The Haranshire Campaign: Part 8.

Another strange session of the Haranshire Campaign. A lot of hostility, emotions, and finger pointing. Everytime I think the group is taking a step forward, they find a way to take two steps sideways.

The entire party is staying in Vasya’s room inside the Baron of Mutton (Inn) while he is away. The game session opened with Brandy (Skye’s mother) on the side of Verner’s bed — in the middle of the night — lamenting the disappearance of her daughter, and blaming herself for her their last argument. This was a very personal moment and Verner was not sure how to respond. His attempts to leave the room with Brandy were met with an awkward pause. Brandy showed concern and caring for Verner in an awkard mix of “I hafven’t been needed in a long time and I’ll do anything to help my daughter.” As such, she felt herself behaving in an unladylike manner. Nothing happened, however. But once she composed herself and realized her error, she walked out of the room and out of the Inn. Once outside, she and Verner were spotted together by a town patrolman who was hired to help keep the village secure at night. Of course, Verner made small talk with the man before palming a silver coin into the guard’s hand — who we learned was brought up from Haralton to aid in security. For some weird reason he had a cockney/Aussie accent.

The next morning, Stauff found himself whisked away to breakfast at the Carman house where Lady Helga Carman spoke in a general way (and never directly to Stauff) about how much better the Haranshire was before Aidan grew to power and the Baronet (“Count”) grew his self-importance. Stauff of course didn’t really understand any of it, and simply enjoyed his breakfast before roaming the mansion. An odd few moments to be sure. Verner walked over to the Mansion during this time, had a one-on-one conversation with Darius, which resulted in more coin going into Verner’s pocket in exchange for a small favor — the scouting of his two recently acquired farms inside the Thornwood. Darius mostly spoke over Verner and got distracted by the many issues plaguing the area at the moment (having recently hired Vasya and Nadia to explore his mire-engulfed farm, and also keenly aware of the missing children, the local orc issues, and the dead gnoll in the center of town), so Verner left without getting any help with the mine issues.

A short conversation back at the Inn with Roth, revealed that Roth had just failed to assuage Old Grizzler’s aid in the Carmen mines. Roth then spoke into his mug for a while, bitching about everything that he was responsible for and generally damning himself for not acting sooner. Crandel enjoyed hearing Roth admit he was wrong, since the two do not get along. Ian and Roth had a brief private exchange where Roth expressed that taking care of the town was more important than worrying about four strangers. It was also mentioned that Crandel was really getting on Ian’s last nerve.

I don’t recall how the group concluded that Wallace was the next loose end to explore, but the party headed out into the Thornwood for the first time ever. And within a few hours were lost. As the sun would soon set, it was decided to try to find a way out. Panic gripped Crandel and the group found a place to camp along the Churnett River. At some point in the middle of the night, wolves could be heard nearby and Stauff woke everyone. As the howling approached, Staff’s dogs grew more nervous and everyone stood ready for the worst. From behind a dark shadowy patch of forest, Vivienne stepped and approached Verner. But only Verner could see her, although once he paid attention Ian could too. Using some kind of magic, Vivienne silenced everything else, so she and Verner could talk uninterrupted.

He explained that they were looking for Wallace and she said she would lead them to him. Verner found this odd considering two weeks ago she didn’t know where Wallace was. Vivienne said she would return at sunrise to collect them and that she too needed their aid. Upon leaving, the magic subsided and a short argument amongst the group revealed the images and water spirit sightings were happening to all of them. Was Vivienne’s visit even real?

For Stauff this was the last straw (or second to last, as you’ll see). He took the lantern, the dogs, and his spear and began walking back to the town of Milbourne in the dark. Crandel chased him down and the two argued, using the amazing conflict resolution system of Dogs in the Vineyard. Stauff chose to escalate the debate to a physical confrontation and then eventually to fistacuffs. Sadly, he hurt his hand very badly against Crandel’s jaw and lost the argument, which in this system indicates that he lost what was at stake (re: come back, you’re part of this). Stauff begrudgingly walked back where he had an exchange with Ian, who was less worried about Stauff and more angry about his childish mannerism (again, Stauff is 14). The four sat around the campfire in silence until dawn, at which point Vivienne returned to collect them and walked them deeper into the Thornwood.

