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  1. One of my players enjoys writing up our sessions, so I thought I might share them with everyone. Background: We play for about four hours on Discord once a month. Most of the group has some RPG experience, save one. The others are familiar with BRP, but none has played Pendragon before. We are sometimes a bit loose with details of medieval society and Arthurian canon, whatever the latter is. Our starting knights: Sir Nerys (le Sorciere) of Broughton - A child of another knight known for Aurelius’ continental campaigns, who died along Sir Owain’s sire. Known for her warm feelings for her family, her generosity, and her love of books. Sir Owain (of the Four Heads) of Stapleford - His father fought with distinction with Aurelius from Galicia to Mount Snowdon, gaining great honor and the king’s appreciation until he died in the Frisian raids. Notable for his loyalty to the count, and his recklessness. Sir Rhian (the Mad) of Shrewton - Her mother died under Aurelius in Galicia with great glory. Notable for her excitement, her welcoming nature, and her affection for her family. Sir Tyngyr (Baronbreaker) of Cholderton - His family were staunch Vortigern loyalists; his father renounced the High King shortly before dying of plague. Known for being just and honorable, but most of all for hating Saxons.
  2. Fish wars and the Battle of Dunum. It was the second year since Cerdic declared himself Westseaxacyning. Aelle had been the Cantacyning for seventeen years and it was seventh year since he had named himself Brytenwealda. Guercha One-eye the Angelcyning still disputed Aelle's claim to be Brytenwealda for the past two years. Aelle had taken advantage of plague in Gwent to capture Spinae and Brige when they were under-garrisoned. Aelle considered both towns strategically important for war against the Dumnonians in that they gave easy passage of the River Kennet. Aelle then made peace with the King of Gwent but would not give back the captured towns. It was rumoured that he even paid tribute to Gwent but Aelle had denied that and had told Cerdic it had been a bribe not to support Dumnonians in the coming war. Reports from the British kingdoms told of struggles for power between the different kingdoms. Powys and Dumnonia both claimed that they should be the British Brytenwealda. The king of Powys declared himself Brytenwealda but other kingdoms objected to him and there had been rumours of Battles in the western lands. There had also been religious wars in the British kingdoms. The British leæces of the different gods had been killing each other with both sides claiming that their god is the strongest. Cerdic's leæces have said that the portents for a successful war are good. Guercha One-eye continued his fight with Aelle. He had reinforced his garrison in Lundenwic and sent raiding parties over the Tamyse. Cerdic and Aelle had agreed that they will jointly attack Dumnonia. Aelle planned to attack along the Tamyse Valley and over the Kennet while Cerdic would strike south over the Terstan and towards the Afon. Cerdic had sent bribes to Cadwy of Isca to rebel against Dumnonia. Cerdic hoped that Dumnonia would face three enemies simultaneously, Powys in the north, Isca in the west and the West Saxons coming from the east. Cerdic enjoyed the Yule festival. He had received the renewed oaths from his Ealdorman and Þegns and accepted and gave gifts. He talked to some individually in his private chambers either giving them specific tasks, words of encouragement or in one case to ask why they had neglected their duties. He asked the Hrothgarsons if they would come and see him in his private Hall away from the feast. Cerdic congratulated them for their actions in stopping Aelle's advance south of the Tamyse. He told them that Stuf had thought highly of them. Cerdic asked them if they had been able to find their families. Wulfhere said that they had no further word but he hoped that they might be able to look again soon. Cerdic said that it was unfortunate and if they required any help from him he would try and do his best to offer what he could. He asked Wulfhere how well he spoke Brythonic. Wulfhere said that he could understand what was said if it was spoken slowly however Uthric was fluent in the language and if Cerdic required a translator then Uthric could do it with ease. Cerdic said that he needed people who could pass as Dumnonians. Uthric said that despite being fluent, he did not speak the Dumnonian dialect and any Dumnonian listening would know that he was not a local. Cerdic nodded but was still interested Uthric spoke Brythonic. He explained that the army would need to cross the Terstan but the scouts had said that the only option south of Old Sarum would be to take the bridge at a place called Dunum which was fortified on the west bank. He explained the geography of the area and told them he had a plan to take Dunum by infiltrating it and holding the gate until the reinforcements arrived. Cerdic said that he believed the Hrothgarsons had used a similar tactic at Taddenlæge. Cerdic used items on the table to show how the fortifications lay. There were two settlements at the bridge over the Terstan. On the east bank was Onna. There was a way station for merchants enclosed by a palisade. There were twenty or so homes scattered either side of the road where a population of Dumnonians lived. On the west bank was Dunum. It was a heavily fortified settlement with a ditch and palisade that was right against the river. The bridge was guarded on the west bank by two towers at the gate and several more towers along the palisade. Cerdic said he had thought about landing Warbands by sea but the land south of Dunum was relatively open and there were Dumnonian cavalry stationed in the South to prevent the raids. He did not want to have to try and march a Warband from the Coast to Dunum while being harried by cavalry. He and Cyrnic had thought that the best thing to do was to send warriors disguised as Britons to join the garrison. If Uthric could not convince the Britons he was Dumnonian then he could say he came from the northern British tribes to help fight the Saxons. Cerdic said that they should take at least twenty warriors. He could give them horses and anyone going would be well rewarded. Wulfhere said that he thought it might be possible to do. He thought it might be useful to ask Orin or Issa if they would join him for a chance to fight the Dumnonians. Cerdic said that he would leave the plan to them but if they needed to know any information he should talk to Stuf. They should be ready to go a moon before Eostre. The Dumnonians had a high regard for their gods on Eostre and held religious rites. Cerdic intended to use that time to attack. Wulfhere agreed to return at least a moon before Eostre. They met with Stuf and he told them all he knew from the scouts. They thought the garrison was about forty warriors which was more than enough to hold the fort and bridge against an army. On the last day of the Yule feast their mother, Hildegard, came to see them. Hildegard said that they had left Cissa Cæster very abruptly last time they had met and she had not had time to say goodbye. She said she would not at this time comment on their competence as sons but would leave it to another time but it was enough for her to say that she was disappointed in them. However, she said that she would put that behind her for now. She had brought Beorthric with her as she thought they should hear what he had to say. They had left so quick last time she wondered if they were actually interested in getting their families back. Beorthric said that he was aware that they did not have a good opinion of him. He told them that he has had to live with running away in fear when Hrothgar needed him and he said that knowledge has not been easy to cope with. He said that he had been trying to make things better since that time. He was only too aware that he could not change what had happened but he wanted to make amends. A merchant friend who sold his cloth and wool in Anderida called Wayard has a friend called Deorling Siredson. Deorling has married a woman called Rhedyn who had come from Glawmæd. Rhedyn had told Wayard that she knew where Bronwyn was in Anderida. Wulfhere said that he would ask the merchant to get Bronwyn back. Dunstan said that Wulfhere should really go himself. He thought it too important a task to leave to a merchant. Wulfhere asked Beorthric if he had knowledge of how much a slave would cost. Beorthric said that a heathy adult would generally cost 1500 Silver but if they had others skills it could be much more. Beorthric said that if he could be of help just to ask them and he gave them each two small gold bars. They thanked him for his generosity. After he had left, Wulfhere said that he was slowly going off the idea of killing Beorthric. Dunstan said that he was not sure and was still of the opinion that there could be treachery. He said, in his view, their mother was a nasty old harridan but at least she had her families interests at heart. He said he still did not trust Beorthric and he was now trying to buy them off with gold. He wondered where Beorthric got all his money from. Uthric said that if Dunstan was unhappy about taking Beorthric's gold then he could give it to his brothers who really had no compunction about taking Beorthric’s money. Dunstan said his scruples did not go so far as to handing over gold. He said he was going to see Egfryd to check how many honey cakes he had eaten recently. Wulfhere thought that they should go to Anderida soon as he was unsure how long the peace between Aelle and Cerdic would last. However, Cerdic had given him another 183 men, women and children to take north. He needed to allocate land to the families and make sure they were settled. He needed to talk to Issa, Taran and Orin about volunteers for Cerdic's mission. He said to Uthric that they would have to go back north before going to Anderida. Uthric agreed and said it would be unlikely they would get time to go to Anderida before Eostre. Wulfhere said that if this was their way of thinking it would likely be after the war, if they survived, that they would have time to go looking for lost families. When Dunstan returned from seeing Egfryd he reported that their younger brother was doing well. His apprenticeship with the blacksmith appeared to be going well. Uthric asked about the eating of honey cakes. Dunstan said he was not sure. Egfryd had told him that was just a childish whim and that now he was almost a man he had put over-eating behind him. Uthric said that Dunstan's constant shaming had borne fruit. He thought a better way to deal with it would have been to get a lot of honey cakes and make Egfryd eat them all in one go until he was sick. Dunstan said that as ever Uthric was good at giving advice after the event and never at the time it was needed. They called to see Tadda on the way north. He had been made an Ealdorman due to the importance that Cerdic placed on the north. Dunstan and Uthric also took the opportunity to renew their acquaintance with Rowena. They told Rowena that they had still not been able to find their families. Rowena said that they should remember that nothing lasts forever and the longer they were separated the more likely that there would not be a good outcome. She reminded them that she had a widowed daughter who she would be keen to marry to either of them as they were both in her opinion a good match. Uthric thanked her but said both of them needed to at least try and find their families before they agreed to any other arrangements. They took the new immigrants north but could not agree where they should be settled. Wulfhere wanted to settle them near the bridge at Pontes and get them to build a fort that would guard the bridge. Uthric thought that the important thing was to get them to build farms and fill the lands between Hambladensted and Farnhamble on either side of the road. Wulfhere said that ensuring the southern side of the bridge was fortified must be a priority as there would always be a risk of new hostilities between Aelle and Cerdic. He thought that while there was peace now it would be unlikely to last. Uthric said that while he agreed with Wulfhere that he should remember that for now there was peace. At this time, they needed to build enough farms to supply a permanent fortification and there was no way it could be supported. The argument was resolved when some of the settlers voiced their opinions. They wanted a hyde of land to support their families and to build their steads on. If this was not done soon then they would not be able to plant crops this season. As it was they thought that already they could be too late. Some also voiced the opinion that if Wulfhere insisted that they build his fortification they would travel further north into Mierce and find their own land. Wulfhere said that Aelle was not likely to let that happen but the men said they would go further north. They knew that the Waeclingas or the Chilternsaete were independent lands. Some of their kin had settled there and they said if Wulfhere denied them what was promised by Cerdic they would take their chances in the north. Wulfhere knew that he had to agree to the request or risk losing people on what he considered a futile journey north. Aelle would not let independent lands develop and Wulfhere hoped that he had time to build a fortification before Aelle turned his attention south of the Tamyse again. Wulfhere still had to think about building his own Hall. There was no centre of administration in his lands where people could petition him for either favours or justice. He knew that now the population was increasing and that it would be necessary to have somewhere soon. He appointed Dunstan as Þegn over the new territories and told him that the fortification needed built sooner rather than later. Dunstan was pleased that he was now a Þegn and on equal footing with his brothers. Wulfhere said that they would rest for a few days and then go and see Issa, Taran and Orin about Cedric's proposal. He had decided against taking horses from Cerdic as he feared that it would make them a target for every stronger Warband. Uthric said that they could a still take the horses from Cerdic but not take them to Dumnonia. They could use them to breed more horses. Wulfhere said he was not sure how Cerdic would respond if he heard what Uthric had proposed. Dunstan was kept busy marking our boundary stones for the hydes for each family and Uthric inspected the almost finished palisade at Hambladensted. Wulfhere's rest was interrupted by a clamour of loud and complaining voices. He went outside to find Uthric trying to calm down a crowd of twenty or so fishermen who were surrounding him. When the men calmed Uthric asked one of them to tell him what they were annoyed about. Tathere was elected as the spokesperson. He told Uthric that one of their fishing boats had been sunk by the men of Ceswican. Tathere was told that traditionally the men of Hambladensted laid their fish traps on the north side of the river opposite Hambladensted. The fishermen of Ceswican had begun wrecking the fish traps and the situation escalated to the point where there had been a scuffle between opposing fishing boats and one of the boats had been rammed and subsequently sank. The fishermen were demanding reparations and a restoration of their fishing rights. Wulfhere joined in the discussion. He asked who traditionally fished at the spot opposite Hambladensted which the fishermen said that it had always been their fishing grounds as it had the best fish there. Ceswican had always fished around their own village. Wulfhere said that he was concerned that the recent new boundary had confirmed the north bank of the Tamyse as Aelle's land but there was the matter of the sunk boat which they could ill afford to lose. Uthric asked how much compensation would be acceptable for the boat to which Tathere said that 1000 silver would be a fair compensation. Wulfhere said that he would leave Dunstan in charge of the situation. Dunstan said that they would have to stand up to Cescwican and they could not give an inch on it. He said that he would detail two boats with five spearmen in them to be on standby to attack and sink one of the Cescwican boats and also to protect the fishermen. They should also retaliate by destroying the fish traps of the Cescwican fishermen. He said he would also patrol the banks of the river up to Cescwican on the south bank. Wulfhere said that on no account was anyone to set foot on the north bank and break the treaty. Dunstan said he understood that and that he was happy to engage in border skirmishes but not keen for another war. Wulfhere asked Dunstan afterwards if he was going to withdraw over fifteen warriors from their farming duties and building projects. It was a lot of lost production. Dunstan said this might be so but they could or should not show weakness or they would come off second best in every border dispute. Dunstan said he planned to escalate the situation, get even and then see if they could reach a treaty with the Þegn of Cescwican. He asked Wulfhere if things escalated if he could Issa to support them with his boats. Wulfhere and Uthric went to discuss Cerdic's plan with Issa and Taran and hopefully get some troops. They then planned to see Orin for advice and to ask him for warriors if they did not get enough from Issa and Taran. They thought Orin might know something about the layout of the land they would need to travel through. The meeting with Issa went well. He was only too keen to let men go to humiliate the Dumnonians. There was a long history of conflict between the Artrebates and Dumnonians. Dumnonia had always been stronger but memory of long ago fought battles and humiliations was always kept alive in the songs and tales of the Artrebates. Issa said that he would be able to send six men. Uthric asked him about the fishermen of Cescwican and if they had any troubles. Issa said that since they tended to fish the Kennet and the marshes for eels, he generally had no contact with Cescwican with each village keeping to its historical fishing grounds. He said that this did not mean he would be unhappy to join in a general guerrilla war against the Ceswican fishermen if they needed help. He suggested that they contemplate a raid on the Cescwican boats at night. Wulfhere said he hoped it would not come to that and just wanted to be in a strong portion for the inevitable negotiations. He thanked Issa for his help and left him planning how a night raid could be carried out. Taran said he would be equally keen to fight the Dumnonians. However, it was planting season and he could only offer four men. He was keen to create a surplus crop for the markets in Wincen Cæster. Wulfhere said that he did not need a large Warband but would see if Orin could offer more warriors. They thanked Taran and left to visit Orin. Orin was pleased to see Wulfhere and Uthric. They shared some food and ale while Wulfhere explained what they had in mind. Orin said that in his opinion it sounded like an extremely dangerous plan. He advised against saying that they were Dumnonians and it would be a better idea to say that they were warriors from Elmet or Rheged. He thought most Dumnonians would not know where those kingdoms were or have ever met anyone from them. Their chances of being discovered were lessened and they might actually succeed. He asked them what route they would take and Wulfhere said they had two options. They could come from the north as Orin had suggested and down the Roman roads and then follow the Terstan to Dunam. The other option would to be landed on the south coast by ship. Orin said that the coastlines were always well watched because of the danger of raids and it was likely that either the landing or their march north would be marked by scouts. It might be difficult to explain why they had come from that direction unless they said they were from Kernow. However, Orin pointed out that they had none of the tribal tattoos of Kernow and they would be easily discovered as not telling the truth. They thanked Orin for his advice and he promised them ten more warriors to make their force up to twenty. They promised Orin to be back a moon before Eostre. In Hambladensted, Dunstan had led a series of reprisals against the Cescwican fishermen. He set up a patrol of five spearmen in one of the bigger boats to patrol and dissuade any Cescwin boats from the area around Hambladensted. In one engagement his warriors encountered two fishing boats and they tried to sink one of the boats with their axes. A Cescwin fisherman threw his fishing spear at one of the warriors and wounded his shoulder. Another of the warriors stabbed a defending fisherman in the stomach with his spear and he fell into the Tamyse. Dunstan told his men to get the man out of the water but he did not surface after he fell overboard. The other boat escaped. They then destroyed the fish traps along the north side of the river almost to Cescwican. Following the death of the fisherman, Dunstan thought it would be appropriate to visit Eadweald, Þegn of Cescwican and give him an ultimatum. Dunstan took his boat and spearmen to Cescwican and met with a clearly furious Eadweald. Dunstan told a clearly incredulous Eadweald that there had been an unfortunate accident as his boat had turned a corner in the river and they had accidently collided with a Cescwican fishing boat. In the ensuing confusion it seems that one of the Cescwin fishermen got knocked overboard and did not resurface. Eadweald said that that was not what he had heard and he had witnesses to say that Dunstan and his men had clearly murdered the fisherman and had destroyed many fish traps. Dunstan said that he also had witnesses to say that it was an accident. He said he was keen to avoid further incidents but would also use all necessary force to protect his fishermen. Eadweald said that if that was Dunstan’s attitude then he could see no future for either him or his fishermen. They left each other without resolving the dispute and neither was satisfied with the other. Uthric and Wulfhere met with Dunstan on their return from Orin and asked him the news. Uthric asked if the fisherman had died. Dunstan said that they had done their best to kill him and after his meeting with Eadweald he thought that the only way to resolve the conflict was by reducing Cescwican to ashes. Uthric said they should do whatever was necessary. It was not their fault that this situation had arisen but they should not back down because that would only show weakness. Dunstan ordered that there would be one warrior in each fishing boat and five warriors patrolling the South banks of the river to dissuade any aggression from Cescwican. Rodderic three-spear came to see Uthric. He said that Uthric needed to know that it was not the fishermen of Cescwican that had started the conflict. The Hambladensted fishermen had destroyed the Cescwican fish traps first and then attacked the Cescwican fishing boats when they were setting more traps. Uthric said that he felt hoodwinked but decided to check out the situation with other villagers. They confirmed that their own fishermen had started the conflict. Uthric discussed the new information with his brothers. He said that he had been prepared to risk war for the village but they had been made a fool of. Wulfhere said that this changed the situation completely. Cescwican would need to be offered compensation to resolve this situation. They could not risk an escalation that started a war between Cerdic and Aelle. He said that their side was not spotless but equally they could not back away from it. Uthric thought that the fishermen needed to learn a hard lesson. Wulfhere said this was an awkward situation. He reminded his bothers that the fishermen were still their people and they needed to support them. Dunstan was not so sure. He thought they had acted on their own agenda. They twisted the facts that got him to act against Cescwican and that had clearly that acerbated the situation. He felt it was clear that the fishermen had not shown any due respect. Uthric agreed he said that the fishermen need to learn a lesson from this as he had been about to start a war. Wulfhere thought that while all this was true and he could find no fault in their arguments they needed to still be on the side of their people when dealing with Cescwican. Uthric said he was too angry about being made a fool of to consider any actions at present. They really only needed the Carls on their side if it came to a vote. They agreed to call Tathere who had been elected the fishermen's spokesperson, and put the allegations that Hambladensted had started hostilities. Tathere did not deny the facts. He said that it may have been otherwise than they first had said, but the north bank was their traditional fishing grounds. The fishermen from Hambladensted had fished these waters long before anyone had heard of Aelle or Cerdic. He thought this might not be important to the Hrothgarsons as they were newcomers to the area. Wulfhere said he would think about what Tathere had said and he would call a Hambladensted Moot tonight to discuss options and hopefully resolve the issue. Tathere said that Wulfhere was the Þegn and while he had the right to impose his will, he should be aware that all the fishermen felt wronged. After Tathere left, Dunstan said that he had shown no respect to them. He thought they should keep an eye on him or he would cause more trouble. Wulfhere said they should take it to the Moot. He said that he would acknowledge Cescwican encroached and that he thought there was justification in allowing people to take actions to protect their property and interests. However, he intended to point out that the developing situation could provoke a war. He thought it was important to calm things down but not alienate the people who pay taxes. He reminded his brothers that they only held office with the agreement of the Carls. Dunstan still felt aggrieved by Tathere’s attitude and actions and that they had already caused trouble. Uthric told Dunstan he should calm down. It was absolutely clear that they had been lied to but they now had to sort the situation out. At the Moot, most of the people of Hambladensted attended. Uthric spoke first. He said that the fishermen had been wrong in lying about what had happened. He said that their actions could have started a war and that would benefit no one. The recent experience of the wars had been calamitous and had almost destroyed Hambladensted and no-one wanted that to happen again. Dunstan said the past is now past. He told them that Cerdic was a King that promised stability and they were lucky to have such a great King. Wulfhere told the people that he could understand that they felt aggrieved. A man had died and for that compensation would need to be paid. He said he intended to speak with Eadweald of Cescwican and agree demarcation lines. Tathere said that all the fishermen were angry and they were only exercising their own traditional rights. The principles of free men protecting their families was strong in Saxon culture and despite what had been said by their Þegns, they should be aware that as fishermen, they were still aggrieved. He said that he noticed that political settlements were always made by Þegns who did not know how their decisions would affect hardworking people. The fishermen cheered Tathere's speech. Wulfhere said that he would be mindful of their views and would represent them but it was important to find a way forward and that meant a degree of compromise. The next day Wulfhere took his brothers and some of the Carls to Cescwican. He was received by the Þegn, Eadweard and they agreed that they needed to find a resolution to the recent fishing conflict to stop it becoming more serious. Eadweald agreed but said that the situation had not been helped by Dunstan’s attitude and actions. However, he felt the damage was hurting both sides and they needed to find a solution but warned there had been the death of a fisherman that would need to be considered and compensation given. Discussions happened over three days. It was agreed the loss of the boats cancelled out. Compensation for the death of the fishermen was partly offset by the wounding of a Carl. It was discovered that the Hambladensted fishermen had destroyed thirty-five Cescwican fish traps. They had had only three of their own fish traps destroyed. The issue that took a long time was