Interview with a (half) Vampire (IC summary of Dresden Files game)

Disclaimer: This is an in-character write-up/summary of a short Dresden Files RPG that I played in recently and is entirely fictional.
“You look disappointed that I look like a normal guy, what were you expecting? Brad Pitt or something? Sorry but the real world don’t play that way, tell you what, you want I should make my tattoos glow red, no? Well perhaps it’s not such a good idea anyway, they’re not there to be pretty.
Okay, so, where to start.
Is this thing on?
Right, well my name is Luciano Santiago; you’ve heard saying ‘unlucky in love, lucky at cards’? Well I was never very good with either, so my family saddled me with the nickname Lucky, funny thing is, i’m here now and they’re not – so whose the lucky one at the end of things eh?

The Santiago family used to run the criminal world in this city, wasn’t a shady deal or underhand enterprise went down without them knowing about it and taking their cut; it was a good time, things got done professionally, not saying that we were nice people, far from it, but we took pride in our work and kept the collateral damage to a minimum – no real sentiment involved, it just wasn’t efficient. Well that all changed when some chump named Straiker grabbed me and my brother Giani when we were heading back from a job, I don’t even remember how he got us to get in the car, but (even knowing nothing about the supernatural as I did) i’d seen enough movies to know what he was when fangs slid out of his mouth and he started snacking on my brother.

You ever know what it’s like to try and move and not be able to? Well yeah it sucks balls, but I couldn’t move a muscle, and I was straining so hard I was worried I was gonna pop something; but Straiker lets my brother go and puts the bite down on me, I started to feel myself drift away when from nowhere there was a loud crunch as another car hit us.
Lucky at cards right?
Straiker took a hit to the back of the head and I found that I could move again, so I scrambled out of the car, I thought that my brother must’ve been dead, it was only later when I tried to go back that I found out he was walking about; only he wasn’t my brother any more, he was like Straiker some bat-faced blood sucker. Once Straiker got a taste of the criminal world, he decided he wanted to take a big bite out of it and began munching his way through my family.
All the while I could feel this churning hunger burning me up inside, I had to get away, the family would be looking for me either to kill me or to put the bite on me (I wasn’t sure which one was worse); it was then I saw a young kid running out infront of a car, it wasn’t going to stop. Before I knew what I was doing I felt a surge of strength flow through me and ran across the road faster than the car was moving, grabbing the child and putting her safely down on the other side; I was about to speak to her when suddenly the hunger pain returned, twisting like a knife in my gut, so bad that I collapsed at the side of road, groaning in pain.
The next thing I knew was that some guy (I later found out he was a senior detective) was picking me up, he’d seen me save the kid and introduced me to this weird group called the Order of St. Giles, after setting me a few trials they gave me these tattoos; yes I know, you can’t normally see them, but when I get the hunger on me they start glowing, both to warn people and to help hold the hunger back.
So how does this relate to the supernatural war and the re-dressing of the balance?
Well I ended up hooking up with this american-indian woman called Wayaya who was pretty clued in to the world of the supernatural, had some kind of fierce sorcerous mojo going on that I wouldn’t want to mess with, not least of which was that she seriously messed up any technology that she got near (well anything post-1950s); my other ally around this time was a Detective Howell, a young woman who (despite my best efforts) got dragged into the whole messy affair when she broke up a drug deal I was doing. Trying to hide from my family, i’d been forced to use outside help, they got sloppy and the police were tipped off – i’d written the whole thing off and was about to make myself scarce when one of the police officers fell of the boat they were on and hit his head. I’ve seen a lot of people die in my time but no-one deserves to go out like that so I dived in and rescued him, Detective Howell was his superior and was on the boat, turns out she had been with the old man who’d taken me to the Order but she didn’t know jack all about the supernatural.
See the Santiago family were going to war with another criminal family over who owned the docking and shipping business, this would have all been fairly normal but this time they were getting sloppy, their street battles were spilling out and started to involve the public; I don’t know if this was because the vampires were involved in it or not, but they certainly weren’t making things any better. At about the same time we received a message from some kind of world spirit (Wayaya called it ‘Gaia’) during some trippy ceremony at an indian lodge where we were told that the balance was being tipped over and that unless it was restored the world would fall into darkness. Well, fuck that noise, so I sent a message to the family the only way I could, some would call writing on a severed arm in marker pen brutal but, when there’s a lotta noise going on, sometimes you gotta shout to make yourself heard.
I knew they’d be coming for me and I didn’t want to drag Wayaya and Howell into it so I headed for the one piece of neutral ground in the city, the one place where no supernatural would risk messing with me; the Crimson Moon looked like a normal club but it was run by some big power, called himself Van, who enforced the peace. Well Wayaya rocked up, she’d been doing some research on this symbol i’d discovered in my room at the club, turned out it was the resting place of some ancient spirit warrior or some such (I don’t claim to understand that stuff, leave it for the wizards, I got enough shit on my plate as it is) called Kele or “the Fallen Man.” Well after some talking with Van we were able to get him to take us to a hidden chamber under the club where there was this stone coffin thing; apparently only native-american indians could enter the secret area, even Van hadn’t been able to get in, but since we had Wayaya with us we were sound apparently.
Well our indian friend had been hitting the books and had worked out that to awaken the Fallen Man we had to do all many of crazy stuff (don’t even ask me about how we got a dragon to breathe fire on the stone) and Kele rose from his rest; unfortunately that kinda power sent alarm bells out the White Council (some society of occult big-wigs who like to think themselves judge, jury and executioner for the the supernatural world) and they launched a full assault on the Crimson Moon. It was pandemonium out there, people fighting and guns firing, the Fallen Man offered to evacuate us using the spirit world, but I couldn’t take the risk there might be innocent people getting caught up in this war so I went upstairs to help evacuate the normal people before plunging back into the mass brawl that now occupied the dancefloor; next thing I know a huge tear opened up in mid-air and i was pulled through into the spirit world.
We gathered up some local materials (rocks, clay and the like) and Kele made them into paint which he used to draw some animals on us, he then asked if we would sacrifice some of our time in order to help re-dress the balance; we said that of course we would and he left us. The first to disappear was Wayaya, just fading from view and then Howell, leaving just me sat in the spirit world holding Wayaya’s peace-pipe; there was a flash and I was back sitting in the club, pipe in hand with Van looking at me strangely, I rang Wayaya, apparently I had been gone for three months, Wayaya had appeared a few days after we had gone into the spirit world and Howell had appeared a month ago. Kele had used our time to manifest himself in the real world and selectively target and remove certain supernatural elements from the city, redressing the balance.
And that was that, you presumably know what happened next or you wouldn’t be here talking to me?

