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Subject: Gwidrite Heresies - Session One rss

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Kai S.
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Drama Llama Roleplaying Society
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Participating Players
Game Leader – Kai
Maeveen – Sara
Morwenna - Jonna
Nikolas – Fred
Saroc – Simon
Valbrand – Bavo

List of previous sessions

***

The fog is very thick on the morning of Damhar (October) 1st of the year 908 in the northern part of Gwidre around the village of Niddrie. It is almost impossible to see anything outside, the only sound audible being the toiling of a small church bell, its sound ringing forlornly through the swirling mist, calling the faithful to the parish. Following the sound of the bell reveals a small wooden chapel with a bell tower made of rough stones. In front of the church stands Valbrand the Blade Knight, one of the soldiers of the Temple of the One God. He is of medium height, built quite broadly, with an aggressively utilitarian outfit without even the slightest decorations. He left the church shortly after the morning prayer and is now approached by one of the few other faithful who attended the service this morning, an elderly woman named Ardene: „Good morning, Sir Knight.“

„Good morning, my good woman Ardene. What can I do for you?“

„I noticed you were also present for the morning prayer and as you could see, it was not well attended. Personally I think attending the services raises our souls to God and it makes us see the light.“

„That is the point of the prayer. But this is also the reason why you have a priest, so others may toil while the priest speaks to God on behalf of the other villagers. Even though I would have expected a bit more… presence, especially in the early morning.“

„So true, Sir Knight, but not everyone sees in God what I - and maybe you as well - see in him.“

„How do you mean, good woman?“

„God is the shepherd that guides every step we take. Therefore we need to ask him for his guidance every morning and also to take good care of us. Isn’t that what god is all about, Sir Knight?“

„God is beyond our limited understanding, but the parable of the shepherd is one that is often used indeed. He is also… a judge, a punisher and a savior… he is many things, but praying for his guidance is a good start for the day.“

„Thank you, good knight, for your kind words.“

„Go with my blessing, good woman Ardene.“

Armeen bows slightly and leaves. She walks towards the village, the fog still lingering in the small alleys and on the larger village square, and on her way passes a man by the name of Saroc that looks like a ruffian and troublemaker. He is dressed in what must’ve once been black clothes that are now merely dirty dark gray, faded with the sun, scuffed with dirt and torn in some places. He has a large round and primarily bald head, with a stubbly beard and mustache, and wears a permanent scowl on his face. The wrinkles in the corners of his eyes and on his face speak of much suffering. Saroc might be in his mid to late 20s, but looks older than that. A horse is tethered to a pole close by and he occasionally looks at it as it’s drinking from a horse trough. Suddenly the horse tries to bite Saroc, so he curses loudly, which earns him an annoyed look from Ardene. Saroc couldn’t care less though and turns back to the man he was talking to - Maraizh, the mayor of Niddrie, who now asks: „So, how much for this fine wax candle then? It seems to be of very high quality.“

Saroc, who knows that - just as Maraizh requested - there is a flux cartridge hidden in the candle, replies: „This is a candle made from the wax of bees in the mountains between Gwidre and Reizh. And the bees feed on the mountain heather… so it is obviously the best wax money can buy in these parts. It is worth at least thirty Ember Daols, but I’ll do it for you for twenty.“

„But this candle looks like it is quite uneven! I think it is even slightly bent! This candle is not worth twenty Ember Daols!“

„Well, the reason for that is that they make these candles in the village, whose name I’ll keep secret, on the bark of a wood nut tree. And as you know the wood nut tree is often slightly bent, but it creates the candle at the perfect angle for it to burn its longest!“

„I see… this is indeed a fine candle and the contents used in making it are probably also the best ones you can buy, wouldn’t you say so?“ The mayor winks at Saroc.

„Definitely the best contents you can find in any candle!“ Saroc winks back at the mayor.

