Skyfall

Twenty-first Session

Thirty-third of Bloom

Session Notes

Convinced that Hubert Darry would not be swayed, Philippa Darry took her leave of the remnants of the Darry Army during Interlude of the thirty-second of Bloom, riding northwest towards the Umbran Jungle.

When he woke Olive Mollin to take over watch, Owen Selerius asked why she and Cyrian Dylan had not taken advantage of his and Kirin Masters’ rearguard action to flee. Olive replied, somewhat awkwardly, that they could not leave children to die for them. Later that evening, Timeon and a small group of women returned to Olive with materials for stretchers, and bore Olive, Owen, Kirin, Connor Darry, and Cyrian back to the camp in the jungle.

The following morning saw Valon Sarqhardt reunited with Olive, and Olive reunited with Reyna Mollin. News of the army was exchanged for news of Valon’s miraculous escape from Fairbanks. Valon also shared Reyna’s concern for Olive; Reyna in turn made sure that Olive saw to the confessor’s wounds, which he had not wanted to worry her over. Connor’s, Owen’s, and Kirin’s wounds seemed to be improving, but Cyrian showed no change. Olive’s right arm, while functional, appeared to be infected. A ring of inflamed tissue and pus marked where the axe had severed her arm.

In a private moment, Olive confessed to Valon her despair that although two saints had been present when Cyrian was killed, only she had been saved, just when she had begun to hope that she would not grow old alone. Valon shared her sorrow, but counseled that she channel her despair into caring for the refugees, just as the clergy has no family but all mankind.

Vhetin Cooper, drawing on her experience as Philippa’s maid, took charge of organizing the refugees. She set children to familiarizing themselves with the immediate area and collecting plants for Olive to identify as edible or not, and organized a water chain, water rationing, sanitation details, and other tasks to keep the refugees busy.

Philippa arrived none the worse for wear, though throughout her ride she saw small groups of orks. These were traveling in many directions, but all away from what appeared to be the Besgenet-Ashlance area. John Turomot, Vhetin, and Valon were all happy to surrender command responsibility to Philippa, who took counsel with them as to whether to stay in the jungle or make for a destination – and if so, where. With no food since the previous day, however, provisions were a pressing necessity. In addition, Valon had discovered a rite in the Sacramentarium of Saint Veronica that might bring Cyrian back to life – but the rite required items that could only be found in Fairbanks. Olive volunteered to sneak into the town at night and smuggle out both food and ritual items.

Immediately after this plan was settled upon, two water bearers brought news that they had seen two men in the armor of the 8th Breslin Infantry by the river, seemingly alone – and that they could smell food from the direction of the men. Philippa and Olive resolved to investigate.

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Twentieth Session

Thirty-second of Bloom

Session Notes

Valon Sarqhardt led the survivors of Fairbanks to a secluded clearing in the Umbran Jungle. There, he took stock of the survivors. With the invaluable help of Vhetin Cooper, assisted by Valla Dylan and Reyna Mollin, he set the refugees into a semblance of camp. A regular rotation of women brought water from the Thread back to camp in mugs, though where the refugees will acquire food remains a problem.

Philippa Darry caught up with the remnants of the Darry Army, where she hailed Hubert Darry as Lord Darry. She related to Hubert the fall of Fairbanks to heretics, and demanded to know why he was throwing away the remnants of the army instead of using it to aid the refugees, or his gravely injured brother. Hubert replied that for somebody who seemed convinced that he was now lord of the House, Philippa expected him to explain an awful lot to her. Nevertheless, he explained his reasoning to her: most of the orks that had defeated the army continued northwest, and according to Philippa’s story were killed by the 8th Breslin Infantry. The orks he was chasing were merely the remnants of the orkish cavalry, no more than 25 to 50 orks, who were unaccountably marching south after their victory. Moreover, the orks faced during the battle were too well equipped for their numbers while simultaneously having too small a vanguard, suggesting that they were the survivors of a much larger army. Thus, Hubert concluded, the orks they faced must have been running away from something – perhaps the heretics that Philippa encountered, perhaps something worse. Either way, Hubert did not feel up to the challenge of facing it; the House needed the Greenslayer still. He expected to overtake the orks holding his father in no more than two days – hopefully before they reached ships or the Stonewall Mountains.

Carolina Darren, who had survived the battle and now rode with the army, told Philippa that Hubert had not actually ordered the army to travel with him. After the battle, he simply informed them of their intentions; the surviving knights accompanied him of their own accord. She also related that Hubert had not precisely abandoned Connor; instead, Connor left the army to return to Orkhold and begin the process of raising a new army. Despairing of getting Hubert to turn around, Philippa resolved to return to Connor the following day.

