Saturday, 28 May 2016

I.7: The Shadow

Eyre 25, 997 YK

As Esthana awoke, she could hear someone talking nearby. The voice was elven, male, and seemed familiar.

Investigate(Vaalyun): 2D6(2 2) +2 = 6 Failure!
Front: Attack someone directly

The party has failed to connect the Blood and the rebels in the city, and the violence has escalated.

“I searched the rest of the private crypt after you left, but found nothing else of value. I suspect any information of value was in the priestess’ chamber, but nothing survived the fire.”

I had a long gap before Vaalyun entered the vampire fight scene, because I imagine he turned right when Anaya turned left. He went after the attendant, who had run to the priestess’ room and was burning the papers there. Let’s see if he managed to save anything from the fire.

Defy Danger(CON)(Vaalyun): 2D6(4 2) +0 = 6 Failure!
Reveal an unwelcome truth

“It is a pity that we could not stop him. But we could not let the vampire escape.” It was Anaya’s voice, and Esthana felt a wave of relief at the sound of it.

She recognised the other voice as Vaalyun now. He said, “Perhaps the Archbishop will get more information from the priestess.”

The Archbishop—Thrane’s appointed governor of the city—has a reputation in the setting; all the stuff around the inhabitants of the city hating Thrane are at least partly driven by the harsh martial law he imposes to maintain order. Past Conflict, Present Intrigue

Defy Danger(CHA)(Anaya): 2D6(4 2) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Worse outcome

“The Archbishop is a hard man,” said Anaya. “He wanted to hang all the cultists, publically, two each day for a month. I hate to speak ill of one of the Church, but he has passed beyond zeal into cruelty. I at least convinced him to spare the common worshippers; they will be expelled from the city.”

Esthana opened her eyes. She was in a bed, in an austere stone cell, with sunlight shining in from a large casement window. The narrow bed and hard pillow, the white sheets, told her that she was in the Garrison, though this was not her own bed: like most soldiers she had a bunk in one of the dormitories.

“I have been in Thaliost for five years, and served the Garrison often,” said Vaalyun. “But this city will never truly be part of Thrane while it imposes such martial law. The common folk care nothing for the arguments of the Flame and the Blood. There was worse rioting last night, and these hangings will surely provoke more. There are parts of the city where the army now only dares to go in force.”

“I must go to Flamekeep, on this and other matters,” said Anaya, “though I will wait to see Esthana well. I will report to my superiors, and perhaps the matter can be raised with the Council.”

Esthana stirred, turning her head to look at them, and they became aware of her. “Esthana!” Anaya exclaimed, jumping up from a chair at a simple wooden desk under the window; she came immediately to the bedside, smiling. “It is so good to see you awake.” The cleric spontaneously hugged her.

Esthana expected to wince, but she felt no pain. She should have had broken ribs and worse after the blows that the vampire dealt her, back in the crypt. She felt sore, exhausted, still tired, like she had been out on campaign for a month—something that had happened a few times during the War.

Anaya let her go, but was still talking. “I thought the vampire had crippled you or worse with that final stroke. But after I healed you, I found that you had few serious injuries; I think you will fine after a few days of rest. I must thank you—”

“Anaya,” interrupted Esthana, fixing her with a stare. When she paused, Esthana added, “I spoke with the Flame.”

Sat on the side of the bed, she described the vision—if that was the right term. When she described Tira and the Flame, Anaya knelt and put a hand to the holy symbol around her neck, smile replaced by awe. Vaalyun took the seat at Anaya’s desk and listened intently, leaning forwards with arched fingers, the sunlight from the window glinting off of his rings. At the mention of the cult of Khyber, Anaya looked up and met her eyes.

I have to either get Vaalyun to go along with their new mission, or replace him. He wasn’t all that interesting at level 1, to be honest, but as he gets more moves he may get better. I’ll try to keep him. Adventurers struggling together.

When she was done, Vaalyun spoke first. “It is like speaking to your ancestors, hearing their guidance. Perhaps your elven heritage enabled you to do this.”

Anaya turned, clearly annoyed. “The Flame is an eternal power, a force of pure good—”

“I meant no offense, templar. I merely note that this is a common practice amongst the elves, though we of the Five Nations generally do not follow that faith. Advice from those that lived through ages past can contain great wisdom.”

