Sunday, 18 November 2018

LotFP Solo - Part the Sixty-first: „Wenn ich unter traurenden Ruinen“

In the bottom of the central shaft of the ruined tower there is a small anteroom. Within the dark little cell yawns a deep well leading down, down below the very foundations of the tower to the castle dungeons. A ladder of recent construction sits in the well. There is no doubt but that the evil Jola is somewhere to be found at the bottom.

Lycinia packs her unloaded pistol into her backpack. Ruprecht goes outside of the tower to discharge his arquebus into the ground (lest it be turned against them), and leaves it propped in an out-of-the way alcove for later retrieval. All eyes are on Thiery, who insists on having his pistols at the ready. Manfred protests that his ears are still ringing for their earlier battle -- and that in a place exposed to the air -- but Thiery proves intractable. No one wants to start an argument at the entrance to the dungeon, so the matter drops.

[Next scene: find Jola in the dungeon
CRGE: 'to conflict'

The dungeon was run with the DMG Appendix A. To simulate the dungeon being explored and partly cleared by Jola & friends, for each room the PCs discover I'll roll 1d20 for the room contents. Any results of 1-12 (empty) will be re-rolled on the 1d12+8 I usually use to see what had been there before. A Special result indicates that Jola and the aforementioned unopenable door has been found. Any treasures from the previously cleared rooms will be in the special room as well. The first level of the dungeon is DL 3 for purposes of random encounters etc.]

Oswold's lantern is lit, and lowered down on the end of a rope, which is just long enough to set it on the floor of the room below [Room I: empty - empty]. Lycinia volunteers to go down first. The ladder wobbles but is otherwise sturdy. One by one her companions join her at the bottom.

Four corridors lead away from the bottom of the shaft in all directions. There are two iron-framed doors as well, though one of these appears to be partly rusted shut. As the other shows signs of recent use -- powdered rust around it on the floor -- the party decide to check behind it.

It opens into a long, dark corridor.

"I'll go first," says Thiery. "There could be traps."

He proceeds at a slow walk, and makes a big show of looking round at the floor and ceilings, but no one is quite sure how effectively. Manfred would prefer to trust Lycinia's elven senses to detect any danger ahead, but he holds his tongue; he wouldn't be half sorry to see Thiery -- that is, SIR Thiery -- fall into a spiked pit or somesuch.

There is another door at the end of the corridor. Thiery pronounces it 'clear' and nudges it gingerly open with his foot.

The room beyond [Room II - Treasure only] is an enormous triangular chamber. Most of the centre of the chamber is made up of a pile of rotting wood, the remains of costly furnishings. The walls are covered floor to ceiling in stone carvings done in high relief, which unaccountably for a wizard's tomb seem to be scenes from the lives of the saints. The carvings continue down a passage leading out of the room, but this dead-ends in a small carven chapel.

The party examine the reliefs carefully, hoping to find some hidden meaning, but Brichtrethe assures them that the scenes are all correct and entirely conventional. Thiery does make one interesting discovery: inside the broken head of a monk, someone has concealed 15 gold coins [Treasure - inside item in plain view; 5gp x DL, per the (value-adjusted) unguarded Appendix A treasure table]. The coins bear the stamp of the current King, so whoever concealed them here did so recently.

Lycinia makes an interesting discovery of her own: the carved 'altar' is actually a secret door. Beyond the door is another chamber, much plainer than then one they've just left [Room III : empty - trick/trap]. In the southeast corner there is an open trapdoor, which had been painted to resemble the stone floor. The pit it reveals is deep enough that the lamplight does not shew the bottom [Chute down 1 level (cannot be ascended in any manner].

A long corridor leads out of the room, and crosses the entry shaft. They continue straight through it, and wind up in a maze of twisty passages, all alike. After an age of cautious advance, they come upon a large chamber [Room IV - empty (was: monster & treasure - 5 thouls)] which is heaped high with rubbish, splintered wood, and broken bits of masonry, forming a stinking warren of cramped passages through the space. A pair of disfigured, oozing corpses, both partially burnt, are visible down the first 'passage' into the den. No one is particularly interested in rooting through filth, so they pass it by.

It is clear that Jola's party have already explored this way, so our heroes spend less time examining the already-picked-over surroundings in favour of seeking out the witch.

