GURPS: Casus Belli

2x06, Spreading Like Wildfire

Act I: Stalking the Dream

  • 1 May, 457 Anno Domini Nostri Iesu. It is late evening. There is a nip in the air and the half moon is mostly hidden behind clouds. The Rhos expedition has moved on many hours before, leaving behind a small handful of people to watch over Siobhan as she recovers from giving birth to her twins. All is still and silent.
  • Meadhbh is dreaming. She knows it is a Dream because she’s felt this sense of … weightlessness before. Everything around her feels intangible, not solid, as if it was all wrought from smoke and spider webs. The air tastes strange – sharp and bitter, yet calming and harsh at the same time. Here, in this Dream, she is free to go wherever she wishes. So, she goes home, to Caer Tarian where she grew up.
  • She finds Caer Tarian mostly gone, the ruins having been mostly cleared out, probably by whoever now inhabits the land, and there are indications that whoever lives here now is rebuilding. While there, though, she realizes she is not alone and looks around. A wolf is sitting there, staring at her, and Meadhbh realizes she recognizes this animal: it is the one that she and Morgan saved several weeks ago. Whisper. The wolf’s name is Whisper, Meadhbh knows. No, that’s not right. Her name is actually the soft sound of the wind as it blows across high grass under a bright moon, bearing with it the smell of rain and prey while also warning of other stalking creatures, hunters that desire her blood should she make any false sound, so her every movement is a careful one, a stealthy one that barely rustles the grass, and … gah. Whisper it is.

MeadhbhWolfPup.jpg * Meadhbh gets the feeling that Whisper is vaguely irritated at her, sort of like a mother gets frustrated at their child’s youthful stupidity. And just like that, Meadbh’s image of self has changed in this Dream – she is suddenly a wolf herself! A wolf pup, really, who is just now learning to hunt and stalk. Whisper gives her A Look that conveys “shut the hell up and _learn_” before turning away slightly, then pausing to ensure that Meadhbh follows which she does. The air around them seems to mist over and Meadhbh realizes they are walking up, as if they were climbing an unseen hill. The mist clears slightly and Meadhbh is in the clouds … on a cloud, actually, looking down at the campsite where she knows that she is asleep. Most of the campsite seems only halfway there, and ghostly half-images appear and disappear from time to time. Suddenly, Heddwyn is sitting before the fire, rocking one of the infants and murmuring (or singing) softly. Again, Whisper gives Meadhbh A Look, this one conveying Stay silent.

  • Heddwyn is awake and rocking his daughter in an attempt to get her to stop fussing, when suddenly he finds himself in the Dream. He is vaguely aware that this is not the Waking World but as he does not have the Dreaming skill, there is very little he knows about this place. A man is seated beside him and he recognizes Myrddin Emrys with his blue-on-blue eyes. The man he knows so little about chastises him for being so easy to contact and declares that he is not learning quickly enough. There are dark times approaching and Heddwyn must be ready to stand against them! Myrddin notes the danger that the children pose his agent – regardless of their birth father, they are Heddwyn’s in every way that matters and many things will attempt to use them to gain access to him. Ordering the young bard to watch, Myrddin casts a protective spell upon the girl, then somehow manages to swap which child is present and repeats the process upon the boy. Heddwyn realizes he knows how to do that spell now!
  • When asked about this place and the extended duration of the spell, Myrddin replies that this is the World of Dreams. Things done here do not follow the same Laws as the Waking World. Heddwyn then begins debriefing Myrddin about the various weirdness he has recently observed or heard of, specifically Angus’ strange encounter with the three dead (and flayed) spies and the unseen observer. Myrddin is visibly troubled over this and is about to speak, but becomes very distracted for a moment. ‘I shall contact you later,’ he says simply and poof!, Heddwyn finds himself back in the Waking World, still holding his now sleeping daughter.
  • Having just observed this strange interaction, Meadhbh turns to Whisper and begins to ask questions but the wolf’s attention is drawn to an area over the campsite of absolute darkness, which has the result of drawing Meadhbh’s eyes there as well. There, she hears … something, a hollow, dull throb that tugs at her. Despite her best efforts, she is pulled toward the darkness…
  • And suddenly, finds herself in a familiar-looking farm. It is Gwion’s family’s farm and she sees Gwion himself standing in the open, dressed only in his skivvies. He is desperately trying to escape from a flood of massive spiders surging toward him, but something is causing him to remain rooted in place. Meadhbh realizes abruptly that she can see two heavy weights tethered to his legs and surges forward, stumbling slightly on her awkward puppy feet. As Gwion looses an arrow at one of the spiders, the others rush him and he falls, curling up in an attempt to protect himself. Biting through one of the cords connecting the heavy weights to his feet, Meadhbh momentarily loses herself to the Dream and attacks one of the spiders … just as Whisper appears and howls so loudly that the other spiders blow apart. The wolf is irritated at Meadhbh as Gwion – who is now fading away as he stirs in the Waking World – is the one who shot her with the arrow in the first place! Meadhbh points out that Gwion is part of her pack so she has to defend him. She realizes they are somehow back on the cloud and smells the same strangeness she experienced in Gwion’s dream. When she asks Whisper about it, the wolf directs her attention to another cloud.
  • There, just below them, are three figures. One of them, Meadhbh recognizes as Aeronwen, but the other two, both men, are unknown to her. The apparent leader has no face while the third man is wrought of mist, as if he’s barely there. Aeronwen insists that this was not her fault – it was that wolf! She will accomplish this task … she just needs more time! The Faceless Man warns her that he will not tolerate further failure, then turns to the man of mist and tells him to continue his good efforts as their Master’s patience dwindles. All three vanish – the man of mist blows apart like smoke in the face of wind, the Faceless melts away, and Aeronwen explodes into hundreds of small spiders, which Meadhbh note all look like the monsters that attacked Gwion in his nightmare.
  • She quizzes Whisper about this: these things are threatening her pack and she needs to be able to stop them! The wolf promises to teach her how to stalk the dream, which will allow her to discover things to protect her pack. Meadhbh is pleased … although when she wakes and finds herself utterly exhausted, as if she had run all night, she is less so. Upon discovering that Gwion is covered with scratches and small cuts that he cannot explain (but she can), she is more worried than she wishes to admit…

Act II: The Grand Council

  • A day later, the Rhos expedition reaches Caer Legion where they discover it filled to capacity with nobles of Gwynedd. The stench is, by modern standards, horrible, with mud and sweat and shit in the streets. It does not help that the day is actually quite warm, making the smell worse. There are hawkers and merchants and beggars and evangelists everywhere. The noise is deafening.
  • Chief Owain speaks briefly with his wife, then calls out to Lord Marcus. His wife would like to see a Roman market which Caer Legion is said to have and he can think of no one better to escort her while he (Owain) deals with arranging quarters for the nobles. Would he (Marcus) mind terribly? With a flat expression, Marcus agrees. He and Lady Brigid break from the rest of the party with Bruinn the Red and Marcus’ two men accompanying as bodyguards (although all three of the so-called protectors are more distracted by the city than their principals.) Once clear of everyone and satisfied that their guards are not paying attention, the two starcrossed lovers have a difficult conversation as they attempt to establish how to move forward. Neither wanted this and Marcus is distressed when he learns how little of a say Brigid had in this entire matter. From her, he also learns that Owain has been expressing considerable interest in Christianity…
  • Bradán takes Áedán with him to tour the city with an eye on looking at farming and military advancements. They draw many eyes, but none of the locals dare to bother them considering how expensive Bradán’s clothes appear. At the same time, Angus seeks out his little birds to inquire about rumors and learns that the same thing is on everyone’s lips: war. An assembly this large can only mean one thing.
  • Five days pass as more nobles and warriors enter Caer Legion and tensions mount. In this time, Heddwyn, Gwion, Meadhbh and Siobhan enter with the twins and the two guards. Finally, word comes down: the king summons the lords to council, so Bradán and Marcus join the nobles and Chief Owain as they head toward the keep. Owain pauses briefly and advises Bradán that he is relying on him to ensure that Owain does not say or do anything stupid in front of the king who has a reputation for not tolerating fools. Meanwhile, Heddwyn seeks out a convenient animal and finds a cat that will serve his needs; using his magic, he takes control of the beast and directs it to a convenient high window where he can eavesdrop.
  • Inside the keep, the now weaponless nobles are directed to a large banquet hall where everyone automatically clusters together in cantref-specific groups. It is definitely standing room only, with seats only for the chiefs and the high nobility. A highborn man complains that this is taking too long – his words were clearly not meant to be overheard by the king but Cunedda pins the man with a look and instructs him to keep a civil tongue lest it be removed and nailed to a convenient wall. The noble obeys immediately.
  • Once the doors are closed, King Cunedda turns toward the Rhufoniog delegation and addresses a single noble. Word has reached the king that this man has accepted coin to kill his sovereign – the man babbles, insisting that this is all a mistake, but then, goes for his knife … only to find himself restrained by Bradán and Marcus who noted that the man was armed despite tradition saying otherwise. The king uses his own knife against the man and Bradán kicks the dying man’s knee, ordering him to Kneel before your king, scum. Cunedda slits the man’s throat and gives the two brothers a quick, evaluating look before turning away.
  • Word has come from the south, the king announces. The High King has taken a Saecsen princess as his wife. This causes an immediate uproar as the nobles assembled recognize the threat – any child borne of this union would have a legitimate claim to Prydain! Cunedda continues, revealing that Cadell, King of Powys, has raised his standard to oppose his grandfather in this. Merichion Gul, King of Rheged, and Meurig of Gwent both march to join him. Now, King Cunedda has summoned his nobles to discuss whether Gwynedd should march south as well.
  • Arguments and debates occur immediately, with the northernmost cantrefs being less enthusiastic about marching to war. After considering the threat, both Bradán and Marcus urge Chief Owain to side with those who call for war as this threat is actually quite significant in terms of politics. When Rhos sides with those who wish to go to war, the decision becomes a fait accompli, and King Cunedda declares that is shall be so. There shall be further gatherings as they plan their strategy, but the main decision is made.
  • As the nobles are departing to the feast, the king’s son and heir, Einion, intercepts the Rhos group and declares that his father would have words with Bradán and Marcus. As they turn to obey, Owain grabs Bradán’s arm and pleads for him to keep his temper under control. The king is reviewing maps and reports when they join him, and he turns to examine the brothers. They intervened … why? Bradán gives a long-winded reply about having a duty to punish traitors that borders on irritating the king who then turns to their experience with Saecsens; according to Bradán’s reputation, he has faced them before so Cunedda questions him about how they fight, what their weaknesses are, and their strengths, etc. Bradán surprises them with _how_knowledgeable he is and Cunedda is at least vaguely impressed – clearly, Bradán is able to talk the talk. Satisfied for the moment, the king dismisses them, informing them that their knowledge shall be invaluable in the coming war.
  • Word quickly spreads throughout Caer Legion: Gwynedd is going to war.

    GM Notes:
  • Only partially satisfied. I think the problem stems from the data dump in the second part as I was more content with the Dream stuff than the Caer Legion parts. Would have been better, I think, if I’d split up the entire Caer Legion bit better so the other PCs (not Bradán or Marcus) actually had something to do during it instead of just sitting there and listening.
  • Was more satisfied with the nightmare, though even that needed some work, I thought. Principally, I was happier that I managed to actually involve all of the players.
  • I still haven’t managed to integrate Aedan or Angus as well as I would like … definitely need to figure out a way to improve this. FREX, during the before-mentioned Caer Legion bit, I should have had the two of having whacky hijinks.
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2x05, Braving the Flames

