Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon Them

The Center Cannot Hold
Session 29

As the party traveled to the keep and confronted its denizens, Aelita has made quite the journey of her own. From Niel’s directions and supposedly accurate map orientation, she has managed to find herself a perfect spot of nowhere over the mountains from Berem. Not begrudging Niel his lack of woodcraft skills, she had made camp in a level spot, only to be awakened by a noisy ringing in the middle of the night, followed by distant voices and the sounds of steel. She hastily packed, dressed, and made her way down the mountain toward the bell, having to take a roundabout route in avoidance of the steep, cliff-like protrusions of the mountain. About twenty minutes later, a second bell sounded, much closer, and she used this to correct her bearing. This brought her to a sturdy old keep, nestled against the mountain, with only one road leading up to its ancient gate- which, she found, was open. Aelita gathered her courage for what she would find within- the sounds of combat were no more, but there was no telling- she nocked an arrow.

Within, she found none other than her friends, going through the remnants of a battlefield, with dead folks all around. She could could at least a dozen in sight. She demanded to know where the hell they had been, and they wanted to know the same- it then transpired that they had apparently just missed one another. Quidd interrupted the looting that was going on, then, saying that none of this belonged to them, and that everything should be burned, and they should go after those other Brotherhood immediately. The party scoffed at this, of course, but Aelita agreed, saying that she knew about spirits, and they definitely didn’t like being stolen from. Eventually, there was relent, that everybody could take One thing, for the battle ahead. (Grim Quidd is Grim, Dark Quidd is Dark) They rummaged briefly, and Quidd left partway through to try and push that door open- failing that, he called Richard over to lend him some extra strength. The closing of the door had reset the deadly traps protecting the Ruin- for this was of course the very Ruin Aelita had been seeking- and nobody had checked for traps. No sooner did Richard push the doors open than multiple spears thrust upward from the floor and outward from the walls, skewering him and Quidd. Richard would certainly have died if not for the party’s quick reponse, while Quidd was wounded badly, but not life-threateningly. That thoroughly used up all the healing the party had left, so they set watches, and settled in to sleep, and get some well-needed rest. Richard was not at all happy about the possibility that the Brotherhood might escape- neither was anyone else, but lacking Richie’s animalistic single-mindedness, they saw simple reason. Over their watches, each party member more or less looted as they saw fit from the gathered piled- the watches were uneventful save for that of Marten, who elected to venture- alone- into the Ruin below.

Marten took great care to search before and within the door, to avoid any more nasty surprises. To his great interest, he found the interior to be lit. A twenty-foot corridor proceeded into the mountain, before plunging down via a steep staircase. Every thirty feet or so, starting from thirty feet down the staircase, narrow alcoves shed light onto the stair. The alcoves at the top of the stair were empty, explaining why no light had been visible from outside. The stairs were awkwardly small, as if made for tiny feet- perhaps dwarf-built. On both sides of the stair, a piton had been securely driven into the wall, and ropes trailed down each side. Marten searched his way down the first few steps, discovering that the entire sixth step was a trap trigger, though for what, he knew not. Over the majority of his watch, he made his slow way down the stairs- some two hundred-odd feet. Reaching the bottom, an archway let out onto a railingless landing, protruding over empty space. In the reflected light, Marten could see the beginning of a broken stair off to his left, but not much beyond.

Below him, about forty feet down, a level place against he cavern wall was illuminated by a standing oil-lamp- another fifty feet along, there was another one, then another, picking out a careful, treacherous path all the way around the far side of the cavern and looping back to where he could see, suddenly, another light go on, showing four figures carefully making their way around the cavern. They rounded a corner and disappeared from sight, then. Marten lit his bullseye lantern, and examined the broken stair- it seemed to have once gone down to some sort of tower-like construction, but the sections broken out of it were massive- far too great a distance to jump safely. Clearly, there was something on the cave floor which had once been accessible by those stairs, and the brotherhood wanted it badly enough to climb their winding way around this unspeakably massive cavern to do it. He retreated to the surface to wake the next watch.

The party rose the next morning after a night’s rest, and made up a breakfast from the provisions the keep held- salt pork and peas, smoked fish and watery ale. Combined with a Goodberry or two, it was more than anyone could expect so far from civilisation. With that, they made to descend into the darkness below. Reaching the same landing Marten had, they could see a pair of lights bobbing in the darkness far below and ahead of them- the brotherhood moving across the cavern floor, heading in this direction. The lamp-trail they had made last night was long burnt-out, but Marten could easily attest that their trail had been long and rough- there was no way the party could catch them up by the same route the considered the stair, but were sure they lacked a way to traverse it. Just in case, they cast Light on an arrow, shooting it toward the towering protrusion they could see just the top of. It ricocheted off the side, falling down and revealing spire just large enough to hold a spiral stair, rising from a ziggurat-like construction. The arrow stopped after the first few levels, leaving them unsure just how far down it went. This was clearly the fastest way down, but not remotely safe.

It struck the party that they might attempt to climb down the wall vertically- detaching the rope lines which flanked the long stair, they might just have enough to reach the bottom- hopefully. It was worth a chance- they simply had to beat the Brotherhood to whatever it was they were after- though the party had no idea whatsoever what that might be. They gathered the rope, and began the long climb down.

Aside from an attack by a Dire Bat shortly into their climb, the descent was without incident. That was a terribly inconvenient battle, but one from which the party emerged entirely unscathed, thanks to Aelita’s quick thinking and a bit of luck. The Bat swooped in to try and pick Marten off the wall, but missed, and Aelita cast Calm Animals. She spent the next two minutes trying to befriend it with Wild Empathy, even christening it Bruce. Quidd and Richard abandoned the party, and continued the climb without rope- miraculously they made it to the cavern floor without falling. As the bat began to fidget, Marten and Sasha positioned themselves to flank it, then very thoroughly killed it as it became hostile. They then continued the climb- Richard found the Bat corpse on the cavern floor and began to eat it. By any by, the party gathered on the cavern floor- at the same time, in the distance, they saw the Brotherhood come to an archway in the way, preceded by a ring of standing stones. The party shuttered their lights, of course, so as not to draw attention, though the Brotherhood surely knows they’re there.

