Where we walk
Chief guard McLeish introduces the characters for this session:
Thomas Turnbuckle, cleric of Cuthbert
Barky, southron [barbarian]
Edgar Blaxton, wizard (and his little green dog Vert the Cooshee(1))
And also the NPCs for this session:
Belmont, paladin of Hieroneous
McLeish briefs the bullock train guards, especially the eight crossbowmen, on their duties. Oswald decides he’ll have his crossbow ready on a wagon as well. Reminded that he too has a light crossbow Edgar inspects his, pointing it in slightly alarming directions, and demonstrates that he can safely load it. Thomas looks doubtfully at this ‘demonstration’ but competently loads his own.
Edgar, who hails from a merchant family, joins the general throng for a libation to Fharlanghn. The men are normal Realm denizens – meaning Barky is the odd one out, by a large margin.
The ‘pothecary, Mr. Waittes
There is another newly-joined member, a ‘pothecary whose name is Waittes. A new-joined member, other than his own companions, is a suspect, especially if he has a large pack. At first it seems Waittes has no large pack but later Edgar learns it is stowed.
During the course of the morning – which is fine, for a change – Waittes proves open and engaging, especially with Barky who finds a useful herb, and steadily moves down in suspect priority.(2)
When Edgar explains his idea of Waittes, Thomas immediately places Oswald, Celric’s guard, on the suspect list as well. Nice! The one you least suspect… I can almost see the GM rewriting his plot!
Aside from Cookie (a burly older man with chest hair) no-one rides the wagons. They are packed full of pelts and furs, and tarped down. Bullockees with whips and goads walk alongside the bullocks (starb’d side if you like) and off-siders walk a little ahead (on the port side) ready to drag or push as needs be.(3)
Edgar leverages Vert’s general cuteness to strike up acquaintance and get to know the crew and crossbowmen further. They all seem pretty friendly.(4)
Aside from these men and the crossbowmen, there are eight outriders, and McLeish and Edensor the train captain.
The meaning of the vomit
Until McLeish assesses how useless we are, we walk along in the middle. It’s during this time that Edgar notices a puddle of vomit-like material, with a dead sparrow and remains of another bird in it.
“If I was a ranger this would mean something to me” – Edgar
Edgar makes a fuss calling Vert then telling him not to touch. Much excitement! Others gather, curious. The southron keenly inspects the mess and sticks a finger in.
“Still warm” – Barky, who has wilderness lore but not the tracking feat
“Flying snake? Giant hawk?” – Edgar, who has a point of the same lore
Barky explains the find to McLeish, but there’s no obvious answer, so some time is spent on increased alertness as the train progresses.
It’s some time later that the mystery is solved [with a nat 20 on Notice, by Thomas, and some doggie nose-work by Vert]. A kobold has taken up hiding in the second wagon. Edgar makes pacifying gestures and touches the kobold’s claw, [comprehend languages] and spends some minutes in conversation.
“Snarvil, the kobold has been made ill by wagon-sickness. He fled south, because some two days north there’s a large party of Hextorite raiders. We should warn McLeish and ask who else we should warn. Oh, and I’ve told him we’ll let him ride along to the Commandery.” – Edgar
McLeish moves the wizard with his warning to Edensor, who cautions the wizard not to spread the tale farther. He’ll be the one to brief the men! He moves the group out to the forefront of the wagon train… where their talents will be best used.
At length, with the sky closing in again, an eminence and stockade is sighted. This is Fairmont, a simple community of growers and small-herders. The wagon train grinds slowly up and camps outside it. Aside from a fire and warm grub, there’s no comfort to be had. And it’s raining again.
We learn we are not on watch, probably because we will be doing vanguard duty all the morrow. So after the food, we head round to the stockade gate and ask to be admitted.
The stockade boasts a pub, very welcome to the by-now cold and wet adventurers. It’s the Cracklin’ Rose. And they have a warm hearth, wine and a bard.
But the bard is the same bard we left back in Pelt-town, which makes Edgar rather suspicious. He eyes the bard’s capacious knapsack and outlines a plan to the others.
Once he’s nerved himself up with a couple of cups of wine, Edgar ‘casually’ walks over to speak to the bard and trips over the knapsack. What is supposed to be a pratfall turns into a good sturdy face-plant into the chimney-piece! [a nat 1 on Perform]. The bard leaps to his feet, concern all over his face, and starts helping the wizard. Then, the southron, who is supposed to rifle the knapsack while the bard is distracted, falls on his butt instead [another nat 1] and the cleric, who is also planning to help, ends up simply providing some minor healing to stop the wizard’s nose-bleed.
