Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Company 3rd Song ep02.5 : Dungeon World : Roll20

The Company, 3rd Song

Episode Two.Five
"The Fighting Pits of Angerona"

The fighting pits of Angerona.   A world of battle, blood and betting.  Gaius is watching from the prison window as a match unfolds.  At the battleground, a long warrior stands.   The man has eager eyes, shorn hair, a tanned huge body that glistens with sweat and blood.  His name is Grunt, and in his hands a broken shard of bone is held like a weapon.  The crowds chants, excited to see more violence.  Grunt remembers the instructions given to him and he raises his arms to the crowd as he shouts at them. He tries to get them more excited. Three dead bodies lay scattered in the battlefield.

In the prison, Gaius and Saxa, another gladiator discuss the match.  Gaius easily picks up that Saxa and Grunt have something between them.  A horn bellows.  A new competitor arrives.

Grunt sees a warrior enter the battlefield.  Unlike the earlier goblins, this one is human.  Armed with a shield and a sword, the warrior clearly has an advantage over him. "Goblins.. bah. Let's see how you fare against a real warrior!"  Grunt yells back about how the tin man talks too much and charges into battle.  Grunt rushes forward, smashing himself at the warrior before he can brace himself.  Both crash into the ground with an incredible crash.  But while in the ground, the warrior swings the sword at Grunt, smacking the sword's pommel into his face. The warrior tries to stand up but Grunt easily pins him down. The smack barely hurts Grunt.

Gaius identifies the competitor as Flamma, a loudmouth among them in the gladiator pits. The crowd chants: FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! As Saxa worries over who will win, Gaius hears another voice from another nearby cell mutter, "Who will win, indeed?"  He realizes it came from Urbin, a gladiator who has been around longer than he has.  They discuss how Flamma is eager but young, unlike Grunt whose brute strength is undeniable.  Saxa however scowls, suspecting he had been poisoned because they had see him lying with her.  Defeating the young boy, Grunt takes his head into his arms, whispers an apology, then breaks his neck.  Grunt roars will all his might at the crowd to celebrate his victory.

There is no mistaking the cry of the end of a battle.
Just another day in Angerona.

Gaius is at the training hall, with the other slaves.  Saxa, Urbin and Grunt are nearby.  As are a host of other lesser notable slaves. Gaius is standing before the slave master, Oro.  Oro Dosi, the slave master, wears a makeshift armor - more decorative than functional - plated in gold.  A symbol of his status among slavers.  Grunt hears Saxa hissing about revenge and he tries to convince her to keep silent. Oro calls for everyone to pay attention.  Urbin taps Saxa and Grunt to stop hugging.  The golden slave master walks up to a nearby crate and stands on it. "The Grand City of Angerona shall have guests of high esteem to watch the fights in the nights to come.  And thus, I have been instructed by the Lady Cassandra herself to remind each and every one of you that you must fight your best... with your most exciting moves.. in the coming fights. The patrons want blood.  They want spectacle. They want to make the very GODS WEEP."

They all recall the Lady Cassandra, ruler of Angerona, the Lady Cassandra is beautiful and cold.  She is distant and rarely speaks.  But it is under her shadow that every fight in the fighting pits comes to pass.  The term "Kind Lady" is the honorific many use to refer to Cassandra Vitae.  A term born from how she would show a thumbs up to allow a slave to live.  Gaius remembers the many times she had asked him to accept freedom.  How he turned her offer down and chose to remain a gladiator.  Grunt recalls seeing the latest of such events. Gaius fought against three men, one armed with a net, two armed with spears.  The group applauds as Oro tells them the Lady is here to speak to them.   She walks in and apologizes to them given this week may be the last week for some of them.

Cassandra tells them, "We are to have guests. And I have been reminded to ensure they are properly   entertained.  And so, I am to choose two five warriors to take part in a grand battle.  The five shall all stand in the battlefield and the threats shall come upon them.  Things that the guest have brought with  them.   Of the five, only one shall be granted freedom.  Only one shall be expected to survive."  When Oro Dosi argues about the waste good gladiators, she silences him by reminding him he works for her.  Grunt tries to keep Saxa from volunteering.  Cassandra asks Gaius if he will finally accept the freedom she offers him.  He responds by accepting the role to fight for her in the pits. She has him pick the four others. "Urbis. Tetraites. Grunt."  But he hesitates on the fourth.   Hoping to push Saxa back, Grunt steps forward and grabs whoever was beside him to volunteer.  It turns out to be another Gladiator, Adera, whom was never kind to him. Grunt realizes Saxa is about to act. He remembers they were practicing with wooden swords. Even such can be deadly in a warrior's hands. Sadly, he is now standing separate from her - as he stands with the others chosen.  Saxa begins to speak up demanding something from the gathered.   But Grunt's warnings fall on deaf ears. S axa doesn't quite grasp the message.  As the Lady Cassandra moves to exit, and Oro Dosi calls for the rest to return to training, the four personal guard motion for the chosen to follow them.  Saxa, suddenly runs forward and swings the wooden sword at the closest personal guard!  Oro turns to see the wood splinter as it shatters on the guard's helmet, delivered with enough force to knock him to the ground. Giaus, Grunt and the rest, turn to see Saxa grab the sword of the guard and in a swift motion, strike at the second closest guard. The guard loses an arm, and screams as he hits the ground! Grunt grabs the closest training dummy, hoisting it off the ground. Gaius and Urbin and the others watch as the wooden thing hurls across the room and into Saxa!  The wood crashes Saxa to the ground.  Cassandra walks away, not once paying her any attention.

