Wield: In Guided Hands

29-12-14 - Session 7
Blood on the Leaves, Blood at the Root

The Lady, disgusted at the idea of being traded away, argues with Ana, and lays down the law – she won’t let her wielder leave with knowledge of the Vatcha. There is a brief struggle for control, before the Lady orders her minion to remain in the cabin and care for the plague-riddled Captain Steadiship – until he is recovered or until both are dead.

The Vatcha talk among themselves of their past wielders – Timmy, Rufus, Marta and The Liar. Their reverie is interrupted when they see a thin trail of smoke up ahead – a campfire! Anders talks to the flame; and is just fetching dry wood for it, when he is attacked – a wild-eyed young man with sunken cheeks and an unruly blonde hair. The group smash the boy down, doing far more damage than needed – and Niklaus dies, babbling wildly about the loss of the Jotun’s eye, his last moments betraying a desperate hunger for it. Yarn offers Tobyn the power to revive him, but only if he passes the book on to Niklaus. Tobyn refuses.

Genevive and the Crown discuss the Heat of the Moment – the Crown describes it’s nature – harmless if entertained, an un-natural disaster when bored. Genevive reads a story from Yarn – the Girl’s love for the traveller boy, the Mayor’s refusal, the mob’s folly; and the destruction of the city of Calmlakes, all at the Heat’s “hands”.

They all discuss next steps – Bruce, sure of his divine protection, wants to find another ship to carry him north – the others aren’t impressed, and discuss how they might keep him from leaving. Carmine, learning of Senator Oppenheimer’s letter, talks of his rivalry with her Grandfather – Senator Faze, of Worldsend. Doctor Quatro speaks with Ancylometes via the spelljar, and the two begin to compare notes.

Back at Beggar’s point, Quatro grabs more supplies and the group try to track ‘Senator’ Talaken, believing that he now has the Jotun’s Eye. Leaving Bruce, Toby and Captain Steadiship in the care of Ana and The Lady of the Forest, the others talk a local moneylender by the name of Barnicote in to fetching one of Talaken’s sheets, and they then track him deep in to the forest and off of the path.

A day passes and turns in to night. In the early hours of the morning, they discover that they themselves are being tracked – Carmine hangs back to see what is following them, to discover that it is a monstrous wolf, larger than any they have seen before, who launches itself at her. She scurries up a tree to escape it.

With a combination of Vatcha powers and weapons, they set about the wolf, through the waves of unnatural fear that slough off of it. Williams is savaged horribly; and torn apart, then Anders is subjected to it’s vicious teeth. Davvie, seeing his master attacked, leaps on to the wolf’s back, slamming his tiny paws in to it’s head, but the monster throws its head back and snaps the little monkey in two, before Genevive‘s blade and Anders’ axe finally do for it. Anders is close to death, but Tobyn uses Yarn’s power to revive him from the brink.

Carmine is desperate to bury Williams, but there is no time to waste – they must track Talaken; and the Jotun’s Eye. Hauling her to her feet, they stumble on through the wood, leaving the clearing slick with gore behind them, as the blood of man and monkey and wolf mix in the mud of the forest floor.

15/12/14 - Session 6
Black Lotus and Feeling Sick.

…the starling stares intently at the crew of the Skylark. Ana summons the power of The Lady of the Forest, which proves unnecessary when the Starling’s beak opens and a message tumbles out loud enough for all to hear – an ultimatum from Hexing Jenny, the hag queen. Ana swiftly scribbles her response – a counter ultimatum – and ties it to the bird’s leg, but the starling is plucked out of the sky by a sparrowhawk a few minutes later.

That afternoon, Captain Steadiship grows sick – the same illness that has fevered Eliza – and the following morning, Eliza is found dead in the cabin, choked on her own vomit. Searching Eliza’s messenger bag turns up a bundle of letters – only one of note, from Cairnwood, to Senator Oppenheimer in Worldsend, concerning his sister, who is sick with plague. Anders uses the spell-jar to speak with Ancylometes, who says that she will research a cure; but that it is nothing she has heard of before. She recommends washing; and the travellers immerse themselves in the river.

