Earr 6th, 907
The next morning dawns cold and bright, with no signs of an impending snowfall that day. After the two groups finish the morning meal, the men from Bläs set out with the wagon and the injured Faroe Mac Toran and Eswion. Morvena (Angela) asks the others where Marija (Ellie) is, but they assume that she went with the men from Bläs. However, Mylofa Kranet (Kathy) finds the girl hiding behind some trees. The player characters do not want to take young Marija with them, as their own journey could be dangerous, but the young Tarish girl tells them that she will be cautious, and that she won't endanger them. With the Bläs men already departed, the characters are left with no choice but to take her with them.
Reinforcing the location of the wagon trail that leads from the area, the confident Morvena and Nolwenn (Joanne) lead the characters deep into the woods in pursuit of the missing caravan. After several hours, the player characters arrive at a small clearing to find several bodies scattered about. Guirec (Nick) recognises them as brigands, saying that he has no idea what type of animals brought them down, but Nolwenn and Mazeo Balcaren (David) confirm that it was wolves, very large wolves. The player characters become alert, and after a quick break for a snack, the party continues on, Guirec leading the way with Morvena.
The party proceeds, somewhat more cautiously at the request of Corentin Syanaf (Tom), who tells them that he feels that something is wrong. Nolwenn tells the others that she agrees, something is off about the area, but she cannot explain what is making her feel that way. It is only the keen senses of Corentin and Mylofa that alert the player characters to an ambush, as two spears come shooting out of the dense foliage, barely missing Guirec and Corentin!
Five brigands wearing leather vests and brandishing short swords and spears attack the player characters, leaping out of the forest at them. Guirec is able to dispatch his attacker without difficulty, suffering a grazing would to his shoulder. Nolwenn takes cover behind a tree with Marija, while Mylofa stands guard over the two of them. Mazeo finds himself the equal of his opponent, and is able to wear him down and slay him with dispatch. Corentin is able to spear his attacker, killing him with two solid blows, much to his chagrin. Morwena engages her opponent, and is able to drive him off until Guirec dispatches his attacker, and then arrives to cause the brigand to fall beneath his blows. The final brigand decides to attack Mylofa, and discovers that his target is not as harmless as she appears. However, she is hindered as Marija attempts to "help" her during the fight - and accidentally stabs Mylofa with her dagger! She also suffers a pair of wounds from the brigand's short sword, but is not the worse for the wear. While Nolwenn and Corentin start binding up wounds, Mylofa expresses doubts at being in the woods with the characters, but Morvena tells her that she did well, and was brave, words that hearten the serving wench. Guirec and Mazeo go over to one of the brigands who is still breathing and attempt to interrogate him. While he tells them that he is indeed part of Caitine Teress's band, his fear of her is stronger than his fear of the characters - and he dies without giving away any information.
After treating their wounds, the characters salvage what useful items they can from the dead brigands. Morvena finds some caernide tracks, a sure indication that they are on the right track. The varigal admits to the other characters that she doesn't know this area, as she's never travelled it, but she believes they are heading towards a small vale called Avaroaca. The vale has been abandoned for centuries due to old superstitions about the place, and is rumoured to house several ruins from a period dating back around 200 years, as well as being the home of many undead. Travellers to the ruins in Avaroaca do not return.
After discussion, the player characters decide to continue on, although Morvena and Mylofa take young Marija aside, and have a talk with her about her seeming "accidental" attack on the latter during the fight. The young girl uses her innocence to appeal to the two women, and Morvena accepts her explanation, though Mylofa is somewhat suspicious. Morvena is unable to find the tracks of the wagons departing this area, but is fortunate that Corentin does locate them, and the player characters continue in their pursuit of the stolen wagons and the supplies.
The player characters trudge through the some arduous terrain of forest and some scree, giving way to breaks of copses of trees and other vegetation. The cold weather takes its toll on the characters to varying degrees. Marija asks the characters when they will take a break, and Morvena agrees to do so. Nolwenn and Mylofa agree to do a quick scout around and see whether they can find the brigands and the caravan wagons. Marija asks if she can come with them, but they reply that if she was so tired that she has to ask for a break in travel, then she can stay at the campsite with the others and rest. The two women move off into the foliage, not seeing a look of hatred go across the face of the young girl.
And that concludes the Friday night session of the game. The Friday night game sessions of Shadows of Esteren continue to offer some fascinating interaction between the characters, and as this session indicates, some treachery going on behind the scenes as well. More on that as it develops in-game. :) The players continue to enjoy the simplicity of the game mechanics and the combat system, but still have a desire at times to be more tactical in fights; it works well as it is, but the combat system just keeps me trying to stay as simple with it as possible. The psychological aspects of the game are coming out to the fore with the Friday night player characters, and this has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game from both sides of the Game Leader screen. The players have all admitted to me how much they're looking forward to seeing how these characters develop as individuals, but as a group as well.
Next week's game session should be interesting. :)