[Actual Play] Ruins of Andresina

I have at least two more sessions to post, which will be done over the following week. Before I do so, however, I need to comment on a peculiarity of the combat rules. Deriving the statistics of a rat, then switching out the Timid quality with Pack Leader, I am creating a rather fascinating scenario where a band of rodents can wreak devastating havoc. Half a dozen pack rats are able to jump into combat with a +30 attack and -9 damage, which is enough to slap a Destrier with six Medium wounds (on average) in a surprise attack; which would be rather horrifying to onlookers as a handful of rodents leap from the shadows and viciously tear out its eyes and most vital veins in seconds.

[center]1241: Wizard War[/center]
The same year, late October, Alfonso's eldest child and apprentice is late by several weeks. She had traveled with a couple grogs on her own for an errand a couple days out. They dig around her place and find several hairs that should still be an arcane connection, using it to pinpoint her location to somewhere in northeast France. After a short hop via flying carpet, they find corpses of the grogs and no sign of Alfonso's apprentice. Gotvinus's array of Intellego spells do detect the presence of a faerie regio, and so they cross over to investigate. After a short walk, they find the wall of a great wooden castle at the edge of a clearing, with a patrolling guardsman among the ramparts.

After a bit of back-and-forth, they obtain entry, where they meet a faerie prince celebrating his recent marriage to Alfonso's apprentice and the subsequent permission to begin moving into the covenant of Andresina until she turns 16, per whatever rules faeries go by that are founded upon their wedding bands remaining whole. Unsure of their capability, the players return home and prepare to sneak back in to rescue the (now) princess. Not sure of where she is, they use the same arcane connection to teleport to her, expecting to arrive in a room in a castle, only to end up in a copse of trees filled to bursting with webbing. Even the sun above is caught by the webbing, halting the natural progression of time, and the nanny (also a Size 4 spider) attempts to deal with the intruders. Scolarus protects themselves by instantly conjuring a stone house, and they consider what to do.

They teleport back home when smaller spiders start creeping into the home. Prokui poofs next to them, demanding why there's a faerie aura growing in the covenant. The players tell them of their trouble, to which Prokui takes the arcane connection, summons the apprentice/princess, destroys the ring, and goes back to his lab in a huff.

If Sanagos was home, he'd yell that the SFX budget was crap

Meanwhile, Ehren is travelling the academic circles in search of talent and interest for tutoring to begin turning Andresina into a school. Two of the grogs joined him partway, the dead ones found from earlier in the session, but Ehren wasn't around for that nonsense. He is quite upset when he returns and the black cloaks stab them on sight, especially since the black cloaks are now sufficiently Warped to not be able to speak above a whisper and their features are blockier.

[center]1242: Roll Call[/center]
Summer rolls around and the magi head for Durenmar for the Rhine Tribunal, except for Prokui, Sanagos, and Scolarus. The first two because they don't care, and Scolarus because he's already there. Several points of order are made concerning legal matters of conflict, namely between Bjornaer. Another one is discussing what should be done concerning the encroaching Mongol horde, who have recently begun invading Poland, forcing several covenants to flee. Out of these, they ask for covenants in the Order to accept inclusion of any of the refugee magi, to which Andresina accepts the inclusion of Eratosthenes of Ex Miscellanea. The most notable point of order is brought up by Archmagus Niger, whose discovery of a member of the Order of Odin deep in the Rhine is of grave concern, voting that the Rhine should be at the forefront in dealing with this enemy Order. This plays to ego of the upper-most leadership, and they begin to deliberate on the need for sending a member of the Rhine to the North for reconnaissance and assessment of the proper response. One of the Bjornaer (the one that gave Scolarus his next mission for the mystery cult) speaks of a good candidate: loyal Bonisagus who is under Oath to disclose all information, a known teleporter, proven intelligence with recent achievement to Master status, and a recent victim of the Order of Odin's incursion and therefore aware of the threat they pose...Scolarus.

