Content of the article: "Savage Negotiations (Steelshod 434)"
I don’t post these daily anymore, so just in case you’re a newcomer and you’ve never seen a Steelshod post before… click here to start at the beginning
This is the latest chapter out of several hundred, and I don’t think it will make much sense without context. This isn’t an episodic story so much as one long narrative.
Hopefully, you’ll enjoy yourself, and I’ll see you back here in good time. If not, no big deal. But I think if you start here you’re going to be very, very lost.
Table of Contents – includes earlier installments, maps, character sheets, our discord server, and other documents.
First | Previous
Note for Binge-Readers: This is generally live-updated to reflect the current state of the game! Hopefully if you’re binging you can keep better track of who’s going where, because you just recently read about them going there.
The One Forest
There’s no real way of denying it.
It’s the same man they slew.
He wears the same simple robes, the same green stole—though it is now spattered with dark bloodstains
He has the same leathery brown skin, the same gnarled face and scraggly beard.
He carries a twisted staff carved with Wncari patterns, instead of the spear he carried when he met them.
He looks out at the crowd in silence.
The crowd stares back in silence as well.
All except for Zelde… she stares too, but while she does she still raises a drinking horn to her lips and takes a long, loud slurp of her drink.
Finally, Cyril is the first to truly break the silence.
“So, your death… it did not take,” he says.
Partholon stares at Cyril with a piercing glare, and rasps a single word.
Cyril finds this troubling, and he says so.
He asks, bluntly, if Partholon can do this—coming back from the dead—again and again.
Partholon smiles thinly
He says yes… but they can try again, if they like.
“No, not particularly,” is Cyril’s swift reply.
Partholon nods slowly at this. He did not expect them to.
Yes, he has returned. Bánánach was not finished with him yet.
The One Forest has not yet been restored.
Victoria is not yet broken.
At that, Tiny stands up and snarls that it will take more than some dark magic and a few thousand barbarians to break Victoria.
Tiny is usually a pretty mild-mannered dude, for a hulking axeman, but he is also a Victorian patriot.
Cyril cautions Tiny to exercise some restraint… they are at a parley, after all.
Tiny sits down, and Partholon takes control of the conversation by turning his attention to James. He calls the young man out directly, for striking him down and violating their last meeting.
Steelshod isn’t too concerned with following traditions, or with honoring oaths or parleys, are they?
James defends himself, pointing out that he did honor his oaths.
He delivered what was promised: Antimony, and death.
Partholon seems more amused than offended… yes, James did swear to both of those.
But he also swore, alongside the Victorians, to offer no harm to the Collar of Thorns for one year’s time.
So he is an oathbreaker, and of a Blood Oath no less. He will suffer for that.
James is unafraid, or at least presents himself as such.
Partholon says he has no one to blame but himself for ending up in this bind… James was the one that added his own oath on top of the one they were swearing. He set himself up with contradictory oaths, so that any path he took would make him forsworn.
Rather than giving James a chance to respond, Partholon turns his attention to the others.
He says that Steelshod does not appear to have much honor thus far.
Slaying him during a meeting, attacking other Collars by surprise, killing Afric during a duel
Each of these things has some flimsy excuse, true. But it’s troubling.
He had hoped to renew some sort of deal with them, but he is unsure if they can be trusted that much
Cyril says that he disagrees—they are very happy to negotiate
If this whole business can be settled with words, why, that would be ideal.
Some of the others in Steelshod frown at that… they don’t totally agree, and they are not all sure they can accept any outcome that leaves Dolan or Partholon in charge.
Still, sensing an opening, Cyril tries to start up a proper diplomatic meeting.
Partholon invited them here, didn’t he?
And they have come.
Why throw away a chance to talk?
Is there no way that they can find some peaceful resolution?
Partholon says that there will be no peace until the One Forest is restored.
The storms will not abate until Victoria’s farms are drowned.
Victoria’s hunters will find no game in the wilds.
There can be no peace until Victoria is broken, its people returned to the earth or swept to the four winds.
That’s unpleasant. Cyril doesn’t let it bother him, though.
