Dungeon Fantasy Nordlond #11, Part 2: “Roll The Bones”
The second half of this month’s session. The first half is here.
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 – I’m changing some stuff as I go.
Where we left off…
Our heroes had just left the relative safety of Northwatch to enter the Endalaus Forest on the way to the ruins of Elskadr, accompanied by Ylsa, incognito, on a mission to recover the lost bones of her would-be fiance and his mother, in hopes of rendering the appropriate respects before Remembrance Day, only a few weeks away.
The first day of the journey was somewhat rainy but otherwise unremarkable. This close to Northwatch, the concern was more for running into someone who might recognize Ylsa than for encountering wandering monsters. Once they heard the sound of axes at work, and took a wide detour to avoid contact.
At first, our heroes expected for Ylsa to show them the way to Elskadr, but she explained that while she knew the directions second-hand, she had never actually visited the site herself. With those directions in mind, Blixa took the task of navigation. Unknown to the others, Blixa’s sense of direction was a trifle off, for the first leg of the journey. As they rode, Ylsa gave them more details of her story. Blixa was able to locate an acceptable campsite at the end of the day.
The second day, Blixa was still confident in his directions, while unknowingly leading them astray. The rain let up and the weather became more warm, almost summer-like. Much cheered by the improvement in the weather, our heroes made good time.
That is, until they found their path blocked by a fallen tree. Thanks to the keen ears of Ray and The Kid, plus one draconian cough and a couple of dry twigs getting stepped on, they realized that they were in the middle of a would-be ambush, nearly surrounded by dragonkin enemies!
This was enough warning to give everyone a chance to ready their weapons and prepare for an attack. Particularly, Ray rolled really well, getting critical successes while casting a couple of fight-changing buffs. As a pair of dragonkin broke cover and came into sight, Ylsa charged ahead, climbing over the fallen tree trunk in an effort to take the fight to the enemy on their right flank. Orvynth charged the now-visible enemies on their left flank, with Blixa close behind. The Kid prepared to provide covering fire with his bow-harp, while Ray continued spread the blessings of the goddess.
Orvynth went to attack the first of the dragonkin, a stocky fellow wearing robes and carrying a glaive heavily adorned with amulets and the like, but was foiled when it magically blinked to a location a couple of yards away. This just put it into position for a lunging attack by Blixa, which crippled its leg. (This would prove to be a theme for the session.) Then Esen blasted it, wounding it even more badly and knocking it back.
The dragonkin wizard, knowing itself to be in a bad position that was rapidly getting worse, decided it wasn’t going out without a bang. It summoned nearly all of its energy and unleashed the most powerful spell with a one-second casting time in its arsenal: the Grease spell. A large area, encompassing the dragonkin wizard, Blixa, The Kid, Ray, and Esen, was suddenly coated in slippery, magical grease. Both Ray and The Kid remarked on how it reminded them of old times.
On the left, Ylsa rushed a pair of dragonkin, where she would duel with one for a few rounds, killing it, but taking some damage from a hastily-flung fireball.
On the right, Orvynth started taking fire from a couple of taller, thinner dragonkin, armed with some kind of exotic staff sling, while another mysterious wizard harassed him with spells.
In the greasy area, everybody who couldn’t levitate was having trouble keeping their feet. Slapstick routines ensued.
Slippery but mobile, Esen drifted forward to assist Orvynth, attacking with his psychokinetic lash, but when he tried, something went wrong: a ball of light exploded from his forehead, expanding to become a shimmering wall of force about ten feet across, shoving Blixa back so that he was hemmed in between the force wall and a large tree trunk. As it grew to full size, a familiar form materialized next to Esen: another Esen, identical in every way, with the exception of a goatee, and a pair of silver crowns. This was Dark Esen, the psionic projection that had appeared once before and stolen Esen’s original power item, one of the silver crowns!
The fight broke down into several individual contests.