Scolarus, who's been planning and putting off on his trip to Norway for his mystery cult for seven years, accepts the responsibility. A journeyman by the name of Disrun seeks a new covenant to live in for a time, along with their personal assistant, an imposing foreign woman named Lynn (which Eratosthenes recognizes as Mongolian). They accept, and the group makes their way back to Andresina. There, the two new magi are given the task of cleaning out the two old and unused labs as their season of service for staying as guests, which they can then use freely while staying. Erathosthenes asks for assistance in setting up a food source for his familiar, as there are enough sentient animals that he'd rather not risk someone important being hunted by accident due to ignorance, to which Joseph agrees to use one of the spare rooms in the central hall's basement to spontaneously conjure two thousand rats through ReAn & spare wheat taken from the silo, with all of them walled within by a ward to prevent escape. Several covenfolk are tasked to periodically refill barrels with water and wheelbarrows with grain so the rats don't starve, and the familiar is free to come down to snack upon the rats.

Later that season, rumour start moving about that one of the villagers is pregnant, and that they're trying to keep the covenfolk (and magi) unaware of this fact. This is of particular note to Gotvinus, as he's been keeping an eye on their reaction when they realize on their own that they are collectively barren due to the longevity ritual; several divorces over the last couple years due to marital strife at the lack of producing a child being the first indications they're noticing. Enchanting one of the grogs into invisibility, they send him on a mission to infiltrate and check in on this pregnant woman who shouldn't be pregnant. That night, he finds her being attended to by several women and a stranger in a peasant's approximation to wandering priest's garb, applying soot to the woman and encouraging everyone in the hall to start dancing in celebration because the woman seems in perfect health while also reminding them that the wizards in their towers don't care and aren't worth the bother. This stranger, red of hair and strange of accent, chooses a happy couple and anoints them, bidding them good favour at conception this evening. Everyone is encouraged to sleep for the night and let the happy couple consumate their love with God's gift in private, leaving him alone in the building but for the invisible grog. He looks at the grog, asks what the high-and-mighty wizards want, disparages their willingness to actually help, and calls for a 450lbs boar to burst through the door as evidence that they won't lift a finger to save him. Acting magnanimous, he permits the grog to leave, as he is more forgiving than his masters in their ivory towers.

The grog returns with the findings, to which the party prepares themselves with invisible black cloaks to make a personal group visit to the stranger the next day. Finding him alone, they have a short conversation; to which Disrun noticed he is incredibly stricken with Warp, and Gotvinus smells an overwhelming number of active spells on his person. Disrun surprise uses her magic to make him more loyal to her than to anyone else. He apologizes for his deception, reveals himself as the younger brother to Boris, who was slain by wizards after Gotvinus reported his findings. He and his family, originally from the Loch Legean Tribunal, at the direction of someone he only knows as The Eldest, have been infiltrating various covenants and instigating strife between members. Third party individuals had been used for information gathering, and his mission was to foster distrust among the villagers to then recruit them to be enchanted to take down the covenant of Andresina. The Eldest was capable of giving anyone numerous supernatural abilities and skill enhancements, with restrictions of various types; his ability to summon animals would be lost if he ever touched meat, his Second Sight would disappear if he ever witnessed God's might (anything magical aligned with Dominion, aura or creature), etc. He agrees, thanks to Disrun's magic, to work with the party, but is suddenly struck dead. Gotvinus examines the body, takes note of the non-hermetic sigil in the enchantments, and they dispose of it with a Christian burial.

