Thursday, February 12, 2015

"Lodar of the Prairie Folk", Chapter 2 of The Menace of the Swords through the Gate of the Icy Spire

The King of Ice
Joroon's Dragoons explore the tower of the Ice King in their quest to rescue Princess Elsa and find a portal to a frigid world. On their way, they meet a new friend, Lodar of the Prairie Folk.

Joroon's Dragoons:
  • Joroon Hicks, Hillfolk* Storyteller
  • Gravy, Human Priest of Thumina
  • Aline, a Thaumaturge of half-Human/half-Sylvan** parentage
  • Arrn Anduin, Human Fighter and Mage-Slayer, cousin of Dornan
Introducing:
  • Lodar, Prairiefolk*** Barbarian
Not Appearing This Week:
  • Dornan Anduin, Human Paladin of Vengeance, cousin of Arne

* Hillfolk = Halflings from the Slopes of the Great Wall Mountains
** Sylvan = A fancy name for Forest Elves
*** Prairiefolk = Halflings from the northern plains

An Unwanted Result
The wizard Aline sat with Princess Anna around a small table in a private room in one of the hostels of Swallow. The heavy curtains were drawn, the darkened room was illuminated by small motes of magical light that drifted through the air. Burning incense created a thick sweet miasma as Aline gently passed her hands over the crystal ball in the center of the table. Aline concentrated on the lock of dark hair set on the table between her and the crystal ball. She reached out for Anna's hands to help establish the link with the princess' missing sister. The globe began to glow faintly and ectoplasm started to seep down the walls.

Aline's eyes rolled back as she was overwhelmed by a sense of falling head first into an infinite void. Ahead of her lay a cold bright light, the closer she approached, the farther away the light seemed to recede. Aline was chilled by a feeling of intense cold. The light seemed near but remained forever away. Suddenly, Aline was snapped back through the void and back into the room and into her body. She was lying on the floor, having fallen out of her chair. She got up and looked around and saw Princess Anna frantically trying to open the door and escape the room, glancing back over her shoulder in terror.

Aline asked what was happening. Anna, panting, threw open the door and ran out of the room. Aline followed but closed the door behind her. She grabbed Anna by the wrist and demanded an explanation. Anna said that as soon as she entered the trance, Aline began to chant in an alien otherworldly voice from hell. The orb began to glow red. Light and smoke swirled above the ball and formed into a small devil, an imp from hell! The imp screeched at her and turned invisible. At that point, she screamed and ran out of the room. The imp had to still be in the room!

Aline told Anna to remain calm while she dealt with the imp. Aline returned to the private room, wand at the ready. The room was empty, the imp must be invisible. She cast a web spell, covering much of the small room in thick sticky webbing. The webbing revealed a struggling shape hiding in a corner.

Aline the Wizard

Aline called out, "What are you? What are you doing here?"

The voice answered, "You tell me! You summoned me here!"

Aline was momentarily confused, "No I didn't."

"Yes you did! And now you've caught me. If you release me, I am compelled to serve you. What are your terms?"

Aline thought about this, "You must serve me forever and do as I say."

"No way! Set me free and I will perform a single task for you."

Aline was offended, "Pfft. No. Forever."

"Okay, how about a year and a day."

"Nope."

"Okay then. Here's a better idea. How about I break free and eat your face!"

The imp burst out of the webbing and attacked Aline's face. Aline counterattacked with a super-charged magic missile spell, obliterating the imp which exploded in ectoplasm, fire, and sulphur. The walls were splattered with exploded imp slime.

Aline returned to Anna to tell her it was now safe. She paid the fee for the room cleaning and purchased some cold weather clothing. She bade Anna farewell, pulled a magic river rock from her pocket, and thought of Joroon.

Meanwhile, On the Slopes of Mount Zacha
Joroon, Gravy, Arrn, and Dornan stood in the foyer at the entrance of the tower of the Ice King. The interior was very cold, as if the entire tower had been dipped in frozen nitrogen and preserved. Hoar frost covered most surfaces. Dornan was about to say something when he suddenly disappeared and was replaced with Aline.

