Vastlands ep 12 – The King is dead, long live the King

Well, this session king of spiraled out of control. We had a last minute surprise that one of our players couldn’t make it, and another was on a long distance train so could only type. So I decided to postpone with a little “colour” session, where I would let the players interact with various factions in Brakenwald and give a little background of the “larger world”.
Then it all went sideways!

Joan of Arc leaving Vaucouleurs – Jean Jacques Scherrer (1855-1916)

In Game

PCs present: Alette (Hunter 3), Estmund (Dolmenwood Knight 3), Prudence (Sorcerer 3),
NPCs: Fluff-Tail (Grimalkin 1), Solvang (Magic-User 3). John Clay (Gunslinger 1)

After the travails of their trip through the fairy-roads, the party awoke to a strangely sombre Brankenwald. Looking out of their windows they saw the market square largely deserted and fog filled. Downstairs the mood was similarly sombre in the breakfast room of the Chateau. Estmund asked the proprietor, Mr Underhill, what was going on. “Haven’t you heard? The King was assassinated! The Order is coming today to arrest the sorcerors!”
Prue immediately joined in. “What does one have to do with the other?”
Mr Underhill responded in a whisper “The assassin was a warlock! He used dark powers to pass the palace guards. The Order of St Faxis has come to examine the College of Physik and Sorcery for signs of dark magics! They have been camped outside town and waiting for days for a response. Today was their deadline.”

Prue was excited at the possibilities. Everyone was busy and occupied by the marching god-botherers, and she had received dreams from a new forest god – who wanted a shard of a shattered holy window as it’s talisman. She broached this to the others and suggested a quick walk to collect such a shard.
“So when there are actual witch hunters in town, marching in force, you want to go and throw stones at the cathedral’s stained glass windows?”
“Ok then!
They left John Clay watching their gear in the Chateau Inn, and snuck through the back streets to Brakenwald Cathedral. Alette and Solvang waiting outside with stones at the ready, while Prue and Estmund went inside. The hurried to the chosen window and sat down to wait. When the glass shattered Estmund moved to “help clean up” and hid a knife-sized shard under his cloak. Prue sat, pretending to pray. She called her second sight to look around – and was shocked by the sight of a huge spirit of wings and eyes floating above the altar. It was looking in her direction, searching for her. It’s voice murmered “foul magics are here…” Estmund looked up to see a Knight in gold-lined armor approaching – armor marked with the all-seeing eye of the Order of St Faxis. Prue sat motionless as she watched the spirit directing the Knight towards her – she closed her spirit sight and kneeled before walking away – and breathed a sigh of relief as the Knight turned and began talking to Estmund.

Estmund talked to the Knight – Sir Augustus of the Order of St Faxis. He was polite to a fellow knight, and they shared some history – Augustus had come from the capital Emeraude where the Archpriest had become regent for the young prince, and the Order had sent various small detachments to investigate various schools of sorcery for signs of heresy or treason. Augustus was happy to meet a local Knight from Harrowmoor, and asked if he could visit the Lady. Estmund expressed excitement at an invitation to meet Lord Bertrand (master of this detachment, made his polite farewells and hid his terror as he rejoined the others. Lady Harrowmoor and her daughter would be in danger from these Witch hunters!

Prue was shocked by the news, and wanted to see exactly what this confrontation would be like. The party once more hurried through the back streets to reach the front doors of the Royal College of Physick and Sorcery. There they watched as a dozen students were taken into custody by the Duke’s soldiers and the professors locked in chains. The head of the College – an Edwynne Woglemain – was actually standing up to the Witchhunter Lord Bertrand. The magician agreed that he would answer the lawful questions of the Witchhunters as ordered by the Regent, but he would not allow the looting of the College by the Witchhunters. Then he turned and magically sealed the College before taking the reins from one of the knights and riding towards the Cathedral.
Estmund noted how furious Lord Bertrand was, and how the Duke’s soldiers looked on in awe at the old man defying a fully armed Knight.

When the party returned to the Chateau Inn, they sat in shock. They discussed the effects of this, and were worried about what this meant for Solvang and Prue, as well as how it would effect Lady Harrowmoor or even their friend Laird Spinnewith.

