Moonsows Teeth [Part 01]
As we head back to Khanan's valley, away from the Titan's Last Stand, Tūd realises he can't actually drive a cart and hands over to Kamilata. Behind us Thranduil thinks he sees a war-party of Drunes, probably a few hundred, far in the distance but heading in our tracks.
We near the forest and come across another of Finn the Stiff's former colleagues. Tūd seems a bit absent - he lets the enemy clobber him with a stone to the head knocking him off his horse. Forg, not the best archer, wings him - with a killing stroke, in the best Tūd tradition.
We're making our way through the forest when there's a flash-bang and a shog-like thing appears. Tūd regains consciousness briefly but by the time he's worked out how to get out of the cart the others have killed it. He rolls over and lapses back to sleep.
Back at Brightlinghelmstone we meet Narhag the Dour (headman) again. Ollum The Druid (aka Plot D'vice) is there too. Tweet the witch arrives and says she's found Brakki (last seen racing off into the forest) and healed him up. We settle down to rest, recover and chat.
Until Thranduil remembers the following Drune war-party. He tries to communicate this directly to Narhag but he doesn't speak Kea, and his hand signals and acting don't make the grade. They give him an ointment for the itch. Kamilata explains once he can stop laughing.
We head to the capital Gorias with the stone. Two hours out of Brightlingshelmstonesword, Thranduil spots a (possibly huge) four-armed figure behind us, gradually closing. Tūd reckons its one of the Titan's wicker-mech-warriors (phygor) but no-one's really sure how big it is vs. how far away it is - and we don't have the trig to work it out.
Everyone else seems to worry about whether it's going to attack us, but Tūd reckons we're fine cos we're all on the same side. The others point out that we've stolen their stone. Tūd looks shocked at the thought and says we were only rescuing it from the Drune. The others roll their eyes and glance anxiously at the rapidly advancing wickerman.
The phygor closes; Tūd recognises it as the one Cranlan (the Titan king) and his daughter Horsha were operating. Inside they can make out the slumped body of Cranlan, who was operating the arms, and an incoherent but obviously raging Horsha, who luckily just has the legs and not the heavily armed, er, arms.
["Is that a border collie", "No it's an Abyssinian racing badger". Sorry I just had to write that down somewhere]
With the phygor a few rounds away, we draw up a hillside into fairly close woodland. Tūd stops to tie a rope across the path and gets a tree punted into him. Tor slings but does no damage. Kamilata gets out the way. Thran leaps a mighty leapy leap to the small of its back, and scrabbles to grip with anything, including his teeth. It's magic proof unfortunately which leaves Forg at a loss.
Tūd shoots it for a whole 1 point and loses control of his horse which bolts cowardly custardly away from the trees whistling past. Forg follows Thran and leaps, barely clings, scrabbles and claws her way up to hip height. Thran swings his way up to the hatch high in the back. Brakki and Tweet hide. Thran realises he's left his sword on his horse where it normally is, rather than on his back where he thought it normally was. He's going to have to explain etiquette to her to death. Horsha has spotted the stone in the cart and gives up kicking trees about and starts towards it.
Tūd controls his horse. Kamilata leaps out from behind a tree to smash a dispel-magic potion on its foot but misses, dropping the vial between its feet. Thran gets through the hatch and starts to kick Horsha in the head - as he can't reach much else. Forg peers over his shoulder, looking to chuck a dagger past him but its all very confusing; she yells at him to get on with it or get out the way.
Thran kicks Horsha in the head again and hurts her enough to briefly stun her - the machine topples over. Forg - excellent MM roll - does her nails surfing it down.
Tor and her man Brakki start to hack their way in. Forg preps a spell and before Thran can gets out of the way - far out of the way - out of range really - casts it past him. He gets away with it and stabs Horsha in the head; she finally slumps unconscious. Forg goes all Gwathló on her and finishes her off. Nothing worth taking. But Tūd is looking at the stone, the animated wicker-man and the cart. He's got some wierd idea in the back of his head about a cart that transforms into a heavily armed warrior...
