Paladin: The Werewolf, the Witch, the Baby and the King of Nutons

We had another episode of our ongoing Paladin game. Alas, one player was unable to join but we still had three of our four sibling knights facing supernatural adventures!

At the end of last episode, our grandmother—now widowed, retired from her own days of knighthood, and abbess of a nunnery—had revealed that she was cursed by witches to turn into a werewolf AND had abandoned a baby at birth, triplet to our father and evil uncle Guillaume, because she could only care for two infants.

We had then discovered that a group of local Redcaps had found the baby in the forest and kept him. They handed it back to us, unaged! But the mere sight of the baby cause grandmother to turn into a wolf creature and attack.

So we started this episode in the middle of the Ardennes forest at night, facing a werewolf of supernatural strength which we did not want to harm but who kept trying to attack the baby. Hildegund’s page Bernard, son of Ogier the Dane, was tossed like a puppet and dashed against an oak (earning him a good concussion but nothing worse than a scratch otherwise.) We tried to restrain the wolf but in vain [largely because the system is that of Pendragon, where you should not expect your characters to be competent…] so Theodelina [my character] vaulted on her horse, snatched the baby and fled with him to keep baby-uncle from being eaten by wolf-grandma. Hildegund drew her rosary and called up the love of God [with a critical success], sending the werewolf fleeing directly away.

We regrouped and tracked grandmother wolf, finding her in human form once the sun rose. We secured her and resumed our search for the witch who had cast the curse—or at least for a village where we could get the baby fed.

We eventually found the witch’s hut in the depths of the forest. She recognized us, let us in and even gave us milk for the baby but wanted our entire lineage to suffer under the curse: long ago, our grandmother the Lady Knight Giselda had slain the witch Liutgarde’s sisters, as ordered by then-King Pepin.

We tried to convince the witch to relent, but she would not give up her vengeance. When we said that the (now-dead) king was the one she should take exception with, she demanded to be heard by “our king” but we soon realized she meant Carloman; she refused to recognize Charlemagne, even though we were in the lands given to him by Pepin when the old king split his kingdom between his two sons.

Meanwhile, our grandmother kept urging us to kill her and the witch both, and wanted nothing to do with the baby.

I finally got the notion to ask the witch if she would agree to the judgment of the king of Nutons instead since I was his knight and champion. She agreed, so we all trooped out to seek the Nutons. (It was the first such visit for my twin brother Adalfried, who finally believed the stories.)

The King of Nutons agreed to hear both sides, then rendered his judgement: his curse would fall on the king instead but would have to be witnessed by us young knights. Our grandmother would be freed from lycanthropy, at least for for now. Presumably, if we failed in the task the deal would be off. And the King of Nutons refused to name which king we should take the curse to…

We took our leave, returned grandmother to the abbey, and took the baby to Adalfried’s impoverished manor in spite of the rumours this would spark. We asked our steward Radegunde to find him a wet nurse, then prepared to visit Carloman—because to make things even more tense, our liege Duke Thierry asked us to attend Carloman’s winter court!


The Pendragon system is, to be frank (haha), an antiquated disaster. We all use it cheerfully, no one is lobbying for a conversion to another system because we love the setting (writer Ruben in ’t Groen did a great job with the Paladin material) and we love playing as a group, but we’re constantly mocking its ridiculous whiff factor, its unnecessary random tables, and its laborious logic. Yet we have such great stories together!

Paladin!

Today’s episode of Paladin: Warriors of Charlemagne was like Call the Midwife meets Brother Cadfael by way of Brotherhood of the Wolf. The group is wonderful and the story was great.

Our four knights (Hildegund, Gottfried, Adelfried, and Theodelina) went to see our widowed grandmother, recently elevated to abbess of Our Lady of Pain and found the abbey under lockdown: three nuns had been torn to piece during a night of vigil in the chapel. We ended on a cliffhanger when we finally came face-to-face with a werewolf in an entirely unexpected way.

Oh, and the weird name for the abbey was due to my bad translation for “Notre Dame des Douleurs” (Beata Maria Virgo Perdolens, or Mater Dolorosa): this facet in the Virgin Mary’s veneration, I found out after the game, is actually known in English as “Our Lady of Sorrows.” But I did find A.C. Swinburne’s 1866 poem that does shed an odd light on the topic!

