Thursday, 17 October 2013

Doggerland Session 2:6 (Village of Hommlet)

This is the start of the adventure proper; my interpretation of the TSR module T1 - The Village of Hommlet. The previous few weeks have been building up clues and atmosphere in readiness for tackling the Temple and its minions from now onwards. There are changes I have made to the module to fit into my campaign universe but it should still make sense on the whole. Here is the first session that involves their first experiences of Hommlet - in my campaign this village is named Staneford. Now read on...

Rumours in Staneford (16th October 2013)

The Adventurers
Hallan – Fighter
Johan - Cleric
Paulix – Thief
Vox Comwy – Magic User

Magician in Flux - Freyasday 5th Quattrober 963 (Day 10) – afternoon

The village of Darenth lay under a grey blanket of drizzle. Everything was as soaked through as a washerwoman’s apron on wash day. Vox, loaded down under his heavy sack of adventuring equipment, slipped and slid his way down the slight incline from Sir Richard’s mansion, bringing up the rear of the party as they headed towards the comfort and dryness of the Miller’s Arms tavern.

Once inside and sat at a table nursing a drink, he considered what he wanted to do with the scroll that had come into his possession. He quickly downed his jack of ale and squared his shoulders for the return journey to Sir Richard’s manor. He told his companions that he would be heading out to try to exchange his scroll for something more useful.

Vox stepped back out into the rain, trudged his way back up the slope to the mansion and asked the guards at the gate whether he could see Godefroi, Sir Richard’s vizier. The guards recognised him, and after a few moments they returned to escort him into the presence of the vizier. Godefroi asked what he wanted and when he was told that he had some information for him, his attention fixed upon Vox. The magician offered up the scroll and suggested that as Godefroi was a superior thaumaturge he might make more use of the magic contained within but that he would like something in return. Godefroi quickly studied the scroll and realised that it was a spell that he did not already have within his repertoire. He considered Vox’s offer and countered that he would teach Vox a spell in return for the scroll and something extra as it was not certain that he would be able to copy it into his spell book without error.

Vox agreed to the trade and handed over the scroll. Godefroi led the adventurer into his study and attempted to teach him a variety of spells, but Vox could not grasp the subtleties involved in copying them down. Godefroi suggested that he might be tired after all of his adventuring and should he return on the morrow he would spend a bit longer with him; but for a price.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party who were still in the tavern wondered who the two prisoners that the men-at-arms had escorted into the lord’s manor were. They thought about it and realised that it could not be any of their friends from High Beeches as Albus had only just recently started his return journey to the hamlet and could therefore not be a captive. They assumed that they must be a couple of scapegoats for the troubles that had occurred recently in the small village; burning crops, summoning demons (in the form of the living dead), and being in cahoots with legions of strange creatures were all things that could lead to accusations of witch craft and strong punishment.

Trial by Fire - Godsday 6th Quattrober (Day 11)

Just after the six o’clock morning bells, Vox sprang from his cot in the tavern, bolted down his breakfast and sprinted up the hill to see Godefroi for his magical training session. He ignored the drizzle in his haste and arrived at the gate out of breath. The guards chuckled at the sight of the highly energetic trainee mage, and ushered him through to Godefroi’s study as arranged. As this was to be a training session, and would take the whole day, Godefroi charged Vox the going rate for his services; one hundred silver pieces. Vox handed over the coins and began his first session of serious study under an accomplished wizard.

The rest of the party killed time by sharpening their weapons, cleaning their armour and tending to their clothing and adventuring equipment. Paulix heard from Jaden that the trial of the two prisoners would be held later that afternoon, but he didn’t see them getting out of their punishment. Samson headed to the woodworker’s cottage to collect and pay for his newly affixed axe handle. The weapon was as good as new and he swung it in a few experimental strokes before being asked to practice his dangerous art elsewhere.

Just after lunch, the most important members of the village, Jared, the miller, the two priests and a couple of the more important farmers, trudged their way up to Sir Richard’s manor, where they were ushered straight into the great hall. No-one else was allowed into the hall, either to take part in the proceedings or to watch from a public gallery. It was to be a trial by a jury of peers behind closed doors.

After a few hours of deliberation the verdict was given and a minor ruckus erupted within the hall that momentarily put Vox off his studies. A couple of Sir Richard’s retainers headed down to the local carpenter and ordered the execution equipment to be set up. The party, still in the tavern, managed to see the activities begin through the tavern window and saw that a pair of large stakes and several faggots of wood were taken to the village green and set up for the guilty parties.

Just as the evening bells rang out to bring the farmers in from their fields, a sombre procession led down from the manor house to the green where the two prisoners were bound to the stakes, protesting their innocence all the way. The senior priest read out a sermon, asked the guilty to repent their sins, and when they refused he asked Sol Invictus to cast the evil-doers into the Abyss where they belonged.

The flames were lit and the crowd watched intently as the two sinners were taken to meet their demonic lords.

Later that evening a caravan pulled into the village and hitched their horses for the night. Hallan, Johan and Paulix approached the lead merchant and asked if he needed more guards for his caravan. He replied that he already had as many guards as he needed but would appreciate their company as extra security and would feed them on the journey the following day as a thank you for travelling with him. The party questioned the merchant about his journey so far and he replied that it had become increasingly more risky to transport goods around over the last year or so and less profitable due to having to hire more guards. He said that this danger from bandit raids could occur anywhere on the route from High Beeches right through to Castleford in the north by the river Abis.

