39 – Grimwick

It was only after they were well out of bow range that Branwhyn noticed Kotoma’s arm wasn’t pulling at the water. Instead, the herder’s arm dangled lifelessly, pulled by the river and bumping against the side of the canoe. An arrow had struck him in the side, slipping through the rib cage and found the vulnerable organs underneath. Nearly on instinct, Branwhyn started to rise to tend to the dead man; but seemingly all at once the pain and weariness from fatigue along with spell born sickness flooded back into his body. Sitting back on the canoe’s aft bench with a heavy sigh or weariness, he left the dead man where he lay. Pulling the oar in, he leaned forward to touch Corinna’s ankle. She was still warm to the touch, still breathing, and she had no wounds that he could see. Slumping down further in his seat, Branwhyn didn’t have the energy to do anything except let the river carry them.

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38 – A Little Chaos

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. Looming out of the darkness and into the light of the bandit camps cooking fire, this elder wolf – 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 was discarded and replaced with the hope that it wouldn’t eat the bandits all too quickly and then come looking for him.

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37 – The Summoning

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.

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36 – Blacktongue

36 – Blacktongue

Water angrily boiled up from the puncture in the bottom of the canoe, the swift running river dragged them towards sharp rocks, and a battle atop the cliff above seemed intent on dropping dead bodies down upon them.  “Row, we have to get clear.”  Branwhyn stuffed a cloak in the puncture in their hull of this small canoe, berating himself internally for the need to state the obvious. 

We’re entering a Scene Challenge to navigate the river before one of the terrible things that are happening catches up to us.  We’ll start by seeing if the impromptu patch has any effect.  Secure an Advantage w/ Wits (8, 2, 2+3), Weak Hit.  +1 Momentum (+10).  We’ll also Face Danger w/ Iron (10, 8, 5+1), Miss. Countdown Clock 1 of 4.  And once more hoping for a better roll. Face Danger w/ Iron (10, 9, 2+1), Miss. Good times. Countdown Clock 2 of 4.

Their best efforts to navigate the river seemed only to run them into one rock after another.  It was a wonder that their little boat didn’t shatter with every hit.  Plying their strength against the current of the river wasn’t working.  In his haste, he’d forgotten how they were navigating before they were imperiled.  Taking in a deep breath, Branwhyn forced himself to calm and do more than just react to the river.  He started to call out the rocks that he could see, started a count so the pull of their paddles would be in time, and did his best to not think about what might fall upon them from above.

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35 – Concerning Monsters

Sitting on the side of the riverbank, Corinna dangled the line of a simple fishing pole with a hook made of bone into the water. Behind her, Branwhyn tended to the campfire and the stew made from the forelegs of a deer they’d shot a few days before.

“Hello in the camp.”

Branwhyn recognized the voice. Standing, he waved Indirra into their humble and temporary riverside home.

The chainmail clad priestess looked healthier than the last time he’d seen her. The dark circles under her eyes were gone and while her features were still gaunt, some color had returned to her cheeks. She’d also apparently had time to shave the hair from the sides of her head, leaving a wide strip of red hair that was bound in a close braid.

A stocky woman with sharp eyes and a longbow followed in Indirra’s wake. She’d been sitting nearby when Branwhyn had first met the priestess, but he’d not heard her name.

“The stew is nearly ready, if you’re hungry.” He stirred the pot with a wooden ladle he’d carved while they’d waited for Indirra’s arrival. “How are things in Wolves Haven?”

“We have some trenchers of bread to go with the stew.” Indirra rested her long-handled axe against a nearby tree and took off her pack to get at the supplies. “This is Melia.” She indicated her stocky companion. “I’ve told Wolves Haven that Zhan summoned the Elder Wolf that destroyed Damula’s Rest, I think they believe me. Still, you’ve earned a great deal of ire; I wouldn’t suggest stopping by to visit anytime soon. Other than that, we seem to be integrating well enough. We were all neighbors before after all. You’d mentioned trade when you were in my camp?”

Accepting a flat round of black bread for Melia, Branwhyn ladled the thick stew onto it and passed it back. “Twin Rivers, an Ironhold a few days upriver from Greybrook. They’re getting back on their feet, but they are a major hub. Or were at least they were and are likely to be again. You would get good value for pelts, smoked meats, and other basics to help them store up provisions in their hold. In turn you’d cover many of the basics you need to help establish Wolves Haven. It’s a good deal and a good time to be building friendships with them.” He passed a second trencher filled with stew to Indirra and then took one for himself, leaving the fourth trencher to warm near the fire for whenever Corinna was ready. “People saw me speaking with you, how are you going to avoid my association? It will look like you let me go so I could kill Zhan.”