where the fishing rights lay. Wulfhere wanted a demarcation on the area around both villages whereas Eadweald wanted a north and south bank demarcation. Wulfhere knew that the best fishing grounds lay on the north bank opposite Hambladensted and held out for the river length demarcation. He eventually wore Eadweald down and sweetened the deal by offering to pay the 1500 silver compensation immediately. Eadweald acknowledged that Wulfhere drove a hard bargain. Uther and Dunstan suggested that they should continue to set up a resolution meeting each season to ensure the agreement was kept and to resolve any disagreements peacefully. Eadweard thought this was an excellent idea. Wulfhere said that would raise a marker on the bank to denote the demarcation line. They then clasped hands on the deal. The Hrothgarsons called another Moot when they arrived home. Wulfhere said that a deal had been struck and that he had paid the compensation himself rather than taxing the people for it. However, he told them that lessons from this situation needed to be learnt. Wulfhere said that they needed to know he would always support their interests but he was still angry that he had not been told the truth. If this situation had escalated to war they again faced ruin and death. He let them know he was aware that it had been a hard year and he had decided that for this year he would only collect half the taxes due. However, because the fishermen had caused the conflict and more importantly had not been truthful which had caused more hardship, they would then not be exempt from the tax reduction. The general consensus was that Wulfhere had been fair in his judgment. The fishermen did not agree and grumbled to themselves. The Hrothgarsons then took thought about how they would achieve their mission for Cerdic. They realised that the mission might lead to many deaths and in particular they might meet their own Wyrd. After much discussion they agreed that their story would be that they had been sent south on the words of a Vølva or wise woman who prophesised that they would be critical to the defence of a river town in the south. They agreed that they would need at least half a moon to get to Dunum. They talked at length with Orin and Issa who had fought in those places long ago. They thought they should take the Calleva road to a place called Old Sarum and from there go south. No-one knew if there was a road to Dunum from Old Sarum but they knew they could follow the River Terstan to Dunum, if they could not ask for directions. Uthric was confident that they could pass for northern Britons. He warned Dunstan and Wulfhere that they must not speak when near any Dumnonians. Their Brythonic was not good so they needed to be careful what they said. They met with Stuf and Cerdic before they left and agreed that Stuf would attack and destroy Onna. Stuf reckoned that Onna was poorly protected and could be destroyed beforehand and then they could withdraw again until Wulfhere and his Warband were in place. They agreed that the attack on Dunum would happen on the Dumnonian Holy Day at Eostre. Wulfhere wanted to leave a moon before Eostre. They were unsure how long it would take to get to Dunum but were concerned that the more time they spent travelling in Dumnonia the more likely they would be discovered. Cerdic eventually said they should leave when the moon was half full which he thought should be more than enough time. He emphasized that without taking the bridge their plans would be harder and they might not defeat the Dumnonians. They arrived after three days at Old Sarum. Dunstan was impressed by the fortifications. There were two huge outer ditches and then a palisade enclosing the area where people lived. At the centre was another ditch with Roman walls. He said that he thought no-one would take this fortress if it was defended by competent warriors. Its only weakness might be that there would not be enough warriors to defend the walls of the outer defences. At the gate they were told to see Merfyn ap Bradwr, the Captain of the guard. He would allocate them sleeping places and where to get food. Merfyn was distracted by trying to sort out so many warriors. He had an army of people who followed him around and made marks on waxed tablets. Uthric said that they had come from the north to fight the Sais on the advice of their wise woman. Merfyn was not particularly interested in their story and told them to seek out Siawn ap Afarn who was in charge of the west wall sector. Dunstan said to Uthric that he wondered what the people marked on the wax tablets and thought that they may be writing runes. Uthric said that if those men were leæces then he was not too keen in getting close to them. Dunstan’s conversation with Uthric was spoken in Saxon and even although Dunstan spoke quietly he was overheard by Merfyn who looked round and asked Uthric if Dunstan had spoken Sais. Dunstan was able to say in Brythonic that he had used a northern dialect and he had not spoken Sais. Merfyn looked dubious but after staring at Dunstan, he nodded and told them to go to Siawn. Siawn turned out to be an affable man more like a well-fed merchant than a soldier. He told Uthric to settle his men down and see to their food and then come and see him. Uthric thanked Siawn. He told Dunstan that he was to keep his mouth shut and not to speak under any circumstances. Dunstan started to say something but Uthric said he could not be trusted and not speaking started from this point. Dunstan looked annoyed but nodded in agreement. Siawn gave Uthric some excellent wine from some place called Armorica. Uthric thanked him and asked about his prospects in Old Sarum. Siawn said that unless Uthric accepted baptism and believed in the one true God, Uthric's prospects were very limited. Siawn said his God was coming back to Earth and that those who had not been baptised would be cast into a pit of fire. He invited Uthric to come with him to hear a new priest who had come from Kernow because he thought it might be a revelation to him. Uthric tried to decline and said he had once been to Kernow and in his opinion nothing good came out of it. Siawn laughed and said he was probably correct in his thinking and no doubt that was why the priest had left Kernow. Uthric found it hard to resist and found himself standing in a large hall being harangued by a priest. He discovered that his soul was sinful and needed washed in blood which would cleanse it. There were groups of people who chanted and sang at points when the priest stopped talking. They seemed to have chewed on magical herbs because they frequently screamed and yelled and often seemed to respond to conversations that no one else seemed to hear. Uthric found some of the concepts difficult. He wasn't sure he liked this religion and thought that he preferred wary acknowledgement of the gods. He found it amusing that the Romans didn't like this God either because they had killed him but they had not done it properly because he managed to come back to life again. The God was due to return this year and the priest wanted everyone to be baptised. Uthric thought that if it was a matter of washing then he should be all right as he frequently washed himself. Siawn was disappointed that Uthric did not repent of his sins and be baptised. Uthric said he had trouble with this. He was mostly happy with the things he had done and those actions that he was not happy with, he generally gave compensation to those that he had wronged. He told Siawn about the fish war in his village and how he had solved the problem. Uthric thanked Siawn for his company and left to return to his men although in truth he thought that the Dumnonians were all mad. He did not think religious fervour was good for anyone. In the morning they left and continued along the Roman road. Uthric noticed that many of the houses in Old Sarum had fishes painted on the doors. Dunstan wondered if the people in Old Sarum had also had a fish war but Uthric said it was a sign of the nailed god who had given fish to his followers to eat. They also noticed that the few homes that did not have fish had broken doors or had been damaged in some way. They continued along the road and came to a part of the road that split into three different ways. One way went northwest, another went west and the third went southwest, which was the route they decided to take. There were rune markings on stones of the kind that the Dumnonians used, but no-one knew what they meant, so they thought it best to ignore them. Wulfhere thought the runes might be magical and he touched them cautiously but nothing happened. There were more refugees on the road. Uthric asked them where they were going and all of them said they were fleeing the Sais who were going to attack. Uthric discovered that the road went to a place called Vindoclodia but no-one could tell him if Dunum was also in that direction. They thought if they continued to Vindoclodia that someone would be able to tell them which direction to go. They moved faster than most of the refugees on the road who were often encumbered by small children, farm animals and hand carts full of their possessions. At the end of the day they reached Vindoclodia. It was a large city although the defensive walls were in a bad state of repair. The city was swollen by refugees from the east but it seemed that there was no urgency about war. They noticed that there had been considerable violence in the city. There were quite a lot of bodies on the banks of the river. It looked like people had been killed violently and then dumped in the river only to wash up on the banks. Some of the homes had suffered fire damage or had been broken into. They again noticed pictures of a fish on the doors. Uthric asked the gate guard where they could stay for the night. The guard said it would probably be best for them to go to the barracks. He said since they did not have a fish on their shields it could be dangerous in the city for them. Uthric was puzzled but thanked the guard. Dunstan said if this is how the Dumnonians acted then Cerdic should have no problem about conquering the whole country. When they arrived at the barracks, which had a walled enclosure, a troupe of cavalry were leaving. None of them had ever seen the Dumnonian cavalry before and they were surprised at the size of the horses which were much bigger than any of the horses they had seen at home. Wulfhere said that if they had several Warbands of horse soldiers it would be unlikely Cerdic's victory would come that easy. Uthric talked to the guard commander, Ofydd ap Adda, and asked him for directions to Dunum. Ofydd said that they had gone too far west from Old Sarum. They should have followed the river south from Old Sarum and they would have got there. There were no Roman roads going southeast from Vindoclodia but if they followed the packhorse trail along the River Afon they would come to Bellunum. From Bellunum they could travel directly along the road to Dunum. Ofydd asked them if they would not rather stay in Vindoclodia. It was more civilised here and they could do with more experienced warriors. The City Magistrates had only lately thought they might need warriors and they could good get good rewards. Ofydd complained the Magistrates had also ignored the walls and they were in a bad state of repair. Uthric said he did not think the Sais would get this far and it was unlikely there would be in any danger. He said he and his men were travelling from the north to fulfil a prophecy by their village wise woman. Uthric said he thought it would be pleasant to stay but they had to go to Dunum first. Ofydd said in that case they should be careful. This city was full of Christians and they had purged the city of any pagans who would not convert. Ofydd said that it was obvious that they were pagans and being armed warriors would not help them against the mob mentality of the Christians. Uthric nodded and said he had noticed the bodies and the destroyed buildings as he was coming in. Ofydd confirmed Uthric's thoughts and said he had lost a file of ten warriors days ago to the mob. He now confined everyone to barracks when the mobs were active. Ofydd said that if they wanted to destroy the city it was up to them but he did not want to lose any more men. Uthric thanked Ofydd for his advice and went back to his men. Later they got into conversation with some men from Isca, a city near Kernow. They swopped stories of fighting Kernow warriors and about how awful Mark the king was. The leader of the men was Idwal, a huge tattooed man. He had lost some of his men to the Christian violence and was not happy. He said that Cadwy, the king of Isca had not tolerated Christian nonsense and had put down any religious hatred with spears. Idwal said that’s what the Magistrates should have done but they were too afraid of the mob. One of Idwal's men, a man called Cadog, had lost his brother and cousin to the mob. He said they had come to fight the Sais and had been killed by the people they had come here to defend. Cadog said that he would quite like to martyr one of the priests in revenge. Idwal said that he was thinking of taking his men out of Vindoclodia but they were too few to protect themselves if they were beset by the mobs. He asked Uthric if he could come with him as the city was not somewhere that was safe for followers of the old gods. Uthric said that he would discuss it with his men but he thought it might be a good idea. Uthric told his brothers about Idwal's suggestion and they agreed that it would be extra cover for their disguise but meant that Wulfhere and Dunstan needed to be extra careful. Idwal was happy with the decision and they made preparations to leave that day. However, they were frustrated when Ofydd confined everyone to barracks when the mob went on the rampage. More fires were set in the city and more people were killed. The mobs raged for the whole day and night. After that there was a lull when it seemed the mob had exhausted itself. Uthric took advantage of the peace to take his men south along the River Afon. He thanked Ofydd for his hospitality and wished him well in the war. On the ninth day since leaving Cerdic they arrived at Bellunum. They had taken the path along the banks of the Afon and had enjoyed the walk through the country. Wulfhere noted that it was a rich country. There were small farms in the eaves of the forest. Thirty warriors are always treated with suspicion but when they did not loot or kill, they were treated well by the country folk. Dunstan noticed that most of these folks were followers of the old gods. Uthric asked a Chieftain about it and he said that they still followed the old ways. The Christian God come from the east and was brought to Britain by the Romans. He thought that if Britain deserted their gods it would be destroyed and overrun by the Sais. At Bellunum the Chief Magistrate had stopped the Christian mobs. Although he was a Christian himself he had executed some of the Christian agitators. He was clear that Bellunum would not be destroyed like other cities in Dumnonia. Dunstan thought that Bellunum was well worth preserving. It was the most Romanised city they had seen. Many of the buildings had been repaired and although the repairs were inferior to the original buildings they kept the idea of what it might have been like to live under the Romans. The Guard commander was a grizzled veteran called Grufydd. He had so many scars on his body, Dunstan wondered how he had survived. He wore a curious garment called a toga which seemed to Dunstan as not very practical for the climate. The Chief Magistrate Aeoron also wore a toga but the effect was not so impressive as he wore woollen undergarments which showed at the parts of exposed flesh. They enquired of Grufydd how far they had to travel to get to Dunum. Grufydd said that it was only a day's march. He said that if they wanted to fight the Sais then they were going in the right direction. Three days ago, the Sais had attacked Onna and destroyed it. They had withdrawn after and no-one was sure where they were. Scouts had been sent out and there was a detachment of Cavalry that had been brought up from the south coast to find and destroy the Sais. Wulfhere hoped that Stuf would avoid the cavalry. If he got forced back or delayed, then he and his men would be in trouble. There were lots of refugees on the road to Dunum. At first Uthric asked what had happened but all told the same tale of a Sais advance along the Itchen. There was no consensus on numbers of Sais but Wulfhere reflected that fleeing people rarely stopped do count the numbers of the enemy. They reached Dunum at sundown and were inspected by Goronwy the Captain of the Guards. He welcomed another thirty warriors but dismissed Uthric's tale of the wise woman. He said he was a Christian and they should not be cavorting with witches. Uthric said that he and his men had been travelling for three weeks and he just wanted to fight the Sais. Idwal could be seen rolling his eyes. They had six days until the Christian Eostre festival and they tried to keep themselves separate. It wasn't that difficult. As soon as the people and warriors knew they were northern pagans or worse as in Idwal's case, from Isca which was currently declaring independence and in rebellion from Dumnonia. Idwal rolled his eyes again when he heard about the rebellion and declared Cadwy a fool. He said that Cadwy’s head would end up on a spear when Arthur caught up with him. Cadog thought it might be difficult for Cadwy to run away as he was monstrously fat. Over the next five days they suffered taunts from people and soldiers of Dunum. Idwal had to restrain Cadog after he was goaded too many times. Idwal said he thought the situation was becoming serious and perhaps they should leave before a fight broke out. Uthric said that he could not leave yet as he had a duty to carry out the request of the wise woman of their village. He tried to encourage Idwal to leave as he did not want to have to kill Idwal and his men when Stuf came. He did not think that Idwal would be pleased at the deception. Idwal said he would stay. He reflected that he was not only a pagan, but he was also from Isca and his tribal tattoos showed that plainly. He thought that if he left it would be a death sentence. Idwal thought a Warband of thirty would have more chance to survive. Uthric nodded but thought it a shame that a good man like Idwal would have to die. Wulfhere said that they could try to protect Idwal and his men when Stuf came. Dunstan thought it would be unlikely they would succeed but felt they owed it to Idwal to try. The five days passed without major incident apart from some bruises and blackened eyes. Tension remained high however and it was clear it would only take a spark to set off a major incident. Uthric spoke with Goronwy and asked him if he wanted his men to do guard duty on the morning of their worship ceremonies. Goronwy said that he thought that would be suitable unless Uthric wanted to attend the service with his men and receive baptism. Uthric said that he would think on it but he thought someone should guard the walls in care the Sais came. Dunum was built around a Roman fort, custom house and way station. The palisade went down to the banks of the river Terstan and the bridge ended at the eastern gates. There were watchtowers on either side of the gate and two further towers on each corner of the wall facing the river. There were two further towers at the west gate. The defences all faced the river to protect against Saxon pirates and Wulfhere thought it was a formidable defence. The width of the bridge was a little over that of a cart so that any attackers would have little opportunity to defend themselves. A barricade had been built across the width of the bridge near the gate to stop an assault. Wulfhere thought it was no wonder Cerdic wanted Durum taken. The only other bridge was at Old Sarum and that could not be taken without a long siege. Uthric placed two men in each of the four towers at the river and a further one in each tower. The rest of the man he put on the palisade facing the river. He kept all of Idwal's men on the South part of the palisade. He concentrated most of his men around the gate. He expected that he would have to form a Shield wall when Stuf appeared and he opened the gates. He hoped that if Stuf arrived quickly the fight would be over before the defenders realised what had happened. The Christians held their ceremony from daybreak in the big hall they used for their meetings. The night guards were still asleep in the barracks. Dunstan expected that they would no doubt join the ceremonies when they had some sleep. Uthric went to talk to Idwal. He asked Idwal if he trusted him. Idwal said he found this a strange question but thought maybe Uthric wanted to tell him something. Uthric said that he had a bad feeling about the day and wanted Idwal's assurance that no matter what strange things happened that if he and his men stayed by Uthric then they would be safe. Idwal said he was concerned about such talk but he confirmed that he trusted Uthric and would follow his lead. Uthric thanked him and asked him to tell his men. Uthric was getting more anxious as the morning wore on. There was no sign of Stuf. Dunstan said that he would go and look for him and went over the bridge to Onna. He could see no sign of a Saxon army. He went along the road keeping to the eaves of the forest but still found nothing of any note. Dunstan wondered if something had happened. He was sure that the Warband should be here by now. He thought there was no point in going further and decided to return. Uthric and Wulfhere were unsure how they should proceed. If Stuf did not come soon then their plans might have to be delayed. They could hear singing and shouting from the Hall where the Christians were having their rites. They saw that Dunstan returned just before midday. Wulfhere thought that the Christians would be finished soon and the next watch would take over from Uthric's men. He wondered if they would have to keep the gates by force and refuse to give way. Shortly after midday one of the men posted on the Westgate tower came running over. He reported a procession of people coming from the Christian’s Hall towards the gate. Uthric told the man to go back to the tower but be prepared to join the main force. He climbed up onto the Eastgate towers and looked east and west. He could not see any movement to the east but could watch the approaching procession. He and Wulfhere briefly considered closing the Westgate and holding Dunum but they would then let the enemy know their intent when they were unsure when they would be reinforced by Stuf. They were also aware that there were at least thirty sleeping warriors in the barracks that would be inside the palisade. If they made an aggressive move then they would need to be dealt with quickly. Dunstan joined them in the tower and told them that there was no sign of Stuf or a Warband. Uthric sighed and said he would go down to the troops. He signalled for the men to get ready to form a Shieldwall. The procession came through the Westgate. It was proceeded by sounds of singing but more concerning there were shouts of threats against pagans. Wulfhere reflected that people were too often concerned about things that really shouldn’t concern them. Uthric told his men to form a Shieldwall in front of the east gates. Idwal joined him and said that he thought this would get very ugly. Uthric agreed. Idwal called his men to join the Shieldwall and they waited for the procession to approach. Uthric told the men to lock their shields together but not to make any aggressive movements. He said he did not want a bloodbath yet. Someone within Shieldwall said that it seemed that the Christians were keen to meet their God and he felt it would be good if they could help them with their task. There was general laughter in the Shieldwall but Uthric said they must not provoke the crowd. While he was waiting for the procession to arrive Uthric said to Wulfhere and Dunstan that they might need to make a fighting retreat and it might be better to clear the barricade on the bridge. He said he did not fancy the idea of fighting and being trapped against it. Dunstan said that he would start clearing it if fighting broke out. The procession approached the Shieldwall and stopped about two spear lengths away. The crowd was hostile and shouting insults at his men. A group of women stood off to the left and sang songs. Wulfhere had left the Shieldwall and was watching from a tower. He thought the sound of the singing sounded sweet in comparison to the screaming of the crowd. Uthric stood forward and asked to speak with Goronwy, the Captain of the Guard but he could not see him. He was answered by the priest who said that his congregation had come because they wanted to offer baptism to all the pagans. Uthric said that he had nothing against being washed but now was not the time to offer it as they were presently protecting Dunum from the Sais. The priest said he was not happy with Uthric's response and told him that he would burn in hell. Uthric ignored him and addressed the crowd. He told them to go home before someone got hurt. He was still trying to see if Goronwy was present to help restore some order but still he could not see him. He could see some of the warriors from the barracks come out to investigate the noise. Some went back inside and returned carrying weapons. Uthric thought this was not a good sign but he hoped that they would support him rather than the mob. Uthric turned his attention on the small priest in front of him who was still haranguing him for being a demon worshipper. Uthric was almost prepared to tell the priest he had seen real demons and would be happy to introduce him but thought better of it. Someone in the crowd threw a rock which hit one of the spearmen. There were more taunts and demands that the Spearmen lay down their weapons. Uthric thought the situation was getting out of control and he thought he should take the initiative. He said that he was willing to get baptised. The crowd cheered his response but they had interrupted Uthric and he had not finished what he wanted to say. He repeated that he was willing to get baptised but he added that it would not be until he finished his guard duty. He was not able to say anymore for the crowd shouted and screamed at him. More rocks were thrown and a spearman fell when he was hit by a particularly large rock. Uthric called for his men to lock shields and move forward. He was hoping the crowd would disperse if he moved forward. Uthric shouted that no one was to be hurt but either his men did not hear or they chose to ignore him. Two men were killed by the spearmen and the crowd moved back momentarily unsure what to do. The priest came forward and checked the fallen men and shouted that they had been martyred by the pagans. More rocks ever thrown, Uthric tried to see if Wulfhere, who was in the tower, had seen any sign of a Saxon Warband. Wulfhere was watching the scene below and did not make any signal. Uthric was tempted to charge the crowd and disperse it but he did not want to leave the gate undefended. He shouted at his men to fall back and form up again in front of the gate. The withdrawal emboldened the mob and Uthric could see armed warriors joining the mob. Wulfhere came down from the tower and Dunstan also joined the Shieldwall. They agreed that they might need to retreat and Wulfhere and Dunstan would start clearing the barricade. Uthric watched the priest who had begun to rile the mob. More spearmen were joining the mob and still Uthric could not see Goronwy. He made another attempt to get the crowd to disperse telling them they were putting everyone’s lives at risk. From behind him someone shouted that they should make a martyr of the priest. There was laughter from his Shieldwall and another voice said he had a hammer and nails and would happily use them on the priest. Uthric turned to tell his men to be quiet as they were not helping things. A rock struck him on the helmet and he felt slightly dizzy. Someone pulled him back into the Shieldwall and the warriors used their shields to protect him. The priest was screaming at the Dumnonian Spearmen to kill the pagans who were defiling God’s Holy day and had murdered innocent Christians. Uthric told his men to stand firm. He expected to be attacked soon and thought that this was likely to be a hard fight and long if Stuf did not come soon. Both sides began to taunt each other no matter