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Dolmenwood: Winter’s Daughter (Session 01)

Gamelog for my Dolmenwood Campaign written by Maydrid the Rogue.  Rogue’s Gallery:

  • Marj Smith the Fighter.
  • Maydrid the Rogue.
  • Madrid the Rogue (twin sisters).
  • Jackie-of-Many-Colors (Elven Magician).
  • Spruce-Upon-Gallows (Elven Enchanter).
  • Hogrid Weavilman (Cleric).
  • Boone the Hunter (Hunter).
  • Tassain (Minstrel).

Maydrid Malksmilk stretches her back, easing her tense muscles. She gazes across the merriment-filled room that is one of Prigwort’s many breweries, for which it is famous for, but the raucous laughter falls on deaf ears. She has barely touched her own ale, the anxiousness chewing away at her inside overpowering her urge to drink. Where are they?

She turns her head to look out the two front windows. The snow is falling down in torrents, piling up layers of powder outside. It’s only the first month of Grimvold and yet the weather is harsh. Some speculate the impending return of the Cold Prince – a cruel, elf lord that once ruled all of Dolmanwood – now banished back to his homeworld, the Fae, after the war between the fairy and mortals, in favour of the latter. She, herself, receives visions from the Cold Prince; or, rather, who she thinks is the Cold Prince, but she doesn’t let herself dwell on that for long.

The bell above the door jingles pleasantly, and a familiar face steps into the brewery, brushing snow from her coat. Madrid Addercapper is two years her junior, and although they aren’t related, many of their friends and family joke about them being sisters due to their similar names. They also share a specialization – thievery. She and Madrid have known each other for years, and when it was increasingly hard for Madrid to earn enough from hunting and for her to earn enough from poaching, a job they worked together, they turned to stealing in an act of desperation.

“There you are,” Madrid says smilingly, leaning against the table. Maydrid’s almost-full ale sloshes back and forth with the movement. “I thought I’d find you here. Wrong brewery, halfwit. The rest of our little group is waiting down the street.”

“Oh,” Maydrid replies, a hint of confusion tainting her voice. She begins to gather her things. “I could have sworn it was this brewery, but with how many there are in this city I’m not surprised.” She heaves her pack over her shoulder. “What ragtag team has our wizard friend assembled for us this time?”

Madrid shrugs nonchalantly, claiming the ale on the table as her own. “Two elves, and before you say anything, one of them isn’t so bad, but the other is a little condescending so just watch your mouth around him.” She takes a swig and drinks the ale in a few gulps, smacking her lips in delight. “And then two other mortals – humans, like us.”

“Hmm,” Maydrid ponders as they exit the brewery. The snow is still falling but not as intensely. Their feet crunch as they break the surface of the snow. “I wonder how this will go. Our last job wasn’t so successful.”

“Lighten up!” Madrid replies enthusiastically, nudging her friend’s shoulder. “This is a simple grave-robbing job, and we’re being paid heavily. You can’t pass up an easy 5,000 gold can you?”

It is true that they had been struggling before they were employed by the Consulting Wizard of Prigwort, Mostlemyre Drouge, a powerful wizard to run ‘errands’ for him. He pays well, but money means nothing if she is dead.

.: :.

Sprue-Upon-Gallows taps his fingers restlessly against the wooden table, growing more and more impatient as the seconds tick by. “What’s taking so long? We have a job to do.”

His traveling companion, Jack-of-Many-Colours, shakes her head. “Madrid said she would be back soon. It’s not like the grave is going anywhere, Sprue.”

Sprue returns to tapping his fingers, watching the door intently. To fill the silence, Jack attempts to engage in conversation with the two others at the table, Marje and Boone. They are amiable enough ; Boone is a hunter and Marje an ex-angler turned mercenary. It seems as if the winter is harsh and the effects it has on Prigwort’s residents even harsher. Jack notices the bow that Boone carries slung over his shoulder, and Marje’s hand, although loose, doesn’t leave the hilt of her sword. Humans are curious.

Finally, Madrid returns, the missing adventurer in tow. “Let’s go get our money,” Sprue says as soon as they appear, dramatically standing from his seat.

.: :.

The Looping Forest is so named because every tree trunk twists into circles; most likely Fae magic. The forest, even with the layers of snow, is tangled by brambles and twisting bushes. Boone spots an old path barely visible beneath the snow that, when followed, leads them to a small circle of stones called dolmens. Drune. It is well-known that this faction maintains the standing stones, and that they do not appreciate trespassing. The path leads through the circle.

Madrid steps forward first, entering the circle of stones. In the center of the circle stands a makeshift alter, atop which lies the corpse of a stag, bits of flesh still hanging from the bones. A green vapor rises from it ominously and Madrid swears that she notices the stag twitch. “How creepy,” she mumbles to herself, spooked.

As soon as her foot crosses the threshold, a strange, clanking sound fills the air. She looks up and notices a dozen mechanical owls peering at her with etched pentagrams for eyes. The sound is coming from their rusty wings flapping up and down in a useless motion. They know too well that owls are the symbol of Drune.