He presses on. He points out that in addition to their moral objections to the treatment of the monks, Steelshod has another reason for coming
They want Victoria to join their great Coalition… and doing so will yield benefits. Perhaps this whole matter is being come at backwards.
The Collar are clearly great warriors, and Steelshod faces an enemy that threatens to sweep all lands.
Perhaps they can work with Partholon, as distasteful as they might find that to be. It would be in the interest of the Collar of Thorns, Cyril insists.
After all, their foe is vast and implacable, and the Collar will not escape his notice forever.
“You speak of Oilliphéist’s new disciple,” says Partholon.
“The one called Unferth.”
Partholon seems amused at the looks of surprise and confusion this gets.
Some of them wondered if Partholon was working with Unferth, but the way he’s talking now, it’s not that simple.
And what is “Oilliphéist” exactly?
“I do not fear Unferth,” Partholon says simply. “He is not an enemy of the Collar of Thorns.”
One of them calls out a direct question. If they are not enemies, then… Is Partholon in league with Unferth?
Not especially, Partholon says. They are, at most, distant colleagues, both learning from some of the same masters.
Unferth seeks the destruction of the world of “civilized” men, true. That might make him a nominal ally.
But he also seems to be a mad beast, without honor, and utterly intractable. Even Oilliphéist has difficulty managing him.
Partholon could never count upon him.
Besides, he doesn’t need to.
He is content to leave Unferth alone. And Unferth is not foolish enough to pick a quarrel with Bánánach.
Cyril is not so sure. Unferth is unpredictable. He would know, since he has firsthand experience with Unferth’s monstrosity.
And that was before Unferth had become a monster on the outside to match his inhuman heart.
He knows Unferth is unstable. It sounds as though Partholon knows this too.
Sooner or later, Unferth and his minions will endanger the Collar of Thorns, just as they endanger everyone else.
So why not prevent that? Why not join with Steelshod, not as friends—hell, Cyril himself does not particularly consider Steelshod to be his friends—but as allies of convenience.
They can always go back to throwing themselves against the walls of Victoria after the world is saved from the crazy monster-sorcerer that threatens it.
Partholon is silent for a moment, and seems to sincerely consider Cyril’s words.
Finally, he speaks.
Perhaps Cyril is right, he concludes.
Perhaps Unferth is a threat to the One Forest, in the long term.
Perhaps they can work together, Steelshod and the Collar of Thorns
But he will not send away his warriors while Victoria still stands against them.
And his men will never fight alongside their most hated enemy.
If the Collar of Thorns is to join Steelshod’s Coalition, first Steelshod must stand aside and let Partholon crush Victoria
Or, even better, help him to do so as a show of their sincerity, since between Steelshod and the Collar it is Steelshod that has broken oaths.
A lot of Steelshod are disgusted by this offer, obviously
But before any of them reply, Cyril responds with calm, focused diplomacy.
What level of support is Partholon asking for? How long does he anticipate it will take for him to wipe out Victoria?
Victoria has many fighting men to offer the Coalition. If Partholon hopes to supplant them he must be able to rival that in value.
How much support, really, can Steelshod expect the Collar to give? Don’t they only have a few thousand warriors?
Cyril’s questions are all totally sincere.
He appears to be genuinely interested in Partholon’s offer, contemplating the merits of it.
And, to be fair, he probably is.
Cyril is a cunning man and a valuable asset, but he’s not a good person by any stretch.
Nor does he have any personal stake in the nations of the Midlands.
He cares about the DuChamps family, the isle of Lorraine, and the broader civilized world… in that order.
And he’s not one to balk at breaking a few eggs if it means he can give his family a tasty omelette.
Partholon nods at the fair questions.
It’s true that the Collar do not have a vast army of slack-jawed peasants like Victoria does.
But do they have mighty warriors, including—as Steelshod saw in Afric—ones that exceed the capabilities of normal mortal men.
But more important than that, they have the Druid an Fáinne, Partholon himself.
And they have Bánánach, the Living God.
Cyril shrugs, unimpressed. Yes, it’s true that Partholon has at least one neat trick.
But that doesn’t mean he can help them find and kill Unferth.
Partholon smiles thinly.
Yes, he and Bánánach can do that.
