Following their battle with the ettins, the party settled down for the night. They were tired and the fire was warm. The gentle breeze in the trees made an eerie, lulling sound that seemed to resemble a gentle, soporific lullaby. In fact, this was a bit too close to the truth, as the party fell asleep having left nobody on guard.
considerable time later, Alagon was woken by the insistent chirruping
and shaking of Relic, and when the party roused itself they found that
one of their members was missing. Whilst they had been sleeping,
somebody – or something – had abducted Elysia.
Very soon, the
entire party was readied for action. They sent Relic on ahead to try and
find her but to no avail; she seemed to have vanished off the face of
However, Benbo quickly identified a trail that led
away from the campsite further into the forest and the party followed
it, soon noticing some interesting features about it – firstly that the
prints were not human but hoofs and that secondly, the hoofs were
smaller than horse-sized. Putting two and two together, both Benbo and
Alurax concluded that the suspected abductors were likely to be fauns,
otherwise known as satyrs.
The trail ended at a mysterious
structure in the forest, made up of two upright staves and a crossbeam;
it seemed to form a doorframe, although there was no door to go with it.
Showing an eagerness to find out what had become of Elysia, Benbo
stepped through it and promptly vanished from sight. Alagon went
through to find out what had become of the hobbit and he too vanished.
caused consternation amongst the remainder of the party but they
concluded that it was best to try and follow them in case they needed
help; the memory of the tragic fate that had befallen Galadeus was
clearly strong in their minds. Ferros was next through and that left
Alurax and Gullhar. The elf had a rope tied round his waist and Alurax
held its other end. Then Gullhar stepped through the gateway; to
Alurax’s alarm, the rope went suddenly slack.
On the far side of
the gate, the various party members had found themselves in a wintry
landscape, wide acres of snow and before them, a strange object – a tall
pole of iron with a lantern at its top. Dangling from the crossbar were
several little bags that Benbo could not, unfortunately reach, but
Alagon was able to pluck them down and found that they were full of oats
and dried fruit. He stowed these about his person and they looked about
to see what this new place was like.
Whilst they were
exploring, the other members of the party arrived, one by one.
Eventually even Alurax turned up, unwilling to remain on the other side
of the gate alone. However, they found that the gate had disappeared
when Alurax passed through; there seemed to be no way back.
across the snow, the party could see three distant gates, similar to
those that they had already passed through. They decided to explore each
in turn. The left-hand gate led them into a realm of deep snow, where
Benbo sank nearly out of sight. Alagon had to carry the hobbit until
they reached another gate that took them out of the drifts and into
easier going. In the distance, they could see a strange object, made of
what looked like metal, but they decided to check out the other gate
from the snowdrifts.
That led them into a more forested area
where they soon heard the jingling of bells and the sound of hoofbeats.
Expecting someone different, they were surprised when a mysterious,
fur-clad woman in a sleigh pulled up. She got out a box and tried to
tempt members of the party with something called Turkish Delight.
Strangely enough, nobody in the party wanted to try this new-found
substance and instead fired several arrows and crossbow bolts at her.
Wounded and outraged, the woman beat a hasty retreat into the trees.
party decided to return to investigate the mysterious object that they
had already seen and found it to be some sort of machine, made of iron
and brass. There was a little hatch in it and a pile of coal that sat by
its side. Alurax decided to start piling the coal into the machine and
get a fire going. Soon, the machine was starting to hum and judder and
then, with a whoosh of steam, it produced a little jar of what appeared
to be a dark red sweet confection. A couple of minutes later, another
jar appeared, then another.
(all illustrations by Junior Grognard)
party stocked up on what was now revealed to be cranberry sauce. Not
too far away from the sauce-making machine, they noticed a parcel in the
snow which Alurax went over and examined. It was wrapped in colourful
paper and ribbon. When he opened it, out fell a small figurine of a
bear. He picked it up and noticed that it was growing warm; hastily
putting it down, he stepped back and watched as it grew to the size of
an adult polar bear, which bowed to the trident-wielder before following
the party as they headed off towards one of the distant gateways. The
party named him Larsh.
