Part 4: For the Queen

A great Harn campaign with the esteemed Patrick Nilsson, AKA "The Dongmaster" as GM.

Part 4: For the Queen

Postby Matt » Thu May 05, 2016 11:16 am

KNEEL TO LIVE AND LIVE TO KNEEL ...

Erol's ears were getting sore. He had sat with a fake smile on his lips before the queen almost an hour now listening to her squabbling about things he could care less about. Yet she was the queen and his own aunt, and paying her disrespect by yawning would only make him an outcast in her eyes. Erila was not popular with her clan but unlike his cousin, Erol liked her because she was much like him, a character of her own. She did not care what the Lenesque clan thought of her, after all she was the queen, and if anyone had a problem with that they would find out what it meant to pay her disrespect. The only one who openly showed his displeasure of her was the Earl himself. It was known that the two had lost the fondness for each other where there once might have been. To Erol that meant little since from what he had heard, the king enjoyed seeing Earl Revi squirm whenever she was present during their meetings, and because of this King Chafin III always made sure she was. The thought made Erol chuckle. Bad move. Although her chamber was huge, it seemed awfully small as she approached him.

"You find this funny Erol?" The queen's sour demeanor spoke that she did not agree. Whatever she had said he missed it and by the looks of her disapproving frown it was about more than embroidery. "You find it funny that one of my loyal guards has raped my favorite maid? And that she has thrown herself down the castle walls to the cliffs below where the culprit has escaped his punishment?" Sweet lost balls of Djekesis, he had to think fast. "No your highness not at all... I was merely thinking of what to do with him once I catch him." What had he just said? "Think Erol, think before you reply!" His thoughts were shattered by the bright voice of the queen. "By Agrik's fiery flames Erol, you always seems to surprise me." Her laughter echoed in her lavish chamber waking the two slumbering guards standing behind the herald. "I gladly accept your help in these troubled times." She stretched forth her hand and Erol kissed her many rings as an appreciation of doing her service. Within his belly he was all queasy. It was one thing to listen to her gossip but another penny to catch a veteran royal guardsman. A man who probably was as good of a fighter as Erol was an ass kisser. This was bad.

"He does not have to live when you return. I just want to see justice done and the kingdom know that you do not put your foot in the queen's business without paying a hefty toll. Agreed?" Erol swallowed hard and nodded. He was too lost for words. "Good. Now since you have volunteered to do me this favor Erol, I will make sure that all the malicious rumors of your character disappears from the halls of this castle all the way down to the Sanguine Saltire. That should be enough payment. You must not waste any time..." The queen called for her captain who described the rapist to Erol while she cuddled with the infant prince. When Erol had gotten all the information he needed, he kissed young Puril on the forehead, and with a deep bow left the queen and the castle. It was time to find his three companions. This time he would have to trick them to follow him and not the other way around. With large steps he strode towards the Smoking Meken Inn where he knew they were staying during this warm summer day. He arrived seeing the three Lia- Kavair sitting on a bench outside. With his usual ways of manipulation he stretched his back and added the best smile he had...

MEAD IN THE DEAD OF SUMMER ...

Summer was hot in Golotha and more than the occasional sunstroke drove people mad. Seagulls fought upon the docks for the fishermen's' scrap and so did the poorest of the urban population. Too many had died because of the heat and there was not enough food to fill the bellies of all. The folks in Golotha was on the verge of revolting. Unfortunately for these poor wretched souls, the city was brimmed with mercenaries and other swords of fortune, and the council had hired a few while the rest of them was in the service of the sheriff across the river. It seemed as if the king had finally decided to move against the rebel Earl. Golotha was in a state of hard unease which could erupt anywhere. It was bad tidings and the Lia-Kavair had been quiet awaiting the coming storm. In the mist of this poverty, squalor and signs of violence, three hoodlums sat drinking heavy mead on a bench outside the Smoking Meken Inn in the Trevorman area. A place they haunted during the summer periods. The drink was good and the locals quiet except for Thorfinn's Marines whom where fortunately all out on the rivers doing what they did best. The three Lia-Kavair members was celebrating a mugging of a stupid newcomer who had accidentally strode into Sewer Town and fled empty handed with a severe bruise on his skull.

