44 – The Boy . . .

There were few currents in the Flooded Lands, those that did exist were slow-moving and generally pulled southward towards the sea. Normally Branwhyn would have been glad to find a current, to let it carry their small dugout canoe with the dragon head on the prow. It would give him time to rest, merely manning an oar as a rudder. Alas, their journey took them more east than south, inching towards the Circle Greymoor. This made those normally looked for southern currents more hassle than blessing and it felt as though more of the day was spent wrenching free of their grip than actually traveling towards their goal.

Undertake a Journey w/ Wits (5, 1, 2+3), Weak Hit. Progress on Journey to the Ragged Coast 11/20. -1 Supply (3). Make Camp w/ Supply (6, 2, 1+3), Weak Hit. Relas +1 Spirit (+2). Resupply w/ Wits (3, 9, 4+3), Weak Hit. +2 Supply (+5) but -2 Momentum (+2). Make Camp w/ Supply (8, 1, 6+5), Strong Hit. Recuperate +1 Health for Branwhyn (+2) & Corinna (+1) and Relax +1 Spirit (+3).

In the early afternoon, they came across an abandoned, or at least empty, fisherman’s hut. Little more than a deck of planks on stilts with a lean-to roof of thatch and a blackened slab of stone to build cooking fires upon. Even so, it was a welcome sight. They could have perhaps kept going but between illness and injury both Branwhyn and Corinna we glad of the rest. Bedrolls and basic supplies were moved from canoe to small refuge and the rest of the day and early night were spent with fishing lines dangling in the water. The first few fish were eagerly eaten as soon as they were cooked, neither shaman nor apprentice caring that their fingers were singed in the process. Once they’d had their fill, further catches were hung and smoked to be added to their supplies. 

The simple routine of it, the perceived safety of the place, and the light and easy presence of each other’s company was a boon to their spirits. So many of the past days had been foreboding and oppressive, the shift to a simpler life, even if only briefly, was a welcome change. They slept in peace and woke early with the sun. By mutual and unspoken consent, they lingered another full day. Lazily catching fish, eating their fill, and smoking the excess to add to their supplies. It was a good day, a boon for both body and soul and when dawn came again, they reluctantly repacked their belongings into the dugout canoe. 

Undertake a Journey w/ Wits (4, 10, 3+3), Weak Hit. Progress on Journey to the Ragged Coast 12/20. -1 Supply (4). For some description, we asked the oracle and it came up with Shadowy Fen. Seem right since we are nearing Greymoor.

Come midday, the terrain of the Flooded Lands had changed from sodden timbers to shadowy fens. Any notion of current or moving water was gone, that frustration had been replaced by the maze-like waterways which they now had to navigate. In turn, those were made worse by the thick unmoving air, stifled by the tall trees and sweeping canopies, that left the fen in shadows. At the aft of the canoe, Branwhyn slowly pulled with paddle and wished for southern currents as a problem while Corina leaned over the prow to give warning of any bank or bar hidden beneath the murky waters. 

Incongruous to all other sounds one expected to hear on the fens, drifting strains of a trio of voices raised in playful song, floated to reach their ears. Branwhyn’s frown of concentration became a scowl of concern. Corinna rolled to her side to look back at her adoptive father, her features questioning and suspicious. Having no answers, he chose not to speak and instead let her read the concerns on his face.

The waterway they traveled brought them around a stand of trees and the singers came into view. A trio of lithe and beautiful women dancing and sa]inging, their bare feet light upon the moss-covered ground. The cloth of their simple dresses created flowing trails in their wake and flowers were tucked in their hair. At the center of their dance, was a red-haired and freckle-faced boy at least a few winters younger than Corinna, wide-eyed he would have looked dazed save for the fearful eyes set in an otherwise slack face.

