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Rain over the Summerlands: A Mythic Britain Campaign

Re: Rain over the Summerlands: A Mythic Britain Campaign

Postby mark.s » Thu Feb 11, 2016 10:43 am

Session Twenty Three (21st January 2016): The Winter Council

[OC: reminder -- spoilers regarding the Mythic Britain Campaign from hereon in]

Heads pounding from the night before, the characters open their eyes to their second day at Caer Wynd. Drem starts his day with a beer, everyone else settles for breakfast. Reminded that his father had asked him to speak with the kings of the Silures, Cwlhedric goes looking for King Meurig of Gwent, taking Brian for moral support. Newlyn is keen to get rid of Lailoken and promises to help him find his sister. Drem goes looking for wine and wenches, and finds the latter selling the former. Ban decides to remain behind and prepare his war gear.

When Cwlhedric and Brian track down the Gwentish king he is being loudly harangued by a Powysian nobleman who is concerned that the queen of the Brigantes wants the Council to declare her High Queen. Bishop Dyfrig — Meurig's constant companion — dismisses the man to speak to Cwlhedric. After presenting his case, Meurig wants Caer Penrhyn to stand with him at this council against Deheubarth. He intends to bring charges against King Iuchar and needs every man he can muster. In return for this and another formality, Gwent will ally with Caer Penrhyn. The formality is a piece of land upon which to build an abbey. Gwent will supply the monks to people it.

Newlyn has spent a frustrating morning with Lailoken, who can't remember the name of his sister's husband. They bump into a pair of arguing sisters — the dowdy Gwenhyfach and the stunningly beautiful Gwenhafhyr. They have managed to get themselves lost, and Gwenhafhyr appeals to Newlyn's mercy to help them find their father's hut again. Newlyn is bowled over by the beauty and grace of Gwenhafhyr and hastens to help her out. Once she has been safely delivered home, they bump into Arthur ap Uther and King Achaius of Deiwr, who are both immediately smitten in much the same way as is Newlyn.

Having "negotiated" [*ahem*] a good price for wine and some honey cakes with a pretty young maid, Drem heads for the Deheubarth encampment. He uses the wine to ingratiate himself with the warband, and determines that both King Iuchar and High Druid Taddg are not present. However, Niamh — the wife of the lord of Caer Merdin — is present, and she has been known to take lovers. This is exactly what Drem is looking for, and he makes his way inside the roundhouse to work his charm on the lady. His seduction of her is successful, and he is able to move to the real purpose of his visit — get intelligence on Deheubarth. He gathers that King Iuchar has deliberately come with a small contingent as a show of confidence and arrogance knowing that his enemies will be here in force. Iuchar has designs on Gwent's rich farmlands, and Powys's too.

Everyone other than Drem has made it back to their camp, and they are preparing for the night's feasting. They have visitors in the shape of Arthur ap Uther and his foster-brother King Derec of Elmet. The two are visiting all camps, meeting with the guests and making them feel welcome. The characters are impressed by Arthur: he is no older than themselves, but they sense in him a purpose and destiny. Derec knows Lailoken of old, describing him with affection as a batty old scoundrel. His sister died over twenty years ago; the lord of Caer Wynd offers to take him off their hands and give him a place by his own fire instead.

As the characters enter the mead hall they are immediately offered an invitation to join a table and to drink. The instigator is Bors the Younger, whose father is Arthur's steward back at Caer Cadbryg. Wasting no time, Brian accepts the challenge of who can finish a horn of ale fastest and does credit to his ancestors by downing the lot before Bors. The Armorican is keen to win back some of his lost honour, and Brian agrees to a contest over who can drink the most. After each cup, both contestants have to stand on one leg on the table. Brian fails this feat after the first drink, and Bors is declared the winner.

During the drinking contest, a woman has had her eyes fixed firmly on Cwlhedric, and both he and Drem have spotted her. She is in her thirties and dressed in filthy but once-fine clothes. She is crawling with lice and has a powerful odour about her. Drem also spots her druidic tonsure and realises this must be Morgana, Uther's only surviving legitimate child. She stalks over to Cwlhedric and hisses a prophecy at him: "He will choose you. You are marked by the spirits to serve the Great Dragon. I can see them. Only I can help you. One day, in time, you will want my help, and I shall want yours". She then walks away, the crowd parting before her.

Morgana's appearance puts a temporary downer on the festivities, but they are soon revived by a Powysian warrior called Sloane. He declares that he fought at the Battle of Blackdown and slew eight Saxons. Brian can't let this boast go unchallenged, and the two are soon engaged in gorhoffedd, or a boasting contest. Sloane concentrates on flyting his opponent with slurs about his Irish nationality and state of drunkenness, and while Brian tries very hard, his audience soon drowns him out with jeers. The contest has given Cwlhedric an idea however, and he stands to tell the tale of his bravery against the bandits in Knole, and the treachery of his uncle. Cwlhedric has to fight for the attention of his mostly drunken crowd, but he manages it and they are soon cheering the characters' bravery and booing those of Morgan. Cwlhedric hopes that the reputation he sows will stand him in good stead.

With heads ringing with drink (all except Ban, who has not partaken), the group head off for bed.
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Re: Rain over the Summerlands: A Mythic Britain Campaign

Postby mark.s » Thu Feb 11, 2016 10:45 am

Session Twenty Four (27th January 2016): The Winter Council

The group arrive back at their camp to find that the Dumnonians they had agreed to let stay there had moved in and occupied all the best places to sleep. Cwlhedric kicked one awake to reclaim his spot, Newlyn rolled the offender over, and Drem just snuggled in beside the (female) interloper — but not before balancing cups of ale on top of the supine bodies of the invaders.