The next room they come through appears to be a great dining hall [Room V - trap]. But this hall was made for the dead to feast, not the living. The great stone table and chairs seem to have been carved right out of the floor, and the food and drink piled high upon the table is all made of painted clay.

[1d6=] Brichtrethe triggers a hidden trap, and is scorched by a lance of fire [failed save vs. magic, 2d6=6 damage, leaving her with 13hp], but she shrugs it off.

The corridor leading out ends in another room [room VI - empty - empty] done up in much the same style as the dining hall, but resembling a well-stocked larder.

There was a door they had passed on the way to the dining hall, and they pause to investigate it on their way back. Thiery examines it, and finds it innocuous, but has a hard time pulling it open. Lycinia steps in and gives the handle a mighty pull [Trap - falling door, save vs. Petrification or suffer 1d10 damage]. The heavy door pivots from the bottom and falls over on her. With consummate grace [natural 20] she springs aside, and the false door crashes to the stone floor unimpeded. Thiery pretends not to notice the elf's glacial stare.

Brichtrethe bids them remember their mission, and they press onward. A pit opening up in the midst of a corridor necessitates some backtracking and a detour, but luckily Thiery, still in the lead, did not fall in [saved vs. Petrification]. Nor was he pushed.

At length they find another chamber [Room VII - empty - monster], which was once the lair of three cow-sized reptilian horrors. These now lie dead amongst the filth in which they made their lair.

In the next room [Room VIII - empty - was monster&treasure (shadows)] they find nothing save an empty stone coffer, in front of which a once-concealed trapdoor lies open. The adjoining room is [Room IX - empty - empty] given over to an ornamental fountain which has long since dried up, but is otherwise empty.

The door on the far wall opens into a long chamber with a high vaulted ceiling [Room X - monster & treasure]. Eight square stone columns are arranged in a diamond pattern in the chamber's centre. Suspended between them on chains of some unknown metal is the skin of some fantastic, green-scaled beast.

Several brightly-burning lanterns are placed on wooden crates around the room, and there is a makeshift table covered with parchment, quills, and ink. Three young wizards are examining the monster skin as the party enter the room, and don't even look up as they approach, so completely are they absorbed in their work. They have clearly been here for some time. Their robes are dirty and torn in places, and the young man's is missing a sleeve. A yellowing bandage is wrapped round his sleeveless upper arm. One of the young women has a fresh black eye. The other seems whole, but lacks shoes.

"Salvete," says Lycinia in the ancient tongue, and the young wizards all look up in surprise.

[I rolled Medium on the encounter table:

                CH CN DX IN ST WI HP
Gevléarna mu1 f  8 11  7 14 10  6  4
Zandevine mu1 f  7 10 11 15  7 11  6
Thranxar  mu3 m  9 12  7 14  7  9 10

treasure: 49GP, monster skin: 250#, worth 200sp

G- read magic
Z- summon
T- unseen servant, faerie fire, stinking cloud

Q: Are they studying the monster skin in situ? 62, yes - surge 6

Reaction roll=8
UNE: sociable
scheming-plot-current scene]

"S-salvete," says the young man. "Qui sitis? Quid huc advenistis?"

"Vos idem rogo," replies Lycinia.

"What are they saying?" asks Thiery in a stage whisper.

"You have us at a distinct disadvantage," says the young man, "for we are unarmed and outnumbered."

"Then perhaps you had better answer the elf's question," says Brichtrethe, pointing for emphasis with her heavy mace.

"Very well. I am Thranxar, this is Gevléarna and Zandevine. We are, as you have no doubt surmised, wizards from the guild at Ildmarch, or, I should say, still apprentices."

"Apprentices?" asks Lycinia. "To whom? Anyone I know?"

"Both Gevléarna and I are under the tutelage of Dvooram-Pem, Grand Master of the Five-fold Mysteries. Zandevine studies under Arraioth Star-Seer."

"And what does the guild want with this place?" demands Brichtrethe.

"N-nothing. I dare say there are none who know it's here -- right here under our noses all this time. We three were on an errand for our masters when we heard a rumour that the lost tomb of Hasshdilaz had been found. And so we took a small detour on our way back to Ildmarch, hoping to confirm that the rumour were true, and that we might win some small praise for our initiative in so doing. But when we got here, we found we weren't the first. Jola... is the worst sort of magician. She's been driven quite mad by studying the Forbidden Arts -- you've only to look at her to see it! She used her wicked spells to enslave one of the warriors sent with us. And the other just sort of disappeared. She puts us to work, trying to solve the mystery of the stone door. It's well beyond us -- it may be beyond her. When she tires of our failure, she sends us here to study this old carcass. Sometimes she summons us back, and we fail again, and... well, you see what we're reduced to."

