Reign of Winter

Jack on Masks
Jack tells a story about Masks (an old, unshared story)

Masks / Identity
“There was a city some of us would visit in Taldor, yearly for a number of springs. They would have a festival in spring, celebrating the end of winter. It was a time of celebration, as flowers bloomed, the airs warmed, jackets came off, and animals emerged from their dens. The was a big festival in town, and we would help with the celebrations. Standard stuff, dancing, food, wine, speeches of the changing of the seasons, of the new beginning of the year. Beyond that, though, there was a group that held a more private celebration in the manor. A few of us, men and women from the caravan, were invited. When we arrived, we were sent, one by one into a room, and required to select and don a mask for the evening, and given non-descript robes. Of course, without an explicit request to keep the robe on.”

Jack grins, seeming to reminisce.

“Everyone at the party was wearing different masks and the same non-descript robes. The evening got, interesting, to say the least. I witnessed things that surprised me, the openness in how people acted, the way they spoke, the things they did, so open and uninhibited. I could tell by their hands, their arms, their feet and backs, that there were people from all walks of life. Calloused hands and fingers were intertwined with those that had never seen a day in the field. Young and old, fat and thin. It was quite obvious, at least to me, who many of the people were, based on their size and shape and skin. But the masks. They seemed to let people believe that they had anonymity, that they would not be held responsible for their actions, that they would not be judged. But there was more, not only did the mask let you pretend like you weren’t you, to have your identity removed, but that in some cases they seemed to give a new identity. To allow you to be someone else. People dressed with beast masks, like tigers and hawks, were aggressive, circling, while those with sheep and deer were passive, and tended to stay together, seemingly waiting to be picked off by the beasts. There were others too, monsters, plants, landscapes, or just colours and patterns.”

”I wondered, over the years, does a person choose their mask, or does the mask choose the person? Is someone in a wolf mask a sheep by nature, or does a sheep mask conceal a wolf? Or is the mask a chance to truly be who you are inside? Or is it different for each person? So what can you really tell?”

“My friend, Anathia, who attended the same celebration for several years, once said that we all wear masks, even when we don’t. I think this is a very true thing.“

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Emo Jack
An unsent writeup from several months back

Emotions
Having spent so much time with non-elves, particularly his adopted Gnome family, Jack has become even more emotional than others of his race. This is generally reflected in a positive way, through his love of poetry, song, and dance, his belief in the goodness of others, and a general passion for live. Though there are times, though infrequent, when his emotions are not light and positive, and are instead deep and negative. Most of Jack’s life has been filled with love and happiness, though there was a time when things were filled with sadness and hate. And sometimes, despite his best efforts to be positive, events around him bring forth the darker parts of his memories and personality, revealing loneliness, pain, loss, a desire for revenge, and to make himself feel better by hurting others. Sometimes, when things get dark around him, his light is dimmed, and he embraces the darkness around him instead of fighting against it. Like a star in the night’s sky, that is overwhelmed by the darkness around it.

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Jack's Emotional State
What's the deal with Jack

Now in Irrisen

His first days in Irrisen were fine. Kind of cold and frightful, the company so delightful. The land was harsh. The government oppressive and cruel. Attempts to reason with people had been failing regularly, and it was being revealed that a lot of people could not be trusted. And not just in a not pay you back the 5gp they owe you kind of way, but in the we’re going to drug your tea and help the witches spy on you kind of way. But moral was high, and he was keen to try and help his friends make things better.

He started to learn more about the evils of the land, and witnessing some first hand – Nadia’s daughter stolen and sacrificed, the stories of Feril’s village and family being crucified and tortured, the harsh rule of the town by the local witchery, neighbours betraying neighbours, closed borders, no free trade or travel, paranoia towards outsiders, rampant xenophobia, threats of war and invasion of other lands, and a lot of just generally evil stuff.

He had killed more people and creatures in the last week than he had in his previous 130 years, and for some reason seemed to almost be revelling in it at times, laughing and smiling as he painted the walls with his opponent’s blood. His attitude towards killing had been surprising to him, revelling in intimidating his opponents and causing them fear before slaying them. He’d even slain several people in their sleep with a surprising lack of guilt or afterthought, easily justifying it as him or them, or that they were evil, or something something if they had a chance to stab him they would, wave of the hand, let’s move on.

