he said as he rushed back.

They made a quick plan and Felghanis tried to take control with Command Undead. Unfortunately the thing was too strong. Aenir threw his flask and oily slick gel covered the area the things were standing in. One fell over with a thud that was far too light to be a stone sarcophagus. The other seemed to retain its balance easily. A crocodile appeared, care of Kallista’s Summon Nature’s Ally II and began to attack the clawed sarcophagus things. They fought back and soon the crocodile was barely alive, pierced with the lashing claws. Kellor dashed past, focusing on defense, and from range managed to hit one with a flask of alchemist’s fire. It burned but did little to break the undead’s body. Fel was unsure what to do next. His Command spell was failing over and over and there was little else he could affect undead with in his arsenal. To melee them would be suicide for the young necromancer. Another summoned creature appeared to fight alongside the crocodile. This time a wolf. They fought but the creatures were too strong. Kallista sealed the doorway to clawed sarcophagi with a Shape Stone spell, enough stone to fill the doorway almost a foot thick, and that allowed them to get past.

Up through the tower they went. The next level was a series of small lodging rooms. One of which was recently used as a camp for 5 people, according to Don’. They found no sign of injury in the remnants and pushed on. Above was once luxurious lodgings with painted wood panelling and servants quarters. It was faded now and the furniture had mostly frayed and warped to be almost useless. It was different to the levels below. The walls were interspersed with tall narrow windows that were glassed in. There was little of note here, though, so they went up to the next level.

At first glance it was once a large library, the shelves now empty and damaged, but the three bodies, tabards bearing the mark of the Church of St. Fergus covered fin mail, in pools of congealed blood showed a battle had ended here. They carefully entered with Kellor at the head holding his large shield at the ready. No foes were nearby. Relaxing a little they spread out and Kallista found a fourth body. It lay before a broken steel dog, like the one that was still trapped in the clay far below.

“Unlike the others his neck was broken from behind, most likely, and this dagger wound shows he was stabbed for good measure,” she said to the others.

“A competent ambusher,” Aenir grumbled, now wary.

On the walls, around the whole storey, was a frieze depicting many scenes of a man carrying a long spear and five shoulder men bearing large kite shields.

“This tells a tale,” Felghanis said looking at it like it was a puzzle to be solved.

Around the other side of the central column a magic circle was marked on the floor and in it a bookstand of stone, no longer held a book.

“It holds no magic other than abjuration,” Fel’ relayed.

An arch led to another stair, this time ending at a cold-iron door. Much like the one far below; now concealed under the stables. However, this was not locked and it opened on to the battlements at the top of the tower. Wind buffeted them and the dark grey sky seemed to reflect the distant sounds of crashing waves some 150 feet below. Each of the gaps in the battlements was very tall, at least 12 feet, and rather wide even for the largest of men. Glancing back at the door they realized it was set in a very large dais, stairs to either side leading up. On the dais stood two large statues, some eight feet tall, made of steel and wood that seemed posed as if guarding an empty bell mount.

“Shield guardians,” Felghanis whispered. “Very dangerous constructs.”

“Are they active?” Kallista asked, suddenly wary.

“Almost certainly,” Fel’ answered in hushed voice.

They adhered to the better part of valor and returned to the library where Felghanis and Kallista attempted to decipher the frieze. It took them at least an hour and it was mostly Fel’ who figured it out.

“Ah, this is the tale of Kentos, the giant-slayer,” Fel started. “He fought the Hrimpursar to retrieve three books of Fimbulwinter. Each book was one third of the ritual that the frost titans had used to make Kiltayre to their liking. Kentos retrieved the last in a battle with a Hrimpursar elder, but fell in battle. His five shouldermen raised a barrow on the site and interred him within. The other book was kept here. This was the tower of Davinus and Kentos was his vassal. It doesn’t say where the third book is.”

The party looked on quietly. So much had fallen in to place.

Kallista faced the dwarves, “Aenir, Kellor. You have been honorable allies and we’ve not told you something important.”

They were quite, listening patiently.

“Before we were gaoled by the church we were on a quest to find what was making the winter’s longer, and stop it.”

