Thursday, April 28, 2011

Four months ago in Redford

The dark eyed Rafael looks through the bundle of mail in front of him. Though it bores him, his father has allocated this task to him.
Despite the almost complete depletion of his great-grandfather’s riches, Redford still stands prouder than all the surrounding townships and villages. It's population has swelled and a few of the wealthier members of the community contribute generously toward the entire towns anual tithes
Most of the letters are typical tax demands and commerce, but then he gets to an envelope that makes him pause.
It’s addressed to his dead uncle Benedicto, but more interestingly it’s come all the way from Shalalah...
Shalalah from over the sea...
Shalalah… The original home of his family.
Everyone knew that his great-grandfather had left there under a cloud and equally, everyone new that he had left his large family behind.
No one, still alive, knew why though.
Opening the envelope, Rafael finds a note and another letter…
Addressed to his great-grandfather!
Reading the note, Rafael discovers it’s from an aunt he never new he had.
An aunt looking for answers to questions he’s unable to answer.
Reading the letter within, he finds himself as confused as she was.
Standing up, he goes in search of his uncle…

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Six months ago in Shalalah

Leaving Eris’ funeral service, Amaranta heads back to the old woman’s room.
Clearing up a little, she opens the bedside draw to tidy away the few personal things left on the dresser.
Amaranta stops though when she notices the drawer full of letters. Unable to resist, she takes out the bundle bound with an emerald green bow.
Scanning them hungrily, she realizes that they are all from her infamous uncle Mendez.
Settling down on the luxurious double bed, she begins to read through them.
They speak of his love for his family and of his own life. The raising of an army against the Dragon, the great battle and of his ultimate defeat. They then go on to tell of his resignation to the fate of Fissa and his retreat to first the city of Seawell and then to the small township of Redford. They tell of his love and marriage to a woman called Etta and then of the orphanage, the adoptions and the many children they had together.
The letters span decades but become more and more infrequent. They tell of his mayorship and of his decline.
Finally they stop entirely…
At the bottom of the pile, one envelope remains and Amaranta recognizes it as the letter she’d read to her aunt over a year before.
Without stopping to think, Amaranta scours to letters for an address and the name of Mendez’ oldest son.
Her cousin: Benedicto.
Snatching some paper, an envelope and the quill from the ink bottle still on the dresser, Amaranta seals the letter inside a fresh envelope, addresses it to Benedicto and calls for a servant.
Perhaps Mendez is still alive?
Perhaps he can be the hero one more time?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I don’t know, what do you want to do?

Vogir lays in little Jen’s bunk. He’s happy. The happiest he’s been in years.
Looking down at the young woman beside him, he feels a yearning for home and a normal life.
It’s with a bitter tear that he remembers that his home in Redford is but a distant memory. What family remains there are living a very different life to what he had.
The question is what to do now?
Despite numerous conversations, he is still conflicted in regard to the bandit Rob Inwood. Should they go after him and attempt to kill him?
He’s a thorn in the Dragon’s side; true, but he’s also a menace and attracting the wrath of the Black cloaks down upon the innocents…
Sitting up, Vogir decides to discuss it one last time with his monstrous companions.
Little Jen purrs and roles over, exposing her not so little breasts.
Smiling, Vogir leans over her. Conversations can wait until morning.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two years ago today

Slicing open the raggedy envelope, Amaranta scans through the letter.
‘Mendez’? Why is that name so familiar?
It’s obviously the diminutive of her grandfathers name, but it’s more than that...
Hurrying to find her great aunt, she finds Eris sitting in her favourite wicker chair in the jasmin gardens.
Her aged aunt pales when she hears the name.
Due to Aunt Eris’ failing eyesight, Amaranta reads the letter aloud to her.
After she has finished, Amaranta is surprised to see the old lady crying.
“Mendez was one of my older brothers. Your great grandfather tricked his friends into going on a dangerous quest and then rewarded them by killing every one of them. Although just a girl at the time, I’m ashamed to admit that I helped with the attack.”
The old woman pauses for a moment.
“That was the day I died.”
Amaranta’s eyes widen with shock.
“That’s right. I died. Your great grandfather Estaban had me brought back to life, but by then Mendez had gone. I never saw his handsome face again.”
The younger woman can’t help but interrupt.
“What happened to him? Who is Petra?”
"Swearing he’d never return, Mendez sailed across the ocean to the savage lands in the north. Here he raised an army to battle the Dragon whose presence we feel even over here.
Some said he died, but others believed he survived and started a life in a small town called Redford.”

Eris pauses again to wipe a tear from her eye and catch her breath.
“It matters not now though. He was several years older than me and will certainly be dead by now. Help me inside child. I don’t want to be in the sun any longer”.

