Sunday, November 26, 2017

It Begins

Amon’Kel, servant of Amon’Zhakar

Amon’Kel.  The name rings odd in my ears, for it is not my hatch-name.  Yet, for all its strangeness, it is the name by which this new world will know me.  It is the will of Amon’Zhakar, He Who Burns, that I take this name and by this name his enemies will know their doom.

My brood-mates chittered nervously as we entered the sacred chamber.  The ancient blade had been placed upon the sacred stone alter for the ceremony, it’s black blade gleamed like a sliver of the night sky in the flickering torchlight.  We fell to our knees in a ring around the dais, our hoods pulled low over our brows.  The Brood-Master intoned the words of the ceremony, just as it had been done for generations and we waited, as every Brood had waited, for nothing.  Nothing had happened in these ceremonies for a very long time, since the death of Amon’Tzarka, last of the Chosen.

The Brood-Master’s chanting stopped and those around me started to rise.  I could not.  My limbs felt heavy, a red haze dimmed my vision.  I heard a gasp, it might have been the Brood-Master, I cannot tell, and my skin started to burn.  My brood-mates scrambled away from me with cries of surprise and fear.  I rose shakily to my feet and observed reddish-purple flames dancing along my arms, over my chest, and down my legs.  A voice, like a hoarse whisper, filled my ears.   It spoke a twisted, tortured language that I, somehow, understood.  I knew it was the voice of the long-dead Dragon, Amon’Zhakar, bound to the black blade and I knew that I was his Chosen.

Though I cannot bear the blade, no living being could, its power is still mine.  As long as I serve the will of Amon’Zhakar, I will have access to that power.  Now, the first of my people in many hatchings, I go forth into the world of men and elves to reclaim that which we lost.  My people will return to prominence and reclaim our power in this world as we had eons ago, when the skies were ruled by our progenitors.
The people of the flame shall rise again….

Male Dragonborn Warlock 1
Medium humanoid, lawful evil
Armor Class 18 (scale mail, shield)
Hit Points 12 (1d8+4)
Speed 30 ft.
STR 13 (+1), DEX 14 (+2), CON 18 (+4), INT 8 (-1), WIS 14 (+2), CHA 16 (+3)
Saving Throws Wis +4, Cha +5
Skills Insight +4, Intimidation +5, Investigation +1, Perception +4
Damage Resistances fire
Senses passive Perception 14
Languages Common, Draconic, Goblin


Longsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target.
Hit: 1d8+3 slashing damage or 1d10+3 slashing damage if used with two hands to make a melee attack.

Unarmed Strike. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature.
Hit: 2 bludgeoning damage.

Equipment Longsword, scale mail, shield, backpack, component pouch, crowbar, hammer, piton (10), rations (10), rope, hempen (50 feet), tinderbox, torch (10), waterskin

The Party

Theolaerynn Liwanu, High Elf Rogue

The first five years of Theolaeryn's young life went as would be expected for any High Elf child born of prominent figures in a larger Elvish city.  While his mother was a healer, his father was a Wizard and expected Theolaerynn to follow in his footsteps.

On his 5th birthday Theo learned his first cantrip, Ray of Frost, and was incredibly proud of himself.  His mother's smile was a ray of light, but his father seemed only slightly less aloof than he ever was, making the moment bittersweet.

Such things are short lived in the eyes of a five year old, however, and it wasn't long before most of the hurt was forgotten and he once again found joy in each and every moment.

Later that year his mother was called upon to assess a previously unknown illness that was found not to be contagious, but did seem to have an arcane element to it.  It was thought that if she and her husband looked at it together that they might make more sense out of it.  Because the illness only seemed to inflict a very rural village, and because she didn't know how long this would take, she chose to bring Theo as well.  It would be good to expose him to rural life, to expose him to a way of life he as yet had no concept of.

Soon Theo found himself in the family carriage, laying in a pool of sunlight, gently rocked to sleep by the sway and dip of the carriage as it traveled over the rural roads, and by the gentle sound of his mothers voice as she talked with his father.

His memory of the days that followed has always eluded his grasp, tantalizing and teasing like the morning mist on a lake as the wind chases it first one way and then another.  What he does recall he wishes that he wouldn't.  The sightless eyes of his mother, the arrow protruding from her throat, and later the feelings of thirst, hunger and fear.  The last of the frugal memories from that time is the sound of a soothing voice, a shocked laugh, and darkness.

When he awoke from that darkness he was in an unfamiliar cottage, in an unfamiliar bed, wrapped in unfamiliar smells and sounds.  An early-middle-aged man sat at a well worn but rustic table, pouring over a sheaf of documents.  Human eyes looked up and Theo could feel himself being carefully measured and weighed.

John Cobbler.  The name still brought mixed emotions.  The joy of a life well-lead, and the sorrow of the brief lives of mortal men.  Theo was forty five when John joined his ancestors at 70, in the comfort of his own bed in that same cottage.

