From the Winterfang Conclave t0 the Stormspear Hills

Die_Eiche_Yggdrasil_by_Friedrich_Wilhelm_Heine
By Friedrich Wilhelm Heine (1845-1921)

I believe I last left my PCs following a root of the extraplanar Irminsul. The Irminsul had telepathy and tongues, so I had it imprint a map onto all of the PCs’ minds. Within the winding passages of the roots of the cosmic tree, I had about six possible encounters planned (one of which included a new creation of mine — a “sap ooze”), but through the Irminsul’s telepathic link I told the PCs that they were permitted to choose two of these encounters, ignoring the others, since the Irminsul could direct them away from most of them but not all. The PCs chose an encounter with a Nalfeshnee demon; they did this so that they could try out their animals’ new Celestial Templates. Their second encounter choice was six Giant Beetles.

The PCs came into a humid, jungly passage inside a root that resided right over the demon lord Anghazan’s realm of Ahvoth-Kor. Levitating up through the center of this passage was the Nalfeshnee. The PCs beat it.

The PCs’ encounter with the Beetles was kind of like wack-a-mole.

After this they found themselves in caves around the central tree of the Icemark Conclave.

I had Bo Monro’s player improv information for me. As a result, the name of his order’s leader became Obadai (a corruption of the God of the Druids, I am told, from 3E). He also encountered Bregar, an old friend of his, a fungus farmer. Obadai told the group that all of the Dwarf Druids had abandoned their tree houses for the caves in the roots of their central holy tree, since the dying Tree with its virtuous presence had been unable to keep out the dread Wendigo. Also, they had learned that an Ice Linnorm assailed the taproot of the tree.

Dromar of course decided to go face the Ice Linnorm on his own. We pbp’d it. It was stupid (because Dromar won handily) but it was fun. When everyone got back together for the next session, Obadai proclaimed Bo Monro the new head of the order, giving to him his gnarled fir staff with a glittering, icy, sharp fir-cone at the top. He told Bo Monro that he had had a vision in which the “fangs” of their Winterfang had stabbed back at what was worrying at it. This was a clue for Bo later, in a fight with Ice Drakes and Ice Elementals charging out of the rift, to drop down into the rift and stab the staff-spear into the fissure. This closed it.

In the remaining minutes for that session I asked the PCs what they wanted to do. What did they want to fight? Collaboratively, we decided to fight a bunch of Bugbears and two Hill Giants who had infested the abandoned tree forts above. Once above, and after this ensuing fight, the PCs saw that a new tree had spontaneously grown from the cone of the Winterfang Staff that had taken root in the fissure. Now two tree boles were wrapped around each other, and both bloomed with coniferous crowns.

512px-Sequoia_sempervirens_Big_Basin_Redwoods_State_Park_4
By Allie Caulfield from Germany

Then there was some roleplaying. Obadai had died during the battle with the Ice Drakes below. Now another dwarf, Whiskers, one who favored mice and moles, took Tabi and Fonkin to a holy place in the grove, the Ice Pond, located in a ravine that never thawed. On that magical ice, images formed, and Whiskers showed them what appeared to be an evil game preserve — the game being creatures both natural and magical and fey — a preserve organized by some Outsider that appeared to be some sort of kitsune.

Fonkin’s geographical knowledge helped determine where this might be — some distance away, in the Stormspear Hills. Dromar decided that he should go procure an Airship in order to shorten the time of their journey.

He did. He summoned a Phantom Mount and rode throughout the remaining day and into the night, returning with an airship by morning. To secure ownership of the vehicle, Dromar expected to fight the captain, slay the captain, and then, challenged no further, take command of the ship and crew. But instead the captain — the Linnorm King Ingimundr the Unruly — gave the ship and crew to Dromar, asking only for a tithe of Dromar’s pillage.

While Dromar was gone that night, Nocticula had finally figured out how to find Dromar’s whereabouts. Her twin sister Vinicula, in the form of Ssin’urn Medri, the Black Blade in Dromar’s hand, had managed to break any scrying ability Nocticula once might have been able to bring to bear. But now Nocticula knew of someone who definitely had something that most likely had been touched by someone in Dromar’s party. This was Kostchtchie’s “power.” She went to him and used him to send two succubi and two shadow demons into the hall in the Winterfang Conclave. During the midst of the battle that resulted, Rahjin developed an attachment to one of the succubi. To save her, he called upon the power of Kostchtchie and teleported himself and his affection away to his father Urvig’s fort in the Winterwall Glacier.

But in that glacier Vedgeir had stabilized and been restored by Fjallit. Vedgeir had decided to establish the base of her operations now in this redoubt, for no other reason than to be a first line of defense when the Dark Trolls erupted from the outer darkness. When Rahjin encountered her, he relied on the power of Kostchtchie again to come over him, but this time he didn’t feel so good. As he grew blind and fell to the ground paralyzed, his succubus consort whispered into his ear what had happened. Evidently her mistress Nocticula had found an opportunity to deeply poison Kostchtchie in a moment of weakness — his power temporarily absent from his body. When Rahjin then received that power, he received all of Kostchtchie’s “power.”

