Rebirth

29 September, 2019

I don’t know how long I was chained to a wall in hell.

All I know is that at some point I swam back to conciousness, my mind drowning under a lake of indistinct memories and urges, with one last gasp of air frantically making for the surface and then I breached it and I was fully awake.

Where had I been? The red waste? We – my companions, my company – we were travelling west to Axis. There was a promise, an obligation, a duty … the image of a dwarf came to me. And a name. Mal. Mal Shieldglider. I remembered – I had promised to take him to his father’s funeral, debts of shed blood and friendship. Other things twined around that purpose like vines strengthening the tie: the war, the rift between Dwarves and Men, the Empire – how could I forget the Empire? My family, grandfather Lancet. The names and faces of my company came to me: Tarry, Nacelle, Baisek. Odd that I should remember the halfling first. Newer faces too, but still indisinct to my recall. The God of Song … no, he was dead, or gone. There was another in his place now. A necromancer? A sorceress who had gone her own way.

I numbered my obligations, their weight settling onto me like a comfortable and familiar cloak – my cloak! Gone. My wand, my books, all gone, all but one – The Book of the Stars, which the demons would not touch. I was chained to a wall in hell in prisoner’s rags, even my secret pouch was gone. All I had was the necromancer’s stone in my empty eyesocket, its power giving me sight in this lightless place.

The necromancer, Aeg, Edmund the Marked, the council of four. I wonder who the other two might be? I recalled Edmund’s betrayal, and the preposterous excuse he gave for it. The nodes had been taken down, the Empire stood defended by nothing but steel. Which would not be enough. My own foolish hubris was to blame.

For a time I indulged, my psyche reassembling the layers of itself. Of myself. Then I shook out of reverie. Time to act. First, the manacles. I touched my mana. The forms of the spells I had last prepared mercifully were still there. The manacles did not yield to a Knock, but I wondered: perhaps starlight? The power of the overworld? I cast Nova and gathered its power for a minute or more: no sense hurrying. Then I used a simple cantrip as a conduit. The manacles cracked along the weld. I pulled myself off the red, fleshy wall – losing a little skin in the process. The wall I had been chained to seemed to be absorbing me, consuming me, but very slowly. It mattered not. I was free.

For the moment, at least. From one direction, I heard a chanting, an infernal chorus of dozens or hundreds. My common sense had not deserted me – I went the other way.

The passage seemed deserted. The path I travelled was perhaps not entirely real, some amalgam of reality and nightmare, a place on the border, a membrane separating the two. Perhaps this was justice. Perhaps I travelled now the route that I had carelessly sent those imps and pixies to carry my little messages. Perhaps now I too trod the Low Way.

Perhaps.

Before long I came to a set of alcoves set into the walls. Two of my companions! I attempted to free them, but as I reached to them they slipped away, further back into … somewhere. I could do nothing. I prayed that they be only illusions, or figments of my own memories.

Further along, I was overjoyed to meet Tarry! Lost also in this place. He could guide me out to the surface, he said, but he would need my book. I gave him the book, and he changed – grew fangs and claws, and ate the book, shredding it. He left, I think. I was alone.

Game was two weeks ago. I kinda forget the precise sequence of events, but you know, I think that contributes to the dreamlike atmosphere of this piece.

After … some time … I spied another being in the distance. He – he was a knight! Of the golden order, no less. And he seemed real, realer than the other things I had encountered down here. He questioned me, I answered. My rank meant nothing to him, of course, but he was rescuing people trapped in this place. We headed towards the surface.

But this place had its dangers. We fled from a … some sort of abominable hybrid of Chuul and Demon. I used Dispel Magic in an attempt to sever or disrupt the bond between the two halves of its nature. It was surprisingly sucessful, and seemed to stagger the thing. We fled though a door, or perhaps sphincter, and I used Hold Portal to secure it – burning through what magic I had. But there’s no point not using your magic if you are about to be killed. My psyche was still not whole, but it seems I am a pragmatic sort.

The hellhole lay ahead, but it was the scene of a battle between the Knights of the Golden order and demons. The dead knights lay in windrows – I began to understand that the legend of the Great Gold Wyrm, how the Wyrm himself keeps the demons at bay, may be something of a metaphor for the reality. I gave what help I could, with my little Colour Spray, but really there was little I could do to turn the tide. Three of the knights took it as their mission to complete my rescue. In the end, it came down to a simple rope climb.

Two of them made it out, and then it was my turn. The climb was too much for me, so I made recourse to a Levitate spell.

For those who have been counting, that’s three utility spells out of two that James can cast out of his utility spell slot (Knock, Hold Portal, Levitate). Ooops. But, rule of cool, I suppose.

