Onward! As mentioned here, the next chapter in my Drowsbane chronicle is as follows. In this one, I wanted a hook, so I used Rory's Story Cubes and JF's 9Q's NPC Maker to come up with a personality the two meet in a bar on their travels from Sembia to Archendale.
The hero and his sidekick meet an unlikely person of sorts: a barbarian from the north. During their casual conversation, they learn of Baolnor's tablet (random title from a fantasy novel title generator) and a mysterious merchant searching for it. Tengrym knows that his family's history and the prophecy of his clan's city are written upon it, but the full account was only on the master tablet, which was lost.
Chapter 3: "Stone of Baolnor"
Heroic Motivation: The two try to track down the merchant and recover the tablets.
The 9Qs: Questions 1-3
This altered first question allows the PCs to take the initiative, by declaring an act of defiance, infiltration, pursuit, and/or combat.
For this one, I experimented with some new innovations JF made on his 9Q's back in December, 2012, namely the "Thematic Anchor" and "Splitting the Party". I make use of both of these. The anchor for this one is, "it is foolish to unleash ancient evil."
It was luck that brought Tengrym and Thedric in contact with an unlikely person. A strange barbarian from the northern forest, the Border Woods, had met the two in a quaint inn along the river Archen. The man was on a quest of his own, which he refused to recount, but he did share news of his travels. The barbarian had encountered a merchant on the road who was turning north of Highmoon along the Thunder Peaks in search for the Stone of Baolnor.
Tengrym immediately picked up on the name. Anyone who was familiar with Drowsbane history would know it; it was the only complete retelling of the clan’s legacy and prophecy which was recorded on a tablet — a dwarf chronicler had followed the family, recording their stories in its greatest period. It was said that the dwarf met the goddess, Selûne, on his travels alone. He either recorded the goddess’s account or was given a tablet of moonstone into which the legend was inscribed. The dwarf and the tablet disappeared somewhere in the dales after which, all trail and sign was lost.
Tengrym and Thedric discussed their plan. They were, as of yet, aimless. Now, however, came a portent — perhaps from the gods themselves — to seek their destinies. Rather than running from unknown peril, they could face a more certain one. They thanked Harzhod the barbarian, got their bearings and headed out the next morning after the merchant in hopes of discovering the old tablet upon which their fate may be written. Why the merchant also may have been interested in a strange item such as that, Tengrym couldn’t guess. However, he couldn’t discount the idea that his recent adventures and exploits may have reached too many ears.
24 Mirtul, Year of the Shadows
The two heroes traveled throughout the whole day, forging their way through forest, meadow, and hill. After a long march, the two were not yet to the East Way. There along their trail out of Arkendale they set a camp and whispered the evening away to a merry fire.
The two were almost ready to succumb to sleep, when Tengrym was alerted by a noise. He snatched his sword up, but it was too late. Around them were a dozen or more armed figures. Bows were trained on the two heroes. Thedric was already asleep and awoke with a start.
Tengrym stared at the red bloodthirsty eyes of their assailants. He readied his gleaming ancient blade with a testing whirl and took a warrior’s stance with blade held aloft.
“In Selûne’s name,” he cried out, “why do you waylay us? Fall back now, lest you be decimated! We are only two, but we wield powerful might and magic!”
The figures refrained from letting loose their volley and began to pull back. Thedric looked around in confusion, a dagger held in fingertips, ready to let loose.
“Why are they retreating? You weren’t that scary!” he jibed at Tengrym.
“I honestly don’t know,” Tengrym answered. “Whatever it was, it likely won’t hold them off for long. Let’s break camp and press on. Perhaps we can get some news about the merchant along the way. These ruffians will be back before long!”
The two kicked out the remaining embers, took their belongings and padded away.
Q2.intrigue, combat, alien face
25 Mirtul, Year of the Shadows
The two continued throughout the night without further mishap. By morning, they found the East Way, its length empty and forlorn in both directions as it threaded through old, gnarled hardwoods. Spring grew late, and thick fresh growth shadowed the way.
The two decided to head west along the road then turn north as the trees gave way to the more desolate vale along the foothills of the towering Thunder Peaks. Along the way, they passed some merchants, inquiring about a man who may have come by, giving the description they heard from the barbarian, Harzhod. Each traveler shook his head.
As evening drew close, and the two very weary from pressing on without sleep, they heard a clip clop on the road behind them. They stepped aside to let the horse rider pass, but he too stopped as the heroes did. Tengrym gazed at the rider, who was a mysterious hooded figure garbed in a voluminous dark cloak. The half-elf could only make out vague features and deep, black inset eyes.
The pair of half-brothers and the rider stared at one another wordlessly for long moments. Tengrym almost broke the silence but the figure in black spoke in a hissing whisper first that made the brother’s hair stand on end.
“You will not disturb the resting place of the stone,” he said.
Its content was chilling as much as the manner in which it was said.
