Tales of New Camelot

Epilogues and Intervals
What everyone does between seasons
CONTEXT/RATIONALE: After the dramatic climax to Season One we need to do some tidying up, particularly for some characters. As Storyteller, I also want to tie up some loose threads.

Fergus Ironsides is captured by Sir Lancelot and taken aboveground, to Waking Surluse where he is bound in chains of cold iron by Lancelot. Prince Gallehault wants to condemn him as a spy and insurgent, but Alexandyr Oblomov intervenes. The vampyre-afanc has lost his merlin (Malegea, who was rescued by Bors of Ganis) and believes the prisoner’s gift as a Soothsayer can be useful to him. Gallehault regards the vampyre with distaste, but out of respect to Lancelot he agrees.

Fergus is taken to the vampyre’s underground lair, where the conditioning process begins. Within a week Fergus is subdued to Alexandyr’s will, not an automaton but a servant. He uses Soothsay to help the Elder identify and subdue his rivals, as he goes about stealing control of Clan Ventrue. Meanwhile, Alexandyr has learned much from his prisoner, especially the existence of Evelake.

Meanwhile, the regular Conditioning and the numbing company of vampires starts to create an oppressive Banality in Fergus’ Fae soul. He no longer has the will to escape and so is unchained.

On a somewhat more positive note, Fergus is able to reflect on his Augury of Lancelot:

  1. BETH (The Birch) – Lancelot’s Dán is in flux, torn between Light and Darkness, but these are the seeds that will grow:
  2. PION (The Pine) – Lancelot’s corruption will corrupt others: Fergus sees a vision of Guinevere as a Queen of Darkness; at the same time, he is a hero fated to drive back the Darkness: Fergus sees a vision of Alexandyr slain by Lancelot
  3. DUIR (The Oak) – Lancelot’s nemesis is his son Galahad: Fergus cannot see this being; Lancelot’s can be defeated by love, not war: Fergus sees Lancelot in a park kissing a young woman whose face is turned away

COMMENTARY: This leaves poor Fergus in a very interesting place for a rescue attempt, but his Soothsay abilities will be a real asset for the bad guys until then. Alexandyr is an anomaly and doesn’t understand how his vampiric condition generates Banality until his own Banality starts to rise. At that point, the idea of diablerising Evelake will become a priority. The Augury for Lancelot also inspires me to develop the concept of Dán a bit more and maybe incorporate the Ogham Trees into the game

The Fist Unclenches
And a King is Revealed
RATIONALE/CONTEXT: The long-awaited (by me, anyway) Season One Finale. The objective here is to have a jolly tough fight that will stretch players’ abilities, get the hell out of the Forgotten Factories, resolve the Troll Thing and find out the identity of the Troll King. We have no Ray/Bors, but we have Luke, who knows WoD systems so well he can easily stand in. And for this event we have a battle map and coloured counters representing all the characters. Lights, camera… ACTION!

Voltage Trod is a huge hangar with vault doors at either end. A broad platform spans the length of the chamber like a bridge, with a dizzying drop below. To left and right are wind tunnels ending in huge fans. When the fans turn, the elemental energy arcs across the bridge, forming an access point into the Trod. Sir Gawaine releases one of the two giant levers, having helped Thora Drake escape from the Forgotten Factories. The nearby vault doors reverberate under cannon fire. Gawaine retreats to the centre of the bridge and takes up a defensive position. To his Bedlam-crazed sight, the walls seem to run with blood.

A group of light infantry cog soldiers break through the door and advance down the bridge with a Fafnir Unit flame caster fanning sheets of fire before them. Gawaine starts a Bunk, chanting his deeds and the deeds of his lineage, in preparation for a Torque cantrip. Suddenly the fans turn and the Trod sparks into life, dropping Sherwood Shaftsbury the werewolf and Fergus Ironsides directly in the path of the flamecaster. Shaft roars to Gawaine that he’s come for his name back, but Fergus yells a warning that the Fafnir unit is opening fire. The flame fans out, catching Fergus directly in its path while the werewolf leaps to one side. The cog soldiers advance, skewering Fergus with their bayonets and keeping the werewolf at bay with musket fire.

Barely noticed, Sir Lancelot enters the chamber and uses Hopscotch to launch himself clear across the bridge to attack Gawaine. His new cybernetic, a steam-launched spear caster slams the spear Ron into Gawaine, damaging the troll’s armour and bruising him; Gawaine responds by stoking the Dragon’s Ire and a mighty blow with Galatyne smashes through Lancelot’s armour and hurts the Sidhe. But now the elongated spear holds the troll pinned at a distance. Moreover, the vault door behind Gawaine opens and more light infantry scouts enter.

Lancelot uses the Quicksilver cantrip to unleash a flurry of blows on Gawaine, who botches a parry and is disarmed. The honourable Lancelot lets him retrieve his sword, smashing one of the cog soldier’s muskets when it has the temerity to open fire on the unarmed troll.

Meanwhile, Shaft has leapt on the back of the Fafnir unit and seized control of its brain stem. He uses it to pour fire onto the cog soldiers harassing Fergus. The badly mauled Sluagh squirms into the bridge’s girders to escape, but ends up stuck there. Shaft directs the Fafnir back towards the big switch to open the Trod again. At the other end, near Gawaine, heavy infantry R-Thor cog soldiers enter the chamber.

The Trod bursts into life again, dropping Sir Dodinel the Savage onto the bridge. Seeing Gawaine menaced on all sides, he quicksilvers himself and rains a blizzard of deadly arrows down upon the heavy cog soldiers.

Gawaine and Lancelot take up their weapons again and set to it. Gawaine draws on the Dragon’s Ire but Lancelot steps into the Fe-Fiada battle fog and uses Ron to keep the Troll at bay. They batter each other furiously but neither is seriously wounded.

Stuck in the girders, Fergus uses Foul Is Fair to hex the great machinery itself, coaxing the Trod back into life. In a burst of light, Bors of Ganis appears on the bridge. Bors rushes to engage the remaining cog soldiers while Dodinel hopscotches to the great lever. Shaft toasts a remaining cog soldier and reaches the other lever. They pull the levers.

As the Trod crackles into life again, Gawaine and Lancelot circle each other cautiously. Gawaine can rely on the protective power of his shield, but cannot lay a decisive blow on the Sidhe; Lancelot is wary of Gawaine’s sun-bright sword that burns his fomorian blood. Each calls on the other to lay down arms honourably rather than fight to the death.

“You were not meant to serve Darkness,” Gawaine pleads, “but Arthur, your king.”

“That did not end well,” growls Lancelot, “and Arthur is no more.”

Stuck in the girders, Fergus uses Foul Is Fair to hex Gawaine’s words.

“That’s not true,” Gawaine declares, “Arthur is returned – look!”

The Trod is permanently active now, with both switches flipped. From its brightness three figures emerge: the metal woman Malegea rushes to Bors’ side, the repaired cog soldier Tickertape salvages a musket and Thora Drake arrives, to all appearances a college girl but Fergus’ hex lets Lancelot see her as she really is.

Lancelot breaks off from combat and stumbles backward, overcome. More cog soldiers start to enter.

Shaft abandons the Fafnir and makes a break for the Trod, peppered with musket shot. Dodinel hopscotches into the Trod, blasting the cog soldiers with his archery. Bors and Malegea take each other’s hand and step back into the Trod, along with Swami who takes one look at the mayhem and escapes.

Gawaine offers a hand to Lancelot who shakes his head, calls for reinforcement and steps towards the great switch.

“The time is not yet come,” he cries, then disengages the switch. The Trod starts to flicker. Lancelot holds it open just long enough for Gawaine and Thora to escape.

Crawling out of the girders, Fergus attempts one last augury, to peek into Lancelot’s Dán (fate). But the knight sees him and calls out the Dragon’s Challenge. Fergus cannot resist and instead of escaping into the Trod he is compelled to crawl to the dark Sidhe’s feet as Prince Gallehault arrives with reinforcements.

COMMENTARY: Always the same with RPGs: fights take FOREVER. This was a good one with PCs fairly matched by heavy infantry cog soldiers and Lancelot and Gawaine locked into one of those stressful dice rolling sudden-deaths where the first person to fail or botch is annihilated by the other one. Fergus captured by Lancelot provides a nice bit of continuity for Season Two, as do the mysterious contents of his Augury.

The Trod takes the form of a mine shaft laid with rails. At the Surluse end it is lit with flashing neon and flickering tesla coils but as it merges into Bedegraine these are replaced with lanterns of fire beetles and braziers of glowing coals. Time passes strangely on a Trod, so long as no one is tempted off into the echoing side passages. There’s no sign of pursuit.

The Trod emerges in the tube of a great vent on a mountain peak above the cloudline bathed in sunset, high up in Bedegraine. A group of startled dwarfs guarding the Trod admit that the werewolf entered it a week ago, a clue to the temporal dilation at work. The travelers descend through the clouds to Lot’s Grotto of Garloth.

Within Garloth there are signs of revelry and voices raised in song. The Troll Thing is in full session, presided over by King Lot. The travelers wait until, one by one, the dignitaries all fall silent. Enraged, Lot demands to know where they’ve been – the druid’s scanner lost track of Gawaine and Bors back when the Great Cog started to move. That was weeks ago. Now Troll Thing is concluding and a King is about to be acclaimed.

