Author Archives: Rules Director

July 2018 Prologue

PrologueRumors and news

[NORTHWESTERN FRINGES OF FREEHOLD, JULY 09, 2018 (WR)]

With a full moon illuminating the warm summer night, Marlowe stepped into the threshold of the farmhouse’s ruin with nary a sound. With precise claw and godly skill, her Mistress had fused her flesh with metal and power. She was stronger and swifter now, even more than she ever was…even more than she ever could be. What was once a young human woman from the Pariah of Kali-Ishtar was now the keenest knife in the arsenal of Fang-zhara, the Eternal Architect.

She found her Mistress standing over what used to be the farmhouse’s fireplace. Everything else from the building had been broken and scattered. Neither wall nor roof remained where they had been, with only burnt beams and shattered stone to mark what had once been a home. When rain would come, its fall would sizzle and steam over flame and forge — but there was no rain tonight, just a clear night sky and a bright moon.

The Immortal had turned the fireplace into a workshop in the span of an hour. The bright fires of her creation cast long shadows into the night and illuminated the silhouette of her horns and her wings. She could have been mistaken for a statuesque Nightkin from behind, but for her green scales and a palpable aura of peril that surrounded her. From this place, Fang-zhara forged soldiers and servants, horrors and monsters, to fight, work and die for her as she wished.

These augmentations made Marlowe understand her place in things, of course, which is why she knelt as soon as she came close enough. “Mistress, there is no sign of the Deceiver”

Fang-zhara put down her tools and stepped away from her forge. Her voice quavered only slightly as she hissed: “I know he is near. I can sense his lies!”

“Then I have failed you once again. Let me be punished according to your will”

“No” Firmly yet gently, the Immortal’s clawed hand clutched Marlowe’s chin, firmly yet gently, and guided her to standing.

“Primus’ lies will never again harm me and mine. You still have a role to play in his doom, Dearest” The Immortal’s words burned with both hatred and affection.

“Must we ally ourselves with Portia and Tenebrous? What is their role in all of this?”

Her questions gave Fang-zhara pause. It seemed to Marlowe that her Mistress had much to think about these days.

After a moment, the Immortal paced as she spoke, giving some voice to her mind’s whispers. “We have common enemies and the Deceiver is not the only one. Furthermore, we have come to an agreement and they have promised me the Vashalla beneath Freehold and the Hinterlands”

“Vashalla?”

“In this era, it is called Mercurium. It is a rare, powerful mineral and very useful in my craft. In all of our crafts, in fact”

Marlowe nodded but her uncertainty remained with her. “I see. And the others, they will let you have it after Freehold has been defeated?”

Fang-zhara could not help but laugh then. “Oh, Dearest! Of course not!”

“Then why help them, Mistress?” Marlowe’s hands balled into fists, with her golemic arm seizing with supernal strength. Within her, the golemic heart filled her with elemental energies as the thought of the Mistress’ betrayal brought her boundless wrath. Had she not suffered enough? Had she not seen enough lies?

Fang-zhara turned back to her work, her visage lit by the glow of the forge. “Because I will break anyone who will keep me from what is mine, even another Immortal”

Rumors (anyone may read this)
Rumormonger skill only
 
Lorekeeper skill only

Clarify: Those with the Mark of Fang-zhara are aware of the exchange in the prologue, in bits and pieces, as though a dream, although the Marked characters are fully aware of its reality.

June 2018 Prologue

PrologueRumors and News

[KRAGLIN MANOR, PORT DAWSON; JUNE 18, 2018]

The manor was neither opulent nor imperial, with a skeleton crew of servants and mercenaries for guardians…but it was enough for their purposes. It peered east over the rest of Port Dawson and a roiling sea. Black banners with white crosses marked its perimeters and the enspelled wardings that protected it from harm and infiltration.

