TI2.18: The Hathlisveit mission

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L2 Dwarf wizard

Cauleigh, L3 Dwarf warrior (Townsman)

Jotunn, L5 Dwarf warrior (Hunter; Tracking)

Crompton, L2 Dwarf rogue (Roguery, Rune-bearer)

It is a clear moonlit night and the four furbishers of Fingold have just been evicted from their rude shelter by the arrival of Troglodytes followed by a patrol.

Crompton, the most tired of the four, feels refreshed so by common consensus the four set Jotunn to the fore and head south-west again. Their mission is to take Fingold’s urgent request for aid to the Dwarf town of Hathlisveit.

 

Plenty amid nothing

The hunter’s experienced nose tells him that the land is full of food and daylight confirms this. Feral wheat, barley and oats thrust up from weed-tangled abandoned fields and untended fruit trees droop with unthinned fruit. Game of all kinds, from deer and feral cattle downward, have left spoor near water-courses and in grazing sites. Wineskins or flagons are refilled from clear-running brooks (Crompton chooses to water down his wine) and they press on well into the day.

The complete lack of human habitation is a concern though. At some point they do need to ask someone where Hathlisveit is! Recalling how Ladies Melissa and Saundra phrased the journey, it seems to them that the girls had probably never been there and were simply repeating what they had been told: it lies south-west.

 

The camp of cripples

Fortune is with Jotunn: at length he peers cautiously into a steep small valley – perhaps a dry river bend – where a camp has been laid out. Various items of clothing are drying on stones, a small smokeless fire burns, and humans bustle about mundane chores.

They are all cripples.

The ablest of them are probably ex-soldiers missing an arm or leg, but some of the people have merely leg-stumps or several limbs missing. They are children adults and oldsters, male and female.

The Dwarves hold a quick and quiet discussion, and descend looking as un-fearsome as it is possible for three heavily-armed Dwarves and an obvious wizard to do.

Once these cripples’ initial fear is overcome the Dwarves are welcome, doubly so when they bring out iron rations. These are folk unwanted in any town and left to fend for themselves. They forage, tend a small patch of vegetables, and set snares for rabbits and the like. Jotunn heads out to hunt some fresh meat for the pot while the others confirm Hathlisveit’s general direction.

One of the cripples hails from Esgaroth and has travelled these parts. He explains to Crompton, after a mini-tournament of tic-tac-toe, that Hathlisveit is sealed off by siege lines! It’s also hard to see from this side, the east, so they should head south first and swing round west until they see a pale bluff standing alone.

Jotunn returns with meat, they all eat, and sleep well. They will be off by nightfall.

 

At the siege lines

It is early and the night is bright and clear, and the Dwarves crouch low, listening intently. They are about half a mile east of siege lines, where the watch is still fresh and challenges are sung out and answered briskly. It’s reasonably certain that the lines are not thickly manned, so in theory the Dwarves could simply sneak through.

A debate ensues. The land south and west seems shadowed and this is useful information. Options are considered. At length they agree to move south and a little west into thickets, camp down, and scout for the bluff during daylight.

 

In the distance, evidence of the defence

Although water is certainly to be had, they are not lucky enough to chance on some, and sip from their waterskins, chewing on a few bites of waybread. Although the Adventurers Guild eats better than most of Fingold, they are all used to eating sparingly by now, even Jotunn.

Dawn and the bugling of a mounted force of some kind, off west among timbered rolling land. It is answered with a loud, but distant, BOOM of a heavy gun. Then shrieks of men and horses in pain, and a few minutes later, the hooves of a riderless horse, and the calling of horsemen catching up that horse.

This is all encouraging. Jotunn scouts and soon sees the pale bluff, caught by the early sun. It faces south. Here perhaps in ancient times the great river cut north and uncovered solid stone.

He reports this and a brisk debate ensues. The dry camp is still quite some distance from the bluff and therefore from Hathlisveit. It seems prudent to some that Jotunn scout more, lightly clad, to see how the siege is being enforced on this side. Then, they can all make an informed decision about how to get through.

Crompton generously passes over two Zap daggers and Vorpals two more so that Jotunn can fight his way clear if he gets in trouble.

 

Discovered!

Only a few minutes into his mission though, Jotunn turns on his heel and flies back to camp as fast as he can run! For as he checks his back-trail to make sure of landmarks, he sees bootprints. And one set is that of a Dwarf, heavyset, and four are of men. And they are tracking.

Jotunn dons his full armour as he explains the danger and when a huge war-hound bounds into sight they are ready! It wears a chest harness fashioned from silvery-gold chain.

