"A Cold Wind from the North" – Serpents Fall Session 8 – Writeup
Moroveer languishes in the dungeons of Winchester castle where he has been for last 6 months since being double-crossed on a slave deal by Regent Eadweard Harcourt.
Horesh stands in the courtyard at Castle Harcourt, having attempted rouse the mistreated people to rise up against unjust rule of the Regent, calling on them to support the rightful ruler Emma Harcourt (wife of King Godric); he looks around for support from Gunnar Gunnar Kron but the norsican has disappeared down into the dungeon to assist the others. The Regent click his figures and archers file out onto the battlements of the castle, surrounding the courtyard; the Regent lowers his hand and a single arrow is loosed. The arrow pierces Horesh’s robe, but instead of killing him it hits the small piglet concealed within his robes, killing it instead; the Regent smiles and raises his hand again.
Horesh removes the dead pig with a look of distain and anger, hurling it’s limp porcine body at the Regent, but two of the Regents bodyguards cover him with shield and the pig bounces off with a dull clang. Horesh dives down the steps into the dungeon as arrows thunk into the floor where he was standing.
In the dungeon the sage Mervane explains that Benito’s ancestry and the power within his Lemurian blood is attempting to fight off the curse inflicted on him and it is this that causes his nausea near the sea rather than the curse itself. The curse is more powerful than a single mortal could conjure, something connected with the bloodline of Lemuria has been used to boost the power of the curse – only the power of Benito’s blood saved him from death. Mervane says that the curse wouldn’t actually stop him travelling on the seas but that strange fortune would be attracted to it; unfortunately Marvane suspects that the only way to cure it is for Benito to expose himself to travel on the sea and give it time, or he could gain access to whatever boosted the power of the curse in the first place.
Benito offers to free Mervane, but the sage explains that the Regent has threatened that should Mervane escape he will kill Emma Harcourt and her unborn child, he continues “The fate of that child is worth far more to me than my own freedom.” Before Mervane can say more Horesh lands at the bottom of the stairs with a thump; Ozuchi sees the blood splattered on Horesh’s robe and checks he’s not injured, the Khemrian tells them breathlessly that there are archers covering the only route out of the dungeon.
Moroveer suggests that they focus on freeing the Queen and re-uniting her with her husband, Ozuchi & Horesh agree, saying that she has to be freed as a high prority and that the Regent must fall. Moroveer theorises that if the Queen flees her people will be made to suffer by the Regent, he says they should make it look like she was kidnapped against her will to spare her people and that they should use the river next to the castle to flee.
A loud voice from outside shouts “If you have any sense you will surrender, if not then there will be immediate and deadly consequences.” Horesh falls to his knees and attempts to contact the spirit world for aid whilst Moroveer begins exploring the other caves that comprise the dungeons (with Ozuchi in tow) looking for air inlets, he locates some small ventilation shafts but they are far too narrow for a human to pass through, he shouts to the others that they’d be better off fighting in the open, saying that the only way they’ll get out is to feign capture to avoid being shot straight away.
Horesh has summoned an ancestral spirit of the Harcourt dynasty who promises to aid Horesh in return for his help restoring the rightful honour of the Harcourt dynasty. Moroveer is examining the ventilation shafts when something obscures the end of the ventilation shaft as though someone was covering it, he shouts to the others saying that they might be trying to suffocate them out. Horesh suggests that perhaps Gunnar Kron might be able to break them out; Benito has been sat thinking for several minutes and recalls that castles like this often used to have smugglers passages or secret entrances/exits, they all fan out and begin frantically searching.
Eventually Moroveer locates an area where there appears to be airflow coming in from somewhere and he directs Gunnar Kron to pick up one of the metal prison bars and begins to work the stones of the passage loose; it appears as though there once was a small passage here and it has been bricked up a while ago, Gunnar Kron uncovers the passageway. They all begin crawling through the tunnel with Benito in the lead, but the tunnel ends in a metal grate that is fastened into the walls of the tunnel but it looks a bit rusty, Benito boots the grate but is unable to loosen it.
