The characters for this session:
Fennec, L3 wizard, combat and curative schools
Crompton, L3 rogue, roguery and Runebearer background
Jotunn, L6 warrior, hunter background and tracking talent
Cauleigh, L4 warrior, literate townsman background
The four Restorers have achieved one notable success: the famed Sarnas library has given them some significant guidance as to the whereabouts of Ikkutas! Now, an encounter with marauding skeletal undead, during which Crompton claims control of one, may provide a clue as to strange murders occurring in the Abbey’s vicinity.
The dead leading the blind
Lights bob closer through the fog as Fennec rejoins the other three; Crompton’s skeletal servant is already disappearing – not north towards the Abbey but east. The four, running, attempt to keep to some sort of order. Jotunn is rearguard and has no time to see who holds those lanterns.
A merry dance the skeleton leads them, slipping through the clammy grey curtain. The fog is of that sort that muffles sound. Passersby – and there are few – keep out of knife-range. Their hideous guide slips past buildings encountered as deep shadows more than solid walls. Their sense of direction tells them they have tracked almost due east.
At length the sound under their shoes changes from stone to wet leaves as Cauleigh realises that the grasping arms above him are tree branches. They pass under a mighty tree and beside a looming dark wall and shortly thereafter Crompton hears bony fingers groping at stone. [IQ+Roguery, L3] He believes he understands how his undead guide operates a stone flag or trap very near a ruin. It slips below and the trap closes.
Blind-fight and branches
The four have agreed that, in their city finery, they will pursue no further. Now to mark the spot! Crompton calls up Cateyes again but the confusing shadows of fog remain confusing. But it does let him catch a swirl of fog as something leaps out of the ruin at him! He hurls his two ‘ready’ blades! [Misses L4, fails forward] The thing parries the flung knives and leaps away. Cauleigh’s first instinct is to dash after it: but Fennec barks:
“It’s that fucking assassin – stay together!”
They choose prudence and return to marking the area. Smells of charred timber and good cooking are of little help. Jotunn puts a blaze on the tree, and boosts Cauleigh up to the lowest branch. A trick of the fog allows Fennec to hear Osusk and Silas discussing which way “it” went…
Clambering further up, Cauleigh notes the massive scale of the building the tree grows nearest to, and where the river must be; climbs down.
Dwarves, pubs, and idle callers
Slow-moving footsteps and calling of the hour suggest a town watch; a cheery down-Vale woman’s voice invites the watchmen to her grogshop. The Restorers debate finding the grogshop versus finding the trapdoor’s exact location. They check around the big building to see if it is the necromancer Osusk’s house: it is not. All they see, across a yard, is a miserable dog whining at the fog. They, like the dog, are feeling fogged-up. Turning to follow the smell of cooking they find themselves at the servant’s entrance of a handsome building. Around the front, and a delivery marker: ‘Zarkana’. Crompton catches the sound of Dwarven voices. He knocks, and a plainly-dressed servant asks him if he is expected, then directs him to the nearest main road, closes the door.
Here on the main road it’s a hop skip and jump to a very small grogshop, backed onto the much larger Old Kraken alehouse. They get their directions over a pint and stagger back to the Porters – passersby keeping well away – noting as they pass the Abbey that the amount of bunting has increased – glimpsing theatre-goers guided by linkmen – Cauleigh vowing to return to the chase in the morning!
Rumours over cards
The Porters Arms is crowded by folk in the same damp fix. Supper is being served, and a general air of unclothed bonhomie and wet wool prevails as the roaring fire does its part. The Dwarves are assured it’s the time of year for fogs, and they generally last a day or two.
