The Middle Isles

Session #5: Battle of Decenios, Part 2
A Surprise Victory for the Ages

Session #5
Sunday, November 10, 2013

New format for Obsidian Portal!

Attendance: Missing Justin, Z. Lewis

The weary party returned to the safety of the Decenian walls, as the Aerrisan army triumphantly established itself on the beach. Noddin and Boddin were severely hurt, as was Tyrael, who had to go to great lengths to get the healing he needed. Notably missing was Halia, who took the aquatic cave back up to the city. She emerged from some rough sewers in an outlying part of the city, and had to take a long, noisome walk back to the group’s camp near the main gates, where Kook assisted in finding her an animal trough to again make her presentable. Halia continued to have questions about her abilities, as it appeared she had traveled some 5+ minutes without needing to breathe.

The party was allowed to rest through the night. Tyrael and Amantius spent some time in prayer, and the rest of the party took their time in recharging and sleeping off the battle.

The next day dawned, and climbing up the battlements, the group could see that the Aerrisan forces (with the Vanguard Isles support) were still setting up on the beach, now seemingly unimpeded. Some of the party noticed, however, there didn’t seem to be enough supply ships for the vast number of soldiers being discharged on the beach.

Amantius and Tyrael were invited to the day’s war council, where Igwiln of Tinves was engaged in a serious argument with War-King Haldoss of Decenios over the best course of action. Igwiln suggested another sortie on the beach, while Haldoss seemed unconvinced. When Tyrael and Amantius suggested the supply fleet might be hiding elsewhere, so as to avoid a naval attack from any remaining elements of the Decenian League, it raised an intiguing propoisition. A small reconaissance force of Kook, Halia, Tyrael, Amantius, Richter, and Oddin (the only brother well enough to fight) was to check all the bays on the island, to see if this fleet might be found.

The group left the city by the north wall, which after a cleared killing ground, bordered the subtropical forest that made up the terrain of much of the island. The first bay the searched was empty, but as evening fell, they happened upon a single vessel resting in a harbor on the north edge of the island.

Halia, Tyrael, and Richter came up to the boat. A single sailor on watch by a mast (which showed signs of rushed and recent repair) was dispatched, but not before providing information that this was a) a ship out of the Vanguard Isles carrying wine, pitch, and water, and b) it was a supply ship for the Aerrisan invasion left behind to do repairs to its mast.

There was a small crew in the cabin of the ship, and two of the remaining four were dispatched handily before the two remaining individuals surrendered. Richter Zallan learned that this was part of his family’s fleet, and he burned with desire anew to see them ruined.

The two remaining prisoners, Milo and Tymus, seemed very agreeable to helping the party (especially with the spectre of death hanging over them). They told the party how the rest of the fleet was on the east part of the island in a small bay. The party, wanting to check this out for themselves, decided to check it out, taking this small merchant ship themselves, called the Blessed Bat, into the middle of the enemy supply fleet. Along the way, they learned the supply fleet was somewhere between 40-50 ships, with about 15 of them from the Zallan fleet.

The party was not idle during this short voyage. They used oil, pitch, and made some fire arrows and other incendiary devices. If they had their chance, they would do some damage to this supply fleet.

About an hour before dawn, they reached the bay where the supply fleet was anchored. Amazingly, they manage to bluff their way past one of the only longships guarding the merchant vessels (a bribe of wine didn’t hurt), and against all odds, they found themselves in the midst of this fleet.

That is when a symphony of unparalleled destruction hit the enemy fleet. Every fire arrow, every flaming cask of pitch found its mark. Within 15 minutes, a massive part of the previously sleeping fleet was on fire, panicked and disoriented in the conflagration that pierced the pre-dawn hour.

GM’s Note: Holy moly. I had the players roll for their successes, after they had already made a ridiculous number of luck rolls. They absolutely crushed them.

Meanwhile, Halia had again been attempting to commune with creatures in the deep. She succeeded, in the manner of a pod of dolphins, who resented the fleet in what they considered “their bay”. They offered to take her to a “SOMEONE” who resided in a cave at the bottom of the bay. To the surprise of the rest of the party, Halia jumped overboard.

The elemental spirit who lived at the bottom of the bay greeted Halia as “Daughter of the Sea”, and listened as she pleaded for help, saying they were trying to help drive the ships away. The spirit agreed, and Halia rose back to the surface, just in time for three massive waves to smash the fleet (and the Blessed Bat!) together, causing even more damage.

Richter pulled the ship alongside one of the damaged Zallan ships, and bade the scurrying crew to run back home with a message for his hated brother that this was a greeting from Richter.

That was it. A daring plan, combined with an enemy that didn’t give proper heed to safeguarding its supplies, and more than a bit of good luck and execution. The enemy fleet was routed, with 30+ out of 45 or so ships totally destroyed or out of service for the extended duration. Some of the few survivors fled for their home ports, while the handful of Aerrisan ships that could still float fled to the main force.