The dwarves broke into wide smiles.

“I’ve not been on a quest for sixty years! It will be great to be alongside you.” Kellor said.

“Aye, it’ll be like fighting the goblins all those year ago. When Dwarf Town was at its lowest and the greenskins attacked. They were some battles.” Aenir reflected on glory days.

“We’d be honored to join you in this quest. The winters have indeed been getting longer and harsher.”

Kallista shook hands with them, in the dwarven way, and they both beamed at the gesture.

Good will was all around when Don’ brought them back to reality. “We should search these bodies and find more food while the sun’s up. There’s bound to be more fish out there.”

The bodies were well equipped. Fine chainmail, masterwork weapons, and an enchanted footman’s mace.

Kellor examined it and his eyes widened, “This is metalline. It can mimic the properties of silver, adamantine, and cold-iron. A very useful weapon. With this we could defeat those things in the armory.”

“If we can isolate one of those things we can take out the other one.”

“When I open the doorway again I can make a small wall for cover.”

“If I can just bend their will then one of them can be forced to fight on our side,” Felghanis’ frustration at his previous attempts leaked through.

“It’s worth trying,” Kallista said.

The discussion went back and forth and finally their plan was agreed.

Everyone readied themselves at the sealed doorway and waited for Kallista’s cue. She worked the clay and her magic and the doorway surged into the room making a low wall.

Don charged in and landed a heavy blow on the first clawed sarcophagus. The mace was fully effective. Kellor followed suit and his axe bit into the thing.

Felghanis reached out for the thing’s will and sought to seize it. With a cry of victory he had it solidly bound to his commands.

The battle raged. Aenir’s tanglefoot bag failed to glue the other clawed sarcophagus to the spot but it slowed the thing down greatly. The sarcophagus was some kind of image projected over the thing, concealing its true visage.

Kallista summoned a dire wolf and it proved very effective, tripping the uncontrolled undead allowing everyone a solid blow whilst it was down. And then it was destroyed.

“We can’t have this thing following us around, Fel,” Don said gesturing at the controlled clawed sarcophagus. “Make it stand over there. We’ll destroy it.”

Fel grumbled, “It aids our party. Look how strong it is.”

“It’s abomination!” Don’ yelled. “Just do it, now.”

Fel complied, however much he cursed to himself.

They arranged themselves and simultaneously attacked the thing knowing it would immediately defend itself. Kallista’s summoned dire wolf seemed to be its main target and it turned on the summoned creature almost felling it right there. Kallista healed the dire wolf. Aenir struck the thing and tumbled out of reach. Kellor’s axe bit deeply and Don’ seemed to lose his mettle, missing entirely.

The dire wolf, suddenly ducked in a snapped the undead’s leg off, dragging it to the ground in a rattle of bones. Within a few heartbeats the sarcophagus image decayed away leaving a horrid form of a boneclaw.

“What a strange thing to do,” Felghanis said. “Cloak them in that illusion. For what?”

None had an answer for him.

Aenir had drifted over to explore the rest of the armory. A case had held a dagger but it was recently removed. The dust on the glass only disturbed a few days past.

Felghanis came back to the present and helped pick out the items that were enchanted. There were a few. A chain shirt, breastplate, light shield, longsword and shortbow.

The longsword’s scabbard bore decorative motifs of thunder and some runes were etched on the hilt. The shortbow was runed, too, with marks of lightning.

“Seems this is worth a lot more than that old door,” Felghanis said with a cynical smile.

They set about gathering food with what was left of the sunlight. Fishing was slim but they caught enough for a few more days. That night they lodged in the same room as the Scours from the Church of St. Fergus had some days before. They closed the stout door and saw a circle of protection had been etched. Its magic had been gone for days but it helped reassure them that this was the best place to stay.

“Five fingers of stone,” Kallista said.

“That was the Hand of Gulresh,” Fel answered. “We found that.”

“What about five swords of bone?” Kallista asked.

“Wait…” Fel went into his memory. “I saw something about that upstairs.”