Benito suggests switching places with Gunnar Kron but there isn’t really enough room in the narrow confines of the tunnel; Moroveer shouts for Benito to take of his jerkin, tie it to the bars of the grate and then, using a chair leg (that he passes forwards), twist it round and round and the force will break the bars, he is successful and the grate bends, they are able to push the bars aside allowing exit from the tunnel. The grate falls out of the tunnel with a loud splash.
The tunnel emerges at an inlet besides the castle, above the river running westwards away from the castle towards the coast; they hear a metallic sound from inside the dungeon behind them, and a strange acrid herbal smell drifts to them, it appears the Regent’s forces are attempting to gas them out of the dungeons using an incense burner full of poisonous plants.
Without further word Benito dives into the river whilst Moroveer heaps debris near the entry of the tunnel and sets it alight to discourage anyone following them; Horesh is next and looks down after Benito, he can see that Benito is attempting to swim to the river bank but is being swept further down river by the undertow. Horesh jumps after into the freezing cold water and seems to be doing better swimming, Gunnar Kron leaps in afterwards and swims towards the bank.
Ozuchi leaps in the river and is swept quickly past Horesh, flailing his arms about, Moroveer is the last to jump in and is also swept down the river waving his arms about. Benito quickly struggles out of as much clothing as possible and hurls it at the bank, swimming with the current he begins striking for the bank of the river; Horesh has reached the shore and is running along it keeping pace with his comrades, he scoops up Benito’s gear as it lands near him.
Benito swims to where Ozuchi and Moroveer are flailing about to assist, over the course of the next few minutes, with shoreside help of Horesh and his spiritual allies, Benito is able to get Ozuchi and Moroveer to the shore. The ancestral spirit summoned by Horesh looks at Winchester, a sad expression on his face, he nods at Horesh and then his body collapses into the river becoming one with the water.
It is midday on the 18th day of the fifth month (‘Pallisade’ in Saxony).
Benito suggest that they lay low for a bit since the Regent’s forces will be out looking for them, Horesh pulls Benito to one side, gives him his stuff back and asks whether he though to rescue his pig; a look of horror crosses Benito’s face as he hears a squealing from the water and sees his piglet thrashing about in the river. Benito dives into the river, grabs the pig and begins struggling back towards to the bank but with the pig wriggling about he finds it difficult to swim to the bank. Horesh strips down and jumps in, assisting Benito and his cargo to the bank of the river.
Moroveer suggests stealing guard uniforms and using them to sneak back into the city, the plan is considered but it is felt that they look too distinctive to use such subterfuge; Horesh suggest that, since they gave the money from the fighting competition to the poor, they could use the aid of the local commoners to help them. Eventually it is agreed that they should lie low in a local farmhouse and they agree with Moroveer’s suggestion to head down river for a few miles incase the Regent sends animals after them.
Benito scales a tree and spots a farmhouse, it’s about a day and half to the southwest of Winhester and is little more than a few fields and three ramshackle buildings. As they approach the farm they spot a weather-beaten old man ploughing the fields, a ruddy complexioned woman is talking to him. Benito approaches, planning to make a bit of an entrance and, as he draws closer, he can hear the two of them arguing about someone throwing money about in the capital and the Regent being in uproar.
“What kind of person gives out free money?” scoffs the man, at this point Benito steps in and replies “This kind of person.”
The man introduces him as Cenhelm and asks who they might be, Benito introduces himself and his companions (including Aloitius the pig); the woman is introduced as Aesc (Cenhelm’s wife), she identifies Benito as the person giving out the money in the tales, his clothes match the description from the stories, she asks them to come in since they are soaked. Cenhelm doesn’t seem so keen, saying that you can’t be too careful with strangers abroad, especially given rumours of the northmen being on the march, but he relents and invites them in to share fire and soup, complaining about the Regent taxing them dry.
