Shadowrun: Dark Ages

The Granite Circle

The battle was over swiftly though it was ferocious and brutal. Despite the bugs swarming over most of the party, distracting and even driving some of them out of their minds, Fen drove forward to engage the creature the bugs were fleeing from, striking her mightily before a thick warm curling mist rose fromt he leaf mulch, shrouding everything in a grey-white blanket and into which she swiftly vanished. Orion and Deputy Sherrif Struman hurled several arrows at the creature and Agnes lashed out at it with lightning in a desperate attempt to get rid of the maddening bugs, striking her before she vanished. Meanwhile, in a furious battle in which all three traded wounds, Murdo (Murdoch) and the other two fought. Finally, Fen managed another blow on the magician even as she unleashed a wave of magic that wreathed each and every one of them in almost unbearable agony. The magic overwhelmed Murdo (Murdoch) who collapsed twitching in unconsciousness even as the twisted creatures fell on him and bit. Cid and Fen grasped their splitting skulls in pain, but fortunately Cid had already given orders to his Earth spirit who, unaffected byt he wave of pain magic, and with great solemnity, bit the twisted mage and, with two mighty gulps engulfed the creature entirely. Despite its best efforts to escape it was unsuccessful ad the spirit crushed the creature to pulp.

Meanwhile, the dark creatures who were attempting to feed on Murdo (Murdoch) quickly found out the way the creatures in Dundee had that his corrupted body did not taste good one bit. They recoiled in disgust only to find themselves swiftly assailed by the rest of the group now that the magicians magic was ended – the bugs vanished, the agony gone and the mist disolved. They were dispatched in short order and Murdos wounds were seen to with hast and some trepidation that the courageous warrior was mortally wounded. He survived and, with a little magic, was revived a few minutes later.

With the battle over, Elara spoke with the figure in the tree who revealed a little of his story. He named himself as Efyl and said that he had been brother to the three creatures the group had just slain before they were twisted by darkness. He said that his strength and magic waned and beseeched Elara and the others to come to where he was, deep in the forest that he might speak with them, help them, more easily. The group made ready to leave and it was then that they realised Sir Arthur was missing. The quickly searched for sign of what happened and found a few tracks pointing to a maddening struggle that ended up with him running away from the group, but the tracks quickly petered out and, with a section of the group untrusting of the warrior and time pressing, they decided to leave him to his choices and to head out to find Efyl. The spirit described his location to Elara with care and with Agneses help they led the groups swiftly through the forest for an hour until they reached a glade of dark and twisted Fir trees, each one old, gnarled and charcoal grey. They were arranged roughly in a circle as the land rose a few feet. Within the circle of trees patches of sunlight could be seen, but the low twisted branches shrouded the scene and left only dappled glimpses of the clearing beyond. Cautiously the group pushed their way through the twisted branched into the verdant glade beyond. The ground was littered with mossy rocks, small ferns and grasses sprouted from every nook and cranny. Arrayed in a segment of a rough circle around the edge of the glade were seven sizeable flat stones. Each was carved from dark granite with hard edges, maybe two and a half foot long, a foot wide, and about 6 inches tall. On the top surface of each were crudely carved runes. On the far sides of the glade was a body. At first glance it seemed to be that of a gaunt child, no more than three and a half feet tall, propped up against a tree wearing a motley collection of clothing made of some kind of hemp-like fibre, leathers, leaves and wooden fetishes. On closer inspection it became clear that the body was not human. It’s face was longer, the eyes considerably larger with well-defined bone structure around the eyes, it’s nose smaller, longer, finer, fingers and no sign of eyebrows or beard.

The approached quietly and as Elara knelt before the body it’s large, liquid green, eyes opened and it greeted her in a language she did not understand, with a soft musical voice. Thye nervously reached out to each other and after a moments silence after their hads met Elara told the rest that Efyl would speak through her. They spoke for nearly an hour and learnt much of this poor creatures story….

Efyl and his brothers were Fey, Grey men from their stronghold on Ben Glass to the north in the mountains now known as the Cairngorms. He spoke of others of his kind there and how his people had been asleep, hibernating if you will, for a long, long time. They had awoken only recently, and they had swiftly discovered that none of them could recall much of their time before the sleep, although most were certain that there had indeed been a time before. They had discovered old ruins, crumbling and overgrown, that they felt a kinship with a sense of place and belonging and they swiftly came to believe that this was their old home, whereupon they set to sorting it out with magic, the aid of spirits and elbow grease. The odd circle of rocks they discovered a few days later, overgrown with vegetation, was sunken in the ground and around it were large slabs of rock and broken steps – perhaps a meeting place, or an amphitheatre? Scattered within the circle were fragments of odd rocks that held a weak magical signature (which they discovered they could sense) had odd runes carved on them. Debate raged about the purpose of the circle amongst those who had awoken. Some thought it held the key to remembering who they were and where they came from. Without more information, however, there was little they could do so they chose instead to disperse into the world and seek out information about the past, their people and the circles.

