Dungeon Fantasy Nordlond #18: “Working Behind The Scenes”
Discoveries and discourse upon the organization and nature of the army and its diverse parts. Details of the unseen domestic workers of the dungeon. Some notes on the destructive power of a fully-enchanted faerie bow in the hands of a trained scout. Two tours and a demonstration on how the sausage is made. The sad fate of Timmy.
Spoiler Warning: The campaign (which started here) is set in Nordlond, Gaming Ballistic‘s Norse-themed campaign setting. This session’s events came mostly from The Dragons of Rosgarth. Fair amount of deviation from the source material, but there are still some spoilers in there!
- Dara Zivri, Demon-blooded Druid. Mother-figure to trolls.
- Esen, Human Mentalist. Telekinetic, not telepathic. Mostly.
- Ilmarë “Ray” Kem, Elf Cleric. Only a dragon-blooded could describe her that way.
- Orvynth the Clanless, Dragon-Blooded Knight. Cheering from the sidelines.
- Slingshot, Human Scout. Sometimes, when it’s dark, the monsters tell stories…
- The Kid, Nymph Bard. Master of disguise, when the time is right.
Last session, most of the party put on the bronze torcs that are the uniform of Maendrath’s army and infiltrated the camp, pretending to have previously enlisted. Returning to camp from checking on the hirelings, Esen and Slingshot found the note that the others had left, explaining the plan. They followed suit and quickly caught up with the others, in the bandit camp of Eldrimur Lightfingers, where they were brought up to speed: they were part of the army, but the lowest part, and would need to seek promotion through combat to gain their freedom of movement.
That evening, as Dara cooked an extra-special meal to help fatten up Esen and Slingshot, The Kid ran in to an old “friend”: Vrin, the halfling fire wizard that the party rescued from faerie clutches, that we last saw in the company of Elunad when the faerie queen stole back her previously-stolen armor and humiliated our heroes, earning their eternal enmity! The Kid confronted her, flustering her for a moment, until she asked if they could speak in private. Calling the others, The Kid led her to a tent in Eldrimur’s camp.
Orvynth tried to lean on Vrin to get her to talk, but as is the way with these things, only managed to make her too nervous to make sense. The Kid had to pull out rarely-used interviewing skills to get the story straight: Yes, Vrin had helped Elunad act against the party, but she had been under a geas and unable to resist. (The Kid recalled that she had shown signs of distress at her own actions at the time.) Since then, she had been Elunad’s pet, plaything, servant, hostage…? The faerie queen had brought them both through secret ways to this place, whatever place that was, where she was engaged in complex work with the wizard Maendrath.
Today, Elunad had commanded Vrin to go down to the bandit camp and investigate rumors of a “holy man” among the rabble. Someone who could turn water into wine (meaningful glances all around), who had healed a person on the verge of death on the training grounds the other day (more meaningful glances). For whatever reason, Maendrath and Elunad were interested in securing the use of such a powerful healer. Dara told how she had been healed on the training ground recently, in just such a way… but described her savior as a pale man with curly red hair, who gave his name as “Ronald” before leaving camp, heading south.
Wondering if she could free Vrin from the geas, Ray attempted to dispel the magic on the halfling. It didn’t seem to work, since she still felt the need to go report to Elunad.
This brought up the question of what would happen if Elunad asked the wrong questions and learned of their presence. Vrin shrugged and promised to do her best to keep the conversation from going that direction. She stood to go, saying that she would tell of this “Ronald”…
… and as soon as her back was turned, both The Kid and Slingshot hit her, from either side, with spells of forgetfulness. (Everybody, to Slingshot: “You can cast spells?”) Neither could permanently erase her memories, but they could make her forget she had seen them until much later that night. The hope was that she could truthfully report hearing the “Ronald” rumor before her real memories came back.
The next morning, as Slingshot and Esen had been warned, the irzhajotunn woke them for early morning drill. A mocking opportunity was offered for anyone who wanted to seek promotion. Slingshot calmly stepped forward, followed by the rest of the party, with the exception of already-promoted Orvynth and Dara. She considered joining the others, but finally decided she wasn’t cut out for that kind of violence and would sit this one out.
Just as before, the irzhajotunn matched the four heroes against an equal number of stothtroll, the modified trolls that the dokkalfs keep as bodyguards. Just as before, the supervising sergeant sounded the start of the melee, and the gang of trolls rushed our heroes in a mob.