A single glance from Corinna told Branwhyn that they were in agreement regarding their concern for the boy and the need to help him. Branwhyn pulled the boat up against the moss-covered bank and put hand to his leaf-blade spear. Yet he lingered in the boat a long moment, watching the trio of women dance and sing. Moving with perfect synchronization, they were not just similar in form: tall and slender, lovely of feature, with long blond hair; but actually identical to one another. Unfocusing his eyes, his vision parted the veil upon the world and looked to the ebb and flow of energies beyond. 

Swear an Iron Vow: Rescue the Boy [Troublesome]. (2, 4, 2+2), Weak Hit. +1 Moment (+3). More questions than answers, whatever these are, they are new to Branwhyn. Ergo, Gather Information w/ Wits + Sighted (1, 5, 5+3+1), Strong Hit. +2+1 Momentum (+6). Vow: Progress 3/10. Clearly, they are magical creatures and we want to avoid a fight so we will go the social route and Compel w/ Heart + Sighted (4, 4, 5+2+1), Strong Hit. +1+1 Momentum (+7). Vow Progress 6/10.  Even Match, Oracle says Fortify Nature. Given this was a strong hit, it should be a good thing for us. I take this to mean something about Branwhyn’s nature which creates a hierarchy with these creatures, as long as he lives into that (i.e. as long as he fortifies it) the hierarchy will be in place.

The creatures pulsed with power, they were alive and vibrant, made so by the life and energy they took from the boy. What exactly they were, Branwhyn was uncertain; but their predatory nature was evident. With a deep breath, he tried to still the rasping dry cough that threatened to rise in his throat and wrack his body. “Be ready.” Were the words he offered as he stepped out of the boat and onto the moss-covered bank, his boots sinking slightly into the fen, moisture welling up where his weight pressed down. Making an effort for every footfall to be bold and unconcerned, the shaman wanted to be certain that he did not appear to be prey. 

An inheritor of lineages, his black hair was a mark of his mother being Skulde, but of the blood from the Old Ones that ran in his veins, there was no outward sign. Stopping a half dozen paces away from the dance, Branwhyn set his feet, shoulder-width apart, and made a sign of power with his left hand, drawing it in the air while also speaking the word aloud. His blood thrummed with magic and memory, the echoes of both were heard in the words that followed. “Boy, come here.” Though he’d spoken to the captive, he addressed the power of his words to the magical creatures that held the boy in their sway. 

The dance and song stopped the instant he spoke. The trio of women held their pose mid-movement as if they’d be carved status. Slowly and as one they turned to look at him, eyes first, followed by a turn of the head, finally their bodies followed as arms and legs slowly lowered into a neutral position of rest. Each of the three had verdant green eyes, the color of new growth after a rain. They saw Branwhyn first and then second the glint of iron that was his leaf-blade spear. There was a moment of silence before the ensorcelling over the boy was released. The flood of emotions over his freckled face was heartbreaking, everything that hadn’t been allowed to surface seemed to bubble up at once. To his credit though, he kept his courage, focused his tear-filled eyes on Branwhyn, and with poignantly slow purpose-filled steps walked away from his tormenters.

“Who . . . are . . .  you?” Each word was slowly spoken and each by a different woman, though pitch, timber, and delivery were identical; as if a single voice moved between the three. 

Even if they hadn’t been magical creatures, Branwhyn would have been warry of giving his name in the Flooded Lands, but to conceal who he was? That seemed like it might be viewed as weakness by these creatures. More importantly, it seemed less that they wanted his identity, but by what right he’d deprived them of their food. “I am a Brother to Ravens and Child of the Ones.”

My first instinct is that this is a Face Danger, but given the match, I think it’s forge a bond to cement his authority. Normally you have to strive with people first, but this is a weird situation created by a match, so we are bending the rules. Thus, Forge a Bond w/ Heart (2, 7,  1+2), Weak Hit. They want something, of course, Oracle says: Demand Desolation. Desolation is often about loneliness, isolation, or being vulnerable. I take this to mean since Branwhyn has taken something from them, before they accept his authority, they demand a vulnerability from him as a kind of gift/payment. We’re going to give it to them, so we mark the bond and Vow Progress: Save the Boy 9/10.

