GURPS: Casus Belli

1x01, Prodigal

Act I:

  • 1 April, 456.
  • Marcus is on foot, returning home after 15 years abroad.
  • He hears the sound of fighting and moves to investigation.
  • Discovers a fight between a Celt band and a Saecsen one. Several of the Celts wear distinctive tattoos that he recognizes as belonging to his family, so he draws his weapon and rushes forward.
  • Bradan ends up killing one man by repeatedly smashing his head against the other man’s.
  • ‘Bishop’ Paulus is badly injured.
  • The fight ends with all but one of the Saecsens dead; after Angus interrogates him, this final man is effectively pressed into slavery.

Act II:

  • Reunion transpires. Bradan and Meadhbh are initially surprised, then pleased at the return of their long-lost brother.
  • Due to Paulus’ injuries, it takes them 3 days to reach Caer Tarian.
  • Chief Caddell is overjoyed at the return of his second son and declares loudly that a feast is to take place to celebrate not only Marcus’ return but also Heddwyn’s return from Ynys Môn after he survived his ordeal to become a druid.
  • A few days elapse as everyone prepares for the feast.

Act III:

  • A hunt is declared. Bradan, Marcus and Meadhbh all volunteer to accompany the hunting party. All others are going to loiter around the chief.
  • During the hunt, a bizarre mist rises up to envelop the hunters and when it vanishes, they all find themselves elsewhere!
  • Meadhbh is startled when dozens upon dozens of owls begin hooting at her from the large tree they are all perched upon. Suddenly, four skulkers emerge from cover, see her, and charge. She handily kills one, badly injures a second and sends the other two fleeing in terror. Just as she is about to step forward to pursue one of those fleeing, she hears a bestial roar followed by Bradan’s battle cry and rushes to aid her brother.
  • Marcus catches a glimpse of an ethereal beauty and follows, stumbling upon his own group of skulkers. All three of them fall before his battle skill. Before he can figure out what’s going on, he hears a bestial roar followed by Bradan’s battle cry and rushes to aid his brother.
  • Aedan, Angus, and Paulus are near Chief Caddell when spears fly out from concealment, killing the lord’s horse and causing it to trap him underneath it. A fierce fight ensues as the three men defend the trapped baron from the assassins. Several of them are felled, resulting in the others retreating in the face of impending reinforcements and the general badassness of the defenders.
  • Bradan is startled when dozens upon dozens of ravens begin cawing at him from the large tree they are all perched upon. Suddenly, he hears the sound of something large smashing through the trees and braces himself. The largest bear he’s ever seen appears, pausing to look at him before roaring. Bradan responds with a fierce battle cry and attacks. He is surprised to see the bear actively defends itself! He is further grievously injured by the bear and is in a dire situation when the ravens and the bear all begin to laugh. Bradan braces himself and dances back and forth with the bear briefly, though it looks bad … until Marcus and Meadhbh appear and rush to aid him. The ravens go silent and the bear becomes just a really big bear, which makes it easy game for the twins.
  • On a small hill, overlooking the region, Heddwyn watches the three siblings, recognizing that all three have had an encounter with the Sidhe. Bradan has seemingly drawn the ire of The Morrigan and Meadhbh was warned of danger by Flidais, but Marcus’ encounter is unclear. Suddenly, Paulus joins him and Heddwyn notes the bishop’s eyes are golden. A different voice than his own emerges from the priest’s lips, warning Heddwyn that dark times are coming. He must be prepared for what is to come and what must be done. Within the year, this caer will be in ashes. Heddwyn recognizes that the bishop is being puppeted by Myrddin Emrys himself!

Dénouement:

  • Three of the skulkers are captured, but none of the would-be assassins are. The skulkers are identified as being armsmen for Lord Atticus, one of Baron Caddell’s rivals.
  • The skulkers insist (believably so) that they were just on a cattle raid. They weren’t trying to murder anyone.
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1x02, Rent

