Tales of Lost Omens: Blood Fate

Thursday, June 13, 2019

I knew it would come for me. My thrice-cursed fate would not be denied: my blood, my birth, and my faith. I knew I would be chosen; my mother all but promised me.

"The year thirteen will fall on you, daughter. You cannot prevent it, but you can prepare."

Twenty-four black hooves, four iron-rimmed wheels, and fourteen glowing red eyes, the coach and six, the harbinger of my fate, my promise, my doom, glided down the cobbled street toward me without a whisper. The good citizens of Cesca scattered, scuttling into doorways, slamming shutters, scurrying into alleys like terrified rats. I stood and awaited my fate.

The ebony coach stopped before me, the driver's burning coal eyes transfixing me like needles pinning a moth in a display. Armor rustled like winter-dead leaves hammered from cold iron as one hand released the reins to delve the driver's cloak. A roll of ebony parchment bound with a blood-red ribbon issued forth, held out in that undying grasp for me.

"Your invitation, daughter of Arudora." The voice chilled me like the touch of an icy scalpel.

"Of course." I took the invitation in hand, pulled the ribbon, and unrolled the black parchment that sealed my doom. I read, "Marilisa Balcus Arudora," my name, the only words on the page.

The armored driver gestured, and the coach's door swung silently open. "Welcome."

The midnight coach swallowed me.

Illustration by Mariusz Gandzel

Black leather, satin drapes, and pale faces rimed with terror greeted me. I sat and adjusted my skirts. The seat was cold, and the faces colder, six of my kin doomed to the fate we all shared. I only recognized one, a cousin I'd met only once. His eyes took me in with subdued recognition, one hand gripping the head of his walking stick, a silver wolf, teeth bared in rage. The others, two peasants, a tradesman, a merchant, and a trollop, avoided my gaze, resigned to our common fate. A prospect worse than death lurked in their eyes.

The coach moved, but I'd not felt it and heard not a sound but the beating of my own heart and tremulous breath. The merchant rocked forward and back, his hands clutched white-knuckled. The trollop withdrew a silver flask from her ample bodice and drew a draught. She caught my eye and flashed a smile.

"Drop o' liquid courage, love?" She held out the flask, the scent of brandy heady in the air.

"No, thank you." I'd long ago consigned my courage to the flames.

"Suit yourself." She drank again and tucked the flask away.

"Can't do this...can't do this..." the fidgety merchant muttered.

"Oh, do shut up, man!" My gentleman cousin eyed him derisively.

"Bugger off and leave him be!" one of the peasants snapped, a lip curling back from tobacco-stained teeth.

"How dare you speak to—"

"Can't do this!" The hysterical merchant drew a stiletto.

"Don't!" The word escaped my lips before I could bite it off, but it did no good.

The merchant's trembling hand drew a ragged line of crimson across his throat. He cut deep, deep enough to paint the trollop seated across from him with the spray. She swore, fending off his lifeblood with a raised arm. The merchant choked and coughed, shuddering as the torrent slowed.

"Bloody fool," my gentleman cousin scoffed. "Death is no escape now."

True enough, for as the merchant's blood ceased to flow with the last fluttering beats of his dying heart, only surprise registered on his paling features. His eyes blinked, bloody lips gaping in shock as undeath took him. We could not escape our fate so easily.

The trollop withdrew her flask and drained its contents in one greedy draught, her cheeks pale under the cheap rouge and flecks of blood.

"Hells and demons," the surly peasant swore, making a sign to ward off evil.

"That won't save you either, ignorant fool." My gentleman cousin's nose wrinkled, perhaps at the stench of blood, perhaps in sheer disdain.

"Neither will that blade in your cane, sir, enchanted though it be." I don't know why I spoke, but I felt the need to put the pompous ass in his place. "No mortal-forged implement will save you."

His eyes narrowed at me. "You seem quite sure of yourself, Marilisa."

"I am." I adjusted my skirts again, my hand exploring the folds for my one hope of salvation. Cold metal caressed my palm. "I've known my fate my entire life, Lord Wolthaven. As have you."

"Oh, and I suppose you've some trick you hope will save you!" He glared at me, dredging courage from anger.

"No trick." I gripped my only hope and prayed silently.

"Look!" The tradesman pointed out the window at the passing scenery.

Ruined buildings, dilapidated cottages, and crumbled towers took on a ghostly radiance, blazing blue with shadows of their former grandeur as we passed through the dead village of Maiserene. I recognized it from my studies. I wondered if anyone outside the carriage could see the apparition or if it existed only for our doomed eyes. Ahead the spectral bridge to our destination coalesced over the dark water of Lake Laroba. Our conveyance paused not as we crossed, silent water roiling beneath us, perhaps hungering for the living or welcoming us to our fate.

