Dungeon Fantasy Nordlond #5: “Passing Scenery”

by mshrm

This session, we were down one regular player, but made up for it by including another one of the kids.

Spoiler Warning: We’re working our way through Hall of Judgement, the first adventure set in Nordlond, Gaming Ballistic‘s Norse-themed campaign setting. If you might find yourself playing this adventure, beware spoilers!

Our new player chose one of the pregen characters from Hall of Judgement, but decided to rename him “Bob” because, he said, the original name was too hard to pronounce.

Who’s Who

PCs

  • Bob R., Human Barbarian. Scruffy outlaw.
  • Blixa, Half-elf Barbarian. Bane of bandits.
  • Esen, Human Mentalist. Speaker for the voiceless.
  • The Great and Mysterious Blaadao Bla’Dae, High Elf Wizard. Living the Dream.
  • Ilmarë “Ray” Kem, Elf Cleric. Faithful to the Goddess of Love.
  • The Kid, Nymph Bard. Rabble-rouser.
  • Senderbloke Qwerthunderchugg the Naescott, Dvergr Holy Warrior. AFK.
  • Slingshot, Human Scout. Maybe sneaky, but not a thief. Usually.

Hirelings and Henchmen

  • Flavio, Human Clerical Initiate. Teamster.

What Happened

As a bit of a retcon, on the way back to camp from the ruins of Logiheimli, the party ran into Bob, a local outlaw wearing crude furs who had clearly been sleeping rough for a while. For whatever reason, be it religious fervor or the chance for steady meals, he decided to join the quest, and the others were happy to have him.

Having spent the day cleansing Logiheimli, they spent the night in camp and set out fresh the next morning. The rain and oppressive heat continued, making travel slow and uncomfortable. With information about a shortcut through the mountains picked up from the ruins, they decided to turn their course towards the west.

That evening, they stumbled across the half-collapsed ruin of an old longhouse and took shelter. While searching the building, Esen found evidence that it had been occupied at some point in the recent past: a stored slab of bacon, with one end that looked salvageable. He was about to shave off the spoiled bits, but Blaadao had Flavio cast a spell to purify the lot. Free rations!

The next day, their course took them into rougher terrain. The weather continued to be poor for hiking, with high temperatures and a constant, pounding rain. Nobody was enjoying themselves at all and tempers were high by the end of the day.

Just about the time that they were starting to think about looking for a campsite, the party found themselves hailed by a shaggy figure from the top of a nearby ridge. He was a big man, dressed in the leather and furs of a trapper, with red hair, a bushy bear, and truly remarkable eyebrows.

As the face of the group, The Kid advanced alone to parlay. As he did, he sang a little song to himself, casting a spell to sense the man’s emotions. What he found was a sense of happy welcoming of the chance for company.

The trapper was very friendly, introducing himself as Rolf and offering to share his fire. The Kid pointed out that there wasn’t much need for a fire, with the weather the way it had been, but expressed agreement with the idea of sharing a camp. Rolf reassured him that the fire was quite restrained, just enough to roast dinner, and led the party over the hill to his rude campsite.

There, as advertised, they found several strips of goat meat roasting over a low fire near a lean-to. Observing that it might be a bit before dinner was ready, Rolf asked how they might entertain themselves until then. A drinking contest seemed to be the done thing, and so Rolf handed out drinking horns and hurried off, bringing back a keg of ale, still dripping from where he had had it cooling in a nearby stream.

The wiser and/or more restrained of the party chose to refrain from the drinking, but Bob, Blixa, Blaadao, Ray, and Slingshot joined in. The Kid played drinking songs and cast a spell of courage on the group, hoping to encourage foolhardy behavior. His effort was quite successful.

One by one, our heroes were eliminated. Slingshot was the first to fall, and ended up draped over a nearby bush, incapacitated by nausea. The last PC standing was Bob, but in the end, even he couldn’t keep up with Rolf’s immense capacity for drink. Rolf took a boisterous victory lap, cheering his own win. The rest of the evening passed in friendly revelry.

At one point during the evening, Esen mentioned how sad it was that Blixa couldn’t speak to them with his own voice, and offered himself as a substitute. He used his psychic powers to mind meld with the silent barbarian, and told the party of the visions he saw in Blixa’s memories: the barbarian’s family killed by bandits, only himself surviving by desperate flight. With newfound understanding, the party drank their comrade’s health.

The next morning, Rolf was gone, leaving epic hangovers behind. The rain that had been continuous for days had finally lifted, leaving a magnificent rainbow behind. At this sign, questions were raised and certain observations made. The God of Thunder is known for his red hair, just like Rolf’s; he is known for dining on goat, just like Rolf; his drinking abilities are literally legendary, much like Rolf. One could see the lifting of the rain as a boon from one who rules the storm, and it would be no surprise to see a god leave the scene by taking the Rainbow Bridge.

Had they spent the night carousing with the Protector of Mankind? Or was it all coincidence? Who can say? The party chose to take the whole experience as a good omen, at the very least.

