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Nozbat

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About Nozbat

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  • RPG Biography
    RuneQuest, Call of Cthulhu, Mythic Britain
  • Current games
    Call of Cthulhu, Mythic Britain
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    Belfast, Northern Ireland
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    Old gamer returned to the fold

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  1. The weather turned rainy again with the odd thunderstorm that forced the trio to seek shelter from the forked lightening. The stream they walked beside became a torrent and they had to move away from the path they followed in case they were swept away by a sudden flood. This made the going slower as they had to pick their way through low scrub and bushes. They were all becoming a little paranoid about encountered creatures or buildings now. Perhaps they were learning from experience to question who or what they met, but Stove doubted that. He believed it might be more accurately the negative reinforcement of being nearly killed a number of times on the journey. On the second day the land began to rise and they could see a vast forest ahead of them that they thought was their goal. Somewhere in the eaves of the forest was a cabin that was the staging post of the main smuggling route of brandy and ethanol. Ethanol is a popular volatile liquid with the residents of Cheapside and the Wharf in Santos. Ethanol gave an instant and short-lived intoxication and was taken by pouring on a spoon and using the heat of the mouth to cause evaporation. A major advantage was that a second intoxication could be achieved by taking some water immediately after. Smuggling brandy without paying tariffs to the Patrician's tax collectors was of course illegal. The use of ethanol as a drug was also illegal but not necessarily discouraged by authorities, if it kept the poor happy and intoxicated. Ethanol was cheap, readily available from portable vendors and was probably only illegal as the Patrician hadn’t worked out how to efficiently tax it. It also had the tendency to make one blind if taken in large quantities. Neither Darkon, Graphen nor Egil were particularly concerned about the Patrician's taxes which they frequently also 'forgot' to pay too. They had taken the Fatman's Silver to bring the bandit leader back to Santos. All other acquired goods Could be disposed of as they saw fit. The Fatman was not interested in the goods but for some reason was fixated on the leader of the bandits being returned to Santos unharmed. This made the enterprise likely to be extremely profitable if they could avoid being killed or badly injured. Darkon reckoned the smugglers were likely to be reasonably well armed but the trio had the element of surprise. The third day took them to the edge of the forest and the odd shaped stone that marked the start of the path through the forest. This was the sharp end of their adventure and likely to be the most dangerous. They discussed how to approach the cabin, making plans which they then discarded when one of them discovered a flaw. After several hours of fruitless discussion, they thought it might actually be useful to see the cabin and try to guess the strength of the opposition. Only then they decided could they make some farm plan. This would do as the plan for now. Darkon referred to it as rolling planning and said he had learnt it during his time at the Adventurers Guild Self-improvement Course 101. So, they tied the furious Stove to a tree off the path. Stove was apoplectic about the lack of risk assessment of his situation. They had tethered him to a tree without any consideration of predators that might be passing and fancy a bit of tied-up donkey. When the three slipped off into the undergrowth, he began to gnaw at the tether to break free in case some wandering wolf or bear should chance by. Stove had had enough. If he was going to remain a donkey then he needed better and safer employment. An owner that at least cared if he was going to be eaten by wild animals or rampaging monsters. After 15 minutes he got himself free and followed the trio deeper into the woods. Darkon, Egil and Graphen were blindly unaware of Stove's anger and desire for revenge as they crept slowly and quietly along the side of the path. There were signs of recent travel. Ruts of cart wheels and fresh horse dung. "l once saw a master tracker tell how recently an animal had paned by tasting the dung. He was also able to tell what the animal had eaten and thus it’s travel history," said Graphen quietly fingering the dung." However, I belong to the tradition that believes in minimalist information and that the broader social history is unnecessary to the finding of the quarry. And anyways I'm never going to eat dung.” Egil nodded sagely and Darkon smiled. He wondered who really ate shit and if they did, would they really own up to it. He thought it was perhaps one of those jokes that Master Artificers played on their apprentices to make them look stupid such as sending them to the local outfitters to buy a left-handed screwdriver or tartan paint. When he made his observation, Graphon became angry saying that Darkon really didn’t understand the complexities and art in tracking and if he was that much of a cynic it would be best to leave adventuring to real men and return to his daddy's farm. This began another argument, that only ended when two men holding spears asked them what they were doing here. None of the trio had heard their approach and were caught with their pants down. In Egil’s case this was literal rather than metaphorical. His rising anxiety had put pressure on his bladder and he had chosen this moment to have a pee, The two men looked on with wry amusement. The tall one with the rather nasty scar running down his face from forehead to chin. said "Are you Draco's boys? We've been expecting you for the last two days" Darkon, who might be a lot of things, and in particular not a very good leader, was actually reasonably quick witted and managed to both reply and sound convincing, "Yeah, Sorry we're late. Got held up by a troll at a bridge. Got here as soon as we could”. "Ok, sounds a good fireside story," said the Scarface, "but for now the Boss will be glad you're here, we've been waiting to get the stuff back to Santos." So, some hours later the trio found themselves perched precariously on top of covered wagons in a caravan bound for Santos. Stove watched from a distance and thought 'bastards. They would have left me to die in that forest. That's it. I'm off on my own. I don't need them!’ The distant howl of a wolf rapidly changed his mind and he trotted after the caravan in what amounted to a run for a donkey
