We started up our campaign again last night, after a month-long hiatus. It was good to be back in the GM saddle!
We left off last time with a successful sojourn into the Big Rubble. The party acquired a valuable set of enchanted armor, originally worn by their tribe's greatest hero, Derik Pol-Joni. Additionally, Argrath had entrusted the PC's with delivering a gift for the king of the Dundealos Tribe: a herd of fine cattle, horses, and even ostriches. The PC's set off west on the Pavis Road, which would take them back to Sartar.
Everyone made a concerted effort to finish up their business in Pavis before the end of Sea Season. I had given the players several warnings about Fire Season being the prime time for Praxians to hit caravans, so I didn't want to punish them for listening to me! Thus, the journey back to Sartar was blissfully uneventful. The party was accompanied by a dozen or so Pol-Joni who drove the herds for them. They passed by the Obscure Plinth, Jaldon's Rest, and after about a week of travel re-entered Sartar in the forested hills of Telmori Country. Everyone was on their guard against werewolves, but the Pol-Joni assured them that they were still licking their wounds after being thrashed by the Cinsina Tribe several years back. They passed on to Dangerford, then went south through Jonstown and Boldhome.
From there they continued to Fort Jaldonkill, the de facto capitol of the tribe. The fort didn't look like much at first, being a handful of steads and small temples, surrounded by a wooden stockade. It's claim to fame wasn't that it was impregnable, but that Derik Pol-Joni had finally defeated Jaldon Goldentooth there in the time before Sartar was founded. The king of the tribe was Ekil Blackmane, more commonly known as just Blackmane. He had brought many of his Pol-Joni kin to resettle Dundealos Valley after the Dragonrise, along with the remnants of the old clans. Blackmane is a man in his forties, with distinctive long coal-black hair and beard. I decided the "Pol-Joni Look" for men is long, un-braided hair, trousers made of hide, and the usual Orlanthi tattoos. The PC's wanted to impress him, but their "social skills" are somewhat weak. Egajia decided to make an entrance with a dance, and she also summoned a Pol-Joni ancestor spirit, a female warrior. The spirit was made visible to everyone else in the king's hall, and introduced the PC's as "heroes of the Bardori Clan." Egajia succeeded so well with her Dance and spell rolls, that Blackmane was immediately impressed. He rose from his throne (an ornate milking stool) and danced with the spirit with wild abandon. He then welcomed the PC's with embraces.
Blackmane was pleased with the gifts of cattle and horses. It was agreed that the small herd of ostriches would make an ideal gift for the bird-loving Bardori clan. Notably, the PC's avoided mentioning that they had recovered Pol-Joni's armor. Instead they planned to gift it to Angarr, their chieftain. I hinted that there might be later consequences for this choice, but my players firmly made their decision. Blackmane was also immensely curious as to why Argrath White Bull was sending gifts to him and other tribal leaders in the first place. The party mentioned the hordes of Praxians (and Pol-Joni) gathered in Pavis.
Before everyone left, He Who Spits at the Devil met with one of the tribal ring officers. Ynga the Rock was the Bardori clan's representative on the ring, and also the rep for Urox/Storm Bull. She was described as a massive "Valkyrie-esque" woman of impressive musculature. She mentioned to HWSAD that many warriors of the Bull were gathering together and heading south to Heortland. An army of scorpion-men were flooding out of Larnste's Footprint, and claiming the lands of their clan's ancestors in the name of Chaos. Ynga was heading south as well, and invited her kinsman to join her in the next few seasons. He Who Spits was intrigued, but also wanted to start building his mead hall.
The party took their leave of the king, and continued on to the Bardori tula. They brought the ostriches, and several cows with them to present to the chieftain. Everyone got to use the Herd skill for the first time! Even though the PC's were terrible at herding, they successfully drove the cattle and ostriches along the valley without losing any. Angarr welcomed them back with embraces, and they received cheers and applause from the Clan Ring when they presented the exotic herd, and the many goods and treasures from Pavis. Stolf, the clan's Issaries representative, grudgingly praised Erindros and the others for their success. When Egajia presented the armor to Angarr, he grew silent in awe. He then ordered the weaponthanes to bang their shields in praise for the four heroes.
Fire Season 1626
The heroes settled in for some off-time, which of course was very busy. HWSAD decided to forge ahead and began building his mead hall (mostly alone). Erindros convinced the chieftain that the clan could make good money if they expanded their ostrich herd. He set about converting part of his family farm into an ostrich pen. Egajia was now free of obligations to her shaman mentor, so she started laying the groundwork for being the clan's shaman. Garkar went back to his patrols. While the party was away on their mission, a few notable events occurred for the clan-
- A band of broos arrived in the valley and began impregnating herd animals from many different clans. The Bardori lost some cattle and sheep as a result, and now disease has been spreading among animals and people alike. The broos were driven off however.
- In addition to the broo attack, the clan has been beset with bad omens and strange happenings since Kallyr's failed heroquest. Vultures flying backwards, cows' milk turning sour in the udder, and stillborn calves.
- A delivery of gifts and silver meant for the allied Hyaling clan was stolen by bandits in the Verge.
- The Wozer clan of the Balkoth stole some Bardori cattle and escaped back across the river.