Now I suggest you get out, i’m sure you’ve noticed the dull glow emanating from my tattoos, that means i’m getting hungry and, whilst I might not like seeing innocents suffer, I aint no saint.”

Mornings with Max Price (IC writeup of 1st Seattle Demon: the Fallen session)

Disclaimer: This is a fictional in-character write-up of an RPG game.

“We’d just wrapped up another show, people wouldn’t believe the amount of work and preparation that goes into producing and recording a two hour morning show, normally I wrapped up a show and was straight onto researching and reading up on the next subject for discussion; it was a lonely life with not much room for anything else, family or friends, i’d found this out the hard way when my wife of five years rang me to tell me that she couldn’t put up with this life anymore and that she was taking our daughter, I tried to reason with her but she told me that i’d left them both years ago, every since i’d starting working for the station. I’d been out drinking with a friend at the time, one of my rare breaks from the show, trying to comfort him and tell him that he didn’t have to worry about the big presentation he was giving (I was lying, anyone could see he was nervous as hell) when my wife rang me; an hour later I was convulsing in one of the lavatory cubicles as a noxious mixture of recreational drugs and alcohol killing my body as surely as the news of my wife’s departure had killed my heart.

Five minutes after that, I was Sitri, the once Demon Prince of hell, he who makes men love women and women love men; my friend was shaking me and asking me if I was alright.

Ten minutes later we were both leaving the club, my friend had seen a little of my new self (although it was a vague and flickering candle flame compared to the celestial being I had once been) and had the confidence that he needed to pull of his presentation and have his business partners hanging on his every word, and I had what I needed, his faith and belief.

The voice of Eric, a promising young gruaduate from Seattle-U who was getting some work experience on the station as a researcher, caused me to start out of my reverie, “Mr Price, Sue says that we’re running with the Duwarmish story tomorrow, i’ve taken the liberty of putting all the material I could pull from the net onto this CD and have catalogued it for you so that you can do some background research, but you’ll need some music for the segment as well.”

“One of the elders of the tribe, a Mr Noah has been booked to speak on the show, apparently he had some new evidence or information that’s gonna force the government to recognise the Duwarmish claim to their lands” continued Eric.

I smiled at Eric, the kid was a great researcher, young and full of enthusiasm for his job, “Eric, you’re an angel, i’ll get this read this evenign and will swing by Seattle-U to see if their library has anything on it; as for the music, tell you what, since you’ve been such a big help around here recently why don’t you put together a playlist i’ll have a look at it and make some selections, maybe even slip you a credit in the show, how’s that?”