“The Flame is more than just an observer in such matters,” said Anaya. “The Flame gave a vision to me as well, the night after the crypt. It’s guidance is sadly vague though; it knows little of the mortal world. The clearest image was the dragon of Khyber, and its minions, stirring in the darkness. Clearly the Flame was trying to warn me of the same thing that it told to you.”

“Some danger stirs, and we must stop it,” said Esthana.

If the Flame chose Esthana to do this, I think it wants Anaya to go with her. We’ve established that the Flame can communicate with, and only with, its servants, and Anaya is one of them.

“Yes, that is clear. We should start by going to Flamekeep; perhaps someone in the Order of Templars knows where to begin. And, in light of your choice to serve, you should join the Templars.”

Esthana thought for a moment. “Yes, I suppose I am called to it.”

GM move(soft): Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask

“Normally, one needs a recommendation from a minister, a templar and a friar. The chaplain of your unit here would serve for a minister; I don’t suppose you know any friars?”

“No,” said Esthana. “Some come to Thaliost, hoping to convert the masses, but usually the only time soldiers see them is when we have to save them from getting lynched—and then send them home before they cause more trouble. I knew a few friars in Cyre, years ago, but I do not know of any that survived.”

“Well, I think that, in the circumstances, we should be able to persuade them to admit you anyway.”

“Perhaps I will join you,” said Vaalyun. Both women turned to look at him; after a moment he continued. “Thaliost is getting a little too violent for my liking. The city needs the services of House Deneith’s soldiers, not my entertainers; those that can are leaving the city.”

“Are we still pretending that you are an entertainer?” said Anaya.

Vaalyun waved a hand dismissively. “My inquisitive work is less useful now as well; the Archbishop has plenty of prisoners to interrogate, and my agents cannot move safely about the streets now.

”But I do owe you an explanation; you have shared a great deal of information with me. It is a rarity to do business with such guileless people. Information is my business; while House Phiarlan’s interests lie in the arts, it is also one of the Twelve Houses, and the houses trade information and work together to advance common interests. I informed them about the activities of the Blood in the city as a result of our work this week, and my contact is sure that the Twelve will be greatly concerned by their rising strength.

“Also,” he said, speaking more quietly and to Esthana in particular, “you did save my life in the crypt; and we freed Ievos from the Blood, thanks to your actions. For that I thank you. And I think that the Flame may be steering you towards something important—something that may affect the safety of all of Khorvaire. The Twelve will want to know of it. Let me accompany you, and you will have a little of their resources at your disposal.”

Okay, I think we are done with the story of Thaliost here. What does the future look like? Well, our adventurers took out the main Blood base that was supplying the rebels with weapons, and delivered its priestess. The party didn’t figure out the plot, but the Archbishop will probably torture his prisoner and get the information eventually. So the immediate threat of a Blood-backed revolution here is foiled.

But they failed everything else: there are no leads on the rebels or other Blood cells (no pun intended). So the Blood may still achieve their aim, whatever it was, by other means; and there is escalating violence on the streets. Thaliost is going to have a bad time.

Esthana wants out of the army; the leverage is that the Commander wants to be seen to be helpful to the Templars.

Parley(Esthana): 2D6(2 1) -1 = 2 Failure!
Offer Aid from an Enemy, or Opposition from an Ally

“This is blasphemous!” Commander Stamos stood up from behind his desk, red-faced and gesturing. “In all my years of service, I have never heard a soldier talk such nonsense.”

“Commander, I—” Anaya began.

Show the Devastation of the Last War. Some readers may have thought that Esthana didn’t get a very bad deal from her Last Breath. But she is a refugee from Cyre, a country destroyed in the Mourning, so there is no place in the Five Nations that she can call home but here. The deal requires her to give it up.

“And I am astounded, Lady Anaya, to find you involved in this madness. This soldier has either lost her senses, or has concocted this ‘vision’as a convenient excuse to escape her duties. Must I remind her,” he said, pointedly, “that she was only given leave to remain in Thrane because she offered to join the army. Now, when it no longer suits her, she throws our generosity back in our faces. These Cyrean refugees have been nothing but trouble.”

