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3/24/2014 9:56 pm  #21


Re: This year is Fish

JasonZavoda wrote:

This is great stuff. Just started reading it. It sounds like an amazing campaign.

Thanks, Jason! It's a boatload of fun. It's obviously more dressed up for the journal. I don't seem to be able to do these things quickly. But this next post will make more than half of the second session.

Note that much of the setting so far is ripped off from Blackadder23. He has kindly said he doesn't mind.

 

3/24/2014 9:57 pm  #22


Re: This year is Fish

II. CAGES AND CHOICES

After discussion, the party decided to enter the cave and eliminate it before pressing on. Leaving Euthymios to watch their backs, they climbed carefully up the scree-covered hill and worked their way over to the cave. The stream poured over the lip of rock, but there was room next to its channel, and a dripping tunnel extended into the hill, dripping with moisture and quickly shrouded in darkness as it left the weak russet sunlight behind. Demostrate signaled to Euthymios that he should come up, and the cataphract reluctantly led Landboat back into the pine woods and tethered the stallion to a tree, leaving enough rein for the horse to forage. "You stay alive," Euthymios told him. "Only a Kimmerian rider has the right to kill his horse!"

The deeper channel cut by the stream as it ebbed and waxed over the long Hyperborean year left a few yards of room next to it in the tunnel, which had been worn some time in the ancient past by a more powerful flow. The tunnel was dark and damp, and Audgisl's torch and the small flame cupped in Demostrate's bare hand summoned a battle of shadows and reflections on the wet stone walls. After some thirty or forty yards, another dripping tunnel branched off, striking the one they traversed from a steep upward angle. They stopped there and debated whether to climb up it. It was slick and pitched, though, and no one seemed confident of being able to scale the wet stone and bring a rope and spikes to let the rest ascend. Finally, they left it behind and moved deeper under the hill.

The tunnel twisted and debouched into a larger cavern. As the party's lights reached through the subterranean gloom, they saw a strange sight: six creatures, as if mixed of man and crow, perched on rocky projections in the cavern. The creatures leaped up, flashing spears tipped with bronze heads. Each stood almost as tall as a man, and stubby arms projected underneath their black wings. Cawing and shrieking, they raced forward to attack the intruders. Shocked but ready, the party responded. A flaming missile leaped from Demostrate's hand, striking a bird-man and filling the cavern with the nauseating smell of burnt feathers. Euthymios had time to loose an arrow and drop another of the creatures before they had charged among the party, stabbing with their short spears. Siomha, Comhan, and Euthymios formed a front line while the rest of the party fell back into the tunnel. Nausa gestured and groaned in his tundric language, and darkness was erected like a black wall just in front of the fighters so that the bird-men were caught half in and half out of a gloom deeper than the cave's had been. Three of the creatures surrounded Euthymios, and the Kimmerian barely a chance to swing his war hammer before the butt of a spear caught his head and dropped him senseless to the ground. Siomha and Comhan protected him as best they could as Nausa crept forward to grab the Kimmerian and pull him to safety. A cry, suddenly cut off, from Demostrate, made Nausa look behind him, realizing that the party's unprotected rear had been suddenly assaulted.  Cruising low through the black tunnel, six more of the bird men flew. Three of them had passed over the pyromancer and the shaman, and these held a net between them. They threw the heavy thing as they burst into the cavern, and it fell upon Comhan, Siomha, Nausa, and the still form of Euthymios. All four were trapped. Behind them, the other flying bird-men swung padded clubs at the surprised Nausa and Demostrate as they passed over them. Both fell to the floor, stunned. Moments later, as they tried in vain to tear their way free, the others found the same clubs smashing down around them as they struggled. Siomha and Nausa were instantly stunned, and Comhan found himself staring up at the bird-men that surrounded him. "I surrender," the Kelt said. "There's no need for violence, after all" A padded club slammed into his helmet, and the big warrior's consciousness fled him.

Euthymios found himself roughly shaken awake. Demonstrate peered into his face. "You had better hear this," she whispered. "We seem to be in some trouble. And in a cage."

Indeed they were.

Blackadder23 wrote:

They found themselves disarmed and imprisoned in a gigantic wicker birdcage (or perhaps more accurately, “man-cage”) hanging in a large cavern lit by numerous torches. Gathered around the cage was a flock of bird-men, all glaring at the party in a decidedly unfriendly manner. Two richly-dressed bird-men stood near the cage and discussed the party’s fate in a screeching parody of the common tongue: the obese and hungry Raak’aak, and the lean and gloomy Skwawk.

RAAK’AAK: What shall we do with these tasty morsels, Skwawk?
SKWAWK: Throw them to the mountain ape who lives in the ravine, Raak’aak. They’ve been too much trouble already.
RAAK’AAK: Shall we make them into a soup with mushrooms and wild rice?
SKWAWK: Chop, chop, chop. Too much bother.
RAAK’AAK: Then shall we roast them on a spit? So tender.
SKWAWK: Ugh! All that turning.
RAAK’AAK: Fine! Let’s cook them in the oven, with chestnut and sage stuffing.
SKWAWK: You gather the firewood. You know the ape kills any of us he catches in the forest.
RAAK’AAK: But I’m hungry!
SKWAWK: You’re always hungry!

It was unclear what was worse: the matter of discussion between the two obscene creatures or the shrieking voices they used to deliver it, which seemed to twist the language of men so that the words came out as befouled as the rocks that surrounded the cage. High above, on roosts of straw-strewn stone, dozens more of the creatures listened to their leaders with rapt attention, cocking their heads first one way, then the next, maintaining a constant murmurous babble that rained down upon the captured humans like droppings. Desperately, the party tried to bargain, offering their coins and treasures for their freedom. Reasonable and inhuman, Raak'aak pointed out that they already had the party's coin and food and weapons as well. "Aye," Comhan said, "But we could get more, you know. We excel at it."

"So much is obvious," Skwawk squawked.     

"There must be something you want," Euthymios protested weakly. "Something we could do?"

The two bird-men leaned their heads together and croaked and tittered too fast for the humans to follow. "Wee-ee-eel," Raak'aak finally said. "If we aren't going to eat you, you could at least kill the mountain ape! Or let him kill you. Either way, one problem is solved."

"We're wounded, though, and hungry," Demostrate protested, for they had sat in the cage all night.

A dark tittering went up among the bird men. "Lean, lean and tender!" Raak'aak crowed.

"Fine," said Comhan. "We'll kill your ape. At least it's something to hit."

At spear-point the bird-men herded the party through the damp, dark tunnels, lighting the way with torches. Their gear was piled up in the cave where they had fallen. They were allowed to take their packs and weapons, but all their coins and food were gone. Ignoring the group's protests, the bird-men prodded them on, deeper under the hill. They came to a wicker gate rudely jammed into another tunnel. The party was put through, and several spear-wielding bird-men squawked and fleered at them until they had retreated around a curve in the tunnel. Here Audgisl entered the bear-mind and rubbed soothing herbs on the knot on Euthymios's head. Soon the warrior was able to stagger wearily under his own power, but he was in poor shape. The others were hungry and battered, having rested poorly in the wicker cage. But finally they assembled, lit new torches, and moved down the sloping passage. They came to a large boulder that had been roughly shoved into place in the tunnel, blocking further progress. Comhan and Siomha used their pry bars and shifted it slightly, making enough room to pass one by one around it.

Beyond the boulder, the cave soon widened. Ahead they could see the ruddy hint of sunlight. They moved cautiously. The cavern was wide and dry, strewn with boulders. A deep, rank odor, more foul even than the rookery of the bird-men assailed them. In the dim light they could now see the cavern's extent. Another boulder was shoved into an opening to the outer air. Off to their right, foul hides and torn clothing were crudely shaped into something like a bed. Cautiously, they circled left. When they reached the boulder, Euthymios stopped, nocked an arrow, and waited. The others began to approach the reeking pile. Suddenly, a high voice called out, "Is someone there? Oh, help, help us! Quick, before it returns!"

