"Come now my child, if we were planning to harm you, do you think we'd be lurking here beside the path in the very darkest part of the forest..." - Kenneth Patchen, "Even So."

THIS IS A BLOG ABOUT STORIES AND STORYTELLING; some are true, some are false, and some are a matter of perspective. Herein the brave traveller shall find dark musings on horror, explorations of the occult, and wild flights of fantasy.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019


New to Six Seasons in Sartar?  Go back and start here.

Chapter Four

THE HERO (Template)

Begin With: With his or her entourage, a great Hero arrives in the area and sends for the characters (alternatively, the Hero and the player characters might cross paths by chance).  This is not merely some noble or authority; it is a figure on the scale of Sir Lancelot, Gandalf, Elric, or Argrath.  It is someone the player characters have all heard of—perhaps all their lives—that they look up to and respect.     

The Situation: The Hero needs or wants assistance from the characters.  If they are established adventurer types, maybe the Hero needs their skills.  On the other hand, if they are unknowns—as Bilbo was when Gandalf sought him out—it could all be part of the Hero’s long range, inscrutable plans.  Depending on the campaign the motivation could be magic, destiny, the will of the gods, or the Hero’s own intuition.  Regardless, the Hero needs their cooperation.  The rest falls under the standard “Quest” type scenario.  The Hero is seeking some MacGuffin—a device, artifact, relic, or even individual—and needs the player characters along.   

Characters: The Hero, plus one or more of the Hero’s usual entourage.  Most of the player characters’ interactions will actually be with the entourage characters…not the Hero himself or herself.  They will be interacting with the Argonauts, not Jason.  The Hero should be kept aloof and distant, except for the initial and final scenes.

My inspiration for the portrayal of Heroes here comes in part from the Girl Genius web comic.  Without going into two much detail, Girl Genius is a Victorian “Gaslight Fantasy” setting where “Sparks” walk amongst normal men and women.  “Sparks” possess the “spark of genius.”  They are mad scientists like Victor Frankenstein, Captain Nemo, or Dr. Moreau.  Because they think and act on a plane so much higher than the rest of us, their actions often seem “mad.”  At the same time their genius gives them immense charisma; they attract worshippers, followers, henchmen.  But because their eye is on something the rest of us cannot even see, they often seem oblivious to the lives of those around them.  Other inspirations are the Doctor, of Doctor Who fame, especially at his most manipulative and callous (looking at you, Sylvester McCoy), Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, and Jim Gordon’s “he’s too big” speech to Yindel in The Dark Knight Returns

Short Term Goal: The Hero is looking for the MacGuffin.  

Long Term Goal: The MacGuffin is essential to a life-long goal.  It will help the Hero defeat his or her Archnemesis, liberate the kingdom, save the world, etc.

Scenes: The player characters encounter the Hero, by chance or by summons.  They are informed the Hero needs them to join the Quest.  “Informed” is the key word; the Hero clearly expects them to comply (Heroes are not used to hearing the word “no.”).  This should lead to complications.  The player characters have other obligations, duties, a life to lead, etc that they cannot just drop and leave behind.  The tension is that this is the chance of a lifetime.  Roleplay this decision making as much as you feel you need (or skip over it if you want to get on with the action), but make time a crucial factor.  They need to set out immediately.  

Once the band sets out, include a scene that makes it clear the Hero has no intentions of “hanging” with the player characters.  They deal with the entourage instead.  If the player characters want to communicate with the Hero, someone in the entourage takes the message and returns with the response.  Establish a sort of “wall” around the Hero, a sense that he or she is different from mere humanity, existing on some higher plane.  The entourage almost act as priests interceding between the Hero and humanity.

Along the way, you will need a scene to show how badass the Hero is.  There is a danger in this—a roleplaying game is about the characters, not the NPCs—so keep the camera focused on the characters and their response to the Hero’s badassesness.  If the characters are weak and inexperienced, this could be a “stand back, I will take care of this” moment.  If they are more capable, the scene can play out more like the Mines of Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring.  The characters have lots of enemies to fight, but when the Balrog appears, the Hero takes care of it.  Once this dramatic struggle is over, the Hero goes back to not noticing the player characters exist.

Eventually the party gets where it is going, and it is time for the player characters to “do their thing.”  This is Bilbo sneaking into Smaug’s lair, or Medea putting the dragon to sleep for Jason.  Make sure the scene is tailored to the player characters’ backgrounds and strengths; there must be a plausible reason why only they could do this.