We hurry on. Thran tells us that he heard a rumour at Brighthelmstoneswordteeth that we may be unpopular at Gorias because Kamlach the Lame has died, and some people are claiming it's our fault.
We meet a small warband of Fir Domhain on the path, coming our way, headed by Spunug. Kam greets them, and they sort of relax in a sort of deliberate casual way. Apparently they've also been sent out to get special stones, and they look curiously toward our cart. "These are not the stones your looking for". Thran realises what they are talking about and suggests to Kam that we just ask them to take the stone back - we don't care about brownie points. Spunug claims he doesn't really want to look for stones. Kam suggests he joins us and helps us take the stone back as stone hunting is really, really dangerous. Stone escorting isn't so bad.
We review Forg's dream of the next stone. We conclude it must be just under Osdann's throne; it recognises the other stones that are now present.
The bands of the Hidden Serpent (Osdann's opposition). ??
Outside Gorias we leave our horses and baggage with Brakki and Tweet. Inside we're welcomed by loud crowds, and Fachdann the druid praises us loudly but seems reserved. Envy. Spite. Conflict. The town is full of suspicion and informants. That'll be partly our first stone - the embroiler. But it's also Osdann's increasingly punitive and arrogant rule, flaunting Celtic codes and rules. We visit Osdann in his hall; he's fatter and sweatier and nastier. There are more servants, some of them ex-nobles.
Osdann is pleased with our new stone. Kamilata hesitatingly approaches him with the news that the next stone is under the hall and it may need to be dug up. Osdann is overjoyed, particularly that it's under his throne - it indicates his specialness.
Forg has been using the harp to locate the stone exactly, and we'd all forgotten that we shouldn't really have it. Fachdann shouts "Our harp!" and seizes Forg. Damn. Tūd disappears under his cloak but Sunug notices him go. The others are seized, the door is shut and guarded and a blind hunt starts for Tūd. Osdann is no longer happy.
The War Witches warn the soldiers not to take off Tor's armour - but they want her sword. She chucks her sword into the crowd and a bloke picks it up - and attacks himself and the folks around him. He is, eventually, subdued. Tor struggles further which brings her to the notice of Osdann; she is sent off to the harem. Visions of Jabber the Hut...
Fachdann tries to battle the invisible Tūd by spell but collapses (fumbles). That'll learn him. Whew. Tūd evades for a bit longer but there are loads of folks - he hides some of his more precious things in the rafters before he gets caught. He gets roughed up - thwown to the floor - for being a pain.
We're all chained up and taken to the stockade. Guards inside and out. We're put to work digging out the stone. General beatings and abuse. Tor has a fight with one of the girls, who gets her beaten and sent out to us. We look for opportunities to escape, but the prisoners are all snitches. Attempts to help fellow prisoners by Tūd and Thran generally result in more beatings.
A few nights later the Shadow Tribe (the Fir Falians) attack, and the internal guards rush out from the stockade of dispirited and exhausted prisoners. With a bit of teamwork and innocent whistling expressions, we huddle around the securing points of our manacles and twist and heave them out. We make our way through the confused fighting to find a smithy to break the manacles and nick some clothes.
We then head to Fachdann's house, which we find quite easily as we know where it is We find our bows, most of the 'mundane' kit and the Ilin's taiken swords, but most of the good stuff has been redistributed. The things we find are those that they can't or don't know how to use (such as the bows or Forg's armour) or that Fachdann wanted to keep (such as the healing paste). Tūd lends Kam his sword which gives him something sharp with a pointy end. We set Fachdann's place on fire purely for the gratuitous pleasure it brings. Thran rushes up to the main town hall wearing an Osdann glamour and instructs the guards to carry out a counter attack. They go without question - they'd go anywhere. Tūd recovers the stuff he had hidden - including a returning dagger, which gives Forg something sharp with a pointy end.
