For the love of all that is holy, will someone just ask her about the book?
***WARNING - CONTAINS SPOILERS - DO NOT READ IF YOU INTEND TO PLAY THE MODULE***
The village of Jungfrau is famous for its partying, and in particular the annual totentanz. Taking place in early spring, this is a week long festival of entertainment, feasting, singing, dancing, and especially drinking. Jungfrau welcomes visitors of all persuasions, and so it is that humans, demihumans, and even some well behaved humanoids, travel for days to join in the celebration of some meaningful event which has been forgotten in a hedonistic haze.
With the popularity of the event reaching farther and farther abroad with each passing year, so the catering becomes more difficult, and it is not uncommon for hunters who leave and return with supplies to be crowned kings or queens of the barkenblitz. Last year Talvas enjoyed the adulation of the festival goers with two huge stags which he dragged in from the Overland, but this year he has a different story to tell...
It’s the 4th night of the totentanz. Dorbo (dwarven Fighter) sits by a bonfire, drinking with his new friends Farlinnin (human Ranger), Holy Kit (human Cleric) and Ogli Cowl (dwarven Thief). A hunter staggers over to them. Uninvited, he sits down, raises a weathered drinking horn and recounts a story of a hunting party, a herd of deer, the Slagfaltet, a little man with a funny stick, a huge bird, and a scene of carnage. Three of the hunting party were killed by the bird. The little man was swatted into the air and grabbed by some awful fish insect which came out of the Slagfaltet. But that bird...that ugly bird...with that wondrous feather.
Young Benflum had said that that feather would be worth a pretty penny. All the ladies in Liedlpfeffen wanted one, and were willing to pay for it. Talvas is badly injured and can’t go after it, but he had shot the bird with an arrow so has a claim on the kill. If someone else were to bring the bird down he’d agree to a 50:50 split.
The party don’t take long to accept greed as a motivator, and agree to hunt down the bird the next morning. They tend to Talvas’s injuries and pass out in a drunken haze.
Next morning they make tracks to the hunting parties’ campsite and find evidence of the truth of Talvas’s tall tale. Scavenging birds, rodents, and arthropods scatter everywhere as the party follows the trail of deer viscera to the Slagfaltet. But for the scattered remains of deer, the stench of decay, and the swarms of files, this would be a pleasant scene, with the placid lake surrounded by lush meadows and carpets of flowers, themselves fringed by trees in first leaf.
The Ranger’s examination of the banks of the lake reveal evidence of a small humanoid having landed heavily in the mud and being dragged into the lake by something. Farlinnin bends down to pick up a partly buried shoe and a funny stick with a rabbit’s skull on the end, but as he does he is surprised when a huge lobster leech leaps out of the pool and sinks its lamprey-like teeth into his arse. The others leap to his aid, Ogli ramming a short sword between two chitinous plates and stirring vigorously. Farlinnin, at great risk to self, manages to slip a dagger between his arse and the monster, but not before the nasty thing has drained an arseful of his blood. The thing tries to slip away back into its murky lair, but too late as Dorbo’s axe slices a vital nerve and leaves it twitching in the mud. Ogli carves off a lump for sushi.
Ogli climbs a tree to watch out for more murkbeasts whilst a search of the area around the lake reveals a clear trail of destruction, and talon prints of a large bird. Wisely following the trail into the woods, the party come across an enclosed meadow, with odd hillocks and discordant music. Ogli climbs another tree. Reeds protrude from the top of each hillock, but all except one disappear when Kit decides to take a closer look, like worms on a coral reef. The remaining reed gives off one unpleasant note and smoke pours out of all of the hillocks quickly filling the clear air of the meadow. All three adventurers on the ground fall to their knees, coughing and wheezing, as hundreds of tiny people appear, and start running around the meadow like desperate ants, running into the party and each other as they disappear into the trees. Ogli can only watch in astonishment.
When the dust clears the little people have gone. The party take turns in trying to squeeze down a burrow, but see only a hovel inside and sagaciously decide that it’s not worth the effort.
The bird trail leads back into the trees and eastwards towards the towering limestone escarpment which dominates the surrounding countryside. Before they reach it though, they decide to investigate a huge graveolent, a pile of crap of the ages. Searching around, they find a canvas with an unfinished picture of a feather and some carbon stencils. Kit climbs to the top of the pile to sift through the crap at the top, and is dive bombed by what appears to be some kind of giant vulture eagle. Its speckled feathers betray its immaturity. It bites the cleric, but he smashes with his mace and the two of them tumble down the pile into the path of Farlinnin, who cleaves it with his greatsword. Badly injured, the bird tries to take off, but not before Kit blinds it with a Light spell, and they watch as in the distance it flies head first into the escarpment, tumbles, but manages to cling on to a ledge, barely alive.
A hike up the cliff path leads to a large natural cavemouth, with water dripping from the ceiling 11’ above. Following a tunnel the party comes to a cavern with a shallow moat, water sparkling with miniature stars. Dorbo has a Helm of Underwater Action and he’s not about to let this opportunity slip by. He lays on the floor and puts his face in the water. The stars mass around his head. He kicks his legs, but shows no intent to stand up. Ogli grabs him by the collar of his chainmail and yanks him away, to reveal that his face is covered in tiny bites and the leather strap of his helm has been nibbled. Dorbo describes the stars as tiny fishies, and continues to view the whole sequence of events as sidesplittingly funny. The party rush across the narrowest part of the pool.
The tunnel slopes up to a larger cavern dominated by a column of salt carved into an exaggerated female form. A fancy chair is positioned to best enjoy the view. Charcoal stencils litter the floor around the chair, but are left by the party in favour of a set of aeruginous copper torch sconces, which are scavenged into Ogli’s bag of holding.
The next cavern is littered with boulders and stinks of guano. To one side there is a pile of shredded furnishings, in front of which is a large flightless predatory bird. The bird looks angry, condescending, and somewhat demanding. Far from the beautiful plume which had been described, it has a rather straggly feather cresting its bald head. Screeching, it rushes towards Farlinnin, who bravely hides behind a rock, preventing damage from the charge, but limiting his own sword swings. Dorbo and Kit charge in to the fray, whilst Ogli skirts around the edge of the cavern with the intention of bringing the bird down from behind.
Dorbo and Kit damage the bird before Kit is grabbed by the head and slung against the wall of the cavern, unconscious and bleeding.
Ogli is surprised by another bird, this time with an astounding feather crest, coming to the aid of its mate from a tunnel in the cavern wall. He is gored by a swinging beak and eviscerated by a terrible clawed talon.
Both birds escape through the exit tunnel towards the outside, but she calls him a coward, and sends him back in to face the party and protect the nest. Clucking, he returns to combat but is brought down by Farlinnin’s greatsword and Dorbo’s axe. Enraged that she is unable to trust her mate with such a simple task, she charges the party once again but fares no better.
Feathers are plucked. Kit, barely clinging to life, is given emergency first aid. Ogli is pronounced dead at the scene. Having suffered heavy losses already the party decide not to risk exploring the caverns further. They do however take a large lump of bird meat (tastes like rancid mud) and return in triumph to the totentanz.