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Mike (DM Mykkal)

Horselords III: Songs of Hell

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Details coming soon.

All dates tentative.

[November 11, 2019 Prologue] Book Club

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(Earlier in the day)  Aruncus rides along the North Road.  She overhears two girl rangers giggling.  Pausing to eavesdrop, she over hears them chatting about That Book.  Between the girls' giggling fits, she catches the name... Canon... and speculation he may be giving a reading during the book club later that day at the Annakol Theater.  Aruncus nudges her horse along and heads back to camp to prepare.

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(later that night) It was standing room only for the event at the Annakol Theater.  Dime, Kothgar, Locks, and Smash were a few familiar faces in the crowd waiting to hear Canon.  He appears in a flash and jumps right into a reading from his book, Horselords: A Complete History.  He then moves to questions from the crowd.  Answers were.... less than insightful and he often had an out of focused look to his eye.  Aruncus appears in the back of the crowd and asks about her less than flattering portrayal.  Canon only has praise for Aruncus and calls her the heart of the Horselords, a confusing contradiction based on his writing.  Another question comes from a Mysterious Woman with a warm smile.  She asks Canon to read a passage from Chapter 1.  Canon does, but she has a follow up question: will Canon read it again, but BACKWARDS this time.  Canon, never one to disappoint a fan, begins to reread the passage and in doing so chants in Abyssal and opens a passage to the First Circle of Hell.  The audience runs off, leaving Dime, Kotghar, Locks, and Smash to wrestle with the Hell Archers summoned forth.  The Mysterious Woman disappears taking Canon and Aruncus with her.  Dime explains, "We need the Horselords!"

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[December 2, 2018]

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The Horselords are gathered around the campfire in Sidonia's keep.  They are busy mending their boots, cooking, and caring for their horses.  The conversation causally turns to the whereabouts of Aruncus, when Dime and Kothgar burst into the camp.  They exclaim that something happened at the Annakol Theater involving Canon and a portal to Hell.  The riders give a lukewarm response to hearing of Canon in peril.  When Dime and Kothgar mention Aruncus is also in danger, the Harras spring forward and ride to her aid.  In the city, they encounter the Annakol Theater in flames and denizens from the First Circle of Hell moving about.  The riders defeat the Hell-beasties, resurrect Smash, and close the portal by countering Canon's incantation.

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Lady Sidonia appears at the theater and apologies, to the surprise of the Horselords.  She explains that she and Zamboni grew concerned over Canon's book about the Horselords.  In it, he detailed the lives of the rider's in too much detail, so Zamboni enchanted Canon, twisting his writing into a nonsensical story.  But the magic that cloaked the Horselords was not impervious to all spellcraft.  It appears a Servant of Loki has discovered the magic and a way to corrupt it further.  When read backwards by Canon and other likely bards portals to Hell can open. 

Sidonia tasks the Horselords, Dime, and Kothgar to track down the Servant of Loki and stop them, rescue Canon, Aruncus, and the others (here, here) in their midst, and stop the chaos from spreading across the lands.

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[December 9, 2018]

Aruncus lands with a hard thump as she is thrown into the back of the covered wagon. Canon lands nearby, with a loud groan, but not from him but from a larger framed, bound man with a striking resemblance to Canon. "They finally got you," says a caged third man from the dark corner of the wagon. Aruncus pulls herself up only to be suddenly thrown back to the floor as the wagon lurches forward at travels at a great pace.   From the sounds of the wheels, Aruncus can tell they are moving across the paved streets of Annakol, and then onto the dirt road, and then into the woods. She quickly grabs her copy of Horselords: The Complete Story and rips a page.  She slides it out through the crack under the wagon door.  Canon gasps at her action, and asks what is she doing! Aruncus, somehow finding the energy to smile, looks at Canon and tears another page from the book.  "I'm leaving a crumb trail," she says as she takes another page and slides it out the crack.  Even though she isn't entirely sure what is happening to her, she finds the satisfaction of tearing a third page from the book while Canon watches.

The Riders dash out of the Annakol theater, confused and looking for clues.  A passerby informs them of a covered wagon speeding away, offering a lead that is quickly corroborated with a torn page for Horselords: The Complete Story.  They dash through the gates of Annakol, along the North Road, and into the Annakol woods, following the trail of pages and past the chaos literally left in the wake of the wagon!  The Horselords follow the trail to the ferry landing outside of The Shire to learn the wagon boarded a boat and headed down river to Tharbad.  Boarding a nearby boat, they make their own way down river....

