Construction, Cultivation and the Hunt
- The palisade has been built and is made with wood from local beech trees, giving it a white appearance. The palisade is built on a mound of dirt excavated from a ditch.
- The sites for the mess, barracks and stables have been pegged out for construction.
- The tower foundations have been cleared, and preparations are being made to begin construction of the scaffolding, as well as the supports and joists for the ground floor. This was done by simply clearing / digging out the foundations of the tower.
- Now, in addition to the ‘secret room’ in the basement where the Cainites sleep, a side room and a main room have been made available for use. The side room contains a well which should have drinkable water, although it will need to be properly cleared and tested. Investigations have revealed that this well connects to the nearby waterfall. Further investigations are required to determine if this can be used as (a) an escape route, and (b) a way in.
- Outside the palisade, a garden has been planted to provide food for those at the tower. It contains onions, radishes, and turnips (fast-growing) as well as lettuce, spinach, beans and beetroot (slower-growing). This garden is tended by Alaine and his wife Lyssa (two Saxons from Gunthar’s Herd). The two Saxons are constantly frustrated that the garden is ‘open season’ for the many animals that regularly come to the tower to speak with Gunthar, Veceslav and Jals. Fortunately, the many predatory animals summoned by the Cainites help reduce the number of vermin.
- The garden will need to be further grown in order to provide a good food source. Grain seeds are to be sourced from Bistriz. The cache of Beltanz provided an amount of seed stock which will be able to be planted near the tower.
- A number of the local workforce will be split off in shifts from construction work to tend these gardens.
- Ratty III now lives with Alaine and Lyssa, as Gunthar did not believe his pet rat to be safe when Archimedes was around. Ratty III lives quite well, being warm, well-fed and cared for by the somewhat reluctant farmers.
- The nearby forest consists of birch, beech and oak, with pines growing higher up. The birch is used for small straight items such as staves, spears, poles and arrows. The beech is the common construction timber used. Oak provides much of the tougher construction items.
- The forest is inhabited by several animal types: boar, lynxes, foxes, bears, wolves, roe deer, goats and camoxi (a type of antelope). With the exception of the wolves, these animals are all hunted by people near the tower, but are hunted diversely so that no one species is overly harmed.
- Rossos is the best hunter in the group. He is aided by Marius, Danislaus, Krasimir, Manfred (when available), and to a rather lesser extent by Francois and Mihor. Gunthar, Veceslav (and Laszlo) and Jals also hunt each night, as much to practice their skills and learn the area as to find food and blood.
Our Pet Bandits
- The Pecheneg mercenaries have a fair idea as to the true nature of the leading figures (Gunthar, Veceslav, Iulia, Alaric, Maude, and Jals), knowing them to be ‘night-monsters’. As they are not hunted, fed upon and get to work for the scariest people in the valley, they are happy enough.
- Several silver coins from various regions taken from Beltanz’ horde were given to the Pechenegs as gifts. Originally, Gunthar gave them the jaw-bones of the hell-hounds, but the mercenaries did not like these.
- Gunthar has developed a good working relationship with Gortav and is slowly learning the Pecheneg tongue. He is clearly the master of the Pechenegs mercenaries, and none in the coterie have gainsaid this.
- Gunthar is gradually bringing Gortav up to speed on the fact that he is a ‘night-monster’ and as such, feeds on blood. (Little things like, when he brings the mercenaries their broth in the pre-dawn light, and gives his orders to Gortav, Gunthar drinks a mug of blood; subtle demonstrations of Cainite powers such as Enhanced Senses to see further, listen better, or smell a scent; failing to parry a blow in weapons practice, and having that blow fail to harm the Cainites; etc.) All the while, Gunthar maintains his friendly and competent demeanour as Gortav’s paymaster and leader.
- Manfred is courting a lass named ‘Sophia’ from a village called Rothügel, at the very edge of Bistritz’ authority and on the road to the tower. She is the prettiest girl in the region, and Manfred has several competitors for her affection. He has mentioned that her father is a respected knight of Bistritz, and her suitors are many.
- Even the young Burgrave, Radu II has expressed interest in her hand, but Sophia has secretly given Manfred a token of her affection. He is confident that with his pedigree and lands back in Franconia, he will eventually win her hand.
- Manfred often spends much of the week in a room at the village so he can court the girl. Gunthar gifted Manfred with one of his three horses and wished him well, telling him to keep in touch.
- Manfred returns to the tower site every couple of weeks, on the pretext that he is there looking at land to purchase, and that he is helping to build the tower as a favour for some associates in Buda-Pest.
Niche Roles for the Mortals
- The management of the tower site is being led by Andrew, Godwine and to a lesser extent, Benedict and Marius.
- Andrew is the best administrator, and he is assisted by Marius (whom Iulia is grooming to be her assistant) and Sir Alaric’s squire, Benedict.
*Godwine acts as a book-keeper, as well as a lead negotiator with the locals. He is assisted by Sherazina regarding the management of the local Vlachs, who seem to be happy to have the Basarabi back in the area.