Still smarting over his gaming losses, Newlyn is brooding rather than sleeping. He sees a small hooded figure creeping through Caer Wynd, heading for the edge of the settlement. He wakes Ban, and they creep off after it. When they catch up at the palisade wall, they find it is a girl, perhaps only 14 years old. Newlyn grabs her by the ankle and pulls her to the floor; she is easy to restrain but does not take the manhandling quietly. She spits and scratches and curses in Goidelic. When this fails she begs them to release her, saying she is running away from her monster of a husband, although she refuses to say who she is. It doesn't matter since Newlyn works it out immediately — Queen Iseult, Mark of Kernow's eighth wife, and daughter of the king of Connacht in her own right. Both Ban and Newlyn are agreed that the only course of action is to return her to her husband (although Newlyn is minded towards a solution involving a shovel and a shallow grave). They decide to retrieve Cwlhedric and Drem to appraise them of the situation, both of whom are opposed to returning Iseult to Mark. King Mark is an enemy of Dumnonia; he allied with Aelle in a failed attempt to destroy Uther's kingdom and is a thoroughly despicable individual. Cwlhedric thinks he might earn the friendship of Iseult's father, but she is one of nineteen daughters and six sons (from nine wives) and was traded to Mark by Marhaus, Iseult's uncle. Drem points out that the only thing they can't do now is nothing. There is discussion about hiding her in Caer Wynd, but the risks of discovery are too great. Ban hits upon the idea of calling in a favour from Kenneth, and Cwlhedric persuades him to take Iseult to Caer Alban. Drem suggests that her distinctive green dress is floated in the Isara River (about 5 miles to the south), making it look like she took it off to make the crossing. Cwlhedric gives her his shirt to wear, Drem and Newlyn between them give her 15 denarii.

In the morning, King Mark is apoplectic. His men are sent into the camp to inquire at the roundhouses and to search the camps for the young queen. The Dumnonians bunked with the characters know that Iseult is widely believed to be the reborn soul of Ygraine (Mark's first and true love), making her loss particularly keen. King Mark is blaming Merlin who, rumour has it, has a track history in spiriting away his wives. Cwlhedric refuses permission to the Kernovian soldiers wanting to search their camp. The druid Oelias similarly refuses them entry to Hafgan's roundhouse, in a much more dramatic and druidic manner. Oelias later comes to introduce himself to Drem, saying that he promised Cerwen he would keep an eye out for him. He tells the druid about Merlin's 'game': if you want to attend the gorsedd (meeting of druids) you have to be able to work out where and when it is to be held. The High Druids have been primed with clues and it is necessary to introduce oneself to them and allow them to get a measure of you before they will reveal what they've been told.

Due to the fuss made by King Mark, the council — today's main business — is late starting. With Derec acting as chairman, the kings, warlords, and chiefs of Britain debate various issues regarding border disputes: Deheubarth against Gwent, Powys against Cornovia, Reget against the Caledonii, and so on. There is a feeling that all this is a prelude for the main event. Drem speaks first with Yspaddaden Gawr, High Druid of the dispossessed Corieltauvi. He wants to know if Drem thinks Saxons or Christians are the bigger threat. He tells Drem that Derec is holding his meeting in the hall at Caer Wynd. The scary Askrigg, High Druid of the Cornovii asks Drem what the biggest challenges to the Durotriges are, and how he would fix them. Drem answers that it is the squabbling, and thinks that a high king is the solution. Askrigg tells him that the meeting that is to held at the river will not commence at moonrise. Hywel, High Druid of the Parisii speaks only in omens and riddles that Drem doesn't understand, but does tell him that the meeting held as Ogmios rises is not the Christian one. Finally, Wynne is approached. She is the High Druid of the Dobunni and has reasons to hate Bishop Eghan. She wants to know how Drem can live alongside the enemies of Britain. He answers that Christians will be good fodder for Saxon axes. Her clue is that Brother Niall has arranged a house in Loidis for his meeting.

Meanwhile, Cwlhedric has managed to speak with Iuchar of Deheubarth. The king says that the tribute to him is the same as it ever was: a rod of silver as thick as his thumb and a plate of gold as big as his face. Also, farms for twenty kindred. However, since Iuchar has no raiders on Sabrinna's Sea, Irven has no need to pay this.

Finally, the council gets to its main order of business. Arthur makes an impassioned speech about the threat of the Saxons, stressing that local conflicts over religion and territory will mean nothing when the Saxons have taken over the land and their gods hold sway. He warns of a new warlord by the name of Cerdic who now threatens the shores of Britain, and proposes an alliance where all nations assist in creating a cordon that denies any more land to the Saxons, and then slowly advances, forcing them to fight a war rather than lots of small battles.

This speech does not go down well. The leaders of the British peoples revert to type: fractious, hot headed and too arrogant to be reasonable. Merlin's temper eventually gets the better of him, and he drives a sword into the floor so that it is wedged between two flagstones. He challenges a chieftain who believes Arthur is wrong to take up the sword from the stone and use it to cut Arthur down. The chieftain cannot move it, even with all his strength. Then, Derec ap Cai is asked if he supports Arthur. When he says he is, Merlin says "Prove it! Draw forth the sword!" It comes cleanly from the stone. Again and again the lords of Britain are challenged by the old druid to draw the sword, and only those who are with Arthur can do so. The turning point is when Queen Elliw of the Brigantes pulls the sword free and declares that Arthur's mission is blessed by God. Soon only a handful of nations oppose Arthur: Gododdin and the Caledonian coalition, who believe themselves safe beyond the Wall; Kernow who will not ally with Arthur or Merlin for any reason; Gwent because it has no men to spare due to its own troubles; and Deheubarth out of sheer bloody-mindedness. It is noted that Custennin is amongst the last to declare for Arthur, when he is sure the alliance is going to stand.

