For this tale, we were joined by my brother, Jay, who is playing Vrashek Kell the Orc, and shit got really orcy up in the enclave. This is also the first time I’ve ever played a second tale of Demihumans. I was so excited.
(The first tale’s summary is here, if you want to be up on the fiction.)
Filling in the blanks from the first tale
At the end of the last tale, Shiriff Nob Moreland the Halfling called in his neighborhood connections to get blackmail evidence and had it delivered to the authorities. In the moment, I didn’t ask enough questions of Judd as to how the fiction worked out there, so we started by my doing that. We determined that Nob had a friend falsify a letter indicating sexual jealousy within Captain Jin’s polyclue-unit who faced off against the Company last tale. He also had a human caravaner he knew deliver the letter, which explained the deaths of Jin’s men as due to mutiny within the unit, to Ade the merchant, the human who employed Jin to plug up the enclave’s water supply so he could sell water to them instead. Ade was warned that if he fucked around with the water again, the letter would get out, and his involvement would be clear.
Commonweal and lifestyle costs
Moving into play, a failure on the commonweal roll tells us that the enclave is in chaos. We discuss paying lifestyle costs, and:
- Becca tells us that Bloor the Troll has had enough time in the wilderness and has ditched the stag skull Bloor was using in the first tale for the skull of Severn, the guardsman Bloor terrified to escape the Moreland home and who the Company later killed at the battle in the spring. (Trolls don’t have to pay lifestyle, but can choose to suffer harm from not getting enough time in nature.)
- Nob worked a job, burgling Ade’s warehouse. Jobs earn 2-4 gold, so I asked how bad (2-4) they burgled him; Judd chose 3.
- Shalan the Elf worked for Ma Thorn, the Moreland head-of-household and Nob’s mother, advising her on the afterlife by using his soulgem (which lets him contact his father in the Next World).
- Vrashek also worked a job: Killing the merchant and the caravan members (who Judd confirms were good people, for humans) who delivered Nob’s message to Ade. He said he did it as publicly as possible, shouting out the name of his employer, and he let one person run free to spread the tale of his majesty.
I had all the banes and threats to work with, and then they gave me so much more!
Bad luck and a desperate survivor
Anyway, the first live moment of play is Nob attempting a ritual for luck thief, trying to steal Ade’s luck. As Judd describes the ritual, it involves speaking the name of your victim and throwing something you deeply value into a river. He misses his roll. Something goes wrong in his magic as the water turns instantly dark with thick, black, worm-like extrusions of magic. He is unable to find his precious accoutrement, his badge of office from the prior, now lost, shire. For the rest of the tale, whenever he misses a roll or when things go badly for him, I will make an effort to indicate it’s his bad luck that’s causing it. This moment also presages my use of the enclave’s bane; magic in Anarcaima will be twisted viciously against them, once this tale.
Returning home, perhaps for second breakfast, Nob is troubled by Olivia, the survivor of the caravan that Vrashek left alive. She comes to him desperate for shelter, since they did this favor for Nob and then everyone she was close to got murdered. Nob’s steely response, “That sounds like a human problem.” Panicking, Olivia threatens Nob with revealing his role in the blackmail to Ade. Nob is unmoved, and she goes running off. He reaches for his shiriff’s crossbow to take her out before she can leave the square in front of his home when his cousin, Rue (a cop and crimelord both) says, “That’s one of my people. Are you sure you want to do that? We’ll wind up having to figure things out between us, then.”
Nob relents, but Bloor is nearby and knows what he wants. First, Becca says she’d be pulling an unseen sentinel in the alley near the Moreland home, allowing Bloor’s body to seem like alleyway trash. Her hope is that Olivia will go running through Bloor’s body and then Bloor can get her. But it’s difficult to pass yourself off as a natural feature when you’re in the city, Bloor misses the required persevere under duress roll to do so, so Olivia sees the threat and disappears into the crowd.
The death curse of Idril
Meanwhile, out in the wilderness around the enclave, Shalan the Elf is out patrolling as he usually does. He comes upon Vrashek the Orc with his mount, Pit; he’s taking his dire war-boar out for her morning root-about. This is where I decide to use the bane. Pit starts vomiting after eating some under-root mushrooms and his vomit has fat, black, wormlike things made of magic wriggling out of it and blighting the vegetation all around instantaneously.
