Introduction: This episode formed the introduction to our Red Cow game. I wanted to introduce the players to the seemingly intractable hatreds permeating both the Red Cow and Split Waters clans fueled by years of feuding. I also wanted to push the players into the realization that sartar is not a united kingdom, dreaming of rebellion, but a collapsed one where self-interest and survival dominate. So here the players will find that the Split Waters are keen to exploit the fall of the House of Sartar and their frienship with the Lunars by conquering their weaker neighbors.
The Red Cow will go to Jarolar Keep, into the heart of their most hated enemy. Babessa the Merciless, chieftain of the Split Waters, has called for a meeting to discuss peace! Rumors abound in the clan. Why do the Split Waters seek peace now?
Some in the ring suggest it hints of a civil war among the Maboder as those loyal to the Daughters of Mabodh stand against the usurper Kathelranda. Drevessa the Enduring of the Split Waters has visions of her people’s doom ‘in the jaws of the Wolf’ unless the usurper falls. Those loyal to Miresthranna chafe under a man’s rule. Others suggest that Babessa seeks to fix the wrong that was the Burning and make amends for the actions of her firebrand daughter Enastara the Red.
Whatever the truth the size of the Split Waters warband leaves little room but accept their offer. Following the Disorder week clan moot the clan agrees to send a delegation to Jarolar Keep, with Valenstor as chieftain. The Lunars attend to anxious to broker a deal, encouraging the clans to accept the ‘Peace of the Moon’ in place of the House of Sartar.
Valenstor must walk a difficult path. The kinfolk of the victim’s of the Burning, indeed the very dead themselves, demand vengeance. The farmers cry out against the Lorthing and Jarol Vale Tribute that chokes the breath from their lungs..
Secret: The Split Waters will demand that the Red Cow increase their tribute. Expansionist, confident of their might and Lunar friendship they seek to become lords to their neighbors.
Scene 1: The Finger
Setting: Fire Day, Harmony Week, Storm Season 1604 A strong King’s Wind blows from the northwest, bringing clear, crisp blue skies but chilling cold. The ground is hardened with frost and snow. It is Thane Day when Orlanth made Elmal a thane. Only priests mark it among the Heler loving Red Cow. It is Lover’s Day, Yinkin’s High Holy Day, and every stead has gifted their alynxes. Slinker the old boar-tom and his mate Missy are treated like a king and queen at Brightwater feasting on the finest morsels. Stead gossip says that Ivartha accompanies the delegation as much for the chance to hunt Telmori in the woods of the Wolf Ridges to honor Yinkin as to talk peace to the Split Waters.
Introduction: A wind hawk circles overhead as the Red Cow delegation approaches the Finger. A huge solitary rock thrusting upright, knobbed by knuckle-stones, this stone is a remnant of the Giant Lant Ulfar. The rock fell here when Destor slew him and has marked the border between Red Cow and Split Waters since the resettlement. Jostharlos Many-Breath, wind hawk and wyter, cries warnings and fear as the delegation approaches the border. Here the road forks – southwest to Jonstown and southeast to Jarolar Keep – the heart of the Split Waters. Valenstor leans back in his saddle, clears his throat, and cries like a hawk to the circling bird, calling words of comfort and reassurance.
- The Red Cow delegation
- Clan Chieftain: Valenstor Moor-Leaper
- Chieftain’s son: Soratoros Twice-Outlawed
- Champion: Jordarn the Clash
- Lawthane: Minaryn the Deep
Action: Kullina Line-Breaker greets the delegation on the far side of the fork.
Kullina’s dark hair whips around her face in the wind. She pushes it from her face to reveal a death rune tattooed across her face – shadowing her eyes and nose in pitch black. A broad scar runs across one cheek.
“Halt, Strangers! Who comes this way, to a sacred place which is not allowed to everyone? Do you come in friendship, or as foes?”[see Thunder Rebels for the ritual request-response challenge of the Orlanthi hospitality custom – the Greeting]
“Greetings strangers. You speak to the Champion of this place. I am Kullina, daughter of Babessa the Merciless, champion of Hu the Sword, guardian of the sacred tula of the Split Waters. My sword is like the north wind, sharp and deadly to touch, I have never failed to break the enemy’s battle-line, and I have faced both gods and heroes and bested all. Here at the fork of the Jonstown road I have made many wives into widows. Now, tell me your names if you are friends.”[The Red Cow party is named].
