Sunday, February 22, 2009
There remained one more contest – the Chest-Pounding. This contest was for men only, so the women jeered from the sidelines (Xaraya: “You call that a chest?”), among them a young Vingan warrior from Pavis, Skye. Grom, as champion of the wrestling contest, felt he had to enter and handily defeated Gradulus the Lunar Apostate, but drew his old enemy Kwik-Kik in the next round. Kwik-Kik used his martial arts to avenge his broken leg and defeated Grom. Eventually “Big Daddy” Fathacnut defeated Taizon the Agimori in the final, and was awarded a magnificent Chainmail Hauberk, which he gifted to his son Rathacnut.
That night, Xaraya and Grom found themselves at Griswald’s table once more, and they were once again joined by Salvidienus. This time, the Vingan contigent joined them, including Britgar Spearhaft, Ethburga (a large woman who drank like a fish), Alyrra Ingilli and Enfrewa Hendriki, a sacred Red Woman of the cult: beautiful, sensible, charming and utterly unattainable. They teased the sage, with games like Britgar sitting on his lap and caressing his beard, before Ethburga took over. The sage made his excuses and left.
Griswald then approach Grom and Xaraya, saying he had a task he had agreed to do for his old friend, the Constable of Bullford, and wondered if they would join him. Xaraya asked what the task entailed, and he said it was a task to harvest the fruit of a Money Tree. Ordinarily, the people of Bullford would send a large party of men to do this, but because it was the beginning of Sea Season, they needed all their men to plant their crops. Xaraya found the idea of a Money Tree preposterous, but agreed to listen to Griswald’s friend’s offer.
The wedding came and went, with many cattle slaughtered and much BEER consumed. Amazingly, no-one tried to disrupt the wedding or kidnap the bride and Caerthan and his wife rode off for their yurt. After the wedding, Griswald introduced the players to Henere Hamilcar, Constable of Bullford, who explained about the Fiscus, or Money Tree, how such a thing existed and how sacred the task was. Griswald explained how, twenty years ago, he had been part of the group that went to harvest the tree, and so knew the way. This would be his last adventure before settling down to raise young warriors. Grom and Xaraya agreed, as did Skye, who had been recommended by Enfrewa. Salvidienus was also coming along, to value the haul. Henere said that the Wise Woman of Bullford, chief priestess of Esra in Bullford, would teach each volunteer a point of Spirit Magic. They would set out the next morning.
Sea Season, Disorder Week
An uneventful trek into increasingly wild lands saw no events of note. At night, Skye was keeping watch when she heard something large coming through the undergrowth towards the campsite. She woke the Sage and told him it was his watch! He, however, also heard the creature and woke Griswald, who said it was just a bear and they could frighten it off. They did so, and resumed their night’s sleep with their food sources unsnaffled.
As they were making their way along the banks of the Zola Fel, the party found its way blocked by a small, disheveled figure, the duck bandit Yozarian. Several of the party noted the bandit appeared to be backed up by armed crossbowmen to his rear. He demanded 10L each, then, as the party sized up their options, increased the demand to 12L each. Xaraya informed him that his men were being targeted by their own allies, at which point Yozarian told her he knew she was lying. Grom was certain they were about to come under attack, but Xaraya realized the duck’s back-up was actually a series of dummies, one with a pumpkin for a head. Yozarian, figuring the game was up, dropped his crossbow and jumped into a pool, where he swam quickly to the bottom. Skye divested her armor and jumped in with a shortsword to follow him, but was unable to get deep enough before her breath ran out, although she noticed that the duck appeared to be using a couple of barrels tied down as air pockets. Grom looked around for a large boulder and, along with Xaraya, was able to roll it, with difficulty, towards the pond. The boulder attack drove Yozarian to the surface, where he offered ransom. Xaraya, however, told him merely to make himself scarce and find something else to do for a living. He left with a quack and waddle and a quack and, after an arrow for Xaraya hit a tree near him, a flurry of eiderdown. Griswald raised an eyebrow and smiled.
That night, Griswald was keeping watch when he heard three large creatures heading towards the camp through the bush. He swiftly woke the others and they formed a defensive circle. Three large rock lizards burst out of the treeline and started towards the party. Skye and Salvidienus both hit one lizard with disrupt spells, before Xaraya’s bow struck true and severely injured the lizard Grom and his cat were closing on. Meanwhile, Griswald hurled a spear and impaled. Grom’s cat clawed its lizard before Xaraya felled the beats with another good shot. The other beasts had closed, so Skye drew her sword as Salvidienus hit with another Disrupt. Xaraya meanwhile adjusted her position and let off another shot, which again bit deep. Griswald landed a heavy blow on his lizard which Grom charged back to engage it. Skye finished her lizard off. The group converged on the remaining lizard, which Grom took down with a heavy blow to the head.