Act I: Wedding Day Blues

  • 24 April, 457 Anno Domini Nostri Iesu. Winter has finally begun to end, but Spring is a meager thing. Thankfully, the snow has fully melted, although there are still scattered pockets of ice in certain places.
  • The druids of Rhos have been gone for much of the last six weeks, with the citizens of the cantref being aware that they have departed to arrange a marriage for the chief, although none are aware of exactly where the druids have gone.
  • Áedán has been very busy. Chief Owain is very pleased with the torcs and has, by now, handed them out to the warriors and nobles who participated in the Battle of Blood Bridge. His pleasure with this has led him to commission Áedán to make a special torc of silver for his planned bride. He does not have specifics, like the size of her neck or what she will look like, but after having seen the beauty that resulted from the other torcs that Áedán made, he wants something glorious. The first step Áedán must consider is obtaining silver ore, though thankfully, Marcus has access to that – after some quick discussion, they reach an arrangement where Áedán will craft arms and armor for the new lord in exchange for armor. Obsessed with doing as good a job as possible, Áedán spends extra time to ensure as beautiful a torc as possible … and he’s very successful.
  • At the same time, Angus is on the trail of an enemy agent, having been pointed toward him by his little birds. He is hoping to follow this man and hopefully identify additional threats. The trail continues south, angling away from Caerhun and by midday, he finds the tracks converge with two others near a distinctive-looking tree. He spends some time searching, ultimately locating a sealed scroll tube in a hidden hole; reviewing the contents show a coded missive that will require some time to decipher. All three tracks suddenly angle sharply toward Caerhun together and Angus realizes that it appears they are running. As he follows these tracks into the woods, Angus realizes one of them abruptly disappears! He searches around and discovers that it appears this man was nabbed by someone from above; there are signs of a struggle in the trees, with broken limbs and disturbed snow/ice, but there is no sign of a body. Further along, a second person’s tracks vanish, and Angus again finds indications that he was snatched from above. And just within visual sight of Caerhun, the third person’s tracks disappear. As before, appears that something snatched this person from above. He spends some time searching for further tracks, but finds none, though he does smell blood and death; tracking this leads him to climb a tree where he discovers three corpses, hanging from their feet and thoroughly stripped of all flesh so only muscle is showing. At about this point, Angus gets the feeling that he’s being watched by someone … or something malicious. His danger sense is not quite tingling, but he’s definitely aware that he is in a heightened sense of threat. He looks around and, for a moment, believes he sees … something moving in the woods. There is a brief flash of glowing eyes and then … nothing. Further searching uncovers nothing. Angus cuts the men down, then returns to Caerhun, intent on discussing this weirdness with Heddwyn once the bard returns.
  • Bradán has been concentrating on retraining his warband to remove their impetuous nature as well as spending time on “toughening up” Addiena by enlisting his sister’s aid. In the course of this, thanks to Meadhbh, he’s learned that his bad temper kind of bothers Addiena a bit (which he can sort of gather is due to her brother’s similar issues controlling himself.) He has also started to hear a lot of whispers claiming the battle at the Bridge of Blood was only successful because of Lord Marcus Shield-Breaker and Lord Hywel the Fierce, and not due to any generalship by Bradán, which is a persistent irritation to him. As lord, the biggest issue to attend to during this time is the matter of an angry travelling merchant who blames Lord Bradán for not policing their land suitably, as he was attacked by bandits whilst travelling through. He demands reparation and an assurance that this will never happen again, or else he will not only cease coming to Caerhun, he will foreclose on any properties he owns here – and he has several. Bradán is irritated at the man’s impertinence but realizes that treating the merchant poorly will likely backfire upon the cantref proper so instead, he focuses on how to resolve the issue to everyone’s satisfaction. Surprising many with his composure, he engages the merchant in negotiations, agreeing to pay a portion of the amount being demanded up front, then the rest at a later date provided the merchant instead opts to assist them in growing the local economy. If he is especially successful, Bradán is even willing to throw in a little extra and, as for the bandits? Well, Morgan quickly volunteers to lead the warband against them and bring back their heads. This news is greeted with great approval.
  • While this is going on, Gwion is present in Caerhun to deliver a message from Lord Marcus. He encounters Isibel verch Neill, a widow he recalls from Vertis who, like many young men his age, was often the source of many fantasies. She is surprised to see him here, having thought he perished with his family and that ‘arsehole’ of a father. They converse briefly – she admits she is here to speak with Lady Meadhbh about training – and when she learns that he has been effectively adopted into Lord Bradán’s household, Isibel comments that doing so is the least the lord could do, considering how Lord Caddell cuckholded Gwion’s father. This comes as a surprise to the archer and he all but drags Isibel to speak to Bradán about this, much to her confusion and concern. The news is also news to the lord, though he now recognizes certain features in Gwion, and dismisses Isibel after hearing her tale – she gladly flees, worried that he’s going to be angry at her – before taking Gwion with him to seek out someone who might know more about this.
  • Having only recently returned to Caerhun from abroad, Heddwyn is with his wife, Siobhan, now only days or weeks away from giving birth. The bard has already spent time in Bryn Euryn, advising Chief Owain of the results of the marriage discussions, and is now simply trying to relax before the next wave of crazy hits. He is also attempting to determine the best way to prepare Siobhan for Brigid’s uncanny resemblance to her late sister when Bradán and Gwion enter, rambling on about noses being the same. It takes a little longer than he would like, but Heddwyn finally gets the story out and deciphers the meaning; in his attempt to sound all-knowing and arcane, though, he makes it seem as if this is all old news to him and not something that he found especially important. Bradán storms out, pausing as he encounters Meadhbh (who is coming to visit Heddwyn to arrange a ceremony for her handfasting with Morgan). ‘Say hello to your half-brother,” Bradán grumbles with a gesture toward Gwion before continuing on his way, intent on seeking out something to drink.
  • Although surprised at this turn of events, Meadhbh presses on, requesting Heddwyn to conduct the ceremony. Despite being forewarned by this turn of events by his wife, the bard is at least momentarily dismayed at the subject of his long crush wedding another, though he conceals this behind a mask of happiness before agreeing to conduct the ceremony this very night, under the full moon. There, he casts the omens – the moon rises through Cancer and, come ceremony time, is obscured by an ill-looking cloud – which he does not perceive as good. Rather than reveal to the visibly happy couple that one of them is Doomed, he concentrates on accentuating the positive. He watches them depart, sad for them both, noting that Isibel verch Neill has joined Meadhbh’s school for wayward spear-sisters.
  • Meanwhile, on the other side of the cantref, Marcus has thrown himself wholeheartedly into rebuilding his farm and turning it into something better. Having discovered an untapped silver vein (thanks to Áedán) has been very helpful in that regard and he has already started recruiting lowborn young men for his warband, a thing not normally done in the Celtic world so his green recruits are looked at with mild contempt. As he is mostly handling the retraining of his brother’s force, Marcus is also using them to teach his recruits the rudiments of battle which has the added bonus of teaching the older veterans patience, something they sorely lack. Regarding the impending marriage, he is peripherally aware of it but getting everything settled with the manor has required more hours than are in the day so he’s barely paid it any mind.
  • Several days later, the day of the wedding dawns, with Princess Brigid arriving along with Bruinn the Red to serve as a protector and Pádraig to conduct the Christian ceremony; as many of the locals are not that exposed to Christianity, there is a considerable crowd present to witness it. Marcus is the only member of the Family not present at the moment, having been delayed by bandit activity near his lands (although this turns out to be just a rumor.) He arrives just as Pádraig is finishing his most excellent ceremony and witnesses the priest declaring Owain and Brigid to be husband and wife.
  • And then, when the new couple turn to face the assembled crowd, Marcus realizes just who his new lord has wed…

Act II: A Royal Summons

  • To say that Marcus is stunned would be an exaggeration and he all but flees. His flight is noticed by Heddwyn who finally pieces together everything; the bard pursues and when he finally corners his cousin, Marcus explodes with rage at the would-be druid. This is his fault! He knew and said nothing, did nothing! Heddwyn does not bother trying to point out that he did not know that Marcus had even known Brigid, recognizing that this is just his cousin’s pain needing an outlet. Instead, he simply stands there and lets Marcus rage. As Heddwyn states, he had the riddle … but not the solution.
  • Others note Marcus’ departure but are generally more weirded out by Brigid’s similarity to the dead Caitlin and did see Heddwyn go after him, so they concentrate on the feast. Chief Owain quizzes Pádraig about Christian beliefs – clearly, the missionary’s words affected him in some way – then recalls his duties as host and returns to them, handing out gifts as appropriate. When Marcus does return and begins drinking heavily, the chief does not notice like he should, though others do, especially Bradán who is briefly surprised when his brother reacts badly to his teasing instead of just ignoring it.
  • During this wedding feast, a rider appears. He is carrying the symbol of King Cunedda and when recognized, declares loudly that all nobles of Gwynedd are summoned to Caer Legion by the king and all are ordered to make haste. No noble is allowed more than two warriors to accompany him The messenger further declares that the King has declared an end to all hostilities between all cantrefs. No lord or captain or warrior may raid another. Any man who does so shall be named Traitor and Outlaw, and the King himself shall personally see that such a man is fed to swine. It is a Grand Council, then! Momentous decisions are about to be made! Owain orders the man to join the feast and that they will set out upon the morrow, since it will take the rest of the day to prepare for the journey.
  • Owain decides to take Brigid with them, which prompts Siobhan to advise Heddwyn that she is also going. The bard quickly seeks out a midwife, having heard chirping baby birds that morning and having found a broken egg that one shall be needed. Multiple wagons are going to be required as well, especially as Áedán gathers his wares with the intent of selling them in an actual city. Bruinn the Red seeks out the one Welshman he actually knows – Heddwyn – and quickly attempts to worm his way onto this expedition; the bard recommends the man going as the princess’ bodyguard which appeals to the burly warrior with the manly bear. The other Irishmen will escort Padraig back to Eire so he can continue do God’s work.
  • The following morning, the expedition sets out with many of the feast attendees still suffering from terrible hangovers. Marcus has fallen into a sullen mood, snapping at anyone who attempts to speak with him, even his family as Meadhbh learns when she tries to discern what her brother’s problem is.
  • Taking the old Roman road takes them into Tegeingl cantref and toward Prestatyn. Along the way, they find Tegeingl warriors monitoring their progress and there is a great deal of tension as everyone fears a sudden raid. With each noble having only two warriors (or none at all in a few cases), this means the entire force is in the two dozen or more number. Best estimates give them six days to reach Prestatyn.
  • On the fifth day, Siobhan goes into labor and the midwife cannot be found! Conveniently, Princess Brigid has some experience in this area, so she shoves aside any well-meaning but clearly ignorant morons who know nothing about birthing a child. Not to mention, it is a commonly known fact that it is bad luck for a man to be present when children are born, even if they’re the father. She pulls Meadhbh in to assist and is almost imperious with her orders: “You! Wash hands! Need hot water! NOW!”
  • After some time, the child is born … and it is a girl. Siobhan immediately wishes to name her Caitlin after her late sister, but is just as surprised as Heddwyn when Princess Brigid announces that the second child is now on the way. There is more pained cries – to the warriors, this is horrifying sounding, which is amusing considering how often they deal with blood and violence and death – and finally, a son is born. This confuses the hell out of Heddwyn based on his readings of the omens; he did not expect two children! Twins are seens as a very good omen, though, and word very quickly spreads – there is much back-slapping and congratulations offered to the young Ollave.
  • Brigid informs Owain that the new mother should not move from here for at least two days, which neither he nor many of the nobles are pleased with. Heddwyn volunteers to remain behind for a bit, then catch up once his wife has recovered, and Owain agrees before asking for volunteers to stay with the new parents. Lord Idnerth promptly volunteers his warriors and Meadhbh declares that she also will stay behind. Marcus continues to stand apart in sullen silences and does not offer his own men.

GM Notes:

  • Time management problems on my end – I front-loaded a whole lot predicated on my desire to ensure that all PCs had something to do. As a result, I did not get as far along in my notes as expected, but overall, that is helpful for me as it gives me more time to make my intent for the Great Council to work better.
  • Still need to work on descriptions better – several mistakes transpired because of my lack of clarity, especially with regard to Angus’ encounter which was supposed to be kind of creepier than it was.
  • Have been making an active attempt to ensure all PCs are more involved with mostly positive results. Would like to have more for Aedan than just making stuff, but working with what I’ve got thus far.
  • Amusing that when I originally started on my notes, I thought I was being clever with Siobhan tagging along, but the moment I read the notes for game time, I knew it was obvious my plan. Not sure why I did not even consider PCs bringing their own midwife along. Derp.
  • Was surprised at how quickly the revelation regarding Gwion’s parentage happened – was actually expecting to drag that out for a while. This works, though, as it means Gwion should have a reason to become proactive in order to improve his status in life.
  • Kudos to Marcus’ player for his character’s meltdown following the marriage. Was very cool.
  • Regarding the marriage, Padraig rolled a critical success with his Public Speaking check, so we figured that would result in some new converts. Using the Rules of Drama™, one of those converts has to be Owain since not only will it irritate some of his nobles, but it means he will have a built in reason to visit Marcus more so as to discuss Christianity while conveniently bringing his wife, Brigid, along.
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Vows Undone
Prose by daboidie

Meadhbh verch Cadell was annoyed.

To be fair, that seemed to be the normal emotional state with the fiery redhead as of late, however this day her annoyance had climbed to a new level. The near-constant awareness of the packs of wolves roaming the countryside had begun slowly scratching away at her sanity. She could not rid herself of their presence, even while she slept. And worse yet, the wolves seemed to not be as bothered as she was by the unnatural connection. Some of them would even loll their tongues out in canine laughter at her whenever she managed to catch a fleeting glimpse of them. Meadhbh was far from a solitary person, however everyone had their limits. And she had just about reached hers.

So when Chief Owain ap Edern had called for a feast to celebrate the devastating victory over the Irish and Meadhbh would be expected to be in attendance AND she was not allowed to join the hunting party that had gone out in search of game? She decided that while she might be miserable, she could at the very least make as many other lives nearby as miserable as she. She snapped at just about anyone who came near all day long, even going so far as chasing her brother Marcus out of her room with a sword and a string of curses when he stopped by just to say hello.

Once she felt sure she had frightened away most everyone in the household, she strode from her room, fully intending to leave the town at least for a little while for the relative solitude of the surrounding country. The afternoon sun was shining brightly, blessing the people with a rare taste of warmth, and she felt her mood improve with every ste—

“M’lady Goldeneyes!”

“Oh for all that’s…what is it now?” Her mood darkened once again as she turned around, only to find one dark-haired warrior staring her down from several yards away. He held a large cup in one hand, and he was grinning from ear to ear.

Meadhbh clucked her tongue at him. “Morgan ap Rhys, are you drunk already? The feast hasn’t even started.”