“You are welcome here, noble chieftain and people of the Red Cow. I offer you hospitality here, in my stead, and promise my protection to you and yours while inside. I offer you clean water, to quench your thirst.”[Again the players should give the ritual response from Thunder Rebels]
This is a good way for the heroes to introduce themselves to each other. Afterwards ask the heroes how they feel about the delegation. Are they looking for peace? Do they seek compensation or vengeance for the Burning? What do they believe is happening among the Split Waters and the Maboder?
The Split Waters welcome the killers
Hahlgrim speaks his name and Kullina says “I know your name Hahlgrim Asran’s-Bane”. Several of the gathered Split Waters warriors spit upon the ground, “Eoric’s stead was razed in vengeance for the grief you brought this clan. My mother and sister will welcome you warmly within the walls of Jarolar keep”. The player’s know this: Hahlgrim killed Asran Rain-Bringer who was husband to Babessa the Merciless, and father to Kullina Line-Breaker and Enastara the Red, leader of the Burners. If any of the heroes have killed Split Water’s warriors then Kullina will repeat the phrase “I know your name …”
Do any of the heroes try to hide their lineage?
How do the heroes react when the Split Waters spit at the mention of their name. This is an insult. Korlinalda the Holy tries to smooth ruffled feathers.
Ivartha greets Entarosa Try-Much warmly with a hug. Jomes wanders over and the three exchange laughs and smiles. Eventually Valenstor wanders over and joins in. Clansfolk on both sides look on quizzically as old enemies meet as old-friends.
Soratoros Twice-Outlawed and Killer Oddi laugh about Ivartha’s loyalty calling her a Red-Turner and commenting that when they told her to dye her hair red she dyed her soul Lunar red too.
Desrada Mud-Skirts comments that ‘we should all look to what we have in common not what divides us’ and appreciate the reality of our situation. Drevessa mutters darkly about ‘never would have happened in the time of the Queens’.
Soratoros Twice-Outlawed picks a fight
Soratoros snaps from the sniping from the Split Waters warriors. Of course the Split Waters are waiting to see who will crack under their taunts. He leaps from his horse draws his sword and strides forward promising to teach these ‘ill-mannered Split Waters dogs a lesson or two in manners’.
Do any of the heroes try to stop Soratoros? Others will help but the heroes get the first chance. They must avoid violence that could be kinstrife though. The women will calm Soratoros if no else can. The Spit Waters warriors laugh and issue more jibes while Soratoros fumes.
Do the heroes join with Soratoros? Their kin will try to hold them back, particularly the women.
Scene 2: The Feast at Jarolar Keep
Setting: Freeze Day, Harmony Week, Storm Season 1604. A strong King’s Wind blows from the northwest. It grows dark quickly at this time of year. As the delegation and their escorts climb into the hills it grows rapidly colder. Cloaks and furs are wrapped tightly against the bitter wind. Eyes and noses stream in the bitter cold. Darkness falls as the delegation arrives and the traveler’s breath freezes on the air.
The Jarolar road slopes slowly up toward the ridges to the south. Deep drifts of snow still cover Two Pine and the forest along Wolf Ridge is speckled with white. Icy cold meltwater flows down the Heort Creek.
Jarolar Keep is a forbidding fortress. 15’ to 20’ high Jarolar’s redoubtable walls encircle a broad stone tower that soars 50’ above the surrounding landscape. The wall is topped by a wooden palisade and punctuated by watchtowers. Bronze from helmets glints red in the low winter sun, glittering from rampart and tower.
While Jarolar Keep is not of the scale that the ancestors built Red Cow fort in the House of Sartar can be proud. Within Jarolar’s thick walls a second stone wall, pierced by a blockhouse, surrounds Saronil’s great broch. The tower reaches 50’ into the air, and 60 feet in diameter. The skin of the tower is two concentric walls that create a narrow shell where corridors and stairways connect the tower’s levels. Wooden floors partition the tower into several levels. The upper floors is a great hall and above that private rooms for the chieftain and his household. The ground floor is a storeroom, and under siege a shelter for cattle and sheep.
