The Characters for this session:
Fennec, Level 2 wizard (no specialty)
Cauleigh, Level 2 warrior (background: literate townsman)
Jotunn, Level 5 warrior (background: hunter; talent: tracking)
Crompton, Level 2 rogue (background: Runebearer; talent: roguery)
Converting loot into spending cash can be fun, and Rothway is a safe environment where the lads don’t have to operate as a fighting team just to get their money. So, the bulk of the session is spent in citygaming converting the loot, and in spending it on useful stuff. I’ll summarise.
- Caskets of money: These two sturdy caskets endured the century or more of damp dungeon easily. Crompton makes a good L3 DEX SR (with roguery) and opens them without wrecking the locks. Total cash immediately: 1060 gold, 20 silver. Later, Cauleigh is offered 50 silver for the pair by one of his traveller friends from the Modest Goose, and accepts the deal.
- The book: Fennec’s book is one of the Travels through the Vale volumes but the endpapers have some notes about Ikkutas. This is the first Ikkutas ‘clue’ found in the wild. He hangs onto the book, or possibly leaves it at the Modest Goose, we didn’t discuss it.
- Silver plate: Most of the satchel of silverware is House Othenas plate, worth more to a collector than for intrinsic value. (Fennec’s sketched floor designs are also House Othenas.) Cauleigh invests 25 silver in taking one of Rothway’s assayers to lunch, and gets a referral to a Changer who collects that stuff. He gets an excellent price, 1000 gold. The Changer also helps identify the tankard.
- Dwarf Tankard: Unlike the Othenas plate, which takes a lot of polishing, a tankard of Dwarf design and bearing small Dwarf runes still gleams untarnished. It has a vague magic aura. Crompton identifies the runes as most likely Gira Dwarf origin. The Changer identifies the metal as mithril, and suggests offering it to an armorer if they don’t have a Gira Dwarf buyer. They offer it to Parsifal & Esq. and trade it for an off-the-rack Arquebus.
- Rings: These are run of the mill rings. Cauleigh makes a good bargaining CHR SR and the assayer gives him 15 gold.
- Arm-rings: More than one person identifies them as Northern Barbarian origin. The four delvers of Destone decide to hang onto them. Unluckily they do not meet Tothras or Beorn, who went home by a different route than the Troll-haunted Destone path.
- Eight garnets: This is an easy one, because Cauleigh’s own background allows him to spot the tiny merchant mark etched into each. Merchant-marked gems used to be common in Esgaroth and are still in use. Each garnet has a standardised value of 10 gold. The four split them evenly.
- Hobgoblin reward: Aside from the ten gold, which is spent getting back to Rothway, the grateful villagers of Destone hand over an heirloom, a globe-type bottle. It is magical, of communication school. Fennec makes a good CHR SR among his Wizard Guild colleagues: they recognise the item as being something that one of the Death Goddess’ commanders would have used to speak remotely to his Hobgoblin minions. They recommend Fennec sell it to an Alchemist, and he does so, for 135 gold.
- Silk: A mercer is recommended and buys the bolt of silk for 50 gold.
Gearing up in Rothway is complete
Rothway’s horse fair concluded before they got back, and they hear a yarn about a Hippogriff attack and the amazing actions of two Elves who turned the attack back.
Jotunn gets his breastplate completed and hands back his rented coat. He also test-fires the Arquebus, strikes up a conversation with mercenaries at the targets, and gets a nice deal on powder, shot and a monopod stand.
Fennec brings up the matter of buying spells: the others agree to chip in 200 gold apiece, if the spell is Poor Baby. And that’s what Fennec buys.
Our delver heroes are detained four days in all – because Cauleigh is paying Ponderblade to inlay that Ork-blade with silver and Fennec is learning the spell – and tensions begin to build around them. On the one hand, Sasha has goodwill towards them (or at least that’s what Crompton’s rogue acquaintance says) but they are now a tempting target. On the other hand, a merchant factor named Vasily would like to speak to them…
Cauleigh pays top price for a Parsifal journeyman to wire-wrap the sword’s hilts and Ponderblade offers to escort them out of Rothway and around to the west where they can set out on the River Way once more… for 20 gold. Ponderblade keeps a gigantic dog named Snuggles, which helps explain why he can’t afford a much better smithy. Snuggles is as big as a large pony: they leave with no problem.
