Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Cart Track Upwards

Feb 2, 1651, late afternoon
Weather: with brisk temperatures and overcast conditions, with a moderate breeze

It takes the party two hours to journey six miles down from the hill whereat they spotted the sheep, into the currant fields shown on the map below.



Altogether the party has travelled about 12 miles today.  The currant fields, then the olive groves to the north of them, are spread over low hills which allow occasional glimpses of the sea to the west.  The land is, therefore, anything but flat.  Still, you can see the great last hill to the north (that part of the map that's a darker green, covering four hexes), separated by a small valley perhaps a quarter mile across.

It is at this point that, coming again into sight of this last hill (as you have occasionally several times already) that you see something you had not seen before.  It is low upon the hill, so obscured previously ... it is collection of people, perhaps four dozen, across the valley and at about the same level as yourselves.  These people are not together ... they are strung along a thin mountain track, barely the width of a cart, which the party can just see between rocks.  From your vantage point, they seem mostly to be women - evidenced by the loose, colorful clothing.  At this distance you cannot see features.

Moving along the track is a small, open cart without any sides or gate, but with a fence all around that rises up seven-eight feet.  It is being pulled up the hill by a burro.  There are two children, young teenagers, inside the fencing ... but unless someone has a pocket telescope, there's no more detail than that which the party can see.

You can't see where the track goes ... it disappears into a grove of twisted pines above where the women are located.

55 comments:

Lukas said...

But I do. Have a pocket telescope that is...

Let us pass it around and investigate further as we curious folks usually do.

Lukas uses his pocket telescope to investigate further.

Alexis Smolensk said...

You can pick out that the people along the road are definitely women, none of them very young; with them are a few old men, grandfathers almost certainly. The two in the cart are boys, 12 or 13 years of age. The cart is driven by two armored soldiers, you'd guess ring mail. They seem disinterested in the women.

The way the women are moving, there is some suggestion of lament.

Maximillian said...

Is the group of women moving, or just the cart?

(ooc, as I was making my oatmeal this morning, I added a handful of Zante currants and wondered about the relation)

Maximillian said...

Ah, I see now. How long would it take us to close with them, or, are there any people nearer to us that we could query?

Regardless, friends, it seems that we have been looking for people we could ask about the cave, and those are likely that sort of people. Let us move closer.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Just the cart is moving.

You could pick your way down into the valley in about ten-fifteen minutes, then back up to where the women are in another twenty.

Ahmet said...

(Busy busy today but I'll be on from time to time.)

Hm, no able-bodied men and the only ones close to it are prisoners. But only two soldiers?

Ahmet agrees that we should speak to them, though for decorum (and perhaps safety) we should initially address the soldiers.

Any indication they have noticed us? If so, what was the reaction of the soldiers? The women?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Oh, no, you're too far away and standing amid an olive grove across the small valley. They have no idea you exist.

Andrej said...

Agreed, let us proceed forward and hope we're not stumbling into trouble.

Alexis Smolensk said...

From that, I'll dare to presume Andrej starts down between the trees towards the bottom. The cart continues to toil its way upwards.

Ahmet said...

Ahmet overtakes Andrej as to lead the way.

Maximillian said...

I continue as well.

My current intention is to approach the soldiers, because I am curious.

Maximillian said...

Do they have recognizable livery?

Alexis Smolensk said...

This is not difficult. The way down is varied and disruptive terrain, making one's way over roots and around the trunks of trees and stones thrust up into the path.

As I said, the women are not clustered together, and are strung out along the pathway on the other side. Thus, the nearest ones are but a hundred feet above the valley, with others are many yards beyond that.

So as the party reaches the bottom, where there is a thin creek a few feet across, you see two women, sobbing, an old man in his seventies staring after the cart. None of them see you, though now of course you're but 20 combat hexes away.

(GCI: easy earshot is 12 hexes, shouting typically 18, 24 with the wind).

Alexis Smolensk said...

By the time the party gets into the valley, the soldiers and their cart are far above you and out of view. They were about halfway up the slope when you first saw them, and they've moved on these past 10 minutes.

You could not identify their livery, but yes, they were certainly wearing arming coats (the loose clothing worn over armor, like the cross-marked tunics of crusaders).

Andrej said...

Andrej, allowing Ahmet to lead the way, approaches the old man and the sobbing women.

Andrej said...

Sofia follows after, but hangs back in the party rear paying more attention to the environment than whatever human drama is unfolding.

Maximillian said...

Likewise, a couple of horse-lengths back from Andrej.

Alexis Smolensk said...

The old man will see Ahmet and Andrej ... and he will draw the attention of the other two women. "Kolina, Letha," he will say, a might exhuberantly. "Look! It's men ... and they're wearing armor."

It sounds as if the man is happy.

Andrej said...

Andrej gives Ahmet a sidelong glance and awaits the forthcoming plea for assistance. Sofia, ever the stoic, tries to appear as if she is ignoring the proceedings while she listens intently.