Act I

  • 5 May 456.
  • Diplomacy wins the day in regards to the captured cattle raiders. A team led by Heddwyn and Paulus travel to Alauna to negotiate the return of these men to their lord, one Publius Aemilius Atticus. Angus and Marcus accompany, along with a handful of Baron Caddell’s warriors. The baron flatly forbids Bradan and Meadhbh from going, knowing that their respective personalities are too close to his own and will result in an exacerbation of the conflict.
  • After cooling their heels for some time, the diplomats are finally brought before Lord Atticus and Heddwyn makes his case. What (and others of the team) note, however, is that Atticus is actually surprised at the very mention of the cattle raid in the first place, as if he had not ordered it at all! When the baron promptly agrees to the ransom request without even bothering to negotiate it, Heddwyn further suspects that these men are about to be thoroughly and quite brutally questioned.
  • The exchange is made – men for money – and the diplomat team begins their trek back to Caer Tarian.
  • Shortly before they arrive, at Caer Tarian, a warband is sighted on approach bearing the standard of the war duke himself, Ambrosius Aurelianus. He and his nephew, Artorius, enter the caer alone, leaving the warband to set up camp, and Baron Caddell greets his friend the duke warmly.
  • Once alone with Caddell and Bradan, the war duke declares his intent to gather all of the barons and place an ultimatum before King Vortigern about the monarch’s inaction with regards to the Saecsen issue. Caddell immediately agrees to accompany him but shoots down Bradan’s offer to join.
  • Once the war duke and his adopted son have been shown to chambers, Caddell tells his son that Bradan is to rule in his stead and that rent must be collected soon. He further instructs his son to enlist Angus and Heddwyn in feeling out the locals regarding a potential mass evacuation of this territory. Caddell is thinking of heading north should this Saecsen issue grow worse and he is more interested in saving his people than holding onto his land.
  • Baron Caddell rides out the following morn with many of his warband, leaving Bradan and Meadhbh to wonder if this is the last they will see of him, particularly as his avatar has inexplicably changed to that of Sean Bean.

Act II

  • The following day, once the diplomat team has returned and rested, Bradan leads them out of Caer Tarian, accompanied by his father’s steward, Meical ap Cuill. None of them are especially enthusiastic about gathering rent but it is a necessary job.
  • To that end, Bradan decides to make the best of a poor situation and declares the farm of man he particularly dislikes due to the man’s constant public questioning of and opposition to his father to be their first destination.
  • Upon arrival, however, they realize the farm is too quiet. Angus and Bradan sneak forward, discovering a quartet of scared-looking men arguing amongst themselves. The smell of blood is strong.
  • Acting quickly, the band surround the skulkers and intimidate them with their show of force into throwing down their weapons and surrendering. Almost immediately, these men begin declaring their innocence.
  • In the barn, Angus discovers the bodies of the family that lived here, with the younger son – Enfrys ap Enfrys – strung up, clearly a victim of extensive questioning and torture. Further investigation uncovers that the weapon used was probably a tanner’s knife.
  • Marcus struggles against flashbacks at the sight and eagerly agrees to Bradan’s suggestion that he and Echo try to find tracks and a scent. The trail leads to a stream where it promptly vanishes, a clear indication that whoever this person was, they had some considerable woodcraft.
  • Back at the farm, the interrogation continues and the band learn of the existence of what sounds like (to them) a bandit leader named Morgan. The captured men eagerly agree to lead the band there, providing they themselves aren’t put to the sword. Bradan does not make such a promise and instead makes them dig graves for the dead..

Act III

  • After collecting Meical and escorting him back to Caer Tarian where they leave two of the four skulkers, the band heads northwest for a day and a half, entering the periphery of Baron Caddell’s lands.
  • Within a long-abandoned logging camp now turned into an almost fortified fort, they discover a fairly large group of men, many equipped with tools of war. Viewed tactically, this place has clearly been geared toward defense and the band is able to note indications that this Morgan fellow has at least taken efforts to set up a guard rotation of some sort. This would be a tough nut to crack, they realize, unless they returned to Caer Tarian and brought more warriors and even then, a lot of violence would ensue.
  • After some consideration, Bradan decides to be bold about it and march up to the front gate. Naturally, there is a reaction as the armed men rush to defend themselves, but Bradan simply announces himself and asks for hospitality, knowing that if Morgan is a true Celt, he will grant it without question.
  • And he does. Asking only that Bradan’s band hew to guest rights, he allows them entrance and offers them what little food they have.
  • In no time at all, everyone is seated and discussing the situation, wherein they learn that Morgan was once a warrior for a Celtic lord now overthrown and slain by Saecsen dogs. He and the men that have flocked to him have wandered, seeking refuge and a place of safety as they consider their next options. He is considering heading north soon, as the Picts are quiet at the moment.
  • Bradan offers a counter-offer: stay in the region and serve Caer Tarian. They can provide food which is sorely needed and can use strong arms in this chaotic time.
  • Morgan considers the offer, then asks his men about it. The decision is made: Morgan’s warband will remain and, for a time, serve Bradan. As long as the proverbial check clears, of course…
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1x03, Clash

