Civilisation is crumbling. The great kingdoms and empires of the past are no more. For several generations, the foul Miasma has spread across the continent, slow but unstoppable. It brings with it sickness, madness and death, and it seems to many that the world will inevitably be consumed by the foul purple fog. But swathes and strips of untouched land remain between the Miasmatic clouds. This is a strange world of crumbling kingdoms and coalitions of cities trying desperately to cling on to the old ways; great mercenary armies who hold monopoly over military strength; bandits and extortionists who control the few safe roads bordered by Miasma and monster infested wilderness; and mad barbarians, pagans and cultists who have rejected civility altogether.
In this world, who are you?
The first character to 3 votes will be played
and the others returned too later.
A noble by birth but now a wanderer, this knight was left bereft of his manor, servants and riches when the Miasma finally rolled over his lands. He travels with a sword and shield, armour of the highest quality, and his reliable steed.
A holy man of Amadora, Goddess of the Heart. He is bound by his faith to help others, and to spread love and loyalty in a world increasingly without hope. He travels with his robes, holy books and symbols, and a cudgel for defence.
(If the Priest is chosen, one further choice must be made: which sect of the church he belongs to. The two sects will be elaborated on if he is chosen.)
A peasant by birth, but an experienced warrior nevertheless. He has served under petty lords, acted as a bandit, and until recently was employed by one of the great mercenary armies. He travels with what will keep him alive: an old spear, some padded armour and a knife hidden in his boot.
This gypsy has travelled with strolling players, bards and entertainers of all sorts, as well as some stranger folk, from whom he has learnt some strange things. He travels with a fiddle, a flute, an incredibly well trained falcon and knows all sorts of titbits of knowledge.
All characters can be assumed to start with basics and essentials like food and water, and if they're lucky a change of clothes. The items listed under each character are unique to them.
You are a follower of Amadora, Goddess of the Heart. Amadora saved humans from dark clutches in a time long ago, by granting them love, loyalty, compassion, mercy and cooperation. On her gifts civilisation grew great, but the current state of the world has seen the church divided into two sects:
War, murder, greed - humanity has ignored the Goddess' teachings for far too long. The Consequentialists believe that the Miasma is a divine punishment, intended to reunite humanity and teach them what is truly important. Consequentialists follow Amadora's teachings very strictly, doing their best to live a selfless life style. They forsake most earthly goods and comforts, believing that greed and desire are the anathema of Amadora's values. Consequentialists are known to be very helpful, though they also have a reputation of being boring, strict and sanctimonious.
( Grey robes, battered holy books, wooden talismans, a cudgel )
The Exuberantists believe that the Miasma is the result of a war in heaven between Amadora and foul pagan gods and evil spirits. Exuberantists believe that the situation can only be resolved through constant praise and celebration, in order to strengthen her. Unlike drab Consequentialists, Exuberantists are known for being very lively, upbeat, and are fond of extravagant festivals and holidays. However, they have been accused of succumbing to mania and hedonism in a time when humans cannot afford to be wasteful.
( White robes decorated with hearts, leather bound holy books, metal and gem talismans, a cudgel )
Both sects of the church advocate pacifism and diplomacy, though both sides may fight in self-defence. Extreme Consequentialists are known to execute those they deem evil, for selfishly refusing to follow Amadora's values, while extreme Exuberantists are known to host witch hunts in order to destroy heathen items and execute pagans.
You are a follower of Exuberantism, doing your best to spread cheer wherever you go!
Your travels find you on a woodland road. According to the folk of the last town you passed through and others you've met on the road, you are heading towards Byrness, a city-state and the dominant power in the region. Once you are there, you can restock on supplies, commune with other members of the church and manage some festivities for the locals. Though, your plans have been put on halt by a wooden palisade blocking your way, of which no one you've met has spoken.
The wall stretches across the entire road, and a good distance into the dense woodland either side of it. In the middle of the palisade is a heavy wooden door. You can hear the rush of a river somewhere on the other side of the obstruction, as well as footsteps and chatter.
