The Unspeakable Charity of Comrades
That evening Grim pushes a pile of 20 gold coins and 6 silver in front of Alex and Borrox.
“You take coin, buy supplies, get good stuff, Alex!” – Grim
“Uhhh, I have my own money, is there something we all need?” – Alex, stiffly
After some alone-time thought though, Alex – who’s on first watch once Jimmy’s finished leaning noisy objects against door and window – realizes he could sure use some better light-source and maybe some sturdy clothing now he’s not got leather armor to keep out the springtime gales.
The night, our eighth in Garrotten, passes uneventfully. It seems that the efforts of our heroes at making peace with various threats around Garrotten have been successful. Jimmy’s on breakfast shift and while he heads out to fetch the fish, Borrox finishes his devotions and hits the road up to Lydia’s with Alex. Grim leans contentedly on the eastern side of the cottage and waits for thoughts to trickle into his head.
Lydia lays out the various items that Alex wants on her store-bench, and flicks the beads on an abacus. She hears Borrox suggest a donkey, and Alex respond that they’ll need saddlebags. She gives them rough directions to a smallholding where a Halfling may have a donkey.
Grim leaps to his feet: he’s remembered something! Reminding Jimmy to keep an eye out for out-of-work fellows, he races north to Lydia’s.
Tents are Alex’s largest item: we’ll need two apparently.
“That’s just about 43 gold coins” – Lydia, clicking away busily
“Gahhh! You know I’m broke, and we only got 20 and some from Grim” – Borrox
Grim bursts in. Not even pausing to assure Lydia he’s got coin, he gasps:
“Alex! Buy good shirt!”
Explanations take longer [including to the GM who is frankly puzzled]. It turns out now that Grim knows it was Lydia’s blouse that was originally used for oil-bomb wicks, he wants to use Alex’s shirt, replacing it with a good shirt.
Alex – now clad in a clean new shirt – Borrox and Grim leave the supplies with Lydia, purchase a donkey named Blossom from the Halfling, bring it back and load it up. Then it’s off to break their fast at the cottage. Over the char-grilled fish, Jim asserts that there have been no convenient wayfarers or luckless mercenaries. Alex and Borrox are puzzled. Again.
“Need fighter. Or you want fight along me?” – Grim
“An’ we need someone ter lead th’ donkey, anyways” – Jimmy
Grim scratches his head and referring back to his detailed census of the “Grim-town” houses, heads over to a cottage where a few down-at-heel adventurers had been living. He readies a gold coin and knocks, and when the door opens a crack, rolls it between thumb and forefinger temptingly.
“Want work? Want gold? Me got work” – Grim
A sturdy-looking man decides to find out what the work is and is directed back to Alex. He hears the proposals and agrees to drive the donkey (and guard it), for a gold a day, plus food and board. His name is Kendrick.
“I can be ready to travel in two minutes. Just say the word” – Kendrick
As it happens, we are ready to go. Kendrick is as good as his word so the five of us plus Blossom head north, bound for Hommlet.
Party Order and what’s to hand
- Grim (javelins, staff)
- Borrox (crossbow), Jimmy (crossbow)
- Kendrick (Blossom’s halter lead, slung longbow)
- Blossom, Alex (slung longbow)
Kendrick’s job is simply to mind Blossom, and make sure it doesn’t get killed if we are attacked. Grim bears his three javelins and is using his 10’ pole as a staff; Borrox is carrying his crossbow loaded but isn’t planning to use it.
“If we strike trouble, the first thing I do is hand the crossbow to Grim. When it comes to shooting I have an issue with barns and broad sides” – Borrox
A word of recommendation
It’s mid-morning and we’re not far out of Garrotten, when Grim sights an oncoming patrol of horse, bound back to the Keep by the look of them. We draw respectfully over to the verge and Alex steps forward and waves an open hand in friendly greeting. The leader curbs his mount alongside us. Alex strikes an easy rapport [all role-played, as unless Alex said something untoward his natural Cha bonus covers the situation] and along with a loose estimate of travel time, the leader recommends the Welcoming Wench as the best place to stop.
We also get an inkling of Hommlet’s nature. The patrols used to get that far and the leader can tell us it was resettled under the auspices of St. Cuthbert. We can expect to find a proper St. Cuthbert temple or chapel. There’s also a militia. Grim’s brow knots as this registers.
“Gives me idea bounty must be for real bad stuff if militia don’t do it” – Grim
And a word to the wise
We break the route march for a full meal break around the second hour of the afternoon. Jimmy takes the chance to “remind” his new companions that caution is advised.