Act I

  • 19 June 456.
  • The band has escorted Paulus to the royal villa of Chedworth where a convocation of priests has gathered to discuss the lack of an archbishop in this region.
  • Word reaches them that a great warband of Saecsens is on approach!
  • Acting as quickly as they can manage, the band assumes command of the warriors in the region but events outpace them and before they can adequately prepare the defenses, the Saecsens swarm over Chedworth, catching the Celts by surprise.
  • Bradan serves as the overall commander, but there are simply too many Saecsens, too few defenders, and the Celts are out of position. Pressed hard and overwhelmed, the defenders are ultimately forced to abandon Chedworth and retreat, leaving the villa to Saecsen pillagers who seem uninterested in further pursuit.
  • The band does not escape unscathed: only Heddwyn and Paulus are unwounded and Meadhbh is very badly injured.

Act II

  • Retreating from Chedworth, the survivors angle toward the king’s city, Corinium.
  • The presence of a large band of bloodied warriors on approach results in Corinium defenders, led by Artorius, to rush out to meet them. Upon identifying them, Artos sends one of his riders back to have his personal physician prepare for wounded. Marcus gives him a brief rundown of the Saecsen force before the prince leads his combrogi on to Chedworth with an intent to harass the attackers.
  • Upon arriving at Corinium, the band is escorted to Artos’ domus, which strikes the band more as a barracks than the home of a nobleman. Physicians stand ready to lend assistance and the band agree to spend all of the next day recovering.
  • Artos returns late in the evening, revealing that the Saecsens burned Chedworth to the ground and then retreated. He, Bradan and Marcus spend several hours discussing the battle and the Saecsen tactics.
  • The following day, Heddwyn spends many hours seeking out rumors and innuendo regarding the king, the Artos-Aurelianius camp, and public perception regarding Baron Caddell. At Angus’ suggestion, he also begins work on a propaganda campaign regarding the events of the Chedworth battle to ensure that there is no political blowback on Bradan regarding the defeat.
  • Paulus also begins researching Church law to formulate how to best craft the letter to Rome regarding the election of a new archbishop. He intends to have Brother Maius write the letter once they return to Caer Tarian.

Act III

  • The return trip to Caer Tarian takes three days, even though Meadhbh has borrowed a horse from Prince Artos.
  • Upon arrival, they are greeted by Lord Caddell.
  • Fourteen days elapse as the band recovers and attends their kingdom leadership duties.


    GM Notes: The Mass Combat at the beginning of the game did not play out as I expected. A critical failure on the initial Recon role ended up being catastrophically bad for the PCs. Their force spent the first round “Confused” (per the rules) which allowed the attacking Saecsens to use All Out Attack. We played out three rounds, during which time the PCs were suffering from the usual Fantasy Grounds II dice woes and had a resulting minimal affect on the Significant Actions portions of the battles. In the end, the decision to retreat was necessary as the PC force had already suffered 55% casualties.
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1x04, Actus Reus

