A ride in the forest.

A report from a playtest at the Red Cow 7th to 8th July 2012.

After the fight, the Russ shieldwalls fell back on their ships, bearing their dead and their many wounded. The Heroes’ bands rallied on the bloody beach, relieved by their hard won victory, rather than elated. The decision was quickly taken to set sail south on the morning tide and Vlad and his surviving Transylvanians rode to the nearby town of GornjiKućan to sell the mules.

The next morning, a strong southerly wind made sailing south impossible, so the three ships sailed west at the best pace possible to the Michael and Dolphin, the lodyas bought in Saczow. Throughout the day the strengthening wind drove the little flotilla relentlessly westwards. By the morning of the next day the wind had risen to a full and furious gale, threatening to drive the hapless vessels ashore on the coast of Adallia or even Orentian Kerkira. By nightfall the gale showed no sign of abating but shifted to a thundering northerly. The violence of the storm soon dismasted the Dolphin. Since the stricken vessel could not steer with no sail to provide her forward motion, the heavy seas broached her pushing her bow aside, turning the boat side-on to the waves. Once side-on to the wind, the waves rolled the lodya violently from side to side, washing overboard four of her crew and her cargo of hides.

The second sunrise of the gale was invisible to the storm lashed mariners and brought no relief from the howling maelstrom. Dolphin broached again, this time capsizing and breaking up; sinking with all hands. Soon after, Michael too was stripped of her sails and rigging by the howling winds and broached in her turn; losing three hands and her deck cargo. As the day wore on, the unmanageable Michael rolled at the mercy of wind and wave, broaching again and again, more and more of the crew being washed overboard each time she floundered, until only two Viking sailors remained aboard. The Sea Hawk too suffered catastrophic sail and rigging damage and was driven south afore the wind. Before the end of the day, the final hands were swept to their deaths from Michael’s shattered deck,. Sea Hawk alone survived; driven on by the relentless wind.

The third day of the gale brought no lessening of the shrieking wind and no relief to the storm lashed sailors. The lone Sea Hawk too was broached, losing her mast and what was left of her rigging. Two of her crew and her deck cargo were washed overboard, before nightfall finally brought an end to the storm and an eerie calm to the wine dark sea. The exhausted crew gave thanks to their Gods and settled into their first night’s sleep since the storm began.

On the morrow, the surviving seamen took to the sweeps and rowed their battered craft eastwards; in the early evening spotting the north-eastern point of Zakinthos. Rounding the rock-bound point with its high cliffs, they passed along the northern coast until they espied the cove of Ivanjazaljev, with its little fishing village. Putting into the quay of Ivanjaluka, they were able to buy a night’s food and shelter, before rigging mast and spars with new sail over the next days. So renewed, three days later they were blessed with a tail wind all the way, plain sailing into Saczow. The remaining mercenaries took their leave somewhat resentfully, with their scant reward; and the surviving heroes found a tavern for the night, where per chance they met up with their old comrade Aleksandr the Russ.

Over the next week, our heroes remained in Saczow, resting and recuperating after their ordeal. Vlad, Pavol, Aleksandr and Miguel outfitted themselves with new armour and weapons and the four each bought a horse. Two mules were obtained to carry their packs as they intended to set out for Triente the next day. Matislav decided not to accompany them overland, but to remain in Saczow for a while and take ship for Triente later…

The four travelled easily northwards without incident, passing an uneventful night in the tavern in Kusadak. When they arrived some days later, in Lajkovak however, things were not so peaceful. Despite Vlad’s pleas for calm, five Bunjevci tribesmen objected to Pavol’s alleged arrogance with their fists and more. A tribesman swung at Pavol with a beer pot and Pavol seized a chair leg in defence; all hell broke loose. The four heroes defended themselves, as fists quickly filled with any weapon to hand. Aleksandr received a glancing blow to the head with a heavy pot bottle, but that only served to enrage the robust Russ.

