Blood And Iron

The Hunt Begins ...
Week Two - Bandits, Brewing & More

Players Involved: Andrew (Popon), James (Manon Sèverin), Mark D (Rufio Bateu) and Dan (Jace Korsus)

The sun began to crest the hills of the Greenbelt, bringing with it a mediocre light that bathed the lands before it. Popon enjoyed watching the sunrise in these lands; certainly more than he did back in Llael. He’d only been there a few weeks after journeying there on his fathers wishes, but already this new way of thinking grated on him. The whole concept of selling yourself to the highest bidder was not in itself unusual to him; he was bought a slave after all. It was more that your loyalty once bought was only as good as the coin. Already the others in his “mercenary group” had spent far too long deciding who they should be supporting in the first place, when the choice was obvious to see. And still, he mused, they picked poorly. Alaina had good intentions, but this land was not hers to have these intentions with. He sighed loudly.

“Something you want to add to this discussion Popon? You’ll be helping to defend this place too I assume?”

Manon’s sharp words snapped Popon out from his short contemplation. She was staring at him, not quite angrily but certainly annoyed. She reminded Popon of the warrior women back home, strong, brave and determined to prove their worth. He looked her up and down; she really was quite beautiful, and-

“Hey, eyes up here. Within the hour, we’re about to be attacked by any number of bandits, and if Jace is right, we could expect Tharn involvement too. You know the area and the type of people around here, what can we expect?”

“Actually, I know more about the desert north of here, my tribe only been in the area once, and even then it about one hundred miles from here.”

“What? Then why are you even .. Oh I don’t even care, you’re still a part of this charter, so what do you think? Rufio’s plan of ambushing them from above the gate, or Jaces plan of surround and conquer?”

“I don’t understand either,” Popon exclaimed, with obvious confusion, “We should stand in the gate and await bandits. Then we beat bandits and they know our names, and never come back.”

Jace almost spat out his drink at this, which in itself bothered Popon; once should never waste good drink after all, “How can that be your plan? We stand there and get run over by who knows how many bandits? What if they have guns? Or bows? Or any kind of ranged offense?”

“Then we stand like warrior and beat them. Is easy.”

The rest of the party stared incredulously as they realised just how serious Popon was.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

She had caught sight of the new arrivals earlier that day. Keeping low to the ground, she stalked up to the fort, and effortlessly glided up and over the wall. Landing without a sound, she peered down upon this ‘change of circumstance’. They looked well armed, although unfocused. They argued with the old man, so were either not expected, or not prepared. She considered killing them here, but reconsidered. There was too many, and her sister wasn’t here to help. Better to watch them, see how they change the game. Silently, she moved back over the wall and through the grass.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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Popon stood in the stables next to Jace Korvus. Popon looked him down, and realised his disassociation with the party was most prominent with him. He was the very definition of a mercenary, only concerned with money and glory. His loyalty was purely based on the size of his paycheck. Popon shook his head as he thought about how entitled he must be, to put his monetary gain over the worth of other peoples lives, and for a long moment considered his father had made a mistake sending him to join with these people. Or maybe it was his mistake when he chose these mercenaries to join. He had spoke with Rufio, the hero of the people he had heard about, and thought that they would be the most noble warriors he could find. Now, he wondered how wrong he had been.

His breath caught in his throat as he spotted the enemy. Half a dozen bandits had entered the camp, laughing and making crude remarks about their host Svetlana. His hands gripped tight around his weapon as he fought the urge to rush forward and attack, but as instructed he waited for the signal. Manon would shoot the leader of these bandits, and then in the confusion they would rush out and attack. It was a plan that was-

CRACK

The crack of the musket rang out, and Popon looked in dismay as he realised Manon had missed. Any element of surprised had been lost, and they would quickly need to re-establish some kind of momentum. Roaring the warcry of his people, he rushed out and attacked the nearest bandit. Too slow the bandit realised Popon was upon him, and with a quick flourish he had cut the man from guts to chest, with the quick flick of his polearm taking him to the ground. Even as he went down, Popon spotted the second being attacked by Jace. His great-sword, a huge and heavy weapon in every regards, seemed lighter and swifter than Popon believed possible, as Jace destroyed the bandit with a single sweep of its glittering steel. His body literally tumbled in half to the floor, and Popon was taken aback by the savagery Jace fought with. It reminded him of the stories his father would tell him of the Skorne, and Popon reconsidered his earlier thought. Any man who could fight with such power was perhaps worthy of some measure of respect.

On the right hand flank, Manon and Rufio engaged their quarry at range, in a hail of crossbow bolts and a stead crack of bullets. Rufio had peppered his target, first taking his knee bot before a lethal shot to the throat, whilst Manons second shot proved letheally accurate compared to the first, with a considerable hole forming in the chest of another bandit. Before anyone could react, Jace had slaughtered a second bandit, and only one remained. Even as he turned to run, another bolt from Rufio and a quick sharp blow from Popon took the man down. He was badly injured, but alive … For now. Popon drew his Scimitar to deliver justice to the enemy.