Act I

  • 8 July 456
  • Yesterday morning, Baron Caddell rode out to Glevum to treat with his allies.
  • Bradan – horrifyingly, to him – dreamed of the ocean. He was looking down at a bay where he saw a pair of ships entering a natural harbor and simply knew that these ships carried with them death. Just as he was about to turn away, he realizes he is being watched by a big ass raven with blood-red eyes and that he’s standing in the aftermath of a battle, with corpses littering the ground around him. It was at this point he realized his shirt was soaked in blood. His blood. And the raven laughed at him. When he wakes, he is startled to discover his shirt is covered in blood but there are no wounds or injuries he can find.
  • Marcus – dreamed of being in a small boat on a rough sea. He is utterly alone and his entire body aches, like he is recovering from bad injuries. Behind him, he knows that he’s leaving something important behind but duty requires him to continue forward. When he glances down, he realizes his boat is flooded … with blood. His blood. And he simultaneously realizes he is gripping a broadsword whose blade almost looks like it is wrought of water! A terrible storm rises up around him. When he wakes, his entire body is wet, as if he’d been swimming or in the rain, and the water is salt water…
  • Meadhbh – dreams of rushing through an unfamiliar forest, her brothers at her side. They are hunting someone or something and all that matters is their prey. Faster and faster they run, until the trees are whipping by in a blur. They explode into a clearing and fall upon their prey. Without thinking, Meadhbh strikes first, tearing out the throat of her prey with her teeth … the taste of blood is sharp and bitter in her mouth but she needs more. This desperate desire to kill suddenly pierces through the muddiness of her thoughts and she realizes with horror that she is a beast on all fours! Their prey are people and she’s just killed one! Suddenly, as she battles confusion, one of the prey rears up – it’s Marcus! – and pins her to the ground with a spear. The pain is agonizing and startles her awake. She finds that her wounds (which were almost completely healed yesterday) seem to have broken open – how else to explain all of the blood? – but there are no actual open wounds. And she can taste blood in her mouth as well. She wakes with a scream.
  • Marcus, upon hearing his sister scream, rushes to her room, snatching up a spear. The sight of seeing her brother so armed causes a still not all there Meadhbh to panic even more. Marcus hesitates, confused, and notes that perched on her windowsill is a massive owl.
  • Heddwyn is meeting with his mentor, Iwan the Crow, who is passing word to druids that the Archdruid has passed and the order will be gathering on Samhain (31 October) to elect his replacement. Normally, they would go to Ynys Mon, but Irish pirates have effectively seized that island for their own so they are thinking of relocating. As a bard, Heddwyn’s presence is expected although he will be warned to avoid the Irish pirates who have mostly seized control of that island – they generally leave the druids alone, but not always.
  • The two druids are summoned to Meadhbh’s room where they hear about the dreams and see the aftermath. Both druids are surprised and Heddwyn correctly identifies that Bradan has had a second encounter with the Morrigan and Meadhbh has once more been touched by Flidais, but does not recognize Marcus’ visitation. Later, when he and Iwan are alone, his mentor wonders what is going on with the siblings, as Bradan has been touched by the Autumn Queen, Meadhbh by the Spring Lady, and it sounds as if Marcus dreamed of the immensely powerful sword, Fragarach, also called the Answerer (though why he would dream of stealing away with an Irish treasure does not make sense.)
  • Iwan grudgingly relates information about the ongoing Sidhe War and the faerie courts to his former student, revealing that this information is generally something that a druid is supposed to learn later in his career.
  • Aedan has finished crafting a sword specially commissioned by the baron himself. He is unaware that this sword as a terrible flaw in it…
  • Paulus’ aide, Maius, has completed writing the letter to Rome asking for the appointment of a new archbishop. Satisfied with this letter, Paulus has him begin making multiple copies so they can send them to Rome.
  • Angus gets word from his little birds that there have been numerous strange sightings of unknown individuals throughout the realm, usually at night. Quite frequently, there have been the sounds of battle but no one has ever actually seen these fights. Also, and this just sounds like nonsense to him. There has also been a radical increase in the number of birds in the region, particularly owls and ravens. People are actually getting a little creeped out over these numbers. He interprets this as the population restless and worried.