As they watch, the brotherhood approaches another great stone door, and their Rogue searches it in the circle of their lights, before telling the others to move away. She rigs up a few things, then steps back and they push from a distance, safely out of the way as a Lightning Bolt arcs out from the door, missing them, but striking the standing stones and arcing between them, leaving them glowing slightly with the heat. The Brotherhood proceeded into the ruin, and only then does the party unshutter their light to make their way after them. Before long, they hear the sounds of fighting from within, and a few long moments afterward, they have come to the Ruin.

Peeking in the door, Sasha sees a pillared hall- somewhere over a hundred feet away on the opposite wall is a huge magical-looking circle inscribed into the wall. The Brotherhood is locked in battle with a force of withered, gnashing barrow-draugr, who, despite the long minutes it took for the party to cross the cavern floor, don’t seem to have taken any damage. As the Brotherhood strikes, their blows are deflected with a flash of red-violet light; at the same time, something in the center of that massive circle flashes in time with the blows, apparently helping to protect the crypt’s defenders. The party moves in.

Ignoring all the combatants, the party heads straight for the circle- Sasha at a running charge, while Richard and Marten come around the sides. In the meantime, Quidd comes up alongside the Brotherhood’s Wizard, an adorable Halfling girl in roomy-looking robes.
“You’re aiming at the wrong thing!”
“Little busy, thank you!”

Sasha aimed a glancing blow at the carved crystal skull embedded in the circle, but just missed. Aelita missed a couple arrows, before Quidd thought to use his Baleful Utterance to crack it from the wall. It fell right onto Sasha’s head, before clattering away on the floor. Almost as soon as it left the wall, “V”, the Brotherhood Rogue, attacked one of the Draugr- her Dagger sunk in to the hilt, much to her surprise. Attacks began to hit- what’s more, these creatures, whatever they were, appeared to possess vital organs, or at least weak spots- Sneak attack works. Before the combined might of the two parties, the Draugr fell quickly. In the commotion, Quidd gathered up the little Crystal Skull, which was now emitting steady, red-violet light, strung it on a piece of leather, and put it around his neck, beneath the leather armor he had taken off one of the Brotherhood Members. He then gave the order, “Richard, Kill.”

Richard went straight for the little Halfling Wizard, Claire, charging in to rip into her with his fangs. She screamed in agony, and, panicked, retaliated with a Fireburst, blowing her big combat scroll. It hit Richard, but also Marten. Marten then leveled an attack at Rory, the Brotherhood Archer, saying, “Should have just kept fighting on the same side.”
Rory was so utterly confused that he turned- in combat- to stare incredulously at Marten. “Wait, what- Hold on.” Before turning his arrow off of Marten to shoot another Draugr dead. Aelita rushed in and grappled Claire, very thoroughly. The last Draugr fell to Leo, the big, blond, bearded, Axe-swinging Nordic fellow whom Sasha had been fighting alongside, and Rory called a ceasefire. None of the brotherhood sheathed their weapons, of course, but the party agreed to stop aggressions. Aelita did, of course, refuse to let go of Claire.
Rory: “Would you allow me to heal my friend? She’s hurt.”
Aelita: (Uses her own Lesser Vigor to heal Claire)
Claire: (Sobbing inconsolably in fear and pain) “I want to go Ho-o-oooome…”

The scene then settled into tense negotiations- Aelita was still holding Claire, and Richard was insistent that talking was a mistake, and a trick, and that the party should just kill them all. Quidd insisted that the Brotherhood should have to tell the party about everything they were doing, to which Rory responded with some delightful sarcasm, because seriously, the idea that that was any of the party’s business was hilarious. They asked for the stone, and Quidd failed to convince them that it was anywhere other than down his shirt. In the meantime, the Brotherhood healed themselves some and moved closer to the door- it was apparent they were making sure they could beat a retreat if necessary, as they were still much worse for wear than the party. The party behaved exactly like one would expect a group of snotty and entitled teenagers to behave, in the end- no introductions, demands all over the place, no matter how polite Rory was. To be fair, the demands were almost entirely Quidd- Richard seethed with threatening animosity, Aelita held onto Claire, who was pathetic and adorable, Sasha and Marten remained quiet, for the most part.

Rory tried the high road, though he also made it clear that he knew they were the ones who had attacked his friends in the keep while they slept- he didn’t doubt that they were all seriously injured or dead, because they would never have let anyone through without a fight unless they were friends, and the party hadn’t given the byword. He was negotiating from a position of confusion, and desire to avoid further bloodshed. As far as he could tell, this was a random bunch of kids who had somehow just sacked a keep. He posited that the party didn’t even know what that crystal did, any more than he did- why should they want it? The Brotherhood only wanted it because they’d been hired to get it, by some old woman and her husband who ran a caravan. What right did the party have to come in and kill his friends?
Quidd: “So? You killed those Bandits. You’re the same.”
Rory: “They were lowlife scum, who prey on innocent people.” (Echoing Sasha’s earlier sentiment about Bandits)
Quidd: “And you don’t?”
Rory: “Never. And neither did any of the brave, good souls upstairs. What did they ever do to you?”
Sasha: “One of your friends SHOT me!”
Rory: “You mean, after you attacked them while they slept? Oh, dear me, I can’t imagine why.”
Sasha: “Not them, one of your other friends. A few months ago.”

Rory looked confused at this, as if she wasn’t talking sense. Marten elaborated. “A little stone tower at the base of a cliff?”

