Tuesday, March 12, 2013
A Distant Inheritance 16
We had the third meeting of a Distant Inheritance last weekend, taking us through Sessions 4 and 5 of the planned adventure. Diplomacy was done, feral Cows were faced, bandits were beset and barrows burgled. Much fun was had by all. See below the fold for more.
Our company found themselves, wet and bedraggled and with minimal gear, entering the gates of the Dwarf Kingdoms of the Slate Hills. The dwarf construction is impressively sturdy, and once inside the gate slams shut behind them, protecting them from any further goblin issues. As per their existing arrangement the Company are provided rooms and access to the steam baths that they might refresh themselves. Additional clothes are brought and Merogas confuses the dwarves by requesting a fiddle (Edgir’s fiddle gift from Stylke the Fossingrim was on his horse and therefore not taken by the Goblins).
[Right after I say I’m assuming that since they’re in the abode of honored hosts rather than on the road they probably don’t search the room Nick says that Elena is actually doing as thorough a search as possible, proving that nothing is more paranoid than a young player.]
That night at the dinner table where Dwalin is feasting his guests there is actually high takes diplomacy taking place as Edgir and Rolf try desperately to overcome the first impression of their entry in getting Dwalin to keep his word on supplies and equipment. Dwalin is understandably nervous about riling up the Giants. In this case the dice system worked exactly as I hoped – Jason made a bad first roll but accepted a consequence (having offer additional future concessions of Tarmalanian land to the dwarves) to get the +5 and make it a marginal success. That dropped the difficulty from 15 to 10 for Rolf to follow up but Kris only managed an 11, keeping the temporary 5 point reduction in place for Jay’s next round. Starting with a 10 Jay had his consequence -5 on his roll so he needed a 15. He only rolled a 17 so he kept the temporary reduction going for Kris. She then scored another 12 and it was back to Jason. Jay got an impressive 22 on 5d for a 7 point success and a permanent 5 point reduction. Kris, having a target roll of a 10 rolled a 15, took a 5 point consequence to make it a 20 for a 10 point victory and ending the conflict. During each exchange the players put forward theories of why Dwalin should help them and Dwalin kept countering, until things ended with full support but with promises of more territory and a Dwarvish advisor inside the royal court to counter Merogas. It was about 2/3rds of the way through when Nick realized that these were the same mechanics as a fight and the light bulb of ‘social conflict’ went off in his eyes.
The negotiations completed Merogas and Edgir break out their fiddles for some entertainment, bringing the Dwarves to their feat in their love of music and the desire for more beer. Merogas then stuns everyone with an Elvish Prophetic Song (not a use of his Wizardry but just standard elf lore) that states that the Dwarves and the house of Tarmalania will fight together as brothers before the sun’s rebirth. If this is to be true the company has but a few months to achieve their purpose.
The company does some additional research, with Merogas securing some additional information about Giants (that he will be able to pull out of thin air as needed later) and Rolf and Fredigar copy out a map of lost Tarmalania to compare against the chamberlain’s amulet so that they might more easily find the tomb of the last king when they get there, Fredigar having worked out the code of which gemstones mean which houses on the map. Dwain also tries to recruit them to assist in stopping Zegor the Canny from setting up a goblin beachhead in the western mountains that the Giants might expand into. Rolf wants to assist somehow,
They then depart with fresh mounts and equipment, making their way into the Giant’s Shadow. There is a brief digression talking to crazy farmsteader who warns them about the treat of Feral Cows… and bandits, but the Feral Cows are the dangerous part. Feral, Man-Eating Cows become the running joke of the session. The farmsteader is one of the brave souls eking out a living on the plain, limiting himself to three structures lest the Giants come and flatten everything. Forewarned by the old coot the company easily spots a horseman’s ambush and slaughters a force of 9 men, leaving just one survivor to question.
Upon learning of Agarwaen the Red’s predation of the area Edgir immediately goes off task (and off my predicted plot) by insisting they hunt down this ruffian now. He speechifies a lot and Rolf gives in; they give their word to the captive that they won’t kill him if he leads them to Agarwaen’s camp; once there, and after dark, Fredigard and Elena slip past their pathetic picket lines where the woodswoman counts their horses and takes stock of their troops. Fredigar penetrates deeper, assessing that many fo the ‘camp followers’ are there under duress and that Agarwaen is planning to send a force of roughly 30 men to find the missing riders and make sure that the old coot’s farmstead wasn't starting to stand up for itself or anything. Based on this information Edgir constructs a plan.
The next morning Agarwaen’s expeditionary force is cut to ribbons by the Princes’ company in a well-planned ambush. All but a handful are slain in the first couple exchanges and then the remainder are either driven off away from Agarwaen’s encampment or tracked and killed. Later that day a giant eagle drops a body into Argarwaen’s camp just as Edgir and Rolf (who had been sore wounded hunting down and dispatching three bandits single handed) ride up with a strong of empty horses. Edgir blows the doors off of a Lineage (Prince) roll and flatly informs the red-bearded bandit chief that any further depredations of the people of Tarmalania will be met lethal force. They might not have shattered his company, but the stammering Agarwaen will be hard pressed to keep it coherent in the months to come.
When the company reaches Lost Tarmalania Rolf and Fredigar take to the fore, scouring the rubble fo the flattened city until they locate the lost crypt. Days are spent unburying it before there even a narrow path for entry, letting Elena, Fredigar and Rolf – who scraped off a bit of skin getting in – pass into the dark passages. Here Fredigar’s decades of experience as an expert treasure hunter serve them well and the trio survive to find the proper crypt, which is emanating a preternatural chill. Rolf is able to read the runes that open the crypt door, but as he enters a feeling of stark terror washes over the adventurers.