  2. Stove had had enough. This crew had managed to fall into every trap that had been laid before them. As Egil ran to the Golden Cup in the middle of the bridge, Stove gathered himself and charged forward. He had a brief glimpse of Darkon and Graphen with mouths agape. As Egil bent down to retrieve the cup, Stove hit him squarely on the backside. Egil was propelled through the air and bouncing off the low parapet of the bridge, ricocheted and fell full length into a puddle of decaying vegetation. Egil didn't even have time to voice objections when a deep voice asked "Who's, disturbing my rest now?" A large scaly green hand looped over the parapet and was followed by a hideous bald green head. Graphen and Darkon ran for their shields and weapons. Egil still reeling from his sudden flight and unexpected landing in sludge, tried to get up, slipped and fell on his face again. The arm and head were followed by a body and legs. Despite its bulk the green thing moved lithely and sprang up onto the bridge. "Hmmm..", it said," at least these puny beings are not thieves, But are they good to eat?" "No , " said Darkon,"' neither puny nor good to eat. In fact, we are mighty fighters. Only yesterday we confronted the Red Horsemen and they ran off." Darkon knew he was being economical with the truth but he didn't fancy fighting this green monster that stood almost 3 metres tall. While it was talking it meant it wasn't trying to do them injury. "Hmmm," said the creature, "Mighty warriors, eh? What's that one doing scrabbling in the puddle then? Heroes don't scrabble, they move with poise and purpose." Darkon detected he hesitancy and sought to keep the advantage. He had been told that intelligence was usually inversely proportionate to size. This probably meant that the green monster was a total thicky and he'd have no problem outwitting him. "He is moving with purpose" I replied Dark on , " he was looking for some slugs for a sloth spell. He was just momentarily surprised by your appearance. You must admit you don't look exactly friendly." "Ahh," said the monster, “You wanted something prettier to surprise you? As ever you stupid heroes only judge the book by the cover. You don't realise I'm a construction engineer and have been travelling around improving the general infrastructure of this area. I've built, bridges, aqueducts, storm drains, drained marshes and rebuilt old Granny Mac's front porch! That took some doing.” "That’s an impressive list," said Darken playing for time. That fool who had the Intelligence-Size ratio theory was going to get a piece of his mind. "Well, I see this has been a huge misunderstanding. We seem to have escalated hostilities without property introducing ourselves. Perhaps we should discuss this with a civilised drink and a guarantee of a truce?." "Just because I'm a University educated Troll doesn't mean I don't like tearing humans limb from limb and toasting them on a spit while they are still alive," said the Troll with a smirk. "Oh," said Darkon ," I see. Is there any agreement we could come to that doesn’t finish with one or all of us ending up limbless and on a spit?" "No," said the Troll,"l don't think there is." Darkon and Graphen looked at each other. Egil had managed to get to his knees but hadn't dared move in case he invoked the ire of the Troll. He did manage to slip his rather deathly at seax from its sheath and hide it under his body. 'Bloody hell' thought Darkon,'why do I have to meet the only intellectual Troy on the planet? Why couldn't it have been one of the dumb ones?' Egil attempted to move quickly, jumping to his feet to stab the troll from behind. However, the Troll was quicker and stood on Egil's head pushing him face down into a mushy pile of rotting leaves and leftover rain water. Egil gasped and involuntarily took in leaves and water making it incredibly difficult to breath. Darkon hefted his sword and Graphen went into a couch behind his shield with his spear advanced. "Well now," said the Troll, "it’s obvious that you're ethnically profiling me and assuming became I'm a troll that I want to eat you." "You did say that," answered Darkon "Yes I did" replied the Troll , " but it was a joke to see how you'd respond and I must say you didn't disappoint me. You see, I'm looking for some humans who could perhaps help with a problem I have that all of you have failed so far." "Oh" sad Darken and Graphen together. Both were very confused by the turn of events. Egil hadn't time to be confused, he was too busy just trying to breath. "What would you like us to do for you if you don't want to eat us?" asked Graphen , " and just in case you hadn't noticed our friend seems to be suffocating! "Oh yes, sorry old boy" the troll said removing his foot from Egil’s head. "I was never going to eat you and anyways l'm a vegetarian." This definitely confused our intrepid trio. An intellectual, vegetarian Troll. Must be a first. The Troll picked up Egil, thumped him on the back to remove stuck leaves in his windpipe and dusted him down. "There you go, right as rain. Well except for the moss stains on your tunic. Ok, off you go lads. You're not the ones I'm looking for." "But we can help you," said Darkon The Troll made several passes in front of their eyes with his hand and repeated," you're not the people I'm looking for." "We're not the people you're looking for,” the trio said in unison. They were unsure how they got there, but the next thing they knew was they had left the bridge behind and moved on several kilometres. 'Ahh' thought Stove "the famous old Troll mind trick. I’d heard of it never seen it done until now."