Cauleigh is invited to take a hand at a game of chance, Crompton chips in. Fortune favours Crompton who wins 50 gold, or enough for 10 grogs. Over the game, they hear that you can be paid to register to vote, as long as you pledge to vote for the senator, and a little more about Takrina’s Cutthroats. It seems common knowledge that the Restorers slaughtered her Cutthroats. A smirking wiseacre implies Crompton knows exactly what’s going on. But another player reckons he once saw Takrina speaking to ‘one ‘a them priests’. Agrees that they are known as Acolytes, but professes to be a Freethinker and not to care. Severin, head of the Acolytes, worries about the morals of fallen women.
During the religious debate and game, Jotunn chats to the barkeep, declining a Sentry-post and opting for regular porter. The barkeep is inclined to blame Providence for events – and as for fog, business is good on a night like this.
[AP is spent. Crompton moves WIZ to 23, Cauleigh moves CON to 35 (its first shift up), Fennec moves LK to 26 (Adds are 50), and Jotunn moves SPD to 30 and STR to 38 (Adds are 80).]
Mother Hobb keeps her hand in
The hunt for breakfast begins early in the morning and Cauleigh flips off last night’s plan and heads to Jane’s Bakery. After that he plans to hit up the library to research the Scions of Kolbrannus, whence he must bring the bones of the long-dead Templar. Jotunn and Crompton courteously agree to help. Fennec has his long-awaited noon appointment with Lady Bree of the Wizard’s Guild, and dare not be tardy, so decides to go to the Wizard’s Guild right after breakfast.
I do step out, halt others talking, and get Crompton’s opinion here. The others think that the stone trapdoor would be crazy hard to find. He was the only one near it. He’s reluctant to expose the others to traps: they would have to stay near enough for everyone to cover everyone, which in turn might endanger them. And he’s not 100% sure of finding it, outside of a clear day.
Jane’s Bakery is just as busy as ever. Betty, nose shiny with hard work, takes a minute to ask Cauleigh if he’s going to the Masque of Death. Three nights from now! It’s where all the cool kids will be!
Begging a moment of her time away from the press of breakfasters, they learn that Mother Hobb now puts her expertise into magical pastries. They stock up with honey-glazed donuts (for healing) and a couple of meringues (for flying) and ginger-cakes (for fire resistance). The bakery allows diners to order in for grog and chocolate, so they do that as well.
Lighter in the wallet and tighter in the belt, and with a promise to report back on how the flying goes, they leave, making their way up out of the fog to the palace gates. This time Crompton and Jotunn get through unimpeded by questions. The company divides.
Reena Spidros, mistress of indexes
The research team walks through the now-familiar teleport into the library. Cauleigh approaches Reena, seated reading at her research desk.
When he relates the narrative that has led him to search for the Scions of Kolbrannus, Reena’s normal scowl lifts and she appears interested. Indeed, she knows of associations to the Scions by heart.
She moves off to a nearby stack, lifts out a volume that proves to be an index, and cross-references which part of the annals of the Carloman Principalities should be researched. Then, calling Cauleigh after her, she finds the exact stack she needs. There, under her hands, are the accounts of the Scions – most nearly associated with ancient Ravenscrag – and the principality that is recorded as coming after it. Its old name here is Tennebaum and it is a mere five days westering from here. It even comes with a sketch map suggesting that the Scions were based at a lone tower or obelisk, south of that.
And so in about an hour – even accounting for Cauleigh making a sketch map – they are out on the palace processional once more. Without a care in the world, Cauleigh decides he really ought to head north through the fog and pick up his vambraces and gauntlet; and hey, Jotunn could have a look at the armour as well.
Jotunn is at least keen for another go at magical shield-buying, and opts to go north too. Crompton throws in with them.
“We should stick together,” he points out, as they leave Fennec to fend for himself.
Lady Bree and the airy show of power
It seems to be a working day in the Wizards Guild. As a visitor Fennec has nowhere to go other than the common room. He whiles away the hours reading the Tribune, Courier (a palace journal) and Clarion. The Tribune reports the disturbance last night in terms of revenants and undead fiends but does not mention the Restorers or ‘unknown dwarves’ at all.
