Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Riddle of Blood e09 : Houses of the Blooded

The Riddle of Blood
Episode Nine
"Pandora, Bronze and Promises"

Houses of the Blooded

It was Gamer's Meet night and the group wanted to try out Houses of the Blooded.  I was at first anticipating  two of the gamers from the ongoing Houses of the Blooded chronicle to be present, so I decided to make this a glimpse of the backstories of some of the key npcs in that game.  Sadly, only one of them (my partner, Rocky) was able to attend so the "dual nature" of the plot didn't have as much an impact as I had hoped.  Still, the game had a cool story that unfolded with lots of the players contributing to its creation, and nicely fit in with the established events of the ongoing chronicle.

I pregenerated the characters for this game, and players got a chance to choose two from the list (I did not want them reading too much about each character).  Each one had the Virtues blank, save for their highest virtue.  I wanted the players to choose a Weakness, and allocate the points on their own to get a feel for how the system works.  There's a light bulb moment that happens each time a player first learns this game has a Weakness, which means a Virtue where you will ALWAYS fail in.  Then they read up on their Advantages, and had a quick lesson on how dice, wagers, and declarations of intent were done.  And we were off!

Choth Yvaria, Baron of Ur, Blooded of the Fox, was portrayed by my partner Rocky.
Rocky took Prowess as the Weakness.
Taltos Jalan, Count of Sidio, Blooded of the Serpent, was portrayed by Mahar.
Mahar took Strength as the Weakness.
Marcus Mwrr, Count of Staniga, Blooded of the Serpent, was portrayed by Rachelle.
Rachell took Courage as the Weakness.
Tiall Banin, Baron of Mishrin, Blooded of the Wolf, was portrayed by Justin.
Justin took Strength as the Weakness.
Eodan Stelle, Baron of Dundar, Blooded of the Elk, was portrayed by Erich.
Erich took Strength as the Weakness.

And of the remaining cast, Donal Thorne, Baron of Spire, Blooded of the Falcon, Ildril Burghe, Baron of Fenri, Blooded of the Bear, and Madelyn Yvaria, Countess of the Box, Blooded of the Fox, were all NPCs that I portrayed.

Readers of The Riddle of Blood would quickly notice the familiar names:  Madelyn Yvarai is in the modern days the influential Duchess of the Box and a mover in the Senate.  She is the grandmother-in-law of Kithranus Yvarai, whose tragic events are remembered well.   Marcus Mwrr is the father of the Serpent, Gaius Mwrr.  And of course, other familiar names and faces were to appear in the story as it progressed.

It was the birthday of the Duchess Koryn of Ydea, and all have been invited to her Althua.  
  • Players made their wagers and the final truths were as follows: 
  • Koryn is Kind-hearted.
  • Koryn is Well-Liked.
  • Koryn has Vindictive Streak.
  • This vindictive streak shows in how she has planned out her party.
  • It would be insult to bring weapons of any kind.
  • She suitors are also at the party to impress her.
  • There is an Opera in her birthday.
  • There is nothing that she desires more than to find out if Foxes are good in bed.
  • We were all especially invited compared to everyone else.
I then started the game with all making Strength wagers, to represent who had trouble in the long journey to the Duchy of Ydea.  Among the early arrivals were Choth Yvaria and Marcus Mwrr.  Choth finds himself arriving at the same time as Madelyn Yvarai, and the two are escorted to the Garden because "The party is not yet ready."  They discuss their views on the senate and Madelyn promises to some day become a force in the Senate itself.  They discuss how hard life is here in the Frontier and whether or not to take part in the Migration that the Senate is proposing.  "Too many demons," Madelyn admits, "and you'd think the Senate would consider Sorcery as a solution by now."
Madelyn Yvaria speaks with Choth Yvarai

Marcus Mwrr opts for the Library and while there finds a book on Poisons and how they can be gently placed in the wines.  While reading, the Baron of Fenri walks up to him to thank him for the welcomed trading.  Ildril had been trading with Marcus' wife, Bethesda, and wanted to give a show of gratitude for their kindness.  Ildril offers an intricate Bloodsword as a gift, and asks Marcus, "If you would be kind enough to wear it proudly, as a display of my Gratitude towards your house." Marcus agrees, though ponders on whether this will be an issue in the party.

When Eodan Steele arrives, he is informed to take the side entrance, an act which bothers him at first.  Arriving, he finds the door locked, and a small missive is slid under the door.  "If it is you, Enter," the letter states.  When the Elk succeeds in the simple test, the Duchess meets with him.  "We Elks have to stick together," she admits and the two talk of Puzzle Houses, of Artifact Keys, and of promise.  "This may secure yourself a new title."

