Battle report and comments on Midgard Heroic Battles

Midgard Heroic Battles logo

For the past few months, I have been playtesting the, under-development, Midgard Heroic Battles by James Morris (https://mogsymakes.net/). These will eventually be released by Reisswitz Press (aka Too Fat Lardies) but there is no release date yet.

Midgard uses armies built up of units comprised of figures mounted on set bases 120mm wide and tables at least 6′ by 4′. As I started during social distancing, and we don’t have the space for the usual sized table, so I used 40mm wide bases (from Games Workshop’s 2005Battle of Five Armies”) and a smaller battlefield, either 2′ by 18″ or 3’x 2′.

120mm unit width vs 40mm

In Midgard, whilst units have the usual attributes of attack, how easily they suffer casualties and how many casualties they can endure, the real thing that causes armies to fall apart, even while they still have a coherent force on the field, is their morale.  If the army’s morale fails, the army falls apart.

The things that can cause an army to falter are heroes not living up to their name, or units being destroyed, what bolsters an army are those heroes leading from the front and doing deeds of reknown.

Midgard uses a mixed phase turn, in the main each phase belongs to one side, attacker then defender, rather than standard IGOUGO, and I found it a very fast game, with straightforward rules that gave me a feel of a decent core set of rules that give a good feel of handling “straight” wargaming, as well as fantasy with a better feel for fantasy than I have seen in decades.

And so to a battle report

The Threat to Laketown

It is the Third Age of Middle Earth, rumours abound that Sauron, though still bereft of the Ring, has grown in strength. Word has come from the Elves of Mirkwood that two of the Úlairi, the dark shadows bound to Sauron, are leading Goblins. including warg-riders, trolls and bats north through Mirkwood to assault Lake-town.

A blocking force of Iron Hills Dwarves and Men, aided by Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey and some of the Great Eagles seeks to drive the invaders back.

Specific rules for this battle

The terrain is a forest, the units can pass ‘through’ the trunks, but they are rough terrain, slowing progress. If the Free People units are forced off the field of the battle then they are gone.

Seeing as I used a Loke Battlemats book for the battlefield, with a comb in the centre, I just have to live with it, if units need to cross it then they measure to the edge then from the other edge, units can be either side of the comb and in contact. This also means the distances are 1/3 of the “rules as written” distance.

There is a ruined fort astride a road defended by the Free Peoples. If the Evil armies clear that ruin, then they have opened the easiest route to Laketown, Dale and Erebor, and gain a boost to morale.

The Evil Forces are the Attackers in this battle and start first.

The armies

Evil army as deployedSauron’s evil forces are led by a Nazgûl on fell beast. The lesser commanders are a Nazgûl on horse, a chieftain of goblins, lesser goblin champions including one on warg and a troll chief. They lead 12 units of goblins, three of trolls, three of bat swarms and two units of warg riders.

Good is commanded by Dain Ironfoot, who has two lesser dwarf commanders under him. They lead six units of dwarf warriors and three of dwarf archers. The Men are led by King Brand of Dale, who has three units of Men with spears, and three of Men with bows. Aiding them are Saruman the White, with Dain at the ruins, Gandalf the Grey, with Brand, and three groups of the Great Eagles of the Mountains.

The morale for the Free Peoples starts slightly higher than the forces of Sauron

The Battle

The line of evil advances, most of the goblins in columns under their leaders, though having to maneuver through the trees, as well as units failing to respond to the urging of their leaders, means some fall behind, slowing the advance. Clouds of bats fly through the forest under the watchful eye of a Nazgûl on Fell-beast, positioning themselves to strike ahead of their advance.

Movement begins

The Free Peoples, aim to hold the fort ruins and the road, but, outnumbered, find it hard to counter all the lines of advance, and themselves spreading their main strength to the wings, leaving the centre held lightly by Dain’s archers.

Bat attack

On their right, the Warg riders try to outflank the Men, but the Men move to intercept, weakening the centre further, the Dwarves holding the ruin are struck by swooping bats, though to little effect, despite the bats being frenzied by Nazgûl sorcery. The bats are pursued by the Eagles who drive them off, starting a chase and dogfight across the battlefield. (I used the rules as they were at this draft, I believe they have been updated with more specific aerial combat rules).

Eagles pursue

The first attack by the warg riders was repulsed, the unit destroyed, the goblins and trolls suffered light damage from archery, but the advance continued, the lead goblins under command of a champion. He was called out by Dain to single combat and, overmatched by Dain, the goblin leader was slain, and that attack faltered.

the counter attack by the dwarves was so savage that it not only slew the unit facing it, but managed to inflict casualties on the unit behind it, which must have perturbed the goblins somewhat.

The Nazgûl on horse joined in the next attack, the Nazgûl’s dread aura causing fear in the ranks supporting Dain’s front line, and it was only due to the words of Saruman that the line held. The remaining warg riders held back and loosed arrows at Brand’s warriors but they suffered losses in return, but that pinned Brand’s forces in place as the delayed trolls and goblins got closer.

On Evil’s left, the superior numbers of the goblins was grinding down the dwarves, despite the bolstering from Saruman, at the cost of heavy casualties themselves, the superior armour and determination giving the dwarves a slight edge over their foes.  High over the middle of the  battlefield the units of bats split up and tried to get the eagles into a position of disadvantage. The Free Peoples can ill afford the losses but overall the morale of Sauron’s slaves is suffering more.

To raise morale, both sides use leaders to charge in with the warriors, however that backfires for the goblins as one of their champions is killed, but the Free Peoples also suffer as the Trolls hammer Brand’s Men. Brand shows courage, challenging the Troll’s leader to single combat, which he wins, slaying his foe.

The Nazgûl general on Fell Beast flies over to take command of that side of the battle, the other Nazgûl routing the light dwarf screen of archers in the centre, this allows the goblins there to try and flank both dwarves and Men. In response, the Men move to their left to shorten their line, and join with the dwarves.

Gandalf, having joined a unit of men, engages  the mounted Nazgûl and wins, though he is wounded and rendered less effective, but the unit of Men he attaches himself to destroys some goblins.

Flyers dogfightThe bats did manage to wound one unit of Eagles but at the cost of two units of bats, and the Eagles started to swoop down and injure a couple of units of Goblins, one of which breaks and flees.

