*Delving Deeper, Session 4. This time it went higher, not deeper. And several surprises.*
*The group finds their way back to the basics: back to the dungeon.*
After a night of sleep in Bars, they took stock of the scrolls found and picked spells to learn: Alter Self for Evelyn, Read Magic for Lysanderoth, Fog Wall for Arkbald.
But first they rode up the meandering path to Varg Keep, the snow-covered tower of King Norn. Like at the Shard Valley, they were stopped by a couple of hard men in arms. “Hand over your arms and shields and you can go and speak to the King. He awaits you already.” Unarmed they entered the small, cold keep to get to the throne room.
King Norn turned out to be a Mage. He knew about their mission and had expected their visit. He was prepared to listen.
Then, surprising everyone, the snowman formed a snowball and threw it at the king. Norn won initiative and cast “Hold Person”, but the snowman shook off the effect. Splat!
The guards descended upon the team, everyone surrendered and was imprisoned in a cold dark solitary cell, 3 feet by 6 feet, with a bucket.
Norn was actually supportive of the mission, so he fetched Evelyn the Elf for a solo meet and let her talk. He explained his reasoning: His kingdom depended on food imports from the lowlands. The market under control of the other kings would be a threat. But this permanent enmity was also trouble, so he was open for ideas.
Evelyn was suddenly interested in his religion and he told her of the seven gods. She asked where they were to be found, and he said, up on top of these very mountain peaks. But he has been there and did not see them, so he figures they do not show themselves.
She also quizzed him about the assassination attempt on Snake, but he cut her short. “We do not debat that.” He gave her a room for the night, kept the rest of the party in the dungeon, and let them all go come sunrise.
There was anger at the snowman and two members of the team debated violence. That distressed the snowman and he let himself dissolve again. Andy scooped up his remains and carried them in a sack.
Back on the way to Iorik:
A random encounter, 8 cavemen. It was a slaughter. Surprise: The cavemen failed every single attack roll – twice! The party fared better. 6 attackers fell to paint the snow red. 2 survived the onslaught and fled for their lives, wounded.
At his castle, King Iorik was already setting combat troops in motion to fight the hill barbarians from the west. He congratulated the party for their mission so far and agreed to do what he could to help them. Evelyn asked about the gods again, and he confirmed that they lived on top of the White Peaks. If Norn had not seen them that might be because he was not a righteous man.
The words of gods
The group decided to ask the gods, and climbed up the White Peaks; Norn helped them by providing guides and porters.
The mountaintop was a very bleak and cold affair. No gods visible, of course. The group meditated, and Nameless the Cleric rolled 2d6. Support by the mages gave him +4 and he reached 12: 1 Question.
Question: “How can the dispute among the Kings end?”
Answer: “The Kings must agree to a solution.”
Long faces. “The gods are useless!”
Back in the valley they cooked up the idea to get the rulers together for a conference, and maybe to form a permanent council of 5 in Bars. (3 Kingdoms, 2 Citizens of Bars)
Travelling to Queen Maeve they found her in plate mail, proudly on horseback, inspecting her almost-complete invasion army.
“Ah! Back from the White Peaks?”
“We spoke to the gods”, they said. “You must come to a meeting with the other kings, in seven days.”
“What? Is that the will of the gods?”
“YES.” they declared at once, with conviction.
“Hm… fine. If history tells us anything then that no king can thrive in opposition to the gods.”
“Each King must come alone…”
“Out of the question. I will come with 20 warriors. Tell Iorik and Norn to bring 20 also.”
Even tricked, Queen Maeve remained in control.
The team decided to check back with the gods again. This time, they got a 13:
“How can we clear the succession to the throne?”
“In all things, equilibrium is stability.”
“How can we make sure Bars remains free forever?”
“Nothing is Eternal.”
Again, long faces: “The gods are still useless.”
After this second expedition to the White Peaks, time was running short, so they quickly informed Norn and Iorik. Even though already at war, Iorik agreed to come.
The words of kings
At the actual conference, the three monarchs spoke among themselves. The party had not actually found any solution, just facilitated a talk, the dice spoke: Maeve and Norn rolled high successes, Iorik rolled a narrow save.
So King Norn and Queen Maeve found out face to face that they had much more in common than they thought. They forged an alliance: Not the lowlander alliance Norn had feared, but one between Shard Valley and White Peaks. King Iorik of the Blue Hills drew the short end of the straw, although at least Queen Maeve saw no more reason to invade his land.
Now the party had quite enough of frustrating politics and even more frustrating answers from gods.
“What about that dungeon we wanted to go to back in the beginning?”
“Oh yes! To the dungeon!”
So it is back to square 1. Back to the dungeon.
Image: Christian Grecu on Unsplash