Eric beamed at the thought of getting mentioned in the show, his role had been strictly backstage so far, but hell (yes I know that I use the word ‘hell’ a lot but once you’ve been to the Abyss, it’s like a part of you never leaves) he’d done such a good job it was about time he saw some sort of reward, and it cost me nothing to give him a hand. This was one of the things I like about being Max, he genuinely believed that mankind could be better than it was, they only needed to be told the whole truth and shown the way, and I was Max now, even since i’d climbed into this body and his hopes and dreams had baptised me, washing my soul clean of the hatred and anger that had engulfed me during my time in the Abyss.

An hour later I was sat in my small office reviewing the information that Eric had given me on the Duwarmish tribe, turns out that were a native-american indian tribe who historically had settled land now occupied by a huge chunk of downtown Seattle; despite the Duwarmish signing the Treaty of Point Elliot with the US Government in 1855 they were not recognised as an official tribe and it seemed as though they’d been pretty much conned out of their land, ever since then the leaders of the Duwarmish tribe had been looking to ratify their claim to their historical land. I flicked through a couple of pages on the document, seemed to me that the Duwarmish had been playing entirely by the rules, going through all the appropriate legal channels and such-like, but everytime their claim got to court it was thrown out because of some bullshit legalise or loophole; I could see a picture forming in my mind, it looked like someone with knowledge and influence within the political system of Seattle would find it very inconvenient if the Duwarmish were to reclaim their land and was doing their damndest to make sure that it didn’t happen.

I frowned and felt a vague flicker of the old anger and darkness, but it was quickly drowned in sadness, the world was so big, this country was so big and all humans were originally of one tribe (I should know), there should be room for all the tribes of man; I couldn’t remember what had happened to divide them, was it something they had done, or was it our defiance that caused them to still be punished to this day. Still, being Max had it’s advantages, using my renewed confidence and the social talents of Sitri I had been able to pull my show out of the tailspin that it was locked into and had made it popular enough that I had become something of a local celebratory, and more importantly I was able to tell people the truth; for a couple of hours while they were listening at home or in their car on the way to work, the human population of the city listened to me, it was just what Max (and Sitri) has always wanted.

Folding my laptop up and tucking it under my arm I waved goodbye to Eric and the show’s scheduler Sue before jumping in my car, i’d read on the CD that the original Treaty of Point Elliot was on display at Seattle-U, they also had a great library when it came to native mythology and history, seemed like a good opportunity to get some more research so I sped over there and quickly found myself looking at the historical document (behind glass of course). Whenever I go anywhere or look at anything, as well as taking notes, I like to snap a couple of photos with my smartphone, most of the time they don’t come out particularly well (hell, i’m no photographer) but they work as little memory aides; well I was taking some photos when a young girl (probably no more than 16 or 17) who was sat reading nearby snorted, telling me that I wouldn’t get any decent pictures because of the glass. I’d been going over my plan for the radio broadcast in my head and hadn’t noticed the young girl, she looked to be of native-american indian descent but her clothing was distinctly modern, goth I think they call it, all brooding blacks and velvet, that sort of thing; thanking her for the advice I explained that I was going to be doing a radio show with one of the tribal elder of the Duwarmish, at which point she began to reveal her thoughts that a conspiracy of freemasonic nature lurked behind the continuous denial of the Duwarmish claim to their lands. Now a couple of years ago Max probably would have scoffed at that notion, but I have to admit that it did seem odd how these legal loopholes always appeared to block their claims in court and, having been given a chance to walk amongst manking again, I had swore to myself that I would always take them seriously (no matter how ridiculous the claims sounded).

I was starting to sense a vague feeling of otherworldly energies at work in the library, seemingly centred around a waste paper bin but I didn’t want to alarm the young woman, so I attempted to make conversation about her theories and asked whether she had a personal interest in the Duwarmish; she revealed that she was searching for the grave of Isaac Stevens, the person originally responsible for compelling the american-indians to sign the Treaty of Point Elliot (along with some others), I had always wanted to help humanity I think, even at the start, so I offered to have some of my contacts look into it, the young woman seemed initially suspicious but relented and gave me a mobile phone number before leaving. Let alone I scooped up a couple of books on local mythology and history before wandering over to the waste paper bin, inside was a book, crumbling to dust as though the weight of hundreds of years bore down on it, but the binding looked new – perhaps the energy I had sensed had acted on this book, unfortunately the smallest disturbance caused it to collapse into illegible dust; I raised an eyebrow, was the girl like me? It seemed unlikely but possible, I resolved to try and keep her close.