Conflicted we fall

Enjoying the revelry, Vogir settles back by the fire and watches the happy community of outcastes. The raid had been successful and no-one would be going hungry for a while. Weapons had been stored and they had enough gold to survive for years if careful.
Best of all, was that he had managed to kill a Black cloak and several of the Dragon guards.
It had sickened him to realise that he was the only human battling in that fort. His allies had been true, but it was disturbing to see the Tiefling transform like Niema had done.
Can all Tieflings do that?
The Dragon-born and the Orc had fought nobly but they seemed more interested in the fight than for the cause. The Tiefling had been frightening, but his priorities instantly changed when he saw the Dragon-born fall.
The only problem now involves the bandit Rob Inwood.
He’s no freedom fighter, that’s for sure, but...
He’s a thorn in the Dragon’s side.
That alone makes the thought of killing him difficult.
Unfortunately he’s apparently happy to attack human merchants as well.
He’s in it for himself.
Still, as long as the Black cloaks and the Sherriff target him, it gives the ‘real’ resistance cover to hide behind.
Will he bring the Dragon’s wraith down on everyone in the town of Rottingham?
Possibly, but so what?
Let the innocent villagers flee and hide.
Every copper piece lost to the Dragon is a small victory.
Pulling himself to his feet, Vogir seeks out little Jen. “Fancy a dance? I promise to keep up”.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fort to the end

OK, let’s see what we’re facing...

Our target is a well built rectangular wooden fort. I’m guessing it’s about one hundred feet along the longest sides and maybe sixty feet at its most narrow?
It’s surrounded by a ten foot patrolled palisade and it seems there is a construction inside the wall since the guards can be seen over the palisade..
The palisade has two gates in the centres of the two shortest walls on opposite sides of the fort. These gates are fortified and have small guard towers on either side.
Do we know how tall these towers are?
The sturdy wooden gates open outward.
There are eight buildings inside.
The one near the north gate seems to be the troop's quarters. They are in two lines along the road in between the gates.
There are at least ten regular guards, but that’s including their commander and an accursed black cloak.
The road passes in the west while there is forest on the other sides.
There's about a fifty foot distance from the palisade to the forest's edge.
Carts normally seem to enter at one gate and leave through the other after being loaded or unloaded by the people that are with the cart and just supervised by a guard.

There also appears to be a kind of quick response group stationed there to protect the roads near the fort. Ten mounted fighters who control the roads and pass the fort on two regular passes throughout the day and stay there over night.
Annoyingly these cavalrymen don’t were helmets and are well known and easily recogniseable by the men in the garrison.

The fort act as an intermediate storage facility. The are carts bringing and taking stuff. They mostly supply troops that are passing through and get re-stocked when necessary.
The fort is simple though. A wooden construction and no moat or slope to worry about.

I still think fire’s our best option. If we could get Indigo in somehow, he could stealthily poor oil on the thatched roofs . In fact he could set the fires AND help open the gate..
Then it would be a simple matter for archers shooting fire-arrows into the fort to light the place up.
Wooden fortifications are always susceptible to fire. A few buckets of water and damp leather are no match for burning oil and bloody mindedness.
As the fire spreads, those living inside would be forced to flee, thereby allowing us to take them prisoner or kill them.

Our main problem though is still the matter of getting in...
Do any of us have any abilities that would help?

As for the problem of not destroying what we’ve come here to get. We don’t have to target every building. The guard house and one or two others would do.
I’ve thought about what Orestes had said about their fire defences. They are very unlikely to be keeping the wood damp as that would lead to it rotting.
And regardless of that, it would distract at least a few of them.
Interestingly, as the garrison is so lightly defended, there should only be six or so defenders initially as at least a third of them will be asleep preparing for or recovering from the night shift.

I also think we all now agree that it’s best for us to strike fast during the day, between the cavalry passes and be gone before they return. Killing them can wait for another day.

Of our assets, we have the five of us and the possible support of about 15 untrained men and women. Frankly I’d rather we left them behind to protect their settlement.

We don’t have any belfries, battering rams or catapults and using ladders would prove disasterous. Mining’s out as we don’t have any Dwarves and we haven’t got time for a siege

So unless anyone can offer a better suggestion?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Scribblings in the Dirt

When he looked into the faces of the others, Ghanash sighed. "Ok, I can try and draw how the fort looks!"
He started to draw with a branch Orestes had just provided through his demonstration.

He looked at it quite satisfied with himself. "Well, it shows you the main thing. The road goes past in the west while there is forest on the other sides. It's about 50 ft from the palisade to the forest's edge. You can see the buildings I spoke of. The one with the cross is I guess the commander's office and the quarter of the troops. The palisade is about 10 ft high with torches all way round at night and it seems there is a construction inside the wall since the guards can be seen over the palisade. Carts normally seem to enter at one gate and leave through the other after being loaded or unloaded by the people that are with the cart and just supervised by a guard."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Among Outcasts

Vogir could just make out the setting sun in between the trees. He was looking down over the small forest camp. It had been two days ago when Little Jen had guided them to this small settlement. Vogir couldn't help but be impressed about what he had seen so far. There were about 40 people living here as far as he could tell. It was difficult to know since most people were out to hunt or to buy or sell goods in the surrounding villages. Only a small group always stayed back to look over the children and to tend to the camp.
But it wasn't only the way they'd managed to live here hidden away from the Dragon's view, the design of the camp itself was impressive. As far as he could tell, it could be taken down within half a day and relocated. The treehouse he was standing in was held up only by ropes and could be lowered and taken apart easily. But although being so mobile, the camp was arranged in a way to be able to defend it with a few good archers.
And there was the problem! There were only some good bows and even less good archers. Crossbows would be much better for the untrained shooter, but they were too expensive and difficult to get without drawing attention.

