Sabina's Castle

Session Zero

Andy and I were doing a Whitehack game, which was a bit doomed to fail, I suppose. Andy has never been a fan of DnD and I found that Whitehack’s world-building mechanics work better with more than… well… one player. So when I started talking with Andy about the Burning Wheel setting that I’ve been running in for years, he perked up. I threw my pitch for the setting Kakusaretta Sekai at him: at the center of the planet is an enormous blue flame, surrounded by water.

This flame is the source of all the goodness in the world. A long time ago the world had rejected this flame, and it went out. The God of this world came back, incarnated as each of the 8 races- human, elf, dwarf, orc, spider, roden, wolf, and troll. Each time He incarnated He was inevitably betrayed by those of His race, and was finally killed as a human child by an angry mob. Each time He was betrayed He refused to let go of the Flame He possessed by right. By refusing to reject Himself the Flame of the Earth was re-lit.

I then went and outlined the one continent I had played in the most, the northwest one: Helmi. This had two kingdoms in it: The Iron Kingdoms and the Argentum Empire. I had done most of my campaigns in the Iron Kingdoms, but had only ever done one short campaign in the Argentum Empire, and didn’t have much of a handle on the place. Naturally, Andy wanted to play there. Oh, and he didn’t want to play a human, the dominant race of the Argentum Empire, but a dwarf, who have their own things going on, below ground. So, y’know, Andy was being Andy.

At this point I revealed that I hadn’t really worked out anything else for anyone but the humans, mostly. Andy laughed and we began to get to work. We discussed the planet’s primary villains: the Inimicai, who are a being from each race who set up their own anti-Flames, against the Flame of God. Andy loved the concept… and was disappointed that I’d no idea what the dwarven Inimicai was like. In the my previous campaigns I’d centered around four Inimicai: the head Inimicai Eous, the elven Inimicai Kenodoxius (also known as The One in the Deep), the human Inimicai Golau, and the orc Inimicai Rahbarl, but when Andy asked me about the dwarven Inimicai I think he could hear me hanging my head and blushing in shame over the phone.

Some of the most impressive worldbuilding I’d ever heard just jumped right out of Andy’s mouth. He went off for a good long time, on and on about the Inimicai he named Leviathan. Unlike the other Inimicai, Leviathan had never been seen before, and in fact it was not known if he ever actually existed. It was rumored that, should Leviathan show up, everything would end. But even the other Inimicai scoff at Leviathan’s existence. And yet there are those who think it does exist.

You have to understand that I was in complete and utter awe, but we had to move on.

We decided to go with the Dwarven default of stone-listening, turned up to 11. Dwarves can interact with the Flame inside the stone, given they have the sufficient skills and magical aptitude. This, of course, has led to the folk tale that dwarves can talk to stones.

Andy’s character,a dwarf named Spar, decided to take advantage of this universal human ignorance. He took up a job with The Processors, a magical guild that got rid of the garbage in the Argentum Empire. He was hired by The Processors to snoop on the other guilds that frequented a neutral ground called Sabina’s Castle, which was on the very outskirts of Argentum Prime, the capital of the Argentum Empire.Spar, a greybeard amonsg the dwarves, took up the position of janitor, pretending to be a human named Jasper. While there Spar took a human earth mage known as Tara as a lover. She figured out pretty fast he was a dwarf and kept the secret. The tone of the campaign was intended to be a lighthearted, episodic, campaign.

Yeah, that went well.

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Session One

Spar was approached by his boss, Germana Corvus, head of the Processor Guild. Her son, Caius, had attacked a dignitary. Germana was convinced her son was being set up. So Spar went back to the castle and started looking around. During this investigation he bumped into Herminus Luzi, an abrasive and dumb guard, who didn’t like that the lowly janitor was poking around Caius’ cell.

Continuing on, into a crowded room filled with dignitaries, Spar discovered that two members of The Unemployed (the totally not existing magical assassin guild), Agrippa and Aelinus, were plotting to kill Herminus. There was a Death’s Head, which forced someone to attempt an assassination, placed on Caius. Agrippa and Aelinus weren’t able to get the Death’s Head off of Caius before he got put into prison. So this time they decided to put a Death’s Head on Tara, Spar’s human lover and member of the agricultural mage’s guild The Kami Guardians, so she would kill Herminus and Caius. They would then remove the Death’s Head from Tara. But they decided to try and get past Herminus, who was Caius’ guard, one last time, before they went and did something as drastic as putting another Death’s Head on another person.

Of course Jasper lost no time in telling Tara, who then ran down to the jail cell. She surprised Agrippa and Aelinus as they cased Herminus, spilling their whole plan at the top if her lungs. Agrippa and Aelinus, embarrassed, began to try to get away from Tara, but she followed them, yelling at the top of her lungs. This called in other guards who, out of respect for Tara and her position with the Kami Guardians, arrested Agrippa and Aelinus.

Spar contacted Germana and told her everything he had learned. Agrippa and Aelinus vanished very quickly. Spar patched things over with the overenthusiastic and lawful stupid Herminus, who offered to help Spar whenever he needed it.