  3. It had begun to rain heavily as they left the Green Gorge. The river they were following became a torrent by mid-afternoon and they began to fret about having to cross it. They were still too miserable to grumble much and the journey was mostly in silence. Toward evening the rain lessened and the clouds became less solid. They were looking for a place to camp for the night. "No mounds," said Graphen," especially if we want a fire. And I need afire. But I’m not taking any chances that they are enchanted mounds holding sleeping horsemen." They eventually found a copse of trees that gave some shelter from the wind. It fitted the criteria. Some shelter. Not a mound. Defensible from enemies and they could light a fire and have some hot food. Egil had managed to shoot two rabbits even though his bow sting was damp and his spare had been used to tie some equipment to the sulking Stove. Darkon had found some root vegetables near their camp site. They all had the opinion things were looking better all round. No magical beings annoying their peace. Warm food that tasted not too bad and a mug of heated brandy that really increased the spirits. The rain had ceased and they were able to change from wet clothes into damp ones. They set watches and nothing much happened until the third watch. The new moon rose as the night approached morning. Darkon initially noticed the moon’s Corona was different. It might have been because there was dust in the air but the light of the moon seemed to flare every so often. He watched it intently for a while and even tried just using peripheral vision but he was still unsure if it was just his faulty perception or reality. As the light increased in the fake dawn and just before actual sun rise the moon's corona flared red, then orange, then yellow before giving way to the sun's brightness. "Did we do that?" he wondered, "then subconsciously corrected himself. "Did Egil do that?" Darkon had long since decided he would not accept responsibility for the release of the Red Horsemen, nor the increase in moon magic. He was musing over events when he noticed a faint flicker through the trees. A kind of glowing path that led straight to the top of the hill. It was only there for a moment, the last vestiges of moonlight before the sun hit the trees. Was that the 'Old Straight Path'?' Memories of fireside stories of his youth about people following the Straight Path and never being seen again. He shivered but not from cold. When the others awoke he said nothing for now. They packed their gear and headed off having eaten the cold remnants of last night’s stew. The path they had been following continued by the river which remained impassable due to the rains. None of them knew how they would be able to cross it to get to their destination. The better weather, full bellies and reasonably dry clothing increased their spirits and by lunchtime they were grumbling at each other again. Darkon then told them about the moon's corona and the moon flares just at dawn but neither of the other two had any idea what it meant. "I was going to study magic when l was younger, said Graphen," but l had difficulty reading and just could never make the right movement to form letters for writing. They eventually asked me to leave the school, very politely, by ejecting me from the school into the local duck pond and threatening to turn me into a frog!” The others laughed at Graphen’s description of his flight through the air and landing on some annoyed ducks. "Did you actually learn any magic, Graphen?", asked Egil "No, l just couldn't get the hang of it," replied Graphen," even a simple cantrip like creating a flame was too difficult. I once set fire to the dorm when I was practicing." They laughed as Grafton recounted his brief career as a magic student and the various mishaps in casting spells. "It might be useful to be able to set fire to something really big though" said Darkon "My problem is I have no control over what I do. Sometimes it’s a raging bonfire, sometimes it’s a pinprick. I just never understood the concept of the site.” Graphen replied apologetically. The day wore on and the sun came out warming the air. Little biting insects started to annoy them and Egil, in particular, became a target and favourite feasting ground. The sun evaporated the moisture from the rain and there was an increase in humidity. Despite the biting insects, the rapidly increasing humidity and the fact they all smelt of stale sweat they began to enjoy themselves. They took it in turns to tell stories of their deeds and mishaps. Egil was recounting a particularly amusing story about a baker, some pies and a flock of starlings when they turned a sharp corner, came out of the trees and upon a bridge over the river. In the middle of the bridge was what looked like a golden goblet. All three just stared at it without saying a word. Stove remembered Darkon saying something about the Fatman warning not to touch the Golden Cup, He hoped that Darkon remembered too. "We're rich!" shouted Egil and moved forward without much caution to retrieve the Cup.
  4. The trio sat cross legged at the mouth of the cave. They’d eaten food but that had only partially improved the mood. Deeper in the cave, Rooskin had been working with charcoal on a smooth wall, expanding a circular line of Runes that swirled and interlinked and were lit by the flickering lights of oil lamps. Darkon had puzzled over the Runes drawn on the wall. He followed them round the swirls until the Runes seemed to glow and enlarge in his mind and he felt his consciousness drift off. Fleeting images of firelit ceremonies on bleak hills under a glowing full moon passed in front of his eyes and he had to concentrate hard to bring himself back to the cave. He tried reading the Runes rather than following the pattern, but they made no sense. His eyes kept following the swirl and flow so he eventually gave up rather than lose himself to more outlandish and disturbing visions. His concentration wasn't helped by Rooskin's constant muttering, sighs and general unhappiness. Darkon eventually abandoned trying to understand, it was definitely beyond his pay grade. Meanwhile, the others had been picking meat off already gnawed bones and then flicking the bones at the squirrels which were becoming increasingly interested in what was happening in the cave. "Bloody squirrels", said Graphen, "I'd swear they were spying on us!”. He threw a large rock at the biggest squirrel, who nimbly dodged it, and began to chatter as if scolding him. "Stop it, Graphen”, said Darkon," I don't think things are what we think they are. This place has too much magic about it and I for one don’t want anymore. Those squirrels are likely to be Rooskin's friends and they probably will tell him what you've been up to." Graphen sulked and Egil pulled a face. "What we gonna do, Darkon?" said Egil, "l'm for getting out of here. This is just way too weird for me. I'm a simple man with simple needs. I don't need no talking about Red horsemen, moon magic and destruction. Can't we just go home, tell the Fatman it was too difficult and give him back his money?! "Can' t", said Graphen "I've spent it, in fact we spent it. Where we gonna get money here?" As usual, the three fell to grumbling about their life. Darkon and Graphen blamed Egil and Egil blamed Darkon for not providing authoritative leadership. Not that he conveyed it like that, it was more phrased in colloquial terms, "You're a shit leader, Darkon. Things would never have been like this if I was the leader. And I can actually read a map." After more arguments, tantrums and blame eventually all three fell asleep and missed the moonbeams that seemed to solidify into three woman. One was an old crone, one a beautiful woman and the other a young girl. Rooskin came out from the back of the cave and knelt before the women. He spoke in a strange sibilant language that is no longer spoken aloud in Middle Earth. Only in Járnvið do they remember such speech when the shapeshifters howl at the full moon. As Rooskin spoke a soft tinkling music began on the edge of perception rising slowly like the incoming tide. It was the music that woke Darkon, Graphen and Egil. None could move and all lay transfixed where they had been sleeping. It seemed to them that the thee woman conversed with a beast man who had antlers coming out from his forehead. They could not understand the words or comprehend what was happening. One of the women approached the three prone figures and touched each one on the forehead. Jolts of power pulsed through her fingertips and each heard her say “I give you the mark of Brimo”. When they awoke they were alone. There was no sign of Rooskin, the Antler man or the three women. Relief, disappointment and anxiety battled in their thoughts. "What now? "asked Egil "I think we leave" said Darkon. " I'm not sure what was real and what was a dream, but I know we need to go if we want to live." They collected their belongings and packed everything on Stove. Stove had a strange new brand on his left flank that was a series of lines either straight or slanted. None of them knew what it meant but it increased their need to leave as quickly as possible. They stuck to their simplistic modus operandi. If you don’t understand something then just ignore a it. It’s likely to go away.