Gawaine and Bors tell their Saga to the astonished crowd. Gawaine talks of the Great Cog stopping on his command, of the battles against the Darkness and his duel with Lancelot; Bors talks of Merlin Aurelianus, the ruin of Camelot and the lost regiment of the White Ellyon. The acclaim for the sagas is overwhelming and when cynics ask for proof the cog-soldier Tickertape steps forward.

But what about Wassails? Hengist Jute points out that the Troll Thing was to conclude with gift-giving as each contender found a Dreamer to wassail a gift to show their mastery of dreams. The other competitors have done this. Gawaine nominates Thora as his Dreamer and takes her to the Ettinthrone. She takes out her sketches of it and imagines the stone fist unclenching. In her mind she draws the Jotunaxe set free. Gawaine performs his Warspite wassail and Thora lays her hands on the Axe. The floor trembles. The fist unclenches. The girl draws the Axe nearly twice her height and raises it overhead.

There’s an uproar. Some think the King is revealed, others that Gawaine has cheated. King Carados of Escoce demands that Thora hand over the Axe to him. She does, but he cannot lift it and it crashes to the floor, embedding its blade in the stone. Enraged, Carados challenges Gawaine directly, through one of his bombs at his head. Gawaine is more than glad to duel the ogre again.

Sir Dodinel leaps to intervene, but is blocked by Cei Hir. The other trolls are strangely still, almost certainly because this confrontation is prearranged. Even Bors has agreed to stand aside in a secret deal with King Lot. Dodinel hopscotches away from Cei while Gawaine subdues Carados with a deft swordplay. However, the ‘king of the Wasteland’ has three more of his bombs and detonates them all at once. Selflessly, Gawaine leaps on him and uses his magic shield to absorb the blast. Carados is completely incapacitated but Cei Hir advances on Gawaine, unleashing a cannonade of vicious blows. Although protected by his shield, Gawaine is reeling and on the verge of slipping into deeper Bedlam. Even the outsider Swami will not stand for this and Bors also breaks ranks to rush to Gawaine’s aid, but it appears they will have to fight Lot to do so.

There is a whoosh and Cei Hir is suddenly headless. His chimerical head sails across the cavern and rolls to Swami’s feet; his body slumps to the ground and reverts to his mortal form, comatose. Thora Drake has wielded the Jotunaxe, unassisted by any wassail, and now raises it overhead.

“The Troll Thing ends,” she calls out to the assembly, “because I am here to end it. A king there shall be, but by my will, not yours. Gawaine is rightful king of the trolls, so long as he does swear fealty to me.”

Gawaine steps forward and kneels and Thora places the Axe in his hands.

Lots starts forward in a rage but Queen Morgause stops him. She approaches Thora and kneels. Her sons do likewise until, one by one, all the trolls kneel. Hengist kneels. Breathless, Thora stares round the echoing cavern as the trolls acclaim with one voice:

“Gawaine, king of the Trolls! The Troll King and the Pendragon!”

COMMENTARY: A cinematic end to Season One. We left it open who Thora would nominate as Troll King. Bors was also a contender, but Ray’s absence and Bors’ compromising deal with Lot made it less satisfactory to go that way. Dodinel would have been a nice choice, since he had become Thora’s closest friend, but he wasn’t a troll and had not established a reputation in Bedegraine. A left-field candidate would have been Swami – something I like to think the first Arthur would have done, to bring enemies into his circle and wrongfoot his opponents, creating a troll king entirely dependent on his patronage for support (at least at first) and a lieutenant with influence in hostile Surluse. Nonetheless, this has been Gawaine/Nick’s storyline and the crown feels well earned.

EVALUATION: This is really an evaluation of Season One as a whole. It’s been characterised by three features, one elected, one unfortunate, one an adaptation to circumstances. The elective feature was the focus on Thora, making the chronicle the story of a NPC protagonist rising from baffled college kid to heroic leader. There’s a risk here that the PCs end up feeling sidelined, that all the best bits go to the NPC. I hope I avoided that for the most part, but the players must tell me otherwise. The up-side was telling a story with a clear arc and a tight theme: I very much wanted to avoid the sprawling ‘sandbox’ game where players can go anywhere and everywhere but, perhaps, lose focus. No doubt the Thora-storyline would have been more compelling had the pace been brisker. This is the second characteristic, the unfortunate one. Despite Season One only really involving about a dozen story sessions (with a few Tuesday excursions on the side), a chronicle that ought to be told in full in three months, it took well over six months to tell the tale. It’s nobody’s fault, of course, just grown-ups with busy lives. Nonetheless, when we start Season Two I need to take that into account and think of a way of compensating for unavoidable player absences. The adaptive feature is the way the game setting and mechanics have evolved. In all our games we end up evolving the rules machine somewhat, but Changeling has truly blossomed from a game that was borderline-broken to a rules-set that feels (though I say it myself) pretty epic. The Dragon, Wassails and new Arts have all been a big feature and Season Two will bring in the Hallows and new Kith; the Dreaming Realms of London feel vivid and distinctive and the NPC cast are pretty memorable, with some of the best (Queen Morgan La Fey, Queen Guinevere Pendragon, Nimue, Mered Reith) still waiting offstage. It’s been a lot of work, but I think there’s a product here we can keep coming back to if we wish.
The Getaway
Whatever happened to the Plan?
CONTEXT/RATIONALE: Here’s an odd one: a short Tuesday game in which everyone turns up. And everyone doesn’t just mean regular luminaries like Alec, Ray and Alex, but also Nick. And Luke. Yes. So, a twisty-turny sort of storyline that tries to work in everyone’s character(s) and set up the epic fight and the Season One Finale.

Fergus Ironsides and Malbeth left Lot’s Grotto some time ago to return the book of shadow to its werewolf owner. They travel down the Old Kent Road to Surluse, then cross Waterloo Bridge without incident to enter Cameliard. At the Torchlight Detective Agency they meet with the vampire Marlowe Tyburn and his imaginary sidekick Marty. Marlowe takes the book and calls his part-time werewolf Sherwood Shaftesbury, but then stalls for time, because another client is interested in Fergus. However, when Shaft arrives, he’s enraged to discover the page with his name is a fake; on the reverse is a taunting IOU from Queen Morgause. Fergus agrees to take Shaft back to Lot’s Grotto so he can confront Morgause himself.

Outside the office, Fergus is seized by dark-suited men armed with tranquilizers, sent by Dr Myra Thornfield. However, when Shaft turns into a Crinos-form werewolf, they flee in terror. They hail Mystic Taxi and drive back to Bedegraine. At Eros House, Fergus enchants Shaftesbury and they take the lift down to Lot’s Grotto.

Shaftesbury goes to confront Morgause in her sanctum. The Queen is concluding an esbat with her cult of cannibal-hags, the Bean-Nighe. Morgause seems to have been expecting the werewolf and reveals that the missing page is in the keeping of her son Gawaine. If Shaft can find Gawaine, she’s sure the Troll will hand over the werewolf’s name… So long as nothing dreadful happens to him in the meantime… Cursing, Shaftesbury sets off into Dreaming Bedegraine with Fergus as his guide, towards the Trod into Surluse.

COMMENTARY: This resolves actions for Fergus that were ‘in the past’. The encounter with Morgause takes place after her return from the Great Cog in Welcome To The Machine, so presumably her meeting with the Bean-Nighe was to discuss Thora Drake’s identity. Did she plant the name on Gawaine so she could later manipulate the werewolf into going to his rescue? Or was her original plan to send the werewolf to attack Gawaine, in which case what does her change of heart portend?

At around the same time, Swami is presenting a chimerical dance/music act on Prince Gallehault‘s pleasure yacht on the Thames. He overhears the phone call from Sir Gawaine and witnesses Gallehault telling his cog-people to find the Forgotten Factories and arrest Gawaine. Swami remembers receiving Gawaine’s help before and decides to return the favour. He goes to a chimerical inn called The Tabard to track down an Eshu and finds one, called Caradoc ‘Carrot’, being menaced by a drinking party of Shakespearean murderers: Macbeth, Brutus, Claudius, Othello. Pacifying Macbeth with flattery, he rescues Carrot and tells him about the Story he wants to be involved in. Carrot promises to contact him if Swami will keep him in drinks till the right time to be in the right place comes along.

Several weeks later Swami is pulled out of a classy roof party by a dishevelled Carrot who needs his help breaking into a museum to steal Dross. Swami is irritated but realises the Story must be starting. They break into the basement of the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI). Carrot starts stripping an old BBC Dalek of usable Dross when the many TV screens burst into life and explode: Bors of Ganis emerges, followed by a glowing pillar of radiation that strips the Dalek completely to form a machine husk for Malegea. There’s a tense standoff until Sir Dodinel the Savage emerges and recognises Swami as an ally.

The fugitives know they must hide from Gallehault’s pursuit and Swami knows a nearby bolt hole, a secret Trod right underneath Gallehault’s chimerical gaol in the Liberty of the Clink. Out on the streets a curfew is being announced by patrols of sinister cog-people – an unheard-of thing in Unseelie-by-night Surluse. Nonetheless, Swami and Carrot guide the fugitives to the Clink, where the chimerical dandies, gamblers and prostitutes pose less of a problem to them than to the authorities. An urchin called Uriah leads them to the hidden Trod in a dungeon underneath the Clink. Carrot sets about opening it, but there’s no need: the cages and chains electrify and a portal of light appears with a figure running out towards them. But instead of Gawaine this is a young girl with a broken robot on her back.

