Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bretwalda - Daggers of Oxenaforda pt.2 - Ousted

Location: Oxenaforda area, Danelaw's territory, Border with Wessex.
Time: January
Character Cast:


New in town, Brynjar has usurped the leadership of a small group of dane invaders. They are seeking fertile lands for their family still cooped up on Eofforic (York), and are hoping to steal lush pastures from the Saxons. With Guthrum's army marching onwards, and the edge of Wessex pinned on Oxenaforda, Brynjar and his danes are in a frontier town where everything is possible (and messy).

Brynjar trying to play nice with angry danes.


Beckley, 3km off Oxenaforda, First lights
The Danes in the fort pulled themselves out of their drunken stupor only to learn that Alda, their leader, had died of his wound overnight. Osmond's murderous dagger had bled him dry through an existing wound without leaving a trace. The news swelled in the fort as if is was about to blow up. Eydis, the temperamental matriarch, prompted Aarne to get the horses ready for an escape. The pair could feel that the news of Alda's death wouldn't end well for them. Their leader, Brynjar, was convinced that he could assert his leadership over the unruly Danes. Aarne made up a prophecy, but the poem instead sent waves of confusion amongst the Danes. Brynjar, made lots of noise to appeal to their boisterous nature while Hallvard was trying to isolate the second in command (Bjorn) and secure support for Brynjar. Things devolved quickly: Alda's men would never rally under Brynjar. Everyone sensed that their welcome was expiring in the most violent way.

Brynjar asserted that he did kill Alda in a fair fight, and negotiated a way out of the fort for his retinue without much more than jeers as injury.

Beckley's town centre, early-morning
When the clan made its way out of the fort, they were met with a group of Saxon villagers converging from their dwellings. One of the Saxon was a blacksmith. He clearly didn't seem to be interested in talking to the Dane until Hallvard, in perfect Saxon, explained that Alda had been defeated by Brynjar. The reaction to the news was surprisingly positive. Hallvard got from him that the villagers were waiting on the sideline to take down the invaders. Seeing in Brynjar's retinue the enemy of enemies, a match made in hell was forged.

Aarne making prophecy up by bustin'
At that time, jeers from the top of the palisade mixed with the throw of a spear. The projectile bounced off the heavy sleeve of Hallvard's cloth armour. The Saxons and Brynjar's Danes dispersed. Hallvard and Osmond volunteered to be messenger to warn the Earldorman of the developing situation. They left for Oxenaforda within the hour and sped to walled city.

Still in Beckley, Brynjar leveraged his mounted status to command respect and leadership over the rabble. He directed the 80-strong group of men to encircle the fort to seal Alda's danes inside.

In side the walls of Oxenaforda
Hallvard and Osmond entered the city without being stopped at the gate. They galloped into a mire of mud and fecal matter up to the citadel. The guards are the porticullis interrogated the odd pair of a smartly dressed dane and a cornish dwarf. Soon, they were ushered into the citadel to meet with the Earldorman.

Hallvard explained the situation and impressed on the timeliness of the opportunity to re-take the fort in Beckley. Eoffrey, the Earldorman of Oxenaforda (Oxford), accepted the take Hallvard inside his household as a reward. The Earldorman rallied his theigns and set upon to march out of the city to Beckley within the hours.

While the meatheads were suiting up, Hallvard scoured the citadel in search of his sly counterpart in the Earldorman's household. However, the chaos engendered by the mobilization distracted his search such that he had to leave before he had found his target. Osmond also disappeared on a similar errand.

By early afternoon, a force of 62 spearmen, 9 theigns and the Earldorman marches out of Oxenaforda and up the highway leading to Beckley.

Beckley, late afternoon.
Hallvard, complex yet beautiful man.
The shouting match subsided between the Saxons and the Danes over the palisade. Women brought food and mugs of beer. Brynjar and Aarne made the rounds to make friends. There was much interest in Korda, Aarne's pet wolf. Brynjar and Aarne decided to leverage this into a brand building exercise by starting to refer to Brynjar as "the wolf". The Saxons were definitely trusting Brynjar and his danes. Eydis disappeared to socialize with whom she thought were the main players in Beckley. It became clear that the majority of the folks in Beckley were not christians. This was a welcomed surprise.

