Shadows of Esteren

Earrach Feis and Bandit Hunting

Earr 20th, 907 – Earrach Feis (5 days) – Giblean 13th, 908

The group continues to travel to the standing stone so that Demorthen Graenne could destroy the cursed Oghamic stones. They drop by Liam’s briefly, leaving more food with him, Theodosia is still not well enough to travel and the group continues on. With the new year festival of Earrach Feis coming soon the old druid seems to come to the conclusion that she will be unable to destroy the stones and still be able to make it to the festival. With Earrach Feis being such an important event spiritually, supernaturally, and psychologically she decides she must attend the festival in Baile Den-Tur. She leaves her Ionnthen Arlan behind to watch over the stones as she and the rest of the group make their way back to town.

Graenne takes Arlan to the standing stone alone, sets the vessel in which the cursed stones are held at the base of the standing stone, and tells Arlan to keep the stones away from other people at all cost. She says she will return as soon as possible. He sets up camp nearby and begins his vigil.

The Demorthen returns to the group and they set off for Baile Den-Tur. Thanks to the still snowy landscape and cross country travel they get back to town with less than a day to spare. The group reports to the baron all what happened. The castle is a hub of activity.

Graenne thanks the group and splits off. This is her busiest time of year and there is much work to be done.

Colleen makes her way to the chapel. The Temple celebrates Tiraine instead of the traditional pagan Earrach Feis. As a member of the church she has responsibilities she must attend to. Creedon enjoys a night back at his room and prepares to take in as much of the local festival as possible (Earrach Feis is a much more important festival out here in the rural areas and each one have a distinct local character.)

For Balwain of the Woods this years Earrach Feis is a huge milestone. It is his 16th festival and it is the one in which he becomes a man. Afterward he will be able to marry, own land*, start a business, etc. He is also expected to move out of his family home and begin building his own life.

Balwain finds his family at the traditional camping spot they use when they visit the town down near the stream. His mother is frantically trying to get things ready. She hugs him then immediately starts taking measurements. She is readying the ceremonial robe he will wear for the next 5 days. It is the same robe that his uncles, father, grandfather, etc, etc, used during their coming of age. (During this scene we meet Balwain’s sickly younger brother. Hilarious.) Over the next few days Balwain receives many well wishes and many questions about his future. He even receives a whole ham from Tamryn the butcher.

Earrach Feis: The festival of renewal commences the next day. For next 5 days it is neither year 907 nor 908, but a transition between them. Decorations adorn the town, depicting springtime and nature themes. There is ritual and feasting and contests and story telling and merriment and a lot of discussion about the next year’s crops. The baron and baroness mingle freely with their subjects. The baron telling war stories and dirty jokes, the baroness involved in the ladies events (bringing a touch of class to anything she attends). The two magientists of the town have a steaming, whistling contraption set up that has puppets dancing to a crude melody (though they end up fixing it more than running it). The Temple’s major contribution are their carols, sung in beautiful harmony. Over the years the Soustrian influence has slowly come to be accepted by the community and it is now a truly unique part of the local festival. Each night the Temple community retires from the public to perform their own more solemn traditions, on the final day they spend the day at the chapel. Demorthen Graenne is very busy with various rituals and speaking with the people, she is obviously a bit distracted throughout (likely worrying about her Ionnthen). On the final day the 16 year old boys and girls of the village are brought together to take part in the ritual that sees them become men and women. Their robes are gone and now their bodies painted in celtic patterns of blue and green. Each of them make a short speech, thanking their family and community and telling of their future plans. There is some surprise and excitement this year as one of the young men announces he is heading out to Osta-Baille to study medicine. The Demorthen has Balwain speak last, she has kept him close to her during the ritual. He tells of his plans to hunt like his father and to protect the town. During the final rites in which she appeals to the spirits to bless the area and it’s people with good fortune and the strength to endure she has her hand on Balwain’s shoulder. Nobody speaks of it, but it is obvious young Balwain has gained the old Demorthen’s interest.

The festival over and year 908 begins. The town quickly settles back to its normal routine, there is much work to do before the warm weather properly arrives. Graenne immediately gets ready to set out to the standing stone. Balwain bumps into her in town and asks if she would like him to escort her back to Arlan. She is grateful for the offer.

The pair meet with the baron. As they enter he is having a rather heated conversation with the baroness (his anger not at her but himself). He bemoans the foolishness of his “Ramblers”. He says they were overly arrogant and a waste of money. The baroness reminds him of their accomplishments and their usefulness.

