The Slaying of Ernalda is a HeroQuest for the Zorak Zoran Cult. It is based on a myth fragment in a write-up of the Babeester Gor Cult which I read several years ago and loved so much I had to do something with it. I believe the write-up now appears on Jane Williams' excellent pages.
This Quest is unusual in that it is a "Losing Quest". By this, I mean that the original participant (Zorak Zoran) lost in the Quest. This means that the subsequent Questors lose more often than not and that there is no shame in losing. In fact, rewards are gained in the cult for losing in the spirit of Zorak Zoran. In the event that the Questor actually wins, he gains a fair amount of power.
The Quest has something in common with the Fire Maul Quest and further explores the "Cry Baby" Aspect of Zorak Zoran. I feel that this is important as, to me, Zorak Zoran is the typical "Bully" God - big, brash, full of spite but turns into a Cry Baby when defeated. Obviously the trolls do not dwell on this Aspect of the God, but it is there in any case and should be further developed.
As far as possible, this is a stat-less HeroQuest. This enables the same HeroQuest to be used for beginning initiates as for Super Rune Levels. In my opinion, HeroQuests should not be aimed at certain levels of play since they transcend the RuneQuest game. The GM must do some work in order to prepare appropriate stats for the encounters. Always bear in mind the Law of Balance - HeroQuestors will meet those of similar skill/magic level on HeroQuests. Do not pit initiate HeroQuestors against Demigods, for instance (even though Cwim, the Crimson Bat and Cacodemon all have RuneQuest stats).
The HeroQuest uses Personality Trait Checks in order to force certain actions at certain times. This is now a standard HeroQuest feature, common to most HeroQuest systems and should not cause any problems. I would suggest that any Gloranthan campaign use Personality Traits whatever system is used and regardless of whether the campaign has HeroQuests - they can add a lot to the game.
During the Lesser Darkness, before the Spike exploded but after Yelm was slain, many Gods of Darkness left Hell and took their rightful place as Lord of the Surface. Chief amongst these was Zorak Zoran, Reaver of the World. Alone and with others he rampaged through the World, defeating and destroying. Eventually, he saw Death, that which had caused the Darkness and brought him to power, and he desired it. He watched it pass from hand to hand until he saw High King Elf use it to kill Stone. Zorak Zoran asked his friend Trickster for help and managed to gain Death for himself in the form of an Axe.
This new Power helped Zorak Zoran destroy more and more until he found Flamal, Father of Plants. Enraged and driven by Hate and Hunger, Zorak Zoran swung his dread Axe and began the Great Hunger. Encouraged by this deed, Zorak Zoran searched for the Greatest of the Earth Goddesses to Destroy. However, all of the Earth Goddesses had hidden within Gata's body in mourning over their Brother's Death. Zorak Zoran searched in vain for Ernalda until his friend Trickster showed him where to look.
Zorak Zoran took his Axe, Death, and swung it once again. The Head bit deep within the Earth and would have slain Ernalda except that she drew upon her Powers and gave birth, unaided and without a husband, to one of the Defenders of the Earth - Babeester Gor. This newborn Goddess reached out and grabbed hold of the Axe, Death, twisting off the Axe Head and leaping forth from the Earth holding the Power and the Shield of Arran that had been buried with her mother. Zorak Zoran was left holding a piece of wood and confronted with an enraged Goddess covered with the blood and gore of birth holding Death and the Earth Shield. He did what he had to and left using all his guile and stealth. Afterwards he learned to use the stick he now possessed to hold his powers of Death. This is why Trolls use Mauls and Clubs not the Axe that they first used.
Fear, Seal Wound, Berserker, Slash
All Fire Magic, Crush
The Zorak Zoran HeroQuestor must prepare for this Quest by going to a recognised Holy Spot or Temple. He must leave all his weapons behind and must depart on the Quest with only his personal strength and skill. He casts the "Slaying of Ernalda" spell and begins the Quest.
Slaying of Ernalda (4 point, Ritual Ceremony, HeroQuest spell)
This spell allows the caster or the recipient to perform the "Salying of Ernalda" Zorak Zoran HeroQuest.
Station 1 - The First Rampage
Here, Zorak Zoran is without Death but is still destroying all in his path.
The Questor must go unarmed into the world and destroy all he encounters.
This can be dangerous, but usually only attracts weak foes as part of the Quest. However, occasionally a Zorak Zoran Questor may be ambushed here by his enemies who appear as his foes and can try to defeat him - he is unarmed, they are not.
Enemies met here may include humans, dwarves, aldryami, dragonewts, in fact most non-chaotic foes of the cult. They will usually be weak and unarmed, farmers or traders, occasionally families out on picnics, that kind of thing. The fights will be quick and bloody with the Zorak Zorani Questor victorious. Losing here is a very bad thing and would reflect badly on the Questor's standing in the cult and amongst his peers.
This is traditionally a good place for some over the top Roleplaying - the Questor revelling in his powers to destroy, tearing out hearts with his bare hands, smashing skulls with his fists while singing Glory Songs.
Station 2 - Gaining Death
Eventually, the Questor will see a group of Elven HeroQuestors on their way to fight a group of Dwarven HeroQuestors. He will see the Elves kill the Dwarves with their Shiny Axes. He must succeed in a Cautious Check (or fail an Impulsive one) otherwise he will even try to gain one of the Axes himself by charging into the group and trying to take one. This is obviously doomed to failure and should be rewarded with many wounds, non-fatal.
