I wish I could adequately sum up the event that is Summerfest. For most members of the Fools and Heroes system it’s the one event a year where they get to spend a weekend living in the system as their character (save for the occasional helper slots and monstering moments), catch up with friends from across the country and feel to have a hand in the larger, far reaching national plot. However, I cannot name everyone who was there, and I cannot fully express the feelings that this year’s Summerfest brought. It’s a culmination of two years of wide reaching plot that has swept the adventurers to the holy land of Ausremere and back, before drawing them to Tholon to make their stand against the darkness that dwells at its heart. Adventurers have given their blood, sweat and tears, hard work, devout prayers, bold heroics and much dashing daring do to set the land free. Some even gave their lives.
I would like to applaud the CC and his team of refs/site refs/mission refs/bar staff/cooks/first aiders/minions/dogsbodies and do-gooders who made this plot and this event possible. I dof my hat to you, and prescribe you a generous dose of fun. As to the incoming CC, I look forward to writing up your plot too.
However, for all that I cannot give you the wide all-seeing eye of the event, I will try and tell but a little of it.
Tholon; a land that is usually spoken accompanied either with a roar or a muttered curse. A land possessed with the living undead, a land cloaked in shadows. The gods are not welcome here, the populace live in fear for their lives under the crushing boot heel of their noble court of vampires, liches and other undead horrors. Against this would the land of Ithron throw itself, to break the influence of the dead on the living, to raise up the fallen and broken and free them from the terrors of the night. War was declared last year against Tholon. Ithron brought war to Tholon.
The adventurers had been making preparations to travel across the sea to Tholon – some by ship to Llaminusia to fight through the mists cast down by the Lord of Shadows that had swallowed the land whole, most by portal into the dark elven tunnels that run in a network into the land of Tholon. They were to make camp in a relatively safe region at the sufference of the dark elves, from which they would work towards loosening the hold the Court (and the traitorous Voice Senator Trenius) on the land to bring the Gods’ gaze back into the veiled land. The adventurers of Ithron alone made the journey, met upon the way by servants of the Dark Pantheon who, guided by visions of their God’s writhing in pain, had come to tip the balance in their favour. The Konnish, dwellers of the desert land far to the South East of any known map, dealers with demons, had created terrible talismans which, if placed on a shrine to the balanced gods could tip the balance or destroy them both.
The adventurers arrived in the encampment relatively unscathed and set about securing the location against the undead that had journeyed to “welcome” them to the lands. Once enough heroes were assembled in the encampment to leave behind a reasonable guard, a group of scouts and support set out to get a better view of the local area and a feeling for the horrors they would soon be facing. A woman came running into camp, pursued by undead, who declared herself to be an advance scout who could lead the Traldans to a safe haven that was under attack. The Church of Tralda answered the call and set out with their allies into the unknown.
They came to a sinister looking graveyard filled with undead and one of the dead rat demons that had been popping up in Ithron over the last year or so. After putting these dead things out of their misery, they came upon more demons before startling a vampire out overseeing his work crew in the woods. After staking the vampire and reducing him to ash the adventurers tried to convince the terrified peasantry they were safe – which mostly involved the application of soft voices and jaffa cakes *om nom nom* – before they pressed on. More undead as they came to a rise, all of which liberally beaten and smashed to smithereens before approaching THE PUZZLE.
I name this THE PUZZLE as it was the main puzzle of the mission (run by my OH) with a selection of props made by myself as part of project xyz. More details to follow …
THE PUZZLE consisted of four parts – a stone tablet with a riddle upon it, a bowl of holy symbols, a patterned stone with four coloured quarters and a great wall of obscuring mist through which they could not pass. The players had to solve the riddle, which told them the way to solve the puzzle, then find the odd one out of the holy symbols (which was the key), seek a way into the realm of invisibility to find the keyhole and place the key in the keyhole to open the “lock”. Alas, things were not so simple. Around the stone tablet and the holy symbols were magical circles that slowly bound the items to an occupant to help reveal their secrets before rendering them unconscious. At the presence of such magical traps (and the undead that kept hounding them) the adventurers hesitated. From experience magical traps mean “bad times”. However, with a bit of luck and a liberal dose of “tralda” Thaddeus Blanchard leapt into the riddle circle and held up the tablet for the others to read. As they puzzled through the riddle and figured out what they were seeking, Mother Elandowyn McCrae leapt into the other circle (to the dismay of her Primate) and began hunting through the symbols for the odd one out. After spotting it she drank a potion of invisibility given her by the Guild Mistress Alchemist Candy Floss which transported her out of our plane into the realm of invisibility. There she could see the keyhole – a position on the coloured stone – which she then directed her companions too once she returned to this plane. Once the key was in the correct place the mists wavered and drew back, revealing the path to the shrine.