She brought them to Hog Brook, to a small outcropping of rocks where Wallace was living out a feral life eating raw fish. Naked and unable to communicate, Wallace did not notice Stauff’s approach. A short exchange of stern glances (resolved through die rolls) showed Stauff to be an alpha pack leader. Wallace took a submissive stance and shared his fish with Stauff. Verner also approached and the two tried to communicate with the young boy. He didn’t understand anything that was said to him, but the word orc resonated for some reason. Stauff started to follow Wallace to the orc, but Verner stopped him. All the while they argued, Ian, Crandel, and Vivienne had a discussion about other things, but the lack of cohesion in the group gave her pause. She even said to Ian, “I wished to ask for your help, but I am not sure I can now. I will wait over there by that oak. Find me when you are ready.”

Verner and Stauff’s discussion also erupted into pushing and showing, but Verner quickly backed off when Stauff punched him (with his left hand). Stauff trundled off into the forest, following Wallace toward the “orc.”

While Stauff was gone, the three party members discussed their young friend’s recent change in temperament as well as the “magic of the elf.” But the GM didn’t listen too much to that. He was too busy drawing a map for Stauff, showing him the cave openings (four in all) at the bend in the Hog Brook, that was easily hidden from view by anyone walking through the area. Wallace refused to enter, even though Stauff (who moments before was sick of heroics) wanted to cross the brook and examine the caves. Stauff decided against it and walked back to rejoin his friends. Along the way, Stauff noticed details about Wallace that escaped him at first, which the GM explored in a fascinating way. Just ask him.  This young boy was the son of farming family, and his parents were sure to worried about him. The fact that Stauff was now over a month gone from his own home resonated with him as he felt the weight of this boy’s fate parallel his own situation. It was a deep moment for the two.

However, Stauff returned in time to see Crandel storm off toward the tree where Vivienne waited, while the other two watched Wallace hunker down against a rock and look at a faint drawing of his (obvious) family. Crandel spoke briefly with Vivienne, found out that orcs were close by (in the direction Stauff went), and hurried off before promising to meet her that evening at Ingram’s cottage. The party then argued about what to do with Wallace, but Ian turned to Verner and told him no (also using the dice). So they trundled off, and explored the same track of ground that Stauff had just walked, finding the same cave openings as well. They then followed Hog Brook all the way to the Churnett river.

Terrified of the thought of more water spirits (a common superstition in the world) and unable to ford it with the dogs in tow, the party walked all the way back to Milbourne and double-backed to Ingram’s cottage. In Milbourne, they saw briefly that the gypsy caravan had arrived, but had little time to talk with them. It was obvious they children and young adults would be pocketing anything that wasn’t nailed down and the townsfolk were not prepared for them. A short conversation ensued between Vromme and Stauff, before they headed out.

At the cottage, they discovered Ingram, Vivienne, and a five foot tall swan inside. Ian and Crandel were stunned by the size of the swan and mention was made by Verner that it was “natural and certainly not magical.” Ingram escorted the swan into his fenced in yard and sat with the party inside. So far, every meeting with Ingram and Vivienne has been positive for the group because they bring pragmatism and levelheadedness to the conversation that other NPCs have been unable to bring. So questions began to form.

Could the party interfere on behalf of some peaceful goblins who were being slaughtered by Vasya and Nadia? Would they help relocate them? Would any good come of explaining to the Harlton reeve that the goblins they are paying to kill are not the threat they need extinguished?

Why did Skye have a vial of this liquid? Is she did serve a “warlock”, what purpose did it serve? What value did it hold? Was she abducted in the caves after going back for more? Is Luther the only one who can identify the liquid?

Is Wallace affected by this liquid? If so, how would she know the boy?

Vivienne asked “Had anyone smelled the liquid? Drank it? Were there any effects? After two days? After several?”

Could they get in now to see Aidan? Or Luther? Or the Baronet?

What is up with that swan?

The session ended there, with lots of unanswered questions, but the goal of heading to the keep in lieu of making their meeting to see Vasya.