It was Anaya’s turn to be angry. “With all due respect Commander, the expulsion of refugees was a dishonour to the Flame. The ministry argued strongly for compassion—”

“And if they had had their way, we would be harbouring every vagabond in the Five Nations. Fortunately good sense prevailed.”

“I must go to Flamekeep,” said Esthana. “Anaya will take me there, and I will submit to the judgement of the Templars.”

“No. You presume too much, Lady Anaya, to think that I would allow you to encourage this kind of insubordination. I have given you my cooperation, but this goes much too far. If the Templars want this blasphemer, they can request her transfer to Flamekeep through the Council. In the meantime, we will hold her here. Guards!”

Two soldiers entered. Anaya looked at Esthana helplessly.

“Throw this deserter in the cells,” said the Commander.

Use up their resources

They took her tabard and chainmail. Esthana owned little; most of what she had was provided by Thrane’s army, so its loss made her feel like she had nothing left in the world. But she regretted nothing—she was lucky to be alive, and she had a purpose here. Somehow, she would find a way to do what must be done.

Reveal an unwelcome truth: Guess who else is in the cells?

The prison in the garrison was busy; with the recent violence on the streets, there were plenty of prisoners being held here. The guards put her in a large cell with about twelve other prisoners—a rough looking crowd.

“Well look who we have here.” A woman, towards the back of the cell, stood up, looking at Esthana carefully.

Defy Danger(CHA)(Esthana): 2D6(1 5) -1 = 5 Failure!

Even without her tabard, Esthana was wearing her army issue trousers and padded gambeson. It was clear what she was to anyone that cared to look.

The woman approached closer. She was in her forties, with long dark hair and a defiant air about her. Her shoulder was bandaged from some recent injury. Then Esthana remembered: it was her sword that gave this woman her injury; she was the leader of the rioters outside the shop.

“I didn’t think I would get a chance at revenge so soon. Balinor is kind today.” The woman smiled, then said, “Hold her.”

Defy Danger(DEX)(Esthana): 2D6(3 1) +2 = 6 Failure!
Put someone in a spot

Two of her thugs, from either side, grabbed Esthana, holding her arms. The woman produced a shiv from under her jacket. “Make it quick, before the guards come,” said one of the thugs.

Defy Danger(STR)(Esthana): 2D6(2 5) +1 = 8
Worse outcome: only partially free
Hack and Slash(Esthana): 2D6(5 1) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Deals d10=1 damage; takes d6=6 damage

Esthana is at 7/25 HP.

Esthana tore free of the grip of one of the thugs holding her. The woman lunged at her, and Esthana felt a sharp pain as the shiv was driven into her gut. She cried out, hoping to attract the guards’ attention. With her free arm, she punched the woman, breaking her nose.

Defy Danger(DEX)(Esthana): 2D6(6 5) +2 = 13 Success!
Rebel does d6=4 damage to her ally

The woman came at her again. Esthana twisted free of the other thug’s grasp at the last moment and ducked, leaving the thug to take the stab from the woman’s shiv. He grunted in pain.

“Okay, that’s enough.” There were guards at the cell entrance, turning the key. Esthana backed up to the bars, a hand to the injury in her side. The injured thug slumped to the floor, badly wounded.

The guards moved Esthana to a cell on her own, and bandaged her wound. There was a crude wooden bunk there, stained sheets, and a small grating letting in light from outside.

She had expected to see Anaya, but the hours passed and no-one came. The confinement gave Esthana time to think. Perhaps Anaya had gone to Flamekeep as she had planned, and would appeal to the Templars there. If they declined, would she come back? Or would Esthana be left to face the army’s justice on her own? Her thoughts ran back and forth from hope to gloom. Despite all that, the recent encounter with the Flame was strong in her memory: she had a purpose here, and in Thrane, of all places, the Flame’s will should be done in the end.

Night came; she lay down, but sleep would not come. It was a clear, cloudless night, and the light from Siberys cast a single beam of pale blue light into the cell; the guards, at one end of the cell block, had a lantern too, but they rarely came down here.

Sypheros, the Shadow moon, had just come into view, when something blocked out her view. A slender figure knelt down, silhouetted in the moonlight. Esthana sat up.

In Elven, a woman’s voice whispered, “Be alert.”