Unfortunately, the damaged ships included the Blessed Bat, which Halia ran aground. The crew burned the ship, and made a camp on the bluffs. They rested up, and watched what was left of the supply fleet dissipate.

That evening, as Amantius was standing watch, three individuals came up to the camp, wet and starving. They were galley slaves, who had escaped that morning from an Aerrisan ship. After talking to them for a bit, Amantius informed them they were free men now, who could chart their own course in life. They happily agreed to come back to the city.

The enlarged group made it back to the city in time to hear that King Haldoss was heading outside the gates to hear an ultimatum from the Aerrisan commander. The group also ran out of the gates, in time to tell Haldoss the Aerrisans had lost their fleet.

Needless to say, Haldoss was a happy man.

The Aerrisan commander threatened Decenios with total ruin, but said if it would surrender that day, it would be given favorable terms as a friend and ally of Aerris. However, if they did not surrender, their city would be swept into the ocean, the earth salted, and no two rocks left standing atop one another.

Haldoss then told the Aerrisan commander he knew their supply fleet had been burned, and it would take them at least a year to build another such fleet. He (with input from the group) explained precisely what the Aerrisans could do with their offer. Without a word, the Aerrisan comander, white-faced, turned and walked back to his camp.

Oh, how Haldoss roared with laughter.

King Haldoss announced there would be a mighty victory banquet, and each of the six involved with burning the supply fleet—Oddin, Tyrael, Halia, Kook, Amantius, and Richter—would be granted a reward at that banquet.

Meanwhile, Milo and Tymus were only too happy to swear into the service of Richter Zallan. At the same time, two of the men Amantius freed decided to head home to their speck of an island, but the third, Entrakeus, wished to enter the employ of Amantius himself.

With that, the party prepared to celebrate at a mighty feast, and ask their boon of Haldoss before returning home to Aquona.

The Battle of Decenios was nearly over before it began. 700-800 Decenians, allies, and a force of ten from Aquona decisively beat an army of 10,000 Aerrisan troops. It was a victory worthy of legend.

GM’s Notes: This session seemed disjointed at times, not least of all because we received some bad family news in the middle of it (though not enough to cancel the game outright). This is one of those games where I was immensely proud of my players. Everyone was in-character without any prodding, and I am really loving seeing natural alliances form as each character finds their niche. Even though things didn’t progress in any of the ways I thought they might, I had a blast. They did a fantastic job, even on a day where I didn’t feel at my best.

Session #4: Battle of Decenios, Part I
A Hard-Fought Battle; Injuries to the Party

October 27, 2013
*All present except Verran

The Aquonan detachment was responsible for opposing the landings on the beach closest to the main gates of Decenis. On either side of the beach, Decenians and their allies would similarly be attempting to contest the Aerrisans and the auxiliaries. Wooden stakes, pits, and some cover gave them some protection.

Before any of the ships reached the beach, Tyrael ensured two of them would be struck by lightning, thanks to the Sun Lord. One ship was very badly damaged, and the other at least moderately so. The ships belong to auxiliary troops from the Vanguard Isles—arrow fodder to soften up defense before the Aerrisan legions arrived.

When the ships started landing, several of the party used slings and bows to reduce the number of invaders. However, the invaders kept landing, and slowly and grimly pushed their way ahead on the beach, to the basic line of defense the Aquonans had made.

In the middle of the line, Masago and Amantius found themselves in lively fights with unexpectedly tough opponents. It took them some time to wear them down, and Amantius worked himself into a rage against the spearman who had kept up such a good fight. On the left, Richter used his bow to good effect, while keeping up a constant stream of hopefully demoralizing oratory against the foe. Tyrael used everything from rocks to daggers to his shield to maintain the center-left, and Kook rained down shocking and numbing spells on the opposition on the right.

Meanwhile, Halia took down one of the enemy with her net on the extreme right, finishing him off with her dagger. Oddin and Boddin got off to a slow start next to her, with Boddin taking an early injury that took him out of action early.

Still, more ships came in, and more enemy troops flooded the shore. It was a fight the party could not win in the long run—not that day, in any case.

Tyrael used his last lightning strike to completely incinerate one of the Vanguard Islanders, causing some of his allies to hold back. Meanwhile, Richter brandished the medallion of the Sun Lord he had found on Respite, and used his oratory to give the rapidly-flanking opponents to hang back. (What the Sun Lord would think of this remains to be seen).

The party held their own for a while, but injuries began to mount. Masago took several nasty hits, as did Oddin. They stuck it out on the right for longer than perhaps they should have, and had to count on the unwounded Kook to cover their retreat with his folk magic spells numbing and shocking the foes, slowing them down just enough. Masago had to evade to the left and right, dodging and rolling until he gained enough space to get clear. It was a very close escape.