"I tell ya... There is nothing like cool mead in the summer and a fresh skull to crack." Sike rubbed his still aching shoulder where an bolt had trashed deep a few months earlier. "In any case it seems that ever since the guildmaster got that cat he and I have become closer than ever. Greedy bastard! He he... I am back in business because of this with some good ol' racketeering up my sleeve. Just yesterday morning I 'accidentally' busted the nose on the keeper of The Rusty Knife without Jarop intervening." His big smile spoke of his regained purchased earlier. "Well Sike thank me for still being alive. Jarop wanted you dead but I persuaded him not to. So in a way you owe me." He smiled ruefully as the giant replied. "Can you blame him? I have been acting like a total ass the past months and even my father is perplexed that I still live." Outside the walls of the inn a dozen poor urchins played with sticks and stones. Sike frowned evilly and threw them a penny. The commotion that followed was filled with broken teeth, nose bleed, and screams mingled with cries from the weaker of the bunch. A lad with a large stick, now bloody, bit on the coin, bowed to the three Lia-Kavair and ran off with his two hang-arounds. The rest limped away sobbingly. Sike roared with laughter and his two friends chuckled.

"There is a future thug for ya lads." He eyed his two smiling friends. Jeremiz who had been enjoying his ale stuck in. "Well mayhaps Sike, mayhaps. You are indeed lucky to be alive if you ask me but I for one is happy that you are. Life would be too easy if you had died and left for heaven, where ever yours is." He raised his tankard and the three slammed theirs together. Jeremiz smile was lost as he looked towards the city. Someone with long blonde hair and fancy clothes were moving towards them in a quick pace. "Look what comes striding over there. Our well-known herald swine of a companion. It seems that he wants something by the looks of his wide smile. This could get interesting." Slakka and Sike also knew that when Evil Erol looked all happy and friendly, he wanted something. Normally they wouldn't care much about his personal megalomaniac plans but since all three knew he had been at the castle summoned to the feet of the queen, his aunt, there might be money involved. And shiny coins was their only love. Whatever the herald wanted they would make sure he would pay them and if lucky, they might get rich on the deal. If not at least a bit of adventure wouldn't hurt...

A NIGHT OF DRUNKEN STUPOR BRINGS DISASTER ...

The rapist soldier who assaulted the queen's favorite chambermaid is named Jelke and was a sergeant of the Companions of the Golden Stag. For months he had been lusting after the young maid Ania and although he had kept his distance, his loins and heart burned with a desire that would soon get the upper hand. During a rainy evening of drunkenness he stumbled upon her while climbing the stairs of the southeast tower. He was to check on his younger brother who was stationed as a sentry on the roof. Unable to refrain himself he dragged her onto the roof keeping her screams muffled with his huge hands. Up there he ordered his younger brother to keep guard while he eased the tension between his legs. When he came to his senses, and the maid had fled down the stairs, he realized the error of his move. Luckily for him the maid had fled to the basement and hid behind a few barrels. This saved Jelke's life.

Dragging his brother with him, Jelke fled Golotha and it was only late in the evening that the queen found out about the sergeant's deed when her cellarer found a note written by Ania describing what had happened. Her body was washed up the next morning mutilated by a long fall towards the cliff at the base of the castle. She had thrown herself out from the cliffs taking her own life. The queen was infuriated and sent three of her knights to find Jelke but the sergeant was too quick and had passed the border before they could catch him. Queen Erila was very fond of her maid and has put spies on Jelke's family in Shostim should he foolishly return. She wants the sergeant dead and his brother with him if possible. Mostly because her pride has been stained but also because she wants to statue an example. Unfortunately for Evil Erol he wasn't paying attention when he volunteered to catch Jelke...

Sidebar:
Jelke:
Mace 105
Shortsword 95
Dagger 90
Kiteshield 110
Initiative 95
Armour Enc 25
Attributes Average 15
Endurance 17
Armour superior cloth tunic sleeved, standard sleeved scale long hauberk and cowl, plate helmet, superior leather gloves, superior leather leggings, knee boots

Brigands:
Handaxe 75
Club 80
Dagger 65
Shortbow 60
Initiative 65
Armour Enc 15
Attributes Average 12
Endurance 13
Armour quilt, leather, cloth

All weapon MLs include the weapon A/D...


A HUNTING OF A DANGEROUS MIND ...

