I have written up a brief summary of what has progressed over the last 1,000 years in Doggerland and will be looking to use this website to be able to display it in a better way than in the body of the blog. If not, I will produce a separate blog/site that can be a repository for all the background fluff.
The characters were started at '0' Level - an experiment I have been wanting to run for many years - and will level up after the first adventure is complete. It seems to work OK. Anyway, here is the (quite long) introductory adventure write-up...
Hallan – Fighter
Paulix – Thief
Vox Comwy – Magic User
Arrival in High Beeches - Wodensday 24th Tresober 963 (Day 1 – early morning)
His face covered by a deep cowl, the young teamster Paulix hurriedly hopped off of the last of the line of wains leaving the small hamlet of High Beeches and sought to distance himself from his previous employer. He watched, without any regret, the caravan pull off into the distance along the road running westwards into the distant hills to deliver its cargo of farm implements and cloth to the eagerly awaiting villagers and farmers of the western Vannin who were just emerging from the previous winter snows. The young rogue thought that he should be plying his trade as a thief, not as a teamster, and wished to head back to the main towns and cities where he could blend in and thus make his escapes more easily. He surveyed the rest of the small hamlet with its half-a-dozen wattle and daub buildings, round stone church dedicated to Sol Invictus, and the cruck and plaster tavern called the Barley Mow. On the surrounding hills were dotted the farmsteads of other members of this small community, and the river to the north sparkled in the sunlight from the early morning spring sun.
Hallan, having walked into the hamlet from another small village in the hills, saw the young teamster hop off the waggon and decided to watch what he would do. He too was new in town; the caravan having passed him on its way out of the hamlet. Assuming that the hooded youth was in the same predicament as himself he made towards him to introduce himself and offer his friendship and strong right-arm for adventuring.
Paulix made his way towards the Barley Mow, looked around furtively and entered the tavern. Hallan followed him into the common room and unslung his short bow from his shoulder to protect it against any knocks.
The tavern was empty except for the bar keep, one of his serving girls (his youngest daughter) and Old Grimwald who was nursing a small flagon of ale. Just as the door to the tavern was about to slam shut, another stranger entered. Vox, a navigator on his father’s small boat that plied its trade up and down the Darenth River, furtively glanced about and made his way to a table.
All three adventurers ordered a flagon of ale from the bar-keep and managed to engage him, Grimwald and each other in conversation. Each youngster mentioned that they were looking for adventure or a job that would take them to one of the larger villages around. The three youths were told about the trampled crops and stolen sheep from the farmsteads around, especially those that were by the river to the north of the main hamlet, as well as the set-to between local bigwig Simeon Graize and the new upcoming trader Albus Perkins. Being a little backwater hamlet, not a lot really happened in High Beeches, so anything unusual was a big event.
Footprints in the Sand (late morning)
The possibility of solving a mystery piqued the interest of the three new companions, so they asked directions to the farmers who were most affected by the crop and livestock disappearances. They were directed to the steading of farmer Ham; a sheep farmer whose land bordered the river from the jetty where Vox’s father’s boat was moored to the bridge about half a mile down river.
They arrived at the door of the farmer’s small A frame hut to the sound of barking dogs. They hallooed to make their presence known and were greeted by a grizzled farmer and a few of his dogs. They got him talking about the loss of his prized ram and two of his better ewes a few days after the last new moon, and he also mentioned that he had previously lost a few sheep to intruders about a month before then too. Likewise, he mentioned that farmer Bristow had had his crops damaged in a most unusual way. The three adventurers said that they would investigate the mysterious disappearance of his sheep and he replied that he is not a rich man but could give them his oldest sheep dog and a handful of coppers as a reward if they could return any of his livestock or at least stop any further recurrences.