Sorry fellas. The characters will rotate though, so the Priest is not the permanent focus.
You approach the palisade and rap on the door in the middle. The sound of talk and movement within stops, and a moment later you hear the squeaking and thudding of someone climbing up a rickety ladder. A grizzly looking fellow promptly pops up over the barricade and looks down at you from on high. He's wearing some raggedy clothing and you can see he has a quiver, though it's rather sparse on arrows.
You politely announce that you are a holy man, and that you would love to continue on your way to Byrness unhindered, but the man on the wall seems unimpressed. "Y'want go Byrness?" he shouts down, "then y'gotta pay. No one gets over the bridge without paying."
Well then, what will you do?
(Can I get a 1d10 roll?)
Luckily for you, you have quite a lot of coin! The locals of the last town you stayed in and many of those you met on the road were more than willing to make donations to the church! You probably have enough to pay the bridge mens' toll, though it's quite likely you'll need your coin for the sake of buying supplies and funding festivities when you reach byrness...
Instead you offer blessings, if the man on the wall and his compatriots would be so selfless as to let you pass. The grizzly looks back over his shoulder. "Y'lot hear that?" he shouts, and receives mixed responses from his unseen allies.
"Yeah, blessings if we let'im through."
"What about Callum?"
"We ought t'take offer."
"That's a blaspheme."
"We should help Callum."
"We need coin."
The grizzly man turns back to you. "We ain't gonna let y'through for free, but our friend ain't in a good sort. If y'help him go to the Goddess in peace, we'll let y'cross f'cheaper."
You tell the grizzly man you'd be happy give their friend last rites. He vanishes from the palisade, and shortly after the door is opened and you are allowed in.
The camp consists of tents and a few wooden huts which look to have been put up recently and in a hurry. The camp's inhabitants aren't too impressive a sight either. Men of a range of ages, numbering under twenty. They're unshaven, unwashed, dressed in tattered clothes and equipped with shoddy weaponry: loggers' axes, mostly, but some polearms with rusting heads, and two of them (including the grizzly man) have bows.
Running through the middle of the enclosure is a river, crossed by an old stone bridge. You can see now why erecting palisades across on both sides of the river is an effective means of stopping travellers: the river is not incredibly deep nor is it incredibly fast, but the waters are tinged purple. This water has run down from lands covered by the Miasma. To submerge yourself in it would be death. Upon being lead into one of the tents, you see that is exactly the case.
A young man - more of an older boy - lies on the ground within. The others have made him as comfy as they can, bundling him up in blankets and sheets, though they all seem reluctant to follow you into the tent. The boy is clearly Miasmatic: lilac spittle runs down his chin; his eyes are glazed and unfocused; he's twitching, and seems to be in a great daze. Far from the worst case of Miasma poisoning you've ever seen, though it's clear he will soon be with Amadora.
"The idiot boy fell in t'river," explains the grizzly man from the entrance of the tent. "We want t'help him but we ain't got medicine, and none of us want go near him. We couldn't do more then give him blankets." You know that even if they had tried, there is no proven cure for the Miasma, though their distance is unneeded. The Miasma cannot be caught from another person.
Roll 1d10 for how well you manage to make these last rites.
Rolled 7 (1d10)
Then explain to everyone that the Miasma isn't contagious - you're willing to get up right beside him, aren't you?
Gather his friends, bring out some wine. Drink to his life, and tell him to treasure what he has gained, and given to others, by living rather than thinking of what he loses by dying.
Ask him if he has any last few things he wishes to gift unto those whose time to join the Goddess has not yet come.