  5. Egil was amazed. For the last two weeks he had struggled to get a fire lit. There had been lots of excuses. His flint wouldn't strike, the tinder was too wet, the wind was too strong etc, etc. Yet, in this place, on a cold damp, foggy night and on the first strike of the flint, the fire seemed to leap from the tinder in the pan to the small stack of wood. And then mysteriously from the small stack of wood to the nearby bush and then to another bush. And yet another. Soon the crown of the mound was on fire and they were trapped within. Egil stood with his mouth open. His brain hadn’t quite registered exactly what was happening. The others, who had been busy unpacking needed gear, stopped and were equally too terrified to move. The ground shook and quivered slightly and a grinding noise of stone moving came from within and below. The three companions moved together and held each other, more in fear than the need to keep on their feet as the shaking beneath them increased in intensity. Blue fire flickered over the hilltop and the burning bushes flared up but were not consumed, making the fog glow and pulse as if it were a living thing. A deep voice from within the mound cried “Awaken Einherrjor. Awaken and Ride to Doom." The ground opened to their left to reveal a stone lined passage that seemed to lead to the centre of the mound. Eight horsemen rode out of the open gap in the mound. They were blood red. Their horses were red and their gear was red. The leader rode forward pointed his spear at Darkon, Egil and Graphen, touching each with its tip. None of them reacted but felt a small tingle run through their bodies and into the ground. Wordlessly the leader wheeled his horse, took his place at the head of the riders and they sped off into the night. As they left the flickering blue fires died down and the bushes winked out one by one. None of the vegetation was consumed. The gap in the mound closed as noisily as it had opened. Egil fainted. The other two sank to their knees too exhausted to comment, think or move. Neither of the three reacted when Rooskin, who somehow had got himself free stomped up and berated them for fools. Darkon had a brief thought that not only was Egil’s fire-making useless, he also seemed incompetent at tying knots on prisoners. Really what was the point of anything. They seemed doomed now. Something had happened, or more likely was continuing to happen, that none of them understood. Further, even if they did know how, what and why it had happened, they were powerless to do anything. Darkon had some skill in problem-solving and talking to others which was why he’d been elected leader. However, truth be told, he was barely adequate in other skills and his map reading was appalling. They might have just released a doom that would bring about The End and he was feeling sorry for himself as he felt he hadn’t quite finished living yet. He had lots of things to do and he wanted to Marry the potter's daughter Esmerelda. "Didn't you know that you should never light fire on the Hill of Kernowth on the Dark of the Moon? Fools, fools, fools. Now they ride the Straight Path”, screamed Rooskin waving his arms in the air in frustration. "Err, what?" said Darkon, who had suddenly remembered, he was the erstwhile leader of the trio and traditionally had to explain the group's actions. "Mmm...well, we did know.. kind of ..that it was the Hill of what-did-you-call-it? .. or rather we may have mislaid that particular piece of information. And anyways, how were we to know that this was THAT Hill of Ken.. Kenth... I mean, it didn't have a sign or anything." Darkon knew that it was important to play for time. His thought faculties were returning as the shock of the events subsided. He was hoping that the little wrinkled one would let slip some more information that he could use for plausible deniability. His attention shifted to Egil who had sat up and was sporting a wicked looking bump on his forehead where he must have collided with the ground when fainting. Failing that, thought Darkon while looking thoughtfully at the groaning Egil, he would just do what all good leaders did when they were caught with their hand in the moneybag, blame it on an underling and Egil could be framed for disobeying orders and lighting the fire without a permit. Rooskin seemed to be ignoring them. He was craving runes in the mud where the opening in the ground had been. "Now let's see", he muttered to no-one in particular, "Can they be coaxed back?” For two hours, Rooskin worked, drawing an ever more complex design of interlocking Runes while the Intrepid Trio shifted their weight from one foot to the other. Rooskin finally looked up. "I should give up being a good person and go over to the dark side. It seems you have much more fun there. All l ever seem to do is try and rectify the mistakes that ignoramuses like you make. The Einherrjor riding again bodes ill for the peace of Middle Earth and even the abode of the gods might not be safe. Do you know what you have done?" "Mmm, well kind of-" but if you could spell it out again and in plain language, cos Egil doesn't understand anything longer than two syllables. Just to be sure we get it correctly," stammered Darkon "You've released the old magic, the unpredictable magic, the blood magic, the magic of the moon and really l dont know what will happen now. I suggest we get into shelter and see what the morning brings us" said Rooskin with more than a hint of sorrow is his tone. To be honest, none of the Trio had any idea what Rooskin had just said but they got that something seriously major had just happened and at least two of them were beginning to think it was Egil's fault, "Do you think," said Graphen, "we will be able to get something hot to eat now?" Whatever the situation, Graphen could be relied on to seek out food. He was a simple being and basic needs being met were what he wanted most. Rooskin's reply was tinged with heavy sarcasm," the problem is none of you think.. ever. But equally we must get food and shelter, who knows what damage has been done and where or what the Einherrjor have done”. Stove shook his head sadly. Again, the limits of a donkey’s physiology failed to convey the conlicted emotions and thoughts in the donkey’s head. Only an hour ago, our brave trio were threatening Rooskin with extreme pre-meditated violence. Now they were meekly following him to a cave in the side of the Green Gorge. It just goes to show that releasing Moon Magic on the world changes how the cosmos flows and impacts on an individual’s ability to make independent decisions.