Around the keep’s outer wall are the Thunder Brother’s hall, cattle byres, root cellars, smithy, and hearths of the master crafters, carls and cottars that serve the Split Waters chieftain.
Introduction: The delegations and its escort ride toward a dark oak gate that pierces the wall. Once past the winter market Kullina calls out and the gate creaks open to admit the delegation. The gates reveal the full scale of the Saronil’s tall keep.
Action: Action: Babessa greets the guests in the courtyard of the broch. Accompanied by her ten servants – the household goddesses (Thunder Rebels p.32) – she strides out from the base of the tower to greet Valenstor. Despite her name and reputation she is warm, welcoming, and generous – as befits a clan chieftain.
The Greeting is finished and gifts are exchanged
Babessa must complete the ritual of the Greeting for the responsibility to deal with outsiders belongs to the chieftain. Following the ritual exchange hospitality extends to the Red Cow delegation. Babessa then retires with Valenstor to the broch, while the remainder of the delegation is shown where to stable their horses and to the hearths where they will be guests for the night.
The Feat of Welcome
Generosity is a virtue and Babessa is determined to display it. The Red Cow could provide s feast such as this after a good harvest but not in Storm Season at the height of the “hungry gap” when the crones must break the seals on root cellars and storage pits to feed hungry mouths. You are feasted on oatcakes and honey, malted barley, fresh ale and fine wine, roast boar, a fatted bull calf and salted ham. There are many signs of friendship with the Empire: imported Pelorian wines, and fine glassware.
As the feast begins Babessa invites Varanor the Daring to raise the toast on this Lover’s Day Varanor asks everyone to raise the ale-horns to Tol lover and wolf-killer. Tomorrow Varanor announces he will lead the wolf hunt. He hopes that there will be many new initiates to the wolf-skinners returning home with their pelts. Jomes, wearing his wolf-pelt, stands up and announces that he and his men will be joining the hunt. The tables roar approval. Ivartha stands up and pledges that she too will be joining the hunt and calls upon the warriors of the Red Bull to make good ale-boasts and join her. Again the tables roar approval. During the feast there is much boasting and drinking. The ale-horns are filled someone stands to their feet and boasts of their lineage and deeds to come. After the feast Babessa serves mead while Dangmag the Raven sings the ‘Plundering of Aron’ as befits a day on which the struggle against the beast brothers is celebrated.
Wolf Skinner Madness
Unstana Peace-Weaver opines privately that the Wolf-Skinners will led the tribes to disaster. ‘We could not fight off the Telmori when Hauberk john united us, let alone under these fools.’
A drunken Drevessa the Enduring speaks of her dark visions of death at the jaws of the wolf unless the Queen’s rule is returned.
A Bloodline’s Mettle
Ivartha pressurizes Osmanning warriors into joining the hunt – to show the bloodline’s mettle. They need not go alone if they are not ‘brave or skilled enough’.
Cause no harm
Broddi Strong-kin tries to persuade people not to join the Wolf Hunt. Why anger the wolf men? Why upset Sartar’s peace now?
Broddi the chieftain?
Hahlgrim tries to find out what Broddi has been saying. Slightly drunk he opines that Broddi wants to tell everyone what to do he should have taken the chieftaincy when it was offered. He asks those present what they think of a settlement for the Burning. He does not feel a settlement is possible – the ghosts of Eoric’s stead are still restless and the land can never be resettled until they are appeased.
Lover’s Day celebrations
Varanor the Daring is here. Varanor’s fame is widespread in the lands by the Wolf Ridges. He is far from kin – the Treebrothers clan of the Malani – but is a renowned Telmori killer. He is a guest of Babessa the Merciless, Ivartha the Skinner and Valenstor are sworn brothers to him. Varanor worships Tol. He has led the clan’s celebration of Lover’s day. The clan has feasted him well. Varanor tries to seduce as many women at the feast as he can. This is a sacred duty for him, though not an onerous one.
Song of the Burners
A hero wandering at night, perhaps to the Thunder box overhears a gathering in a nearby hearth. Why are these people not at the feast? Someone shouts out a name: “Enastara the Red”. The Burners! A hero sneaking close enough to see through slats into the hearth or a crack in the door (+10 for the noise inside) hears Dangmag the Raven sing the lay of the Burning of Eoric’s stead.
