The Giggling Dark

I’ve known Ryan since I was 16 years old and have gamed with him ever since. He’s a fantastic roleplayer and has an eye for chaos, good plots, and utterly intense characters. And, honestly, he’s got a level of emotional honesty in all of his RP that makes him one of the funnest people I’ve ever gamed with. Every time I don’t game with him I feel like I’m missing something. So, when I decided I wanted to do solo campaigns, I realized very quickly that I wanted to game with Ryan again. I had this pitch, an idea I got from reading Fire on the Velvet Horizon in the form of The Flammeous Lads:

Obviously this isn’t all there is when it comes to my Flammeous Lads. And that’s what stuck with me. I couldn’t unsee what I saw when I read about them. Over the months this idea grew and blossomed into a horrific picture of depravity, something so horrific that I couldn’t not say it. I wanted to throw it at a player and see what they did with that level of darkness. And Ryan was that player. And I instinctively wanted Burning Wheel to be the engine that pulled the carriage.

Ryan, in turn, wanted to make a character unlike anything I’d run before: a two life path character, mere child, in Burning Wheel. He wanted to play a child prodigy enchanter. So we sat down and tried to figure out how to do that in the system.

First off, there’s the setting: it’s based in a setting called Stardust, where there are rot zones: areas where the dead rise and become undead. A few hundreds years ago a star fell and sanctified the ground. Other stars, noticing the positive impact their sister had on the world, joined suit, and the overwhelming presence of Rot Zones retreated into regional territories. The campaign happens in a place relatively far from one of these zones, but it still impacts the world and burial rituals and all that.

Second off, there’s the problem of the cost of the trait Child Prodigy, which made it unworkable to make Ryan’s character Xellous an enchanter and a Child Prodigy. After spending an hour trying to get the math to work in the lifepaths (it didn’t), we decided that magic would not require being Gifted. But that means that magic is ubiquitous. We had to get around that, as I imagined this as a very dirty, very miserable, thoroughly umagical place. So we settled on what’s called Practical Magic; everyone has a little bit of magic, but it’s generally for enhancing stuff they already know how to do, and it’s certainly not very powerful. Nor is it easy to learn. So, while everyone can learn Uncle Chuck’s mending spell, not everyone can learn how to smooth their words in a way that makes them almost impossible to resist. Enchanting is an art taught to almost no one, and few stumble upon it. Xellous’ exceptionality would come in the fact that he started the game Grey-shaded. After removing that requirement it was a breeze to make the character.

After figuring out what we wanted to do we made a few relationships for Xellous: his girlfriend, the tomboyish Kora, and Genevieve, the older sister. All three of them liked to hunt, especially at night when their parents were asleep. The opening situation would be that, while they were out one night, they bumped into a Flammeous Lad. Xellous’ Beliefs were all about becoming a great enchanter, coming out from under his sister’s shadow, and making sure that Kora didn’t try kill the Flammeous Lad by herself, which she definitely wanted to do.

Character and situation presented, we were good to go!

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I can’t wait to see them stat’ed up. (I dare say, burned.)

I actually don’t have concurrent character sheets of that time anymore. We’re at Session 14 now and I just kept writing over the same one. If I can get the sessions up here fast enough I’ll be able to write up the character as he stands at Session 13. I had originally written up the sessions without the Beliefs. I’ll get those up here and then edit the Beliefs in as I find a moment to do so.

Session One

Xellous, his big sister Genevieve, and his sweetheart Kora went out into the woods in the middle of the night to hunt for deer. While doing this they bumped into a firey little demon boy.

Everyone froze.

The flaming demon jumped at Kora, but Xellous, whose bow was already out, shot the demon boy in the neck. Screaming, the demon boy ran away, leaking burning liquid and burning the grass around him. Genevieve started to run after the little demon, telling Xellous and Kora to get home, that she’ll go it alone. Xellous and Kora argue that they’ll need her and that she shouldn’t do it. Genevieve gripes about it but she concedes that taking on a demon on her own is a dumb idea. Tracking the thing is easy enough… but it turns back, towards Kora’s farm. Both Genevieve and Kora go quiet, but Xellous tries to assure them that everything will be OK.

When they get to the farm they see that the little demon is attacking Altus, Kora’s father. Threen, Kora’s mother, sneaks up behind Altus and hit him on the back of the head with a shovel. Kora then shot him in the arm with her bow. The demon stared, transfixed, at Threen. Xellous shot the fire demon in the torso, confused. Genevieve held Xellous back, telling him to let Kora kill her father. And so Altus died.

Threen and Kora hugged each other, crying in relief. Xellous, overwhelmed, tries to process. But another fire demon came out of the house, attacking Threen. Xellous put an arrow in the demon’s head and knelt beside it. Examining the corpse, Xellous realized that these demons were called Flammeous Lads: demonic little boys, summoned to do a task. They’re utterly obedient to that assignment and are rather rare. Xellous, being an amateur enchanter, wanted the heart for… reasons. So he cut out the heart of the demon’s chest. He burned his hands to do it, but he did it.

Kora screamed: her brother, Michael, was not in the house! Xellous stashed the burning heart away, longingly, and since he was the better tracker between him and Kora, found Michael’s footprints. He had left sometime before they had gone out to hunt, judging by the marks, and he had gone into the woods as well! Xellous, Kora, Geneveive, and Threen set out. As they followed the tracks Genevieve talked with Xellous, quietly, about Kora killing Altus. She explained that it was necessary, but that Xellous would have to talk with Kora about it, because it was not for Genevieve to talk about further.

Kora would not say one word about it.

