Monday, April 8, 2019

Adventure - After the Giants: The Ruins of Nosnra's Steading Part 1

After the Giants: The Ruins of Nosnra's Steading Part 1

(With revision work inspired by Robert Holdstock)

A storm lashes the Jotens. Lightning flashes and thunder cracks. Torrents of rain cut through the forested slopes and valleys like miniature spearpoints, piercing, stinging and cold.

Night has fallen early and even the predators of the dark have hidden themselves from the wrath of the storm. An almost completely overgrown path leads to the bald head of a great hilltop. 

In the gloom walls of wood rise at its center, a gigantic structure, a small forest of roughly trimmed tree-trunks.

In the flash of lightning the scars of war can be seen. The doors of the mighty steading lie asunder, the wood split and burnt. A great portion of its roof now naught but a gaping hole charred around its edges. On closer inspection the wear of unkempt years lies heavy upon the timbers of its outer walls. Vines and shrubs climb, root and dig at the dead wood. Mold and fungus spread unchecked. Gaps between one trunk and another gape open by this invasive growth, but it is between these broken boles that the life existing among the corpse of this once mighty hold gleams out. Fire, a warm light which flickers amid the gloom. Somewhere within the ruin the spark and beat of life still pulses. 

Nosnra is gone and his steading in ruins but while its walls may be broken it does not lie empty. Here is a scenario dealing with the now ruined steading.

The Dead That Dream

Nosnra and his clan fell to their foes and lie unshriven amid the fields and ruins of the steading. The great war against the giants went on for years with both human, demi-human and giantish populations decimated. The spirits of these fallen giants were never released to dwell among their ancestors and Nosnra's spirit more than any other is greatly restless.

Upon the oerth lost souls often rise again, and so it happened with the giants; their flesh, their bones, their dark spirits animated, but the spirit of the clan with Nosnra as its focus became so lost that they have warped the land around them. Nosnra and the spirit of the clan in death have begun to dream.

It is years since the giants invaded the human lands below their hills and years since they were driven back again, but hill giants have been seen again along the edge of the wilderness. Giants that raid and kill, loot and burn, but giants that blades will not cut, though wounds appear and fade across their flesh, that arrows will not pierce, that magic used against them does not touch or slow.

A force of several dozen hill giants attacked and destroyed a frontier outpost, a small fortress and the town that was being built around it. A group of rangers tracking these giants saw them make a rough camp for the night, but as the moon began to rise they watched the flesh peel from the raiders bones and rot, or some fade till they were a translucent haze or others darken to till they were wavering blackness deeper than the night. By morning they were gone; the loot they had gathered left were it had been placed and their captives half-mad with fear.

The land further up into the hills has become a place of restless dreams and nightmares. Time does not pass as it should, night falls and lasts for days or for hours or moments, daylight can find the sun overhead as if at noon and in an eyeblink set or rise or hang in the sky unmoving. Men who sleep fade before waking or are beset by nightmares that drive them to madness or leave them torn or bleeding, or dead. Giants, ogres and wolves drift across the hills. Some are gathered as if to raid. Others walk the hills alone or in groups of hunters. They may pass by men in the open and not see them or track them down only to disappear in the midst of battle. Few who have entered these cursed hills have returned. The land blinds the eyes of sages and the divine who look from afar. Wizards who have used the power of flight or creatures who can fly or ride flying beasts lose themselves quickly beyond the border of civilization, some crashing to the ground, others circling back only to find that hours or days have been lost.

What Has Happened?

The spirits of Nosnra, the clan and the individual giants slain in and around the steading have, in their restless unlife, caused a sliver of the Demi-plane of Dreams to intersect with the Prime Material. The Demi-Plane of Dreams is easily fragmented and impinges constantly with the Prime Material through dreams, but normally it has little to no effect to most dreamers themselves and especially not to the reality of the Prime Material. But the invasion of the giants and the wars that raged above and below the oerth weakened the barrier between the planes and a fractured piece of Dreamland has become stuck.

Reality is warped around the hills and the borderlands. This rift between the planes has been growing slowly over the years but only recently has it become strong enough to spring into being, and slowly it is spreading.

The great druid Cathabach is the only person to have passed into the hills, reached the steading and returned. He has crafted a dozen charms from the bones of dead giants and the wood of the steading that will allow others to enter into this fragment of dreamland without suffering the worst of its effects. Cathabach is gravely wounded in both body and soul and cannot return, but he can offer advice and is sending a lesser druid Caithach and a ranger Manandoun as guides.

End Part One

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