Esthana got up, moving to the window. The elf was wearing a cloak, and her face was painted half red, half blue.

“Who are you?” Esthana whispered.

“Imra. We’re coming for you.” And then she moved away. Whoever she was, Esthana did not know her; Esthana had few friends outside of the army here. She could only suppose that Imra was one of Vaalyun’s associates.

It took some thought to work out how to use the elements at hand to get Esthana out of jail. I have a plan; let’s see if the party can do better than their normal luck and make it work.

Okay, so Vaalyun is running the jailbreak. He has a hireling group; for this operation, he will use the two street jugglers, Ievos and Imra. They have the Stealthy tag.

Cast a Spell(Bless)(Anaya): 2D6(3 5) +2 = 10 Success!
+1 to all rolls for Imra

I’m blessing one of the hirelings, as they are more likely to mess up than Vaalyun himself. And Vaalyun won’t be making the scariest rolls here.

Vaalyun can get into the Garrison—he was there with Anaya and Esthana at the start of the chapter—but will have to talk his way into the cell block. Stealthing in won’t help him, because he has to bring Esthana out.

Okay, so there are guards at the entrance to the cell block and guards inside to watch the prisoners. Vaalyun wants in, the guards don’t want to obstruct someone working for the Commander.

Parley(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 5) +2 = 13 Success!

Esthana moved to the cell door. Two guards, soldiers wearing the same tabard of Thrane that she used to wear herself, were sitting at a table playing cards.

Minutes passed, and she began to wonder if anything was going to happen, when something alerted the guards and they got up from their game.

“Is this it? Yes, here we are.” She could not see Vaalyun, but it was definitely his voice.

The guard nearest to Esthana, a half-elven man, said, “What are you doing here?”

“I have been working for Templar Anaya and Commander Stamos, gathering information on the Blood in the city. You have a number of prisoners here, from the raid three days ago. There are two of them that I wish to speak to.”

“Who are your friends?”

“Simply my bodyguards. The city is not as safe as one could wish, and a House Phiarlan representative can hardly go around unescorted. I am sure that the Commander will have things back in order soon—particularly if I can learn more from these prisoners.”

“Well sir, this way then. Do you know which prisoner you need?”

“Yes, I should be able to pick them out. No need to bring a lantern, I have my own.” Vaalyun moved into view now; he wearing his green robe, the embroidered hydra’s heads looking vaguely sinister in the lamplight. One of the “bodyguards” came into view as well, a figure in a dark cloak—a slender build, could that be Imra?

Vaalyun did not head towards her cell, or acknowledge her at all. Instead, he went over to the opposite cells, and started shining his lantern into them. Various imprisoned rebels and thieves turned away, shunning the light. Vaalyun’s lantern was hooded, and he kept the light directed into the cells on the far side, leaving himself, the guard and his bodyguard with little light.

Esthana looked back to the entrance to the cell block. The other bodyguard was in view now, a male elf in a dark cloak with the hood thrown back, his face also painted red and blue.

“You are a bodyguard?” said the second guard. She seemed a little sceptical.

The hirelings also have the Beautiful tag, which means they can draw attention.

Ievos, Do Their Thing(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 6) +1 = 13 Success!
Second guard is wholly distracted.

“I do not have your soldier’s skill with the sword,” came the reply, “but I know how to use my daggers, well enough to keep my master safe.” He pulled three daggers from under his cloak and began to juggle them.

Esthana turned back, and found herself face to face with the first bodyguard—it was Imra. She put a key into the lock and turned it quietly.

Here’s the money roll. Using that Stealthy. They’re doing so well!

Imra, Do Their Thing(Vaalyun): 2D6(6 6) +1+1 = 14 Success!

Yes, double sixes twice in a row. Maybe I should make these both into player characters.

Vaalyun was talking to the first guard, keeping his attention. “Have you seen a half-orc prisoner, with a scar over his left eye?”

Imra opened the cell door slowly and quietly. She stepped in to the cell.

“No sir,” came the reply, though Esthana could not see either of them just now; Vaalyun had led the guard further down the cell block. “I’m sure I would remember a half-orc in here.”

Vaalyun kept talking. Imra, meanwhile, removed her cloak—she was dressed all in black underneath, barely visible in the moonlit cell. She gave Esthana the cloak, but shook her head when Esthana went to put the hood up. Instead, she produced some face-paints from a pouch, and began to paint Esthana’s face to match her own.