COMMENTARY: An extensive digression here to bring in Luke/Swami who hasn’t been with us since the start of the chronicle. Nonetheless, this did establish some interesting points about Unseelie lifestyles in Surluse, chimerical inns and their imaginary patrons, Malegea’s husk and the Liberty of the Clink as a good-to-know location. We’re also exploring the different time-flow in the Autumn World and the Forgotten Factories in Dreaming Surluse.

Back in the Forgotten Factories, Sir Gawaine hears Prince Gallehault’s announcement that he has changed sides. Gawaine makes his way to Thora and they agree that her R-Thor regiment should fight a rearguard action while they commandeer a Sleipnir robo-lizard to escape. Tickertape pilots the lizard and Gawaine uses Thora’s magic spyglass to find the secret Trod that connects Surluse with Bedegraine’s One Tree Hill.

After a frantic chase in which the lizard is disabled, they flee on foot to the Trod. This appears as a wide ventilation shaft with enormous fans at either end. A big pull-down switch starts the fans and accesses the Trod, but someone must stay behind to keep the lever held down so that the Trod can stay open long enough for the others to enter it. Gawine nominates the valiant Tickertape but Thora won’t countenance sacrificing the cog-soldier in this way. This leads to a heated argument in which Gawaine challenges her to choose between the cog-soldier and himself. Angrily, Thora chooses Tickertape and Gawaine pulls down the lever and holds it down so Thora can escape. Gallehault’s forces are already breaking down the door.

In the Autumn World, Thora arrives among the fugitives under the Clink. Without thinking further, Dodinel dives into the Trod to rescue Gawaine. After hesitating and saying goodbye to Malegea, Bors follows just as the Trod closes. Malegea starts using her Steampunk Art to repair Tickertape, but Thora, gripped by guilt, pleads with a panicking Carrot to reopen the Trod. Since he recognises Thora, Swami is left wondering how he can turn the situation to his advantage.

COMMENTARY: the Trod runs from Surluse to Bedegraine. Down in the Forgotten Factories, Gawain and Thora have found a ‘siding’ that lets them join the Trod mid-way. Normally you’d need high levels of Wayfare/Fae to do this, but I’m keeping the mechanics ambivalent. Did the Trod open for Thora or was it because, at the same time Gawaine was pulling the switch, Carrot was opening the Trod over in Surluse? Or does it boil down to the same thing, with the Eshu getting sucked into Thora’s story and his Spirit Pathways birthright making his Trod-opening one of those right time/right place syncs that Eshu are famous for.

EVALUATION: We rocketed through this one with freeform storytelling and drawing story cards and virtually no dice rolling. As a scenario it was pretty scrappy, but it did resolve dangling threads and bring everyone back together for a heroic last stand smack down against legions of cog-people, Gallehault, Lancelot and Alexandyr. Overwhelming odds? Little or no chance of survival? Oh, so THAT was the plan all along….
Darkness Visible
The war has begun
CONTEXT/RATIONALE: A Tuesday session to resolve the dangling threads from Welcome To The Machine, albeit without Nick. So: much to explore, as in, Can the R-Thor battalions defeat the evil vampire cog-regiments? who is Malegea and where did Bors go with her? Read on…

Bors of Ganis and Malegea pass through the dimensions and find themselves in the upper chamber of a huge tower. The light of the setting sun illuminates the room through a set of high windows, but most of the chamber is in shadow. Workbenches are filled with archaic laboratory equipment, bookshelves are loaded with scrolls, blueprints and bell jars holding strange organs. Under a heavy sheet there is a mechanical man, apparently long dead, whose exploding wiring creates the impression of long unkempt hair and beard. Malegea unveils this figure and kneels beside it, calling it ‘merlin’. Bors looks out of the windows: eastwards he sees the ruins of Camelot under a cold moon, but westwards he is looking at the endless spires and rooftops of Dreaming Gorre; he is in a room between two worlds.

Bors knows that he knows this place, but cannot remember. At first he refuses Malegea’s offer to reimplant his clockwork memory chip, removed by the nurses of R-Odin. Malegea explains that the dead cog-person was Merlin Aurelianus, her mentor and Bors’ friend. She offers to show Bors their sons and activates one of the mysterious alcoves. A glass tube rises into it, inside which a pale troll-like figure is suspended, wrapped in a metallic umbilical cord. Malegea gazes at it in wonder: this is one of the White Elyan, offspring off her dream-science and Bors’ flesh.

Bors has to know more, so he agrees to the brain surgery. Malegea makes him sit in a chair and teasingly straddles him; horrifically, her hand falls away at the wrist and a buzzing circular saw extends out. She kisses Bors fiercely as she drills into his skull.

In the R-Mjollnir arsenal, Dodinel the Savage has new toys: the Sleipnir and Niddhog units are armoured robot lizards, with eight magnetised legs and flamethrowers mounted in their mouths, as well as a shielded cockpit for the pilot. Dodinal switches cheerfully to his Unseelie Legacy, commandeers one and leads a task force to take the fight to the enemy.

The first target is the R-Freya barracks, because Alexandyr has not yet corrupted the entire regiment. R-Loki insurgents are able to infiltrate the loyalist ranks, blowing up or subverting units and producing epic battles between giant robot lizards. Thora Drake is able to use her authority to expose the insurgents, no matter how well disguised they are. R-Freya is liberated after an intense skirmish and Thora awakes the rest of the R-Freya troops to serve the loyalist cause.

Bors recovers from his operation with greater Remembrance. He remembers Aurelianus the mechanical wizard and Brandegoris the Nocker King who created (so he boasted) Malegea. He remembers their doomed love and the project they embarked on to save Camelot. It had something to do with the Grail. Now awake, he looks round the room and is surprised to see the lifeless eyes of Aurelianus looking at him. Has the dead cog-wizard moved? He covers it with a sheet again and goes looking for Malegea.

He finds her in one of the chambers below, weeping. Only a half dozen of the Elyan remain in their tanks. The other tanks are smashed and empty. Did the Elyan escape or were they taken? Bors fears the latter, yet the tower is sealed and warded against intrusion from either Ruined Camelot or Dreaming Gorre. He comforts Malegea and they agree to return to Dreaming Surluse and undo the damage caused by Alexandyr. Using Corbin’s Claw again, Bors rends the wall between walls and hand in hand they step through.

Time has passed more quickly in Surluse, where the campaign against Alexandyr advances. R-Thor units batter the Enemy’s positions, but the R-Mjollnir robo-lizards prove decisive. One particular redoubt holds out heroically against Dodinel’s assaults, but Thora intervenes to suggest another way. Under a white flag of truce she approaches the R-Loki General Fang to plead for his units to surrender. The Blood Bound cog-soldier cannot. So Thora seizes his hand and channels her Fae Gift of Casgadh Fala into him. General Fang goes into convulsions as the vampire’s evil Vitae drains out of his pipes and gears and pools on the floor. Reclaimed to the loyalist cause, Fang orders his units to stand down and surrender the redoubt without further loss of life.

Bors and Malegea have returned, but to the very foundations of Dreaming Surluse, beneath the furnaces that power the Forgotten Factories. They can hear the battles raging above, shaking the foundations and dropping clouds of dust and ash as heavy explosions rock the factories above.

In the middle of the foundations is an ancient well dropping into Darkness. The Darkness is the primordial Darkness, the Darkness that existed before the first story. It was here, Malegea explains, that flint first struck flint and, in the light of the first fire, the first story was told and the Dream of Surluse began, but every realm has a similar story and a similar place. Every dream is built on Darkness.

A structure of girders and cables hangs above the well, holding a glass capsule above the Darkness. The capsule is now open. It was here, Malegea explains, that Alexandyr and his new disciple Lancelot found her. She had been a thousand years left to hang above the Darkness, slumbering without rest, her story a sacrifice to keep the Darkness at bay.

“The chroniclers even forgot my name,” she adds bitterly, “and said I’d gone into a nunnery.”

“Alexandyr came up from the Darkness itself. His power broke the wards. Maybe I’d lost hope and that’s why they broke. I knew only bitterness and swore to aid Alexandyr, to bring on Darkness’ war. But,” she adds, “that was before you returned to me.”

Alexandyr’s crypt is a huge cathedral-like space above the R-Loki arsenals. Specially adapted R-Loki heavy infantry hold off the robo-lizards until R-Mjollnir cannons move into place. Their onslaught melts the cog-people and the Sleipnir units to slag, but Dodinel ejects to safety.

Alexandyr stands before his coffin, his impressive physique augmented by cybernetic grafts, his armour powered by a combination of steam and blood. He rests on his two-handed sword, weary but unbowed. He seems to be waiting. Now Seelie again, Dodinel appeals to him. Dodinel reminds the dragon spirit inside Alexandyr of its crimes in the past. He argues passionately that its current symbiosis with an undead horror is an abomination. He calls on the dragon Temys to remember its sisters. He claims he is part of the Chain, charged by the Raven, the Fox and the Cat to bring the dragon home.

The dragon responds to this in the most unexpected way.


Shaken free of the Darkness’ grip on its soul, the dragon makes a prophecy and an action.

“Not yet but to come is the time when the chain shall be reforged. Dragonfire will illuminate the Darkness. Attend on me then, faithful one, and in token of such time I dub you Knight of the Dragon, in the name of the Dreaming, Camelot and Dragonkind”

The greatsword touches Dodinel’s shoulders and he rises a Knight.

