Sapphire Islands – Dungeon World Mini-campaign – Session 5

Looking for a place to rest, Korra locates a small inn situated in the poorer outskirt region of Royal City, entering the ‘Rose & Dragon’ they make the acquaintance of the innkeeper Samson Trebeck who, in response to their enquiries about drinks furnishes Strike with a pint of a local stout called Stiffbristle that has a picture of a boar emblazoned on the pump; all of the ales in the tavern seem to be associated with particular animals and, as she regales the innkeeper with chilling tales of the dead rising, Korra orders a flagon of Hopfoot, a light pale ale whose pump carries the image of a hare. Seeming out of her element in the surrounding of the city, the elf Demanor seems entirely confused by the bewildering array of drinks that her companions are ordering.
Having listened rapt about the legions of undead that prowl the jungles to the south, Trebeck tells them a story of his own, heard from a traveller through the city, he relates how apparently huge spiders the size of horses have been ranging far beyond the edge of the jungle; Demanor, who knows of such creatures within the jungle depths, is trouble by this, such creatures seldom leave their own territory, let alone the jungle. The innkeeper laughs when our heroes mention warning King John V about the unliving menace, saying that the King is already paranoid enough given the recent stone men that have marched out from below the mountains to defend the most ancient section of the boundary wall surrounding the kingdom; apparently the king sees them as a threat to the nations security, he has double guard patrols and imposed a curfew covering the hours of darkness. Trebeck says that they might be better off trying to speak to Salandra Drummond who is head of the city guard or, if they’re really well connected, perhaps Uzriel Godric, Seneschel of the city. Strike asks about the name Godric, recognising it as a norse name, Trebeck says there are all sorts of rumours that the Seneschel’s family were originally Northlanders, but nothing has even been proved.
Having retired for the evening and gone to sleep, Strike is awoken in their room at the inn by something tapping on the window; drawing his dagger the Northland assassin creeps over to the window and cautiously opens it. Pinned by a knife to the outside of the window frame by a rusty knife is a shawl that he recognises as belonging to his sister, stirred by the wind it has been rapping on the frame; standing silhouetted by the moonlight is a ragged figure, dripping putrid river water, dried blood crusted around a single clean slit across it’s throat. Strike recognises the undead form of the trader Tibbs, a man he sent to the afterlife, before he has a chance to ask any questions Tibbs speaks in a voice other than his own, the voice of Ragnar (deceased chief of the Northlanders, a man Strike also sent to the grave) saying “Face me in open combat or your sister will die!”
“Let your puppet go Ragnar!” shouts Strike, the corpse’s face twists into a leering grimace and then collapses, a puppet with it’s strings cut.
Hearing the sound of guards approaching (no doubt drawn by the shouting), Strike climbs back thrown the window into the inn, tucking the shawl into his belt. Meanwhile Demanor has been dreaming, in her dreams she sees the young elf Zephandius reaching out to her, pleading for help, then a darkness flows over him like oil, absorbing him, she jolts awake, a scream dying on her lips and shakingly relates her dream to the others.
Strike has decided that he must confront Ragnar and he knows exactly where to do it, on the ice sheets between the Northland and the mainland, a place he knows all too well from his first flight from his home, the others agree to follow him and, leaving the city behind, they travel back to where their boat is moored and make ready to sail.
Days later the ice sheets loom in the distance, a single line of dark figures stand on the ice, numerous burning arrows rain down upon Strike’s small vessel threatening to burn it to a cinder if he cleaves to his course; intent on rescuing his sister and on dealing death to Ragnar, Strike plows on heedlessly reaching the ice sheets and vaulting out of the boat, even as the burning hulk begins to slip below the water. Strike’s sister stands behind the line of deathly figures, gagged and restrained by two festering jailors, Ragnar steps forward, a giant whom death has done nothing to diminish
“You should have killed me like a warrior when you had the chance Strike, but thanks to you the doors of Valhalla were closed to me and I found a way back to the living world, I have become more powerful than you could dream” came the mocking taunt of the putrid undead Northlander
“Well i’ll just have to kill you now” spat back Strike, drawing his weapon and charging forward.
