Screentime: Shadon (9%), Vol (16%), Argent (25%), and Durgoth (50%).
Shadon and Vol
We backtracked to note that Tilith would have established with Shadon a meeting place at a memorial location along the sandy bank of the Black River just outside Kansk where there is a gnarled juniper tree. The memorial celebrates the victory of the empire over the elves.
We estimate that the river time plus time in Dire East added up to a month for training and practice for the elven PCs.
Shadon and Vol arrive at Kansk. The Elven sloop stops just outside the city wall and releases its passengers. No coin for transport is asked for. There is a silent understanding on the part of the river boat’s captain that his passengers’ business is of great import.
Shadon and Vol spend much of the day wandering the city, getting acquainted with the town. I describe the city has having streets mostly of mud and clay, with the terrible stench typical of medieval fantasy cities. The exception is four stone roads built by the Empire in the years shortly after conquering Kansk. From the city’s center, from the Forum of Trade and Craft, these four roads head in the four directions of the compass, at least initially. Eventually the roads curve toward strategic destinations but the topography is cleverly designed so that when standing in the middle of the forum the roads look perfectly straight in each direction for as far as the eye can see. The road west leads to the dock area, arriving at the point where the Black River meets the sea and then turns south to wind along the bay, passing all the various piers and shipping-related commerce and service industries, eventually passing the Golden Flask before diverging from the bay due south to Mount Marble where the Colliseum is prominently displayed above the cliffs. The road north reaches the Black River and then skirts the river through turns taking the road a mixture of north and northwest. At the point where the road meets the river there is a large bridge that leads to the Grey Citadel and the main fortified military positions. This is the road the elves came in on, and along the banks of the river the elves spot for future reference the location of the memorial referred to by Tilith. The road east leads to the palace of Sivitis and other places of governmental import. The central bank is along this route. The road south leads to the Temple of Set and various homes of wealth and nobility.
The city is dirty, smelly, and hustling. I describe some sights but nothing seems like an obvious lead to finding the elven slaves.
Argent decides that the next time Cyrus Poole comes around to squeeze him for “taxes” he’s going to shadow him a bit and see who some of his other “clients” are. Late one after Cyrus arrives. He is tall with balding blond hair and spectacles and carrying a few extra pounds, wearing a lime green business suit and a yellow hat with a wide brown brim. He is not armed and appears to be in good spirits. Argent jovially offers him a drink on the house and in his high pitched Perrin accent his offers his thoughts on the upcoming games. He then collects his tax (Argent passes Ob 1 Resources test), downs one last shot for the road, and strolls off.
Argent pulls out all the stops as if shadowing an assassin of Port Car, using stealth, a quick disguise, and inconspicuous. While prudent, the care is unnecessary. Cyrus strolls about with the blissful self-confidence of a gentleman with the might of the Imperial bureaucracy behind him. His stops today are mainly service industries in the dock area along the boardwalk. Two stops of note are Victor’s House of Gaming, where he is fronted a nice stack of chips to gamble with, and Madame Elle’s, one of the higher-class of brothels. He stays at Madame Elle’s for some time; when he leaves it is after dark and he departs by hired carriage.
Durgoth and Baji are in attendance at a celebration at Mirador’s Clanhome. It’s one of the oldest structures in town, a dwarven clan hold that is on the side of one of the hills of Kansk. It’s outside blends human and dwarven traditions, combining large gardens, manicured lawns, fountains, and even a gazebo surrounded by a strong stone wall with battlements, a portcullis, and a manor entrance carved into a stone cliff. The living estate is all inside the cliff and dwarven in style, with balconies here and there coming out onto the cliff at higher places with amazing overviews of the city. In ancient history perhaps a thousand dwarves lived, crafted, traded, and even mined here. Now the entire clanhome is owned by Mirador and is his “home”. It’s so much more room than needed that much of it has been boarded up. Mirador insists he has plans for every cubic meter.