"Whore!  Bastards!  Sigurdians!" Saxa hisses insults at them.   Cassandra's guards close in, and while Oro Dosi tries to ask them to stop, he remembers at the end of the day he is merely the head among the slaves.  And an insult to the throne cannot be ignored.    When she confronts Dosi for Flamma's death, he admits poisoning him so he could have a kinder death than a living memory of killing a friend.    Gaius tries to talk the guards out of it, but they are not strayed from their role.  They kill Saxa with a knife through her back - unceremonial and without honor.


The five stand in the center of the battle field  The stadium, however, is not filled with people. Instead, there are only a few guests present.  The Lady Cassandra stands at the main box, with the best view of the battle field. And close beside her, is her guest. Vittor, a Representative of Sigurd.  Cassandra welcome them, " Warriors. You stand before us to show the finest that Angerona has to offer.  Vittor, representative of the Eastern Continent of Sigurd, we welcome to you Angerona with a display of battle and blood."  Grunt doesn't know much about Sigurd, other than it is one of the bigger kingdoms across the Easter Sea which the Sea Edge borders. Most know Sigurd to be a land of heresy, with practitioners of eldritch arts. There have been rumors of war between Sigurd and some of the smaller kingdoms. Gaius recalls that Sigurd has no faith in any of the old gods. They believe that an eldritch force exists within those born with the capacity to use it. Magic, they call it. Some even, in Throndur, have attempted to learn codify its learning, The Blue Arch and the Emerald Arch are but two examples.  Most of those faithful to the old gods, however, scoff at such people. The guards bring in two weapon racks, and place them in each corner of the battlefield. The lack of a crowd is unnerving. The lack of the blood thirsty screaming. Gaius tells the others: "Death comes for all. For some, today is the day.  I  promise to make it quick."

A horn blasts.  A servant comes forward and brings to the five a tray.  The tray contains five golden goblets.  They are all filled with wine.  Cassandra instructs the Gladiators to join them in a toast.    Vittor is asked to lead it:

To the Shadows that Rise,
To the Widows that weep,
To Smoke Filled Skies,
To the Watcher of the Deep.
To the 3rd Song Forgotten 
And the Undying King. 
To the Magic of Sigurd.
May the Azure Gate sing.

The toast is an odd one.
But seems to herald greater things to come.
All drink of the wine and feel it warm their bellies. Bring courage to their hearts.  Gaius however only pretends to spit the wine, and instead sprays it at Tetriates' face. The great gate opens.
And the first combatant arrives.  The massive weight of the thing shakes the ground as it emerges. With four legs, two arms, and horns, the thing looks like a merging of man and bull. Vittor proudly announces it: The Minotaurean! One of Sigurd's greatest creations.  Created through the combination of arcane magicks and the secrets of the living form. Each the strength of twenty men.

As Grunt charges forward, the thing sees his approach and uses its massive reach to its advantage.  Even before Grunt could get close enough, the thing attempts to charge into him! Grunt miscalculates the approach. The Minotaurean charges into him and its massive bulk crashes into Grunt, sending him to the ground. As he hits the ground, however, the thing does not stop. Its terrible bulk threatens to crush it as it tramples past him towards Urbin. Rolling to the far side, Grunt evades breaking bones.

The massive monster tramples forward, both at Urbin and Gaius. Gaius launches a flail. The weapon flies. But the Minotaurean seems to anticipate it. The flail swings, but the Minotaurean suddenly grabs it before it hits. To Gaius' surprise, the monster then yanks it upwards to pull him towards the Minotaurean. It uses its other hand to smack Gaius to the ground. Urbin sees an opening, thankfully, and rolls foward, swinging the sword at the Minotaurean's leg. The blade draws blood, but the wound seems shallow. Urbin feels the Minotaurean's powerful rear legs connect as it kicks him across the field. Adera rushes in to strike.

