Let Me Axe You a Question

November 7, 2019

The party returns to the vicinity of the bandit camp. They decide that Shae and Grend, being the sneakiest (Drex, where are you??) will sneak into the camp and to the leader’s tent. If possible, they will free the girl and sneak back out. They figure both are needed in case the stealth mission becomes a standup fight with the bandit leader.

Grend is hoping that the Mother will answer his earlier prayer for a distraction should it become necessary. He is also prepared to pray for the Mother to cause a fog to spring up to cover half the camp. Findlay suggests that he could inflict terror on the other half of the camp, if he could move closer. Arne agrees to guard his back if that becomes necessary. Enok, too, will move up with them and use his lightning bolt spell to try to take out other bandits that are unaffected by the Song of Terror.

Björn climbs a tall tree at the edge of camp and pledges to shoot any bandits that may try to attack any party member that is not under cover.

They notice that in addition to any patrols that are wandering the forested hills around camp, there are now three patrolling guards circling the camp, on high alert.

The plan decided, Grend prays to the Mother to grant Shae the Arms of the Bear. In response to this prayer, Shae’s arms grow hugely muscled and covered in bear fur. 

Shae and Grend start their stealthy way into the camp. They run through the  gap between the patrolling guards. As they dash from the shadows of one tent to the next, a strong wind begins to blow. Sparks from multiple campfires around the camp begin to fly as the tents start creaking, thumping, and humming from the wind pummeling the canvas and whistling around the ropes. Several tents threaten to blow away in the wind as their pegs are pulled from the ground. Men nearby to these loose ropes run to secure them.

In a not much more than a minute, Shae and Grend arrive at the back of the leader’s tent. Shae cuts a slit in the tent cloth near the ground, and shimmies through.

Shae finds herself in a well appointed — for bandits anyway — tent, supported at each corner and in the center by poles. The tent is about 6’ to 8’ square. Shae comes through the slit behind a small chest. She flattens herself behind the chest and surveys the small open area. Besides the chest, there are some personal items — clothing, armory supplies, etc — arranged for convenience around the tent.

There is an armored (heavy leather) man standing near the tent flap, with a spear and buckler. He is holding the tent flap open and is talking to someone outside. The position of his head indicates the unseen conversant is above him — possibly the guard on the small watchtower?

Tied to the center tentpole, ad gagged, is a young girl, probably in her mid-teens. Her clothes are dirty and torn. She is tied facing the tent’s opening, and thus has her back to Shae. It must be Thorhildr.

As quietly as possible, Shae hefts her axe into attack position, and pads behind the man (the bandit chief?) at the flap, poised to strike.

Grend takes the opportunity to slip into the tent and takes up position behind the chest that Shae just vacated.

 * * * 

Meanwhile, the rest of the party have been watching the progress of the barbarian and the druid through the camp, and keeping an eye out for anyone who might be in danger of discovering them.

As they dimly make out Grend and Shae arriving at the back of the central tent, Björn notices a man leaving the privy. The man seems to be dressed in metallic armor, maybe brigandine? He stops to pick up a finely made Nordlond battle-shield and a spear and begins walking back through camp.

As first Shae and then Grend enter the tent, the man draws near. He seems to be walking directly to the bandit leader’s tent.

 * * *

Back in the tent, the man talking through the flap finally seems to wrap up his conversation. He lets the flap close and begins to turn to face the interior of the tent.

Shae swings her axe and in one blow, decapitates the man!

(Shae has a Axe skill of 19 and aims at the neck for a -3 penalty, thus having an effective skill of 16. She rolls a 6, which is a Critical Success — no defense possible even if she wasn’t attacking from the rear. She is doing an All-Out Attack, Strong, for +1 per die of damage, and has additional Striking ST +5 from Arms of the Bear. This takes her basic damage up to 4d+9 cut. Because the wound is to the neck, any damage that makes it through the armor is doubled. This one blow does over 40 points of damage, instantly killing him. Anyone killed by cutting damage to the neck is decapitated!)

The bandit’s head rolls to the door of the tent, and blood pools around it.

Grend is about to stand up from behind the chest when he is suddenly stabbed from behind! He staggers into the room, reeling from the wound. He turns as the real bandit chief, the man wearing brigandine armor and carrying a Nordlond shield and spear, ducks into the tent. 

(As he approached the tent from the latrine, the bandit chief noticed the tent cloth was cut. He used stealth to approach and investigate. He made his Stealth skill roll by 6; neither Grend or Shae made their perception rolls by that margin and so his stealth was successful. Finding Grend inside the tent, he attacked with a Spear skill of 16 and targeted the vitals at -3, for an effective skill of 13. Because his Stealth check succeeded and he’s snuck up behind Grend, he gets an additional +4 for backstabbing. On an effective skill of 17, only a roll of 17 or 18 will fail! Any impaling damage to the vitals that penetrates armor does triple damage. This is enough to drop Grend to less than 1/3 of his hit points, so he is reeling: Move and Dodge are halved, rounding up.) 

The bandit chief notices Shae standing over his dead man, and moves to attack her. Grend takes the opening to stagger back through the rip in the tent in retreat.

