The re-opening of the Bristol Ritual Circle
Some years back, during the Civil War within Albion, Jadvor held Bristol and came under siege by Satun and his hoards. In order to prevent more support arriving for Satun, Floris-Brand closed the circle by removing the element of fire from it.
At the time, a lone ritualist was holding the circle closed by force of will. She was unprepared for the sudden release of power, or of the cap stone being sent first up out of the circle, then returning to stave in her skull, killing her. That this closure of the circle caused a flow of power to spill forth into the Summerlands, potentially unbalancing the ecology there and leading to its corruption was a side-effect that no one could have predicted.
As a result, the Summerland fell into decline. Elidure tried to save his homeland by acquiring a queen, but he failed. Apollo followed Elidure, seeking support. Neither was to know the true fate of their homeland.
The re-opening of the Ritual Circle was to be held on the Saturday afternoon when the seven stones to be used to bind the circle arrived. Folk were arriving early to check the site and ensure that there were no difficulties.
The first signs of trouble were when figures were seen around the woods. These turned out to be hired thugs after folk in Hunters tabards hired by a woman who may well have been one of the two surviving members of Royjen’s gang. The majority of these thugs were caught and questioned, then executed if they had assaulted any of the guests.
Also, some folk reported seeing Lasha and even talking to him. I was not one of those, however. One or two even saw a white Rabbit carrying a sword. Again, I was excluded from this.
Mad Bill turned up, throwing his weight around, but it was difficult organising a coherent battle in the dark of night, let alone in the darkness of the woods. Never the less, prisoners were taken and questioned. These turned out to be Mercenaries with little knowledge of what they were hired for. Several individual Mercenaries remained cloaked by the dark, attacking solitary folk, so instructions were issued that no one was to go out on their own and military patrols, plus scouting groups were sent out to deal with the problem.
As the Friday drew to a close, many folk retired to sleep, though a number of us kept vigil to the early hours. We set out on a perimeter patrol, only to return to the sight of three figures escaping from the lodge with a shield and several spare weapons that had been left behind. Pursuit was given and the shield recovered, though the miscreants escaped. We returned to the lodge, Jac and I remaining outside as the others entered to get warm. Moments later, the sound of collapsing bodies brought our attention to the presence of a vapour poison in the Lodge.
Jac risked his life by holding his breath as he entered the lodge to start recovering the fallen. Fortunately, the first to be dragged out was a healer and had the healing cup and the chalice on her. Moments later, Sir Hugo was recovering when spell vocals echoed out. I summoned the power of an Iron Will granted to myself by Kelvin and resisted the urge for a nap, but fell afoul of the follow up sleep spell.
When I was awoken, the three assailants were dead. We waited for a while for the lodge to become safe then settled for the remainder of the night.
The Morning brought more surprises. Two followers of the Architect were present, advising that we needed to find this white rabbit. The stones arrived for the circle, one of which was broken. One search party was sent out to follow the Rabbit, and on their return, two parties were dispatched to find a replacement stone from the original circle.
Edward Charenten led the party I accompanied and we found nothing, tough I suggested performing a detection for magic in the old Ritual circle, but Edward decided this had best wait until the results of the other searches came in.
A call went out for special weapons in support of one of the searching groups. They had found a cave guarded by two spectral forms. A long run later and several attempts to fight our way into the caves led to the group reforming and moving of to another problem spot first. After rescuing a local who had been holed up in a tree for five days, victimised by more faceless apparitions, we returned to the cave with a plan.
The plan was simple. The bulk of the troop would attack the faceless critters while v’Ar, Hu and I slipped in behind them. Would have worked as well if some ool hadn’t pointed at Hu and called ˜quick, they’re nearly in, keep the monsters distracted. Ten minutes of fighting later, the two guardians were defeated and a reptilian demon emerged from the cave. As it stepped forward, I slipped inside to find several others had managed to get there before me, but were all dying from wounds. Fortunately, a few healers slipped into the cave as well. A snake rested beneath a plaque that proclaimed “˜Speak my name to take me”. Guessing this was the Sword of Ages, the name was spoken and someone tried picking up the live and very angry snake. Moments later, the very dead snake was picked up by another as a healer saw to the poisoned person.
We returned to camp to find that a stone had been found, covering the remains of the skeleton of some unfortunate person. The bones were laid to rest and the stone placed with the other six, preparations for the ritual being well under way.
