Act I: Stalking the Dream
- 1 May, 457 Anno Domini Nostri Iesu. It is late evening. There is a nip in the air and the half moon is mostly hidden behind clouds. The Rhos expedition has moved on many hours before, leaving behind a small handful of people to watch over Siobhan as she recovers from giving birth to her twins. All is still and silent.
- Meadhbh is dreaming. She knows it is a Dream because she’s felt this sense of … weightlessness before. Everything around her feels intangible, not solid, as if it was all wrought from smoke and spider webs. The air tastes strange – sharp and bitter, yet calming and harsh at the same time. Here, in this Dream, she is free to go wherever she wishes. So, she goes home, to Caer Tarian where she grew up.
- She finds Caer Tarian mostly gone, the ruins having been mostly cleared out, probably by whoever now inhabits the land, and there are indications that whoever lives here now is rebuilding. While there, though, she realizes she is not alone and looks around. A wolf is sitting there, staring at her, and Meadhbh realizes she recognizes this animal: it is the one that she and Morgan saved several weeks ago. Whisper. The wolf’s name is Whisper, Meadhbh knows. No, that’s not right. Her name is actually the soft sound of the wind as it blows across high grass under a bright moon, bearing with it the smell of rain and prey while also warning of other stalking creatures, hunters that desire her blood should she make any false sound, so her every movement is a careful one, a stealthy one that barely rustles the grass, and … gah. Whisper it is.
* Meadhbh gets the feeling that Whisper is vaguely irritated at her, sort of like a mother gets frustrated at their child’s youthful stupidity. And just like that, Meadbh’s image of self has changed in this Dream – she is suddenly a wolf herself! A wolf pup, really, who is just now learning to hunt and stalk. Whisper gives her A Look that conveys “shut the hell up and _learn_” before turning away slightly, then pausing to ensure that Meadhbh follows which she does. The air around them seems to mist over and Meadhbh realizes they are walking up, as if they were climbing an unseen hill. The mist clears slightly and Meadhbh is in the clouds … on a cloud, actually, looking down at the campsite where she knows that she is asleep. Most of the campsite seems only halfway there, and ghostly half-images appear and disappear from time to time. Suddenly, Heddwyn is sitting before the fire, rocking one of the infants and murmuring (or singing) softly. Again, Whisper gives Meadhbh A Look, this one conveying Stay silent.
- Heddwyn is awake and rocking his daughter in an attempt to get her to stop fussing, when suddenly he finds himself in the Dream. He is vaguely aware that this is not the Waking World but as he does not have the Dreaming skill, there is very little he knows about this place. A man is seated beside him and he recognizes Myrddin Emrys with his blue-on-blue eyes. The man he knows so little about chastises him for being so easy to contact and declares that he is not learning quickly enough. There are dark times approaching and Heddwyn must be ready to stand against them! Myrddin notes the danger that the children pose his agent – regardless of their birth father, they are Heddwyn’s in every way that matters and many things will attempt to use them to gain access to him. Ordering the young bard to watch, Myrddin casts a protective spell upon the girl, then somehow manages to swap which child is present and repeats the process upon the boy. Heddwyn realizes he knows how to do that spell now!
- When asked about this place and the extended duration of the spell, Myrddin replies that this is the World of Dreams. Things done here do not follow the same Laws as the Waking World. Heddwyn then begins debriefing Myrddin about the various weirdness he has recently observed or heard of, specifically Angus’ strange encounter with the three dead (and flayed) spies and the unseen observer. Myrddin is visibly troubled over this and is about to speak, but becomes very distracted for a moment. ‘I shall contact you later,’ he says simply and poof!, Heddwyn finds himself back in the Waking World, still holding his now sleeping daughter.