"Does she have any weaknesses, this witch?" asks Brichtrethe.

"She's a very powerful magician. She can ensnare the mind and wrack the body. She shows no weakness..."

"Help us to defeat her!" says Brichtrethe. [reaction roll:2d6-1(CHA penalty)=7,neutral.]

"Please, we are too weak to move against her. And if you cannot best her, we would suffer all the more for having aided you. Please, all we want is to live through this and go back to the guild and our masters."

After brief deliberation, it is decided to leave the poor apprentices in peace, and to come back for them once Jola and her henchmen have been defeated.

[Q: Is it a trap? 23-6=no, surge 8]

Back through the labyrinthine passages go the party. When they reach the shaft, they hear a distinct sound of footsteps coming up one of the unexplored corridors to meet them.

[wandering monster:
4 living statues, crystal (AC17, HD3, Damage 1-6, Move 120', ML12, Special: rapiers and minor weapons attack at -2)

No surprise, PCs win initiative]

The party brace themselves for battle as four strange crystalline beings stride into the room. Each stands about four feet tall, and marches with a strange whirling gait on three stubby legs. They have three arms, all waving in a decidedly unfriendly manner, and above them the barest suggestion of a head.

[Round 1]
Weapons are brought immediately to bear against the malevolent crystal enemies. But although many a hit is scored, nothing damages the beings, as the weapons all clang off their solid exteriors [entire party missed]. Ruprecht takes a solid hit it the stomach from one of their small 'fists' [4 damage puts him at 6hp] and Brichtrethe's mail skirt lessens a blow to the side to almost nothing [1 damage puts her at 12hp].

[Round 2]
Again the sound of ringing metal fills the air to little effect -- save for Thiery's steel. A deft stab with his rapier sees one of the little creatures shatter [8 damage kills it]. Manfred suffers a punishing blow to the sternum [6 damage leaves him with 17hp].

[Round 3]
Lycinia manages a glancing blow which sends shards flying [3 damage], but Thiery's strike cleaves the creature in twain [7 damage kills it]. Manfred shatters the arm that so recently hit him [8 damage drops it to 3hp] and Brichtrethe's mace leaves the last with cracks running through it [5 damage puts it at 7hp].

[Round 4]
Lycinia wheels round and brings her sword down on the one fighting Manfred, smashing its 'head'. It falls and crumbles. What secret weakness has Thiery fathomed? For his rapier flashes again, and the final statue shatters, showering the floor with fragments.

As his compatriots are trying to catch their breath, Thiery merely assumes a triumphant pose, and sheathes his rapier with great panache.

"I never thought I'd be saying this," says Brichtrethe, "but you're a credit to my unit."

Saturday, 10 November 2018

LotFP Solo - Part the Sixtieth: „Eine Kugel kam geflogen / Gilt's mir oder gilt es dir?“

Long ago, a great king ruled from a mighty castle upon this island. Now only a handful of sections of the outer wall remain, and the shell of the central tower. Those of the approaching party who know the old tales struggle in vain to remember the name of the wicked king. Should he really have existed, the damnatio memoriae imposed by his victorious enemies seems to have been total.

The day seems clearer and brighter as they peer at the tower from behind a crumbling wall. The ruin is still, seemingly lifeless. Thiery produces a brass spyglass from under his cloak, but even with the aid of this device nothing is seen.

Assuming they're still walking into an ambush, they ready their weapons, and cross the high grass to the tower's entrance.

[Q: How many additional NPCs are left in Jola's group? 1d20=6.

I rolled their classes on the chart in the Basic Rulebook (Moldvay, p. B52) with the proviso that results of demi-humans would instead be 0-level humans, and classed characters would be level 1d6. Treasure Type for each is U+V (0-level = U only). d30 Sandbox companion tables determined weapons & armour, and I added some missile weapons that seemed appropriate.

Jola has gained 1d3-1= 2 levels since last we met. I rolled a d6 for each spell on her scroll: 1-2 used, 3-4 scribed into spellbook, 5-6 still there. She will have 1d4-1=1 new magic item.