Both sides are broken into two separate battles but, overall, the losses on Sauron’s side have been great, and with the repulse of the Trolls, their nerve breaks and despite the screeches of their shadowy commanders, they flee the field. Laketown, Dale and Erebor are safe, for today at least.

Conclusion

Although points costed, Evil was costed at a little over 10% higher than the Free Peoples, giving them one advantage, and the Free Peoples had a strong incentive to defend the ruins, or lose morale, making their life more difficult but, despite that, this was a fairly fluid battle with some maneuver, mostly from Evil as they had the advantage in numbers and cavalry.

I know from previous play test games that when both sides have cavalry then they can cause infantry problems if the battlefield is not just an edge to edge line of troops, but not even they are as mobile as wheeling and dodging flyers. I look forward to see the completed rules with their updated aerial combat rules.

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Write up 22nd September 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 9

From their perspective at the stone circle, the group can see the mound in the distance, the gate visible from an impossible distance, from what Utana can determine, the distance is an hour’s walk away, but it and the shining crystals that surround it are visible to the group that long distance away. It was noted that the shining crystals and the mound are not visible from anywhere other than the path from the stone circle.

Farshad’s man that acts like a crow is still perched on his spare mule, Arpaesis’s ghost-child is still there, its face as indistinct as ever, though it seems closer to him, almost see,in to reach up to hold his hand.

As they get closer, and the road is straight as an arrow and descents, gradually but constantly, until, by the time they reach the gate, they are far below the ground level, a ground level that was sodden on the way here. Why is it not flooded? Why, as they got closer, did the mound and and gate seem to shrink in proportion, so that the field of view occupied by t remains the same no matter how close they get?

The gate frame was engraved with ancient symbols, seemingly related to the antique Habbarissi script used for older forms of Idarit. This Arpaesis could translate parts of. The words he could puzzle out were
– Lord
– Kabbaruk (which seems to be the name of a Lord or King)
– Negation
– Illot-nahas (Who is referred to as Lord or King of Negation)
– The gift of Illot-nahas- The kiss of the gift
– The green gift
– This is their home

Farshad had his memory stirred, he took some documents, part of the evidence in the case of the Rasghan Ilyhan Garshemi, some of his grandfather’s notes, going beyond the anatomy and medicine of the notes taken by José, the ones where his alchemetical studies crossed into abhorrences of nature. Some of the symbols on those notes are close to some of those on the surround.

(This part of the session was hampered as player’s looked at character sheets for written languages, but the names for the various writing systems had changed in the world setting between the time that the original character sheets were created, and now, so that didn’t help)

In the bright, harsh light of the crystals, Utana marshalls his strength, using the butt of his spear, looking to force the stone gate open, his strength is prodigious but the gate does not open, but he pushes it enough to show where the gate splits. Using cheap swords taken from previous enemies, Utana and José force the portal open.

The air is stagnant, the corridor ahead dark, only lit by the light from Jalabu’s magic buckler, the corridor leading to bronze doors, is amazingly clean, the walls blue glazed brick with a sharp waveform of yellow brick through it, the flow a mosaic of repeating pattern, with no obvious meaning.

Jalabu was convinced that the floor would break away under their weight, so Farshad, spreading himself over as broad an area as he could, moved along the floor. Impatient, Utana hammered the floor with his spear. Seeing this, Arpaesis touches each, and the corridor is revealed to

However, when each was touch by Arpaesis, their sight was cleared and they saw that the corridor, far from being perfect, was filthy with dust, the bricks and mosaic dull, and some cracked. This convinced Jalabu that his fears were unfounded and, after ensuring that the door ahead did not seem to be booby-trapped, the doors were opened, the handles pushed inn triggering a mechanism whose descending weights actually opened the door.

The room ahead was slightly oval, narrower sides where they entered from the south and to the north, where a bronze statue of a woman warrior stood on a marble plinth. Two other doors were West and East.

The walls are covered with painted reliefs of screaming faces of all sorts of mortals, the different varieties of face shapes, headgear and painted skins suggest a variety of peoples from different lands, though they are united in that all the faces are screaming, horror evident on their faces.

The statue is shaped, depicting the warrior in armour of an unfamiliar style, her cap covered in curved sections that are wide at the rim, narrow at the peaks. There is more of this work on the corselt, the curves alternating, greaves and vambraces complete the armour.

The right hand of the statue is resting on a shortsword on its right, the left arm is outstretched, the palm out in a gesture suggesting halt, between her feet is a depression in the plinth, the edges scalloped.

Engraved on the plinth is some Ancient Idarit of a more obscure than usual form, in the antique Habbarissi script, which Arpaesis could read.

“I guard Kabbarruk, the Great Lord,
most treasured of Illot-nahas,
wisest of all, skilled in the arts,
master of Narmatsyana.

“None shall pass that do not leave tribute

Neither the name Kabbaruk nor Narmatsyana meant anything to the group, save that Kabbaruk was mentioned on the writings surrounding the gate. They thought that Illot-nahas might be a form of the name of Lotnyas, the adversary of the religion of the Cold Ones, the one who wishes to reduce the universe to primordial Chaos.

Considering the depression on the plinth, the group considered that perhaps a liquid would be the correct offering. They tried at first a decent vintage of wine from Utana’s personal supply, but it seemed as it it was rejected, the faces on the walls moved, the faces wailed and the eyes rolled, the mouths moving as if in pain. The outstretched hand of the statue folded its fingers into its palm, leaving two fingers remaining, but the consensus of the group was that this was not a benediction.

They considered what to offer next. Utana pulled a decorated bowl from his collection of bowls he now seems to have with him. None of us could remember anything of Thais bowl, but it was noteworthy enough to be on his character sheet, so I guess it was one he picked up or was given, but whose properties, if any, have never been revealed, or established. Into that José let some blood, and that was poured into the depression *. Again the faces wailed and writhed, and only one finger was left raised.

The group decided to leave this alone whilst they thought. The headed West, finding a corridor broken by three, seemingly bottomless pits, with only narrow ledges along the walls to try and traverse. Utana established that the nearest pit was, indeed, real as far as he could feel with his spear. Farshad, although skilled and intrepid, is used to being sent alone into dark and horrible places by the rest, so he established right up front that no way was he being sent down these unfathomable gaps.

