Dungeon Fantasy Nordlond #10: “From The Depths”

by mshrm

Our regularly-scheduled game fell on the 4th of July, so we had to modify things a bit. We were missing a couple of players due to other responsibilities, and we started and finished somewhat earlier than usual to allow for family time in the evening. Thus, the party was not only smaller than usual, it also started off sleepy. Despite that, and the short session, they made some good progress.

Spoiler Warning: The campaign (which started here) is set in Nordlond, Gaming Ballistic‘s Norse-themed campaign setting. We started off with the Hall of Judgment and the campaign has included material from several other Nordlond books. Spoilers can unexpectedly come from any direction.

Who’s Who

PCs

  • Blixa, Half-elf Barbarian. AFK
  • Esen, Human Mentalist. Did you ever see that scene in Scanners?
  • Ilmarë “Ray” Kem, Elf Cleric. Blessed in the eyes of her goddess
  • The Kid, Nymph Bard. The star of the show
  • Orvynth the Clanless, Dragon-Blooded Knight. Clean living and shiny
  • Slingshot, Human Scout. AFK

What Happened

When we last saw our heroes, they had victoriously returned to Isfjall, having been the first thegns in generations to find and visit the Hall of Judgment. The Kid wrote a song about their experiences that became a smash hit, and soon, the party was hearing their own adventures sung back to them on the street. They gained a reputation, not only for finding the Hall, but also for being the first mortals in living memory to kill a faerie noble and survive. (That’s their reputation, anyway, even if the truth is actually a bit more complicated.)

They enjoyed a week of rest, relaxation, and good reputation. Everyone took advantage of the time to invest in improved gear and long-delayed training.

The Kid spent some time working out (Lifting ST) and learned a new Song, Dirge. The Kid also invested in a brand-new, well-tailored, enchanted suit of purple velvet cloth armor and elven mail, and a cornucopia quiver. Even adding the golden torc that had been a gift from the gods, this left The Kid unencumbered.

Ilmarë enjoyed a bit of additional celebrity around the temple, having recently met several gods in the flesh. Her connection her deity grew stronger, improving her Power Investiture, giving her the power to turn undead, and adding to her spells. Ray invested in her armor, picking up a new elven mail shirt, and upgraded her holy symbol.

Esen obtained some psychic insurance by investing in Death Possession, and also improved his existing psychic powers. He studied, adding a level of Psientist, and also got in some recreational time, learning the mysteries of Gambling. He also upgraded his armor, trading his old robe for a new one, enchanted to provide extra protection. Esen was able to meet with a couple of other “Elder Thing enthusiasts” and do some trading, coming away with a new pyramid-shaped helmet and a pouch full of mysterious concoctions. He carefully labeled the containers with warnings that consumption could cause one’s head to explode.

Like The Kid, Orvynth hit the gym, coming away with +1 ST, and apparently got in some practice with the Lawgiver, adding a Weapon Bond and Two-Weapon Fighting with sword and shield. Following the custom of the party, they threw out their old armor and replaced it with a shiny new set of segmented plate, including an impressive helmet, and a mirrored shield. They avoided strong drink during the week and spent time keeping vigil in the template and shadowing Tyrthegn, the cleric who had put the party on the trail of the Hall.

For his part, Tyrthegn had also been enjoying an improvement in reputation around the temple. (The joke was that while the party is going up in the adventuring party leader boards, their success also had Tyrthegn rising in the competitive ranking of quest-givers.) Having heard the whole story from our heroes, he had promised to seek more information through divination.

The party expected to move on to Norðvörn, or Northwatch, in due course, but with Blixa and Slingshot tied up, they were considering seeking local adventure until the party could relocate as a group. (The speculation was that Slingshot and Blixa were either stuck in court over old parking tickets, or passed out drunk and without pants in a local haystack. Possibly both.) Before they could make much of an effort in that direction, though, Tyrthegn burst in to the inn, catching the party at breakfast, shouting “You need to get to Northwatch now!”

Well, perhaps not “now”, as it turned out, but presently. Tyrthegn’s divinations had shown clear evidence of faerie meddling in the affairs of Norðvörn, but precious little detail. As the local specialists in putting down faerie hijinks, clearly, this looked like a job for them. Besides which, anything involving the fae seems likely to produce a lead on tracking down Elunad, the fae noble that the party has a grudge against due to past insults and indignities.

To expedite their journey, Tyrthegn offered to introduce them to a friend who could help with the first part of the trip. Down at the lake shore, they met Captain Hilda and her crew: Erik, Ole, and Billy-Goat Bjorn.