The three companions made their way towards farmer Bristow’s lands and hallooed their presence to the three men working the fields. The three farmers were very defensive and held their flails, hoes and pitchforks at the ready as the three youths approached them. The farmers relaxed their defensive stances a little after the youths had told them of their quest and they mentioned that just after the new moon their new crop had been devastated in places. It was weird the way the crops were destroyed. It was almost as if something large had trampled through and around the fields and then pulled up big clumps of new growth in a random fashion. Vox tried to pull up a clump of about the same size but realised he would need much bigger hands and a lot more strength to achieve the same result.
The companions mentioned that they were looking into the disappearance of farmer Ham’s sheep too, and farmer Bristow mentioned that others in the village had also been affected but not to the same degree. They bid their farewells and went to investigate the stone walls and fences at the perimeter of the farms.
The party traversed the entire length of the boundary wall but could not find a single sign that it had been climbed over. That said there were plenty of gaps in the walls and the west side of both farms was completely open anyway.
Eventually, their searches brought them to the riverside beside the bridge, about a mile or so downstream from farmer Ham’s hovel. They searched about not really knowing what to look for when Paulix spotted a very large footprint in the riverside sand and gravel. A closer inspection by Hallan revealed part of a second footprint entering the river. The footprint was at least twice the size of any of theirs and was not shod in anyway, so the individual toe prints could be made out. They could see that it was not a hoax footprint due to the depth it sank into the bankside. Vox mentioned that the river at this point was about five to six feet deep; a good depth for his father’s small boat to navigate upon.
The party scratched their heads a little and searched a short way up the river, under the bridge and then down the river to the marshy area about a quarter of a mile away. No further sign of the footprints could be seen, so whatever made them was large, could wade up and down the river, could possibly step over the stone wall boundaries of the farms, had an appetite for meat and unripe barley, and that only seemed to come by the hamlet once a month just a few days after the new moon.
An Altercation on the Village Green (early afternoon)
The three companions decided they would get no further clues from the vicinity so returned to the hamlet. Just as they were about to cross what was for all intents the village green they saw the ending of an altercation between a group of men. Three men were seemingly engaged in an argument with another, who was then knocked to the ground just as the party arrived on the scene. The three others then left the scene in a self-congratulatory mood. The party did not hear the actual argument but could see that the man who had been knocked to the floor and had dropped all of his leaflets was obviously not in favour with the other group.
The party helped him to his feet and gathered his leaflets. He introduced himself as Albus Perkins and thanked them for their aid. He then proceeded to nail one of his leaflets to the notice post and asked if any of them wanted a job. All three were up for earning a bit of silver so they replied in the affirmative. He asked them to accompany him to the tavern where he bought them a small meal and a flagon of cheap ale each. The tavern was busier at this time of day, and every table was full with farmers on their lunchtime breaks from the fields.
Albus quickly ran through the situation. Just recently he had gained a new contact in Darenth; the next village downstream about 15 miles away. His rich brother had returned from some adventuring and had enough silver to set up a merchant holding with which to ply trade between the villages all around and the main town of the duchy of Vannin. All seemed to go well with the set-up but Simeon Graize, the local bigwig who the party saw outside roughing him up with a few of his goons, became envious of his new position and angry at the loss of his own trade.
The feud began as just a verbal slanging match with insults thrown at each other across the street, but yesterday four of Albus’s guards and teamsters were taken ill just before a big shipment was due to be caravanned down to Darenth. Albus now required a few extra guards and drivers to help him take his latest cargo on the morrow. He offered twenty silver pieces per person and all meals and lodgings along the way. They would be travelling by ox cart (his horses had also been stolen) and should cover the fifteen miles over a two day period if the going was good.
The three companions agreed to this and said that they would be ready to go on the morrow at six o’clock. Albus left the party to their own devices and left the tavern to prepare for the journey. Vox mentioned that he had to grab some supplies for his father, so asked the others if they would aid him with this and then help him face down his father when he got back to the boat and told him of his decision to go adventuring. However, just before they got up to leave the tavern, a furtive, rat-faced man scurried out just before them. He appeared to have been earwigging their conversation with Albus and looked like he was up to no good.
