Campaign of the Month: February 2009

Silent Winter

Aidan's Epilogue: For Good
Part 1: A meeting of old friends.

Posted by Relimited

Even at this hour, there were plenty of people out and about. It was almost a little weird, having dealt with elves for so long to see people whose ears weren’t pointed.

Aidan found his hand reaching up and checking his own ear to make sure it was still rounded. He let out a soft chuckle and gave an awkward smile to someone who was rushing past him, off to do something incredibly important judging by his speed. Of course he was still a human- but these past few weeks, so much had changed.

He wasn’t the same kid he had been before the winter struck. Before he could seriously contemplate the issue, he heard a playful bark from beside him. Kent wanted to get going, all this waiting around didn’t suit the Mabari at all.

“Yeah, I know,” Aidan said, “You want to get going- got it. We’ll go to the blue bottle and grab a bite to eat before a nice actual bed. Honestly after that escape, I don’t think I could possibly sleep.” Kent just sighed in his own way (it was a low pitched whine) and they quickly set out.

Aidan ducked into the Blue Bottle, and was quickly greeted by a rather large common room lit by blazers on the walls and a massive fire place in the corner, sending a pillar of fire and light. It disoriented him for a second, it was bustling with people of all shapes and sizes, a far cry from the cozier tavern he had grown used to back at the Bannecrag. He shook his head, smiling at his own silliness. He had taken on a lord of some outer dimension, and here he was afraid of a few people!

He strode as confidently in as he could manage, found the inn keeper and quickly did his business. It seemed surprisingly easy, unlike that first time in the fort where he had once almost traded his bow away over a grievance that he didn’t even start. He had changed.

He found a small table in the corner where he retired with his meal and a mug of water. No ale. Never again- even if the innkeeper had shot him an odd glance when he asked for just water. His lips twitched as he thought about that rather interesting night- and the resulting hangover. He had ordered a double portion of food, and Kent wolfed down his half. Aidan ate more slowly, absentmindedly giving the pleading dog more from his half, watching the fire burn and thinking about all that had happened over the last few weeks.

“Please ser, I need to know!” A pleading voice somehow shook Aidan from his thoughts. It sounded vaguely familiar, like he had heard it before. He was surprised he heard it over the din.

“And I’ll tell you not again, elf, yer kind ain’t welcome ‘ere! Now get goin’, afore I need to ‘elp you along with me boot!” a rough voice answered, rather strongly, Aidan didn’t need to listen very hard to catch it over the general din.

“It’s only a simple question! Have you, any of you seen him! I must know!” The “elf” exclaimed, this time louder, pleading harder.

Aidan rose, positive he had heard that voice before. He had to know who it was. Kent cocked his head to the side, that ever inquisitive look the pup gave him when he didn’t quite follow what Aidan was about to do.

“Kent,” Aidan bent low whispering in the dog’s ear, “Watch my back. Keep quiet about it. And if I draw my sword, come to my aid. But not a moment before!” The Mabari gave a tiny woof, that old sign of agreement.

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Session 17: The Rest Is Silence
In Which the Quest Ends.

GM’d and posted by Darth Krzysztof

Naessa shuffled awkwardly behind Gheris. “Are you… will you be… um…”

Gheris looked down to see Kent nudging her hand with his huge muzzle. She also saw Aidan wincing. She petted the dog, eyes returning to the pile of ashes that had once been Gialinn Clíodhna. “I buried her a long time ago.”

“All right, then,” Naessa said with an uncomfortable shrug. She didn’t think that Gheris sounded convinced, or convincing, but this wasn’t the time to linger. “Ready to try following the heart again, then? Or does anyone have another idea?”

“No,” Aidan said. “We have a job to finish.”

Simon nodded. “Onward, then.”

The ice heart’s glow led them down another long, mirrored corridor which suddenly ended in a solid obsidian wall, its polished surface gleaming in the ice heart’s cold brilliance. The stone set in Gialinn’s ring had also begun to shine with the same pale light.

Aidan looked around at the others. “So. Do we knock?”