As the demons below overwhelmed the knights, the knight on the rope faltered. I assumed command voice and ordered him up. It seemed to do the trick.

We were up out of the hell hole. I and three knights. Somewhere in the red waste. We had escaped.


In the distance lay a city of brass. But the knights would not go there. I supposed that the city was a mirage, or inhabited by demons, but that was not the reason. I later found out why. Instead, we spied a caravan in the distance and made for it.

The caravanner proved to be hospitable. I traded news of the war to the north for passage, and the knights guard duty. The caravanners gave me desert sheets and a turban for my prison rags, instructing me on how to secure them. They gave us food and water. We journeyed northwest to Santa Cora under the bright, bright desert stars and made camp as dawn broke. It seemed, for a moment, that even after I closed my eyes the stars were still there – the constellations plain to me. But within seconds I was sleeping the dreamless sleep of the truly exhausted.

The journey was uneventful. I learned a thing or two about desert travel and campcraft that would have come in handy on our ill-fated trek west. We made Santa Cora in good time, and the caravanners became a little less hospitable, a little less communicative. These free folk did not highly regard the empire, it seemed, and I kept my opinions to myself. I made my farewells and we four headed into the city.

I decided that the thing to do would be to call on the Count and Countess Lorraine, who had received me kindly last we met and who at least knew me. But their townhouse was deserted. I forced entry with a Knock. Inside was a little dust, the stench of death, and a curious handbill. The bill proved to be a call to arms by none other than Nacelle! The Great Gold Wyrm, it seems, was recruiting. I recalled the battle at the base of the hellhole. And just outside the window, a parade of marching paladins of the order. The knights with me drew away from the window, explaining to me that they were now deserters. This made little sense to me, but I had other things to do. I found the source of the stench of death – a slaughtered and uncooked pig in the kitchen. When I returned to the reception room, the knights were gone.

So what now? Well, I should report. I began to make my way to the barracks, but on the way met a stranger who spoke to me in elliptical non-answers and suggested I follow him to a library. After a minute or two of frustrating evasions, I realised that I was talking to Aeg Ilsa, the necromancer – the frustrating evasions and non-answers being a bit of a giveaway. I was not at all happy to be so soon again enmeshed in the toils of these wizard’s intrigues. I thanked him for my replacement eye, and told him that I was duty-bound to report to the nearest commander, and the library could wait.

Aeg ground his teeth in frustration, which I confess cheered my mood by a considerable margin, and we proceeded to the barracks. The commander was the same as I remembered from our defence of the city, but he was distracted. The town was overrun by Golden Order recruiters, who do not answer to the Emperor except at their convenience. He gave me no orders, and I sensed that there was no place for me here.

Aeg took me to his own tower, leading me forward with the promise of a library. We proceeded through a catacombs (of course), to a low arch. He then attempted to get me to promise to hunt down and slay Edmund, but I’ll be dammned if I do anything these people say. Happily, an officer of the Empire has prior loyalties to appeal to. I told him that I intended to capture Edmund if possible and bring him to court to answer for his crimes, from whence he would duly and legally be hanged.

Aeg again ground his teeth, clenched his fists, and I must confess I felt a little fear – there is no question about his power. At last he agreed, “Fine!”, and bid me place my hands against the span of the arch, which I did.

Magic built and swirled, and I saw a vision of my home – the Chateu du Mallard. But it was a ruin! Burned and broken by siege. Before I could order my thoughts to ask, it was a vision no more. I was here. I was home.


The Chateu is a ruin. Inside are a few unidentifiable bodies, I pray that my family are not among them, but I fear they may be. I ceased my search – there would be nothing to find, although I did find a mostly whole fragment of a letter sent by Nacelle, it seemed, informing my family of my probable death.

Not quite exactly how it went down, there was something involving the Black Oak at the heart of the swamp. Lake, dammit, lake!

Instead, I made for the tower. The tower is old, and defensible, but here too the marks of siege and spell are unmistakable. I descended down the stairs, marking the damage to the old, familar mosaics. And then realised. A tower. Mosaics. Blackwatch. The astronomer’s tower in Santa Cora. This place is a node – it was always a node. Has been for centuries.

Now it was easy to see, obvious to my senses. A node, very old, almost natural – resonating with magics of wood and water. A faint tickle of memory – didn’t SIr Geoffrey have dealings with the Elf Queen?

I wrote this four years ago. Holy shit. Four years.

Regardless, I left the node alone. No more careless hubris from me. There’s no telling how deeply Edmund might have worked his way into the magics.

