Joined: 20 Jan 2006
|Posted: Thu Feb 12, 2009 1:20 pm Post subject: Queen of Winter - episode 1
|Chadis the elven ranger, Mimi the rogue and Sariel the eladrin warlock weren’t expecting to be in a backwater like Caer Callidyr, they had all planned to be in the great metropolis of Baldur’s Gate by now. But there was at least an upside to their detour to the edges of the known world – free food and drink.
The three adventurers had arrived in Caer Callidyr courtesy of some Northmen sea raiders who had taken their ship as a prize of war. As neutrals in what appeared to be a petty squabble between nations, the travellers were released into the city as guests of the King. A knight, Sir Leort, and his squire, a cheeky young elf named Baki, had been assigned to ensure their stay was as comfortable and as short as possible. To this end Sir Leort had arranged accommodation at the bustling but comfortable Salty Mug inn and had promised to find them passage on the next ship to Baldur’s Gate. Perhaps taking the letter of her orders a little too far, Baki had also seen to it that ale and hot food was to be charged to the King’s account.
The travellers had just finished their first round of free ales when the barman, an imposing Minotaur, arrived to serve them his homemade stew. The adventurers were eyeing this somewhat uncertainly when the faint sounds of a commotion could be heard from the street outside. All of a sudden, there was a loud crack and the tavern’s front door flew off its hinges and smashed into a table. Four small fey creatures with nasty, sharp faces rushed into the tavern, swords outstretched to skewer the nearest patrons. “For winter! For the Queen!” they cried.
Chadis, Mimi, Sariel and Aodhan the Minotaur snatched up weapons (in Aodhan’s case this was the pot of stew) and raced towards the door. Before they could get there two farmers and a sailor who had been drinking at the tables nearest the door had been cut down.
The four bravos engaged the fey as more of the creatures started to pour through the door. One of these newcomers brandished a flaming torch and he hurled this at the bar. The brand smashed into bottles of flammable spirits stacked on a shelf behind the bar and flames burst into life, nearly scorching Chadis. The elf responded by firing arrows into the invaders, while Mimi, Sariel and Aodhan engaged them in a stand-up fight. More of the small creatures continued to arrive, but they were pushed back and back until Mimi and Aodhan held the door. As the last of the creatures inside the bar hit the ground, Mimi ducked her head through the door and peeked outside. She could see a couple more of the creatures running down the road towards the inn, so she motioned to her companions and took the fight into the street.
Seeing the burly companions emerge from the tavern, the two feylings outside did not hang around for long. One was cut down as it turned to flee and the second received an arrow in its back as it tried to escape down an alleyway.
Before the companions could regroup a new threat arrived. Turning a corner at the end of the street was a cart pulled by a huge ogre. On the cart behind this creature were two more of the fey creatures and a stack of barrels. As Aodhan fearlessly charged the cart, one of the fey creatures lit a fuse attached to one of the barrels and handed it to the ogre. The fearsome beast hurled it at Aodhan and a ball of fire exploded on the road just behind the Minotaur.
Mimi and Chadis dashed around a house in an attempt to flank the cart while Sariel remained near the tavern door and blasted the ogre with arcane power. Aodhan and the ogre continued to stand toe-to-toe, the ogre missing the Minotaur with a second barrel of blazing pitch and sending more flames spurting across the road.
Mimi bravely darted in behind the ogre and leapt onto the cart with a daring somersault. The feylings onboard dropped the pitch they were holding and drew longswords. Deprived of his ammunition the ogre roared and flailed at Aodhan with his fists.
Mimi’s brave attack nearly ended in disaster, the two fey creatures cutting her badly. She did a back flip from the cart to escape and then paused to catch her breath. With the rogue no longer a threat, one of the creatures lit another barrel and handed this to the ogre. The beast was bloodied now, by Aohdan’s pot, Sariel’s magic and Chadis’ arrow. It was also angry. As it tried to bring the barrel down on the Minotaur’s head it slipped from its hands and rolled backwards into the cart and onto the pile of other barrels. There was an explosion and roars of pain as the ogre, the two fey creatures and Mimi were seared with burning flames. One of the feylings fell amongst the flames, while Mimi and the second creature fled from the cart, flames and burning pitch dripping from their clothes. The ogre tried to run too, but he was chained to the cart and the flames followed him. Despite the explosions and the flying flames, Aodhan remained in the ogre’s path, blocking his escape and raining blows upon his head with a sword dropped by one of the fey.
The burning Mimi ran towards a pond and splashed into the water, collapsing as she arrived. Chadis killed the second feyling as it tried to flee and then dropped his bow to drag the unconscious rogue from the water. Meanwhile, Aodhan and the ogre continued to battle amidst the flames and Sariel continued to blast the creature with his mental powers. The ogre and the Minotaur collapsed to the ground from their wounds at almost the same time.
Both Mimi and Aodhan were at risk of death from their injuries, but Chadis managed to stabilise their conditions. Within minutes of the fight ending both had recovered enough to regain their feet.
Now that the creatures had been fought off people began to reappear and they began to help the adventurers to put out the fires. Sir Leort arrived on his charger and joined in the fight against the flames. As they battled the blaze the adventurers could see him talking to people as he helped, and those people pointing towards them with glances of admiration.
A woman ran past screaming hysterically that “the Quicklings have taken my mother”.