The group saw no reason to continue, so went to the other door leaving the statue chamber, this corridor was lined with po;I shed sheets of copper acting as mirrors. Jalabu got close to one and it seemed to try to draw him to itself, he resisted, aided by an amulet he possessed, and they found a narrow centre path would keep them clear of whatever baleful influence these mirrors possessed.

The room beyond had no exit, but did have a dais upon which was set a model of a city of an unknown style. It was populated mostly by painted pottery figurines, but near one end, which seemed to be the palace.temple complex, the figures were better painted, and there were some silver figurines. On the city walls were bronze figures of soldiers clad in armour either similar to the warrior in the main room, or of a long tunic reinforced with plates.
ancient city model
Farshad spotted that the sides of the dais were panels, removing one of them showed that under the palace, there were a few depressions as if there were compartments extending under the city streets. That caused the group to start removing the tops of the larger buildings, finding a silver key, a vessels in the form of a richly decorated pony, wearing fittings of gold, silver and saddle and blankets of enamel, containing some fluid, the golden figure of a king, and an obsidian dagger hilted in gold. That dagger gave off a feeling similar to one once possessed by Duran, currently outside looking after the man-crow and the mules.

The group considered what could be tribute in the statue’s terms. Jose and Utana made some allusions to wealth obtained by Farshad from the group however he, wounded by these jibes, pointed out that he had, with the agreement of all there, had invested the funds and provided a profitable return, the money now banked with a temple in Haraxa, and that whilst Farshad’s family had once had debts with Jalabu’s, those were now Jalabu’s to pay, and that Farshad’s character was free of stain.

They did consider if Farshad’s musical talent could be a tribute, given the mention of art on the plinth, but it was difficult for them to see how to offer that without potentially losing Farshad. So in the end they decided to put the better of the figurines into the bowl, and offer them. The rest was taken, the knife Jalabu took, handling it with gloves, he put it in his pouch, though the sharp blade still cut a little through the leather.

Tomb of Xusia - The Sword and the Sorceror - walls of the chamber

Returning to the room, they tipped the bowl into the depression. The faces screamed louder than ever, and started weeping blood, the last finger of the statue was curled down, but the tribute seemed acceptable, the figurines disappeared, a gap in the plinth opened up, and the floor dropped away to reveal a narrow stairway down. Jalabu skipped to the side to avoid falling down the stairs, but Utana was so surprised that he tripped backwards and slipped onto his backside.

So, one way remains only partially explored, another has just opened up, and there we left it.

* (If the bowl with the blood had been placed on the depression, rather than tipping the blood in, I might have thought this bowl valuable enough as tribute, if I could have remembered what it was for)

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Writeup 9th September 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 8

The group are only a day from Bukrish, the start of their true mission. Concerned about having revealed their identities, they reflect that the only ones who know are in the custody of soldiers and are unlikely to blab to anyone who matters.

The road should see them arrive in Bukrish by the late afternoon, and they are steered by the craft of Utana, and the chorus of “It’s that way” by soldiers, villagers, signs and the tail of the comet in the sky.

Utana shows other skills by shooting a deer down injured. he despatches it, and gets it ready to carry, but the smell of blood spooks the mules and horses and there is some chasing and shenanigans before bolting mules are calmed.

Bukrish started off as a place where bog iron was retrieved from a nearby bog, then iron mines were discovered, but the iron mines are played out and the return of the bog iron trade is not as lucrative as it once was. It still has some value so, although some houses are empty

 

 

, the furnace is still smelting the iron and a smithy makes tools from it.

The villagers mostly seem to bring food to the Common House where the food is cooked and the villagers talk and exchange gossip. Newcomers, bearing most of a deer carcass are welcome, fresh food and fresh gossip are even more welcome.

Isolated as they are, the villagers do not seem to know much of the Green Death, or of the stones, even though they are closer. They do tell of their healer, the one who might know more of a dread disease or the stones, a witch who lives an hour away, on a small hill on the lonely heath.

The heath is rough land, with areas of bog, not as extensive as the bog lands that the Bukrishi search for iron, but there are green patches that are water under floating vegetation and other traps of nature.

The path they follow is raised, and they find the home of the witch, a wicker and wood surround around a tent. In there the witch greets them, and tells each a fortune.

Arpaesis is told “Beware! There is a sword blade with your name graven on it.”

José was told to claim them.“Love is knocking upon your door. You need merely answer.”

Utana is told “Swords all around you, but with courage you can win your way free.”

Farshad is told something in secret.

She knows of the stones, and directs them, and gives them herbs that are of use should they be stricken by the Green Death.

The group carry on, until, at some point, Arpaesis is aware of an unearthly child following by them. They seem to have a face that defies focussing on, they walk as evenly on the treacherous ground as the solid, they are clothed in a shapeless long tunic or smock.

The child did not seem to respond to any questions or statements, so they continued on. Later they encountered a mortal, human looking, in a dark robe of nomad pattern, woven through with metallic threads in strange patters. The robe is ragged and stained at the bottom, the wearer is, however, more intriguing. They do not speak, but caw like a crow, they hop and cock their head to look, they try to peck the ground and the group, they do not respond to talking, but after being given food they hop up ion the horse Farshad is leading.

For some reason, the child seems more responsive, it jumps up behind Arpaesis, standing behind him, cold hands on his shoulder, not ice cold, but cold.

The path they follow, given them by the witch, longer, but quicker as it avoids the pitfalls of the heath, gets them within sight of the stones, five menhirs surrounded by a sickly green mist. Looking at the menhirs from a distance, there are markings, some crystal that reflects the light in symbols not recognisable as any script that the group are familiar with.

The mist is contained in a dish like hollow around the rise upon which the menhirs stand. The mist causes the group some concern, but they can circle the depression, and come to the other side.

On the other side, they see a new sight, from the circle of stones a long, artificial ro

 

 

ad slopes down into a round valley, in the centre of the valley is a huge mound, facing the group is a door, shining as if encrusted with more of the same crystals as the menhirs.