Instead, I noted something on the floor, now uncovered by the damage. A handle. I shrugged and turned it. A secret room. And inside … scrolls. Hundreds. Maybe just tax records. Maybe secret and ancient magics of my ancestor, the witch Elise. There’s no telling.

And here I stand. I feel the weight and folds of the invisible cloak of my duties and obligations, which seems to grow heavier every day.

In no particular order:

  • I must find food and lodging.
  • I must see if their are survivors of the villages of the county. I am possibly the last Mallard.
  • If there are enemies of the empire and my people still on these lands, I must deal with them. However, running alone into battle is probably not the best approach.
  • I must make contact with someone able to find my family, if they live. My pouch would have been ideal, but it is lost.
  • I must inform grandfather Lancet about the pouch.
  • I must investigate and secure this library. Even if they are just tax records, they are still precious.
  • I must secure this node away from Edmund’s tampering. The sensible thing to do might be to simply bury it.
  • I must do what I can to redress the damage I have done to the Empire’s defences, if possible. It is probably beyond my power or skill. This node is oe of the few not destroyed, and may be pivotal, so I probably oughtn’t bury it then.
  • I must drag Edmund before a magistrate. Not that it will be anything like that simple. I dislike it, but Aeg is probably right.
  • I must fulfil my promise to Mal. There are complexities there, as he is a sworn bodyguard of the dwarf King. Perhaps the right between the emperor and the king might be mended.
  • I need to find what remains of Griffinsheart’s merry heroes. I simply don’t trust anyone else.

And I must see to the bodies of the dead.

There is nothing much here. The next step is to lock up and make for the village and see what remains, if anything. I’ll skim though this library first. Perhaps there will be something useful.

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The Chateau du Mallard

21 August, 2019

Pierce’s Guide to the Great Estates

The Chateau du Mallard

For the keen traveller and history buff, the Estate du Mallard is a must-visit.

The estate is located on Whitewater, a tributary of the Bronze River, north of the Dire Wood, about 100miles SSE of Axis. Roads are excellent and well traveled, and your journey should be about four days without incident.

But it was not always so. Ages ago, the lands west of the tributary were home to tribes of orcs and savage monsters. To the south. the river descends from rough hills and is mostly uncrossable. To the north lay miles of boggy wetlands, the Marais du Mallard, although these days it is “Lac” rather than “Marais”. For a few miles the river was fordable, and so Geoffrey – the first Baron Mallard – built a tower and defences, from which knights of the fledgling Dragon Empire might sally forth in defence of civilisation.

The site is no longer frontier, the barony long since extinguished, and the river bridged. But the original tower and some fortifications still stand, a testament to centuries of careful stewardship by the Mallards.

The estate now comprises most of county Whitewater, about one hundred and fifty square miles of farming district. The wines are excellent, and every inn will supply the local delicacies – sweetreed, which grows only in the boggy wetlands, turtle soup, and – of course – the duck. The adventurous might also care to sample the liquor distilled from the reed, but be warned! A little goes a long way.

Visitors will likely stay in any of the excellent inns in one of the surrounding villages. During the growing season the manor house is open to the public at the usual times. You will want to see the museum with its reconstruction of the ancient battlefields and its archaeological finds, and read the charming tale of Baron Geoffrey and the swamp-witch Elise, founders of their line. One can also take a tour of the old tower, but booking is essential – address your enquiry to the head groundskeeper, Chateau du Mallard. Parties may also wish to apply for license to hunt duck and other waterfowl. Bag limits are strictly enforced.


What Pierce does not mention is that the bridges are built to collapse, and the tower and its defences are still an entirely serviceable military emplacement. There are illusions placed on it to make it look just a little more ruined than it actually is. Tours are conducted, but very much circumscribed – the Mallards cite fears of falling masonry. Pierce also does not mention the tunnels connecting the manor to the tower, although anyone would be able to guess that they are there. They are kept in good repair and are patrolled. They are not terribly deep and are prone to being damp.

Although it’s all pretty civilised, we are in a fantasy setting, here. The black swamp oaks still grow in the further reaches of the “lake”, and they are not entirely friendly. Still the occasional thing coming down from the hills, too – bears, sometimes some old orc skeletons. The small imperial garrison earns its pay.

Might be worth noting that 40 or so years ago, the Mallards and the estate weren’t doing so well. Things have been brought back up to code mainly thanks to Ducalis, who is an amazing guy. Quite a bit of the manor is actually pretty new, although the relics and whatnot are genuine.


Not exactly Cinderella

7 June, 2017

“Captain Mallard! What a delight to see you here! I hardly hoped you would come, so pleased you could make it.”