“No, I’m not drunk!” Morgan frowned indignantly, then stopped himself and looked down at the cup in his hand. “Ah, well maybe a little drunk.” He chuckled to himself. “I have an idea! Why don’t you come back with me and we can both get drunk together.”

Meadhbh arched an eyebrow. “Oh really? Well, there’s a problem with that because I have no intention of going anywhere with you!”

“Pfft, you tease me, M’lady. I see those sideways glances, the pining looks when you think I’m not watching!”

“Morgan, don’t be an arse. Go back to your camp—”

“No, no no,” Morgan cut her off, with a wave. “You see, there’s my problem. If I go back to my camp right now, then I want you to come with me. But if you won’t come with me, then I’ll be going alone. And that just isn’t something I’m willing to do.” He tossed the cup away, splashing his drink all over the ground nearby, and fumbled with the hilt of his sword as he began to draw it. “I didn’t want to do this the hard way.”

Meadhbh became painfully aware of the crowd of men who were gathering behind Morgan for the show. The men had all seen her fight. Stories about the Goldeneyed Lady who defeated the Commander of the Irish in combat had already been circulating before the army had returned to Bryn Euryn. The sea of faces now bore a mixture of pity, shock and even a bit of dark humor, all of which was directed at Morgan. She made one last attempt to stave off the inevitable, even as she drew her own sword. “Morgan. Go sleep off the drink. Don’t—”

Morgan closed the distance between them and lay a single finger on her lips. “Shhhhhh,” he whispered, as he swayed slightly. “I meant to woo you proper, M’lady. But I suppose this’ll have to do.”

Meadhbh laughed without mirth and shoved Morgan’s hand away from her face. “You’ll regret this in the morning, Morgan. I promise you that.”

With that, words were abandoned for the sound of swords meeting in combat. Meadhbh realized very quickly that this match would not last long as Morgan was far too drunk to measure his attacks. Every step he took was more of a stumble than the calculated footwork she knew he was capable of. When he thrust his sword straight at her, he overstepped the attack and she easily sidestepped him, and brought the flat of her blade around to smack him on the hindquarters. The men crowding around them howled a mixture of laughter and cheers, and when he paused to rub his now tender cheeks, she called out, “Do you give up now, you fool?”

Morgan laughed and charged at her. Their swords met once more, and despite herself Meadhbh found herself becoming lost in the patterns and rhythm of the swordplay. Sideswipe met with parry, thrust met with dod-

Two legs.

-ge. Morgan brought his sword down in an overhead sweep and Meadhbh parried the attack and kicked him away and into the mud. Morgan, still not willing to concede defeat, hauled himself out of the mud to continue the duel.

Twolegstwolegstwolegs…

Morgan grinned wolfishly at Meadhbh. “I could be wrong, men, but, I think I’m starting to wear her down!” Raucous laughter echoed around them as Morgan approached her once more, sword held ready.

TWO LEGS!

Meahbh’s vision focused down to a pinprick of light as the wolf sense cut through her like a blade. She saw only a brief flash of auburn hair, but the worst was the intense pain, followed by anguish. The sound of a wolf’s cry of pain echoed through her head.

Meadhbh blinked as her senses returned to the present, only to find the courtyard had fallen deathly quiet around her. She looked down at her hands, now empty, then glanced over several yards away where her sword lay in the mud. Before her stood Morgan, staring down at her over the point of his sword. The sea of faces around her registered shock, all of which was directed at her.

Morgan’s voice rumbled out drunkenly. “M’lady. I do think I’ve won.” Morgan ap Rhys, the man who defeated the Lady Goldeneyes in armed combat, then turned and walked a few paces away before emptying the contents of his stomach in a nearby shrub.

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2x04, Feeling the Heat

Act I: A Victory Celebration

  • 12 March, 457 Anno Domini Nostri Iesu It is early morning, shortly after the Rhos warband watched the Irish ships containing Bruinn the Red’s men depart Wales.
  • Angus is in the small shed where they were holding the captured spy, Amlodd ap Brys, and he is staring at the man’s corpse. He searches the shed for any bit of evidence but finds the interior completely clean, so much so that it is noticeable. Whoever is responsible for this murder has clearly covered his or her tracks exceptionally well.
  • Finding nothing, he quickly retreats from the shed, replacing the bar that secures the door in place, then seeks out Bradán or Heddwyn to report this event. He locates the bard first and escorts him back to the shed to examine the scene, but Heddwyn discovers nothing new either. Angus retrieves the knife used to kill the man and examines it; as far as he can tell, it is one of his blades and Heddwyn recommends he have Aedán examine it since the smith forged Angus’ weapons in the first place. Thinking this is a good idea, Angus seeks Aedán out who confirms that this is definitely one of the knives he forged for him – it even has his maker’s mark – but Angus is confused as he is not missing a single blade!
  • Bradán is briefly cornered by Addiena who is pleased to see him, but she is a little put out that her brother was injured after Bradán promised he would see the man safe. This causes Bradán’s already short temper to flare up and he blames Chief Owain’s injuries on the chief himself before storming off in irritation.
  • And speaking of the chief, Aedán finds himself briefly cornered by the man who commissions something to commemorate this grand victory. Though Aedán is no jeweler, he agrees to craft rings or torcs from the broken weapons of the dead Irish and begins making plans, though he will not start until he returns to Caerhun where his smithy is.
  • Owain continues weaving through the many jubilant people, grabbing out huntsmen and instructing them to go forth and retrieve some game for the grand feast he wishes to throw this very day. Among those huntsmen is Gwion who heads out almost immediately. He quickly manages to bag several quail but greatly desires something larger and spends an hour or so hunting for spore. Eventually, he happens upon a deer and drops it with a well-placed shot. As he congratulates himself for this feat, especially in this cold with game so scarce, he hears the sound of a woman’s scream and rushes to investigate, quickly locating the source: a girl fleeing from wolves! He looses another arrow, connecting solidly with the lead wolf and causing the others to scatter immediately while the injured beast limps back into the forest, very badly injured. The woman is surprised, but calms slightly when Gwion introduces himself and makes sure she is okay. She remains confused by him as he continues to offer her things without obligation and finally introduces herself as Eolande. Although she is already greatly in his debt, she will accept his offer to escort her back to civilization at Bryn Euryn as she is very lost.
  • At Bryn Euryn, Meadhbh is fuming because she has not been allowed to join the hunt and, just as she is about to sneak out and join it anyway, an intoxicated Morgan corners her and demands a duel. The results are not what she expected and, disarmed by this drunken fool, she stares in stunned disbelief. Once he recovers from purging himself, a still mostly drunk Morgan pledges his undying love in a funny if slightly awkward moment. Meadhbh is still struggling with her shock over this.
  • Among the newcomers entering Bryn Euryn is Heddwyn’s very pregnant wife, Siobhan, who loudly gives him grief for not even bothering to let her know of the battle. What would she have done had he fallen? They bicker back and forth good-naturedly, revealing to all how solid their relationship is. During this, she lathes onto the first passer-by, intending on drawing them into this drama. As luck would have it, that person is none other than Marcus. Siobhan freezes in surprise and the two stare at one another with the ghost of her sister, Caitlin, hanging between them. Ever the diplomat, Heddwyn attempts to bring some peace between them but it is only partially successful.
  • Marcus quickly retreats to the hilltop overlooking Bryn Euryn to reflect upon his guilt and pine over the woman he left behind in Éire, and in that moment, he is suddenly no longer alone. A familiar-looking woman stands alongside him, stating, “‘_You bear a great and terrible power, Sword-bearer. There shall be Men and Fae and things borne of Darkness that will seek you out for this weapon. Are you strong enough to face what is to come, Sword-bearer?_” Claiming that the Lord will grant him all of the strength he will require, Marcus is briefly startled when the woman vanishes on him while his back is turned.
  • The feast begins. This is a hastily put together gathering where the mead flows liberally and the meat is still roasting. Many men get drunk. There is much merry-making taking place as the warriors refight the battle and the great feats they did. There is dancing and drinking and fighting and laughter, all observed by the severed heads of the Enemy adorning the many spears ringing Bryn Euryn. Bradán is dragged out to dance with Addiena (which he does badly) and, upon seeing this, Eolande informs Gwion that she too wishes to dance. He does so even worse than Bradán, but Eolande’s almost inhuman grace almost makes him look good. Heddwyn sees this and has a terrible suspicion that she is Fae and shares a knowing look with Druid Adaryn who then nods toward the Grove.
  • In the grove, Heddwyn finds the two surviving Irish druids, Conn and Cormac, and the four druids discuss the possibility of seeking out an alliance with the Irish king of Laigin, Crimthann mac Énnai The king has an unwed daughter who would make an ideal spouse for Chief Owain. Summoning the chief, they discuss this plan and, although he is not especially enthusiastic about this plan, he grudgingly agrees to this plan but suggests they keep this plan under wraps. It is decided they shall head out upon the morrow.
  • Before he departs, Chief Owain takes Heddwyn aside and without actually asking the young druid to resign from the Council, he does imply that it would be best for the realm to reduce the unrest among his nobles. Heddwyn, recognizing the hand of his rival, Lord Serigi, agrees to this.
  • Unwilling to face questions about the duel, Meadhbh opts to flee into the woods for some “alone time” … without realizing it, she is drawn toward the injured wolf where she finds it unconscious from the arrow protruding from its torso. She is dismayed to realize that she has not the skills to assist, then startled when the other wolves identify someone following her. It turns out to be a now sober Morgan who glances around at the silent wolves surrounding him, with their golden eyes gleaming in the dark, then at Meadhbh whose eyes are the same color, but takes it in stride and reveals he has some minor skill with animals as he helped with his father’s hunting dogs. Together, the two spend the rest of the night attending the badly injured animal and ultimately manage to extract the barbed arrow. It is going to be a long night for them…

Act II: A Little Arrangement

  • The following morning, Chief Owain summons his Council to an open session which means all of Rhos may attend; the attending nobles and citizens are all in varying states of intoxication when the chief reveals new information – Lord Brochfael is dead. Rhos’ spymaster, Lord Berthgwyn, has confirmed this and it happened the very night after the council meeting … no one knows who slew him, only that it seems to have been done by ambush so they are not ruling out the Irish. As Brochfael had no heirs, the lands return to Owain … and he has decided to make Marcus Shield-Breaker the new steward of that manor. This effectively elevates Marcus to lordship.
  • Needless to say, this causes considerable surprise. Most of the warriors present loudly exclaim their approval, having decided that he is a good luck charm, what with him coming back from the Otherworld just in time to warn them of the Irish attack and then fighting as well as he did, but many of the nobles are clearly divided over this since it gives the family of Lord Bradán even more power. As this is well within the chief’s authority, though, none of them can really do much about this.
  • Although surprised at this turn of events, Marcus accepts the honor and swears his allegiance to Owain right before his brother advances to congratulate him by smacking him hard upon the arm. Chief Owain, pleased that he has effectively ensured he has another loyalist as a nobleman, further announces that he will appoint Marcus to the position of Marshal, thus taking over for the dead Brochfael, and also reveals that Lord Serigi is replacing Ollave Heddwyn as the grand diplomat as the young druid requires additional time to complete his studies. Although Bradán has his suspicions that this is the doing of Serigi (for the lord looks smug as he accepts the return to the Council), he has no proof and his cousin has mysteriously vanished with Druid Adaryn on some sort of special mission or something.
  • The Council is ended, allowing everyone to disperse to their normal duties.
  • Aedan immediately seeks out the broken weapons of the Irish, spends some time picking through the shattered spear heads and broken battle rings, and then piles the whole mess into a cart which he then takes back to Caerhun so he can begin melting them down at his smithy. Mentally, he is already making plans and decides to craft torcs instead of battle rings as that will stretch his talents more. By his calculations, this will take much of the week since he will be working alone as he cannot locate his sometime apprentice, Eitri.
  • Angus is frustrated that his investigation into the dead spy has hit a brick wall but he continues poking around in the hopes that something will turn up.
  • Bradán seeks out his spymaster for a status report on the dead spy and is suitably irritated at Angus’ lack of forward progress although it does sound to him that somehow has gone to a great deal of effort to conceal their tracks as well as shift potential blame toward Angus. He has also, by now, heard the whispers about his sister losing a duel with Morgan but cannot find either of them; already, he is planning on devious sibling teasing.
  • Gwion is surprised to discover that Eolande has vanished. No one can tell him where she went or when. Did he get drunk? Because his memory of the previous evening is all sorts of … fuzzy. He recalls dancing and there might have been some kissing and then … well. As stated, fuzzy. Looking around for her turns up contradictory stories and he briefly runs afoul of Argante who smirks at him and seems really, really familiar for some reason. The woman actually pauses for a moment and looks at him with slowly widening eyes. “_You poor fool_,” she murmurs before walking away, shaking her head and chuckling under her breath.
  • After a long and difficult night, Meadhbh and Morgan return to Bryn Euryn, splattered with blood from their impromptu surgery and both thoroughly exhausted. Ignoring the eyes on them, they stagger to Morgan’s tent, exchange a long, awkward look, then shrug and enter where they promptly collapse on the bedrolls and fall asleep. Bradán, upon learning that they have returned, seek them out and finds them thus; he teasingly lays down between them and attempts to hold a conversation with his sister, but only snores answer. Unwilling to completely give up on the teasing, he rearranges their sleeping bodies so they are in an intimate embrace facing one another, then sneaks out, laughing to himself.
  • Not knowing the land as well as he would like, Marcus needs someone to show him where his new manor is and Lord Idnerth, who is to be his neighbor, gladly offers to escort him there. They head out early, During the trip, the two noblemen speak and Idnerth expresses a high opinion of the Romans – they brought civilization where there was none and were a powerful stabilizing force for the region. Since they left, chaos has been left in their wake … he offers to give Marcus a lay of the land since he is relatively new to the area but it mostly turns out to be a warning about all things Lord Rhodri, not due to Idnerth wanting to get Marcus on his side in the ongoing feud, but because he (Idnerth) hates Rhodri as much as he does. Once at the manor, Marcus realizes this will be ideal for the raising of good cavalry horses (once he obtains some) and speaks with the steward, Gavin, who has, by now, learned of Lord Brochfael’s demise and Marcus’ appointment as the new manor lord. Marcus learns his Household is effectively bankrupt thanks to the late Lord Brochfael’s wild expenditure of money.
  • Adaryn and Heddwyn arrive in Éire with Conn, Cormac after several days at sea. The capital of Laigin is Dún Ailinne and compared to Rhos, it is a mighty city. He has seen larger, but not recently. Initially, they are barred from entry by the guards, but Conn and Cormac persist in badgering the men who eventually grant them simply to shut them up.
  • Once inside the palace, they discover King Crimthann mac Énnai holding a tribunal for a familiar figure: Bruinn the Red. As they listen, Heddwyn realizes that Bruinn is defending himself against charges that he murdered his brother, Niull, and that the king is being advised by both a druid and a Christian priest.
  • Being adequately familiar with these sorts of legal proceedings, Heddwyn steps forward the moment Bruinn the Red asks for anyone willing to speak up for him and the big Irishman recognizes him instantly and identifies him as the druid who witnessed this conflict firsthand. King Crimthann recognizes Heddwyn and allows him to speak, and the young Ollave does so quite well, spinning an elaborate (but mostly truthful) tale about Little Niul’s end. He paints a picture of Meadhbh Goldeneyes as a fearsome, terrifying beast that cannot be bargained with or reasoned with, and does not feel pity or remorse or fear, and absolutely will not stop, ever, until her foe is dead.
  • It is a very effective tale and the king leans back to be advised first by his mumbling druid, then by his priest (who actually uses Greek, which Heddwyn notes.) Crimthann nods, then declares his judgment: Bruinn the Red is innocent of these charges and may stand as his father’s heir. The burly warrior with the insanely manly beard seizes Heddwyn up in a great hug.
  • Heddwyn then makes an error by attempting to immediately broach the subject of the potential marriage, which visibly displeases the king who declares he is done for the day and will accept further petitions at a later date. Afterwards, Heddwyn realizes his mistake and suggests to Adaryn that they make plans to spend some time here in Dún Ailinne…