I was asked to assemble a team to take an amount of healing a distance from the circle during the ritual in the event that something untoward happened such as an explosion or invasion of some sort. The ritual, however, proceeded without a hitch, Tiberias having been meticulous in his research and his planning for re-introduction of the balance of fire to restore the circle. The circle was to then be left to settle.
While waiting for the circle to become usable, I, and a few associates, were near the Caer Pendrinn tent when a scream was heard from within. Inside the tent could be seen two figures â€“ skinless monstrosities dressed in black robes that seemed to have attacked the folk in the tent. A quick strike in retaliation and the two were dead and those within being healed. It was at that point that the ground rumbled and I saw people being struck down, this effect approaching where I was. I retreated to warn others, but was first struck to the ground with the others and then fell into an unnatural slumber.
A female that looked as if she had not long been buried in a grave woke me. The land seemed different, the air, foul and the sky darker. We had arrived in the Summerlands, though it was a time later before we learned this.
We regrouped in the hut that was the same inside as before, but outside was distinctly different. While we reviewed our options, unliving forces assaulted those outside. These forces were numerous and took time to put down. It was determined that we needed to scout out the location of where the ritual circle should be, and v’Ar and Hu completed this while the rest of use were engaged with the assailants.
It was decided to move in block to the circle to determine if it could still be used. Thinking we had all our number together, we headed out, careful of the small number of unliving still lurking in the shadows.
The circle was dead, devoid also of the bounding stones. We retreated to the lodge, having to displace more unliving who lurked both within and outside. Unfortunately, we also found the bodies of two of our number Dermont of the Offshore Revenue and Meg of Bacchus. Their spirits quickly rose from their corpses and just as quickly dispersed as they were struck with numerous weapons. Their patterns were then corrected and sent back to the cycle of life.
It was determined that we needed the missing stones. The Tarantula ritualist who was part of the Embassy present at the ritual believed he could attune to the one stone we did have and locate the next stone in the sequence. Edward assembled a recovery team to do this task, the plan being that the bulk of those present would form a ‘blob’ to hold off any hostiles while the twenty person squad recovered the stones. This way we could all keep together.
At this point, while the Tarantula ritualist was attuning, more unloving appeared, one of them being the shade of the ritualist who’s bones had been found under the seventh, recovered, stone. This shade wished Tiberias to follow her, so Edward’s team was sent with Tiberias and the shade, who lead us to the Ritual Circle.
It seemed, if I understood the gestures correctly, that she was alone, bound to the circle that had formed here when Floris-Brand closed the Bristol Circle. She indicated that the only was we could get home was to re-form the ritual circle here, which incidentally she needed to survive. She could not help us, though she warned that there was danger. She was also unsure if the re-forming of the circle here would stabilise the circle back in Bristol. That conversation over, we returned to the shelter of the Lodge where the Tarantula ritualist had attuned to the stone and determined where the next lay.
Edward volunteered his team for the recovery, the bulk of the folk to remain behind. Who, v’Ar, Sholl and I set out ahead to scout the path while Edward brought up the rest a short distance behind us. Unfortunately, we quickly encountered a magical barrier that I could see no way of bypassing without triggering it. Nearby, however, a guard stood next to a gate. When challenged to if we were ‘Friend or Foe’, I replied ‘Neither, but we would wish to be friends’. This seemed to satisfy the guard who let us through and called for an escort to show us through the lands.
The trip through the lands was relatively quiet, though one guardian gave us pause as one of the company was too frightened of it to pass it until given a sword that was enchanted to banish fear. A servant of the local Lord, one Carrion, who wished to speak with us, then met us and took us to him.
Edward went with Who and myself to speak with this lord, who was prepared to give us the stone we sort if we would ‘Harvest’ 100 corrupted patterns with a dagger for him. He gave Edward the dagger, and allowed one of our mages to attune to the stone so we could continue searching for the other stones. Lord Carrion also returned one of our number who had become lost in the dark and who needed healing, though no healer could tap their power where we were.
We returned to the lodge and a second team was assembled, ready for a search for the next stone. Edward volunteered to go out again, though I was in need of sustenance, so wished to stay behind. A call rang out of incoming hostiles and the dagger was put to use against ghouls, skeletons, spectres and zombies.
Several assaults later, and the second team went out after the second stone. I remained behind, so I am unsure as to the facts of what happened. What is reported, however, is that a woman was encountered that claimed to be interested. Victor of the Armourers, Edward Charenten and Ed Mund all agreed to help her back to the lodge. She, however, had other ideas as she was a Vampire.