Once the new alliance has been toasted, the hall clears to allow the servants to get the feast prepared. Merlin remains behind with the sword still impaled in the stone floor. He calls the characters to him by name. He asks them one by one to draw the sword, and it comes free for all of them. He grunts his approval. He tells them that they have been chosen by the Great Dragon, firstly to serve the alliance that Arthur is creating to drive the Saxons out and secondly to help Merlin gather the Thirteen Treasures of Britain to make sure they never return. Any former obligations or ties of servitude are suspended: from now on they serve Britain with Merlin as their lord. Custennin has already been informed of this change.
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Re: Rain over the Summerlands: A Mythic Britain Campaign

Postby mark.s » Thu Feb 11, 2016 10:48 am

New NPCs

Some of Arthur's warband make an appearance in this episode, and I'll introduce them here.

Bedwyr Bedrydant: exceptionally handsome and knows it.

Bors the Younger: A burly Armorican, his father was a friend of Uther and is the steward of Caer Cadbryg.

Culhwch ap Cilydd: Arthur's cousin (the son of Ygraine's sister).

Geraint of the South: A Pict of the Novantae tribe, so he is a southerner only in the eyes of other Picts. He has a distinct lack of a sense of humour.

Glewlywd Gafaelfawer: his byname means "the Mighty Grasp" and he is well-named. Glewlywd stands 6'10" and is solid muscle. His party trick is to lift an ox off the floor.

Menw ap Tairgwaedd: son of a druid and an enchantress, he claims to have "picked up a few of their tricks".

Peredur ap Efrawg: just turned sixteen and as yet still beardless; he has a deft hand and a nimble mind.

There is at least one more member mentioned by name: Afaon ap Taliesin.

The characters get the idea that these warriors are the cream of the crop. They each have a one or two high Characteristic scores (in the 17-18 range) and a few skills at which they excel. They also have Luck Points, something which hitherto has been the sole preserve of the PCs. These guys are heroes.

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Re: Rain over the Summerlands: A Mythic Britain Campaign

Postby mark.s » Thu Feb 11, 2016 10:51 am

Session Twenty Five (3rd February 2016): The Winter Council

[OOC: this first event is a back-track; Mike — Brian's player — wasn't at the previous session. This scene happened between the Council and Merlin's unveiling of his plans for the characters]

As the Great Hall is cleared to prepare the feast, Brian spots a familiar face in the crowd, one he had not expected to see. His father is amongst the Deheubarth warband. Brian hasn't seen Driscoll for over ten years, when as a boy Brian was dispatched to Dumnonia with his sister as part of a truce settlement with Deheubarth. When the fosterage was over Driscoll didn't want Brian back, and when Brian's sister Dierdre married Cwlhedric, Driscoll did not come to the wedding. Already resentful at his family for being abandoned by his Irish family, Brian settled down with his British one instead.

Brian remembered his father as a warm, friendly man but this not who he encountered today in Caer Wynd. He expressed no interest in what Brian had been up to in the intervening decade, and delivered the news of his mother's death in the same tone as describing the loss of his favourite fishing net. Seeing him amongst Deheubarth's warriors was also out of place, since he remembers that when he was a boy the Irish families in Britain had lived in fear of Silures raids on their settlements. Brian comes away thoroughly dissatisfied with his reunion, and wonders what has caused this change.

[OOC: Merlin then says his piece as detailed in the previous play report]

Their minds full of the portentous change in circumstances due to Merlin's actions, the characters return to their camp. They find that all their belongings are gone, and the Dumnonians are once more occupying the choice spots of the shelter. Cwlhedric is most anxious about his missing horse. The Dumnonians tell them that a man (who they identify as Bors the Younger) came by and had it all moved. They track down Bors, and find their stuff now occupies bunks in the roundhouse commandeered by Arthur's warband. Bors introduces his six companions: Arthur's cousin Culhwch, Bedwyr Bedrydant, Geraint of the South, Peredur, Menw, and Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr. They find them a friendly group who give them a bit of insight into life in the warband. There is some spare arms and armour for them to help themselves to, and Peredur offers to paint a bear — Arthur's standard — onto their shields. Cwlhedric takes a new shield already with the bear and asks him to add his father's fish. He then carefully scrapes his father's symbol off his old shield and then burns it, taking a certain pleasure in seeing Custennin's lion-head sigil going up in flames.

A horn blow signifies the commencement of the Imbolc feast. The whole oxen and pigs have been roasting all day, and servants now carry around trenchers loaded with the meat, along with mead and ale. At sunset, a Christian priest leads off the most devout to celebrate the life of Saint Bride. Cwlhedric and Drem take part in a riddle contest before the rounds of Badger-in-the-bag begin. Brian specifically seeks out an Irishman to go up against; and lets out a few repressed feelings by sweeping Ahern's feet from under him with a swipe of his stick and knocking his opponent's stick several metres away [OOC: Brian attacked his opponent rather than the bag, and with a Critical blow got a trip and disarm]. While his opponent recovered Brian got the bag half away down the court, but then decided to hang the contest and propelled the bag directly at his opponent, hitting him with it in the groin. As Drem drolly remarked, "nothing slows a man down like a badger to the testicles!" As the match dissolves into a brawl, the two are pulled off each other. Ahern and his drinking buddies are looking for a bit of revenge, but Glewlwyd's massive presence in front of Brian dissuades them. Brian continues to hurl insults at the retreating Irish from his safe position behind Glewlwyd's back.