Sparks jumped into the air as Ragnar aimed a mighty blow with his axe, but Strike nimbly stepped around it, ignoring the huge chips of ice that sprayed into the air, but unable to land a blow back on the huge undead monstrosity; lashing out with a vicious kick Ragnar sent Strike stumbling backwards, the wind knocked out of him, bearing down on the wiry assassin Ragnar began to choke the life out of him.
Taking the opportunity now that Ragnar was in close, Strike headbutted him and slid beneath the undead chieftain, stabbing up with his sword and slicing sidewards, his reward was shower of mouldering innards and Ragnar sliding to the ice, his last words sounding almost proud, “So you do know how to fight like a man after all.”
Demanor and Korra had been working their way around to rescue Strike’s sister, but at the death of Ragnar all his unliving troops also collapsed as though the animating force behind them had been removed, Strike’s sister also collapsed, it seemed that she had been dead for some time and her “survival” was merely a ruse intended to lure Strike to this place.
Running over to Ragnar’s corpse as Demanor gave Strike the bad news, Korra discovered a scroll in tucked into his jerkin, covered in black angular writing of an elven variety, with her knowledge of elven Korra was able to translate the document was a list of elvish prisoners along with some instructions to “hand them to the child.” Checking over the corpses of the once unliving army, Demanor was able to confirm that their were no elves amongst their number.
Strike put his sisters body on the burning wreckage of his boat and pushed it away from the ice sheets whilst, in the ultimate act of disdain for Ragnar, he carved off a chunk of the iceberg, kicked the corpse onto it and pushed the freezing pyre away into the cold water. The wiry northlander looked at Korra and Demanor and seemed to pause for a moment, lost in thought, before speaking: “We’re going to need another boat.”

Sapphire Islands – Dungeon World Mini-campaign – Session 4

After three days of travel food and rations of water on the small ship begin to run perilously low, Strike attempts to fish but is used more to ice-fishing that catching his food on the open river, more successful is the elven Druid Demanor who transforms herself into a dolphin and swims alongside catching fish and throwing them (still squirming) up onto the deck. A thick fog has drifted in and the group, intent entirely on the task of catching enough food to survive, are taken by surprise when a large galleon looms out of the mist, Korra recognises the green sails as belonging to House Folder, oone of the merchantile houses of the Sapphire Islands, hoping that her family ties (via a distant cousin) might stand her in good stead the bard hails the ship. The hail is answered by Mikhail Folder, captain of the vessel, a rugged looking man in a long green wax jacket who is happy to see a fellow islander and invites them all aboard to have dinner on his vessel.
During their discussions in the galley they are fussed over by a the chubby red-haired ships cook, a man called James, who seems delighted to have some more discerning palettes to provide food for, he shoots Captain Folder an exasperated glance when he asks for just his normal bland bowl of porridge. As they all tuck into their food, Strike tells them about the two armies of dark elves and of the northlander dead that are slowly heading up the mainline towards Royal City, as he talks Strike begins to feel a little light headed and too late he identifies the sweet taste on the meat he had been served, oil of tagit, a sophorific, glancing around he sees that Demanor and Korra appear to have already succumbed to the poison and he attempts to stand but it is too late and he falls into a deep sleep.
Unaware that Demanor does not need to eat and had only sampled the barest mouthful of the food (and is only feigning unconsciousness) the Captain leaves to fetch his men, instructing James to keep an eye on their slumbering guests. As James returns to the kitchen, Demanor risks opening her eyes and, turning into a rat, bites Strike on the nose, waking him from slumber, after a brief discussion she makes a loud noise like she had just started to wake up and Strike hides behind the door; when the chef re-enters Strike swiftly knocks him out and enters the kitchen, he finds only a young kitchen boy who he also renders unconscious. 
Meanwhile Korra slumbers peacefully, through a drugged haze she dreams of an ancient elven tale that tells of the Tree of Life, from where all life is descended.
Hiding the bodies of the kitchen staff, Strike and Demanor hear the Captain returning with his men, realising that they are outnumbered, they return to their seats and pretend to be asleep, allowing the Captain’s men to take them to a prepared cabin; the Captain laments having to drug them saying that he simply couldn’t allow them to ask questions about the cargo, but that they are still guests and all due care should be taken of them.
