Sunday, 22 November 2009

Historical References: Plague

In this edition of the Historical References I will shed some light on something that is a distinct possibility in the near future of Argos.

Plague n. A widespread affliction or calamity, especially one seen as divine retribution, or a highly infectious, usually fatal, epidemic disease; a pestilence.

Mor, der kommer en kjerring
T. Kittelsen
Picture hosted by: Nasjonalmuseet

The Norwegian legend portrays the Black Death as an old crone, walking from house to house. She carried a broom and a rake. If she used the broom, everybody died; the rake left some alive. Some houses she passed all together.

Typically, plague refers to the bubonic plague, but any rampant epidemic (if it meets the out of control body-count requirements) may be called a plague. Other diseases that have carried the plague-label include smallpox, typhus and cholera. 

Poor sanitary conditions, limited medical knowledge and dense population made Medieval and Renaissance cities ideal stomping grounds for all sorts of infectious diseases. The plagues were not alone.

Doctor Schnabel von Rom
A 17th-century plague physician in protective clothing.
Etching by Paulus Furst of Nuremberg, Germany, 1656.

Picture hosted by: Boston College Magazine

London, as well as most major cities, was hit by plague repeatedly, and the following quote is from the Wiki about the Great Plague of 1665-1666 that reportedly cost the lives of about 100.000 people. Note that at this time the population of London was about half a million. 

Plague doctors would traverse the streets, diagnosing victims, although many of them were unqualified physicians. Several public health efforts were attempted. Physicians were hired by city officials, and burial details were carefully organized. But panic spread through the city, and in the fear of contagion, people were hastily buried in overcrowded pits. The City Corporation ordered a cull of dogs and cats - a poor decision, since those animals kept the population of rats (the real culprits) in check. Authorities ordered fires to be kept burning night and day, in hopes that the air would be cleansed. Substances giving off strong odours, such as pepper, hops or frankincense, were also burned, in an attempt to ward off the infection. London residents were strongly urged to smoke tobacco.

The treatment of the patients were unfortunately both primitive (seen from our perspective) and largely inefficient. Apart from burning of fragrant herbs and smoking tobacco, other established remedies ranged from carrying lucky charms (rather harmless), to coating the victim in mercury and placing them in the oven (more often than not fatal in itself). Modern medicine holds that 50% to 90% of patients afflicted with bubonic plague will die unless treated, its cousin, the pneumonic plague, boasts a death rate of almost 100%.

 Victims of the plague during the 1574 Siege of Leiden.
Original source unknown.

Plague was not only a disease, it was a great and constant fear of our ancestors. Yet another of those hard facts of life. If the Plague came to a house near you, the odds were good you'd die. But it was also an early weapon in biological warfare. Hittite texts tell of victims of plague being driven into enemy lands as early as 1500-1200 BC.

The Lost Regiment,

and the Third Great War of Argos.

Storyteller's note: The following article was published in the Committee of Correspondence's printsheet 'The Correspondent', in Octavum YE 1021.


I have studied one of the greatest mysteries of our time, that of the Lost Regiment. Following, I will display the facts as I see them.

During the Corillian War, the Parlamental Army of Pendrell destroyed the Narbonnian supported Macharite uprising. The Pendrellians also crossed the border into Narbonne and conquered a number of contested provinces. Though pourly equipped and incompetently led by their king, Mad Phillyp, Narbonne managed to drag out the war for almost two years of fighting -- mostly by draining the coffers by employing a large numbers of mercenaries.

In the first year of the war, in the Enlightened Scythian Empire, in the Dutchy of Manbach, the first son of baron von Roeder, Friedric, sets out to assemble a regiment of rifled firelocks and take to war. War is considered a step in an Alamanian gentlemans education, and since this was a quiet year in the Empire, the regiment was rented to the Narbonnian Crown.

When the rifles marched out of Roederburg late that year, Oberst Friedric von Roeder was 21 years of age, had a sub-magisterium from the University of Marburg in statesmanship, and had served two years in the Emperor's Dragoons. He had also read the finest tacticians, classical and modern. His second was Otto von Swartmark, the oldest son of the first of the baron's bannermen. The two men had been inseparable since they were boys.

The Regiment, though unblooded, was a fine formation; armed with rifles forged by-, and a gun battery crewed by, the prestigious Masonic Guild of Marburg. The men, 1/3 recruits, 1/3 veterans, and 1/3 convicts had been drilling since late summer.

The mercenaries reached the Narbonnian city of Lielle a week before Nightfall and reported to the Duke of Crèvesse, commander of the army being assembled there for a spring campaign.

When Lord Samuel led ten Parliamental Regiments accross the River Erenbaé two days before Nightfall, Crèvesse's forces were caught in a disarray. Only von Roeder's Regiment managed to slow the Pendrellians down. Marching as soon as the reports came in, and going through the night, the regiment took up possition early the following morning astride the only usable road, two leagues North-West of Lielle. The whole day the Alamanian riflemen held back an enemy that only grew stronger by the hour, until they withdrew from the battlefield in honour under cover of darkness on the eve of Nightfall.

The Regiment was never seen again.

That summer, two gentlemen claiming to be Friedric von Roeder and Otto von Swarmark, purchased passage on a Waymar-trader returning from Freeport to Ipwyth. From there they travelled overland to Crondor where they contacted the Imperial Ambassador to Pendrell. Here they both forswore their blood and birth, shamed by the loss of their entire command.

Not three years later, the Royal Houses of Eria answer a summon by Friedric Roeder to the Altar of the Covenant on Corregidor in the Waymar Archipelago. He had the backing of the Seven Onkels of Wezell, as well as that of the Draccian Wolf Lords. The former in the shape of coins and ships, the latter with a pledge of knights and infantry. Here he was named Marshal of the Assembled Host of Man, and today the Reconquest of the Colonies is close upon us.

This is as far as facts will take us, fellow correspondents. From here we must rely on myth and rumor.

I have heard from one who have spoken with Swartmark. He told of the Lost Regiment passing an old mill after having withdrawn. Here the Oberst and himself met a tall and gaunt gentleman and refused his offer. After they left the mill, the entire column got lost in the darkness and a heavy fog.