But let’s rewind a few hours.


The Dairy King had been something of a shock for poor James. I mean – one hears of that kind of thing. But being thrown into the thick of it with Uncle Ben – the Black Duck of the family – took a little coping with. James had managed to foist him off onto Tarry, and had also managed to find a relatively quiet and up-market casino. The word being “relatively”. Decent gin in the martinis, and the hookers were almost fully clothed – although the practised eye might have noticed the lack of fussy buttons, catches, and laces on the dresses.

The Dairy King hosts a non-stop Mardi-Gras with laser lighting and pumping EDM. Andrew described various milk and dairy-product-related shenanigans which … you had to be there.

The Diary King is a big, proud, magic and steam-powered vessel, and utterly unsinkable.

As for the hookers … I assure you that the main thing a hooker looks for in a working dress is something easy to get out of. Bra, but no panties.

James decided that grandfather Lancet had put him here for some reason or other, and that he probably ought to make some sort of a showing. A little drinking, a little gambling (he even won – a pleasant surprise), and someone still with all her teeth to take back to the cabin for some afternoon delight.

James isn’t me. James is from good family, is a junior officer in the Imperial Army, and has a Charisma of 16 – which easily puts him in the top 10% of attractive people. He’s tall, slim, good-looking, clear headed and clean shaven, and has no difficulty in social situations. Sure, sometimes that makes role-playing him difficult. I have to guess what his life would be like, lucky bastard.

After they were done, the girl left, and Uncle Benjamin stepped in – hearty, backslapping, and more than a little drunk. Let’s say “moderately”.

“James! James! Trust you to find the good ones, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I see.”
“Uncle. Our credit is good?”
“Of course! Of course! Porsche is one of the good ones, lad – smart and discrete. She works for the Dairy King, you know. Now, if you can take a little advice from your uncle, then take this to heart: never fuck the same girl twice in a row. Not until you are married.” Benjamin Lancet’s face flickered for a moment – the bluff, red-faced, careless sot replaced by that of a shrewd and serious man who had seen a little of the world, a genuinely concerned relative. James answered with a look and a small nod, and the mask slipped back in place.

I got the impression that Benjamin is actually a Lancet and kinda sorta got some sort of Mallard family title as part of the same deal in which Ducalis married Frances. The Mallards are book-smart wizards and courtiers – politically savvy public servants. The Lancets are shrewd bankers and businessmen. I am informed that Uncle Ben is the “Black Duck” of the family. I suspect that someone is a Game of Thrones fan.

“Well! We should invite your friends aboard! All Griffinsheart’s merry heroes together again. It’d be a shame to break up the group.”

And so they wrote a note inviting the party to travel westward on the Dairy King. The “King” would embark midday tomorrow. Eight berths were booked. Left unsaid was that at least one of those berths would be unoccupied, Cannis Lashley having perished in the defense of Santa Cora. Benjamin watched, a little bemused as James summoned sprites to make copies of the notes and Arcane Marked each one.

Out of game – eight berths because Dref has a new character. In game, however … how did whoever booked this know we needed eight? They would have to have done it before Cannis died. Oh – of course. I think this was all set up by granddad Lancet.

In the end, James decided that for his one night remaining in Santa Cora he should accept at least one of the dozens of invitations he had been sent. “A ball? You are going to a ball?”, asked uncle Benjamin. “Well, somebody should”, replied James, “and nobody else really can. Nacelle, perhaps, but she may make certain people uncomfortable and that’s not really the point of the evening. Mal is dwarvish nobility, which really wouldn’t do at all right at present.”

Nacelle is a female drow paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm. She has a strength of 16 and is not to be trifled with. What can I say? Peeps be raycis.

James had sorted through the various invitations he had been given. One or two caught his eye, and one of those was being held tonight. Isabella, the Countess Lorraine, was holding a charity ball in aid of the displaced and homeless of Santa Cora. Countess Isabella packed rather more clout than one might suppose. The count was also a colonel commanding the Regiment Lorraine, one of the older and better-respected units, and the countess herself was quite the society matron. That she was here in Santa Cora at all was interesting in itself. There would most certainly be news from the west.

Attending a ball is actually a rather expensive business. One is expected to arrive and to dress in style. James would be attending in his dress reds, of course, and the whole point of a uniform is that it be uniform. But details matter. James flew about the city. A little help from Uncle Ben and a visit to the Mallard unit turned up a family brooch to be pinned to a sash – the three mallards, of course – a tastefully expensive swordbelt, and James outright rented a jeweled dagger for the evening. For his sword, however, James decided that his plain working shortsword would perhaps send the right message. Likewise, rather than arrive in a carriage he would arrive on horseback – a splendid glossy-coated chestnut courser borrowed from the Mallard unit. With some misgiving, his cloak and wand remained behind. Last but by no means least, he organized an eyepatch to conceal his necromantic stone eye. Then, with his dress uniform crisp and immaculate, his boots polished to a mirror shine, and with invitation in pocket, and he was ready.

