Outside, flurries of snow swirl through the dark city streets. Hardly a soul dares venture out on such an eve. The inn's common room, by contrast, is full of life and warmth. The innkeeper and servants are busy with cooking and serving and collecting coin, and so happy. The fire roars in the hearth. A boisterous band of traders fill the room with chatter and even music, as some of their guards improvise upon the tambour and pipes.
But in the corner, there is a group of more serious -- some might say sinister -- cast. Though their table be piled as high as any with tankards and flagons, they do not make merry. Between the wine and dinner plates are scattered scrolls and scraps of parchment, covered in strange writing and stranger symbols, which they take pains to conceal whenever anyone comes too close. They speak to each other forcefully, and just loud enough to make themselves heard.
Their leader is a heavy-eyed priest, wearing clothes finer than the rest, but not ostentatiously. He towers above the table, shouting his will just a little louder than the rest. He punctuates his words by pounding his fist against the table, making the tankards to jump. A grizzled mercenary distractedly cleans his nails with a silver dagger, whilst the black-cloaked man next to him broods in silence. A young woman alternately exchanges words with the priest, and scribbles in a book on her knee. And there are three elves in the group as well, far away from their forest home. One is small and exceptionally striking, with marble skin and onyx hair; she is poring over a map of the kingdom, and struggling to make herself heard. The tall elf is wearing a sword at her belt, and her face is flushed with anger as she argues with the priest. The third elf is sittng quietly bored; she plays with an unloaded pistol like a toy.
"So it's settled, then," says the priest as the elf is rolling up her map, "tomorrow we set out for the Church of--"
As if on cue, the door of the inn bursts open as a haggard man in a travelling cloak rushes in. He wastes no time in approaching the group, and breathlessly exclaims, "I bear an urgent message for you from Baron Forzdeleu!"
Setup: roll of 4 = modified scene (was: trip to Church to attempt to get religious item.)
Interrupt: Move toward a thread - Neldir - Arrive / Fears (see below)
Characters: Neldir, the Elders of the Elven Forest, Ranwitha the Pious Merchant, Siorighan MU12, Tibalt & Barnot, dwarven mercenaries, griffon, Reverend Father Gelnay de Val d'Oine, Reverend Father de Molleré, Brother Mundlo, Zuhal B'thallit, centaur lizard, Jola, Sir Gaunet, Jönnick, Baron Iehan Forzdeleu, Count Rotres d'Estancbel, Lady Delphinia, evil cult, Orezuthía the Wise, Cemmeret
Threads: find Neldir & the book
acquire religious item to fight demon
The messenger brings news that one of the Baron's road patrols encountered Neldir leading an expedition northwest from the fork in the road towards the forest crossing. The patrol was outnumbered and slaughtered. One of the soldiers who had been left for dead managed to bring the news back to the baron.
The PCs discuss this a while, and agree that Neldir must be heading towards Vhisigus' prison. After some heated debate (largely between Lycinia and Father Rochouart), it is agreed that it is important to disrupt Neldir's plans at the prison, and that they cannot risk a potentially fruitless delay by going to the church looking for a handout.
They intend to set out on his trail at first light. The prison isn't far, and they've effectively over-supplied for the journey, but they don't intend to count on outside assistance, but may be able to connive some spiritual aid at St. Clere's Abbey.
[Time for more hexcrawling. There will only be a 1-in-6 chance per day of a random wilderness encounter due to the cold winter weather.
But, for each castle the PCs pass by (within 4 hexes / 8 miles), there will be a chance of an encounter with a patrol. The check will be made on a 1d6, using the nearest hex travelled through (or intended to be travelled through) to determine the chance of an encounter:
same hex 1-5
1 hex 1-4
2 hexes 1-3
3 hexes 1-2
4 hexes 1
Stormy conditions add +2 to the roll. The die roll will indicate how many hexes from the castle the patrol is encountered, based on the maximum distance it could count as; a 1 indicates 4 hexes distant, a 2 indicates 3 hexes, etc.
As the PCs are by this point known to be agents of the Baron, NPC reactions to them will be modified according to the chart at the bottom of part 24.
As a DM, I am also plotting the route of Neldir's party and checking to see if they have any patrol encounters. Any hostile patrol encounters will provide some sort of negative modifier to determining their numbers/strength when the PCs finally run into them. All I know for now is that they have war horses, and that Neldir would have tried to get at least one of Siorighan's trolls for the mission; I'll ask Mythic about that when it's time.