Once they are left alone, Demanor returns to her rat form and sneaks out of the cabin past the two sailors on guard, eventually finding her way to the cargo hold where a squat, thick set figure stands unmoving, secured with numerous chains and girded in stone armour; being one with the spirits of natural things Demanor attempts to communicate with what she assumes to be a statue, but is unable to make contact with the spirit of the thing. She returns to the cabin and bites Korra, waking her, Strike’s commanding voice cutting through her drug-induced haze, “We need your intelligence.”
Listening to Demanor’s description of the strange statue-like being, Korra remembers an ancient legend that talked of the mythical stoneborn, the creatures who built the oldest section of the wall that now surrounds the Kingdom; deciding that enough is enough Strike confront the Captain, who explains that he was concerned that they were Kingdom customs officials, but given that they know about the cargo and haven’t attempted to raise any alarm that is clearly not the case. Mikhail apologises for drugging them and takes them down to the hold where the strange statue creature rests, remembering that (in Korra’s tale) the Stoneborn had dealings with the ancient elves, Demanor tries a number of phrases in ancient elvish; none of them have any affect until she says “The wall is in danger”, the stone creature reacts to this by taking hold of her arm, although it moves slowly and remains silent.
One of the sailors tells them that the statue had a hammer when bought on board and, following instructions from Strike he runs to fetch it, the hammer is presented to the Stoneborn at which point it releases Demanor’s arm and holds the hammer aloft, jagged lightning flashed through the porthole striking the weapon and, in a strangely echoing voice the Stoneborn says “The wall is threatened.”
Captain Mikhail explains that they were paid a kings ransom by the Emperor of the Sapphire Islands to illegally smuggle one of the statues (one of thousands discovered below the Great Peaks by a recent Kingdom dig) out of the Kingdom, Strike wonders whether this is connected with the news of a recent ban on quarrying in the Great Peaks that had reached his ears, apparently order by royal decree of King John V. Distracted, Captain Folder fails to notice when Strike pockets the small container of Oil of Tagit, the northlander tells the Captain to move the Stoneborn to his boat and then he can legitimately tell the Emperor that the northlanders took it and hopefully escape any reprisals from the leader of his homeland; nervous of the creature in his hold the Captain agrees.
An hour later the two ships part company, the Stoneborn standing on the deck of Strike’s vessel, as they near shore, with a low grinding sound it steps overboard and disappears like a stone weight below the water, seemingly unconcerned it walks up the beach as our heroes disembark and begins to walk in a methodical fashion in the direction of Royal City.
Days later as they reach the outskirts of Royal City the Stoneborn continues to walk forward pushing through the assembled city guards that gather around it, barely seeming to notice them, Korra hears one of the guards say “It’s heading to the wall, just like the others.”
Theorising that the Stoneborn have become active now the wall is threatened, Strike says that they should head to the palace and warn the King of the many dangers his kingdom now faces, the Stoneborn may help, but that depends on whether they prove to be allies or not.

Sapphire Islands – Dungeon World Mini-campaign – Session 3

As Demanor reflected on the departure of her people (well, most of them) from the world of men she felt a lingering disappointment that they had so easily abandoned the world that had been their home for so many years; Strike was a good deal less introspective in his opinions, mocking the cowardice of the elves for “running away” from their responsibilities and leaving their “mess behind them.” Korra for her part was quiet, no doubt her head was still whirling with the thought of all the stories that she had collected from the elves prior to their departure, stories which were now entirely unique.
Zephandius (one of the younger, zealous elves who had chosen to remain behind) was talking to his fellows saying that they must guide the humans and show them the error of their ways, Demanor listened by counselled caution lest the humans see the elves as another enemy, Korra advised them to visit smaller settlements first and give the humans time to adjust to the idea of accepted elven aid in current affairs.