On the return journey a final scene should make the player characters all question their Hero worship.  The Hero has the MacGuffin, but the entourage encounters another group that puts possession of it in danger.  This could be someone sided with the Enemy…however if it is it should be someone the Hero clearly outclasses.  The Hero’s utter defeat of them should almost seem like bullying it is so unfair.  Or it could be a random group of innocent bystanders that the Hero decides to silence to keep the MacGuffin a secret.  It could even be someone that puts the player characters in danger or makes returning to their normal lives complicated (this is the choice Starbrow follows below).  The important thing is that the player characters emerge from the experience with a very different perception of the Hero, or Heroes in general.    

Conclusion: The goal of this episode is to shake the way the player characters look at Heroes, but it can also make a good turning point in the campaign.  Going on this journey can have long-term repercussions (Bilbo falling under the spell of the Ring, Frodo never recovery from his Weathertop wound, etc) that make it difficult or even impossible for things to go back to the way they were before.  This again drives home the danger of the Hero, that even encountering them disrupts lives and changes things forever. 

Chapter Four

This week’s Focus Character is Kalliva Kalessasdotr, whose Dragon Mark is the center of the story.  The Subplot Character is Beralor Harvarrson, who learns something of his origin and possibly his fate.

The Situation: Queen Kallyr of Kheldon, the Starbrow, has come under the cover of darkness to Black Stag Vale.    

Begin With: Clay Day, Stasis Week, Dark Season, 1619.  Winter has fallen on the Vale.  The pale Sun, flickering and weak, sails rapidly across the sky, each day shorter than the one before.  Even at noon he barely lights the sky; a dark blue that fades to black on the horizons, the stars faintly seen.  The nights are bitter and black, with howling storms that claw at the door and tear at roofs.  Snow piles high.  Few venture in or out of the Vale, and never after sunset.  The mood inside the cottages and longhouses is somber as men brood over the war and women console crying children. The Crimson Bat has crossed Sartar leaving madness and terror in its wake.  They say it is now headed for Whitewall, where surely its awesome power will break the siege and Broyan will fall.

In the weeks since the events of Harvest, the player characters have not seen each other, forbidden from doing so;

Start with Kalf.  He has been having re-occurring nightmares.  They are always the same.  He is having one now.  He sees his father, alongside hundreds of other men, on a battlefield.  As he watches, helpless, the Lunar legions advance upon them, their magicians raining down red meteorites from the sky like bombs.  In sickening close-up, he sees his father impaled on a Lunar pike, turning to look at Kalf while blood bursts from his mouth in a river.  But this time the dream is different; this time a hand falls on his shoulder and he turns to face a tall woman.  He cannot see her—she is just a black silhouette against the night sky—but in the center of her forehead burns a white hot star so bright it sears his eyes…

He awakes, screaming.  His mother there.  What does he do next?  Clearly he is seeing his father’s death in Starbrow’s Rebellion, but why?

…skip to Leika Faransdotr.  She also comes awake in the night, the wind howling around her father’s cottage.  She is not sure what woke her.  The fire in the center of the room has gone almost cold, red embers under gray ash.  Her father sleeps on his mat in the corner.  But…she realizes with a start he is standing right there beside her, staring down wordlessly at her.  And yet…something is different about him, wrong.  The tattoos on his skin are moving, slithering almost like snakes.  His eyes are empty and black.  He is holding his hands out to her, holding a broken deer antler.

She realizes it is her father’s Fetch…but it is trying to communicate something to her, instead of him.  This has never happened before.  It cannot speak to her—her connection to her Rune is not strong enough—and will vanish shortly after.  What does she do?

…and finally skip to Kalliva Kalessasdotr.  It is now the morning of Clay Day.  She is wordlessly washing breaking of the fast dishes in a wooden barrel in the presence of her mother, who barely has said a word to her in weeks.  There is some commotion and voices at the entrance to the longhouse.  The chieftain has sent four of his weaponthanes, lead by chief weaponthane Jorgunath Bladesong, to collect Kalliva.  She is to come to the Hall immediately. 

The Hall

Kalliva has been in the Hall of Gordangar before under tense circumstances, but never before like this.  She feels it the moment she comes through the door—a charge in the atmosphere, an electricity.  Gordangar and his entire Ring are assembled at the table at the end of the hall.  Kalliva can see her friends gathered before them.  Yet there are strangers here too…and though they are standing before the Ring it is somehow clear to Kalliva they command greater authority.  The Ring almost looks like nervous children before them.

