Friday, January 25, 2013

Game Session 2003/01/13

The party:

Sophie O'Griffin, human, the leader and ringmaster. Played by EM.
Esmond Gellert, human, trick-shot archer and dog trainer. Played by MK.
Ganz, elf, stage magician and wizard. Played by JC.
Quexechetl, lizard man, strongman and wrestler. Played by KF.
Talman, half-elf, acrobat. Played by JM.
Fiorio, human, a peasant with a knack for playing to the crowd that the circus picked up along the way. Played as an NPC.

May 13 to May 27, 850

The first part of this session was taken up spending character points and money. The circus had just finished a long adventure, for which they were well paid. They decided to replace their wagon mule with a younger, stronger one, and they bought a pendant that allows the wearer to see in the dark. This is a rather specialty item, but Sophie  shopped around and they found a mage willing to part with one. Quexechetl bought some vambraces to protect his arms when trying to grab an armed opponent. Ganz bought a powerstone. They also stocked up on healing potions -- no trouble finding those, because the city's alchemists were anticipating a great deal of demand for them.

Sophie decided to pay more attention to her appearance, styling her hair and dressing to impress with more care than she used to. Ganz practiced his sleight-of-hand and pickpocketing skills, mostly on other circus members.

After a few weeks of performing around town, frequently for the many foreigners who were in the city, a messenger called upon Sophie at their inn, inviting them to the grand temple of Teän, goddess of motherhood and the home. There, an acolyte showed them to a private chamber, where they were presented to Queen Luccola, grandmother to the young king, and a high priestess of Teän in her own right.

Although they did not know about her involvement at the time, the Queen had entrusted the care of her grandson to the circus once before, prior to his coronation, when they escorted him to Castle Storol so that he could receive the blessing of Teän in the Orphan's Cell. Today, she proposed a slightly different arrangement.

The men of the court, she explained, had decided that King Miklo must do the King's traditional summertime duty and lead an expedition against the orcs of the Bekel. But since returning from Storol, he had been taking advantage of his newfound ability to blend into crowds and escape the notice of anyone but his own family. It seemed that he enjoyed running away from the palace and getting into all sorts of trouble. In the city, this was likely to lead to no worse than a black eye or a split lip. But in the wilds of the Bekel, with orcs, goblins, and other monsters all around, it could lead to much worse.

So the Queen proposed that the circus accompany Miklo's army on its campaign, in order to give Miklo somewhere to run away to when he decided to elude his bodyguard, which she certainly expected he would. There were always some traders and entertainers who marched with the army, so they circus should have no trouble blending in.

As for their payment, they should look to Lord Fels. After the circus agreed to the Queen's request, they learned from Lord Fels that this was the favor that he owed to the Queen, in return for her assistance in getting King Miklo to sign the scroll they used to take control of the Gondan golem. Fels agreed to cover their traveling expenses, since they could expect to make a fair amount of money entertaining the many foreign knights who would be riding with the King.

"The trouble with fighting orcs is it always comes down to killing orc babies."
 KF (Quexechetl)

May 28, 850

King Miklo rode out of the city along with some of his own knights and most of the foreign knights. Including men-at-arms and archers, the army numbered about 2500. The majority were human, with a solid contingent of dwarves, and a few elves and even some gnomes along as well. Small for a foray into the Bekel, but this year's expedition was supposed to be a brief one. The army marched slowly north, and as it climbed the foothills at the edge of the wild, most of the traders, artisans, and entertainers fell away. The performers of the Circus Sophia were among the few that accompanied the army into the Bekel itself.

June 20 to June 22, 850

On the twentieth day of June, the army passed the last village, farm, and keep. They climbed the old dwarven road into the mountains, and soon were surrounded by peaks on all sides. Quexechetl, raised in the wide-open desert, felt hemmed in and anxious.

On the second night, the drums started. Somewhere in the darkness, a handful of orcs were letting the intruders know they were being watched. The following night, there were dozens, and the drumming lasted until dawn. Still the army marched on.

