Campaign of the Month: February 2009

Silent Winter

Session 1: The Storm Cometh
In Which Investigations of Strange Happenings Begin

GM’d and posted by Jennifer

The elven craftsman shook his head as he dropped a small pouch of coins into Casidhe’s hand. “You know that you’re getting the worst of this deal, don’t you? You may find it very difficult to replace that sword in this town.”

Casidhe essayed a smile, hopefully a charming one. “I know, but a fellow’s got to eat.”

“Yes, but how do you plan to eat when that runs out, is what I’m wondering.”

“Something will turn up. Something always does.” He trotted lightly down the narrow gap between unpainted plank walls that a generous person might glorify by the title of “street”, heading for the only tavern in this shabby elven village. The stone walls of the Banncreag rose far overhead. Casidhe hadn’t managed to convince the guards to let him into the fortress proper, yet, but tomorrow was another day . . .

He slipped into the tavern and counted his coins surreptitiously, wondering if he dared splurge on a hot meal. Alveyin, the fortyish elven tavernkeeper, raised an eyebrow, but Casidhe waved him aside. The only other occupant of the tavern at this hour was a burly human fighter in plate armor who looked to be nursing a hangover.

“Last night, two more attacks! Four of my people, dead!” came an enraged bellow from just outside the main tavern door. Casidhe froze in his chair. He recognized that voice, and it was not one he wanted to hear. He began looking for a place to hide. The kitchen, maybe, but Alveyin might shout if he tried vaulting the bar . . .

“It is all very well to keep telling me about these attacks, Inbolc,” said a cultured voice, “but unless you plan to post the two of us as guards everywhere at once, we need more information. Not to mention a contract.” The man, whoever he was, had some iron in his spine to speak to the Awar chieftain that way. From what Casidhe remembered, Inbolc was huge and not shy about expressing his displeasure in a physical manner. The other man had a barely-perceptible Orlesian accent. What would an Orlesian be doing here, at the ass-end of nowhere?

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The Hostage, Part 2
In Which Oriane's Ordeal Continues.

Posted by Jennifer

Oriane winced as the servant delicately sponged grime away from yet another cut. Sores, bruises and scrapes covered what felt like Oriane’s entire body, yet the men seemed undismayed by the pace of their travel. Many had left for other duties, but d’Armagnac, des Saults and his six most loyal horsemen remained and there was still nothing Oriane could do about them. They were smart enough to avoid places where she might seek aid from noblemen with better souls and more soldiers, keeping to the wild lands while they searched for some word of Lothaire’s whereabouts and quietly advertised their possession of Oriane.

This was the first time they’d put up in an inn—a dingy, smoky hovel of an inn, to be sure, but Oriane had still felt such an overpowering craving for a bath and clean clothing that she’d almost fainted. The constant, terrible strain of not asking for anything from her captors was making her sick; Yvon was always damply solicitous and Gervais gloated obscenely whenever she admitted any kind of need or desire. She was unspeakably grateful to the servants who just assumed “the lady” would require such comforts and spared her the indignity of speech.

“The lady has such lovely hair,” the serving girl murmured, gently working out the last of the tangles. Oriane leaned closer to the fire and drew the clean but threadbare robe closer around her body. She’d always been a bit thin and bony, but now she felt positively emaciated in this too-large robe, like she could feel her own protruding bones stabbing through the cloth. “It’s unkind of the lady’s husband to force such hardships on her.”

“What?!” Oriane gasped, whirling to look at the servant, who recoiled in terror.

“Your pardon, your pardon, kind lady, I did not mean . . .”

“You’ve seen my husband?!” Oriane demanded wildly. The girl looked blank.

“Of course, he was . . .” then Oriane realized. This simple girl thought Gervais was her husband. She was overcome by such a wave of nausea that she missed whatever the servant babbled next; she waved it off and shrank back into her seat. Timidly, the girl finished combing the shining curtain of Oriane’s hair, murmuring more of what she must have thought was soothing nonsense as she did so.

The door suddenly flew open and Gervais entered. The servant instantly cowered to the floor in a gesture that vaguely resembled a curtsey, her knees practically at her shoulders in terrified obeisance. “Get out,” Gervais ordered, punctuating his command by seizing the girl’s arm and ejecting her bodily. He then slammed the door and shot the bolt home. Oriane stared resolutely at the fire, commanding her mind and her stomach to be calm, to show no sign. Gervais sprawled across the narrow bed, propping his booted feet against the wall.

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The Hostage
In Which Oriane Becomes a Bargaining Chip

Posted by Jennifer

“There are thirty-two of them, my lady,” the old guardsman said nervously. “I could call up the boys from the town, but even then I don’t think we could make much fight of it.”

