Dungeon Fantasy Nordlond #11, Part 1: “Totally A Thing”
We missed a month, what with one thing and another, but we had nearly the whole group this time! We started off with some “asynchronous role-playing” using Discord over the past couple of weeks, before getting together around the virtual tabletop this weekend for the combat.
Spoiler Warning: The campaign (starting 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. Expect spoilers, but also expect deviations from the source material.
- Blixa, Half-elf Barbarian. Caught up with the others, just in time for a party!
- Esen, Human Mentalist. Wants to know Things Man Was Not Meant To Know.
- Ilmarë “Ray” Kem, Elf Cleric. Keeping the forces of darkness at bay.
- The Kid, Nymph Bard. Glad he bought that cornucopia quiver.
- Orvynth the Clanless, Dragon-Blooded Knight. Knows how to disarm… and dis-leg…
- Slingshot, Human Scout. AFK
After last session, the next day was the day of the Thing.
The Thing was something like a county fair crossed with a neighborhood cookout crossed with a speech-giving contest. Egil, the hajarl of Northwatch, and his wife, Olrun, put out a bunch of food and drink to start the crowd drawing, then others add their own extras, turning it into a sort of potluck; nobles and wealthy thegns started to compete, somewhat, in showing generosity, so it turned into a sort of general holiday. Folks talked, speeches were made, flytings were done, with the expectation by the end of the evening, the hajarl and the jarls would have a sense of how the community wanted to proceed.
There came a time, during the festivities, when The Kid was approached by an astonishingly beautiful young women, one with Reaction Modifiers nearly on The Kid’s level. She introduced herself as Gyda, and flirted a bit, but The Kid could tell it was just to be polite; she knew better than to try to play a player.
Shortly, she got down to business: “I’ll be direct, then. What’s your game? Are you here to support m’lord Gunnulf, for it’s true he has employment for thegns with a good head on their shoulders? Or have you come to Northwatch to back Orn? If that’s it, I might be able to give you some advice that could save you trouble in the future. A word to the wise, you might say.”
The Kid took a long pull from the horn of nabidh in front of The Kid, replying, “Lady, pretty as you are, The Kid regrets to inform you that The Kid lumps royalty in with the gods – The Kid leaves their business to them and worries about The Kid’s business, which coincidentally, is why The Kid and The Kid’s companions are in town.”
Gyda pouted for a moment, but only for a moment.
“All right, then, keep your secrets. They do say silence is golden. But if you are thinking of supporting Orn, I would advise you to keep an eye on who he takes council with, this day. There are those who whisper in his ear in private. He’s that one,” she said, pointing towards a very well-dressed gentleman standing off to one side, sourly eyeing the feast spread on outdoor trestle tables, “the well-fed merchant with…”
Then her eyes got big as she looked at something behind The Kid. “Oh, it’s so scary!” She fled. Turning, The Kid saw Orvynth approaching with a trencher loaded with meat. With a shrug, The Kid returned to carousing.
After lunch, Orvynth was listening to some random citizen preach some total crap, when a human woman with remarkably broad and strong shoulders accidentally-on-purpose tripped over their foot.
“What!” she said, recovering. “Are we feeding lizards these days?” A few lookers-on chuckled. She flexed.
“You look healthy for a lizard. Consider yourself a wrestler? Two falls out of three? Or are you more chicken than lizard?”
Oryvnth chuckled, as a small puff of smoke issued from their nostrils. “Your words are those of the basest peasant. But being as I am a warrior of both skill AND temperance, perhaps a friendly bout would clear your head and enhance my appetite, both. After you… Ape.” Orvynth expeled a further snort of smoke.
That earned a mirthless chuckle. As the crowd stood back and the two of them squared up, Orvynth could hear shouts from the crowd: “Asleif is wrestling the dragon-blooded!” “A silver on Asleif!” “Two silver for the dragon-blooded!”
The two engaged. First thing Orvynth learned was that Asleif was almost as strong as the dragon-blooded, at least as far as grappling goes. Second, she’s actually a really good wrestler. The bout quickly turned into a real contest.