Arrival in Staneford - Moonday 8th Quattrober (Day 13)

The caravan had an uneventful journey to Staneford. The first day passed without incident and the night they made camp to pass the night at the halfway stage passed without incident. The party almost wished for trouble to ease their boredom as the caravan wound its way through the woods and over the hills and dales on the journey north towards Staneford.

As the morning of the second day of the journey wore on, the caravan travelled down a muddy, rutted road lined with closely-grown hedges of brambles and shrubs. Here and there the road cut through a copse of trees or crossed a small rivulet. To either side, forest and meadow gave way to field and orchard. A small herd of cattle grazed in a field nearby and in the distance could be seen smoke rising from chimneys. The party passed the great stone-built chapel to Sol Invictus upon a nearby rise, noted the huge stone tower on a granite outcrop in the distance, and then to either side of the road ahead they passed many well-kept cruck and plaster barns and buildings before stopping in the courtyard of the largest building they had ever seen; the Plough and Stars Inn.

The merchant thanked the party for their help and got to work ordering his teamsters to unpack the produce and stable the horses. The adventurers looked around at the rest of the village before heading inside the tavern.

The interior was well aired and lit and there were a dozen or so customers dotted around the main common area, seated at comfortable tables and benches. The innkeeper, his wife and a handful of serving girls and pot boys bustled around the inn serving the hungry customers.

Ostler Gundigoot introduced himself and asked if he could be of service. The party booked private rooms for the night and headed back outside the doors to follow up on the clues that they had.

The Druid – afternoon

They decided that their first port of call should be Jaroo, the druid. They had spotted what looked like his grove just down the road from the tavern. The well-tended small copse within the village was obviously a place of worship. The trees lining the path were neatly pruned and the grass was well tended. A carefully placed line of bluish stones lined the path to a rock cairn covered in offerings of nuts, corn dollies, candles, garlands and flowers to the nature god Cernunnos. A small path beyond the shrine led to a low-roofed building placed under the boughs of the great central oak trees.

Vox knocked on the door of the small building but he received no answer from within. A few moments later a man dressed in un-dyed plain robes emerged from the trees and asked them their business. The party introduced themselves and showed the druid the metal amulet, asking him if he knew what it was. He said he didn’t know what it was but recognised the symbols as being from the ancient Cthonic rune language. He couldn’t read it but did know from the way that it was written that the runes spelled out a cartouche of some ancient demon.

The party asked him whether anyone else in the village would know exactly what it meant. He mentioned that Terjon, the new Canon who had replaced Canoness Y’Dey when she disappeared suddenly about a month ago, might know, as might Burne, the sorcerer in the round fortified tower. If they had no luck then they could always attend the New Moon meeting held every month where anyone could ask a question of the village council.

Just as they were about to finish their conversation, Jaroo led the party to the standing stones and asked them for a personal offering. Johan gave his staff, Hallan his cudgel and Vox a scattering of tea leaves. Paulix had nothing of any real personal value, so left a small pile of coins.

Jaroo walked them to the end of his path and bade them farewell but Vox had one last question. He wanted to know what it was with all the rain. Jaroo replied that he did not know but it did not feel right.

The bells for six o’clock rang out and the village began to return from the fields and prepare for the evening prayers. They noticed that maybe a third to one half of the village made their way to the church; more people than they had ever seen attending a Sol Invictus service. Johan swore that he must do something about this turning from the old ways.

The party returned to the tavern and spent the night carousing. They spoke to the ostler who told them about many of the characters in tavern and the village. Paulix spotted a card shark at a table; he won more than he lost but did it in such a way that the others at the table didn’t feel cheated although Paulix concluded that he must either be an extremely good card player or he was cheating in some way. They also spotted the caravan merchant who stood them a round of ale. The men-at-arms, who were neither from Vannin nor Thuringia, were quite sociable and answered a few questions about security in the region. They mentioned a tale of a monstrous troll being hunted down by a bunch of adventurers about a year ago but were unsure what had happened to the adventurers except that they brought back the troll’s ashes and a load of treasure before disappearing again. They also repeated the story of the bandit attacks beginning again about a year or so ago and that they had begun to get more frequent. No-one knew who the perpetrators were as there were never any bandit corpses or merchants left alive to tell the tale. Rumour had it that they might come from either the moat house in the marshes or from the despicable village of Nulb to the north. Throughout the night they saw one particular man by the name of Elmo wandering throughout the tavern, scrounging drinks and laughing uproariously in a drunken way at all and sundry. He offered the party his services as a fellow adventurer as long as they supplied him with a big axe and armour as he wanted to be like his brother Otis who had left the village at the same time as the Canoness Y’Dey. The party realised that they would get no more information that night, so retired to their rooms to plan what they would do the following day.

Getting to Know the Locals - Tirsday 9th Quattrober (Day 14)

The following morning the party rose early and broke their fast on the splendid morsels on offer. They glanced out of the tavern windows and realised that at long last the rain had stopped. They each had tasks to carry out, so they said that they would meet up again later after gaining as much information as possible.