Except for Euthymios, the party moved quickly toward the stinking bed. Trussed next to it, wrists and legs bound with wet and bloody hides, were two young Kelts, a boy and a girl, both fair beneath the dirt and blood that smudged their faces. The maid had worked a gag out of her mouth, though the youth still strained around his. "Oh, please, please! It will come back! Please, help us. I am Fiona Nine-Fingers, my father the chief of the House of Nine. Oh, please!" She dissolved in tears. Nausa stopped Comhan before he could slap the girl. "We were sent by your father, Fiona," the Esquimeaux said, seeming surprised himself by his gentleness. "But who is this? And what will return?"

"This is Tam. He is--my lover." The girl managed to blush under the fear and grime that coated her face. "We ran away together, to be together. But there is a creature, a great ape, that took us both and left us here. It has been gone again for hours! Please, before it returns." Nausa and Demonstrate were already cutting the young couple's bonds. But Comhan spat in disgust. "Don't free the boy! It will just make it harder to cut off his head! The man said to bring him the head of the one that took his daughter, and here he is. This has been enough trouble without having to chase him!"

Fiona dissolved in tears, though Tam tried to stand straight and face down the massive Kelt warrior. "No," cried the girl, "You can't!"

"I can, and we will, girl. I don't care if you've been bedding him since you were both in the womb, we have a job to do, and neither of you is paying us to do it." He looked at Nausa. "Hold the boy, and I'll get his head off. Then we can leave."

Siomha and Nausa both exploded at the fighting man. Shouting him down as he tried to argue the logic of the situation. Siomha placed herself between Tam and Comhan, grimly holding and axe in either hand. Nausa, too, perhaps after his treatment by the guards, found himself willing to help these two in their plight--and to stick a stone in the craw of the powerful of Hawkford at the same time. As they argued, the boulder at the cave mouth was yanked back in a single powerful moment. Euthymios barely had time to take in the creature that had pulled it aside with one hand before he had let fly the arrow he had readied. The thing it struck was nine feet tall. Thick black fur covered it in patches. It had a beast's heads, but there was something almost human about its massive arms and legs. It had moved the boulder almost without effort, but the Kimmerian's shaft sank deep into the thing's chest. The mountain ape screamed in rage and pain and leapt forward. The rest of the party, even Demostrate and Nausa charged toward the cave mouth, hoping to get to the beast before it could strike the wounded cataphract. But with one hand, the mountain ape dashed Euthymios aside. The big Kimmerian struck the wall and collapsed, and then the others were upon the monster, weapons swinging. They had it surrounded, and think black blood was welling up around the arrow sunk in its chest, already pooling around its feet. The beast was dead but did not know it. It managed to smash an enormous fist against Comhan, a blow like a smith's hammer, before it fell under a flurry of blows.

The fight was over in moments. Euthymios lived, but there was little Audgisl could do for him now.

"We must stay here. Comhan, you and Siomha drag the thing's body up to the gate so the bird-things know we have done as we said we would do."

"Wait!" Nausa cried. "Comhan, you have been talking about striking off heads all day. Well, here's your chance. Take the thing's head. It took the Nine's daughter, did it not? We found her here bound and gagged. We bring him its head and collect our price. There is no one to say that she was taken by someone else before this beast had its chance. Is there, girl." The Esquimeaux looked pointedly at Fiona.

"But--Tam, he and I--"

Nausa cut her off. "Tam can come with us. We will keep him safe. We may need to leave Hawkford. It has grown unsafe for many of us."

"But we are meant to be together," the youth protested. "I am not scared of her father. I can prove my worth!"

Nausa shook his head. "This brute is the nicest of the wretches her father will send after you. Be sensible, boy. If you want to live to win her, your time in Hawkford is done. You have tonight. We'll give you your privacy while we rest. But tomorrow the girl goes to her family, the ape's head to her father, and you to either the wide world or with us. That's all."

While Fiona and Tam made their peace with the plan, Siomha and Comhan returned. They had tossed the ape's body against the gate and called out to the bird-men that they would take its cave for the night. Any feathers that appeared would be plucked for the Kelt warrior's helmet. Comhan moved to the cave entrance and peered outside. "Luck at last!" he called. "Here's fortune. The Kimmerian's horse is here. And the ape has saved us the trouble of killing it. He's even half skinned it. Does anyone know how to cook horse?"
 

     Thread Starter
 

3/25/2014 9:17 pm  #23


Re: This year is Fish

III. Bandits and Betrayal

They passed a cheerless night in the cave, though the roasted horse meat settled their hunger pains. Euthymios brooded darkly once he came to. "It's not right," he told Audgisl. "No one should kill a Kimmerian's horse but the Kimmerian. We might ride them to death or drink their blood in the dry steppes, but we understand them. The horse deserved better than that ape."

The shaman nodded and stared into the fire. "Yes," he said, "but it was you who tied the horse outside the ape's cave. In that way, it is as if you killed it. The ape was just the instrument of the doom you decreed. Does that settle your mind, Kimmerian?"

It did not, but it would have to do. The party let the young couple decamp for the shadowy recesses at the back of the cavern, and they spoke with extra voice out of decorousness, though their voices fell to heated whispers when they found the ape's treasure. Half concealed by the stinking bed, a small chest sat on the cave floor. Comhan cursed with joy and began to scoop out the contents. Within were two armbands worked in gold and silver, a gold torc set with small pearls, 50 gold coins of Hawkford mint. Moreover, two strange flasks contained mysterious liquids that reeked of sorcery. Nausa and Demostrate tested these carefully, extending their mystic senses into their mouths. They were an elixir of bent sight, which could render the imbiber invisible to eyes, and a tonic of sudden spring, a growth potion that could greatly increase the size and power of whoever drank it. More mysteriously, a silvery tube was concealed beneath the rest of the treasure. Its end was carved with runes of the Hyperborean script, and no one could read those. Demostrate put it through various tests, but she could not divine the thing's purpose. She tucked it into her pack for safety.

In the morning, Audgisl once more entered the bear-mind and worked on Euthymios's many wounds. The Kimmerian horseman was fit to travel but still weak and unsteady. Nonetheless, he heaved Landboat's saddle to his shoulder after tucking the rest of the harness into his pack. He would buy another horse, but he was damned if he gave the merchants of Hawkford a double profit on the tack!

Influenced, perhaps, by the somber mood of the two young lovers who were soon to part, it was a dour group that followed the stream back toward Hawkford. The pine woods were silent except for the murmuring of the waters, just now coming to more swollen life as the years-deep snows began to melt in the hills. The stream's course was often in a deep gorge or ran shallowly across broad rocky stretches. The waterways of Hyperborea grew and shrank with the long courses of the seasons, and the land bore always the mark of the riotous summer and the coming darkness. It was in one of these broad rocky areas that danger once more lashed out at them.