Tor & Tūd go down to the war witches' house to look for her stuff. There's one witch there - she and Tūd exchange missiles (axe and arrow) and she goes down. Tor batters her to a pulp with a chair. She finds her sword but nothing else. Tūd picks up a few interesting looking things and they set fire to the place, again mostly just for the gratuitous pleasure of it (Who hasn't set fire to a public building?). They get back to the hall where the others have dug out the stone and are attuning to it. The sorcerers look at the stuff Tūd brought back and ask why he's picked now to open a charity shop. He sulks.
Wayden Dru is the stone under the chair. Those of us who touch him have this dream:
You are the audience for a play. Sat on a bench at the front of the performing area, there is a beautiful night sky. You are warmed by a bonfire comfortably far enough behind you and your viewing pleasure is assured by regularly staked out torches before you.
There is a drum roll and a handsome man strides out of the shadows and into the illuminated circle. He opens with a stirring speech in an archaic but noble style about the need for heroes to be honest in all their dealings. Then, a musical instrument appears in his hands and he begins to play, a truly stirring tune. His crystal voice chimes in at the perfect moment and he lays on a ballad about you, how loyal and brave you are, how your companions look up to you to lead them. It goes on to describe how members of the opposite sex desire you but that you are, so far, too perfect for one of them to contemplate any form of liaison.
The performer, Wayden Dru, continues his one man show (and it is good, even though its a dream he really is a talented bard). He goes on describe how true heroes are often tested in the most heinous ways. He issues a dire warning about Sithen Cro, for whom you will be tasked to quest for next.
The fifth stone, he maintains, is inhabited by the spirit of a murderess who tried to kill him long ago. She will try to destroy Wayden Dru the standing stone if she gets the chance and more than likely will do for the heroes as well. She is not to be trusted. Besides which, he really is very talented and can do the work of at least eight other stones, so theres no need to collect all ten teeth anyway.
He seems to change his mind then. The Sithen Cro stone should be found. It should be found and smashed to pieces.
We get a link to the next stone. We decide it's time to leave the capital - preferably before Osdann gets back.
Other people are also leaving, and there seems to be a stream of them running purposefully into some woods. Brakki is waiting for us - he's been scrying us in the campfire.
In the woods we find a limestone cave complex. This is where the Hidden Serpent (the rebels) have been hiding, headed by a couple of druids Mathoc and Rannon. They're suspicious about our motives; we explain we were just trying to lull Osdann into a false sense of security - it seems we lulled him into a true sense. We are finally inducted and given the password: "Life to Gorias" and the rather give-away response "Wounds to the woundless".
Forg dreams a dream from the Harp of Amergin:
Standing on a stage swelling with pride. A woman approaches carrying written-on sticks, your soul is ripped out and placed in the writing.
It is now dark. A woman sits in front of you unaware. Something hard in your hand f'nar. A hammer. You hit her hard on the bonce, and she turns and utters a terrible curse. An itching burning sensation, your hand you see weeping sores. All very gruesome, teeth rot, you become a monster, you turn and rush into the forest. You meet your friends who give you a potion and the affliction eases briefly.
A long time passes and you stand with bards competing. Later. Feel cold and wet, the woman has turned to stone with a chip where the hammer hit her. She is taken away. You see through her eyes - she is then a crow - she's taken from the ground and rolled away by drune soldiers. On the hillside is a skinless Drune priest. She's laid on top of other stones and slaves are sacrificed. Great power raised here. Image fades, back underground, then under sky.
Other spirits about you (matching the spirits of the stones we got). If the woman turns up you will control her.
So it seems the Drunes have the rest.
Mathoc and Rannon, with lots of very leading questions, extract the origins of our search for the stones, which we'd rather lost track of. We'd started thinking we needed the stones to get home, but after a bit of prodding (it's a long time between sessions) we remembered that Finn the Not-then-stiff wanted the stones to kill Osdann; and he got the information about them from the weather witch. Something stirs in the back of Tūds mind about this. In the meantime...
We're clothed so we're not wandering around in our stolen underwear. Thranduil is a little put out as he's proud of his physique.
