A GENTLE FALL OF IRON

Orange snow is falling east of Yaroslavl, and it is slowly approaching the city itself. The snow has a vile reek and those who can discern such things know that it is magical, with a taint of the Sibiryak spirits. It is clearly not fit for mortals, and already the water supplies are becoming tainted and people and animals are beginning to fall sick. More strikingly, in the area covered by the snow, not a single live child has been born, as an epidemic of still-births spreads misery and fear. The fabled Chud shaman Vadjaat has appeared, too, roaming the blighted lands, warning that this is the polluted blood of the Shape Iron, bringing death to the world and that all should flee before it. Many do, flocking westwards to Yaroslavl and beyond.

This is all bad enough, but Prince Averiy of Yaroslavl is especially concerned because at long last his wife Lidiya is pregnant, but this is proving a burden for the slender, sickly princess. Her doctors warn that moving her out of the city along snowy roads could prove fatal to her or the child — but if she stays and the orange snow reaches the city, the baby will surely die anyway…

  • This is indeed a weeping wound in Iron, caused when a Mongol shaman sought to forge it into a blade which could cut through the very world and create a chasm into which Tamerlane and his approaching armies would disappear. The Mongol shaman failed and his entire lineage of ancestral spirits were dragged shrieking into oblivion, but Iron is hurt and yet, being Iron, can neither heal the wound or even acknowledge it. Heroes must venture into the psychedelic Representational World of the Siiryaks, where they will eventually find a torrent of liquid iron pouring from the sky. Close by is the dead form of the shaman, a grotesquely twisted figure of sold iron. They must somehow climb this iron-fall and physically close the wound they eventually reach, a gash in the sky a man’s height wide and three times as long, before using some kind of heat to weld it closed and thus heal Iron. [As well as Russian heroes, this would be especially appropriate for Sibiryaks or, indeed, Mongols — perhaps relatives looking to redeem the shaman and his ancestors.]
  • This is part of a terrible plot by Vadjaat himself, who is drawing the raw power of Iron into the snow clouds above. As he drives people away, he and his equally crazed acolytes are gathering the orange drifts into snowmen. They are being imbued with the power of iron and the spirits of the dead children, and will soon be unleashed on Yaroslavl as Vadjaat — who is, of course, quite, quite mad — wrongly believes that the more death he can spread, the greater his reverence to Iron. The snowmen can be destroyed, of course, but will this damn the spirits within them? Ideally, they should be lured into the great Monastery of the Transfiguration in Yaroslavl and prayers part the snow clouds and bring down a mighty, cleansing, thawing and redemptive solar radiance…

A LONG-AWAITED WITHDRAWAL

When Prince Vladimir Bright Sun had Perun’s idol dragged down St Andrew’s Rise and thrown into the Dneipr river, his priests’ prayers were turned to ensuring that the statue’s pagan powers were quenched. Subsequently other idols were similarly thrown to the wide river, but not with the same attention, and not always with the same finality. One especially lewd idol to Yarilo ended up mired in a swampy ox-bow lake a few miles downstream, and over the years became buried in muck and mud.

Yarilo tires of this and has sent dreams to a number of his most devoted followers. Those who follow lusty Yarilo, though, are rarely the most powerful or responsible of devotees. Only Borya of Balashika, whose carnal exploits are currently curtailed as a result of a particularly powerful and vicious curse, is willing to heed them, hoping to win the god’s blessing and thus cure his drooping malaise.

Borya is an amiable rogue, a balladeer, dancer, singer and lover. He knows fifteen ways to charm a maiden and as many to hoodwink a husband. Beyond that, he is otherwise immensely impractical and thus his exasperated brother, who turns out conveniently enough to be an existing contact of one of the player-heroes, is happy to offer silver and favours to those willing to help — nurse-maid — him on his mission. All they need to is travel to the relevant site, dig up the idol, perhaps engaging extra labourers, and transport what is, after all, a 9′ tall wooden phallus, through the lands of Christian Kiev to a new holy site, east of Smolensk. Easy, right? Of course, there may be one or two complications…

  • The idol radiates an aura of almost palpable and mischievous sensuality. One, some or all of the heroes will be assailed by all kinds of lurid fantasies and unexpected temptations. Each hero must use a different relationship or other ability each night (with a suitable explanation as to why this is appropriate) against the idol’s Lubricious Influence 20 in an extended contest in which the idol has 60AP. Eventual failures might lead to the acquisition of some suitable new character trait and also an ability at 20; a really strong success might even lead to some minor curse from a frustrated Yarilo.
  • Borya is, of course, prone to goof off and cause trouble at inconvenient moments. He also has ‘Slept Around 1M2’, which could at any time manifest in an outraged father or lovesick maiden.
  • If the ambitious Bishop Innokent of Kiev hears of the heroes and their find, and he will, then he will quietly muster some loyal and zealous warriors and set off to seize the idol. Not only is he a pinched-mouthed prude, but he reckons that such a feat might help him raise his stock with the Metropolitan in Moscow and further his chances of supplanting the more easy-going Archbishop Pavel.
  • Borya is a blabber-mouth, too. Before he set out, he evaded his brother’s supervision for one drunken binge during which he spoke too freely. The route to the new site passes through the lands of Bryansk, and Prince Dmitri has his woodsmen out looking for them. After all, he has been married five years now and is still without an heir…
  • And, of course, the joys of trying to get a wagon-load of magical idol through Russian woods and swamps, while its power acts as a beacon to all kinds of supernatural forces, should not be ignored. Indeed, such is its power that the heroes could well pass into the Ideal World without even realising.