Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Tjlar Order of the Archangel Raphael

Arch. Raphael
The Order of the Archangel Raphael was founded in YT161 from that part of the structure of the church referred to as the veneration of Raphael. This had existed since the Council of Tavyl in YT8, but for more than a century had no militant vocation. Followers of the Raphael Veneration were inspired by the example of Raphael to seek to rescue the destitute and heal the sick. They were always especially supportive of wayfarers and their liturgies included many pious acts towards the homeless.
The Order came into existence during the period known as the Kin-Strife. This civil war was fought between forces supporting the claim of Fuzur to the crown of his father Fuzoy and those supporting his brother Vuzoy and it almost destroyed the Realm of Tjlaria. During the Kin-Strife, the church was proscribed by law and its followers were being actively persecuted by the crown. Many pilgrims were being killed by worshipers of the cults. In secret the various venerations prepared themselves to resist the rule of either Fuzur or Vuzoy. Those of Raphael sought to create a force of militant clerics who would provide healing and assistance to pilgrims to the holy sites in Tjlaria and to any pilgrims travelling through Tjlaria. The chosen novices were trained in combat as well as medicine and chirurgery. Their discipline and dedication produced men who were both formidable warriors and also   tireless healers. The Order fought to restore the church and the true Tzar during the Tavyl Revolt of YT191-193, contributing to the victories at Ak under Commander Ambrus and Győzelme under Borsonin Vocsyn and participating in the battles at Väcs, Sandamyr, and Agär. The Order however, marks with special services the following events from this period.

18 Dyarr, YT192, ERNÖ came upon the grievously wounded Borsonin Vocsyn on the battlefield of Győzelme and by divine agency restored him to health and encouraged him to continue the fight. The charge of Vocsyn and his retainers against the wild Thracous barbarians undoubtedly turned the fight in favour of the true Tzar's armies.

9 Zuld, YT192, ILLÉS by holy power heals the young prince Vozur from a dreadful sickness which none of the local healers had been able to cure. The strange malady had slain many thousands in the region of Gyógyítóheli where the prince along with the remnants of the royal house were in exile. Without this miracle the line of the true Tzar would have perished forever and the realm would have returned to darkness and oppression.

17 Darbak, YT193, AMBRUS located the Royal Crown stolen by Hring in the ruins of Collisz by prayer and fasting. During the visions received by Ambrus, Raphael appeared to him, shining against the blue morning sky. This is why to this day the Raphaeline warrior clerics wear light blue surcoats with the Archangel shown in silver.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Question of Viewpoint

11th Byol, YT 331                                                                            a ladder, Old Imperial Hunting Lodge

'Tell me the sources of each thing you or your fellow spies have been told about the names and ranks, purposes and histories of all societies, cabals and persons associated with the true Tzar na Tjlaria' he asked. 'Answers will count even if defamatory.'
It had been dangerous for a moment but Fridthjof had the upper hand now and he meant to use it.  
'For each answer I will give you an item of your belongings that were taken when we arrested you'.
The little witch-woman perched on the ladder a few feet below the trapdoor was fair to look on and had a knowledgeable look to her. He would enjoy playing games with her psyche. With the trapdoor in one hand and others nearby he knew he was secure. The pain where he had taken blows had been easily blotted out. He listened to the answers but concentrated more on not showing signs of how much he already knew. It would be useful to know how much the enemy thought they knew, but far more useful to have this little one at large and in the enemy's inner circles. He was sure that the big warrior who now stood further down the long ladder was contemplating action. But he had clearly been shaken when the Infernals took control of him yesterday And the shock of seeing whatever manifestation Imbirtljan had chosen to show them had also affected his psyche. Fridthjof did not consider him a threat at the moment.  
'Provide information about any other conspirators working for the Usurper which could only be known by a close friend or colleague.'
More information from the little Byzantion wench. Certainly omitting a few names that she considered important. Enough detail to be sure that she had actually spoken with some of these people. Yes, little Helena could be the best one yet. Numbers would not work in spite of what the Imperial Secret Council had ordered at Gylwics. A few key people were far better than hundreds of "living golems"  
'Tell me any useful and accurate information about any notable persons in the True Tzar's service (this will count as two answers if sources are also attributed)'.
Fridthjof had the first surprise in her answers to this question. The names included all of the Imperial Secret Council! He must find an opening to find out the source of these names. Did the enemy have other spies?
'List all cabals, societies, and persons of the True Tzar known to you. List any signs, sigils, or marks associated with each cabal, society etc.'
He judged that they did not have much knowledge. Not enough to pose as a dark brother or mage for more than a short time.  
'Describe any persons in the True Tzar's service.' He would have to make the escape look good. He had authority to release any captives but it wouldn't do to show his hand. He would use the Daous woman to take the note to Dacian. She was useless and whined incessantly now that the warrior had thrown her mate from the clifftop. If she came back she might be useful again. If she went home then he would have something that could be twisted into evidence of disloyalty against both Helena and Dacian.
'Describe each encounter with each cabal, society, etc'
Most of the answers to this question were known. Minor mistakes and serious blunders by incompetents. The business below Gylwics was galling. So much work ruined by this band of spies. But it was a mistake and he had advised against the whole thing from the start. At least the stone-kin Olorin who led them then had fallen from favour since. Clearly they could not yet distinguish the members of the secessionist faction from the dark brothers who had infiltrated it.
The second surprise had been Olvyr Hnufa's direction of the spies to Hring's lair after the encounter at Vadlat Manor. Newly appointed Counsellor and already seen aiding the Tzar's enemies. This was gratifying! Knowledge that could be used against her faction whenever he needed it! How typical of the arrogance of these demon-possessed. Too much self-indulgence and weltschmertz.
'List all persons who have provided this information'
Nothing new here. Clearly hiding some names but then there would be opportunities to find out who. Given enough information about them and he could haunt their dreams too. Once in the dreams of any of these then all of their psyche was his to rearrange too. And when he was finished the Secret Knowledge could command them or the Infernals could punish their disobedience. The mages of Fyhar Gora were still struggling to 'heal' the abductees of Gylwics.
'Describe each person who has discussed these things with you. Prove your knowledge of these persons with personal details'
Again the girl was trying to keep some secrets. Well, he did enjoy breaking down a stubborn opponent.
'List all written sources of intelligence'
So the list of names was found in the village in the hidden valley. Well, the men who guarded that entrance could easily be rounded up and dealt with before anyone else found out and sought to use it against him. Perhaps one of them could be persuaded to implicate another Counsellor before he died. One falls and another rises. Ladders can be used to ascend and descend. Fridthjof saw himself climbing the ladder very high indeed.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

