The previous session ended on high drama: Marcus beat Chardonnay in a fight and took his Champion's badge, and an ominous incident with a rat scared Cinzano.
A couple of weeks have passed since the funeral, and Rain has bled over into Spring. The Tribe has 1 Afraid (from Absinthe's prophecy) and 1 Hurt (from the fight between Chardonnay and Marcus). The Eater idol, in all its glory, sits outside Behold's burrow, quieter now that his daughter has headed out into the Between.It is time for an adventure called Queen of all she surveys.
Back in the nest the debate about the Champion still rages. Marcus is trying to argue that the Champion isn't needed — there should be a chief warrior, but someone more level headed should be in charge. Tonic, ever the traditionalist, says that chief warrior is the same thing as Champion! We start the session playing this argument out in character, with the other characters siding with Tonic. Eventually Tonic agrees that perhaps a negotiator of some sort is needed — everyone has heard about the rat's message — but that doesn't mean they shouldn't have a Champion, they just need someone else as well, a mastermind, a leader. Tonic remembers a picture she saw on a bottle once of an Eater who seems to fit the part, and proposes that the new role be called The Napoleon. Marcus has no choice but to agree.
The players quickly decide that an election is the right way to choose a Napoleon. Marcus demurs, so Junizu puts herself forward. So does Vimto. As soon as Vimto does, Merlot does, and Behold decides to throw his paw in the ring as well. The election is fought dirtily, but in the end Jinzu wins. We come up with a new power for the Napoleon title — once per adventure, she can remove a point of Hurt from the Tribe, and she quickly heals the 1 Damage from last session.
Apparently just in time. No sooner has Jinzu accept the offer than Bailey arrives at the nest with an urgent message. Three strange Hylin are approaching, and they smell of rat!
Soon the strange Hylin arrive. They are dark grey, but on each one's back a rat's paw-print in white can be seen. The scouts think there may be rats close by, but they appear to be trying not to show themselves. The strangers introduce themselves as Kree, Killi, and Kora — Bondmice of the Queen of the Eater Kit Pack, also called "Queen of the Upper Places", leader of the rat pack. The Bondmice are a Hylin tribe that have sworn some sort of allegiance to the rats. Kree calls it "a partnership" but the Cold Stone mice aren't sure.
The new Napoleon Jinzu, and the Champion Chardonnay, greet the strangers constantly. They ask for shelter, they've been in the Between for days, and Merlot cunningly presses the former quarantine camp of the Black Dust Tribe into use. Kora hangs a banner on the front.
The next day the Bondmice present an offer from the Queen. She invites the Cold Stone Tribe to send representatives up to her nest, with a view to joining her alliance. Kree, earnest, assures the players that they must do so, they have no choice. A terrible doom is coming, and the rats are the only hope they have for survival! Killi seems less fervent, but doesn't speak up, and no one gets the chance to speak to him alone. When they don't believe him he tells them that there is absolute proof at the rat's nest. If they come, he can show them. Reluctantly the Cold Stone Tribe agrees to send a delegation.
Meanwhile Jinzu and Behold try to work out who these Bondmice are. Not Cold Stone, not Black Dust. The only other Tribe they have ever heard of was called "High Wood" but they know nothing about them.
The delegation sets out a few days later. It consists of Merlot, Marcus, Jinzu, Chardonnay (still due to have a duel with the Queen's champion), Atrox (who prepares by making poison with Chardonnay), and Glenlivet. Behold does not wish to go, so his player quickly generates a character sheet for Tabasco, who goes as a proxy for Vimto.
On the road
It is a two day trip up through the verticals and levels to the rat's nest. The party sees no rats, but is sure they are close by. On the way Marcus tries his best to befriend Killi, but the youngster is nervous, and reticent. Even with the other distracting Kora and Kree he won't open up entirely, but promises to show Marcus something when they get to the nest.
The Rat's Nest
The rat's nest is a huge heap of torn cloth and stolen clothing pressed up against a vertical high up in the Between. One of the Eater Kits' idols, its head chewed off, stands at an angle at the front. Bondmice scurry about, while huge rats swagger. It is terrifying, but Chardonnay uses the Champion's ability to make everyone avoid the Afraid Damage. No sooner have the party arrived than a massive rat with one white paw appears — Whiteclaw. Whiteclaw would happily fight Chardonnay on the spot, but the Queen wants to see them.
The visitors are led to the Queen's chamber, a big open space with a lead river running along the back, and many rat hangers on, heaped up in a pile with the Queen on top. Kree seems to be a favoured councillor.
The Queen offers much the same as Kree has outlined. An alliance, although one where the rats are clearly on top. She presents it as both the sensible option, and an inevitable one. She doesn't go as far as actually threatening them, but close to it. (Some players are of the opinion that this sweet approach is Kree's plan, rather than the Queen's.) The characters try arguing, but without conviction, and she cuts them short by ordering Kree to give them a tour of the nest, so that they can see how nice it is, and then be given a chance to rests and discuss. It's clear they won't be allowed to leave.
Kree takes the characters on a guided tour, where they see happy and well-fed Bondmice working with the rats and living in spacious burrows. He makes it sound like a rat-led utopia. Marcus, meanwhile, is desperately looking for an opportunity to slip away with Killi and find what he wanted to show them. Tabasco enters a trance state where he sees the patterns and movements of the rats, picking out the perfect moment where Marcus can slip away.
Killi takes Marcus into a side-passage and explains that the mice they have just seen are "trusties" working with the Queen. Most of the Bondmice are ill-fed and ill-treated, kept trapped in their own warren. He tells Marcus that they used to be the High Wood Tribe once, but the rats conquered them. Their own Champion fought a rat and almost won, but the rats killed him anyway and seized the tribe. Now they are prisoners. Marcus tries to persuade Killi to rebel, but the youngster is too afraid; Marcus will need to talk to the other mice directly.
Killi tries to take Marcus to the Bondmouse warren, but they find the way guarded by two rats. Marcus tries to bribe them with food, but they take the food and smack him, and he has to run away. Killi tells him that the only other way into the warren is a back tunnel full of spiders, but Marcus doesn't fancy that alone.
Meanwhile, back in the main nest, Jinzu and Merlot ask Kree to show them the 'evidence' he mentioned back at Cold Stone. He agrees, and leads Jinzu, Merlot, and Atrox to the lead river. A hole has been gnawed in the side, and they see that it is hollow. Following it for some way they find themselves looking out over the Great Empty! It is full of fire! Pillars of light cross the open space; things burn and collapse; huge roars shake the night! The sight inflicts 1 Afraid on each of them. Kree tells them that the Eaters have turned on them, they are destroying the Between, and it is growing worse, day by day. Soon their part of the Between will be destroyed too, and only the rats can save them.
The chastened and afraid Hylins accept the offer of a place to rest and eat, and meet up with Marcus. Fearing that they might be overheard through the thin walls, they scribble notes on scraps of cloth and then eat them. They need a plan, but they haven't got one, other than a fight to the death with Whiteclaw. "If I win, they might let us go, or respect us," says Chardonnay, then Marcus tells him about the fate of High Wood's champion. Atrox considers poisoning the whole nest, but he doesn't have enough poison, but maybe he can make whiteclaw sick? Marcus wants a rebellion, but is no closer to having it.
The session ends with no plan yet winning, but this adventure will be three sessions long, so they have time.
- There was a lot of RP this week, which is no bad thing, although it doesn't test a lot of mechanics.
- Marcus failed a roll for the first time! Rats are more serious Trouble than mice or woodlice!