- Having just observed this strange interaction, Meadhbh turns to Whisper and begins to ask questions but the wolf’s attention is drawn to an area over the campsite of absolute darkness, which has the result of drawing Meadhbh’s eyes there as well. There, she hears … something, a hollow, dull throb that tugs at her. Despite her best efforts, she is pulled toward the darkness…
- And suddenly, finds herself in a familiar-looking farm. It is Gwion’s family’s farm and she sees Gwion himself standing in the open, dressed only in his skivvies. He is desperately trying to escape from a flood of massive spiders surging toward him, but something is causing him to remain rooted in place. Meadhbh realizes abruptly that she can see two heavy weights tethered to his legs and surges forward, stumbling slightly on her awkward puppy feet. As Gwion looses an arrow at one of the spiders, the others rush him and he falls, curling up in an attempt to protect himself. Biting through one of the cords connecting the heavy weights to his feet, Meadhbh momentarily loses herself to the Dream and attacks one of the spiders … just as Whisper appears and howls so loudly that the other spiders blow apart. The wolf is irritated at Meadhbh as Gwion – who is now fading away as he stirs in the Waking World – is the one who shot her with the arrow in the first place! Meadhbh points out that Gwion is part of her pack so she has to defend him. She realizes they are somehow back on the cloud and smells the same strangeness she experienced in Gwion’s dream. When she asks Whisper about it, the wolf directs her attention to another cloud.
- There, just below them, are three figures. One of them, Meadhbh recognizes as Aeronwen, but the other two, both men, are unknown to her. The apparent leader has no face while the third man is wrought of mist, as if he’s barely there. Aeronwen insists that this was not her fault – it was that wolf! She will accomplish this task … she just needs more time! The Faceless Man warns her that he will not tolerate further failure, then turns to the man of mist and tells him to continue his good efforts as their Master’s patience dwindles. All three vanish – the man of mist blows apart like smoke in the face of wind, the Faceless melts away, and Aeronwen explodes into hundreds of small spiders, which Meadhbh note all look like the monsters that attacked Gwion in his nightmare.
- She quizzes Whisper about this: these things are threatening her pack and she needs to be able to stop them! The wolf promises to teach her how to stalk the dream, which will allow her to discover things to protect her pack. Meadhbh is pleased … although when she wakes and finds herself utterly exhausted, as if she had run all night, she is less so. Upon discovering that Gwion is covered with scratches and small cuts that he cannot explain (but she can), she is more worried than she wishes to admit…
Act II: The Grand Council
- A day later, the Rhos expedition reaches Caer Legion where they discover it filled to capacity with nobles of Gwynedd. The stench is, by modern standards, horrible, with mud and sweat and shit in the streets. It does not help that the day is actually quite warm, making the smell worse. There are hawkers and merchants and beggars and evangelists everywhere. The noise is deafening.
- Chief Owain speaks briefly with his wife, then calls out to Lord Marcus. His wife would like to see a Roman market which Caer Legion is said to have and he can think of no one better to escort her while he (Owain) deals with arranging quarters for the nobles. Would he (Marcus) mind terribly? With a flat expression, Marcus agrees. He and Lady Brigid break from the rest of the party with Bruinn the Red and Marcus’ two men accompanying as bodyguards (although all three of the so-called protectors are more distracted by the city than their principals.) Once clear of everyone and satisfied that their guards are not paying attention, the two starcrossed lovers have a difficult conversation as they attempt to establish how to move forward. Neither wanted this and Marcus is distressed when he learns how little of a say Brigid had in this entire matter. From her, he also learns that Owain has been expressing considerable interest in Christianity…
- Bradán takes Áedán with him to tour the city with an eye on looking at farming and military advancements. They draw many eyes, but none of the locals dare to bother them considering how expensive Bradán’s clothes appear. At the same time, Angus seeks out his little birds to inquire about rumors and learns that the same thing is on everyone’s lips: war. An assembly this large can only mean one thing.
