An Artefact actual play summary, as well an introduction to some of the characters and world of Bug & Claw.
We are shriveled, dormant.
We sleep. Ages go by. Our sleep deepens.
Creatures come. They snack on our legs, our body. We don't have the strength to fuss and continue to sleep.
Rocks fall. They crush our body, our remaining legs. We continue to sleep.
A new creature comes. A scent awakens the cogs of our mind. The creature takes a knee in our cave. drip drip drip. It's bleeding. A drip from the creature's brow falls on our dust-covered mandibles. Flashes of a recent battle flit through our head as our remaining eye quickly begins to perceive light again. We rejuvenate.
"Watch out, Hroth," we say lightly, seeing the bandit creep behind him that he does not. His long antennae twitch just before he feints left, slashing. An arc of blood goes wide over the cave walls– over us. "You don't have much time," we say. "He was hired by your uncle and is part of a group. Others follow."
"Who? What are you? A... child?" Hroth asked warily. "How could you know that?"
We pause a moment. How long had it been that we've lain here? "We know through blood. You bled on us as you knelt, and when you slew him, we knew more. No children. Not yet. We have slept for a long time."
Hroth began to squirm, uncomfortable, grateful maybe but debating leaving. We, however, could not move.
"Your uncle plots against you."
"And your mother."
"Take us with you. Blood talks. We will know more together."
And so Hroth scooped us up.
First keeper: Hroth
Our first keeper, Hroth, is a rebellious prince. He is distinguished by his formidable antennae and metallic exoskeleton. He has astonishingly fast reflexes but is disadvantaged by impulsive, short-sighted desires. He seems driven by a single purpose – to overthrow the current despotic leadership (which he would inherit).
For a time, Hroth carries us, staying one step ahead of his enemies by allowing us to drink of their blood and divulge their plans to him. But things are fuzzy. Sometimes it's not a complete story we receive, just flashes, pictures, a face, or words. So Hroth devised a plan of his own.
Being a noble has its advantages. Money, connections. Hroth commissions us a new home with a great whitesmith artisan named Fi. Blacksmithing would be too dangerous and draw too much attention anyways, he says. Plus, although white metals are rare they're much stronger and will keep us safe.
After drinking the blood of many of his enemies and spinning many stories for Hroth, he leaves us with Fi. Several months pass. Occasionally he returns with a few drops of blood in a vial for us and a few lumps of alloy for Fi.
Eventually, our new home is complete. We sit proudly in the head of a great mace made from white alloy. Fi has spent the bulk of the alloy on the head of the mace, making it a bright, shiny white, while she says the shaft and handle may be slightly more prone to damage and discolouration. A few holes in the head allow blood to flow from the outer spike to us, and one much bigger acts as a window and allows us to flex what remains of our abdomen, press our eye out and see. We are ready to explore. And together, we are prepared to conquer.
"It's finally time to give you a name," Hroth says.
"I've thought about that," Fi interjects. Hroth raises an eyebrow. "I gathered some of these, and I think you'll agree they slightly resemble the final design."
"They do; what are they?"
"They've got two names, actually– both could strike fear for your enemies, especially to those who know what they are. It's a highly poisonous plant, you see. Baneberry is the common name."
"Heh. And the other?"
"That's the one that reminded me most of... well. Its voice. Doll's Eye."
"Yes. Baneberry – The Doll's Eye. Fitting."
Introducing: Baneberry – The Doll's Eye
Baneberry is a sizeable spiked mace that resembles a single pedicel and accompanying berry from the white baneberry plant. Those who would intimidate with it tend to use its first name, but when they want to strike fear and remind their enemies that they are always watching and know all their secrets, they use its creepier second name: the Doll's Eye. The wielder's enemies generally only hear rumours of the child-like voice that comes from the mace because if they're close enough to listen to its words, they're probably about to quench its thirst.
Traits & qualities
The Doll's Eye has a few stand-out traits
- Durable (both the white-alloy metal weapon and the creature within it)
- Child-like curiosity
- Collective personality
The Doll's Eye is generally apathetic towards its keepers, seeing them as a means to continue drinking and expanding its mind. With every drink of blood, there is a small flash of a place, fractions hidden in the collective blood memory of bugkin. It feels familiar, bringing a sense of home, of wholeness, and the Doll's Eye longs for it.
Hroth helped us drink, know, remember, and see; we helped Hroth see through what others had known and had seen. Slowly, over a few years, we advised him in his long game of cornering his uncle and mother. When bugkin tell the story, they say Hroth took his time because he wanted his plan to be ironclad, but the truth was we knew enough in our first fights with his uncle and mother's henchmen. They also say Hroth spared his mother from us, and she took her own life, but that isn't entirely true either...
Hroth was reluctant to seek out his mother. He could not believe she would plot against him and wished that we could not taste the memory of her plans spread through reckless and hotheaded henchmen. We were indifferent to seeking her out, for the most part. But the more blood Hroth fed us, the more we felt a spark inside us. Flashes of silk and branch. Pictures of a place that felt like home made us feel whole. Would helping Hroth find closure at the end of these threads take us closer to this feeling, to this... blood vision? We resolved we must find out.
"It is time," we told Hroth.
"Your uncle first, then."
We knew from the last foe we'd dispatched that Hroth's uncle, Glodr, and his mother, Trat, would be found together, but Hroth need not know that.
