Rule of Three

Freeport - Session 2
A Night at the Circus

In the working-class shanties of Tent Town, the crew find a marquee – the big top of Dr Mirablis’ Carnival of Wonders. The tent flies a black flag sporting a pair of scales, something the superstitious Jobu takes as an evil omen; he heads back to the Docks as the rest of the crew enter the packed tent.

Inside they find the circus in full, creepy swing. Dr Mirablis – the same ringmaster Pete saw in his dream – introduces acts including knife thrower Sirena, wheezing clown Charlie Chuckles and Orcus, the strongest orc in the world. Pete and Farn enter the ring to be part of Orcus’ act while the others creep out behind the tent to investigate the Circus. Erik shows off his star tattoos to an overly-interested Sirena, Estrella recites her terrifying poetry, and Roger is abducted when he wanders off to look at a pygmy hippopotamus.
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As the show winds up, Dr Mirablis invites Pete back to his caravan for a drink, where he reveals that yes, he was behind the disappearance of Pete’s great-grandmother decades ago. The stars are coming right, he says, and Pete has a part to play. As they talk, Roger is locked in a box, Estrella fends off a packs of crawling mummified hands, Sirena attempts to strangle Erik and Farn is stalked by the stealthy, razor-wielding Charlie Chuckles.

Pete tries to leave but Orcus stands in his way; he sprays flaming rum on the strongman, who doesn’t react despite being on fire. Mirablis lets him go, but Pete’s dander is up and he attacks the ringmaster, only to be stopped by Orcus, who throws him right across to the other side of the circus enclosure, where Erik has knocked Sirena out, Roger has escaped the box and Estrella has destroyed the hands. As the Circus’ crew – revealed as more of the cultists they encountered last night – close in, the crew beat a retreat, stopping to collect Farn just as he savagely kills Charlie Chuckles and devours some of his flesh. They head back to the Docks, Dr Mirablis’ laughter ringing in their ears…

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Freeport - Session 1
Drama Down the Docks

Following the death of Captain Rudder, the crew of The Guiding Star have been locked up in the Tombs, Freeport’s prison, awaiting trial for piracy. Suddenly they are all released – a mysterious benefactor has paid their fines! The crew heads off to a dive bar on the Docks, hoping to get drunk on the little money they have left. As they pass through town, Peg-Leg Pete spots a poster for a circus – Dr Mirablis’ Carnival of Wonders – and it stirs hazy memories long since buried.

At the Rusty Anchor, the crew try to come up with a new plan to get rich. Farn and Erik recall that Rudder was killed by Jawbone Jack after he’d stolen the ghoul pirate’s treasure map – and that the map, sealed in a waterproof case, might still be salvageable from the wreck of The Guiding Star. To reach it they’ll need a diving bell or similar- and a ship to get them to the wreck. They’re approached by Harcourt Horkel, a drunkard with a ship that’s seen better days but still floats; he strikes a deal with them to use his ship, The Travelling Lady, in exchange for a share of the treasure.
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After Pete goes outside to relieve himself, a cloaked man comes looking for him; the pirates fob him off, while Farn also goes out to the alley. The two pirates hear strange music coming from the Docks and decide to investigate. Estrella comes looking for them, notes that the stars in the sky are in a peculiar alignment – ‘The Devils’ Scales’ – and is then entranced by the music. When she wanders away, the rest of the crew follow her, and everyone winds up on the Docks when a small gang, led by the cloaked man, come searching for Pete. A fight breaks out, and the pirates manage to defeat the gang, who turn out to be cultists of some kind – and during the fight, the strange music peaks as a creature of some kind rears from the water and smashes into a nearby ship, damaging it!

With the fight over and the creature gone, the pirates scatter before they can be arrested again. They go with Horker to The Travelling Lady, which turns out to be a travelling carnival ship – albeit one that’s seen far better days. They turn in for the night, and Pete is plagued by dreams of a dark, twisted carnival, where he is captured and tormented by its sinister ringmaster, who tells him that ‘the stars are aligned, and your time has come’.

