Ancient Shades of Sunrise

That's...improbable!
And yet the truth remains.

Just a holder for the moment while I write this ending.

I have to say I’m EXTREMELY impressed (as usual) with the roleplaying and that we’ve finally finished an adventure before starting a new one.

There will be a three-month (in-game) hiatus for all characters, to allow for travel time, character downtime, and training and such.

I will be conducting via email the final wrap up with each of you.

To each character, you get +16 character points and +1 fate point.

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It'll be quick and easy...
...just like it always is...

As morning arrives, I join my Seeing to find the actors being ported up the river by 4 trolls and Deggar.

Hard, powerful rowing takes them out of the danger zone, by late afternoon, Birger calls upon his magic to ride the senses of a hawk on the wing, he is able to locate a great number of fishing villages, but only one with two large longboats. He also appears to have spotted himself for a moment as vertigo overcame him. He is a puzzle, that one. At one moment powerful and wise, at another, incredibly novice-like.

By the end of the day they have finally beached their boat at the mouth of the river leading onto the lake. As they gather materials for a campsite, Jedda transformed the boat into a half-rotted log. She’s very good. I have had to mark the landforms around it to find it again.

An uneventful night of taking turns on watch led the actors into a long morning of events.

Something was watching the group from the northeast – I should have been more careful and searched the area better before starting my Seeing, something has magnified the Power in the area.

After waking her companions, Valkari went around the long way, climbing through the forest detritus with relative ease. Jedda woke up invisible and went immediately ran off to find me. Pulling back my Seeing to a more narrow view, I watch and laugh as Jedda finds an ancient mirrored shield used as a grave marker. Having never seen herself, she thinks the person watching everyone is in the mirror. She’s also nude. As with most Aelfin, she has quite the toned form.

Returning the shield to the grave after examining it, the group heads back to camp and prepares to scout the village.

The decide that discretion is the better part of valor for today…Birger magically drains the blackness from his robe and transfers the color to Valkari’s fiery hair, while she switches to a more feminine look, with her armor over a traveling dress.

Unsurprisingly, the Blur is sent to fly high, circling the village and watching for trouble.

Emptying his backpack, Birger dons his now-white robe and redoes his hair, hunching for an elder effect, while the halfling Kaltorei packs herself into Birger’s pack.

Entering town, the seemingly pair of travellers encounter a fairly friendly elder who informs them there is no inn, no tavern, not much in the way of trade at all, but that they might find some food at the baker’s stand. They are also told about the tunnels between the longhouses, used for harsh winters and storms.

Splitting themselves to better canvas the town, they work under the cover of merchant scouts. Valkari engages a trio of chatty ladies two streets over from the Baker’s stand. Most of the adult men in the village have already left for the day’s fishing, leaving the women, children, and elders. Denfrigg’s warriors protect the village in their absence, and he is held in very high regard for his trades and protection.

Birger stops a young child and in the course of a few moments, alludes to eating him. This sends the child screaming about monsters. As the mother of the child approaches with a drawn sword, Birger is unsuccessful in convincing the gathering mob of his true intentions – then the brat fingers him as a child-eating monster.

The ruckus draws Valkari away from her information gathering and towards her friend, while the Blurry One, still circling the village on high, dives down to help his companions.

His sudden appearance startles and enrages the villagers, already looking to kill one of them, and now he’s protected by a demon! From their cries, I can surmise the wings that bear him aloft are leathery and bat-like.

Valkari’s quick thinking salvages the scenario, the lie coming easily to her, the Blurry one is her brother, cursed by an evil witch with the form of a demon. This assuages the villagers a bit, not wanting to interfere with a cursed person.

That’s when the guards show up and take them to see Denfrigg the Bastard.

Straight through town, up the hill and to the headman’s Hall, they are brought forth to a large gathering of Denfrigg’s raiders and the headman himself, seated at the end of a long table with a wench upon his lap.

A short conversation later and all hell breaks loose. Denfrigg knew they were coming, but would not restrain his pleasures for even a single day. That is most unfortunate.

Birger dropped his backpack off in a relatively dark corner of the hall, allowing Kaltorei to exit the pack and begin setting fire to disgusting rags the raiders sleep on, to provide for distraction.

As Denfrigg tosses the wench from his lap and stands to give the order to kill them, it is revealed that he has been nude from the waist down! He grabs his sword and it appears he is going to do battle ungirded, as it were.

The Blurry One and Valkari immediately weigh in with their swords, fending off attack after attack while Kaltorei gleefully, silently, sets slow-starting fires. Birger sets forth a rune of the jotunn, scribing it through the air and directing it towards the ungirded Denfrigg.