The shrine was guarded by stone guardians and was, in fact, a shrine to Tralda and Sereklan. A strange many-eyed creature waited for them. It attacked them when they refused to speak with it, even though it had tried many tongues before finding their own. But it was a demon! Only traldans and sereklanites could pass the stone statues, discovered when others of the party tried to make their way to the shrine whilst fighting off the many-eyed creature. The Primate and others investigated the shrine, trying to understand what they must do when the Konnish came up the hill in a howling horde. A fight followed as the adventurers tried to fight off the Konnish but eventually they were overcome and the foul totem one of their kind held aloft was placed upon the shrine.
This was the great danger the gods had been speaking about – a thing of foul magic that had the potential to diminish the connection the Gods have to this plane through the shrines to the old six. If it was removed a certain way it would lessen the power of the light god, the dark god, both or neither. Alas, the traldans were unable to do so, and a terrible calamity befell them.
Whilst all this was going on the Sereklanites turned up – revealed in the form of the scout who had guided them to the shrine and her companion who had joined them on the road (were you surprised? Really?) along with their fellows who had travelled from Ithron, demanding the totem so that it could be taken away and destroyed by their hand. The traldans were not up for this and the “primate” (a creature disguised as a mortal woman) led the sereklanites against the traldans and nearly butchered them to a man. If it were not for a brave halfling physician, Dr Rosie, who was able to escape her pursuer with a swift potion of invisibility and return to stem the bleeding of her fellows. But she was not able to save them all. The totem had done its dark work, a gathering of power that had lost its focus because it had not been removed in time (even though the true Sereklanite Primate made off with the totem) that exploded with ferocity like a bomb. The shockwave of the power ripping through the shrine lashed out at those around it and opened wounds that had only been staunched. Two members of the party perished.
The remainder returned to camp with dire warnings of what had happened.
That evening another two missions went out – one led by the Church of Vleybor and the Church of Rolbor. They met similar problems, encountering the church of their dark opposite and being called to make a choice regarding the Konnish totem or similar that threatened their connections to their Gods. I believe that the Church of Vleybor chose not to favour Vleybor or Githas in their actions. However, whilst the adventurers in the camp defended it from the undead and konnish who attempted to drive them off, ill tidings came from the Rolborians.
Wren had ambled into the encampment late in the day, having become turned around somewhat with the tunnels and her darker brethren guiding them. Having grabbed some food, she reported to the Blacksmiths tent and set about assisting with the repairs building up from the adventurers. Travelling without their usual entourage of Order Blacksmiths and Guild Blacksmiths for the Mercenaries and Scouts, the guilded Blacksmiths of the adventurers were taking up the slack for all the repairs required in the field on this venture. Armed with a stockpile of materials that they had managed to scrape and scrounge and gifted by members of the community and from the office of the Archduke, they did what they could in their makeshift forge. As Wren sat at her sewing there came an uproar, so she picked up her bow and went to see what she could do. Waves of fear and terrible things whose touch could freeze a man spread panic through the camp but the adventurers met these foes like they always do (although Wren spent a lot of time cowering behind tents or picking up a Crowan devotee she nicknamed “Idiot” in her own tongue).
