Monday, January 27, 2014

A Meeting On the Edge of the Forest

Wednesday, May 2, 1651, mid-morning.
With overcast skies and pleasant temperatures, a light breeze and a prevailing wind.
Last Quarter

The party begins making their way back up the valley towards the Anti-Tarsus mountains, up and over the pass into the plateau of Sebaste once again. They travel through the arid grasslands there until they find themselves once again among the plantations south and north of Sebaste ... only now, the trees have exploded in white, pink, red and orange blooms, so that there are flowers everywhere. The fragrance is overwhelming, and the vision of the landscape spectacular - even Ahmet, who has seen this many times in his life, cannot help feeling his heart softened.

On the second night after Melitene, Sevim woke up screaming in the night. Mist was able to hold her down and steady her, with a bit of water and wiping her brow ... but it has happened four times in the 13 days that have passed since the journey back to the Black Sea began. On one occasion, Mist was struck unconscious by one of Sevim's flailing fists, and I'll just say that it took Andrej issuing a command spell to stop her from hurting herself inside the vardo. It has now, however, been three days since an incident - the last therefore being Sunday. It seems to be no more than horrific dreams, where she is either begging for her life or denying that she's done something.

She has yet to say a word. She will do nothing except fall and bow when Ahmet is in sight, and in order to make her eat she has to be physically dragged away by Mist and Hichem, or Ahmet asked to step out of sight for a time. The woman is completely unable to do anything for herself, but it is clear that Mist is developing some maternal feelings towards Sevim.

The weather very quickly turns warmer after the 20th of April. It is as though the sun were unleashed, for the clouds clear, it rains only lightly now and then, and the weather improves so that it is no worse than cool at night, while during the day it is either pleasant or even warm. The party finds themselves stripping off their coats, rolling up their sleeves, even sweating now and then along the journey when for a time they must do some hard work.

I don't know if Andrej's create food is still supplying all that's needed for the extra two people (but then, Mareo is gone). He'll have to let me go.

On the morning of the 2nd, the party will meet two half-orcs as they move into the hilly forest lands north of Sebaste, where they reckon they're six or seven days from Amisos. The first will be enormous, about 6'2", weighing about 290 lbs. of hard muscle, about 40 years of age; the other will be slightly smaller, and only 20. The youth is about 5'11" and only 200 lbs. They are unusually tall and hefty for half-orcs, and Andrej guesses they might be of a newer generation, almost certainly from more eastern stock than Cumana.

They look pretty worn. They're both in armor, the elder in scale with shield, the younger fellow in ring mail; both are bearing maces and short swords on their belts, with back-packs and rope, grapples, heavy boots and tough woolen cloaks, hoods thrown off their heads. The cloaks are torn, and show signs of blood; they've both been lately wounded, the elder with a gash on his forehead that looks only a day or two old, the youth with his nose broken and bruised, and a wide patch of blood greasing the cloak on one of his shoulders. They haven't washed in perhaps two or three weeks.

The elder approaches a few steps ahead of the other and says, "Travellers, harken a moment."

The younger squawks, "Look, Papa - the half-orc's a Catholic priest."

"Yes, I see that son, shut up."

81 comments:

Lukas said...

Well that's a friendlier greeting than expected. I think I shall be inclined to take a moment to talk to these fine upstanding gentlemen.

Maximillian Boii said...

I'll contribute my Herbal Euphoric if it helps with Sevim, perhaps a very low dose to help calm her when she's haunted the most.

To the orcs, I say: "Good Morning. What news, strangers?"

Ahmet said...

Ahmet, noting their recent injuries, looks about for any sign of impending trouble from elsewhere.

Andrej said...

Andrej stops his mount and listens to what the travelers have to say, content to let Max do the talking.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Yes, Maximillian ... I think it very much would. I think perhaps we could say you were struggling with the right combination, and that you seem to have her night-terrors under control, that there's no expectation that she's going to take to them again.

Alexis Smolensk said...

