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.


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.


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.


Drewf’s mini-campaign finale

6 September, 2016

Well, Drewf’s mini-campaign is done. A good time was had by all. And he finished up with a tie-in to Andy’s campaign.

In the end, the amulet was the lich’s phylactery, with a gold dragon bound into it which was released when the amulet was destroyed. The ruby was destroyed by the final blow to the lich (what kind of idiot lich wears his phylactery?), and I was like “oh noes, we failed the misson”, but our principal wanted the amulet found and was happy with that, and we also retrieved a stack of dragon loot for the Zero Company kitty.

The gold dragon was expecting some other group. The dudes from Zero Company were not “the ones”. He (?) killed the occultist, nicely making way for another one to be born (as there can only ever be one). Our actions also released a load of dead gods, at least one of whom has been reborn in our main campaign.

Notes:

  • The 13th age Ranger is a DPS beast. John rolled a quadruple crit at one point. Insane. Crit range bufs can stack in 13th age, so for his first attack he was critting on 15-20 or something ridiculous like that.
  • My druid build tanked like a goddamn tank. He had 60 hp, dead at -30. Came back – by himself– from taking a 60 hp hit and being 20 hp down to being pretty much good to go. Druid regeneration, d10 recovery dice, and the rule that if you get healing you start at 0 (13th age is a forgiving, casual game system). A potion from a concerned party member fixed the rest of the damage.

Prize for coolest character went to AJ’s cigar-chomping dwarven crossbow ranger, who regrettably was not there for the final battle. Nearly half our original party did not make it out of the tomb alive. I expect the rest of the company poured out a beer onto the ground for them, and then went on to even more exciting and mercenary adventures.

Next week Andy is back on board. We will mainly be doign talk, catch-up, and sorting out characters out. Everyone is 4th level.


Messages II

12 July, 2016

I actually wrote this post before I wrote part I. The scene at Lancet House suggested itself, and it seemed a shame to not write it down.

The old man (no name yet) is James’ maternal grandfather. His paternal grandfather is deceased. The marriage between Ducalis and Frances is a fairly typical one: his name, her money. Both the Mallards and the Lancets get a fair bit of advantage. The Lancets get access to some of the more usually inaccessible halls of government; and the Mallards get – well – nobody really respects a coat of arms not backed by at least a little money. The more money, the better.

This is what the scene where grandfather pledges his aid to Ducalis’ faction is about: grandfather understands the nature of the deal that he has made with the Mallards. And in any case, his sympathies rather align with theirs. They are all good people, because this is a happy and positive campaign. As to what the big picture is, the war: heck, I don’t know. All I know is something big is going down and our characters will be in the center of it all. 🙂

I see Frances as being quite a bit younger than Ducalis – ten years or so. Again, quite usual for this sort of arrangement. Nevertheless they are – maybe ‘devoted’ is a little strong, but certainly very happy. I had intended for Frances to be a bit more quiet and shrewd, sort of counterbalancing Andy’s idea of what Ducalis is like. Maybe she is, usually. We saw her in an unusual state last post.

A lancet is a medical tool for drawing blood – if you’ve ever had a finger prick to get a blood sample, that’s what the tool that does it is called. The name sounded suitably posh and very appropriate for a family of moneylenders.

The three golden balls I believe originally came from the arms of House Medici. In the real world, it signifies a pawnbrokers.

James wrote for hours. He attended a banquet held in honour of the merry heroes of Griffinsheart, then he returned to his room and resumed writing. It had been only a few months, but he wrote it all. When he ran out of ink and parchment, he called a palace flunky and got some more. His transfer to Griffinsheart. Salty Bob, the Devil of the Sea. Smedley’s taxes and probable land scams. Mal Sheildglider’s ancient mace, that glows underground. Edmund the Marked, the necromancer Aeg Ilsa, the white dragon. The detonation of the Griffinsheart estate, and the uncovering of the ruins beneath it, and their settlement by the dwarves.

He wrote about their strange journey through the Wildwood, which had seemed like days but was probably weeks. The underground cavern in the woods, the phoenix. The grandmother’s cabin. He described Aeg’s gift at his camp in the woods, and his strange words: “The Archmage will be most … displeased”. The re-igniting of the Ebony Watch node and the sad fate of its captain, along with the problematic news that at least one node had been in the process of being claimed by a hostile magic user. He write about the stirring of the Eld, the baby giant, the closing of the southern hellmouth and the strange bleeding stone. (Did we see a Behemoth? He’ll put that down as well.)

He described their return to Chancer’s hope, and the orcish and giantish assault. His re-ignition of the dwarf node, the fight between Aeg and Edmund. Then the second attack, and his inadvertent turning of the node and the political fallout of that, including his own suspension from duty.

