The first of two solo sessions written on my 12 hour flight yesterday. Each one took about an hour, though for the second one that was more because I was having fun writing (more on that later). Now on to the recap.
One of the Baron’s men shoved the hilt of a short sword into Althus’ gut hard enough to make the man from the Tempest Hills let out a surprised gasp. “Here Northerner,” the man said with a pronounced sneer. “You’ll need it.”
Althus grabbed the man’s wrist and shoved with all his force, sending the man and the short sword skittering back into the muddy clearing that made up this impromptu fighting ring. “No need,” Althus said, trying to keep his voice as level as possible. “I don’t mean your man here any harm.”
The man in question let out a great big belly laugh at that. He was taller than Althus and leaner with wiry muscle poking out from his simple tunic. Across his shoulders was balanced a long, iron-tipped lance, the man’s arms lazily hooking around to keep it in place. “That makes one of us,” the man said with another, more subdued laugh.
Behind the spearman stood Baron Quinn, the lord of Wyvern’s Rest. You could tell he was a Baron from the several iron rings he wore on his hands: each a symbol of the loyalty a Circle or other community had sworn to him. Other than that, the simply dressed man could have been any other Ironlander, forsaking the gaudy clothing some other Barons wore.
“Do not hurt him too much, Kaivan,” the Baron said, not shouting but speaking loudly enough that he was certain Althus could hear him. “Even defeated, we will need all the swordhands we can muster against Servan.”
The spearman, Kaivan, rolled his head in a lackadaisical circle. “If I gut him, I gut him,” he said, spinning the spear off his shoulders in a smooth, practiced twirl so that it came up to a readied position in his hands. The Baron nodded at this, apparently unconcerned with letting Kaivan do as he wished.
“A challenge was made,” the Baron said, raising a ringed hand toward Althus. He did not raise his voice, but his natural baritone started to drown out all of the other noise around them–perhaps it was just everyone else naturally quietting down to hear their Baron. Quinn then motioned towards Kaivan. “And that challenge has been answered.”
Kaivan raised his spear and some of the other Baron’s men jeered and laughed along with the spearman. The Baron quickly cut this off.
“If the Northerner wins, he is free to leave. But if Kaivan wins, he is to join our Bannersworn.”
Althus hadn’t quite agreed to that, but it’s not like he could contradict the Baron now.
“Ready,” the Baron announced, not a question but command. He did not say anything to let the fight start, instead letting his hand drop dramatically.
Even though he could not see the Baron’s hand, what with his back to Quinn, Kaivan was ready at once, quickly stabbing his spear out with several quick probbing stabs.
Per the boasts, Althus is ceding the Initiative to Kaivan, limited the moves he can make. To start out with, he’s going to try to move inside Kaivan’s reach. This seems like a fine opening to Face Danger (pg. 60) and try to take back the initiative. Unfortunately, even rolling +iron, Althus still manages a miss (6 vs. 8, 10). This means we’ve got to pay the price and the most obvious answer seems like Kaivan catches Althus with his spear. This means we’ve got to Endure Harm (pg. 91).
First thing with Enduring Harm, Althus is suffering harm equal to Kaivan’s rank, which as a Dangerous opponent is 2 harm. This brings Althus down to 3 health. But now we get to roll, and Althus’ Ironclad asset is going to help here. While I hadn’t stated so before, I imagine he is Lightly Armored, his chain shirt not restricting him enough to warrent the Encumbered status, but only granting him +1 to this roll (plus his Iron, as it is the higher of that or his Health).
This time he gets both a a strong hit and an opportunity (8 vs. 4, 4). Normally, you would not regain the Initiative on a Suffer move, but with the Opportunity I can imagine that Althus’ lack of concern with the spear stab is enough to make Kaivan flinch for a moment. Additionally, Althus gets his option to either reduce the harm taken (at the cost of Momentum) or gain some Momentum. We’re going to take the +1 Momentum, as well as an additional +1 thanks again to his Ironclad asset, bringing him up to +5.
Althus was not afraid. He stepped right into the spear’s range and brought both his hands up in a brawler’s stance. But while he was not afraid, Althus was not invincible even with his iron chain shirt. One of Kaivan’s probing strikes caught caught him right under the ribs. A pain shot through his chest and Althus reached down to grab the spear.
Kaivan gave a glib smile. He had been hoping this would have been more of a fight. His smile, however, quickly turned to a look of confusion when Althus did not slump over as Kaivan expected.
Instead Althus slowly craned his neck back and locked eyes with Kaivan. He had a murderous look and slowly pulled the man’s spear across his chain shirt, a few loose links popping free.
We’ve got the initiative, and we’re going to use it. Althus is going to try and intimidate Kaivan and that sounds like Secure an Advantage (pg. 61). While this could be seen as aggressive action or a forceful defense, I think this is a mind game and so expertise is slightly more fitting and will roll +wits. And we get another strong hit (9 vs. 7, 6), giving us the option or Momentum or to make another move and gain +1 to the roll. We’ll take the later and finally make a decisive Strike (pg. 79).
Since we’re in close combat, we’re rolling +iron (as well as our +1 from Securing an Advantage before) and another strong hit and opportunity (7 vs. 5, 5). We deal our damage which, since we are unarmed, would normally be +1 but because of the strong hit will be +2. We check the Dangerous enemy entry again and see that each point of damage is two marks of progress (important for when we try to End the Fight, pg. 82) which means we mark 4 Progress total against Kaivan.