He arrived and made his way along the receiving line. “How d’you do”, “Enchanted”, as appropriate. He was relived to see that his rig had hit the right notes. In particular, his was not the only uniform in attendance, and he not the only one who had brought his working sword along. A plain sword, he guessed, would be something of a badge of honour for the next few months.

And finally, the countess herself. A brightly intelligent midddle-aged woman. James felt instantly at home.

“I could hardly miss the entire season”, he replied, “and such a good cause.” The countess smiled and nodded, and James moved on. He had reluctantly financed the evening from the Lancet treasury via his magic pouch, but that was small beer compared to what faced him now. Oh – did you think that these things were free? Before James was the guest book, and against each name was an amount in support of the Countess’ charity. James wrote his family name “Mallard”, and a number that made him wince a little. Not extravagant by any means, quite correct really, and father would understand. But still.

That done with, he made his way into the ball.

This charity ball will raise – in our money – hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions. It’s a major city, after all, and there are quite a few very wealthy people knocking about. Charity and noblesse oblige is how the nobility tax themselves. A million bucks isn’t actually a lot of money these days … but it isn’t nothing.

Peeps, I am going to stop this here, because I have Dwarven Forge castle pieces that need painting, and really I just wanted to talk about the idea of attending a ball.

James got a little intel: seems the Emperor himself has sailed with the fleet. Maybe we will have some sort of party meeting next week on the Dairy King. I don’t know what else may have happened at the ball. Some dancing, some canapes, perhaps some brandy and cigars and good advice later on. James is a little young to hang out with the true veterans, but “hero of Santa Cora” and all that. Perhaps there will be retcon 🙂 . Presumably James scored various other info as well, but that’s all part of maintaining his “Minor Nobility” background.


The intrigues of wizards

11 May, 2017

Days of travel, south along the Owl barrens. And Griffinshart’s merry heroes faced days more, north again to Santa Cora. They had retrieved the Spear of Hoar, an artifact of unthinkable power, and a trove of other items besides. It had been four days, and was liable to be a few more days yet before they returned to the city. James had not bonded with the strange wand yet, and the foreboding-looking book remained tightly shut. No time – they travelled hard, with all possible haste.

James had written to his grandfather, the patriarch of house Lancet, via his secret message pouch. The messages were carried via the Low Way. A mostly secure method of secret communication. That day, the pouch had alerted James that he has received – something. At camp, James found some privacy and performed the ritual that unsealed it. Within was a tightly folded letter on onionskin paper.

I have received your message. I have not received the mineral sample. The transport we use is not entirely reliable. If you are correct about the nature of the sample, then it is likely that some property of the stone itself may have come into play. It might be best not to entrust objects that are likely to have odd properties to this communications channel in future.

On to the substance of your message:

Thank you for keeping us informed. Without your messages, disaster would have been certain and swift. With them, disaster is – I am afraid to say – still a strong possibility. But now there is some hope.

Many are unconvinced that matters are as grim as the information from you and a few others indicates. They prefer to whistle past the graveyard, I fear. The great defenses of the Empire have suffered a critical blow, and they insist that it is merely temporary. We entirely lose contact with an important city, and they claim it is merely a few raiding orcs.

Not everyone is a fool. But it takes time to mobilize a military which in the south has for centuries faced very little action, and against the objections of a small but important cadre of idiots.

What I am trying, rather poorly, to say is that help is on the way, but it may not arrive in time or be enough to win the day. You will not have the armies of the Empire, I fear, but only that of a faction within it.

Neither can I help you with information on the item you carry. Its history is somewhat obscure, and there is really no way to divine fact from fancy among the legends.

Thus, my reply is really no reply at all. I wish that I had better news for you. Nevertheless, you and your people must assay this. Be resolute. All who are within beck of the city must come to its defense, you not least. Plan as best you can, then act. For both of your families, and for The Empire.

Regards,

No salutation, no signature, and all the details carefully worded around. “Mineral sample”. “An important city” – quite the understatement.

And there it was. No guarantee of the Imperial Cavalry, no long-forgotten ritual to unlock the power of the spear, nothing. And yet, grandfather was right: James and his companions were scarcely alone. The city was defended by – well – an entire city. All they could ever have hoped for, even with the Spear of Hoar, was perhaps to tip the balance.