...we rely on our wits (or sarcasm, it's not really wit) to find the weather wax's hut. Forg tries to turn the skull alarms off with a spell but Kam, realising this might be considered offensive, gives her a push to interrupt the spell. She falls face down in the mud and goes all princessy stroppy. We hail the hut - she was expecting us (which is good for a seer). She hands us steaming drink cups. Forg tries to fake drinking it but the witch gives her some abuse for being frightened. She's generally a pretty stroppy cow as we find when she relates some of the story of Osdann's beginnings. She's not sure how to kill him, but she knows how to get the answer. We would have to do a service for her - the one Finn was to do before he ran onto an arrow.
She wants the silver leaf from the willow tree that is older than time in the Bog of (Eternal Stench) Ruan. We must do no harm to the tree - so we are to return with a leaf, not a dozen cricket bats. Sounds like a Quest.
We head off Questing.
The bog is suitably fantasy boggy.
Brakki tells us he's been scrying ahead; there are four live willows that will defend the old one.
Sure enough we find a big pooly puddle (40' across) in the swamp. The old tree (30' tall) is in the middle, and smaller trees surround it on the edge of the stinking pool.
We sit around discussing plans. Diversions. Instant boats. Torches. Pitchforks. Cricket bats. We gather stuff for the instant boat staff to work with. Forg tries to charm the trees and gets some to settle down. Tūd & Forg stand at the shore while Tor and Kam guide the boat through the charmed ones so that Thran can leap up the old tree. Kam fiddles around with the boat talking about his early years sailing while Tor - his apprentice for the hour - does so well (00+) everyone is astounded - despite it just being a small puddle. Kam is in oar of her ability.
Thran does an extremely fancy leap up, grabs the leaf and lands back in the boat in one swooping jumpy thing. Forg realises she doesn't have much power left and we speed up a bit. Tūd starts limping off before the others row back - he's slow without his magic boots. The others come back, Kam carefully remembers to pull the post out and we leave. And return to WeatherWaxWitch ?. We are fed tea. No cakes.
She's found where the two (dead) men are who took away Osdanns dead grandmother, who was killed by Osdann when he become invulnerable. Tūd thinks he remembers the party being told something about Osdann and his grandmother but can't remember what it was. We will need to get their skulls from Chlow Glass, where they've been sacrificed to Donathe, so that she can talk to them. A willow tree has grown around the bodies. Another Quest!
Weather and life is luvverly as we get closer to Donathe, goddess of Macclesfield. We arrive at the medium-sized willow tree. Pretty kingfishers, verdant green, not at all boggy. The tree is over a pretty pool so the bodies will be in the bottom. We discuss swimming ability, but Forg is way, way better than any of us. Particularly Tūd. Who can get to the bottom of the pool easily enough...
She finds the rotting bodies in the bottom and it's all quite icky. She also finds lots of shiny things but restrains herself from taking them out. She does absently mention them when she returns to the surface - Kam diverts Tūd from diving in by pushing him face first into the mud.
We get back to Granny Weather witch. She is pleased and sends us off while she does magic stuff. Forg eavesdrops. Witchy persuades the dead soldiers - they're not very bright - to tell her all about it. Osdanns granny was buried in the sour lands beneath an ash tree in Dunn Marv (dead fort) on the crags outside the walls. There are lots of bodies there - some fairly lively ones. How to identify granny? Only her by the ash tree.
Tūd finally remembers that the condition for Osdann's invulnerability was something to with seeing his grandmother again. Before his first battle, she blessed him that he would be invincible until he saw her again (or similar) and so he closed his eyes and cut her head off, and had her taken away by two trusted men who he then later killed to keep her location secret. So to kill him, we first have to get him to look at his gran. This won't get us home but it might score some local brownie points.
The weathered witch tells us a bit about Dunn Marv after she realises we have no idea what stories local mum's tell their children about it - we're not from these parts. What should we take with us? A brave heart (can't afford Mel Gibson) and self-belief. The Sourlands are a long way south so we pack up and leave quickly.
Brakki tells Tor that someone's watching us - one of Osdann's stone-hunting parties.
