Thursday, 2 February 2017

III.25: Spirit of the Couatl

Dungeon World and Mythic overlap on mechanics for deciding what the next scene is. I had been letting both have a say about it for a while, but I think that is messing with the party a little too often. So I started rolling Mythic only when I feel like it. Perhaps, instead, I will try rolling one or the other.

This time, let’s roll Mythic.

Mythic GME Chaos Rank: 6
Scene setup: d10=8 (unchanged)

Okay, the ”player” side wants the next scene to be the lizardfolk gathering. I think that’s fine: Vaalyun spent moves to get access to an airship, and the others have freed themselves from the Blackscales. I have not been making Nyseris roll Navigate out here: they know the jungle well.

Make Camp(party): Several times, on the journey. Everyone heals up.
Commune(Anaya): Words of the Unspeaking, Sanctuary

Vunal di Gemuth, Q’barra
Nymm 18, 997 YK

On the trek back, the group kept an easier pace than the Blackscales had set, as Nyseris and both Templars needed time to recover from the ordeal. The jungle here was often trackless, and the group spent many hours pushing their way through thick foliage in the deep jungle. Being far from civilisation meant that they were hard to find, however, and they encountered nothing but fauna as Nyseris led them back west.

It was four days later, in the morning, that they sighted the airship. Floating fifty feet above the forest canopy, the body of the ship looked much like the underside of a seafaring vessel, but encircling the midsection of the ship was a ring of turbulent air glittering with barely-contained energy—the captive air elemental that kept the vessel aloft.

Defy Danger(CHA)(Vaalyun): 2D6(5 1) +2 = 8 Partial success.
Worse outcome - outward journey only, House Tharashk know of the journey.

The ship’s presence here was expected. Before they left Newthrone, Vaalyun had given Anaya a scrying stone, enabling him to communicate with her at a distance. He had contacted them the day after they had defeated the Blackscales, and arranged to rendevous near the site of the lizardfolk gathering.

Weapon of the Exorcist(Esthana): Infused with Good and Law and is recognised as such by all those who see it.

Esthana and Anaya emerged into the clearing in the forest, which Nyseris had suggested as a meeting place that could be easily identified from the sky. Above, they could see figures looking over the side of the vessel, though it was hard to make out if they were sailors at this distance. Esthana drew her sword, silver fire running up the blade, and waved it as a signal that they had arrived.

Blur the lines between magic and technology: feather falling rings are a common magic item in Eberron.

There was no sign that the ship would lower a rope, however. Instead, they saw a figure climb over the side and simply drop. Before they had fallen more than a few yards, light bloomed around them, which coalesced into hundreds of small, feather-like shards of light, surrounding them and slowing their fall. The figure drifted down slowly and landed lightly in the centre of the clearing. As the light dispersed, they could see that it was Vaalyun.

He turned to them as they approached. The elf wore his usual green jacket, embroidered with hydra’s heads—no cloak was needed in this humid jungle climate. Esthana thought he looked a little tired.

“It is good to see you Vaalyun,” said Anaya warmly. “We have missed you in our travels. Perhaps we had more need of you out here than we realised.”

“Well met, Lady Anaya. I have rued your absence a few times myself. I am used to the risks of my work, but the dangers of the jungle are at least easier to identify. Lady Esthana, Nyseris,” he added, nodding to the others in turn.

“Did you have any trouble getting here?” asked Esthana. Looking up, she saw that the airship was departing.

“House Lyrander owed me a favour. They have an airship stationed at Newthrone now, and are working with House Tharashk to map the jungle.”

“House Tharashk is stepping up its operations, then,” said Anaya, shaking her head. “We may not have as much time as we thought. Let’s get to the gathering place. We are long overdue, and I fear that the lizardfolk chieftains will not unite against Tharashk unless we are there to testify to the great danger that threatens them.”

Spout Lore(Nyseris): 2D6(3 6) +0 = 9 Partial success.
Vague, not immediately useful

They arrived at the Vale of Eberron by midday. Although Nyseris had never been there, they had heard many tales of it and knew how to get there. According to the tales that Nyseris had heard, the site was the most sacred site to the gul siksta tribes, and had often been used as a meeting site forty years ago, when the tribes were at war with the young human nation of Q’barra. It had not been used for such a meeting for at least twenty years, the ranger told them.