Several weeks went by. Later in the season, a messenger from the Kheldon tribe arrived, bearing a request on behalf of Kallyr Starbrow. Angarr called the Clan Ring to hear the message. Kallyr was attempting to muster the tribes of Sartar again to meet an attack from Lunar Tarsh. This time the invading army was led by King Pharandros himself. The messenger left to call on other clans to the south and east. The Clan Ring discussed the possibility of sending warriors north again, as they had done when the Lunars came to Dangerford. Unlike last time, there was much uncertainty and some grumbling about the prospect. Many of the farmers blamed Kallyr for the Chaos incursions, and ill fortune that had befallen the clan. Even the weaponthanes seemed unsure about leaving the tula behind when there were bandits and broos on the loose. The PC's spoke out in support of Kallyr, and for fighting off the Lunars again.
This was only after much discussion however, as they all had different priorities at this point. Erindros was interested in retaliating against the Wozer clan, Garkar wanted to hunt bandits, HWSAD wanted to go south and kill scorpion-men, and Egajia wanted to cleanse the tula of disease spirits. Fighting Lunars was the choice everyone had in common. In the end, Egajia stayed behind while the other three rode north to join the Kheldon militia.
The Battle of the Queens
The tribal armies were gathering at Runegate. The PC's went to Boldhome first to join the Kheldon warriors. The quickest way to Runegate was to travel north to Jonstown, then west along herder's paths. They joined Cinsina and Culbrea infantry along the way. After a journey of three days, they arrived in the lands of the Colymar tribe, and were told that Kallyr and her household warriors were preparing to meet the Tarshites at the bottom of Old Top Hill. The PC's camped there. They caught glimpses at a distance of the various tribal leaders that were present: Queen Leika of the Colymar, Queen Amalda of the Malani, King Ranulf of the Culbrea, and King Farandar of the Cinsina. Previous to this, HWSAD had expressed interest in trying to meet with Kallyr in person. He and the others had heard rumors that she suffered from wounds that would not heal. He proposed that if they could do something to heal her, or at least alleviate her pain, it could help remove the curses and bad fortune plaguing the Dundealos. He decided to wait until after the battle to try getting an audience, thinking that if he distinguished himself in the fighting, it might help...
The next morning, the Lunars crossed the Creek over the ford at Two Sisters village. Soon the two armies squared off. The three PC's who had joined the fight saw that the Lunar army was greater in numbers, and a contingent of Lunar magicians had come along as well. Given the choice to hang back in reserve and guard Prince Kallyr, or fight on the front line, everyone chose the latter option. There was little time for glorious duels or challenges in this fight, as the Tarshites marched forward with shields up. Soon Erindros, Garkar, and He Who Spits were caught in the crush of the front line.
We handled this battle in rounds, using the Battle skill. I avoided having the PC's fight in normal combat, because Egajia's player was sitting on the sidelines, and I didn't want to draw things out too much. I allowed everyone to cast protective spells if they wanted to. If there wasn't an obvious effect for this, I just let them have a 10% bump in their Battle skill. We went through 3 rounds. Depending on the strength of their rolls, I narrated certain events to make everything a little more exciting.
- The three PC's had to survive the initial crush. Everything was blood, mud, screams, and the clang of swords on shields. Erindros got a special success on the first roll. We decided he inspired the fighters around him with his bold antics. He was also riding his ostrich, so he was hard to miss. Garkar failed his roll, and nearly had his arm crushed by a heavily armored Tarshite. HWSAD started plowing through the enemy ranks in an attempt to disrupt the mages behind the line. Overall, the Sartarites were pushed back towards the base of the hill, and began to falter.
- Erindros and Garkar rolled well, HWSAD did not. Garkar freed himself from the enemy soldier by stabbing him through the foot. HWSAD was pig-piled by infantrymen, and wounded in the arm with a sword thrust. Rather than give up his ability to fight with his enormous maul, he called on Storm Bull to fill him with the holy rage. At the end of this round, there was a bright flash. Far up on the hill, everyone saw a group of strangely dressed warriors (some of them looked like trolls) suddenly surrounding Prince Kallyr. She and her guards fought them off for as long as she could, but it wasn't long before everyone heard cries of "Kallyr has fallen!" Some of the Sartarites began to lose heart and flee.
- Erindros (who should have been a Trickster) casts Flight on himself and He Who Spits while he is in berserk mode. The two of them attempt to reach the sorcerers behind enemy lines and disrupt their spells. At this point, said sorcerers have summoned Moonfire, which trickles down onto the Sartarites in glowing threads from the Red Moon. It does not make for easy flying. Erindros attempts to rally those Sartarites fleeing the battle, and does so successfully. Garkar, hanging back, is confronted by an elite soldier, well-armored and wielding a scimitar. He fights for his life.
After the third round, Queen Leika rallies her own warriors, and leads a desperate charge into the heart of the Lunar battalions. Her ferocity and the strength of her magic are so great, that she manages to turn the tide of the battle. When her charge cuts off the escape route across the ford, the Lunar soldiers panic and begin fleeing into the Creek. The players participating in the battle were given the choice of joining Queen Leika in pursuing the Lunars. They all chose to do so (HWSAD didn't have a choice actually, he was still berserk). Erindros and Garkar cut down many more soldiers as they fled into the rushing waters. HWSAD was struck in the head by a stray slingstone. Were he not already in a bloody, frothing rage, he would have been knocked unconscious and probably drowned.
The pursuit of the Lunars into the wilderness continued into the night, and on into the next day. The three Bardori men did not join in for this part, and retired to Two Sisters village. Kallyr Starbrow's body was guarded by the Colymar warriors, as all of her household guards had been killed. When Queen Leika returned the next day, the PC's witnessed her riding back to Boldhome, with Kallyr's body carried behind her on a bier. Sartar no longer had a Prince...
Thank you for reading! Next time, we will continue adventuring in Fire Season.