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Hârn Campaign (2005 - 2006)

Pepper and Spice – Part 3: Far From Home, Session 1

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Scenario Author: Allan Goodall
Write-up Author: Allan Goodall
Run Date: September 18, 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)

Sometime on the 12th of Nuzyael, 720 TR

A City on the Other Side of the Trobridge Godstone

Kieran of Boru, Merrick of Larani, and S'arnat of Pherisa stood outside the entrance to the godstone through which they had just travelled. Beyond them was a narrow street bathed in sunlight. Merrick and S'arnat had all of their belongings. Merrick had nothing except, quite literally, the clothes on his back.

"You could have warned someone about this, wizard!" said Merrick.

"This is the first time I've gone through a godstone," protested Kieran.

The room housing the godstone was very warm. The building was made of grey-coloured bricks of excellent quality. They were cut straight and set in place with a minimum of mortar.

The adventurers leaned out the door. The street started at the godstone building and extended out from the doorway about 20 yards, ending in a "T" intersection. The buildings along the street were no more than two stories tall, and flat topped. None of the buildings had windows or doors facing the street. They were made of the same bricks as the godstone building.

The wall that crossed the street at the intersection was at least 20 feet tall. A wooden platform was mounted along the wall about 5 feet from the top. A railing ran along near side of the platform. Merrick thought it looked like a castle's curtain wall, though it was much better made than any wall he had the privilege of patrolling.

They left the room and cautiously advanced down the street. It wasn't until they reached the intersection that they realized the road bed itself was made of stone. It was not dirt like the roads of every town and city on Hârn. It was not like the stone paths of Hârnic castles, either. It was made of flat or slightly rounded smooth stones. It must have taken years, or a veritable army of slave labour, to build such a road. There was no perceptible slope to the street. A walkway of stone slabs lined the street. Every ten feet or so they saw metal grates set into the slabs. They had no idea what the grates were for.

As they stood in the intersection, S'arnat drew a map. As she drew, she heard surf. The sound came from down the street to her right. She told the others and they looked in that direction. The wall extended fifty yards in that direction, where it met another wall at right angles. A guard tower was set into the corner near the top of the wall. She looked down the street to her left. The wall continued for at least 100 yards before buildings blocked her view.

Beneath the guard tower lay two broken ladders. The longest ladder was about a dozen feet long. Kieran and Merrick pulled this ladder up and laid it against the wall, beside the tower. Kieran held it steady for Merrick. Merrick climbed the ladder while S'arnat continued to draw her map.

Merrick stood on the top rung. He pulled himself underneath the railing and onto the parapet. He looked down at the others, and then scanned the town.

The town was actually a city, and a large city at that. Merrick thought it was smaller than Golotha in the Thardic Republic but larger than Kaldor's capital, Tashal. Most of the buildings were two stories high, but several near the city's centre were much higher. The tallest — a tower — rose six or seven stories. The wall on which he stood appeared to enclose the city; he wasn't sure as he couldn't see the far side. The corners of the wall were not quite at right angles because the wall was roughly octagonal in shape. Again, this was conjecture on Merrick's part based on what he could see.

Merrick looked over the wall to the land outside the city. The city lay on a flat plain. Clumps of trees were a quarter of a league from the wall at their closest point. In front of his section of wall was a wide river delta opening into a large lake or sea. He leaned over the wall and looked out at the lake. There were islands in the water as much as half a league from the shore. He saw waves crashing onto the nearby shore, and he could now smell salt water. The water was an ocean or a sea. The city side of the river was covered in long, broad-bladed grass. The far side of the river had furrows for crops, but the crops had been burned. The ground was the deep brown-black of scorched earth. He relayed this information to Kieran and S'arnat.

The gladiator walked toward the guard tower. The tower was mounted on the wall and stood a full story above the height of the wall. Each story had slits facing the land beyond the wall, but there were no windows or slits on the city side. As he approached the tower Merrick caught a faint whiff of something putrid. He recognized the smell. There was a rotting corpse in the tower. He stepped carefully inside. In the dim light he saw a dark patch of dried blood on the wooden floor. Beside the patch was a ladder to the second level.

As Merrick climbed to the second level, the putrid smell grew worse. He poked his head through the opening and saw, in front of him, two dead soldiers. The bodies were missing the flesh from their faces and their hands. The flesh that remained was dry and wrinkled. He estimated that they had died a tenday ago.