The elder says to Maximillian, "Just looking for a bit of food, friend," he says. "We've been in the wild a while now, we've not eaten good food in two days and we're not likely to get back to town. Only found the road by chance just after our breakfast today - you're the first heeled travellers we've seen."

Ahmet said...

"What did you have for breakfast?" Ahmet asks mildly. "It appears it fought back."

Maximillian Boii said...

I hear you; our provisions are harsh as well, it having been some time since we left Melitene, but I think perhaps we could spare something.

I dismount and gesture towards the side of the vardo, where there are tied the sacks of beets and onions. Tell me, how did you get that gash 'pon your head? It seems you're somewhat the worse for wear.

Alexis Smolensk said...

"Green nuts and some pork that's passed on," says the Elder. "As to fighting back, it was us that did the backfighting. We've got a bit of a tangle with some beasts back some fifteen miles through the brush, up where the spruce climbs a mountain called Nike's Tail. We'll be gettin' back to it if you could spare three or four days provisions."

To Maximillian he'll add,"We've given better than we've gotten."

"Aye," pipes the younger.

"--and as for this gash, well, it blinded me for a bit at the time, but I've forgotten all about it since yesterday morning."

Ahmet said...

"What are these beasts, and why are you fighting them?"

Maximillian Boii said...

While they answer Ahmet's question, I move to the side of the vardo, tying my horse to the rear of it.

I open a sack and beckon them to approach, asking "have you got a pan?" while holding out some beets.

While I'm being completely affable, I do pay close attention to the manner of their approach.

Alexis Smolensk said...

"A nest of 'taurs," he says to Ahmet. "They've infested all these mountains, since before Darius conquered these lands. And as to why - why because they're ripe for the taking, that's why."

The Younger adds, "Yes, yes, we've got a pan. Beets are fine, they are, we can make stew with them."

Maximillian Boii said...

"Good, then I can give you a bit of flour as well, if you've a pouch to put it in."

I hand them 3 lbs of beets, and then 3 lbs of onions.

Alexis Smolensk said...

"We appreciate your generosity," says the Elder, "but this is but one day's food, and not that which we would fight 'taurs upon. We are grateful, and we will accept this, but we would wish meat and more, good sir."

Ahmet said...

(OOC: Does Ahmet know anything about these 'taurs -- Centaurs, presumably?)

Maximillian Boii said...

Well, have you a pouch or haven't you?

I suppose I could spare some more beets, and some ground nuts for breakfast, but unless one of them has some nodding my head, I've not enough meat to last us even to Amisos.

(as an aside, by this time I've handed them more round objects than they can hold in their hands, and no sack to put them in.)

Maximillian Boii said...

err, I missed some punctuation. I meant to indicate the others with a nod of the head.

Lukas said...

Let's get an answer on Andrej's food supply as far as feeding all the people go and we can assess what are needs are for the future.

As it stands we could possibly be able to feed all of us and then some for a long time on our 'spare' supplies.

Maximillian Boii said...

(yes, but we don't necessarily need to tell them that, and as it stands I feel I've fulfilled my obligation as a fellow traveler.)

Lukas said...

Well they wont know, I think we would know how much of us eat his food every day.

Andrej said...

Andrej creates 50 lbs. of food per day, enough to feed 12 people when we fight or labor. I thought I had offered to feed the troupe once we set out apart from Detweiller and his men. Sorry if I'm mistaken or was unclear.

Andrej recommends that we take a rest and casts his create food and water for the day, inviting the two men to sit and eat with us. I had always assumed the spell produced prepared food, but notice now the spell description is not specific. In the event it does, Andrej tries some roasted lamb and chicken with roasted vegetables and flat bread and hot tea. I have enough bowls and cups to accomodate quite a lot of food. He also tries creating a bit of the kimshi Yazigi shared with us on the road to Melitene.

He casts the 50 lb limit and the party will take what we need for the day and the two travellers may have the rest, once we have shared a meal together that is.

"Minotaur's?"

Andrej said...