Horns blare out from all around as a new force of gilded and sleek cog-marines march into the crypt, taking up positions around Alexandyr and Dodinel. Watching from a balcony overhead, Bors and Malegea see Prince Gallehault arriving in his impressive clockwork armour. The Prince dismisses Sir Gawaine with a curt word then advances to confront Alexandyr, who has gone back to resting on his sword. He nods towards Dodinel as if to say, ’I’ll take it from here.’ Dodinel steps back to find Bors has leapt down from the balcony to join him.

With a whoosh, the dark figure of Lancelot lands between Gallehault. His deadly spear is raised to defend his new lord. Gallehault raises his electrified sword in response.

Bors appeals to Lancelot: “Hold, cousin!”

Gallehault realises who Lancelot is.


Both men’s armour retracts, letting them view one another’s faces: Gallehault handsome and vain, Lancelot scarred and embittered, but both with eyes widened in joyous recognition. They call one another ‘Brother’ and embrace.

“He whom you call Lord, " Gallehault announces to his old friend, “will command my friendship, as it ever was.” And the Prince of Surluse bows to Alexandyr who nods in grim satisfaction. Then, as one, Gallehault and Lancelot turn their weapons on Bors and Dodinel. Realising their danger, Sir Dodinel is first to react. He grabs Bors and the two leap to the balcony overhead, dodging the spear and sword by a whisker as the deadly weapons split the stone floor where they stood. Bors grabs Malegea’s hand and Corbin’s Claw cuts through the realms and they escape into London.

In the Crypt, Prince Gallehault calls on the loyalist units to end their war of resistance, submit to Alexandyr and hand over the enemy agent Sir Gawaine.

EVALUATION: I found this to be a pretty awesome short session, with the plot leaping ahead, the shock ending (which, to be fair, had been hinted at: every time Gallehault featured his intense bond with Lancelot was mentioned) as well as the deepening mysteries of Malegea and the Darkness. We’re still left wondering what happens to Gawaine and Thora, stuck in the middle of a suddenly-hostile army. So, war then! And still no Troll King.
Welcome To The Machine
The Rune-a-Vision Saga Contest
CONTEXT/RATIONALE: Finally. At last. The second of the Troll Trials – the Saga Contest. Contestants will travel into the Near Dreaming to encounter a story. Later, as their memories fade, they will recount their adventure and the best story will win the Trial. The players need to be aware of the rules for the Near Dreaming (especially the danger of real death) and the concept of the Dreaming Realms. This is our first real adventure in the Near Dreaming, so the pressure is on to make it memorable and distinctive.

After sending Fergus and Malbeth off with the book of shadow, Sir Gawaine realises most of the other trolls have left on their saga quests. Bors of Ganis is still making final preparations and agrees to travel with Gawaine and seek a story together. Thora is accompanying Gawaine as his squire and Dodinel the Savage, as a chimerical ranger, is going as their guide.

Beyond Lot’s Grotto, the Rath opens out onto the forested valleys of Dreaming Bedegraine. The first landmark is the Cauldron of Annwvyn, a gigantic crater where the trail descends firewards and earthwards into the smoking depths. Most of the other trolls descended here, but the heroes press on. Bors wants to see the Great Cog, a titanic wheel half a mile high that emerges from mountains. Dodinel has heard of a wizard, Sigurth, who knows the secrets of the titanic machinery that is part of the landscape of Bedegraine. Gawaine would like to find the secret Trod out of Bedegraine he discovered at One Tree Hill.

Discovering tracks the indicate Carados of Escoce and Cei Hir may be lying in ambush, they decide to leave the trail. Dodinel uses Hopscotch to ascend the mountain and drop ropes for the others. From up above their can see the great volcanoes firewards, the great glaciers frostwards and they spot one of Morgause’s wyverns flying at speed towards the Great Cog. The cog is an amazing sight, but a tremor under the other suggests it might actually be ready to move again. Centuries have passed since last this baffling machine rotated and whole forests have grown across its lower expanses while a great glacier covers its upper reaches where it disappears into a vast cavern in the mountainside. Bors surmises it is part of the Unseelie machinery of the Dreaming that moves the realms about and powers the Trods.

Closer to the Great Cog there is another tremor and the Cog shakes, sending enormous icicles hung from its underside crashing to the valley floor. Morgause’s wyvern has entered the great cavern into which the Cog extends. Using Hopscotch, Dodinel and Bors try to leap the dizzying gap, holding on to Thora and Gawaine – but they fall short! Dodinel fires an arrow tied to a rope into the side of the Cog; it supports his weight and Gawaine’s, but not Bors and Thora too. Gawaine perceives the arrow’s true name – Holdfast – and uses Willow Whisper and Dictum to command it to bear their weight. The doughty arrow-head catches on the rim of the Cog and bears their weight for a few more moments as they leap to safety. In gratitude Gawaine knights it as Sir Holdfast.

The heroes struggle on up the Great Cog and enter the ice cave. Here a strange tower is built into the top-most ‘tooth’ of the Great Cog, a tower of salvaged machine parts on a larger-than-human scale. Tame perytons are stabled nearby and the occupant is in the process of evacuating. Raised voices come from a balconied room on the first floor, so Gawaine sneaks in to investigate. He passes cardboard boxes of machine parts labelled ‘study’, ‘living room’ and ‘den’ and identifies one of the voices above as his mother, Morgause. In the room above, Queen Morgause (who evidently flew here in wyvern-form) is confronting the seer Sigurth, a half-mechanical giant who is pleading for his life. A great dial on the wall shows that barely a minute remains until the Great Cog starts to turn again and everything on or near it will be ground to atoms, but Morgause will not let him leave until he has performed a service for her. She has a riddle she needs solving

Unlorded, true lord
Unmanned, above men
Swordless, true sword
Unsame to rule again

Sigurth fumblingly puts the sheet into a cylinder which slips into the glass tubing that crisscrosses the room and a whoosh of air carries it around and down into the depths of the Cog. Sigurth is frantic now and the whole Cog is starting to shudder and shriek; the perytons take flight in terror but Morgause is unyielding: she wants her answer.

With seconds to go, the cylinder comes whooshing back, rattling through the glass pipes, round and round the room. Gawaine rushes in, shatters a pipe and the message shoots out and into Morgause’s hand.

“Gawaine, dear boy: do take care!” She blows him a kiss, turns into a wyvern and flies away. When she reads the riddle’s answer, she will know who Thora is.

The grinding is deafening. Dodinel leaps back into the room to rescue Gawaine, but it’s too late: the Great Cog is about to turn.

Gawaine’s response is pure hubris. From Sigurth’s hysterical shrieks he perceives the Great Cog’s true name and uses it as a Bunk to speak with the gear itself and command it to give him ten more seconds. There’s a sanity crushing squeal as the gears of the universe stall, the whole Cog vibrates bringing Sigurth’s soothsay device crashing down and everyone rushes down the stairs and out of the gate. The Cog starts turning and the tooth on which the tower was built tips back, shearing away the tower and pulverising it. The next tooth below them is now rising up towards them. They slide down their tooth’s flank to the bottom land between the teeth where Bors and Thora are cowering, and press themselves flat. They rise up to the very top of the Cog’s rotation then start to descend down past it, emerging into the Otherwhere where the machinery of creation is laid bare. They can cover their eyes or look, so they look. Gawaine covers Thora’s eyes, but she bites his fingers and she looks too.

They behold the Unseelie Vision, chance and destiny revealed as an uncomprehending machine. They see the wheels and gears of nations, the pumping machinery of history, the pistons driving realms and noble houses. They see people they know as wheels and gears within larger machines. They see their own cogs. They see, briefly, how they fit in to the great machine.

Thora sees her own cog. She smiles grimly then laughs. It is not what she thought.

Dodinel sees his wheel, locked into the turning of Korrigan’s gear, turning smaller and larger wheels that trigger changes and movements far across the machine, in the wheels of werewolves, vampires and mages. He is significant. The Iron Mask of Despair comes loose at last and he can take it off.

Gawaine sees the Darkness that lurks within the machine, that spreads through the pumps and pulleys and taints the machinery. He understands that the Darkness has seen him. He has beheld the True Enemy. He looks for allies but sees the Darkness surrounding Queen Guinevere; he looks for enemies, but Morgan La Fey is nowhere to be found, only an empty space where her gears should be. He doesn’t understand.

Bors sees only a soulless machine, a world of automata where none of his struggles have any meaning. He covers his face and his Unseelie Legacy emerges.

Now death is upon them. Another giant cog hoves into view, its teeth interlocked with the Great Cog to which they cling. One such tooth, the size of a castle, grinds down into the gap in which they lie, blocking out the light, its pitiless blank expanse lowering on top of them. Quickly, Dodinel pulls off the iron mask and lays it beside them like a conical metal buttress. The other gear makes contact with it and the most awful sound shrills through their souls as the two unimaginably vast gears of fate lurch, stall, then keep turning. The other gear’s tooth rises away, scratched and scored, but the mask is unharmed.

With a terrible crash the wheel comes to a halt. The Great Cog stands at rest at one end of a staggeringly huge underground gallery. Waterfalls tumble from the heights, spinning rainbows across a Cyclopean chamber straddled with girders and gantries, ladders and pulleys, and piping, lots of piping rattling and hissing, belching clouds of steam into the emptiness, the huge industrial bowels of a great hydraulic factory.