The Demorthen (respectfully) interrupts this conversation (she is the only person in the barony who could do such a thing) and tells them she will be off at once. They wish her well.

Balwain, sensing an opportunity, seizes the moment. He respectfully comes forward and offers his services as a potential new Rambler. The baron is more than a bit dubious, particularly because Balwain is but one young hunter. Being a man who appreciates gumption and bold moves the baron decides to give Balwain a chance. If Balwain can bring back one of the bandits that have been seen in the area alive he will make Balwain a Rambler. It is agreed upon. The Demorthen, quiet until now, is also impressed by the move but senses that perhaps Balwain is a bit too brave for his own good. She requests that the Blade Knight Colleen Mac Innes be sent along with him. Everyone is surprised by this request (a Demorthen requesting a Soustrian) but her request is granted (assuming Rector Luciard agrees, which he does). Once the guiding of Graenne back to her Ionnthen is done Balwain can seek out the bandits.

Once out of the castle Balwain quickly goes to try to recruit his new friend, Varigal Creedon. Creedon is readying business to leave town after the spring melt. He has many letters and a few parcels lined up to take to Terkhen (a town which sits at an important crossroads in Taol-Kaer). With the melt still some time away and with some business at the castle still coming together Creedon agrees.

Together again the group sets out once more.

During all this time Arlan has had an interesting time. At first he noticed a lone sparrow that perched on the standing stone. As the days went by it grew more bold, eventually coming down to the vessel housing the cursed stones and pecking at it. Arlan cobbled some branches around the vessel to keep the bird at bay. As more days went by another bird appeared, and then another. Not knowing what else to do the Ionnthen concentrated on the vessel as Graenne had taught him. He did so for a few hours, when he stopped he was relieved to see the birds had gone. Obviously some small bit of influence was still being broadcast from the stones even through the magical vessel. During this time he also, thanks to the commanding view of the surrounding landscape, began to notice the smoke from a campfire at morning and evening. Whoever was making camp was slowly making their way along a stream up toward the road which leads to the Northface Mine. It was a difficult path through the heart of the woods that few would take. It was not a bad assumption that it might be the bandits trying to stay out of sight. Arlan worked hard to create false trails and such around the standing stone in case he needed to make a hasty get away with the stones. He knew their path would take them fairly close to the standing stone (they ended up passing by without incident). Arlan continued to concentrate on the vessel at least a few hours each day and keep an eye for the travelers camp smoke for as long as he could. The one good sign he received was that he spotted a robin during one of the days of Earrach Feis.

When Graenne returned to the standing stone (again, with the rest of the group camped a few hours away) she listened to what Arlan had seen. She told him that he must rejoin his friends as they desperately needed his help. She told him of Balwain’s bold offer to the baron and mysteriously added “there’s something of the Stag in that one.”

Arlan rejoined the group, again relaying what he saw, and they were off in search of the bandits. They soon pick up their trail, which leads directly to Liam’s cabin. Liam tells them that the group claimed to be hunters looking for wild boar (a claim Liam was rightfully dubious of). He said that they were aggressive (insinuated threats, nothing overt) and rude. There were 7 of them. 5 seemed to be farmboys with weapons stuck in their hands, but the other two (the two on horseback) were the leaders and appeared to be people not to be trifled with. Theodosia is still not well enough for the road.

Balwain tracks the other group up to the road which leads up to the Northface Mine. Interestingly the tracks turn away from the mine. They follow the tracks for a time. They eventually lead off the road and up the side of the mountain. It is a perfect spot for an ambush as from up there the road would be visible for a long way in both directions. The group stands on the road for a time discussing what to do next (later they learn there is a blind not 50 feet off the road here, they are surely being watched at this time). The group continues on down the road, careful they are out of sight. They circle back up the mountain and are able to eventually get a view of the other group. They are camped at a location hidden from the road. It appears as if they are set up to stay here a while. With the Spring the road will be more easily traversed and it is during the Spring the mine brings down their copper from the winter’s work. It is assumed this group is waiting for that shipment.

The group heads back to the road and makes their way up to the mine (again, probably being seen as they do it). They arrive at the mine and tell Sergeant Dremmel of the situation. Balwain wants a live bandit and Dremmel wants the bandits out of his area, they agree to help each other. They come up with a plan. The soldiers, Colleen, Creedon, and Arlan will go down the road in a covered wagon posing as the shipment. The Ionnthen will pose as a driver while Colleen and Creedon will have the appearance of slaves pulling the cart. In the back the soldiers will be ready to spring out and attack. They plan to leave in the morning. Balwain will sneak ahead this night and find a good place to snipe with his bow for the next days attack.

