Miguel Hernández/El Jinete Nocturno (Steven P. Ross) - Caring Horse Trainer
Catalina Rosa Torres/La Lechuza (Tammy Powers) - Clever Vintner
Pablo Estebán Helláro/El Corazon de Oro (GM/NPC) - Generous Bandit
Date: April 9th, 1804 (Monday)
When Miguel Hernández and Montero [Hachkiak] join Catalina Torres and Pablo Estebán Helláro, Montero tells the three that the talk in Ahapchingas of a bear having taken or killed Elena is a rumour. There have been no bears attacking the settlement in several years, as the Tongva have dealt with them when they did attack and perhaps the bears have learned better. Unlike the Spanish, it seems. However, they might want to talk to some of the village hunters about the matter of the bears, as it is possible that there has been a bear in the last little while.
Catalina asks Montero about places where Elena likes to go. Her father tells Catalina that he doesn't really know. It would be best if they spoke to other family members or perhaps her friends. When Catalina asks him where Elena was last seen, Montero says he doesn't know since he wasn't in Ahapchingas at the time; he was in the Reina de Los Angeles on business. Pablo asks if anyone has taken an interest in the girl at all, and Catalina adds the question about whether there have been any strangers in Ahapchingas of late. Montero tells them that the Spanish, soldiers and other men, have taken an interest in Elena, as well as the other settlement girls and women. As for strangers, the Ahapchingas folk don't tolerate strangers well in the community, though there are some non-indigenous people who make their homes now in the settlement. The three characters talk about whether they should split up to cover more ground, but decide against it. Pablo tells Catalina and Miguel that he will leave them for a bit, but will rejoin them shortly. He needs to go and dismiss the "soldiers" with him, as he feels that this inquiry into the girl's disappearance is better handled by fewer people. Montero says he will take Catalina and Miguel to his family home, and Pablo says he will meet them there.
As Montero leads Catalina and Miguel towards his family home, they pass through the marketplace. Catalina notes that the market is very organized, but also relaxed, and not frenzied. Among other things, they see indigenous folk selling goods and products; a tattoo artist or three; fish sellers; apples, oranges and other fruit and vegetable sellers; all sorts of craft and woven product sellers; and a Spanish (!!) wine seller! Montero overhears Catalina point out the wine seller to Miguel Hernández, and says that he is José Álvarez, a mestizo (half-Spanish and half-Chumash) from a wine family in San Bernardino. He doesn't do a good business in Ahapchingas, due to the peoples' attitudes toward Chumash and the mestizos in general, but "other things about wine" as well; at best, they tolerate him. Her curiosity as a vintner aroused, Catalina goes over to the wine seller, a reluctant Montero and Miguel following after her. Catalina looks around at his wares, and notes that the wine casks behind him are of cedarwood, and somewhat poor quality. She talks to José Álvarez, and he tells her his best vintage is the Álvarez 1792. He hopes that it travelled well. Catalina wants to purchase some of it, and settles on 2 bottles of the Álvarez 1792 at a cost of 3 dineros each [she spent a Hero Point to bargain with him]. Montero shakes his head in disappointment at her choices. She asks him if he and the family are entering any of the wine competitions coming up, and José tells her that he and the family are. However, he won't tell her if the Álvarez 1792 is going to be entered in any of the contests.
Saying farewell to José Álvarez, Montero leads Catalina and Miguel deeper into the market, and then finally through it, and on to his home. The building is a modest adobe home, the exterior of which is decorated with various native artwork on the outside, a small plot for vegetables and a chicken coop out back. Montero introduces Catalina and Miguel to his wife [Takiti]. She is very suspicious of their presence, and questions why they wish to help in finding Elena. Catalina explains that Elena works for her, and that she likes the girl. Miguel admits that while he doesn't know Elena, he finds it morally wrong that someone may have taken another indigenous girl, and that it's a wrong that must be righted. Takiti accepts their explanations at face value, but it is obvious that she still doesn't trust them. Catalina asks if there is a place where Elena would go, somewhere she would feel safe or where she might go to be on her own. Takiti says that yes, she has a favourite place - one of the caves in the hills north of the settlement. Pablo rejoins the player characters at that point, now wearing peon clothes but still wearing his weapons and a poncho over the top. Takiti gives him a friendly nod [but the player characters fail to notice this.]
Montero and Takiti invite the characters into their home, and in the central chamber, Catalina asks if Elena was seeing anyone. She does not receive a reply to her question. Takiti says that the last thing Elena did before she disappeared was go to the stream to the northeast of the settlement to re-fill several odres de agua [waterskins]. Miguel asks whether the full waterskins were returned to the house. Takiti is taken by surprise by the question, and says she will go and check. She goes to the back of the house, and exits by a rear door near the garden. Pablo and Miguel question Montero as to whether Elena had any suitors. He tells them that she did, as she is a beautiful young girl. The two main suitors are Sokar, one of the local boys and in training to be a scout and perhaps hunter, and Clemente, the son of the commandante of the presidio. They ask Montero whether Elena got along with Sokar, and he says they would have to ask the boy. However, he volunteers to them that he disapproves of Clemente's suit to his daughter, as he is Spanish. He would prefer her to marry Sokar or at least one of the natives.