A thing the GM did not make clear, is that
1) The mound is indeed, 6 miles away, but is huge
2) the mound, in a valley as it is, should have been visible before the group rounded the depression, and yet it wasn’t

Anyway, there we left it

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Writeup 12th August 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 7

The group confer with the priest in the Temple by the graveyard, who invokes Divine Power to stabilise Rasghan Illyan. They ask the priest if it will be safe to stash the Rashan there, and they were informed that for two nights they would be undisturbed, but on the third day, a festival would mean that the temple would be in use.

The group decide to take the Rasghan to the _*Temple of the Sacred Pool*,_ there he would be safe and a message could be sent to the nearest garrison for help, both to take the Rasghan for judgement, and to get word of the complaint made against Abadhir and the village of Qalharbarh.

They did not question the Rasghan much, only enough to get his story that his grandfather, though misguided and with abhorrent results, had experimented from pure motives, to create soldiers for Haraxa who could fight for her, and whose loss would not lead to bereaved families. His methods were to try and use experimentation to produce a method that could be followed by anyone, a scientific method and thus Illyhan brought forth the creation of his grandfather to animation.

As to why Abadhir might have it in for Illyhan, as an officer of the state, all Illyhan can think of is that he curbed Abadhir’s excesses. Whether acting as moneylender, merchant or landlord, Abadhir would cheat and abuse his power.

On the topic of the Green Death, Illyhan did say his grandfsather noted that at certain times of the coment, baleful magics were stronger and strange ailments afflicted mortals. There might be more in his grandfather’s documents.

The group headed to Qalharbarh, to investigate the complaints made against Abadhir by Illyan, and Farshad discussed the pillars of his latest work, an epic concept transforming the art form. There was some speculation that the artform was macramé.

Arriving, they headed into “”The Singing Goat””, named after the song that is taking the borderlands by storm, and proving to be the bane of its creator, an animal shed converted to a community space for drinking and assembling into an impromptu angry mob.

After a round of drinks, some gentle conversation with the locals, pitchforks, ancient weapons and heap of torches to hand, just in case, broke out. Over the period of chat they learned more about the alleged murder of Kira, betrothed to Shunif, and the description of the injuries, and the monster who allegedly caused them , The monster was described as squat, dagger toothed and sword clawed, which is not what they saw.

They learned that only one of Kira’s family remained, a young, shy boy, Nariman, as their father had died in the assault on the castle. Speaking to Nariman, who is tending horses that had been recovered from the castle, they learned that Shunif often abused both Kira and Nariman, and that Kira would have broken off the betrothal on many occasions if it was not for the insistence of her father, who thought only of the wealthy future for his daughter.

Sobbing, and desirous of revenge against Illyhan, Nariman is persuaded to show the grouo Kira’s body, lying in state in the small shrine in the village. The wounds were mostly bruising, with little external blood loss, and no wounds that might indicate dagger like teeth or sword like claws.

The group tell Nariman that they will get those responsible, and in gratitude, though destitute himself, he gave the horses to the group. José responses by giving him two, silver cah, at least Nariman can eat for the next couple of days.

The group split as they headed to the house of Abadhir, José and Jalabu to the friont, Farshad, Utana and Arpaesis to the rear, where they overheard Abadhir tell Shunif that, as the betrothed to Kira, Abadhir would be making a claim for the land owned by Kira’s father, in Shunif’s name, but it would go to Abadhir. There were sounds of violence.

José knocked at the door, Abadhir answered and Shunif tried to make a break for it, but was intercepted and brought inside. Splitting the two, Utana leant on Shunif, twirling his moustache and presenting the lad with an unpleasant vista of cutting criticism. Shunif spilled the beans, Kira, having had enough, was breaking off the betrothal, no matter what her father said. Shunif, his vile temper unleashed, beat the girl to death. Shunif’s own injuries came from Abadhir when he found out.

The whole story of the monster was Abadhir’s concoction, a way to get Shunif out of trouble and to dispose of that thorn in his side Illyhan.

Abadhir, when confronted with this, did not seem perturbed, switching from denial to bribery, but the loyal and honest agents of the magistrate would have none of it, apart from the cash they took as “evidence”.

Troops from the garrison arrived, and they handed the miserable pair over to them, and Utana made enquiries about the position of Rasghan for the area, as there would be a vacuum of power in the short term, and possibly in the long term too.

They feel certain that some of Abadhir’s estate will go to Nariman, as compensation, so, the wheels of justice having been set in motion, they set up in Abadhir’s home to rest for the night. If they wish, they can reach Bukrish, their destination, the next day.

And there we left it

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Writeup 29th July 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 6

The group woke up on top of the tower as false dawn gave way to the real dawn, and they readied themselves, taking a further look at the bloodshed and burning of the castle, the central fountain polluted with a decapitated body, the statue of the grandfather of the current Rashan untouched, hunting hound by his side, a dagger of a design (acinaces) given out to soldiers who demonstrated great skill or bravery in his belt.

The group assembled themselves, and started off to the graveyard, where rumours had placed the possibility that the Rasghan might have returned to as a place where they could spy on the village and castle and plan some sort of response.

The way there was slightly slowed, when Farshad spotted leather ropes with thorns stuck through them places in a shaded spot, presumably to catch riders and runners coming along the path. The group cut them down, slowing them a bit before proceeding on.

The graveyard was a mix of designed of adherents of the Temple of the Three and the Cold Ones, the graves with the house shaped headstones of the Cold Ones, and the ossuaries with grave goods niches of the Temple of the Three. There were larger family ossuaries of the well off in the area at the opposite side from the entrance.

The graveyard looked well tended, but that someone didn’t want them reaching it seemed more evident as an arrow flew towards Utana from the far side. They dismounted, secured the mules and Utana, shield to the fore and spear ready advanced. Farshad flanked left, José right but, when Utana reached the spot, the archer was gone.

From near Farshad they appeared again, Farshad spotting them and flinging a dagger as Jose loosed an arrow, the archer was wounded and pulled a knife, another acinaces dagger shooting valour as a soldier, but Farshad batted that aside with his own sword leaving the archer panting, wounded and helpless.