He wrote about the complete criminality of Newport, the obliviousness of the duke, the monk festival, the cage of people held to be food of the Chuul, strange portal to the plane of Darakuul – who waited for the end. The plane of ash, remnant of one of The Crusader’s wars. Finally, he described yesterday’s events: the great chuul and the portal.

He concluded:

In the end, I am not really sure what to make of all this. I see I have rambled more than I intended, but it’s probably best to tell you all I could.

Most of all, I am worried that matters between the empire and the dwarves may be turning sour. The empire cannot afford to lose an ally when giants and orcs are attacking cities, nor can we afford to acquire an enemy that can tunnel under our feet from one end of the continent to the other.

We continue west overland, as the ports are blockaded (I have no idea by whom, or why, or even how for that matter). From Santa Cora we should make quicker time. I will be able to head home, and Mal and the rest of my companions will head north to Forge, to whatever awaits them there.

The thick sheaf of parchment was dispatched by skymail next day – the skies over Newport not being blockaded quite yet.

I think we’ll have to agree that Ducalis’ appearance at Newport was some kind of quasi-real sending, or else it makes no sense why he would have left James there.

The duke held a grand ceremony for their departure, throwing open his vault of useful magics. James chose nothing, feeling it would be inappropriate. However, he did refresh his usual complement of three healing potions in case they should run into Edmund again.

Then the party hit the road to Santa Cora with provisions, horses, even a carriage. They made a formidable party and for the first part of their trip, at least, were unmolested. A week into their journey they came to an unnamed roadhouse – an imperial outpost along the trail. There was a package waiting for James.

From his father, two books and a letter. One book was the standard third-circle text with a few useful additions; and the other was a short history of Sir Draper’s disastrous Bitterwood campaign, with commentary. The letter mentioned that aside from anything else, it was clear that James’s studies had progressed to the point where it was safe for him to begin working with these new magics. His father also wrote that Mal Shieldglider’s safety was of great concern, as he held a hereditary position of considerable importance, and that above all James should make every effort to come home to the family estate as quickly as he may.

From his mother, another letter and a small pouch. The pouch’s long drawstring bore a small seal with the Lancet family mark of three golden balls and had a heavy scoreline across the center.

The letter read:

James,

Your father is more worried than he will admit about your letter. We are both greatly concerned about your safety on the road; but the political situation and the state of the empire is more dire than you or your companions know. Your father tells me little of his work, of course, but it is plain that magic is roiling from one end of the empire to the other and beyond. As dearly as we wish you to be here at home, in many ways a road out in the middle of nowhere might be the safest place for you at present, especially considering your current company.

One thing, however, I must deal with. A Lancet does not borrow money – we lend it, and a Lancet most certainly does not haggle with regional nobility for travel expenses! I have had a chat with your grandfather, and he has agreed that one of us should not wander about the wilds on some nag, starving, in rags, and incommunicado. And so I have sent you this pouch. It is a small one, but more easily concealed for that and more than large enough for the purpose. It will manage a few coins, small letters. As you are on the road, grandfather might ask you to act as something of an agent for the family concerns. Discrete, of course. There are not many that will connect you with the Lancet name, and that’s all to the good.

Do be responsible with it dear. Avoid using it regularly or at predictable intervals. Hide it well, and be sure to snap the seal should it look like it might be taken. As to how to operate it, I must leave that as a puzzle for you.

Though you travel as far as Julian, stay safe. Return to us as soon as you may.

Love,

“Dire”. Like the rest of her family, James’ mother was inclined to be shrewd and cautious. It wasn’t a word that she would use lightly. But there was nothing for it for now but to continue on to Santa Cora.

Which first? The books or the pouch? Well, the books would take hours just to get started with them. He was going to be spending the next few weeks on the road reading and practising, drawing circles, cajoling sprites, and doing new tongue-twisters. So: the pouch.

Examining it with his magical senses, he could clearly see how the interior was not quite present in this reality, or not entirely, and how the seal was some sort of keystone for the whole. It was activated by some sort of very elaborate ritual, probably, but there was no clue as to what it might be.

So he scanned the letter for clues. And it was obvious: Julian Lancet – his ancestor on the distaff side. Not nearly so ancient as Baron Geofrrey, but still a fair way back. It’s said he went out onto the endless sea to find spices, and then within 8 years parlayed the profits into a fleet and a counting house.

And then he recalled the childhood guessing-game. His mother played it with his brothers, and with him in his turn. You had to say a rhyme and them guess what was in a treasure-box. The game was mainly about getting the rhyme exactly right: it’s rhythm and patterns of emphasis, the secret knock on the box. On getting it exactly, exactly right, his mother would open the box, revealing a sweet, or a toy.

