Campaign of the Month: February 2009

Silent Winter

Session 11: Out of the Silent Past
In Which Grandmother Tells the Truth.

GM’d and posted by Darth Krzysztof

Gheris awoke to hear a quiet tapping at her door. It couldn’t have been more than two hours since she’d finally fallen asleep after talking to Teresa. Maybe her visitor would go to bother someone else if she stayed in bed… Like most of the Banncreag, this room was heated by vents fueled by the lava deep beneath the fortress – but the vents could only do so much against supernatural winter.

The knock came again, a bit louder. Could be important, Gheris thought. And if it isn’t, I’ll make damn sure that he regrets bothering me with it.

She stumbled toward the door, gathering her blades almost on instinct, scarcely noticing the freezing stone floor beneath her feet. “Who?” she demanded.

“Caradoc,” a voice hissed, “of the Valwe.”

Gheris couldn’t be sure if she recognized the name. Even if she had slept all night (all too rare a occurrence in these times of crisis), she’d basically met the Valwe clan all at once, which made recalling names and faces tricky. He sounded Dalish, at least.

She opened the door, one dagger pointed visibly, to see a lean Dalish man with a blade at either hip. Now she remembered his face. “A message, have you?” she asked.

“I’ve been sent to retrieve Keeper Naessa’s companions. " He didn’t seem bothered by her knife. “There’s been trouble back at the camp. The Keeper has asked me to bring you all back through the mirror.”

The mirror? “Oh, Andruil… Very well. I disapprove of this magic, but very well.”

“I wasn’t… wild about it, either, but the Keeper insists that time is of the essence. Where are the others?” As if on cue, Lothaire appeared in the doorway across the hall, rubbing his eyes. Nodding gravely, Caradoc announced, “Keeper Naessa needs you. At once.”

“I should have stayed,” Lothaire grumbled. “Right, then. I’ll fetch the boy.”

The chevalier moved down the hall and pounded on a door. After a moment, Aidan appeared in the doorway, half-dressed, with Kentrell at his side. “What is it?” Aidan asked. “We leavin’?”

“We are,” Lothaire said, uncrossing his arms to stifle a yawn. “Go to Gheris’s room.”

Aidan nodded, gathered the rest of his things, and moved into the hall, his Mabari hound following excitedly. As Lothaire went to the next door, Aidan stopped. “Don’t bother,” he told the chevalier. “He’s gone.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s gone. Casidhe went back to Lothering with that redhead.”

Frowning, Lothaire headed for Simon’s door, calling, “You’ll have to explain that to me later” over his shoulder. The door opened beneath his hand as he went to knock, and light flooded the hallway as Simon appeared, holding his new staff above his head.

“Is there a problem?” the mage asked.

“Yes.”

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Orders
In Which Teresa and Casidhe Return to Lothering.

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

It was nearly three days’ ride back to Lothering. Teresa had expected Casidhe to spend the entire time professing his love for her, begging her to take him back, but he did nothing of the kind. Indeed, he scarcely said a word to her. He spoke of his mission, but not his heart. She confronted him about it once when they stopped to rest, but he only said that he’d spoken his piece, and refused to discuss it any further.

Impossible man, Teresa thought as she laid out her bedroll near the fire. Feels strange, but now I wish he would pester me.

Why? So I can spurn him some more? He does deserve to suffer…

No. Because he said that he loves me… and I believe him.

That was the coldest night of her life.

- – - – -

The morning snow lay deep on the ground when they arrived at the Corwins’ house. It didn’t take long to establish that Jaedar wasn’t home.

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Cold, Cold Heart
In Which Brandeouf Gets to Know Gialinn.

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Sixteen years ago

Brandeouf listened for their pursuers; he was sure to hear them before he saw them in the darkening forest. They’d seen no sign of the Templars for days, but he was not foolish enough to let his guard down, and neither was his companion.