Esthana was uneasy as they approached the Vale. If the site was sacred to the lizardfolk, they might be reluctant to admit outsiders. And, though she trusted Nyseris, the rest of the lizardfolk were still not their allies yet; she would not forget that the Cold Dragon tribesfolk had abandoned her after the ambush. They did not value outsiders much, it seemed.

Discern Realities(Esthana): 2D6(3 1) +1 = 5 Failure!
Offer aid from an enemy, or opposition from an ally: The lizardfolk they meet are from a tribe that really doesn’t like outsiders

They made no attempt to conceal their approach, and before they reached the top of the ridge on the south side of the Vale, they were spotted by scouts. A patrol of five lizardfolk, bows at the ready, stood ready for them at the top of the ridge; their shared colouring—blue with orange over the head and back—marked them as all being from one tribe. All but one nocked arrows as the travellers approached, and one shouted a challenge in Draconic.

Nyseris replied curtly, then said to the others, “They ask who we are.”

“Lady Anaya, Templar of the Silver Flame,” Anaya said, then looked to Esthana.

“Lady Esthana, Templar of the Flame.” Esthana was still unused to giving her title and answering for herself; but the Flame had sent her on this mission, and her part was more than using her sword now.

Nyseris repeated what they said in Draconic, or as close as could be translated into that language. One of the lizardfolk snorted and shouted something back; one did not need to know Draconic to know that they had not been believed.

Anaya wants to be admitted to the valley; leverage is that they are servants of the Flame.

Parley(Anaya): 2D6(5 1) +1 = 7 Partial success.
Evidence required
Cast a Spell(Light)(Anaya): 2D6(4 4) +3 = 11 Success!
Weapon of the Exorcist(Esthana): Infused with Good and Law and is recognised as such by all those who see it.

Anaya sighed, and held her hand aloft. After a moment silver fire sprung up around her glove, its pure light driving back the shadows cast by the jungle canopy. The lizardfolk stared dumbstruck at the light.

Esthana reluctantly drew her sword. Let’s hope they take this the right way. As she did so, silver flames covered the blade, the light matching that from Anaya.

The leader of the patrol said something, and Nyseris translated. “They will escort you to the chieftains, who will decide whether we are worthy. They say that you go on at your own risk; no guarantee of safe passage is given, if the chieftains decide that you are unwelcome here. This tribe does not like outsiders, I think,” Nyseris added.

Anaya and Esthana stepped forward with Nyseris, but then the lizardfolk’s commander spoke again. “They say, what of the elf? Those of the Flame may pass; passage is not granted to him,” repeated Nyseris. Vaalyun was right behind Esthana, but was not trying to be inconspicuous.

“Tell them that I am Vaalyun d’Phiarlan.” Vaalyun spoke with the usual air of assurance that he always had with strangers. “House Phiarlan has acted as intermediaries and diplomats between the nations of Khorvaire for over three thousand years; my ancestors assisted negotiations between the dragonborn and the lizardfolk thousands of years ago. I am not the first of my House to enter this place.”

By Hospitality Sustained(Vaalyun): You can always find shelter and rest in a settlement, due to your House’s reputation

I might not have let most Houses exercise this move outside of the human civilisations of Khorvaire, but House Phiarlan predates human settlement, so I think this is reasonable.

Nyseris translated, and the lizardfolk argued amongst themselves briefly. They seemed satisfied, however, and their leader curtly gestured for the travellers to follow them into the Vale.

Change the environment

The Vale of Eberron was unlike any part of the jungle that they had yet seen. There was less foliage close to the ground here and the trees were more widely spaced, opening up their view of the valley even from ground level. There was a broad waterfall at the head of the valley, and the Vale was laid out like a great bowl below it, with the river running through its centre.

Show the devastation of the Last War: Esthana is a veteran.

From this viewpoint, they could see that a great many lizardfolk were bivouacked in the valley. Esthana’s thoughts flew back to another place and time; she had been returning from a patrol to the encampment at Keldan Ridge, and reinforcements during the day had swelled the camp by the time her unit returned that evening. Thirty thousand Cyrean soldiers; how many died on that ridge the next day? It was an old memory, best forgotten. Those that died in the battle had been the lucky ones, perhaps, as they escaped the devastation of the Mourning that destroyed Cyre. The Flame watches over us.

