Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Ballad of the Pigeon God #55: Ozark of Seigeshire

Our heroes, residing at the Chateau d'Echelon, responding to trouble with the halflings in Elmshire.

Mellandria, a scholarly magic-user who barely escaped from the Magistocracy of Emron with her life (and an owl familiar, Horatio).
Sterling Riverbend, a huge quarter-ogre with a disposition slimier than his skin.  He had just gotten back from visiting his family in Omsjik.
Kane, a eastern mystic with elemental control of water.  He had discarded the adventuring life, but upon learning of the trouble in Elmshire, he dug out his old plate mail, gave Mohammad a hug, and was the first one ready to go.
Ariel the Bard, a redhead with a song in her heart, and an eye for the ladies.  Mellandria had travelled with her frequently while conducting Baron Echelon's business, but she never remembered the bard actually fighting.

20 TriDec 1072 - Village of Eding, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
Our quartet of heroes rode to the Blue Wizard Inn in town.  Mellandria called out for Torm Touchberry, Captain of the Militia. Torm was quite unsettled by the "dead" Mellandria outing herself in the middle of town.

"I'm the last one left, you need my help, and Baron Timmy doesn't need to know that Talis or Echelon were still alive, since they're finally dead."

Torm nodded in agreement and took the party aside to discuss options.

"The halfling villages were all allied with Echelon and Talis against the Dread Lord.  They took out a considerable number of royal units and agents, so much so, that the King forbid even Baronial patrols to venture out there. The mayors of each village have always done well in maintaining their own militias, so we must take the threat serious.  Check out Lowdale and Welldale before arriving in Elmshire.  I would think the villages would lend on each other first for support."

22 TriDec 1072 - Lowdale, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
The party arrived in Lowdale and sought out the mayor, A. Warren Corkbarrel.  He welcomed them to his home and dinner.    Rumors of orc attacks in Elmshire have started trickling into the village over a week ago. Travellers in both directions have dropped off, but no orcs had arrived in Lowdale. Extra volunteers for the militia were activated, even though it was the busy planting season.

23 TriDec 1072 - Welldale, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
They left Lowdale at dawn and arrived in Welldale by mid-morning.  The halfling hovels and homes that dotted the countryside were not surrounded by a hastily built pallisade.  Mayor Markas Homeforger knew there were orcs, goblins, and other beasts in between there and Elmshire, and he pulled most of the town into the pallisade, sending only a few crews out to plant crops... under heavy guard.

23 TriDec 1072 - Elmshire, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
Nearing the Elmshire, the party encountered eight heavily armed orcs. They easily dispatched them, but 30 more snuck up behind them in a semi-circle.  After realizing how outnumbered they were, the party made a rushed retreat towards the ramshackle gates of the village.

Mellandria remembered Elmshire as the final stop before Echelon's diplomatic mission left for Ruuna, and it certainly did not have a palisade and gates surrounding it before.

After announcing themselves, the group was presented to Tanqueman the Elder, an ancient halfling who had been elected "Mayor-for-Life."

"All this misery started when Holverton the Brave, our village's hero, returned from an treasure hunting adventure.  It was sheer luck that he had returned when he did, or the village might have been overrun!  We've managed to build enough defenses to repel the attacks, but we're running low on stores and our seven best woodsmen were sent out for help.  The bodies of the seven all eventually showed up at the front gate.  It looks like our eighth best got through."

"Uh, he's not coming back, either..." Sterling remarked.

"Our hero, Holverton, is focused entirely on the defense of the village and protection of our people, so any help in ridding the surrounding woods of this orc threat is appreciated."

"I am too old and feeble to help in a fight, but my protege has been tasked to assist you."

Around the corner appeared a wizened old half-orc, nearly bent in two, struggling to walk with a gnarled cane.

"Ozark was my last protege.  I trained him in my late eighties and now, nearing the 140th year of life, he continues to serve me well.

The elderly half-orc smacked his toothless gums, pulled out a small horn and raised it to his ear.  "Who are ye???"

"Ozark wasn't the most successful cleric I had under my wing, but he always means well, and unlike myself, seems to remember to pray for spells every day."

Late that night, each of the party has rudely awoken to a gnarled cane bopping them on the head.

