The Antlered Ones pt 2
Part two of the Antlered ones Prp. Using information gained in part one the players will investigate and hopefully disrupt the antlered ones ritual. No-Minor risk (risk 1-2) with a focus on puzzle solving. Likely skills are occult, riddles, investigation and crafting.
Open to all Mirrorguard with a Max of six participants. Esme, Vitalis and Apollo have priority this episode.
Feb. 24, 2021, 8 p.m.
Outside Arx - Lyceum near Lenosia - Near Count Vespin's Lands
Comments and Log
The Antlered Ones pt 2 has started at Outside Arx - Lyceum near Lenosia - Near Count Vespin's Lands.
The mirrorguard sent out an expedition to the primary settlement of the Rainfoot clan, where the antlered ones are said to work from, and investigated the cult. It is through the information gained during that session that you identified Maddle Hill as the likely starting point for todays activity. During that investigation the group discovered that a man called Rollar was the likely cult leader and that he had been doing something on, or near, Maddle Hill. The group also collected some items and you have been able to bring three of them with you today. These items are a strange vial of a strong smelling plant oil mixture, a ritual book from a cult sanctuary, and gained a token used by the cult that bears an antlered skull on one side and a geometric design on the other.
Study of the tome over the last few days shows that the majority of the rituals are for such mundane purposes as promotions, celebration and punishment, but one entry speaks of a ritual intended to magnify the luck - be it ill or fair - of its target. It does this by taking the symbolic resonances in each of the six focal points and casting those like a net across the target when a sufficient sacrifice is performed at a set time, on a set day, at the seventh site. These focal points are arranged like the spokes of a wheel about a central point (where the seventh site is to be created) and the author notes more than once that the two sites opposite each other upon this wheel must match and reinforce the other. The diagram offered by the tome matches the symbol on the rear of the cultists token.
You arrive at Maddle Hill early in the morning and will have at least two full days to carry out the tasks you need to carry out. There is a campsite near the hill, so you know something has been going on here, but Maddle Hill itself doesn't seem to be one of the focal points. So first things first - Find one (or more) of these focal points.
Apollo starts off by studying the token, out at Maddle Hill. The orientation of the design on the back, the skull... and the land around them, looking for any features of the surround that evoke the symbols.
Apollo checks intellect and survival at easy. Apollo is successful.
Esme will drop her voice towards Vitalis ear as she moves near him. They are afterall, just Shavs. Well she's their 'sellsword' but still. She didn't even bring her Fidante family ring. She explains the layout to the man as they walk. THis is where her talking all the time comes in handy. She explains everything so that he can 'see' it without seeing it. Her voice low to his ear to see if he hears anything that stands out as in correct. It's just like an every day thing to her or something. She allows her own eyes to sway over the lands to see if anything seems off about any of it.
Standing near Apollo, Vitalis has his head faced away, as toward a distant horizon. "Describe the symbol again, Apollo. Is it a hexagon?" His attention slews towards Apollo, head tilted to witness the bustle of a campsite. Whicker of horses, rustle of clothing, crackle of flames, Esme's murmurations that help him 'map' the site more fully.
It looks as if Apollo is on the right track. Unfortunately there are three possible combinations that could work depending on the placement of Maddle hill within the arrangement. Maddle hill could be in the middle or it could work for one of two spoke-ends.
Emberly stays close to Apollo, she smiles looking to the skull he is standing near. She looks to Vitalis "lord Vitalis, if you need any help maneuvering we can guide you" she says softly before she looks over the others
The symbol is a hexagon split into six triangles by intersecting lines.
Emberly checks intellect and riddles at easy. Emberly is successful.
Kaia is following right after the others, particularly behind Vitalis and Esme. Her eyes move about the area, with careful attention, but so far she remains quiet. Listening to the others speak about the symbol found on the token.