And yogurt and dates and pistachios, too. Farooq likes the dates and pistachios.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I just had lost track of how much it was vs. how many people are presently here. No problem, I'd assumed you were making the food every day. We can assume it is produced ready to eat, if a little dull in flavour compared to traditionally made food. The two men will tuck in.

Their names are the same: They are both called Untern. As it happens, both are Catholic, having been raised in a small enclave on the coast of the Caspian north of a city called Derbent. The name vaguely touches on Andrej's memory as an important city, but there's no more than that to tell. Untern the Elder does most of the talking.

He corrects Ahmet by explaining he meant 'minotaurs,' not centaurs. They call them Cents where he comes from, but there's not so many around home any more. The 'slims, or Muslims, don't like them. Those he's known were mostly Safavids. "These Otts ain't so bad," he says. "They's more hospitable, less interested in what a man does."

According to him, they had the Minotaurs on their heels, but two of their party, a good fella with the spells called Zeno, and a young fellow called Staster, got 'kilt' and they had to give up the fight. "We got most of them," says the Elder. "We figure, we heal up, we'll get the rest and sort things out between the boy and myself." He points as his son Untern.

Alexis Smolensk said...

(no problem with creating anything that Andrej has tasted; the kimchi, for instance, doesn't come out as good, but it is a near estimation)

Andrej said...

(OOC: Thanks Alexis, I had been meaning to ask but since it hadn't really come up as important in play I let it pass. I imagine a future Andrej presiding over his mission where the daily tradition is all retainers, guests, etc... breaking fast together upon food Andrej has produced.)

Andrej is pleased to hear these two are Catholic, and ensures they eahc get their fill by offring second and third portions.

"How many of these minotaurs remain, do you figure?" he looks briefly at Mist and Sevim if the two are present and the vardo if they are not, then looks meaningfully at each of his companions. Perhaps they notice a brief but recognizable glimmer in his eye as his right hand absent-mindedly rubs the pommel of his mace.

Ahmet said...

Before the food is introduced, Ahmet sneaks away to the Vardo, instructing Mistassa to remain inside, and not to let Sevim out either. "We have company," he hisses, "and we are not convinced of their good intentions."

However, during the meal he gradually relaxes, as the two half-orcs seem likable enough, and by all indications warriors worthy of respect.

Before Andrej gives away all the food, he fills two bowls and brings it to the Vardo. "All is well," he mutters, "but remain inside."

Lukas said...

Lukas will ask after their plans after the Minotaurs, is this a job they are doing? and where they 'live' if they live anywhere.

Lukas said...

I'm definitely interested in minotaurs, but I'm more interested in if these two are free agents at all interested in our destination...

Alexis Smolensk said...

"We're farmers!" says the Younger, and laughs. The Elder laughs too, and claps his son on the shoulder. "That's m'boy," he says. "Aye. Farmers. Farmin' the underlands and bringing back home all we yield."

To Andrej he'll say, "Can't be more than two or three, we figure." He looks towards Lukas. "Well, afterwards, probably look down this other hole we didn't get a chance to look at too closely. Looked like it was made by some kind of large bug, 'bout yay far thick." He holds his hands about five feet apart.

Ahmet said...

Ahmet arches an eyebrow at the size of the "bug".

"Farmers, eh? And what crop do you gather from slaying 'taurs? Is it to protect your homes? Or do you do it for loot, or glory?"

Lukas said...

Lukas laughs, "If all farmers were so diligent I wonder if we would ever eat! Andrej's talents aside of course.

We've 'farmed' a few places ourselves. I'd love to show you the heads of the creature we felled. It was bigger than that wagon! And meaner than even Ahmet here."

Andrej said...

I had similar thoughts, Lukas, but figured we'd wait and see how a more temporary partnership worked out before considering and proposing something more.

To the elder Andrej remarks, "Our friend Lukas here is also good with the spells and you could not find a more stalwart companion then Ahmet should you search all of Anatolia. Maxamillian (nodding toward the druid) and I have our talents as well. Tell me, Unterns, how would you both feel about forming some kind of temporary partnership with us for the purposes of reaping two or three more minotaurs from the underlands?"