There is a scream from outside the front of the tent, and then several thuds that shake the ground. Björn and the rest of the party see that the rising wind has somehow knocked over the watch tower sending the guard to the ground below. At the same time, sparks from the campfires settle on several tents, setting them on fire. In the ensuing panic, the bandits rush around trying to tend to the fallen guard and tower and also to put out the rising fires.

Grend prays for the Mother to encase the other side of camp in a fog. The Mother answers. He then pulls out a healing potion from his potion belt and quaffs it.

Meanwhile Shae and the Bandit Chief square off. After a couple thrusts and blocks, Shae manages to get a blow through. This one blow is enough to take the chief down to barely hanging on to consciousness. He drops the spear and grabs hold of the central tentpole to remain upright. In two more blows, Shae drops him. Dead or unconscious, she doesn’t care. She cuts the bonds of the girl and throws her over one shoulder. Grend pauses long enough to shoulder the bandit chief’s chest. They both begin to make their way towards the safety of the forest and their friends.

Findlay says he will start the Song of Terror, but needs to get closer. Enok goes with him to watch his back and they walk several yards into the bandit camp. Findlay begins his song with visible reaction — bandits break and flee when they hear the music (“Well I just heard the news today. It seems my life is going to change…”).

Björn sees one of the guards appear to notice Shae and Grend retreating. The man readies his spear and begins to move towards the cat-folk and half-ogre. Björn draws a bead on the man and sends an arrow unerringly into his leg from 30 yards away. The bandit goes down.

A few turns later Shae and Grend make it to where the others are waiting, aided by Björn’s marksmanship and Findlay’s songs. They beat a hasty retreat into the forest with the rescued girl.

 * * *

The next day, the party returns the girl to her family — somewhat the worse for wear, but alive. They are grateful but poor. They offer as reward a silver Thor’s hammer pendant. In addition, they provide several days of rations and top-off the party’s drinking water supply. They stay that night with the family. Grend sleeps outside as usual and uses his Mother’s Embrace prayer to recover from his injuries.

In the morning, the group takes their leave and begin once again to follow the river towards their ultimate destination: The Lost Hall of Tyr.

 * * * 

In the afternoon, the adventurers reach a small village on the river. They use the opportunity to buy enough rations to completely replenish their supplies. They ask around and find that this is the last settlement before the river enters the Frostharrow mountains. Trade boats occasionally ply the river to buy and sell with them, but they go no further. The party only stays long enough to complete their transactions and exchange a bit of gossip, and then continue on their way.

About an hour’s walk outside the village, they hear a scream. Investigating, they find a young human girl high up in a tree, attempting to climb even higher even though the thin branches are bending and cracking alarmingly under her weight. She is crying with fear.

“What’s wrong?” Enok calls out. 

“Stay away! It’ll get you!” the girl says, gesturing towards the base of the tree. They look but there is nothing visible there.

Findlay begins the Song of Echoes (“Hello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me…”), trying to detect a hidden or invisible foe; he detects nothing.

Enok raises his chalk and slate and draws the Hagall rune and concentrates for a moment. “I am seeing a trace of magic around her,” he says, “but it’s different. Maybe some kind of fae enchantment?”

Shae expels a breath: “Pah!” Her cat eyes narrow. “I’ve had enough of this fae nonsense. I’ll get her down.” The catfolk barbarian puts down her axe and heads towards the tree. “Cover me,” she snaps over her shoulder at Björn. 

Shae climbs the tree and tries to grab the girl, but the terrified teenager is lighter than the armored catfolk and climbs into a part of the tree that Shae cannot reach. “Come down! There’s no bear!” she yells.

“No! It’s there! I don’t know how you got up without it killing you, but it’s RIGHT THERE!” she screams.

This is enough to trigger the barbarian’s notoriously bad temper. (In game terms, Shae has the Bad Temper disadvantage, with a self-control roll of 12. Shae’s character rolls and gets a result higher than 12.) “THERE. IS. NO. BEAR!” she roars, lunging higher up the tree on each exclamation, even though the branches begin to crack and splinter under her weight. Shae reaches out one claw and manages to snag the girl’s long blond hair. She pulls the girl by the hair from her perch in the tree, and before anyone else can react, drops the girl.

She screams again, and comes crashing down through the branches. She hits the ground with a thud and another scream, holding her leg.

Arne and Grend rush to her aid. She’s confused but the fall seems to have cured her of the faerie glamour. Arne lays hands on her and heals most of her injuries. The leg was broken but between Grend and Arne they magically mend it. 

When asked her story, she says that a handsome man came out of the forest to the west and flirted with her. She resisted; he was persistent but eventually came to understand she was not going to be seduced. The strangely magnetic young man then became angry, and said something in a language she did not know. After he left (again to the west) the “bear” attacked. 

Grend surmises that the man was fae. “Dey always methin’ wit’ mortals,” he says. “Twicktherth, everyone of dem.”

The girl says she is from the village they just left. They ask her if she needed an escort home. “N-no, I can manage,” she says looking at Shae from the corner of her eye.

She leaves and the party continues on their journey.

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