The next day, nursing bruises and hangovers, the crew put some effort into repairing the Lady, and hear that a number of ships have been rammed and damaged over the past weeks. Once the sun goes down, Pete persuades them to investigate the mysterious Carnival of Wonders, and they set off to Tent Town to check it out…

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Urban Shadows - Session 4
A Family Affair

In the blood-drenched parking lot of St Vincent’s Hospital, the police scream at Maximilian to freeze! Before he can react, Ashcroft commandeers Solomon’s van and careens out onto Victoria Parade. Drawing magical power from Albion’s blood, Maximilian turns into a wolf and tries to escape, but the police cut him off; he’s forced to squeeze into the same storm drain that the rats fled down moments earlier.

Fodhla wakes in pain from her healing sleep to find Marlowe in her hospital room, defending her from the conductor-spectre; he explains what has happened as she pulls the drip from her arm. They hear gunshots and see the van skid across tram tracks -and glimpse the Conductor in reflections and flashes of lightning. Leaving the hospital, Marlowe calls Ashcroft, who tells him to look after the portal at Flagstaff Gardens – it’s connected to the Tellurian Circuit.

At his sanctum in Flinders Street Station, Ashcroft opens the briefcase Albion was taking from Solomon’s van – and discovers it’s full of copies of his plans for the Arcadia Apartments, with rough geomantic power sigils sketched in! Only Solomon could have obtained those plans! He also finds a post-it with a mobile phone number; Ashcroft calls and Iannos answers. The winter fae reveals that Solomon was going to help him open a gate to the fae realms through the Arcadia Apartments. When Ashcroft tries to pump him for more information, Iannos walks into the sanctum backed up by one of his skate-cultists, offering Ashcroft a deal – cooperation or death.

At Flagstaff Gardens, Ashcroft and Fodhla examine the flagpole at the centre of the hidden portal to the netherworld, which can be glimpsed and accessed through a utility shed. Unsure of what he should do, Marlowe calls Ashcroft, which causes Iannos to lose his temper with the architect – and Fodhla calls her cousin Dylan, calling in a debt to insist he find and bring her the Goblet of the Moon that Albion possessed. The Conductor cuts the call short, draining the life from Fodhla – Marlowe must open the portal a crack to free the spectre as he promised. Meanwhile, a furious Iannos insists that Ashcroft take him to Flagstaff Gardens so he can collect what belongs to him before they open the gate to Arcadia.
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Maximilian squeezes his way through storm drains that become old train access tunnels, finally reaching Erehwon Station, the abandoned stop in the mystic centre of the City Loop, where rats swarm in a dry fountain, a silver goblet in their midst. Before he can take the goblet, Dylan shows up and tries to take it himself, calling in an old debt Maximilian owes to the Queen of the Moon Court. Maximilian agrees to help the fae- but the rats swarm from the station, taking the Goblet with them! The vampire and fae chase after them; Maximilian manages to get the Goblet and throws it to Dylan while he feeds on the rats. Dylan runs through the tunnels to Flagstaff Gardens, pursued by the rats and the energised Maximilian.

Marlowe opens the nether portal long enough for the Conductor to manifest in the real world as a horrific monster, accompanied by a foaming morass of ectoplasm. It stops Marlowe and Fodhla from closing the portal, and Ashcroft and Iannos arrive as more ghosts are oozing through. The three battle the Conductor with magic, fae spells and bullets, destroying it just as Dylan and Maximilian arrive with the Goblet, which Iannos tries to claim. Maximilian interferes and Fodhla, sensing emotional vulnerability in her father, strikes him down with enchanted moonlight. She claims the Goblet and reveals her secret- with it, she can claim the throne of the Moon Queen from her mother! Iannos seeks her forgiveness, telling her he only wanted to bring him back to her, and the fae travel through the Flagstaff portal back to their home plane.

In the aftermath, Flagstaff Gardens is filthy with ectoplasm and melting ice, and the police are on their way. Maximilian, furious at being dragged into a fae family squabble, recruits Iannos’ forgotten cultist as a servant, while Marlowe and Ashcroft return to the safety of Flinders Street and plans that must be re-examined.

The rains clear. Cold September shifts into warm October. And Melbourne is back to normal again.

For a while.

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Urban Shadows - Session 3
Closed Circuit

Marlowe guards the unconscious Fodhla in St Vincent’s Hospital as she recovers from being hit by a tram. He’s joined by Maximilian, who has persuaded fellow vampire Lilian to cease backing Iannos in his play for the Arcadia Apartments. The two men don’t get along well, but Marlowe agrees to help Maximilian stop Iannos. Maximilian leaves to purchase Mandragora, as Marlowe has used up his supply warding Fodhla’s hospital room.

