Posted on February 10, 2012
The Acts of the Lords of Rannick, XLVIII
Last night was fun. Maybe winging it is just easier with fewer people. Probably not so enthusiastically draining the 5 litre Heineken helps too. I think the last time we barely made quorum was way back at Skull Crossing Dam, tackling some angry trolls. You’ve come a long way since then.
Thanks for everyone for trying out the chase mechanic. That was kind of fun. I think it would work best in urban settings, but it is also something you’ll never really get to use if someone has Fly, which is why I think Fly is one of the most loathsome spells in the book.
The Seaward docked briefly and put their passengers ashore, the Captain swearing to himself to never provide transport to people who think they’re saving the world. So the party found themselves in the empty town of Brinewall, site of one of Varisia’s modern mysteries.
The town had been depopulated, seemingly overnight, a number of decades ago. Rumours and theories abound, but no-one has ever found any of the townsfolk and while scavengers and looters have picked the town clean in the decades since, no one has dared to reinhabit the town or castle. Since relations with the Ulfen have stabilised in recent decades, the strategic importance of Brinewall as a fleet harbour waned and the climate doesn’t do much to draw settlers. Resettlers.
Since it was late afternoon when they arrived, the party settled on spending the night in the town. Most of the buildings, while derelict, appeared structurally sound enough to provide shelter. Dagfinn, Kerplak and Halvard set out to explore the ruins while everyone else engaged in an autofellatathon by the dock. Presumably, they were having the “Wait, did anyone bring tents? Um, what about coats?” conversation.
The explorers made their way first to the town’s lighthouse, a solid stone structure that now suffered for its exposure to the elements. Making their way up the rotten stairs, Dagfinn and Kerplak avoided plummeting to their death and were rewarded with a good view of the town that the forest was slowly reclaiming.
Next they made their way around town, surveying the buildings and onwards to the castle atop the cliffs. The castle, while damaged by time had been repaired, in contrast to everything else in the town. The repairs were shitty, but were helping keep the castle whole and sturdy. Nailed across the two wooden doors in the gatehouse was a board, hastily inscribed with Skald runes. From a distance, through Kerplak’s spyglass, Halvard read the notice. “Sealed by Capt. Oluf Ericsson of Kalsgard. Disease. Two men sick from well.” I mistakenly identified the ruler of Kalsgard as Sveinn White Eagle, but as Rolland said, it is Sveinn Blood-Eagle. Rolland knows that stuff way better than I do.
In contrast to the rest of the weed- and bramble-choked town, the graveyard was meticulously neat. Past the iron gates decorated with symbols of Desna, the grass was trim, the graves free of moss and the forest cut back. Searching around a bit, Kerplak noticed one grave that seemed nicer than the others, but it turned out to be a statue of Desna, behind which hid a tiny fey-looking creature who looked a lot like Desna’s earthly image. She was actually a Lyrakien; one type of azata, one of Desna’s extraplanar followers.
She introduced herself as Spivey, caretaker of the graveyard since she had been stranded on this plane five years ago. After wandering for a while, she had found the temple of Desna, which she attempted to refurbish, but the erstwhile inhabitants of the castle, (an Anthropomurder of Tengu?), had torn it down. She had settled for maintaining the town’s graveyard and the small shrine here, since the crow-men were reluctant to venture in there. No, she had no idea what happened to the town a long time ago, but she did know that the Tengu had fled a few weeks ago when an Ulfen patrol fleet had put in for fresh water and repairs. Upon seeing the sails, the Tengu abandoned the castle as they usually do when large numbers of humans appear. She expects that they’ll return in a few weeks.
Dagfinn offered to take her with them, but she declined as she sees her role tending the shrine as vital and worthwhile. She gave them a blessing for travel, including Halvard, even though Halvard had poo-poo’ed Desna’s ability to protect her shrine. Which seemed funny for someone who had so eagerly fled to the realm of dreams the night before…
After chatting for a bit with Spivey, the party moved out a little after mid-morning, following the path of the Steam River. Whether it was good luck or Desna’s blessing they made great time that day, covering a fair stretch of land from the forest surrounding Brinewall to the plains before the foothills. The weather was becoming increasingly cold as they made their way inland. The winter solstice is only a few weeks away and those without cold-weather gear were feeling the cold. Dagfinn generously donated his cold-weather gear to Halvard. The snow began in the afternoon and continued into the evening. As darkness fell, the party realised that they’re actually a little light on tents. As in, nobody had any. So they bivouacked by the banks of the Steam River as best they could and spent an uncomfortable and cold night under the stars.
The weather the next day was better, still cold, but at least no more snow to slow them down. Following the river, they spotted activity further upstream about mid afternoon. A camp of Varisian and Ulfen traders had met to conduct trade and harvest the salmon run in the shadow of a circle of monoliths. Stringing out fish baskets across the river and then drawing them back in, the Ulfen canoed across the river while the Varisians cleaned the fish, salted, smoked and pickled it. The head of the operation, a one legged Ulfen named Snorri Halfhand, came out to meet the travellers and ended up inviting them to stay the night with the encampment.
They dined on pickled salmon roe and as much gravlax as they could eat and then there was some dancing around the fire and Dagfinn entertained everyone by telling stories. Snorri and some of the Varisians discussed what they knew of Lake Stormunder – that the Shoanti avoid the area whenever possible as they fear The Mouth of Winter that lives there. Also that fishing in Lake Stormunder is supposed to be a strange experience since quite a lot of the lake is boiling at any one time. Some of the Varisians gave up their caravan so that the party could sleep inside for a night and compared to the bitter cold of the riverside encampment, the warm caravan was a welcome change.
In the early hours of the morning, their sleep was interrupted. Halvard, sitting on the front steps of the Varisian caravan keeping watch, heard the screams of horses and saw two lying dead. Peering into the darkness, he spied shadows moving out of sync with the flicker of the camp’s fire. Bringing down a pillar of Flamestrike, he drew the ire of the shadows, who left their horse slaughtering and pressed in on Halvard. As they pressed he cast Shout, bellowing two of the shadows out of existence and causing the others to waver. Kerplak opened the half door of the caravan and began firing crossbow bolts into the shadows. While Dagfinn jumped out and attacked with his flaming longsword. The numbing hands of the shadows grasped at the men, but Dagfinn and Halvard were too quick on their feet and countered with a flurry of sword slashes that destroyed the shadows.
One guard and two horses had been killed by the gang of ghostly undead, but no other fatalities or attacks ensued. Dagfinn, Kerplak and Halvard went to check out the standing stones. The Ulfen and Varisians had been meeting around here every year for years, without any such incident, but Snorri told them that the fallen standing stone was a recent development. Investigating the fallen stone, they found that the simple loose rock base had given way, toppling the stone and revealing eight small cracked urns in a hollow area below the base. Dagfinn used the flaming longsword to illuminate the hollow and spotted glittering materials in one of the urns. Kerplak was all for taking the glittering whatevers, but Dagfinn argued against disturbing the grave and wanted to seal it by re-setting the standing stone. A hoist was set up and the stone set back into place to protect the remains of the ancient shoanti who had been placed there.
After recovering what they could of the night’s rest, they bid farewell to Halfhand’s encampment and progressed further upstream, into the gently rolling foothills, towards Lake Stormunder.