Whilst standing at the checkout desk waiting for the librarian to scan my books out a tall dark skinned man came in asked for a book on Duwarmish mythology, it just so happened that it was the only copy in the library and I had just booked it out, I apologised to the man (who introduced himself as Mr Christmas) but said that I would have the book back tomorrow; he seemed to accept this and expressed a knowledge of the Duwarmish, thinking that he might be useful should we get any more shows out of this subject I gave the man a business card and bid him farewell.

Back in the office I was surprised to hear from Sue that apparently the news had just come in that our guest for tomorrow’s show Noah had been murdered at his home (a small village outside of Seattle proper); I didn’t want to cancel the show, after all the injustice done to the Duwarmish wasn’t any less due to this unfortunate event, and I felt sure that the tribal elder would want his people’s voice to be heard. Thinking that perhaps this show could be done as a memorial to the memory of Noah I decided that a bit of firsthand research was in order and, taking one of the vehicle from the car pool drove out to where my research notes indicated that Noah had lived; there seemed to be no-one about besides a couple of neighbours twitching their curtains and a very large man who was welding some sort of metal sculpture in his garage. I called out to the heavy-set man who told me that his name was Frank Chapelacre and that he’d been a neighbour and friend of Noah’s for years, I took the opportunity to get a bit of a feel for the deceased man’s character and was about to ask Frank whether or not he’d consider recording a few respectful sound-bites for us, giving us a bit of local interest in the matter, when we were interrupted by a young woman shouting at us. The woman was wearing baggy clothes and, it was soon revealed, was Frank’s wife, her breath smelled of cheap lager and her glazed expression screamed “alcoholic” at me in this same way her manner towards Frank shouted “abusive relationship”; it always struck home when I saw the gift that humanity had been given squandered in this way but I turned on the charm and (along with the promise of money to re-imburse Frank for his time) soon had her eating out of the palm of my hand.

Following Frank’s mention of a TV repairman from Connor’s Rentals and Repairs visited the house earlier and the police bafflement at Noah being found dead in his locked house with no sign of forced entry we decided to explore the house, with the profit-minded wife of Frank’s waiting on look-out outside; it was easy to force the door (after all the police had already broke it down once to get into the house), nothing seemed unusual at first besides for a pile of magazines that were extremely damp. A chalk outline of a body was drawn on the floor near to a crack telephone that appeared to have been pulled from the wall, we had a look at the new TV aerial and Frank seemed quite interested in it; as we continued to explore I started getting the feeling that some sort of celestial energy had been used and decided to explore the roof, I was surprised to find that the old aerial cable had been cut deliberately. Back inside I following the new cable and found a piece of silken fabric bearing celestial symbols tucked behind it, Frank touched parchment and I felt a flare of demonic energy from him, that explained the sensation that I had been feeling whilst exploring, after a few tense moments I decides to take the risk and asked Frank who he had been before he had been Frank, his real-name Gadriel was not familiar to me, but he seemed to have heard of Sitri.

Two (possibly more of us) getting drawn into this affair could not be coincidence but I had precious little time to ponder it before I got ready for my show; re-iterating my promise of monetary compensation to Frank’s wife and pressing some money into her hand (it was easier and quicker than a long conversation) myself and Frank sped back to Seattle-proper, given our ‘mutual interests’ I offered Frank my couch for the evening.”

Rocking out with Max Price (IC background to Seattle Demon: the Fallen game)