On the left, Tyrael took a terrible injury to the arm. He blacked out from the agonizing pain, and only Boddin’s help, and a slow retreat (weathering several nasty blows by the enemy) by Richter staved off disaster. Tyrael fervently prayed to his god for assistance, and he recovered just enough to limp off the field with assistance.

Amantius also managed a fighting retreat in very good order, and shrugged off several blows as well. He covered Tyrael and Noddin’s retreat, and would not leave the field ahead of them.

While this was happening, the ships of the Aerrisan Legions had arrived, and began to form on the beach.

Meanwhile, Halia had snuck around in the surf to one of the enemy’s ships, and managed to catch one on fire. Realizing she had been cut off, she had no choice but to dive into the water. It looked dire, but then Halia tried something. She had felt a communion with the aquatic life when she had gone into the mysterious deep tidepool last session. She tried at first, and nothing happened. Trying again, a school of fish showed themselves, and directed her to a tiny underwater cave, with the destination unknown. Halia escaped the Aerrisans, but to what fate is unknown.

The rest of the group made it back to the gates and walls of Decenios, where the next fight would take place. It was a hard-fought action, one that was simply the opening fight in a much bigger conflict. The Battle of Decenios had ended its first phase; the Siege of Decenios was soon to begin.

GM’s Notes: There’s probably not as much written about this session, because it was 100% combat. The group knew they were in for a tough fight, and having one of their best fighters not present didn’t help. Still, they inflicted a large number of casualties on their opponents, and despite having some party members severely injured, they’re still all alive—at least for the moment.

Were there things they could have done better? Maybe, but they put up a great fight, all things considered. I didn’t scale back the difficulty, despite only having 6 players plus the 3 NPCs, but they managed to get through. I’ll be curious to see how they deal with fatigue and injuries.

Next session will cover the inevitable battle for the walls and city gates. The party is already tired, low on magic and health, and will have no time to really recover.

Session 3: The Respite
A Strange Encounter Enroute To Decenios; Greeting In Decenios; Prepare For War

October 13, 2013

All Present!

The crew of the Sea Slug stowed their supplies and provisions and set sail for Decenios, where they were to assist the remnants of the Decenian League in their fight against Aerris. It was decided that Halia should command on the sea, and Verran should command on land. Halia’s navigation proved true enough in the first part of the trip, and the Sea Slug sailed without much issue.

However, only a few days out from Decenios, the ship ran into a strange fog, something Halia hadn’t seen before, with a strange, unearthly soft green glow to it. The ship was lost in the fog.

Time seemed to pass strangely in the fog. Slowly, the fog dissipated, and the crew saw an island lying in front of them. The sun, which had show as early morning before, was now perhaps only an hour or so from sunset.

Owen and Verran pulled the boat ashore; Halia had felt the bottom scrape on the rocks, and felt it needed to be checked out, just as a precaution. While Oddin, Boddin, and Noddin did this work, the others explored the island.

Not 30 yards from shore was a single marble column, standing alone, broken off about 12 feet up. There was an inscription halfway up. Kook, along with some physical assistance from Owen, named read it. It welcome the travelers to the “Respite”, bid them to choose their path, but to not tarry past sundown, or fade with the island.

As Owen touched the column, a mysterious voice blared out inside of the characters’ heads, “Hail and Welcome to the Blade Reborn”. To Aquonans, who venerate the great ancient hero Joram the Blade, this was a shocking thing to hear.

Clearly, there was something of the divine and arcane on this island, and the characters realized they felt attuned with themselves, and were operating at a heightened kind of clarity (except Kook, who remained, well, Kook). There were four paths leading from the beach; one went into the woods in the center of the island, one meandered along the shore curving to the west of the island, one looked to go into a swampy, dark area, and one went to a rock outcropping and overlook to the east where the sun was just lowering past.

With the strange column warning of the need to leave by sundown, the party split up to identify the various parts of the island. Owen and Richter went to the outcropping. There, they found a shrine to the Sun Lord. As the sun dipped below the shrine, a bright, wavering apparition appeared. Owen and Richter assumed respectful poses. The apparition (a messenger of the Sun Lord or the Sun Lord himself?) did recognize them as part of his faithful (that would be Tyrael and Verran), but bade them give a message to those two.

“Instruct them: Do no direct harm to those who worship me,” the Sun Lord commanded. “Hinder if you must, and do your duty as a man and soldier, but kill not my children. Endure this test, and be rewarded”.

He then showed the two of them what would happen without the Blade being reborn: the two of them saw a vision of Vaornan soldiers pillaging and destroying not only Aquona, but countless other nations. There was a great darkness somewhere behind the Vaorns, and the vision descended into a shrieking madness of blood and burning. The two were relieved to be snapped back to consciousness a moment later.