Troubled by her vision of the pulsating, dark tree Demanor wanted to set off in search of the strange dark elven figures that the vision had revealed to her and, joined by her two friends, headed into the western jungle; as they continued westwards the feelings of anger that seemed to bubble below the surface of the natural world and that were reflected in the elven druid herself seemed to grow stronger and it was only Korra’s soothing singing that allowed the elf to maintain a grip on her temper. A shout from Will caused them to stop as he pulled back the foliage revealing the greying flesh of a dead man, clad in the furs and humidity rusting armour of a northerner, an axe lay near the man’s hand, a strange, thick reddish substance coating the blade; not wanting to see one of his kinsmen go to Valhalla without a weapon in his hand Strike picked up the and placed it on the dead northlanders chest. Without warning the ribcage of the corpse collapsed causing Will to fall forwards and his hand to sink into the stick red substance, immediately Strike started to feel a little queasy and suspected that it must be poison of some kind, luckily he was able to wipe the rest off before any further damage was done to him (although he still felt slightly weakened).
Trying to hide his momentary weakness from his companions, Strike began to analyse the poison using his years of experience attempting to identify it, however, it was like nothing he had seen before, it had the consistency of tree sap but was like nothing natural he had come across; Korra was reminded of an old tale where a man attempted to poison his wife but was tricked into drinking the poison himself, when he died his spirit was not allowed entry into the afterlife and wandered the land, corrupting it until the spirit killed the wife and the land returned to normal.
Without warning the dead body suddenly jerked upright, cadaverous hands grabbing Demanor’s leg, Strike spun round and with a slice of his blade beheaded the creature, the skull rolled to rest against a tree, a piercing shriek emanating from it as the foliage and roots around them began to move and disgorge more of the rotten half-dead, orcs, farmers and northlanders all stumbled forward, hands grapsing and eyes blank. Korra finished off the still moving body of the original creature, meanwhile Demanor concentrated and, leaping up into the nearby trees, she assumed the form of a great jungle ape, brutally dispatching one of the shambling creatures with a blow from her mighty simian arms. A few moments later the group had destroyed the creatures, they stood panting from their extertions and several injuries Korra began to sing her songs of healing whilst Demanor applies some herbal poultices to the bard.
Demanor had been examining the trees, they all seemed tainted with the poisonous sap, she suggested burning them and purifying the area with fire but, as Strike pointed out, the wood was entirely too wet to burn; a ragged voice from the many shattered and destoryed skulls littering the clearing shouted out the word “Coward, the gates of Valhalla are closed to such as you!” Although he didn’t recognise the voice, Strike looked thoughtful, he had an idea who might be responsible.
Deciding that she must risk being overwhelmed by the feelings of anger in order to find out more about their current situation Demanor merged herself with the natural forces running through the area, her eyes rolled back in her head as her spirit travelled elsewhere, in her trance she found herself standing before a huge shadowy figure that vaguely resembled a northlander in outline, twin points of red light serving as eyes. The shadow lashed out with a huge axe and, as she dived backwards, abruptly ending her trance a shallow wound opened on her chest where the tip of the axe had grazed her flesh. Once again the ragged voice echoes through the clearing, “The bloody left hand awaits.”
Seeing Korra and Demanor looking puzzled, Strike explained that in northlander culture when several tribes elected a warleader they dyed his left hand permanently red as a sign of his leadership and he was known as the bloody left hand, they were interrupted by a crashing growing closer through the trees, Demanor transformed herself into a jungle grass snake whilst he two companions dived behind trees. A bedraggled looking elf burst into the clearing, seeing this the party revealed themselves, the elf told them that, after they had left the elven city in came under attack from strange creatures who swamped the elves, it was a massacre; Zephandius ordered a couple of his fatest men to flee to try and warn nearby settlements, thanking the elf for his news they suggested that he continue to warn the human settlements. The elf nodded and, after accepting some healing poultices from the druid, he left them to continue on his mission of warning.
Strike mused that the fate of the jungle was clearly somehow linked to his own people, he suggested that they head for Axeholme, the only northlander settlement on the mainland, nodding numbly after news of the potential massacre of her remaining people Demanor agreed. Days later they arrived at Axeholme, however, the once bustling village had been reduced to little more than a smouldering ruin, all except one building, the central long-house. Walking in they saw that the room was mainly taken up by a huge stone eagle, lashed to it was a battered but alive figure that Strike recognised as his uncle, the once chief of his tribe; gasping the bloodied but proud northlander coughed as Strike cut the ropes fastening his to the eagle and said “Ragnor has returned, with an army of the dead, he has killed me… but do not let me die without a weapon in my hand.”
