Saturday, May 27, 2017

Bretwalda - Daggers of Oxenaforda pt.4 - Fallen King

: Oxenaforda area, Danelaw's territory, Border with Wessex.
Time: February-March
Character Cast:


The founder of the Danelaw, Guthrum, is marching south to find less desolate lands into Wessex. His objective, Oxenaforda (Oxford) to winter in a position where he can negotiate the subservience of Aelfred the Great, King of Wessex. Brynjar is brokering the annexation of Oxford to the Danelaw in order to avoid a bloodshed, and secure arable land for his family.

Overtaken by politics, Brynjar promises to drain the swamp.


Off Coventry, late January
Eydis trotted towards the marching army of the Bretwalda. She soon was overtaken by Brynjar, who was unwilling to let her outshine him. A quick scan of the column revealed no signs of Guthrum. However, Brynjar ran into Aage, a powerful jarl and an uncle to him. The two men exchanged warm welcomes and settled for a meal. Aage managed to pull the entire story from Brynjar with clever lines of questionning. Brynjar's transgression in Beckley was to be forgiven. Aage suggested to hand over the saxon theign to Guthrum as a tribute.

While Brynjar was reminescing with Aage, Eydis left in search for her patron. She was followed by Aarne until they ran into the camp of the Bretwalda. At first ignored, Eydis managed to draw her patron's attention. Aarne, fearing the wrath of Eydis, started to make a fuss about a prophecy. It eventually drew Guthrum out of his tent and become attentive to his plight. By then, Aage and Brynjar had arrived with Econbert (the prisoner saxon theign). Aarne sold Guthrum to the idea that Brynjar was a broker of peace with Oxford.

By then, Osmond had maintained the attention of Aage's danes and had made plenty of friends. They rode alongside the head of the column for two days. Guthrum sent Brynjar and his retinue, accompanied by four of Aage's housecarls, to return to Oxford and extend Guthrum's terms.

Conquering England, one limerick at
 the time.
Eoffrey, earldorman of Oxford, received the news of Guthrum's arrival with resignation. He agreed to pay danegelt to the Bretwalda against the protection of his domain. Osmond had managed to suggest three areas to ransack for food. Eoffrey entrusted Brynjar to act as a liaision with the danes who were to winter in the villages of Colton and Beckley. Brynjar's danes decided to relocate to Foresthill and live under the local theign's roof for the next few weeks.

The Theign of Foresthill made room for them immediately. The danes suspected that something was amiss with this theign. However, a careful reading of the man by Osmond under the pretense of reading chicken entrails, yielded no usable information.

Wintering in the area
Guthrum arrived in Oxford and peace was agreed upon swiftly. Brynjar became the emissary for both sides as danes would not to enter the walled city of Oxford without permission. The food raids had been successful. A messenger was sent to Winchester to compel Aelfred the Great to negotiate subservience to the Bretwalda. Aelfred delayed for over a month before Guthrum lost faith in the process and decided to march south to Winchester.

Eoffrey of Oxford married Eydis after Guthrum ordered the widow to remarry. There was a feast, and the following day, the Dane army was marching into Wessex. Love is such as simple thing in yesteryears.

The two armies met along the highway and paused. A hill was selected for a day of negotiation. Slaves from both camps setup on the hill in preparation for the highest level meeting to take place in centuries. While the preparation were undergoing, Osmond lead Aarne to a patch of swamp grasses where they harvested a vile poisonous stem. Aarne brewed it into a sharp tasting concoction. He gave the poison to Osmond for later use.

The negotiation stalled and everyone became frustrated. By mid-day, it was clear that the resolution shall be made by cold steel. Each party left the hill behind. Osmond defected from the dane army to the Saxon's camp.

Osmond insisted in being baptized to anoint his sinful life of the past. Aelfred saw this as a good omen for the battle on the following day. During the evening, Osmond managed to drop the poison in the barrel of wine. The king, notorious for his frail health, became very ill. He withdrew to his tent and was out of commission for the coming few hours.

Battle of the round hill: Opening moves
The hill that was the site of a formal negotiation was repurposed as a battlefield on the following day. The danes had a slight advantage on the slope, but the real game changer was the turmoil on Wessex's lines about the ill King. Was God sending a message to the Saxons to surrender? The priests certainly didn't think so. However, it took a bit of time for the King to join the rank, and his frailty shone through his slightly oversized chainmail. Osmond grabbed a leather cap and a hatchet to blend in and shadowed the huscarls in hope to get a stab at the King.