The tracks led to an abandoned cabin, in the middle of the woods. There was a warm glow coming out of the windows. Standing outside the cabin the four began to consider their options, but then they heard Michael scream inside the cabin. Xellous runs straight in, far in front of the others. Michael was up to his shoulders in blood, kneeling next to a small human corpse, with an ashen-looking Flammeous Lad standing nearby. Michael fell backwards, staring at his hands. Xellous froze, as did everyone else who ran in behind him. But the Flammeous Lad didn’t. He jumped at Genevieve, grabbed her by the hair, and smashed her head into a nearby wall, setting her body alight. Snapping out of his fear Xellous shot the Lad in the head, who fell over, but continued to twitch. Xellous fired another arrow into the Lad’s head. Xellous smothered the fire that was eating at Genevieve’s body, and grabbed some bandages. But Genevieve didn’t move, no matter what Xellous did. He cried, he screamed, he wrapped her in as many bandages as he could muster, but it did not matter. Genevieve would not move. Kora ran out of the room. Threen ran for her screaming son. Xellous took all this in, took a deep breath and, setting Genevieve down gently, ran after Kora.

Xellous found Kora in a nearby clearing, fletching arrows. Xellous stood there with her for a few minutes, not saying anything. Kora explained that she was pregnant. Xellous said nothing. Genevieve had known about it, but had told Kora not to tell Xellous about it, because she didn’t want Xellous to be distracted from his enchanting work. Kora told Xellous about how kind Genevieve had been to her, how she had promised that they would find a way to get her away from her father. And now Altus was dead, but so is Genevieve! After a few minutes of silence Kora asked if Michael had been the one to summon the Lads. Xellous was stupid enough to say it probably was, and Kora began to sob. Xellous tried to hug her but is pushed away. So Xellous sat next to Kora as she sobbed. After awhile she grabbed some more branches and continued her fletching. Xellous also grabbed a branch, with his burned fingers, and starts to fletch as well; he’d never fletched before. Kora smiled at him, and told him that he wasn’t doing a half bad job. Xellous smiled.

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Session Two

A few weeks later and Xellous visited Kora’s family’s farm. As he walked through their rice fields he bumped into Threen, Kora’s mother. She asked to talk to Xellous. People would begin to wonder about why Kora was pregnant and, with her father Altus being dead, the family’s reputation would decline. Threen asked Xellous to marry Kora immediately, to preserve appearances for the family. Xellous said he would talk to Kora about it.

Xellous went upstairs, to Kora’s room. Kora was sitting there, on her bed, dishevelled. The smell indicated that she had not showered in weeks. Her hair was greasy. She nodded when he came in, and the two sat down to talk. They talked about her pregnancy, about how powerless she had felt, how much she wanted to have that power back. Xellous asked if she wanted to help him take the demon heart and make something of it.

It’s here I break the fiction that I normally write with, because the next part did not really happen in game. Kurlak, Xellous’ player, wanted to make a bow that would keep Kora safe. We sat down to figure out exactly what he wanted. The list was steep. He wanted to make a bow that could hurt spirits and hurt even a god. Considering that Xellous’ Enchanting ability was gray-shaded from his Prodigy trait that part wouldn’t be a problem. But Kurlak was greedy. He pumped bonus after bonus into the bow, over my balking about the difficulty of what he was doing. Contrary to my players’ very popular belief I am very much their number one fan and want them to legitimately succeed. And Kurlak was setting himself up for a huge failure at an Obstacle 15! 10’s the normal max, but Kurlak had done everything possible to just… his chances of success was not great.

Yes, Ob 15.

Now, Kurlak had picked every single advantage in Enchanting he could, and so he had 7 gray shaded dice to roll with. He rolled… and got 14 successes. He burned the Fate point to roll one of the open-ended failures, and got it.

Xellous had made a bow that could deal a G15 wound to everyone and everything, capable of tickling a god.

Fifteen days went by as Xellous and Kora labored over the bow. When it was done, Xellous handed it to Kora and the went out to a tree near Xellous’ rice field. The bow was red and scaly. The arrowhead glowed red-hot when drawn. The tree shattered into a million burning pieces, flying all over the rice field. And Kora’s smile was bigger than it had been in a long time. Xellous caught Kora up in his arms and asked her to be with him.

Kora laughed and asked “Aren’t I with you already?”

Xellous laughed, swallowed, and said “No, that’s not what I meant. Will you marry me?”

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Session Three

After talking talking with Kora about it Xellous went to ask Michael about summoning the demonic Flammeous Lad. He went to Michael’s room, in the late evening, and knocked on the door. Michael was sitting by a candle in his room, looking at the Field Manual, the chief religious text of The Potted Fields. The book had been loaned to Michael by Brother Marcus, who had known Michael since he was born. Michael had been looking at the pictures of preservation of of bodies and ghouls. Michael and Xellous discussed whether Altus was in hell, being eaten by the ghouls. Xellous then asked how Michael had summoned the demons to punish his father for raping his sister.

Michael admitted that he had no memory of the event and wasn’t sure that he had done it at all. Relieved, Xellous asked what he did remember, and Michael said all he could remember was fire and a feeling that found both repulsive and attractive. Xellous brought Michael back to his house for the night to see Kora, who was relieved to hear that Michael hadn’t summoned the Flammeous Lads on his own. Xellous and Kora then agreed to go back to the cabin the next day.

It was overcast and raining the next day. Xellous, Kora, and Michael trudged back to the the abandoned cabin. Once they got into the cabin Xellous noticed Michael acting strangely, but ignored it as he needed to investigate the cabin. Xellous found a circle, right in front of the fireplace, made from burnt blood. it was clearly a summoning circle of some kind. There was a finger from a child in another corner, and a symbol of a figure staggering under the weight of what looked like a large plate. There was also evidence that the fire had blood in it.

