On Wednesday, Jun 28th, we started a new campaign based on a period of time just before the start of Mother’s Curse. I really enjoyed meeting the five other people that joined this session at Pawn & Pint, which I might add was filled with many other groups having a great time. I am looking forward to next Wednesday for the second session.
Some minor spoilers beyond this point
Late in the year 434…
We begin the tale near the middle of the final month of the year 434. Cothel, like many of her neighboring countries, has gone to war against the Senzar invaders who have slaughtered the royal family of Esland. These heathen witches and warlocks, coming from beyond the Rim Mountains to the south, threaten the very way of life of those living around the Sea of Tet.
Many of the seasoned soldiers have been called to the front and the battles taking place on the other side of the Grey Mountains. Which is the long range of mountains that make up Cothel’s western border. This demand on the fighting forces has allowed many young men and women admittance to the ranks of the city guard as well as into the fold of Felis’s holy warriors.
Our intrepid band has gathered from around the country to the city of Antar where unrest and violence have taken root in the capital of Cothel. Just west of Antar, eight days prior, the entire Nasat family was slaughtered on their farmstead. Four days after that tragic event, the local reeve and his deputy were found dead, along with all the members of the Enden family at their farmstead, less than a quarter of a mile down the lane.
In both cases, grain and farm supplies were stolen. Small farm animals, such as chickens, were beheaded and removed. The houses ransacked and robbed. Wagons and oxen were taken, presumably to cart away the stolen goods. Both sets of murders and robberies happened at night and the eight other farmsteads living in the small community have sent a desperate plea to Antar for help, for they fear witchcraft was involved.
Holy Warrior Artest, Commander of the 3rd Plow Force, called upon a young and upcoming Holy Warrior Apprentice Iolaus (a paladin) and two of his companions. These include the cunning Gemma (a warlock who hopes to conceal her witchcraft within the priesthood) and the wiry Howl (a wizard who may have a tendency to dwell a bit more than others on death). Iolaus, the more formidable warrior, was asked to lead his companions and a couple of the city guard to this cluster of farmsteads to investigate the claims of witchcraft and bring the bandits to justice.
Sergeant Erik Alistar of the Antar Guard provided the services of two promising soldiers who show a strong talent for tracking and operating at night. This includes Private Wilby Grayson (also know as “Clod”) who is not that great with a sword, but manages a short bow quite well (a ranger, who will one day have to conceal his witchcraft) and Private Rowan (a thief whose wisdom in battle keeps him from too much harm).
Around mid-morning, the five defenders of Cothel, set off to the west and passing through the many farms and pastures that surround the city. Outside the lanes created by the fieldstone walls, they move into the rolling grasslands which are just starting to turn green half a month before the first day of spring and the start of the new year. By late afternoon, the five soldiers arrive at the cluster of ten farmsteads. The presence of three Holy Warriors of Felis draws both relief and trepidation from the other residents of this remote community.
The small cluster of farmsteads, each have either a waddle and daub or a timber beam home. All have at least one outbuilding and most of them more than one. The community stretches out for three-quarters of a mile. Six of the farms are situated north of fieldstone line lane and four to the south.
A quick conversation with a man plowing his field leads Iolaus to learn that the first murders and robbery occurred at the last farmstead on the northern side of the community. The second murders occurred on the same side of the lane, two houses down. Neither family was overly wealthy, but both were doing reasonably well. The middle child of the Enden family, a beautify Sammy, was to be married to Ronny Messer, the family living a couple houses east, on the south side of the lane.
Not sensing any deception, the group goes to the site of the more recent murder to investigate. Private Wilby asks for a moment to look for track in the ground softened by recent drizzles. However, his stumbling past the gate forces his companions quickly lose confidence in the likelihood he will find anything useful.
Inside the home, Iolaus and the holy warriors quickly confirm the damage matches the reports, but he fails to sense any evil magic that would have caused the burns on Reeve Kirkson.
Outside, Wilby redeems himself by finding a set of wagon tracks that lead off the farmstead through gates on the northern side of the fields. The team quickly decides to pursue the route the bandits took, learning that after less than a mile the trail turns more west than north. With tenacity, they pursue the path until the late winter evening becomes too dark to find the tracks.
Graced with some light from the Mother Moon shines through the thin layer of clouds, the party returns to the cluster of farmsteads in the hopes of staking out the northern side of the community. Rowan heads to the site of the first murders, armed with his bow and patience, he hides and waits. Wilby moves to the three-foot high field wall on the east side of the second murder site, while the three holy warriors, dressed in chain armor, take up residence in the home of the second site.
Almost immediately, Wilby spots some unusual activity. Perhaps a small child, with a limp, or might it be a man crouched low? Whoever it is, they are moving between the neighboring home and the barn. A hooded lamp providing a small pool of light at the person’s feet. With the agility and stealth of a cat, Wilby moves closer to investigate. A second man follows the first. The hint of weapons reflect in the moonlight.
Wilby closes the distance to the house and couches next to a shuttered window in the timber beam home. Male voices permeate the wall, but are not loud enough to understand what is being said. Concluding the activity is not consistent with youth out for a midnight stroll, Wilby hastens back to inform the holy warriors. With his speed and stealth, he’s sent to retrieve Rowan.