"Mm," Apollo says. "A hexagon." He takes Vitalis' hand and, as he describes, he draws the shape in his palm. "Lines across the middle in each of three directions, cutting it in half, making six triangles. Points on the outside are - I'd /guess/ the points where the ritualists will be - and the center, where all the lines cross, the seventh, where the effect will be?" He glances toward Esme and Emberly, like to check in: has he got that right?
Esme narrows her eyes on the image and then the scene before them. "Maybe if we get up into a tree or something, get a sort of higher view? We could see if there are encampments around us or to one direction or another? It might help us figure out if we are in the middle point or if we are at one of the sides."
Vitalis blinks when someone takes his hand -- he knows those calluses. Tension eases and he reframes attention on his hand, imagining. He squints, an affectation from sighted days, "I wonder what signficance this location has." He nods at Esme, "Mmmh. Mmmhm. And search here, there may be something signiciant right here to tell us if it's an end point or the center." He gives Apollo's hand a squeeze, and lets it fall, "Is the- where did the vial get to?" He casts about, like scent might tell him.
A messenger arrives, delivering a message to Emberly before departing.
Esme checks perception and survival at easy. Esme is successful.
Emberly nods her head to Apollo and she nods her head leaning in to look. "yah you have that right" she says quietly as she smiles as Apollos hand slips to Vitalis and she nods seeing he is in good hands.
Apollo turns - glances at Emberly. Does she have the vial? "That's a good idea," Apollo says, to Esme. "Are you a good climber? I can in a pinch, but there's likely someone better to sort out what's what from up there." Likely her, since she suggested it. He gives a chin-up and a smile to Lady Kaia, of course - informal, but pleased to see her.
Searching about Maddle hill you find evidence that an area near the crown of the hill has been cleared of trees and flattened down. Snow has fallen since, dusting the area with a light covering, that made it hard to see initially. When you further investigate the site you can't find any evidence that any holes have been dug and there is nothing on the surface that might class as a symbolic resonance. Unless, of course, you class grass and snow as such.
The patches of snow that still linger in the area make it difficult for Esme to see much about the places that Apollo already mentioned as possible sites. When looking out from the maddle hill site she can just about see two small clearings which could be part of the required shape.
Still listening, observing, and still very much in silence, Kaia does take note of Apollo's smile and she returns it sweetly. "I could give climbing a try if needed." she offers. "Although, I'd much rather help with the investigating down here in the ground." she notes.
Esme still offers soft words to Vitalis about all the things seen that are explained. "I can climb well. It's a lot along the lines of swordplay. Dexterity and athletics." She explains what is seen before she looks towards the others. There are smiles to Kaia and Emberly. "Do you have any ideas on how to figure out where we are on the...map?" The word is said with a bit more of inflection. "Although, it might help to know where we are in relation to the intended victim. Are they supposed to be centerpoint?" She offers this more to Vitalis as if she assumes he has the ritual memorized. Her eyes slide towards Apollo as well to see if he might have more ideas.
"I'm great at climbing trees, but, mmh." Vitalis grimace-smiles, "Well, less good at the lookout part." He hrms at the report from Esme, a smile flashed for her unambiguous information. "If I had to guess, that makes this the hub." He grimaces again, no smile, "I suppose we can hope they're not able to enact it from afar," he glances skyward, as if ill-luck might fall on them any moment.
Apollo lifts a shoulder. "If you saw clearings," he says to Esme, "let's go look at those." Kaia included. "Did you have the vial?" he asks Emberly, a prompt with a chin toward Vitalis. Who he murmurs to, "we've all good luck and bad both, haven't we?" To Esme: "Which way to one of those clearings?"
Emberly looks to the others and she smiles a it to Vitalis "you have your ears and without your eyes those might be a bit more accute." She looks over and she smiles a bit "I have the vial yes." she says quietly.
There's a slight grin at Vitalis quip, nut she glances up to Esme. "Well, I'm somewhat good at tracking and mapping out things. I've picked up a few things with the guidance of some skilled members of the SoE. I'm not as skilled as them, but decent enough. I could have a look and see if I can perceive where exactly we might be." she says, and then offers Apollo a nod.