“I approve of the broken nose, it adds character” – Thomas
“Broken!?!” – Edgar
All the tripping and falling has broken a potion inside the bard’s bag. The bard seems to expect some compensation.
“Fortunes of the road” – Edgar, blustering, on –2 for blood nose and wine
The troubadour, Bertran, seems to disagree with this philosophy. And he’s really convincing! It seems we’ll be paying for his passage too…
The sad tale of the bard’s passage is relayed to McLeish, who adds it to our tab, and reminds Edgar that ‘his’ kobold has to be let go before the Commandery.
A sickly smell
The next leg is for another stockaded village named Beck’s Crown. On duty at the van, Barky smells the stench of death, from right of the trail. Both sides are wooded, the woods moderate [ie no penalty to move per se] but with occasional hanging vines or creepers.
He creeps in cautiously and spots a dead body, waxy with decomposition, and less-visible behind it another under a deadfall.
Reporting back: just as a precaution we sweep the south (left) first then warn the wagon train and check the scene out.
Thomas gets sufficiently close to see that the body has been killed by a vine.
Then the GM counts to three and Thomas fails to react in any way
Then the killer vine strikes, and with its second attack Thomas is strangled and on the verge of death!
The combat that follows is mostly about getting Thomas clear… Belmont’s mighty sword proves decisive, cutting Thomas free so that Edgar and Barky can hurry him clear. A lay-on-hands from Belmont restores Thomas to where he can heal himself.
After a short planning/justification session [which is more fun roleplaying than detailing, but includes some tacticals such as having two shield-bearers up front] Belmont scratches through his gear and produces three oil flasks. Barky is designated thrower. Makeshift wicks are created and of the three burning missiles, two are effective. The vine retracts, at least enough for the corpses to be reclaimed for burial.
The second body is far too far gone for anything more than a few bones to be buried. The first body renders up a short sword and purse with 20gp. Barky keeps the sword for clean-up later, Edgar puts the 20gp into the ‘bank'(5). The extra cash is welcome, given how poor most of us are. The first attempt to dig a grave unearths sturdy cobbles below the turf, a second attempt further away from the road is successful. Edgar says some words from the Wee Jas service for the dead, then Cuthbert’s favourite front-liner Thomas farewells them with:
“I know not whether these men were worshipers but let them rest here.”
One good turn deserves another
Beck’s Crown is a similar, but less impressive, eminence to Fairmont. The same camping arrangement applies. Edgar buys one expensive oil flask for Belmont.
Inside the Sturdy Yeoman the bard holds forth in song – amusing song – a ditty about pratfalling heroes. We have no special pride so take a table anyway. After all it was funny.
It’s when Edgar, somewhat despondently, recites our troubles aloud – the debts, the lack of a real suspect, the missing spellbook – that help comes in the form of Snarvil the kobold. He has found such a book, in the third wagon.
Peeling tarp and pelts back the book is indeed located, wedged under pelts. Edgar makes a very loud song and dance about finding it, and calls on all the gods – or at least the very honest ones – to witness that this book belongs to his mentor Celric.
The fuss draws Edensor who has it all explained to him from the beginning. Luckily, he’s not the culprit, or is incredibly good at acting. He sums up:
“So, we have a murderer along with us, who can bait owlbears to attack targets. This bodes ill.”
We return to our duties leaving the spellbook safe with Edensor. The difference being, we set watch for the remainder of the night.
And on the third watch Belmont wakes Barky, but the session ends before he can explain.
- Cu Sidhe, literally fae (Elf) dog.
- Waittes also proves able to make potions, but not on the road. After the Cracklin’ Rose incident, we pay 25 down on a cure light
- Bullock trains or drays can be extremely extensive affairs. We’re not just talking about a couple of oxen to each wagon! While it’s in a polar opposite climate, here’s a picture of an Australian example:
- The guards explain the physical layout of the Commandery, which is in two main fortified components – the fortress and the town – and a port. Edgar will certainly pass this onto Thomas, at the least.
- We’ve agreed Celric’s 200gp can be used as a bank so we can manage our debts for the time being.
Threads in play:
- Get to the Commandery
- Send Snarvil on his way before we reach the actual walls
- Send Celric’s money back to his kin
- Solve Celric’s murder
- Recover the transferable deeds and gems Celric owned
- Pay back Bertran’s potion, probably in kind
- Pay off Bertran’s passage, if any
- Find expensive herbs for Mr Waittes to help offset potion cost
- Let memories of why there is a better road under the current surface bubble up
- Determine how cool Celric’s bracers are
NPCs in play:
- Edensor, wagon train captain
- McLeish, chief guard
- Waittes the ‘pothecary – can brew potions
- Bertran the troubadour – has one cool tale and one funny tale about us
- Oswald – along for the journey