The apparition faded, and Owen and Richter were again alone. Richter found a small talisman with a sun on where the apparition had been.

Meanwhile, Tyrael had gone further into the woods, taking that path. He reached a clearing, where an old woman sat in the midst of a circle of stumps. She was clearly the oldest woman Tyrael had ever seen, and she had no eyes.

“Greetings, Tyrael,” the old woman said. “You may ask one question from the Oracle of Respite”.

Tyrael had been brought up stories of being descended from the Sun Lord. He had to know—was his family really descended of old from the Sun Lord.

The oracle confirmed; the blood of the Sun Lord was in Tyrael’s veins, from generations past! Tyrael thanked the oracle, who quickly fell into slumber, and the priest/warrior walked back to the shore, with many deep questions and thoughts to ponder.

Meanwhile, Halia had walked down to the rocky part of coast, with a somewhat paranoid and suspicious Masago in town. Halia caught the sun glinting off one tidal pool, which strangely she could not see the bottom of. She felt a sudden urge to explore it, and dove in.

Despite being a small pool, it was different once she was inside. The pool seemed to go down forever, yet Halia oddly had no issues breathing or with the pressure. As the light of the sun faded from below, a sapphire glow lit her way from below.

The pool had opened up to an underwater landscape, and Halia swam towards a strange house, carved of underwater stone, coral, and shell. It was incredibly beautiful, but also looked abandoned.

She floated down to the house, and opened the door. She felt a reassuring calm, and then a mass of bubbles and foam formed in front of her, taking on a vaguely humanoid shape. She heard it speak in her mind,

“Welcome, my lady! We were not expecting you for some time, but it is a joyous day! Your mother will be so happy to finally greet you!”

Halia had never known here mother; she was taken aback. Who was her mother? What was this?

This bubble elemental projected dismay. He/she thought she was down here because she had discovered the truth? Was that not the reason she has arrived here?

Upon finding out it was not, the elemental sadly said she must go until she was ready; they would meet again. Halia made him promise, and being alerted to the plight of Masago (who had jumped in the pool after thinking she was drowning, found herself floating back up in the pool, with the panicked Masago just above her. She pushed Masago up, and both hauled themselves out of the pool, with Halia given much to think about, and Masago extremely grateful of air for his lungs.

Meawhile, Verran and Kook has taken the twisted path into the swamp. In the midst of that fetid and muddy place, they found an alabaster-white building, untouched by the decay and rot of the swamp. The door was slightly open, and the two decided to walk into the darkness.

They had walked only a little bit in, when an ancient, paper-dry voice whispered through the darkness on a sudden wind.

“Who disturbs the dishonored dead?”

Back before the world was broken, some warriors would not side with Vaor or the servants of the Gods, thus dishonored, their spirits were tied to their bones for all eternity, as they were only to be in the company of other false and cowardly souls. This is what this mausoleum was, secreted away on this isle that existed somewhere between the material realm and that of the divine.

At this point, Kook lit the torch.

Skeletons, everywhere. All formed perfectly, in various poses. Some with ancient armor, just as many without. The voice on the wind seemed to be coming from their gaping mouths.

The voice shuddered when Verran’s holy symbol came into view. “Ask what you will of us and leave!” the voice cried out.

“What will happen to Aquona if we fight Aerris?” queried Verran.

“It is not for the dead to see but shadows of the future, but we may say this; if you do not fight Aerris, Aquona will know peace for a generation more, but will ultimately be subjugated. If you fight Aerris, Aquona will know destruction and suffering, but may one day also return to glory. NOW GO!”

That was enough. The two removed themselves and headed back to shore.

Back at the ship, the Sea Slug was ready, and with much to talk about, the crew got back on their way as the sun began to set. Kook picked up some clean sand for his folk spells, and Halia found some rare Xinroot along the beach, just before the ship left. They couldn’t be sure in the evening, whether or not it was just the mist, but it seemed to the ship’s crew that Respite was fading, fading….gone.

Owen and Richter delivered their message from the Sun Lord to Verran and Tyrael, which gave those two much to be concerned about and to discuss. How could they fight in a war where they could not directly kill Aerrisans, who venerated the Sun Lord (albeit in strange rite and ritual).

A day later, the Sea Slug arrived at Decenios. Cities and ports like Decenios were a dime a dozen to folks like Richter, but some of the rest of the crew were surprised at the sheer size of it all. Decenios was a fairly large port in a good harbor, with stout walls and a massive gate. The Sea Slug was greeted by one of the dockmaster’s men, and escorted to their mooring. Owen was beside himself, recounting endless stories of Decenian lore.

A detachment of guards was there from Haldoss, War-King of Decenios, who had been elected King by the first families of Decenios to serve in the present crisis some 8 years earlier. The captain asked for the commander of the Aquonan forces and his lieutenants to meet them in the palace. As land commander, Verran took Richter and Owen with him to this meeting.