When light broke the following day, the regiment found itself in a strange land where Death was revered as a god [Stygia]. Again the tall and gaunt gntleman approached the Oberst and his second. Again he was rejected. That night he came again, and he was turned down.

When the sun rose the following morning, only von Roeder and von Swartmark were left in their camp. Every single one of the soldiers had disappeared.

Swartmark then told of encountering a vast army of Black Bloods when the pair attempted to cross the Dark Continent on foot. He also spoke briefly about men with machines advising the Orc. According again to my report of Swartmark's words, the two gentlemen negotiated a passage with these men, from the deep of the Dark Continent to Freeport, in a flying ship. From this point we again have facts.

The elements of the Legend of the Lost Regiment are hard to believe, example: the transportation of a thousand men from Narbonne to Stygia without any trace. Yet the facts we know support the unbelievable, example: Friedric Roeder has been named Marshal by the Erian kings.

We share the time we have been given with great powers and legacies of ages past; I have presented you with the facts as I see them. The facts say that the Third Age is ending, and that the Great War is soon upon us.

Yours in honesty,

Correspondent CIV

Saturday, 21 November 2009

The last chapter

Blockade Running/Ambush!

The last chapter ended with the Company waking up after the long nightmare in the middle of the day. This chapter started with them trying to figure out why they were sick. Besides, Banzel was in no shape to travel.

M'narcel, besides being the only one besides the Prince who wasn't afflicted, was also the only one with any medical insight (both arcane and academic). Also, he used to study the gentle art of poisoning before he was called to adventure. And so, after his preliminary examinations, he could reveal that poisoning was indeed the cause of the ailment.

Now, determining the poison after the fact is a most difficult task. So the good medicus went outside to summon a spirit, as is his way these days. After a couple if hours sitting in the sun he returned; a snake had told him, "poison from stolen stinger." A most straight forward answer, coming from a spirit.

The next step was fast, and it was determined that it was the ammunition Banzel had taken off the Hellghast that was causing it all. The radiation was causing their bodies to break down. The 21 brass-cased shells are now stored in a lead chest. The rest of the day was used to sit back and enjoy the shade -- the Pius Cabal decided to rest.

Before going to bed, Banzel, the one hardest afflicted, quaffed a waterskin of the Vìs he brought from the encounter with Blackstaff. On waking up the next morning, the heroes found that anything organic in a three yard radius around Banzel, clothes, blankets, boots, tent, grass, had decomposed. Banzel had discovered a cure for his desease, while simultaneously proving that gorging oneself on Mana can cause unexpected effects. Fit as a fiddle, Banzel started up the Automotor, and thus the Company started on the way home.

There had been some debate about what to do with the men left in the halfway fort. Van Zaar would rather he didn't have to see any of them until they were back on Pius, and suggested that they be given their marching orders through arcane means. Someone here made it a heated discussion when it was suggested that van Zaar's true motivation was his dislike for Lt. Lance. On the captain's orders, they followed the roads along the river. Through the liberated Muhwal, Free City of Man (full of the Host's followers and former slaves) to Fort Pius (so named by the Glencaellyn Rifles). Here the Prince did some packing, and with the Automotor loaded close to submission with the entire marine command, and the Pius Cabal rode off the theatre, flanked by the running Enæìd.

[Storyteller's note:
It amuses me no end that sometimes the worst thing you can do to your players is to be nice.]

They find the stretch of coast where they hid the Pius, and within the hour M'narcel found the Shaderealm where they had anchored. They come in to the shallow river valley through the vegetation beneath the ruined aqueduct. They are hailed by the picket, and let through to the idyllic scene; the ship anchored in clear water, green trees, sailors working on the ship, carrying baskets aboard, or lounging in their free-watch.

The passenger they had asked to keep an eye on the ship had left a letter when he left five days ago, and all was in order. The crew seemed happy. And this freaked the captain out. There was some general paranoia at first, not at all helped by enthusiastic sailors or the fact that the captain couldn't see their thoughts. The majority settled when M'narcel declared that he could sense the ship's Awakened spirit.

Since they have to wait for the tide, they couldn't sail in almost twelve hours. Banzel got right to work with his new Project, building an airship. He recruited the ship's carpenters and sailmakers as well, and utterly dominated the ships attention. The captain was in a foul mood, and decided he hadn't talked to Octavian in a while. Sadly this didn't work, as the captain's Arts do not cover the Sphere of Spirit, and since they're anchored up in a spirit realm he can't reach out.

As the night fell, it became obvious that Banzel needed more time. M'narcel had also gotten involved at this point. His previous experiments with wind spirits made him attempt to bind one to the airship. He climbed up to the crowsnest and launched a kite into the winds. It took a while before something took the lure. For two hours he battled with the windling before it got away, the kite falling broken to the deck.

The captain was somewhat put out by the situation. It got even worse when he found that he could not commune with anyone outside the shaderealm. When the weighing of the anchor was postponed to allow Banzel time to finish, Galan withdrew to brood in his quarters. Van Zaar kept walking around all night, slipping in and out of subjective time.

Come the day after, the Pius weighed anchor and left the shaderealm. Banzel still had some work to do on his great project and was still at it in his workshop.

On entering the graphite-grey waters of the Bay of Oden the crew could see the heavy, dark stormfront of the blockade.

A few hours after the ship entered the bad weather the aft lookout called sails. Captain Galan quickly ascertained that it was a Black Ship, one they hadn't encountered before, and that it was coming up fast on an intercept course. Not long after the first contact another ship was called, this time ahead. This was the Sepulchre. They had sailed into an ambush. The two Black Ships planned to catch the Pius between their broadsides and send her into the deep.

Thanks to the captain's hard sailing they managed to outsail the ship behind them, but the Sepulchre lying ahead was drawing relentlessly closer. On the decks of the enemy ships the men on the Pius could witness a horrible ritual taking place. Twelve young girls were brought up, then thrown overboard as the crews chanted, "Bait! Bait! Bait!" The Pius was also coming into range of the Sepulchre's guns by now.