  6. The rain began to fall heavier again as left the cottage behind, re-crossed the Rubicon River and made their way to the Green Man Gorge. Darkon, who had the map, struggled to keep them on course and they got frequently lost. Arguments about directions, whose turn it was to cook, clean the dishes and feed Stove got worse as the days went on. They were generally soaked with the rain, cold from the wind, tired because they hadn't slept and hungry because they struggled to light fires. Things didn't improve when they discovered some sort of beetle had got into the hardtack and none of them dared to eat it. Eventually they found a river that might be the Green Man River and following it. According to the map might get them to the Gorge. By the third day of travel, the land on either side of the river began to climb. They had not seen any signs of habitation but were desperate for somewhere to dry off. Rust started to spot their weapons and equipment felt twice as heavy as it was soaked through. Not for the first time they thought 100 silver was too little for all this suffering. Maybe they needed to renegotiate it with the Fatman. By midday of the fourth day they stood at the entrance to Green Man Gorge. The wind howled in their faces and it looked as if there might be a thunderstorm soon. The hair on their necks stood on end and their nerves jangled. "Let’s find a campsite that we can defend, I don't like the feeling here, hemmed in by all this rock," said Darkon. "Is there a Green Man in this gorge?" asked Egil, clutching his spear and nervously. "How should I know" answered Darken," Never been here before, and the map has no attached tourist information. It might have been useful to pay the extra 2sp for the guide. Hindsight is wonderful. ” "I heard some merchants talk about a Green Man they met who was four metres tall and demanded a toll for allowing them to pass. If they wouldn't pay the toll or didn't have it he demanded a head," said Graphen is a whisper. Quietly they picked their way through the gorge trying to keep to the bushes that lined the path. After an hour the rain stopped and the wind died down. A thin mist seemed to rise from the ground getting thicker as they trudged on. After half an hour it had risen to their knees and obscured the ground making walking at any speed tricky. "We need somewhere to camp for the night. I really don't like this fog" said Egil. "It’s not a fog, it’s a mist." said Graphen. "A fog comes down. A mist comes from the ground." "No, it’s definitely a fog" said a voice, "and my advice is find higher ground, and quickly." All three stopped and looked around. They couldn't see anyone or anything through the fog. "Fog is thicker than mist," said the voice, "and reduces visibility." "Who are you? “ asked Darkon," or even where are you?" All three were back to back with weapons drawn, staring her into the thickening fog. Stove had been left outside the defensive ring and was using his considerable intellect to curse all three, He would have turned and bolted back the way they had travelled if his reins had not been caught by a small wrinkled man who smelt like elderberries. The wrinkled man coughed politely waited for the three companions to notice him. "My name is Rooskin and I couldn’t help but correct your mistake about the mist. I also thought I should stop your excellent donkey from bolting. Can I be of service?" It’s a well-known fact that people who adventure in the Wilds often make mistakes about who to trust. This was indeed the subject of the plenary session of the 12th Symposium of the Adventurer’s Guild, but sadly, it did not draw any conclusions but did set up a committee that is yet to report back. If there is, for example, a sequence of good creature, bad creature, helpful creature, good, bad, helpful etc. and the adventurers get the sequence wrong then they are always going to make the wrong decisions. This was the case with Rooskin. He was one of the helpful creatures who spent his life dong good deeds much as making shoes for poor Cobblers, turning water into wine, giving sweet almonds to young children and specifically helping people get through the Green Man Gorge. He was also Chair of the Orphans and Waifs Holiday Fund, but that as they say, is another tale. Our three companions, however, chose to believe he was a demon sent to waylay them and therefore jumped him, tied + gagged him and threatened bodily harm up to and including chopping appendages off if Rooskin didn't tell them if he had any gold, any food and how to get out of this fog. Despite the rather rough treatment and the threats to his physical integrity, Rooskin was one of the good folk and had forgiven the three men putting it down to anxiety + possibly the fact he had surprised them. However unable to persuade them he didn't need gold therefore didn't have any and he had no dwelling nearby, he began to grow annoyed. Egil also lost patience with the small wrinkly person, not believing for an instance he didn’t have a pot of gold hidden under a bush somewhere and tossed him on the packages on Stove's back. "We can keep him with us as a hostage." said Egil. "If any of his fellows try to attack us we can threaten to harm him. That should keep us safe and what’s more, I’m sure he has gold somewhere. Creatures of his ilk always do.” The group moved on slowly and after 10 minutes the fog appeared to be getting thinner to the point they could eventually see the ground again. It took them a while to realise they were on a mound and rather than the fog disappearing they were actually on an island in a sea of fog. In the centre of the island was a huge stone that looked as if some ancients had carved a face on it. It was difficult to say what the carving represented as it was so weathered. "We’ll stay here for the night," said Darkon," Egil, light a fire and let’s get some hot food. In the morning we can take stock of where we are.” Rooskin struggled in his bonds and make odd nooses. The three men gathered around him. "What’s he doing?" said Graphen "I think he's casting some form of hex" said Egil," I've seen this kind of thing before.” "Maybe he's trying to tell in something" said Darkon. After some discussion they agreed that the strange wrinkled man was trying to cast a spell on them and they stuffed more rags in his mouth and made sure the ropes were tight. Stove watched the scene unfold. He was certain the wrinkly man had said don't light a fire on the mound at the dark of the moon. Stove turned his head to see Egil's fire spring to life.
