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: tracker)
Crompton, Level 2 rogue (background: Runebearer; talent: roguery)
and NPC Hazel, their little pony
An introduction to Jake’s town
We rejoin the four restorers of Ravensdown as they recuperate in Jake’s Town, just over the southern border from Burchardt’s demesne. Except for Crompton all are wounded.
Jake’s Town is a cluster of simple huts on the trail south: a few of which could be described as houses. Jake’s house is the ‘big house’ and is a solid story-and-a-half, mostly stone walled. Joe’s forge is partly stone, and a few other huts have some stone in the walls. Otherwise walls are wattle-and-daub or timber-and-lathe. Structural timber is solid. All are sturdily thatched with the local reed. Given the season and the natural dampness of the hamlet it would take a real effort to set any of the huts ablaze.
A few small patches of garden lie between the hamlet of 61 souls, and a stream that runs more or less due south here. Across a sturdy stone and timber bridge lie cultivated fields and a few farmhouses. Beyond those, the ground becomes swampy though two razor-back ridges, also running north-south and surrounded by stony hillocks, separate the fields from the real swamp.
There’s a camp of fisherfolk nearby Jake’s Town, but across the river. Almost everyone distrusts fisherfolk, but even in the first few days the Dwarves have made contact with them and have heard about lizardmen in the swamp, and have the offer of a boat-ride into the swamp or to the River.
The defenders await the call
In the meantime, the four are lodging with Joe Smith who repairs their metal armour as best he can. They also buy a whole new set of swamp boots from the fisherfolk, to replace the battered boots they walked in with.
Jotunn cleans the arquebus, and Joe Smith refurbishes the looted arbalest that it can be used normally. Fennec is pencilled in as arbalestier. Crompton makes an effort to befriend the pony they stole from disgraced Mayor Bolton, and announces its name is Hazel. Jotunn makes friends with Hazel more readily.
At that point in their stay, they are approached by Sir Cully of Lucas, who needs bounty-hunters.
Don’t call me baron, I work for a living
Cully Lucas, bluff and direct, looks more like a sergeant at arms than a knight; his voice is roughened by drink and shouting. He is called away on campaign across the River so needs the Lizardmen in the swamp hunted down, along with anything that’s bossing them. The bounty will be 5 gold per distinct trophy:
“They don’t have ears, right? But something that only comes one per Lizardman… a left toe or what have you.”
Cauleigh, who is doing the talking, confers privately with the other three. It seems light, but on the other hand if they bargain for free board, food, repair and so on it might be adequate.
Cully agrees and extends the offer to include assistance getting to Fingold – escort across the first leg of Quisinias to the west. But then he assigns the Dwarves the task of getting the village defensible and protecting the villagers. To go with that, he’ll give them authority of corvèe. It’ll be like being taxmen and lords all rolled into one.
Well it’s a big package but they accept. Cully passes over a worn, silver-headed baton, and rides off to join his baron’s campaign, and the Dwarves divvy up responsibilities, and begin meeting villagers.
Never volunteer – old jungle saying
Not surprisingly the villagers are hard to convince about following orders or preparing defences. Jotunn helps Cauleigh gain their attention [they share 7 AP each]. Shamefacedly three pikes and a few tatty gambesons are drawn out of hiding, and seven villagers are admitted to the defence army. Three other sturdy men seem fit for it, but they resist the urgings of Cauleigh and Jotunn and Crompton.
Now to see what can be done for defence!
Sprightly, winsome little Siembud (aged approximately 13) tours the Dwarves around the hamlet and they learn what is explained above. The pendulous-breasted matrons of Jake’s town look on and mutter darkly. Siembud lives in the big house, Jake’s house, where dwells Siella the hamlet’s matriarch. Later Siembud organises her friends to go out, picnic-style, to feed the wood-cutting detail.
It seems to Fennec that walls could be fashioned connecting up the hamlet’s huts in a crude barrier. And it seems to Jotunn and Cauleigh that an abatis of sharp stakes could surround Jake’s town to force attackers to pause in range of crossbows. That will quickly run through all of the local wood, so Crompton cheerfully agrees to bring Hazel and help Jotunn and some villagers cut more lengths, suitable for spears.
They’ve decided not to defend the bridge, since Lizardmen can swim the stream easily; and that the further farms will be evacuated when comes the time.