By late afternoon, kids ran into the village to announce the arrival of the Earldorman. The army relieved the villager and encircled the fort. Aarne, capitalizing on the fact that the Earldorman himself was pagan, improvised another false prophecy. The Eardorman received well the news that Brynjar the wolf was to introduce him to Guthrum, Bretwalda of the known world, and advancing with his army to subjugate the King of Wessex.

The Earldorman, aided by Hallvard as translator and accompanied by Brynjar and a few Saxon theigns, met with Bjorn (the new Dane leader) and 4 of his warriors. Brynjar was still determined to take over the place, but the Earldorman managed to negotiate the ceeding of the fort to the Saxons without bloodshed against a free passage out of Oxenaforda. The slaughter of the danegelt escort would be disregarded.

As the last of Bjorn's dane left the fort amidst the jeers of the Saxons, they entered the place to find it in a decent state. The coffer with the danegelt had been thinned out, but the strategic location was back in his hands. The fort was entrusted to a theign who was a relative to the deceased Theign of Beckley.

Eoffrey the Earldorman of Oxenaforda formally invited Brynjar's danes to be his guest. They left Beckley and arrived at the citadel in Oxford by torchlight.

End state

  • Brynjar has sided with a Saxon noble to evict Guthrum's dane. Can this be smoothed out?
  • Brynjar's dane have made allies of the people of Beckley.
  • Brynjar is now a guest/hot potato for the Earldorman, but at least is going to remain close.
  • Gurthrum's army is assumed to be marching onwards with an ETA of 30-90 days.
  • Hallvard has added the Earldorman as a patron.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Bretwalda - Daggers of Oxenaforda pt.1 - Murdered

Location: Oxenaforda county, Danelaw's territory, Border with Wessex.
Time: January
Character Cast:

After the botched raid on Brixworth (Episode 1), Kollsvein brother became the clan leader on the run from the Jarl of Northumbria. He was joined by Kollsvein's widow, Eydis, and a pagan seer named Aarne. They rode to the south to steal farming lands from conquered Saxon territory in the hope that the drought had been less severe in the south. 

The travelers arrived in a small settlement in the vicinity of Oxenaforda. They were met by a small number of danes coming out of a pallisaded strong point of Saxon origin. The danes ushered the travelers inside swiftly and introduced themselves. Their leader, named Alda, was a friendly individual. He invited them to share a meal and an ale in the longhouse. 

Eydis tried to assert her authority over Brynjar but was put back on the sideline. While the men were engaged in a pointless discussion about headcount, she was approached by a dwarf, painted like a cornish man, who engaged her into small talks (Actually, a critical success on Fortune-Telling, so she pretty much told him everything that she knew). Meanwhile, Hallvard tried to engage with the #2 in Beckley, but only met resistance and a certain feeling of unease about the travelers' motives. 

By mid afternoon, some excitement took over the fort. Alda launched an elaborate con operation to make the fort appears to be staffed  by more warriors than it was. To buff her numbers, he invited the travelers to join in in the meeting of an advancing procession. Brynjar followed. The procession was a group of Saxon soldiers escorting a cart driven by a Christian priest. A Saxon huscarl followed from the edge of the village, then about 10 danes. As the saxons were arriving, Brynjar prompted Hallvard to get Alda to concede part of the danegelt loot. Alda, having to concede discretely, agreed to give them a cut. 

No one suspects the Cornish dwarf.
The Saxon were upset that the danes wouldn't be escorting the cart back to Oxenaforda. Everyone headed back into the longhouse to celebrate the danegelt payment. The danes got drunk pretty fast. A few hours later, more danes arrived with in their arms the chainmails of the Saxon soldiers. Much rejoicing was to be had as daylight faded to the red glow of the fire pit. As the evening devolved into a drunken debauchery, the travelers plotted to overthrow Alda and take over Beckley. 

On the sideline, Osmond figured out that his service may come handy. Aarne first pretended to read the bones and made up a prophecy about the change of leadership to a dane with blonde hair. Hallvard made sure that the prophecy stayed alive as the audience got floored drunk. Things came up to a head when Alda finally challenged Brynjar to a duel. Alda was very drunk, and managed to stay on his feet long past the combat was over. 

Alda was laid to rest on a litter with two deep cut to his chest. The audience was much too drunk to consider the implications of the change in leadership. This would have to wait for the morrow. As the fire died down, Osmond crept to the litter and dismissed the slave taking care of his wounds. Alda opened his eyes by a slit as Osmond sank a dagger in his heart.  