Galan had taken the Hermetic pistol (taken off a defeated Proxima on the first voyage of the Pius) to the bow, and as he fired at the Sepulchre's captain, the rest of the Cabal sprung to action. From the captain's cabin Galan opened a portal to the aft castle of the Black Ship. Aegir and M'narcel charged through, and the Enæìd attacked the Sepulchre's captain, Radoslav. M'narcel's plan was to command the drowned men and take control of the Black Ship -- this didn't work as planned. The Prince and the dark mariner fought in a flurry of blows while the forlorn crew pushed the worlock towards the railing. Severly wounded, Aegir felled his foe, only to see the massive bow of the Sepulchre push through the waves. The Black Ship was diving. Galan back on the Pius felt his spell being severed, but managed to keep the portal open long enough for the Prince to drag M'narcel through.

On deck, Banzel became aware of something large moving in the dark water. Something had answered the summoning. The ship following them, now close enough that M'narcel could feel its name, Despair, was coming up on range, and around them great tentacles were flailing as the enormous seamonster maneuvered to attack. It was obvious to the heroes that hard sailing alone would not be enough to escape, so they turned to magic.

Using everything they knew, the magicians of the Pius Cabal managed to get some distance on both the monster and the Despair, but it would not be enough. And so, when the Sepulchre rose to the surface again, within range, things looked bleak.

They decided that the only way out of the trap was to make the Pius fly. The airship's balloon was rigged to lift the ship, everything, cannons, food, goods, even the Automotor, was thrown overboard. Great spells were cast, all the Mana the Cabal possessed were used to fuel the magic, prayers were uttered, and at last, with cannonballs zooming towards her, Pius took flight.

The chapter ended with the Pius sailing above the dark clouds of the blockade.

Storyteller's note: This was an interesting session. The lads are now starting to fully realize two things. First, that they are now right powerful magicians, second, that their enemies have noticed them.

They now have less than four days to locate and stop the plague ship Naglfār, their ship is unarmed, and they have provisions for one week on half rations.

The good men of the Pius Cabal are truly living in interesting times.

Oh, and make sure you click on the octopus-pic to get the full experience.

Sunday, 15 November 2009


Anette is late. Far too late. It is getting dark, and she is still not out of the forest. She has been visiting her aunt, and one of her cows had a hard labour. And now she is late.

She has been dreaming about this for two weeks now. And now she is trapped in the nightmare again, only awake this time. The forest has gone quiet. It's like all the colour has drained out of the world. And she knows that the beast is here. She has dreamt this.

In the dark woods something moves. A great black shape, glistening in blood and broken steel. It moves heavily, like a very large predator. It takes deep breaths, smelling the chill night air. Steam rises from the great, dark shape. Anette knows it has caught her scent. She starts running, as she knew she would.

Behind her the beast moves. It will catch up with her, and she can't stop running. She almost loses her footing crossing a small bridge, but manages to keep running. The beast is gaining. She can hear it now, the sound of its feet hitting the ground, its breath.

She comes to the small stream where she knows she will stumble. It will overtake her, and then she will wake up. Only this is not a dream. She stumbles. She almost manages to get up, but then one of her bare feet hit a sharp rock. The pain pierces through her, and she screams.

The beast is here now. She rolls over on her back, scurrying backwards in the cold water. From her foot a red mist spread outward from the wound. The beast is savouring the moment. It looms over her. It is so large it blots out the sky. Saliva is dripping from a mouth full of sharp yellow teeth. This is where she woke up when she was dreaming. She can't wake up from this.

The man comes from nowhere. He leaps into the creek, placing himself between her and the beast. He has a solid walking stick, and he holds it like a club. In his other hand he is holding a book. He holds the book infront of him like a shield. "I carry the Letter!" he shouts, then, "Get back, demon, she is not for you!" The beast roars. It's so loud it shakes the leaves on the trees like a wind. The man doesn't move. "I carry the Letter!" His voice is firm, and the beast roars again in frustration.

It tries to get around him, but he won't let it. "She is not for you, demon!" The beast roars again, frustrated, angry, impotent. "I call you by your True Name, N'Gartl. Be gone!"

The beast growls menacingly while it retreats into the forest, it's eyes never leaving the man.

He turns to Anette and kneels. "Wake up now," he says gently, and something stirs in the edge of her awareness. Her foot hurts, and she blinks away some tears. When she open her eyes again she is alone. No man, and no beast. It feels like she's just awoken from a terrible nightmare, and while the fear still lingers she can feel it diminishing by every breath.

Anette makes it home that night, and later, when she dreams, the beast does not return.

Storyteller's note: I got this idea after playing Sheperd last chapter. It started as Little Red Ridinghood, but it took a slightly different turn.

Friday, 13 November 2009


No one in the camp slept that night. No one could. The men huddled together around small dungfires, as if shielding the small flames. The sentries, alone in the pitch black night, knew that something horrible was out there.

"You know what we are, don't you? What we really are?" The Alamani sergeant pokes the embers of the fire slowly. No one seems to have an answer. He is one of the old guard. In a way, they are the backbone of the Host. He lets a fistful of dry, red earth run from his hand like sand in an hourglass.

The siege of Assari had looked to be a grim job. A nasty piece of soldiery. Those regiments picked to break those walls were the hardest men on this continent. Each man a professional soldier, with experience from several wars. Now old enemies share fire.

The rumor had it that the Pius Cabal would deliver the city by morning. Pickets had been drawn close, and there were no shelling. The screaming had started around midnight. Now it was like the screams of those within the walls were pouring into the night like flames rising from a great fire.

These men had realized that what they were part of was something that struck deep. There were plenty of religious types who preached about the Covenant. Many had started to think of themselves as part if an old plan.

Here they were, Macharites and Templars, mercenaries and drafted men. Some had come to Cora for gold, some because the alternative was to lose the only trade they knew. All because the Marshall invoked the Covenant before the kings in Freeport. In effect, they were here because no one could lose face.

As if by magic ships and guns had been made available. The Knights of Cora had made sure the entire mass of men, horses, baggage and followers, could assemble. The ships of the Wezellian guilds had brought them in by the thousands.

Then came the Wolf Lords. They had kept their own camp on Cora, but they had also kept the herd in line once the pressure rose. Their patrols after dark seemed to deter a lot of mischief. Of course, no one had trusted them back then. More than one had agreed that the only good wolf was a dead wolf. They sure wish there were more wolfs guarding them tonight.

