The Middle Isles

Session 3: The Respite

A Strange Encounter Enroute To Decenios; Greeting In Decenios; Prepare For War

October 13, 2013

All Present!

The crew of the Sea Slug stowed their supplies and provisions and set sail for Decenios, where they were to assist the remnants of the Decenian League in their fight against Aerris. It was decided that Halia should command on the sea, and Verran should command on land. Halia’s navigation proved true enough in the first part of the trip, and the Sea Slug sailed without much issue.

However, only a few days out from Decenios, the ship ran into a strange fog, something Halia hadn’t seen before, with a strange, unearthly soft green glow to it. The ship was lost in the fog.

Time seemed to pass strangely in the fog. Slowly, the fog dissipated, and the crew saw an island lying in front of them. The sun, which had show as early morning before, was now perhaps only an hour or so from sunset.

Owen and Verran pulled the boat ashore; Halia had felt the bottom scrape on the rocks, and felt it needed to be checked out, just as a precaution. While Oddin, Boddin, and Noddin did this work, the others explored the island.

Not 30 yards from shore was a single marble column, standing alone, broken off about 12 feet up. There was an inscription halfway up. Kook, along with some physical assistance from Owen, named read it. It welcome the travelers to the “Respite”, bid them to choose their path, but to not tarry past sundown, or fade with the island.

As Owen touched the column, a mysterious voice blared out inside of the characters’ heads, “Hail and Welcome to the Blade Reborn”. To Aquonans, who venerate the great ancient hero Joram the Blade, this was a shocking thing to hear.

Clearly, there was something of the divine and arcane on this island, and the characters realized they felt attuned with themselves, and were operating at a heightened kind of clarity (except Kook, who remained, well, Kook). There were four paths leading from the beach; one went into the woods in the center of the island, one meandered along the shore curving to the west of the island, one looked to go into a swampy, dark area, and one went to a rock outcropping and overlook to the east where the sun was just lowering past.

With the strange column warning of the need to leave by sundown, the party split up to identify the various parts of the island. Owen and Richter went to the outcropping. There, they found a shrine to the Sun Lord. As the sun dipped below the shrine, a bright, wavering apparition appeared. Owen and Richter assumed respectful poses. The apparition (a messenger of the Sun Lord or the Sun Lord himself?) did recognize them as part of his faithful (that would be Tyrael and Verran), but bade them give a message to those two.

“Instruct them: Do no direct harm to those who worship me,” the Sun Lord commanded. “Hinder if you must, and do your duty as a man and soldier, but kill not my children. Endure this test, and be rewarded”.

He then showed the two of them what would happen without the Blade being reborn: the two of them saw a vision of Vaornan soldiers pillaging and destroying not only Aquona, but countless other nations. There was a great darkness somewhere behind the Vaorns, and the vision descended into a shrieking madness of blood and burning. The two were relieved to be snapped back to consciousness a moment later.

The apparition faded, and Owen and Richter were again alone. Richter found a small talisman with a sun on where the apparition had been.

Meanwhile, Tyrael had gone further into the woods, taking that path. He reached a clearing, where an old woman sat in the midst of a circle of stumps. She was clearly the oldest woman Tyrael had ever seen, and she had no eyes.

“Greetings, Tyrael,” the old woman said. “You may ask one question from the Oracle of Respite”.

Tyrael had been brought up stories of being descended from the Sun Lord. He had to know—was his family really descended of old from the Sun Lord.

The oracle confirmed; the blood of the Sun Lord was in Tyrael’s veins, from generations past! Tyrael thanked the oracle, who quickly fell into slumber, and the priest/warrior walked back to the shore, with many deep questions and thoughts to ponder.

Meanwhile, Halia had walked down to the rocky part of coast, with a somewhat paranoid and suspicious Masago in town. Halia caught the sun glinting off one tidal pool, which strangely she could not see the bottom of. She felt a sudden urge to explore it, and dove in.

Despite being a small pool, it was different once she was inside. The pool seemed to go down forever, yet Halia oddly had no issues breathing or with the pressure. As the light of the sun faded from below, a sapphire glow lit her way from below.

The pool had opened up to an underwater landscape, and Halia swam towards a strange house, carved of underwater stone, coral, and shell. It was incredibly beautiful, but also looked abandoned.

