Wednesday, 29 August 2018

12. Waterday to Windsday; Death Week; Sea Season 1618

The heroes stared in disbelief as they recognised the voice and outline of Auric. Earlier in their travels, they had encountered Auric and other Hidden Gale warriors being pursued by Lunar soldiers. As a result of their intervention in the skirmish, Auric had been turned over to the tender mercies of the Lunars whilst the companions had received the promise of a reward of 200 cattle. As they left the Lunar fort, Auric had been in the process of being here he was, amongst the Lunar-hating Black Spear Clan.

An uncomfortable few minutes passed, with the heroes convinced that Auric would order their deaths at any moment. As Auric leaned forward, however, they realised that he had been blinded by the Lunars! Although he had received healing, his eyes had not yet reformed in their sockets. To their relief, at that Neil the promised guide arrived and, as they took their leave, Auric called out: 'I look forward to the time we meet again, when I can lay eyes on such true sons and daughters of Orlanth!'

Their guide, a taciturn shield-maiden named Henga, tersely gave them her orders: 'Follow me; if I say stop, stop. If I say lie down, lie down. If I say close your eyes, do that. If you do as I say and move fast, we may get through the Wilds in one piece'.

Thus warned, the travellers set off. On their journey to Asborn's Stead, they hid from thunder lizards and had an odd experience. Henga ordered them to stop and close their eyes. As they stood, puzzled, the sound of what seemed to be a child's wordless singing approached from the forest to the East. Each of the clansmen had the sensation of something standing close by, staring into their faces. Although the temptation to open their eyes was strong, the moment passed and the weird singing moved off back to the East. As they opened their eyes, they noted that Henga was pale and sweating. Swallowing nervously, Henga urged them to move quickly, clearly desperate to reach Asborn's Stead before nightfall.

After what seemed like an age, a well-defended stead appeared in the distance. As soon as they were within bowshot of the timber palisade, Henga turned about and headed south without a word of farewell. Clearly, the Black Spear reputation for disliking strangers was well-deserved.

By contrast, Asborn Stead held a warm welcome for the clansmen. Asborn himself was a hearty host and a firm supporter of Kangharl's predecessor, Queen Leika, now an exile in the stronghold of Whitewall. During a feast in the best tradition of Sartarite hospitality, Asborn revealed that he and Kangharl had been sword-brothers, both fighting against the Lunars during Starbrow's Rebellion. Asborn was genuinely sad that Kangharl had seemingly turned his coat almost overnight; his new-found zeal for all things Lunar was a mystery to him. The heroes mused as to the reason why this had happened, and wondered whether the Lunars had some hidden hold over Kangharl...

The following morning, the companions set off for Apple Lane, confident the worst of the journey was behind them. By early afternoon, they reached Gringle's village. After encountering the local redsmith and a merchant, the heroes found Gringle's home only to find it locked and silent. Keen to speak to Gringle as soon as possible,  the clansmen entered the local tavern, the Tin Inn. Whilst waiting, they met with Dronlan Swordsharp, the local thane. Once Dronlan realised that Gringle was under Lunar threat, Dronlan took the band across to the Shop and rapidly gained them an audience with Gringle. Upon hearing that he was now an outlaw, and that Lunar forces were on the way to plunder his treasures, Gringle began to prepare to leave the village for exile. However, it would take him perhaps a day to gather his valuables together. Some of his treasures required careful preparation before they could be moved, and became dangerous if not handled properly. As Gringle disappeared into his basement to prepare, the clansfolk explored the building and made ready to defend it. And not too soon, as word reached them of a group of warriors entering the town, led by a Lunar woman whose body was heavily tattooed; one side the red of the Shepelkirt, and the other the blue of the Middle Air.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

2: A-Watch, S13 25/07/31: Later that morning...

As Kowalski and Wily surveyed the wreckage of the Futsie’s vehicle, an automated Justice Department traffic incident control team arrived. Rapidly, heavily armoured droids deployed armed detour signs, ready to take out any civilian vehicle that came too close to the wreck and thereby worsen the incident. In accordance with Departmental protocol, the Judges moved to a nearby Watching Bay to consider their next move. As they watched the wounded perp being winched out of the wreck to receive medical care before dispatch to a kook cube, they considered their next move. The revelation that a bomb was ticking down in Bruce Springsteen Block mean that their course was clear. Kowalski spoke calmly into her helmet mike above the ceaseless roar of traffic: ‘Control: possible explosive device at Bruce Springsteen Block. Dispatch Tek Squad pronto, and we’ll rendezvous on-site. Kowalski out!”.

Revving their Lawmasters mercilessly, the two Judges roared towards Springsteen Block. En route, Judge Muller was retasked to a nearby hit and run to dispense instant justice. No doubt, he would catch up with his Tac Team later. As they approached their destination, they noted numbers of block residents going about their business. Almost to a cit, they wore the ripped denims, check shirts and red bandanas of a loyal Springsteen Blockers. The Judge’s honed senses also identified members of the local gang clustered around a number of vehicles, lovingly customised to resemble pre-Atomic ‘convertibles’. Seeing this, Wily instructed Kowalski to join up with the arriving Tek Squad and deal with the explosive device whilst he address some no-doubt serious vehicle safety infractions.

Kowalski raced to the futsie’s hab, where her psionic powers had shown Mrs Fink chained to a large bomb. As she arrived on scene, she met up with Tek Judge Amos who was engaged in surveying the site. Using a spider-like droid, they were able to see that Kowalski’s report was correct. The bomb was there, as was a hysterical Mrs Fink, and time was running short! After directing the Assistant Teks to clear neighbouring appartments, Kowalski attempted to calm the chained citizen, but her skills did not run to friendly reassurance and Mrs Fink soon dissolved into a gibbering wreck. Seeing that time was of the essence, Kowaski burst into the hab as the timer registered 60 seconds to detonation! Although the floor was now mainly clear, the explosion would be immense.