Rory’s eyes widened- he said one word. “Nora.”
This was followed by the swift command in Elven (The old one) “Leo! Get Claire and RUN!” Leo promptly bull-rushed Aelita into a wall, crushing her hard against the stone- she dropped Claire. Claire rolled to her feet and drank a potion as Rory and V fled into the darkness of the cavern. Then the party fell on Leo and Claire like wolves- in Richard’s case, literally. Sasha saw Aelita crushed against the wall, and then she saw red, and leaned into it. She charged Leo in Berserk Rage, dealing him a heavy blow. The rest of the group ringed around, cutting off escape. Richard was between Leo, Claire, and the door.
Leo’s chance to act came around- he could see a way out of this for Claire, but not for himself. He took the chance, grabbing Claire up in one arm and diving through the air over Richard to roll into the entryway, then tossing the poor hobbit lass down the hall and out into the cavern, shouting as he did so.
“Run, Claire! I’ll hold the line.”
Axe in hand, face streaked with blood and grime, Leo turned to face the party while his friends fled. In another two rounds, he fell, but not before spectacularly preventing Richard from pursuing the Halfling with a one-handed swing to the face while Richard was in mid-air leap. Almost dead on his feet, he kept his friends alive. Quidd dropped him with a blast to the chest, before the enraged Sasha snatched the Greataxe from his hand and used it to decapitate him, then stood over the body, breathing heavy and wild-eyed to ride out the rest of the rage.

After the echoes ceased to fall, Quidd turned to confront Sasha.
“What were you talking about back there- what friend of his was this?”
“Can we not do this right now?”
“No, Sasha, we’re doing this right here, and right now. WHAT happened to you?”

Sasha then gave a recount of their pursuit of the Bloodless Brotherhood from Berem (Back in Session 17), and what she remembered up until Nora had shot her. After than, she blanked, and came to standing over the body. Marten filled in the blanks, finally revealing to Aelita that the fine shortbow she had been wielding all this time was the one they had taken from Nora’s body, afterward. Nobody said much- the Brotherhood had escaped. One by one, they left the chamber. Quidd took off the skull, and pocketed it. Sasha held onto Leo’s Axe, as if for reassurance that there was something solid at hand in a situation that seemed to be spinning rapidly out of control. Aelita was the last to leave. Turning to survey the scene, seeing nothing, Nora’s bow slipped slowly, numbly, from her fingers. (Slow-motion zoom) She left the room.

The party returned to the surface at their own pace. They found the climbing-line they had used was still in place, save for the uppermost thirty feet or so, which the brotherhood had apparently detached in the hopes of slowing them down. They emerged to the smell of smoke- even in their desperate escape from the party, the Brotherhood had stopped in the courtyard to honour their dead. A large pyre had been built, roughly, out of the keep’s firewood supply, and the bodies of the fallen Brotherhood members laid across it. Those whose weapons hadn’t been looted had been placed upon the pyre with them, along with their shields. The pile of possessions had been cleared of the really personal items, leaving only cups and bowls, and meaningless utilitarian things- these had been people, now dead and burning. Honoured by their Friends.
The party watched, solemnly, uneasy. Slowly, they began to add the bodies of the bandits to the pyre, along with all the remaining loot. Then, they stood and simply wept. Only Marten spoke, quietly to himself and those lost, in Tamekki.

“The only glory remains in those who remember. I will remember you. Pass through the Veil and return to the Weave of the world. Watch and know that I Remember.”

End Session

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The Company We Keep
Session 28

After the death of Ginger, Quidd’s stolen horse, the party made camp for the night just off the road, against the shelter of a rock overhang. Marten watched first, and took note of some distant, beguiling music- seemingly that of a fiddle. Sasha took next watch, and stumbled upon a bunch of Rabbit skulls near the edge of camp- with no other bones. She amused herself by settling them up along the stone ridge, to startle the party when they woke. Aelita, next up, fumbled a will save and was put into magical sleep- none of the rest of the party were awoken. When they DID arise, after daybreak, they found the camp in a state of minor disarray- undergarments strewn about, and things missing from their packs, but replaced with other, vaguely similar things. Aelita was snoozing quietly in the middle of camp, in a freshly-sprouted ring of mushrooms. Additionally, there were now almost twice as many rabbit skulls- the new ones were freshly cleaned of flesh.
There was some minor panic and tension as they considered the possibility that they might be in some faerie realm- Marten was tasting a fine, fruity wine which he’d acquired in unwitting exchange for his pipe and tobacco, and had the bottle smacked from his hand by Quidd, who insisted it was probably made of mud or some other faerie foodstuff. They soon settled down, and determined that they were, in fact, in the real world- thus reassured, the party went on their way, all the way up the road to Berem. Just outside of town, they encountered Canton Green, the farmer from whom Quidd had stolen Ginger, and were met with accusing fingers and questions. Quidd handed him a gold armband- found in his pack that morning- as payment. This was not, clearly, sufficient to satisfy Canton- he wanted his horse back, more than some trinket, no matter its worth- what was he supposed to do, after all, about his fields? Quidd intimidated him into silence, and he numbly accepted the payment.

Over the next week or so, the party members went about their respective business- Aelita received a letter from Neil, concerning the supposed doings of the Bloodless Brotherhood, Quidd settled back in with his overjoyed parents and slept more than he had in months. Richard tried to get him up early to come out for consecutive days, but Quidd gave him a date on which he’d come. Marten tended bar. Mai Dunsor had returned the day before by horseback, and word had spread of their doings at the wedding, but nothing has come of it- yet.
Richard returned, for the first time in a month, to the Glen, only to find that his cave had been cleared out- his skull collection and pile of blankets and furs were gone, as well as the fine painting he plundered from the wreck of the Ship they investigated some months prior. All this had, of course, been moved to the Mill, but he didn’t go there to look- he didn’t want to talk to Mai. Instead, he stole a few blankets from various clotheslines around town, and resituated himself.
Sasha spent time at her newly established bushcraft camp and tree-stand, keeping self-imposed watch on the smoke rising from a keep on the other side of the mountains. According to Darryl, it was recently occupied- probably bandits, but it wouldn’t be a problem so long as they kept to themselves and didn’t hurt anybody. Near the end of the week, however, she saw a greater deal of smoke than at any time before, after which there was almost no smoke at all. She concluded that the bandits must have moved out to raid, and thought it would be a prime opportunity to go and check out their keep.