- Peter’s skills as Veceslav’s secretary now extend to the whole enterprise and he is Godwine’s book-keeping assistant.
- Marius, encouraged by Iulia, is learning at Andrew’s feet how to manage estates like this. (Iulia plans for Marius to be flesh-crafted to look like a part of her family. Her plan is to marry him off as away of increasing her rule-through-extended-family plan. Marius is okay with this, as is Veceslav.)
- Francois skills with carpentry have proved useful in identifying appropriate sources of timber for construction.
- As per usual, Agmundir is chief of the warriors in the palisade and he is very ably assisted by Mihor of Sisak, Francois, and Crasimir. Laszlo is far too busy protecting his master to take part, but is accorded similar respect to the others.
- Rossos is in charge of the hunters.
- Gortav leads the patrols.
Policing the Pass
- Toll money is being collected. The Vlach villages to the south receive a small percentage, as agreed. The Pecheneg villages to the north are told not to abuse their toll privileges. Letzav listens, Naizuy apparently respects the powerful Cainites but continues to do as they always have.
- 58p were collected over the two weeks since this practice began. This toll collection may be sufficient to cover the mercenary wages.
- For caravans carrying tool/goods we need (e.g., food, weapons, construction materials), a portion of their wares would be sufficient in place of coin.
- If a caravan has good information, then a reduced toll would be appropriate. Liars would, of course, be punished.
- Gortav has been asked to talent scout capable Pechenegs from Letzav and Naizuy.
A Disagreement Regarding Methods
- Iulia and Maude held a spirited and slightly acrimonious debate over rulership principles, specifically as applied to Transylvania.
- Iulia argued that in this place, the people only understood fear, not love. To win their loyalty, they needed to fear their rulers, and the best way to do that was to make them fear for their souls.
- Maude argued that such methods lead to damnation and despair, and would damage relations between mortals and Cainites far out of proportion to any gains.
- Iulia said Maude was being naïve, and that she did not understand this land.
Maude claimed that she understood only too well, and added that she would not support and would even oppose the methods Iulia is using.
- Gunthar cut off the debate a that point, warning his companions that such arguments would lead to the breaking up of the coterie, and thus imperil all they had fought for.
- Maude could not help but put in her final copper, saying that the ends never justified the means.
Treasure Hunt and the Hounds from Hell!
- After Gunthar outlined the dire financial state of the endeavour, the coterie decided to go find Beltanz’ cave of loot. Gunthar, Veceslav, Maude and Jals; Rossos, Laszlo, Krasamir and Francois went, on horseback. A small amount of bottled blood was taken by the coterie to aid supplies. Jals guided the party to the mountains near where Beltans’s cave network.
- The closest cave was wide enough to ride into. At the back of the cave and old wolf den provided better day-time shelter for Cainites, while the retainers slept in the front.
- Gunthar Called the local animals, as is his usual practice. Archimedes came and reported that wolves were on nearby peaks to the east (where the sky-fire comes from), together with many crows. He said he was chased away by the crows, whom he found unpleasant.
- After faffing about with a nearby cave further to the west, the start of an extensive complex, the coterie turned to the east to investigate the crows and wolves, thinking these might the same crows that Beltanz would use as messengers.
- As the coterie approached they saw many crows, and storm clouds gathered over the peaks. A small one-person day-shelter was found along the way. This was dug out and used as a shelter for three Cainites, with Gunthar sleeping in the ground.
- The next night saw the Cainites soon surrounded by the crows who answered Gunthar’s Call. With them came a large crow that bullied the others away. It was a spirit, although this was not immediately apparent. At first, Gunthar did not realise that the typical bird speech was somehow magically translated for everyone. The spirit spoke directly to all present, speaking in their own native tongue.
- The spirit was offended by Gunthar’s offer of blood, calling him a taint and filth that did not belong. The Spirit Crow did make a deal, though, saying it would show the coterie the location of the cave-with-the-shiny-things-and-dogs in return for The-Blue-Shiny-Thing and the names of those present.
- When asked by Maude why it wanted names, the crow replied “because I like to know things”. Names were given, Gunthar gave his birth name, figuring the Spirit Crow would know the truth anyway.
- The Spirit Crow flew to the northwest, the other birds (incl other spirit crows) flew in another direction. The coterie followed the Spirit Crow and were led, after a 40 minute ride, to a series of switchbacks.
- Here they proceeded single-file. They tried stealth, but the wind blew their scent up the mountain and the hell-hounds at the top attacked.
- The combat was viscious, with the flesh-crafted ghoul dogs knocking people off the cliff.
- Gunthar’s heavy armour was ruined in the fight. He collected the remains, and while it may be repaired, it will never function as well again. Gunthar took the jaws of the six hell-hounds (1 fled due to Maude’s magic) as trophies.
- Veceslav displayed a knack for using his claws to good effect to climb the cliff at speed after he was knocked off.
- Jals proved effective with his spear, even at range.
