Sep 29, 2022 3:19 AM
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"He sure did," Stala growls. "Butchered Baron Crexin's whole family the night he took over. Officially, they were resisting arrest and couldn't be brought in safely. Unofficially, that's a load of rancid toad oil. One of the dead was Crexin's grandson. The lad couldn't have seen more than eight winters. What did he do, attack the guards with a fork?" Stala spits on the ground. "Cowards. And it gets worse. A few weeks later, the baron's former captain of the guard Ithika disappeared. She'd been against Sebastine since day one. Rumor was she'd been planning a counter-attack, or possibly hiding a fugitive noble. She wasn't the only one to vanish, though. Good thing Kyintri and I left, or we might've been next." 

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[Crexin's title was Baron, a low-ranking noble. Crexin's former guard captain was named Ithika.]

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"Are things bad enough we should route around Adwell entirely if we can?"

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Prota is asking Stala if they should avoid Adwell entirely. 

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You ask Stala, "Are things bad enough we should route around Adwell entirely if we can?"

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Step 53

Stala dislikes and fears Sebastine, but still considers Adwell home. He knows how Sebastine has been treating travelers. Sebastine has not attacked non-loyalists, and still permits travel through Adwell. (The Player may be interested in avoiding Adwell. The fiction should make this a meaningful choice. There should be some benefit to Adwell and/or some difficulty in going around that makes Adwell a popular stopping point.) Getting past the river without going through Adwell is possible, but not easy. [Adwell has an old bridge that was untouched by the sinkhole. Most other crossings are not near the Utannic Road. Prota may be able to ford the Crane River upstream.] 

(Possible twist: Sebastine is taxing travelers more heavily to pay off his supporters. This creates a tangible effect on the Player that results from all the turmoil in Adwell, even if nothing else does.) Sebastine is taxing travelers, but not so much that the average traveler will prefer to risk the fords rather than take the direct route through Adwell. 

(The plot may also feature Ithika in the future, since she was name-dropped here.) [Ithika was harboring Yttria before Sebastine captured her. She is currently his prisoner, and he wants her to tell him where Yttria is hiding. Sebastine has been torturing Ithika.]

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Stala chews his lip in thought. "Sebastine's been taxing travelers more than Baron Crexin did. Rebellion is expensive. But if you aren't connected to the loyalists, he'd have no reason to go after you in particular," he adds reluctantly. "Plenty of folk have been through town since the usurper took over. If you do decide to go around, the fords north of Adwell might be your best bet. They add a week or so to travel times and they're a bit risky, but I've heard bad things about the southern roads, of late." 

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[Stala has heard rumors about the Llerwood and Li Voita Nimue. He has also heard of Orlake's dwindling influence.] 

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"What kind of bad things?"

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Prota is asking Stala to elaborate on news of the southern path. 

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You ask Stala to clarify. "What kind of bad things?"

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Step 54

Stala knows a bit more about Orlake and the Llerwood than has yet reached Prota and Glint. Orlake is declining as the lake itself begins to dry up, the Renplume carrying its water into the Blue. The flow of travelers and traders has also dried up due to reports of strange creatures and attacks on the Llerwood Way. Few know the real source of the attacks - Li Voita Nimue - but there would be rumors. A curse on the land itself, a monster, a witch with powerful magic. Orlake is still a good stopping point for travelers, but prices are high. It is, however, a good place to sell wares and hire mercenaries. (Orlake can be a town the Player visits if they want a more combat-focused adventure.) 

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"Orlake's been declining rapidly, and prices are high," answers Stala. "The lake's been lowering a bit since the Renplume started draining into the Blue - there's still fish to be had, but the Blue's movin' and everyone knows it. Travel's dried up a bit, too. Fewer folk are making it through the Llerwood Way, and those that do talk of...attacks." Stala glances at the downed gallowgale. "Animals, even people driven mad and aggressive. Some blame a monster, some a witch, others ordinary bandits. A few even say the land itself is cursed and rotten. Never would have believed it myself, but them's the stories. 

"Orlake's still a good place to sell anything that helps people migrate gree, or hire mercenaries to travel bluse. Lot of folk think they might make a profit picking up the leavings of weaker folk on the Llerwood. They might even be the ones killin' folk, who knows." 

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["The Blue's moving" is a colloquial phrase indicating a time limit, akin to "the clock is ticking".]

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"Animals like this one," I surmise, looking at the gallowgale. "I don't see how bandits could do that."

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Prota is skeptical that bandits could cause animals to go rogue. 

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"Animals like this one," you surmise, looking at the gallowgale. "I don't see how bandits could do that."

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Step 55

Ordinary bandits tend to have small magics, if any. Those with useful magics tend to find less risky or more legitimate employment. However, Stala is suspicious of magic, and he's just seen Glint transform into several kinds of dangerous animal. It will occur to him that bandits might have animal-themed magic, or use animals as minions. 

(Prota seems to have run out of questions for the moment. To continue the flow of the story, Glint can bring up Beldry. This also rewards the Player for keeping track of Beldry.) Glint has been listening to the exchange, happy to let Prota take the lead as practice. 

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"Most couldn't," agrees Stala. Then he glances sidelong at Glint. "...not without a magic, anyway." 

Glint, who has been listening intently, nods. "It's possible," he admits. "I've seen stranger things. All magics come from somebody." He frowns thoughtfully. "By the way, did you catch which way Beldry ran? I should probably grab him before something else does." 

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None. 

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"He went that way," I say, pointing.

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Prota points in the direction they saw Beldry run. 

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You point out to Glint where you last saw Beldry heading. 

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Step 56

Glint has finally noticed that Prota is getting more out of Stala than he was. He shifts and goes searching for Beldry from the sky. (To keep the flow of the story, Venir arrives with the oxen.) Prota can finish the negotiation on their own. (An endearing quirk of Venir might liven up the encounter.) Venir calls the oxen "pull cows" because she is still unused to their presence. 

Stala and Kyintri have more information about the road ahead, but not all of it needs to be explained right now. (If some of the details are elided, they can be referenced as a source of information later in the story, bringing up details as they become relevant). 

Stala at least will have noticed that Prota is heading bluse, and guesses they might be seeking a magic. But that is not as disturbing to him as seeing magic in action, so it need not come up yet. This is a good time to mention that the Utannic has gotten more crowded with travelers routing north to avoid the Llerwood, and that recent rains have made it muddy and slow. 

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"Good work, greenjay." Glint lowers his voice. "These folk seem a mite skittish around magics. Best if you finish up without me." Then he shifts and flaps off in search of the wayward donkey. 

Meanwhile, Venir has been maneuvering the family's wagon. She's nearly made it back to the road. "Daddy, I moved the pull-cows!" she shouts delightedly.

Stala's smile is a little strained, but he waves back. "She needs the practice," he tells you. "Never been on the road before." He checks on Kyintri, still breathing shallowly, and shares a few more tips about the road ahead. Much of his information about Orlake and the Llerwood Way seems to come from travelers who turned north on the Utannic to avoid the southern road. Between the increased traffic and the mud from recent rains, he says, the Utannic is slow going. "But at least it's going." 

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