7 June 2016
Averaigne campaign - session 15
[The story so far]
Session 15 - Tragedy and treachery
After a sorrowful hour or so burying their dead comrades, Dumnorix, Jean, and Aurelius saw no option other than to hitch their packs onto their backs and continue to Corcelle - the mission had not changed.
It was early afternoon by the time they drew close to the small forest they had seen, tantalisingly out of reach during the roc's attack, but it gave them no peace...
On the road ahead of them a great cluster of carrion crows started up from the road to reveal their meal of a saddled horse. As the party trudged nearer, nervously, they saw the remains of the rider as well - clad in the livery of FitzHeron! Cautiously, they readied their weapons and headed into the wood, to a scene of carnage. Dead gnolls and men strewed the road and the bushes to either side.
They checked the men and gnolls, but none still had breath in their bodies. FitzHeron's men had sold their lives dearly, and the fallen foe out numbered them by a long way. Then they came to a mound of dead gnolls, as if they'd found the point where the last stand had been made, but only a couple of men lay there...
No, they lay a little way further on, all together but, strangely, several had their swords still sheathed. Jean, who had been keeping a rough count, wept silently as he realised that the whole party of his comrades lay slaughtered among the beasts. And yes, looking closely, his lord Guisarme Fitzheron also had been slain. Then a noise from the bushes caught their attention in the unnatural silence and they hurled themselves towards it - it was a somewhat alarmed looking halfling hiding in the bushes.
A brief, and rather strained conversation later revealed the halfling to be Gowmac's cousin who had been tracking Gowmac and been sent in this direction by the trader Bertolac from Corcelle. He had seen what had happened. Guisarme and his men had gained the upper hand against the gnolls and then a group of horsemen had arrived from the direction of Corcelle to assist Guisarme. They had a distinctive heraldry: horizontally split, white and black, with half a golden rising sun on the white, mirrored by half a full silver moon on the black, the sun and moon forming a full circle across the join between the white and black background.
When they had defeated the last of the gnolls, the two groups of men had parlayed and seemed friendly, when suddenly the new group had set upon Guisarme and his men who had sheathed their weapons and didn't stand a chance in their exhausted and outnumbered state.
Jean cried aloud in his distress at this treachery, while Dumnorix was horrified that men apparently linked to (or pretending to be linked to) Alathea could have cut down so goddess-fearing a lord.
After reverently retrieving his lord's signet ring and their letter which he was still carrying, Jean and the rest of the party, along with their new companion, also grieving for his cousin, they rounded up some of the horses who were roaming riderless in the wood and headed for Corcelle as quickly as possible. They needed to get the message to Corcelle and were worried about being attacked themselves.
Reaching an inn without incident, they spent the night among the celebrating locals. The delight was thanks to high priest Alaric's revival of the Vespertine guard to protect Corcelle from whoever had defaced the temple, along with several arrests of those suspected of sympathy with the devil-worshipping vandals. All was going to be fine in time for the spring festival, only four days away now.
The next morning they continued to Corcelle and arrived early evening but before the gates were closed. There were longer queues at the gate than last time, partly due to pilgrim numbers, partly due to the more careful checks on travellers arriving. As they passed through, showing their tokens, they asked the guard if he had seen anyone bearing the strange heraldry of those whom Jean had sworn revenge upon for the death of his lord. "Oh, you mean the Vespertines? O' course, plenty of them about now, so you don't need to worry, everything is all secure for the festival. Hurry along now, plenty more as wants to beat the gates closing."
The players were in shock - the murderers of Guisarme were the new guards of the high priest? Who could they trust? What was going on? Dumnorix headed off to the temple to see Alaric, while the rest decided this was a fool's errand and went to organise lodging at the Wounded Gryphon,
Refused entry to the temple by Vespertines on guard (each city watch patrol had a couple of the black and white clad warriors with them), and told that Alaric was leading evening prayers, Dumnorix handed over the letter and rejoined his fellows who berated him for handing over the letter. They had been moved along from the Keep - the old tower that housed the Constable (i.e the mayor) and so on - when they'd tried to get in to tell their tale.
Until the morning, all they could do was partake of their landlord's hospitality ("black" Jacques is a good sort), and make their plans....