The last rites go well! A true follower of Exuberantism, you make the situation as lively as possible. You sit beside Callum and take his hands in your own, and talking softly you manage to coax him out of delirium. Once his attention is on you, you do your best to bring him happiness. You tell him jokes and stories, getting smiles and weak laughs out of him. You take some of your glittering amulets and talismans of golden metal and pink stones and glass from around your neck, and show them to him. In his dazed state he seems enraptured by the religious symbols, and letting him hold them seems to bring him comfort. You even manage to call in the grizzly man and two of the others, and after reassuring them that it's safe, they sit with you and the boy, and do their best to cheer him up. They sing bawdy songs, and one even leaves only to return with some ale.
Eventually the four of you join hands, and you lead them in prayer. With a smile on his face, Callum drifts into sleep. He is still breathing, though you doubt he will ever wake up again.
Once you leave the tent, the gathered men have mixed reactions. Some do look genuinely upset, a few even wiping away tears, though others seem indifferent at the youths passing. You notice that a few are now doing their best to maintain their distance between you and the others who went with you into the tent.
The grizzly man leads you to the bridge. Standing at the top of the bridge is a large fellow, arms crossed, holding a club. He looks unimpressed, perhaps even annoyed by you, but stays silent, and the grizzly man pays him no heed.
"Thank y'for y'services, priest," the grizzly man mumbles as you give him a few coins from your purse. You don't know how much it would have cost you otherwise, but having helped his friend pass on he asks for very little in the way of payment. "Anything else y'needed, or do y'wanna be on y'way?"
"Well we only been here for a short while," explains the grizzly man. "Lotta people come towards Byrness from direction y'came in - from Frolestone - but not many people go back that way. We figured we'd make plenty coin setting up here, and even if everyone who we let past complains about us in Byrness, the king ain't gunna do anything. He doesn't care about anything that goes on outside t'city.
"We don't want t'be tyrants of the road or anything, mind. But we need money, 'cus we're gonna be travelling. Far away. Dunno where exactly. The Miasma's coming this way. It's already getting round the mountains out westwards. S'why all the rivers around here are starting to purple up, just like this one. Soon there ain't going to be any clean water around here, 'cept what comes out of the wells.
"Then the clouds actually gonna hit. All the towns'll die. All the forests will wither up. Byrness is well off because it's got farms: not many places nowadays got good wide land, what with the Miasma making the world smaller and all the monsters coming in, but Byrness's still got meadows and stuff. But that's not gonna matter when the fog rolls over everything.
"So we're going east. Going to go down to Frolestone and then follow the roads, try and find somewhere which the Miasma ain't going to reach for a long time.
"As for you? You shouldn't run into anything between here and Byrness. Just straight road."
You thank grizzly man for the information, and then start to cross the bridge. But the large man stands in your way, and doesn't move.
"You think you're going somewhere?" he growls, and you recognise him as one of the group you heard shouting back to the grizzly man when you first arrived. Specifically, the one who kept saying 'sod.' "I don't give a damn about Callum. You think I care that idiot's going to die a little more peacefully thanks to you? Oh no. You need to pay up. Everything you got."
Roll a 1d10 for whatever you do!
Rolled 4 (1d10)
Talk him down. He really isn't going to get away with this without consequences. Even if his comrades don't take issue with him robbing a defenseless man who helped one of their friends' passing, his conscience will plague him until his dying breath. Ask him not to do this to himself.
You attempt to talk down the large fellow, telling him that his friends won't take this well, and that attacking a defenseless priest (though you can feel your cudgel, hidden beneath your robes, against your leg) will not do him any good. He doesn't pay you much heed however, and takes a step towards you!
... but you are unmoved! You stare him straight in the eyes, and tell him that anything he does now will weigh heavy on his conscience until the day he dies.
The man glares at you, but then he lowers his club! "Sod it, then," he huffs, and he walks past you and off of the bridge. Looking over your shoulder, you see the grizzly man glaring at him disapprovingly.
You leave the encampment, and resume your journey to Byrness!
Another d10 roll, if you please.
On the road to Byrness you notice that you are being followed by one of the men from the encampment - the only one other than the grizzly man who had a bow. He's eyeing you up in a way you don't like...
But seems to think better of whatever it is he had planned, and turns back the way he came.