We lead Hroth and two of his followers through the sleepy coastal town of Dewwallow, the Blinddrift, and finally, to an old lighthouse near Stagbay. We had led Hroth on one last bloodbath, hoping to work up his anger so he may actually slay his mother and we may complete our blood vision. His uncle Glodr used the lighthouse as a base of operations (a detail we'd known but kept to ourselves until now). We let Hroth know that Glodr often paced the grounds at midday so he could shout orders to his men when they were about and otherwise stayed at the top of the lighthouse watching the world.
We advised Hroth, "wait until nightfall. Approach from the rear by the shed. If you care to be seen, the password for safe passage is tend the garden, watch for weeds. None of those who guard here have seen you in body before, so they should not recognize you." These juicy tidbits we collected from the fallen made it seem as though Hroth and company were invisible, working their way, guard by guard, to the top of the lighthouse. As he made his way up the spiralling steps, his heartbeat grew louder and louder. It excited us.
Hroth threw the door to the top of the lighthouse open, which was not even locked.
"What is this... ?" Glodr said, gaping, realization hitting him even as the words escaped his mouth. We had our eye pressed against the side of our housing in anticipation.
"You mean you did not expect to see me, uncle? Even after you've been sending me so many invitations?" Hroth said.
"Take him," we said.
Before Glodr could reply, Hroth lunged, bashing us across him. To-and-fro, and we drank. This man had lived a fuller life than the others before him. We could hardly contain ourselves with all of the new information, pictures, smells, and sounds, flooding our memories this night, and we began to shake, to rattle against the walls of our home.
Standing over his uncle, feeling triumphant, was when Hroth noticed her opposite him in the room atop the old lighthouse. His mother stood, staring, fixated on him.
"I knew it would come to this," she said.
"YOU KNEW?!" Hroth yelled back. "You have forced my hand from the very beginning. My own mother and my uncle sought my throat. You will tell me why!"
"I'm told that's what that thing does for you– tell you people's deepest, darkest secrets once you strike them down. The Oracle was right."
"The Oracle?! The Oracle is a fraud. Is that what this has all been about... ? What did she tell you?"
"The same thing your uncle did. You plotted for an early throne and would come to kill us both, and here you are."
Hroth's antennae began twitching. "He's been sending bugs to kill me for years now. I have done nothing but defend myself, mother. I have smashed thorax after thorax– likely innocent, misguided bugs– for that manipulative pool of blood?"
Hroth glanced at what was left of his uncle Glodr. We think he knew without our help that the Oracle was an agent of his uncle's. She had been for years– we knew it as soon as we tasted Glodr's blood. We also knew that it was not a very well-kept secret. How could Hroth's mother, a queen, their leader, be so foolish?
We began to speak, "The Oracle was an agent of Glodr, paid in ..."
Hroth cut us off swiftly. "Do NOT help her. We do not need answers from crooked uncle Glodr's blood; she can work it out herself. Can't you, mother? So, elaborate and tell us, what kind of fool is the queen?" This was interesting to us.
Trat, the queen, trembled as she spoke. "No, my brother... Glodr is... was a great man. He would never..."
The tension excited us. We vibrated in our housing more and more, and we interrupted. "She is wr-r-r-r-rong. Take her-r-r-r."
"No!" Hroth shouted, trying to control us, his grip wavering as we sent trembling down the grip.
"I am not wrong!" Trat shouted, stepping closer.
"You a-a-a-r-r-r-e. The bloo-d-d-d knows. We kno-w-w-w." And we wanted more blood.
"If blood is yours and this thing's truth, Hroth, then you shall have it!" Trat shouted, lunging with a small blade.
Hroth tried to stop her, to stop us. "No, mother! Please, don't listen to it! Stop!" But she was at him now.
Hroth swung us to block Trat's advances. He was as fast as he ever was, antennae twitching this way and that. With every collision, we were filled with more anticipation, stuttering, peeking, and shaking. No matter how fast Hroth was, the shaking began to throw him off so that Trat could cut him superficially. This made us wonder– could we vibrate in such a way as to direct our keeper's strikes and defences to a degree? If we wanted blood, to help Hroth find closure, and improve our blood vision, then we must try.
We first tested our theories on defences, allowing Hroth to become wounded. Maybe this would throw him off, we thought. Eventually, we saw an opening–our eye pressed to the edge of our housing–where his downward swing to block could become an attack, and we wriggled with all our might. Hroth must have figured out what we were doing at the last second, crying out. "No!" We struck her hard across the temple.
Hroth dropped us to the floor, reaching for his mother as she stumbled backward. "Mother, no. I'm sorry." She was gone, out the window, we assume, onto the rocks below.
"It wa-s-s-s small, but we got a taste," we said. "Do you want to know what.."
"SHUT UP!" Hroth shouted. "I see what you are and what you want now," he said as he picked us back up again. Before we could reply, Hroth heaved us as hard as he could out the window after his mother. We did not expect this. What a strange overreaction when he knew his mother would become a part of us and never truly be gone.
We landed in the shallows with a soft splash not far from the rocks where Trat had fallen. We slept there on and off. We learned later that Hroth had become traumatized by the lighthouse events. He never pursued the throne. Instead, it's said he became a hermit.
End part 1