Behind the hound strides a massive-bodied Dwarf wielding a huge axe in one thick hand and clutching a sword-breaker in his other. That fist is encased in a jewel-decorated iron gauntlet. He himself is encased in flexible armour: a glittering coif and a hauberk of fine steel rings. Skulls of children (or perhaps small humanoids) dangle at his waist.

[If you want to signal that someone isn’t a good guy, equip them with dangling skulls, preferably small ones. No need to psychoanalyze them!]

And not far behind the hound and Dwarf come four bill-men, soldiers or deserters, armed with voulges or guisarmes, protected by habergeons and bucklers.

 

Combat!

Judging that Jotunn Cauleigh and Crompton will be able to employ the usual tactics Fennec throws an OGA and the renegade Dwarf duly plunges towards him. But things go awry. Cauleigh decides to trip the Dwarf, who scornfully sweeps the Esgaroth Dwarf’s axe away and breaks it and carries on in pursuit of Fennec; while Crompton and Jotunn are menaced by hound and bill-men!

Choosing to avoid the long weapons the pair throw themselves into close combat with the hound and deal a severe gash to its flank. It is out of action for the time being! But Crompton and Jotunn are both heavily wounded.

Meanwhile Fennec, who fled away from the fight, is in dire danger for even armored, the renegade Dwarf gains rapidly on the wizard! The axe’s edge slices Fennec’s jerkin and back: then Cauleigh, cursing the tactical disadvantage, catches up. He hammers his silver-headed mace at the iron gauntlet and is rewarded by seeing the sword-breaker spin away across the clearing they are fighting across.

The renegade turns on Cauleigh who dodges aside: not quickly enough! The remains of his fine Rothway steel cuirass also hurtle across the clearing and blood runs down inside Cauleigh’s gambeson.

Meanwhile the other two Dwarves have fooled the bill-men – Crompton executing a fine roll-through though sustaining more damage – and Jotunn runs around Cauleigh to place himself on Fennec’s side of the fight. That’s what Fennec has been waiting for! The wizard hits the renegade with another OGA. Jotunn fights breast-to-breast, fully occupying his foe, allowing Cauleigh a clear swing. The renegade falls, skull stove in under the coif. Jotunn pauses not but charges on at the billmen who are chasing Crompton down, while Cauleigh snatches up the fallen renegade’s axe and follows.

The disordered bill-men are no match for the three fighting Dwarves, although Crompton is all but unconscious by the time the last man falls. Turning to see where the hound went they find it guarding the renegade’s body. They reward its loyalty by killing it from a safe distance, and turn to looting. But quickly – there has been a great deal of shouting and screaming and anyone nearby will have heard them!

 

Loot and dispute

Working swiftly they take four haversacks that jingle with coin and stuff in a fine scroll case, the hound’s chain, assorted wineskins flagons and a clay jug, and the jeweled iron gauntlet, which unscrews from the renegade’s arm – it is a false hand. With more difficulty and mess they take the coif, and Crompton and Cauleigh strip the hauberk off as well.

Here a fierce and loud dispute arises. Crompton’s lamellar is badly damaged and he is hopeful of taking the hauberk, heavy and poor fit though it be. Before Jotunn can calm him down by explaining how close they must be to Hathlisveit, and that there is still the Elven-pattern breastplate as an option, Crompton is shouting rudely and taking oath that he will never stand in the front line again!

 

Hathlisveit’s southern fields

They four remove themselves some 500 yards west, to another thicket on a rolling wooded hill, and spy out the land before the bluff.

It is in cultivated fields, cut up by deep hedgerows. Workers are tending the fields, guarded by small pickets of armed Dwarves.

During the remainder of the day, the bucolic tranquility of the scene is broken once, when another mounted demonstration occurs. The Dwarves seem well prepared and the horsemen retreat without gunfire.

At the end of the day the Dwarf workers bundle shooks of hay or suchlike onto their shoulders and all Dwarves retreat to the bluff. From what Jotunn can see, they exchange greetings with a gate guard of some type and the gates close.

Feeling that they need only act moderately safely the four furbishers use the night to move to a non-threatening position near the gates, clamp a whitish rag atop an axe with the iron hand, and wait for the next dawn.

 

Hathlisveit and its amenities

This proves perfectly safe, and they are welcomed as ambassadors from Fingold, and taken within deep, well-cut and well-ventilated stone shafts. “Proper Dwarf living” as Fennec puts it. He notices the guards flinch away from his smell. No-one among the four has bathed in quite some time.