The party made much better progress that day, free of the sucking mud that had plagued them for days. At one point, The Kid and Slingshot realized that they were being paced by a pack of wolves. They pointed out the alpha wolf to the party. Bob immediately declared his intention to go pet the big wolf. The rest of the party agreed that this was an excellent idea. They encouraged him to go make friends and make the wolf his pet.

With the group’s full support, Bob advanced towards the wolf, who became alarmed at his direct approach. It growled and snarled, warning him against coming any closer. Bob ignored this display and kept coming. Losing the contest of intimidation, the wolf’s nerve broke; it turned and fled, with the rest of the pack following close behind.

The next day, the clear weather continued, and they even got some relief from the high temperatures as they started feeling the cool breeze coming down from the mountain, a harbinger of the icy conditions to be found on the peaks. The day was filled with uneventful hiking, and a serviceable campsite was located.

That night, though, while Ray was on watch, they were nearly ambushed. Ray noticed the slightest sound behind her and turned to see a surprised humanoid with droopy, pointed ears and a raised hatchet, clearly aiming to plant his weapon in her skull from behind. She screamed, waking the rest of the party. They found themselves facing a gang of these humanoids, while unarmed and in their bedrolls.

Slingshot snatched up his nearby bow and began launching arrows in all directions, starting with two into the torso of the foe that had menaced Ray. It sagged to the ground, messily dying. Blixa grabbed his warhammer and Bob his ax, both rolling out of their blankets to face the enemy. Blaadao cast a quick spell from his prone position, creating an illusion of a rampaging minotaur coming out of the darkness and threatening the attackers, distracting a couple of them. The Kid grabbed his bow-harp and launched a stinging insult at one of the creatures, who proved that they understood the human tongue by being stunned at the bard’s words. Esen levitated from his bedroll, blasting one of the attackers with his psychokinetic lash and shouting, hoping to draw the attacker’s attention.

The attacking creatures reacted in some disarray. One, startled by the unexpected and sudden resistance from their targets, and the apparent arrival of powerful reinforcements, chose to immediately flee. Another took a swing at the illusory minotaur, causing it to pop like a soap bubble. The one that Esen had blasted was lightly wounded but extremely angered, so it charged towards the levitating psychic. Two more rushed at Ray, still screaming in between summoning a sunbolt.

The next second, all the attackers were either dead on the ground or fleeing headlong. Examining the enemy’s abandoned dead, the party was finally able to identify them as hobs, a militant form of lesser fae. Finding little of value, the party piled the corpses a distance from camp and returned to bed.

The next day was cooler, with occasional sprinklings of rain. Continuing their hike through the hills, the party heard the sound of a scream coming from one side of their path. Immediately, they took up their weapons and ran to the rescue, leaving Flavio and the wagon to follow as best he could.

What they found left them bemused. A young peasant woman was about fifteen feet up a tree, screaming at the top of her lungs and giving every appearance of being terrified of something below her… but there was nothing there. At our heroes approach, she shouted a warning at them, telling them to beware the terrible bear that wasn’t there.

While the party conferred, wondering what to do, Bob picked up a rock and chucked it at the woman, striking her on the leg and incidentally proving that she was no illusion. Blaadao used his spells to levitate The Kid up to the woman’s perch, where The Kid reassured her before casting a spell of sleep. She rolled off the branch and into The Kid’s arms.

With the woman asleep and safe on the ground, Esen used his mind meld abilities to see what had happened to her. He saw that she was from a nearby farm. She had encountered a beautiful faerie woman wearing an elaborate, sparkly blue dress, a fine tiara, and utterly impractical glass slippers. They had argued, and the fae lady had cursed the woman to be pursued by an illusion of a fearsome bear. As the party put it, she had gotten on the bad side of a fairy godmother.

Discussions among the more educated members of the party established that these kinds of curses were powerful, but would wear off in time, if the victim were cared for and didn’t accidentally kill themselves in the meantime. Guided by the woman’s memories, they returned her to her family and gave them instructions as to how to take care of her. They also asked about the lady in blue.

“Oh, her,” the peasants answered. They explained that the area had been plagued by this lady for years and years, “since the time of my grandfather’s grandfather”. Her name was Elunad, and she was nothing but trouble. She had tried to trick those questing for the Hall in the past.

Hearing this, the party wondered if the gang of hobs they had encountered might be connected to Elunad. They decided to backtrack and check the scene for clues. Accordingly, they spent the day retracing their own steps, returning to their camp site from the night before.

There, they found that the dead hobs’ corpses had already been scavenged, apparently by wild animals. They were able to locate the tracks of the fleeing hobs. With little daylight left, they decided to camp in the same spot again and proceed in the morning.

After discussions over dinner, though, they rethought their plan. On the one hand, there were stories of powerful faerie wizards being able to challenge the gods themselves, so it was entirely possible that Elunad might be out of their league. On the other hand, they were already on an urgent mission to find the Hall, and it wouldn’t further their goals to get caught up in a hunt for a creature that had been a feature of the land for generations. Therefore, they resolved to leave the faerie hunt for another time and return to their primary quest.