„Wonderful! This is the proper candle to grace my table when I have guest at my house.“ He hands Saroc twenty Ember Daols.

„Thank you, mayor Maraizh, it is always a pleasure doing business with you.“

The mayor pats Saroc on the back and then quickly walks towards his house, hiding the candle under his coat. Suddenly he stops and then turns towards the smithy. He approaches the blacksmith Maeveen, a rather tall and muscular woman with long but tightly braided chestnut-colored/reddish hair, dressed in a dirty sleeveless linen shirt and a heavy leather apron containing her tools, and then calls: „Maeveen, if I may have your attention?“ It is very obvious that this isn’t a question but an order. Maeveen warily looks at him and he orders a strong metal bar to secure a door in his house - and it has to be done by tomorrow, even if that means putting other work aside. He leaves and Callum, the old priest of Niddrie, emerges from the shadows into which he had retreated when the mayor arrived and shakes his head at Maraizh: „He was such a fine young man once…“

„I don’t remember that…“

„You’re too young to remember that. But I think you remember another fine young man, right?“

„What are you talking about?“

„Maeveen, we’ve known each other for such a long time. I think you know who I’m talking about. You’re not getting along very well anymore, right?“

„No, we’re not.

„For how long has it been like this?“

„Months.“

„He is just as hurt as you are… you are aware of that?“

„Yes.“

„So why can’t you talk to each other anymore? And in case you’re wondering… yes, Emrys came to me last night.“

„I don’t know. There’s just nothing left to say.“

„That is a sad… the One God turned your marriage into an arrangement for life. You took that vow, just as he did.“

„I know that.“

„Do you really want to spend the rest of your life in silence?“

„No, but…“ There is a long pause. „I don’t want to… I can’t talk about it.“

„Very well, then… but should you ever feel the need to talk about it, you know where you can find me, my child.“ Callum hugs Maeveen, while she gently pats him on the back, and whispers: „You make an old man very sad.“ Then the old priest leaves the smithy and walks towards a young woman standing on the edge of the village square and eating an apple. She is dressed in a leather skirt and an earth colored top. Her curly red hair flows around a constantly smiling face. Callum approaches her: „Morwenna, my child.“

„Oh! You startled me… I was just looking at this butterfly…“

„Do you have some herbs that help against constant headaches an old man is suffering from?“

„Yes, of course! I actually have several different kinds! How bad are the headaches?“

„They come in the morning… always in the morning.“

Callum smiles at Morwenna and she immediately understands what kind of headaches he’s talking about: „Ah… so, would you say these headaches have something to with some… liquid stuff?“

„No, not at all! Just these morning headaches that I seem to suffer from recently.“

„Okay, I have just the thing for you. I’ll bring them to you later.“

„Thank you, my child.“ He pats Morwenna on the back and then leaves, while shaking his head and mumbling to himself: „Liquid… what kind of liquid is she talking about?“

Morwenna meanwhile is following the butterfly again as it makes its way through the village - until a farmer by the name of Balduin steps in her way: „Trying to seduce our priest, eh, you Tarish witch?“

„What? You want some apple?“

Balduin slaps the apple out of Morwenna’s hand: „I don’t want anything you have touched with your filthy hands, witch!“

„Oh, that’s too bad, because I just touched your hand…“ Morwenna gives him a sweet smile.

Balduin stares at his hand dumbfounded and then rubs it against his shirt: „Don’t ever do that again!“

„Technically speaking it was you who did it… but I’m really busy following that butterfly…“

„Can’t you follow it out of the village?! We don’t like your kind around here!“

„What a coincidence, I don’t like your kind either!“ With that she turns around and starts walking away. Balduin calls after her and lets loose a stream of nasty insults, even going so far as throwing a horse apple at her back - but Morwenna just turns around, curtsies in a very friendly way and then leaves.

