Interview with a Sorcerer

McCormack's Tower, 30 miles south of Heldorn, Cormar, June 19th, 1083

DM Note: Eadric and Valki assigned to bridge guard duty neatly covered Lizzie and Terie's absence.

Halldor made his decisions quickly. Assigning Eadric and Valki to guard the bridge, he picked out Athala, Inglan and Jaddoc to go in and investigate. His implication that he wanted the two half-bloods to keep their eyes open for the uncanny was unmistakable. His choice of Athala was perhaps a bit less logical, as the stroppy blonde was quite likely to cause trouble if anything like that was found; but Kapyr and Karspad were even less likely diplomats so this was the best he could do. Athala grumpily heaved her massive sword up and onto her shoulder, while Jaddoc strapped on her shield and left her sword in its sheath. Inglan hung slightly back from the other two as they walked down the lane towards the tower.

As they neared the half-ruined gatehouse they called, announcing their presence, but no response came. After a moment, however, Inglan realized he could hear cooking from inside and someone moving. They called again, and after a moment the most remarkable creature emerged. Less than five feet high, it resembled a small, bald old man, but twisted and strange. His left arm was far shorter than it should have been, and one leg was covered in plates of a horny growth, through the joints of which oozed blood as he moved. A rag that might conceivably be an apron was bound around his waist. His scowling face was crisscrossed with scars as he squinted up at the three soldiers. "What are you doing here?" was his greeting. His voice was scratchy and bad-tempered.


Jaddoc replied, diplomatically explaining that they were investigating missing cows and would like to look around. The little man frowned. "We don't know nothin' about no cows. No, you can't see the Master, he's busy. Soldiers, is it? We don't need no soldiers here." With a bit of flattery she wheedled some of his lunch for the three of them; she couldn't help noticing that it was beef broth. He declined Inglan's offer of herbs to flavour it; perhaps guessing (correctly) that they were thinking of trying to slip him a Mickey. Athala made a point of sitting well away from the two half-bloods to eat hers.

Leather Runners

As they did so, Athala noticed something and grudgingly pointed it out to the other two. Roaming around the open courtyard of the enclosed space were several creatures, around the size of a small dog. Large mouths, too large for the size of the beast, were filled with teeth that seemed to glimt like metal. After another glance, the soldiers realized that the creatures themselves were actually made of what looked like leather.

"Can we have a look around?" asked Jaddoc after a while. "We're really interested in the architecture here, I've never seen anything built by our people that's survived this long without care." The little man's head came up sharply and he peered closely at all three of the soldiers. His gnarled finger jabbed out at Jaddoc and Inglan. "The Master will want to meet you, and you," he said. "Grindle will take you to meet Master." Evidently Grindle was himself. He pointed at Athala. "You stay here." Athala looked as if she couldn't be more disgusted, and dropped onto her rock again, leaning her huge sword against one shoulder.

Grindle ushered the half-bloods out of the gatehouse and along the track leading towards the tower. As he did so, they both looked around and stored up as much information as they could. The leather creatures definitely looked like guards, and definitely also looked like some kind of magical construct; not something the common magic of Mereval was capable of creating, but touched on in legends of Khylar sorcery.

Inglan could hear sounds from the stables as they passed by; soft, familiar sounds, the contented noises of cattle. More than one, but not many.

As they reached the tower, Inglan noticed that the original doors of the building had long since rotted away, and been replaced by a leather curtain, beautifully worked and embossed - worth a small fortune by their standards. He also caught a tiny surreptitious gesture made by Grindle as he reached to open the curtain, and his mind leaped to magical traps.

Inside was a large room, occupying half the lower floor of the tower, with wooden partition walls of much newer construction dividing the other half off. At one side was a large fireplace, obviously once meant to warm the whole hall, but now used for cooking meals and eating beside. Two tables, a couple of stools and earthernware vessels confirmed this. Two sides of beef were hanging up against the outside wall... To their left, a long stair clung to the curved wall, leading up to the second floor.

Half a dozen more of the leather creatures were wandering around inside, and on impulse Jaddoc faked a loud and sudden sneeze. Any natural creature would have reacted to that to some extent - Grindle started violently - but the leather creatures did not seem to notice, simply carried on ambling around the floor in a seemingly random pattern. This clinched it for Jaddoc - constructs. Sorcery for sure.


Most of their fellows in Bloodwind's company would have been horrified and a little afraid at the idea; but the half-bloods had been brought up slightly differently, and felt no more than regular caution as Grindle opened one of the doors in the partition and preceded them through. The room on the other side was such as the two had only ever been in to recieve orders or to be hauled over the coals.