The stream rounded a gentle curve and entered this clearing. The pine woods were half a hundred yards or more away on the party's left, and a steep bluff rose on the other side of the stream to their right. Large boulders dotted the shale, stones that would form wild eddies later as the stream achieved its full summer depth. Siomha had just enough time to see movement behind one of these boulders and cry out a warning before two arrows sang through the air. One came from across the stream, the other from ahead and to the left. Bowmen, rough looking and grimy, had leaned out of their cover and fired their readied arrows at the party as soon as they entered the clearing. Warned by Siomha, though, the group ducked, and the arrows flew over their heads. Tam flung himself over Fiona, protecting her with his body as the party moved into deadly action. Euthymios dropped Landboat's saddle and yanked his bow from his shoulders. Even as he readied his missile, a flaming bolt sped from Demostrate's hand and struck the archer across the river, who cried out in pain and fear. Comhan charged across the rocky ground, making for the other archer, and Nausa followed him more cautiously, dodging and weaving to avoid any further arrows, which sang out again from the bandit archers, ringing off Comhan's armor and grazing Siomha's shoulder. Comhan never reached the archer. Even as he charged, a savage cry sounded across the field, and from behind yet another boulder a mad form charged. The maddened shout sounded as if it were torn from the throat of the charging man by inhuman rage. Red eyes glared from under shaggy black hair, and foam poured thick from the mouth of the enraged berserker. A thick hemp rope was tied about his throat, and it trailed behind him like the parody of a battle standard as he charged toward Comhan, intercepting the Kelt before he had covered half the ground to the archer. Comhan's sword was knocked aside by the berserker's weapons, his arm jarred as if struck by an iron bar. Even has he tried to recover, the berserker swung a massive club, studdent with nails. This caught the Kelt square in the chest and sent him sailing through the air. He landed with a crunch and was still. The berserker screamed his triumph to the leaden skies.

Euthymios and Siomha concentrated on the near archer, whose shafts were still falling among the party. Siomha's arrow caused the man to jerk backward as it struck the rock near his head, but Euthymios's shaft was more true, piercing the bandit's eye. Nausa realized that he was alone on the field between the party and the berserker. Audgisl heaved his spear at the berserker, who dodged the point as he charged the Esquimeaux. The shaft glanced off the savage skull, but still he bore down on Nausa. Even as the illusionist fumbled for the words of a spell, the berserker was upon him, rising in the Esquimeaux's eyes like the winds of madness. The war club came up again, and though Nausa tried to dodge, it caught him in the ribs and smashed him to the ground. The illusionist did not rise.

The berserker roared out his challenge again and began to charge the rest of the party, but Euthymios felt black rage of his own welling within him. His vision narrowed to a tunnel on the screaming mouth of the savage, and an arrow followed his gaze, plunging out the back of the berserker's neck and raining red ruin across the stones. Now the berserker's handler was clear, as three more bandits emerged from behind the boulders, weapons ready as they charged. Their leader wore bronze scale mail, and he leveled a long spear in front of him. His two rough companions had their broad swords out, and they, too, howled a challenge as they charged. But Euthymios was undaunted. His first arrow took the leader in the shoulder, and even as the man stumbled, another shaft found his throat. Siomha's arrows took down one of the other bandits, and the remaining thug thought better of his headlong charge. He changed his angle, racing for the pine woods that bordered the clearing. Before he could reach them, two more shafts brought him down. In the sudden silence, the murmur of the stream sounded, all uncaring of the blood that had been spilled at its edge.

Comhan and Nausa were alive but unconscious. The others carried them into the shelter of the trees and took stock while Siomha walked in widening circles, looking for tracks. It had been a well planned ambush, that was clear. A watcher on the bluffs could have seen them coming from a mile off and left plenty of time to set up the ambush. Siomha returned and announced she had found a trail leading into the woods and toward a range of low hills to the west. The day was still young, but neither Comhan nor Nausa could travel. Siomha conferred with Euthymios and Demostrate. The young cataphract himself was barely conscious, still reeling from his wounds of the day before and the stress of the battle. Siomha realized they had two choices. She could leave them here, head to town, and hope to bring back aid, a trip of many hours. Or she could follow the bandits' trail and hope that it ended nearby in some sort of usable shelter. She thought the latter was the mostl likely to keep them alive, even if more bandits waited there. At least then they would know, and hopefully before the short day ended and darkness crawled along the land. The others agreed, and Siomha prepared herself to go, first replacing a hand axe she had lost fighting the bird-men from one on the corpse of the bandit leader. As she did so, she noticed that the scales of his armor seemed to be made of bronze. But each one was perfectly formed, without so much as the dent of hard wearing upon it. Silently, she stripped first the corpse and then her own studded leather armor. The scale mail should have freighted her steps too much for stealth, but she still felt as light as ever on her feet. Silence seemed to cling to the bright riveted metal, and the leather beneath it felt as if it were made of the skins of birds. She returned to the others.

"I'm taking this. We can talk about it if I make it back."

Nausa, barely conscious, motioned to the ranger. "Take this, too. It won't do us any good unless you return." He pressed the flask containing the elixir of bent sight into her hand. The ranger nodded, and without a word she turned and disappeared into the woods.

It was more than four hours later when Demostrate, nervously keeping watch while the others slept, leapt to her feet at a sudden and unexpected sound from the woods. It was the braying of an annoyed mule. She roused Euthymios, who wearily gathered up his bow and reached for the arrows he had scavenged from the fallen bandits. But what emerged from the shadowy wood was a welcome sight: Siomha, leading two laden mules. Smiling slightly, the ranger approached. "Well, I found their hideout. And I found their treasure. And I found their mules. So we might even make it home tonight." Her smile faded, and she passed a stained and folded piece of parchment to Nausa. The Esquimeaux unfolded and held it in weak hands up to the rapidly fading light. On it a crude hand listed a description of each member of the party and the route they were likely to be on. The last phrase was heavily underscored: "Take the slant-eyed trickster alive. He might be our fortune." Nausa looked up at the ranger.

"Aye," she said. "Someone set us up."
 

     Thread Starter
 

3/25/2014 11:00 pm  #24


Re: This year is Fish

Wow! That was a great write-up, a short  story really. Very exciting stuff and a good read.

 

3/26/2014 7:55 am  #25


Re: This year is Fish

Thanks, Jason. That's very kind of you to say. These things sure do eat up time, though. I had kept one going for our AD&D game for a long while but then fell behind. Once that happens, I just don't remember with enough accuracy to really keep it up. I'm not sure this is totally sustainable, but for now I'm trying to make the effort. Partly it's because we're all very excited by AS&SH. Partly because three of our players haven't made it to a session of the game yet so I want them to know what it's like. Also, we might end up alternating AS&SH and AD&D, so I want us to remember where we were. Also, it's fun! It just takes a while.

This makes us about 2/3 or so of the way through session 2. More to come tonight, I hope.

     Thread Starter
 

3/26/2014 5:31 pm  #26


Re: This year is Fish

IV. Skin and Bones

The short day had ended hours before the party reached the settled region around Hawkford. The gates of the town were closed, and so again they aimed for the small farming thorp where the families of Euthymios and Nausa lived. With only a curt word for his roused father, Euthymios settled his party in the barn again, helping the enfeebled Nausa and Comhan off the mules and into the soft hay. Once they were bedded down, the two mules fed and watered, and Tam and Fiona settled in the far stalls for yet another last night together, Siomha emptied the mules' panniers and showed Euthymious, Audgisl, and Demostrate what she had found in the bandits' cave hideout. "This," she said, "was under a stone near the hammock. I assume it belonged to the leader." She tossed a sack of 300 gold coins onto the floor. "And I think they must have waylaid a traveling priest at some point from the looks of the rest." The rest was four brass incense censers, a silver mask of a spiral shape, and a set of fine ivory prayer beads. From crates that she had tied over the mules she also produced 12 bottles of whiskey and three bottles of dark wine in bottles of fine cut glass. "And the mules," Siomha pointed out. "We also have the mules."

Euthymios was falling asleep in the soft hay even as Audgisl weighed the prayer beads in his hands and felt the heavy silver of the mask. "Tomorrow," Demostrate said. "We will deal with it all in town tomorrow. This should certainly be enough to get some flasks of green fire." She looked at the weary ranger. "Have you noticed that there just is not enough fire being rained upon our foes? I think that might be our problem."