(There was much speculation as to Bjorn’s nickname. Of course, there are so many Bjorns in Nordlond that they all need nicknames to keep track of them, but this one wasn’t as transparent as “Tall Bjorn” or “Red-headed Bjorn”. They examined his beard, but detected no apparent goatishness. No one asked him directly, so it remains a mystery.)

Captain Hilda’s boat was a small, single-sailed cargo vessel. She was already planning to haul a load of cargo down-river for Tyrthegn, in the form of several good-sized kegs marked with the temple’s rune. Though she spoke harshly of her own boat, she agreed that she could take the party across Lake Odin and downriver to Nethanfoss, where they could travel across land to Northwatch.

The party made some minor preparations for the trip, and they left Isfjall. Tyrthegn promised that he would send Blixa and Slingshot close behind them, as soon as he could find the pair. Despite the weather, which was warm but stormy, Captain Hilda and her crew got them safely across Lake Odin to the town of Wodenheim, where they spent the night. The Kid got to know Captain Hilda on the first day of the trip, and the two struck up a torrid affair that would last the rest of the journey.

The rain continued on the second day, but the boat made good time, and they were able to make Hvildana without incident.

The next day was cold. The crew got out wool coats and lit a brazier on the deck, while the party rigged up a tent to huddle under and dug out their furs. Esen tried to talk the others into joining him in some kind of gambling, but no one wanted to play dice with the guy who moves things with his mind, and they wouldn’t play poker, accusing him of being able to read minds. Eventually, he was able to strike up a game with an unsuspecting Billy-Goat Bjorn, and won some coin from him with some undetected telekinetic cheating.

That evening, they made it to Mosfell, where they were awed at the dwarf-built bridge there. At the start of their journey, The Kid had emphasized that they were travelling into unknown and possibly-hostile territory, since any town outside of Isfjall is not considered to be Town, and so they should always practice the buddy system and never wander off alone. In accordance with this policy, The Kid demanded that someone immediately come take a walk across this incredible bridge.

Esen and Orvynth were agreeable, and so the three left to promenade from one end of the span to the other, and back. (“I won’t walk across it, but I’m willing to float,” Esen said.) At the high middle point of the arch, they met a young painter, who asked if they would like their portrait painted. The Kid found the whole experience utterly charming, and insisted that they sit for a painting. The portrait turned out quite nice, and The Kid handsomely tipped the painter. So handsomely, in fact, that the young man fell to his knees and kissed the hem of The Kid’s robe in gratitude.

The stretch of river past Mosfell would be something new, Captain Hilda warned them. Every night thus far on the trip, they had been able to sleep on dry land, in an inn, but that wouldn’t be possibly the next night. They would need to sleep aboard the boat. Furthermore, due to the lack of nearby civilization, this part of the river was more prone to banditry than other parts.

The night after leaving Mosfell, they found a wide spot in the river and anchored a fair distance away from shore. Captain Hilda set her crew to keeping watch, and the party elected to keep their own watch.

Hours passed without incident, but then The Kid heard a strange humming buzz, in the distance, but approaching. The Kid sounded the alarm. The party prepared for action. Esen levitated and climbed to the top of the mast for a better vantage, and spotted a bizarre sight coming from downriver.

First, he saw the glowing disk. It was travelling rapidly, just under the surface of the water. On top of the disk sat two octopuses, each wearing a leather belt hung about with weapons and pouches. As this strange assemblage approached, one octopus turned to the other and spoke briefly in a harsh, gobbling language.

As it happens, Esen speaks a little Elder Tongue, and was able to translate: “Dang it, Bob, I know this was going to happen. Now we’ve been seen, and we need to take the time to kill these land-dwellers, lest they carry tales!” (Except he didn’t say “Bob”, of course, since octopus names are generally unpronounceable by humans without surgical modification.)

Esen warned the others, as the octopuses mount leapt from the water to fly ten feet in the air. It was a glowing mass of aquatic, ectoplasmic goo, trailing bolts of lighting like a jellyfish’s tentacles.

Orvynth rushed to the nearest rail and breathed a stream of fire at the electric jelly, hitting it, but doing little apparent damage. The Kid struck up a mournful tune, cursing the foes to strike weakly and clumsily.

Then Ray stepped up an unleashed the full-power sunbolt she had been carrying since the first alarm had sounded. For a moment, all the stars faded from the sky, as if dawn had come early. Animals for miles around looked up, wondering at the meaning of the sun-bright streak of light. The sunbolt cooked its way entirely through the jelly, which rocked violently, but stayed airborne.

Esen sniped from his mast-top position, but wasn’t able to land an effective blow with his psychokinetic lash. The jelly rushed closer to the boat, throwing lightning at The Kid, Captain Hilda, and Orvynth. Both The Kid and Orvynth were hurt, while The Kid was also stunned. Captain Hilda retreated in a defensive posture and was able to escape harm.

