Session Recap S2E05: The Mourning Comes

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,

Which watch not one another out of fear;

For love, all love of other sights controls,

And makes one little room an everywhere.

Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,

Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,

Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

John Donne, “The Good Morrow”

20 Olarune, 998YK. Rickety’s Squibs.


Trucco


Trucco had never been one to pay much attention to the world beyond his immediate needs.  That approach to life had been born of necessity from a young age.  Growing up orphaned on the streets of Metrol, never knowing if tomorrow would bring enough food and shelter and always one wrong move away from a fight, Trucco had spent his life living in the moment and looking out for no one but himself — because if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have lived long enough to find himself at Rickety’s Squibs on this particular day.  Stumbling into the tavern in the Commons, stiff and sore from yet another disastrous attempt at teaching Owlbear how to throw fights in the hopes of grifting the onlookers betting on the match, Trucco took a seat at the bar and called for some breakfast.

As he ate, his keen ears took in the conversations of the workers enjoying their own meals, and as some of them began discussing the timeline of the soon-to-be-completed work on the Majestic Gryphon, Trucco overhead something that gave him pause.  It was hard to say that he’d forgotten what day it was, since he hadn’t been paying attention to the calendar in the first place.  But as soon as the date reached his ears, the typically carefree, unflappable rogue pushed his plate away and began calling for drinks — and make it something strong.  He’d never been comfortable entertaining his feelings, and starting the day drinking them away seemed as good a plan as any.

A few seats down, the old cook Fishguts — formerly enslaved to Mika Rockface aboard the Cloud Reaver, given his freedom by Daina, and now sailing the the Majestic Gryphon by choice — looked up from his mug of ale and raised an eyebrow at Trucco.  “Starting early?”

Trucco perked up at the sound of a friendly voice.  “Oh, I didn’t see you there!” he exclaimed.  “How are you, my friend?”

“Sober” the old dwarf replied, his tone rueful and his expression slightly sheepish. 

“Oh, that’s a shame!” Trucco cried.  “Let me buy you a drink!”

Fishguts let loose something halfway between a scowl and a chuckle.  He already had one, he told the rogue, gesturing to his mug.  And besides, he confessed, he was working on the Captain’s orders to take it easy on the drink.  She’d had a fair point about needing to be able to count on him if he were to continue sailing with her, so he was going to try.  “That’s commendable of you to try to get sober!” Trucco said, raising his glass to Fishguts.  The dwarf chuckled again.  “I wouldn’t say I’m trying to get sober,” he retorted, “just not trying to get drunk.”  Trucco again complimented Fishguts on his efforts, and revealed that he was, today, trying to get drunk.  That got Fishguts’ attention.  He had never seen Trucco drink much at all; what was he up to?  

The rogue, as usual, deflected.  Perhaps he’d just picked a day to start drinking.  Giving Trucco a long, hard look, Fishguts lowered his voice and leaned in closer.  In his experience, he told the young man, the day someone chose to start drinking to forget was the day they lost hope.  Trucco stumbled over his words.  Hope was something that escaped everyone at some point in their lives, did it not?

“Hear, hear” Fishguts replied, emptying his mug.  “The Captain seems to have some hope now, but it remains to be seen.  I’m not convinced.”

Trucco shrugged.  “We took the Gryphon, staged a successful mutiny, defeated Lagraa, and now we’re here.  Isn’t that something to be hopeful for?”  As Fishguts opened his mouth to reply, the rogue slapped  him on the shoulder.  “Nah, just kidding.  Another round!”  The cook scowled.  Prince Rockface had a long reach, and a long memory to match.  She would have expected the Gryphon to arrive at Port Krez under Mr. Lagraa’s command days ago, and would be looking for answers.  Defaulting back to his usual carefree, naive optimism, Trucco asked if Fishguts knew Rockface to be a vengeful sort.  The cook’s response was raucous laughter.  Had Trucco been press-ganged onto a different ship than he had? 

