Orx On The Road

As Max and Franz were in the middle of their argument over what had happened to the Bridal Price, I stepped out and offered my condolences on their troubles. They are somewhat shocked that their argument was overheard, and apologetic. At that point the elf Calthar stepped out as well, having also overheard their conversation.

Player’s Note: At this point we got to try the social combat rules for Zweihänder. They have a few similarities to those in Pathfinder Intrigue, though are similar. Though there are some who dislike specific rules for social combat, I quite like it since it provides a bit more flavour to things rather than the GM just arbitrarily deciding what happens, and allows characters who have specialised in social aspects to shine.

The rules start with each character deciding what they are trying to get out of the conversation, and then selecting one of seven primary skills to use. These are chosen from Bargain, Charm, Guile, Interrogation, Intimidation, Leadership and Rumour. For a given conversation, one or more may provide extra benefits, and one or more may provide extra penalties. Since we were talking to two merchants, I figured that Bargain was probably a good skill to use. As it happened, it was, and Calthar selected that to use. Eva chose Charm because it fitted more with her character. Neither of us chose either Interrogation or Intimidation, which was good because they would have provided big penalties.

Calthar got a bonus from being of the same social class, and Eva got a bonus from being a respected Monk which was offset somewhat by being of a lower social class. We also got to select what could possibly go wrong… in this case we decided it would be that they wouldn’t trust us enough to hire us.

I tried to calm them down, and get them to explain what the problem is. They seemed somewhat embarrassed to have been found arguing by me, and relieved that Calthar was there as well, being more willing to speak to her.

Player’s Note: Calthar succeeded on her Bargain check, and because it was a favoured skill in this conversation she automatically got a critical success. I got an assisted roll, which meant I got to roll the 10’s die twice and take the best. I rolled a 90, 00 and 06… so chose a total of 06 which was also a success, though not an automatic critical.

This was a particularly straightforward conversation, so only one check was required. In a more complex social encounter, other skills could be used to aid or provide information in addition to the basic roll.

As we had gathered, the bridal token which Max was paying to Franz for the hand of his daughter had gone missing. There was a substantial amount of hemp, which was meant to have been coming from the village of Vorburg on three wagons. The village was only a day away, so the fact that it hadn’t turned up was a bit worrying.

They decide that possibly myself and Calthar could help them – just in case something had gone wrong. Max offered the princely sum of 35 brass pennies to each of us for our aid. That’s considerably more than I’ve ever owned. Calthar seemed disappointed by this amount though, and Franz offers to double it to 70. If we get to survive this, it should fund by studies for some time to come.

After Max had wandered off, Franz asked whether failure on the part of Max to deliver on the bride token would allow Franz to void the marriage. I was a bit uncertain on the legal technicalities, but decided to tell him what he wanted to hear without committing myself too much, and replied that it would definitely give him strong grounds for having it annulled. He seemed happy with that answer, but then Calthar adds a confusing and obviously noncommittal statement which could only come from an elf which upsets him, forcing me to reassure him with a stronger yes.

Player’s Note: I made a Folklore check to know what the marriage laws were and failed with a roll in the high 90s. This evening turned out not to be my lucky night for dice rolls.

With that taken care off, we headed up to bed, in preparation for the trip up to Vorburg the following morning.

We got in a coach with several guards on horses. I rode inside the coach with the new bride Helena and her handmaid Barbara ‘Bibi’, along with the prostitute Floquert who spent most of the trip on the verge of being ill, still recovering from his previous night of excess. Neither of the two young women were particularly forthcoming to my questions whilst Floquert was in the carriage with us. Helena did seem to be rather resigned to the idea of marriage to Max though, and mentioned that both he and her father wanted her to have a boy, and that she didn’t get to have much say in things.

Player’s Note: Zweihänder also has special rules for travel. There are three roles to fulfil, each with their own skill. These are Guide (Navigation), Survivalist (Survival) and Scout (Stealth). Having a high basic Navigation, along with a +20% bonus from one of my special talents, means Eva opts to be the Guide. Calthar selects Scout and Djarin is our Survivalist.

Each role governs a particular aspect of the journey – Guide for finding the route, Survivalist for finding goods places to stop and rest (and presumably food) and the Scout to avoid being ambushed or otherwise surprised.