With the front thus softened up, the two octopuses rushed the deck of the boat. Both were heavily armed, and they had a bunch of weapons, too: one wielded four scimitars, while the other carried four short, stout spears. The one with the spears charged Orvynth, who managed to block and parry its wild attacks.

The other octopus, seeing that The Kid was momentarily out of action, pressed on. Moving astonishingly fast, it jumped over The Kid, down to the main deck, where it hustled along the rail to engage Ray and Billy-Goat Bjorn. Bjorn went down immediately, suffering a major wound. Ray was attacked from a bad angle, mostly from behind, and look a scimitar blow to the skull that immediately dropped her to negative hit points and a death check.

(The whole table caught their breath at this. It was a Wild Swing from a Move and Attack, so even landing the blow was unexpected. I had Esen’s player roll the hit location. I can’t remember the last time I saw a “4” on the hit location chart.)

Ray was able to make her rolls, though, and not only didn’t die, but kept her feet!

Orvynth dueled with the spear-carrying octopus, and was able to cut off one of its weapon arms. Realizing that she wouldn’t be able to heal herself, and that they hadn’t picked up any healing potions, Ray made the roll to maintain consciousness and retreated to a better defensive position, between two rows of barrels and close enough to Orvynth that he could defend her side, and started charging another sunbolt. Esen again tried to lash the enemy, and was again evaded.

The jelly moved down the length of the boat, strafing anyone and anything it could reach with its lightning tentacles. The only effect from this was to ignite some small fires on the deck. Seeing this, Captain Hilda shouted, “Fire! ‘Ware it doesn’t reach the alchemist’s fire!”

Wha-? Alchemist’s fire? What alchemist’s fire?

Captain Hilda gestured to the kegs lashed to the deck. Tyrthegn’s cargo was a shipment of highly flammable alchemist’s fire, for the war effort. If it went up, they were quite literally sunk.

The second octopus joined the first, battling Orvynth. He was able to defend himself against all their attacks, while still keeping Ray in the shelter of his shield.

By this time, the crew had had enough. Ole ran for it, jumping off the boat and swimming for short. Erik was clinging, wild-eyed, to the rudder, and looked like he would follow at any point. Captain Hilda retreated to the stern, taking cover and trying to talk him back to his senses.

Orvynth counter attacked, cutting off two more of the spear-carrier’s arms. The Kid snapped out of being stunned, and readied an arrow. Ray blasted the electric jelly with another sunbolt, again wounding it badly, but still not bringing it down. Feeling that the battle was going against them, Esen reached into his pouch, pulled out a jar clearly labeled “Do not eat!”, and ate the spice inside.

The octopuses pressed their attack. The spear-carrier, now nearly spearless, threw down its weapon and launched itself into close combat with Orvynth, failing to obtain a useful hold but fouling the dragonborn’s shield. The second octopus, heedless of its comrade, tried to stab into the melee three times, to little effect, then used its fourth weapon arm to try to stab Ray. Already swaying from her wounds, she was still able to swat the attack aside.

The jelly continued strafing down the starboard side of the boat, hitting Orvynth with a couple of lightning bolts, but more importantly, threatening to light the barrels on fire. Orvynth was able to step away from the grappling octopus and landed a powerful blow to its neck. (There is still some question as to how much neck an octopus on land really has, but we went with it.) The octopus finally went down, sorely wounded. The Kid fired an arrow into the glowing jelly, seeing it as the immediate threat.

Meanwhile, up on the top of the mast, the spice had kicked in. Esen’s eyes turned entirely blue and he began to laugh maniacally, gibbering something about being a god, having the power over who lives and who dies, and that sort of thing. He focused his attention on the remaining octopus. It jittered wildly for a moment, then its head exploded. Very much like that one scene from Scanners.

This drew the attention and ire of the electric jelly. Despite its wounds, it moved onto the boat and began floating up the mast towards Esen, concentrating all of its lightning tentacles on him. Still laughing, he stretch out his hand and deflected the lightning with his erogkinetic shield.

Sensing that the uncanny foe’s attention was on Esen, Orvynth rushed the length of the boat, sword held high, slicing at the creature’s underside. This was finally enough; the jelly collapsed, deflating and leaking glowing fluids.

The Kid and Orvynth managed to talk Esen down off the mast by agreeing with his increasingly-wild pronouncements of godlike power, where he was able to apply first aid and bandage Ray’s head. Under his direction, the others were able to harvest enough of the jelly’s bodily fluids to make two paut potions. The Kid searched the octopuses, looting their weapons, a spooky amulet, and a pair of foul, evil-looking potions.