He had always believed that women looked best by moonlight, but Gialinn Clíodhna justified that belief like no other. The elf sat on a nearby boulder with the top of her maroon robe pooled upon it, feeding her baby as if nothing was amiss. The edges of her near-black hair shone like silver, and her skin resembled finest ivory.

For four days, they’d made their way south from Denerim, following the river into the Brecilian Forest. Despite the hurried pace, rough terrain, dreadful weather, and little rest, Gialinn had never complained – had scarcely said a word to Brandeouf.

Her green-brown eyes flicked up to the duelist, then back down to the child. “This bothers you,” she said in a soft, low voice.

“No,” Brandeouf replied. “I remember when my son was his age. You’ve got to feed them when you’ve got to feed them.” Her lack of modesty was another matter, but he’d seen bare breasts before… at one time or another…

“That’s not what I mean. It bothers you that your boss loves a knife-ear.” He heard the trace of glee in her tone; he could tolerate teasing out of affection, but not out of spite.

“You know it’s not that.”

“All right, fine. You don’t approve of me. You never have.”

“It doesn’t matter what I think; he’s old enough to bed whoever he wants. But no, I don’t care for the way you manipulate him. It’d be different if you felt anything for him.”

“You’re just jealous.” Gialinn’s free hand caressed her free breast, and her eyelids fluttered. “Segonal touches me however he pleases…”

“Stop that,” Brandeouf growled, turning away from her.

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Grandmother's Gambit, Part 2
In Which Naessa Returns to Camp.

Posted by Darth Krzysztof, with jillyfae

It was long after midnight by the time they got back. Guards moved to keep everyone back as Jatris brought the prisoners into the camp. Naessa followed them, cold, wet, hungry, sore, and mad.

Grandmother was still catatonic, the mirror-eyed man still unconscious. Satisfied that his men had the situation under control, Jatris turned to Naessa. “We don’t have a jail or anything. What should we do with them, Keeper?”

“Let’s go ask Syndelir to help us empty out Grandmother’s aravel. It’s the sturdiest one left. Get some guards, and I’ll stay too, in case we need another dispel to keep whoever he is in line.” She pointed at the man in black.

“Right away.” Jaris headed off, leaving Naessa to stare at her captives. The voice behind the mirror… who was it? What was it? Was this the entity behind the duplicated people? And how long had Grandmother been talking to it?

Naessa saw that Grandmother’s lips were moving. She moved closer – but not too close. “That had better not be a spell,” Naessa growled. “Don’t give me a reason to pay you back for what you did to me.”

But it wasn’t a spell. Grandmother was mumbling Naessa’s name, barely audible. “Naessa… come closer, da’len.”

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Grandmother's Gambit, Part 1
In Which Naessa Learns an Unfortunate Truth

Posted by Darth Krzysztof, based on notes from Jennifer and jillyfae

Naessa could scarcely keep up with Grandmother as the old elf made her way through the woods, scarcely leaning on her mage staff at all. She’d never heard of the old bat being this spry… this ritual must be important, indeed., to be traipsing around the forest in the day’s last remaining light, without any guards…

Naessa found herself bubbling over with questions, but Grandmother had made it clear that there was no time for such foolishness, so she kept her mouth shut and followed as best she could. At last, they came to a tiny, silent ruin – little more than a stone staircase going nowhere and a few standing walls – as dusk gave way to night. “We’re here,” Grandmother said. Naessa wasn’t sure if the ancient Keeper was telling her, or someone else.

This wasn’t just quiet; it was deathly quiet. Even Naessa’s feet on the snow seemed muted; all she could hear was her own breathing, the hammering blood in her ears. “What is this place?” she asked.

“A meeting place.” Grandmother peered around, her breath crystallizing in the frigid air. “Very old. Almost as old as me.”

How badly Naessa wanted to say Damn, Grandmother, that is old! She settled for having her own look around. As she turned to look back the way she came, she saw a large, shining mirror hanging from an old stone wall. Naessa should have seen herself in it, from this angle, but it seemed to show… something else. Her blood went cold, her knuckles white on her own staff. “Grandmother?” she asked. “What is this?”