Gaius throws all tactics to the wind and swings the flail at it. The flail crashes down at the Minotaurean's back, striking it with a powerful blow. Urbin and Grunt watch as Gaius smashes the flail into the thing's back.  A lesser man would have died that moment. From behind the Minotaurean, Grunt stands up, jumps to grab its neck and tries to choke it. The thing begins to thrash, clearly not liking the "rider" on its back.  It charges forward, hoping to shake Grunt off.. in Gaius' direction! The Minotaurean tumbles forward, heading straight for the far wall. The thing stumbles, and Grunt uses this to try and choke it further. The thing struggles. Grunt holds on tight, having used the momentum to wrap his arm around the thing's neck. But as he charges, Grunt fears the warrior Tetriates's stab might not strike true and instead find his spear stabbing Grunt! Grunt drops to the ground, dodging the spear that Tetraites aims too high. Though it embeds into the monster's chest, it forces Grunt to let go. As Grunt hits the ground, the Minotaureans powerful feet once again nearly trample him. Grunt grabs a leg, hoping to still hurt the thing. Grunt twists, and the Minotaurean's leg bends in a bad way. The thing howls, thankfully moving away from him and no longer placing him in danger of being crushes. Gaius yells, "We've got to knock it off its feet!" He goes into a twisting dive. His weapon sweeps under, parallel to the ground, like a scythe aimed just above the knee. Gaius and Urbin charge forward, planning to strike low. The beast feels the steel strike from both sides. In retailation, however, it suddenly twists and uses its back legs to kick at Gaius. Gaius spins in time to catch the kick with the shield. It throws him backwards, but thankfully, unharmed.  Grunt sees the Minotaurean then turn, its horns trained to swat at Urbin. Adera closes in, but Grunt sees her STOP, perhaps because she thinks if Urbin is out of commission... Vittor at the stands applauds the battle.  Cassandra remains unmoving.  But then Grunt kicks the monster in its testicles, stunning it long enough for Adera to use her double swords to slice its head off.   The celebrations are short-lived however, as Vittor brings forth the next creation.  Half shark, half walking beast, he calls it the Siakar and it looks hungry.

Like a terrible amalgam of shark and beast, the thing comes into view.  The beast is terrifyingly huge, almost forty feet long with a maw large enough to swallow any of them whole. Its four legs end with talons, and its great body shows musculature suggesting massive strength.  Gaius calls for the team to take out its eyes, but Grunt realizes it has none. Vittor proudly explains to Cassandra how, "The Siakari is a wonderful creation, sensing the world through the very air. It hungers for blood and can "see" blood around it as waiting prey." As Gaius closes in, moving into range to strike...

The thing suddenly LEAPS forward at him, covering the gap faster than he anticipated! Grunt roars hoping to distract the beast, but the thing does not seem to pay any attention to him. It is like it did not hear him. As Gaius drops to the ground to slide underneath the thing, he braces the shield in between them to take the brunt of any impact.  To his horror, the shield does strike the thing and SPARKS fly from the contact, as the Siakari's skin happens to have some kind of sharp steel like surface that nearly tears away any flesh it touches. But thankfully, the shield takes the brunt, leaving the defensive object heavily scratches from the contact. Vittor proudly declares, "A grand creation of Sigurd that shows our mastery over the Green!"

The first punch makes Grunt realize his error. The impact tears away skin. His skin. Thankfully, the wound is superficial enough for Grunt to ignore, but striking wtihout a weapon is NOT going to work. The thing turns towards Grunt, snapping at him with its massive jaws!  Grunt feels the things
massive jaws slam shut around one hand!  The teeth tear into his skin for terrible terrible pain. And even his own splatter of blood... it strikes the.. air before reaching the body of the monstrosity. Grunt realizes there is some kind of barrier around the thing! Gaius tries to recall anything about this which Urbin may have mentioned. A moment of wisdom despite the pain. As Gaius yells at Urbin, that is when he discovers the terrible truth.Urbin is flat on the ground, unconscious. Asleep? Poisoned? Dead? In the hysterics of it all, Gaius cannot seem to recall any stories his friend may have shared that moment. All he could think of is... was he poisoned as well?

Tetraites coughs again and falls to the ground. The massive thing turns, now facing Adera. Or perhaps, smelling something she is close to. Adera mutters weakly.. "No. not like this..." Grunt wraps his powerful arms around one of the creature's legs. Gaius hears Grunt give out a terribly loud bellow as he hugs one leg and... SNAP! The thing feels the immense pain and in retailation, snaps to bite at whatever had hurt it! Gaius tries to distract it with another strike from his flair. The Siakari smashes its maw at Grunt before he could let go of its leg. Grunt feels the maw close in on his shoulder, and the massive teeth tear into his flesh and stab into his bones. Adera coughs, "Sigur...dia...n bastards..." and she begins to call out to Sona. Warm light erupts from Adera's falling body. It strikes Grunt and slightly heals him. "The least I could do," she gasps before dying.