Haldoss was pleased to see the Aquonans; he introduced them to Morav, leader of the 200+ men from Lenwos, and Igwiln, the commander of 120 men from Tinves. Unfortunately, Haldoss asked Verran how many ships Aquona furinished. The truth came out; the Aquonans had sent a single ship, of only 10 men and women.

There followed the most uncomfortable silence in Decenian history, with Haldoss turning a lovely shade of red-purply-blue.

Owen stepped in, having announced himself as Amantius Heron Pandev at last. He gave a phenomenal speech about how the Aquonans had been hit hard by raiders, and how their small force had fought for this honor—and how they shared a common goal. (Richter also put in his two cents, to generally good effect). It calmed the King down, although Igwiln was still less than thrilled. He invited them to the banquet tonight (such meager fare as it was; the city was preparing to be attacked. He then asked Verran what his forces could do, and where would they be best-suited. Owen/Amantius volunteered them for the vanguard of the first attack, and the other two went along with it.

Meanwhile, Kook went researching in the Decenian archives and library, where he found part of the Ironhand spell he had been working on (though not enough to know if it would work). Meanwhile, Masago thought to go prizefighting with the assistance of Halia’s potions, before she talked him out of it.

In the city, food prices were already jumping up, and folks who could were fleeing with their wealth; those who could not were buckling in for a siege. The old and young had been conscripted for military labor and for last-ditch fighting. It was a city preparing to fight for its life.

Meanwhile, both Tyrael and Verran were still praying for guidance from the Sun Lord. How could they successfully fight an opponent in the Aerrisans when they could not directly kill them?

The folks of Decenios saw the Aquonans as semi-civilized, backwoods folks, but also tried to talk themselves into them being great fighters. There was much rumor and gossip surrounding the crew. The crew traded some haunches of meat for a new tunic for Kook ahead of the reception, with Kook magically cleaning his filthy, filthy self.

In the palace that evening, the entire crew of the Sea Slug had been invited to a banquet, along with the officers and warriors of Decenios and her allies. Haldoss warmly welcomed the Aquonans to the defense of Decenios. Unsolicited, Amantius gave a speech, which Kook interrupted by casting babble. Playing up to the Aquonan’s reputation as wild, hard fighters, Amantius smash a mug of (watered-down) ale right in his face.

The evening’s festivities and meager fare were interrupted by a messenger from the Hegemon of Aerris. The emissary offered King Haldoss the chance to open his port to Aerris, remain as ruler under a treaty of “Friendship and Understanding” with Aerris. In order to avoid terrible bloodshed, he suggested the Decenians not engage in a fight they could not win. Why, what could Decenious and her broken allies field? 1500, 2000 troops? Why, Aerris would send 10,0000 legionnaires against them!

Haldoss rebuffed this, and told the messenger if the Hegemon wished to come to Aerris, he’d have to do so by force. The messenger exited, and the banquet came to an end. The captains and their lieutenants for the Decenians and their allies met thereafter in a strategy session.

Decenios did not have enough ships to defeat Aerris on the sea; so she would fight a running retreat into Decenios, where the Aerrisan army must be stopped on the shore before Decenios. Failing that, they must be stopped at the gates and walls of Decenios. It was in leading the first attack on the landing forces on the beach that the Aquonans would see their action. Verran, still doubtful over his ability to lead give his god’s command, offered little in terms of concrete advice, though Richter and Amantius offered up a couple of ideas on strengthening defenses.

The Aerrisan army was also discussed; how their strength came in discipline and formation fighting, and how they would probably send some of their less-disciplined auxiliaries from places like the Vanguard Isles to soften the defenders up.

Masago (with Owen/Amantius) in tow, sought out a guard that was spoiling for a fight from earlier. The two agreed to fisticuffs, and Amantius bet a silver to a guard that Masago would win.

By the time the guard had even begun to think about throwing a punch, Masago ended the fight with a punch to the abdomen that would have killed an unlucky man. He apologized, and Amantius assured him the guard would live to fight another day after checking him out.

Tyrael and Verran both engaged in prayer, and received a message from the Sun Lord that they should do their best duty as men and soldiers, but again, not to directly kill his followers until he said otherwise.

The crew continued to prepare, and that week, the sails of the remaining Decenian fleet were spotted, with the fleet of Aerris spead out like flies on the ocean behind her. The battle would soon be joined, and the crew of the Sea Slug was to be the first ones to greet the Aerrisans on the shore.

The battle for Decenios was about to be joined.

GM’s Notes: I loved this session. So much happened, I may have to go back and add more when I look at my notes again. The Respite was a sort of random encounter that was formed from dice rolls, so I had to think on my feet and change a few things around, but the characters really worked well in character. Halia is finding out more about her past. Masago is paranoid and a brawler, Richter offers expertise but doesn’t play his hand too far from the vest, Tyrael and Verran are seriously conflicted and worried about their god’s dictates, Owen/Amantius is finding his place in the world, all eager teen and would-be hero, and Kook is…well, he’s the Kook, which is so much fun.