Session Two

Germana told Spar that Severus, the studly cook, had been kidnapped and she wanted Spar to find out why. A few moments after Germana left Spar to investigate it became discovered that Severus was kidnapped by the general public. Spar went to Severus’ room under the pretense of cleaning. The room was locked from the inside, so Severus hadn’t been taken out from there. Severus was known for being extremely clean, but the books on his shelf were strewn about, the shelf itself knocked over. But the window (which was several stories up) was not forced open. As Spar left the room he walked directly into Olivia, one of the maids. she was angry that Spar had been in the room and walked off in a huff. Spar noticed she had a key to Severus’ door, in her hand.

Spar then went into the castle town and found fellow gambler Lucius. The two had a game over a ruby ring. Spar won. Lucius told Spar that the Shadow’s Sons (Unemployed) had been paying handsomely for people to case Sabina’s Castle. Felippe was one such gambler, who had been milking the Unemployed for all they were worth. Spar went back to the kitchen for a bottle, which he filled with a couple of thimblefulls of Dwarven Nog, known for knocking out a human with nary a drop. He found Felippe and presented him the bottle. Felippe, always eager for a drop of something new, was unceremoniously knocked out. Spar brought Felippe back to his daughter Salt’s place. She was annoyed that Spar had brought a human to her place.

After a few hours Felippe woke up, feeling pretty rough. After a quick bribe Felippe told Spar that there was a spot the Unemployed negotiated with people, at midnight. Spar went to the spot. Severus showed up there at midnight. Octavia showed up and began to argue with Severus, who explained what had happened. Severus had been “kidnapped” by Arianna, his childhood sweetheart. She had been thought dead for decades, only to show up out of nowhere and spirit Severus away. It turns out Arianna had been abducted and trained by The Unemployed. She had showed up at Severus’ window once she was able to escape. Octavia, furious, stalked off. She was carrying Severus’ child…

Session Three

Herminus was promoted to the head of castle security. He called a meeting of the staff. Herminus told everyone he was going to do a background checks on every staff member of the castle. Ranus, the head cook, was clearly unhappy about it. The rest of the staff wondered about Ranus, which Spar, not wanting to be discovered as a dwarf, stoked this suspicion to a fever pitch. He also poked around to find out whatever he could about Ranus from each of the people he was manipulating.

Spar checked in with Herminus later that night. Herminus enlisted Spar as his eyes and ears, despite Spar’s feigned protests to the contrary. I mean, who else would be a better look out for the head of security but the unassuming janitor? Herminus asked Spar what he knew about Ranus. Spar told him what he had learned: Ranus was related to the Duke of Reinus, he had formal chef training at The Academy, and he was probably a noble (or at least a former noble) himself. Herminus told Spar that Tara, who was sleeping with Spar on the side, seemed to know Ranus as well, and that information could probably be gotten out of her.

So when Tara came to visit that night Spar warned her about Herminus wanting to investigate her. Tara was amused and laughed at Spar’s concern that Herminus would be trying to use him to get information out of her the next day. And that’s exactly what happened: Herminus wanted Spar to question Tara. The two of them faked a conversation, and Tara baited Spar into asking why Ranus had left his family. Tara considered it a tragedy. Ranus had accidentally killed his cousin’s -The Duke of Reinus’ - wife. Tara had helped set up Ranus with the job here, at Sabina’s Castle. Confused, Spar went to his daughter Salt for guidance. Spar didn’t want to hurt Tara by hurting Ranus. Salt told him he needed to stick to his guns, and to get Herminus to go after Ranus. Spar agreed.

The next day Spar and Herminus met up. Herminus had decided on his own not to investigate Ranus; some things needed to stay buried. He wondered aloud if he should investigate Tara, which Spar quickly said was a bad idea. Later that night Tara told Spar he was happy he’d gotten the heat off of Ranus, and that he had a good heart!

Session Four

During another sleep-over Tara told Spar of the plan that she’d concocted to raise the dwarves in the slums out of poverty; the Kami Guardians would help the dwarves raise rare veggies in their district that they could sell. The Kami Guardians would then get tax revenue from the sales. Spar tried to find a way to tell Tara how patronizing the plan was, but couldn’t find the words. He just smiled and nodded.

The next morning Spar was summoned by Germana, who knew of Tara’s plan. She was furious, because the dwarves were currently working for The Processors and she didn’t want to lose the cheap labor! Spar said that the dwarves needed the quality of life boost, not to mention an independent dwarf state within the city, which German and The Processors should be willing to provide and help out with. Germana tried to change the subject, but Spar was insistent. She tried to insult Spar and the dwarves, but he wouldn’t take the bait, sticking to his point. Finally Spar loudly dismissed her as a bigoted idiot. It is here that I am obligated to say that Spar totally beat Germana. No compromise was possible. I, deciding to be a good loser, chose to try to murder Spar. So there’s that. Germana flew into a rage and pulled a knife on Spar, who jumped out a window (they were on the ground level)! He ran and ran, ignoring someone who called out to him with a “Hey! Dwarf!”