A priest of Rolbor came running across the open ground from out of the trees, having run all the way with terrible news. The Rolborians were under attack and were failing to hold their own against the dead Duke Viktor. The Rolborian Primate was the beacon of hope armed with the Crystalis, but the priest came begging for aid in fear that he was already too late. As the others dithered in puzzlement, Wren stashed her drawn arrow in her quiver, turned to the camp and called to arms all those who would come help save the Rolborian Church. Then she was off, urging on the failing priest for information, directions, and news of the situation. They began at a run, gathering allies as they hit the rough track road he had come running down, heading deep into the dark woodland looking for the Church of light. Soon they came upon them, beset by vampires and a hideous iron clad wraith with burning eyes. Wren came upon young Tillian, ashen faced and backing away from a creature, and calling him by name brought him out of his fright as she urged him to fight and aid his fellows. Little did she know his father lay slain. After realising that she could do little against a taunting wretch lost to life, she hurried past to seek out the Primate of Rolbor who was trying to tell the others not to harm the Fygolians who traveled under her protection. One of the protectors who stood guard over the priestess received some of Wren’s skills of repairing in the field, before he pressed on against the foe. The Duke Viktor was removed from power, the creature chased away for now and the Rolborian Church limped home victorious but grieving the loss of several of their number – the priestess Lady Emily-Rose Mormont among them.
That night they fought more undead, with one of the Kharachian priests and the Defender of the faith coming up with a cunning plan when the Kharachian Church set upon their task. Protect Wren’s mind from the spells cast by nightmares and she would be able to harm them from afar! Later that same evening the Church bore witness to the Primate of Kharach receive the mace of Kharach from a Corvus, a winged servant of their God. With this blessed relic once more in the hands of the Church they were cheerful and confident in their endeavors.
The next morning the churches of Longstor and Crowa set out upon their quests – the Church of Longstor coming upon the Primate of Krygan and his werewolf companions, and the Church of Crowa coming to blows with the Church of Abraxis. Alas, the Church of Longstor had a long hard fight and the High Primate William Longstaff gave his life to crush Krygan’s power upon the balance of power. The Church of Crowa lost members too, the young elven devotee falling in battle only to become a focus for a ritual to consecrate the shrine atop the Abraxian one which brought the church victory. His body was brought back with all honour befitting the fallen. Wren wept her goodbyes, apologising for calling him idiot.
Whilst these two great churches were out upon their missions, the camp came under attack by undead and konnish which kept Wren and Lord Albie busy with repair work. At one time Wren had to pause in her work to ward off an undead horror from the Blacksmith’s tent before continuing her work on the Head of the Black Order’s armour. Fixing and mending several shields for the Grey Order she and Tiffin shared a few jokes over repairs before Wren hurried out to grab a mouthful of food before setting off with her Church. Gathering some supplies from the physicians she met “Steve” the Kharachian physician who was to be her ally for a short time. Alas, as she prepared to travel with the other Kharachians she came to understand she was in sin having shaken hands with the Vleyborian doctor. Not exactly a winning introduction to the others of her Church who stood and bore witness to her absolution by one of the priests and her penance set by the Primate of Kharach – to partake in no healing for 3 months.
The Kharachian Church set out to hunt down undead in the area and find the shrine to Kharach and Bequifis. The Primate of Sidhe came with them, having received an alarming vision of the creation of a totem. From the pool it was plucked crawled a scorpion that was crushed swiftly beneath a boot, and a skull cracked and bled as it tumbled into the pool. A choice would have to be made, and she was to travel with the Church to witness the choice and act as arbiter. Bequifis had visited one of the company, High MotherFang, inflicting her with painful scars and scratches that were fresh that morning in repayment of deeds done against her servants and in punishment. As they went forth the Grey Order and the Demonologists set out upon their task to sort out some portals – with the Order ending up in Sharda.
The Defender of Kharach and Wren set out ahead of their company as scouts (having no career scouts amidst their numbers) and quickly came upon a mass of undead. The Head of the Black Order Sir Haydon De Bastonne and the Templar Sir Boris stopped a feyund that launched itself at the party, before the group engaged in battle with the undead. Wren was able to destroy a nightmare by herself before they pressed on. There was a foul ritual made of followers of the seven lying dead which Wren paid due respect to and the Primate lay to rest to free their souls from torment. As this happened, Wren, Esquire Beloth and the Defender kept eyes on their surroundings and spotted a pair of konnish lurking amongst the greenery. And sure enough they were attacked as they pressed on. They were slain and the Primate of Kharach bid Wren lay one to rest as a lesson in Death, using the mace of Kharach to perform the ritual, and he led the way upon the other.