Kalliva is brought before them, and the leader of this other group, a tall woman in a hooded, fur-trimmed cloak, turns to look at her.  She takes a few steps towards Kalliva, staring down at her.  “This one has the Moon in her eyes,” she says to no one in particular.  Then to Kalliva; “Show me the Mark.  Show me your hand.”

After seeing the Mark (or after Kalliva refuses to show it), the woman lowers her hood, and the star burning in the center of her brow throws pale light across the Hall.  All of the characters will know her.  It is Kallyr.  The Starbrow.

Play out their reactions however you like.  The tone this story tries to set, however, is something similar to Jesus and his disciples entering the room, or Arthur and his Round Table.  At this stage in history, Kallyr is widely believed to be the “Argrath” or “Liberator” of prophecy, the one who will deliver Sartar from the Lunars.  

Soon their parents will be brought to the Hall, and Starbrow will address the assembly.

She first introduces her companions.

First she introduces her Healer, Ernaldesta of the Elkenvale Clan. A head shorter than Kallyr, she is a priestess of Ernalda the Binder, and the “glue” that holds Kallyr’s Companions together.  Kallyr is the soul of the Companions, and Ernaldesta the heart.  This story also portrays her as Kallyr’s lover and closest confidant (Kallyr has vowed not to marry, and Ernaldesta is content merely to provide the Starbrow with the strength and support she needs in her struggles.  Ernaldesta serves as the primary intermediary between the characters and Kallyr in this tale.  

The next to be introduced is her Porter, Orngerin Holdfast of the Greenhaft Clan.  Orngerin is a Storm Voice of Orlanth and the voice Kallyr listens to most in matters of campaigning, strategy, and planning.  It is clear from the way he looks at her that Orngerin is in love with Kallyr, and he is fiercely protective of her.  If Ernaldesta is the “Mary Magdalene” of the Companions, Orngerin is the “Peter.”       

Next comes her Scout, Orlaront Dragonfriend of the Jerending Clan.  He is unlike any Orlanthi the player characters have seen.  Lean and wiry, taller even than Kallyr, he wears no beard and his head is completely shaven…even the eyebrows.  Over his traditional clan and initiation tattoos he has added an intricate overlay of slithering patterns and draconic symbols…these almost seem to move of their own volition.  Most disturbing are his eyes, which are the color of pale jade.  Orlaront’s weird appearance his offset by his jovial and mirthful nature (one of his titles is the “Laughing Singer”).

Next is her Watchman, Insterid Fire Eyes of the Black Rock Clan.  Another Vingan, she gets her name from her smoldering amber eyes which almost flicker with inner light.  She is remarkably keen-eyed, and is always the first to spot danger.

Next comes her Fireman, Randella Offirsdotr of the Black Rock Clan, her Waterman Elmalandti Wildstorm of the Blue Spruce Clan (a Stormwalker and powerful shaman), her Cook Olende Endalsson of the Squat Oak Clan, and her Singer, and her Singer, Oranda Laugh-or-cry of the White Oak Clan.  These are more background characters in the story, and will have less to do with the player characters.

Finally she introduces her Caster, Minaryth Purple of Jonstown.  A Lhankor Mhy sage, he wears a long gray beard, carefully braided, and is dressed in robes of deepest indigo.  These were a gift from the Uz, and he is counted as a Trollfriend.  He bears a staff of white oak, extremely straight, and carved with Runes.  This is the Lawstaff he won at Arrowmound, giving him perfect authority to settle disputes.    

Once the niceties of introductions have passed, Kallyr gets straight to business.  

“THE LUNARS have sent the Crimson Bat to Whitewall.  In its passage across the mountains of our land, hundreds of our brethren died to feed its hunger.”  She pauses, her gray eyes holding the gazes of the Clan Ring and the player characters in turn.  “There is no rest for those given to the Bat.  There is no release.  They do not return to the Earth.  They do not go to the Halls of Orlanth.  They remain eternally damned in the belly of that beast.”

She pauses again, the stone blazing in her head almost harsher and brighter with her rising fury.  “This filth, this abomination, is not the first or the last of the injustices Shepelkirt’s slaves have done unto us.  Their false missionaries and falser gods spread the stain of Gbaji among our people; they have extinguished the great flame that was the heart of Sartar and put a puppet on the throne.  Their granaries and coffers overflow with the wealth our clans produce, taken in taxes meant to punish and demean.  They rape our land.  They rape our clans.  They rape our women.”  As she says this last bit she has turned to stare at Kalliva.  