In that 40 years John had taught Theo all of the important things fathers taught their sons, like honor and duty and the worth of family.  He also gave Theo his surname, Liwanu, which means Growl of the Bear.  He gave Theo that name, he said, because when he found him in the wreckage of the carriage and its escorts, standing over the days-old corpse of his mother, he used the last of his remaining strength to scream savage defiance as John approached.  And then he passed out and did not awake again until he was back at Johns cottage.

John was an Investigator, sharp and observant, and was often called on to look into some of the harder to solve crimes in the rural area where they lived.  Not the high crimes of the city, but crimes none the less.  He taught Theo everything he knew, starting that very day that Theo first woke in his cottage, setting out to find out what happened to his parents.  A task that would take several years, even though it ended up to be one of the simplest and oldest of motives:  Greed.  One of his fathers rivals had him assassinated, something made easier by that fact that this wasn't something that was typically done in the High Elf city.  They were above that sort of thing, or so they thought.

The High Elf that had sanctioned Theolaerynn's father had a lot of power and was thus not sentenced to the death he deserved, but was rather 'retired' to the country, where he would live for a while in luxurious boredom until people forgot about the incident.

Theo was enraged!  It took John a long time to convince him that anger was a useless emotion, and that all it did was make people do stupid things like seek vengeance.  Vengeance, he said, was for the weak and undisciplined, and it did as much if not more harm to the person seeking it than it did to the person it was delivered upon.

That was Johns first real lesson for Theo, and it was a very difficult one to understand.  But with time he did understand, and was able to let the anger go.

When he finally found the peace that comes from letting vengeance go, John taught him his second profound lesson by throwing a head at his feet.  Looking down at the face of his fathers murderer he came to understand Justice.

John's passing was very painful for Theo and he began to wander the world, paying his way as an investigator, staying for a few years here, and a few years there.  Brief moments in the life of an Elf.  Time spent in search of himself.

But now that he is an adult, older and wiser, he feels the need to do something more.  What that is he is not yet sure of, but he knows he will recognize it when he finds it.

Alston Nim, Rock Gnome Wizard 

Alston Nim was always a bright and curious child who loved to explore.  This got him into trouble on more than one occasion, usually resulting in a lecture from him mother and a stern look from his father.  He couldn't help himself, there was just so much to see and so little time.  He also never felt like he got into too much trouble, that was until the falling out.  He was rummaging around his neighbor's garden, playing and eating some vegetables (she always shared with his family, so why did it matter if he took some now).  The next thing he knows, his mother is there pulling him out and participating in a yelling match with the neighbor lady.  He remembers others looking on, his father showing up, and a few days later they were leaving the clan.  Alston felt ashamed of this for a very long time, not realizing until years later that this was the final straw in a brewing feud that went back years.  His parents never spoke of the true reason for the feud, just that it wasn't really Alton's fault.  At the time all he knew was that it was his fault, and he would never see his friends again.

The Nim family found themselves a new home many weeks travel from where they had previously lived, settling in a small cave complex that was large enough for their family, with room to spare.  He remembers his parents stating that this was a fresh start in a place where they could grow their family beyond just Alston.  This excited Alston, the thought of a sibling, and he decided it was up to him to prepare for what must be the imminent arrival of a little brother.  He was allowed to roam the surrounding area after what seemed like an eternity of being stuck in the cave, looking at the same old rocks.  He felt like he could live again, with so much area to explore it was an exciting time.  It was imperitive that he find areas to explore with his new brother, though curiosity always drove him to fully explore these new areas alone.

One day he was following the rock face of his home, and he ventured a bit further than his mother allowed.  The whole area was overtaken with vines and bushy plants, but behind this he discovered a tiny opening about his size.  Crawling inside, he discovered bones that belonged to some bipedal creature, a long stick, a book, and some rock with symbols carved on them.  The bones initially made him recoil in fear, but his curiosity again took over and he got closer.  One hand was grasping the stick, and both hands were extended toward the opening.  The pages were almost completely disentigrated, but he could make out what seemed like words in a language he had never seen before.  He had learned to read a few years before, so this new language intrigued him.  The same letters or symbols appeared on the stone, but he wasn't sure what it was.  The dark didn't help, so he thought a fire would help.  He had watched his mom do this for many years, and during the recent excursions he got bold enough to borrow the thing used for lighting fires and wanted to experiment with it.  After lighting a fire he found that he still couldn't read the letters on the stone, even holding it up close to the light.  That's when he realized how close he actually was, but the fire didn't hurt.  That is, it didn't hurt until he dropped the stone, then the pain was immediate.  He tried to grab the stone and back away at the same time, but the moment he touched the stone he realized that he no longer felt the heat, only the pain from the burn remained and that was even minimized.

