Casting Runes 6: A Season for All Things – Session 4 Recap

This post continues the exploration and implementation of RuneQuest 6th Edition for the creation and use of a sword and sorcery campaign setting.

The recap of session 1 can be found >HERE<

The recap of session 2 can be found >HERE<

The recap of session 3 can be found >HERE<

Session 4 was primarily focused on making sense of what they had learned, and accepting a role in doing something about what had happened – for good or ill. While no one is sure what that role should be, or will actually be, the group has at least determined to press on and not surrender to the machinations of Chaos, whatever they might be.

Session 3 had ended with the characters making their way out of the temple and reuniting with other survivors from their caravan. They had learned many things about times and events before recorded or even remembered history of sentient life on the Firmament, and the involvement of Humanity in those momentous events. Closer to their hearts and understanding, they had lost Ferrin to the cruel warping of chaos, and had no idea if they were to be next.

As leaving the temple marked a distinct point in the lives of the characters, Experience Rolls (5) were given (1 for session 1, and 2 per session thereafter). Prior to the start of play, we reviewed the use of these rolls. Gorwyn’s player elected to assign one of his for an eventual increase of the Power attribute, and determine the degree of improvement on 3 skills he had found important in play with the remaining 4 rolls. Wakefield’s player opted to discern how the sailor had improved in five weak areas he felt were used frequently on the pilgrimage. Turged’s player focused on three areas he felt had been important but not effectively employed during the tense points of the exploration of the temple.

Session Four: The Eyes of History

As the two parties of survivors came together and took stock of each others’ situation, the characters soon realized that they had not been alone in facing hardship. The other group consisted of four members of the Order of the Horizon, all of whom were injured to some degree, a single guide, and five fellow pilgrims. One of those pilgrims was being prepared for burial. Gorwyn’s sense earlier on, that something threatening lurked beneath the sands of the area had proven prophetic. A man-sized creature with a broad, toothless, mouth designed for crushing and holding, and a long, sharp tongue with a necrotizing poison gland had set upon the group as they stopped to merge camps. The members of the Order took it down quickly, but not before it could crush and poison one of the pilgrims.

As the characters approached, three young men who had qualified for the pilgrimage via competition in the Games, were attempting to turn the carcass of the beast into an edible meal and fresher meat for the journey. One of the Order was off a ways arguing with the guide. One of the pilgrims, an older man, was resting on one of the wagons, nursing very bloody feet.

Session Recap:

  • Wakefield, ever curious, tried to get close to the Guide, a nomad from the inhospitable steppes across the mountains beyond the northern reaches of the desert, as he argued with the captain of the Order. Despite his efforts, the captain, Ystral, obviously in great discomfort from a long and shallow wound in his chest, kept the pair out of earshot. All Wakefield was able to overhear was a name heatedly repeated twice: ‘Allym.’ Gorwyn and Turged tended to the wounds of their rejoined companions, starting first with the old pilgrim [Heal, Folk Magic], then moving on to the mercenaries [First Aid], and ending up with Ystral. The latter man’s large cut was bleeding despite the care taken to bind and clean the wound. Gorwyn tried to Heal him by laying on hands, but could not get over his fear of the man, and so could not find the focus he needed to complete the treatment. Turged, however, more accustomed to the injuries sustained in battle, was able to dress the wound properly and stop the bleeding [Blood Loss, RQ6 page 108, Special Effect: Bleeding, RQ6 page 145, Fatigue RQ6 page 119].
  • An uncomfortable meal followed, as no one really wanted to recount the horrors that they had seen and experienced, but everyone knew that they must be voiced. Eventually, Wakefield got Ystral speaking about what his group had seen of the storm and had had to do afterward. They group speculated about how many more from the caravan may have survived, but did not like the answers much. They already knew that at least a quarter of their companions were dead. Gorwyn, one of the least talkative among the survivors,under pressure from Ystral’s cold eyes,  found himself recounting the tale of how they found the temple. The sharp questions from the mercenaries soon demonstrated that the order knew about the temple and despite the pain and suffering since the storm, took its discovery as a glad tiding… until they learned of the loss of the Keystone. As the tale went on the sun continued to hang unmoving in the sky, the stone tower which marked the location of the temple casting a long, draconic shadow across their camp as they spoke.
  • The story as they had learned it in the vision was given more context by Ystral, with additional details filled in by Merk, the youngest member of the Order on this journey. He was to be singled out for a solo ride back to Aeden Pass to notify the nearest Chapterhouse of these events. Angry to be taken away from the momentous events he felt would come about in the desert, the young man tried to prove himself by matching his captain’s knowledge fact for fact. His efforts were ignored. According to the Order, the temples were erected to assist in the chaining of the Chaos Dragon. The Desert was a garden in those days, and a huge city, the ruin of which they were to have passed through on their way to the High Temple, grew up around it. Their Order had been searching for the temple for hundreds of years all to no avail for they had been searching in the ruins. Ystral bitterly mentioned having passed by this tower many times in the execution of his duties, never knowing how close to the temple he really was. His final round of questions concerned the store room and whether or not the group noted if the hole was from the bison falling in, or from something else escaping out. No one knew, but Merk confirmed that it had to be a hole opened from below.
  • Gorwyn grew reluctant to share the details of his story when it came time to recount their battle with the Blessed priest. By this point, it was obvious that the Order revered the priests of the temple as some sort of near-mythical band of heroes whose self-sacrifice saved the entire Firmament. He was also loathe to reveal the secret of the amulets they had taken from the bodies of the priests. As he fumbled for words, and as Turged, unused to sensitive communication between humans, described the details of the battle in graphic detail [Influence roll RQ6, fumble, page 106], offending the members of the Order with his crudeness. To drive their contempt home, they shared the story of the Nine and Three Guardians who gave up their mortal lives for a non-life of eternal servitude in the confines of the temple. They told how as the Desert of Diamond Tears (as it was first called) spread and devoured this once plentiful land, the large priesthood and warrior class which had protected the temple was dwindling, its people scattered, its support structures crumbling. They took on a powerful oath before the gods and their dedication was rewarded by the gods sealing the temple away from sight and entry, and granting them eternal, watchful slumber. As Ystral pried more and more details from Gorwyn, it became evident that no sign remained in the temple of the Three who served above the Nine in direct protection of the Stone. Their lot was to remain ever vigilant, in constant contact with the Stone, for all time. No sign of them, nor the Stone, remained.
  • Despite Wakefield’s attempts to redirect the conversation, Ystral talked Gorwyn into revealing the amulets which allowed the opening of the great doors of the temple, and taking his men into the temple to see for themselves. Nothing had changed in the few hours that they had been gone, and the horror of Ferrin’s corpse spoke volumes regarding the stress they had been under while in the temple. Ystral’s men confirmed much of what the group had deduced, and further revealed the meaning of the other runes. In total, the Chaos Dragon was bound by seven rune stones. The Keystone of these stones was Stasis. The others were Shape, Death, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. According to Ystral, with the loss of the Stasis Rune Stone, the Dragon was still bound, but it was once again free to act and command its minions to act above, upon, and below the Firmament.
  • Shamed once again about their misunderstanding of the Blessed priest’s intentions, and guilty for the brutal wounds they gave him, the group returned to camp in a degree of silence. Turged, being stonily ignored, assisted in the funeral rites for the dead pilgrim whose name it turned out no one knew. Wakefield helped prepare the wagons for the journey ahead, and Gorwyn went off to meditate and find his way back into focus and balance [recovering Magic Points, RQ6 page 174]