what Uthric said. One of Idwal’s men was brandishing a hammer and some nails. Uthric tried to get him to stop as he could see the mob was getting wilder and incensed by the priest. Uthric looked at the sun and realised that it was midday. It would have been time for the guard to change but he did not dare let his men stand down. It seemed that most of the Christian Spearman had formed up against them and there were villagers adding to their number. If they managed to break their Shieldwall, Uthric believed they would all die. Some of his men were complaining that they needed water. Uthric told two of his men to go into the guard towers and get water from the barrel to share with the men. This seemed to spur the Dumnonians into action and they began to move forward. The priest stood with his arms apart and was calling down curses on Uthric's men. Uthric wished he had a javelin to throw at him and stop him casting the spell. From behind the enemy Shieldwall, they could hear people singing. Uthric made the sign against evil and many of the Artrebates spat to avert whatever curse the singers were casting on them. The Shieldwalls clashed and shoved, pushed and hacked and stabbed at each other. Men who were injured stayed upright in the crush. At the barricade Wulfhere and Dunstan were joined by two of Idwal’s men who started to help them clear the barricade to allow for a fighting retreat if the weight of numbers told on Uthric's Shieldwall. The barricade was well made and difficult to dismantle. Uthric felt the pressure of the enemy and they were pushed back against the palisade. He shouted at the men to heave forward and felt the resistance lessen as his men killed and moved into the spaces. Uthric knew he couldn't move forward too far because his men would be overlapped by superior numbers. The fighting continued as each side tried to gain an advantage. The man helping Dunstan suddenly stopped and shouted ‘Sais’ and pointed at Saxons running across the bridge. He picked up his shield and spear and shouted that the Sais were coming. Wulfhere's companion did the same. Dunstan used his shield to hit the man nearest him in the hope that he would save his life. The man was surprised and fell backwards, the strength of the unexpected blow knocking him over the parapet of the bridge and into the river. Wulfhere tried to do the same with his man as he was preparing to defend the barricade but he only succeeded in knocking the man to the ground and against the parapet. The lead Saxons had reached the barricade and had begun to climb over it. The man with Wulfhere tried to stab one of the Saxons with his spear despite the fact he was on the ground. The Saxon retaliated with an overhead swing from his bearded are. Wulfhere parried the axe and undoubtedly saved his man’s life. Wulfhere shouted at the Saxons to join the fight at the gate. Wulfhere then hit the prone man on the head with his shield and he slumped unconscious. Dunstan led the leading Saxons to the back of the Shieldwall and tried to push the Shieldwall forward. All the pushing did was to increase the pressure on the front ranks limiting even further their ability to strike at each other. The weight became intolerable but was suddenly released when someone in the second rank managed to injure the man in front of Uthric. The injured man was unable to use his shield which meant the men on either side of the wounded man were vulnerable to attack. The British warriors were experienced enough to re-align their shields and the enemy Shieldwall shifted to accommodate the loss of men. The shift allowed some of the arriving Saxons to join the Shieldwall and increase the numbers. Uthric's men were better equipped and as the Shieldwalls expanded here and there villagers who had been initially at the back of the enemy Shield wall found themselves in the second rank. Uthric’s men targeted the villagers who were easier to incapacitate and used the advantage to lengthen their shield wall. The Dumnonians were being pushed backwards but they still stood firm and their Wall did not break. Dunstan had joined the advancing Saxons and was wondering how he was going to get to the front of the Shieldwall to join the fight. Wulfhere had wanted to join the battle too but the bridge was packed with men and he also felt the necessity to protect the unconscious man at his feet. Wulfhere could see Stuf coming towards him, balancing on the parapet. Stuf smiled at Wulfhere as he drew level and asked him for the news. Wulfhere said that he believed they still held the gate but he thought it unlikely anyone would get through at this time. Stuf said he thought he might try even if it seemed impossible. He ran the last few steps and jumped and just about caught the top of the palisade. He then hauled himself over. Wulfhere considered following Stuf but thought it was unlikely he could emulate Stuf's agility. A few moments later Stuf appeared on the top of the guard tower. Uthric had found the fight in the Shieldwall grim. He could see his men falling and their places were being taken by Saxons. He was fighting alongside Idwal who looked increasingly concerned that there were now Saxons in their Shieldwall. Uthric kept talking to Idwal to trust him and keep fighting. Uthric thought later if the fighting had been less fierce then he may have had trouble getting the Dumnonians to continue fighting for him whereas they had been concentrating on staying alive. More men were joining each Shieldwall and neither could make progress against the other. The Saxons on the bridge could not join the fight until the front rank moved forward. It seemed that the Dumnonians were going to hold the Saxons or even push them back to the gateway. Dunstan led some men off the bridge and into the water at the base of the palisade. The river came up to his waist and was flowing fast where the water flow was restricted by the stone piers of the bridge. One man lost his footing and was swept away. Dunstan could not see if he resurfaced. His men helped each other climb over the palisade and onto the fighting platform. More men saw what he was doing and joined the men climbing over the palisade. When Dunstan judged he had enough men he led a charge into the flank of the Dumnonian Shieldwall. Uthric could feel the pressure of the enemy slowly begin to ease and they were slowly giving ground. He heard yelling and screams to his left but could not look because he was being attacked by several of the enemy at once. Idwal was on one side and an Artrebate called Iolo was on his other side. Both were defending Uthric. Suddenly the pressure ceased and there was open space in front of them. Dunstan’s flank attack had broken the Dumnonian Shieldwall and men started chasing the retreating enemy. Uthric shouted for Idwal to keep his men together and to stay with him. Idwal was bewildered by events as were most of his man. Only one of his men, a man called Cadog, seemed to still be interested in fighting. He had used the butt of his spear to bloody the face of the priest and had dragged the man over. The priest whimpered and tried to plead to be released. Cadog showed him his hammer and nails and suggested the priest might want to join his God. The event was a distraction from the horror going on around them. Cadog was telling the priest that he held him responsible for the deaths of his brother, his cousin and their families and for the fall of Dunum. The priest was responding put someone hit him across the mouth and he fell silent. Idwal’s men seemed in shock and they stared around at the Saxon Warriors pursuing the routed Dumnonians. Idwal asked Uthric if he was a Saxon too. Uthric said he was sorry for misleading Idwal but he had not had any other choice. Idwal was either too exhausted or resigned to his fate to argue and he sank to the ground to join his men. He asked what would happen to him and his men. Uthric said that it would be up to Stuf but in his view they would be rewarded for their part in the fight. Uthric said it might be better to view this fight as of the Old gods against the Christian God rather than anything else. They had won a great victory for the old gods. Uthric was joined by Wulfhere and Dunstan and the three brothers sat down with Idwal and his men to rest. Someone brought a barrel of water and Wulfhere made sure everyone got some. Wulfhere checked with his Warband. Four of the Artrebates had been killed or were not expected to survive. Five had been seriously wounded and would need rest. Idwal's Iscans had fared better. Two had been killed and three had been wounded. All the wounded men needed rest and would not be able to move from Dunum for several weeks. Stuf joined Wulfhere and clasped him by the arm in friendship. He congratulated Wulfhere for holding the bridge. He wanted to know all of the Artrebates names and thanked them though Uthric for their support. He honoured the dead saying that he would pay wergild for all those that had died. Uthric introduced Idwal and told Stuf that he had unwittingly joined his small Warband but had fought well and without them Uthric believed they would not have held the gate. Stuf thanked Idwal and gave him a heavy gold arm ring set with jewels. He said that he intended to reward all his men when they were able to count the gold and silver they had won. Idwal thanked him. When the priest whimpered again, Stuf asked who he was and why he was whimpering. Uthric said that the man was a Christian leæce and he had been responsible for provoking the attack on his men because they would not accept baptism. Stuf said that he was unaware of the word and asked what it signified. Uthric said he thought it might be a sacred rite to transform people into Christians by dipping them in the river. Stuf said he was amazed about what people think and he wondered what Cadog intended to do with the leæce. Wulfhere said he was not sure but he did not believe it would end well for him. Stuf said that they should ensure that it did not bring bad luck if he was killed. He had no concern about fighting Dumnonians but he did not see the sense in purposefully upsetting the Christian God. Dunstan said that he did not believe it would upset anyone. They would give the leæce a good death and he would be transported to the Christian Neorxanwang and have a glorious time. Stuf said in that case they should make the death quick, the man was continually whimpering and it would be better for everyone if he went immediately to Neorxanwang. Uthric told Cadog to end it and do what he had to do. Cadog took the priest to the wall of the barracks and nailed him to some crosspieces of wood. Groups of warriors watched and laid bets how long he would take to die. Wulfhere told Stuf that the Christian religion was intolerant of others. They had seen people who followed the old gods driven out and even killed all through the lands through which they had travelled. Stuf was interested in Wulfhere's account and wondered if they could use the information for their gain. Uthric said the Christians had been killing their own people. Uthric thought there was a Holy war going on and he told Stuf how the crucified priest had riled up the mob and they had tried to stone his men. Uthric and Wulfhere talked to Idwal about what he wanted to do. They told him he could bring his men north and they could get land to farm and either join with the Artrebates, the Saxons or set up their own dwellings. Idwal said that he would need to talk to his men and he would give an answer in the morning. During the night someone slit the priests throat to stop the constant noises that was keeping everyone awake. In the morning Stuf sent out small raiding parties to gather loot and destroy buildings. Wulfhere and Dunstan would have liked to lead some of the Warbands but felt constrained to wait for Idwal's answer. They also felt the need to make sure neither their Artrebates nor Idwal's men came to any harm from some of the overzealous Saxons who might consider them to be enemies. Many of the men had been injured in the fierce battle at the gate and needed to rest to recuperate from wounds. Idwal said that he had spoken with his men. They had been shocked that they had been fighting on the side of the Sais and many were still angry. However, they also recognised that their fellow countrymen who were Christians had attacked them and they would likely have been killed. Idwal said he had looked at his options. They could not return to Isca in the far west as Cadwy had rebelled and they would be viewed as rebels by other Dumnonians and therefore not likely to be able to make it home alive. The Christians in the rest of Dumnonia were also killing anyone who wanted to worship the old gods and Idwal and his men’s tattoos proclaimed their allegiance to Bel. Idwal said that the men had voted on the decision and had decided that going with Uthric would at least give them a chance of living. Idwal said that he needed to be clear that they had decided that they would not fight Dumnonians. They were happy to fight anyone else but would not fight their own tribes. Uthric said he was pleased Idwal would come north because he had liked both him and his men. The Hrothgarsons did get a chance to lead a Warband several days later but they were unable to find anything valuable. All the Steadings or villages were already looted and they spent a frustrating day or two trying to discover something they could take. The villagers had all fled and they had taken anything of value with them. Wulfhere had decided to return to Dunum. They had not been able to find anything worthwhile in the broad sweeps that he had taken with the warband and they had only two large cooking cauldrons to show for it. On the way back, they encountered a messenger from Stuf who asked them to return anyway. Wulfhere was aware that the men were grumbling. They had been promised silver and glory and they had got neither. When they armed back Stuf told the warriors that Cerdic and Aelle had agreed a peace treaty in which the king of the Dumnonians would pay tribute. The men grew excited and wanted to know how much they would get but Stuf said that they would not get the silver until a moon after Midsummer festival. As Wulfhere was waiting for his men’s wounds to heal a group of Dumnonians came to meet Stuf. By their dress they looked like priests and they prostrated themselves in front of Stuf. Stuf seemed embarrassed and asked Uthric to tell them to stand on their feet. Uthric asked them why they had come. He was impressed that they had walked into Dunum when they were likely to suffer a hard death. The men said that they would like to recover the body of their fellow priest who had been killed by the Sais and give him a proper burial. Stuf said that he was not averse to the idea and asked them what they proposed in return. The priests said they were confused and pretended they did not know what Uthric had said. Stuf told them that he was willing to accept payment for the dead priest because as he understood it, the priest had been killed as a blood price for a brother and a cousin of one of his men. Stuf said by his reckoning that the priests still owed his man the wergild for a cousin. The priests conferred together and said that they were willing to offer prayers for the dead man’s soul which they said was worth his weight in silver. Stuf said he disagreed but unless they had any better ideas then he would pick a priest at random and he would suffer the same fate as their friend who they had come to collect. The priests again conferred with each other and said they were willing to donate the gold cross that was their only treasure and was very ancient. Stuf examined the cross and agreed it was just about enough. He allowed the men to retrieve the body of the dead priest and they carefully wrapped it in a white shroud before carrying it off. Stuf asked for an axe and called Idwal to him. He cut the cross in half and gave half of it to Idwal as wergild for Cadog’s cousin. Wulfhere said that he was keen to go and look for his family. Stuf was happy to let the Hrothgarsons leave as they had more than fulfilled their task. He wished them good luck. Uthric said that they would need to take their men back north first. Neither the Artrebates nor Idwal’s Iscans would be safe travelling alone in Saxon lands. Wulfhere calculated that he would not have time to go north and arrange his lands and then go to Anderida to see if he could find his family before they had to travel in Cerdic's army to the Giants Stones to collect the tribute. The journey north was without incident. Idwal chose land near the ruins of Pontes for his men. They had found women on the way up and when Dunstan asked how they had manged to do so Idwal told him that there had been so much death recently that there were too many women compared to men so it had been very easy to get married, particularly men with the gold and silver that they had been given by Stuf. Dunstan appointed Aldfrid, a man who he thought would motivate and organise the farmers, as his steward. Dunstan wanted a stockade built at the south side of the Pontes bridge. He asked the farmers to spend half a day every three days to build the stockade. The farmers were not happy with Dunstan's idea. Dunstan called them together and told them they needed to be mindful of recent history. He reminded them that Aelle had swept through the area only two years ago and destroyed everything in his path both here and in the south. He thought it important for the farmers to build homes and farm the land, they also needed to protect their families from war. The farmers agreed and said that they would do their best. The Hrothgarsons then took thirty men to Wincen Cæster to meet with Cerdic's army. They all travelled to the Giants Stones. They were impressed by the stones. Some said that the stones were built by Giants. Others said that they were giants that had turned into stones. The Dumnonians arrived the next day with twelve cartloads of tribute. The Saxon warriors were jubilant and thought they would be rich. The peace treaty agreed two years of peace between the Dumnonians and the Saxons. Uthric took an opportunity to talk to the Atheling Wlencing about his wife Ealhwyn. Wlencing said that he was presently unaware where his wife was. Uthric thought it was strange but did not question the Atheling. He did ask if Wlencig had seen a slave called Meire with his wife. Wlencing said that he did not usually notice slaves so he could not help Uthric. Uthric did not press the issue as it was clear that Wlencing was not willing to say more. Wulfhere said that they should leave soon and go to Anderida.
  3. The Starting Cast James, a strapping lad hailing from Imber. His father fought on the March of Aurelius Ambrosius. Cedric, from Woodborough, he has always had an interest in all things fae. Esmee, a thick set young woman from Allington, her father had no sons but Esmee has proved as able and stands to inherit when she is knighted, a goal she keenly looks forward to. Luc, a hot tempered young man. His family came over from Acquitaine with Aurelius Ambrosius and was rewarded with the manor at Seend by the new High King. Willem, a proud young man from Grafton, his father was a close compatriot of Earl Roderick until being killed fighting against Saxon raiders. Reynard, a famously honest young man from Ford, he is well schooled in courtly skills. Spring 485 Spring of 485 finds our young squires at Vagon Castle, for their annual fortnight of training with Sir Elad. After a week of training, the squires got their one day off, coinciding with the evening of the local spring fair. Numerous events and competitions were scheduled to take place over the day. James and Cedric both signed up for the evening poetry competition, Cedric also entering the dance competition. Esmee, James and Cedric all signed up for the Dressage competition. First up was Dressage – an integral part of the squires training with horsemanship. Esmee, while very knowledgeable about the event, did not perform well on the day – perhaps because she was doing too much coaching of the other squires during the event. James and Cedric both did well, with James coming out on top and winning the admiration of the many observers (mostly children and the occasional tradesman). That evening, the competition during the poetry event was fierce – it came down to James against a couple of locals in a 2nd round of composition, something the locals referred to as ‘slam’ style. James took out one of the locals before being left speechless by some quick quips, coming up just short in 2nd place. Cedric was in over his head in the dance competition, but at least did not embarrass himself. Later, while out celebrating, the squires were approached by Sir Aaron, a vassal knight of Sir Elad. He explained that a wandering minstrel had been seen approaching his daughter – an occurrence he wished to discourage, but for reasons, could not do so himself. The squires took on the task, finding the minstrel, a slovenly looking fellow named Martyn in the informal tavern that had been set up for the fair. Despite his appearance, Martyn did indeed possess a fine voice so it was seen how he might succeed in charming Sir Aaron's daughter. Esmee took the non-subtle route of grabbing Martyn by the scruff of the neck to explain the situation to him – playing bad sheriff to James’ good sheriff. Martyn, more of a singer than a fighter, was intimidated by the gruff young woman and promised to be gone by morning. The squires were roused from their sleep early the next day by they sound of Sir Elad's voice summoning them to the courtyard. Once there, Cedric, James and Esmee were joined by Luc, a squire freshly arrived at Vagon, who’s family originally hailed from Acquitaine. Sir Elad greeted Luc warmly, as it seemed he knew of the young man's father, a knight of renowned valor. The first hour of training was with the Quintain, a nasty piece of business which more often than not had given the squires many a bruise. This time however, all of the squires save Luc succeeded at hitting the target and avoiding the swing of the lead ball. Luc did not take his failure lightly and exhibited a quick temper grumbling none to quietly about why he should be subjected to training so soon after his arrival. With the quintain done with, the morning was rounded out with a horse race between the squires. The course - through the village to the woods and back. All of the squires road well, save James – who fell twice from his horse, and ended up quite bruised. Cedric ended up winning the final sprint back to Vagon's courtyard by 3 lengths to much congratulations from the other squires, save James. At this point, Sir Elad called the squires over he had a task for them. They were being sent to investigate reports of a man-eating bear near the village of Imber, which was preventing the local peasants from working the fields. James, who hailed from Imber, had not been back to his home since he was 17, and he looked forward to the chance to do so. He offered to lead the squires, and after a leisurely ride there, the group overnighted with the local priest, a grumbly old man named Garr. In the morning, the squires set off in two groups to hunt down the bear. One group led by Willem, with Reynard, Esmee and James immediately started tracking the quarry. The second group consisting of Luc and Cedric raced off in a different direction, confident in having found a set of tracks that matched the bear (oh how I love fumbled rolls). The first group quickly located signs of a large animal in the woods and Esmee's hunting skills led them to a clearing where they found the bear. While Esmee and Willem distracted it by throwing their weapons into the forest (more fumbled rolls), Reynard and James hacked the beast down. Meanwhile, lost in the woods, attacked by wolves, cold and wet, Cedric and Luc were forced to spend a sleepless night before early the next day they stumbled upon what looked like an old shrine some local druids might have erected. Stopping there, they started to loudly blame each other for their predicament. The other squires, after enjoying a feast and the company of a few of the young men and women of the village of Imber the night before, set off to find their lost companions the next monring. Esmee's hunting skills again did not let her down and they finally tracked down their bickering companions and led them safely out of the forest. Reporting back to Vagon castle, the squires related their tales to Sir Elad, much to his amusement. He ordered the squires to make ready to head for Sarum. The squires accompanied Sir Elad to Sarum, to meet Earl Roderick at court. All, save Luc, had been to Sarum before, but never had they been asked to speak to the Earl. The Earl was impressed with how the squires dealt with ‘that Imber situation’ and invited all to a feast that evening. Most of the squires spent the interim day-drinking at ‘the best pub in town!’, which was so busy, that most of their attempts at flirting with the serving wenches failed. It did not stop Cedric, however, from recounting some fanciful tales of his and Luc’s time in the forest to any who would listen. At the feast, the squires were treated to a fine meal (Loach and capons). As they ate, an unexpected guest turned up - Sir Madoc, bastard son of King Uther. He was immediately given a place of honour next to the Earl. Esmee and Willem surreptitiously positioned themselves near the head table during the last course and overheard talk of a new Saxon army landing in the east in the Duchy of Caercolum, and also of Uther’s intention to attack the Saxon King Aelle in the south this summer. Willem, feeling outgoing after enjoying the ale all evening thought about interjecting at that point, but erred on the side of courtesy and kept his mouth shut. Because of the impending battle with the Saxons, Earl Roderick called for all squires deemed ready for knighthood be brought forward. Sir Elad stood and proudly called for Esmee, Willem, Reynard and Cedric, notably leaving out James (who’s horsemanship he deemed needing work) and Luc (who’s persistent French cursing seemed to grate on Sir Elad’s nerves). Amidst much pomp and circumstance, the squires were knighted, swearing homage to Earl Roderick and Fealty to Uther. After the ceremony, the new knights were girded in their gear and expected to ‘leap’ on to their horses. This proved to be more problematic for the day drinkers than Reynard, who had spent the afternoon in quiet spiritual contemplation. The new knights then joined the rest of Earl Roderick’s forces in heading to the muster at Silchester City. The young knights were given new squires, with Luc being appointed to squire for Cedric, and James squiring for Esmee. At Silchester, they joined the army of a thousand knights and several thousand footmen. Reynard circulated amidst the army, taking in the martial power that Uther could command. He also heard rumours swirling amidst the camp that several of King Uther’s vassals had not reported to the muster – most notably Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall. As the army set out, Uther ordered Duke Lucius to return to his duchy of Caercolum to meet the new Saxon threat there. Reynard, after doing a little more digging, heard that the saxons had landed a force of at least a thousand, fresh from the continent led by a warlord named Aethelswith. Despite splitting his forces in this manner, Uther remained resolute in pressing the attack into Sussex to meet King Aelle, and so the army set off and shortly across the border engaged a slightly larger Saxon force in what became known as the battle of Mearcred Creek. The Salisbury knights were dispatched to the left flank – where the weakest troops are usually deployed, under the command of Sir Elad. Battle raged for 5 hours, and resulted in some mixed success. Many Saxons were killed, and despite taking a few wounds, none of the knights were greatly hurt . Sir Reynard seemed to grow melancholic during the course of the battle, despairing over never seeing his family again and quit the field. Sir Esmee grew melancholic right as Uther had the horns sounded to signal the army to fall back, perhaps perceiving herself failing in some way to live up to her knightly honor. The two armies withdrew, seemingly in an inconclusive result, which left a somewhat bitter taste in everyone’s mouth. Of note, Sir Luc seemed to approach his continued squiring with gusto, distinguishing himself with the amount of loot he was able to pillage from the Saxons during the battle.
