Sunday, 29 March 2015

People Of Cidri: The Wöden

The Wöden, descendants of the minority human tribes that existed originally on the continent of Tekralh alongside the orcs and goblins, are now a transient people, found in small communities and brightly-coloured caravans, across Tekralh and other neighbouring continents (such as Sevled).

They are masters of the horse and caravan. Hardened survivors, they relish life and are renowned for their wild dancing and drinking as their martial cunning and sly wits.

It is not unknown for Wöden caravans to be welcomed into isolated, cold, southern towns in exchange for displays of salacious dancing and magic tricks.

However, their exotic nature also makes them prey for unscrupulous slavers and so the Wöden are often as suspicious of civilized folks as they are of the Wöden.

In more romantic cultures they are called: “The People of The Wheel”, because they are always on the move and have no permanent homes – except their caravans – or cities.

However, according to Elyntian lore the Wöden refused to convert to the Mnoren faith when the invaders from Sevled conquered their lands, instead opting to celebrate the carnal ways of The Great God T'Ao. For this Jen Mnoren and Mother Issus cursed them never to have a homeland again and so they began their long journey to redemption.

A Dancer
It is also claimed that Wöden females (especially the dancers) bewitch civilized males, kidnap them and corrupt them into their un-Mnoren ways. Naturally men (and some women) are more than willing to pay large sums of gold to see them dance.

More level-headed scholars suspect that this legend was created to demonise The Wöden, who are known to worship strange gods - unfamiliar to the Mnoren Pantheon - and practice fortune telling and prophesy outside of the confines of "normal" religion.

Because they are always on the move, the Wöden are also a good source of news, folklore and stories from across the enormous region they traverse (whether this is reliable or not is another matter and probably depends on how much you paid for the information).

Some Wöden have even banded together and purchased small, hardy ships. With a crew consisting almost entirely of a single tribe, these vessels then become either merchant ships or pirate ships - the Wöden excel in both nautical fields!

While most Wöden Clans act quite independently of the whole, they all tend to gather every three or four years for a large festival (often in the small, mountainous region known as Wöda, in north-eastern Elyntia), where the Ducja ('Leader of All Clans') sits in judgement over any disputes. The current Ducja is called Alba, and he has held that title for 12 years.

Ducja Alba

"Always watch your purse when trading with a Wöden"
– old Elyntian proverb.


At creation, Wöden characters gain +1 DX, -1ST but are otherwise created like any other human characters.

Other nationalities instinctively don't trust them - no non-Wöden will take orders from a Wöden.

Their hair colour is predominantly black.

Wöden Dancers
They traditionally rely on lighter armour (no Wöden would ever be seen wearing plate mail, for example), shorter weapons (again, traditionally single-handed blades or clubs) and are fine archers with non-mechanical bows.

Most Wöden have, at least, a basic understanding of animal husbandry, horse-riding and cold weather survival. Many are also proficient in matters of business (e.g. haggling, accounting etc) or entertainment (playing musical instruments, storytelling, singing and/or dancing).

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Holly's Story...

The distant niece of Bendwyn's resident apiarist, Holly has lived at her spinster aunt's home for years, helping on the bee farm.

The arrival of Kirchin, earlier in the year, and the reopening of The Temple Of The Lady Of Healing prompted her to take a part-time job there as a nurse.

A small, quiet woman, 21-year-old Holly is often mistaken for someone much younger than her real age, and most of her friends in Bendwyn are teenagers (including Imogen and Marigold).

Although she comes from an uneducated background, Holly is driven by a thirst for knowledge.

The recent departure of Imogen from the town has emboldened her to step out of the shadows and  join Kirchin and his colleagues on their adventures, with the aim of broadening her education and putting her skills to good use.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Unexpected Plot Twist: The Return Of Peter Entwhistle...

Captain Dexter Hammerhand
It is now early July, about three weeks since the "stand-off at Fort Bright" was resolved and the threat to Bendwyn was lifted.

Kirchin and Harry had been at the fort, having answered the summons of Captain Hammerhand, while Marigold had returned home to prepare her parents for the worst - or possible evacuation (as Kirchin had suggested).

Imogen had run away, leaving her father heart-broken, and Davian had locked himself away in his forge, trying to get his business up-and-running again.

