Author Topic: Crackbones Expedition Journal  (Read 364 times)

The Dan

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Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #15 on: May 31, 2020, 07:56:02 PM »
Day 26, Evening

We cleared out the rest of the bleak place. No more thrones, no further corruption. No sign of the old… thing that croaked a warning as we entered. No chance of defending the place either, alas. All we can do is try to keep others from finding it.

Withdrawing back up onto the canopy, we made the long walk back to camp. Farina says there is disarray in the Sovereign Oath camp, signs of burning, signs of church knights tortured and slain. So they have met and come to blows, that is fortuitous for we judge they will breach the palace walls tomorrow and battle its abominations. While the Oath conquers their empty prize, we will speak to the Huldra. If anyone here can be trusted with this matter, and to do the right thing, it is her.

Day 27, Evening

Progress.

Some debate in camp over Balon’s insistence that the Staff of the First Witch must be kept safe or given to him as his share. Smoothed it over – Korik was not an ass about it, he just wants to keep our agreement clear and mutual. That is no bad thing. I am sure that if it must go to the Huldra, then she will be generous to its rescuers. We’re not selling it exactly, but a generous gift should always be rewarded. It’s simply good leadership.

At dawn we ventured down the canopy again and to the great tree. The elf woman was still weaving her magic, guarded by the witch of witches. I took them a few treats from our supplies for them: Miralba turned into a bear yesterday, maybe she’ll like some black cheese, honey and waybread. Maybe she can tell me how to turn into a troll? Or just have my flesh grow back, the way Farina’s does. She says its more about being a skin-changer – but sometimes, if I really concentrate upon my wounds, I think I can almost feel it happening a little. A very little. Foolish old Crackbones, its probably all in my head.

Feeling my age again today. It’s been a while, but too much hiking and climbing. Killing is easier in some ways. It is over sooner, usually.
We saw the Huldra, told her more than I would have liked… but we must trust someone, and perhaps I am over-wary. Her counsel is to force off anyone who would find the throne, make the cost not worth the final outcome (which it isn’t). Let them exhaust themselves against us or against each other, so they depart and leave Symbar to rot in peace.

There is little more we can do anyway, so why not?

Today’s efforts were to cover our trail, removing anything from the ruins which might lead to the Throne. Looking out of the great tree, my eye fell upon the ziggurat and I knew the magic mirror must be removed or destroyed, lest someone follow the vision it grants of Symbar of old. A tough prospect, but with the aid of Ulg and his crew and their picks and hammers, we were able to hack the magic mirror from the wall and haul it back to our camp. That removes one path at least but who knows what other clues may lay in the ruin?

One path less to follow, at least.

That business done; we could turn to other matters. Balon offered the staff to the Huldra, who confirmed it was once wielded by the first witch. She suggested he keep it, use it to help keep Symbar safe. So be it. His share it is.
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

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Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2020, 08:45:24 PM »
Day 27, Night

Another torture session with Balon and Korik at camp tonight, digging out the cysts and red scabs with hot iron. I think this may kill him before it cures him, but there is no pain I would not suffer to red of such a curse. Still, it is hard to watch.

While we watched the disease tortured out of Korik, Farina scouted the canopy and surrounding forest once more – she has become so essential in the last few weeks, I do not know how we would stay ahead of our enemies without her.

She returned late into the night with more news of the Sovereign Oath: They have finally cut their way up to the palace’s plateau. Tomorrow they will meet the strange red moss and if they can ford it, breach the palace’s outer walls. The blight-beasts within may give them further pause, but I am not hopeful enough that they will make an end of each other. A few more days and they will know the Throne is not within.

Day 28, Morning

Terror and blood in the night.

We were woken by sounds of chanting in the forest – too distant to be made out, but the tone alone was enough to give us shivers in the dark. Our witches confirmed our fears – Sorcery afoot!

A new player, or perhaps an old one has (re?) joined the game: Robed figures performing ceremonial magic. This I do not like. Ceremonial magic was what brought down destruction upon the great cathedral in Yndaros, and I will not have it here!

We struck at the ceremony as the sorcerers were reaching the height of their corrupted magic. Some of us drawing off their guardians while others crept behind the principles in the hot summer night.