She floated down to the house, and opened the door. She felt a reassuring calm, and then a mass of bubbles and foam formed in front of her, taking on a vaguely humanoid shape. She heard it speak in her mind,

“Welcome, my lady! We were not expecting you for some time, but it is a joyous day! Your mother will be so happy to finally greet you!”

Halia had never known here mother; she was taken aback. Who was her mother? What was this?

This bubble elemental projected dismay. He/she thought she was down here because she had discovered the truth? Was that not the reason she has arrived here?

Upon finding out it was not, the elemental sadly said she must go until she was ready; they would meet again. Halia made him promise, and being alerted to the plight of Masago (who had jumped in the pool after thinking she was drowning, found herself floating back up in the pool, with the panicked Masago just above her. She pushed Masago up, and both hauled themselves out of the pool, with Halia given much to think about, and Masago extremely grateful of air for his lungs.

Meawhile, Verran and Kook has taken the twisted path into the swamp. In the midst of that fetid and muddy place, they found an alabaster-white building, untouched by the decay and rot of the swamp. The door was slightly open, and the two decided to walk into the darkness.

They had walked only a little bit in, when an ancient, paper-dry voice whispered through the darkness on a sudden wind.

“Who disturbs the dishonored dead?”

Back before the world was broken, some warriors would not side with Vaor or the servants of the Gods, thus dishonored, their spirits were tied to their bones for all eternity, as they were only to be in the company of other false and cowardly souls. This is what this mausoleum was, secreted away on this isle that existed somewhere between the material realm and that of the divine.

At this point, Kook lit the torch.

Skeletons, everywhere. All formed perfectly, in various poses. Some with ancient armor, just as many without. The voice on the wind seemed to be coming from their gaping mouths.

The voice shuddered when Verran’s holy symbol came into view. “Ask what you will of us and leave!” the voice cried out.

“What will happen to Aquona if we fight Aerris?” queried Verran.

“It is not for the dead to see but shadows of the future, but we may say this; if you do not fight Aerris, Aquona will know peace for a generation more, but will ultimately be subjugated. If you fight Aerris, Aquona will know destruction and suffering, but may one day also return to glory. NOW GO!”

That was enough. The two removed themselves and headed back to shore.

Back at the ship, the Sea Slug was ready, and with much to talk about, the crew got back on their way as the sun began to set. Kook picked up some clean sand for his folk spells, and Halia found some rare Xinroot along the beach, just before the ship left. They couldn’t be sure in the evening, whether or not it was just the mist, but it seemed to the ship’s crew that Respite was fading, fading….gone.

Owen and Richter delivered their message from the Sun Lord to Verran and Tyrael, which gave those two much to be concerned about and to discuss. How could they fight in a war where they could not directly kill Aerrisans, who venerated the Sun Lord (albeit in strange rite and ritual).

A day later, the Sea Slug arrived at Decenios. Cities and ports like Decenios were a dime a dozen to folks like Richter, but some of the rest of the crew were surprised at the sheer size of it all. Decenios was a fairly large port in a good harbor, with stout walls and a massive gate. The Sea Slug was greeted by one of the dockmaster’s men, and escorted to their mooring. Owen was beside himself, recounting endless stories of Decenian lore.

A detachment of guards was there from Haldoss, War-King of Decenios, who had been elected King by the first families of Decenios to serve in the present crisis some 8 years earlier. The captain asked for the commander of the Aquonan forces and his lieutenants to meet them in the palace. As land commander, Verran took Richter and Owen with him to this meeting.

Haldoss was pleased to see the Aquonans; he introduced them to Morav, leader of the 200+ men from Lenwos, and Igwiln, the commander of 120 men from Tinves. Unfortunately, Haldoss asked Verran how many ships Aquona furinished. The truth came out; the Aquonans had sent a single ship, of only 10 men and women.

There followed the most uncomfortable silence in Decenian history, with Haldoss turning a lovely shade of red-purply-blue.

Owen stepped in, having announced himself as Amantius Heron Pandev at last. He gave a phenomenal speech about how the Aquonans had been hit hard by raiders, and how their small force had fought for this honor—and how they shared a common goal. (Richter also put in his two cents, to generally good effect). It calmed the King down, although Igwiln was still less than thrilled. He invited them to the banquet tonight (such meager fare as it was; the city was preparing to be attacked. He then asked Verran what his forces could do, and where would they be best-suited. Owen/Amantius volunteered them for the vanguard of the first attack, and the other two went along with it.