This game was almost 100% role-playing; next session will be primarily battle, I think.

MVP: Masago (Lewis)

Session #2: A Plea From The West
Trials And Triumph; A Decision Is Made

September 29, 2013

Roll Call: All present, excepting Z. Lewis (get back to us soon!)

The crew of the Sea Slug ran into the halls of King Rorem, along with anyone else who wasn’t busy repairing a ship or recovering from wounds. The messenger was from Decenios, leader of the Decenian League, the group of city states that had banded together to fight the Hegemony of Aerris.

Sadly, the news Tarl of Decenios brought with him was not good. The Decenian League had faltered, and the implication was that the Aerrisan fleet would soon be sailing towards the port of Decenios. Tarl, a dutiful messenger for Haldoss, War-King of Decenios, implored Aquona to send what help they could. King Rorem knew his nation was sorely lacking in healthy men or whole ships, but also felt the pressure to send “something” for the honor of Aquona, even if only a single ship. So, with that in mind, he said he would deliberate and given his decision in the morning. His sons, Princes Brand Ethred, also gave their counsel, with Ethred urging action at each turn, and Brand being reprimanded by his father for not understanding the gravity of the situation.

At almost the same time, Owen volunteered the crew of the Sea Slug to be those who would go to the aid of Decenios, as Tiro did the same for his crew of the Water Witch. Tiro, as a veteran warrior and good friend of Prince Ethred, seemed likely to get the honor, but King Rorem did not yet make the decision.

Initially, Owen faced some resistance from the rest of the crew; Halia and Kook were on board fairly quickly, but Tyrael and Verran were more reticent. As allies of Ethred, the Prince also took them aside to explain that he would likely be giving the recommendation for Tiro’s crew as more experienced. Tiro came by to tell the rest of the crew the same thing in no uncertain terms. Richter took the opportunity to tell Tiro if he did venture west, he might want to look into the dealings of a certain merchant family operating in the Vanguard Isles. Richter also made it a point to tell Owen his “simple peasant” act was pretty transparent!

Yet, Kook and Halia were determined, and they knew of something important, something obscure, when it came to this decision. They decided to invoke the Five Trials…

The Five Trials are an Aquonan tradition that date back at least a couple of centuries. When two or more groups are vying for a particular honor, a freeman speaking for himself or his group may demand the privilege of submitting the sides to the Five Trials. While the results of the trials are not considered binding to the King, it is at the same time considered a peerless way (excepting battle) to prove one’s worth for a task. The King must acquiesce to the request, as well.
The Trials are designed to test five different areas of worthiness: Accuracy, Swiftness, Endurance, Wit, and Combat.
-Accuracy is generally determined by throwing axes at a target, with the closest to the mark deigned as the winner of that particular Trial.
-Swiftness is judged by a footrace to the top of the hill (often known as Arcas’s Rest) just outside of Aquona, where they must grab a strip of cloth before turning around and returning via the same path. The winner of the race is the first to return.
-Perhaps the most straightforward Trial, Endurance is determined by contestants going down to the shore and holding their breath underwater for as long as they can. The last to rise is the victor of the Trial.
-Wit is, in its own way, the most challenging of all the Trials. Not far from Aquona by the shore lies the Blue Cave. An iron coin is laid squarely in the middle of the cave, and the entrance is guarded by between 5-7 stout warriors. The challengers must find their way into the cave—without spilling blood—and retrieve the coin. They are given only the time between high and low tide to retrieve the coin.
-Finally, there is Combat, in which a Third, a Second, and a Champion for both factions are named. The Thirds fight one another; the Seconds fight each other next, and then the Champions battle. The side which wins the majority of these fights is named the winner of this Trial. Each pair of combatants gets to draw straws to see who chooses the weapons—the options being Bare-Handed, Staves, or Sword and Shield. The items chosen must be those used, and no other. Combat is to be non-lethal.
In the end, the King must consider who has won the most of the Trials, and if that side has done so in an honorable and fine manner. He may then grant them the honor or boon they have requested, though he may still judge against them, given extenuating circumstances.
Needless to say, cheating is poorly looked upon, and only the most dishonorable of warriors would consider such actions.

The next morning, just before King Rorem was to make his decision, Kook interrupted the King, attempting to invoke the Five Trials. Owen, who didn’t know of this loophole, smacked Kook to quiet him. Then Halia spoke and invoked the right of the Five Trials. Tiro did not look pleased, but agreed—after all, his veteran crew should be able to handle these newcomers.

In the first contest of Accuracy, one of Tiro’s men finally succeeded in hitting a bull’s eye on the target with his throwing axes. The first contest went to Tiro’s crew.

