We begin our tale in the Kingdom of Rheged; east of the Itouna (Eden) River midst the high Apennius (Pennine) Mountains. These lands are claimed by King Urien’s cousin – Gorwst ap Glew (GOR-oost ap gloo). Gorwst is a very powerful man in Rheged, a Dux (leader, usually military), with nearly 300 warriors at his personal command, not to mention an additional 700 or so from his own relatives.
His home, an old (and falling to ruin) Roman castrum now named Caer Gowerr (kayr GAU-er, near today Brampton Old Church), is westward in his lands along the Via Limes. Most assume he chose it because it is the full sized castrum closest to Luguvalium (Carlisle), which is the seat of power for the Kingdom of Rheged.
That said, for our story, we find ourselves eastward within Gorwst’s lands, at another old Roman castrum – Caer Dyffryn (kayr DIF-rin, near what is today the Dentonfell Woods and the township of Nether Denton). Caer Dyffryn is held by Gorwst’s younger brother Dylan ap Glew. Scouts had brought word that a massive Boar had been seen in the area. Gorwst, ever anxious to hunt great beasts, arrived with his retinue to seek his quarry.
The Feast of the Beast
The hunt went well, and our story begins within the walls of Caer Dyffryn at the feast. The creature weighed nearly 45 stone (~615 lbs, ~288 kg). It, and its herd, were destroying some of the northern rye and barley fields in the village of Dyffrynmynyddoedd.
It was thanks to the heroic actions of several of the hunting party, but particularly two of Gorwst’s household Atera Tuccianus (that blooded and crippled/weakened it with arrows) and Corryn ap Rhys (an expert in all things Boar Hunting related) that Gorwst was able to hurl the killing spear. As such, though he was given the Hero’s Portion, he divided it in twain and sent it to Atera and Corryn instead. A magnanimous gesture.
As the feast was wearing long, one of Dylan’s llwyth (hloo-ith, clan) enters the feast hall and comes up to the high table. Needless to say this attracts everyone’s attention. The messenger then goes back out – returning with three road-weary and travel-worn strangers (but judging by their clothing, Britons).
A woman named Diseta ferch Dilys, a man named Andoc (ap Rhonwen) and his teenage son Rufus bring a plea for aid from the village of Pentrefbechan-ar-Twyn (which just means … little village on the hillock).
Answering the Call
Einion ap Dilwyn is the chief of their people and normally the villagers of Ar-Twyn (ayr-TOO-in) would look to Caer Derw for aid… however their pleas have gone unanswered. No aid has come and no messengers have returned.
Gorwst seems to be touched by their plea… but there’s a problem. Due to the terms of the Oath between himself and Einion that ended the years of raiding between their two tribes… he would be unable to send a force to aid the villagers. If he were to send the warriors of Caer Gowerr or even Caer Dyffryn across the stream that forms the border twixt their lands, it could be interpreted as an act of aggression (war).
After pondering a moment, he grins. He then asks what seems to be a completely non sequitur question, “Do you have any Christians in your village?”
The reply is a bewildered “Yes, two.”
Gorwst then turns to a member of his tribe, Maelogan ap Cartivel – the “token” Christian among his people. “Maelogan, I think you should go and see to those of your religion. I know you lack opportunities here to be with your own faith. I can’t send you to do it of course, but I think it would be good for you.”
Mael grins, nodding and understanding.
Gorwst continues, "And since I can’t let a kinsman of mine alone and without a guide … Dryw ferch Eisia should go with you to scout the way." Of course, the room begins to chuckle now. Dryw is Pict that usually runs around half-naked and a woman to boot. In no way could she be mistaken for one of Gorwst’s “men.”
Sensing what’s going on, Erica pipes up. “I’d like to go as well. I’ve never been to that village.”
Gorwst hesitates only a moment, then nods. “Yes, music can help when a people are in distress. Though you shouldn’t go without your harper.” He looks at Iago who, with a grin, enthusiastically agrees.
