SB03: Midge Hill and Trowbridge ford: the plotter unmasked!

The characters for this session: 

Thomas, cleric of Cuthbert 

Edgar, wizard 

Barky, southron 

Belmont, paladin of Hieroneous 

With their NPC allies and friends: 

Oswald, fighter 

Vert, cute green dog 

Snarvil, kobold 

Waittes, ‘pothecary 

Bertran, bard 

 

Threads in play: 

  1. Get to the Commandery 
  2. Send Snarvil on his way before we reach the actual walls 
  3. Send Celric’s money back to his kin 
  4. Solve Celric’s murder 
  5. Recover the transferable deeds and gems Celric owned 
  6. Pay back Bertran’s potion, probably in kind 
  7. Pay off Bertran’s passage, if any 
  8. Find expensive herbs for Mr Waittes to help offset potion cost 
  9. Let memories of why there is a better road under the current surface bubble up 
  10. Determine how cool Celric’s bracers are 

As we last left them our friends are asleep barring Belmont, whose watch this is. He sees something…

Predawn peril!

Belmont wakes Barky and points – over yonder at the tree line is a rider – on a wolf! It looks as though McLeish is aware of the danger and is trying to decide whether to get his crossbowmen to try a shot.

Barky keeps low and works his way towards the stream that lies between the bullock-lines and the trees. [good stealth checks, twice in a row] But he’s in two minds, because if he crosses the stream, he’ll be bound to make noise. Behind him Belmont also wakes Edgar and Thomas, then Oswald, and in the same manner, points out the problem.

As if reading his mind, Belmont ostentatiously walks to the farthest-out wagon and undoes his fly, hoping to draw the rider’s attention. Edgar keeps much closer to cover, and fishes around in his components, trying to estimate distances.

Belmont manages to carry off his act with aplomb! And the warg-rider takes the bait, and charges!

[In the following sequence, Barky and the rider get the same init, but Barky has higher DEX. The GM allows Barky to split move, to react as the rider moves.] 

As the warg bounds over the stream, Barky races to intercept and manages a deep cut to its flank as it gets clear of him. Then he spins and runs after it, rage burning in his veins!

Belmont is in grave danger for a moment but his sturdy scale armour saves him – fortunate that he was on guard to start with – and the melee is joined as he drags his sword clear, Barky catches up, and Thomas races in with mace – ineffectually.

From beyond, Edgar drops a wisp of wool and calls ‘Daze’ but with no effect, and the others hold. Oswald carries his halberd to the fight, but has no success.

Barky catches up to the melee, nicking the warg: the warg throws down its rider and attempts to escape, and Barky severs its spine with a massive blow!

“Take him prisoner!” – Edgar

Thomas ensures the goblin rider can’t escape by smashing its skull.

The warg bleeds out as Barky begins recovering. Endosor strides out to assess the situation and the crossbowmen nervously gaze out at the woods surrounding them.

“Roll him over” – Endosor

The rider’s armour is good quality and the warg saddle is also good.

“Hextor work. Happen maybe that kobold of yours was telling the truth” – Endosor

 

Farewell to bait (that’s us)

The next morning, an early libation, the bullock-train heads for Midge Hill before anyone has time to tell the wayfarers to act as scouts. As a result they have chances to chat and ask questions.

Over the course of the day, the sapient suspicion of Thomas falls on Hands the bullockee. There are two reasons for this. First, he’s linked to the non-appearance of young Hoppy, big, blond, dim, who had been expected on the train. Second, he also won mocking fame as the one who was out by the stream having a crap when the warg rider incident occurred.

Hands’ story is not without chinks and when Thomas shares this with Edgar the wizard asks the cleric to help him question Hands with the benefit of a spell.

As the bullock train approaches Midge Hill Snarvil says his farewells and slips away:

“Goodbye, bait” – Snarvil

Otherwise, the adventurers gather some pointers as to what employment could be on offer around the Commandery. For example there’s a gem-field, and a swamp full of lizardmen, and a hill-range of ogres, and a fortress full of slavers guarding their pirate fleet. Later, Bertran describes an elaborate tale, almost a myth, of the creation of two rival artefacts like gauntlets: one white, one dark. It all sounds really high level, or really far-flung. Belmont gets more useful-sounding information on his own order at the Commandery, from Edensor. There is a role for ‘friars’ in the hierarchy run by Porteous, senior of the order.

The rumour of slavers possibly trailing the bullock-train has swelled, and all crews are keenly hoping to reach the other side of the Trowbridge ford, where they will be in Commandery territory.

 

The missed poison affair, part one

At Midge Hill the chance to question Hands under hypnosis comes late in the evening, but before the gates close. Over a “friendly pint” Hands describes Hoppy having fallen in with a saturnine, crop-bearded rider with broad shoulders and fine gear and horse.

 

The night is interrupted – at very nearly the exact same time as the previous – by the sight of a dark figure among the bullock-lines where no guard on regular patrol should be. But when Barky investigates, he finds no-one.

