TI2.28: To the river

 

Characters for this session as they end the season:

Fennec, L2 wizard STR24 IQ21 LK15 CON26 DEX20 CHR13 SPD14 WIZ21. OGA value 49, Combat adds +25.

Cauleigh, L3 warrior STR27 IQ14 LK24 CON34 DEX29 CHR18 SPD29(+9). Combat adds 70 with ring of speed.

Jotunn, L5 warrior STR31 IQ15 LK20 CON52 DEX24 CHR8 SPD20. Combat adds 47.

Crompton, L2 rogue STR26 IQ12 LK19 CON22 DEX28 CHR12 SPD16 WIZ13. Combat adds 41.

 

Joyous summer beams upon their course

It is warm and still as our four re-founders of Fingold set off out the west gate and between two small bastions thrown up a bowshot from the walls. One directly guards the road, the other faces west-south-west. They swing around the latter and strike out along the well-beaten trail left by Chion’s regiment mere days since.

It makes for easy marching, and though Jotunn still ranges ahead he bears his full load. Animals and birds stay well away from the steady clanking progress of the four. Sweat stains the travelling clothes of Jotunn and Cauleigh in particular, though Crompton too sweats as he swaggers with heavy weaponry on his shoulder.

 

A slighted fortress offers a fine view of Hathlisveit

It is well through the second day of their march when Jotunn spots an unnatural line visible through the trees to his right. Perhaps fortification, perhaps siege weaponry.

Slipping his arquebus and some of his noisiest gear off and leaving the other three standing guard, Jotunn creeps [excellent DEX SR] through the young trees to discover the site of a slighted fortress. Here, a counter-castle and ruinous siege weapon are slowly decaying. Beyond, the broken walls of the fortress. Judging by the regrowth, it has been abandoned at least two years. There is no sign nor smell of human – not even the sour charcoal smell of an old fire.

A quick clamber up, and he can see beyond the woods to the siege lines around Hathlisveit, some six miles away. As far as distance allows him to judge, the siege is still being prosecuted and the lines are still not heavily occupied.

The view affords choices of shadowy paths where the party can slip close to the besiegers. From there it will be a simple matter for Crompton to sneak the party in.

And so it proves.

[And here I blank out and forget to place a set-piece encounter with a crashed hippogriff.]

 

Hathlisveit offers plenty of ways to spend money

At Hathlisveit they find they are welcome but the welcome comes with no great fanfare. They check into the Serpent once more (it is the only inn) and are greeted by Mukregard Distaff. Who approves of their choice to have separate rooms, and suggests they head to the baths.

Cauleigh has already confirmed that the inn’s common room has plenty of card players and hot Svelte women. After an adequate supper he and Crompton make up numbers for cards, and as they bring a devil-may-care attitude, lose comfortably.

But Cauleigh’s evening is far from over – Sveltes Scrumptious Sip and Harlotta are keen to get to know him much, much better. Over the next few days Cauleigh spends 200 gold in their company.

At about this point there’s a little cross-talk, egged on by the GM, that I can best represent thus:

“Hey, is Cauleigh heading away with all those girls?”
“It’s an orgy?!”
“Are we invited?”
“Do you wanna be? Three’s a crowd, four’s even more fun…”
“Uhh…”
“The party that orgies together…”
“…can’t look each other in the face the next day.”
“No you are not invited! I have my own room! Let’s go ladies…”

He partly reimburses the expense by selling his “chance division” of the vampiress’ loot. (She collected interesting valuables.) He has a steel, gemstone-decorated warhammer head, and sells it for 120 gold.

 

Jotunn – given a hint by one of the Chion’s regiment skirmishers – has saved his gold for Hathlisveit. He gains the ear of Sinofor Mes, master armourer and also vicar of Ikmal. Jotunn commissions a cuirass with magical protection. He pays up front: for some reason Mes believes there’s a good chance he’ll never see Jotunn again.

 

Crompton has not saved his gold at all, but does have one of the best “chance divisions.” He reaches out to Aussecur and soon sits down with the wily Svelte who examines his mithril coin collection.

Crompton wisely passes up Aussecur’s first two offers [I am so proud of Crompton, he is a very different Dwarf from the one that tried to bribe an urchin with a gold coin] but the Svelte leans in close and says:

“If not for money, how about I share my master-spell with you? If I teach you the Teacher spell you’ll be in the driver’s seat bargaining with any rogue you meet.”

This is a good deal, provided Crompton meets rogues that want the spells he has. So he hands over the coins and Aussecur begins teaching him.