Taltos Jalan finds a broken down carriage in the path ahead, and discovers it is Tiall Banin's ride.  As Tiall calls out to Taltos for assistance, the Serpent struggles not to find his boorish behavior off-putting.  It is difficult, however, given the Serpent's already lack of goodwill towards the Wolf.  Worse still, when the Wolf seems to favor Taltos so much for having assisted in a previous engagement.  The two arrive at the party to find it already alive, and once announced, Taltos quickly moves away from the Wolf to mingle with others of his own House.

Donal Thorne sees Choth Yvarai and moves to approach, wanting to begin his act of vengeance upon him.  But Marcus Mwrr (Court Gossip) and Eodan Steele (I Know What You Want) interject, and the discussions have the hot-blood cool for the time being.

Choth Yvarai approaches the Duchess Koryn and the two discuss matters of position and of Affairs.  The Duchess supports Choth's bid to become a Count, but admits it will be settled through events in the Althua.  She knows of Choth's affair with the late Edana Thorne, mother of Donal.  The other players throw in wagers of what they know of that affair: Marcus Mwrr (Court Gossip), Eodan Steele (My Eyes See All) and Taltos Jalan (Meticulous)  .  The facts are:  the Duchess finds Donal impetuous.  Koryn was jealous of the affair!  Donal was overhearing the conversation.  The Duchess clearly wanted some time alone with the Fox, although she kept referring to him as a Serpent.  And the other suitors in the room had noticed and were getting jealous.

In the distance, with not many wishing to interact with him, Tiall Banin finds a burly red-haired man accompanying a moving cart that was being pushed by a pair of Veth into the party.  The man's red locks had a white streak that started from the hairline above the left eye.  The cart carried twelve beautiful swords (none of which were Bloodswords).  The man himself, however, had a Bloodsword.  Tiall recalls what he knows of him (Invisible + Failure is Not an Option) and learns he is a Falcon and his name is Drin Krev.  He is the brother of Viktor Krev and supposedly has the ability to see the future.  He fights with Orks on his side and he is here for ambition.  He desires a lion share of the Western lands.  And he wants to cut down those who will gain power in the West, such as Madelyn Yvarai.   He watches the man carefully, and considers why so many swords would be brought into a party that explicitly was against weapons being brought in.

Taltos Jalan and Marcus Mwrr trade stories, as the two Serpents relate how the other houses clearly struggle to win their favor and attention.  As they talk, another approaches them and seems hoping to gain their favor.  His name is Scorpius Jalan and he seems out of his element as he asks the two if they would be willing to assist him regarding some trouble with his lands.  Both recognize him more for his wife, Catherine Banin, who has been actively trading with them. He mumbles something about the Senate, but Taltos chides him that, "You own what you hold.  If you cannot hold it..."  It would be a harsh lesson the Serpent someday will teach his two children:  Kyocera and Kithranus.

The Duchess calls for everyone to gather, and offers the first event for the night:  A wager!
She chooses a number of Ven and have them draw swords.  Elimination is to be based on those whose blood gets drawn.  The winner will be given additional prestige and will serve as a Count under her Duchy.   Madelyn Yvarai shows off her granddaughter,Circe Yvarai, whom she carries proudly in her arms.  She asks Choth Mwrr to carry the child for her, which he readily does so.  "She will someday become a true force to reckon with.  She is a Fox unlike any other."  Eodan Steele attempts to place Choth Yvarai on the spot, but the Serpent eludes the fight with a few well chosen words.  Madelyn takes his place.  "A Dance of Blades!" the Duchess proudly proclaims, and the Ven prepare to battle it out.  

The Dance of Blades
All Participating Ven draw Prowess + any other appropriate values.
Starting with the winner of Privilege, that player chooses to spend a wager to either Strike or Defend, then chooses the next player to declare.  Any Strikes must be matched with a Defend or that player is Eliminated.  The game ends when there remains a singe Player who has not been Eliminated.

Eodan Steele (Ambitious + Underestimated) wins the challenge easily, and receives the rise of title.  The Duchess whispers to him to prepare to make the announcement about the Puzzle House in her grounds, and how opening it will be the challenge.  This should force Donal Throne to reveal the Key he has in his possession.

 Some suitors wonder about the Opera, but Koryn insists that is best for another night.  Donal seems intent on revenge, and there is worry on whether or not he will act upon this tonight.  

Taltos Jalan and Madelyn discuss matters of Sorcery, and Madelyn admits that she is not one to look at such well.  "There are monsters, and there are the mothers of monsters."  Madelyn is impressed though with Taltos' show of ambition, and considers whether or not to share with her the support she gains from a certain unspoken Patron.  Tiall Banin meets with Madelyn Yvarai on the balcony afterwards, and he offers to her a vow to protect the child.  Madelyn accepts this, but is distracted as she sees an approaching gathering of soldiers and Vashna, under the banner of the Senate, and a certain Ven she opposes.

