Thursday, February 16, 2017

Legacy of the Golden Horseshoe: Session 1

As mentioned in yesterday's post, I recently started a new Pathfinder campaign. This campaign is one I dreamed up more than 20 years ago and recently pulled out of mothballs after finding it in an old trunk. In order to get back into the habit of posting, here is the log from the first session. We're about four sessions in, so I'll try to post the other recent-past sessions over the next couple days, after which you should start seeing these weekly. Hopefully this will get me back in the habit of updating this thing.

Trigger warning -- this game is set in pre-revolution colonial Virginia and prominently features black slavery.
August 3, 1720

It was a big day in Germanna. Count Spotswood had called the slave auctions, normally only held in larger colonies such as Williamsburg or James City, to show their wares in town. Flyers had been spread far and wide, and wealthy land-holders from Stafford, Middlesex, Northumberland, and Lancaster were all in attendance.

Early in the afternoon, Zimmerman's Tavern was already busy. Many of the locals who were not themselves slaves or indentured had closed up shop for the day in order to attend the auction. Thond, the unusually short cook, was kept busy, both by lunch orders and by his friend Amos, himself an escaped slave, pestering him to attend the auction with him.

Tess Wilberforce was wandering the streets, studying a notebook detailing Herr Leibowitz's most recent experiments and trying to understand his math when she wandered into the large square in front of the Count Spotswood's "Enchanted Castle" (which was neither a castle, nor enchanted). A crowd was already gathered, watching intently as workers assembled a small stage for the auction block, behind which the auctioneers and eleven guards were surveying their merchandise -- almost a hundred strong-backed slaves, recently arrived from Africa. Appalled as ever at the thought of humans being bought and sold as chattel, Tess slid into the back of the growing crowd.

Of course, the appearance of a rather outspoken abolitionist at the auction did not go unnoticed. Even with most of the town's population of tenant farmers, indentured miners, and their taskmaster's still at their work, the novelty of the auction being in Germanna drew a crowd of spectators roughly equal to the number of slaves up for sale. It did not take long before a large number of the locals' eyes were fixed on Tess, waiting for one of her now infamous outbursts. When it became clear that a rousing speech about the "evils of slavery" or some other such nonsense was not immediately forthcoming, the crowd turned back to watch as the stage was completed, the accounts' table was set up, and a few of the wealthiest landowners made a preliminary inspection of the merchandise.

As the time for the start of the auction drew near, a last few stragglers of the town's free men filtered in. Among them was Zibbler Zen-topple, the owner of a small farm outside of town, and a sympathizer with Tess' cause. While not particularly wealthy, he had come with plans of mortgaging his property in the hopes of buying, and freeing, at least a few of the poor men and women now facing the block. Worming his way through the crowd, Zibbler moved up front with the other would-be buyers, looking rather out of place among the county's white-wigged aristocrats.

Once the tavern had been mostly cleared, Thond and Amos slipped out. No sooner had they arrived than one of the aristocrats, standing on the lower steps of the auction block, turned and spotted Amos over the heads of the crowd -- none other than Sir George Mason of Stafford, the very master that Amos had abandoned so many months before. Overcome with astonishment and rage, Sir Mason simply stood there, slack jawed, with a quivering, accusative finger outstretched, for a painfully long second. Amos simply stood there staunchly staring back.

Zibbler finally broke the stalemate by magically yanking Sir George's wig down over his eyes. The death-glare broken, Thond grabbed Amos' finger and dragged him towards a side street. Tearing off his hair-piece, the enraged plantation owner screemed, "That one's a runaway! Get him! Get him, now!" Without thinking, a half-dozen of the auction guards drew weapons and shoved their way through the crowd in pursuit of Amos.

Breaking through the crowd, the guards were suddenly faced with a conundrum. There were two Amoses -- one being dragged by a dwarf down a street to the west, the other waving merrily at them from the east. This second Amos, actually Líadan, a resident visiting troublemaker from the Winter Court of Faerie, let out a fearsome war-cry and half-charged the guards before peeling away. All six took up the chase, careening after the false runaway.

With only five guards left, and the crowd's attention firmly focused on the chaos of the chase, Tess slipped around behind the auction block. The slaves were arranged in four lines, sorted by age and gender, with each line held by long runner chains held in place by bolts driven into the ground, with each slave shackled to their respective runner. Tess crept to the rear-most line, all young women and girls, quickly pried loose the bolt holding the main chain, and then went to work unfastening their shackles.

Fearing the loss of his buyers amidst the chaos, the auctioneers quickly mounted the stage and called for the guards to bring up the first piece of merchandise -- a fine specimen, tall and muscular. As bidding started, Zibbler made his way over to the accountants and exchanged the deed for half his land for a substantial mark of credit, still hoping to move forward with his plan of buying a few of the slaves to legitimately free them. He bid in and bought the second slave brought to the block, an older gentleman who spoke English.

