This Entry is from Dan B. and Markus W. Originally posted for a RedBrick contest which was never published. It comes complete with audio track...(to follow)
The Legend of Rune and Songblade
This story is one of unique importance for the world we live in. The world is very different from what it was. In the time before the Scourge, the land was powerful and name-givers took magic for granted, using and abusing it until the world began to stress from the wistfulness of it all. Magic was pulled, torn, and distorted to the point it could allow corruption to manifest itself from its nethers in Astral space. It started to strike back. Those who worked with this power were going mad, their minds twisted by something that worked its way into their thoughts slowly, methodically, maliciously. Others just disappeared, lost in the world they sought to control and exploit.
This desecration brought with it not just death, but delayed death. Pain, anguish, and cruelty were brought upon those who stood in its path, tortured endlessly before given their release from this new evil. The world was losing its life and nothing could deny the will of its invaders.
More and more magicians saw what was going on—the gathering evil and death—and urged others to make safe havens for all the races of the world and dig down to build kaers. Some chose to join the other name-givers in their holes and keeps. Others built citadels and fortresses of power to repel the gathering hordes of unseen evils.
Last of those to make for safe haven was the obsidiman Rune. Rune began a solemn march across Barsaive in the last days of enlightenment to the only thing an Obsidiman can describe as home—the Liferock.
Rune carried a unique sword known as Songblade and was known to play it, flute-like, after a victorious battle, with the blade pointed toward the ground in repose. The handle of the sword had been hollowed out and finger-holes had been carved into a straight line from pommel to bladeguard along the grip. He would place his fingers along the handle and would exhale steadily through his mouth into the pommel. Rune was not legendary in his deeds, or his battles. But the music from Songblade was remembered by the survivors long after Rune left the battlefield.
Rune started east heading to the
from whence the earth herself had delivered Rune to her surface. Rune ran through farms, communities,
villages, all abandoned to await the coming horde. From abandoned city to abandoned city Rune
ran steadily, eventually noticing the coming quiet. He noticed that even nature herself had grown
silent, seemingly intuitively aware of the impending change. Animals had made themselves scarce. Soon only the wind, rain, earth, and sun touched
Rune’s senses. Caucavic Mountains
Rune missed the birds’ songs most of all. During rest he would play Songblade in poor imitation of their calls. Their song was his light against the coming darkness. But the only sound he heard was the howling wind.
With the approaching gloom in both heart and the world, Rune knew he would not reach his Liferock in time. A decision had to be made. He passed by more sealed kaers, empty t’skrang enclosures, and abandoned structures where he could not convince others to allow him entry. They were already safe, and he could not allow them to jeopardize that security. But time was not up yet. He hurried onward.
He traveled close to the edge of the ancient elven woods and saw on the horizon the swarm of Horrors that bore down upon the earth. He could not yet hear this despicable army but he knew his time was out. He sought refuge within the woods. He pushed onward, deep, hoping to delay the onslaught in the earth’s wooden embrace. He ran until he came to a small clearing. The open ground did not make him stop, it was the lone tree in the center of the clearing, which had a very stubborn or naive family of birds among its branches. The only birds he had heard in weeks. They were chirping and singing as loud as they could.
The darkness closed in as the invaders began to blot out the sun. With the small hint of sunlight still visible on the tree, seemingly defiant against the oncoming horde, Rune looked to the tree and the large boulder nestled under it.
The Scourge had reached the woods. Knowing he could go no further, the first glimpses of evil permeating his senses, he drew Songblade. Standing alone with the birds’ chorus forcing itself into his senses he raised his sword and steeled himself, awaiting his fate.
The birds. The birds kept singing. They would die singing. Rune thought that their song would be much more pleasant to listen to than the cacophonous sounds of battle. His grip on Songblade tightened as he moved to the rock beneath the tree, and inverted Songblade. If he were to die, he would die with a song on his lips.
He put the pommel to his mouth and began to accompany the birds by playing the flute that was built into the hilt of the weapon. He joined the chirps and tweets with short crisp notes, and felt his heart lighten.