Vox and Johan decided to take a look at the tower on one of the large granite outcrops. They noticed that there was a hive of activity going on. When they approached the outcrop they noticed that foundations were being dug for a curtain wall and a variety of stones were being worked on for the wall itself; the quarry being across the river at the other granite outcrop. There were maybe twenty or so labourers at work in a variety of roles and they seemed to be accompanied by their womenfolk and children as well as a few mangy curs. Johan and Vox realised that they might be able to grab a few converts from the workers and began to move amongst them healing a few sprains and closing cuts that affected the type of work some of the labourers could carry out. They spent the rest of the day with the workers, eating with them and preaching the word of Balder. This met with a little resistance from some but many were happy to hear the energetic preaching of the young cleric.

Meanwhile, Paulix headed up towards the temple in time for the first service of the day. On his way out of the tavern he noticed that there were a couple of warhorses in the stables being brushed down. He headed inside to the main altar room after making a small donation at the door under the insistence of the deacon Calmert. He watched the congregation rather than listening to the sermon and noticed that two well-dressed members were seated at the front. He assumed that these were the magician Lord Burne and his accomplice Sir Rufus due to the fact that they were surrounded by a number of men-at-arms. He took note of all the others present and waited for the service to end.

At the end of the service he approached the main priest Terjon and asked him if he recognised the runes on the amulet he held out to him. Terjon took a good look but admitted that other than it being in an old runic language he didn’t really know what it said. The Canoness Y’Dey would have known but she had been called away at short notice only a month or so ago and he was her temporary replacement. As it gave off a magical aura, he suggested that maybe Lord Burne would be the best person to ask about this.

Paulix made his way up to the tower, passing a very busy Vox and Johan along the way. He walked up the pathway towards the tower and was called to halt by a guard on the tower walkway. The main tower looked to be about thirty-five feet tall with another centrally placed smaller tower rising a further twenty feet. On certain parts of the walls Paulix could make out several other guards and the shapes of several war machines (scorpions and mangonels). The entrance to the tower was only accessible by going up a flight of stone steps which terminated about ten feet above the ground. The outer door of the entranceway to the tower was lowered to form a bridge to the stone landing, and a raised portcullis and thick iron inner door completed the entranceway defences. Paulix observed that there were a number of arrow slits around the tower and the base of the tower was reinforced with a six foot splay to add more strength.

The guard asked Paulix what he wanted and came down to meet him when he said that he had urgent business with lord Burne. Paulix briefly described what he wanted to share with the mage and the guard mentioned that he could try to get him an audience for a small fee. Paulix handed over a few silver coins but the guard harrumphed until five silvers were sitting in his palm. He asked where he could be found later and when Paulix responded that he is staying at the Plough and Stars he said to the thief to await him there with news of an audience.

On his way back to the tavern, Paulix decided to have a short wander to see the last parts of the village he had not seen until now. On his travels he spotted Elmo bumbling around; he seemed to always be wandering around the village in his drunken stupor. Just across the ford from the tavern Paulix spotted a sturdy new building with a sign displaying three golden balls; the universal sign of a usurer. He remembered that he still had four of the gems left from the mara’s treasure, so he headed to the door to change them up. He was met at the door by a burly guard in chainmail cradling a loaded crossbow in his arms with a fine looking sword at his belt. Two mastiffs chained nearby growled as he approached. The guard asked what he wanted and upon receiving Paulix’s answer he rapped on the door. A slot in the door opened and the guard whispered to the man within. Paulix was then admitted to a small workshop by Melubb the moneychanger. After a brief look at the gems, he offered Paulix a value slightly less than he himself had appraised them at. Paulix needed the coins, so accepted the offer graciously and bid Melubb a good day.

An Audience with Lord Burne - afternoon

Paulix met up with Hallan at the inn and sat down with him to discuss what he had found out. Just after lunch, a couple of men-at-arms entered the inn and made enquiries after Paulix. They said that they had come to escort him to see Lord Burne about the news he wished to impart. Paulix and Hallan grabbed their weapons and followed on, picking up Vox and Johan along the way. All four were asked to hand over their weapons before being ushered through the entranceway, past the winding gear for the portcullis and up a flight of stairs to the upper level and into the chamber of the magician.

He welcomed them into his cluttered abode with a wave of his hand and said that they had magic about them. Paulix said that this was the reason he had come to see him and produced the metal amulet. Lord Burne leant forward and took it from him inspecting it as he did so. He went quiet for a while. He then said that this was one of the keys to the great doors of the Temple that bound a great demon. He asked how they had come by it but was puzzled by their response that Albus had one day found it in his treasure chest. He then proceeded to tell a little of the back story about how ten or so years ago an evil Temple had arisen in the area close to the village of Nulb and had terrorised the area. Warriors and mages from the surrounding nations got together and defeated the Temple’s denizens, but not without great loss. A terrible demon that had aided the Temple followers was subsequently locked away in the lower levels of its dungeons before the whole lot was razed to the ground. Then, about a year ago, a small band of tough adventurers hunted down and destroyed a great troll which had nested within the Great Gnarley but was terrorising the surrounding countryside. It was at this point that the bandit raids grew more frequent and seemingly more organised. No clues could be gained from the raids as the bandits always got clean away and there were never any survivors to tell the tale. The appearance of the goblins and kobolds showed that evil humanoids were again being summoned from beyond the Void to do the job of someone or something. The places where the evil started ten years ago were around the Temple which was just outside of Nulb, but nearer to Staneford was a moat house in the fens that held a garrison that was the perpetrator of the local raids. Burne thought that this was most likely where the bandits were coming from at the moment as it was within striking distance of the village and easily re-enforceable from Nulb and the river.