Spout Lore(Nyseris): 2D6(3 5) +0 = 8 Partial success.
Vague information, not useful

The gul siksta lizardfolk camp here, though, was only around five thousand, Esthana guessed—but still an impressive sight, after weeks spend in the thinly populated jungle. This was only an assembly of chieftains, she reminded herself: hopefully a war could be avoided here. “There has not been such a gathering for at least thirty years,” breathed Nyseris, looking at the scene with awe.

Familiar Prey(Nyseris): 2D6(6 1) +1 = 8 Partial success.
Vague information

They were headed towards the river, and in the centre of the river was an island with some sort of stone arena erected upon it. It appeared that this was their destination. Passing between the campfires of some lizardfolk tribe, they reached the riverbank, where the commander of the patrol commandeered a raft to carry them over to the island. Esthana saw Nyseris looking into the water of the river and, following their gaze, saw that there were crocodiles in the water; Esthana had seen one or two such creatures in their weeks in the jungle, but these were larger, eight or nine feet long. They seemed to ignore the lizardfolk, but Esthana felt as if their eyes were following her and her companions.

“Do you think the lizardfolk will be easily persuaded, Templar?” asked Vaalyun.

Discern Realities(Anaya): 2D6(2 3) +3 = 8 Partial success.
What is about to happen here?

“No, but I hope persuasion is not required. They are uneasy about allowing outsiders into their council; they have watched this jungle for thousands of years, and humans are the greatest threat to their existence here. But the Flame brought us here, and we are its servants, as are they: I hope they will believe us about the danger hanging over Q’barra.”

Spout Lore(Esthana): 2D6(1 2) +0 = 3 Failure!
Reveal an unwelcome truth
Have some of the chieftains already departed? 50:50 (The heroes are rather overdue to this meeting; but OTOH the lizardfolk aren’t in a hurry, it’s an ancient meeting site.).
Fate d100(71)=No
Are the chieftains already at each others’ throats? 50:50 (Some of them made deals with House Tharashk, others would consider that a betrayal).
Fate d100(97)=Exceptional No!

Ah, they have already decided something, and it’s not what the heroes wanted.

They disembarked on the far side, and were marched into the arena; the lizardfolk paraded them into the arena at spearpoint. Treating us like captives, Esthana thought. This might be more difficult than Anaya imagined.

The arena itself was a circle, about thirty yards across, surrounded by an ancient stone wall. Inside it was a simple ring of stone benches around an open space. Around a hundred lizardfolk chieftains and wise ones sat in this circle in council, and all turned to look at the outsiders as they were escorted into the centre of the arena. Most looked on with curiosity or surprise, but several jumped up with angry gestures.

Kii re nomenoi munthreki dronilnra tenpiswo?” shouted one chieftain.

Nomenoi iri re vi laraek orn ixen” said the commander of the patrol. There was some discussion amongst the chieftains. Esthana recognised Teegwul of the Emerald Water tribe amongst them, and Xeirgoulus of the Cold Dragon tribe; though she could not understand their discussion, she could see that they had some friends here.

The council seemed to reach a decision, and their guards were dismissed. “We are permitted to address the council,” said Nyseris in Common.

Portray a fantastic world

Anaya has some experience talking to people in positions of power, and she understands a little of the politics of the lizardfolk at this point.

Anaya stepped forward and began. “Leaders of the Cold Sun Alliance, I thank you for your invitation to this gathering. As you know, the orcs, humans and allies of House Tharashk have been entering your domain, this great jungle of Q’barra, and stealing the sacred dragonshards that mark your territory. These dragonshards are part of the seal that keeps your ancient enemy, Masvirik, imprisoned below us; should Tharashk be allowed to continue its mining, the prison may break and a great evil will devour your lands. We implore you to unite in your ancient duty and repel the invaders of House Tharashk, denying them all access to the jungle.”

A few of the lizardfolk understood Common, but most waited for Nyseris to translate. One of the chieftains—with the same red-and-blue colourings as the patrol, Esthana noted—stood up and spoke.

The chieftain looked down on them with a sneer as they spoke. Nyseris translated: “We need no outsiders to tell us of our ancient duties. The Cold Sun Alliance has protected this jungle long before any human came to this place. The humankin are our enemies in this; there is no reason to listen to this one’s words.”