The following morning, Beggars Point. Clarence departs in haste, attempting (and failing) to steal the packet of the sticky, sweet smelling substance that he confirms to be Black Lotus – a powerful narcotic known colloquially as Sticky Black. Genevive and Ana head to the Fenchurch Inn – Nicklaus’ last known whereabouts – where they discover that he has out-stepped them again; after filling the cellar with rats; Nicklaus fought on the bridge with an aging trapper, before being run out of town – the trapper, an old man known as ‘Senator’ Talaken, left town that very night, headed west – strange behaviour for a man who had spent each night at the same bar for 15 years.

Back at the boats, Anders has a tense standoff with two members of the Aleph family – Lady Aleph and her watery-eyed grandson, Dalmond, who arrive to collect their cargo from the Steady Ship – 20 crates of a sticky black substance with a pungent smell – it seems that the party have been party to a delivery of Black Lotus to Beggars Point. Anders, keen to be rid of the stuff, but also not wanting the dock hands on board a plague-boat, unloads the crates on to the docks himself.

Genevive and Ana have found a doctor – the estimable Dr. Quatro, who they lure to the ship under false pretences. Before he has a chance to properly examine Steadiship and the corpse of Eliza, the tension on the docks comes to a head; and they take off.

Quatro, despite the deception, remains on ship, keen to see his medical oath upheld. He examines Captain Steadiship and points out the dark inguinal buboes under his arms and thighs. He pronounces that there is little he can do except make the captain comfortable, and that he does not expect the old man to last long.

A few miles upriver, still pursuing Niklaus, they stop to burn Eliza’s corpse. Dr. Quatro talks of the great love that he gave up to study medicine and Ana speaks of how impressed she is with the good Doctor:

“You could have left when you discovered we were exposed to plague. Instead you remained. You are more of a hero than I ever could be – you should carry The Lady instead of me…”

19/11/14 - Session 5
Pirates and Plagueboats.

…Ambush! The Steady Ship and Skylark are attacked by river pirates, from both banks and from the two barges blockading the river ahead – the Bearhunter and the Raging Horn. The Bearhunter is captained by a woman in a red military coat which Carmine recognises, with the help of Ana’s Eyes of the Eagle, as her brother’s. Ana also recognises the angry red-bearded man from the inn at Wildrun, who is steering the other pirate vessel.

The pirates begin an assault with longbows and fire arrows. Anders twists his hand once, and uses The Heat of the Moment’s power to break the Bearhunter, causing it to fall into instant disrepair and disarray, and it begins to turn as the rudder and sails refuse to obey their crew.

As the first wave of arrows fall, Davvie steals the flames from the fire arrows, which fall short of the barges. Ana takes two shots, to the shoulder and flank, and falls to the deck, bleeding copiously. Dragging herself upright, she tries to intimidate the pirates – who are visibly shaken by the use of magic in the battle, but they hold firm – until Geneviève summons an illusion of a huge fireball, at which point the pirates on the nearest bank drop weapons and run.

Emerging from his hiding place behind some barrels, Tobyn uses the power of Life to restore vigour to Ana, allowing her to ignore her wounds and stand strong. In the ensuing fight, Geneviève takes an arrow to the leg; Red-beard is slain and Carmine and Tobyn kill the Redcoat captain with a combination of slingshot and crossbow bolt. Anders unleashes Vatcha powers again, breaking the Horn in two.

Tobyn uses Yarn’s powers to heal all in the boat, while Anders, investigating the Bearhunter, finds a package full of a sticky black substance with a sweet, cloying smell. Carmine and Ana rush to the dying red-coated captain and ask her where she got the coat. With her dying breath, she confesses that the pirates had tried to attach Niklaus on his boat and he had escaped using the powers of the Jotun’s Eye, but left his jacket behind. Carmine claims it back from the dying captain, before the travellers head upstream.

Continuing upstream, they reach the small village of Starford – famous as the site where star-iron once fell. When they arrive the Inn is on fire and a large crowd is gathered around, forming bucket chains from the river. Davvie siezes the fire and deposits it in the river, and the scene nearly turns ugly until Tobyn convinces the village that he is the reincarnated spirit of a wise woman, oath-sworn to protect the needy. Ana discovers that Niklaus was seized by the village guard, believing him to be a water-monster, but he escaped by nearly drowning one; and fleeing upriver again.

The evening passes uneventfully, but setting out the following morning, the party discover that Eliza is sick – coughing sharply and feverish. Moreover, a lone starling has settled on the bow of the Skylark, and is staring expectantly at the travellers.

4/11/14 - Session 4:
Birds and Boats.

4/11/14 – Session 4: Birds and Boats.

Anders, Davvie, Heat of the moment, Ana and Lady, Genevive and Crown, Tobyn and Yarn, Toby, Carmine, Williams, Eliza, Clarence and Bruce set off from Wolfwater on the Steady Ship in the early hours. Captain Steadiship summons the four wielders, as the obvious ringleaders, into his cabin to discuss their reason for fleeing, the addition of Toby to an already overcrowded boat and to stress his displeasure with the idea of any danger being drawn to his boat or his cargo. Ana manages to satisfy him that they are seeking to avoid danger as much as he. Back on deck, it rapidly transpires that keeping a secret on a small boat is as tricky as it sounds. Toby divulges that Bruce Chanter has a crate under his bed that he keeps closed, but checks regularly.

Days pass. Partway on the journey to Wildrun, a large flock of starlings appears, flying in abnormally repetitive formation, staying within sight of the boat. Ana uses some of her animal magic, granted by the Lady, to try to listen to them. Amongst the hundreds of bird voices communicating about the wind, food, predators and other usual bird things, she hears snippets describing the Steady Ship, its location, heading and the passengers and crew visible on deck.

The wielders are arguing over the wisdom of trying to scare the birds off, find out who is controlling them, or if they are even a threat, when around a bend in the river they sight a second barge. Its stern is submerged in the water whilst the bows are lifted clear at a steep and precarious angle. However, it is quickly obvious that no sandbar is to blame for the boats foundering, as burned sails hang in tatters, and what can be seen of the deck is in disarray. Suspecting an ambush, Anna points out a likely hiding space for bandits. Whilst everyone arms themselves and get prepared for attack, Toby Clip runs forwards offering to help – Ana sends him below decks to “protect” Williams. Anders then uses the power from Heat of the Moment to destroy the fallen tree they think is hiding their ambush. However, no one is behind it, and as they draw level with the other boat, no signs of life, bandit or otherwise, can be seen.

The other ship is called the Skylark and seems totally abandoned. Anders seeks Steadiship’s permission to throw a plank across. Tobyn follows reluctantly, nervous, but eager to prove himself. The Skylark seems completely empty, no cargo in the hold. Anders enters the cabin portion, which is mostly underwater, and finds the corpse of the captain Mr Featheringdale – he has a crossbow bolt through his collarbone and he is bloated from time in the river. Following the traditions of the river, they sew him in to canvas and drop him into the water.

Genevive uses The Crown’s power to raise the Skylark out of the water, mending it. The broken hull knits back together and the previously tattered sails unfurl, flying a flag with the De Caius coat of arms, surmounted by an Iron Crown. They cut a deal with Captain Steadiship – if he will overlook the trouble that their presence will bring, they will give him the newly mended ship.

They sail The Skylark on in to Wildrun, where the captain changes cargo and they spend the night in a dockside Inn. They speak with the harbourmaster, finding out that Skylark, belonging to Mr. Featheringdale, was expected to stop here a few days previously and that only two other ships have passed through in the past few days – The Bearhunter and the Raging Horn. Eliza steps out into the city to deliver her messages and to gather more; and the party chat with Bruce Chanter about his plans – he seems happy to wander north and preach the word of The Golden King and he tells Ana a little about the ways of his faith.

Just then, Clarence nearly begins a bar-brawl by using loaded dice against the locals and a huge red-bearded docker threatens to start a fight. Ana and Anders calm the situation by a combination of bribery negotiation and intimidation and offer Clarence up to be roughed around a little; and take him out into the street where the docker lays in a few punches. Genevive uses the distraction to sneak upstairs and rifle through Bruce’s luggage – he is carrying a strange implement bedded in straw – a long tube of wood, with a metal bowl on the end and clay pots that sound like they are filled with sand. She speaks with the Crown about it, who waxes lyrical about it – it must be a flute of some kind, that puts people to sleep, that must be regularly fed sleeping dust in order to keep it asleep.

After another day spent sailing The Skylark around the docks, learning how to pilot it, the party set off again, now split between two ships – with Eliza piloting the Skylark and Captain Steadiship piloting the Steady Ship. The cloud of starlings are gone, vanished in the night.

A day upriver, the party see two ships ahead that slowly begin to turn sideways in order to cause a blockade and on either side of the bank behind them, groups of armed ruffians drag nets and chains up out of the water and fasten them to stakes, blocking their way downriver.

It’s a trap…

4/11/14 - Session 3: Strange Webs and Wolfwater

In the city of Fang, six travellers, a performing monkey, a “Crocodile” and Dog; are leaving in a hurry, following the trail of a Vatcha known as The Jotun’s Eye, carried by a young man by the name of Niklaus. Their passage north has been organised by Eliza – a messenger – who has secured passage on a boat with Captain Steadiship. Bruce Chanter and Clarence come too: Bruce because he’s travelling north, Clarence because he needs to flee town, after losing money to a gentleman by the name of Tamerlain.

On route, Ana and Captain Steadiship tell tales about the dangers of river pirates – it was once a peaceful route, but it’s not safe at night any more: the party stop off to rest at a little village named Wolfwater. On arrival they hear rumours of a plague that is spreading down in the South, in the town of Drayfuss outside Cairnwood; and of pirates that haunt the stretch of river to the north, towards Wildrun. Finally they hear that Toby, the son of Captain Clip, is missing. He was due to travel to the Cravenburg Academy — an honour bestowed upon the Captain by Baron Cravenburg after the Captain killed a great talking Wolf outside the city.

The party decide — each for their own reason — to seek Toby out. Ana uses the Lady’s power to track the boy’s scent, passing this off as using Dog to track him. The trail takes Ana, Genevive, Anders and Tobyn through the dark of the forest to a hut that swings gently from the trees in a cocoon of strong silk, the trees strung with jars that contain blue flickering flames. The Heat of the Moment, controls Davvie in to clasping the flames of their own lanterns and hiding them in the palms of his hands while he investigates, then the party decide that they will attempt to talk, before trying to draw blades.

They discover that the hut is the home of Ancylometes – a Spiderkin potion maker, whom Toby has fled to. The party persuade Ancylometes to let them talk to Toby, while she retreats in to her hut.

Toby doesn’t want to go to the Cravenberg Academy: it’s cold and stinks and he likes it here. Ana tries to convince him, unsuccessfully, that he should. Eventually, the party promise him to ask the Baron for another favour instead, one that will help all of Wolfswater; and Ancylometes too. Since Toby is leaving of his own free will, she is willing to let him go, but insists on the party taking what appear to be some empty glass jars with them – jars that allow them to converse over long distances with her. Back in Wolfwater, the party reunite Toby with his father. They retire to bed, all very happy.

In the middle of the night, Ana is woken up with a knife to her throat – hired thieves trying to recover the Crown. She persuades them that they need her help to destroy it, for long enough to get them into the corridor, then uses the Lady’s powers to summon a cloud of angry birds to frighten and distract them long enough for her to get away. There is a brief melee, during which time Anders uses The Heat of the Moment’s power to unmake one of the thieves’ weapons. One of them is killed, the other disarmed and surrenders, cowering in fear.

Captain Clip realises that these travellers have used unnatural powers to defend themselves. Genevive interrogates the surviving thief, who admits that he was sent from Fang by Chancellor Prynn. Speaking through her, the Crown lays down a threat for the thief to deliver to Prynn. This also makes it deeply obvious to Clip that the Crown that Genevive wears is a Vatcha. He orders the party out of town, forbidding Toby to leave with them, with predictable results. Tobyn, under Yarn’s control, grabs Toby and is about to carry him away. Ana draws a crossbow on her. Genevive tells Captain Clip to let his son make up his own mind, and acting through Tobyn, Yarn imbues Genevive’s words with power – the Captain sees the narrative unfold like a great road before him; and he knows that there is nothing he can do to stop them leaving with his son.

The party leave with Toby in tow and an angry village behind them. Within an hour, however, the wind has carried them away.

15/10/14 - Session 2 : With Great Justice

A crimson dawn rises lazily over blue waves and the little sailboat tracks its way across the Serpent’s Mouth bay towards Fang. Little do the sailors on that humble vessel know that four of their passengers bear a cargo worth the world – four mighty Vatcha, items whose powers could change the course of history. On the deck, Genevive di Caius is dueling with the sailors – four at once, but her background and her sharp sword soon put them to shame – tock, tock, tock, tock!

As the boat arrives in Fang, the passengers witness the vast flood defenses across the estuary – The Grieving Gates, The Gates of Despair – once known as the Gates of Glory, 300 years ago, in the time of the Iron Empire. Yarn’s pages flutter open and tells the tale of the new name – that 10,000 slaves died to build them; that the bones of dissenters are still interred within the foundations of the gates. The Crown of Kings hotly justifies its decision – that 100,000 fisherfolk have sailed the bay in safety since the gates were built.

The passengers disembark and make their way around the city – most to an inn – The Baron’s Head, while Anders Filk and Davvie the fiddle-playing monkey (with The Heat of the Moment) head first to the dockside market, to entertain the crowd for money, then across the lagoon to Market District, where it is said there is a grand sale of exotic animals. Anders tries to buy a baby crocodile, but the cheating merchant offers him a large lizard instead. The Heat of the Moment advises him on the sale and Anders threatens the merchant with the law. He sells the lizard at a knock-down price to get rid of Anders and, putting it in to his bag, Anders finds it changing colour – it is a chameleon!

Yarn, carried by Tobyn, along with the academic Roberto head to the University in Fang, where the Symposium on Prima Casa artifacts will be held this week. They meet Clarence, the architect who is due to lay the foundation stone on a new tower complex at the university – though the he is also here for the famous Gaming Halls of Fang. They meet Chancellor Prynn, who runs the University. Tobyn takes a quiet moment to tell the Chancellor about The Crown of Kings and to organise a private viewing that night. At first Chancellor Prynn ventures disbelief – The Crown is said to have been washed out to sea two hundred years ago – but Tobyn, using Yarn’s powers, shows the Chancellor a conjured image of The Crown; and Yarn tells a tale of the time the Crown spent building an empire of fish, before being lifted out of the water by a fisherman.

The Chancellor, his eyes filling with desire for the crown, agrees to a meeting.

Over in Guardswalk district, Ana (carrying The Lady of the Forest) and Williams finally bring Carmine (who pointblank refuses to talk) to the house of Senator Jonas Swinegorm, who has paid for her delivery. Genevive di Caius goes along, in hopes of a reward for saving them from bandits on the road., and The Crown of Kings rides on her brow. Their consciences get the better of them when they discover the truth, however – Carmine stole an artifact known as The Jotun’s Eye, from the Hags of the stilt town Hope, which Swinegorm desires for himself, in order to crush the hags. Genevive expresses a similar desire, telling Swinegorm that her father was killed by Hexing Jenny, the hag-queen.