One of the owls squawk in a guttural tone, and Boone steps forward, “Best to avoid this. We don’t want any trouble with the Drune.” Marje nods in agreement, and they circumvent the henges, continuing down the path as it exits the circle and winds back through the Looping Forest.

After some time, the path ends before a large mound protruding from the earth. A solid granite slab has been rolled before what would have been an entrance, sealing it completely. Madrid suggests using her crowbar to leverage enough weight to crack the entrance open, but no amount of force budges the slab.

“Over here,” Jackie yells, having wandered around the mound. There is a small, two-foot hole in the mound that stretches into darkness. Upon closer inspection, the hole is slick with gooey slime. Without hesitation, Madrid brazenly sticks her arm into the hole, grasping for anything. She yelps in pain and withdraws her arm quickly, a swollen bite mark blemishing her hand. “It burns!” she screeches, pouring water over her skin. “That damn slime is acidic!”

Out of the hole slithers a creature, much like a worm in movement, resembling a tongue. Its ‘head’ opens into a teeth-filled mouth, and it leaves a trail of slime in its wake. It mewls and cries like a human child and it sends uncomfortable shivers down Madrid’s spine.

Marje sighs and draws her sword, slashing at the worm in one swift movement. It oozes green blood and writhes in pain, before going limp and still. Jackie readies an attack as two more worms emerge from the hole, crying and screeching. She pierces another with a thin rapier, ripping through its flesh as it dies too. Maydrid steps forward and kills the final worm with her dagger. No more worms crawl out of the hole.

“Well, let’s go,” Marje orders, hoisting herself up into the hole and uncomfortably crawling through. Madrid, with the assistance of Maydrid, spends a few minutes bandaging her arm, wincing all the while. “Those stupid tongue-worms,” she curses, tightening the bandages.

“Don’t go sticking your arm where it doesn’t belong,” Maydrid admonishes. “It’s dangerous out here. You should know better.”

In the meantime, Jackie quickly mimics Marje, the rest of the group soon following closely behind. The tunnel is cramped and slick with slime, but it’s possibly one of the only reasons they are able to squeeze through. Marje offers her hand to Madrid, who takes it thankfully, shoving herself out of the hole with one final push. The room beyond is dark. There are many, smaller holes dug into the roof and walls that presumably lead outside, allowing small slivers of light to shine through.

“Got a torch, anyone?” Marje asks, swinging her pack onto the ground in search of her own.

“I brought a lantern,” Madrid replies, lighting the wick inside the little glass box. The light spills into the room, illuminating several, if not dozens, of slime trails coating every surface. There is a pile of rubble beneath the hole they entered from, indicating the worms dug their way in from the outside. The room is otherwise filled with a moldy, rotten writing desk along with other destroyed furniture. There is a wooden door leading out, swollen with moisture and age.

Boone inspects the desk closely, commenting, “Angel carvings… possibly religious.” His fingers trace over a locked drawer. A little force is all it takes for the drawer to crumble. Inside is an old, mold-covered book; the pages are stuck together and indecipherable. Boone flicks through a few pages and finds a sheet of brass. Inscribed upon it is a poem about Sir Chyde, whom the grave they are robbing belongs, hunting with his two dogs:

In the Looping Forest you will find,
A regal man named Sir Chyde,
Every weekend he will ride,
To hunt with his two dogs, his pride…

Meanwhile, Jackie finds a loose flagstone, and curious, she lifts it up and reveals a small pit below. Sitting in the pit is a metal lockbox. “Hey thieves,” she calls, gesturing to the lockbox. Maydrid walks over in response. “Open this, please?”

Maydrid gently lifts the lockbox from its resting place, brushing the dirt aside. She unrolls the leather scroll containing her thieves’ tools and chooses the lockpick, before inserting it into the keyhole. She fiddles with it, concentrating, and a few minutes pass before she hears the little tick that indicates success. She lifts the lid, only for her thumb to be pricked by a trap. Instantly, she begins feeling sleepy, and her grip on the lockbox weakens as she slumps into a slumber. Madrid rushes over and inspects the puncture. Poison.

“She’ll be okay,” Jackie says upon examining the trap. “She’ll be out for a few minutes but should come to soon.” She begins rummaging through the lockbox’s contents: various religious paraphernalia, a gold leaf prayer book and a silver cross. There is a packet of twenty communion wafers inside, and although the lockbox in general repels her (elves, being Fae, are the far opposite of human religion), the wafers in particular exude a holy presence. It would explain why they haven’t rotten.

“Give one to Maydrid,” Jack suggests, holding out a wafer. Madrid nods and takes it, popping one into her friend’s mouth. Within seconds Maydrid stirs and sits up, grasping her head.

“Let’s get going,” Sprue insists. “We don’t have all day.” As soon as the words leave his mouth a howl echoes through the room, originating from beyond the door. Everyone freezes in fear for a few seconds and waits for the sound to melt into silence.

“Flagger,” Boone mutters, frowning, and the party focuses on him. He holds up the sheet of brass. “This poem I found is about Sir Chyde and his two hunting dogs, one of them named Flagger. Chances are they were buried with him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re still around.”