“Well,” the rogue pressed, “maybe she has, you know, one side that she shows to the crew, and another side that is the real her!  Maybe she’s a big softie on the inside, a real nice person that doesn’t want to kill everyone that takes a different side…” 

Fishguts cut him off again with an even louder laugh, tears welling up in his eyes as he pounded his fist on the bar.  “Trucco,” he wheezed, “you are a fool!”

“I am a fool!” the rogue agreed with a grin. “And I will drink to that.”  


Daina


Two floors above the common room, Captain Daina ir’Lizani woke up in the dark just before dawn.  A life of farming followed by years of active military service followed had trained her body long ago, and the latter had trained her mind to be aware and alert even in those first few moments of coming awake.  She lay in her bed staring up at the ceiling for a few minutes before reaching out for her journal on the nightstand.  Opening it to yesterday’s entry, she read and re-read the date to confirm what she already knew.  

It was the 20th of Olarune.  It had been four years to the day since the cataclysm known as The Mourning had wiped Cyre off the map, and taken most of her people with it. 

Daina swung her bare feet from the warm bed to the cold floor, the sensation of the now fighting with the ghosts of the past.  She reached for her pen and, as she had done every year for the last five years, wrote the same poem on a fresh page, along with the year.  When she was finished, she tore the page out of its binding, stirred up the coals in the small fireplace, and held the paper over the small flame until it began to smolder and burn, until the fire reached her fingertips and the words were consumed.

And then, with the duty she owed to those who lived weighing on her shoulders once more, she got dressed and got to work.


Torlan and Ruskel


As Daina’s godfather, as a man who had made a vow to a Cyran years ago, and having been a prisoner of war in Cyre for a spell, Torlan knew very well what day it was.  As a Brel, however, he did not have his own ghosts to lay to rest on this occasion, but had always been there to support Daina in her remembrance and grief.  This year, she wasn’t the only Cyran survivor with him, and after preparing himself for today, he stopped by Ruskel’s room next door to see how the younger man was holding up.  He knocked three times and waited for a reply.

No reply came.

Torlan frowned.  Knocking again, he pressed his ear to the door and heard some moans that sounded like someone in pain.  “Rus!” he growled.  “Rus, come to the door!  What’s wrong?”

The only reply he received to that query was a muffled thud that sounded an awful lot like a body hitting the floor.  That was Torlan’s cue to let himself in.  He found Rus collapsed on the floor next to his bed, in his nightshirt, unconscious and drenched in sweat.  By the Sovereigns, Torlan exclaimed, he’d caught the bilge rot!  Kneeling beside him, Torlan could feel that Rus was running a high fever, and the short sleeves of his nightshirt revealed a long, nasty, infected-looking scratch on one arm.  “Come on, Ruskel” Trolan growled, “you won’t be ended by falling out of bed.  You’re a soldier, dammit!”  Unable to rouse the younger man past anything more than incoherent, delirious moans, Torlan went to find Sandara Quinn.  She quickly diagnosed the problem: troll fever.  Rus must have taken that scratch the day before, and thought nothing of it, but the fever had quickly taken hold.  She promised to do her best to get the fever under control, but it would take several days for him to recover.


The Lucky Ones


After checking on the ship and ensuring that it would be ready to sail tomorrow as promised, Daina returned to the tavern to work on the ship’s budget, logs, and the other odds and ends of work that befell her as captain.  It was mid-morning, and the first thing that caught her attention in the common room was the sight of Fishguts with a mug in his hand…and Trucco deep in his own cups.

“Oh, hey, Captain!” Trucco called out with a grin, his eyes half-closed and his speech a little slurred.  “Captain of the Mighty Grphyon!  Or is it the Mighty…no, the Gryphon…what is it called now?  Also, what time of day is it?”

