The characters for this session:
Seck Rustrau, L3 rogue/thief, enemy of the red dragon, doom of Gleekmound, friend to Elin Barad, hag’s bane
Phoenix Pilandaros, L2 barbarian, hag’s bane
Vir Onden, L2 half-elf ranger, hag’s bane
Cat W, L2 warlock, friend to Elin Barad, hag’s bane
Layton Wheattail, NPC L2 fighter, enemy of the red dragon
and guided by NPC Sholt, hunter of the High Forest
This session kicks off another MT Black adventure, again for the purpose of filling in experience with worthy side-adventures. It is part of the Triboar collection but stands alone very well in the context of aid needed desperately in the Alshon. I don’t know if MT Black has read Gemmell’s Legend but this is an attractive adventure. For this group of non-optimized L2-L3, the adventure offers more interest than danger, and many minor milestones will be needed to push, say, Phoenix up a level.
The need is great, the hero must be found
Tallywood is much as they left it eight days ago: barely coping with the sick. Friar Tamline, who serves as earl’s chaplain, village priest, and sexton, welcomes anyone with a strong back to bury the dead, and anyone with immunity to help tend the sick.
Bok, just-about-grown and surviving squire to Sir Galmont, fills in the details. He has ridden this far to bring the urgent mission to The Coach and Tallywood.
Sir Stigle knows of a paladin, famed for slaying a mighty giant with one stroke of her sword, and more recently surviving the White Wyrm. She lives northwest, towards Mooregate. Sir Galmont, dispatched with the few companions that can both ride and be spared from town defense, is ambushed and held hostage by Horned Skull goblins. It seems all of his companions are slain.
Stiglehold may be in dire straits and Sir Stigle may be about to empty his treasury, but the need for a paladin that can lay on hands and cure the goblin fever is just as urgent! The paladin, Jahia, retired to somewhere north-west, towards Mooregate.
Here, we come to an interesting node in the campaign. When we did session zero, I felt I made it clear that players need to have characters who are motivated to seek adventure, not be reluctantly flogged into it. I feel like the default setting for all adventurers has become “woesie me, I’m being forced into this” – which for D&D, is bullshit. Even Tolkien used that gag only once.
So as part of the preface to this adventure I reminded players that fetch-quests are completely normal things for adventurers to do. Because they are adventurers.
Selfish thoughts are cast aside
Although Cat and Seck step stiff-legged around the idea of altruism, Phoenix and Vir seem fine with the idea. And once it’s pointed out that a paladin could remove disease, as was done for Seck with the restoration scroll, they seem more inclined to help. Last Stiglehold mission, as Seck recalls, Reid provided a healing potion each as reward. Squeaky young Bok and wheezy old Schalk explain what they know of the road to Jahia, which boils down to “keep heading on, ask as you go.” They aren’t in position to advance anything, but Schalk generously offers to keep valuables safely locked up so they can head out with as light a load as possible. Alternatively, once Jahia is on the road south, Seck could head out to Mooregate, the Duke’s seat, and spend money. Layton brightens up at the thought, but on balance, Seck decides to leave the cash here. Phoenix, who’s asked Vir to mind his cash, agrees, and heads out to see if he can rustle up a pack animal.
[Phoenix’ player is asked to supply a second good reason for someone hiring a beast out to him, fails, and makes a normal CHA check]
Phoenix reports no luck, but not disheartened now they have action in front of them, the five re-provision, re-pack, and are back on the road to Biddypoint.
[Phoenix now has enough equipment to look like an adventurer, not the down-at-heel failed brigand he was]
Local knowledge in Biddypoint is vague. They do know that the next town north-west towards Mooregate would be Frickley.
Hunter Dain does have something specific to warn them about though:
“Found a big print not far out… like a huge wolf”
Seck is not slow to realize that Yazol’s worgs are probably afield. He and Cat exchange thoughts on being able to talk to them, as Yazol implies doing. Cat’s opinion is that the foul monsters can understand what’s said.
The region north is mostly scattered woodland, so heat won’t be too bad. That’s what Seck and Layton remember of their drift south from the great river. And water is to be had.
