Saturday, November 25, 2017

Actual Play: Blue Rose AGE "The Mask of Ebban" Part the First

Played March 2017

The following was presented at and published in the 263rd Aldis Bardic Symposium.

Editor's Note: This rendition of "The Mask of Ebban" is the earliest known recitation of the tale, written verbatim by an unnamed Bard. His or her notebook was found in the ruins of a monster's lair just last year and it is unknown when it was recorded. However, it was included in the notebook with tales recorded in Lysana's Crossing, near the Great Veran Marsh, so perhaps it was told in a tavern or inn in that place.

This tale differs from later tellings (see Notes for Aldis Bardic Symposium #258 and #247) as being less embellished than previous. All, however, have the hallmark of a tall tale, from a well known tall tale teller. Unfortunately, the veracity of the claims made herein are still suspect, as the official record, written and signed by all the principle Sovereign's Finest involved in the situation, is either missing some of the salient points or completely contradict them. |1>

Take this, as with many tales and folklore, with a grain of salt.

You want a tale, you say? 

Well, draw three ales, bring over that platter of beef -- oh and grab those cheese biscuits, too -- and sit on down with my friends and me, because I have a tale for you! 

My diverse companions and I traveled to the Pavin Weald, to the Tanglewood, and encountered many horrific dangers and wondrous sights, we battled smokey enemies, danced with danger and recovered an 800 year old ladle!  |2>

No, no, don't take my word for it, my friends are right here. They can confirm everything (including the ladle). 

//turning to Tobin// This is Tobin Morid, a man from Rezea, an Archer without compare, my fellow cadet in the Sovereign's Finest. 

//turning to Nour// And our cadet trainer, Nour, a Night Person, fierce in both loyalty to Aldis and with a sword, a worthy teacher (and she's a fine dancer, too .... but I get ahead of myself). 

And I? Who am I? 

Ajax! A Rhy-fox of Aldis, short in stature, long of tail, perpetually hungry for cheese biscuits and with a nose for adventure; a finder of secrets, a teller of tales, a sharp player of the odds ( //shrugs// sure, a bit of a rogue, but a lovable one and an honest least mostly honest). You can trust me //wink// when I tell you that this tale isn't longer than my own! 

Az mah ... //mouth full of cheese biscuit, swallows// ... as I was saying, we three were in the Pavin Weald, in the Tanglewood. We came to a guard tower along the Kern border, ready for action!  

But we found it deserted. Where were the guards? 

We heard a weak mind-call, seeking aid! But where? We knew not but we three stood together to find that hapless soul and save them! 

A sprite named Florin told us (for the price of one of Tobin's biscuits, not one of mine) that the three border patrol soldiers were not here. 

According to the sprite, a grumpy one came and went, leaving two others to guard here but they were gone, for several days. 

Florin promised to lead us to where they went. Into the Tanglewood go we! //stands on table, striking a heroic pose with tail waving high, while secretly scarfing a biscuit from Tobin's plate// 

We traveled through many tangles and brambles. Suddenly, before I could call "To Arms!", we were attacked by four foul, grey-black ichor-laden, corrupted wolves! 

The fight was fierce, I was beset by three of them while my friends bravely fought a single one! |3> (//soothing tone// No, no, dearest Nour and Tobin, don't fret, the story and memories of this trying time will soon pass). 

//acting out the battle with mugs of ale, forks and knives, and cheese biscuits as the corrupt wolves (eaten messily as they are defeated)// The three sorely wounded me and then two foolishly turned their backs on me to attack my friends, leaving their fellow to finish me off. It was a grim moment that could have gone badly for us but we rallied. It was a glorious fight, with Nour cutting swathes of black ichor from them, Tobin filling them with arrows and me biting them mightily, leading and aiding my friends although gravely wounded. 

Once we bested one, the rest fell one by one until the end came and Nour's sword finished the last. 

My boon companions rushed to my aid and rendered sweet succor to my wounds //hugs Nour and Tobin, one with each foreleg//. 

After ridding myself of the foul taste of corruption in my mouth from my bites on the foul corrupt beasts (allow me a respite to wash that taste away yet again with some ale and, perhaps, another biscuit), we examined the corpses. Normal wolves were turned into corrupt Creatures of Evil (TM)! What evil being could have done such a thing? |4>

Continuing on, we chanced upon one of the border guards, a Vata'an named Taleith, unconscious and very badly injured. 

We rendered aid and he told us his tale. 

His fellow guard and lover, Dartiz, and he often wandered to an old ruined manor nearby. They knew they should maintain eternal vigilance here on the border but boredom and a desire for adventure prompted them to range farther afield than normal. 

On their most recent visit to the manor, Dartiz picked up a strange mask and attacked! Taleith barely escaped and collapsed on the way to get help from their senior border guard Braxton. 

Thank the gods we found him! That mask must have possessed Dartiz! Oh, woe, this tale is sad and terrifying! 

We escorted Taleith a short way back to where we fought the corrupted wolves and asked him about them but his knowledge was scant. He did not encounter them before but there must be a connection to Dartiz and the mask. 

I searched my lore for anything about this area and remembered that a Sorcerer named Ebban lived in the Tanglewood during the Kingdom of Thorns. Perhaps the border guards had found his manor? |5>

Florin the sprite promised to help Taleith back to the guard tower and they departed. Ah, boon companions depart from our sides too often! 

Before he left, Taleith told us to tell Dartiz "The Stars will Wait until He is Free". 

We travelled on, cutting our way through the Tanglewood, climbing a hill where we found ourselves in a circle of standing stones.... but not alone. 