Arrn the Wizard Hunter
Arrn, never having met Aline and believing that wizardry had just killed his kinsman, screamed and prepared his axe to strike down the newcomer. Gravy and Joroon, having been made familiar with the Stones of Transposition, quickly held out their palms and stood between Arrn and Aline. Gravy explained that she had simply swapped places with Dornan, and that Dornan was likely safe. Arrn held his hand but demanded to know where his brother was sent. Aline explained that she was just in Swallow. She expected to appear in Joroon's wagon. Dornan must have taken the stone by accident. She told Arrn that his cousin was safe and likely warm. Arrn checked his book of wizard bounties and found no mention of Aline. He begrudgingly accepted her into the party.

The dragoons explored the first floor of the tower. To the left they found a sitting room with a few books and some antique furniture. A fireplace in the corner of the room contained a bright bluish-white flame that radiated cold. Within the room was a small crystal statue of a hideous creature with the body gorilla, tentacles for arms, and the head of some creature that was a cross between a baboon and an ourk. Perusing the books, they found a few tomes on the nature of the elemental planes and the elementals, including descriptions of the five elemental princes: Ogremoch, Imix, Yan-C-Bin, Olhydra, and Cryonax. The image of Cryonax matched the crystal statue. They also found a journal belonging to Simon Petrikov, Sage. Within were notes on the sellers and prices of various antiques and relics. On on wall was a painting of a beautiful woman with reddish-brown hair, a sorceress wearing bookish horn-rimmed glasses, clad in a dark green turtleneck and a grey cloak. The plaque underneath the painting said "Elizabeth".

Across the foyer was a dining room with a long table, empty for mundane furniture and another fireplace filled with magically cold flames. Also on the first floor was the servants quarters. Within were the bodies of two servants, clad in black and white livery, having died, frozen while hiding under their beds, decades ago.

Grunther Guardians
The dragoons then heard someone coming down he stairs. The team made a lot of noise as they scrambled to hide. Whomever it was paused to listen, then hurried back upstairs. The team abandoned their hiding spots and charged upstairs.

The second floor was a magical laboratory filled with desks, tables, bookshelves, and crates filled with alchemical paraphernalia. Six brutish creatures were grabbing morningstars made of hardened magical ice, having been warned by their lookout.

The creatures were slightly larger than man-sized with broad muscular frames. They were covered in white fur, like a polar bear, and blue-skinned hands and feet and a bare face of blue leathery skin. Their legs were bowed and their arms long and dangling. Their faces were like a mix of goblin and polar bear with bearish snouts, black beady eyes, and long blue pointed ears sticking out horizontally from the sides of their heads. They wore black leather armor and carried heavy melee weapons made of magical ice. They spoke an unknown language that sounded like "Gork! Gork gork gork!" These creatures could only be the grunthers described by the Winter Wolf.

They met Joroon's Dragoons in combat. One grunther leapt on Aline while she ascended the stairs, pulling her down to the floor below and nearly killing her. Another grunther performed the same trick on Gravy.

The Rage of Lodar
Meanwhile, in a larder behind the first floor kitchen, slept Lodar of the Prairie Folk. He had entered the tower seeking shelter from the blizzard outside and had found a larder filled with frozen food. He managed to build a real fire, not one of the frozen flames burning throughout this accursed tower, and was able to cook a sausage. Afterwards he took a nap, his dreams filled with rage, hatred, and vengeance.
Lodar of the Prairie Folk
Lodar was suddenly roused by the shouts of those engaged in battle. He grabbed his magical scimitar and rushed out to see a man of the hillfolk, one of his remote kinsmen, engaged in deadly struggle alongside a female sylvan and two humans against foul inhuman creatures. He rushed into battle without hesitation, screaming "RAGE!!" and plowing through the blue-skinned white-furred creatures.

While the raging newcomer and Arrn dealt with the four grunthers in the wizard laboratory, Gravy, Joroon, and Aline dealt with the two down below. Lodar, in his rage, pulled a bookshelf down onto his opponent before slaying him with his magical scimitar. Soon, all the grunthers were dead.

The newcomer introduced himself as Lodar, from the northern plains. The dragoons explained their purpose and asked if the newcomer would care to join them in their quest. Lodar shared a similar hatred of evil wizards as Arrn and welcomed the opportunity to sate his rage killing the fiend.

Exploration
The party explored the laboratory, noting books on magical research for future use and finding several vials of alchemical frost, but found no stairs or other way to ascend to the third floor. Aline, however, spotted a magical engraving in one corner of the room and deduced its purpose. It was a kind of Tenser's Floating  Disk spell that elevated those standing on the engraving who say the magic word. She had seen such magic on display when she trained at the Roving Gortleflexion of Emiril Legasse. She even recalled the activation word.