Nodding Strike passed his uncle a weapon and dropped into a fighting pose, he parried the clumsy tired blow that the tortured, older man aimed at him and then, seizing his moment, he stepped in under the older northlander’s weapon and stabbed his sword deeply into his uncle’s side; the old man nodded, a faint flicker of a smile on his lips as his last breath left his body and he crumbled to the floor.
A few minutes later a boat transformed into a blazing funeral pyre left the shore, carrying the deceased chief, heading in the opposite direction a second boat containing our heroes began to sail towards Royal City, Demanor and Korra listening with rapt attention as Will told them that Ragnor was the previous chief of the northlanders and that he himself had been banished for poisoning the old chief after he had laid hands on his sister.

Sapphire Islands – Dungeon World Mini-campaign – Session 2

After their encounter with the orcs on the south-eastern coast of the mainland, Will manages to limp the damaged boat to the shoreline and is just about to jump down from the boat when his keen spot one of the planks of the decking is a little raised from the others; nearly down he pulls out a dagger and pries it loose from it’s brothers, underneath is a small leather pouch containing many coins worth of shining blue sapphires, jewels common in the Sapphire Islands (and indeed the foundation on which much of their wealth is build) but rare here on the mainland. Korra also finds a shipping manifest or log book in the cabin, there are strange scrawlings in the margin but she pays them little mind. Following his directions the band begin to range further out on the beach, looking for driftwood and flotsam that can be used to make repairs to the boat. They are stopped in their task by the sound of cheerful whistling as a middle-aged man pulling an empty cart behind him comes walking down the beach, hailing them the man introduced himself as Tibbs a trader who has recently made a killing selling stone in the town of Three Rivers; he quite happily explains to the group that Three Rivers is expanding and there is great demand for materials to make new buildings to houses the blooming population. Tibbs pats a bulging coin purse hanging from his belt to demonstrate his good fortune, for a moment Will’s eyes widen at the sight of such wealth.
Demanor has been exploring the woods searching for additional materials to patch up the boat, all around the animals chatter in their own tongues, a language as clear as her own and the word they shout is the same, no matter the animal, “Elfmeet! Elfmeet!” Summoning a parrot from the nearby trees Demanor questions it and discovers that the elves have asked the animals to spread the word and that they are all gathering in the one remaining elven city to make a big decision.
Arriving back at the boat Demanor explains to the others about the meeting, Will meanwhile has been talking to Tibbs and has offered to give the trader a lift aboard their repaired boat to his destination, the village of Crossmount in the shadow of the Great Peaks, where he intends to pick up another concession of stone and sell it on for a profit; they agree to drop Demanor and Korra off in the town of Three Rivers (which Demanor says is near to the elf city) while the boat continues north to Crossmount. On the way they pass the village of River Morton, a procession of villagers is gathered along the riverbank, ferrying the arrow riddling bodies of their dead to burial holes prepared for them, priests of River Morton are saying prayers over their dead whilst the nearest and dearest of those dead, wail for their loss. The dead are heaped into pyres and burnt, once the flames have faded, grim faced gravediggers turn their ashes into the earth; Will finds it all strange and not at all like the burning boat burials that he is used to, he finds the whole thing lacking in spirit whereas Demanor finds it all a little barbaric, elves preferring to return their dead straight back to the earth.
Slowing down, they investigate the arrows riddling the bodies, finding them of curious manufacture; peering at them closely, Korra is put in mind of the tales of ‘Edwin the Great’ about the last great battle when elves and men joined forces, the arrows are graceful and seem of elven manufacture, but they are black and use the same ravens feathers as the orc arrows that they saw earlier. A woman from the shore hails them, she tells them to be careful if they are sailing north, that orcs are abroad and that they did for her husband Ted; as a mark of honour Korra begins to play a mournful tune of solemn respect as they continue their journey north, the locals tearfully hum along with the tune until they are lost from sight around a bend in the river.
A few days later they arrive at the town of Three Rivers, Korra has not been here for eight months, but the town has almost doubled in size since then; as they approach they are hailed by one of the local foremen working on the new buildings whose skeletons litter the outskirts of the town, the man called Roberts tells them that if they get any stone and give him first refusal then he’ll give them more than a fair price.