 

Morning brings the answer: Waittes has missed a potion of deadly poison. It’s enough to seriously slow even several spans of bullocks, if their fodder were to be dosed.

 

Which is exactly what has happened.

 

The missed poison affair, part two

The dosed bullocks aren’t limited to any one wagon, but the worst affected is the lead wagon. The question of switching some out and abandoning at least one wagon is raised – by the southron – but it’s too drastic a step. Edensor opts for simply driving on without a stop.

Just in case someone is evilly gloating, Belmont painstakingly walks and detects evil, up and down the entire length. And Barky coopts Edgar in to look for a recently-shaven saturnine man.

 

Despite the train’s fears, or perhaps because the rearguard is strengthened, no attack comes before Trowbridge ford. By this time evening is spreading its mantle. The broad river, at least 100′ across, looks forbidding.

“Clearly where danger lies. What say – Belmont! – we make our way over, and give cover?” – Edgar

 

The plotter and the pursuers

The adventurers decide to form part of the van, and wade safely – Edgar carrying Vert as well as crossbow and staff. Then they turn and make ready. All have range weapons. Edensor and McLeish join them, and the point riders rein in beside them. The first wagon crosses.

The outriders from the second wagon make their way across. Watching one rider encouraging his horse over to safety, Edgar realises he’s not an outrider:

“Hands! So – it was you all along!” – Edgar

“A libation for Nerull!” – Hands

The wizard’s crossbow bolt and at least one other missile strike grinning Hands as he lashes his mount to a gallop. He may have armour concealed under his bullockee garb – in any case he shrugs off the missiles and is away.

Since none of Edensor, McLeish or two outriders with them give chase, that’s the end of that. They watch anxiously, then in alarm, as the first Hextor riders show in the distance!

It’s an easy race for the riders, warg riders and goblin foot to win. The two wagons on the far side of the ford cannot possibly cross before the crews are caught. Indeed as the vanguard watches, they can see wargs trip and throw down luckless men. From behind, they hear the sound of Trowbridge firmly closing its gates!

Belmont adds his voice to McLeish’s call to rally. More men join the bank defence.

 

The thrown-under slavers

Waittes has decided to try his luck pushing across with pack aback. A splint-mail-armoured ritter splashes into the ford and overtakes him: another follows, a short way back. Belmont lands an arrow on the near rider but it barely makes an impact on the heavy armour.

“Hurry Waittes!” – Edgar

“Dodge!” – Thomas

“Duck!” – Barky

But the rider easily hooks a gauntlet through Waittes’ cumbersome gear and he’s dragged up off his feet. Thomas tries a shot, which luckily misses both. Edgar drifts a small handful of sand into the flow and calls for horse and rider to ‘Sleep!’ [7HD. Great start!] The horse falls under the water, then rears awake – by which time the rider has lost his seat and is being dragged! The far rider is also in trouble.

“Run Waittes! Run!” – Edgar

Waittes splashes closer, out of range of the second ritter, who’s busy recovering his seat. Then Bertran, who has been hiding at water’s edge under a bush, decides to try his luck. But a wave of goblins gives chase!

“Run for your life Bertran!”

The adventurers attempt a couple of shots, but the dim and the range are against them. On the far side mounted commanders can be guessed at: and the guessed-at presence of heavy crossbowmen is confirmed as they approach to the river and one tries a shot.

Barky’s next shot finds its mark: a goblin falls. The ritter has regained control of his horse as Bertran gains mid-stream, goblins close behind. Thomas calls Cuthbert’s blessing. Edgar once more drifts sand and calls on the whole group behind Bertran to ‘Sleep’. Four goblins fall!

“And there’s more where that came from!” – Edgar, bluffing

In the breathing space, Bertran labours his way over and the drenched ritter and goblins decide to pull back. Edgar brandishes his staff! – then bends down and recovers his crossbow and starts reloading it.

 

Half safe is a kind of a victory  – and resolution follows

The caravan has, in effect, lost half its strength. The slavers fade back into the dark with their coffles of slaves. Edensor asks Thomas to swear vengeance by Cuthbert, and extends that to ask Belmont to serve Hieroneous in the same cause. They do, and the others – Barky, Oswald and Edgar – fall in with the plan, more or less willing. Edensor promises 200 gold to kickstart this enterprise!

 

And as the GM invites them to think about what level 2 might look like, the session ends.

 

Threads closed: 

(2) Send Snarvil on his way before we reach the actual walls: Done, and by leaving us as ‘bait’ he rises to undreamed-of kobold glory. 

(4) Solve Celric’s murder – Sure, I mean, we did work out whodunnit as he rode off gloating 

(5) Recover the transferable deeds and gems Celric owned: Finished as unsuccessful unless we happen to defeat Hands in future 

(9) Let memories of why there is a better road under the current surface bubble up: This land was once part of the old empire and they built in stone. 

 

New Thread: Pursue Hands, seek revenge.  

New NPC: Hands, servant of Nerull

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