Meanwhile, on the tween-block plaza Judge Wily was lecturing a group of insolent juves as to the importance of vehicular safety. Unfortunately, his nervousness must have shown through and the juves were happily answering back without fear of reprisal. Realising he had no time to lose, Wily pulled out his Lawgiver and stunned the most vocal of the perps into submission. The others quickly surrendered and allowed Wily to cuff and sentence them. Turning on his heel with the sense of a job well done, Wily looked up just in time to see huge cloud of dust and flame blossom mid-way up the block, triggering the closure of blast shields all over the front of the block.

As Kowalski and Amos had surveyed the situation in the apartment, Kowalski made a snap decision. Ordering Amos to prepare to free the cit, she had reached out with her Telekinesis ability to hold the rocker device in the bomb steady, preventing an immediate explosion. Grimacing with exertion, she had tried and failed to grip the device with her mind. Finally, she’d summoned up all of her mental reserves and managed to secure the device. Whilst Kowalski stood transfixed, Amos had released Mrs Fink, thrown her over his shoulder and headed for the stairwell. As the strain on her psyche became too much, Kowalski ran after Amos and made it to a safe area just as the bomb exploded with a massive ‘FOOOOM!’. Picking herself up, Kowalski then assisted Amos in bringing the now-comatose citizen to ground level.

By the time that Wily entered the block, Kowalski had reached the foyer. Fire crews were already on site, and the fatalities from the explosion were already on their way to Resyk. After updating each other on their relative contributions to enforcing the Law, they quickly decided on their next course of action. The unexplained disappearances in the area of Kimmi Kardashian Block remained forefront in their minds, so they headed on over to dig up some more information. As they reached KK Block, as it was known locally, they received a call from Control reporting a burglar being caught red-handed by a KK resident. Dutifully, the Tac Team went to investigate. This block was in stark contrast to Bruce Springsteen Block; rather than the brutalist lines of the pre-war blocks, this one had the smooth, curved lines so prevalent in newer blocks. The residents were likewise worlds apart from their blue-collar neighbours. The KK Blockers prided themselves on their ultra-fashionable appearance, with ever-more extravagant cosmetic surgery being the main past-time for the locals. Indeed, the pursuit of the perfect ideal of ‘booty’ had led to the ‘Rear of the Year’ contest being the cause of several riots and murders before a crackdown by the Judges. Still, the fashion for larger buttock inserts had meant that many residents had now co-opted the well-known Belly-Wheel and turned them into supports for their frankly ridiculous rear ends; the near ubiquitous ‘Bum Wheels’.

The foiled robbery had taken place at the hab of one Ethel Stoat, an Eld who still adhered to the KK ideal of form before function when it came to personal grooming; her foot-long fingernails attested to that. The would-be burglar turned out to be one Rock Beauchamp, a once in-demand beautician whose star was fading with age. Under tag-team interrogation from Kowalski and Wily, it became clear that the perp had developed an Adifax habit in an attempt to fend off the effects of ageing. As a result, he had fallen into debt, and had turned to a body-sharking racket to fund his addiction. He had tearfully handed over his most beloved companion as security to the ‘sharkers; a revolting rat of a hound called ‘Poochums’. In the course of the interrogation, it also became clear that Beauchamp had planned to steal a stash of contraband 20th Century fashion magazines that Stoat had been concealing, confident she wouldn’t report their theft. Handing down harsh sentences all round and calling for a Pat-Wagon, the Judges wondered whether the disappearances were connected with the local ‘sharkers, or whether something more sinister was in progress…

Making the most of their time at KK Block, Kowalski and Wily conducted a search of the habs of Hilary Swank and Eustace Glover, the cits who had disappeared without a trace. After a detailed review of the Tek Squad findings and a check of the PSU files on each, it became clear that the only thing they had in common was regular attendance at a local beauty parlour, rather ominously called ‘Racked’. It also turned out that many of the local beauty parlours were owned by the Radley family; Agnes Radley was also the Chair of the Block Committee, and arbiter of fashion through her control of the S13Vid Channel. A pattern of behaviour reminiscent of racketeering rang alarm bells for both Judges.

Still, in the interest of building a complete picture of the case, Tac Team Wily headed off to visit the Saturn Hotel, where two itinerant spacers had disappeared. But on the way, the unpredictability of a Judge’s existence on the streets was driven home as they were diverted to deal with a Wrecking in progress. As they rolled in on their Lawmasters, all guns blazing, Kowalski called it in: ‘Control, Judges on scene. Request at least one more helmet as back-up; the Wreckers mean business!’

