Monday, February 14, 2011

Walking on Thin Ice [A D&D Adventure]

Here's the intro to the next D&D (4th Ed) adventure I'm DMing. I'm not saying it's perfect narrative, but it's not really meant to be. There's not a lot of descriptions because I would like my players to tell the stories from their perspective and present their characters. This is just to give my players (and now you guys) a feel for the game and make it all the more easier to join in the fun. As we're a small group (2 players and myself), we'll need a fair amount of NPCs, but I think that only adds to the fun. I'm a newbie DM anyway, so I'll make use of the interesting terrain and an intriguing storyline rather than complicated foes and the like.

So this is what it's gonna look like.

PCs
Eglath, lvl 2 goliath Warder (My husband's character)
Lunara, lvl2 Shifter Shaman (Well, actually she's an NPC... but I like her loads. ^^)
Nim, lvl2 Gnome Wizard
Adran, lvl2 Elf Rogue
(One of these two will also end up as an NPC but he won't mind, I know. ;))

Setting
Cairngorm Peaks, Nentir Vale
(Early spring so they'll have some snow and ice too, just for the fun of it!)

Background

Following his encounter, and ensuing friendship, with the young shifter, Eglath quickly found his way through the rocky paths of the Stonemarch, this narrow pass between the looming cones of the Cairngorm Peaks to the south and the milder hills to the north. Although the brave goliath would normally not cringe from an encounter with the many dangerous monsters of the area, this time he picked his way carefully. He didn’t want to delay any more than necessary.

With the snows slowly melting and warmth returning to the lands, the tribe would break camp and set out for richer areas. They have spent enough time already huddled against the protecting mountain range and eating up their winter supplies. Of course the restless hunters of the tribe would not remain idle even through the unrelenting winter months, their efforts were as much aimed at keeping their muscles toned and their senses tuned as at gathering food. But now their long wait has come to an end, and their noses were full of the scents of nature’s awakening and their thoughts of roaming the fields, chasing swift stepped deer and catching fish by the handful by Lake Wintermist’s shores.

But Eglath knew that before anyone could set out for the first, long craved, hunt they had to face the Skywatchers’ Night. That thought filled the young goliath with awe and hope and a strange fear at the same time. He pushed that last emotion away, for goliaths were fearless nomads and showing any such weakness could lead to exile – a total loss of honor and, what’s worse, one’s place in the hierarchy of the tribe. But the fact remained that none of the young fighters of the Thorn tribe could dismiss the importance of the impending event.

For Eglath, the Night held special significance this spring. He remembered vividly the wild dancing and singing of the Skywatchers as they had frenetically worked themselves into trance – and a unison with the spirits guiding their lives. A year younger and bolder, Eglath had not been able to sit through the ceremony without voicing his question. All the tribe had been shocked. Once the Skywatchers had reached their coveted state, they stood around the huge fire, swaying and staring at the stars. All the tribe knew that this was the moment when the future of the tribe of the Thorn would be decided. The Skywatchers, the tribe’s shamans, old and withered but nonetheless of the highest rank, would confer with the spirits and determine the course their people would take that year. Once they received guidance from the spirit world and made their wishes known to all, they would answer the questions of a chosen few of the gathering. It had pained Eglath that he had not been of the small group. Their questions had rung hollow in his ears and he could not help but stand up and speak when the last of them had been answered. The Skywatchers had by then all turned back to the fire and would give themselves over to the next phase of the ceremony, but Eglath’s call made them all turn sharply and regard him with otherworldly, unblinking stares. He could still remember the chill he had felt then and the loud throb of his heart as he knew his fate would be decided.

The question, that all important query, had been worth the risk, Eglath knew. He had been an adult member of the tribe for a considerable time, and had shown his prowess on more than one occasion. And yet, he had never been chosen to fight for his honor, to show all the tribe his worth as a fighter and a master hunter. Without the opportunity to perform at the Skywatchers’ Night, the young goliath was deemed to play the role of a minor hunter and provide for his own family. But he had known he was destined for more. That is why he had wanted to address the spirits, to ask them when they would grant him a place in the arena of fighters – and, subsequently, among the fighters and hunt leaders of the tribe. Thus he had struggled to get the words past the growing lump in his throat, and raise his voice. The Skywatchers, though they had eyed him for some time, had not seemed surprised. One of them, an old woman, turned toward the young goliath and raised her arms toward him and than slowly toward the sky. Suddenly she spoke, in an eerie, broken voice, half sigh half groan. “Hail the spirits that guide our people! They have spoken, Eglath of the Thorn tribe! You are to be tried, one winter from now! You will have to prove yourself, not by blood but by deed and your acts will be judged by the stars.” Then she suddenly gasped and collapsed to the ground. The others paid her no heed and Eglath was soon standing alone, fighting his emotions, among the dancing and hooting tribesmen, who were preparing for the fight that would determine their place in the tribe’s hierarchy the coming year. Eglath had not been of a mind to watch the fight. His heart ached for his inability to participate. That year he had not been chosen to fight and he had not be chosen to talk to the spirits. And yet. They had answered his question, something, he knew, was out of the ordinary. Guided by the spirits’ will, the Skywatchers could have struck him dead for his impertinence and for breaking the code of the tribe. And yet, the spirits had spared him, obviously having an answer for him. He had to believe that. He had to believe in his destiny, even as he walked the rocky paths to his home.

