Monday, August 14, 2017

Tiny Worlds of Apocalyptic Fate #1

I have kind of missed D&D, but I know the system requires too much information for my tastes. I thought about Dungeon World, but I just finished a session of Freebooters of the Perilous Wilds. Which reminded me of the Fate Worlds post made by Ryan Macklin. Then Tiny Fate. So, Tiny Worlds of Apocalyptic Fate… Tiny Fate (with the Aspects Only hack from the Fate System Toolkit) meets Dungeon World meets Untold with Apocalypse World's harm clock.

Visemar has the stern grey eyes of his lineage, their good humor slowly fading the longer he bears Storm Forged Raven Song. He wears his sienna hair cut short. As the eldest, he was meant to join the Paladin Order, but the Song ended that career before it began. Still, he maintains a military regimen and a strong build. Beneath his breastplate, he wears the Grey’s colors: black lined with burnt orange.

Indentured Hexblade of Winter and Ash
The Banishing Hand of Retribution
“I am bound by blood to my family, bound by honor to the Song.”
“Beneath the skin of a Warlock lies the training of a Paladin.”

Because I swore a Pact of the Blade, I am never without a weapon and can manifest one at will.

Because I am a Warlock, I can use my Devil’s Sight to see in the dark.

Because I am a Hexblade of Winter and Ash, once per session, I can spread bitter frost across enemies that are near a creature I have cursed and attack each of them.

CHAPTER 1: The Problem with Necromancers

I was dead, once. I drifted alone in darkness, then the distant whispers and giggling started. I-

Something attracted my attention. Not sight, not sound. My skin felt slick yet tacky, like oil or lotion. Otherworldly energies were aligning with this place. The remembrance will wait for another time.

A week of searching brought me here. Misguided cultists using their small sliver of power to offer corpses to the spirits just on the other side of the veil. My heart beat faster with anticipation and joy. Perhaps it was my bond with the Song that made me feel this way. At this moment, it didn't matter.

The living space was small, perhaps a couple dozen feet in any direction. Table. Chairs. Curtains pulled shut so no innocent passers by would witness who walked inside. When you walk in the light you have less to conceal. To keep secret. To run from retribution.

The dim light turned darker, a slow pull of the shade on a hooded lantern. I waited. Raven Song grew tense. A pair of slits opened in the corner of the room, glowing with a muted ice blue light. Another slit beneath the eyes parted in a grim luminous grin. A raspy chuckling wheeze filled the small room.

When I heard the rake of a talon on the wooden floor, I knew it was time. Song burst from its standard with a metallic rasp, mimicking the chuckle from moments before. Shield up, I drove it toward its chin as my sword thrust forward. Song pierced shadow skin and bit into its heart. There was a soft pop and a gentle breeze as the Umbral Imp discorporated. Song flared briefly with azure lightning tracing runes down its obsidian blade. There would be more.

My warrior training begged me to spin. Another Imp launched itself at my face. The shield imposed itself between me and my assailant with a hollow thump; my sword swung and cut into its shoulder and through its torso. Another pop followed by a groaning sigh.

From the ceiling, clawed hands reached down and grabbed my shield. I pulled hard, thrusting the blade into its face. Between the two of us, a strap broke and the shield hung useless. It sneered as it died, mocking before it also discorporated. Repairs would have to wait. The black iron targe was set on the table as I walked purposefully to the basement. The air in the kitchen is permeated by cinnamon, rosemary and grease.

What is going on here?

Old manuscripts and a couple of books are scattered across tables and mise en place. I pick one of the texts up as I stroll by. Odd for a recipe book or simple cooking instruction. The binding is plain leather; the pages faded and yellowing. A foreign flowing script written in cobalt fill page after page. Diagrams of lines and circles. The illumination of knotwork, painstakingly drawn on every page.