The second contest was swiftness, a race to the top of a nearby hill and back. Although Halia and Verran made it a good contest, Tiro himself pulled away at the end for a victory.

However, in the Endurance competition, the luck of the Sea Slug’s crew would change. Halia held her breath underwater, not releasing her lead weight, as competitor after competitor gave up and had to come up for air. Did it have anything to do with the drink of “water” she imbibed right before the contest, or was it something else?

The Wit challenge was actually completed successfully by both teams, but the Sea Slug’s crew used some misdirection, bluffs, and some extreme nastiness (fish guts and excrement, courtesy of Kook) to distract the cave guards. Halia also glamoured her comb to fascinate a guard, while various deceits (including a sort of Paul Revere moment by Owen) dispersed the rest.

That brought the contest to Combat. As 3rd, Tyrael drew the long straw, and chose to fight with sword and shield. It was a brutal fight against one of Tiro’s toughest fighters, and it was a back and forth affair. However, Tyrael’s skill with a shield (defensively AND offensively) was the difference, as he slowly wore down his opponent, knocking his foe prone and drove him into the ground, rendering him unconscious. It was a hard-fought, well-received combat, with Richter’s taunting perhaps distracting Tiro’s man a bit.

As 2nd, Verran chose staves as the weapon of choice. Tiro’s 2nd-in-command swung a mighty blow right off the bat, which had it connected, would have finished Verran right then and there. But instead, Verran just leaped out of the way, recovered quickly, and swung his staff, smashing his foe’s right arm. It was as gruesome a result as a non-lethal fight would have.

That brought the fight to Owen, who would be fighting the much more experienced Tiro. Owen chose sword and shield, and immediately, the battle flared to life. Owen disarmed Tiro, and Tiro grabbed Owen’s sword. Tiro would be disarmed, and then Owen would lose his shield. The two traded blows and weapons, back and forth, with neither fighter able to land the telling blow. Finally, Owen disarmed Tiro, and followed up on a prior punch to Tiro’s midsection, hitting him hard enough to crack some ribs. With a final grunt of pain, exhausted, Tiro collapsed. Improbably, Tiro had lost, and the young Owen had won.

King Rorem saluted both crews, but said the honor would belong to Owen, Halia, Kook, Verran, Tyrael, Richter, and the rest of the Sea Slug’s crew. They would journey to Decenios as Aquona’s contingent, to offer what assistance they might against Aquona. Tiro was furious, and limped off the field of combat, shooting daggers at Owen. Meanwhile, Ethred confronted Verran and Tyrael, grimly warning them that their victory would have consequences, but brusquely wishing them luck.

The crew had but a couple of days to prepare for their journey. They had done the unthinkable against a vastly more experienced crew, but a far great fight was about to begin…

Experience Rolls Made this session.

MVP: Spencer (Tyrael)

Session #1: The Sea Slug
Companions-in-Arms Meet And Triumph

The party met in the halls of King Rorem, where the conscripts brought in to serve were being fed solid, if unspectacular fare and decent mead. At a table far from the front of the hall, our party meets.

Kook, the dirty, eccentric hedge wizard, made a scene of collecting fish bones from the meal (he uses them in his Folk Magic). Meanwhile, “Owen”, a suspiciously genteel-looking youngster, shared his ebullience with the crowd. Halia, the daughter of a local fisherman, was gracious enough while sitting next to kook. The brothers, Tyrael and Verran, looked to be two of the more ready and experienced characters in the group (no doubt a reflection on their sterling upbringing), while the Vanguard Isles merchant Richter Zallan exchanged frank small talk with the bluff and hearty Masago and the others.

Also at the table were the three brothers from the village of Stony Point; Oddin, stout, wildly whiskered, always scowling and making crazy statements about military strategy, Boddin, his baldheaded brother, nervous and immensely pessimistic, and Noddin, their younger brother, friendly and cheerful in the extreme. The entire crew was joined by Old Dorvi, the seasoned, somewhat over-the-hill warrior, who had been brought back to captain the Sea Slug, the worn ship that this crew would serve upon.

Meanwhile, at the front of the hall, King Rorem received the terrible news he had been expecting—the Aquonan fleet had met the terrible Krenag raiders, and had managed only a bloody stalemate that crippled their naval strength in the short term. Prince Ethred, the King’s oldest son, reported to his father, with the rest of the fleet limping back to the port. They were interrupted by Prince Brand, Rorem’s younger son, who was clearly inebriated. The two nearly came to blows before Rorem stopped them, and Brand stumbled from the hall.

Dorvi let the crew know to report at dawn to the Sea Slug; their mission was to patrol for raiders and pirates in the fertile fishing ground of Gate Rock, a small bit of land only a few miles from the north end of Aquona.