“See, towns is like a plank of wood on the ground” – Jimmy
“Flat?” – Grim
“One side in the mud?” – Borrox
“Needing some polish to avoid splinters?” – Alex
… – Kendrick
“Nah, yeah, there’s a top side that looks pretty clean and helpful. That’s where the law operates. Then there’s a side that the other side never sees: things are crawling around under it and yer can get squashed if yer not careful” – Jimmy
We agree to keep our noses clean and a weather eye out and so on when we get to Hommlet. Jimmy will do some ear-to-the-ground stuff to find out if “his” kinds of people are operating there.
A Holdup! Wait, What? We are competent?!
Around the fourth hour of the afternoon, the weather is closing in. Woods surround the road but at a good distance: it’s fairly clear on both immediate flanks. Alex has now readied his bow so that he can cast a spell then nock an arrow.
Ahead in the somewhat murky daylight, Grim picks out an Orc standing four-square in the middle of the road. The Orc bears a Two-Hander sword and is stoutly armored. It raises its hand and at about 50’ range bellows:
“Hold! You pay toll to pass! Ten gold!”
Grim casts a surreptitious eye around, expecting – and seeing – flank parties. There’s a pair of Orcs on each flank, armed with a mix of short-bow and spear. They seem mere scrubs next to the big Orc on the road.
Grim rubs his chin and calls back, in Orcish:
“Ho brother! We will pay! Let me get gold from the priest – he is carrying it!” – Grim
“Good! You are wise to be reasonable!” – Orc brigand Leader
“Hand me crossbow” – Grim, turning back to Borrox and whispering
Jimmy has been taking his cue off Grim, and is fully ready when Grim takes the crossbow, dropping the javelins and catching the brigands off guard as he spins round to fire at the Orc Leader!
- Orc Leader
- Grim, Jimmy
- Kendrick (and Blossom)
Surprise round: Grim’s shot is accurate [unconfirmed threat, 2 damage] closely followed by Jimmy’s bolt slamming home [crit, 10 damage]. [Jimmy’s Init is technically ahead of Grim’s based on Dex but as he had taken his cue from Grim, comes in just after Grim now.] Jimmy drops his crossbow and draws his short sword. Alex has also taken his cue from the party van and drops the left-flank pair of Orcs with a Sleep spell! Kendrick readies his sword and shield while holding onto Blossom; and Borrox readies his mace.
Round 1: The bull-Orc rages and charges Grim, who is saved from a savage wound by his new chain shirt! [Hits AC15, Grim is now AC16.] Grim draws his own mighty weapon, rages, and strikes the Orc [rolls a 19, 8 damage]. Jimmy slips around behind the bull-Orc, and stabs high [crit, 18 damage] sending it toppling over in its death-throes!
Kendrick covers the right flank in case the Orcs there decide to charge, while Alex, beginning his Bardic Chant, steps back to get line of sight clear of Blossom and easily drills one with a long arrow. The pair take to their heels leaving Borrox to merely be thankful he expended no spell.
In the next round or so Jimmy slaughters and loots the helpless sleeping Orcs under Borrox’ supervision (the old adage “never let the thief get out of sight” is in play here) and Grim loots the bull-Orc.
We decide not to track the routed pair of Orcs, in case it turns out they are retreating to a full-blown Lair. Equipment not taken as spoils is ruined so no Orc can use it again.
Grim has had an eye open for likely hunting at a waterside, and selects a camp not too far from water. While the others set up, Grim hunkers down near the water behind cover ready with his javelins, and Jimmy throws a hopeful hook-and-line out. When he wakes up he’s caught nothing but Z’s but Grim returns with a fresh-cleaned goat, which will serve for both evening and morning meals.
With watches agreed, Grim asks Jimmy to lay out the coins taken from the Orcs and adds the coins and gear he took. He’s already claimed the two-hand sword. That leaves a short sword, eight gold, 20 silver and 40 coppers.
“We talk shares – you want share? You fight good?” – Grim, to Kendrick
Kendrick is cautious about any renegotiation, but his first combat with us has encouraged him. He decides to wait to find out what the word is in Hommlet. As for Jimmy, he is more than happy with the first trouble alongside the other three: two superb strikes in a row is a good omen!
Grim shoves two gold round to the others and a pile of 20 silver at Kendrick.
“You keep! You think! Join us, get more money!” – Grim
Hommlet: First Impressions
It’s midday the following day when we reach Hommlet: a day and a half of walking at loaded-donkey pace [2 miles/hr]. It seems quite a well-settled place, considering it has been claimed back from chaos, but maybe that’s because the original cottages were left in place. We walk past a few self-contained-looking cottages to a crossroad of sorts. A Smithy is obvious across the road and up to the left the Welcoming Wench is equally obvious, thanks to its size and the sign-board depicting a welcoming wench, complete with foaming tankard. Up on a hill west is a temple, and up on a hill north is a tower.