Rood boiz in the wood
With a dawn start, the five make good time, leaving the Darkwald far south-west of them, and finding the trail gradually rising then topping out to a moderate view of… more woods. Just as has been the case til now, side-trails lead off to unknown parts or possibly around seasonal obstacles.
They stick to the main trail.
Party order: Vir, Seck, Cat, Layton/Phoenix.
Up ahead, Seck and Vir hear a fracas, or perhaps just roistering. Vir has the others hold while he swiftly eases to cover and to where he can see around the sweep of woods blocking line of sight.
Two satyrs are harassing a family, the children up on a heavy farm wagon, the parents uselessly trying to fend the fey creatures off.
Cat proposes negotiating. There’s always ‘Plan B.’
“Where we cark it up,” he explains mysteriously.
Sadly [not a good day for CHA checks so far] Cat’s eloquence is not as great as the satyrs’ w1ck3d pr@nx, and no sooner do they blow some mean reeds [pan pipe with frightening tune, everyone but Layton gets a fine SV] than a Hail of Thorns screams around them. Shrieking and yelling insults back over their naked shoulders the pair flee.
“Nice!” – Vir using his shiny new spell
A giant named Yegor Bonecruncher
The cart’s owners are red-haired, large-built farmer Randur and green-eyed, small but assertive wife Nathra Brighthearth with their three young children. They are farmers from the small village of Scorton, about a day’s travel away by cart. Randur and Nathra made the call to abandon Scorton and head for his brother Andel, down in Frickley.
“The goblin fever were one thing… but then, along comes the giant” – Randur
He fills in the blanks as the whole party travels north along the trail. A giant, must be all of 12 foot tall, took all of the village’s stored foods on threat of death…
“He then stands up without so much as a thank you – and here’s where things get bad. Suddenly he pulls out an old sack, and quick as a flash plucks four of the fattest farmers out of the crowd and squashes ‘em in there! Then he strolls off, as if nothing in the world was happening.” – Randur
Frickley, where something has happened to the gate
It’s not long after noon when the wagon rolls close enough to the walled village of Frickley for Vir and Seck, still in the lead, to take a closer look at the gate. It’s held together with rope. Eager to stop and refresh themselves, they undo the knots and pass in.
At first, all the simple dwellings seem deserted. There’s one large building, suggestive of an inn. The sign is of a garish blue-colored noble. Cat translates the stylized board: <Blaue Herzog>
The Blue Duke
Then as it’s clear that these are not marauders, the villagers filter out. A hubbub ensues as explanations are volunteered and questions asked! At length, a sturdy halfling, dressed almost too tidily, vaults and scrambles up to the kick-boards of the wagon:
“A town meeting is called for! To the Blue Duke!” – Pello, proprietor of the Blue Duke
It seems that Yegor Bonecruncher’s visit has thrown the village, probably of no more than 30 families, into a crisis. Just as with Scorton, so with here. Yegor will be back for his food… and once Randur tells his brother Andel what happened, they know it won’t be just local produce! What chance to any of them have? But can they leave?
Viewpoints and tales of the paladin
As the adventurers quietly knock back free ale and free mutton stew, they identify a few leading lights, those with opinions that matter or force of personality that might sway their peers.
- Pello himself, long-standing resident and deeply tied to the Blue Duke.
- Grigor Dunhold, tall sturdy yeoman farmer and tied to his land
- Tastra Fleetsong, red-haired huntress, and willing to look for game in further realms
Seeing them as allies Tastra appeals to them at one stage:
“Don’t you agree that fleeing the village is the only sensible option?”
But just as quickly, Grigor protests that common folk had best stick together, and that if they flee to Mooregate they’ll lose their liberties for good.
Cat shakes his head uncertainly, and instead, asks about Jahia.
“Jahia! Jahia Giantslayer! Say…” – Pello
Pello spins a yarn to the listening villagers. Few of them can boast his years, and he remembers when Jahia first made her name – slaying a Frost giant with a single stroke! That was before she went off to the wars, but she’s back and lives nearby. With her, they’d be able to see Yegor Bonecruncher off!