Teegwul stood, and addressed them. After a few calmer words in Draconic, he turned to Anaya and addressed the group in Common. “We thank you for your assistance in this matter, Anaya. Some in the gul siksta had lost our way, and some activities of the humankin were ignored that should have been barred. But we are agreed now that these incursions must be stopped. The chiefs of the humans have broken their agreement with us, and we will drive them from these lands.”

Esthana turned to look at Anaya and Vaalyun.

“That sounds like a declaration of war to me,” said Vaalyun; he looked concerned as he glanced around the arena. He raised his voice to address the assembly. “I am Vaalyun d’Phiarlan. It has been long since one of my House has been admitted to your councils, and I thank you for the opportunity. Do I understand correctly that you are set for war against the humans of Q’barra?”

“You understand, phiarlani” said Teegwul. “The humankin agreed not to invade our lands again, but their actions now violate that agreement.”

“There are many groups amongst the humans,” said Anaya. “The group that threatens the jungle is just one. To strike at all the humans because of the actions of one group is unjust. You made peace with the rulers of Q’barra, and that peace is not lost yet.” As she warmed to her speech, the Templar grew more impassioned, stepping forward and meeting the eyes of the chieftains as they watched her speak. “It is possible to stop these incursions without the loss of so many innocent lives.”

Parley(Anaya): 2D6(6 3) +1+1 = 11 Success!
You have persuaded the council to reconsider; some chieftains want to explore alternatives here.

Dungeon World does not have the tools of a system like Fate for structured conflicts, so a lot is left to the GM in this sort of situation. I do not intend to have this whole scene ride on one role, so I’m making up steps as I go.

Several chieftains stood up, shouting angrily in Draconic; Esthana got the impression that they were little interested in the lives of humans. But others were arguing against them. Nyseris said, “The council was decided, but now there is disagreement; many want to find an option that avoids war if they can. The lives of the humankin are of little concern to the tribes, but I think they will hear you out.”

As the discussion died down again, Teegwul addressed Anaya again in Common. “Tell us–s how we might stop these incursions without violence.”

“I serve the Flame, and would die alongside you to see Masvirik remain in his prison if I must,” said Anaya. “But the humankin are numerous, and the resources and weapons that they bring from afar would inflict great losses upon your people. We must not fight all of them, lest the strength of the lizardfolk be spent and the jungle be left unprotected. Only House Tharashk is our enemy in this.”

“But this Tharashk is in Newthrone,” said Teegwul. “We must strike there to stop them. And, as they are humankin, the others will fight with them.”

“If you attack Newthrone, yes. I ask you not to. Instead patrol the jungle and stop their incursions.”

“The jungle is vast. One stops raids by killing the raiders.”

Parley(Vaalyun): 2D6(1 4) +2 = 7 Partial success.
Evidence required

Vaalyun risked all to get the map, and now he can use it.

“If the raiders know the jungle, then that is true,” said Vaalyun. The elf now stepped forward to join Anaya. “But Tharashk is not from Q’barra, and does not live in Newthrone: they come from the Shadow Marches, two thousand miles west of here. They work from crude maps of the jungle that they have made, going to sites that they have have scouted out as being rich sources of dragonshards.

“I stole into the guildhouse of House Tharashk in Newthrone, and took a copy of their map.” The elf produced a paper from inside his jacket, holding it up to the gathering. “This shows where Tharashk is operating in the jungle: their main sites, their bases and lines of supply. Any wise commander knows that knowing your enemy is the means to victory—with this knowledge, you can destroy Tharashk’s operation in the jungle.”

Vaalyun walked forward, handing the map to Teegwul. Teegwul and the other chieftains seated there examined it, and Teegwul stood again, addressing the gathering in Draconic. Anaya and Vaalyun turned back to the others.

“What are they saying?” said Vaalyun

“Teegwul says it is a poor map—that our enemies have poor knowledge of the jungle,” said Nyseris. “There is discussion, but many are agreeing with you.”

“Is that all that we need, then?” asked Esthana. “They should be able to protect the jungle now?”

Fill the characters’ lives with adventure Reveal an unwelcome truth

Also, this is where we reveal a little of the information that Vaalyun got from his Life of the Party move in Newthrone.

