German Disclaimer for my players: Meinen lieben Spieler, BITTE BLEIBT DRAUSSEN BIS ICH EUCH EINEN LINKS HIERZU SCHICKE!
(Note: I started to write this blog post about two weeks ago, but never finalized it till now)
Things do not go according to plan. This time, my plan was to provide a -REAL- “one-session-thing” for my FATE(tm) group instead of saying that this would be “a quick little thing” only to play with them session after session for MONTH. So, I had put my money on Rampaging Monsters by Zzarchov Kowolski and tried not to over-prepare the thing. But if you have players that like to roleplay, they will not rush through something in just one session. I shall not complaint, so, but tell you the story instead (till the end of the first session).
A while ago, a group of witch-hunters had traveled to Dunnsmouth. Of the six who headed out, only four returned, and Bartholomew of Bristol, the witchhunter who has led the expedition, was not among those who made it back to the city of Spillswick (we are at the southern coast of England and in the year 1530 or 1550, by the by). Heading out to battle witches and fiends is one thing, and facing things you have not expected is a different matter. Lady Elspeth of Sommerhill (PC; daughter and only remaining child of an impoverished noble; out to rebuild the house´s fame and fortune through glorious deeds), Finnigan (PC; Irish Sellsword, haunted by the ghosts of his former comrades, brutal and accomplished man-at-arms), Gabriel Ashenborn (PC; skilled huntsmen, burned at body and soul, convinced that God has chosen when and how he will die) returned with the young Ephraim (NPC; orphan from the streets of Bristol, a small-time thief and kinda traumatized by now) and a woman from Dunnsmouth named Jezzebel (a former whore which Gabriel took along as she asked him to… she has a link to the dark secrets of Dunnsmouth that all of the three are aware of, but deem her not to be part of).
As the ship brought them back to Spillswick, they went to meet the proconsul of the Bishop to report back, for it was him and the (now deceased) Witchhunter whom have enlisted them for the task they know had accomplished. They gave their rapport, where asked a few questioned, were paid for their services and thanked for their deeds. Gabriel used the chance to ask for Jezzebel to be baptized (and given the name Leah) and to be married to him (the player decided that another Aspect of his character would now be that “God has given me my Eve”). The proconsul asked him if he would vouch for her to be neither a witch nor a heretic, if he would accept responsibility for her and her deeds if she would stray and if he would ensure that she would become a good christian. Gabriel said yes to all of this, and so she was baptized and married to him before sunset.
The three had for sure prepared themselves for far more trouble, but were happy that at least in the end, there were no complications. So they spend some money on repairing armor and buying some additional weapons and gear, but did not only use the silver shillings the church had paid them for that but also two gold pieces that were among their “personal spoils” from the adventure at Dunnsmouth. At the end of the evening they celebrated the marriage of Gabriel and their successful return to Spillswick in a local guesthouse, “the staggering Ox” (known for the strongest beer in town). And celebrate they did, one of the gold coins bought drinks for them and the other patrons for most of the night. The next day (after a good, long sleep in the Ox and some time to sober up), they finally discussed their next moves. Lady Elspeth had been changed by the events in Dunnsmouth: she was sure that the monsters, witches and spirits they had faced there were not the only ones, and that they should continue to battle those. Gabriel and Finnigan were not SO eager: Gabriel now had quite some money and had married, he considered to settle down (and the only problem he currently had was that he did not know how to make a living… after all, he had worked as a hunter for a noble and did not know any other trader or craft). Finnigan was still a mercenary at heart: he would face any such danger again, but only if the prize was right. They had heard several rumors during the last night at the Ox, and pondered the possibility of offering the town´s mayor their services. Lady Elspeth was fine with that, but first wanted to return to her father´s home (one days march from Spillswick) to bring back a share of her earnings. Gabriel and Finnigan decided to stay at the Ox: after the strenuous adventure they had just completed, enjoying the (relative) luxury of a rented room appealed to them.
The two were rather surprised to see Lady Elspeth back a bit earlier, especially as she told them about a new task at hand for them. What Lady Elspeth told them was that a number of peasents from a neighboring fiefdom had sought shelter on a the grounds of Lord Winterbottom (a close friend to her father, the Lord of Summerhill). [Yes, my players and I are found of bad puns at times]. They claimed that their hamlet, Mudheath, had been attacked and destroyed during the night by a giant. Gabriel was quick to dismiss this stupid banter, after all -everybody- in the area would know the legends about “that Giant”. [A player established that, and I rolled with it, as his character had indeed been living in general area]. Never the less, Lady Elspeth was able to persuade the two to pay Lord Winterbottom a visit, as he had offered payment if they could bring him something more reliable then just “peasant banter” on the matter. Elspeth also knew that couriers had been sent to Spillswick and that a council of the local lords would be called for. For sure a bounty would be placed on the head of the a giant. Both of the other would have rather waited for the bounty, but in the end Elspeth was able to win them over.