The three were beguiled, Jac struck Edward and Ed unconscious, Jac and one other started to bring Edward back to safety, but dropped him for some reason and left him less than 100 yards from safety. More unliving appeared and Edward was slain, his pattern removed from his body. Jac and several others recovered Ed Mund, and recovered Edwards body, returning both to the Lodge. Puss was ‘very happy’ by this and stormed off, v’Ar keeping a discrete eye on her as she went. Brother Michael and I joined a small team going out to find Victor, believing him dead, but determined to recover his body regardless. As it happened, we recovered him still alive, though badly wounded and near death.
Time passed and people worried over the still absent party. A group assembled, ready to head out and assist the party if word was received they were returning. I was asked to second Jac as Hugo was non-com due to his grief over his brother, and Cai was leading the absent team. As healers were feeling unwell and Incantors were also suffering to an extent, Lord Ranulf was in no condition to act either.
When the shout went up alerting us to the returning party, the stone coming in ahead with a light guard, Jac took a large contingent off to assist while I organised the remaining defences. Unfortunately, Ghouls got between the battle and the Lodge, so any one travelling between the two was an open target. Moving a group of guards to a median point solved this.
Once things had settled down again, the mages started attuning themselves to the recovered stone, only to find that it was coming closer. A few minutes later, it arrived, along with a hoard of unliving. The stone apparently was imbedded in the head of a skeletal dragon. This Dragon proved capable of corrupting patterns and raising the unliving again and again. Eventually this creature was put down and itâ€™s minions destroyed, though as it died, it seemed to imbue the lodge with corrupted energies, almost raising it as an unliving. As a result, folk dared not enter it, and some could not even approach the building.
After a while, during which time investigations into the nature of the possession of the Lodge were carried out, Lord Karrion appeared, asked for the dagger back, declared the land his and dismissed the entity that possessed the Lodge. We were given the stone and his protection for the night on the understanding that we depart as soon as we were able. This we had no problems with.
The night passed quietly after that, save for one slight disturbance which Lord Karrion’s men dealt with. The morning approached, folk were assembled to go fetch the next stone and we got hit again by bands of Ghouls. At this point, we formed a line of shields in front of the Lodge to hold against the ghouls until I persuaded Victor to go have a quiet chat with them on his own.
Nice thing about Victor Ghouls are next to useless against him as he is resilient to their paralysis. They learned this quickly, and that his work in the foundries has left him rather powerful of muscle. They kept out of is way after that, save when they didnâ€™t spot him in time. Then it was suggested I help the one mage up a tree so they could pinpoint where the next stone was as it was being brought closer by something.
I had just gone up the tree when a mist arose from the ground that turned out to be poisonous. I kept to the tree, waiting while Ranulf risked himself to retrieve those overcome with the poison. When it came to my time to get free, it hurt. Okay, I jumped, but it was the quickest way down and the safest, I thought. So I jumped, landed on all fours and got a little injured in the process. We did, however, move to a safe spot, then return once the mist had dispersed. At this time, it was noted that there were unliving approaching led by a blue faced creature. It turned out that these were the rival Lord and his retinue, complete with the three missing stones.
The fight was prolonged, mostly due to Sir Rowan of the Archers Guild being prevented from shooting the three Lichs with the special arrows that had been acquired. Apparently the arrows were heavier than he was used to and the Liches were targeting the archers with shatters and sleeps
In the end, a truce was called and negotiations started in order to sort out the problem. The Lord wanted the restoration of balance that our actions had disturbed. He wanted us gone or serving him also. It was agreed that we would depart, with his help, leaving the stones in his care and the chalice that could correct patterns to help restore the balance. That the chalice would return to the White Lady if the bearer killed anyone was not mentioned, nor that it corrected corrupted patterns, but then no lies were told, nor was it expected that the Lord would be anything but untrustworthy.
So the stones were handed over and the Lord went off and opened what should have been a ritual circle. What he opened was a Void rift instead that we transferred through. That was probably his plan all along â€“ to gain access to Edreja in order to raid for more patterns to corrupt. I helped Puss carry the body of Edward home, and now I look for possible solutions to the rift.
One thing that was mentioned by many is that it sounds ‘out of tune’ or ‘˜sour of note’. So that is where I have started my research in the hope of finding a solution to the rift.
Earl Hunter Stryker
Head Scout of Albion