An interview of the ‘necromanteer’ Osusk is included. He is quoted as saying that “a diurnial presence not be missed” is indicated.
“He’s making shit up,” Fennec concludes.
Fetched at length by a palace courier, and guided through at least one teleport, Fennec arrives at a room high in the citadel itself, offering a broad view of the fog-bound river and city. Lady Bree arrives, and extends her hand. He stoops over it.
Lady Bree’s purpose is to learn of conditions south of the river. Her manner is pleasant and open, and, dropping a few words of dwarven into the conversation soon has Fennec at his ease. She effortlessly – unconsciously perhaps – demonstrates a very high level of Conveyance magic, plucking her notebook and pen out of thin air.
Although Crompton hasn’t passed on Borer’s detailed information, Fennec has listened to Wanda, and with his own experiences, it’s a long lunch. [CHR then IQ, Fennec scores L3 and L5 respectively] Lady Bree seems impressed. She asks Fennec his opinion on whether Dolem’s Spire can withstand a siege, and of the siege at Fingold, and of fighting giants.
The talk turns to unearthing lost wands in Sarn Athrad. She’s cross at Daisy for telling Fennec about something that was passed on in confidence! There are two wands and a staff. Should they be interested she can supply a sketch map of the original, pre-destruction area they ought to be in. Fennec fences, hinting that the dwarves lack funds, but leaving it at an indefinite maybe.
Armour for Cauleigh and a fitting for Jotunn
The three dwarves make their way directly into the fog and, delayed hardly at all by an altercation between mercenaries and watchmen, over Temple bridge. The watch officer – the first law officer they’ve met – thanks them. It seems the mercenaries have a contract to Dolem’s Spire.
Temple Bridge, even fogbound, sports a few urchins fishing. Making their way past the shops and such, they find themselves closer to the North gate than any other landmark, and Jotunn ventures towards Mettastos’ workshop.
It’s Elisha. And she’s put two and two together as to their involvement in the skeletal attack! She links her arm to Jotunn’s.
“If ya wanna guide…”
But at Mettastos Arms & Armor the burly blond-bearded young smith shakes his head when he learns Jotunn has secured no paper or writ.
“Like I say… without some authority’s say-so, ain’t no way forrard.”
They steer around back of the theatre and to the two armourers Cauleigh has work booked with. The armour fits well, and with some final strap adjustment, Cauleigh’s throw-knife also slides in well under his left forearm.
The armourers, and Cauleigh’s pleasure with the armour, convince Jotunn to buy vambraces too. He pays a deposit, with pick-up and final pay on the morrow.
The house of Irian
Elisha navigates them to Cauleigh’s next destination, the house of Irian. This is the address he got from the editor.
While they walk, Cauleigh makes up a wild tale about Pausanias and Takrina being connected to see if Elisha believes it. She does not, but she does write it up.
Elisha can tell them that the house of Irian is elven, and connected to the Warriors Guild. The door is opened by a solemn – almost funereal – footman. He admits only Cauleigh.
Masque of Death explained
It’s around midday – though the fog makes it seem later – and damp and disconcerted, the others find their way to a cheap pub catering partly to the north gate guards. Elisha fills them in on the Masque of Death, a celebration not too far removed from Esgaroth’s High Day sacred to Urheru Sun-Swallower and the Death Cycle. Processions around the Abbey are the thing. Young people enjoy revels. Costumes are the important thing! Elisha can recommend them to one, not far away.
Vasily of the Guild
In the house of Irian, after kicking his heels for a time, Cauleigh is joined by a powerfully-built dark-haired man, mustachioed, with a strong hint of goatee.
This is Vasily of the Guild, merchant of power and the means of acquiring it. He savors war and the chaos it brings.
[I have a ball playing Vasily. Maybe I’ve heard Barovia mentioned once too often. I go full Strahd.]
He, too, is interested in the Restorers exploring Sarn Athrad. And interested in getting an introduction to Lady Bree Greystand. Cauleigh neither agrees nor disagrees, conceals his distaste and leaves.
