(Cydra) The Year 271 Campaign (Low Magic experiment)

the Jester

Legend
The clouds are turning orange as the sun sinks behind the mountains in the west. There’s a nice, cooling breeze- pleasant after a hot day. Only a few of the peasants are still toiling in the fields; the harvest is pretty much over. It is the nineteenth day of the eighth month of the 271st year After the Founding (A.F.). That means that the four-day harvest festival begins tomorrow.

Throughout the town of Whitewater, population 139, most people are taking off their shoes after a hard day’s work and smiling as they contemplate the morrow. Some of them have moved from one bit of work to another, however, and are setting up booths at the area designated for the festival that begins the next morning.

Brackburn Smith is erecting a small wooden structure; Bevin Tanner is setting up something simpler, just a place to hang hides and skins out. Bryan Boatwright and his son Bryan are putting together a large tent, from which they will try to sell toys and models- and to get real work. There are others putting things together, too. Jorgen Boatwright, self-appointed watcher of the town, walks around the perimeter to make sure all is well. He carries a spear; his is the only weapon in evidence. East and south of town, just a little ways down the river, several strangers’ wagons have camped for the night; doubtless they’ll be attending the festival in the morning. Perhaps some of them will even set up booths of their own- in fact, a very large area is staked and roped off with a sign.

Jorgen walks over and examines the sign. “That’s interesting,” he says aloud.

----------Reserved for-----------
the Amazing Longleap Sisters!!!


Jorgen scratches his head and fidgets.

“I wonder who they are,” he muses- again, aloud.

“I guess we’ll find out.” He turns and keeps wandering, keeping an eye out, making certain that all is well.

So far, so good.

***

“Thquire, come with me! We thould inthpect the fethtival groundth!”

“Yes, my lord,” replies Goer, picking up the pace a bit. Cedric, his master, was besotted already. Goer was certain there had been a time when his master had not been so... fond of the bottle, but he couldn’t really remember when that had been. He had been a page, and now squire (well, not technically yet), for almost eleven years. It was a good life- a comfortable life. It probably wouldn’t have happened at all if it wasn’t for his father’s skill at his trade. Speaking of whom, his father would likely be showing items of smithcraft for the next few days while the festival went on. Goer just hoped that dad wasn’t going to ask him to work for the festival.

If he had to work for his dad on the festival, not only would he not get to have any fun, but everyone would call him by his name, Fwaigo, rather than his nickname. He much preferred Goer. Why his parents gave him such a weird name, he had no idea... none at all. Eh, no matter. Squire Goer was good enough for him.

After a cursory glance at the skeleton of the festival, Cedric and Goer head to the nearer of the town’s two taverns, the Fat Mallard. Brandon Mallard, the proprietor gives a friendly smile to the two of them. “Good evening!” he calls.

“Good evening, my fine thir,” replies Cedric. “A mug of your finetht, pleathe, on my father’th tab.”

Brandon waggles his finger at Cedric. “I know better than that,” he admonishes.

Cedric scowls and sits at a table near a window. Goer buys him a mug of ale, and himself one as well. The two sit and drink for a few moments, watching the festival grounds.

”Hey, look, it’s the ‘watchman’,” Goer snorts. The two head outside and begin heckling Jorgen. Recognizing Cedric for the son of the Lord Whitewater, Jorgen can only smile and endure.

Night draws in. As it does so, with no more coin to buy himself a drink, Cedric determines to return to the castle. “Come, thquire!” he calls, and Goer trots after him. Watching them go, Jorgen sighs.

“I better go make sure there isn’t any trouble at either of the taverns,” he muses aloud. His patrol takes him through the Fat Mallard, from which Cedric and Goer had emerged, and thence to the Honest Man, Whitewater’s other tavern. He approaches that one with a touch of trepidation; if there’s going to be a bar fight, it will probably be here. The Honest Man is certainly a little more permissive than the Fat Mallard, but both are nice enough places. “I certainly hope the festival is peaceable,” he says to himself as he enters the Honest Man. All is well. Soon he begins a circuit of the town.

Soon enough, though, he is asleep. Eager thoughts about the next few days keep him awake for a time, but he must be alert for trouble in the morning!
 

the Jester

Legend
This is a story hour written around a low-magic setting I'm running. The rule changes and tweaks are detailed here.

The three pcs we have met so far are:

Cedric, played by omrob (knight 1).

Goer, played by cold1s (fighter 1).

Jorgen, played by seldomseen (also a fighter 1).

There are five pcs yet to come.
 
Hey Jester, I read through your low-magic 'read-me' thread.

This sounds very interesting. I've always been such a fan of just scribbling out teleport style spells. Characters should travel.

Looking forward to see how this develops.

Spider J
 

the Jester

Legend
Hey Spider, glad to have you aboard! :D

Here is the next update and the next few pcs:

The night before the festival begins is a busy one for Cara Reed. She is very excited; tomorrow she will have a chance to show off both her talent as a musician and her beauty as a young lady. She plays extensively in both the Fat Mallard and the Honest Man, honing her skills on the disparate crowds at the two competing establishments. In both places, business is slow tonight; people are saving their energy for the following several days. This year’s festival promises to be a good one, for the harvest was good this year. The two will ever go hand-in-hand; on years with a poor harvest, the festival is always more subdued, less festive and more aimed at the lesson of sacrifice.

Cara sighs as she plays the Fat Mallard, her music crowded by the drunken shouts of the lord’s son. But his squire is buying him drinks at the start of the evening; it is not long before they must call it a night. Cara herself, with half of her audience vanishing, finishes her last number for the night and heads outside.

The stars are brilliant diamonds overhead, and Cara stops to take a deep breath. The smells of autumn are on the wind- hay and pollen and a ripeness that has no other word. Smiling, she walks back to her home, where she lives with her mother and her siblings. As she leaves the Mallard behind, so she leaves the river and the only bridge across it. The Fat Mallard and the general store flank the bridge on this side of the river; on the other side, their places are taken by the church of Belthizar, currently decked in husks of corn, and the Boatwright home. The town sprawls out on either side of the river, its one hundred and thirty-nine people content in their village existence.

Cara glances at the watch tower as she enters her own home. Atop it she can see the silhouette of the local self-declared watchman, Jorgen. She quirks half a smile. He means well. As she carefully washes herself down, scrubbing her makeup off, she sighs to herself. Tomorrow she will begin to make her name as an entertainer! Between her wide-ranging knowledge, her good looks and her sweet voice and delicate lute-playing, she should make quite an impression!

***

In the predawn light of very early morning, about two miles east by southeast of town following the curve of the Roaring River, a strange figure loads her donkey with gear, food and fodder. Her clothing is a mishmash of different bits of fur and leather.

If I’m going to go to the festival, the strange woman thinks, I’d best get an early start. Two miles could take a couple of hours! And who knows what bandits or goblins might lay in wait along my way.

Carefully, the woman balances the saddlebags on her donkey. Clucking her tongue, she takes his lead and starts walking upriver towards the town. Towards the festival! She wonders what strange entertainers or bizarre merchants will be there. Maybe she’ll even get a chance to meet the Weird Ladies! They sometimes go to festival- I’ve seen them there before, Dahlia thinks. She does not notice the dirt on her hands or the leaves that have fallen in her long tangled hair. She chuckles to herself as she leads her faithful beast of burden along. Whoever is there this time, she thinks, I’m sure there will be good fun to be had! There are always strangers, and it seems like there’s always some kind of excitement! She smiles as she remembers the year that a couple of the town boys tried to steal some honey from a beehive. Ooh, there was a lesson there, yes there was!

Humming and singing to herself in the tongue of the vanished elves, Dahlia heads to the town. When she arrives, most of the merchants are set up and a few early risers are already there, staring at the displays set up. Bryan, the town boatwright, aided by his son Bryan, has a display of miniature and toy boats (prices range from 5 sp to 3 gp each). Amanda Garden has a brilliant display of flowers and herbs. She is selling bundles of either for 4 cp, and sprigs of wolfsbane for 1 sp each. She has one of the Garden servants with her, doubtless in case there is any trouble with the Cookers. The owner of the general store, Mingus Menhure, has a booth set up with a sampling of various goods, hoping to sell stuff. “If I don’t have it here, ask me!” he booms. “I’ve hired one of the Miller daughters to run back to my shop as required over the festival!” Brackburn Smith has horseshoes, a breastplate, plows, shovels, picks, hammers and other tools, a longsword, nails, a pair of shields, a pair of metal gauntlets, spoons and knives* and other, similar items. He has two of his sons with him in case he needs to run off or send an errand boy somewhere. Bevin Tanner has a number of furs, hides and skins on display, including a wolf fur cloak (with the head over the wearer’s head) (1 gp), a fabulous, thick rug of winter wolf fur (20 gp), several suits of leather armor, one suit of studded leather armor and a variety of other, similar things. Ovina, the local priestess of Belthizar, is ready to talk to or counsel anyone. Lane and Johnson Cooker are there selling food- roasted goat, goat sandwich, stewed goat, goat on a stick, goat cheese, etc. Several of the bully-boys the Cookers tend to hire when they need a little muscle are standing around unobtrusively as well. Both Brandon Mallard and Jimmy Goodman, the proprietors of the town’s two competing taverns, have come to sell food, beer and wine.