To the left, a window let in a good amount of light, which fell on a desk and chair directly underneath. A cabinet stood against the far wall, in which was another door leading to a room beyond. A fireplace in the new wall was unlit. Mounted on the right-hand wall was something else the soldiers didn't often see - a bookshelf with around a dozen volumes on it.

Several large, comfortable-looking tub armchairs - made of leather - dotted the floor, and from one of these rose a tall, spare man in a loose robe and deep hood. His face, though angular and lean, was definitely entirely human; but as his head moved from them to look at Grindle, his eyes passed into shadow and both Inglan and Jaddoc noticed a distinct glint of orange light from them that was not reflected.

DM Note: The PCs got a chance to roll POWx3 to discern some of McCormack's massive standing magic; both aced POWx1 and got just a moment's view of the whole lot!

"Grindle?" he said inquiringly, and their guide swallowed. "Master," he said rather hastily, "visitors, they claim to be of the Khylar kindred." The man's face snapped back to look at them again, and as he did so, for a moment their perceptions sharpened. Some deeply-buried ancestral sensitivity surfaced for a moment, and they glimpsed his personal aura. Jaddoc's eyes widened, and she inadvertently blurted out exactly what she was thinking. "You're humming with magic!" The man looked at her, and she could see both approval and a deep hunger in his expression. "Indeed I am," he said equably, "and you do indeed carry the Blood of the Masters. Grindle - you have done well. You may go about your work once more."

As the wizened servant departed, the man gestured towards the chairs. "Please, be seated," he said easily. "I am McCormack, and I would very much like to converse with you, and learn about your people." Inglan sat down but Jaddoc remained warily standing. Neither had their composure improved any as McCormack extended a hand to the cabinet across the room, whereupon a bottle and three glasses lifted from the surface with no human intervention and floated to his grasp while he was speaking. Jaddoc squared her shoulders.

"What we're actually here for," she said firmly, "is to investigate reports of missing cows from villages around this area."

McCormack shook his head slightly, an expression of disappointment and slight impatience crossing his face. "We have such matters that we can discuss," he said, "and you want to talk about cows?" Inglan lifted an eyebrow. "What could we be speaking of?" he enquired. McCormack reached and tapped the floating bottle with a gentle ping, then took hold of it and handed it to Inglan. "Your birthright," he said levelly. Jaddoc cleared her throat in the manner of one redirecting a conversation. McCormack sighed. "Yes," he said, "I work much of my magic with leather, and I need materials. I lure suitable beasts here, and I harvest the materials I need." Jaddoc frowned. "The loss of these cows has grievously harmed the livelihood of the villagers," she said, "do you have no compassion for their situation?" McCormack flicked a hand. "Villagers; humans," he said, "ephemeridae; we have greater concerns than they can know." His attitude bespoke a disdain for humans blended with an assumption of fellowship with the Khylar he believed he spoke to.

Jaddoc frowned more. "You are human," she pointed out. He looked uncomfortable for a moment - so! he doesn't like to be reminded of that! - she thought. He waved a hand. "I have moved beyond mere humanity. I have learned, such knowledge, and yet only the very beginnings, of your people's wonders. The humans, they fear and destroy such knowledge. They burn books!" His tone was that in which others might say, burn babies.

"What does it take to learn?" asked Inglan suddenly, without really knowing why he had said it.

"Would you like to learn? I can share that knowledge with you," said McCormack eagerly, and the orange glint returned to his eyes for a moment. The half-bloods glanced at each other for a moment. Learned dread of sorcery from their human culture warred with a suddenly-awakened urge to know more of their heritage. "You've waited ten years for us," said Jaddoc, "you can wait a couple more days. We have affairs to put in order if we're to disappear for as long as the learning takes."

McCormack leaned back. "Of course," he said, though his voice suggested he didn't expect them to come back. "Please don't try sending anyone or anything from the authorities, though," he added, "that would be ... tedious."

It crossed Jaddoc's mind at this point that they had achieved their mission. There was no way they were equipped to try and retrieve cows from a man like this - even if it were possible - and all they needed to do was get back to Halldor and report what they had found.


At no visible signal, the far door opened, and - of all things - a large badger lumbered through. Both Inglan and Jaddoc were flabbergasted when it spoke, perfectly intelligibly. "I am Bhoran," it said, "I shall escort you out to your mundane friend." McCormack nodded without further comment, and the two soldiers followed the badger back through the tower.

