Branwhyn gripped the leather pouch around his neck, remember the ring he’d taken from Zhan. It had been dangerous to leave it in the hands of a man like Zhan. Bitterly, Branwhyn realized it also was too dangerous to leave in his hands. He needed to start at the end though, work their escape backward. Blacktongue Brecken would not be forgiving once Branwhyn openly moved against him and Corinna would pay the price if this didn’t work.
Secure Advantage w/ Wits (8, 9, 6+3), Weak Hit. +1 Momentum (+5). Vow Progress: Revive Corinna 1/10
Using a tree as a brace and rope made into an improvised pulley, Branwhyn hauled their small dugout out of the river. It had floated half submerged further down the river and then gotten caught in a swell. Fully repairing it was beyond Branwhyn’s skill – he was not a sailor of any fashion – but he could at least affect a temporary patch. One that would hopefully hold long enough to get them away.
Secure Advantage w/ Shadow + Bind (8, 4, 2+2+1), Weak Hit. +1 Momentum (+6). Vow Progress: Revive Corinna 2/10
It felt like ages since Wolves Haven – where he’d stalked and killed Zhan – and where he’d bound the fox-spirit to himself. Branwhyn had forgotten it was still inside of him, that is until the spirit stirred inside of him while he was sneaking upriver just after twilight and pulling the patched dugout behind him. The fox-spirit uncurled inside of him, as if it were waking from a long rest. He could imagine it languidly stretching and yawning, awakened by his stealthy approach. It stilled suddenly and Branwhyn had a vivid image of its ears pricking up, shifting ever so slightly, straining towards a half heard sound. Taking his que from the spirit bound inside of him, Branwhyn ghosted into the reeds at the water’s edge. The dugout, turned upside down, would hopefully look very much like the log it had been carved from. A moment later, a quartet of bandits on horseback road by. Fortunately, they hadn’t seen him. After they’d passed out of sight and hearing, Branwhyn silently thanked the fox-spirit before returning to the shore and pulling the dugout canoe into place. Hopefully, it would remain hidden until he returned with Corinna.
Next up is Gather Information w/ Wits (6, 5, 3+3), Weak Hit. +1 Momentum. (+7). The goal was to find the camp and where Corinna is, the complication is we only learn one of those things. Still, it’s Vow Progress: Revive Corinna 3/10. And now getting away without being noticed, hopefully, we’ll Face Danger w/ Shadow + Bind (8, 6, 2+2+1), Miss. Insert Explicative of choice. The obvious choice is Branwhyn is spotted, I’m going to ask the Oracle though to see if anything surprises me. Oracle 97 – If you’re alone, you’re put in harms way. Okay, fine. Bandit seems almost certain. Oracle 98 – yep. Who is he, Oracle says – Caldas is a troublesome Kind Raider. His current goal is to Protect a secret. His current stance toward you is friendly. Huh? Interesting.
The mounted bandits that had failed to notice Branwhyn were a gift in their own right. They were a fresh trail, easy to follow, that led Branwhyn back to their camp. It was not far from the river – as he’d hoped – since any camp would need a ready supply of water. It was, however, much bigger though, than he’d expected. The campfires and tents marked the group in the forties or fifties, there were some circles that were not this large and many Ironholds lacked that many Wardens. Of further complication were the captured prisoners – likely the survivors of the caravan – who now all wore a heavy iron collars around their necks which were linked by a single long heavy chain. That would require a metal worker within the camp and suggested a level of sophistication that Branwhyn had not seen before in roaming bandits. Worst of all, there was no sign or Corinna. Perhaps she was in with the captives and he simply could not spot her, perhaps she was in one of the tents under guard, or perhaps they’d already disposed of her. Pushing the last thought out of the way, Branwhyn turned and found himself face-to-face with one of the bandit camp’s guards.
The bandit seemed surprised to stumble upon Branwhyn and a flicker of fear or embarrassment flittered across his face. The surprise made him slow to act, but as he took in the shaman’s appearance he reached for the axe in his belt.