He handed the amulet back to Paulix and said he would like them to go to the moat house to reconnoitre; any treasure found there they could keep. Burne said that he would just like any information detailing the new set-up of the Temple or any other similar clues relayed to him so that he could pass on the details to his superiors. Slightly annoyed at not being offered a reward, Paulix agreed that they would look into it and asked Burne if he would look after the amulet as it seemed so important. Burne quickly made his excuses and said he did not want anything to do with it.

The adventurers made their obeisance, leaving the wizard to his reflections, and headed back to the Plough and Stars tavern to figure out what to do next.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Doggerland Session 1:5

We welcomed a new player to the table this week. Hopefully he enjoyed it enough to come back next week and continue with the adventure. The party should be ready to head to the main village in the area from next week and get to the root of the problems that are currently affecting Vannin. Anyway, on wiht what happened at the last session...

Mara Hunt (9th October 2013)

The Adventurers
Hallan – Fighter
Johan - Cleric
Paulix – Thief
Samson - Ranger
Vox Comwy – Magic User

The Hunt Begins - Thunorsday 4th Quattrober 963 – Day 9 – morning

The enthusiastic barking of hounds greeted the four adventurers as they made their way to the mill to meet the huntsman and fellow guards. The drizzle dulled the spirits of Lord Richard’s men but they agreed it would make for a nice break from the hum-drum day-to-day routine that they had grown used to over the winter, even if it turned out to be nothing more than a wild goose chase; who’d ever heard of giantesses stealing sheep?

When the adventurers had arrived and greeted the huntsman and his cohorts, they were joined by one of Jared’s trained trackers too; a man by the name of Samson. The large party of hunters set off after giving the dogs the scent of the mara from their weapons used in their previous encounter with the beast, and the dogs took off enthusiastically. The party splashed across the ford to the south side of the river where the dogs picked up the trail.

They made good time until they reached the Imeryds Run; the larger river that the Darenth converged with about two miles out of town. The scent ran out and the dogs milled about in frustration. The huntsman, who knew his dogs well, suggested that they needed to cross the river at this point, to pick up the trail again. However, as it was maybe seven or eight feet deep at this juncture according to Vox, whose river knowledge came in handy, they stopped to work out how to continue. It was too deep to wade across and their armour and weaponry would most likely weigh them down too much if they attempted to swim it. The huntsman, Gregory, said that due to the river’s depth and width, the party would need to either turn back to Darenth in the hope of grabbing a boat to take them over, head north to the next ford about fifteen miles away, or travel upstream a few miles to Ostverk which was the next fordable area this side of the Darenth.

The party agreed that too much time would be wasted trying to find a boat, the northern route across would take them via Staneford, a thirty mile round trip, but the southern route via Ostverk was less than a ten mile round trip. They decided to travel via Ostverk.

The rain continued to fall upon the party as they trudged miserably through a hamlet even smaller than High Beeches. A few thatched wattle and daub huts huddled around a small wooden chapel devoted to Sol Invictus was all that they could see other than the fields of wheat that surrounded the settlement. Even Vox, with his hatred of clerics, was persuaded from performing any mischief against the church building such was the pity with which he observed the pathetic vista.

Ambush (early afternoon)

Just after lunchtime, the party advanced through the fringes of the Greater Gnarley. The birds twittered in the trees and the squirrels chittered whilst going about their daily business when suddenly a buzzing sound filled the air. Several stones pinged off of shields and armour, but one or two made it through the defences of the warriors roaming point of the small party. A second barrage allowed the warriors to work out where the shots were coming from and so they charged towards the undergrowth where they were met by the howls and whoops of several small dog-like creatures that they had encountered before. Combat was joined quickly but was soon over as the warriors defended their comrades without much need for support other than a few arrows from Paulix and a spell that improved their morale cast by the cleric Johan.

The party quickly divested the kobolds and their goblin leader of any valuables (their weapons and armour proved useless to the party), and again found one of the small wooden amulets with the strange symbols upon it. They pocketed the amulet, checked the bodies over for grey ooze (of which there was none) and carried on with their journey.

An hour or so later, the scouts spotted the back of a waggon in the distance along the tree-lined trail. Cautiously the party prepared weapons and advanced upon the waggon. After a few moments they spotted that what they originally saw as one waggon turned out to be a couple of vehicles that had been ambushed, the occupants killed and anything of value had been stolen. The horses lay in their traces where they had been mercilessly slaughtered. The party only found a few sacks of produce that were worth salvaging, so placed them onto one of the waggons in the hope that they could return later to collect them. Upon looking over the bodies and giving them last rites to help them on their way to the underworld, Johan noticed that they were smeared in the grey ooze. This panicked the main party members who stacked all of the bodies onto one of the wains, piled it high with bales of hay and some of the split sacks of grain and set light to it. They did not want to see the grey ooze bring the cadavers back to life.