Oriane shivered. She could see the horsemen gathered around the gate clearly enough from here, but she had tried to hope, anyway. Now there was no help for it. “No, leave them where they are. They’ll need to protect the townsfolk if things get . . . get out of hand. Tell the gate guard to let them in.”

“My lady . . .”

“There’s nothing we can do. We have to pretend to be civil and hope they do the same.”

Gervais d’Armagnac was the first one into the hall, striding forward so furiously that Oriane almost cowered. His heavy armored boots tore chips out of the polished wooden floor. The sight enraged her. What right did he have to come here and destroy her home? Hadn’t his stupid greed destroyed enough already? She glared at Yvon des Saults as he sidled into the room behind d’Armagnac and was pleased to see him flinch a little.

“My lords,” Oriane said frostily. “May I ask why you have come to visit me uninvited? I am hardly prepared to host such a force of men.”

“You know the reason!” Gervais snarled. “Where is that cursed husband of yours?”

Oriane struggled to summon up all the high-born Orlesian disdain she could. “I beg your pardon?”

“Don’t play games with me, woman! Tell me where Lothaire is!”

“I have already told you, more than once, that I do not know. I have not seen him or heard from him since he vanished nearly a year ago.”

“And I tell you I don’t believe you!” Gervais roared. “You must know something, and you’ll tell me if I have to beat it out of you!”

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The Woods Meeting
In Which a Number of Elven Mages Confer

Posted by Jennifer

“Andaran atish’an, Ancient One,” Hesthe said formally, bowing with a flourish of robes and thumping his staff loudly against the ground. Juillah frowned as the white-haired Keeper looked up. Even though no living elf could remember her as less than ancient, in some way she didn’t truly look old. Her face was unlined, her shoulders unbowed. She had come to this hidden clearing without even a guard, walking nearly a hundred miles to meet with the two elf mages. It was worrying that she now sat hunched over the fire as though she feared the shadows.

“Do not call me that,” she snapped. “Especially not here.”

Hesthe scowled, so Juillah stepped forward quickly. “We beg your pardon, Keeper.”

“Do not call me that, either. I’ve no wish to be reminded of my titles today. Call me Grandmother, if you must call me anything. Now, sit down and tell me your news.”

Juillah and Hesthe spread their robes and sat cross-legged on the ground, their staves across their laps. “It is much as you feared,” Hesthe said. “The weak places are spreading. Soon even the shemlen mages will be able to feel the disturbance.”

“That, we must avoid at all costs.”

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Oriane and Lothaire Get Married

Posted by Jennifer

Oriane closed her eyes and concentrated on relaxing the muscles in her shoulders and back one at a time. Her hands wanted something to grip, either each other or the ornate lace at the front of her gown, but she forced them to hang motionless at her sides. Oriane didn’t want to look nervous in front of her husband to be or ruin the expensive dress. It wouldn’t be appropriate. She’d made up her mind to enjoy her wedding. The determination brought some relief from her anxiety. Sighing, Oriane opened her eyes.

The tension was not all gone, however, and she jumped when a hand suddenly plucked at her sleeve. Isabelle Renée de Rocfort, her mother, looked up at her tall daughter with a worried expression. “The De Tourrin’s are an excellent family. I am sure all will be well,” Isabelle quavered.

“Yes, mother,” Oriane said, wishing to sound like a properly dutiful daughter. “You have told me this several times,” she added, some asperity creeping into her tone despite her wish. Lady Isabelle frowned, then sighed.

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Pretty Things, Part 1

Posted by ellanutella

With the evening came all the unsavory people of the tavern next door.

It could not be helped; cheap rent for elves from an alienage was not going to be found in decent areas. Not if they wanted to keep their lives, anyway. It was technically illegal, but one less elf in the world – who would care? It was more effort for humans to stop such crimes than to pretend they weren’t there and feel good about themselves for being the most dominant race in the land. And then they had the balls to enact righteous fury when elves defended themselves.

It was still a little too early for the drunk dancing, but the rounds of bawdy songs and the grabbing of wench assets were definitely quite loud.

Of course, the worst people were not the humans, but the elves that lived among them and did nothing while their families and friends suffered. They lived in disgusting conditions, packed too close together and forced to endure humiliation at every corner.

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Aidan's Journey, part 1

Posted by Relimited

Aidan cursed darkly under his breath. Another instant with his smothering, doting mother, the Countess Constance Louise Ann de Frimere, and he would go insane. He walked quickly to his room, ears strained for the call of his mother to run back and try on another stupid outfit that looked terrible or try to learn some awkward dance, or remember some impossible mannerism. It’s not like she would be happy with his performance in any of those areas anyway.