But things were okay, and he was still himself and feeling good.

Until the ice tower.

The curse struck him harder than anything that came before. It was a trap, just a trap, protecting some treasure room, in some tower, belonging to some witch. But it revealed somethings to him, some very important things, of this land and its people.

This wasn’t a place where he could waltz into a treasure room and expect his reflexes to save him from some clumsily made arrow trap. Where people protect their treasure through inflicting physical injury and death, hoping to just straight up eliminate the threat. This wasn’t the sort of place to be carefree and trusting. This wasn’t the sort of place to be a lute playing, charming, overconfident, optimistic, bringer of joy and levity.

This was the sort of place where people protect their treasures by inflicting long term injury and disability on potential thieves, preferring to cruelly inflict pain and suffering in exchange for their pilfered goods. This was a place of powerful magic. This was a place filled with distrust, danger, cruelty, and evil. This was a place to take seriously.

This wasn’t the sort of place to be Jack.

This was the sort of place where he could die.

If he was going to survive here, he was going to have to change. If he was going to do more than survive – if he was going to fight and defeat the evil of this land, free its people from its cruel rulers, and help protect the rest of Golarion from invasion – he was going to have to change a lot.

He needed to become darker, harder, less forgiving. His enemies will show him no mercy, not in this land, so he shall show them none in response. He was playing the long game. To survive, to win the war, to bring the greater good, even if to do so he would be acting in ways that others would consider not good.

Beyond this reasoned (Wisdom 8) decision on the need to change, he could also feel himself changing physically, to match the land itself. He knew Elves often change physically to match their surroundings, he’d seen it before in himself during his travels, but never this quick or to this extent. His hair was losing its luster, as was his skin, and he suspected his eyes were changing too, based on the looks from his friends (no mirrors to verify). He was becoming paler, matching the snow and ice, starting to become an almost grey scale version of himself. As if the light was leaving him, and he was moving into shadow.

But he had not lost the light, not like when he was a child, not when he came close to losing everything. He was not adrift, he was not lost. He was focused now. Perhaps more so than he had ever been. He knew what he had to do to survive. And he was now willing to make the hard decisions, the decisions that people don’t want to make when faced with them. To do what needs to be done, even if some may disagree with it, because a failure to make the hard choice may mean death for us all, and our mission to fail. He will ensure that he and his companions will live to see this through to the end.

Once he has reached the end, and he has done what he can to free this land and its people. Then he will atone.

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Curses

Jack:
Jack, having just been struck by some sort of magic upon entering the treasure room, turns around slowly, the tip of his sword slowly lowering to the ground, as if it has gotten too heavy for him. You see his face, now gaunt and pale, the colour and warmth drained from it, looking as if he has aged several centuries in just a few seconds. He looks to Samir and Gerda, obvious pain in his eyes, his sword now dropping from his hand and clattering on the icy floor.

“I feel… bad…”, dropping to his knees, and slumping against the wall,

“I’m… so… cold…”, wrapping his cloak tightly around his shriveled frame,

He looks up at Samir and Gerda again, his eyes still showing pain, but also revealing something that his eyes have never before betrayed. Fear. Panic.

“This… place… is dark…”

Later that day, as the villagers are given time to escape through the portal before shutting it, Jack plays a very sad song on his lute.

Jack’s Song:
Crow sitting
separated from each other,
plant
because it is so backward.

Birds are cleaned,
food
only
I wonder why not save.
Why not saved
help him.

Bird sitting on a perch,
All other hours to fly
down and clean it so.
Sung to the stars

I asked above, why is it so hated.
He cries:
and sad, lonely song
Rising…

It ranges from the wind,
as can be expressed in words.
Serve with dust and sounds
Changes in non-uniform air
until it reaches the ears dull,

Lonely Girl.
She falls asleep with tears struck
Click noise
Sad, lonely song
Sad, lonely crow.

birds die
sad and lonely.
This is the last song I heard only two:
other
which are not sufficient interested.
and
sad
single
girl.

Jack’s actual song as translated by Feril:
Crow dying
separated from omelette,
peanuts
because it is so ackward.

Birds are shaved,
root
only
I wonder why not bacon.
Why not shaved
help him.