“You mean it will look like the truth?” The priestess shook her head, an impish smile forming on her lips. “You ensorcelled me with your magic. I’m hunting you right now, in fact. I caught up with you on the third day, but your enchantment proved too strong. You tricked me into eating food that you’d bewitched.” She hefted what remained of the trencher to indicate her point. “Thank you, it’s good fare. Is Corinna going to join us?”

“I’m rather wily, apparently.” Branwhyn shook his head as well but couldn’t keep the half smile off his face. It faded though as he looked over his shoulder at his ward. “She’ll join us when she is ready. Corinna has . . . concerns about how we handled Zhan.”

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Starforge: Playtest #1

The airlock of the Witch of Endor rolled shut behind him. Though no sound came across the void of space, Gawain’s mind made him think he heard it clang shut anyway. Testing the patched-together EV suit’s thrusters, the movement turned him to see the belt of ruble known as Rockstorm, the remains of a planet — shattered in some ancient and long forgotten cataclysm. Normally asteroid belts were actually quite stable and the Witch nimble enough to navigate them. The Rockstorm though was fraught with magnetic anomalies which kept the fragments in constant and chaotic motion. It was as a whole a perilous expanse of soaring, spinning, colliding rocks.  Only fools dared venture into it. Gawain fired the EV suit’s jury-rigged thrusters to send him into the Rockstorm.

The ignition mass used by The Day of Jubilation – the ship which carried the cargo he was after – left a trail which he could track. The Heads Up Display (HUD) in the EV suit’s helmet illuminated the trail and Gawain sent the suit to follow. The cargo in question was a stolen reliquary containing the bones of a long-dead religious leader. 

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34 – A Vow Made in Haste

The small Circle being called Wolves Haven was still cloaked by the mountain’s shadows, the sun not yet graying the eastern ridge. “I’ll take you as far as the western pass.” Katrin told them as they passed the sheepfold.   The sides of the woman’s head were shaved, accentuating her narrow features, and the blond hair that remained was woven into a tight braid that wouldn’t be a nuisance. The shield slung over her back – devoid of any marking save the scars of battle – marked her as a mercenary. Her weapons – a spear and several hand axes all with iron blades – marked her as a successful mercenary. Why she was working for Wolves Haven, who could barely lay claim to the land they were building a Circle upon, was a mystery. “You can find your own way from there.”

“There are no other passes into the valley?” Branwhyn’s long legs kept pace easily enough, though he’d unconsciously started shorting his stride as of late for Corinna’s sake. They moved across the valley floor, the sweeping tall grasses brushing against their hands and forearms as they passed. Corinna, though she’d hit a growth spurt recently and was starting to outgrow her clothes, wasn’t close to her full height yet and had to jog to keep up.

“None that we’ve found.” The mercenary confirmed without looking back. “Though there are caves, there might be a way under the mountains. Even if there is though, the Damulas will not know of it.”

Branwhyn Undertakes a Journey w/ Wits (7, 7, 3+3), Miss with a Major Twist. Well, we were Undertaking a Perilous Journey to intercept the survivors of Damula’s Rest, but I guess we’re just Undertaking a Peril instead. We are Waylaid. Pay the Price: The current situation worsens. Major Plot Twist: The truth of a relationship is revealed. I think the relationship in question is between Damula’s Rest and Wolves Haven. The situation worsens because the Damulas are already here. We are Ambushed, Enter the Fray w/ Wits (10, 5, 4+3), Weak Hit. We’ll take the initiative. Damula’s Rest Survivors are Formidable.

The valley floor had just started to angle up towards the western mountain range when an arrow caught Katrin high in the chest. The shot took her by surprise and she went down, disappearing into the tall grasses. All around them, men and women armed with hunting bows and patchwork armor came out of hiding – rising from the tall grasses or appearing from behind boulders and trees.

“We’re not your enemy!” Branwhyn called loudly, raising his hands in an open and hopefully non-threatening gesture.

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33 – Wolves Haven

The fire crackled and popped, lithely dancing upon the wood it consumed. Long had Branwhyn been able to catch glimpses of other things within the flame, but lacked the knowledge to make sense of those flashes of insight. He gave up and leaned his head back against the stone wall near the entrance of the ruins. Corinna tossed the old bandages into the fire and packed up the satchel with the medical supplies. Plopping down next to him, she tucked herself under his left arm and used his shoulder for a pillow. For a moment, Branwhyn thought to protest, but in truth he welcomed the comfort of her presence as much as she craved it from him. He was all the changeling girl had left in the world; he would not push her away.