Grandmother moved behind Naessa, out of her peripheral vision, but she was too fascinated by the mirror to notice. “The reason we’re here, da’len.”

Grandmother’s staff caught Naessa squarely at the base of her skull, and she lost consciousness before she hit the ground.

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Lady's Choice

Posted by Darth Krzysztof, based on notes from Jennifer and jillyfae

Naessa found Oriane sitting by herself near the campfire, aimlessly stirring her spoon in her bowl of stew. “Don’t care for it?” Naessa asked. “I can try to find something else for you.”

Oriane glanced up with a sad smile and offered the bowl to Naessa. “No, thank you. It’s fine. I’m just not hungry.”

Naessa took the bowl and started to eat without hesitation. It wasn’t what she was hungry for, but she was hungry, and no Dalish could ever let food go to waste. “Really? This is the first time I can remember seeing you eat.”

“Oh, I’ve tried. I just can’t seem to keep anything down. Mornings are the worst.”

Naessa nodded. The time had come to talk about this. “And are you feeling fatigued?”

Oriane nodded, and her answers to the rest of Naessa’s questions only seemed to confirm the Keeper’s suspicions. “I think I know what’s wrong with you. I can examine you, if you want.” When Oriane looked away, Naessa added, “Magically.”

“Certainly.”

“We should, um, have some privacy, though.”

“Very well. But let’s do it now. If you don’t mind. I’d love to get this taken care of.”

Naessa looked down at her bowl and drank down the contents in one gulp. Seeing Oriane’s surprise, she said, “Well, the Valwe need to get used to their new Keeper. Zholon wasn’t exactly well-mannered, either.”

Oriane smiled again and followed Naessa to the Keeper’s aravel.

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Talking to the Moon

Posted by Darth Krzysztof with Ellanutella

As cold as the Banncreag’s courtyard was, the high walls sheltered it from the worst of the wind. The sky was clear, but Teresa saw no sign of the moon. She scanned the heavens, not noticing the other woman until she drew within six feet – the elf who’d watched her and Casidhe before, the one who’d told Casidhe “She’s pretty” as they left. She stood with her arms crossed, the look on her face hard to read.

“Oh,” Teresa said, meekly. “Pardon me.”

The elf shrugged, saying “I’d have thought you of all people would be more aware of your surroundings.”

Teresa found relief in laughter, a slight release of all her nervous energy. “I seem to be paying attention to all the wrong things of late. Is the moon not out tonight?”

The elf’s expression took on a suspicious cast, bringing out her wild, hungry aspect. “It came. It went. Bit like -” She cut herself off.

“Right,” Teresa sighed. “Damn it. I just can’t count on anyone anymore. Too bad; I had something to ask her.” When the elf’s suspicion seemed to deepen, she said “My mother, I mean, not the moon. Stupid, I know.”

The elf looked around, as if trying to see who else Teresa could talk to. “Your mother?”

“Yes. When I was a little girl, and I couldn’t sleep, she used to sing a song to me…” The elf was openly staring now, but it seemed born of curiosity, not rudeness. Teresa was also curious about Casidhe’s… friend?... and decided the best way to learn about her was to sing, hesitantly at first:

“Though all lives must Fade, one law is obeyed
By mothers with daughters in plight:
Sing this song to the moon, and I promise soon
That together we’ll dance in her light.

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Session 10: Wilderness of Mirrors
In Which Our Heroes Explore Beneath the Banncreag.

GM’d by Jennifer; posted by Darth Krzysztof

Lothaire, Simon, Aidan, and Kentrell stood with Steward Dwinval at the bottom of the stairs, staring at an overflowing pool of red-hot magma.

“If this requires immediate action,” said Simon, “we’re at your service. Otherwise, we would greatly appreciate an explanation.”