Once it is decided that Maddle hill is the central point and the clearings mark two of the spoke-ends it is fairly simple matter to apply Kaia's mapping skills and work out where the other sites should be. A quick look around shows that the spots dont seem to have common features. Most of them aren't even visible from the hill. Moving to one of those sites takes perhaps an hour thanks to a short diversion around a difficult ridgeline and by the time you get the dusting of surface snow has mostly evaporated away. It doesn't take too long to find the probable site now that you know what you are looking for. It is a bald area a couple of paces across. Unlike the Maddle hill site this one has evidence of a filled in trench near the center. The earthen scar no more than a few weeks old.
Esme is overheard praising Kaia: Mapping for the win
Apollo - trekking through the dusting of snow without much in the way of complaints, this is -light stuff- compared with what happens further north. He looks at the evidence of the trench, says sidelong to Vitalis: "Someone been digging." His brow furrows, and he toes at the ground, there. "I wonder what they buried." A pause, then: "Or what they dug up." He looks off toward Maddle Hill, the presumed central site - and beyond. "You think if they... I dunno, carted some earth from the site opposite, put it in a trench /here/, and put some from here in the trench /there/ - would that do the... resonance business? Else I think we'll have start digging."
Emberly blinks a little as she looks over the area "I do not know that I want to know what they buried." she says softly as she shakes her head looking for any topside clues
Vitalis follows along with a hand on the shoulder of whoever is handy, certainly it switches as they make their way across the rough terrain. Esme helping him over a log. Emberly through a squelchy patch of melt and mud. Kaia through a thicket of thorned undergrowth. Apollo up the slippery trail to the hilltop. He squints around again, "Can someone point me at Maddle Hill? And also which way is north?" Oh, digging. He cants his head at Apollo, then Emberly. "I think we need to. Can someone unstopper the vial? It's pungent, but I wasn't familiar with the plant. Does anyone know it? It may be important." Or not. Goose chases exist.
Alas the amount of liquid in the vial is such that accurately working out the contents would destroy most, or maybe all, of it.
Emberly mmms a little "i have an acid vial is that what you need?" she asks as she moves a bit closer, "I fear I do not know how to help here." she mms a little as she looks about.
As they reach the clearing, Kaia stands firm near the others. She has no clue about the vial they keep talking about and so remains quiet. She seems to be trying to make sense of what they are on about. Then, curiosity gets the best out of her. "Pardon my ignorance, but, what is this vial I hear you all talking about; and, how is it relevant to what it's to be acomplished or well disrupted here?"
Esme helps where needed, it's the Knight code or something along those lines. Her eyes slide over the trench. She will continue throughout to describe things to Vitalis as they are seen and discovered. "So, do you think this buried trench is one of the spokes that they need to reinforce the ritual? Is it something we should dig up?" Not that /she/ has a shovel. Her eyes slide around the clearing and then sort of looks around the area. Her brows furrow as she looks around the area. It's almost like she's trying to see if there is a sigil or something.
There is nothing here except the earth scar.
Apollo orients Vitalis on Maddle Hill, and takes... a wild stab at north. It's probably north, though he looks to the others to confirm. When Kaia asks about the vial, he answers, "Where we found the book describing the ritual, we also found some vials." He ponders a moment, looking at the trench in the earth. "Well - I think it's dig a bit, or go look at what's at the other sites."
Emberly nods to what apollo says "dose anyone here read the shav language to read the books?" she asks "the vials were mostly acid." she says quietly as she looks over apollo "I say we look at the other sites first."
Kaia glances over at Emberly. "I can read Lycene shav...not sure if that's the one?"
Vitalis gives Esme's arm a squeeze at the running verbal map of their environs, "Thank you." He clears his throat and attempts to feel the space they're in -- whatever form that takes. He looks vaguely uncomfortable. "The disc," coin, flat round thing. "Does it suggest any particular orientation?" His brow furrows at mention of reading shav tongues. "What position are we at? Is there any reference in the tome or document?"