Meanwhile, Olive Mollin encountered a pair of lightly armed orks chasing a man leading five horses, including two wearing barding. Determining that the party could not escape without moving too quickly for Connor’s health, Owen Selerius and Kirin Masters decided to buy time for Cyrian Dylan and Olive to escape with Sir Connor. Torn at watching young teenagers go into battle against orks, Cyrian and Olive decided to stay and fight as well. The orks easily dispatched all four, disembowling Cyrian, cleaving deep into Kirin’s chest, battering Owen until he collapsed, and cutting off Olive’s right arm at the shoulder.

Through the shock-induced haze of her injuries, Olive saw both orks suffer multiple internal explosions and collapse. A figure wearing the traditional armor of St. Veronica Invicta then rose in the distance to the south, before walking away. Just as Olive collapsed from blood loss, she was approached by an incongruously cheerful St. Sanguinus, who asked her if she was going to heal her friends. When Olive admitted that she did, the smiling saint showed her a small green and purple flower – the same she had gathered for Connor in a moment of clarity earlier in the day. These he crushed into paste with his hands, which he smeared over the stump of Olive’s wound, and then sewed her severed arm back into place. Olive’s arm was, miraculously, restored to full functionality. The saint then gave her a brass mortar and pestle with which to grind more paste.

While Olive frantically tried to treat her wounded comrades, the fleeing man approached. He identified himself as Timeon Cooper, Sir Connor’s hostler, who fled with the horses in his care before the camp could be overrun. Olive completed her ministrations, but none of the other three revived as she did. Cyrian had ceased breathing, and Kirin’s wound extended all the way to her lungs; only Owen was alive, his mail having protected him from the worst of the ork’s attacks. Determining that there was no way to move the wounded, and refusing to give Cyrian up for dead, Olive sent Timeon to the Umbran Jungle for help with a list of likely places to look for Valon. She and Owen then settled in for the night.

Timeon reached the camp late in the night. After a tearful reunion with his wife Vhetin, he led a group of women who could ride back towards Olive’s position.

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Nineteenth Session

Thirty-second of Bloom

Session Notes

Valon Sarqhardt accompanied the survivors of the attack on the cathedral through the back roads Holdfast to the north gate of Fairbanks, accompanying the rear while Vhetin Cooper led the exodus carrying an unconscious Patrek Bellows on her horse. Philippa Darry, Kirin Masters, and Olive Mollin, carrying Preacher Patrek’s flame spell, split south to create a diversion.

Philippa’s party found Justicar Turomot and his wife at their house, and sent the two north to join Valon’s exodus. At Kirin’s suggestion, the diversion party then set the granary alight. The noise attracted a patrol of Bresliners.

Meanwhile, Valon stopped at the Mollin household to evacuate Reyna Mollin as well as recover the crossbow and apothecarial supplies kept there. Just before Reyna finished packing what she could from the workshop, a Breslin patrol began to search the street. One surprised Valon in the front of the house and, seeing Patrek’s magic sword on his waist, immediately attacked with a spell of his own. To Valon’s utter amazement, the spell caused a snap in the air and a pale pink flash of light directly in front of him, but no harm. He helped push Reyna out a workshop window just as his attacker bellowed for help and cast another spell that caused the workshop to explode. When this too failed to harm him, Valon approached the Breslin man and attempted to calm him. He reacted with horror and loathing, fleeing the house after several seconds of repeated attacks failed to harm Valon.

Hurrying to join the refugees at the gate, Valon was attacked by the entire Breslin patrol. All their magic proved of no avail, and Valon took advantage of their terrified focus on his apparent invulnerability to distract them from the refugees struggling to unbar the north gate. The entire patrol quickly ran to find ‘Micah.’

The ruckus caused by the patrol attracted more Bresliners to the north end of town, armed with yet more magic, yet their concentrated efforts could not penetrate Valon’s strange protection. Another group brought Micah to the battle on a stretcher, who unleashed an unearthly scream that was repeated by the very windows of the houses lining the street and threw open every shutter. Valon responded by walking down the street, praying calmly in a loud voice. Micah redoubled his profane efforts, to the point of reopening his half-healed wounds, but could produce no effect on Valon, who calmly beheaded him with Patrek’s sword even as Breslin magic assailed him from all sides.

In the south of town, Olive struggled to improvise an activation ritual for the flame spell. Though she could not tame its ferocious spirit, she was able to hold off the Breslin patrol long enough to escape to the South Lees. Both Olive and Philippa were struck by magic, though Philippa’s armor appeared to protect her and Olive did not notice until much later. At the south gate, Kirin had gathered what townsfolk she could find and unbarred the gate. Olive set the Lees afire, apparently killing or offending the fire spirit in the process. The three women galloped away from the town, telling Kirin’s helpers to make their way around the town and head north for the jungle.