Utana sternly interrogated him, revealing the group as agents of the magistrate Niralha, in whose jurisdiction these lands are. From that they learned that their assailant was Juma, huntsmaster for Rasghan Illyhan, as he was for the Rasghan’s father and grandfather, the reputed experimenter with the dead. He was watching the graveyard, as his master had been here, and would surely return. José patched him up, but the impression they got was of a loyal retainer, honest but not complicit in any necromantic dealings, laughing at the very idea, as far as his injuries would allow him to laugh. See was dismissive of accusations from Abadhir and his nephew, describing them in unflattering terms

Utana boldly went to the family ossuary of the Rasghan’s family, but, shield up and spear ready, the place proved to be empty, save for the niches containing the bones of the long dead, and the pottery caskets of the more recently dead, over which had been laid clothes, turning it into some sort of makeshift work area, with more of these leather ropes and bits of pottery and scraps of leather.

A trail from the mausoleum was hard to find, ithe ground had been stepped over so much, but Farshad found a cunning clue to the most recent path away, allowing Utana to use his Survival skill, admittedly not tunes to these more verdant areas than his customary deserts. The group dragged the wounded Juma with them, following the path into the hills.

That trail let to a copse near a pond, from which they could hear low chanting and poetry of a sort, Farshad and Utana circled around the copse, Utana around the pond, bow strung and arrow ready as José covered the copse and Juma slumped down near them, his wounds patched up, but still severe.

Once they could see more of the copse, the group noticed that the trees and bushes around the copse were interlaced with a web of more of these leather ropes, with inserted talismans of pottery and leather. In the middle a man with a staff was speaking over what looked like a body, but one far larger than any mortal, about the size fo a Kevu. The group did not hesitate to demand surrender or information on whatever the man was up to, they launched arrows, wounding him severely.””

Injured though he was, the man slumped over the body, still chanting, spearing blood over the thing, it ropes up and, on all fours lumbered towards José, rising up when free of the webbing of talismans. It was huge and comprised of dead flesh. Utana’s and José initial attempts to use their bows did not go well. If they hit the creature they did little damage to dead flesh, though one of Utana’s arrows did well enough in wounding José, who by now must be considering better armour and private health care insurance, a revenge arrow from opined José missed its mark.

The creature too close for comfort, José wounded by both beast and friend, withdrew his silvered sword, deftly and with great style, as Farshad started cutting webbing and smashing amulets with the power of his magic sword. Utana saw what José’s sword was doing, ripping lumps out of the thing as incidentally it seemed to be waning under the assault of Farshad.

Utana’s silver arrows caused damage where his iron ones could not and the thing, a construct of flesh on an armature of wood, metal and other substances collapsed into stillness.

José limped and the rest gathered around the injured and dying man. He swore at them for renegades and letters and all sorts, murderers of his household and family, Thery group denied it and instead, again. revealed their identity as agents of the magistrate. Upon learning this, the Rasghan Ilyhan legend a complain against the mob that assaulted his castle, burned it and murdered his people.

When quizzed as “”Do you not think they had a legiitimate complaint because fo your vile necromancy”” The Rasghan told them that he only took up his grandfather’s tools after the attack, not before. When the complaints of Abadhir were put to him, he denied them and also referred to Abadhir unflatteringly.

The group, pensive, patched José and the Rasghan up as best they could, and took them, and Juma, to the temple, to seek divine healing and to consider where to go next. They were only supposed to reveal their status as agents in extremis, but now they have done so, and a formal complain has been made.

That, is for another time.

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Writeup 30th June 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 5

The group rode away from the mob, not far, but far enough. The wounds of the soldier seemed grave, and though José tried his best, the smell of guts suggested infection was not far off. The group considered their next steps. They had asked the soldier some questions, nothing about the attack on the Rasghan’s castle, but about Abadhir and his nephew. They learned that neither wa well thought of, the nephew had a temper and that Abadhir was not liked.

They considered where to go next. The village, the soldier would be murdered, the Temple, Castle or graveyard? The Temple at least might be safe, and have a priest able to invoke divine healing powers.

They rode wide around the village, taking a bit longer than planed but kept on track, eventually, by Utana’s unerring sense of direction, coming upon the Temple from the far side.

It being a Temple of the Cold Ones, Arpaesis made his homage to Shmun, deity of healing and learning, but could not make a connection with his patron deity.

The priest agreed to aid the wounded soldier, but he was too far gone, all the priest could do was help in his last hours and arrange for a funeral and prayers. Arpaesis spent some of his money to pay for mourners.

They spoke to the priest, a woman called _Ishmina_, about the events of the previous night. They heard the mpb and saw the fires, but locked up the Temple. They asked about the attack, and Ishmina knew nothing of the monster, save the legends, but said that there was one in the village who might be old enough to remember. The group also learned that Abadhir was not just a random farmer or craftsman, but the most wealthy man in the village, owner of the groves of trees, and his nephew was known for his temper.

They left the the soldier with Ishmina, and moved to the Castle, really a fortified large house, seemingly built in proximity to an older tower that now pinned one of the corners of the now distressed walls, the timbers of the walls still on fire.

The broken gates revealed two brutally murdered soldiers, they proceeded through the ash covered gardens at the centre of the buildings, more bodies the pond, under a statue of an armed noble, sword raised, hunting dogs by his side. The main family quarters were wrecked, and more bodies were found, possibly smothered by smoke or crushed by a falling wall.

Then to the only tower still standing, the. others having been burned, being of lesser, newer construction. The tower was, but Farshad’s estimation, barred, and strongly so, but near the top was a window he might be able to open. His first, few, attempts to climb were not successful but,, with José’s. and Utana’s help he was able to get there, and open up into a bedroom that smelled. of decay, he wandered down through the floors, seeing similarly rotten but simpler quarters,a store room and then the ground floor and the door

With the door open, they went up to the first bedroom, Utana probed a bed, just in case the shape of a body lying on the bed was more than an impression. Farshad searched the decomcomposing clothing, Utana, Arpaesis and. José looked the birch books over, texts on anatomy and medicine.

The lower floors were examined, and the body of an occupant found in the stores, but the next stage was to go up a ladder to what proved to be a laboratory. Alchemetical tanks, tools supplies, much aged but evidence of serious work. There were anatomical models in clay with notes and impressions of organs and veins, more tablets and birch books, strange magical devices with symbols referring to the manipulation of spirits.

A search for secret ways from the tower proved fruitless, but Arpaesis found some alchemetical ingredients, Utana a ring, and Farshad some slimy things in a wardrobe that he would rather not think about.

They camp out on the roof of the tower that night, barricading the doors and luckily not enduring any more rain than a slight mist.