Act II

  • Word comes to Caer Tarian that a murder has taken place in Vertis! Acting quickly, Bradan commandeers a wagon for transport and the Band race off, Iwan accompanying them.
  • At Vertis, they learn that Father Cai, the village priest, is dead and Siobhan verch Odgar has been apprehended as the chief suspect. Bradan, Heddwyn and Iwan break off to interrogate their suspect while the rest head for the church to investigate the body and the surroundings.
  • Outside the now mostly derelict barracks where the suspect is being housed, a crowd has gathered, calling for Siobhan’s head. Her father, Odgar, bars them all from entry. Bradan gives a quick, impromptu speech, advising this would-be mob that justice will be done as he’s brought two druids with him before leading them into the barracks.
  • Siobhan pleads her innocence which both Bradan and Heddwyn believe, even though she has no real alibi. However, when she is asked whether she knows of anyone who might wish harm against the father, she visibly hesitates which immediately incenses the hotheaded Bradan who slaps her when he demands to know what she is hiding. Heddwyn, recognizing that Bradan is doing more damage than good with his aggressive questioning, slides in and diplomances so successfully that he convinces Siobhan to reveal that she had some suspicions about Father Cai and had observed the priest sneaking about. Convinced that she is telling the truth, the two depart, intent on rejoining the others.
  • At the church, the first thing noted is the weapon of choice: a tanner’s knife. Beyond that, however, very little is truly noted and the band quickly realize they are not sleuths or investigators in this fashion. Bishop Paulus takes the single acolyte aside and grills him, phrasing his line of inquiry as a much needed confession. From Brother Áedh, he learns that the late father was acting rather suspicious but offered no explanation for the priest’s behavior. For that matter, Áedh was too busy concealing his own secret – an affair with a village young woman – to pry into this.
  • Marcus exits the church with Echo and has the dog begin sniffing around for a trail to follow. Eventually, this leads him to the back of the church. He finds indications that there might be something on the roof and sends Echo to return with Meadhbh, but fails to accurately convey this message to the dog who seeks out Marcus’ sister but then opts to accept a belly rub instead of actually bringing her back.
  • Eventually, the entire band assembles at the church – Bradan and Heddwyn journey there while Marcus goes looking for his dog. They discuss findings, then head to the back of the church to investigate once more. Bradan attempts to scale the building, but instead falls on his back, so Meadhbh scrambles up. She finds some burnt rags that have a strange smell to them.
  • Following this smell, Echo leads them to the river where, once again, the trail goes cold, exactly like it did at the farm they discovered in 1×02. Back to the village they go where they quickly discover another crowd has gathered, this time convinced that ‘new evidence’ has been found that confirms Siobhan’s guilt. Heddwyn gives a quick speech that causes the crowd to disperse.
  • Angus utilizes his ‘little birds’ and spends several hours poking around into these events and uncovers circumstantial evidence pointing toward Aeronwen, the adopted daughter of Eus the Silent, the villager weaver. Upon hearing this, Bradan decides to visit the woman early the next morning…
  • However, that evening, a great armcry is raised. A fire has broken out in the village! The band rush to join the fire brigade and are only slightly surprised to discover it is the weaver’s home! Ignoring the danger, Bradan rushes into the burning building where he sees two bodies. Grabbing one – it is Eus, who is deeply unconscious after having been smote in the head – he narrowly escapes before the entire burning roof collapses. A woman’s body will be discovered in the burned ruins once the fire is put out.
  • Unconvinced that this body is Aeronwen, Angus searches and finds unusual tracks. He follows them and they vanish … in mid-step! Even Echo cannot find where they went to! Iwan departs after seeing this with a concerned expression on his face.
  • Later, after the hubbub has died down, Angus is contacted by Siobhan through his ‘little birds.’ Deciding to go ahead and meet her, he is surprised when she reveals that she’s figured out his secret, that he is Baron Caddell’s spymaster, not that blithering fool, Conn. To Angus and Angus alone she will admit that she did kill Father Cai but only because she learned he was an enemy agent who was responsible for helping the would-be assassins in 1×01 to escape. He learned that she was an agent of Caddell and tried to intimidate her but was unaware that she was no coward. She requests permission to adopt a new persona, one that will not drive away any suitors, but assures Angus that she will continue to act as his eyes in Vertis. Angus gives her permission to do so and they part ways…
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1x05, Níðstang