Act III: A Slice of Life

  • Six weeks pass, mostly uneventfully. The weather finally begins to improve, albeit very slowly. Rumors fly across the realm regarding the extended absence of Druid Adaryn and Ollave Heddwyn, but no one knows the exact truth beyond the two men seeking out a bridge for Chief Owain. Adaryn reappears a few times in Bryn Euryn, but only briefly, and is invariably gone again by the next morn.
  • Aedán completes his work on the torcs and is suitably satisfied, especially with the third batch of work which he suspects Owain will hand out to the nobility due to the loveliness of the decoration. His suspicions are borne out when the chief expresses his pleasure at the end result. Late in the month, Marcus seeks him out for a surveying of his new lands and there, Aedán uncovers a small silver vein that will be very helpful for the fledgling lord.
  • Angus continues digging into the murder of Amlodd ap Brys, but has little success. He does finally catch a lead and spends several days monitoring a suspect.
  • Bradán spends much of this time handling the more irritating facets of leadership, but also makes time to spend with Addiena who he continues to court in his own distinct manner; he even goes so far as to enlist his sister’s aid to ‘toughen up’ Addiena. Finally, as a result of the continuing frustration he’s experienced with impetuous warriors, he turns to Marcus to retrain his warband with something akin to Roman discipline. There is initially some disgruntlement at this, but they persevere and soon, this has positive results.
  • During this time, Gwion finds himself mostly at a loss with what to do and eventually finds himself hanging out with Bradán’s warriors who tease him mercilessly for his farmer origins but never seem to do so maliciously and are all consistently impressed with the strength required to use his bow as well as his aim. As a result of Bradán’s decision to have Marcus instruct his warriors, this means Gwion also spends a great deal of time on the new lord’s lands.
  • And speaking of Marcus, he is extremely busy in the six weeks since being raised to lordship, in between getting to know his land, his people and beginning the re-training that his brother has requested. The discovery of the untapped silver vein eases much of his initial concern about the lack of wealth upon the land, though he expects some trouble when word gets out regarding this find which causes him to intensify his efforts to recruit warriors. He also has an unfortunate experience with the sole survivor of Lord Brochfael’s warband, a hotheaded warrior named Cadoc ap Glyn who has been branded a coward for fleeing whatever threat killed his brothers in arms; no one believes Cadoc’s claims of a terrible monster and he eventually challenges Marcus, claiming the Roman is not worthy of following. The duel is swift but final, with Cadoc growing increasingly incensed at Marcus’ refusal to draw his weapon, then attacking only to be struck down – Fragarach, the weapon Marcus obtained in Éire, once more cleaves through his foe’s shield and into the other man’s chest, killing him almost instantly. Though the men watching cheer this, Marcus stops them and orders them to treat the dead man with honor.
  • Having been defeated in a duel, Meadhbh wastes no time and beds Morgan quite aggressively. Theirs is a tempestuous relationship, filled with passion in both anger and love. At no time does Morgan ever ask about her connection with the wolves, but then, he also accepted Marcus’ return from the dead with barely a shrug. During this time, Meadhbh also continues working to create a school for the martial training of female students and this definitely draws some would-be applicants.
  • In Éire, Heddwyn spends the six weeks getting a better grasp of the political situation and of the potential talking points he intends to use once the king summons him again. He finds out that the princess in question is evidently the youngest daughter of King Crimthann and has been married thrice already, but each man has died (of his own stupidity) within a day of the wedding. One started a duel with a rival on his wedding feast, another drunkenly attempted a handstand on a galloping horse, and the third thought boar hunting would be a grand idea even though he was thoroughly intoxicated. As a result, many in Laigin believed she has been cursed which explains why none of the king’s nobles are enthusiastic about wedding her. Due to this belief in a “curse,” Unrest has clearly increased and the princess in question has withdrawn from public view. He also learns of a new warlord gathering strength in the northern kingdom of Midhe under Lugaid mac Lóegairi. This warlord is being referred to as the “Winter Knight” and is said to have many supernatural powers. There are rumors he is closely tied to one of Faerie Queens of the Winter Court, but Heddwyn can find out little more than that.
  • When he is finally summoned to face the king once more – alone, as Adaryn has briefly returned to Rhos – he is surprised to discover it is a private meeting, with only the druid and the priest he has learned to be named Padraig attending. Both Heddwyn and the king opt to pretend the Ollave’s disastrous introduction never happened, and they spend many hours discussing the proposal, arguing over trivialities and specifics, but ultimately come to an agreement. This marriage will take place and a military alliance shall be formed. The princess herself is summoned…
  • And when Heddwyn first looks upon Brigid ingen Crimthann, he is astounded at her similarity to his wife’s dead sister.


    GM Notes:
  • Another sort of experimental adventure, with one PC not even in Wales during this. It seemed to work out okay.
  • Intentionally avoided any planned combat again because I wanted to sort of reflect the characters growing in political power as opposed to martial.
  • Amusing note: When I started planning this adventure, I rolled a Reaction check for Owain toward Marcus … and it was an 18. Given that I’ve made no attempt to hide the fact from the players that Owain’s sexual interests definitely lean toward the homosexual, there have been many jokes about his attention shifting from Bradán to Marcus.
  • Panicked note: The players for Angus and Meadhbh were originally going to be out so I’d initially had nothing planned for them, but they were able to join after all. Fortunately, I had time to figure something out – a lot of that was missed for Angus, but I’m going to recycle it, probably for next week.
  • Some of the Marcus stuff – silver vein, Cadoc – transpired after the session as the player was laying out what his character was probably doing in this time (and to explain expenditure of some points for Wealth and the like.)
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2x03, Fanning the Fire

Act I: In Hot Pursuit

  • 12 March, 457 Anno Domini Nostri Iesu
  • Gwion is on horseback, so he makes better time than the infantry he is pursuing – there is an old Roman road that the infantry appear to mostly be following east – the terrain here is pretty flat (for the most part) but there are enough hills still covered in snow & ice to occasionally slow him down.
  • An hour or so passes as he pursues Lord Brochfael – he tops a small hill and is able to see the infantry line a 40-50 yards or so away. They are stopped and arrayed in a loose half circle facing away from Gwion as Lord Brochfael stands in their front. All of them appear intently focused on a small valley before them.
  • He sees this as hinky and decides to secure the horse to a tree out of sight, then sneak forward to see what is going on. As he does, he notes that a great mist has enveloped that valley and it is moving unnaturally. A woman emerges from the mist and Gwion recognizes Aeronwen, a woman from Vertis who he recalls died in a fire. Lord Brochfael strangely seems to defer to her and begins to give her a report on Bradán’s activities of late.
  • Suddenly, she stops him, visibly sniffs the air and calls him a fool as she looks directly toward where Gwion is hidden. The mist behind her darkens suddenly and then coils around her, seemingly tearing her skin from her bones. At the same time, her body swells and distorts. The warriors with Brochfael scream in surprise and terror – most drop their weapons & spears as they flee, but one bellows and charges – as she grows and transforms into … an evil spider-demon thing. Gwion simply faints in sheer terror.
  • He wakes to find the Beast looms over him, securing him in place with one thick leg. It sniffs again, visibly, and declares in an evil-sounding voice with lots of reverb and bizarre clicking noises that cause his teeth to ache, “How very lovely. One of the Scions. We have been seeking you … and you have been seeking us for the harm we did you.” The implication here is clear, that … it was responsible for his family’s death. She holds Lord Brochfael in one hand (that suddenly has long talons) and, without really looking at him, squeezes – there is the sound of bones snapping. The Beast drops the man to the dirt and he hits the ground with the sound of wet meat striking rock and Gwion can see the bodies of the warband scattered behind her. “We thank you for not making this harder than it should have been.”
  • A woman clears her throat – Gwion vaguely recognizes her as someone he saw in Bryn Euryn – and flatly declares, “You trespass on lands not your own, Creature. Begone. This one is not for you.“ It is a little disconcerting to Gwion here – the Beast towers over both of them and this woman is just … just a woman … she should be crushed, swept aside, consumed like all the rest…
  • But instead the Beast snarls and clicks and clacks, but bizarrely, recoils away from the woman as the mist envelops her and she is gone. the strange woman scowls as she watches the mist recede before kneeling alongside Gwion to help him up. She says to him, “Rest easy, lad. You’ve have a busy day. You’re fortunate to be all in one piece.”
  • He immediately demands to know what the hell that was and the still distracted looking woman responds with, ‘A woman who gambled away her soul for power and is now consumed by it for she knew not what she dealt, nor does she have the wisdom now to understand her peril.’ She shakes her head. ‘But the Beast is not your concern for the moment. Think not of this creature. Return to Rhos and tell your Lord of what you know.”
  • And a moment later, Gwion no longer remembers the Beast. He only recalls discovering Lord Brochfael’s men who appear to have been set upon by some unknown force who butchered them. He starts to head back to his horse and briefly glances back…
  • The strange woman is not there.