Sick of Swinegorm’s attitude, The Crown of Kings loans its power to Genevive, who creates a glamour – a hag-spawn creature lurching out of midair, to attack! In the chaos, Williams and Carmine flee; while Ana hustles Swinegorm and his guards out of the room. Genevive mimes fighting the hag-spawn, and “slays” it, dispelling the illusion.

Later, Ana and Genevive manage to gain Carmine’s trust and she tells more of the tale – while in Cairnwood, her mother stole the Jotun’s Eye from Hexing Jenny herself; and sent it north to Worldsend, with her brother Niklaus. The Hag-queen turned her mother in to a bird; and keeps her captive – promising her release when the The Jotun’s Eye is returned to her. Ana and Genevive cut a deal with Swinegorm – telling him the eye has gone to Cravenburg, but that they can return it to him. A price is agreed.

That night, back at the Inn, the four Vatcha plan and scheme between themselves while their wielders sleep. The Jotun’s Eye is a Vatcha, recalls The Lady of the Forest, one who is obsessed with knowledge and the wheel of Fate, a Vatcha who can see and know all things…

21/9/14 - Session 1.
The Road to Fang.

A party of travelers are journeying from Cairnwood to the seaside town of Shibh-by-Sea, on the way to Fang, when their wagon is raided by bandits. The wagon pitches in to a ditch; and the roof is set on fire. Luckily, around the corner of the road heads the second wagon in the convoy, which just happens to be the vehicle for a soldier by the name of Williams and a hired guard named Ana, who are transporting a young thief by the name of Carmine to Fang. Between them and the fancy swordplay of a Noble duelist by the name of Genevive di Caius, in the first carriage, they face off the bandits. The bandit king has his head removed from his shoulders, and the fight is over within moments.

Which is the point where four Vatcha – The Crown of Kings, The Heat of the Moment, The Lady of the Forest and Yarn. become aware of each other. The Crown of Kings, previously on the head of the Bandit King, goes rolling to the floor and immediately begins calling out to Genevive di Caius to pick it up.

In a box on the blazing roof of the carriage, the fiddle known as The Heat of the Moment calls to be picked up; and is seized by Davvie – a trained monkey belonging to one Anders Filk, an animal trainer. Yarn – a magical book, said to contain every great story in the world – is being carried by a scribe by the name of Tobyn, who is accompanying his master (an academic by the name of Roberto) to a symposium in Fang, where they plan to discuss historical artifacts from Prima Casa.

And finally, The Lady of the Forest, a magical fox-stole, is draped incongruously around the shoulders of a professional guard by the name of Ana, who is accompanying Williams – The soldier and their charge, a thief by the name of Carmine, who is barely more than a child, but whom they have been paid heavy money to transport to Fang, in order that a noble remove her hands in punishment for theft.

Also in the wagon is: an Architect by the name of Clarence; Bruce Chanter – a lay preacher of the Scions of the Golden King; Eliza Swiftfoot – a messenger; a Herbalist and a Doctor.

Yarn tells Tobyn a tale about The Lady and The Crown.

After fixing the wagons and stopping the fire, and a certain amount of discussion and squabbling between the Vatcha, the travelers continue to Shibh, where they buy passage on a boat that is crossing the bay.

The Lady of the Forest uses her powers on Ana to gift her the power of talking Monkey, in order to speak with Davvie. Anders Filk is amazed, as you might expect, and goes on to try to find somebody who can teach Davvie to play the fiddle. He finds Bruce Chanter, who has some experience with a similar instrument his people call “The King’s Voice”, which is bowed, but played in the lap. It’s an Epic task, but Ana‘s newfound skill with Monkeyspeaking and Bruce’s patience mean that it only takes all night. Dawn rises, and to the great joy of sailors who have been betting on the result, Davvie sits and bows the fiddle, playing a simple three-note tune. He can’t manage chords yet.

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