Hârn Campaign (2005 - 2006)

Pepper and Spice – Part 1: Salted Wounds, Session 2

Note: Hârn specific terms are underlined. Place your cursor over the word and the definition of the word will appear.

Scenario Author: Edwyn Kumar and N. Robin Crossby
Scenario Publisher Columbia Games, Inc.
Write-up Author: Allan Goodall
Run Date: March 20, 2005
Game System: HârnMaster III
Game Master: Allan Goodall
Characters: Kieran of Boru, a Fyvrian Shek-Pvar Satia-Mavari (Jason Gallagher); Merrick of Larani, an ex-gladiator and mercenary (Jimmy Pope); S'arnat of Pherisa, an artist/cartographer (Alana Goodall)

Spoiler Warning: This scenario is taken from the Columbia Games HârnMaster supplement Trobridge Inn. If you are a Hârn player you may wish to ask your Game Master if they intend to run this scenario before reading this write-up, as pertinent scenario information will be revealed.

10th of Nuzyael, 720 TR, 3rd Watch

Trobridge Inn, on the Salt Route

S'arnat and Merrick walked up to the main bridge over the moat around Trobridge Inn. One of Terlin's guards ran toward them from the direction of the river. He held a spear in one hand, and tried to keep his helmet on his head while he ran with the other. Merrick moved to intercept the man, and S'arnat followed.

As Merrick's imposing size blocked his way, the soldier pulled up short. He bent over panting, almost losing his helmet in the process. Still, he seemed grateful for the excuse to take a break. Merrick asked him why he was running.

"There's a... merchant... crossing the river..." replied the soldier, between pants. "He refuses... to pay... Kurson's toll."

Merrick nodded as he shifted his gaze to the river. He ordered the soldier to tell Terlin, and call for reinforcements. The man stood up, still panting, and nodded with a look on his face that said, "What do you think I was doing when you stopped me?" Merrick turned to S'arnat, but the look on her face said, "Don't you think of leaving me behind!" He gestured toward the river, and strode down the road to the ford. S'arnat jogged along beside him.

Trobridge was a small town, so it didn't take long before they could see the river ford. Almost exactly half way across was a small merchant caravan. There two merchants standing knee-deep in water, one merchant in front of the other. Four men-at-arms clad in leather armour and armed with shields and spears accompanied the merchants. Two men-at-arms stood in front and two stood behind. The caravan consisted of two mules and a horse laden with goods. Standing before the merchants' guards were two of Kurson's men acting as toll collectors. They, too, wore leather armour and carried spears. Another of Kurson's men, the third toll collector, had slipped behind the caravan, though he made no effort to close with the rear-most guards.

The merchant closest to the front was yelling at the top of his lungs at the sheer effrontery of charging a toll to cross a ford. He told Kurson's men, in no uncertain terms, what he thought of their tolls! He added a few choice words about Kurson's lineage, too.

Off to the right, a half a dozen of Kurson's armed thugs rushed from a nearby building. They splashed into the river at the ford, blocking the merchant's way. The leader of this band hailed the merchant. He ordered him to pay the toll, or go back the way he had come. The toll was non-negotiable.

Merrick and S'arnat moved closer to the river. On their left, standing on a small mound, was Kieran, the Fyvrian mage. S'arnat greeted him. She told Merrick that they had met on the road to Trobridge.

Merrick explained that Kurson Ondailis was charging a toll to cross the ford. This was unusual in itself. While tolls are usually charged for crossing a bridge, usually in order to pay for the bridge and its upkeep, a toll was rarely charged for crossing a ford. Kurson claimed the toll is to pay for a new bridge as the old one was destroyed in a flood in 712. Construction had yet to begin on this new bridge. What's more, Kurson's toll was twice the going rate for a bridge crossing: 2d per person, and 4d per animal. The merchant was looking at having to pay a 24d toll for right to splash across the river. It wasn't surprising that he was refusing to pay. What was surprising was that the merchant was so adamant in the face of Kurson's mercenaries.

Merrick recognized the lead guard. It was Besil, one of Kurson's more reasonable thug. Besil called for the merchant to turn around, but the merchant refused to budge. Besil warned the merchant that if he didn't move voluntarily, he would have to do it by force. Kurson's men laughed and swore at the merchant. It was hard to tell if the merchant was brave, stubborn, or stupid — perhaps all three — but if something wasn't done soon, there would be bloodshed.

The merchant's men were outnumbered nine to four. Merrick decided he would even the odds. He marched to the ford.

As he got closer to the water, Besil saw him. "Merrick! Help us defend the the lord's rule!"

Merrick marched up to the line of Kurson's thugs, and pushed through it without saying a word. He strode up to the merchant's guards, who visibly tensed as the large soldier approached. Merrick stopped, and turned around.

"Merrick!" yelled Besil. "I order you to defend the lord's rule!"

"What country knighted Kurson?" replied Merrick.