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

1. A-Watch (06:00 to 14:00); Sector 13; 25 July 2131

America is an irradiated wasteland...within it lies a city. Outside the boundary walls, a desert. A Cursed Earth.
Inside the walls, a cursed city, stretching from Boston to Washington D.C. An unbroken concrete landscape. 400 million people living in the ruin of the old world and the mega structures of the new one. Mega blocks...Mega highways...Mega City One.
Convulsing...Choking...Breaking under its own weight. Citizens in fear of the street, the gun. the gang. Only one thing fighting for order in the chaos: the men and women of the Hall of Justice.
Juries. Executioners. Judges.
Judges Wily, Kowalski and Muller regarded each other as Judge Lande, Judge in Charge of Personnel for Sector 13, read through their service records. Recent casualties in the relentless war on crime had meant an influx of new blood and the formation of new partnerships. Judge Wily, a high-flying graduate from the Academy, had been sent to gain street experience in the seething cauldron of Dredd's old Sector. As such, he'd been placed in command of a new Tac-Group consisting of grizzled veterans of the streets. 'Sink or swim' his assessor had said at the conclusion of his Final Street Assessment; Wily was determined to swim.
Psi-Judge Kowalski came from tough Polish stock, who'd lived in the Sector since it was known by its pre-Atomic name: New Jersey. She'd been on the streets for five years, and in that time had seen all that it could throw at her. As a Psi-Judge, she was used to being passed from team to team as Judges around her inevitably became unnerved by her abilities, despite their obvious use in fighting crime. She was used to it, although constantly being on the edge and frequent use of her powers meant that her psych-evals were showing the beginnings of psi-trauma.
Muller was likewise a five-year vet. He too had grown up on these streets, but whereas many of his friends had ended up in Resyk through a life of crime, he'd fought his way into the Academy and succeeded against the odds. He was tough, uncompromising and prone to let his Lawgiver speak for him. Still, his arrest record was exemplary and his actions had so far eluded the attentions of the SJS, so the Sector Chief was content to let sleeping robo-attack-dogs lie.
As Lande finished his welcoming orientation, the newly-formed Tac-Group headed off to either the Sleep Machines or the shared dorms for their 'mandatory eight'. They were on the Breakfast Shift tomorrow, and knew they'd need all the rest they could get.
The Judges entered the Briefing Room together just before Judge Kemp, A-Watch Commander, started the briefing. The room had a sharp antiseptic smell and a harsh glare from the fluorescent lights recessed into the ceiling. Several of the Judges already seated were nursing a range of med-pack dressings on wounds taken in the latter half of the preceding Graveyard Shift. Some older Judges sat hollow-eyed, as the near-misses and almost-deaths of the preceding hours played on a constant loop in their minds; even Judges can only take so much.
As they entered, Muller nodded to some of his acquaintances. One in particular drew his attention: Judge Ronaldo was a close competitor when it came to both arrests and body count, and a definitely unfriendly rivalry had formed. Kowalski nodded to McNeill, a powerful empath she had grown to trust over the years. Wily, very aware of his comparative rookie status, tried hard to project a cool demeanour as he strode in, but unfortunately tripped over the edge of a chair, causing heads to turn. He was saved from embarrassment, however, as Kemp began the morning briefing dead on time as always. The briefing itself was unremarkable; the usual parade of homicides, robberies and new crazes the Justice Department had not yet seen fit to ban outright. One thing caught the Tac-Group's attention, however; a spate of missing person reports in and around Kimmi Kardashian Mega-Block.
Following the briefing, the Tac-Group headed down to the Quartermaster to draw their Lawgivers and ammo. A spate of irregular weapon malfunctions meant that weapons were checked in and out on every shift. Muller exchanged a few words with Judge-Quartermaster Couhoun, a confirmed gun-nut. As they headed down to the Garage Level, they could already hear the roar of Lawmasters as Judges headed out on their assigned tasks. Sitting astride their own Lawmasters, Wily directed Muller to choose the best route to Eustace Fargo Spaceport, their assigned patrol route. Muller led the trio out into the early morning traffic, the sound of engines and blaring horns penetrating even the sound suppressors in their helmets.
As they took a sweeping patrol route, a call came through from Control; a tap gang had been reported working the pedways near to the BoJo Johnson Luxy-Block. The trio immediately sped forward, with Kowalski showing off her driving skills by leaving Muller and Wily in her wake. Arriving at the crime scene, the Judges took in the situation with a trained eye. Three pairs of Taps were fully engaged in beating the Grud out of a group of citizens, oblivious to the arrival of the Law. Wily was first into the fray, leaping from his Lawmaster, taking aim with his Lawgiver and yelling to the nearest group to surrender. In response, two perps dropped their clubs and held up their hands. In contrast, Muller decided to take the direct approach; he skidded up to the pedway barrier and drew his Daystick, preparing to leap over and dispense the Law in his own inimitable style. As a precaution, he ordered his bike to shoot any perp that might try to run away. Kowalski, on the other hand, rode her Lawmaster calmly into earshot of the perps, dismounted and yelled a command to 'Stop and be judged!'. Such was the power of her demeanour that two inexperienced perps fainted on the spot, whilst one raised his hands, pleading for mercy.
One perp remained, obviously high on something. Having finished beating one citizen to death, he decided to add a Judge to his tally and ran towards Muller. Seeing this, Wily snapped off a Standard Execution round which struck the perp on the head, spinning him around and causing him to collapse at Muller's feet. As Muller charged towards the remaining perps, at least one of them lost control of their bladders at the sight of his snarling visage.
As a grateful citizen sobbed at his feet, Wily called in Meat- and Pat-Wagons to take the perps to begin heavy cube-time. Professionally, they cuffed the perps to holding posts and sped off to continue their patrol. As they rode along Jonny Galecki Overzoom towards the Spaceport, they noted traffic swerving ahead and horns being sounded. A slowster was disturbing the smooth flow of the traffic. Moving alongside, a brief query to M.A.C. resulted in an ID for the perp: the Foord Syerra was registered to one Carlton Fink33/17 Bruce Springsteen Block. As they moved alongside, a crazed face peered out from the vehicle's windows and the vehicle began to pick up speed. As the Judges moved in pursuit, one of the vehicle's windows opened and an object flew out, bouncing under a nearby transit pod. 'Littering' thought Kowalski...but suddenly the transit exploded! A bomb!
The chase began in earnest, as perp and Judge jockeyed for position. Wily soon fell back, and consulted his bike computer for a route that would cut off the perp. Muller took aim with his bike cannon and then his Lawgiver, aiming to shoot out a tyre on the Foord. Unfortunately, he only succeeded in damaging other vehicles as the runner swerved all over the road. It was left to Kowalski to close the distance, reach out with her mind and utter a single word under her breath: 'Pain!'. His nerve endings on fire, Fink crashed into the barrier and was trapped by the crash suppressors in the Foord. As Kowalski approached warily, she heard him babbling about how 'she was going to pay...boom!'. Reaching out with her mind, Kowalski traced the threads of the future, and saw the image of a woman in mid-20th century clothing and hairstyle, chained to a cooker in a hab block. Atop the cooker sat what was clearly a bomb, with the timer ticking down!
(To be continued....)