Over the next few months he would take more excursions to the cave to study his finding even more.  It was always frustrating as he didn't have enough info to learn this new language.  It was on one of these excursions that it finally happened: his father found him.  Alston was studying the rock and the book when suddenly the little light that came from the cave entrance was blotted out and a shape approached.  The space inside was so small he had no place to run to, so he was stuck, and then he heard the familiar voice of his father: "So what have you been up to son?".  Alston braced for the worst, but instead his father used a calm tone, and seemed genuinely interested.  Over the next few minutes his father explained who he really is: a wizard who had been searching for a fellow wizard that had never returned from a quest.  Alston had so many questions, he had only heard of wizards in bedtime stories, he didn't think they were real or that his father was one.  His mind reeling, he barely registered what his father was asking of him, to repeat a phrase.  The words made no sense, but he said them, and suddenly a light appeared, momentarily blinding him.  He heard a satisfied "Hmph" from his father, then the words that would change the trajectory of his life: "Son, I think you have an affinity for magic, would you like to follow in your father's footsteps?"

What followed was confirmation of his magical ability by other wizards, basic studying, and some trials.  His mother was not happy, she didn't want to part ways with him so early in life, but her father assured her it was for the best.  He heard things like "lots of power" and "to protect both you and him".  Alston couldn't understand this, he would never hurt his mother.  Did his father think he was a bad child?  But before he knew it, his father was there again, in front of him and with his mother weeping and saying it would be okay.  He wouldn't be away forever, just for a little while.  Looking back, he's not sure if she was lying to him or to herself.

A little while turned into months, then into years.  Sure, he got to see his mother occasionally and return to his home (now with a little brother and sister), but each visit got shorter, and the time between visits grew longer.  He was kept busy with reading in the vast library and practices in the yard.  In the beginning were basic spells like light and protection, but before he'd be allowed on a quest he had to learn offensive spells as well.  To be allowed this level of power, he had to gain maturity, which meant more study time, and more time with defensive spells.  Maturity was slow to arrive, slower than his patience.  He tried to find a way into the part of the library where the damage tomes were stored, but each time he was kicked out and reprimanded.  Just like his time as a child when he was out exploring, he finally got his wish and found a way to one of the tomes that had Magic Missile.  He memorized the words, returned the book, and made his way outside.  He quickly checked to be sure he was alone, then he said the words he read in the book.  He could feel the power course through him as he stared at the practice dummy, but instead of firing bolts of energy, they blew up directly in front of him.  He was knocked back and a circle of bare earth appeared where he had been standing, dirt and grass flying.

He awoke some time later in the infirmary, his father at his side.  Upon waking, his father gave him the same stern look that he hated as a kid, got up, and walked out.  Alston's ego and feelings were as hurt as his body.  Through accelerated healing he was physically ready to return to studies, but mentally he wasn't and his teachers refused to let him near the library or the practice yard for a month.  Over time he was able to make ammends with his teachers, but he knew that they would never forget what he did.  He may have been a child, but they had expected more.

Several years of study and practice went by, including the study of offensive spells, and it was time to go on a quest.  He was paired with two older instructors and several his approximate age; he outshone the other children through his ability to solve puzzles and to take down enemies that the other children couldn't.  After performing just as well in several more quests, he was put on the fast track to gaining the title of Wizard.  After a dozen such quests, he no longer went out with other children but instead went as an apprentice, being the only child in a group of adult Wizards.

Upon reaching the age of 18, he was allowed to leave the school with the title of Wizard.  His father had long ago returned home to be with his wife, and to protect that region from the forces of evil, but he returned for the graduation ceremony.  Alston never did return home, his thirst for knowledge and adventure providing too much pull.  The day will come when he returns home, it's just that today is not that day.  He knows that there are countless caves out there just like the one he discovered as a child, each potentially harboring some new creature to document or tome to read.  He spent his adolescence reading the accumulated knowledge of many authors, some day his own knowledge will reside among the others.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Perils of the Sapphire Sea

A new campaign using the Burning Wheel RPG by Luke Crane.

I finally have the opportunity to introduce a long-time friend,  Geoff Spakes, to the Burning Wheel system.  He's a big fan of Fate, so BW seems like a great fit.  We'll only get to play occasionally, but a little is better than none at all.

The Burn:  We've decided to play in a real-world analog of 1725.  In our world, however, magic is real.  Over the centuries, as technology has developed and religion has spread, magic has weakened and become almost non-existent in Europe.  The Church of the Holy Roman Empire has spread throughout Europe, banning the use of magic and burning those who practice it.  Many Europeans chose to flee to the new world, establishing colonies on the east coast of North America, where they are free to practice the magic that their ancestors used and enjoyed.

Sir Aiden Hogan-Greaves
Great Britain is one of the few European powers that still maintains its independence from the iron rule of the Church, but it's a war they are losing.  Desperate, the King sent emissaries to the Caribbean, where, rumor has it, can be found a substance which grants incredible magical energy to those who know how to use it.  This is a weapon, the King hopes, that can be used to win the war and secure the continued independence of the British Isles.

Only one man returned,  Sir Aiden Hogan-Greaves, the grandson of one of Britain's last great witches.  He brought with him a pearl-sized chunk of an azure colored substance.  The King's alchemists were astounded and declared the substance the very physical manifestation of magic.  They called it "Blue Coal".  Possession of such a substance, in larger quantities, could ensure the safety and security of His Majesty's kingdom and see a revival of magic on an unprecedented scale.

Blue Coal
The only problem, Aiden confessed, was that the substance was known to the Pope and other government bodies.  Surely, they would also be sending agents to secure the substance.  Additionally, the element was closely guarded and monitored by the Aztlan Empire, the prevailing power in the Western hemisphere.  Blue Coal powers their technology and their magic and they are unwilling to give up its secret to world powers that would use it to upset their dominance in the region.  Sending a fleet to the Caribbean would draw too much attention and surely be considered an unprovoked act of hostility by the Aztlan Empire.  Likewise, the King has very few ships that he can spare as they are needed in the war against the  Holy Roman Empire and its allies.

Sir Kennit Greaves
The King decided to turn to The Black Watch.  The Watchmen, as they are called, are the King's secret society of spies and informers.  The Black Watch would dispatch one of their best men to accompany Sir Hogan-Greaves back to the New World to investigate the phenomenon known as Blue Coal and see to acquiring it for the Crown.  The best man available, as it turned out, was Sir Kennit Greaves, cousin to Sir Hogan-Greaves.  Sir Greaves, an ex-Pirate recently returned to the good graces of His Majesty's government, has extensive contacts in that part of the world and has the resources and abilities to allow him to successfully complete the mission.  If he can't do it, it cannot be done.
H.M.S. Harpy

Together, they set out aboard the H.M.S. Harpy to Kingston, Jamaica, where Sir Hogan-Greaves had acquired his sample of Blue Coal from an Aztlan mystic, to begin their investigation.

To be continued....

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Journal of the ex-Lord High Constable, Part 9

I was woken in the early hours by Allaster informing me that Vijur was meeting with the Duke and Earl Esben. I suspected Esben would attempt further subterfuge. However I decided to let him play his game, because I don’t plan on playing it with him, I’m going to smash the board and bring down his world come the morning. It will also be a good opportunity for our future king to show himself to not be easily manipulated, or further prove to me how unready to rule he will be.

At dawn the captains and lieutenants of the North mustered as I ordered.  The Duke may have taken it upon himself to hastily appoint Cuylar Dane as my successor. But it is a military matter. And as such should be handled with the appropriate customs. When I handed Cuylar my pin of office, I could feel the old rivalry between me and him wash away.

Having Cuylar on my side is of absolute importance to me. I need to have someone I can rely upon in the coming future to take up position as Lord High Constable, and I could think of no better man.
After the short ceremony I introduced Cuylar to Magnus, and welcomed talks of the elven treaty he brought to the city at a later date. Even if I fail today I was assured that matters would be appropriately handled.

I then took Cuylar aside and gave him my first command as Regent of Dorn. Or rather a command to be enacted the exact moment I become Regent. With Conall’s deciphered documents I presented him with evidence of Earl Esben’s involvement in manipulating the realm. More importantly a list of locations and persons within Erenhead who work or belong to him. Together we created a strategy to simultaneously assault all of Esben’s holdings and arrest his agents. It was an ambitious plan, and we didn't have much time to prepare it. But between us I am confident in our victory, I must strike while the iron is hot!

Marching the the arena, I ensured Erenhead knew of my arrival. The city was quiet with anticipation. As if it was holding its breath, waiting to see what would happen. Our drums and bagpipes shattered the silence with Dornish anthems of our nation's past greatness. As I passed the common folk, they saw the future ruler. They saw that I was bringing back an era of that greatness.
At the arena however, not was all it should have been. Vijur stood side by side with Earl Esben and the Duke.
I knew our dear king was easily manipulated. But this?
A proclamation was read. Duke Ivass Tourbalt was to step down, anointing Vijur as the true king of Dorn. Of course with the addition of Earl Esben acting as regent.
I was ready to denounce Earl Esben before the people. But in his new position I had to adjust my words. Calling for the musicians to play their instruments over the crowds uproar, I turned their attention back to me and said my piece.

I called out to the people.
I called out that I came here as a true honourable Dorn. Here to lay an end to an era of treachery.
I called out for house Redgard, and that I would lead our country back into greatness.
I called out Earl Esben’s intrigue. I exposed his lies and threats he had made. Producing the finger of my boy I told the people how he was trying to use my family as leverage over me.
I called out that Dorn would not stand for this manipulation any longer.
Cuylar Dale rose and backed my claims. At that point things had turned and everyone knew it.
Every house present had listened to me. I was no longer the only one calling for Esben blood. The signal given our soldiers closed in and arrested Esben
Most people present failed to notice the flaming arrow that shot into the sky. Not me. I approached the dais with the knowledge that as I walked up the steps; Esben’s web of intrigue was being pulled down across the entire city.

The moment changed when Jahzir: Outraged by the unfolding events. Called out the dishonour of the whole thing, and took it upon himself to end the Dukes life. Without hesitation Vijur drove Wyrmclaw into Jahzir’s chest. Magnus and the available Galdrs tried their best so save the Sharif’s life, but after much effort failed.

This was a great waste of a good life. Jahzir, although headstrong was a man worthy of respect. And his killing may put Dorn in a difficult position diplomatically. I hadn’t banked on having to deal with such matters so early of my coming to power.

With the drama ended, all eyes remained on the stage. Calling out for a hail to King Vijur Dane and Regent of the realm Fergus Redgard, everyone kneeled. As I stood there with Vijur, I saw  uncertainty in his eyes.

However as regent I bear no uncertainty.
I shall be steadfast for the sake of Dorn.

Honour the name.

From the Journal of Magnus Sedrig, Session 9

Towerday the 2nd of Redfall 890 TA - Afternoon

I was rudely shaken awake by a messenger. Apparently Fergus Redguard had requested my presence at a meeting of some sort, and it has very important that I attended. I still hadn’t fully recovered from the previous day's exertions but given the current fragile situation it seemed sensible to assist my new allies in any way possible. Rest can come later.

The meeting was a discreet affair, Fergus had gathered the military leaders of the northern houses to assure their loyalty to the true king Vijur and convince them the Duke was not worthy of support. I agreed with most of what was said, and so kept quiet until the Eredane Compact was mentioned. This was my cue to give the now well-practiced spiel about how Izrador would soon return and we must be ready to unite against him, the Duke’s refusal to recognize the compact put the security of the nation in jeopardy. I was taken more seriously this time, in part due the presence of Kylar Dale and Fergus, but also because I had an actual living breathing member of the Caransil standing right there next to me. Lensa has refused to leave my side since our reunion and received a few curious glances, it’s hard to remember that most men have never seen an Elf.

With the exception of house Esben, who I believe Fergus has been feuding with since killing their assassin at the feast, most of the lords seemed to be swayed to our side. The meeting dissolved, and afterwards I offered to assist Fergus in any way he saw fit. The duel was only a few hours away, and I really would have preferred he win. Fergus asked if I could make his voice more impressive, so I conjured up a quick enhancement spell to amplify his already impressive bellow.

All too quickly, it was time for the Duel. I took my place in the crowd gathering in the great arena, next to my father. The assembled spectators waited in quiet tension as Redguard procession made it’s way through the city, the obnoxious squawking of their pipe band growing slowly louder. Vijur, the Duke and Sharif Ka’Mael were visibly arguing about… something, which was very curious. Finally, Fergus arrived at the head of his parade and the Duke immediately began spouting orders. I don’t recall the exact words: the Duke was abdicating,Vijur would rule alone as the sole monarch and Fergus was to be arrested for treason! I don’t know how, but someone got to Vijur, convinced him to turn on Fergus. I suspected he might have been ensorcelled by a Galdr, but he didn’t seem to bear the telltale signs of magical influence. The Sharif was furious, ranting about honour and such things to Arik, clearly the man had been hoping for a fight and didn’t approve of this sudden change of plans.

Obviously, Fergus wasn’t going to just surrender himself and he was protected by dozens of his own men. Not enough to win a direct bloody conflict, but enough to cause hesitation, no one wants to be the first to charge a Huscarl shield wall. Fergus took the opportunity to throw himself into another one of his epic speeches. It was a long one, so for brevity's sake I will summarize: the Duke is a puppet of Lord Esben, Lord Esben is the true power behind the throne and has been manipulating events to suit his own selfish ends, Fergus has proof of these claims and house Reguard is the only house that can lead the Dorn through the troubles to come. With Vijur’s consent obviously.

Perhaps it was my magic, perhaps it was natural charisma, probably a bit of both.  The Lords of Dorn  absorbed his words and a general murmur of agreement began to emerge, punctuated by the occasional “here here” and “yeah!”. Even Vijur was convinced, and humbly agreed to honour the original arrangement with House Redguard. When it was clear the tables had turned, the Duke began to make a move, attempting to slip away. Before he got very far the Sharif was upon him, blocking the coward’s retreat. The Duke was decapitated in one swift slice from the Sharif’s blade, but Vijur reacted instantly, seemingly on instinct, and drove his magical blade Wyrmclaw through the Sharif’s chest in retaliation!

The Sharif slid off the sword and fell to the floor, immediately Arik was at his side. He held his brother in his arms, desperately pleading for help as a circle of shocked nobles formed. Vijur demanded “help this man!”, the guilt of his rash action audible in the higher pitch of his voice. I pushed my way through the crowd to the fallen man, Lensa following close behind. Together, with the assembled court Galdrs, we tried to cease the influence of Wymrclaw’s powerful magic as the Sharif’s wound blackened and spoiled. I channeled every scrap of Aedra I could muster into fighting that magic, the effort drained me and my assistants to the verge of unconsciousness but eventually we proved no match for such power. Our magic failed, and the Sharif was dead.

I feel guilty for failing to save Arik’s brother, but today’s events will have a positive influence on the kingdom going forward. We have a strong, honourable family in control of the throne, backed by the legitimate heir. We are finally free from the Duke’s influence, and the puppet master Esben is exposed. Control of the Sarcoasan war host has fallen to Arik, a much cooler headed and sensible man than his late Brother. We have a long way to go, but it is a start.

Over the coming months, I must set about the task of negotiating an alliance between the Dorn, the Sacrosans and the Caransil. I must also carefully the Black Mirror, to ascertain if it can be destroyed or contained or even used against its master. We must be prepared for the return of the shadow!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

From the Journal of Magnus Sedrig, Session 8

Towerday the 2nd of Redfall 890 TA - Midnight

I intercepted Sunulael as his retinue approached the city gates. I simply rode up on my horse, blocked his path, and demanded an audience. The tall man met my gaze and immediately I  knew I was in grave danger. My spine turned to ice, bile churned in my guts, the repulsive influence of tainted Aerdra poured from those black eyes. I must confess I wanted to run, but this was a true servant of Izrador standing before me, a manifestation of everything I’ve sworn to fight!

I pretended not to notice anything awry and the Sahi and I engaged in some polite discourse about the state of his elven “guest”. He assured me she was in good health and not being kept against her will, but if I insisted on verifying this for myself he would gladly welcome me to his tent as a guest tonight. This was obviously a trap, if I entered this man's tent I would never return, but if I let him go then I might never have had another opportunity to get close to him. I accepted his invitation.

As we walked back towards the Sarcosan camp we talked of my history and how I found myself in the service of Queen Aradil. I left nothing out, placing particular emphasis on the part about Izrador rising and my mission to warn the kingdoms of man. I asked him how he came to serve his current master (not the emperor, his new master) and he put on a show of amused ignorance. I was trying to goad the Sahi into revealing his true nature, just to be sure, and when that didn’t work I directly accused him of being a traitor. I believe my exact words were “Are you the one that ordered Arik killed?”.

Sunulael responded to my accusation with patronizing mock offence, the smug bastard sounded more amused than offended. Of course he had nothing to do such events, he has so, so hurt by the accusation. In the story books I used to read as a child, this is exactly how a villain acts. At this point I did something very stupid. I reasoned that if we reached the Sarcosan camp it would be very difficult to take action against their holy man, if I was going to make a move it had to be now. Without wasting any more time on pleasantries I drew upon the Aerdra and conjured a storm of sorcerous fire, immolating Sunulael and his toadies.

Well, that was the idea anyway. I felt the magic pour from my fingertips, twist through the air and stream directly into Sunulael’s open palm. The Dark Sorcerer was ripping my spell from the ether and absorbing it! I tried to cease the flow of magic, but it was like trying to stop a river with your hands, the flow was just too strong. As my magic was sapped so was my strength, and soon I felt the comforting blackness of unconsciousness overwhelm me.

I’m not sure what happened after that. I vaguely remember distant, angry voices and then I awoke on a comfortable couch, my sword and boots missing. I was in a large Sarcosan tent with one of the Sahi’s attendant women forcing hot tea down my throat. I couldn’t feel the comforting presence of the Aerdra and feared I had been permanently robbed of my gift. Shortly, Sunulael arrived and had me dragged to a back room. Immediately I felt the corrupt influence of the Black Aerdra, emanating from an enormous, black… mirror, I suppose you’d call it, on the far side of the room. My limbs were bound and I was roughly tossed down next to an unconscious elven woman. I recognized Lensa’s delicate features immediately, and the intense hatred I felt towards the traitor Sahi began to burn away the stupor entrapping me.

Meanwhile, Sunulael was monologuing about something. He had important things planned, this was in everyone’s best interest… something like that, I don’t recall exactly. I was focusing entirely on planning my escape and his demise. Soon, I got my chance to act, we heard the sounds of massed troops marching outside and Sunulael left to assess the situation. Shortly, the clash of steel and general din of battle could be heard from my position. I didn’t know what was occurring outside, but it was a golden opportunity to act! I reached out for the Aerdra once again, attempting to burn my bonds away and free myself. Unfortunately I wasn’t quite strong enough yet, and one of the gargantuan eunuchs that the Sahi keeps as pets rewarded my efforts with a forceful punch to the head.

I came to my senses as the bastard sorcerer returned, a furious scowl upon his face. His sickening aura had grown to be almost unbearable now, and I had to fight the urge to physically wretch. Sunulael ordered his underlings to remove the mirror and then strode across the room towards Lensa, reaching for her. In that moment my rage burnt so fiercely it could have melted stone, I charged like a wild beast at the traitor Sahi and funnelled every last dreg of magic into radiating sorcerous flame. I burnt my own flesh to immolate the abomination within my embrace, but immolate him I did.

As Sunulael’s skin disintegrated beneath me, a dense swarm of black flies poured from his robes and streamed into the night air. The dark sorcerer was vanquished, for now, though I felt I hadn’t seen the last of him. The Sahi’s attendants were stunned, for a moment, and then one of the women in white began to weave a spell. I was too weak to defend myself, but before I had time to contemplate my impending death an arrow appeared in the witch’s chest. Arik stood at the entrance, bow in hand.

Arik made it clear we were now even, and we shared our stories of the events since we were last together. Apparently he witnessed Sunulael’s band dragging my limp body back to camp and demanded my release. When that didn’t work, Arik convinced the host to launch a full coup against their own Sahi which, if my understanding of Sarcosan culture is correct, is quite a feat. If his brother falls in tomorrow’s duel, I am confident that the warhost will be in safe hands.

We ordered the Black Mirror, and the other corrupt artefacts, buried and kept under guard. I will investigate them later, to ascertain whether they can be destroyed, but I need time and energy to do so. I caught up with Lensa, apparently she stowed away on the Grey Lady to warn me the Queen’s court had already been compromised, and was eventually discovered and ultimately betrayed by the ship’s captain.

After a long, eventful day, I finally took the opportunity to use the The Spirit of Erethor and contact my Queen.  I warned her that the Sarcosan court had been infiltrated by the enemy, and to not trust any Man from those lands, or any Elf that had been in contact with them recently. She informed me that her own court had already been compromised, the servants of Izrador are already positioning themselves to undermine her power!

Kylar Dale, the new constable of the north, arrived demanding that Arik and myself to explain the evening’s strange occurrences of the night. I told Lord Dale the truth, most of it anyway, and he seemed to believe me. House Dale knows better than most the threat of the shadow from the north. Not seeming particularly enthusiastic about carrying out the Duke’s orders, Lord Dale bid me good night and took his leave. Thankful to finally have a chance to rest, I returned to the tent provided for and immediately passed into a deep and well earned slumber.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Journal of the Lord High Constable, Part 8

I stood looking at the Pig and Whistle from across the street. My men had spent the day gathering good intel on the place, I hadn't expected to use the intel to launch an attack. But it's time to make the bastard bleed.

Raising Khiran-Thul and channeling my anger into it, the flames of my fury gave the signal for the attack.

It was over almost too​ quickly. We burst in and massacred those inside. A few managed to draw weapons as we broke down the doors leading to the secret passages. But Khiran-Thul sang a song of screams, fire and the crushing of bone.

The deed done I instructed the men to cut the fingers from each corpse and fill one of the tavern’s ale barrels with them. And as fortune had it the place was rigged to rapidly burn down. Taking the documents stashed here and the fingers of the slain we set the remainder ablaze. In the confusion this will cause it may take people days to realise what really happened, but I need only one night.
After a cursory look over the documents we saw they pointed out some promising leads to some of Esben’s holdings, but nothing solid. I had them sent to Connal in hospital, the man probably needs something to keep him busy​. And I trust that that man can crack any cipher I send his way.

Returning​ to the palace I was met with news most unwelcome. Kali had gone missing.

The men insisted that she did not leave through the door. I was sure some sort of secret entrance to the room must have been used. We destroyed the room searching but it was in vain.
As the red mist cleared in my mind, I stood in the wreckage of the room. I realised I was acting emotionally and not like the Lord Constable of Dorn’s northern forces. I should be acting like a commander not a distressed husband.

Time to look for where she may now be instead of where she's been. We made haste to find Captain Bhric Macdaniel. A man I knew some years back, now working as Captain of the night's watchmen in the palace district.

As expected he and his men had been kept busy with the current situation. And men in the lower districts had been busy dealing with a certain fire started at a tavern. Regardless we talked briefly as old comrades and worked together to have his patrols sweep key areas on their routes, and look for possible routes Kali could have been taken from the palace.

After a hard few hours of hoping beyond hope I finally received a report that Kali’s servant was seen with some figures leaving the district and making way to a ship in the docks.

The one person I had allowed in my household who did not have my trust has betrayed me. I knew it was a mistake to allow her to stay, I should have listened to my instinct about her.

Regardless I now know where my wife was taken. Perhaps my son is also there in the same place. Time will tell.

There is nothing more I can do about this. I have given the command to the Redgard fleet to make ready preparations, and tomorrow I shall talk to Cuylar Dane about handing over my title. He was once a brother to me and it's time the rift was healed between us. I shall need his hand in what must become of house Esben if I am successful in the duel. And if I fail… I would trust no lesser man than him to at least try and ensure their safety.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

From the Journal of Magnus Sedrig, Sessions 6 and 7

Moonday the 1st of Redfall 890 TA - After the feast

I write this entry from the Dragon Hall once more, I am exhausted and hope I can find respite soon. Unfortunately the day’s work is not yet complete, I have one more task to accomplish before the day is done. The feast was every bit as eventful as I had expected, and fortunately I think the outcome was largely a positive one. As positive as we could hope for at least.

The atmosphere during the celebration was tense. The Lords of Dorn sat in forced companionship, each sizing up the rest, probably waiting for House Redguard to make a move or the heir of house Dayne to burst into the room and slay the Duke or some other dramatic turn of events. At one point, Fergus and his father, Roland, got in quite a heated argument about something. The entire hall stopped to listen, and for several moments we all bathed in heavy silence before Fergus recovered with a disingenuous Toast to the Duke.

I spent the evening trying to remaining vigilant for any foul play, though I wasn't entirely sure what to look for. I had hoped for a chance to corner Sahi Sunulael and discuss this Elven captive of his, but the structure of the event didn’t really allow for casual mingling. At some point from across the great Hall I saw Arik approached by one of his men, they exchanged a few words and then both left in a hurry. I thought it likely that there had been some sort of development with one of the two assassination plots we knew about and recalling Arik’s previous eagerness to slay Vijur I thought it'd be best if I was present.

As I made my excuses and attempted to quietly leave the hall more chaos erupted from the Redguard table, a young Redguard lady had appeared from somewhere and was speaking heatedly with Roland and Fergus. Once again all eyes were upon House Redguard so I took the opportunity to slip out and make after my Sarcosan acquaintance.

I found myself in the kitchen's, which were suspiciously empty. After wandering around aimlessly for a few moments I came upon Arik and his man, they had their backs to me and seemed to be stepping into a pantry for some reason. Suddenly, the other Sarcosan struck out with his foot and sent Arik sprawling into the pantry. He slammed the door behind them and I was cut off.

Image result for exploding doorI sprinted to the door and listened in briefly. I heard something along the lines of “I'm sorry my lord…” and “daughter of house Esben”. All I needed to hear, really. Our enemies were making a move, and I needed to do something! I took a step back and unleashed an explosive spell upon the door, shattering it to pieces and stunning those on the other side. Admittedly I'm a little rusty at using such unstable magic and I scorched myself during my dramatic entrance.

Stepping into the room I quickly dispatched the traitor Sarcosan with a sword strike to the head, not a fatal wound, but enough to take him out of the fight. Arik was engaged in a duel with a dark haired woman, she had found her way inside the guard of his spear and cut him deeply several times. I charged forward and attempted to drive the witch away from him. She was fast, but the longer reach of my blade made it easy to put her on the defensive.

When the odds looked to be turning in our favour, the mysterious woman bolted. I gave chase but was no match for her quickness, and Arik was in no shape to go sprinting anywhere after the wounds he'd received. I lost her somewhere in the upper levels, she dove from a window and then vanished into the night like a ghost. I rushed back to the great hall, somewhat out of breath, and began to try and raise the alarm. Once again I found even my own father thoroughly uncooperative and unwilling to take any action despite the overwhelming evidence that something foul was going on. I got rather frustrated and I believe I made quite a scene before finally some guards were dispatched to investigate my claims.

art by John Love
Eventually I re-joined my family’s table and began to fill my father in on the situation with House Esben’s agent. As if on queue Fergus stormed into the hall dragging the bloody corpse of the woman in question by the hair, he tossed the limp form into the centre of the hall. That got everyone’s attention. The room was deathly silent, I could hear the creak of wood as the assembly shifted nervously in their chairs, anxious to see what would happen next.

Finally the Duke began a shrill protest which was immediately buried under the avalanche of Fergus’s deafening voice. I’ll try to transcribe the epic speech that followed as best I can at a later date, but take my word that it was truly inspiring. Every Dorn present, including my cynical father, must have felt an overwhelming sense of patriotism as they listened. Fergus listed the various wrongs committed by the Duke, today and in the past, making the argument that the man was not fit to rule. Towards the end of the tirade, Fergus paused, then delivered the killing blow that would destroy the Duke forever:

Allow me to introduce Vijur …. Dayne….. My soon to be brother In-Law. And king of Dorn.

So, not only have Redguard seen reason and spared Vijur, but they have decided to ally themselves with the rightful ruler of our land. Combined they have the divine right to rule and the military might to defend that right. This is our chance to unite Dorn for generations to come!

Duke Ivass Torbault
Fergus challenged the Duke to single combat then and there, the coward had no choice but to accept. If Fergus wins the Duke will cede the throne to Vijur, but if the Duke wins Vijur will be exiled and house redguard shamed. Things looked to be going well, but the Duke had one final trick to play. Tradition allows that a competitor in a combat challenge name a champion, the Duke, the magnificent fucking bastard he is, named Sharif Ka’Mael as his champion. The meat headed fool accepted, so now if Fergus wins the duel, he still might start a war with Sarcosa!

The feast ended then, the guests dispersed and I finally had a moment to reflect on the evening's events and write this entry. In the chaos I missed my chance to confront the elusive Sunulael once again. I got the impression from his hurried departure that he may be taking leave of Erenhead soon, so now I must track him down and do my duty as an Ambassador of the Caransil.