Edit: I've added some AWFUL maps that I made in a free paint program called Artweaver.
Dark Season (Off-time)
To the best of my recollection, my players and I spent one session doing off-time activities, and then preparing to introduce the next big adventure. Still, they were very busy during this off-time. Sartar was in great upheaval, and emissaries arrived at the chieftain's hall claiming that Fazzur Wideread was marching on Sartar to crush the latest uprising. The PC's were given the option of joining Kallyr Starbrow in the north to defend Sartar against the Tarshite army. Partly because all the PC's had relevant Passions (Hate: Lunar Empire), and partly because they all wanted to take part in a big battle, they rode north to Swenstown and joined the 1st Swenstown Foot Militia, and then on towards Kallyr's camp at Red Cow Fort.
I used the material at the end of the Eleven Lights campaign to provide details and imagery for the battle, and actually read Kallyr's speech before the big fight. In some ways this felt like cheating, because players in the Red Cow campaign have to come a long way to earn this epic finale. But I thought it encapsulated the struggles of the last few years very well, so I went for it. After a whole lot of buildup, we actually handled the Battle of Dangerford as a simple series of rolls using the Battle skill. Garkar and Egajia fought well, but Erindros (who oddly enough had the highest Battle skill) took command of a group of fighters defending the Isle Dangerous, and played a decisive role in holding off the Lunar advance. After the battle ended in fiery carnage for the Lunars, Kallyr Starbrow herself commended Erindros for his leadership.
The party returned to Bardori lands in triumph, but they found that all was not well at home.
The clan's ancestral spirits, who resided in a series of sanctified barrow mounds, had manifested and marched into the chieftain's hall, in a rather foul mood. They demanded to know why their descendants had deigned to keep thralls when doing so was forbidden by clan tradition. The chieftain had in fact kept about 50 survivors of the Enstalos Tribe as thralls to help finish the harvest after the Dragonrise occurred, and ensured his people wouldn't starve for the winter. The chieftain told the spirits as much, but they were unsatisfied with the answer, and threatened to withhold their blessings unless the situation was rectified. Chieftain Angarr then summoned a clan moot to discuss the issue.
These Enstalos survivors were mostly women and children of Tarshite origin, although they included several families of former Dundealos who had converted to the Lunar Way. These families had joined the new Lunar tribe instead of supporting their kin in the last uprising. When they were discovered by Angarr and the returning clan, all were spared death to avoid the curse of kinstrife. The clan moot was a loud and raucous affair, and it became clear that factions were forming between different members of the Inner Ring. Two different solutions were proposed-
- Free the thralls and adopt them as full members of the clan, or-
- Sell them at a slave market, either to the Sambari Tribe or at Pimper's Block.
The PC's mostly argued for the former option, with Garkar abstaining from the debate, and only saying that the Sambari Tribe didn't deserve anyone's business (Garkar hates the Sambari Tribe). On of the main sticking points for the adoption argument was that the thralls seemed reluctant to abandon the Lunar religion. The PC's were unable to sway the chieftain's opinion, and so he vowed to think on it for another week before he made a decision, and call another moot then.
Dark Season - Murder and a Nighttime Raid
The party gathered again at the chieftain's hall a few days later, after hearing grim news. A young man of 16 had been found dead that morning at the edge of some pastureland. His name was Aldis, and he was a member of a Pol-Joni family that settled with the clan. Many of the clan's cattle had also been stolen. Some were found scattered throughout the tula, while others were sighted across the river to the north, in the lands of the Togarth clan. The Togarth are a Dundealos clan (also of my own invention), but also a War Clan who were known conduct cattle raids against fellow tribesmen. Many Bardori thanes assumed that the Togarth attempted a cattle raid that went badly for them, and Aldis was killed before he could alert the militia. More hotheaded voices demanded immediate retaliation against their northern neighbors.
The chieftain called on the PC's to discretely look into Aldis's murder. He personally suspected that the Togarth had nothing to do with it, and wanted to avoid a potential feud so soon after resettling. They agreed, and started by examining Aldis's body. They met with the boy's father, and convinced them to allow an "autopsy." They had only one chance to examine the body, as the family were Elmal worshipers who cremated their dead. They found that Aldis had been shot from behind with several arrows, but were unable to gather any more relevant information. They did notice that Aldis's sister seemed nervous and reluctant to speak with them. Erindros attempted to speak with her in private, and she offered to give him more information on her brother's death after the cremation, when she could get away from her father.
Next the party decided to inspect the place where Aldis was killed. This was at the edge of pasture land belonging to one of the clan's main bloodlines. There were many confusing tracks, and much spilled blood. There had also been light snowfall the previous night. Thankfully Garkar had decent Tracking skills. He discovered that Aldis's body was likely dragged to the place where it was found, from closer to the southern edge of clan territory. They walked to this place, near the edge of a tract of woods. Here they found more fresh blood, and the tracks were much clearer. The evidence suggested that the boy was attacked by a small group that came out of the woods. They also noticed poorly concealed tracks leading back towards the thrall stockade, where the Enstalos folk were kept prisoner.