His brisk pace took him to his chambers. He collapsed on his bed, worn out from dealing with his mother all morning. He laid there for a minute or two, realizing slowly that he had something else to do today; he just couldn’t remember what it was. He rolled over, his face blank with concentration. What as he supposed to do today? Ah, it was probably nothing, and if it was important, he’d remember before it was too late. And his bed was warm, and soon the only heir to the Frimere bann fell asleep.

The sound of his door being thrown open jolted him awake, and the distinctly elven face that ran to his bedside had him up in a flash. He scrambled from his bed, while the elf started yelling things in his language. Aidan found himself with his back to the wall; hands clenched, and heart pounding. The elf ran around his room, rummaging through his things. Finally Aidan recognized the offending elf, and said,

“Thatcher! You scared me half to death, how many times do I have to tell you that I really don’t like it when you just barge in here? I don’t know how you knife ears do it, but we humans tend to think it courtesy to knock before we enter!” The elf looked up, in the middle of stuffing a large traveling pack with his clothes. Aidan looked at the pack and hotly continued, “And what are you doing with my things!?”

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Lothaire, Twenty Seven Years Ago

Posted by the_flax

The roomy tavern in Val Royeaux bustled with noise, the wooden floor creaking with the heavy steps of patrons, the clanging of goblets and the drone of incessant conversations. Seated at a table next to a wall, three young men were busy filling their goblets with a thick red wine. One of them, Gervais, raised his cup. He had hawkish features, an angular jaw line and sharp grey eyes. His dark hair, short and neatly trimmed, was accompanied by a thin moustache of the same coloration. Gervais strained his voice to be heard over the ambient din.

“To the soon to be greatest chevalier in all Orlais!”

The man next to him, Yvon, had a bare round face with full reddish cheeks and curly brown hair, his light hazel eyes seemed naïve and yet had a twinkle to them, as if they saw more than other eyes could see. Mimicking Gervais, Yvon raised his cup.

“Hear, hear!”

Sitting rigidly face to them, Lothaire could not help but chuckle.

“You’re really making a big fuss out of nothing.”

“Nonsense!” Yvon interjected. “Your joining of the chevaliers is as good as a cause to celebrate as any.”

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Naessa Prologue

Posted by jillyfae

Keeper Darana

Keeper Darana lost the meaning of her dreams when the soft sound of her niece Ashoa’s husky voice intruded. “There’s a messenger here to see you, Keeper.” Ah, not Aunt, thought Darana sadly, as she slowly sat up and shed the lingering grim feelings of a brush against the Fade with a shake of her head, official business, not breakfast. And Ashoa makes such a nice breakfast porridge, too.

“Thank you, da’len. I’ll be right out.”

“Of course, Keeper. I’ll get some tea and porridge ready for you and the messenger as soon as you’re done.”

“Thank you.” Darana smiled as her niece flitted off to tend the breakfast pots. Official business did not have to preclude daily comforts, something she ought to remember at her age. Yawning as she stood and stretched her back, Darana felt the weight of her responsibilities settle to their accustomed place upon her shoulders as she woke up and accepted them again. Hopefully, the gray edge of something that she’d caught just before Ashoa woke her up wasn’t a sign of bad things on the way. Not that a messenger usually arrived at the crack of dawn with good news; stifling a sigh, Darana walked out to face her duties.

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Lothaire, One Year Ago
In which Lothaire is forced to leave Tourrin behind.

Posted by the_flax

One Year Ago

Lothaire strode at a hasty pace through the dimly lit hallways of the mansion, dressed in full battle regalia, the clatter of his hard leather boots muffled by the rich rugs covering the polished stone floors. So intent was he on his own swirling thoughts that he almost collided with a silhouette blocking the doorway to the stables.

“You are leaving.” Lothaire recognized at once the flat tone as belonging to his wife, Oriane.

Groping for words, he cursed under his breath, it wasn’t supposed to happen like this.

“I left a letter.” He simply replied, in the same matter-of-fact tone as his wife.

“I read it.”

“It was meant for later.”

“I know.” Oriane cringed, unable to maintain her stoic facade anymore. “Maker’s breath Lothaire, what in the fade are you doing?!”

He lowered his eyes, was it shame? “I need to do this.”

“You have a choice. There is always a choice.” Her reproachful gaze bore through him. “You are running away, like a coward!”

Lothaire shook his head slowly. “Its not…” He started.

Oriane cut him off, her voice still rising. “You are running away!”

He shrugged. “Perhaps.” His bitter voice now tinged with sadness. “I cannot fight this Oriane. I am not willing to sacrifice my charges, my responsibilities…” His head rose and his eyes locked with hers. “And those I love.”

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