Lunch, late lunch, and costumes
It’s an easy guess as to where the lads are, and Cauleigh joins them for his lunch. By the time he finishes, and Jotunn finishes helping him, it’s well into the afternoon.
The fog shows no sign of lessening.
To while away the time, Cauleigh gets Elisha’s scanty knowledge of Irian, and her thoughts on how the Guild may link with Bernhart the Beneficent. She has no views on the Guild itself since this is news to her, but thanks him for passing on the information. Elisha does fill in the picture of Lady Bree, attributing a lot of Sarnas’ survival of the Wizard Wars to her power.
The fog shows no signs of lessening.
They read over the Tribune, wondering about murders. Other than their own incident, there’s been only one yesterday, over to the warehouse district.
Elisha encourages Jotunn to go in for a costume, and leads them to her recommended costumier. Cauleigh is delighted to find they’ll do a demon-pikeman-facemask that goes great with breastplate, and they all buy that.
Befogged in Sarnas… Fennec rolls a 3
On parting, Fennec finds himself teleported straight back to the common room. Daisy is there, speaking to Max, the magister. He stops, rests, and chats with her but has nothing further to bring up – once again he’s not brought those bullets, or has forgotten that he has them – and after about half an hour of chatting Daisy has business to attend to, and heads away.
Based purely on stomach, it’s probably halfway through the afternoon. Fennec decides to head back to the Porters Arms. Mentally, he sorts through options. Decides to keep to the main roads: Down the processional to the Abbey then past it and parallel to the waterfront.
But [fail on LK] the fog tricks him, and what should have been a left turn near the bridge proves to be a left turn to the old, walled-in east porch of the Cathedral. Fennec pauses, uncertain which way to go. It strikes him that he’s taken the same course that led, the other night, to the ambush at the Porch. People passing through the fog are mere shadows, veering out of knife-range; and sounds echo in ear-tricky ways. He throws up Little Feets as a precaution.
A creepy cleric and a crimson choice
The nearest active building seems to be some sort of seamstress or clothier. [L6 IQ] As he considers it doubtfully, a priest, or acolyte, emerges, carrying an embroidered cloth. He stops, surprised.
“A dwarf! Are you lost, perhaps?”
Persuasively, the acolyte encourages Fennec to visit the Cathedral. He clutches Fennec’s shoulder in a vise-like grip… but Fennec has a better centre of gravity and leverage and shrugs him off.
“I’m sure I’ll be seeing you again…” the clerical type says.
Now, having passed between a mason and the Cathedral, Fennec has his bearings. There’s an open but cluttered area, then the Porch left and the cemetery ahead. The man’s footsteps remain close behind…
“I’m simply going the same way as you,” the man assures him, grimly amused.
It seems to be time to use the extra speed! Fennec scuttles away, across the cemetery and across a robbed wall’s ditch. Then in the clear! For he is in a wide, fog-filled area with not a building in sight.
[3 on LK again]
Three shapes rise around him, desperately close! [I draw for range, and get melee range]
Reverting to instinct Fennec chooses a L4 TTYF at the one most blocking him: the crimson flash and thunder roil through the fog! Then the figures close in and he knows no more!
Wonder where Fennec is? Oh well…
Well satisfied with their arrangements for the Masque, the three Dwarves head back over the bridge, Elisha still on Jotunn’s arm.
“Where do you suppose Fennec is?” Jotunn asks.
“He’s off with that Lady Bree he was sweating over for three days,” Cauleigh assures him.
Back at the Porters Arms – Elisha’s local knowledge proving invaluable – they enter what seems a glowing haven out of the fog. Under their fog-beaded cloaks, they are reasonably warm and dry. Changing shoes and stockings, they are all set for pre-dinner nibbles and drink.
A bit paralysed – is that better than a bit tied up?