Q: Where is everyone? 1d6: 1-2 outside, 3-4 dungeon, 5-6 in ruin
ftr5 dungeon
ftr2 ruin
ftr1 ruin
spc6 dungeon
ftr0 ruin
ftr0 dungeon
Jola dungeon

1d6=1; the PCs are all surprised by the first encounter.
Q: Are they attacked? Yes, but... Trap, not weapons]

All is stillness in the great shell of the tower. The wooden floors have long since rotted away, leaving only the perimeter and outer walls. Windows and former doorways gape open at regular intervals, showing upper walkways and the sky outside. Some of the interior portions have crumbled along with the floors, so that what remains is a tremendous vertical labyrinth of passages, stairs, and numerous dead ends.

But the ruin is not abandoned. As the party pass through the gatehouse, a terrific noise is heard overhead, and then a cascade of heavy stones rains down on them from the murder holes above.

[2d6 damage, save vs. Breath Weapon for half, Dex modifiers apply to the save, and shields add +2.

Lycinia - save, 3dmg to 19hp
Thiery - fail 5 to 0hp
Manfred - fail 7 to 23hp
Ruprecht - fail (even with shield!) 6 to 10hp
Brichtrethe - save 4 to 21hp
Oswold - fail 6 to 1hp]

The stones fall thick and heavily. Lycinia's elven grace saves her from the worst of it, and mighty Brichtrethe holds her shield above her head and lets the rocks crash down upon it. The rest are not so fortunate. Manfred and Ruprecht both run out as stones crash down on their backs. Oswold is concussed and bleeding from a terrible blow to the head, and Thiery is knocked senseless, and lies half buried on the ground. Ruprecht quickly drags him to safety.

Manfred is quietly swearing about a fine start to their expedition, whilst Brichtrethe speaks an orison to the Light God, asking that He shew His Infinite Compassion to these stricken Soldiers of the Faith, and erase their hurts. Oswold and Thiery are bathed in a warm glow, and are once again whole [cure light wounds x2 brought them both to full HP].

The corridor in which the party has found shelter leads into the shell, so they follow it along to a narrow spiral staircase. They proceed up and through a series of passageways, cautiously moving past any gaps in the walls looking inward.

As the party are passing one of the larger gaps, a scruffy-looking man steps round the corner ahead, brandishing a pistol. The battle commences in earnest.

ftr2 m 10 11 14 13 16 13 12 15 leather, sword, pistol
ftr1 f 10 16 11  9 13  9  9 16 chain, sword, arquebus
ftr0 m 10 13  6 16 10  8  5 18 plate, shield, sword, heavy crossbow

[Neither side is surprised, but the PCs lose the initiative. There was a lot of running round the castle after the missiles were discharged, so initiative was re-rolled after breaks in the fighting].

[Round 1]
The man with the pistol [ftr2] fires upon Lycinia who is in the lead. The ball pierces mail, padding, and the white shoulder beneath, but the wound is not grave [-4 range penalty (35') cancels +4 to penetrate chain armour, 17+4 hit for 4 damage, dropping her to 15hp]. The man's compatriots are across the great yawning interior of the shell, but they both have a clear shot. The report of an arquebus rings out moments later, and chips of stone fly from the interior wall; Thiery even felt the ball whistling by. At the sound, Ruprecht reflexively ducks behind his shield, and fortunately too, for in the next instant there is a crossbow bolt sticking out of it at face height.

Lycinia returns fire as her assailant ducks back behind the corner. The ball barely grazes him as he ducks out of sight [1 damage drops him to 11hp]. Thiery takes a shot at him as well, but the bullet ricochets off the stone wall. Brichtrethe shoots her crossbow at the arquebusière [ftr1] across the vast expanse, but the bolt merely hits a crumbling wall, then tumbles clattering down into the chasm.

[Round 2]
The scruffy man with the pistol reappears, having drawn his sword. He assumes a defensive posture [+4 AC]. His compatriots have disappeared behind cover to reload.

Lycinia runs forward, drawing her sword as she goes. The man endeavours to turn the blade aside with his own, but he did not count on the elf's strength and fury [effective AC 19; +2 attack bonus cancels -2 drawing penalty; she rolled a natural 19]. Her blade continues unimpeded towards his midsection, and he is transfixed [7x2=14 damage leaving him at -3hp, mortally wounded]. He sinks to his knees as she retracts the gleaming blade, then collapses face-first, his life gushing out upon the stone floor.