There are two more areas of great interest. One is a medium-sized tent set up with a barrel out front. The barrel has a fire crackling within it- but a green fire! Dahlia gapes. She has never seen the likes of this before, that’s for sure!

On the other end is a large, roped off area with a sign. Several young red-haired halfling women are working on constructing some sort of large frame, shaped something like a triangular wedge. Dahlia scratches her head. She has no idea what that thing is for.

***

“Halflings!” Jorgen swears aloud to himself. “Thieves! I must keep a careful eye on them!” Already the festival has thrown him a challenge- if he’s not careful, the halflings are likely to take anything that isn’t nailed down!

It’s hard to watch the whole festival by himself, but by the gods, he’s going to do his best!

Next Time: The first day of the festival! Let’s talk to the halflings a little! Cedric needs a drink!


*The Year 271 Campaign does not use forks. Knives skewer food, spoons work for soups or liquids. Forks are broken.
 

the Jester

Legend
We have just met two more pcs:

Dahlia, elfblooded druid 1
*You know the crazy hermit in Keep on the Borderlands? Apply image to Dahlia. Elfblooded pcs are basically half-elves, but they are very rarely the result of the union of elf and human (since the elves are gone).

Cara Reed, bard 1
 

the Jester

Legend
The Harvest Festival of 271 AF- Day One

The sun climbs to the top of the sky. The summer heat increases. Sweat pours from the brows of simple farmers as they mill about through the various merchant stalls. Smoke rises from the green fire barrel in front of the large tent that the alchemist has set up. People gawk at the Cookers’ goat show. A beautiful girl named Cara Reed plays and sings, gathering a crowd of onlookers and admirers. Even the apprentices of Xastys the Sorceress, whose tower rises just outside of the town proper, have come out. As the first day of the festival moves on, the fun and celebration are just beginning. Drinks flow freely; at one point one of the Garden family’s servants passes out free bouquets to several of the townsfolk.

Dahlia wanders over to the alchemist’s tent, peering within. A pair of individuals are already in there, speaking to the merchant.

“Tho what do you have, fine thir?” the first- who we have already met as Cedric- asks.

“Why, many things, my lord,” the alchemist replies. He introduces himself as Braze, a merchant from Kamenda-

“Hey, we’re in Kamenda,” Cedric’s squire, Goer, interrupts.

“Kamenda City,” the alchemist explains. Smoothly, he resumes his sales pitch. From sleeping powder to stimulant root to impotence cures, he’s got it all.

“Well, thir,” Cedric says, “I am the thon of the local lord, and it ith cuthtomary in our landth for traveling merchantth to offer thome refrethment to the ruling family when they come to vithit, perhapth a thimple drink.”

“Ah, certainly, my lord, certainly,” Braze replies, and soon Cedric has a drink in his hands. He sighs in contentment. Braze also gives him a little something for his father- some of his impotence cure. Not that Cedric’s father is impotent, of course, but with all the stresses of the duties of lordship, and fatigue and such... well. One never knows.

Dahlia, having nowhere near the necessary amount of money to buy any of Braze’s wares, wanders back out into the crowd. The halfling girls are still setting up their large... whatever it is... at one end of the field. Dahlia stares intently at it for some time, but then shrugs, unable to quite fathom it.

Near the halflings, Jorgen, self-appointed watchman of Whitewater, nervously calls out to one of them, “Hi! What are you building?”

“You’ll see,” one of the lasses replies. “We should be ready to perform tomorrow night.”

“What kind of performance?” Jorgen asks.

“You’ll see,” the halfling replies.

Cedric, too, stops by the halfling area. He stares at their bizarre construction, then cries out, “Hello, thtrange halflingth! I am Thedic, thon of the lord of thith area! I thee that you have come to our fethtival- what ith it you are doing?”

“Greetings, my lord!” One of the three halflings walks over to him. “We are halfling entertainers, the Amazing Longleap Sisters. We are setting up a performance area so that we may provide sport and spectacle for your folk- and yourself, of course.”

“Hmph!” Cedric glares at her suspiciously. “You aren’t from around here, I take it?”

“No, my lord, we travel far and wide.”

“And where are you from originally? Tydon, perhapth?” Cedric leans in accusingly.

“No, my lord, we come originally from further to the northeast, in the plains.”

“Hmph!” Cedric harrumphs again.

”Ah, perhaps you could appease my lord’s suspicion with a drink,” suggests Goer. Soon, Cedric has another beverage in hand, and all’s well again.

Early in the afternoon, as the structure starts to become more complete, the halflings stop working on it long enough to erect a high curtain around it, obfuscating the rest of their construction. At one point Cara wanders by and looks it over, on one level admiring the halflings’ showmanship but on another level rather pissed off about the competition.

At noon, there is a little excitement as a brief scuffle breaks out between one of the Cooker bully-boys, Tom Breaker, and Drew Garden. It is over in a moment, though, with no lasting harm done. Jorgen scolds them both, but nothing further is necessary. Interestingly, Drew Garden is one of the Gardens who want nothing to do with the feud between them and the Cookers. Tom certainly must have done something to provoke him.

As evening rolls in, there are a number of folk from out of town present. Most of them are from another community, but a few either live alone (Dahlia) or are more migratory. A group of outcast mixed-blood individuals lives like this, traveling the general region of Whitewater, Cotton Hill and the foothills leading into the mountains that rise to the west. One of these, the product of rape and abandonment, is a half-orc named Cur Sed Seed. He is inspecting Bevin Tanner’s wares thoroughly- the man has a few nice pieces of work, especially that wolf fur cloak!- when he catches a glimpse of another half-orc walking through the crowd, this one armed and armored. Really, nobody here is armed and armored. Nobody.

Cur turns to pay a little more attention to this new fellow, and realizes that he recognizes him.

“Tumenore,” Cur whispers to himself.

Tumenore the Bandit-Hunter, and he isn’t alone: he has a bunch of armed men with him. The crowd is clearing space around them; men with swords are not anything to be trifled with. Yet at the same time, his name is going around the crowd like a whisper on the waves: Tumenore... Tumenore... Tumenore. It’s the sound of excitement, adoration mixed with fear. Quite a few of these folks have heard of Tumenore and his band before. They are known for bringing rough justice to bandits. The common folk like them; Cur Sed Seed does not. Not one bit. Tumenore and his folk are sometimes a little too resolute in their pursuit of outlaws. There have been times when they have raided the outcasts’ camps and taken members of the band away, claiming they were bandits or brigands. Was it true? Cur isn’t totally certain that it wasn’t, but... he is also very far from sure that it was. He frowns. Half-orc or not, he doesn’t like having that fellow here. It bodes ill.

Jorgen, Cedric and Goer approach the leader of the armed band that has just joined the festival. “Thir, I mutht demand that you tell me who you are,” Cedric cries.

“Of course, my lord, we mean no harm,” the half-orc replies. “My name is Tumenore. Perhaps you have heard of me?”

Cedric studies him. “Indeed not. It theemth a common name, with no notable houthe attatthed to it.”

“Notable... ah, I am not high-born, my lord, but your common folk know of me. I hunt bandits. With your permission, of course, we shall simply keep our eyes open for any sign of bandits that might hide here at the festival, concealing themselves among the good folk of your town.”

“Ah, I thee, I thee... Well, we thertainly don’t want and banditth hiding amongtht our populath. By all meanth, keep your eyeth open, and report any funny buthineth to me or my father at onthe!”

“Of course,” Tumenore agrees easily.

“Now, of courthe, it ith cuthtomary for visiting guethtth to buy the local knight and hith family thome refrethments at a time like thith...”

“Of course,” Tumenore repeats, and he presses a few coins into Cedric’s hand. “Here, my lord. I am unfamiliar with the local drinks- this way you can procure what you most desire.”

“With your permission, we shall set up a tent over there.” The half-orc gestures to a clear area near the edge of the festival. At Cedric’s nod, he strides away, calling for his men to begin setting up.

Staring after him, Cedric thinks, I’d best tell father about that one. He closes his hand around his drinking money.

By dark the bandit hunters have set up their area and several of them, having doffed their armor and most of their weapons, begin mingling. Jorgen groans inwardly. Now I’ll have to watch them and the halfings!

Night draws a curtain of stars across the sky, and soon enough the only people still out are the last of the traveling merchants, cooking late meals and sipping off of wineskins or ale tankards. Everyone is tired but happy. The first day of the festival was a smashing success. Most of the merchants did very well; only Bryan Boatwright has had little luck, and that might change if he gets just one good real boat building job out of the festival.

As she washes her face before bed, Cara Reed thinks about the morrow. Tomorrow’s the contest day! She is very excited. There are a number of contests, any number of which will be fun to watch, but only one of which she really cares about. Sure, she’s going to enter the sausage-eating contest too, but the one she really wants to win is the Prettiest Girl contest.

I am the prettiest! she tells herself desperately as she falls into sleep.