New day dawns. Where will the group go? Will they explore more of the castle? Will they go to the village? Will they write it all off and head into the sunset? We will find out next time

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Writeup 16th June 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 4

The morning after the rest of the night, where the group achieved better rest, undisturbed by ant further interlopers. Utana, José and Arpaesis gather with Doraksha and some of her fellow clergy as they install the real harp back in the temple. Grateful for their help, they let the group examine the harp, alleged to have been made by Hyyan wa Kothar, and it has symbols of Hyyan wa Kothar, Shmun, his/her lover and other symbols, possibly to do with Hyyvan’s life here as a farmer’s wife.

Utana detected sound, music from the harp, even when the only pressure on the strings was the wind, but then Doraksha started playing and the sound of the deity filled him with joy, and he felt blessed.

Arpaesis’s and José’s researches as Doraksha played shone a light on the comet, that it appeared ever 101 years and there were always two disasters, one as the comet approached the sun, one as it left. These disasters took different forms, not all repeated, but the green plague was one that had happened more than once, One piece of information José found, a plant that might be found in the hills which, when its leaves are ground and mixed in with a resin extracted from its roots it makes a salve that alleviates the symptoms of the green death, but does not cure.

They asked about legends of heroes rising to meet the challenges of the disasters and were told that there were some that came, why, only recently in the west there had been matchless heroes without flaw, giants who had fought the darkness threatening to take first a a city then a nation. The group coughed and looked embarrassed.

The group thought on what to do next, to go ahead to the bandit centre of Iduabjan, and follow up investigating the green plague, or to Bukrish, the place the prophecy Harvan found had told them to go to.

They decided to push onto Bukrish, finding maps and directions, but mistakes led to delays and it was evening and it was getting dark. The sky was darkening also with gathering thunder clouds and the threat of rain, and dark woods loomed ahead when they heard voices, shouts, Idarit mostly with some Araya shouts of hatred and violence.

Investigating, they say a hill surrounded by an angry mob of farmers, villagers and the like, with. Torches and tools being brandished at five soldiers. on a small hillock, looking as if they had armed and armoured themselves in a hurry but lacking the bronze badges of the brigands and soldiers belonging. to the bandits.

One of the mob detached from the throng, introduced himself. As “Abadhir”, upon being asked what was going on, he explained.

_“They are soldiers of Rasghan Ilyhan Gharsemi, I’m afraid you have stumbled upon a bloody night’s work. The men we pursue up yonder hill are far more than brigands. They serve the Rasghan. Yes, that’s right, I said ‘Rasghan.’_

_“Before you judge us, please allow me to explain. Everyone in thesYou will learn nothing from him, but when you are ready, come and talk to me at Qalharbarhe parts knows the Gharsemis consort with dark powers. When I was a lad, Heydar Gharsemi was rumored to have created a creature from the limbs of the dead. His grandson Ilyhan has continued his grandfather’s work—for I have seen the creature with mine own eyes. It did this very night slay the beloved of my nephew, Shunif, and we have tracked it back to the Gharsemi keep. Their home now burns on the mountain, but the Rasghan himself, and some of his murderous guards, escaped._

_“This day the people of Qalharbarh say no more. We have destroyed the Rasghan’s castle, and now seek to end this evil tyrant’s life. The coward slipped away while his soldiers fought his battle for him, now he hides here with his most loyal henchmen. We must find him tonight. He is no woodsman, and will not easily travel these tangled hills in darkness._

We are simple men, but we are not afraid and our cause is just. Will you strangers help us bring Rasghan Gharsemi to justice before he slips away in the dawn light?

Utana went to parley with the soldiers, but one loosed a warning arrow that Utana walked into, surprised, he fell backwards under the impact. Picking himself up, Utana launched an arrow back at his attacker, wounding he archer. José joined in, downing the archer, and at that signal the mob surged forward. Another soldier threw a javelin at hit José, Arpaesis bided his time.

The fight was soon over, though José took another wound from a hurled Javelin, and only the original archer was left, barely clinging to life. Utana moved to secure him as a prisoner, but two of the mob tried to rush in for the kill. At that point Arpaesis acted, casting “Bar the Way” to stop them.

_The caster projects the strength of their will to keep the target at bay If the spell succeeds then, no matter how the target tries to, even if another pushes them towards the caster. The caster can move towards the target, but if they do, the target gets another chance to resist the spell. If they fail, the must step back, but they cannot be driven to their deaths by this, attempting to do so will break the spell._

Now, the way the spell was used, was not as quite as written, but I allowed it, because it was dramatic and worked. Abadhir objected, stressing the perfidy of the Gharsemis and their hireling sellswords, as he rushed in with a knife, but Utana used his skill in unarmed combat to turn Abadhir’s charge and throw him to the ground. Arpaesis held off the mob (_by the way, Arpaesis is on about 0 fatigue from the effort of that_) as it surged to prevent José patching up the archer so that Utana could use the cruel methods he learned from Jalabu to question him.

Utana demanded to know where the Rasghan might be, the archer. Did not know for sure, after all he was the. Part of a rearguard to let the Rasghan escape, but he said that he might have gone back to the ruin of his castle to see what he could recover, or hide nearby, unless he has tried the woods, but Ilyhan was not known for his woodcraftiness.

You will learn nothing from him, but when you are ready, come and talk to me at QalharbarhYou will learn nothing from him, but when you are ready, come and talk to me at QalharbarhThe mob was howling as Arpaesis strained at the effort of holding back so many (_technically. I think 7 is the most he could hold back, but, again, drama_) and the group decided. to mount up, ride away and question him further at a distance, and let José attend to his own wounds. As they did so, Abadir shouted at them “You will learn nothing from him, but when you are ready, come and talk to me at Qalharbarh!”

And there we left it

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Writeup 2nd June 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 3

The group are resting after the events of the last few hours, being fed by the village as they await the return of the parties sent to hide the bodies and cover the traces of the fight that, for a short time at least, freed the village of the bandits that seemed to be assuming control of the area. As they wonder where to go next, to pursue the symptoms of the Green Death or the signs of bad governance, or straight to the goal set by Harsan, they are dining on mutton and fruit stew, and stuffed shrews washed down with fig wine when, dressed in the robes of the Temple of the Cold Ones, a man approaches and bows. He introduces himself as a messenger of Doraksha, the Sangun of the nearby Temple of the Sacred Pool. The Sangun has heard of the service the group provided the people of the village of Pamasdeh, and wishes to thank them for it, and offer them accommodation for the night.