  7. Darkon had forgotten all about asking Egil how long they'd been at the house of the young woman, opting instead for a game of picking the petals off a daisy saying "She loves me'. "She loves me not". He threw the daisy away in disgust when it turned out the she didn't love him. It just goes to show that even flowers have greater insight than any of the three men in the grip of a dopamine rush triggered by being in love. It was left to Stove to try and work out what was going on and to accidentally resolve the problem. Being a donkey probably had some advantage in dealing with emotions generated by magic as he at least could think relatively sensibly about things. His greatest crush at the moment was for the carrots that he found growing in the vegetable patch behind the cottage. He was poking around in the vegetable patch trying to find one more of those delicious carrots, using his hooves to dig at the earth. He began to unearth bones. Lots of bones. Skulls, rib cages, long bones. And they were human bones. Why here? Who had killed them? He couldn't work out what was going on. He retired to the shade of the stable to think about it. It was there that Arianrhod found him."You used to be a man," said Arianrhod to the startled donkey, "but I guess you can't tell me, poor thing." She tickled his chin and climbed on his back. He felt his hackles rise. Stove may have had the body of a donkey and the eating desires of a donkey but he drew the line at people hitching lifts on him. He suddenly reared and bucked to remove her as fast as possible. in normal circumstances she would have been deposited on the ground just in front of him with only a dent to her pride. However, she was so light. the sudden force of the movement sent her across the stable and smashed her against one of the central columns of the stable. There was a horrific cracking noise and then silence.Stove moved closer to the column to examine what had happened.He couldn't find Arianrhod anywhere. There was a large piece of broken, rotten wood on the ground. at the base of the column. He looked behind the column and there was the lower half of Aranrhod's body missing its upper torso. Fearing the worst, Stove went back and examined the piece of rotten wood. He flipped the wood over using a combination of hoof and nose. On the reverse was the image of Arianrhod. Well it was her missing torso. Relief of finding her top bit was tempered by her once lovely face distorted by what he only perceived to be the beginning of a powerful magic. Self protection is a powerful driver of behaviour and before the thought entered his head both hooves pounded the torso of Arianrhod to small pieces. A chill wind that made the donkey shiver, a sad sigh on the air and the sun momentarily darkened. Stove knew something significant had happened even if he couldn't work out exactly what. It was as if Arianrhod was two dimensional - one side a beautiful woman, the other side rotten wood. Stove realised that he had never seen her turn her back to any of them. She was always facing toward the people she was with. What sort of creature was she? She had bewitched the three men putting a glamour on them and she had obviously meant to kill them and bury them in her vegetable plot. No wonder the carrots tasted good. Stove decided to pound the bits of wood to matchstick size and scattered them as best he could. Exhausted from reaction he lay with his head in the straw and would have wept except donkeys are unable to do so. Darkon Graphen and Egil were calling for Arianrhod and when she didn't answer they searched for her. Stove, in his fear, had done a good job of reducing her to kindling and nothing was recognisable. With the removal of whatever glamour Arianrhod had made, the three men returned to type. Arguments started about who Arianrhod had loved most, each was convinced it was him. All three developed narratives about why she had left,blaming the other two. It is likely that it would have come to blows had the Magic not slowly dissipated and left them with a slight longing for something they just couldn't remember. It took two further days for their senses to return and they finally remembered they had a contract to fulfil. Egil secretly nursed the view that he was the one Arianrhod had chosen and he slipped one of her silk scarves under his leather breastplate. At nights he would hold it to his lips and smell her perfume.It was funny he thought, he just couldn't remember her face any more. And so with an unexpected loss of memory and a delay of eleven days are intrepid three and donkey continued on their way still not sure what had happened. They re-crossed the river Rubicon and headed for the Gorge of the Green Man, the next obstacle in their path
  8. It had rained heavily overnight and Darkon's blankets were wet. Graphen was struggling to light the fire. He fiddled hopelessly with his flint to try and spark the damp tinder to life. Egil was hopping from one foot to the other attempting to keep warm. Stove alone was comfortable, his oily coat kept out the rain and he was finding the oat and grain mixture of his nosebag agreeable. Darkon, Egil and Graphen grumbled at each other throughout the morning. All were soaked through as the rain steadily got worse. With their hoods turned up and their thoughts turned inward they missed the forest track that would have taken them to the kindly woodcutters cottage. His wife would have regaled them with stories of the forest while her husband shard his home brewed poteen and cooked a vegetable stew. They also missed the important information to beware of the woman who lived by the lake but it looked like fate may have conspired against them. As it was, the intrepid three plodded towards the lake and spent their time cursing fat men (in general), rain (in particular) and their inadequate waterproof underwear (specifically). Stove was spending his time profitably and musing on the developmental stages of humans and creating a possible research project on the psychopathology of adventurers. Although it