The Mara at Bay (late afternoon)

The hunting party left the waggons and burning bodies behind and carried on with their mission. About an hour after the incident at the waggons, the dogs began to bay a lot more loudly; they had sensed that the object of their hunt was not very far away. A heavy crashing through the undergrowth alerted the party members to the presence of something huge. The two scouts, Paulix and Samson, managed to catch sight of the mara as she lumbered away from them at top speed. They realised that they would not catch her at the speed at which she was currently travelling but would most likely be able to wear her down eventually as a wolf pack does a stag.

Just before dusk, the sounds of crashing from ahead came to a stop. The party advanced cautiously towards the end of the trail that they could see before the mara’s unerring accuracy with large stones came to the fore. Hallan took a blow from such a stone, but subsequent missiles failed to hit their target as he sprinted forward, dodging as he went. The whole party advanced rapidly, leaving the dog handler and his two guards behind as they had completed their job thus far.

A few more stones were launched from within a copse a short distance away before the huge shape of the mara strode into view. All of her previous wounds had healed but she looked like an animal at bay. She bared her teeth at Hallan and charged at him with the large cleaver in her hand.

Before Hallan could react, the mara had struck him a mighty blow, but the magical missiles from Vox, arrows and sling stones from Paulix and Samson, and the encouraging magic of the cleric Johan soon put her on the defensive. She struck out blindly and managed to land a few blows upon the party before the onslaught of steel felled her. Her body crumpled to the ground as the companions drew breath.

Paulix noticed that she no longer had her sack with her, so he headed off into the bushes to retrieve it, but couldn’t find any sign of it. Puzzled, he returned to the rest of the group, who had now called up Gregory and his dogs, just as Hallan heaved a mighty blow at the mara’s neck with her own cleaver. He swore that the wounds were starting to heal before his very eyes. One of the two guards that Sir Richard had sent along with the hunting party produced a sack, into which he thrust the gory head of the beast, before the rest of the party stacked up firewood around the remaining torso and set light to it in the hope that fire would stop it regenerating.

As darkness was now rapidly approaching, the handler mentioned that they might want to find shelter for the night, to rest up and get out of the incessant rain. Paulix wondered if the mara’s lair was close by and voiced his opinion that they should search for it. The dog handler got his dogs to work again and within a quarter of a mile, the party came across a small clearing with a cave on the opposite side that disappeared into a small hillock.

The Cavern (late evening)

The sun had now set and the party decided to gather some firewood before heading towards the cave. They approached carefully but could hear nothing from within. They got under the shelter of the overhang at the entrance and started a fire. The smell that came from within the cave was overpowering, but they managed to position themselves in such a way that what little breeze existed allowed them to rest as comfortably as they could.

Paulix was up for exploring further, but as they had heard no noises from within the cave and that the mara was dead they assumed that they would not be troubled further that night, so dissuaded him from further action. Johan addressed the wounds of those who had been hit by the mara and the party settled down to a small meal of bread, cheese, dried fruit and some small game that Samson was able to trap over the first few hours of their stay. The party set an uneasy watch which gave the magic users in the party time to regain their strength and study or pray for the spells they assumed that they would need the following day.

The Cavern - Freyasday 5th Quattrober 963 (Day 10)

The night passed uneventfully, so the adventurers readied themselves for entry to the cavern outside which they had slept the night before. Johan cast a spell that enabled him to keep a bright light upon the end of his staff, and the party set off into the darkness.

The small outer cave led back into the hill for about fifteen to twenty feet before narrowing slightly to go through an opening. The smell emanating from the opening was so bad that the party had to breathe in shallow gasps. The wood smoke from their small fire at the entrance did not penetrate this far back into the cavern showing that perhaps there was no other way out of the complex. The soft earthen floor continued through the opening and the light from Johan’s staff lit the way. The narrowing only continued on for a few feet before the cavern opened out again to a size that would have allowed the mara to stretch out in any direction she so wished. The floor was a mass of half-eaten bones and skulls, the fleeces of sheep were thrown into a corner to make a nest of some kind, and branches and twigs covered the rest of the floor.

The party fanned out, and searched the floor and bedding for signs of anything valuable. They were just about to give up hope when Samson yelled out that he had found something buried at the back of the cave. He dug around for a bit before hauling out a sack covered in earth. He shook off the excess and the party retired back outside.

In the lighter confines of the outer chamber he tipped the contents of the sack onto the floor and was happy to hear the chink of metal and see several items spill onto the earth. A quick search through the items revealed a few small pouches that contained a goodly amount of coins, a few gems, two small vials that contained liquids and a long, cylindrical bone case.

The treasures were shared out amongst the party, with Vox claiming the case. He carefully undid one of the greased stoppers at one end and tipped out the contents. He saw that it was a scroll with magical writing upon it. He carefully wrapped it back up after a brief skim through with a smile upon his lips.

The hunters broke camp and headed back to Darenth the way that they had come.

Rewards (early afternoon)

The party arrived back in Darenth without any further encounters along the way. The huntsman, his dogs and the two guards said their farewells but were pleasantly surprised when Vox handed each of them a gold coin for their troubles. They headed off towards Sir Richard’s manor with the sack containing the mara’s head, closely followed by Hallan, Johan, Paulix and Samson. Vox had never held so much money in his purse before in his entire life and went off to see what he could get with it.