The next day saw them all fit enough to head into Hawkford. First they bid Tam farewell. Nausa tried once more to get the young man to join his fate to theirs, assuring him that if he lived, he would find glory and power along the path they trod. But Tam insisted that he would find his own way and return to win Fiona's hand from her father. "And I will wait for you!" the girl cried. "I shall tell my father of your strength and courage. I will tell him that I shall never be with anyone else, that it is you--"

"You say anything like that, girl," Comhan interrupted, "And I will cut you both in half. I don't want to ever hear that you so much as know who this boy is. We saved you from an ape, mind you, and if I ever hear that you have breathed a different story, your stripling there will wish your father had got him. Do you hear me, boy? If her father ever comes back to us saying that there was some fingerling youth involved in all of this, I'll know why. And I'll spit you both and serve you to the bird-men. Gods and burning thralls! Why do we allow this nonsense?"

Without another word, the big Kelt drove Tam away, grabbed Fiona by the arm, and led the party toward the Hawkford gate.

The gate guards seemed nervous, distracted, letting the party through almost without pause. Though Nausa, observing from the depths of his hood, saw a look of shock pass over the face of the guard who had braced him two mornings before when they had set off on Fiona's trail. The grimy Kelt covered it swiftly, but Nausa saw, and he smiled in the shadows. Their first stop was the Tarnish, where Brocc macc Urard was tardily setting the board and tapping a fresh keg. The big innkeep was nervous, distracted, and even shorter of temper than usual. As the party cracked eggs into their morning ales and drained the heavy brew, they probed Brocc. Finally, the big Kelt pounded his fists on the bar. "It was the damndest thing! I come to open the door this morning as always, and nailed to it with black iron nails is a rabitt--completely skinned. Whatever did was neat, too. Didn't nick a muscle, didn't clean the damn thing. And all its blood poured down the damn door, too. Neat as an Amazon's quim--your pardon, mistress--except for all that blood. And the damn guard won't do a damn thing. Lazy gets of the Bat-Toad's stool! They're running around like their mothers married Thaumagorga and their new daddy wants to take them hunting. Whoreson bastard worm-membered stains on the breeches of a Khromarium man whore . . ." muttering still, Brocc moved into the kitchen past a cringing scullery maid.

At that moment, Fergus of the House of Nine entered, his guards close at his back. "Have you found him? Have you slain the bastard who took my honor?"

Demostrate stepped forward, "Sir, look to your daughter before your honor. She is safely restored." The flustered merchant caught sight of Fiona for the first time, and a dark glower came over his face. "Fiona! You dare return after this slight? How will your mother show her face--"

He was interruptd as Euthymios tossed the bloody sack on the table and yanked the fabric away from the mountain ape's horrid features. "No slight here, sirrah. That your daughter lived in this thing's clutches until we were able to free her marks her as the flower of strong stock. Here is the head of the mountain ape that stole your daughter. We killed it. We will tell all who ask how the beast took her while she berrried in the woods. And she is returned. This is a good day for your house. Now pay us." Comhan glared darkly at Fiona while the Kimmerian made his speech.

Fergus was flustered, stammering, but the party repeated there story, and there was nothing for the merchant to do but proffer a small sack. "Your 500 coins, as we agreed."

Comhan finally smiled, taking possession of the heavy bag. "Thank you, good sir. Should your house require assistance again, you need only--"

"I will have nought more to do with you ruffians. You have been paid. Now stay away from me and mine, or you shall feel the weight of my power upon you!" Gathering daughter and toughs as he went, the merchant stormed out of the bar.

"We should have cut that boy in half when we had him at sword's length," Comhan muttered as the door crashed shut.

     Thread Starter
 

3/26/2014 5:55 pm  #27


Re: This year is Fish

Loving this story.

 

3/26/2014 6:45 pm  #28


Re: This year is Fish

(IV. Skin and Bones, cont.)

Nausa took ten coins from the bag under Comhan's glare and took them to Brocc, who had returned and was lingering distractedly behind the wooden bar. "Here, Brocc. This is for our ales and tonight on the common room floor. And for meals. You let us know when it's run out, and there will be more. Fair enough?" The big Kelt nodded and placed a loaf of dark bread and six more eggs on the counter. "Aye, Esquimeaux. Fair enough dealing. Straight and clear when some things are dark as the Bat Year's black bung."

Nausa returned to the others. They discussed how best to sell what they had gathered, agreeing to unload the religious items for whatever they would fetch, have the jewels and gems appraised, and keep the mules. About the wine and whiskey they could reach no decision, until Nausa heaved the bottles on the bar and said to Brocc, "Here, add these to our tab, too." The innkeeper peered at the whisky bottles and nodded, but when he picked up the wine, he cursed in shock. "Yoon-Deh's holy dugs, Nausa, these are too fine to trade for eggs and ale and a spot on the floor! No, listen here. This whiskey goes on your tab as fine trade, but you'll take good gold for these wine bottles, and I'll still see a profit." He disappeared into the back and came back holding out a pouch. "Seventy in gold, and a bargain. Maybe you lot are good luck after all."

The party made for the thronged bazaar. They disposed of the religious items and a rich sedan chair from the bandits' lair for a hundred in gold. Demostrate had carefully copied the Hyperborean runes on the silver tube onto parchment, and she carried this to the stall of an old man who advertised items of mystery and puissance. The man's accent spoke of far lands and the rich cities, but also of corruption and unwholesome nights beneath strange roofs. When she asked him whether he could translate Hyperborea runes, the man agreed, but he demanded 25 gold before he would even look. Demostrate complied and handed over the parchment.

"Ah, you seek to hide your secrets from Smykrophilos! Wise is the woman's heart and its secret fire. But wise too is Smykrophilos. This, child, is the Hyperborean tubular script. Never would those proud and vanished wise ones record this on parchment. You show Smykrophilos this tube? No? Fine then, I tell you. These--in tube terms, mind, girl--show you how you grasp the tube, so--wait!" He turned and shuffled into the dark rear of the shop and returned clutching a strange black item, like a bone or a wand. It seemed to baffle the eye as the old man waved it around. "Daemon bone! I show you now what your Hyperborean tube says, girl, and keep myself safe from daemons while I am about it! Ah, Smykrophilos is wise when the matter grows deep.

"Here, so. These passes, so, describe the shape of the crack between the worlds, between all worlds! So and so, you make the pass, and from the force that keeps the worlds apart and binds them all together, you reach in and take just a touch, just the smallest piece of the ever-breaking dawn, and this you fling at your enemies--so!" The old man laughed. "See now? For a little gold, much of the ancient wisdom. For just a little more--daemon bone. Powerful, charged with the winds of hell and the darkness of Underborea. Many secrets here, and power. A hundred gold for you, to go with your tube that you will not show Smykrophilos."

Demostrate demured and left the stall as quickly as she could. She made immediately for the stall of an alchemist and bought as much green fire as she could carry. Silver dawns, cracks between worlds, demon bones. What she needed was fire. As she passed the forges and weapon shops she could hear Comhan roaring: "Gal? Go to Gal? Gods and burning thralls, man, can you not make plate mail? It's plates and mail! Bah! Go shoe a horse. I shall keep my gold for your betters!" The fuming warrior burst on to the street and caught sight of Demostrate. He grinned. "It's good to yell at those too scared to swing at you. Did you get green fire? I am to meet Audgisl here to get some, too. Ah, he comes with the Kimmerian. I hope the new horse is less tasty than the last. Perhaps it will live longer."

As the party drew together, except for Nausa, who was on an errand of his own, a sudden commotion erupted from one of the muddy alleys leading off the bazaar. Hawkford guards suddenly swarmed the area, converging on the alley mouth, from which now a palpable feeling of dread seemed to well. The guards poured into the alley, and moments later, two of them came reeling back out. They fell to their knees the mud and vomited, cursing and swearing, their faces white and eyes rolling. Swift as fire in dry grass, word spread among the stunned merchants and townsfolk, travelers and thieves. A body was in the alley, its skin completely stripped away. The guards now formed some sort of order as an officer appeared, kicking them into place and slapping their sick-smeared faces until they heaved to. A line of spear shafts now kept back the crowd that tried to press into the alley. In some confusion, the party finished their shopping and retreated to the Tarnish.