The other major parts of the defence are making spears – Crompton pays Joe for iron supplies and the smith gets to work – and building a lookout onto Jake’s house since that is sturdy enough for it.
The wood-cutting party is not without incident
Armed with bow (Jotunn) and axe (Crompton) two Dwarves escort a party of villages west, to cut timber. By all accounts the woods might run into the next demesne. Siembud volunteers to cook the midday bread rolls, along with three friends of hers. Hopefully their mothers will help! The four girls organise a picnic and follow the menfolk. Hazel the pony is there as well, to help drag the timber back.
The spring woods are peaceful and the menfolk busy themselves with bow-saws and hatchets, cutting suitably straight poles. Jotunn can see that mounted men have ridden the area extensively though not very recently. There’s an odour of charcoal, too.
The bread rolls are more akin to damper than muffin, but they are sustaining. But then the picnic is interrupted. Horses can be heard. Five men at arms ride slowly out of the woods and rein in not far away.
The two sides study one another for a time. The wood-cutters are nervously silent and the girls are pale with fear. On their side, the men at arms wear livery that probably began life as a common colour. It has weathered poorly and varies from brown-red to dull purple. Their gear is worn but cared for and their horses are not lathered or blowing. Each favours an open face kettle helm and has an armour-breaking sword – a braquemard, falchion, hand-and-half or estoc hangs at the cantle of each.
“Who’s your spokesman?” asks Jotunn, reasonably. He’s aware of his deficiency as a spokesman.
The riders don’t reply right away but their glances suggest a grizzled veteran might be leader. After a time, the man jerks his chin at the group and asks:
“What’s doing here?”
“Move along” says Crompton in as menacing a voice as he can manage, which is to say, not menacing at all.
“Hey there girls, looking for a good time?” asks one of the youngest men, ignoring Crompton. He knees his horse a little wider so as to get a better angle on them.
“Like I said, move along!” Crompton repeats.
So challenged, the man studies Crompton, swings down off his horse and draws an Estoc. It will punch through Crompton’s Lamellar like a needle into a pincushion.
Crompton (bravely) decides to tough out round 1 to see what the balance of the fight is, and lull the warrior into a false idea of his tactics. Crompton’s superior weapon (the ancestor axe) allows a draw, both taking a few hits and some damage to armour.
Then Crompton uses his strength and low centre of gravity to get inside the Estoc’s range and overbalance the warrior. It doesn’t quite work, and he takes another nick through his armour.
The third round, he feints to do the same move then shifts to a sweep, and [with a big DARO on DEX] gets right past the Estoc and topples his target. The warrior is severely hurt and surrenders.
“Load Bugel up boys, I reckon the Dwarf made his point,” the grizzled spokesman growls.
Instead of looting, Crompton backs off cautiously and the other four men at arms help their comrade back into the saddle.
“You’re tough… do you ride?” asks the grizzled veteran, preparing to depart.
“Never tried! But I could do…” responds Crompton!
“Ah well…” and so saying the men at arms withdraw quietly.
[Later, Cauleigh’s player, who had been biting his tongue, asked why they didn’t attempt recruiting the men at arms. Crompton had plenty of cash on him. On the other hand, any CHR roll would tend to push confrontation into hostile action – as Crompton’s effort showed! So probably the best outcome possible was achieved.]
The fisherfolk map shows some possibilities
With work in Jake’s town well under way Cauleigh and Fennec visit the fisherfolk to see if they can learn anything further and if they will ally with the villagers.
Headman Pedrocollo, floreate but dishevelled, strokes his mustachios and regrets:
“We are river folk… we go with the flow. If these Lizardmen come, we move on.
“But hey,” he continues, “you following on the trail of the adventurer? He visit us a while ago, we show him map.”
“Map?” asks Cauleigh alertly.
At this point the GM proudly hands over the player map from Evening Session #2, demonstrating he does prep a little. The Dwarves copy the map and take it back, with thanks.
Although one option is to boat around and hit the swamp direct, Crompton wisely suggests they “clean the trail” so everyone benefits and an escape route is gained.
The trail marked allows the four to plan more than heretofore. The common consensus is that there is an undead menace, really close to the farms, so they ready silver weapons, spells, holy water and pouches of silver powder. And after inspecting and encouraging their trainees and builders, and a few last days of recuperation, they are ready.