- Five days pass as more nobles and warriors enter Caer Legion and tensions mount. In this time, Heddwyn, Gwion, Meadhbh and Siobhan enter with the twins and the two guards. Finally, word comes down: the king summons the lords to council, so Bradán and Marcus join the nobles and Chief Owain as they head toward the keep. Owain pauses briefly and advises Bradán that he is relying on him to ensure that Owain does not say or do anything stupid in front of the king who has a reputation for not tolerating fools. Meanwhile, Heddwyn seeks out a convenient animal and finds a cat that will serve his needs; using his magic, he takes control of the beast and directs it to a convenient high window where he can eavesdrop.
- Inside the keep, the now weaponless nobles are directed to a large banquet hall where everyone automatically clusters together in cantref-specific groups. It is definitely standing room only, with seats only for the chiefs and the high nobility. A highborn man complains that this is taking too long – his words were clearly not meant to be overheard by the king but Cunedda pins the man with a look and instructs him to keep a civil tongue lest it be removed and nailed to a convenient wall. The noble obeys immediately.
- Once the doors are closed, King Cunedda turns toward the Rhufoniog delegation and addresses a single noble. Word has reached the king that this man has accepted coin to kill his sovereign – the man babbles, insisting that this is all a mistake, but then, goes for his knife … only to find himself restrained by Bradán and Marcus who noted that the man was armed despite tradition saying otherwise. The king uses his own knife against the man and Bradán kicks the dying man’s knee, ordering him to Kneel before your king, scum. Cunedda slits the man’s throat and gives the two brothers a quick, evaluating look before turning away.
- Word has come from the south, the king announces. The High King has taken a Saecsen princess as his wife. This causes an immediate uproar as the nobles assembled recognize the threat – any child borne of this union would have a legitimate claim to Prydain! Cunedda continues, revealing that Cadell, King of Powys, has raised his standard to oppose his grandfather in this. Merichion Gul, King of Rheged, and Meurig of Gwent both march to join him. Now, King Cunedda has summoned his nobles to discuss whether Gwynedd should march south as well.
- Arguments and debates occur immediately, with the northernmost cantrefs being less enthusiastic about marching to war. After considering the threat, both Bradán and Marcus urge Chief Owain to side with those who call for war as this threat is actually quite significant in terms of politics. When Rhos sides with those who wish to go to war, the decision becomes a fait accompli, and King Cunedda declares that is shall be so. There shall be further gatherings as they plan their strategy, but the main decision is made.
- As the nobles are departing to the feast, the king’s son and heir, Einion, intercepts the Rhos group and declares that his father would have words with Bradán and Marcus. As they turn to obey, Owain grabs Bradán’s arm and pleads for him to keep his temper under control. The king is reviewing maps and reports when they join him, and he turns to examine the brothers. They intervened … why? Bradán gives a long-winded reply about having a duty to punish traitors that borders on irritating the king who then turns to their experience with Saecsens; according to Bradán’s reputation, he has faced them before so Cunedda questions him about how they fight, what their weaknesses are, and their strengths, etc. Bradán surprises them with _how_knowledgeable he is and Cunedda is at least vaguely impressed – clearly, Bradán is able to talk the talk. Satisfied for the moment, the king dismisses them, informing them that their knowledge shall be invaluable in the coming war.
- Word quickly spreads throughout Caer Legion: Gwynedd is going to war.
- Only partially satisfied. I think the problem stems from the data dump in the second part as I was more content with the Dream stuff than the Caer Legion parts. Would have been better, I think, if I’d split up the entire Caer Legion bit better so the other PCs (not Bradán or Marcus) actually had something to do during it instead of just sitting there and listening.
- Was more satisfied with the nightmare, though even that needed some work, I thought. Principally, I was happier that I managed to actually involve all of the players.
- I still haven’t managed to integrate Aedan or Angus as well as I would like … definitely need to figure out a way to improve this. FREX, during the before-mentioned Caer Legion bit, I should have had the two of having whacky hijinks.