As Ban's match begins, Drem slips away. He has surmised that the druids' gorsedd will take place by the river as the constellation of Ogmios rises, and he is correct. The High Druids are arranged into four circles each originally with five members: the northern British tribes, the western tribes, the southern tribes, and the eastern tribes. However, many of the seats are vacant (including all of the eastern High Druids), and there are just 10 extant. Drem sits with the southern druids as the representative of the Durotriges. Ceidmon represents the Belgae, Wynne represents the Dobunni, and Wella of Kernow speaks for the Dumnonii (the Atrebates tribe has been exterminated by the Saxons). Each circle must agree on a single vote, and if all three circles agree then action will be taken. Drem is exasperated with Wella, who votes contrary to the rest of the southern druids thus forcing the southern vote to abstain, ruining any chance of the gorsedd ever coming to a consensus. He begins to vote in the opposite manner to the Kernovian druid out of protest. The issues discussed include: whether the Thirteen Treasures should be sought for (despite Merlin's pre-emptive action on this score); whether the druids should give unilateral support to Arthur's alliance; whether Morgana should be commanded to cease her war against Arawn; whether Mithras should be adopted as a British god; and who could be the next High King. On the latter issue, Elliw, Cyngen, and Lend are all suggested and rejected. A hypothetical King of Dumnonia might be suited, but not any of the current candidates (Custennin is Christian, neither Havgan nor Natanleod have the royal pedigree, and Arthur is too young). The gorsedd ends with a long ceremony honouring the gods with praise and sacrifices.

Ban fights a hard match of badger-in-the-bag against his opponent, but is victorious. Cwlhedric manages to beat all other contenders at fire-jumping. Newlyn has also had a successful night betting on his friends and raking in his winnings. To the surprise of everyone, the characters are invited to the private area of the Great Hall, where the members of the alliance are feasting with their named men. Newlyn can't take his eyes of Gwenhafhyr as she flirts with Achaius, and manages to snatch a few moments with her during the formal dance. After the dance, Cwyryd has an announcement to make: his daughter Gwenhafhyr and King Achaius of Deiwr are to be married. The betrothal ceremony will take place in a month's time at Caer Pedwyr in Deiwr, and everyone at the high table is invited.

Drem returns from the gorsedd around dawn. He gets a front-row seat when an Elmetian rides into camp carrying a sodden green dress that he fished out of the river. King Mark confirms it is Iseult's and orders his men out in search for her. Drem also hears that there is an Irish woman looking for him, who he recognises as Niamh. When Brian decides to have another confrontation with his father and heads for the Deheubarth camp, the druid decides to accompany him, as does Cwlhedric who wants to meet his father-in-law. The king and his retainers have left already (to Drem's relief), but Driscoll and the rest of the warband are still here packing up the king's belongings. As they approach, Drem detects the faint presence of a spirit, but when he slips his sight to the otherworld, there is nothing to be seen. Cwlhedric has an unsatisfactory conversation with Driscoll, who seems disinterested in his daughter or her family. Brian does get the opportunity to speak with Driscoll's companions, and hears a rumour that the Silures attacked his home village about ten years ago, and Brian's mother Ana ended up in one of Taddg's Death Pits, sacrificed to Crawch the death god.

Over the rest of the day the gathered dignitaries depart Caer Wynd, leaving the characters kicking their heels until Merlin summons them. No-one from the Baddan contingent seeks them out, so Cwlhedric arranges for Gwawl and Boyd to return to Caer Penrhyn with them and let his father know the situation. Gwawl promises to make sure that Irven is aware of Cwlhedric's deeds. Cwlhedric also bids goodbye to Cahal and Reu Hen.

While they wait, the characters discuss what they can do. They have heard a number of rumours and opportunities for adventure and glory.

  • There is a nest of ddraiggau (dragons) near Caer Sws that have been plaguing the locals
  • Gloedd of Caer Rig has offered a substantial reward for anyone who can bring him a live lynx before Beltane.
  • Coell of Caer Daun is looking for help retrieving some family property stolen from him by the Saxons
  • The druid Varden is looking for a hero who will enter the barrow of the champion Gwernach and retrieve one of his bones.

For the moment, Culhwch suggests that they go on a ride, just to blow away the cobwebs of three straight days of feasting. Perhaps they'll pick up the trail of that Irish lass...

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Re: Rain over the Summerlands: A Mythic Britain Campaign

Postby loz » Thu Feb 11, 2016 12:52 pm

Very much looking forward to seeing how the Iseult plot strand plays out...
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Re: Rain over the Summerlands: A Mythic Britain Campaign

Postby mark.s » Thu Mar 17, 2016 6:11 am

[All these play reports are now posted on my website. I've made them a bit prettier to look at. You'll also find other stuff regarding my Mythic Britain campaign, such as a gazetteer (currently covering Southern and Middle Britain). The home address for the web page is my signature; to jump directly to the play reports go here.]

Session Twenty Six (10th February 2016): Echoes of Rome
While riding out from Caer Wynd with Culhwch, Bedwyr and Bors, Drem enumerates several other loose ends:
  • What is Taddg up to, and how does this interact with the incipient war in Western Britain?
  • The downfall of Bishop Eghan: Drem promised Cahal that this was ordained.
  • Iseult can't stay in Caer Alban. The other characters protest that they have played their part in this, and do not want to get involved further.

Upon reaching the Isara, Drem greets the goddess by standing in her waters, but he doesn't feel her presence. Ban splashes the druid with a thrown rock and Bedwyr takes exception at the disrespect. He suggests a sparring match, and Ban finds himself up against an opponent who is easily as good as he is. Bedwyr gets a lucky strike but pulls his blow, drawing first blood. Ban ignores the graze and carries on fighting only to be tripped. Brian then steps between them since Ban seems to be ready to continue the fight. He vows never to speak to Bedwyr again.