Cleaning the trail
It’s a fine day, for the season, and the four make good time over the bridge, across the farm lanes (carts, not wagons, are in evidence) and across the barren verge beyond, which in wintertime will become bog. A crumbled stand of rocks that might have once been a barrow stands clearly visible.
As the Wight rises and attempts to close three crossbows snap, and then various silver weapons are wielded. Fennec snaps off a minor cantrip that enchants Jotunn’s axe, and the fight is over.
Fennec exclaims, “Stone! My wall-builders have been short on stone since day one! I’ll just shoot back and tell them….”
While Fennec trots back to Jake’s town, the others heft stones aside and dig down. The Wight guarded a cluster of throw-knives… and nothing else. They are filthy with mud and damp and have lost their edge but are undamaged by time and rust. Crompton tentatively calls dibs on them, since they are lighter than a crossbow – and 200% cooler. When Fennec returns, he checks them for magic, and confirms that they are.
A trail over the ridges is found
The next landmark is a Lone Grave. But before they reach it, Jotunn’s wilderness eye picks out an older trail branching off from their own old trail, southward. It runs to the closest ridgeback, suggesting an alternative route.
“This is perfect weather, we have maybe six hours of clear daylight. We might not get such a chance again. Let’s try it,” Jotunn suggests.
They follow him along the faintest of trails, up through hillocks and knolls, onto the ridge. He cuts sign of reptile life, and they are all bothered a little by midges. With around two hours of full daylight left, they make a notch on top of the ridgeback, allowing an easy path to the descent.
Looking north and east, beyond a ridge line, they can see the swamplands laid out before them. The swamp trees and flax grow too thick to pick out the ruined temple that’s supposed to be in the midst. But it doesn’t look as though there’s a dry path in.
Pressing on down, they cross the lower slope of the second razorback ridge and reach the edge of the swamp. It’s a scramble down more than a steep drop, but it confirms that this is not a great escape route and that there is no easy path. The hills are blocking the sun now and it’s time to find camp before it gets fully dark.
They camp up on the notch, munching their waybread in a cold camp. One Dwarf guards per shift and they tiredly head back next dawn.
Back on the main trail: the first bounties are taken!
It only takes an hour descending swiftly, now they know the trail. Again, Jotunn cuts sign of a few large reptiles but nothing tackles them. The lowlands are still fog-bound.
Swinging hard right they soon meet the lone grave rising up through the mist, an obelisk or similar, wherein runes are deeply carven. Crompton spends a few minutes trying to decipher them, then gives up with a shrug.
But a very short distance east of that, Jotunn and Crompton are swept off their feet by two crocodilian beasts!
Cauleigh instinctively crashes his axe onto the croc bearing Jotunn away, and that sturdy Dwarf wriggles clear.
Crompton is in deep trouble, but he uses his Bic Flic inside the Croc’s gullet, and the reptile vomits him out and flees. [40 bonus AP for a life-saving reaction!]
Cauleigh then must needs take the brunt of two Lizardmen, since Fennec (wisely) tucks in behind. He survives, thanks to his sturdy breastplate. Then Jotunn joins him, and to prevent the Lizardmen “setting” Fennec hits one with an OGA. He’s now nearly powerful enough to drive one away, but it still works as intended and it takes terrible damage trying to get to Fennec. Crompton joins the fray, casting Bic Flic onto his mace-head (mainly for effect). Then as the remaining two Lizardmen retreat, Fennec uses another OGA to draw them back, and they kill those as well!
Loot, and Jake’s town militia grows
Feeling that the 15-minute working day has been well-spent Fennec suggests a rest back at Jake’s town so they retreat after taking trophy feet and looting the Lizardmen ambush-site of a spool of good wire, and one sturdy spear. In fact any and all Lizardman weapons are looted since the villagers have so few.
The success of their hunt draws one of the three sturdy shirkers onto the militia. Two other villagers admit to being able to use hunting bows. The militia number ten! And just as importantly Joe Smith has finished adding spear-heads to shafts and with eight pike- or spearmen drills look more realistic.
A purple-clad taxbringer arrives
“A stranger approaches! South!”
The lookout system is working, and militia are hurried to posts while women and children stand ready to rush into Jake’s house, the one defensible strongpoint.