“I will not have this.”

She holds Kalliva’s gaze a moment before turning back to the Ring.  “I will no longer allow this.  I will end it.”  She steps closer to the seated Ring.  “I was there when Boldhome fell.  You were there, Gordangar son of Kenstrel.  You were there, Jorgunath Bladesong.  You were there, Harvarr son of Horvik.”  She stares at each in turn, Beralor’s father last.  “So you will hear my words and you will understand their truth.  That foul day the Bat came against the city, and none of us would be here to remember it if not for one thing.  One thing.”

She pauses again.  “That day a Dragon came.  A Dragon came and drove the Bat before it.”

After another pause she continues.  “Orlanth is dying.  You can feel it in the wind.  You can smell it in the air.  This is Shepelkirt’s design.  Five years ago her troops desecrated the Hill of Orlanth Victorious, and for that I bathed it in their blood.  I tried to liberate our people then.  I…” she pauses, and looks at Kalf a moment, “…failed.  I failed because we do not consort with demons.  I failed because we are not the slaves of a witch goddess.  I failed because, in order to liberate our people and pull bloody Shepelkirt screaming from the sky, we need greater power.  We need another Dragon.”

“After many, many heroquests and many sacrifices, I have managed to find us one.  It slumbers and cannot be woken yet…because it is missing three pieces of its soul.  These were stolen by the Empire of Wyrm Friends and those who turned from the Old Ways.  I will find these pieces and return them to the Dragon.  I will wake it.  I will turn it against the Empire.”

“One of those pieces lies locked away in a temple high on the slopes of Kagradus, just outside of this your Vale.  I have found this place…but it remains locked to me.  Fortunately, we already have the Key.  It has already been found.”

At this point the eyes of Kallyr and all her companions turn to the player characters and Kalliva.

Kallyr explains now that she will take Kalliva and the other youths back to the Temple they discovered.  The mark on Kalliva’s hand will open the sealed door there.  She doesn’t speak in “I thinks” or in polite “if you help mes,” but rather in commands.  The mark will open the door.  I will take the children.

AN OPTIONAL ROLEPLAYING TWIST: Since the player characters are still youths, they have little say in the mater, but by now they know the characters of their parents well enough.  Ask each player to take on the role of one of their parents for this scene.  What do they say?  Do they try to refuse?  

In the end, of course, Kallyr is not the type who takes “no” for an answer…not when all that stands between her and driving the Lunars from Sartar is a group of children.  Role-play the scene out.  The optimal result is for the parents to agree.  Gordangar cannot order them (No one can make you do anything), but he will lean heavily on the parents to allow this.  

If they refuse (leave the decision up to the players), Kallyr will literally abduct the children that night and take them anyway.

The Forge

This scene has nothing to do with the main plot, but instead on Beralor’s character development.

That evening, in the middle of their meal, Harvarr looks up at Beralor.  The pair have barely spoken since the events of The Harvest, but Kallyr’s appearance has affected him deeply.  He is clearly troubled.  If it has been agreed that the children will go with Kallyr, he is worried putting Beralor’s life into her hands.

“The woman is dangerous,” he says abruptly, setting down his eating knife.  “I have seen this up close.  She will stop at nothing to free this kingdom, and others have a habit of dying for the sake of her cause.”

At this the smith rises from the meal in a fury and storms out of the house.  “Let him go,” Affar says to his son.  “He is worried for you.  He is always worried for you.”

Roleplay this out, but in essence, Affar has decided that it is finally time for the truth.  “Of late I think his fear for you is killing him.  And I think it is time you know why.  You know, of course, that you are not the son of my body, nor of his…but you are Harvarr’s blood.  His dearest blood.  Your mother was his sister.”

Affar uncharacteristically opens a bottle of Clearwine and pours himself and Beralor a cup.  “She was a beauty, your mother.  But a fragile creature.  A sensitive girl.  Your father was always her protector.  He shielded her from the world.  But after Boldhome fell, something in your father was broken.  His father had been a smith, but Harvarr broke with him to become a warrior.  That terrible day in Boldhome changed this.  He put away his sword and his spear and camped out on the doorstep of the Dwarf Mine, petitioning the smiths there to learn him in their craft.”

“While he was gone, it happened.  His sister—your mother—was raped.  It left her mind shattered, that poor girl.  She couldn’t speak of her attacker, only humming and singing to herself.  Harvarr returned immediately.  He sacrificed every cattle he had for divinations to unmask her attacker.  He vowed to kill the man.  But the answer was always the same…the gods could not see.  Could not see.  At first Harvarr didn’t know how such a thing was possible.”