Orvynth brawled with several dragonkin, joined shortly by Blixa after he managed to keep his feet long enough to slide a few yards to the edge of the greasy area. Blixa took a full-force fireball, and neither escaped unharmed, but in the end, they mopped up that flank and were joined by Ylsa, completing their unrehearsed pincer movement.
Dark Esen and Original Recipe Esen dueled for several turns, at one point doing the “energy blast vs energy blast” thing that one sees in X-Men comics and Harry Potter finales. Both took hits, but Original Esen was finally able to land the fight-ending blow. With a laugh of triumph, before his evil twin could vanish again, he reached out and snatched back one of the crowns!
Meanwhile, Ray and The Kid found themselves under attack from behind! A pair of the dragonkin with staff slings had slipped around the main battle through stealth. One wounded Ray slightly, while the other landed a solid hit to The Kid, who dropped to the ground at negative HP!
Abandoning all effort to get back to her feet, Ray kicked off and slid across the slippery forest floor, ending up next to The Kid, where she applied maximum strength healing magic. No longer at the brink of unconsciousness, The Kid burst into a flurry of action, leaping to his feet in defiance of the poor footing, grabbing up his bow-harp and arrows from where they had fallen, and returning fire at the surprised dragonkin, who ducked behind a tree to take cover in the face of the unexpected resistance!
After all that, it was mostly a question of mopping up the last few stragglers, which they accomplished without much trouble. Knowing first-hand how territorial dragonkin can be, Orvynth granted a merciful death to the few wounded enemies, while Ray passed out healing spells and the others prepared a meal.
Somewhat delayed by the encounter, our heroes returned to the journey. With a fresh look at the landscape, Blixa realized his error and changed their course to correct for it. The next couple of days were unremarkable, with no encounters or unexpected events, just hard travel made somewhat harder from the mistake in navigation.
Finally, though, our heroes arrived at the ruins of Elskadr. When they got a look at it from a distance, they were surprised to see a town, somewhat the worse for battle, nestled in an apparently-natural wall of rock that formed a partial defensive fortification for the town. They puzzled over this for some time, until Blixa’s eyes went wide in realization. “Once, long ago,” he said, his voice filled with awe, “a star fell here.”
Hearing this, Esen got excited. Any time stars are falling out of the sky, he opined, there must be Elder Things involved.
Concealing a camp site with the horses, our heroes had lunch and prepared themselves to enter the ruins. They located what had clearly been intended as the main gate into the village, and marched in.
As they came to the gate, The Kid detected music unexpectedly coming from the center of the village. Even more surprisingly, he identified it as a bardic song of command! The Kid gave the others a word of warning, and they stepped into the village, heading for the center.
What they found was a scene of horror. Corpses of both human and dragonkin were scattered about the place, and slowly animated and rose to their feet at our heroes’ approach. The buildings showed signs of battle and fire damage. Beyond the gauntlet of walking dead, in the central square, they saw a two-story tower, apparently the beginnings of some kind of defensive fortification. In front of the tower, a headless, armored figure marched back and forth, muttering to itself and brandishing a longsword.
Ylsa whipped out a scroll and read it, pointing to the top of the tower. “There!” she shouted.
Our heroes attempted to approach the tower, but ran into resistance from the attacking dead. The animated corpses all seemed to have armed themselves with whatever blades had come to hand, and all seemed driven by a boundless anger, attacking without thought for defense. Several threw themselves onto the weapons of Blixa and Orvynth, only to be torn apart. Our heroes quickly realized that the dead lack vital organs, and so began crippling limbs and leaving the angry torsos behind. They made slow progress, but even more corpses came staggering from hiding places in the village buildings.
As they came closer to the tower and the grumbling apparition, though, they ran into another difficulty. The headless creature turned towards them, shouting “Get out! Give me peace!” and the like, and our heroes began feeling a strange, supernatural “wind”, blowing them back away from the center of town. Rocks, branches, and other debris began circling around the tower, almost like a localized, stationary tornado. Meanwhile, the music continued, reminding them that a stalemate would only lead to further peril.