"Wake up, wake up, I woke up to pee and there's something milling about in the woods."

Peeking through some of the gaps in the palisade, they could see a group of orcs hiding in the treeline with some sort of battering ram.  They had just enough time to concoct an ambush right before the orcs came charging at the gate.  Completely caught off guard, the orcs were surrounded and slaughtered, with Ozark smacking them in the face with his cane and making coy remarks all the while.

"When I was your age, I could take twenty of these orcs on at a time and they begged to be resurrected so I could beat them some more!!!

24 TriDec 1072 - Elmshire, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
Trying to get Holverton to make time for the party was difficult.  He spent most of his time ordering the halfling militia around to repair or reinforce the palisade.

The party also ventured out into the woods for some reconnaissance, but no matter which direction they went, the further they ventured out, the stiffer the resistance was from the orcs.

25 TriDec 1072 - Elmshire, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
While speaking with the villagers,  Merovec Puddinfoot, the furniture maker Echelon made an order with, recognized Mellandria.  Their shared allegiance of utter hatred towards the Dread Lord/King Cervinal allowed a connection the let the halfling open up later in private:

Outside of the ancient mayor, the beautiful elms, or Merovec's furniture skills, Elmshire was most notably the home of "retired adventurer" Holverton the Brave.  He took a few flunkies into the Nightwood to raid the goblin tribes or pillage some abandoned structure.  He always brought back something and divied it up with his crew in front of the adoring eyes of his fellow villagers.  This last time, none of that happened.  They just all parted their separate ways at the village green and each of them went to their homes.  A few hours later, the first orcs attacked.  Perhaps, Merovec thought, he had managed to antagonized the orcs?

With little prompting, Ariel and Kane snuck into Holverton's house while he was out inspecting the perimeter.  They did find a sack of treasure, still covered in obvious crypt dust, as well as an empty white box that could be used to hold a knife or dagger.

26 TriDec 1072 - Elmshire, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
Holverton surrounded himself with a dozen lackeys, proving a simple question, much less a confrontation was not prudent.

Until another orc attack.

The orcs completely surrounded the village defenses and quickly found a few weak spots.  Halfling militia held off most, a few others escorted the women and children to a secure burrow-house, and our heroes ran to stop a break near the village mill.

Sterling, with his spetum, skewered nearly two dozen orcs all by himself. The others managed to flank the infiltrating orcs and force them to retreat into the woods.  Sterling followed the orcs, and the rest of the party foolishly followed him.
The Defense of Elmshire
The quarter-ogre hunted down the orcs with bestial ferocity, forcing large groups of them to flee further at the mere sight of the casualties he was creating.  After an hour, only a handful of orcs could be seen scattering in groups of twos or threes into the woods.  The bloodied party stood atop a hill at their (largely Sterling's) accomplishment.

Ozark was still hobbling up the hill, complaining at the while, "Why, back in my day, all that effort was known as showing off and was considered rude to do in front of your elders.... why I never..."

The rest froze for a moment as they saw Holverton catch up to the half-orc priest, draw his sword, and tried to strike him down with a blow to the back. Ozark's hump and his armor must have created an odd angle, as the blow was forceful, but not too damaging. The rest charged down the hill, engaged the halfling hero, and ultimately slew him.

Searching his body, they found an odd onyx dagger.   Ozark instantly recognized it as the Dagger of Mymindosa, a legendary weapon of the later Emperors of Feraso. It had been crafted to bring out hidden threats for the warrior-kings to slay for sport, even in peace-time. 

Ozark was exasperated "I don't know where Holverton found it, but it belongs in a museum..."

"...or crypt of the kings themselves," said Mellandria, knowing just where some of the later Emperors were buried.

While the village mourned the loss of their hero, they were eternally grateful to the heroes for stopping the orc attacks.  Tanqueman helped the party determine that the dagger's monster drawing power was dampened by the white box.  A small feast was held in their honor, and a secret meeting was conducted to further pledge Elmshire's forces towards the ideals that Echelon strove for, namely, a dead Dread Lord, and lots of dead Spider-People.