The goods were easily obtained and paid for out of the small purse of silver Vox had for the purpose and all three of the youths made their way down to the jetty where the small trading boat was tied up. Vox, who was afraid of his bully of a father, approached the boat and with the help of his new friends loaded the goods he had purchased. Plucking up his last reserves of courage from he knew not where he voiced his plans to his father. Silence greeted his statement to begin with and then his father muttered something along the lines that he was useless anyway and it would be his brothers who would share a greater part in the business. With a final grunt, his father threw his knapsack over the side and ordered the crew to cast off. He warned Vox not to come back unless he had made a name (and some silver) for himself to compensate for the time and effort put into training him. The four man crew consisting of his father and three older brothers cast off, but not before his closest brother gave him a surreptitious good luck nod.
The party returned to the hamlet and not really having anything better to do returned to the Barley Mow to pass the rest of the day and night.
Things that go Bump in the Night (midnight)
The three companions managed to secure a place at the last remaining table and a bedroll for the common room later that night. The evening passed without event except for Albus dropping off a young lad he had hired to be a teamster and the return of the rat-faced informant, who kept watch on the party all the time he was there.
Eventually all of the patrons left for the night so the four people left prepared their bed rolls. The young teamster was soon asleep, but the other three were quite excited about their new adventure. They decided that, because the dodgy-looking man had been watching them rather intently and attempts had been made to scupper this caravan, they would keep a watch.
The empty waggons had been drawn up outside the tavern in readiness for the next day, and the oxen were placed in the tavern’s stable. Nothing really happened until around midnight. The slim waning moon (the new moon was due in 5 days’ time) gave off very little light, but Hallan’s position inside the stable enabled him to see the furtive approach of a hooded lantern and a few men through the gaps in the slats. He knocked on the internal wall of the tavern in agreement with their plan and the two others stirred from their sleep.
The young teamster remained asleep, so Vox and Paulix flung open the door to the tavern; Vox moved towards the night soil pail outside to make water and Paulix readied his sling. The furtive movements outside stopped until Vox pretended to then close the door after finishing his ablutions. Two shadows began to move again and made their way towards the ox shed. They seemed intent on hobbling the beasts of burden within, so Paulix let fly with his sling in the dark. He could just make out the shape of the intruders and let fly. There was a grunt, the sound of a person collapsing and the clatter of a lantern hitting the floor. This was followed by a scurrying as of one making a fast escape.
The three adventurers investigated the scene with a torch grabbed from the front of the tavern and saw that the person who had been hit by the sling bullet lay dead on the floor. In the light at the end of the village they could see his companion had scurried off in the direction of Simeon’s farm. They quickly recovered the lantern and weapons from the intruder and hefted his body between them down to the jetty, where they threw the body, weighted down with rocks into the river. It took them a while to do this but they did it stealthily and without incident. They returned to their beds where they fell asleep until the church bells rang out at six o’clock.
A Stolen Amulet (Day 2 – early afternoon)
They awoke to find that the waggons were already hitched and the goods were being safely stowed aboard. They quickly broke their fast and aided Albus in getting the rest of the goods stowed. They set off not long after; Albus on his horse, his young teamster driving the last waggon, his two guards on two of the waggons, and the rest of the adventurers dotted throughout the three wain convoy.
They stopped off at the church on their way out of the village to pick up a fourth cart in their caravan and headed off. The last cart had a driver and four men on board it, and it joined on to the end of the train.