Everyone is behind cover now. Brichtrethe motions for Lycinia to continue forward with Thiery. She, Manfred, and Ruprecht double back to the nearest stairway leading up.

[The arquebusière (ftr1) needs 7 rounds to reload. Since there's no map, the two groups of PCs will take 1d12 rounds to find their foes: 5 & 7 respectively. The crossbowman (ftr0) will get 1d4=1 chance to fire across the middle before the PCs reach him.]

Both groups hurry through the ruins as fast as they might, swiftly deciding which passage to take, guessing how many flights of stairs they must climb. Only once does a crossbow bolt speed across the chasm, but bounds off the wall behind Ruprecht as he is dashing forward.

[Round 7]
Lycinia and Thiery round a corner and find the arquebusière still hurriedly loading her weapon. Seeing them she lets it fall and snatches up her sword, which she had leant against the wall [she even wins the initiative]. She and Lycinia clash swords, though neither can break through the other's defence. The woman makes a single mistake, and Lycinia's sword sweeps across her chest, but the stout mail does not yield.

[Round 8]
The woman gets in close, and the two lock hilts [ftr1 miss]. With a mighty shove, Lycinia pushes her back into a wall, and smashes the crossguard into her face. She falls reeling to her hands and knees, bleeding from the nose and mouth and spitting teeth. A knock on the crown of the head with the pommel of Lycinia's sword drops her [9 damage puts her at 0hp].

[Round 9]
On the other side of the shell, Brichtrethe rounds a corner to find the plate-armoured crossbowman. Both hesitate as they see their foe [both surprised, tied initiative], then Brichtrethe lets out a battle cry and charges down the passage. As she does so, he shoots. The bolt pierces her mail and buries itself in her upper arm [2 damage puts her at 19hp] but she seems to take no notice. She brings her mace down on his shoulder, deforming the armour plate and crushing bones [10 damage drops him to -5hp]. The life leaves his eyes and he clatters to the ground.

After a minute or so, the two halves of the party are reunited. Ruprecht is despatched down to the ground level to fetch Oswald, who had remained hiding on the first staircase, whilst the rest scout round the last few upper passages of the shell.

[Q: Is the villains' camp in ruin itself? Yes, surge =2]

In a mostly-solid room on the top most level, Jola and her henchmen have made their headquarters. Lycinia does not intend to leave her prisoner unguarded, but Manfred insists she help search the camp. When Ruprecht appears at the top of the stair, Manfred is waiting for him. "Here," says he, handing Ruprecht the arquebus, "finish loading this and guard the prisoner."

"Can I keep it?" asks Ruprecht meekly.

"Can you--? By the frozen shores of Cocytos! stand up for yourself, man!"

[Q: Anything important in the camp? 83+2=yes and... it's J's spellbook
Q: Are there any clues? 02, No and unexpectedly...Foreshadowing – set a thread to be the main thread for the next scene. The current scene should then start wrapping up and heading towards the next scene.]

The villains' camp seems to mostly contain the mundane necessities: bedrolls, foodstuffs, cook pots, etc. But wily thief and sharp-eyed elf soon turn up items of real interest.

Thiery discovers a purse containing 28 gold coins -- and a pair of coppers hidden in a pillowcase. The gold is divided up, two apiece; the extra two coins go by lot to lucky Oswold and Thiery. The two coppers sit untouched for a while on a table, but Oswold scoops them into his purse when he thinks no one is looking.

But Lycinia has found, she exclaims, a treasure beyond price. Wrapped in a shred of black velvet is Jola's grimoire, an unassuming and cheaply-bound tome with its spine broken in two places, and unaccountable grey-green stains on some of the pages.

"Oswold, light a torch," orders Brichtrethe. "We shall burn that unholy thing."

"We shall do nothing of the sort!" protests Lycinia. "Not until we've examined it thoroughly. Can you risk destroying Jola's notes, which may be the key to unlocking the treasure vault wherein your precious Standard lies?"

"Fine. But remember my warning about black magic, elf. Let us go see if your prisoner has anything useful to tell us." And with that, Brichtrethe strides away.

[Q: Does the arquebusière have any info? Yes, surge =2
UNE: prejudiced-view-equipment
ftr1 passes her ML check; reaction=4, defiant and hostile.]

