*This was a short session in which Gado and two other PC’s (Sib and Michel) journeyed out to confront Ethelka. This was to resolve an arc and potentially close an arc for a PC that remained open, before the start of the new campaign in late January. Due to time constraints, this blog post will be shorter and I’ll be omitting several details in it.*
Ser Gado, Michel Bastide and Sibillia ride out to follow the lead that Gado had been given by the Baron; that Ethelka was last spotted at a coaching inn called the one-legged hound, a days ride north from the city.
The party set out to retrieve Michel’s horse that he was promised as a reward from the Graf. Together, they journeyed south of the city first to retrieve his horse from the stud farm there, owned by the Blackfoots.
The horse in question is a northern breed draught horse, also called a draft horse. In the north, they are known as ‘cold bloods’ and are often bred for work. They do not make for great riding, but make up for it in strength and endurance. While Michel will never be able to outrun Gado’s horse, a bretonnian steed built for speed and maneuvering, the horse can make up for it in pure strength and muscle. Don’t get in its way…
Gado intends to make the most out of the journey north, to use the time to train Michel in how to ride a horse. A bretonnian noble teaching a peasant to ride a horse, who would have ever thought…
Sibillia rides on the back with Gado, and they make their way north. They soon cross the border into Nordland territory.
Night soon falls – they reach the One-Legged Hound inn. They find it in a sorry state – disrepair, falling apart and certainly unwelcoming.
As they step in, the innkeeper welcomes them – it soon becomes apparent that they are the only customers here.
They make their enquiries. The innkeeper sure enough knows of who they speak of. He tells them that the witch in question, Ethelka, had indeed passed through here. She had a confrontation with a road warden, who alas did not live for long after he rode for the city. But unfortunately he has little leads on where she went after that.
They spend the night at the inn, somewhat uneasy – the innkeeper tells them that these parts have become more dangerous of late. Beastmen prowl the forests in strength, and that the roadwardens are too few to keep the roads safe.
The next morning, they awake. They find some tracks pertaining to beastmen, but other than that, the night went peaceful.
They make their north, hoping to pick up Ethelka’s trail again.
Along the way, they encounter a dead horse on the road, being devoured by a couple of bray beastmen. Gado makes short work of one, driving his lance through it. The other flees into the woods.
The party take particular interest in the horse however – a white spotted mare. Ethelka was said to be riding such a horse, and now the party believe that this was indeed hers. They pick up a set of tracks, and follow it into the Forest of Shadows; a ominous forest full of beastmen and the like.
After nearly encountering a horde of beastmen (over two dozen) trekking through the forest, the party hunker down and take care in how much noise they make.
Then out of nowhere, they spot a black cat crossing into their path ahead of them. It sits, and looks at them… then it gets up, and walks ahead of them.
The party suspect the cat wishes for them to follow, but Gado doesn’t trust it; he tosses a net at the creature, and it lands on top of the cat, only for the cat to turn into a black swirling mist. It then weaves in between the trees, as if daring for them to follow.
The party are slightly concerned at what awaits for them ahead.
Finally, they reach a clearing. A large temple lays before them; is in ruins, and has been for a long time. Its original purpose is unclear to them, even the architecture is unusual.
Yet they continue further on, following the mist as it now changes back into a black feline, as it darts ahead of them. And there, they see Ethelka. But not just one, but six Ethelka’s.
Every action she takes is duplicated, and when she speaks, they all speak.
Gado has come for a fight, as did Michel and Sib. But Ethelka offers them an alternative.
“There is something more precious to me than your sisters soul,” she says. “My daughter…” She tells Gado that she knows where her daughter is, Arendight. That Franz Udolf, the Shadowmancer, has her, and is waiting for Ethelka to make her move. But the witch knows its a trap, and will not come to him. Instead, she makes Gado an offer; help her lure Franz out, so that she may deal with him, and she will free Gado’s sister. Gado see’s the black gem that hovers around her neck on a silver string. A strange glow seems to swirl within the gem.
The party know that Ethelka will not free Gado’s sister, but they go along with this plan for the time being, hoping to enlist Franz in helping them.
Ethelka tells them where to find Franz Udolf, which is not far from the temple. It turns out he’s hiding in an old abandoned shack that used to be a gamekeepers hut.
To cut a long story short – Franz Udolf meets the party, and despite intitially being hostile to them, they convince him that they are not working for Ethelka, but wish to fight her with his aid. He agrees to Ethelka’s plan, and instructs the party to inform the witch that he’ll meet them at the old dried up pond. He stated she would know where this is.
The party leave, and bring these terms to Ethelka. Ethelka however, clutching the black gem that has his sister’s soul in it, senses betrayal. (Gado had warned the party earlier that his sister was a damsel of Bretonnia, and possessed powers of divination and prophecy. She is using these powers to see things that have yet come to pass.