“Wait.” Branwhyn hissed, throwing one hound out with fingers splayed. He was not so trusting though that he didn’t keep hold of the spear in his other hand, though he did keep the point low. The protest for time was as much was as to give him time to think as it was to delay a fight that would surely draw the attention of other guards. Something was wrong, the embarrassment on the bandit’s face was out of place. Perhaps not a guard? Perhaps he had something to hide? It was a long shot, but Branwhyn played for it. “I can help you.”
Compel w/ Heart (4, 9, 1+2), Miss. I’m going to Burn Momentum (4, 9, ), Weak Hit. Momentum Reset and +1 from Compel (+3). Caldas wants something, likely to have to do with is secret. Which is what? Oracle Action/Theme – Distract Safety. I interpret that to mean that Caldas is trying to distract that which keeps a camp safe at night, i.e. the guards. Why is he doing that? Theme Oracle 96 – Relationship. Convenient. He has someone he is trying to get out.
The two men stood looking at one another for a long moment, hands on weapons and holding their breath. “You’re the sage. Brecken took your girl.” As recognition came into the bandit’s eyes, the wheels started turning. “You’re not going to get whatever Brecken wanted, you’re trying to snatch her back.”
The guard was astute and Branwhyn hoped whatever the bandit’s secret was it might make them allies, at least temporarily. “And your hiding something from the rest of the camp. You’re not supposed to be out here or you would have already called for help.” It was a vague statement, but Branwhyn was hoping the bandit would fill in his own context.
There feels like there should be another roll here. Face Danger w/ Heart (3, 4, 2+2), Weak Hit. This will delay us, so -1 Momentum (+2), but it is still a success and so the danger (alerting other guards or Caldas deciding we aren’t worth the risk) is averted.
“I’m Caldas.” Taking a half step back, the bandit let go of the breath he’d been holding and took his hand off his hatchet. Glancing around, he motioned for them to crouch low. “My brother was with the caravan that was raided. He’s a captive now, I need to get him free. Get him away.”
Nodding slowly, he put a hand to his own chest, “Branwhyn and I can help.” For a brief moment, he wondered if this changed his plan. He wondered if this allowed for less extreme measures, if maybe he didn’t have to resort to dealing out death like a gift. Never mind that the captured caravanners would not escape the fate he had planned. “I can bring down a terrible wrath upon the camp, that was my plan. Then get Corinna out in the confusion. I don’t suppose you had something better?” Something where I don’t have to play the role of a monster, he didn’t say.
Caldas thought about it and then slowly shook his head, no. “I’d planned to bring the link that holds my brother – Arasen’s – collar. Try and free a few others before anyone noticed. Raise the alarm, send the guards in one direction, the other freed captives in another, Arasen and me in another.”
“A lot of places that could go wrong.” Branwhyn’s heart sank as he spoke. Unconsciously he clutched at the small leather bag that hung from his neck. He felt the ring inside, along with a few iron coins, and some other items of significance and power. “Do you know where they are keeping Corinna?”
Might as well see what he knows, I’m carrying over the +1 Forward from the Compel earlier. Gather Information w/ Wits + Forward (5, 10, 6+3+1), Weak Hit. +1 Momentum (+3). Vow Progress (for this info and getting Cadlas’ help.): Revive Corinna 4/10
“I saw them put her in Brecken’s tent.” Caldas indicated the one in question, though in truth there was little need. The dwarf’s tent was larger than any of the others and probably wasn’t shared like the rest. It fit the man’s arrogance, ego, and need for control. “She’s probably still there.”
Nodding, Branwhyn let out a heavy sigh. At least she was alive. “Alright, when it begins, free your brother and as many other people from the caravan as possible. I wouldn’t mind help getting Corinna out, but I don’t expect it. Alright?”
“Alright.” Caldas agreed and then unexpectedly proffered his arm. “Luck.”
It took a moment for Branwhyn to recognize the gesture in context but when comprehension came he returned it by gripping the other mans forearm in return. “Luck.”
Lots of Rituals and prep going on. Secure an Advantage w/ Wits + Ritualist (5, 8, 5+3+1), Strong Hit. +3 Momentum (+6). Bind w/ Wits (1, 4, 4+3), Strong Hit. Adding bonus to Wits. Beginning a Scene Challenge to use the ring to summon an Elder Wolf. A formidable challenge represents when you are at a disadvantage and thus seems appropriate. Such things should never be easy and never be without peril.