By this time, Tess had freed a half-dozen of the girls and decided that she should not press her luck any more. She motioned for the girls to run to the west and whispered that they should head for the blue mountains, before starting to creep back to the crowd herself. As she turned, the seventh girl on the line rattled her chains to get Tess' attention and looked at her imploringly. This, unfortunately, caught the attention of one of the guards as well, who let out the cry that some of the slaves were escaping. Tess quickly pried out the second bolt on the runner chain, grabbed the chain, and ran, leading ten girls, still shackled, around the side of Count Spotswood's manor house and away to the north. The five remaining guards took off after them, three heading west after the loose and fleeing girls, and two going after Tess and her chain-gang.

Líadan, meanwhile, had ducked under the porch of a house and shed her Amos-disguise. Three of her pursuers had kept on running, following ghostly sounds into the woods beyond the village. The remaining three, were close enough to hear the commotion at the auction block and joined the chase of the running girls. Thus relieved of any immediate threat to herself, Líadan skipped back to the auction.

Amos and Thond, sans pursuit, had circled back around to the auction themselves. Seeing the girl-slaves running free and no less then eight guards closing on them from multiple directions, they leapt from behind a pig sty and intercepted three of the guards. Amos close-lined the first as he ran past, then decked a second. The third took a hammer to the gut from the dwarven cook. The other three that had been pursuing Líadan rushed to their fellows' aid. Amos grabbed up a full feeding trough from the sty and brought it, slop and all, down on the head of one, flattening him to the ground. Outnumbering their assailants two to one, the four injured guards gasped to their allies to keep after the girls, so the other two ran on.

Sara Mashi, the town's elderly midwife and healer, seeing the two men fighting the slavers hobbled on her cane towards the skirmish. As she neared the first of the guards, the well-coiffed bun of her white-gray hair unwound itself and lashed out, wrapping around the man's neck, hoisting him into the air, and rapidly choking the life from him. With the odds thus evened, Amos snatched an angry boar from the pig sty and began swinging it about by its hind legs, knocking another of the guards to the ground. The first guard, downed by the feeding trough pulled a knife and slashed at his ankles, only to be crushed by the nearly two-hundred pound pig. A final, overhand swing flattened the third, coming down on him with enough force to snap the pig's neck as well. The last remaining guard, squared off against Thond, dropped his weapons, backed away, and ran like hell.

His plan for buying slaves clearly ruined, Zibbler threw down a spell which plunged the auction block into magical darkness, adding to the overall chaos. Líadan skipped up and promptly blasted the bolts holding the first line of slaves -- the adult men. With a triumphant and vengeful cry, the nearly fourty men took up the slacked chain and charged the blackened auction block, demolishing the stage and close-lining several villagers before stampeding out into the square.

In the wake of the stampede, Zibbler joined her and the two quickly had the chains loosed for the next two lines. The young men and boys seemed eager to dash after the men, but their mothers in the next row grabbed them, and dragged them away to the east, away from all the fighting. Across the square cries came up from the trampled villagers, echoed by the warning sound of a gunshot and the tramping of feet as the miners and farmers that made up the village militia came running from their work, muskets in hand, to see what the commotion was.

Tess, meanwhile, was running, pushing ten chained-up girls ahead of her. Seeing the two guards nearly on their heels, she yelled at the girls to keep running and dove sideways into a chicken coop. The guards dove and caught up the girls' chain, dragging them to a stop. "How will we get out of this one?!" she mused. Her outburst startled the coop's rooster, who crowed angrily and flapped furiously out of the coop, followed by a dozen hens, right into the faces of the startled guards. The guards frantically swung at the chickens, releasing their hold on the chain and allowing the girls to run free. Tess promptly dropped a globe of darkness over them.

Líadan ran to help Tess, yelling out to the chickens in a strange squawking language that "They're going to kill you and eat your babies!" driving the chickens to a frenzy or pecking and scratching. The rooster leapt for the face of one guard and promptly raked his eyes out with its spurs. Tess slipped out of the coop and ran to catch the girls, leading them out of town towards Zibbler's barn -- figuring that, as a known sympathizer, he might be able to hide them.

As the first round of gunshots rang out in the square, Zibbler caught up to Líadan and suggested that she catch the women and boys and lead them to his barn as well. He then ran off to join Amos, Thond, and Sara in chasing down the last two guards, who were in turn chasing the six unbound girls. As he ran, the male slaves began to fall under a hail of musket balls, the uninjured being dragged down by their slain fellows and the weight of their joined chains. He cast a quick spell as he ran past Amos, and the mighty ex-slave picked up a whole horse to shield the small party against any stray shots.

The chase, guards after girls, abolitionists after guards, went on for some time. Finally one of the guards faltered to catch his breath, and was promptly downed by snatched up and strangled by the old woman's hair. Thond and Zibbler soon caught the last guard, who was dropped with the swift application of Thond's hammer to his knee caps. The six slave-girls, by now, unhindered by chains and with a head start, were nowhere to be seen.

Seeing the male slaves all downed and yet more of the village militia massing, Zibbler led Thond, Amos, and Sara out of town to his farm to hide out and plan what to do next.

To be continued...

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