Before their journey northwards (the city of Spillswick lies at the southern coast of England, and this game world the group headed north while my LotFP will head east) they placed their remaining loot (mostly gold pieces and “liberated” jewelry) into a safe deposit at a bank . Leah insisted of coming along with her husband and so the six of them (three PC, and an NPC each: Leah, Ephraim and a man-at-arms from Summerhill going by the name of Connerly) started their journey. On their way, they met a group of perhaps three to four families who traveled towards Spillswicks with very little belongings. It were in fact the families that first sought shelter at Winterbottom, but the Lord had sent them away after a while (as established by Gabriel as well, the Lord of Winterbottom and the Lord of Boarswood, to whom Mudheath belongs, had clashed in the past over trivialities, and this time Lord Winterobottom did not wanted to give his neighbor any reason to assume him to be behind it all). The PC stopped the peasents and questioned them, but gained little clues from them: they were for sure deadly afraid of something, and all told them that a giant had attacked and destroyed the village, but their description of it was not coherent.
As they arrived at the estate of Lord Winterbottom in the evening, they were given rather poor hospitality: the Lord still treated all but Lady Elspeth as clearly below his standing, so the negotiations about the payment saw Lady Elspeth walking from one end of the table to the other in-between conversations. The Irish mercenary was rather outspoken about it, but Gabriel did his best to calm his friend down. In the end, they agreed to serve Lord Winterbottom for a total of five days where they were to find out if there is a giant or not. For this time they would be paid as mercenaries, and the three PC would be paid as Doppelsöldner (means: double payment). At first, it was only payment the three PC, but Gabriel and Finnigan demanded payment for Leah and Ephraim as well. This demand met, and the Lord of Winterbottom even offered the exchange value of three oxen if they would bring him the head of the giant. Both Finnigan and Gabriel became suspicious: Gabriel had worked for Lord Winterbottom as a huntsman before and could confirm that he used to be a miser. That he accepted to pay a boy and a woman (Leah and Ephraim) the same wage as a mercenary (so not as a Doppelsöldner) without any haggling was most unusual. Never the less, they all staid a night at the estate before they first made way to a lumbermen settlement called Ravenpine (same as the wood at the border of the fiefdom) to rest their overnight in guesthouse. (simply known as “the Tankard”. They -could- have made all the way to Mudheath before dusk, but that would have been a hard and exhausting ride, only to have two or so hours of daylight left. Needless to say, they decided against it.) Gabriel was no stranger at Ravenpine learned a bit about local rumors: some of the lumbermen, those that were working north of the settlement and had to spend a night or two in the woods due to the distance, told strange stories when they were drunk. Stories about eyes watching them from the thickets of the deep wood, and about strange creatures in the woods (but not about any giants). None of them would repeat the story when sober, but the innkeeper was sure that they must have seen -something-. Gabriel also learned that a falling star had been seen in the night sky recently. Finnigan and Ephraim walked around in the settlement (which was just a couple of buildings along the road that pretty much ended here and only continued as simple dirt path through the wood), but found nothing suspicious.
The next morning, they made their way through the woods and reached Mudheaven in a little less than two hours, but found it to have been razed. The players had did well in portraying doubt and disbelieve in the stories about a giant before, and continued to portray how their characters were taken aback by the sight. The village had not been plundered (sheep had begun to return to the meadows; what little a serf owns proofed to be still there, beneath the rubble) nor had it been set on fire (which would have been a “standard tactic” in the assault of marauders or during an attack of a feuding noble). The corpses they had found (about half a dozen) did not featured stabs or slashes, but looked mangled, smashed and broken in a way even Finnigan, the battle-hardened mercenary, had not seen often. They were able to locate a large ditch that looked as if something truly gigantic had laid itself to rest for a while on the soft ground between the destroyed huts, and two sets of gigantic tracks: one leading into the nearby forest (Boarswood), the other leading into a different direction. Gabriel was able to gauche that this -may- be the tracks of a giant… and if they were, then the giant could very well be as high as a small house.
(To be continued…)