And the beginning of the next season, pigs are found dead one at a time over successive nights, exsanguinated and chewed upon by local fauna. The pigs are disposed of for fear of the meat being bad. This is of concern because most of them are barren, making their size smaller with each successive year and the process of trading grown ones with fertile piglets has been slow. They try to trace the wounds magically, but the arcane connection is too old to track. Directing the village to gather all of the pigs into a pen, they set up half a dozen black cloaks with night vision on guard duty that night, with the fertile pigs kept in the covenant proper. That night, one of the pigs lay down, and nobody noticed that it bled out and died at some point. They try again, and this time one of the pigs actually makes a noise; one of the guards notices several rats crawling upon it and going for the eyes as it falls. One of the black cloaks heads for the covenant to tell them of their discovery, while the rest set themselves upon the rats. One rat is killed and one of the Black Cloaks narrowly avoid grievous injury (without the high-end armor, he'd have five Heavy Wounds), the rats take their chances and successfully escape due to their uncanny teamwork. They examine the dead rat, noting it subtly different from a typical black rat; an almost lionlike puft of fur at the tip of its tail and longer, lupine-like legs. As near as they can tell, their normally timid nature had been replaced with an aggressive, pack-hunting (leadership gives huge bonuses, letting half a dozen able to kill a horse in two rounds) instinct. It also showed Joseph Miller's casting sigil, indicating its magical origin. Checking with some of the covenfolk, a number of rats had been taken from the warded room over the season for use in their pits where the kennel master's hounds would kill for sport.

Concerned with highly dangerous potential, they fill the room with fire to kill any remaining rats they know of. Gotvinus then performs some InAn spontaneous magic (using the corpse as a template for knowing what to look for), slathers himself and several black cloaks with his full suite of invisibility magic, and then spends the next several days hunting down every rat in Andresina.

[center][u]1243: Fall[/center][/u]
Time passes, Disrun makes an hermetic discovery, then decides to take a break to read the Ars Fulgrous. Lynn sees a large, pale man with black hair and a spear playing with one of Alfonso's kids. She speaks with him to get an idea of his identity/purpose, as none else is acknowledging his presence and Ehren is nearby going into spasms (Sense Holiness & Unholiness is overwhelming). After some cajoling, the stranger tells Lynn his name is 'Izra'il, boops the child on the nose with a quiet "see you soon", gets up, and says he hopes the little one is still around next time he comes by.

Lynn, unaware of the cultural significance of the stranger's name, calmly asks others about him. Once the name is spoken of, there's an impromptu meeting of what to do. They are concerned about the child, and so Gotvinus bestows advanced InCo on the covenant's physician to examine the child. At this point, they discover there is an incurable ailment within the child that will be visibly symptomatic soon and is going to kill the child in less than a season. Some further investigation reveals that the condition is, in game mechanic terms, an extremely bad aging crisis that will result in death within the month.

It's concluded that detaining Azrael is not a good idea

As they begin passing research over the concern of the Angel of Death making a visit and the realization of the child's oncoming mortality, one of the Alfonso's agents speaks of an Andalusian Muslim recently arriving in Neufchâteau and looking for a woman from his region. Gotvinus, Disrun, Lynn, Joseph Miller, & Miruna head out. Lynn keeps seeing new gargoyles installed on various eves, and four large and imposing (and non-material) demons huddled behind the stranger. Lynn, without explaining, grabs Disrun and leaves the tavern. With Miruna translating, they have a conversation with the stranger (by the name of Hisham), who is looking for Amat al-Mujeeb bint Abt al-Malik, as their family owes him and his a debt. After a bit of conversation, he reveals himself to be a teacher, is a piss-poor Islam (forgot how many times he needed to pray to Mecca, caught himself talking about the flavour of pork, etc). After the conversation, they say they'll keep an eye out for the woman, then go tell Alfonso what they can.

On the way back, aside from more immaterial gargoyles/grotesques along the road, they see a black carriage driven by a black driver, at the edge of Andresina. They send an invisible grog to investigate, who notices that the driver is able to rotate his head 360 degrees. By the time the grog returns to report his findings, the carriage drives off into the woods, and attempts to track lead to the trail literally disappearing partway into the woods (light traces of fae magic). There's some research later that session to reveal it to be one of the dullahan, gathering to collect a passing soul.