“But Gordangar had brought home with him a Bonded Trickster, Keladon Blue-Eye.  And if anyone could commit such a deed and hide it from the gods it would surely be a Eurmali.  Harvarr always suspected, but could never prove.  It still eats away at him.”

“Your mother took her own life after you were born, and we took you.  Harvarr swore to raise you firm and straight as a blade, fearing a Trickster’s blood might flow in you.  He loved you, but didn’t want you to become anything like the man he suspects is your father.  He wanted to smother that part of you.  This is why your disobedience has shaken him so.  To my mind, all boys your age must be disobedient.  Orlanth is said to have been.  But he sees only the Trickster’s taint.”

What does Beralor do with this information?  Play out the scene and then move on.

The Slopes of Kagradus

Before dawn the next day, Kallyr, the Companions, and the player characters are marching for the slopes of Kagradus.  Much of the tone of this will depend on the circumstances; are the PCs willing participants or dragged along by force?

Kallyr will not speak with the characters.  She is as aloof and distant as a star in the night sky.  She has given orders that the youths are to be armed, however, and armored.  For the first time in their young lives they are fitted with leather hauberks and skirts, with bronze greaves and vambraces.  They have shields and spears.  Kalliva will have her uncle’s sword.  

The Companions will be the ones they interact most with.  Roleplay this as you see fit.  Ernaldesta sticks closest to them, making certain they are warm enough, checking to see if they need food or rest.  In essence, mothering them.  Other interesting opportunities are;

Orlaront will wish to converse with Kalliva about the Mark, the temple, and why she reached for the gold key in the first place.  As someone steeped in Draconic mysticism, she might have questions to ask him as well.

Elmalandti and Leika might converse.  Like her father he is a follower of the Kolating Tradition, but far more more powerful.  She may be curious about his craft and his magic.

Orngerin might speak with Kalf.  He knows Kalf’s father fought and died in Starbrow’s Rebellion and might even have known him a bit.  This is a chance to sound out and role-play Kalf’s feelings about Starbrow.  Does he hold her responsible?  It will contrast with Orngerin who clearly worships her and believes everything she does is for a greater good.

If other combinations arise naturally, play them…but it is crucial they do not speak to Starbrow.

They are basically retracing their steps from the first episode, The Sons of Orlanth.  The ascent this time is harder, however.  A blizzard lashes wind and snow into their faces as they fight their way up the frozen slopes, and the dim light of the weak Sun provides little visibility.  Have each character make a Simple Contest against a Moderate Difficulty to see the effects the exhausting climb and brutal conditions has on them.  After this roll, night will fall and they will make camp.

The Hollri

The attack comes in the blackest depths of the night.  It begins with a bitter wind lashing at the tents and lean-tos, and a wave of cold that extinguishes all fires and turns the night as black as pitch.  Insterid cries out immediately and blows her horn to rouse everyone.  “Something comes from the woods!”

There is the sound of trees snapping like twigs as the wind howls louder and louder.  What emerges from the dark is a towering horror like an animated block of ice.  Its massive limbs end in razor-like icicles for claws, and its eyes burn with frozen fire.  “Ice Demon!  Hollri!”  Insterid shouts.  The Companions immediately move against it while Ernaldaldesta guards the children.

Unfortunately they cannot all be protected.  With the Hollri have come a pack of winter spirits, swirling pillars of blowing snow and ice.  Each character will have one to fight while Ernaldesta aids them and holds off several of her own. The winter spirits fight with lashing blasts of ice and snow, burning cold, and frozen air that sears the lungs.  They can be injured with physical weapons, however, by attacks made against their icy, hazy bodies.  Each should present the player a High Difficulty.  This is not the climax, but is dramatic enough for Extended Contests.

Meanwhile, the Companions tackle the Hollri.  As their own combats end the player characters turn to see the demon raise its massive arms and then bring them down into the earth, shaking the ground below their feet.  An avalanche comes roaring down the mountain swallowing the Companions up.  The last thing they see is Kallyr alone against the demon, the white star in her forehead burning brighter than the sun.  As the snows come down on the player characters, Ernaldesta raises her arms aloft and cries out the the goddess, raising a wall of stone out of the mountainside to shield them.