Nausa was there. He, too, had spent the day buying the wares of Hawkford, but where the others had weapons and armor, he had bought information. He had moved among the thieves, outcasts, whores, and beggars of the town, dropping coins where they would do the most good. He had learned, finally, that while no one was sure it had been him insulting the king several nights before, it was widely assumed. The king had not called for vengeance yet. Instead, Nausa was the butt of jokes among the hall's crude nobles. But the gate guard who had challenged him had been heard saying that rank would reward anyone who brought Nausa before the king with a confession of his misdeeds. It was clear to the Esquimeaux that this guard had sold their description to the bandits and told them which way their route had lain. It was the only way such a sure ambush could have been laid. He began to plan ways to reward the guard for his service to the crown.

His informant had been a young thief who had kept his ear close to any chance for profit. The thief had refused Nausa's offer to help him plan an attack on the guard. "Where's my profit? Why risk life and limb on another man's revenge? I have you here now. Why should I not simply send word to the guard of your bragging about making the king a fool and let him know I have you? You see, boy? Knowing who wants what. That's the angle of profit, not risking your skin in the world's wilds. I've seen enough to know."

"That's an excellent point, O man of Hawkford town. This might help you keep your ease until I have gone, at least." Nausa gave the man a few more coins, which disappeared into a softly rustling sleeve. "Aye, Esquimeaux, it might. And these words are free. Watch yourself in this town. You are strange, and the Kelts will turn on the strange whenever they are scared. Slant-eyed and mystery-steeped, you make yourself a target without even trying. No, no, boy, button your rage. I care not if you are Esquimeaux, Amazon, or goat man of the Leng Plateau. I merely warn you to care. Especially in these days. Something dark is moving in Hawkford. I heard of a kennel of dogs near the hall, and every cur in it was found skinned clean, each lying in a pool of its own blood. And then again, one of the drunks near Middenhead Sink was found the same way in the night, not an inch of skin left on him. Something walks Hawkford. Mind you do not find yourself caught in the hunt for it."

In the Tarnish, Nausa told the others this news and listened to their tale of the body in the alley. He also introduced them to Qannmorr Zantos. "He seemed braver or more mad than the other thief. At least, he says he's willing to venture with us and help open the way when it is barred. It is something." The others greeted Qannmorr, a man of mixed heritage used at a young age to living by wits and steel, as common as copper in the cities and towns of Hyperborea.

"So who is skinning these people?" Comhan asked. "Animals, men, women, it makes no sense."

"Could it have anything to do with that druid and his wisdom berries" Nausa wanted to know. And it seemed to them all that it could.

"We should go to Fionnhbar," Euthymios announced, "and see if he knows aught of this."

They were about to rise to do so when a shadow fell across their table. They looked up into the steel-hard face of Euthymios's father, the sailor turned farmer who kept his silent Kimmerian ways among the boisterous Kelts.

"Come home now, boy," he said to Euthymios. "Your brother has been found dead."

"Did he have any skin?" Nausa asked in the tense silence.

Hard Kimmerian eyes met the Esquimeaux's. "No."

And he turned and stalked from the inn.

Last edited by Handy Haversack (3/27/2014 5:53 pm)

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3/26/2014 8:31 pm  #29


Re: This year is Fish

Euthymios's father spared a glance for his son's new warhorse as they walked and ran an appreciative hand down the animal's glossy flank. But the only words he spoke to Euthymios as the party followed them back to the thorp were: "Your mother needs you now." When they reached his parents' farm, his mother was outside, rendering spring lambs for head cheese and salt meat. She seemed untouched by the skinned and gutted lambs. As Euthymios approached, she paused in her work and looked at him. "You live then. And you have heard?"

"Aye, mother."

"Aye, then."

"Aye."

He turned to the party. "It is good to be here for her in her need."

His mother went back to her work.

Euthymios's brother was indeed dead and skinless and had already been buried by Kimmerian rites before the Kelt druids could intervene. The party quizzed his father closely. The boy had been found just behind the house when he was late from the fields for his dinner. He lay in a huge pool of his own blood, but no skin remained on his body. Nor could his father, a skilled butcher, find the mark of any blade or tool. The muscles, organs, eyes, and bones were all untouched, and the blood had soaked the ground. The party traced the boy's tracks back to the fields. Here Siomha found another set of tracks and saw where the two had stood together for a time. There was no sign of struggle or dispute. She followed the other tracks back to the woods, where they suddenly disappeared.

"This is beyond my ken," the ranger said. "I think we should do as we first decided and ask the druids. Whatever is at work here is a power they would be bound to notice."

The others agreed. As Euthymois mounted Landboat II his father approached them again. "I have only two sons left now. And two girls. I cannot be losing them at this rate and make the farm work. Your life has become too dangerous, Euthymios. I call you man now, and Kimmerian. Your parents' home is no longer yours. You cannot stay here more. Nor rest your way-fellows in our barn. You ride the ways of danger. Stay alive. But do not bring it here."

The cataphract nodded. "Aye, father." And the older Kimmerian stalked away back to his work. Euthymios told Siomha to gather the mules and bring them, and the party set off for the fields and groves of the druids.

Fionnhbar knew, of course, of the death, and of the deaths in town and field and wood, man and animal. The old druid stared to the east as the party told him what they had learned. Then he turned to them.

"You may not know, but we went in strength to the house of the one who trained Ottvar, hard against the black hills. We went to take him to the fire and cleanse this area of his necromantic stain. But he was gone--fled or escaped or hidden somewhere. Instead there were . . . *abominations.* The dead rose up to fight us, and many of these were flayed--and worse. I fear that he has called something forth from the Black Gulf and beyond. This 'druid' you say was giving out wisdom berries. He was not one of us. I fear he was the necromancer himself or some servant he summoned, some daemon-born plague bringer. Something is here and walks among us, clothing itself in our skins--until it is through with them." The druid turned again to stare long and hard at the party.

"You are not of the true faith." Comhan and Siomha began to protest, and Fionnhbad held up his hand for silence. "Welcome are you at our fires, and Yoon-Deh hears your prayers as she hears ours. But it is not the true dark and fecund ways of her heart that your tread. Yours is a weird that will be decided far from these hills." He paused. "Do you know that once Yoon-Deh was honored everywhere in Hyperborea? That the goddess was worshipped by men from the world's icy heart to the Black Gulf? When the Hyperboreans were retreated under the icy hills and the Atlanteans had followed their weird sciences into perversion and degradation, men under the wild skies worshipped the goddess and knew her ways and the ways of beast and weather that are her will written in the world. Death was less feared then, for in every hunt the wolves pull down the deer, and blood that flows then is Yoon-Deh's as the howl that rolls of the skies is hers.

"But the Green Death came. And in their fear men turned away from the world goddess and embraced newer gods, outer gods, gods, yes, but daemons, too, from outside these spheres. Xathoqqua and Mordezzan and Azathoth, Kthulhu and Krimmr, and Khalk-Xu the Kraken swimming the Black Gulf between the worlds. These creatures had designs far from the green and growing, hunting and dying world of Yoon-Deh. And the goddess was forgotten. Xathoqqua the Bat-Toad is supreme, but the others, too, have their worshippers, and the purposes of many are dark as they work their masters' unguessable plans.

