Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Northlands Saga, Part One: Spring Rites

Note: At this point in the campaign Syrasi and Vigbjorn have yet to join until the next adventure. The current party is Askeladden, Amund, and Grackleback.

Our tale begins in the region of Halfstead, a relatively prosperous realm home to Silvermeade Hall and Jarl Olaf Henrikson. A single father with three daughters, the oldest one Runa is set to marry calling for celebrations. The PCs, trusted huscarls and confidants of the jarl's social circle, are entrusted with looking over them as they set off to pick flowers in a nearby field.

The daughters are quite a handful. Inga, the eldest, is very arrogant and treats the PCs like servants. Fastvi hopes to one day be a warrior and is enamored of Askeladden's status as skald. Runa, on the other hand, is reserved and carries on a conversation with an imaginary friend (or is it???).

While going to the field, and preventing Fastvi from overruning a farmer's crops in an ill-thought out horse dash, the party comes across a rather friendly hound who Runa desires to keep. Unfortunately, a witch by the name of Sibbe the Unkempt, indeed the very woman who helped deliver Runa's birth 9 years ago, seeks the girls to perform a blood sacrifice and enacts a powerful sleep spell on the field's occupants. The PCs fight for a bit as two of her henchmen, a berserker by the name of Njarni the Traitor and a scoundrel known as Clever Gufti attack. The dog bites Njarni in the genitals before it succumbs to sleep, earning the mutt a throat-slitting both for revenge and to make sure their scent can't be tracked down.

When the party comes to, the group sends Cecile (a paladin DMPC played by me for just this adventure) to inform the jarl of what happened, while the rest of the group rides off to save the girls. Along the way they meet a swamp-dwelling troll who's won over by Grackleback's offering of meat, sneak by some drunken cattle raiders and steal a cow for the aforementioned troll-blooded to eat, trek across the undead-haunted Barrow Lands, and come face to face with the dead dog whose spirit motivates him from beyond the grave and joins the party!

The PCs also meet Styr the Ugly, an outlaw who noticed Sibbe's group and tried to attack them, thinking them easy marks and to use the jarl's daughters as ransom. They did not count on a mind-controlled Runa or Sibbe to take out half his bandit crew with magical flames, and thus they had to huddle up and lick their losses. Askeladden convinces them to ambush Sibbe for revenge if nothing else. He accepts, and the PCs (plus a dog and 3 bandits) head up to tor. The sky is dark and stormy as Sibbe gets ready for her ritual. The PCs climb up the back, avoiding the easy to spot main pathways, and attack!

Sibbe is felled in one strike by Grackleback, interrupting her ritual. Coughing up blood she orders Runa to avenge her, and an already enlarged (11 feet tall) and berserking Njarni attacks Amund. Styr's bandits use the tor's standing stones as cover, taking shots at the villains, while Askeladden rushes to unbind Fastvi and Inga. Meanwhile Amund finishes off Njarni with one punch knocking him to his knees, then another square in the jaw.

Just in time the Jarl's war party ascends as Styr makes a speedy getaway. Olaf Henrikson is overjoyed to see his daughters safe and sound, and awards the party gold arm-rings as a sign of favor and trust. But unexpectedly, a legion of undead warriors meet the group as they head back. One of their leaders steps up, gesturing to the party for a necklace which Sibbe apparently stole from him. Askeladden gives it back, and in returns is granted an artifact blade as a gift.

Back at the hall the PCs are the talk of the town, with people asking them to retell their deeds, something the skald is all too happy to do. Alas, the undead hound refuses to go any farther and watches from the town's edges before heading off into the woods. Grackleback decides to follow him, and is looking to this day (and possibly to live among the swamp trolls, one of the few who shown her kindness).