Spar tried to find Herminus, only to find Germana had gotten there first. She tried telling the truth about Spar, that he was a dwarf she had planted in Sabina’s Castle as a mole. But she was so unhinged that Spar easily discredited her. Herminus dragged Germana off.

Caius found Spar later. Germana had snapped. Agrippa and Aelinus had made bail and had been threatening her, as well as taking (very effective) action against The Processors. Tara’s plan had been the straw that had broken the camel’s back. So Caius was now in charge and he promised to help the dwarves because of the debt he owed Spar. For the first time a human had actually earned Spar’s respect, not to mention gratitude.

Session Five

Spar was sitting in the castle town’s tavern, listening to gossip, when a dwarf sat down next to him and greeted him as a fellow dwarf. Spar tried to walk away, but sat back down when the dwarf threatened to tell Caius that he really couldn’t listen to stones, like he claimed. The dwarf claimed to represented someone who had determined that the dwarven furnishings in Argentum Prime were neglected by the humans. He offered Spar enormous riches to undermine the humans. The offer was rejected; Spar didn’t need a bribe to screw over humans.

Spar left the mysterious dwarf at the bar. When he returned to his room Spar found a junky wooden box. He broke it open to reveal a dwarven black marble, hewn deep below the surface, where the sun never goes. On the outside were dwarven runes, but Spar was illiterate. But even illiterate dwarves know the rune for Leviathan, the horrific monster that none had ever seen but was the terror of the dwarves, who had encountered its horrific cults and minions over the millennia; Spar dropped the box in fear. After a moment he opened the box and it slid open smoothly. Inside was an intricately cruel dagger, The Dagger of Betrayal, which was always put in the back of every tragic dwarven hero in ever dwarven tragedy, down the last detail. The crafting was subtle and carved, unlike the more geometric dwarven carving. Alongside it was a a note, of which Spar could only make out “Thank you.”

Tara knocked on the door and Spar hid the box and knife behind his nog keg, and let her in. Tara was bubbling, she had just gotten back from talking to the dwarven Patriarch Diamond-Face!.. who hadn’t let on a single facial expression, never mind talked to her. Spar knew that her ideas would be ignored, but he decided not to tell Tara that. The night progressed as normal.

In the morning Spar went to see Salt, who could read. Herminus stopped him and asked for advice rather pitifully. Spar sighed and asked how he could help. Herminus confessed that he was madly in love with Octavia, the pregnant lover of of Severus, the studly cook! Herminus had left her a note. Spar told Herminus that he would have to get back with him later that evening, and Herminus wandered away anxiously.

It was a cripplingly hot and humid day, but Spar managed to make it to Salt’s apartment, box hidden on him. Salt was in her room, trying to deal with the heat as best as she could. She was upset that the Kami Guardians’ deal was to be rejected. An argument arose between Spar and Salt. Salt argued that the Processors, who were currently employing the dwarves, didn’t deserve dwarven trust. Spar told her that the Processors were in his debt and he could use them. Salt suggested turning the Processors and Kami Guardians against each other by beginning a bidding war for dwarven services. Spar then tells her about the box. She freaked out at the merest peak at it. The note was no better:

Dear Spar,

Congratulations on attracting the attention of the Cult of the Leviathan! Thank you for advancing the cause of dwarven-kind. There is more to be done, however. At your earliest convenience please stab this into the back of Caius. The dagger will take care of the rest.

Salt, terrified, demanded they run. Spar told her that there was someone else he knew about who could “use” the dagger.

Session Six

As Salt declared her intention to run they both heard screaming and a crash. Spar looked out the window; two freakishly huge plants with teeth and human eyes had smashed through a building and were attacking dwarves in their slum! The one had Agrippa’s voice, the other Aelinus’; their screams were heard by all. From the hole that the plants had busted through Spar saw Arianna sneak out and away, running down the street. Spar ran off the other way, saying he would get The Processors involved. Salt balked; the dwarves could take care of themselves and Spar had sworn an oath to Onyx, Salt’s mother, that he would always make sure the strength of the dwarves was felt. Going for help would break Spar’s oath. Spar rejoined that the dwarves had no experience with huge talking plants and The Processors were the only mages who were allowed to set anything on fire! Salt protested, calling him an Oathbreaker, but in the end Spar was able to get away.

Spar saw Chloe, a prominent Processor, standing in the street, watching the unfolding carnage in horror. He talked to her, asking if she knew anyone important in The Processor’s infrastructure, hinting that he knew Caius and that Caius would want to know about what was going on. Chloe agreed and said she had an idea of where Caius would be at that moment. They ran uptown, to a warehouse with The Processor’s coat of arms on it.

The door slammed shut behind Spar and six crossbows were brought to bear on him. Tara came out from a balcony above Spar and gloated at capturing him. She explained that The Kami Guardians were going to take over The Processor’s business, and that the plants had been fabricated to resemble Processor casting, with all the appropriate paperwork forged. With this very public debacle of illegal genetic tampering The Processors would be finished. As Spar goaded Tara into gloating he edged toward a window. He made a break for it, ducking under whistling crossbow quarrels. Out the window he went and hit ground, running. Spar ran into the crowded human streets, trying to use the crowds as cover. But Tara and her entourage followed, shouting into the crowd that a dangerous dwarf, who was responsible for the trouble going on in the slums, was amongst the crowd. All eyes landed on Spar, who took out his Leviathan knife and laughed evilly, trying to scatter the crowd through sheer terror.