"But not here. The Kelts remembered Yoon-Deh. And after the Green Death had passed and we came back into these hills, we tore down the shrines and temples of these gods of chaos and dark. All but one--a shrine for Mordezzan the Skull, or some chaotic aspect of that fell god. There his charnel rites were mixed with the chaotic revels of Azathoth, the great madness. Long ago the death cult captured a sacred image of Yoon-Deh and trapped it on an altar in this shrine to mock her and her majesty.

"I have felt daemon-haunted hands touching this sacred image in these nights. I have felt the joined forces of madness and death gather around it in their last stronghold in this land. I have felt the renewed force of their mockery. And we have all seen their work.

"So long as her image is trapped there, no druid can pass the veil that surrounds this place and cleanse it. This more than anything, I think, makes this shrine a place of power now. But an outsider could do so and restore the goddess's image to us. More, with her luck this might disrupt the plans of those who now prey on Hawkford.

"I do not count on your loyalty to king or town. But if you do this thing, we will give you 2,500 in gold. This is for your oath. Will you swear to do this thing?"

One by one the party agreed. "Good. It is sworn. And I warn you: do not forswear yourselves in this. Yoon-Deh has heard your oath. Return here at dawn, and I will have you escorted to the veil."

As the party hurried back toward Hwakford, Nausa calculated that he had just enough time to reach the bazaar before it was completely shut down. Given what he had heard, he was not venturing to this shrine without the protection of a daemon bone.

Three silent acolytes led the party away from the fields of Hawkford in the ruddy daen light, moving east-southeast across the grassy hills toward a dark pine forest on the horizon. Though the terrain was rough, they found that in the druids' company they seemed to fly over the distance, untroubled by briar, swale, or thicket. They marched until the sun had set and then more, and Euthymios guessed they had covered more than twenty miles. Finally the druids, who had spoken no word, indicated that the party should make camp. They stayed silent as the party asked how much farther the shrine might lie. Finally giving up, the party ate a cheerless meal gathered close around their fire. They kept a nervous watch, and the strange night slowly passed.

In the thin dawn they saw that not twenty paces from their camp, a wall of mist surged into the trees, dense and thick and completely blocking any sight of what lay beyond. They had reached the veil. Beyond it, death and madness. But also more gold than they had ever seen. Nausa tossed a stone into the mist but never heard it land. "At any rate," he said, "At least we know there are no druids in yonder fog." And the party prepared to cross the veil.

[Here endeth session the second]

Last edited by Handy Haversack (3/26/2014 8:40 pm)

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3/27/2014 5:57 pm  #30


Re: This year is Fish

Some gaming notes on sessions 1-2:

"The next day, leaving the wounded under the care of Euthymios' mother":
This was our first experience with the much more forgiving (than AD&D) rules for regaining HP through rest. Seems like a very clever touch for a more S&S game--get back out there and fight, you! You had wine and a place to stretch out. What more do you need?

"Despite the giant Kelt's insistence that rat made good eating and that everyone should try the dish his mother made, the party had other plans for the corpses. (The dark years, thought Siomha, this is what they do to us.) With a running start, Comhan and Siomha heaved one rat far out into the dark water.":
I thought this was good thinking for the players. Unforunately, one crab made its save and the other was unconscious for the minimum time, 2 rounds. I think Euthymios's player also didn't realize how fast they would move. From this point, he pressed on with 1 HP (all you need is one!). This has become something of a habit for him.

"He explained that the market had had only silk rope or rope ladders, no regular rope.":
Hee. Nausa's player had been drinking some. His eyes just skimmed over rope on the gear and prices list. He never said a word, just chalked it up to the weirdness of Hyperborea.

"Then the other fighters closed in, and seconds later both creatures were dead, black ichor staining the dark stone and blooming like corpse flowers on the scattered bones."
The ghouls were an anticlimax after how much trouble stirges, spiders, and the gaunt hounds had given the party! They charged, lost to longer weapons, shited their overbear rolls, and died. I had modified them slightly based on the description in the One-Page Dungeon so they had the elbow spikes and could both charge to overbear and bite at the same time.

"Ottvar cursed, and Euthymios held his hands up to stop the argument, but Nausa stepped inside his guard, kicking savagely at Ottvar's groin. The magician twisted aside, whirled on the Esquimeaux with hatred naked on his face."
Did I mention Nausa's player had been drinking? He was belligerent and completely spot-on with every guess he made. It was chilling. He knew not to leave the stirges behind, wanted to investigate the pit in the first place, came up with the crab plan, and had Ottvar figured out from the beginning. But his delivery just didn't seem to convince anyone else. Ottvar finally failed a morale check (using Nausa's charisma!) and snapped. Hey, he was just 1st level, too. Unfortunately for everyone:

"Now stay where you are, friends, or I'll send this scum back to his demon-loving ancestors."

Siomha, Comhan, Demostrate, and Audgisl looked at one another, shrugged, and charged.

Yeah. But the party won initiative and took Ottvar down.

"The necromancer nodded and told them: "You say 'get a rope' to bind, and 'sweet freedom' to loose. Now--give me my death. I have told you what I know.""
The players were . . . not impressed with this magic item. You're first level! I could have made all your treasure wood and carved toys! Sheesh. The magic sword they found has no bonuses, Its enchantment allows classes who do not have long sword as a favored weapon to use it without a to-hit penalty.

""We knew you two had some coin coming from the druid," Nausa growled, "So the shaman, the fire witch, and I split the gold and gems we took from that spider. I ... found a way to spend my share. From what I remember . . .":
Drunken Debauchery Table FTW!

Session 2:
""You offend me with your crab face, slant eyes!"":
The Gal Hills Kelts are racist! Who knew?

Siomha moved in widening circles and came back shaking her head. "They went through here, but the ground is too hard. I cannot be sure whether they went between the hills or possibly climbed to that cave. Neither seems like a good choice for a young town girl, though."

Siomha rolled a 1 for tracking from the berry patch and a 12 when they left the woods.

"It was slick and pitched, though, and no one seemed confident of being able to scale the wet stone and bring a rope and spikes to let the rest ascend."
No thief.

the party's unprotected rear had been suddenly assaulted.  Cruising low through the black tunnel, six more of the bird men flew. Three of them had passed over the pyromancer and the shaman, and these held a net between them. They threw the heavy thing as they burst into the cavern, and it fell upon Comhan, Siomha, Nausa, and the still form of Euthymios. All four were trapped. Behind them, the other flying bird-men swung padded clubs at the surprised Nausa and Demostrate as they passed over them. Both fell to the floor, stunned. Moments later, as they tried in vain to tear their way free, the others found the same clubs smashing down around them as they struggled. Siomha and Nausa were instantly stunned, and Comhan found himself staring up at the bird-men that surrounded him. "I surrender," the Kelt said. "There's no need for violence, after all" A padded club slammed into his helmet, and the big warrior's consciousness fled him.

OK, so I stole the advanced bird-men, the nets, the padded clubs all from Blackadder23. And my players stole from his players a sudden and inexplicable inability to make a saving throw. I mean, nothing above a 9. Even on the dice that went up to 20.

Also: the dialogue of the bird-men is from Blackadder23 as well. So you might be hearing some, uh, constructive criticism from my players. Maybe it's my bird-man voice at fault.

the Kimmerian's shaft sank deep into the thing's chest

First of many critical hits from Euthymios. We never used crits in AD&D. They seem awfully unfair to the PCs over time. But we all figured, what the hell, and went with them for AS&SH. Especially since that table is really cool.

"Luck at last!" he called. "Here's fortune. The Kimmerian's horse is here. And the ape has saved us the trouble of killing it. He's even half skinned it. Does anyone know how to cook horse?" ... Euthymios brooded darkly once he came to. "It's not right," he told Audgisl. "No one should kill a Kimmerian's horse but the Kimmerian. We might ride them to death or drink their blood in the dry steppes, but we understand them. The horse deserved better than that ape."