As the party reached the gates to Sir Richard’s compound, Gregory and the guards were allowed straight through but the party had to ask for an audience with the lord. After the usual ten to fifteen minute wait they were shown into the presence of Sir Richard. He was accompanied by several of his council, including the vizier Godefroi. He nodded towards the sack on the table beside him and asked the party for their version of events. They dropped the heavy cleaver, made from a plough share, onto the table in front of the lord and told him their version of the story. The story obviously corroborated with what his own men had told him, so he dropped a pouch of coins onto the table in front of him saying that the content should cover their expenses and a little something as a reward.

Smiling, Paulix grabbed the purse and said his thanks. Hallan and Samson asked if he could supply them with some weapons but he merely laughed drily at their request. Godefroi suggested that they might wish to talk to the smith and the armourers in the courtyard outside to see if they had anything that they may wish to purchase.

The party said their thanks and bowed their way out of his presence before going to see the smith. He was able to supply them with a few small items and a broken battle axe at a knock down price. It was of decent quality but just needed a new haft to replace the broken one and he had no time to run the repair. Samson decided that he would like the axe, so purchased it before heading towards a bowyer and fletcher. He purchased a long bow, two dozen arrows and a quiver and pouch to hold everything in. Johan and Samson also purchased a shield each; everyone now felt like true adventurers. Just as they were about to leave Sir Richard’s manor, Vox entered the courtyard. He had bought so much equipment from around the town that he must have spent a goodly part of his new found wealth. At least he was ready for the journey to Staneford that they would undertake in a couple of days’ time when Samson’s axe was ready.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Doggerland Session 1:4

Of Fire and Raiders in the Night (2nd October 2013)

The Adventurers
Hallan – Fighter
Johan - Cleric
Paulix – Thief
Vox Comwy – Magic User

An Uneventful Day - Moonday 1st Quattrober 963 (Day 6) – morning

The melodic chimes of the early morning bells juxtaposed the clatter of steel-clad hooves on the cobbled yard outside the Barley Mow Inn. The scent of freshly baked bread mingled with the damp muskiness of a few days’ rain as the patrol mounted their skittish steeds in readiness for their return to Darenth to report on their last few days’ encounters.

Hallan and Johan watched them through the windows of the tavern from their breakfast table whilst waiting for Vox to join them for breakfast. The temple bells had woken Vox and he hurriedly dressed and muttered some rushed goodbyes to the two priests and their servants who had nursed him through his brush with death. He scurried down the main street just as the patrol were about to ride out of the village. He quickly engaged the scribe in conversation, asking him what he thought about the previous nights’ goings on before getting to the point he wished to make. He asked how he could learn more of the magical arts and whether the scribe could help him, but the scribe politely replied that although he knew a few spells he could not help him with his studies, although Lord Richard’s vizier, Godefroi, was a more powerful conjurer than he, so might be able to teach him a few tricks. Vox thanked him for his time and headed towards the inn where he was greeted by his companions and given a share of the breakfast.

Hallan and Johan prepared a small meal from the remnants on the table for Paulix, who was still up at the woods by the bridge looking for signs of the large sheep rustler, and headed out the door with a knapsack in hand. They headed towards the woods in a roundabout way so as to throw off any obvious pursuit.

When they arrived, Paulix mentioned that he was tired from the zombie attack and overnight vigil but was bearing up. He was glad of the food that they brought him and said that he was going to sleep the rest of the day. The party left him to rest and keep vigil that night in his small shelter out of the rain.

Waiting for Action (afternoon)

Just after lunchtime, a small merchant caravan pulled into the tavern courtyard on its way towards Darenth. The party brought out the newly cleaned leather armour (which they had paid the serving girl for earlier that morning) and the weapons that they had managed to salvage from their fight with the bandits the day before and presented them to the lead merchant. He inspected the merchandise and was able to give them around half their value; he knew he could easily sell them to Sir Richard in Darenth or further down the line at Staneford or Castleford which also both had standing militias.

The party were pleased to have made some serious money and put it aside in readiness for purchasing some better equipment at a later date. Hallan returned to his patrol of the village whilst Johan returned to the church to carry on reading the books and scrolls housed there. Vox milled around making a mischief of himself, especially when he woke Paulix as he paid him a visit for a chat. His natural curiosity then led him to look at how the wooden bridge and jetty were built.

Being woken by Vox had annoyed Paulix but it actually turned out to be to the party’s advantage as Paulix was able to spot a lot of activity going on over at Simeon’s farmstead. He couldn’t really tell what they were doing but they were very busy.

The bells for six o’clock chimed out and the farmers began to return to the village from their fields; many to the tavern for a well-earned drink and bite to eat. Hallan, Johan and Vox decided that this would now be the best time to carry on with their patrols of the village. They paid a visit on the two farmsteads which had been having their livestock and crops ravaged and told them that they would be patrolling the vicinity over night to try to see if they could work out what was causing the mayhem just after every new moon. Then they returned to the Barley Mow for their evening meal.

Creeping Death (after dark)

About two hours after the six o’clock bells had struck, and darkness had fallen, the village was lit up as usual by the torches around the main buildings and the glow of hearth and candlelight escaping through the chinks between the bolted window shutters and doors. Paulix could just about make out some basic shapes of the buildings in the village from his vantage point but something was not quite right. The glow that was usually to be seen around Simeon’s holdings was not present; the farmstead was in pitch blackness.