“Sir?” The boy spoke clearly, the fear in his voice held in check while silent tears – a mixture of recent terror and present relief – ran silently down his face. “They still have my satchel.”

The shaman gave the barest of nods in understanding, a dry rasping cough rising in his throat. Doing his best to cover it by clearing his throat expectantly, he spotted the satchel near one of the triplet’s feat. “Give the boy back his things.” He spoke with authority, the echo of power still in his words. 

As one, the triplets frowned, making the timeless symmetry of their faces into something uncanny and terrible. “You have taken and take again. What do you give?” All three spoke as one, the words being flung like daggers.

The cold iron tip of the leaf-blade spear had been kept intentionally low, but now Branwhyn raised it ever so slightly, a gesture of warning. Also, a pause to give himself time to think. The question was fair, if he was to stand in a position of authority, it meant making better for those in his care, doubly so when he took something from them. “Your question is just. What boon would you have of me?”

Surprise – perfectly mirrored on each of the three once again lovely faces – flickered into mirth. They had not expected his response and in turn, were pleased by it. “Humble yourself before us, be as vulnerable as a newborn babe.” Lilting words, spoken in perfect chorus with only the girlish giggles that followed not perfectly synchronized.

Pressing his lips into a narrow line, Branwhyn thought through the demand. The rational part of him immediately suspected a trap. If it were a ruse though, it was a blatantly clumsy one: make yourself vulnerable to invite the attack. A visceral intuition, a gut instinct, told him otherwise. He keenly remembered a pack of wolves not far from his hermitage, where the alpha wolf would allow himself to be tackled and subdued by his pups. The strong making themselves low to bond with the weak. A kind of condescension, it would only cost his dignity. “Hold my things boy, given them to no one but myself or my daughter in the boat behind you.” 

The freckled boy gulped but nodded as the shaman handed him his spear, followed by cloak, satchel, belt, tunic, and every piece of equipment and clothing that he had on his person. In the end, he stood a half-pace ahead of the boy, presenting his naked body to the triplets. Hands spread akimbo, he did not resist the shivers that crept into his body. On the best of days, he bore numerous scars and most of the recent days had not been good. Battered and bruised, stitched and sutured, naked and starting to shiver in the cold, he was certainly humble before them. 

They danced close, glee flickering in their eyes, and giggling laughter bubbling up like a language they shared. They danced around him, looking him up and down, lingering their gaze on the down. He was, at the moment, far from being an impressive specimen of manhood. Grimly, he resisted the urge to defensively comment on how cold it was. He saw the amused judgment in the critique of their eyes and how they placed their hands over their mouths in mock shame as they eyed his chilled and shivering form. 

The triplets flowed to a stop in front of him, the tips of long willowy fingers from three separate yet identical hands were softly placed upon his bare chest. Delightedly the three indistinguishable women smiled at him while the embarrassing warmth of a blush rose in his cheeks and spread down his neck and chest. Giggling with mirth, the triplets danced away, circling one another and blowing kisses back at him as they went.

Neither knowledge of the trio’s predatory nature nor desolation of his nakedness diminish the triplets captivating beauty. Both Branwhyn and the boy watched them go, only once the triplets were out of sight did either speak. 

“Lucky.” The boy voice was thick and touched with envy.

“Doesn’t feel like it.” The shaman replied with a weary shake of his head. “Give me my things, then fetch your satchel.”

Without turning to face Corinna, Branwhyn dressed save for his boots. He and she traveled together and there were few secrets and less privacy between them. Still, whatever mysteries did lay between them, Branwhyn intended to keep. When the boy returned, they walked back to the canoe together, the shaman carrying spear in one hand and boots in the other. There was after all no point in putting wet feet back in them. “What’s your name?”

“Leon Ragnason, sir. Of Greymoor.” As he said it, he caught sight of Corinna watching him. He started to smile but caught her mismatched eyes and the intensity of her gaze. It froze him in place and he swallowed hard. The black yew bow with its knocked arrow in her hands likely didn’t help either.