Valon and Vhetin’s refugees escaped through the north gate, but Valon’s protection seemed to falter at the last moment. He stumbled through the gates, bleeding. Vhetin dismounted to hoist him onto her horse and sent it running for the jungle; Valon, with the last of his willpower, turned the horse around to recover her. When Vhetin pointed out that the horse would not hold three, Valon unceremoniously dumped Preacher Patrek on the ground, and the two of them rode for safety. Bresliners lined the walls and felled many of the refugees as they fled, but did not pursue.

At last, Valon and the refugees reached the relative safety of the Umbran Jungle, where Reyna did what she could to staunch Valon’s wounds. He began to lead the survivors deeper into the jungle. Aware that his wounds were potentially very serious, he asked Justicar Turomot to lead the group in Philippa’s absence. He also commended Deacon Edward for his spiritual leadership of the town in the army’s absence and preservation of the Fragment of St. Veronica’s Sword from the cathedral.

Philippa, Kirin, and Olive arrived at the battlefield to find that the camp had been the site of a great slaughter. Some of the dead had been stripped of their clothing. Others had died strange deaths, burned to blackened husks or with parts of their bodies mangled as if by a meat grinder. Olive gave voice to the dreadful suspicion that the Bresliners had been in the camp as well. Curiously, there were no arms or armor from fleeing soldiers, metal implements of any kind, or fine clothing of either gender left in the camp.

Continuing to the site of the battle itself, the women found that the fallen orks had been stripped, but the human dead buried in a mass grave. Olive discerned tracks from the grave leading southeast, but the women were stopped from following when Olive heard a shout behind them. Her keen eyes descried a human being on the very bluff from which Philippa had observed the battle, and the three went to investigate.

The survivor proved to be none other than Owen Selerius, hiding on the bluff with a gravely wounded Connor Darry. While Olive hurried to do what she could for Connor’s many injuries, Owen described the final stages of the battle. Hubert Darry and Connor fought their way clear of the collapse of the center, and Hubert took command of the right wing of the army. These men held long enough for the orks pressing them to melt away to join the general slaughter. Seeing that the army’s left still held, Hubert decided not to pursue the pursuers but attempt to rescue Optimus Darhel and the Fairbanks levy instead. The maneuver was successful, though Connor seriously injured during the fighting, and Hubert saw Hugh Darry being carried from the field as a prisoner. By the time the army could reorganize to march to the camp’s rescue, it was too late; the slaughter was finished and the orks fled. After burying the army’s dead, Hubert resolved to take what men he had remaining and recover his lord father. There was no sign that any of the camp followers had survived, though Carolina Darren survived her mad dash towards the battle and now rode with her husband.

Philippa resolved to overtake Hubert in the hopes that the news of the Breslin heretics would convince him to turn the army around and return to Fairbanks. Olive, Kirin, and Owen, meanwhile, would take Connor to meet Valon’s group in the jungle.

As they searched the camp for material to use as a stretcher, Kirin spotted a bedraggled Cyrian Dylan running towards the camp. He and Olive shared a tearful reunion. Cyrian said that he had deserted the army to return to her. Denisot Carter and Valentin Wrightman, he was sad to say, had perished in the battle fighting at Sir Optimus’ side. The knight himself had commended their bravery to Cyrian. Bennet Mollin, though alive, had resolved to stay with the army to provide what medical aid he could.

Owen and Cyrian both warned Philippa that there were many more orks north of Skullbreaker than initially thought, roaming the area in small groups. Taking her arms and armor and her prized palfrey Invidia, Philippa set off southeast in search of Hubert’s army. Owen, Kirin, Olive, and Cyrian, bearing Connor’s stretcher between two horses, set off northwest for the jungle.

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Eighteenth Session

Thirty-second of Bloom

Session Notes

Dawn revealed that the meadows beyond Fairbanks were littered with dead orks and man-sized holes in the fields. These proved to be inhabited by humans in curious green armor, bearing a strange combination of unfamiliar spells and identifiable objects such as shovels and swords. Valon Sarqhardt spotted the sign of the aquila on their armor, and some at least carried an aquila devotional icon. They were led by one Willard Eush, who identified himself as the “lieutenant” of the ‘2nd platoon, Echo company, 8th Breslin Infantry,’ commanding the “Vetter detachment.” Eush demanded that Fairbanks open its gates in the name of the king. When Philippa Darry, speaking for the town, informed him that Nova had no king, Eush replied that they did now. He gave the town half an hour to open the gates to feed and accommodate his soldiers.

