(cover to Witchburner Exalted Funeral First Edition by Luka Rejec, 2018)
Bridge of Saint Cleareyes
1st of October
Friday morning, Yulia's Day
The village of Bridge of Saint Cleareyes sits at the confluence of the Whitewater and Darkwater rivers, and is one of three bridges that separates the east from the west, but is the only one this far north that has a village that has grown up around it. The people of Bridge, as they call their home, have not forgotten the conflict between the western and eastern polities -- many of the forces of the East crossed their bridge when they were called home after Bizalom, the Eastern City, tired of the disagreement -- but life has mostly returned to normal in recent years. The timber and iron from the west flows once more, as does the tobacco, silver, and horse-trade from the east, and the people of Bridge sit on a trade route for all of it.
Bridge itself is technically part of Ehre -- the Western City -- and its laws and traditions, though being between two nations means that the people here have many of their own ways. They are, perhaps, not as stringent in their following of the disciplined codes of Ehre. Evidence of this can be found in the thing that Bridge is second most-known for: its homebrewed beers. It seems as though almost every dwelling crafts a unique brew of its own, some of which have made their way in secret artisanal shipments to the capital of the West. The authorities back home reluctantly turn a blind eye to the idiosyncracies of this bridge-town, but they were likely unsurprised to learn of the recent difficulties of this sometimes wayward settlement.
Gulyás Veronika joined the expedition two days ago, in Forum, bearing papers assigning her to this task. Travel from Forum to Bridge was uneventful. You arrived before dusk yesterday and stayed in the cottage on the outskirts of town on the western side of the Whitewater (before the bridge) that exists for this very purpose. Ceremony and ritual must presage the arrival of the Rightmaker, and such things are most proper in the light of morning, yet the system of hamlets and villages along the road are all designed for a day's travel. As such, the village provides a comfortable cottage for official visitors to await the morning.
This first morning of October in the mountains is cool, with fog curling in the valley, portending a possible break in the late Harvest Summer that gave so many bonus days of pleasant weather in September. Peter, the clerk, left the cottage early to alert the village councilors of your arrival. When he returns, he gathers the spear of office bearing the banner of the Lord Rightmaker and waits for the signal from you, Lukacs Florian, announcing preparedness for the commencement of the morning's activities.
Once given, the three of you, preceded by Peter and his banner, make your way through the western portions of the town. The communal mule balks at crossing the bridge, forcing Peter to tug and kick at it, breaking the decorum of the moment, but he finally gets it into motion. On the other side of the bridge the five village Councilors and the Mayor stand in an orderly reception line, and almost thirty others curious to witness the spectacle linger nearby.
Peter stands in the middle of the bridge, the mule finally behaving, and proclaims your arrival in his trained voice. The Mayor beckons you forward, granting permission to cross the bridge, and you formally enter the town.
As you cross, you think you see relief on the faces of those assembled. When they had made their plea to Ehre for formal intervention in their problem by the Lord Rightmaker, they could not have known whether she would see fit to come herself, or send her authorized proxy. That you are here bodes well for the continued prosperity of the village. Everyone knows that the Lord Rightmaker's hand is as firm as the iron of Ehre, and that buildings burn when she is summoned. Better for all that you cross the bridge first, though if you cannot roust the witch in the sanctioned thirty days, the thirty-first will see the village of Bridge of Saint Cleareyes suffer worse for it. Such is the firm, indiscriminate hand of Rightmaking.
Assembled before you are the five Councilors and the Mayor:
The Mayor is a red-haired woman. Edna Hundertwasser. Her father was Mayor before her, and she is considered competent by the authorities in Ehre. Her husband is a prominent merchant who spends most of his time in the capital. She's sweating profusely and is having some difficulty not shifting her feet or posture during the formalities.
Behind her is a tall, attractive person of no determinate gender in their thirties, with noble features and wearing rich clothing. Marks of the Firebringer and Waterdrinker are carved into their cheeks and forehead, marring otherwise graceful features. Their fingers are stained with ink.
Next to them stands a sinewy woman who looks precise and well-ordered. Her face has an angry cast to it. She has a prominent chin.
A fat woman wearing spectacles and the clothes of an Ehre doctor is next. Her face bears the creases of one who laughs often. She has noticeable bags under her eyes.
Next is a petite elderly man with an athletic frame, who wears a bushy white beard. He also wears the robes of a priest of the Three Avatars.
The final Councilor has the foreign features of someone from far to the East, beyond even Bizalom. She is dressed in utilitarian but well-crafted clothes, and has the demeanor of someone who is both intense and intentful.
The Ceremony of Response to Summoning is not without its convolutions, but it should be a fairly straightforward eight minutes of memorized recitation. Especially for an experienced clerk like Peter. Nonetheless, he seems to become distracted as he arrives at the final two minutes, and stumbles on his words. He tries to fumble his way back to form, only to trip again and grind to a halt. The Mayor tries graciously to offer assistance, cuing the clerk with the first few words of the next phrase, but Peter stares dumbly forward. You can't see his face from where you stand behind him, but the rigidity of his posture suggests the man is utterly lost in failure.