Balwain makes his way stealthily down the road. This time however he notices the blind, he sees the steam of someones breath. Being this late at night the watcher is less careful than he could be.

Balwain sneaks around. He makes a bit of sound and frightens the man behind the blind. The man comes out, sword in hand, asking “Is someone there?” Balwain answers with an arrow to the chest. The man blindly charges, and sprouts another of the woodsman’s arrows. Falling back, severely wounded, the man tries to reach for the horn hanging nearby. Balwain stops him.

The man, probably just a man himself as he looks the same age as Balwain, cries and begs for his life. His name is Geoff and he confirms that he is a part of a group of bandits. Geoff tells Balwain that he took up this life just recently. His family’s crops failed last year and he needed money anyway he could get it. “My family is starving.” Geoff is coughing blood and has a sucking chest wound. Balwain patches him up as best he can and decides to return to the mining camp. Geoff simply would not survive the night otherwise.

They get to the mining camp just as the rest of the group is heading out. They bring Geoff in and tend to him (he is unconscious and in bad shape). They discuss the situation.

Dremmel says that now that they bandits know their presence is known they are unlikely to stick around too long (the fate of captured bandits in Tri-Kazel not being good one). He says that with their prize compromised they are likely to get out of the barony as quick as possible and hit any easy targets along the way so that it won’t be a total loss for them.

The group quickly realizes that the bandits know where Liam’s cabin is. It is possible they will hit there first. The Sergeant says they can take one of his men, but he needs the rest to defend the camp. They choose Frank and are on their way back to Liam’s (yet again).

Game concludes.

*technically the Baron owns all the land of Dunn.

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Back and There Again
Game 2

Gearran 28th – Earr 20th, 907

As the group makes its way back from the Northface Mine the weather begins to take a nasty turn. To make matters worse Theodosia is not taking to travelling well due to her injuries, she is pale and spitting up blood.

With a blizzard about to blow in the group realizes they must find shelter. As luck would have it Balwain of the Woods has an older cousin (Liam) that lives in the area. The group makes their best time to Liam’s cabin, almost getting lost in the blizzard along the way.

The trapper Liam is home. He is obviously sick (fever, cough) but he welcomes them in. All except the Soustrian Colleen that is. The War of the Temple was hard on Liam’s family and he would rather see the Blade freeze to death than allow her to stay in his home. Colleen for her part takes it rather well, as if she was used such treatment.

As Colleen heads to the work shed/barn the rest of the group hurry Theodosia to a spot by the stove and make her as comfortable as possible. She soon loses consciousness. The cabin, while very sturdy, is cramped and flea ridden.

Theodosia’s dog, an amiable but untrained oaf, has to be taken out to the shed. Colleen welcomes the extra body heat in her frigid shed (Liam’s mule is also in here).

The group talks with Liam a time. Telling him about the events up at the mining camp. He is shocked and horrified to hear of it. He makes a valiant effort to be a good host but soon falls into a fevered sleep. Arlan fixes some tea and does what he can for the sick and injured then decides to make his way to the shed to spend the night. Showing Colleen that he considers her a companion.

The blizzard roars outside as the group sleeps. In the morning the sun shines and the air is still, the storm has run its course. They decide to leave Theodosia at Liam’s cabin. She simply will not survive the trip. They leave Liam a bit of food (he also warns them he’ll slaughter the dog if need be), borrow a small sled, and are on their way.

The trip to Demorthen Graenne’s cave is exhausting but uneventful (Balwain bags a deer however). Arlan leaves the group at the bottom of the mountainside, in a good camp location he knows of, and heads up to see the old Druid alone.

Graenne is understandably disturbed. Arlan finds out that Teague, the mine’s former owner and the man who used the cursed stones to such devastating effect, was once a prospective Ionnthen of Graenne’s who couldn’t commit to or bear the Demorthen life. She says that together they can destroy the stones, but they must transport it to a local standing stone, a place of power. The Demorthen and her Ionnthen begin crafting a vessel to transport the stones in, a process that will take a few days. She tells Arlan that this is a job for them alone, it is simply too dangerous for anyone else to accompany them. The rest of the group is sent back to town.

(Side note: while camping near the Demorthen’s cave Creedon, while on watch, notices the steam and smoke from his breath occasionally morphs into the shape of a faerie before fading away.)