He let the birds sing as he began to play songs he knew from battles past; anthems and ballads, songs of victory, regret, loss, and rebellion. Music began to overwhelm him. Melodies sprang forth from Songblade like never before. They rang out, coaxing the birds to sing louder, joining in the revelry. Each song drew on memories of his Liferock, his friends both recent and long passed. The music was weaving actions of the living world with the energy of the small vigor of life around him.
Rune could see the Horrors approaching, pausing, savoring the life forces of their next victims here in this clearing. Their slow and menacing movement was halted. They could advance no further toward their intended victims. Life itself had found a champion and was not to surrender its newfound heroes.
The music had seemed to stop the evil at the edge of the woods around him. Rune played more fervently. En masse, Horrors began to advance painstakingly toward him, only to be pushed back. They began to flail and throw themselves at him, striking out, with more anger and rage. The notes and chords seemed to assault them on their approach with a ferocity no horror could match.
Rune played on, and the birds sang with him. For hours and days the obsidiman’s resolve did not waver. Emboldened by the earth herself, channeled through the rock upon which he sat, his solace had been replaced by resolve. He would not falter, he would not fail. He would keep an innocent family of birds safe as long as he could draw breath to play Songblade. And the patience of obsidimen draws from the durability of the mountains from which they come.
Whenever Rune felt weak or tired, as if he could not play anymore, he felt a reassuring hand on his shoulder, urging him to go on. Encouraging voices bade him sing song-like to keep playing. He soon felt refreshed and exhaustion left him, replaced by new strength and peace while Horror after Horror flailed nearby.
When the elves of this wood scarred themselves, tainted their homes, lands, and very souls to keep the Horrors out they could not corrupt this clearing. Long after the Horrors fled, the elves futilely tried to encompass it. Eventually the elves ceased their attempts to assimilate this clearing into the rest of the woods, refocusing on their own plights. Over the years the rest of the wood grew up dark, twisted and tainted, but the clearing stayed the same as the day Rune stumbled in and chose to protect an all too stubborn family of birds. The only new visible growth was the flowering ivy that grew over the tree, the earth and the rock like a cloak.
Since the opening of kaers across Barsaive, travelers who pass near the Bloodwood tell stories of faint music drifting on the breeze out of the woods, joyful music that sounds like nature renewed. No one has been brave enough to enter the woods unbidden to find the source of the music and the Elves deny its existence and offer no explanation. None will confess to the existence of a glen of the woods untouched by the Scourge or the legendary warrior/piper who supposedly protected it.
The Legend of Rune and Songblade is told by Troubadours and Warriors alike, especially those who may have traveled near the Bloodwood at some point. This tale is told as a reminder of the place that beauty and art hold in the world against all forms of darkness and oppression. It is also told as a reminder that at no time is hope lost forever, and that last acts of defiance may not involve violence.
The legend was not discovered until after the Scourge and the elves of the Blood Wood still deny these happenings.
The fate of Rune is left to the gamemaster. Rune could have been given safe haven by the Blood elves and, therefore, protected (they will deny this as well). Rune could have fallen to the Horrors and now be a pawn in a current scheme. Rune may have created a new Liferock in the boulder with the magic of a dying act. Rune could have remained victorious during the Scourge, and once the Scourge ended he simply traveled onward, eventually merging with his Liferock. Perhaps a passing dragon rescued Rune during his struggle. Who knows?
In the case of Rune surviving (stranger things have happened) the Gamemaster may create Rune as a Warrior with the artisan skill of music, or as a Troubadour.
Any of the above scenarios lends itself to a full adventure easily in search of either Rune, the Songblade, or the clearing within the Blood Wood. Perhaps there is now a species of birds within the woods that can bestow magical healing properties.
Regardless, the pre-Scourge sword known as Songblade (if to be used as a magical treasure) has the following statistics:
Maximum Threads: 2
Spell Defense: 21
Rank 1 Cost: 500
Key Knowledge: Songblade is a two-handed sword with a flute created as a hollow-handle for the user to play as an instrument. The weapon is played with the blade facing away from the user, the notes emanating from the flute near the bladeguard. The user must know that the weapon is Named Songblade.