Both soldiers were armoured, but neither was armed. The nearest soldier, a tall man with a full dark beard and moustache, had an arrow in his throat. The arrow did not have the quality of those created by the Sindarin or Khuzdhul, so he assumed it was of human manufacture. The other soldier was bald and had no facial hair. He had two nasty gashes on his leg and a caved in skull. They both wore padded cotton tunics and leggings. Over the tunic they wore a strange piece of armour. The armour was cream coloured and rigid. It was in two pieces, a backplate and a breastplate. The plates looked like they were made of pottery rather than metal. The pieces had arm holes but formed a seam under the arms. They hung, or would have hung, from the soldiers' shoulders by a pair of short leather straps. Epaulets made of the same ceramic material protected the leather straps. Their legs and arms had no protection at all. If there was armour in those areas, someone had taken it.

"May Larani bless you, and may you have died in honourable battle," said Merrick.

He pulled the armour off the man closest to him, who looked to be his size. The armour plates were lighter than he expected. He climbed back down the ladder into the guard house, taking the armour with him. He walked out onto the parapet.

"Hey, I found two deaders!"

"What?" asked Kieran, holding his hand up to his ear.

"He found two... debtors?" said S'arnat. "People who owed him money."

"No, two dead soldiers!" Merrick held up the armour. "I have armour now!"

"Oh, that sounds like looting," said S'arnat.

Merrick described the bodies, including the arrow, and how he knew it wasn't an Elven arrow.

"I bet it was Gargun!" shouted Kieran.

Merrick went back up to the guard tower to take a better look at the arrow. He tried to pull out the arrow. The arrow caught on some sinew and it snapped halfway along the shaft. Merrick was able to work the half with the arrowhead out of the corpse. In spite of it breaking, he could tell the shaft was better made than most Gargun arrows. He looked at the arrowhead. It wasn't the quickly made iron arrowhead he was familiar with on Hârn. This was made of tempered metal. In fact, it looked like it was steel. Who had the resources to make steel arrowheads?

When he returned he said, "No, it's not Gargun." Merrick threw down the arrowhead. "That's tempered steel."

Kieran looked at the arrowhead. "This may be useful." S'arnat carefully rolled the arrowhead in a piece of parchment. She wrapped it up tight and stuck it in her pack.

S'arnat climbed onto the wall to join Merrick. Kieran tried to follow, but he lost his purchase and got stuck hanging onto the wooden platform. With Merrick's help he finally climbed on top of the parapet.

The guard tower was mounted on a corner. They walked through the guard tower and out the other side. They were now on the wall facing the sea. Over the wall was a bay. Merrick could see the chain of islands more clearly now. The islands partially sheltered the bay. In the spaces between the islands they could see that the water continued to the horizon.

To their right was a harbour, or what was left of one. Several large ships had sunk in the harbour. Five ships in deep water were noticeable only by their masts and the tops of their castles. Two ships in shallower water were submerged up to the deck. The ship nearest was submerged in the aft with it's bow and fore castle sticking out of the water at an angle. The ships were of a type unknown to the adventurers. They had a prominent fore castle and stern castle, three or four masts and a bank of oars. They were much bigger than Hârnic warships. They appeared to be galleys but they also had features common to Ivinian long ships, particularly rows of round shields mounted on the side and dragon head prows. Sea gulls flew overhead. Several bodies, plucked clean by carrion birds, were sprawled across the castles or hung from masts. A body lay draped over the forward hatch on the nearby ship, the one that was sticking out of the water.

Nearer the shore they saw that the wall had been breached. A huge gap had been broken in the perimeter wall. Debris littered the street below the breach. A fire had raged on the ruined stone. The buildings behind the broken wall were singed, too. Several piers were destroyed, also by fire. Twenty yards beyond the breach was a large wooden gate. It, too, was ruined and blackened.

Off in the distance along the coast, Merrick and S'arnat could see the outline of masts bobbing in the surf. They may have been as far away as a couple of leagues.

They tied a rope to one of the wall's battlements. With the rope to steady them, they climbed down from the wall. Kieran climbed down without a problem. When Merrick tried to climb down he lost his grip on the ceramic armour. The armour clanged as it fell down the slope, coming to rest on a large chunk of stone. There were some tiny chips in the plates, but it did not break in the fall. S'arnat slipped as she climbed down the debris, but she adroitly skipped along the stones. She landed at the bottom without injury.