In the woods we meet a bunch of armed Vikings who declare they want the harp. We argue - we offer to hand it over later with training if they help with liberating granny's body - but they're not interested. It's clear we're not handing over so they fade away - Tūd declares it's time to run and does so (very ilin), but Forg and Thran have been arguing over Forg's burial rites and/or lack of them when she died. They're interrupted by a shower of spears out of the trees but luckily all miss. The rest gather further down the track, look around and find they're missing the two, who are now being attacked. They charge back. Kamilata is uncomfortable on his pony, and when one of the Vikings charges him he just heads off just out of reach rather than working out how to get off.
Forg and Thran, still arguing, take some minor scratches and disengage (run away). Tūd shoots down a guy in chain.
Kam tries to slow his pony down to encourage his increasingly breathless chaser to keep up. He fumbles his ride and stalls his horse but gets it started again. His chaser tries a swing at the horse but drops his sword.
Thran gets out of spear range and starts shooting from a safe range. He gets one in the leg and puts him down. Forg shoots the one Tūd hit. Kam's one eventually gives up, wheezing, and turns around. Kam trots (ouch, ouch, ouch) after him and whangs him on the back of the head. The others circle the remaining Vikings and continue to shoot.
Thran gets shot from above - a flying coracle is overhead - and shoots back, clobbering one. The pilot (Snorri the Murderous OAP) chucks stones down at Thran, one cutting him slightly. The coracle lands at some point as we finish off the last few Vikings. Brakki runs up to Sloby the Murderous and bashes his head in. His apprentice Anya is pinned to the boat by an arrow. Snorri had some spell components, an iron sword, and we have three chainmail shirts, seven spears, seven swords, seven shields, four suits reinforced leather.
Fortunately Brakki speaks Viking (or he'd have had a difficult life) and finds out from Anya that Snorri The Murdered had been scrying for opportunity thefts and was just looking for stuff to nick. We persuade Anya to come with us and help fly the coracle. Rather than be summarily executed, say.
We pass the pool and drop off the heads. Or rather place them carefully.
(A few days later? I lost track of travel time) We carry on, meeting a group of about 10 Fir Domhain, headed by (???) with Sunug the Snitch. We have a bit of a chat about looking for stones, we get along alright all things considered. They say that while they will have to report us to Osdann it might be some time before they see him. We all continue on.
(More later?) Another encounter with nrose (??), Brakki talks to them and has a similar conversation.
Into the sour lands we encounter seven drunes with three Skullsword. It starts off badly from a diplomatic point of view, but after some confusion we peacefully part, saving a risky fight. We are relieved until Thran points out they might be off to get the other seven thousand. We chase after them. Tūd puts down the Skullsword in chainmail, Forg lightning bolts another. Thran hits one without realising he's fired. Two slingshots hit Thran and Tūd, stunning them briefly. They are very, very upset that someone is fighting back. Forg bolts another. Thran another. By the time Tūd recovers the foe are all down. Forg coups the graces. More loot: 3 Skullsword helmets inc breath masks, 3 large shields, 3 iron swords, 4 other big shields, slings, daggers.
In the distance we see a patch of green in the desolate Sourlands. Ramparts - a patrolled hill fort. We ride up enough to see the guards are dead but still moving and a weirdstone in the middle of the hill. We pass it by. Until we remember the name of the place we want means "Dead Fort". Tūd goes up and hails the fort on the basis that talk might solve things. Skullswords pop up and dispatch a zombie patrol. Tūd shoots but just misses - a difficult shot. So he says when he gets back. We plot.
The Sourlands are sucking power from the coracle and our sorcerers. The effect is slowed by keeping them off the ground, but Tweet warns us the coracle hasn't much power left. Which reminds us of its tactical benefits. Tor gets in to attune to its weirdstone, and asks for some 'heroes blood' to give to it. The lads debate, again, about how each of them is less heroic than the other, which puzzles the Viking Brakki and any passing Celts. Finally Thran is nominated Least Junior Hero and donates some blood.