It was a cloudless night and the moon’s light cast a long shadow behind Branwhyn as he reached the top of a high and lonely place. Or at least the highest and loneliest place that Branwhyn could find on short notice. It was a knoll with aspirations of being a hill. It would be lonelier if the sounds from the bandit camp below didn’t drift up to him when the wind blew just right. He preferred performing rituals at dawn or dusk, liminal moments in time. Time prevented such preferences from being an option. Instead he pulled the trio of scrimshawed skull from his satchel and laid them equidistance from each other as he walked a circle atop the knoll.
Whispering his thanks, he released the fox-spirit that he’d bound inside of him. At the corner of his vision he watched it go, it paused to look back at him before disappearing. Tonight, Branwhyn needed canny wisdom more than secretive cunning. From his pack he withdrew the boar hide cloak, taken from an old and scarred war-chief of a large sounder. The boars hide was like a blanket enfolding him and weighed on his shoulders. Pulling the hood over his head, he felt the slight press of the old war-chief’s spear-like tusks which must look like horns upon his head. Dropping to all fours, Branwhyn rooted and snorted in imitation of the boar. The spirit must have been nearby for the binding happened almost immediately. He liked to think the boar-spirit knew what Branwhyn was about this night and approved, thus it had arrived so quickly; but that was more likely wishful thinking on his own part to stifle his conscience.
Moving to the center of the circle – where the trio of scrimmshawed skulls stared at him with empty eye sockets – Branwhyn drew out the ring he’d taken from Zhan. He’d not really taken the time to look at it before. Made of iron, it felt heavy in his hand, forged in the image of a wolf at a full run and looked as though it were trying to bite its own tail as it sprinted around the wearer’s finger. A lone small yellow stone was set as the wolf’s eye. Closing his eyes, Branwhyn slipped the ring on and a started the ritual that he’d killed another man for attempting.
Face Danger w/ Wits + Bind (9, 3, 3+3+1), Weak hit. Progress 1 of 10. Clock 1 of 4.
Face Danger w/ Wits + Bind (1, 10, 4+3+1), Weak hit. Progress 2 of 10. Clock 2 of 4.
Face Danger w/ Wits + Bind (3, 5, 3+3+1), Strong hit. Progress 3 of 10.
Face Danger w/ Wits + Bind (8, 6, 6+3+1), Strong hit. Progress 4 of 10.
Face Danger w/ Wits + Bind (5, 4, 4+3+1), Strong hit. Progress 5 of 10.
Face Danger w/ Wits + Bind (8, 5, 2+3+1), Weak hit. Progress 6 of 10. Clock 3 of 4.
Face Danger w/ Wits + Bind (8, 1, 1+3+1), Weak hit. Progress 7 of 10. Clock 4 of 4. Bind expires.
Scene Challenge Done (2, 8, ). Weak Hit.
So the summoning has worked, the Elder Wolf is on its way. Normally a weak hit with a scene challenge has a minor cost associated with it. However, we’re beyond the pale of normal rituals in Ironsworn and the fiction thus far says these are very dangerous to practice. Ergo, the ‘minor’ cost in this case is going to be rolling on the Mystical Backlash Oracle. Oracle says – 93 You are wracked with a sudden sickness. I think I’m going to call that a Debility and treat it like Wounded. So, it drops our momentum refresh, we can’t heal until the debility is gone, and there will be some struggle and fatigue issues and rolls. The ritual’s completion is also, I think, a reasonable reason to mark progress on the Vow to Revive Corinna: 5/10
The ring was the focus and from it seemed to flow the knowledge of what needed to be done. Branwhyn began to dance, slow stalking steps, confident and powerful. He moved with bent legs – low to the ground – then springing forward nearly at a sprint, only to repeat the pattern again. Words he didn’t know tumbled out of his mouth and his hands moved in patterns he’d never learned. When it was done, he felt the power he’d built up flow out of him – seeking the Elder Wolf – and the old war-chief of a boar-spirit went with it. Falling to his knees, Branwhyn felt exhausted. His muscles were soar and his joints ached. Touching the back of a clammy hand to the suddenly raging furnace of his forehead, Branwhyn became aware of a sickness rapidly spreading through his body. Then his stomach wrenched and roiled, just before he pitched forward and retched up the contents of his stomach with a series of painful spasms. Utterly exhausted and still tasting the burning stomach acid on his lips and in his throat, he rolled onto his side. In this distance, he heard a deep throated howl.