  4. After being cheered on by the people in the Discord, I finally took the leap and decided to write something about my current game. Without further ado: The Pendragon Chronicle A Chronicle detailing an Attempt to Play the Great Pendragon Campaign. Welcome to my little attempt at the great white whale of Roleplaying Games. I’ve always had a thing for the tales of King Arthur, and this spoke to me in a lot of ways. A few years back, I had the pleasure of playing Merlin on a Danish RPG Convention, where we retold the mythos in our own version and it was a blast, which made me consider how one could tinker with the legends that we all know and love. I recently got enthralled by someone’s review of Pendragon, and I think what really pushed me into doing this, was reading John Wick’s eulogy for Greg. I sat down, and began to read Pendragon which soon made it clear that I at least had to make an attempt to play this sublime game. So, I bought a *lot* of Books, and within days, I had four players lined up to give it a go. I began the game before knowing that 480 was an option, and I’ll probably deviated a *lot* from the established form and story. But, that’s the beauty of the GPC and Arthurian mythos. There is no wrong way of doing it. A few months ago, I picked up Book of the Sire, and began rolling a test character. Then, my players got their shot, and this is what we came up with. (The completed Lineages can be found attached. I've tried to dramatize them as much as possible, but it's not always as rivetting reading as it could be.) Reccared de Toulouse a Squire born to a true and noble Knight of a proud Aquitanian tradition, Sir Perrin de Toulouse, who fought as a mercenary under Aurelius Ambrosius and later with Count Roderick and King Uther. Sir Leander, disgusted with the state of his Aquitanian King, rode with his uncles and brothers to heed Aurelius' call and gained land in Salisbury through his deeds, which included the defeated of two Saxon champions, first at Exeter and later at Maisbeli. At the beginning of the campaign, word of his father's demise at Eburacum has just reached him, making him the character who has known his father for the longest time. Reccared is well-schooled in the blade as well as the Venery of his people, and has inherited the family blade, Aljan, a spatha claimed in combat with the Romans. Graid ap Owain A young Cornishman of Ascalon, son of Sir Owain Y Marchog, who was Gorlois' friend and a Knight famed enough to lead an Eschille, yet ended his otherwise glorious days a few years back, when his horse tripped in a molehill. Truth be told, Graid might be the oldest of his siblings, but he has a plethora of younger brothers and bastard brothers, as his father might have not been the chastest of Knights. (and some claim when he had that accident, it was to escape a furious husband following one indiscreet tryst too many) Graid is a proper Cornishman, raised on the stories and legacy of his people and have an especially a healthy hatred of Irish, but have squired in Salisbury after his father's death, as the only granted part of his estate was near Sarum. His family still aspires to reclaim their ancestral lands, but the new system of feudalism has caused it to shift hands to another family. The Marshal, Sir Elad praises the lad for his Just nature and skills with the spear and lance, it is widely known that his skills in falconry makes him quite the hunter. He is by far one of the most light-footed people in the land (Dex 17). And, like his ancestors, he's a very good rider. (Ironies of Ironies...) Aldwyn ap Morien Descendant of a Cumbrian family with roots in Roestoc, who were first dispossessed by Vortigern, fought diligently with Aurelius to reclaim their lands, and then dispossessed once more when the Great Wyrm ravaged Roestoc. Here, Aldwyn's father, Sir Morien the Piper, died in a glorious last stand in their family manor. But, his sacrifice meant that Aldwyn is alive and has been bethroated at the game's start to the heiress to the Salisburian knight Sir Daffyd of Newton, who used to be Roderick's Butler. He is the only surviving trueborn son of his father's name, but have five strange sisters, two of which are wed. Like his father before him, he is tall as a tree with a Size of 19, but is not all that strong. Aldwyn is also a Pagan, and a gifted player of the bagpipes. He is also a Just man, with far too much Pride for any Christian, but enough for a Pagan. Aurelius Sertorius Aurelius is the youngest male scion of the Sertorius family, a lauded lineage from Dorsette. His great-grandfather was a commander of Mascen Wledig, his grandfather was a fierce defender of Roman values, even after having lost the Empire, who ended his days as due to the politics surrounding the lost sons of King Constantine, shanked in a dark Dorsette street. His father, Gessius, was a loyal follower of Prince Aurelius, and fought alongside the Prince for years, and Gessius even named his son after the man he idolized. Unfortunately, Gessius lived for his true king, and died to Saxon spears at Exeter protecting said King. The children were raised by Gessius' brother-in-law, the Bishop of Salisbury, who was appointed caretaker of the lands that Gessius had been awarded posthumously. That was wordy. I'll be back tomorrow with the stuff from the first session. The Lineage of Sir Graith ap Owain.pdf The Lineage of Sir Reccared de Toulouse.pdf The Lineage of Aurelius Sertorius.pdf The Lineage of Sir Aldwyn ap Morien.pdf
  5. A Parting of Body and Soul and the Search for the Lost. Dunstan did not feel well after the night’s sleep. Hereweard had told him his soul had been stolen but Dunstan said he could not accept this was true. He had interpreted the constant growling noises he was making as anger at all the people who had annoyed his family and the injustices that had been visited upon them. His list of people that he intended to make pay was increasing and now included the Bretwalda Aelle, the Atheling Cissa, Guthmaer Sleddeson and Griswold Frithowulfson, both of whom ran the slave market in Cissa Cæster, the Atheling Wlencing and his wife Ealhwyn Hrofsdotter. When Uthric asked him if Beorthric and Winfrith were on the list Dunstan said that they were already dead and they did not matter. Uthric was puzzled because he knew Beorthric was alive and well and living in Cissa Cæster but he let it pass. He did ask Dunstan why he was so dishevelled and Dunstan told him of the strange dream. Uthric thought it might be best if Dunstan went to talk with Hereweard. He thought that maybe the leæce might be able to help with whatever was wrong. Dunstan reluctantly talked to Hereweard who he found mixing some herbs. Dunstan said that he had never believed the story about losing his soul and thought that it was due to the stress of being in too many Shieldwalls and then the disappointment of losing his wife and children. He thought if he could talk to Hereweard about all his troubles he might feel less concerned within himself. Hereweard said he doubted this would change anything for Dunstan, because it was clear to him that the reason Dunstan did not feel well within himself was because he had no soul. Dunstan said he was tired of hearing about his soul and thought it best if he left or he might fly into another rage and do something he might regret. Dunstan said that he would come back to see Hereweard in another moon to prove to him that the discussion about losing his soul was nonsense. Hereweard said that he thought it likely that by then Dunstan’s body would have consumed itself because he was soulless and even the potions that Hereweard gave him could not protect him from death. Uthric went to see Dunstan when he heard that he had not told the leæce about the dream. Dunstan said that he found it hard to believe that he could have lost his soul but Uthric pointed out he had awoken with a Rune on his forehead and there might be some truth in Hereweard’s words. He prevailed on Dunstan to return to Hereweard and tell him about the dream. Hereweard was not surprised to see Dunstan return. He asked Dunstan if he was having difficulty containing his emotions as that was a clear sign of losing his soul. Dunstan still maintained that his anger was only a reaction to difficult times and he thought it would pass however he consented to tell Hereweard about his dream. Dunstan told him that he dreamt he had been asleep in his booth. People he did not know came in and held him down. They took out sharp knives and began to cut his body into pieces. Each part was put in a different sack and they then left. Dunstan said that although he could see what they were doing with his body it had been like he was watching as if he was an observer. When the people left he went too and followed them to a grove in a dark forest. The grove had an outer circle of nine Ash trees and an inner circle of nine elm trees. In the centre of the grove were three oak trees. The middle oak had been struck by lightning and still smouldered. Dunstan watched the people put his body back together and then they painted a Rune on his forehead. He noticed that a bit of his body escaped from the bag in the shape of a black cat and squeezed into a hole between two rocks at the foot of the lightning struck oak. Hereweard sighed when he heard the dream. He said that he had never been particularly good at interpreting dreams but he thought it might be a sign that Dunstan's body could no longer exist without his soul and the bind to Miðgarðr was becoming weaker. The rune was easy to interpret it meant Travel, Rhythm, Spontaneity or Evolution. It was likely that the rune was connected to Dunstan but how he would need to find out for himself. Hereweard said that he knew where the grove was in Dunstan's dream. He had visited it once with Stithwolf when they were talking to the spirits in the area. It was likely that Dunstan would need to travel to Nastrønd or Hel to get his soul back. Dunstan asked if Hereweard would come with him but Hereweard said that he would not expose himself to the dangers of such a journey. He agreed to help Dunstan and would show him the way to go but he thought he would not have the strength or courage to face Nastrønd. Hereweard said that Dunstan should return in five days and bring people he trusted that would go with him on his journey. Hereweard said he should also bring ten men, digging tools and a goat. Dunstan tried to ask Hereweard what would happen but the leæce told him to go and prepare. Wulfhere was trying to decide how many men he should send to Ealdorman Stuf to join the raid into Dumnonia. He was unsure about the benefits of losing more men but, following a debate with Uthric, agreed that if they did not get enough food for the winter many of the people would die anyway. He agreed that he would lead thirty men and join Stuf as soon as they were ready. His plans were upset when Dunstan came back with the news that he needed to go to Nastrønd to get his soul back. Wulfhere was unsure that they all needed to go. The idea of going to Nastrønd did not fill him with joy. He decided that he would delegate the raid on Dumnonia to his younger brother Halig as he thought he would need to help Dunstan regain his soul. The situation became more complicated when a stranger arrived at Hambladensted. He told Wulfhere he had a message from Beorthric and had been asked to deliver it. The man named himself as Ernbald Ormarson and said he was going to Lundenwic to seek employment with a Þegn. He hoped to make money to buy land for a farm and have lots of children. Beorthric had found out that Wulfhere's wife had been taken to Anderida and there was also hope that Dunstan's wife was also there. Wulfhere quizzed Ernbald about Beorthric but Ernbald said that he could not say much other than he had already said. He did not really know Beorthric and thought he was therefore unlikely to be able to shed any light on Beorthric or his motives. Wulfhere thanked him for his message and spoke privately with his brothers. Dunstan was scathing of Ernbald and Beorthric. He said that it was clear that they could not trust either man and he was sure that this was a trick. Wulfhere said that he did not yet see the purpose of the information and if it was a trick why would Beorthric pay a man to come so far just to give a message. Dunstan said he could not trust Ernbald and felt that he was dubious and the information was to disrupt what they needed to do in the villages. He went through all the ills that people had caused him and his family and was keen to extact revenge. Uthric listened to his younger brother’s list of the people with whom he would like to discuss perceived wrongs with by using his spear and said that he must remember to always stay on the right side of Dunstan. Wulfhere said that he was of a mind to ask Ernbald to stay. He thought that if Dunstan was right about Ernbald' they would keep him close and then could exact revenge if he proved to be false. On the other hand, if he was honest then they had added another experienced warrior to the settlement. Wulfhere said that the priority was to find Dunstan's soul. Dunstan was worried that he might not find his soul or possibly get the wrong one. Wulfhere said that might be an outcome but when he got one back he should really look after it this time. Hereweard came to meet the brothers and advised them that they must fast for three days before the ritual. On the third day they would travel to the forest north of Calleva and go to the sacred grove. Dunstan confirmed he had ten loyal men and had bought a black goat from one the farmers. Hereward told him to make a wooden platform that they could erect when they got there. It had to be big enough for three men to lie on. He asked Dunstan to also make a ladder with nine rungs. Dunstan asked if there was any significance in this and Hereward said they would not have too long to wait to understand it more. On the appointed day Hereweard, the Hrothgarsons and ten trusted men made their way to the Sacred Grove. There was a distinct lack of bird song around the grove and the air was heavy and still. The grove was just as Dunstan had seen it in his dream. The outer circle of trees were nine ashes and the inner nine elms. The three oak trees in the centre of the grove were the only vegetation in the circle and the middle oak tree had been hit by lightning at some point in the past but it still smoked as if it had happened recently. Hereweard asked everyone to erect the platform and the ladder. After they had constructed the platform, Hereweard brought the goat into the grove. He got the men to dig a shallow pit at the bottom of the platform and he rested the ladder in it. The goat began to get nervous but Hereweard soothed it by whispering in its ear. He ordered the men to light a fire and when it was hot enough he bought the goat to the pit and expertly slit its throat. He let the goats blood flow into the pit and Uthric thought he could see shadowy figures lapping the blood up with long tongues. He pointed it out to Wulfhere and Dunstan but neither saw anything. Hereweard cut the legs off the goat and removed the flesh. He gave a thigh bone to each brother and instructed them how to write runes on the bones. It took several attempts from each of the brothers to satisfy Hereweard but finally he was happy. He explained that the brothers need to keep these runebones on them or the they would not be able to return to Miðgarðr. He then took some of the pooled blood in the pit and wrote further runes on their foreheads. Hereweard had told them that he would not be travelling with them but he would come the first part to make sure they got past the Horned Man and started on the road between the worlds. Hereweard explained his spirit animal was the wolf and when in that shape he could not speak with words and they would not understand spirit speech so that he would not be able to give them further instructions. Wulfhere asked how they would know where to go but Hereweard said that they needed to follow the road wherever it took them. Hereweard said that they might meet many people and many obstacles on their journey. They must bargain, use trickery and only resort to fighting if there was no other option. He asked the Hrothgarsons to lie on top of the platform and gave them a bitter potion to drink. He sat calmly on the platform and began to beat a small hide drum and shake a rattle. Hereweard asked them to put a cloak over their bodies and to concentrate. In the next few hours they would feel that they separated from their bodies. He told them when that happened then they must climb down the rungs of the ladder. How many rungs they climbed down would depend on their ability to concentrate. Hereweard spoke to them as they lay under the cloaks and told them to empty their minds of their daily tasks and listen to the drumbeat. He told them he had instructed their men to cover them with earth when Hereweard gave the signal. This was the ritual of Death that would take them to one of the other worlds. Someone then began to chant to the rhythm of the drum but they did not understand the words. Wulfhere was the last to leave his body behind because he had had difficulty emptying his mind of the temporal affairs of organising the settlements, but at last he made his way down the ladder. Wulfhere estimated that he only went down three or four rungs before he hit solid ground and joined his brothers in the darkness. Bits of earth showered them as they stood waiting to see what would happen next. A large wolf sat beside them and they assumed that it must be the fylgja of Hereweard. Wherever they were it was dark and there was no light but they could still see. The darkness had a living quality to it and they felt that as they breathed it in they became more attuned to it. Gradually shapes could be seen and they noticed that a large man was standing in front of them. He had horns like a deer growing from his head or perhaps he was wearing an intricate headdress. The wolf lay down and they thought perhaps they should kneel too. When they had done so the Horned Man said he would like to ask Dunstan some questions in order that they could continue. Dunstan said he would try and answer any questions honestly. He asked Dunstan if he thought family or king were more important. Dunstan said that in his view family were more important and that he owed a lot to his family that were close to him. He said that he always tried to serve his family as well as he could. The Horned Man said that he saw a lot of hate in Dunstan's heart and asked why he hated so much. Dunstan said that he always tried to live honourably but often he came against people who lived by different rules and they had been hurtful to those who could not defend themselves, killing and despoiling innocents. Dunstan said that he had always shown pity and mercy to the deserving. He spoke about rescuing villagers from despoilers and that he was aware he judged people but it was always on their actions. The Horned Man nodded but said he was not sure that Dunstan always lived up to his views on pity and mercy. Dunstan said he tried to observe the general good but the Horned Man laughed and said it might be that hate that had made him stronger. However, he was aware that Dunstan gives pity and mercy to his friends but not to anyone else and often suspects their motives. He thought Dunstan might want to think on that. The Horned Man then pushed the wall and a way opened into a dark land. It seemed nearly featureless apart from a road that stretched into the distance. The wolf joined them outside and pointed the way along the road. The brothers looked at each other and started along the empty road. The Hrothgarsons walked along the road for what seemed like days. The land was flat and empty and there was no sun to shed light or mark the passing of time, but they were able to see despite the darkness. The road ran up to a small hillock out of which the sound of hammers banged as if on a smithy. The door stood open and was lit by the reddish glow of fire. Coloured smoke escaped through the open door that made them cough and the smell was of hot metal and charcoal. The road went into the mound and the Hrothgarsons thought that they should not bypass this situation. They carefully went down the short tunnel that led to the smithy. Three Duergar were working with their hammers, bent around the fire that burnt white hot. Discarded weapons and armour lay around the floor of the workshop. One of the Duergar approached the brothers and introduced himself as Brúni and pointed out his brothers Gustr and Mótsognir. Brúni asked the Hrothgarsons how he could help them and wondered if they had come to buy weapons or armour. Wulfhere, Uthric and Dunstan introduced themselves and Wulfhere said that he would be interested in buying a Byrnie. Brúni said that he would be pleased to sell anything they wished to have, but the bargain would have to be fair. Wulfhere asked what payment would be made as none of their shadow bodies had any valuable metals and he did not know what Brúni might desire. Brúni said that he would be happy to take skills or attributes. For instance, one of the Jötunn traded his height for a magical shield or a Troll had given her Hide ability to buy an axe that would cleave through stone. Brúni said that they would be willing to trade their Rune sticks but Wulfhere did not think that that would be a good idea. Wulfhere tried on a metal Byrnie but found it overly heavy if he needed to march for any length of time. The Duergar thought that if Wulfhere wanted a less heavy option he might like a Byrnie made of Doeskin but forged with the endurance of a troll. Wulfhere thought that the Doeskin tunic might suit him well and offered his ability to dance. The Duergar conferred and agreed that this would be a suitable bargain. Brúni said that Wulfhere would never be able to dance again and if he was content with that then the deal was complete. Mótsognir said that they had been asked to make them a rope and he had just finished making it. Uthric said that he was unsure why he needed a rope and did not know if he could afford the price. Mótsognir said that the price had already been paid and the rope was a gift. He warned them that the rope was made from the hair of drowned maidens and that it was both thin and strong however they would be unable to take it back to Miðgarðr. Mótsognir said he believed it might come in useful in their travels. Dunstan thanked the Duergar and they bid them farewell. Wulfhere was pleased with his Doeskin tunic. It was light and flexible. He tried dancing some steps but tripped over his own feet and fell on the road cutting both knees. He tried dancing again and the same thing happened. He said he thought he still might have had the better of the bargain despite his inability to dance. The Hrothgarsons continued along the stone road and after a number of days saw that they were approaching a forest that stretched as far as they could see in either direction. The trees grew tall but were bent and gnarled. Uthric thought this was an old forest from the beginning of days. Dunstan tried to cut one of the branches but it blunted his seax and did not seem to make any impression on the tree. The path led through the middle of the forest and Uthric said that he did not see any point in putting off the journey. Wulfhere agreed and warned that they should not leave the path. They walked along the path but it was difficult to see under the trees. They could not tell if the darkness stopped them seeing or there was some spell that created a mist. They were aware of the noises, grunts, snuffling and crashes as of large creatures making their way through the undergrowth. Periodically eyes would stare at their foliage reflecting amber, green or vivid blue in some unseen light. The brothers were unnerved by the unseen creatures that watched from the shadows and they moved cautiously forward expecting an attack. Dunstan became very concerned about the creatures and started at any sudden noise. He impetuously ran after a sudden appearance of amber coloured eyes. His brothers tried to stop him but having failed to prevent him they felt they had no option but to follow him. The eyes flickered and disappeared but Dunstan continued to pursue where he thought they had gone. When Wulfhere and Uthric caught up with Dunstan, they were unsure where the path lay. Uthric suggested that they use the Duergar rope to try and methodically find their way back to the path. Wulfhere said he was reluctant to use the rope as he did not think that this was what it was given to them for and cutting it up could diminish its purpose. They made a guess at where the road lay and fortunately reached it after a short time. Wulfhere told Dunstan that he really needed to control his fears but he acknowledged that it might be because Dunstan still lacked a soul. They walked for several more days through the blackened forest and Dunstan resisted the urge to chase unknown beasts through the darkness. After another day, they became aware that something was following them. The pursuit seemed to be more than the infrequent watchers from the forest edges and the footfalls often mirrored their own, starting and stopping when they did. Eventually the pressure of their unseen foe became too much and they turned around to await their pursuer, locking their shields together. After waiting several hundred heartbeats they could see a tall shape that began to look less human as it came closer. Suddenly the creature began to run at them and Wulfhere shouted at his brothers to brace their spears to use the creatures speed against itself. However, the impact never happened. The creature jumped just before it reached them and cleared them, swivelling easily to block the road ahead. All three turned around and had just about set themselves as the creature attacked. Now that it was up close they saw that it was a gigantic wolf. The Wolf reared up on its hind legs and took on a more human posture. It moved swiftly and before any of the three men could advance it attacked Wulfhere who blocked its bite with his shield but almost fell with the force of the impact. Uthric stabbed it in the foreleg with his spear and Dunstan hit its forequarters. Wulfhere recovered from his stumble and hit the creature in the same leg as Uthric. The Wolf again attacked Wulfhere and although he blocked the hit, the force slammed his shield into his chest. The others hit it again and appeared to incapacitate its forearm and caused deep wounds in the chest and hindquarters. The creature attacked Wulfhere again for the third time and injured his abdomen but all three cut it badly with their spears and the creature collapsed. They were all exhausted after the fight and Wulfhere had several cuts from claws and fangs. They looked at the creature, wondering if it was a man in wolf shape or a wolf that could walk like a man. Dunstan noticed that its wounds seemed to be healing on their own and the creature seemed to be stirring. Wulfhere said he thought that if they had to fight this creature again that they might not survive the next encounter as they did not have the same ability to heal their wounds. They agreed the best thing was to try and outrun the wolf. They run as fast as they could but Wulfhere's injuries were hampering him and he tripped and fell. Dunstan and Uthric stopped and helped him to his feet. They could hear the sound of pursuit and ran again. It was possible that the creature was still wounded because they managed to keep well ahead, however they were becoming exhausted. Wulfhere said he was glad now he had not bargained for the Chainmail Byrnie became he could not have kept ahead of the wolf when he was wearing it. They could see the edge of the forest and tried to run faster. The Wolf was close but they kept ahead until they left the forest. The Wolf stopped at the forest edge and the brothers stopped too. Uthric said it was just as well the wolf did not pursue them as he did not think he could have run much further. Dunstan threw a piece of wood at the wolf but did not hit it. Uthric said he did not think the Wolf would be interested in fetching the piece of wood. Dunstan said that while he had not thought of distracting the Wolf like that it might have been a good strategy while they were fighting it. They bound Wulfhere's wounds and all recovered their breath. They could hear the wolf howling and its howls were answered by other howls. Uthric wondered why wolves did not bark but Dunstan said that he had heard wolves both bark and howl. He thought that the difference was like humans speaking and shouting. Wulfhere said that this was all very interesting but they should really get as far away from the forest as possible in case the wolf and his friends decided to come after them. They continued walking for several days until they arrived at a wide, black, turbid river. The river smelt of bitumen and sulphur. Every so often bubbles came to the surface and the foul stench was released. The road ended at an ancient jetty but there was no boat. They tried to see how wide the river was but the darkness and mist defeated their efforts. Wulfhere thought they should shout to attract the attention of a ferryman. They discussed if this might attract something dangerous but decided they needed to take the risk. Wulfhere shouted and they sat down to