satanic_machinery_by_tobaal

The Well of the Halfhollows, Part Eight

Our adventurers have conquered the Torlish ruin, but at great cost. In our eighth installment, the group works together to help Lady Grilea and the Ad’Tai descend into the pit and escape through the tunnels below. Having defeated the High Priest of Destruction, the adventurers will travel through the wilderness and return to the Ad’Tai encampment where they will come to realize the political house of cards that threatens to crumble due to the quagmire within Pelmoran lands. For this recap, I’d like to do something a bit different than the usual, and delve into a specific character in more detail. Much of what I recount here will be from only one perspective, but hopefully it will still give a sense of how the eighth gaming session developed while allowing for a bit of abandon into one character’s narrative.

The eighth session consisted of the following player characters:

  • Hodjai, “Ji-HO”, the Djenndan fighter and Ad’Tai mortician, played by @Evan
  • Lemur-o, “Lem”, the kahlnissá ghost and collector of severed heads, played by @Terri
  • Ts’uviti, the viantu savant and motivational speaker, played by @saelbrin

Additionally, the party was accompanied by one gravely injured NPC adventurer, Ser Rory “Runt” Untarr, a Pelmoran Knight, who in the last session nearly died. Most near-death experiences cause people to reflect on their life, and Ser Runt is no different in this regard. His right shoulder nearly cleaved from his body, Runt collapsed to the earth in the Torlish ruins, but his thoughts drifted toward his youth.

Born to a merchant family along the central Deloni river on the southern Galtiere plains in the province of Hinn, Rory spent the first fifteen years of his life among his people, often referred to throughout the Empire as the River folk. His mother wanted him to be a scribe, and so even years before he would have been of age to study with the Delonian Magisters, he was groomed by his father to learn the craft. Rory showed immense promise as a scribe; even by the age of ten he had a knack for description and representation through words that many scribes had only honed through a lifetime of practice. By the time he was fourteen, Rory had immersed himself in the epic tales of the River warriors and the Code of the Deloni; he became infatuated with the warrior’s life and code, and dreamed of becoming a warrior himself. The difficulty was that he was fairly shy and introspective. While he could communicate deep and intricate detail through writing, he was all but mute when it came to the spoken word. And more then that, his mother would never allow him to become a Morash recruit when he turned eighteen, even if her family had the political influence to see he was accepted among the order. But there was nothing stopping him from seeing Morash for himself.

Fourteen year old Rory began to hang around the Morash training ground, about an hour’s walk from his home town on the southern Galtiere plains. At first he would bring his parchments and just observe, taking notes and describing how the River warriors trained, organized their ranks, interacted with one another, and how they spent their down time. In addition to the tomes of information Rory began to collect about Morash, he etched numerous detailed sketches, images depicting armor, warriors in training, and some of the structures around the training grounds. After three months of his observations, Rory was more than well versed in the warrior’s code and in the expectations of training. In fact he was likely more aware of the goings-on at Morash than most any recruit and perhaps even some of the more seasoned warriors. He was convinced that he had the knowledge and ability to become a warrior worthy of song and story, and he wanted desperately to make that dream a reality.

Of course his constant presence in Morash was noticed by the trainees and officers. For many of the recruits and warriors, Rory had become something of a mascot. Some greeted him warmly; “Good Day, Rory!” they would shout across the field. “Glad you’re here. Wait until you see me spar today!” Rory always loved that; it made him feel like part of the group. Others, though, spoke in hushed smiles or scoffs, ridiculed him, or dismissed him altogether. It made his face turn red at first, but he began to find a way to deal with insults dryly so he could be sure not to let others see that he was bothered by their japes. He first earned the nickname “The Scribbler” from a rather rough-looking group of fighters who spoke Lorosian as their first language, and the epithet caught on. Rory didn’t much care for the nickname, nor did he like the condescending smirks and smiles that accompanied it. “The Scribbler” was not who he wanted to be, yet he began to realize there was some truth to that. He fantasized about becoming a warrior, but all he had ever done was act like a scribe. After spending six months writing essays and etching scenes, he decided that he would head to the training grounds without his parchments.

Frac

Ser Runt smirked through the pain in his shoulder as he recalled what it felt like the first day he went to Morash determined to play the warrior. He had no idea what he was going to do, he just decided he wasn’t going to be The Scribbler anymore. That was the day he met Clomos Sellec. Clomos, who went by the nickname “Moss,” had seen how Rory spent his time over the past six months, so he noticed immediately when the boy arrived with no satchel and no parchments in hand. Moss called out from his group of sparring recruits. “What is a Scribbler with nothing to scribble on?” This conjured up laughter and smirks from the trainees, but Moss quickly noticed a determination in Rory. He ordered the recruits to continue with their exercise, and then approached the boy.