Andrej said...

I'm throwing it out there not to speak for the party but to just throw it out there. If anybody has concerns or objections, don't hold back.

Ahmet said...

Ahmet shakes his head. "And who will guard the vardo -- Hichem?" he snorts.

Andrej said...

"It is a fair point, Ahmet, and one we would have to have resolved satisfactorily. Perhaps should our new friends be interested in our help they'll indicate how far off from the road we'd need to venture..." Andrej lets the statement hang like a question to Untern. Then he begins to crack his knuckles loudly stretch his limbs.

Lukas said...

Look, I'm just saying, my goals in a human shield are tall and wide. If the son grows up like the father... That means I have a spare right?

I kid I kid. He'd be great for my real companion, I'll just make it a Halfling wizard.

Andrej said...

:)

Alexis Smolensk said...

(OOC: Catching up)

To Andrej's question, the son looks at the father, and the father at the son. "Well, Papa," says the Younger. "They are 8 feet tall."

"And we were going to share the treasure out four ways," adds the Elder.

To Ahmet's point about the Vardo, the Elder will say, "Well, couldn't haul a wagon in there. That would be impossible."

Hichen, however, will say, "But masters, Tokat is only eight miles along the road."

Lukas said...

That was actually my following suggestion. Having Hichem head to the next town...

Lukas said...

We could offer the Minotaurs as a buy-in for the tunnel and ask for a 5th share to split between us.

Unless you folks feel less inclined to do something for so "cheap".

I'd also like one head. For my wall later. I feel like horns might not be enough... But I'd settle.

"8 Feet? I'm guessing and only one head right? Sounds a little easier than... What was it's name? Boroge or something?"

Ahmet said...

(OOC: A fifth share, Lukas? Their two partners are dead.)

Andrej said...

Since these two have already done some work, we could offer to split what would have been the other 2 shares. Half for them, half for us essentially. I wouldn't go lower than that.

Maximillian Boii said...

" 'Sounds easy', eh Lukas? Speak for yourself, I'm still smarting from that wraith that got Mareo. Nevertheless, I'm all for adventure, it's why I've been following you all this way.

To the younger orc, I'll boast that my companions have spoken with dragons.

Andrej said...

Or we could insist on 6 equal shares but agree that the two Unterns will choose first from the loot.

Ahmet said...

Ahmet grunts, unconvinced.

"I'm not sure she... the vardo... will be safe in Tokat. I fear the person who... sold us... the vardo is not done with us. And what of her father? Er... that is... the one who... built the vardo."

He glowers for a moment.

"It is true I did not want the vardo, but after giving up so much to get it, I do not want to lose it as well."

He sighs.

"On the other hand, I do owe my cousin a great deal of money." He fumes for a moment.

"How much treasure are we talking?" he asks the Unterns.

Lukas said...

Lukas never said easy, just easier.

Andrej said...

Andrej has begun touching his toes and doing knee bends and side stretches. "Be at ease, Ahmet. I think both the person who sold us the vardo and he who made the vardo are behind us. The vardo was turned over, eh, in bad shape, so I cannot see he who sold it to us having any more interest given the cost paid. As for her maker... is he in any position to act?"

Ahmet said...

Ahmet glowers for an answer.

Alexis Smolensk said...

The boy seems unimpressed, Maximillian. "Spoke? Not killed? Why, my Papa met a dragon when he was young -"

The Elder will cut him off. "We're not here to boast, son. Let's hear them out."

To Ahmet, in answer to the question about treasure, "Well, we heard tell of thousands of gold coins ... but one never can tell with these things." Still the way he looks when asked about the question suggests something the Elder isn't saying. The Younger, at the same time, seemed about to say something, but he claps his mouth shut.

Andrej said...

Andrej cuts to the chase with an offer, "We split any gains evenly amongst the survivors. Only way to know for sure is to go see it for ourselves, eh? Of course you and your son would get first choice when we come time to pick, Untern, and I would be willing to see to your healing as well, should you need it."

Maximillian Boii said...