Sister Talia stood by the entrance, a hawk-like totemic mark branding her both as an Adept and as a member of the Brotherhood of the Sword and Cross. Like her mercenary brethren, she wore black, ornamented with a stark white cross. “My favorite part about having the summit here is how this Red Robert hates it as much as he hates us. The hike up to this manor is like the steepest parts of Northwall and this ‘manor’ is just as bad as that plagued hellhole.”

“Mayor or not, Robert can’t stand against the Treaty or the nine Kingdoms that are behind it. He can hate them and us if he wants, but he can either take their money or their steel… I imagine the choice is obvious” Unlike her comrade, Sister Kestrel’s face was unadorned but her garments were festooned with trophies and knicknacks – the yield of many a deadly hunt and battle. She stood within a few arm-lengths of  her battle-sister but Kestrel studied the sea instead of the path before them.

“If this Mayor was smart, he would play them against each other. The Kingdoms’ posturing against each other is the only reason Port Dawson is out of everyone’s hands. The Jotun would never have the Boggers have it. And the same with the Inthians and the Riverfolk, especially after that stunt they tried to pull with Zaalamon years ago. And you know – there’s also the lack of the you-know-what”

A nervous silence fell upon the mercenaries as the front doors opened abruptly to The acting Envoy of Pendrakken nodded to the Brotherhood as he left the manor to seek his evening lodging, doubtless an Inn or somewhere similar. Amidst helm and mail, he bore the colors of his House, the symbols of Faith and the badge of his station.

Behind him, an armored Brotherhood member exited then closed the doors. He bore with him a cruel looking blade with an ax-like construction. The sisters watched him walk the long winding trail to the base of the hill and the rest of Port Dawson proper.

The rest of the Kingdom Summit had yet to exit, save for the “diplomat” for the Labyrinthium’s pick, a masked man named Hawk who was the first to leave. He appeared as happy about things as the Pendrakken envoy did.

“Mercurium” Brother Mercy said somberly “They made that decision last moon – you can say it now… and we’ve always been able to say it”

“I know, it just feels strange to say it so openly” Talia shrugged. “Anyway, only reason for us to keep the peace in Freehold is that…mineral”

Kestrel had started watching a pod of orcas behind a vessel – possibly a trailing a whaling ship for scraps as she had heard them do sometimes, but she had spared a glance to see the doors close. “Did they bring anything new to the table?”

Mercy’s armored shoulders moved only slightly when he shrugged. With the sea breeze, it was cooler out of the manor than it was within. “Nothing of note. Lector and his undead are believed to be afoot somewhere in Jotunbrud, Malak Travak… and the ruins of Northwall. Portia may be advancing beyond the Obsidian Wastes. Tenebrous is loose and somewhere in the Hinterlands, possibly near Lockhaven–”

“Yes, yes” Talia swatted at the air in impatience. “We also know that Vallah and Primus remain under lock and key. They all seem accounted for except –”

“Fang-zhara” it was Mercy’s turn to be impatient.”Her prisons are open, her spirits were released when the arctic stars fell on those cities. She may have been involved in the Pendrakken civil war. And there is the sound of digging beneath the earth… which could her going after her Vaults to reclaim whatever strength she cached away. That’s all we know so far based on their reports and our own informants”

From her perch, Kestrel’s eyes lazily glanced at the masses of humanity at the docks. Any of them could be serving an Immortal, passing through uncontrolled Port Dawson to serve their master’s needs. T even her keen eye-sight, they were tiny and insignificant, trying to hurry their way home from the business of the docks. Any of them could be hiding Fang-zhara’s golemic augments, Lector’s necrotic blood-crowns or even the subtle mark of Primus’ cult.

And then she drew one of her many throwing daggers.

Mercy and Talia took note of Kestrel drawing steel and paid her their full attention. When Kestrel pointed out to the town below, they were just in time to watch with growing horror as the pod of orcas swam headlong into the docks.