Jelke fled south with his younger brother Talber, also a member of the guard, and they were last seen passing the border to Kanday. Jelke is tall, broad, and an expert soldier and his brother is much like his sibling dark, with a thick mustache and long rethemi hair. They fled with most of their belongings, armour and weapons. Jelke is known for his busted nose and big hands which will be a vital clue to finding him. The sergeant knows he is hunted and plans to disappear in Coranan. Unfortunately for him and his brother they were assaulted by brigands leaving Heroth. While they killed five of the lot, including the leader, his brother was not so lucky and when he fell with an arrow in his chest, Jelke lost concentration and was for a moment corned unable to save his downed brother. To make matters worse a handful of Earl Cassean's knights emerged on the road and set upon the brigands.

Fearing for his own life Jelke bolted into the heavy growth and disappeared before the knights could capture him. In the process another three brigands fell to the lances of the mounted nobles. The hunted soldier hid for a day before daring to emerge out on the roads again. Bad luck struck a second time. Jelke met with the same brigands again and if it hadn't been for his quick thinking and experience as a commander of a royal force, he would have been shot down on sight. Instead the sergeant offered the brigands to become their leader "or else I will crush the skull of every last one of ya..." The bluff succeeded and the band took him to their camp. There he told them who he was and that he was running from the law (but he left out the rape and queen part), making up stories about his past. The brigands awed by his skills in arms and combat experience agreed to let him lead them. Although Jelke decided this was just a plot to escape the brigands' wrath for the moment, he was much intrigued when he heard they all obeyed someone called simply "The Master".

The Master is named Dirak Bougary and is the Master of Cellar (hence the name) in the service of the earl. Dirak is a bastard of noble blood who was never acknowledged by his father, a mercenary knight now living in Kaldor, but the earl took him into his comfort and gave him a home. Always a dishonest and bitter man, Dirak repaid the earl by contacting a few of the brigands in the area, using loyal servants to him as spies in the household, and maintaining a net of informants in the village. So far he had been running a successful brigand operation for over three years now using all his contacts for information gathering, and warning his men in the woods when the earl and/or the sheriff/bailiff is about to strike. To make it harder to detect his operation, a few of his informants sometimes leaks information to the guards about rival brigand bands, which has later been captured.

Dirak uses his favorite servant Uthis to contact the brigands. Feigning bad stamina, Uthis is often visiting the local apothecary Merdan for remedies to his ailments. It is through this man that the brigands get their warnings and information about travelers and where they are heading. The apothecary takes the information from Uthis to the brigands by "looking for herbs". Uthis is the only one who knows who the master is and although both Jelke (who followed Merdan after their first meeting) and the apothecary knows that Uthis is from the castle, they do not know who his master is. Dirak gets half of what the brigands take (or as much as they can trick him in believing is half) and in turn they are able to stay well aware of the local law and maintain a decent livelihood in the forest. Jelke is impressed how this organization is run and has decided to stay on and see how filled his purse may get. Dirak on the other hand has heard of the new leader of the band and is quite intrigued by him.

THE ROAD TO THE FOREST OF HELL ...

Finding Jelke will be a hard nut to crack. The first thing is to find out where he has gone and if the PCs spend enough silver on old Corani road east they will eventually find out that two men fitting the description came to Heroth a few days before the PCs arrive. The journey to Heroth should go smoothly except for some unpleasant encounters at the border (both the Roving Doom and the Checkered Shields are quite interrogating if need be...). If the PCs travels in disguise and take it slow, then they should be in no real danger. However it is advised that as soon as they reach the deep forests around Heroth things are not all what they may seem. The air is thicker and the light weaker because of the thick growth. Not that there is anything unnatural about it, but that may not be apparent to the PCs who lives in a medieval fantasy world. There should be signs of old battles, broken arrows, and maybe a rotting wagon here and there. Of course at night there should be eerie sounds as well (and the occasional wolf howling...).

