[The story so far]
Session 09 - A truly 'noble' nobleman
Rising early, and keen to put the smouldering remains of the gnolls behind them, our heroes rode quickly westwards along the main road. It was quiet and a couple of hours passed before they heard the clatter of hooves ahead and saw some dust rising. Cautious after their encounter the previous night, they nevertheless decided that such brazen travel would most likely be men who had legitimate business and carried on until they met them riding in the opposite direction.
Reining in his horse and raising a hand to stop his liveried men, their leader approached our characters slowly in response to their greeting. He cast a professional eye over them, clearly noting both their dishevelled state and the weapons they carried, before addressing Dumnorix. "What does a cleric of Alathea do, riding in such mixed company, and bearing such signs of battle, on the king's highway? Were you set upon by bandits so close to Corcelle?" Behind him, with the casualness of custom and training, his men had formed into a crescent with hands upon their weapons. "Come, Brother, what has befallen you? The sword of Guisarme FitzHeron is always at the service of the goddess of the rising sun."
Reassured by this greeting, and the apparent honesty of Guisarme, Dumnorix told him all that had happened on the road. The knight was initially incredulous at the mention of a gnoll raiding party within a day of Corcelle, but the description they gave and the state of their wounds and gear convinced him. He was about to wish them a safe journey when Grat burst out with the news of the desecration of the Temple of Alathea in Corcelle. Guisarme rocked back in his saddle, appalled and alarmed. He listened with increasing grimness to the whole tale and seemed to reach a difficult decision. "This outranks my own cause! If matters are as is feared then all men must do their duty as they have sworn." He slapped his thigh in frustration and called to his men "Back to Brun! Our duty must lie there, the ford held and the approach to Corcelle kept secure. My errand must wait." The slightest grumble passed around the men, but they formed up to ride back the way they'd come. Only one, a serjeant by his bearing, spoke out "But my lord! Your uncle? Your petition to the Temple!?" Guisarme cut him off. "Enough, our duty is clear. We are honour bound to protect the ford, to hold the fort, and to lend aid to any cleric of Alathea. Besides, "he said, softening slightly, "it will aid us in our negotiations if we show our good service to Corcelle and the Temple, will it not? Now, let us ride."
Falling in beside the party, he explained the comments of his subordinate with an openness and honesty that sat well with his air of purpose. Close-cropped brown hair and a weather-beaten colouring to his face spoke of a pragmatic and knightly life - this was no pampered aristocrat but a man of action.
The uncle had supplanted his inheritance, claiming for the brother that which should have gone to the son. The problem seemed to hinge on Guisarme's name. He was from the illegitimate line of one of the Twelve of Corcelle, and in a time of peace and civic pride this reminder of the less-than-perfect nature of one of their heroes had been enough to keep him away from the city. Taking the name "du Frith", Guisarme's uncle Henri had remained close to those with influence and had taken the family lands and castle to the North of Corcelle for himself. Guisarme had been on his way to make a petition to the Temple of Alathea and throw himself upon their renowned justice. By now, the party had come within sight of the fort of Brun and the wide ford of the same name which brought travellers across the wide river Chalancon, out of the wilder lands and into the softer district of Corcelle. The fort was strongly built, but functional - no ornate carvings covered its walls or surrounded its gate. This was a building of purpose.
[I am using Dyson's Roadside Fortress as my plan for this structure, but with a couple of extra floors to the towers]
Well-fed, weapons repaired, coins won from the guards in petty dice games, and with the promise of guides to take them on to the barrow-mound within the forest across the Chalancon, the party took to their beds.
Some nice character-based "role"playing this afternoon. The only dice rolled were during the dice games with the guards (Henri, who prefers and fails to be called "Knuckles", and Jean), but there was good conversation and engaging with the world. It was also fun to introduce another couple of NPCs of different social standing, knowledge and power. I have a sneaking suspicion that we'll be seeing more of them in the future...