Wayland's Smithy - by Dave Morris (draft)
"Slieve Gua, craggy and black wolf-den:
In its clefts the wind howls,
In its denes the wolves wail.
"Autumn on Slieve Gua: and the angry
Brown deer bells, and herons
Croak across Slieve Gua's crags."
- Translated from the original Irish
A curious encounter with the unworldly Lady of Baptismal and a chance to carouse in a great mead hall are preludes to a perilous subterranean expedition. The characters are searching for a strange blue ore, with which they mean to forge fine swords. Without the guidance of the Lady, they are likely to fare badly.
The adventure was set across the boundaries of Albion and Cornumbria in the world of Legend. A historically-inspired game would place it in the Welsh borders.
To fit the adventure into your own campaign the usual work will be necessary; this section is a quick guide to what is needed.
The quest is for a strange blue ore, which is known variously as faerie steel, Cornumbrian steel or other names. The party are already committed to this objective, and further they know that the steel is to be found at the Giant's Quarry.
Acute taste/smell +1
The group have recently acquired a travelling companion called Silvius. In our own game, Silvius was a recruit. He might alternatively be a guide or simply a wanderer who has fallen in with the crowd for safety.
At one point in the scenario, the party may have cause to cross swords with a certain Queen Medbh and her entourage. In our own game, the characters had already encountered the Queen at the Fay Bridge Tourney and had cause to like and respect her. In your own game, the part of the Queen could be taken by a local lord, by bandits and brigands, by a merchant and his bodyguards, or marauding double-trolls: whatever fits. But be warned: with a prior connection, the encounter is likely to hold more interest.
The route to Cornumbria takes them past Wistren Wood. Silvius says that he was brought up near here, at the house of the Lady of Baptismarl, and invites them to drop in on her.
(If they ask, Silvius tells them he is a cottar by birth who was sent to work as the Lady's servant. She more or less adopted him so that in a way he has almost a freeman's status. However, lacking money, he must work as a mercenary.)
The House of the Lady of Baptismarl
The house is south-facing, set at the top of a meadow with the woods behind. A low stone wall with a wooden gate runs in front of it. The house itself has two squat towers flanking a low eaved building with a massive grey-tiled roof. The remarkable thing is how ancient and weathered it is - most stone buildings are relatively new. The only stones they would have seen as weathered as this are on Selentine ruins, or in churchyards.
Silvius points to a high wall at the west end of the house. "Through that gate is a field where we can put our horses."
An archway in the wall leads through to a field bordered at the back by another high wall. There is a lichen-spotted terrace of uneven flagstones, but the iron gate to the garden at the back of the house is closed. (If anyone looks through, they see the dark bay windows of the parlour, and a thin strip of overgrown garden before the woods begin.)
Anyone seeing to the horses should make an awareness roll; if successful, he notices someone watching briefly from an upper window. He also notes that one of the horses is limping slightly, and on a successful check on Animal Handling will realise the need to slow their pace in future.
The porch is a cold vault of stone. Silvius knocks and waits. The door is opened by a thin servant in a dusty velvet jerkin "Master Silvius!" he says in a reedy voice.
"Brabano," says Silvius. "I have friends with me."
The interior of the house is panelled in dark wood. A tapestry of faded colours dominates the far wall, depicting a feast in a Classical garden. The windows are narrow, leaded lights with more lead than glass. A long table with strong benches fills the centre of the hall. In the grate, a fire flickers weakly, giving little warmth.
Silvius speaks to Brabano, who goes upstairs. "We'll sleep here if that's all right," says Silvius. "No doubt the Lady will have little stomach for our rough ways, though hopefully she might join us a while at supper."
At the back of the house, the woods begin almost immediately. The ground there descends into a gully, forming a deep cleft lined with moss.
Characters can climb down. It is +3 to begin with, but then gets rapidly steeper and the moss is waterlogged and treacherous, whereupon it becomes -2. (Remember that encumbrance is a negative modifier.)
Anyone falling is likely to bang between the rocky sides of the crevice, taking 1-3 falls for 3-6 yards each.
At the bottom is a murky stagnant ditch with a cloud of mosquitoes hanging around it. The water is barely a foot deep. In the muck at the bottom are rotted bones - the remains, it would seem, of several bodies.
Supper is newly-brewed ale (fruity, deceptively strong) and vegetable stew. Characters well used to hearty fare may be disgruntled at how little there is to eat.
Viola, the Lady of Baptismarl, comes down the stairs at supper. It may be her perfume they notice first: jasmine and rose.
She is not young - perhaps thirty-five, but of a physical type that cannot seem old. She is delicate, willowy, with a pale white face fringed by long raven-black hair bound by a silver circlet with a purple gem. The only signs of age are a few grey hairs and perhaps a slight tightness at the edge of the eyes, or in the painful slimness of her hands. Otherwise she could be a girl of eighteen.
Her voice is quiet, husky with a trace of music in her accent that suggests old Cornumbrian stock. She does not sit long in the hall, as she is sure they will want to speak of manly matters.
If any impresses her by his gentleness of character - perhaps in kindly treatment of the horses - then later she will send her servant to ask him to come to her chamber.
