Earr 8th, 907
The player characters stumble around a bit in the hills as darkness deepens this early evening, and finally arrive at the rill. Tifenn (Tammy) assesses the area to the best of her ability, and finds what she thinks is a good place to camp in the rill. Once the player characters set about their business, she notices that Dunyasha (GM NPC) goes about her assigned task. Dogmael (Doug) hears a dripping sound, but can't identify the source. He tells Urien Lorn (SteveR) about it, and the latter finds a small stream of water that seems to emanate from inside the rock and has forced its way through a hole in the rill. Dogmael smells the water, and then takes a quick taste; it seems fine, with an earthy taste to it. Without any hesitation, Urien refills his waterskin. Meanwhile, Dogmael sees some odd shrubs, but thinks nothing of them.
Dogmael and Urien return to Tifenn and Dunyasha, and tell the former of what they have found. Dunyasha tells Tifenn that she's thirsty, and the latter says that she can drink from the Ionnthén's waterskin, which the girl does somewhat greedily. The group hears a crunching sound on stone, and see the light of a brand in the dark. Leonor (GM NPC) comes into the campsite, with a load of wood strapped to his back.
The varigal dumps the wood on the ground by Urien, who then begins to set up the firepit with the wood. Tifenn mentions the water source to Leonor, and when asked, Dogmael leads the varigal to the small stream at the inner edge of the rill. Learning that Urien filled his waterskin from the unknown water source, Leonor is somewhat shocked and dismayed; he wonders how the Reizhite has survived his journeys this long... Leonor smells the water and is somewhat suspicious, and suggests they strain the water to be sure. When he asks Tifenn if she can make a straining net, Dunyasha pipes up that she can do so, as her mother taught her.
Dunyasha uses Urien's pot and one of his linen shirts, cutting it into a strainer using Dogmael's sharp blade, and stretching it tight over the cooking pot and then securing it tightly with rope. When the water is filtered through, there is a bit of earth and dirt residue - but the group are horrified to see extremely tiny little black or dark brown worms wriggling around. Leonor informs them that these are Garess, an extremely dangerous form of worm that can seriously harm and even kill people. Tifenn makes a brew out of almost all of the barka root that she has on her in Leonor's cooking pot, and then they burn Urien's shirt, his waterskin, and use the brew to clean Urien's saucepan. While all of this has been going on, Dogmael has been meditating and praying to the One God. When he finishes his prayers, the group eats their evening meal, and while the others have a cup of tea, Tifenn gives him aa cup of the herbal concoction as well, since Urien had mentioned that Dogmael had drunk some from the stream. When Dogmael drinks the tisane he asks why it tastes different from the usual evening tea, but he isn't suspicious at all about Tifenn's answer.
The next morning dawns bright and chilly, and Tifenn is woken by Leonor. He tells her it's time to get up and at 'em, but she mistakes the latter part for "Adam" in her grogginess. When she asks who Adam was, the varigal tells her he is a historic Talkéride general who was said to always rise early in the morning, and that he won every early morning battle that was fought. However, Leonor adds that it may just be all Reizhite lies. Tifenn checks on Dogmael, and he is baffled when she pronounces him all right.
After a breakfast of porridge with some brandy and assorted herbs in it, over which the characters discuss herbs for use in foodstuffs, the player characters break camp and set off in pursuit of the brigands and the wagons. Leonor picks up the trail and the characters continue on. Following the trail of the wagons, the player characters come upon the corpse of a butchered wolf. All of the edible meat and the pelt have been removed expertly. Leonor sees that the animal was killed by an arrow, so it is obvious that the brigands have a bowman among them. After some time, the varigal stops as the characters arrive at the campsite of the brigands that they spotted the night before. There are still several wisps of smoke from the firepit, and the varigal says they can't be more than two to three hours ahead of them. He checks the tracks in the area, and tells the character that there are the two wagons, two caernides, some seven or so brigands, and the two women prisoners. He points out the tracks to Tifenn, and the two joke a bit about her constantly asking questions of the varigal (although he says she's gotten better with this).
The characters proceed to follow the trail left by the wagons and the caernides, and catch up with them, following them until they pause to camp for a bit. Urien determines that there are two brigands wearing studded leather, and the other six wear stand leather armour. He determines that six are armed with short swords, one with a longsword (their leader?), and that one has a bow. Several of the men move like trained fighters. They cannot see two of the men, as they are on the other side of the wagons. Tifenn notices that the two women are chained behind the last wagon, by a set of shackles to the wagon right rear pole. When the brigands stop and camp temporarily, the brigand driver of the second wagon moves towards them with a set of keys, and shackles their legs to the wheel strut of the wagon.
For over half an hour, the player characters debate their strategy for the attack, as they are outnumbered by two to one. Dogmael proves to be pessimistic in his opinion of their chances of surviving the fight, and Urien and Tifenn question if he believes that this is due to them not being up to his combat standards. Tifenn, Urien, and Leonor are perfectly willing to fight to save the two women and the wagon cargo. However, the group finally comes up with a plan of sorts. With their plan in mind, the proposed ambush begins.