Wounded and hurt, Zorak Zoran limps after the elves until he meets a friend - Trickster. His friend offers to help him gain Death, although this will indebt the Questor to the Trickster - the Trickster will be able to ask for a favour in the future. (1) Obviously, if the Questor is particularly powerful he can refuse this favour, but who wants to be on the bad side of a Trickster HeroQuestor?
Between the two they devise a cunning plan to gain Death. This can be as outlandish as possible and will always work - the Trickster is given any type of Trickster magic here and will use it to gain Death.
Station 3 - Slaying of Flamal
The Questor immediately goes to where Flamal lives and kills him. On Practice Run Quests this is usually the Priest, often an Elf or a Dryad, of a Flamal Shrine or Temple. This will be simple as the Flamal HeroQuestor is unarmed and weak and the Zorak Zoran cultist has a Shiny New Axe. Here, as in other parts of the Quest, the Questor may Heroically cast Bladesharp, Slash and Seal Wound - a potent combination.
Station 4 - Slaying of Ernalda
The Questor now searches for Ernalda in order to slay her, but wherever he looks she is not there. He will be unable to find her without help. Each time he tries he will be met with a different encounter which will be progressively difficult to defeat - use the same enemies as he met before but with weapons and magic.
Eventually, he must ask Trickster for help. Check against Stubborn - if he fails then he calls for Trickster otherwise he continues on with more and more danger. His friend appears and offers to guide him to Ernalda's resting place, in return for a favour to be reclaimed later. (2)Together they travel to a place where the Earth is strong. (In Practice Run Quests this is usually an Ernalda Shrine or Temple but may equally well be a Sacred Spot or place where a Nymph lives).
Zorak Zoran finds the Ernalda HeroQuestor here and tries to kill her with the Axe. However, she uses her Hero Magic and "gives birth" to a Babeester Gor HeroQuestor.
Depending on the skill of the Babeester Gor HeroQuestor she may do one of two things. She may either use a hatchet to strike at Zorak Zoran's Axe and break off the Axe Head or she may grab hold of the Axe Head and try to twist it off.
To break the Axe she needs to do twice its AP in one blow or to do its AP in one critical hit. Since she can use Axe Trance this is entirely possible, although she cannot use Slash.
To twist off the Axe Head she needs to overcome the Axe's AP with her STR. Since she is using Earth Strength at this time, her STR is doubled and this should be fairly easy.
If the Babeester Gor Questor fails to break the Axe or to twist off the head, the blow hits and should kill the Ernalda HeroQuestor, allowing the Zorak Zorani to kill the Babeester Gor Questor and loot the temple. This is a win and counts as Victory in the Quest.
If the Babeester Gor Questor succeeds in gaining the Axe, she has an Axe which she wields at her full skill with all the magic the Zorak Zoran Questor cast on it with the addition of Axe Trance, Earth Strength, Great Parry and Berserker. The Zorak Zoran cultist has a club which he can use at base chance only. If he stays and fights, he would probably lose.
The Zorak Zoran Questor must make a Bravery Check in order to stand and fight - normally he will forgo this check and take to his heels and uses all his guile and skills to outfox the Babeester Gor Questor. He may be aided by Trickster who demands a third favour for the deed. (3)
Station 5 - The Glorious Return
The Zorak Zoran Questor returns to the Holy Spot/Temple from which he started.
If he succeeded in the Quest he returns in Glory with all the loot from the Flamal and Ernalda Temples, a magical Axe with increased skill with the Axe and lots of kudos.
If he fails then he returns in Glory with a new weapon - the Club/Maul which he proudly shows to all present. He loses all skill with any Axe - his skill is reduced to 0% and he must be trained in the Axe to increase it again.
When the Quest ends, the Questor gets back his weapons and can use them as normal, except that his skill with an Axe will be reduced if he lost. Questors who win will often use the Axe in place of the maul.
Questors who perform this Quest on the God Plane and win may gain access to the Slash and Bladesharp spells through a Magic Weapon subcult shared with Babeester Gor.
1. This HeroQuest may only be Invoked to gain Axe powers such as Slash or Bladesharp if the Questor was originally successful on the Quest. Those Questors who fail in the Quest may not then use the Quest to gain Axe Magics.
2. The Questor will gain 2 or 3 debts to Trickster. This may be to a single HeroQuestor or to multiple Questors. In any case they should be paid on request. Most Tricksters will only ask for the traditional gifts (See Footnotes). Only twisted and warped Tricksters will ask for outrageous favours as they know that the favours will not be granted. Any favours which the Zorak Zoran Questor does not grant allows the Trickster to retaliate against the Zorak Zoran Questor without breaking troll law. This does not, however, prevent the Zorak Zoran Questor from smashing them about the head with a club if they annoy him too much. Being a Trickster is not easy.
3. This Quest, unlike most, cannot be performed in parts. In other words, the Questor may not gain Death and then leave the Quest. He must try to complete the Quest in order to keep his Axe. It is sometimes called "The Gaining of Death".
1. Traditionally the Trickster asks for Protection in Troll lands.
2. Traditionally the Trickster asks for Food.
3. Traditionally the Trickster asks for Presents.