“Be resolute. Plan and act.” And if you cannot plan, then act as best you may. Very well. The patterns in James’ cloak shifted slightly as its magics echoed and amplified his resolve.

But the pouch was not empty. Within, the dragonstone fragment that James had sent two days earlier. He drew it out. It was cracked now, the cracks catching the fading light. Cracks forming patterns, structure that James recognised – wards, glyphs. He tossed it away from him and began to prepare for defense.

But the stone did not explode, or summon a foe. Instead, it spoke – its message broken and disjointed, it’s voice the voice of Edmund the Marked:

Beware … lies of Aeg Ils … false mission … seeks the great … the Grimoire of Nod, the Book of Cain … do not …

As soon as the message was spoken, the dragonstone crumbled to dust.

The “Grimoire of Nod”, whoever that might have been; the “Book of Cain”, a name James did recognise – the first and progenitor of the vampires, greatest of the undead; and no doubt the volume was also known as “The Book of Vile Darkness” and sundry other epithets.

It didn’t take a lot of guessing, really. According to Edmund, the necromancer had sent them off on a false mission, and had hoped to find something else. James was not inclined to credit Edmund’s words, but it was likely that they had indeed found this book and that it was currently sitting in James’ backpack.

Maybe Aeg had played them false – no, the Spear certainly seemed to be real. Maybe Aeg was playing both sides. Maybe Edmund was merely guessing, or had information about the book, and was attempting to pin it on Aeg. No, not terribly likely. One might reasonably suppose that “The Book of Cain” was exactly the kind of thing that a man looking to usurp the Lich King might think could come in handy. Then again, who knew what Edmund’s plans were? Or maybe the book wasn’t really … no, James could eliminate that one. Whatever the book was, along with the Spear it seemed pretty damned real.

The pestilent question was: what to do about it?

Obviously: nothing. Nothing yet. All who stand within beck of Santa Cora must do their duty. There would be battle. After that?

And who was Nod?

As we learn in Genesis 1-4, the Elohim – the gods – created the earth and the races of men, each “in his own image and likeness”. This explains why there are different races that look different. Brown people are brown for exactly the same reason that any child looks like its father – because that’s where they came from, that’s their origin. Remember that this was all written by people who hadn’t discovered cells, yet.

Anyway. One of the gods, named Jehovah, planted a garden and put some people in it. Blah blah blah and then Cain killed his brother Abel so Jehovah banished him. Cain travelled to “the land of Nod”, who obviously was the local god of the tribe who lived over at the other end of the valley. Cain got married there and no doubt lived happily ever after.


The Spear of Hoar

12 April, 2017

A good session. I think I got back in touch with what James is about, the whole leadership thing. Which is to say, I think James got back in touch with what he is about. We had to run from the bad thing through some collapsing tunnels (using the Paizo chase cards) and Andy wanted to know what James was doing. My/James’ response was “All I care about is my men”. Sexist and speciesist, and most of all: classist, but that’s the fantasy military for you. He took a round to get command points rather than running, and he use those command points to grant a couple of re-rolls. It put him behind everyone else running out, and that was fine.

This letter is being sent to granddad Lancet via super secret family message pouch.


In hopes this finds you well, I write now that we have a few moments of peace.

It has been an eventful day.

We seem to have recovered the Spear of Hoar. Or if not that, some other spear that seems to be a powerful religious artifact of some kind.

Our researches in Santa Cora narrowed down the probable locations in the Owl Barrens to two. We arrived at a mine at James provides the location here, as nearly as possible from which dragon-stone had been found in the past, and were informed by a local resident (a mad old hermit, but cheerful) that it was inhabited by a dragon.

We entered the mine and dealt with the dragon and a few of its offspring. One was gravely wounded (we took a wing off) and bargained with us for its life, offering to lead us further into the mine where the spear was located. Surprisingly, it (I have it’s name written down somewhere – Z-something – Zika?) was true to its word, and led us to the entrance of a chamber. We kept to our bargain and permitted it to leave and make its own way out. This may one day prove to be a mistake, but it is what it is. I would give long odds on a one-winged dragonling surviving the wilds.

The path to this other chamber led through a chasm in which there were pillars of what appeared to be dragon-stone. Several tons of it each. These pillars bore masks of (God starting with a G). We attempted to retrieve one of these masks, but it did not go well.


The chamber itself had an inhabitant and what appeared to be a library of ancient books. All I can say is that the woman looked human, although obviously could not have been. She indicated the spear – which was lying in a reliquary of some sort – and invited/permitted us to take it.

I should mention at this point that three of our company are of a divine bent.