After leaving the boat Demanor and Korra make they way through hidden ways into the jungle, Demanor leading her bardic companion through trails and hidden byways until the land drops down into a secret valley, a large ziggurat rising from the centre of it, vines and leaves gathering along the surfaces of the stone, not destroying it but seeming to caress the masonry, as though they were both part of the same whole. Roughly a thousand elves gathered around the sacred building, all of them looking towards the wise figure of an elf clad in brown and green robes. Demanor recognises the elf as Silanthus, the wisest of the elves in the settlement; the gathered crowd is discussing the recent imbalance in nature and the strange anger that many of them feel building in the natural forces, Demanor steps forward and tells them about the Ent massacring the human village nearby.
Meanwhile, back on the boat, out of sight of civilisation, Will’s knife flashes out so quickly that Tibb’s barely feels his life slip away nor the northlanders hand close around his coinpurse and push his body silently into the flowing river.
Demanor visit Silanthus in his chambers, they are passed by an angry elf on the way there, there is much discussion in the chambers and Silanthus tells them that the light of the elves has faded from the world, most of them are planning to leave this world on the last  of the Great White Boats. Korra asks Silanthus whether he can decipher the strange notes scrawled in the ship’s logbook, the old elf looks at the book and says that it is a simple crpytographic code discussing a secret exchange of precious sapphires from a quantity of stone and that apparently the writer believed secrecy was imperative.
Far to the north, Will arrives in Crossmount and purchases a quantity of stone from a paunchy, red bearded stonemason called Erik with his newly acquired wealth and begins his journey southwards towards Three Rivers where he plans to sell it for a healthy profit.
Leaving Silanthus’ chamber, Demanor sees that the angry elf they spotted previously (a younger member of the race called Zephandius) is saying to his fellows that the recent decay of nature and their relationship with it is a sure sign that their previous policy of inaction has resulted in nature forsaking them as they have forsaken it; Zephandius says that they must act as parents to the younger races (who are as children) and that sometimes parents must exercise a firm hand. Demanor is worried about Zephandius, he is very persuasuve and seems to be swaying many of the crowd to his point of view. 
Will, meanwhile, on his journey to Three Rivers has come across a small fishing boat floating unrowed along the river, in it is the body of a dying man, he tells them that his party was set upon by elves and that he is trying to get to the capital to warn the King; Will tells the dying man that he will see the message delivered and then closes his eyes as the fisherman’s dying breath leaves him. His boat later makes its way into Three Rivers where Will takes the opportunity to rest and spend some of his recently gathered wealth int he local taverns, he overhears some of the locals saying that they have heard a rumour King John V is planning to announce it illegal to mine stone in the Great Peaks, although they don’t know why. A few hours later Demanor and Korra arrive to meet up with him as arranged and Will tells them about the “elf” attacks.
Taking the two of them back to the elven settlement Demanor tells Silanthus about the supposed attacks and gives him the strange hybrid arrow, the old elf looks troubled but tells them that most of the elven people are leaving this very night about the last of the White Ships, although it grieves them greatly some (like Demanor) have decided to stay; not wanting to seem unhelpful though the old elf performs a scrying ritual with Demanor as the willing subject (despite his warning that it can be a little intense even for those as experienced as himself). In her vision Demanor rushes as a disembodied presence throught the woods until she hovers before a huge, corrupted, blackwood tree, bones and skulls litter the floor around it and seem entwined with the very structure of the vegetation, even as the roots writhe and pulse obscenely. Most disturbing is the fruit of the tree, giant blood coloured fruit that pulses as though something lives within it; one of these bloody fruits falls to the ground, spilling it’s juices as a creature crawls forth from the collapsing skin. The creature stands, it bears the beauty and chiselled features of an elf, although they seem to reflect cruelty rather than the radiant beauty of the elves, but the albaster skin fo the elf is replaced by the warty grey hide of the orc and bloody, yellowed tusks jut from it’s jaws as a bellowing roar echoes from the creatures drooling lips.
Demanor awakes and tells the other about the strange ‘black elves’ that she has seen; the other elves are climbing aboard the White Ship and waving farewell as they set sail, between the persuasions of Demanor and Zephandius 150 of the once widespread race of elves remain, the druid feels her heart grow heavy as the majority of her people pass from the world, their light lost forever.