Sigurth has also fallen into his Unseelie legacy – the craven. However, threats focus the wizard’s mind and he identifies the realm as Dreaming Surluse, deep in the bowels, in the forgotten factories where King Arthur’s arsenal was once forged.

Cog personA metal voice calling for help takes them to an injured robot, a cog-person with no legs, trapped on a high gantry. This robot, ‘Tickertape’, is a survivor of ‘R-Heimdall’, the Heimdall Regiment which guards the factories. Tickertape’s squad was attacked by ‘Insurgent Prime’ along with “cannibalised units from R-Loki and R-Freya”. Trapped on this gantry when the Great Cog started to move, Tickertape has been using the telephone in its chest cavity to call for help from its regiment.

Tickertape directs the heroes to a fortified crossroads in the tunnels where ‘Captain Champagne’ of R-Odin outlines matters. Insurgent Prime has been commandeering units and compromising whole stretches of the factory. R-Loki has defected en masse to Designation: Enemy and most of R-Freya has been subverted. As enemy units approach, Dodinel uses Sir Holdfast to capture a Loki unit. Examining it, they realise its pumps and oil tubes are carrying dark viscous blood. Designation: Enemy must be none other than Alexandyr the Dragon-Vampire, in which case Insurgent Prime is Lancelot, now Unseelie and working with his erstwhile enemy.

Cap. Champagne prepares to escort the changelings to Command HQ but Thora turns back, collecting Tickertape and commanding the other cog-people to fight to 30% casualties then fall back rather than being exterminated. Gawaine approves of this new strand of leadership in her character. Rocket propelled trolley-cars take them at high speed along rails to the HQ, where medical units of R-Odin and repairing injured cog-people. The generals are Darling of R-Heimdall and Eye of R-Odin and they show Gawaine the map of the complex. They’ve sent an ineffective message up to Prince Gallehault (“things looking a bit wobbly down here sir!”) so Gawaine commandeers a phone to speak to the Prince in person. Despite Gallehaut’s mistrust (after the events of Dragonfall in the Shard) he persuades the unhurried Prince to investigate the forgotten factories where a threat to his realm is building.

Bors goes for medical treatment in the infirmary and has cybernetic gears added to his armour and Fae mien. The nurses also offer to remove Bors’ troubling dark secret from his mind and store it externally, which the Unseelie Bors agrees to.

Thora and Dodinel discover that the only hope of defeating Alexandyr’s legions rests with activating the Thor Regiment and heavy infantry units, who can in turn control the Mjollnir Regiment of bombardiers. The location of Thor Regiment is not known, but they do identify the central archive where such data will be stored. Unfortunately it’s in territory controlled by Alexandyr. Knowing that the vampire does not allow his precious blood to be lost and goes to great lengths to recapture fallen units, they concoct a plan.

Bors takes a rocket trolley deep into enemy territory. When he comes across a picket of R-Freya units blocking the tracks with sandbags he launches a stealth attack, quickly dispatching them and collecting their blood. He then uses a survivor’s torso-phone to call Alexandyr in person and announce his presence. Alexandyr ominously promises they will soon meet in person. Bors sets about fortifying his position. When a troop of R-Loki units arrive to set up a perimeter he uses Meteora to confuse their leader about his identity and re-programs them to attack Lancelot when he arrives.

Taking advantage of the distraction, Gawaine, Dodinel and Thora arrive at the Archive, a multi-storey library served by hydraulic lifts. They hide from cyber-bats sent out by Alexandyr to locate intruders. They appear to succeed in eluding the bats, but Gawaine experiences some lost time. The location of the Thor Regiment is discovered – right underneath the Archive itself. They prepare to descend.

Bors is ready for Lancelot when he arrives and the re-programmed cog-people catch Lancelot off-guard. This enables Bors to coat his enemy in fire extinguisher foam then use Meteora again to freeze it. Lancelot still lands a mighty blow before he is frozen and Bors is left with a few rounds to get Lancelot into a trolley and across to one of the great steam vents, where he tips the cart into the furnaces below. The heat melts the ice instantly, but Lancelot plummets into the smoke and out of sight. Bors then heads back to the Archive.

Down in the barracks, the massed ranks of Thor Regiment units sleep on. Gawaine finds himself gripped by an odd compulsion: he reaches out to use a torso phone and patches through to Alexandyr. He realises he has been manipulated by the vampire’s power of Dominate and now the enemy is only minutes away. Thora commands the robots to awake, but to no avail. As the hydraulic lift starts to descend towards them, she tries pleading and cajoling but the robots sleep on. Gawaine takes up a defensive position with his solar shield and Dodinel notches his bow. However, when the doors open in a cloud of steam, the lift contains a solitary R-Loki insurgent unit, weighed down with explosives. “DIE::FLESHY::ONES” reads its tickertape before it explodes, bowling Gawaine over and flinging Dodinel to the back of the room.

Dodinel recovers enough to see a platform being lowered down the wrecked lift shaft: a group of R-Loki scouts fan out into the room; two of them seize Thora. The platform is descending again, this time bringing Alexandyr down. From his prone position Dodinel reads the designations on the sleeping heavy infantry units: R-THOR. He realises what the command protocol is and calls out to Thora. The girl wriggles free of one robot and calls out to the sleeping regiment:

“R-THOR, your long sleep is over. R-THOR, the realm needs us. I am R-THOR. Accept my designation. Comply!”

R-THOR! The heavy infantry units light up, their eyes flashing. R-THOR! The regiment roars its designation in compliance. R-THOR! As one, their chain guns rise and erupt into life, blazing down the R-Loki units, pulverising the lift shaft and forcing Alexandyr’s retreat.

MalegeaIn the chamber above, Bors has watched Alexandyr descend into the shaft. Now he sees another figure among the ranks of R-Loki cog-people. It is Alexandyr’s merlin, the sorceress Malegea. Bors’ memory stirs, despite being sealed in the clockwork chip the nurses removed from his brain. He leaps from the balcony and seizes her in his arms. She is mechanical, half-Fae and beautiful.

“Bors! You came back!”

He kisses her, reaches out with Corbin’s Claw and tears a hole through the Dreaming into the Otherwhere, allowing them both to fall through together.

EVALUATION: I enjoyed this so much I’ve taken the time to write it up in detail. For me, this is where Changeling finally came together, both thematically as a game and as a chronicle. Here we have Cog People, Thora starting to be Arthur (or R-Thor) and actual honest-to-goodness Swashbuckling. Thanks to everyone [and an Acting Point to Nick]. Wait till next episode!
Mother Dearest
Morgause spelled backwards is Tulsa!
CONTEXT/RATIONALE: This should have been a big Sunday session, but we all got wrapped up in playing A Touch Of Evil (futile, as it turned out: the Scarecrow won) so we only ended up with a couple of hours to roleplay. After recap, everyone decided to investigate the shadow wolf attacks rather than start the next Troll Trial in the Dreaming. So this is a research’n’roleplay session, with a bit of detective-work, some forensic spellcasting and a whole bunch of dice-free interaction in and around King Lot’s freehold.

Sir Gawaine listens while his friends explain the story of the shadow wolf attacking Enid the Silent and Thora. Dodinel the Savage produces the eagle claw still matted with shadow stuff and Fergus Ironsides investigates what it means. Gremayre tells him of an ancient treasure, the Book of Shadow, that lets a sorcerer summon and control the demonic alter-ego of anyone writing their true name in it. A stunning success with the Omen cantrip reveals that the book is nearby, given as a double-edged gift and used recently, once out of sexual spite and once out of irresistible curiosity. Gawaine only needs to hear ‘sexual spite’ to conclude that his mother Queen Morgause has a hand in this. The wounded eagle Velgr confirms that its erstwhile mistress had become Lot’s lover.

MorgauseGawaine goes to Queen Morgause’s chambers, but asks Fergus to scry him with Tattletale and uses hexes on his behalf if Morgause tries to bewitch him. Gawaine is kept waiting by Morgause’s valet Jafar, but Fergus uses Tattletale to scry within the chambers. King Lot is there, destroying furniture in a rage over Morgause killing his new lover. Morgause accepts his ranting in silence, but controls him by undressing him and performing oral sex. Fergus hastily explores the rest of the chamber, ignoring the troll’s ecstatic roars. He identifies the Book of Shadow in Morgause’s library, the Llyfawr Nudd on a lectern and a sinister black cauldron simmering away.

Later, Morgause emerges to speak with Gawaine and the two engage in a verbal duel. Gawaine accuses her of spying on his entourage but she retorts that his ‘spidery shaman’ (Fergus) has been spying on her, which is true. Gawaine is more direct, accusing her of conducting an attack on his squire. Morgause accuses him of keeping secrets and says she didn’t intend any harm, just to reveal what’s so important about a girl so many people have sworn oaths to protect. Gawaine downplays this, so Morgause changes tactics, blaming her sister Morgan La Fey for manipulating her. Gawaine tells her that the shadow book holds the nightmare of an angry werewolf (true) and Morgan gave her sister the book because the werewolf will be coming to take his name back and exact revenge (an exaggeration). Morgause becomes tearful and apologetic. She offers to hand the shadow book over to Gawaine as proof of good faith. In return she asks only to meet with Thora and see for herself what’s so special about the girl. Gawaine tries to postpone such a meeting and exact an oath from Morgause but she presses her advantage. Gawaine calculates that he cannot afford to be beset by the shadow wolf during the upcoming Second Troll Trial so he agrees to a meeting that morning and hurries off to brief Thora first.