  • Nacelle, a paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm. Our current mission to retreive this spear is mostly hers. Or so we belived.
  • Elsbeth, a sorcerer. She appaers to be some sort of devotee – perhaps a lapsed prestess? – of the god Hoar. This mission appears to be some sort of personal quest for her.
  • Cannis Lashley, a and bard and I believe priest, although I am not sure of whom. Cannis is a fragment of the god of song, but I don’t belive anyone knows that in-character. He appears to be an assimar and has several times exhibited odd abilities.

Backtracking a little – we passed at one point a statue of Hoar, or rather, a statue of Elsbeth slaying Hoar with a dagger. The woman was clearly Elsbeth. Even more startlingly, Toasten – who wields odd magics seemingly connected to the manipulation of time – claimed to have made the sculpture “in the future”. None of us quite knows what to make of this, least of all Eslbeth herself.

So, back to the chamber. The spear was in two pieces – the head separated from the shaft. Nacelle attempted to retrieved the spear from its reliquary, but was not able to. Cannis, however, was able to do so. The spear rejoined accompanied by rather a great deal of lightning, which appears to be one of Hoar’s manifestations.

At which point, the inhabitant of the chamber exclaimed “At last! We can feed!” and attacked along with several shadows. The spear at this point appeared to be possessing (as near as I can make out) Cannis, which problem Nacelle dealt with by rebreaking the spear.

After dealing with the hag and her shades, I had a look at the bookshelves. he library was fake – almost all the books were blank or had pages filled with random gibberish. One, however, was not. It appears to be some sort of necromantic grimoire, and I have taken possession of it.

The way behind us had collapsed by this stage, but one of us detected a breeze coming from further below. Lacking other options, we proceeded even further down.


Below was a cavern containing massive pile of bones of various races and pillars of dragonstone. In the center was a giant skull ringed by four extremely large pillars containing a bier on which rested an elven woman.

We looted the bones – a little unwise, perhaps, but we recovered a few magical items.

I investigated the more natural dragonstone columns and chipped of a sample, which I have enclosed. Our – I suppose “expedition leaders” woke and spoke to the elven woman, and then a great many things happened in rather quick succession. Some sort of spirit – very great, filling the whole cavern – appeared and someone at some point stabbed the Elven woman in the chest with the spear of Hoar I think. As I mentioned: rather a lot going on at the time. We located an exit and ran for it. I gather that the woman and the spirit were some sort of ill-starred couple. One hopes that we have sent her on to a better place.


I am not entirely sure how we made it out, considering the depth to which we had descended and the fact that the caverns were collapsing around us as we ran. However, everybody appears to be here and mostly in one piece. I have a rather interesting grimoire which appears to be sealed, a rather interesting wand which I hve not investigated yet, but much more importantly we have the Spear of Hoar. It all went rather well, all things considered.

Perhaps of interest to House Lancet, however, is several tons of dragonstone laying in the caverns beneath the location I have mentioned. Of course, the war makes retrieving this a trifle problematic, but it is that nature of wars to not last forever. Perhaps the spirit we ran from now inhabits the place, making retrieving the stone impossible. Then again, perhaps with his ancient lover or whatever finally well and truly dead, he has moved on. Quite a bit of the cavern did collapse, but this is not to say that it cannot be mined out. And it’s possible that the dragonstone itself has been damaged by today’s various spiritual and physical cataclysms.

It’s not a certain thing, is what I am getting at. But the rewards could be great.

As for us, we have the Spear of Hoar – in two pieces, granted – but it’s not clear to me what exactly we intend to do with it. I imagine that in the right hands it could spit an orc like nobody’ business, but at present we are trying to deal with half a continent of them.

That is: I find I must trouble you for advice, once again. Has anyone any idea how such a thing might be best used? Any old prophecies, that sort of thing?

In hopes that this message finds you swiftly,
Faithfully,

JM


You know, James is being pushed in a dark direction at the moment

  1. Big Book ‘o Badness
  2. Shadowy wand of Shadows
  3. Turns out the necromancer was the good guy all along

But at the end of session, James faced that big thing alone and popped it with the only thing he had – a Magic Missile carrying a bonus 10 points of holy damage. It called him “star mage”. In 13th Age, holy damage comes from the overworld, from the stars.

I’m not 100% clear on how James got out. Maybe he’ll go to the dark side, maybe he’ll find a way to integrate the two. But I’m a little more hopeful for him now that he has rediscovered his moral center. It lies on the “soldier/commander” side of his character sheet.


I have been putting this off

6 April, 2017

A message, sent by secret magic message pouch.