And with no regrets about missing the chance to play Sasha vs Vasily factions, it’s time to move on.
Baron Burchardt, bastardy, and the missing taxes
It takes the Destone delvers about a week to traverse broad and rich Nan Roth using the River Way and they learn little more about the lands immediately west than they did in Rothway. There are two ancient estates, V’laskas being a minor presence and Quisinias covering the majority of the land to the Fingold border. Quisinias is riven with internal strife between up to four house septs, and it sounds as though V’laskas is much the same. “Look poor, pay the tolls, don’t get mistaken for spies” is the friendly advice. Bounty-type jobs might be on offer: there are all kinds of illkin filtering in from the north.
This is the period immediately before first shearing, and from all over western Nan Roth flocks are being gathered. The adult sheep have survived all winter and are impressively woolly. Wool-buyers’ carts roll towards Rothway.
Nan Roth’s western border is marked with vigorous patrolling by Rothway’s mounted troops and exercising by Rothway’s pike and shot bands. Bidding farewell to by far the best-regulated land they have ever known, the four trudge on in indifferent, drizzling weather, along a River Way that is no longer so well-maintained.
An unwalled hamlet offers a midday stop. A wagon wheel signals cart repair, a green frond a place to sleep, and a barley sheaf an ale-wife. It’s the ale they make for. The ale-wife tells them that they are in V’laskas lands, and gossips, slightly nervously, about the strange obsession of the local baron, Burchardt.
“He’s got a bee in his bonnet about bastards! He was born on the wrong side of the blanket, so they say. Everything’s the fault of bastards and if you are a bastard, I don’t fancy your chances. Though they do say he’s got no umm, patenty thingy and might not be a real baron!”
“But he’s got men at arms?” Cauleigh asks cynically, “So he’s real enough.”
By this time, three of the four are low in cash, especially Fennec, so are on the watch for chances to earn money. The ale-wife has more to say.
“They say the baron’s missing someone, or there are people going missing down south.”
Following her direction they walk along an inferior road south, in misty rain that cuts visibility. The lands outside the hamlet seem unpopulated, but the path rises towards a ridge-like series of hills at the peak of which stands the baron’s keep. Flags can be seen on the towers, signalling that the baron is home.
Taking wise precautions to not get mistaken for spies or attackers, the four first meet Edvard, sergeant to the baron and apparently a Horsebrother by descent, and then the household Burchardt. The baron’s features are strongly marked, one eyebrow twitches, and his eyes are dark-rimmed from lack of sleep. His wife is subdued and seems nervous of him, and his daughter may be getting slapped around.
The baron’s issue is not missing peasants, it’s a missing taxman. His riders searched the village hard by the woods just south, but found nothing. It will take people that can search the forest. He offers a ten percent bounty and estimates the taxman carried 1500 gold.
Crompton’s leer costs him coin
At the sight of the baron’s daughter Crompton’s eyebrows twitch into leer position. During the meal one of the baron’s men at arms leans in and tells Crompton he noticed that! And to prevent him passing that on to the baron, he’ll take a cut of the loot.
After dinner Crompton ‘fesses up and Cauleigh and Jotunn pooh-pooh the idea of splitting the reward.
“Take six gold to him, offer him three and let him bargain you up to six if you have to,” Cauleigh advises.
This works like a charm, the blackmailer takes three greedily, and laughs, and tells him he’ll be seeing him again.
The village at Ravenwood is almost hospitable
After a secure night’s rest, during which Crompton does not try to rescue nor seduce the daughter, the four delvers set out in heavier wet weather. The chill reminds them that shearing season has its risks.
A six-hour push south through land once fertile but now ill-tended, with unpolled copses and orchards turned wild, takes them to a walled village hard against a larger and deeper woods. They judge the stone wall to be higher than Palgwyth’s, but not by much. The gate-keeper, strongly eyebrowed and proudly nosed, bends to examine them and pronounces them Dwarves, with some surprise.
As to lodgings, after some thought the keeper suggests the Johns’ house, empty since the family left. He walks them no more than thirty paces down cramped lanes, kicks a leather-hinged door open, and ushers them into a bare one-room hovel. As to fire, for two silver he will bring them a bundle of wood. As to food…
“Do you object to Hobbs?”
There’s a Hobb widow, named Jennie Hobb-wife, who could do with the silver for cooking, or… other duties.
“Just cooking,” Cauleigh responds firmly, glancing at Crompton.