“For now, yes,” said Vaalyun. “But this is only this year’s map; Tharashk will change their operations when the lizardfolk start killing their expeditions. They have an airship, now, so they can ferry expeditions over the heads of lizardfolk patrols. It may not be enough.

“And Tharashk has political power too. Tharashk may persuade the King to start a war, based on the attacks on its operations; it has brought a great amount of trade and money to Newthrone, which brings it great influence there.”

“We must be honest with the lizardfolk,” said Anaya. “There are dangers, but they are not inevitable; they must give us the time to persuade the King to honour the peace.”

The council seemed to have calmed again; Anaya and Vaalyun turned back to them. This time it was Xeirgoulus that addressed them.

“We hear your words–s, phiarlani. We thank you for this map, and will use it to destroy the Tharashk patrols that enter our territory. But there are still many at this gathering that say that one does not kill a tree by cutting the branches–s.”

“You are right,” said Anaya. “The dragonshards will only be safe if the humankin in Newthrone choose to honour their agreement with you. Tharashk has an airship, which you may have seen in the skies above the jungle; they will try to establish new operations to replace those that you destroy.

“You have my word, as a Templar of the Silver Flame, that I will return to Newthrone and defeat those that organise these expeditions. We will persuade the rulers there to honour their agreement.”

After Nyseris translated, there was more discussion amongst the chieftains. The red-and-blue coloured chieftain addressed a question to Anaya, and Nyseris translated. “Why should we trust you, humankin? You touch the Silver Fire, so you bear no evil, but it would still be surer for us to strike at the source of this infestation and destroy it.”

Parley(Anaya): 2D6(4 6) +1 = 11 Success!
You get it

“Give me time. If I fail, then you should do what you must—and I will aid you in it, if I can. But the peace should be honoured, if it can be.”

The chieftain nodded, and answered. Nyseris translated: “You will have your time.”

The party rolled well enough that they do not really need this, but I had the idea as a way for them to persuade the lizardfolk and I like it enough to do it anyway. This, if they succeed, will make the lizardfolk solid allies rather than mistrustful ones.

GM move(soft): Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities

“I have one more request.” Anaya turned as she spoke, once again addressing the entire gathering. “The faith of the gul siksta—their service to the Silver Flame—must endure not for a month, or a year, but for the thousands of years to come. Your sacred duty here, to contain Masvirik and his servants, driving them from the face of Eberron, is eternal. Much time has passed since the dragons gave you this charge, but that faith must never falter. I think it is time that the chieftains of the Cold Sun Alliance spoke with the Flame for themselves.”

As Nyseris translated, Esthana saw that most of the lizardfolk were baffled by the statement. Esthana stepped closer to the cleric, and asked, “Are you sure, Anaya? Is that even possible?”

“I believe it is. Perhaps it is this jungle, touched as it is by the Flame, but my connection to the Flame feels stronger than it ever did in the Five Nations. The Flame has spoken to both of us before—I think I can make it manifest in this place.”

Spout Lore(Esthana): 2D6(4 6) +0 = 10 Success!
Useful information

Esthana looked around at the ancient stone arena surrounding them, sitting in the great bowl of the Vale of Eberron surrounded by jungle. It could hardly be more different from the Cathedral at Flamekeep, the only place where she had ever seen the Flame manifest. But, while the worship of the Flame in the Five took place in grand churches, the Church was built to serve the Flame; the Flame transcended any church or even the Church itself. In a moment of insight, she realised that, if the jungle was imbued with the strength to contain Masvirik, then this place was its focus. Perhaps Anaya can truly do this.

“Our wise ones gain visions from the Silver Fire, cleric,” Xeirgoulus said, “but the Fire never speaks to us in this world. What you s–suggest is not possible.”

“Derkrkaza,” Anaya said, turning to the side. The wise one of the Emerald Water tribe, that the group had met at Xemdaresh, was one of those in attendance at the council. “Join me.”

Derkrkaza stood, and moved to stand before Anaya. The lizardfolk looked sceptical. “What do you think you can do, cleric? The power of the Fire can be channelled in the waking world, but not its thoughts; only in dreams does it share those.”

“Anaya can do it,” said Esthana.

“Hold out your necklace,” Anaya asked.