Ahmet said...

Ahmet scans about, looking for trouble.

Maximillian said...

I brush myself clean and pat the twigs and dust out of my horse's mane.

Maximillian said...

(I will leave my computer for an appointment in about 40 minutes Max will follow with Lukas.)

I move my horse Fodom up next to Ahmet's.
"Good fellow. We approached to ask directions and noticed all this fuss, (indicating the two women.) Why do these women cry?"

Lukas said...

Lukas of coarse comes out after the others. The obvious exception to the armor comment. However, he tries to remain impressive as he can.

On the ride before arrival he tries to comment to the others, "Ensure we find out exactly what is going on and what parties are involved before we commit to anything."

Alexis Smolensk said...

The man will come towards Ahmet.

"Are you here to kill it?"

Andrej said...

Andrej suspects the answer to this question will be "yes", but awaits his friend's lead and considers Lukas's most recent advice.

Sofia silently harrumphs. Always they assume the iron-clad men to be the most dangerous ones...

Ahmet said...

Ahmet grins widely.

Lukas said...

Intercepting the sudden enthusiasm Lukas moves forwards to interject before anyone forgets some previous advice.

"It's not the specific reason we are here. In fact we don't know what *it* is or why we should be so interested in killing it. Perhaps if you tell us exactly what is going on we might be interested."

Ahmet said...

(OOC: I'm going to be scarce today and tomorrow... don't hold things up waiting for me.)

Andrej said...

(OOC: Similarly, after this Friday I'll be away for a week with limited computer access. I will still commit to checking in at least daily, though, to keep things moving along)

Alexis Smolensk said...

The old man blinks at Lukas, stunned into shock (must be that darned intelligent mage speak). "I ... I don't know what it is," says the old man. "Only that ... well, now and then someone tries to go in and kill it."

One of the women comes forward. "The Prince sends boys to feed it, to keep it quiet. My own son was given three months ago."

Andrej said...

Andrej speaks to the women, but loud enough for all "Those boys sent up the cart track are being fed to it, then? It lives, I presume, in a cave that all other creatures avoid?"

Alexis Smolensk said...

"Yes, in the forest," says the old man. He pauses a long time before he says, "You didn't know about it?"

And the woman says, "Why are you dressed in armor?"

Maximillian said...

In a normal voice, I say "It's clear that these people don't know much about this cave. I suggest we speak to the Prince's men, perhaps they have actually seen *It.*

I move Fodom up towards the track a few paces, then pause and wait for Ahmet and Andrej to take the lead.

Maximillian said...

(ooc: I suggest we keep playing until it's time to make a decision, and then take a hiatus until we're all available, I wouldn't want to attempt a combat or make a decision with some of our players missing.)

Alexis Smolensk said...

The other woman will grab Maximillian's arm. "DON'T speak to the Prince's men," she says.

She looks quite frightened.

"Please don't," she will half-whisper.

Maximillian said...

Surprised, I look down at her. "Oh? And what would you have us do?" With a glance at the other two, "I think you should tell us everything you know, and quickly." Nodding towards the trees where the cart disappeared.

Andrej said...

Answering the old man, "No, we are strangers to this land and only out and about to stretch our legs and see what's what while our ship is repaired."

To the woman who begged us not to tell the prince he says more gently, "We are not the prince's men nor here to cause trouble."

To his comrades, "Let us go, and tarry no longer. I suspect any answers we care to hear are moving up the hill."

Back to the others, "Does this track lead directly to the cave? Do the cart and the prince's men go directly there or to some other place?"

Alexis Smolensk said...

The old woman seems unwilling to explain, so the old man answers Andrej's questions first, that the track does lead to the cave, and that the cart and the Prince's men are bound there.

Then the woman says to Maximillian,

"Once, people tried to complain. They demanded to know why. They argued with the soldiers, they demanded to know why, why our sons had to be given away. But if anyone dares ask anything now, the Prince only sends more men, and more boys.

"The last man who stood up to them was told to step back. Adras was no warrior, and he did ... and the soldiers - there were many soldiers then, dozens of them - killed Adras's wife, and daughter, and as many women as they could catch. They said it was the Prince's order. They said that if anyone spoke to them again, it would happen again. That is why no man is upon this hill now."

She stops.

"Please do not speak to them." Her eyes harden and her hands ball into fists. "Kill them," she hisses. "Kill them!"

Lukas said...

Once clear of these people, Lukas will be sure to speak to his companions...

"This is all very suspicious. I think we should keep in mind our ship is docked at what is likely the prince's dock as we proceed. The captain may be capable of dealing with hostile ports, but perhaps it would be best not to have to. Let's step lightly and not immediately assault unaware guards. That said, the process is very suspicious as well."

Maximillian said...

yes... I am more inclined to seek his favor than his wrath.

I'm not yet ready to rule out productive action up the path, however. Maybe we can go observe, and see what the reaction of the soldiers is?