Shortly, they were in one of those clinches where the fighters are putting in a lot of effort but they’re only moving inches, at best.
Asleif got her face up close to the dragon-blooded’s ear-hole and whispered, “Beg pardon, Orvynth, but the deceit was necessary. Meet us at the Longship Inn at midnight, if you would learn more, and maybe do a service for the gods.”
Then she tapped out!
The crowd gasped!
Asleif made a show of taking the loss with good humor; she shook Orvynth’s hand and made a joke about how the next time they wrestles, it won’t be after so much feasting! She fetched Orvynth a full drinking horn as the spoils of victory.
Meanwhile, Ray was approached by a messenger who informed her that Ingeltore Sigehelmdottir, High Priestess of the Queen of the World, head of the temple at Northwatch and one of Egil’s jarls, would like to have a word with her, if she had time to spare.
Nodding respectfully to the messenger, Ray turned to her companion, an attractive middle-aged woman with fiery red hair. “Forgive me, älskling, it seems I have the goddess’ business to attend to just now. I will find you later and we can continue our… discussion. With wine?” She gave the woman a charming smile before turning back to the messenger and motioning them to lead on.
The messenger led Ray to a quieter corner of the Thing, where Ingeltore was holding audience in relative privacy, surrounded by her entourage and acolytes. She greeted Ray warmly, made sure she was seated comfortably, and complimented her on her success with the Hall of Judgment. She asked what it’s like to meet the gods in the flesh – it’s not unheard of, but it’s more usual to meet gods in dreams or in disguise.
In time, Ingeltore got down to business: “I’ve heard of some of your adventures around Isfjall, and now the Fates have seen fit to bring you here. Goddess knows, we have troubles enough. Clearly, it’s your destiny to help us face those troubles. You found evidence of the activities of the demon cult in Isfjall itself, from what Tyrthegn tells me, so I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that they’re active in Northwatch and all along the Wall as well. You’ve faced fae, and the word from the Veiddarlond is that the fae have been unusually active of late. You follow the Queen of the World in her aspect as the patron of love, and surely none can deny, all of Egil’s people have suffered – and continue to suffer! – from young love gone sour! Tell me, do you and your friends follow a quest? Perhaps I can assist you. Or, if not, perhaps I can help find a task worthy of such mighty thegns?”
“We’ve followed a rumor of Elunad here to your fair city,” Ray responded. “My party would be grateful for any information or resources you may provide us in our hunt.” She paused to take a breath, feeling a tug of calling from her goddess. “I would be remiss in my duties if I did not inquire further into this soured love story, however. I am called to bring the beauty and love of Sune to this world, and I believe it would give her joy to mend two hearts that have been sundered. So tell me, who are these two causing such suffering?” (Ray follows a particular aspect of the Queen of the World, Sune, who is popular among the high elves.)
“Oh,” Ingeltore said, looking sad. “I’m afraid it would be quite the task to mend this love story. You see… Well. The whole affair began nearly two years ago, when Asbjorn Gunnulfson met Ylsa Ormdottir, who some call ‘Fire-Hair’, and the two fell madly in love. They would surely have been married in time, but Orm rejected the boy’s suit out of hand. Asbjorn took this as a challenge, and set out to make such a fortune that even Orm the Lucky couldn’t overlook him. He took a party of settlers into the lands beyond the wall, declaring he would found a village of his own, taking advantage of King Krail’s proclamation and returning as a jarl in his own right. He named the village Elskadr, or ‘Beloved’.
“Things went well for a time. Then Asbjorn’s mother, Sigrid, made the journey to visit her son, but did not return. Gunnulf sent scouts, and when they did not return, a party of thegns. They reported that Elskadr had been laid waste, and now the restless dead walk there. Now Áinferill suffers from the loss of lives and treasure, not to mention the grief of its jarl. Truly, it is a dark time.
“But enough of our affairs – Elunad, you say?”
Ingeltore sat back and collected her thoughts, clearly bringing old memories to mind.
