The hamlet of Freehold would be exceptional in its ordinariness but for two points of interest: 1) it is the last leg of the farthest-running trade caravan in the northeast part of fair Alaria, where we set our scene; and 2) it is the birthplace of the Brightblade brothers, Guy Brightblade & Tellar Brightblade, the preeminent adventurers of the day. Guy, the bard of Freehold, is an exceptionally prolific composer whose soulful works feature the tales of everyday people facing everyday problems; his brother Tellar is a paladin in the service of Tella, mistress of battle. Their exploits are on the lips of every passing bard; their names mentioned often in the taverns of the new world.
Armando Foscarelli arrives in Freehold as a guard on the caravan. he helps the Florinese caravan master, Vittorio Calabrese (casting choice: older Sean Astin), tend to the mules before taking his pay and entering the Sign of the Grinning Dragon.
Several days previously, the caravan was beset by bandits—-from the look of them, they were not hardened felons, but rather farmers driven to desperate measures by the second bad crop in a row. As is the tradition in the world, their bodies were burned, both for hygienic as well as pragmatic considerations: corpses will draw scavengers towards the caravan route, and the burning bodies will serve as a warning to other bandits. In the attack, the caravan lost two guards, leading vittorio to curse: he knows he is unlikely to find replacement guards for some time. While his next stop is Freehold, it’s a farming community: the odds of farmhands or the odd tourist wanting to help are low.
Jean Smith is just looking for a drink & possibly, some company.
In conversations with Ray, the proprietor of the Sign of the Grinning Dragon (casting choice: Mark Addy), both Ozric & Armando draw an unusual look from him, which goes unnoticed by all but the perceptive Kane Blackburn, although as Kane is busy trying to attract the attention of Jean, he’s not in a position to follow-up.
Armando overhears Vittorio talking with ray about his concerns re: finding guards in Freehold. Judging from their interactions, it’s clear this is a not uncommon occurrence: Vittorio is clearly something of a fussbudget. Armando is entertained by the banter, until distracted by the sound of a few chords strummed on a lute.
There is a young, inexperienced bard playing in the grinning dragon. He isn’t particularly good but he does have promise. Having some familiarity with a lute, Kane decides to help the kid out, pulls out his own lute and asks if the kid would mind some company. Grateful for the offer, the kid welcomes kane’s participation, who (due to good die rolling by the player and bad rolling by me) completely carries the kid.
In a fit of confidence, Kane then tries a Guy Brightblade composition, in Brightblade’s hometown tavern. While a risk fraught with peril, the pair conclude the tune to thunderous applause (some really exceptional rolls there).
After that rousing rendition, the caravan master Vittorio rises & announces that due to recent trouble, he has vacancies for two guards, if anyone is willing. He expects to require the new guards’ services as far as Zissland, where he can find regular guards again, but with the bad crops, he knows he cannot wait that long: it’s a journey of several months to reach zissland. The caravan sets out not tomorrow but first light the following morning. Interested parties should see him afterwards.
All of the characters show up: all but Armando express an interest in the job, as Armando already has committed to the return trip. Vittorio asks everyone their skills, to which Ozric explains he serves Auron. Recognizing the value of a cleric in such work, Vittorio, despite lacking an open position for him, offers him a job on the spot. Vittorio is eager to bring on Kane, feeling that the music he has already witnessed will help drive away the chill of late spring evenings. Jean has a greatsword strapped across her back: there’s no need to ask her skills, and as he’s been operating this caravan for decades, has watched Jean grow up.
Everyone passes the evening in the way best suited to each: Jean & Kane head off to a room; Ozric the mystic contemplates his visions, while Armando gets the lay of the land & chats with Vittorio about the return route.
In the morning, Kane is pleasantly surprised to see that Jean has already left his room when he awakes.
the caravan sets off at first light the second morning, right on schedule. Everything is relatively uneventful until the second night. The group has already enjoyed Kane’s musical stylings and will employ a set of three 2 person watches for the evening. The wagons have already been circled to guard against bandit attacks, and the coals from the camfire are kept, but covered, to avoid harming their night vision.
During first watch, Armando (who is accompanied by a NPC guard) notices someone creeping up. After a more careful look, armando sees that there are 2 groups coming up on the circled wagons. Given his tactical training, it’s easy to see this is a classic pincer movement, with small groups approaching from opposite ends. He sounds the alarm, at which the group nearest him charges.
Ozric & Jean take a look to get the lay of the land and see archers in the distance in the opposite direction. Without a moment’s hesitation, Jean charges them as Ozric tries to keep up.
Kane also tries to get a handle on the situation, but upon seeing Ozric & Jean take off in the opposite direction from where Armando is quickly decides to help the warlord.
The bandits fare quite poorly: the group engaged by Armando & Kane are utterly destroyed (nice crit by Armando). Jean & Ozric easily manage their group of bandits. The first falls quickly, brought down by Ozric’s lance of faith power & Jean’s greatsword. The second is disemboweled by same. Upon witnessing that sight, the third falls to his knees and begs for mercy.
Jean pauses for a moment, fighting the bloodlust singing in her veins, but finally lowers her weapon. Ozric binds the prisoner & brings him back to the camp for questioning.
The last bandit, William of Kent (casting choice: Peter Postlethwaite) is still scared out of his mind for a while but when he finally gathers his composure, he offers complete & full answers to all questions. Our protagonists are skeptical but ultimately are completely convinced that William of Kent is being forthright & honest.
During the questioning, he reveals that there’s a cave around 3-4 hours away which the bandits have been using as a base. Our protagonists discuss what to do about it, and they conclude that they should take the opportunity to make sure that there are no more bandits, so they send Kane & Armando to scout out the cave…and to take charge of any goods they might find there.
William also notes that up until several days ago, they were competing with another group of bandits that was destroyed. Armando says nothing, choosing not to volunteer that he had a hand in that incident.
Upon arriving at the cave, Kane & Armando set about searching and discover goods & coin, easily well over 100 gold in value. As Kane & Armando discuss it, they resolve to split the funds evenly among all parties, players or otherwise. William’s stake is approximately one year’s wages, and Armando hands it to the stunned farmer, adding sternly, “You want to re-think your life”.
While this is taking place, Kane spies something unusual in a remote corner of the cave: a scroll tube, sealed with wax. The markings are hard to make out in the torchlight within the cave, but markings there are.
Kane breaks the seal, notices the popping sound indicating it was airtight, and pulls out the contents, intent on reading whatever is within. He is partially foiled, as it’s a map. Kane’s familiarity with geography suggests to him that the map is of an area within Zissland, towards which the caravan is headed.
And it looks very much like a treasure map.
Why does Tellar Brightblade has a name 1 letter different from Tella, the deity he serves?
What was it that caused Ray to look askance at both Ozric & Armando?
Is Kane sleeping with Jean going to cause drama?
Why do William of Kent as well as Vittorio Calabrese have casting choices?
What’s this map doing, unopened, in the base of a bandit group?