Beyond that gate, the party noticed some
figures approaching them through the snow; the figures were human-shaped
but not human and they seemed oddly two-dimensional, or at the very
least, rather thin. They were an orange-brown in colour and as they got
closer, it could be seen that they were attempting to surround the party
and herd them towards a nearby building whence came the strong smell of
menacing gingerbread men, for such they were, rubbed their ginger hands
together and pressed closer to the party. Alurax concluded correctly
that they were trying to turn the party into gingerbread men as well. At
this point, Benbo snapped and started to attack their opponents,
followed by Ferros, with Alurax and the polar bear weighing in. Ginger
legs and ginger arms went flying in all directions and the gingerbread
man that went up against the bear was reduced to crumbs in short order.
party managed to break through the encircling foes and made a dash for
safety. Ferros stumbled across another parcel and once they had put
sufficient distance between themselves and the gingerbread men, who
looked to be falling back on their lair, the cleric opened the parcel to
find that it contained a tiny glass snow dome. Having never seen one of
these before, he had a lot of fun shaking it vigorously and watching
the resulting blizzard.
Passing through the nearest gate, the
party found themselves on the shores of a frozen river. On the ice in
the middle of the river, another parcel sat. Benbo was keen to get hold
of it but correctly deduced that the ice was likely to crack if too much
load was placed on it. He therefore stripped down to his underwear and
crawled out onto the ice, reaching the parcel and pulling it slowly back
to the shore.
Once the blue, shivering hobbit had been wrapped
up and warmed again (albeit with the legacy of a stinking cold) he
opened the parcel to see what was inside. A huge flurry of snow and ice
sprang up, enveloping the party and when it subsided, they saw with a
groan that they had arrived back at the lamp-post where they had
However, all was not lost as, coming towards them in
the snow, was Elysia. She and Relic had a happy reunion and she told how
she had been charmed and kidnapped by the satyrs who lurked in the
woods where they had been camped. She thought that their leader might
have fallen for her and wanted her to become a female satyr; however,
she managed to escape during a snow storm and found her way back to the
lamp-post where she had hoped the party would catch up to her. So it
Near the lamp-post, another parcel was spotted.
Gullhar took it upon himself to open it and inside, found a long string
of brightly glowing lights, whose illumination had no obvious source;
clearly they had to be magic and they were secreted in the party’s
belongings – Elysia had visions of using them to decorate the Moat
There was one other gate that they had not explored so
far and as they passed through it, they found themselves in a confusing
mass of tangled holly bushes. At once, they began to search for a path
and eventually managed to find one. At the centre of the holly thicket,
Alagon found another parcel and, on opening it, discovered that he had
acquired another set of the mystical glowing lights. It would certainly
be bright at the Moat House this coming winter.
Through the next
gate, the party found that the terrain had become more open and that, a
fair distance off, stood a large beast with proud antlers, a harness,
bells and reins. The party approached it cautiously and then remembered
the small bags of oats and fruit that they had found on the lamp-post.
Using one of these, they tempted the reindeer. Ferros used his Speak
with Animals ability but the strange influence of the wintry world in
which they found themselves meant that his voice became deep and booming
and his speech was frequently punctuated by outbursts of “Ho ho ho”.
Nevertheless, the party managed to win its confidence and it told them
that its name was Prancer and his home lay north of where they now
stood. After opening the parcel that was to be found in this area and
finding that within was a third set of the magical lights, they set off
passed into the next area, they were met by the sound of strange
singing and the sight of a line of figures dancing a very odd dance. As
they got closer, they saw to their amazement that they had come across a
party of very drunk goblins dancing the conga. The party was invited to
join in and Ferros, Benbo, Alurax and Alagon did so. Unfortunately,
only Ferros and Benbo were left standing by the time the goblins got
bored and wandered off, but not before having rewarded the duo with a
flagon of goblin beer and a goblin goody-bag each. The goblins left
behind a parcel which, when opened, revealed a second polar bear figure.
The party clearly had little to fear with their impressive and furry
escort whom they named Micha.
The next gateway led them to another reindeer by the name of Dancer, which they swiftly befriended with another bag of food.
elected to open the accompanying parcel and found to his horror that he
was trapped inside a cage of icicles. He could not smash his way out in
case they came crashing down on his head. Elysia had the bright idea of
casting Affect Normal Fires on his torch, causing it to blaze up and he
used it as a blowtorch to cut through the ice before it finally
sputtered out and failed. Alurax clambered through the hole that he had
cut but unfortunately, he caught his foot on the icicles as he made his
way out and brought the cage down on him, one of the barbs of ice
slashing his leg as he rolled clear.