They gathered and went up with torches. Fel pawed over the frieze until he found the panel.

“Here. The five shouldermen of Kentos were rewarded with swords crafted by their lord. That’s Kentos. They were made of the thighbones of Hrimpursar and enchanted in hardness, rewarded to his shouldermen for their loyalty and fearlessness in battle.”

 

With the small coal fire burning a warm red-orange Don’s thoughts drifted to Fionnghal.

“Two-legs shared food. Travel with two-legs. See tower. You at tower?”

“Yes and we’ll be here for you tomorrow, boy. Take care.”

Don’ fell asleep thinking of finally being united again with his faithful companion.

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Kiltayre Session 10: review

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Retreating, nursing wounds, to the stables the party rested and girded their courage for another entry into the tower. They were lying about, waiting for the sun to rise enough to give light.

Alassiel was restless, most unusual, and gabbling softly to herself. She escalated in energy when she saw the party watching her with caution at this uncharacteristic behaviour.

“This, all of this,” she gestured. “It doesn’t matter any more, because I don’t need matter. I am beyond it.”

In her mind she had linked psionic ways of escalating her power. Based on all the fear and repressed emotional energy of a short lifetime wary of other’s distrust and fear of her powers. She’d pieced channels for that energy to massively amplify her powers and with those channels she had found how to transcend matter.

“All of this, all the fear and distrust I leave behind.”

Stepping forward Alassiel began to glow and in a simple soundless step faded away in a brief silver suffusion – the psi-crystal popping after her in a trail of light silver motes.

Kallista spoke first, “Did you see that? Please tell me everyone saw that.”

Aenir and Kellor could say little. They were too surprised. Don had little to add.

It was Felghanis who managed to say much at all. “Wish I could leave this place so easily.”

They talked for an hour about what it was and what it might mean but the puzzlement left them somewhat dumbfounded. Since there was nothing they could do about it they turned to the Iron Tower.

“At least we could get some loot for being out here in this wilderness,” Aenir said.

“We should go back in, I agree, and head down. Making sure we have a clear line of escape,” Don put forward.

Don had his own concerns. Fionnghal was still missing since they had been gaoled. He reached out to the Fey-touched hound, their mystic-link allowing communication at any distance, and felt Fionnghal’s responses. “Hungry. Cold. There’s a two-legs. Keep seeing him. Catches me at night. Smells like has food. Want food. Try get food from two-legs.” Don was worried but Fionnghal had to eat. He did his best to dismiss the concern. There was nothing he could do to change the situations.

The group entered the tower and headed down the central stairs. They found a cold damp cellar with that was constructed off of a natural cavern that led to the sea. A rough hewn quay was fashioned with stone mooring posts. Under the clear cold waters the rotting ribs of old longboats sat starkly against the mud.

What stood out most, was a bare iron door.

“That’s cold iron,” Kellor stated.

“We could feed our whole town with what coin that door’s worth,” Don exclaimed.

He started to try and pry it apart at the hinges. It was going to be very hard work that would take a long time.

“I have a spell that could help. I can shape the stone, perhaps loosen the door.”

“If you can loosen it here, here and here, we can pull the whole door free with its hinges,” Kellor explained, gesturing.

Kallista began her casting and poured some of her extra mana into the spell. As she worked the reagent of clay there was a sudden push back. The aura of the door turned her spell aside without any effects at all.

“What happened? Why’d nothing happen?”

“Cold iron. It turns a lot of magic. Why it’s so valuable.”

“I can make one more attempt today,” Kallista said and prepared again. This time she worked at making the spell more penetrative and its energies proved unresistable.

Don’ and the dwarves seized the door and dragged it free of its mounting, hinges and all, to lean it against the rough stone.

“We need a piton or something. If this thing falls it’ll take off someone’s foot,” Kellor said with raised urgent tones.

The door was secured and the party began exploring the passage beyond; Don’ in the lead.

Small niches dotted the base of the wall, where it met the floor, and in each was a small rune.

Felghanis studied them, “Some kind of divination… and more. A conjuration effect.”

“So a watching spell and a summon spell,” Kallista guessed.