The prisoner is slowly coming round. Brichtrethe splashes her face with a waterskin to rouse her fully. The angry cleric asks pointed questions about the make-up of Jola's forces, their disposition and armaments, but is only met by stony silence. The questions only get more heated.

"Look at the lot of you!" she finally says, spitting blood in Brichtrethe's face, "You don't have the faintest idea what you're up against. You certainly don't have what you need to open the door. She's brought so much crap and hasn't managed a thing!"

"So this witch is after the treasury too!" exclaims Brichtrethe. "If you've nothing else to say, I suppose we're done here."

"You'll soon be in her thrall!"

[Q: Does the cleric believe in taking prisoners? 30-2=28, No. surge 4]

Brichtrethe's only response is to crush the woman's skull with her mace. The cleric's companions -- Thiery and Oswold particularly -- look on with an admixture of surprise and horror, but she does not notice, intent as she is on the impassive elf.

"There shall be no mercy for the servants of darkness," growls Brichtrethe.

"It is not I who require convincing," states Lycinia flatly.

Friday, 2 November 2018

LotFP Solo - Part the Fifty-Ninth: "With me the conquest and the labour share"

The next morning the party break camp early and continue riding along the shore of Lake Ild towards Uldmere. The day is cold, as spring refuses to blossom, and a heavy mist hangs over the water. Brichtrethe insists on leading the way, her lance held high as befits a knight. Oswold follows her dumbly. Thiery talks incessantly at whoever will listen, though in the end this is mostly Ruprecht, who's too either too polite or too resigned to tell him to shut up. Manfred and Lycinia lag behind a little, and fall to talking amongst themselves.

"I don't think much of your friends," says Manfred.

"Nor I of yours," Lycinia replies.

"Brichtrethe is a hard woman, I'll own. But we go way back... and I may owe her my life, you understand."

"I had wondered."

"We served in the King's army together... it must be ten years ago now. She's always taken being a soldier very seriously. And the Light God works his miracles through her, so she's a bit convinced of her rightness in all things. But for all that, I trust her implicitly."

"But she doesn't seem to like you. Or anyone."

"Oh, she likes me well enough. I'm probably accounted one of her best friends. She just disapproves... of everything."

"I'd noticed."

"Not that I blame her where dullard the soldier and Sir I-bought-myself-a-title are concerned."

"Oh, come on. Ruprecht's all right. I admit that Thiery is a bit much..."

"Why ever did you bring them along?"

"Who else do I know? I've worked with them before on a... a job that got weird really fast. They neither of them balked at what we needed to do, acted with perfect courage and discretion, and they kept their wits about them."

"We'll see. But if Thiery -- excuse me, SIR Thiery -- doesn't mind his manners soon, I'm going to knock the rest of his teeth out."

"I won't get in your way."

The journey continues with no real incidents. In the afternoon [random encounter (forest), reaction=10] they come upon a boar happily foraging in the forest. It ignores them completely to concentrate on its task. Manfred thinks it might be rooting out truffles, and refuses to ride on. Brichtrethe takes one of Thiery's pistols and fires into the air to scare the beast away. Manfred sulks the rest of the way to Uldmere.

[Q: Does the party receive a good reception in Uldmere? 16-8=No, but... the peasants are too afraid to start any trouble. (reset surge)
Q: How's the siege? Abandon / Riches = costly
Q: Can Brichtrethe talk to the commander? 60, Yes. Surge +2

Commander: 1d6=f; cunning, dignified; 1d8-1=ftr6]

Uldmere is a fairly large town whose citizenry are a mix of famers and fisherfolk. Foodstuffs from Uldmere are traded throughout the kingdom, and especially in Ildmarch, whose merchants take an active interest in the fortunes of the town which feeds them. Even the wizard's guild has a presence here; the twinned gargoyles above the entrance to the town hall were given to the town by the guild to aid the mayor in times of strife -- though some say they are also there as the guild's eyes and ears.

The siege of Uldmere Castle has not been allowed to spill over into the town, which has declared itself neutral (obviously at the insistence of Ildmarch mercantile concerns), yet the streets and public houses are choked with the King's soldiers, and discipline away from the actual siege has been notoriously lax. The only thing the peasants of Uldmere hate more than the unruly soldiers are groups of armed strangers.

Brichtrethe insists that the party ride through to the besieging army's camp, and for once there is no dissention. Once there, she requests an audience with the general, which upon presentation of her orders to the aide-de-camp is swiftly granted.