Most here had actually never thought they'd even leave Cora. The Aragonians had gotten the keel of their navy broken by the Black Ships trying to reach the Dark Continent. Many men had died in vain. No one believed any other kingdom would risk its ships against such an enemy. An enemy no one lived to describe.

Then the Pius Cabal had appeared with a solution. An ancient artefact had been used to march the entire Host of Man, from the island of Cora, accross the Bay of Oden, and to the red soil of the Dark Continent.

"You know, one of the slaves told me the reason for why the earth is red here." The old guardsman brushes the rest of the dirt of his hand. He picks a pipe out of his hatband and lights it with the glowing tip of his stick. "He told me the earth is red because it has absorbed so much blood."

"But we," he says after a pause. "We are a weapon. An old weapon crafted long ago. Crafted so that it would be ready if it was needed."

"Only to bad the goatraping fucks they set to keep it, let it rust?" The man speaking isn't the type who speaks much. Now he's putting words on something many are feeling.

"They slept on guard, and now the spear is broken. Because the pigfucking kings slept on their posts!" He just sat there. No one seemed to have anything to say.

The city still screams.

"You're wrong, lad."

"It's like a great trap, set long ago, see. The goal isn't to kill the enemy with the trap. It is to make sure it's hurt before it's ready, isn't it? We are like the head of the spear, broken in the belly of the beast. Our job is to make sure it bleeds hard."

If you listen to the screams, you can hear that they almost drown deep growls, as if from great hounds.

The men sit quietly, shielding the flame.

"I was told something strange by a Green Dragoon today," says the sergeant.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The last chapter

Storyteller's note: The first and last act of the last chapter was told by me and the middle by a very good friend.

The way Argos works, the Dreaming is a distinct Realm, sovereign unto only itself; and the Dreaming is ruled by nightmares. Not long ago, the entire Realm was built by the first of the Younger Gods -- a god so powerful it became a trinity, Morfeus, Geminon and Shaitan. Morfeus is the Lord of Nightmares, the force that bound all of Nightmare together. Now the Prince of the Realm has gone missing, and things are stirring deep in sinister dreams.

Act 1

The morning after M'narcel walked into the city of Assari and unleashed the Nightmare Demon, no one in the camp of Man had slept. Galan, having kept rigorous control his mind for so long without sleep, decided to take his rest.

M'narcel felt an urge to revisit the city in daylight, to see that things were safe now, but this was mainly shouted down by the Company until someone mentioned loot. Shortly thereafter, Banzel drove the Automotor  towards the nearest gate with M'narcel and van Zaar aboard. By now, they had received a few frightened looks and warding mutters from the soldiers in the camp.

Once at the gates, the trio starts debating the degree of danger inside the city walls. eventually deciding that only one should enter - and the rest should wait outside until one knew what one was dealing with. The logical choice fell on the volunteer, M'narcel. By now, they had debated long enough for some five hundred Green Dragoons to arrive. They, being an elite Macharite regiment, and being brave lads and all, had been ordered to investigate the city before allowing anyone else inside. Of course they would not stop the fine Gentlemen Adventures from entering. Exactly what what followed is uncertain, but tempers flared, and the trio stood aside while the primitives blew the gate open.

First fifty dragoons ride in, and as they come out dispatches start riding. Van Zaar, offended and disgusted by the incompetence of the military regimen stalks off towards the camp. After having vented his frustration by making sure he was perceived as properly unpleasant (menacing stares and cold laughter) by passing troops, M'narcel decides that he is supposed to be inside the walls. So he walks through the gate.

Banzel, waiting in the Automotor in the fields get a distinct feeling that something is horribly wrong, and rush back to the camp. There, van Zaar, being a Dreamer, is able to identify what's happening: By letting N'Garthl loose in such a manner, a hole has been ripped in the tapestry. A Dream Sink has occurred -- an incredibly awesome phenomenon, a Force of Reality in itself. Good news, he can inform, it will end by itself, and soon. Bad news, M'narcel is inside, and getting out may not be possible.

In a concerted effort, the cabal reaches out to each other from one world to another, and thus, Galan, Banzel and van Zaar enter the Dreaming through astral imersion, their souls leaving their sleeping bodies, huddled together for strength, behind.

The Prince sit vigil over the dreamers.

Act 2

Storyteller's note: Here I am playing Sheperd, one of the First Letters of the Dream Caste. Very little is known about the Dream Caste by those who dream, and nothing by those who don't. Their founding event was the dreamcast Franko da Cola made before transcending to Prince of Nightmares. Fifty letters were sent to Dreamers who answered the call.

Sheperd is a man of great faith, who sees the need for great sacrifice. The reason for his presence here seems to be two-fold, but he appears to be someone who belongs in the Dreaming.

Van Zaar is NPC'ed.


Once the cabal has entered the Dreaming, they come across a door in the empty dreams in the wake of the Dream Sink. Coming out of the door is a gentleman of indeterminable age, well dressed for walking. He introduces himself as Sheperd, and greets van Zaar by his given name, he then bids the cabal walk inside to the Corridor. From there he takes them to a peaceful location in a dream about reveal a nightmare.

Here Sheperd and M'narcel have a talk about the things M'narcel have done. The three summons of N'gartl is mentioned, especially the Scutino-incident. Sheperd argue the danger and irresponsibility of the acts, while M'narcel maintain that nothing he's done has been against the will of the Company. The two do not reach an agreement on the issue. Sheperd here passed on the warning of the Olympos to M'narcel.

Here the realities of being caught in the Dream Sink became clear. There was no way to get out, or so it would seem. Sheperd told the Company that he was going to the Castle of A Thousand Doors to find out what happened to Morfeus, and recruited the heroes in this endeavor. His path, he told them, was to locate the Castle, then enter through the Library. He also mentioned the possibility of finding a way out of the Dreaming from there.

And so they traveled through the nightmares, following one line of dreams after another, until they arrived at the shores of the Sea. The ancient nightmare of the unfathomable ocean proved to be difficult to cross without coming too close to the Deep -- these days you can get lost out there. M'narcel and Banzel had a brainstorming on the matter, and they came up with a plan for an airship to fly above the water. M'narcel then shaped the ship out of pure Spirit Essence.