Benito gives them a gold coin as he enters, which seems to improve Cenhelm’s opinion of the flamboyant ex-Pirate King immensely.
The group offers what few provisions (hard tack, jerky, etc) they have remaining to go in the soup/stew, Cenhelm appreciates the offer & tells them to throw it in the pot; he tells Aesc to stir the pot, she moans about why he couldn’t do it but goes over and stirs it anyway. Having been in prison Moroveer scoffs his bowlful rapidly, seeing this Horesh has a small spoon of his and passes the rest to Moroveer.
After they have warmed up Cenhelm asks them what their business is whilst Horesh asks about trade; Cenhelm says that they pay tithes to Winchester, but winter has been hard and taxes are high. Benito tells the farmer that they plan to stick it to the Regent, Cenhelm looks worried and warns them that the Regent has spies everywhere; he tells them that last Darkling month a neighbouring farmer refused to pay taxes, the Regents soldiers dragged him away in the middle of the night and he was never seen again.
Attempting to re-assure the frightened farmer Benito says don’t worry i’m king of the Sword Isles, Cenhelm doesn’t seem to know where that is saying that he has lived on the farm all his life.
Moroveer notices that everytime Benito looks at Aesc she glances away and her cheeks colour slightly; and, seeking to give Benito an excuse to be alone with her, he talks to Cenhelm about his countrymen having new farming techniques to enhance his crops & uses them to talk the farmer into going outside; Horesh goes with them to ask if Cenhelm has a cart. The farmer replies that he has an old wagon, but hasn’t used it since his horse died last winter, the wagon is in fine repair but needs an animal, he couldn’t afford a new one.
Aesc meanwhile, offers Ozuchi and Benito some more soup, Benito accepts but Ozuchi goes of to the side to meditate on the spirits; Aesc looks worried and asks Benito what Ozuchi is doing whilst ladling Benito out an extra portion of the soup. Benito explains that Ozuchi is a priest of some sort, but that he doesn’t understand the details, this seems to calm Aesc a little.
Horesh sends his raven familiar up into the air to scout out the area for horses, it is early evening, some days travel to the northwest on the borders of Saxony he sees a heavily wooded copse of trees, a small group of celts is having an animated discussion on the outskirts of the wood. The group consists of half a dozen woaded Celtic warriors riding dire boards.
Ozuchi asks the spirits what challenges would they have in rescuing the queen and he is given a vision of many things, armed saxoned warriors, Morwrei the Regent’s consort, a large tanned horse nomad with cruel features and Castle Harcourt itself.
Moroveer asks how Cenhelm normally gets his cart into the city and is told that the soldiers search his cart but normally let him go about his business.
Benito has noticed that the farmers wife Aesc is well disposed towards him, it’s nothing serious but she is a little dazzled by the fine figure that Benito cuts; in the course of conversation she relates how they used to have lots of labourers but haven’t been able to afford it with high taxes. She does as much (if not more) than Cenhelm since she helps on the farm and manages the house, but she’s not sure what they’ll do this year now they don’t have a horse to tale their tithe to Winchester.
It is 7 in the evening when Moroveer asks about the taxes/worth of the farm, Cenhelms says that they pay half their crops to Winchester, it used to be a quarter but has raised since the Regent came to power. Moroveer expresses his wish to buy a share in Cenhelms farm and to use his cart, Cenhelms seems agreeable to the idea but explains that his horse died last winter from pox & he can’t afford a new one; it will take him a couple of days to get the information together and that he’ll have to discuss it with his wife Aesc. They returns to the farm building.
Horesh pulls his companions aside as Cenhelm talks to Aesc about Moroveer’s proposal and tells them what he has seen through the eyes of his familiar; he says that perhaps the Celts are trying to recover their wise man Mervane and that could be useful to them. Ozuchi suggests they recruit the Celts to help in their mission, perhaps they can even borrow a boar.