Tūd, Thran and Tor get into the coracle to go and have a look over the fort, perhaps shoot things, and even more perhaps open the gate. They look over the fort - there's no front gate as such, just an offset gap in the wall. Tūd and Thran start shooting the Skullswords and are quickly clobbered by Drune spells (blood poison and blubberybones) but - luckily, luckily - shrug them off. They shoot the Drune. Most of his men peg it out of the front gap towards the outsiders, looking very aggressive until they notice the rest of us, do a sharp right, and continue running.
Tūd continues to shoot the remaining Skullswords and wishes he'd brought more arrows given he was going to be air-based artillery. Thran jumps out of the boat and then remembers to lower the boat first. He lands on the downed Drune who is still alive. Tor suggests killing him on the wierdstone but Thran's "not really into this blood sacrifice thing" so cuts his throat. He finds himself alone in a fort with a load of zombies. The landlubbers are entering the fort. It takes a while to deal with the zombies.
We look about. None of the trees are ash. A few Skullswords still live and we question them. It seems the Drune here was a renegade and this isn't Dun Mavis. But they do know where it is. The princess is keen on sacrificing a Skullsword, the Ilin are not. Simple - she waits until the Ilin are off investigating something and picks the smallest to sacrifice. It's not enough. By the time the Ilin return it's too late - all the renegade Skullswords are dead. C'est la vie. Or not, that's the point really.
We send out the boat to do a fast patrol recce. Dunn Marvin used to be a Fir Domhain border patrol point against the Drune but a massive fight with the Drune destroyed the area - bringing about the "Sour lands".
The fort is on a high crag, the air cold. The fort is occupied by half dead zombie-like things guarding civilians in cattle pens. Some lightly armed civilians seem to have barricaded themselves into one end of the fort. We find an ash tree with an empty grave next to it. Damn.
We talk to some of the semi-escaped ones who tell us that a Ghoul King (Chief de Ghoul) has taken over the place, and has been raiding the surrounding Fir Domhain farmlands for food in the form of people. There are twenty five or so half dead guards who just make sure people don't leave the pens, and small groups of ghouls (5-6 max at one time, probably twice that many at least in total) come out to pick the evening meal. They don't seem bothered by the semi-escaped ones. We gather there are lots of SKULLS (clue!) in the main hall.
Plan A - ferry in arms for the escaped Fir Domhain. Then the sorcerers fly in in the coracle (SCS - special coracle service) and the Ilin ride in (needing some timed coordination as the riding is a lot slower). The escaped attack the guards, and when the ghouls open the hall door Forg will fireball the main hall.
Plan B Rush 'em.
Plan C run away.
Being French will these people know what to do with them? Yes - surrender.
Plan A starts - the guards are attacked. Kam rushes up to the main hall door and knocks on it. It creaks open, and Forg's fireball goes in, not as good as she wanted but still very messy - lots of half burned and stunned ghouls We switch to Plan B and rush 'em making the most of their stunnedness. Even Tūd draws his taiken (Kamilata having switched some time ago to spear and a decent, profeshunal soldier's sword). By the time they recover two thirds are down and only eight or so still stand, slightly singed. Their counter attack slows us down and we take some painful hits before we finish them off.
The last ghoul runs through a portal at the back of the room. Forg works out how to break it before he can come back with lots more - but she's going to have to suck energy points from Thran. She manages to weaken it considerably and passes out. Kam and Tūd pick up a table and batter the door, breaking it with lots of special effects. Kamilata shakes his head at these magicians; they faint at the effort when all you have to do is hit it with a table.
There are lots of skulls that might be granny. But Tor's instincts kick in (178+) and she finds a granny-like skull straight away, who immediately complains to her that Osdann never writes.
Lots of which witch too many witches.
We go looking for gran's body. It seems it's not here. Forg (unconscious), Thran, granny, and Kamilata fly back. The others lead the Fir Domhain out. Granny finds her body at the hill fort but her head won't stay on. She tucks it under her arm.
She asks what we want from her; we say we're not heads reunited, we want her to talk to Osdann who has been a bit naughty recently. He needs a bit of a granny-talking-to.
So we end in a hill fort with a mini army of semi-armed Fir Domhain, a dead granny, an unconscious Forg. We're ready to march on Osdann and reintroduce him to his gran.