Traveling in this manner, they found one of the Great Dreams, and through it they managed to get close to Grimfang Forest where they had to abandon the ship and continue on foot. At this point, Galan was starting to become worn down by the nightmare he had been trapped in. Apathy and a small seed of Desperation seemed to set in as he was dragged deeper and deeper. Inside the Primordial Forest, Banzel discovered a Ledetråd. A line, like a thread running through Creation, that could be followed.

The mysterious stranger, this dreamwalker, seemed content to let the heroes do most of the leg-work. While they traveled, he and M'narcel had a few conversations. The only way, Sheperd said, to get inside the castle itself is to enter when the doors between the Library and the Castle is opened to let the Nightmares flush the Library. Dangerous work, but he had to go there. The company could follow, or try to make their way out on their own.

Inside the Library, the company made sure to look for books of note. Only the Captain, knowing exactly which book he wanted, and knowing its name, managed to locate the Saragossa Manuscript. At this point, however, he was hard beset by Despair and wanting only to awake. He was convinced to go even deeper into the nightmare by van Zaar, and especially M'narcel. The latter now starting to glimpse the forces moving behind the scenes.

So, when night fell upon the Library and the doors were cast open, the Cabal walked with Sheperd through a maelstrom of raging claws and fangs and mouths, tearing, snapping and howling at them. Unscathed and inside, they come again to the Corridor. This time it takes them to the Throneroom. The very center of the Realm, now vast and empty, filled with nothing but sadness and silent echoes. Here, behind the Hybris, the throne of Morfeus, M'narcel sees a creature. Half featureless and half function, he is Möbel, the servant of Morfeus. His master is not in, he says.

Now Galan and Banzel make a feverish attempt to get out, but find themselves unable to leave this dream. M'narcel, however, speak of great things there, on top of one of the myriad of towers in the Castle.

Once he has spoken Möbel is again asked for the way out, and this time he answers truthfully. Sheperd bids the Company farewell, and reminds M'narcel that he is now part of the Chain, and that he now carries the Letter.

The heroes wake up.

Act 3 ~

Galan wake up and find himself spooned by Banzel and van Zaar. He feels terrible, and so does the rest. The three of them are obviously ill.

M'narcel at the same time, finds himself alone back in the city. Apart from a camp set up by some soldiers by one of the gates there is nothing inside the walls. Not even houses. He quickly appropriates a horse and rides hard up to the camp. Here he finds that a wide fence has been erected around their tent, and that solid-looking soldiers have been set to guard it, inside the fences. He is let through without any challenge.

The Cabal receives a letter from the Marshall stating that as they have been non-responsive for a while, he, the Marshall, have made sure they are as safe as possible. Now the heroes realize that three and a half days have passed since they entered the Dreaming.

They respond back, informing the Marshall that the Cabal will leave this theater. They plan to return to the Pius.

Hello Cthulhu

"I saw him on a sleepless night when I was walking desperately to save my soul and my vision."
~H.P. Lovecraft, "He"

Cthulhu has become a fixture in the Book of Worlds. Now, while the Misadventures of Hello Cthulhu has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the Deep, the comic is still right entertaining (and presumably it incurs no permanent loss of sanity).

Historical References

One of the chief sources of inspiration in my storytelling is history -- our history (as in RL, doofus). Now, as it happens, I'm a history-buff, reading one book after another about ancient wars, collapsing empires, and the customs of people long dead. One of the drawbacks is that when I toss out a reference, say, "The man is dressed in a slightly old-fashioned manner; picture a late 16th Century Englishman," it may not necessarily be universally informative...

So, in the interest of public education, I have come up with a new column: Historical References. Here I'll scour the intertubes for pictures and articles of era-specific relevance.

So, without further ado...

Historical References I

Portrait of Abel Tasman, His Wife and Daughter
Attributed to Jacob Gerritsz Cuyp (1594–1651)
Picture hosted by: the National Library of Australia

The portrait is of a Dutch explorer, in fact the first European to find Tasmania and New Zealand. This is a nice example of the style of a Wezellian family.

Soldier of the Carignan-Salieres Regiment
Francis Back

This fellow represents a typical Erian infantryman. Uniforms are not widely used by armies, instead using colored cloth tied around an arm, a flower in the hat, or any number of similar improvised ways of signalling uniformity. Note that certain prestigious units, like royal guards, use uniforms. One important distinction is that the picture displays a matchlock musket. Most kingdoms now use flintlock muskets, or even the expensive flintlock rifles.

Picture by: Swords and Armor

Another trusty companion of all soldiers and adventurers is the sword. In the world of Argos, the swords in use are not typically the huge blades of Conan or Strider, but the slightly more sophisticated basket-hilted Renaissance blade. Of course, the true gentleman will arm himself with a musketeer-style blade akin to that on the above picture.

 The Peasant Meal
Le Nain Brothers
Picture hosted by: 

And this romantic scene offers a glimpse into the life of the average working stiff. Even in a roleplaying world, not everyone leads a life of daring adventures.

The awesome Wikipedia has a nice article on era-relevant fashion. This is a good general introduction to the mainstream fashion of Eria, and it also explains a few slightly foreign articles of clothing, like the doublet and other items not commonly found in most contemporary wardrobes.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The First Letter

17 Sextum, YE 1013

This morning, when I woke up from the dream, I found the Letter on my bedside table.


The Olympos is coming,
you must prepare!


Storyteller's note: Entry in the diary of an Oneironaut.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Black Mark

"Deliver upon those who follow paths not sanguine the Black Mark, so that your brothers may recognize them for who they truly are. Let their soul be marked, for it is already besmudged by their own actions.

Let those who wish to allign themselves with the traitor so marked be aware that by so doing they are themselves in risk of the retribution of the righteous. For is not your enemy's friend also your enemy?

Let all who seek to lead your brothers astray fear the vengeance of the just. Allow them no respite, no succor, no safety. Let their mothers weep for having born such trecherous foulness into the world.

Shed no tears for those who bear the Black Mark, for he who follows the path of damnation damns not just himself, but all of Man."