With the help of Olive Mollin, her sister-in-law Reyna Mollin, Vhetin Cooper, and her ladies-in-waiting, Philippa organized food for the Bresliners within Eush’s deadline. Suspicious that all of Fairbanks’ military-age males were absent despite Philippa’s explanations about the battle, he dispatched his soldiers to search the town. This they did roughly, in spite of Philippa’s protests to their commander.

Meanwhile, Valon was surprised to meet two preachers amongst their number – Patrek Bellows, the younger of the two; and Jasper Hetman, the elder. Both were dressed in working habits and carried swords. Preacher Patrek expressed great interest in Fairbanks Cathedral, which Valon was happy to show him. He confessed to Patrek the apparition of St. Veronica and showed him the Sacramentarium of Saint Veronica with the unfamiliar sigil on its cover. Seeming somewhat perturbed, Patrek kept Valon from opening the book, warning him that it was dangerous to meddle with rites that deviated from those propagated by “Mother Church,” especially when given under mysterious circumstances by apparitions. Patrek did not recognize the statue of the saint in front of the cathedral, nor many of the figures and tales portrayed by the artwork within. He excused himself to find Preacher Jasper, promising to return soon.

At the tavern where Eush and his men were eating, Philippa informed the lieutenant of her intent to return to the site of the battle. He was distracted by a map that he seemed to think should be of the area, but Philippa did not recognize the region depicted. Vhetin interrupted, close to tears, and insisted that Philippa return with her to the house in which they slept the previous night. Once there, Vhetin told her mistress that one of the Bresliners had raped her, and that two others had passed by without giving aid – including a knight in a black coat who merely asked her attacker if his crime would “impair his combat readiness.” On her knees, Vhetin begged for Philippa to honor her feudal vow and bring her attacker to justice.

Keenly aware of the imbalance of power in the town, an armored Philippa returned to the tavern and asked to speak with Eush in private. Once alone, a distracted and bemused Eush listened to her accusations, and then informed her that he had more important things to worry about. Discipline of the Emperor’s holy Imperial Guard, he said, was a matter for the commissar – the very black-coated man, it turned out, whom Vhetin had seen. Unwilling to press the issue further while Eush’s men held the town, Philippa told Vhetin that her attacker would be disciplined. Furious and disappointed, Vhetin stalked off to the cathedral in tears. Eush informed Philippa and her ladies-in-waiting that all of the townsfolk were wanted in the cathedral, and they left the tavern to go there.

Fearful of the strange soldiers, Olive had taken refuge in the cathedral. There she watched Patrek continue to question Valon on the history of the cathedral and the doctrine to which he adhered, as if these matters were foreign to him. Finally fed up with Patrek’s questioning, Valon demanded to know where he and the Bresliners had come from. With apologies for his impossible-seeming answer, Patrek replied that the stars are full of mankind, all of whom live within the Imperium of Man under the rule of the God-Emperor – but that Nova was suspected of departing Imperium, and the Emperor had appointed Lord General Vikram al-Gerez as king to rectify this situation.

By this point nearly one hundred townsfolk had entered the cathedral, wondering why they had been summoned. Among their number were Cyrian Dylan‘s sister Valla and his son Falcus Dylan. Vhetin entered, and when Valon went to comfort her, told him of her rape. Philippa and her staff arrived in time to see Vhetin in Valon’s arms.

Incensed, Valon confronted Patrek with the crime, and was referred to the commissar – who by now had entered the cathedral. When Valon turned his ire on the commissar, the latter took Preacher Patrek outside the cathedral for a short conference. When they returned, Patrek was holding a flame wand and the commissar a smoke spell. Patrek apologized to Valon, saying that he hoped this was all a mistake, but Valon should understand the need to be better safe than sorry, and used his spell to immolate the first pew of townsfolk. The commissar began to slaughter townsfolk as well, his spell causing bodies to explode from within.

A fight ensued in which Philippa and Olive overcame the commissar, staving his head in and decapitating him with simultaneous strokes. Valon, meanwhile, finally overcame Preacher Patrek by thrusting his flame wand into his face and using it to burn off his sword hand. In the aftermath, Valon, Olive, and Philippa agreed to lead the survivors of the cathedral through the north gates of Fairbanks and make for the jungle, while Olive took Patrek’s flame wand to start a fire in South Market. The rest of Fairbanks’ population, some 400 souls, is unaccounted for and presumed to be hiding from Eush’s soldiers. The fight at the cathedral appears to have gone unnoticed for the moment.

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Seventeenth Session

Thirty-first of Bloom

The First Battle of Fairbanks commenced shortly after daybreak.  Valon Sarqhardt marched with the Fairbanks levy under Sir Optimus the BoldOlive Mollin observed with the camp followers, while Philippa Darry observed on a high bluff with the noble ladies.