The next morning, Quidd dashed down to Richard’s, as Sasha was going to get Marten. They all came to the glen, and this time it was Sasha who said “Guys, I know what we’re going to do today!”
“Hey!” Interjected Quidd, “That’s MY Line!”
She told them about the bandit-filled keep, and how it was empty, and roughly a day’s hike away if they hurried. They party gathered their supplies, and went to fetch Aelita, but found her absent the shrine. They asked after her around town, but couldn’t find her, so they left without her. (In Gordo’s Absence, as he couldn’t make the session)
Aelita, of course, had awoken early to gather the party on the subject of the worries in Niel’s letter- according to information he’d heard, the Bloodless Brotherhood were searching for something that lay in a ruin near Berem- just on the other side of the mountains. She found them absent, as well, since they were on their way to get her, and, miffed that they’d excluded her, she set out on her own into the wilderness.

Though the hike was largely uneventful for the party, it took almost the entire day, and was a grueling march. As the sun dipped toward the horizon and night began to fall, they came into sight of an ancient stone keep, set into the side of the mountain opposite theirs- they still would have a valley to traverse. If the party made straight for the keep, it would be full dark by the time they arrived. They elected to creep close to it, but wait until late at night to try and get inside, since they couldn’t be sure how many would be inside. They wonder along the way, half-jokingly, if these bandits are part of that “Bloodless Brotherhood”, if things should get serious. Sasha doesn’t laugh.

As midnight passes and clouds obscure the moon in the heart of the witching hour, the party of four creeps close to the outer wall of the keep, past the dark maw of the front gate and to the edge of a square turret corner. Sasha and Marten, the most capable climbers, scale the stone wall and hop onto the battlement- they spot a lone sentinel on an adjoining wall, who is approaching, but doesn’t seem to have noticed them.
Quidd and Richard wait anxiously below as Sasha and Marten ambush and subdue this guard, emerging suddenly from beind the crenelation as he rounds the corner for Sasha to put him in a sleeper hold and Marten to club him- hard- on the head with his staff. They then lower a rope for their friends, who join them on the ramparts. Inspecting this guard, they are surprised to find that he is a member of the Bloodless Brotherhood- the crossed shield is emblazoned right on his armor. Sasha takes his bow and arrows, and ties him up. As the party all move forward, Quidd lingers behind long enough to cut the man’s throat, unbeknownst to the party- his first cold-blooded Murder.

Moving along the wall, the party can see fresh bodies piled in the courtyard, but also two large tents, apparently in use, and the remnants of a small fire. It seems clear that the Brotherhood aren’t the bandits- but they are the ones who have killed them. There aren’t many bandit bodies for a keep this size, but then, there aren’t many tents, either. Marten thinks he can see movement on the other side of the keep, but isn’t quite sure. The front courtyard is quite large, and a secondary wall and gate-arch separates it from a second courtyard, almost the same size. They creep quietly along the wall, and make their way down the stairs leading down into the courtyard- their stealth is ruined, however, as Richard reaches the last step, and a blaring alarm bell rings out into the night from no visible source. There is commotion from within the tents as the brotherhood thrash awake- Richard charges straight into the nearest in Wolfen form, savaging one of the pajama-clad men within as he attempts to bring a flail to bear. Quidd moves to back him up, Sasha ascends back to the ramparts, and battle is joined.

The Brotherhood are disorganised, rising from sleep unarmoured, and the party begins to make quick work of them before a sentry across the courtyard rises suddenly, having apparently fallen asleep on watch, and puts an arrow into Quidd. In a moment of sudden and uncanny clarity, Sasha tests the wind, raises her pilfered bow and delivers an astounding inverse-robin hood, her arrow splitting the next one he had raised before going through his eye and killing him.

A spellcaster emerged on the ramparts, as well, casting a Briarweb over the battlefield- Richard is completely unhindered, and while it keeps the party pinned down if they want to avoid takingdamage from the tearing thorns, it ends up doing far more damage to the members of the brotherhood as they try to flee combat before the wrath of this vine-clad, stony Wolfen monstrosity. Another sentry at the far end of the keep trades shots with Sasha, but neither hits anything from that distance in the dark of the night. She does, however, make a phenomenal perception check (Jameson was coming up all 20’s this session), locating the spellcaster and hearing voices from within an open doorway which plunges back into the mountain at the rear of the keep.
“We’re under attack? By whom? Nobody knows we’re here!”
“Could it be the Bandits?”
“They shouldn’t be back for a week!”
“Well, whoever they are, we’ll have to press on tonight! We haven’t found it, yet!”
This is followed by the sound of great stone doors slamming shut.

A dagger-wielding Brotherhood Member flees combat through the archway into the second courtyard, disappearing from sight, and Sasha shoots at him as he does, before making after him. The Brotherhood Druid summons a pair of wolves to slow Sasha down, but she rolls free of their jaws a second later and traverses the battlements with startling speed. The Druid obscured the ramparts in mist to cover their escape, scrambling down a collapsed wall and to their tent, to retrieve the lone potion of Fly and make good their escape. Richard emerges into the secondary courtyard to chase the dagger-wielder, but he’s nowhere to be seen. As Richard prowls, he emerges from behind a crumbling wall and makes a sneak attack against Richard, to which Richard responds with a vicious bite. He flees again, but has nowhere to go, and Richard stalks him slowly up against the stone doors before killing and partially eating him.
Sasha knocks out the Spiked-chain wielder, who had tried to flee, and ties him up for questioning.