Gheris smirked, then tapped the ring against the obsidian wall. The tiny clicks seemed almost hollow. “Magery, yet again. When will it end?” She glanced back at Naessa and Simon. “How does this work, Keeper? Mage?”

Glaring at the wall and glowing artifacts, Naessa said, “Well, it’s a ring, Gheris. Generally, you put them on your finger?”

Gheris sighed. “I am always the test subject in these situations…” She slipped the ring on as the group tensed up in anticipation. It fit her finger perfectly, but she didn’t feel any different… still, the obsidian wall seemed less imposing, now. “I think I can open it,” she said. “And I think the Silent Lord is on the other side.”

“Then this is almost done,” Aidan said, looking down at Kent with a faint smile.

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The Duel
In Which Casidhe Faces the Unthinkable

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

“This can’t be,” Casidhe said, hoping to force some measure of sanity onto the impossibility before him. “Brandeouf Fionnlagh is dead.”

“I see you haven’t lost your love of talking nonsense.” Brandeouf came closer to the cell, arms held at forty-five degree angles, drawing closer to Teresa, who struggled to unlock her cell from the inside.

“Casidhe,” Teresa gasped, “is this man your father?”

“Get back!” Casidhe hissed, and Teresa pressed against the cell’s far wall. “I buried my father two years ago. I don’t know who this is.”

“I’m just who I appear to be,” Brandeouf replied. “You couldn’t beat me on your best days, and those are so far behind you that you can’t even see them anymore.”

Brandeouf stopped a little more than ten feet away from Casidhe, whose hands still rested on his blades – the blades that had once belonged to the man before him. This can’t be, Casidhe reminded himself. My father is dead. This is a trick… something done with smoke and mirrors.

Mirrors! That was it. The man before Casidhe was much to0 young to be his father… only a few years older than Casidhe himself… and he also lacked the mustache that Brandeouf had first grown after leaving Segonal’s service. “You’re just a copy,” Casidhe said. “The men on the other side of the mirror copied my father, like they did to Benoit, and the Templar-Commander. You’re not him.”

Brandeouf spread his hands wider. “I may not be flesh and blood, but believe me, I am Brandeouf Fionnlagh.” As he glanced at Teresa, his left hand went to his main-gauche’s hilt. “Or I might as well be. And I have my orders, same as you. Only mine aren’t forgeries.”

Think, Casidhe. Think, Maker damn you! If they made this Brandeouf fifteen… no, sixteen years ago, it might not know anything that Father learned after that. And it certainly doesn’t know what I can do. Maybe I can take it on, after all…

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Session 16: Vir Tanadahl
In Which a Family Is Reunited.

GM’d and posted by Darth Krzysztof

The Silver Tree, a vast oak with leaves that shone like tiny mirrors, stood some fifty yards away. It was the only tree still holding on to any leaves at all, and didn’t seem to have lost even one. A pair of Templars, barely visible in the snowstorm, stood with their backs to the Tree. One male, one female, both were armed with longswords and clad in the silverite plate mail issued to all Templars. Neither had spotted the group.

Stennar shifted her weight. “Any of you got bows?”

“I do,” Aidan said. “What do we need?”

“Less Templars around the Tree, lad,” the dwarf replied, unable to keep her eyes from rolling.

“They tend to stab things trying to touch the tree,” Gheris said. “We want to touch the Tree. We do not want to be stabbed.”

Aidan shook his head, saying, “You’d need a dead-eye shot for something like that in the snow.”

“Geoffrey could do it,” Gheris said.

Naessa nodded, fiercely shivering in the cold. “So could Ferron.”

“Well,” Aidan said, getting annoyed, “they aren’t here, are they?”

“What we need is a distraction,” Simon said with a sigh.

Naessa raised a shaking hand. “I could send the elemental around, have it make a noise from the other direction.”

“See that deer over there?” Aidan pointed past the Templars; the doe was nearly invisible in the driving snow. “Gonna try to spook it with an arrow. The Templars are bound to notice and check it out – you guys get ready.”

“If you’re going to do something,” Gheris said through clenched teeth, “do something.”

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The Broken Looking-Glass
In Which Gialinn Decides.