Act II: The Bloody Bridge

  • Back at Bryn Euryn, the forces of Rhos have gathered. All forces but those of Lord Brochfael have assembled; the various Lords are armored and geared up as well.
  • Initially, Heddwyn is still on the hill, monitoring the Irish to ensure there are no surprises or last minute diversions. The messenger boy arrives and tells him Druid Adaryn said to give him these: two acorns that Heddwyn can feel nearly vibrating with magic. As to what they are, well … that’s probably another irritating druid riddle that he is to figure out himself.
  • Lord Hywel has finally started to sober up and will apologize most profusely to Bradán and Chief Owain – he does not have a warband, you see! Times have grown very tough for him so he has been unable to afford one.
  • The assembled warriors are all looking at one another with trepidation – some are hungover, some are partially drunk, some are drinking for courage, but all of them have, by now, learned of the force assembled before them.
  • Chief Owain gives a great speech about duty and honor and all of the men being better than the attacking Irish that fires everyone up and Bradán adds his own flair to it. The GM sort of envisions it like this but not given by the Imp.
  • Addiena wishes her brother good fortune, then pleads with Bradan to see to his safety if possible. She tells him that she will pray for his victory as well – note that she is organizing the people of Bryn Euryn and is armed with a wide-bladed dagger. There are many men who are staring at Marcus with some consternation. Word has spread that he is back from the Otherworld which they are unsure whether to take as a good omen or ill. He ignores them and concentrates on preparing for the long march.
  • During the march to the battlezone, Lord Idnerth will ask of Heddwyn what the omens are, whether they march to victory or death; the bard offers in the positive … and word quickly spreads.
  • Morgan asks Lady Goldeneyes if can stand at her side during the shieldwall – he promises that he will do his best to protect her ‘weak’ side (in that, the side that does not have a shield in it.) Meadhbh is not amused and tells him she doesn’t have a weak side. Marcus is greatly amused at the byplay and offers encouragement to Morgan to ‘keep trying to wear her down.’
  • Angus’ little hawks range around the war force and, as far as the warriors are concerned, just look like local peasants. They are thus ignored.
  • Gwion will catch up with the Rhos force shortly before the battle begins and can advise Lord Bradan of what he’s learned. Or rather, what he thinks he’s learned.
  • As they are approaching the expected contact point, Meadhbh can feel wolves in the region, ranging around them but mostly trying to steer clear of the Two Legs.
  • The Rhos force reaches the bridge just as the Irish do as well and the leader of the Irish stalks forward with only his three druids and one trusted man to defend him. Owain immediately decides to reciprocate and summons Bradán and Heddwyn. Realizing he is meant to be a translator, the bard produces one of the acorns and instructs Marcus to put it in his mouth, much to the other man’s confusion. The former Roman trusts his cousin, though, and does so, then returns the acorn. Heddwyn consumes it and lo! He can speak Irish!
  • As the two leaders move to converge, Heddwyn pushes by the Irish and continues closer to their warband where he bellows in Irish, “_You are trespassing on the lands of the Welsh gods and any one of you who does not wish to anger those gods may leave now and be spared their wrath! Should you fall here, you will never see Tír na nÓg!_“
  • As Owain does not speak Irish, he does not know what is said and unconsciously echoes the bard when he tells the Irish leader they are trespassing and must turn back or face death. The massive man responds with, “_Tell him, druid, that I shall pillow my head on his corpse this night. Tell him his wife will be my whore, and that when I’ve exhausted her, she shall be the pleasure of my slaves. And tell that beardless fool (at Owain), that I shall cut off his hair and make it a plaything for my daughter’s cats. Tell him I shall carve a drinking cup from his skull and feed his belly to my dogs. Today, his black soul will go to the terrors of the Otherworld and that it will squirm in a circle of serpents forever. The memory of his death will amuse me in the long nights to come. Tell them all that, druid._“
  • Heddwyn translates this as “_He said no_” and Owain declares that they will fight then. He turns and walks back to the Rhos forces, banging his spear against his shield to alert them that battle is imminent while trusting Bradán to cover his back. Rather than just leave, Bradán loses his temper and instead tries to provoke the much larger by spitting in his face; the man’s second pulls him away a hair’s breadth away from him drawing steel and attacking right then.
  • The battle begins with sounding of horns and a wild charge. Both sides throw themselves at one another, but Bradán has managed to hold his troops back until the optimum time and the slaughter is terrible. Axe and sword and spear fly as the Irish wade into a kill pocket and are cut down remorselessly. Baron Owain is covered in glory as he throws down many Irishmen and so too is Lord Hywel, surprising everyone. Marcus draws much attention as he lays about with his sword – he never attacks first but when he counters, his blade destroys his foe’s shield and more often than not, leaves a man in the dirt. The bridge is slick with blood and entrails and shit, but the Irish have taken the worst of it: fully half of their force is now dead or dying.
  • Sensing the moment is right, Bradán orders a false retreat, hoping to lure the surviving Irish into an even more brutal slaughter – it works flawlessly and the Rhos warriors unleash their battle fury, cutting down all who they face. The Irish force is already broken when Meadhbh finds herself facing off with the leader who is already wounded. They exchange blows but his injuries and her quickness soon result in him falling. To the disbelief of the few surviving Irish, the warrior woman with the glinting golden eyes rams her blade through the man’s throat, killing him instantly. A retreat is attempted, but Rhos will not be denied its victory and the warriors swarm forward, cutting down all but a tiny few who manage to escape.
  • Victory. It has never tasted so sweet.

Act III: An Unexpected Opportunity

  • The battle was wholly one-sided, with Rhos taking only a few casualties. No one expected such a great victory (certainly not the GM!) but they still have another warband to face in the east. Heads are taken and put upon spears – Bradán shows once more his ruthlessness by decapitating the leader, cutting off the corpse’s manhood, and cramming the shaft into the dead man’s mouth. Morgan offers to carry the trophy upon his spear. Still, he proves his merit as a war commander by visiting with each man and telling them how well they fought.
  • Marcus finds himself the center of much attention as well and many warriors begin referring to him as “Shield-Breaker,” presuming he knows some ancient Roman trick that made him so terrible to face. Uncomfortable with this, he lets them all continue to think this and tries to ignore the sense of smug satisfaction radiating from the sheathed sword at his side. Surely he is imagining that…
  • Heddwyn is slightly surprised to discover that one of the three Irish druids has been slain – this is in violation of the Celtic code but no one knows who was responsible and everyone presumes that the man was killed in the melee or during the attempted (and panicked) retreat.
  • Baron Owain was lightly wounded and declares his intent to lead the other injured to Bryn Euryn (along with the loot.) This Bradán agrees to, especially as it gets his lord out of the battlefield, and the rest of the warband immediately march out. Within the hour, as the sun vanishes and night falls, the excitement of the victory begins to wear off and the men all find themselves fighting exhaustion. Bradán does what he can to keep their morale up during the long hike.
  • As they reach visual contact of the second warband, they find them just … sitting around. Druid Adaryn stands before them, with a great line of spears thrust into the ground and capped with skulls. A ghost fence! None of them have seen such a thing in their time, though it was spoken of often in their father’s age. The druid turns and returns through the Rhos force once they have assembled, pausing very briefly to frown in Gwion’s direction, as if he sensed something…
  • The Irish leader advances alone and Bradán instructs Heddwyn to join him as he strides forward, reclaiming the spear with the dead Irish leader’s head from Morgan. At the sight of the head, the bearded Irishmen they are to me visibly snickers and Heddwyn can see just how amused and pleased the man is at the sight. This man, unlike the other, introduces himself as Bruinn the Red, and he is well-named, with bright copper hair and a very manly beard. When Heddwyn introduces Bradán, he does so by automatically adding the nickname Ddidostur (or ‘the Ruthless’) to the name without bothering to discuss this with the general. Bruinn is greatly amused at learning that the other Irishman died at the hands of a woman, then explains that they have put him in a difficult position. The dead man was his father’s son and by custom, he is obligated to seek vengeance … but at the same time, he is also in their debt because he hated Little Niull and wished him dead. Now that he is, it means Bruinn is his father’s only heir.
  • Heddwyn pounces. Perhaps an arrangement can be reached, he offers. Something that would satisfy the obligations of honor while preventing further bloodshed. They discuss options before finally agreeing that Bruinn will lead his force south to raid Rhufoniog – he and his men were only along on this for loot, and none of them will care where it comes from. Besides, with Niull dead and none of his warriors coming back, Bruinn returning with plunder will be seen as a great success for the surviving brother.
  • During this conversation in Irish, Bradán stands quietly, studying the Irish force and mentally planning. There are about as many of them as Rhos warriors and the manliness of this guy’s beard seems to indicate he will not be a great fool like the other man. When Heddwyn explains what he has arranged, Bradán considers it for a moment, then agrees. This maximizes Rhos’ success and minimizes their losses. He and Bruinn shake hands, one warrior to another. The Irish pack up and head south, eager for plunder.
  • Just in case, though, he and the Rhos warband do not return to Bryn Euryn until they see Bruinn’s force, now laden with treasure and captives, return to their ships and set sail with the morning tide.
  • As the new day dawns, the Rhos warriors return to Bryn Euryn, flush with victory. All in all, it has definitely been a good day for them…

Denouement

Upon returning, Angus immediately heads to check up on the captured spy, Amlodd ap Brys, but discovers him brutally murdered, his throat slit by a knife … a knife that Angus recognizes as his own!



GM Notes:

  • Aeronwen was believed to have died in 1×04 (although none of the players bought her death, which was fine.) As Gwion was not a PC at that time, he would not have intimate knowledge of the events, but he did grow up around Vertis and would have found out when he visited.
  • Alas, no one got my Obi-Wan Kenobi line with Argante … or if they did, they didn’t call me on it.
  • The mass battle did not go as I expected. I’d intended for a brutal slog with the expectation that Rhos would eventually emerge triumphant but experience heavy casualties, but instead, we got a one-sided massacre that lasted (really) two rounds (so an hour). Over half of the enemy forces were killed in the first round (All-Out Attack will do that to you) and all but 5% were killed in the second round. The dice just did not like the Irish. At all.
  • Little Niul’s words and Heddwyn’s short-lived translation of them came from the Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell (who is turning into one of my favorite authors after I discovered him) which are a retelling of the Arthurian mythos and have heavily influenced season 2 of Casus Belli. I’d mentioned a similar scene between that book’s POV character and a Saxon (who was later discovered to be the POV character’s dad) to Heddwyn’s player and he recognized his cue.
  • The practice of the druid’s standing on one leg while “cursing” the enemy and the ghost fence both come from the above-mentioned book.
  • Lord Serigi’s killing of an Irish druid was Gigermann’s idea following Serigi critically succeeding on a Significant Action in the Mass Combat – all of the players were also handling the nobles of Rhos during the battle and determining their risk level as well as rolling for both Significant Actions and Misfortunes of War. Given that druids are considered sacred, this is a horrifying act that is, currently, something of a secret. No one knows who killed him.
  • I really feel like I dropped the ball when Bradán spat in Little Niul’s face – it caught me by surprise and I did not react like I should have. Niul should have attacked, which would have caused both forces to hesitate and require someone else to step in as Commander for the first round as Bradán was effectively doing a Significant Action. Considering he and Niul were their respective force commanders, this means the temporary commanders (probably Marcus on the Rhos side) would have had to make a Leadership check or have their force be confused for round 1.
  • The denouement comes from Angus’ Enemy disadvantage triggering – I did not want him to be set upon by assassins but at the same time, with the Enemy triggering, something bad had to happen to him so I decided that the murder of a potential source of information was the best way to go.
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2x02, Feeding the Flames

Act I: The Feast

  • 11 March, 457 Anno Domini
  • Late in the evening of this day, in Bryn Euryn, Angus is checking in with his little birds while Aedan gets to know Gwion. In the process of this, he is pointed toward a suspicious man lurking near the manor. Although dressed like a slave, this man does not have the bearing of one and seems more intent on trying to eavesdrop on the Council than whatever his assigned task happens to be. After a moment of consideration, Angus strides boldly forward, intending on distracting the man.
  • Instead, however, the not-slave panics and bolts, immediately resulting in a chase with Angus shouting, “THIEF!” at the top of his lungs to maintain his cover. The various warriors present barely react beyond cheering the two on – Angus is, after all, perceived by most as “simple” and who cares if he chases a slave around? – and placing bets. One even takes a half-hearted spear throw, mostly intent more on putting a weapon into the mess than actually hitting anyone but both participants in this chase ignore the spear.
  • The chase ends when the not-slave makes a mistake and attempts to use the half-frozen stream to escape – this not only slows him down long enough for Angus to catch up with him, the frigid temperatures of the water nearly incapacitates him as well. A wrestling match now ensues, with Angus emerging on top, especially once Aedan shows up to kick the not-slave into the chase. The warriors boo this turn of events but then go back to doing whatever it was they were doing before.
  • Following the Council meeting as the feast itself begins, Bradan is quickly approached by Lord Idnerth who immediately promises his warband to the planned raid on Tegeingl; the cantref’s spymaster, Lord Berthgwyn apologizes to Bradan for his band’s inability to participate – they are all deployed and doing sneaky spy things for him – but he promises to provide the most up to date information on Tegeingl possible. Lord Brochfael, the original proposer of the raid visibly hesitates, then briefly scowls in Lord Rhodri’s direction before pledging his men as well. This gives Bradan 30 men for the raid and Lord Ieuan states that his men are willing to join … if Bradan believes they are necessary.
  • Suspicious of many of the lords, Bradan begins hatching a plan to cobble together a force from all of the lords in order to minimize the chance of sneaky stuffs. While he is doing this, Angus briefly joins him and advises him of what has happened; Bradan orders to secure the man and find out what he knows. In this moment, he also meets Gwion for the first time and admits that he disliked the archer’s father intensely. He will give Gwion the benefit of the doubt for the moment before returning to the feast where he discovers Lord Rhodri has stolen his seat and is trying (rather unsuccessfully) to flirt with Addiena. The two noblemen have a tense exchange that highlights the fact that neither trust one another.
  • With Aedan’s assistance (while Angus loudly declares in his “simplistic” way that he caught a thief!), they take the not-slave to an abandoned cottage where Angus acts like the “good cop” to interrogate him. Breaking under Angus’ expert skills, the not-slave reveals that his name is Amlodd ap Brys and that he is a spy for Baron Dafydd of Rhufoniog. Satisfied that he has gained adequate actionable intel, Angus then instructs Aedan to watch over their spy while he informs Lord Bradan of this – the blacksmith is clearly considering other things because he thinks little of obeying the pitiable Angus.
  • After being informed of what Angus has learned, Bradan then begins advising the various members of the Council – Berthgwyn immediately demands to see this spy and, after being pointed there, spends several hours interrogating him.
  • Heddwyn spends much of the feast with Druid Adaryn and Argante, who has joined them. There is much cryptic discussion, complicated by the fact that Adaryn speaks only in questions and Argante is unnecessarily obtuse. Early in the feast, the two physically react to something elsewhere. They look to the north-west and then share a look with a frown. This causes Heddwyn to react immediately – what the heck was that all about? Argante replies: “A dead man is returned from Llyr’s embrace. And he brings with him terrible power. Everything changes from this point forward.” She leaves.