Spar was dog-piled; the Dagger of Betrayal was knocked from his grasp. Spar tried ducking through the crowd to a weak point in the mob, but it was no use; he was beaten down. The mob picked him up and surged toward the town square, where the gibbet stood. As the rope was tied around his neck Spar called out that he was being set up, that he was innocent. His plea fell on deaf and terrified ears.

Spar’s neck did not break when they dropped him. Swinging in the air and gagging he began to black out. Flames parted the mob; Caius had found him. Caius cut Spar down, asking what had happened. With what voice he had left Spar tried to tell Caius that The Processors had been set up. Caius couldn’t make it out, however. The police arrived, looking for Caius, whose name was all over the paperwork authorizing the misshapen plants’ creation. Caius was taken away in shame.

Spar wandered back toward the slums The two plants were dead, surrounded by Kami Guardian mages. Dead dwarves were strewn about the streets. Salt sat nearby, with a wounded leg. Spar told her it was all a set up; The Kami Guardians had played a perfect coup. Salt coldly asked if his human lover Tara, who had just introduced herself to Salt, was involved. Spar said it was. Salt told Spar that Onyx would have been deeply ashamed of him, and that she was as well. In a loud voice Salt called her father an Oathbreaker for trying to rely upon humans in a situation where the dwarves could have prevailed on their own strength, not to mention sleeping with a human! She told Spar to get lost.

With nowhere else to go Spar hobbled over to find Lucius, who was at a local bar. Lucius realized Spar was the dwarf who was almost lynched earlier that day… Lucius realized that Spar was a dwarf. Spar begged for a place to stay and Lucius, confused, agreed. They found a doctro to see about Spar’s neck, throat, and head injuries. It costed Spar more money than he thought he had. It mattered little: the scars on Spar’s face would never fully heal.

Session Seven: Trait Vote the First

We decided that there would be a time skip of six months for this particular vote. Andy reminded me of The Shadestone Players, a group of dwarven performers that Andy had made up and that I… had completely forgotten about. The Shadestone Players were a group of dwarven con artists, who traveled between different human cities and market dwarven farces as high dwarven art; they are incredibly successful. Spar had been funding them from his largesse. They will figure into the next few sessions.

Anyway, here’s Spar’s traits at the beginning:

Curious (Char)
Stone-Faced (DT, lets him lie better)
Ear for Voices (pretty much can pick a voice out of a crowd, it’s what let him fake listening to stones)
Oathsworn
Aura of Innocence (a Call-On that was stupidly unfair and let him essentially get away with murder)

This is eventually what he wound up with:

Curious (Char)
Desperate (Char)
Stone-Faced
Ear for Voices
Oathbreaker (basically no respectable dwarf will ever be seen within a hundred miles of Spar now)
Connected (City Dweller) (a trait that lets him search for human people in cities a lot more easily, as he now so familiar with the setting that he’s practically a native)

Spar’s snaffu earned him a 2D Infamous Reputation with all surface dwarves, everywhere. Word travels fast.

Session Eight

After six months of looking for The Dagger of Betrayal Spar finally found it, lodged in a random alleyway. A few hours later The Dwarf found Spar and told him that plans had changed. The Dagger needed to wind up in Tara’s back. Spar told The Dwarf that he would do it as soon as he could.

Spar started looking for someone who had a ready supply of dwarven nog. After a few weeks of searching the streets of Argentum Prime Spar found a young dwarf named Pyrite, who was sipping dwarven nog in a dwarven bar on the rough side of town. After a while of conversing and hitting it off in general Spar revealed who he actually was. Pyrite was shocked, but intrigued. He found Spar’s oathbreaking admirable, given that he had tried to save dwarven lives, which Pyrite found sympathizable. Spar told him that he wanted to bring the Kami Guardians down but needed to create an infrastructure to do so. Pyrite thought this an ambitious but righteous quest. Since the demise of the Processors the Kami Guardians had taken full advantage of the dwarves, paying them less for more work. All of this was to say that Pyrite was in. Spar told him he was wanting to sell dwarven nog to the humans. Pyrite went pale; dwarven nog importations were heavily policed by the dwarves from the home land. They were quite specific as to how to sell nog… but Pyrite knew a supplier and could Spar in contact with him, a dwarf by the name of Iron. Pyrite needed to talk with Iron first, however.

Spar waited for Pyrite to leave, waited a moment, and then headed out to talk to Iron himself. On his way over he ran into Quartz, a member of the Shadestone players. Quartz and Spar chitchatted for a few moments, with Spar’s current living quarters being with Luscius the center of discussion, including an off-color comment about Tara that pissed Spar off. The then started off toward Iron, gingerly picking their way through the filth-encrusted streets. The Kami Guardians were definitely not as good at cleaning up sewage as the Processors. Pyrite was standing outside of Iron’s apartment complex, holding his nose, when Spar and Quartz showed up. Pyrite panicked, telling them that they needed to wait for his signal. Spar told him that he couldn’t afford to wait.