The rest of the party chose this time to resume their patrols for the night and headed out of the inn to pick up on any news Paulix might have. As they crossed the fields towards Paulix’s vantage point a cacophony of yells and screams went up from the farm that had been raided by zombies the night before. This caused the party to veer off from their path to Paulix and head towards the noise. Paulix also left his vantage point to investigate.

Upon arrival at the farm they noticed that the two farmers and their family were looking worriedly at what was in the sty. The party glanced into the sty to see that the pigs had all turned to greyish ooze, resembling a sort of lichen-topped blob of matter that pulsed and moved very slowly. It was certainly alive and looked in danger of spreading.

Paulix and Hallan grabbed a few sticks and poked it a little before hooking some of the substance and looked at it more closely. The wind was low, and the rain was still falling, so they risked burning it. It sizzled and burned quite rapidly despite the rain, and only gave off a minimal amount of smoke as it curled up and blackened. The farmers took up on this and rapidly burnt the rest of the oozes.

The shouts had drawn attention from the village and a few doors had begun to open, so Paulix quickly made his way back towards Simeon’s farm – the fact it was dark meant that this was most likely his best opportunity to investigate the farmstead of their enemy.

Arson (late evening)

Paulix reached the outer wall of Simeon’s farmstead and motioned for his colleagues to be silent whilst he slipped over the wall and into the deeper shadows. The rest of the party hunkered down to await his return. The thief slipped into the yard without a sound and took stock of the surroundings; there were four major buildings and a few smaller out houses. He quickly headed over to the two larger buildings which turned out to be stables (with livestock inside) and a grain barn (from the smell). He turned towards the larger of the two remaining structures and headed to a side window. He was able to jemmy open the shutters without a sound before he climbed into the inky blackness within.

He listened intently but heard no sound but the slow pop and crackle of a banked hearth. He closed the shutters behind him and returned to the fire to stoke it up a little more to produce a little more light with which to survey the room. It turned out to be a standard farm common room with a couple of comfortable chairs beside the fire, a large, solid central table with stools and benches around it for a dozen or so people, a side dresser with plates and crocks, and a staircase that led up to the smaller upper chamber.

Paulix paced across the room, listening as he went and proceeded to climb the stairs. He was not ready for the creaky stair board about half-way up the flight and stopped dead at the seemingly loud sound his footstep had produced. When he let out his pent up breath he realised that he had not disturbed anyone and it was likely that the building was empty. He rapidly climbed the rest of the stairs and found himself in a dark bed chamber. He fumbled around and found a candle to light to give him a better view of the chamber. He spotted several beds, trunks and a garderobe but no people. This gave him an opportunity for some personal gain, so he decided that he would search for something of value.

As he was searching the room, the three companions outside spotted four fire arrows arc out from the woods on the far side of the village and strike into the thatch of one of the large barns on Albus’s property. Hallan immediately sprang to his feet and urgently whispered to his two friends that he was going to head down to investigate and that they should join him as soon as Paulix returned from his foray into the farmstead.

Paulix finished his search of the room when he clasped a small pouch of coins. He swiftly pocketed them and set his candle to the bottom of a curtain before he made his way out of the cottage, only to catch sight of the conflagration that had caught the barn on the other side of the village. He vaulted over the wall to re-join his friends and they all sprinted down to the village.

On their way they saw labourers and farmers boil out of Albus’s farm; a few armed with naked swords flashing in the firelight headed into the woods where they thought the arrows may have come from.

The barn fire raised most of the village, and they came to the aid of Albus’s homestead; they formed a bucket-chain and soon got the fire under control. Just as the final few buckets were drawn from the nearby river, one of the villagers noticed that a fire had also blossomed on the other side of the hamlet. They all grabbed a couple of buckets of water each and headed over to Simeon’s farm to help them with their fire.

When they arrived though, a handful of Simeon’s labourers said that they had it under control and that they would require no help at this time. The majority of the villagers returned to their homes, but every door had a member of the family sat outside for a while keeping watch just in case there was a return of the fire starters.

Paulix and the party hung around a little after the rest of the villagers had returned to their homes and enquired as to what had happened. One of Simeon’s labourers answered him briefly that a candle had caught and that there was nothing to worry about it as all was now under control.

The adventurers returned to the inn to sleep, whilst Paulix returned to his vantage point in the woods close to the bridge.

Night Mara - Tirsday 2nd Quattrober 963 (Day 7)

The bells for the sixth hour peeled out from the small chapel at the end of the village’s main street, waking the adventurers from their short slumber. Hallan, Johan and Vox grabbed a swift breakfast and bagged some of it up to take to Paulix in his hide-out.

Hallan took the food to his companion through the downpour that was still affecting the river valley whilst Johan convinced Vox that there were some interesting documents that he may wish to look at. Vox and Johan knocked on the door to the chapel and were greeted by one of the taciturn priests who agreed to their requests. He ushered them into the library and after his shaken collection box rattled to the sound of a few more coppers he left them with the warning that the room was glyph warded and nothing could be taken from the room without their being warned.

Vox felt a bit nervous about the warning but he managed to read the few items that Johan pointed out to him. They were written in a script that Johan did not understand, but Vox recognised the script easily. He learned that any who wished to cast arcane magicks needed to have all of their movements unimpeded by thick clothing or armour, and that large metal objects like weaponry would interfere with the flow of magical power. Vox immediately attempted one of his cantrips but it failed. He then removed the leather armour that he had donned a few days ago and tried again; this time with more success. There was something to these clerical books after all. He read a little further and came across a conjuring spell within one of the tomes. He looked around to see that he was unobserved and copied the incantation into his small spell book for study at a later date. They then gave their thanks to the head priest and returned to the tavern.