This time, however, Slingshot dove to the side, putting two arrows into the chest of the foremost troll! It crumpled with an expression of complete surprise. When it hit the ground, the sergeant called an end to the fight. For bringing one of the trolls down and maintaining their formation in the face of the troll charge, they had all earned their tokens of rank.
The momentarily-downed troll regenerated and was back on its feet in seconds, but still had to accept the scorn of its comrades for being taken down so easily. They told the troll it should go with Dara and work in the kitchen. With a sigh, it indicated that she should follow it.
Being a “mom to all”, as they walked, Dara tried to give the dejected troll a pep talk. Upon finding that trolls don’t necessarily all have names, she asked if the troll would like one. It agreed, and she dubbed it “Buck”. Buck led Dara across the camp, at one point shoving back an overeager gangaedla hoping to eat her as they passed the reptile camp.
They were challenged at the castle drawbridge. One of the mysterious bird-people questioned them. Dara claimed to have been assigned to kitchen duty. A confirming nod from the troll was enough for the watchman, who waved them through.
Inside the castle walls, Dara found a courtyard with three principle structures, with an overgrown garden in the center. As a druid, she could immediately see the crops were dangerous, but she didn’t have time to investigate. The troll led her around the edge of the garden to the smallest building inside the walls, through a pair of heavy doors, into a shadowy feasting hall. Two long tables were being cleared by a gang of half-naked, clearly-demonic “children” who glared at them sullenly but offered no violence.
Buck pointed Dara around this unholy crowd, towards a door in the back of the room leading to the fiercely-hot kitchens. There, they found more demons: half-snake, with six arms each. The demon chefs were hard at work, chopping, peeling, and frying over a huge brazier. As Dara and the troll entered, the fire in the brazier seemed to rear up and look at them in curiosity: fire elementals.
One of the demons pointed the troll at a pile of unpeeled potatoes. Another pointed Dara to a chopping board. Sweating furiously, Dara worked a shift in the kitchens, keeping up a constant stream of passive-aggressive suggestions about how her fellow cooks could improve their technique.
She helped serve a meal to a troop of scalekin. The meal was overseen by one scalekin of truly prodigious size. The others seemed happy and awed to be in its presence, giving the occasion a festive air. Once the meal was over, the troop turned left after leaving, to go outside the castle walls and across the drawbridge, back into their camp. The big scalekin turned to the right, making its ponderous way to the main building inside the walls. Dara watched it go. As it opened the heavy door to go inside, she caught a glimpse of a tall, beautiful woman in a glittering, “fairy godmother” dress, passing by the door on the inside.
Both Dara and the troll were tired from their day’s work. She made a show of stretching and moving slowly, as an excuse to get a closer look at the hostile crops. Noting one particularly large squash, Dara used her druidic powers to talk with it.
“I see you’re not feeling well. What can I do to help?” The squash grumpily told her that the spiritual nourishment of this ground had been poisoned by a “dark energy”. Stopping this energy would be the best way to help.
“How long has that energy been a problem?” Ever since the castle had been repopulated, when they first planted these crops.
Dara didn’t have time to ask any more questions, as the bird-people lost patience and shooed her along. She returned to the others, back at Eldrimur’s camp. They had all received their braided tokens of rank and their first assignment: Orvynth had pulled some strings to get them forest patrol, in hopes of touching base with the hirelings and bringing back improved gear for Eldrimur’s band.
The next day, they accomplished this mission without remarkable incident. Upon their returned, they were given the “good news” of their next assignment. The good part: they could sleep in! The bad part: … because they were on night patrol of the castle wall.
When the party entered the castle walls for patrol duty, Ray’s elvish magic sense could feel a powerful presence near the castle gate. A few minutes later, they were being briefed about their duties; chiefly, sounding the alarm if anything at all happened. Prompted by a question, their sergeant explained what to do if sounding the alarm wasn’t enough. He pointed directly at the place where Ray had felt the presence, claiming that there was a gong… but best to hope it didn’t come to that.
Again, they completed their duties without incident. They gained a lot of insight into how the castle is guarded. In short, “heavily”. Different squads, from different parts of the army, on overlapping patrols with different schedules.
The next morning, The Kid went to their supervising irzhajotunn and turned on the charm, claiming that someone needed to go take a look at the security in the dokkalf keep, making dark hints about the loyalty of the dokkalfs themselves. The sergeant agreed, it was worth a look, and so assigned our heroes to make a friendly visit.