“According to the old histories, Elunad made her home in the Frostharrow. They say she had an obsession with the Hall of Judgment… but I’m sure you would know more about that than I! No, the folk of Northwatch never had many dealings with Elunad herself… but it’s said that in the old days, she had a rivalry with one of her cousins who makes his home nearby. Ynfalchiawn, they call him. He has caused mischief for centuries, at least. They say he goes back to before the Shattering, when the alfar broke the leyferðs and vanquished the Elder Dragons.
“If you’ve followed Elunad here, I would expect that she’s on one of two missions: either to have it out with him once and for all, or to join him in the service of some evil even greater than what they can brew up individually.” She pondered for a moment. “If you are willing to take the time, I can have my diviners look into the matter. We’ve seen traces of fae meddling in the weather, and rumors of faerie bands making attacks along the wall. Perhaps there is some deeper plot.”
Ray agreed, spending some time in conversation with Ingeltore. (In fact, Ray would spend the points to take Ingeltore as a contact.)
Later in the evening, only because Gyda pointed him out, The Kid happened to notice: Orm was circulating through the crowd, pressing the flesh and kissing the occasional baby, when he got a strange, distracted look about him. He cut the interaction at hand short, somewhat abruptly, and moved off away from the crowd. From the look of him, either he had remembered an appointment, or the roast pork wasn’t agreeing with him.
Meanwhile… Esen was floating bemusedly around the event, as is his way, when a young lady wearing a hood suddenly popped out of the crowd and grabbed his arm. He turned to look at her, and saw that she, like him, keeps her head completely shaved. He also observed that she wore an amulet that looks an awful lot like an eye in a pyramid. She spoke quickly: “You’re going to know me, you’re going to come with me, we’re going to see some things, and then I’m going to sell some spice to you at a really great price.” She nods once, and let go of Esen’s arm. “It’s Iona, by the way. My name.”
His curiosity prodded, Esen nodded agreement.
So, Iona led Esen away from the main party. It was about dusk, so it was getting a little dark, out away from the big fire and the light of the Thing. Before long, she quietly thanked him for coming along. “It gives me a headache when I see something and then it doesn’t happen,” she explained.
At one point, she stepped behind some bushes and gestured for Esen to follow. She gave him the “shush” sign, then pointed in a direction. A few seconds later, a well-dressed man came bustling into sight where she was pointing.
He stopped, catching his breath… and then another man seems to just step out of the darkness. One moment he wasn’t there, then he was: an older man with short graying hair, dressed in a sturdy but unremarkable fashion.
The first guy: “I got your message, came as quick as I could get away. I didn’t expect to see you on this side of the wall.”
Second guy: “You should know better than to make those kinds of assumptions. I’ve come to remind you of your debt to me. You’ve enjoyed the fruits of your forefather’s arrangement, and now the time has come to pay for your share of good fortune. Remember, our transaction must be complete by the day of Winter Sacrifice!”
First guy sputtered: “I’ll not stand here and have my honor impugned by the likes of you! Our dealings will be settled by Winter Sacrifice, but until then, we have no more business. Begone!” And he threw a hand in the air, turned, and stomped off.
Second guy smiled and faded back into the darkness.
A couple seconds later, Iona stood and said, “Well, show’s over. I hope it means something to you. It felt like something you needed to see.” She shrugged. “Let’s go talk about that spice, and you can tell me about all the Elder Things you’ve met in your travels. I don’t get out much, but I’ve read everything I can get my hands on…”
Esen and Iona spent the rest of the evening in conversation, and Esen also spent the points to add a new (precognitive?) contact.
Meanwhile, Blixa finally made it into town, just as the sun was going down and the really special kegs were getting tapped. Displaying his sense of priorities, he chose to seek refreshment before rejoining the party.
Blixa had had a mug or two, just enough to get loosened up for some real drinking… when a fellow stepped up to him carrying two mugs, and offered him one. Funny thing about him, though – he had a bear’s head.
As gingerly as possible, Blixa took the drink from the man. “Hail, stranger. Thanks for the drink. What shall we toast to? It’s bad luck to drink without a toast.” Blixa smiled. “That’s a really great bear hat you have, by the way.”
