Campaign of the Month: February 2009

Silent Winter

Thy Solemn Pledge
In Which Casidhe Dreams

by Darth Krzysztof

When Casidhe awoke in his old bedroom, he suspected that he must be dreaming. His father’s presence near the window, dressed to spar, confirmed his suspicion.

“Get up,” Brandeouf said, throwing back the curtain to flood the room with sunlight. “There’s work to do.”

Casidhe rubbed crust from his eyes and squinted at his father. “You’re dead. Haven’t you got anything better to do?”

“It’s your dream, boy. You tell me.” Brandeouf moved to the door; without looking back at his son, he added “You never dream about her.”

He stumbled out of bed and got dressed, catching up with Brandeouf in the training room. “Why would I want to? After what she did?”

“You have no idea what Teresa did,” Brandeouf said, tossing a weapon to his son. “You keep running away at every hint of danger before you even know what it is. You know the code, boy. Be brave and swift when all the Fade breaks loose.”

“Yeah, sure. Look where the code got you.” He made his salute and engaged.

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Drinking
In Which Male Bonding Ensues

posted by Jennifer

“So what’re you having?” Casidhe asked the younger men seated around the table. Geoffrey shrugged.

“Gheris doesn’t usually let me drink,” he explained.

“No hard liquor for you, then,” Casidhe told him, waggling his finger mock-severely. Ferron chuckled, leaning back and propping his boots on an empty seat.

“No liquor for any of us, I think, if we’re going to be marching in the morning. Besides, who knows where this innkeeper gets his rotgut. Turpentine and furniture polish, most likely.”

“Hey, now,” Alveyin protested. “If you plan to be drinking in my tavern, you’d best not be insulting my wares.”

“Your wares are a touch sensitive?” Ferron asked. He sat up a bit and made a half-bow in the direction of the kegs and bottles. “My apologies to you, Ser Furniture Polish.” Aidan winced as Alveyin growled under his breath, but the tavern-keeper simply swotted Ferron across the back of the head.

“That’s enough out of you. I knew it was a mistake letting you barbarian Dalish through the door.”

“Barbarian!” Ferron cried in feigned outrage. Alveyin snorted loudly.

“Aye, barbarian, if you don’t know enough to be grateful for high-quality furniture polish!”

Casidhe and Ferron burst out laughing, leaving Geoffrey and Aidan to exchange nervous glances. “Oh, relax, you two, we were only teasing,” Ferron said, patting Aidan on the shoulder and making the young nobleman jump.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met elves like you,” Geoffrey said as a stein was placed before him. He tasted the beer hesitantly and coughed at the fizz and the strong flavor. Bubbles instantly went up his nose and he found himself sneezing repeatedly into Casidhe’s hastily proffered handkerchief, nearly knocking the stein over until Ferron moved it toward the center of the table.

“You’re supposed to drink it,” Casidhe said helpfully, swallowing about a third of his own beer in a single gulp.

“I know!” Geoffrey spluttered. “It’s just—“cough, cough—“it caught me by surprise, that’s all.”

“Oi, innkeep, you served us the assassin beer by mistake!” Ferron announced, waving at Alveyin, who had retreated behind the bar.

“Keep talking, boyo, and I really will assassinate you,” Alveyin said without looking up from his cleaning.

Aidan blanched. “He’s still joking, right?”

Ferron shook his head. “Of course he’s joking. Don’t believe everything you hear. You’re awfully nervous.”

“Well, it’s like Geoffrey said, you’re kind of odd for elves,” Aidan explained. “Most of the elves I’ve met were servants, and they didn’t seem too happy about it.” Alveyin snorted loudly.

“Well, from what I’ve heard, Orlesian humans aren’t any too pleasant to their servants, so what do you expect?” Ferron said.

“That’s what I said! Some day they’re going to murder us all in our beds! Um, no offense.” Ferron just laughed.