Monstrously bulbous and pocked, the killer whales beached or impaled themselves upon the wooden construction. The mercenaries at the manor did not need to be at the docks to know the swarming and the buzzing that would come next as the gigantic corpses burst open unto the fleeing, screaming populace. Most of the newly-birthed demonic wasp creatures would descend upon the docks and infect as many folk as possible. More than a few of the monstrosities would instead fly free of the whale flesh immediately to the town’s limits. The Brotherhood needed to act quickly.

Mercy entered the manor immediately, alerting the diplomats and his brethren within — while they were in the manor they were warded and within custody. Talia used her Totemic speed to make her way to the chapterhouse days away and warn the others. When joined by reinforcements from the manor, Kestrel would lead the hunt against the fleeing Spider-Wasps.

The defense of Port Dawson and its docks, of course, would remain in the hands of Red Robert and his Redcaps as well as any civilians joined them instead of fleeing.

The town wanted to stay independent, after all.

Rumors (anyone may read this)

Callas Selvarion Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Fir’bolg Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only
Gotterdammerung Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Grellken Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only
Ixia Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Jotunbrud Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Kali-Ishtar Kingdom or Rumormonger only

Labyrinthium Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Malak Travak Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only
Pendrakken Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

Riverfolk Kingdom or Rumormonger skill only

May 2018 Prologue

PrologueRumors and News

[FORSAKEN CATHEDRAL, SOMEWHERE IN THE HINTERLANDS; MAY 14, 2018 (WR)]

It was a holy place long ago, but few things survived the march of antiquity and the Demonic Entity’s desecration. Overgrowth now trespassed where engraved stone once stood and shadows replaced a muraled ceiling that once depicted a covenant between gods and mortals. It belonged to Him now, corrupted and stolen from silent divinities. Only two broken pillars and an altar remained of the hallowed house – and they were mockeries of the holiness they once radiated.

When the last of his disciples finally arrived to give the Demon his worship, there were precious fewer than there were before. Yet, he had called them from across the ends of Midworld, whispering into each fetid niche and benighted corner that served him. Where he once had tens of thousands, he had mere hundreds. Still — all that still lived, all that survived the destruction of the tome and the crucible of the Freefolk’s vengeance, arrived and bent the knee in turn. Even mighty Dmitri and a shape-stealing Skinwalker genuflected humbly before taking up their places beside the master of the Court.

In a twisted parody of a Dammerung Vespers, he addressed his congregation of killers and blasphemers from behind the corrupted altar. All knelt before their fell celebrant, except for two grinning Gnomes in the back.

“I have called and you have arrived. We are here to execute our greatest conquest upon Freehold and bring this land back to its true nature. For too long, the light has inflicted its tyranny upon us. For too long, we have kept our fangs unbared. Now is the time for vengeance, my servants…”

The Demon’s dark homily trailed off as a hooded figure entered the ruins, having navigated the illusions and traps that prevented its discovery for ages. The Court’s mastermind raised his right arm to halt Dmitri from advancing.

“Are you done talking? I usually let ‘em finish before I do my spiel. It’s the politic thing to do” the newcomer drew back his hood to unveil a sneering face riddled with runes and horns. The crowd encircled him as shadows before a candle.

“Who are you to stray into this my domain, little flame? Did you answer the call?” The Demon already smiled at the answer that he knew was coming.

As one, the congregation arose and encircled the newcomer, flickering shadows around a blazing candle.

“Me? I’ve come to offer a sacrifice to your ‘holy gathering’… in exchange for what I want”

“Pray tell, what does a member of the Brotherhood desire from the Court of Shadows?”

“The Brotherhood? Nah, I’m just Arcanamach now” The Sorcerer tilted his head to crack his neck and then surveyed the multitudes of villainy that surrounded him. “I want Freehold to burn and I’m here to tell you how you’re going to do it”

Out of Game Clarification: Those who have once been touched by the Dark Pact are vaguely aware of the Court meeting, having seen it in a few recurring nightmares. Its location remains elusive.

Rumor (anyone may read this)
Only those with the Rumormonger skill may read this
Clarification (everyone should read this)