Thora has been studying the Ettinthrone and asks Dodinel to use his Redcap powers to try to eat the Jotunaxe out of the throne. Dodinel is pessimistic but tries anyway, gnawing at a stone finger, only for the rock fist to clench tighter, threatening to snap the axe in half. When Gawaine arrives, he finds them covering up what they have done like naughty schoolchildren.

Gawaine arranges to take tea with Morgause and Thora in one of the sunlit upper caverns. Morgause arrives looking like a hip rock-chick older sister and immediately bonds with Thora. Only Gawaine’s stern warnings stop the girl from falling entirely for Morgause’s charade. When the queen’s Omen cantrip goes off, Fergus is on hand to try to hex it; however Morgause has a hanging spell waiting to hex him. Morgause’s cantrip succeeds, but not quite as well as she would have hoped. Before she leaves, she thanks them all (pointedly, in the cases of Dodinel and Fergus) and gifts Thora some Dross in the form of a vintage ‘smiley face’ badge.

So how much does Morgause know? She knows Thora has a great destiny, that several Fae have taken oaths to protect her, that Gawaine is protective of her to the point of paranoia; she now has a riddling Omen about Thora’s future. She’s very close.

Gawaine now has the Book of Shadow and arranges for it to be safely delivered to the Torchlight Detective Agency, to be returned to the werewolf Shaft.

EVALUATION: I like wrapping up plotlines that have been hanging around too long and Alec deserves some closure for his old werewolf character, Sherwood Shaftsbury. Keeping Thora a secret can’t last forever either and now Morgause is close to putting it all together, while Hengist Jute has suspicions and Morgause’s comments about her sister Morgan La Fey suggests ‘Auntie M’ isn’t exactly in the dark about what’s going on. The Acting Point went to Nick/Gawaine and the Concept Point to Alec/Dodinel. We then planned out the Dreaming quest for next weekend’s big game.
Faster Than The Hound
There's a beast on the loose
CONTEXT/RATIONALE: A Tuesday game with Alec and Ray and a chance to do some more backstage work at Troll Thing. Ray says he’s particularly enjoying playing ‘the People’s Troll’ Bors while Alec is exploring a melancholic place while his character Dodinel is bound to the Iron Mask of Despair. For me, I want to bring back a dangling plotline from the old Torchlight chronicle that started us playing Changeling. Alec’s werewolf character, Sherwood Shaftesbury, visited the faerie bookstore, Dulcimer & Sons, and pawned his name. The book holding his name was stolen and a werewolf’s name, manifesting as a black shadow-wolf, has been causing mayhem in Shaftbury’s dreams. This story seems like a good time to bring the shadow wolf back into play. This is also a chance to introduce the players to the Near Dreaming and the concept of Dreaming Bedegraine and the other dreaming realms.

After the Tourney, Bors of Ganis is summoned by King Lot of Orkady who has a proposal: he’ll keep Bors in the the competition, despite Cei Hir‘s accusation that Bors invoked the Dragon unfairly; in return, Bors will support Lot against rival claimants, particularly Lot’s errant son Sir Gawaine. The two smoke cigars and drink salamander brandy but Bors notices that Lot seems to have a new lover in his bed and is not as hostile towards Cei as he would make out. Later Bors is approached by Sir Gaheris who entreats him to pledge himself to Pendragon Guinevere and support the Seelie faction. However, due to his haughtiness and arrogance, Gaheris does not make a persuasive case.

Meanwhile Dodinel the Savage is having bad dreams of Camelot falling. He awakes to find a beautiful feline woman in his bed who accuses him of reneging on an oath to recapture a dragon. He realises this is the Cat who was one of the river dragon’s chains. As he starts to defend his lack of success, he wakes up for real in bed with Korrigan Croesan. Restless, he goes for a walk, passing out of Lot’s Grotto and into a woodland path through Dream Bedegraine. He feels a dangerous presence and discovers a body: a young woman, in a coma, slain by a clawed beast. Kenning reveals the victim to be Enid the Silent.

Suspiciously on hand is Hengist Jute who expresses little alarm. When the other trolls are informed, suspicion falls on the werewolf companion of King Carados of Escoce who behaved underhandedly in the Tourney. The angry trolls prepare a hunting party to bring back the beast for torture questioning. However, Bors persuades Lot to use the Unseelie technology in the cave to ‘play back’ Enid’s last movements, looking for clues about her attacker. The druid Yorick Brandworthy is able to do this, showing Enid heading out of the Grotto in the early morning hours in some distress. She is attacked by a shadowy beast and her eagle companion escapes, wounded. Dodinel, scouting the scene of the attack, concludes the shadow beast gained physicality and strength from the attack and identified the high cave to which the eagle fled. Bors and Dodinel prepare to go in search of the bird but are unexpectedly joined by Hengist Jute (in full night-black deerstalker costume, accompanied by a dwarf ghillie with a hamper) who wants to accompany them.

The changelings use a mixture of Wayfare and Primal to ascend the cliffs, either leaping to the top of trees or growing trees beneath them to rise to higher ground. Up in the storm clouds, amid the ice and lightning, they find a gigantic duct that curves down into the mountain, rimed over with mineral deposits, stalactites and stalagmites. The wounded eagle is somewhere inside. Down in the depths a weird high-pitched voice is singing:

Just a little spider in a dwarfen spout
Down came the rain to wash the spider out
Down came the birds and bugs and bats and men
What a merry platter, in a spider’s den

Hengist throws down his torch to reveal, about 20 yards down the duct, a huge spider monster has a web of razor-sharp wires to catch creatures blown or sucked into the pipe. One such is the nearly-dead eagle. The spider, which has the upper torso of a hideous obese man, legs of steel and a big TV screen in its thorax, plucks the last gold feathers from the eagle and devours them. Empowered by the bird’s Glamour, the TV screen crackles into life. It depicts the shadow wolf’s next victim: young Thora Drake, now all along back at Lot’s Grotto, unaware she is being stalked by a monster.

The spider’s eyes telescope out and switch on searching spotlights that pick out the intruders up above. Using its steel legs it rushes up the duct while the obese man’s upper shoulders and head peel backwards to reveal the creature’s vast hungry mouth. Hengist and Dodinel scramble back to safer ground but Bors finds himself trapped, so instead of fleeing he lets go and swan-dives directly into the creature’s maw. He is swallowed whole, appearing instead as a character on the TV screen. The head-and-shoulders swing back into place and the humanoid head roars, “Yummy!”

Dodinel fires an arrow and Hengist a Holly Strike cantrip, destroying two legs and toppling the spider back onto its webs, slicing it into chunks. With Corbin’s Claw on his fist, Bors smashes through the monster’s TV screen, gripping the last of the eagle’s feathers. Dismembered, the spider tumbles into darkness.

Hengist uses Primal to heal the eagle while Bors and Dodinel use Wayfare to leap clean to the bottom of the canyon outside then race along the path back to the Freehold, Dodinel invoking the Dragon’s Resolve to help him do this.

Back in the Freehold, Thora is sketching the Jotunaxe in the empty throne room. The shadow-wolf leaps on her but her Spearman’s Shield Faerie Gift keeps her from serious harm. She darts behind the giant fist of the Ettinthrone and keeps it between her and the wolf. The creature snaps at her and she wounds it with her sword. Enraged, it starts to frenzy so she feints one way then dives the other, sliding underneath the basalt council table. The shadow werewolf hurls aside the giant chairs and claws at her under the table, scratching her again, but she keeps out of reach. Next moment, Bors is in the room and hits the creature so hard with his mace is goes sliding back down the whole length of the council table. Dodinel arrives next and pins it to the table with an arrow. The creature regenerates, struggling to rise again, but Bors leaps on it and smashes it into scattered pools of shadowstuff that fade away in the light.

When the trolls return with their werewolf bound in silver chains, Bors insists they release the creature. He arranges for Yorick the druid to show what really happened and the trolls applaud Thora’s bravery and pluck, adopting her as their mascot. Dodinel banishes the hapless werewolf, warning it never to come back.

Hengist returns with poor Enid’s eagle and some disquieting questions. Who directed the shadow wolf to attack Enid and why was she chosen as the first victim? And more strangely, he adds, why, once the shadow wolf had absorbed Enid’s Glamour and grown strong, was it sent to kill an insignificant little girl?

He’s not stupid after all, that Hengist.

EVALUATION: A short but satisfying Baskervilles-style mystery, with a memorable monster and a chance to swap characters at the end, with Ray playing Thora and Alec the shadow wolf. The wolf, of course, is well-known to Alec, who played the werewolf Shaftsbury in the Torchlight chronicle, so he knows what it is and what it can do but roleplayed his changeling character’s ignorance. After introducing Hengist as a plotter then an outright killer-with-a-shed-of-honour in previous stories, he was introduced here more for comedy value but is shaping up to be an intriguing NPC. Everybody hopes Nick isn’t too cross that we nearly killed ‘his’ NPC Thora. [Concept experience point to Alec/Dinadan]
The Monster Mash
... It was a Graveyard Smash!
CONTEXT/RATIONALE: One of the short Tuesday sessions with Ray and Alex this time and an opportunity to explore how ‘the People’s Troll’ Bors of Ganis fared during the Tourney. Now this runs the risk of contradicting events established on Sunday during Last Troll Standing and it constrains Bors to abide by the pre-established outcome (i.e. Gawaine wins). We established also that Bors took with him as squire the ‘Mystic Cabbie’ so this is a chance for Alex to create and play a secondary character.