The characters agree that they will head south for Caer Daun to help out Coell. They ask Derec for advice (since it is his kingdom) and he says that Caer Daun is deep in the Great Mire [OOC: North Lincolnshire is flooded at this time by the higher sea level], guarding the shore of the inland sea against incursions from the Lindissi — half Englan and half Briton. He can provide a guide through the marshes and any supplies they might need for the trip.

In the morning they set off. Their guide turns out to be Lailoken, who first takes them to a shrine of Modron, the goddess of marshes. He takes them deep into the desolate wasteland and they camp amidst the rushes. There is a fire in the distance, and during the night it sprouts three other flames that move towards the characters' camp, winding their way through the terrain. The watch wakes up everyone else to prepare for battle, but nothing comes of it. The flames simply wait outside spear range and then extinguish one by one. The characters eventually settle back down to sleep. In the morning Drem tells them about ellylldanau, who lure people to their deaths. There is certainly no sign that anyone approached the camp last night.

Later that day, the characters hear the anguished screams of a mother. Her coracle has floated off taking her baby with it. Cwlhedric leaps down the bank and across the mudflats, wading out to see if he can retrieve the coracle. Brian and Newlyn take a more cautious route down the bank (although Newlyn still manages to fall flat on his face in the process). Drem summons up Squall, asking the spirit to blow the small craft to shore. It is all a trick; from its hiding place deep in the water emerges a hideous creature with a huge mouth filled with needle-like teeth, bulging eyes and rubbery skin. The 'woman' on the shore and the 'baby' wailing in the coracle are revealed to be two more nicors. Cwlhedric is engaged thigh deep in water fighting the nicor with a long spear, while Brian takes on the one on the shore. The third slips noiselessly from the coracle and into the water. Brian impales his opponent through the leg. The nicor fighting Cwlhedric sweeps low with his spear. The arrival of Newlyn at the shore distracts the creature at the last minute and yet it still heroically completes its manoeuvre. Cwlhedric only just manages to bring his shield down in time to protect his legs, but cannot prevent being tripped [OOC: a group luck point is spent to reroll the nicor's critical attack, only it to roll a second critical. Cwlhedric has to spend one of his own luck points to reroll his failed parry into a success]. Drem's spear flies whistling from the bank into Cwlhedric's opponent, impaling its arm and forcing it to drop the long spear.

The third nicor --- the one from the coracle --- now rises from the water, but Newlyn is ready to engage it while Ban enjoins battle with Brian. Newlyn's opponent manages to open a vicious claw wound to his belly which immediately starts to bleed copiously. Ban removes the arm of his opponent, causing it to spill all its foul-smelling black blood onto the mud. Brian switches his attention to Cwlhedric's opponent while Ban teams up with Newlyn. The creature uses its advantage in submerged environments to outmanoeuvre Brian. Cwlhedric manages to inflict a serious wound to the creature's head, and it flees before it can suffer any more hurt. Ban in the meantime has stabbed his opponent in the chest and finishes off the incapacitated creature.

Both Newlyn and Cwlhedric have been wounded in the fight, and Newlyn is concerned at the amount of black blood that got into the wounds. By the time the emergency chirurgy is complete, the bodies of the two nicors have decomposed into puddles of black slime, their bones dissolving into the goop as the characters watch. Cwlhedric still managed to retrieve the long spear as a trophy.
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Re: Rain over the Summerlands: A Mythic Britain Campaign

Postby mark.s » Thu Mar 17, 2016 6:13 am

[Also available here]

Session Twenty Seven (17th February 2016): Echoes of Rome

After patching up their wounds, the characters press on to Caer Daun. Lailoken points out the ridge of higher ground running east-west on the southern horizon, pointing out that the fort is located on that spur of land into the Humbre. However, before they get there they must cross the most treacherous part of the Great Mire. His words are prophetic — even though he is taking the greatest of care, he manages to get himself submerged in a sinkhole filled with clutching mud. Newlyn and Cwlhedric try to help him out, but it requires Ban to help before he can be released from the grip of whatever it is that he swears was gripping onto his legs.

Mid afternoon they pass an isolated hovel on stilts out on the water, connected to the land by a rickety bridge. Despite Newlyn's burning curiosity, Cwlhedric orders that they press on to Caer Daun. A few hours before sunset they reach the higher ground, and are enjoying the dryness of the soil. As they clean off the mud, Brian's sharp ears pick up the cries of a woman's voice. Cwlhedric immediately runs off in response, unmindful of his druid's warnings about falling for the same trap twice. As he surmounts the ridge he sees a group of men with their backs to him, heading south and west. There are six rough-looking warriors and a man on horseback. He is wearing a distinctive sheep's-fleece jacket. None have the look of Celts, but neither do they look like typical Saxons. The yelling is coming from a woman laying across the mounted man's saddle bow. She screams at him to unhand her. Cwlhedric and Newlyn run down to confront the men, who turn and form a battle formation as they approach, stopping within a spear's range.

Cwlhedric demands to know who they are. The man replies that he is Bearchan Wilfrith's dregn, and that this woman is a prize of conquest he intends to take back to his lord's hall. His voice is rough and thick with an accent the characters do not recognise, although he appears to be a native speaker of Brythonic. The woman's accent is pure Elmetian. She pleads for help, claiming she was seized from her father's property. Bearchan addresses Cwlhedric: "Be on your way in peace or stay behind and bleed." By now the other characters have caught up with Cwlhedric and Newlyn, and he orders them to form a battle line.