Daina sighed. “Trucco, it’s five bells.  How much have you had to drink?”  Trucco began talking a mile a minute.  He’d just had a couple of drinks, hardly any, and he had to go now.  Daina’s expression softened as her disapproval faded away and scolding turned to compassion.  She needed him to be ready to sail in the morning, but today — tonight — he should do whatever he wanted.  Get drunk, carouse, whatever it was he needed to do.  Daina gave the rogue a meaningful look, which he quickly turned away from as he left the tavern in one last-ditch effort to forget, and she took what had become her usual table in the corner and got down to work until Sandara Quinn found her, and told her that Rus had fallen ill.  

By the time evening fell, Torlan and Trucco joined Daina in the common room, where she gave them an update on Rus’ condition.  Though the skyknight had been slipping in and out of consciousness all day, Sandara was confident that he would pull through.  With that worry off their shoulders, Torlan gently declared that it was time for Daina and Trucco to share their remembrances, and suggested that they do it by Ruskel’s bedside where he might still hear them.  Daina agreed.  She’d sat by his side for most of the afternoon, and his tossing and turning had been punctuated by delirious nightmares of that day four years ago when the mists had taken Metrol as he and his wingman were in the air over it.  Her experience of the Mourning, she confided, had been very different.  She’d fled Cyre nearly ten months prior — deserted, ran, abandoned her friends.  She had been young and arrogant, and believed she’d had the luxury of returning later, when she was ready.  And then “later” never came.  It was a shame she would carry for the rest of her life.  

Trucco, for his part, had avoided being caught in the Mourning by less than seventy-two hours, having stowed away on a ship after an “incident” involving his hrazaak team.  As he and Daina confessed to each other that they’d both lacked the courage to find out if any of their old friends had survived, the captain offered her boatswain a deal: if he wrote two or three letters to those he hoped yet lived, she would do the same, and they would face their demons together.  

“Come on,” Daina said, getting up from her chair.  ”First round’s on me.”


Cyre Once Again


Down in the common room, at what had become their regular table, Daina set three glasses down and took one for herself, but remained standing.  Clutching her glass with white knuckles, she raised it in a toast.  This one, she told Torlan and Trucco, had made the rounds in High Walls.  The woman she’d learned it from had said it was something that used to be performed for Cyran soldiers stationed abroad.  It hadn’t been very popular during the war, and often dismissed as sappy and sentimental, but it had taken on a whole new meaning afterwards.

And with that, she raised her glass, and began to sing, her voice soft and sad beneath the sounds of merriment that filled the room around them.

I’ll join the band in Cyre once again
We’ll play tago, and sway ’til evening’s end
And when the band hits the chorus
The whole world’s dancing for us…
I’ll join the band in Cyre once again
.

A toast to all we lost

Draining her glass in one shot, Daina set it upside-down in the center of the table with five coins and opened her eyes. “Last round’s on me, too.”

Trucco, who had been avoiding his grief all day long, collapsed forward onto the table and began to sob.  Daina wrapped her arms around him and leaned her head on his, and the unlikely friends remained there until the rogue’s grief was poured out in full.


Ghosts in the Mist


When the tears had dried and everyone’s glass was empty, Torlan asked Daina and Trucco to follow him.  He believed he might be able to help them find some closure regarding those they’d left behind in Cyre, or perhaps some answers.  Leading them to the small graveyard on the settlement’s outskirts, he explained that he intended to call on spirits for answers.  He told Daina and Trucco that the souls of the dead passed through Dolurrh, the plane of the dead, before joining the Sovereigns, and that he hoped to channel the power of the Traveler to inquire if their friends had passed on.

Daina was skeptical.  For one thing, she’d always heard that souls simply faded away after passing through Dolurrh — though some believed they joined the Silver Flame — and for another, just to be clear: Torlan wanted to call on the Traveler and channel his power in order to get the favour of the Sovereigns to ask if Mazello’s parents were dead?