In Hospitable Territory

A Cave, Karbath Mtns
10th Byol, YT 331

Uri and Nuri ushered the two priests and the barbarian into the cave. A small campfire was burning. Gorran tried to get some of the chill from his bones before approaching the warmth of the fire. Father Nicolai looked troubled. Possibly his decision to accept the hospitality of these newly met prospectors was the cause. Either that or the decision to part company from Helena, Hector and Tolarr earlier that day. Some mining gear stood against one wall but not all of the cave was visible in the winter gloom even with the firelight. Nicolai was slightly reassured that their claim to be prospecting stone-kin seemed to be confirmed. But he still had a strong sense that these were not quite what they seemed, even for secretive torpek. All three men were glad to have shelter for the night. Winter nights in the Karbath Mountains were a trial even for a wild Thracous barbarian and two ascetic sons of Mother Church.
As Uri cooked 'venison' over the fire Nuri poured five pints of Tolarr's ale. 'This is a good brew' he declaimed after a long pull at his tankard. He offered mugs of the ale to everyone. When Nicolai expressed a preference for wine a flagon of passable red was handed to him by Nuri. He declined any further drink but gradually the demonslayer drifted off into a dreamless sleep from which Gorran could not rouse him. His suspicions raised, Gorran refused any more ale. Sensing Gorran's mood, Hamec too resisted the temptation of more free beer! Uri and Nuri offered several times and seemed slightly offended by their guest's refusal. While the cleric could plead the exigencies his holy orders, the refusal of a barbarian was clearly seen as an insult. They seemed to be quaffing great quantities of Tolarr's ale themselves.
Hamec wondered briefly what Tolarr would say about this, assuming they ever saw Tolarr again. Clearly their decision to go their own way in the hunting lodge was wrong. You should always follow the headman and Nicolai was clearly the leader. The little witch-woman and her warrior had not been long with the group but Tolarr should have known better. Perhaps he missed the companionship of Olorin. A torpek might have seen through Uri and Nuri. Tolarr probably could have made more use of the keys that were clinking on Hamec's belt too.
After a couple of hours drinking, Uri and Nuri started to take on a more unpleasant sneering tone towards these abstemious humans but Hamec and Gorran still politely declined their offers of more beer.Later, after the twilight had gone and winter night had settled on the Karbath Mountains, Nuri asked Gorran to help him move a large stone further back in the cave. The bard-turned-priest overcame his disquiet for a moment. Surely an act of charity was what was required given his new calling. After a few steps beyond the firelight Gorran realised that while he could not see a thing Nuri had no such difficulty. He excused himself and swiftly retreated back to the fire. Nuri and Uri took turns to berate Gorran for his ingratitude and sloth. Gorran let these comments pass. Whatever happened he had decided to stay in the light. Charity is a precept of Mother Church but foolishness certainly isn't!
Around midnight the fire died down and Gorran roused Hamec to keep watch while he went to fetch wood. Gorran thoght it odd that the woodpile was located beyond the firelight deep into the cave. The torpek seemed fast asleep and Hamec promised to stay awake until he could get the wood. However, when he came back with a load of dry logs Hamec was coughing and spluttering and had clearly only just woken again. A short time later Hamec too fell into a deep sleep. Again Gorran could not rouse his sleeping companion
Now Gorran was convinced that Uri and Nuri were more than they seemed. He sat beside the fire thinking.'Perhaps they do not relish taking on even one opponent. They must be lying there silently laughing at how they have tricked these humans. If only I can stay awake long enough for Nicolai to wake from his drugged state. I only have to stay awake until daybreak. I haven't taken anything more to eat or drink in the last hour or two. I just have to fight the fatigue of a day spent fighting and hiding and knocking holes in the Old Imperial Hunting Lodge. Keep watching the two tricksters. Not take my eyes from them. Even for a minute. Don't go to sleep. Fire is warm. Flames flicker like Tara dancing in the Painted Courtesan. Mustn't think that. Too warm. Mustn't sleep. Too tired....'

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lock Pick or Locks Pin

Old Imperial Hunting Lodge, 10th Byol, YT331

As soon as they had rounded the tower and found the heavy studded postern, Hamec had pulled out the beastman's keys but none fitted the lock. Father Nicolai called for hairpins. His tone was peremptory but they only had seconds to get through the locked door. The priest still had good eyesight and a steady hand but he had never done anything like this. He had seen the little earth-kin that had travelled with them do it quickly enough. The girl Helena seemed slightly flustered or perhaps irritated as she pulled a couple of pins from her golden tresses. His skills in opening locks had to be better than his understanding of this waif from Byzantion. The horn had sounded a few minutes ago and soon whatever guards or hounds they called forth would find them. Nicolai knew that there was only time for a brief prayer and one attempt at what he had seen Brimstone do. When the lock clicked open, Gorran's eyes immediately raised heavenward but Nicloai rushed everyone into the tower and barred the door. Within seconds they all heard the sniffing of animals beyond the portal and the howls of creatures whose scenting had been balked.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

First Fall to Decide the Contest

Old Imperial Hunting Lodge, Karbath Mtns,  8th Byol, YT331

What was the strange dog-headed man doing there? Hunting for live game? Spying for his master? If so, it had been kept secret from at least some of the others in the Old Imperial Hunting Lodge. Perhaps to meet someone? If so, who or what did he plan to meet? An agent of Imbirtljan or Boldizsár or Dacian or another on the list associated with this place. Another like himself; star-crossed lovers as in the ancient tales?

Certainly not to welcome Áktor as he clambered up at the top of the scarp. Unless he recogised in the Rhodian an opponent who also took pleasure from narodno rvanje.

Áktor had only time for an impression of a fanged muzzle and hairly limbs clothed in a short braided jacket and breeches. Then his wrestlers training took over. Behind his opponent he glimpsed the topmost roofs of a large building but what he mostly saw was that the flat rock on which they competed was far too small and bounded by cliffs in front and behind him. It seemed that this bout could easily have a swift and deadly end. The creature had already secured a hold. Steady.. keep low.. watch carefully for any shift of the beast's stance. They were evenly matched in weight. It's technique was practiced but not the forms used back in the legions. Some form of folk wrestling? A couple of attempts to pin him had been countered before he managed to move onto the offence. His old comrades would have disapproved of a belt-hold but now was not the time for style. Now was the time to duck beneath it's attempt at a stranglehold, sweep at it's leg and throw it over his shoulder down into the chasm. It's howls of rage were punctuated by a sickening thud and silenced forever by another.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Dice Games and Other Pursuits

3rd Day Winter Festival YT330,  Aeyep Encampment nr Khorzow
' The following morning ‘Ektor arrived promptly seeming eager to see her. Helena, enthused at the prospect of visiting an actual Aeyep camp, needed only a little persuasion to accompany him – nonetheless she was a little concerned about venturing so far only a day after her bleeding had stopped. And she sighed when she realised that it was their intention to walk to the site. Surely there was an opportunity in this city for an enterprising individual with a comfortably small wagon and team ! The party left the city via the Opolla Gate, crossed the bridge and proceeded southward for about a mile before the camp came into view. Never happy to walk even Helena had to concede that the stroll had been pleasant enough, the weather was crisp and clear and the ground frozen hard enough to ensure sound footing.

The camp itself was a busy affair, open to any who ventured that way, with caravans, wagons, tents, stalls, horses and a great many people all milling about in a seemingly random arrangement though Helena sensed a certain functionality to the apparent disorder. The people themselves were swarthy in complexion and almost universally dark of hair. Many were dressed much as any Tjlar she had seen while others, particularly the women, wore what she took to be more traditional garb.

As they approached the Aeyep men began to gather around Helena admiring her good looks and blonde hair – strutting, preening and making off colour comments. Some of the woman cast jealous looks in her direction. This macho posturing swiftly grew more physical as several of the men engaged in what she had to presume was ‘play wrestling’. All this dramatic posturing was probably innocuous but Helena wasn’t used to such overt attention finding it both embarrassing and rather intimidating. She made sure she stood good and close by ‘Ektor’s comforting masculine bulk. One of these Aeyep stepped right up to her and asked whether she had ‘the sight’. Not quite sure what they meant Helena shrank back even closer to ‘Ektor and replied that she might read their auras if one of them had a particular need ? She narrowed her eyes and glanced around again. Perhaps there was some form of ‘taint’ that might explain their lascivious behaviour ? Tempted, despite the sunlight, she quickly cast the effect and looked about her with veiled interest. But there was nothing overtly suspicious about the Aeyep. Other than revoltingly robust health they seemed much as other men to her magical inspection. Then, she spotted another man skulking surreptitiously around the camp’s perimeter, watching but not engaging. To her sight it was clear that he was hiding something. She pointed him out to the wrestlers but they shrugged off her comment, remarking that ‘he was just new’.

The group mingled further – Tolarr and ‘Ektor at the beer tent, Gorran looking around for Aeyep he might know (for he claimed to have worked closely with one of the clans the previous year) and Hamec keeping an eye over Helena. ‘Ektor drank with some of the Aeyep men determined to find out whether they had suffered similar depredations to Tjlar merchants when on the roads. “No”, they responded. “Why should anyone target us ? We aren’t careless Tjlar merchants. And we have our symbols, herbs and others secrets that keep us safe.”