Act II: Return of a Dead Man

  • Many miles to the north and the west of Bryn Euryn, Meadhbh faces her brother, Marcus, back from the dead. He is thin and … well, not pale because he’s sunburned, but looks to have only just recovered from some sort of injuries. There is a touching reunion … again as Meadhbh tackle-hugs her brother and squeezes him so hard that he struggles to breathe.
  • With Marcus’ bad news – and several heads from dead men as trophies – the small group sets off, despite the late hour. It will take them until dawn to reach Bryn Euryn.
  • As is his tradition when visiting Bryn Euryn, Heddwyn spends the night in Adaryn’s little hut within a small copse of sacred trees. Here, they can work magic without being interrupted and his mentor has does something to ensure they are warm in the cold temperatures. Actually, he overdid it as the hut feels like a sauna. Here, Adaryn instructs him on the “Language of Trees” and has given him new knowledge via an enchanted acorn that Heddwyn then consumes, thus imparting a bit of Adaryn’s wisdom upon him (temporarily.) Just prior to dawn, Adaryn hears something on the wind and asks if they should take a walk.
  • When the two men emerge from the grove, they can see the approach of Meadhbh and company, along with Marcus, back from the dead. Morgan is already approaching them and immediately begins debriefing Lady Meadhbh about Lord Bradan’s current temper, which surprises her not in the least as this is something he’s been doing for months. In mid-sentence, he realizes that she is wounded and scowls very, very hard at the three warriors who were tasked to protect her. Meadhbh rolls her eyes at this as Morgan then glances at Marcus and simply remarks, “Welcome home, Lord. You have been missed.“
  • As soon as Marcus reveals the danger they are in, Heddwyn heads for the great hill overlooking the village with an intent to use magic to get a better grasp on the tactical situation.
  • Marcus enters the manor like a Aragorn in The Two Towers and Bradan, still mostly intoxicated, initially thinks he is imagining his brother’s return, then grips him tight in a hug just as intense as Meadhbh’s was. He sobers quickly at the news and yells for the men to rouse. Owain is at least initially disbelieving of this story, especially since he does not know Marcus and Bradan’s brother is, frankly, dressed as an Irishman at this point, but Adaryn interjects with several questions in Irish, confirming that he actually understands the language.
  • The raid, Baron Owain, must be postponed while they prepare for war.

Act III: Gathering Strength

  • Bradan rushes from the manor and nabs a horse to race up the hill – he pauses to grab Heddwyn (already on his way up) onto the steed so they can reach the summit. There, in the west, they can just barely make out the distant shapes of the ships. Bradan orders Heddwyn to keep an eye on things – he is unaware that the druid apprentice’s eyes have already whited out as Heddwyn attempts to use magic on the various seagulls so he can look through its eyes.
  • Back down the hill Bradan rushes, pausing to instruct a local boy to join the bard at the top of the hill and serve as a messenger. Into the manor Bradan goes to rejoin Owain and the members of the Council who remained in Bryn Euryn to sleep off their drunkenness where they discuss options: the manor lords are logically going to be resistant to leaving their manors with their warriors, so some convincing will be required. Bradan, however, does not hesitate and lays out a strong strategical reason for doing that very thing – his reasoning is very sound and Lord Idnerth pledges his men to his effort and Lord Berthgwyn (who has joined them) is visibly angry that his men are not available.
  • A decision is made to reinforce Bryn Euryn and draw the Irish here, but they will need more troops so Bradan declares his intention to ride to the other manor lords and plead his case. Owain agrees to this and states that he will accompany to lend his authority while most of the other PCs begin working on reinforcing the village although he takes Angus and Gwion with him.
  • They first ride to Lord Ieuan, who has the largest number of troops present; by the time they reach the manor, word has reached the manor and the warriors are assembling. Ieuan is leery about abandoning his manor despite the persuasive arguments laid out before him. He agrees to provide half of his troops but, if Owain agrees to owe him a Favor, will send all of them. This irritates Bradan somewhat but they need the troops so when Owain gives him a questioning look, he nods.
  • On to Lord Rhodri’s manor they ride where Bradan repeats his plan – despite his dislike of Bradan, Lord Rhodri acknowledges that this is a better option than not and agrees to march with them.
  • Meanwhile, back at Bryn Euryn, Heddwyn has successfully secured a link with a seagull and diverted it toward the Irish. There, he determines there are really two groups present, not one, and they split apart, the larger clearly intending on grounding west of Bryn Euryn while the smaller continues east, likely intending to sweep around the village and grounding away from it.
  • From Rhodri’s, they ride to Lord Brochfael … and find that he and his warriors are gone! None of the manor servants know where he went, only that he returned from the council late that night and then headed out soon after. Angus and Gwion are both able to pick up tracks and the latter insists he can track these men; with no reason (necessarily) to distrust Brochfael, Bradan instructs the archer to do that and advise the errant lord of their dire need for his forces. Privately, he also instructs Gwion to report back immediately if he discovers something hinky. The archer nods and heads out.
  • From there, they march to Lord Serigi, who is waiting for them and declares that he will join his warriors to this only if Baron Owain agrees to restore him to the Council, thus firing Heddwyn. Barely controlling his temper, Bradan snarls a threat at the lord – there will be no politics here. They are facing utter obliteration. He will pledge his men to this or he will be counted an Enemy who is fair game after the Irish are stopped. Serigi quails before this and relents, but Bradan knows he has made an enemy this day.
  • Back to the village they ride where the troops begin assembling and they learn of the division of Irish forces. Realizing that the enemy are not beaching at the village and attacking, it is decided that Rhos will march to meet the larger of the forces in the west while Adaryn delays (somehow) those in the east.
  • The Rhos warband begins to assemble…now they go to war.


    GM Notes:
  • Last session was the Meadhbh & Echo show, what with the long fight – this week, it was all Bradan who was driving everything. Although none of the players have complained, as a GM, I’m persistently frustrated that some people just don’t have anything to do.
  • The chase in act 1 was not entirely planned … but neither was it wholly unexpected. Great thing about GURPS Chases – you can drop them in anytime and everything still flows nicely.
  • When intimidating Lord Serigi, Bradan rolled a 3, likely causing the older man to soil his clothes in potential terror, given Bradan’s dual reputations (ruthless against those who are his enemies and a capable war-commander.)
  • Sending Gwion off after Lord Brochfael gives me an excellent jumping off point for next week.
  • Funny moment: Bradan’s player, when his character and Marcus are reunited described the following (transcribed): “Bradan will look over and not believe his eyes at first. He’ll blink. Then he’ll do the cool walk over to Marcus. He’ll stop in front of him, then look him up and down like he can’t believe his eyes. Then he’ll give Marcus a big hug and whisper in his ear, “The dead should remain dead.” He’ll step back, revealing the blood-soaked knife that he’s just thrust into Marcus. At which point, Bradan will blink and shake that thought off.” Made many of us laugh.
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2x01, Striking the Spark

Act I: Aftermath

  • Following the battle with the Irish at Samhain last year, (456) the return to Bryn Euryn was met with excitement and exuberance as, once more, the heroes returned victorious. To the inhabitants, this was a great victory over some hated enemies (the Irish) … to the band, it was tempered by the loss of Marcus.
  • Some three weeks later (late November), Heddwyn returned from Ynys Mon; he seems a little different, a little wiser, a little weirder. Soon after his return, he takes Siobhan as a wife – in true Celtic fashion, there is no actual wedding. They just agree to be married and she moves in with him. Evidently, he wasted no time as she is already with child. Heddwyn continues his studies with Adaryn, the druid of Rhos, and learns more than he reveals.
  • Eventually, the excitement winds down and King Cunedda’s men depart now that their duty is discharged. Bishop Paulus leaves with them, having been summoned to Rome, though he promises to return. Strangely, he recovered quickly from his dire injuries…
  • Owain settles back in as Heir and actually seems to be trying pretty hard to be a decent dude. He will cautiously attempt to befriend Bradán & through various means – conversations, Angus’ little birds, eavesdropping, etc. – it will be learned that he went south to the king as an asshole and Cunedda simply didn’t put up with that shit. Think of it as him having gone off to basic training during the summer and coming back a different person.
  • Winter comes early this year and it is a hard one. Food is scarce, sickness is rampant, and there are some losses. Almost as soon as the snows begin, Baron Edern caught pneumonia and was unable to shake it. By midwinter (December 21), he is dead, leaving Owain to ascend to leadership position.
  • Owain appoints Bradán to serve as his general, but by mid-January, Heddwyn has managed to finagle his way onto the Council as well to serve as grand diplomat (thus earning himself a rival in the form of Lord Serigi, the former holder of this position.)
  • Bradán‘s appointment to general of the Rhos cantref really just seems to be a title since there are so few warriors readily available. Baron Owain, for example, has no men of his own at the moment, so really, it comes down to the nobles. In truth, Bradán realizes he is probably the most powerful of the nobles present, not only with his own warband but with a village of his own as opposed to the simple manors the other nobles possess.
  • During the winter, Meadhbh … changes. Her dreams become haunted by wolves – never acting aggressively toward her or anything, but they’re always there – and her eyes gradually shift color until they are golden. In these dreams, she sees many strange things, like Heddwyn running along a beach & changing into different animals; or Aedan tearing off his arm and then dipping the limb into molten silver; or Angus literally dancing with a woman of mist and dreams … and both are hiding knives meant for the other; or Bradan standing in a ring of standing stones that become men without faces, all of whom seem to mean him ill. She even dreams (bizarrely) of her dead brother, Marcus, sleeping in a boat and holding a sword with a blade that seems to be made of water. . She does her best to pretend nothing is happening as she begins gathering some of the younger women of Caerhun to her and begins the first step in training them. And sadly, Echo, her “dead” twin’s wolfhound, is rarely far from her side.
  • Aedan gains an pseudo-apprentice in the form of Eitri, a strange, bald man who assists him from time to time. When the young man assists him, the results are gorgeous, but still, Aedan is haunted by the memory of the one weapon that failed Lord Caddell…
  • Angus continues as before, trying to sniff out threats to his lord while hiding in plain sight. As some of his little birds mature, they develop into a more dangerous form which he refers to as ‘little hawks.’ For all intents and purposes, they are a warband themselves, though he conceals his access to these bowmen.
  • And so, time passes…

Act II: On the Road

  • 11 March, 457 Anno Domini. Even though it is technically spring, snow is still on the ground and it is still bitterly cold.
  • Lord Bradán is taking his retinue to Bryn Euryn, where Baron Owain has summoned his Council to discuss the dangerous state that the cantref of Rhos finds itself in. Both he and Heddwyn are expected to attend and thus, add their voices to the discussion. Angus is concerned as his little birds have hinted toward a vague threat directed against his lord, but without specifics.
  • In the empty places between Caerhun and Bryn Euryn, the band come across four corpses, all farmers, who have clearly been murdered. Little is gleaned from examining the bodies, although Meadhbh and Echo do find tracks. Uninterested in visiting Bryn Euryn because it will inevitably mean she must deal with suitors, Meadhbh declares her intention to track the murderers and Bradán sends three of his warriors to accompany her while he and the others will continue on, taking with them the bodies of the slain.
  • Into the wild, Meadhbh goes and the trail carries her far from Bryn Euryn, finally reaching a sheltered campsite where five men site around a fire, laughing and joking. Despite her brother’s instructions to not do anything “foolish,” Meadhbh decides they will assault these murderers and gain vengeance for the dead. While she and Echo flank wide left, the three members of Bradán’s warband go right, not even trying to conceal their approach which does serve to draw the notice of the men. A fierce skirmish breaks out, resulting in three dead murderers, one dying and a fifth captured. Meadhbh and her warriors are only lightly injured.
  • Interrogation uncovers little beyond confirmation that these men were brigands and murderers who deserve their fate. Once satisfied of this, the captured man is also put to death.

Act III: The Council Gathers

  • Arriving in Bryn Euryn, Lord Bradán and his retinue discover it is filled with more than a handful of warriors, all bearing the sigils of the Rhos nobles. Lady Addiena quickly greets them – she is especially pleased to see Bradán and the rest of his band are amused at the awkward flirting that takes place between the two, especially the hilarious way Bradán smiles at her.
  • From Addiena, they learn that the rest of the nobles have arrived and are waiting. There is also a bowman present who appears to have been seeking Bradán – he instructs Angus to investigate that man while he and Heddwyn attend the Council meeting.
  • Baron Owain greets Bradán pleasantly and then opens the assembly with an awkward speech – he clearly has little experience doing this sort of thing – and urges his nobles to advise him with how best to salvage the dire situation they find the cantref in. Lord Brochfael, the man charged with securing the cantref’s borders, immediately recommends a raid into Tegeingl, a neighboring cantref that he considers weak. Almost immediate, Lord Rhodri, the man charged to act as a liaison between the citizenry and the other leaders, chimes in to agree with this but (correctly) points out that Caer Segeint to the west is much wealthier. A debate ensues, with the various council members taking sides and hinting at some of the divisions between the nobles. Bradán eventually makes a speech about his willingness to lead such a raid but redirecting the target back to Tegeingl which he perceives as less of a threat to their warriors; simultaneously, he ensures that Baron Owain is the man who makes the final decision, thus highlighting his personal loyalty (and the implied loyalty of Heddwyn, who is perceived as “his man”) to the baron. Owain acclaims it: they will raid Tegeingl.