“Exactly right!” Torlan declared.  Inviting Trucco to join him in the circle he’d prepared, Torlan began beseeching the Traveler to bring him a spirit to commune with.  A horrible voice echoed around them: “who disturbs my slumber?  What is it you wish you know?”  On Trucco’s behalf, Torlan asked the spirit of the rogue’s former paramour Lancia lived.  “That is an answer I do not possess” it hissed.  As Torlan began to ask about Daina’s in-laws, she interrupted him.  She needed him to ask if Vala Doranetti lived instead.  She had last seen her best friend and fellow mercenary on the night she fled Cyre, and had been too ashamed to seek her out afterwards.  

“No Vala Doranetti has crossed the gate that I know of…and those caught in the Mourning never came here”

As Torlan tried to process the revelation that the victims of the Mourning had never arrived in Dolurrh, the composure Daina had been clinging to for her friend’s sake all day cracked.  “This was useless,” she cried, her voice breaking.  “I’m sorry, Torlan, I know you tried, I— I’m sorry.”  Before he could say a word, she fled back down the path to town before either he or Trucco could see her cry, leaving them with more questions than they’d had before consulting the spirit.


A Better Tomorrow


21 Olarune, 998YK. Rickety’s Squibs.

By mid-morning, Rickety’s Squibs was pleasantly abuzz with the satisfaction of another job well done.  As Captain Daina ir’Lizani and her crew stood on the docks looking out over the bay, their ship was towed out of the drydock and moored before them.  She was a sight to behold.  Sitting high in the water, her new lines were simple, sleek, and elegant, and the green and gold flag of Cyre flew from her mainmast.  For the first time in weeks, Daina couldn’t help but smile.  She turned her head as Free Captain Gaius ir’Trun, the man whose unexpected arrival the day before had thrown Rickety’s Squibs — and Daina’s protective instincts — into turmoil appeared at her side.  

“I know Rickety has something for you,” he began, “but again, my apologies for invading your space.  I would like to offer you and your crew this.”  Producing a bottle of wine from behind his back, he held it out to Daina.  It was a fifteen year-old red, of an excellent vintage…and it was from a Cyran vineyard.

Daina’s eyes went wide.  “Where did you get this?” she breathed, as Gaius held a finger to his lips with a shushing motion and a wink.  “I haven’t had a drop of this stuff in nearly ten years now, Gaius” she murmured.  “Thank you.” 

He smiled awkwardly.  “I thought this would be appropriate for the ship’s christening.”

“Ah,” Daina said, feeling some embarrassment rise up.  “That would be a better use of it, yes.”  She smiled.  “And you wanted to do the honours?”

“If you would have my hand,” Gaius replied, “yes.”

“Have her hand??” Torlan growled.  “What are you talking about?”

Daina studiously ignored her godfather’s outburst and continued.  “I would indeed like that, Captain Gaius — apologies, Free Captain.  You’ll notice that I haven’t introduced myself as a Free Captain because I do sail under a flag.  I sail under the flag of Cyre.”  As she passed the bottle back to Gaius, he bowed low, caught her hand up in his, and kissed it.  A small flush of red began to creep above her collar as he let go of her hand with a wink and the two of them walked forward to the bow of the ship.

“Now,”Gaius said, I’m not one for much pomp and circumstance.  I, Free Captain Gaius ir’Trun, christen this vessel The Crown & Bell.  May fair sails and good fortune await the one that cracks Tidewater Rock!”  With that, he smashed the bottle of wine against the ship’s bow as Daina led the crew in a cheer.

With Gaius still at her side, Captain Daina of Cyre smiled.  “She’s undergunned and undermanned,” Daina murmured, “but she’ll serve us well.  She’ll get to where she needs to be.”  Wishing each other well, the two captains parted ways as Daina’s crew made their final preparations.

“Christened by a flamingo,” Torlan growled as they stood on the Crown’s deck.  “I don’t approve.”

“That’s how you call Thranes?”  Trucco asked.  “Flamingoes?”

“I think he’s been quite kind to us, despite having started out on the wrong foot” Daina declared.  “Be nice to him, old man.  I think he’ll be a good ally.”