“Since you’re my favorite singer. I’d want to make sure you’re safe. If Atera would be so kind as to watch over you both, I would rest easier.”
Atera simply nods.
"And I’m sure you’ve lots to carry… Rónán mac Aodh should go with you." Ronan is a Gael and something of a ‘Ward’ of King Uriens. He is one of a handful of Fosterlings exchanged between marauding Gaels from Hibernia and the Kingdom of Rheged to keep the peace. Ronan has never been formally taught how to fight with metal weapons (which matters not since he swings I gigantic two-handed maul able to fell bull cattle) and thus also doesn’t qualify as a “warrior” that belongs to Gorwst.
The Chief then looks around the feasting hall, and with a loud voice asks the room “All of you are witnesses… I sent none of my own men across our borders to aid these people.”
The room responds in the amused affirmative.
Corryn’s player had not yet arrived at the table as he had severe “Wife Aggro” at the outset of the evening… I’d Compel him into the game later.
East Along the Via Limes
After a rest (to recover from the feasting) they set out the next day on horse. The three villagers have been loaned the use of two of Caer Dyffryn’s horses (Andoc gets one, Diseta and his son ride double).
Gorwst’s “group” asks Diseta various questions, apparently there’s roughly 30 Saxons that are marauding their village, which is not an unusual number (a typical Saxon Longship holds around that many warriors). They also discover that the several times they’ve sent out “patrols” or even anyone to “watch” for the Saxons, they come back dead. So they’ve stopped doing that. The Saxons basically came in and stole the autumn harvest and told them to gather up more supplies and be ready for when they return in a fortnight (2 weeks). That was 4 days ago. The leader of this band of Saxons is a man named Ceolwulf and his witch Hilda.
They soon arrive at the stream that forms the border of Rheged, a sad little bubbler that would be completely unremarkable except for the fact that it at times swells its banks (especially in the spring or after heavy rains) and so the Romans built a small bridge to cross it… which has since fallen apart.
The waters are up, and so Dryw crosses it alone (water being no obstacle to a skinchanger that can become a seal). She sneaks through the trees, scouting the approaches on the road and sure enough… two Saxons watch the crossing.
She was simply going to return and report her findings to her friends when she spies an armband of gold around one of them.
She creates a minor distraction and when one goes off to investigate…
she sneaks up behind the other and slits his throat (stealing the armband).
She then returns to the group, which has dismounted to wait. Just as she’s about to report, a “shout” (scream?) of alarm echoes through the trees. The other Saxon returned and found his compatriot. They rush to their horses and try to hurry and ford the fast flowing water… it doesn’t go well for several of them.
Atera and Ronan are able to stay on their horses and track the Saxon as he’s fleeing… he’s a sailor and in no way a horseman after all… Atera puts an arrow into him.
As plot inconsequential goons Atera’s player rolled MORE than had enough damage to put the remaining guard down.
Arrival at Ar-Twyn
They arrive at the village and after introductions, drinks, and light conversation… after all, they’re strangers in a Briton village, no way they’re not the talk of the town.
“Ah so you’re from Rheged are ya?” (read that in a Welsh voice)
To celebrate their arrival, the two horses of the now dead Saxons are butchered to provide a meal for the nearly starving villagers.
Passage of Time Montage
Over the next 9 days the following things happen…
Mulan … er… Erica sings “I’ll Make A Man Out of You”
Erica tries to convince the women to take up a weapon and help defend their own town… an idea patently rejected not because it’s an insensible idea.. but because a Saxon recommended it. Ronan, being quite the Charmer.. convinces them to give heed to Erica’s words.
Iago puts up a Ward
The skulls of the two butchered horses are used, along with Iago’s Druidic expertise, to put up a Ward around the village. It takes him several days.
Dryw and Atera Scout Long Range
These two range far afield to see if they can discover the location of the Saxon “base camp” and … they do! It’s several days ride through the woods and mountains (not on any of the Roman roads). They barely arrive back at the village in time (and ahead of the Saxons).