The four begin shedding sodden cloaks and armour, but next have to contend with a blocked chimney flue. Cauleigh manages this [L1 Dex SR] from the rooftop, using twine and a mace.
As the smoky interior clears a large cauldron, carried by a small Hobb-wife, appears at the door.
Jen the Hobb-wife has gossip to pass on
Fennec shows a gentler side of his nature and soon makes friends with Jenn. She uses the fresh vegetables she brought, and two waybreads, to produce a nourishing evening broth. To the smell of the delicious broth and stinking damp clothes she passes on all she knows.
- The taxman left the village, as far as she knows
- The village is known as Ravensdown, and the woods are known as Ravenwood
- In old times, the Ravenwood was guarded by two tree sprites, but in one of the last raids of the Great War, an Ogre and his warband slew one of the sprites
- The village well-water is pure thanks to the sprites. It rises in a spring and runs under the wall back through the Ravenwood
- People do go missing, including her own husband, but also just move away seeking a safer better life
- Gilg Dinckel says his wife went missing but she probably ran away
- Mayor Bolton’s word is not to be trusted.
Once Jen has departed the Dwarves strip off and the warmth dries their clothes overnight.
The following day is brighter but promises occasional rain. Almost immediately they are out of doors, the four delvers are accosted by a screeching weirdo, a surprisingly young crone, who asks for her palm to be crossed with silver but says she knows about the raiders. She claims to have seen huge lizard-like creatures using the water-course.
And as they make their way to the gate, Mayor Bolton greets them preceded by his stomach. His eyebrows are large and dark and his nose large and prosperous. He is a smooth talker, but has little to offer aside from bland assurances that the missing taxman could not have been waylaid near here.
They follow the water-course to an ambush
All this talk of streams takes the four delvers over to the water-course that marks where the village waste-water heads into the woods. The banks are steep and slick, and once in it they would have a lot of trouble getting out. Although the wet land ought to carry scent well, Jotunn smells nothing out of the ordinary. Tracks there are a-plenty, but they are of the baron’s riders searching and not dismounting.
The only other thing of note is the unusual number of ravens to be seen, perched on the wall and the trees.
The best course seems to be to simply trace where the stream goes. Once under the canopy, only the occasional drop of rainwater disturbs them, and the footing is dry but a little slippery.
Fennec is somewhat muffled by the leafy twigs of a fallen branch [makes L1 LK SR] and he is unable to help as four Lizard-folk charge two-legged at the others.
The three Dwarves in the fight are encumbered by cloak and gear [-5 each] and the fight goes poorly at first, though their sturdy armour absorbs the damage.
A barking command sounds from the rear and the Lizardmen brace themselves using their tails and hammer down on the Dwarf shields. Jotunn, who has no shield, has his dagger knocked out of his grasp. But they manage to divest themselves of extra gear.
WHAM! With a flash of purple, Fennec joins the fray, sending a TTYF into the nearest. Cauleigh dives around it, taking a mighty swipe to his flank and losing his helmet, and swings his axe around, cutting its leg deeply. A second TTYF puts that Lizardman down, and the fight’s outcome is secured.
In the heat of the fight, Cauleigh is just able to glance sideways as whatever gave that earlier command rushes away. He glimpses a bulky form entering the water-course.
After the remaining Lizardmen fall – they fight bravely and to the death – Jotunn tracks around where Cauleigh saw the figure and identifies hobnail bootprints. Big ones.
“My powers are low,” Fennec warns the others.
But this is not one of those situations where they can rest up in the village, so they gather their belongings and set out in pursuit.
A good session, I enjoyed both legs of it, including creating random colourful NPCs on the fly. The road trip is working as hoped. Money runs low, look for jobs. In this session the Dwarves hear about likely bounty-killer jobs, therefore are primed for the type of job the baron offers.
I nudged a little to get talk started about pooling resources for a spell but they all happily chipped in. And they all understand that at Fennec’s power, it’s just to prevent death.
This was a no-prep session aside from the treasure, most of which was simply assigned by me as appropriate. The Hobgoblin globe and the Dwarf tankard (though not the specifics) come from a treasure generator.
I mixed in, virtually at random, ideas and people from my own brain, ENSider’s Hamlet of Varseldorf, TheSkyFullofDust’s Curse of Ravenmere, and Goodman Games’ War-Lock.