The trail led through increasingly thick forest and the party found its way blocked by a large, orb-shaped web, above which dangled a deer trapped in a cocoon of silk. Xaraya tried to find a way around, but Grom noticed the forest was covered in thick gobbets of web. Griswald said that the way lay beyond the web, so took out his knife to begin to cut through the web. Salvidienus joined him, as did Xaraya with her axe. Their hacking brought down the denizen of the web, a Giant Spider, which rappelled down a strand and attacked Griswald, but missed. He hefted his spear and shield while Skye and Salvidienus fired off Disruption spells. Grom, Xaraya and the cat hacked away at the monster, all connecting. The spider bit Xaraya’s shield twice before its wounds and rapidly dwindling number of legs forced it to retreat back up its strand. Skye missed with a shot from her self bow before Xaraya, dropping her shield and axe connected with a shot from her bow. Grom kicked the beast in the head and noticed its poison sacs, which Xaraya was able to cut out cleanly.
Next up, the players have to get to the top of the mountain, and get the leaves of The Money Tree.
The players have come to Pairing Stones for the wedding of Caerthan, Khan of the Northern Pol-Joni and Eanflaed Flowerhair of Waterby. There are many there besides the families of the betrothed, and the players are not out of place. Initially, there are Grom of the House of Jastarkos, Humakt initiate, a Sartarite weaponthane from the Yeavering Tribe, and Xoraya Greatbow, princess and last survivor of the Lesser Ibex people of Prax.
On Fireday, three contests were announced. Grom entered the morning contest, a wrestling competition. In the first round he met Young Deirik of the Pol-Joni, who grappled with him for three rounds before Grom pinned him. Next round, he was forced to endure the taunts of the Vingans as he drew Big Hilda of Waterby. They grappled inconclusively for five rounds before Hilda lunged at him and missed, grabbing instead a crowd member in embarrassing fashion. The judges warned Hilda, which unsettled her, allowing Grom to immobilize her arm and force the submission. Hilda hugged Grom and expressed the hope of sharing a beer, which gromwas able to turn down honorably owing to his geas of drinking no alcohol. Next came Kwik Kik Lee, a martial artist, whose attack was so bad that Grom was able to grab him and throw him so hard that it broke Lee’s leg (fumble vs critical, with poetic license). Grom received the plaudits of the crowd, so that he had a larger portion of them on his side when he faced Hardrath Strongarm, blacksmith of Waterby, who was undefeated in the last three wrestling contests he had entered. Hardrath missed his initial lunge and walked into Grom’s hold. Despite the disparity in size and strength, Grom was able to throw Hardrath for the unexpected victory. Hardrath raised Grom’s hand, impressed by the speed of his opponent’s success, and Caerthan presented him with his prize, a fine Broadsword, which Grom recognized as having a hilt wrapped in Dragonnewt skin.
After a lunch of mutton and BEER, came the rising contest, where the contestants would have to jump progressively higher obstacles. Xoraya, born to the saddle, was keen to enter, but her Great Ibex was ruled illegal (many nomads joined in her mutterings) and she was forced to choose a horse. Nevertheless, her skill enabled her to choose a string horse, and she entered the contest confidently. She cleared her first few obstacles with ease, but when it came to the great wall, she misjudged and plowed through, going out in the first round. Dafydd Brume won, earning a fine nomad saddle that Xoraya recognized as of great value.
As Yelm began to go down, the poetry contest began. Grom was a confident entrant, but Xoraya entered too. First came Gjarmani Truthtalker, noted wandering poet from Adari, who told the tale of how Sartar unified the tribes and lit the flame in Boldhome. This went down very well. Next came Ceadmon the Harper of Waterby, whose harp accompaniment was melodious, but did not rescue his sad tale of the fall of Boldhome. The crowd’s mood was lifted by the Vingan Britgar Speahaft, who used all her beauty and dancing to accompany a ribald tale of how a woman bedded Lunar nobles all the way up to the Red Emperor; after conquering him in bed she was able to bring down the moon. The crowd loved it. They did not love Wahagrim Horsefriend’s song in praise of the Pure Horse People (well, the Pol-Joni loved it, no-one else did). With Britgar clearly highest in the people’s affection (as well as clearly attracting the eye of Caethan), Grom strode to the center of the ring. He told a tale of his adventures into Upland Marsh, and the slaying of terrible undead, emerging victorious. The mixture of terror and boasting, told well, captivated the crowd, and Grom would have emerged victorious, had not Xoraya brought out her dulcimer and played a moving lament for the destruction of her people at the Battle of Bitterstream, coupled with her desire for vengeance. Her beauty swayed Caerthan so much that he adjudged the contest a tie between Grom and Xoraya and asked them to sing again. Instead, Grom announced that he had won his contest that day and would step down. Cearthan applauded the nobility of Grom and said he had anther thing to boast about tonight, then awarded the prize, a splendid Cedarwood Harp, to Xoraya, and hugged her rather more intimately than might be expected from a man about to be married. Caedmon offered her 100L for it on the spot, but she turned him down.