Denouement

  • A trick of the wind allows Meadhbh (and Echo, as well) to hear the sound of battle nearby. Unable to restrain her curiosity, she leads her brother’s warriors in that direction.
  • They walk for much longer than expected, prompting her to wonder how she could hear something like this from so far away, but eventually top a small hill looking down upon the beach where they see what appears to be a handful of Irishmen fighting one another. Echo freezes up for a moment before bolting forward, ignoring Meadhbh’s attempts to call him back which forces her to follow.
  • The fight draws to an end – the man who eventually wins is wielding a long blade that gleams strangely in the twilight. Just as Echo reaches them, he fells his last foe and then automatically turns to defend himself from the rapidly approaching wolfhound who does not hesitate to throw himself at the man.
  • Where he then begins licking and barking happily. Meadhbh is stunned when she realizes that this man … this man is her brother, Marcus. He is badly sunburned and frail-looking, as if he’s only recently climbed from a sickbed, but it is definitely him.
  • “The Irish are coming,” he gasps in a raspy voice…


    GM Notes:
  • Lost the player of Paulus who had scheduling issues – he’s running a face-to-face 5E game at the time we play this – but gained a new player who really did not get to actually run his character this session.
  • Used a modified version of the Pathfinder Kingdom Building rules again. Things look very dire for the cantref of Rhos – Economy attribute is at -2, Loyalty is at 0, Stability is 9, there is a single Build Point in the treasury, and Unrest is at a very dangerous 10. The cantref appears to be on a very dangerous downward spiral.
  • Also experimented with having the players take the role of the Council members and that worked out fairly well. Will continue to do this as long as it is fun for everyone.
  • Learned some new things with regards to Fantasy Grounds – I was very happy to learn that I could share NPC sheets with select players so they can assist during the big fights.
  • Originally intended for a second fight involving Bradan & Co. that would properly introduce the new PC, but dropped that for time. Also had some post-Council stuff planned, but I’ve pushed that to the beginning of session 2×02 where I will properly introduce Gwion to the party.
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Wolfsister
Prose by daboidie


Cold.

Meadhbh huddled over a makeshift fire, her back facing the wind that howled through the forest around her. The small flame had already been extinguished by the wind and lack of dry wood more than once, and this one threatened to die as well with every frigid gust. She shivered as the cold had begun settling in her bones, and she knew that she needed to find better shelter, or even better, the rest of her hunting party, or she would not make it home. The winter had been especially hard on her clan, and a desperate need for food had forced their hunting parties farther and farther away from Bryn Euryn in an effort to hunt game. Just that morning, they had all given chase to a scrawny looking deer, but in the unfamiliar territory, Meadhbh had lost her way.

A long, low howl sounded through the forest, and Meadhbh’s head snapped up, the lull of the cold temporarily forgotten. Shortly thereafter, another howl followed, and then another. Wolves. She stood slowly and hefted her spear with her stiffened fingers. Her fire gave one last pitiful flicker, and died at her feet. Her breath puffed out from grayed, chapped lips in the twilight darkness. Another howl, this one much closer, echoed across the small clearing.

In the fog of exhaustion, Meadhbh did not realize that she was running for several moments. A thought drifted upwards, what am I doing? I don’t even know where I’m going. But she didn’t stop.

Her panicked flight through the forest was cut short by an errant root that caught her foot, sending her sprawled face down on the ground. She briefly tested her ankle and found that miraculously, she had not injured herself in the fall. She started to stand to hunt for her spear, then froze. Not ten yards away, a pair of glowing, golden eyes shone out from the darkness. The eyes blinked slowly, then were joined by two more pairs of similarly golden eyes. The eyes loped closer until the shapes of large gray wolves formed around them. The largest of the three shadows snarled.

I am dead, Meadhbh thought. Better to go out in battle, but my spear…I am so tired. Where are the other nine? I only see three?

She could not see her lost weapon in the darkness. Deep in the fog of her thoughts, she wondered how she knew that there were twelve wolves nearby, but instead of dwelling on it, her thoughts turned inward, and images of family came unbidden to her mind. Father…Bradan….Marcus…

Pack. ?.

Meadhbh blinked. The largest wolf had ceased snarling and was regarding her quizzically.

Pack. ?.
_
Am I going mad?_ She thought, and nearly laughed out loud when the large wolf whuffed impatiently, and once again, her family came to mind. “Pack,” she creaked out hoarsely. “Den.”

Meadhbh held her breath as the beast sniffed the air and began circling her slowly.

Den. !.

The wolf turned, his tail wagging ever so slightly. He stopped as he nodded once towards a small footpath.

Den. ..

Meadhbh stood and took several tottering steps down the path. The wolves left her then; she didn’t even need to see them go. She knew. She could feel it.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

A low howl was the only response.

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1x07, Samhain

Act I

  • 25 October, 456
  • Owain, son of Baron Edern, has returned. All eyes are riveted on him and Bradán, fully expecting a fight. Instead, however, Owain initially thinks that his sister, Addiena, has wed Bradán and this is the wedding feast. Once he is corrected, his initial opinion does not change terribly as he knows of Bradán’s reputation and would not be opposed to a man with such a reputation joining with his House.
  • Shifting tacks quickly, Owain reveals that he has been at Duke Cunedda’s court and has returned with a score of men as well as information on the location of a prominent Scoti (Irish) war camp some days away. He – Owain – means to march upon them and drive them from their shores to avenge all of their losses. To that end, he proposes that Bradán accompany, bringing with him his warband.
  • Baron Edern, Owain and Bradán remove themselves from the festivities to further discuss this (although Angus discreetly pursues so as to eavesdrop), and Bradán quickly proves himself to be far more capable in the area of planning a battle and, though it visibly irritates him somewhat, Owain defers to him.
  • While the planning is ongoing, the rest of the feast proceeds, albeit in a far more subdued manner and with all eyes turned toward the closed door where the discussions are ongoing. During this, Heddwyn is informed by Druid Adaryn that they must depart upon the morrow if they intend to reach Ynys Mon before Samhain, which means that Heddwyn will be unable to accompany the warband against the Scoti.
  • Outside, as Angus is eavesdropping, he becomes aware that a woman he does not recognize is watching him. She smiles and fades into the shadows.
  • A battle plan is made and the intent to march north-east at dawn is announced. There is much excitement, although the more experienced warriors present know that there will be casualties.
  • As Paulus is critically injured, he is to remain behind under the watchful eyes of Baron Edern’s household.

Act II

  • The following morning, the warband assembles in Bryn Euryn. It will taken them between four and five days to reach the Scoti, so provisions are taken for the march.
  • Meadhbh observes Owain speaking privately to his sister, Addiena, and, at first, the baron’s daughter seems terrified by her brother’s presence though that fades and is replaced by confusion, especially when Owain bows his head to her and retreats.
  • Baron Edern asks Druid Adaryn to read the omens but the older man hesitates before giving a cryptic (and easily perceived in any number of ways) prophecy: “these men ride to their fates and shall be brave in doing so.” The druid then hurries to get himself and young Heddwyn on the boat they are to take to Ynys Mon; briefly, Heddwyn sees his new mentor speak briefly with a woman he does not recognize. Being curious, the bard eavesdrop and overhears the woman tell Adaryn that the ‘Faceless King is stirring once more.” This greatly troubles the druid.
  • On the road, Bradán learns that Owain has spent the last year or so under the tutelage of The Duke – in fact, he never refers to Duke Cunedda in any other way than “The Duke” – and he (Owain) learned a great deal from the man. The Duke evidently put up with none of his childish antics, which made Owain realize how much of a fool he had been. He further asks Bradán point-blank, man-to-man, asshole-to-asshole, if Bradán means to use his (Owain’s) sister to achieve his goals. Because if that is the case, then they should fight to the death, right here and right now. Addiena has faced too much hardship already in her life and, for whatever reason, she seems to like Bradán. Without pausing, Bradán replies that no, he has no plans to use anyone; he is just looking out for his people.
  • Back in Bryn Euryn, Paulus’ fever dreams are black and terrible. He dreams of lands of shadow and pain, of oceans of blood and fire, and forests of the dead. His wounds pain him terribly and he dreams of walking through the broken land with Brother Maius, now mute and bloody, at his side until he comes to a man crucified upon a tree. That man is Bradán! The chance to abandon his liege lord is there, but Paulus refuses to do so and smites the Tree with his weapon, smashing it apart and freeing Bradán. Now, with two allies, he marches on, falling deeper into the dream.
  • Heddwyn and Druid Adaryn make remarkably good time to Ynys Mon and the bard is actually surprised at how easy it is to gain access to the island. When last he came here, he had to work at avoiding the Scoti pirates using the island as a base. Along the way, Adaryn quizzes him on what has lead to this moment and the many strange occurrences that have transpired only seem to trouble the druid further. Upon the island, Adaryn leads them toward the center of the island, which Heddwyn has never actually visited before because, as far as he knows, there’s nothing there. This time, however, as they descend down the hills and into the mist shrouding the hill bottoms, he senses … something. Or someone. Everything feels different. His skin itches, like it is too small for his body. He suddenly can’t see! Adaryn slams his staff upon the rock and suddenly, the top of glows! ‘Stand aside and allow us to pass, Vermithrax,’ he declares. ‘We are of the Order.’ Heddwyn hears raspy sounds, like snake scales upon the rock only at a much greater volume. His imagination conjures up images of an immense creature that could not possibly be as large as it sounds. He still can’t see anything past the shroud of mist, but he gets the feeling that whatever is out there does not like him. At all. The presence – and sounds – recede slightly and Adaryn shakes his head and continues forward. He then gives Heddwyn a look – suddenly, he seems like a terrifying foe. ‘Say nothing – nothing! – unless spoken to and even then, do your best to keep your teeth together. You walk in a place you should not have seen for another twenty years.’ He says nothing more until they reach a ring of standing stones where several druids are already standing. Heddwyn knows the druids by appearance only. They know him as well – he completed his bard’s ordeal only a year past – but Adaryn advises them all that he comes with news from Bryn Euryn. Spring has spoken to him: the Faceless King stirs in his silent grave. The druids grow worried and then agree that they must use the tools at their disposal. All of them – all of them – suddenly stare hard at Heddwyn. He’s never felt more judged than right now. ‘A Test, then,’ one of the druids says and Heddwyn can hear the Capital Letters. ‘A Test to see if he has the capability to survive what is to come.’ They part, revealing a set of stairs in the middle of the ring that leads down. There are twelve stones and, Heddwyn realizes, twelve druids present. Each man steps back to stand before one of the stones, drawing their hoods up as they do, and each stone sort of lights up. None of them say a word, instead staring at him from under their hoods. The implication is clear: he is to descend the stairs. And so, he does.
  • The warband finds the Scoti encamped and mostly unprepared for their attack. Bradán decides upon a two-pronged assault: he and most of the warband will assault the Scoti from the south, drawing their attention and holding it while Owain leads an amphibious assault using the boats taken from Bryn Euryn so both forces will crush the raiders completely. It is a bold plan but works exceptionally well: the Scoti reel back under the assault as Bradán’s warband surges forward. Victory is within their grasp…
  • Accompanied by a bloodied and maimed retinue, Paulus falls ever deeper into his dream, crossing the breadth of this almost Prydain with a matter of steps until he reaches a Caer Tarian that never existed in the real world. The walls are impossibly high, wrought of gold and smoky dreams, and faceless warriors stand at the ramparts. He proceeds in, entering a Cathedral that does not seem out of place in this dream. A great altar is before him and laid out upon that altar, dressed in Roman finery and wearing a laurel victory wreath is Marcus. His clothes are soaked crimson. Standing watch over her brother’s body is Meadhbh and she is somehow dressed simultaneously as a warrior and a nun. A stark black habit conceals her hair but heavy mail glints brightly. In her hands is an impossibly large sword with a blade wrought of water … or perhaps liquid silver. When she looks at him, her eyes gleam gold, like those of the massive wolf at her side. It is not Marcus’ dog, though Paulus took it to be at first, and this fierce beast watches you with a soundless snarl. “I have taken up my brother’s watch,” Meadhbh announces in a voice not her own. Her expression contorts to one of rage then relaxes to sorrow. Confusion reigns at her next remarks and Paulus receives her sword of water before offering it to Bradán. And then, everything changes…