Erica puts up an “Inflammable” rune on the roof of the nicest long house in the village and an “Unbreakable” on the door. She instructs the villagers that, if things go badly, to flee to this location.
The very old, the very young, and a few of the women that were less capable of defending themselves are sent back west along the Via Limes to hide on the other side of the stream in Rheged. After all, the way is now clear (the Saxon scouts killed).
The Arrival of Corryn
Corryn arrives five days after the main group. Apparently he has a maternal grandmother that was from this village and so Gorwst “suggested” that he also travel there and see how his grandmother (who is dead already) is doing. Corryn arrived just in time to help some of the villagers cross the still swollen stream (after all he’s probably related to some of them). He then goes on into town afterwards.
The Great Religious Debate
Maelogan does his best to make the case for the Christian God and it probably would have been well received if it weren’t for Iago actively countering him… reminding the people about the Old Ways. It’s a lively debate that is low-intensity but runs the span of several days… at the end of which the people are fairly sure they’re just going to stay exactly as they were before.
Corryn Oversees Some Defensive Tweaks
Corryn arrives and rearranges a few barricades and other assorted tips and tricks to better fortify the approaches to the village. A few pit traps are also created and concealed.
Maelogan has “a bad feeling” the morning of the ninth day and lets everyone know. Dryw and Atera go out to scout the logical approaches that the Saxons might take. Corryn looks to the east just as a warning arrow from Atera lands midst the thatch on the roof of one of the village houses.
The Saxons surround the town and the leader of this band rides up with a female Saxon warrior and two spear-carriers on foot. The rest of the force is also on foot.
The leader of the band, Ceolwulf introduces himself, and demands the rest of the harvest from the village. The Saxons are clearly on high alert, they know something’s “off” about the village.
No time like the present. Erica starts the show by speaking to the nearest raider in Saxon. When he, incredulous, replies … she viciously insults him in their native tongue… with only the nuance and inflection possible thereon. He loses his temper and charges .. right into one of the pit traps, impaling himself on sharpened stakes.
With screams and shouts, the melee begins.
Atera arrives just in time to see the “festivities” kick off. She puts an arrow into Hilda (allegedly Ceolwulf’s witch). It goes right through the ocular guard of her spangenhelm, blinding her in one eye…she… flees.
Then Corryn gallops out from behind a village building, charging directly into the path of Ceolwulf. Like a Celtic Hero, from horseback, screaming at the top of his lungs, he hurls his spear directly at the Saxon leader… impaling him through the heart.
The rest is really just mop up. With both their leaders dead, and after a couple more Saxons fall… the rest break and run.
The Saxons are on foot… the Britons are mounted. They killed another 11 more as the hunt went on through the trees.
Looking back, if I had to do over again, I would have done Pursuit as a Horse test, resisted by the fleeing target’s Agility… but whatever.
Going To The Source
Then, the heroes rode to the Saxon base camp (previously discovered by Dryw and Atera) and waited there for the Saxons to come straggling back. They went in… and none came out.
The warriors from Rheged told the villagers the location of the Saxon camp and took only what they could carry as their “fee” for their services (mainly gold arm bands, jewelry, and whatnot).
When they returned to Caer Gowerr to tell the tale of their actions, they were richer for it. As a token of their loyalty to Gorwst, they giften to him the Lorica Hamata (with bloody hole over the heart) and spatha (lightly used, dropped once) they took from the body of Ceolwulf. Of course, being a generous chief, he returned nearly the entire value of the gift as trinkets and jewels.
Having no other guide by which to judge a “fair” reward.. I figure starting out the Campaign with a lump sum of Treasure 3 is a good start (if likely overly generous). I think I’ll likely keep it around Treasure 1 from now on… who knows. We’ll see.
Yr Cyweithiau Gwrolion
Shortly after Erica and Iago sing the song of their past few days at the next feast… the heroes begin to be collectively called a new name. Yr Cyweithiau Gwrolion (UR QUAY-thea GOOR-olee-on)… the Brave Companions.