11. Freeze Day/Death Week to Waterday/Death Week; Sea Season 1618

As the heroes stood in the centre of the Lower Town of Clearwine discussing the events in  Kangharl’s court, they noticed Drenyan striding towards them. Whereas before he had seemed directionless with nothing driving him but a liking for drink, since his encounter with Terrastal he seemed to move with a renewed purpose. This purpose drove him now, as he summoned the companions to meet the Clan Circle.
As they entered the Clan Hall, Zarah was in mid-flow, angrily describing the events of earlier in the day. The Circle was divided, with some urging caution whilst others spoke for action. Into this dangerous brew, the heroes poured their story and Baranthos’ wish that Gringle be saved from the ungentle attentions of the Lunar overlords. As the decision hung in the balance Randel, Bofrost, Yrsa and Terrastal spoke passionately for action. All eyed turned to Morganeth White-Eye as she weighed their words. At once, she spoke firmly: “If Baranthos wishes it, Gringle must be saved!”.
The decision made, events moved quickly. As they were acting on behalf of the Clan, the heroes were given valuable gifts of armour, weapons or other goods to help them on their mission. Although they were tired from their experiences, they accompanied Randel to his initiation into the Cult of Issaries.
(Thanks to Andrew for his description of Randel's initiation below)
Randel is taken up in front of the priest and asked questions such as when are the holy days, when is market day, what is the most popular export from Clearwine and what items are most popular in Clearwine. Which he answers successfully (he has had some coaching).Then he is tested by having to participate in some trades in which he is given the opportunity to cheat the other participants and in  which someone tries to cheat to him. Randel ignores the opportunity to cheat the other merchant and picks up the attempt to cheat him and by rebuking the cheater and pointing out that Issaries always trades fairly passes the test.
Finally spirits are called and Randel is asked how Issaries has inspired him; he sights the moment he was able to calm the crowds in the square by invoking Issaries Harmony Rune. The spirits approve and Randel is welcomed into the cult. He is given a special coin with an image of Issaries on one side and Harmony and Movement Runes on the other and told if he keeps it in his coin bag the God will always watch over his wealth. He is also given tattoos of Harmony and Movement Runes on his chest.
The following morning, still yawning, the warriors set off to take the shortest route to Apple Lane. This would take them through the feared Colymar Wilds, a haunt of the Elder Races, hostile spirits and fearsome beasts. This was also the land claimed by the Black Spear Clan, fervent opponents of the Lunar Empire. Although they had the same goals, a friendly welcome from the Black Spear was far from certain.
As they headed for Old Man Village, the seat of the Orlmarthing Clan, the road wound through hilly and rough terrain. As they rounded a bend, a lone figure could be seen standing atop a bluff overlooking the road. As they approached warily, the figure spat insults and threats; it was Branduan, the Grey Dog warrior who had been desired the Ernalsulva at the Feast of Beasts. He reserved particular anger for Terrastal, his direct rival and let fly with an arrow. Quick as thought, Terrastal summoned his passion for his Clan and let fly with his own arrow. The shot was true, and pierced the meat of Branduan’s thigh. Howling, he fell to the ground behind a low bush. As the rest of the Grey Dog ambushers stepped forward, an enraged Terrastal let fly shot after shot, bringing down foe after foe. Randel charged forward on his mount, but soon received two arrow wounds to his abdomen as he attempted to control his skittish mount. Yrsa dismounted with ease and ran forward to assist, whilst Bofrost the Sage held on to his own frightened mount for grim death, muttering prayers all the while.
Soon, the one-sided battle was over and the companions searched for Branduan. However,  all that remained of him was a pool of blood and mud, churned up by the hooves of the mount on which he had fled. Frustrated, the party debated killing the wounded, but settle for simply riding on. As the wounded cried for aid, they were answered by the howling of wolves and the calls of other, less merciful beasts.
After enjoying the hospitality and healing of the Orlmarthing Clan, the party continued their journey early the next day, desperate to reach Apple Lane ahead of their Lunar opponents. As Yelp reached the mid-point of his journey through the Upper Air, their way was blocked by the dishevelled and uncouth warriors of the Black Spear. Though they eloquently set forth their common hatred of the Lunars, and the urgency of their mission, nevertheless the huge warrior maiden leading the band was duty bound to take them before her chief for his decision.
At the Black Spear camp, the companions were taken into a smoky, darkened tent and  brought before Vestorfin Tribute-Taker. They were surprised to meet a small, intense, quietly spoken man; not the giant warrior they had expected. However, his worth was soon made clear as he questioned them closely about their loyalties and intentions. Satisfied they were not Lunar spies, Vestorfin offered a guide and escort through the Wilds, as far as the edge of Asborn’s lands. Hearing of their wish to throw off the Lunar yoke, Vestorfin beckoned forward a shadowy figure from the rear of the tent. ‘This is someone you should meet, if you follow the path of rebellion’. As the figure shuffled forward, the heroes had a shock of recognition. The figure was none other than Auric Traskarsson, warrior of the Hidden Gale, who they had handed over to the Lunars not 16 days before in return for a payment of cattle. The last they had seen of him, Auric was being crucified above the gate of a Lunar fort; now, the next words from his lips may mean a bloody execution at the hands of the Black Spears…