That’s when someone came came soaring out a second story window and laded on with a sickening thud on his shoulder. Out of the front door rushed a dwarf with flaming red hair and golden irises, complete with bloodshot eyes. He proceeded to beat the unholy hell out of the defenseless dwarf, cussing him out the whole time he did it. Looking up at the crowd surrounding him, Iron loudly proclaimed the victim had slept with his sister and walked inside, back up the stairs. Spar followed him inside and coughed, loudly. Iron stopped and asked why an oathbreaker like Spar would want to see Iron, a respectable businessmen. Spar told Iron that he wanted to raise the dwarves up from their position of squalor. Iron walked up to him, intent on giving him a beatdown, but Spar managed to talk him down into listening. Spar told Iron of how stupid humans were, and how a little dwarven nog could be sold for an incredible amount of money. And all of that could be accomplished with just one keg of nog… which is so easy to lose!

That’s when Herminus showed up. he had been disgraced and fired from Sabina’s Castle because of Spar’s deception and had been looking for “Jasper” ever since… to join him! Herminus wasn’t embittered against Spar at all, but he did need his help. This amused Iron, who roared that if Spar got this much respect from someone he had betrayed then Iron had no problem with him! Spar, Quartz, and Herminus left. Herminus collapsed onto Spar and Quartz and passed out. Quartz tried to convince Spar to leave Herminus alive, but Spar told him that not everyone with value had a brain.

Session Nine

Spar needed to find an initial distributor for his nog. Luscius recommended the Wanderer’s House, which was just next to the “good” side of town, but was still a part of the rough side of town. Spar checked checked out the place first and found it would be ideal as the beginning human inn, so he took Luscius with him.

It certainly was a nicer area of town, but definitely not too nice, with only one pile of refuse, on one side of the street! As they walked along, marveling (non ironically) at the cleanliness of this area, Luscius told Spar that he and Luscia, the owner of the The Wanderer’s House, had a very long history; Luscius lamented that it was not a sexual one, because how cool would it be for a Luscius and Luscia to have knocked boots? As they approached the front doors Spar saw there were human guards, who were large and imposing. Spar told Luscius to be careful, that everything rested upon him, right now. Luscius put his hand on Spar’s shoulder and told him that it would work out. Luscia was a prickly person to deal with, and Luscius knew how to handle her, even if not in the way he would have liked. Spar nodded, told Luscius he trusted him, and off Luscius went.

A few minutes later Spar heard a familiar voice ask if he still had the Dagger. The Dwarf came out of a nearby alley. He looked rather pissed. Spar told him that the problem was being worked. The Dwarf replied that wasn’t satisfactory; the dwarves were suffering while Spar dawdled. Spar asked if the Dwarf wanted the job done right. The Dwarf retorted that Spar should not be so concerned for himself in the face of such suffering. Paltry wages and fecal matter from others than the dwarves afflicted their district. Spar told the Dwarf the decision was not his to make, it was Spar’s, and Spar would deal with it however he chose. The Dwarf walked away even angrier than he was at the beginning.

Luscius came flying out of the tavern. He swore he’d have Luscia yet, that she as the finest woman he’d ever known. A bottle came flying out of the inn and hit him on the head. Luscius dropped like a rock. An astonishingly beautiful red-head came out, calling Luscius a pervert, and kicked his still form right in the ribs. Spar approached her and told her that he was the dwarf that Luscius had been talking about. Luscia, without missing a beat (or kick to Luscius) asked for a sample of the nog. Spar warned against it, but Luscia insisted, so Spar handed her a small vial, advising a very small sip. Luscia smelled it and whooped out loud, commenting on how strong it smelled. She downed the whole thing thing in a gulp.

And stood for fifteen seconds.

When she collapsed the bouncers came to get her. Spar gave one of them the other samples he had, saying they were a gift from him. Spar took Luscius home.

Session Ten

One very successful month of selling to The Wanderer’s House later passes. Spar, Herminus, Quartz, and Iron were sitting in Spar’s new apartment, when Salt marched in. She bore a summons from The Greybeard Council for Spar, commanding him to appear before him to explain his smuggling of dwarven nog in three days or be executed. Salt read the decree aloud, rolled it up, slapped it in Spar’s hand, and walked out, with no other words exchanged.

Spar found Pyrite as quickly as he could. Pyrite had just heard about the summons and was freaking out, dead certain that the summons was a formality; they would kill Spar. The council was in the back pocket of the Kami Guardians, who were looking for any reason to kill Spar. Spar asked who chafed under the rule of the Kami Guardians the most on the council. Pyrite told him that would be Jadru, who was almost always kept close to Tara. Spar asked to be taken to the Kami Guardian’s temple, which was just outside of Argentum Prime, near the jungle. Pyrite refused, walking in was suicide! Spar said he had a plan, but that he couldn’t ask Pyrite to do it for him. Pyrite said he’d only let Spar go if he could come with him. Spar said he’d expect nothing less.