Helena was far too distracted by all the attention conferred upon her, and by the fascinating surrounds, to pursue any enquiry. She noticed a stall of herbs under a canopy off to one side. With some considerable excitement she grabbed Hamec by the arm and led her escort in that direction. In Byzantion Glykeria had told her the Aeyep were often a source of rare and unusual ingredients but here there seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary on display. Helena was a little disappointed but then she spotted a group of old men sat a little out of the way, focused on a game of yacta. Stepping closer she could see that their dice were of the very best quality – professional gamblers she thought, equipped with the best tools of their trade, rather than rich men at play. With a frisson of excitement, she considered testing her skill against theirs, but then she noted ‘Ektor’s disapproving stare in her direction. She decided not to push the issue. The visit had been entertaining but a short time later, when it came time to walk back to Khorzow, Helena was relieved to leave all the blatant attention behind. The men’s flagrant sexual interest was both embarrassing and unseemly, and had quickly become rather tiresome. Their ribald banter struck her as both banal and puerile, like to become tedious in very short order. '

From the journal of Helena Basileiou

Saturday, January 28, 2012


The myths tell us that Asclepius was the son of Apollo and a nymph called Coronis, He was taught medicine by the centaur Chiron.

Asclepius tried to revive Orion, bitten by the scorpion and Pluto objected to this. He argued to Zeus that if Asclepius had his way then he would have no more mortals in Hades. Zeus agreed that they must not allow men to become immortal. So he slew Asclepius with a thunderbolt

The constellation of Ophiiokhos (Οφιοχος) or Ophiucus, the Serpent Bearer is in the XII House of the solar zodiac. It is associated with physicians, wounds, life-giving, strength-bringing, blessing, altruism, and merrymaking. 

The stars most easily seen are
Kefálios Ophiiokhos aka Ras al-Hawwa (Head of the Serpent Bearer)
Skylos Poiména aka  Kalb al-Rai (Shepherds Dog)
Sinistra (actually his right hand!)
Cheri aka Yed (Hand)
Ankona aka Marfik (Elbow)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tracks in the Heavenly Spheres

Khorzow, Winter Festival YT330

'Helena stood by impatiently, trying to maintain her composure, while Tolarr exchanged words of greeting and comradely inconsequentialities with the two eol. Seen up close they were both very beautiful, though it was a beauty couched in gesture and movement – in elegance and grace as much as in mere prettiness. In looks they were as alien as the dwarfs, graceful and willowy to stolid sturdiness. Helena felt a little gauche in their presence but was too thrilled to consider whether her own physical beauty might in any way be compromised by their appearance.

Eventually, after what seemed like an age, Tolarr gestured toward her. “My Lady”, he said. “Since you left us this girl [Helena fumed inwardly – must everyone speak of her as a child !] has joined our company. Though surely no compensation for your own presence among us she has demonstrated some ability as a healer, and with the magics of your own College. She has begged that I present her to you.” But before Tolarr could effect her introduction (no doubt using the alias she was travelling under) Helena interrupted, in Greek, for Basil had told her the lady was fluent. ‘Ektor would undoubtedly overhear but she was now sure he could be trusted, at least with her name. “My Lady. I am Helena Basileiou. I have travelled all the way from Byzantion to find you upon a commission from my late patron Basil Tzipoureles. Upon his very death bed he commanded that I deliver a certain artefact into your hands. I beg that you will permit me to retrieve this item from my rooms and bring it to you.” “Hush child”, the lady replied, glancing around lest someone be listening. “It grieves me that Basil has passed into God’s embrace but such talk is not for the street”. Amethäriel ’s voice was liquid, her Greek excellent though subtly accented (Helena was secretly gratified that she, in fact, spoke the better). “Later”, the Lady said. “You must all join me at my hostel, Gorran and Nikolai also if their duties will permit. Leradhir will give you its direction and we shall make a party of old acquaintance.” Then in an undertone directly to Helena, “Child, bring your artefact to me this evening and I will talk further with you then”.

Once back at the Drum and Trumpet Helena went straight to her room. She could tell that ‘Ektor wanted to speak with her, perhaps about her right name, but she didn’t have time for him now. She simply had to escape to somewhere she could express her delight and excitement more privately. Door closed behind her she pirouetted and danced around the room burning off some pent up energy. Then she paced for another hour or two fretting about what she should wear, how she should dress her hear and what cosmetics to apply. She took a light meal, in her room, but barely picked at the food then settled, rather fruitlessly, to try and practice her rotes until it was time to prepare. Damn the cold and the grotty streets, she decided. Tonight it would be the sandals in spite of the conditions. She coiffured her hair as elegantly as possible without the help of a maid and re-applied her cosmetics, artfully modest in the same manner as for Gorran’s ordination. Then she dressed to her very finest for an evening engagement rather than church, and with all her best jewellery – to impress rather than attract.

By the hour of departure Helena had worked herself into quite a state clutching Basil’s mace to her bosom and almost having to quell fraught tears. The meeting to follow could well decide her future. Stay quiet she reminded herself – modest, honest and respectful. Do nothing that might seem rude, that might ‘queer the pitch’. Should she gain the support or patronage of the Lady Amethäriel it could be the making of her. Falter and she could be left with nothing. As they walked she gave her arm to ‘Ektor, but gripped him so tightly that he looked at her in surprise. Sensing her brittle nervousness he wisely elected not to quiz her about her earlier conversation with Amethäriel .

Upon their arrival a welcome moment, at least for Helena, was allocated to their refreshment. Amethäriel ’s inn was of the very best quality, truth be told as good as anything Helena had seen in Byzantion. The food was exquisite, delicate and of a portion size suited to a petite woman rather than a muscle-bound warrior. Much as she was tempted Helena took only a single glass of well watered wine, and nursed it for the rest of the night. She sat quietly in the corner cradling the mace in both arms, as though it were an infant, and waited as patiently as possible for her opportunity while the hostess mingled with her guests.

Eventually the party quieted into small settled groups. Amethäriel made her way across the room to join Helena in the corner. Quietly she invited Helena to tell her something of herself, and of Basil’s passing. After so long silent Helena babbled – about Basil, Byzantion and many other things. Amethäriel listened to her patiently and attentively saying little and offering only the occasional prompt or mild redirection, content just to hear about the life of her old friend. Some considerable time later Helena was become a little hoarse and she slowly ground to a halt. They sat together in quiet remembrance for a few minutes until Amethäriel spoke. “The Basil you tell me of is like and yet unlike the man I knew. In his youth he was a progressive thinker, provocative, impetuous, sometimes brash, thinking little of arguing his position before the elders of the College. He may have been conservative in his social and political opinions, though we rarely touched on matters of domestic policy, but he certainly upset his colleagues and was at the forefront of magical studies. Know you of the thirteen constellations and that it is the advent of Ophiucus the snake carrier ?” Helena shook her head, not so much in negation but in slight confusion. Amethäriel had painted a discomfiting image of her conservative and traditionalist patron and she was trying to internalise this new information. His disdain for, and his frequently intemperate comments about, his colleagues in the College certainly made more sense in that context. It occurred to her that the list of mages Basil had offered her could as easily reflect a shared theoretical perspective rather than friendship. She very much hoped Basil’s relationship with Amethäriel had been warmer – and that she might win the lady’s support.

Amethäriel spoke again and Helena recognised a serious didactic tone to her voice. “There are thirteen 'Houses' in a sidereal zodiac of which Ophiucus is the 12th. There are forty eight constellations in the 'known' heavens and there are more than a thousand fixed stars on the conventional charts. Basil’s theory was that the fixed stars revolve seasonally about an axis which is inclined with respect to Gaia. He was working to devise a method of laying out the constellations on a single chart with the celestial equator drawn as a sinusoid curve (and also without distorting proportion too greatly). The conventional charts show only one or two constellations with the stars laid against the depiction of their eponymous character.” Though she grasped the gist of Amethäriel ’s quick explanation much remained confusing. The Lady continued, “There was a great deal of opposition to his line of argument within the College, much of it political but some of a scholarly type. Basil loathed the former but despised the latter, almost with a passion. On scholarly matters at least he could never understand why, when presented with an evidenced truth, a man might bend his entire intellect against it. To test the credibility of an argument ? A laudable use of one’s talents. To use one’s talent to craft sophistic argument to take down a proven truth ? The despicable act of a craven fool.” She added, probably superfluously, “Many did not thank him for his opinion, or for his characterisation of their motivation. In some ways he was a very great thinker but I fear he never quite understood the psychology of his species.”