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[December 16, 2018]

[no games December 23 and 30]

[January 6, 2019]

The wagon lurches to a stop, throwing Aruncus, Canon, and the other captives forward.  There's the sound of a woman barking orders and after a moment the sound of the lock clicking open.  The wagon door swings open, blinding everyone inside.  "Time fer another show, pretty boy" slurs the stout dwarf blocking their way out.  "I think not!", says Canon.  The dwarf replies, "Let me give you some encouragement, pretty boy." The dwarf grabs Fat Canon by the ankle and yanks him out of the wagon.  "Yer be singing or yer brother gets it!" warns the dwarf.  Canon argues "He's not my brother..." but is cut off as the woman with the warm smile appears in the doorway and quietly says, "You perform again, Canon, or else we will kill each and everyone in this wagon, and then the people you love."  Canon glances, helpless, to Aruncus and Willam, for support.  With an audible gulp he climbs out of the wagon to do as he is told.

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The ferry hits the Tharbad docks and the Horselords stampede off the boat in pursuit of the wagon.  Pages from the book lead the riders to the Tharbad arena and the second portal opened to Hell.  With a bit of effort, they succeed in breaking Canon's enchantment.  With only a moment to catch their breath, they spur on their horses and ride at a break neck pace to catch up to the wagon.

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[January 13, 2019]

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*RIIIIIPPPPPP* The sound cuts over the thundering hooves and the creaking wheels as the wagon races onward.

Canon winces at Aruncus tears as she slides another torn page under the wagon's locked door. 

"Must you enjoy it so?" he asks.

She pauses, looks at him, and reads the next page, "Aruncus climbs onto the rock and begins to luridly tease the team of dwarves nearby...." She stops and looks at Canon. "Why did you write this about me?"

Canon, beginning to show strain from his forced spell casting, "I didn't write that.... what in the Hells are you talking about?"

Before the conversation could continue, the passengers are thrown to the side as the wagon takes a hard turn and comes to a stop. 

Aruncus hides the book and prepares for their captures to open the locked door.  

Canon, pales, as he braces himself to again deliver the enchantment.

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The riders push hard through the woods along back trails that rarely traveled. Twists and turns. Hills and plains. They finally emerge in the Northern Meadows and find the third portal on the hill.  They race to it, slaughtering the Hell Spawn that is crawling forth.  Entering the portal they are greeted by...... Krago?! The Dwarven Wizard has divined himself to relay the message the the Servant of Loki is behind this and , forcing Canon to push harder and harder with the enchanted portals through Limbo and into the depths of Hell itself.  Krago tells them to keep up the chase, keep after Aruncus and the other captives, and to close the portals as they encounter them.  With that, Krago fades, and the Horselords dash deeper into the enchantment, slaying the demons and devils in their path, and again break the spell cast by Canon.  Porting back to the hillside, they are met by a drifting torn page from the book, indicating Aruncus is still leaving a trail for them to follow.

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[January 20, 2019]

The wagon jostles the captives as it bounces along at a rapid pace.  The sound of the creaking wheels is only broken by the occasional RRRRIIIIPPPP as Aruncus pulls a page and carefully slides it under the door.  Canon, weakened even more, slumps against the wagon wall, as his hefty look-alike and the sallow man look on.  Aruncus has learned the sallow man has worked as a man servant for a well to do lady in Annakol and was kidnapped for his literary interpretation mistaken as a keen spellcraft.  "Excuse me for being well read and worldly," he sighed with sarcasm during their conversation.  The Canon doppelganger just had the bad luck of mistaken identify; "I'm going to pick my shows my carefully if I ever get out of here" he hopefully shared.  Canon, on the other hand, just rocks with the sway of the wagon.  Beaten. Defeated. Finally, he asks, "Aruncus, what do you read on those pages you loathe so much?"  She pauses mid tear and looks from him to the page.... questioning his question.  She begins reading a passage about some insane story about a ship and traveling through space.  As she struggles with the nonsensical words of "flux capacitor" and the confusing story line, the words shift into poetry for a second.  Surprised, she looks up at Canon, and then back to the page not knowing what happened.  Again, the letters swim before her eyes and the story becomes one of heartfelt appreciation and beauty written by Canon about the Horselords.  Her eyes tear up as she rereads the book.