They were a mix of clansfolk and Ambrians. The clan people fought relentlessly, yet you could see something strange in their faces – I have seen something like it, sometimes, in the eyes of slaves – but this was different. A horror, a beaten will, a leaden puppet-like lack of passion to their blows. Their minds we no longer their own. They were lost to the command of sorcery.

This I hate more than most foul magic. I think because magicians see me and think I am a brute. Ha! I can fight it off. Plenty of armour on and in this ogre’s head.

Much blood soaked into the earth, though not mine for once. Men and women down, then up again, then down. A hard fight, much cry of the battle metal, of flesh rent and flying limbs. Spider-Bane struck left and right in moonlit arcs, I saw many faces lit by sparks as steel struck steel, and arms and a forest of spears – yet I am like the old dracwyrm, struck often but never pieced! It is them who heard the song of crack bones, crunch and tear and thud, ha! Is good to fight sorcerers! No matter what you do to them, you never have to feel bad about it.

They broke before us, like a dam sundered by the raging spring river. They fled, breaking from the forest to try and flee down the cliffside to the red dust plains of bones and hidden spider-blights. Korik cut their rope-ladder, sent them tumbling to their deaths. But they did some evil – their ceremony was already waking the dead, so we have a few more wandering corpses on the red plain. Could have been worth, I can only guess they would have had an army, had they succeeded.

They were not all slain. These were no backwoods sorcerers, inbred and full of petty wickedness. These were powerful cultists from civilised lands, stealers of the Sovereign Oath bodies they forced to protect them. Two survived for sure, maybe a few more lost in the night. But three we knew:
Agramei Kalfas, you were a sorcerer. I thought you a fool questing for Symbar, but you were only a fool in choosing corruption as a path to power. Good riddance to you.

Vernon Dardall, I thought you merely a coward, as Bran said. But your cowardice was in accepting the mark of sorcery, to be their minion! Once more you fled from battle with my friend, Bran the Bold. Death will not permit you to flee a third time!

Madame, greed was your downfall. We know your voice and need not see beneath that hood to know you. Do not think that your highborn patroness will save you. We have your scent and will end you here.
We have done a good thing tonight, though our flesh has been sorely tested by their blades and magic. Torbjorn is gravely wounded, Bran and Yagaba also. Korik’s failing strength may yet kill him before the red plague does, but he has his flask at least.

Farina’s flesh knits itself together without such tricks – or at least, by witch tricks which seems altogether more wholesome. It makes me think of trolls and my own half-cooked ogre flesh.

Day 28, Afternoon

Back at camp, after meeting our elven allies. No more help coming on that front. We talked of much – at least by the terms of elfish terseness – but I am sworn to secrecy. Ardil admitted the Throne must be protected somehow. He knows now that it cannot be hidden forever with so many people searching, driven by such greed.

He does not have enough summer elves, and we do no longer have our fire-throwing magician or grenadier. Korik believes we do not have the strength to battle openly against the others – nor the stealth to shoot and run in the elfish way. Looking at him, diseased, and our lingering wounds, he is right.

We have covered our tracks as best we can. The last was the magic mirror from the ziggurat, and that is now in elf hands, as safe as we can make it. But it is just a matter of time until someone finds a clue elsewhere or finds the Throne by chance. They may not be able to find the Throne, but their blundering around wakens more corruption, more undead, with every day.

Korik thinks the only option is to try to defend the Throne, fighting whoever comes for it. That involves less sneaking around, I suppose. So, a new plan is made. I think it is a bad one, but it is all we have:

The witches believe the tree woman is the key to our salvation, that in time, free of the great white spider, she will weave a slumber back over Symbar. Elven bows will keep her alive. Of that I have no doubt. Our swords and spells and cunning must drive out anyone who finds the Throne.

So that is the plan.
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

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Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #17 on: June 23, 2020, 12:11:36 PM »
Day 29, Morning

A fine night is paid for with an aching head. The last of the portage ale and wine to celebrate a good day and a bad plan. The Huldra and her crew are solemn types, but for those of us who live and die by chance, strength and cunning, we drank and feasted and said fine things about friends living and dead, for we may not get another chance to say goodbye. For tomorrow we battle armies and dracwyrms and may die. This is the life of great heroes, as told of old.