Whether Denfrigg is protected or the jotunnn were offended by Birger’s placement of the rune of fire, I don’t know. I do know that the rune burns but is easily extinguished, only to flare again a few moments later. Denfrigg is effectively out of the battle.

Blocked from exiting by 4 guards, with another 20 fully armed and armored coming towards them, Valkari whittles the blockers down while the Blurry One, with his massive upper body strength, gives a bum’s rush through the doors. Birger makes mindslaves of the weakest pair, ordering them to hold off their former comrades.

Through this all, Kaltorei remains hidden, watchful of a way out of the hall, waiting for her fires to be noticed.

Outside, Birger calls out dramatically to the fires of Hel and the Underworld, the earth cracks open and he summons a fiery dragon the size of a longhouse crawls up, roaring orange and blue flames. A masterful illusion, to say the least! I’m sure the scent of offal and fear was terrible enough, but the look on the faces of their opponents, that is most enjoyable, even as bad as things look for Denfrigg. The men retreat into the hall, slamming the doors behind them.

The illusion carried on even as the Blurry One took flight, carrying off Valkari, and was made even more complete as smoke and flame began to fill the hall. Kaltorei’s arson catching hold.

The little one has hidden herself amazingly well, boots and men passing scant inches from her without so much as a second look. She is afforded opportunity to watch as the table is thrust aside, steel rings in the floor are lifted and the slab is raised and buttressed with an iron rod. The raiders, the wench, and Denfrigg file down into the tunnels below. Panicked, they do not notice as the last one down receives the razor’s edge of Kaltorei’s dagger across their throat, opening a bloody smile from ear to ear.

She isn’t strong enough to remove the iron bar! She’ll certainly be caught no…oh…she kicked it with enough force to knock the rod free, but falls down the stairs herself, with the body of the guard she killed. Secreting herself behind the stairs, she’s hidden well enough to rest for a bit.

I had great trouble finding the others, I suspect the Quickling, Jedda, is responsible for that. They have returned to their campsite in the woods, though I did not see how.

While I am not yet too old for this excrement, I am certainly feeling my years. How people can still manage to screw things up after being told who, what, where, and when things will happen is beyond my ken…

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Getting there is half the fun!
On the other hand...

It is late morning by the time I awoke from my long night.

As I adjust my view, I find that not much has happened in the hours since sunrise.

Valkari searches for a river vessel while the others attend various outings for information regarding Denfrigg and Vergan. They also pick up some information about the forest that discourages them from trying that way. I was really looking forward to seeing how they would handle an encounter with Helthor and his herd. How that boar ever got to be the size of a barn is beyond me. A strong testament to the latent power of the world, to be sure.

Now see, this is unexpected. As the actors congregate near the docks to purchase their ship, a Kelpie charges them with a young female victim caught astride the hideous back. I think I’ve seen this one before, it never ends well.

I am either greatly developing my vision, or the group is becoming predictable. Birger releases his magic to little effect. The Blur takes off – it seems as though he’s going to try to carry the girl off the creature’s back…that’s going to hurt…a lot. The halfling fires her bow, matching the Troll’s exuberance and results. Valkari readies herself to take down the beast as it runs towards the water.

I find it…educational…that this Blur is unable to tear the girl from the Kelpie, but instead of letting go, he wraps himself around her, shielding her with his wings. They’ll both end up drowned if the Kelpie makes it into the water.

Twang goes the halfling’s bow, thunk-thunk go the arrows, the troll’s magic burns, bouncy-bouncy goes the Blur on the Kelpie, Kick kick goes the Kelpies hooves, and slash, Valkari’s blade digs a gouge out of a rotted foreleg, a quick spin and a deep CRACK.

The kelpie is down, it’s right hind leg shattered. The actors descend upon the kelpie with vicious fury as the Blur pulls itself and the girl free of the dying abomination.

The townspeople have now formed a circle around the group, at a safe distance, and have brought what few weapons they have. They’re not happy about this turn of events, they seem to blame the actors for the Kelpie’s appearance.

The girl turns out to be a full grown quickling! I’ve not seen one of those in a few years. Of course…this one belongs to Denfrigg, a debt-slave. And she uses the changing magic! She must have been the one to turn that eel into a serpent. Strong magic, I shouldn’t peer to closely at her.

The group takes it all pretty well, pooling their resources to purchase a boat, no crew, and secures the companionship of the quickling, Jedda, by bargain for the death of Denfrigg. I wonder if they can imagine what’s going to happen? Bargains aren’t made or broken lightly!

They spend several days going upriver, stopping each night at one of the numerous islands, or Troll Hats, of the river on their way to Trollhattan-at-the-Falls. The first day they spotted Helthor’s herd. I’d bet good food they thought they’d seen the biggest, meanest boars in the world staring back at them, they’d be wrong of course…Helthor wasn’t at the riverside.