“But how?” began Tengrym, asking about how the man knew their purpose. He was cut short when dozens of armed men stepped out from the woods on either side of the road, penning in the two.
The robed figure turned on his horse and entered the wood. “Kill them and hide the bodies,” the man hissed. “See that they go no further.” Then, he was gone.
Grim and well armed men readied their weapons and began to close in. Tengrym eyed the eager bloodlust on their simple faces.
“Now what?” asked Thedric as he drew several dirks from his bandolier.
Tengrym eyed the rider as he disappeared north into the woods. He nodded in the rider’s direction when he caught Thdric’s eye. “Fight your way north,” he whispered, drawing his sword with a metallic oath.
Tengrym spoke several arcane words, weaving his fingers in a pattern. Suddenly, flame shot out, exploding at the group of men bordering the southern half of the road. Screams of agony cried out and many men dropped, burning or blackened.
Mercenary Conditions: Confused, Wounded
“Run!” shouted Tengrym.
The two rushed northward, climbing a ferny embankment and disappearing into the woods. Several mercenaries leapt out from cover to thwart their charge. Thedric flicked a dagger into the shoulder of one, while Tengrym took a warrior’s blade on his own and then disemboweled him with a swift riposte. They managed to fight through any remaining resistance, leaving the screaming confused men behind to regroup.
When the mercenary squad regrouped, they followed after the two fleeing marks. “After them!” cried their commander.
Tengrym and Thedric had a good head start. The half-elf kept his ears open for pursuit. They made their along a ridge up an embankment, losing their pursuit, while coming to a high point in the forest terrain. There, they spied a clearing northward, as well as a rider in black flying in haste.
Tengrym had the idea that if they followed the rider, they would be led to the tablet. After catching their breath, they pressed on northward.
revelation, combat, footprint
The heroes pressed through the wood, coming to a great vale devoid of large trees. The landscape was rocky dotted with slender copses of aspen and hardy scrub. To their left, thick clouds clung to the mountains’ heads.
Quickly, Tengrym found the horseman’s trail and the two followed. It continued for some miles until it descended to a rocky defile and stream bed. The trail was lost, but they picked their way upstream toward the mountains.
They came to a halt and looked on a scene of horror. Before them against a wall of rock was a great iron door. The single door, some nine feet tall, was ajar, leading to the interior’s blackness. Before the door were several bodies. Even now, vultures feasted on the corpses. Five men were contorted and ripped to pieces, but what manner, the two could not tell. One man might have been the merchant described by the barbarian, but he was so hideously disfigured that Tengrym could not tell.
Suddenly, above them on a precipice, the dark horseman suddenly appeared. The rider peered down at the two with shadowed eyes.
“These fools disturbed this unholy site and paid the ultimate price,” came the hiss.
Tengrym faced the man from below. “What manner of doom befell these men?” he called.
“It is death to know,” answered the mysterious horseman.
Tengrym was at a loss. Finally, he said, “We have need to look upon the stone. Our fates are written on it — we must know Baolnor’s tale!”
The horseman replied. “The stone is no longer within. It was laid to rest and guarded here to ensure that the prophecy written on it would never come to light… It must not come to pass!”
That was all Tengrym needed to know to confirm that this figure was no friend; and the rider was the only connection the two heroes had to answering the riddle.
With a word of magic, Tengrym bounded upward toward the rider at an impossible height. Up he arced, landing on the precipice, and knocked the unsuspecting rider from his horse. The two rolled on the ground, grappling with one another.
Tengrym failed to get a hold of the man, but managed to pull back the rider’s cowl, revealing a burned and scarred countenance. The hero gasped in shock, not just from the pocked skin and dark circles around the man’s eyes as though poison or acid had permanently scarred them, but also Tengrym could have been staring at a slight disfigured self through a mirror. The man beneath him was also half-elf, with a chiseled jaw line and angled brow that could have been close kin. Although glistening burn scars prevented all of it from growing, the man before him had similar snow-white locks.
In the moment of confusion, the man threw off Tengrym and rolled cat-like to his feet, a dark tinted longsword in hand. Tengrym drew his own blade.
The man spoke a brief word of magic and his blade flickered with energy. Although seeming gaunt and lanky, Tengrym’s opponent had corded lean muscles and was quicker than one might suspect. With a hiss, the man advanced, blade at the fore.
Thedric screamed a warning and began scaling the rocks to get at their height. The two half-elves danced and traded blows. Seeing the dark blade crackling with blue-white energy, Tengrym tried not to connect with that steel, resorting to footwork to distance himself and strike. In came a deadly swing from the scarred rider. Tengrym parried the blow and simultaneously latched onto his opponent’s sword arm. A powerful shock snapped through both attacker and defender. Both were flung from one another on the ground.
Thedric neared the precipice. The scarred man glanced at the prone Tengrym and then to the man pulling himself up. He leapt up and took off in the direction of his horse, leaving the two stunned as to the man’s identity and purpose.