The group returns to town and reports to the baron. As they wait for their turn they overhear that a local farmer from out along the main road saw a group of 6-8 armed men, two on horseback, traveling across the fields. With spring, and the opening up of the main road, not too far away it is not a poor assumption that it is a group of bandits.

It is the group’s turn to report. They accurately report all that happened up at the Northface Mine. The news hits the baron hard. He mourns the lost men. He is worried for the fate of the mine (Teague’s son is no miner). And he is upset he has lost his Ramblers.

Despite Demorthen Graenne’s warning to stay away, the baron decides to send a group of his men up to the mining camp to ensure the bandits (or anyone else) do not claim it. They are to keep a safe distance until the Demorthen’s work is done, but then they will move in. Balwain is told to stand ready to escort the group.

The group is told not to tell anyone of what happened up there. If they are to say anything they are to say bandits attacked and destroyed the camp. The baron appears to openly wonder if the suspicious group of armed men might be used as a scapegoat.

While in town the rest of the group rests, does some shopping, etc. The Varigal meets with the Sheriff Lannon to report and follow up on his deal. Creedon, perhaps, spills a bit too much information, telling the Sheriff that it was bandits and that they were possessed by cursed stones and turned to cannibals. It is also reported that Theodosia was excessively interested in the office and records of the mining camp (despite her grievous injury). This confirms Lannon’s suspicions.

Colleen reports everything to Rector Luciard. He is very interested. Demorthen powers unshackled seem to turn demonic. He predicts the Demorthen wanted to reclaim them alone (away from prying eyes), Colleen confirms this. He asks Colleen to share her story with the congregation (which she does horribly!) and uses it as a lesson to his flock.

The baroness approaches Colleen about being put on the expedition up to the mine, as a “bodyguard” to the scout. Colleen jumps at the chance. Elbeth gives some comforting words over Colleen’s botched address to the faithful and tells the Blade that her talents for proselytizing lie in her actions.

The day arrives for the baron’s men to head up to the mine and the group of them are away. The Varigal Creedon decides to tag along at the invitation of his new friend Balwain.

Meanwhile, Arlan and Graenne make their way up to the mine themselves. Arlan is a great help to the old Demorthen who would generally not make this trip until spring. Along the way they stop at Liam’s cabin. He is surprised and extremely honoured to have both the Demorthen and her Ionnthen in his house at the same time. Theodosia is still in rough shape, though Liam has helped her along as best he could. She has unfortunately contracted the disease Liam had. The Demorthen treats the two of them with traditional medicine (half ritual, half treatment) and the duo are on their way. Again, leaving Theodosia to get better.

(Side note: dog was not slaughtered for meat. Arlan brought some deer meat with him to give them.)

They continue on and eventually get to the road. They notice a group of men has passed this way not that long ago. They head up to find the group is the baron’s men and the other PC’s. They camp together. During the night Graenne takes a special effort to talk to and learn about Balwain’s current life and family.

The group (except for Arlan) is told to stay behind by Graenne. She and her apprentice head up the trail. The rest of the group refuse to stay behind and decide to sneak after them. The tell the Sergeant that they are going hunting. They are told to take Frank with them, a dimwitted inbred man (OOC: total accidental alignment of name and character, really, for really really).

Graenne and Arlan arrive at the camp. She does some hasty cleansing rituals, but is far more concerned with the stones. Besides, once some good and honest hard working local men come here their energies will slowly heal the area. Graenne studies the cave and the ancient body (more ritual). She explains that it is legend that a mighty Feonda “gifted” the stones to man, a legend she rejects as Feonda are known to attack humans directly. She explains that there are other cursed stones out in the world, each stone or set of stones bestowing a different madness on the people around them.

The stones are deposited in the vessel and the two are on their way. One of them must maintain constant attention to the vessel at almost all times. Graenne does most of this, allowing Arlan to guide her.

On their way out they immediately spot the group, who shouldn’t be there. Arlan gives them a dressing down before Graenne interjects. She knows they did it out of concern. They can accompany them for a time (not too far though as she does not wish Colleen to know the location of the Standing Stone) but they must camp in separate spots. Frank is told to head back to his unit and have them secure the camp.

They all head off toward the Standing Stone where the ritual to destroy the cursed Oghamic stones will take place. They will pass by Liam’s along the way, they hope to pick up Theodosia at this time.

It appears the group may miss the great New Years festival of Earrach Feis as it is only 10 days away.

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A Journey of a Thousand Miles Must Begin with a Single Step
Game 1

Gearran 15th – 28th, 907

The game opens in the town of Baile Den-Tur in the barony of Dunn. It is late winter.