Before heading to the fort, Kirchin and Marigold had discussed their hopes that the orcs would soon fall back on their old ways, turn on each other and their shaky alliance would collapse, but neither was wholly convinced that this would necessarily happen any time soon.

"Humans, eh?" Harry had scoffed, earning himself twin glares from both Captain Dexter Hammerhand and Kirchin, but before anyone could speak again a thunderous sound rent the air as a bright light lit the sky.

The trio made for one of the watch towers and Kirchin soon wished he had possession of Davian's "spyglass" to get a better view of what was occurring on the far side of the Bright.

It appeared the orcish hordes had pulled back from the river bank and later he would learn that the light and sound show signaled the arrival of the mighty sorcerer Revoreesh along with Bendwyn's own wizard, Peter Entwhistle.

Some time passed, then a flock of black birds arose from the midst of the orc horde and headed north (this, Peter would explain, was a traveling spell of Revoreesh's own devising).

Harry, Hammerhand and Kirchin were all equally puzzled as to what was going on until it became clear that the orcs were breaking camp and heading back into Tanander.

Peter Entwhistle was left on the bank of The Bright River for the ferryman to collect and transport back to civilization.

Entwhistle was grinning from ear-to-ear when he was met on the nearside of the river by Harry, Hammerhand and Kirchin, as if he had negotaited the peace treaty himself.

He hadn't, he quickly revealed. Revoreesh had struck a deal with King Hoknath that Bendwyn would pay 100 silver dollars a month - for a year - to Hoknath as blood money for the orcs slain by "whoever". In return the orcs would continue to respect the boundary agreed at the end of The Thousand Year War.

On the first of each month, the $100 would be handed to Aberswyth The Merchant, who would meet a representative of the town at the ferry crossing, and he would deliver the money to Hoknath.

However, if a payment was missed, the orcs would return and extract the money in blood and flesh from the inhabitants of Fort Bright and Bendwyn.


Later, in the warmth of The Golden Axe, Peter explained that he had been attending the annual Wizards Conclave at The Tower of Revoreesh, which lies in the foothills of the Gargoyle Mountains.

The Yellow King
As well as studying the Marvelous Golden Automaton of Omohundro - a mechanical man capable of playing chess and musical instruments (Harry wasn't sure if he was impressed or annoyed by this idea) - the small gathering of wizards had pored over the prophecies of Ja'rodidymus that suggested The Yellow King would be "rising" soon.

The Yellow King, Peter explained, was believed to be a dark avatar of Sateb (the god of the afterlife who judges a soul's worthiness), that ancient, near-forgotten, legends said was imprisoned in a shadow of Purgatory called Croatoa.

The legends stated that the impossibly strong magical forces restraining The Yellow King prevented him from setting foot on Cidri, and so Entwhistle wasn't particularly bothered by the prophecies of his return... except for one detail.

A single quatrain in Ja'rodidymus's text spoke of a "conjoined maiden, hag and mother creating a vessel" that would carry The Yellow King from the shores of Croatoa to the realm of men.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Background: The Coinage Of Elyntia...

From top to bottom: the copper bit, the silver dollar and the golden dragon

Elyntia operates a very simple coinage system, with the main unit of currency being the silver dollar ($), an Elyntian adaptation of the old Sevledian word 'taler' (meaning 'coin').

Dollars, and to a lesser extent bits, are very common in the towns and villages of Elyntia, but gold dragons are a rare sight outside of the rarefied enclaves of the rich and famous in the major cities. 

Minted in the Elyntian capitol, Kaerater, the relative values of the coins are:

20 copper bits = one silver dollar
50 silver dollars = one gold dragon

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Second Intermezzo: Drums Along The Bright...

Aberswyth The Merchant stands to the right of Orc King Hoknath Of The Bloody Hand

The drumming suddenly stopped. The troopers in Fort Bright, not feeling totally safe behind their moats and palisades, craned their necks to get a better view across the river at the enormous orc king barging his way through the gathered horde to the river bank.

King Hoknath Of The Bloody Hand clan was accompanied by a balding human merchant who the Fort Bright soliders knew as Aberswyth, one of the few merchants brave (foolish? greedy?) enough to trade with the orckind of Tanander.