Wren advised against a narrow and winding path that would be difficult to traverse with such a heavily armoured party, so they took another road against undead sentries before rounding a corner and coming face to face with a Mummy and its minions. Wren was touched by the creature and sickened but was healed once the party had destroyed the monster. As they hurried on they came within sight of a ritual but felt such pain they were caused to writhe. Ambushed by dark elves they hurried after the totem being carried before them to pluck it from its bearer, and the Primate of Kharach took it into his keeping. Eventually they were able to catch and keep one of their enemies alive and Mordecai had words with it, which allowed Wren and Steve to chat.
Then they came to the bodies, strung up and twisted to point in a direction, which Wren and others cut down from their posts and laid out at rest for a priest to tend to them. But the souls were no longer there and Wren prayed for their safety wherever they had gone. After making preparations they pressed on along a winding path that was booby trapped until they came upon the shrine area and the Bequifisian forces. There was a little talk between the churches before the fighting broke out, but Wren made a point not to fire first until their own were attacked. They killed the Primate of Bequifis swiftly but were dismayed to find that the spirit that had been lingering around the totem required the Primate of Bequifis to balance on behalf of her Goddess. This was the choice that the Primate had forseen, but who would defend Bequifis in the argument? The Primate of Kharach, knowing a little of vengeance, stepped into this role, with his own defender acting on behalf of Kharach.
Whilst they made their cases, the Konnish attacked to reclaim the totem and destroy the shrine. The party fought them back but they kept making off with the totem until the Defender of Kharach made a choice and sacrificed his life to Bequifis, bringing the Gods back into balance. As such he was carried home a hero of the faith, with a solemn procession back into camp.
That evening another pair of missions set out – one to hunt down the phylactery of Trenius and another to sort out the Werewolves that had been prowling around camp. The camp also came under attack by the Konnish in great numbers. The adventurers were able to complete their tasks and returned to camp, but great danger came to the camp that night.
The senator Trenius, who had been a thorn in Ithron’s side for the past year, came to the camp seeking his artefact – that had been hidden in the Blacksmith’s tent – in the company of a great dead dragon. It fed upon the lives of those who tried to fight it off and when Barak Wolfheart struck with with his sword bone shards were sent through those around him in a deadly flurry. Many dashed to the aid of the fallen and they were saved, though many had part of their lives drained away. He commanded many to seek out his phylactery and when he named the location Wren hurried to the tent, running past the Forgemaster who told Wren to find it first! Scrabbling around in the dark Wren was not able to find the item before those commanded to made off with it, to her distress.
A number of adventurers set out to investigate and stop the produce of a demonforge that the scouts had uncovered upon their arrival. They did not get far – Sir Peter Sabloir-Flessan fell to the demons and the Forgemaster returned full of regret. Another death, another hero lost to the darkness of Tholon.
The Church of Kharach set out to cleanse a nearby graveyard and defeat the Iron Wraith that had been prowling through the lands. But on their return the adventurers were beset by demons and to save her companions lives the Holy Mother Rose called out to Crowa and final battled. She died a hero, buying time for her fellows to rescue their fallen, and was carried back to the camp as an honoured hero.
That night the Churches prayed to the Gods for aid in the coming day and many were rewarded for their faithfulness. They then set out to dismiss talismens of the Tholonese court through magic and holy power, to weaken the court and thereby bring about the end of the great evil in the land. Whilst they were gone Wren stayed to keep watch on the camp and to keep an eye on her boss – having heard a terrible rumour that he intended to do something foolish to save those remaining should the dismissals fail and the camp be overrun. But if he was willing to do this, then Wren, Spiritstrider and some Dwarves were of a mind to hunt themselves a dead dragon to stop it from reaching Ithron. But luckily this never came to pass …
The lists were drawn for the offensives that were to take place – one against the Konn and one against the Tholonese. Wren was assigned to the fight with the Konn in the shadow of her guildhead.
Setting out from the encampment the adventurers chose their battleground and made their stand against the Konnish. Throughout the battle Wren fought in the shadow of her guild head. Only once was she commanded to stay behind when her Master took up his hammer and walked alone towards the enemy, to strike the ground with it and shattering the weapons of the Konnish who came before him. Drinking a potion of invisibility he withdrew from harm until those of the party (who had been made aware of this plan) rushed to his defense. Wren, obedient like a hound, stayed back and watched with approval and joy at the things her Guild could do.