Dwinval stared down at the magma, disheartened: “This needs to be cleared before it destroys anything vital. But, yes, I can understand wanting an explanation. Please, follow me.”

The steward led them back up the stairs, down a side corridor that led to a room full of massive winches and chains. Dwinval pulled a lever, and one winch slowly turned, gathering speed until it ground to a halt. A loud clanking noise issued from somewhere below. “That should do it,” Dwinval said. “Now, I’m not certain how conversant you are with the history of the Creag, so let me know if you’ve heard this before.” When Simon nodded, the steward began:

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Session 9: Return to the Creag
In Which Our Heroes Enter the Banncreag and Meet with the Steward

GM’d and posted by Jennifer

“I think you, of all people, know exactly how much trouble this will bring us if it gets found,” Simon said, handing the Knight-Commander’s ring to Casidhe. The duelist had been bugging the enchanter for almost the entire time they’d been on the road to hand over the ring. Simon considered that the younger man’s motives might be suspect, but was tired of arguing. Otherwise, the return to the Banncreag was not nearly as eventful as the initial trip out. A fresh load of snow had fallen, but the ground was so hard now that the roads were quite passable.

The small elven settlement outside the Banncreag gates appeared to be under some sort of curfew, though. The only people out in the streets were armed guards bundled in many layers of wool and fur.

“What now, Simon?” Lothaire asked, bringing Spawn to a halt just short of the first row of shacks.

“Given that we’re currently in interesting legal territory, do we want to gain entry together or separately?”

Gheris looked up from eyeing the elven settlement. “I don’t know, but it looks like they’re not fond of my kind at the moment. I might cause trouble.”

“It wasn’t like this when we left,” Casidhe said. “Did we miss something? Can you pretend for long enough to get through the gates?”

“Pretend what? What’s the plan?” Gheris asked.

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Session 8: Meeting and Mirror
In Which Our Heroes Meet Grandmother and Have An Interesting Experience With a Glass

GM’d and posted by Jennifer

Naessa peeked cautiously out of her tent to investigate the loud coughing noises and spotted Jatris standing nearby. “Keeper, the scouts report that a small band is moving this way—the Iar,” the Scout-Captain informed her.

“Thank you, Jatris,” Naessa said, glancing up at the gray midmorning sky. A week had passed, enough time to get the elves moved to safer grounds and a proper camp erected. Jatris had insisted on installing Naessa as Keeper immediately, a decision that proved wise as Zholon never awakened from his final coma and had died shortly after the rescue. “If you have a few men available, we can head out to meet them.” Ferron had left with Segonal and Geoffrey to meet with the Adra and bring them to this impromptu Gathering, leaving Naessa alone for the first time in her life. She supposed that she wasn’t really alone, having an entire clan of Dalish at her beck and call, but it certainly felt that way.

“Yes, Keeper,” Jatris said, and left to gather up some of his scouts. Lothaire was sitting near a fire with Oriane and most of the rest of the group. Gheris, sitting not precisely near them but not far away, looked up as Naessa passed her.

“My lady?” Lothaire asked.

“I keep telling you not to be so formal, Lothaire,” Naessa said. “I just wanted to let you know we have visitors coming, and I’d like you to join the welcoming committee. “ Naessa nodded at Gheris. “You too, of course, as they’re your clan.”

“Iar?” Gheris asked. “Well, since you’re giving me your permission . . .”

“I was just trying to be nice,” Naessa objected.

“Finally! I thought they’d never get here,” Hesthe remarked, rising to his feet.

“In a way, this weather is lucky, or they wouldn’t be able to travel so openly through human lands,” Juillah said. Simon hurried up, adjusting his cloak, and bowed hastily.

“My lord, my lady. May I be of service?”

“Of course, Simon. We should probably all go,” Naessa said.

“I want to go, too,” Aidan said.

“Bring the whole camp, why don’t you,” Jatris grumbled, but gestured toward the northern edge of camp.

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