Sunday, June 24, 2007

AP: A Faery's Tale, Part Four (a)

Shadows over Brightwood

Jennifree and Sarah are attending the celebrations in Brightwood Village to commemorate the birth of the new princess in the land of the humans. The entire village is drinking, eating, singing, dancing and playing to welcome the baby into the world. Jennifree is playing her pipes and singing a tune for her friends whilst Sarah is continuing to amaze people with her dancing.

During a break in the festivities Sarah finds the sobbing Humphrey (her rabbit friend) who has broken a tooth on a rock (which he thought was a carrot) that he found when he was digging out his new burrow. The two faeries go to move the rock and discover a jagged piece of blue and gold metal as the offending object. Realising that this was not something usual, they take it to Queen Leanan's palace to have it examined.

At the Palace, Professor Tinker - a balding eccentric gnome academic - identifies it as a shard of elf armour from a time before the Wood existed. It must have been buried under Sarahs house for hundreds of years. He recommends that the faeries take their find to Flynn the Blacksmith on his floating island where he can forge it into something for them. They agree and prepare to travel off to the blacksmiths. Incidentally as they leave the palace, they find the Cook in a great deal of distress as all of the palace's milk has curdled, suddenly. Sarah says it must be the hot weather whilst Jennifree blames the metal and says that it must be cursed.

The pair pick up some nut soup to take on their journey and then travel by moonbeam out to Flynns island. When they arrive they discover that his forge is deserted, the fire having been allowed to go out and that there are signs of a struggle, with Smelly Thing residue around the Smithy. They agree that Flynn must have been kidnapped by the Goblin King. There was then a flash at the area where the moonbeams arrive and upon investigating, they discover a wounded sprite has arrived by moonbeam. The knight, who they identify as the Knight of Swallows, one of Queen Leanan's errant guardians in the woods, has a poisoned tip of a thorn dagger in his chest (not unlike the Thorn Sword that the Knight of Spiders used in the last adventure). Jennifree deftly removes the tip and uses her faerie dust to stabalise the knight, who tells them of being attacked by a huge horde of goblins, being overpowered and being stabbed and poisoned. He only just managed to stagger to a moonbeam station to come to his friend, Flynn, but now he has gone too.... He sleeps.

The two faeries make him comfortable whilst they wait for the return moonbeam and then rush him back to the Palace where he can be tended. He grants them a boon for saving his life. Brightwood itself is in turmoil as strange things are continuing to happen in the forest. Despite it being the first few weeks of summer, the wind is blowing chilled as winter and already brown leaves are falling off the trees. Flights of angry dragonflies have been seen heading north into the lands of Darkwood whilst the animals that live on the border with the Goblin Kings lands have began to migrate south, telling of goblin incursions along the border and all manner of strangeness occuring. Wolves can be heard howling from the north - wolves in Brightwood? After some investigation, the faeries are told by the locals that this weirdness is either a plot by the Goblin King, a curse that has been brought down upon the Wood or a portent of a dark and evil future for the new Princess. None of which are particularly good!

Leanan asks Sarah and Jennifree to travel deep into the south of Brightwood to some of the oldest parts of the forest and see out the ancient settlement of Oakenbark. There they will find The Old Man of the Woods, an ancient tree spirit who will surely know what these happenings mean. After evacuating Knakfree and his family into the safety of Sarah's house, they set off and travel deep into the wood, far beyond anywhere they have gone before. The weather breaks and torrential rain begins to fall, making the going even more precarious. Eventually they arrive at a deep ravine, filled with a MASSIVE old fallen oak tree, long dead and hollowed, which forms the home for many faeries in the settlement of Oakenbark. After discussing their mission with some of the dwellers, they are shown to the roots of the old giant oak and find the tiny, wizzened figure of The Old Man of the Woods. His beard is made of old leaves and creepers and his finger and toes are like roots. He listens to their tale and then thinks hard until he shouts out this prediction.

"Beware the Goblin King! Beware the King fo Darkwood. He has two faces and two hands. One here and one elsewhere!!"

And then he falls silent.

Travelling back with this strange portent, the faeries stumble across the Knight of Wolves and his pack, scouting out the approaches to Brightwood. The wolves smell the faeries and are released to pursue them. Jennfiree flies up to avoid them but relishing the chase, Sarah speeds off through the undergrowth and eventually loses them.

Arriving back at Brightwood they find a horrific sight. Dragonfly riding goblins duck and dive over the village, skirmishing with sprites riding swallows and bumblebees. Worms are writhing out of the ground chewing on the houses and being shooed away by the animals and faeries. Packs of wolves patrol the forests around the village, menacing it. It seems like a full blown invasion!! On the hill overlooking Brightwood, three knights - the Knights of Spiders, Wolves and Worms stand and watch, commanding their minions. But where are the spiders?


Jennifree is bitten by a spider and nearly succumbs to the poison. Sarah loses her temper a little and picks up the spider, hurling it into the others that are closing in. Gathering her friend into her arms she uses all but her one last essence to power her Travel Magic and get them into the Palace amidst the battle. When they arrive, Leanan takes them to her scrying pool and the reason for the attack becomes apparent.

An image of the Goblin King appears, all spindly, gnarled and dripping puss. He laughs at the puny faeries and as he does so his forces withdraw back into the woods. It was a ruse, a feint - a distraction. No faeries were hurt. No damage was done. The image pans back and the Goblin King runs a spindly claw down the cheek of ..... the baby Princess! He has kidnapped her and taken her to his dark kingdom. His distraction has worked and now he can turn her to his side! Bwahahahahahahahaa!

To be continued.

And then the whinging started. Oh the kids might like a TBC at the end of an episode of Dr Who but they simply where not satisfied that they would have to wait for a week to rescue the baby from the Goblin King. There were words and very nearly a fully blown tantrum! I had to explain that this was what happened sometimes in a roleplaying game and that it meant that you could do something longer by splitting it up. When I had assured them that they WOULD be playing again next week and that it WOULD be about rescuing the baby, they allowed me to leave the table.

I was pleasantly surprised that they could handle what was in effect a very dark episode of the game - almost Empire Strikes Back levels of darkness. The idea that Darkwood could actually attack, military style, Brightwood is something that I don't want to ever do again (as I think it would spoil the feeling of the game and turn it a little too generic fantasy) and there will be reprecussions for the GK for the act. He obviously thought the resulting kidnapping was worth it. The geography and the supporting cast grows and the requests for a map of some sort have grown louder. Time to exercise my artistic muscles in another direction I think!

Next week - Assault on the Goblin Kings Castle (if the plans that were being made this morning are anything to go by!!)

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