Basil worked tirelessly to illustrate his theory in terms his detractors could not deny”. She smiled. “A theory that would stand College thinking on its head if it were to be so demonstrated, perhaps even provoke schism if not handled carefully.” Amethäriel didn’t seem too concerned by that prospect but it alarmed Helena. She did not want to be the agent of such a challenge to College authority. Growing up on the streets had left her with a healthy respect for maintaining a pragmatic relationship with ‘truth’.

But then a more drastic possibility occurred to her and for a moment she felt a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. She had burnt Basil’s papers. What if she had in fact incinerated his life’s work, destroyed all record of his findings ! Why hadn’t Basil taught her, or even told her, about his astronomical theories ? Had he not trusted her, feared for her safety should she become party to such knowledge, was his conviction in his findings faltering toward the end of his life ? He had told her she was surpassing clever. Did he fear her intellect, that she might disapprove of or attempt to discredit his research ? But then she remembered the diagram. With fumbling fingers she clicked open the mace head and produced the now slightly crumpled paper. “Here”, she said. “Basil said to give it to you. Please. You must decide what must be done with it. But I have already shown it to Ingusz Vàrrbäth-Matha. He was not on Basil’s list but he seemed nice enough, and he is teaching me to extend my spirit beyond my body. He reacted strongly but not defensively, or so I judge. Was I wrong to show it to him ?” Then she added, impulsively “Lady. Basil trusted you. He told me to come to you. Please, my lady. Tell me what I must do.”
Amethäriel took the diagram from Helena and looked at it gravely. She sighed then folded it carefully. “It is indeed a very radical diagram but I see nothing remiss in it. It is the culmination of Basil’s work and you have brought it to me safely out of much peril”, she said. “First, we must ensure that a good copy is made of this. I will look to that.” Then, looking closely at Helena she added “Child, you are shivering.” Helena was indeed exhausted, drained by the expulsion of so much pent up emotion and not far off tears. “Return to your inn. Ingusz is a complex man and his reactions are not always easily predicted. What will be will be but you need not worry for your part. Carry on as normal for the moment and I will speak with you again in due course.” '
From the Journal of Helena Basileiou

Monday, January 23, 2012

Avis Peregrina

Roadside, Crown Lands, Tjlaria, 20th Vog, YT330

'Helena tugged the ragged cloak tighter around her shoulders and trudged wearily over the uneven rutted surface of the narrow road. The ratty old garment didn’t add much against the biting winter chill but it was better than nothing and it was a small mercy that her cap and veil kept the chill from her ears. At least, with winter approaching, the road was mostly frozen. Mostly ! Over the last few weeks the roads had been in turn thick mud and hard as brick. Today the surface was firm enough but the top surface had thawed just enough to become treacherously slippery. She dreaded to think what the roads were like during the spring rains. Why couldn’t these people build proper roads like back home ? And why weren’t there decent milestones to show how far a traveller had to go before reaching the respite of a village or inn ? Basil had insisted that the Tjlarians were a hospitable people but they seemed surly and uncommunicative to her. And she had yet to meet one who could answer her questions (or even seemed to understand the words) or give her proper directions. The youths at the last village she passed through had been clear enough in what they wanted and it had been at some difficulty, and personal loss (she had had to abandon most of her remaining alchemical equipment – though it was getting too heavy to carry much further anyway), that she had managed to evade their attention virtue intact. Helena would not trade her virtue, nor would she sell those few trinkets of value given her by Basil, but she was fast running out of other options. She had fled before dawn, eaten only a few dry chunks of bread and had been on the road all day. Now the sky was beginning to darken and there was no sign of anything beyond the most rustic habitation.

Suddenly Helena became aware of horses approaching rapidly along the road behind her. Startled she looked up, cursing the inattention that had allowed the riders to get so close, to see a dozen or so mounted warriors approaching – an older man in the lead, clearly noble with a face stiff with habitual authority. It was far too late to skulk into the bushes and hide. There was no alternative but to scramble up the side of the road, put on a polite smile and hope the party would pass her by.

But no luck there either. The noble raised an arm above his head and brought his horse to an abrupt stop before her. “Hold child” he shouted. “It grows late and you will not reach home before dark I wager”.

Helena frowned (inwardly as least) at the noble’s mistaking her for a girl – she may be slight but surely even a northern barbarian recognised a woman nearing the close of her third hebdoma ! “Not a child My Lord, but a weary traveller who has lost her caravan and direction”. “As to the lateness of the hour – I can but go at the pace my feet will allow ! The night will come on regardless and I trust to God and the good agency of the Crown that I shall reach sanctuary in due course”.

Perhaps it was the sharpness she couldn’t keep from her voice, always a little huskier when she was angry, or her foreign accent but her reply clearly caught the noble’s attention – for he looked at her more closely, appraisingly. And, having taken the time to look, he was held further by her beauty and also, beneath the cloak, by the expensive though distressed nature of her gown. “Laszlo”, he shouted to a youth toward the rear of the party. “You are lightest. Take her up on your horse”. “We will give this ‘young beauty’ a lift to the next village. If I recall right it’s a poor excuse for an evening’s entertainment. And the woman is lost and hungry – perhaps she’ll grant us the pleasure of her company and the story of her travels to while away the evening”. Noting Helena’s evident alarm his face hardened. “Do not fear child” he said. “The roads are not safe at present and a woman should not travel alone. I am Borsonin Thàthoür and no man will test your virtue while you ride in my train. Now, give me your name and I will see you safely to the next inn”.

Helena smiled again and dipped a courtesy. Though the risk to her virtue had crossed her mind it was this Thàthoür’s cavalier attitude to arranging her future, and the impact that might have on her own plans, that most alarmed and riled her. There may yet be some pursuit from the south and bouncing along as an ‘ornament’ in the train of some Borsonin (powerful she guessed whatever else that title might mean) was hardly the way to travel discretely. And she was damned if she’d give this Borsonin her right name – to be bandied about at whatever passed for a court in these parts. Suppressing a sigh she smiled once more and, allowing ‘Laszlo’ to lift her up before him onto his rather sweaty horse, said “My Lord, I am Kale Nikolaia, an Imperial of the Asian Empire”.'
 From the Journal of Helena Basileiou

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bad News for One, Astounding News for Another