“Sounds like she’d be about 60…” Cat, uneasily
Pello gestures Cat over to a confidential chat. Jahia retired to a remote spot around Weeping Rock in the High Forest, but if they can convince her to come fight Yegor, it’s worth Pello’s family jewels!
The right guide for the job
Time is of the essence and after quickly provisioning from Pello’s supplies, the five comrades interview two possible guides to Weeping Rock:
- Sholt, short on manners, long on unkemptness, says he can look after himself in a pinch and knows the land. He has a low opinion of milksops, looking at Cat
- Bayle, still squeaky-voiced, brave but untried, says he knows the trail to Weeping Rock
Unsurprisingly they choose to bring the man who could stand a knock or two, and set out next day. It is not quite dawn as Cat takes a last celebratory swig, and spills a libation across his path.
Party order: Sholt, Vir, Seck, Cat, Layton/Phoenix
The trails through the High Forest are by no means as easy and broad as the main trail to Mooregate, and generally wind gently up over shallow rocky terrain, well covered by a range of trees and undergrowth. It’s late summer and visibility through the trees is nonexistent.
Bugs! Bridge! Weird stuff!
The sun has risen to the point of burning their right ears when a massive deadfall presents the first obstacle of any sort. Venturing near, Vir hears the rustling of large insects. He guides the party through the forest and clear. Layton and his equipment make a large amount of noise, but the bugs don’t react before they all get clear. Seck douses his precautionary torch and they reestablish trail order.
The trail forks.
“Well… I’d head fer th’ bridge. Last time I wuz this way…. it looked fine. But if th’ gawds, sorry, th’Almighty pisses on us, it’ll be washed out. ‘Course, t’other way’ll take ye over th’ river as well.”
“I’ve been jumped on a bridge before…” – Cat”
“No prosty-tutes on this bridge son” – Sholt
Not seeing any spectacular argument for fording, the party heads on, reaches the bridge, calculates that the few sips of water taken so far aren’t worth trying to replace, and carries on over. Somewhat disappointingly no eerie menace or tradition-bound troll blocks their path.
The trail forks again. They could head southish but the northish fork is as good as any other direction (so Sholt says) so that’s what they choose.
It leads to a clearing, and of all things, a pyramid of ice. Something blue glitters in its depths.
“An ice-giant’s crap pile” – Cat
Peering more closely they can see if that’s the case, he wiped his mighty ass with thorns, which curl around the pyramid’s base.
Remaining at a cautious distance they wait for Vir to do some scouting. Cat muses on his extensive knowledge of flaky rumor to account for this [arcana] and each new guess draws a snort from Sholt, who is now standing next to him
[Cat draws an inspiration for an ill-timed jest]
Babano the well-intentioned and the icy
About the time they begin to wonder if they’ll have to search, Vir reappears, bringing a weed-encrusted old coot who apparently froze “these wretched mephits” last winter and hasn’t got around to cleaning them up, so thanks them for volunteering.
[I try to channel Prince Charles for the accent and vagueness, but the players are thinking Radagast]
The fight is brief, since the adventurers know how to wield spells and weapons. Layton charges in to deal great damage with his glaive, quickly followed up by Seck then Phoenix. The second mephit lasts a few seconds longer. Most receive some degree of cold damage, but nothing a short rest in the sunshine of the clearing won’t cure.
[Two crits! Phoenix tries his new javelins. Cat also tries his Sleep spell, which I have not prepped for. I guess it’s his Level 2 spell. I also guess it’s too low HD for these creatures, but still look it up, and I appear to be right.]
Layton’s glaive persuades the thorns to ease back and Seck disinters a sapphire, or at least a gem that looks convincingly like a sapphire.
Babano is grateful he didn’t have to lift a finger, and hands over six goodberries to help them on the trail. He also mentions (before leaping into his rabbit-drawn sleigh) that a squirrel warned him about something foul around Weeping Rock.