"No country has... yet!"

Merrick unsheathed his large sword. Holding it in one hand, he pointed it at Besil. "Kurson can not legally charge tolls on this ford. Have the laws of Kaldor changed since I woke this morning?"

"We are not part of Kaldor!" Technically, Besil was correct.

"We are not part of the Thardic Republic, either, but you consort with their witches!" yelled back Merrick, in reference to Kurson's daliances with Tharda's female emmissary.

"This is your last warning," yelled Besil. "Uphold the lord's law, or suffer the consequences!"

"You're only a bunch of thieves and thugs," sneered Merrick.

A murmur went through Kurson's men. S'arnat could hear whispered, gutteral voices saying, "That's Merrick!"

Kieran was hard of hearing. "What are they saying?" he asked S'arnat

"They are saying, 'That's Merrick.' He was a gladiator."

"Where?" Kieran asked, sarcastically. He scrutinized Merrick. Merrick was 38 years old, which was ancient by gladiatorial standards.

Emboldened by the appearance of the tall gladiator, the merchant once again railed against the toll collectors, calling the toll collection illegal and immoral.

Kurson's men might have surged forth at that point, if it hadn't been for the sound of armed men approaching from behind. They looked back and saw a half dozen of Terlin's men run down the road toward the ford. Terlin's mercenaries stopped short of the bank in an orderly rank. The odds had just evened.

Merrick gestured with his sword for the merchants and their guards to follow him. He took two slow steps forward. The caravan followed, while the toll collectors retreated before him. Merrick continued to slowly advance on Kurson's line. Surely they realized they were in an untenable position.

Besil splashed forward, placing himself between Merrick and his men. "I can't let you continue," he said in a steady voice. He unsheathed his sword. "I don't want to do this, Merrick."

"Is this wage worth your life?" replied Merrick.

"I'm sorry, but I have a job to do."

Merrick nodded, gripping his bastard sword in both hands. "Bring it on."

Besil lunged forward. He struck at Merrick, but the big gladiator was deceptively fast. He avoided Besil's attack and hit Kurson's man in the right shoulder. Besil's armour absorbed most of the blow. Merrick followed up with a wide swing aimed at Besil's chest. Besil intercepted the attack with his shield.

Besil sliced at Merrick, hitting the gladiator in the chest, bruising him. The gladiator countered with a second strike to the guard's shoulder. Grimacing in pain, Besil thrust his sword at Merrick while swinging out his left arm for balance. The gladiator dodged the thrust and struck at the exposed left arm, hitting the guard in the wrist just below the shield strap. The blow was blunted by the guard's chain mail, but it hard enough that Besil cried out in pain.

The guard furiously lashed out with his sword. The gladiator parried Besil's sword with his own, then swung his sword two-handed at Besil's torso. The guard blocked Merrick's blade with his shield. Besil swung at Merrick's legs. The agile gladiator shifted out of the way while swinging downward with his own sword. He caught Besil once more on the right shoulder. Merrick followed up with a quick thrust to Besil's chest, but the blow bounced off the guard's armour.

Besil swung his sword at Merrick's legs. Merrick twisted out of the way and hit Besil's sword hand as it sailed past. Besil cried out as his sword fell from his hand. The guard dropped to one knee in pain. "I yield!" he cried. "I yield!"

Terlin's men let out a cheer and banged their spears against their shields. Kurson's men grumbled and looked nervously behind them. Two of Kurson's men rushed forward to help Besil. Besil was in too much pain to resist.

Merrick led the merchant and his caravan across the ford. Kurson's thugs retreated toward their barracks building. "We'll remember this, Merrick!" yelled one thug. "Kurson will hear of this!" cried another. Terlin's men laughed in response.

Once the merchant was safely across the river, Terlin's men escorted him up to Trobridge Inn. Merrick did not accompany them. Instead, he walked over to S'arnat and Kieran.

Kieran asked Merrick if he was badly hurt. Merrick shook his head, saying he was only bruised. Kieran offered to heal the bruising for the price of a hot meal. Merrick smiled and accepted the offer. They ambled off to Trobridge Inn. Once there, Kieran escorted Merrick upstairs to his room, while S'arnat sat at a table in the common room.

Merrick took off his armour and his tunic. Besil's blows had left a couple of nasty bruises. Kieran concentrated, touching Merrick's chest with one hand while gripping his staff with another. He cast the Balm of Griesan. The bruises magically disappeared almost immediately. The pain was gone, and Merrick felt just as he had before his fight with the guard. He thanked Kieran, and the two went downstairs. They sat beside S'arnat, and Merrick bought a hot bowl of stew for all three of them.

10th of Nuzyael, 720 TR, 4th Watch

Trobridge Inn

After they finished lunch, S'arnat asked to speak to Terlin of Wesindan, owner of Trobridge Inn. She introduced herself as the niece of Herl, the miller, and asked if Terlin might have a job for her.