Bird sitting on a fish,
All other hours to fly
down and clean it so.
Sung to the sharks

I asked above, why is it so red.
He cries:
and bad, lonely song
Rising…

It stranges from the wind,
as can be expressed in worlds.
Serve with dust and ground
Changes in non-uniform bear
until it reaches the seagull,

Lonely Girl.
She falls sheep with tears duck
Click noise
Sad, lonely song
Sad, lonely crow.

birds fry
sad and lonely.
This is the last song I heard only flu:
other
which are not sufficient interested.
and
bad
single
girl.

Zuri:
At a break in Jack’s sad song, Zuri will try to cheer him up by offering him the sheet music. “Here. I found these downstairs.” And then, in a friendly tone, completely ruin it by saying; “And if you run into any big words in your new book, just let me know.”

Jack’s discussion with Hatch:
While we are sitting around, for however long that may be, Jack spends some time by himself. He’s not feeling good about this whole being in Irrisen thing. The curse hit him hard, more than any physical blow, and although the curse has (presumably) already been removed through the use of a scroll, it has left deep scars on his psyche. He feels worn out and tired, and his thoughts have turned negative.

He starts thinking about his childhood home, his family, and how he felt after losing them (something he hadn’t thought about for a long time, at least until coming to Irrisen). He thinks about how helpless he was when it happened, and how much he hated the people who did it, and how he wished he had been old enough and strong enough to stand and fight to protect his village, to protect his friends, to protect his brothers and sisters and parents. He thinks about how he wished he could have saved them, or died with a sword in his hand.

He sits and thinks dark thoughts.

He notices Hatch shift on his shoulder, momentarily dislodging Jack from his dark thoughts.

He starts thinking about Hatch. The Domovoi makes his home in other people’s homes, wherever he gets the right feeling of welcome and warmth. His home was with Nadia and her kids. And when that home was threatened, Hatch did what he could to help fight back and protect his home.

“Hatch” Jack says quietly.

(maybe Hatch hears him and responds / listens)

“I think you and I have something very important in common. We both believe that our homes can be almost any place where we are surrounded by those we care about, and those that care for us. For most of my life, my home was a caravan that traveled around Casmaron. There was no one place that I called home. But, like you, every place that had the right feel became my home.”

“When I was a child, my home was threatened. I ran away, I guess because I thought I was too small, or too scared. And I lost my home and family. But Hatch, when Nadia was threatened, the town was threatened, and your home was threatened, you agreed to help us fight back. Even though you are small, smaller than me as a child, and were, and maybe still are, rightfully scared. But you went above and beyond what anyone expected, and we have won this battle today largely because of your help. I think I admire you, Hatch.”

“Hatch, I don’t know where you are going to go after this, or what you are going to do. If you will return to Nadia’s home, or maybe go and find a new one with a new family. But I know where I am going and what I am going to do. I am going to stay here in Irrisen, and help protect it from this evil that I am not even close to understanding yet. I’m going to protect Irrisen, not because I love this land, but because I love these people,” gesturing towards the rest of the group, “This is Gerda and Feril’s home, and by extension, my home. And this time, I’m going to help fight for it.”

“Hatch, I know you’ve already done more than most people would ever do when faced with the danger we faced today. But I’d like to ask if you would stay with us for a while, and help us in our fight. Although Irrisen is far bigger than Nadia’s house, all of the land and its people need protecting, and we are going to need all the help we can to protect them. We might be on the road a lot, but I will do what I can to keep you safe and comfortable during our trip. If at any time things get too dangerous for you, and you are absolutely certain you want to leave us, I will do what I can to get you to safety as soon as possible, and as our current situation allows. I’m not asking for you to pick up a blade, but I’m sure your knowledge, advice, and talents would be invaluable in the days to come. If you can help keep us safe, it will help us make Irrisen safe.”

“What do you think, Hatch? Shall we work together to protect Irrisen?”

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Conversations with Nadya

Feril:
“Nadya, before we came to Irrisen through the portal, you must understand that we had no idea of the significance of what we experienced.
It is with our sincerest regret and apologies that we have to let you know that we witnessed the passing of Thora’s spirit in to the realm of the Gods.”

