The Middle Isles

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.
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The Trials are designed to test five different areas of worthiness: Accuracy, Swiftness, Endurance, Wit, and Combat.
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-Accuracy is generally determined by throwing axes at a target, with the closest to the mark deigned as the winner of that particular Trial.
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-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.
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-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.
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-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.
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-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.
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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.
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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)

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