Kora screamed and Xellous turned around. Michael was coming at Xellous, eyes rolled in the back of his head, hands outstretched. Xellous didn’t miss a beat and knocked out Michael. Kora didn’t calm down but screamed and cried at Xellous, asking if Michael was OK. Xellous tried to calm Kora down, but only managed to piss himself off in the process. Trying to not take it out on Kora, Xellous picked up Michael and carried him back to his house, Kora in tow. He then headed back to the cabin to examine it in peace, calming himself down on the way back to the cabin. Sitting down and looking over the evidence again, Xellous came to the following conclusions:

  1. The circle was designed for children to use it.
  2. Janus, the child who was gutted by Michael, was the owner of the finger, which was used to draw the summoning circle.
  3. The figure with the plate is not a demonic symbol.

Xellous returned and lied to Michael, telling him he was randomly targeted. He told the truth to Kora later, who brought up that the cabin was formerly the Ikuinen Lampo’s Observatory library. They may have information on the cabin, even if they had let it fall to ruin.

Setting Info: An Observatory is this world’s equivalent of a church, monastery, and well… observatory. It’s always based around the site of a star who came to the earth and died. Their corpse is in the center of the Observatory, in the form of a boulder of star metal. The brethren stay there to watch the skies at night, communing with the stars that are still in the sky and the star that died on the earth.

2 Likes

I meant stats for the Flam-babies.

Session Four

Xellous and Kora went to Ikuinen Lampo’s Observatory, arguing playfully along the way. The monks were at prayers in the Observatory when Xellous and Kora got there. There were three people in the graveyard (Setting Note: Observatories are the only acceptable place to bury the dead, as the star’s corpse sanctifies the earth and keeps people that die near it from rising up as undead. Obviously cremation was something that was banned very quickly by the undead overlords and still has so many negative connotations that it’s rarely done. Instead, the people bury their dead near their stars.) , who introduced themselves: a man by the name of Ernzan, his sister Meeria, and his wife Veraunay. It was raining, so after Kora was finished being sick in the corner of the graveyard they all went into the library, which was adjacent to the Observatory proper, and there they decided to await the monks.

Meeria and Veraunay began to search through the library for something, while Ernzan chit chatted with Xellous. The two took an immediate liking to each other, having similar temperaments and interests. Veraunay found Pyra, which was unstrung, recognized it for what it was, and complimented it with gusto. Ernzan explained that Veraunay was a genuine witch, who had supposedly died out in the land, before the Eclipse Liches had come. Xellous claimed responsibility for making the bow, and Ernzan, Meeria, and Veraunay were (properly!) in awe that a 13 year old could make a bow that could tickle a god. Ernzan and Xellous then declared they were going to be honest with each other: they both thought the Observatory was responsible for the summoning of Flammeous Lads. Xellous shared the schematic of a man holding a disc and asked Ernzan what he thought of it. Ernzan told him he thought it was a dark symbol but knew nothing more about it.

Everyone was so intent in this conversation that they didn’t hear Brother Marcus, who had known Kora and Michael their whole lives (and had given The Field Manual to Michael) enter the library. Brother Marcus called out Ernzan, by name. Meeria pulled a knife and charged Br. Marcus. Xellous jumped in the way of Meeria, knocking her out of the way, and asked if everyone could just talk. A few petty words were exchanged; Br. Marcus rushed Xellous and Kora out of the library, to the other end of the graveyard, out of sight of Ernzan, Meeria, and Veraunay.

Br. Marcus explained that Ernzan, Meeria, and Veraunay were part of an evil cult who were out to bring back the Rot Zones by destroying the corpses of the stars. Br. Marcus was shocked to learn that Flammeous Lads had been summoned, and became furious when he learned that Michael had been the conduit by which they had come back. He immediately claimed it was Ernzan who made Michael do it.

The library all of a sudden went up in flames. Ernzan and Meeria came out, with Veraunay following them, reading a book. Xellous and Br. Marcus ran back to where the library had been, to face the trio. Ernzan made an offer to Xellous: to come with them. They weren’t out to destroy the world and they hadn’t forced Michael to summon the flammeous lads. Meeria threw a knife into Br. Marcus’ throat and strode forward to Xellous, with Ernzan shouting in alarm and surprise.

A streak of fire separated Xellous from the trio. Kora strode over, Pyra strung, and knocked another arrow, threatening to kill all three of them if they didn’t leave immediately. They did, with Ernzan pleading with Xellous to come with them, to help them save the world. Xellous realized they were referring to Michael. They began the rush home.

Session Five

As they started to back to the house Kora stopped and asked to talk with Xellous. Kora expressed Xellous’ seeming friendship with Ernzan. Kora was convinced that Ernzan and his family were evil to the core and that Xellous couldn’t see it. Xellous assured Kora that he would defer to her judgment.So resolved, they set off.

Xellous noticed a black stone on the ground. Curious, he picked it up; it was star metal! It fit into Xellous’ hand perfectly, but was impossibly heavy. Kora wanted to leave it behind, but Xellous insisted, because it would make good enchanting material. It was too heavy to put into his pocket, so Xellous carried it by hand, awkwardly.

The stone began to grow hotter, but Kora, when she touched it, found it just as cool as when Xellous first picked it up. All of a sudden Xellous found himself Ikuinen Lampo’s Observatory.The gigantic boulder of star metal, which is at the center of all observatories, stood where it should. Xellous heard a small, still voice, like that of a child, coming from the boulder. Xellous walked up to it and put his hand on it.

With a sigh the boulder split open. Out stepped an impossibly beautiful woman. She introduced herself as Ikuinen Lampo, the star who had sacrificed herself on this very spot. Lampo asked Xellous to be her champion against the coming darkness. Xellous asked Lampo about Kora and her fate. Lampo told him that, while Kora had her own path, it need not diverge from his. Xellous asked what he was fighting for, specifically. Lampo apologized, but declined to answer. She told him the issues he was facing had to be experienced; telling Xellous what was going on would not explain what was going on right now. Lampo then told Xellous that there would be no other opportunity to talk with her because because of the quick advance of the darkness. Xellous agreed to be her champion. Lampo pulled in Xellous and kissed him. An overwhelming tingling sensation overtook Xellous and he passed out.