Next Time: Festival day two! We meet another pc or two! And the contests- from Prettiest Girl to the Chicken-Plucking Contest!
 

the Jester

Legend
Kyle Goldenbow spends much of the night preparing. Although he did not set up a booth on the first day of the festival, he now regrets it. He is Whitewater’s lapidary and stone-polisher (for semiprecious stones are washed downstream by the Roaring River), and he has many small stones and such that might fetch a few pennies from festival goers. Thus, Kyle rises early, puts on a cheerful face and heads to his booth. He spreads his wares out before him, careful to leave them all in view of himself when he sits behind them- the last thing he needs is a thief to steal his livelihood!

As the number of people present increases, and the singing of Cara Reed sweetly caresses their ears, the fun begins to flow. Gossip and rumors are exchanged along with coins and goods. “I heard that Tad Ranger has won the archery contest every year for the last four years! He’s sure to do it again!” “Did you hear? There is an alchemist here selling magic potions.” “You know, there used to be elves around here, but they all vanished long ago.” “The feud? Well, the way I hear it, it all started because Latin Garden is having an unnatural relationship with one of the Cooker bully-boys!” “The Weird Ladies are a trio of witches. They cannot be trusted.” “There is a crazy hermit that lives a couple of miles downstream.”

The sun slowly works its way into the top of the sky. Kyle makes a few sales, but nothing spectacular. One of the more interesting characters that he meets is Otis Optimus, one of the apprentices to Xastys the Sorceress, who dwells on the edge of town in a high tower. Otis and Kyle chat for nearly an hour as they barter and trade stones. Otis is polite but distant. Along one long edge of the festival, the sounds of construction still emanate from behind the heavy high curtain that the halflings erected yesterday. Cedric and his father are at the lord’s place of honor (by tradition, the local lord or one of his representatives remains at the festival while it is running to show their approval of it), chatting amiably with those that approach them. Jorgen maintains his vigilant watch over the crowd, keeping an eye open for thieves or halflings, and he also keeps more than half an eye on Tumenore and his men. He recognizes several of them in the crowd; though they are no longer armored, they are still armed. They are acting like everyone else at the festival, but nobody is especially fooled. They are on patrol. They make Cur Sed Seed entirely nervous. What if they accuse me? He can’t help but wondering... he is no bandit, but he is an outcast. Where do Tumenore’s men draw the line?

But nobody is accused, at least not before the contests that begin in the afternoon.

About noon the construction stops behind the curtains. The sign is changed- the performance will begin at the eighth hour. “What performance?” wonders Jorgen aloud. “I’ll have to keep an eye out for anyone working the crowd.” He glances worriedly at the nearest of the bandit-hunters. “And I need to keep an eye on all those guys!” Realizing he’s talking aloud, Jorgen gulps and self-consciously covers his mouth.

The first contest is an archery contest. There are traditionally only a few entrants, as one must provide his own bow (though arrows are provided). Jorgen and Goer both manage, though they both have to borrow bows. Their competition includes Tad Ranger, Greybold and Blake Cooker Junior. A target is set up just outside of the festival grounds, and three shots are allowed per contestant from a line at 50’ distance. There are three rings and a bullseye on the target. Jorgen manages to land one shot in the innermost ring, but his other two both miss completely. Goer has even worse luck- he doesn’t get anything. Greybold, a retired soldier, is clearly a little rusty, and quirks a self-deprecating smile when he completely misses the target once. Although Junior Cooker manages to land two shots in the target, Tad Ranger takes the victory again, for the fifth year running. This year’s prize is a fabulous golden arrow.

The second contest of the afternoon is a riding contest, with what amounts to an agility course for horses set up. The entry fee is 3 cp, a little stiff, but again, the main barrier to most would-be contestants is the need to provide one’s own horse. A few of the townsfolk manage to enter, including a number of the Cookers and one of their bully-boys. So does Drew Garden. Tad Ranger enters this contest as well, and Cedric borrows one of his father’s horses to enter, but unfortunately he is eliminated when his horse strays from the course. Ultimately, the victor is Tad Ranger again! He wins a child’s toy- a wooden horse suspended in a frame, which a young child could ‘ride’.

“Next year, my lord,” Goer commiserates.

Next comes a traditional favorite- the drinking contest. Cedric and Cur both enter it, along with a large field of other contestants. Two of the Brownstone brothers- the local dwarf population- enter; surely they will not be pushovers. The town drunk, Hadrian Fisher, already looks like he has had a few, but he’s ready for more. Goer’s dad and brother enter; and cajoled by them, he is persuaded to join them. Bangus Redcoat, one of the Cooker bully-boys, joins the fun. So does Antos Mallard, just a lad but willing to try.

Soon their heads are swimming, their mouths are mushy and their minds are dimmed. One after another they drop out of the contest, either passing out, vomiting or failing to set their glass down in front of them. In the end, it comes down to a tense battle of wills between Hadrian Fisher and Zandos Brownstone- and the famous dwarven tolerance prevails! Zandos wins. Drunk as a skunk, he receives his prize- a straw hat.

As the contestants stagger away, one of the bandit-hunters follows Bangus Redcoat with his eyes.

Cara Reed’s heart starts to pound as she enters the next contest: the sausage-eating contest. It’s a warm up for the really important one, which is coming soon. She’s getting more and more nervous; she spent a long time getting prettied up for today! Hopefully her hair looks okay- it’s been hot and dusty... Well, there is no time to worry about it now, the contests are under way.

“I could use a sausage after all that beer!” roars Zandos Brownstone. “Come, brother!” Showing an unusual level of jocularity, the two dwarves pay their entry fee and pull up stools to the table erected for this one. Little Cathy Cooker, the town’s milk maid (and a sultry, if aging, figure) sits opposite Cara. Several other townsfolk enter, as well as the retired soldier, Greybold. But when the long, thick sausages are brought out, Cathy demonstrates her legendary ability to shove things down her throat and stuffs the entire sausage down in seconds.

In awe, the others can only watch as she collects the prize- an entire goat, dressed and slaughtered. “Well, since I’m one of the Cookers, I don’t really need this,” she says magnanimously, “so I’ll pass it along to the second place winner.” She smiles at Cara.

There are two contests left: the chicken-plucking contest and the prettiest girl contest. People are laughing and joking as the pen that will hold the chickens is set up.

Across the festival, one of the bandit-hunters reaches Tumenore, at his tent. With a grim smile, the man- whose name is Narmox- tells his leader, “I think I spotted one.”

Next Time: The rest of the contests! The Amazing Longleap Sisters perform! And Tumenore’s men make their move!
 

the Jester

Legend
Afternoon is turning towards evening. The final posts are hammered into the ground, and the wire is strung from post to post, until finally the enclosure is finished. Then, one chicken per contestant is released into the enclosure, and the contestants are allowed to enter.

And the chicken-plucking contest is on.

Dahlia and Goer, among other folk, scramble after the chickens, struggling to be the first to catch, slaughter and pluck. Cheers, laughter and general jocularity ensue. The crowd shouts its enjoyment as the folk in the pen leap, run and scramble after the panicky fowl. Old Blake Cooker himself, head of the Cooker clan, and his wife Cathy (not the same Cathy that ate the sausage) are both formidable foes. Dirkyl Fisher, old weird Drendlin, Ulga Boatwright (Jorgen’s little sister), 11-year-old Terri Goodsoil, Dahlia, Jorgen and Goer all take part, chortling with glee as they catch their targets. Soon all of them have captured a bird, and the slaughter and plucking commences. Though it is a tight race, Drendlin, one of the so-called “weird ladies” in town wins. Dancing and cackling once she’s done, she holds the de-feathered, headless chicken aloft, dancing and crowing her victory. When she stops, face flushed, she receives a truly fantastic prize: the right to hunt pheasants on the Whitewater lands, so long as she sends half of each bird to the knight. Sure, there might have been more applause and acclamation if it were someone with a better reputation around town, but at festival time, even the Weird Ladies are cheered.

The shadows are growing long, but there is still enough golden autumn light for the final contest: the prettiest girl contest.

Cara Reed takes a deep breath as the contestants step up. I’m going to win this one, I know it! she thinks to herself. During the chicken-plucking contest she took a few minutes to clean up, check her hair and makeup, and compose herself. This is going to be her moment, after all- at least, as long as she doesn’t mess it all up somehow! She joins the other contestants, Fiona (one of the Garden maids), Prenda Miller (the younger), Tara (one of the Whitewater servants) and Lanie Cooker. And none of them have ‘the strut’ like Cara does. They are all dressed a little provocatively, but not to the point of looking unseemly. Just enough to look... enticing.

The young ladies line up, turn around, parade about; the five judges rate them by putting chits in a bowl for each. In the end, Cara has the most chits. Beaming, she is awarded her prize- a fancy ribbon leafed with real gold! She almost cries in happiness. That’ll show all the other girls! she thinks with a short burst of irrational jealousy.

The crowd disperses back into the entire area set up for festival. Kyle Goldenbow looks happily at the depleted supply of stones in his booth. Brandon Mallard and Jimmy Goodman are selling the folk ale and wine to clear the dust of a hot day off their tongues. The sun is near to going down, but large fires are being lit in several areas to provide lighting.