At that, the dragoons gathered over the sigil and the words were spoken. They rose magically into the air and passed safely through the illusory ceiling to the room above.

They found themselves standing in a library with a solitary desk and chair and a single door. Aline cautiously opened the desk with a Mage Hand spell, setting off the magical ward that protected the desk, causing it to explode into splinters!

Beyond the door, they found a bedroom with more bookshelves and fine antique furniture covered in black leather. A cold blue flame burned in the fireplace. The walls were hung with ancient tapestries. They checked under the bed and found a pair of nunchaku made of ice, an odd choice for a wizard.

They found a door behind one of the tapestries that led to an adjoining study with another desk. A hatch in the ceiling was open to the blowing snow and frigid air of the magical blizzard outside.

On the desk was a note, written in the scrawl of a madman, that read "That idiot archon has stolen my Elizabeth from me! He will pay! She will be mine, one way or another! In this life or the next!"

Aline used her Mage Hand spell to open the drawers, once more causing the desk to explode into splinters.

The dragoons found another levitation spell on the floor leading to the roof.

The Guardian of the Gate
Much of the roof was covered in great spiky growths of ice. A circular disk about ten feet wide hovered vertically over the center of the roof, rotating. The disk was a link to another world, and that world was bleeding into ours. Everywhere around the tower, one could see two universes superimposed on each other. One was the blizzard of the valley, caused by super-frigid air blowing through the rotating disk. The other was a cave, somewhere else. In that cave was a monstrous humanoid being of ice.

Footprints made a clear path through the snow towards the gate. A child's doll lay crushed into the icy snow. Gravy picked up the doll, noting that the captured villagers had been taken this way and through the gate.

Gravy, Priest of Thumina

As Joroon's Dragoons stepped towards the gate, the icy guardian on the other side came to life and stepped through the portal into our world.

The company of heroes sprang into action, doing furious battle with the icy beast. It was eventually destroyed, shattered into countless icy fragments, and the heroes pushed against the icy wind and stepped through the portal.

A Whole New World
Joroon's Dragoons found themselves in a cave. A constant frigid wind blew from the mouth of the cave into the portal. They pushed against the wind to the mouth of the cave and looked out over a canyon more than six miles wide and twenty miles long, bending in the distance out of sight to the left. The mouth of the cave was located about two hundred feet up the side of the canyon wall. A path led down to the canyon floor to the right. Large boulders stood at the foot of the path.

The frigid cold air outside of the canyon drained into the portal of the cave into our world.Once outside the cave, the wind was more tolerable.

The sky overhead was dark blue, there was no sun nor were there stars, yet a dim chill illumination like bright moonlight permeated the place.

Joroon, Storyteller of the Hillfolk
Joroon produced his magical flying broom and, saying the activation word, flew up into the sky to scout around. As he breached the edge of the canyon, he caught a brief glimpse of a flat plane of ice punctuated by sharp mountains of ice before he entered an area of turbulent wind of hurricane force. He tumbled about, his face turning white from the freezing air, barely holding onto his broom. He quickly descended back into the pocket of safe air in the canyon below.

He then descended to scout the rocks below. There he spied a large white bear with a spiked metal collar. The bear saw Joroon, looked at him, and turned away. After a few steps, the bear paused and looked back over his shoulder, then walked a few more steps.

Joroon came near the bear and used his magical bardic skills to communicate with the beast. After a brief conversation, Joroon learned the bear had been waiting near the cave for several days, waiting for heroes to come through. He was to lead the heroes to his master a few miles away.

Joroon flew back to the rest of his dragoons and filled them in. They climbed down the path and followed the bear through the deep snow of the canyon floor. The journey to the bear's master took about an hour and many of the company were cold, wet, tired, and miserable. Finally, they reached a cave in the canyon wall. The entrance to the cave was covered in thick black leather skins, creating a door. The bear bade them enter.

Urglorz
Inside the cave, they found an older grunther stirring a large pot heated with warm flames, actual warm flames! The pot smelled delicious and was filled with some kind of meaty stew. The old humanoid appeared to be some kind of shaman or druid. He motioned them to enter his cave.

Joroon quickly cast another spell known to Bards, that of Tongues. The old shaman spoke in his own native language, "Gork gork gork? Gork gork?"  Joroon responded, "Yes, I can understand your language. Why have you brought us here?"