During the battle, Valon struck down the first squig to reach Optimus’ levy, and fought in the front lines against the squig and gretchin vanguard.  He was felled by an orkish axe that nearly severed his left foot, and lay in the dust as the ork infantry advanced.  Valon was saved by Valentin Wrightman and Denisot Carter, following a salient cut into the orkish infantry by Sir Optimus.  Valentin and Denisot brought Valon, hobbling on his staff, to the rear of the levy.  They then returned to the fighting, where they had last seen Cyrian Dylan.

Though seriously wounded, Valon refused to quit the field, exhorting those in the rear ranks to stand fast and fight and conveying the news that Sir Optimus was not only alive, but making progress against the orks.  At these words Bennet Mollin, lurking in the rear ranks as he had planned with Olive the previous evening, gathered several of his fellows and pushed forward into the fighting.

When the Darry center broke, Olive ran for the army camp, while Philippa and her court waited until they feared being overrun before leaving.  Carolina Darren galloped towards the battle rather than fleeing.  Following Connor Darry‘s instructions, Philippa diverted straight to Fairbanks.  Pursued by orks, they lost contact with the other noble ladies.  Meanwhile, Olive hastily gathered what things she could and fled for the jungle, narrowly escaping a slaughter at the camp.  She encountered a badly burned ork and fled rather than trying to fight him.  By chance, Philippa’s party was passing closely enough to rescue her, though Olive lost her personal effects in her haste to mount Philippa’s horse.

Valon, unable to flee, was cut down by an ork that numbered amongst its many wounds a hole through a lung and a pickaxe in its eye.  He had a vision in which St. Veronica Invicta appeared to him, with a tattoo upon her right cheek, clad in torn robes and armor.  Under the saint’s gentle questioning, Valon said that he did not feel he was done protecting and serving the smallfolk of the world – but, as this second failure attested, neither did he have the power to save them.  The saint pressed her sword into Valon’s right hand, and he awoke in the reliquary of Fairbanks Cathedral before the altar upon which is the purported fragment of the saint’s sword.  The sword he had clutched in his right hand was a leather-bound book with the symbol tattooed on her cheek embossed on the cover in red ink.

Philippa was greeted at the east gate of Fairbanks by Justicar Turomot, who told the women to their shock that no other survivors from the battle had arrived at the town.  A grief-stricken Reyna Mollin was among the women manning the gate.  Kirin Masters, Cameron Traver, and Valerica Daroline declined to be sent away, Kirin declaring through her tears that the same duty that compelled them to observe the battle now compelled them not to shirk from the grim realities of its aftermath.  Philippa gave Turomot a sketch of the battle.  He in turn told her that the town had only 87 men left in it, none of military age, and some 473 women of various ages.  The town granary, while depleted, held enough food to feed the town’s current population for some six weeks.  On the horizon, a sharp-eyed Olive spotted the tell-tale dust cloud of an approaching army.

In light of Turomot’s physical frailty, Philippa reluctantly took command of the town.  Her maid, Vhetin Cooper, produced from her saddlebags a silk tabard with Philippa’s impaled arms upon it – a curious coincidence, as Philippa never commissioned a tabard with her married arms.  Gathering the town’s population at the cathedral to formulate a plan of action, Philippa and Olive were shocked to be reunited with Valon.  Brandishing the book with its strange sigil, which caused all those who looked squarely upon it to flinch involuntarily, Valon announced that the saint had given him the means to save the town and perhaps the army.  With no other hope of holding the orks at bay, the townsfolk agreed to let Valon celebrate one of the saint’s rites.

The remainder of the day was spent gathering the esoteric items called for by the rite, including a fresh-woven cotton robe that would have been impossible were it not for Olive’s knowledge of the illegal cotton trade in Fairbanks.  Orks surrounded the town and began constructing siege equipment to breach the walls.  Late in the night the preparations were finally complete.  In the cathedral, Valon began the rite.

On the walls, Olive and Philippa could see the camp fires of the orks.  As Valon began, the night was interrupted by short flashes of light, the shouts of orks, and sounds like ripping canvas.  These lasted for perhaps an hour, after which silence descended once more upon the night

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Sixteenth Session

Twenty-ninth (Interlude) – thirty-first of Bloom

Interlude, between the twenty-ninth and thirtieth of Bloom:

Olive Mollin visited to Bennet Mollin during Interlude, evading groups of drunken soldiers in the camp.  Brother and sister had a pleasant but worried conversation.  Bennet was organizing the apothecary’s supplies he had brought with him in anticipation of the battle’s aftermath, giving Olive the idea to do the same.