Who has known all the evil before us,
Or the tyrannous secrets of time?
Though we match not the dead men that bore us
At a song, at a kiss, at a crime —
Though the heathen outface and outlive us,
And our lives and our longings are twain —
Ah, forgive us our virtues, forgive us,
Our Lady of Pain.


Writing Projects

WoA cover mockupI’m so happy about my current writing projects, I want to share what’s going on.

First, the layout of War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus is in its later stages and looks so darn good! Dale Horstman is doing a fantastic job. If you think this cover looks nice—and it does!—just wait until you see the whole thing.

Sisiutl_mask

Second, I’m under contract for more writing for Evil Hat Productions: a Fate World called Sisiutl’s Children. I feel tremulous because writing about other cultures is fraught with danger, but I’m going to give it my best shot and ask for cultural review by knowledgeable people of these cultures. Here is the blurb:

“If you will stare fear in the face, I will be at your back. Together, we will stand up to the Devourers.”

The great spirit Sisiutl has taken it upon himself to help humankind grow in wisdom and strength. He sees light and dark in each soul, and coaxes out the light or punishes evil. Those he finds worthy become heroes — protectors of the Coastal People and mediators with the Spirit World. Bonded with the great water dragons that are Sisiutl’s progeny, they will fight monsters, arbitrate disputes, harvest knowledge, and face the darkness in their own souls.

Sisiutl’s Children is a Pacific Northwest fantasy setting based on the coastal Native cultures — Haida, Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth and others — mixed with the dragon-riding tales of Naomi Novik and Anne McCaffrey, where the heroes battle supernatural threats to protect their clan. Will you ride the dragon into battle or will you be the dragon?

And thirdly, I’ve also lined up an assignment for Vigilance Press, an as-yet unannounced project in their Tianxia line. This is all so exciting!

Credits: War of Ashes cover mockup: art © 2015 ZombieSmith, layout by Dale Horsten, coming out soon from Evil Hat Productions. Sisiutl mask photo licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia—carving by Oscar Matilpi.

Pop Culture Arthurian Legend

Bernard Cornwell: The Winter KingThis month’s reading in my Goodreads book club is Bernard Cornwell’s The Winter King. I won’t be reading it; I don’t have time because of my writing schedule, and also because although Edmund has been after me since 1997 to read this book which he really loved, I never got past the first chapter because it just wasn’t grabbing me.

In fact, I’ve yet to finish any Cornwell novel; I failed on the Sharpe novels (though I saw a number of the British television versions starring Sean Bean, but still wasn’t that interested), and I loved The Archer’s Tale exactly as much as my attempt to read the first Thomas Covenant novel, and for the same reason. After the latter book, I decided I wasn’t going to try any more of his books.

Monty Python and the Holy GrailStill, there is plenty of pop culture material around the Arthurian legends; on the Goodreads discussion, Rachel started a thread on other uses of the legend in fantasy and science fiction books. I’ll be brief and picky here because there is so much material.

There are so many movies based on the Arthurian cycle that Wikipedia has a whole page to tally them, as well as one to list other works based on the material. The ones I remember best are:

  • Excalibur (John Boorman, 1981). I hate that movie so much, but lots of my friends adore it.
  • Monty Python’s and the Holy Grail (Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, 1975). I still love it, so that’s three reasons in  a row for readers to hate me.
  • The Sword in the Stone (Walt Disney, 1963). I was enough of a geek even at ag4e 10 to pooh-pooh it because it was departing from the legends, particularly regarding the character of Merlin…
  • Indirectly, I suppose we could add Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Steven Spielberg, 1989).  Another one I still love.

Prince Valiant RPGThe Arthurian legend was also pillaged in individual episodes of Babylon Five, Doctor Who, Star Trek: Deep Space 9, etc.

Pendragon RPG coverFor my fellow role-players, here are three games of note:

  • Pendragon (written by Greg Stafford), a game which is now in its fifth edition. I was never in love with the system but it works. The source material is very good, and it has in fact been used to play specifically with the flavour found in Cornwell’s The Winter King.
  • Prince Valiant, the Story-Telling Game (written by Greg Stafford), based on the Prince Valiant comic books by Hal Foster. Out of print but still found used on eBay or in used book stores, and well worth the purchase.
  • CAMELOT Trigger (written by Rod Wieland), a setting for the Fate Core system found in Evil Hat Productions’ recently published Fate Worlds Volume 2: Worlds in Shadow. A re-telling as a solar system-spanning epic with giant mech suits.