At the Flinders Street Ballroom, Ashcroft works on the wards that will bar Iannos from the Arcadia Apartments, while his hunter ally Solomon investigates ghost sightings around the tram network. Maximilian and Marlowe arrive, and with their help the mystic architect creates the wards. Before they can take the wards to the site, Iannos and two of his armed followers arrive, but Maximilian intimidates them and they leave. When Ashcroft tries to phone Solomon (who has a van), they learn he’s under attack by rats – at St Vincent’s Hospital!
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The three race to the hospital, and Marlowe can see ghostly forces gathering in the tram lines as they pass. They arrive and search the hospital to find Solomon fending off a swarm of foot-long rats in the basement. Maximilian scatters the vermin, and he and Ashcroft take Solomon to the emergency room while Marlowe checks on Fodhla.

Marlowe finds Fodhla vulnerable, her mandragora wards removed by cleaners, and the fae is menaced by a giant spectre dressed in a tattered tram conductor’s uniform – the same one that drove the tram into her. He tries to fend it off with magic, but it can’t be harmed – instead, he bargains with it, agreeing to free it from the Tellurian Circuit in the tramlines in exchange for Fodhla’s life.

With Solomon being attended by a doctor, Ashcroft and Maximilian go to the parking lot to get his van – and find Albion emerging from it, carrying a briefcase and a silver goblet. The wizard tries to tell them that he’s a friend of Solomon’s – when they don’t fall for it, he attacks them with his magics! Ashcroft snags the briefcase while a wounded Maximilian loses control and tears open Albion’s throat. As Ashcroft hides in the van, rats swarm from a storm drain to carry off the goblet – and a police car pulls into the lot, headlights picking out Maximilian feeding from Albion’s corpse…

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Urban Shadows - Session 2
The Underground Sound

The next morning, Ashcroft works on wards that will protect the Arcadia Apartments from Iannos and the winter fae. He contacts Solomon, a young paranormal investigator/hunter and his occasional apprentice, and tasks him with investigating Iannos’ activities. After further work, Ashcroft realises that the wards will require cold iron (which he has) treated with mandragora (which he doesn’t have), and that they’ll need to be charged by a wizard, so he sets out to find Marlowe.

Still reeling from the murder of his friend Allan, Marlowe agrees to find Fodhla’s cousin Dylan and get him out of whatever trouble he’s in. Through a fae contact he learns that Dylan is going to the old Mint in William Street; he gets there as the fae heads into Flagstaff Station, carrying a metal box, followed by Albion, a upperclass local wizard. Ashcroft catches up with Marlowe, and the two of them head into the station in pursuit.

Just before this, Fodhla met Albion at a tea house in Carlton to ask whether he had the Goblet of the Moon, a fae artifact that she has been searching for. His emotions and better judgement swayed by fae magic, Albion admits he has the Goblet; he tells her he’ll exchange it for access to the nether realms, then leaves for a meeting. Before she can follow him she’s interrupted by her father – Iannos, who wants her to join the Winter Court and help him with his plans. She refuses, and he leaves in a rage after letting slip that he is up to something.
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Marlowe and Ashcroft see Dylan and Albion get onto an out-of-date train that no-one else is boarding, and they sneak on board before it leaves. The train stops at an unknown underground station, with all exits barred and overgrown with weeds. Dylan argues with Albion about payment for the contents of the box – the secret map of the Tellurian Circuit within the tram network. Ashcroft interrupts (Marlowe lurks invisibly) and argues with Albion, but to little end; the wizard and fae leave the secret station, and the others have to run to catch the train so they are not stranded.

Fodhla follows Iannos to the State Library; a woman in a wheelchair comes out and hands him a thick set of papers and folders. Fodhla conjures up a wind to tear the papers from him, and manages to catch several of them – but in the process stumbles in front of a tram. She briefly sees the image of a twisted skeletal figure driving the tram, before she is knocked down and badly injured.