The Dragon Temple Revisited

Partially buried, but saved by Ernaldesta’s magic, the player characters are rapidly dug out by Kallyr and her Companions.  She looks first to Ernaldesta, fiercely, and there is something in the exchange of looks Beralor recognizes (it reminds him of his fathers).  “I knew you would keep them safe,” is all she says.  Then she is off again as her Companions pull the children out.

When dawn arrives she insists on finishing the ascent.  If the player characters are injured, Ernaldesta will heal them.

Before noon, they arrive at the same temple the players discovered in the spring.

In the face of a sheer cliff, the shadowed entrance of the temple burrows into the rock face, five men high and three men wide.  A columned portico juts out of the cliff over the door, carven with entwining dragons and the Dragonewt Rune.

Inside the temple it is warmer than expected, chasing the bitter cold of the mountain air from their bones.  The walls of the entranceway are intricately carved with the same motif of intertwined dragons (most resembling dragon imagery from China or Persia in our world).  There are dragons under the sea, dragons beneath the mountains, dragons amongst the clouds, and even dragons wending their way between the stars.  

The entrance passage is high but not deep, extending straight forward for about five meters before opening into a vast, cathedral-like room.  Four great pillars, each with a stone dragon coiling all the way up around it, hold up the ceiling.  There is a massive bronze sheathed door set in the wall opposite the entrance, also dragon carved.  In the four corners of the room, vents in the floor hiss steam…there must be natural hot springs beneath this place.

In the very center of the room is an altar carved from a massive piece of milky green stone.  At its corners are bronze statues of robed men kneeling in meditation or prayer.  They will remember this as where Kalliva grasped the Dragonewt Rune.

Kallyr will direct them in the direction of the bronze door against the back wall.  “The Mark on your hand will open it, Kalliva.”  These are the first words she has spoken to the children since setting out.

By laying the palm of her hand on the door, Kalliva feels a great tremor run through it.  There is a grinding some, and the temple shakes.  With a hiss the door begins to rise, sliding upwards into the ceiling.  As the shaking stops, a curious silence falls over the temple, a stillness.  

Beyond the door is a smooth wall of polished black glass or obsidian...except it is not.  As they all watch, the surface of this wall ripples and flows as if some kind of liquid.  Whatever it is, it drinks in all the light.  They cannot see the light from the entrance in it, nor their own reflections.

Undaunted, Kallyr strides forward and raises her hand to push through it.  The moment her palm touches the surface, however, it flares and angry red, and there is a roar like that of a great beast.  She withdraws, staring.

“Starbrow,” Orlaront says.  “This is Dragon Magic.  Let me try?”

She nods and Orlaront approaches the door, hissing and speaking words of Wyrmish.  But when he touches the surface, the same thing occurs.  He jerks his hand back, narrowing his eyes.  After a few tense moments of silence.  He begins to laugh.

“I fail to see the humor in this,” Starbrow says.

“Those who built this temple, and stole the Dragon’s soul, were mystics of the Auld Wyrmish Imperium.”  Orlaront answers, still staring at the inky blackness.  Those who walk the Draconic Path seek the Void...the timeless perfection beyond creation, beyond the world, beyond existence.”

“I do not need a lesson in the ways of the Wyrm’s Friends.”  She answers.

He nods.  “Forgive me, Starbrow.  I only meant to say, that in order to pass beyond the world, they practiced detachment.  They renounced everything binding them to Glorantha.  You and I are too tightly bound to this world...bound to our vows, our nation, our gods, our Runes.  We cannot pass.  To go beyond this barrier you must have a clean slate.  You must have a state of purity...of innocence.  Bound to neither god nor Rune.”  He turns and looks at the player characters.  “It always had to be them.”

Kallyr immediately turns her gaze on them, taken aback.  She is not pleased to have to leave so critical a stage of her HeroQuest in the hands of children.  She will ask them if they understand what they must do.  

“You will pass beyond this barrier into the inner sanctum.  There is a vessel there.  It contains the first piece of the Brown Dragon’s Soul.  You will be tested there.  You will not fail.  You will bring the Breath of the Dragon to me.”

The Inner Sanctum

As Orlaront suggested, the barrier allows the children to pass.  They slip through it as easily as diving into the surface of a lake.

Inside is a great round chamber, a row of columns along the walls supporting a domed ceiling.  These columns have stone dragons coiled around them.  The floor is a mosaic map of Glorantha, surrounded by an encircling sea.  If they could read, they would see it shows the empires and kingdoms of the Second Age, not the Third.  Overhead the dome is painted like the night sky.  This they can read, they have been reading the stars all their lives.  They notice two oddities.  First, there is no Red Moon.  Second, the constellation of the Dragon stands out brighter than all others, and at its nose is Orlanth’s Ring.  But this Ring shows eleven stars, rather than the actual eight.