Xellous awoke to a zombie about to eat his face. Xellous screamed and started to get away, but he heard Kora scream and stopped. Meeria, Ernzan’s wife, was standing on Kora’s throat, Pyra in her hand. The zombie started to shamble towards Xellous.

The stone was still in Xellous’ hand.

He held it up. The zombie screamed and fled, bumping into Meeria, who fell over. Meeria had a red aura around her, the zombie a gray. Kora grabbed Pyra, her aura turned red, and she vaporized both Meeria and the zombie.

A portal opened up in the ground and out crawled a man. Kora yelped, but the man had a calming blue aura and Xellous felt calm at his presence. He commanded Kora not to shoot him, and had to explain that somehow, some way, he could see auras now, and that now was not the time for that discussion. The man was naked and confused. He asked where Meeria was. He was relieved to hear that she was dead. He asked for a shirt of some sort (Kora was blushing) so Xellous took off his overshirt… which only barely covered the mountain of a man who stood before him. Thankful, the man introduced himself as Telos.

Campaign notes: This name has a huge significance, which was not lost on Kurlak. In another campaign, in another world, there was a man running around who claimed to be Telos, an enormous and righteous soldier of the light. It was later discovered that he was a Raksha and that the real Telos’ whereabouts were unknown. It was never resolved in that campaign where Telos had gone. Kurlak had been in that game and had suspected that Telos from the very beginning as a fraud. So not only was it confirmed to Kurlak that this, indeed, was the real Telos, but that somehow he was in a completely different world. Telos also talked about the Herculean Empire as if it was a place he had just left, which was a massive empire from the “past” of his world. The Herculean capital had fallen hundreds of years ago, overnight, to a sudden swarm of undead after a meteor hit the earth, and was now known as The City of the Dead, its previous name expunged from history.

The trio hurried back to their house as fast as they could, only to find Michael… completely safe and sound, about to go to bed. After thoroughly questioning him Xellous was satisfied he wasn’t in any danger. Telos ate his first real meal in a long time, enjoying every last bite of it.

The next morning it rained hard. Michael went to work his family’s rice field, promising to return with Threen for lunch. The rain increased, but not hard enough for Michael to not return for lunch. Michael did not come for lunch with Threen. They hurried over.

The house’s door swung wildly in the wind. The trio ran in to discover not one but two scuffles in the house. Xellous and Kora tracked the remnants of footprints, back towards the Cabin where Michael had summoned the Flammeous Lad in the first place. All of a sudden they were hit with a wall of water as Veraunay ambushed them. Xellous and Kora were stunned by the attack, but Telos was not. After a short scuffle Veraunay was knocked out.

Session Six

Veraunay was revived and Xellous examined her aura; she exuded lies. So Xellous asked Kora to help him talk to Veraunay, to try and trap her in the truth, somehow. But Veraunay was abrasive and arrogant. She taunted Kora about Michael and Veraunay, mocking her powerlessness.

Xellous wasn’t fast enough to stop Kora from pulling out an arrow and incinerating Veraunay with Pyra.

Kora screamed and tried to make a break for the cottage. Telos tried to gently restrain Kora, but Xellous tripped in trying to help Telos and fell on Kora, giving her the chance to break away and make a run for it. Xellous and Telos chased her, but the torrential rain gave Kora the chance to slip away. Xellous took Telos the direct route to the cottage, barely catching up to Kora.

Kora was just knocking an arrow to Pyra. Xellous was somehow able to get her to not shoot the cabin, but not to keep Kora from taunting Ernzan about killing his wife and sister. Ernzan, with a pitch black aura that was… secondary… to another aura(?) came out, Michael and Threen in tow. Ernzan asked for clarification: had Kora really killed Veraunay and Meera. Kora crowed that she had. Her aura was looking positively sickening.

Ernzan took a ring off his finger and said, loudly and clearly in the pouring rain: " I, the last of the Accursed of Xalmantra, renege on my oath." He dropped the ring and walked away. Michael walked up to Xellous and told him he knew the truth about Threen and that he was done. As Michael walked away the earth shook. Out of the ground arose a monstrosity of a behemoth. The sheer evil of its aura knocked Xellous out, cold.

Session Seven

Xellous woke up in Ikuinen Lampo’s Observatory. Lampo was standing in the middle of her Observatory. She explained that the thing they were facing was called a Behemoth of the Apocalypse, a demon of chaos and destruction, intent on coming to the Observatory and eating her remains, thus allowing the Rot Zone to return. Without Xellous this would happen for sure.

Lampo showed Xellous a secret door in the side of the Observatory. It led to a workshop filled with every material known to man. Lampo explained that one day in this workshop was a minute in the real world. Lampo told him their best chance was to make a suit of armor for Telos, who would then use Pyra to destroy the Behemoth.

Xellous got to work… on a chest and arm piece for Kora. He made it impervious to all demonic activity. This took him three days to do. When he got done he decided he wanted to make leg pieces for Kora as well… and took another three days to do that. Lampo walked in, observed the work he was doing, and asked why Kora was getting all the armor. Xellous told Lampo that, despite everything, Kora was the savior of the world, not Telos. Xellous believed that Kora could pull it off, given the chance. Lampo smiled and told Xellous to make armor for Telos too.

After a week of working on a chest piece and arm pieces for Telos, Xellous thought he had it pretty well down. The armor melted. All his work was destroyed. He stared at what was left of his work, trying to figure out what to do next. He took a deep breath, grabbed what he had made for Kora, and walked out of the workshop, back into the Observatory proper.

Xellous woke up in his house, to the sounds of carnage just outside it. In his hands were Kora’s armor. As he ran outside he saw the Behemoth had knocked over his father’s barn and was devouring the helpless animals inside. Telos lay nearby, mortally wounded. Threen, Michael, and Kora were trying to keep him in the land of the living. Xellous didn’t see his father around anywhere. Xellous ran up to Kora and gave her the armor. He told her to get out there and kill the Behemoth. Kora told him she had tried, but couldn’t steady her hands well enough to shoot; she had shot wild every single time and had made an even bigger mess than the Behemoth had so far. Kora had given up.