Things are tense although the stranger is alone and afoot, for he wears purple livery. Doesn’t that sound like the men at arms? But there is no danger.
“I am the tax-bringer for Sir Cully, serving House V’laskas. My name is Barad-dur.”
“An ill-omened name!”
“Could be worse, could be ‘Mordor’” quips Fennec.
“I bring bounty, and I’m also to see how you are getting on with your power of corvèe.”
Barad-dur admires their defence efforts – “splendid, splendid” – and less fulsome about the bounties. “Hmm, fifteen gold,” he mutters, flicking the coins off a much larger stack.
He bids them good-day and heads south into the river mist again.
“If only I had more iron, I could be makin’ more’a them spear-heads” Joe comments.
Crompton runs to Hazel, clambers onto her back, and [with an excellent DEX SR] trots after the tax-bringer. He orders the iron. Then he returns to Jake’s town and the 15 gold bounty repays him for the earlier payment to Joe.
The Lizardmen attack!
With barely a pause for breath, or so it seems, an alarm goes up! Lizardmen, three bands of them, are swarming to the stream and bridge! They have overrun the farms and it is too late to save anyone!
“Pikemen with me! Archers to the walls!” Cauleigh hollers.
One group of Lizardmen has the bridge and is speeding over. They can cover ground faster than Dwarf. A second group is north of the bridge and a third group is south of the bridge and slightly closer to the village than the second group.
Fennec sees a bold chance for encouraging the defenders. He rushes out of the one village entrance left, towards the abatis. As the Lizardmen get within a dozen paces of it he gestures and casts:
Oh Go Away!
Two Lizardmen impale themselves, trying to get to Fennec. But of course, the others in the bridge group break the abatis down and rush after him vengefully.
In a roil of smoke Jotunn’s arquebus claims another Lizardman – he can’t miss against such a mob.
To Cauleigh’s alarm the militia are upset by the noise rather than emboldened and he struggles to keep them with him. The bows and crossbows let fly uselessly. Leading from the front Cauleigh lets Fennec rush past him and to safety, and stands at the point of a wedge of pikemen! It’s enough to firm the militia up and three more Lizardmen die on the pikes. Spears stab, then Jotunn and Crompton join the fray and the Lizardmen are thrown back behind the corpses of the first wave.
Then the second group of Lizardmen arrive at the walls. They can’t jump, so the wall, low though it is, has stopped them: and they begin breaking them down.
There are moments to decide: Crompton and Jotunn pull back out, to switch fronts.
It’s a moment that brings a rolling crisis!
Jotunn ducks and weaves out successfully [L2 DEX SR] but Crompton is smashed by a Lizardman [takes what he missed by off CON].
Their retreat panics the militia!
Cauleigh fails to keep the men together!
[Opts to fail forward]
He flings his shield accurately at the furthest man’s knees, bringing him down. With a roar of aggression, he cries on the militia and they form up again.
Fennec has switched as well, using an OGA to force two more Lizardmen to try to clamber over the wall instead of breaking it – they are easily dispatched by Crompton and Jotunn. Then he repeats the exercise and is done for the day!
Cauleigh’s gate group slays several more Lizardmen who are having to clamber over a Cauleigh-high pile of dead. As the third group arrives on the village north wall, the other two groups give up and flee.
“Quick! Up to the platform! Count the number fleeing!”
Fennec sprints and vaults and climbs in time to count 24 retreating.
All told 15 dead Lizardmen are accounted for.
“So with that many slain, I don’t think they’ll be attacking any time soon!” Cauleigh concludes. The villagers agree: the last two sturdy shirkers join up.
So with 75 gold all but received, it’s time for the four defenders of Jake’s town to rest, polish and sharpen and plan the next foray.
This session had an increasingly Seven Samurai feel to it. So I should give props to Seven Samurai, Magnificent Seven and Battle Beyond the Stars, all of which I own and enjoy. But we didn’t go fully down the tribute path. Jotunn’s player thinks the Three Amigos should also be given props.
The village and swamp concept is from Frank Schmidt, OP3, Peat’s Bog – an adventure in Filbar, a reworked 1-page dungeon. I down-graded the village concept to be a bit more Seven Samurai-like, and as usual all NPCs were my own creation.