“This is Corinna, my daughter. She won’t bite.” Branwhyn half-turned as he said it. “Probably.” Stepping into the canoe, he steadied it against the bank so the boy could get in and sit between them. He caught the puckish smile on the changeling’s lips and saw the amusement in her eyes. Was it the fool he’d made of himself that caused the silent laughter in her eyes? Or was there some kind of kinship with those fae wild creatures? Or something else entirely? Despite their closeness, she too was still a mystery to him at times. He would have to ask, but it would wait until they were alone. They guarded each other’s secrets jealously after all. “We’ll take you home. Can you guide us to Greymoor?”

“Yes, sir.” Cautiously stepping into the boat, Leon’s eyes were wide again and he didn’t seem to want to turn his back on Corinna. “It’s about a half-day further east.”

“What were you doing so far from home?” The inquiry was made as the shaman pushed the canoe away from the mossy shore.

I don’t know, so let’s see what the Oracle says: Settlement Trouble: Important object is lost & An Old wound is opened. I wonder what it is? Action/Theme: Bolster Vow. I think that has to be something Iron, a relic of some fashion that is important to the circle. Likely suspects for taking it include Mournful Cairn 01-20 (the only other named settlement, but they seem unlikely. They weren’t in great shape), Wulner 21-40 (also a bit unlikely, but who knows), 41-60 New Settlement, 61-90 Something Supernatural, 91-100 It’s not gone, they just think it is. Oracle says: 67 – Supernatural something grabbed. I’ll think more about it next chapter. We’re also traveling again, so I’ll make that roll here, Undertake a Journey w/ Wits (4, 8, 2+3), Weak Hit. -1 Supply (3). Journey to the Ragged Coast Progress 14/20. This is also Vow Progress: Save the Boy 10/10. We’ll have the completion roll in the next chapter when we reach Greymoor.

The boy was silent for a long moment, afraid to answer, or perhaps ashamed, or maybe just uncertain of how much to tell a stranger. “Our Circle was raided. Someone . . . something, came in the night and took it. We don’t know how it got past the wall or the wardens. It took the black iron torc from our thane’s arm. I . . . I was trying to get it back. I thought . . .” Leon shook his head and ran his fingers through his red hair in frustration. “It was stupid and I . . .” He motioned helplessly back the way they’d come.

“It was brave.” Corinna suggested, though her voice was a touch flat and her features revealed nothing.

Branwhyn was uncertain if she meant it, or if she were mocking the boy. Leon thought her serious though and looked down to blush and smile. Shaking his head, Branwhyn pulled at the oar and sent their dugout canoe further into the fen.


Branwhyn ap Hugh
Health +2 Spirit +3 Supply +3 Momentum +7
Edge: 1 Heart: 2 Iron: 1 Shadow: 2 Wits: 3
Bonds: 13 – XP: 19/30

Grave Cough
Cursed (Break the Grimwick Thanes’ family Curse)

[Paths]: Sighted+, Ritualist+;
[Rituals]: Augur, Bind, Sway, Visage, Ward
[Companions] Kindred (Corinna) +1 – Shield-Kin;

Active Vows:
Kingmaker [Epic] 3/40
Break the Power of the Broken’s Apostle [Extreme] – 5/20
Mentor Corinna [Extreme] – 9/20
-Rival [Monster Within] – 5/20
Find the Heir of Twin Rivers [Formidable] – 2/10
Winter Meeting at the Seven Strong Men [Dangerous] – 0/10
Protect Grimwick [Dangerous] – 2 xp.
Break the Grimiwck Thanes’ family Curse [Formidable] – 1/10 
Save the Boy [Troublesome] 10/10

Threat: Corruption in the North – 3/10
Failure Track – 19/40

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, Old Gray [wolf], Brumhil of Grimwick, Triplets of the Shadow Fen

2 thoughts on “44 – The Boy . . .

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