When Lynn tells the group about the small grotesques, their infernal lore proves to be good enough to tell them to be minor demons that are typically used as scouts and laborers by real demons. This sets the group on edge, as now they're fairly certain that Hisham is no longer a good candidate for being a teacher in the covenant. But, as he's shown to be casually friendly, they send Alfonso to speak with him for more information.
It's at this point that Hisham reveals himself to be the son of a distrusted family from Almahad, saved by Alfonso's parents when their forces pushed back some hostile Europeans. He had learned some magic from a traveler and his sources told him that one of Alfonso's children is destined to die. Out of obligation and respect for her family, he wanted to avail himself of his services to save the child, and offer himself as a mentor to the child; as the act of saving the child would make it capable of learning his magics. Alfonso politely says she'll consider it and returns to the covenant.

Eratasthones goes to Neufchâteau to learn more about where Hisham is staying, and any other tactically helpful information, only to be approached by a town guard that shifts into Hisham's form when nobody is looking. Eratasthones attempts to fast-cast a spell to escape, but gets slapped by Hisham (failed his Concentration check), who then tells him that he means no harm and is willing to speak peacefully with Alfonso at sunrise at the nearby hill just out of town. In a hurry of fear, Eratasthones skips the pleasantries and successfully teleports away, then runs the rest of the way back to Andresina.

Circling the long way around, avoiding anything resembling a road, they send a team of black cloaks to the opposite end of Neufchâteau in a covered wagon to look as merchants. Just after sunrise, Alfonso flies to the point designated by Hisham earlier, only to see a tower had been built overnight. Cautiously, she approaches in human form, and Hisham answers the door. Keeping the conversation at the door, where Hisham beseeches her to let him save the child, as he feels a great debt to Alfonso's family and couldn't bear to know he could've helped and failed. He admitted to dealing with demons, but quibbled on the definition of "deal", as his faith and magic gives them the negotiation edge of a lashed slave. It's at this point that the black cloaks pop out of the wagon and let loose a hail of arrows (the sound of arrow head on stone heard) while Joseph Miller blasts with magic...only for all of it to bounce off. Alfonso flies away, Hisham closes the door, and the magi/black cloak team beat a hasty retreat at this display of durability.

Later, just as the sun sets, a great storm bursts at the edge of the town of Andresina. Thick fog rolls in, and walking down the road is Hisham along with all four demons seen earlier in their fully materialized form. He approaches the gate and demands for the party to hand over the child so that it may live. Gotvinus declares that nothing is worth the loss of the child's immortal soul, burns a double fistful of vis, and then extremely critically botches his attempt at Peer Into the Mortal Mind; we're talking Final Twilight level botch. Meanwhile, as Hisham looks surprised at the sight, Alfonso tells Lynn she's going to fly off and hide the child away from Andresina. Hisham makes one final ultimatum, to hand over the child when he returns in one weeks' time, or he will be forced to break down the walls himself to stop this murder by inaction. Walking away, Alfonso secretly meets up with him, providing him the child to save it and raise it, on the condition that he never return to Andresina so that none of them risk being discovered and punished by the Order. She then seeks a wild grey partridge over the next day and kills it bloodlessly, bringing it back to the covenant to claim the stress of the travel accidentally killed it (Guile works flawlessly here). A period of burial and mourning is performed, and things begin to return to normal, the rest of the covenant not feeling it a good idea to search for Hisham after losing their best Intellego caster.

SESSION EPILOGUE: After the appointed time of the child's death, Lynn sees Azrael (in the form she last saw him) standing at the edge of the town, looking toward them, shedding a single tear before walking away.

[center]1245: Class Dismissed[/center]
Shortly after the events of the last session, a new magus had joined the covenant in preparation for the upcoming Dandelion Festival, as well as wanting a new place to stay after his last covenant shut down due to attrition (there were two Bjornaer, but they left due to the fact they're opposing factions). He comes off as friendly and right away attempts to make friends with the Black Cloaks by training with them for two seasons while his lab is set up in one of the towers.