Meanwhile, Kook went researching in the Decenian archives and library, where he found part of the Ironhand spell he had been working on (though not enough to know if it would work). Meanwhile, Masago thought to go prizefighting with the assistance of Halia’s potions, before she talked him out of it.

In the city, food prices were already jumping up, and folks who could were fleeing with their wealth; those who could not were buckling in for a siege. The old and young had been conscripted for military labor and for last-ditch fighting. It was a city preparing to fight for its life.

Meanwhile, both Tyrael and Verran were still praying for guidance from the Sun Lord. How could they successfully fight an opponent in the Aerrisans when they could not directly kill them?

The folks of Decenios saw the Aquonans as semi-civilized, backwoods folks, but also tried to talk themselves into them being great fighters. There was much rumor and gossip surrounding the crew. The crew traded some haunches of meat for a new tunic for Kook ahead of the reception, with Kook magically cleaning his filthy, filthy self.

In the palace that evening, the entire crew of the Sea Slug had been invited to a banquet, along with the officers and warriors of Decenios and her allies. Haldoss warmly welcomed the Aquonans to the defense of Decenios. Unsolicited, Amantius gave a speech, which Kook interrupted by casting babble. Playing up to the Aquonan’s reputation as wild, hard fighters, Amantius smash a mug of (watered-down) ale right in his face.

The evening’s festivities and meager fare were interrupted by a messenger from the Hegemon of Aerris. The emissary offered King Haldoss the chance to open his port to Aerris, remain as ruler under a treaty of “Friendship and Understanding” with Aerris. In order to avoid terrible bloodshed, he suggested the Decenians not engage in a fight they could not win. Why, what could Decenious and her broken allies field? 1500, 2000 troops? Why, Aerris would send 10,0000 legionnaires against them!

Haldoss rebuffed this, and told the messenger if the Hegemon wished to come to Aerris, he’d have to do so by force. The messenger exited, and the banquet came to an end. The captains and their lieutenants for the Decenians and their allies met thereafter in a strategy session.

Decenios did not have enough ships to defeat Aerris on the sea; so she would fight a running retreat into Decenios, where the Aerrisan army must be stopped on the shore before Decenios. Failing that, they must be stopped at the gates and walls of Decenios. It was in leading the first attack on the landing forces on the beach that the Aquonans would see their action. Verran, still doubtful over his ability to lead give his god’s command, offered little in terms of concrete advice, though Richter and Amantius offered up a couple of ideas on strengthening defenses.

The Aerrisan army was also discussed; how their strength came in discipline and formation fighting, and how they would probably send some of their less-disciplined auxiliaries from places like the Vanguard Isles to soften the defenders up.

Masago (with Owen/Amantius) in tow, sought out a guard that was spoiling for a fight from earlier. The two agreed to fisticuffs, and Amantius bet a silver to a guard that Masago would win.

By the time the guard had even begun to think about throwing a punch, Masago ended the fight with a punch to the abdomen that would have killed an unlucky man. He apologized, and Amantius assured him the guard would live to fight another day after checking him out.

Tyrael and Verran both engaged in prayer, and received a message from the Sun Lord that they should do their best duty as men and soldiers, but again, not to directly kill his followers until he said otherwise.

The crew continued to prepare, and that week, the sails of the remaining Decenian fleet were spotted, with the fleet of Aerris spead out like flies on the ocean behind her. The battle would soon be joined, and the crew of the Sea Slug was to be the first ones to greet the Aerrisans on the shore.

The battle for Decenios was about to be joined.

GM’s Notes: I loved this session. So much happened, I may have to go back and add more when I look at my notes again. The Respite was a sort of random encounter that was formed from dice rolls, so I had to think on my feet and change a few things around, but the characters really worked well in character. Halia is finding out more about her past. Masago is paranoid and a brawler, Richter offers expertise but doesn’t play his hand too far from the vest, Tyrael and Verran are seriously conflicted and worried about their god’s dictates, Owen/Amantius is finding his place in the world, all eager teen and would-be hero, and Kook is…well, he’s the Kook, which is so much fun.

This game was almost 100% role-playing; next session will be primarily battle, I think.

MVP: Masago (Lewis)


Hoo-rah Sea Slug!

Session 3: The Respite

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