You continue to walk for the rest of the day. It is late evening by the time the forest starts to thin, and you reach the meadows and fields that the grizzly man spoke of. The trees become sparse as the landscape shifts to grassy, gently rolling hills, covered in scattered patches of crops and a few farming hamlets. Ahead, you can see the stone walls of the first proper city you've seen in a long time. You have reached the lands around Byrness!
( Loading next scene )
( Wow sorry guys that took a while )
The city sits alone on a hill in the middle of the plains. It is without any defences other than its walls, and it seems the creatures of the night aren't an issue around here, as the city gates aren't closed. A lone guard in padded armour, with a sword at his side and a torch in his hand, watches you pass as you enter the city.
It's late enough that Byrness has fallen quiet. The muddy streets are narrow and towered over on either side by tall, thin houses. It's mostly dark, too, save for the flickering light of candles and lanterns still shining through the windows of a few houses. The streets are empty, except for a scant few local peasants, dressed in simple caps, tunics and pantaloons. Traders, from the looks of things, as most are laden with boxes and sacks, and some have carts, and they seem to be heading home.
Silhouetted against the evening sky, you can see the city castle at the top of the hill, though nothing else other than roof tops. You'll need to ask directions if you want to go anywhere.
You turn back to the gate and ask the guard on watch where you can find the church. He squints at you in the growing darkness and raises his torch, but when the light falls on your colourful attire his face softens a little and he looks a less hostile. He tells you how to get to the plaza, where you'll find the church, and after thanking him you're on your way.
You reach the plaza - though really it's more of a crossroad, where the converging streets happen to make a slightly more open space. There's a few tatty market stalls and tables, and again a handful of locals clearing away their wares. A stray dog slinks about in the shadows.
The church is squeezed in between two building; guild halls, by the looks of the banners and signs on them showing pictures of coins and wares. To your relief, you see the local church abides by Exuberantism - light streams out onto the plaza through stained glass windows, and colourful swirls and hearts are painted upon the grey walls.
Entering, you're greeted by a space crowded with pews covered in plush cushions, lit by candles of coloured wax set on polished candle sticks. At the end of the church, beneath a mural of the Goddess of the Heart, is a pulpit, and at that pulpit is an elderly priestess, grey hair tied in elaborate tresses, wearing the same style of robes as you - though hers are much cleaner for lack of weeks of travelling rough. Her head is down, eyes focused on a book on the pulpit, and she doesn't notice you enter.
Politely approach, making perhaps a little more noise than usual so that she becomes aware of our presence, and then greet her with the traditional exchange
which may or may not involve knock-knock jokes.
I like to think priests of LOVE AND PEACE are the kind to believe that everything would be a lot easier if everyone would just get along, and actively try to encourage such things, sometimes to the point of foolishness. They have faith in the power of kindness, and in the fact that no human is beyond redemption.
Beings that can't be reasoned with, however, may be another matter.
You start walking down the aisle of the church. "Knock knock," you say, knocking on one of the wooden pews.
The old woman doesn't look up. "Who's there?" She speaks rather loudly, though you're not sure if that's because she's hard of hearing or if it's because she can barely contain her Exuberantist cheer.
"A herd who?"
"A herd thou were home, so I came over!"
The old priestess looks up, and the two of you share a laugh at the awful joke. Moving away from the pulpit, the two of you meet and embrace. "Welcome, brother!" she says with a smile after releasing you. "I am glad to see thee. The last members of the church to come by Byrness were Consequentialist bores who looked deeply offended by our comfortable little set up here!" You introduce yourselves to each other as she leads you through a small door at the back of the church, into a cramped corridor with another three doors leading off of it. "I am Mother Linet. It is so good to have another here, even if thou art only staying briefly. Byrness counts as a single parish, and to attend to the needs of an entire city and its subsidiaries can be exhausting for an old woman! I've educated a few from the local stock so that they may assist me and replace me when I pass away, but as I have not heard from the rest of the church in so long, thy presence soothes." Linet gestures at the three doors. "Two bed chambers and storage. My helpers have all gone home now, but I'd happily heat water for thy bath and try to get thy robes clean, or see thee straight to bed if your travels have tired you, or I will get thee food see that thou art well fed!" The old priestess smiles at you, clearly overjoyed to finally have some contact with a fellow cleric.