His answer clear, battle is enjoined. Both Ban and Newlyn strike successfully in the opening volley of thrown spears, with Newlyn's target suffering a fearful head wound and immediately dropping unconscious. Only one of the men is shaken by Drem's curses, but to such an extent that the man hesitates to attack. However, Cwlhedric is also impaled in the belly, but Ban fortunately is close enough to withdraw the spear. Brian whales away at his opponent's shield, while Ban drops one to the ground with a sweeping trip manoeuvre. Drem turns his attention to Bearchan, who is riding around the battle-lines to attack from behind. He calls upon Squall, who brings the bitter bite of winter to the man's buttocks. This makes him momentarily lose control of his horse, allowing Ban to engage him since the Cornovian has tripped his own opponent in the battleline. Newlyn's opponent manages to stab himself in the arm, overextending himself in the process. The man facing Drem has overcome his superstitious reticence, and stabs the druid in the belly. Ban's tripped opponent struggles to his feet, but Ban chooses to attack him while he is distracted, and manages to take him out of the fight with a punishing blow to the stomach. Newlyn in the meantime has managed to down his second opponent with another spear to the face.

Seeing his men already cut down to half their number, Bearchan wheels his horse to leave the fight. However, Ban manages to grab the woman on the horse by the ankle and pull her free as the man gallops off, although she sustains some minor damage to the head as she falls to the ground. Cwlhedric takes his second serious wound in the fight in the form of a spear to the knee and drops prone, his injured leg unable to support him. Drem's opponent finds himself facing Newlyn and Ban in addition to the druid, and uses the bodies of his downed comrades to outmanoeuvre all but Newlyn, which proves to be a bad idea as he takes a spear to the leg followed by Newlyn's signature finishing blow to the head. With his third opponent taken out he moves on to engage a fourth, but it doesn't take long before the remaining two warriors surrender — although not before Brian takes a blow to his chin from the man on the ground.
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Re: Rain over the Summerlands: A Mythic Britain Campaign

Postby mark.s » Thu Mar 17, 2016 6:14 am

[Also available in a pretty form here]

Session Twenty Eight (2nd March 2016): Echoes of Rome
Newlyn gets on with the job of patching up Cwlhedric (who sustained two serious wounds) while Ban and Brian secure the prisoners. They have two who surrendered and four who fell unconscious due to their wounds. Newlyn's next task is to examine Drem's wound. It is a nasty slash to the belly that leaves the druid vulnerable, so Newlyn employs the service of Yarrow to entirely heal the wound [OOC: the plant spirit casts Heal with Newlyn's Magic Points and then departs]. Once the immediate business is dealt with, attention turns towards Albia, the woman who Bearchan was attempting to abduct. She explains that these are the lands of her grandfather Coel. Bearchan is the henchmen of a local lord called Wilfrith, an invader from Lindisware who coverts Coel's lands. He sees the easiest way to get them is to marry Albia.

The characters proceed to Caer Daun with their prisoners. The fort sits on a small island behind a ditch and earth ramparts, and the causeway that leads onto the island is protected by a small settlement with the same defences. Caer Daun has seen better days: many of its houses are abandoned and dilapidated, the people are lean and hungry, and there is an air of faded glory. Coel greets the characters in the main hall. He thanks the characters for rescuing his granddaughter, who is the only family he has left. He is quite emphatic that Albia will not marry Wilfrith under any circumstances. The captives that the characters bring might cause a problem for him; had they died on the battlefield it would have been accepted, but Coel cannot execute them now. Their ransom might be useful but they have also seen the shoddy state of Caer Daun's warband, knowledge that Coel would rather Wilfrith did not have.

Coel explains why he asked for some champions to help him. At midwinter a druid gave him a prophecy that the glory of Caer Daun would return when Courage and Victory were sounded. He explains that a Roman legion built this fort; they were the Valeria Victrix, which in the Roman tongue means "Courageous and Victorious". This legion was one of the most prominent in Britain, stationed in Cornovia, then at Caer Ebrauc and then on the Great Wall. They were responsible for the massacre on Ynys Mon, and for crushing the Iceni after their rebellion. When Coel's family came to the region they claimed the fort and the other Roman buildings in the area. Amongst the things they inherited were two signalling trumpets (or cornu) called "Valeria" and "Victrix". Upon hearing the druid's prophecy, Coel dispatched some men to the villa to retrieve the trumpets, but they couldn't find them. The second group he sent did not return. He sent a message to the council at Caer Wynd, suspecting that Wilfrith and his Lindissi were responsible and knowing he had insufficient warriors to resist them. He has little to offer them as reward, except the hand of his granddaughter, who will inherit Caer Daun (not that it seems much of a prize right now).

Newlyn has to do some healing to fix Cwlhedric's injuries, and he will need at least a day of rest following the surgery. Once he is better they agree to go to the villa and try to locate the two cornu. In the meantime, Drem goes out to commune with the spirits, Ban does a scout around the local area to assess the defences, and Brian sits to chat with Albia (with Cwlhedric and Newlyn both married and Drem and Ban disinterested, perhaps he has a chance…). With his feet in the Humbre, Drem can feel a pull on his spirit which seeks to drag him into the centre of the inland sea and trap him. He suspects this the spirit of the Humbre itself. Brian learns that Albia is a determined woman who will marry Wilfrith if it means her people are protected, regardless of her grandfather's objections. Brian wonders if Kenneth and the other Corieltauvi might make a home here: it is close to their homeland around Ratae, and they are capable warriors who could give Coel much needed defences.