James looked about to confirm that he was in private, and recited the child’s rhyme:

“Julian Lancet sailed on the ocean
Julian Lancet crossed the sea
Julian Lancet rapped on the lock
And lifted the lid to see:

“Ten silver pieces!”, finished James. After a moment the pouch … did something, and inside were ten silver pieces. James left them there. The pouch’s magic was depleted, of course. He put the long drawstring over his head and patted the pouch into place under his shirt. He then broke out his new textbooks and started reading.

That evening, at about the end of first watch, the pouch – well – “ping!”ed in James’ mind. James lit his magelight and wandered off away from camp for a private moment. In the pouch, the ten silver coins had been replaced by several coins of various denomination – even a couple of platinum – and an unsigned note in a neat masculine hand on onionskin paper. It read:

Well done James. You needn’t be quite so cautious in future when drawing minor expenses against the vault. Significant drafts are another matter. It’s best to clear the pouch after use. Now that you are bonded you can send items to other pouches by nominating the recipient, but for now you should communicate only with me or your mother and not mention your bond with the item to the rest of the family. Or indeed, to anyone.

Stay in touch, but do not over-use the item. Inform me when reaching Santa Cora.

Without needing to be told, James burned both letters with a Spark.

As for James’ hopefully cheesy new item, subject to DM approval of course, I’m thinking that the Lancets have several of these connected portals. Thing is, the way they actually work is that sprites carry whatever it is via the Low Way. This means that if you use them too much or too regularly, especially if you are using them to convey valuables, then something will eventually notice and you will find that the transport becomes a little unreliable. Your sprites will get eaten and your stuff stolen, basically. It’s better to send a cheque than coin, but not a lot of inns take cheques.

As for in-game effect, as well as being a handy plot hook and general Deus Ex Sacculum, I’ll ask for an in-game effect of the pouch giving in effect two background points in “Being from a banking family”. It’s the equivalent of a feat. Haggling, appraisal, that sort of thing but large-scale. Tarry might be better at telling you how much, say, a silver cup might be worth (ie: can be fenced for); but with the pouch around his neck James is the person to ask how much a ship might be worth, or a business. And either of them can probably make a decent stab at the gp equivalent of a gem. And of course, he can always ask granddad. Up to a point. Not that we’ll be actually working out the money in detail, because that’s dull. We’ll hand-wave it.

Quirk might be “keeps careful track of money”. James won’t tip out his money and count it obsessively. Well, at least not every day. But he will start tracking purchases and expenses.

I have no idea what work granddad might want James to do in Santa Cora, or elsewhere. If any.

Dammit, I nearly forgot – thanks to John for his notes on dropbox. I had forgotten some cool stuff.

James Mallard -needs to snap out of it

29 April, 2016

I mentioned my blog on another website, and just spent a little time re-reading it. In particular, the events at the node in Ebony Watch.

Deep down in a layer of James’ mind he was not fully aware of, the cloak posed him a question: “would you die for the empire”? And in that same layer, his training and its cameraderie, the histories he had studied – stories of valour and sacrifice, his commitment to make the best of his father’s decision to place him in the army, and perhaps even his childhood storybook lessons that the noble must protect the common people, together formed a wordless reply: “I am a soldier of The Empire.”

Sort of reminded me what James is about. He’s been in a bit of a funk since being suspended from duty. The whole “screw it, let’s go to Anvil” is a bit of a sulk, and he needs to snap out of it. Seeing the politics has disillusioned him a bit, but ultimately there are illusions we all have to grow out of.

My goal for the character, of course, has always been that one day he would be archmage. It’s pretty obvious – that’s why I gave him the “One Unique Thing” that I did. Hidden, locked-away arcane talent. Duh. But he doesn’t plan to be archmage one day – that’s my idea. He will do what’s best. He will serve if he is called.

Which is why I refused the shortsword that the DM offered him (obviously it was for James – no-one else uses a shortsword). James actually is good, and loyal, and responsible and all that. Heroic, even. He’s not going to take some proffered shortcut to a goal that he doesn’t even have, and he’s intelligent enough to know that you are cautious with magic items. After playing a string of bad guys (I re-read Korgul’s stories: funny as hell, and I wrote them), I want James to really be the kind of person you would want in the job.

Having said that – this is not something that could possibly happen in the game. The way I see it, 10th level is when you start being a serious wizard. A bit like a black belt – all it means is that you have learned all the forms of your school. It’s after that that a martial artist starts getting serious.

So, there’s been politics, and he’s been relived of duty. He’s beginning to see what a tangled mess life mostly is. Nevertheless it remains the case that there being an empire is better than there not being one, it remains the case that the emperor is warden and guardian of civilisation and all the people in it. It remains the case that, as Hobbes suggested,

During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.