Rahjin didn’t have to die. I was willing to continue to think through what would become of him. It seemed perfectly reasonable to me that a lawful good paladin (Vedgeir had been taking more and more levels in that class) wouldn’t willingly slay an obviously undefended enemy but imprison him and observe him. But Rahjin was ready to retire the character, particularly to finally be rid of the Monkey’s Paw. He was sick of it! I love it. This GM had to smile when his player realized that his character truly was “cursed.”

Dromar returned with the airship in the morning, and the party left. They encountered a Wendigo on the way out, a Wendigo that at first inflicted the airship with a sleet storm and then hurricane force winds. Dromar killed the Wendigo while the Wendigo occupied itself trying to make off with a nameless member of Dromar’s crew — the Wendigo succeeded in pinning the man by the time Dromar killed it. But even after the Wendigo’s death, the party had to deal with piloting an airship through the hurricane-force winds.

And they did, and after a day of travel they arrived in the Stormspear Hills about eventide. Fonkin scouted. He saw that about a twenty-mile radius was surrounded by hills. Inside this space were great forests, a wide lake, and plenty of marshland by reason of a dam. Half of the party decided to sneak into a village of Gnolls that commanded a hill pass into this preserve. They released imprisoned animals while the new member of the party — the Gnome Bard played by the player of the now-retired Bo Monro — captained the airship in a cannon attack against the dam. The idea was to explode the dam and flood the village. However, as he was about to receive the signal — one of Fonkin’s flaming spheres — that the village was clear of imprisoned animals, merfolk appeared at the surface of the water. It became clear that the merfolk believed that the people in the airship were yet more hunters and that they intended to kill merfolk wholesale with their cannons. Bo (this is the name of the gnome, too) didn’t disabuse them of this notion, but did make an Engineering check to determine an area to shoot that still would flood the area down-gully and still leave enough lake within which the merfolk might survive.

The flood did the trick. Most of the escaped animals safely reached higher ground. A lot of the gnolls drowned or were in a panic at the bottleneck of the pass. Moreover, Dromar shot some kind of high energy magic blast about three times at the base of the longhouse structure and collapsed it. The collapsed longhouse became the scene of the final showdown.

Before the PCs went in there, though, a Tiefling Hunter (Scabari) with his Smilodon companion watched Dromar grapple and tie a Chimera and leave it to drown in the flood (since it wouldn’t submit to joining Dromar’s merry pirate crew). Tabi and Dromar both noticed strange bodies in the water — many different kinds of creatures, unaccountable since Tabi believed most of the captives had got away. She wasn’t wrong: these were taxidermy trophies, and many of them alarmingly were kitsune! All these works of taxidermy had been falling into the flood from the collapsed longhouse.

Smilodon_fatalis_Sergiodlarosa
Sergiodlarosa

Inside the collapsed longhouse, one full of every kind of creature — but especially kitsune! — preserved through taxidermy, Dromar found where Scabari had retreated before the flood and demanded that he join him. When Scabari refused to, Dromar killed him, then killed the Hunter’s enraged and ineffectually attacking Smilodon. Some others dealt with some Giant Frogs and Boggards and a Boggard alchemist (who unbeknownst to the PCs was the main boss’s taxidermist and drug producer) who had swam up from their now drowned alchemy lab to check on their boss. Aldis killed the Boggard alchemist, Gulch, by using a Hero Point and exploding all of his bomb vials (this action perhaps not technically legal, but — hey! — Hero Points, right?). This blast reduced Bo, who had fallen from the roof in a failed Acrobatics check, below 0 (but he stabilized).

Meanwhile, Tabi had encountered Kitikai, a Nogitsune (Nogitsune are Oni — former Kami who have given up or failed in their roles as nature’s defenders and now live lives of selfish luxury and decadence — who possess Kitsune specifically; they love to corrupt or slay other kitsune) who had been posing as one of her own taxidermy statues. They fought, and when it appeared that things were going to go wrong for the Nogitsune, Kitikai used her fleet power to cast obscuring mist and vanished through a trapdoor.

Neither Tabi nor Dromar could let this be, however. They kept trying to get Kitikai, first by looking through the trapdoor and getting eyes on her and attacking by range (I ruled that the secret passage “bent” — Nogitsune have a Climb speed, after all) and then by sending two air elementals after her (I ruled that they successfully caught up but that, from a distance, the PCs couldn’t determine how Kitikai dealt with these, which she certainly did).

And this about ended the adventure. Tabi decided to stay in the preserve and help the creatures and await Kitikai’s return. (Tabi’s player was ready to introduce a new character.) The others started a new journey, this one GM’d by one of my players. He’s a “guest GM,” of sorts, who has such a particular story he wants to tell in relation to his PC that I invited him to try GMing for his first time. This should be an interesting experiment. In the meantime, I’ll be running a character of my own. Playing a character isn’t something I have done for a long, long time.

I’ll also be GMing Dromar in a solo adventure via play by post because that character is broken and certainly shouldn’t be in a new GM’s game. This will be another experiment, though I have resolved a few storylines via pbp for this character in the past.

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