“Do you have the cult priestess here? The one from the Blood temple?” Vaalyun’s voice was still coming from the far end of the block.

Finishing with Esthana, Imra wiped off her own face with a rag.

From the far end of the cells, “No sir. The Archbishop keeps some prisoners in the Tower of Judgement. I suppose those are the ones to be interrogated.”

Imra whispered, in Elven, “Join Vaalyun, stay close, say nothing.”

Esthana nodded, putting up her hood, and stepped out of the cell. Vaalyun was shining the lantern into a cell down the far end; the rest of the block was poorly lit, with only a lantern over the table near the entrance where the other guard still sat. Esthana moved through darkness until she stood near where Vaalyun and the first guard were talking.

Vaalyun had picked on a prisoner now, a rough-looking man wearing a red jacket. “You there. Are you one of the worshippers captured at the Blood temple?”

“No; leave me alone.”

“Come now, wearing a red jacket in Thrane? It’s an interesting clothing choice.”

“Get lost, elf.”

“Answer some questions for me, and I’ll put in a good word for you with the Commander. We just want to understand more about the Blood in the city.”

“The Shadow take you!”

Vaalyun smiled a little. Esthana risked a glance back: her cell door was closed, and Imra was nowhere to be seen.

“Well,” said Vaalyun. “I think I will return when these traitors have had a few more days in the cells. Some time to reflect on their limited options will make them more cooperative.”

“As you wish,” said the guard. Esthana was uncomfortably aware that she was a little taller and bulkier than Imra; but Vaalyun kept the light off of her and the guard did not stop to look again; she was still the same bodyguard, to him. He led them back to the entrance.

The cell keys were hanging on the hook when they got there; presumably Imra had returned them. Vaalyun’s other companion was still entertaining with his juggling. As they approach, he finished with a small flourish, his daggers landing one by one point down in the table, perfectly in between the cards laid there.

“Thank you for your time,” said Vaalyun. “Our time was not entirely wasted, if we made your shift here a little less dull.” He smiled.

They walked up the stairs, leaving the guards behind them. Around the corner, they found Imra, lurking in a dark corner.

“Good work,” said Vaalyun quietly in Elven. “I have never seen it done better. Esthana, Ievos, walk with me.”

The top of the stairs led out into the barracks square. There were two guards posted. Vaalyun strode out as if he ran the place, wished the guards good night, asked them for directions to the apothecary; Ievos smiled at one guard while Vaalyun held the attention of the other; Imra snuck out and vanished into the shadows. Esthana just stood nearby, looking away, acting the strong and silent bodyguard. In a minute, they were free.

We already got the stealth and parley successes, so they get out with no trouble. If you make the rolls in DungeonWorld , you get to have it go just as you planned.

End of Session(party): Vaalyun met his alignment goal, using his house’s reputation to help himself; +1 XP

And it is time to write new bonds for the party. I could have done some of these in a previous end-of-session, but it is easier to delay doing them until we reach a larger break point in the story.

Anaya’s bonds:
Esthana is a fellow servant of the Flame; I aid her holy purpose.
Though not Purified, Vaalyun is a resourceful ally.

Esthana’s bonds:
Lady Anaya is a cleric of my faith. I will follow her through any danger.
Vaalyun rescued me when I was unjustly imprisoned.

Vaalyun’s bonds:
Esthana saved my life.
Lady Anaya unhesitatingly put herself in danger to rescue my companion; I am in her debt.

Characters get +1XP for each resolved (in other words, no longer relevant) bond.

Anaya: 0 failures; 2 bonds resolved, at 2XP.
Esthana: 3 failures; now at 5XP.
Vaalyun: 2 failures, alignment goal; at 8XP.

We are done with Thaliost, so I am going to do a large jump cut forward here. The chaos in the city works in the party’s favour now, as there’s no way the guards can spare the troops to chase down a deserter with serious help on her side.

Make Camp(party): Healing
Commune(Anaya): Cure Moderate Wounds, Bless


  1. Very clever escape. I love it!

  2. Thanks :-). This is one of a few good non-combat scenes that I have really liked in this campaign.