“To this war of every man against every man, this also in consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law, where no law, no injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the cardinal virtues.

“No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Snap out of it, man. Being a soldier of The Empire is still the worthwhile thing that it always was.


James Mallard – bad magic, good magic

22 September, 2015

SEC: SECRET-EMPEO-ARCOPS

From: Lt James Mallard, Chancer’s Hope
To: Capt Gerard, Ebony Watch
To: Sir Leonard Griffinshart, Chancer’s Hope

Subj: Reactivation of Ebony Watch defensive node

  1. Summary of events
    1. I am currently acting as part of a team of civilian specialist, under the direction of Sir Leonard Griffishart.
    2. Our group’s current mission has resulted in us passing through Ebony Watch.
    3. On arrival in Ebony Watch, Lt Green apprised us that the previous CO had barricaded himself in the top level of the watchtower. This occurred several months ago.
    4. Lt Green requested our aid in the matter.

      Did this actually happen? I forget. But it’s his word against mine, so screw him.
    5. I and other members of our group investigated the tower on insert date here.
    6. We broke through the barricade barring the top floor of the tower. Within was the skeleton of the previous commander; a skeleton of some kind of reptilian humanoid, wearing the remains of robes; a large pile of gems and currency; and the defensive node.
    7. I investigated and reactivated the node. I attempted to alert it to the various magical disturbances in Ebony Watch which appear to be originating from the direction of The Eld.
    8. It was clear to me that the node had been tampered with. Various operating runes and link-lines had been altered.
    9. Correct reactivation of the node initiated a self-repair sequence, absorbing a portion of the pile of currency and gems for materials.
    10. Upon the reactivation of the node, the skeleton of the previous CO and the reptilian humanoid reanimated and attacked.
    11. The reptilian skeleton appeared to be illegally drawing arcane power from the node.

      Yeah – it wasn’t just trying to kill us, it was breaking the law!
    12. The skeleton of the previous CO kept repeating words to the effect of “No brother, I will not permit you”. (this is fairly typical of the undead – they can tend to replay whatever was occuring at the time of their deaths).
    13. We destroyed the remains of the reptilian arcanist. As we did, the remains of the previous CO also de-animated, saying “No brother, I will not let you – it is cursed”.
    14. During this fight, undead had reanimated around the tower. When the remains of the reptilian were destroyed, they de-animated. Regrettably, there may have been civilian casualties.
    15. The node now appears to be correctly operational.
  2. Evaluation

    I cannot make anything of the words of the commander’s remains beyond the obvious: that the reptilian humanoid was tampering with the node (which I gather has been inactive for many years), and that the commander stopped this at the cost of his own life. Any more than that would require knowledge of local events which I do not have.

    There appear to be some sort of magical attacks being made on the town currently, although they only appear to be probing at present. These attacks take the form of a music which seems to be making people aggressive or otherwise affects their emotions without their being aware of it. There has recently been some sort of unusual activity in the direction of The Eld (odd lights, mainly). As giants are known to use bardic magic it is possible that they are up to something, but at this stage I can only offer speculation.

    The nodes are intended as magical defenses of the empire and its outposts, but I do not know specifically what – if anything – the reactivated node will do with respect to this magic. Ebony Watch requires better information on its node from an empire arcanist.

  3. Recommendations

    1. Our team will be departing Ebony Watch this evening. As I have indicated, they are a team of civilians not in the chain of command and cannot be ordered to remain for an investigation. I request that we be permitted to depart without delay.
    2. Our team has retained some of the pile of loot in the tower in lieu of bounty or reward. I request that this be permitted. Our group is in need of supplies, and a reward would otherwise be customary in these circumstances. I myself have retained an amount of loot for supplies and spell components.
    3. The node should not be approached by untrained personnel or civilians. It is, as far as I can determine, fully operational and will defend itself.
    4. The node is now in communication with other defensive nodes of the empire. In due course, an arcanist will be dispatched to investigate its reactivation. I recommend that Ebony Watch make every effort to expedite this. The town will require an empire arcanist to manage and monitor the node on an ongoing basis.
    5. No attempt should be made to replace the roof of the tower at any time. Nodes require line-of-sight to the sky. This is why the node removed the roof of the tower when it was reactivated. Even a tarpaulin over the roof will be treated similarly. If the tower leaks during the rain, that will have to be dealt with in some other way.

      It’s this nugget of information that makes this report secret, empire eyes only, and arcane ops. I’m thinking nodes communicate by bouncing signals off the stratosphere.

Lt James Mallard

SEC: SECRET-EMPEO-ARCOPS

We are Level 2! W00T!