Act III

  • Heddwyn proceeds down the stairs. It gets darker and darker and darker, and underfoot, the ground begins to feel strange. His head starts to swim, like he’s held his breath for too long. Light suddenly floods the chamber,’ briefly blinding him. When he recovers, he realizes that he’s standing upon … it sincerely looks like he’s standing upon a cloud! Looking down is dizzying but he sees Prydain like he never has before. Birds wheel around his head – crows and eagles and owls – not quite battling but neither are they entirely content with the other’s presence. They all wing-over and dive toward the ground before circling an area along the northern Welsh coast. It occurs to him that this is roughly where the Irish camp is that the warband was intended to hit. His head begins to ache and pound like it never has before, and he feels … something inside … tear. Heddwyn goes to one knee and tastes blood, even as he discovers himself overlooking the battlefield and realizing that another force is advancing! And they’re Roman.
  • The Scoti break before the warband rout. For a moment, there is a great clamor of excitement as the Welsh see their enemy flee like cowards … but with a thunder of hooves, a Roman cavalry force rumbles into the field of battle. At their head is Marcus’ hated enemy, Quintus Severus, and the cavalry surges forward, slamming into the warband with a terrific crash! Marcus, caught off-balance and slightly apart from the rest of the band, is singled out by the Romans and they ride him down, sending him tumbling into the dirt, critically injured. Severus dismounts and drags his foe to a nearby ring of standing stones that are perched on the lip of the cliff. It is a prominent vantage point so all will be able to see Marcus’ inevitable death. His family pushes hard in an attempt to break through the Roman lines and rescue him, but they are repulsed.
  • In Paulus’ dream, he finds himself facing a faceless king upon a throne that looms into the sky. When this Presence demands his obedience, Paulus prostrates himself before what he perceives as the Almighty. He agrees to gladly serve as a Herald for the King to which he feels the King hurl fire toward him. Paulus wakes suddenly, his injuries healed and newfound power coursing through his body. Thinking this a miracle, he prays and in his eagerness, he fails to notice that he now has two shadows…
  • Blood is leaking from Heddwyn’s nose, his eyes, his ears. His heartbeat is thunder in his ears. Staring down from his cloud, he bends his will toward affecting the outcome of the battle. He must save them from the Romans! He feels something … shift around him, tastes the sharpness of the air. Lightning roars down from above him, stabbing through him and onto the ground below. He cries out in pain and darkness swallows him.
  • Quintus Severus holds up his sword, preparing to put Marcus to death, and there is nothing his family can do to stop it, not with the Roman warriors holding the line. Suddenly, stormclouds roll in, instantly turning the day to night. Thunder booms. The battle hits a lull as everyone stares at the sky in surprise and fear. Jagged bolts of lightning streak out of the sky, exploding clusters of Romans. Horses scream in terror and flee. Chaos erupts. More lightning stabs downward, enveloping the standing stones within which Marcus and Quintus Severus kneel. The stones flare brightly … and then explode. The shockwave throws men and beast to the ground and utterly obliterates the outcropping where the two men were. The surviving Romans flee, leaving behind their dead and wounded. The battle is won, but at a terrible cost. The warband searches but can find no trace of Marcus or his enemy – it would seem that the lightning destroyed them both utterly, which grieves Bradán and Meadhbh as now they have lost another member of their family. They spend some time looting the fallen and then set out to return back to Bryn Euryn…
  • Heddwyn wakes in a small camp with Adaryn sitting next to him. The older druid looks troubled again. He is surprised that Heddwyn still breathes and Adaryn tells him that what he did … none of them thought that was possible. The amount of raw power Heddwyn bent to his will is frankly intimidating. He knows of only one other man … if he can be called that … who accomplished this task. Good news: Heddwyn will live. Bad news: Vermithrax was freed. That old beast fled but … Adaryn doubts this is the last they’ve heard of it. When asked what happened, Adaryn sighs and relates that Samhain is when the borders between the Otherworld – what the fae call the Nevernever – and mortal world are at its weakest. The place Heddwyn went … that was the Otherworld, or the Nevernever. It is a special place that only a small number of people can even access but there, he opened himself up to the energies of the very earth. And somehow, he shaped it to his will. Adaryn offers to instruct him. There are many dangers to being able to do what Heddwyn can right now and now is a dangerous time for him. He is untrained and will be tempted by the Dark Side … wait…He will be tempted by the Left-Hand Path…

DENOUEMENT

There is a final, cinematic cutscene for the season. Setting: a rocky coast, an unspecified amount of time later. A battered, burned, barely alive body has washed up to the shore. Overhead, crows circle. As one, they descend, coalesce, melt into a fierce-looking barbarian woman hefting a spear. She toes over the body – we don’t see who it is – and smiles maliciously as her eyes go completely black..

END OF ‘SEASON 1’



GM Notes:

  • Originally, I was going to have Owain be a complete d-bag who promptly challenged Bradán to a duel to the death, but I changed my mind and decided to try something else.
  • Paulus’ player was absent during this session so we did most of his stuff on our boards, although it did not quite turn out as expected. Midway through it, Paulus’ player realized he was thinking like a Gamer and not a 5th Century priest, who would be a great deal more likely to swallow whatever was happening to him.
  • The battle here played out in two distinct ways: against the Irish, the warband kicked ass, but then the Romans got involved and things went to crap in terms of die rolling.
  • All of the players were aware that Marcus didn’t die, but to their credit, the characters acted accordingly.
  • Season 2 will begin after the winter has passed (so, mid-March, 457.)
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1x06, Bryn Euryn

Act I

  • 25 October, 456
  • Temperatures have dipped rather sharply and it has been unseasonably wet, with much, much rain that is both a boon (because it will slow any pursuers) and a terrible curse (it slows you too!) Average temperatures are around 6.5°C (44°F) which is, as indicated, unseasonably cool. Winter is coming.
  • With the revelation that a full century (100 soldiers) of highly trained, very motivated bad asses are in the region hunting for them … or at least for Marcus, remaining in the region has become untenable.
  • Rounding up the survivors from Caer Tarian and Vertis, LORD Bradan has led his people north and west, deeper into the mountains and hills of Wales with an eye toward security and safety. His destination is a considerable distance away – Bryn Euryn, 216 miles using roads! – but has several important elements that have led him to this decision.
  • Bryn Euryn is a village that rests in the shadow of an abandoned hillfort known as Caer Dinerth, or Bear Fort, which Bradan takes a good omen. His grandfather was known as The Bear for his prodigious strength and tenacity in battle.
  • Heddwyn is aware of the reputation of the lord of Bryn Euryn: in his youth, he was called The Generous and actually fought alongside Bradan’s grandfather.
  • Aedan also has craftsmen kin who originated in this area. It is known for its limestone.
  • Paulus will recommend this as well each time he is consulted. He opens his mouth and his Split Personality activates. Every. Single. Time.
  • Along the way, they have lost people, whether to accident or raiding or because they simply had no desire to go any further, and they are down to a total of 1,500 farmers and craftsmen, which is not a small number and has led to a great deal of trouble in terms of gaining access to towns and villages. A majority of those with them are women and children as many of the men you brought along have fallen off along the way (see above regarding ‘losing people’). Food is not entirely scarce – they did bring along a lot of chickens and cows and pigs and the like, all nicked from Corinium – but it is still difficult going.
  • All major villages/towns/cities along the wall that have actual walls have closed their gates to them and the larger population centers have actually sent warriors out to … discourage their presence.
  • Signs and indications of strife are everywhere. Unprotected hamlets and villages have been sacked and looted all over. It is an everyday occurrence for them to pass a corpse or even a group of corpses that have been the victim of violence. Wolves, rarely this bold, are seen constantly, sometimes displaying no fear at all of men though thus far, there have been very few attacks (and then, only upon stragglers.)
  • During the trip, rumors have been flying like mad.
    • There were two great battles, first at Stonehenge where the Saecsens murdered many of Prydain’s barons but the King escaped to Corinium where he was defeated and captured after a tremendous battle.
    • The War Duke betrayed the king and nearly killed him, but Vortigern escaped and sought refuge with the Saecsens. It turns out that all of those Saecsen raids? Those were actually the war duke’s men! The king is to marry the Saecsen war host’s daughter, Rowenna, and unite the land
    • King Vortigern sought out and surrendered all of Prydain to the Saecsen war host leader, Hengist!
  • And so on. The different permutations of the rumors all say the same thing: Vortigern survived somehow. Few of these tales paint him in a good light, though, and none thus far have mentioned Artos.
  • The rumors also tend to also agree that the surviving king is enamored with Hengist’s daughter, Rowenna…
  • The warband:
    • Bradan and Marcus are still at odds over Marcus’ Enemy and the damage done to their family lands because of this.
    • Bradan is also facing the discomfort of having to pay for forty warriors – figure out how much this costs per month.
    • Upon discovering the extent of the damage caused by his Enemy, Marcus is seriously distressed. While it may not actually be true, he perceives every look he receives from a surviving villager as an accusing one. Let Mark determine how he responds.
    • Meadhbh will note that many, many of the surviving women from Caer Tarian / Vertis area are showing the classic symptoms of having been raped (including Siobhan). This should further encourage her desire to start a fighting school.
    • Heddwyn notes that Siobhan actively avoids both Bradan and Marcus though this is easily understood given the former roughing her up and the latter’s enemy murdering her family. He is also dismayed to realize she is tense around all other men, indicating that she did not escape Marcus’ enemy unscathed.
    • Angus is dismayed that many, many of his little birds have gone silent, far too many of whom having been killed by the madness that has erupted throughout the land.
    • Paulus’ dependent, Brother Maius, was badly injured from the chaos of the previous chapter.
  • Arrive at Caerhun in Wales
  • This is a small village (for about 750 people) but it is utterly abandoned right now. There are signs of conflict everywhere – whatever happened, seems to have happened within the last couple of weeks based on the damage.
  • Needless to say, the fact that there are 2x the number of people present this village is equipped for and the fact that this is technically someone else’s land means this place is temporary right now.

Act II

  • Bradan decides to head to Bryn Euryn itself to discuss their situation with the lord, Baron Edern. He leaves his sister, Meadhbh, in command of their force with Aedan there to advise her. He sends a runner ahead to announce their arrival.
  • Approaching Bryn Euryn causes no small amount of trepidation. It’s a desolate, rundown mess although there are many signs that this was once a more thriving location. As they enter, there are a handful of people who poke their heads out of their homes but do so in a very frightened manner.
  • A pair of warriors emerge to greet them. Both of these men are frankly too old to be particularly effective and they seem frankly afraid of their own shadows. The warriors demand identification, then state that no one can see them or their lord…
  • Adaryn ap Afallon suddenly appears accompanied by the runner that Bradan sent and Heddwyn knows him as a full druid and one of Iwan’s friends. Adaryn greets the bard and instructs the two warriors to inform Lord Edern that they have company. As soon as they are gone, Adaryn eyes Heddwyn and comments that he knew something was up – he saw a murder of crows wing over the abandoned fort this morning, and then, they killed a snake … which should not have happened at all because it is too cold for snakes. Bradan asks what has happened here …
  • And Baron Edern answers: difficult times. The elderly baron is assisted by his daughter, Addiena, who generally tries to stay out of sight. When she does move, she keeps her hair over one side of her face in a failed attempt to hide her terrible scar. From the baron, the warband learns that this village and Caerhun have both been plagued by Irish raiders and honest-to-God giants! The warband listen politely (if with some disbelief) and Bradan begins the initial negotiations about moving into Caerhun. At Addiena’s soft whisper, the baron makes a counter-offer: deal with the giants who have moved into the limestone quarry, and they will discuss the matter further. Bradan eagerly accepts.
  • As the quarry is closer than Caerhun, the band heads there, intending to recon the area before deciding what to do. There, they discover Pictish barbarians who do appear to be giants! There are few enough present that the warband is convinced they can handle them without requiring further support. A tactical plan is laid out: they will ambush the barbarians on a rocky path. One set up, Bradan ‘fails’ his attempt at stealth and then flees, leading the Picts into the trap.
  • A brutal melee ensues with the warband never yielding the initiative. Only Paulus is injured and then through some bad luck on his part, and he topples into unconsciousness. Simultaneously, Marcus fells the Pictish shaman who has been chanting the entire battle. A massive bolt of lightning stabs downward from the sky, incinerating the shaman entirely, which catches them all by surprise.

Act III

  • Back to Bryn Euryn the warband goes after freeing some prisoners held by the Picts. Delighted at their victory, Baron Edern orders a feast (or at least as much of a feast as they can manage.)
  • During that feast, Bradan is sought out by Addiena who has been asked to bring him to her father. The two briefly converse, with Bradan managing to make a good impression on the shy young woman. The fact that he is not repulsed by her scar is perhaps the most important matter to her.
  • He discusses resettlement issues with the baron, neither man aware that Angus has stealthily located an eavesdropping point to listen in. An initial agreement is made: Bradan will assume leadership of Caerhun and aid the baron in maintaining control of the region while the baron will assist him in maintenance of the warband. Briefly hinted at but not actually discussed yet is a possible marriage between Bradan and Addiena which will cement this alliance. The baron’s son, Owain, is mentioned in passing and Edern states only that his son is a ‘difficult man.’
  • As Angus is returning to the feast, he realizes the woman, Argante, has been keeping an eye on him, even when he was eavesdropping.
  • Baron Edern gives a speech to announce their friendship, and then Bradan does as well, and finally, Heddwyn is asked to tell the story of the events that has led them to this place. He do so exceptionally well.
  • And then, silence descends as a new voice calls out: “What’s this then?” Owain has returned.
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