Seeing their assault frustrated, one of the Bunjevci was quick to draw a knife and soon blades flashed in the hands of all the combatants. Aleks, outnumbered by two burly tribesmen, swiftly despatched one with a body blow with his knife and turned his attention to the other. Seeing their advantage evened by Aleks’ blow, the Bunjevci drew their swords and our heroes answered with their own broad blades; and now the furies were unleashed… the blood flowed.

Miguel, broadsword in hand, quickly dashed his opponent to the floor and as Vlad and Pavel battled on, mighty Aleks cut his second opponent to the floor. Turning on the instant on Vlad’s adversary, he dealt this foe a telling blow; at which the surviving bloodied warriors cried craven. Sheathing their swords, our heroes held their hand, allowing the Bunjevci to carry away their wounded. Apart from the blue swelling on Aleks’ brooding brow, the heroes emerged unscathed, after a fight in which they had always been second to draw blade. The three walking, but bloodied tribesmen carried away their two unconscious comrades.

Our paladins settled into a night of gentle reverie, paying the landlord for breakages that were none of their causing. As the night passed into contented slumber, fortified with ale and mead, the warnings of the locals that the Paskovic sept of the Bunjevci were stiff necked, bloody handed and had memories like elephants, passed out of mind. In the dark of the night Yaroslav Paskovic, whose head had felt Miguel’s broadsword, slipped silently to join the shades of his ancestors. As our heroes broke fast the next day, Yaroslav’s brother Slavomir mounted his horse and led 11 followers to cut the road from Lajkovac to Triente.

As the heroes rode north in the pale spring sunlight, they came to a point where the road passed through a dense wood. Drawn up inside the wood and across the road; a line of six Paskovic spearmen resolutely barred the way. As the four rode unsuspecting towards the roadblock, arrows snaked out of the silent greenwood towards them. One shaft buried itself in the flank of Pavol’s horse; the gallant beast whinnying piteously, but otherwise, stoically ignoring the wound and pressing on.

Seeing the roadblock of spearmen, Pavol yelled to his comrades to follow and spurred his horse into a charge. Pavol, Miguel and Aleks, with Vlad close behind, thundered into the line of spears without pause, more arrows flashing harmlessly past them. The three burst through the wavering line of spears like a studded boot through an anthill; Aleks and Miguel spearing an opponent each before their mounts bowled over the survivors, scattering them like chaff in the wind.

Before Vlad, on his slower mount, could join his brothers, he had been swept into a life and death melee by the onslaught of Slavomir Paskovic and his groom Gradnash. These two had been secreted in the woods to the left of the road, charging out to attack Vlad as he rode to catch up with his comrades’ swifter horses. The revenge seeking Paskovici rained blows on the lone hero as he valiantly fought to drive them off. Before they could inflict any harm, their attack was rudely interrupted by the return of the other heroes. Riding like the wind, the three swept back through the spearmen as they struggled to reform their line; falling on the mounted Paskovici like avenging daemons. As the Sept leader shielded a blow from Aleks, Miguel speared him through the heart, his lance thrusting asunder a mail ring and popping its neighbours rivets to plunge between the man’s ribs. Simultaneously, Pavol drove his spear into Gradnash’ armpit, as he raised his javelin to strike at Vlad. Both Paskovici crashed from their mounts, dead before they hit the ground. The remaining clansmen melted back into the forest… a sorry day for the Sept.

Pavel stripped the Paskovic of his armour, while Miguel ran down his horse, the groom’s mount disappearing into the thicket, never to be caught. Nonplussed, by the sudden violence, our heroes gathered their wits and their loot. Aleks, now known as Ironhead, drew the arrow from Pavol’s mount and Pavol mounted the captured steed for the onward journey. The following day, the adventurers made their return to Triente slightly clouded by the knowledge that the Paskovici now held them as Blood Feud enemies.