As Eodan Steele calls out for all to gether again, as he readies himself to declare the new event, Donal takes the opportunity to close in on Choth Yvarai and draw his Bloodsword.  Ildril Burghe sees the attack, and tries to draw the gifted Bloodsword from Marcus Mwrr's side.  But Marcus does not realize what is going on, and dodges away from Ildril's grasp!  The initial strike of Donal Thorne thankfully misses, buying Choth time to do the unexpected!

From the cloth portion of the blanket of the child that the Bloodsword had sliced away, Choth grabbed it, flung it over his head and shoulders as a "cloak" and thru the blessing of Ashalim Avendi, transformed himself into the appearance of Donal Thorne's late mother, Edana.  Everyone gasps in shock upon seeing the regal woman standing before Donal.  To further strike the attacker down, Choth mutters five words (The Right Words Matter + I Know You) that perfectly twist the verbal dagger deeper to disable the swordsman.  "You are not my son."  

Donal drops the Bloodsword in despair.  

And somewhere, a voice declares in panic that the Bronze Inquisitor, Ti'Ann Burghe, the Duchess of Grindle,  has arrived.  Realizing the danger of letting her judge them, Choth Yvarai withdraws from the crowd (But I Wasn't There) to vanish, but Tiall Banin (Invisible + Only WhenViolence Awakens) sees him, and intercepts.  He tells him the child must be in his hands, and Choth willingly hands the child over.  Making matters worse, somewhere in the party, Ildril Burghe's supposed surprise entourage of Orks, a small tribe he had hoped to offer for hunting, breaks free and starts attacking the guests.  

Ti'Ann Burghe enters the hall to inform everyone they have a few minutes to come outside and confess to the use of Sorcery.  Afterwards, she will punish those who have not.  As she exits, Ildril Burghe immediately makes to confess.  Other ven consider as well.  While others consider escaping.  

Taltos Jalan takes this opportunity to sneak out of the area, asking a beautiful red-haired maid to assist in her escape.    Choth Yvarai does the same, and uses the Good Night Kiss upon Ildril Burghe to knock him asleep.  When the Vashna arrive, he calls out to them to take the Bear, and during that confusion makes his escape.

Tiall Banin finds himself confronting one of the Orks, a leader it seems among their kind, who allows them to escape but not before blessing the baby (Circe) with a promise that all Orks shall, "Heed and respect her.  As their own Mother."  Tiall hands the Horned One a ring of the House of the Wolf.  "They will know you are protected," Tiall declared.

Marcus Mwrr is forced to fight some of the Orks that have broken into the hall.  While dispatching the smaller Orks is easy, dealing with the larger stronger one takes more effort.  He tries to trick them all into eating the food and wine, hoping that some Ven had indeed poisoned them.  Sadly, it turns out none have.  But at least the distracted Orks are much more easily dispatched by the guards.

Taltos Jalan however discovers that the maid is no ordinary maid.  She quickly reveals her demonic nature, and offers Taltos a gift in exchange for allowing her to leave.  Taltos words his request carefully, knowing the wicked tricks a demon tends to throw.  "I desire to have the ability to slay all demons and I want to enter the puzzle house."  The demon smiles and asks him to touch the Puzzle House which he does.  His hand embeds into the glass, and suddenly, Taltos is shunted into the Puzzle House, transforming into a Blood Sword.  The Puzzle House then collapses into itself, leaving nothing but a ruin where it once stood.

Choth Yvarai meets with Madelyn outside, who seems preoccupied in her thoughts as they board the carriage to leave.  Both watch as the Bronze Inquisitor continues to judge the others for Sorcery including Tiall Banin, who vows revenge against her cruelty.  "If i won't be your doom, my sons will. Or better yet, my daughter."

Ti'Ann Burghe and Eodan Steele make a Promise.
Madelyn admits the Bronze Inquisitor has gained much clout, but believes things will change once they fly to the new lands.  She asks Choth to be well and tells him she is headed to certain Mount Shrine to visit.

And Eodan Steele approaches the Bronze Inquisitor, and she admits to him that she has always been proud of him.  Eodan Steele, as it turns out, is a friendly face to Ti'Ann Burghe, and she asks of him a duty.  "Stay here, in the Frontier lands.  Hold to your County even as the rest of the Ven fly to the New Lands.  There will come a time when the Ven shall migrate once more.  You shall be the Count I shall return to.  Can you do this for me?"
Eodan agrees, and as a gift to show his favor, gives her the Earring he wears.  Ti'Ann Burghe smiles knowing her future is secure.

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