Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring in Wermspittle II: Just Arrived

The Children Come Marching In
No sooner are the roads passable, and in some cases even before, than a vast mob of children comes pouring into Wermspittle from the surrounding countryside. Their arrival signals the end of the long, hard Winter and the beginning of the (hopefully) kinder times. They come from as far away as Wollcroft, Jarkuz, and Indigar. Some are accompanied by wagons mounded with dried grain, smoked meat, pickles, cheeses and other provisions stockpiled over the previous half-year by families hoping to give their children some sort of an edge or advantage over the others. The Low Land farmers have usually negotiated steep fees with the teamsters in order to get these precious things hauled into Wermspittle. Even so, few children ride on those wagons. Fewer still can tell which one carries their families' supplies, thus it is rare that one in ten ever collects their due from the teamsters who are quick to switch their mantles, trade-off between wagons and otherwise play a hide-and-seek game with the children who come looking for them. For many, the arrangements worked out with the teamsters by their parents leave them bewildered, lost and out of luck. The teamsters claim it is all in good fun, a jest of sorts, a game. A tradition. An initiation. It's great good humor for the teamsters until some of those farmer's sons and daughters decide that they don't particularly like being cheated and they start to beat those teamsters whom they recognize or think they can identify. Smart teamsters know better than to try to cheat a Low Land farmer, even a young one. The not so smart ones can sometimes find themselves without a wagon. A few wind up missing altogether. It tends to balance out. One way or another.

A Seething Cauldron of Chaos and Competition
Century after century the Low Lander farmers and High Ridge hunting clans, the proud nomads who ride across the Steppes and forest-lurking bandits, the peculiar hybrid hillfolk and the strange people who come down from the Thousand Plateaus have been sending their children to Wermspittle every Spring in the hopes of their securing an apprenticeship, internship or other coveted position at the Medical College, the Academy of Occult Arts & Sciences, or one of the many Archives, Repositories and Private Libraries.

The streets grow crowded, the accommodations fill-up quickly, and everything goes crazy from mid-March through most of the month of April as every incoming child tries to earn a spot on the year's roster, to enroll in a school, to join a trade or to begin an apprenticeship. Hundreds of child-applicants fill the taverns, inns, hostels and places of lodging until the rest must find places to stay out in the Burned Over District and the Abandoned Properties. Dozens, scores, hundreds of newcomers compete for any and every opening. Would-be students face off against one another in brutal academic challenges, tests of skill and Trials by Knowledge to determine their placement for taking the Entrance Exams for each of the colleges and clinics within the Greater Academy. Steep fees (and steeper bribes) weed-out those deemed academically or financially unfit by the diligently discriminating Admissions Officers. Sorcerers hold contests for those who show exceptional raw talent or unique skills. Teratologists and Mostrosophists work their way through the crowds searching out Unfortunates and others who suit their needs or whom they would study or destroy. Prodigies and the Odd openly flaunt their differences, showing off their strange and wondrous abilities in the hopes of attracting the attention of a suitable mentor or sponsor. 