We plunged through the toothed maw of Bastardhall's gate, the wail of cold iron hinges, gears, and chains a cacophonous greeting. One of the peasants began sobbing. The coach pulled into a vast courtyard and stopped before the grim foyer.

Three tall figures awaited our arrival: a woman of pale complexion with white-streaked hair, another woman bearing the sigil of Urgathoa upon her breast, and a hooded shape holding a swaddled bundle in his arms.

I knew they had long prepared for this meeting.

The carriage door opened and my destiny propelled me forth, my legs steady, teeth clenched against useless screams, and my hand gripping the spike of silver that no mortal hand had forged. The fire of a burning sun scorched my palm as I strode forth to my fate.

Chris A. Jackson
Contributing Author

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Tags: Pathfinder World Guides Tales of Lost Omens Web Fiction
Grand Lodge

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Ustalav still has plenty of terror to be found, it seems.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

A story weighty enough to get something other than "Huzzah!" out of TOZ.

Strong indication of quality writing, there. :)


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For it had actually been forged <dramatic pause> by mortal foot!

...oh, drat, earlier it says "no mortal-forged implement" w/o mentioning hands. So much for that loophole.

Anyway, a very good story, but it overuses the phrases "my/our fate."


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Very good, as usual. :)

But not being 'up-to-speed' on Ustalav, (As much as I would like to be at any rate) it was certainly good enough that I was hoping this would be one of the LONGER pieces of fiction. If only so I could find out for certain exactly what their 'fate' was/is. (Besides 'undeath' in general.) ;P

:)

Keep it up guys and gals! I do love the background/informative fiction!

Thank you for the sneak peeks!


Godly Silver that burns her eh...well this should be interesting no matter what happens. The Black Coach and Bastardhall have always caught my eye the most when it came to Ustalav yes even more than Thrushmoor, though honestly who can say the state of that town in the advanced time canon.

Liberty's Edge

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Nicely written. :)

Now, to go read up on the Black Coach and try and actually figure out what's going on...

Liberty's Edge

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Was the hooded one Caydserris?

Silver Crusade

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I was actually really surprised this wasn't written by Wes.


I'm kind of with Cori that Wes didn't write this since Bastardhall is his baby.

But I'm VERY glad to see more of the place I wanted to make PCs run and hide when the coach-man arrives. ;)

Silver Crusade

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Now that I'm going back and reading some of Wes's old Bastardhall posts, doesn't this contradict things that are already canon? Specifically that Bastardhall opened early in 4709?

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

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Cori Marie wrote:
I was actually really surprised this wasn't written by Wes.

Wizards of the Coast has some pretty strict restrictions on its employees writing for other game companies, so Wes wasn't able to write this for us. If given the choice, I'd have avoided Bastardhall as the subject out of respect for his work on the site, but the art had already been ordered by other members of the team, so that's what we sort of had to base it around.

Silver Crusade

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That makes a lot of sense Mark, thanks for explaining! What about the 4709 bit though?


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Yes, thank you for clarifying Mark!

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

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Cori Marie wrote:
That makes a lot of sense Mark, thanks for explaining! What about the 4709 bit though?

The story assumes the coach makes its centennial rounds in the "year thirteen" but it doesn't say anything about whether it also picked up passengers early, nor whether this is set in 4713, 4613, or even 4719. In fact, I specifically like that Chris didn't pin down exactly when this took place, and wrote it both in first-person and past-tense. The narrator apparently survived whatever comes next in order to tell her tale, but the details of how, and how much time have passed since are left open for GMs (or maybe Chris, someday) to fill in!


Cori Marie wrote:
That makes a lot of sense Mark, thanks for explaining! What about the 4709 bit though?

Could be that isn't quite canon for the whole setting, and the 4709 opening was just for his con game. Alternately, this story could have taken place in one of the previous openings. It just said thirteenth year, didn't specify the century.

Edit: Semi-ninjaed

Lantern Lodge

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Actually I'd kind of like to hear how this particular story ends.

Silver Crusade

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Mark Moreland wrote:
Cori Marie wrote:
That makes a lot of sense Mark, thanks for explaining! What about the 4709 bit though?
The story assumes the coach makes its centennial rounds in the "year thirteen" but it doesn't say anything about whether it also picked up passengers early, nor whether this is set in 4713, 4613, or even 4719. In fact, I specifically like that Chris didn't pin down exactly when this took place, and wrote it both in first-person and past-tense. The narrator apparently survived whatever comes next in order to tell her tale, but the details of how, and how much time have passed since are left open for GMs (or maybe Chris, someday) to fill in!