Emberly nods her head to Kia, she hands over the book incase they missed anything.. she smiles to her before Vitalas asks about a refrence
Neither the tome nor the token suggest any specific orientation for the sites. This site is north north east or the top right if you want to align the drawing that way.
While the rest continue to talk about the token, or consider if they should dig or look at the other clearings first, Kaia takes a look at the tome. It seems she finds nothing. Well nothing useful in regards to where they should go at least. "Nothing here."
Vitalis clears his throat, "I think Emberly's right. After we try to find what's resonant here." He purses his lips, looks west - slightly to his right -- across what'd be the top of the hexagon, then to his left and behind, "Now, widdershins or deosil?"
Apollo, nudging at the ground with a toe, gives a shake of his head. "Ground's soft enough yet. But if folk want to move on to another location, more information is more information."
The good news is that the time spent to find and examine all the other sites does, in fact, find six sites all arrayed in a rough circle about Maddle hill. The bad news is that none of them have anything external to examine. In each location there is a filled in trench with enough plant growth on it to suggest they were dug between two months and two weeks ago. If you want to learn more you are going to have to disrupt one of the sites. The good news is that you can now choose which site to dig at according to its age or the size of the trench.
The site you just left has one of the smallest trenches at roughly foot long whilst the largest trench is about 10 foot by six. In total there is one 10ft trench, 1 grave sized trench, 1 four foot long trench, and three at around the one foot mark.
The larger trenches are the most recent with the grave sized trench being the newest, then the four foot long one, and then the 10ft long one.
The last site that you examine is the one at the top left of the hexagon (or the northnorthwest site). This site is based in a little depression and was not visible from Maddle hill. Here you find a trench roughly four feet long, and maybe couple wide, which you believe was probably the second most recent to have been dug. The soil gives easily when you start digging and you only have to dig a couple of feet before the tip of the shovel crunches into the side of a metal helmet. A corpse then. Human, still dressed in armor, twisted and broken and bundled into the hole still clutching a broken sword with a broken hand.
Emberly checks composure at normal. Emberly fails.
As the corpse comes to sight, along with its fabulous scent, Kaia averts her eyes. She covers her mouth and nose with a hand, murmurs a silent prayer that's simply muffled by the previous gesture and takes a step back.
Vitalis checks composure at normal. Vitalis is successful.
Emberly starts to shake, she trembles a little as they begin to dig... wait... did.. she.. just touch a dead hand? She trembles, eyes fill with sudden tears.. she screams and drops her shovel and starts to run out of the sight area.... No the little disciple of limerence was a diplomat, a fluteist, a riddler... but... death was something she could not handle
Realistically - with four peers - Apollo is going to be doing at least a substantial chunk of the digging. And dig he does, continuing with plodding, patient intent as the body is unearthed. Smell? Grossness? Eh. He's a /tanner/.
Esme watches as the chaos ensues. Death doesn't bother her. She's been on front lines of battles. She's witnessed the aftermath of ritual sacrifice. This is just another day in the walk of the occult and faith and all it brings for her. Although, her eyes do track Emberly as she screams and runs. Esme looks around the area to see if that has alerted anyone, while trying to maintain where the lady has taken herself off to.
Vitalis tugs his scarf up over his mouth and nose, eyes scrunched against tears that the smell brings. "Faugh. I can guess what's in there. To a degree." A rueful pause, brow grown slack, "What is it?"
Esme will inform Vitalis, being descriptive but not TOO descriptive.
Birds go shooting off with cries of alarm as Emberly runs off into the brush. Luckily you seem to be the only people in this area.
Apollo looks up from the unearthed corpse, a row of hods of dirt with baby plants set to the side. "Maybe... Lady Kaia can... go after her?" he asks. Emberly, he means. "Dressed in armor. Broken sword, broken hand, but... clutching the sword. If they'd just heaped it in here... it wouldn't still be -holding- it, would it?" He looks up at the others: are they dead-body-ologists? "Opposite this is... the grave-sized hole, isn't it. Two guesses what we'll find there."