Bors of Ganis listens to King Lot of Orkady outline the rules for the Tourney and goes out into Catford to track down a potential squire. He phones the Mystic Taxi Company but is met by Benjamin Legba who says he’s lost his car, Talulah. In fact, the mage has foreseen the need for the car later tonight, smoked a bag of ganja and lost the car as part of a Time/Entropy/Correspondence rote that ensures it will be close at hand when he needs it tonight, despite the Mists. Bors enchants him and they prepare for the Tourney.

At Hilly Fields Stone Circle at the start of the Tourney, Bors gets into an ugly confrontation with Cei Hir the Ogre. Instead of a squire, Cei has brought along an 8-year-old boy he has kidnapped “in case he gets hungry”. Nonetheless, the unnoticed Benjamin is able to study other contestants and their squires:

Entering the Mists, Bors and Benjamin are beset by visions. Bors sees himself risking his life for someone else and Benjamin sees himself buried alive. They recover their senses a few hours later in The Venue, a nightspot in New Cross. A girl handing out flyers guides them to a nearby folk club, Knotted, but on the way they hide from an axe-wielding Cei Hir.

At the folk club the band Ruined Tower are warming up. Benjamin sights an old acquaintance talking to the lead singer but the girl, an urban druidess called Bronwyn Briar, is squire to another contestant, the female troll Redhilda. Bronwyn uses the music to bind Benjamin to the carpet, but the cabbie sends out an omen to warn Bors, who comes to his rescue. Benjamin unweaves the druidess’ spell and Bors’ danger sense warns him of Redhilda’s attack as the audience starts dancing to the music. Bors uses Meteora to turn the floor to ice and Benjamin adds Entropy to the outcome, causing a moshing crowd to collapse on Redhilda. However, Bronwyn’s spell collapses the floor under Benjamin, dropping him through the cellar and into an Umbral pocket realm.

Bors confront Blodwyn, who tries to banish him into the spirit world and draw in the spirits of death described in the song Ruined Tower are performing, The Battle of the Trees. Half-in and half-out of the spirit world, Bors is seized by monsters. He uses Meteora again, this time on Ned Ludd, the band’s lead singer, to make him muddle his notes. The music falters and Bronwyn’s spell breaks. Bors kicks the crow-demon away, but not without seizing its clawed gauntlet away from it. Singer/violinist Selene takes over vocals and the song resumes, but Bors has escaped the Umbral trap.
Ruined tower live
Since the club is built in an old church, Benjamin finds himself falling through the cellar into a crypt in the Penumbra where zombies come crawling out of the brickwork. He plucks a silver stake from one old cadaver to defend himself, but ineffectually. Bors leaps into the crypt, uses the Claw to tear open the pocket-realm, seizes Benjamin and uses Wayfare to leap straight up and out.

Back in the club, even the Mists can’t hide the growing mayhem. Cei Hir has arrived and duelled with Redhilda, knocking her to the floor. Bronwyn tries to snatch the terrified child away from the ogre, but this provokes Cei to round on the druidess. He flings his chimerical axe of burning blood at her. Bors throws himself in the way and Benjamin slows down time for the axe, enabling the troll to grab it and crash into the stage with it. Cei swats Bors and Redhilda aside once more and batters Bronwyn senseless. In her beaten state, the druidess tries to banish Cei the way she did Benjamin and Benjamin throws his magickal power into her attempt. This time, however, the spell backfires horrifically. The Paradox brings the crypt-realm into the real world and flesh-hungry zombies start punching through the floor. The audience stampedes and even Ruined Tower decide that the gig is over. Undead arms seize Bronwyn and pull her through the floor into a hideous Paradox Realm and Redhilda is too stunned to save her.

“Where’s my $@%!?ng axe?!?!?” roars Cei.

“Right here,” replies Bors, swinging it at the ogre’s face.

Bors puts everything on this and invokes the Dragon’s Ire. It’s a devastating blow, blasting the ogre back into his human Seeming and leaving him injured, unconscious and on fire.

Zombies are now everywhere, kept at bay only by Cei’s burning body. Bors and Redhilda join back-to-back to fend them off, the female troll only sustained by Willpower. Then the stage explodes and a driverless car crashes through from the back of the building. It’s Talulah. Benjamin has summoned his faithful taxi and slides into the driver’s seat, Bors gets iin beside him and Redhilda collapses in the back. As they reverse out, Bors grabs Cei’s comatose body and drags it alongside the car.

Zombies spill out into New Cross Gate and mingle, largely unnoticed, with the late night crowds. Some drift into buses, trains and soup kitchens. Over the coming months, they find themselves working in fast food bars, as nightclub bouncers, pushing trolleys as hospital orderlies, riding the overland line to Richmond and Barking reading the same newspaper over and over. They assimilate.

Bors and Redhilda declare truce and return to King Lot’s grotto. Redhilda is honoured for her courage but Bors does not get the credit he deserves, because a scarred and vindictive Cei, once recovered, declares him a Dragonizer and a Bedlamite and insists he be disqualified from the competition.

EVALUATION: Another very enjoyable tactical/combat story with a strong setting and the imaginative collision of cantrips, axes and Mage spheres. When Bors botches his Subterfuge roll to keep his dragon invocation secret, it explains why he didn’t win acclaim at the Tourney – he’s under a cloud, pending suspension. Unseelie Fae aren’t particularly bothered about cheating, but the Dragon gives most Fae the creeps and Cei is very vindictive. On another topic, it was nice to guest star Ruined Tower again, a mixed troupe of supernatural musicians who featured in several sessions of the Torchlight chronicle. Moreover, the several uses of Meteora prompted me to re-tweak the rules for the new Art. [Acting point to Ray/Bors]
Last Troll Standing
Nice guys finish smashed....
CONTEXT/RATIONALE: And so, to business. The first episode of Troll Thing is an opportunity to put the Orkady brothers together, investigate the chthonic hallows and FIGHT!!! I was hoping to shift the tone back towards something more serious (well, as serious as it gets with trollish cockney gangsters), reward Nick for his patience during the Dragonfall plotline with some centre-stage business and advance the Arthurian plot arc a bit more. Did I succeed? Well….

During the night, Gawaine goes to investigate the Ettinthrone and Jotunaxe. Using Primal, he paints runes of blood on the rock and reads the letters that form in answer to his questions:
Q: Who is the king?
A: The bravest. Fatherless and unmothered.
Q: Where are the other hallows?
A: In dreams of water.
Q: What should I do?
A: Serve.
Q: What must I do to be king?
A: Die.
Q: Is the king a troll?
A: The true king has the soul of a troll.
Gawaine ponders these and hopes his divination was unseen by Yorick Brandworthy nearby.

In the morning, King Lot announces the opening of Troll Thing and the first of the Trials – the Tourney. Every contender will compete along with a squire and no weapons. The entirety of Bedegraine will be the battlefield and the Mists will ensure the combat goes on without mortal interference.

Lot organises a family meeting – also attended, disconcertingly, by Queen Morgause – and proposes the Orkadies act together in the tourney. Agravaine is in favour, Gatheris and Gareth are uncertain. Gawaine resists his father’s overture and Lot mocks him by producing a mouldy teddy bear he claims Gawaine doted on as a child. Gawaine declines and walks out, believing his true loyalty must be to Thora.

Gawaine briefs Thora to be his squire and wassails her the gift of Remembrance, binding it with a dream-oath until the tourney is won. Fergus Ironsides won’t be at the tourney in person but he gives Thora a pair of sunglasses and uses Soothsay to scry through them, using his power of hex for her benefit at a distance.

Dodinel the Savage meets up with Korrigan Croesan who seems to have resolved her sexual jealousy. He agrees to help her report on the tourney. Since they intend to go through the Mists with the other contestants, they decide that in order to spiritually bond before the task, the only sensible thing to do is have sex. For the rest of the day.
At sunset, the trolls gather at the stone circle on Hilly Fields. Each pair of contestants will pass between the stones into the Mists, to find themselves somewhere in Bedegraine, without weapons but near to an opponent. The contestants size each other up:

  • King Lot’s squire is a dangerous Russian mafia enforcer
  • Sir Agravaine is accompanied by a hip young computer hacker with a portable rig
  • Hengist Jute has a svelte young Blood Doll as his squire
  • Bors has recruited Benjamin Legba, the mystic cabbie
  • Uriens of Gorre has a Rumanian henchman called Borgo with a metal plate in his head
  • Enid the Silent has her talking eagle Velgr
  • Redhilda has a young urban druidess as her squire
  • Among the others, King Carados of Escoce has arrived with a feral looking werewolf in a tracksuit

Gawaine and Thora find themselves on another hilltop overlooking London, beneath a big oak tree. Thora calls on her new Remembrance and identifies this as the Honour Oak on One Tree Hill, a seat of royalty. She unearths for Gawaine a Treasure once given to Queen Elizabeth I, the mystic Spyglass of Roanoke. She also reveals the Trod running to Surluse and the chimerical gun emplacement. Gawaine uses the spyglass to identify where they can find his brother Gareth – over at Lewisham Police Station. They set off through Ladywell and hide from the marauding Tall Cei and his burning axe. They creep into Ladywell Station to visit the mystical well there and offer it something they treasure. Gawaine offers the teddy bear his father gave him and draws out a chimerical spear that will help him in this Tourney but when Thora offers the nymph of the well a photo of her dead father the well explodes, yielding up the Shield Pentacle, another of the Solar Hallows sought by Gawaine.