I have seen some of these designs before, though I can't read the text. These circles and sigils pair together and form the anchor between this world and the one just beyond. The Ethereal by some. If I had to guess, either something is coming from or going to the Ethereal.

The last few pages display what should follow. A detailed drawing of a corpse carved open. Specific organs removed in a particular order. A blood letting. Chalice. Focus. A reanimation ritual of some sort. I snap the book shut and toss it on the table. I have seen enough.

My boots make hollow thumps as my heel steps on each step down into the basement. The dirt floor is worn flat by frequent use. Barrels of liquid. Some crates filled with vegetables. Lanterns. The back attracts my attention, though. I can hear voices murmuring an inhuman language.

I creep closer while my grip tightens on the leather wrapping of Song. The cultists are distracted while they invoke whatever power they channel toward a man sized silver mirror. The reflection darkens with whirls of blue black fog. A clawed foot steps from the mirror followed by a crouching muscled torso. Its skin matches the color of the swirling mists. When it stands, the thing could see over just about any human. An ogre? The ability to shape Shadow into a myriad of twisted forms, and they choose an ogre.

Straight to business, the ogre surges forward and swings its very large fist at my head. With no shield to block, I duck and trace a cut across its abdomen. A small fissure of silver wells to the surface. The retaliatory strike catches me by surprise and slams into my breastplate. Song rips free of my grasp and skitters across the floor. A snarl escapes my throat; my jaw clenches from the impact.

Thinking I was disarmed, the ogre rushed in to grapple with me with all the advantages his height and muscle could muster. My hand gripped an invisible hilt and a dagger of glacial energy sprang to life. A stab pierced his skin and punctured his diaphragm. Pulling the dagger back, I flipped it along my palm and reversed my grip, stabbing down at the base of his throat. Pulling back once more, a right hook and a reverse strike traced silver lines across the sides of his neck.

“You won this battle, but you have already lost the war,” it said, falling to its knees. His voice was a surprisingly melodic tenor.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“You think this is the only ritual right now? Who will save the others while you're here?” It laughs that same raspy chuckling wheeze I have grown familiar with since- “See you soon,” and it popped back to the Shadow.

I needed answers. Now.

I stormed toward the small chanting group of cultists desperate to complete their ritual before the inevitable happened. The dagger elongated to a claymore as my free hand flicked toward their leader. Behind me, several ripples disturbed the air as a conspiracy of ravens tore through from Elsewhere. Their cries echoed and filled the tiny room with their raucous caws, flying a tight circle above him.

My hand clenched into a fist. The ravens swooped low in a furious blur. An explosion of ice wreathed his followers and walls in rime. The chanting stopped, their fragile bodies frostbitten and frozen by the sudden drop in temperature. I grimly grip the claymore with both hands and continue moving toward him.

“He was right, you know,” the cult leader shouted above the ravens. “Somewhere, Lady Rachis walks again!”

As he glowered down at me, the frozen corpses of his minions exploded. Five skeletons tore themselves free of their mortal prison. The problem with crazed necromantic cults is their friends never stayed dead. Not until you got to the top of the food chain.

A motivated skeleton ripped a dagger free from her former body and charged forward. I lunged forward onto a knee and swung the great sword. The exposed spine was severed, the torso continued forward and shattered on the floor.

Two more raced toward me with just their skeletal hands. I stood and broke one with an overhead chop from the claymore. The second beat uselessly against my breastplate.

While the cultist started another incantation, the one skeleton started tearing at the leather straps of my armor while the last two closed in. Between the skeleton and the necromancer, I had little choice: I didn't want to see what happened next.

I threw the icy claymore at the mage. It grew and expanded into a bolt of icy eldritch energy. The impact drove him against the mirror while the bolt pierced his skull. The three skeletons fell to pieces with his passing.

I solemnly retrieved Song and placed her in her resting place. A broken shield, easily fixed. Broken armor, easily repaired. All in all, not a bad day. Lady Rachis… Lets see what we can find out about her.

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