It is suppertime (6 o'clock). Everyone gets a Hearing roll at -4 to detect that someone is outside.
It is a delegation of peasants from the village: Holdan, Gerris and Marie. Silvius knows them. Marie says that some of the men returning from the tourney passed this way and took her daughter, Miriam.
It is Queen Mebdh and her men, who are camped on the outskirts of the wood some three miles away - the smoke from their campfires is visible in the dusk, just along the valley.
Note: In your own game you should substitute a suitable adversary.
Their camp is enclosed by walls of green cloth set on posts - a tent without a roof. Torches flare and crackle in the night air. At the entrance stands a guard. From inside come the laughter of the men, the occasional frightened cry from the kidnapped girl.
Mebdh's two dogs are alert to intruders and will hear intruders coming in the sides of the enclosure on a 15 or less. She also has two servants (Stealth 14, Camouflage 14, Vision 15) who will take turns hidden at the outskirts of the wood and will use bird calls to signal those inside if they see intruders.
High pain threshold
Spear 16 (1d6+3 thrust, 2d6+2 swing)
Discus 16 (1d6+1)
The warriors have scale armour (PD3 DR4) but only the guard is likely to be wearing it.
The Lady of Baptismarl may invite one of the characters to her bed. If he complies, he experiences an hour of surprising passion, but at midnight she tells him he must leave.
If anyone gets up in the night, he may hear the sounds of lovemaking, but the servant sits on the quarter-landing with a candle and will not allow him to go up.
If the Lady made love to one of the company, she sends for him at breakfast. Her windows are shuttered; she lies in deep darkness. "As so often these days, I am not well enough to come down. Wish your comrades God speed."
She asks him to carry a basket to the far side of the wood, where he must plant the apple that he will find in the basket beneath the tallest tree.
Note: if anyone eats the red apple they will give birth to a bonny child out of their navel.
"If you go to the giant's quarry, I have this advice," she adds: "When you have his ore, take seven men to Wayland's stone at midnight. Wait for a raven to come with a thistle in its beak."
The Mead Hall
Into Cornumbria, they travel across high ridges between ice-blue lakes. At the hall of a chieftain called King Manach, they hear of a quarry that only the druids go to, enclosed within a great ring of earth.
Manach's son, Dionet, is headstrong and may issue challenges to members of the company. Essentially these are friendly challenges, within the terms of rough hospitality of a fighting men’s hall. The king’s sword-thane, Ambrin, guards all war gear and ensures that steel is not drawn within the hall.
This wager combines speed and the capacity to quaff strong ale. Taking a full mead horn - the contents can vary, but should be good red wine, or warm clear bitter, or a honey mead. the challenge is to slap the table and then seize the horn before it spills. Then drink a measure, slap the table twice and regain grip on the horn. Continue rhythmically and with increasing numbers of beats until the horn - which should be replenished as necessary - is spilled.
The opponents nominate seconds, who turn their backs on the proceedings. Then each contestant is in turn to try to approach as nearly as possible to the other's second, without being heard.
If the challenge is too easy, it can be repeated with a scattering of straw on the hard earth floor.
Clovis suggests leaping over the head of the harpist sitting cross legged on the table; if this proves simple, the harpist can be seated on a low stool on the table top, or even to stand tall.
Is any character’s eye drawn to the king’s daughter, Taileh? She is beautiful indeed. A just-ripe source of trouble, perhaps.
The Giant's Quarry
The quarry lies further over windswept moors, a remote spot visible for miles around because of the massive perimeter dyke. This is 30 feet high and half a mile across. The characters climb to the crest and are greeted by a spectacular sight: a chalk giant with a cavern for a mouth.
They descend... Glassy, specular glimmers. A chittering sound, like hives of bees. It is a cavern full of roosting bats.
Somehow they must pass the cavern (the giant’s brain-pan) without a sound. For, if disturbed, the bats erupt out of the giant's mouth. Those in the way will be carried to the druids, unless a luck roll of some kind is made. Then, later, a druid will come bearing back the heads of those who were lost.
Descending, they find an underground river. They need to dive, swim on and on and on (perhaps using air from a bladder) and eventually reach an inner cave. This is a prodigious feat, requiring great strength and stamina. (Characters can hold breath for HTx3 if hyperventilating, + ST in rounds, doubling the time underwater if they have a bag of air; a swimming roll is needed to avoid losing some of the air.)
In the inner cave is a giant's face, in limestone that has run like wax. His teeth are blue boulders of faerie iron ore.
How to get back? The best route is to crawl into the giant's mouth. A sink-hole leads up to the surface via the giant’s navel, through which is how they could winch out some boulders.
If a druid brought the severed heads of their friends, those unfortunates will return to claim their heads in the night-time.
The Sidhe Forge
What the Lady of Baptismarl called "Wayland's stone" is locally called "Govan's anvil."
The anvil, or smithy, is a rock within a henge. Ravens come with mistletoe (the Afterworld), pine cone (Unseelie Court), and thistle (Seelie Court). Best to wait for the third raven - all will provide a means to forge the faerie ore into swords, but only the gifts of the Seelie Court are wholly to be trusted.