“I’m Moss, boy. If you’re not a scribbler then tell me, what are you?” he said bluntly, but smiling.

“I am Rory Untarr…” the boy said proudly. It looked as if he wanted to say something else, but he couldn’t make the words come out. If he were writing, he would have said something about how he was destined to carve the name Untarr into history, to make his family legacy known throughout the Empire as the greatest of the Delonian warriors. Or he might have penned an elaborate preamble that demonstrated how he had already mastered the intricacies of life at Morash and that he could grasp the complexities of the most honored leaders of the Deloni like a sword in his hand. But all that came out was “I am Rory Untarr….” Somehow Moss could see the complexity behind Rory’s eyes, and he gave the boy a chance.

“That sounds like a noble warrior’s name for sure,” Moss said. “But you know that there are no nobles here, boy. No, Rory Untarr won’t do.” Moss thought for a moment. “Runt. We’ll call you Runt. It’s fitting,” he said, punching the boy firmly in the shoulder. It hurt Rory quite a bit; he had never been hit that hard before. On the floor of the Torlish ruin, Ser Runt laughed and coughed, clutching that shoulder now.

Before Rory had time to protest, Moss threw a training sword at him. “Catch it, Runt, and get ready to defend yourself.” Moss began to train the boy, and over the next half of his fourteenth year, Runt continued hone his sword arm and find increasingly creative ways to explain his bruises to his mother. Runt turned fifteen and began to grow into his training even more. Moss became like Runt’s older brother; he looked out for him and made him feel like he belonged at Morash. He treated Runt like a Deloni River warrior. Shortly after his fifteenth birthday, however, Runt’s presence in Morash became problematic.

It was one afternoon after training when he went to get himself water that Rory’s scribbler curiosity got him into trouble. He overheard the two Morash commanders talking with a group of pale-skinned kahlnissá in silent, black-dyed and buckled leathers with shrouding hoods. He heard something about a secret group called the “Deinos,” and apparently the Empire was hunting them down to hold them responsible for a series of assassinations. One of the Morash commanders, Commander Noil, berated the kahlnissá who seemed to be in charge, saying “Whine all you want. We paid you ‘Deinos’ to carry out our task, and you were noticed. I thought your kind were supposed to be invisible. Now you have a problem with the Peacekeepers and you want me to fix it? We hired you so we wouldn’t be involved in the first place.” It was then that Rory was grabbed around the throat with a choke cinch and dragged to the center of the meeting.

The Deinos who caught Rory hissed and threw the boy on the ground. Rory choked and coughed. “Who is this?” Commander Noil demanded. The Deinos hissed again. “It seems like you are hiding many things, Delonian,” the kahlnissá screeched. “Tie up your loose ends and help us deal with ours, if you wish us to complete our task.” The Deinos silently made their exit. The commanders gagged Rory and threw him in the pen–the hold where they keep violent recruits, criminals, and pigs awaiting slaughter.

Rory’s throat still hurt from the choke cinch, and he sat for what felt like hours in the muck, tied to the back of the cage. Moss of course was out looking for Rory after a time, and it wasn’t long before Rory saw him walk up to the cage with a concerned look on his face. Rory was bound and gagged and tied to the back of the pen, tears streaming down his cheeks. Moss said, “What happened?” The boy was even less able to find his words than usual, even if he wasn’t gagged. Moss told Runt, “I’m going to figure this out. Don’t worry.” The tear-streaked Runt grunted a protest, but Moss quickly rushed away. Toward nightfall, Moss returned with the commanders.

“Rory, Commander Noil thought you were stealing, but I explained that you were that Scribbler kid, and that you were just getting me water. Everything’s fine now we’re going to take you home.” Rory was pulled out of the pen, trying to decipher the intense look he was getting from Moss, but it was obvious there was nothing he could do but comply with the Commander’s wishes. They left Rory’s hands bound, but even with his gag removed the tension in the air made him feel like he shouldn’t ask questions. Runt was placed next to Moss on a wagon driven by Commander Noil and another warrior from the Morash field, a Bosen named Futai. The wagon carted the group west from Morash to the river front where Rory’s family lived.