Rolling over, Branwhyn’s hand fell upon his pack. With numb fingers he pulled the water skin free and washed the foul taste from him mouth. Struggling up to his knees while fumbling with unresponsive fingers, he undid the boar-skin cloak trading it for the bear’s fur cloak he normally wore. On weak legs he struggled up to his feat and began stumbling through the steps of the binding to call a spirit of a bear. He was in need of its strength.
Bind w/ Wits + Ritualist (5, 1, 2+3+1), Strong Hit. -1 Supply (3) for Ritualist. +1 Iron from Bind. We needed to get moving and I want to represent the problem of the sickness causes, so we’ll Face Danger w/ Iron + Bind (4, 7, 6+1+1), Strong Hit. +1 Momentum (+7). So far so good.
Wobbling legs steadied and he felt insulated somewhat against the chill air that ached his joints and sinew. Stooping with a grunt that sounded more like a huff of a bear, Branwhyn gathered his varied supplies and returned them to pack and satchel. His back and shoulders protested the weight, his legs soon joined in the complaint as he began to move. The varied protests of his body made the knoll – it’s delusions of being a hill not withstanding – seem more of a trial in descent than when he’d climbed it. In a strange way, the fever helped though, letting him slip into a fugue-like state of movement, letting his body lope down the knoll without the need of his conscious mind. The terrain passed him by in a blur, the lights of the bandit camp – accompanied by the sounds of camp life – swam into his perception though he was only aware of it periodically. As if his conscious would briefly rise to the surface, swimming up through the fatigue and illness every so often, to look about and then slip back down into the sea of fever induced fugue.
Slowing from his ungainly lope to a graceless stumble when the ground leveled out beneath his feet, Branwhyn blinked his blurry vision back to clarity and could make out the shapes of the bandit camps tents and could smell the scents of their cooking fire. Half stepping and half falling to the side on unsteady legs, he leaned against the tree to briefly rest. Though it took a moment to remember what he was waiting for. The screams of panic were a helpful reminder.
Elder beasts were – as a general rule – twice the size of their common kin. Thus, an elder wolf might be expected to be roughly the size of a horse, or at least that is what Branwhyn had been told. Looming out of the darkness and into the light of the bandit camps cooking fires, this elder worf – an avatar of Vanagandr according to the dead man Zhan – would make a plow horse look small. Dimly, Branwhyn remembered being concerned that the camp of organized bandits might be a threat to the elder beast he was summoning. That concern he discarded and was replaced with the hope that it wouldn’t eat the bandits all too quickly and then come looking for him.
With another huffing grunt, Branwhyn pushed off the stabilizing tree. Leaning forward and trusting his legs to move, he started loping towards the largest tent in the bandit’s encampment. The reassuring weight of his spear clutched in the numb fingers of a clammy hand.
Journey to Ragged Coast [Extreme] – 6/20
Branwhyn ap Hugh Bonds: 10
Health +3 Spirit +4 Supply +4 Momentum +7
Edge: 1 Heart: 2 Iron: 1+1 Shadow: 2 Wits: 3 XP: 19/23
[Paths]: Sighted+, Ritualist+; [Companions] Kindred (Corinna) – Shield-Kin; [Rituals]: Augur, Bind, Sway, Visage, Ward
Kingmaker [Epic] 3/40
Break the Power of the Broken’s Apostle [Extreme] – 5/20
Mentor Corinna [Extreme] – 7/20
-Rival [Monster Within] – 5/20
Find the Heir of Twin Rivers [Formidable] – 2/10
Renew Twin River Southern Trade Route [Dangerous] – 6/10
Winter Meeting at the Seven Strong Men [Dangerous] – 0/10
Revive Corinna [Formidable] – 5/10
Bonds: ???, ???, ???, Esyllt the Herbalist, Ironhold of Crow’s Perch, Björn Blacksmith of Greybrook, Valknut, Ironhold of Twin Rivers, Ironhold of Greybrook, Priestess Indirra of Wolves Haven