Fresh faces to meet this morning: The Brigo Expedition. Iasogoi Brigo, Orlandor, a magician I did not recognise, and a handful of warriors met us as requested. I had hoped our old rival Dagasto would be there, but no. Perhaps he is part of the Queen’s expedition? I expect to see him here sooner or later, probably with trouble for us. He is a most determined and practical man.

A friendly meeting, all told. We are professional, after all. We exchanged tales of the troubles and travails getting here, and the dangers of this terrible fallen ruin. Brigo has had some success below the canopy and that pleases me, my measure of him is he is a worthy rival. In exchange we warned him of Kantor and the red plague, and news of the Sovereign Oath. They told us a Scorner may be here somewhere. Best avoided.

He claimed innocence when we spoke of the foul ritual of Agramei Kalfas and his sorcerer allies. I believe him. My guess is he is too wise, too steeped in history, to fall to that kind of corruption. He admitted they accompanied him but says they vanished shortly after he arrived. He should be wary of them now, at least. That means with luck, they cannot go back to him – if he trusts my word, of course.

He is ready to leave, he claims, but fears the Queens Expedition will not permit him, permit any of us, to leave this place with the artefacts and knowledge we have acquired. Their forces have suffered but are still considerable: Three quarters of a hundred warriors, with pansars, magicians, sappers, and rangers. More than enough to threaten everyone save the Kantor and his Dead Ship, maybe.

From Brigo’s words it seems this place may be too important to the future of Ambria to let any of us leave alive. For them, artefacts are only the garnish on the main dish, the Throne of Thornes, and the hope it can crush the strife that is wounding the spirit of their people. Those are large stakes to be wagering on the throw of one dice – but there are other games afoot back home we do not see. Prios, dead or living, templars and black cloaks, rivals for the crown. To say nothing of elves and spiders.

As I muse on this later, I do not say I am on one side over another, but I wonder if for all the death that may birth it, this may lead to a better life for them. The world is pushing back, forcing them to return to a balance they have lost with those around them. I have always said their war made Ambria too big, too harsh, too many beneath one will, to live in balance with the world around them. It strikes me they may be happier if their great family broke up. It worked for the clans after all, until the Ambrians arrived.

Day 29, Noon

Brigo had one other piece of news this morning: A new camp, on the south-eastern side of the canopy, where countless little islands peer up from the swamp of lake. Farina was kind enough to take to the wing (a freedom and speed I find myself more envious of each day!) and returned with news: It appears that father Sarvola and the Restorationists have arrived. They are the ‘reinforcements’ that the Huldra has been hoping for, so it would be rude not to introduce ourselves. I am wary of bringing others into our confidence, but the truth is we need more bodies if we are to challenge the other groups and keep them from the corrupted throne.

Ah, priests. It has been too long since I travelled with one, I have forgotten their strange ways and how they must be forever speaking about what is right and wrong in their eyes! He comes on behalf of Duke Ynedar and the kindlier Prios of the Old Gods. He comes, he says, to thwart the power-hungry ambitions of the Crown and Church, to fight the Darkening, and to battle the seething evil that is being awoken by our trespass. All of this he says in that forceful way that priests do, as if his opinion was a truth a certain as the rising and setting of the sun. I have no reason to doubt him as yet. The Huldra trusts him, which says much to his character – or to the Huldra’s desperation, I am not sure.

He is one of us know, and he brings knights and lancers under the command of a white-haired woman called Eliana. Old enough to have fought in Alberethor and lived, which will be useful to use in the battles to come. Aluin was not with him. He comes and goes, says Sarvola. No chance of him moving the throne or destroying it or bringing the whole dome down on top of it then, alas. So much for my half-formed plans.

Day 29, Evening

Lunch with the Huldra, rebels and heretic archpriests and off we went.

A long hike over the canopy, the long way around to avoid the Death Ship and the ever-widening column of smoke rising from the palace. It seems the Oath and templars have ceased their siege and come to true battle. Who has attacked who we could not see, but someone had set fire to the gardens or the canopy.

As we neared our goal, a great roar echoed over the canopy, and the sound of battle was overcome by screams. A great shape rose up, larger even than a dracwyrm, and through my spyglass I saw that it was a dragon – a true dragon, black as moonless night, spewing flame and ravaging both armies! Truly, a rare thing and worth seeing. The others fled down the canopy as swiftly as they may. Only Farina and I dared stay atop and watch.
Greater than it’s sudden appearance was how the battle ended. A figure appeared, clinging upon the dragon’s back and striking with a flashing blade. An elf, surely none other than Prince Eano. He slashed and hacked at the great beast as it rose and thrashed and twisted. The sky crashed as walls were thrown down and ageless spires crashed. Flames made the fallen palace glow like a forge. At last the great beast seemed to throw off or crush the prince, and with a final gout of fire flew off towards the Ravens.

Korik says it was Fofar the Destroyer, a dragon of ancient times and that which slew the bearer of the spear he now carries. So, it lives and is out in the world once more – is there any better symbol of why Symbar is best left alone?

Another problem for tomorrow. We are writing quite a list. Still, a shame. I would rather have liked to battle a dragon. That would be a fight worth many a story and song.

I hope the prince lived, but we cannot help him. Farina tried, sought for him in the wreckage but found only scattered survivors of the templars and the Sovereign Oath. Odralintos still lives, as does the templar leader. And we have a name for her now: Even deep in the forest, Farina has heard of them and knows their visage: Elisabetha, Scourge of Witches.

I cannot help but note that all the witches are here.
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.

The Dan

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Re: Crackbones Expedition Journal
« Reply #18 on: July 06, 2020, 11:36:02 AM »
Technically I have not had the chance to write this yet.... so subject to change. I have tried to write it in a suitably confused manner.

Day 30, Morning

Again and again they came at us, and they died and they died.

Brave men and women of clan Gaur, battering down doors and breaking barricades with axe and hammer. We took them with sword and arrow, with the jaws of Orla and the fangs of transformed witches. Warriors turned against each other in bloody treachery at Farina’s commend; stomachs burst, swole with writhing larvae called forth by Yagaba.

Odralintos exploded in amongst us, rearing up like a giant S to scatter us with his rising wings; leaping, flying, for the Throne. His blood too stained the throneroom floor, even as his broken body spasmed and blighted from the merest brush against the dire and cursed goal. They tried to revive him with potions we smashed, with help we denied him as we killed and killed and killed; we pierced the skull of Grandfather Lind, that was the story of him.

Blood ran down my face, turning half the world to red as I faced Rabaiamon, Chieftain of the Gaoia. Mighty were the blows of his hammer but the emperor’s shield was upon my arm, though he beat it off and made my bones ring with his bludgeon’s thunderous rhythm. He fought to the last, a true warrior-chieftain. His was a good death and I was proud to end his tale.

Brave soldiers of the empire rushed us, bellowing magicians and tough sergeants, and Captain Marvello’s flashing blades. They refused our parley and cried “leave no one alive!” Yet just like the others they died and died. They came with spell and sword and fire-tube; not one of us was unbloodied, but not one of us was bowed. Steel and flesh embraced, Death was throughout the hall, but his hound fear never bit us and never have I felt such pride in my comrades. Our screams and theirs were a single chorus as the wound-flowers bloomed. I remember a glance at one door, and all Sarvola’s knights were down. I remember seeing Bran, kneeling with Crooky’s body in his arms, pressing herbal bandages to a gushing wound. A bear-witch reared up roaring, and I roared in reply, though my head rang, and my legs were unsteady.

Kit rushed their set ranks, fearless and thrashing with her knives, a true hero’s charge. I remember being aflame, fire licking over my hide as I bellowed and followed her, hewing left and right and forcing a breach. I remember Korik crashing down upon their ranks, and the fire of magicians cascading upon Torbjorn as he ran to help. The world become distorted, like a scene viewed from underwater; I remember swaying like a drunkard as the world became simple: Hack or be hacked, kill or die. I ceased to be a thinking creature and became a savage beast. When the world made sense again, they were running. They fled. The queen’s killers turned tail and gave us the ground.

We won.
Dan: A title of honor for respected men, equivalent to Master or Sir. Any of 12 levels of proficiency at the grade of black belt in martial arts such as judo and karate. An expert or expert level in shogi and other such games. He that judges.