10. Godday/ Harmony Week to Freeze Day/Death Week; Sea Season 1618 (another long post!)

Terrastal, Yrsa and Randel stood dumbfounded around Bofrost as he described his strange vision. It seemed clear that there was to be a sacrifice, but of who and when? Terrastal was convinced that Baranthos was to be the victim, but the others were less convinced. Despite the late hour and their exhaustion from the events of the day, the companions set off into the night searching for more information. Whilst Yrsa and Terrastal headed for the Clan Hall, Randel mingled with the crowds and Bofrost set off to consult with his fellow Sages.

Randel immediately noticed that the crowd was subdued, worried about what the Marriage Contest may mean for themselves and their families. Although great adventures are the fibres from which heroes weave their legends, the same fibres all too often make a noose for the necks of the common folk. Randel appealed to the crowd to trust in himself and his companions to do what was right for the clan, but this fell on deaf ears and scuffles broke out as clanfolk argued.  Seeing this, Randel brought forth the power of his spirit and let his Harmony rune shine through his words. His words spoke to the spirits of the commoners, and they began to follow him and hang on his words. As he walked, he saw the farmer whose land he had helped clear of Broo taint; as he told his tale, he pointed out  Randel, and all looked at him with great respect.

Meanwhile, Bofrost met with the Grey Sages, who were packing for their journey back to Jonstown. The events at the feast dominated conversation. Although they argued as to detail, as is the way of Sages, all agreed that the Marriage Contest had a strong foundation in myths from the Godtime. Indeed, this was one of many stories that had been reported from across Dragon Pass; long-slumbering myths seemed to be waking up, in preparation for some unknown purpose. With regard to the Red Hands, there was much disagreement as to what had happened to them following Hofstaring’s death. However, they did agree that the Hands were last seen in Boldhome, the capital of Sartar.

As Terrastal and Yrsa approached the Clan Hall, they noticed that there were more weaponthanes on the streets than was usual, and that they seemed more watchful than usual. At the door to the Hall, their way was blocked by Willa and Merlac, hardened warriors of their acquaintance. Yrsa attempted to sway them with a ballad recalling the honour of the clan, but Terrastal appealed to their warrior hearts and they were admitted. 

Within, they found the Clan Ring engaged in fierce debate. Drenyan was arguing for a swift and violent response to the holding of Baranthos, whereas Morganeth White-Eye counselled caution.  As the heroes told their story, Terrastal and Yrsa supported Drenyan’s call for action but Orlmgard, the Clan Lawspeaker, insisited that even Kangharl would not dare to execute a Clan Chief without at least the pretence of a trial. The heroes once more urged action, but Baranthos’ wife Zarah stepped forward and asked what the Lunars would do to Clearwine if they rose up; she reminded them of the fate of the people of Runestone in Starbrow’s rebellion, their souls destroyed forever in the maw of the Crimson Bat.

As this terrible image played out in their minds, a Lunar slave was admitted, holding out a scroll. Terrastal handed this over to Orlmgard, who relayed its contents in a shocked voice. The King had declared Gringle Goodsell an outlaw and placed him beyond tribal protection. After some debate, the Circle members wondered whether Gringle was the sacrifice that Bofrost had heard Kangharl insist on.

 This news gave Yrsa and Terrastal pause for thought, and Zarah dismissed them, saying they would be summoned the following day.

At dawn, Yrsa decided that she must tend to her fledgling herd whilst the others busied themselves with Clan politics. As the child of thralls, she knew how important wealth was and was determined to grow her herd. She already had a reputation as an expert at reading the health of a herd, and others often came to her for advice. As she tended her small herd, she noted with satisfaction that two of her cows were in calf. A fine start!

Her companions spend the morning in feverish debate over the Lunar plan, and at the appointed time gathered with other Clanfolk at the Lawspeaker’s Stone. Orlmgard the Ernaldori Lawspeaker made the announcement of Gringle’s outlawing flanked by two weaponthanes for protection. He then drew forth another Lunar scroll, announcing that Baranthos had denounced Gringle whilst admitting his own part in crimes against the Tribe, and therefore he was to be tried by the Tribal Circle in 13 weeks. At this, the crowd began to shout at Orlmgard, and a few began to throw more than words! Randel again appealed to the better nature of the crowd, and those who had been swayed by him the previous evening took up the call for harmony. A shaken Orlmgard gave Randel’s shoulder a squeeze of gratitude, before throwing the Lunar scroll into the dirt and stalking off.

The companions were shocked by what they heard, and headed off for the Earth Temple to confer with Morganeth White-Eye. On the way, Terrastal conferred briefly with a shattered Drenyan. Speaking words of strength and encouragement, he stirred the spirit of Orlanth within Drenyan, who said he would be worthy initiate into the worship of Orlanth.