For a moment, the middle-aged grunther looked slightly disappointed, then continued. He introduced himself as Urlgorz, former chieftain of the grunthers of this valley. He spoke to the party flatteringly, complimenting them on their fearsome appearance and demeanor, muttering under his breath that they would do just fine, and offering them a warm meal of hearty stew.

When he realized that only Joroon could understand him, he looked a little relieved, then surreptitiously touched a ring on his hand. Suddenly, he was sending thoughts directly into the minds of everyone present in a language they could understand. He continued.

Joroon told Urglorz that they were here to rescue a princess and some villagers from the Ice King.

Using telepathy, Urglorz indicated that he knew all about it, and informed them that he knew where the prisoners were being held. His thoughts revealed that he would take Joroon and his dragoons to the hidden place, but first they had to provide him with a service.

He said that he had until recently been the chief of the tribe of this valley, but that his power had been usurped by his rival, Gorak, and exiled. If Joroon and his dragoons defeated Gorak and restored Urglorz as chieftain, he would help them free the captives and the princess.

After a brief discussion, the party cautiously agreed.

Urglorz was delighted, and offered his cave as a refuge where the party might rest and recover. He offered some of his stew, which he had prepared in case outsiders came. The party took a short rest and ate the stew.

Meanwhile, Aline produced her crystal ball and sat in a corner of the cave. She wished to attempt to scry upon Princess Elsa. She once more entered a deep trance. This time, she could see the princess clearly. She wore a blue and white dress and had long silver white hair in a braid. She was lying supine on the floor at the base of an icy throne, draped over the arm of the throne and staring up at its occupant like an adoring puppy. Her eyes appeared glazed and vacant.

The occupant of the throne was a middle-aged man with light blue skin and a vulture-like beak of a nose. He wore long blue wizard robes and had white hair and a long white beard. He wore an ancient gold crown on his head studded with three rubies. His eyes were cold and white.
All around them, villagers wearing black and white livery were appearing for some kind of wedding ceremony. Some of the villagers were frozen in blocks of ice, their eyes darting about in desperation. The hall was made entirely of ice and cold dim light filtered down from overhead. The entire palace seemed carved from the interior of a glacier.

She returned to her body in the cave of Urglorz to find the aftermath of a battle.

The other members of her party had just slain some kind of shadowy amorphous creature, a devil from hell! They told her that as soon as she entered her trance, her eyes began to glow and she began to chant some kind of infernal ritual. A cloud of black smoke coalesced above the crystal ball and formed into the shadow fiend. They had just slain the monster before she regained consciousness.

Aline was perplexed. She informed them of the earlier encounter when she tried to scry upon Elsa. She theorized that since her first use of the crystal ball had no ill effects, the devils must be a side-effect of using the crystal ball to scry on this world. She promised not to use the artifact again until they once more returned to their own world.

TO BE CONTINUED!

After Thoughts

The Stones of Transposition
The Stones of Transposition are a convenient device to introduce player characters who have no logical way of entering the story, and also of eliminating player characters from the middle of the story. Trevor was out sick this week and Lucinda was back, so Dornan was gone and Aline returned. Next week, when Trevor returns, he'll accidentally use the stone in his pocket to magically reappear. If no one is holding the stone on the other end, he'll just switch places with the stone.

Elsa and the Ice King? Really???
Yes. Elsa and the Ice King. It's an ice-themed adventure. Sue me.

Really, its because I bought a miniature that looked like Elsa so I painted it liked Elsa. And the Ice King just because it's funny. When they found the Ice King's bedroom in the actual game, I described it as a dude's hangout. There was a drum set, a weight set, the tapestries displayed various bards and princesses, and a Kung Fu magazine, the kind you'd find in convenience stores in the early Eighties, was next to the bed, and port was under the mattress. Few of my players watch Adventure Time so few got the references. They just thought it was strange. I rescinded the descriptions with a "Just joking" and replaced them with more fantasy world appropriate decor.

I promise that my Ice King will be actually evil and not the sad sympathetic story of Simon Petrikov from Adventure Time. He's got a cool (no pun intended) back-story and evil agenda in my world. I'm just waiting for my players to take the time to read his journal.

I thought about making the Ice King be Urgence Evergreen's pupil Gunther since Gunther lives in a time roughly contemporary with the age in which my campaign is set. But that would ruin my back-story and Simon's obsession with Princess Elsa.