-Heretic's Pyre

Storyteller's note: Questions have been raised about the Black Mark M'narcel was given by the Priest. I hope this exerpt helps to shed some light on the issue.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Simultaneously, somewhere else

Storyteller's note: Captain Armand has been around for a while, but recently he's acquired a more important role, that of nemesis. So, I decided he deserves some attention, just to include him more in the story, especially since the lads are landlocked for the time being. Armand is still out there, and most certainly up to no good what so ever.


Captain Armand stands on the stern deck of his ship; the massive bulk of the black hull carves the dark waters of the Ashen Arm, and within the hour he will anchor up in the harbour of Mūr-Chadrac. In the cavernous belly of the ship lies the key, rather, the gate, to what is left of the future. "Soon," he mutters, "soon this will all be over." He has been patient, but now the pieces are in place for the endgame -- the end of all games.

Sailors scurry up the ropes, like so many insects, to trim the sails. A fine crew. His crew, and he has picked each man himself; the cream of centuries and centuries worth of crops. Each man taken from their wet grave, only the best have been given a place on this ship. Each man has willingly forsworn land, life and soul, and each man knows well what is expected, and what is to come. He takes great pride in running a tight ship, and no captain, alive or dead, above or below, can match the damned men of the Black Ship Kraken.

More than a millennium has passed since he led the Great Armada of Man across the Empty Ocean to do battle with the elves. An eternity, it seems. Strange, he muses, that he, an immortal, now yearns for the end. The end to all things, and the beginning of the vast and unending nothing that will follow. All life will be scoured from first this world, then another, and another, until all the life on all the worlds are extinguished. The suns will grow cold and dark, the continents will be swallowed by the Deep, and nothing will be left. And it has begun.

A pack of devilfish is following the Kraken, prowling silently like malevolent shadows in its wake. Armand turns to watch the swift predators, looking for familiar shapes. When he spots the huge silhouette of Old Scar, an almost tender expression brushes over his face like the sun revealed briefly behind stormy clouds. He bows respectfully to the old killer and turns back again, just in time to see Gormantang, a claw-like cliff that stabs towards the heavens, emerge from behind a bend in the fjord. It also marks the end of this journey; below the foreboding spire lies Mūr-Chadrac, the City of the Fallen Star. Already the thick, black, oily smoke rising from the city's vast forge-pits can be seen coiling upwards like enormous black, fat snakes.

Not long after, the Kraken glides silently between the sharp rocks of Shredder Reef, and when the ship passes beneath Skull Point, the air is torn asunder by a twin broadside-salute. To those on land, watching the Black Ship come into port, at first it seems like the vessel vanishes in a dark cloud of fire and smoke. Then the torn sails, flapping from tall masts amidst tangled ropes becomes visible. Tiny shapes can be made out, crawling up and down the tattered rigging, along yardarms and spares. The bowsprit pierces the curling smoke like a gigantic lance, and finally the hull itself, hulking, black and foreboding, comes into view. The smoke, torn into tentacle-like strands by the doomed galleon stretches lazily outwards and upwards, like some semi-corporeal creature of the deep searching for prey.

The salute is answered from the Citadel, the looming fortress that dominates the harbour from its location, perched on the cliff opposite Skull Point. Its massive cannons spit fire and smoke, thundering again and again in welcome of the Admiral of Lost Hope. Scores of great bats are chased from their rest in the caves beneath the fortress. They take flight in large swarms that fly over the chaotic mass of houses that make up the city, over roofs and spires, towers and palaces. Then they seem to melt away as the enormous anchor of the Kraken splashes into the grey water of the harbour, and the greatest of the Black Ships lurch to a standstill.

The Star Chamber is packed. It is the oldest room in the Citadel, and once upon a time it housed an elven court. Only the floor is left of the original structure, and the black marble displays a breathtaking star-map. When it is empty, every constellation visible from the Broken Coast can be seen, every star, and every astral body, including the most recent astrological phenomenon, the red star; Male Astra.

Now the view is obscured by guards, courtiers and supplicants, advisors, diplomats and dignitaries. When Armand enters through the large bronze doors engraved with scenes from the history of Argos, the murmur stops instantly. The crowd parts to reveal the Queen of Sorrow herself, seated on the blackened, silvery Thorn Throne, resplendent in a silk gown the colour of the midnight sky. A single pendant, a star shaped from an icy blue crystal, sparkling like its cousins in the heavens, framed in white metal, hangs from the delicate neck of the succubus. There is something mocking about her perfect smile.

Armand walks across the stars -- a whiff of the open sea spreads through the room -- and stops thirteen paces in front of the throne where he takes a knee. "Your illustrious Majesty, Queen of Stars, Mother, Your loyal and most obedient servant awaits Your command." Eyes downcast, kneeling on the constellation the Erians call The Enemy, his voice deep and melodious.

"Armand," the queen says, "my love, you come before me as a victor." She lets the words linger. "There is something quite seducing about the victorious hero returning. It agrees with you, I think." The Star Chamber is silent, only the subtle rustling of silk can be heard as the Queen's ladies-in-waiting edge closer to the throne.

"Why is it that you never look me in the eyes, admiral?"

"I would come adrift, Your Majesty," Armand answers, "I would become lost, and I fear I would come to resent the sea for keeping me away from you."

The Queen laughs, her laughter is like pearls being poured from a velvet purse. Armand smiles, head still bent. They have played this game before. In fact, once, an age ago, they were lovers.

Moments pass. No one moves. Finally she says, "Tell me about your endeavour, my dear captain."

"Cora fell quickly, my Queen, as we expected. The Knights of St Invictus were no threat, just as the traitor promised. Their Watcher died in her chambers before I called the Storm, and they got no warning. We already had men inside the city when the Old One came over the breakwater, and while some Knights made a futile stand together with the Wolf Lords, they never had a chance.

The crew of the Sepulchre and the Despair ravaged the city, while I entered the fortress -- again, the traitor kept his word. The wolfs and Knights guarding the artefact resisted, of course, but this is our age, Your Majesty. No one can stand against the Deep."

A murmur goes through the room as the crowd intones, "So say we all."

"When we left Cora, Your Majesty, sixty seven ships, twenty three fully crewed, had been claimed by the Storm and the Old One. Cora stands alone, the navies of Eria have lost the Straits of Ahriman, and we have the Gateposts. The Host of Man is cut off."