On the following day, the danes came to term with the unexpected turn of event. Brynjar realized that taking over wouldn't be without challenges. However, for the time being, Beckley was in their hands.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Bretwalda - The Abbey of Brixworth pt.2

The beleagued denizen of Brixworth have hunkered into the Abbey in preparation for an imminent raid on the village. Wyne of Brixworth is leading the efforts to navigate the Earldorman's estate out of its destruction via the payment of Danegelt. 

Location: Brixworth, Danelaw's territory, former Middle-Angle kingdom.
Time: Harvest time (around September)
Character Cast:

  • Wyne of Brixworth, convalescing one-armed thegn. (Dan)
  • Edlyn, Abbot of Brixworth. (NPC)
  • Holt, coerl and caretake of the estate. (Alex)
  • Ingram of Brixworth: Danish adoptive son of the Earldorman (Jason).

The villagers stood shaking in the hollowed nave of the Abbey. It felt like the howls of the Abbot's seizure could never die down and that God was on the brink of turn his back on his flock of sheep. Wyne was pacing along the walls as the others tried to assess whether they could muster 70 silver coins as payment. Most of the Earldorman's cash was gone in an attempt to purchase food for the village. Lady Ora offered a small chest of silver and bronze trinkets.  The Abbot added 15 coins, Holt surrendered in full his meager 5 coins. Wyne reluctantly shoved more silverware into the chest until they felt that the payment was complete. 

It was late. People were whispering in the warm darkness about the Abbot. Edlyn reassuringly congregated the denizens into the nave and addressed the situation. God was with them without a doubt. He pointed at the two danish horses and explained that they'd be used as bargaining chits along with the silver. God had given them the horses. He explained that God also had challenged him with these fits and that this was his cross to bear. The tension eased and the women and children returned to their makeshift beds. 

At first light, the watch woke the Theign. There was a plume of smoke to the North and to the south suggesting small campfires. Wyne, Ingram and Holt decided that it would be best to remove the grotesque body of the murdered dane that was hanging from a tree at the Southern edge of the village.  Ingram rode ahead of the others to discover that the body had been removed already. They could hear riders in the dry brush of the forest to the East and hustled back to the Abbey. 

When the danes arrived, torches in hands, they opened the chest some 3m from the Abbey's door. Holt stood towering over the loot. Wyne took a step forward as the danes were poking their head into his home some 200m down stream from them. Ingram held the horses to the back of the others. Only five danes trotted to meet the Angles. The Angles knew that they were short of cattles and a cart of food and hoped that the silver would suffice. 

Kollsvein was the danish leader. They stopped some 20m from the Abbey. Ingram began to explain the deal: the danegelt would be paid, but on the whole meatless. His danish was rusty and awkward. The danes were making fun of Wyne's missing arm and Holt standing like a peacock over a tiny box of trinkets. Ingram was just a kid, the situation degraded into bursts of laughters. Kollsvein called his men to plunder the helpless Angles. It was a mistake...

The Abbot, from the steeple, shot Kollsvein and hit his leg. The other danes charged with overconfidence. Holt's mowed down two of the charging horses with his great axe while Wyne lodged his spear into Kollsvein who fell off his mount. Ingram climbed on his horse after snapping out of a panic, disarmed one of the fallen rider and chased down another. As Holt was regaining his breath from having a hoof kick him in the junk (dice can be horrible sometimes), the danes were rallying to make an exit. Edlyn's arrow hit the leader once more. His lifeless body slipped off its slouch over his mount as the others escaped to the south. 

The tussle off the door of the Abbey. Note the upside-down horse bitching
about a broken leg. What a wuss!

Ingram lay on the ground with a spear still stuck in his chest. Hrothgar ran out of the Abbey to contain the bleeding and get the spear out. Ingram was cold and white and without the grace of God would have died on the spot. 

Both Ingram and Wyne suffered from mild infections and were convalescing when the Earldorman returned 5 days later. Life had returned to normality since the raid. However, the two mortally wounded danish horses were slaughtered and turned into number of feasts. More food was brought from the south by the Earldorman as well. 

No denizen of Brixworth had died, no property lost. Three danes had perished as well as two of their horses. The Angles had gained two horses as well, and one Danish prisoner who eventually would be ransomed to a relative for a few live sheeps. 

What could have gone wrong did not. Largely because the PCs looked so much like a joke that the Dane raiders didn't bother mount a proper attack on the Abbey.