Blossom is stabled and we head inside. The gent running the place is named Ostler. He tells us Burne the Mage runs the village, and we should talk to him about bounty. Burne occupies the tower. The priests of St. Cuthbert run the temple. Ostler explains that the village was settled under the auspices of St. Cuthbert which supervised a settlement company, which most villagers belong to, though some are “originals” who proved their title was still good.
We are getting the impression of Hommlet as we pay for drinks and organize a meal and board. It seems a tightly-run place, where most of the men are a volunteer militia. We split up to small groups to see to various bits of business.
“And just who are these companions of yours, bother Borrox?” – Canon
A cheerful young brother has ushered Borrox in and introduced him to a grumpy older priest with the rank of Canon. He wants to know about us.
“Are they also worshipers of the Saint?”
“Ehrm, Alex, now, Alex is a fine sort, well-dressed and civil… he plays a lute and tells the sagas of bold men” – Borrox
“A bard!? A stranger to hard work then!” – Canon
“Uh yes, and then there’s, uhm, Jimmy, Jim, is a type who is quick with his hands and nimble…” – Borrox
“Let me guess the rest… city accent, carries a knife or three, likes the shadows?” – Canon
“Uh yes, that [i]would[/i] be one way of describing him” – Borrox
“And who is the other member?” – Canon
“Why I nearly forgot, we have a strapping, straightforward hireling, armed with sword and shield. His name is uh… Kendrick” – Borrox
“Well, that sounds all right. But you have not yet told me of your fourth companion” – Canon
“He is a, eh, a demihuman… And a barbarian” – Borrox
“Oh. I see…” – Canon
“His name is Grim, and uh, he is a, uh, Half-Orc” – Borrox
“Oh. Indeed. So is he one step removed from wiping his ass with other people’s asses, or not even there yet?” – Canon
“No, not so bad. <hastily> And I have high hopes for him now, he has made great strides” – Borrox
The Canon warns Borrox to keep us in line, and bids him fare well.
“Brother Smith” sharpens Grim’s new sword. He reckons there’s a band of brigands around, but they’re elusive and the militia can never catch them camped. He explains the difference between the “real” militia under a man named Rufus, and the “cottage” militia who volunteer. As talk turns to where we might sell loot, he mentions traders who live just over the western arm of the stream, and who aren’t part of the settlement company. Grim pays the few coppers sharpening fee and heads back to the inn.
Most Worshipful Mage: Gold! In our hands! What a deal!
Alex, with Jimmy in tow, asks for the Most Worshipful Mage Burne at the tower. The guard calls Rufus, who is armored in chain and carrying an axe. Rufus summons Burne, who is dressed in a mage robe and who, though he wears an air of authority, proves quite young.
Burne blames bandits: they hold an old moat-house off north, but they slip away when the militia go up there. The bounty is 200 gold, and it will be advanced up front. The conditions are that certain items of value to the village – particularly a silver statue – must be returned if found. He also warns Alex to keep a low profile about the mission and not noise it round the village.
There is a second threat, worth 400 on completion, and it is a hobgoblin band.
Dazzled by the offer of 200 up front, Alex agrees and carries the four pounds of gold back in triumph.
Hey, what do we do with all this gold?
Evening has set in. Alex entertains at the inn and earns some silver. Jimmy has a quiet word to Ostler, asking about a money changer type. Ostler gives him directions (it’s very near the traders). The evening meal is good: Borrox joins us after his sparse repast up at the temple. He offers the thought that St. Cuthbert’s priests can be trusted with the money, more so than a pawnbroker/moneylender. It’s agreed, and Borrox will later cart the 200, plus 50 of Grim’s wealth, up to the temple. Canon agrees to keep it, but for a “voluntary donation” in return.
Plans for Bandits! Punch the face? Or Stupid-o-clock?
We take an evening stroll out of earshot and kick around ideas for how to tackle bandits. We suspect the bandits are getting word from an inside man in the village, which would explain how they evade the militia so easily. So how to catch them off-guard? Grim comes up with a “cunning plan.” He explains Alex’s role:
“You win big off me in dice game. We quarrel, you leave. Everyone know you carry gold. You go alone, north. We watch. Bandits rob you, we kill them” – Grim
Borrox has a simpler plan, but one which calls for a careful bit of planning:
“We leave at stupid o’clock, walk north, I make my devotions, we strike the moat-house before any word could get to bandits” – Borrox
“I like that better” – Alex
“True, I no have to punch you face for that to work” – Grim
“Wait, there was a plan where you punched me in the face?!? OK I definitely like the other plan better!” – Alex
So it’s a very early start for us. At present we’ve agreed on terms for a common room, so Grim upgrades us all to individual rooms: that way other lodgers will have much less chance of noting the departure of five heavily-equipped adventurers.
And so to a short night’s sleep.