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Sixteen years ago

Gialinn had enough understanding of medicine to know that her death was imminent and inevitable. Six Templars had been more than she could handle; five of them lay dead, but the wounds they’d left her with were grievous. She couldn’t make it to the Iar camp – couldn’t even stand up. Soon, even breathing would be beyond her.

She didn’t blame the duelist. Brandeouf Fionnlagh had crawled out of bed in the middle of the night and escorted her this far without complaining, out of sheer loyalty to Segonal. He may even have sacrificed himself so that she could escape… but, to hear Segonal tell it, the four Templars were the ones most likely dead.

But then, Zareh had been there. Gialinn knew next to nothing about him… only that he’d been looking for the ice heart. Grandmother had said that he was very dangerous, and to avoid him if at all possible.

That’s who I blame, she thought. Grandmother. None of this ever would have happened if not for her. She was the one who’d sent Gialinn into the human lands, who’d caused her to get tangled up with Segonal, and burdened with Geoffrey… She could have had a normal life. She had no love for her husband, certainly, but that was common enough.

But Gheris… She swallowed. She and Gheris would have been the best of friends. She would have shown her daughter love like the Iar had never seen. The Dalish would have spoken of Gheris Clíodhna with the same love and reverence they held for their greatest heroes.

But, instead, Gialinn was going to die, here in the dirt, no more than a handful of miles from where Gheris was sleeping right now. And her child, her only daughter, would forever be the spawn of a shem-lover.

She cried, unable to stop herself. Tears spilled into the dirt, mingling with her blood. “Not fair,” she wheezed. “Not fair.”

“No,” a man said. “It’s not.”

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Session 15: The Burrow
In Which Our Heroes Go Underground.

GM’d and posted by Darth Krzysztof

“If you won’t be needing us anymore,” Keira Liadan said, “my family should return to the road.”

Simon nodded. “That would be prudent,” the mage said. “Safe journeys. Safer, at any rate.”

Aidan broke from studying the dark brown of Keira’s eyes. “Yes. Safe journey. Perhaps we may meet again under better circumstances. I think that’d be nice.”

“As do I.” Keira suddenly grabbed Aidan’s shoulders and kissed him right on the mouth. “Thank you,” she breathed into his ear, then climbed aboard the wagon as it began to roll away.

After a moment, Aidan turned to look at the others. Gheris made a face at Simon, who stood with one eyebrow arched. Naessa giggled, saying something about how shocked Aidan’s parents would be. The awkwardness broke when the wagon lurched over a tree branch, pulling everyone’s attention back in that direction.

Gheris muttered something about the icy road that might have been a warning. The old Zatani woman, Katerina, nodded at Gheris and Naessa, and said “Dareth shiral” as the wagon vanished in a haze of falling snow.

The Dalish women exchanged a puzzled glance. “She doesn’t say a word for hours,” Naessa said, “and when she does, it’s in Elvish?”

“A strange people,” Simon said.

“And good riddance,” Batshiva said, punctuating with a spit. “Now, I assume the old lady sent you after us. Thing about that is, Stennar and me never really saw eye to eye with Grandmother.” She jerked a thumb at her daughter.

“I’m guessing that has to do with her… entanglements… in the situation?” asked Simon.

“Right. We’ve never danced to her tune, I guess you might say. Can the same be said of you lot?”

Simon shook his head. “She’s done us very few favors, but she’s also the only one with any idea what’s going on who hasn’t made off like a thief in the night. Or tried to kill us.”

“She’s also dead,” Gheris said, walking toward the two dwarves. “So, are you going to give us the ice heart? Or are we going to take it?”

Aidan and Stennar stepped in. “Slow down, Gheris,” Aidan said. “They might be able to help us. Our enemies know of our plan. They’ve got a couple hundred Templars waiting at that Tree.” He turned to the dwarves. “And you two won’t be able to pull this off alone.”

“A couple hundred?” Stennar asked, turning to her mother. “I told you before: we should take the Burrow.”