Esmond took advantage of the new night-vision pendant, which he wore tucked under his shirt, to watch the movements of the orcs in the darkness. They gathered by the hundreds, but made no attempt to engage the King's army. Once, in the company of a couple of other scouts, one of them asked him "Have you been long on the road?" He said he had been with the army since Nalfavor, and the conversation turned to other things. and it was only later that he realized that this was the third or  fourth time that a traveler, met by chance, had asked him exactly the same question.

June 24, 850

On the fourth day in the mountains, Lord Fels called the circus to his tent. Some of the travelers who marched alongside the army, he said, had been seen paying a suspicious amount of attention to the King. Fels suspected assassins. He explained that the previous year, two Turrians had infiltrated the castle in Nalfavor and attacked the royal family. The rumor was that Queen Luccola had been injured.[1] It was shortly after this that the Queen arranged for Miklo to travel to Castle Storol.

So Lord Fels asked the circus to keep a closer eye on Miklo, directly the opposite of what Queen Luccola had asked them to do. He hoped that they would have more success at this than Miklo’s usual bodyguards, since they had been with him to Storol.

In fact, the performers were no better than anyone else at keeping track of the King, but by chance later that day Esmond noticed him wandering away from the road in the company of a couple of other boys. He, Ganz, and Talman followed him, and when they caught up, the King explained that they were looking for orc tracks. Esmond tried to help, but there was no sign orcs or any other monsters among the rocks and scrubby trees, and they gave up after a while. Talman showed off a little of his juggling skills, and then he and the boys practiced their knife-throwing. Afterward, they all rejoined the marching column on the road.

June 25, 850

The next day, hundreds of orcs were seen on the mountainside to the west, on the left side of the road, but they kept their distance form the much larger human-led force. Around noon, the army came upon a deep mountain stream, where the bridge had been destroyed long before. An advance party of fifty or so knights went upstream and crossed at a ford, and then the King’s royal miners erected a portable bridge, using timbers and planks brought along for the purpose.

Once the army was across and the bridge had been broken down again, the orcs who had been pacing the army fell away. But then the army was suddenly abuzz with a new concern – no one seemed to know where the King was.

Esmond, Ganz, Talman, and Quexechetl immediately left the road and began to search the mountainside, while Sophie rode forward towards Lord Fels’s pennant to warn him that the King was missing, if he was not already aware. Sharp-eyed Esmond soon spotted Miklo, and called Sophie back. Fiorio called out to a boy in the pack train to take the reigns of the circus’s wagon, and he and Sophie trotted up the slope after the others.

The King, along with a couple of his friends, had found an old dwarven lookout post built into the mountainside, just at the point where the slope increased and walking would have to give way to climbing. It was a small, low stone building, with a short door and three dwarf-height arrow loops at the front. The boys had gone inside by the time Esmond, Ganz, Talman, and Quexechetl reached it.

Esmond entered, and the King smiled at him, turning away from the arrow loop he had been watching from. “We saw you,” he said. “If we had been archers we could have shot you.”

“I’m glad you weren’t, then,” said Sophie, as she entered. The inside was small, dim, and rather dirty. There were only the arrow loops and a doorway without a door at the front. But at the back, there was a closed door in good repair. “Your Majesty, you shouldn’t leave the road like this. No one knows what might be lurking about.”

“Oh, there are no orcs here,” said the king.

Ganz thought he’d better make sure, and improvised a quick spell to find enemies in the area. After a minute of concentration, he stretched out his magical senses…and found, to his surprise, that hostile creatures were right at hand!

Quexechetl pushed the King behind him, as he and Talman faced the door that led into the mountain. Esmond drew and nocked an arrow. Footsteps sounded from behind the door.

 Wrapping it up

So, how did that go?

I was dissatisfied with this session. We got off to a slow start, because there was some shopping and character upgrading at the beginning, and then I never got things moving along a very good pace afterward. There was too much of me telling the players about what was going on with the army on the march, and not enough of the players telling me what they were doing. I need to work on a faster pace and less exposition.

Still, it was fun to end on a cliffhanger.

[1] This was a one-shot adventure that four members of the group played once when others couldn't make it. I made up palace guard characters for them and they got a look at a different part of the campaign world that week. I also got to push the plot along a little, giving the players (if not their characters) an explanation of why the royal family would be fearful enough of Miklo's life that they would send him off with a group of circus performers.

No comments:

Post a Comment