"My congratulations, admiral," the Queen says, "you serve the Lord of the Locust well, as always."

"Now, tell me," she continues, "I have heard about a ship, or, I've been informed, more accurately, a war-cabal, that have started meddling in our affairs in the Colonies. You know of what I speak?"

"I do, Mother," Armand says, "the Pius, it's called. The captain is a Pendrellian, a rogue Argonaut. There is also an Exalted among them. I have been following that ship for a year or so, and I am confident that, while they may cause some problems for your son, the Pius Cabal will not be of consequence as far as the Great Scheme is concerned."

"So certain, Armand?" The Queen's voice is suddenly cold. It has the feeling of frostbite.

"I am, Majesty. Their real leader is an old Wezellian drunk, and moreso, there is one among them who walk the Path of Thorns. He is the one who called upon the Drowned Man, and he will come to us. Isn't it true, Majesty, that he gave you his True Name before the cabal landed on the Dark Continent?"

"I hold many names, Armand, and you are forgetting your place, I fear."

"I apologise, Mistress."

The Queen laughs again, and at least one of the courtiers sighs of relief. "As ever, my dear, you walk a fine line between insolence and obedience.

Now, let us dispense of this. I will retire, and you, my captain, I am sure, have pressing matters to attend to."

Escorted by her ladies-in-waiting the Queen of Stars leaves the kneeling captain and her court. When she exits the Star Chamber, the stars on the floor goes out, as if a cloud blankets out the sky.

Armand finally rises, straightens his coat, and leaves the Court of Stars. He does have pressing matters to attend to.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The last chapter

Having made it to Drachenau, the Company were now faced with the task of finding their way back again. This proved to be anything but easy. The captain discovered this when he realized that he was unable to tell where he was, let alone how to get back to the citrus grove (for a Deciple of Space, this can be rather terrifying).

Luckily, M'narcel was able to locate a path. Van Zaar was certain that they were deep in the Dreaming, and that they should head for the port of Longing. On these precepts, they followed the path towards the ocean. Van Zaar also named a few particularly nasty locations and creatures, just to make sure everybody expected the worst.

After a while, the path led them to a gorge, with a small river that threw itself forcefully towards lower ground. On an ancient stone bridge accross the river, a man sat, smoking his pipe. Black haired, clad in a worn but well kept traveler's coat, with a black staff resting against the bridge's railing; van Zaar quicly reckognized Sir William, the Black Staff of Argos, arguably the greatest wizard of this time.

As it happens, Blackstaff was waiting for the Company, and in the manner of wizards, seemed to expect them exactly when they came. He was meaning to talk to them, he said, and for the next while that is what happened. The heroes asked himany questions, and he answered them to the best of his ability. They asked about libraries and Outsiders, about magic and the future, and about other things purtaining to the end of the Third Age.

"Where we stand now, know that defeat is the most likely outcome."
~Sir William Blackstaff

Blackstaff also told the tale of his Awakening; when Aziz, carrying the fallen Grishnak, led his followers accross the desert to the Broken White Tower. Where the ancient Living Prophet showed Blackstaff the path to Awakening before He was killed, and where he was given the Black Staff by the Master of the Ahl-i'Bahtin. He told them about Franko da Cola, a man he has been following ever since the Great Betrayal. He spoke of many more great things.

Upon parting, Blackstaff showed the Company the path back, then he wandered off into mystery again, promising that they would meat again.

"I walk the narrow path between what is and what must not be, between what will happen and what may come to pass."
~Sir William Blackstaff

Upon reaching the citrus grove again, the debate over what to do next erupted. They had been given leave to call upon the dragon Ahazverus three times, and here they had need of a powerful intervention. The discussion led towards calling the dragon down on first Assari, then Victoria, and in so doing, forcing Caracalla out into the open. But first they would meet with the Marshall.

Marshall Roeder seemed quite pleased with the prospect of taking two cities in as many days, and so their plan got his blessing.

When night fell over the besieged city of Assari, the plan had been altered slightly. Galan would create a magical gate from their own lines to a tower on the city walls. Through it, Aegir, M'narcel, and himself, would make their way to the middle o the city. There M'narcel would summon the great nightmare-beast N'Gartl, thus reserving the dragon for a later time.

Before the gate was opened, Banzel sniped off the three guards on the tower. The rest of the men on watch in that tower this night were dispatched by the Last Prince of the Enæïdan while the trio descended to street-level. The streets of Assari, quiet under the curfew, offered little to stop or deterr the infiltrating war cabal.

On the central piazza M'narcel called out to the dream-demon again, offering it every soul within the city walls. As the Hound of Morfeus tore into reality, Galan created another gate, leading the three back to their compannions, and to safety.

That night, none slept in the camp of the besiegers. From within the city, the screams of the dammned rose towards the heavens like flames from a great fire. Only come daybreak did silence fall over the empty houses, streets, and fortifications of Assari.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The last two chapters

Due to administrative fluctuations this entry will contain two chapters.

Starting exactly where the previous ended, with the Hellghast defeated and Prince Aegil and several of his Enæïd severely wounded.

Since time was short (the Glencaellyn Rifles would have to assault the halfway-fort come daylight, regardless of the actions of the Company), the Enæïd were left to tend to their wounds while the magicians advanced.

They reached the fort about half an hour before sunrise, and established communications with van Zaar, riding with the Rifles. Captain Galan mapped the area through scrying, and together with M'narcel/Drake, he set up a covering possition as close to the walls as they could get without being spotted. The task of breaching the fort fell on Banzel.

While the Company argued the plan, the captain became aware of a party of four humans loading a motorcar in the middle of the Orog garrison. One of the boxes caught his attention, a led chest, some four foot long, and one foot wide and deep. The humans were all dressed in identical clothes, kakhis, and one of them had the telltale mechanical monocle of the cyclops (last time the company encountered on of those was on the Waymar Islands).

Banzel wanted to take them out before they could escape, but this was vetoed by Galan and van Zaar.

After Banzel linked up with the two hundred men of the breaching detail things proceeded quickly. Under cannister-fire from the battery on the walls, and targeted by snipers the two hundred yards up to the gate was a deadly dash. Galan and M'narcel did their best to pick off officers and snipers, and Banzel reached the gate with about hundred men. Here he quickly tore down the gates and the rifles stormed into the courtyard.