Batshiva scoffed. “Doesn’t make any difference. We’ll close the Silent Way, same as before.” She eyed the adventurers. “Besides, my ancestors crafted the ice heart. Stennar here snuck it out of the Creag fair and square. And I’ll bet that Grandmother didn’t tell you exactly how to use it. So, you see, I’m not keen on givin’ it up to just anybody.”

“Fair,” Simon said with a sigh. “Do you want us to help you, then?”

“Might be best,” Batshiva said. “Here’s the deal: we’re taking the ice heart to the Silver Tree so we can stop this winter.”

“Same goal,” Gheris said.

“Afterword we’ll find a new place to hide it, ‘til we have to do this all over again in another bunch o’decades.”

“It can be stopped permanently, can’t it?” Gheris asked.

Stennar said “Sure,” just as Batshiva said “No.” They argued for a minute, then Stennar turned back to the group. “Yes. It ain’t easy, but it’s possible.”

“Says you,” Batshiva grumbled. She peered at Gheris. “Are you sure Grandmother’s dead?”

Gheris nodded. “Gone like a leaf in the wind.”

Aidan shook his head, saying, “Maybe. We’ve seen enough magical teleportation and dead people coming back to life that until I see a body, I’m not positive.”

Batshiva nodded, gazing deeper into the forest. “Damn. Not sure if that makes this harder or easier.”

“Don’t listen to Mother,” Stennar said, straightening her posture. “I think it can be done.”

“Tell us,” Simon said.

“Tell ’em on the way!” Batshiva called. “I’m freezin’ my arse off!”

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Session 14: Lies in the Woods
In Which a Dispute Is Resolved.

GM’d and posted by Darth Krzysztof

While Gheris weighed her options, Simon stepped into view. “Good day!” he called to the three brightly-dressed humans. “I suspect you have a story to tell, tied up in the woods as you are!”

The young woman’s expression changed to a smile, but her breathing was rapid and shallow. “Oh! Happy greetings, good Ser! I am Keira Liadan, and these are my parents, Rajko and Katerina. And yes, ours is a sad tale, indeed, and full of woe.”

Simon approached Keira, his tone a bit too jovial. “Now, demanding the entirety of such a woeful tale on such a cold day would be cruel, but I’d hear a bit of it before I go untying you. Especially as concerns other travelers; I wasn’t aware this was a popular destination!”

“Of course, good Ser.” Keira also seemed too bright for the situation. “As you, um, may have heard me saying just now, we came across a pair of dwarf women recently.”

Naessa turned a puzzled expression on Aidan and whispered, “Well, that wasn’t quite what I expected him to do.”

“What did you expect?” Aidan replied. “Is there a standard procedure for dealing with people you find tied up in the middle of the woods?”

“I don’t know what I expected. Something sneakier than saying ‘Hi,’ I guess…”

Before Naessa could say another word, Aidan headed over to stand by Simon. “I must say, Simon, this is indeed unique.”

“So it is, Gerald!” Aidan blinked at the pseudonym that Simon had spontaneously assigned to him, but went along with it.

“We treated the dwarves as guests, " Keira went on, “gave them a nice meal. Mother read their fortunes, as is our custom.” She missed or ignored Naessa’s snort. “They repaid us by stealing our wagon and leaving us out here! Can you imagine? I saw a spider bigger than that dog!” She shook her head in Kentrell’s direction, then told ‘Gerald’: “He is very handsome, Ser.”

“Thank you. He’s a good dog.” Aidan reached down to pet the Mabari.

“Gerald,” Simon said, “perhaps you should see to finding these dwarves’ trail.”

“Gheris is doing that.” He pointed at Gheris, who moved around in a crouch, seeking footprints beneath a fine layer of fresh snow.

“Very well,” sighed Simon, turning back to Keira.

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Session 13: Funeral for a Friend
In Which Our Heroes Bury One of Their Own.

GM’d and posted by Darth Krzysztof

The death of Gervais and the arrival of the Adra clan dispersed the remaining darkspawn. The sun rose on what was left of the Dalish clans as they gathered their dead, tended their wounded, and extinguished the burning aravel.

