From The Jackals To The Shepherds 10: Eight of Hearts

Manage episode 179750828 series 1412651
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Battlebards Tracks used:

Elven Dirge – Farewell – Score Music – Philippe Payet

Haunted Cemetery – Unhallowed Cemetery – Score Music – Olivier Girardot


For a long time, we were at war with The Jackals. But now, we’ve driven them off, and we have this – a year of relative peace. In this moment, there is an opportunity to build something.

A week has passed.

The heat of the warming sun warms the community, but with the hot sun pushing air up and the cold chill of the mountain air at night pulling air down, showers and thunderstorms peal through the woods. One day the air is still as the rain eases.

Near the river, as we prep the shore for nets and fish farming, we notice the tips of old wooden beams poking through the thick mud. Over the years between the original inhabitants and our settlement, the earth must have risen over foundations and the flooding of the river must have laid silt down to cover what was once built. The echoing words of the permanency of change in this area ring back to our ears as we examine the beams and wash the mud away from a buried plot. We find support beams and a footprint similar to our water mills back in the city.

Those of us not close enough to read the etchings on each support beam titter and murmur about rebuilding. A water mill could be of great use to the community to grind the grain we plan on growing in our developing farm. Those of us doing the cleaning have different opinions, and share them as we read the words carved centuries ago yet preserved in the ancient wood by the curse of preservation.

One beam lists three names unfamiliar to us and dates in a strange format. Another beam says simply, “She lies in wait.” A third beam seems to be inscribed with a poem, its verse reading:

“I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”

Every beam tells the tale of loss, and of the woman living in the river. One can only assume this woman is The Monster of the river, referenced in the metallic plates found weeks ago.

The debate to restore the mill or not is quick and decisive. The beams are gathered together and stacked in alternating pairs. Dry wood is stacked in the center of this new tower, and kindling and brush stacked within that. With the flick of a wire, sparks fly to the heart of the brush and flames start to rise. We have no room in our community for bleak warnings or harrowing reminders of the fate of those who came before us.

As the flames rise into the night sky, we celebrate with a feast and a community party. No use wasting a perfectly good bonfire, after all. However, as the first screams start we halt our merriment and stare at the blaze in terror. What started as the whistle of steam escaping the waterlogged grains of wood transforms into the wails of death. Smoke curls upwards in the shape of human faces and swims into the air, howling in pain. The screams go on for almost a minute before transforming into ragged laughter. The laughter cackles into the night sky and the flames flare up into the shape of a Monster. A torso, head, and two sets of arms lead to a curved waist, and the burning fire warps into the shape of a serpentine fish where her legs should be. She lets one more cackling bleat into the sky before bursting into a shower of sparks.

No one notices the river boiling during this horrible display, but the next morning we are all awoken by the smell of dozens of dead fish lining the shore. As we clear the bloated fish, Eileen and Lyanna suggest burying them in the tilled soil of the new garden. Might as well make the best of a terrifying situation.

A week passes.

Thank you for joining us for the tenth episode of From The Jackals To The Shepherds.

A few people have asked about the game we’re using here to play out the story of our community. The Quiet Year is a tabletop roleplaying game by Avery Alder. In The Quiet Year, play occurs between players based on cards drawn from a deck. You can find the specially designed deck at Avery’s Website at Buried Without Ceremony dot com. You can also play with a standard poker deck and the PDF of the rules available from Avery’s site as well.

Play happens in turns, with each turn representing a week’s worth of time in the story, and marking representations of everything that happens on a living map that represents the community. The player who’s turn it is will draw a card from the deck, and answer a short story prompt based on the card drawn. For example, the prompt for this week was “An old piece of machinery is discovered, cursed and dangerous. How does the community destroy it?” After answering the question and drawing something on the map of the community Then the player will have a choice of three actions: Discover Something New, like in this episode where the community discovers a river of dead fish, Start a Project, like when Drach started repairing the community’s shacks, or Hold a Discussion, like in the first episode when the community debated whether this mining camp was a safe place to hole up. Once all that is done, play transfers to the next player and a new week starts. If you want to learn more about this amazing game or other works by Avery Alder, please go to her website which again is Buried Without Ceremony dot com.

If you like this show please give us a rating on iTunes, tell a friend, or share us on social media. As always the intro for the show was read by Dave Lapru, who is also our mapkeeper. You can find Dave on twitter at plantbird, and I’m at leviathan files. Please consider supporting the show on Patreon at patreon dot com slash Riverhouse Games. Music for this episode was provided by Battlebards dot com. Until next week, I hope your week goes well.
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