Though Eva had an 82% skill chance, she failed and spent a fortune point for a re-roll, which succeeded. Calthar got a critical failure on her Stealth, but critical failures can’t be re-rolled.

Though the ‘road’ was little more than a path through the woods relatively clear of trees, I managed to guide the group on a reasonably direct route. Calthar seemed to spend most of the morning on edge and kept on getting us to stop when she suspected something was amiss. We had a clear journey though that morning, and Djarin found us a great place to sit and have lunch.

The two ladies and myself managed to find somewhere quiet to eat, and I managed to get some more information out of the two. According to Bibi Franz has a particularly bad temperament, and though she seemed to be trying to say nice things about Max, I believe it was more to comfort Helena than because she believed them. Apparently Max already has a son by a previous wife. He is about 20, but has had no interest in taking over the family business.

Asking them about the strange hill known as the Horned Monk, they say that Max once tried to turn it into a pilgrimage location in order to make some money from it, but that it hadn’t worked out. We also spoke about the Orx invasion about a dozen years ago. Apparently Max had turned out to be some form of hero and had ‘spoken’ to the Orx and got them to go away. This seemed most unusual at the time, but with things I discovered later at the village I’m beginning to suspect that it was not merely unusual, but decidedly wrong.

By late afternoon the coach was stopped due to some commotion, and we were told to wait inside with the windows closed due to some dead horse up ahead. Apparently Max didn’t want us bothered by the sight or smells of a decaying horse.

Shortly thereafter, the coach suddenly picked up speed and with a very bumpy ride we passed into the village. It was at that point that I found out what had happened.

It appears that they had found the wagons of hemp – along with dead horses and men. There had been shot with arrows that looked particularly Orx-like in their style. The village itself was sealed shut behind a wooden palisade, and the peasants hadn’t been collecting in the crop when we turned up – which was most surprising given the time of year.

The villagers told their side of the tale – that a group of Orx had brought the bodies of the headman Heinrich and his son back from the massacre at the wagons and strung them up in the fields. Since then the villagers have locked themselves behind the gates and not ventured out. The woman who told us this was Beatte, an oldish woman who seems to have some authority here. One thing I noticed was that there were very few older women here – most were young. It was at this point that I started to get a horrible suspicion.

There was a shrine of the God Emperor here, and by the looks of it a priest, though he did seem to have an aroma of alcohol about him. Helena and Bibi had still been left in the carriage, so I gave Max the choice of either me telling them what had happened, or letting him do it. He decided to do it himself, leaving me to go and have a talk to the priest at the shrine.

The shrine isn’t particularly ornate but it has been neatly kept, with a number of graves around it. Inside was Pastor Wilheim, who as it turned out was Max’s younger brother, and a woman, Enid. They were both praying, and Enid was upset. She was the wife of Heinrich, but cared far more about the death of her son. The pastor was willing to tell a bit about what had happened here. Twelve years ago, when the the Orx attacked, Wilheim had been sent to the nearby settlement of Swanzie to get help. He had expected to come riding back at the head of a small army, but instead had been met with indifference. He had been noticed by the priest there, who eventually provided him his training, but he obtained no army and failed to protect the village.

His brother Max had sent the women into hiding and he went off to deal with the Orx. The women never came back – they had presumably been found by the Orx before Max had found a way to get rid of them.

My suspicion at this point is that Max did some deal with the Orx that resulted in the women being sacrificed to save the village, and Calthar had since confided in me that this was her suspicion also.

There were a number of ageing mementos on the altar, including a dusty portrait of a woman and a girl, with a signature on it saying “from Maximillian”. It also has a copper and silver wire talisman shaped to form a crude figure which is draped over the painting. Something about it feels familiar, but I fail to remember where I’ve seen anything like this before. Wilheim says that is is some form of good luck charm, and now that I think about it, I remember seeing Max’s son Walderman wearing a similar one earlier in the village.

At this point I think I need to try and find someone who was around at the time of the original Orx attack twelve years ago. Most of the women and children, including Beatte, have retreated to Max’s fortified house, so I think heading there to see if I can find out some more information is next on my list of things to do.

Samuel Penn

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