ExportDodinel and Korrigan find themselves in a more threatening environment, an old Millwall Supporters Club near the Old Den with the fans about to riot after their team’s frustrating draw. Dodinel avoids the blows and Korrigan uses Chicanery to get them out unharmed. In the car park they witness a duel between Agravaine and Carados. Carados has armed himself with exploding cans of McEwans Export – the legendary “red grenades” – which he uses to defeat Agravaine with ease. Korrigan backs him to be her favourite. They interview Carados and follow him further to a showdown in St Johns with Uriens, where Carados’ werewolf squire proves decisive and hospitalises the old king. Carados visits the Ladywell Unit to see if any other chimerically-dead Fae have been reported and news of a disturbance guides him to Lewisham Police Station, with Dodinel and Korrigan following.

Gawaine arrives at the Police Station to find a wild night in progress – produced by the trolls’ Tourney and the effects of the Mists. Gareth is in one of the cells being seen by a lawyer. Gawaine is prepared to wait until Thora realises one of the complaining civilians is the victim of a vampire attack. They realise the “lawyer” seeing Gareth is Hengist Jute and his Blood Doll squire has recruited one of her vampire masters to help. They wind up the vampire’s victim util he creates a major disturbance then use the distraction to get into the offices where Jute is assaulting Gareth. They find the young troll nearly dead and Gawaine attacks Jute with his spear while Thora pins down the Blood Doll. Gawaine defeats Jute but does not deliver the killing blow, showing mercy instead. Suddenly, he is attacked by Jute’s vampire ally whose supernatural Presence incapacitates everyone until the former-victim, half-insane, bursts into the room and leaps on his undead attacker, followed by a crowd of police officers with truncheons. Jute dismisses the police and makes peace with the battered vampire. On the way out, they encounter King Carados who challenges Gawaine to duel in the car park behind the station.

Korrigan and Thora climb on a truck to watch the duel but Dodinel breaks his neutrality to try to support Gawaine with his Wayfare cantrips. Using the Spyglass they spot where the werewolf minion is hiding and Gareth goes to intercept him. Carados arrives armed with his deadly ‘red grenades’ and uses his Nightmare Art to disarm Gawaine, making him see his own spear as a severed baby’s arm. Gawaine in turn disarms Carados, by using the Torque Art to insist on hand-to-hand combat, no ranged weapons. The battle is brutal but, even supported by Torque, Gawaine finds he is no match for Carados’ relentless strength and stamina. The Pentacle Shield converts the punishing wounds to Bedlam so Gawaine hits on an unusual challenge: if he can incapacitate Gawaine in a single unresisted blow, he will win, otherwise Carados must submit to Gawaine. Goaded by Thora and Dodinel’s taunts and Fergus’ clairvoyant use of the Soothsay Art, Carados agrees and delivers a blow that spins Gawaine into First Threshold Bedlam but does not floor him. Realising his defeat, the unscrupulous Carados seizes the disorientated Gawaine and snaps his neck!

Carados exults over the fallen Gawaine while the onlookers curse and weep. Hengist Jute steps out of the shadows with an origami figurine of the evil troll, crushes it and snaps Carados’ body out of shape with a Holly Strike. Considering his debt to Gawaine paid, he vanishes.

Thora leaps from the van and runs to Gawaine’s body. Standing back, she shouts at him through her tears and commands him to get up and serve her. Her third Faerie Gift manifests, Casgadh Fala the healing touch. Gawaine is revived and climbs to his knees before her.

In the morning, back at Lot’s Freehold, the trolls watch highlights of the Tourney on big screens set up by Korrigan and Yorick with images from the Mists being replayed.

  • Third place goes to Redhilda who defeats the rabid Cei Hir with the help of Bors of Ganis
  • Second place goes to King Lot who defeats the valiant Enid the Silent
  • First place goes, it seems, to Carados when the Dreaming shows his duel with Gawaine, but when the doors open it is Gawaine who enters, recovered, and the trolls applaud his bravery and express amazement that he survived a brush with death.

The first of the Troll Trials is over.

EVALUATION: An epic urban brawl and the first truly violent set of encounters the chronicle has seen. It flagged up some shortcomings in how Gawaine’s Attributes are allocated, prompting Nick to spend xp raising Gawaine’s (now heavily battered) Stamina. Alec and Alex were somewhat sidelined, but still got to make entertaining contributions. Nonetheless, this was Nick/Gawaine’s show and a serious advance in the Solar Hallows plotline and the development of Thora into the Pendragon she needs to become. [Roleplaying point to Nick, of course]
Call Me Ishmael
A fishing expedition
CONTEXT/RATIONALE: Another light-hearted short story for a Tuesday evening, resolving the previous episode’s cliff-hanger and maintaining it’s comic, whimsical tone (a bit of relief from the rather grim Dragonfall storyline and the serious Troll Thing plotline).

Bors of Ganis watches as the fish that swallowed Fergus Ironsides swims away. He crosses Tower Bridge into Surluse at the right time to catch the changing of the guards as the Unseelie night shift retires, to be replaced by a Seelie day shift. He’s in luck, because the Seelie sentries are animated carousel horses who admit him to the realm with no questions. He explores Rotherhithe and admires the chimerical landscape. He stops at a faerie coffee stall for directions and is advised to seek out Cap’n ‘Seadog’ Moodie in Greenwich. He buys a cup of ‘the Dark’, an espresso coffee made from beans grown on the inside of Mount Vesuvius. Wired with Glamour, he crosses the Wasteland and reaches Greenwich. In the Gypsy Moth pub he finds Cap’n Seadog and persuades the chimerical seaman to go hunting the big fish, Bertha.

Back in Bedegraine, Dodinel the Savage has slipped out of Queen Morgause’s boudoir to look for his friends. He finds Korrigan who scolds him for choosing Morgause over her. Sensing a story, she agrees to help him find his friends and have some fun at his expense. Upstairs, in Catford, she summons a chimerical speedway car, fits Dodinel out with rollerskates and handcuffs him to the back. She speeds off up Lewisham High Street with Dodinel skating behind, battered and burned by the experience. She identifies the chimerical flying machine commandeered by Fergus and Bors and locates it in the Thames.

In the belly of the fish, Fergus encounters three other prisoners there: Morgause’s dwarf, a human rocker named Damon and Pelleas, a Mad Hermit. Fergus tries attacking the fish’s belly with his knife, but this only prompts Bertha to swallow water, nearly drowning them all.

Cutty sarkCap’n ‘Seadog’ Moodie and Bors board the Cutty Sark and Bors is able to wake the chimerical ship by flirting with its figurehead of the seawitch Nannie Dee. They set sail up the Thames, but are intercepted by Korrigan, who has converted her racing car into a submarine. Dodinel bites through his handcuffs and is rescued by the Cutty Sark. The Cutty Sark now races against Korrigan to find Bertha the Fish.

Inside the fish, Fergus, Damon and the Dwarf have survived but there’s no sign of the Hermit. Fergus has slipped into his Unseelie Legacy but Damon snaps him out of it; he is unable to appeal to the Dwarf’s better nature. Fergus and Damon dive back into the water to find the old man, but he’s trapped under debris and dying. He bequeaths his treasure, the Grail of Regret to Damon before he dies. Damon sings Don’t Look Back In Anger as his requiem.

Bors swims under the ship and locates Bertha the Fish. When Korrigan attacks the beast it breaks the surface and Dodinel is able to skewer it with a harpoon. Bors starts to winch the fish towards the ship, but it’s too large and strong and it starts to capsize the vessel, forcing him to give it more slack. While it’s close enough, Dodinel leaps onto the fish’s side and starts biting through the scales. Alarmed, Bertha submerges and heads to the bottom.

Dodinel eats his way into the fish’s belly and rescues Fergus, but they are deep under the Thames and passing into the Near Dreaming through a watery Trod. Here in the cold depths are the wrecks of sunken boats and the souls of drowned sailors, tormented by carnivorous mermaids. Dodinel appeals to the Thames itself for a boon, citing the service he performed for its mightiest servant the dragon Temys. He is able to rescue Damon as well then bites through the taut harpoon cable. The line snaps them back to the surface.

The chimerical Cutty Sark continues to sail the Thames. Cap’n ‘Seadog’ Moodie vows to sail until Banality claims them or they earn enough Glamour to sail to China one last time. Dodinel and Korrigan exchange taunts, but Dodinel ruefully reflects that he has underestimated women. Fergus vows to protect Damon from Banality until he can find his lord and relieve himself of the cursed grail.

EVALUATION: A worthy fun successor to the previous episode, with cartoon swashbuckling, comedy scenes and a pastiche on Pinocchio as well as lots of ’90s rock jokes. The haunted depths of the Thames had a more serious, eerie quality and the Cutty Sark will make a valuable NPC ally and resource in future stories. Damon is, of course, a new NPC with a role to play. But enough light-heartedness: On with Troll Thing! [Roleplaying point to Alec/Dodinel and Alex/Fergus]

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.