The journey was uneventful during the sunny but cool spring morning and they stopped for lunch at the allotted time after making good headway. During the lunch break, the various groups sat about their carts eating lunch, but Paulix noticed that one of the teamsters from the fourth cart had peeled away from his group and wandered around past Albus. He made a few furtive movements and then a grin spread across his face as he made his way back to his team. Paulix told Albus of his observations and after a little patting of pockets and chest realised that his amulet had gone missing. Paulix confronted the teamster who happened to be the same weasel-faced man they had espied in the tavern the day before! He questioned him on the whereabouts of the amulet he had stolen and suggested that if it was not returned by the end of the lunch break he would report its disappearance to his employer. The sly looking fellow grinned a lop-sided grin and said that he did not know what he was talking about, but at the end of the break, the amulet had been left where Paulix suggested.
Ambush (Day 2 – late afternoon)
After the incident with the amulet nothing else interrupted the journey until later in the afternoon. They had just one small copse of trees to pass before the final hill descended to the White Cross Inn; their destination for the night.
All of a sudden two arrows came winging out of the copse striking into the front cart of the caravan. Two armed men charged out of the copse yelling war-cries. Albus gave the order for all to dismount and take defensive positions. Everyone did so but those in the rear cart formed up facing the rest of the caravan rather than their attackers. Hallan let loose with two of his arrows and the two bandits charging them dropped in their tracks. Paulix, realising that the rat-faced man was a part of this ambush decided to shoot his sling at him, winging him in the process. Two of the gang took off as soon as they realised that they were in a dangerous place.
Hallan did not have it all his own way as he was suddenly hit by an arrow shot from the copse, as was Paulix. Injured but unperturbed the two heroes shot back at the copse but did not hear the satisfying thunk of arrow striking flesh. With a final cry of frustration, the rat-faced man made off with his last two companions in the direction of the copse and no more arrows came forth.
Albus checked over his teamsters and administered some aid to them before the three companions searched the bodies of the two dead bandits. They stripped them of their weapons and armour and emptied their purses but left their corpses for the wolves. The two teamsters who ran off came back to reclaim their waggon. Albus questioned them as to their motive but they said that they just formed up defensively under the orders of the sly man and his companions whom they had hired to help defend their waggon. Albus had recognised the sly man as one of Simeon’s ruffians and told his teamsters to be on their guard tonight as he was sure they would continue to cause him strife. Simeon had now lost three of his men so was sure to want revenge.
Night Raid (Day 3 – Early hours)
The caravan made its way into the courtyard of the White Cross Inn and the oxen were put into their berths. The waggons were secured behind the stone walls and Albus treated everyone to a hearty meal and a flagon of ale.
The inn was quite crowded but there was no-one there that anyone recognised. At the end of the night, all of the merchants retired to their rooms upstairs but the three companions and their fellow teamster were left on cots downstairs. They decided to watch the waggons overnight in shifts.
The night wore on with no attempts on the caravan, so Paulix and Vox settled down to sleep by the strong door of the inn. Hallan took up position on one of the waggons. The night wore on but just before dawn, Hallan heard the approach of someone across the road. He spotted a dark shape approaching. He yelled out for his companions, who woke immediately, the young teamster ran off towards the room of Albus and his guards. They boiled out of the inn just as Hallan readied himself to take the attack from the shadowy figure ahead of him. He missed with his bow and took a nasty wound on the arm for his troubles by the shadowy figure. A few arrows struck the side of the cart he was defending but caused him no harm. Vox managed to grab the torch from the cresset beside the inn’s door, whilst Paulix hurried around the corner just in time to see his companion Hallan fall to a mighty sword blow from the attacker. A few more arrows thudded into the side of the waggon but the commotion from within the inn had grown substantially forcing the assailants to escape. They had evened up the odds by striking down one of Albus’s team.
The wife of the innkeeper was skilled in herb lore so she was able to stop the heavy blood flow coming from Hallan, and then she revived him a little with a bowl of hot chicken broth and some strong brandy. He had lost a lot of blood but would survive with a good long rest as long as he did not get involved in any more fights.
The waggons were hitched up again and the party left at first light with Hallan laid up on the front waggon to protect him from the journey ahead.