The next morning Estmund went back to the Cathedral. He waited till after service to speak to the two Knights. They had been speaking to the Bishop who found other business to attend to. Estmund expressed interest in joining the Order and was excitedly told of their training grounds outside Emeraude and how they are always happy to accept honorable noblemen. He asked about their work and was told stories of the various investigations of sorcerors and hunts of dangerous magical creatures. Estmund asked for a chance to see “the heretics” in person, and Sir Augustus happily led him through a locked and guarded gate down through the crypt and into the catacombs below, where the students and professors had been gagged and shackled to the walls. “These men await their trial, and will not call any foul demons in the meantime. Estmund took special notice of the freshly spiked chains in the rock walls, the manacles with no locks, and the furious expression of Professor Edwynne.

Prue sent a whisper on the wind to Lady Harrowmoor – “Witch hunters have come to Brackenwald and imprisoned the magicians. We want to rescue them!”.

While she waited for a response, she led the party to a place she had heard about from her childhood friend back in Mismill (Belinda, a smuggler) The Poppycock Inn outside the walls of Brakenwald Highton. It was a dangerous looking place, full of gamblers and assorted criminals. Prue asked for “One Eyed Gil” and was directed to wait. A drunk looking lady accosted Estmund, and the pair nearly came to blows (with a dagger to his crotch!). The lady laughed at the meeting and introduced herself as Gil. Due to her business with Belinda she was willing to talk – and then looked shocked by the request to help in a jail break. While many of the patron tried to listen to the conversation, Estmund and Prue haggled out a possible deal – the “discouraged folk” would provide a skilled lock-breaker and provide interference against the Duke’s men, but would require 600 crowns as payment for all the trouble that would be caused. They agreed to think about it and come back later.

Prue received a message back from Lady Harrowmoor “Talk to the head cook in the castle, Mira, she will help you.” The met late at night as Mira was going home – she practically fawned over Prue, one joined with the Forest-Gods. They discussed their goals, and Mira said to wait for the Feast of St Moribund when there would be many wagons carrying supplies in and out of the castle – where a dozen or so people could be hidden. Mira promised to have “The Sisterhood” organised and ready to help.

At the Table

Wow, this escalated fast. We had been planning for everyone to be available, but sudden guests made Solvang’s player unable to join, and Alette’s player was on a long distance train (thanks to 4g phones they were able to listen and type). As I mentioned earlier I planned to give a little more colour about Dolmenwood – the Duke’s soldiers, the College of Magicians, and the Orders of St Faxis.

But I didn’t account for my players being so… decisive?

They took the opportunity for Prue to get a new spell (The “Sorcerer” class needs talismans to cast spells rather than spell books) but everyone got very nervous when the Witch Hunters were asking to visit Lady Harrowmoor (who the player character know is a High Priestess of the Witches) The real surprise was my “recolouring” of divine magic, the calling of “holy spirits” to carry out the requests of the clerics (Order of St Faxis). It terrified the players, and made them very very cautious about casting their own magic anywhere near the Witch Hunters.

After seeing the arrests the players got furious. Prue’s player was all for jumping in and attacking the soldiers and knights, but Estmund’s player didn’t want to start a civil war right there. But they immediately started making plans on how to stage a jail-break.

Oh boy.

But we rolled with it – Estmund’s player calling on the Knight’s class ability to get “hospitality” as permission to at least discuss with other Knights in a friendly manner – and play on their expectations to get lots of information! While Prue’s player called up background information from the early sessions to get information about the “underworld” and thieves guild of Brakenwald. All the players this session have played “Blades in the Dark” in the past, and were getting excited at comparing the two systems – as this would be a perfect situation to run using “Blades”.

In any case, they realise that someone is going to be pissed off at the characters, possibly multiple someones! This might end up being a turning point in the campaign. But it drives home the need for a different form of experience – as this will give them practically none (unless they loot the cathederal)

After the session we had a little chat. I learnt: “Never show anything you don’t want the players to get involved in”. There is no such thing as a “cut scene” in an RPG. Everything is interactive.

But damn this sounds like its going to get very exciting!

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