 

Crompton and Cauleigh gain an interview with Berenger Aussi, gunsmith to Hathlisveit. His main concern is the siege so Cauleigh finds his usual charm not quite as effective. [makes L3 CHR but that’s not great in the circumstances]

The mood sours further when Crompton pushes his enchanted arquebus forward.

“Fancy, too fancy,” Aussi grumbles, though secretly impressed. “Hmm, not a bad little piece,” he says of Cauleigh’s caliver, “If you ask me it’s flimsy though. Look at that breech block and bore. I’d replace that…”

“How much?” Cauleigh asks striking while the iron is warmish, and makes a deal. It will take a significant number of days.

But then he makes the mistake of asking about an enchanted touch-serpent that would always burn when needed.

“Don’t take to none of that fancy charm stuff,” Aussi snorts. “My gunnes are fine pieces!”

“And uh, what about my arquebus stand,” asks Crompton desperately, “can you improve it?”

“Yes…” Aussi growls, gesturing for the stand.

He snaps it in two.

“Here,” he states, handing the pieces back to Crompton, “improved!”

(Later, Crompton contacts hand-gunners on Hathlisveit’s south defences and gets a replacement, free.)

 

Research too, though with slim results

Fennec has the treasure-map uppermost in his mind and having congratulated Righteous Filbard, asks about the roads there. He gets good advice on the best approach, which is to head roughly south through Greystand (capital of house Minas) to Edoras (of house Edoras), obtain mounts or a boat, and head up the golden river from there.

Cauleigh is interested in Ikkutas and what the supposed Ikkutas Dwarves here know about it. He talks to a beefy soldier who half-recollects a tale of a battle involving “Carloman” and some northerners, upriver.

Then at the end of their stay, Cauleigh attempts to get better information from an elder of the same kin, but strikes out. [Rolls a fail, the gaffer waves him away]

 

Jotunn joins the scouts, then everyone joins the fun

Having placed his order Jotunn finds himself easing through the forest south of Hathlisveit with half a dozen lightly-dressed scouts – mostly Sveltes – attempting to locate the enemy cavalry. His hunting skills are as good as ever and his legendary robustness enables him to at least keep up with the others.

Surprising a picket, Jotunn throws his knife away [rolls a fail] but uses his broadax, a nice magical weapon he got as loot from the shrine fight, to back the soldier off, and runs clear ducking the follow-through blow [just allowed to use his level dice plus adds to represent his experience, he ties].

 

Consul Haugri calls a war council. Hathlisveit must needs re-provision before the summer ends, so volunteers from Chion’s regiment, and the re-founders, will combine to exorcise the squadron.

 

The scouts set snare-lines in the forest where they intend the cavalry to flee, and the volunteers attack from one flank and the Dwarves from another. Thunder rumbles overhead: a summer storm is brewing slowly.

Crompton (Cateyes again) easily works his way close, but actually brings his comrades past pickets. As the alarm is sounded he wheels around, levels his arquebus on its stand, and sends a ball through the cheap plate cuirass. Another picket freezes is dismay, and Crompton uses tempus fugit to give himself time, drops the arquebus, draws two knives, and sends them into the picket’s head. Then bounds over, administers the coup de grace, and rejoins the fight.

Which is going well! Cauleigh aims at a silhouette and fires. The man crumples and falls face down. Jotunn fires his arquebus, the ball strikes a shoulder-plate and tears the victim’s chest across, and out the other side, leaving the unfortunate man screaming in pain.

Then Fennec who has been waiting to identify a choice target spots an officer’s gorget, and lets fly with a L5 TTYF:

WHAMMM!!!

A bright red flare with intense purple in its centre connects Fennec to the target: the victim glows ember-like: then there is nothing left save a gorget and boots.

Horses panic, pull their tethers, and flee. Fennec chooses one that hasn’t pulled free yet and fries that. More horses panic and flee.

Jotunn and Cauleigh set out for a struggling line of cavalrymen, but Jotunn slips in the dark. Crompton hastens to help him up then swivels his piece using Jotunn as a makeshift stand, and shoots another cavalryman!

Cauleigh uses kukri and shield to devastating effect. Attacked from their flank the cavalrymen flee as best they can into the trapped woods.

 

Loot is to be had. Cavalry get paid reasonably well, and these were dragoons: their carbines have been left on the field. Each Dwarf loads himself up as best he can (after a couple of attempts to persuade captured mounts they are pack ponies have left Crompton and Jotunn with bruises) and they tote the pieces back to Hathlisveit for the bounty. Cauleigh tucks the gorget away as well, perhaps as a memento.