The numbers on the map correspond to the end of each day's travel. Neldir's party is in pink, the PCs in blue.]
The party set off from Ildmarch at dawn, hoping to travel as far as they can whilst it's still daylight. The horses are moving a bit slowly under their burden, but the teamster is certain they will get up to speed once some of the food is gone [in fact, 4 days of food consumed will drop all the horses to Unencumbered].
The temperature never gets above freezing, and there is a dusting of snow, but their travel is unimpeded. They meet some merchants on the road, but do not stop to chat. The merchants seem intent on making good time to Ildmarch in any event.
At the fork in the road, they take leave of the baron's messenger, and head NW overland towards the woods. [The daily check for becoming lost (on 1d6) comes up a 1; they almost do get lost, but a successful Bushcraft roll (of 1 on 1d6; none of them have anything but the default skill) lets them find their way. I'm making this roll and the encounter check every day of travel, but won't record the results from here on in unless something happens.] Despite not finding the trail through the woods, the party should still be able to make Castle Glarn by nightfall.
[An encounter with a patrol from Castle Glarn is indicated. The die roll of 2 indicates they will meet them 3 hexes out, which would be the hex where Neldir's party made camp.
Q: Do the PCs come across Neldir's campsite? Very unlikely: 41, Yes.
Q: Does the patrol encounter happen there? 50/50: 11, Yes +Event: NPC action - Lady Delphinia - Refuse / Suffering. Lady Delphinia sends some of her troops to Yseut's Bastion to break the siege (worsens her relations with the Count in the process).]
The party comes upon the remains of a camp they assume to have been Neldir's. They can tell it was used very recently, but can't glean any useful information from it. As they are picking through the débris, a patrol of 10 heavy horsemen rides towards them, wearing the crest of Castle Glarn upon their tabards. Father Rochouart rides forth to meet them [their reaction roll is modified by +1 for Charisma, +0 for Castle Glarn's relationship with the Baron. The roll of 3+1=4, Unfriendly].
After a very short discussion, Father Rochouart rides back, and tells the rest of the party that they will find no welcome reception at Castle Glarn. They decide not to press the issue, and head north in the direction of the monument.
It is snowing when they wake up in the morning, and bitterly cold. The snow becomes heavier and heavier by the hour [movement rate is reduced to one-third]. They decide to try for the Abbey to seek shelter there. They make a forced march. After 11 miserable hours of travel through the blinding snow, they finally (by the Grace of the Light God, says the cleric) arrive at their destination. The march takes a toll on the horses; Worland's and Haddie's die from exhaustion.
[The PCs' reception at the Abbey will be determined by a reaction roll. Modifiers: +1 charisma bonus (Fr. R), +1 relationship with the Baron, -2 Orthodoxy, which Father Rochouart represents. A roll of 10+0=talkative.
Q: Can the PCs talk to the Abb(1-3= -ot, 4-6= -ess; 1)ot in person? Likely: 41, Yes.
Using UNE to flesh him out-
Abbot Tagnard (Baron Tagnard, Lady Delphinia's older brother)
2.promote freedom (devotion rather than theology, retreat rather than politics)
3.guard lust (it's a celibate order)
The friendly abbot speaks of the history of the abbey (the shelter).
Q: Are there horses at the Abbey? Unlikely: 23, Yes.
UNE conversation mode: neutral, sociable
Can the PCs convince the Abbot to sell them a couple horses? 24, Yes.
They pay with some gems.
The party need to wait out the storm before moving on. There is still a 1-in-6 chance of an encounter per day, though anything nonsensical will result in No Encounter.]
There is less snow falling, but the cold is still severe. The party make the best of being stuck in the monastery, which mostly involves sleeping and looking for any diverting books in the small library. The Abbot is still friendly and inquisitive, and surprised to find that the party not only have met, but got on well with his sister.
The snowfall is heavier again. The clouds are dark and the sun never seems to appear. In the afternoon there is a flurry of excitement and activity amongst the normally passive monks and nuns: more visitors.
[An encounter is indicated: 5 berserkers.] A group of 5 foreign mercenaries, large, hardy looking-humans dressed in leather armour and wearing bearskins for warmth, appear at the Abbey. They had become lost in the snow, which they admit is embarrassing given the weather in their homeland across the sea. Nevertheless, they humbly beg shelter from the Abbot, and it is happily given.
They are given food and warm wine in front of the hearth, and are glad of it. Their leader, a brawny woman named Geirny, explains that they are headed south in search of work. The kingdom to the north is, she explains, depressingly stable, but rumour is there'll soon be some fighting to do to the south.