I'll take whatever deal the rest of you find acceptable. After we've finished our meal though, I'll suggest that it's already late morning, and that perhaps we should camp today just a few miles from the road, so as not to arrive at the mountain in the evening.

Lukas said...

Sounds like they have a particularly valuable item in mind.

Guessing by their current food issues they don't have enough wealth to account for the difference if it is the ONLY thing that is in the loot pile.

I'm guessing some story about a magic or famous or mythical item of some sort.

Net concerns at this point.

1. No pay for minotaurs due to only one piece of loot. Conflict as it's the only thing they want rather than a coin exchange from us for it.

2. No pay from first job + abandoned on the second.

3. Pay or no pay from the first job + follow them into a hole/trap and die.

4. Everyone is out to get me.

Ahmet said...

Maximillian, I'd suggest we head to Tokat and leave from there at first light, unless the Unterns feel time is of the essence.

Andrej said...

I agree with Ahmet. This gives us an opportunity to both see the vardo to safety and heal the Unterns today so that we have more healing magic for tomorrow.

Lukas said...

I agree with this plan as well.

Andrej said...

if there's one piece of loot, then the shares idea still works... only we'd be selling the item to mete out shares. I suspect, though, that defeating three or more minotaurs will be our chief concern and not how to split the pile up...

Andrej said...

So to summarize we have offered to join with the Unterns with the understanding that we'll heal them today and set out from Tokat on the morrow. All treasure to be split equally with the Unterns getting first choice. Lukas and Andrej are also considering making some longer-term offer should this venture prove satisfactory.

Alexis Smolensk said...

To Lukas: "A rest suits us fine. We're a bit worse for wear, that's a fact," says the Elder. "And the terms seem fair enough. But we'd rather not make our way into Tokat ourselves, if it's all the same to you. Take what actions you need, we'll camp here. That suits us."

Andrej said...

Party split? Ahmet and whoever else chooses will accompany the vardo to Tokat while Andrej and whoever else chooses stays put? We should still be able to meet up by late morning tomorrow if the Tokat contingent hurries back.

Ahmet said...

"What's wrong with Tokat?" Ahmet asks. "Or, perhaps, what's wrong with you?"

Alexis Smolensk said...

The Elder and the Younger both break out in honest laughter at Ahmet's question. "No, no," says the Elder, waving his hand while still chuckling. "It's not that. Tokat's a fine place, for a Turk's town. And we have no business with it. It's only that ... well, let's say that we're interested in not risking all on a town's hospitality." He seems to put extraordinary emphasis on 'all,' but is absolutely unwilling to discuss it except to say, "We've got an edge, that's what I'm saying, and no town's going to take that away from us."

Lukas said...

Would taking the two on a horse then having Hichem follow with the Vardoo get the person escorting the ladies there and back faster?

Lukas said...

I think these guys are shady. But honestly we're kind of shady too. You know, with our Vardo.

Besides, we have a choice, go with slightly shady folks, or just wander off and NOT kill minotaur like heroes of legend.

James C. said...

There's a choice? ;)

Ahmet said...

I agree... we can't pass up this opportunity to kill some bull-men.

Ahmet (and whoever volunteers to come with him, or by himself if not) rides with the vardo the 7 miles to Tokat.

There he books a private room in a reputable inn for Sevim and Mistassa. (Hichem presumably stays in the vardo to guard our stuff?)

For simplicity, I'll go by Melitene market pricing -- Let's say three nights at the inn for 48 c.p., one bath for each woman for 10 s.p., three nights of stabling for the vardo's donkey for 18 c.p., three nights of donkey feed for 6 c.p., and he generously provides 3 g.p. for three days of food for Hichem, Sevim and Mistassa. Total of 3 g.p., 10 s.p., 72 c.p.... let's round it up to 4 g.p.

(I just noticed ordinary lodging and private lodging are the same price on the Melitene Market spreadsheet -- 16 c.p.)