In the end, only the Druid and the far Sentry escape from the party’s onslaught, the latter having climbed out of the keep and fled on foot into the wilderness. The party waits until the Druid’s Briarweb expires, then makes a sweep of the keep and the wreckage of the Brotherhood’s camp. Six of the Eight Brotherhood members are taken care of, all told. Two have escaped to tell the tale.

Quidd spends the whole time staring at the great stone doors through which the last of the present Brotherhood apparently disappeared, and says nothing.

End Session

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Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
Session 27

Summer has come into full sway- the crops in the field need tending, and the sun is bright and hot. Months have dulled the excitement of the Summer Festival, and life goes in in Berem. It is on just such a morning, shortly after first light, that Erin Quidd walks back into Berem, tossing a coin off the wishing bridge as he does so. He goes unrecognised by the folk who mill about the streets, less busy than it would be were this a market day, until he arrives at his parents’ home and knocks. A long moment passes before he hears footsteps on the stairs- his father answers the door. After only a second his eyes widen, and he drops his glass to shatter on the ground, then egulfs his son in a hug. They babble and apologise, and tears are shared and lost before Quidd’s mother comes down the stairs, as well.
Erin Senior breaks the news to his son that his friends don’t know that he thought him dead- he didn’t have the heart to tell them- he always hoped he’d find him, and has sent ship after ship out looking. They haven’tchanged his room, and have kept all his mail. Quidd says he needs to go see his friends, especially Richie, which reminds his parents- he has an invitation to Richie’s wedding, being held this very day in Cherry Crossing. He’s invited to be the best man. Quidd stares at it dumbfounded, then at his parents, before tearing out of the house, still quite barefooted. His mother remarks behind him, “He hasn’t changed a bit”, with a smile in her voice. “Thank the Gods.”
“No”, his father replies, “We both have.”
We move past Quidd’s run down the road, and his theft of a beautiful plow-horse named Ginger, a big bay draft horse. He shatters the bindings on her harness with a word and takes off down the road when the farmer’s back is turned.

The rest of the party is assembled in Cherry Crossing- Marten didn’t receive his invitation, as he was already IN Cherry Crossing, visiting Jenna. He was asked to bartend in the letter, and takes to the task anyway. Aelita has come in her Mother’s place to perform the ceremony- she had her own invite, but ignored it in favour of taking her mother’s place. Sasha only got here two days ago, and has been regaling children with poorly-told tales of her bravery. As “junior constable” of Berem, she is tasked in her invitation with stopping any fights that break out, unless they’re really good ones. Richard arrived by carriage with his bride-to-be, Halia of house Arnwin, along with Mai and Halia’s gaurdian, Aunt Heather Foxwen. They were prompptly put up in the Mayor’s house, evicting Marten and Jenna to take rooms in the Inn.

Marten has aken the opportunity over the week to confront Richard about his role in all this, at which Richard insists that he was in on the planning, and wants to be made an honest gentleman. It’s clear he is reciting from a script. Marten also visits with the Bride, who is none too enthusiastic about getting married, either. Asking about, he gathers that Halia is the sole heir to a noble estate outside Cherry Crossing, but only inherits it if she has an heir of her own- this marriage was devised to make a life for Richard and Halia, and put back together the broken pieces of their respective families. It’s what their relations think is best for them, whether they’re interested or not. Marten notes of Halia that she is self-sufficient and driven, but prone to sit back and let others make decisions for her. She is suspicious of others’ motives, probably from having grown up among nobles as something of a beggar-baroness.

Aelita also visits with the bride, though on less of a personal note- she wants to go over wedding vows. Aelita has already written what is sure to be a splendid and eloquent ceremony, but Halia has a few creative insights to add. Full of good ideas, this one.

People have been buying drinks for Sasha, and she’s rather sloshed. The Wurmslayer song is sung over and over, sans the last line of course.

The wedding party is assembled as afternoon turns toward evening- a beautiful dais has been constructed out in the orchards, with strung cherry blossoms and arches of flowering branches. Chairs and benches are brought in from all over and folk sit for the ceremony as Aelita unveils her beautiful speech- it brings tears to eyes (It had better, at a check of 33) and sets the tone perfectly. In the distance, the sound of hoofbeats can be faintly heard from the very edge of the crowd.
As she reaches the “Speak now or forever hold your peace” line, Quidd bursts into the clearing on horseback, shouting “STAAAAAAHHHHHHHP!” He rides right up to the dais, declaring that the show is over, that there’s nothing to see. Richard recognises his voice, and begins madly shouting his name before pouncing on Quidd from off the dais like a dog who’s just found his boy. Aelita takes off after the now-fleeing, frothing horse. Sasha, drunk, moves to escort Quidd out.
“Who is that boy?”
“I believe that’s the best man, Miss.”
It dawns on Mai that she was the one to invite the only person to object, and who also made him best man. She had been under the impression that nobody on the list would object.
Following this, a fight breaks out with Mai, over Quidd ruining all this hard work, and whether Richard should be allowed to marry, or even wants to. Richard says he doesn’t care, but he’s going with Quidd, and everything escalates from there as uncomfortable guests begin to slip quietly out the back.
It’s Halia who interrupts the fight, shouting over the top “Hold right the fuck up, isn’t anybody going to ask me what I think!?” Quidd starts to tell her to shut it, but she punches him in the nose, and lays him flat out- Richard tries to hit her for hitting Quid, and she lays Richard out, too. Aunt Hetaher comes over to get involved, but she tells both Heather and Mai “It’s over, okay? He doesn’t want to get merried, so that’s that,” and pulls Heather aside for a quiet word, which Marten goes over to eavesdrop on. Aelita tells the crowd, “That’s a wrap, folks”, and the guests begin to filter out.