At the Earth Temple, the heroes encountered the Culbrea Tribe delegation leaving for Greenstone. Terrastal showed his rough ways in trying to speak to Ernalsulva, but her mother Entarios told him to bring the Red Hands to Greenstone, or not to come at all. As they moved away, guarded by fierce Babeester Gor initiates, Terrastal caught a glimpse of Ernalsulva stunning green eyes watching him with interest…

At the Earth Temple,Randel met Eirissa. Far from the meek person he was used to, when he told her about Baranthos’ impending trial she became enraged, crashing her fist to the table with an impassioned ‘This cannot stand!’. Morganeth was likewise appalled at Kangharl’s actions, but was worried about the effect of even a small rebellion on her Clan through the inevitable Lunar reprisals. As for Gringle, she too felt sorrow at his likely fate after the lifting of his protection by the tribe. She knew that far from benefitting from his position as tax collector, he had impoverished himself through paying taxes for those Orlanthi who could not. 

On their return to Clearwine, Yrsa rejoined them just as the heroes were summoned to accompany a furious Zarah on a visit to seek an audience with Kangharl; it was clear that she at least partially blamed them for her husband’s predicament. As they strode to keep up with Zarah, they once more entered Clearwine’s Upper City, where it was clear that Lunar ways had been enthusiastically taken up by the tribal nobility.

In Kangharl’s throne room, the Clanfolk endured thinly-veiled insults from Kangharl before Baranthos entered in chains. After accepting that he would be tried under Lunar law and that he had evidence that Gringle had committed treason, Baranthos appeared to trip; as Yrsa stepped forward to catch him, he whispered urgently into her ear that they must ‘save Gringle’. After Baranthos was roughly hustled away, the companions followed Zarah back to the Clan Hall to consider what to do next. As they left the Upper City, Bofrost’s attention was drawn to the slave that had he had seen before, in service to Soshona. As he leant toward the slave, he whispered that Tatius the Bright’s assassins would be leaving Boldhome within the day to attack Apple Lane. The race to save Gringle was on!        

9. Wildday to Godday: Harmony Week: Sea Season 1618

We rejoin our heroes locked in mortal combat with the foul Broo. New energy coursed through them as the favour of the gods seemed to shine forth, and they dispatched the remaining chaos spawn. However, with the exception of the learned Bofrost, all of the companions were thoroughly covered in blood and ichor from their enemies. Realising the danger, they ran towards the stream and washed the polluting liquids from their skin. However, Terrastal became unwell; he had managed to swallow some of the Broo blood, and disease spirits were beginning to form within his body. As he sank to the ground, he luckily remembered his find of a healing phial at Idrima’s Shrine. Thankfully, he took a mouthful of the bitter brew; although it was disgusting, it served to drive the spirits of disease away before any lasting damage could be done.

At that moment, the farmer rode down from where he had observed the fight and congratulated the warrriors, promising to spread news of their deeds. As the heroes headed back to Clearwine, they shared stories of the fabulous heirlooms that had been handed down through their families.

As evening drew in, the companions spent the eve of the Feast of Beasts as suited their differing natures; most chose to spend it with their families. Terrastal, however, got royally drunk with a close companion of their Clan Chief named Drenyan.

As Feast Day dawned, the heroes joined the procession heading towards the Earth Temple, filled with the general sense of celebration. The Lunar occupiers were nowhere to be seen, still fearful of the power of Ernalda in her place of power. They were wise to stay away, as the power of the Storm Gods was fully revealed in all their glory, joining their Orlanthi worshippers in the Middle World for a brief moment.

After the successful ceremony, the band of heroes enjoyed the hospitality of the Temple and their Clan. A group of Grey Dogs led by a notorious Thane named Killer Branduan mocked them, but the Peace of the ceremony ensured no violence resulted. In contrast to his clansfolk, one burly warrior name Thandren introduced himself to the band as the father of Ranulf, one of the Lunar slaves they had encountered in the Starfire Ridges. Ranulf and Avareena had reached the safety of Grey Dog lands, and were recovering well from their ordeal. Thandren swore friendship for Ranulf's rescuers, and invited them to attend Ranulf's handfasting when a time was decided upon.

Nearby, a band of drunken durulz also made a nuisance of themselves, but their leader Polgo showed particular interest when mention was made of the Humakti durulz (Jayvis Thunderthroat) the heroes had encountered at Idrima’s Shrine.

However, all these distractions were silenced when a rare beauty named Ernalsulva came near. Of the Culbrea tribe, Ernalsulva’s father had been the great hero Hofstaring, who had been cast into Hell by Lunar Sorcerors at the failure of Starbrow’s rebellion and lost his hands in the process. None of this was of interest to Terrastal, however; he found himself filled with the spirit of Orlanth, as Ernalsulva embodied the spirit of Ernalda. Without conscious thought, they enacted an ancient myth from the Godtime, where Ernalda had set three tasks for Orlanth to complete before she would marry him.

As Orlanth’s spirit left him, the band were dismayed to realise that Terrastal had sworn an oath to retrieve the lost Red Hands of Hofstaring and win the hand of Ernalsulva in the process! Killer Branduan screamed in rage, as he had harboured ambitions of winning Ernalsulva himself. However, before violence could ensue his companions dragged him away.

Heading back to Clearwine, our heroes learned that Kangharl and his Lunar allies had sealed themselves away in the Upper City. Fearing the Lunar reaction to the resurgence of an enemy myth, Bofrost called on the power of Llankor Mhy to show him the happenings in the enemy camp. As he concentrated on the room where they had encountered Soshona, he found his Rune Magic being distorted by the power of her Lunar soul. Instead of seeing Soshona’s dwelling, his vision followed Soshona herself, seeing her steal silently into Kangharl’s throne room.