Act I

  • 4 August 456
  • Lord Caddell has been in an eager mood for weeks. He has vented to Bradan regarding the high king who he considers to be an abject fool. The nobles will no longer sit for Vortigern’s stupidity. They have placed their demands before Vortigern and he has grudgingly agreed to most of them. The might of Prydain is going to assemble and face off against the Saxons at a date very, very soon. It will be a negotiated settlement for the time being, until they can re-organize the warbands into a more cohesive force to push the Saxons back entirely.
  • Lord Caddell has kept both Bradan and Marcus so busy that the young men haven’t had much time to do anything but work. They’ve alternately ran messages back and forth between other barons in between drilling hard with Caer Tarian’s warriors. There is a strong sense that a big battle is coming. These two have had no time for any personal business.
  • In a moment of weakness, Caddell promised both of his sons that he would not leave them behind when the day of the big battle came. He has since regretted making this promise but will not renege on it. Naturally, this has evolved into allowing the other characters to come too.
  • Meadhbh is presumed to have been doing a lot of drilling with the warriors as well.
  • Many have been talking about how frequently Heddwyn has been seen with Siobhan verch Odgar of late. It seems innocent but with her reputation … well. He has also been present during the many meetings that Lord Caddell conducts with his allies and potential allies.
  • Aedan has been as busy as the two brothers, but almost entirely in the forge. Weapons have been forged, armor repaired, etc.
  • Bishop Paulus has alternated his time at Vertis in the church and Caer Tarian as Lord Caddell tends to have him and the druid, Heddwyn, present during his many meetings with his allies and would-be allies.
  • Angus has, in his capacity as spymaster, spent the last twenty-three days trying to track down Aeronwen since he does not believe she is actually dead. He has followed every unearthed lead to where they will abruptly disappear without a trace, which continues to baffle him.
  • War Duke Ambrosius Aurelianus arrives with Pwyll ap Math, lord of Salinae, and the band learn that Aurelianius is marching south, despite the time of year, with the king and all of his warbands to meet with the primary Saxon leader, Hengist, to negotiate a settlement. Ambrosius Aurelianius intends to demand the Saxons to withdraw back to Ceint which Vortigern already ceded to them seven seasons ago. He (Ambrosius) wants a major show of force here and will be heading to Glevum to assemble Niul One-Eye.
  • Caddell speaks with Heddwyn alone, asking him to draw his fortune and what the bard discovers is not good.
  • The following morning, Lord Caddell marches out with most of his warriors.

Act II

  • Lord Caddell’s warband hooks up with War Duke Ambrosius but not Artos. The duke reveals that he sent his son off to deal with some damned Irish raiders who have been causing merry hell in Gwynedd and giving Duke Cunedda Wledig fits. The way Ambrosius phrases this gives the impression that Artos did not want to go. He (Ambrosius) is actually surprised if PCs are present, knowing how much Caddell distrusts the Saecsens.
  • It takes 22 days total to reach Stonehenge, which will places the date as around 27 August.
  • Along the way, Caddell is drilling stuff into Bradan (and the Twins) regarding rulership and all that. Again and again, he stands out from the other leaders by insisting that the people are more important than the land.
  • He also chastises Bradan for his temper, reminding him that men will follow a man with a temper but will find it difficult to be loyal to him. In fact, he points out, look at this man, Morgan. He listens more to Marcus than Bradan because Marcus does not show him to the rough side of his tongue when things go poorly or not his way.
  • Marcus does not escape his lectures during the trip. He is chastised for looking down at habits of those he’s sworn to (his Q: detests ‘barbarians’ and ‘barbaric’ behavior.) Caddell also expresses his concern about Marcus’ continued dalliance with ‘Odgar’s girl.’ As the son of a baron, Marcus is expected to marry better and it is folly to toy with the girl’s affections in this way.
  • Meadhbh, being his only daughter, can do no wrong in Caddell’s mind.
  • Caddell spends much time discussing stuffs with Heddwyn and Paulus. By the time they reach the meeting site, both men are well aware that the baron has been evaluating alternate locations to relocate to should this battle go ill.
  • Bradan learns that Caddell is known as ‘the Fox’ for his slyness in battle. He has a reputation for cleverness and has been known to withdraw from a losing fight and tactically maneuver.
  • They arrive at Stonehenge at the head of a massive military force and discover an equivalent Saecsen force waiting.
  • Both forces effectively surround Stonehenge with the Saecsens on the south and the Celts on the north. The leaders (and only the leaders) advance, showing their weapons and leaving them behind (swords & spears thrust into the dirt) and meet at the almost table set up within the standing stones where they will discuss terms. The druids are monitoring this.
  • Caddell explicitly instructs Heddwyn to remain with the warband and to stand alongside Bradan. He (Caddell ) will admit to having a bad feeling about this and wants Heddwyn to stay close to his family to ‘sing them a victory like the druids of old should this play out ill.’
  • King Vortigern will initiate the greeting by providing tokens denoting the Celtic intention to resist if necessary but be willing to negotiate. The Saecsens acknowledge this and one of their number reveals their own token in the form of a long pole … with the severed head of a horse atop it!
  • Angus and Heddwyn immediately recognize a Nithing pole and realize that danger is imminent. But it is too late!
  • The Saecsen holding the pole bellows out something and slams said pole into the dirt. There is a massive eruption of light and sound that momentarily blind them! This does not stop Bradan from charging forward the moment he realizes his father is in danger.
  • The instant that the flare happens, the other Saecsen ‘leaders’ draw long knives from where they were secreted at their backs and pounce! At the same time, the Saecsen warbands roar and charge!
  • The band see many men fall immediately because they were blind – the war duke himself, Barons Atticus and Pwyll, Niul One-Eye – but Lord Caddell scrambles back toward his weapon. He seizes the sword that Aedan made for him and cuts down one Saecsen, then another but then, as he tries to parry a third attack. the sword fails him. The Saecsen in question is a big dude and his axe cleaves through the sword and into Caddell’s torso. It is very obviously a killing blow.
  • Mass combat ensues, but the warband immediately recognize they are in an untenable position. Bradan recovers his father’s body as Marcus seeks to hold the warband together, but the younger brother is badly injured in the fight as is Meadhbh. War horns sound, indicating Saecsen reinforcements, and Bradan, taking over for his badly wounded brother as warband commander, orders a retreat.