The shaman nodded and stared into the fire. "Yes," he said, "but it was you who tied the horse outside the ape's cave. In that way, it is as if you killed it. The ape was just the instrument of the doom you decreed. Does that settle your mind, Kimmerian?"

This group of players has killed dozens and dozens of horses. I was stunned when Euthymios's player made cataphract. They're just not good with horses. PETA has started demonstrating outside when we game.

Siomha's arrow caused the man to jerk backward as it struck the rock near his head, but Euthymios's shaft was more true, piercing the bandit's eye.

20

Euthymios felt black rage of his own welling within him. His vision narrowed to a tunnel on the screaming mouth of the savage, and an arrow followed his gaze, plunging out the back of the berserker's neck and raining red ruin across the stones.

20

But Euthymios was undaunted. His first arrow took the leader in the shoulder, and even as the man stumbled, another shaft found his throat.

20

And I found their mules.

Mules! Now that's an animal you can set your watch to. I have high hopes for the mules.

"This should certainly be enough to get some flasks of green fire." She looked at the weary ranger. "Have you noticed that there just is not enough fire being rained upon our foes? I think that might be our problem.""
Totally. I cannot believe they had not bought incendiary oil the first time around. Demostrate couldn't afford it. But now her player is going to be very careful to restock before the Drunk Debauchery table!

""It was the damndest thing! I come to open the door this morning as always, and nailed to it with black iron nails is a rabitt--completely skinned....""
Don't eat the wisdom berries!

Fergus was flustered, stammering, but the party repeated there story, and there was nothing for the merchant to do but proffer a small sack. "Your 500 coins, as we agreed."

They had agreed on 1,000, but no one said anything . . .

"This, child, is the Hyperborean tubular script."
You guys knew they had this, right?

A body was in the alley, its skin completely stripped away.

Seriously, don't eat the wisdom berries.

"Come home now, boy," he said to Euthymios. "Your brother has been found dead."

"Did he have any skin?" Nausa asked in the tense silence.

Seriously.

"Aye, mother."

"Aye, then."

"Aye."

He turned to the party. "It is good to be here for her in her need."

Kimmerians are tough.

And remember: don't eat the wisdom berries!

Last edited by Handy Haversack (3/27/2014 6:04 pm)

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3/27/2014 11:07 pm  #31


Re: This year is Fish

Ha ha ha that's awesome.  I feel like I'm looking at a parallel dimension. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/smile.png


Or maybe... a time travel paradox? http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/wink.png


Michael Sipe 1979-2018
Rest in peace, brother.
 

3/28/2014 8:54 am  #32


Re: This year is Fish

Blackadder23 wrote:

Ha ha ha that's awesome.  I feel like I'm looking at a parallel dimension. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/smile.png


Or maybe... a time travel paradox? http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/wink.png

Shoot, that reminds me--I forgot to put it in the notes, but I copied your mustard mould, too, on the bottom of the chest in the mountain ape's cave. But they refused to pick it up. Comham's player used "scooping" twice, so there was really nothing I could do. I should have made the whole treasure copper coins. Mountain apes like copper, right?

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4/01/2014 4:27 pm  #33


Re: This year is Fish

Just catching up to Part III now, Handy, and I must say this is a fantastic read! I'd love to play in your game. 


HYPERBOREA- A Role-Playing Game of Swords, Sorcery, and Weird Science-Fantasy
 

4/01/2014 5:34 pm  #34


Re: This year is Fish

Ghul wrote:

Just catching up to Part III now, Handy, and I must say this is a fantastic read! I'd love to play in your game. 

Thanks, Ghul! If you're ever in NYC, we'll see if we can make it happen. Though don't let the CJ fool you too much. It has a lot more dignity than we do in "real" "life." But everyone's really enjoying AS&SH. I'm hoping we can play this weekend, though Nausa's and Euthymios's players can't make it. Hopefully another member of our group can return to the table, though. I'm itching to play.

And Comhan/Audgisl's player and I have already decided we're going to GaryCon next year. So maybe we'll get to play at your table!

     Thread Starter
 

4/02/2014 11:19 am  #35


Re: This year is Fish

Handy Haversack wrote:

Ghul wrote:

Just catching up to Part III now, Handy, and I must say this is a fantastic read! I'd love to play in your game. 

Thanks, Ghul! If you're ever in NYC, we'll see if we can make it happen. Though don't let the CJ fool you too much. It has a lot more dignity than we do in "real" "life." But everyone's really enjoying AS&SH. I'm hoping we can play this weekend, though Nausa's and Euthymios's players can't make it. Hopefully another member of our group can return to the table, though. I'm itching to play.

And Comhan/Audgisl's player and I have already decided we're going to GaryCon next year. So maybe we'll get to play at your table!

I love this write up. You need to put it together into a single document because it is a great story.

 

4/02/2014 12:46 pm  #36


Re: This year is Fish

JasonZavoda wrote:

Handy Haversack wrote:

Ghul wrote:

Just catching up to Part III now, Handy, and I must say this is a fantastic read! I'd love to play in your game. 

Thanks, Ghul! If you're ever in NYC, we'll see if we can make it happen. Though don't let the CJ fool you too much. It has a lot more dignity than we do in "real" "life." But everyone's really enjoying AS&SH. I'm hoping we can play this weekend, though Nausa's and Euthymios's players can't make it. Hopefully another member of our group can return to the table, though. I'm itching to play.

And Comhan/Audgisl's player and I have already decided we're going to GaryCon next year. So maybe we'll get to play at your table!

I love this write up. You need to put it together into a single document because it is a great story.

Wow, thanks, Jason. Praise from Caesar!

I do have it as one .txt file on my home computer.

We are going to play on Sunday. Comhan/Audgisl's and Demostrate's players can make it, and another member of our group who missed the first two sessions can all make it, so we figured we'd plunge ahead. We have the fever!

     Thread Starter
 

4/02/2014 1:56 pm  #37


Re: This year is Fish

Fever? Well, in Hyperborea, that means you need more aurochs bell. ;)


HYPERBOREA- A Role-Playing Game of Swords, Sorcery, and Weird Science-Fantasy
 

4/02/2014 5:33 pm  #38


Re: This year is Fish

Hmm. According to my players it means we need more incendiary oil!

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4/08/2014 6:59 pm  #39


Re: This year is Fish

Session 3
The party:
Demostrate Agauedoros (Amazon Pyromancer, N)
Euthymios (Kimmerian Cataphract, N)
--Ross: Loyal packhandler, future warning to other hirelings
Qannmorr Zantos (Common Thief, CE [left behind for this session])
Comhan Macc Scannlan (Keltic Fighter, N)
Audgisl Liknmunarson (Viking Shaman [bear], N)
Nausa (Esquimaux Illusionist, N [f*** Y'all])
Siomha Inghean Niall (Keltic Ranger, CG)

I. Shadows and Spirals
Euthymios left Landboat II in the care of Ross, a boy of Hawkford he had hired as pack handler. The boy's eyes shone with pride as he pledged his duty to the Kimmerian. "Aye, well, just keep him alive," the cataphract told him. Qannmorr also decided to stay behind with the boy and the druids, deeming it safer to see if the party emerged than to pass the veil with them. The others, then, faced the swirling fog. Comhan probed at it with his great sword then shrugged and pushed forward. "Gods and burning thralls!" the big Kelt said, "Better to find out what the damned thing actually is than sit here staring at it." And with the others following, he passed into the veil.

