TL; DR (October 14-17 AD 597)Winter deepens. Elven ambush. The Washerwomen. Tracking the elves, destroying them, seizing the plunder. A mysterious structure. Pagan unrest. The scop Gadd seeks material, finds none. A request for conversion. A subtle and violent ruse. Baptisms.
SEE, WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS . . .This was our first session using a digitally projected tabletop. More on that in a subsequent post.
For this session, we had Br. Charles, Fr. Bernard, Sr. Anastasia, and two new players: Br. Cerdic (a Saxon convert) and Sr. Erma (a Gaelic nun).
We skipped past the "hey how are you how about you come to the dungeon with us?" business and just said it happened. We resumed right after session 2, which was a successful ambushing of an elven ambush party. (A trick is made!)
Winter DeepensBefore the party headed to bed, snow started to fall. I don't mean normal snow. I mean heavy stuff, all of a sudden. When they woke up (Oct 15), it was six inches deep on the ground, and the snow hadn't let up any. Twenty degrees below where it was yesterday. Hmm.
Half the players wanted to head into the (mega)dungeon that they've barely touched so far; half wanted to track the elves that have been ambushing travelers on the road. We roll a die to break the tie, and the elves it is.
Elven AmbushAfter an hour tromping up to the Blean Wood, they get smacked by an ambush party: even numbers. But what punks! The party picks off the leader of the party, and the rest break for the woods. Because of the snow and a great tracking roll from Sr. Anastasia, the party follows the little elf-feet to the northeast, where I finally roll a random encounter: the Washerwomen.
The WasherwomenI don't want to spoil this for the players; so I won't explain who they are and what they do. Sr. Erma snuck through the woods, following the sound of their singing, and saw three old women washing clothes in the river Stour. She could only catch a glimpse before getting spooked and retreating. The party elected not to make contact. I think that was a wise decision.
Tracking the Elves, Destroying Them, Seizing the PlunderAfter another hour of tracking, the party hits upon the elven hideout. It's a bad scene. They had whittled their numbers down some, but there were still 16 elves in there. (I'd generated a lair per the Moldvay Basic rules.) Since I didn't want this necessarily to be a huge thing, I made 2/3 of the group minions, but I had them led by a level 7 fey knight dude. Serious business. They were getting sniped from the walls and the top of the trees, and then the commander teleported out into the middle of things. I thought I might have been looking at a TPK. Or "TPK," as the case may be.
But Father Bernard has this power, "Moment of Glory," I think it's called, that gives the party resist all damage 5 until the end of the encounter. And my minions did how much damage? 5. Minions negated. Encounter managed. Plus, my fey knight couldn't hit for his life on Brother Charles, and in a few more rounds, the elves were slaughtered.
I randomly generated their treasure using my Moldvay Treasure Generator, and they got lucky: a huge haul: thousands of gold and silver, as well as 3 potions of levitation (more on how I'm using magic items in a later post—in short, I'm using Moldvay rules for them). I should have adjusted it downward to account for the minions, but, hey, that's in the past now.
A Mysterious StructureOn the way back, the party is heavy laden with coin sacks. Movement speed is in the pits. And I generate another random encounter. In this case, it was B7. I don't want to say what it is for spoiler-y reasons, but it's a structure of some kind. It's a sweet structure. They could barely see a stone corner sticking out of a snowy mound in a clearing. They decided to save that junk for later.
Pagan UnrestWhen they got back into town, they saw that a scorn pole had been set up in front of the church, a wooden pole carved with curse-runes, a pig's head set on top. In its blood, "Go home foreigners" was written on the wall.
While the rest of the party deposits the treasure with Abbot Laurentius and Bishop Liudhard, Father Bernard kicks over the scorn pole and pours holy water all over the scorn pole, then washes off the graffiti. The bishop figures the druid Wyrd and his five priestly sons are behind this. The party scopes out the druids. They live in a ring of huts in the middle of the ruined amphitheater in the middle of Canterbury.
The Scop Gadd Seeks Material, Finds None.That night, before the party went to bed, the scop Gadd came by. I've decided he looks like the guy from Iron & Wine:
Gadd: "Hey guys."
Gadd: "So, um, do y'all, like, know any stories?"
Gadd: "Yeah, just stories. You know."
One of the new PCs, Cerdic, was actually a scop (bard) as well. So he told Gadd all about their latest adventure with the elves.
Gadd: "Wow, man, awesome, really. Are you for real?"
Party: "Yeah. That just happened."
Gadd: "Great, great. Hey, do you know how to put things in meter? And, like, make things rhyme and stuff?"
At this point it dawned on the party that Gadd is a hack. Scop Cerdic says, hey, I'll give it my best shot. I have him check Charisma, and he blows it. I ask the player what that's like. He says Cerdic starts "spitting rhymes" and totally loses it mid-sentence. He peters out to nothing.
Gadd: "Yeah, that's how I was gonna put it too."
A Request for ConversionThe next morning (Oct 16), the party heads to see Aethelberht, who's already drunk, and it's six a.m. Yikes. Queen Bertha seems embarrassed. Anyway, with all the bone arrows and treasure the party's recovered, the Order of St. George rolls in there with Bishop Liudhard and Abbot Laurentius, and they say, "Check it, king: look at what we've done for you and your people. We've destroyed these evil spirits. How about a little forced conversion?"
The king demurs. He says the druids are too strong. They're his diplomats; everyone fears and respects them. He hates Wyrd; he thinks he's (Aethelberht's words) "a total freakazoid."
Father Bernard: I've got an idea.
A Subtle and Violent Ruse
And was it. Remember those naiad-containing urns the party hauled up from the buried temple (session 2)? They were supposed to release them into the river, but, you know, you've got a monster in a jar—it's like Barack Obama's senate seat: you don't just throw that away.
Cut to 9 p.m. that night. The party takes 3 of the vases from the church and deposits them outside the ring of druidic huts. Then they wait outside the amphitheater. An hour passes. One of Wyrd's sons goes to take a leak, sees the vases, opens one. Cue the screams.
Within a few seconds, the naiads have torn through the entire camp and are storming out into the city, where, of course, our PCs are waiting for them with a big torch-wielding audience of thanes and commoners watching. They try some talky talk.
Party: Wouldn't you know it, we were trying to get y'all to the river, but then these guys—
Naiads: You betraaaaaaaaaayed us—
<fight to the death>
They gank the naiads.
</fight to the death>
Folks are impressed. Then someone stumbles out of the amphitheater. It's the solitary survivor: a little girl with bloody flowers in her hair. She hid under the corpse of her mother.
BaptismsWith the massacre of the druids, the king feels sufficiently secure in his reign to command his thanes and their households to be baptized. He feels the old ways have too strong a hold to command that all his people convert. And that's where we leave things, with a big procession of thanes getting sprinkled at dawn in the Church of Saint Martin.
None of them are genuine converts though. I'm sure that won't be a problem later.