Just Arrived in Wermspittle for the Revels
  1. (2d6) Children in muddy gray leather armor are dragging a makeshift travois through the crowded streets in search of a healer to tend to their fallen leader, a Cuckoo who has been manipulating them all ever since they first met-up on the road to Wermspittle. The Cuckoo is bleeding from their nose and is only intermittently conscious, but since they won't relinquish their control, the children are drifting from place to place almost randomly.
  2. Hans is a large, sturdy farmer, much like his father. He wields a heavy flail and a pair of spike-hammers that his uncle has taught him to use to dismantle an opponent's armor in the course of a fight. He's a quiet guy, but driven. He has a battered and much-folded Haemotype showing the face of the Candyman who ruined his sister three Springs ago. He intends to end the Corruption Trade. Single-handedly.
  3. (3d20) Children straggle into the city looking for a place to stay, something to eat and most are just on the very verge of realizing just what is really happening. Some are crying, a few are looking a bit shell-shocked, but for the most part they are sorting themselves out into small groups and either joining the Revels or heading off to locate someone in authority they can petition for an apprenticeship, scholarship or some other form of employment, depending upon their personal skills, abilities and how they were raised. Quite a few scholars and sorcerers take an intense interest in the newcomers and monitor how these children go about finding their way through the obstacles, challenges and hazards of the city, as though it were a large maze. A few go out among the children, invisibly or in disguise, and attempt to discover the more promising ones before their rivals locate them. Sometimes this results in nasty spell-fights that many mistake for more fireworks.
  4. Jespo can feel the song-like presence of the werms in the Deeps, even through the cobblestones. He hopes he can pass muster and join the Sewer Militia like his grandfather, whose faded old jacket and antique Low Gear he wears with pride. He also has a pair of wicked wavy-bladed knives and a salt-box pistol packed with silver-salt shot that his grandmother insisted he carry.
  5. (3d4) bandits Woods-folk in rough-patched studded-leather jackets, each one wielding or carrying enough weapons for any three professional soldiers, have arrived. Finally. They're looking for the Black Tambourine. That's the place that their friend (actually a deserter from another camp) claimed to have served as a Warden during the Revels three springs ago.
  6. (1d6) Pod-born wielding maces, hammers or scythes are moving very deliberately through the alleys, looking for a suitable place to disgorge a few spore-masses so that they can begin the next phase of the plan. They look just like ordinary revelers, except for being emotionless. People tend to think they're victims of a Gloomswallow, or possibly some drop outs or frivolous art students from the Academy.
  7. Barefoot and caked with mud, a nine year old Prodigy with cold azure eyes walks past the myriad distractions of the streets to the main entrance to the Academy. With a little patience, some luck and impeccable timing, he slips inside past the guards and watchdogs and disappears.
  8. (1d6) Gargoyle-hunters who've only recently dug their way out of a Gargoyle-eyrie that collapsed three weeks ago walk back across the river. They all have wounds, scars and missing digits thanks to their desperate travails. They also have twenty-seven decent horns, and a dozen excellent quality horns they plan on selling for a good price. Now that they've made it back to town, they're beginning to argue over everything, including whether or not to stop and drink themselves silly, or to keep going until they reach the shop where they sold their last set of horns. (The shop was burned down last year in a riot.)
  9. Trudi has walked all the way here from Malscovri and she's looking for a job so she never has to go back to that stinking, boring place. Anything that lets her hit people sounds agreeable. For a start.
  10. (1d4) Gynaiads wielding double-bladed spears are looking for someplace to sleep. So far they haven't had any luck, beyond the hoots and cat-calls of lecherous revelers. So far they've held back from killing anyone. So far. But they're getting tired of the runaround.
  11. Jeedee laughed and skipped and played tag with the other children right up to the big, big gates on the other end of the scary bridge. She'd never seen a river as big, nor as deep down below her feet as the one she just walked over. It scared her. At first. But now that's past and she's finally in the city. Like a good girl, Jeedee pulls out the little locket her mother gave to her only three days ago. It opens effortlessly at her merest touch. Inside she reads the address of her great grandmother's house one more time. A very nice Warden gives her directions when she asks him for help in her little girl voice. She stifles her laughter for as long as she can, at least until after turning a corner. He simply had no idea how old she really was. But even after several centuries, it was still nice to have someone treat her as if she were an innocent young girl...
  12. (2d6) Children from Donniger's Outpost are looking for the Academic Entrance Exams. They already have their spell-books and know 1d4 spells, including Donniger's infamous Thirty Foot Slash spell, which they all know by heart.
  13. Mu'Talg has ridden his goat far across the Thousand Plateaus to reach this place his parents have warned him away from for most of his life. But they are not sorcerers.
  14. A pair of one-winter veteran Foragers are trying to transport a barrel of Spectral Brine to a suitable dumping spot. They've been using an abandoned cess-pit that they don't realize has recently become infested with a vicious, toxic mold colony. Unfortunately a group of (4d6) Low Lander Children have set-up their camp on the second floor of this place. Two of these kids are sisters (both Level 2 Fighters), raised by a General who once served in the Kulaoshian Grand Army. The sisters are running things as though they were on campaign. There are caltrops blocking the basement windows, including the one the two Foragers are expecting to dump their barrel in. Yeah. Caltrops. Big ones.
  15. Ferdrima hopes to become an Apprentice to an Apothecary. Unfortunately she has been discovered by an unscrupulous Distillery-manager working in the Corruption Trade.
  16. (1d4) Dirty, filthy kids who had the bad judgement to try to jump one of their neighbors who they've spent years taunting because of their half-morlock heritage. Now their nemesis has the upper-hand and fully intends to sell them to the first Butcher he finds...unfortunately, the Butchers don't traffic in questionable meat after the Equinox, especially now that the flocks of migratory birds have been returning. Pigeon, duck, goose--there's an abundance of fowl to be hunting, collecting, processing. The half-morlock will be disappointed, but the Butcher will suggest he consider selling his enemies as slaves or into the arenas. The helpful Butcher can arrange things, for a cut...
  17. (1d4) Drilg trying to be inconspicuous as they go about the business of locating a few choice Glimp Shells that are stirring and beginning to awaken. The Drilg intend to rustle as many of the things as they can round-up before the Teamsters even know they've been here and gone. They plan to sell them to farmers down in the Low Lands.
  18. (2d4) Hillfolk children are wandering the streets, gape-mouthed and wide-eyed, each one wielding a concealed dirk, cleaver or spring-dart. They're looking for a decent-looking attic-space to set-up shop as roofcrawling burglars. There is a lot of silk line, spikes and other climbing gear hidden within the bulky satchels they are carrying.
  19. (1d4+2) Cabbochean nymphs have captured and mostly domesticated a huge old six-hooved boar they met along the road. It is big enough for all them to ride on its back at once. They're considering whether they ought to sell the beast, or find a stable for it.
  20. Pojja saunters through the crowds as though they were of no real consequence. His horns are only just beginning to poke through the skin and he does not want to waste any time dilly-dallying around with the mobs, not when he has business to carry out before it is too late and the cloistered armigers forever block him from carrying out his mothers dying wish. He checks the readiness of his gonnes by touch, beneath his traveling cloak so no one might notice. He's as ready as is humanly possible. Which makes him sneer wickedly. He won't be human for much longer. Not in the eyes of the Ecclesiastical Courts. Not in his father's, the Bishop-in-Exile's, eyes.

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