They follow the clergy to the temple, asking their guide about the Temple and Doraksha, being told that, like most temples outside Idym, the clergy serving here are not permanently assigned. The temples of the Cold Ones in Haraxa prefer that the clergy serve in the communities, with trades that support them, serving in the temples is a temporary duty, for a relatively short time, some of them learning trades and skills to take back, others being instructed in precepts of the faith. As they approach the temple, they see priests working repairing the roads, others tending groves of trees and, as they get closer, see that the temple is actually a small complex, the temple itself, built over the stream feeding the sacred pool, there are accommodation buildings, on one sides for the clergy, and on the other for pilgrims, in other places workshops and stores.

They are greeted by Hahmir, the master of pilgrims, who nervously and apologetically tell them that the accommodation offered has subsequently been taken by Yamizh and his party, and that more pilgrims are expected at any moment, and they can no longer offer accommodation, As he flounders and apologises he is interupted by Sangun Doraksha, who also apologises, and offers space in the dormitory used by the clergy. They follow, and the dormaitory space proves that the usual occupants are shoved up one end, and space is given over to the group with the best that can be provided at short notice.

There is some time before the light evening meal for guests, Farshad looks at the activity, seeing woodworkers and potters in open sheds. Utana approaches the group that took their accommodation, finding them to be a noble of some sort, here on pilgrimag, esome soldiery types and they have servants who come, take some baskets and boxes and take them to stores before returning to the same dormitory that the group are staying in. Utana thinks that the noble, Yamizh, is hiding something, and is suspicious of the mention of the harp relic held by the Temple.

José goes to the temple looking for any evidence of the comet or the disease it spreads in the depictions at each station of the pantheon. He finds a triptych as part of the decorations around the statue of Hyyan wa Kothar showing a comet, some people lying down, and the god playing music to them on his harp, then the people sitting around the seated god as he played music. Speaking to one of the clergy there, José learns that this temple is founded near the farm where Hyyyan, in female form, lived with a farmer and raised children. She made a harp that is a relic held by the temple, gifted to the temple by the farmer as he grew old.

Asking the priest about the green death, the priest did not know anything but rumour, though, upon examination of the comet in the triptych, there were flecks of green paint, though José could not see it.

The evening meal is held outside, the clergy, pilgrims and characters are split into groups, a priest at each. Doraksha starts the prayers, and a priest at each of the groups adds a line in turn, before the prayer is finished by Doraksha. The meal progresses and José, looking for information about medicine, is pointed at Odimil, a rather merry drunken Shevam. Farshad spotting a Shevam, goes over, they make merry and progress into singing the infamous Goat Song. Unfortunately, they started by singing different verses, and it got worse when it became apparent that the song was going down badly with the assembled crowd.

That song, and Yamizh’s good nights, end the festivities, and they all go to bed.

During the night, José wakes up, spooked by a shadow, he investigates to see that it was cast by a statue on the wall, but in so doing he sees a figure steal into the Temple. Waking the others, they grab weapons and shields and head to the temple. It was odd, their movements did not wake up any other sleepers, and others they met on the way were asleep.

Opening the door to the Temple, they see a group approaching the main altar and at the other door an archer keeps watch. The group charge the interlopers, it does not go well for Utana, who skids past Yamizh, Jose wishes he had his bow, but does what he can hand to hand, Farshad has a better time of it, wounding someone who seems like a mage, forcing them to drop rod and amulet as they surrendered. Luckily in the dark, the interlopers have it just as bad. Shortly Yamizh is dead, two of his soldiers are down, the archer has fled and the last soldier is trying to flee but is downed and forced to surrender.

José tries to heal the mage, but the wounds are too great, and the mage dies. Odimil arrives and treats another, Farshad, lifts rod and amulet, and he and Utana find a box containing a harp, realising that the interlopers planned to switch this harp for the relic, Farshad decides to complete the heist, and moves to swap before Odamil turns round and notices. Alas, the normally stealthy Farshad trips, smashing box and fake harp.

Doraksha and others arrive, take in the scene and she thanks the group for trying to save the relic. Luckily they knew of the attempted theft, thanks to bribes made by Yamizh and one of the bribees telling Doraksha what was planned. This is why all the junior priests that conduct night services were absent, they had been paid. and the one in the altar is a fake.

She thanks them profusely, generously, fullsomely as Farshad and Utana try not to look each other in the eye, They will now stay in her quarters, she will sleep elsewhere, it is the least she can do.

Until the morning, they can rest, the question of where to go next still, however, remains

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Writeup 19th May 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 2

Noises being heard outside, the group prepare, Farshad and Utana by the door, José behind some tables, bow ready, a push at the door turns to a shove, then a brute force, in arrive four soldiers, Utana and José evaluate them. They are cheaply armed and armoured, spears and wicker shields, no helmets or body armour, their robes were uniform, once, but are faded and ripped, and there are no signs of the symbols of respected soldiers, no daggers awarded for bravery or good service, no medallions of grants of land or gifts from a grateful commander. They are astonished and suspicious, but Utana’s authorative manner gets them to open up.

They are soldiers of the Rasghad Bidijhan, on patrol and in the habit of using this building as a rest point on their long patrol. She, like other Rasghadi, are low level parts of the civil administration, under an Istanhar, responsible for maintaining order, assisting tax collectors, ensuring roads are maintained, gathering surpluses with the aid of the Temples against time of need, ensuring that the levy is in a fit state. Instead a neighbouring Rasghan decided to get rid of the bandit problem by promoting the most powerful bandit chief to an officer of the local standing forces of the army. The Bandit, Dahyuka, was successful in quelling other bandit gangs, and has managed to get himself power in the rest of the Istanharate, the regular soldiers have had problems getting paid, the levy is not getting the training or the weapons to drill. The village they are standing in, whose name was once Rughlen, was razed to the ground by these bandits, for not paying “taxes”.

The soldiers tell the group that they can identify officers amongst the bandits by a token they wear, a brooch of a griffin, a mix of Haraxan and Sakah styles.