Xellous told her to cut it out, that the world was counting on her right then and there, and that if she didn’t pull off the shot no one was going to. He took a look at the Behemoth, took a deep breath, grabbed a nearby bow (Kora had brought his from earlier), and charged the distracted Behemoth, taking aim with his bow. Kora, who was busy putting on the armor, screamed “What the hell do you think you’re doing??/” and Xellous replied “I need a skin sample from that thing! Its skin would make great armor!” He fired off a shot, and managed to get a small piece of skin off with his ordinary bow. This startled the Behemoth and it turned around, confused.

Kora shot in the leg as it turned around and it collapsed. Kurlak rolled 9 successes on 3 dice, against Obstacle 3. Xellous collected his skin sample as Kora walked up to the Behemoth and shot it in the head, putting it down for good.

Session Eight

Xellous found himself back in the Observatory. Lampo demanded to know why he was asleep. Xellous was confused, as he had never seen Lampo upset before. Lampo explained that the Khen-Zai were coming. She apologized for not talking about the Khen-Zai before, but she never expected them to show up. But, on the other hand, no one had ever killed a Behemoth of the Apocalypse before, but the Khen-Zai moving openly was such a risky proposition that any open movement on their end was unthinkable. She began to hit Xellous on the top of the head as hard as she could, screaming at him to wake up!

Xellous woke up as Kora hit him in the head with Pyra. Kora had an incredibly red aura. Her baby’s aura was a pure white, shining as brightly as it could, interfering with Kora’s. Xellous rolled onto his knees and stood up on the bed. “Kora, I love you”. Kora drew and fired Pyra and Xellous dodged easily; the roof was blown off by Pyra. The house caught fire. Kora knocked Xellous onto the floor and drew again, hesitating. Xellous told her that he loved her again. Kora fired. Xellous rolled out of the way. The floor was blown out and they fell to the bottom story of the house. Xellous was bruised by the fall.

As they got up Xellous realized that he could manipulate the aura of others as if it was an object. Xellous reached out to Baby and tried to make its aura stronger. Xellous knew that, if he failed, it would injure and possibly kill Baby, not to mention hurting Kora. But Baby was up to the task; the white aura was pushed to an overwhelming degree and forced out the red aura that was possessing Kora. Out of the aura stepped a seven and a half foot tall humanoid, with flaming red skin, long arms, a mask, and dreadlocks.

Image result for red ethergaunt
For you 3.5 Fiend Folio lovers, yes this is what you think it is.

Xellous and Kora froze, terrified. The Khen-Zai grabbed Pyra and tried to snap it in half. But Xellous snapped out of his reverie and tried to force the Ken Zai’s aura in on itself, rendering it temporarily unconscious. The Khen-Zai fell over; Xellous pulled Kora up and she killed the Khen-Zai with Pyra. Xellous helped Kora out of the burning house, and went back in for Telos, getting him out just in time.

He came face-to-face with Michael, aura pitch black, who was holding a knife to Threen’s throat. Michael told Xellous that he knew Threen’s secret, and that he was more than happy to bring back his big brother, Charlie, again so Michael could avenge his death at Threen’s hands!

Session Nine

Seeing the black aura possessing Michael Xellous declared that he was done with seeing his family be messed with. He reached out toward Michael, star metal stone in hand, and tried to exorcise Michael. A force far more powerful than Xellous repelled him, holding its ground. Xellous charged Michael and tackled him. Xellous hit Michael in the chest with the star stone, demanding the Khen-Zai leave Michael immediately.

The black aura flew away, forming into a smaller, black version of the red Khen-Zai Xellous had fought earlier. It removed its mask, to reveal a shifting, horrific mess. Everyone froze in place but Xellous, who charged the Khen-Zai with the stone. He stopped it from breaking Pyra by shoving the stone in its face. Repelled, the Khen-Zai dropped Pyra, grabbed Kora, and began to phase out of the material plane with her. Xellous tried to restrict the Khen-Zai’s aura like he did with the red Khen-Zai, but the black Khen-Zai was far too strong and Xellous failed.

The Khen-Zai took Kora. She was gone.

Xellous fell to his knees. Tears streamed down his cheeks. After a moment he stood up, wiped his eyes, and vowed to save Kora, no matter where she was. The rest of the world snapped back into focus. Threen was screaming and crying, tearing out her hair and clawing at her face. Xellous glared at her, and Threen stopped.

Michael told Xellous that Threen had drowned his big brother, Charlie. The Khen-Zai had shown Michael. Xellous told Michael, over Threen’s sobs, that there was more to that story. The Khen-Zai had set up everyone, manipulating them into this horror. Why Michael thought the Khen-Zai were telling him the truth was beyond Xellous. He then told Michael and Threen he was going to rescue Kora. Michael told Xellous he was coming with him, and Threen said she was coming too. Xellous told both of them no, that there needed to be a home to go back to. Xellous and Telos would come back.

As they loaded the unconscious Telos onto a stretcher, Threen told Xellous she had adored Charlie. She wasn’t conscious when he died, but only came back to afterwards. She saw him drifting down the river, face down. His legs, which almost never stopped moving, were still. She told him to get the fiends that had done this to her family. Xellous nodded.

They took Telos to Ikuinen Lampo’s Observatory. News of the Behemoth’s advent and demise had spread quickly, and The Observatory was only too happy to take in one of the heroes of the event. They gave Xellous a place to sleep as they tended to Telos.

Xellous was back inside The Observatory, standing opposite Ikuinen Lampo; she was crying. Lampo told Xellous that she was sorry for the ripping apart of his family. Xellous asked to know everything, to finally understand the big picture. Lampo apologized for not telling him all she knew at first, but she thought he’d want to focus on saving his family, that saving the world wasn’t exactly something he should have had on his plate.