Valon Sarqhardt led a small prayer circle of faithful soldiers and camp followers.  Their quiet prayers attracted more worried commoners, and even men-at-arms, until the crowd was large enough that Valon was moved to preach a reassuring sermon.  This attracted yet more soldiers, until Valon was preaching an inspiring sermon at full volume in classic confessorial style to a great throng.  He exhorted the crowd to stand fast and trust in the brotherhood of arms that had brought all men here, great and small, to sacrifice for the good of all.  For an hour, at least, the crowd forgot its worries in the comfortable tidal flow of Valon’s preaching and his growing confidence in Sir Hubert.

Philippa Darry and Connor Darry had a quiet conversation behind their bed partition in which Philippa confessed to Connor her fear that she was unable to put on a brave face for those who trusted in her.  To her surprise, Connor admitted that he also felt inadequate, as well as terrified of the battle to come.  He guessed that Hubert truly did have no fear of death, nor of failing to meet his father’s legacy – only of failing to meet his own expectations of himself.  When Philippa asked, Connor admitted that Philippa should watch the battle if only to lift the hearts of those who would see her in proximity to danger.  He impressed upon her, though, that she and Vhetin Cooper should be ready to take her ladies-in-waiting straight to Fairbanks if the battle should go poorly.

Thirtieth of Bloom:

Late the following day, messengers from Skullbreaker on blown horses met the army with news that they had just eluded a large force of orks on the road, and that the xenos host was close at hand.  Hubert dispatched Connor to reconnoiter the orks.  Connor and his men-at-arms rode to the task, while Hubert halted the army and began the unorthodox work of digging a defensive ditch around it.  Philippa, with the help of her mother- and sisters-in-law, organized the camp’s usual ramshackle sprawl into something approaching a regular grid within the ditch.

Sir Connor returned with news that the alien was less than ten miles away, in force, but that he had located good ground upon which to give battle.  Hubert presided over a short war council, his earlier hesitation replaced by a workmanlike certainty.  At Hubert’s order, Connor led the knights and lords to inspect the chosen battlefield so that each knight could know his place in the line of battle.  They stayed until well after sundown laying their plans.

At dinner, an anxious Philippa was forced to eat by Vhetin and an even more anxious Jaing SmithersValerica Daroline, Cameron Traver, and Kirin Masters dared to voice their fears for their fathers in the coming battle, and asked Philippa’s opinion of how it would go.  Somewhat to her own surprise, Philippa answered that she sincerely believed that Connor and Hubert would win.  She gave her ladies-in-waiting leave to spend the evening with their families, admonishing them not to say good-bye.  Connor at last arrived, his mind full of preparations for the battle.  Philippa eventually succeeded in taking his mind off the battle and to love-making.  The two spent a companionable evening laughing over the surprising awkwardness of some of Lord and Lady Darren’s rope games.

Olive spent the evening visiting first Bennet, then Cyrian Dylan, Denisot Carter, and Valentin Wrightman.  Cyrian proudly showed her that he had purchased stew for dinner from one of the camp followers and even made a small fire, and asked her to return after she had visited the others.  She did so, and the two shared his fire until late.  As Olive rose to return to her bedroll, Cyrian blurted out an invitation to stay with him.  Caught flat-footed, Olive demurred, and much embarrassed stammering ensued on both sides.  Cyrian asked Olive if she was worried that they might have a child, who would also be a mutant.  Olive admitted that the thought had crossed her mind, and Cyrian said that if that were happen, he would not mind – any more than he minded her hands.  He didn’t need an Ecclesiarchical rosette, he declared, to know that Olive was human.  Cyrian’s next statement was interrupted as Olive kissed him, and the two made love.

Thirty-first of Bloom:

The army rose before dawn, in accordance with Hubert’s plan.  Cyrian woke Olive from a pleasant slumber.  She gave him her pocket handkerchief to carry into battle, and promised to see him that evening.  Cyrian went to the Sir Optimus’ muster grinning and nodding to himself.

Vhetin woke Philippa, asking whether she wanted to wear armor for the day or a gown.  Philippa decided on her plate; as she helped Philippa armor, Vhetin nervously joked that she should practice helping Philippa into armor more.

The army departed the camp for the battlefield in surprisingly good order.  True to his word to accompany the men into danger, Valon marched with Sir Optimus and the Fairbanks levy, which included Bennet, Cyrian, Denisot, and Valentin.  Philippa and her staff rode to a bluff overlooking the battlefield that Connor pointed out to her as a good observation point.  Below the bluff, Olive joined the many camp followers who gave in to their morbid curiosity to watch the battle.

As day dawned, the orkish army came into view: great brutish greenskins in close order, perhaps numbering as many as a thousand.  With the basso lowing of the squiggoths reverberating in the chests of all, the two armies prepared for battle.