The talons rake at the thing from the inside. It seems to cut something for the monster does opens its maw in agony....but then it moves to slam them shut over Grunt's head! Vittor once more proclaims, "BEHOLD, the power of SIGURDIAN MAGIC!" Gaius swings the flail at its head repeatedly, hoping to distract it. The Flail strikes the monster. The monster abruptly spins in response, throwing Grunt and Gaius away as it swats them with its massive form. The thing then takes that opportunity to feast. It chomps down on Urbin's upper torso and cleanly chomps it away in a single bite. Gaius charges forward... But as he attacks... Gaius's flail swings, striking at the thing's head once... twice... and with each strike, sparks fly. It attempts another bite, but Gaius dodges. And another, and Gaius once again moves out of the way.

Vittor hisses, "And so the martial superiority of Sigurd is demonstrated." Grunt feels it. The heaviness. The weight. He drops to one knee. The flail smashes into it, but the thing finds an opening and charges forward to chomp at Gaius and perhaps bite off his head in one go. Using the last of his reserve, Grunt rushes towards the thing and bashes his undamged shoulder to prevent it from chomping Gaius. Lady Cassandra screams out Gaius' name as it closes in. Gaius watches as Grunt's body is lifted up but the creature, its maw locked in place.

The Siakari spits out Grunt to the ground, now lifeless and unmoving. It closes in on Gaius. Lady Cassandra howls at Vittor, "TELL YOUR MASTER THAT YOUR ARMIES WILL NOT WIN THE WAR!" Vittor hisses back, " I BELIEVE WE HAVE SEEN THAT THEY WILL, KIND LADY. YOUR CITY IS OURS, KIND LADY. You have lost the bet you have made with my Master." Cassandra calls out to Gaius, however, asking him one last time if he will accept his Freedom?

Gaius runs forward and grabs Tetraites' spear. He flings it across the distance and it embeds into Vittor's shoulder. The Siakara closes in from behind Gaius. Lady Cassandra realizes there is no more time to choose. Lady Cassandra closes her eyes. Lady Cassandra intones.

"Zanathar, let your knowledge educate them."

The spear hits Vittor on the shoulder. He howls in pain, but alas it seems he will survive the blow.
The Siakari strikes!    But then all goes white.

* * *

Gaius opens his eyes to find he is somewhere else.  Somewhere far away.  And on the ground, the bodies of his friends.  The Flail in his hands glows with a strange light. Markings upon the metal, markings he cannot read. Far from Angerona. Somehow, Gaius and the bodies of his fellow companions had been.. transported away from Angerona And now, the flail he holds is marked by strange etchings that are glowing. The glow begins to fade.

Gaius begin to dig graves for his friends. Carefully, he brings each one to a grave he has prepared for them. But when he reaches for Grunt... the man coughs. Barely alive, the warrior shares one last message before death takes him: "War is Coming and Death is not happy. He doesn't like people in doing things his realm." He expires.

A man in armor comes into view, a horse behind him. He wears the sigil of one of the kingdoms. The man is named Kristoff and he calls out to Gaius who still holds Grunt's lifeless body. Kristoff stops upon seeing the dead bodies all around Gaius. And the flail. "My name is Kristoff. I am a SwornSword of the Kingdom.  I've been tasked to gather men.  The Kingdom of Sigurd has declared war."   Gaius asks, "Angerona. Which direction?"   When told the King is calling for me, Gaius tells him he bows to no King and demands once more directions to Angerona.   If the war is against Sigurd, however, he admits they have a common enemy.  He learns from Kristoff that the City of Angerona has been burned down three summers ago. And there has been no sign of the Kind Lady. Kristoff asks him about the bandit, however. "There was a bandit. Encountered him in the path. Was rambling about the statues come to life. Alive but dead, he said.  Worried me for a bit. Thought more of Sigurd's monstrosities had appeared.  When confronted, he admitted he had stolen a few statues from the ruins of Angerona some years back.  Was hoping to fetch them a good price in Sigurd, to sell them as souvenirs of its fall. You wouldn't happen to see any statues, did you?"

Gaius wonders what had happened and how. But he knows War has come, and if anything, it is a chance to get back at Sigurd for what happened. What kind of magic was unleashed in that final fight? What did the Lady Cassandra do? How did she save Gaius?

And most of all, what was Grunt's message from Death itself.

Kristoff muttered, " I guess, some things we will never know. But war is coming. And we will need you in the Company."
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