Well in Heroth the PCs should thread lightly. The area is not know known for its leniency to other religions than Peoni and Larani and it would be unwise to claim worship of any other god. If the PCs snoop around they will find out that both Jelke and Talber stayed at The Crossroads a few days back. They will also find out that the younger of the two had been injured and that he is at the castle awaiting trial by the Larani Church of being an Agrikan. He was captured on the eastern roads heading for Coranan after being engaged in combat with a few local brigands. The people of Heroth does not know what happened to the other one. Unlike his brother, Talber forgot to throw away his Agrikan medallion and when he was downed by the brigands and the knights had taken him to the castle, the chaplain found it around his neck while the servants were undressing him. Jelke knows his brother's fate is sealed and do not want to rid himself by asking "The Master" for help. He has prayed to Agrik to help Talber to a quick death and left his brother to endure Larani justice. When the PCs arrive, Talbar will burn on the next mass and the inhabitants of Heroth are talking about it loudly in the taverns.

GETTING MEDIEVAL ON THEIR ASS ...

To find out what happened to Jelke they will have to do a little detective snooping in the village. One way is to travel to the border post near Tharda and talk to the guards there, another will be to search for people who are able to enter the woods without getting their heads chopped off, but the best way is probably to listen to rumors circulating during the fairs and inns of the settlement. If the PCs are careful and make effort to gather the information they want these following rumors are clues to most things happening in the area:

    • The two brothers were planning to travel to Coranan according to the innkeeper who overheard them talking about "best head east because we will be able to loose potential followers in the city..."
    • Most of the victims of the brigands the past years have been both wealthy as can be and not particularly armed. A few poor loners have passed through Heroth several times without even as much seeing a brigand.
    • The timberwrights are able to move in the woods without being attacked because of their share numbers and weapons they bring along. Just last week they chased away a few brigands who came too close to their camp.
    • One pilgrim who visited over two months ago overheard two of the brigands, one of them the leader, talking after his party had been ambushed and gagged, that the gold and the finest jewelry was for the "master".
    • The local apothecary was injured last year by an arrow shot at him by a brigand when he was scouring the woods for herbs. The apothecary was luckily able to escape, recover and has been able to return to the woods without encountering any more brigands.
    • The earl, the sheriff and the local bailiff are all deep into their pockets digging up silver to pay the many foresters who patrol the outskirts of the settlements. A vile rumor suggests that these men are more interested in sampling the ales at the inns than catching brigands.

If the PCs are too open about their questioning, or visit the apothecary asking questions (he will deny all and just pretend that he is lucky: "I must make a living and my living is in the woods...") things may go in the wrong direction. Merdan will contact the brigands (either by his own hands of by order from Uthis) about the newcomers snooping about and they in turn, led by Jelke, will set up an ambush for the PCs with the idea to kill them all and bury their corpses far into the woods. If that is to happen they will use one of their own, a man named Uder who will pretend he is a forester from the sheriff (he has a tunic with the sheriff's heraldic device) and try to lure them out into the forest. He will be friendly and tell them that the lords in the area can use every man they can get a hold of to catch brigands. If the PCs swallow the bait there will be about a dozen brigands waiting for them...

If the PCs contact the local bailiff he will tell them that he does not know of anyone named Uder and that all the foresters in the area is in his household at the moment resting and getting their equipment repaired. The PCs can from there capture Uder and if they add some pain to his body, and he will confess who he is, what they do, and where they can be found (but he will not mention the guard post at the brigand camp or the connection with Merdan or the master but he will give away Jelke). If the PCs follow the apothecary without being detected they will see him leave a small token in the form of a pouch in a hole of a large oak tree about a league south west of the nearest settlement. It is a message to the brigands that the apothecary wants to talk to them. If the PCs wait at the scene seven brigands led by Uder will emerge and search the hole for any signs.

THE HOLE IN THE OLD OAK ...

The content of the pouch will vary depending on the situation. If there is a several victims) in Heroth that can be robbed. If there is a yellow one that means that there are foresters patrolling the woods and that the brigands should be wary. The last token is a red painted stone which tells the brigands that they are in danger. The color Merdan puts in the hole depends on whether the PCs has questioned him (a red) or whether there is a new victim in the village (a blue). Should the PCs capture Merdan in the woods and torture him he will confess that he is the eyes of the brigands in Heroth, and that he takes his orders from someone in the castle named "The Master". He will also tell them about the new leader of the band named Jelke, about the servant Uthis and what the stones means. From here the PCs should have a better chance of getting a hold of Jelke.