Owen was first to report in the morning, responding with overeagerness to every duty a somewhat bemused Dorvi put upon him. The Sea Slug was leaky, and Kook soon found his calling, baling water time and again. The others showed up, with Oddin talking about his “double cut” naval strategy, and becoming incensed when Kook suggested a “triple cut”, calling it foolishness.

Soon enough, the ship was underway, and the crew made good time, once Owen’s overzealous rowing was tempered. The crew ran across a fisherman who said he had fled from some bandits in an old fishing vessel earlier.

Coming to the area around Gate Rock, they found a small ship on the shore, with footprints leading away. Verran took the main party into the light woods, hoping to find who the boat belonged to, while Dorvi, Oddin, Boddin, and Noddin all stayed behind to search the beach and secure the vessel.

Kook perceived there were individuals in the clearing ahead, but unfortunately decided to trumpet the news. As the party burst into the clearing, it was a standoff, as they faced a mealy group of pirates, crude weapons drawn.

Attempts to talk soon broke down, and battle was joined. Owen, who initially held back while he examine the found vessel, crashed through into the clearly and made his first kill, an extraordinarily messy affair. Meanwhile, Kook used his folk magics to zap and hinder the pirates, while Verran kept up an accurate fire with his bow.

Halia attempted use the magics at her disposal to calm the pirates; it worked to an extent, but not enough to stop the battle. She then cast a sneaky spell to put a glamour on one of the pirates, causing a distraction that allowed Richter, Owen, and others to quickly vanquish their foes. Even after throwing his axe, Tyrael was equally deadly with the bludgeoning might of his shield.

Disarmed early in the fight, Masago showed his unarmed prowess by punching a man to death, in perhaps the most disturbing display of the day. Finishing the battle, Tyrael exhorted the Sun Lord to smite his foes, and a blast of divine energy barked out from the sky, charring the final pirate. The victory was total. Owen did not take some of the gore well, becoming physically ill.

Halia was able to find some wartbark on the small isle, which she identified as a fine hangover remedy. She secured enough to prepare about 4 doses. The other loot was minor, with a couple of silver pieces, a bottle of decent wine, and a couple of knives the most notable additions.

The voyage home was short and uneventful, and Dorvi reported their success to Holmar, famed warrior of Aquona and one of King Rorem’s trusted warriors and best friend. However, there were other distractions, as the fleet that had been in battle against the Krenag raiders returned home.

While Halia returned to her home to rest and Verran did the same to his home, Tyrael, Masago, and Kook decided to go to the tents where Chara, mystic and cousin of the King, was helping care for the wounded. Chara was deeply impressed with their assistance, and the three warriors gained an Ally as a consequence.

Meanwhile, Noddin accompanied Owen to a nearby beer hall, where plenty of soldiers and conscripts were drowning their sorrows and resting. Richter followed, and quickly perceived Owen was not the simple farmer’s son he claimed. Still, he was polite enough not to delve too deeply in those matters.

The next morning, Dorvi let the crew know they had been tasked to sail to Greenwater, a flyspeck of a settlement some 20 miles away. Greenwater paid Aquona tribute for “protection”, usually in the form of dried fish and mutton, as that is all they had. With Rorem’s fleet returning, having food was a necessity, so the crew set out to collect.

However, upon arriving, they found the village had been attacked in the middle of the night. The villagers had little, but the tribute for Rorem had been largely destroyed. A necklace was founded, one that the theologically-inclined in the group identified and the three-eyed pyramid of the fallen god Vaor. It seemed likely the Vaornans had again raided in these waters, but there was no sign of them, and no opportunity to pursue.

Rather than return home empty-handed, Owen and Richter managed to get four of Greenwater’s men to volunteer service for King Rorem, with the reasoning perhaps they could send back money and spoils to their near-ruined village.

Sailing back with these new recruits, the crew of the Sea Slug sailed back to the port town of Aquona, where the damaged fleet of Aquona was still being attended to. But Halia recognized a ship she had not seen since she was a girl, one she recalled her adoptive father telling her was from the Decenian League. Dorvi spoke to one of King Rorem’s men who at the dock, and turned to the party, grim-faced. It appeared bad news had come from the west, and he suggested they all head to King Rorem’s longhouse to see what was going on…

GM’s Notes: What a great first session. Combat was a sort of “training wheels” session, but it went remarkably well. Combat was tactical and exciting, with players really using Special Effects well (and being at the unfortunate end of the same on at least one occasion!). Closing distances and parrys were also basically issue-free. We had to look up a couple of minor items, but nothing too drastic.

The players roleplayed their characters wonderfully, with Schuyler (Owen) winning the group MVP award for a week after a close runoff vote. Honestly, it could have gone to any one of them. I think it was a splendid first session to build on. Hopefully, a few more NPCs are introduced next time, as events take an even more serious turn…


I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.