Meanwhile, from his vantage point, Paulix noticed that a cart pulled up to Simeon’s farm and several people got out. He couldn’t make out who from the distance he was away from the farm, but he now had his suspicions as to who had alibis ready for the night before.

Nothing of note happened throughout the rest of the day, so after the six o’clock bells had rung out and the farmers had returned to their homes, the party headed out to Paulix’s vantage point to help him keep watch.

The thin sliver of moon and stars cast a little light between the showers that still affected the village and they could just make out the bridge in the distance.

A few hours later, the party heard the distinct sound of something large moving through the river water. A large shape emerged from the river bank close to where they saw the large footprints previously. The party noticed that it was a vaguely woman-shaped being of about ten-twelve feet in height with long straggly hair. She was carrying what looked like a large empty sack and a huge meat cleaver.

The mara paused as she was about to step over the wall into farmer Ham’s property and began to sniff. The party cursed themselves when they realised that they were upwind, but the rain must have been dampening their scent as with one final sniff the mara carried on with her journey. She swiftly covered the ground towards the sheep huddling under a small tree, scooped a rock from out of her sack and launched it with unerring accuracy at one of the ewes. The ewe collapsed in a heap with a vague bleat and the mara leapt onto it and swiftly removed its head with her cleaver. She then stuffed the body and head into her sack and began to stalk towards farmer Bristow’s barley fields.

It was at this point that the party decided to intervene. They leapt from their hiding place to confront the creature. Hallan and Paulix let fly with their arrows and sling bullets striking her severely several times before she bellowed her rage and tried to make her escape. The only way back to the river was through the party, so she bulled her way towards them, swinging her cleaver.

Vox, who had been studying the notes he had made from the documents he had copied at the temple, attempted to cast the new spell he had learned and was surprised to see several flashes of energy leave his fingers and strike the mara without needing much aim. This angered her even more and made her swerve away from Vox’s magical attack directly into Hallan’s path. He braced himself for impact but was bowled straight over when her cleaver struck him as she raced by. Paulix managed to launch a few more missiles at the beast before she leapt into the river and disappeared from view. The farmer nervously poked his head out of his hovel as the mara made a great splash but was told that everything was alright now as they had forced the sheep rustler away with the loss of only one of his sheep.

Shaken from their encounter, the party gathered their wits and began to track the beast, but as none were rangers, they were unable to follow the trail more than a few hundred yards when the blood spots ran out.

They circumvented the marshlands and re-joined the riverside a little further downstream. They searched around but could not find any tracks, and likewise further downstream they knew they had definitely lost the trail. They retraced their path back towards the hamlet of High Beeches on the opposite bank and caught the spoor again. They noticed that the mara was headed westwards towards Darenth.

They carried on travelling throughout the rest of the night and most of the following day, avoided a small wolf pack that was on the hunt, and arrived at Darenth just as the early evening bells chimed out.

The Trail Goes Cold (Wodensday 3rd Quattrober 963 – Day 8)

The party knocked on the door of Jared, the village headman, and were cordially invited in for a meal after they informed him that they had some important news for Albus. The party were grateful for the warming soup and bread, and especially grateful to be out of the rain that had continued on and off all the previous night and that day. They told the family the story of what had happened over the last couple of nights. The arson attack was swept aside after they realised that no-one had been hurt and not too much damage had been done. They were intrigued by the story of the mara, as they said that that would explain why the dogs went crazy in the early hours of the day; especially if it was some kind of monster that had passed through part of the village.

Jared suggested that due to the enormity of the two stories the party should accompany him to see Sir Richard the following morning to explain it again and to see if they could request any aid in tracking down both the arsonists and the monster. He sent off one of his men to notify the lord of their arrival and request an audience the following morning.

The Trail Goes Cold (Thunorsday 4th Quattrober 963 – Day 9)

The following morning, the party woke at six bells and accompanied Jared to see the lord of the manor. They arrived at the gate to the enclosure and were again asked to wait about ten to fifteen minutes before they were shown into the presence of the knight and his entourage (he was again accompanied by his two hearth guards and vizier at the head table in the main hall).

They recounted their story (but omitted Paulix’s tale of theft and arson to make it seem like a double arson attack on the village as a whole) and waited whilst Sir Richard sat back and ingested it all. They gave him a few moments before they continued on and requested the use of a huntsman and some tracking dogs if he had such available. They made their case by stating that if the mara was now denied her new hunting grounds, she may begin by snatching livestock from Darenth, no matter how well guarded by soldiers.

Sir Richard rubbed his chin and proclaimed that he would indeed supply the party with a couple of tracker dogs, a huntsman and two crossbowmen to accompany them on this hunt, and that they should meet them at the mill in an hour. He then whispered a command to one of his henchmen before dourly turning away from the party; their interview was over and they were shown the door.

As the party left the hall, they noticed that a foot patrol was already being put together to go to High Beeches to investigate the arson attacks.

The adventurers returned Jared to his house, thanked him for his aid and gathered some provisions from the baker and tavern for a few days. They then made their way to the mill to await the arrival of the huntsman, his dogs and guards.