They arrived in Trollhattan, Jedda vanished, and with their customary suspicion set about interrogating the natives. Birger went so far as to employ divination to suss out the truth they were being told. 10 boats down the river, 2 boats up, including Denfrigg and Vergan’s. No children, only barrels of trade cargo.

They are invited to stay at the head porter’s home for the night. Jedda’s invisibility is perfect! I wonder if she comes by it naturally, or if it’s something one can learn? The actors are able to get some information from her, she was the one who disguised the children as barrels when Denfrigg and Vergan went back up the falls.

Over dinner, they spend a great deal of time debating with the head porter over the morals of him helping Denfrigg. Without proof though, they’re out of luck. If they can bring the children back, then the Trollhattans will believe them. They certainly can’t tell the head porter about Jedda, he’ll have to kill her, and that would make a mess of everyones’ bargains.

Regardless, the group pays to be ported up the falls in the morning. It seems only yesterday that I spent a long night working, though it was in fact nearly a week, and here I am again, with another long night ahead. At least someone gets to sleep well tonight.

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Addition and Subraction
In which we learn much, but know very little...

As I returned to the group, they were rowing desperately, if cautiously, through the thick fog of the coast. Of course, they couldn’t know what lay in wait for a ship just such as theirs.

As dawn breaks over the shoreline, they begin to exit the rolling fog, only to be set upon by two of the damned vessels.

Ragged sails, charred hulls, broken and battered decks, silently they pull to each side of courageous Tarek’s legendary ship.

A full score of the phantom warriors rose out of the ships, sickly green like solid fog. Their leader, a ferocious Troll berserkr, stepped from the mast of his ship shouting the name I’d wished he hadn’t…Denfrigg.

Their deaths must have been a horrifying betrayal, for them to see Denfrigg’s face on Tarek’s vessel. I cannot help myself from wondering how many other ships fell prey to these ghost warriors?

Birger, the runecaster, called upon the protection of Thor, raising a shield of lightning about the ship.

Valkari challenges the berserkr to leave them in peace. If the red eyes are any sign, I believe the giant to be beyond peace.

I am right. I am also disturbed by what follows. There is a black blur in my vision, something lands on the deck of Tareks vessel, a man-shaped winged creature. I cannot see it clearly at all, save for the blade in its hand. The sword is a common design among the people of Murgyshurg and the Dark Sea.

This is fascinating. But time enough to ponder the ramifications of that later.

Birger’s shield holds off the weakest of the ghosts, but does not deter the berserkr one bit.

As the fight ensues, the little one attempts to geld the warrior…a ballsy move that would have dropped any living fighter, but mostly futile against the enraged spirit.

Valkari slams into the berserkr Troll, doing a great deal of damage, but is unable to move the ghost, sliding through him instead.

The shaded one swings his blade, just out of reach of the enemy’s neck.

The phantom’s axes swing, eerily silent, out wide, his reach more than enough to kill both Valkari and the shade. While her armor is enough to stand against the blow, the Shade’s is not. It is staggered back.

I turn my attention now back to the runecaster, he has let his shield go on its own, and it will quickly fail. Calling upon the Allfather’s aid, he cripples his off hand with a devastating dagger strike.

The vision goes black. I am not sure what happened then, only that when I regained the sight, Tarek Oddenstrike had beached his broken vessel and the four actors, including the Shade, were heading into Gotesborg.

Something damaged the ship further, and so I look closely. Her ribs are cracked and split, as if slammed upon Gofannon’s anvil. It will be a long time before Tarek Oddenstrike raids or trades again.

I turn my attention back to the group, they seem to have made a companion of this shaded creature, though none of the people in Gotesborg like it at all.

It is a morbid curiousity that I continue this vigil, as the group splits and attends bathhouse and tavern, learning of Vergan, the captain of the merchant vessel that is their quarry – and of his brother, Denfrigg the Bastard.

It is a long day, and mine yet not finished, but the group sleeps fast in the safety of the inn.

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Gatherings
Organized Chaos and Other Oxymorons

I watched them all.

The troll runecaster, the Northwight daughter, and the tiny thief.

I laughed as the troll woke up, performed his daily rituals, and the magic sent his runes flying out the entrance of his hermit-cave.

I cried as the Kaltorei halfling reached for the daggers stolen from her city.

I eagerly awaited the Northwight daughter’s involvement.

I was not disappointed. The grand chaos that ensued was beautiful in its unexpectedness.

The halfling, Kaltorei, was brought for judgement before Torvald. The disorganization of this trial was illustrated by several outbursts from the daughter, Valkari, as well as by several periods of waiting as each merchant had to be summoned. The Heimdallig, Yorick, blamed the daggers on Fellswreth, Fellswreth blamed it on the dwarf, the dwarf blamed it on yet another party whom he couldn’t be bothered to remember. Of course the only other merchants were the Dans and the coastal villages.