Leaving Flagstaff, Ashcroft goes to the Arcadia Apartments to discover that work has ceased due to bogus OH&S concerns. Marlowe heads to the State Library when he sees an ambulance cutting through traffic, and arrives in time to see Fodhla being taken to hospital. He follows her there, hoping to aid or protect her, and is watching over when the sun goes down and Maximilian emerges from hiding to get answers…

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Urban Shadows - Session 1
Dinner Theatre

On a cooler-than-usual September night, Fodhla is contacted by her cousin Dylan, who needs help. They meet beneath the Melbourne Star, and Dylan tells her that he’s being followed by a strange man. Fodhla questions him, and Dylan admits that he’s been dealing mandragora and doing jobs for vampires; he also infiltrated the occult Network of tram drivers to steal a map of the secret geomantic circuit rumoured to exist within the tram lines.

This last crime is what attracted the attention of Marlowe, who is the ‘strange man’ following him. Marlowe approaches the pair, demanding answers from Dylan, who reacts angrily when he realises that his cousin knows his pursuer. Fodhla tries to calm the situation but Dylan runs off; rather than chase after him, Fodhla takes Marlowe to dinner to discuss things.
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At a different restaurant, Maximilian and Ashcroft meet for dinner, each believing the other has summoned them there to discuss their current project, the Arcadia Luxury Apartments building being constructed in Balwyn. They’ve actually been brought together by Mac Cecht, a fae of the Storm Court and an old friend of Ashcroft. He warns them both that his rival Iannos, a powerful member of the fae Winter Court, wants to take control of the Arcadia Apartments. He’s not sure why, but he knows that the Arcadia Apartments are being built near the end of a tram line, which might mean Iannos could draw mystical power from the geomantic circuit. As Mac Cecht leaves, he tells them than Iannos is working with an ally – Lillian, a vampire elder and an old ‘friend’ of Maximilian.

Fodhla and Marlowe share a meal and she asks him whether he’s heard anything more about the Goblet of the Moon, a fae relic thought to be somewhere in Melbourne. Before Marlowe can answer, he gets a panicked call from his friend Allan, driver of the 96 tram, who’s being pursued by something terrible in Carlton Gardens. They drive to the Garden’s in Marlowe’s filthy car; when they arrive outside the old Museum building, a crowd is gathered around Allan’s body, which is covered in tiny ragged wounds. Marlowe sees a large rat disappear into a nearby gutter – and that his friend’s last act was to draw a crescent moon on the concrete in his own blood…

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The One Ring - Session 4
KInstrife and Dark Tidings (part 3)

Frida secures their prisoner while Beran and the Bride move quietly through the forest to the camp of the Southron outlaws – fifty or more cruel, ill-favoured men in the service of their warlord Valter. The outlaw chief seems to be hosting the runaway Oderic as an honoured guest, but Beran can see that the boy is being constantly watched and guarded.
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When Oderic goes for a walk in the woods, the two adventurers overpower his guard and confront him, demanding he return to face Beorn’s justice – but Oderic is defiant, saying he deserves a chance to find his own way in life, just as the adventurers have, and that the Southrons only seek a place to call their own. Beran can see that the young man is willfully ignoring the truth, and eventually leads Orderic to admit to himself that the southerners plan to sack the villagers of the Wilderlands, starting with Stonyford, and that he must help stop them.

Orderic proposes a plan – he will lead the Southrons to the Gloomy Ford, a day’s march from Beorn’s house. If the adventurers can get to Beorn ahead of the southerners, they can rally the Beorning forces and ambush the invaders. Beran and the Bride rejoin Frida and the three push themselves day and night, reaching Stonyford in two days and Beorn’s house two days after that. While they rest, Beorn gathers a force of thirty warriors from the local villagers, then sets off on his own.

The Beorning forces lay in wait at the Gloomy Ford, then strike the Southron horde as they pass! They have surprise on their side but are outnumbered, and the three adventurers find themselves in the thick of the fighting. Hard pressed and injured, they manage to break through the enemy lines to reach the rear, to see Oderic doing his best to fight Valtar. The warlord almost kills the young man, but is waylaid by the adventurers and brought down by a mighty blow from Beran – just as the giant bear that is Beorn appears and tears through the rest of the routed invaders.

Two days later, at the Carrock, Oderic is finally put on trial for the murder of his brother-in-law Rathfic. While no-one disputes that he did kill Rathfic, the adventurers speak on behalf of the young warrior, who did his best to defend his homelands despite his crimes. In the end Beorn decides that Oderic has suffered enough, and lets him go free. He goes off to seek his fortune, while the adventurers are feted (again) as heroes of the Beornings.