Efyl and his brothers had travelled throughout southern Scotland. They quickly realised that the peoples of the new world were fierce and distrusting and they learned to travel swiftly and quietly to avoid trouble. Seeking out loners, tradesmen and wise women they began to get clues and rumours about ancient stone cirles and odd stones with runes on. After years, they had gathered several large granite stones complete with runes but had no idea what they were or where they came from. Until one day they came across an old mage travelling swiftly towards Dundee. He was glad of the company for the wilds to the north of Dundee were wild and full of odd creatures and in exchange he told them several tales, including one of an ancient grove he had stumbled on many years ago in the ancient forest of Tentsmuir in Fife. Excited, they left the mages company and swiftly made their way across the Tay near Perth and on to the forest of Fife. It took them almost two years of searching to find the circle. They also found several other stones in the forest, but perhaps the key ind was the granite block within the circle itself. From this they surmised that the stones came from this circle and they reasoned that replacing them might cause the circles purpose to become clear. They had only seven stones, but they put them in place where they seemed best to fit and had planned to set of to find more, but disaster struct. As more stones were placed a dark and fell magic began swirling in the air, catching up the Fey and sweeping through the trees surrounding the circle. Once the malestrom had subsided the Fey discovered the terrible truth as a dark twisted hunger rose in them for flesh; any flesh, raw and bloody, but particularly the flesh of humankind. Efyl was the least afflicted and, with his totemic bond to the Scots Pine trees that surrounded the grove =he was able to channel the sickness in him into the trees to join with their own sickness, and even allowing him to draw some sustenance from the trees to prevent him needing flesh. The link was difficult and tiring to maintain though and left him weak.One unexpected bonus of this was that the trees themselves became capable of sustaining his less fortunate brothers, although in doing so they weakened Efyl. Unfortunately they had already preyed on several denizens of the forest by then including people. Some had even escaped from their grasp, their eventual fate unknown. Even so, it was a blessing. With Efyl weak and unwilling to leave the totemic trees they were tied and it seemed doom was inevitable. All they could do was wait, and hope that someone, someone with pity and love in their heart, found them in time.

The party questioned the creature at length but he knew little of use about the origin of the dark affliction or how it might be broken, beyond that ti was associated somehow with t he circle but that he felt in his heart that the circle was not meant for darkness. As they spoke of his people though, he did recall one thing – an ancient legend, told more as a story for children really, but if it were true it might just be Elara and Dundee’s salvation – although not his. He told them a tale about a war of long ago between his people and the Old Man of the Sea, an ancient cantankerous god-like being and his sea servants. In the tale, the great battle was fought on shores just south fo the Tay, and was fought over a Fey Princess called Mab, who had been kidnapped by the wicked sea king. The tale went that the battle was furious and the Fey were loosing but then, suddenly, in the midst of disaster, they suddenly won! The princess and the mighty Finn, a hero of the grey Men, appeared mid battle and led the retreat fo the Fey forces inland where the sea spirits could not follow. The success was bittersweet though for in the aftermath they learned that during the battle King Tita of the Grey Men had been struck down and, it was said, slain. The body had not been discovered however and it was rumoured that the king had survived, a prisoner himself of the Old Man of the Sea in place of the princess.

It was a long short, but if the legend was true, and if they could summon the Old Man of the Sea, and if they might persuade him to part with King, it may be that the king would recall the time before the great sleep, remember the purpose of the circle and how they worked. He might be able to help them cure the disease, reinstate the circle and… perhaps even return to his people. Magic came naturally to the Fey and summoning in particular and instinctively Efyl knew that with the help of the mages in the party, some powerful magical ingredients, and something suitably bloody to get the Old Mans attention, he might well be able to guide them with the summoning. He also knew he was dying and would soon become one of the dark creatures that his brothers had become. He didn’t want that and so if this long shot might cost him his life? Well, that was mostly spent anyhow and soon would fall. Better to offer some small hope, rather than none at all.

The party (some of them at least) were convinced enough to try and so, lifting the weakening Efyl in his arms, Murdo (Murdoch) and the others headed for the beaches of Tentsmuir as fast as they could. Motivated and with Elaras candle fading, they made it extremely quickly and with little incident and, with the sun due to set within a fe hours they set about making fires and beginning the ritual….

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NickSchurch

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