It would be unwise to attack the brigands and Jelke as they are located in the woods. This is their natural habitant and they are all quite skilled with both weapons and woodland lore. Besides their numbers are seventeen and against four PCs they will be more than a match. The best way of dealing with the brigands and seal the death of Jelke will be to set up a trap for Uder and Uthis using Merdan as bait. Then prove to the lords castle or the bailiff that they have a traitor right under their nose. Although hard to get in touch with, the lords of Heroth are more than interested in hearing what the PCs have found out if they can back it up with evidence. The Master will get caught as will the brigands if all goes smoothly. Planning and doing away with this themselves will probably spell the death of the PCs since the brigands are not small potatoes. If they do use the lords of the castle, manage to set up a trap, and the soldiers and foresters successfully assault the brigand camp, Jelke will be captured and hanged about a week later after suffering some heavy torture together with the rest of the people involved (Merda, Uthis, and Dirak). The other brigands will either be killed on spot or hanged in the woods.

The PCs will be silently rewarded by the Earl's son (the earl himself is in Dyrisa) who wants to make sure that it was the Cassean clan who captured the elusive brigand band that worshipped "the vile demon Agrik". They will be rewarded rather handsomely with a pound of silver coins each unless they decide not hang around in a Laranian settlement for too long. It is advised that Evil Erol use a different clan name and don't tell anyone in the castle or anyone else in Kanday who he is what he wants with Jelke. Once the sergeant has been hanged the party can return quietly to Golotha once again where Erol can deliver the news to the queen...

CAMPAIGN ADDS ...

Time: Agrazhar 21st Golotha
Days: 21st Agrazhar - 22nd Azura (31 in total)
Characters: Slakka, Jeremiz, Erol, and Sike
Players: Dan, Jonny, Lars, and Darius
Date: Saturday 6th March 2004
Length: 16:30 - 02:00

Notes: Sigh... PCs... The most incompetent people in the whole world and they are not even to blame for their stupidity (the players are). They were able to get to Heroth in one piece and although their interrogation and snooping around got them all the info they needed, they didn't hook on any of the baits.

Not even when they noticed that they were being followed by someone (Uthis) they acted. Instead the PCs focused on the Timberwrights hiring them to be their guides in the woods searching for the brigand camp and Jelke. Now as all know that is like looking for a needle in a haystack and it got them nowhere. That bored them utterly and Erol decided to play the games he is best at; being a herald.

Normally that may sound like a great idea except that fact that Erol does not know about the secret negotiations between his cousin the Earl of Techen and the Earl of Heroth. So when he strides up to the castle as Erol Lenesque he is immediately escorted to the heir apparent who is more than stunned to see the Lenesque clan being so overly open about their comings and goings. When he finds out that Erol does not know about the secret negotiations he threatens the herald (after Erol tells him his business with the sergeant) to find the brigands. Or else he will tell Earl Lenesque about his clumsy and gossiping herald. Fearing his cousin more than the Casseans, Erol is unhappily forced to agree. None of the other PCs ever finds out about this "deal" but Erol becomes even more desperate to find the rapist.

More stuck than ever the PCs take Uder's bait. They accompany the "forester" south to meet up with a handful other foresters who are about to check out "strange smokes from camp fires a day into the woods". There they are ambushed by the brigands and Jelke. Slakka seeing his good weapon skills going to waste against impossible odds, runs for his life with Jeremiz quick on his heels. In spite being seriously wounded in the leg the thief barely escapes with the assassin. Sike on the other hand lacking the skills of his fast paced friends decides to make a last stand. Killing three men with his axe, two arrows and the mace of Jelke ends his life. Erol on the other hand is captured while being seriously mauled below his hip by four brigands. Dirak found out who the herald was that visited the heir of the earldom and sat a price on his head that he wanted Erol alive.

Erol is held captive for almost two weeks before being dragged through the woods near the other side of River Thard. There the brigands release him into the clutches of the Earl of Techen's men. Erol's cousin has paid for his release spending some fifty pounds. Dragged before Earl Revi Erol is forced to tell him what happened. The earl seeming slightly amuzed by the events order the herald to pay him back the money by the end of Morgat 721Tr. Seeing little chance of being able to pay back the money, Erol leaves for Golotha with his shame, heavy debt, and weary heart of what to tell the queen.When he arrives he finds out that the two "cowards" Slakka and Jeremiz has returned safely long ago...
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Matt
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