Dark Times 1: A Blot on the Landscape (Ironsworn Solo)

This is the start of a new character I’ve been playing with Ironsworn RPG, a fantastic fiction forward game by Shawn Tompkin and bizarrely, available completely free for the massive core rule book. I’ve dabbled with test games in the past and may pick some of them up here, but this is the first in the world of the Darkwilds, during the Dark Times. This is only loosely connected to the Ironsworn core world, which is more of a cold windswept low fantasy dark ages theme, whereas this is intended to be more verdant and set in the early iron age. I will add some posts in future about the world I’ve created for it and a review and summary of the rules but for now I wanted to just kick things off with the start of the story.

Journal of Althas Binder

10th Fivemoon, 732 DT

Servan High Binder called me up to service several days past and informed me of reports that a new pillar had appeared near the village of Stonemark on the border with Greymount. I was to be dispatched to bind the pillar before the corruption could take hold. It was to be undertaken alone as the pillar was new and the threat should be minimal. This was my first time doing a binding alone, but I felt ready for the challenge.

I took the Iron Oath and journeyed there without incident but arrived to find some locals calling themselves the “Stonemark Militia” squaring off to their counterparts from some village across the border I never got the name of. The fools were blathering on about witchcraft and failed crops and how the arrival of the pillar was summoned by Greymount sourcery as part of some long standing dispute over water rights. They would not heed any reason. 

I noted a number of them were already scuffed and bloodied from fighting and on further inquiry discovered an Iron Priest had intervened in their dispute and been injured! I insisted they take me to him but they would not leave their lands unprotected to the ravages of the Greymountese. 

I attempted to warn the Greymountese off and my trusty hawk, Tala, put on a grand showing, but these are hardy border folk, unimpressed by such posturing, and in the end I tossed them a handful of coin and sent them on their way. I dislike bribery but time was of the essence.

The “Stonemark Militia” took me to their village hall where the Iron Priest was laid up and was horrified to find it was my dear friend Brother Masias. What’s more, he was in a much direr state than they’d led me to believe!

I made an Iron Oath there and then to find him a healer but first I had to deal with the pillar. The Darkwilds were already taking hold around it and I dare not leave it longer. I cut a swathe through the rapidly growing vegetation and found myself facing the pillar.

No matter how often you see them you’re never quite prepared. They appear like a hole in the world. To call them black pillars is a disservice. They are a blot on the landscape, a hole in the fabric of reality. No matter how you look at them or move around them you can never perceive any surface or curve. They must have an edge for they stand only slightly broader than me and perhaps twice as tall, yet staring at them make your eyes water and burn, as if your mind cannot comprehend that which it looks upon. To touch it with naked flesh is to be burned with searing fire and frozen ice at the same time. It burns as strongly as my desire to understand them, what they are and why they bring so much corruption.

I can already feel the creeping doubt and cold terror seeping off it and churning my guts. I pull out my tools and set to work, hammering and riveting the iron strips in place to encircle it with enough iron to deactivate it. I can feel it fighting back, the darkness clawing at my mind, the images of my dead body lying before it, of the Darkwilds consuming my city, my family, all that I love. I can still feel it’s tendrils on me even now writing this.

I grit my teeth and continued, pushing away the mental onslaught. The fight back continued as the throny tanglevines whipped at my legs drawing blood. The pain and shock stalled my hammer for a moment and I heard a whimpering cry from nearby. A human cry. Someone was trapped in the vines, but I could not abandon my task so close to completion.

With renewed vigour I hammered the last strips around the pillar and finally felt the darkness fade. The pillar took shape before me, no longer the hole in the universe it was before but a simple dark stone pillar, now encircled several times in iron strips.

I wiped my brow and took deep breaths as I quickly packed my tools away and set off towards where I’d head the cries. Cutting aside the now dying vines I pulled a woman out of the undergrowth, weary and bruised but not seriously harmed. She thanked me and told me her name was Kara and she had been resting in a hedgerow on her way to Highfall when the Darkwilds around the pillar took root and caught her off guard. I wished her well and explained that I must make to Highfall with haste in search of a healer. For once, luck was with me and she explained she had been driven from her home in the borders but was travelling to stay with her friend, a healer. If I helped her she would bring me to her. I swore an Iron Oath to help.

I was ready to set off immediately, but darkness was closing in and to travel in the dark is madness. We returned to Stonemark, picking up what remedies we knew from the woods and spent the night recovering and tending to Brother Macias. As dawn broke his situation was no better and we set off with haste. Thankfully our journey was not arduous though our supplies ran dry and we arrived in Highfall just before nightfall. As promised, Kara took me to her friend, Sola the Healer. 

Alas, Sola is of nervous disposition and terrified of leaving the safety of the walls. What’s more, with her parents dead she was sole protected of her young brother, Kuno. With Kara’s help and assurance she would look after Kuno, and my swearing of an Iron Oath to protect Sola and Kuno as best I could, Sola reluctantly agreed.

Luck was against us for just as we prepared to set off, word of a Forsaken raid spread throughout the city. Nevertheless, we were able to make it out before the gates were sealed and skirt around the area without issue. We made it to Stonemark to find Brother Macias in a bad way, but under Sola’s ministrations he seems to be recovering well. As I write this I have just obtained more medicines for Sola and the good Brother is looking better already. He was up and chatting with us for a little time this morning. It is my hope that in a few more days he will be well enough to make the journey to Highfall where he can complete his recovery amongst his fellows in the Bondhall and Sola may be reunited with her brother.

I will do some training with Tala on the morrow and regain some strength myself.


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