Merrick picked up his armour and walked to the nearest pier. It appeared to be high tide, as the water was almost all the way up to the top of the pier. He bent over and washed the armour until he could no longer detect the smell of death on the plates or leather. He slipped the armour over his head. A couple of ties kept the epaulets in place. He released the leather straps slightly to make the armour more comfortable on his shoulders. The centre of the plates had an indentation for a belt. Merrick took his belt and cinched it around his waist. The belt held the pieces of the armour together and in place. The edge of the breast plate had a tongue. The edge of the back plate had a groove. When the armour halves were aligned and held tight together, the plates did not come apart. Merrick doubted that a sword could fit into the seam. The armour was a little wider than he was used to, but he thought he could get used to it.

Now that they could get a good, close look at the ships they could see that they were primarily of two different styles. The ships closer to the dock were smaller and had shorter castles than the ships further out to sea. The ships had large earthenware vases mounted on the castles. The vases were bulbous, almost spherical, with a narrower neck and a wide lip. They were about five feet wide at the base, with necks between two and three feet wide. They were built on a pivot so that they could tip over. The vases were all leaning over. They might have been designed to pour something, but the could only tip to the point where they were perpendicular to the side of the ship. If they contained a liquid, a good portion of the liquid would be left in the vase. Swirls and symbols that looked a bit like writing covered the exterior of the vessels. Kieran noticed something peculiar about the vessels on the larger ships. Their vases appeared to be made of metal — they had the patina of worn bronze — while the vases on the nearer wrecks seemed to be ceramic.

S'arnat heard something bumping against the dock. She looked down and saw a small rowboat tied to the pier. Miraculously, it still had both of its oars. They climbed into the boat. Merrick took the oars and rowed. The closest ship was the one sticking out of the water with the body draped on the edge of a hatch. He made for that ship.

This ship was a little different from the others, since it didn't have a fore castle. A rail rain along the edge from the water up to the prow. Merrick tied the rowboat to the railing. He jumped out of the boat and scrambled up the inclined deck. Kieran followed him. The deck was slippery. Merrick only made it half way up before he started to slide. He dropped flat on the deck. Kieran crawled past him and up to the corpse.

The corpse was in the same condition as the previous bodies. The dead man's skin had dried to leather, and he was missing flesh. Patches of exposed skull and forearm bones gleamed in the sun. He was wearing leather armour, which covered his torso, upper arms, and upper thighs. In his right hand was a strange weapon. It looked like a long, narrow club made from the same ceramic as Merrick's new set of armour. The handle was wrapped in leather at the bottom, where the corpse held it. Above this grip was a round guard. A sharp sliver of metal was set along one side and curled along the top. The weapon could be used as an axe or a club, depending on how the wielder held it. The owner had swung the weapon into the deck, wedging it in place, perhaps as a hand hold. The corpse's death grip and the the stuck edge kept it from falling into the water.

Kieran pried the weapon from the deck. He held it up for Merrick and S'arnat to see. The balance was excellent; it was as well made as it was unusual. As Merrick looked up to see the weapon, he slid back down the deck. His feet touched the boat and pushed it away from the ship. He climbed back into the rowboat before he could fall into the water.

Kieran looked into the hatch. The hull was obviously punctured somewhere below the water level because the hold was full of water. Lying in the water was a sliver of cream-colored ceramic about three feet long. Kieran tied off his length of rope and threw it into the hold. He started to climb down. His grip gave way and he fell. The mage landed in the water with a splash. Kieran gained his footing on a support timber and stood up. The water was up to his waist. Near him was the sliver of ceramic. He picked it up. It was a shield about the same size and shape as an Ivinian roundshield.

S'arnat and Merrick saw Kieran fall into the hold. S'arnat pushed the boat closer to the ship and Merrick jumped off. S'arnat followed the gladiator. This time Merrick climbed up by holding onto the railing. When he and the scribe got to the top they were relieved to see that Kieran was unhurt.

Instead of having the wet Kieran try to climb out of the hold on his own, Kieran came up with a plan. He tied the rope around his waist. Merrick did the same thing with the other end. When they were both tied off, Merrick slid back down the deck. Between the gladiator's greater weight, his strength, and S'arnat's aid, Kieran rose out of the hatch. S'arnat helped him climb onto the deck. The two of them slid down the inclined deck to join Merrick in the rowboat. They cast off from the ship. Kieran handed Merrick the shield.

As they pushed off from the ship, S'arnat heard the unmistakable sounds of a melée in the city. There was clanging, yelling, and shrieks of pain. The fighting was close. Merrick rowed the boat to the nearest pier. They floated underneath the pier until they bumped into the seawall.