Shalan attempts to use his understanding of nature—the ranger’s knowing move—to figure out what’s going on, but he misses and I say he misinterprets this as signs of human magic. He also determines (correctly) that the “death worms” will continue to spread and will kill Pit from the inside out unless something is done.
Vrashek then attempts to use orcish magic—bloody visions—gashing himself and trying to understand the situation, but Jay misses the roll and I have the rotten magic jump from his mount onto his face. They subside quickly, but it’s clear that he’s now cursed, too.
Shalan then uses a basic move—assess a situation—focused on the magic in the area. He hits and recognizes the magic as that of a distant relative, Idril Gondolin. During the war, all members of the Gondolin family were slaughtered by orcs. Shalan figures out the worms are a curse, and one that Vrashek earned properly.
Running down the survivor
Back at the Moreland home, Nob grabs his crossbow and heads out to stop Olivia from reaching Ade. If she does, Anarcaima’s flower of human antipathy is going to wither one of its six petals; when all are gone, that’s the last tale of the saga and the enclave is destroyed. Before he can leave, though, Rue warns Nob again that if one of her people is hurt, there will be issues between them. But the shiriff has larger concerns than comity among the Morelands.
Becca decides that Bloor is going to hunt down Olivia and I invoke the stalking prey battle move. Nob helps by reconnoitering the enclave, asking people he knows if they’d seen the fleeing human. They wind up chasing her out of the enclave, on her way to Ade’s home inside the mountain. Bloor springs Bloor’s trap by again standing in Olivia’s path, hidden by unseen sentinel, waiting for her to blunder into Bloor. I decide this is worth a +1 bonus on Becca’s roll to take an objective, with the objective in this case being Olivia’s life. Becca rolls successfully again. Olivia shrieks in terror as the ground around her becomes a troll. She stabs ineffectually at Bloor’s mass, but is quickly slaughtered by Bloor.
Shalan and Vrashek are in the wilderness nearby the fight and come upon the scene. The Company shares among itself the events of the tale thus far, and Bloor winds up offering some of Bloor’s substance to be eaten by Pit and Vrashek, using Bloor’s fruiting body move. Becca’s roll is successful and she heals the orc and his mount of the damage they’ve taken (Vrashek’s bloody visions ritual and the sickness ripping through the boar’s guts), but curses cannot be healed, and both of them and the wilderness around Anarcaima is still threatened.
Under the influence of the psychotropic mold that makes up Bloor’s body, Vrashek has an illuminating conversation with Shalan. Vrashek doesn’t understand why Shalan is hurt. They didn’t know each other at the time he murdered Shalan’s relatives. Shalan—with preternatural patience, and in a lovely, hilarious, dark scene—patiently explains how non-orcs feel incredible pain when the people they are close to are gone. Jay explains that orcs have such a high rate of death that their culture does not understand mourning it. But the magical drugs burning through his brain bring a clarity he was previously unable to attain.
A dead clan’s sacrifice
Shalan has come to realize that if he gets all of the living members of the BLOODY EYE! clan together and can get them to atone for what they did to Idril’s people, this curse can be quieted. Jay uses the boon “find someone at the feast hall” to find Gorgon, his current clan’s leader, because all remaining members of Vrashek’s old clan have been assimilated into Gorgun’s Horde.
Jay tells us that Gorgon is extremely egotistical, not at all concerned with orcish honor, and her sole interest in getting as rich as possible. We find her holding court at the feast hall. She sits on a chair of two strong, noncombatant orcs who her warband shelters with their blades. She is cruelly mocking and using her people and they are enduring it like good soldiers.
Gorgon tries to pull the same stuff on Vrashek, but it doesn’t work. They start arguing, and Shalan uses beguile someone to end the fight and succeeds in doing so. My notes indicate that Nob also tried to beguile someone (I’m not sure who or why, but he failed, marked experience, and picked up the bamboozle move with an improvement).
Unfortunately I can’t remember how we got to this point, but eventually Vrashek locates Bagush the Eyeless, the former clan leader of the BLOODY EYE! who removed his other eye out of shame and penance for leading his people to follow the unworthy Gorgon. The Company gets the half-dozen remaining members of the old clan together and out to the wilderness near the blight, where they cobble together a ritual. Bloor gives them some of Bloor’s fruiting body substance and then Vrashek explains to the tripping orcs how familial love works for most non-orcs. The orcs each carve out their remaining eye as penance for their evil, and the curse is quieted.