Hoknath's skull-adorned scepter nudged Aberswyth closer to the water. The trader cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted across the water: "King Hoknath..."

Again, Hoknath nudged the trader, quite violently with his scepter. "King Hoknath, Mightiest Of His Name, Ruler Of All He Surveys, Crusher Of The Evil Eyes, Eviscerator Of The..."

Aberswyth looked back over his shoulder and Hoknath's jelly-like lip curled into a sneer.

"Eviscerator Of The Angry Claws, Render Of The Fast Dogs..." The list of Hoknath's titles went on for about five minutes before Aberswyth got to the king's demands: "...and Father Of The Strongest Whelps demands that the evil humans who raided his lands be handed over for punishment with all speed. Five were their number and five he wants for the pits. He says he has stuck by the treaty that was signed, but it doesn't surprise him that 'tricksy pale skins till try to steal his land'."

With that the drumming started up again.

Ten minutes later, a runner was dispatched from the fort to Bendwyn to relay a message to the town council. Captain Dexter Hammerhand made it clear that he wanted to see a representative of the council as soon as possible to explain what had gone on in Tanander.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Intermezzo: Flashback And Hot Gossip...

Skarg The Rabble-Rouser...
In the absence of Peter Entwhistle, Kirchin, Davian and the other members of the town council, Skarg The Half-Orc (of all people) has been stirring up the community, demanding an emergency meeting be called - because of the gathering orcs on the far side of The Bright River:
"While Entwhistle the hedge-wizard is off Jen-knows where and the rest of his cronies are away raiding, who is protecting our town? We need a new council, a strong council, a council that will stand up to the barbarians at our gates!"
So far, Bendwyn has resisted Skarg's calls for a new council to be formed, but as the size of the orc horde grows ever larger, and the rhythm of the orc war drums grows ever louder, more and more villagers are starting to think it might be time for action...

It was during this period of upheaval, that Sir Browyrd took the prisoner Margesh Blackbood - who had been released on his own recognizance and was staying with Browyrd at The Broken Blade - and left the town with his newly arrived unit of ducal troops.

Rumour had already begun to spread that Browyrd and Margesh were more than "just friends" (as the town council had already ascertained) and ribald jokes were being shared in hushed voices around The Golden Axe and Skarg's establishment.

Although none of the villagers saw what happened, the Sheriff, his prisoner and his men stopped off at The Temple Of The Lady Of Healing before Sir Browyrd and Margesh departed on the Sheriff's tarn, heading towards Dranning.

His soldiers - despite the pleas of the Bendwyn villagers - began their week-long march back towards the regional capitol.

Troops Of The Duke Of Dranning

Present Date: mid-June, 2014 SA ("Since The Abdication")

Friday, 6 March 2015

Chapter Thirteen Epilogue: Imogen Leaves Bendwyn...

Imogen slipped away from Bendwyn under the cover of night, heading to Dranning

As the orcish wardrums kept up their monotonous beat and while her fellow adventurers were seeing how Bendwyn had fared in their absence, Imogen scooped up her minimal worldly possessions and stuffed them into her backpack.

She hung the clever spyglass that she'd filched from Davian on the side of her pack, then crept into her father's bedroom.

Imogen knew in her head that Harold wasn't her real father, but in her heart she also knew she would always consider him as such. He had been so kind to her since rescuing her as a youngling on the streets of Dranning.

Sweeping her bright red hair aside, she bent over his sleeping form and kissed him on the forehead. The elderly potter mumbled something in his sleep and rolled over.

By the time Harold awoke the next morning, Imogen was long gone, well on her way back to Dranning. The woman she had seen in the witch's hut - in Dranning (if her eyes were to be believed) - had spoken to her, had called her.

She knew this was the right thing to do and if the Mnoren gods willed it, she would see her friends again sometime. But for now, she had a mission of her own...

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Chapter Thirteen: Lost In The Nexus Of All Realities...

The Green Knight

Having slain the orc hunting party, our heroes plunged on deeper in to Huldre Forest, drawn by the sound of a running water, and soon came to the bank of river.

There was a narrow stone bridge across the fast-flowing river and on the far side stood a giant of a man, dressed in green armour and sporting a mighty battle axe, who declared that "none shall pass" and that the party needed to send forth its champion to best him in single-combat to earn the right of passage.