“Best to tread carefully,” Marje replies, leaning her ear against the door to listen. She hears something rattle past the door, the sound like bones scraping against bones.Once it dissipates, she says, “All clear, let’s get moving.” She slams her shoulder against the door, causing the brittle wood to crack and fall apart. Beyond is the back of an old, reeking tapestry, draped over the archway.

Marje pushes it aside and it opens up into a small, ancient chapel. A few rotten pews barely stand on crumbling legs, falling apart. There is a statue of Saint Sedge, the Unblemished, at the far left of the room, his hand holding up a red candle; he is one of the one-hundred saints of the church, and a major saint among a few. Sedge served as a page to a knight in his youth, and became involved in a long and bloody war against the armies of a sorcerer king. In desperation, it is said that Sedge confronted a spectral knight alone on the battlefield, and after praying to the One True God, he defeated the monster with only his dirk.

Recognising him, Boone reaches up and lights the candle. A vigorous wind rushes through the room, ripping the tapestries from the walls, followed by battle cries and the sounds of distant fighting. Marje, Maydrid, Madrid and Boone are filled with a sudden burst of energy, but the wind causes Jackie and Sprue to feel ill-at-ease, as if something is not quite right.

“There’s a passageway here,” Marje calls out, stepping into it. Madrid follows with her lantern, and they enter a circular room, a beautiful marble statue of a female elf standing in its center. Marje is startled at the imagery until she realises it’s inanimate. The elf is wearing a crown of stars and she is placing her fingers to her lips in a hush. The only thing not made of marble is the blindfold tied over the elf’s eyes. Madrid removes the blindfold from the statue, instantly recognising the softness of the material and craftsmanship of the stitching. Crucifixes (The Revelator) of golden thread decorate the inside of the blindfold. She quietly pockets it. This will be valuable.

“I just remembered something,” Boone says upon setting eyes on the elven statue. “It is said that Sir Chide, in the midst of a war, fell in love with the Lady of the Wood. She was a spellcaster of mysterious origin, and they first met in the Dolmanwoods not far from here.”

“Huh,” Jackie comments, glancing at Boone. “What this reminds me of is an old elven story – that the daughter of the Cold Prince fell in love with a human knight.”

“It could be a coincidence, it could not,” Maydrid says curiously. “If Sir Chyde did love an elven woman, this might also be her grave.” She gestures to the set of stairs leading downwards to the left of the statute. The archway above the stairs is intricately carved with branches and trees.

“Do you think she has the ring?” Sprue questions, nodding his chin towards the statue.

“I doubt it,” Madrid replies. “The wizard sent us to Sir Chyde’s grave – I’m sure he would have told us if he was buried with a lover, and even more so if the lover was important.”

Maydrid fires her friend a dubious glance but says nothing in protest. “There’s an exit in the chapel – let’s continue there.”

The next room is actually a long corridor. Two sets of double doors, one on either side, stand grandly, staring each other down in silence. The left set is flanked by two large statues of hunting hounds sitting in alcoves. Their collars are attached to chains that wind to the door and then eventually through it in small holes. The words ‘Call to the companions,’ are written in Woldish above the doors.

“Well, well, well, your dog theory might just be right,” Maydrid says, walking over to the dog-guarded doors. She presses her ear against it and catches the sounds of dripping, followed by the clacking of bones. “Let’s continue down the corridor,” she suggests in a more hushed tone. “There’s… something behind those doors.”

“Keep an eye out for the other dog’s name,” Sprue instructs. “That might be our key.”

They enter another chapel, but instead of rows of pews there are seven statues of foot soldiers standing abreast. Each statute holds a different weapon: a longsword with a wavy blood groove, a flanged mace, a morning star, a battleaxe engraved with a horse’s head, a warhammer shaped like a boar, a halberd with a moldy pennant, and a spear with a serrated blade. “Impressive,” Sprue admits upon inspecting the weapons. “These have stood the test of time, and I would expect just as much from such workmanship.”

Yellow and purple mold has overgrown the walls, but peeking out behind the fuzz are coloured tiles, indicating a mural. Marje stares at it for a second, thinking. “The other dog’s name might be here,” she says, drawing a knife. She ties a makeshift mask over her mouth and nose. “I’m going to scrape away as much as I can. Stay back.”

A burst of spores hang, like a cloud, in the room. Everyone except Marje retreats, holding their breath or coughing. After a few minutes pass the spores dissipate and Marje re-emerges, smiling. She points to the mural, a piece of art depicting who they can only assume is Sir Chide fighting a fae army whilst wielding a bloodied, longsword with a wavey blood groove; standing beside him is one of his dogs, the collar labeling him as “Chydr.”

“And,” she adds, holding out her arm, “this must be his sword in the mural. It’s curved and carved with red markings. We should take the others too.” What she doesn’t tell them is that when she holds this sword she is filled with a sense of bravery, as if she can fight and defeat anything.

Posted in Dungeons & Dragons, OSE, The Ninth World

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