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Sunday, 16 December 2012

A Ballad of Times Past - part three

Second Part: Waylaid at the Inn
In the early evening of the first day, you reach the junction of two rivers. There are a few cottages, an inn, and three boats down by the river, which is not frozen over. Osric suggests stopping at the inn, and also enquiring there about hiring a boat.

The low-ceilinged inn is murky with smoke from the fire in the grate, but gloriously warm. One or two figures sit drinking at crude wooden benches. The innkeeper, Owain, greets you, observing that you are not the peasants or impoverished travellers he usually caters for. Osric does not introduce himself, but orders cups of mulled wine.

As the wine arrives, two of the other patrons leave. But another figure you hadn’t noticed sits alone in the shadows away from the fire. He is dressed in a rough garment like a monk’s habit, with the cowl pulled over his head. His face is not visible, but with a sudden tension you feel sure he is watching you. Abruptly, he straightens and raises his clenched right hand. You stare directly into his eyes; clear, sky blue, and alive with glittering malice. He begins the words of some invocation. A sparkling dust falls from his fingers...

GM: Anyone who says they’re diving for cover at this point automatically evades Caedmon’s Deathlight spell. Osric is quick-witted and will have done this. Other characters will need to roll as normal.

With a crack like thunder, an incandescent white bolt leaps from the wizard towards you. Utter confusion follows. After you pick yourselves up, the wizard has gone; the door bangs open in the wind.

GM: If the characters follow, they see Caedmon getting into one of the boats, a hooded figure (Erik Iceheart) already at the oars. The boat moves off upriver. The other two boats have been sabotaged. Any character with a bow has time to fire 4 arrows before they’re out of range. The first two will miss automatically as the archer adjusts for the wind. The remaining shots are at –4 to hit. If hit, Caedmon will retaliate by Enslaving one of the party who will then try to stop his friends from firing. 

 Inside, Owain is inspecting the damage. Several beams are charred and a few stones around the fireplace are cracked. Shrugging, he begins to set the scattered stools upright. You spot a very small leather pouch on the floor near where Caedmon was sitting. It is empty but for one or two grains of golden dust.

GM: Since he seems relatively unperturbed, Owain may be suspected of having known Caedmon’s intentions. But the innkeeper will maintain (truthfully) that Caedmon, a regular if infrequent visitor, has used his sorcery often enough for Owain not to be startled by it. If asked about the pouch, he will add that Caedmon always wears a number of such pouches at his belt, but on this visit he seemed to have only four. The pouch they have found contained the dragon dust used to cast the Deathlight.

Third Part: The Vough
The next day is even more bitterly cold. You trudge through sparse woodland under a bleak, grey sky. Snow threatens. You spy a splash of red ahead, gleaming against the snow. A wild rose. More are scattered along in a winding trail, though there is no sign of footprints. Examination reveals that the roses have been cut rather than plucked.

GM: It is up to the player-characters whether they investigate this. Osric will go along with the majority decision.

The trail of flowers leads to a stagnant pond in a small copse. The pond is iced over—black, with a powdery sprinkling of freshly fallen snow. It is eerily quiet. As you watch, a cold wind swirls the snow in patterns across the ice. Slowly the patterns coalesce and rise into the silver, spectral image of a beautiful woman. Her hair is long and black; her skin, like alabaster. The only colour is the rubies set in tarnished silver links about her pale throat. Her expression is infinitely sad.

GM: If anyone has collected a rose, she drifts towards them, holding out her hands, imploring. If anyone reaches out to her (perhaps to hand her a rose), she matches her magical attack against their magical defence; if she is successful, they are drawn onto the ice, which has a 15% chance of breaking per person on it. If no one reaches out, she pauses at the edge of the pond for a few moments, then starts to fade. Suddenly (automatic surprise), the ice shatters and a rotted crone, clad in decaying rags, mud and tangled weeds, leaps from the black waters. Her dread shriek chills the blood; match her magical attack against each character’s magical defence, with success meaning that the character stands stock-still, paralysed with terror, for 2d4 combat rounds.

This foul undead being can create Illusion (Dragon Warriors, p. 82) at will. Her chilling touch works in exactly the same manner as a wraith’s (Bestiary, p. 86). She takes no damage from the first hit on her struck by each opponent, but takes double damage when hit by anyone who bears a holy relic of any kind. If slain, she rapidly decomposes into muddy slime.

If she is slain, any roses collected by the party or left lying in the snow will have vanished.

Fourth Part: In the Heart of the Forest
At nightfall, having gathered fuel, you sit around your fire devouring stew. A lone peasant comes into sight gathering wood. He greets you and asks to share the fire for a while. He is fairly young, below-average height, and wears dark green garments of coarse wool.

GM: If questioned, he says he will tell a tale of past and present, a tale of a dragon. Any who listen (Osric and any NPCs will) will fall asleep. The next thing they know will be when they awaken beside the burnt-out fire under a cold afternoon sky. Any player who says their character is turning his attention to anything else as well as, or instead of, listening to the tale will notice the others dozing off. If he asks, he should be told that he feels drowsy himself but can jerk himself back to wakefulness to see a premature smile of triumph on the face of the young ‘peasant’(actually a faerie creature). A single shout will rouse those asleep, but the faerie will have vanished completely, without a trace.

If the party succumb to sleep, they will lose six hours, waking early the next afternoon. This must be made up by pushing on quickly and perhaps even marching on after nightfall. Characters will fight at –1 attack and defence, and be down 1-3 Heath Points, through fatigue after such exertion, until they get a full night’s sleep.
Final instalment in three days. The artwork of the vough is by Jon Hodgson and if it makes you shiver, so it should. And by the way, if you're looking for Dragon Warriors books to run this adventure and you don't hold with piracy, you can buy the legitimate rulebooks from Serpent King Games here and help ensure there are more releases to come. Thanks!


  1. Life lesson for the day: Never trust a beautiful ethereal woman if you chance upon one in the woods.