After a full day of rest, Cwlhedric declares himself fit, and they head off (leaving Lailoken behind, to everyone's relief). Coel gives them instructions to the villa and they head south. Just as they approach the river that they follow east into the hills, they hear the sounds of workmen up ahead. Brian scouts ahead to see a work crew with tools clearing an area on the north bank of the river. They look like they are establishing a settlement, partly by demolishing a Roman building. There are four armed men overseeing the work. Brian sneaks back and suggests they skirt around the crew and find the river further upstream. This they do and after a few more hours of walking come across the villa. It is in a commanding position over the valley, backed by hills. However, only the shell of the building still exists; many arches have fallen and columns toppled. With the light fading and the chill wind picking up, the characters scout around the outbuildings for anyone else, and finding none they find shelter from the wind in an old stable and set up camp. Newlyn finds a gravestone with Romanish writing on it, which fascinates him enough to carve the letters onto the inside of his shield, even though he cannot read what they say.

During the night Cwlhedric thinks he hears a creature moving around in the dark. He goes out to investigate, and gets the impression of a very large animal, hearing its snuffling and snorting. It soon moves away and he returns to camp.
In the morning the characters explore the villa. Beneath the snow and the weeds they find a mosaic floor. Part of the floor has been cleared by obvious human industry, removing the tesserae and then digging beneath. However, another section looks like it has been scraped up, scoring deep scratches in the stones themselves. Just then the characters hear a snorting sound. Standing some 40 yards away is an immense boar, the largest the characters have ever seen. Over each of its lower tusks is the bell of a brass trumpet, which curl backwards over the boar's head. Its breath steams in the winter air and it paws at the ground in challenge. It does not look happy to see the characters...
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Re: Rain over the Summerlands: A Mythic Britain Campaign

Postby mark.s » Thu Mar 17, 2016 6:16 am

[Also available in a pretty form here]

Session Twenty Eight (9th March 2016): Echoes of Rome
The boar lets out an mighty roar and executes a mock charge. Cwlhedric, Ban and Brian are intimidated by its frightening display and retreat to a safe distance. Brian manages to cast a spear at it as he retreats, but the spear merely clatters off the creature's tough hide. Drem detects the presence of a spirit and risks peaking into the Spirit World. He sees that this massive animal is possessed by an even mightier boar spirit. The boar begins its charge and Newlyn — the only warrior not retreating — proves his bravery by running directly at the creature. As the beast is about to gore him he takes an almighty leap, and placing one foot on the boar's back he manages to clear the creature and land behind it. Newlyn's actions appear to have confused the boar — it breaks its charge and shakes its head. However, the boar's befuddlement is nothing to do with Newlyn: Drem has called upon Alwyn and the fog spirit's confusing mists can be seen occluding the eyes of the beast [OOC: the spirit casts Befuddle].

As the creature's bewilderment continues the characters discuss their options in hurried whispers. Thinking the creature bewitched, some are all for removing the cornu or even leading it back to Caewr Daun, but Drem warns that Alwyn's power will not extend that far. In the end, Drem decides to do battle with the spirit boar while the rest deal with the physical one. As the warriors form into a shield wall, Drem settles himself behind his shield and enters the World of Gods. The nature spirit is a powerful one and is fighting against Alwyn's misdirections, and as the spirit-druid approaches its eyes clear and battle is enjoined. At the exact same moment the creature snaps out of its fugue in the mortal realm and attacks.

Brian is first to attack with his spear. While he lands a good blow, the pain seems to galvanise the beast which begins to froth and squeal. Brian struggles to free his barbed spear from the creature's flesh. The boar flings itself at the shield wall, but with luck on their side the characters are able to hold out against the beast, and its attacks are wasted on their shields. In the God World the boar spirit is attacking Drem with equal gusto, but unlike its mundane counterpart its blows are landing home. Drem is giving as good as he gets, and both opponents are taking severe spiritual wounds.

Through gradual attrition the warriors have succeeded in wounding the mighty boar, although it shows no sign of feeling the wounds that would have crippled a lesser beast. With a heroic effort Cwlhedric attempts to finish the creature off with a blow to the head, but it is Brian who deals the death blow with his barbed spear.

Drem eventually prevails over the spirit boar and stands over the spirit boar, whom he believes is at his mercy. He demands that it submits, but the creature rallies. At the end of his reserves, the druid is forced to call upon Modron, whose blessing he received. A woman's hand emerges from the muddy soil and absorbs the blow of the god-boar. Unbelievably given its spiritual wounds, the creature is still fighting. Drem calls upon Morholt, whose favour he had previously sought. He hears the echoing voice of the god of the mines ringing out, calling the name "Benbaedd!". Hearing its name, the beast is checked for a moment, enough for Drem to use the gift of Mother Berth to absorb the blow. Finally, Drem is able to subdue the creature and in return for not slaying it, he uses its name to exact a service. He returns to the mortal world exhausted and slightly deranged by his ordeal.

Cwlhedric and Ban remove the two cornu from the boar's tusks. They are bent and damaged slightly, but not beyond repair. After claiming a trophy of the boar's real tusks, the ever-practical Brian hangs the carcass over a tree limb and drains its blood ready to take it back to Caer Daun for supper. While Drem recovers the group do a final search of the villa and find a pouch of 40 solidii wrapped in a fragment of red cloth.

It takes a day to return to the hillfort. The characters are feeling elated by their success, but they don't quite receive the welcome they expect. One of the prisoners Dreogan has abducted Albia and fled into the swamplands. The lady and her maid were tending to the wounds of the captives around noon when they were attacked, giving them a half-day lead. Reasoning that neither they nor Dreogan would be able to travel through the swamp at night, they resolve to set off at first light. They question the other prisoners, who are sufficiently cowed to tell them that Dreogan is almost certainly heading for Wilfrith's hall at Ouestraefeld —Dreogan could ask for virtually anything from their lord Wilfrith in return for Albia.