Halia can be heard to be exchanging grief with her Aunt, who has run out of ideas to secure her future and honour her sister’s memory- Halia insists that she doesn’t know what she wants, but that all the pomp and circumstance really isn’t her. She never knew her mother- never saw the house until last week- and all the money in the world won’t make her happy if she’s just living to fulfill her aunt’s expectations.
“What will you do, then? What else is there to do?”
“Travel, maybe. I can take care of myself- besides, you’re more a mother to me that her memory ever was. I can’t get by just living on your name, though.”

Marten breaks in on this conversation, telling Halia that he’s sorry for the way things happened, and that if she’s ever in need of work or a place to stay, she’s sure to be welcome in Berem. Aunt Heather is silenced by the look Halia gives her, and she thanks Marten for the offer, though she sounds doubtful of it.

Quidd engages enthusiastically with the party, assuring them repeatedly that it’s really him and he’s not dead, only to find that nobody had any idea that anything had gone wrong in the first place- only Marten speaks up to say that he had suspected something was amiss from Quidd senior’s manner upon his return- he hadn’t told any of the rest of the party, and instead kept his own counsel. Quidd grew angry then, shouting at him that he had no right, and that it wasn’t his choice to make- Marten takes the abuse wordlessly, retreating to his room at the Inn when Quidd excuses himself to have some time alone in the forest. Richard follows him after a moment, whilst Sasha wanders off to her tent with a jug of wine and Aelita takes Ginger to the stables for some much-needed feed and rest.

Richard finds Quidd in the forest, sobbing quietly to himself- they are not the tears of child, but rather the shuddering silent sobs of a young man who expects no audience but himself. Quidd is startled by Richie’s quiet approach, and entreaty of whether he’s okay.
“No, Richie. I’m not okay. I don’t know what I’m going to do, and I’m not sure of anything anymore. Everything’s changed, I’ve changed- I’ve done things, Richie, terrible things. I’ve seen things- I’ve killed people. All of it was to get back here, to you guys, to my friends. I thought my father was dead- now I find out nobody even knew I was gone.
“I’m scared. I’m scared of everything that’s happening to me- I’m not even sure if I’m me anymore and I don’t like it. I’m just so scared, and I’m angry, and I don’t know how I’m going to control it.”

Richard comforted Quidd in his slightly-off way, while his friend cried into his shoulder and neatly-trimmed beard until there were no more tears to cry, and nothing more to be said. Quidd found a place to sleep in the hayloft of the stable, while Aelita kept company with the horses. Richard kept watch over them both, sleeping atop the pitched roof of the stable like a beagle atop a red doghouse.

Marten, having returned to his rooms, began to drink himself into a self-loathing stupor. He drank until he was incoherent, and then until he was sick. Jenna arrived in the midst of this, and, not knowing what else to do to help him, left and brought back a basin for him to vomit into, and plenty of fresh water, then held him as he cried, sang soothing songs as he babbled. “I was just trying to protect them, I didn’t mean for any of this. It’s all my fault, it’s all my fault.” Mayor Mattis, Jenna’s Father, came to see how things were geting on, but, after sharing a look with Jenna, left the two to one another’s comfort.

In the morning, the party made their terse goodbyes with the people of Cherry crossing- the crowds of folk in tents had thinned, and most who remained avoided their gaze, clearly not wishing to draw embarrassing attention to the events of the wedding. Marten bid Jenna farewell, with the promise to see her soon- she planned to visit next week or so to check up on things. Mayor Mattis gave Marten a firm handshake and a “Take care, Son.” With that, and some pointed eyebrow waggles from Quidd at Marten, and final flexing and posing from Sasha, the party headed out on the road.

With only the one horse between them, it was a long walk back to Berem- a day’s hard ride would stretch into two days’ travel on foot. Fortunately, the party were well-enough supplied, even if they would be sleeping rough. The party began to fill Quidd in on the events that had transpired since he left, and the first days’ walk passed more or less uneventfully until late afternoon, when a glimmer of movement cauhgt Quidd’s eye out in the forest- in the middle of a clearing, a pure white stag was grazing, having taken no notice of the party. Quidd shushed them all, and pointed it out, only to be surprised by their reactions- what the hell were they going on about?
This was one of the ghost animals they had encountered before, and briefly mentioned. Darryl had called them Beastwraiths. Quidd had read a bit about Beastwraiths, and recounted what he knew to the party. They were immaterial, and it was said that only enchanted weapons or magic could harm them. They arose when a great many animals were wrongfully killed and left to rot, and sought vengeance on humanity. This was mixed in with some fairytale nonsense, as well, but the party got the gist. Having managed to kill one of them before, they resolved to hunt this one, just as it looked up, startled, and wandered off into the brush.

Leaving Ginger the Horse on the road, the party crept into the brush, hundreds of feet up to where they had seen the Beastwraith. They were rewarded with silence, until, far behind them, a piercing, humanlike shriek was heard from the road- the Beastwraith had found Ginger. They tore back through the bushes toward the road in time to see the Beastwraith draw the last of the life from Ginger’s body. The horse shuddered, then, like a great exhalation, its spirit rose, flat-eyed from the remains of its shriveled body, howling in pain and rage and joy and celebration. A brief skirmish ensued, and several hits were scored against the pair of wraiths, which fled before long, as the edges of their forms began to appear tattered and thin. The party stared after in disbelief, and mourned the death of Ginger, who had been a good horse.