Ah, I was under the assumption that all this new fiction takes place after Lost Omens year, I like the idea that this is one of the earlier groups!

Doktor Weasel wrote:
Cori Marie wrote:
That makes a lot of sense Mark, thanks for explaining! What about the 4709 bit though?

Could be that isn't quite canon for the whole setting, and the 4709 opening was just for his con game. Alternately, this story could have taken place in one of the previous openings. It just said thirteenth year, didn't specify the century.

Edit: Semi-ninjaed

4709 is explicitly canon in the Continuing the Campaign for Carrion Crown

Shadows of Gallowspire wrote:

Blood of Bastardhall:

Once every 100 years, the spectral bridge leading to Castle Arudora appears and a coach driven by a headless rider storms across, scouring the countryside and claiming victims with mysterious deliberateness. Yet this century the bridge to the ruin known as Bastardhall has appeared early, not long after a mysterious figure calling himself Caydserris Arudora passed through Cesca headed for the castle. Who is the mysterious new master of Bastardhall? What has changed the balance of power within its haunted halls? And what lies imprisoned within its catacombs that even angels would kill to keep secure?


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TriOmegaZero wrote:
Ustalav still has plenty of terror to be found, it seems.

And it's not all now necessarily under the Whispering Tyrant's management . . . .

Mark Moreland wrote:
Cori Marie wrote:
That makes a lot of sense Mark, thanks for explaining! What about the 4709 bit though?
The story assumes the coach makes its centennial rounds in the "year thirteen" but it doesn't say anything about whether it also picked up passengers early, nor whether this is set in 4713, 4613, or even 4719. In fact, I specifically like that Chris didn't pin down exactly when this took place, and wrote it both in first-person and past-tense. The narrator apparently survived whatever comes next in order to tell her tale, but the details of how, and how much time have passed since are left open for GMs (or maybe Chris, someday) to fill in!

Although especially given that this is Ustalav, and given the events described in the coach, who says that the narrator is still technically alive? . . .

Contributor

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ooo this is a fun story.

I, too, would love to know what happens next. :)


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This reminds me of how Strahd would send his carriage for the young women of Barovia.


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My guess is that these people are being turned into undead in the service of Urgathoa.

That would suggest that Marilisa was given time to prepare so as to give her the best chance to be made into a Daughter of Urgathoa rather than some sort of lesser undead.

Silver Crusade

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That is the most gothic galleon I've ever seen.

More seriously awesome prose Chris, would love to read some more of this.

Dark Archive

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It’s vague, but has been hinted at since Rule of Fear - the swaddled bundle is key - the cursed offspring of a paladin of Shelyn and Urgathoa, putting the “bastard” in Bastardhall. The coach seeks blood relatives, for an undefined purpose.

Liberty's Edge

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GM Aerondor wrote:
Actually I'd kind of like to hear how this particular story ends.

Aye! An if Paizo ever gets its novel line running again, I look forward to this tale... and others.


Rysky wrote:

That is the most gothic galleon I've ever seen.

{. . .}

It's not a galleon -- it's a castle occupying nearly all of a small island. And the bridge to it from the town in the foreground was destroyed, but it keeps coming back . . . .


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I‘d love to have a module for Bastard Hall.

It’s just across the river of the Thornkeep / Emerald Spire setting, would be so cool to continue that campaign.

Silver Crusade

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UnArcaneElection wrote:
Rysky wrote:

That is the most gothic galleon I've ever seen.

{. . .}

It's not a galleon -- it's a castle occupying nearly all of a small island. And the bridge to it from the town in the foreground was destroyed, but it keeps coming back . . . .

... that was the joke :3

(Chris writes a lot of cool nautical stuff)

Contributor

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Thanks everyone for the comments! I was actually channeling Wes when I wrote this...sort of. I know this was his baby, and I felt honored to be allowed to fill his shoes here, or at least try to.

Silver Crusade

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Chris A Jackson wrote:
Thanks everyone for the comments! I was actually channeling Wes when I wrote this...sort of. I know this was his baby, and I felt honored to be allowed to fill his shoes here, or at least try to.

Awesome


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Was the stagecoach that took them a "Death Coach" monster? I really hope we get a Bastardhall super dungeon module soon! :D

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