Ask her if we can help her in any way while we're here - at the very least, with preparing dinner. It has been far too long since we have met one of our fellows as well. Over food and drink, we can ask her about the local situation in more detail.
Did we actually have any goals beyond arriving here and meeting with the local clergy?
Before anything else you ask for sustenance, and happily help Linet prepare a meal. In the storage room, a fire pit in the middle of the floor is brought to life, and in a pot above it a hearty stew is cooked up for you. Then, with your hot bowl of pottage and a loaf of bread, you return to the main body of the church - Linet apologises profusely for the lack of a dining room - and sit on a pew to eat, while Linet, who has already eaten, pours you both a goblet of wine. Over dinner, you ask Linet about the situation in Byrness.
"The people are happy enough. Out here, surrounded by fields and forests, it is quite easy to forget that there is anything wrong with the world, and to be content!" The old woman smiles, though a little sadly. "Of course, there's always reminders that something's wrong. The travellers, for one thing. There's always someone arriving from somewhere else, either passing through or looking to settle down here, and almost all of them say the same thing: 'my home was consumed by the Miasma.' Many of Byrness' people have never seen a Miasmatic cloud, but to hear of this great horror that is bringing the rest of the world to ruin... it makes them uneasy." Linet's face falls, and her voice grows quieter. "Some of the locals have started to leave. They say they must take after all the travellers they have seen, and get as far away from the Miasma as possible. And I cannot blame them. Out in the woods, the peasants have been finding animals dead of sickness, and brooks running purple with disease.
"But, we keep their minds off of it!" She smiles again. "Me, my students, and the king. The king is a good man: he's always more than willing to allow us to hold a festival or a ceremony. Though, I would appreciate if he did something about how little space we have," she laughs and gestures around the tiny church.
"Though, I believe that his willingness is due less to piety and more to a personal love of merriment. He thinks only of how he and his subjects can enjoy themselves, rather than matters outside of the city. He seems entirely dismissive of news of the Miasma's influence drawing any closer. And many times travellers have warned of jealous kingdoms thinking to move against us. Our ancestors would laugh at the holdings we call a nation, though nowadays there are few others who can boast lands such as Byrness', and that makes the city a tempting target. But the king cares not. He merely waves a hand at such rumours, and it worries me, for if the city ever were attacked, what would we do? We have the city walls, and every able bodied man is required to serve at least some time on the guard, but we have no soldiers, and the king refuses to send word to any of the mercenary armies."
Linet quaffs some more wine, then smiles at you apologetically. "But you must not let me plague thy stay here with my worries. Our fellow clerics would admonish be for being so negative! Once you have bathed and rested, we can plan some festivities for the locals!"
>Did we actually have any goals beyond arriving here and meeting with the local clergy?
Can I get a 1d2?
You do, actually, have an ultimate goal, on the road to which Byrness merely happened to be! While you have taken vows to wander and spread as much good faith as you are able, you have been summoned to Holy Atterley, home of the church's ruling bodies! While the holy city and the church's highest of authorities are sworn to neutrality, Atterley is currently swayed towards Exuberantism, with much of the high ranked clergy living there having been selected from your sect.
You received summons in a letter bearing the crests and stamps of several of the church's ruling authorities, brought to you by a messenger on horseback about two months ago, to a meeting between as much of the clergy as can attend. With the purple fog constantly changing the shape of the map and blocking off roads and passages, locating and reaching people is no easy feat, so the moot must be of the utmost importance if the church is personally delivering letters to as many clerics as they can! The meeting is due to happen in another two months, and is why you cannot afford to dwell in any one place for too long.