End Session

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Where are We Going From Here?
Summer Festival into Timeskip of 2 Months

Erin Quidd senior returns home the second day of the festival- the only one of the party to witness this is Marten, who is tending bar and spending time with Jenna when Quidd senior comes in and asks for a drink. Marten immediately knows that something has gone wrong- he had already heard rumours that the Sea Squall had gone down in the storm. Quid Senior insists that everything is fine, but orders a stiff drink nonetheless. This confirms Marten’s suspicions. Quidd Senior doesn’t drink hard liquor. He puts the pieces together over the next little while- something has happened to Quidd. Erin senior has determined to keep quiet about this, not having the heart to tell his son’s friends that as far as he knows, his son is dead. Marten respects this, and doesn’t mention that he knows anything- even to Quidd senior, or his parents. Things with Jenna have gone very well, and he has been thinking of going down to Cherry crossing to spend time with her. He has also considered Mona’s suggestion that he should think of visiting Fallcrest if he wants to learn more about fencing- with news on Quidd’s fate, his thoughts turn toward the future, and who his friends really are. He isn’t really THAT connected to anything here. What’s keeping him here?

Aelita spends time with Niel, who rescued her from the water after Sasha kicked her in. He turns out to be rather body-shy, but very romantic- he writes poetry and the like. By the end of the festival and his departure, they will have sworn their undying love a couple times, blah blah blah, exchanged email addresses. They will continue to write back and forth, sending letters with Caravans and runners, which is sure to eat up time and money, but be totally worth it. Aelita grows in confidence, and spends some time “finding herself”, which the party is unlikely to take seriously but many of the town will be impressed with.

Sasha spends the festival with Deanna, busily not having any duties. They wander the woods and mountains, climb the monastery and get stuck, possibly top the spire, or go rowing, the latter of which Sasha will undoubtedly hate.The aim is that a mutual respect and fast friendship should form between Sasha and Deanna- Sasha’a first gal-pal, in a sense. Maybe Sasha will even give makeup a try. Deanna thinks Miranda is just the coolest- maybe Sasha will grow closer to her mum in the next couple months.

Richard… well, who knows what Richard gets up to. The hunt on the final day of the fesitval was interesting. Richard accompanied them on the hunt itself, and it was rather a dull affair- the forest had never been quieter. He doesn’t stop them investigating his cave, and his “gentleman’s journals” were discovered- he was arrested on suspicion of murder, torture, necromancy, and a whole host of things. The charges were easily disproved, and he was released into the custody of his sister, Mai. Interestingly enough, after he was led out, the hunt got a lot more interesting- those who made it out of the forest describe an ancient primeval forest under a violet sky, from which they barely escaped with their lives- this is par for the course on the yearly hunt.

Quidd, meanwhile, has been making his slow way home. Having washed up on a solitary island inhabited by miners, he was entreated by a forest spirit to aid it getting rid of the miners. This entailed dropped certain poisonous herbs down their smokestacks, which resulted in the death of many of their number, and pulling up many of the iron stakes which keep the spirits of the island at bay. In return, it infused him with certain temporary powers to enable him to get off the island. He was tainted by these powers, however, and has ended up with a level of Warlock.
At the time of the Berem festival, he was arriving offshore of a little fishing town, who were having their own festival. Whetehr he stayed for it is up to him. He may have been busy coping with his new powers, or recovering from the swim. Regardless, after he was ready to travel, he has spent a while traveling home , first through the mountains to Harken, then all the way up the road to Berem. It’s also possible he may havewalked the desolate coast, getting along in the wild as best he could, possible befriending someone along the way who helped him survive. In whatever way, he arrives back in Berem the day of Session 27.

Jerrin, having been out hiding from his mother in the woods with Old Ben, is likely still there.

Caery probably refused to leave the monastery for the entire festival. Gods know what she’s been reading.

Fable returned home from Fallcrest with his Father for the Festival- having likely known Haska, he may have chosen to follow the Drom Caravan out on an adventure of his own.

Halgrim, who went down on the ship with Quidd, has washed up alone, in parts unknown? What yet lies in store for him? Only time will tell.

TL;DR
Sasha has become somewhat famous for slaying the Great Worm of Cherry Crossing. Some people down there are referring to her as Worm’s Bane.

Aelita has been developing her long-distance relationship with Niel- as Summer comes fully underway and the town of Berem grows busy with trade, getting letters back and forth is of little difficulty.

Marten has been in and out of town, having taken a trip to Fallcrest to learn a bit about rapier fighting. He has likely been spending time with Jenna on his path through Cherry Crossing.

Richard may have been briefly imprisoned about those necromancer’s books, but more recently, his sister is plotting to marry him off.

Quidd has only just arrived.

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And Then Sasha and Marten Fucked
Session 26

The first day of the festival continues, from midmorning into dusk.
As recorded 5/17/2017, long late.
Sasha spends the day with Deanna, getting up to various mischief before ending up at the Sea Witch. Marten has been tending bar all day, and has run into Jenna, who was being stalked by a boy with the caravan. Marten had a few stern words with him, by which I mean he knocked him the fuck out with his staf, which seemed to just appear in his hand. He and Jenna have had a lovely day, whilst the guy Marten beat was lying in the alleyway. Richard went and found a live bby deer, and dragged it back to Lord Baird’s manor, where he, the house of Ashe, and Mayor Mattis of Cherry Crossing are having a lunch, discussing the issue of the Bloodless Brotherhood. Aelita and Niel have climbed to the roof of the manor, and are eavesdropping- Aelita finds out at this time that he is the son of Lord and Lady Ashe. He confides his concerns in Aelita about thew Bloodless Brotherhood, and that he thinks they’re a much bigger threat. She brags that their group has beaten them up once or twice, and Niel is suitably impressed- he begs that she keep an eye out, and trusts the defense of this quarter of the world to her, his love. (Blech.) The brunch is interrupted by a young deer running panicked throughout the manor, having been released into a window by Richard. Niel and Aelita take advantage of the confusion to slip down to the balcony as the nobles chase the deer, and snag some treats and a bottle of wine. They then dash off to the shore of Katmara to recite poetry, and for Aelita to invite him to come hear the song she’s composed at what amounts to an open mic later.
The group gathers amongst the town by firelight, and Aelita sings the epic song she has composed about Sasha defeating the Great Worm of Cherry Crossing, which ends in “And Then Sash-a and Mar-ten Did It In The Butt.” Sasha launches herself at Aelita with a shout, and axe-kicks her into unconsciousness before dragging her offstage and to the docks. Marten and Jenna, bluching, take their leave. Richard is nowhere to be seen. Sasha awaits Aelita’s revival, before knocking her into the lake. She is rescued by Niel- Deanna thinks this is all hilarious. Sasha storms off.