Disclaimer: Please not this is a fictional write-up of a fictional character’s background in an RPG game.
“It’s an odd thing to be two people, well, not really, you see there are these layers to existence that… oh never mind, I can see i’m getting ahead of myself, besides that bit’s not really important for now.
I don’t really remember a lot of what happened before I was Maximillian Price (or Max to go by the name I use on my early morning ready slot), I do remember one thing though, wherever we were it was dark and cold, colder than you can imagine; when poets and writers talk of hell they always picture it as lakes of fire and brimstone, it’s not like that. Hell is being left on your own in the dark with only your own thoughts and failures, your only company being others lost in their own darkness; like I said, it’s cold down there. I remember waiting for what seemed like forever, at first blaming Him, then blaming myself and finally blaming everyone else for my incarceration; it’s easy to start lying to yourself in the cold and black, what else can you do for comfort? Then one day there was a crack of light and I remember surging upwards, looking for something to anchor myself to, anything I could hold onto to prevent the abyss pulling me back.
Something called out to me, a soul leaving the mortal world, but one that spoke to me in particular; a human who genuinely believed that his kind could make the right choices and could do what was best if only they were told what was really going on, if only they had the right information, a man who had struggled to get as much of this information out to public as he could. As I moved closer the mortal soul opened up to me like a book, he has sacrificed everything, his wife, his health, all for his career and this idea that he could help make the world better; looking at this man some of my own darkness fell from me, I remembered a time when I had felt the same, when I believed that the world could be changed and I reached out towards the body, feeling myself sink into the strangely comforting flesh as the original occupant left for whatever waits beyond.
And then I was Maximillian Price, I must admit that the feeling was odd, although I wasn’t him, I sort of was; if you’ve ever been to an old house and it feels like some part of the owner is still there then you might have some idea of what i’m talking about, that’s what taking a body feels like to us. Although I had never known Max before his body became my vessel, all his memories and feelings mixed in with my own, his optimism and belief diluting my own bitterness and anger in a way that I would not have believed possible. For a brief moment I remembered the way I had been, a shining figure of light welcoming the dawn, and then the vision was gone and I felt a warm tear run down my cheek; for a few lingering minutes I was no longer Sitri, the demon prince who makes men and women lust and love, tearing their flesh in their desires, I was merely a man, and that was enough.
Someone was shaking me and shouting Max’s, no my, name and asking me if I was alright; I opened bloodshot eyes and immediately the input of my new sense rushed in and I smelled the vomit staining my shirt, I almost laughed (trust me, if you’ve been deprived of everything but anger and hate for untold years, anything is welcome). Slowly memory filled in the blanks, of course, the man shaking me was my friend, he was nervous about giving a best man speech and a big presentation, I could almost see the black thread of his nerves twisting inside him like a serpent; Max, no i’d, received a call during the evening, it has been my wife, she was leaving me and taking our daughter, said I spent all my time at the radio station and that I wasn’t the man i’d married.
I closed my eyes again, I could see the whirling tableaux of new memories in front of me, countless nights and days sacrificed to try and make something of the show (“Morning with Max Price” jingled a quick soundbite in my head), days spent researching for a couple of hours air time; I also saw what the show had meant to me, for those precious couple of hours, I could talk to people, tell them what was really going and part the veil of lies and misinformation that lay over the world like a shroud. The world was a divided hostile place, but it didn’t have to be, with the powers of Sitri, I could open people’s eyes, I could make them listen, if we could not regain heaven then this world could be a new heaven for all of us.

My friend was still talking, I opened my eyes and shakely rose to my feet, still unused to the heaviness of my own body; he was asking questions about my health. From my memories I had taken the news of my wife’s departure badly (although now it seemed just like one more sacrifice in the pursuit of a greater goal, what was one or two people’s lives against the salvation of an entire race?) and had overdone a number of recreational drugs; reaching back into my mind I could feel Max’s panic as the drugs mixed with the booze in his system, turning quickly to poison and snapping the thread that held his soul to his mortal body. But thanks to me, Max’s dream didn’t have to die, and I would start with my pride and joy, the radio show, I would make it into everything that i’d ever dreamed it would be – a vessel for the truth.

I smiled warmly and re-assured my friend that I was okay “Probably too much to drink, no need to worry, tell me are you still worried about that big presentation? I think that I might be able to help you with that, but i’m going to need something from you first.”

As we walked out of the bathroom I glanced at my reflection in the mirror and noticed that my once baby blue eyes were now a burnished red colour, there was a lot of work to do.”

"The Serpent Idol" – Serpents Fall : Flashback Session (video)

“The Serpent Idol”
Serpents Fall: Flashback Session

First Looks – Within the Ring of Fire (video)

First Looks – Within the Ring of Fire (video)
My first look at the “Within Ring of Fire” RPG by RAW Immersive Games.

GM tips – Encouraging players to be pro-active (video)

GM Tips – Encouraging players to be pro-active
A (by no means exhaustive) selection of tip to help encourage your players to be more pro-active in RPGs.

RPG bugbears – Elitist gamers (video)

RPG Bugbears – Elitist Gamers
A video about those people who see one system as the only one worth playing.

Character generation: starting at the other end

I don’t know how you guys out there in internet-land prefer to generate characters for the various different RPGs that you play in, I suspect everyone has their preferred methods and ways of approaching this, whether it is banging all your stats down first or coming up with a personality and building the stats around; it only really occurred to me recently how easy it is to slip into one method of character creation because it is familiar and comfortable, but that trying something a bit different can be an interesting experiment.
So what made me think about this?