23rd Vog, YT330 Fyhar Gora, Khorzow
The reception room of the Fyhar Gora was imposing but not commodious. The building itself was an ancient tower, less lofty than the wizards tower at Szutsavanica but considerably more massive. The mighty walls of pale grey granite continued in all of the chambers and passages inside and the few apertures admitted only narrow beams of light which seemed only to highlight the gloom. There were tapestries and furnishings in the reception chamber and the wine was served in handsome silver chalices with the Loyal Order's insignia wrought into the design. But none of this made anyone feel welcome. Everything about the place and the people who inhabited it seemed to speak of order and the might of the Realm. The companions had requested audience with the lady Fobra but affairs of state precluded this and it was Magister Vukùr who met them.
Gorran, Nicolai and Tolarr who had been in this place before were at pains to report all that had occurred since their last visit to Khorzow. The mage was studying them intently as they spoke. He was also doing something else. Although only Kale was aware of it he was also examining their aura to see if any taint of evil had attached itself to them in their struggles against the servants of darkness. But he did not seem to use other powers which her companions had told her to expect but seemed content to examine auras rather than their memories. Kale did not resist his powers when Vukùr examined her. He was after all only asking questions about her arrival in Tjlaria and her time in the company of Borsonin Thàthoür's retinue but not delving any further into her past. He recognised her powers at once but did not mention them until the companions got round to asking about the consequences of their battle with Croderg Dunofya.
Since Olorin, Tolarr and Nicolai had all been injured they were keen to find out if they had been smitten with the dreadful blight of lycanthropy before the next full moon would take hold of them. Vukùr pointed out that their new companion Kale might have tried to determine this at any time in the last couple of days but she remarked that her powers were best suited to open skies and starlit nights. Nonetheless, when he has having difficulty discerning Olorin's aura the magister privately asked Kale to attempt the task too. He had detected no signs of diseased aura on Tolarr or Nicolai but Kale pronounced that Olorin had some sort of blight on his aura. While clearly Kale had no experience of the vile sickness that claimed so many of Tjlaria's sons and daughters, Vukùr announced that Olorin would remain with the Loyal Order for treatment until at least the next moon had passed. Olorin, who had been out of countenance since his supper with Borsonin Thàthoür three days earlier, looked even more troubled. Whether this was due to the possibility of infection or the prolonged stay with the Loyal Order was not clear.
Kale mentioned her desire to meet with the Lady Amatherial. The mage pointed out that since the companions had met with the lady twice in the last year in spite of her peripatetic sojourning, Kale might be best going with the companions for a while in case the saying 'Thrice is the charm' proved to be true.
At length, Vukùr rose and stated that he must conclude their meeting due to another appointment. He mentioned to Kale that it was with a venerable mage of the Celestial College called Ingusz Varbath-Matha and that he was not anticipating the prospect with much relish. Kale asked if she could meet the old man and waited around in an anti-chamber until a servant rushed past looking for Vukùr . When Vukùr stepped through the door he was accompanied by a wizened old mage in deep blue robes who looked both animated and ascetic. Vukùr effected the introductions. He did remind Kale of Basil a little, but unlike Basil this mage clearly did not value the comforts of age nor pay any courtesy to her. He launched into an impassioned discourse on the importance of the heavens in general and his works of prognostication in particular. When Kale spoke in Ionic, the old man switched to that language but it did slow his discourse slightly and eventually Kale was able to talk a little about Basil's work and what he had entrusted to Kale to bring North. When she showed him the parchment, Ingusz grew even more animated and Kale feared he might have a stroke. Indeed he did stop talking altogether, going completely ashen and falling to the floor in a dead faint.

Friday, October 14, 2011

An Outsider's Viewpoint

21st Vog, Kocsfalu, Crown Lands

Kale watched as Borsonin Thàthoür concentrated on the testimony. He clearly took this duty very seriously. All of the villagers were questioned again. So was the local nobleman, who looked ill at ease being questioned by one of the great lords of the realm. Kale inferred that since this settlement was not in Thàthoür's territory he must be here to ensure that no local influence could detract from the investigation. When a priest was murdered a day's ride from the capital, the Tjlar Mother Church needed to be sure that what was revealed was the unexpurgated truth. Kale was not so sure that the Orthodox Church of Byzantion would be quite so zealous. Her new travelling companion, Father Nicolai had preached at her on the road from Nemetsz and convinced her that the Tjlars took their religion very seriously.

They had left Nemetsz with the haunt of the Moroi still not located but Thàthoür had sent south to Racivow for scouts to search the area. If the local Borszàg had not located the Moroi by then the Borsonin's rangers would assist in a week or so.

Thàthoür also questioned each of the new people she had met in Nemetsz with the exception of Hector. Hector (or Àctor as the Tjlars insisted on calling him) was Rhodian. She could clearly make out the accent. It was pleasant to chat to someone in the civilized Ionic tongue - once she had established that Hector had left the Empire when Kale was still an infant.Whatever his story was it was unlikely that he was looking for her.

Nicolai, Gorran, Vojeslav and the others had arrived in Nemetsz directly from Kocsfalu village and had been close by when the Priest was slain and when the great beast had slain the latest in a series of merchants. So Thàthoür had questioned them closely about the carefully planned assassination of the cleric in the waggoner’s encampment and also the hideous frenzied slaughter of the merchant in the local inn on the following night. Even Vojeslav who was still weak after the loss of his leg was not spared some very lengthy questioning.

Poor Vojeslav had been very weak when Kale had met him just yesterday. She had used her healing powers on him with quite satisfying results. Now the Artificer seemed quite smitten with her. Not that it was the first time a patient had reacted this way. She didn't object when he paid handsomely for the healing and he seemed quite happy to lose a similar amount to her at Yacta.

 The testimony about Damieni Hnufa seemed to interest the Borsonin a great deal. He seemed to quickly connect this with an incident which occurred in Nagyolaszi a few days earlier as recounted by Nicolai and the others. It seemed to revolve around some boots, but Kale had been thinking about Basil and Byzantion at the time and didn’t quite catch the significance. She did see the moment when the truth dawned on Thàthoür. His demeanour changed almost at once. He asked some more questions and then left with his amanuensis to prepare his report for the Tzar.

Local Drinking Song (translated from Tjlar)

Gépész Csizma 
:The Mechanician's Boot (or Mechanical Leg)

The tavern's marvel
All to view
Began as simply
One of two

But now it hangs
Above the hearth
A sign to all
Of it's true worth

The dwarf laid low
Of noble kin
And sullied like
Old Adam's sin

Supplied the axe
That heretofore
Made legless the first
Of many more

Old Tolarr he
His sorrow drowns
With dwarven ale
In many towns

But in this village
Here we keep
The boot that made
Poor Tolarr weep

And Vojeslav he
Hops a-twenty
Like hops we use
In brews aplenty

And quaffs a few
To lubricate
The working of
His new-made gait

Monday, June 14, 2010

Assembled Inaction?

Szutsavanica, 7th Vog, YT330

Amethäriel and Brimstone went to see Voltarr at the tower on arrival. Voltarr invited Vogyin and two council members to participate. Those that had seemed inclined to immediate action at previous council meetings. After a brief discussion Gorran was called for and the insights of Gorran and Voltarr were reprised. The other companions had all joined the meeting when three other council members also arrived uninvited. The meeting was removed to the council chamber as the existing room was exceedingly cramped with sixteen in it. The discussion went on for hours. This time the mages were not the only ones doing the talking. Brimstone, Olorin and others were also vociferous. Before the meeting had finished, Tolarr, Father Nicolai and Olorin had decided to set off on there own for Alsaperkunoz in the morning. A few hours after they had retired the rest of the assembly had agreed on a plan. Voltarr and two other mages would accompany Amethäriel's friend Leradhir and the rest of the company to Amethäriel to ambush the cultists before they could do more damage to Tjlaria.

Clever Counsel and New Aquaintance

near Alsaperkunoz, 6th Vog, YT330

Once he was clear of his pursuers and had caught breath, Brimstone decided against returning to the cultist camp that night. Instead, he made for Sutsavanica, carefully avoiding the previous route. As he was nearing the edge of the forest, someone addressed Brimstone. "Hello earth-kin. What's your name? And what are you doing around here. You can call me Mr Ravasz''. Brimstone chatted for a while with the hidden 'Mr Ravasz' He found out that the camp was less than a fortnight old. He was also informed that the Vodnik from the local stream and the closest Lesovik has both disappeared in the same period. On leaving the forest Brimstone spotted four mounted figures and ducked back into cover. When they reached the forest path near to where he was hiding, a female voice spoke up. "You can come out earth-kin. We saw you before you noticed us. Our eyes are far keener than yours. My name is Amethäriel and these are my friends." Brimstone recognized the name. Voweslaw and  Gorran had both said something of their time working for this elven lady. Brimstone told the four something of what he had discovered. But it was not until he mentioned the disappearance of the jellegű helyszeszes that the lady Amethäriel began to look alarmed. "We will take you with us to Szutsavanica. We must speak with the Council magisters at once."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Neither Hide nor Hair