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Nightmare

Posted by jillyfae

Naessa sat down with a sigh on her bed, and looked around with relief at the tiny empty room. She hadn’t expected Alveyin to have enough rooms available that she’d be able to get one to herself, having assumed the nasty weather would have stranded extra travelers this season, and was greatly relieved to have been proven wrong. After the last few days, she needed some quiet and solitude. Well, what she really needed was to talk to Ninnion, but that wasn’t a thought that would end well, so she squashed it as thoroughly as possible.

She looked down at her mage staff, held straight across her lap by hands that were just a bit too tight, the white stress lines growing at her knuckles as her fingertips slowly turned pink, then red, and started edging towards purple.

I’m only 19! I’m not ready to be a Keeper! Zholon was supposed to be fine, if stuck in a chair or a litter. I don’t know enough to lead the Valwe. I can barely lead myself. I’m lousy at history, I never say the right thing, and I managed to get myself into a mess with an Old God and a Reaver simply by trying to travel through the mountains. I didn’t even manage a proper examination, as I was too worried about Ferron to get a look at the altar to figure out how a supposedly imprisoned Dragon is influencing things, and too ready to run away to bother investigating the shadow land its altar inhabits. I managed not to get Ferron killed, but I still haven’t found that poor old man from Iar. I hate leaving dalish behind, and I know that’s why I was yelling at poor Gheris and those obnoxious Circle Mages so much. I’m going to abandon him just as thoroughly as they have, just because I don’t know what else to do.

Naessa sniffed hard, pretending not to notice the teardrops that had fallen on her stiff fingers. Dropping her staff, she scrubbed her face once, hard, and walked the step to her window. Leaning her forehead against the cold glass, she listened to the shutters creak in the unexpected wintry weather outside. Finally, she turned around, and shuddered at the sight of her waiting bed. I don’t want to go to sleep. The unexpectedly clear thought startled her, but she ignored it and took off her grimy leathers in favor of a mostly clean shirt from her bag to use as a nightshirt, forcing herself not to think about the open bar downstairs, and the distractions of company and drink.

… darkness, sweat, tears, Mihaila’s screams, the sweet and salty tang of blood, crying girls, twisted leather, hard boots, pain, the flare of uncontrolled light and power …

Naessa woke with a gasp, barely containing her scream as she shot herself back to consciousness. Falling out of tangled sheets with a desperate whimper, she scrambled on the floor until she found her staff, and gripped it tightly again. She hadn’t had that nightmare in ages, not since Ferron had taken her back to the duster’s graves a few years ago. Darana usually made the clan’s enemies conveniently disappear, but she’d realized that the Adra needed to be able to check on these dead bodies, to see proof of their defeat. So why had it come back tonight, why now when there were so many other things that could have disturbed her sleep?

“Oriane…” Naessa’s thought whispered past her lips. She looked up at the shadowy window. It was too dark, still too early. But soon, soon she’d go, and ask about the kidnapping, and offer her help, what little she could muster.

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The Talk
In Which Lothaire and Oriane Communicate

posted by Jennifer

Oriane looked around the small room, knowing she was using it as an excuse to avoid facing Lothaire, but still not quite able to stop. “The elven innkeeper certainly keeps these rooms very clean,” she remarked hopefully.

“You shouldn’t have to stay in this miserable place at all,” Lothaire said, ruthlessly murdering the conversation before it could even get started. Oriane sighed. She’d nearly forgotten how often he did that. Usually, patience was the only cure.

She heard Lothaire close the door carefully and begin divesting himself of his military accoutrements, so Oriane took the heavy sword-belt out of his hands and began helping him with the many complex straps and clasps that held his armor together. It was amazing how much he’d changed in only a year. He was still bulky and muscular, but his flesh sagged from lack of exercise and he’d developed a bit of a gut. Oriane knew he’d never cared much about his appearance, maintaining his mustache and hair more to keep it from being annoying, but now he was as shaggy as one of the wild mountain Awar.