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Fifteenth Session

Twenty-ninth of Bloom

Session Notes

The Darry Army marched southeast, skirting the Umbran Jungle en route to SkullbreakerOlive Mollin traveled with Valon Sarqhardt as his servant, hoping thereby to deflect some attention as Valon rode with Philippa Darry and Connor Darry.  To her surprise, Philippa found room in the baggage train for some of both Valon’s and Olive’s baggage.

When the army camped for the evening, Valon took dinner with Philippa and Connor while Olive cooked for herself.  Valon pushed the boundaries of good taste at dinner as he discussed the moral theory of war with Connor, in particular voicing his discomfort with the recent tournament and Hubert Darry‘s seeming pursuit of personal glory.  Connor countered that the tournament gave Hubert a chance to win the confidence of the common soldiers, especially by besting Lord Darry in the final joust, and that confidence in the commanding general was critical for an army about to engage Orks.  Valon conceded that he had not considered the tournament or Sir Hubert’s behavior from that perspective.

After dinner, Olive searched through the sprawling camp to find any of her companions.  She found Valentin Wrightman with his wife and children bedding down for the night in their tent, and decided not to disturb them.  Further wanderings brought her to Cyrian Dylan, awake and watching the traveling stars uneasily without having even made a fire.  Cyrian invited Olive to share a bottle of rum as he steered the conversation toward what they would do following the war.  He quickly became drunk, at which Olive discovered that he had not made himself dinner.  She scrounged fire and ingredients and cooked him stew, and offered to do his laundry as well.  At length the two parted, Cyrian to sleep beside his fire and Olive to search for her brother Bennet Mollin.  Olive found Bennet after more searching in the dark, but he was already asleep.  She marked his place in the camp, then returned to her own, resolving to wake him at Interlude.

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Fourteenth Session

Eighteenth – Twenty-eighth of Bloom

Session Notes

Eighteenth of Bloom (first day of the tournament)
Cyrian Dylan invited Olive Mollin to accompany him home to dinner, and passed a pleasant evening with Cyrian, his son Falcus, and his sister Valla, only slightly marred by Valla’s discomfort with Olive. When she returned home, Reyna Mollin expressed keen interest in Olive’s whereabouts, which Olive declined to share beyond the most general statements.

Philippa Darry and Valon Sarqhardt attended a feast to celebrate the opening of the tournament, during which Sir Optimus Darhel confronted Lord Darry with the news that a few hundred orks had slipped past Skullbreaker and besieged his father at the House seat of Vertellion, less than 20 miles from Fairbanks – in response to which, as master of Fairbanks, he was drafting every able-bodied male in the town into his levy. Lord Hugh deferred to his son to answer, who decided that the army would not march to Lord Darhel’s rescue until the expanded Fairbanks levy would be ready to march. When Sir Optimus protested to Lord Darry, he replied that Sir Hubert was the appointed general of the army, and if Optimus had a feudal grievance to bring, he could wait until Lord Darry next held court.

Nevertheless, doubts among nobles and commoners alike persisted as to whether Hubert could replace his father as general.

Nineteenth of Bloom (second day of the tournament)
The traveling stars seen two days ago returned, in greater numbers – well over forty, by Olive’s count. The second sun’s cloud remained in the sky, as it would all week, slowly growing thinner. Valon’s laborious study of his book on astropathy led him to believe that they portended a major daemonic incursion at some point this generation, though he has kept this conclusion to himself.

At the tournament, Connor Darry won his first match. In response to Sir Optimus’ announcement of an expanded draft, prices for arms and armor began to rise. Olive asked Valon to pawn her earrings. He was able to purchase a shield for Bennet Mollin with them, with two crowns left over.

Twentieth of Bloom (third day of the tournament)
Sir Connor forfeited his match in the third round of the tournament after receiving a “serious injury” that prevented him from continuing; he confided to Philippa that the injury was likely not debilitating, but he saw no reason to continue to risk injury in the tournament when he could retire with honor.

Olive gave Cyrian and Denisot Carter ten crowns each from her reserve of coin, which they were able to use to buy shields for themselves.

Twenty-first and Twenty-second of Bloom (fourth and fifth day of the tournament)
Sir Hubert and Lord Hugh continued to cut a swath through the competitors of the tournament, each winning their jousts with spectacular displays of chivalric skill. Sir Hubert bested Lord Carolus Darren in a hard-fought match.