“Ha!” The fellow laughed. “Then let’s drink to cold iron. There’s your toast: Cold iron!” He downed his drink, signaled for two more, and sat.
“To cold iron!” Blixa guzzled his drink and failed to stifle a belch. “Damn, excuse me. It snuck out.”
“Name’s Bjorn,” the stranger said. “They used to call me Bjorn the Brewer. Then I ran into a fae while helping out with a logging party in the forest beyond the walls. Now they call me Bear Bjorn. Or Bjorn the Bear. Mostly Bear Bjorn. You know how it is.” He paused in thought for a moment. “I hear you got turned into a bear, once, too?”
“It’s true,” Blixa admitted. “That damned fae.”
Blixa looked around, making sure no one was listening. “I didn’t tell anyone this. I really kind of liked it.”
Blixa continued, “I mean, I put on the show for the compatriots but.. it was really… freeing, I guess. Until I got my head stuck in a container. Honestly, I’m wondering if somehow the experience did change me. I couldn’t talk, you see. Used to be mute. Look at me, blabbering on like a fool. Sorry. I guess I’m making up for lost time.” Blixa playfully slapped Bjorn on the back, laughed heartily, and signaled for more booze.
As the night wore on, Orvynth circled around, looking for the party, but was only able to locate Ray. Orvynth explained about the suggested clandestine meeting, and they decided they were honor-bound to at least hear Asleif’s proposal. At midnight, they made their way to the Longship Inn, an establishment catering mainly to sailors working the boats on the river.
There, the innkeeper recognized them and quickly ushered them to a suite. There, they met Asleif and her friend Ylsa. Ray nodded, having already heard some of their history earlier in the night.
They explained some of this history once more, and laid out their plan. Their goal, they said, as to recover the bones of Asbjorn, Asleif’s brother and Ylsa’s lost beloved, and Sigrid, Asleif’s mother, from the ruins of Elskadr, where it was assumed that they had died in whatever disaster had destroyed the settlement and led to its current state as an abode for the walking dead. The hope was that they could give the bones the respect demanded by the gods for the honored dead before the upcoming Remembrance Day, only a few weeks away.
To accomplish this, while Asleif stayed behind to cover for her absence, Ylsa would venture to the village’s ruins, where she would use already-purchased scrolls of Seeker to locate the bodies of her lost loved ones. All she needed was an escort of powerful thegns, strong enough to survive the trip, but closed-mouth enough to do so quietly, and with no conflicts of interest in the community to complicate the plot: in short, our heroes.
Ray and Orvynth felt that they were compelled to assist, due to their respect for the decrees of the gods and compassion for the loss of Ylsa’s beloved, but they couldn’t speak for the others. They offered to return with an answer on the following evening. This was agreed, with Asleif giving them a ring as a token. “The innkeeper is our creature,” she said. “Leave a message with this ring, and it will find its way to us.”
The pair returned to the Thing, which was winding down in the wee hours of the morning. There, they gathered the others. They found The Kid standing on a table giving an impromptu concert. They spotted Esen drifting back to his room, having made a deal for some low-price spice, in accordance with prophecy. They bumped into Blixa (and an all-but-passed-out Bear Bjorn) by pure accident.
Ray and Orvynth laid out the facts for everyone, and everyone agreed to accept the offered task. Blixa, full of intoxicated zeal, was ready to saddle up on the spot, but was talked down by the others.
Everyone returned to their rooms for a night’s sleep. The next morning, they delivered a message, along with Asleif’s ring, to the innkeeper at the Longship Inn. Having only just got into town themselves, the party didn’t feel the need for an extensive preparations. The next day, Ylsa met them with mounts and supplies, then pulled her hood down to conceal her face and rode in the center of the party while they left town. The guards on duty asked why they sought to leave civilization and enter the Endalaus Forest. The Kid charmed them with fast-talk, implying that they were leaving town to escape all the angry spouses, and our heroes managed to smuggle Ylsa out of town without being noticed.
To be continued…