They had offered to help while waiting for Ghanash and the two youngsters who had left yesterday morning to scout out the Dragon's outpost. Vogir and Dokan had mostly trained the group of women and youngsters to fight with longswords and bows. Rudha-an had spend the last two days travelling around with the two men who tried to grow crops in fields hidden in clearings. From what Vogir could tell, the shaman was convinced they could improve on crop yield by relocating or fertilising some fields and had done his best to teach them. Vogir looked down when he could hear the children running after Orestes again. Although the half-orc didn't really know what to do with them, they hadn't left his side while he had gone around camp with Jen to provide muscle where needed. He had tried to teach them how to fight, which was fun to watch but yielded mixed success.

Although Vogir felt satisfaction for being able to help these people, he also felt unrest building up. He was hoping that Ghanash would be back soon with the information they would need to plan the raid. The youngsters who had left with him to guide him had said it was less than a day's brisk walk away so they might be back later. Also Fry had left this morning to ask his contact in the castle of Rottingham about the possibility of another tax cart and said he would be back before nightfall. Since Rottingham was more than a days walk away, Vogir had wondered how he could get the information so quickly since a contact surely would have to inquire in the castle first. But Fry had just smiled and answered that he had a 'good' contact.
Dokan shouting up to him got him out of his thoughts "Hey! Vogir! Ghanash is back and the hunters brought a good piece of deer! Come down before the meat's gone!"

They sat around the main fireplace and most of the others had gone to bed when Ghanash started to tell what he had seen. "Fry was not joking when he had said it would be impossible for them with the resources they have to get into the fort. I'm not even sure whether our swords will be enough to get in and out alive. It's a well built rectangular fort surrounded by a 10 foot patrolled palisade. The palisade has two gates on opposite sides of the fort which are fortified with small guard towers on either side. From a tree I could count 8 houses inside of which one near the north gate seems to be the troop's quarters. They are in two lines along the road in between the gates." Orestes grunted "That's all interesting, but not important! How many guards to kill?" Ghanash looked at him for a second and then continued "I could count at least 10 regular guards including a commander and a black cloak. With those defenses, a frontal attack would be suicide!" He looked up to Jen who was sitting opposite the fire "I don't think you are hiding an army that you didn't show us yet?" Jen shook her head "You've seen most of them! We have about 15 men and and women who know which end to hold a sword with. Only five or six were ever involved in a fight. Most of our raids were nightly thefts or ended with a merchants surrendering when we promised to spare his life. That's why we've asked you in the first place!"

"But it will be worth your time!" Fry had just come down the path through the dark. "From people that have been inside those forts, we know that they always have a reasonable amount of money and weapons stored. We would mostly need the food and some weapons, like crossbows. Of course we could also use some money, but if that's your price we are happy to pay that in order to get the food." He sat down next to Vogir and urged Ghanash to continue with his report.
"I didn't tell you the best part, yet. Since the attacks on merchants have started, there seems to be a kind of quick response group stationed there to protect the roads near the fort. I counted 10 mounted fighters who control the roads and pass the fort on a regular schedule throughout the day and stay there over night. If we want to take the fort by force, we would have to do it in between those passes and be gone before they return. I don't think we would stand a chance to take the fort in the night while they are there. And from what the boys told me who also know about the nearby forts, this one is the least protected!"

Ghanash looked at the others "What are your thoughts? I wouldn't recommend a full-on attack. Maybe a more stealthy approach or trying to trick them to get in?"
Fry had gotten up again when Ghanash asked his question and was about to leave towards the huts when Dokan quickly addressed him "Before you leave, any news on the tax cart?"
"Yes, sorry, I didn't want to disturb your planning! My contact told me that it would be difficult to explain another tax cart from Rottingham so soon after the last, but the nearby village of Deadwood has to send theirs soon and my contact will inquire when exactly it is due to leave and will recommend you as guards. She, I mean my contact, guesses the cart might be due in about a week but will let me know by tomorrow evening what the exact day is and whether they would accept you as guardians. Of course you can stay here and we are happy to share our food until then! But excuse me know, I'm tired. I will speak to you tomorrow again! Good night!"
When he left, Dokan turned towards the group and Jen who was still sitting there.
"Ok, so what are our plans?"