Marigold immediately recognised him as the "Green Knight" that guards the boundaries of The Realm Of Faerie.

The party discussed options and eventually settled on Marigold casting 'haste' on Davian so he could take on the giant.

The dwarf waded into furious battle, dropping his own weapon twice as he was so jacked up. The party tried a couple of sneaky moves - Marigold was to cast a web spell on the knight and Imogen wanted to swim across the river and sneak an attack on him, but every time they were thwarted by the magic on the Faerie Realm.

Eventually, after a quite brutal fight, Davian brought the knight to his knees and lopped his head off.

The knight's body, weapons and armour dissolved to leaves and blew away in the wind, leaving only his magical cape that Davian rightfully claimed as the victor.

There was a path here that the adventurers took, eventually being met by a beautiful, radiant woman who introduced herself as Vasilia.

It was her whistling that Davian had heard earlier in the forest - and, in true dwarvish style, he kept grumbling that he had a "bad feeling about this".

However, Vasilia said she was the daughter of the Witch of The Forest and would gladly lead the party to her mother - so the curse on Marigold could be lifted.

Vasilia led the party deeper into the forest, down magical pathways, until they found themselves in a clearing where a hideous crone was waiting outside a small hut - that lacked any doors and windows.

The witch, who referred to herself as Granny, appeared to know who everyone was, welcomed them and then transported them inside her hut - which was obviously bigger inside than out.

While she prepared her potion to lift the curse from Marigold, she told the others to "run along" and not get under her feet, so they climbed the vertigo-inducing stairs to explore further inside her strange hut.

Opening a door they immediately found themselves on a benighted street in Dranning, the region's capitol, and ahead of them a red-haired woman was calling out "Imogen, come to me" as she disappeared round a corner.

And so began a surreal chase through different planes of existence, and even through time, as every door the group opened appeared to take them somewhere totally alien and random. At different times they found themselves on sailing ships (one, crewed by mysterious luminous beings, was even in outer space), on rooftops, in orcish kitchens etc

At one point they even stepped back in to The Broken Blade tavern in Bendwyn - much to shock of Sir Browyrd, who was still holding court there - before disappearing through a portal that no one else in the tavern could see.

Imogen caught a glimpse of a creepy baby in a cot in one room and passed out from the horror and just as the group was starting to feel as though they were all going insane (they were in a particularly alien, spherical room where a floating cube was suspended in a sparkling beam of light, and had opened a door on one side of the room to see themselves - from the back - on the other side of the room!) they found the passage back to the main room of the witch's hut.

Granny: The Witch Of Huldre Forest
While they had been away, Granny had summoned the ghost of Mardrid The Gentleman Bandit, admonished him in an unknown tongue, and then banished him.

She then brewed a powerful concoction for Marigold to drink. This, the witch said, would remove the curse and when Marigold checked she noticed the 'mark of The Yellow King' had disappeared from her skin.

The reunited group was then transported back outside the hut and sent on their way.

Their hike back through the forest was surprisingly uneventful - really surprisingly uneventful - until they had almost reached the Bright River.

Imogen did some scouting ahead and (using a spyglass retrieved from one of the sailing ships the group had visited while 'in the witch's hut') saw a mass gathering of orcs, a war camp, on this side of the river, heckling the fort on the far side.

She also noticed that one of the orc banners was topped by the head of Tarl, the group's guide.

Unwilling to take on the orc army our heroes followed the river south-east, until they came to the ford by the ruined tower where they had found Margesh weeks earlier.

They crossed the river and made their way towards Bendwyn. This detour had taken almost a fortnight, rations had run out and the group were weak and hungry by the time they arrived at Kirchin's Temple Of The Lady Of Healing on the outskirts of the town... only to find that it had been ransacked.

Kahl, Kirchin's apprentice, had taken a beating in defence of the healing house but told his master that Sir Browyrd, Margesh Blackblood and Sir Browyrd's men had broken in, stolen the Sword Of Aquin and all Kirchin's silver and then left the town.

Meanwhile, in the town, our heroes learned that the orcs hadn't yet crossed The Bright River, but their numbers were swelling. At last estimation there were now several thousand poised on the far bank, waiting to invade...
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