“Wait Popon. He may have important information.”

“Why do we care Manon? He bandit, charter we have says kill bandit. So we kill bandit” Popon stated bluntly as he raised the blade to strike the bandit down.

“This land we soon be a vassal of Llael, and in Llael the man has a right to a trial. If he co-operates then we can-”

“Kill him and claim the 20 crowns we’re owed right? That’s what you’re going to say next right?” stated Jace. Popon might not like the reasoning, but agreed with the sentiment. “He’s a criminal, and a dead man. Unless you plan on paying for his release, which would be stupid as I’d just hunt him down again. The man attacked us, the man dies.”

“Agreed,” spoke Rufio, “I’m all for the rights of man, but it’s not like he turned on his would-be allies or anything. The man tried to kill us as much as we tried to kill him. He lost. WHo knows how many others lost to him before we won?”

The argument was not one that would end quickly, but before the night was done, the bandits head was in a bag to be delivered to Ternon Crag.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

They had killed the bandits with lethal efficeny, as she suspected they would. Una signaled to her sister. Usa nodded back. These new players certainly changed the game, and their father would want to know. The bandits themselves were irrelevant, and more could always be found. Their deaths meant nothing, but the fact someone was standing up to them now meant everything. Whether something had to be done or not was not their decision. Quickly, they both left the area, and the party to their own devices.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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A Difficult Decision
Week One - The Party Chooses A Sponsor

Players Involved: Andrew (Popon), James (Manon Sèverin), Mark D (Rufio Bateu) and Dan (Jace Korsus)

“I don’t even know why this is a conversation we’re having. Llael needs our support, and we’re going to give it to them.”

The Broken Thorns, one of the many mercenary companies Llael currently employed, rarely agreed on things quickly but this conversation had been raging on for the entire afternoon. Nerves were frayed and tempers flared between the two opposing arguments. Lady Sèverin, noblewoman of Llael and member of the Amethyst Rose, was taking the lead on one side, and Rufio Bateu, Ordic “hero” was leading the other.

“Look Sèverin, I know your loyalty to the crown is all-important to you, but just because you were assigned to us, doesn’t put you in charge! The fact is the Rhullic folks have a better claim to the land then Llael does, and are willing to pay just as much.” argued Rufio bluntly.

“I don’t care about the money, it’s about securing a future for my people. If Alain Di Malayse believes Llael is in danger from Khador then I believe her, and this could be a way to save my people, you have to understand that!”

“I understood everything until you said you don’t care about the money” mumbled Jace.

Manon Sèverin shot him a look, but as he was arguing her point she left it at that. The noblewoman was at her wits end arguing the point with Rufio – She knew full well that his disapproval of would be tyrants and disposers was fueling his argument – The fact that the land to be explored had been dubbed by many the ‘Stolen Land’ didn’t help her cause. She put her head in her hands and sighed.

“Rufio, I get where you’re coming from, I do, but these are my people we’re talking about here. I can’t just turn my back on them because the Dwarves showed you some paperwork about owning the land once.”

“It was theirs Lady Sèverin. It was their land, and now Llael and the rest of the Iron Kingdoms are looking to tear it apart and divide it among themselves like they have that right. Even Popon agrees with me, and he barely speaks our language.”

Popon, an Idrian raised from a young age among the Efaarit, looked up from the bowl of stew he was eating, and wiped his mouth on his sleeve quickly.

“He speaks truth. Dwarves own land, land is dwarves. We give land back to dwarves. Simple.”

Manon screamed through gritted teeth, losing her fair composer for a second before recovering. “I’m sorry, I am but the Dwarves gave up their claim to the land long ago when they abandoned it. We’ve been playing go between the different sponsors now for three weeks – Some of them have already hired other bands and gone on their way. If we don’t make the choice now, we won’t even be an option. We go with Llael.”

“Where is Cedric? Should he not be here for this?” questioned Jace. He was an usually quiet man, but this suited the company well, and his skill with a blade was undeniable. “He is our esteemed academic after all.”

“He’s busy elsewhere,” snapped Rufio “apparently he doesn’t have the time for this. And anyway, he told us to sort it out between ourselves.”

“Only because he knows we’ll make the right decision!” argued Manon, “He’s from Llael too for crying out loud, do you really think he’s going to go against his country and king because some dwarf showed us some old paperwork?”

Rufio stood up and crossed his arms, and Manon Sèverin sighed again. It was going to be a long night.