The town of Hathlisveit is not large, they learn from their guides. The census counts about 670, mostly Dwarves. There is but one Inn to Hathlisveit, and for reasons lost in time it is named the Serpent Inn. After a deep cleansing bath and wearing simple clean tunics they take lodging there and fall to conversation with Mukregard Senior, gossipy (but pious) host of the Serpent Inn. Mukregard Distaff sees to the other guests’ needs: a number occupy the common room, perhaps as a leisure activity. Cauleigh notices cute females, and games of chance.

These Dwarves are not all of one type. Some of the first they see within the halls are notably slender (for Dwarves) with silky dark hair, dark almond-shaped eyes and ears that are more pointed than usual. Other Dwarves are built along normal lines. And a third group, well represented among the soldiery, are even broader and stockier than normal, with massive hands and spatulate fingers. The renegade was of this type. Mukregard Senior says that their legend is that they are descendants of Ikuttas Dwarves. As for the agile, slender-bodied Sveltes (here he leans close, for he is retailing scandal) legend has it that a dark witch gave rise to their line.

Cauleigh gets to know some of the Sveltes over a game of rolled dice, and gets to know a pair of the cute Svelte girls even better on the Inn’s fine sturdy bed later.

Crompton finds that the Sveltes incline to being rogues, though some don’t and hotly resent being lumped in with the rogues.

Fennec learns that the town has but one temple, of Ikmal Iron-bringer, but is disappointed to find that there is no Wizard’s guild and magic-craft is carried out by rogues.

Jotunn learns that the southern approach to Hathlisveit holds the town’s fields, in much the same way Fingold maintains a few vital crops; but the other approaches are covered by star-trace fortifications, with overlapping fields of fire, banked low to the ground and surrounded by siege lines.

 

Before the senate

It’s clear from the promptness: This diplomatic mission from Fingold is seen as having the highest importance. The Hathlisveit senate meets in a stone chamber, well-lit by secret channels to the sky above. Consul Haugri sits in the ruler’s stone seat. His beard is long, his brow broad, his eyes deep with wisdom. The four furbishers notice that all three of the Dwarven peoples of Hathlisveit are represented in roughly equal numbers among the senators.

Cauleigh addresses the senate with flowing oratory, making the impassioned plea for assistance that Duchess Melissa requested. Fennec also adds that he seeks audience with the high priest. Jotunn notices that numbers of common Dwarves have crowded the tunnels leading into the senate, to overhear proceedings.

Consul Haugri responds:

“Regarding this plea from our titular ruler, there are two facts that we cannot get around. One: Hathlisveit is loyal. Two, Hathlisveit is small. We will consider how we are best to respond, and summon you to hear that response.”

[No CHR SR required since Cauleigh actually makes a speech. 20 AP.]

Fennec is shown to the temple and meets the high priest, and is appropriately respectful. He passes on the word-of-mouth from the archmagi:

“I know we parted on bad terms but the past is the past. Fingold’s temples are fallen and the worship of the whole city is yours for the taking.”

“I shall have to reflect and pray,” says the high priest, “and if Bobby thinks he’s getting around me with that offer…”

[10 AP for Fennec, mainly for the foresight of carefully writing down the ‘word of mouth’ so as not to mess it up.]

 

Refurbishing

By the time they receive their senate summons repair of equipment is well under way. Crompton is still reasonably sure that he does not want his old lamellar. He now wears the Breastplate of Xrong (green, and looks to be of Elf design) a steel cap and sturdy gambeson. The magical sopok shield he had is now with Jotunn, and Jotunn’s heavy bow and the Sheeting arrows of Claes are with Crompton. Fennec has had time to open the scroll tube and study the scroll within, a treasure map showing roughly where along the Golden River is the tomb of Colairion, with side-notes on a list of magic items someone was fairly sure are buried there. The scroll tube itself is very valuable. The clay jug looted from the billmen has a magic liquid, not liquor. And the coif is magical: it has been cleaned and Jotunn wears it. As for the hauberk, it is a superior steel mail hauberk, but some nice gems were concealed in its lining hem.

[As a way of simplifying my life I offer to trade all the coins and gems found for accommodation and full gear. I do not have to use a calculator so, yay!]

 

Meet three bold leaders, and the regiment

The senate’s decision is that a small but properly equipped regiment of 64 warriors will be sent. Three Sveltes have put themselves forward as leaders in the venture.

Ausecur is often the spokesperson, a rogue who seems to have the broadest range of magic;

Ondsop is his able second, and nearly as cunning with magic; and

Kamerad is their junior, eager to learn any spells going.

Four Dwarves from the strength will be needed at any one time to bear the high priest, who has decided to travel to Fingold.

