So, we got the second volume of our late antiquity campaign going. The intro was riffing off of the introduction from the first volume. Where the characters in the first game had been waking up to a still snowy winter day on the Germanic border line, this one started with a foggy, drizzly spring morning in the woods and rolling hills of the Cotswolds. The characters were dropped in media res, hunting a party of sheep reavers who had stolen a sizable flock from a local landowner. The party was lead by Sigmon Hallig, a disgraced Saxon ship captain turned bounty hunter and tough for hire, and a group of Celts out of Dal Owyn, including Aiden mac Quint, the unwitting son of the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, and who was regretting having loaned his fine cloak to his cousin, Aiden mac Gwynn, for a romantic tryst. While tracking the sheep thieves, they stumble onto a brother-sister pair who are on the run from the destruction of their tribe and village over the mountains in Wales (this is the huntress Fianna and her brother the werewolf Faolan) who glom onto the party, having seen the large party of sheep reavers the night before.

They found the men, a group from the nearby O’Dwyn tribe, and set on them stealthily, but a botched test on Aiden’s part alerted the thieves and the fight was on. (This was our first chance to see how the combat rules for the game system we’re developing works.) Straight off a couple of the O’Dwyns let fly with arrows from their bows, but either missed or did negligible damage. Fianna returned fire with the shortbow and get a spectacular hit, almost taking the reaver’s leader down to zero hit points. Sigmon made short work of one man with his axe.

Another O’Dwyn hurled a 12 lb kettleball at Fianna, scoring a hit dead center and dropping her like a stone. Aiden missed a return shot on the man, but Fianna having barely passed her stun test, managed to return fire and drop the guy before deciding to take a turn to gather her strength. Angered by his sister’s injury, Faolan scooped up the kettleball and got a great roll, smashing another guy’s head.  (The player liked the result so much, he started carrying the kettleball.)

With four of twelve guys down, they were able to convince the rest of the reavers to surrender. They spent some time collecting the sheep — Faolan proved uncannily good at this — and took the lot back to the local Roman outpost on the Fosse Way which runs from Corinium north to the border with Caledonia. There they met the local prefect, Arden mac Wynn, and the local representatives of the landowner. The prefect had some issues: theft isn’t a “direct affront to the empire” so it’s usually a matter of making the miscreants pony up twice the value of the stolen goods (quite a bit in this instance.) The O’Dwyn’s can’t pay, so he sentences them to debt slavery under the landowner. As for the bounty hunters, collecting one’s property with violence is an accepted thing locally, but is a gray area for Roman law. He decides to let the matter slide, rather than stir up trouble with the tribes.

The characters are suddenly flush with reward money and the siblings decide to travel to Coriniun to buy clothes and other necessities. (They were wearing scraps, and stole clothes from the people they’d killed.) At the small inn that serves the outpost, the characters met Myrddin Cam, the alias for Myrddin Wyltt (or Merlin.) There was some character building moments, and we ended the first night there.

The second session saw the group walking down Fosse Way toward Corinium and Dal Owyn, a hilltop village about halfway. The prefect had remained at his post until a runner brought two messages — the tribune in Corinium is recalling him for a meeting, and there’s a body next to the road under the Colm Bridge, tied to a tree. Murder is definitely under his authority and he heads down with his cohort of soldiers and his fir bolg slave, Fennis, to investigate. The group arrives about the same time at the bridge, where they find a young man beheaded, and obviously having been tortured. They can identify the body from the cloak: it’s the “other” Aiden, his cousin!

They investigate the scene, determine there were at least two assailants that left, heading south but using the forest as cover instead of the road. Both look to be decent sized men, judging from their footprints, but one is light, barely making an impression on the ground, and his foot prints disappear for yards at a time. Myrddin, meanwhile, got a chance to test-drive the magic rules, using divination to try and see into the past and discover what happened. He sees the attack by two men, both fairly large, and one who is strangely blurry; the assassin is able to block the Sight! They’re dealing with some kind of magic user!

With Sigmon urging them on to take revenge and the prefect coming along as the legal authority, they track the two to Dal Owyn — Aiden and his tribesmen’s home! The town is strangely still behind its wooden palisade, but as they approach, the townspeople — men, women, and children — pour forth to attack them! They seem not to recognize Aiden, and they aren’t responding to his cries. Trying not to severely injure anyone at the prefect’s order, Fianna and Aiden exchanged arrows with the one of the assassins, while Myrrdin entered the town from a different gate on the prefect’s horse to find the second assailant — a winged, dark-skinned man, a cambion, like himself.

Sigmon, Faolan (who changed into wolf form unnoticed), Aiden, and the prefect did their best to take out the townspeople without hurting them badly. This led to one of the funnier moments when Sigmon picked up the prefect, who was using his shield to batter people, and used him as a battering ram to drop a half dozen people. The spell over them was finlly broken when Myrddin and the cambion started throwing down on each other, the cambion conjuring fire bolts, and Myrddin enchanting the birds to attack the guy, while also causing a wind storm to distract him. He did learn that the assassins were after the boy, Aiden, because of who his father was; they had been mistakenly directed at his cousin.

The magic is proving powerful because it isn’t limited to spell books, simply what they describe wanting to do, but the damage levels are relatively low. Despite that, the cambion almost managed to put Aiden and the prefect down with a blast, but for the use of plot points to clear damage. A few arrows injured the cambion badly enough that he flew off and abandoned his injured companion.

We ended there, with a captive in custody and a confused town of people. Who is after Aiden, and why? Who is his father? He was told he was a simple Roman soldier (which was true at the time.)

So far, the campaign seems off to the strong start, with an oddball group of characters who will steadily have to come together to ward off their enemies right as the Romans are about to pull out of Britain.

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