Each of the characters find out that they are to report to Baron Mac Brannain for some errand he wants done.

Theodosia is approached by Jennifer Walsh, the accountant of Lorcan Quigg (the richest citizen in town). Quigg has managed to secure a spot in the group so that he can send someone up to the Northface Mine with offers to buy it. He and Jennifer decided to use someone outside their sphere to try to throw others off the trail of what they are up to. The lone Tarish merchant seems the perfect choice.
Colleen is told that baroness Elbeth Mac Brannain, a fellow Temple follower, has managed to get her a spot as a guard for the group.
Arlan sees his mentor, Demorthen Graenne, return from town only to be told he must himself get to town immediately. Graenne wants Arlan to head up to the Northface Mining Camp to see if the men there need any spiritual services. While she wished to wait for the upcoming festival (and make a better presentation of it) Graenne decides to give Arlan his first Oghamic Stones.
Creedon is approached by Sheriff Gorman Lannon who informs him he will be leading a group up to the Northface Mine. He also tells him that he knows Quigg is up to something and that Theodosia is the person doing the something. He offers Creedon an extra bit of money if he thwarts what she is up to.
Balwain of the Woods is told by the butcher Tamryn that some of the baron’s men were looking for him and that he is to report to the castle in the morning.

Theodosia, Colleen, Balwain, and Creedon go to the castle the next morning. They are told that the baron wants his “Ramblers” back. He sent them up to the Northface Mine Camp a week ago and told them to be back by the new year festival (Earrach Feis). He has since changed his mind and wants them back immediately. He chose this group because they have the skills to survive the trip. Creedon in charge, Colleen to protect, and Balwain to guide (Theodosia not mentioned). As this is going on Arlan is escorted in, tired and weary, and explains that Demorthen Graenne wishes him to go as well. The baroness looks unimpressed but the baron agrees and the group is sent on their way.

On the way out Colleen stops at the temple to receive a blessing for the trip. Rector Luciard does so, but he is not happy about Arlan being a part of the group. He tells Colleen that since Arlan was simply tagging along with the group and not a part of it, as such she was not responsible for protecting him.

On the way out of town the presence of Arlan causes quite a stir. Townsfolk with medical, personal, or spiritual issues come out of the woodwork and ask him for assistance. He helps a few folk (including a sick little boy) but says he must be on his way. Colleen uses the opportunity to tell people that the Temple also provides such services, and that they are always here in town.

The group is on its way. Balwain masterfully guides them through the forests he has hunted all his life. Along the way they begin seeing strange things. Groups of dead birds (of various local species). Starved, ratty, injured, lost feathers, etc. They are always found in a clump. A single ratty old magpie begins following them, cawing incessantly. When they try to approach it it attacks then flies off. They eventually kill and study the bird.

Later they see signs of a battle and more dead birds. A day later still they hear the oncoming rush of a flock of birds. They are attacked by it! The birds continue fighting to the last one.

As they get closer to the mining camp they notice a disturbing lack of local birds. The forest is silent.

The camp itself is surrounded by a 8’ high wooden wall. The approach the gate (locked) and knock. Someone comes from the nearby bunkhouse to let them in. His name is William and he is acting very strange. He is licking his lips and gripping his pick, repeatedly saying “I found them, I found them.” It quickly becomes clear he has completely lost his mind. They find out from William that there are others in the storage barn, as they approach they hear disgusting sounds of chopping and ripping flesh.

Three miners, including the owner Teague Lloyd, come out of the barn when William yells out to them. They as well seem mad. The interior of the barn is horrific. The old and new butchered remains of humans (and some animals) lie all over. Among the fresh ones are a number of miners and the baron’s Ramblers.

Teague pulls a stone from his pocket and studies the group with a hungry eye. He unleashes a devastating magical attack on Theodosia, her left side withers. The fight is on and the group quickly dispatch the remaining insane miners. Theodosia is left grievously injured.

The group explores the area and the mine. Inside they discover that the miners had uncovered an old cave. Inside the skeletal remains of a single person. On the wall, painted in blood, is the picture of a demonic looking Feonda with the body of a snake dropping stones into the hands of a prostrate man.

The Oghamic stones Teague was carrying are discovered to be cursed. They bestow maddening dreams to all in the area each night. It is a safe assumption Teague got these out of the cave. The stones are returned to the cave. The group closes the gates and puts a “stay out” symbol on the gates. Arlan wishes to speak with Graenne on what to do next.

The group sets out.

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