Well recently I had the good fortune to be invited to participate in a Demon the Fallen game being run by a friend of mine (anyone interesting in the gameline can find more here), the game is taking place in Seattle and we will be playing the roles of demonic essences freed from the abyss where they have been consigned (with some possible brief intermissions) since the Fall; now freed to return to earth, these monstrous demons protect themselves against the spiritual gravity of the abyss by anchoring their spirits into a vacated human body. Some of the demons find that remnants of the humans memories and personality remain, acting as a bulwark against all the years of hatred, giving them a second chance for redemption.
When it comes to character generation in the World of Darkness I generally start with a broad idea of the character’s personality, then I start working out the stats and refining the idea as I go, starting with their attributes, skills and finally moving onto the supernatural elements of the character (ie. what they have become) before rounding the character off with a few merits and flaws if I think that they are warranted. This is pretty much the standard order of things in the World of Darkness rulebooks and it’s how i’ve done most of my WoD characters in the past.
However this time, I still had an idea of what sort of character I wanted to play, since i’d played a physical character in the last Demon game that my friend Simon had run I wanted to do something different and had set my mind on a more social character; I had a vague idea that he’d be some sort of radio or talk-show presenter, possibly a cunning Devil or Defiler. Instead of starting with attributes and working my way through the sheet, this time it occurred to me that as someone with skills in networking and contacts throughout the business, I would instead start on my characters backgrounds (ie. resources, contacts, influence, etc) and build my character from the outside-in. I found that doing this still resulted in a very playable character at the end, but the mere act of approaching it slightly differently caused me to consider my choices more carefully rather than just banging a load of dots down.
So what did I end up with?

Before he became host to an infernal spirit Max Price was a struggling radio DJ, trying (and failing) to balance the demands of his career as he fought to keep his ailing show on the air and his wife and child. Things came to head when one night he was out with a friend, the friend was nervous because he had to give a best man speech and help organise the wedding and lacked the confidence to do the job justice; trying to be helpful Max had taken his friend out for a drink, they’d done some light recreational drugs (nothing too heavy), when Max received a phone call from his wife saying that she couldn’t take it any more, she had moved out and taken their daughter.
Despairing Max threw himself into the evening, consuming alcohol and drugs without thought or care for the toxic mixture brewing in his stomach; only an hour later as, shuddering, he vomited profusely into the latrine of a sleazy club did Max have time to regret his choices, and then only briefly as a darkness fell over his vision and his heart began to spasm. A few minutes later, She who draws shadows on men’s heart looked out from behind the now burnished red eyes of Max Price at the concerned face of his friend, willing the heart to beat anew; with a new confidence in his honeyed voiceMax said, “I think I know how to help you with your speech.”

A Land Without a King : Serpents Fall – episode 4 (video) – actual play

A Land Without a King : Serpents Fall – episode 4 (video) – actual play
Hooray – my actual play video for episode 4 is now working 🙂

Serpents Fall: A Land Without a King – Session 4

Our heroes are heading northwards, out of Celtia towards the land of Saxony, their plan is to travel to the capitol of Winchester seeking someone who may know more about curses and perhaps even help them lift the curse that prevents Captain Benito from sailing on the seas; whilst the curse stands there is no way that they can each the Sword Isles and out a stop to whatever fiendish plans the usurper Pirate King Horningold Blythe is concocting. They party have been travelling for a couple of days, and having spent a lot of time at the ruined village previously, supplies are running low; Ozuchi is ranging up ahead looking for supplies, when he sees a village in the distance, surrounded by a wooden pallisade, thin wisps of smoke rise up above the fence, no doubt from hearth fires inside. Ozuchi falls to his knees thanking the spirits for the blessing of a village, “Assuming that smoke doesn’t mean it’s been burnt down” says the sobering voice of Benito from just by his shoulder as the rest of the party catches up.

Suddenly Benito and Horesh hear a strange snuffling, snorting noise coming from within the boundaries of the nearby Great Forest, they have only just left Celtia and are still close to the mighty wooded area that blankets the savage nation like a living tide; ever wary Benito draws his sword, the sound of the metal sliding free from his scabbard alerting Ozuchi to the potential danger. Before they have time to consider further planning the undergrowth begins to move with furious activity; Horesh backs away from the treeline whilst Ozuchi drops into a martial stance as something huge and strong ploughs it’s way through the undergrowth, charging towards them. Thinking quickly Ozuchi calls on his komodo spirit to armour against harm as a huge boar smashes out of the nearby treeline, shakes it’s head and then prepares to charge; Horesh begins slowly backing away as Benito scrambles up a nearby rocky outcropping and Ozuchi prepares to leap if the creature gets near him. Hearing the sound of the pebbles dislodged by Benito’s frantic scrambling the boar charges towards the rock that he is perched upon. Benito leaps off the rock that he is clinging to and lands on the back of the huge bristled creature, he reachs forwards, grabs the tusks of the mighty boar and begins twisting the creature’s head to one side, trying to distract it from charging his companions.

