After much politicking and kvetching we bumped up the time by about a week. Rested and freshly honeymooned, the Family Valdemar decided to march, en masse, north to the Korningwood in order to look into the disappearance of Lord Ygram.
Accompanying them were Sir Jonas Stanton (Isla’s new husband), ten of Roland’s mercenary force and his three new recruits. When they arrived at the village Ygram was supposed to be investigating, they found it abandoned without much of an indication of a struggle. At this point, I had the PCs make a bog-standard Perception roll with any applicable fields of related knowledge (FORKs) providing a bonus.
Not surprisingly, our sorcerer Augur and our strider Eleanor both rolled up an absurd amount of successes. Eleanor spotted some markings in the language of her missing elvish lover warning her of danger in the area. Both Augur and Eleanor spotted something at the edge of the dense woods shuffling about observing them…a spider the size of a smart car. Realizing it was spotted, it fled into the depths of the woods. Inevitably, the PCs and their retainers gave chase.
The chase resulted in two things- Eleanor put a crossbow bolt through a Spider with alarming ease–a specialized four lifepath character is extremely competent in Burning Wheel–and the PCs ran straight into an ambush. Y’see, I felt the situation had changed enough after the spider’s death, that I had Eleanor make another perception/observation roll. A roll she managed to botch worse than should be statistically possible.
So, before they knew what was happening I had them surrounded by at close to a hundred spiders, a situation that caused their retainers to more or less panic. Orders were barked, the group went into a defensive posture, and waited…
When it became clear that my second session wasn’t going to devolve into the Wild Bunch, I had Lord Ygram approach the party and request a parlay. The PCs left their retinue behind and went forward to have a chat with their missing vassal. Or what was left of him.
Here I did my best twitching and weird voice acting in order to get across the concept that Lord Ygram wasn’t…right. Subtle ripples of motion could be seen under his skin and he referred to himself as ‘we.’ Ygram, it would seem, had become an envoy of a new ‘mistress’ who had a request for the family Valdemar. She wanted:
- A grant of territory along the border of the Korningwood and the rights to all vassals and chattel there upon.
- A young and healthy soldier (or ideally Rodolf) to be given freely to the Spiders.
In exchange, Ygram’s mistress could use her forces to eliminate any one problem the PCs currently faced. All they had to do was pick a target…
A Duel of Wits ensued with Lady Isla representing the family and everyone else throwing in their helping dice where they could. And Rodolf started eyeing his forces, settling on one of the new recruits as a potential sacrifice.
Isla’s stakes in Duel of Wits were for the party to be set free and Ygram’s mistress to recognize her soveriegnty. In the end, Isla won the duel, but just barely. The compromise was as follows:
- The PCs and their retainers could leave
- The Valdemar’s would pick a target and, after it was taken care of
- Ygram’s mistress would have the rights to all of Lord Ygram’s territories, with more up for future negotiation.
The group debated about where to send the Spiders. There was some talk of the savages in the far-north beyond the runewall, but apparently the spiders are unable to go beyond the Wall. They considered sending them to wipe out the Maldois family after warning the captive cousin of their vassals the Suthers to hide.
Finally, they decided to take out a town in the border regions of strategic importance to their enemies. Rodolf rolled his strategy skill and…came up without a single success. Rodolf’s player pointed at the map, made up the name ‘Montague’ for the town he decided his player had named and the bargain was settled.
A bargain that would shape the rest of our campaign.