Alsaperkunoz, 5th Vog, YT330
Brimstone had crawled along on all fours. His new amulet was carefully tucked into his tunic. He had offered to go alone to Alsaperkunoz and to sneak into the encampment. His companions were not entirely surprised as the earth-kin had already slipped away on nocturnal forays. With two dozen warriors and three ominously garbed mages in the camp it might well have been the last such mission. Brimstone was cautious and quiet. Unfortunately the creature that he knelt upon was neither. It howled in pain and ran up the nearest tree where it kept up an irate chattering for several minutes more. The guards were only a few steps away and they were moving towards the sound when one of them stumbled over Brimstone and raised the alarm. Too far away from the single campfire to be easily seen Brimstone struggled to free himself from under the bulky warrior. Others came closer, stabbing into the undergrowth as they searched for the diminutive spy. But just as he was about to be cornered, our small stealthy friend crawled away. Brimstone paused long enough to use the amulet to render himself invisible. Even if the guards used torches he could walk straight past them!
But the alarm had spread. As some warriors lit torches, a robed figure came into sight. He pointed straight at where Brimstone stood and shouted "Death to the earth-kin spy" As Brimstone moved away as quickly as possible, the would-be nemesis tried unsuccessfully to cast magic. Perhaps the difficult ground and the distraction of ordering the guards was the difference between Brimstone's escape and a hideous death. As he outdistanced the night-blind warriors, Brimstone planned to try once more.

A Place in Nature

Szutsavanica, 4th Vog, YT330
As soon as they arrived back in the town, Voltarr and the others went straight to the tower. Nicolai carefully unwrapped each of the artifacts as Voltarr explained the manner in which they were uncovered. The council gathered around and carefully examined each object. All were agreed that the items were connected with Jellegű Helyszeszes, the Tjlar spirits of nature. Creatures such as the Dedek, Ovinik, Bannik, Lesovik, Pokhovek, Bodinik and Vodnik which the Tjlar people had traditionally looked to for help with the running of homestead, field, wood or stream. Mother church had always been vigilant in case this should ever cross over into idolatry. But the helyszeszes themselves were still regarded as an innocent manifestation of nature.
Olorin picked up one cup and sniffed at it. He tried tasting the oily residue. Neither brought anything to mind and no-one else was willing to repeat the experiment. Vogyin spoke up. "I think that there are some stories  in the folk wisdom about Vodniki which feature porcelain cups but their significance is unclear." Another in the council pointed out that the 'doll' was far too fresh and green for the month of Vog.
Later the company discussed the items and the words of the Pokhovek of Szürkal and the Vakynur Lesovik. Gorran was certain that dark forces were seeking to corrupt Tjlaria by usurping the nature spirits.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Studying the Signs

Alszaperkunoz, 4th Vog, YT330
Because they arrived at sunrise the companions were easily able to locate the two outer stones of Voltarr's vision. But there were no robed figures and no visible curiosities. The two stones framed by the rising orb were examined carefully. They were covered in carvings. Some looked like the symbols daubed in Sutsavanica. The remainder looked like depictions of bizarre humanoid creatures with strange heads, misshaped limbs and smaller figures bowed down in front of each.
After studying these for hours, the group went back into the inner circle looking for tracks. Hamec finally found tracks of three figures moving from east to west and then turning north-east and heading into the forest.
Voltarr searched the inner circle and detected an attempt to hide freshly disturbed earth close to one of the stones. After careful excavation they found several curious items but neither of those in Gorran's vision.
  • A 'doll' or effigy made with yellow stalks of wheat still with ripe autumn grains.
  • Three porcelain cups, one with a blue pattern, all with oily marks near the handles.
  • A bronze shovel for coals or ash
  • Four wolves teeth, possibly from two animals
  • An empty crystal vial with a matching stopper
After looking closely at these Nicolai carefully wrapped and stowed each and the companions set off to follow the tracks into the forest.

Readying for Alszaperkunoz

The Tower, Szutsavanica, 3 Vog YT330
Voltarr had been muttering to himself for some time now. As he climbed the stair, Magister Vogyin spoke up from behind him. "You know Voltarr, I have read that phrase 'other ones' somewhere... Isn't it in the sayings of that old fraud Varbath-Matha... Yes. Stanza 212 if I'm not mistaken" Voltarr hurried to find a copy of the prophecies. Stanza 216 seemed more apposite to him, but Voltarr had learned to always pay careful attention to what Vogyin said.
A little later, while Nicolai, Olorin, Tolarr and Voweslaw were collecting supplies, Voltarr sat in a private chamber staring into his crystal. When it cleared he saw, as it were from a distance, two circles of stones on high ground in the midst of a forest and within the inner circle three robed figures. The figures were garbed in deep blue and midnight black but the night was over and the new sun rose between two of the outer stones.
As Voltarr used his crystal, Gorran was in the half-built chapel at his daily devotions. He too was gifted a vision. But Gorran saw at close hand a man holding  three curiosities. The cowl of his dark blue robes obscured his face but two of the three items were clearly visible: 
  • A fine white porcelain bottle with a crude stopper and black oily marks around the neck.
  • A metal trap of the size used for wolves (or sometimes men) rusted shut.
The third item was unclear but light flared from a polished surface.  
All of the companions apart from Brimsone left after dark and took the track into the silent forest towards Alszaperkunoz.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Merchant Cant - 3

The war in the north has spread again. Amber merchants arriving in the realm have reported that Wendland have attacked the Kylfings on the pretext of an alleged slight to the royal house of the Wends. The campaign has by all accounts not gone well for Wendland. The massive Wendish army has been struggling in the harsh conditions. The Wendish Viowode Wroclaw is reported to have told the King that the Kylfings can appear and disappear 'like ghosts'. Of course the merchants all believe that this is just pagan superstition.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Frustration of Wizards

Szutsavanica, 3rd Vog, YT330

Brimstone and Olorin had been particularly suspicious of the stranger. Most of the rest had been cautious of the young mage after talking with him but these two suspected duplicity from the start. He said that he had been travelling on his own back to Szutsavanica and had rushed to catch up. A lone traveller might seek the company and extra security of a large group. But others had tried to spy on them before in much the same way.

The huge stone tower of the Council of Szutsavanica, topped with a perpetual flame, was an impressive sight. The new town which was being built around it was still mostly timber frames and canvas shelters but the bustle of commerce was there already. The busy town seemed at odds with the magisterial edifice at it's center. Like a tall heron mobbed by noisy sparrows.

When they were shown up to the council chamber, Gorran stayed behind in the 'tavern' with their new companion. He did seem reluctant to enter the tower but excused himself saying that he was too lowly to merit the attention of the Council members. Their suspicions were confirmed a few minutes later when he vanished from a spot a few feet in front of Gorran.

The Council of Szutsavanica were all in the council chamber when Voltarr and his companions entered. Fifteen of the most auspicious and respected men and women in the realm paused in their discussion as the group were presented. Waiting for the first chance to speak Voltarr mentioned their new companion and asked the Council to confirm his identity. Since the Council did not then have any roll of acolytes this might have taken some time and some of the council were keen that Voltarr concentrated on investigating the glyphs first. It was all rendered moot by the disappearance of the spy before the Council could reach agreement. When Gorran arrived with the news the council rushed out and up to the top of the tower. From there they were able to use their talents to see what was hidden from others. The villain was descried fleeing northwards.

The discussion on Voltarr's task resumed. And continued for some time. Finally, the council agreed that the following actions were resolved:

  • Delegates from the guilds currently present in the town must be selected to present petitions for improving the good order of the town until other laws and corporations are enacted.
  • In specific of which the merchants are permitted to form from their own hired men an interim town watch and use such for patrolling the streets.
  • Voltarr must investigate the glyphs and signs appearing in the town and the possible connection to the stone circle which in olden times was called Alszaperkunoz with utmost urgency. If any assistance is necessary then this should be submitted to Council expeditiously by Voltarr. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What Stirs the Creatures in the Wildwood?