//turns to a young listener, with care and concern// Do you like to dance, lad? Well, there is evil in the world that can corrupt even dancing! And therein continues the tale. 

Within the stone circle was a Fae Reveler, alternating crying and laughing, cloaked in darkness. It was a very eerie scene! 

I stepped forward, with my companions ready behind. 

She looked at us and began to dance, trying to entice us into her hypnotic steps. Tobin and I resisted but Nour was fell afoul of this enchantment and began dancing (and fine dancing she did!). |6> |7>

Realizing that the Fae was corrupted and enspelled herself, we sought to subdue her but were forced to fight for our very lives, amidst a wild dance and lighting shooting from her chest! 

I aided both Tobin and Nour to defeat her and as she fell, her cloak of darkness dispersed into nothingness, as did her body. Mourning her tragic corruption and death, we strove on and found ourselves at the ruined manor. 

The manor stood dark, with a stables to one side. We sneakily //cough// er, ah, boldly approached, and entered a hole in one wall. 

There we found ourselves in a strange laboratory, with a desk that contained a board with sprite wings pinned to it and weird mechanical sprite wings on the desk. We bravely searched the room and found an elixir of healing, as well as parts of an ancient journal. 

My kind friends insisted that I partake in the elixir, to heal my grievous injuries sustained at the claws of the corrupted wolves and from the lightning of the corrupted Fae. I demurred but they insisted further and so I drank the mint-flavored liquid, leading to cool healing. 

Feeling much better, I joined the others to read the journal. We surmised it was written by Ebban 800 years ago and in it he explains that "the only way to be uncorruptable is to be fully corrupt" and that he can wear a mask of corruption and take it off and not be corrupted. Shocking! |8>

We continued to search the manor, finding more parts of the journal, where it read that Ebban had a corpse of a Darkfiend that he was going to experiment on. |8>

We found the main hall, the library, Ebban's master bedroom and servants' quarters and the kitchen, where, yes, //nodding sagely// we found an 800 year old ladle! 

We also found a crest, carved into the master bedpost, faded and worn, but we made a copy. |9>

Finally, we reached a door that was closed, locked with an arcane lock! Listening carefully at the door, we heard nothing. Surely, this was the place we needed to be! But how to get through? Tobin looked at the lock and doubted he could pick it, it being magical and all. 

But the door was old, as old and weak as all the other wood in this ruined place. I pointed out a section of stone railing in the great hall that could be used as a battering ram and Nour and Tobin fetched it. 

What terrors lay behind that door? What EVIL (TM) would we three mighty heroes face? Would Nour have another opportunity to dance? As Nour and Tobin swung the stone railing towards the door .... 

What? Ah, yes. It is late and we are tired from traveling. 

Have no fears, my friends, //gobbles up the last of the cheese biscuits// we will finish the tale tomorrow.... The Tale of Ajax, Tobin and Nour, against The Mask of Ebban! |10>


|1> The current whereabout of Tobin, Ajax and Nour are unknown.
|2> The "Ladle of Ebban" is displayed in the Aldis Royal Museum, second floor, West Hall, with the descriptive label "The Ladle of Ebban, over 800 years old, recovered by Cadet Sovereign's Finest Ajax and select companions. It's powers are unknown." The ladle appears slightly bent, like it was used to hit someone over the head. How this item managed to have a place in the museum is unknown but given the actions of Ajax, nothing surprises.
|3> A blatant falsehood, according to the official report. In later iterations, the number of corrupt wolves increase to 6 then 13, with Ajax reputedly fighting most of them, single-handedly. The truth was that Ajax was soundly beaten and only the stalwart actions of Tobin and Nour prevented his death that day.
|4> Several adepts have expressed bafflement at what spell was used to corrupt these wolves and the Fae Reveler later encountered. Perhaps that spell was lost after the fall of the Kingdom of Thorns, only to appear centuries later in this tale. If it is again loosed upon the world, then dire times indeed face Aldis.
|5> More information has been gathered about the Sorcerer Ebban. See The Kingdom of Thorns and Prominent Sorcerers by Adriá Stormfollower. Tobin is credited as a reliable and profuse source of information on Ebban in the text and there is, not unsurprisingly, no mention of Ajax.
|6> No record nor witnesses have verified that Nour is a fine dancer. Attempts to ascertain this information has led to several broken legs on the part of the knowledge seekers.
|7> This typcorruption induced upon this Fae Reveler is a first, according to many sages familiar with the Fae.
|8> The Journal of Ebban are part of the Royal Archives and currently are unavailable for study.
|9> The rubbing and line drawing of the Crest of Ebban, incorporating a flying Wyvern clutching a figure, is displayed in the Aldis Royal Museum, in the Kingdom of Thorns Annex.
|10> Aldis Country Folklore and Myths by Vicenç the Sage perhaps mentions the Sorcerer Ebban and the Mask of Ebban in the Tale of the Wandering Fisherman. In the story, a lone fisherman, wandering the Tanglewood, comes to a beautiful, yet otherworldly, manor, where he meets a Sorcerer of great power who wears a mask to hide his face. The fisherman stays with him, speaking long into the night. In the morning, the fisherman discovers he had spent the evening enspelled, fooled by an illusion, when in fact he was in a ruined great house, speaking to a corpse. He fled in terror and told his tale far and wide before dying several years later in a common bar brawl. His body disappeared before he could be buried, presumably taken by the Sorcerer's corpse he spent the evening with. The story ends with the fisherman and the Sorcerer chatting amiably, one corpse to another, in a ruined manor house.

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