With his shovel Don’ covered them all with detritus from the cellar part of this area. “Shouldn’t be able to see anything now,” he said proudly.

They progressed to a small round room dimly lit with faint violet light that issued from a passage to their right. As they faced the light source a gasp escaped Fel and Kallista. A column of what looked like amethyst rose up, at the end of the passage some thirty feet along, at least seven feet. It was clearly some kind of immense deep earth crystal. Even almost empty it held more mana than they could likely utilize in a day.

“Quiet! I heard something,” Kallista broke the staring pause.

Like a fork dragged on stone the sound came again and they rushed to meet it, weapons ready.

A dog-shape, but of sooty coloured steel, sprinted around the corner and attacked Don. Its momentum was great and it mis-timed the strike. Combat ensued and Aenir lobbed a flask at it only to overpower his throw and have the small glass vessel plop harmlessly into the water of the quay.

Kallista tried to summon a dire wolf to attack but she couldn’t see the dog-thing to place her spell. It appeared in the small round room, snarling, and growling to join the fray.

Felghanis could barely keep his eyes off the amethyst column and kept glancing back at the curved passage where the sounds of combat issued forth.

Don’ pushed to force the dog-thing back but it was too strong. Kellor tried the same thing and forced it back so that it was on the quay. In a few more heartbeats Kellor had taken a vicious claw to his leg but the doughty dwarf bull rushed it back into the water where the dog-thing sunk immediately to the bottom. It seemed unperturbed at its submergence and began trying to scale the slimy wall of the quay.

Aenir called out, “Can you get my flask?” Pointing down into the water at his little bottle.

Kallista was able to use a mage hand spell to lift it out and get it back to Aenir.

“Oh my god!” Fel exclaimed from far down the passage to the crystal. Then there was a thunderclap as lightning erupted.

At Kallista’s behest Aenir rushed to retrieve Fel and bring him back for aid.

“He’s down and not breathing. Looks like he’s been boiled and roasted at the same time.” The horror at Fel’s injuries was apparent in Aenir’s voice. “I’m not getting him! The trap might still be active.”

Each time it surfaced the forced it back into the water with spears or shield. Kallista summoned a large shark but it failed to damage the steel dog. The construct began defending itself with frightful results for the shark – that now seemed soft and vulnerable. Before long the shark was slain with its belly laid open. It vanished back to where it came from.

Don’ retrieved a small anvil from the cellar and returned hefting its weight. The group worked together so Don’ could make the shot and as the steel dog broke the surface of the water again he slammed the anvil down. The steel dog was forced off its climb and sunk immediately, but it rolled out from under the anvil as it fell down in the water. Again it started climbing.

“This thing is going to keep coming!” Kellor cried.

It suddenly dawned on Kallista that roughly half the quay wall was natural stone. She could effect it with a stone-to-clay spell.

The steel dog broke the surface again before Kallista was ready to cast and again Don’ and Kellor forced it off the quay’s wall. It sunk, hit the bottom, and then Kallista’s spell took effect. Great clumps of clay sloughed out into the water burying the steel dog under hundreds and hundreds of pounds of thick clay.

“That ought to hold it for months,” Don’ said.

The quay groaned and cracked.

“This isn’t stable,” Kellor yelled. “We have to get off this dock.”

“We can’t leave Felghanis!” Kallista protested.

“We’ll get him,” Don reassured.

Kallista ran to safe ground and Aenir braved the passage as Kellor ran to his aid.

The trap was active and it loosed a horrifying bolt of electricity that some how Aenir anticipated. He flattened against the wall and the arc grounded harmlessly into the stone.

When Fel was laid at Kallista’s feet the dwarves and Don’ looked on. She began to stitch him closed but it was plain that was not enough.

“Here, girl. This will help,” Kellor said, handing over a flask of gold oil.

The oil was a curing preparation and Kallista carefully applied it to the worst of Fel’s wounds. A bright sudden flare at Fel’s neck drew everyone’s attention to the phylactery there. It turned grey before their eyes then fell to black ash. A shallow breath raised Felghanis’ ribs.