As winter approaches, the three heroes take their rest, waiting for spring and the chance for new adventure.

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The One Ring - Session 3
KInstrife and Dark Tidings (part 2)

At the village of Stonyford, Frida, Beran and the Bride persuade the village’s leaders that they travel at Beorn’s bidding and are seeking a fugitive. The villagers tell them that the escaped prisoner is one of their own – a young man named Oderic who murdered his brother-in-law, Rathfic.

As the adventurers ask more questions, they learn that Oderic was an orphan who was taken in by the warrior Helmgut and his daughter Brunhild. Oderic was never fully accepted by the village and held himself apart, even more so after Rathfic settled there and married Brunhild. About two weeks ago, the two men fought for some reason, and Oderic stabbed Rathfic to death, after which he was arrested by Helmgut for the terrible crime of kin-slaying. Beorn’s men took him away for trial; they fear that his escape is a sign of doom and evil.

The adventurers try to question Helmgut, but the old warrior is drunk and lost in his own misery. They then question Brunhild, who is in mourning for her husband and saddened by the loss of her foster-brother. Frida aggressively interrogates Brunhild, who confesses that Oderic was planning to leave Stonyford and wanted her to come with him. When Rathfic interrupted them, the two men argued; Brunhild attempted to separate them, Rathfic struck her and then Oderic stabbed him. Furthermore, she tells them that Oderic returned not two nights ago, whispering through her window; he told her of his escape and that he was striking west across the Great River to seek his fortune and never return.

Frida tells the village elders that Brunhild spoke with Oderic, and the adventurers take a boat down the River in search of Oderic. After several days on his trail, they track him to a forest near the Gladden Fields, and find signs that he has been captured by armed men occupying the woods. As they search further, they encounter a patrol of men from the South and do battle, taking one alive as prisoner. He tells them that Oderic is the ‘guest’ of Valter, who brings an army from the south to take the weak northern lands.

Now the adventurers must decide whether to find Oderic and bring him to justice, or warn the Wilderlands of invasion…

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The One Ring - Session 2
KInstrife and Dark Tidings (part 1)

As autumn turns to spring, three adventurers – Frida, Beran and The Bride – discover the bodies of two of Beorn’s thanes, murdered by orcs in a boat run aground on the Great River. It looks as if the two men were transporting a prisoner to face Beorn’s justice, and that the third man escaped in the ambush.

The adventurers bury the bodies and trek to Beorn’s Hall, where he receives their news with great anger and sadness. They sup with him and the local Beornings, and are awakened in the night by the sound of a great bear roaring in the distance. Come the morning, they find Beorn cheerier and surrounded by the helmets of dead orcs. He sets them a quest to track down the escaped prisoner, whoever he might be, and bring him back to face justice.

Mounted on Beorn’s horses, the adventurers search for signs of the escapee. They find the body of an orc, decapitated with a sword taken from one of the dead thanes, and follow this trail south to the Old Ford and beyond. Their journey is cold and difficult, with false leads and poor sleep, and they are weary when they find further sign of the fugitive just outside Stonyford – the village that hosted the Moon Festival two seasons earlier.

But when the adventurers attempt to enter the village, they receive a chilly reception from its leaders, who petition them to pass by and leave them to their sadness…

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The One Ring - Session 1
The Theft of the Moon

At the end of spring, the folk of the western Wilderlands hold the traditional Moon Festival to celebrate the end of the harvest. This year, four years after the Battle of Five Armies, the Festival takes place near the village of Stonyford, and a fellowship of adventurers attend to share in the merriment and take part in the competitions. The prize – the Sickle of the Moon, a great artefact belonging to Beorn himself.
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But before Frida and the Bride can take their places as trial-winners and perhaps win the prize, a hue and cry erupts – goblins have stolen the Sickle! Or so it seems at first, but Beran, Beli and the other adventurers soon uncover the truth – the sickle has been stolen by outlaws who are taking it north to give it to their master.

The adventurers give chase, pursuing the thieves for many days and more than a hundred miles up the banks of the Great River. Eventually they run the outlaws to ground on the Falrock, an island on the river, and do battle atop a great fallen log that bridges the isle and the river-bank. They overcome the bandits (most of whom seem to be slaves and thralls, rather than truly evil men) and their cruel leaders to recover the Sickle; they return it to Beorn and are celebrated by the villages that he protects.

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