In the center of the room, on a slender pedestal, stands a crystalline cylinder, the size of a medium sized amphora.  Its ends are capped with a gray metal that tantalizingly might be iron.  Inside the vessel swirls a weird green-blue light.  The radiance from this illuminates the room.

Kalliva realizes it is whispering to her.

Where the end meets the beginning
Where Ouroboros swallows its tail
Neither light nor darkness
Law nor Chaos
Knower or the Known
Here the Path of Right Action winds

After Fire meets Water
After Life meets Death
After Male meets Female
Comes the Silence
The mirror of the Void
Here the Path of Right Action winds 

In that breath before
The Word is spoken
In that moment before
The Choice is Chosen
Here is the mirror of Infinity
Here the Path of Right Action winds

The player characters will each then be assaulted with visions.  These are tailored to each character and suggest hints of things to come.  The correct option for each is to do nothing.  At least one character must chose this option in order to win the Breath of the Dragon.

If they succeed, they bring the vessel to Kallyr and will become legends among the rebels of Sartar.  Consider it a Major Victory, and as their legend spreads they will receive a +6 bonus to dealings with the rebels or Kallyr Starbrow.

If they fail, Kallyr’s fury will be cold and bitter as ice.  She will continue on and eventually find another way, but will not look favorably upon the characters if and when they cross paths again.

Either way move on to the final scene.

The tests are;

Kalliva:  She sees before her two massive oval gateways or portals.  They are mirrored and glassy, but smolder with inner light.  As she watches the portals, in the one to the right, a man begins to appear.  He is a Lunar officer, tall and fair.  He seems somehow familiar to her.  As she watches, she sees her aunt, the Vingan rebel  Korolmara enter the scene and embrace him passionately.  They kiss.  Meanwhile, in the one to the left, another image plays.  Here she seems Korolmara turning over an infant to his sister, Kallessa.  A voices hisses in her ears.  Chose!  Both portals now begin to close, and she realizes they were never portals...they are the eyes of a massive dragon, and she stands before them on the bridge of the monster’s nose.  Before they close, does she chose left or right, or does she do nothing and let them close?  

Leika:  Has the same experience.  But in the right eye of the Dragon she sees herself soaring aloft in the skies, born by wind spirits.  She is raining lightning down on a Lunar army below here.  Other Orlanthi, riding the storm, are with her.  In the left eye she sees a black wolf with golden eyes, running at the head of a pack.  Beside it runs a white wolf with blood red eyes.  Lunar soldiers flee in terror before the pack.  Chose!

Kalf: In the right eye Kalf sees himself with Estrala.  She is healed.  They are are a fam together, and a boy comes running towards them.  Somehow Kalf knows this is his son.  The sun is shining.  The fields are ripe.  They look happy.  In the left, he sees a barren desert.  A caravan is crossing it.  Strange men lead a line of collared slaves through the dust.  One of them stumbles and falls.  It is Ashart.  Chose!

Beralor:  In the right he sees it...terrible, filling the sky.  Its matted fur crawls with ticks the size of sheep, its wings beat the air and cause the earth below to tremble.  The Crimson Bat keens its hellsong, throwing weird crimson radiance across the night.  Then he sees inside the beast...in its belly Those it has devoured suffer the torments of the damned.  There he sees Harvarr, half digested but never dead, screaming in endless agony.  In the left, he sees bodies torn and bleeding in the desert dust.  Foul beings, hooved and furred, with the heads of beasts, paw over the goods of the Lunar merchant they have murdered.  They are the Broo.  Nearby, other Broo lick and paw at two slaves they have taken captive.  One of them is Affar.  Chose!

The Fury of the Starbrow

The journey down the mountain is uneventful.  Use it to deal with the consequences of the previous scene.  

They return to the Vale, taking the children back to the Hall.  Snow is falling, obscuring even Insterid’s vision.  This is why she sees too late.  Before she can even cry “ambush” the Lunar garrison rises around them, grossly outnumbering them.

“Kallyr of Kheldon, called also the Starbrow.”  A voice comes out of the snow.  As the figure emerges they see it is Yolanva Saedrius, the officer from the first episode.  “We had know, of course, that these mountains were a hotbed of terrorist activity, but imagine our surprise on learning the famous exiled Queen was headed here.  I scarcely believed it.  Reports had you in Whitewall.”