I think it’s near the eighth hour, Kyle thinks to himself. That’s when the halflings are going to hold their performance, whatever it is. With a slight smile, the elfblood begins putting his things away. As he does so, he glances up and sees an unkempt woman with more than a few splatters of chicken blood on her clothes (from the contest) and a few feathers in her hair. His eyes widen slightly as he realizes that she, too, has the blood of elves in her veins. And she is staring at him fixedly.

For her part, Dahlia is fascinated by things elven. She truly wishes to re-connect with her elven heritage, and when she sees the elfblood man, she exclaims to herself softly in elven and can only stare. He catches her looking at him, so she hurries off to the halfling performance.

And what a performance it is! The curtain rises to the amazing spectacle of the halflings hanging from platforms attached to ropes, and swinging from one end of their high-peaked frame-like structure to another, jumping off and catching themselves on another moving platform on ropes (or even on each other!)- it is amazing. None of the townsfolk have ever seen anything like it before. Gasps, oohs and ahhs, and finally, at the end, roaring applause are the halflings’ answer. It is an amazing spectacle.

“My lord, that was amazing!” exclaims Goer. “Perhaps we could invite them back to the castle.”

“Goer, I thall have to thpeak to my father about that,” Cedric replies. “But thertainly, they detherve thome recognithon for their amathing talentth!”

By the end of the halfling performance, everyone is tired and worn out from the day’s events. It has been a fun day, an exciting day full of contests. Jorgen congratulates himself for having successfully prevented any trouble so far. He watches as the townsfolk go home and the strangers retreat to wherever it is they are staying, be it in their wagons or in the common room at the Fat Mallard.

Cedric and Goer return to the Whitewater estate, just about a mile outside of town. The estate consists of a small fortress with a connected tower and a large outbuilding that is a combination servants’ home and stables (split half and half). They enter the fortress and Cedric soon approaches his father. He regales him with tales of the halfling entertainment and finishes by saying, “Father, you thould thee them! I thought perhapth we could bring them back to the ethtate for dinner or thomething tomorrow...”

But Cedric’s father, Sir Martin, frowns. “Son, I understand that these entertainers amused you, but that would not be... proper.”

“Oh. Of courthe, father.” Cedric is somewhat crestfallen, but he nods.

Sir Martin studies his son. “Perhaps, instead, you could take them out to breakfast in the morning,” he allows. “Here, I’ll give you a purse for them as well.” The old knight favors his son with a fond smile.

***

“I know I saw him,” Narmox insists. “He’ll be out here again tomorrow, I’m sure of it.”

“Unless we scared him off,” Tumenore replies. “But even then, the townsfolk will notice that he’s missing.”

Narmox rubs his hands together. “I can’t wait! We’re gonna hang us some bandits!”

Next Time: The bandit-hunters make their move!
 

the Jester

Legend
“Good morning, fine halflingth!”

The Amazing Longleap Sisters look up from their work. They are busily deconstructing the frame that they used for their amazing performance of the other night. They recognize Cedric from the other day, when he nearly accused them of being spies from Tydon, the rival earldom not far to the southeast. Goer stands faithfully just behind him.

“Good morning, lord,” one of the girls replies with a smile.

“Your performanthe wath amathing! My father conveyth hith rethpectth, and in hith name I would like to take you all out for breakfatht and perhapth a fine beverage or two.”

The halflings exchange a glance. “Well, certainly, my lord,” one of them says. “We are always willing to have breakfast! However, I must tell you, we are in a bit of a hurry to make it to the next festival. We cannot dally too much.”

“Of courthe not,” Cedric nods understanding.

Soon the Longleap sisters, Cedric and Goer are at the Fat Mallard, eating bowls of potatoes and enjoying a morning mug of ale. Cedric tries to elicit tales of the sisters’ journeys, asking especially about any dangers that they have encountered.

”Certainly, my lord, there are bandits in many places in the wild,” one of the sisters offers.

“Banditth!” exclaims Cedric. “Why, I would like nothing better than to prove my valor by thmiting down thome banditth!”

Indeed, as they talk, Cedric keeps turning over one thing in his mind, again and again- his knighthood. Though his initial training is complete, he has not yet performed a task of sufficient valor to earn his dubbing. Nor does he yet have a horse of his own. He knows that he must be patient; his father has long made that clear. In time, when he has proven his valor on the field of battle...

***

Meanwhile, the third day of the festival is picking up. The rays of the sun already promise a hot day. Cara Reed is playing her lute at one end of the festival space, while on the other, the Old-Timer is fiddling up a storm. The folk are eating confections, drinking morning wine and ale, having some sliced goat sausage fried up by the Cooker clan. The merchants have already begun trading.

“There he is, my lord,” Narmox the bandit-hunter murmurs, gesturing at Bangus Redcoat. Tumenore nods.

“Take him.”

Suddenly there is quite a commotion. A shout of surprise, then a cry of pain as swords rasp free of their scabbards, then a woman’s scream....

Jorgen is on the scene is seconds. Bangus Redcoat, one of the Cooker bully-boys, is surrounded by a handful of the armed bandit-hunters. The local has frozen, his eyes darting from one of the bandit-hunters hemming him in to another.

“What’s going on here?” Jorgen demands.

“We’re apprehending a bandit,” one of Tumenore’s men says.

Jorgen glances at Bangus Redcoat. “Him? But he lives in the town.”

“They often do,” the bandit-hunter replies. “You’d be amazed how often we find these scum hiding themselves among the peasantry.” One of the bandit-hunters moves to seize Bangus.

“Now hold on there just a minute!” Jorgen exclaims. “What are you going to do with him?”

“Question him, first of all- and then justice.”

“I’m not a bandit!” Bangus declares fiercely, fear evident in his voice. He gulps. “I work for the Cookers.”

“What evidence do you have?” asks Jorgen.

“One of us saw him.”

“What!” Bangus cries.

“Where?”

“Near the ruins of Castle Laagos,” declares a new voice. Jorgen turns as Tumenore himself walks up. Jorgen swallows. Tumenore is a formidable looking half-orc; his arms and legs look like tree trunks. He is tall, too, and his scowling face bears enough scars to draw a picture of him as a formidable warrior.

“You saw him yourself?” asks Jorgen.

“No- one of my men did. Who are you?”

Jorgen introduces himself. “I keep watch over the town.”

“I’m not a bandit!” Bangus cries again.

“Well, watchman, we’re going to take him away and interrogate him now. We’re operating with your lord’s permission, so if you’ll excuse us-“

“Maybe I should go with you,” Jorgen offers. He can feel the sweat trickling down his face, smearing on his palms. He is very nervous about this situation. This has the potential to get very bad. He glances at Tumenore’s men- there are almost two dozen of them, all armed with shortswords. They could tear this town apart, Jorgen realizes unhappily.

***

Cedric and Goer exit the Fat Mallard and turn towards the festival grounds. “That’th odd,” Cedric remarks, “there theems to be a commotion.”

As they approach, they find quite a scene, indeed: Bangus Redcoat is being taken by Tumenore and his men. “What’th going on here?” demands Cedric, and Tumenore bows to him.

”Ah, my lord, we have apprehended a bandit who was hiding amongst your folk.”

“I’m not a bandit!” cries Bangus. “Please, there must be some mistake!”

“I saw him with my own eyes,” declares another of Tumenore’s men (named Narmox). “He was with a group holed up in the ruins of Castle Laagos.”

“It wasn’t me, I swear! There must be some mistake!”

“When was this?” calls Kyle Goldenbow, who has come over from his booth to observe the scene. “Perhaps he has an alibi.”

“This was ten days ago, in the early evening. A few of us were patrolling, looking for the nest of bandits, and we saw a couple of them in the ruins. He was one of them!”

“Ten days ago he was working on our ranch,” Lane Cooker states firmly. “He was helping slaughter and dress goats until well after dark.”

“Don’t try to protect him just because he’s one of your neighbors! He’s a bandit!”

“Either way, we’ll find the truth of the matter,” Tumenore says.

“My father dithpentheth juthtithe in these partth,” Cedric warns them. “You may protheed with your invethtigathion, but when you are done you will turn him over to Thir Martin.”

“When we are done, we will see him hanged,” Tumenore says flatly.

Cedric demands that they first go explain themselves to Sir Martin. Tumenore agrees testily, and the troupe rides out to the Whitewater estate. Tumenore goes into conference with Sir Martin for nearly an hour, and when he emerges his men mount up and prepare to leave with Bangus Redcoat.

“I am going to go with them to... keep things proper, my lord,” Jorgen says uneasily.

“I swear, I was on the ranch!” Bangus groans. “Why won’t you listen to me?”

Tumenore and his men mount up and escort Bangus out of the walls of the estate. “Where are you taking him?” Jorgen asks.

”We’ll go to Heartbreak Hill,” says Tumenore. Jorgen nods. Heartbreak Hill, just outside of town, has a cliff called Lover’s Leap. From there, a heartbroken jilted lover once hurled himself to his death.