The last suprize the defenders had in store were two glass orbs. The captain managed to break one on the ramparts with a precise shot, but the second reached the ground. When the orbs broke, they let out great clouds of pestilence and death, engulfing both the ramparts and the gatehouse - thus cutting Banzel and his men off from inforcements from outside.

Even with the Orogs on the walls trapped in the green gaseous cloud, the two hundred in the courtyard would surely be more than a match for the surviving attackers. This is when M'narcel walked into the Shaderealm. Here he was called out by name by something that shouldn't exist. Still, he pressed on, and found a Windling willing to serve. He led the spirit back to the physical realm and sent it charging through the poison gas, thus dispersing it enough to allow the Glencaellyn Rifles to take the halfway-fort.

A few hour after the fort fell, again accompanied by the Prince, the Company set out after the motorcar, mounted on Windlings.

They passed their prey shortly after midday, and set up an ambush in a grove of palmtrees. Banzel magically prepared a pit of quicksand big enough to make sure the vehicle were stopped, then he dug himself a bunker and went into possition with the Hellghast's rifle. The rest of the party also went to ground, with varying degrees of success.

After a while the motorcar came around the bend. M'narcel, sharpening his scythes, having concealed himself next to a young palmtree by the side of the road, were spotted by the fat cyclops right before the motorcar hit the quicksand. Banzel killed the driver, and the Prince, springing forth from his hiding-place, killed the two in the back.

The Company had decided to take the cyclops alive, but the Prince quickly found that to be easier said than done. As soon as he had managed to get a good hold of the obese man with the mechanical monocle, the cyclop started heave and cough, like something was stuck in his throat - actually, more like he was attempting to disgorge his intestines. When something looking like the man's asophagus, only with a vicious eyeless head, with a mouth crammed with needle-like teeth, came forth from the man's gaping mouth, the Company switched to Plan B. Four magicians and an Exalted poured all their might into the creature that seemed to shed the flesh of its host, killing it before it could come into play.

End chapter/new chapter

After the successful ambush, the Company initiated one of their trademark discussions. For someone who have never witnessed this, it is a little hard to fully explain; van Zaar will usually make a lengthy statement on the real or percieved relevance of the matter at hand in conjunction to some metaphysical theory and/or phenomenon. Galan will listen and attempt to apply this to the situation at hand. Banzel, always with an eye on the practical will propose ways to deal with the situation, often involving guns or explosives. M'narcel typically says little, in stead he waits until he is asked for help (something that typically involves summonig of something*). Aegil seldom speaks during these council-sessions, but he sometime raises questions of a definite important nature. These talks usually lasts until one or more of the Company is too intoxicated (more often than not van Zaar) to continue, or, as in this case, until events interrupt.

This time they were interrupted by the sound of horses. As it happens, it was the enemy; two dozen Blood Legion cavalry were coming up the road from Victoria, and they were close.

At this point in the story, the heroes have become a war-cabal. And now, almost taken by suprize by the forces of darkness, they quickly sprang into action. They rapidly entered into the hive-mind Galan created, and all of them were ready within seconds. Discression is, they say, the better part of valour, and here the Cabal went for retreat.

Banzel was designated as the operator of the transportation-machine captured from the four Outsiders, and while the rest provided covering fire, he managed to negotiate with the engine, enough to make it obey. At great speed, and in a storm of lead, they withdrew, leaving a handful of Blood Legion soldiers dead in the dust.

During the previous council-session, they had decided that since they were now in close proximity to the site where Franko da Cola broke the seal, they would go on a pilgrimage to that place. So now they rode the machine South, through the halfway-fort, and further to Muhwal, the center of the Host of Man. Here they rested for the night.

While here, Banzel managed to create more fuel for the engine, and the rest withdrew to their quarters. Galan was visited by Octavian (a very close relationship seems to be forming between the two magicians), and in the dialogue that followed, the remainding members of the Cabal were roused from their sleep.

Octavian could give some information about the mysterious lead chest, and Galan, reading the journal of the leader of the Outsiders' expedition, Professor Schmitt, could furnish the matter further. The item, reffered to as Artifact Ypsilon 071, or alternately, Deicide, had apparently been hidden by the Inconnu. Why or when, no one could shed more light on.

The following morning (or, more accurately, a little before noon), the Company set out for their goal, located in, or close by, the city of Assari. Incidentally, this city, the next major one South of Muhwal, were set for attack by the Host this day. Travelling southward, they passed recent battlegrounds, and several units moving to join the siege and assault.

Only in the early evening did they reach their destination, and by then, the lines had been drawn up. Ten thousand Erian infantry, Mujahed and Wolf Lords were busy building fortifications and setting up siege possitions. With the city sealed off, the Company had to rely on magic to point the way.

The chronomancer van Zaar searched the streams of time, and found the memory of da Cola's visit, a generation earlier. He saw the first attack of the Orc on the Old Colonies, and the citrus grove da Cola and his compannions headed to when they escaped the Horde. Banzel sought out a trio of ravens who led the Company to the grove.

Here they decided to open the portal. Actually, they decided to let Galan call upon the powers that lay beyond -- something that annoyed M'narcel no end, after all, wasn't such matters his domain? After some negotiation, they opted for a different approach. Armed with the name of the Second Dragon, M'narcel led them through the portal and deep into Argos' Umbra.

Finally they reached the remote and ancient Drachenau, or Dragon's Reach. Three times the worlock called the dragon's name before it came. Faced with such an ancient power, the toungues of the magicians quickly froze, and none of them seemed able to take any action. Not until the Prince of the Enæïdùn stepped forward did the dragon speak; three times he may be called.

And so, with the dragon returned to its watch, the chapter ended.

*Ref. the Scutino-incident, the Drowned Man, as well as a few other, somewhat unfortunate episodes.

Storyteller's note: Before the last session, I had no idea as to what would happen. The players did set their own course, and it took them off the map, as it were. I really enjoy those chapters, all seat of pants gaming, and I believe I might go for one more of those next time. We'll see.

Anyway, now they are somewhat lost in the deeper reaches of the Spirit World. How they are to get out should be interesting, I think ;)