await whatever would appear. After several hours they saw a large fin approach. Wulfhere thought the fish must be the length of five grown men. The fish surfaced and hailed them. It said that its name was Torhtsige and thought it might be helpful to them if they wanted to cross the river. Dunstan said that he wasn't sure if he could trust such a large fish with sharp teeth. Dunstan wondered if there was alternative such as more conventional transport like a ferry. Torhtsige said that if only they had arrived earlier then there would have been more transport options. Sadly, the ferryman had recently been eaten and therefore those that needed to cross the river would have to rely on Torhtsige. Dunstan asked what had happened to the ferryman. Torhtsige said that he was embarrassed to admit that he had been ravenously hungry and unfortunately had eaten the ferryman and then because he had still been hungry he had eaten the ferry too. Uthric said that this did not forebode well if Torhtsige was to carry them across and get hungry again. Torhtsige said that he could vouch that, for now, he had eaten enough for the next few days and they would be safe, Dunstan said that Torhtsige did not really fill him with optimism. He asked the fish what he would get out of the transaction. Torhtsige said that despite his fearsome appearance, he actually liked helping people and that he would get joy and pleasure from taking them to the other side. Wulfhere thought that maybe the joy and pleasure might not be mutual and shared by all parties in the arrangement. Torhtsige admitted that he had originally been happy to take them over safely, but all the talk about eating things had made him hungry again. However, he could see that they were keen to get to the other side and he wanted to know how they would feel if he only ate one of them as payment for the journey. Dunstan said he did not feel that this was an acceptable bargain and that he could speak for his brothers in saying that, if it was alright with Torhtsige, they would wait to see if there were other methods of transport. Torhtsige said that he could understand their concern and he would leave them to it but would come back tomorrow to see if they had changed their minds. Uthric suggested they walk along the sides of the bank to see if there was another way across. They spent several hours searching to no avail. They returned to the jetty to see if they had missed any way of summoning the ferry. Dunstan thought there might have been something at the end of the pier which had been broken off recently. They tried using their spears to search in the river but it was too deep. As they were standing on the jetty they saw Torhtsige return. The fish was approaching rapidly and it was only too late that they saw it was his intent was to ram the jetty that they were standing on. They held onto the rail and braced themselves for the impact and watched in horror as Torhtsige began eating parts of the jetty. They all managed to get off the jetty without injury or falling into the water. Uthric threw his javelin at Torhtsige and it stuck upright near the fish’s tail. Torhtsige seemed a bit warier of coming closer to the shore after his encounter with Uthric’s javelin and circled out of throwing range. After a while Torhtsige appeared to grow bored or perhaps as Dunstan said that the old jetty did not taste as good as the fish had thought and he went off to get other food that did not use javelins. They waited several hours to make sure the fish had gone. Wulfhere said that he thought that there had been something at the end of the jetty that had fallen into the river and that he might be able to get it. He divested himself of armour and clothes and got into the dark water. It felt like creatures were swirling around him, touching his skin and he shuddered but despite his fear he dived beneath the surface. He followed the broken piles of the jetty down until he reached the bottom. The black water prevented him from seeing anything and also appeared to sap his strength and his ability to think. Wulfhere was beginning to forget why he was even in the water when his hand felt an object that must have been made by people. He grabbed it and kicked hard against the bottom of the river. He was so disorientated by the darkness that he was not sure that he was going the right way to the surface. Dunstan and Uthric were standing on the remains of the jetty anxiously looking at the dark water flow slowly by. Wulfhere's head appeared close to the jetty but before either could react he sank below the surface again. Dunstan reached down and managed to grab his brother and with the help of Uthric lifted him onto the jetty. Wulfhere did not move or say anything and they carried him back to the bank and wrapped him in a cloak. In Wulfhere's hand he held a brass bell but when they tried to get it off him, they could not release his grip. They sat and watched Wulfhere. They could see no injuries on his body and Dunstan concluded it must be the effect of the dark water. Hours passed and Wulfhere gradually recovered his senses. He was still unsure where he was and had some difficulty in accepting Dunstan and Uthric's story. He had no recollection of going into the water. Uthric said if that was the effect of the water then swimming across it was not the best idea anyone could have. As Wulfhere relaxed he was able to release his hold on the brass bell and Dunstan thought that they should ring it. Uthric said in his opinion it was unlikely that they could meet anything worse than they already had so that he might as well try it. Dunstan said he was not sure and thought there might be much worse things in this world and personally he had no desire to meet them. However, they agreed that there were no other options to get across the river. Dunstan rang it twice and they sat down beside Wulfhere to await whatever the bell summoned. Several more hours passed and Wulfhere seemed to be recovering. He still had no memory after their meeting with the Duergar. A voice hailed them from the river and they could dimly make out a man in a small boat three lengths off the jetty. Dunstan said that they were keen to get to the other side of the river, and requested if the man would be kind enough to help. The man said that they were in luck because he had come to ask them if they needed help but there was the small matter of payment. None of the brothers appeared to have any silver or ornaments and Uthric asked what price the man would like to charge. He said that it was usual to be charged a penny for the trip. Uthric said that if the man was willing they could give him items as none of them had silver. Dunstan offered his seax and Wulfhere offered his javelin. The man accepted both as payment. Uthric said that sadly he had lost his javelin only recently but the man said as Wulfhere had already given him a javelin he did not think he needed another one. Uthric said that he had a fine helmet taken as a spoil of war and he would be willing to trade it for passage across the river. The man agreed and said he was pleased with such an unusual helmet but when he tried it on, it was a tight fit. The man arranged the Hrothgarsons in his boat and advised them not to move too much in case they capsized. He began to scull across the river using a single oar at the rear of the craft. Uthric said he was curious about a fish called Torhtsige and asked the man if he knew the creature. The man said that he had run into Torhtsige from time to time and he had usually found him to be an irritating creature who often interfered with the job of running a ferry service. Uthric said that Torhtsige had mentioned that it had eaten the ferryman and the boat and he wondered what the man's opinion of the story was. The ferryman said that indeed Torhtsige's story was correct. He told them that periodically the huge fish would get hungry and eat both him and the boat. He could not say for sure what happened after that, but he always found himself afterwards on this boat by the jetty. When they got to the other side they thanked the old man for helping them. Uthric asked the old man if he often wore helmets because he did not think the helmet suited him. The old man was puzzled by Uthric's remarks and said while he acknowledged the helmet was too small and the nasal guard caught on his nose, it was nothing he could not get a friendly Duergar to fix for him. Uthric polished the blade of his seax and showed the old man his reflection. The old man said that he could see Uthric's point of view and that perhaps he should not wear it. Uthric said that he had no real interest in the discussion but was just trying to be helpful. The old man thought for a moment and said that in that case he would return the helmet to Uthric. He made Uthric try it on and then turn around. The old man said he was satisfied that he had done the right thing as he thought Uthric looked particularly splendid in the helmet. As they walked along the road Uthric asked Dunstan if he would have really got on the back of the fish. Dunstan said he did not think he would have because he could not trust such a large fish that had so many sharp teeth. Wulfhere wondered if things with sharp teeth were to be avoided in these worlds if they were to live a long life. The road continued for several days until they saw they were approaching a vast hall. As they got closer they could see that it perched on the side of a massive cliff. The cliff stretched away on either side of the Hall and they thought they had come to another test in their journey. They climbed the three steps to the platform before the main doors. Standing before the doors was an armoured Duergar. Around the eaves of the Hall were severed heads in various states of decay. Some were freshly severed and some were already skulls. Wulfhere introduced himself to the Duergar who called himself Skønnar. Skønnar welcomed them to Bölþorn's Hall. Uthric asked who Bölþorn might be and was Skønnar aware how they could get to the valley below. Skønnar said nothing but opened the double doors. They walked into the wide hall and saw a Jötunn drinking at the High Table. Bölþorn welcomed them and asked them to join him for a drink. He said he was pleased that they had come as he was becoming rather bored. Wulfhere said that they were keen to get to the valley below and if Bölþorn would show them how to get there, he would be grateful and also happy to help alleviate his boredom for a while. Bölþorn said that they could indeed help to alleviate his boredom by challenging him to a game. He had long ago decided that anyone entering his hall had to engage in a contest of knowledge. If Wulfhere won then he would find out how to reach the valley below. The loser whether it was Bölþorn or Wulfhere would have to submit to having his head chopped off. Bölþorn indicated a chopping block and a heavy bearded axe that was in the corner of the hall. The Hrothgarsons conferred together. Wulfhere was happy to attempt to win the contest but Dunstan said that they were here because he had lost his soul and he felt it was only right that it should be him that lost his head if the Jötunn won. Dunstan asked Bölþorn that if he lost the contest would Bölþorn then tell his brothers the way to the valley. Bölþorn said by rights that he should make each person challenge him for information but he had been in an excellent mood since Angrboða had recently given him good news and he accepted that no matter the outcome he would let the surviving bothers know how to get to the valley. Dunstan said he was satisfied with that and asked Bölþorn what the rules of the contest were. Bölþorn said that it was simple. Each person asked the other a question on any subject and if the other could not answer it then they had lost. The price of failure was to lose your head. Uthric asked Bölþorn if there might not be another forfeit as it all seemed very severe. Bölþorn said that the loser needed to lose their head in order that Bölþorn could gain their knowledge by eating the brain of the beheaded individual. He said he was not known as Etere Sundorcýþþe, the Eater of Knowledge, for no reason. Dunstan said that he had prepared a question for the Jötunn and he was sure that he would not know the answer and his brothers should not worry. The Jötunn sat down and took a long draught of his horn of ale. Dunstan asked Bölþorn if he knew what a clampit was. The Jötunn screwed up his face and thought. Dunstan smiled as he watched Bölþorn torture himself to try and remember what the word meant. Bölþorn finished his ale and called for Skønnar to refill the horn. It took him three horns before he decided that he would give an answer. Dunstan tried not to show impatience as he watched the Jötunn but he hoped this ordeal would be over soon. Bölþorn said eventually that the word was obviously local slang and strictly it therefore should be discounted. Dunstan said that although it was true that the word was slang, if Bölþorn had intended to object to it he should have said so at the beginning and not after hours of ruminating. Bölþorn agreed this was correct and conceded that he had been in error and was now trapped into making a guess. Wulfhere said that in his opinion Bölþorn had more than enough time to decide on an answer and he should hurry up about it. Bölþorn guessed that is meant something do with holding on but Dunstan said that the answer was incorrect. He told Bölþorn that it was an obscure word that he had first heard from an Irish king, called Diarmuid, who had used it to describe King Mark. Bölþorn was confused. He said it would have been impossible for him to know who these people were and the question was unfair. Dunstan said again that he should have objected at the start and now that the Jötunn had got it wrong he should tell them how to get the valley below. Bölþorn said that Skønnar would tell them but Dunstan would now have to visit the forfeit on him by chopping his head off. Dunstan said he was reluctant to do so to his host but Bölþorn said that if he didn't do it then his own head and those of his brothers would forfeit instead. Dunstan could barely lift the great axe that Bölþorn gave him and it took him a while to grow accustomed to the weight while Bölþorn waited patiently kneeling at the block. Dunstan said he was prepared to show the Jötunn mercy but Bölþorn stopped him and said that it was important to keep to the rules of the game. Dunstan struck with force and chopped the Jötunn's head off. Immediately the doors to the hall opened and Skønnar came in. He motioned to the Hrothgarsons and took them through a door hidden in the shadows at the back of the Hall. He opened another door and advised them that the steps leading downwards would take them on their journey. Uthric was last to leave the main Hall and when he looked back, he thought he could see the Jötunn’s body looking for its head which appeared to have rolled into a corner. Uthric drew Skønnar's attention to his master's plight and the Duergar excused himself and went to the aid of Bölþorn. Wulfhere said that they should hurry. He was not at all convinced that they would be so lucky with a return match if they were challenged to another contest. He asked Dunstan what a clampit was and Dunstan told him it was an Irish word for feckless. The steps came out in the valley at the bottom of the cliff. They stood in a dreary country and could hear the sound of waves crashing on a shore which as they walked never seemed far away. They could not see the sea and did not dare leave the road to find out what was at the shore. As they walked along they could see in the distance a massive Hall that was curiously built. As they got closer they could hear screams of people in agony. Wulfhere said they needed to be careful and they approached cautiously. The door was open and the air was acidic and hurt their lungs to breath in. They could see hundreds of people writhing in agony inside. The Hall was bigger than they first thought. The screams died down for a moment and there was an eerie quietness as the occupants stared at the roof. Dunstan tried to see what they were looking at when the inside of the thatched roof began moving. The people inside started moving as large snake like creatures started to drip poison on those below. The screams started again as the poison hit the people on the ground and a fierce fire tore up from the floor to engulf everyone. Dunstan was forced back from the door by the heat. It is not a good idea to enter the building said a voice. All three Hrothgarsons looked to see who had spoken and a man stepped from the shadows. Uthric asked what kind of place this was, who owned the Hall and who the people were who were inside. The man said they were leæce- killers, murderers and oath-breakers, rapists and those that had committed adultery. The Hall was called Nastrønd's Hall and the people would be tortured forever became of their crimes. Wulfhere asked if the man knew if they had to go into the Hall to continue on their way but the man said that no-one voluntarily went into that Hall. If they wished to continue along the road he suggested that they might want to go around the back of the building and pick up the road at that point. The man asked why living men had come to Nastrønd. Dunstan explained that a leæce called Hereweard had sent them here to get his soul back after he had had it stolen. The man nodded and said that he thought that was unfortunate. Wulfhere was interested if the man could give any advice to which the man replied he would only be too pleased to help but that they might not like his answer. Dunstan said that he thought at this stage there were no answers that were pleasant. The man said this was probably true and in that case they needed to continue and must complete their journey to regain Dunstan’s soul. He told them to travel for ten days until they came to Yggdrasil, the One Tree. At the roots of Yggdrasil lives the dragon, Níðhǫgg, who they must battle for Dunstan's soul. They should be careful of Níðhǫgg as he is very devious and likes nothing better than to trick people into making wrong choices. Níðhǫgg spends his time sucking the blood from the living dead and gnawing the roots of Yggdrasil. Wulfhere agreed with the man and said he had been correct, it had not been pleasant to hear his words. Wulfhere thanked him for his advice and they set off. Inside the Hall it was again quiet and they were thankful because the screams were unnerving. As they drew level with the door a man from inside hailed them and asked them to save him. Dunstan stared in horror when he recognised Garm the former Þegn of Cælctun. The man from the shadows warned them that they should not interfere with those who suffer in the Nastrønd. Uthric took Dunstan by the arm and they continued around the side of the Hall. They seemed to walk for days before they reached the back of the Hall and found the road coming out of another door. Wulfhere wondered if they had got lost and were at the same point they had been days ago, but Dunstan thought the landscape looked different and so they continued along the road. After five days walking they could see a massive tree in the distance that rose to such a height that its crown was lost in the clouds. As they got closer the size of the One Tree became apparent. They could also smell death and it became so strong that it felt that the air also tasted of death. At the base of the tree was an enormous dragon coiled several times around the roots. The rest of the body of the dragon stretched away into the mist. Níðhǫgg was sucking blood noisily from a pile of bodies and afterwards he had finished with the body he tossed it aside to two waiting wolves who then ripped the bodies apart before eating them. The Hrothgarsons were not sure what to do or how to approach the Dragon. Wulfhere said that it might be good to start with introductions and then ask Níðhǫgg about Dunstan's soul. Dunstan waited until the dragon had finished eating and introduced himself. Níðhǫgg watched him closely as he spoke and Dunstan had to look away as he found his thoughts had become confused. Níðhǫgg said he had many souls in his keeping but he was sure that after they each had fought a contest of willpower with him he could sort out which soul was the right one. Dunstan said that it did not sound like an equal contest. Níðhǫgg said that Dunstan was correct in his thinking and if he did not want to accept the contest he was free to leave. Dunstan talked it over with his brothers. Wulfhere said that this is what they had come to do and they should not back down now. Uthric agreed and said he would happily face the dragon if Dunstan was afraid. Dunstan said that he would go first as it was his fault they were about to have a contest with Níðhǫgg. He looked into Níðhǫgg’s eyes and felt himself being dragged into blackness. He looked away and felt his sight clear again. Níðhǫgg laughed and told Dunstan that he would suffer serious consequences if he ever took a prisoner. Dunstan asked what sort of consequences he would be likely to suffer. Níðhǫgg reminded him of Nastrønd’s Hall and said that those that broke a geas would be brought alive to Nastrønd for judgement. He told Dunstan that he would have to try better or suffer further consequences. Dunstan steeled himself and looked again into Níðhǫgg's eyes. This time Dunstan managed to keep his mind focused against the Dragon. Eventually Dunston broke eye contact and staggered backwards. Níðhǫgg said to Dunstan that he was impressed that he was able to hold out so long, and rewarded him with knowledge of how to fight with a spear. Uthric said that he had best go next. He stood in front of the Níðhǫgg and forced himself to look into the dragon's eyes. He immediately lost all sense of himself and had to look away. The dragon laughed again and told him that he would never again be able to refuse anyone who asks something of him directly. The dragon waited while Uthric prepared himself for another attempt by casually gnawing on one of the writhing bodies at the foot of Yggdrasil. When Uthric had composed himself, he signalled to Níðhǫgg that he was ready. He looked again into the dragon’s eyes but this time he focused on Meire and that helped him to survive the pull of the darkness. The Dragon released Uthric and said that he thought that Uthric had been clever to keep a focus on his wife. Níðhǫgg rewarded him with knowledge of how to lead men in battle. Wulfhere was reluctant and said that he would prefer not to face the dragon. Uthric told him to concentrate on something important to him like Bronwyn. He stood in front of the Dragon and signalled he was ready. Wulfhere felt that he was getting sucked into darkness. He tried to focus on anything but his mind was blank and he had to break contact. Níðhǫgg laughed and told him to try again. Wulfhere again felt himself getting lost in darkness so he broke contact. Níðhǫgg said that Wulfhere would now have two taboos. If he wanted to gain something Níðhǫgg offered Wulfhere a chance for another attempt to keep control of himself but Wulfhere thought that it was unlikely he would succeed. Wulfhere asked Níðhǫgg what the consequences of his failures were and the dragon told him that he would always have to obey Leæces and never use a javelin against a woman. Níðhǫgg warned the Hrothgarsons that if they broke their taboos he would come looking for them and they would offer the same fate as the bodies he sucked dry. Dunstan said they had challenged the dragon and that if Níðhǫgg didn't mind he would like to be reunited with his soul as he had suffered from its loss. Níðhǫgg pointed to two black cats and said that reuniting with his soul might be another challenge. He said Dunstan would have to make a choice of either black cat or he could ask the wolves for help if he preferred. The dragon told him that one wolf would always lie and the other would always tell the truth. Moreover, if Dunstan chose to ask the wolves he could only could ask one wolf a single question. Dunstan said that he would like to confer with his brothers if Níðhǫgg did not mind. Uthric said that the answer was simple and he had heard a similar riddle at last year’s Yule festival. Dunstan just had to ask one wolf which soul the other wolf would choose in order for Dunstan to get the right soul back. Uthric said no matter which soul they pointed to, all Dunstan had to do was choose the other one. Neither Dunstan nor Wulfhere could follow the logic but Uthric said that he was certain he was right. Dunstan said he trusted his brother and did as Uthric told him, choosing the soul that was not indicated by the wolf. Níðhǫgg asked Dunstan if he was sure he wanted that soul and since he was in a kind mood he would allow him to change his mind. Dunstan said that he had made his choice and the black cat jumped into his stomach. While Dunstan made his choice and was re-united with his soul, Uthric watched a large red squirrel that was perched on a branch of Yggdrasil and seemed interested in the proceedings. Uthric went over to the squirrel and introduced himself and asked if perhaps he might ask it some questions. The squirrel seemed pleased to be noticed and said he would be happy to help after he had delivered a message to Níðhǫgg. As soon as Dunstan had decided what soul he wanted the squirrel hopped down from the branch that he was perched on and whispered in Níðhǫgg’s ear. The dragon responded by biting chunks out of the roots of Yggdrasil and lashed his tail which caused mild tremors in the ground. The wolves gave up eating one of the still writhing corpses discarded by Níðhǫgg and moved further away for safety. The large squirrel hopped over to the Hrothgarsons. It introduced itself as Ratatoskr. Ratatoskr said that his job was to convey messages between the eagle and stag and Níðhǫgg but he was very interested why living humans were in Nastrønd. Uthric said that his brother, Dunstan, had come to get his soul and now that they had found it they needed to get home. Ratatoskr was interested in that story but wondered if he might be of any help to get them home. He said that Níðhǫgg seemed to be preoccupied in gnawing roots and was unlikely to help and no-one in their right mind would ever trust the wolves became they were impossible to tell apart and one always lied and one always told the truth. Uthric said that he would be grateful if Ratatoskr could help tell the brothers how to get back to Hambladensted. Ratatoskr said that he didn't think Hambladensted was one of the nine worlds and that it might be better to be a little less specific about where they wanted to go. For instance, he suggested they might want to say to Aelfheim or Niflheim or perhaps Muspelheim. Wulfhere said that although all these places might be interesting in their own right they would prefer to return to Miðgarðr. Ratatoskr thought in that case they might have two options. One would be to follow the road back the way they had come and overcome each challenge again. The drawback with this option was that the way had been opened by someone and there was a possibility it might have since closed. Dunstan said that he wasn't sure that it would turn out well if they went back the same way. He thought that if there was another option it might be one that he and his brothers might want to take. Ratatoskr said the other option was that they might want to get to Miðgarðr by climbing Yggdrasil. The Hrothgarsons looked at each other and agreed that although climbing such a height could be dangerous it was likely to be the only option. Ratatoskr nodded and said that the climb was long and arduous but he found it relatively easy because he had four feet all of which could cling to branches whereas he recognised that they only had two and that was likely to make things more difficult. Ratatoskr said of course that he would need payment to help as nothing should ever be for free and he was providing a service. Wulfhere said that they really didn’t have much they could give the squirrel. Ratatoskr smiled and said that what he had in mind they seemed to have plenty of. He said that he dealt in information and would be pleased if they could tell him stories of things that they had encountered on their travels. Dunstan said he was happy with such a bargain. Wulfhere said that they could increase their chance of success by using the rope that the Duergar had made for them. With that it was agreed and they set off climbing with Ratatoskr as a guide. It took them ten days of climbing with many slips and falls but fortunately no lasting injuries as the rope stopped them from falling far. On the way, the brothers took it in turns to tell Ratatoskr tales of their lives that he thought he might be interested in. Ratatoskr was most interested in Offa’s ale and was keen that should they ever return that he would like it very much if they could bring a skin. Uthric promised he would. Eventually they reached a branch that Ratatoskr said would lead to Miðgarðr. They crawled along the branches until they were able to see clouds. Ratatoskr told them to jump and they would end up in their physical bodies. They woke on top of a wooden platform, sore and wet from a recent shower of rain. There was no-one to greet them or give them food. Wulfhere said that from now on Dunstan needed to be careful with his soul. He was not sure he could survive another episode like that.