When they arrived, Commander Noil called on the house. The thatched door opened, and Rory could see his mother emerge. They were barely within earshot. “I am Yerale Untarr, Rory’s mother,” he heard his mother say. Commander Noil smiled, and gestured over to Futai, who grabbed Moss and Runt by the arm and escorted them inside. “Where’s the rest of the family, Yerale?” Commander Noil was saying when Futai was closing the thatched door after they stepped through. Inside, Yerale took a seat next to her husband Wil, Rory’s father, and Lisbim, his younger sister. Lisbim smiled when she saw Rory as if to say, “It’s good to see you.” The house still smelled of fresh baked chapan and vinegared fire trout from the meal that Wil had recently prepared.

“It’s just the four of us; we’re a small family,” Yerale replied. What trouble do you say my son is in?” she asked. Runt was confused. He looked Moss in the eye; Moss looked back deeply, a panicked tear falling from his right eye.

“Ah, well, it’s no trouble that can’t be sorted out presently,” Noil replied, looking back at Futai. At that moment, Futai grabbed Moss from behind, wrapping his left arm across the front of the chest and driving a blade through the warrior’s back. It surprised Rory almost as much as it did Moss, and for a moment the whole room seemed to be transfixed by how silent a blade could be as it emerged through the chest of a man. It sounded innocuous, almost like rubbing food from one’s mouth, or wiping sweat from the brow. The silence was interrupted by Moss, who gasped in a shuddering, labored way, and then exhaled a bloodied breath. Lisbim screamed, and Noil drew his sword and cut Yerale’s throat with a decisive move. Wil grabbed his daughter and started to run, but Noil hacked them down, slamming his blade onto their huddled bodies over and over again until their moans ceased. When his mother was attacked Runt struggled with bound hands shouting “No,” but Futai tossed Moss’s limp body forward from his blade and slashed at the boy. Runt’s training had given him enough of an edge to begin to dodge the attack, but Futai’s blade slashed him across the face, deeply gouging his right cheek. Runt fell back near the hearth, and Noil stopped hacking at the boy’s father and sister in time to turn around and watch Futai stab the boy in the gut.

Runt could hear Noil’s heavy breathing, and he could hear Futai cleaning his blade. “We should dump them in the river and burn the house,” the Bosen warrior grunted. Runt tried desperately to hold his breath and concentrate, to seem as a dead man. He closed his eyes and slowed his breathing. He didn’t show his feelings on the outside, he coated himself in a statuesque facade. Even when Futai and Noil gathered his body, he did not scream out in pain, he remained limp and lifeless, covered in his own blood. He was placed on the cart, and then he felt clammy flesh and blood-soaked cloth being placed atop him, pressing on him and his belly wound, but still he did not call out. He heard the torch igniting the dried Rotoka leaves and the roar of his home aflame, but he did not cry audibly. He held his breath as the cart was wheeled to the Deloni, and he kept his eyes closed as he and the rest of his world slid into the river’s current. He made no sounds; he simply drifted toward an uncertain future as he sank into the cold black water.

Red_Galaxy_by_nevit

Ser Runt uncharacteristically howled in pain as Hodjai helped him to his feet. After the epic battle with the High Priest of Destruction, the adventuring party had given him a potion and a poultice to treat the wound in his shoulder, and after a time he was feeling a bit more able to move around, but still gravely injured. This was the first time he had thought about home in many years. Maybe it was the near death experience when that grotesque mutation nearly destroyed him, but he was overcome with the need to write. After the adventuring party made their way finally out of the ruin with Lady Grilea and the Ad’Tai refugees, Ser Runt found Ts’uviti in a quiet moment and asked if he could borrow some of the scholar’s parchments. Ts’uviti graciously agreed, and while the group slept, Ser Runt began to write.

Hey there Moss,

First, I should say how grateful I am to you, because honestly you are the reason I see the world around me in the way that I do. I’ve learned a powerful sort of bravery from you. Not the kind heard about in the heroes epics, those shallow, cliché, and hollow notions that never seem to find an actual presence in reality, but an awareness and a true acceptance of things. To be able to stare into the face of anything with a reflexive honesty is something few can do well. Thank you.

I wanted to tell you about an odd group of adventurers I met recently. We were trapped, and over the course of a few days I watched them risk their lives to help people they had never met and work together to free us and bring a group of refugees home. These adventurers are green–probably about as green as I was the first time you and I met–but they’re also skilled and able to face challenges in a way that has been surprising to me.