Vakynur, Torun - St Kuthoy road, 28th Dyarr YT330
The wolf pack had been shadowing their move for some hours. Although the forest either side of the road was dense enough that they were rarely seen, everyone was tense. The pack was large enough to be dangerous if they attacked. Even if nothing worse was present. And the memory of what had happened to the merchants was still fresh.  Voltarr was also thinking about his summons to the council. The wolves were distracting him. He needed peace to plan how he would investigate matters at Szutsavanica. When the boldest she-wolf got a few ells closer than before he sent out a bolt of flame that drove her back and set fire to a holly bush. The wolves seemed stung by the treatment of their pack member. Deep gutteral threatening sounds came from all sides. The group continued on. In spite of the season, the fire began to spread a little.

Then they spotted a figure hunched up in the road a bowshot ahead. As they got closer it appeared to be an old man. But when they pulled up in front of him, the old man began to rise. And as his limbs unfolded they realised that he was more than six ells tall. But even more striking than that, his limbs were thin and his fingers were like twisted spindles. His face was almost completely covered in a moss of beard. But two piercing eyes peered out and a voice that was equally penetrating spoke directly at Voltarr, berating him for his rash actions.

To placate the old man of the forest the comrades backtracked to the holly bush and extinguished the fire in and around it. This done he seemed more communicative. He spoke of others who threatened his forest. Others not of the Realm. Others to the west - the direction Voltarr and the others were headed. Olorin remembered the words of Thomäs Surka. The Leshonoi and Pokhoi  although separated by many leagues were apparently both being troubled by similar causes.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Aspects of Dying

Eastern crown lands, 25th Dyarr YT330
Six days after leaving Gylwics, Tolarr was travelling along the road perched on his cart. The rest were riding alongside. They had agreed to accompany Voltarr eastward, so after heading south to Korzow via Komiro they had taken the road towards St Kuthoy. Olorin was considering a swift visit to the torpek lands and Aegnor Gora. While Tolarr might otherwise look forward to this he could still not get to grips with his recent troubling visions. Others spotted the buzzards before he did. They hurried to the spot and found four merchants, their horses and packs lying close together near to the road. The horses were all dead. Savaged by some fell beast. Two of the male merchants were already dead. Weapons had been drawn but clearly to no avail. The other merchants, a husband and wife, were still alive. As Tolarr approached, he felt their agony as if it were his own. They were dying! Father Nicolai, Voltarr and the others rushed forward to provide what healing they could. It was barely enough to prevent them dying on the scene. Once they were no longer in immediate peril, Tolarr began to feel better. Putting the injured couple on Tolarr's cart they made haste to the next village and left them with the landlord of the Packmans House. Tolarr wondered if he would be affected like this the next time they were around death. He had always been calm around death before. It had always seemed natural, even familiar.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Merchant Cant - 2

Eastern Karbath, 20th Dyarr YT330
A dying merchant was discovered in the foothills north of Astergow. He had a fortune in unpolished gemstones on him but no food. His clothing was ripped in several places and he had many wounds. The wounds looked like bites and clawmarks, perhaps a week old. Local healers were unable to help him and he expired before they could get him to the nearest monastic infirmary. But the villagers did hear his last few words and passed them on to the monks. The placename 'Vlesdawa' was clear. Although not marked on any Tylar maps it was still a terrifying name to the ordinary folk. The second word 'dacian' was not familiar to them. The last few gasped breaths may have also been a name - 'Dameni Hnufa'.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Preparing for a New Sojourn

Gylwics 19th Dyarr YT330
Voltarr received the summons when he arrived back at the Old Wall Inn. The Council had decided that Voltarr was the person to get to the root of the curious nocturnal marks. He was ordered to report to the Council at the tower of Szutsavanica immediately. Since this involved several days travel east, Voltarr persuaded his companions to leave Gylwics with him the next day.
The marks were three horizontal lines with other lines branching up and down. Voltarr consulted the house of his order in Gylwics. Someone suggested that the writing was some old Kolloth script. Since Szutsavanica bordered on the Czar's new lands of Stajerska and Korska, this seemed likely. These lands were the larger part of the old Alban province which had once been the homeland of Tylaria's Kolloth inhabitants.
Their contact from the Loyal Aurdun of Fyhar Gora arrived secretly that night and after examining Olorin, Tolarr and Voltarr, agreed that they should all leave with Voltarr. The church militant and the Borsonin's men prepared to search beneath the old keep in response to the reports of Olorin, Nicolai and the others.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Changed Torpek?

Tolarr found himself back in the common of the Old Wall inn. He was still trying to make sense of what he had just experienced. He did not hear the crash of plates and tankards hitting the floor in the adjacent passage-way. Nor did he see the astonished look on the serving maid who had just dropped her tray.
It quickly occured to her that she might have difficulty explaining this to old Balasc. Torpek 'blinking' into existence was not normal, even one belonging to that strange group of 'prospectors'. If he took this out of her pay it would be a really bad week. She considered asking the Torpek to pay once she had mustered enough courage.
Tolarr was not sure what had happened to him. Something was different. He planned to tell the rest about the warning to them all but he needed time to consider that which concened him alone.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Merchant Cant - 1

Karbath Mountains, YT330
Recent merchant caravans from the lands of the Kogotoi have been reporting numerous sightings of lycanthropes in the distance. Authorities have been trying to reassure the traders: "None of these sightings has been connected with attacks."; "The creatures range widely in the Karbath mountains and the same creature is often sighted several times by different travellers."; "Daous are sometimes responsible for false sightings in that region of the mountains." If all the sightings were true it would amount to dozens or even hundreds more of these beasts than anyone is prepared to admit to. That or the equally terrifying thought that the lycanthorpes were gathering together in one place.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ministered and Revived

Gylwics 18th Dyarr YT330
Voltarr lay dead on the guardroom floor. Vojeslaw lay slain a few feet away. The torpek Olorin had finally succumbed to the savage onslaught of a dozen cultists. Gorran Anastasz Petrowec had died for the second time. The black clad myrmidons had formed up and were pressing the remaining four adventurers back. Then Father Nicolai raised his hands in supplication. The answer was swift and amazing. Four winged figures, fully nine feet tall and radiating intense light appeared around him. Most of Nicolai's companions were afraid and shrank back in awe, but the effect on the cultists was much worse.
Some were struck down with terror - dead or catatonic or white with fear. Even the hardiest ran screaming from the room at the sight of the four seraphs. The angels moved swiftly to the fallen and touched each in turn. Breath returned where for a few seconds there had been none. Within minutes they were sitting up dazed but much recovered, looking in wonder at a table covered in white and laden with meats, fruits and wine. Someone noticed that the slain and immobilised cultists had gone. And so had their death-aspected torpek comrade. As they sat quietly eating the fine food they felt as refreshed as if they had slept. The heavenly visitors patiently spoke to those not too awestruck to speak and then swiftly and silently disappeared. Before they did their leader reached out and touched Olorin's head with a glowing coal which did not burn him and then silently blessed Father Nicolai's mace.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

In the Balance?