Bánánach has already shown him where Unferth’s true self, his mortal form, currently resides.
That turns some heads.
Reluctant though she may be, Cara is listening now.
But when the body language of Steelshod changes from totally hostile to reluctantly intrigued, Tiny stands up from his seat.
He is pissed
“You’re not seriously considering this, are you?” he demands.
He’s been a loyal member of Steelshod for a long time now, but he was a Son of Victory first. He was, and is, a Victorian patriot.
If Steelshod is about to sell out his people…
Cara stands up as well.
No, they’re not. She tells Tiny to calm down. There is no way Aleksandr and Yorrin would countenance betraying Victoria to Partholon.
But, she says, that doesn’t mean this conversation is pointless.
She looks at Partholon.
If he knows where Unferth is, that’s information Steelshod very much wants.
They won’t turn on Victoria—honestly, she says, Partholon was a fool for suggesting it.
It just shows them that he is closer to the faithless savage the Victorians assume him to be, and further from the noble wise druid the Collar pretends he is.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t come to some other sort of arrangement.
Cara says that she would be perfectly willing to offer Partholon something in return for information about Unferth.
For example, they could offer the Collar some of the tools and advantages they’ve offered other allies. Cara knows better than to offer the tools of infrastructure, but she imagines the Collar might have a use for steel weapons, or alchemy.
She sees Tiny squirm in the corner of her eye, but she ignores it.
From her perspective, no amount of steel gifted to the Collar will stop Steelshod from bringing Partholon down if they have to. And she knows Yorrin will badly want any intel on Unferth she can get.
Or, Cara continues, perhaps they could agree to a return to the previous agreement. They go back to a year-long armistice.
Doing so would almost certainly result in Victoria refusing to join Steelshod’s Coalition, so that they could focus on preparing for the Collar’s inevitable attacks.
But that might be worth it, if Partholon’s intel on Unferth is good enough.
Partholon seems amused at the various offers.
Just as he seems amused at Tiny’s unrestrained anger at this line of discussion, and at Lioness’s comparatively subdued discomfort. She has not spoken up, but she’s crossed her arms over her chest and she is glaring at Partholon and Dolan.
The druid looks to Cara, and declines her offers.
The Collar of Thorns has no need for steel or alchemy.
They have all the weapons they need.
They could, perhaps, have used the short-term support of Steelshod’s fighters, but Partholon never really expected them to agree to that.
If Cara will not aid the Collar against Victoria, then Partholon will not join the Coalition. This is as he expected.
However, if Cara is truly desperate for the information Partholon has, perhaps an agreement could still be reached.
He does not want weapons. He does not even really want the armistice, or at least not only that.
He wants Steelshod to go, and stay gone.
Leave Victoria and the Daoine to face each other.
Do not intervene, not now, not in a year’s time, nor any time after.
It is, Partholon thinks, a very reasonable request.
Only to the Middish would a request to simply mind their own business be seen as a great imposition.
But if Steelshod agrees to that… then Partholon will tell them where they can find Unferth.
Cara has no immediate reply.
Nor does Cyril.
Steelshod in general stares at Partholon in contemplation for a moment.
He tells them to finish their feast, and ponder his words. He will return before the night is through.
And with that, he turns and steps back into the hollowed trunk of the huge tree, disappearing into the shadows.
There is, technically, a possibility that Partholon is just tucking himself into the hollow trunk and hiding out of sight like a child hiding in a cupboard.
But somehow, they all know he’s truly gone.
For now, at least.
Steelshod reluctantly returns to their food and drink, quietly conferring on Partholon’s offer.
Dolan sips from his drinking horn, and watches them.
Cara and Cyril and discussing the offer when Felix leans over to whisper to them.
He has no opinion about Partholon’s offer—he admits he wasn’t really listening that closely.
He was people-watching instead.
And he’s noticed something about several of the grizzled, hard-bitten veterans eating near them in the central grove.
Namely, that they are eating like bersarks, or even moreso.
They rip at rare meat taken early off the cookfires, crack bones to suck the marrow, and seem no more sated now than when Steelshod first arrived.
Behavior very much like that exhibited by Afric, when he arrived at Ronald’s Basin.