For the next two hours, the shield walls moved back and forth as the number of fallen climbed in the hundreds. Aelfred's defensive stance wasn't good enough to blunt Guthrum's aggressive push. Brynjar had a brief stint in the wall no-man's land and gained valuable points. Aarne kept close from Aage and bolstered the morale with a few well placed, and oft witty rhymes.

At some point, on the other side of the line, Osmond slipped past the huscarls and made it in reach of King Aelfred. As he sized the chainmail and his dagger, he realized that a fatal stab would have to be neigh impossible to conceal. There was about 20 hulking giants around to grind him to a paste if he did, he had to make a split decision, and chose life. The swell and waves in the crowd drew him further as the housecarls shoved him aside.

Battle of the round hill: Guthrum going for broke
The shield wall back and forth turned into an organized retreat. Danes started to slip past the wall over the wings and pillage of the train began. Although this came at a cost for the danes, nearly 3 times as many Saxon were on the ground, pushed into an untenable position. The King's guard advised Aelfred to withdraw and let his captain to lead the retreat.

Osmond jumped to the opportunity and drew the King and 5 of his housecarls into a depression beyond the hill. The retreat was turning into a rout, the train was overrun and set afire. Brynjar and Aarne boldly made it through the collapsing shield wall and penetrated behind Saxon line. Brynjar lost control of his men as they joined the sacking of the train.

Aarne spotted Osmond's head peering out of a depression near a hedge. The dwarf drew the danes to him. He started to rave as if hundreds of danes were rushing onward to find the King. Keeping their heads down, the King and his guard came to the conclusion that surrender was the only option. When Brynjar and Aarne showed up, the King ordered his guards to surrender. Only a few minutes later it became clear that they had been played by the perfidious dwarf: no dane army was on the cusp of cutting him down to pieces.

Aelfred was tied to a pole and mocked by Guthrum and Aage all night. Five hundred men would keep crippling memories of the day, and 280 would be buried on the spot: danes and saxons side-by-side. Most of the Saxon nobles were killed if they couldn't be vouched to be ransomable. Brynjar was made a theign, but a few years later an Eardorman in Oxenaforda. He would reluctantly replace Eoffrey but let them stay with Eydis in the citadel. Aarne rejoined Ragnar and dedicated his life to advise Brynjar/Aage in matters of politics. Hallvard was granted the status of ceorl by Aage, and later on would be betraying the dane to obtain Earldorman's status in Mercia.

As for Osmond... well, history books will never connect the dots: the sickly king dropping the ball, the subterfuge, the untimely death of Alda in Beckley that opened the door to Brynjar and Hallvard to become nobles.  Who would suspect that cherub face for any of that? No one suspects the Cornish dwarf.

The last laugh, I had.

The end

Next stop: 2170AD, Asteroid belt, for a transhuman caper.


  1. It was a nice little campaign. Did they get CPs ? How much did you plan ?
    I'll try to test a short campaign soon ^^ .

    1. I don't really emphasize character development. I granted points in between sessions to reflect character growth, but it was more effect driven than point driven. My players want to return to Transhuman Space next (Yay!), so I'm not sure if we'll ever play with these PCs again.

    2. What I did is to make pre-gens at first, then grant them 20 cps of tweaking after the first session to personalize the characters. It is a good halfway point where the PCs are a fit for the episode, and the players get to play with knobs.

    3. Transhuman Space ? Yay ! I have it, but never did anything with it. I wonder how it goes. It's been made close enough to current-day tech to avoid having "backward tech", at least when I read it ...
      How will you do the characters this time ?

      Pregens + Tweaking post 1st game is very good, that's something I'll steal too. I'll also probably try some kind of "character past" steps someday, each one covering a defining point and granting a hefty pack of points until the full character is fleshed.

      Thanks !

    4. I came up with a Traveller-style life path system for interstellar wars and a steampunk campaign. That was entertaining. However, this time around, my players are keen to build their characters the hard way. I'll just make sure that they get the right amount of Area Knowledge, free-fall, computer use, etc... I'll post a link on this blog to my Transhuman campaign one.

    5. Here it is: