(Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has).
Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They're out for blood vengeance against anyone who's ever victimized their family, their clan, and their homeland. in that order. Recently illuminated as part of a Heroquest that gave them temporary use of the Infinity Rune. Now missing the Rune, and grappling with the fact that his role as a Trickster may be just as meaningless as the society he rebelled against.
Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to the Goddess of Moss (I don't know who that would be in actuality, but when her player heard "land of ten thousand goddesses," she immediately came up with a gaggle of minor Earth goddesses that barely anyone might care about). She's got the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris wants power at all costs, and now finds herself with an opportunity for it.
Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. He has sworn a dread oath that he will personally slay one human for every Duck that is or has ever been killed or otherwise victimized by human hands. Played by the oldest in our group, and the most experienced with Glorantha. He wields an enchanted shield originally crafted by the Square Circle Temple, and is making grim plans.
- K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude, after the persona of a Knight in our local chapter of the SCA). K'dud is a Caladralander priest of Vestkarthan, God of Volcanoes, and also an initiate into the cults of Gustbran and Kalvan as well. He holds the Fire, Law, and Mastery runes. He is a master of the Bronze Arms and Sharp Soul schools of unarmed combat, and seeks to help his people navigate the uncertain future after Belintar's death. To this end, he's attached himself to Iris and her gang of misfits, but more on that later.
So last week, the heroes had killed Harrek the Berserk, one of the prophecied capitol-H Heroes of the Hero Wars. This week, the players wanted to rest on their laurels for a moment, lick their wounds, and let the player of the late Zonthor ease his new character into the game.
I had other plans.
We began the game at a celebratory feast in honor of our heroes, having slain (and barely survived the slaying of) Harrek the Berserk. The heroes were seated at a high table in the royal palace of Nochet, being toasted again and again and again by grateful nobles. Iris was wary of poison--she was the first to recognize that their deeds had painted a target on the party's back a mile wide. Androgenus didn't care; they were gulping down horn after horn of rich God Forgot-brewed beer and singing along (badly) with the songs of praise being expounded forth by a young poet who had captured (and dramatized) the events of last session. So far, he was playing up Iris's contribution to the battle as a fearless leader who had come up with the entire plan and was solely responsible for Harrek's downfall. Androgenus thought that his small part in the song (tricking Harrek into casting off his bear-skin cloak) was hilarious, and Waddlestomp wasn't amused at all, especially when the song mentioned him as a 'feathered friend.'
Zonthor's ex-player (an enthusiast in Mediterannean archaeology) and Waddlestomp's took great pleasure taking turns to describe how bright and colorful the hall would have been, and the low tables piled high with rare delicacies brought from across the Six Nations. Well, five nations. I mentioned that since the betrayal of the City of Wonders and the fracturing of the Holy Country, Heortland was largely on its own. The Lunars (though beaten back earlier in the year) still prowled the northern frontiers, towards Sartar. Esrolia, the Shadow Plateau, God Forgot, and Caladraland still stood more-or-less together....but the Orlanthi ruled by the vile Broyan the Betrayer, the Last Vingkotling? They'd have to face the oncoming storm by themselves.
In fact, rumor around the table was that the Shadow Plateau and God Forgot (I made sure to underline how much of a surprise the latter would be) were apparently preparing to attack Heortland to avenge the fallen God-King. Belintar's death--although caused by the Lunars--was being blamed on Broyan. Perhaps, the rumors said, Broyan had been in league with the Lunars all along. Perhaps he had wanted sole kingship of the Holy Country. In ages past, Vingkotling ambition had led to strife and turmoil again and again. It was to be expected....so perhaps it'd be safer all around if the other former Sixths dealt with the threat first.
Iris was dragged into this intrigue when Samastina (Queen of Nochet, recognized as the leading Queen of Esrolia) leaned over the table, looked to her left, and asked Iris her opinion on the "Heortling question." Iris badly fumbled her Noble trait roll, and was completely tongue-tied, offering little more than confused noises and halfhearted platitudes about how unity in times of crisis would probably have been what Belintar would have wanted.
"Yes," said Samastina coolly, as the local High Priestess of Maran Gor looked at Iris strangely, "But Belintar, blessed be he, is dead. Should we unite with those who spat on his memory, or against them?"
The feast hushed, as if the entire hall was craning in to listen to Iris the Bearslayer's response.
Androgenus loudly belched, trying to break the tension with their Trickster Trait, and scored a bare success. Despite herself, Samastina smirked, and things seemed less instant-death for Iris. Our Earth Priestess composed herself, and said, "I would counsel that we consolidate our forces. The Wolf Pirates are scattering, as moss mites do when you smash their nest. However, like moss mites, they will burrow deep and make more nests if we don't track them down and burn them out now. Broyan, if I may be so bold, can wait. The Wolf Pirates should not."
Samastina smiled. Iris's player cursed loudly.
"Exactly my thoughts as well. My young friend--" Iris's player groaned and cursed again"--is exactly correct. It is at this time precisely that we should strike together against the remnants of the Pirates. Gunda the Guilty is still out there, and may rally the survivors to attack us once more."
There was a murmur of agreement.
"To this end, and working with my esteemed friend King G'gardas of Caladraland, we shall send Queen Iris of the Three Step Isles to reclaim territory once stolen from us!"
Iris choked on her wine. Androgenus fell over, clutching their side and laughing uproariously. Waddlestomp facebilled. A great cheer went up in the hall, and Iris managed to barely restrain herself from glaring daggers at Queen Samastina. After all, apparently she was a Queen herself, now!