As he later relayed to his companions, he saw Kangharl berating Baranthos angrily, blaming him for the happenings at the Feast. As Baranthos retorted furiously, scorning the King’s Lunar ways, Soshona stepped forward from the shadows and gripped Baranthos’ suddenly nerveless arms. Kangharl looked down at the helpless Clan Chief with contempt, Bofrost heard the King’s words: “My advisers tell me a sacrifice is required……”

8. Wildday/Disorder Week to Wildday/ Harmony Week Sea Season 1618

Temporarily stunned by the unforeseen presence of the Lunar sorcerers, the heroes remained transfixed as the cheers of the crowd surged around them. Looking for anonymity in the crowd, Randel moved away from his companions, uncomfortable as he was with the attention he was attracting. Ignoring the hearty congratulations and pats on the shoulder, he tried to spot Eirissa in the crowd. Meanwhile, Bofrost struck up a conversation with a group of Llankor Mhy sages and managed to impress one of them with his unexpected level of knowledge. Terrastal and Yrsa, however, chose not to lose themselves in the crowd. Instead, they headed for the high table where Terrastal proceeded to offend King Kangharl with his views on the occupation. Although many in the hall were horrified at this breach of protocol, there were many others who sympathised with his views, and marked his face as a true Orlanthi. With a face like thunder, Kangharl stalked out of the hall followed by a mystified Urhi-Teshup; he wasn't sure who this young Orlanthi was who had singled him out, but he was certainly going to find out...

As the feast drew to an end, the heroes left the hall where they were met by a Lunar slave and a group of Silver Shield soldiers. The slave delivered a summons from his master, requesting that they attend a meeting. Although they were suspicious, they went along with the slave, escorted by the soldiers. Entering the Upper Town, the band were taken down a series of side streets to a nondescript merchant's dwelling. Entering the building, they found a room decorated with fine frescoes of Lunar heroes. From behind a curtain came Soshona, the Lunars they had met at the Silver Shield fort. Imperiously, she asked what they knew of Gringle Goodsell and Apple Lane. Although their knowledge was limited, Soshona informed them that she required them to travel to Apple Lane and convince Gringle to hand over his treasures whilst preventing anyone else from capturing them. As Soshona seemed to be toying with them, withholding information apparently on a whim, Terrastal in particular became angry. Before he could act, however, Soshona cast Befuddle on him, leaving him a drooling wreck until the end of the meeting.

When Terrastal recovered, the heroes agreed that they would wait until after the impending Feast of Beasts before leaving for Apple Lane. In the meantime, they decided to find out more about Gringle, as well as find a group of travellers heading north that they could accompany after the celebration.
Over the next several days, the companions went about their own business. Randel sought out his old friend Intagarn the Merchant, helping him sell his wares and requesting he sponsor him as an Initiate of Issaries. Overjoyed, Intagarn made him a gift of 50 silvers and immediately sold him a fine new cloak. Yrsa met with Morganeth White-Eye, the chief priestess of Ernalda of the Ernaldori, to learn more about her encounter with the spirit foal. From this meeting, she learned that the cult of Redalda and Elmal are strong in a city named Runegate and that more information may be available there. More importantly, perhaps, she learned that many forgotten myths were making themselves known as the power of Chaos seemed to be growing. All true heroes of Dragon Pass were seeking out these myths through dangerous Heroquests, to strengthen the power of the Storm Tribes against whatever the future holds.

Terrastal made a point of visiting his Chieftain Baranthos, to make clear his unease at the hold the Lunars seem to have over King Kangharl. Baranthos was sympathetic, but also adamant that the time for action was not yet at hand. Instead, he offered to make sure that Terrastal's views were made known to people who felt the same. Terrastal then travelled to meet with a group of Grey Sages, who were in Clearwine for the festival. He hoped they might be able to identify an item he'd retrieved from Idrima's ruin. At the Sages' lodging, he met up with Bofrost who was keen to meet up with a Grey Sage he'd befriended named Askula, who was also a friend of Gyffun the Wise. They did indeed meet with Askula, who identified Terrastal's item a powerful healing artefact. Almost immediately, Askula and Bofrost fell into deep conversation regarding Bofrost's hoped-for initiation into the cult of Llankor Mhy.

As the date of the Feast of Beasts drew near, the companions found themselves together once more towards the northern edge of the camp ground, talking of their experiences and admiring Randel's cloak. From the north a rider came, an old cottar named Branduan. Calling out to them for help, Branduan told of a group of Broo that had come upon his flocks from the north and were committing the unspeakable acts of their foul kind. As a crowd formed about them, the heroes leapt astride nearby horses and set off to kill or drive off these beasts of Chaos. As they rode, Branduan said that he had feared the forces of evil would try to disrupt the Feast of Beasts, and that his fears had been confirmed.

Arriving at the meadow where the beasts has been spotted, the heroes shouted their war cries and rushed into battle with the foul, misshapen Broo...

7. Fireday to Wildday/ Disorder Week/ Sea Season 1618 (long post!)

As Bofrost headed off into the night in search of his companions, Randel and Yrsa stumbled across each other on the fringes of the ruins. After sharing their separate encounters with the skull creatures, they determined to head back into the ruins to discover the fates of their companions. As they moved stealthily over the broken masonry, they came upon Terrastal walking through the ruins without any apparent concern.
When asked to recount his experiences, Terrastal told a breathless tale of an encounter with an ageless goddess, Idrima, who had allied with men in the Dawn Age to fight against Chaos. Over time, worship of Idrima had been forgotten and she had entered an ageless sleep, dreaming of past glory. Roused from her slumber by a resurgence of Chaos throughout creation, Idrima had reached out and called many men and women to her service, enthralling them with her magic. One of those she had called to proved to be Danakos, the Grey Dog criminal who had killed their Clansfolk and stolen their cattle. Seeing a chance of power, Danakos had led Idrima to believe that the tribes of the Vale had already fallen to Chaos and that she was surrounded by enemies. Uninterested as she is in the brief lives of men, and still waking from her long slumber, Danakos had been able to mislead her and use a portion of her power for his own ends.

