Rules: D&D3.5 and Green Ronin's The Black Company Campaign Sourcebook.
Overall, I consider this session a failure on my part. I was trying to create dramatic tension via continued harrassment by enraged tribal warriors, a la the "Every 33 minutes" episode of Batlestar Galactica. Instead, I think it came off like the dice were stuck on the same entry on the "Random Encounter Table."
At the end of the last session the remnants of the Black Company, abandoned by all their senior members in Juniper (see the events in the end of Shadows Linger), were reforged into a new mercenary company ... The Nightstalkers. The name is going to cause continuity problems, but I don't care. Me Bad GM. See above.
Almost two years has passed. (About which the PCs know nothing .. it'll be revealed through various NPC interactions).
Omelet's Squad (although Omelet is no longer in it):
PCs: Cpl Scratch, Rag, Ghost & Cranes.
NPCs: FNGs: Cardshark & Shank. Vets: Foul & Little Horse.
The opening scene: A tonk game around a stolen table in ruined buildings converted to barracks. It's snowing through the holes in the roof, the big bonfire is blazing. A shovel clatters across the table. The PCs shout, outraged.
The new commander, a short man with a fierce glare and a reputation as a stern disciplinarian enters. Commander Ironhand.
"There's work to do. Shovelling. Three hours of drill. Your firewood pile is too low. Get rid of the women!" He indicates the three natives huddled near the fire. He exits. And I am left with a great opportunity to introduce the players to Fort Pine, the northernmost piece of civilization along the Great Tragic River in the Great Forest.
A lot of "exposition" conversations with the NPCs follow. Does Ironhand hate tonk? Does he hate women? Do you still have nightmares about the Path of Blood, the trail of destroyed native camps the Nightstalkers forged on their march east, led by the Lady's pet administrator/sorceror Ghoul? If Spring began two weeks ago, why is it still snowing? Aren't you glad Commander Ironhand lets us hunt, because being on half-rations sucks? How many Imperials has Major Rasp, the local commander, had to whip for stealing food? Have you heard the rumour that Ghoul created the pestilence that seems to be crippling the tribal men, but leaving the women?"
Both frozen and soaked the group return at the end of a long day to find Commander Ironhand stirring rabbit stew.
Foul: The ****ing Commander made us a hot ****ing meal? We're ****ing ****ed!
And in fact they were.
Ironhand, Rasp, And ghoul were concerned about the long overdue supplies from Oar. Omelet's squad was going to head south and find out what the deal was.
Leaving armour behind in favour of fur clothes and native "snow-shoes" both Commander Ironhand and Lieutenant Preen have ensured the Nightstalkers have drilled with, the squad leaves at dawn.
On the way south the enemy was the weather. Snow squalls. Frostbite. The difficulty of breaking ground with several feet of loose powdered snow on the ground. They crossed an ancient barrowland (not The Barrowland) about three days and forty miles out. (Not very far? You try walking in deep snow eight or more hours a day through forested wilderness ... like Allegany State Park. See how well you do! :) )
A week and eighty miles out they catch a chance track, left in the lee of a tree Rag was relieving himself on. It was days old, but still they could discern direction. Following that course they travelled a couple hundred yards before coming across the remains of a native "field abbatoir." The few cattle bones that the natives hadn't used. Where would the natives get this many cattle? The supply caravan.
Right around here Foul puts his foot through the ice and gets a soaker. There's running water? That's a first. It's getting warmer.
After that it wasn't too hard to find the caravan, the tops of the sledges sticking out of the snow. A couple hours of work uncovered a fairly grisly scene. The hundred imperials had been slaughtered, left dead and stripped of anything even remotely valuable. The sledges were bare.
That's when Ghost noticed the watcher. A solitary tribesman, some three-hundred paces away. Attempts to approach were avoided. After a cautious night's rest, with wet sleet coming down, and debating whether the group should possibly push on another two hundred miles to the south towards Oar, the group turned back north to Fort Pine.
It was clear immediately that they were being followed, and that the tribesmen, all skilled woodsmen, wanted them to be aware of it. They pushed on. It started to rain. The four to eight feet of snow becomes a hellish world of deep, cold slush. Frostbite is more of a threat than in the icey cold, as water soaks the gear and staying dry becomes impossible.
They make it back to the barrowland, where the following tribesmen veered off. Scratch has guessed correctly, the burial site is "taboo" to the superstitious natives. Rag can sense no magic from the mounds, it seems safe.
Here's where Ghost, who was a Tomb-Robber before joining the Black Company, began his shenanigans. He asked Scratch if he can get help looting a tomb or two. The door stones under the slate lintel look kind of heavy. Scratch didn't forbid it (because he knows Ghost will do it anyway) and didn't encourage it. Despite advice to the contrary Ghost, helped by Cranes and Shank, got to work. Just before dawn they topple a door stone, revealing a four foot by four foot passage into the barrow.
Rag casted an illusion (Figment), a bloody, tattered flesh skeleton, that emerged from the mound. Cranes attacked (and missed). Given the option between: (a) running and screaming, (b) standing and drooling, or (c) dropping and curling up Ghost choses (c). Shank stands and drools. Shaken, but with the apparition "dispelled" the group entered the barrow as the others strike camp. They found the moldering body of an ancient warrior, buried with his worldly possessions. Grabbing the few gold "objects des art" they emerged and prepared for the day's trek. Later perusal by Rag would reveal one of the gold plates is stamped with a script related to UchiTelle, no doubt another vulgate of TelleKurre.
As they exited the barrowland they were immediately swarmed by tribesmen, who were no longer willing to follow quietly. Whether the tribesmen were attacking because the group looted or just for entering the barrowland was never revealed, but the opinion was that Ghost had caused this. Defeating them, they began to march north. They were continually harassed by arrow fire. Corporal Scratch decided to Forced March. Kit is dropped, including some of the barrowlands treasure. Soon the group was near exhaustion. With Foul and Cardshark collapsed (both were injured badly by tribesmen attacks) and Rag and Ghost near collapse Scratch called a halt. Tribesmen allowed them to rest a while, and then swarmed the camp again. Cranes successfully detected the approach, but decided to do a one-man counter-ambush rather than warn the others. It cost the group additional "wear and tear."
As the tribal band is defeated Rag, near collapse still, noticed a Great Horned Owl in the trees. Strange that it had not been scared off by the fighting and the magic. He detected an aura of enchantment around it before it quietly soared away into the night.
Beaten, bloody, and exhausted Omelet's Squad staggered into Fort Pine. There are no supplies coming. The curtains closed with Ironhand and Preen interogating them while Pockets cleans and tries to mend wounds and treat several mild cases of frostbite.