Travelling on foot through the marshes, Dreogan is almost certain to come across the Lindissi workcamp the characters discovered when they headed for the villa — he may even be heading for that directly. Coel tells them that this is the site of a shrine to the Eight Mothers at the mouth of the River Ryton. The characters reason that they can borrow coracles from Caer Daun's fishermen, and with an appropriate guide they can get to the Ryton before Dreogan does. Before they settle in for the night, Cwlhedric accompanies Coel to the watchtower to watch him sound the two cornu: first Valeria, then Victrix. The mournful sound echoes over the marshland.
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Re: Rain over the Summerlands: A Mythic Britain Campaign

Postby mark.s » Thu Mar 17, 2016 6:17 am

[Also available in a pretty form here]

Session Twenty Nine (16th March 2016): Echoes of Rome

There is dissent regarding Cwlhedric's plan. He reasons that if their quarry has made good time he could already be on his way to Ouestraefeld. Cwlhedric therefore suggests they land to the north and west of the Ryton, giving them two chances to catch Dreogan whichever way he has gone. While the others argue, Drem seeks out an omen. He sees a skein of geese flying south in a chevron formation. They are being tracked by a marsh harrier. He announces to the group that they should follow their leader and the argument is done with.

Skill with the coracle varies within the group, but they get the hang of it. An hour after they set off as they cross the widest part of the inlet, a fin is seen breaking the surface. The nicor was clumsy in its eagerness for his prey and alerts the characters to its presence. It shakes the coracle holding Cwlhedric and their guide Tegid, but fails to unbalance them. Cwlhedric impales it in the belly with his spear while the other characters try to manoeuvre their craft to help. Newlyn throws a spear while Brian steadies the coracle for him, and it hits the nicor solidly in the chest. Drem is heard calling out to the spirits but whatever effect this might have had is never revealed. Cwlhedric withdraws his spear from the guts of the creature, pulling several impaled organs with it. The nicor sinks back into the water. Cwlhedric had seen the wound to the creature's face: this was the one he had fought and who had escaped several days ago.

The characters make landfall an hour later. Tegid remains hidden with the boats; he says he will wait for them as long as he can, but he intends to be back in Caer Daun before nightfall. The characters head south towards the mouth of the Ryton and when they get close enough to hear the sledgehammers, Brian creeps forward to spy just as sleet starts to rain down. He sees the same settlement as before. The workmen on the other side of the river are digging a massive hole for a longhouse, while others are demolishing the shrine to reinforce the ford. They are watched over by the same four men who have been joined by a fifth and seem to be in the midst of a heated discussion. As Brian pulls away to report back, his movement catches the eye of one of the warriors, but fortunately a duck flies past at that moment and draws attention away [OOC: good use of a Luck Point to force a reroll of the guard's Perception].

The characters prepare an ambush, reasoning that Dreogan will be coming south of the river if he intends to take Albia to Ouestraefeld. This reasoning pays off; Brian is on point and warns them that three men approach with a prisoner. Their ambush was spotted at the last minute so they lose the element of surprise. The characters form up and advance: Drem hurls a spear at the apparent leader, but it is parried against his shield. Ban concentrates on Dreogan, Cwlhedric and Newlyn on the leader, and Brian on the third man. Ban trips Dreogan while badly mangling his leg with his spear. Brian also inflicts a leg wound, and makes it an incapacitating wound as he withdraws his spear. The man tries to crawl away to draw Brian from the fight, but the Irishman attacks as he withdraws and manages to spear him through the abdomen, knocking him unconscious from blood loss. Ban strikes the same leg of his opponent with his spear and manages to slice an artery, resulting in the man's quick and gruesome death as his blood pumps everywhere.

Their leader immediately yields, although remains in a defensive stance. Cwlhedric tells him to throw down his sword but he sheathes it instead. He looks like a Celt, with dark hair and long moustaches over a beard. He has silver and gold foils wrapped around hanks of his hair and beard, and they jingle as he moves. He introduces himself as Eðan, a Celt raised in Wilfrith's hall. He admits to disagreeing with Dreogan's plan to take Albia back to Wilfrith by force — he doesn't believe that this is a way that a marriage should be forged. He detests Bearchan and his loutish behaviour. He swears an oath that he holds no enmity towards the characters and he will not hinder or molest them further today. However, he is loyal to Wilfrith and should they meet in future he can offer no such guarantees. Cwlhedric is content with this, and Eðan leaves.

Drem has taken no part in this conversation. He, followed by Ban, has headed for the river instead. The druid has stripped himself naked and slathered mud all over himself. He wades into the river and once he has everyone's attention, he begins: "I am the guardian of the Ryton and you have defiled her! You will be punished!" He singles out each of the workers. "You! You are known and named and cursed!". This is too much for the superstitious workforce, and they break for the hills. Abandoned by the labourers, the two Lindissi warriors retreat as well. The druid feels the approach of the goddess from upstream. He is at first concerned he has usurped her authority without permission, but he feels her flowing into him like a stream with her gratitude [OOC: and 1d6(=3) Magic Points]

Drem makes his way to the partly-demolished shrine; a small square building with two niches for statues on each of its four sides. There is an eight-sided pool within. He can feel the residual power of the Eight Mothers here. With his hand still bloody from the sacrifice he made to the river (one of his geasa), he starts to build a cairn out of river rocks. The other characters arrive and help him by fetching stones from the river. Ban gathers up any tools he can find, and along with the weapons he took from the slain Lindissi, throws them into the sea.

The characters return to their coracles and thence to Caer Daun. Coel is delighted to see them with Albia safe, and once again expresses his gratitude. The characters plan to return to Caer Wynd as soon as they can in order to send Kenneth and his friends here to help defend the hillfort. The characters spend one more night here, and feast on the rest of the boar meat.
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