We worked together to escape a dark Torlish ruin. There was some crazy shit happening in there that likely wouldn’t have phased you too much, but I was fucking scared. I didn’t really let that show, of course, but fuck if this wasn’t the most twisted shit I’ve ever seen. I honestly have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into joining the Order of Pelmoran Knights, but at least I’ve found myself on the right side of things now, so far as I can tell.

There are two huge Djenndan in this group. One of them, named Hodjai, is a formidable warrior and the other, as far as I can tell, is a blacksmith of sorts who goes by the name Sookta. It’s the most time I’ve spent with Djenndan since moving into this area, and as far as I can tell these two don’t seem to be the ruthless, eat-your-enemy types. I’ve only spent a couple of days with them, but I trust them. There’s a scholar among the group, called Ts’uviti, who reminds me a bit of Yerale’s Magister, A’leesh. You never met A’leesh, obviously, but I met him years ago on a tour of the Delonian Magister’s Collective. He would have been my mentor in another life–a scholarly kind of Moss–but we both know that being a scribbler was not what my dreams ever inscribed for me.

There’s also a kahlnissá among the group, named Lemur-o, who is difficult to read, and that’s even considering that “scribblers make good readers,” as you once told me. She seems at times trustworthy, but other times reminds me of the first kahlnissá I ever met. I wonder if you ever discovered who the “Deinos” were. Unfortunately we never had time to discuss it. At any rate, I’ve learned over the years to call on the bravery you taught me and overcome my prejudices, but it’s a process. There were other adventurers traveling with the group, Dezeva and an Ad’Tai who went by “The Plank”–a nickname I thought you’d approve of. Sadly they paid the ultimate price to see their tale told.

Ts’uviti and Lemur-o traveled back into the ruin after we defeated the beast that nearly took my life, and they found my commander Ser Jahann. They worked together with my noble matron and the Knights in my Order to lower each of the refugees to safety. I was wounded but I did my best to direct them to the exit within the tunnel systems below the ruin. There were a number of people who gathered in the group. An Ad’Tai who reminded me of our mutual friend, Commander Noil, goes by the name Kelbur Hant. He kept muttering “Kill me or let me go,” to the kahlnissá Lemur-o.

As we made our journey to the Ad’Tai encampment, I noticed many things. Hodjai and his pet, Dogedan, in gentle interaction. The scholar Ts’uviti playing his harp in inspirational ways. Kelbur Hant continuing his rants of “Kill me of let me go,” refugees arguing about where they had just been and why, and my noble matron pushing forward determined. It all reminded me of where you and I parted ways at the mouth of the Deloni. I never told you, but I was netted from the water by an Elmecian fisherman. He and his sister nursed me back to health and stuck me on a caravan of laborers to the capital city. I did a lot of observation on that trip too.

When we finally arrived at the Ad’Tai camp, it became clear to everyone in the group that the Elder of the camp was hiding something. A man named Jeysin Pullar, who I had met my first time in this camp with my noble matron, claimed that Kelbur Hant killed his father. If not for Jeysin’s siblings, he probably would have ended Hant right then. Elder Soburu’s actions gave me great concern. At one point he and the kahlnissá went into his longhouse to discuss something, and my guess is that it had to do with the severed head of the High Priest of Destruction. Whatever the motivations of Elder Soburu or of Kelbur Hant, the political tension here is clear. Lady Grilea has evidence that her husband Dolyos Miren ordered her death should she investigate her suspicions of him on her travels to the capital city. My Lady’s clansmen, the Moghuls, are divided and in no shape to go to war. But that is certainly what will happen unless the Peacekeepers become involved. The difficulty is that if the Peacekeepers do become involved, the truth of Dolyos Miren’s actions might full come to light, and when that happens the Ad’Tai may decide to go to war with the Empire. I’m guessing this is what Elder Soburu wants to avoid in the interest of long-term survival. The whole thing is a mess.

I took vows as a Knight of Pelmora, and I’ve come to enjoy living in the City of Embers. I suppose, though, I’m writing mainly to ask your advice. My experience with these adventurers has made me think that I need to renounce my noble matron and seek my own path. I’m wondering what you might think about that. Maybe you’d be able to give me some of that certainty of yours right about now. If you think of anything you’ll let me know, right?

-Runt

He was nearly out of ink anyway, so Ser Runt folded up the parchment and stuffed it into his pack. He smiled and then drifted off to sleep.

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Fractalform is the gaming handle of Bret Woods--ethnomediologist, author, and lead developer of Augur's Lore RPGs. Bret is Thing 1 at http://descrypt-studios.com.

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