Earr 7th, 907
While the surprised Tifenn (Tammy) reacts to the attack by seeking momentary cover, the ambush by the brigands springs to life. The brigands are all wearing either leather or studded leather armour, and brandish short swords and daggers. Urien (Steve), Tifenn, Dogmael (Doug) and Leonor (GM NPC) square off with the four brigands, while Dunyasha hides behind a tree. Tifenn sees that the archer who fired at her is nowhere in sight.
The skirmish with the brigands is brutal and relatively swift. Tifenn and one of the brigands squares off, and the two of them exchange blows and damage while each searches for an opening. Dogmael fights his brigand opponent, and discovers the man is quite the capable fighter. In the end, he is no match for Dogmael, but the two inflict potentially lethal wounds to each other, Dogmael killing the brigand, whose blow ends with his sword sticking out of Dogmael's gut. Leonor engages with another of the brigands, and while he makes quick work of him, the varigal sees that others are in danger. Urien and another of the brigands engage in combat, and the merchant falls swiftly to the brigand, appearing as if he will be the first casualty among the player characters. When Tifenn sees Urien fall to the brigand, she manoeuvers over to stand above his unmoving body, not knowing if he's alive or dead. She takes a defensive stand over him, and is hurt by a blow from this brigand. When the brigand that attacked Tifenn originally joins in against her again, she attempts to hold him off until the others can help. Having dealt with a brigand of his own, Leonor moves in on the brigand who originally attacked Urien, taking some of the heat off Tifenn. The varigal accepts the brigand's surrender when his sword breaks. Tifenn keeps fighting her original brigand, but neither can hit the other. He attempts to strike her again but missing, decides to flee, but both Dogmael (who has barely arrived) and Tifenn keep him fighting. Dogmael appears ready to drop, given that he's got a sword in his gut, but he manages to strike the death blow to the brigand, leaving him barely standing, when Dunyasha dashes out from behind a tree and stabs the brigand repeatedly over and over again, screaming in rage. Tifenn is aghast to see such bloodlust. Meanwhile, Dogmael drops to the snow, his wounds getting the better of him.
The characters have been victorious, just - at least in the case of Urien and Dogmael. Looking around, the characters see the three dead brigands and the surviving brigand who surrendered. Searching about, Tifenn sees the archer fleeing deeper into the forest, and shouts a warning to Leonor. The varigal calmly takes out his bow and with careful aim, strikes the running archer in the leg, dropping him to the ground. Leonor drops the bow and grabs his dagger, and then runs into the forest after the archer. The crippled brigand is no match for the varigal with his knife, and killing the brigand is relatively easy though Leonor takes a wound to his sword arm. Leaving the brigand archer to nature, the varigal breaks his bow in half, and returns with the extra quiver of arrows.
Tifenn checks out the brigand prisoner and makes sure that he stays down, and then goes over to the panting Dunyasha, and makes sure the blood-covered and spattered young girl isn't wounded. She seems fine, and when she's finished, Tiffen leans down and advises the brigand prisoner not to move, and asks Dunyasha to watch him, to which the fanatical seeming young girl agrees to do. Going over to the Reizhite, Tifenn sees that Urien is barely alive, hanging by a thread. Searching through his pack, she finds the two healing balms, and using her Demorthèn healing knowledge is able to bring him back from the edge of death. She could do more for him, but he's a Reizhite and she still doesn't trust him. She goes over to Dogmael, and checking on the Gwidrite, pulls the sword from his gut, applies the healing balm to him, and then patches him up.
Leonor returns to the where the three characters and Dunyasha are, minus the archer, and tells Tifenn that he's been taken care of. She looks him over and notices his sword arm wound and asks if he needs help. The varigal refuses, so she uses several herbs to patch up his arm and binds his wounds. The varigal sees that Tifenn is about to collapse from her own wounds, so Leonor treats her wounds and bandages her up.
The characters agree that they need to rest before they continue on, but first they want to question the prisoner. When they go to talk to him, Leonor and Tifenn discover that he is dead, with blue-green foam around his mouth. Leonor says that it was Reizhite poison, as he has seen its effects before. Tifenn, Dogmael, Leonor, and Dunyasha turn to look suspiciously at Urien. When Tifenn asks Dunyasha what she saw, the girl replies that he started to convulse and then foamed at the mouth. Realising they will learn nothing from the brigands, Urien suggests the characters search the brigand bodies to see if they have anything useful on them. Leonor asks the merchant if he's going to be the one to carry the stuff, since they are on a mission. He nevertheless agrees to the search, and after doing so, the characters pile the bodies. Leonor tosses 5 Embers to Urien from the monies found. Dogmael asks about what they should do about the brigands’ possessions, and is told to store them here so the group won’t be slowed down. He doesn’t move the corpses in his wounded state, but he gathers up pouches and weapons and places them at the base of a tree in the snow. He draws his dagger to make a hexecelsis mark in the tree as a marker, but Tifenn objects strenuously. A brief argument ensues without anything being resolved, and in the end, Leonor carves a Varigal sign into the dead portion of the nearby tree, and this is acceptable to Tifenn and the others. Leonor asks Dogmael about his past as a Blade Knight, and the Gwidrite is evasive. Tifenn is quite concerned about this, and suspicious of the Gwidrite as well.