Once she’s disappeared around a corner, Baldiun spots a middle-aged man with brown hair and a nicely trimmed beard, wearing a grey robe with a cord for a belt, coming out of one of the smaller huts. The man has very soft features and when you watch him for a little while there always seems to be something that troubles his mind. Balduin walks over to the man and addresses him: „Nikolas… err, I mean, Dr. Nikolas… I wanted to thank you for that tooth removal, that was quite a relief once the pain had finally subsided!“

„Well… Balduin, that’s your name, right? I couldn’t help but overhear your earlier argument with Morwenna… what’s your issue with her?“

„Bah, she’s one of those dirty Tarish!“

„Do you have any issues with the Tarish?“

„Everyone has! She’s most certainly responsible for one of my pigs dying last month! And I think she stole some of my apples - they always do! But you shouldn’t worry about that, good sir! You’re a good doctor and you helped me with my bad tooth.“ Balduin slaps Nikolas on the back, the latter shaking a bit from the slap.

„You have to excuse me, Balduin, I have urgent things to attend do…“

At this moment, an older woman named Deirdre, who trains the children in militia duties, approaches: „Indeed, you do! One the children injured her wrist during combat training a short while ago, maybe you can take a look?“

Nikolas looks into the direction Morwenna went a little while earlier, pondering if he should follow her, but dealing with the medical issue is his duty, so he follows Deirdre for now, who asks him: „Something troubling you, Nikolas?“

„Well, it’s the way Balduin treated Morwenna. No-one should be treated like that!“

„You’ve gotta understand Balduin - maybe he’s had bad experiences with her.“

„To me it sounded more like he has issues with the Tarish in general.“

„Well, maybe he’s had bad experiences with all Tarish people? You know that his farm lies a little bit away from village? More exposed than the others? And sometimes when the Tarish travel past the farm, stuff goes missing.“

„What were your experiences with the Tarish?“

„I slapped a few of them on their hands, that was all. Not all of them are bad apples and if you tell them to stay away… they usually do.“

They arrive at the training grounds and Nikolas checks the wrist of a young girl that got hit during quarterstaff training. While Nicholas treats the sprained wrist, Deidre walks away and past the chapel where Valbrand is still standing, who she invites to take a look at the training. She adds: „Some of the children voiced interest in looking at a real knight. Maybe you can show them a trick or two?“ Valbrand is not used to admiration, but he follows her as she leads him back to the training grounds, while the mist still hanging in the air swallows their forms…

***


The children of Niddrie have been watching Valbrand while he told them about what it means to be a knight, some of them even being so bold as to touch his armor or hold his sword. „Careful, I keep it very sharp“, he tells them, but at least one boy can’t help but slide his finger over the edge and promptly cuts himself. „Told you“, Valbrand smirks, „but I did the exact same thing we I was your age.“ The boy smiles: „I’m gonna be a knight too!“

Nikolas is also still present: „Well, Valbrand, but that wasn’t the first cut you got, right? Remember that time when we were playing at a tree?“

Valbrand nods: „It was a long, long time ago.“ A young girl looks from Nikolas to Valbrand and asks: „You know each other?“ When Nikolas nods, she adds: „Why aren’t you a knight too, then?“

„Not everyone strives to become a knight later in life“, Nikolas replies.

As the two of them are standing there, they both notice a woman in her mid-thirties, with a large bow on her back, walk past them and head straight for the chapel. A little while later she comes out of the chapel again and approaches Valbrand: „Excuse me, Sir Knight, do you happen to know where Callum is? I need to talk to him, it’s urgent!“

„He has just given morning prayer, about an hour ago“, Valbrand replies. „But I think I saw him come out of the smithy a short while ago.“ Valbrand nods in that direction and then gives the woman a closer look. He recognizes her as Viviana, one of the village’s hunters, and she seems very confused, something is clearly bothering her, so he adds: „What is the issue?“