The party pressed on north,
or so they hoped. An interesting development occurred when Elysia cast a
Fly spell to reach the parcel in the next region, only to find that she
turned into a Christmas Fairy, complete with wings, sequinned dress and
tiara for the duration of the spell. The reindeer that they found here
- Vixen - looked on with some curiosity as the box was opened to reveal a
selection of crackers. Only Alurax and Gullhar saw fit to pull one
between them; inside was a small metal object which, when pressed, shone
a small beam of light. Gullhar, who had won the cracker pulling, seemed
delighted with his new-found toy and secreted it about his person.
next area the party entered was dominated by a large sculpture made of
ice. As Alurax approached it to investigate, it started to bubble and
gurgle, and from the top of it came a river of warm, liquid chocolate.
The party was delighted and Alurax stuck his head under the fountain to
drink it. As he did so, the wound on his leg healed up magically.
Gullhar borrowed two empty potion bottles from Ferros to fill with the
mystical brown elixir. Benbo tried to drink as well but as he was not
injured, the draught had no effect.
greedy, Alurax drank again and unfortunately he and all his possessions
turned to chocolate. He was still mobile and sentient however. Behind
the fountain, they found another parcel and sure enough inside was
another polar bear figurine. They now had three of the great white
creatures – Larsh, Micha and Greta.
As they passed through the
gateway into the next area, they found that one of the portals they
could see was guarded by a large, tree-like figure, crowned with holly.
This guardian required that they sang a Christmas song in order to try
and persuade it to let them pass. The first attempt did not move the
holly guardian but the second was done with enough aplomb that it moved
aside and allowed them entry.
Beyond the gate, they found that there was a chimney sticking out of the ground. On further investigation, they discovered a parcel sitting behind it and when it was opened, they found it contained a bag of rock salt ideal for traversing stretches of ice and snow. Elysia,
Benbo, Alagon, Ferros, Gullhar and finally Chocolate Alurax went down the
chimney and found at the bottom a little workshop and an old
man in a green robe, drinking a cup of hot chocolate.
man explained that he was a cleric of unimaginably high power who had
found the world a crowded and threatening place and now sought some
peace and quiet in which to meditate and contemplate the finer things in
life. Notwithstanding this, he was grateful for the return of three of
his reindeer. He allowed the party to say goodbye to their polar bear
friends before the bears returned to figurine status and then asked what
the party members would like as their Christmas wishes, with the
proviso that said wishes should be within his power to grant.
asked for a hawk as a familiar, Alagon a white wolf. Benbo wanted a
phoenix and Ferros a pseudo-dragon like Relic. Gullhar, who had clearly
been taken with Larsh, Micha and Greta asked for a polar bear familiar,
whilst Elysia asked if it were possible to return Galadeus to life as
she had kept his hand (the sole salvage from the shark attack) and hoped
that the cleric would be powerful enough to resurrect the ranger. He
gestured to a large wrapped parcel in the corner of his workshop which,
when unwrapped, contained the body of their departed comrade. It had one
wrist ending in a stump and when Elysia joined the hand to it, the two
merged and a soft glow enveloped the whole body, which then started
As they all gathered round to welcome Galadeus back to
the land of the living, Elysia slid the ring of Mammal Control back onto Galadeus' finger and whispered "This is yours, old friend." Nobody noticed that the workshop and the old
man gradually faded away to be replaced by the woodland where they had
been camping. Had it all been a dream? Demonstrably not!
– a light-hearted Christmas session on which to end the year. Regular
readers will recall that last year, we had an ordinary session at the
last meeting before Christmas and this time, I wanted something a little
wacky, goofy, often laugh out loud, which I think we managed to
achieve. Now I have to go away and think of how I can create familiars
that satisfy the desires of the party without unbalancing the game
In the year since the last Christmas session, we’ve
seen a lot going on. Every member of the party has worked well to make
the campaign an enjoyable experience. Alagon’s player joined us for that
session and he’s fitted in seamlessly with the party (decapitating an
ogre a couple of weeks later), as has Benbo/Galadeus’ player, whose
determination, eagerness and excitement about play is a credit to him
and an example to we grognards of the way we were – and still should be.
Next year will see the party occupying that sweet spot between
the lower and higher levels; strong enough to avoid a TPK every session
but not so strong that they can waltz through dungeons with nary a fear
in the world. I will be bringing in more pre-pubs as well so the type of
encounters and adventures that they will be facing are going to change,
as may the treasure they garner. Threats and dangers will become more
serious but the rewards will be commensurately richer too. Who knows?
We may find our gallant band bearding Lolth in her own den this time
Shadowman Is Returning To Valiant... - Last seen in the Rapture mini-series and the Shadowman/Rae Sremmurd one-shot, Shadowman returns to the Valiant stable in his own title in March.
38 minutes ago