Spar went to Luscius and asked if he knew a disguise artist. Luscius said he did, and brought him to see Spar. Spar asked for a disguise by the next morning. The man told him it would take a massive amount of money… which Spar produced immediately. Startled, the man said he’d get to work. The next morning Spar and Pyrite went to the temple, which was grown into the jungle, just outside Argentum Prime’s walls. After a little while Spar saw Tara going out to the privy. He followed her out, and when she stepped out of the privy after relieving herself he tried to stab her with the Dagger of Betrayal.

Spar missed.

He tried to stab her again, but Tara pulled him down with magical vines that sprouted out of the ground. Spar told Tara the curse was now passed to her. Tara laughed, who did Spar think he was fooling?? The last thing Spar saw was Tara walking away, laughing. The vines tightened, and Spar saw darkness.

To be continued…

Session Eleven

One thousand, four hundred, fifty three years ago a little human child was dragged behind a horse for a mile and a half. His mother was the one riding the horse.Seeing that he had survived being dragged through the rocky terrain a crowd gathered, and whooped and hollered as the child’s mother jumped off her horse and strangled her only child in a blind rage. They then stoned the body, defiled it, dismembered it, and scattered the little limbs to the four winds.

An enormous pillar of blue fire arose from where the child was strangled and burrowed into the earth, forcing its way into the empty core of the planet. A rain storm gathered over the tunnel, of an intensity that has never been seen again. The water fell straight down the tunnel, surrounding the Flame, which wrapped the water around itself like a garment. It stabilized out and the Water and the Flame floated, forever to stay. A moment later and the mother of the victim fell to her knees, sobbing uncontrollably. The mob followed suit a moment later, as the Flame that had been long snuffed out returned. Across the entirety of the world elves, dwarves, men, trolls, orcs, spiders, dryads, wolves, and roden, races who had been created by the Khen-Zai to serve their many needs before they had left the planet to fight the Nameless, experienced the birthing of goodness within their hearts, and along with that the birth of guilt. For there is no goodness in us without our ability to mourn its lack of strength.

Most of the sapient races would have fallen into a confused chaos if not for the elves, the elder of the Slave Races of the Khen-Zai. They formed the continent nation Liekkin Mah and reached out to the races nearest to them, enlightening them or fighting them as necessary. For six hundred years the immortal elves reigned from Liekkin Mah. They helped the humans on the continent of Helmi form the Herculaen Empire, unsuccessfully tried to free the continent of Golau from its immortal mistress, and mapped out every last area of the world they could.

And then in the year 667 the entire continent lifted into the air and broke apart, forming the Thousand Islands below and The Ring of Tears above, circling the lower stratosphere. The ensuing tidal waves almost sunk Golau, not to mention Helmi, but somehow the world survived the cataclysm. The elves investigated as they could, but they found that their ships, so famous throughout the world, had been left behind. So they made new ones, ones that could fly in the air. And then the Nameless, who had been held off so long by the flameless Khen-Zai, arrived. Shifting priorities from discovery to defense, the elves continued their care for the other Slave Races the only way they could: by completely devoting themselves to fighting the Nameless until the day came that they would come no more.

When Anneli was an eager and restless little girl, living on the island of Nelya Yousta, in the nation of Kotaemah, in the Ring of Tears, a human woman with raven hair, clothed in scarlet, came to port. She sat with Anneli, and explained what she as doing here. She had come from the Island of Youth, a mysterious island somewhere on the planet, and had received eternal life from it, although she could have asked for anything she wanted. Fascinated, Anneli continued to listen. The woman told her that one needed an object from the person who last visited that was important to that person to be able to find the island. She took out a small wooden sword and handed it to Anneli, got up, and left, “to talk with those who had more perspective than she”.

Anneli never lost the little wooden sword and eventually became the captain of a ship, the Sidereal Companion. On its maiden voyage, flying low over Helmi, the Sidereal Companion mysteriously crashed in the nightmare city formerly known as Argentum Prime, capital city of the now shattered Argentum Empire. The city is now a place of nightmares, filled with horrific Flameless and Anti-Flame creatures. A horrific dragon has been seen flying low in the skies, settling down atop what was once known as Sabina’s Castle. And all Anneli wants to do is get the hell out so she can continue to work toward getting to The Island of Eternal Youth, to see what she could wish for.

Session Twelve

A week had passed after the elven flying ship The Sidreal Companion crashed into what was left of Argentum Prime. Void Mistress Anneli and her sister Nomi, ship expert Fingar, and conflict manager Thungal had been the only ones to survive the crash. Argentum Prime, once a thriving jungle-city adjacent to a river, was not a barren wasteland, with no river and a mysterious mist that obscured everything more than a city block away. During this week the four had kept their heads down and recovered from the crash. During this time they saw what appeared to be a large dragon fly overhead, from time to time, but didn’t see or hear anything else.

After feeling a bit better VM Anneli began to examine the ship, top to bottom. She started out at the mast, which infuriated Fingar, who claimed that she had no idea what she was doing, because that mast was beyond secure. When VM Anneli asked him to prove it Fingar went down below and came back up with an axe. He swung at the mast with all his might and barely left a dent in it. VM Anneli wasn’t impressed, until Fingar showed her that the axe was made of mithril, almost supernaturally sharp. The weakest point in the whole ship was the area around the rudder, and that was untouched. As far as Fingar could tell there was no sabotage, nor was there any issue with the Sidreal Companion before she crashed. VM Anneli was confused: how did the ship crash, then? Fingar had no idea. But something wasn’t adding up.

