Last Friday night was the latest installment of Fearful Symmetries. We wrapped up one of the man storylines, moved a couple others forward, and the characters brought about a fairly major change in the city. All in all, I felt they had really earned the Major Milestone I awarded at the end of the session.
Over the past few sessions, the characters had got themselves wrapped up in a few different storylines that could easily have led to a good climactic session â€“ the whole Hunter thing, the Petrunas cult, the Gold Lane curse. They did some follow-up on everything, but the deadline on tracking down the fellow who had promised to kill Emeric after one month sort of took priority. So, thatâ€™s what they mainly focused on.
They had the name Konstantin Akrady to follow up on, and learned that the man who had threatened Emeric was most likely the Arkady, head of the clan. Konstantin was known to bring game to a butcher named Rostislav, in Hradcany, who had a very strong, but mute, assistant. That was enough to start with.
Izabella had heard of the Arkady clan, old horror stories coming out of northern Russia of shapeshifting bogeymen that had spread east, apparently devotees of the darkest aspects of the Wild Hunt and the Erlking, willing to hunt, kill, and eat anything that offered a challenge. That knowledge cheered them up immensely.
Emeric went to Rostislav’s butcher shop to try and get a line on Konstantin Arkady. Besides getting an oblique hint that he should come by the next day around dawn, he also found out that Evzen, the Petrunas cultist who had approached the characters for their help, had died in a fall. Further investigation revealed that Evzen was drunk and walking along the top of the Hunger Wall, when he fell and broke his back on a rock. Emeric recognized this as a traditional form of sacrifice to Thor, and he and Izabella decided that there must be some sort of infighting within the Petrunas cult that led to Evzen (and his progressive ideals) getting sent home to Thor.
The followed up on that a little bit, checking out the Chapel of St. Lawrence on Petrin Hill, and meeting Pastor Nicola, the priest. Emeric sensed that the pastor had a faith powerful enough to work miracles, but couldn’t decide if the man was what he appeared to be – a fairly tolerant Lutheran who turned a blind eye to the lingering papist tendencies of some of his congregation – or if he was secretly running a pagan cult ((This is sort of an interesting phenomenon. I mean, they know that Nicola is the head of the Petrunas cult, because they decided that in the city creation. But they keep the information from the characters very well. I think they also suspect me of changing some of the minor aspects of the setting to keep the mystery and excitement alive. And they’re right to do so.)).
Well, they wound up meeting Konstantin outside of Rostislav’s butcher shop in the early hours of the morning, as he was dropping off a small cart of dressed deer, boar, and one human ((“For the pies,” he said.)). In the ensuing discussion, he offered to help the characters find and defeat the Arkady, as Konstantin planned to take his place. He promised that, if the pair helped him, the Arkady clan would stay out of the characters’ way, if they stayed out of clan business. The information he gave about the Arkady’s preferred tactics – that he would start whittling away at Emeric’s friends long before the month was up, that the Arkady had no problem running away to fight again later, that the optimum attack was always an ambush or trap – and about the Arkady’s weakness – blessed weapons – were enough to get the characters to agree.
This made me very happy, as they each swore to honour the bargain on their names and powers. The idea of the pair swearing an oath to a monster in order to defeat a bigger monster was something I had been hoping for. Not only does it help reinforce the themes of the game ((Especially the theme Supernatural and Religious Gang Warfare.)), it gives me wonderful hooks to complicate the characters’ lives down the line.
So, preparations. Izabella whipped up a veil that would also mask her scent, both characters got their weapons blessed – Izabella at St. Vitus, Emeric at St. Lawrence ((And how could that come back to bite them?)) – and Amadan gave them a vial of water gathered on the Hill of Sacrifice in the Fey lands under the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, which he said was for direst emergency only ((They didn’t use this, and so still don’t really know what it does.)). Then they used the blood Konstantin had given them to make their way through the Stag Moat, and across into the Mittelmarch and the hold of the Arkady.
Now, my whole plan with the Arkady was that he was a plot-device-level character. Even Konstantin, one of his minions, was statted out at -19 Refresh. Defeating him relied on being able to assemble enough information, leverage, and assistance to defeat his various protections and abilities. The way things worked out, Konstantin had asked the characters to strike at the Arkady, wounding him and causing him to retreat, whereupon Konstantin would use his shapeshifting to follow and finish him. That would replace the Arkady with Konstantin (the new Arkady), free Emeric from his deadline, and basically keep things more or less status quo in Prague.
Things didn’t quite work out that way.
The characters had prepared very well, and accepted a number of compels through the evening, so they had a fair number of Fate Points to burn on the final encounter. The Arkady, overconfident, gave them the first shot for free. Huge mistake. Trusting in his toughness and recovery, not knowing that Emeric had had Beortning blessed, he sucked up a 13-shift hit. Big brouhaha followed, as the Arkady tried to flee, shifting shape madly, but was kept from doing so by Konstantin ((As promised by Konstantin, the other Arkady clansfolk stayed out of things. Emeric had been declared the Arkady’s prey, and so no one would interfere.)).
At this point, I thought that the characters would back off and let Konstantin settle things, but I should really have known better. They followed after the pair, keeping them from getting too far away, and doing more damage to the Arkady. I decided to change things up, seeing as the characters were more involved than I expected, and had the Arkady suddenly pull in all his power from the Mittelmarch demesne around them, as well as from the entire Arkady clan. Everything, including Emeric, but excluding the well-veiled Izabella, burst into flame and began to die as Arkday took on a powerful, monstrous form and prepared to unleash his fury on Emeric for forcing him to destroy his family.
But Izabella had roused the spirits of all the animals the Arkady had killed to harass him ((And paid to keep them under control by buying off a compel that they slip free to attack everyone.)), and Emeric pinned him to the ground with Beortning. As he shriveled and died, the forest kept burning around them.
Once he was ash, Emeric and Izabella started to try and make their way back to the Stag Moat. Faced with the terrible fire, and fearful that it might spread into Prague, Emeric exerted his pyromancy to maximum effect, spending the last of his Fate Points and taking much stress and consequences to suck all the fire into himself, quenching it instantly. They made their way back to the Stag Moat, and that’s where we called the game.
So, Clan Arkady is gone. That’s easily worth a Major Milestone. I also have some city advancement to do – this is going to change the nature and Aspect of Jeleni Prikop. I haven’t decided how, yet, but I’ve got some interesting ideas percolating.
And there’s still a number of things hanging over the characters’ heads, and only about five months left before the Battle of White Mountain and the occupation of Prague by Catholic forces. Plenty of good stories ahead.