As they reached the larger room, they realized another human was there - a young man, barely out of boyhood, and with the merest touch of the Khylar to his otherwise rather dull and brutish face. He sat on the lowest step, with a book on the floor between his knees, rapt in concentration. He repeated, over and over, a particular gesture with his fingers; with each repetition, a barely-perceptible crackle of energy was briefly visible. Clearly this wasn't what he wanted, as with sounds of impatience he began again.

DM Note: Another POWx1 success to try and mimic the actions. Plenty of critical results for a non-combat session!

Jaddoc watched this with great interest, and as they passed she attempted to mimic the gesture herself. Without really thinking, she chanelled some of her magic into it - and with a crackle of power, a ball of blueish light enveloped her hands. Her shock was compounded by the concepts that opened before her. The magic she already knew was simple, largely predetermined, well understood. This - this magic, while basic in this form, could be moulded and shaped, extended and enlarged, did one but know how. Dimly, she began to percieve how the terrible disasters ascribed to Khylar sorcery (not least the sinking of all the world's land masses!) could be made possible.

The effect was momentary, and the light faded away. She looked up to see Inglan looking at her in surprise, Bhoran the badger with a worryingly knowing expression on his pointed face, and the young apprentice with a gape of utter disbelief. That expression remained unchanged as the two visitors carried on and out of the door into the courtyard. "Please follow the trail. You would not like what would happen if you strayed," Bhoran said, and sat down outside the door to watch them leave.

Twenty minutes later, the three had reached the bridge and been reunited with the rest of Halldor's group. All were glad to see them, and gathered around eagerly to hear the tale. Jaddoc and Inglan hid their discomfort; they'd debated as they crossed the courtyard what they should and shouldn't say. In the end, they told the tale pretty much as it had happened, though making it clear that they had played along with McCormack purely to get the answers about the cows and get out alive - and leaving out all mention of what had happened with the apprentice.

Athala, though honest enough to back up the facts of the story, made it quite clear that she lumped Jaddoc, Inglan, Valki and Eadric in with McCormack as reckless, dangerous menaces, fooling with powers that had ruined the world once already. Jaddoc stood her ground, and dared the blonde to make something of it personally. Halldor stepped in at that point, restoring order. He agreed with Jaddoc and Inglan that his small group was outmatched here, and decided to return to the main camp and lay the whole mess before Rurik Bloodwind. So the group set out, using the plank to complete the bridge this time. Valki still managed to fall in regardless, and had to be hauled out with a rope.

Unobserved, small eyes watched them from a pile of stones nearby...

Company Camp, 30 miles south of Heldorn, Cormar, June 19th, 1083

Rurik Bloodwind

Jaddoc and Inglan sat down, their tale told once more for the whole company. Unsurprisingly, Cormac, Nikolos, Ralf and the other hostile soldiers were sharing looks of extreme skepticism, but Bloodwind himself, after talking to Halldor, agreed that their actions were about as well-chosen as possible. Then he lifted a hand for general attention.

"This man is clearly a sorcerer, meddling in the forbidden arts, and for that crime I am duty-bound to take him. He has also admitted to witnesses the theft of several cattle from the villages of this region, and whoever he may be he is accountable for that. He's likely to be dangerous, and so are these... leather dog things. So - it's weapons."

The company headed off to their gear, each unpacking his weapons and armour and preparing them; blades were polished one last time, straps were tightened, shields were tested, bows were strung. A routine all had been through before, but there was an edge of nerves this time. They'd never gone up against true sorcery before.

McCormack's Tower, 30 miles south of Heldorn, Cormar, June 19th, 1083

Princess not Rescued

As the light was fading, the company marched down from the ridge and into the courtyard, splitting off by twos to search the tower and outbuildings. Within moments, it was obvious that the place was deserted. In the stables, they found only one cow. It was only two feet tall at the shoulder, despite being fully grown, and painfully thin, with dull, unseeing eyes. Something hideous had been done to it with magic, it was clear. Bloodwind ordered it killed.

Searching McCormack's study, Jaddoc picked up and pocketed a small red crystal that caught her eye; on examination, Inglan managed to attune himself to it and discovered it to be a store for magical power. He himself found a small, filigree silver sphere, not magical but made with craft beyond that of humans in this era. Both tucked their items away.

In another room were found several magical circles inscribed on the floor. One at least still pulsed with the memory of power; it had been used recently. McCormack and his associates - and all the cows - were gone.

As night fell, the company marched out of the valley, some singing, all relieved at being spared a battle with an adept sorcerer. Behind them, the flames from McCormack's tower climbed into the sky.


Session Date: 27th October 2017