Far off, somewhere in the fog, they heard a cry for help. Nomi and Thungal came up from below, upon command. With her big sister watching VM Anneli commanded everyone to move out. They picked their way cautiously through the ruined streets. They found a female dwarf, collapsed from exhaustion. She begged them to run as fast possible: Rahbarl’s forces were coming! VM Anneli picked her up and began to move her to a nearby builing, out of the way of the street, so she could rest, but the dwarf insisted that they get out of the area immediately. VM Anneli pay her any heed, but hoisted her up the rotting stairs with Nomi, Fingar, and Thungal close behind.

Footsteps from a huge… thing… could be heard, off in the fog. Out walked a troll, fifteen feet at the shoulder, with a goblin on his back. Tossing and catching a stone, the goblin called out to the dwarf, asking if she wanted her pleasure rock back, since all females dwarves were stone fuckers. Out of the mist came another goblin, this one astride an enormous wolf, who was clad in armor. The female dwarf gasped with fear… which the wolf heard. He began to sniff his way toward the building they were in. VM Anneli tried to distract the group below by firing an arrow somewhere, anywhere, to get them to look away. That only made it easier for the wolf, who looked right up at the huddled group. The wolf howled a chilling note, something straight out of the bowels of Hell. Chilled to the core, VM Anneli, Fingar, and Thungal froze in fear.

Nomi didn’t; she pulled out her sword and hit Thungal on the back of the head with the hilt, causing her to fall to the ground below.

Session Thirteen

Nomi apologized to Anneli for the deception, who told her she didn’t know who her sister was anymore. Nomi pleaded for the little toy sword that Anneli had. Rahbarl, the orc god of anger, wanted the sword, and if Nomi and the others got it from Anneli she, Fingar, Thungal, and the female dwarf could walke away, scott free. Anneli told Nomi that was never going to happen. She lunged forward, cut Nomi with her sword, and pushed her down the stairs, on top of the great wolf who had been sneaking up the stairs to ambush Anneli and co. The great wolf fell over, onto the goblin who had been riding him, and Anneli heard a sickening snap. The troll, who had been standing just outside the window, tried to hit Anneli and Fingar. Anneli, Fingar, and the dwarf dodged to the side and then smashed through the wall, landing in the street below. The great wolf gave chase.

The dwarf was the weak link in the chain, far as the chase was concerned; she was injured and shorter than Anneli and Fingar, not to mention stupidly slower than the wolf. Anneli yelled at the dwarf that she wouldn’t die here, that she needed to run! She kept cajoling the dwarf, helping her push harder than she ever had in her life. Fingar just plain old grabbed the dwarf and pulled her along. They managed to to outrace the great wolf. After getting out sight the female dwarf took off her shirt and tossed it in the opposite direction they ran, into a nearby building. The great wolf, already behind, was thrown off by the additional scent as he rounded the corner. After a short search he found the shirt, but it was too late. They were far away.

As soon as they slowed down Anneli felt a crushing sensation. All of a sudden she was down down down down DOWN, crushed under the earth. There was a Darkness Anneli found herself in it was a living force complete unto itself it was all around her and was reaching for- Fingar finally snapped Anneli out of it. She had collapsed, screaming in a high guttural voice that was unearthly. The dwarf asked her what happened. Anneli described what happened to her and the dwarf blanched: that was a visitation from Leviathan. Anneli was the third person in recorded dwarven history to survive the experience; the other two went crazy! No one else had ever met Leviathan and stayed sane.

As they discussed the incident Fingar started, yelling Thungal’s name. He immediately started to head back. He told Anneli and the dwarf (who now had Fingar’s shirt on) that time was of the essence and that principles demanded they go get Thungal, immediately.

“I didn’t forget about Thungal”, Anneli clarified. “I had to decide who to save and couldn’t bring back everyone. And we need to get our bearings before going back.”

“No, nobody should have been left behind! That’s ridiculous, we’re not waiting.”

“You’re not thinking tactically. Have you ready of Highlord Myra’s works on it? We can’t use our emotions in this.”

“I didn’t know she had written anything on tactics. Highlord Myra was a master chef, her book on flan is amazing!”

“How do you…” Anneli shook her head. “You’re not being smart about this.”

“I’m not being smart about this? The smart thing to do is to leave now, because the longer we wait the more certain we are of losing Thungal. We need to move now!”

“Jumping in half-cocked doesn’t work as often as you-”

Fingar exploded. “You sound nice, but what sort of sense does a person who thinks to check the mast of a void ship for sabotage actually have?” Anneil tried to get in another word. “No, no, you’re done here” Fingar insisted. “You don’t care about Thungal at all.”

“No, that’s not true! I don’t want to rush in like an idiot; that doesn’t mean I don’t care!”