Hellspawn, the last thing I need is a spectacle that I didn't arrange. Better to let him flounder about than draw attention to myself, though - I have a part to play and the public face is not it. Fear has a way of focusing the mind, however.
Veronika speaks, lowly enough that no one on the other side of the ceremony can make out her words.
"Peter, you'd best get moving. I'm sure no one wants the Lord Rightmaker to hear what a hash you made of this ceremony."
Peter turns around, away from the Mayor and her Councilors, breaking all decorum. He faces the three of you, his back now to the villagers. His burned face is a frozen rictus of nerves, his eyes wide, his black complexion gone ashy, his mouth clenched tight. His eyes plead to you for rescue.
Then the fucking mule decides this is the perfect moment to loudly bray.
OOC: For future reference, remember you can Burn Luck to raise or lower the result of any roll by 1. Devilfish, mark INT due to your 6- result.
The group's witch chuckles to herself at the spectacle her little group has become the central parties of. "A fine welcome, eh Lukacs?" she asks, the leader of their band quietly (but not too quietly).
"Bloody hell, it looks like I'll have to do this myself," Veronika mutters under her breath. She moves forward, pushing Peter toward the rest of the small group of hunters and quietly tells him, "make yourself useful by shutting that thing up, at least."
Veronika steps forward and continues the Ceremony of Response to Summoning from where the incompetent left off.
OOC: Not sure whether this is Know Something or just an INT saving throw, but it's the same stat either way. This is definitely a ceremony the Devilfish has had to sit through before.
INT roll: 2d6+111 The dice are a bit more cooperative this time.
Lukacs gives Peter a withering glare, and waits for Veronica to finish, letting his eyes fall over the welcoming committee and then the gathered crowd, his face stern, his eyes piercing. His silence right now probably serves to speak louder and clearer than any words, if the party's progress so far is any indication.
OOC: I want to watch the crowd further to see if anyone else stands out by how they react. If a roll is needed, please make one for me (can't use promos here for some reason).
Veronika, while you might have been reluctant to finish the Ceremony, you do it as smoothly as could be expected. It's likely that few of those watching are aware of your reticence or resentment. Thankfully, Peter is able to tame the braying mule, and he at least manages to hold his spear tall, the Lord Rightmaker's banner snapping smartly in a light breeze.
The remainder of the Ceremony passes quickly, and the Mayor and Councilors curtsy and bow to the three of you. Those villagers watching do the same.
You step forward, and Lukacs gives your names. The Mayor wipes sweat from her forehead and brow with a handkerchief and introduces herself, then introduces the Councilors that have assembled.
The attractive, finger-stained person of indeterminate gender with marks of two of the Avatars carved into their face is Petra Inksblood, the town Notary.
The precise, well-ordered, sinewy woman with a prominent chin and an angry-looking face is Szilágyi Lana, who handles the business of the town's tinker and blacksmith.
The fat, spectacled woman with bags under her eyes is Ivana Glaser. She's the town doctor.
The bushy-bearded, petite, athletic elder is Adrian Schlager, a priest of the Three Avatars.
The intense woman from far to the east is Magyar Tünde, the Innkeeper.
Rooms have been set aside for you at the inn. The Mayor wishes to meet with you immediately, at her home, Kingshall. The priest exhorts you, "Find the witch! Before she brings Winterwhite's hunger down upon us all!"
The council and the crowds disperse.
Lukacs, you've been watching the assembled crowd intensely for anyone who stands out. You witness the following:
Szilagyi Lana, the precise, angry-looking woman who handles the business of the tinker and blacksmith, rolled her eyes heavily at the botched Ceremony and has seemed impatient from the moment you sighted her while first crossing the bridge.
A slender, dark-haired woman with dark orange skin watching from the crowd was making symbols and gestures with her right hand throughout the Ceremony.
In the crowd, a stunning, wild-haired woman -- taller than a man, also dark-orange, and with eyes that pierce right through you -- laughed aloud, tittering and gleeful, in the moment that Veronika stepped forward to complete the Ceremony. You could swear that you saw her making comments to someone at her side, though there was no one there next to her.
A bald, blue-skinned, dour-looking man with spectacles, and wearing a formal suit, spat into the ground at the end of the Ceremony, and stalked off from the group of watchers in the crowd before the introductions were concluded. He didn't bow when everyone else did.
OOC: The structure of the game will be divided up into Watches of roughly six hours in length, four each per day. Each watch, the full party can engage in an activity, such as visiting or investigating a person or location, etc. For simplicity and my sanity, it's going to be best if you all focus on the one thing together -- so, instead of two of you talking to Person X while one of you checks out location C, please investigate Person X together, then go to location C in the next Watch.
Do feel free, though, to be creative about how you pursue the investigation of Person X. All three of you could go talk to them, and then one of you could circle back before the end of the Watch and do more subtle things. Or, while in their home, you could split up and interview the other people residing or working there.
There's also gossip that you can pick up, if you linger in someone's home or place of work and partake in their refreshments.
You'll generally want to occupy one Watch per day with sleep. You can go without, but it will levy mechanical penalties against you. It needn't be the same Watch every day; you're welcome to sleep in the afternoon (for example) if you had an especially busy night the night before.