Felix has pegged about twenty men around them that seem to fit this pattern. He’s very much watching them, and he wants Cara to do the same.
At this point, with Partholon having made his appearance, the feast turns into a more chaotic party.
The men and women in each grove begin getting more raucous… less eating and more drinking, impromptu music and dancing, and various games and contests
Eventually a random Collar—not from nearby, but from one of the outer groves—approaches them.
He’s drunk, and combative, looking for someone to fight.
Zelde would normally leap at the chance, but she is taking very seriously her instructions to keep an eye on James and protect him—so she stays put
Bear is about to give the Collar what he obviously wants when Lioness suddenly leaps to her feet.
She levels her gaze on the Collar.
She tells him if he won’t shut up until someone shuts him up, she’s happy to oblige.
What will they fight with? Fists? Blades?
Neither. The proper way to duel in nearly any Wncari tribe is with sturdy, knobby war clubs.
The Collar fighter and Lioness are each provided a shillelagh. They step into a clear stretch of only somewhat muddy ground in the clearing.
And they fight.
They aren’t pulling their strikes.
They are both wearing a smattering of armor—Lioness moreso than the Collar—and that’s good, because the clubs hit plenty hard.
Cara quietly murmurs to Cyril that it’s not unheard of for people to die in shillelagh duels.
Cyril seems mildly disgusted by the barbarity of it, conveniently forgetting that his own people often duel with blades, and Sophie alone has probably killed more people in duels than any single man or woman in the Midlands.
No doubt, if challenged, he’d say that’s “different”
The fight is short and brutal.
Lioness is one of the Sons of Victory, an elite soldier even before she joined Steelshod.
She is fast and viciously strong. She grips the shillelagh in two hands and swings it like she would her axe, in a relentless onslaught that the Collar warrior is not really prepared for.
She soon leaves the Collar bleeding and senseless in the mud. Some of his friends drag him away.
A second Collar steps up—another young drunkard from an outer circle, and not someone Felix is overly worried of being any kind of wolf-man.
Lioness agrees to this bout as well, and soon after the second man is hauled away.
A decent number of the Collar have gathered around to watch these duels, and there’s a ripple of annoyance at Lioness’s two victories.
She goes to sit back down, but before she does she comments loudly on the foolish goals of the Collar of Thorns… they’re not just outnumbered by Victoria, they’re outclassed.
Dolan seems to take notice of that, and he counters that Victoria is a fat, decadent city. Its people are indolent and overconfident.
A few warriors will not be able to save them.
Tiny is the one that stands this time, before Lioness has a chance to.
His blood is boiling, and he launches into something that is half fiery challenge and half professorial lecture
Remember, Tiny may have been one of the biggest of the Sons, but he was also one of the most well-read and erudite. He spends more of his downtime in Steelshod chatting philosophy with Jaspar or Hubert than he does partying with Bear or Robin.
Victoria has stood for generations… they weren’t broken by the might of the Empire and they aren’t going to break against a few thousand savages.
Victoria has defeated the Collar countless times throughout history. Are they really such fools that they think Partholon is the first time they’ve unified beneath a new high druid?
It’s not. Tiny’s read records of previous generations where the Collar rose up, only to be smacked back down when they pushed Victoria too far.
If they want to find some way of coexisting, Victoria would probably listen. They don’t like going to war.
They could’ve taken their neighbors in wars past, too… they didn’t. Because they just want to be left alone.
But if the Collar keep pushing, they will not like the end result.
Tiny meets Dolan’s glare with one of his own.
If they want a fight, why wait? Another Victorian is right here.
Dolan climbs down from his platform in silence.
He passes his spear to one of his men
Then he gives Tiny a long, measured look, and calls for shillelaghs.
Tiny nods, accepting a club, and they step into the same part of the clearing that Lioness fought her duels.
This fight is nothing like Lioness thumping the shit out of random Wncari.
Dolan is a seasoned fighter, Collar of Thorns warchief and head Laochra. He is broad shouldered, fleet of foot, and has seen many battles
He’s better with a spear than a club… but Tiny’s better with an axe than a club, so they’re both at similar disadvantage in that regard.