Moroveer says that he’s seeking credit from contacts in town to provide a horse to the farm, but it may take a couple of weeks. Ozuchi informs Moroveer that they’re heading to the west coast and time is of the essence if they want to catch the black corsairs, a quest that Moroveer is completely unaware of, having only joined the party recently. Ozuchi reminds Benito that they were travelling to the west coast to stop an attack by the black corsairs on a settlement on the coast of Saxony; when Moroveer asks why they want to stop the attack, Benito says because it will bloody Horningold Blythe’s nose and Ozuchi wants to find out what their plan is.
Moroveer asks how Benito is getting an edge and how he can break his curse, to which Benito replies that apparently he needs to travel the seas to allow his body to fight off the curse. Moroveer explains there are two small islands on the east that he could use as stepping stones to get to the Sword Isles whilst Benito considers that there may be more than simple raids going on, Blythe is playing with old magics and things that shouldn’t be messed with. Moroveers says that, if that is the case, then Benito will need more strength at his back and that if they help reveal the Regent’s treachery to the King and save his queen then Saxony may be inclined to help.
At this point Horesh tells Moroveer about his vision of King Godric dying on a battlefield in the north and Moroveer respondsd that if the Regent finds out he will no doubt just assume power militarily.
Horesh hears the sound of a horse approaching the farmstead, looking out of window, in the moonlight he sees a silhouette of a horse and rider approaching the farmstead slowly down one of the many dirt tracks criss-crossing the landscape; he can see from the reflected moonlight that the figure is wearing metal armour. Horesh asks Cenhelm if he’s expected visitors and he says no, they are the first visitors in month, he tells them about the horse approaching with an armoured rider. Cenhelm immediately leaps to the conclusion that the Regent has sent men to apprehend the PCs and refuses to go outside.
Moroveer puts on a straw hat and slips outside pretending to be a farmer, with the horse being closer now he can see that the figure is a Saxon warrior slumped in the saddle, his right arm hands limply, a long, ornate spear is loosely gripped in the hand, the blade dragging along the ground. Moroveer supports the man and slides him off the saddle, his body is criss-crossed with wounds and his chainmail is covered in dried blood, the trader shouts to the farmstead to bring water and Ozuchi runs out with a wooden bowl.
Sensing the death Horesh begins to prepare himself as Moroveer gives the man water and asks the man who did this; the injured warrior coughs, his chest rattling, he lifts a hand and points northwards, the spear drops out of his hand onto the floor. Ozuchi says they need to get him into the farmhouse and, with Moroveers help, they carry him inside; examining him more closely Ozuchi realises that the man is too far gone to help and all they can do is have Horesh try to make his passage as comfortable as possible.
As life departs his body, the injured soldier grabs Horesh and gasps “Godric… gave me chance to get away” and then there is only his long, final exhalation of breath.
Still needing answers Horesh holds the warriors spirit on the threshold of entering deaths realm so that they can ask him some questions, they discover that the great Norsican force united by a warlord called Fenris-Ur is making its way south towards Saxony. Nodding, Horesh releases the mans spirit, as it fades his voice says “Guard Aelfgar” and then silence falls over the farmstead for a few moments.
Benito says that Aelfgar is Godric’s spear (having seen it on a statue in Wulfricingas); Moroveer runs back outside and examines the ornate metal spear that is lying on the floor, saying that they need to guard it from the Norse and the Regent. Horesh theorises that Godric sacrificed himself so that the soldier could escape and take the spear to safety.
Moroveer suggests disguising the spear, he gets some leather thonging and wraps it around the spear; “At least we now have a horse to drive the cart to Winchester” says Ozuchi with a touch of sadness in his voice. Moroveers suggests entering the city to see if they can rouse up support for the Queen against the Regent.Aesc, Captain Benito, Cenhelm, Emma Harcourt, Horningold Blythe, King Godric, Regent Eadweard Harcourt, Serpents Fall, Session write-up, Sword Isles