Whatever knowledge Branwhyn lacked in seeking images and signs in the flame, Molok seemed to possess. The Broken Shaman stared long into the flickering flames; his unblinking dark eyes attentive to every movement. He was still looking into the fire when Branwhyn’s sleep laden eyes drooped shut for the night.

Heal w/ Wits: Molok Branwhyn (3, 8, 5+3), Weak Hit. Branwhyn +2 Health (+2) & -1 Supply (+3). B M (8, 1, 2+3), Weak hit. Molok +2 Health (+2) & Branwhyn -1 Momentum (+2). Molok Scry w/ Shadow (3, 10, 5+2), Weak Hit. 2 Stress, -2 Spirit. Endure Stress w/ Spirit (6, 4, 3+3), Weak Hit. No change. Scry Gather Information w/ Wits (1, 3, 4,+3), Strong Hit. +2 Momentum (+1). Group Makes Camps w/ Supply (7, 6, 4+3), Weak Hit. Both Focus, +1 Momentum. Branwhyn (+3) & Molok (+2).

In the morning, Molok was gone. Before leaving though, he’d left a message, drawn in the distinct simple form, were seven giant standing pillars of stone. In the midst of the pillars rested a lone figure, its head drawn in a rectangular way that was indicative of the rough wooden mask that Molok wore. White ash from the fire had been dusted across the image to suggest snow. Through it, two figures walked towards Molok, a man and a woman, the former carried a spear and wore the mask of the Horned Hunter.

“He wants us to meet him, come the winter?” Corinna asked, trying to interpret the message.

Nodding, Branwhyn marred the image with his own hand, lest anyone else learn of their meeting. “Come Winter, we’ll see you again Molok. We’ll meet at the Seven Strong Men. I promise.”

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32 – Tanglewood – A Delve Playtest – Part 4

The rest was short and fitful, waking at any unfamiliar sound and expecting to see the Hag looming over them.  With fatigue and exhaustion little more than held at bay, they roused to take a closer look at the cauldron that Molok had taken from the Hag.

“This is how she made the mist?  Brought forth the spirits?” Corinna too had recovered from her ordeal and her insatiable curiosity covered any sign of lingering weariness.  

Branwhyn nodded thoughtfully.  “If I understand Molok’s idea — which I’m not convinced that I do — he wants you to reverse the magic.  Or brew a counter ritual of some kind. And no, I’ve no idea how you would do that.”

The changeling gave him a sidelong look, her mismatched  green and golden brown eyes questioning. “But you think I can.”  More a statement than a question.

Molok gave what must have been an encouraging smile, though showed too many teeth, as he made a stirring motion over the cauldron.

Silent for a long moment, Branwhyn slowly nodded his head.  “For you and I, magic is in the blood. Your mother used a cauldron, larger and with the body part of children in it, to wield magic.  Somewhere within you is the ability to do the same.”

“What if it changes me?”  The girl asked, looking – for the first time in his memory – afraid of the thought of what the wielding of magic might do.  “What if it makes me more like them? Like my mother or my aunt?”

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31 – Tanglewood – A Delve Playtest – Part 3

The ambush of shadows made Molok less willing to trust Branwhyn’s lead and the Broken Shaman frequently called them to stop so that he might move forward and survey an area that he found suspicious. Given that he didn’t share a common language and thus couldn’t convey either his suspicions or findings, and seemed of the temperament to do neither even if he could, the frequent halts quickly became an annoyance. It was made all the worse since Branwhyn desperately wanted to speak with Corinna regarding the not too distant presence of a hag, yet as they delved deeper into the Tanglewood, the forest closed tighter in around them and the overwhelming and oppressive feelings of the place seemed to insist that silence was the better course.

Molok Secures an Advantage w/ Wits (10, 1, 5+1), Weak Hit. +1 Momentum (+4). Branwhyn Delves the Depths w/ Wits (2, 8, 3+3), Weak Hit. 89 – Take Both: Mark Progress & Discover an Opportunity. Progress 6/10. Opportunity 25 – You Find a Hidden Path. Features 52 – An overgrown path.

The twisting path that they’d been following, which Branwhyn presumed was a game trail, showed more signs of disuse the further they followed it and after an hour it became completely overgrown with thick thorny brambles. A quick shared glance between he and Molok was a curious moment of clear understanding passed between them. Another path was necessary, and they would need to double back. As they moved to leave, Branwhyn stopped the Broken Shaman with a hand on the shoulder. Corinna stood before the overgrown path; her head cocked to the side like an animal unsure of what it was looking at. The young changeling took a tentative step forward and the overgrown brambles pulled back to make the way clear.

As Corinna walked forward, with ever more confident steps, Branwhyn and Molok drew nearer to her for the thick briers closed behind them and blocked any thought of backtracking.

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