Earr 5th, 907
In the village of Tálesh, a community of close to 300 souls in Taol-Kaer on a major trade route, Tifenn (Tammy Powers) awakens in the Blue Boar Inn to the sounds of Dogmael's (Douglas McMillan) prayers. She finishes her morning ablutions and goes down to the common room, where she hears grumblings about the lack of fresh goods as the first caravan of the season is late. She orders her breakfast and once it comes, she starts to eat. She's interrupted as the door to the inn bursts open, letting in a blast of cold air - a Varigal has come!
Urien Lorn (Steven Ross) wakes up in the rooms above his small merchant shoppe, Lorn's Woollens and Sundries, and begins to make breakfast for himself and Líona. The room is freezing, as L&icute;ona did not keep the fireplace and hearth lit. As they eat, the two talk about the forthcoming day and discuss their duties.
Emerging from the inn, Tifenn finds that the day is bright, but freezing, with temperatures well below the norm, although there is hope that the day will warm up. She sees that Leonor (GM/NPC) the Varigal has returned, but his expression appears grim. He acknowledges her presence when she moves to see him, but says that he must talk to the Ansailáir first, and then a Moot will likely be called. He moves off quickly, and Tifenn returns to the warmth of the inn.
After finishing breakfast, Líona asks Urien if they will have meat for dinner, but he hedges in his reply. She finally manages to guilt him into it, by complaining about some of his failings as her superior. She asks him when the stock for the shelves will come, as the shelving is starting to look bare. He says they will re-stock when the caravan arrives. Líona asks if he means his family's caravan or another merchant's, but before he can answer her they are interrupted by the peal of the bell. Líona tells him that it's the summons to Moot. They need to attend.
Tifenn enters the inn to find that some of her trenchard of breakfast has been eaten by persons unknown. Korase, a Gwidrite and one of the serving girls, gets her a replacement half for the food she's missing. When the serving girl returns, Tifenn and Korase smile and agree that the One God and the Cmaoghs balance, even so. The two hear the ringing of the bell outside, and Tifenn learns that it is the call to Moot.
The player characters gather with the rest of the Tálesh villagers and townsfolk to attend the Moot. Edwart Mac Fhiorran, the Ansailéir, explains to those assembled that according to what the varigal Leonor has learned, the winter caravans have been destroyed, possibly by feondas. However, more distressing, the caravan of Faroe Mac Toran, the first of the spring caravans, did not arrive at Bläs, some five miles away, as expected. Since they need to determine what is happening, he asks for volunteers to go in search of answers, and to see if they can find the Mac Toran caravan and the goods and foodstuffs that it carries, and bring them back to Tálesh. Leonor, the varigal, agrees to go on this mission on behalf of the townspeople. Tifenn also announces that she will go on the mission, as she realises that this is a good way to get into the good books of the people of the town.
Urien Lorn says that he will go, suggesting that he has a need to know of what is going on when it comes to merchant caravans in the area, though there are mutterings from others that he has an agenda to this. Conspiracy theories abound that he might be partially responsible or involved in the Mac Toran caravan disappearance, that he wants the goods for himself and his own family's trade, and so forth. Dogmael announces that he will go as well, since he wants to earn the Talkérides' trust and make a home for himself in Tálesh. Edwart Mac Fhiorran is pleased that the player characters will go on the job, and tells them that they should leave the next morning after making the preparations they need.
The next morning dawns bright and somewhat warmer than it's been, though there is snow falling. The Demorthèn, Keogan, tells Tifenn that there is a blizzard outside the walls, though it will taper off during the course of the day, and tells her to be cautious. The characters meet outside the village communal house, and once ready to depart, proceed to exit through the village's gates into the howling blizzard outside, with an underchill of -200F. Leonor takes charge, and leads the characters in the wrong direction for
Bläs [he rolled a 1 on the Travel check]. Four hours later, the player characters stop near a cave on the edge of some ice-slicked hills, where the snow is less dense. Tifenn fails her cold weather stamina check, and Leonor admits to the others that he thinks he's lost.
The characters decide to shelter temporarily in the cave, and after making sure that there are no inhabitants, the player characters bundle into the cave. They search the cave, but find nothing of interest. Leonor emerges from the cave into the swirling snowfall, and goes and fetches some wood. The characters have a hot meal and drink after lighting a fire, and Tifenn warms up and feels much better.
After a couple of hours, the storm has ebbed, and the player characters emerge from their shelter. Leonor recognises where they are, leading them once more as he tells them that Bläs lies just over the hill. As the characters descend to the very small, 35-person community, Tifenn has a nasty slide down on some ice and fortunately lands in a snowdrift. The guards on duty at Bläs won't let the travellers in until Leonor tells them that he is a varigal. The player characters are taken to meet Fara, the headwoman of the village, but she tells them that there has been no sign of Faroe Mac Toran's caravan, and that it is overdue. She mentions some of the rumours and stories she has heard, and she and the varigal discuss the strengthened presence of brigands in the area, and that one band in particular is quite strong, well-organised, and they have a stronghold.
The player characters depart Bläs, and Leonor leads them to the southeast (as Tifenn notices), as the Mac Toran caravan had other stops before it travelled on to Bläs and then Tálesh. The path they are following soon becomes a trail and finally a road, which soon begins to cut into a deep, dark pine forest. Leonor spots what appears to be a reddish trail on the road, and Tifenn identifies it as blood. Urien finds another trail, and this seems to be spatter from a wagon wheel. Dogmael brings to the attention of the other characters the smell of burned flesh, which he can identify from previous experience. As the player characters move deeper into the trees, Tifenn spots what appear to be small animals shadowing and pacing them in the forest.
The player characters round a bend in the road, and see the collapsed wreckage of a burnt wagon, and small squirrel-like creatures moving through the wreckage. Urien sees that two of the supposed corpses are still alive, feebly batting the squirrel-like animals away. Both Tifenn and Leonor spit on the ground, cursing the creatures, as they know what they are - carnivorous scavengers called skorons. The player characters realise they will have to fight their way through the skorons to rescue the two badly injured people...
This was the first actual play session for the Sunday group of the Shadows of Esteren game system, and I thought it went as well as could be expected. With the exception of Tammy, the players are struggling with their characters' personalities, and this did not make the game session all that easy to run. There was very little roleplaying, other than when the characters talked with Leonor, the NPC varigal, during the course of the session. Yes, I took it a bit hard on spross's merchant, as he's a Reizhite who's been living for less than a year in a Talkéride place, and I wanted to emphasise the dislike between the two cultures, though Doug's character is a Gwidrite, and the villagers dislike the character as well; the difference was that Doug played very low-key and was somewhat invisible in the course of the session.
In any event, we'll see how next week goes...