Let her take it in, support her in her grief before trying to give her an avenue to move past her grief

“It seems the Queen and White Witches in their haste to invade other realms and to secure their power against the return of Baba Yaga have taken to using any means necessary, and Thora and the other children may be the first casualties in a War brewing for control of the world. I cannot understand your grief, or your pain, there can be no consolation for the loss of a child. I do understand the loss of family… I spent years running from that pain. I would beg you, if you have it in you, to harness that pain, that grief and rage, and help us. Help us to rally others to a cause that will see that no child is ever taken again. Let Thora be the banner under which we unite to free others from the Tyranny of the White Witches. Too long has fear dominated and darkened these lands. Let Thora be our guiding light, and together we can temper the pain into a cause that will bring freedom to all.”

Jack:
Later in the evening, perhaps as Nadya is sitting near the fire, and we are all sitting quietly, perhaps silently thinking on the day’s events and what comes before us, Jack would like to approach her. Kneeling in front of her, gently placing his hand on her forearm, he looks at her eyes, deeply, maybe seeing them streaked with tears and swollen, maybe filled with steely resolve. If she looks at all receptive, Jack asks her,

“May I share a story with you?”

If she declines, or does not seem in the mood, Jack leaves her be, perhaps retiring for the night. If she seems at all willing to hear his story, Jack goes into the following,

“When I was a child, I lost my family. There was a man, a man with power, but who wanted far more. He had raised an army, a manifestation of his greed, and gave others the choice to either bend the knee and kiss his ring, or be crushed. My village had existed for millennia, so it was probably of no surprise to anyone that we did not bend to his demands. This man probably even suspected we would resist, perhaps planning all along to make an example of us, for others who may think about standing against him.”

Jack stands, turning towards the fire, placing a hand on the hearth. His gaze turns to the fire, and continues,

“I lost my family that night. All of it. I watched my mother, sword in hand, cut down by a dozen soldiers. My father died as he tried to save my brother and sister from our house, as it burned to the ground. My aunts and uncles, my grandparents, my cousins, my little nieces and nephews. Every one of them died that night. I watched them bleed and burn."

“All of them.”

Jack stares at the hot embers, at the heart of the fire. Face stern, eyes locked on the embers.

“Of my blood, only I lived through that night.”

His gaze returns slowly to Nadya.

“I do not tell you this to inspire you towards revenge. For I sought no revenge against the men who took my family from me, or the man who ordered it. I know not of what happened to this man and his army and his empire, though I suspect that all three are now long dead and dust.”

“I do not tell you this to try and compare the pain of our losses, to diminish what you are feeling, or to even pretend to know the feelings you have right now. As I do not. I have never lost a child. I do not know your pain, and pray I never will."

“I tell you this because of what my loss did to me. And how close it came to consuming me.”

Jack returns his gaze to the fire.

“There’s a poem I wrote. Shortly after my family died. When I thought that I too, would also die.”

Staring at the fire, he recites the following,

It hovers here, a moon opaque,
obscuring all the paths I take.
No other living thing appears.
A moon opaque. . . It hovers here.

I follow on along a ledge;
above a swirling river’s edge.
In front of me, the chasm yawns.
Along a ledge, I follow on.

Now all is dim; it matters not.
My loved ones hearts I have not got.
No use in living without them.
It matters not. Now all is dim.

At peace I’ll be if I should fall
to murky water from this wall.
Oh, dark chasm, swallow me.
When I fall, at peace I’ll be.

Jack pauses.

“It was.. a few years later, when I added another verse.”

What of hope, is it no more?
Is it more than I can ask for?
But what is that I see, unless
A glimmer of light in the darkness

Jack kneels next to Nadya again, looking up into her eyes,

“Feril is right. It is when things are at their darkest, that finding the light is most important. Whatever, and wherever you may find that light. I let the darkness consume me, and I almost didn’t escape.”

Jack slowly stands, gently brushing his hand through her hair, and leaning in to touch his forehead against hers in what he hopes is interpreted to be a sign of support / protection / empathy. He moves towards the door, and quietly slips out into the night,

“I’m going for a walk.”


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Jack's cutting remarks

This elk is dead,
As is its master,
Compared to last battle,
This went much faster.
Samir and Gerda’s intelligence,
Saw through the lip synced chatter,
While I presented evidence,
That size doesn’t matter.

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The adventure begins
First session

See you all for the first session – September 14.

We’ll start with character introductions and character connection stories.

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Coming up ...
Character creation

See you on September 3 at 7 pm

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