„I’m really not sure I should be talking to you about this… but then again, you are a sworn of the Temple.“ She moves a bit away from the children. „I have seen something very strange and disturbing when I was hunting in the woods yesterday. Are you aware there is an old stone circle up in the forest close to the border to Rheizh?“ Valbrand nods and she continues: „That stone circle was destroyed a long time ago… but yesterday, when I was hunting a deer, I noticed flower decorations on the torn-down stones of the circle. And I also saw symbols on the stones - freshly painted symbols, that looked like they were painted in blood. I wanted to bring this to Callum’s attention and ask him for advice about what we should do about this.“

To Valbrand the decorations and symbols sound an awful lot like heresy, but he wants to take a closer look, so he asks: „Can you lead me to this place?“

„I really think we should talk to Callum first…“

„He is the village priest after all, so I agree. Let's find him then.” The two of them walk towards the smithy and pass Saroc on the way, who eavesdrops since they look slightly conspiratorial. All he can hear though is something about a stone circle, while the exact details escape his notice. Since he knows the area quite well he thinks they're talking about the razed old stone circle close to the Rheizite border. Nikolas, on the other hand, who was still standing nearby and was in fact not even trying to listen in on their conversation, has unintentionally overheard every word they said due to his very keen senses.

Saroc approaches Nikolas and asks: „Hey there! What was that about a stone circle? Is that the one up in the forest they were talkin’ ’bout?”

Nikolas looks him up and down: „Your name’s Saroc, right?” When Saroc halfheartedly nods, he continues: „I think we had some dealings with Morwenna once… but anyways, yes, I heard something about a stone circle and maybe sacrilegious things going on there, but I don't know where that is or what exactly happened.”

„Sacrilegious, you say?”

„Yes, she came to Valbrand as a man of the church and wanted to talk to Callum, but he’s not there…”

„What does ’sacrilegious’ mean?”

„Well… Oh, I’m sorry, it basically means that something is against the tenants of the One God.“

Just as Nikolas and Saroc are discussing the meaning of the word ‚sacrilegious‘ Morwenna walks by, still chasing the butterfly from earlier today, and something about their conversation immediately grabs her attention: „Sacrilegious? Where?“

Nikolas turns around to her: „Err… I didn’t mean to say it was actually sacrilegious, but…“

„But you were saying ‚sacrilegious‘!“ Morwenna is confused. „I heard you say that!“

„Yes, well, I’ve… Valbrand and that huntress, they were talking about it and I heard parts of their conversation… I’m not gossipy or something like that, it’s just…“

„Of course not…“ Morwenna smiles, while Saroc rolls his eyes at Morwenna.

Nikolas again tries to explain: „It seems there’s something going on at the stone circle up in the woods and…“

„Maybe we should check it out“, Morwenna excitedly interrupts him.

„Check what out?“ Maeveen has joined the group as well and is curious what they’re talking about.

„Hi Maeveen!“ Morwenna greets her best friend. „There’s some sacrilegious stuff going on and I wanna see it!“

Maeveen looks at her: „Say that one more time, please - slowly, and think about what you’re saying.“

„Who - him or me? I was following that butterfly and it was so beautiful and…“

„Never mind“, Maeveen sighs.

Suddenly Morwenna spots the butterfly sitting on Nikolas shoulder: „There it is! Look at how beautiful it is!“

Nikolas turns around and the butterfly flies away: „What? Oh that’s a peacock butterfly - quite rare in this area! Do you like butterflies, Morwenna?“ Nikolas and Morwenna start chatting about butterflies.