  • Steadily losing track of the passage of time, the survivors gathered together to set a course of action. Adhering to the tenets of their Order, the mercenaries would not interfere in the planning, except where it impacted on the survival of the pilgrims. That left the pilgrims to decide if they would head on to the Temple of Ascension, where they could get proper aid, and information, and complete the task to which they were called; if they would go to the nearby ruins to look for signs of another guardian temple; or to head back to the civilized lands from which they had come. Their decision, long in coming, was to head for the temple via the ruins.
  • Ystral sent Merk off to find Aeden Pass and report what had happened. Not long after, the survivors got their small caravan of 3 wagons moving and headed to where they believed the ruined city should be. Turged had wondered since the caravan had entered the desert if there were really any signs that was, as some had implied, a link to the ancient lands his people had occupied before being exiled under the surface to cleanse their sins in a never-ending battle with the chaos below. Several days later, he got his answer. In the hard, cold, white sunlight under the coolly glittering crystal sky, the surviving monuments of centuries of erosion showed him familiar forms and faces his people were still carving in the sweltering corridors of their fortress like Deeps.
  • The journey to the ruins was uneventful, although signs of the brutal lizards were abundant. Ystral warned everyone, however, that the city was perilous, and to always be on guard. Natural dangers in the form of sink holes, sand traps, and merciless fauna were plentiful, according to the warrior-sorcerer. Worse, the wandering souls of what he called ‘The Hungry Dead’ were lurking in the dark places, waiting to eat their way into possession of your body. He was thanked for his advice, set to guarding the wagons and inexperienced pilgrims, and ignored. Gorwyn, Wakefield, and Turged then sought out the Street of Temples Ystral had told them of, and began looking for signs that centuries of other travellers had missed. The street was laid out with a trio of temples on one side, then a trio of temples on the other, and finally another trio on the first side. Unlike other such arrangements in other cities, these gave the impression of being 3 different aspects for the same three deities: the All Father, the All Mother, and the Firmament itself. Nowhere in their travels had the humans seen temples to the Firmament, but Turged revealed to them that the temples of fertility and farming that they were used to were closely tied to what they might find within. Needing to start somewhere they approached the central trio of temples, and entered the central temple. Expecting it to be to the Father, they discovered it was more of an amphitheater dedicated to the bounty of the Firmament. With its roof and columns long-gone, the main floor of the temple was like a large bowl, filled with diamond sands. Along the edges, dark, collapsed stairways led to an underground chamber.
  • Gorwyn made his way down while Wakefield and Turged held a rope. At first he called back descriptions of what he was seeing, a mostly empty room with pillars along the outer edge and a large altar with channels carved into it suggesting blood sacrifices. Then, his voice drifted away to silence and he refused to respond to calls. Concerned, Wakefield went down the rope, while Turged braced it. Wakefiled discovered the bodyguard sitting down listlessly, stating, “Nothing matters, it is all hopeless” over and over. The muscular young man simply toppled over when touched by the sailor, not even caring to adjust his balance or sit up. As Wakefield pondered this a moment, a low sound at the edge of perception began to rise like a scream in the distance… was it a scream of fear or of anger? As the torso of a starved-looking wraith manifested before them, with long arms ending in vicious claws, the answer became evident. Anger. [Wraith, RQ6 page 412]  Gripped by unnatural terror [failed willpower rolls for Wakefield and Gorwyn,  Haunts’ Miasma Effect, RQ6 page 407] the two men ran for the rope, pushing and shoving each other to be the first to climb. Above, Turged tried to calm and guide them [Influence] but had little effect calming them. His words did, however, drive Gorwyn back to face the Wraith, leaving Wakefield to try to claw his way out. As a mystically trained warrior, Gorwyn found himself able to harm the wraith with his strikes, but the damage did not dissuade the spirit from pressing its attack, even when the youth shattered the plasm forming its starving face. In short order, the wraith had torn furrows in the flesh of both of his legs, and across his chest [minor wounds] which burned with a dark fire. As Wakefield tried to climb the rope, it broke, dumping him back down with the spirit and the spiritual warrior. The fall cleared his head, and he rushed in to aid the screaming Gorwyn, who was trying to regain his footing [special effects: Bleed, RQ6 144, trip opponent page 149]. Without hesitating, Turged, who had been trying to open himself to bonding with the stone of the temple to aid in climbing down [Adhesion, Mysticism, RQ6 page  226], gave up on the effort and jumped instead [6m, minor falling damage, RQ6 page 118], sword in hand. From the floor, Gorwyn struck a hard blow*, followed by Wakefield’s dagger passing through its torso from behind, and Turged’s broadsword slicing through its upper body as it discorporated into motes and echoes. [*This was the killling blow, but the characters have no way to know or perceive that].

The session ended with the sense that more wraiths were being drawn to them from their uneasy slumber, and the air began to crackle as it does before a lightning strike while the sense of terror continued to build all around them. There was no rope, no easy way out…

 

Session Five:

The fifth session recap will conclude the first stage of events in the campaign and marks the end of our weekday night sessions.

Stay tuned~

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