We've just had two fairly slow and uneventful sessions in a row, the first due to there unexpectedly only being two players and myself present, and the second due to a rather short amount of play time available. The characters are building up for a return to the ruined manor house which they have been exploring, and the whole business of getting from the city of Aglong back to their base in the frontier-town of Keet has been getting a bit long-winded.
So the two sessions instead became a kind of addendum to session 10 - the "R&R in town" session. There were a couple of things that needed to be resolved, but not much really. In retrospect I think it was a shame I didn't have any little interesting side-events happen, or even a mini town adventure, rather than just dragging out the couple of minor tasks the PCs had to finish up in town. But then there is also an argument that that becomes unrealistic - when "adventure" follows the PCs wherever they go (like the apparently cursed Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher), even if they choose to head away from the dangerous wild lands of Chaos!
It's a difficult point in this kind of campaign - if the players decide to just linger in town chatting with NPCs, well, that's their prerogative. It's certainly made me consider re-organising how the campaign works though, to make it a bit more cut-to-the-chase, and especially so after reading Ars Ludi's very inspiring posts on the West Marches campaign.
Barur son of Tharur - Dwarven noble
Arthanius Lex - Witch-hunter and hound-master
Darian - Youthful wandering bard
The main item which the PCs still wanted to sort out in Aglong was trying to talk with Lady Esmelna, the heir of the Baron who'd owned the ruined manor in Ballan. They headed through the snowy city streets towards the noble quarter, where they'd been told the rough location of her house. Finding the walled house without too much difficulty, they inquired with the guards at the gates as to whether it might be possible to speak with the Lady. The PCs didn't look or act too suspicious, so the guards fetched the house keeper, a man called Asmenius. The Lady had no time that day, but after a bit of 'haggling' they arranged a meeting for the following afternoon.
In the evening Arthanius went back to the temple of Arg to see if his superior had any news on whether he could provide any support for their explorations in the ruined village. The Eld had good news - that two of Arthanius' fellow order members were available and would accompany them to further root out the chaotic creatures which had infested the village, and to investigate the possibility of reclaiming the village or at least the manor as an outpost of Order. They arranged to all meet at the temple in two days' time, to begin the journey back to Keet.
After a quiet evening and following morning in the Serpent & Eagle inn, they headed back to Lady Esmelna's house for the meeting. The Lady, an aging and proud noble-woman, was a little cold at first, but was soon won over by their descriptions of the manor where she had spent her childhood, and the talk of possibly being able to cleanse the place of the scourge of Chaos. They showed her the painting of her grandfather, which Barur had cut from its frame, and asked her about the orb and quill which the Baron was depicted holding, but she didn't divulge any new information. (Barur didn't mention the fact that he actually had the quill in his possession.) The Lady was glad to give them permission to continue exploring the ruins, but impressed on them several times the fact that everything there is the inheritance of my estate. Meaning to say - "no looting". *
They spent another evening at the inn, and this time were joined by Erik, one of the men from Arthanius' order, who was going to join them on their mission to Ballan. Erik and Arthanius knew each other somewhat, and had some discussion of their recent doings. Erik told the story of how he had travelled to Thane's Haven in the west, braving (and barely surviving) the perils of the Fey Wood in order to take a message to the monks who live at the haven. After the catching-up Erik left to return to the temple, and Barur and Arthanius decided to get an early night in readiness for the next day's journey. At this point Darian, who had wandered off on his own that day, rolled into the inn completely drunk.
The next morning they rose (Darian only after a little 'encouragement'), breakfasted, and made their way to the temple of Arg to begin their journey. They met the other order member who was to come with them - an enthusiastic young lad called Balder, whom Arthanius was a little unsure of - most of the order members are a little older than 18. The Eld, however, assured him privately that the lad was a competent fighter, that he had sworn an oath to serve the god of justice, and that the order needed young blood.
So the five of them set off to Keet: Barur, Darin, Arthanius and his two dogs **, and Erik and Balder of the Order of the Hammer.
The day's journey to Keet was uneventful, and they arrived in the village at dusk. However as they walked along the now-familiar riverside path towards the lights of the village, they noticed a sinister black shape lurking in the edge of the forest behind the settlement. Edging closer to investigate, it appeared to be a man-sized spider-like form hanging unmoving in the branches of a tree. Creeping along the edge of the woods, they got a closer view and Barur (with his dark vision) noticed that the thing was in fact made of wood - it appeared that the branches of the trees had somehow woven themselves into this sinister shape. At the insistence of Balder they lit a lantern and Barur climbed into the tree and hacked the thing down with his axe. They gathered up the pieces, which appeared to be just normal wood, and took it to the Grinwold's Eaves inn to provide the landlord with a gift to feed to the fire. The landlord knew nothing of the spider shape in the trees, and was a little concerned about his fire when they revealed the source of the wood.
Over supper and ale the party discussed their next move - to return to the ruined manor in the morning, and to fully explore the tunnels in the cellars.
* This is developing into an interesting theme in the campaign at present, with the introduction of the witch-hunter character, who is assuredly not an adventurer or treasure-hunter. It'll be interesting to see what happens if they discover any further riches at Ballan, when they've been explicitly told that they do not have permission to loot the place.
** Arthanius' player officially renamed his new dog 'Scourge' (it was called Will when he bought it) - even changing the name on his character sheet.