“He lives,” Kallista was so relieved small tears welled up.

Once again they retreated to the stables but it was only Kallista and Felghanis who stayed. Don’, Aenir and Kellor retrieved the heavy cold iron door.

“Now what do we do with it?” Aenir asked, puffing.

They discussed it at length but it seemed the most practical thing was to hide it and collect it later with a chartered vessel once the spring thaw was done.

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Kiltayre Campaign: GM Ideas for Session 8

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Session 8 is looming close and with the party in gaol they may be hitting a motivational crisis. As players, and as the characters, dealing with imprisonment is difficult. The emotions rise and people become desperate to get out. Bribery, violence, promises, imploring for empathy, all the tools of someone who thinks they may be hurt and does not have the ability to adequately defend themselves. It really is a horrible place to be and, in essence, is a kind of emotional abuse. Thankfully it’s only a game and all of this is a kind of “program” being run in the sub-routines of the players brains.

This is the kind of magic of RPG’s. We can use our experiences and knowledge to place ourselves in the situation of the characters. A kind of mental simulation of the experience. How intense this can become depends on the investment and capacity for imagination of the player. Frankly, if it’s enjoyable for everyone at the table it’s working as it should.

What’s in store for them?

Quite a bit is lined up. What I think they’ll do is plea their case as if it’s a court. The unfortunate part of this is it is a religious court and all the mockeries of justice that go with that will be in play. What I expect will happen shall be quite a surprise for them. Especially when I drop the news that a war has started whilst they were traipsing about the wilderness for 50 days.

We’ll see what happens because they certainly will have the opportunity to hang themselves by saying too much. But that’s okay. We’re playing with Fate Points (save your ass points) and it will mean some strange occurrence will save them all.

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Kiltayre – a new adventure

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The group has come together to try a new adventure. This time with preparatory talks about how the players have come to trust each other enough to adventure together. The framework will be to drive party continuity; that is, there are game-mechanics in play to prevent PC death. We’ll be using Fate Points (qv. WHFRP) and in-game phylacteries to allow a soul to return to a body that is “repaired” within a time frame and a resuscitation check is succeeded (qv. Rolemaster soul departure).

I pitched to play in Kiltayre. A land that I’ve not visited in-game for many years. Partly, in hindsight, because I’ve set it up as more politically complicated than I knew I was ready to GM for. And partly because it’s not as well fleshed-out as it could be. This is a double-win for me because I, one) get to flesh it out more by GM’ing, and two) get to have a more mature attempt at GM’ing in this politically complicated setting.

Ostensibly it will be a straight-forward quest. The GM style I’ve pitched to the players is far softer than I’d normally run, in terms of combats, but I will be using the environment as a dangerous thing. Kiltayre’s harsh winters will be an enemy that they will be constantly at war with. With that element of survival-gaming introduced I hope to steer the players to a position where they can better appreciate my gaming-preferences, and even just experience the way I like to game a little better, and see if we can get even more firmly concordant in how we prefer to game in the future.

This is the pitch I put to the group:

The lands of Kiltayre are in a pall of hunger and despair. Winters have been coming early and harsh for four years and famine threatens the people. Some say if it weren’t for the Church of Saint Fergus and their charity many more would have starved. And so the villages are emptying as the people leave their frost fields to be nearer the large churches and cathedrals so that their children may be fed.

Autumn this year is already cold and the first frost has just fallen this night past. The seer-woman, grandmother of the headman of your hometown, has claimed a vision of why the winter is coming earlier and earlier. There is an evil afoot in Kiltayre and it must be stopped before it turns the whole island into an icy waste.
Five fingers of stone
Five swords of bone
Many yards of silk
Many of strange ilk
Two bears and three deer
Two trees and a titan’s tear

Her cryptic rhyme’s have not been forthcoming in over twenty years. Not since almost forgotten heroes of your hometown left on their epic quest that led to the discovery of the six swords of Kiltayre. Now you and all the other young unmarried folk stand before her and the town’s elders. They look on to you as the hope for the future of everyone’s children. Will you step forward?

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