Act III

  • Retreating to Aquae Sulis, the warband bickers over their next actions. Bradan sends a runner – Coedwig – on to Corinium to report the defeat. They reach Aquae Sulis three days after the battle and spend a day licking their wounds. That evening, Coedwig returns and reveals that Corinium is already in full-scale riot, word of the Saecsen ‘treachery of long knives’ having beaten him to the king’s city.
  • After some consideration, Bradan decides they will march toward Corinium, believing that should it fall, it would be a mortal wound for Prydain as it is the king’s city. He sends Angus and Bishop Paulus ahead to prepare the way.
  • With the bishop conducting a public speaking psy-ops campaign to rally the terrified members of the city and Angus utilizing his ‘little birds’ network to spread this propaganda, the two manage to convince a considerable portion of the city’s lowborn to stand with ‘Lord’ Bradan against the Saecsen horde. By the time that Bradan’s battered warband reaches Corinium, this force is ready for a lengthy siege.
  • A week passes before the Saecsen vanguard arrives and this commander is nowhere near as capable as the man the warband has faced twice before. Hurling his men forward, this commander is utterly crushed and his warband routed.
  • Recognizing that they cannot hold this city against a competent commander and a larger, more effective military force, Bradan orders a full retreat. He passes word that any who wishes to accompany his band may as they intend to leave nothing behind that the Saecsens can use. This results in them leaving Corinium with more than 1,500 lowborn farmers, craftsmen, and tradesmen.
  • They pause only briefly at Glevum – the gates are closed – but do so just to pass word of the impending Saecsen attacks.
  • Some days later, they begin to encounter refugees and are horrified to discover that Caer Tarian and Vertis alike have been burned to the ground! Siobhan verch Odgar is among the refugees and she is shellshocked. She reveals that warriors came to Vertis and then, after destroying it, marched onto Caer Tarian. They looted and slaughtered and raped and murdered … Marcus is horrified to learn that Siobhan’s sister, Caitlin who he was courting, is dead. When asked about who was responsible for this, she replies: “It was not Saecsens nor Celt nor Scoti,” she says before looking at Marcus. “They were Romans. And they were looking for you.”


    GM’s Note: The Corinium siege/battle was unexpected on my part but GURPS: Mass Combat worked even if this Saecsen leader turned out to be an idiot. After losing half his force, I gave him a Bad Temper and Impulsiveness control check – he failed both – which resulted in him choosing All-Out Attack instead of withdrawing and starting a true siege. Surviving the latter would have been very difficult for the characters…

I also did not expect them to leave Corinium with so many people. It changed the next installment slightly (but in a good way!)

We also discovered that the Mass Combat Google Docs I was using was thoroughly screwed up. The PCs probably shouldn’t have lost quite as badly as they had the previous two mass combats.

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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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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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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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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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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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