With the creature distracted, Ozuchi springs forward, striking the boar in a weak spot on it’s skull with a mighty kick; there is a loud crack and the creature ploughs into the ground, neck broken, Benito leaping off as it slides along digging a furrow with it’s carcass. As this is going on Horesh becomes aware that there is still some slight movement within the treeline, he steps into the trees, remaining cautious, and comes across a small clearing where there are 5 infant boars, he shakes his head and returns to the others, gesturing for them to follow he shows them where the baby boars are located. The death priest feels quite guilty that they may have slain the mother of these creatures whereas Ozuchi, being more used to hunting on the stygian savannah and raising the young of hunted animals as domestic stock, looks at the young animals solely as potential food or trade stock, whereas Benito and Horesh seem captivated by the idea of training these beasts as mounts. Horesh attempts to examine the spirit of the beast but it has already fled (animal spirits not tending to linger) but he does sense an after-image of anger and maternal instincts, he suggests that there might have been something nearby that had already roused the mother boars protective instincts and that they should remain wary.

After a bit of a debate, Benito and Horesh decide to adopt one of the piglets each and to take the rest as trade or provisions, Ozuchi shakes his head in bewilderment but reluctantly agrees before pulling his dagger and swiftly beginning to skin, de-tusk and butchering the body of the dead boar; the norsican barbarian Kron seems entirely bewildered by the argument going on, but then norsicans are not known for their love of animals (besides as skins to wear or meat to eat). Benito picks up a couple of piglets, Horesh carries one (selecting a black piglet with a white spot) and, after being asked to help by Benito, the bewildered Kron picks up the other two, shaking his head. Ozuchi gives thanks to the spirit for the bounty of pigflesh and piglets to trade that they have blessed the party with, and they continue their journey towards the village.

Arriving near the open-fronted wooden pallisade they can see numerous small wooden buildings erected around a central large hall; a ragged, malnourished figure bursts from the entrance of the gate, cradling a hessian sack under his arm, the figure runs towards them and virtually collapses into Ozuchi’s arms saying “I can’t… please don’t let them get me…”, he swoons almost fainting away. Benito takes the bag and peers in side, it contains little more than a couple of loaves and some bundles of grain, before he has chance to consider what this means, Benito’s attention is attracted by the sound of marching feet and a unit of soldiers wearing metal armour and lead by a serious looking figure march out of the village. Not liking the look of the events unfolding Horesh quickly removes his robe and slips it onto the bedraggled villager before the soldiers have time to spot him and Ozuchi runs forward to meet the emerging soldiers, pointing off into the distance and hoping to mislead them as to the whereabouts of their suspected quarry he says “A man just ran into those trees carrying a bag, is that who you are after?”

Seeming convinced by Ozuchi’s fabrications, the commander introduces himself as Aedelred and says that they are pursuing the criminal Dudda, Ozuchi repeats that they saw him running off into the nearby forest; nodding Aedelred says that they will surely be welcome, however, he points at Kron and says that “well, almost all of you will be welcome” – he explains the group that the northman is not well loved in Saxony since the King has gone north to crusade against the rising northern warlords, he describes the norsicans as a plague waiting to sweep away civilisation. Ozuchi is able to persuade the soldiers that Kron no longer considers himself linked with the raiding norsicans and will cause no trouble, Kron turns over his hammers as surety of his conduct and, with Ozuchi vouching for him, Commander Aedelred agrees to allow the norsican into the settlement of Wulfricingas. One of Aedelred’s men called Deorwine seems personally affronted by Aedelred’s decision to allow Kron into the village and makes his objection known; Aedelred commands him to be silent and apologises to our heroes, explaining that Deorwine recently received news that his brother was slain in King Godric’s crusade against the northmen. Unable to accompany them at present due to his pursuit of the criminal Dudda, Aedelred assigns one of his men Oed to escort them inside.

Oed leads the heroes into the village, he mentions that Lord Wulfric is ill and may not be able to speak to them but he will take them to the chiefs hut; when Ozuchi mentions that he is a reknowned medicine man in Stygia and that he may be able to help, this interests Oed a great deal and he leads them to the large wooden hut in the middle of the village. Oed bangs on the door asking to be let in, saying that he has a medicine man to see Lord Wulfric, a female voice responds saying that the Lord is much too ill to see any foreigners with his snake-oil and charms; it is only when Oed threatens to break down the door that the women (whom he refers to as Ceolwyn) agrees to let them in.

Upon entering the large hall they can see a bed covered in many furs where a tall man with a long beard and wasted, grayish pallor lies looking almost dead, they are met by a determined looking woman who is skeptical about Ozuchi’s abilities, but weakly Lord Wulfric gestures that he gives permission for Ozuchi to examine him. Nodding Ozuchi asks what treatment Lord Wulfric has received, Ceolwyn indicates a clear solution on a nearby table and says that she has been adminstering a solution of local herbs to bring down his fever; Benito notices a look of panic on Ceolwyn’s face when Ozuchi begins examining the tonic, but before he can do anything a huge warrior with black hair and holding an axe gripped threateningly in one hand dashes in and in angry tones demands to know what is going on. Coelwyn speaks to the man (who she calls Anlaf) and explains what is occurring, again Benito notices the edge of panic in her voice.