Takiti returns, and tells the characters and Pablo that the water-filled odres de agua were indeed returned to the house. This puzzles Catalina and Miguel somewhat, but Pablo suggests they go to the stream to check out the situation. He will take them there. As they get ready to leave the adobe house, Takiti volunteers that when Elena goes to get water at the stream, she does not usually go alone, being accompanied by four or five of the other girls, mostly her friends, who have the same responsibility for their own families. Montero says they will have to go find the other girls, but he doesn't know if they will talk to the player characters - they aren't fond of, and look down on, the Spanish. Pablo asks if Elena had any problems with any of the other indigenous people. There are only a few folk for other tribes in Ahapchingas, and as far as both Montero and Takiti knows, she gets on well with everyone, though there are some petty rivalries about minor things from time to time. But not to the extent that someone would steal her away. Miguel asks about anything going on with the Riders. Takiti asks how he knew, and says that Elena was doing some jobs for a jinete, but she doesn't know his name. She doesn't know what jobs the jinete had her do for him/her, but says that perhaps Elena's friends might know. She says that Elena has an older brother, Jakka, but that he's not in the settlement right now, as he's on a trip to the nearest Chumash settlement to the northeast. Catalina asks if Elena might have gone with him, but Montero says no, that he wouldn't ever let her go with him. The trip is too dangerous. Takiti and Montero both say when asked that Clemente has not shown up in about a week to see Elena. Miguel says they will return, and he, Catalina and Pablo exit the home, and Pablo starts to lead them to the stream.
Pablo follows the trail that leads out of the settlement and down to a stream, well-marked by the feet that have trod the path over the years. At the stream, they easily find the area where the girls (and others) would have dipped the odres de agua in the water to fill them up. Miguel and Pablo note that the ground in the area is scuffed up and find signs of some sort of struggle. Cautiously moving to the edge of the stream, Catalina checks to see what she can find and sees a flash of colour at the edge of the water, among some reeds. She fishes it out of the water, and shows it to the others - it is a bright orange piece of material from a garment, ragged around the edges, torn off it in some manner. Catalina remembers seeing a tunic of matching colour in the home of Montero and Takiti. She fears the worst, and confides to Miguel and Pablo that perhaps the girl was either wounded or taken, though there does not appear to be any sign of blood. Before the characters can do anything else, they are taken by surprise, so focused were they on the river and the tunic remnant.
A group of three men, seemingly bandits in rough spun clothing, attack them, armed with bone knives and swords! The bandits spit up, each one targeting one of the player characters and Pablo. The fight between the player characters and the bandits seems evenly matched, with neither side having an advantage despite the difference in the material makeup of their weapons. The flurry of blows between the various opponents sees Catalina wound her attacker very badly, though he is not dead [but is Mortally Wounded]. The second bandit, however, makes short work of Miguel, wounding him seriously [a bad Wound to the chest] and is about to finish him. Before Catalina can rush to stop him impaling Miguel, he is shot with a pistol by a mysterious man - a soldado wearing a bear skin hood that hides his identity - killing him instantly. Without another word, the soldado turns and walks away. Pablo is able to defeat his opponent, the third bandit, wounding him, but seeing the mysterious soldado kill his friend and the other bandit having been taken out, decides that escape is imperative. The bandit jumps into the stream and swims away, Pablo having no opportunity to stop his flight through sheer surprise at the turn events have taken.
All things considered, Sunday afternoon's game session of the Zorro: The Roleplaying Game went pretty well. I was still living in the Marriott Courtyard East at the time, so the players agreed to come out and game at the hotel, which we did. Rather than play in my hotel room, the players decided we would play in the lounge in the hotel lobby, and that worked out fine. Safety during the coronavirus pandemic and all that. We started play a bit later than I expected, due to Tammy's arriving later than I and she thought she would, but the game session was quite solid and covered a lot of ground once we started play. I thought that SteveR's Miguel was a bit more passive than both he and Tammy would have liked, though things progressed nicely and the attack at the water's edge got everyone doing some stuff in the fight. SteveR made a couple of tactical errors that almost cost him dearly, but he managed to survive the fight with the bandits. Both players told me they had a good time, even if the gaming venue wasn't what they were used to.
Overall, a good session of the Zorro: The Roleplaying Game campaign, and I'm looking forward to the next session of the game, hopefully back at my house. :)