Xellous saw Threen, her pitch black aura identical to Michael’s, drowning Charles. Charles loved his mother, through all the confusion, the pain, the awfulness until the end… and then something snapped in the little soul, and he became a Flammeous Lad. One can only take so much betrayal before breaking. Xellous was then shown a Lad subduing his mother.

The Flammeous Lad ate his mother.

Xellous was then flown out of the world. He was looking at a giant disc, held up by red and white titans. A red titan grew up on the disk and stepped off, walking toward a white titan. He ripped the white titan open and stepped within its corpse. The area above the red titan became a rot zone. Xellous saw millions of undead rise from their graves and massacre the living. And above the frozen planet, with red and white titans holding up a disc of earth, floating an enormous ship, cold, caring, unfeeling. it was a Khen-Zai ship.

Xellous was back with Lampo again. He told her he would have wanted to have seen it at the beginning of this whole thing. Lampo told him about how the Khen-Zai were trying to return to their home universe. They had been been fighting a foe called The Nameless… and were losing. The reason why the Khen-Zai didn’t directly try to take the planet was because their presence would attract The Nameless, who Lampo knew nothing about. They needed to be ready for the Nameless to appear, since the Khen-Zai had come to the planet. Lampo apologized again, but she didn’t want to take away his choice beyond saving his family. Xellous told her this was a no-brainer. Smiling, Lampo asked if he’d like to start saving the world.

For those of you confused: a very long time ago the Khen-Zai ruled the known universe, until they encountered The Nameless, a collection of eldritch horrors. They left the material universe to combat The Nameless. Thousands of years later, they have retreated back to the material world… and have found that others have taken over their planet. The Khen-Zai are unable to act directly, as The Nameless have branded the whole race of Khen-Zai and can follow them wherever they directly manifest. Having discovered the Flammeous Lads and the means of their creation (mother drowns son, son returns and eats mother, to support the disc everyone is on) they have decided to create a system where more Flammeous Lads are created. This is because the sanctified earth is deadly to the Khen-Zai, forcing them to exorcise the stars from the earth so that they may live on their land once more.

Underneath the disc is inhospitable and horrifically marred earth. Nothing has gone down there in millennia, marred as it was by The Nameless.

Session Ten: Trait Vote the First

This trait vote, for one player, not two, not three, not four, took eight hours.

How did this happen? How did this monstrosity of a Trait Vote happen to me?

Part One: the Trait Vote

First off, let’s review what traits Xellous had at the start of play:

Character Traits
Single-Minded
Superstitious
Hard-working
Blunt

Dice Traits
Prodigy

We decided that, after we had given him the trait “Chosen of Ikuinen Lampo” to represent his ability to see auras and to communicate with Ikuinen Lampo, that we would take away the Superstitious trait (which was a cultural trait) and give Xellous character trait “Bereaved” and the Call On Trait “Aura of Determination”. For those of you who don’t know what that does, Aura of Determination allows you to either re-roll a mass Steel test that your group makes or for Xellous to re-roll a test that a group of people are helping him with, once a session. Given Xellous’ habit of trying to get everyone to keep their crap together when they were losing it.

The Reputation Vote
The slaying of the Beast of the Apocalypse netted Xellous a “2D Hero of Khouria” reputation. He’s pretty well-known across the lands, even if by distant reputation.

The Affiliation Vote
Becoming the Chosen of Ikuinen Lampo netted Xellous an affiliation with Celestial Knights, rated at 1D.

Part Two: Aura Manipulation

So… Kurlak invented a magic system in session eight. Y’know where he went and manipulated the auras of everyone? Yeah, that wasn’t me suggesting anything. Kurlak just said “I do this” and I… looking at the fact that there is no Gifted trait required for magic… facepalmed. And made up something on the spot. And had to continue to do so. Enough of that nonsense. Here’s what Kurlak and I came up with for Aura Manipulation. We used the Magic Burner System in the Revised Magic Burner book. I managed to get all the Revised books about a week before they went out of print. I found the Burner extremely useful.

Concept: Manipulating the auras of living creatures to modify its behavior and understand it better than simply having Aura Reading. Think of the more empathic abilities of The Force from Star Wars.

Technique: The user must take time concentrating and focusing upon the aura of the target.
Cost: Regardless of success or failure a Forte test must happen. If a test is failed by three or more a horrific failure is visited upon the user and he gains infamy for doing so.
Effects: May be used to:

  • Force a Steel test on anything with an Aura.
  • Force Obstacle penalties on a target. +1 Ob up until three over the obstacle, +2 Ob up until six over obstacle, and so on.
  • Suppress Traits: +1D for Character, +2D - +4D for Die Traits, +3D-5D for Call-Ons.
  • Add Traits: Ob is point cost of Trait, +1 Ob if target is unwilling.
  • Mask Aura: +2D to target if unwilling.
  • Mimic Aura

All tests except for Add Traits are VS Tests, with the target using Will.

Limits: The user must use hand gestures, similarly to a Jedi using Mind Tricks and lifting heavy objects. The time in each test is equal to the Obstacle of the test. The duration of all tests is one scene,+3 Ob for the rest of the session.

Part Three: The Red Ethergaunt

Kurlak had ensured that a red ethergaunt, the foot soldiers of the Khen-Zai, was killed. During the Trait Vote he asked what the Traits of the creature were. I realized that I had no idea, not really. Ug. We needed to fully burn it, because he wanted to taxidermy the darn thing. So here’s what we came up with, using the Monster Burner which, again, I was very fortunate to have. Yes, this is me very bluntly stating: The Monster Burner works. Reprint it, whatever you need to do, Luke Crane and Co, do it. This was awesome

You think if I put that with bold, underlined, and italicized they’ll read it and friggin’ do it already??