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Aidan's Journey, part 2
Aidan learns that mother nature isn't so kind

posted by Relimited

Author’s note: I totally forgot about finishing this. He is part 2 of Aidan’s story.

a few hours later

Aidan whistled as he walked the old familiar road. The tune was listless and lifeless; anyone with a slight ear for music would realize that he didn’t have a clue about it. He didn’t care, he never did. A smile broke out on his lips, stopping his terrible tune for a moment. His mother would be so mad. Here he was, whistling, singing, only half-focused on his destination. He spun around in a circle, just to spite her memory.

“See, Mother, it isn’t all about your stupid rules or looking proper. I can do whatever I want out here, without you critiquing me on how some noble in some land I’ve never seen might react.” Of course his mother used more than just words, naturally. What she couldn’t get across with disparaging remarks and insults, she attended to communicate with her whip. Aidan stopped, closing his eyes and biting his lip.

“I’ve left to get away from you, Mom, not be haunted by your brutality.” He shook his head, trying to clear it. However, the painful memory had already done its damage. The forest didn’t nearly seem so bright anymore, the birdsong seemed quieter, even the sun seemed to shine less. And out of every shadow he could see her glare, in that stupid dress, with her black whip. The one with razor sharp bits of bone and metal in it. Standing, staring, watching, waiting. “Just get away from me!” He yelled to the shadows, darting off the path.

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Session 5: Into the Mist
In Which Our Heroes Visit a Secret Realm and Retrieve their Missing. The Group Seems About to Fracture Before the Searchers Arrive.

GM’d and posted by Jennifer

After making their horses as comfortable as possible inside one of the larger tents, they gathered around the ruined tower. Naessa huffed nervously. “Let’s get this insane plan started, shall we?” she said.

“It’s possible that it will be warmer on the other side, anyway,” Casidhe joked, trying to lighten the mood.

“I would hope not,” Simon grunted. “That would mean we have two problems.”

“How sure are you that this will open a portal rather than waking up the god?” Naessa demanded of the senior mage. Simon shrugged.

“If it could manifest itself, would it have to open a portal so we could go meet it?” he asked. “Then again, meeting it doesn’t sound fun, either.”

“Do it, Naessa,” Casidhe encouraged. “We’ve got your back.”

“This is such a horrible way to do anything,” Naessa complained, “with no idea what will happen next.”

“That’s life,” Casidhe said.

“Uthelisse!” Naessa announced loudly, making everyone jump. The wind gusted, hurling bits of twigs and leaves around them, then a wide disc of pale blue light formed in the air. Lothaire gripped his axe tightly.

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Session 4: Vox Deii
In Which Our Heroes Discover Many Shared Difficulties and Agree on a Course of Action

GM’d and posted by Jennifer

Simon eyed Casidhe and Aidan for a moment. “Just precisely what were you thinking I was going to do to this fellow?”

Aidan blinked. “Weren’t you going to interrogate him?”

“Well, yes,” Simon said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m going to torture him. Maker!”

“Sorry,” Aidan said meekly.

Gheris snorted. “You chase after those fool humans if you want. I’m going to find my brother.” Naessa looked a bit crestfallen as Gheris stalked away into the trees.

“I suppose they’re not all that important,” she said. “I’ll bring my familiars back, then.” She sat down and began concentrating on her magic.

“Shall we go with Gheris?” Casidhe asked Aidan.

“I’ll stick with Simon,” Aidan said. “I’m not so comfortable around elves,” he explained.

Simon followed the young dark-haired elf as she began exploring around the fringes of the camp. After a while, she seemed to find something and began following it, reaching a small clearing where the remains of a ruined tower still stood. A well-trodden path led from the tower toward the main camp.

“These men came from the camp, stood for a while, then went back,” she remarked idly, seemingly to herself. “It looks like Ferron and Geoffrey’s tracks lead down here, then . . . disappear. They must have come to look for something in these ruins.”

