GURPS: Casus Belli

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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