Session Nineteen (2nd December 2015): The Road to Caer Wynd
Realising that Eghan is showing the first signs of exposure, the characters build a fire to warm him up. They have a quick discussion to get their stories straight, agreeing that they will say that they found him drowning and Cwlhedric saved his life. With a bit of warmth inside him the bishop starts to become more responsive, although he confesses not to remember anything after going to bed last night. He blames pagan deviltry and begins to thank God for his rescue, only to be admonished by Cwlhedric. "Don't you dare thank your god when it was men — pagan men — who saved your life."
The smoke from the fire draws attention from the other search parties, and the characters are soon on their way back to camp with dry clothes donated by the searchers. However, as they approach the camp they hear war-horns, first from the direction of Caer Lwytgoed and then answered from the camp. It appears that Lord Brochan has announced his intent to meet his son on the field of battle. There is no way that the Baddan delegation will be ready to leave before the battle, so they agree to hunker down in the camp. Gwllyc leaves a squad of his men to protect them in the unlikely event that the battle will reach the camp. Ban decides to join with Gwllyc's army and Drem accompanies him to the battlefield, but the other characters remain in the camp.
[OOC: the players didn't have a dog in this fight, so two (Mike & Neil) ran Gwllyc's army and two (Graham & Camo) acted on behalf of Lord Brochan]
The two commanders first try to manoeuvre their troops to choose the field of battle that advantages themselves the most. Brochan had abandoned his hillfort in order to fight, but could still occupy a choke-point in the earthworks, or else force his opponent to move through the disrupting terrain of the wood. Gwllyc could also use the wood, but winning the tactical contest he chose to position his warband on the slopes above the dale, granting him the advantage of elevation. He also had a small band of slingers, who he positioned on the west flank of Brochan's army, trapping them against the wood to the east. Brochan's force adopts a square formation [strength 75, frontage 37, depth 2]. Gwllyc's warband forms into a phalanx [strength 75, frontage 9, depth 8]. His slingers are in skirmish formation [strength 25, frontage 5, depth 5].
As the men form up, some personal challenges are taken. Brochan's champion is a hulk of a man called Niallan, well known in the district for his prowess. Ban decides to step up to accept the challenge. Drem provides him with a blessing, smearing him with the blood of an animal sacrifice. Ban is impressed by the warrior's skill, but grasping an opening manages to trip Niallan then follow through with a slashing blow to his calf. Niallan is forced to yield; Ban softens the blow of the defeat by admitting that he had the luck of the gods on his side [OOC: this is true — Luck Points gave him the victory]. Brochan's force are shaken by this swift dispatch of their champion, seeing it as a sign that perhaps Brochan's suit is not the better one [OOC: the army failed its Loyal to Brochan roll]
Lord Brochan then addresses his troops. He stresses the importance of oaths — of a man to his lord, and of a son to his father. He is able to counteract some of the superstitious dread that Niallan's defeat has caused. Gwllyc's attempt to rally his men could not have been more disastrous. Filled with bloodlust from Ban's success, he exhorts his men to destroy the enemy, to spill their blood and break their bones. These 'enemies' are the friends and relatives of his own troops, and the men are horrified. Gwyllc's battle cry of "Brochan must die!" is not picked up by his troops, and they hesitate to follow him to war. [OOC: they will automatically break on the first Morale check]
With Gwllyc's warband stalling on the hillside, Brochan's forces are beset by his sling-wielding skirmishers. Brochan takes the advantage but his men have no missiles of their own to hurt the irregulars. He orders his men to take cover behind their shields. Gwllyc finally manages to goad his men into a charge, and they descend from the higher ground to smash into Brochan's forces. They fail to break through the line, but inflict heavy casualties from the charge downhill. Brochan's spearmen are the first to be wounded and this shakes their morale.
Gwllyc capitalises on the advantage he has, driving his phalanx forward into Brochan's warband, shattering their formation. The force of the attack carries forward to his father's honour guard and the lord becomes a casualty, taking a serious wound to his leg and becoming Gwllyc's captive [OOC: A critical Command roll from Gwllyc and a failure from Brochan allows Shatter and Target Character as Battle Actions]. Realising that they are on the verge of breaking, Brochan's second-in-command Owyn attempts to rally the men, but fails.
Gwllyc's warriors continue to claim casualties, but it is the skirmishers who end the battle. They make a feigned retreat, and the shaken and disrupted warband fall for the ruse. The casualties they suffer combined with the loss of their leader make maintaining morale a herculean task for Owyn, and the army breaks. They scatter into the surrounding countryside and Gwllyc claims the victory.
When casualties are counted, Gwllyc has just 3 men down. Brochan lost 11, only one of which died. Ban distinguished himself in the fighting: not only did he win the personal challenge (+18 reward points) but he also fought courageously (recklessly?) for the entire battle (4 Battle Rounds, +8 reward points). Gwllyc is grateful for his actions, and rewards him with a Roman helmet [OOC: rolls a 25 out of 26%!]. When asked what happens now, Gwllyc answers that as long as King Lend does not interfere, Brochan and his wife and child will be given a farmstead or villa somewhere far away and left to their own devices (Brochan is King Lend's cousin; more punitive measures are not an option). He will occupy Caer Lwytgoed until his brother returns from Caer Guracon. Aiden is older, but Gwllyc has possession, so they have an equal claim. Most likely they will share the rulership until one of them has an heir.
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