 

A break in the weather requires shelter – welcome to Perryers Town

The re-founders slop their way through teeming rain towards lights. Unmarked on their map, this town seems to mark a border between Minas and Fingold.

If there is a gate-post they don’t see it, but what they do see is a bedraggled sorry looking group of four cavalrymen, lacking weapons or gear.

As the four Dwarves are hailed by a tout – “come in all, weather like this needs warmth and good ale – best ale gents – come dry yourselves” – Cauleigh turns back. He presses a dozen coins on the luckless deserters.

Having gained the Dwarves’ custom, the tout ducks back out of the storm and encourages them to dry off by the fire, rest on a bench, and order ale. It is good ale. Just beginning to explain the town – “why this is Perryers Town, founded by Perryer a scion of a minor branch of Minas; trading betwixt Minas and Fingold, and many a bargain to be had” – the tout breaks off again to welcome the bedraggled deserters, who now have coins.

The Dwarves order a meal – which is sent for to next door and proves to be two kinds of meat and barley bread – and ask about Perryer and the war and peace-keeping.

“As to the one, he sometimes stops by, but he has made his pile and lives back with his family. As to the other, we are no warriors! Minas has not gotten involved in a war since they knocked the Dragon Tower over. This is a realm of peace. And as to the third, each village has a beadle and detachments can be called up if that’s not enough.”

The Dwarves encourage the deserters to seek employ at Fingold town, for they are hiring there. Feeling better about the slaughter in the forest, they pay for lodging but do not linger for any supposed bargain.

 

Greystand offers final deals before the push to Edoras

Greystand is both ancient – an ornate castle, sporting a gleaming tower, challenges the sky – and modern. The houses are mostly prosperous and build of stone and wood, but a business-like modern-trace rampart surrounds them.

Jotunn’s chance division is a black-pearl-decorated flagon made from some mithril-like metal, and he finally gets a buyer with the “collector” credentials that boosts the price.

“Do we want money or horse?” he asks the others. Edoras has the best horseflesh and the collector, Lady Minas’ nephew (and second cousin to Perryer) offers a scrip for buying them. Fennec’s research comes in useful at this point. They Dwarves take the scrip.

It is at this point that Cauleigh realises his ring of Freeze protection is missing. He can pin down the moment the theft occurred: it was while he was completely distracted by three of the Svelte girls. Ah well.

 

To the river

“So, next we march to the river itself, purchase a crossing, and buy horses,” Fennec confirms.

“And get riding training,” Crompton adds confidently. These days, a mere fall from a horse won’t kill him.

“So we ride up the golden river to Golarion…”

“That’s Colairion Cauleigh, and it’s the name of the wizard that left the loot, not the name of a place. Or maybe there is a place, but it would be a graveyard.”

“…then loot, swing north-west, and head for Sarnas and the chance to trade for magic gear.”

“And perhaps a trail to Ikkutas!.”

“To Ikkutas!!”

So they all chorus, and with that the season ends.

Props

Perryers Town is inspired by a card in the rural locations concept cards(Coffey and Henzel). I’d originally thought to site it on the other side of Hathlisveit, between the siege lines, but the Minas-Fingold border makes more sense. The Universal NPC Emulator (Zach Best, Conjecture Games) helped me with Sinofor Mes and Berenger Aussi. The Vale is my own creation.

 

The players seemed happy with this ¾-length session but I was off my game. Descriptions were patchy or forgotten. I can tell I’m not concentrating when I’m not feeding scent-based information to players. And I’m still cross at myself for missing the crashed hippogriff. It was supposed to link in to explaining how Hathlisveit dealt with the hippogriffs, which may or may not have knock-on effects west. With an eye on the clock I also missed the whole dragon tower follow-through at Greystand, having set it up at Perryers Town.

So, season 2 ends. I have promised myself I will not build multiple NPC groups into future games. But I did enjoy Fingold’s Adventurers Guild. It seemed to work as a thing a fantasy city under siege would need. Thanks to the arch-mage teaching spells, thousands of gold poured into the treasury, enabling Fingold to bounce back quickly once given the chance to buy mercs.

I did not envisage the entire season being all Fingold but I’m very pleased that’s how it worked out. This is how Cauleigh’s player puts it: when he arrived, Cauleigh was a “hollow” level three. As he heads out of Greystand Cauleigh is a very powerful level three, easily able to cope with level four. The same applies to all the others. Fennec, who is the central character if there is one, has changed from a semi-competent level two to a powerful level two with a couple of really nice aids, enabling him to throw down on all sorts of higher-level nasties.

For now, farewell and may the light of Ikmal guide your path!

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