Tanqueman offered the clerical services of Ozark to them, especially until they found a safe place for the Dagger.  The following morning, his ass (named Boluke) was ready at the crack of dawn with the cleric's meager possession.  They left for home after breakfast.

31 TriDec 1072 - Chateau d'Echelon, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
Ariel returned to the Blue Wizard to inform Torm of their success.  Upon arriving at the Chateau, the others learned from Felix that royal troops had torn the estate apart looking for Echelon, Talis, and Mellandria.  They found nothing, and could only issue an overt threat to the staff to report the "dead traitors" if any showed up.

32 TriDec 1072 - Lake Apotheosis, Kingdom of Crosedes
The party arrived at the community of the Cult of Light to find a giant tent city.  Thousands had given up most of their worldly possessions to don the (once) white robes of the Cult and celebrate his arrival.

They met with the High Priest Montain, who was quite surprised to see the Dagger of Myrmindosa. He offered a hefty reward, which Ozark promptly refused, on the benefit of the whole party.  With that, our heroes returned to the Chateau to rest, recuperate, and hide from the Dread Lord's minions.

33 TriDec 1072 - Lake Apotheosis, Kingdom of Crosedes
High Priest Montain personally sailed across the lake to the crypts of the later Ferasean Kings.  He handed the dagger, still secured in the white box, to one of the historians who guarded the tombs.

"Place this in the rightful spot of the great Fereasean Emperor Rurik III."

The historian took the box, meekly bowed, and went further into the tombs. Montain was satisfied that another artifact had been returned, and he was happy to have such trusting friends down the road in Eding.  He would make sure they would be safe during the apocalypse and blessed by the return of the God-King.

For Theodard the Historian, he was not one to refuse a command from the High Priest, no matter who they were this week, but his studies confirmed that Rurik III was not the most famous wielder of that weapon.

Rurik III ruled during the end of the Peaceful Age, hundreds of years of a Pax Feraso where monsters had simply been vanquished.  Trained for military action with no enemy, Rurik had the wizards at the Lyceum Feraso craft the Dagger of Mymindosa to create an enemy to help train his troops.  It worked well.  Humanoids returned to the continent, but in numbers that the novice imperial army could learn tactics from.

It was his son, Leif VII, who was truly the most famed wielder of the dagger.  He openly displayed the dagger in his bed chamber.  Monsters returned to Feraso, but in numbers the now-skilled army and auxiliaries could still handle.  But it was not the monsters that proved his ruin.

It was the rampaging barbarian hordes from Galmar that felt the weapon's calling.

Leif VII was the final Emperor of Feraso, the last king.

And beyond the historical analysis, Leif VII had a specially carved slot in the lid of his sarcophagus that fit the Dagger of Myrmindosa perfectly.

Theodard removed the dagger from it's protective box and inserted it in its rightful place on the lid.

Yet another piece of the prophecy had literally fallen into place.  The God of Goodness and Light would return by the end of this year.

GM Notes:  The not-ready-for-primetime players make their debut this episode.  All the original heroes are either dead or missing, save Kane, yet the group performs admirably in the face of extreme danger.  

Welcome to the first appearance of Ozark the Cleric, the replacement character Steve created to replace the deceased Echelon. 

I allowed replacement characters who were two levels lower than what the original character was.  Since Echelon was 6th level upon death, a 4th level character of any sort was permitted. 

But this was Steve we're talking about.  If Echelon was a million quirks, Ozark was one heavily played quirk: a half-orc cleric who maxed out at 4th level (per 1st edition AD&D) OVER FIFTY YEARS AGO.  

An ancient and venerable half-orc, with years of experience, but capped experience points.   And he played the senility, dementia, and senior citizen moralizing to a new level.  He spent more time blessing others spiritually than healing or casting Bless spells. But he's on the side of good.  May the gods help the others, they're going to need it. 

The adventure was taken from "Seigeshire" from White Wolf #21.

Next:  #56 The Noose Tightens


  1. Eric, how many more episodes of the Ballad remain? Also kudos for keeping this going for 56+ installments.

  2. Thanks Phil!

    At this point, everything up to #65 is written., #69 is slated to be the completion of the grand finale, #70 and 71 are wrap-up.

    1. I just finished typing up episodes 67 and 68, and the last entry is now 72 (or higher).