Few props now of Eoric’s house liveth,
All the rest inside are burnt,
But Hahlgrim lives, Asran’s Bane still prospers.
Asran’s’ stalwart daughter wrought this;
Enastara red-vowed, cunning raider,
Vengeance for brave Asran’s death,
Brisk flew fire through Osmann dwelling,
Bright flames blazed above Red Cow roof.
Does the hero have strong feelings against the Burners? Can he control them? Do the ghosts of the dead whisper in his ear and call for vengeance on their killers.
Scene 3: The Wolf Hunt
Setting: Wild Day, Harmony Week, Storm Season 1604. . It is Empty Full Moon Day and the ‘Red Wound’ hangs like a baleful eye in the Middle Air. The King’s Wind still blows from the northwest producing a bright crisp morning
Introduction: Those who will participate in the rites today gather round Varanor the Daring. He leads the priests and leaders of the Wolf Skinners in beginning the rites. He tells the warriors that they will do the myth of Little Kallarni. “This myth is powerful here, among the hills where the Orgorvaltes lived. Little Kallarni was a boy whose bravery allowed him to fight off a beast brother who was plaguing his stead in the God’s War. It is dangerous because it involves fighting a Telmori and his wolf brother on Wild Day. You must do the quest alone. Those that are not brave or skilled enough should back down now, without shame”. Some do. “This quest is sacred to Yinkin too. This is why we are doing it now, after Lover’s Day. You will get the help of an alynx brother. Do well and the alynx may stay with you at the quest’s end. If you want to join the Wolf Skinners this test is important”. Varanor, Ivartha and Valenstor look to their own alynx brothers.
Action: his will be a stationary quest and heroquesters will not enter the Other Side. Jomes Hostralos will join the heroquesters. People mutter about this – a Lunar participating in the sacred ceremonies – many say that those who share Orlanth’s secrets with outsiders are nithing’s and should be outlawed. But Jomes proves his worth by telling the myth of Little Kallarni which his people know too. Other leaders do not participate – they have done this quest before or are not interested – instead they retire to the hall to hear Babessa’s offer.
The Quest of Little Kallarni
Little Kallarni is just a boy, but he boasts of is prowess. He boasts of how he could wrestle or shoot a wolf. He boasts of how he is brave enough to fight with four. [This station is a boasting contest to the assembled audience before departing]
The stead has been raided. The fattest ram and many ewes have been taken. The tracks lead off into the Great Wood. Everyone knows there are wolves there. But the men of the stead are too afraid to go in and chase them. People taunt Little Kallarni about his boasts so he vows to go into the forest and bring back to wolf skin to prove them wrong. [This station requires the heroquester to be brave]
Little Kallarni went back to the hearth and gathered his weapons: a drum which has holes in one end since he climbed on it to reach the windberries; a tin sword; a bone-handled knife to cut the wolf’s ears off; and a cocks’ feather for his cap. [ This is an arming ritual; questers can gain support using this ritual]
As he set off Grey Mouser the first alynx of the hearth joined him [Wild alynxes drawn by the holy day and enactment of the myth wander into the stead and pair off with the questers]
Little Kallarni beat his drum to scare off any wolves. [This station requires the hero to scare his opponents, perhaps with a hunting horm or warcry]. He wandered in the forest. Lost and scared only the thought of the shame of not fulfilling his boasts and being treated as a child spurred him on. [At this station the heroquester must be brave enough to keep going]
Little Kallarni stumbled across the wolf den. He caught them by surprise/His drum was loud enough to rouse the Telmori. [Don’t forget as a follower the hero can use alynx’s Ambush ability for this contest]
Scene 4: Tribute
Setting: Wild Day, Harmony Week, Storm Season 1604. The hall at Jarolar Keep is crowded
Babessa demands tribute
“With the house of Sartar gone, with the wolves baying at our door, with their warband depleted after their foolish alliance with the Household of Death the Red Cow need strong friends. Under Kathelranda the Maboder are just such friends. Pay us every year to protect your borders – the Wolf Tax – and we will waive our compensation demands for previous grievances. What choice do you have?”
