Album review: Apple of my Eye’s “The Beast Below”

Such is the power of Apple of my Eye‘s storytelling, that the review that follows takes the form of a story.  Imagine it if you will, collaborately told about a table, its ballads sung to the clatter of falling dice.

Apple of my Eye's "The Beast Below"

“Your troupe sits lazily about a large table in the cider house, lost in fatigue and reverie from your last quest.  The air is thick with a sickly smell of cider and sweet tobacco.  A few of you are tweaking the trollgut strings of your instruments, picking stray strands from the bows.  Jo, you notice a man across the room staring at your cello.”

“What does he look like?”

“In a word, drunk.  Very drunk.”

“I’ll ready the finger positions for Delay Poison.”

“Do I have my harmonica?”

“No Dan, it’s still with the blacksmith.  He’ll have it rid of the curse in the morning.”

“Urgh, I get Break Enchantment next level.  Okay, no worries.”

“The drunk man wanders over to your table.  He places his feet carefully as he crosses the room, looking like he’s trying to avoid invisible patterns on the floor.”

Is a penguin a mammal?
Or is it a kind of fish?
Is it a kind of demon?

“I bloody hate riddles.  Why is it always a man in a tavern with a riddle?”

“Be patient, Arran.  As you listen on, it’s clear that this man is paranoid as well as drunk, but his words are frightfully funny.  At the very least, it’s proved pleasant diversion and amusement on a quiet evening.  Does anyone want to make an Insight check?”

“Yeah, I will.  Uh, add four — that’s eighteen.”

“Excellent.  Kit, you notice that there seems to be a hidden pattern to his drunken ravings.  With some subtle nudging, you’re able to get him to repeat parts of his speech.  You’re able to jot down some directions…”

Run, brother please run
To town please carry the tragedy of what’s become
For, of the four hundred men who went down
Twenty or so they came up from below

“Folks, your bardic lore means you recognise the location the drunk man was directing you to.”

“What’s his name?”

“What?”

“The drunk guy.  Surely he’s got a name.”

“It doesn’t matter.  Oh, I don’t know.  Tomwards.  He’s called Tomwards.”

“All of your drunks are called Tomwards.”

“Shut up.  Anyway, your bardic lore means you know where he’s talking about.  It’s the Barnsley Undermountains.”

“Haven’t we been looking for them for ages?”

“Yeah, but we didn’t know where they were.”

“That’s that dungeon with all the clothwork sprites, yeah?”

“That’s the one.  But to get to it, you’ll have to cross the eastern waterways.  Shall we call the scene here?  How do you want to get across the ocean?”

“I’m not taking a balloon again.  Not since the last balloon owner tried selling me into marriage.”

“We can charter a fishing boat.  I used to work as the compass on the Fruits of the Sea.”

“Cool, so you manage to make a deal with the captain of the Fruits of the Sea.  He makes a point of not asking you why you’re crossing the expanse.  The passage is calm, until … Wait, let me just check this…  Ah.”

“Ah?”

“The boatswain calls out to the rest of the crew to help haul in the net, for it’s picked up the biggest catch yet.  However, the load is so heavy, it takes everyone pitching in and using the mast as a pulley to drag the net even near the surface — the tumultous waters of which are soon broken by the thrashing of gargantuan tentacles.”

“Shit.”

“Uh, I want us to cast Greater Heroism.”

“Okay.  I want you guys to roleplay this one.”

Powder load
Fire the cannon at the Beast Below
We’ll not go down without a fight, my lads!

The album is excellent: a gorgeous collaboration between strings, mouth organs and melancholy.  It goes on sale tomorrow, Monday 19th September.  If you’re free this Weds, you can visit the beautiful St Pancras Old Church for the album release party.

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Album review: Apple of my Eye’s “The Beast Below”

BURN, SIR — an investigation for INTO THE ODD

The following adventure was written by stealing mercilessly from the excellent folk song Burn, Sir by Apple of my Eye. You should definitely buy the song: it makes excellent music to play out the end of the session with.

The Scene is Set

The town of Orchard lies barely a day’s ride from Bastion and is famed for its most excellent cider. It also happens to be the home of a young woman who was waiting on the visit of one of the players: who didn’t turn up as promised…

Ask the following questions of the players — ask a different question to each player:

  • Who is this woman & what happened that you didn’t go back to her?
  • You were also involved, but why don’t you feel bad about it?
  • Why did you plan on visiting Orchard?
  • What do you owe another player?

Likewise, ascertain why the players are now interested in heading to Orchard. Once they have stocked up on supplies, they may make their way out of town.

The Journey to Orchard

Orchard nestles in the low foothills outside of Bastion, set gently on a soft river that runs lazily out to the Polar Ocean. The route there is straight and largely uninteresting, though sadly the players are set upon by a murmuration of 2d4 johnson swifts.

The swifts are fast birds, night-black save for the dull pink of a slobbering acidic tongue in the place of their heads. They are driven to dissolve glistening surfaces (such as eyes). (STR6, DEX16, HP1; d6 acid tongue {ignores Armour}.)

Orchard Town

The village is a sizeable one, its buildings surrounded entirely by fertile farrowed ground. There are no trees. The inhabitants of the town can’t directly remember the recent past. This doesn’t worry them.

1 Halen Dormal
2 Corm Noergat
3 Zhett Blund
4 Glory Scart
5 Swifft Owin
6 Jarl Hedg

The memories are affected by the presence of the hateseed. Likewise, its presence means that all of the roads out of town loop back to Orchard.

At night, a solitary treegaunt stalks. It is driven to pluck ripe fruit. (STR14, HP14; very slow moving; d10 ripening touch; decapitates on Critical Damage.)

Points of interest

  1. The boathouse on the river might be the only way to actually get out of town. Beside it sits the watermill, whose grindstone is mealing up poison-powder from appleseeds.
  2. At the edge of town, a rainbow’s end almost meets the ground. There is nothing there beyond a murmuration of 2d4 johnson swifts.
  3. There remains a single barrel of cider in the pub. The price goes up continually as the barrel drains: half a pint currently costs sixty shillings.

The villagers are able to identify the house of the ex-lover. She won’t see anyone.

The next morning

The oppressive mood of the village feels even greater and when you look outside it’s possible to see hundreds of treegaunts moving slowly about. It very much feels like a net closing in. After leaving a building, as far as the eyes can see there are houses burning.

This is your doing.

Despite the external threat, there is a clear path to either the well, or a conspicuous cellar. The player with the lowest WIL knows that the solution lies beneath.

Underground

  1. There is a room with a precariously balanced round-bottom flask atop a chest. On the bottle is the inscription “Eat me”.
  2. Along one wall, a rainbow-shimmering cascade of water descends — it is possible to walk through this with no danger (beyond the dampness) and doing so will allow you to bypass the next threat.
  3. As you push deeper into the tunnels, there are two treegaunts holding guard.
  4. Ensconced in a bed in a sparsely lit room lies the weathered form of the ex-lover. About her neck is hung the hateseed — an object that turns negative feelings into animating power (and if it is taken from her, the treegaunts will cease to “live”). Being close to her is dangerous: she breathes clouds of cyanide gas (pass a STR save each round or take 1d4 STR damage).
BURN, SIR — an investigation for INTO THE ODD