Kaivan attempts to take a step back but he has a white knuckle grip on his spear. And Althus has his spear. Before Kaivan can think to let go, Althus pulls the spear forward and uses to momentum to give a brutal uppercut to the Bannersworn. And then another solid downward strike. And another. And another, until Kaivan drops down into the mud.
In the flurry of punches, Kaivan’s grip on the spear must have come loose, because now Althus holds it. The Baron goes to say something, but Althus stops him by casually tossing the spear to the side, far from the reach of either man.
“I told you all before,” Althus says in a calm, but angered voice, “I don’t mean your man any real harm.”
Kaivan is starting to regain his footing and Althus swings his foot up, just barely catching Kaivan’s jaw with is heel. “He can walk that off.”
We retained the Initiative with that strong hit, so we’re going to go for another Strike. This one is not as solid, only being a weak hit (7 vs. 10, 1). This means we inflict 1 harm (2 progress, for 6 total) and lose the Initiative.
Kaivan lands hard in the mud, but is only down for a moment. He scrambles back to his feet, giving ground to Althus this time to avoid another kick.
“Alright you son of a bitch,” Kaivan spits, drawing his belt knife to finish his thought better than mere words could.
The crowd surrounding the fight starts to cheer on Kaivan as he rushed towards Althus. He catches the Northerner with his shoulder and the two go down into the mud in an ugly heap. The iron blade flashes in the sun as the two men wrestle over it.
Since we don’t have the Initiative, we’re limited on the moves we can perform. We need to get a strong hit before we can End the Fight, so we might as well go for something with +iron to give it the best chance. And that means Clash (pg. 80).
We roll +iron and get that strong hit (10 vs. 5, 9). Just like with Strike, we get the option of more harm or more momentum for a strong hit, and we go with harm to fill out the progress track to give us the best chance to End the Fight with a strong hit.
End the Fight, like all the other Progress moves, are different than other rolls. Instead of rolling a stat, we use our place on the Progress track in place of a roll (in this case 10) and then roll two Challenge Dice. We get a strong hit (10 vs. 8, 2), meaning Kaivan is out of the fight and the duel is over.
With the two rolling in the mud in this struggle over the knife, the crowd loses sight of who is who. That’s why the crowd’s cheer dies moments after it starts when Althus stands triumphant.
A few of the Baron’s men rush Kaivan’s downed form. “It’s a gut wound,” Althus says matter-of-factly, letting the knife drop to the ground. “He’ll live, but you’ll want to get him to a healer soon.”
Althus thought about offering to tend to the injury himself, but dismissed it after a moment’s thought. He’d just taken down the Baron’s best warrior in a near one-on-one fight. If he made himself look like an even bigger prize for the Baron’s warband, there might be another fight and it would not be one-on-one.
While the Bannersworn grabbed up their fallen man, the Baron approached Althus. The Northerner was trying his best to wipe the mud off, but he’d need to visit a river before he would any appreciable amount off.
“You’re a hell of a fighter, Northerner,” the Baron said, reaching out to give Althus a pat on the shoulder but thinking better of it.
“What’s that?” the Baron asked.
“My name is Althus.”
“Ahh, well you are a hell of a fighter, Althus.”
The Northerner grunted an affirmative and wiped another handful of mud off his face. “Well,” Althus asked, no friendliness in his tone, “am I free to go collect your approaching nemesis’ spawn, or do you want me to fight your next strongest to prove my intentions. Or perhaps a wild boar?”
As our opportunity from Drawing the Circle, Althus is going to try and Forge a Bond (pg. 74) with the Baron. Seems right that he do so through engaging the Baron as an equal. We roll +heart and get a weak hit (9 vs. 6, 9). Unfortunately our Momentum is nowhere near high enough to cancel out that 9, so it looks like the Baron is going to ask something before Althus can mark a bond with him. I envision what that would be, and it comes fairly quickly.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing that,” the Baron joked. “Would you take the boar on barehanded as well?”
Althus let out an incredulous grunt, which the Baron must have taken as a laugh as he started laughing.
“No, no, I think all agree you are a man of your word. Which is why I’d like you to do something for me.” Althus gave the Baron a level stare, but the Baron raised his hands in a calming gesture. “No, no need for swearing vows or anything like that, but I would ask that if you find Sarria and Lestara is with her, could you please bring her back as well?”
Althus gave another incredulous grunt and this one might have been a laugh. “From how it sounds, if the two did run off together, they’re probably going to be inseparable. Doubt I’d have much choice in that matter.”
The Baron reached out and grabbed Althus’ shoulder, mud clumping up around his fingers. “I am serious, Northerner. I know you don’t owe us anything. Tracking and protecting one person out in the wilds is hard enough, but two is going to be be a hell of a task, especially Lestara.”
Althus gave Quinn a quizzical look and the Baron rolled his eyes. “She’s always been a headstrong girl. If she’s convinced that this is the only way to get what she wants, she’ll fight like a wild lion to get it. All I want is for you to take it easy on her and bring her home safely. I would be in your debt.”
Althus weighed things in his mind. If they were together, finding both would be no more difficult than finding one. And if Lestara was as protective and fiercesome as Quinn was making her sound, he would have to deal with her anyway to collect Sarria. Best to just agree and hope for the best.
Althus offered up a muddy hand and the Baron, with a slight hesitation, grabbed it in agreement. Afterwards, the Northerner did not wait long before he collected Cratch and headed off to track down the girls.
Next time, Althus starts his quest in earnest.