Tiny has quite a few inches of height and pounds of muscle on Dolan, and he starts the fight full of confidence.
But Dolan ducks Tiny’s first blow, and smashes the shillelagh into him with sudden blinding speed and force
Tiny staggers, surprised, but he tries to counterattack.
The fight rages for a few tense moments. Both of them land blows on each other that would probably disable lesser men.
But Dolan quickly seizes the upper hand—his footwork is better, and he avoids a lot of Tiny’s blows, whereas Tiny just takes hit after hit.
There’s a moment where it looks like Tiny might pull through, and then Dolan dodges the blow and uses his positioning to slam Tiny face-first into a tree.
Tiny drops like a sack of rocks.
He’s beat to hell, but they drag him back to his comrades.
Rough situation—Steelshod’s two best healers went on this Victorian mission, but Agrippa is sitting out the meeting back in Ronald’s Basin and Orson is taking care of Felina back in Victoria.
A few members here have had rudimentary medical training from Agrippa, and they do their best to take care of Tiny
Meanwhile, Dolan is reveling in his victory and getting his men riled up. He declares this just the first taste of what is to come, when the Collar of Thorns goes against Victoria.
Lioness stands back up again. Dolan glances at her, and she glares back at him.
She says that if the Collar of Thorns really wants to take on Victoria, they’ll have to beat every Victorian
Dolan gestures to the muddy fighting area, giving her a smug smirk
She picks up the fallen shillelagh Tiny was using, and steps into the ring with Dolan.
This fight drags on much longer than the last one.
In truth, Dolan used several of his limited use abilities to avoid Tiny’s first few hits and put a very swift hurt down upon him
He’s mostly out of those, now, and has to rely on his more general competence.
He and Lioness are both slightly battered from their previous fights, but Tiny hurt Dolan more than the random Collars hurt Lioness.
And Lioness has a key passive ability, where she can make a weak counterattack once per round when struck—not normally a game-changer in massive battles.
But these little hits add up fast in a one-on-one slog like this.
So it soon becomes clear that this fight is a close one, and if anything Lioness has the upper hand.
More and more Collars crowd in to get a good view of the action.
As Lioness beats Dolan down bit by bloody bit
In the end, she drops him with a solid blow of the shillelagh, and Dolan crashes down into the mud, dazed and beaten.
Lioness herself is covered in mud and blood, and she looks out at the shocked assembly of Collars.
She roars at them, and they recoil slightly.
She shouts at them, full of fury and invective.
They think Victoria is full of soft city-dwellers? They think Victoria will crumble if they push them, terrorize them?
This is what Victorians look like when you push them.
This is what the Collar is going to find if they take the conflict to open warfare.
Victoria made its name throwing off the greatest power the world had ever seen.
And these fucking savages think they can do it?
The Collar will never even breach Victoria’s walls. And if they do?
They’ll find themselves surrounded by tens of thousands of people like her.
Lioness isn’t necessarily the most eloquent. She shouts and sputters her way through the claims, panting with exertion and pain.
Even so, it has an effect.
The Collars back off, dragging a groggy Dolan to one of the outer groves to have his wounds seen to.
Lioness thumps back down in her seat with Steelshod, shrugging off attempts to check her wounds.
And the party slowly, awkwardly, begins to resume.
We’ll call it there.
I did it again, writing a long post in my effort to write up all the events of the meeting. It was… eventful, and the discussions that were had were often quite important.
So I actually have a good chunk of the next post already written, and I realized I should call it at this spot as it was the best break I could find for a while.
Next post should be up in a few days, hopefully.
© Post "Savage Negotiations (Steelshod 434)" for game Dungeons & Dragons Online.
Top 7 NEW Games of June 2020
Quite a few exciting games are releasing for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo in June. Here's what to keep an eye on.
Top 10 NEW Open World Games of 2020
Video games with open worlds continue to roll out in 2020 on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and beyond. Here are some to look forward to!
Top 10 Best New Upcoming Games 2020-2021
The best selection of games which will be released in 2020 and 2021 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Google Stadia and PC - and you can watch in amazing UHD 4K and 60FPS with latest updates about all of the games in this list!