The Lord of Shadows came amongst the adventurers with his great sword swinging by his power alone. Whilst many fought him off and brought him low, Wren tried to grab the sword to halt the damage it was causing among the ranks of healers and priests, and sickened from its touch and the tearing of her soul. But the adventurers were finally able to destroy the beast.
A portal opened as the Primate of Rolbor praised the gods and called the adventurers to bravery in the name of the Seven, and after several waves of demonic entities and reinforcements came pouring through, Mr Meeks and Schoolmaster Chivalry Warwick were able to close the portal.
And then the Butcher of Bequifis arrived. The “Voice” that had been seen in Ausremere, with his crown of Primate’s fingers, had unfinished business with the Chaplain of the Grey Order, Lady Patience Mormont-Warwick and set about his revenge. Wren fought against the Konnish and was mortally wounded. Rescued by a pair of adventurers they began to pull her back but the Butcher of Bequifis was destroyed and exploded, striking down all those around him. The scene was like one of a nightmare – bodies lying on the ground as the healers were unable to get to all the wounded, hounded by demons and Konnish. The death toll was high that day, the dead separated from the dying so that the physicians could do their work. They were laid out carefully and with respect, the Kharachians separated from the rest so that they could be tended to. Vau and Defender Soren of Crowa, both blessed with Kharach’s miracles of lay to rest, conducted the deed – saying a prayer over each body before sending them on wings of the Corvus home.
Once this was done the bodies were brought back into the camp so that the others could pay their respects before they were to be buried in the consecrated Kharachian graveyard that the Church of the Kharach had prepared the night before. Wren was brought back to the Blacksmiths where she was laid beside the Forgemaster to the woe of her remaining guildmates.
The second battle went against the Tholonese forces with the aim of breaking the dark forces clutching Tholon’s heart. They fought wave after wave of undead creatures – nightmares, zombies, ghouls, animated corpses, wraiths, death knights and more. The draco-liche from the night before came upon the party and was slain. Prince Hadeth, Crown Prince of the land came upon them twice – in a mortal and lichelike form – and was put out of his misery. A great monster of horns and a hunched back was slain as it tried to enter the encampment, and the adventurers were able to hold back the undead and end the strife of Tholon. They returned victorious to the scenes of woe, of friends slain in battle. It was a day of bittersweetness, and many took the losses hard. The Kharachians and others said their farewells before taking the bodies of those who would not be resurrected to the graveyard where they would be the beginning of a new dawn and would remain forever at peace in the Halls of Kharach or the Gods who had called them home.
That evening, as the bittersweetness turned from tears to merrymaking, a Squire of the Black Order came into camp. The ArchDuke, The Arch Prelate of Axir and the Head of the College of Battlemages of Axir had come to the warzone to speak with the Churches, Guilds and Mages. Security was required, so after introducing herself to the Head of the Order and being introduced to some of the adventurers, Squire Ravenna Corvidae took up her post on the watch.
That night the Churches elected a new High Primate in the form of Primate Cassius Wrath of Kharach, the Guilds appointed a new Mayor in the form of Guildmistress Candy Floss of the Alchemists and the Orders confirmed Sir Marcus Drake, Seneschal of the Templar Order, as Knight Commander. After conducting her duties, Ravenna and Gabriel were freed for an evening “off” and so Ravenna found herself having a drink in the Rolborian tent and playing a game of “Shave the Sheep” with the Vleyborians, a militia man and a knight of the Griffin Order as well as seeing the true honesty of Crowans for herself. The Black Order had a grisly discovery of the crown of fingers swiftly turning to ash on the Kharachian Shrine in the Black Order tent, but were reassured by the Church that there was nothing untoward going on.
But the tide has turned. The gaze turns from Tholon to the Konn, with High Primate Wrath urging his Church to do what they can to support one another and the other Churches in this time.
And so Summerfest drew to a close, with the ushering out of one CC and the induction of another. What new plots come forth in the coming years? What is next for the bold heroes of Ithron? We can but only see …