would be several millennia and in a different time/space continuum, Stove was toying with some ideas that would make Sigmund Freud famous some day. While Stove was thinking "not yet reached anal developmental phase...." , Graphen smelt wood smoke on the rising wind. "Shelter", he shouted at his companions, "down near that lake". As the reader is aware from the safety and comfort of their own home and as any experienced adventurer knows that beautiful young women living on their own in the wild is either ① Not what she seems (2) Is extremely powerful to survive on her own (3) A plot device by the GM to get them in trouble or (4) possibly all of the above.Dankon, Egil and Graphen were so cold, wet and fed up that even if they had thought any of the above they wouldn't have cared. Egil also seemed to have a recurrence of the runs and was desperate to find a good water closet. He had sadly run out of Grimtooth's Certified Clogging Powder for Intemperate Guts. Some sense came back and they cautiously crossed some stepping stones to the front porch of a rather quaint house. From inside they could hear a woman singing the latest ballad of the famous all women troubadour act, The Travelling Willards. Egil thought he had never heard the song sung so beautifully. Graphen paused mid stride and thought of the first kiss he had with Sarra Bjornsdötter behind the milking shed when he was 14. He had been heartbroken when she had revealed she had done it for a bet with her friends but had cheered up a bit when she shared some honeyed nuts she bought with her winnings. Darkon was momentarily troubled by some memory of a warning about stepping stones. However he noticed a sign that said "River Rubicon" and decided crossing the Rubicon couldn't bring that much bad luck. To be honest he felt like dancing at the moment and that was odd as he hated dancing. He would have scowled if anyone had asked her to dance when he was at home.. Only Stove found this all very peculiar but couldn't put his hoof on what was wrong. However he immediately forgot his concerns when a beautiful young woman came out of the door carrying a wet basket of laundry which she dropped in surprise when she saw three strange armed men on her doorstep. "Please don't hurt me" she said plaintively and then had to repeat it again as none of our three intrepid heroes seemed capable of responding. To be fair Egil had tripped over his tongue, Graphen had opened and closed his mouth without communicating anything vaguely resembling sensible speech. Darkon, who was last to climb the three steps to the porch, missed the last step and fell forward, crashing into the young woman and knocking the wet washing over. Years of training, suddenly kicked in with the sudden t unexpected events as Egil and Graphen rushed to the young Woman's aid. Darkon was left to extract himself from the wet washing. It was eight days later as Darken sat on the porch watching fish jumping for flies in the lake, that he thought he was actually meant to be doing something. Was it eight days they'd been here? He must ask Egil. Every day they had spent hours with the young woman who said her name was Arianrhod. Life was perfect. No squabbles. No fighting. No worries. In fact no thinking either. When did he, Rankin, actually think of anything other than pleasing Arianrhod? He was sure he was supposed to go somewhere, do something? He must ask the others. This place was perfect, maybe he should go fishing instead. No he was a bit too tired for that. Despite the perfectness of the setting and company he had strange dreams every night. Dreams that made him feel exhausted in the morning. He really must ask Egil and Graphen
  9. Nozbat

    The Hook

    There's nothing like a good ham.. even if I am a vegetarian My experience that 'haming" is the default position of a lot of players at conventions
  10. Nozbat

    The Hook

    Its very different but in some ways a bit liberating. I've found that using video technology allows more frequency for playing short 2 hour sessions. It also brings into stark contrast skills of the GM and the ability to ensure everyone is engaged. Even with existing familiar groups there are some personalities who dominate and often the role I find that I most take is that of facilitator. I have started each session with a quick round of 'where you think you are now' which allows for some analysis of the situation and planning about what they are going to do. Insisting players take notes during sessions and use Action Plans at the end of sessions has also been useful. It provides a link between sessions. Making sure I get feedback , particularly on things that didn't go well has ironed out problems before people get disgruntled. My main issue has been acclimatising to 20 years of RPG development that I've missed !
  11. Nozbat

    The Hook

    I've been using Zoom for sessions with ironically old school friends too. Maybe thats the difference, having people you know over a long time. I haven't played RPGs for a long time and had been relying on the occasional Boardgame to satisfy my gaming lust. In lockdown (although my work has been operating as usual throughout as I work in frontline services) we've played CoC and RQ which has worked pretty well. I guess it also depends on the technology available but I'd use screen sharing often and use maps which I can draw and add to in real time. It also means I generally would be using my laptop and iPad simultaneously. PM and break-out rooms have been good for individual moments during the session. I've also used email to request written statements for Police interviews. Really its all about adapting to our strange new world and looking for solutions to issues that arise. Gaining feedback from participants about what works and what was an abject failure is useful.The main issue for me is getting people to talk one at a time and ensuring that everyone is brought into the game. Next time I'm in Berlin, I must get round to visiting your shop. My wife is German and I'm in Berlin fairly often until recently.