You ask Linet if she also received summons, and as it turns out she did!
"Another reason for me to worry," she chuckles. "Every day the meeting draws closer, but I do not know if I will be able to attend. I worry that my students will not be trained enough to handle matters when I leave, and Atterley is so far away... an old woman like me cannot make the journey alone. But who is there to accompany me? Most of the locals are too comfortable here to accompany me on pilgrimage, and those who flee the Miasma wish to go east, not north. The king has knights, but as I said, Byrness has no soldiers - the knights are laid back boys and cheery old men with old family names that no longer mean much, who prefer to go on hunts and play games and stroll through the countryside. They have no taste for adventure."
You ask Linet if there's a library or stash of knowledge in Byrness.
"Oh, no, I'm afraid not. I have all essential holy texts and then a few more, under the pulpit and besides my bed and in the storage room. There's a lot of books up in the castle, too, and I'm sure the king would let thou have a look at them, but I doubt there's anything of interest to thee. I believe it's mostly lists of bought and sold good and who owns which bit of land and all that sort of thing, plus a few manuals on dueling and saucy tales of courtly love and intrigue the knights like pouring over. What were thou hoping to read about?"
You confide to Linet that you have made something of a habit of fantasising about ways of driving back the Miasma, and have considered magical means. The priestess raises her eye brows and tuts, but looks amused rather than scandalised.
"Be careful, my friend. It is by looking too deep into that sort of thing that one gets seduced by lonely spirits and heathen beliefs. Some of the travellers who have passed through have claimed to be magicians, and I doubt thou would wish to be like them - some are obviously charlatans and schemers of the worst sort and others are quite clearly mad. But, then there are the pagans who speak so confidently of the gifts of their foul gods, and the scholarly men with terrifying gazes and defeated expressions, who've clearly looked far too deeply into things they should have left alone."
Well, it seems like you won't be learning much about sorcery in Byrness. Do you have anything else to ask Linet, or would you rather prep for bed?
After finishing your meal but before you bathe and go to bed, you and Linet indulge yourselves in a little more wine, and talk about celebrations you can organise for the city. You put forward the idea of what you call a 'party wagon:' a carriage from which one could preach and spread positivity, and within which all sorts of small treasures could be kept.
"My, that is an exciting idea! Though, I don't know if we have the materials or craftsmen or time needed for much more than a prettied up wagon. We sometimes decorate carts when we want to put on miracle plays during celebrations, but afterwards we always give them back to the traders and farmers. Besides, I don't know if there's much room in cramped Byrness for a beautiful carriage to be pulled about, and it would seem such a waste for it to be left mouldering in a hamlet somewhere outside of the walls!
"Unless, you were planning on taking the carriage with thee, as transport to Holy Atterley? For such a cause I'd happily try and secure thee transport, though thou might want something a little more robust, and depriving a farmer of his wagon and beasts of burden might be rather costly."
Linet laughs. "I appreciate thy enthusiasm, but now is far too late to rouse my students and the carpenters and the farmers and the traders! Come, get some sleep, and tomorrow we will gather my students and discuss celebrations, and try to secure thee transportation to Holy Atterley."
Now, the two of you heat some more water: some to fill the bathtub in the room which you'll be staying in, and some so that Linet may scrub your robes clean. You insist that she needn't stay up even later on your behalf, but she claims that she enjoys staying up surprisingly late for an elderly priest - she is no misanthrope, but she admits that a little alone time with her books is always nice.
After you have scrubbed yourself clean for the first time since you left Frolestone - and for the first time in hot water since before even then! - you slip on some night clothes, and settle down into bed. As you drift off to sleep, you think happily of your journey.
And with that I will call this to a halt, as it's very late.
Thank you so much to everyone who played! Sorry responses took so long at times!
Next thread, we will join either The Knight, The Man-at-Arms or The Gypsy, and see what they were up to while The Priest negotiated with bandits and found his way to Byrness!