The day is extremely cold, and snowfall still constant. There isn't much for the guests to do in the Abbey but sit and wait and try to stay out of the clerics' way.
[Q: Do the mercenaries cause any problems? 50/50 61, Yes.
Q: What? Propose / Weapons They want to fight the party out of boredom.
NB: I initially only rolled up the three that would be fighting the PCs, being the first three listed. Their names conveniently start with the same letter as the PC they will be fighting. But as the other two's stats will be needed later, I'm putting them all here in one place. The names were all taken from a list of actual viking names.
CH CN DX IN ST WI HP
Lifstæn m 10 14 9 9 12 12 6
Mar m 11 13 13 6 16 10 3
White f 17 17 11 4 10 9 9
Geirny f 11 14 9 11 16 10 7
Nidbiorg f 10 14 9 10 12 8 9
Leather armour, battleaxe
Had I rolled them all up first, the two with the worst hit points would not have been challengers, though in the end it wouldn't have made a huge difference. The whole fight lasted 11 rounds, and would be far too tedious to relate blow-by-blow. Anyways, some narrative:]
The mercenaries are a loud and boisterous bunch, much given to wine and conversation. But a long winter's night cooped up in an Abbey is more than they can bear. One of the men, Lifstæn by name, puts forth a proposition. "Would that there were something here," he says, eyes a-gleam with wine and mischief, "to test our warrior's mettle. You there with the axe! You've a warrior's scars! And what a bout her? Tiny little raven-haired thing! Such a beauty, but those bloodstains on your breeches tell quite another tale!"
"I told you," says Aldira to Théscine, "to burn those old rags."
"After the wizards guild, I wanted something comfortable," retorts Théscine. "So, sorry, despite the outfit, I'm not a warrior."
"Always up for a bit of sparring," says Worland.
"I'm game," chirps Miolla, "Come on. Lycinia, you should play too." She adds, in elvish, "just pretend it's some of the clerics. I can tell you've been wanting to hit them all day!"
In the end, Lycinia, Miolla, and Worland agree to a sparring match. Some of the junior clerics are enthusiastic about the event; perhaps monastic life isn't for everyone. They find an out-of-the-way chamber big enough to hold participants and audience. However, they refuse to allow weapons to be used. The fighters grudgingly agree, and strip off their armour. The rules are simple: 3-on-3, last team with members standing wins.
Father Rochouart decides to watch, in case someone is severely injured and needs his ministrations. He wants Haddie to know this doesn't mean he condones the proceedings. Géraint wants to watch a bare-knuckle brawl 'for old time's sake'. Théscine would rather read by the fire. Aldira empties her purse and joins the betting pool.
The fighters enter the makeshift ring (a few bales of straw were spread over the wooden floor) and square off. A novitiate bangs on a cooking pot for the signal, and the fight begins.
The fighters circle one another for a few moments, sizing up the opposition. Miolla dashes up suddenly, and manages a fearsome uppercut right to Mar's jaw (he's about a foot taller, so that's the only way she could reach). The blow knock him back out of the ring and into the crowd, unconscious. Cheers erupt from all sides, and coins rapidly change hands. Miolla is unabashedly pleased with herself, but hangs back from the rest of the fight to keep the odds fair.
When the other two mercenaries start fighting, a change comes over them. They become wild-eyed and feral, seemingly impervious to pain. They fight furiously with little thought of defence.
Worland puts up a good fight, but halfway through the bout falls underneath White's frenzied onslaught. Miolla doesn't even need to step up to replace him, as the enraged White steps over his unconscious form and barrels right into her. In the end, despite their battle-lust, the mercenaries are no match for the two elves. The pair stand victorious amid the general applause and approbation of the crowd.
Aldira is now 10cp richer, having bet on all three of her friends to win.
Those who can, heal the injured. It seems the Light God must also have enjoyed the sport, as his Divine Radiance erases all the fighters' pains. The hierarchy of the Abbey are not so convinced, however, and once word has gotten out the visitors are expressly forbidden from a repeat performance. The novitiates involved are sent to clean the kitchens (for those who merely watched) or the stables (for gambling).
Following the contest, Mar is completely smitten (no pun intended) with Miolla, and follows her about like a puppy. No one has ever bested the great Mar so handily before; how could he otherwise but fall in love with her? In the end, she does her best to let the berserker down gently, but can barely contain her giggles when she bounds back across the common room to her friends.
"Did he just say 'do you want to making fuck'?" asks Aldira.
(adventure continues here)