***


While the other four villagers are gossiping, Valbrand spots Callum coming out of the tavern and approaches him: „Brother Callum? Viviana has something she wants to tell you.“ The huntress complies and tells the old priest everything she told Valbrand. Callum starts looking very concerned: „This is quite serious. First of all, keep quiet, don’t talk to anyone about this. These news mustn’t spread throughout the village. And most importantly - don’t let my successor, Yorum, hear about this. He would start a witch hunt immediately. That’s why I think you, Valbrand, should look into this.“

„I’d be honored. But I’m not sure where that stone circle lies.“

„Then you should take someone with you who knows his way around this area.“

Viviana backs off already: „Don’t look at me, I’m not going back there. That hill’s spooky! No way!“

„I think the merchant Saroc is in town, he knows his way around the area. And he’s not from Niddrie, so he might be the best choice if you want to keep things under the rug for now. I think I saw him on the village square - you can’t miss him, the Lord hasn’t gifted him with beauty.“

„Let’s hope the Lord has gifted him with kindness!“

Callum looks at Valbrand and sadly shakes his head. The young Blade Knight goes off searching for Saroc; when he arrives at the village square he immediately spots him and with his eyes fixated on the merchant walks straight towards him. Saroc looks more and more nervous the closer Valbrand gets to him until he’s about to run when the Blade Knight addresses him: „You’re Saroc? I’ve been told you know your way around this village. I need a guide.“

A look of relief passes over Saroc’s face: „Yes, I can be yer guide.“

„Are we going to see the sacrilegious thing?“ Morwenna is getting excited again.

Valbrand’s eyes turn at Morwenna: „Speak! What do you know about this?“

„Well, I was following a butterfly… it was really beautiful! And then I got slapped and lost my apple. It was half-eaten anyway… and then I came across this group and someone said ‚sacrilegious‘ and that was interesting… I think it was Nikolas…“

„When I used that word I didn’t have all the information…“, Nikolas starts feeling very uncomfortable, while Valbrand stares at him. „I’m sorry, Valbrand. This turned into a mess… I heard you talking with that woman and…“

„This is not to be spread“, the Blade Knight states, looking at everyone in the group. He then turns to Saroc: „I need to go to that stone circle.“

„Is it dangerous“, the merchant inquires.

„As fas as I know…no.“

Morwenna interjects: „I think you could use my help too. I might know some things…“

Maeveen stares at them: „You’re all planning on going out into the woods?“

„It is my duty“, the Blade Knight replies, while Morwenna smiles: „I like the woods!“ Nikolas looks up: „And I also happen to know about stuff that people think is beyond mortal reasoning…“

„I warned you against reading those things“, Valbrand shakes his head. „Don’t tell me you still did…“

Nikolas blushes: „Err… well…“

Valbrand figures that taking all of them with him is probably the best solution, since this way they at least can’t talk about it in the village while he’s gone. Saroc demands, since the situation is not dangerous, five Ember Daols as payment for his guide services to which Valbrand agrees. He offers a hand to finalize deal, which Saroc takes after spitting on it first, then tells the others that they’ll be leaving in half an hour.

***


In preparation for the trip to the stone circle, Valbrand returns to the chapel to get his shield. On his way out he encounters Yorum, the young and almost feverishly religious priest who one day is supposed to become Callum’s successor, who is quite surprised to see the knight wearing his shield: „Where are you going, Valbrand? And what do you need that shield for?“

„Roads are dangerous.“

„But there’s no danger in Niddrie!“

„A Blade Knight is always careful and prepared.“

„I see, I see. May the lord guide your every step and your sword to always strike true.“ Yorum blesses the Blade Knight.

The others prepare for the trip as well, getting their weapons and other equipment they might need ready.

***


Half an hour later, the group consisting of Saroc, Valbrand, Morwenna, Maeveen and Nikolas trudges off into the forest. At first they travel the regular forest paths, which makes for easy traveling, but about halfway to the stone circle they have to leave the path and head into the undergrowth. Close to noon they arrive at a small barren hill amidst the forest on top of which a stone circle sat a long time ago. Most of the stones have been toppled over and are now lying on the ground, two of them actually having rolled down the hill, while others have been smashed to pieces. A massive stone slab sits in the middle of the remains of the circle, looking almost like an altar. As the group approaches the top of the hill they notice that someone has decorated the remaining stones with flowers, laid out in elaborate patters. Saroc examines the flowers and realizes these are all local flowers. He tries to figure out if any of these flowers have a particular meaning in folklore, but he draws a blank. Morwenna checks the flowers as well and notices some of them can be used to make tea, while others are edible, but there’s no pattern she recognizes - the flowers to her seem laid out without rhyme or reason. In fact they don’t have any meaning either in herbal or occult lore.