“Tribute”, Hahlgrim exclaims, “you demand tribute! Is not the Jarol Vale tribute enough for you/ Is not the Burning enough for you”? Broddi orders him to be silent and “listen to the chieftain”.
What the Split Waters want
Kathelranda has invoked the ‘Fifteen Red Hands’. The Black Oak Throne has demanded that the tribe’s war clan pay 300 cows to the tribe each year for three years. This obligation stems from the foundation of the tribe. If they deliver the Split Waters need pay no taxes for four years. Usually the call is made only in desperate times – after famine or disease – but Kathelranda has made the call to seize the advantage of Maboder strength. The Split Waters must raid or take tribute from their neighbors to meet their obligation. There is no shortage of young men willing to take up the offer – hoping to make a name and win a good marriage into another clan. The need of the chieftain to gift them for their service increases the number of cows they must take. Neighboring clans dread the ‘Fifteen Red Hands’ which are the blood-soaked seasons when Bloody Hand Gang descend to raid or take tribute. Babessa has elected to ask the Red Cow for three years tribute backing their demands with the threat of their might. The ring has endorsed this policy of ‘speak softly but carry a big stick’. The Split Waters would prefer tribute because they are afraid of Drevessa’s prophecy and seek to husband their strength against wolves or civil war. Kathelranda knows there is dissent to his rule and has called the ‘Fifteen Red Hands’ and the ‘Wolf Tribute’ to unify the people against their outside enemies the Cinsina and the Telmori. To the Red Cow this equates to a 10% tax every year for three years. This is crippling, especially as the Empire is rumored to be imposing a similar tax soon.
Valenstor cannot decide
He is torn by conflicting responsibilities: to satisfy those who cry ‘violence is always an option’ and seek blood vengeance for those who fell in the feud with the Split Waters; to protect the farmers against impoverishing tribute; to find ‘another way’ while the clan rebuilds strength lost in the invasion. Valenstor wants to take it to the moot in Movement week in Sea season and let the wapentake decide.
Babessa accepts that the Red Cow can make no decision until the moot, but warns that she cannot stop Split Waters clansmen pursuing the feud without a settlement. “Mark my words. Pay the tribute we demand by Founder’s Day [Wind’s Day, Stasis Week, Fire season] then the men of Jarol Vale will march to Red Cow”
Broddi Strong-Kin objects
“Carls will be reduced to cottars if we agree to this tribute. We already pay the Jarol Vale and Lorthing Vale tribute this should be enough! We should stand firm against such intimidation and protect what it ours. Better to die on our feet than live on our knees. I do not seek Vinga’s way – war for revenge – but I do seek Starkval’s way – to defend what we have”. He mocks the “chieftain who lead and who calls for the clan to decide”. Broddi also knows that he has great influence and should win the debate at any gathering. He offers cattle loans to Carls among the heroes to buy their support for his position.
Vengeance for the burning
The kin of the victim’s of the burning are outraged. No offer of compensation is forthcoming! The ancestors will never accept this agreement. We demand compensation or blood vengeance. Without either of these the ghosts of the dead will never find peace. Unstana Peace-Weaver asks what choice the people have. Can they resist the Bloody Hand Gang?
A meeting of the Peace Weavers
Unstana calls the peace weavers together. “Since the House of Sartar fell the Quivini have turned upon each other. Our Jontown confederation turns against itself and the pacts with the Telmori are broken. We do the Empire’s work for them. We must find another way.
Broddi offers a cattle loan
“The troubles of the Black Oak throne are not the troubles of the Red Cow. Deny them their tribute. They will be too busy in civil war or in struggling with the Telmori to take it from us. We are the eye of the hurricane, the calm center of the storm. It will blow itself out around us. I can help a young man like you to great advantage. Take a cattle loan from me, look to increasing the wealth of your herds, and marry well – perhaps I could help you with that too.”
Hahlgrim summons the Osmanning
“We suffered more than any at Eoric’s stead. Heort’s laws promise vengeance to the slain. Our kin cannot rest but walk as ghosts. They will never rest without vengeance; we will never reclaim Eoric’s stead until the ghosts are given rest – our children will never gain their inheritance.”