He stays the night with the women, chastely of course, and then departs with the morning sun to ride back to the others.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I'm good with the lodging prices and all, and with Hichem watching over the vardo. However, I was going to run a little adventure where you actually got down the road about a mile, found a small village that acted quite friendly towards the party, cheerfully offered hospitality and that Hichem and Mist were able to arrange for the vardo to remain there in the company of two goodwives in exchange for Hichem doing some heavy spring repair work.

But as long as you're running the campaign, Ahmet, ahead of time and all, I'm good with your solution.

Ahmet said...

:P

Alexis Smolensk said...

Hm? What was that? Are you saying we should go with my plan? I don't want to railroad the party.

Maximillian Boii said...

I wish to stay with the orcs, out of a remaining slight distrust. I don't wish to stay with them alone, however, for the same reason.

Lukas said...

I think only one person needs to escort the women. I honestly think that person could be Hichem, but Ahmet feels strongly his way on the matter.

Ahmet said...

(OOC: Sorry, just trying to move things along, as I feel like "What will Ahmet do with Sevim" has monopolized too much of our play as late.)

Alexis Smolensk said...

(OOC: I see it more that you've been the silent factor through much of the campaign, Ahmet; it was your opportunity to pull the spotlight away from Andrej, for one. I think you'll find no one resents it being about you. In any case, we've closed that chapter for the moment, and I respect your willingness to keep the girl alive and Ahmet's dilemma going. BUT ... I am aware of the party's champing at the bit to get to something else, thus this opportunity. If we can accept that surprise, surprise, the party finds a friendly small village in easy reach, and that the vardo can be left there safe and sound, and that the DM has no plans to reawaken the Sevim crisis angle by involving something as cliched as having her suddenly kidnapped, we can move on with the party's plan to accompany the half-orcs the next day into the forest.

Nyet?)

Alexis Smolensk said...

In exchange for the food, the Elder & Younger are both more than willing to accept your aid. In light of the quick return of Ahmet from the small village, they would like to beg a day's rest, as they haven't had one and they'd both like to heal a bit.

I don't know if I had explained a rule change that I'd adapted offline - that players going forward heal 1 hp per 24 hour of total rest per level. Had I mentioned that change before?

James C. said...

(OOC: Besides, there will be plenty of time and opportunity to reawaken the Sevim crisis when we meet back up with Madame Salvatore. ;)

It's a well-timed opportunity at blood and treasure, but I'd just like to second the notion that its OK if things are about Ahmet for awhile... or Lukas or Max for that matter. I've been very spoiled these last many months and don't begrudge anybody some limelight.)

Andrej heals whichever the elder or the younger needs it most and least with an aid spell (17 hp) and a cure light wounds (6 hp) respectively.

As for the rule change on healing, I was not aware of it but its the same rule I use in my game so I'm used to it.

Let's stick to plan and head out for the minotaurs tomorrow.

Lukas said...

Agreed.

I will spend what time I can talking to them about their experience with hunting things like minotaurs and giving stories about the great battles we've been in so far.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Well, I don't want to drag things along telling tales, but they've been adventuring their way south from Derbent into the Eastern Caucasus, from there to Lake Gokcha (where they were for sometime) and thence into Zand and Ilan, before turning west to Lake Van and ultimately Paphlagonia. They have lately come into this country. This journey has taken them five years, and they plan to return to their homes by the Caspian rich men someday, or die trying.

Maximillian Boii said...

(ooc: It's interesting to encounter adventurers, strangely absent in most games. This and the guy capturing the wild beasts in the alps are the only ones that spring to mind in this campaign.

To Ahmet: I don't mind, do what you need to do. I joined this campaign knowing that we at least two long-term threads to tie off. If I need something I'll make it known.)

Alexis Smolensk said...

They can soak up all the healing you can give, Andrej. I can begin with the next post in the morning, which will also coincidentally start describing the morning of the 3rd of May.

You know, in game time, one year and a day has past since I began the very first campaign in Dachau, back in 2009.

James C. said...

(OOC: I think that's pretty remarkable, really.)

Lukas said...

Happy Anniversary guys.

Alexis Smolensk said...

The next post is up.