The next day, the party resumed their progress northward. The terrain became more treacherous as they went. Late in the afternoon, they were making their way along a steep path up the side of a hill when they were startled by a massive rockslide! They were forced to scramble for the shelter of a large boulder. No one was hurt, though the wagon was briefly threatened. Their path forward, however, was utterly destroyed and replaced with a field of loose rock. They would have to go back and find another way around.

The next day, as they worked their way around the hill, the party came upon a small, beautiful valley with a fine longhouse in the center. The longhouse was surrounded on all sides by a lawn that was cropped close, as if by sheep, but there were no animals visible. The perimeter of the valley was marked by columns of stacked stones. As they came closer, they could see that the stones bore runes that referred to a faerie curse involving bears and a jarl.

Sensing that something uncanny was afoot, the party approached the longhouse. As they came close to the door, they could hear fierce growling and shouts for help coming from inside. When they opened the door, they found an unusual scene.

The longhouse was finely made but only lightly occupied. Two ghostly bears were menacing a finely-dressed older gentleman, who was trying to climb away from their claws. At the party’s appearance, he called to them, requesting their aid. Several members of the party struck at the bears, but their attacks generally passed through the ghosts without apparent injury. Nevertheless, the bears turned to face their new foes.

Blaadao took advantage of their distraction to cast a spell of apportation, lifting the jarl from his perch to a safer location, high in the rafters of the longhouse. Meanwhile, Ray prayed for divine assistance and turned the two bear spirits, who fled in fear.

The grateful jarl thanked the party and invited them to join him at a feast, gesturing towards a loaded table deeper in the longhouse. They heartily agreed and joined him at the table.

There, the jarl told his sad tale. He had offended a fae lady named Elunad and she had laid an eternal curse on him. The ghostly bears had been keeping him from a meal ever since. This, he gratefully said, was the first food that he had eaten in over a hundred years. In thanks, he rewarded each of them with a fine silver torc, and then warned them that the bears would return at dawn, and it would be wise for them to leave, lest they be caught up in the curse with him.

Heeding the jarl’s warning, the party left the longhouse before dawn. As the sun came up, they looked back in time to see the entire valley fading away like fog. Remarking upon the eldritch qualities of this northern wilderness, the party continued north.

In the afternoon, Blixa and Slingshot began noticing signs of a concealed trail along their path. Trees were marked with cuts to show the way, and there were faint signs of passing feet, where people had used the trail but went to some effort to conceal the fact. Intrigued, the party decided to investigate. Blaadao cast a spell of invisibility on Slingshot, who scouted ahead.

They found a semi-permanent camp of over a dozen men, clearly bandits. Having the advantage of knowing that the bandits were there while the bandits did not know that they were there, our heroes discussed their next move.

The Kid approached the camp by stealth, with Slingshot lurking behind, still enjoying his invisibility. Observing the camp from concealment, The Kid figured out which one of the bandits seemed to be the chief. Casting a spell of friendship, The Kid came out of hiding, calling out to his new “old friend”. The bandit chief greeted him warmly and invited The Kid and his companions to join his merry band for dinner.

The party, aside from Slingshot, came into the camp and had a friendly meal with the bandits. Still invisible, Slingshot took advantage of the time to search the camp for valuables, finding very slim pickings, confirming the bandits’ stories of a rough season. The party asked if the bandits ever had trouble with fae, and the bandits admitted that they did. Sometimes it was attacking bands of hobs, but from time to time, they said, they had encountered a mysterious lady in blue. “Big Olaf,” the bandits muttered, raising their glasses, and told the story of how one bandit hadn’t listened to the warnings and got himself stolen away earlier in the summer.

As the carousing wore on, Ray made a point of being friendly with the bandit chief. After dark, they retired to his hut. Once he was thoroughly distracted, Ray left the hut, claiming innocent reasons, but opened the door for Blixa and Slingshot, still invisible. With the chief half-asleep, it was no particular challenge to sneak up on him. Blixa lined up a mighty blow with his warhammer and sent the chief to his final reward with a single stroke.

Outside, Blaadao and The Kid harangued the crowd of bandits with some assistance from Flavio, telling them how they could leave behind this sordid outlaw existence and find a better life in following The Dream. The bandits proved quite receptive to this message. Arrangements were made to leave the wagon (and possibly Flavio?) behind with the band of outlaws while the party pushes north into the mountains. The chief’s absence was explained away. Blaadao has hopes of turning the surviving bandits into the core of his cult of Dream-followers.

Experience

The standard award for each member of the group was 6 points.

Cool Point: Blixa, for touching backstory, and The Kid, for the cunning use of social skills to avoid many fights

Booby Point: Esen, for a side bit of amusing roleplay where he used his mind meld on Flavio, who had recently located several interesting mushrooms, and ended up seeing the colors out of space