Fingar threw up his hands “Right up until they move Thungal. And when that happens we’ll lose her. You can’t do that. We need to move now.”

“Fingar, look around. We’re nowhere near home. We don’t know anything about where we are.”

“That’s not an excuse, that’s more of a reason! We need to move now, while we know the ground. They’ll meet up with their friends and we’ll have an even harder time.”

“Um, yeah, there’s a lot more of them” The Dwarf commented.

“All the more reason to go now!” Fingar insisted. “Ah, I’ve had enough talking with you about this. I’m leaving.” And Fingar stalked off. Anneli and The Dwarf didn’t move.

Anneli and the dwarf found a nearby building and sat down, wearily. Anneli remarked that all her friends where gone. The Dwarf said they would be return. Anneli asked how she could be so sure. Salt told her that she had abandoned her father before the dragon had showed up. She was still looking for him. But she would find him. And Anneli would find her friends.

Session Fourteen

As the light began to fade Anneli and Salt began to get ready for the night. Anneli took the first watch. As Salt began to get ready to sleep Anneli asked her what the area was like and what Salt knew about it. Salt said she had lived in Argentum Prime since she was a little girl, and barely remembered the dwarven tunnels and halls. She asked Anneli if she really grew up in the Ring of Tears, and if anyone really did live up there. Anneli looked up at the sky, longingly, and said there was nothing like flying amongst the stars. Salt shuddered, but she surmised she’d not much room to talk: Argentum Prime had become a living hell. Six months ago something that looked like a dragon had flown out of Sabina’s Castle and destroyed the city with a dark flame. Salt didn’t think it could be a dragon, however. It was a being made of shadows and even dragons had flesh and bone. There were survivors still in the city, but they could talk about that tomorrow. Salt went to sleep.

A few hours later something monstrous walked up to Anneli. Its eyes shone with a fell purple light, with a malice only possible from an Anti-Flame “life-form”. The undead was so frightening that Anneli froze. The undead charged the sleeping Salt and bit her throat. Anneli charged with her sword and knocked the undead back into a wall. The undead counter-charged and knocked Anneli over, bruising the back of her head. He politely asked her to let him kill Salt, that nobody else needed to die. Salt hit the undead on the back of the head and Anneli threw him off. The undead withdrew; Salt collapsed, gurgling in her own blood.

Anneli put Salt on her shoulder and, after being told in between gurgles that the other survivors were at the bend of the river, began to run. As she got within sight of the bend the mist thickened, and out came what could have been a shriveled elven woman. She was naked, and awful beyond imagination. Anneli fell over, mortally wounded, from a sudden shock to her nervous system. Whatever had happened upon looking at the elven woman had almost killed her.

She woke up, underground, with a male dwarf (who introduced himself as Pyrite) standing over her. The lady in red, Marian, came over. She explained that it was two years later, and that thanks to her Anneli’s sword they had been safe that whole time. Anneli asked what had happened, and Marian told her that she had met a fallen nymph, who had been killed by the dragon coming out of Sabina’s Castle. Salt came over and greeted Anneli, happy to see her up and awake again. Marian went around a bend and Anneli overheard her talking to a “Telos” talking about how only their continued efforts and the toy sword held back their enemies. They could keep back Rahbarl, the others, and particularly Herminus from Salt a little while longer…

Session Fifteen

So Andy and I convened for the fifteenth session… and talked ourselves into a trait vote. After three sessions. Granted, there was an almost three year time skip, but man! I’ve never done a trait vote after three. Here’s what we came up with.

Andy put forward a character trait, Wrath of the Fallen. Given that elves in this setting live in a floating ring called the Ring of Tears they view being on the ground as “being stuck”. Andy suggested that an elf marooned on the surface normally became morose and irritable, if not outright irrational after awhile.

I didn’t even bother drafting my own trait to vote on.

The next thing we worked out was an affiliation with the mysterious group “The Ones Who Sailed”. This elusive group is comprised of six humans, who made it to The Island of Eternal Youth and became immortal. They are led by Telos, who has lived for the past thousand years in defense of the planet as a whole. Whenever one of these individuals tires of immortality they give a token they had carried with them to the island to the next person who is destined to take their place. They then go up to the Ring of Tears and are never seen again.

So not only is Anneli unique in that she is an elf who was given one of these trinkets, but Marian, the one who gave her the trinket in the first place, is still here. It is not known why she did not leave after giving up her keepsake. At any rate, Anneli is in a unique position. She now wants to become worthy of her role.

Why would she think that she’s not strong enough?

Well… let’s just say her recovery tests did not go so well. She failed her Mortal Wound test, which dropped her Perception cap to 6, she now has Shaky Hands (-2 Agility, Agility cap of 7), and is now Slightly Clumsy (-1 Speed, Speed cap of 7). All of her physical stats are B4s, so she has lost a good amount of strength.

Join us next time, as Anneli goes monster hunting! With a two year time skip the forces of Rahbarl, Golau, and the remnants of the Argentum Empire have secured their own footholds inside of this ancient city. They all want differing things, but they all have one thing in common: if they could but get Anneli’s little toy sword and make it to the Island of Eternal Youth most of their troubles would be over.