At this point, various theories were being batted around about the killing, including bandits, some other clan, or a person within the clan who had a motive to kill. Before jumping to any conclusions, Erindros decided to speak with the victim's sister, whom he had met earlier. She told him that Aldis had been seeing an Enstalos girl named Sostra, who was a thrall. She didn't want to reveal this in front of her father, for fear of dishonoring him, and because her family hate the Lunars. With this information in mind, the party finally went to visit the thrall stockade. This was a hastily constructed series of shelters, surrounded by a wooden palisade. Within they found Sostra, and encouraged her to cooperate with them, for the good of her own family. She admitted that she and Aldis had been meeting each other secretly in a hay loft for the last few weeks. The previous night, Aldis had awoken and seen a cowled figure leaving the stockade. He followed in order to determine the person's identity, and then never returned. Sostra lay awake worrying for the rest of the night, and then saw the mysterious figure return to the stockade shortly before dawn.
The party promised the girl their protection, and went about privately interviewing the other community leaders of the Enstalos thralls. They proved a tight-lipped bunch, and no new information was gleaned. At this point, the day was drawing to a close, and Erindros and Garkar decided to report what they had learned to the chieftain. Egajia, sensing that something dangerous might occur soon, decided to visit the site of the killing again, and attempt a divination spell to reach Daka Fal. Chieftain Angarr, after listening to the report with a grim countenance, decided there might be a danger that one of the thralls could be communicating with outsiders, and planning something. He raised the fyrd, increased patrols along the boundaries of the tula. Thinking that the thralls might be planning an uprising, Garkar decided to have them all moved to the chieftain's stead, and placed under careful guard.
Egajia, meanwhile, had successfully contacted her god, and asked him to show her the face of Aldis's murderer. She received a vision of a man walking through a forest, holding a torch. She had never seen or met this man before, but he wore the battered armor of a Lunar infantry officer. She also saw that he marched at the head of several dozen other well-armed men. Egajia assumed that this was the mysterious group whose prints they had seen at the edge of the woods, and that they might be headed for the tula. Still naked and covered with ash, she ran off barefoot through the snow to tell the others.
When she reunited with the party, they saw that farms were burning on the northern end of the clan's land. Knowing that the chieftain was already riding with his weaponthanes to deal with any raid, they decided to head for the thrall stockade. They suspected that the intruders, apparently Lunar soldiers, might try to meet with the mysterious cowled figure they had learned about at the stockade. If this were true, then an ambush could be staged. Erindros organized a group of militia to hide in the thralls' huts, and wait with bows drawn. Garkar and Egajia waited by the palisade gate, planning to close it after the soldiers entered. The Lunars did in fact come, bearing a bundle containing swords, spears and axes. Egajia saw the officer from her vision leading a handful of men into the hut which belonged to Sostra's uncle. She then closed the gate behind them, and cast Glue to shut it. A fierce battle ensued. Egajia was nearly burned alive by a fire elemental, and the others narrowly avoided being struck with Lunar madness. But with the help of the fyrd's bows and javelins, and Egajia's Sleep spells, they took all the Lunar soldiers alive. The chieftain fought and killed the other raiders, who had been sent to burn steads as a distraction.
The raiding party was discovered to be made up of Lunar garrison survivors, who had been hiding in the hills since the loss of Fort Enstala. Their commanding officer was a man named Vasilides, from Tarsh. He was executed by Aldis's father. The next morning, it was found that Sostra's uncle, a thrall named Gontar who was once of the Dundealos Tribe, had been sneaking out to meet with Vasilides, and was planning an uprising. Aldis had discovered him meeting the Lunars at night, and Vasilides killed the boy with his bow before he could escape. Gontar then tried to make the murder look like part of a failed cattle raid. He came forward to the chieftain to proclaim his guilt, and implicated his sons and a few other followers in his conspiracy. But he claimed that most of the other thralls did not know of his plans, and asked for the people's mercy in judging them. The chieftain called another moot to discuss the issue.
Most of the clan folk were enraged, and ready to take extreme measures to punish the conspirators. Egajia successfully calmed the crowd, and reminded them that most of the thralls were likely innocent. Gontar clearly was not, but killing him and his family would still technically be kinstrife. She proposed exiling Gontar and the others to Prax, with little more than water and some supplies. The chieftain was swayed by her words, and assented. Egajia then spoke to the remaining thralls, saying that it wasn't impossible for them to be accepted as future members of the clan, but they would need to work hard at winning everyone's trust, and leave their past behind them. Taking her implied meaning, they all publicly renounced the Red Goddess and the Lunar Way. The chieftain later chose to adopt the Enstalos thralls into the clan as cottars. The clan's ancestors were satisfied by this, and stayed quiet in their barrow mounds afterwards.
Next time, Storm Season 1625, and maybe Sacred Time!