Derkrkaza still wore their necklace of frosted pink dragonshards. They removed the necklace and held it out to the cleric.

Anaya grasped the necklace, holding it aloft. As had happened before, at Xemdaresh, the shards began to glow, then blaze, with silver light. The arena was bathed in the soothing radiant light of the Flame.

“Eternal Flame, come forth and show your servants the light!” said Anaya.

Cast a Spell(Words of the Unspeaking)(Anaya): 2D6(2 5) +3 = 10 Success!
With a touch, you speak to the spirits within things.

This is a level 5 cleric spell, the highest level that Anaya can currently cast. And we have established that the spirit within the dragonshards is the Silver Flame.

A pillar of silver fire burst from the shards, spreading outwards and reaching upwards. Anaya withdrew her hand and stepped back as the blaze expanded outwards and rose, the tips of the flame reaching fifty feet up into the air. Esthana dropped to her knees without thinking, and Nyseris and many of the lizardfolk chieftains did the same on seeing this manifestation of power.

The Flame, though it did not dim at all, became translucent, and revealed within it was a long serpentine form, with wings and a scaled body. It was a couatl, or at least the spirit of one, Esthana saw: one of the creatures of light that sacrificed themselves to form the Silver Flame, at the end of the Age of Demons.

“We hear the servants of the Flame,” the creature said. It spoke in its own tongue—Draconic, Esthana presumed—but somehow she understood it anyway.

“Is Masvirik safely imprisoned within Khyber?” Anaya asked. The spirit within the fire faced Anaya, and she stood only a few feet from the flames, addressing it boldly.

“Masvirik is held by us within Khyber,” the spirit answered. “There is no safety in the imprisonment of such great evil: eternally it struggles against our strength that holds it there. Our strength has waned over the ages, and the overlord grows impatient to be free. If it is ever freed, these lands would be consumed by demons once more.”

Anaya turned to look around, and said “Does the council have questions for the Flame?”

Xeirgoulus stepped forward and asked a question in Draconic. Nyseris, kneeling beside Esthana, translated for her: “How should we strengthen the Flame to hold this creature?”

“The shards of the Flame in this jungle hold our essence,” the couatl replied. “They are the seal that gives us strength. They must be protected.”

The red-and-blue chieftain asked a question. Nyseris translated for Esthana: “Should the Cold Sun Alliance wage war on the humankin of this land, to protect the shards?”

“The Flame burns that which it cannot cleanse. Only those that would harm the Flame and its followers should be destroyed.” The couatl’s voice drowned out all else when it spoke, but it was calm and soothing, like the light of the Flame that surrounded it.

The couatl turned back to Anaya, who still stood close before it.

“Know further, our servant Anaya, that we have felt the presence of rakshasa within these lands once more. These evil creatures will spread their corruption, turn allies into enemies, and seek to break the prison to free their overlord. You must root out this evil.”

Anaya nodded. “I serve the light.”

“It was in this vale, one hundred thousand years ago, that I gave my life to the Flame.” The creature in the flames seemed to pause for a moment. “And now I must return to it. The Flame watches over you, our servant Anaya.”

The flames receded, dying down to nothing in a few seconds. Only the necklace of pale frosted dragonshards was left behind, lying on the ground where the vision had stood.

End of Session(party): We changed something substantial about the world—the Cold Sun Alliance has been renewed—so I think that counts as learning something new about the world. +1 XP to all.

Anaya: 0 failures, session goal; at 12XP, so levels up.
Esthana: 2 failures, session goal; at 13XP, so levels up.
Nyseris: 0 failures, session goal; at 1XP.
Vaalyun: 0 failures, session goal, alignment goal met (used his House to help himself); at 12XP, so he levels up.

Anaya, Esthana and Vaalyun all take level 6. This is the level at which the more advanced advanced moves become available (but not yet for Esthana, who multiclassed).

Level Up(Vaalyun): +1 Dex; Lordly Caliber: bonuses to recruiting hirelings. This established mechanically some things that I was perhaps already giving him in game: he clearly has some authority within, and acting for, his house now that he runs a chapterhouse.
Level Up(Anaya): +1 Cha; Random Voice of Authority: bonuses to hirelings
Level Up(Esthana): +1 Wis; Random Interrogator: Use Str for Parley when using threats of violence

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