In the wall of mist, all was white and swirling, clammy and blinding and disturbingly intimate, as if the tendrils of fog wrapped around the party with almost palpable intent. The only sounds were made by their own gear and panting breath as they pressed blindly on, each assured of the others' presence only by these muffled sounds, which seemed to die suddenly and eerily in the swirling mists. They felt nothing, neither trees nor even what sort of ground they covered as they pressed on, until the mists suddenly lifted, though not far. The party trod now on a trail in the thick pine woods. Behind them the mists waited in a solid wall. But all around them it closed in tightly, so that it seemed they stood in a short, narrow tunnel within a cold, white cloud. The pines and firs around them stretched upward, disappearing into the mists. But the branches they could see were all but bare of needles. They interlaced like the jagged black fingers of the dead, growing so thickly together that they cast a stygian gloom on the ground beneath them. This ground was deeply covered in slick, rotten needles, a black mat of decay under the skeletal boughs. But the trail went forward and so, wordlessly, they followed it.

The trail looped and wound through the desolate forest. Quickly, they were all disoriented, even Siomha. There was no hint of the sun, no breath of wind to tell them what direction they traveled. It seemed the trail would have crossed itself a dozen times, but they never saw another path branching out into the haunted wood. Clammy sweat clung to them, though the mist was chill and their breath fogged from their mouths, hanging like the funeral flags before them. It seemed that they had trooped for hours through the silent mist, but also that they had just quit the warmth of their morning fire--and they felt all the colder for that. It was a shock when the woods suddenly ended and the mist rose up as they entered a wide clearing. It was almost completely filled by a stark tor of rocky scree. Jagged boulders projected from the hill's crown like black teeth against the mist, which was torn and tattered by them, moved by unfelt winds. More boulders littered the hillside and had spilled down across the clear ground between the forest and the slope. The black woods stretched off on either side, curling around the hill. In strained and nervous tones, as if their voices had gone long unused, they discussed their options and were just deciding to circle the hill and look for other trails when Siomha caught a glimpse of movement among the jagged boulders at its crown. "Take cover!" she cried, and the party dived behind the rocks.

From the fog-torn heights strange, yelping cries erupted. Silhouetted against the mist when they emerged from behind the boulders holding long bows were four tall, furred humanoids. Narrows snouts showed jagged, bone-crushing jaws, and spotted fur covered their bodies where there were gaps in their crude armor. They howled and loosed arrows as they party scrambled for cover. Euthymios, Siomha, Comhan, and Audgisl unslung their bows and returned fire, though the short hunting bows were less effective at such a range. Demostrate pulled forth the Hyperborean wand and sent its tip dancing through the passes she had learned. She felt resistance, and jerked the tip toward their foes. A blinding missile of silver light screamed through the air and struck one of the hyaena-men full in the chest as it emerged to loose another shaft. Exulting, she sent another blazing through the air. These missiles were undoing the advantage the hyaena-men had from their more powerful bows, though Euthymios's deadly accuracy was also making them pay, though he, Siomha, and Comhan all bled freely from arrows they had barely dodged. One of Siomha's shafts transfixed the clawed hand of a beast as it drew back its bowstring, and as it howled in pain, Euthymios's arrow punched through its mouth, and it fell back behind the boulder, leaving behind nothing but a trail of blood that dribbled down the scree to drip on the smoking corpse of another hyaena-man, which had found the boulders no protection from the missiles of the Ever-Breaking Dawn that Demostrate teased from their realm and sent blazing toward her foes. Nausa launched a sling stone toward the surviving hyaena-men then jerked back to avoid an arrow. His skull cracked against the boulder where he sheltered, and he fell unmoving to the ground. Audgisl moved to tend him, abandoning his firing, just as one of Euthymios's arrows almost tore the scalp off a hyaena-man as it emerged to aim. That one and the other survivor dived behind their boulder, howling and shrieking, their cries seeming to bounce off the mist and come from all directions. But the arrow fire from above ceased. Comham, Siomha, and Euthymios slung their bows over their shoulders, drew weapons, and began to run up the hillside as best they could on the loose shifting scree. Demostrate guarded Audgisl as he entered the bear mind, moving his hands gently over Nausa's skull as he drew forth the Esquimeaux's pain.

The warriors reached the top of the hill and caught their breath. Before them, the round crown proved to be filled by a shallow crater, some 200 feet across. The entire depression was marked with the sign of chaos. The spiral of Azathoth was worked in bleached-looking stones, a ridge like knobby vertebrae a yard high and a yard across that spiraled inward to the crater's center. The hyaena-men were racing across one edge of this crater and had almost regained its lip. Ignoring the eldritch pattern, the warriors raced after their attackers. By the time they reached the lip where the hyaena-men had plunged over and back down the hill, the creatures had reached the hill's base and almost regained the woods. There, they turned and sent arrows arching far up toward the party. Howling and screeching, the creatures then turned and plunged into the forest along another narrow trail. The fighters turned, jumped down into the crater once more, and made their way back to where the others were now breasting the hill. In the lee of a jagged boulder, the torn flesh of one of the fallen hyaena-men showed deep bite marks where its companions had pulled off a bloody meal before fleeing. The mist was closer here at the hill's crown, torn by the boulder's. But the spiral of Azathoth was clear in the crater, and its weird power seemed to thrum through the very stone. The companions panted and muttered as they gathered what arrows they could find and turned once more to survey the white spiral. They had passed through the veil, but what had they found?
 

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4/16/2014 5:48 pm  #40


Re: This year is Fish

II. Spirals and Skulls
With the combat over, no sounds disturbed the eerie hilltop. The mists over the crown were torn and tossed as if by wind, but crouching involuntarily from the sight, the party could not feel any movement in the dead air. They slowly circled the hilltop, noting that from the clearing at its base several trails led into the still black woods. Finally, they elected to walk the spiral to its center and see what lay there. Warily, they followed the narrowing track between the white stones, feeling as if they were walking into the cold grasp of a power they could not understand. When they reached the center they found that it was not empty. Instead, a skull rested in the hard final curl. Its age was impossible to guess. Shreds of mummified flesh clung to the yellowed bone, and the empty eyes seemed to hold deeper shadows than the strange light would allow.

In hushed tones they discussed what to do. Demostrate finally announced that she had found most problems on the mainland soluble by the oldest remedy: fire. She withdrew a flask of Green Fire from her pouch, warned the others back, and cast it with all her might against the skull. The flash of veridian heat seemed to leech away into the dead air, though the weird flames clung to the skull for many seconds before guttering out. When they did, the skull was unchanged, the same bits of flesh still clinging in the same places, the same welling darkness in the pits of its orbits.

Comhan tested the air, already unable to smell the tang of the Green Fire. "Perhaps ... kicking it would be more effective? I've kicked many a man in the skull. Not one of them looked so ... smug after!"

This logic carried the day. But first, Comhan tied one end of his length of rope his grapple and the other to Demostrate's rope. Carrying the grapple, he made his way rapidly out of the spiral, leaping over the white walls rather than following their track. He anchored the grapple as securely as he could to one of the boulders along the hill's crown and returned the way he had come, playing out the rope. "Now all grab hold," the big Kelt instructed. "If that damn thing yanks the hill away from under our feet because it can't take a little kick, we'll have stolen a march on the grinning bastard. Gods and burning thralls, no empty bone will fool me!" With their holds secured and Comhan gripping the rope's end, the others watched as he reared back and swung his booted foot at the skull.

There was a sickening wrench, a twisting, an inward-drawing spiral that existed in dimensions through which no human had ever moved. And then they were elsewhere.

A mist-filled ravine separated a narrow clearing from a stark hill. The clearing was pressed hard against thick, black-limbed pinewoods. Across the ravine, a trail partly shaped and partly natural switchbacked up the sheer face of the hill. Fifty feet above, it ended at a ledge. Comhan could clearly see the door set into the cliff face at the ledge's rear. No one else could see the same because they were at the base of the steep trail. Comhan stood across from them on the other side of the ravine, separated from the rest of the group by twenty feet of swirling mist.

"Gods and burning thralls!" he roared. "Is this what I get for being careful?"

 

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