I have been putting off writing this for days, but we have a quiet moment and I can shirk my duty no longer.

I am to blame for the recent collapse of the protective wards around Santa Cora, and I suspect elsewhere as well.

As I have mentioned previously, I was gifted with a certain cloak by Edmund the Marked, granting me some access to the magics of the nodes of The Empire. By this means I reactivated the node at Ebony Watch, and the node on the dwarven ruins beneath Chancer’s Hope, which protected the city from the orc and giant incursion from the south.

At Santa Cora, I gained access to the Astronomer’s Tower, a structure which had been sealed for centuries. At its top was a node (connected to air magics, as it happened, not that it matters now). With Edmund present, I accessed the node. As I was doing so, Edmund gained control of the magics from me and cancelled them. This act appeared to not only shut down the node atop the tower, but also the one in the Santa Cora cathedral. I do not know how far the damage may have gone.

His stated reasons for doing so were preposterous lies. I do not know who he is working for and I will not credit anything he might say. Acts speak louder.

Edmund must be brought to justice and made to pay for his treachery. But I would not that the family name be associated with this. Let the histories not say that one of our family was responsible for the fall of Santa Cora. James is careful to not mention the family name – this communication channel is not entirely secure.

As for me, I travel with my companions now joined by one Nacelle, a paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm. Perhaps she will choose her friends more wisely than I. We travel south to the Owl Barrens in search of the Spear of Hoar, god of just retribution.

I still wear the cloak. Pride, perhaps. The Empire might be better served by my sword at Santa Cora – perhaps I could do for a couple of orcs, at least, before falling. But I shall at least see where this paladin leads us, and attempt to keep you informed.

Mother – I doubt I shall be returning home.


Summary for Maddie

6 April, 2017

Just a summary of my character’s story for a player who has returned to the game recently.

James’ story arc has been a classic greek tragedy – a rise and rise and rise and then bought low in one catastrophic stroke bought about by his own hubris.

We have a couple of mysterious wizards knocking about the world: Edmund the Marked, ex Council of Four, and Aeg Ilsa, Necromancer.

Edmund helped out the party on a couple of occasions and gave James a cloak. The cloak had a connection to the magical “nodes” of the empire – defenses set up ages ago to protect the empire from … stuff. Giants. Orcs. Probably elves and dwarves, too. The cloak also has a quirk, that whoever wears it becomes (fantically?) dedicated to the empire.

At Ebony Watch, James managed to re-ignite one of these ancient nodes. A pretty major deal. Later, in Chancer’s Hope he managed to re-ignite a second one. This one was a bit unusual in that it was in dwarven ruins underground and may have been property of the dwarf king, kinda sorta. Compounding this is that there is political tension between the dwarves and the empire at the moment. Mal Shieldglider was implicated in this, and has been exiled.

While reigniting the node, Aeg asked James if awakening the node was really such a good idea. It seemed to James that it totally was, because the city was being attacked by the orc horde. And indeed, the node once activated put this defense around the city. James got the idea that reigniting the empire nodes was basically the right thing to do.

In Santa Cora, it turned out that there were two nodes – one in the cathedral, and one in the astronomers tower, which no-one had entered for centuries. Edmund was present as James reactivated that node, a bit of a pinnacle moment. But as James did so, Edmund seized control of the magic and through this connection with this activated node brought down the entire freaking network. The immediate effect of this was that all of the storms that this node had been protecting Santa Cora from (this node was why Santa Cora always had nice weather) hit the city all at once. But the wider effect of the entire network going down is obviously more dire. Especially with an orc and giant army attacking from the south.

Edmund’s rationale was that life would be better if common people would rise up and be heroic, rather than relying on the empire or on heroes. I can’t work out if he’s a commie and wants the proletariat to rise up; or if he’s a libertarian and wants to reduce the state to a size where it can be drowned in a bathtub.

Turns out Aeg was the good guy all along. There were clues all along, of course, but James’ distaste of necromancy and his getting all wrapped up in this wonderful cloak he received and the power it gave made him ignore them.

James at the moment is at the “Luke, I am your father and Yoda has been lying to you all along” stage of his character arc. He’s extremely bummed out, which perhaps is why he’s stepped back from trying to tell people what to do and handed off the job to this paladin of the GGW that’s recently joined the party.

Luke somehow managed to stay good. Don’t know about James. He has just gotten this big book ‘o bad necromancy, and it has turned out that he was wrong about at least one necromancer all along. Maybe its time to find out if the dark side has the power to save the empire. Because at the end of the day, a soldier knows that the only way to deal with an army of orcs and giants inevitably involves killing a whole bunch of them.