“I hope this wasn’t a bad idea,” Jorgen moans aloud to himself.

Sir Martin is livid, but, as he explains to Cedric, “What can we do? There are far too many of them, and they are well-armed. They genuinely believe that Bangus is a bandit, but I’m not so sure.” He leans towards his son. “I don’t trust him. Keep an eye on things as best you can, son.” His eyes seem to measure Cedric. “I know you have been frustrated for a chance to prove your valor. Your day is coming, son- perhaps sooner than either of us think.”

“Of courthe, father.”

“And if he is a bandit, he must hang, obviously.”

“Of courthe, father,” Cedric replies again.

***

After several hours of rough treatment atop Heartbreak Hill, Bangus has still not confessed to anything. Jorgen watches uneasily, but what can he do? He is one man in the midst of many. And though they have beaten him a little, they have not actually broken anything or cut anything off.

But finally, at about the fourth hour past noon, Tumenore growls, “I tire of your lies, brigand!” He draws his axe out and steps towards Bangus.

“Hey, now-” Jorgen says, but the half-orc ignores him.

“I give you a choice!” barks Tumenore. “You can take the leap,” he offers, gesturing at the dizzying fall, “or I’ll cut off one of your hands, or you can confess!”

Bangus’ face goes white.

“That’s no choice at all!” Jorgen protests.

“I don’t think the boss wants your input,” one of Tumenore’s men rumbles at Jorgen.

***

When they come back into town, it is late afternoon. Tumenore’s band heads directly to the festival grounds where they announce that Bangus Redcoat has confessed to being a bandit and that he will be hanged after the conclusion of the festival, as an example to others who might think of turning to banditry rather than honest work.

An impromptu group of the more concerned folk of the town, consisting of Cedric, Goer, Dahlia (though she’s not really of the town, as she’s a hermit from outside of town), Jorgen, Kyle Goldenbow, Cara Reed, Cur Sed Seed and Otis Optimus. Jorgen complains about the method used to elicit the confession, but he admits that the bandit-hunters seem sincere in their belief that he’s a bandit.

“Perhaps there’s a look-alike,” suggests Kyle.

“It’s possible,” Cara admits.

“Or maybe he really is a bandit. How reliable is his alibi?” asks Otis.

Kyle says, “I asked around a little, and there are multiple people who were working with him that evening. Just like Lane Cooker said.”

“Then perhapth we thould investhtigate Castle Laagoth,” Cedric suggests. “If there ith a look-alike, we may be able to prove Banguth Redcoat’th innothenthe.”

“The festival ends tomorrow night,” Otis comments calmly. “If he is being hanged as an example, they will probably do it the next morning, as there will be fewer people late in the evening.”

“And most of the people from out of town don’t usually leave until the day after it’s all over,” remarks Kyle.

“Then we mutht move quickly,” declares Cedric. “To the ruinth!”

Next Time: The Ruins of Castle Laagos!
 

the Jester

Legend
We now have but one more pc to meet, who will pop up in the next update- which I forecast a 50% chance of being later today. ;)
 

the Jester

Legend
The Ruins of Castle Laagos

Lazarus of Kamenda has only lived in the village of Whitewater for a few short years, having immigrated from Kamenda City. He has spent most of the last few years ingratiating himself with the folk of Whitewater, plying his trade as a bookkeeper. He makes a fair living, but there are only so many clients in a village this size. (There are, after all, only 139 people living in all of Whitewater!) Thus, whenever an opportunity arises to take a new client on, Lazarus jumps at it.

That is how he falls so easily into the trap.

Lured by the promise of work to a ‘traveling merchant’s’ wagon, as soon as he opens the box that was supposed to contain the books he knows something is wrong. There’s only straw-

An explosion of pain in the back of his head heralds a deep unconsciousness.

***

Whitewater’s impromptu investigatory party rides and walks out of town, heading upstream along the Roaring River and then northwest past Heartbreak Hill. The high grass all around them bends as the wind passes over it, blowing the hot air of late summer across the band of would-be heroes. As they move forward, Dahlia suddenly cries out, “Hey, stop! Watch out!”

“What is it?” Goer draws to a halt.

“A web,” she answers, “not far in front of-“

Before she can finish her sentence, four spiders burst from the tall grass and attack! They are of truly monstrous size- as big as a baby goat! Cries of dismay and panic come from our would-be heroes; except for Dahlia, they have never seen things like this before! Goer gives an agonized yelp as one of the spiders chomps down on his leg, while the others attack Cedric’s horse (or rather, one of his father’s horses), Dahlia’s mule and the donkey that Kyle brought. The beasts bray and whinny in fear as the massive spiders pierce legs and forebody, delivering deadly poison to them!

Our heroes dismount as best they can, trying to get into fighting position. Goer whips his sword from its sheath and hacks at one of the spiders, but to no avail; but then Jorgen slices out with his sword and wounds one of the bests severely. Cur slays another, and Cara leaps in with a flourish, jabbing her rapier into one of the hairy arachnids.

Then Otis gestures, weaving his hands in the air, and pronounces a series of incantations- and a bolt of pure force streaks out and blasts the last remaining spider to bits!

The others stare at him.

“What?” he asks. His padded armor is strapped on slightly incorrectly, and he holds his spear as if it’s a live snake.

“Let’s search and see if they had any other victims,” says Kyle, circumventing any problems that might arise from such a blatant display of magic. After a moment, the others begin fanning out, kicking through the grass in the area. Indeed, the group finds the withered husk of a small humanoid with features both reptilian and canine. It wears serviceable leather armor, but it is about half the size of a man. Our heroes take it in the hopes of selling it later anyway.

Then they turn to the hill that rises before them. Atop it is a ruined keep.

“Well, let’th go,” Cedric declares, unlimbering his battle axe. As the party makes ready to climb the hill, Cur suddenly hisses and turns behind them.

“Over there, lads!” he cries.

A figure is descending Heartbreak Hill and coming towards them, holding his head. He moves like he is injured. As it is dusk, our heroes cannot make out his features until he is fairly close. Then, Goer recognizes him. “Why, it’s the bookkeeper!” he exclaims.

Lazarus groans. “Where am I? What’s happening?”

“You tell uth, thir,” Cedric commands imperiously. “What are you doing out here? Conthpiring with banditth, perhapth?”

“Being victimized is more like it,” Lazarus groans. “I was lured out from the festival and hit from behind. The next thing I know, I’m waking up with a headache like you wouldn’t believe. I must have forgotten my place somehow,” he adds. “It is surely a judgment from the gods.”

After a thorough questioning, the group informs Lazarus that they are planning on climbing the hill to Castle Laagos and, with any luck, capturing a bandit or two themselves. They explain about Bangus Redcoat’s dilemma. Lazarus says, “Well, especially if these are the same bandits that hit me and took my money, I’d like to remind them of their place.”

“Agreed!” Cedric declares. “Then welcome to our hunting party.”

By now night has truly fallen. Our heroes start to make a cautious approach, but then they hear something: the sound of dogs barking, coming down hill.

“We weren’t really subtle when we approached, were we?” sighs Jorgen.

The group takes cover. Otis moves ahead, crawling up slope until he can hear them very near up ahead. Then, as quietly as he can, he begins casting a spell.

“What’s that?” comes a voice. Then, “Get ‘em, boy!” The barking of two dogs suddenly erupts, racing forward towards Otis’ hiding place. He can hear the panting of a pair of humans coming too.

Otis pops up, sand trailing through his fingers as he completes the spell, as both dogs and both approaching bandits drop into a sound slumber. Quickly, he moves up and runs one of them through with his spear; but the others stop him from killing the other man. “He may be able to answer some questions,” points out Kyle.

“Should we continue on now? It’s dark, but they’re obviously expecting us at this point,” remarks Cara.

“True,” Otis answers. His voice is even, calm, reassuring. He is exceptionally polite. “I, myself, would be far more effective given a night’s rest.”

“Oh, come on, let’s just go,” urges Goer. He takes a single step in the dark and his foot comes down on a loose piece of rubble. He gasps and collapses with a whimper. “Ow, my ankle!” Cedric helps him up and they examine it; it is badly sprained.

“I could use a day to rest too, frankly,” Lazarus admits. He kneels down, nausea and dizziness overcoming him. “Urgh...”

“He’s got a concussion,” remarks Dahlia.

“It sounds like we’ll have to wait til morning to attack, but that’s probably a good thing.” Jorgan glances at the prisoner, who is starting to stir.

Quickly and quietly, they hustle him down the hillside. Dahlia finds a thicket that they can hide in in case there are more patrols, binds their prisoner thoroughly, and then the group falls asleep. In the morning Goer’s ankle is swollen impressively and Lazarus is no better, so the two of them, along with Kyle and Cur Sed Seed, head back to Whitewater and to Sir Martin’s estate to report in. Meanwhile, the others check out their situation. Dahlia finds the tracks of someone who had been wandering around last night- “probably someone quiet,” she allows, “since he got not thirty feet from us. But it doesn’t look like he noticed us.”