Effect: The sword allows the user to detect the presence of Horrors and Horror constructs within a radius of 500 yards. The user makes a Perception test against the Spell Defense of any Horrors or Horror constructs within range. If successful the flute plays a melody of up to 5 notes. Each note indicates the range of the Horror. Example: The flute plays 3 notes to indicate that the Horror is within 300 yards. Increase the wielder’s Social Defense by +1 .
Rank 2 Cost: 800
Key Knowledge: The wielder must learn the name of the town Rune was in when he started his final journey across Barsaive.
Effect: The sword adds +8 steps to the wielder’s Strength for Damage Tests. Increase the wielder’s Social Defense by +2.
Rank 3 Cost: 1,300
Key Knowledge: The wielder must learn the name of the Air Spirit trapped within the flute of Songblade. The Name of the Air Spirit is Kuwanlelenta. The Spirit bound to the weapon is a benevolent spirit toward Name-Givers and also desires the removal of all Horrors from the world.
Effect: Upon being played as a musical instrument, the sword grants the wielder a version of the Spirit power Enrage Element. For 4 Strain points of Damage the music emanating from Songblade creates a physical barrier of sound that extends out a number of yards equal to 5x the wielder’s Willpower step. The Damage Rating of this circle of sound is equal to the wielder’s Physical Defense and Spell Defense combined. The barrier also has a Physical Armor rating equal to the Wielder’s Willpower step.
Rank 4 Cost: 2,100
Deed: The wielder must play the instrument during a battle in support of a combatant who is outnumbered 5 to 1. The wielder cannot engage the opponents in combat. If the weaker combatant wins the conflict this Deed is worth 2,100 Legend Points which the wielder can only use to weave threads to SongBlade. If the weaker combatant is not victorious the wielder receives no Legend points towards this deed.
Effect: The sword adds +9 steps to the wielder’s Strength for Damage Tests. Even 1 Damage Point inflicted by the sword will cause a Wound on a Horror or Horror Construct. The Wielder adds + 1 to both his Physical and Spell Defense.
Rank 5 Cost: 3,400
Key Knowledge: The wielder must learn the name of the Nethermancer who summoned and bound the Air Spirit to SongBlade.
Effect: The sword allows the character to cast the Restrain Horror Spell (p. 365 EDPC). The wielder uses his or her Thread Weaving Talent to weave the required threads and make the Spellcasting test. The Effect step is determined as normal per the spell’s description.
Rank 6 Cost: 5,500
Deed: The wielder must find out what became of Rune and pay tribute to him at his Liferock. This Deed is worth 5,500 Legend points which the wielder can only use to weave threads to SongBlade.
Effect: The sword adds +10 steps to the wielder’s Strength for Damage Tests. The sword allows the character to cast the Void Wave Spell (p. 368 EDPC). The wielder uses his or her Thread Weaving Talent to weave the required threads and make the Spellcasting test. The Effect step is determined as normal per the spell’s description.
Rank 7 Cost: 8,900
Deed: The wielder must take Songblade into the Bloodwood, find an open clearing a minimum of 5 yards in diameter, and stake the sword blade-first into the ground. He or she must then wait until five birds have perched atop the sword, representing the five elements. The union between the earth and the air symbolized, the sword and the wielder have then received Jaspree’s Blessing. This deed is worth 8,900 Legend points which the wielder can only use to weave threads to SongBlade..
Effect: The wielder may now call forth the Air Spirit bound to Songblade by speaking aloud its name. The Spirit is a Strength 9 Air Spirit with the following powers: Aid Summoner 9, Astral Sight 23, Engulf 22, Enrage Element 22, Manifest 9, Manipulate Element 22, Share Knowledge 9, Spear 22. The Air Spirit will combat Horrors and Horror constructs only and will not combat Name-Givers unless they are under the control of, or possessed by, a Horror.