Lord Hugh was a force of nature throughout the tournament, rarely allowing his matches to run their full course before his battered opponents were forced to retire, despite their best efforts. On the twenty-second, word arrived from Skullbreaker that a large force of orks was likely to break past the castle – and, by the time the messenger arrived, may have done so already. Lively speculation continued in the army as to which of the two ork forces north of Skullbreaker Sir Hubert would move to engage. At the highest levels of command, the decision was made to march towards Skullbreaker once the tournament was concluded, leaving Vertellion to fend off the smaller ork force on its own. That night, the traveling stars appeared to spawn a short-lived meteor shower.

Twenty-third of Bloom (sixth day of the tournament)
On the evening of the twenty-third, only a dozen traveling stars appeared. The others would not be seen for the remainder of the tournament.

Twenty-eight of Bloom (tenth and final day of the tournament)
Lord Hugh and Sir Hubert faced each other as the finalists in the tournament. The joust was one for the bards, full of incredible displays of skill, ferocity, and daring by the knights and their squires alike as lances shattered and the combat ranged up and down the pitch. Sir Hubert displayed a skill such as no other knight had shown, and survived his father’s fearsome prowess to advance to the blows with the dagger. In these last three rounds, Hubert unexpectedly utterly dominated his father, ending each bout with the bigger man within seconds and winning both the joust and the tournament. After a stunned silence, the crowd erupted in approbation. In the Darry box, a self-satisfied Adeline Darry told her children that the army was now ready to move.

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Thirteenth Session

Eighteenth of Bloom

Session Notes

Olive Mollin enjoyed the tournament in the company of Cyrian Dylan, who bet heavily on Sir Capricus Iver to defeat Sir William Esterhouse. When Iver won his match, Cyrian had almost enough money to afford a small shield. Olive offered to contribute some of her own money to the cause, suspecting that Bennet Mollin and Denisot Carter would likely need assistance as well, and spent some hours shield shopping with Cyrian. As neither knows much about shields, the shopping trip was mostly bewildering.

Philippa Darry and Valon Sarqhardt observed the day’s matches at the main pitch. Of particular interest were the matches of Lord Carolus Darren, Sir Hubert Darry, and Lord Hugh Darry. Lord Darren fought his match late in the morning, and won a hard-fought joust through dint of his superior stamina. At noon, Sir Hubert dominated his opponent from the start in a virtuoso display of chivalry. Late in the afternoon, just as the daily thunderstorm turned the pitch into a field of mud, Lord Darry took the field for what was by far the day’s most anticipated match. Though his opponent was at first hesitant, Hugh’s thunderous blows soon convinced him to joust in earnest, and the tilt was a near-run thing. On foot, however, Hugh proved that his immense frame still holds tremendous power. Wielding his favored enormous axe, Hugh ended the foot combat in just three blows. In the box with Valon and Philippa, his wife Lady Adeline Darry smiled and said that this match should “send a message.” When Philippa inquired what the message would be, Lady Adeline replied, “Why, that your lord wishes to compete in earnest, of course.”

That evening, the night sky was lit by a fiery second sun that seemed to shed shooting stars towards the horizon. The apparition lasted for several minutes, and then the great fiery orb dispersed into a glowing orange cloud that yet lights the night sky.

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Twelfth Session

Seventeenth and Eighteenth of Bloom

Session Notes

Olive Mollin and Valon Sarqhardt traveled to the House of the Red during Interlude to inquire of Enginseer Matthias Turnvald, the resident representative of the Mechanicus. An irritated Turnvald turned them away, telling them that he was already observing the “traveling stars” and would be willing to talk in the morning.

The following morning, on the seventeenth, Turnvald admitted the two of them to the mysterious House of the Red. He told them that the traveling stars were not stars at all – but beyond that, could not be sure. He expressed his intention to leave to inquire of those of his order more learned in the “mysteries physic” at the nearby monastery, three to four days distant.

Olive asked Valon to sell her jewelry in the hopes that it, plus her personal savings, would be enough to buy Bennet Mollin a spear. Intending to ask Connor Darry for help, Valon instead found Helena Darras, who brought him to Philippa Darry. Philippa gave the confessor a spear for free, which Valon had one of Sir Connor’s servants send to the Mollin household as a surprise. Unfortunately, the confusion over how Sir Connor got involved led Bennet to confront Olive that evening. During their conversation, it was revealed that Olive had been supplementing the household income with crime – a revelation that hurt Bennett’s feelings deeply.

The morning of the tournament, on the eighteenth, dawned bright and sunny. Philippa woke to a contented Connor, who revealed to her that he was unavailable the day before because Lord Hugh Darry‘s vassals were trying to convince him not to compete in the tournament. In compromise, he accepted a slot in the first round of the tournament, and the ensuing confusion with the tournament brackets left Connor with a bye. The two headed to the jousting pitches to enjoy the day, with a particular interest in Hubert Darry’s, Hugh’s, and Carolus Darren’s matches.

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