Gylwics 18th Dyarr YT330
The first warriors to engage the intruders had rushed in immediately, but the remainder stayed long enough to collect their carved shields. They began to replace their battered bretheren and the battle began to tip in their favour. Voltarr and Vojeslaw on the right of the line staggered under the blows of their opponents. Hamec on the left also suffered a huge blow which caused him to reel backwards like a drunken stevedore. For a while both Voltarr and Hamec were slumped on the ground unable to defend themselves. Meanwhile one of the unholy warriors had slipped out one door and back in through another and was now about to fall on the adventurers from behind when he tripped over the prone form of Hamec.
To make matters worse, Tolarr's left boot began to came apart sending him crashing to the floor. Voltarr who had managed to rise, suffered a similar fate as the stitching in his boots dissolved. Gorran could see holes developing in the clothing of Hamec as he lay on the floor. As if some huge invisible moth were eating his garb. Although no-one was looking at the time, the costly clohing of Vojeslaw was suffering the same depredations as Hamec's ordinary shirt and trousers.
The cumulative effect of the blows taken so far had worn them down. Vojelaw, Voltarr, Olorin and Gorran were totally fatigued, bruised and bleeding. Nicolai was less hurt and Hamec was almost untouched in spite of being stunned and prone. On the other hand, half of their opponents were down. The mage was being helped by a guard but the huge warrior and the utterer-of-curses were down and showed no sign of rising this side of judgement day.
Still unseen, the diminutive Brimstone had crept back to the locked door and was busily trying to unpick it from the outside. It might at least provide a route to flee if things got worse.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gatecrashing with the Torpek

Gylwics 18th Dyarr YT330
Olorin was certainly visible from the moment he burst into the guardroom. The slate-robed guide had said they would become fully visible the moment they did anything to attract attention to themselves. The guards who had just finished checking for intruders were still reporting to a huge warrior near the centre of the room. Around the walls more than a score of others were sprawled on benches, sharpening short leaf-shaped swords or polishing black leather and bronze mail. Several black shields bearing the carved image of a man with a lions head were hanging on the walls.
The torpek nobleman rushed towards the standing figures. His first axe stroke had one opponent reeling before anyone could react. The helmed warrior did not draw a sword, but reached over and grasped at Olorin. A strange feeling ran through the torpek and he felt the malevolence directed at him but he took no harm from the touch.
Although Olorin was clearly visible from the outset, Tolarr and the rest following him in may have been unseen for a few seconds as they rushed into the battle. But Tolarr's axe was soon dealing out damage alongside Olorin's and those opponents who were first to leap up crowded towards the pair.
Nicolai and Vojeslaw noticed a grey robed man to the right of the torpek. He was starting to mumble words and his hands were moving in strange gestures. They both rushed towards him but several guards formed up in front of the man. Nicolai's mace and Vojeslaw's sabre were soon busy. Voltarr tried to work his way round to reach the grey mage.His opponent cursed as his magic failed him, leaving him all but drained of mana. Voltarr is well known to wield his staff as a weapon as readily as an aid to casting and blows rained down on the hapless grey mage. He turned and ran but immediately fell as Voltarr's prop hit the back of his skull.
As Hamec and Gorran came through the door they moved to the left of the torpek to counter a new foe. An armoured figure with grey robes was rushing forward shouting foul and foetid curses at the intruders. Several of the group began to feel less confident but Olorin and Nicolai did not. Olorin cried out to Eru and continued to swing mighty blows into the unholy cult guard.

Friday, October 09, 2009


Gylwics 18th Dyarr YT330

The room was long and narrow. Down the centre were cages. Iron bars fixed into floor and ceiling surrounded small square areas of flagstone with pitiful collections of rags and the bones of the previous occupants. Some were animal skeletons but some were human or human-like. Father Nicolai went into each cell and reverently gathered and wrapped for burial the humanoid remains.

As he entered the last cage a creature leapt from concealment beneath a pile of rags. The speed with which it moved was alarming. It could have easily sprung on Nicolai but instead chose to rush past him out of the cage. Before Olorin could ready his axe the beast was swiftly past him and had disappeared through the arch into the cavern beyond. The animal reminded Olorin of the small tree creatures in the forests of Surt Tzingi. But this was much, much bigger. Perhaps more than an ell in length!

When they chose to explore the caverns themselves they discovered some large caves sloping slightly downwards. In the second cave they made several interesting finds.

The first was a floor with shallow pools and rivulets of slime. They gathered round and peered at it. They prodded and poked it. They dropped pebbles and dried meat in it. Finally they agreed that it was thick and sticky and that it stuck to a stick. But their considerations did not prevent Hamec and Vojeslaw from slipping on the stuff or keep their boots clean of the slime as they picked their way through.

A large growth of fungi was the next to be examined. Ochre, russet and verdigris coloured growth covered a large area. Brimstone picked some smaller examples of each type and pocketed them.

Large areas of the floor seemed to be covered in some form of growth which swayed slightly but they did not examine this as closely and chose to keep as far as they could from this. Perhaps not far enough.

Although they did not explore the whole cavern they did find a speleothem column, a pile of large boulders and two exits. Both were narrow. One appeared to be a natural formation, twisted like a shepherds prop. The other was straight as a die and led downwards beyond their sight with steep flights of steps and level passages alternating.

Disappearing into the Depths

Gylwics 18th Dyarr YT330

The busy citizens of Gylwics were out on he streets carrying out business, performing their duties and breathing in the air of a town on the knees of the Karbath mountains. Many of them looked straight through the slate-robed guide, two torpek, cleric, novice, mage, craftsman and diminutive thief as they passed through there midst. Even when they were within touching distance, none noticed them. It was as if they were so unremarkable that they could not possibly be there.

On reaching the castle at the highest point in the zig-zag street the guards also failed to register the little group passing through the gates or walking by the manor-keep into the ruins of the old keep.

Their new guide informed them that unless they drew attention to themselves they could all pass unmarked for several hours. He followed them into the collapsed cellars of the old keep but would not go any further.

When they reached the tunnel stair where Brimstone had stopped on his reconnaissance it looked as if he and some others would baulk again. The leadership of Olorin quickly persuaded Brimstone and Vojeslaw (once the later was persuaded that cats do not frequent dungeons). But Tolarr was still unwilling to go deeper. Olorin began to get angry and started speaking loudly to the other torpek in their own language. Tolarr shook himself and turning the spigot in his cask swallowed a great quantity of liquor before he forced himself onward. Perhaps the drink explained the red-faced look and the way he mumbled to himself. But it did not explain the scowl.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Settings Drawn from the Deep Recesses

A neat stone wall, almost man height surrounding untended gravestones. In the centre a larger monument stands proudly but many other markers tllt this way or that. The graveyard lies at a crossroads near to a rocky escarpment. The hills are brown and windswept with small twisted trees and areas of exposed rocks. Like bones showing through decaying flesh in the full moon's light. Nothing is moving. Nothing that can be seen.

A flat raised circle of lush grass rises through the dense broadleaf forest. The rising sun will soon rise between two carved stones, Two circles of stones sit within the space. Thirteen stones in the inner ring, more in the outer ring. Grass, stones and forest are still shades of grey in the half-light.

A settlement of black-timbered houses are splashed with sunset red reflected from the snowy peaks around it. No church or castle is evident but a single temple rises up in the middle of the town. And at it's summit is an altar and towering over that is the image of a wolf-god it's head still crowned in gold. A chill wind blows through the empty streets, stirring up the ochre leaves.

After using his talents to seek out a few images from the mind of the cultist, the magister of the Loyal Aurdun of Fyhar Gora slumped forwards exhausted. The resistance of the dark disciple had been formidable.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tribes and Nations -2

In the days of the Old Empire, civilization surrounded the Mare Nostrum. Peace reigned in a hundred provinces. In some the Empire was welcomed and in some sullenly resented. When three great rulers contended for the throne six centuries ago, a civil war started which resulted in countless deaths. Empty victories followed bitter defeats until the legions were almost filled with barbarian voices. Then within five years all three parts of the empire were assailed by external foes and the west of the Empire almost fell. Provinces were lost in the deserts of the south , in the mountains and plains in the north and along the great rivers of the east Finally at the eleventh hour all three would-be emperors realised the truth. Only together could they survive. Each ruler swore a terrible oath binding himself and his successors. Assistance was sent where needed and the invasions were stopped. And so the jointly ruled Empire was born of necessity and flourished to the point where some of the lost provinces were recovered. Of course later the Stygian Revolt gave rise to the Tetrarchy and the fourth Imperial City and the deeds of Heraclios, Destroyer of Achmenya added the fifth part of the Pentarchy. The five rulers are of course not equal in all things. Two Augustii and three Caesars rule from their great cities. As time passed the five imperial pentarchies grew further apart in culture, trade and military doctrine. So much so that it is often more like five empires. Many Augustii and Caesars have threatened to break the sworn pact or delayed assistance but somehow the Pentarchy has just held.