The group asked about if the soldiers knew of any new illnesses in the area. They were told of a cousin of a cousin had wasted away, vomiting green bile, in a village called Iduabjan, to the north-east, along the same general route that the comet quest seems to be leading you. The soldiers and group shared food and drink, in the morning their patrol is off on the next leg of their patrol.

The group carry on, coming to the next village, the entrance blocked by 5 bandits, led by one wearing the griffin token. The bandits try to extort money from the group, but are surprised by a sudden charge from Utana, an almost acrobatic leap from Farshad and rapid bow fire from Josê soon bring down two, including the leader, Himmun, struck almost dead, others flee, but they are also brought down and questioned. The corpses are taken away from the village by the villagers, who hide the blood and take some, but not all of the looted foodstuffs to hide against a rainy day.

Using untoward treatment against the prisoners, the group learns that the next in the chain of command is Sarahad, who is expected in the village of Iduabjan soon.

Farshad took the token from Himmun’s corpse, found it cheap, a bronze recast of a recast of a recast of an original, but now they have one.

And there we left it.

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Writeup 5th May 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 1

The journey north say the group passed from military patrol to military patrol until they returned to Eshtaband, capital of the province of which Niralha is the magistrate and Harvan her chief of agents. During that time Utana and Farshad train in dodging and brawling, wearing Dhran’s helmet backwards as they practice their dodging whilst waving a stick going “schzoonm schzoom“. When settled back in their accommodation, the group rest, undisturbed for a couple of nights, getting rested, cleaned and possibly drunk.

One morning, Arpaesis tells them of Harvan escorting him to his chambers to find out why he had sought Harvan out. Upon learning that Arpaesis was here to further his mystical studies, Harvan showed Arpaesis a text written by his mistress that he owned then took him up to his roof to view a comet. This comet is the one that presaged the Rising of the Dark, returned around the sun.

Where then it heralded the encroachment of Akharazura, “the nothingness”, the adversary of The Three, now it displays a different sigil, one unknown to Harvan, but identified by Arpaesis as an obscure emblem of Lotnyas, the adversary god of The Cold Ones.

Lotnyas
Depicted most often as a five headed dragon, one head in the stars, one swallowing the Sun, one drinking the seas, one devouring the Moon and the other rending the earth, or less frequently as a warrior standing in a maelstrom, their spear raised defiantly against the other gods.

The goal of Lotynas is to undo the works of others, to bring back the original chaos stuff of the universe, back to when they were a great power to rival Ahera-Ba, but this time as the ruler of all.

There are temples to Lotynas, secret temples, guarded by priests and devoted warriors. Some orders of worshippers exist in hidden fortresses, hiring out murderers, thieves, poisoners and mercenaries to ambitious lords who find themselves now under threat of blackmail, and brought under the control of the Masters of the Orders.

Lotynas is also claimed as the parent of monsters and dark things to trouble the earth, no one knows who the other parents are, if there are any, perhaps it is Lotynas itself.

Harvan explains that with the information from Arpaesis, he searched and found a box, onewith a brass plate that was hitherto unmarked. Now it has a silvered image of a flame, the sigil of Lotnyas, a couple of diagrams and some text.

This was attached to a box, blank, containing tablets of utter tedium, notations on the accounts of one Mashiravata, ruler of a nation that once occupied this space 13 centuries ago. Now look at it, words in a language I do not understand, but the symbols are in a form of Habbarisrri, they are symbols that convey meaning, rather than expressing sounds.

The Silver flame marks the place, under the flame and under the mound is the treasure . Knock upon the stone to find it.

Underneath that is etched a circle of posts or standing stones, and to the right is depicted a stylised mound of earth topped by a flame.

Underneath that depiction is
“Seek the mines of Bukrish, cross the wastes, find the stones, head north-east to the mound, let the comet guide you, for only when the comet burns will it be found”

Under those words is the same sigil as can be seen on the comet.

Harvan apologises for not giving you more time to rest in the city, but he needs you to seek out the mound and treasure that the comet is supposed to mark. He gives you a public mission, in case you need to use a cover.

This public mission is to inspect the less well used border roads and settlements, and report back on where they can be improved for military access, protection and trade.
• Utana to gauge the roads and routes
• Farshad the prospects for trade
• Jose the military engineering for villages and towns, and the availability of medicinal plants
• Dhran the state of farming and the well-being of the peasantry
• Jalabu as the prospects of cultivation of exotic plant products suitable for medicine and trade
• Arpaesis to record the surveys, to be the group scribe.

He mentions also that there is some concern about the area not being as well maintained as it should be, if you see anything you should make a note of that too. The real motive is the search for the treasure. If they can at least make it appear as if they are doing the survey too, that would be good.

The terrain you will be heading to is rough, so he recommends not taking horses, and taking riding mules. A pack mule with basic survey tools, some boards with clay, papyrus and birch books with ink, some filter pots for examining water.

Between Utana’s geographical knowledge, Farshad’s merchant contacts, Arpaesis’s arcane information and José’s medical knowledge, they piece together a little information.

Bukrish is the old name for a village in the hills to the north-east, bordering the lands claimed by the Sakah. Once it was a thriving copper mine, and  silver was found there too, but the mines becoming played out, meant that the village had reduced over the years. Now the only metl it exports, and that in small quantities, is iron extracted from the bogs nearby.

It is about six days travel from the city to Bukrish, leaving the main road and climbing into the hills by the old trade road.

The comet has a mention in old medical texts, associated with a horrible disease called something like “The Green death

The first day takes the group beyond the more travelled road, over the less used road away from the main route, and then off that. Utana finds a military road concealed by brush and starting to become overgrown but otherwise in good repair. That road will save time from the overall journey.

Night is close as they find themselves close to a ruined village. Much that they can see, with the aid of a spell from Arpaesis, beautifully executed, that lets them see in the dark, is fallen down, the closest building in some repair turns out to be a wolf den, so that they bypass. They head for the only stone building in the village, a store house by the looks of it. The door and latch are jammed, but they get it open and set up for the night in what appears to be a combination storehouse, meeting hall and shrine to the Three.

Farshad sets alarms, the door is blocked, and a watch is set. During the night, on the second watch, something occurs ….


and there we left it, a short session tonight.

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