- Maude was able to use her magic to frighten the hell-hounds; using the frightening aspect of the Shroud, concentrated on her face, to look scary. Maude’s freezing trick also proved very effective at giving the warriors a chance to kill the helpless beasts.
- Laszlo proved to be exceptionally capable in the fight, displaying previously unknown skill with his sword, as well as impressive strength and stamina.
- A burnt out cabin in ruins was at the top of the switchbacks, as was a creek and a cave smelling of rotting meat.
- The cave contained over 100 people flesh-crafted into monstrosities, fortunately dead, and impaled on and fused to the stalactites of the cave. This was the hell-hounds’ food source. No corpse had been there longer than two years.
- Horrified, the coterie left them there; all too shocked to bury the people. A nearby bear’s den was used as the daytime shelter to avoid sleeping in the cave.
- The cave also contain Beltans’ treasure horde, which consists of:
c. 600 pennies in varied silver and copper coins from Kievan Rus, Hungary and Novgorod (The coins will be kept for trade, with some going to the mercenaries as a bonus, and some being put aside for Maude to pay back her mentor’s loan.); 8x bolts of silk, 12x bolts of linen, 12x bolts of cotton (These can be sold for c. 2,400 pennies, which will go greatly towards meeting the costs for the tower.); Urns with flour, seeds, and wine (The flour will be kept to supplement food stocks. The seeds will be either sown near the tower, or given to the nearby villages to increase their own food resources. The wine will be kept for consuming on site during meals or occasions.); And a glowing blue moonstone.
- According to Maude, the moonstone contains a fragment of the world’s soul, and such items are used by wizards to assist their magical workings
- The glowing moonstone was returned to the Spirit Crow, which was waiting outside. The spirit accepted the stone and flew off without a word.
A Deadly Encounter
- On the return to the Tower, Veceslav, Gunthar and Laszlo encountered a werewolf. It was wounded badly, but still hunting. It dropped onto and killed outright the camoxi Veceslav had been hunting.
- The werewolf was black-furred and huge, 5’ high at the shoulder and 6’ long, almost twice the size of a regular wolf.
- The werewolf heard the hunters move off, and turned to growl. Veceslav stepped out, his claws out and red yes on, and tried to force the creature to back off. The werewolf just got angrier.
- Gunthar also stepped out, his bow drawn and an arrow nocked. The werewolf did not seem to care. It did some kind of magic trick and surrounded itself with a silver light.
- When Gunthar shot it, the arrow glanced off the silver light. The werewolf howled a challenge, then grew, standing on two legs and turning into a larger version of itself, a version more capable of combat. At this, Laszlo screamed in fear and ran off. Later the bodyguard had no memory of the encounter, thinking it was a bear.
- Meanwhile, Veceslav and Gunthar circled the werewolf, claws out. Veceslav tried again to talk the werewolf out of a fight, but even though the beast seemed to pause and consider Veceslav’s words, it still attacked the Cainite.
- Gunthar, desperate, summoned a swarm of bats to fight the werewolf. Gunthar and Veceslav traded blow with the werewolf, but its silver-light armour and toughness warded most of the blows away.
- In return, its powerful blows crippled Veceslav and hurt Gunthar. The swarm of bats slowed the werewolf, but did not damage it. Veceslav was able to escape in the bat distraction however.
Gunthar fought the werewolf alone, inflicting more harm, but the werewolf was able to move super-fast, like it had Celerity. The Gangrel instead chose to attack its other leg, thus hampering its mobility further.
- Unable to turn its blows or stop such an assault, Gunthar retreated, leaving the werewolf fighting its way out of the bat swarm. Gunthar picked up the crippled Veceslav, gathered in Laszlo, and returned (via a circuitous route) to the coterie camp.
- Maude was deeply disgusted with the foolishness of the Tzimisce and the Gangrel, and wasted no time telling them so. In fact, she made a point of reiterating her disgust over the slow and painful journey back to the tower site. The fact that the werewolf didn’t seem to be a ravening, mindless beast was also of great interest to her.
Back at the Tower
- Upon returning to the tower, Maude found George had come back. He said he escorted the souls to ‘a safe community’.
- George can now speak across the shroud, albeit in a whisper and only for limited periods. He can alter the normal world more too, making it cold or moving small items.
George said he would follow the werewolf and find out where it goes, once we have done our business with the clay tablets.
- Lady Perlina was also waiting at the tower, and is willing to look at the tablets. It will take her some time to prepare, and she is eager to complete her induction into the discipline of Mortis in the meanwhile.
- Perlina is aware of George, as Iulia seems to trust her and has seen fit to bring the Malkavian in her secret.
- George says the tablets are extremely dangerous, and make the ‘air’ thick near them.
- George also said he saw a mark of misfortune around Veceslav, which drew snorts of amusement from the gathered Cainites.
The date is 26th March 1198.
Attendance: Gunthar ritter (Greg; xp3), Maude (Dave, xp3), Veceslav (Ben, xp2+1 pending), Absent: Sir Alaric (Anthony, xp0)
END OF SESSION