  6. (Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has). (Another note: we didn’t have another session this last weekend because I was sick and Androgenus’s player’s partner had a death in the family, so I’m posting the rest of our last session now--sorry for the delay!) DRAMATIS PERSONAE Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to Takakia, the Goddess of Moss. She holds the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris is the supposed leader of the party, but finds that bossing around a bloodthirsty Duck, an erratically insane Trickster, and a somewhat gormless volcano priest to be a tad more difficult than nailing Jell-O to the wall with an office stapler. Right now, she’s also finding that staying conscious is just as hard, but more on that later. Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. Creator of Waddlestomp’s Big Ol’ List Of Humans That Need Killin’™, and now seriously considering adding his fellow adventurers to the list after being captured by mythic Sun Empire soldiers. In fact, the party got their butts handed to them so badly by the onrushing troopers that he did the previously unthinkable and surrendered! Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They’ve found themselves trapped in Myth with the rest of their companions, and capture by Sun Empire soldiers who sense a strange, unknown (to them) power in the weird little Trickster. They’re utterly convinced that their “best friend Waddlestomp” (their own words) will come save them--despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary. And, of course: K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude). A warrior priest of Vestkarthan and the Lowfires, K'dud holds the Fire, Truth, and Mastery runes. Though and through them has mastered the Bronze Arms and Sharp Soul styles of unarmed combat. His player, after two weeks struggling to define a personality trait for K’dud beyond “Vaguely helpful and a bit dumb,” has decided to embrace it, renaming his core trait Volcano Himbo. And he’s going to make good use of that trait in the second part of this session… ...because we came back to the action (after the first half of the session’s argument over whether or not a Hueymakti warrior would ever surrender) with Iris drowning in a sacred pool beneath an enslaved river-dragon, and K’dud (barely) fighting off fish spirits under the command of, to his astonishment, the same Merfolk hero that the PCs had thought they’d slain in the last session! Stunned by this revelation, K’dud failed in a contest against the hero (using his Fire rune versus the hero’s Water rune) and was trapped in a bubble of crushing, ice-cold water. The Merfolk introduced himself...and I realized with horror that I forgot to name a critical NPC. Immediately, Androgenus’s player suggested “Fssh,” after a fish-man barbarian hero from a Dungeon World livestream performed by the Canadian comedy group LoadingReadyRun. Everyone groaned. They then suggested “Bruce,” after the shark from Finding Nemo, and decided to try a supposedly Australian accent that sounded more vaguely South African than anything else. Everyone groaned louder. Then Iris’s player suggested “Sashimi,” and weirdly enough, everyone agreed. Thus, the Merfolk hero was named S’shiim, holder of the Water, Storm, Death, and Mastery runes, hero of the vile, slimy, fangly-jawed Ysabbau, Breaker of Ships, Drowner of Cities, and current questor for Magasta. Well, to put more of a fine point on it, questor for Brastalos, Goddess of Waterspouts and spouse of Magasta. I gave Iris a Hero Point for coming up with the name, which she promptly used to barely regain consciousness and struggle to shore while S’shiim was distracted with the fire priest. “What do you want from us?! Why harry us like this, fishman?!” exclaimed K’dud. “Me?!” burbled S’shiim, “You worthless dirt-crawlers are hunting me through my people’s most sacred story! Your interference will ruin everything!” “Huh?” asked K’dud, rolling (and getting a decent success with) his Volcano Himbo Trait to convince S’shiim to monologue about what’s going on and give the heroes an exposition dump. Meanwhile, (as I cut back to Androgenus and Waddlestomp and made the other two players groan with anticipation), Waddlestomp and Androgenus were being brought to the island’s governor, Iramat. Androgenus was in fiery chains, Waddlestomp was being warily surrounded by soldiers, but otherwise unmolested. The bickering twosome were dragged before Iramat’s marble throne in the center of a garishly-painted, palatial villa overlooking the waterfall (which, close up, could be seen to be a captured Water Dragon!). I described the throne “room” as an opulent, gold-and-jewel-set pavilion of sorts, with two sides open to the courtyard, one to the cliffside, and one leading deeper into the palace. It was the governor’s meditation garden as well as seat of governance, with a rock garden, reflecting pool (in fact a spring, with a small stream flowing out from it that left the throne room and rushed forth to join the raging cataract beyond), and elegant mural depicting Yelm’s Celestial Court and the birth of a solar deity. “Barbarian filth,” drawled the governor, barely able to look up from the sand painting he was working on, “You stand accused of violating the sanctity of Secret Cradle Island. Before executing you, have you anything to say?” “Secret what nrrfghg--” began Androgenus, before being gagged by the nearest guard. They glared at the guard, struggling against the chains. “We apologize, O mighty lord,” quacked Waddlestomp, to Iramat’s evident amusement, “But we had no idea where we were. Our ship was run aground of the reef during a storm, and we came ashore to gather supplies and repair our vessel before continuing on. We meant no trespass.” I had Waddlestomp roll his Truth rune’s breakout ability Zone of Truth versus Iramat’s Arrogant Sun Empire Bureaucrat ability, and Waddlestomp scored a respectable success. Showing his Truth rune shining forth, Iramat scratched at his beard and considered this. “You speak truly….obviously, but still, I know not why a….mutated Keet? Whatever you are, you and your….” Iramat stared quizically at Androgenus. “Pleasure slave?” Waddlestomp managed to choke back a violent response (with a bare success against his Humakti Geas: Suffer No Insult Without Violence Flaw, as Waddlestomp would see any intimation that he would be intimate with any human, much less this human, as a deadly insult) and Androgenus went from grumbling to laughing uproariously behind their gag. “...or whatever they are, you have no right to come here. By decree from the Sun Himself, any but those without his personal authorization on this island must die. It has ever been thus since the creation of this island. I see no harm in telling you, for you will die anyway, I suppose: in ancient days, Yelm once favored a concubine called Tihs, a minor goddess no people pray to in these times. Yelm’s affection sparked vicious jealousy among his Court, who sought to hurt the object of his affection since they could not hurt Him. When Tihs was with child, she was hidden away—here—and though she died bringing the Forgotten Sun into the world, neither she nor the holy child were ever found by their enemies. To this day, the most important treasures of the Golden Empire have been hidden here. Any outsiders must be slain, by order of the Sun Himself.” Waddlestomp considered this. It certainly explained all the finery around the place, and the heavy guard. ...meanwhile, at the bottom of the cliff… Exasperated (and somewhat entranced by) K’dud’s handsome cluelessness, S’shiim launched into the story of How Magasta Won the Hand of Brastalos. Before the Sea claimed the world, Magasta was alone, and sought companionship. No lord or lady of His domain would join with him as his spouse, or even his mate. Magasta loved many, but few loved him in return. Then he met Brastalos. (“Who?” “Shut up and the merperson will tell us, K’dud.” “Oh.”) Lady of the No-Wind, Queen of the Cyclone, Daughter of the First Storm, Spray-Twinkling, Still-And-Moving, Umath’s paradox daughter. Magasta saw her frolicking in the clouds above his domain and knew he had to have her. Singing a song of roaring beauty that reminded her of her own lusty brothers’ cries, Brastalos came to the edge of Magasta’s waters and sang back. The two loved one another from their first glance. Magasta desired her for his spouse, not merely a mate of convenience. Brastalos desired this, too, but knew that proud Umath would not consent to give his daughter to an upstart Water Lord. “But there is another way,” said fair Brastalos. (“Wait, I thought ‘there is always another way’ is an Earth Goddess thing?” “That’s a lot of gods’ thing, K’dud. Shut up.”) Magasta whistled in confusion. “The Bad Emperor seeks stillness in all things, and punishes my father by stripping his greatest treasures from him. He refuses to allow the Air People to have a place in the way of things. To cow my father and my brothers, he took our peoples’ regalia to a secret place. Find the treasure stolen by the Sky People. With it, my bride price will be paid, and my father shall have no choice but to let us claim one another. Brastalos accepted this, and with a kiss soft as a breeze set off to reclaim his love’s treasure from the Sky People. Foolishly, they set their dirt-loving hovels at the edge of His domain to taunt him. With crashing waves and rushing torrent, he drowned them, swept their huts into the sea, and picked through the remains. He found a few baubles, but not a treasure worthy of the Storm. Magasta went to the Gull People and demanded they repay the favor he had done by saving them from famine. Eagerly, they told of the Sky People sending boats of all things-- (“Wait, I thought Merfolk’d like boats, ‘cause, well, they’re water things, right? Both of them are water things?” “...Neither of us have time to explain how wrong that is right now. Shut up..” “But--” “Shut Up!” “Thank you, S’shiim.” “Don’t mention it. Now where was I? Ah, yes…”) Magasta went to the Gull People and demanded they repay the favor he had done by saving them from famine. Eagerly, they told of the Sky People sending boats of all things across Magasta’s realm, furtively sneaking treasure stolen from other peoples they had oppressed for too long. Magasta went in search of the boats, led by the young scouts of the Gull People. He called Six-Mouthed-Deep to devour the boats of Admiral Savatilan and spit the treasure out into Magasta’s grotto, but no Air treasures were to be found. He chased the flagship helmed by Captain Never-Runs-From-Battle into the Dragon Eye Atoll and sucked it down to the seabed, but although the cargo was rich with strange spices and pelts, it had no Air treasures. Finally, Keehar, youngest scout of the Gull People, found a ship hidden by powerful magic. It was found by looking at where a ship should have been, but wasn’t. Magasta called his kinsman Charax, he of the many rows of teeth, and bade him chase the ship to its destination. Charax did so, but the captain was too wily, and sailed in a wide circle around the port they sought until Charax got tired and swam away to seek prey. Magasta howled in frustration--if the Gull People could only barely find the ship, if his fearsome cousin couldn’t track it, and if they wouldn’t stay still to meet him in battle, then how could he find the bride price? He wept, and hearing his sobs, Brastalos stood at the edge of his realm and sang. She sang of lost hope, of a happy life with Magasta that may not be, of her rage at how she was kept from having a place in the cosmos--not only by Yelm the Bad Emperor, but by her father, Umath. The rage in her song became a storm, and the storm trapped the treasure ship on a reef just before it reached its destination. Magasta and his warriors stormed the ship and found one of the treasures, Umath’s favorite arm-ring. The others had already been hidden away, but Magasta learned from the captain where they had gone: Secret Cradle Island, where a forgotten solar god was hidden as he was born. No island was hidden from Magasta. He went to Secret Cradle Island, and befriended the dragon-- (“Wait, this dragon?” “Yes, that dragon, now shut the hell up!”) He went to Secret Cradle Island, and befriended the dragon that was enslaved to guard the place-- (“I’m sorry, but how in Magasta’s holy name can you stand travelling with this man?” “He’s handsome, and he punched a hole all the way through your chest like it was nothing.” “....Fair point. Where was I?” “The dragon?” “What dragon? Oh, that dragon. The dragon. Yes. A-hem:”) He befriended the dragon that was enslaved to guard the place. Its name was Oraka, and it was the dragon of a secret spring deep under the Earth. A creature of great Darkness and Water, the island’s governor cruelly forced it out into the light to serve as would a hermit crab use an anemone growing on its shell. Magasta took pity on the great beast, and with a mighty pull snapped the chains binding to dragon to the cliff side. In gratitude, Oraka swore a life debt to the lord of the deeps. He let Magasta swim up him to his source, where the governor had reshaped a holy spring to a reflecting pool for his own vanity. The greedy governor, puffed up with his own self-importance, was set to guard Yelm’s most coveted treasures, here on an island that nobody knew of. He saw himself as Yelm’s most trusted servant, and his arrogance knew no bounds. But yet, he was bored. Guarding a treasure hoard that was not sought after led to no challenges save wringing recognition from a distant Emperor, and he always craved distraction. Wily Magasta, hidden in the spring, took on the form of a beautiful water nymph. He sung a song that inflamed the governor’s lust, and, beguilingly, called the governor to tryst with him in the spring. The jaded man leapt into the water, where Magasta drowned him and stepped out from the spring, wearing his shape. Magasta then had the governor’s guards lead him to the vault. There, he found astounding wealth! Treasures robbed or extorted as tribute from all manner of the world’s peoples and gods. There was Lodril’s first Spear, still smoldering with heat. There was the Crown of Mastery, surging with such power that even Emperor Yelm could not wear it without risk. There were Rastalos’s Rings, used by the primeval trickster to amuse the Celestial Court. And, of course, in pride of place, was Umath’s tribal regalia, as cold as the wind, as bright as lightning. Magasta took the treasures he sought and fled the palace, leaping atop Oraka as the palace guards found the drowned corpse of their lord. Magasta’s laughter and Oraka’s roars of rage sunk the island beneath the sea, drowning the Sky People and their stolen treasures forevermore. Magasta rode Oraka across the sky to Umath’s grotto, where he was greeted coldly by his son Storm-Thane and belligerently by his other son Hurt-Everything. “I have come for the hand of Brastalos!” He called, and when the Air gods laughed, he threw Umath’s stolen treasures at their feet. “I offer a bride price: your honor, so long ago taken from you by the Bad Emperor.” Umath scowled, for he was loathe to let his daughter marry such a lowly Water lord, for such was Magasta at this time. “Trinkets cannot buy the heart of my daughter,” he growled, and made to turn his back. Storm-Thane saw his sister’s dismay, and said, “I guess we won’t be getting the Bag of Winds back, father. Oh, or the Widebrew Cauldron, too, we’ll miss that at feasts. And oh, look! You’re rather generously allowing Magasta to keep your favorite arm-ring, the one that duplicates itself every season?” Umath made a strangled noise in the back of his throat and looked at Brastalos, who was beaming at Magasta with loving pride. “They are beneath you,” he rumbled, like a thunderclap. “And they always will be,” whispered Brastalos, taking Magasta’s hand, “But they will ever be my equal. The fates of Sea and Storm will forevermore be joined, for good or ill.” Umath saw that he could not disobey his daughter’s heart-wish, and allowed the match. Magasta took Brastalos to their grotto. Although she could not stand to live beneath the Water, she ever stayed near her spouse, circling around him as currents encircle the whirlpool. And there she remains to this day. “That was...beautiful…” breathed K’dud, after a while. Then he looked confused. “But what does it have to do with—“ Iris groaned and slapped her forehead. “The myth, you, you—rragrh! We’re stuck in the myth! S’Shiim was—is—heroquesting to re-enact the myth, this myth, the story of Brastalos’s Bride Price, yes?” “Yes,” Burbled S’shiim, still staring at K’dud incredulously. “The attack on your ship was when my lord Magasta attacked the hidden ship in a storm, and found the location of Secret Cradle Island. Though you fended us off and wounded me terribly, I still learned of the island. And now, I must navigate the rest of this sacred story with you dirtcrawlers in the flotsam, messing everything up.” “Oh. Oh,” said K’dud, realization dawning. “Oh, my. I’m so sorry! How can we help?” S’shiim and Iris looked at him, dumbfounded. I had K’dud roll for his Volcano Himbo Trait again, opposed by S’shiim’s Haughty Merfolk Hero Trait, and he got a critical success against a critical failure! Despite himself, S’shiim began laughing. He couldn’t help but like the empty-headed firehunk, and said, “I...I don’t know. But any assistance you can grant in freeing the dragon so I may resume the story would be gratefully accepted. I admit, the wounds you dealt me almost threw me from the storypath. And now—“ All of a sudden, there was an almighty roar, and the water dragon thrashed above— —as the governor of the island called Oraka to heel. I moved the action back a few minutes, and gave the PCs a chance to explain themselves. Waddlestomp had decided that blunt honesty was the best way of things. “We were traveling by ship to a distant land,” he said, “And were attacked by merfolk. Water people,” he continued, looking at the governor’s incredulous expression. “They stranded us on the reef out there—“ he pointed a wing to the She’s One Of Ours, Sir!, now surrounded by Golden Empire longboats bearing warriors, “—And we came ashore only to gather supplies before heading on.” “Ah, the cargo ship,” said Iramat, the myth easily slotting the She’s One Of Ours, Sir into the role of the treasure ship. “Bearing the latest addition to the vault. Why didn’t you say?” “Cargo...ship?” Asked Waddlestomp, looking at Androgenus, who wordlessly gestured for the Duck to play along. “Right. Yes. Cargo ship. The ship indeed carries cargo, and we are here,” finished Waddlestomp, lamely. “Yes. If you had but sent word, you would have received aid, not spears. Now...water people, you say? They attacked you?” Waddlestomp nodded. “Ah. In that case, there is a risk, however slight, that they have tracked you here. No matter, however. Let me call the guard—“ and with a wave of his hand, the waterfall started falling upwards, spraying ice-cold water over the palace. Oraka’s chains tightened, the dragon RRROOOOAAARRED, and reared above the palace, circling it in midair, sniffing and snuffling for signs of intruders. “Oraka, the dragon of this place. He serves Yelm now, as do we all. He shall find these water people, and devour them! Have no fear, little Keet. Your diligence does you credit.” Below, S’shiim started screaming in anguish. We ended the session there, on a cliffhanger, and me desperately trying to figure out where to take the game from here.