Terlin asked her what she could do. She explained that she was a scribe and cartographer. Terlin didn't have much use for a cartographer, but he did have need of a scribe from time to time. He agreed to take her on, paying her a small sum every tenday, but including room and board as part of her pay.

S'arnat thanked Terlin. She returned to her table to find the two men exchanging their life stories.

Merrick had been a slave in the Thardic Republic, where he was sold to a gladiator school. As a gladiator he achieved a certain measure of fame while managing to survive without major injury. He eventually made enough money to buy his freedom. He continued to fight in the Pamesani Games, but he grew increasingly disenchanted with the sport's barbarism. One day he met a priest of Larani who showed him the error of his ways. He quit the games to become a soldier of fortune, where he at least had some chance of fighting for an honorable patron. He had worked for Terlin for the past three years. Today's fight was the worst he'd seen since entering Terlin's employ.

Kieran's life was much shorter, so the telling of his story was equally short. He was from Thay. Wealthy relatives sponsored his entry into the Fyvrian chantry in Melderyn. He only recently became a Satia-Mavari, meaning that he was now wandering the country learning his craft and collecting items for his chantry.

As Kieran finished his story, the door burst open. A guard accompanied the burst of cool air. Cries of "Shut the damned door!" erupted from those sitting near it. The guard ignored the cries. "A caravan approaches from the west," he shouted. "It's Nafraniel's caravan!"

Several men walked into the inn a few moments later. The first through the door was greeted personally by Terlin with a hug and a slap on the back. Nafraniel of Mandunel moved over to the fire to warm himself. He called out to Terlin, "A round of ale for everyone!" The crowd cheered, and a suddenly busy innkeeper began the process of pouring drinks.

Drinks arrived at the table occupied by S'arnat, Kieran and Merrick. Nathaniel walked up to them and asked if there was room on the bench beside Kieran. The mage welcomed the merchant. The three thanked Nafraniel for the drink. Nafraniel nodded and smiled.

It wasn't long before the naturally gregarious Nafraniel began telling the story of his trip to Trobridge. Other people, including Caliglas of Sleed — the merchant from the ford — moved closer so that they could hear better.

Nafraniel was a merchant from Tashal in Kaldor. Once or twice a year he ran a caravan to Trobridge. The caravan from Tashal had been uneventful for the most part. About three days out from Trobridge they they came across a group of pilgrims, led by a blind man. These were followers of the god Ilvir. They had just completed a pilgrimage to Araka-Kalai, and were looking for safe passage along the Salt Route. Nafraniel allowed them to join the caravan for a small, customary fee. On the Salt Route there was, indeed, safety in numbers.

A day later, the caravan came across a large barbarian hunting party. The barbarians were Chelni, and they seemed to be in a foul mood. Nafraniel walked forward and introduced himself, speaking in the Chelni tongue. While praising their horsemanship, he mentioned the owl spirit, having noticed the owl totem on their shields. This seemed to calm the barbarians a little. He wished them well, and asked if they would accept a gift in exchange for giving his caravan safe passage to Trobridge. The gift, which included a handful of cooking implements, a fine set of metal stirrups and other riding gear, was accepted, and the mood of the barbarians became less ominous.

Nafraniel soon engaged the Chelni in conversation. The Chelni leader explained that they were looking for Tulwyn raiding parties. The Tulwyn had been making incursions into Chelni territory. The old animosity between the two peoples was heating up, with the Chelni looking at anyone crossing their territory as potential invaders.

The way Nafraniel told it, his skill in their language, his invocation of the owl totem, his gifts, and his flattery meant the difference between life and death for the members of the caravan. He made it quite clear that the Chelni would have attacked them if he had not calmed the situation.

A potential war between the Tulwyn and the Chelni was bad news. The Chelni's range extended west, across the Farin River. That put Trobridge inside Chelni territory, but it was still close enough for it to be the target of raids by the Tulwyn. It was unlikely that the Tulwyn would attack an area as well defended as Trobridge, but they could disrupt traffic along the Salt Route both east and west of the Farin River. That would prove disasterous to Trobridge's economy, as well has have major implications for the economies of all the kingdoms along the Salt Route.

The timing of this increased period of tension was particularly bad. Within a tenday the Chelni would be meeting at Trobridge for their annual clan gathering. An aggressive and agitated Chelni nation on the doorstep of Trobridge was not a particularly soothing thought. Nafraniel finished by saying he intended to leave the town before the tenday was out. He believed the route back to Kaldor would be safer with the Chelni gathered in one place.

S'arnat suggested that they should tell Sir Rayneld, so that he could have the King of Kaldor send troops to protect Trobridge. As the adventurers discussed this, Terlin asked Nafraniel to join with him and any other merchants in town for a discussion about the Chelni and Tulwyn. Nafraniel accepted. Terlin sent messengers to invite the members of Trobridge's Mangai Council to an impromptu meeting.