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More Pretty Girls Than One
In Which Casidhe Can't Believe What He Sees

by Darth Krzysztof

The next morning, Teresa noticed a raised welt on Casidhe’s back, just above the left shoulder blade. “What is that?” she asked when he caught her looking.

“An old burn scar,” Casidhe replied. “My father’s patron came to the house in the middle of the night, and asked him to escort a woman out of the city. Less than an hour after they left, Templars came to the house, demanding to know where they’d gone. I swore I had no idea, but they didn’t believe me until they’d done this to me” – he turned so she could see the scar – “with a poker.”

She reached out to touch it, a bit surprised that she missed it during the night. “How old were you?” was all she could think to say.

“Eight. Father’s boss – Segonal – came back later on and took me to have it treated. I never told Father about it, though. He never told me why he’d left that night; it seemed only fair.”

Sensing his bitterness, she said “He must have had his reasons.”

“I suppose. I never understood him, you know. Brandeouf Fionnlagh was a man who could have been somebody – could have guarded the king all by himself – but he was content to work for some merchant.”

“Why do you think that was?” she asked, feeling the same way about Casidhe.

“I’m not sure. Segonal told me that Father was never the same after my mother died. I was only three weeks old when that happened, though, so I wouldn’t know.”

“Did you love your father?”

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The Blue Bottle
In Which Teresa's Question Is Answered

by Darth Krzysztof

Nine weeks ago

Her mission kept Teresa from investigating her father’s ideas about Casidhe, but the notion never seemed far from her mind. Indeed, the duelist’s alleged affection for her lurked in every thought she had about him, and that made it harder to concentrate on her assignment. Fortunately, it was nothing serious – a con artist who’d riled one mark too many, posing as a magician to discourage pursuit – easily tracked down, arrested, and left to the Bann for his punishment.

After five days on the road, she returned to Lothering, made her report, and went past her house without stopping. She arrived at the gymnasium near sunset, the eastern sky swelling with summer rain clouds. She saw Casidhe in the field, teaching an older man how to feint, and she stopped to watch.

The student lunged too far. Teresa felt proud to realize it so quickly; Casidhe asked him to hold that pose. He moved behind the student, placing his hands on his shoulders to guide him into the proper position. Teresa felt a sudden urge to have Casidhe all to herself, to have his hands on her body…

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Enter the Reaver
In Which Oriane is Saved at the Last Minute

posted by Jennifer

Oriane fell into the snow and promptly threw up. The dizziness passed quickly and she raised her head to take in the surroundings. It was dark here, a combination of overcast sky and the thickly intertwined branches of blackened trees. The snow was not so heavy, merely a light dusting over the heaps of dead leaves that lined the stone stairs before her. Oriane felt hands on her waist and whirled fearfully, but it was only one of Yvon’s men—Jérôme, she thought his name was. He was a bit white in the face, but he helped her to her feet and brushed the leaves off her cloak as though this were an ordinary activity. There were other men around, getting to their own feet and checking their weapons, and after a moment Gervais came forward and grabbed Oriane’s arm. Jérôme let her go without a quibble.

“We follow the path, I take it,” Gervais grated and pulled Oriane along with him. The steps were massive, nearly a foot deep, but they were deeply dished in the middle by centuries of wear. It was impossible to see past the trees and Oriane had the dreamlike sensation of walking without making progress. The stairs wound first one way, then another, so she could see neither ahead nor behind. It grew warmer and a mist floated up, hiding the details of the ancient stones and adding to the dreamlike impression. The conviction that they would walk forever slowly grew in Oriane’s mind and it was a shock when they suddenly stopped.

A slab of stone crossed the path, about three feet high and eight long, coated with a thick encrustation of yellowish wax drippings from the line of thick candles that ringed the back of the slab. It was dark behind this altar, but Oriane thought she could make out something—a statue, perhaps—looming in the shadows. It appeared to have multiple arms, but when she tried to count they seemed to writhe and change before her eyes.

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