The cause for celebration is an annual festival held throughout dwarven culture where every dwarf is expected to return to his clan and enjoy feasting, drinking, and general revelry with his clanmates, similar to an American Thanksgiving. No dwarf in good standing with his clan would miss this event, and for dwarven outcasts this is the saddest day of the year. The celebration last for several days and culminates with a somber, often tearful (especially considering the drunkenness) exchange of stories and vows of loyalty to the clan.
On the morning of the last day of the festival Durgoth and Baji are summoned to meet Mirador in his office. Durgoth can tell that Baji is distracted; she seems somber and won’t look him in the eyes. Durgoth asks if she knows what this meeting is about. She tries to sidestep the question without lying, saying “Well, I do know that Mirador wishes to see us wed.” Baji totally botches her Falsehood test; Durgoth can tell there’s more but decides not to press the issue.
They enter Mirador’s office. On the desk, conspicuously displayed, are the religious items Durgoth inherited from his human grandmother. Grandma, long deceased, was a priestess of Ra from a couple of centuries ago, before Set was the only legal religion. The marriage was quite the scandal in their day! The two religious items were a statue of Ra holding the sun in one hand and an ankh in the other (the ankh is to Egyptian worshippers as the crucifix is to Catholics) and a prayerbook of Ra, praising his power, kindness, and the warmth of the sun.
Mirador points to a chair and commands Durgoth to sit down. Durgoth calms himself, calling on his character trait, Humility in the Face of One’s Betters. [GM note: this is an excellent example of the use of a character trait. Good job!] Mirador stands up and launches into a full-on verbal assault about Durgoth’s decision to worship Ra. A Duel of Wits is called for! At stake: If Mirador wins, Durgoth must either renounce his faith or leave the clan! If Durgoth wins, Mirdador converts to the worship of Ra! Simon and Peter are both sweating bullets as the extremes are so dramatic—-Simon’s whole character concept is on the line, and Mirador is supposed to be a bad guy damn it! The debate is loud, confrontational, and boisterous, as is the dwarven way. Durgoth and Mirador both use Stentorious Debate as their primary debating skill. Mirador sharpens his tongue by using his strength of position to fork in intimidation. Durgoth, knowing his place, forks in Soothing Platitudes as a somewhat more respectful tactic.
Although outmatched, Durgoth scores some effective maneuvers in the early phase of the duel. Mirador underestimates Durgoth, thinking the “young” dwarf will fold quickly, so he goes for the killing blow too early with a Dismiss in the first Exchange. But Durgoth’s Rebuttal is all too effective, making the point that if the dwarves and dwarven deities are forsaking this world perhaps those of us who remain should ally ourselves with a human deity capable of opposing Set. Mirador is stunned and loses his next action, creating an opening for Durgoth to come in all guns blazing. Simon sees his name in headlines and spends three persona points on Stentorious Debate, backs it up with fate, and in one fell swoop reduces Mirador’s body of argument from 12 to 7.
Caught off guard, Mirador is impressed with the conviction of this young man. It’s obvious his nephew will end up with a compromise, but convert? No way. Mirador drives the ball up the center with a flurry of Points. Knowing Mirador is likely to win, Durgoth counter attacks with another rebuttal and reduces Mirador’s body of argument from 7 to 5, winning a major concession in the compromise. In the last volley Baji recovers enough of her poise to aid her husband with a helping die.
The compromise: Durgoth maintains good standing in the clan while worshipping Ra in private.
As they leave Mirador’s office, Baji looks at her husband with a new level of respect. One could imagine that even Mirador puts aside his greed and egomania for a brief moment to take pride in his nephew’s commitment to his ideals (though foolish and ill-considered).
The air cleared, Durgoth rejoins the festivities, filled with a well-earned sense of pride. He fought toe to toe with his clan leader and maneuvered well enough to keep his faith and status in the clan. The evening’s closing ceremony of clan fellowship and exchanging of oaths is particularly moving and heartfelt.