Suddenly, the brakes and they come to a halt.  There is a commotion outside and when the wagon door is thrown open, the prisoners are greeted with the smell of sea air.

[for this game, Safia played the part of Aruncus; Kothgar, Fat Canon; Dime, Willam]

The captives are pulled from the wagon and tossed into cages, except for Canon, too weak to do anything.  Aruncus, Fat Canon, and Willam try their best to get out of the cages but with no success.  The vagabond travelers holding them captive take turns taunting the prisoners and abusing Canon.  The Mysterious Woman then appears, revealing she is serving her Master, Loki.  She states she no longer has a need for Fat Canon and Willam and infers their freedom.  But, she refers to Aruncus as Canon's understudy.  With that, the Woman and her henchman pull Canon up and force him to begin another incantation.  Aruncus, Fat Canon, and Willam protest loudly from the cages.  A vagabond traveler approaches.  With a spell he kills Fat Canon, but Willam manages to escape. Aruncus watches on in horror as another portal opens.

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[January 27, 2019]

The Horselords near the coast.  They encounter a travel worn William, having escaped from the caravan.  He warns the Riders of the perils ahead before they press onward.  At the coast, they find another open portal, hellhounds and goblins, and the bloodied corpse of Fat Canon.  After dispensing of the hellspawn, the Horselord revive Fat Canon.  He shares that the Servant of Loki is forcing Canon to open portals and that Aruncus is another captive.  Fat Canon runs off and the Horselords close another Hell portal.

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Open returning from the Limbo planes, the Horselords see a ship on the horizon flying the Flag of Shorembo.

[no games February 3 and 10]

[February 17, 2019]

The Horselords board Shorembo's ship and are in pursuit of the Servant of Loki by sea.  Rough waters slow their travels but they make their way to the shores of Roseberry.

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[February 24, 2019]

[March 3, 2019]

[no game March 10]

[March 17, 2019]

[no game March 24]

[March 31, 2019]

Aruncus and a weary Canon are roughly moved from the ship to the shore and loaded onto another wagon and hurriedly carted away. 

Canon falls to a heap on the floor and Aruncus cradles his head in her arms.  "I can't do this again..." Canon says to Aruncus, "... it's going to kill me".  Aruncus gently strokes his hair trying to offer comfort.  She realizes her disdain for him has morphed into an understanding of the situation.  Canon didn't intend to do harm to her or the Horselords but was manipulated into this situation, and now exploited by this Servant of Loki.  She strokes his hair to offer comfort, "It will be alright... we'll get through this".  Canon smiles weakly and falls asleep.  Aruncus listens to sound of the wagon wheels pass hurriedly along the road.  The wagon abruptly halts, the doors thrown open and Aruncus is blinded by the sunlight and smells the salty air of the ocean.  The dwarf grabs Canon by the ankles and yanks him out of the wagon. "No!" Aruncus cries out, but her fight to hold the bard back is useless.  The wagon door is shut  and locked again.  She hears the Servant of Loki berating Canon as she demands he opens another portal.  Aruncus hears the sound of Canon being hit and kicked, but he does not read from the book.  Things then go silent.

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Meanwhile, in a nearby town, an old woman sits down at her writing desk and begins a reply to a letter.

Dear Mr. Locks,

I want to express my appreciation for your nicely drawn image of Canon.  Once again, you truly capture his spirit and the joy he brings to the world. I think it surpasses the others you have sent to me!  I will display it with honor next to your other works at our Headquarters.  Your artistic renderings continue to be popular with visitors.

I wish you luck in getting tickets to Canon's upcoming book discussions.  I hear they are proving to be quite popular.

She continues with other platitudes, gossip, and a few bits of Canon-lore.  She ends the note with her name and title, President of the International Canon Fan Club.

The old woman then hangs the image on the wall next to the others from Mr Locks.

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The Horselords enter Barrydale and discover, to their surprise, the headquarters to Canon's Fan Club.  The old woman greats them in the garden and invites them all in for a tour.  There is the early works of Canon including childhood writings, rare images of Canon's boyhood, an impressive if not eclectic collection of fan art, and Canon's boyhood bedroom!  The old woman is Canon's mother and the headquarters is his childhood home.  And, the old woman reveals his name isn't actually Canon but.... Ralph Piorkoski.  As the Horselords ponder the name, shouts are heard from outside. 