Kaia simply lifts a brow at Apollo when he inquires if she can go search for the running Emberly. Still, covering her mouth and nose, she glances over her shoulder torwards the direction she believed the Crovane had run to. "I suppose?" she says in the end, taking another look at the corpse from a few feet away, before turning on her feet to look for the lady. "Lady Emberly?" she calls out. "Lady Emberly!"
The corpse has definitely been posed. The damage to his armor doesn't match the damage to his body and in places the decoration seems to have been actively filed away. There is enough detail left to make out the Vespin wasp theme. And theres something about that sword too. It looks old and is of extremely high quality. Marked with.. Oh. Is that the Vespin House Sword?
Esme checks composure at normal. Esme marginally fails.
Vitalis's expression shades grim, "The Vespin house blade?" He scrubs a hand down his face, pushing scarf down, hand serving to cover mouth and nose as he thinks. He tracks Kaia's departure after the unsettled Emberly, an uneasy feeling settled between his shoulderblades. "Let's take the blade at least. Unless we want to relocate and re-inter him elsewhere." Somewhere the cultists won't detect, another tangle.
There are a few universal truths about Lady Esme Fidante. One of those is that she's delusionally happy. Nothing seems to affect her. She might be sad for a moment, but it passes. She might stomp her foot, but her forgiveness comes quick. There are reasons perhaps to this. Esme is not put out by the ritual. She is not put out by the body. She is more curious than anything. It shows in her eyes. However, it's the sword. The /broken/ sword that causes a twitch. For a brief moment, it might almost seem darker. This could be because Esme's smile fades. If she's not stopped, she is going to move forward and pluck up the sword. Her eyes upon it as if she's willing it to be back together. A breath is pulled through her teeth as if pulling the oxygen from the world around her. Then she looks towards Vitalis. He might not be able to see it, but he'll be able to feel that shift in 'atmosphere'. Her eyes slide towards Apollo. There is pure rage. Although, he can tell she's fighting very hard to contain it and it's not winning yet. A pivot of her foot and she's stalking off to go towards the other one.
Emberly is somewhere in the forest she was crying and just trying not to fall to pieces. "Lady Kaia?" she asks as she wipes her eyes and turns to the other. "Where are you?" she calls as she makes her way over to the other lady. "sorry... I am here.."
Apollo lifts a hand, flares it in the air, dirt under his nails and ground into his skin, watching Esme go. "Well," he says. "I guess... we better had go to the site opposite, see what's there." He looks at the body a moment. "Should I cover him over? For now? We can come back and retrieve him later, do a proper burial."
Vitalis grunts, squints up at the sky, tugging the scarf over his mouth and nose again. The sun is to weak this deep into the season to feel its direction, discern north, south, orientation at all, by the warmth on his skin. He sighs, "We may not have the luxury of time to return."
"I'm here!" calls out Kaia to Emberly. A gentle motion of the hand given for her to come closer. "Come dear, we should go back. It isn't safe to stray away from the group in uncharted territory." As the youngest lady approaches, Kaia places an arm around her in a reassuring gesture. "They seemed almost ready to depart from the site. We should hurry and catch up to them."
Emberly sniffs a little as she follows after Kaia to catch up with the others, she trembles a bit as she walks but by the time she reaches the group again, she seems to be alright, except for the shock that is eatched into her eyes
Choosing to examine some of the other sites you head over to the opposite side of the circle, or hexagram, to the place where you found the broken soldier with the broken sword. This site again yields a body but this one is unbroken and looks almost peaceful but for the bloody rags that have been used to bind the body and the ritual knife sticking up from her chest. She has a plaque bearing the vespin symbol clutched in her hands which has been shattered into pieces.