“You’ve known him for a day!” Torlan scowled.  “Don’t get too comfortable!”

Daina continued to ignore Torlan’s less than subtle overtones as she began guiding the Crown & Bell out of the bay.  It would be a little over a day’s sail to Cliffscrape, and the next chapter of a story none from this ragtag collection of refugees from the destruction of Cyre and the slavery of the Cloud Reavers had ever predicted.  The salt air was fresh with the promise of many new days ahead…and the seas of the Lhazaars were theirs to sail as free men and women who made their own fate.

What Cliffscrape held in store for them, however, is a story for another day.


Behind the Scenes

  • Question of the week: how has your upbringing affected your worldview?
  • At last we come to this campaign’s namesake: the Mourning. In Eberron lore, the Mourning is a cataclysmic event that occurred without warning, when a massive wall of grey mist appeared and rapidly expanded until it covered the entire nation of Cyre, killing everyone who was unable to run from its approach, like a tsunami…except it was a mist, and it covered the entire nation of Cyre…and only the entire nation of Cyre. The mists of the Mourning conformed perfectly to the nation’s geographical and political borders, affecting no people or land beyond them. The cause of the Mourning remains a mystery that haunts the continent of Khorvaire to this day, and was the direct cause of the remaining nations coming together to end a brutal, bloody hundred-year was of succession. No one has ever claimed responsibility for the Mourning, no one has ever come up with a plausible explanation for its cause, and without knowing why it happened, the fear that it could happen again lingers at the back of everyone’s mind.

    Very few Cyrans survived the event. Some were able to outrun it if they were close to a border, or the sea. Others, like Daina and Trucco, were not in Cyre when it happened. Though the remaining nations pay lip service to their pity for the Cyran diaspora, they continue to treat Cyrans as second and third-class citizens, offering them little refuge or help. Breland allows Cyrans who make it to the city of Sharn to live in a squalid, heavily guarded slum known as High Walls, or else to try their luck in “New Cyre,” a tract of land given to the only surviving member of Cyre’s royal family…which sounds like a generous gesture by the Brelish crown, but in truth, the land is land that no one else wants because it is useless. It has no natural resources, and the soil isn’t even good for agriculture. Four years after the Mourning, New Cyre remains a tent city that is passably more pleasant than living in High Walls, but it is nowhere close to being a place that the people of Cyre can make a true home out of. The Mourners of Lhazaar seek to step up where Breland, Prince Oargev, and all of Khorvaire have failed the Cyran people. Come hell or high water, Cyre will rise again.
  • Even in the face of somber remembrances, there can still be room for levity in a session…such as this gem of an exchange:

    Michael as Torlan, after hearing Rus collapse: “Hrm, I hate breaking down a door, but…”

    Phil: “You could check to see if it’s locked.”

    Michael: “Okay…I check to see if it’s locked.”

    Phil: “It’s not locked.”

    Michael: “Oh that’s good!”

    Phil: “How many doors have been broken down in TTRPGs just because somebody didn’t check the lock???”
  • Daina chastised Trucco for getting drunk at five bell’s. On a simplified ship’s bell, “five bells” is 10:30 a.m. or p.m. In this case, it was the former.
  • Yes folks, it happened again…

Technically speaking, I did not, in fact, draw this card for the third time in this campaign. Ernesto drew it, and now I owe him one for trading it to me. So for those of you keeping score, we now have a love triangle on our hands, with Daina at the top and Sashtroon and Gaius at the corners! Some of us like to sow chaos through criminal activities, cheating at cards, inviting betrayals, or offering human sacrifices to the Devourer. Some of us are more genteel in our chaos. :p Phil was aware that I wanted to play a card, which I suppose really has come to mean “I want to play Love Interest,” and I dropped it after Gaius presented Daina with that bottle of wine. Ernesto says this is the last Love Interest card he’s getting from me, and Michael has sworn that he will never, ever trade me one ever. And, you know, that’s fine. I don’t think this table could handle a love pentagram.

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