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The Riders rush to discover Canon's unconscious body has been discarded from the back of a wagon outside the gates of town.  It was last seen heading across the farmland.  As the Horselords prepare chase, Zamboni appears to remove the original enchantment he placed on Canon to mask the writing and details of the Horselords.  In conversation, the Horselords reveal to Zamboni that Aruncus is still in the hands of the Servant of Loki, which draws dire concern from Zamboni.  He urges them to get to Aruncus before she is forced to open a portal!  With this, the Horselords follows the trail of the wagon to the Mouth of the Misty Blue River. 

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It is too late!  Aruncus lies in a coma having been forced to open a portal.  The Servant of Loki watches as the Horselords have battle with the wagon driver and demons.  The Horselords defeat the Servant of Loki, but are unable to revive Aruncus as her soul is now bound to the Plane of Hell. 

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In an attempt to rescue her, they enter and find themselves not in limbo as previously, but deep into the 9th Circle of Hell! 

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The Horselords battle demon after demon... they keep coming!  From above, Zamboni reaches across the plane to rescue everyone and is able to pull Dime and Kothgar back to the world.  The Magic within the Horselords keeps them bound and he is unable to rescue them.  The Horselords are trapped in Hell.

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Epilogue

POV: Dime

On 3/31/2019 at 9:42 PM, NeoRebel said:

I ended up coming back to Barrydale on my own two feet. I had to come back and look after those two after everything that happened.

Canon and Aruncus were in beds. Canon was still mentally and spiritually exausted after opening so many portals to Hell, but I think he'll be fine. But Aruncus... well, if I hadn't seen myself, I would say she was in a coma. She wouldn't wake up not matter what. ... Of course she wouldn't. Her soul was trapped in Hell. And now, the Horselords are trapped there with her. And if it wasn't for Zamboni, me and Kothgar would be trapped there too.

I should've been able to do something! Anything! I should've been able to prevent... THIS from happening! Safia... Vindul... Gus... Tobin... Some of Galandar's greatest heroes are now trapped in Hell. My mind keeps saying it's not my fault. My heart keeps saying the opposite. And even if it's not my fault, I can't help but think it is.

I looked at Canon and Aruncus... thinking, maybe thinking too much. I grabbed a feather, some ink and started to write a letter.

"Canon, if you're reading this, then I already departed back to Annakol City. I messed up big time. Long story made short: you're fine, but Aruncus and the Horselords are trapped in Hell. And I'm going to rescue them. Not by my lonesome, of course not. I'm daring, but not stupid. I'm gonna rest a bit and re-supply my stock of... everything. Then I'm gonna speak with Zamboni about all of this mess and reunite the most formidable adventurers we can find to undergo this super-task.

You just stay there and be the guy you've always been. I'm glad you're safe, I really am. You might be a little bit of an airhead, but I always knew your heart was in the right place.

Now rest and don't you dare leaving this bed until you're fully recovered! Don't make come back from Hell just to put you back in this bed!

Be safe, buddy.

- Dime"

I left the letter on Canon's bedside table and departed. There was no time to waste. The Horselords were still fighting. I must keep on fighting too. I'll reunite the most powerful adventurers I can find to go through the nine circles of Hell, trample Asmodeus and rescue the Horselords. ...

... and break every single rule I imposed on myself about fighting goblins. Hell goblins. Glory goblins. They'll all be there, waiting for us. ... and the single thought of myself killing a goblin... when I noticed, there were some tears on my face.

So this is how "failing" feels.

But it must be done.

I'm sorry, Glory.

[April 7, 2019]

[April 21, 2019]

[April 28, 2019]

[May 5, 2019]

Time passed in a blink of an eye.  Time dragged on for eternity.

Aruncus saw Dime and Kothgar pulled from Hell as the demons swarmed them.  She looked to the sky, drawn by its power as if someone was calling her name but the owner of the voice could not be seen.

The silence was deafening. The roar was painful.

She fought. They fought. When one Hellgoblin would fall two more would take its place.

She was excited. She was exhausted.

The battle never ended. Yet they fought on and on and on.

The light was blinding. The light was warm.

Was that something different?  Did the monotony change?  Was that a familiar face? Was that a friendly hand?

She was lead forward  and out of Hell.  

Shew awakes safely in camp.

[no game May 12]

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