“Tho, then- let uth athend the hill and find thith look-alike for Banguth Redcoat!” So saying, Cedric leads the party over to one of the trees on the hillside, where they tied their prisoner, promising to return to get him before too long. Then they head up the hill, circumnavigating the walls and examining it from all sides before beginning their assault. The western face holds a portcullis, which is raised about 3’ off the ground and suspended by a combination of loose rusty chains and creaking ropes.

Along the north face, one section of the wall is partially collapses. This looks promising but treacherous, and our heroes elect to assault the portcullis first.

As they approach-

Spang! A sling stone pounds into Jorgan’s pate! “Aargh!” he cries.

Dogs are barking, sling stones are flying- suddenly everything is happening at once.

Next Time: Do or die against the entire bandit troupe!
 

the Jester

Legend
Here's the complete party roster (though you'll rarely see them all together):

Cedric Whitewater (knight 1)
Dahlia (elfblooded druid 1)
Cara Reed (bard 1)
Fwaigo "Goer" Smith (fighter 1)
Jorgen Boatwright (fighter 1)
Kyle Goldenbow (elfblooded rogue 1)
Cur Sed Seed (half-orc ranger 1)
Otis Optimus (wizard 1)
Lazarus of Kamenda (priest 1)
 
Hey Jester, nice work so far.

Cedric is my favourite so far, for obviouth reathons. But seriously, whenever he talks I get that damn priest from The Princess Bride in my head - not that it's the same speech impediment, but hey, whatever. I'm so shallow :heh:

Anyway. Good writing so far - looking forward to the party going into action against the bandits... lets see if all those fighters are worth a damn ;) .

Spider J
 

the Jester

Legend
Hey Spider, glad you're enjoying it! My group is always a lot of fun, and Cedric's player has a thing for funny voices (you should hear his efreeti when he dms!). :p
 

the Jester

Legend
Battle of the Bandits

It is pure chaos as the party edges up towards the portcullis, under fire by a barrage of sling stones. Most of them flatten against the wall, out of direct sight. The sound of barking dogs coming closer sends a chill through our heroes.

Cedric moves up, crying, “Foul banditth! Thurrender and we will be merthiful!”

Otis, hanging back, cries out as a sling stone hits him in the arm. A bandit’s voice retorts, “You surrender and we will be merciful!”

The barking dogs- four of them- have stopped just on the other side of the portcullis. Cedric glares at them, but moving forward to engage them would expose him to sling shots through the portcullis. The dogs are well-trained, it seems; they remain on the far side of the partially-raised portcullis. Dahlia tries to charm one with her witchy ways, but the dog is loyal to its masters. Cedric whistles at one of the other dogs. “Here, boy!” he calls. “Come here, boy!” He coaxes it, and the dog starts towards him. As it passes beneath the portcullis, it suddenly drops, impaling the dog and killing it instantly! Worse, it now blocks passage. The sling stones still zing forth from the bandits in the courtyard beyond, and now they are moving up, trying to get a better angle.

“I knew it wath a trap!” Cedric chortles, “It wath too obviouth.”

Jorgen, meanwhile, has begun to scale the wall, pulling himself up along its rough surface hand over hand. Below him, he can hear Cedric starting to pull himself up after him.

Otis, still hanging back, finds himself the target of several sling stones. They whiz past at first, but eventually one strikes him hard in the temple. For a moment Otis sees stars; then he staggers away. Got to get help, he thinks, his head spinning. The Lordship will help us... he will help his son. Otis begins to jog away, heading towards the distant Whitewater estate. He rapidly disappeared in the distance.

Meanwhile, Cara Reed took up station before the fallen portcullis, her rapier at the ready, and began thrusting at the four bandits beyond, resulting in a duel through the portcullis. One of the bandits notes the climbing pair and cries, “To the wall!” Two of the bandits broke off their melee and rushed towards an outbuilding. Meanwhile, more sling bullets pounded down towards the party, smashing off the wall shielding them. Another of the bandits rushes to the mechanism used to raise the portcullis and begins slowly cranking the wheel. “Uh-oh,” Cara mutters to herself as her cover begins to rise. Then she cries out in pain and there is a blow she cannot parry and everything goes red and black.

Jorgen pulls himself onto the wall as two bandits rush out on top of the wall. He scrambles to his feet just in time, dodging a blow on the narrow walkway atop the wall. He turns his blade, hooks his leg around the ankle of one of the bandits, and trips him. His follow up blow cleaves through the man’s skull, slaying him instantly, and Jorgen feels his stomach lurch. I’m a killer, he thinks crazily, and then- “Whoof!”- he’s on his back, as the other bandit trips him!

“Two can play at that game, lad!” the bandit cries wildly, bringing a massive bastard sword down at Jorgen’s face. “You should never have crossed Jared o’ the Highway!”

Cedric hurls himself forward and barely manages to parry the death blow. “Foul bandit!” he cries, as the sound of metal clashing on metal rings inches above Jorgen’s terrified eyes. “We will defeat you thoundly!”

Down below, Dahlia and her badger scuttle around the corner of the building towards the ruined wall, hoping for a more discrete way to enter, but they jerk to a stop. The section of the collapsed wall appears to be infested by ants the size of a- well. About the size of a badger.

I guess I’d better go back to the portcullis, Dahlia thinks. She turns and she and her badger move back towards- Cara’s crumpled form?! She exclaims in Elven. Oh no! Cara! Dahlia’s heart palpitates with fear. She has never done anything like this before, and the terror and excitement are nearly overwhelming.

Only a single bandit is now at the portcullis, grinning wickedly. He stops grinning as a determined Dahlia, armed with a club, and her fierce badger both lunge to the attack. In an instant the bandit is retreating, step by step. Then he stabs the badger in the side and the badger goes nuts, tearing at the man until he is a bloody mess on the ground.

On the wall, Jorgen has managed to gain his feet. Cedric and he duel with Jared o’ the Highway, the obvious leader of these men. “We only want one of you!” cries Cedric. “But if you continue to rethitht, we will take you all and adminithter juthtithe to you all!”

“Bah!” sneers Jared. “You’ll never take us!” He flicks the tip of his bastard sword at Cedric’s face, then alters his blow as the young would-be knight moves to parry, and in an instant Cedric is disarmed. Before Jared o’ the Highway can fully take advantage of the situation, however, Jorgen beats him back. Even as Cedric scoops up his axe, Jorgen hacks at the bandit leader again- and Jared, off-balance, misses when he parries.

Schluck!

Jorgen quivers as his sword penetrates deep into the bandit’s head. With a scarlet gurgle, Jared o’ the Highway crumples to the ground. Jorgen stares at his body for a moment disbelievingly. I... I have killed two men, he thinks. His stomach is acting as if it were one of the Amazing Longleap Sisters.

“Foul mithcreantth!” screams Cedric. “Thurrender or be dethtroyed! We have already thlain your leader, Jared o’ the Highway, who we know hath mithled you badly. If you thurrender to uth, we promithe to enthure that the law treatth you gently!”

Cedric and Jorgen clamber down the wall into the courtyard, ready for more trouble. Immediately, Jorgen’s stomach gives way. He vomits as the realization that he is a killer goes round and round his head. Dahlia and her bloodied badger have slain the remaining bandit at the gates and the dogs rapidly fall to the combined fury of Cedric, Jorgen and Dahlia (and her badger). Then the three warily turn to face the main building across the courtyard.

A lone bandit comes out with his hands up.

“Hello!” he cries. “We- we don’t want any more trouble...”

“You had better not!” Cedric says sternly.

***

There are seven bandits left, and all surrender. The one they seek- named Bros- tries to flee once he realizes that he is the goal of the expedition, but he is brought down quickly and sternly.

Cedric, Dahlia and Jorgen bind their prisoners in a line and lead them back towards the estate. Soon they have imprisoned them save for Bros, who they take to Tumenore and his men. The sun is just going down on the last day of the festival.

Tumenore and his men, especially the fellow who fingered Bangus Redcoat as a bandit, are abashed. “Well, I’ll be,” Tumenore says laconically. “I guess you were right.” He apologizes to Bangus and gives him a gold piece as compensation for the rough treatment.

Then he leans in towards Bros. “But you,” he says with a feral grin, “are ours.”

Next Time: The party receives great rewards for their victory! Then they return to the ruins of Castle Laagos to investigate further!
 

the Jester

Legend
Rewards; plus, the Great Ant Debacle

Sir Martin Whitewater is as proud of his boy as he has ever been.

The sun rises into the sky over his family estate as late morning comes on. The servants and the family are all in attendance- even Lady Raven, though bedridden, has been carried out on a litter by her nurses. She would not miss this for the world. All of them, as well as several of Cedric’s friends from town, are assembled in the wide open courtyard. Several large shade trees provide some protection from the late summer sun.

The ceremony commences, with Cedric (at last!) taking his vows, pledging himself to valor and the service of his father and Lord. And then, at the end, the dubbing; and Cedric is now Sir Cedric, a knight at last! As an added bonus, Sir Martin allows Sir Cedric to choose one of the horses as his own.