Returning to the first location you dig up a small box of the sort typically given to messenger boys for the transport of small items. Inside this box you find a perfumed letter wrapped about a vial. The letter reads "My love, I do so look forward to our next meeting. If you mix this with your tea just before your visit I can promise you the night will be most spectacular. Your most devoted wife. M"
The largest trench is probably the most disgusting site yet. When you open this one up you find the corpse of a diseased milk cow branded with the vespin brand. Rats (also dead thankfully) spill out from a long gash down its belly.
Emberly checks intellect and alchemy at easy. Emberly is successful.
The vial of smelly plant oils you brought with you from the cultists base does not match any of the substances you've found so far.
Vitalis checks composure at normal. Critical Success! Vitalis is spectacularly successful.
Emberly is too busy to look at the new substance they found to really look at what the others were digging up, actually after the first body shes been lingering a bit behind the others "this... is a poison I really do not feel comfortable holding it." she says quietly.. well its no surprise Emberly wants nothing to do with poisons.
Hells. That even *sounds* disgusting. Vitalis' expression remains stony. It is a blessing not seeing at times, this time in particular. Still, he edges away from the ghastly stench. "Gods." He tracks to Emberly, going to stand with the woman at a bit of a remove. His brow furrows. "I'm foxed. Who has the tome?"
Vitalis checks intellect and occult at easy. Vitalis is successful.
Kaia checks intellect and occult at easy. Kaia is successful.
Apollo checks intellect and occult at easy. Apollo is successful.
Emberly looks to Vitalis "would you like the poison?" she asks "and I think Lady Kaia.. has the book .." she looks over to where the woman went "I... this is going to give me nightmares for weeks." she admits
"That's correct." she says in response to Emberly; and, therefore, also Vitalis. "I have it here." she explains. She moves closer to Vitalis, and goes on to recite a few pieces of information for all around to hear and analyze.
Apollo considers, turning when Emberly mentions poison. "Do you have a vial of... some curative? Or ah - something amorous? That would match the letter, what it promised?"
Returning to the tome with the new information you have you believe that the key to making sure the ritual can not work is to change the resonance on at one end of each pair (thus unbalancing them) or changing them to something else entirely on both sides. The greater the change in the resonance, and the more sites you change, the more effective the disruption will be. It is hard to guess what the minimum change to have an effect is. The ritual effect wont take effect until the ritual is completed at the central site up on Maddle Hill. Preventing that ritual from ever happening may be another way to prevent the ritual's success but will no doubt be messier, more time consuming and more prone to failure.
The site opposite the poison with its romantic letter is another small site. This one yields a bloody daggers with the remnants of some oily substance on the blade which still has the sliced through remains of a peace knot wrapped about its hilt.
Emberly nods to Apollo "I can make one for you." she says softly "give me a bit." she says as she moves aside, staying close to Vitalis
Vitalis shakes his head, mind whirling. "I'm at a loss. I'm not sure we can cover our tracks. This site-" he gestures at the trench the blades came from, southwesterly site, "-had significant growth. We can do our best. Maybe transplat?" He shrugs, shifting, pent energy coiling in him.
Once that last site has been examined it is dark enough that the group have to turn their minds to setting camp for the night. There will be plenty of time to continue tomorrow. (continued in flashback 902)
Apollo nods at Emberly, and after they find the bloody oily dagger, he nods. "This one, the one opposite - they're both a sort of... poisoned promise, right? A peacebound blade with... well, something on it, but it wasn't kept bound. And the poison in the vial. If we put one of those... er, the draughts that make folk feel amorous - you know, like the letter implied - that would un-poison it." He considers a moment, then wonders aloud: "If we re-bound the blade and cleaned it, both of them would match, then. I wonder if the effect would be good then, instead of ill." A lift of his shoulder, and he admits: "But there's supposed to be a sacrifice. I'm not sure we want to let that happen." He returns to the book, shakes his head. "It was a pain getting to these sites. I don't think they'll be back to check. But we can cover over anyway, do our best."
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