Undaunted, and unwilling to wait, Iolaus heads toward the neighboring home, climbing over the wall. He is determined to walk around to the front of the house and bang on the door to demand these men surrender. The twang of a crossbow discharge and the whizzing breeze of the passing bolt confirms the foul intent of those at the house. Uncertain of where the attack came from, Iolaus scans the area.
However, Howl and Gemma see the attacker behind a tree near the southern side of the home. Howl unleashes magic, but his chain armor confounds his spell. A second bolt flies wide, missing everyone. Gemma manages her casting and blows one man back while the other runs for the house.
Iolaus, now seeing the targets, charges forth to engage the men with his sword. They call out a warning to suspected companions as Iolaus chases with the first crossbowman who had been knocked prone. A blow to the back of the head renders the man unconscious.
Gemma and Howl move to the house, Howl around to the front of the building and the door on the east side. Gemma covers the rear and heads for a shuttered window. Wilby and Rowan, rushing to join their companions, reach the wall and start making their way toward the northern side of the house.
Wilby catches the sight of a man at the barn, and with skill not often seen, plants an arrow through the man’s heart, sending him tumbling to the ground.
Iolaus puts manacles on the unconscious bandit while Howl throws open the door to the house. His brash deed rewards him with a crossbow bolt buried in his right arm blowing through his magical shield. On the other side of the room, the crossbowman works to reload while a bandit stands near the door with a sword.
Gemma, at the back of the house, tries unsuccessfully to pull open the shutter while Wilby and Rowan cover the north side of the building and the barn.
Back at the front door, Howl unleashes crackling blue lightning from his hands, striking the bandit that had been about to bury a long steel blade into his gut. The ferocity and power emanating from Felis’ Holy Warrior drives the man back.
Iolaus scoots around Howl and charges forth into living space crying out for the men to surrender of Felis. The power of his demand startles the crossbowman so much his bolt hits his fellow bandit instead of the holy warriors.
From another room in the house, a determined voice responds, “Back off or they die!”
On the outside of the building, Gemma dramatically blows off the shutter’s latch with the help of Felis’ magic. A quick glance around confirms no one notices how her hands tangled in her clothing and missed her target of the crossbowman. However, the bandit’s back is now accessible through the open window.
Rowan spots a man at the corner of the barn, he draws back his bow and releases the arrow he had at ready. The shaft lodges itself in the man’s arm. The bandit returns fire and pain shoots through Rowan’s side. However, the soldier endures it, knowing the bandit will be unable to reload.
Howl, bleeding and hurt, continues to hold his lightning attack on the bandit struggling to retreat to the inner door. Iolaus, worried for the safety of the family, beats him to the door and helps end the bandit’s life with a slash of his sword.
Wilby pulls open the shutters on a northern window and peers into the downstairs bedroom. A man at the interior door has his back to him. A second man holds his sword ready to strike the family that sits gagged and tied in the far corner. Without a clear shot at the man in the corner, Wilby shoots the man at the door, striking him in the back with an arrow.
Gemma takes advantage of her position still outside the house and unleashes Felis’ wrath on the crossbowman inside the building, giving the man an agonizing end to his life.
Rowan moves south around the barn and spots the crossbowman fleeing quickly toward the lane. With the calmness of a seasoned warrior, he plants an arrow into the man’s back, sending him tumbling to the ground.
Wilby, having drawn the attention of those inside the room, finds himself releasing his arrow early, missing the injured man that has rushed toward the window with his sword. Fortunately, Wilby’s reflexes avoided the sharpened steel.
Iolaus burst into the room, sword drawn and ready. The bandit near the family stabs the nearest person, which happens to be a young boy. Enraged, Iolaus brings his sword to bear and forces the man into direct combat. A couple of quick slashes and the man’s belly is spilled to the floor, splashing the terrified family with blood and gore.
Alone, injured, and offered the chance to surrender, the last living bandit in the house drops his weapon and turns himself over to their control with one demand, “Let me go and I’ll tell you everything. If you take me back, they’ll hang me and I won’t tell you anything.” Iolaus and Howl secure the man while Wilby moves around the front of the building.
Outside, Rowan confirms the state of the fallen bandits and quietly acquires a little extra salary.
Gemma and Wilby make their way inside of the building.
Iolaus lays his hands on the boy, stopping the bleeding and saving the young man’s life before then releasing the grateful family. He then takes attempts to engage with their prisoner.
Unable to convince the man to cooperate, Iolaus goes out to check on the man he knocked unconscious while Wilby drags the bodies, slightly lighter of coin, from the house. Then he utilizes a creative negotiating strategy to learn these seven bandits are part of a larger group based out of an abandoned manor house about three-quarters of a day away. The larger group, lead by a man named Samual consists of a reported fifteen additional members. After Wilby learns the truth, he holds up his end of the agreement and tells the man that if he left quickly, it would be likely that the Holy Warriors might not notice.
The bandit, still in manacles, runs from the house and is almost immediately spotted by Iolaus, who easily catches the injured man dragging him back into custody. Unwilling to let a criminal go free, the two men are tied to trees and left without their boots for the night.
In the morning, they use the dead reeve’s cart and a borrowed ox to take the five bodies and two prisoners back to Antar to face justice. Their weapons and possessions confiscated for Felis.