  7. (Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has). DRAMATIS PERSONAE Androgenus, a genderfluid Esrolian Eurmali trickster with the Illuminated Illusion, Earth, and Luck runes. They are attempting to explore the mysteries of Illumination without a teacher—without any type of teacher—and are beginning to wonder whether or not existence is worth all the trouble. They’re also being watched very closely by... Waddlestomp the Bloodybeaked, a Hueymakti Duck thane with the Water, Death, and Truth runes. His quest to avenge his people has hit a small speed bump while he’s been pressganged into helping Iris conquer the Three Step Isles (see below). In the meantime, his patented Waddlestomp’s Big Ol’ List Of Humans That Need Killin’™ has just gained a new member: Androgenus, after the cowardly Trickster abandoned him in the middle of a merfolk fight last session. Currently mourning the loss of his enchanted shield in that same fight, and nursing some serious wounds. K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude, named 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 his sons Gustbran and Kalvan. He holds the Fire, Truth, and Mastery runes, and through them has mastered the Bronze Arms and Sharp Soul styles of unarmed combat. His player, after two weeks struggling to define a personality trait for K’dud beyond “Vaguely helpful and a bit dumb,” has decided to embrace it—and renamed his core Trait in the process. More on that later. And last but certainly not least: Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to Takakia, the Goddess of Moss, who holds the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris is the supposed leader of the party, but finds that bossing around a bloodthirsty Duck, an erratically insane Trickster, and a somewhat gormless volcano priest to be a tad more difficult than nailing Jell-O to the wall with an office stapler. Plus, she’s also having to deal with a smuggler captain who blames her and her alone for getting their ship stranded in the middle of someone else’s mythos... That’s right, this session opened in the God Time. I revealed that right at the start by calling for everyone to roll against their strongest Runes, with the possible consequences for failure being that they’d be even more confused by what was about to happen than normal. Everyone passed—except K’dud, which became a running theme. Therefore, everyone except K’dud twigged onto what was going on and where they were immediately. As the red sun dawned over multicolored, shimmering waves, wind spirits and fish spirits visibly dancing about them, everyone (including most of the NPCs present on their ship, the She’s One Of Ours, Sir), except K’dud, realized they were not in the material world, but in the Godplane! Iris got it first: they were probably sucked into the God Time during the storm, which did seem even more violent and magical than usual. Her Spirit Rune glowed brightly, showing that they were closer to the spirits, clueing her into the magic all around her. Then Androgenus understood another nugget of what was going on with his Beggar background Trait, he recognized snippets of a story he’d heard from Triolini dock workers in his youth. He recalled the tale of Magasta, God of the Seas, fighting the Fire Tribe, plundering treasure ships and coastal settlements for the bride-price of Brastalos, Goddess of Waterspouts and Sea Storms. The last session’s fight against the merfolk during the storm, and the island they were marooned in front of, both seemed familiar to them somehow, but they couldn’t recall any more details other than that they were definitely trapped somewhere in a merfolk myth. Then Waddlestomp, with his Death Rune affinity, sensed the presence of another great dealer of Death—the Merfolk Hero from the battle, still somehow alive, despite the grievous wounds that K’dud had inflicted on him! He advised the rest of the party to be wary-that kind of Hero seldom leaves a task unfinished, particularly if they got swept up into a Heroquest. Meanwhile, K’dud stared overboard and gawked at the brilliantly-colored fish flitting around the oyster-covered reef below. He was interrupted by the ship’s captain. The damage to the She’s One Of Ours, Sir had been repaired in such a way that the boat was literally pinned in place by a chunk of oystery coral; more extensive repairs were required to actually move the ship, which would take materials that just weren’t on hand. The mythical tropical island laid out before them, however, looked like it had plenty of wood, fresh water, and perhaps food. Everyone knew the risks inherent in foraging—for supplies in the God World—travel is dangerous even if you knew the story you are traveling through. Going blind through another culture’s myths? That was tantamount to very incompetent suicide. But they needed to do it. The adventurers set out in a longboat for shore with a work party of sailors; they were looking for fresh water, some food, and enough timber to repair the ship. Waddlestomp made sure that he was sitting riiiiiight next to Androgenus, so the Trickster didn’t start any funny business. “I don’t know what’s on that island, but I swear by Hueymakt’s cloaca that when shit goes down, if you so much as twitch wrong, Androgenus,” muttered Waddlestomp out of the corner of his beak, “You die first. Get me?” Androgenus nodded and smiled, apparently happy to hear it. “Glad to know you’re back to normal. How’s the arm?” They responded. Waddlestomp’s arm had been impaled by the merfolk Hero the previous session. “All the better for you to mind your own business, mammal,” grunted the thane, giving Androgenus the world’s biggest stink-eye. (The players cracked up at this: Waddlestomp’s player acted this out through his webcam and everyone started making jokes about The Rock that went on for about thirty minutes.) The boat made landfall with nary a sound on an isolated, picturesque beach. Iris Called Up Local Spirits (swiftly becoming her favorite stunt), secretly opposed by the watchful eyes of the island’s mythic guardians. With a marginal failure, she learned where a good supply of fresh water would be—the base of the waterfall that could be seen from the She’s One Of Ours, Sir, and furthermore that the pool had a decent population of fish for the ship’s larder. Iris led the way, tailed by K’dud (who kept gawping at everything with a slack jawed “Gosh!” Every few minutes). Androgenus and Waddlestomp stayed behind to help out the smugglers and hoplites that were busy chopping down a decent-sized tree that stood a few yards back from the beach’s treeline. Androgenus managed a critical success against their Paranoid flaw, so we ruled that they were jumpy, but justifiably so—they could tell that they were being watched by something, and not just the local spirits. They alerted Waddlestomp, who grudgingly stood on guard as well, contemptuous as he was of the Trickster’s flighty antics. As the crew got to work knocking down the tree, they were proven right! Out of the trees, a band of gold-armored, flame-armed warriors sprang, instantly cutting down a handful of the workmen and putting the others to rout. As the crew fled down the beach and Waddlestomp met burning bronze with killing Truesword, we “cut” to Iris, K’dud, and their crew contingent. Iris led them to an eerily tranquil pool underneath a roaring waterfall. Roaring, as it so happened, because it was actually an enormous Water Dragon, chained to the cliff with ropes of pure dancing sunlight! Immediately, they were set upon by a trio of fish spirits that leapt up from the pool. K’dud’s Bronze Arms Style (tied to his Fire rune) burned away two of the fish, but not before the third savaged Iris with snapping jaws and razor-edged fins. The moss priestess was knocked into the pool, barely conscious and no doubt doomed to drown... ...And we cut back to Waddlestomp and Androgenus. Androgenus got a solid success with their Luck rune's breakout ability Clumsy Curse against the onrushing soldiers, making many of them drop their weapons and shields in their charge down the beach. Waddlestomp used Vengeance-Seeking Swordsduck to great effect, laying many of the soldiers low and holding their attention long enough for the She's One Of Ours, Sir's crew to escape back to the longboats and row hard for the reef. But it wasn't quite enough--Androgenus found themself swiftly found by soldiery searching the trees, surrounded with a flaming spearheads, then wrapped in scintillating chains of fiery light. Waddlestomp merely took a good luck at the wave after wave of fire-clad, weirdly identical warriors that were streaming down the beach towards him, and did the unthinkable for a Hueymakti warrior: He laid down his sword and surrendered. This started a bit of an out-of-character argument, and also was the midpoint of our session. I'll recap the other half of the session soon! We took a mid-session break with Iris struggling for consciousness in a deep, dark pool, K'dud barely fending off fish spirits, Androgenus and Waddlestomp captured, and four players arguing vehemently about whether or not Waddlestomp's god would let him surrender.
  8. (Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has). DRAMATIS PERSONAE 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. Being hunted like a beagle puppy in an Orlanthi tula for whatever remnants of that power they might possess. Iris, an Esrolian Earth Priestess in service to Takakia, the Goddess of Moss (we finally came up with a name for the Moss Goddess! She’s named after a genera of rather unusual mosses first found in the Himalayas). She's got the Earth, Movement, and Spirit runes. Iris, having wanted power and prestige amongst the Esrolians for her entire life, now finds herself being given very little of the first and a lot of the second—she’s Queen of the Three Step Isles now. That and a few pounds of silver’ll buy you a cow, though... 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. His plans of war and conquest are being put on temporary hold by the journey to the Three Step Isles, and boy is he unhappy about it! 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. K'dud (pronounced Ka-Dude, named 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, Truth, 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 following Iris and her band of misfits to the Three Step Isles. We last left our heroes aboard the She’s One Of Ours, Sir, a sardonically named smuggler bireme heading across the sea to the three most Godsforsaken islands in the world outside of God Forgot. The captain (a burly Caladralander who’s always a little pissed off about having been press-ganged into this mission by the Queens on pain of pain) We rejoin them a week into their journey across open sea. In the middle of a storm. The crew had brought in oars and reefed sail, hoping against hope that the sea-gods would be merciful. The phalanx of Esrolian pikemen assigned to Iris’s quest to retake the Three Step Isles were grumbling in their makeshift camp in the cramped hold, losing at a game of liars’ dice with Androgenus (making liberal use of their Luck rune’s breakout ability Supreme Gambler) and Waddlestomp (using his Unexpectedly Terrifying ability to put the soldiers off their game). Meanwhile, K’dud was busy being heartily sick out on the rain-swept deck (“I’m a Fire priest! Being surrounded by this much water is...unnatural!” He cried, in between bouts of pouring chum into the churning waves). Iris was in her cabin, conversing with the captain. Apparently, the plan was that the She’s One Of Ours, Sir would drop her and her soldiers off on the Three Steps, then leave. Immediately. Eventually, Esrolia was supposed to send reinforcements and supplies with another expedition in a few seasons. If they were successful, of course. In the meantime, Iris just had to reconquer three of the most pirate-haunted, sheep-infested islands in the Sea. Three islands crawling with weird spirits and strange, forgotten gods. A place where ruins from the God Time still stood, beckoning foolhardy adventurers to plumb their secret depths. A place where, hopefully, the first ever grand temple to Takakia would stand, and she would be hailed as Queen. Not much of a place to build a grand saga of glorious renown, to be true, but it was a start. First, though, they had to survive the storm. It seemed like Orlanth Himself was throwing everything he had at the little galley, tossing the poor craft around like a bit of soap in a toddler’s bath. Suddenly, there was an almighty thump, a horrid scraping noise, and the sound like a fist of an angry Godling punching through the bottom of the ship! It had struck a rock, running into an uncharted oyster bed. ”I’ve made this run a hundred times!” Bellowed the Captain over the howling winds, “This reef shouldn’t exist!” The PCs immediately got to work trying to save the She’s One Of Ours, Sir. Iris Called Up Local Spirits to bargain with spirits of wind, wave, and oyster, trying to calm the waters. She got a minor success, making K’dud’s effort to Fix Anything (a breakout ability from his Volcano Cultist Trait) a tad easier—K’dud moved in a blazing blur, the heat of his body turning storm-spray into steam around him. He patched the ragged hole knocked in the hull and set to work bailing. Meanwhile, Androgenus and Waddlestomp were left to deal with the boarders. While the other two PCs were distracted trying to keep the boat from falling apart and sinking after running aground, most of the other passengers had been fending off an attack from marauding Merfolk! Crawling up out of the waves, a school of sharklike merfolk had clambered aboard the deck with the crashing waves and were busy cutting down the crew who had rushed to meet them in battle. Waddlestomp put his Enchanted Shield to use immediately; with an expert throw, he knocked three merfolk off the deck railing, skulls crushed by good Esrolian bronze. Androgenus used their Luck rune’s breakout ability Curse of Misfortune to make some of the marauding merfolk get knocked off the ship by the very waves being ridden by more of their own boarding parties. Between the two of them, they kept the actual number of merfolk being fought by the ship’s crew down to a handful at a time...but more kept on coming. The next round of combat, the merfolk leader—a big, shark-finned brute with all sorts of nasty runic ritual scars flopped on deck; he wielded a trident (shaped like a Mastery Rune) and a barbed whip of kelp (signifying an Air/Storm Rune); as soon as the merfolk leader came on deck, the storm got so much worse. Waddlestomp leapt into the fray, matching magically-hardened coral with his Truesword, and barely holding his own (the player just started cursing up a storm with a pair of bare successes against the merfolk leader). Androgenus critically fumbled against their Trickster flaw and decided it would be a great time to just go hide (“You got this, Waddlestomp! I’m rootin’ for ya!”) in the hold. Iris and K’dud rushed on deck to assist. K’dud used his Bronze Arms Style to parry punishing blows from the merman storm priest’s trident, but soon became entangled in the biting whip. Waddlestomp, taking the opportunity to retreat, used Vengeance-Seeking Swordsduck to push through the terrible wounds inflicted by the merfolk (“If I die before I get to kill that godsdamned trickster, I’ll take every one of you useless mammals with me!”) and assist the crew in repelling additional boarders. Then Iris got a critical success on her Call Up Spirits ability to awaken the ship’s own Spirit! Incarnating as a wild-haired woman made of wood and sailcloth, the She’s One Of Ours, Sir caused the ship’s deck to roil and buck like the sea itself, knocking the attackers to their feet while lifting the spirits (so to speak) of her defenders. The merfolk leader—doubtless a Hero in his own right, at this point!—threw his trident at the spirit, hoping to capture or kill her. Waddlestomp (again, barely; the dice were definitely against the PCs tonight!) deflected the hurled weapon with his thrown shield, but both trident and enchanted shield bounced away from each other, falling into the churning water below. Thus distracted, K’dud used that opportunity to use his Sharp Soul Style to deliver a punch through the merfolk leader’s chest, splattering the deck with blood, saltwater, and a pile of fishy viscera. The rest of the merfolk retreated, carrying the still-twitching, vengeance-swearing body of their leader back with them beneath the waves. The heroes had won! The storm passed quickly thereafter. The relative silence was almost deafening. A red sun dawned over the waves, revealing a tropical island that the Captain (much like before) swore up and down hadn’t been there the last time he sailed in these waters. An island that shouldn’t have been there. The She’s One Of Ours, Sir was stranded on a reef in the middle of the sea, unable to move without more serious repairs, many of her crew wounded or dead. Despite the victory, the PCs weren’t going anywhere. Except, perhaps, ashore.....
  9. (Note: Bold text refers to a Trait, Ability, or Rune that a character in question has). DRAMATIS PERSONAE 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. and finally 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.
  10. To avoid spamming the board, I'm going to keep all my actual play posts in a single thread per scenario, rather than 1 per session. Also... is this a worthwhile thing to post, or are actual play threads not really a thing here? I don't want to be "that guy" who constantly puts threads on a forum that are meh or not really what the forum is for. Anyways, the intro scenario, a murder mystery on a caravan, ended with the players fully invested in their characters, which is awesome. Now the PCs are heading to Selgos. Lady Featherjoy is a noble of Selgos owes them favours for "saving her" from joining a cacodemon cult, and they intend to extract those favours from her to improve the caravan's business. Additionally, Dara possesses a strange magic item that she wishes to research more: an intelligent, musical axe that feeds off the psychic energy of crowds. She hopes one of the temples in Selgos has some information. Here is a quick "community sheet" for the caravan: Selgos, meanwhile, is going to be an awesome viper pit despite its small size (about 2,000 people). Here are some things I'm planning on simmering there: The year is 1623, and emissaries of Greymane are in the city trying to recruit Nimistori and mercenaries for their next glorious campaign into Esrolia. the PC Kullen, now a healer, is a disgraced Ditali warrior labelled as a coward and cursed for refusing to kill a fire priestess in Thonble on his first raid. The Cacodemon Cult is still active in Selgos. The Ogres are working toward trying to unleash a summoned cacodemon in the city. Featherjoy's family, is also in trouble. They turned to the cacodemon cult because they were getting pushed out of the market by another family (who maybe were also in league with the Ogres. Will the PCs try to save her family, or let them fall and spend their effort elsewhere? King Volusus of Jaraz plots to centralize his power over the Nimistori, and dreams of annexing Fay Jee and taking over Handra's sea trade <<Something Something 52 Tombs of Castelein Something>> The main thing I need to decide by Wednesday is a "bang" (to use Ron Edwards' terminology) that the players need to react to. I think it's something like, "The PCs arrive at the Featherjoy estate the same time as Greymane's recruiters, who are renting the place for their recruitment drive." The PCs will then be forced to decide if they're ok with Featherjoy getting in bed with the Solanthi.
  11. I just finished running my adventurers through "Gloomwillow's Hollow" and some of its supplementary material about the Woods of the Dead, from The Pegasus Plateau. I hope this writeup of how I played the adventure may be useful to other gamemasters. I also hope that some of the ridiculous things my players get up to may be amusing. Keep in mind that this thread will be spoiler-filled for that adventure, and potentially for other content from TPP. It may also contain some spoilers from the meta-plot of the Hero Wars and other Gloranthan miscellany. Be warned! The adventurers are: Tatanka Bloodstain, a Praxian nomad who is famous for his spectacular heroism fighting alongside the Death Lord Grungnak to avenge the Fattened Trollkin Feud against the Leadgut clan, where he earned his epithet. (Read: crit his Battle roll.) Originally a herder from the Witco clan of the Bison tribe, he's almost accidentally a war hero. He's accompanied by Trundle, a bison with a Waha spirit bound within, who talks. Trundle's catchphrase? "Hello!" Hercules the Fifth, a merchant from Sartar who traveled to New Pavis with his uncle Gil Luckstone—a friend of Argrath's who became Chief Priest of Issaries some seasons after the White Bull conquered the city. Hercules descends from a family line which names the firstborn male Hercules, and he almost always dies in pursuit of sex (Herc's dad died to a succubus, if I remember his backstory correctly). Played by @GeminniRed, who co-GMs the campaign with me. Alexander Bernard is a Humakti warrior, at one point indebted to Hercules for saving his life, although they've squared that debt since he still travels with Herc & Co. He's way older than any Humakti has any right to be (over 40!), and relieves stress through "training" new initiates to Humakt. Drops Dice is a very, very special trollkin. Dumb as a rock (or perhaps more dumb), but so magically talented that he's managed to, through adventuring, even change castes from Food to Value. Also helps that no one he hangs out with is trying to eat him (which is obviously the definition of what caste you are, right?). His name comes from the player trying to name himself "Tak" by just dropping the dice on the table, but "Drops Dice" stuck instead. He's unabashedly my favorite adventurer. Kali Stormwalker is my adventurer, a Sartarite shaman-in-training who worships Odayla, with a lil Orlanth on the side. He despises ducks, and is accompanied by an umbroli godling named Appa. Thrizzian is a newer member of the group. A newtling worshiper of the Trickster, he joined the crew when he drugged out on hazia, got snared by a giant spirit-spider-monster, and dragged away to the dungeon the adventurers were exploring (The Spire of Iron & Crystal for Pathfinder from Frog God Games, which I adapted as a God Learner ruin—excellent fun!). He's stuck around since because they're good fun and did save his life, after all. Reginald is also a new member, who they picked up on a recent trip to Esrolia looking for information about the heroquest they're going to attempt this coming Sacred Time. He's a merchant, albeit yet another Eurmal initiate—he acts under the guise of Issaries, and has a sacred pact with the Earth as well. (Why. Why do my players keep wanting to play tricksters.) The group was mostly brought together by their loyalty to Argrath White Bull, although they've grown personally close over the course of travels and adventures. They're used often as his running boys—go do this, go do that, take this letter all the way to flippin' Nochet, and so on. For a long while, Hercules was the unofficial leader of the group, but of late he's had a falling-out with Argrath over the use of draconic powers, and just recently Tatanka was officially declared an emissary of Argrath, and gifted a white bison-pelt cloak to mark this. The adventurers are definitely skilled, but none of them are a Rune Master or shaman yet. Most of them have a good bit of Rune magic, and their full CHA of spirit magic. There's a number of magic items, and everyone except Thrizzie and Reggie have, I believe, optimized armor for the ENC they can carry. So in general, I'd rate them a pretty dangerous bunch. In particular, Hercules & Alexander are a hair's breadth away from becoming Rune Masters of their cults, and Kali's going to appeal to his teacher to take the shaman trials on the route home during this journey (provided the party doesn't mind taking a slight detour). I offered the call to adventure in the context of one of these long journeys. The adventurers were sent, by Argrath, to cross Prax and visit Queen Leika of the Colymar, to ask her to join him on Argrath's march against Alda-Chur in the following spring. They left Pavis at the end of autumn in 1626. I moved most of the non-Woods of the Dead action of the adventure to the town of Herongreen, since it sits right on the Pavis Road. While in a tavern there—acting as travelers, not emissaries, due to the Lunar presence—they were approached by Harasandra and asked to look in the Woods of the Dead for some missing children, since they appeared largely armed and competent. They agreed, and formulated a plan of action. The adventurers traveled to Day's Hope, both for Humakt's holy day at the temple there, and to get more information from the locals about the Woods. They traveled around the woods, and I ran the brief first encounter with the mossbacks ("The Second Probe"). While they did stay at the Highwall Inn midway to Alone, they didn't get into trouble there because, well... heavily armed & dangerous. On each of their visits to the inn I had them roll some Perception skills to see if they heard or saw anything especially suspicious, but they never succeeded. I decided Jafoska & Baran would probably prefer to avoid risking it with these adventurers, seeking easier prey instead. Their visits to Alone and Day's Hope were largely uneventful. They stayed at Geo's Alone Inn, and I explained the concept of Geo's to them, since the players hadn't encountered one before (though I'm sure their adventurers had). At Day's Hope they gathered a bit more information about the missing children, the Woods, and the mossbacks, and prepared themselves at the Humakt temple, leaving spare baggage, supplies, and mounts behind. Trundle came along because he's a person, not a skittish dumb animal, but the rest stayed. Throughout, the players regularly expected the final enemies to be undead, despite the mention of mossbacks taking kids, stories of Gloomwillow, and the fact that they were going to Gloomwillow's Hollow. I told the players that routes within the Woods are weird, and change, and that a map can't really be drawn. I found the map in the book to be nearly useless for actually running this adventure, especially since it doesn't have a scale, and it doesn't even show where the Highwall Inn is on the Dusk Road. I annotated that myself, and gave a section of the map to the adventurers more for the sake of visualization than for information. The players learned from the Humakti of Day's Hope that if they could find a deep, narrow creek (Thin's Creek) and follow it downstream, they'd find a swampy area, and that Gloomwillow's Hollow could usually be found nearby. They also got a repeated, explicit warning not to go anywhere near Black Rock, because otherwise my players would go treasure-hunting like the little gremlins they are. Sometimes you need "Certain Death Lies Here" written in red paint. Next, I ran the "Ambush!" encounter, pretty much as written, somewhere in the Woods. The adventurers handled this easily for the most part. Tatanka took an impale to the abdomen, and a second hit, but overall lived, and the general combat wasn't dangerous except for the python hypnotism. I ruled that the pythons and dragonflies buggered off once hit, since they're basically just animals, but the mossbacks tried to fight to the death. One lived, and was captured by the adventurers. They could barely communicate with it, but figured out that it was named Croak (or something similar), and could get it to lead them to its home. It agreed to do so because it assumed Gloomwillow would capture and kill the adventurers. The adventurers also learned exactly how dangerous Trundle is in melee; they haven't been able to take him with in a lot of combat situations, since the combat-heavy moments have typically been dungeons involving stairs and tight places and, y'know. Bison. One of the challenges I had with running the mossbacks was determining how many javelins they carried. I decided three felt reasonable, one in each hand, and one tied to them. From the image they're clearly primitive creatures, but they aren't fit for melee combat in the slightest, and I tried to run them mostly as skirmishers, moving to melee as a last option. They also lost lots of limbs to the adventurers. Croak led the adventurers to Thin's Creek, and they followed it downstream to the Miasma Marsh, where they found a crucified corpse. The next session I played them traveling through the marsh haunted by the evil ducks (accompanied by very badly punning rhymes), but this didn't end up being as weirdly-creepy as I had hoped it would. I think that playing this over Discord, instead of in person, impacted the experience somewhat. Eventually they got surrounded by the ducks while on a low rise surrounded by water--both shallow & deep--but the ducks were driven away when Drops Dice summoned a veredthi and began drowning them. Veredthi are freaking huge for their Rune point cost. The rest of the ducks fled because Cowardly, and the adventurers made it the rest of the way through the Marsh. I think the cannibal ducks could have been really dangerous--attacking from underwater and dragging the adventurers down, etc.