The Svelte rogues introduce the furbishers to company leaders – generally older soldiers – and the formation the Dwarves train for is explained. There will be eight handgunners and eight crossbowmen, and the remaining 48 foot are a mixture of halberdiers and bladesmen (axes or swords). The order of march is a hollow square. The crossbowmen carry pavises and generally take up the rear corners of the travelling square, the gunners the front corners. With a need for bearers, there will be eight melee armed Dwarves per side of the square, the remainder being detailed as bearers or skirmishers.

The furbishers are welcome to stiffen the front melee rank, or if they have a gun, join the gunners.

 

Strategy of an escape

Some nights later the weather is perfect: there is not the smallest chance the moon will emerge and shine on the furbishers as they sneak slowly towards where a telescope has allowed them to pick out a powder store.

Crompton softly places a cask of gunpowder down at the store door, then readies his axe. He feels speed will be of the essence:

“Vorpal Blade!”

He strikes the lock a mighty blow, sparks fly off as the lock is broken, and some loose powder ignites.

BOOOM!!!

Flinging themselves aside saves Crompton Cauleigh and Jotunn from all but minor damage, and Fennec is protected by Jotunn.

Jotunn hustles into the store, smashes a cask there – no sparks this time – and trails a line of powder out.

Seeing an officer attempting to organize sentries into a response, Fennec hits him with L2 TTYF! There is a bright purple arc and a crash of thunder and the officer slumps down, battered or dying.

As they hustle east Crompton lights the powder trail – Bic Flic – and the store erupts! The clouds above flash white and yellow, a shockwave throws down all around it, then roiling black clouds cover the area.

Shortly after, the furbishers are intercepted by Ausecur, who seems to be able to see perfectly well in the black night. The diversion has worked well, and the regiment drives north-east, Jotunn navigating the way.

 

A running battle and a debt repaid

Crompton wearily drags himself back to the hidden column.

“I’ve found a likely site to attack. It’s overgrown, but not so broken we can’t keep in our column.”

The regiment stands, the littermen hoist Righteous Filbard onto their shoulders, and the skirmishers lead off Fennec, being too short to be useful in the middle, is with them.

They are some miles from Fingold and the western faction has so far failed to catch them; but the last stage will be well-patrolled if not by the western faction then by the eastern. Aware of forces close at hand, they had sent Crompton out scouting for a good place to use the regiment’s fighting strengths.

Skirmishers cut up enemy foragers then return into the square. Fennec sends an OGA at a mounted officer, preventing him from properly controlling his men. Front-rank, Jotunn and Cauleigh ready their weapons. Crompton levels the arquebus. They give fire! Flame ripples out and several enemy fall.

The regiment crashes through. A mixed bag of disordered foot and dragoons attempt to rally, and pursue. Fingold is a steady jog away.

Crompton’s strength gives out and he is hoisted up onto the litter. [He really does need better CON!]

Fennec uses the OGA trick again and the officer’s horse is cut down, the officer distracted. Cauleigh and Jotunn, skirmishing behind, knock aside the lead two pursuers bills, and deal heavy blows with axes.

Across the disordered enemy Cauleigh locks eyes with Sergeant Musger.

“Fall back lads, no need to be heroes!” cries Musger, sketching a salute to Cauleigh. And the regiment jogs clear.

 

GM Notes

Why do three Svelte rogues lead the regiment? I don’t know. I asked my imagination for the names of those who would place themselves at the head of the venture and I got three surrender-monkey names. I had been expecting crusty veterans or ambitious young captains. I tried again and got the same result. Possibly there is a reason I’m not aware of myself.

Wasn’t the relief force supposed to attack the eastern faction’s siege lines directly? Yes I think we had all been thinking that should happen but by the time I’d dealt with the escape and forced march (about forty miles or so) the events of a gathering pursuit and need to enter Fingold seemed about right.

Next session will deal with the relief-assault out of Fingold, against the eastern faction, plus Adventurers Guild and the odd Elf. Stay tuned!

 

Props

Hathlisveit is inspired by, but not particularly taken from, Haslithveit, a small Dwarf village in Fantasy Towns and Cities III by Art of War Games. Other than the name Haugri as its ruler everything else is my own. Its location was mapped decades ago as an unnamed fortified town within the vast Fingold estate. For this session I put some thought into how it would have weathered the wars of the last two centuries and the current civil war. An armed force of one in ten as an expedition is a heavy commitment on any settlement, but I figure Dwarves in a state of war are able to commit that and still have a skeleton defense.

Wizardawn’s encounter creation and random treasure generators helped me create the boss of this session, the renegade Dwarf, and his war-hound and minions. Combined MR 465.

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