Fennec wakens, slowly [L4 CON] finding himself mostly numb, mostly paralysed, naked, and lying beside dead bodies.
“Undead roaming the streets under nothing more than cover of fog! What the hell kind of city is this!?!”
He can wriggle fingers, slowly. The only light comes from phosphorescence on the wall of what seems to be a mostly natural cavern. The atmosphere [good WIZ roll of 19 on current WIZ, gets L4] reminds him strongly of the undead floor, under Fingold. And one of the dead bodies beside him begins twitching.
Dinner and no Fennec? Where to look?
With Fennec not turning up as dinner is served, the three Dwarves conclude that he is missing. Crompton suggests a visit to the Wizards Guild, or using Elisha to get there. She laughs that off but agrees they could send a messenger.
So before too long they approach the palace gate, finding, as they supposed, the shift has changed. A note is sent, Elisha bigging it up about being a reporter. [Joint CHR help from the other three] About ten minutes later, the courier returns with the information that no, Fennec is no longer in the Wizards Guild. He left perhaps three to four hours ago, no word on where he was going.
Concerned now, they ask that a second message be sent, asking specifically for Daisy. The courier looks glumly at the tip – enough for a cheap coffee and donut. But, egged on by Elisha, sets off. About five minutes later there’s a crack of displaced air and Daisy appears at the gate.
Daisy’s spritely guidance
Daisy Brightwater is an able, perhaps high-level, wizard, short and curvaceous, of uncertain years. She listens to their description and, moving her wand in a spiral pattern, summons a Will-o-Wisp kind of light that grows into a fairy-size sprite. Cradling it between her palms she whispers to it – to the Dwarves’ ears it sounds like a description of Fennec’s magic – and they watch as it circles up, and then to an open, fog-bound spot near the bridge.
Daisy is neither built nor shod for quick pursuit. She and Elisha are both on Jotunn’s arm as they arrive. The adventurers make more suggestions about gear Fennec might be using. [Fennec makes L4 LK] The sprite weaves its way towards the cemetery, and to the Mausoleum of Heroes.
[Fennec gets only L3 CON, and remains unable to move]
Into the Mausoleum of Heroes
Protected by the fog, and the ill weather in general, Crompton focuses on the lock. His eyes cope well enough with the gloom, and as he works on it, he finds the lock was gimmicked all along.
Elisha produces a tiny lamp, but Cauleigh’s torch is produced, and the gates thrust open.
Party order: Crompton, Cauleigh, Jotunn with the two women
The mausoleum is kept tidy, but it has not been swept recently and Jotunn picks out enough of a track in the dusk to point Crompton to one tomb in particular. Daisy snaps off an OTIS. As he slides it aside carefully (it has been reworked so as to do so easily) Cauleigh explains what buffs are, and asks Daisy if she has any. She seems puzzled.
Steps lead down, then into a steep spiral stair. The cavity below is a stretched octagon, deeply shadowed. The sprite’s light helps Crompton, a little.
As Cauleigh lights the area up, four great sarcophagi can be seen arranged around the room against the longer angles. The sprite flutters to one end, and through an arch.
Beyond, Crompton finds a rectangular chamber, longer left-right, niched, each niche with its stone panel a memorial of ancient dead. The sprite heads to one panel, in particular. Its light glimmers on a disfigured seraph statue at the chamber’s end.
“It’s a false panel,” Crompton announces, opening it to reveal a gaping hole into damp tunnel!
From the bottom, it eats you
Light grows in Fennec’s chamber: by it he becomes aware that he is being slowly eaten: by one of his undead friends: from the bottom up!
Jane’s Bakery comes from Concept Cards’ Urban Locations (Ste Coffey and Loz Hensel) – of course, the involvement of Betty and Mother Hobb is my idea.
Festivals and high days are simply tweaks of my own Esgaroth calendar. The Death Cycle High Day has become the Masque of Death here, suiting the atmosphere I’ve created.