The Lunars have arrows, a hundred at least, trained on them.

“I will be in Whitewall by week’s end, defending it against you.”  Starbrow replies.  

“That strikes me as optimistic.” Saedrius answers.  “I cannot imagine you would put the innocent people of this valley at risk, Kallyr of Kheldon.  Not so soon after misleading so many of your people to their deaths.  Surrender yourself and the artifact you carry, and there need be no bloodshed.”

“There shall ever be bloodshed,” Kallyr replies.  “Until my people breathe free.”

She moves with superhuman speed, throwing off her cloak and drawing her blade.  The jeweled star in her forehead blazes.  Arrows fly and the snow is stained red with blood.

Depending on the condition of the characters, and the needs of the group, you can make this a climatic final battle or a simple contest.  In the end Kallyr will win, moving like a whirlwind of destruction until every single Lunar is slaughtered.  How much the players want to participate in this victory, and prove themselves in combat, it up to the group.

The Lunar legionaries should be a High Challenge for the player characters, as they are adults with combat training and magics.  Also if it Fire Day and the Red Moon is waxing towards Full.  Normally this would make the Difficulty impossible for the players, but assume the awe and terror inspired by Kallyr and her Companions, and the magics they are using to defend against the Lunars, make things easier for the group.

What is critical here is the aftermath.

250 Lunars lose their lives at the massacre of Black Stag Vale.  True...it was the doing of Kallyr and her “terrorist” band, but it will not go unnoticed by the Lunars that the Haraborn again seem to be harboring criminals, and aiding the rebellion.  Now a dangerous weapon of some kind has fallen into rebel hands with the aid of children from this village.

An example might need to be made.


Starbrow marks a shift in the Six Seasons in Sartar campaign.  This is the last time we will see the player characters as "children;" in the next chapter, Rites of Passage, the characters will undergo initiation into adulthood.  Because of this, the theme here was "loss of innocence," and it played out in several ways.

With Kalf we explored the feelings of loss and anger he and his mother both feel over his father's death in Starbrow's rebellion.  When Starbrow comes to take the children with her, and the players took on the role of their own character's parents, Kalf's player David had his mother say to Starbrow "you've already taken my husband and now you are taking my son."  He also played Kalf with a great deal of antipathy towards Kallyr, the resentment that a son would naturally feel for the leader who got his father killed.  

With Kalliva there has always been tension between her and her "mother," Kallessa.  In Starbrow, this exploded.  Kalliva has now discovered that her father was a Lunar officer...and that her "aunt," Korolmara, is actually her mother.  This secret revealed gave Kallessa the excuse to wash her hands of her adoptive daughter, who unfortunately is the focus and recipient of Kallessa's anger towards Korolmara.  At the end of the episode, after a final confrontation with Kallessa, Kalliva goes to stay with Beralor and his family.  For now, at least, the rift between her and Kallessa is too great.

Beralor enters Starbrow with a rift between Harvarr and himself, but the episode sees this healed.  Finding out that Keladon Blue-Eye is possibly his true father makes the Eurmali's interference in his life more clear, and leaves Beralor wondered if he has "trickster blood."  He wonders if this somehow taints him.  

Leika's arc meanwhile is a very different one; she doesn't have to deal with her past in Starbrow as much as start thinking about her future.  Her relationship with her father has been one that is more "master" and "apprentice," and now she is finally coming into her power and trying to decide which direction to take it in.  

Starbrow returns the characters to the Dragon Temple from chapter one, and is the first major milestone in the "dragon mark subplot."  Kalliva is the one the dragons are speaking to, the "key" Starbrow needs to open the door.  Entering the inner sanctum, the four are all tested and three of them--Beralor, Leika, and Kalf--all chose to "do nothing."  Kalliva chose the vision of Korolmara handing the child over to Kalessa (rather than the Lunar officer) and the repercussions of this choice will play out later.

They succeeded in bringing the vessel out to Starbrow, and this weaves the characters into the greater Hero Wars narrative.  In six years Starbrow will waken the Brown Dragon and deal a devastating blow to the Lunar Empire.  The player characters are now part of that chain of events.  Their reputation among the rebels will now begin to spread, for better or for worse.

The massacre at the end of the tale casts the dice.  The player characters did end up participating, and so have now officially blooded themselves by killing Lunars.  This in the end is the ultimate loss of innocence.  We have seen them fight wolves, an ogre, and winter spirits, but this is the first time they have murdered men.  They are not children any longer--they are warriors.    

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