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.