Grinning, the lad thanks Sir Martin effusively; and after a warm embrace, the father tells the son to summon his companions (or at least those of them who have come to witness his dubbing into knighthood) within the castle, to the audience chamber. Soon they are assembled around the high-backed cherry wood chair that Sir Martin uses when he hears petitions. Speaking formally, Martin thanks his son’s companions for their aid and gives each of them a unique reward.

To Dahlia he gives a writ asserting that she is a friend an ally of the Whitewaters. “I know the people of this area can be superstitious,” he says. “It is all too common for the peasants to lose their heads in fear over some foolish thing. If you should be assaulted or imprisoned, this should carry some weight.”

Jorgen is made sheriff, officially, and given both a wide-brimmed high sheriff’s hat and a seven-pointed star forged of tin. Never has he been prouder. “I will execute my duties faithfully, my lord!” he exclaims, nearly tripping over his own tongue. The combination of nervousness and excitement is wearing him out- it is not easy, being close to a noble like this!

Otis first pledges his allegiance to Sir Martin, then is given a license to cast spells. Though not always strictly necessary, it certainly should help him avoid any difficulties with superstitious peasants. “Thank you, my lord!” he declares. “Have you any need of my skills, you need only ask at the tower of Lady Xastys.” Sir Martin politely inclines his head in reply.

Then Sir Martin asks Cara Reed to come speak to him privately. They are gone for a few minutes, and when they return Cara looks flushed and happy. A wide grin is on her face. She glances shyly at Cedric- no, Sir Cedric now.

“Son, come speak to me,” Sir Martin says. Cedric immediately joins him, and the two go to a sitting room.

“What ith it, father? Some more banditth that we mutht thtrike down? Thieveth, in the town?”

“No, no my son.” Sir Martin looks pensive for a moment; then, with a sigh, he states, “Son, I’m not going to live forever.” His strong blue eyes lock onto Cedric’s. “Your mother is very ill, and the same could happen to me. I must look to my line.”

“I underthtand, father.”

“No, son, I don’t think you do- not entirely, at least. Son, I have to ensure not just that I have an heir, but that my heir will continue the line. Do you understand?”

“Of courthe, father.”

“Therefore, I have decided that it is time that we found you a good wife.”

Sir Cedric is thunderstruck. “But, father, my older brother-“

“Your brother seems... unable to sire children.”

“Oh, I thee.” Sir Cedric gulps. He can see where this is going, and he doesn’t really like it. On some level, he has always been attracted to boys, though he does not admit it to himself. But it is his duty to serve his father in all things... and certainly, the line must go on- it must not be allowed to die out.

“Therefore, I have decided that, assuming she is fertile, you shall be married to Cara Reed.”

“Oh.” Sir Cedric ponders this for a moment. Then, he asks, “But father, ithn’t her blood rather... common? Would it be proper?”

Sir Martin sighs. “This is indeed something that concerns me, but in an area this size we must take the noblest blood we can find. She is a beauty; I think her blood might help invigorate ours.” Still, he looks unhappy at this aspect of the arrangement.

“Very well, father.”

Sir Martin nods. “Good. Say nothing of this until I formally announce it. We must first ensure that she is... fertile.”

***

The bandits’ money mostly goes to Sir Martin for distribution to the peasants, though the lord pays the group generously from the takings. Jorgen takes the suit of chain mail that Bros, that bandit that looks like Bangus Redcoat, had been wearing. Sir Cedric takes Jared o’ the Highway’s bastard sword. Several of the others take a weapon or shield from the pile of loot. Sheriff Jorgen takes the unclaimed weapons and armor to start a town militia.

“I really don’t like how two dozen armed men could ride in here and almost take over the town,” Goer comments. His ankle is still swollen, but almost healed enough for him to walk. He reluctantly declines the trip the party is planning to Castle Laagos. He can’t walk well quite yet.

***

Dahlia knocks on the door. She is standing before a rude shack with not-quite square walls. Impressive gardens of herbs, flowers and vegetables are outside.

After a moment the door opens. An old woman stares out at Dahlia. “Yes?” the woman asks.

Dahlia says, “Hello- uh- my name is Dahlia. I was hoping... that is...” She sighs. “I was hoping you could watch my badger. He got hurt fighting bandits, and...”

The old woman’s face goes sour. “You allowed your animal to get hurt? Fighting??”

“We were fighting to save Bangus Redcoat. He had been falsely accused of being a bandit at the festival- you probably heard all about it-“

“Skipped it.”

“Oh. Er...” Dahlia gulps. She came here, to this hovel, because of the reputation of the Three Weird Ladies. It seemed to her that if anyone in town was likely to aid her in keeping her badger safe for the nonce, it would be them. Now that she thinks about it, that may have been simply a vain hope that they would be somewhat like her. Finally she says, “Well, I’m trying to avoid taking him into danger again. I thought, maybe, you could help watch him while I go back into danger myself.”

With an icy glare, the old woman answers, “We will watch him for you. But I think you need to re-evaluate your priorities.”

***

Though the bandits had surrendered what they claimed was all of their treasure (which the party turned over to Sir Martin, hoping he could redistribute it to the peasants from whom it was stolen), the party decides to return to the ruins of Castle Laagos. “There might be more,” points out Cara. “They might have left stuff behind.”

“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about moving out there, if it’s safe enough,” Dahlia comments. This comment, of course, makes the rest of our heroes wonder just how crazy you have to be to want to live in a ruined castle. Then again, the bandits did it too, so apparently either there are a lot of crazies running around or it’s a fairly normal thing to do. Hmm. “We should exterminate those ants, too,” suggests the strange woman. She can almost picture her badger snuffling along beside her as the group walks through the afternoon warmth towards the ruin.

They must first pass through town in order to cross the Raging River, and while they are near it, Otis hurries to the tower of the sorceress Xastys, whose apprentice he is. He reports to her the nature of his activities.

She is hardly supportive.

“Don’t get killed!” she declares. “You are far too valuable, and not well-trained enough to take care of yourself yet.”

“Yes, my lady.”

“And if you find any old writings, books or scrolls, bring them to me.”

“Yes, my lady.” Smoothly, he pulls forth five gold pieces from his pouch. “A contribution for your research, my lady.” He hands it to the surprised Xastys.

“Thank you,” she says, quite surprised. “Go, then,” she adds.

Otis hurries back to the rest of the group before Xastys’ mercurial temper changes and she saddles him with chores. As he leaves he cannot help but think longingly of his mistress’ power. He finds both the power and the woman most... exciting. If only she were open to his advances!

When the group reaches Castle Laagos, they find that the portcullis has dropped shut again; from the looks of things, Otis surmises that the old chains holding it up finally snapped through. After a moment, our heroes move around to the side with the crumbled wall, where the ants are moving about, apparently scavenging. “We should destroy them so they pose no threat later,” comments Otis sagely.

“Well, if I’m going to live here I don’t really want them trying to carry off my food or something,” admits Dahlia.

The group takes up positions around the rubble. They decide that Sir Cedric will attempt to lure the ants out, away from the rubble (wherein Jorgen spots several holes that might easily house many more ants).

But of course, things go awry.

Missiles and a galloping horsemen strike down the first ant, and then Sir Cedric wheels his mount to retreat, hoping to lure the ants out. That is when the smell from the dead ant hits the group.

”Piss ants!” shouts Jorgen.

More ants come swarming out of the rubble, and these ones are much bigger than the little ones. They are about 6’ long! Suddenly there is chaos as the ants move rapidly in and battle is joined! Cedric hews at them, Jorgen stabs and slashes with his sword, Cara sings and stabs, Otis fires off magic missiles. Dahlia whirls her club and smashes it into the ants, but the ants are fierce, biting with huge mandibles. In moments the stink of the ants fills the air, and soon Cara and Otis are both down. Cedric has cut down two more of the small ones. Hard-pressed, our heroes slay one of the large ants, then another; but then Cedric is pulled down, overwhelmed with a bloody gasp. And then Dahlia, too, falls, having taken the last small ant with her.

Jorgen fights alone against two large warrior ants, his new armor turning several bites. Then one of the ants rips wound in his thigh, and he staggers, barely catching himself.

With a groan, he swings his sword again, cleaving the head of the ant that bit him. Then he catches the other one’s bite on his shield and stabs it. Limping forward, starting to see spots, fatigue starting to settle into his arm, he approaches the last ant. It scurries forward, tearing at him with its mandibles, and though his armor turns the worst of the bite, it still rips his other leg. Barely standing, Jorgen swings again- and misses! The ant is quick, dodging away and then darting back in! It bites at him again, but he manages to interpose his shield. Its mandibles grasp onto the edge of the shield, and while it is right there he hacks with his sword, cutting right into the ant’s head! Bug juice sprays and the thing collapses.

Jorgen wrenches his shield free of the dead mandibles and hurries to bandage his bleeding friends.*

“Now what?” he groans to himself.

There is no real choice. Clearly, he cannot carry all his friends himself; and he doesn’t feel that it would be safe to leave his friends unattended for long. He could go into town to try to get help, but if there was something left in the ruins, especially something that saw the battle- no, it seems unwise. And there are probably more ants, too...