While Dunyasha hides behind some trees, Leonor commences the attack from cover with a shot at the brigand bowman. Tifenn, Urien, and Dogmael race from cover to engage the brigands. Tifenn runs towards the chained women to protect them, as one of the brigands moves in their direction, and the opportunistic bowman sees her and strikes her with an arrow in the arm. She clutches her arm, and rushes towards the two women, shouting at them to hide below the wagon. It is then that she realises they can't do so due to the arm chains. She gets there as the brigand is about to attack the women, and engages him, holding him off, but taking some more damage. Elsewhere, Urien finds himself fighting a brigand and having bad luck. The brigand fighting Urien takes him down, and very nearly kills him [Steven spent 2 Survival points to stay alive]. Dogmael goes for one of the foot soldier brigands, instead of trying to make his way to the leader, as Leonor continues to fire arrows and wreak havoc on the brigands. The varigal takes some damage as well. After finishing off the brigand by splitting him in twain, Dogmael is attacked by both the leader and another brigand, and is hard pressed. He takes several serious wounds, but is able to press his own attack, and when two arrow strikes by Leonor kills the brigand leader, the surviving brigands flee the scene, leaving the characters with the spoils - and some serious wounds. Tifenn realises they can't let the brigand with the keys to the womens' chains escape, and so she attacks him. He stumbles, smashing into the wagon, and the keys land at her feet. A frantic and happy Dunyasha comes racing out of the trees, and is reunited with her mother, Sulima.
While those who can scavenge the goods from the dead brigands do so, Leonor treats those who are severely injured. The characters acquire the Blade Knight longsword used by the brigand leader (which has the Gwidrite sword smith's symbol on it; Dogmael acquires this weapon), 6 sets of leather armour, 2 sets of studded leather armour, the bow and quiver with 10 arrows in it, 8 short swords, 8 daggers, and several balms, as well as 175 Ed and 30 Ad. Urien recognises the Mac Jaran swordsmith of Reizh symbol on all of these other swords and weapons. The characters make a fresh camp with the wagons several hundred feet from the scene of the fight, and rest for the night, and allow their bodies to heal a bit.
It takes the player characters three days to return to Bläs with the wagons and their goods, as well as Sulima and the other woman, Paoul, a Talkéride merchant with a strong sense of wit about her. As the player characters travel, Leonor explains to them that he had to make a deal with the Bläs elders: they would come to the aid of Faroe Mac Toran and Eswion on condition that all the gear, weapons and equipment of the brigands would be theirs by right. He had no choice in the matter, given the circumstances. The rest of the characters acquiesce in this matter, and return to the first camp where they gather up the brigand gear and equipment that was concealed there. During the return trip to Bläs, the characters learn that Paoul is a merchant sans caravan, who owns and works in a shop in Frendian. She was taken during one of the brigand raids while she was travelling.
When the characters finally arrive in Bläs, they are met wholeheartedly by Fara, the village headwoman, who is pleased to see the characters survived. Leonor tells her that they have stopped in Bläs so as to honour his promise to the Bläs men made in their time of need. Fara and the Bläs men are thrilled to receive the goods from the brigands, and tell the characters that Faroe Mac Toran and Eswion were sent on to Tálesh, and should have reached it two days ago. Tifenn discusses matters with the Bläs headwoman, and she agrees to allow the Ionnthén to have two of the healing balms and one of the emetic balms. She tells Tifenn that it's only because she likes her. After spending a somewhat cold, but friendly, night in Bläs, the player characters return with the wagons and the women to Tálesh, and receive a warm welcome for the cargo that they bear.
By and large, this game session of Shadows of Esteren went well enough, though I did feel somewhat rushed towards the end, especially after some of the time wasted out-of-character on a few issues. The scenario itself was a simple enough mission - find out what had happened to the caravan, and see if they could return it. The motivations on the characters' part for partaking in the adventure should have been interesting, but Doug and spross are struggling with their character personalities, and the inconsistency with both characters plagued the scenario throughout, sad to say. Tammy has a good feel for her character at this point, she knew exactly why her character was going after the caravan, and I'm looking forward to doing some character development with her as the campaign goes along; as for whether the two boys can get that, will depend on whether they do some consistent character roleplaying or not.
As for the game system itself, Shadows of Esteren is a remarkably simple game to run in many respects, other than the Sanity system and the fact that the character "Attributes" (called Ways here) are actually psychological values rather than the traditional elements found in roleplaying games. I didn't find that I had too many problems with these elements or the game system itself, but running the Combat system was tougher, especially when one had multiple opponents that had to be kept track of. That said, I'm enjoying the game system and the world of Esteren (well, the peninsula of Tri-Kazel, at any rate) thoroughly, and can't wait to run the game this coming week on both groups.