She senses their betrayal through the powers given to her by Gado’s sister, and a fight ensues.
Gado charges at her, lance drawn. There is six of her, and he suspects one of them is the real one, but before he can reach her, she casts a spell that snaps the two front legs of his horse in two. Bone splinters as his horse tumbles forward, and Gado is forced on his feet, little time to care for his horse. Michel takes a shot with a crossbow, and shoots; picking at random. By just sheer luck, he shoots the right one! (The GM awards Michel MVP for this reason alone.)
The illusion fades, and now only the real Ethelka remains, a bolt sticking through her stomach. Her confident demeanor washes away as Gado charges at her.
But another foe is closing in…
Galloping towards them, is a bretonnian knight in armor. A headless knight. An undead knight. Gado recognizes the crest. His heart sinks as he realizes its Godfrey de Montfort – who has now been risen to serve this witch. First slain by the bird-woman, and now this…
But Gado concentrates on the witch. As he swings his sword at her, she vanishes with an utterance of a word spoken in a dark tongue. His sword hits wind.
He curses as he sees Michel Bastide, in a small crack in the ground, taking cover as he shoots at the knight coming for him. To Michel’s surprise, the knight dismounts from his horse, and makes its way over to him to duel him. Michel has little chance at defeating such an abomination, an abomination in full plate and relentless.
Sib tries to help as Ethelka’s dark magic summons a skeleton from the pile of bones purposefully assembled near where she once stood. Gado and Sib make quick work of the pile of bones.
Then Ethelka makes herself known, reappearing south of them. She casts foul magic, forming a blood bridge between her and Gado, recuperating her injuries as Gado bleeds from every orifice.
They both charge at her – but Ethelka is not done yet, as she summons two hounds at her feet. Covered in dark mist, with red eyes, these hounds snap at Gado and Sib, one nearly fatally injuring Gado. Yet they push on, Gado is relentless as he shouts out “For the Lady!” and aims his sword at Ethelka. Ethelka clutches the gem, “I’ll crush her soul!” she warns. Gado shouts, “You’ll not harm her foul witch!” as he drives his sword down her throat, and through, killing her instantly. Her dark hounds vanish.
Yet the undead knight remains. It is crumbling however, falling apart but slowly, and it still remains a threat. Gado rushes in to aid Michel, who has fallen from his injuries. He was no match for Godfrey, and had crawled away from him.
Gado, already hurting from his duel with Ethelka, bravely tries to fight it off. Yet his blows are finding it difficult to penetrate the plate armour; Gado is struck down with a counter-swing from the undead Godfrey. He falls, clutching his side. The knight prepares to deliver a killing blow when a pebble pings off its armour. Sib fired a shot from her staff-sling, which did nothing but got its attention. It turns, swinging its sword towards her, and misses.
Franz Udolf makes himself known, casting magic from behind as he chucks shadow knives at the undead knight; they go right through its armour, yet still the knight continues as it raises its sword towards Sib, and… crumbles.
The last of Ethelka’s dark magic finally leaves the knight, as it crumbles and falls to the ground. Now Godfrey de Montfort, can finally rest…
Sib rushes over to Gado, praying for him.
“I told you to run…” he says painfully to her.
Franz Udolf gets an angry look from Sib as he draws closer. “Give him your mercy, sister. He will not live long.”
She curses at him in tilean. “Where is Ethelka?” Sib points over to the body of Ethelka, as Franz moves to inspect.
Michel, badly injured but better of than Gado, shouts out that his horse Geoffrey is aright. His legs are not broken. He surmises that the magic must’ve been only temporarily.
This gives some comfort to the dying Bretonnian.
“It is done. She is dead… I wanted her alive.”
“It couldn’t be helped,” remarked Sib in response to Franz’s comment.
The shadowmancer makes his leave, carrying the body of Ethelka. Sib gives him a cold stare as he leaves.
*At this point, the player for Gado uses a fate point, to escape death. He is down to 1 fate point now.*
Closing Summary – Four roadwardens who were on patrol, hearing the commotion coming from the forest, had investigated the sounds of battle unfolding. There, they found the party. At the behest of Sibillia, they aided in rescuing Gado, bringing him back to the coaching inn they were at earlier, and with aid from Sib, managed to stop the bleeding. *This was the result of his fate point*
After a couple of days rest, they are well enough for travel to the city. Gado spends his time recuperating in the temple of shallya. Sibillia continues to receive a lot of attention from regular visitors to the temple. Michel also spends time recovering at the temple.
Yet Gado can now rest easy – his sisters soul was released, and he now keeps the black gem as a reminder of what he went through. Whether or not that’s a good thing, remains to be seen.