  12. If Stove could have beat his hoof off his forehead he would have done so for the twentieth time in the last hour. Graphen and Egil had been interrogating Darkon about his meeting with the Fatman in the Grapes End. "What gives you the right to make contracts Darkon?" snarled Egil,"Is it just because you've got no nose?" "It always comes down to my lack of nose, doesn't it," replied Darkon." you just can't leave it alone. I don't tell you your ears stick out and you're as bald as a Coot." Stove attempted the hoof to the forehead anyway knowing it was going to be futile. Donkey's were not anatomically built to do so but it seemed to be a good metaphor for the situation. No-one actually was aware of it, but Stove used to be human. He had the misfortune to meet a Thessalonian witch on the way home from the pub one night. His life as a donkey had begun shortly after that. In between the pub and his new form had been some intemperate words about the witches familiar. Stove may be presently a donkey but he was also by far the cleverest of the bunch. It was just a pity the only communication he could indulge in was braying. Darkon, Egil and Graphen had been arguing about what they needed to take on the trip. Egil had basically wanted to bring the kitchen sink. Graphen, who was a unreconstructed hypochondriac, was all for a quick "in-and-out”. He was too afraid to be away from the Grimtooth's Apothecary and Hair Salon for too long. Darkon was expounding the need to plan. The goal was to surprise some bandits in a house or a cabin or a cottage in the woods, steal all the stuff they had, strip them naked and bring them back to town. Their employer had wanted a pendant that one of the bandits wore. Everything else was theirs. Graphon had been expounding that they would be rich as he had heard from the barmaid in The Yodeller’s Rest that the bandits had been particularly successful recently. Egil had been worried that they might be particularly good at fighting and he in particular might get hurt. It was eventually settled that the plan would be to spy on the bandits and then attack at night when hopefully they would be asleep or drunk or both. The intrepid three left Santos the next morning having eventually settled on equipment and loaded it on the unfortunate Stove. Egil noticed some odd hoof prints on Stove's forehead and had wondered aloud to the others how this could have happened. Stove found that donkey's are also anatomically incapable of rolling their eyes. The best he could do was to look slightly cross-eyed. This made him dizzy so he stopped and decided to pass the time working on his masters' thesis on the air velocity of dragons. The trio set up camp after their first days march. It hadn't quite gone as well as they had expected. Graphen had forgotten the iron rations and none of them had trusted Darkon to be able to hunt for them. Rather than go hungry they had returned to Santos, bought some gourmet iron nations at Carbone's Emporium for Gentlemen Travellers. They had also stopped at the Duke's Armpit tavern and spent 8 silver pieces on some excellent wine and heart early lunch. They felt there was no point in enduring hardship too early in their trip. That could come later. So as they drew lots for the order of the night watches, Darkon sleepily reminded Egil not to fall asleep. Egil who was nursing a hangover from an overindulgence of excellent wine, complained that no-one trusted him. As Egil spent his watch mumbling profanities against Dakon and Graphen he didn't see the various nocturnal visitors that briefly watched the campsite from the shadows. Not that it really mattered, except for the wondering fairy who was down on her luck and in need of a stiff drink for which she would have swapped an excellent healing potion. And so the night passed and the companions woke to a light rain that later on that day would become a torrential downpour. But they didn't know this yet and would not be aware of it until the next session.
  13. Darkon had no nose. He had carelessly mislaid it in a fight with some trolls after the summer equinox. The younger trolls had found it funny that Darkon's nose had come off in the exchange of blows." For a whole season the younger trolls would joke, "The human had no nose!" “How did he smell?" one would ask in mock horror. "Horrible" was the chorused reply as the group would roll helplessly around the Matriarch’s kitchen. Of course Darkon wasn't aware of any of this as he sat patiently in the tavern of the Grapes End. He had really had enough of trolls and wasn’t intending to ever visit them again in waking life and would thus never find out he had been the subject of the Troll’s best-selling Yule present that year, a human doll with a detachable nose that cried until it was soothed. Darkon stared into his ale cup. His erstwhile employer was a mysterious fat man swathed in almost as many scarves as Darkon and he was late. Darkon scanned the crowded tavern anxiously. The jolly crowd in the tavern sang and drank the night away occasionally casting glances at Darkon as he shifted his weight from one buttock to the other to stop pins and needles developing in his feet. Finally, the door opened allowing more raucous laughter to drift in from Dead Joes' Cosmic Eatery + Barber shop that was opposite the front door, and in walked the large Fat man. He was predictably swathed in cloaks and scarves and hats and as a final precaution he had a pair of those new-fangled tinted Venetian smoked glass speck-ta-cles that hid his usually vibrant red eyes. "A bottle of your best dead grape, Innkeep". He sat heavily opposite Darkon and eyed him. Neither of the two men involved in this brinkmanship noticed the locals nudging each other and laying wagers as to what would happen next. The large Fat man was in deep conversation with Darkon when he seemed to be suddenly aware of the pregnant silence in the tavern. He looked round suspiciously and the tavern customers, rather unconvincingly, resumed trying to mind their own business. "So, 50 silver pieces for the job +50 when we give you the package?" "Correct" said the fat man handing over a bag. Darkon took a coin out and bit it. He wasn't actually sure that this was necessary but Thantos had always done it when making deals in taverns before he fell off the Bridge of Lost Hope and missed hitting the river. Darkon always thought Thantos had been unlucky that night. What were the odds of landing on the only spike in 100 metres? 1000 to 1? 2083 to 1? Whatever it was it had been unfortunate for Thanatos and quite good for Darken. As Darken ruminated on his luck or Thantos' misfortune, he suddenly remembered to bring his attention back to the Fat Man. Yes, don't go near the golden cup and avoid the stepping stones of doom by the Forgetful River. Ok back within a moon that was it. Darken thought if there was anything else he had missed he could bluff it out. They shook hands both taking care to apply just the right pressure to convey strength, decisiveness and hidden power and the both men left the tavern quickly, but obviously since they were being furtive, not together. The Fat Man stepped into to a dark alley where he metamorphosed into a tall slim woman. Darkon, who left after an appropriate wait to allow his new employer to make his escape, slid from shadow to shadow all the way to his lodgings to meet his travelling companions, Graphen, Egil and Stove
  14. Nozbat

    The Hook

    Just did a one-on-one session on Zoom to start off some new adventures with a few starting players... I'm interested how others have found playing on video? The Hook.pdf
  15. I printed the PDFs and got them bound
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