As the group is examining the circle, everyone except Valbrand suddenly realizes that it is eerily quiet in the stone circle. While they can hear animal sounds coming from outside the circle, there are none to be heard from within the circle. Nikolas and Saroc also notice that they can’t see any animals at all within the circle, not even insects.

„Is this supposed to the sacrilegious thing“, Maeveen inquires.

„I don’t know…“, Morwenna looks around uncomfortably, „but it is so quiet in here… you can actually hear the quietness.“

Nikolas thinks the flowers might have a repellant effect on animals, but after examining them can’t find anything that would explain the absence of fauna from the interior of the stone circle. Valbrand meanwhile slowly walks around the edge of the circle, studying it. He notices that symbols have been painted on the stones. The paint used is rust-colored and brownish and he can easily identify it as dried blood. He thinks the symbols were painted on two days ago. Mowenna follows Valbrand and starts copying the symbols, while Nikolas is looking for the source of the blood, but can’t find anything. Both Morwenna and Nikolas try to figure out the meaning of the symbols, but Morwenna doesn’t recognize them at all. Nikolas and Valbrand on the other hand recognize the symbols, they have seen them previously in one of the forbidden books in the library back at the monastery - they are of Demorthèn origin. None of them can read them though.

„These are symbols of the Old Faith“, Nikolas tells the other.

„You really think so?“ Morwenna is not convinced yet.

„Yes“, a dour Valbrand confirms.

„I thought that was long gone in these parts!“

„And what are we going to do about this?“ Maeveen gestures for the flowers and the stones.

Morwenna looks at her best friend: „Do we have to do something about it? They’re not hurting anybody.“

With a wry smile Saroc turns to Valbrand: „What does the One God have to say about this then?“

„This is a heresy“, the Blade Knight replies. „It must be torn down.“ He calmly walks up to one of the stones and tears the flowers down. Morwenna picks up the torn down flowers and keeps the ones that can be used for healing purposes, whispering an apology to the Demorthèn as she does so. Fortunately for her, Valbrand doesn’t hear what she’s saying.

„I wonder who put this here, this close to the village…“, Nikolas mumbles.

„For another five Ember Daols I’ll stay up here this evening and keep an eye out for anyone who approaches the stone circle“, Saroc tells Valbrand. „But come nighttime I’m out, I’m not gonna stay here during the night. Could be Feondas about. Anybody staying out during the night is fucking crazy!“ As he mentions the Feondas, a whimper can be heard from Morwenna.

„No, there can’t be any Feondas around here…“, Maeveen whispers.

„You can never be sure when they’re gonna strike. It’d be stupidity itself to stay out during the night when there might be Feondas around - or mad Demorthèn for that matter.“

„How do you know they’re mad“, Morwenna inquires. „They’re not mad!“

„They treat with spirits which should not be entreated upon.“ The Blade Knight stares at Morwenna intently and makes note of her remark. „God has banned us from entreating with nature spirits and it would be unwise to go against his wishes.“ He then tries to rub the symbols of the stones, but fails. Instead he walks to the altar and notices a spatter of blood on the stone slab. From the size of the bloodstains he estimates that a small animal, maybe a rabbit or a bunny was killed here.

Nikolas meanwhile starts looking for tracks within or close to the stone circle. Strangely he can’t find any tracks at all except for their own tracks. „That’s strange… someone must’ve put in quite some effort to hide all their traces.“

Maeveen looks around: „Or it’s evil spirits…“
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