At one point, as Esen was blasting the angry dead apart, his psychic powers again backfired. A school of astral piranha exploded out of his head, badly injuring him and wounding the others around him.
Guessing that either the armored apparition or whatever was atop the tower was the origin of all – or at least most of – the weirdness, Orvynth called for Blixa to sprint on ahead while the dragon-blooded handled the walking dead. Turning his back on several foes, Blixa forced his way against the supernatural resistance towards the headless being.
Meanwhile, the others had been following, defending themselves as a group against other attacking dead. Ylsa assisted, almost coming up to join Orvynth, but came face-to-face with someone she recognized and was stunned by the horror of it. Orvynth and Ray protected her for a few seconds while she could not defend herself.
Finally, Ray brandished her holy symbol and called upon the shield of her faith, holding the undead at bay. A wall of angry corpses started to form around her at several yards distance.
Meanwhile, Blixa finally made it to the foot of the tower, taking damage from flying debris along the way, and struck the armored figure full force with his warhammer… to no effect, as it passed through the being with no resistance. Some kind of spirit! As Blixa recoiled in surprise, the music finally struck, taking over the barbarian’s mind! “Drop your weapon,” Blixa heard in his mind, and did. “Kneel and be at peace.” Again, the barbarian complied. One of walking dead approached, raising a weapon to attack.
Seeing this, Orvynth cursed and charged past the wall of angry dead, seeking to bring the spirit-affecting magic of the Law Giver into play and attack the armored apparition. As he did, the animated corpse went to cut Blixa’s throat. At the last moment, Blixa became aware of his peril and snapped out of his trance, but still took a wound as he rolled out of the way.
Orvynth landed a flurry of blows, doing massive damage to the surprised spirit. It dissipated, torn to pieces, and all the animated dead fell, animated no longer!
Battered, bloodied, and not entirely sure that the ordeal was over, our heroes found a relatively-intact structure and fortified themselves inside to heal up, then made careful sorties to search the town.
Taking care to make sure Ylsa didn’t have any more disturbing experiences, they searched the tower, finding the long-dead body of a bard bearing a harp. From the harp and other accouterments, Ylsa was able to identify this as the body of Asbjorn, her beloved. It didn’t take long to also locate the bones of Sigrid, his mother.
In respect for the dead, the party collected the bodies of the villagers for a proper pyre, finding them mixed with a number of dragonkin corpses. As the search continued, our heroes started to form a picture of what had happened.
It looked like the village had gone on happily for some time, but hadn’t paid enough attention to their defenses. Then, it seemed, a force of dragonkin had attacked. There had been a great battle and massacre. This, in turn, had been enough to drive the land spirit of the crater to madness. It reacted the only way it knew how, by killing all the mortals it could reach, and animating the dead to kill more.
Incidentally, during the search, our heroes also rustled up a fair amount of loose coin and the like. In one cellar, they found a locked strongbox. From the weight, it must have been packed full of coin. Ylsa identified it as likely being the founding funds for the village’s establishment.
Our heroes passed a glance around, and agreed. Clearly, this needed to be returned to the proper owners. They might live a life of adventure, but they’re not grave-robbers, and they’re not thieves.
The return journey passed without incident. After four days of travel, they came back to the Wall. There, they combined Orvynth’s knowledge of the military mind with Blixa’s skill at stalking game to outwit the guards on watch, smuggling Ylsa inside unremarked. There, they parted ways, with instructions to rendezvous at the Longship Inn.
The next day, our heroes met with Ylsa and Asleif, who expressed their gratitude for a job well done. They also gave each member of the party a fine silver ring as a token of this gratitude.
The standard award for each member of the group was 6 points. Once the loot was shared out, each PC received $1571 plus a ring worth $2000.
Cool Point: The Kid, for going from having one foot in the grave to up-and-fighting in a single epic turn
Booby Point: Esen, for summoning random damage to himself and others from outside Time and Space