The rest has cost them time, so Sholt speculates it’s maybe best to make camp early, well clear of Weeping Rock.
Cooking is my thing, not just booze and regret
Two-man watches are stood, but nothing ventures to the fire. Phoenix and Vir draw breakfast shift, and having gathered useful herbs and a couple of extra ingredients [nature] Phoenix turns their unpleasant trail rations into a decent breakfast. Since this is easily the best breakfast they’ve had since…. well… a long time, that’s a great skill to have.
[Cat makes the first DC10 CON SV needed against regional dysentery at this point, with advantage because they’ve been careful and Sholt has been making sure he doesn’t get bad grub. The others effectively have double-advantage so I don’t worry about them.]
The trail to Weeping Rock winds and rises more than previous, and as Sholt predicts, joins a steep sided gully, left of trail, down which a fast-running stream races to join yesterday’s river. It runs from Weeping Rock, and when they come in sight of it, the sun casts strong shadows on its face, making it look – to the imaginative – like a titan’s head, water streaming from its eyes.
Fair-seeming but foul within
As they near the rock, and their feet crunch into bones, a gentle song washes over them. Sholt immediately starts working his breeks down, but the others [more good WIS SV] shake off the effects and are ready to loose arrows at the dread harpy! Phoenix hurls his javelin:
“It’s up there!”
“I guess we’re not negotiating then!” – Cat
It rises quickly from its hiding place and Cat’s Faerie Fire does not reach it – and Vir’s shot misses – but it has to swoop, and at that point it is doomed! Aside from Sholt nearly getting in the way making a lustful charge at it while scrambling out of his breeks, the fight is not a danger.
Sholt recovers his dignity as best he can.
Cat scrambles up Weeping Rock [DC 10 athletics] and as well as looting the four pounds of mostly-low-value coin from the nest, gets a great view of the trail winding through and around to a smudge of smoke, not too many hours away!
It’s not long past noon when they come in sight of a cut-log cottage, its timbers grayed and mossy where little sun falls, behind a decorative little gate, guarding a tidily-groomed garden.
Cat calls out courteously at the gate… and sees one of those hammock things, between two large trees, and in it reclines a woman, blonde, white-shirted, leather-trousered.
“Good afternoon!” – Cat
“No he isn’t I’ve known him for ages!” – Vir
“Soon to be friends… and don’t judge us by the comedy act… are you Jahia the holy? There is much amiss, and we’ve been sent to find you.” – Cat
“Jahia I am… You’ve come a far step at any rate… tea?” – Jahia
Jahia eases herself athletically out of the hammock and invites them in. Up close the gray in her blonde hair is obvious, but age rests lightly on her figure. A silver medallion with a dwarf rune is obvious on her breast. The only other sign of a violent past is the honking great longsword, ready to hand against the nearest tree to her.
Inside the cottage, they sup politely, feeling a little too masculine among the determinedly feminine decor. Sholt is especially abashed and stays well out of the conversation.
“Much is amiss,” Cat repeats, and he and the others explain goblin fever and Yegor Giantslayer.
At first, Jahia seems a teenchy bit fatalistic:
“Ah well… everyone dies.”
But he persists and as she hears the tales of goblin fever, she seems uncomfortable. And he presses the point that at least, she can advise the villagers. Is she not the legend?
Jahia determinedly rebuts this:
“It was a long time ago, I was with a bunch of other adventurers – I was lucky to live – I just dealt the deathblow.”
As for advice:
“Flee? That does sound like a sensible plan…”
But by the time tea is over Jahia has warmed to the idea of just taking the day and a half to walk to Frickley and pass on her experience. [nat 20 on persuasion from Cat on a DC15] After regretfully packing up the tea things, the adventurers experience ‘aging paladin wondering where she left stuff’ for what seems like a very long time… but they are at length ready to leave and set out without further delay.
There’s no need to guess which trail to take for the return journey, and pit-stops and the like are easy to plan. As Vir guides them on through the night, Jahia seems to find the way familiar, even if her gear seems heavy. But the dawn’s light throws regret in stark lines across her face, as they reach the walls of Frickley.