Shadon, Vol, and Argent
As the elves wander the city they start to question the wisdom of their quest. Neither of them knows human customs and neither of them knows Kansk. Shadon has never left the Dire Forest. Vol has traveled through Kansk before but on both occasions she hired a private carriage and whisked through as quickly as possible, the first time distracted by what would await her in Dorsang, the next time distracted by worries of Lorwyn. What were they expecting? The closest thing to a house of slaves was a random slave merchant in the street with six nude human slaves in chains. The thought of approaching him was repulsive.
“We don’t even know how to look for what we’re looking for,” Vol commented to Shadon in despair, after wandering the central forum. The road south quickly became too residential, and in an obviously exclusive sort of way. The road east led into a seemingly inaccessible maze of government buildings and offices. The last road to search was the road west, which led to the docks. Although the docks held an air of danger, the elves strangely felt just slightly more comfortable amongst ruffians and sailors than soldiers and aristocrats—-it was somehow more honest. The elves lingered in this area much longer, wandering along the piers and seaside bars and warehouses, starting to get a feel for the locale. Vol’s spirits started to lift as she sensed that somewhere nearby she would find a friendly ear. At the same time, Shadon points out that the two of them really stand out here.
But each bar, gambling house, or brothel seemed wrong in some way. The bars were too loud, the gamblers too desperate, and neither elf wanted to face the awkwardness of entering a brothel. After reaching nearly the end of the business district Vol fell into an even deeper despair than before. She was convinced something was here, but nothing. Now it was getting dark; the elves hadn’t even thought about where they would rest tonight. As the sun disappeared into the bay, the exciting energy of the docks developed a rougher edge to it. Then Shadon pointed out, “Look, there’s a light ahead. It looks like there’s one more place down at the end, before the road heads inland, just before those cliffs.”
Argent’s Mark of Privilege trait reads as follows, “Those born into nobility bear certain features—-telltale signs of their lineage. Their nose, their bearing, their skin or even their speech mark them as one of the privileged.” And I can only assume that a reputation of “friendly bartender” must have been developed on the back of a friendly demeanor. When Vol nervously peers inside the Golden Flask her eyes lock with Argent’s and she just knows she has found an ally. “This is the place, she whispers to Shadon, who takes the initiative and enters first.”
Perhaps similarly to how Duncan Idaho sensed that the Fremen could become an invaluable ally of House Attreides, Argent often wondered if the elves could play prominently in his plans for a free Azerbaijan. Not long after settling in at Kansk and opening the Golden Flask Argent promised himself that he would someday visit their lands and learn their ways. Argent’s reverie about this dream is broken when he looks up and sees two elves peer in while passing by. The male elf is tall and strong, not bulky like a legionnaire, but lithe and agile, with steely eyes that betray the fact that his bow and sword are not simply a fashion statement. Argent takes in Shadon quickly and then his eyes linger on Vol. The elven woman is beautiful, filled with grace, with intelligent eyes, yet carrying a heavy burden and moving with purpose. These elves are obviously not just tourists!
“Greetings, kind elves, can I offer you a drink?”
The elves enter and sit and drink for awhile with Argent, “getting to know each other.” There is an immediate chemistry amongst the three.
Meanwhile, Argent’s only other customer, a human sailor who is often drunk and one of Argent’s few “regulars” is obviously not a big fan of elves. Uthred dotes on the sailor and keeps him at the far end of the bar. The sailor talks about how elven men in particular are very evil, that they rape any human virgins who enter the forest and that elven sorcerers can make the sky dark as night even in mid-day. Uthred manages to keep the sailor calm and the adventurers are so engrossed in conversation that the magical moment shared amongst them is not spoilt by the drunk’s ramblings.
Eventually conversation leads to the purpose of the elves’ visit, the six missing elves. Shadon explains they have searched the forests, and even into the mountains of Armenia and the polar caps, but have found no leads. Vol has a theory that perhaps the elves were taken by slavers and their trail could be picked up here. She asks if Argent knows anything of the missing elven men.
Argent responds with a joke along the lines of, “In case you haven’t noticed, six elves in Kansk would have brought quite a bit of notice! No, I haven’t seen them. I’m sure they are nowhere to be found in Kansk or we would have heard of it.”