Looking down on the fallen Lothaire, Naessa looked up to see Simon, Keeper Darana, Ferron, and Ninnion approaching. She staggered over to Ferron and hugged him tightly, still crying.

“I’m sorry, cousin,” Ferron sighed into her hair. “We got back as fast as we could.”

“I was right there, Ferron. Why couldn’t I save him?” She sniffled into his shoulder. “I was supposed to take care of him, and I couldn’t…”

“He gave his life to save yours,” Oriane said, shuffling toward Lothaire’s body, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Naessa froze, and her words came with hesitation. “Oriane. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry… he…”

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Session 12: The Reaver
In Which Deadly Battle Is Joined.

GM’d and posted by Darth Krzysztof

Dalish warriors surrounded the clearing, too busy keeping something else out of the camp to aid the group. The chaotic din of battle rang out all around.

Gervais smiled at the sight of Lothaire. “Good,” he aid. “I was hoping you’d be back.”

Lothaire pointed his blade at the reaver and bellowed, “You and I, Gervais! Leave the others out of this!” He charged across the clearing, toward his foe.

An Iar boy tripped and fell near Aidan as the monstrous humanoid pursuing him snarled and raised a wicked-looking axe. Aidan shouted to get its attention, and the creature looked at him, confusion and rage plain on its hideous face.

“Hurlocks,” Naessa said. Then she shouted, “Jatris! Hurlocks in the camp! Get the noncombatants under cover!” Jatris confirmed the order from somewhere she couldn’t see. Unable to see Hesthe or Juillah from this position, Naessa began circling around to the burning aravel, keeping her distance from her enemies.

Gheris snorted. Unwilling to let Lothaire get his thick head chopped off by the reaver, she followed Naessa, intending to take Gervais by surprise.

Gervais tightened his grip on the necklace around Zareh’s neck and let the man fall to the ground. The necklace snapped and rained down into the snow in a thousand shining pieces. Without sparing a glance for Zareh, Gervais readied his fell blade and awaited Lothaire.

Aidan struck at the hurlock before him. His blade got through its leather armor, leaving a bloody gash on its side that caused it to wail with pain. The blade sparked wildly with the charge of Simon’s magic, stunning the hurlock.

Lothaire reached Gervais, striking with sword and shield, but the black energies surrounding the reaver turned his blows aside. The dread power also allowed Gervais to shrug off the paralyzing spell that Simon cast upon him. “If your companions won’t abide by your challenge,” the reaver hissed at Lothaire, “then neither will I.”

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Blades of the Father
In Which Casidhe Tries to Rescue Teresa.

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Casidhe awoke on the Corwins’ overstuffed couch. Jaedar Corwin sat at the table, eating from a heap of scrambled eggs. A sturdy sword lay within his reach; Jaedar’s eyes made it clear, without leaving Casidhe, that he’d seen that the duelist had noticed. Teresa was nowhere to be seen.

“Welcome back,” Jaedar said. “Care for some eggs?”

Casidhe suddenly sat up. Breakfast? Damn it, did I sleep through the night?! “Time is it?” he half-said.

“Sun’s going down.”

“Thank the Maker.” There was still light outside. Teresa still had time. Casidhe sighed, then blinked at Jaedar. “Eggs? At this hour?”

“Mother always said, ‘When you grow up, you can eat whatever you want.’ Well, I want eggs. You look terrible, Fionnlagh.”

“Feel terrible. Well, a little less terrible now.” This had been the most sleep he’d had since… well, since he’d been with Gheris. This was no time to dwell on that, though; dragging himself away from more sleep would take everything he had. “Sorry to impose on you like this.”

“It’s no trouble. Teresa’s not in Lothering, though. If you’re here looking for her.”

“Actually, she is.” Casidhe carefully made his way from the sofa to the table, where he took a seat and a fork. He picked at Jaedar’s plate of eggs, trying to revive his long-neglected appetite. “We got back this morning.”

“Where is she, then?”

In the process of telling him, Casidhe found himself going further and further back, explaining and explaining, until he’d told Jaedar about why he’d left Lothering in the first place.

“Well,” Jaedar said, “She came back with you, so there’s hope for you yet.”

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