The Kid also found a scrap of parchment that had been partially destroyed in the battle. It was marked with the unsettling script of the Elder Tongue. Esen took a look at it, but couldn’t make sense of it. It was just one word, with a connotation of being a proper name, probably a place: “Rosgarth”.

Though stable, Ray was still badly injured. The Kid managed to talk Captain Hilda into offering a healing potion from her personal stash, which helped Ray, but not enough. They wondered if there were any nearby villages that might have a healer? Hilda doubtfully pointed; there was a village over there, but it wasn’t much of a place, likely wouldn’t have much of a healer, and there was no guarantee of a warm welcome. Everyone agreed, the best thing to do would be to press on.

The day grew oppressively hot as they sailed on. Our heroes rigged the tent again, this time to keep Ray and Billy-Goat Bjorn out of the sun. At the end of the day, they arrived in Naeturhvild, a village large enough to have a temple. The local priest was extremely impressed with Ray, and was able to get her back to full health. In exchange, Ray spoke a few words to the nearby faithful and provided some healing of her own.

The Kid and Orvynth asked around, trying to find some wizardly assistance in identifying the loot from the octopuses. Though initially unsuccessful, they were eventually able to track down a youngster who had spent some time as an apprentice wizard, and still practiced a little bootleg alchemy. He identified the amulet as a salamander amulet, protecting against injury from fire, and declared that, against all appearances, the two evil-looking potions were actually healing potions. They gave one of the potions to Captain Hilda, assuring her it was safe, in return for the one she had given them earlier. They gave the other to Esen, who, being pretty weird himself, didn’t mind the potion’s appearance at all. Or the odor.

After a restoring rest, the party returned to the boat for the last leg of their river journey. After a long day of sailing, they arrived in Nethanfoss after dark. There, our heroes made their farewells. Feeling bad for having cheated a now-wounded man, Esen showed a rare moment of emotion, returning to Billy-Goat Bjorn the money he had won from him.

For his part, The Kid argued that Captain Hilda had hired on to move some cargo and a party of travelers, not to face Elder Thing-worshiping sea creatures and flying electric jellyfish, and tipped her 6 gold coins. The party remarked upon his incredible generosity.

The next morning, the party was able to hire horses and leave town, riding along the Palisade, a wooden fortification that stretches the entire distance between Nethanfoss and Northwatch. They took shelter with some soldiers patrolling the Palisade, with The Kid making friends to offer a place by the fire.

After two days of hard, but not exhausting, riding, the party came within sight of Northwatch and the great dwarf-built wall it defends. They entered the city towards dusk, and were asked their names and business. The Kid tried to keep things vague with some general statements about being adventurers doing good works and fighting the forces of evil, but eventually confessed a name.

“You mean- the The Kid?” the guardsman stammered. Hearing this, the local sergeant approached and took over.

“Of course,” he said, “that makes you the shining dragonblooded knight, and you the priestess beloved by the gods, and you the strange flying monk with the…” (looking at Esen’s head-covering pyramid and the space between his feet and the ground) “… unusual fashion sense. Oh, my, yes, everyone has heard of The Kid’s war-band! In fact, you’re on the list, we’ve been on the watch for you. You’re invited to the Thing.”

The Kid’s band? Really? While The Kid schmoozed, the others passed around a wry glance and a raised eyebrow.

The sergeant smoothed the way for our heroes, sending a runner to have rooms prepared at an appropriate inn, and escorting the party there himself. Along the way, he gave them the recent news, which they would later supplement with additional information from other inn patrons; they had already heard bits and pieces of rumor along the way from friendly soldiers.

The long and the short of it was, things had been rough around Northwatch recently. The weather had been unusually wild, damaging the upcoming harvest. There had been an increase in attacks by both alfar and dragonkin, as well as a sharp increase in banditry. Two of the hajarl’s jarls were quarreling over some personal affront. An attempted settlement had been lost, a tragedy that had hit one of the towns to the south pretty hard. There was unrest and general bad feeling.

Therefore, the hajarl had declared a Thing, an assembly of the jarls and karls to discuss how to proceed, to be held on the next day. Our heroes, being famous and respected thegns, were invited to attend.

Experience

The standard award for each member of the group was 4 points. Once the loot was sold and shared out, Esen, Ray, and Orvynth each received $500, with some leftover cash going into the party fund. (The Kid turned down a share so as to put more money in the other’s pockets, since it turned out that all The Kid’s tipping wasn’t so much “incredible generosity” as “not realizing how much a gold piece is worth”. Anyway, The Kid is rich and famous and beloved, who wants to worry about such paltry details, anway?)

Cool Point: Ray – when the Shadowy Octopus of Death came for her, she said, “Not today!”

Booby Point: Ray, for being unlucky enough for the octopus to knock her in the head in the first place

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