Wincing as his wounded legs move, Jorgen slowly hauls his friends into the ruin, finding a bandit sleeping quarters, and settles them in. It takes him over an hour, and in the end he is exhausted. He dozes off for several hours and wakes hungry. Eating a few pieces of goat salami leaves him sated, and he spends the next few hours hunting up a little wood for a fire and a few wild vegetables. The area immediately around the castle has been mostly cleared of vegetation, so he must walk a fair distance (considering the wounds in his legs). When he returns, he is in considerable pain. He groans and collapses on some of the bandit bedding, falling into a shaky sleep.

Jorgen spends the next two nights in the castle, eating rations and conserving his strength. He tends his friends faithfully, and finally, Dahlia and Otis come to a sort of groggy half-consciousness. Immediately Jorgen tells them where they are and declares that he will be back with help as soon as he can. His legs have healed enough that he does not aggravate the wounds anymore as he walks, and he moves- perhaps a trifle slower that before- to town, where he gets Goer; and together they manage to assist the wounded back to town.

“Perhaps we should see Ovina,” suggest Jorgen. Ovina, of course, is the local priestess. Our heroes agree that this seems like a good idea, and so they go to the temple. Ovina is there, and gladly heals Dahlia and Cara, but then she declares that they must work in the field from sunrise to sundown for 20 days come spring.

“Such is the price of Belthizar,” the priestess intones.

Cara protests, but Ovina insists that she will pay the farm god or he will not help her again in the future. Grumbling, she agrees.

Then it is Otis’ turn, but he refuses her healing touch.

***

The party spends the next week in town. Several of them spend the time training.** Cara studies under the Old-Timer, an elfblood old man who claims to have been the first baby born in Whitewater. He has many stories and is an incredible fiddler; he has many performance tricks to teach, and teach he does.

Goer spends the week crafting a longsword and putting it up for sale. Otis gives Xastys another five gold pieces for “research purposes”. Dahlia retrieves her badger from the three Weird Ladies. One of them is Drendlin, who won the chicken-plucking contest at the harvest festival. Again, they scold her; but it is clear that they treated the badger well, and he is hale and healthy. Dahlia thanks them humbly.

Finally, a week after their return from their disastrous misadventure with the ants, a number of our heroes assemble at the Fat Mallard to head back to the castle and try to finish exploring it. After all, if they wait too long, any bandits that escaped might return and make off with any loot that was hidden away. The group hardly wants that to happen.

So it is that Dahlia, Goer, Cara, Otis, Cur Sed Seed and Sir Cedric head back to the ruin outside of town to try their hand at exploring it again. And this time, they vow not to mess with the ants- or at least, not from up close.

Next Time: Our heroes try Laagos again!


*At the end of this fight, every pc had burned a Wyrd (which is something like a fate or action point). This was definitely an ‘in over their heads’ encounter- it was EL 6. But that’s what happens when you disturb a nest of giant ants. Obviously what we have here is an example of ‘status quo’ encounters (vs. ‘tailored’ encounters)- let that be a note as to the style of the campaign. ;) We’re using a Cling to Life variant- instead of dying at -10, you can reach a negative total equal to your con score plus level, so at this point most everyone dies around -12 or -13. Everyone but Jorgen and Otis were 1 point away from death and stable via burning Wyrds.

**Cara, Cedric, Dahlia and Jorgen leveled after the ant fight. I’m using training rules in the Year 271 Campaign, so it takes 1 week/level being gained of training to gain all your level up benefits. It takes longer and costs xp to do it without a trainer.
 

the Jester

Legend
At this point we are in the third session that we played with this group. The party now in action and headed for the ruin consists of:

Dahlia, elfblood druid 2
Goer, fighter 1
Cara, bard 2
Otis, wizard 1
Cur, half-orc ranger 1
Cedric, knight 2

(An 'elfblood' is, in game terms, a half-elf, but they are almost all of mixed elven-human ancestry rather than having one elf and one human parent. The elves are gone.)

I am working on another update- maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow. :)
 

the Jester

Legend
It is about noon when our heroes arrive at the ruin. The sun is warm; it still feels like a summer day well enough. The crumbled wall crawls again with ants. Our heroes carefully move away from that area.

Goer clambers up the wall on the east face, where damage from several strikes by catapult or other siege weapon have left the wall cracked and badly damaged. Some of the crumbling rock slips out from beneath him, and he falls to the ground with a huff. Picking himself up, the squire shakes his head. “Let me try that again,” he says with a cough, and the second time he moves more carefully, pulling himself up to the top of the wall 25’ above. There he attaches a rope to a crenellation, then tosses the other end down to the party. They start to climb upward while he surveys the scene.

From the top of the wall, especially now, on a clear hot day, the view is great. Goer can see probably for miles. More importantly, he can clearly discern the layout of the keep. The walls have a walkway all the way around, interrupted where the portcullis squats at the main entrance and by the square watch tower that rises fully 50’ from the ground. That’s where they shot their slings from, he nods to himself. A ladder descends to the courtyard below- that was where Bangus Redcoat’s look-alike had tried to flee from.

The walled area was probably around 100 yards square. There was no moat, but the wall was around ten feet thick- a staunch discouragement against assault. Still, the walls and buildings showed signs of a siege. There were two areas of the main castle that filled half the courtyard that had been blasted to rubble by catapult stones. Goer even fancied that he could see one of the stones buried in the building below. There were the two outbuildings, plus the well. From here, Goer can see that the larger outbuilding has a stairway leading out of it to the top of the wall.

The others have clambered to the top by now. They, too, survey the scene. Then Otis suggests they examine the tower. The entire group agrees easily to this suggestion; there appears to be a door entering the tower on this side of the wall, and perhaps it has a way down. “There’s always the ladder,” comments Dahlia, “but I like the tower. Maybe there’s something interesting in the tower.”

The tower is a little disappointing: there are several bandit bedrolls, but no bandits in evidence. The place looks like it has been undisturbed for a week or so. “This is probably where some of the bandits we killed or captured slept,” comments Cur. They do find a deck of cards, and they play a couple of hands before growing bored with it. They also find a window with a good view of the ants down below and consider taking a few shots into one of them. They wound one ant, but soon grow bored with the sport. Back out the tower to the ladder they go, then down into the back end of the courtyard, behind the main castle. The spot where Goer fancied he saw the catapult rock is not far away, so our heroes head in that direction.

They find themselves facing a shattered chunk of wall, and indeed there is a stone present of unusual roundness. The pounding that the floor took has created several low depressions, now filled with stagnant water overgrown with algae. Chunks of broken masonry are strewn about the chamber, but on the far wall there is a door. Otis starts to move towards it when a sudden, wispy buzzing sound starts to rise. Otis falters.

Before him, rising from the stagnant ponds, come an incredible number of mosquitoes. The noise is their buzzing. They swarm forward, enveloping Otis and biting him everywhere.* He cries out in distress and dashes back away from the mass of bloodsuckers. They drift forward in pursuit, overtaking Goer for a moment. He gives a choked cry of despair as he realizes how itchy he is going to be for the next few days. Then he bolts, flapping his arms, and the others are either ahead of him or following suit. The mosquitoes are fairly slow; they give up the chase almost immediately.

“Right, that’s not the way in,” Dahlia states firmly.

“No doubt, lassie!” agrees Cur Sed Seed most emphatically.

The party moves on to the other section holed by a catapult stone. This time they find nothing dangerous barring their entry. They move in, finding a number of different sets of living quarters. One disturbing area holds many children’s toys and a shattered crib. A few bones are also in the room.

“The poor dearth,” Sir Cedric says mournfully.

Sleeping quarters, and abandoned ones at that; there is almost nothing else to see, at least at first. A few things here and there worth taking- a nice pair of boots, a few coins, a dagger hidden beneath a bedroll.

As the party explores, they find a kitchen, piled high with dirty dishes and containing a goblin roped to the wall. The goblin proves to be a cringing coward, terrified of the big humans and convinced that they are going to beat him for some imagined failure or slight. With a big hopeful grin, the goblin starts rubbing a filthy rag across a plate, first dipping it to some disgustingly dirty water.

“Aw, a goblin,” says Cara. “How cute!”

“I will take charge of him,” declares Otis. He fixes the goblin with his eyes and shakes a warning finger at him. But the goblin- Shazo turns out to be his name- only cringes. With a shake of his head, Otis manages to free the end of the rope that is tied to the wall. Then he takes the end in his hand, figuring he can use it like a leash.

Soon our heroes move on again, this time with a nearly naked, shivering goblin on a rope with them. They try to treat him nicely, even paying for his services, but do they convince him that they mean him no harm?

“Hey, look here!” exclaims Cur Sed Seed. “This door’s blocked by rubble.

“How long has it been blocked, do you think?” asks Goer.

“A long time...”

“We could clear it out,” suggests Cedric. “It will take thome time, but we could do it.”

The party generally agrees, at which point Sir Cedric bellow, “PEATHANTTH! Clear the rubble!!”

And the peasants set to their task.

Next Time:


*Yes, that’s right- it was a (homebrewed) Mosquito Swarm!!
 

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