The general has little to say, and little time to spare. The siege is eating into the King's coffers, disrupting the kingdom, and making no progress. She looks cursorily over the scroll authorising Brichtrethe's mission and hands it back. "This is a noble mission you've undertaken, Dame Brichtrethe," says the general, "and very worthy of a knight of your holy order. But -- you'll forgive me -- I'm a practical woman, and I can't sit back and hope that this mythic banner will inspire my troops to suddenly take the castle. They're more mercenaries than mystics, you understand, and I wouldn't bet on them knowing nor caring much for ancient legends. That said, my aide will find you food and a place to stay, and even arrange passage out to the island. You rode here? I'm going to need to borrow your horses until you return. And I do, most fervently, hope you return. I've heard bad things about that island. There was terrible magic used there once. They say it echoes there still, and that no one who goes there ever comes back. Not whole, at least. I hope you can prove them wrong." [UNE: mysterious-whispers-power]

The party is given a place to pitch their tents on the outskirts of the camp, practically in Uldmere. Manfred balks at seeing their horses led away, but in the end agrees that ferrying them over to the island would be more of a hassle than it's worth. Ruprecht is worried that someone will recognise him as a deserter, though he gives no voice to the sentiment. He pleads fatigue from the journey, and goes to sleep early so he may hide in the tent.

[night encounter: 1 bandit; reaction=8
Q: Are only some of the PCs present for the encounter? 33-2=No, surge +4
Q: What does (1d6=f) she want? Deceive / Competition - instead of a bandit, she's rather a spy (specialist level 1d6 if it comes up) for de Molleré's faction.]

Most of the other soldiers ignore the newcomers, but one young soldier asks if this is indeed the unit of Dame Brichtrethe, and if so might she have a few words with the great knight.

"I've heard talk in the camp that you'd come on here on your quest. The banner of St. Orvein. How exciting! You must really have been noticed by the upper ranks to be given such a wonderful mission -- oh, 'mission' sounds like it's just another day in the King's army. This is a quest, just like in all the old stories. And I can say I met you someday!" [UNE: friendly-delight-superiors]

[Q: Does Brichtrethe believe her? 15-4=No, but...]

Brichtrethe thinks the girl is completely overstating things, and has been secretly fearing all along that this mission was only given to her to get her out of the way. But, she reasons, she has been doing well of late, and may indeed come to the attention of the upper echelons for completing her task.

day 110

It's a cold, clear, morning as they set off, rowing a pair of boats down the river from Uldmere with a light breeze at their backs. Even the mist of lake Ild has almost burnt off by noon. They see a few fishers on the lake near the town, but the rest of the day come not upon a soul. It is evening when they reach the island, and they want nothing more to do than set up camp on the beach and get some well-earned rest.

[night encounter:

7th level Cleric
CH 10 CN 11 DX 8 IN 12 ST 7 WI 12
scroll, potion

Q: Is the cleric part of enemy force? Yes surge+2

Scene stage change: to Conflict

Q: What's she doing? Cruelty / Failure -  sent away for her failings]

That night, as he and Lycinia are on watch, Manfred spots movement beyond the circle of firelight. "Who goes there?" he calls, rising and drawing his sword.

"It is I, Melitta, a priestess of the Light God. I saw your campfire. I mean you no harm."

The woman who steps into view is in her late 40s, with blonde hair fading to grey. Her white robes are marred with grass stains, but a large golden symbol of the Light God shines round her neck.

The rest of their companions (save Ruprecht, who is a heavy sleeper) have been roused by Manfred's shout, and they get up to see the new arrival.

"Well met sister," says Brichtrethe when she sees Melitta's holy symbol.

"Well met. What brings you to this curse-shrouded isle? Are you here to bring the Lord of Day's Magnificent Radiance to dispel the shadows of ancient wickedness?"

"Aye, and more than that. I am on a sacred Quest to recover the Standard of St. Orvein, that it be used to inspire the army of Right in order to vanquish the heretic de Molleré."

[Melitta's response via UNE: mysterious - rumour - allies

The rumour (via bibliomancy):
et iam porticibus vacuis Iunonis asylo
custodes lecti Phoenix et dirus Ulixes
praedam adservabant... (Verg Aen, II:761-3)]

"Oh sister," says Melitta, "I beg you to reconsider. The wrong people are in charge of our Holy Church. Under de Val d'Oine, the treasury is nearly bankrupt -- as will be our Sacred Doctrines under his incompetent leadership!"