Aodhan returned to the tavern to help put out the fires there. He noticed a trail of destruction leading out the kitchen door, and that Mirtala the cook was missing.
Once all the fires were out Sir Leort approached the three travellers and their new Minotaur friend. He asked them what had happened and expressed admiration for their bravery in fighting the Quicklings off. He explained that the creatures had attacked the city in several places at once and that a number of captives had been taken before they had been forced to flee.
Sir Leort said that the city was in a desperate state. Most of the King’s soldiers had accompanied the fleet on an attack against Amn and the rest were needed to protect the city in case of further attacks. He stated that the adventurers owned him nothing, but he begged them to track the creatures and try to rescue their prisoners.
Mimi was not convinced that she should help, but her companions were adamant that a rescue attempt was the right thing to do. Stopping only to pick up their backpacks the adventurers set off on the Quicklings’ trail.
Chadis tracked the trail easily for several miles, before it disappeared under a rockslide. With Aodhan and Mimi’s help the ranger found the path again and they followed this until late afternoon, when Aodhan found an empty cave. They set up camp for the night here, Sariel putting himself into a trance and spending the whole night watching over his sleeping companions.
In the morning the warlock observed that the trail was heading in the direction of a mountain which had ancient arcane significance. Without his advice and Mimi’s help it was unlikely that Chadis would have been able to follow the trail to its end between two obelisks on the foothills of this mountain.
The adventurers spent some time pausing before the obelisks. Sariel warned them that by passing between them they would likely pass into another dimension. Eventually though, they stepped forward…
For a moment the adventurers’ vision swirled. The mountain before them appeared to grow higher and more jagged. The forest around them grew rugged and wild. The faint trail turned into a road paved with stone. The air cooled. And a mile or so in the distance a tower of ice seemed to rise from the ground.
The adventurers’ looked behind them. The obelisks still stood there, but on the other side was not the clearing where they had stood mere seconds before. Instead the paved road headed into a dense line of trees.
Taking a deep breath the travellers walked cautiously along the path towards the tower of ice. A thatched cottage came into view, set in a field of wheat. As the adventurers drew closer they could see that the wheat was stunted and in places had begun to rot. It had been cast in rough and uneven rows. In the door of the cottage a boy appeared, and then an old man.
The adventurers paused and the boy whispered something to the old man, who started and then waved to the travellers. They approached cautiously and observed that the old man was blind, his sockets gaping holes in his head. They heard the old man whisper a question to the boy “are you sure, there is a human amongst them?”
As they drew closer the old man stood again and motioned that the adventurers come inside the house. “Quickly, quickly”, he said “before the Queen’s soldiers see you.”
A hurried and confused discussion followed. The old man introduced himself as Sertanian and the boy as Thurann. Both claimed to have been taken prisoner in the raid on Caer Callidyr along with five others, but also that they had been in the Feywild for more than six months. The old man said they had been taken as slaves by the Queen of Winter, who had blinded him and two other male slaves. One of these males was Thurann’s father, Kartenix, Warden to King Kendrink of Caer Callidyr.
The adventurers asked whether the other prisoners were being held and the boy said that he had worked for a while in the kitchen at the tower of ice with two of the other slaves, Jalissa and Mirtala, while Sertanian had seen an old woman in the Queen’s stables. Neither of them knew where Kartenix and the seventh prisoner were being held, but Thurann was confident that his father was planning to rescue them all.
Night had fallen outside, much to the surprise of the adventurers who had only started upon the path a couple of hours ago – when it had been barely noon.
The sound of hoofbeats could be heard, and then bright lights were seen coming along the road. Sertanian hurriedly instructed Thurann to close the door before the companions could be seen, but it was too late and the bright lights could be seen to be hurrying forward towards the cottage.
The adventurers urged the old man and boy to take cover and took up defensive positions at the front door. Seconds later this door burst open. A tongue of magical energy lashed forward from the darkness and enveloped Aodhan, dragging him out of the house and into the night. Almost simultaneously another blast of magical energy came, this time wounding Mimi and Sariel and throwing them backwards onto the floor.
Outside Aodhan found himself free of the magical energy, but surrounded by Quickling opponents. He lashed out around him as Sariel regained his feet and sent a stream of arcane curses through the air and Chadis took down two of the creatures with a single shot from his bow. The Quicklings outside the door did not stand a chance and were struck down before they could land a blow.
However there were more of the creatures beyond the doorway. Chadis was hit by an arrow which came through an open window at the side of the house. Mimi tried to sneak up on the archer which fired this shot, but she was ambushed by another of the creatures hiding around the corner of the house. A third creature was seen hiding behind a tree and covering the back entrance to the cottage with a bow.
The first two creatures were cut down by Mimi, Chadis and Sariel in double quick time. The third did not last much longer, the tree it hid behind proving to be its downfall. Aodhan charged around the corner of the cottage and ran directly at the tree with his horns lowered. The tree fell with a smash and crushed the Quickling beneath its trunk.
The darkness fell deeper as silence returned to the cottage and the field of wheat. The adventurers dragged the Quickling bodies out of sight and rounded up their horses. Then they sat down and began to talk about how they would rescue the prisoners in the tower of ice…
My favourite roleplaying memory - "Daisy at Colonus", two drunk cowboys and a pantomime cow in a 'reinterpretation' of Sophocles greatest play.