The player characters discuss what they should do next. Leonor and Tifenn tell the others they can't remain where they are, and the characters move to a nearby clearing. Urien draws up a list of pros and cons for their next action in the snow. With Urien's evaluation completed, the characters decide to stop for a meal, and then continue on. The characters are all somewhat hurt and need rest and food before continuing on, but cannot wait until the next day to save Dunyasha's mother. As the characters prepare to travel on, Tifenn looks for the arrow that had been shot at her at the beginning of the skirmish, but she cannot find it. She asks Leonor how he knew about the poison the brigand used to commit suicide, and the varigal tells her that he had seen its effects in Reizh while travelling there.
The characters arrive at the edge of a clearing, Dunyasha having found it up ahead a little bit. Tifenn notices that the clearing is not natural. There are bricks and what appear to be ancient dwellings masked under foliage. The brick seems to be from a chimney, but it has been blocked off by the collapse over time of the material. Leonor says that it is an ancient village or town, buried under centuries of the natural environment exerting its dominion. Urien goes off to set up a fire pit, and Dogmael goes around and starts to gather wood for the fire. The characters are perturbed to see a mist start to roll in, but it seems normal and Tifenn comments that it indicates that there is a source of water nearby. She looks around, and finds both Leonor and Dunyasha collapsed on the ground in the mist. It's also very cold in the area. Tifenn searches for high ground, but the only possibility is the trees. She believes something in the mist is affecting them, and figures she has to get them out of the mist. She manages to drag Leonor and Dunyasha over to the trees, and puts them in the lower boughs of the pine trees, above the mist line. She doesn't find Urien or Dogmael, and waits for them to return.
While out gathering deadfall, Urien notices mist rising from the ground, but when he questions its natural-ness, there's no answer, although he thinks he can make out animals in the strange, cold fog. He's overcome by wooziness, and collapses to the ground. Dogmael decides to move off into the mist, and search for Urien. He tries to light a torch, but there are no sparks in the cold; then Dogmael catches sight of the Frost Wolf. He manages to maintain control of his fear but doesn’t advance, whispering prayers to the One God, and starts to step forward, but the Frost Wolf is gone, vanished into the mist. Dogmael continues on determinedly and finds Urien, rimed with frost. Urien is woken by Dogmael, who asks him if he saw "it". When he inquires what "it" was, Dogmael grimly says, "the Frost Wolf". When he tries to pick it up and discovers that the deadfall is frozen solid and quite brittle, Urien and Dogmael hastily head back to find the others.
The mist eventually dissipates. Tifenn tries to wake Leonor and Dunyasha, but notes they are covered in a rime of frost, as is everything else. They wake on their own, and she insists on their wrapping up in blankets, while she gathers wood within the clearing, as she cannot wait for Urien and Dogmael to return. The two eventually do come back; Urien had fallen asleep within the mist, but Dogmael... he tells them that he has seen the Frost Wolf, legend saying that it is frost and mist given shape, nature showing its will, and that Dogmael is marked for death. Shaken, Dogmael goes off to pray while Tifenn finishes making the fire, and Urien cooks a hot meal.
Based on where they are, and the direction the wagon tracks lead in, Leonor thinks he knows where the brigands are headed for - Avroaca, an old fort from some 200 years ago, that would make an excellent stronghold and fortified location from which a group of brigands could operate.
The player characters decide to continue their travels, taking everything with them since they will camp within a few hours. Leonor finds the wagon tracks once more, and the characters follow his lead. As the forest gives way to hills and several crevasses, ravines, and the like, he eventually loses the tracks as it continues to get darker. Looking around for some light, Urien sees something in the dark, and he and Leonor realise it is the flames of another campfire from out among the rocky hills - the brigands camp! Leonor is able to see the wagons, and estimates that the campsite is two to three hours away. However, the terrain is relatively difficult to cross and it is only the bareness and lack of cover that has allowed the player characters to spot the campfire in the distance. Leonor says they cannot travel on this night, as it's too dark and there are likely hidden crevasses. He points out a rill that they can take shelter in, and while he directs the player characters that way, the varigal goes in search of wood, warning the characters not to go looking for him if he doesn't meet them there. Tifenn keeps an eye on Dunyasha to make sure that the young girl doesn't run off to get to her mother in the dark over the treacherous terrain.
This game session of Shadows of Esteren seemed to go well for the most part, though it dragged a bit in a couple of places. The lethality of the combat system was brought home to the players somewhat this game session, as spross's Urien Lorn almost died this session and Doug's Dogmael almost got skewered by a sword in the combat with the brigands. Tammy seems to have gotten the hang of her character, and she has a good working relationship with the NPC, Leonor the varigal. spross is still struggling finding an identity for his character, and isn't playing a Reizhite (which the character isn't really; spross gave the character a Reizhite noble background, and made his beliefs Talkéride) per sé. Meanwhile, Doug seems to come alive more often than not with Dogmael in combat situations. I don't think of his character as being all that religious at this point (despite the Conviction of 4), and he doesn't come off as caring about much else other than combat, with the exception of a couple of bits that he mentioned in character the last two sessions. Yet despite all of this, the session had some marked personality conflicts among the characters and several of the cultural aspects of the characters came out over the course of the game session.
Still, all of that said, I am having a good time with Shadows of Esteren and am enjoying the game world a lot, and like the game mechanics and system. Looking forward to the next Sunday game session.