[Q: How does Brichtrethe deal with this free-thinker? Mistrust / Information]

"Words. Mere words. I don't credit them at all."

[Q: Will Melitta stay? 35-2=No. surge +4]

"I thought the light was leading me to friends here in this terrible place. I see I was mistaken." At that, Melitta turns to leave.

[Q: Does Brichtrethe have any real suspicions? 84+4 yes, and...]

"Stop right there!" shouts Brichtrethe as she raises her mace. "You'll not slink away so easily back to your apostate masters. Elf, help me search her!"

[Q: Do they find anything incriminating? 05, No, and unexpectedly...Framing – an NPC (new or pre-existing) or object becomes critical to the main thread.
Q: Melitta? No surge +2
Q: Can she tell the PCs who it is? 61, yes surge +4
Q: Who? d30=Magic-User; 1d6=f]

"Please," pleads Melitta, "I mean you no harm. There's no hospitality here, so I'd rather be on my own. The one that convinced me to come to this island can go hang. She's just using us. I'm certain of it. She has no loyalty but to herself, the witch!"

"What witch?" demands Brichtrethe.

[Q: Is the witch anyone that anybody knows? 97+4, Yes, and unexpectedly...Limelit – the rest of the scene goes great for the PCs.
Q: One of the M-Us Lycinia knows? 84, Yes surge+2
Which? 1d3: 1 Siorighan, 2 Orezuthía the Arcane, 3 Jola]

"It's this fiend called Jola."

"Jola?" says Lycinia. "Wait: long white braid, thin as a rail, a bit mad? That Jola?"

"You've met her...?"

"Oh, I've met her all right. She was trying to summon demons at the time. What is she after here?"

[Q: What? Expose / Power]

"There's some ancient magic she wants. She didn't really say, exactly. That is, I didn't really understand her magician-speak. She hasn't found it yet. And she turned me out into the cold saying I wasn't helping, and she was tired of my incompetence. But I suppose I should count myself lucky to have escaped."

[Q: Can Lycinia convince the rest that anyone Jola throws out is probably ok? 70, Yes surge +4]

"She's nothing incriminating on her," says Lycinia, "and isn't even armed. And anyone that Jola casts aside can't be a bad sort. I say we let her go if that's what she wants. I'm not in the mood to take prisoners."

"What if it's a trick?" asks Brichtrethe.

"Then she can think over what I just said about not taking any prisoners."

Brichtrethe registers her displeasure, but as the rest seem to agree with the elf, she bites her tongue, and allows Melitta to wander off into the night.

[Surge: to endings
Q: Anything else happen at night? 33-4=No. surge+6]

day 111

[Q: Is there an encounter on the walk to the ruins? 60, Yes. surge+8

fighter, 1d6=m, 1d8-1= 7th level, react=9
CH 8 CN 12 DX 10 IN 13 ST 13 WI 9

Q: What is he doing? Negligence / Dreams - fighter has ingested something funny.]

It's barely two miles to the ruins. The party strike camp in the morning after a somewhat leisurely breakfast, and set out on the way. Each has a weapon readied, for they fear to meet the witch or her cronies.

About the halfway point of their journey they see a man in full plate armour lying on his back in the tall grass. At first he seems dead, but as they draw near they can hear him babbling quietly, though if it be a real language or nonsense it is hard to say.

Brichtrethe walks up to him, and nudges him with her foot. "Are you well?" she asks.

"Well? Oooohhhh... isn't everyone. On a nice day like this with all the sparks and rain."

"It isn't raining," states the cleric flatly.

"Killjoy," says the man. "You're just like her. Maybe worse than her. She's the reason I got out. Before... before... before she opens the gate. I'm sure it wasn't made to be opened. But she can go through it for all I care. I'm all better now." [UNE: insane-turmoil-superiors]

"Gate? What gate? Make sense, man!"

Manfred leans over the man and looks at him carefully. "I don't think you're going to get any sense out of him, dear Brichtrethe. I've seen men in this sort of stupor before... in the sorts of establishments one doesn't admit to frequenting. He'll be like this for some time. And then sleep."

"Have we met...?" asks the man dreamily.

Manfred slams the man's ventail shut and continues towards the ruins.

[end scene]