That evening, 100 sheep were slaughtered and the crowd dined on fresh mutton and BEER. As victors, Grom and Xoraya were honored to sit at the table of Griswald Oldoak, a veteran weaponthane of Waterby. Their fellows included Jakk and St’nn, two upright citizens of Waterby who talked amongst themselves, Old Deirik and Astragil of the Pol-Joni, and Salvidienus Cansor, a Lhankor Mhy initiate, on his way to Pavis to deliver some scrolls. Old Deirik quizzed those present on whether they had ever killed a lion. Grom responded that he had killed a Storm Bull beserker of the Rainbow Bison; Deirik responded that he knew well what a great feat this was, because he had once killed two. He then asked if they had ever killed a broo, which neither had ever done, but Grom had slain a ghoul. Deirik had killed two. He then asked how much beer Grom had drunk in an evening. Grom replied none, because of his geas. Deirik could not double that, and Astragil pointed at him and laughed. Xoraya asked Griswald of the people of Pavis, and how they felt about the Lunar occupation. Griswald related the history of the city and the shame they felt at the swift capitulation, combined with the treachery of the Sun Dome Templars. Trusting them both, Griswald told them to look up Krogar Wolfhelm in Pavis.
The next morning, Grom and Xoraya noted how the Storm Bulls were late to rise, and how it was fitting that the archery contest should take place in the morning. Xoraya entered, facing Jode Plumma of Waterby in the first round, and won 8-6, profiting from an errant shot in the final flight where Jode managed to hit Big Hilda, which earned him a box round the ears. In the next round, she faced Allyra Ingilli, a Vingan, and won 12-7, thanks to a bullseye. Next came Sandori Steadfriend, brother of Caerthan, whom she defeated 9-3, to the great disappointment of Caerthan. Then came the Yelmalion Tarvidius Firehawk, who she defeated 5-2 in a contest far worse than expected. In the final she was due to face mysterious stranger Garsting Giorno, ostensibly from Sartar, but Grom noticed him acting oddly and whispering something to his bow. Grom mentioned this to Salvidienus, who cast Detect Magic, revealing that Garsting had illegally cast Speedart. Caerthan slapped Garsting around and hounded him out of town.
Returning, Caertan declared Xoraya again the winner and awarded her a golden arrow, which Grom evaluated as being worth around 500L. She was then approached by Tarvidius, who offered her 50W for the arrow, as it was an item of ritual importance to the Sun Domers. She accepted his price, but it transpired that Tarvidius did not have the money on him. He promised it as soon as Xoraya delivered the arrow to the Sun Dome Temple and swore it on the Truth Rune of his cult. He pointed out, however, that should Xoraya renege on the agreement and not return the arrow by a year’s time, the Sun Domers would not hesitate to take military action.
After a lunch of pork and BEER, Caerthan announced the Hunt. A Wind Lord brought forth a huge broo and announced the Orlanthi poem against chaos to it. He then removed the beast’s chains and whipped it with his spear. The broo ran for cover and disappeared over the hills. The war-whoops started and the hunt began. Xoraya successfully identified the beast’s tracks, then spotted where in the distance it had burst through the bushes. Following the broo’s scent, they came across the creature in a clearing, but were not the first there. Orlanthi warrior Gryffyn Godricson had already found the broo and was about to engage it in hand-to-hand combat. While Grom closed to the range where he could throw his spear, Xoraya let loose a shaft from her bow and criticaled the broo in its left leg. However, something magical about it reduced the damage of the blow and the broo remained standing. It swung at Gryffyn with a large branch it had gathered, and missed. Grom then hurled his spear with all his might, criticalling the monster in the chest. This time the monster fell, but it still breathed. Gryffyn failed to dispatch the beast, and Xoraya’s next shaft killed it.
The three removed the creature’s head with some difficulty and returned to the Stones to great applause, gathering a crowd of other hunters as they went. Caerthan greeted the three conquerors of chaos and presented them with their prize, a fine young Alynx of noble breeding, asking them to decide who earned the full honor. Xoraya said that, though she had slain the creature, and Gryffyn deserved honor for finding the beast first, it was Grom who had done the most to bring down the chaos fiend, so she said he should have the cat. Gryffyn grumbled, but when Caerthan announced that he had earned a place at his table during the wedding feast, he seemed mollified. Cearthan announced once again that Orlanthi honor and nobility had been satisfied, and this was a good omen for his marriage.