Kaltorei was able to drive it through to the Jarl and his Thing her story of raids and missing children.

Valkari will bear further watching as well, as she responded with precisely the right amount of violence and appropriate outrage to the runecaster’s insult, whether it was intended or not.

The runecaster, Birger, as well bears scrutiny, though perhaps not as closely. His talent is very strong.

I digress this journal…

The discovery that the coastal village ship was leaving brought the Jarl and his Thanes running. Another ship on the horizon sent the three actors into a frenzy of motion.

Valkari to the docks to commandeer a ship, though none could be made ready.

Birger, calling upon his power again, tracing runes and crying to his gods, enhances his vision to view upon the outgoing and incoming ships. Witnessing an exchange of pleasantries between them, he concludes that a raid is incoming, perhaps the same raiders that stole the Kaltorei children!

Hearing this, Kaltorei rushes to the guard tower to rouse the alarm for the incoming vessel.

Perception is a wondrous thing. It is shortly learned that the incoming vessel in fact belongs to the Jarl’s middle child, Tarek Oddenstrike, back from his journeys.

The guardtower imparts this knowledge rudely to the small halfling. In retaliation for the extreme disrespect, she palms half the guard’s food and drops it to the base of the ladder.

I am always amazed at the way Fate shows the connections between others. No sooner does she make her way down the ladder than Birger arrives, and promptly ingests the half a biscuit, counting it his lucky day for finding such a treat unattended.

They are met by Valkari with the news that her infamous brother has arrived.

The chase is quickly commenced, only token moments of affection passing between brother and sister and father before Tarek’s ship is shouldered back into the sea by his grumbling crew and boarded by the actors.

As plans go, it was not the worst. The speed of Tarek Oddenstrike’s ship is legendary in its own time—but burdened by a great number of trade goods, it is barely faster than its prey. Sail and oar bent to the crew’s will, though gaining yards instead of miles on their quarry.

As night falls, tales are told and the rich cargo is inspected by the curious rogue halfling.

As day breaks, it becomes obvious that this chase will be a test of the endurance of the crew. There is less wind, though here again, Birger is able to make use of his talents, coaxing the wind to blow harder on their sail.

When the sun sets, the actors and crew are set upon themselves by what I now perceive to be Fate’s planing tool, set to even the playing board.

A great sea serpent tears into the ship as if it were but a large fish. It is a hard fight, with more than a couple of the crew being fed to the beast. In addition, a great amount of the cargo is swallowed whole as well, each time it broke through the deck.

I knew then it was over, but these three show themselves worthy of Fate…their courage, ingenuity, teamwork, and willingness to sacrifice all they held dear allowed them to drive off the serpent.

Working through the night, the crew was able to make workable patchings for the ship and, though exhausted, made sail at first light.

I mentioned before that the playing board had now been leveled by Fate—without the weight of the precious cargo, Oddenstrike’s ship was fast enough to make short work of gaining upon the fleeing merchant vessel and engaging it in battle.

During the fight, the serpent returned, as if drawn to the clash of steel and blood. The warriors of the merchant vessel were able to repel all but one of the boarders – Valkari – the girl fights like her namesake and is as stubborn as her father, though she willingly leaves the ship to battle the serpent again. Disentangling from Tarek’s vessel, the merchant ship runs yet again, making for the maze of islands and channels on the coast near Gotesborg.

As battle with the serpent rages, the group’s quarry slips out of sight into the dense fog…and the serpent vanishes, changing into a flopping eel on the deck of Tarek Oddenstrike’s ship.

There’s a formidable magician working against the actors. Perhaps they may even perish before reaching their goal.

I look forward to watching these people again.

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In the Beginning
Improbably, the impossible is seemingly the truth!

It is spring in the lands of the Northwight. The sky is clear, the air is crisp, and all around the port town of Halmsted, the morning’s activities are being set about.

Children are feeding animals, women are tending their chores, men are laboring to prepare for the day. Bread is baking, forges are set to burning, packs are stuffed for the goatherds, the few thralls in Halmsted are running about, bearing messages or notes of purchase for their masters, and so on.

This includes the traders down near the beach, unloading their wares by the barrel and crate, taking them to the trader’s market area, a small headland off the beach where the traders set up temporary shelters.

The dwarves of Uppland arrived yesterday, bearing loads of iron, steel, mushrooms, and dark, heady ales.

Four ships, one from the Dans, one from the Akwatyne Duchy of Fallswreth, one from the island Jarldom of Heimdallig, and one from the coastal villages of the North Sea, have already started setting their tents up.

It is a fairly good day for shopping, bartering, and trading in general.

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