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The journey to the ‘Stolen Lands’ was a quiet one, partly as Sèverin was entirely correct in her assessment that most of the other companies had already left, and partly because the first two weeks involved travelling through the Bloodstone Marches, a desolate desert as soon as you passed the town of Ternon Crag. Still, at least they were in good shape and had finally made the right choice Sèverin thought to herself. And the benefits had already started to pay off – Instead of having to make camp for a few months, or construct a makeshift place to stay, Alain Di Malayse had put her considerable purse-strings to work in acquiring them sole rights to accommodation at Olegs Trading Post. From what the letters said, it was an old fort that had been re-purposed some time ago, and was the last frontier of the Bloodstone Marches. It didn’t get much trade, but apparently it was more to do with the seclusion, and giving brave adventurers from Ternon Crag somewhere to stay before venturing into the wilderness. In any case, beds and clean water easily outweighed any agreement they could of made with the dwarves as far as Sèverin was concerned.

Cresting the hill, they finally saw Olegs in the distance. The families that accompanied the Mercenaries cheered, and Sèverin was glad that they were relieved. They had spent the last couple of days bemoaning the heat, accustomed as they were to the Umbrian winters. Woodsmen and their children, the two families had agreed to make up the Vanguard and help provide what help they could to exploring the lands. Once they were set up, the rest of the village would follow. It made sense to Sèverin, but she could see Popon was struggling with the concept.

“They are all family, they all should come. I don’t understand how you are all so easy to leave each other.” he questioned.

“It’s not a case of leaving, it’s a case of looking ahead Popon. Surely you get that, you’re here and not with your tribe after all.”

“My case is special. I am not Efaarit, I merely serve where my tribe wishes. I am here and they are there. I find it hard without them. To choose to be away, it makes no sense to me” Popon sighed.

Inwardly, a part of Sèverin agreed. She already missed Llael, and although the Llaelese-Umbrians were technically of her homeland, they reminded her little of the life and loves she knew. She took a deep breath and smiled at the man.

“Maybe together they can make a better world and future for their family. Maybe we all can.”

Popon mused on this for a while, but seemed to cheer up a the the idea. By the time they reaches Olegs, he seemed much more understanding of it all.

Olegs.png

“So you don’t even know about the bandits? Bloody typical!” yelled Oleg as he stormed off. His wife Svetlana tried to diffuse the situation.

“Oleg, I’m sure even if they don’t know, they can help us, right? We can’t go on losing all our wares and supplies to these thugs, or we’ll end up destitute. If you help, you and your company can stay here as long as you like, free of charge! I’ll throw in two meals a day as well!”

Oleg looked at his wife incredulously, and seemed as though he was going to retort until her sharp gaze gave him cause to reconsider.

“Aye, what she says. Help us and we’ll do what we can fer you and yer crew.”

“What kind of numbers are we looking at? And when?” inquired Jace, his hunters mind already planning as he scanned the fort and its defenses.

“The last time there was 6 of them, and one of the women. They usually arrive the beginning of the month”

“Beginning of the .. That’s tomorrow for Morrows sake!” said Rufio exasperatedly, but Jace was already moving on. “Women? What women?”

“The hunter women. The bandits had tried it on before, but we’d put paid to them. About three months ago though, two women dressed in furs and wooden masks came with them, and told us that ‘The Stag Lord’ ruled these lands now, and we better pay up. Oleg tried to argue, but by the Creator they were fast. No sooner had he reached for his blade than one of them had but a spear through his shoulder. He hasn’t been right since, bless him. We’ve paid them ever since.” cried Svetlana, her voice turning to a whisper.

“Right, we need to figure out who or wha-”

“It’s Tharn.” stated Jace. The others looked at him for an explanation.

“I’ve encountered them before, although not these particular ones. They’re Tharn hunters. Call them Bloodtrackers. If they’re here, then there’s a War-chief here. Probably this Stag Lord. Chances are he’s just cowed the other bandits in the area under him.”

“Is this a problem?” asked Rufio, “as I don’t fancy being eaten anytime soon.”

“Depends. If the Bloodtrackers come tomorrow and we kill them, we’ve attacked him. He’ll retaliate. The bandits though aren’t Tharn. Killing them just proves they’re weak, and we probably won’t get much hassle for our troubles.” spoke Jace.

“So,” spoke Sèverin “whats the plan?”

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An Idea Forms ...
... Waiting to be burnt.

Began creation of the Campaign. Players involved are James Taylor playing Manon Sèverin, a Llaelese noblewoman trained as a member of the Amethyst Rose, Mark Robert playing Cedric Dickory, a Laelese spellcaster and member of the Golden Crucible, Andy Summerhill playing Popon, an Idrian born fighter raised by the Efaarit and stepped in the sand-peoples culture and history, Mark Delaney playing Rufio Bateu, an Ordic robin hood-esque thief and hero of the common people, and Dan Bowerbank playing Jace Korsus, an Ordic fighter and would-be monster hunter and trapper.

Campaign will be run using D&D 5th Rules, involving heavy conversion of 3.5 Iron Kingdoms material in order to provide the world for the players to use. Campaign goal is for the material to allow other campaigns to be run in Immoren using the rule-sets works on here.

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