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A Midsummer Night's Daydream
Session 25

On the day before the festival, Marten is asked to watch the tavern, whilst it becomes clear to him and Sasha that their parents have some kind of bet going. Aelita puts her mind to it that she will find a paramour by festival’s end.

Sasha has sat herself on a rooftop to watch the procession entering town, when she takes note of a group of children gathered around a tree. Joining them in looking up, she sees a young woman in a formerly fine dress, who has climbed halfway up the tree, some fifty feet in the air. Sasha has to coach herdown, and she introduces herself as Deanne. She is obviously of noble blood, but has a wild streak. They hit it off a little bit, and take off to run the fields, then bother Marten.

Aelita, enthusiastically cheering the crowd whilst dressed to the nines in the town colours, notices a brooding young man on the bridge after they’ve all gone. She proceeds to stalk him a bit, as he wanders wistfully down past the stables, feeding the horses and slipping off. Her heart, of course, melts. She visits the Trynn’s boutique to put in an order for some likewise dark and brooding clothing from Tessa. Later, after dark, she’s headed out to bathe, and find this boy in her courtyard, tossing rocks into the river. (He’s such a rebel-this is the river shrine!) She bathes, while he pointedly doesn’t look, then they share some painfully awkward teenaged flirting and commiseration about society and dark things. His name is Niel, and he’s here with his parents. Aelita retrieves some sacrament wine, and they drink illicitly on the roof, while he produces an apple and cuts it in half. She suddenly surprises him with a kiss, and in his shock, he falls off the roof.

Marten had hoped to catch sight of Jenna, but after spying Miranda and Karen among the honour guard for the house of Ashe, he just keeps to the tavern. He encounters a Drom merchant, who barters a few spices and exotic foodstuffs for four pitchers of beer for his company, promising he will return with the pitchers. He does so in short order, and Marten learns a bit about Drom merchants, bracing himself in the meanwhile for a few days with rather less coin changing hands than he’s used to. Sasha and Deanne come in for drinks. Marten draws a few solid conclusions about Deanne from the start, but the thee share a couple drinks into the night while Sasha and Marten take turns telling her stories about their adventures, much to her jealousy. Marten insists that Sasha walk Deanne home at the end of the night, and she goes home to Lord Baird’s door.

The first day of the festival comes- an opening ceremony is held, maypoles are danced, and fun is had. Just after dawn is an archery contest, which Aelita is entered in. She takes third place, after Darryl in second, and an old scarred woodsman named Ben in first. Casual commentary reveals that Ben is the one who taught Darryl to use a bow. Niel watches the contests from the side- Deanne has slept in until the Melee.

Sasha, Marten and Richard compete in the Melee alongside Sid and Darryl, who are fighting unarmed. Darryl’s feet are tied, and Sid’s hands as well. No monks of the monastery participate, nor Master Jachen, Sherrif Wolfe, or any of the Ashen Guard. Sid and Darryl, obviously, barrel over most of the competition, tying for first because they can’t figure out a way to shake hands comfortably. Of the seventy or so remaining participants, Sasha and Richard tie for sixth, while Marten takes eighth. Deanne cheers loudly for Sasha and Marten the whole time. After things are concluded, Lord and Lady Ashe take their leave along with Lord Baird, and Niel slips into the crowd behind them. Aelita follows Niel, following the noble bunch, while Deanne greets Sasha off the battlefield.

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Festival Preparations
Session 24

A little time has passed, and the party finds themselves involved in preparations for the Berem Summer Festival. Lord and Lady Ashe will be attending, as well as all the folk from far-flung farms who fall under Lord Baird’s domain. Marten keeps himself busy between working in the tavern and visiting with Mona. Aelita and Sasha take their gains from the shipwreck to Alana Reed for identification. Richard proposes to Lord Baird that there should be a great hunt for the festival, and Lord Baird agrees.

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Breaching Trust
Session 23

Party returns from the ship, having found nothing. Marten later confides in Lord Baird that they have been there before, and gives him the coin, causing much concern in Lord Baird.

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A Trapdoor in the Mountains
Session 22

Richard and Marten Adventure
Journey to the Ship Probably
Happens parallel to the prior session, then afterward.

Very old necromancer den. Marten goes to gather the party the next morning- Darryl has carried both Aelita and Sasha back home to the loft- Marten arrives to find them both mostly undressed, hungover in the same bed.
The party journeys back to the ship.

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Back with Bacon
Session 21

After dinner, Marten is snatched by Richard to help him with his mysterious cellar. Sasha ad Aelita meet up the next day, but everyone is busy. They spar briefly, channeling Fable a little, before deciding to hunt a Boar.

They encounter a hostile, venemous boar, mutated by the Greenhouse waste which they have dealt with before, and kill it after nearly losing Sasha to its slashing tusks. They then take the boar back to the inn as an apology to Sid and Karen for Sasha having made a mess the other day punching out Dewey.

After comparing bruises with a very drunk Darryl, who has fallen off a mountain, they get into a drinking contest and drink one another under the table on Sid’s homebrew until Sid has to carry then outside and queeze their stomachs empty.

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