By Joshua Raynack
Desperate herdsmen call upon the old gods of their ancestors only to realize it could cost them their livelihood.
Gift of the Gnarled One is a short adventure for four to five player characters. Although designed for the Feudal Lords Campaign ™, this adventure is suitable for any medieval fantasy setting.
War between two powerful feudal lords rages in the south and though winter approaches, both armies prepare to carry onward during the cold, brutal season. Soldiers move further north to raid and pillage for supplies. Several weeks ago, raiders began harassing the northern hills surrounding Lubri village.
Frightened and isolated, the elders gathered together to seek a resolution. After much deliberation, the desperate herdsmen sought out the Gnarled One, an ancient and twisted oak legend to command the power of the old gods. After elders recited the archaic ritual scrolls of their ancestors, the Gnarled One heard their plea and awoke from its deep slumber. The age-old oak blessed the strongest of the youths, a goat herder named Hugh, and transformed the lad into a bear.
Crazed and confused, the bear lashed out in anger before fleeing into the hills. Several days afterward, the beast drove the soldiers from the surrounding area. At first the villagers seemed pleased, despite the shock of their unwitting sacrifice. In their wisdom, the elders comforted the loved ones of Hugh hoping that his transformation would end once the raiders routed.
Unfortunate for Hugh and the rest of the tribe, his new form is permanent. Furthermore, the beast threatens the goat herds that sustain Lubri. The herdsmen, ill-equipped to subdue their kin, now seek out adventurers to aid in their plight.
The elders are unaware of the true nature of the gift bestowed by the Gnarled One. Hugh is a werebear. Unable to yet harness his new power, the lad is enraged and frightened. Furthermore, unbeknownst to the tribe, one of the surviving soldiers is also accursed with lycanthropy. Therefore, two such beasts roam the countryside.
This adventure assumes characters travel northward, exploring the mountainous regions in search of fame and glory. However, the following quests can further draw in adventurers for a more personal connection.
CLEARING NORTH ROAD Accused of not maintaining the roads in his lands, Sir Allen of Lerwick beseeches adventurers to investigate and remove debris along the old north road. Raiders fell several trees to block the path and waylay merchant caravans. The noble further informs adventurers that successful negotiation with the villagers of Lubri may convince the goat herders to assist in clearing the road.
MERCHANTS OF CASEUM The cheesemongers of the Casuem Merchant Guild, who depend on the northern herdsmen for goat cheese, fear raiders may threaten Lubri and other villages. The traders seek adventurers to investigate and assist the herdsmen to drive any pillagers from the land.