Ozuchi attempts to speak to Anlaf, who seems oddly unwilling to listen to him and eventually attempts to punch the stygian, but he is too quick though and rocks back on his feet before delivering a rapid series of blows that cause the saxon warrior to crumple to the floor unconscious; now free of distraction Ozuchi lifts a tiny portion of the tonic to his lips and judges it to be mostly sugar water, but there is an acrid toxic taste lurking beneath it that his trained tastebuds detect. Seeing Ozuchi’s expression and realising that the game is up, Ceolwyn draws a hidden dagger from her belt and, holding it out, tells them to let her go and that no-one needs to get hurt. Benito attempts to restrain the woman but she delivers him a vicious headbutt to the face, staggering back and shouting for Ozuchi to take her out whilst Kron moves to secure the unconscious saxon warrior and cut off any escape, Benito takes a step backwards with blood pouring from his nose.

Not wanting to do the woman serious harm (and lose their only conscious source of information), Ozuchi deftly flicks the knife from Ceolwyn’s hand and twists her arm up behind her back whilst Horesh fetches a rope and restrains her; weeing her husband captured and held by Kron and Oed, Ceolwyn breaks down and reveals that her husband Anlaf told her to help him poison Lord Wulfric or he would beat her, but that if she did so the Regent would make them the rulers of the village after Wulfric was dead. Oed tells them that the Regent is the brother of King Godric, a man called Eadweard Harcourt who has been left in charge of the kingdom whilst Godric is on his crusade in the north; but he has no idea why the Regent would want Wulfric dead, Ceolwyn answers that she doesn’t know, Anlaf spoke to the Regent, not her, she attempts to plead for leniency and offers proof of what she is saying by telling them to search Anlaf’s belt pouch. When Kron does so he finds a red seal in the shape of a stylised spear, Oed confirms that the spear is Aelfgar, symbol of the Harcourt family.

Ozuchi has been ministering to Lord Wulfric and says that he can help him but it will take a couple of days for the poison to leave his system; Lord Wulfric weakly thanks them and says that they must sleep in his hall as guests of honour, he orders Oed to take Anlaf and Ceolwyn from his sight and to have them confined under guard. Horesh approaches the Lord and speaks to him about the criminal Dudda, he explains that the man was starving and shows the meagre contents that were inside the satchel, Wulfric sighs and explains that the Regent has been squeezing them for more and more taxes and that he is honour bound to obey the ruler of Saxony, meaning that he has had to ask more from his people; however Lord Wulfric does tells them that, whilst he cannot tolerate crime and disloyalty, and nor can he defy Saxon law, when he is well he plans to host a great celebration that will require all his men at arms to cease pursuing any outlaws and attend. He assures them that anyone who returns to their home and commits no further crime will be forgiven, Wulfric also tells them that, although he cannot lower the taxes, he will have some of the personal provisions from his hall made available to lighten the burden on the peasants; smiling and looking at Horesh’s cloaked “apprentice” Wulfric passes back the sack containing the bread and tells them that that will do as a first contribution to lightening the tax load and that Horesh’s “apprentice” should return to his home.

Two days pass and Lord Wulfric is much recovered, true to his word he holds a great feast that sees the flamboyant Captain Benito seemingly trying to bed every woman in the village; even the death priest Horesh seems to get into the spirit of the celebration, relishing the chance to soak up a foreign culture. After the celebration has concluded Wulfric gathers the heroes to him and tells them that he would value their wise council, his interrogators have spoken to Anlaf and verified what Ceolwyn had told them, it appears that the Regent wants him dead for some reason, “Perhaps because I am loyal to his brother and not to him” muses Lord Wulfric.

The heroes say that they are going to travel to Winchester and perhaps they could attempt to negotiate with the Regent on his behalf; Wulfric says that, if the heroes are willing, he will travel with them (now his strength is recovered) and will make his case in person; agreeing they all part company to sleep, but Ozuchi is troubled as he meditates on the future, he speaks to the ancestors of Saxony and of the Harcourt dynasty; they show him a vision of a snow covered battlefield slain with blood, a king lies dead and a usurper seeks to consolidate his power, some claim loyalty to the new king whilst some remain loyal to the memory of the old, fire and war engulfs the kingdom of Saxony. The stygian tells the others of his troubling vision, it seems clear that the death of the old king and his brother the Regent’s grab for power will throw the nation into civil war.