Our heroes made their way to the edge of camp, passing through the light fence marking the realm of the dokkalf. One path led from the gate to the keep’s iron door. On either side, dozens of stothtroll lounged or wrestled, as the mood took them. The party went to the door, where a suspicious doorkeeper questioned them through a slot. The Kid’s charm and smooth-talking was enough to cause that door to be opened to them. The dokkalf seemed to accept the need for inspection, if will some bad humor.
They were given a quick tour of the structure, which turned out to be a cluttered, sprawling workshop, with alchemical labs, a forge, enchanting areas, a summoning circle, and one intriguing workspace called the “molding” operation. There were a couple dozen dokkalfs working at one task or another; too many to pick a quick, quiet fight with.
The Kid continued needling their host, asking questions about different things, until finally a malicious gleam came into his eye. In response to a remark on the molds, the dokkalf offered to let them take a… closer look.
Their host led them to the molding workstation, staying well back from the actual work, but inviting them to go ahead. He called to the junior dokkalf already working at the station, in heavy goggles and lead gloves to his elbows. “Timmy! Show them how it works!” Having handed them off, he went to attend to other duties.
Timmy showed the party how it all worked. They started with “the goo”, stored in a twenty-foot-tall glass tank with a spigot and a hose. Then there were the molds; the party looked at one, seeing that it seemed to be for an easy chair. Taking care to make sure his protective gear was in place, Timmy plugged the hose into the mold, filling it with green, bubbling ooze. Then, he demonstrated, after a curing process, they produced… an easy chair.
Examining the goo, Esen announced that he had read about stuff such as this, from outside time and space, and able to take on the form of mundane objects. Something like a mimic, but not alive.
Hearing this, the party had to see the trap sprung. The Kid used a combination of magic and high-pressure salesmanship to give Timmy the questionable gift of foolhardy courage while also daring him to sit on that chair right there – no, I double dog dare you!
Poor Timmy never stood a chance. As soon as he sat, the chair dissolved back into its original green goo form, engulfing the hapless dokkalf. A vigorous struggle became a feeble struggle, which because a rapidly-evaporating puddle of green slime, which spat out a pair of goggles and two gloves, which The Kid gleefully snatched and put on.
“I’m the new Timmy,” The Kid happily announced. In the guise of Timmy, The Kid reported back to the distracted dokkalf supervisor, claiming that the visitors were taken care of. That would buy them some time, until the end of the shift, at least. As the others discussed next steps, The Kid walked back and forth, practicing walking like Timmy, but then paused, shushing the others. “Can you hear that?”
“That” turned out to be a trapdoor, concealed by an illusion on the floor. The Kid had detected the slight difference in the sound of footsteps crossed the door.
Knowing that the dokkalfs were crafty and fond of traps, our heroes were cautious with the trapdoor. Slingshot felt around the door, finding no traps or locks, only a concealed ring to pull the door open. The door opened completely at the lightest tug, revealing a round, dark hole, barely big enough for a human. Just right for a dokkalf, of course. Looking through, they found a greased metal slide leading downward into the dark. Clearly, an emergency bolt hole.
Esen volunteered to investigate. With his levitation abilities, he could control his descent on the slide. Besides, with his skinny frame, he was probably the most likely to be able to squeeze through the hole in the first place. He wriggled through, floating a few inches above the slide, and cautiously advanced. Shortly, he noticed a razor-sharp wire, strung at neck-level for a human. Thus warned, he looked for more, and found a second and third beyond that one, both strung high enough to be no problem for a speeding dokkalf, but sudden death for any human-sized pursuer.
Returning to report this, Esen borrowed a small knife, which Ray enchanted with light. Esen returned to the trap, cutting the wires at the cost of notching the knife blade. With great care, he went further down the slide, finding that it led to a natural cave passage. He followed this for a time, seeing that it come to a man-made hallway, covered in tile with obvious runes. Seeing this, he retreated, again returning to the group to tell all he had seen.
Experienced delvers felt this new area was probably too high-level for them at the moment. Our heroes crept out of the dokkalf keep, with The Kid using Timmy-voice to distract the other dokkalfs before returning to normal appearance.
Having learned much, our heroes returned to their camp.
The standard award for each member of the group was 8 points. They decisively won a fight, learned a lot of useful information, infiltrated the inner workings of the camp, and scored a nice pair of goggles.
Cool Point: Slingshot, for carrying the rest of the party to promotion
Boobie Point: Dara, for choosing to sit out the fight where nobody had to do anything – and also to help catch up with the others