Argent has the notion that if displaced elves are who they’re looking for perhaps Ceylonda would know something of them. Darrell uses a Circles test to find “An elven first mate of a mixed-race merchant ship, with the self-imposed penalty of her happening to be in town at the moment.” I decide the test is Ob 3 and Argent fails the roll. Giddily, I invoke the enmity clause. “Hey Uthred, what’s the name of the elven first mate we met in Port Facility?” “Ceylonda. Maybe she’s in town, I hear the Misty Raven is anchored out in the bay.” “Uthred, we should go look her up, maybe she could help us find these missing elves.” “Uh, I’m not sure she’s going to be happy to see you, Argent. She felt she deserved an equal share from that job.” “Oh, I can’t imagine she’s still holding a grudge over that. Let’s go see her!”
The day after the clan’s festivities have concluded, Durgoth’s old friend Malcolm comes by. Malcolm is a human male and one of those friends that tends to get you in trouble. Durgoth likes to “fight back against the empire” by buying stolen goods from pirates, doing his part to make sure that those who plunder from the Emperor’s coffers are encouraged to do so. Malcolm has brokered a couple such transactions.
Malcolm tells Durgoth, “Hey, let’s go get drunk! I want to hear all about your fight with your uncle! There’s a small little bar down on the wharf run by a guy who’s spent his fair share of time on the wrong side of maritime law.” Enter, the Golden Flask.
Shadon, Vol, Argent, and Durgoth
Durgoth enters the Golden Flask with Malcolm. Malcolm looks familiar to Argent but they’re not on a first name basis. But Argent’s excitement rises when he sees the dwarf! Every bar tender gets nervous but excited when a dwarf enters his bar. Excited for the volume of alcohol likely purchased, nervous about the loud, boisterous singing that often follows. Argent, ever friendly, invites them in for a drink.
Malcolm boldly approaches Argent and the two elves. “Yes, of course! Argent, I’d like to present to you my good friend, Durgoth Derlahn. And now that I think of it, I’m not sure we’ve ever formally met. I’m Malcolm Tucher, a broker of sorts.” He gives a sly wink.
“First elves, now dwarves? This place has gone to hell!” So says the drunken sailor as he stumbles out the door.
Sensing where the conversation might lead—-into treasonous territory—-Uthred bars the door and flips the sign while Argent pours another round.
There is an instant kinship amongst the four player characters. A feeling of destiny is shared.
At this point people in Germany started waking up and my connection really started to go sideways. Instead of a satisfying conclusion and wind-down the session awkwardly fizzled out due to technical difficulties. I think I got the gist of the player characters each revealing a level of distrust for the empire and establishing some level of mutual interest in some degree of activity outside the law. I tried to get across that Malcolm enthusiastically participated in this conversation and would have, with startling openness, shared that he regularly deals with stolen goods in the black market.
In the fading moments of technical difficulty the party establishes that the GM should focus his attention on preparing for the party to go find Ceylonda.
Artha Awards and Beliefs Played
Awards for playing to beliefs:
- Argent, finding allies: 1 fate
- Argent, learn more about the elves: 1 fate
- Shadon, finding allies: 1 fate
- Vol, looking for Lorwyn: 1 fate
- Durgoth, looking for allies: 1 fate
- Durgoth, moldbreaker, for playing the struggle between loyalty to Ra and loyalty to clan: 1 persona
Three of you have beliefs relating to finding allies. If you think the other PC’s plus Uthred and Malcolm are sufficient, then call the belief resolved, change your award above from a fate to a persona, and create a new belief to replace that one and, of course, let me know about it!
Awards for using instincts to create complications for your character: none
Awards for using a character trait for truly colorful roleplaying:
- Durgoth, for invoking Humility in the Face of One’s Betters: 1 fate.
Awards for humor:
- All players: 1 persona
Need nominations from the table
- Embodiment: Durgoth
- MVP: Argent
Summary of Artha Awards:
Argent: 2 Fate, 2 Persona
Shadon: 1 Fate, 1 Persona
Vol: 1 Fate, 1 Persona
Durgoth: 2 Fate, 3 Persona