Having penetrated the ruins, Terrastal and Finmast had first been attacked then enthralled by one of Idrima's spirit projections. Now feeling a fierce and unreasoning loyalty to Idrima, the two had entered the ruined shrine of Idrima and begun to commune with her using Finmast's Mindspeech spell. Danakos chose this moment to show himself, and seeing them as mere thralls rather then heroes in the making, began to rant about how they would help him achieve his dreams of power. Through this communion, Terrastal and Finmast had shown the waking goddess the truth of the humans of Dragon Pass; they could be cruel, vain and destructive like Danakos, but they also followed the ways of Orlanth and were not creatures of Chaos. Realising that Idrima craved worship above all, Terrastal and Finmast made a binding pact with the goddess, promising to reignite worship of Idrima within their Clan and Tribe. Seeing that he was to be displaced and his power threatened, Danakos drew his axe and attacked the pair. However, they were able to overcome him, almost severing his body in two such was their anger at his crimes.

Removing Danakos' head, Finmast and Terrastal set off to find their comrades but became separated in the continuing storm and ruined landscape. When Terrastal happened upon Yrsa and Randel and recounted his experience, he insisted that the pair should accompany him and witness the power of Idrima. Yrsa was easily swayed by Terrastal's word but Randel was less enthusiastic; he knew that not all those entities professing divinity proved to be so.
Entering Idrima's shrine, the three companions were able to commune with the goddess without being enthralled. Randel felt sure that Idrima was in fact a lost earth goddess, and said that news of this discovery should be taken back to the priestesses at the Clearwine Earth Temple. Also, whilst searching the ruins for their companions they encountered many others who had been enthralled by Idrima. She had cast her net wide, with anyone passing nearby being made to see her glory; Grey Dog fyrdmen, Tarshite mercenaries, Lunar hoplites, even a durulz Sword of Humakt and a Dark Troll warrior.
Taking their leave of the ruins and Idrima's defenders, the companions took 35 head of oxen to replace those stolen by Danakos. They decided to return to the Lunar Fort near the Broken tower and claim the 200 oxen they had been promised as a reward for saving the life of Vanthorion, Lunar office and nephew of Andrega Silverflame. Unfortunately, Vanthorion informed them that only 40 were available; an influx of Lunar regiments into the area meant that meat on the hoof was at a premium. Unhappily, the heroes accepted the 40 head and a clay tablet with some scratched marks on it that Vanthorion assured them would guarantee that the 160 remaining would be handed over as promised when they became available.

Eager to reach home and hearth after five days away, the band travelled through the night, reaching their tribal lands as Yelm rose above the mountains. As they approached the bridge over the stream, they were hailed by Alobar, son of King Kangharl and heir to the tribal throne. He informed them that they had been thought dead, and that their return would be a source of celebration (especially with so many cattle!). As they travelled through the tribal lands, they noted that there were large numbers of temporary encampments which became more numerous as they approached Clearwine. On seeing this, they remembered that the Feast of Beasts was due to commence on the morrow and last for a whole week. In the distance and separate from the human visitors, a group of beastfolk could be seen encamped that counted a centaur and at least one minotaur amongst their number.

Wishing to visit the Earth Temple and make a gift of the Lunar cattle, Randel led the way through the great gates of the temple. As the weary travellers were given mead and meat, Randel caught they eye of one young priestess in particular. Eirissa, his childhood sweetheart, quickly looked away as he stared and made great show of pouring wine for Alobar. Yrsa likewise found the young prince an attractive prospect, but her lack of social graces and rough manners meant that he was polite in his responses but nothing more.

After a time the heroes were greeted by Morganeth White-Eye, most favoured priestess of Ernalda of their Clan. On hearing their story, she felt certain that the being calling itself Idrima was indeed an earth goddess, most likely a lost daughter of Maran Gor the Earthshaker. Although they were focussed on celebrating a successful Feast of Beasts first, she was sure that the Circle of Priestesses would send a group to make contact with Idrima and ensure she received proper honour. Before taking her leave, Morganeth place her hands upon Terrastal and Finmast, banishing Idrima's glamour from their minds. But she left with a warning that pacts with deities must not be broken, and can often have unforeseen consequences...

As the adventurers made to leave, Randel felt a hand upon his arm; Eirissa said she was glad he was safe, as the Clan had thought the companions dead. "Do you not have a kind word for me, Randel?" she said, but Randel was overcome by his usual shyness in her presence and said nothing. As they rode towards Clearwine, he cursed his lack of easy charm, and not for the first time.

A hero's welcome awaited them in Clearwine, and they were greeted by a cheering crowd. Yrsa was welcomed by her tearful mother Brena, and Randel was welcomed as a conquering hero by his father Bolthor and mother Arlesta. Terrastal spotted his estranged sister Nerissa who embraced him briefly. With a quiet "I'm glad you're safe", she turned away and disappeared into the crowd.
The adventurers were welcomed formally by the Clan Chief Baranthos with gifts of water, bread and salt. When asked who led the band, Terrastal quickly stepped forward to receive the Chief's greeting on behalf of the whole band! A feast was declared, with the heroes as guests of honour. However, as they entered the Chief's feasting hall they noted two strangers; the Lunar Sorceror Urhi-Teshup, who lost his eye to Terrastal's dagger at Boldhome, and Soshona, the mysterious red-robed figure they met at the Lunar Fort!