Earr 6th, 907
Mylofa Kranet (Kathy) and Nolwenn (Joanne) depart for their scouting mission, and find that the group is gradually moving towards the edge of the forest, at which point a hilly and rocky set of terrain, dotted with foliage and scrub, dominates. The relatively sharp-eyed Mylofa spots what appears to be a fire to the north and slightly east, and tells Nolwenn about it. They believe it is the campfire of the brigands, and stealthily make their way back to where the rest of the characters await them.
Back at the campsite, Morvena (Angela) and Marija (Ellie) have a quiet talk while the others go about their business, and manage to resolve some of their differences, the varigal telling the young girl some of her history to make the girl see the need for caution and thoughtful action. As darkness begins to fall, the forest becomes somewhat darker and more morose, and Mazeo Balcaren (David) tries to lighten the mood by playing a bit of flute for them, but Corentin Syanaf (Tom) warns him to not do so, as their opponents might be able to hear them.
Mylofa and Nolwenn return, the merchant Mazeo's senses sharp enough to hear their return, as the two make no attempt to hide their progress through the forest. They tell the others what they saw, and that they are likely to emerge from the forest into a hilly and rocky area, with gorse and brush. Mylofa mentions the (camp)fire that they saw in the night, and the rest of the characters are eager to deal with the brigands. Morvena says that they are best off camping for the night, and make the area a bit more defensible. Over the course of the evening meal and preparation for sleep, the characters exchange stories about the earlier fight with the brigands, and even Marija's mood is light and airy for the evening. Seeing no harm in it, Mazeo plays some more flute for them, softly, and the characters get some much needed rest, except for Guirec (Nick), who takes the first watch.
The night passes uneventfully, and the morning dawns somewhat misty and cold, but soon begins to warm up though it will remain a chilly day. The player characters and Marija eat the morning meal, break camp, and travel on. They reach the edge of the hills, and Morvena is hard pressed to find the trail of the wagons and caernides in the more difficult terrain, but with Nolwenn and Mylofa's help in terms of the campfire direction from the night before, the varigal refinds the trail, and the characters head in that direction.
Morvena, Mazeo, Nolwenn, and Corentin realise that the player characters will have to exercise much more caution this day if they plan to sneak up on the wagons and the brigands without alerting them, due to the more open terrain and its having less places to conceal oneself. The characters decide to send Mylofa and Corentin ahead to scout, while the rest of the party travels after them. The two depart, and Morvena expresses her concern that the two do not take unnecessary risks.
Mylofa and Corentin make their way in the direction where the campfire was seen the day before, and find it in a generally rough area with bramble and gorse-filled part of the hills. They are easily able to see the caravan wagons, several miles distant, and decide to edge closer and see what they can determine. The two are able to find that there are two women chained at the back of the first wagon, both looking dirty and haggard. Mylofa determines there are ten brigands, two of whom are droving the wagons, the other eight handling all other duties including guard work. The two characters realise the group has their work cut out for them.
Back at the main party, Morvena, Mazeo, and Guirec discuss possible options of how to obtain the wagons and the supplies thereon, and Marija, overhearing the conversation asks them if they are planning to save her mother and the other woman. Morvena tells her that of course they are, as they're not heartless, but that the supplies are equally important from the point of view of the folks in Bläs and Tálesh. Marija seems to be satisfied with that answer, but Morvena is somewhat concerned about how the girl will deal with what has to be done to free the women and the wagons.
About an hour later, the two groups of player characters meet up. Mylofa and Corentin brief the characters on what they've learned, and Marija gives Mylofa a hug; when asked why, Marija explains that it's because she's given her hope - her mother is alive! The player characters have a somewhat long chat about how they want to approach the brigands and the wagons, and eventually come up with a plan.