Sparring matches come off like this half the time

Fast forward to late April of '45. Ehren has successfully convinced a number of patrons to send their children to Andresina for an education in Artes Liberales, Latin, & Philsosophae; utilizing the resources of himself, Lynn, Elisabeth, and Milo the Scribe. All four of which have teaching qualities of 14+, and therefore offer an opportunity for the students to receive five years of education in only two. It has been a year, and there are now nearly a hundred students receiving lectures and providing Andresina with a large influx of rental income amongst the villagers. Things are looking up until one of the students, Dimarus, began acting up. Dimarus was a mediocre student, relatively calm, 13 years old, and from a money changer family in Neufchâteau. Outside of class, he had hung out with several other Andresina youths, and was encouraged to mess with one of the cats - and ended up with a large scratch on his leg (Light Wound). After a week of bad luck from random things being knocked over, the scratch had gotten infected into a Medium wound, and his language took a turn toward the foul. Out of character, he gave a rather impressive insult to Ehren, which prompted them to suspend him for a few days. Ehren conferred with Joseph, suspecting that the student had become possessed by a demon, but couldn't necessarily tell without getting closer to use his Sense Holiness & Unholiness power.

The two (Joseph & Ehren) took Dimarus to the parish chapel, where Ehren used his Dominion Lore to get a bonus on his Sense Unholiness, and discovers that the student is indeed possessed. A voice emanated from the child not of his own, supposing that they're going to kill him now, at which point the student went into a rage like a cornered rat. With a triple crit, the student killed Ehren, and then got up close and personal to Joseph. Joseph Miller, unfortunately, was not sufficiently good enough at Concentration (EF 9) to shift into a bear and didn't think retreat was likely to succeed; and therefore attempted to defend himself with regular fisticuffs against this young man. By the time a Black Cloak arrived to handle the situation, several rounds later, Joseph Miller had been dealt an Incapacitating wound.

Suffice it to say, Dimarus is handled the same way Brock Samson would handle a minion of the Monarch

The school is essentially cancelled with the founder having been killed by one of the students (who was subsequently killed back), and Joseph Miller was sent to the covenant's infirmary to recover for the season. Over the next week or so, they began to hear of the responding Black Cloak suffering from harassment, bad luck, & occasionally speaking back at people in a normal volume level. Joseph Miller told the other magi that he may be possessed by the same demon from earlier, and gathered the other magi to do something about it. Prokui, not happy to hear of a demon, bound the Black Cloak to a single spot and attempted to spontaneous an exorcise spell which got a demonic laugh out of the black cloak. He then put the host to sleep and tag teamed Sanagos to add a demon warding circle around the black cloak so that it won't attempt to escape elsewhere. Unsure of what to do next, Scholarus brings up the fact that one could go into the Black Cloak's dreams and enter his imagination to directly fight the demon, and if he brought Joseph Miller, his expertise with DEO would be usable. They agreed to this plan, carted Joseph Miller's cot over along with sleeping mats for the others, allowing an adventure into a grog's mind to save him from demonic possession.

There's still technically one session that's happened, where they gathered together and went into the Black Cloak's imagination to stab the possessing demon. Long story short, they saw his nightmares of vampires and turning into a golem, then delved into a dreamscape castle of Neufchâteau, and splattered the demon in a multi-round fight. What matters is this...

[center][size=150]THE END[/size][/center]
And so, the campaign has come to a close. We have lost the player that controls Gotvinus & Alfonso due to real life (moved out of the city). We lost the player for Eratosthenes due to a change in work schedule. The player that controls Joseph Miller and Ehren has expressed difficulty in keeping an interest in the game/system. The player for Disrun is facing a notable increase in their business, so they can't put in the effort to read the books to learn the system nor keep up with the spreadsheets. Therefore, rather than drawing it out any further, I am forced to close this campaign for something else; probably a heavily homebrewed D&D.

That always sucks.
Oh well, best of luck with whatever you come up with next.