Gesta Gertrudis: Volume II
Time for another Gertrude update. The first of these sessions was held before the start of New Zealand’s current Level 4 lockdown. The second was held electronically during Lockdown – though I still missed it, since my computer had issues with the Discord. Not to worry, since I gave the DM permission to play the character, and some instructions on Gertrude’s combat tactics.
The party arrived at the ancient, mysterious ruined temple. Very overgrown, and apparently a relic of pre-Eternal Flame nature worship. Gertrude’s high Intelligence came in handy for a History check on the place – why, yes, she isn’t just a pretty face, even if her Wisdom is inferior to that of most inanimate objects. She kept asking “when will the Ghost turn up?”
Regrettably, we found no ghosts, but rather a door-riddle. This session was puzzle-heavy (which, out of game, I thoroughly enjoyed). The riddle went as follows:
“I must die to give birth. The closer I am to my parents the more I choke out their life. If I leave my parents for too long I will wither away. Who am I?”
Gertrude openly pondered whether it was some sort of flower, whereupon Ember opted for Fruit. Which was the answer, and so the door opened. Yay.
Inside was a dark corridor. Still no ghosts, but some apples hung from the ceiling. Manya and Thendwyn decided to help themselves… which Gertrude was appalled by. One ought to know that apples in stories are always bad news – the more tempting they are, the worse. Both ended up covered in sticky apple substance. Serves them right.
The next room decided to eat us. Yes, really. Think the mouth and throat of some strange and vast abomination.
Strictly, however, it wasn’t after us. It was after the taste of sweet apple-juice (Ha!). After we collectively realised what was going on, it was a simple matter of Prestidigitating the smell and fluid off the party (“a cantrip a day keeps the apple away?”), which allowed us to progress further into the temple.
After that, we ran into some thorn-and-vine creatures. These ones, it was clear, weren’t very powerful, but kept coming back… unless we used attacks that were thematically appropriate for each of the four seasons. Gertrude’s Spring-themed contribution? A casting of Phantasmal Force that looked like an avalanche of falling cherry blossoms.
Illusions can be powerful, but this was both powerful and pretty. And damage-dealing.
Violin-playing Gertrude threw in some Vivaldi-flavoured Bardic Inspiration too. The DM was asking for it at that point.
Then there was a room with four statues: a lamb, a gecko, a fox, and a bear.
This puzzle took a while, since at first sight it appeared another four seasons thing. In the end, it turned out that we had to give the respective animal sounds to each creature. “Baaah,” to the lamb, “Graaawwwrr,” to the bear. We had to look up what a gecko sounds like though, and I actually wasn’t aware that foxes make a “Yip-yip” sound (there are no foxes in New Zealand).
The final room was a vast underground forest. Which Gertrude was quite interested in exploring for its own sake – she’s a dingbat, yes, but her Dexterity and noble birth means she’s fond of hunting and genuinely good at it.
Unfortunately, this was also the occasion when a bit of local magic turned Elknel into his werewolf form. Oh dear.
This was the session I wasn’t present for, but my instructions to the DM were “Gertrude casts Mantle of Inspiration.” That’s a Glamour Bard ability that gives your allies temporary HP and some free movement. The rest of the party made good use of this, but Gertrude as DMPC had less luck with Mantle of Majesty, trying and failing repeatedly to make the Werewolf sit.
(That is a problem with Glamour Bards. Incredibly powerful against low-Wisdom enemies, but weak if the opponent reliably succeeds on their Wisdom saves. For Gertrude, level 10 Magical Secrets will be a game-changer).
Just as Elknel was on his last legs, he managed to break the silver chains Ember had bound him with, and ran off into the forest. There he ran into Alisa, an NPC whom we had met at the tavern a couple of sessions ago, and who had proved most helpful. She’s also a Werebear (Ursanthrope?). Alisa knocked Elknel unconscious, whereupon he reverted to his normal form.
Alisa’s experience with such matters enabled her to give advice to Ember (on how to hunt Werewolves), and Elknel (on how to deal with his condition). But before everyone could settle down for the night, there was a strange and sudden alarm.
On the surface, four Angels were attacking the temple.
Rushing back to the surface, the party were able to clarify matters. Our celestial friends were wanting to scourge this place of Evil. Since some in the party were followers of the Eternal Flame (most notably Thendwyn, but Gertrude is a Christmas and Easter-style follower), they commanded us to leave. But once it became clear that the Angels wanted to actually destroy the entire temple, with all its archaeological and cultural significance, some in the party objected…
(Gertrude still thinks everyone can be reasoned with. Yeah, that’s a bit hopeful).