The Story So Far
All the People of the Ashen Hand have a duty to stand watch at the borders of their lands. Saddle the shaman and Thinks Much the scholar, as residents of Green Plains Village, spent their mandatory two weeks standing watch at a camp near the Swiftwater River, within sight of the Over-Sea-Folk settlement on the other side.
Across the river, both Saddle and Thinks Much saw a small band of what looked like Blood Axe tribesmen creeping toward human lands. Thinks Much, who has studied the Over-Sea-Folk (a.k.a. the “Sarkennians”), realized that the Over-Sea-Folk can’t tell one tribe from another, and would likely retaliate indiscriminately. Saddle, with a sickeningly familiar sensation, felt a voiceless thought drop into his head: Stop them.
Along with Sergeant Oaken Arm of the regular militia, and his five other soldiers, they forded the river and attempted to surprise the raiders. Unfortunately, Thinks Much stepped on a twig, and the raiders turned and braced for battle. Saddle, a former hunter, nocked an arrow to his bow and aimed at the nearest … but his hand slipped, sending bow flying and arrow careening in another direction. Readying shortswords and spears, the Ashen Handers attacked.
Neither group outnumbered the other. Thinks Much and Saddle held their own against better-armored and better-armed raiders, although Saddle sustained a nasty wound to his arm that threatened to make it useless. As Oaken Arm disabled his foe and turned the tide, farmers from the Over-Sea-Folk arrived and fired their thunder-rods. Both tribes fled … but not before one of the Blood Axe dropped a golden trinket. Saddle snatched it up … and nearly dropped it again; it bore the symbol of the EYE, dread sigil of the Shining One.
Thinks Much caught a glancing blow from a musket ball, and decided it was time for everyone to leave. He and Saddle tried to follow the Sergeant through the underbrush, but lost him. Thinks Much, who knew the area, made for high ground, to get his bearings. Instead, by a tree at the top of a hill, they met a human female.
The female guarded herself with her staff, but Thinks Much told her their situation in his best approximation of the Sarkennian language. She noticed Saddle’s wound, and reluctantly beckoned them to follow her.
At her cottage, she patched up Saddle’s wound with expert hands, and talked. A lot. He talked about the Sarkennian monotheistic religion, her birth on an island nation in the Empire far to the North, her reputation as a witch among the other humans … just about anything and everything. She asked about the battle between Blood Axe and Ashen Hand. Saddle showed her the Sigil of the EYE; she didn’t recognize it, but promised to look among her books, mostly kept under the floorboards, safe from the Inquisition.
Before Saddle and Thinks Much left, a small boy peeked into the room; she put him to bed, and then escorted the pair back to the ford.
Passage to the Spirit Realm
Back in Green Plains, Thinks Much consulted his books to learn more about the Sarkennian Empire, particularly the Imperial Legions that Audrey mentioned in her chatter.
Meanwhile, Saddle met with the senior shaman Red Moon. After the events of the previous evening, Red Moon suggested that Saddle journey to the Spirit Realm. With Red Moon’s help, Saddle went into trance, and began his journey.
Red Moon’s spirit guide appeared to Saddle in the form of a Deer, and led him leagues away to a hill overlooking Solace, the village of the dying. Saddle and the spirit-deer arrived at the door set into the side of the hill, marked with three megaliths. In the doorway stood a tall figure hidden in robes of undyed linen: the Old One.
The Old One’s cryptic questions and remarks led Saddle to wonder whether the Blood Axe had gone over to the Shining One. The Old One bade Saddle to meet in Solace for further information.
The Council of Elders Decide
The Council of Elders met two days after the Blood Axe raid, with Oaken Arm, Saddle, and Thinks Much. The War Chief, River Breaks Bridge, ignored the Over-Sea-Folk and wanted to attack the Blood Axe. Yellow Leaf, the healer, seemed to have never considered that we could speak to the Sarkennians. Red Moon was very concerned about the behavior of the Blood Axes. Peace Chief Second Ox wanted to avoid any war, and Silver Hammer the blacksmith wanted a decision from the High Chieftains in Stormhold.
When Saddle, upon Red Moon’s advice, showed the Sigil to the Elders, all were shocked; River Breaks Bridge, enraged, wanted to invade the Blood Axe immediately. With the extra evidence, though, the Elders decided to send Oaken Arm, Saddle, and Thinks Much (with two guards) to Stormhold and the High Chieftains. On the way, they would stop at Solace to consult the Old One.
Two days on the road, Thinks Much suggested leaving the road for a short-cut to the next village, Fertility. They made camp in the shadow of a large hill.
Thinks Much noticed soil scraped away from the base of the hill, exposing a stone slab hastily put back in place. The group pried open the door, and exposed a stone passageway leading to a buried tomb. They passed through one large chamber decorated with a stone altar and bas-reliefs of an unknown style. Passing into a smaller chamber that intersected a circular passageway, Saddle noticed doors behind two large shields, also unknown design. He peered into the door slightly ajar, and noticed statues of wood and stone, weapons not forged by the People, and ornate boxes and chests. One chest lay open, revealing glittering jewels set in gold, also never forged by the People.
As Saddle touched the chest, a tall figure of solid shadow appeared behind the group and shouted, “DREGO NIN BAR!” It vanished. Needing no further prompting, the group left the tomb and resealed it. Saddle said a prayer to pacify the spirits.
That night, at midnight, Thinks Much saw a shadowy figure emerge through the tomb door, and skim across the downs toward the next village.
The Village of Fertility
Arriving at Fertility the next day, Saddle and Thinks Much asked around. The bucolic and complacent residents eventually pointed to the farm of Silent Stone, where strange “pranks” had been occurring. Upon further investigation, they found that Silent Stone’s son, Sun Above Clouds, had stolen jewelry from the tomb along with Clever Hands the tailor’s son and Running Dog son of Iron Head the warrior.
Catching the three boys in the act of splitting the take, Saddle and Thinks Much retrieved most of the jewelry. A few small samples had been sold to the local jeweler via a local crime boss. With the timely appearance of the Apparition, the jeweler gave back the jewels and melted-down silver. Their return to the chest appeased the ghost, and it returned to its endless slumber.
Whew … a lot happened. Maybe I’ll summarize a bit more.
But at the time I felt like I had to stretch out my material as long as possible. I only wrote two paragraphs about Fertility, but I improvised about an hour of play from it. Even then, we ended about fifteen minutes early. (I had anticipated the PCs going further into the tomb, but they proved smarter than that. Next time I won’t have a spectre bellowing “GET OUT” in a foreign tongue.)
I only have two players, which is a bit frustrating, especially since neither is especially combat-oriented. (All orcs know how to use weapons, but neither is a combat-monster by any stretch.) That means I can’t fill time with battles. I could lean more to Spirit Combat and ritual magic, but I’m still working out my custom Spirit Magic rules, and I don’t want to fall prey to “netrunner syndrome”, leaving my other player bored.
Speaking of combat, BRP combat seemed kind of tedious: hit, parry, hit, parry, hit, parry, … I’m eschewing tactical maps, which may or may not be part of the problem; Spirit of the Century combats had lots going on besides two parties whacking at each other. Maybe I’ll try for more enemies with less defenses, or one big enemy. Maybe I also need to make the terrain an important part of any combats.
For this session and the next, most of the real action has been in negotiating and information gathering, which is fun but exhausting. If the PCs continue riding the rails, I’ll have to find other challenges for them, like traps and mysterious artifacts.
In general, I think I did pretty well for someone who hasn’t GMed much, and hasn’t run a real campaign since college, oh so long ago.