Alexis Smolensk said...

(OOC: Conscience here.

LOL. Sometimes you guys are the most weakhearted lily-livered creatures ... I know I have my chicken sounds tape around here somewhere. Oh no, oh no, the prince, the prince will not like it, oh no!

Sincerely laughing here. Lots of laughing)

Andrej said...

Andrej listens to the sound advice of his companions as he climbs up the path, having begun that action as soon as the old man answered his questions.

Sofia clucks her tongue as she follows after her mentor.

Andrej said...

"I promise you, Lukas, not to be hasty. But feeding Christians to some beast..."

Andrej said...

Alexis, are we able to ride our horses up the track or only lead them? Andrej wishes to keep a brisk pace hoping to catch up to the cart, but will not heedlessly endanger himself or his companions.

Lukas said...

I think if a cart can make it shouldn't horses? That said, if I remember my travel tables our horses should overtake them at roughly equivalent travel speeds.

I am also not saying we SHOULDN'T engage, just that maybe we should see if we can get more story BEFORE we blindly assault them, and afterwards be ready to deal with the resulting consequences. If the story is true this means it shouldn't be TOO hard to incite a defensive fight.

Afterwards we should probably be prepared to have a friendly populace and an unfriendly occupational force. This could go either way depending on how numerous and in-control the prince's men really are.

Considering he's willing to be THAT retributive regarding minor interference, can we start considering the Prime Directive? I mean, we clear out 'it', prince gets REALLY angry, town becomes noteworthy rubble for some archeologist in the future.

That said, I say we find out what's going on, do the 'good thing' get as much reward as we can, before bailing as fast as we can before the prince knows about what happened.

Also let's not say where we are going after sailing away from here. Just in case.

Alexis Smolensk said...

The track is broken enough to ride your horses at some points, but at others, you will need to dismount to make your way safely.

The cart was pulled by a burro ... and while the track is wide enough, loose stones and such can be dangerous for horses where it wouldn't be a problem for burro and cart.

Lukas, you can't be certain the Prince was dealing with 'minor interference' ... there might have always hundreds and hundreds of able bodied men out there. You can't leap to the conclusion that it was necessarily minor.

Nor do you know the Prince's actual motivation; don't presume its a Hollywood one. You have no idea for certain that the Prince is a happy accomplice here, nor any reason to assume as much.

Not saying you're not right, just saying you're reading more into it than I've necessarily put there.

Andrej said...

I think we agree. Interfering in any manner could bring the Prince's wrath upon the people long after we're gone and the populace might not be too friendly knowing that should we interfere.

What is unclear is if the Prince grudgingly gives over these peasants or is paying the beast for services.

In any event, rather than prevent the boys being fed to the thing or assaulting the soldiers, my first inclination is to simply get ahead of the party and deal with the beast directly, should we all agree on that. They can feed the boys to Ahmet if the boys must be fed to something. ; ) Though, we should probably try to findout what *it* is first.

As for this Prince, does this island strike anybody else as being a bit small for one so-named? Zante was described as bustling and cosmopolitan, but I still imagined it a somewhat small trading port. This prince could be hundreds of miles away or some flunky.

Andrej said...

Also consider, those below mentioned others in armor coming to kill the thing. This may indicate both the Prince not necessarily being a happy accomplice and also that this thing is pretty fucking tough.

Maximillian said...

(Heh, Alexis, you expect us to trust you??? I don't trust you.)

If this even is a thing... We know nothing. Let us see what we find at the end of this track. If the soldiers mistake our interest for a threat, well... perhaps no one will know what happened in these pines.

Maximillian said...

If we had time, I would say we should go and consult the prince, or his agent, but we don't have time, and we can escape the prince's wrath if necessary.

Besides, Ahmet has been casting about for virgins in need of rescuing. Here we have some; if he didn't expect them to be boys... well I'll leave it to him to figure out what to do with them. (Nudge Nudge)

Lukas said...

Well, I mean there's a lot to this story. I have two conflicting thoughts... One is that this may be a straightforwards adventure since that's what we were going for and maybe Alexis rolled up something appropriate.

The other is that they haven't been feeding it sheep, which is something it apparently could eat since the sheep are afraid of it.

Maximillian said...

Whatever it is, we're just the fellows to kill it, if it can be killed. I just want to bask in the glory if we do.

Ahmet said...

(OOC: This just popped into my head:

"Follow. But! Follow only if ye be men of valor! For the entrance to this cave is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel, that no man yet has fought with it... and lived! BONES of full fifty men lie *strewn* about its lair! So! Brave knights! If you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth..."

Do we have a Holy Hand Grenade? :)

No? Ah well. Courage, boys! Let's do this!)

Andrej said...

(OOC: As I recall, it was more like "...BOINES of full fifty men lie struuuuuune aboot...") : )

Alexis Smolensk said...

The next post is up.