Anyway. Here’s the monster

Beliefs

  1. The material universe is ours and all else will be exterminated.
  2. The hierarchy must be obeyed strictly.
  3. Nothing else is as intelligent as the Khen-Zai

Instincts

  1. Always destroy all temples I see.
  2. Always refuse a Duel of Wits with non Khen-Zai
  3. Always have my etherblade when on expedition.

Traits
Tall
Thin
Hyper-Intelligent (C-O for Perception)
Planar Phasing (DT, May go back to Ethereal plane, may take passengers, 10 actions)
Horrific Face (DT, when revealed forces Steel test)
Strongly Influence (DT, may attempt mind control, which forces Steel test +15 hesitation)

Skills
Khen-zai Hierarchy-wise G3
Read G3
Write B5
Intimidation G5
Meditation G3
Observation G5
Orienteering G3
Khen-Zai Supremacist Philosophy G4
Khen-Zai Technology G5
Etiquette G4

Stats
Will G6, Per G7, Pow B3, Spd B4, Agi B4, For B3

Attributes
Steel B8, Health B4

Part Four: Practice Time and Enchantments

So Kurlak went nuts here. He made Gauntlets of Brawling from the skin of the Behemoth of the Apocalypse, giving him G5 Brawling whenever he wears them, until the end of time . He also made four Amulets of Healing from some of the organs of the Behemoth, which helped Telos recover from most of his wounds! Telos went from mortally wounded to mildly inconvenienced in the space of six months. Kurlak also finished training Command, Persuasion, and Ugly Truth, as he went and bossed around the monks and fed hard truths about the state of their situation, along with trying to get other people to trade more with the monks. So this guy who was pretty inept socially before is now quite a bit better. That’ll help him out next arc!

Oh man, that’s done.

Session Eleven

Shortly after killing the Behemoth and Khen-Zai Xellous preserved the body of the Khen-Zai and part of the tusk of the Behemoth, so that he could prove what had happened.A few months later he heard about Queen Veldora drowning her firstborn, Prince Kallu, and about how King Varlur had shut himself away into seclusion. A civil war was now brewing. So Xellous resolved to go. The monks gave Xellous a cart and a horse to store the remains and Telos, who insisted on going with Xellous.

It took a month to travel to Broadnough, the capital city of the country (which is known as Tala, for the record). Broadnough was a city surrounding a motte and bailey castle, which had a moat around the bailey portion of the castle. Xellous drove the cart straight through the city, right up to the gate of the guard house in the motte to see King Varlur. A few guards were sitting at the gate, huddled around some cards, with some women huddled around them. The senior most officer walked up to Xellous and Telos, asking them what they wanted. Xellous identified himself as The Hero of Khouria and requested to see King Varlur The guard had a good laugh until Xellous showed him the preserved Khen-Zai. The guard went white as a sheet. he went and got his superior, who also went pale.

They took Xellous over the bridge, over the moat, into the bailey, to see Komas, the assistant of Prime Minister Archibar. Xellous’ rough and rude behavior was almost a problem with the smooth and civilized Komas, but Telos managed to help him smooth things out. Komas asked to see the artifact his aura barely shifting to show his complete and utter surprise at the body, tusk, and Xellous’ bracers, which were also made from the tusks of the Behemoth. Komas made sure Xellous and Telos’ horse and cart were taken care of, and the remains were transferred into a small handcart. Komas asked if the remains would survive in the handcart up a flight of tower stairs and Xellous confirmed they would. So Komas summoned a large manservant, Turmo, to pull the handcart up a nearby tower’s steps. THUNK, THUNK, THUNK, it went, all the way up. Telos stopped about midway, grimacing from his wounds. Komas asked if he needed to have his wounds tended to. Turmo was sent back down. He came back up with two young and pretty nurses. Telos lumbered back down with the two of them. THUNK THUNK THUNK went the cart.

At the top of the stairs Turmo was dismissed. Komas and Xellous entered the tower. Komas told Xellous that King Varlur was in the next room. He walked out and left the key to the next door, the inner room of the tower.

Session Twelve

Xellous stood, facing the door, key in hand. He took a deep breath and walked in. The smell hit him like a falling tree as the door cracked open. The King’s greasy hair fell in grey locks upon his shoulders. He sat before a window, looking out over the city of Broadnough, shadows barely present in the noonday sun. Xellous forced himself to breathe in the full stench of a month’s seclusion. King Varlur didn’t turn to acknowledge Xellous, and indeed Xellous didn’t think the King even heard him.

So Xellous went out, grabbed the cart, and wheeled it into the room. He returned to a gaze that was as dead as it was wrathful; the King’s aura shone with a muted rage. Xellous told the King he had to come to help him, that he knew of the King’s loss because of the loss of Kora. Xellous spoke passionately of his own heartbreak and his wish to help King Varlur in his own dark hour.

King Varlur yelled that those who disturbed him were to be sentenced to death. As King Varlur jumped, his aura shifted, which distracted Xellous long enough for the King to wrestle Xellous to the ground, hands on Xellous’ throat. Xellous pushed King Varlur off and grabbed the sheet concealing the preserved Khen-Zai and pulled it off, shouting that this was the thing that had taken King Varlur’s child from him. King Varlur fell back onto the filthy bed, stunned. Xellous explained his horrific history to the King: how the Khen-Zai manipulated women into drowning their children, only for them to be reborn as the flaming revenants known as Flammeous Lads, and how the Lads ate their mothers, creating a vicious cycle that kept the world going. Incredulous, King Varlur asked Xellous if that meant Queen Veldora was innocent, which Xellous emphatically confirmed.