Outside the company hears Elena scream in mortal terror and a few moments later she emerges and takes several moments to recover herself. A few moments after that Fredigar emerges and lights a pipe. “Yup, Ghost,” The treasure hunter says with his usual aplomb. “Nasty one. Rolf sorted it out.” There is a rumble of the earth as a path clears before the swordbearing Rolf, who hands over Varangan, the two magical handed sword of the kings of Tarmalania, to his brother. “Our grandfather wanted you to have this.” The company also pulls out Tarmalanian heavy armor for all of the company and suit up before riding on.
[The boys also engage in a round of arguing who gets the next magic sword. The fact that the wizard who turns into an eagle to fight and the hobbit who avoid all fights have little need for one means nothing. Or, as I put it, “But Daaaad, it’s a Magic Sword!”]
Wise decision, as they are soon beset by the forces of another horselord, who ‘invites’ them at spearpoint to enter their camp. Seeing the greater nobility in this group than Argarwaen’s ragged company Edgir orders his men to comply, and they are led into the company of Fingolfin of Umbriel. All except Fredogar who vanished at the first sign of trouble, just in case.
Fingolfin is the grandson of the captain of Lost Umbriel’s guard and has taken it upon himself to protect the refugees of that city. Where Agarwaen’s tents were a camp, Fingolfin’s is a community; where Agarweaen had terrified ‘camp followers’ Fingolfin has happy wives and children. Where Agarawen’s men got by on rough stews and rougher bread, the company detects the aroma of the slow roasting cattle and goat that will make up tonight’s meal in the tent city. The princes decide that they like Fingolfin right away, for his heart is clearly in the right place. Fingolfin, upon meeting them, is equally taken with their noble bearing and steadfast purpose, as well as the stories he heard about the damage done to Agarwaen’s bandits, who have long been a threat.
Still, like Dwalin, Fingolfin needs convincing that the Princes won’t just draw down the wraith of the mountain on the innocent people of the plains. Edgir argues that while Fingolfin has protected them, his methods can do no more than this roving existence. Fingolfin counters that Edgir can take over Agarwaen’s company, accept Fingolfin as a vassal and rule as a tent king over a proud and hearty people. Rolf informs him that the Goblins are moving west and soon the Giants shadow will be cast from both mountains. Fingolfin responds that his people have heard the voices in the river but he has no water witch who could counter such magics.
“We do,” Edgir says, springing the trap closed. “Bring any men you feel necessary to the river and show us where the noises are. Once there Edgir expects Merogas to make the water transparent or somsuch to reveal the goblins, but instead the wizard parts the very waters, leading to a damming up of the Tarmalanian river as the gblins, bound by magic to an enchanted chain that was letting them traverse under the water, wither in the sudden magical onslaught before being washed away by the collapse of the dammed water as the elf abandons his spell. Rolf, drawing Halthastor to call upon its protective enchantments against water, drives his steed into the roling river to snag the chain and drag it to shore. Merogas declares that this hundredlength of chain, and likely others of its make, will let some eighty goblins at a time traverse through the river at great speed.
Fingolfin stands there stunned by this display, and requests a meeting the next morning once he has ponded this. Shortly after dawn the company emerges from their tent to Fingolfin demanding tests for the other members of the company to see if they are equally miraculous as Rolf and Edgir. “Your cousin wears arms and armor as a man; would she consent to fight one of my men?”
“For practice,” Merogas warns him.
Stout cudgels are procured (so that Elena might keep her Heavy Weapon advantage) and in the first exchange the woods woman so batters the horseman that the outcome, while it takes a few moments longer, is never in doubt. Fingolfin turns to see a Hobbit collecting money on the 10:1 bets he placed on the prince’s cousin and, once it is explained that Fredogar is with the prince and has been in the camp for a day and a night, decides that this one has obviously proven his worth as well.
Knowing what is coming Edgir accepts the horseback duel between himself and the warden of tent Umbriel. He draws Varangan, only to see Finglfin draw Rathlan, another of the ‘lost’ swords. [Nick: “Ooh! I claim that one! I get that sword!” Jay and Kris: “No you do not! He keeps that sword. He’s ON OUR SIDE!”]. The prince and the warden ride at each other, delivering sound strokes, but when Edgir’s swing clefts the warden’s sword in twain and shatters his helm with one stroke the duel is over. Fingolfin orders his men to give the company horses that will be good in the mountains and wishes the Princes all the luck of the old kingdom.
The company heads up into the mountains and over some obstacles – mostly in getting the horses up the crumbling shale of the mountainside to a safe spot – they follow Thom’s map to the Catseye statue that [As Merogas pulls a Giant Fact from thin air] marks the spot of the Giant Moots, where the giants will not be returning for months, so it is a safe place for the horses and some guards. The Giant’s steading is terrifying in its enormity, as are the beings that live there, but all screw their courage to the sticking point and observe it. It is then that Rolf reveals the remainder of the plan – that Edrim led the escapees through a cistern that led to an underground stream that exited into a pool nearby. Merogas had already located the pool from atop the Catseye monument with his Elvish sight and all that remains is entering it, traversing through the underground stream to the cistern, into the Giant’s storerooms and stealing the swords with none being the wiser.
Tramalania, Fredigar muses, is as good as restored.