For several hours, the player characters and Marija pace the wagons and the brigands, waiting for them to stop for a short time. They finally get their chance when the brigands stop and rest near a small stream. Targeting one of the brigands wearing light armour, Morvena's first bow shot instantly kills the hapless brigand. Before the brigands can react, the rest of the characters move in on them, the fight beginning in earnest, and Morvena fires a second arrow shot, lightly injuring another of the brigands.
Two of the brigands immediately move to kill the two female hostages, and this draws the ire of Marija, who moves towards them, while Morvena readies another arrow to strike at one of them. Guirec manages to get his back to a nearby outcropping as two of the brigands attack him. Corentin quickly disposes of one brigand with his spear, though he takes a deep sword cut to his leg. Mylofa is attacked by one of the brigands and barely holds her own in a defensive position. Nolwenn's crafty staff work keeps her opponent on the defensive, and she is able to inflict several injuries to him, hampering his ability to attack her effectively. Mazeo proves himself an effective fighter with the short sword, and he is able to kill his brigand opponent relatively quickly, and then goes to Mylofa's assistance. Morvena continues her arrow assault, and is able to bring down the two brigands who are going for Marija's mother and the other woman, but must drop the bow and fight with her short sword, as another brigand comes at her. Marija, meanwhile, kills both brigands who were trying to get to her mother using her knife, plunging it into their already bloody bodies repeatedly. The fight is somewhat swift and brutal, the player characters giving better than they get, and when the skirmish is over, the characters have taken some serious, but not life-threatening wounds, and the brigands lie dead at their feet.
Corentin is somewhat disappointed, as he says that he wanted to question any surviving brigands about their organisation and their strength of numbers. The exhausted Mylofa says that it's enough for the moment that they won the day, recovered the wagons, and have reunited Marija with her mother, Taamra. The other woman, a Talkeride scholar named Bluenn, is grateful for her rescue, and is pleased to hear the group will be taking them to Talesh. The player characters quickly strip the brigands of any valuables and items worth taking, adding this material to the wagon supplies and foodstuffs. While Guirec and Morvena take care of the caernides and Mazeo sees to the wagons, Corentin and Nolwenn do their best to help their wounded companions. The characters set off on the return trip to Bläs and then Tálesh, the wagons loaded with the goods meant for the villages in tow.
Three days later, the player characters come riding into the tiny community of Bläs, the wagons in tow and the caernides in fine fettle. They learn that Faroe Mac Toran is recovering from his injuries, and that his guardsman, Eswion, has made a full recovery (good constitution, Fara tells them), and that both men can travel with them on to Tálesh. Fara treats the characters of their injuries, in exchange for some of the extra foodstuffs and weapons and armour the characters recovered from the brigands, and then settle down for the night in Blás. The next morning, the player characters prepare for the final leg of the journey and the return to Tálesh, a runner already having been sent to the town to inform them of the player characters' success. Since Taamra and Marija were both on the way to the town anyway, and as Bluenn wants to go on to the town as well, they agree to take the two women and the young child with them. In an odd bit of irony, Marija seems to be very fond of Morvena, the varigal, now, and doesn't leave her side much, to the amusement of the other player characters. And that of a somewhat distressed Taamra.
And that was the final wrap-up of the first scenario for Shadows of Esteren and the Friday night campaign. The players told me that they had a really good time with this game, better than many of the games they've played over recent years, and Nick and David mentioned that they enjoyed the final fight with the brigands quite a lot. They were surprised they won with such few (if that's the right term) injuries, but loved the sheer speed and flow of the final combat. Angela mentioned that she had a really good time with the interaction with Ellie's character (my goddaughter being deep asleep by this time), and said she's looking forward to seeing what, if anything, develops between her Morvena and Ellie's Marija. One of the things I should mention here is that the final combat with the brigands section seems a bit short to me. The reason for this is because I made highlight notes of the material, but to be honest, the players and I were just really deeply into it. (If anyone has any questions about the combat system or about the fight with the brigands, please don't hesitate to ask.)
Next weeks sees the start of a new adventure in the campaign setting. Can't wait! :)