Tales of New Camelot

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]



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