--but they just didn't have the chance to be properly scary. They fired darts several times, but none of them were strong enough to pierce armor. One of the ducks did catch and kill Croak, but this didn't shake the adventurers much, even when his head was tossed at them. I tried using this to highlight potential dangers of the Marsh, but the ducks just never got close enough to really be impactful. The adventurers eventually climbed out of the Marsh, and saw the dead tree towering over the forest. I had the adventurers encounter "Visions Most Foul" but didn't emphasize the struggle to push through, since there wasn't a significant consequence of failure. They approached, and found the hidden entrance into the bottom of the tree. Which they called a "Skyrim entrance", i.e. the back door convenient exit omnipresent in that game's dungeons, and were generally amused/frustrated that it existed. They considered entry from the top, but chose not to because they couldn't blitzkrieg with the whole party. They wanted to fly, and didn't consider climbing up an option. They did notice there might be guards at the broken branch-bridge main entry, which was why they searched the area first. They descended the tunnels, and got into an extended fight with some mossbacks. Alexander pretty much waded through gore, though Hercules took a few hits to his leg when he tried chasing down a mossback which fled to the next room. I found the map and related text a bit difficult to play. The map's biggest difficulty is that I found it hard to determine what rooms connected to where, since it's a 3D map drawn in cutaway style, and isn't very large. I isolated the image with Acrobat and copied it, then blew it up as its own image file, and that helped me see where everything was. Another difficulty I had was that the map is numbered, but the descriptions aren't. I would have found it easier to bounce back and forth if their numbers corresponded. Finally, I found it frustrating that a number of the total mossbacks present, or at Gloomwillow's command through the Woods, wasn't noted. I ended up guesstimating a dozen to twenty in the tree at any given time from the text. The party couldn't avoid letting some mossbacks flee. Hercules summoned a Spell Traded umbroli as a missiles-shield (which also killed a pair of charging mossbacks), but couldn't control it, so the party was stuck behind an indoor tornado for 15 minutes. They climbed most of the tree without incident; all of the mossbacks, except those guarding the kids, went up to guard Gloomwillow. I ended up not using her ability to cast through the mossbacks because it felt immensely unfair given her spells available (which I'll get to later). They avoided side passages, and continued to travel straight upstairs. While plundering Gloomwillow's rooms--particularly the library, which I wish would have a better description of what's in there, and what those works might be worth--they heard a scream up in the top of the tree, and ran up to see Gloomwillow kill the kid. Ten mossbacks stood between them. Alexander cast Flight (Spell Traded from Herc, who had it as an associate spell from Orlanth) and flew over the mossbacks to engage Gloomwillow. Gloomwillow's opening move was to cast Absorption 6, and basically make herself immune to magic. I narrated this with her covering herself in an inky black shadow, which radiated power. I also used narration to emphasize how dangerous Gloomwillow is, in addition to explicitly warning the players out-of-character that the boss of this adventure is nasty. And she is fucking dangerous. At POW 32, with 32 Rune points, and access to Sever Spirit, she can auto-kill pretty much any adventurer, whenever she wants. Even a Rune Lord only has an 05% chance to resist POW v POW. One of my frustrations with Gloomwillow's writeup was also that she doesn't have defensive abilities noted--namely Dodge, so I gave her DEX×3, 60%, but easily could have been higher--and that it doesn't say whether she can discorporate like a normal dryad. I ruled she couldn't, since she has no spirit magic, and her connection to nature is basically gone; but this does make the scripted part of the battle where she "flies" into the branches of the tree feel strange. We never got to that part of the fight because Alexander was up in her grill the entire time. She threw a Sever Spirit at Alexander. He rolled a Devotion (Humakt) Passion to augment his resistance roll, and crit. He still failed his resistance roll, and chose to use a hero point to avoid death. (This is a house rule we've used for years, which ideally gets weaned off as the adventurers grow stronger. For doing big, dangerous things, you can earn hero points, which are basically a "get out of jail free" card to avoid a blow. They're useful for encouraging the players to take on impossible situations, and give them a chance to win beyond lucking a divine intervention.) When he tried proving he was the true wielder of death (as Humakt), though, her Absorption ate Alexander's Sever Spirit. They assumed it was Countermagic, and another adventurer (I believe Drops Dice, but don't remember who) threw a spell to try taking down the effect while Alexander kept swinging his sword at her. He resisted three more Sever Spirits with his Devotion augment (bringing the roll up to 55%). Meanwhile, the rest of the adventurers were engaged with the mossbacks. Tatanka, Hercules, and Kali were engaged three-to-one and broadly successful at this. Each was taking chip damage, especially Tatanka, who's pretty conservative with his Rune magic. Kali's armor plus an Extended Shield 2 left him nigh-invulnerable without a special or crit against the mossbacks, while Hercules wielded a Spell Traded Sword Trance to lethal effect. Thrizzian entered melee as well, and acquitted himself admirably for a new adventurer, with repeated successful dodges, and I believe two kills. Drops Dice repeatedly fired bolgs into the melee with Gloomwillow, and it was actually the trollkin that got the kill on the evil dryad. She withered to dust at Alexander's feet after he lopped off one of her arms. He dealt the most consistent damage against her, because she didn't have a defense against ranged physical damage. She tried Create Shadow to escape, but Drops Dice, well, has Darksense. After her death, the fall of the tree wasn't as climatic as I had anticipated. It was mostly mitigated by the fact that Herc dropped the Sword Trance and flew, Alexander was already flying, and Kali called on Appa to fly himself and Thrizzian (who failed his Rune magic roll to Become Crane) off. Tatanka immediately bolted for the stairs, and took the written damage being tossed around inside as the tree came down, but ultimately wasn't significantly harmed. Reggie's player wasn't there (if I'm remembering right--throughout this adventure lasted ~4 three-hour sessions, I believe, and we only had everyone present for I think one of them, so my memory's a wee bit spotty) but he also had an out in the form of Hallucinate to fly away on a magic carpet—one of that player's favorite tricks since our RQ3+ game a few years before RQG came out. Once the tree was down, I ruled that the remaining mossbacks had either fled or died. Overall the adventurers did kill over half of them in that melee. They were easy opponents for my adventurers. I chose not to have Gloomwillow cast through them because she could just nail a player from a kilometer away, they would have basically no chance of resisting, and no way to actually catch her. The mossbacks as written can hide in trees, run around, and avoid the adventurers, while Gloomwillow uses them to cast and kill everyone. This didn't seem fun to me, so I didn't do it. I did, however, plan to have her cast Berserk on Croak when they got close, and I did consider having her use some of her less dangerous spells to mess with the adventurers. The adventurers searched the tree and found the rest of the children. I explicitly told the players that they survived because of how they were imprisoned in the tight cages, whereas the mossbacks in that room were tossed around and killed. This isn't stated in the text, but seems to me the only reason why the children aren't killed by the tree's fall. It was dusk, and the adventurers stayed the night at the ruin of Gloomwillow's hollow, outside. Their rations and water had gone bad by then, and they and the kids were both hungry and thirsty. They had enough magic points to fix up the children's minor injuries from the treefall & confinement. After most of the crew went to sleep, Drops Dice and Reggie went into the tree. Drops Dice discorporated, and began searching for a Darkness spirit to put in his empty POW Storing crystal, which has been a player goal for some time. He's recently joined the Sunset Society, a shaman cult dedicated to Darkness spirits, in addition to his worship of Zola Fel (where he's also walking a shaman path; we're still figuring out how the two will intersect and interact). He failed his Spirit Travel roll to find a spirit, and was drawn down, down to the roots of the fallen dead tree, which still extended into the earth. There he found a large black pool of energy, quiescent. I told him its POW was massively larger than his, and that he felt a strong malevolent presence connected with the Darkness, Plant, and Death Runes. So he remembers to cast Spirit Block before poking it. I decided while playing this encounter that, if something went wrong, Drops Dice would find Gloomwillow's spirit which isn't dead, but just dormant, returned to the Spirit World. And very upset that he woke her (I'm still not sure if she knows he landed the final blow, or if she just blames Alexander). She grabs him, and they do a round of spirit combat. She clobbers him even through the Spirit Block, and he pleads for mercy. She demands an offering, and he offers up the soul of Beleros (the Lunar spirit in "The Rattling Wind", which the adventurers kept bound), and then also promises to bring her more food. She eats Beleros, and demands a sign of their pact. I tell the player to offer up to four points of POW (which would be the POW necessary to make a pact with a POW 32 spirit--although he's not a shaman, so it'd be more an "appropriate full offering" than a "you now have a pacted spirit"). He offers three, so she lets him go, and I decided he gained a Rune point in the Sunset Society for his offering, and his pluck. Now he has two bindings to fill with ghosts... Later during the night, the Hunt of Wailing Ghosts encountered the adventurers and children. They ignored the children a) because I wasn't sure if I wanted to deal with the children supernaturally aging, and b) because the hunt is made up mostly of Brangbane's slain wives, and I figured it'd be a plausible touch if they overlooked uninitiated youths. The party tried multiple rolls to ward them off, and a majority failed, so ultimately I decided they attacked. I had the adventurers make the described characteristic rolls to resist the aging effect, and then each adventurer was engaged with one of the ghosts in spirit combat. Once one ghost was defeated for each adventurer, they were driven off. I think every adventurer except Reggie aged either one or two three-year increments on that first attack; he was particularly lucky, not particularly high-statted. However, he was defeated in spirit combat. I ruled that the wailing ghost possessed him, and he had to do another round of characteristic tests. I also ruled that he would have to do them once per week so long as he was possessed, as the effect of covert possession (although Kali discorporated and handled it without much trouble--he has a Spirit Armor enchantment which often lets him manhandle ghosts). I rolled randomly for the spells stolen by the adventurers who defeated spirits in spirit combat. Notably, Tatanka and Kali both rolled Sleep, and learned this rare spell (which I'm sure will be relevant in later adventures...). The adventurers used mixed strategies of spirit combat and other tactics to defeat the spirits. Although Alexander got Befuddled, Herc grabbed his enchanted iron sword to fight off the ghosts successfully. (It's a relic he found in a ruin in the Big Rubble, and it makes many ghost combats pretty trivial.) In the morning, the adventurers were pretty beleaguered. They tried going south-west to cut as close to Herongreen as possible, but ended up going northwest (failed Survival roll to determine direction in the Woods). Mysteriously, the Miasma Marsh had disappeared, even though it was nearby and easy to see from the rise of the Hollow yesterday. As the adventurers wandered, they stumbled across "The Corridor", and continued walking down it. There they encountered the Silver Rider, which I ruled was a spirit which can take the form of a Unicorn. It ignored the adventurers, but healed the children of their hunger and thirst, then led the way out of the Woods. This was both because I figured we should be done with the adventure, and continue on the adventurers' journey, and because a final encounter with a benevolent spirit felt right after all the horrors of the Woods. Despite the minimal danger of some of the encounters (like the Wailing Ghosts and the mossbacks), the raw quantity of stuff I ran them through made this a harrowing adventure, I think. I rewarded the adventurers with ~35L of gifts apiece from the townsfolk, which is close to the written amount (and WAY too little for dealing with Gloomwillow!), even though they didn't ask for reward before going into the Woods. In addition, Alexander has become known as Gloomkiller (to Drops Dice's protestations), and all the adventurers have earned a good bit of Reputation from their success. Despite an ongoing famine (due to Kallyr's failed Lightbringer's Quest), the Lunars running the town were willing to gift the adventurers supplies to replace those destroyed in the Wood. The adventurers still weren't forthcoming about their journey's purpose--instead, they claimed they were sent by Gil to check up on his friend Gringle Goodsale in Apple Lane. I tried to frame the Lunars here as good guys. They returned to Alone & Herongreen recently, bringing food, providing support to the northern region of Sartar. They were genuinely grateful to the adventurers, and cheerful around them. One of them was a local youth who signed up to see the world, then got stuck in his home town. Humanizing the enemy (because the party is SUPER anti-Lunar--but they were part of an offensive defeated by the Crimson Bat, after all...). The adventurers left after about two weeks in the area, to continue their journey in Jonstown, where the signs of hunger and fear grow stronger yet...
  12. This was the final session of my murder mystery. At the end of last session, two key things happened: The party discovered the murderer of the caravan boss - a scholar who the boss was blackmailing into translating some ancient texts. The scholar poisoned the boss, demanding his freedom in exchange for the antidote. The Caravan Boss died rather than admit defeat, which shocked the scholar. The party discovered there is ogre trouble on the caravan! Well.... it's actually more complicated than that: A rich noblewoman was trying to join a cacodemon cult to save her family's fortune. An ogre, masquerading as a hunter hired by the caravan, has made contact with her The noblewoman's assistant witnessed the murder, and was killed by the murderer scholar. The ogre and desperate noble had nothing to do with the murder, but they also were aware things were going bad for them, so they fled into the woods. The party, deciding ogres MUST BE INVOLVED IN THE MURDER, grabbed the NPC Pralori warrior who is the head of caravan security, and they went to hunt the ogre down. The hunter NPC was tougher than any of the PCs. She's an ogre, afterall, and the big bad. But I didn't really expect things to go the way they did. So, 3 non combat PCs and a warrior NPC marched into the woods to find an ogre and human collaborator. I rolled this as a simple contested group challenge - the image I had in my mind is they're walking through the woods and a stream of arrows terrifies them and sends them scattering. ... However, they all rolled amazingly, and my poor ogre rolled horribly, resulting in a major victory for the PCs. Now, since they all took defensive moves, I didn't rule this as physical injury for the ogre. Rather, the ogre was now stuck up a tree in plain sight, and any attempts at moving or getting out of the tree would result in her having massive penalties. If she tried to get out of the tree, she was toast. And she knew it. The PCs, on the other hand, were aware she still had plenty of arrows. So... they decided to parlay. The ogre made an offer: She had nothing to do with the murder, but she'd happily give them the human noblewoman collaborator, in exchange for letting her go. At this point, the players, who are all new to Glorantha, stopped and asked me about Ogres, and then asked me about Chaos. After my explanation, which was very much an Orlanthi perspective (2 PCs are Wenelians, and 1 is a Trader Princess), they agreed to agree to the ogres deal, and then double cross her, cuz "Screw Chaos." 😵😅 Long story short, they set the tree on fire while throwing javelins at her. She rolled badly, and the NPC warrior rolled well, and she was squashed. They then bound the ogre, collected the human collaborator, and marched back to camp. And this is where things got rather special: the PCs gave all humans second chances: they acknowledged the caravan boss was a total bastard, so they let him go in exchange for the texts he was translating (they were treatises about water magic of all sorts). They also exacted many promises from the noblewoman to help them move into the trade networks around her city of Selgos, and she agreed. As for the ogre, well, they decided to have the caravan execute her as a public execution of sorts.
  13. FInished my 3rd session of my online murder mystery game. Here is a bulleted list of what happened: MURDER SOLVED: The PCs kept circling the mystery of 1+1, so I asked them to make some rolls for help putting pieces together. The players seemed totally ok with it, though I'm not sure that would have been the right move for all groups. Anyhow, because of this, things moved VERY quickly, and they solved the murder! Put simply, the Caravan boss was blackmailing many of the people on the caravan, including the PCs. One of the NPCs, a scholar from Saltcastle, who was being blackmailed did not appreciate the situation: he was given a very slow-acting but lethal poison, and was being forced to translate ancient texts for the caravan boss in exchange for the antidite. The NPC decided to turn the tables on the boss, poisoning him with something that was just as lethal but much quicker. In exchange for his freedom, the NPC would give the boss the antidote to HIS poison. ...The Caravan Boss, seemingly out of a heroic level of spite, decided to die instead. The NPC was not expecting this, and put him into a panic. Weekend at Bernies. One of the things the PCs all agreed to which I did NOT SEE COMING is that they have kept the murder of the boss from the rest of the caravan. Play has been a bit too fast for me to really make this an issue, but it's still hilarious to me. In the 3rd session, they FINALLY informed the caravan's head of the watch, a hulking pralori warrior with a hyper-intelligent elk. They learned how to use Hero Points in their attempts to chill the Pralori out, who was feeling very unhappy about being lied to. Those poor, innocent... Ogres? One of the other NPCs on the caravan is noblewoman and a cacodemon cultist. An actual ogre had infiltrated the caravan as a hunter to make contact with her to set up Cannibalistic Schemes (tm) for the city they were arriving in (Yolanda). Unfortunately, a murder occurred they had no part in. Worse, the noblewoman's personal servant witnessed the poisoning and murder. Worse, there were rumours on the caravan about ogres already. All of this has made the ogres start to panic, and they have fled into the wood. When the PCs realized people had fled the caravan camp, they immediately searched the tents, and found cacodemon ritual items. They are now convinced the ogres had something to do with the caravan boss' death, and they are putting together a posse to go into the deep upper woods of Maniria, chasing after chaotic cultists, cuz PCs gonna PC. It's very easy for me to find things I didn't do well, but the fact remains my players are having a blast. Next session will be the last of our little mini-campaign, and then we'll decide what to do next. At least definitely wants to keep his current PC. It is entirely possible I will spend the entire summer running a relatively light-hearted, social skill-heavy Manirian caravan campaign. And that makes me happy.
  14. RuneQuest: The Broken Tower – Week 1.1 Now available on YouTube! Watch Pookie run The Broken Tower from the RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha quick-start for Seth Skorkowsky, Bud of Bud’s RPG Reviews, The Tweed Meister, Orcusdorkus, and James. https://youtu.be/tY-IRpWnmKs
  15. Tomorrow night is my second session of my online HQG game, Caravan Calamity. Last session, the PCs discovered the body of their Caravan boss, started collecting evidence at the scene, and also became worried about the social-political consequences of the boss dying. As all three players are new to Glorantha and Heroquest, I am slowly bringing them up to speed. Setting-wise, they are aware they are on a caravan, and they know Elves are humanoid trees. This session they'll be introduced to Chaos, or at least the threat of Chaos, as someone will be starting a panic that there is an Ogre on the caravan! The ACTUAL Ogre on the caravan is rather upset at this rumour, as he's far too smart to kill the head of the caravan in the middle of nowhere.... that's just stupid. In terms of rules, I'm introducing extended contests and using Hero Points. Core things I know: I know who actually killed the caravan boss: a Trader Princess on the caravan, who is trying to taker over his freelance spy network. I know this was witnessed by a scholar from Solung who is on the caravan. The murderer is currently unaware of this, but if the players are sloppy they may inform her. I know which NPCs care, don't care, and are happy the caravan boss (who had a penchant for blackmail) is dead. I'm planning on re-reading the rules on long-term benefits to make sure I know how that works, so there is a mechanic to help them put the pieces together if they don't themselves. So... yeah. Wish me luck. I'll be back over the weekend to let yo uknow how it went.
  16. So, Wednesday night I had my first session of my new mini-campaign. Caravan Calamity is set in Maniria. A trading caravan of wagons and horses is travelling between Jaraz and Yolanda, when one morning the head of the caravan, Road Baron Abbanes, is found dead in a pond. The PCs The PCs all work on the caravan: Kullen is a Ditali Wenelian who is the cook and healer of the caravan. He has been with teh caravan, and with Abbanes, for years. Arlette Scalecoin is a textile merchant from Jubal. She is very likeable, likes creature comforts, and this is her second season with this caravan. Dara is an entertainer with a rough past that has left her suspicious of others. Key NPCs Abbanes, aka "Honest Benny" is a roguish figure who has made and lost several fortunes over the course of his life. He has schemes within schemes, and half the caravan is currently blackmailed into working for him. Lyobun is benny's extremely high strung assistant who knows exactly how much money is invested where. Neurotic and loyal, he is the mirror image of Benny. Bui Six Point is the head of the caravan guard. He is a Pralori, he is tough, and he is mean. I described him as "Jayne from Firefly, on an elk." Mosscalm is a female hunter hired recently as a scout. Very private, and not good at social interactions. She's much better at staying motionless in a tree until game wanders by. Lady Featherjoy is an aristocrat from Selgos travelling with the caravan and constantly complaining about the lack of luxuries. Toff Redscroll is a scholar from Solung who may or may not be a fire mage. The players all started the game knowing this was going to be a murder mystery, that it was going to be "PG-13", and that none of teh PCs were going to be the murderer.
  17. Welcome I want to share my current play through of Pendragon I've started a few weeks ago with two of my friends! This forum has been a trove of useful information for prepping my game and I wish to get a generous check (or is it pride that drives me here?) sharing the fruits of that labor. Currently we've done: Session 0/Chargen, 485 #1 and 485 #2. You may remember my face as one of those from Steven Lumpkin's actual play a few years back. Well I've come back and running my own. We're definitely making some rules mistakes here and there, but overall we're getting better and faster with the ruleset as both myself and colin have played some Pendragon before. Here's our two knights as of the end of 485! If you want to catch it live, we play 4-6pm PT on my twitch channel!
  18. It’s complete! Yes, Play from Ponape has completed its playthrough of The Broken Tower, the scenario from the quick-start for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. https://anchor.fm/play-from-ponape/episodes/PfP--RuneQuest-Roleplaying-in-Glorantha-1--The-Broken-Tower-part-1-e4eb0g
  19. We have a new Horror On The Orient Express campaign on the DungeonsDeepRPGs Podcast! We will be running the ENTIRETY of the game, and putting our own twists and such into the game. It will surely be unlike any HOTOE campaign you've seen. We are very granular and take our time to roleplay and investigate. Here's our Episode 1 Blurb and Apple Podcasts Link (it is available on all major podcast platforms): A Doctor, a Professor, an Illusionist, a Priest, and a WWI Demolitionist are brought together by a one Professor J.A. Smith to investigate some paranormal activity in Cornwall, England. What could possibly go wrong? https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/call-of-cthulhu-1-the-cornwall-carriage/id1470820702?i=1000444920143
  20. [PfP] – RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha 0 – Character Creation part 1: Play from Ponape begins character generation for its forthcoming RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha campaign set in and around Apple Lane. https://anchor.fm/play-from-ponape/episodes/PfP--RuneQuest-Roleplaying-in-Glorantha-0--Character-Creation-part-1-e49qq9 #PlayfromPonape #RuneQuest #Glorantha #AppleLane #Podcast
  21. Hello! My friends and I have produce an actual play 7E Call of Cthulhu podcast called Other World London. The game follows the women of the Royal London Spiritualism Society as they pull back the veil between our world and the next. We edit each episode as well as add music and sound effects. If you're interested, you can check it out on one of these platforms: iTunes/Stitcher/Google Play/Listen Notes/Podbean/
  22. The axiom that no scenario survives contact with players was proved during a fantasy session today with my wife and kids. I ran an adventure published in one of the BRP contest books. My players found the important clue but decided to skip town when the bad guy's henchmen began following them. Unfortunately, they decided to leave the city in the middle of the night, while the gates were shut and guarded. An attempt to sweet talk the city guard failed, so they chose to fight despite the troops having superior numbers. After two of the player-characters were badly wounded, they ran away, having killed three guardsmen. They're now hiding and healing up.
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