....of a trio of remote, pirate-controlled, sheep-infested islands.
....very far away from the Esrolian power centers. Immediately, Iris's player figured it out: they had just made themselves the biggest threat to the Esrolian Queens' power. Howling barbarian demigods? Well, yes, those are horrible dangers to the Queendom and her people. But previously unknown adventurers who can kill those threats like it's nothing? An unknown quantity, particularly when one of them is such an obviously power-hungry Earth Priestess as Iris. The rest of the dinner was a drunken blur, discussing grand strategy and lofty goals: a phalanx of Esrolian pikemen backed up by caladralander naval support, led by Iris and her retinue, retaking the Three Steps in a swift invasion. Plundering the pirates' hidden treasure troves. Building a grand temple to the Moss Godess. Constructing a grand fortress in the middle of sea, from which the Holy Country (with Esrolia at the helm, naturally!) shall project its strength across many lands, for the greater glory of Kethaela!
More raucous applause. Androgenus attempted to leap atop the table to improvise a praiseworthy poem, only to be stopped by Waddlestomp grabbing the wounded Trickster and yanking them back down onto their cushion. The feasting nobles laughed uproariously again, and we fast-forwarded past the feast, to later that night.
Midnight in Nochet: celebrations for the death ofIris was abed already, having drunk herself into a stupor to deal with being outplayed by the Grandmothers. Waddlestomp was, as ever, sharpening his weapons and meditating on how much he hated humans. Androgenus, meanwhile, was being seduced by a comely servant from God Forgot. Androgenus had gotten even more drunk after the feast, and was busy trying to sleep their way through the entire serving staff. This one servant--a cupbearer that had taken his eye at the feast--was trying to lead them to a quiet stable in the outer bounds of the Royal Palace. Androgenus failed an opposed roll with his Paranoid flaw, and was led, stumbling and muttering, into a suspiciously empty stable. Well, it'd probably have been suspicious if Androgenus wasn't so stinking drunk, anyway.
The Trickster wasn't laid down onto a soft pallet of straw, but rather a hard wooden table. They were tied down--which wasn't that much of a dealbreaker for them--but rather than inestimable pleasure, they felt the cold prick of a bronze knife poking them in the forehead! They could vaguely hear a cold, high-pitched voice (with a pronounced God Forgot accent) say:
"The Rune may be vanished, but echoes of such a great power still remain, even in such unworthy flesh as this. Haruspex, are you prepared?"
"Yes, lord," said the cupbearer, raising the knife. The Trickster sighed, the gravity of their situation sinking in past all the wine. They'd sort of figured it might end this way.
It was now that we introduced K'dud. He burst into the stable (literally, using his Fire Rune's breakout ability Bronze Arms Style to punch through a stone wall Kool-Aid Man-style!), easily dispatched a burly Heortling mercenary set as a guard on this dark work, and set about attacking Androgenus's kidnappers. As it turned out, Androgenus had been taken by a Zzaburi sorceror--one taken with studying all sorts of forbidden God Learner-era lore--and his retinue. They sought to extract whatever remnants of the Infinity Rune still might be in Androgenus's carcass and use it for their own foul ends. K'dud wasn't having any of that. Using his Sharp Soul Style, he easily beheaded the Haruspex with his bare hands, dodged a retaliatory bolt of magical energy from the sorceror, lurking in the rear of the stable, and proceeded to kick the babbling, pleading Zzaburi through another wall.
After untying Androgenus and using some Fire magic to help them sober up a bit, K'dud made his introductions: he was the youngest son of the King of Caladraland, dedicated to Vestkarthan and the Lowfires, master of several ways of unarmed combat, and he was here to protect Androgenus. Well....he was here to protect Iris, actually, but as Iris's sworn Trickster, K'dud's protection extended to them, too. Androgenus fell over himself (literally) thanking the burly, be-loincloth'd warrior, and scurried home to his quarters in the Palace.
This wasn't the last of would-be assassins, either. As the in-game weeks went on in preparation for the conquest of the Three Step Isles, K'dud helped the party overcome a party of assassins sent by a rival priestess of another minor Earth Goddess, seeking to usurp Iris's position in the Three Step Isles (which baffled Iris to no end), a group of surly beastfolk who accused Waddlestomp of selling out their kind to humans by killing Harrek, and on the eve of the fleet's launch, broke the arms of a Dragonewt warrior who sought to punish the party for "usurping infinity with their unworthy mammal parts."
Meanwhile, Waddlestomp began meeting contacts he had with other Duck expatriates in the Holy Country--enough was enough. He'd had it with obeying the orders of murderous humans. Once he'd returned from those blasted islands, he'd lead every Duck he could find in glorious war to reconquer their homeland. One way or another, anyway. Androgenus got into a philosophical argument with another Trickster about the illusory nature of Creation and their place within it that ended in a barroom brawl, and K'dud received a quiet pep talk from his father about how important it was for the Sixths to remain unified, even after Belintar's death.
We stopped the session just before the fleet to the Three Step Isles set off. Iris had been told in no uncertain terms that she and her....warriors were not to return unless the Three Step Isles had been fully pacified and brought into the fold of Esrolia. Succeed, and a grand temple to the Moss Goddess would be constructed on those islands' chalky hills. Fail, and, well, they'd probably be killed by pirates. Or by Samastina's assassins, should they try to leverage whatever power they think they had back at home to disobey her orders. Thoroughly cowed, Iris finally agreed to this quest, and prepared as best as she could to conquer the Islands.