He had spent much time away. Following that ominous Night, he was somewhat an outcast in the eyes of his people. They knew he should not have spoken up, but they also accepted the judgment of the spirits. Eglath’s status within the tribe would be decided the next spring, and until then the headstrong young man was better to be avoided. That’s why no one had missed him when he disappeared for the winter months, to prepare for the coming fight alone. That’s why he had the opportunity to help the young shifter, to save a shaman from certain death. That had to count in the eyes of the spirits.

He thought of the female shifter now. How different she was from the huge fighter, and yet so kind in spirits. She was a marvelous little thing, Eglath now thought, an open link to the spirit world. As he had held her broken little body in his muscled arms, he had felt a strange tingling rushing through his very being. The spirits had found him, in his solitude. He had nursed the shaman back to life, spent arduous weeks hunting for her and nourishing her. When she had felt strong enough, she had summoned the spirits, in the form of a misty panther, and thus the spirits accompanied Eglath on his many hunts, witnessing his deeds.
And then spring had come and Lunara, for that was her name, returned to the elven community she lived with. Eglath quickly set out for his home, determined that the spirits would decide his fate the coming Night. He was confident that he would have a place of high honor in his tribe this year. He did not mind the lack of greetings from his tribesmen when he entered the encampment in a small valley between two looming peaks. They would greet him once more, he thought, and ask about his hunt once the Skywatchers have chosen him a master hunter. He set up his tent farther away from the center of the circular encampment, and went to sleep. He needed rest, for the next night would be the Night, and if the spirits willed it, he would fight all the hunters of the tribe. Yes, he needed the rest.

He woke late the next day, and took great pains to check his armor and weapons. He dressed slowly, examining every detail. Everything had to be perfect, as much to ensure his victory as to show the spirits due respect. By the time he was ready, it was dusk and preparations for the Night were on their way. He stepped out of the tent and joined the gathering in the middle of the camp, around the enormous fire. The Skywatchers were slowly filing out of their great tent and taking their place around the fire. The slowly turned their faces toward the flames, not minding the dangerous heat. They would soon lapse into their dancing and singing, and the spirits would take over their bodies.

Eglath watched the spectacle amidst soaring hopes and painful doubts. He would be tried this night, all his fate would be decided. As the shamans answered the last of the questions the spirits would address this year, he ran his gaze through the crowd. His shock was total when he spotted some movements around the perimeter of the great circle and the rows started shifting more and more inward. He watched, rooted to the ground, as the innermost circle slowly opened and a pair of guards led forth a group of prisoners. A moment later Eglath realized that though the two goliath escorting them had all appearances of guards, the smaller creatures were not bound and walked with relative confidence. The flames dancing on their faces, they turned toward the Skywatchers. The spectacle sent shivers through Eglath’s back and he had to muster all his courage to look at the group. The Skywatchers regarded them for a moment, then nodded in unison. The leader of the group stepped forth, toward the shamans and in Eglath’s direction. Her gaze held Eglath’s and her face showed no emotions. The young goliath immediately recognized her expression and knew she was possessed by the spirits. Her eyes were open wide and her trance made her features all the more animal-like, so fitting for her mission. She spoke in a whisper but to Eglath’s ears it seemed somehow magically magnified and he sensed that at that moment all the gathering centered around the creature and what she had come to say. “Eglath from the Thorn tribe, hear of the path you have to walk. Your path is not that of the tribe for you have to show your worth of their trust. The spirits have willed me to you. You are to leave your people and follow me and my companions. The spirits will guide you to your challenge and you are only to return when you have shown your prowess. Heed their words and the spirits will guide you on your path.”
Eglath tore his gaze away from the creature’s face and looked at the group then. He had recognized the speaker, for her face had ever been in his thoughts, and while he knew what Lunara was doing there, it intrigued him who her companions might be. In the excitement of the moment, he only consideder the shifter’s words but now he looked at the group and noticed their strange expressions. They were exhausted and battle scarred and they obviously felt out of place among the huge people. The gnome and the elf, for Eglath recognized that’s who they were, stood behind the female shifter and looked around nervously. Likely they were not so fond of their mission. But they had little choice other than trusting the tribesmen, for they were obviously running from a fate worse than dealing with a tribe of goliaths. And they seemed relatively confident, most probably because of their having brought a message from the spirits themselves.

Eglath noticed then that the Skywatchers were turning toward him and he winced at their stares. “Escort the hunter and our guests to our tent,” one of them said suddenly. “We will confer with the spirits and decide their fate at the end of the ceremony.” They then turned to face the flames again and resumed their dance. Eglath was soon surrounded by a pair of fighters and though he knew he could stop them with a single blow, he let them take him to the Skywatchers’ tent. He joined Lunara at the center of the great tent and sat down on the heavy skins, eyeing the strange group suspiciously. Then the shaman smiled and all tension seemed gone from the tent. She presented her friends, then, explaining how she had set out for the camp and what hardships they had faced. The tent flaps softened the noises of the frenzy and the fighting outside, and they could enjoy a few moments of peace before they knew they would be joined by the shamans to decide their fate. But, despite their companion’s nervousness, Lunara and Eglath were confident. The spirits were with them.

May the spirits be with you too! ;)
Stay spirited, guys. =)
Have a nice week.
fleur

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