King Varlur asked how a mere child such as Xellous could have survived an encounter with the Khen-Zai. The Hero of Khouria’s tale was known by him, and the thought of a fourteen year old boy taking on the Behemoth of the Apocalypse and these Khen-Zai was hard for the King to take in. Xellous told him he was an enchanter and showed him Pyra, as well as his Behemoth Gauntlets. Astounded, King Varlur asked where Xellous had learned how to do such things. Xellous abashedly told him that enchanting came naturally to him, that he had always known how to do it. King Varlur told Xellous that he’d had more life experience in his fourteen than most greybeards, if not several at once! If King Varlur had been in Xellous’ shoes, he would have retired already. Xellous replied that he needed to get his wife home before that happened. Rising, King Varlur commanded Xellous to kneel; confused, he did so. The King knighted him Sir Xellous and made him a part of The King’s Bodyguard!

They left the tower, to find utter chaos at the bottom. A page boy recognized the King and ran up to him, but nobody else seemed to. Sir Xellous yelled for everyone to stop and kneel for their king, but nobody recognized the king after his seclusion. King Varlur whispered to Sir Xellous to shout “LONG LIVE THE KING!” Sir Xellous did, and everyone started. Finally seeing the King, they all knelt before him. The King asked the page who knelt before him what was going on. The page explained that Prime Minister Archibar had vanished, along with half the court, and Lord Mayor Reven was coming, right then and there, to be crowed King!

Session Thirteen
The gates to the keep were thrown open and a parade came through, Lord Mayor Reven at the front. As Lord Mayor Reven paraded up the stairs Telos showed up, asking what he could do to help. Telos winced, and Sir Xellous saw how red Telos’ bandages were. King Varlur tried to dissuade Telos, but finally left it to Sir Xellous, who managed to persuade Telos to lie down before he really hurt himself. Disappointed, Telos went back to the infirmary.

Lord Mayor Reven was startled to see King Varlur, but then he laughed. He mocked King Varlur, asking if he was done being alone with his feelings over the Queen being a traitor to the nation. Sir Xellous immediately got in Lord Mayor Reven’s face, demanding that he show respect to the king. The Lord Mayor laughed: what use was a king if he abandoned his people when something went wrong?

Two knights walked up from behind Lord Mayor Reven to get Sir Xellous out of the way. Sir Xellous forced his aura upon one of the two knights, who passed out onto his friend. The conscious knight realized it was something that Sir Xellous had done and freaked out, backing up and away from Sir Xellous. Lord Mayor Reven, startled, asked who the hell Sir Xellous was. Sir Xellous told him that he was the Hero of Khouria, which the Lord Mayor denied as even being a real event. That amused Sir Xellous quite a bit!

Lord Mayor Reven got quite angry at Sir Xellous’ laughing, and he stepped forward to hit Sir Xellous himself, so Sir Xellous did a quick aura scan on both the Lord Mayor and his entire retinue. Lord Mayor Reven and his retinue’s auras were all showing slight signs of tampering; a familiar red tinge was on all of them. So Sir Xellous forced the tampering off of Lord Mayor Reven, causing him to fall to his knees. The Lord Mayor asked what Sir Xellous had done to him; Sir Xellous told him that he and his retinue had been controlled by the Khen-Zai, who Sir Xellous had dealt with at Khouria. The Lord Mayor’s actions were not his own. But that didn’t stop the rest of the controlled mob, so Sir Xellous pulled out Pyra and fired a warning shot at them. Flagstones were destroyed and flew into the mob and they jumped back. The King’s retinue surged forward and the mob surrendered on the spot.

No lives were lost.

Sir Xellous pushed the Khen-Zai away from all the affected people, one by one. After he was finished he heard a scream, familiar and foreboding. Everything went black.

This session netted Ryan a Deed’s Point.

Session Fourteen

Sir Xellous found himself floating in a great darkness. Large, concealed shapes flitted in and out of that darkness. Before Sir Xellous floated a large building, with a walled ziggurat behind it. A bright light shone from the top of the ziggurat. Sir Xellous found he could “swim” in the air. Focusing on the light, Xellous tried to examine the aura. Even from this far away Xellous could tell that it was a star, whose aura was being messed with.

As Sir Xellous “swam” toward the light one of the larger shapes in the darkness started swimming toward him: it was a megalodon shark! Fortunately the light coming from the star was something the megalodon couldn’t handle. Sir Xellous made sure he was bathed in that light. The megalodon swam away, shadows trailing from it. Sir Xellous got close to the top of the ziggurat and was gently pulled down next to the star.

Sir Xellous began to examine the star’s aura more closely. He was chained down by a horrifically evil aura, which came from inside the ziggurat. The star was in so much pain he didn’t even notice Sir Xellous, standing right beside him. The evil aura was so strong that trying to stop it from hitting the star or blocking off the source would be utterly impossible; Sir Xellous was just as likely to die from the attempt as anything. Sir Xellous would need to get the bottom of the ziggurat and find the entrance. There were stairs leading down to the base, and Sir Xellous took them.

At the bottom of the ziggurat were two doors, set into the ziggurat itself, with a gate leading into the other building before Sir Xellous. Sir Xellous examined the evil aura again. It was a weaponized Behemoth of the Apocalypse’s aura. That meant there was another Beast of the Apocalypse, right under the star! If the star died Sir Xellous knew what would happen: the dead would rise in this local area and the entire governmental structure for the nation would fall within a matter of hours. He examined the doors in the ziggurat, which were on opposite sides of the staircase. Both of them had concave depressions in the doors, which had no other obvious points of exploitation. The depressions had distinct color auras attached to each one: gold and blue in the left door and purple and red for the door on the right. Sir Xellous went to the door on the left and tried to create an aura of sadness within himself and then imbue it into a coin he had. He was successful, giving the coin a blue aura. But the process dramatically hurt his body, causing him to almost pass out. Looking at the other, gold, depression, he focused on feeling blessed… but it was too much. Sir Xellous passed out out from the strain, already worn out. As he did so the door opened and a familiar, tri-fingered, red hand reached out and pulled him. The Khen-Zai had him. Darkness fell upon him.

Uh… I just realized I never burned them up. I’m going to fix that.