Tuesday, December 17, 2013

An Unexpected Encounter

To reprise:

Bowing low, Andrej make proper introductions, "Father Andrej of Cumana, at your service my friend. My companions are Maximilian Boii and his man Mareo of the Hapsburg Kingdom; Lukas Meyer of Zurich and our leader upon this expedition, Ahmet oglu Ahmet of Capadoccia. Oh yes, and Lukas's man Hichem, from Ifriqiya upon the Mediterranean Sea. Who may we thank for the assistance?"

And the answer comes from twenty yards to the right, in the trees, "I believe I should answer that," says a man about 55, bearded, dressed as a Islamic holy man, wearing a heavy black woollen robe belted with a wide swath of leather. He wears a short grey fez, askance on his head. A mace hangs from his belt, but he appears unarmored. "This is my servant Hayund; and I am -"

"Mullah Yazigi!" shouts Ahmet, before he can stop himself. Sometimes, the DM must act the inspired response of players.

It is the man who tried to teach Ahmet to be a good muslim; who also did his best to give Ahmet counsel prior to his entering prison.

I would point out that at this point the party is only about 90 miles from Melitene.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Riding Into Anatolia

Wednesday, April 14, 1651, afternoon
With overcast skies, cool temperatures, a near gale, with heavy rain and a crosswind.
Waxing crescent:

At the point where we pick up the party's travels again, they have been forced to take shelter in the vardo upon the mountain slope they are descending, having been kept awake all night by first a moderate rain, that began the evening before, turned into a violent heavy rain, where the wind shifted and began to blow bitterly out of the northeast, rousting them from their sleep to shift the vardo and the animals to better protection. It's been needful to get further off the mountain, which has meant a hard five hours of pushing, hauling, dragging and walking beside the vardo in the rain to lighten the load. Only now has the party found a flat, secluded place where they can get inside again, strip off their wet clothes, have them dried by Lukas, and rest. Three can sleep while three others can sit up where one of the sleeping shelves would be, and in the middle of the floor; it isn't restful, but it is out of the rain.

How has the party found their way here to this dreaded, unknown place?

They are on the southeast side of the Anti-Taurus mountains in central Anatolia, 17 days from Amisos. During that time they have climbed and climbed, until the highest point of the pass through the mountains they've just come through, above 6,000 feet.

The first two days, the party edged into a slot through the Pontine Mountains, following the Yeshil river, with many small towns and villages, orchards, great flocks of sheep and herders hard at work shearing them. By the third day, you were through the gap, but still climbing, upwards through a open mixed cedar, hazelnut and oak forest.

There are four days of this, the last day being the hardest, as the last climb onto the plateau at Tokat proves a trial. The weather, at least, is bearable, the sky is clear and the brisk temperature is good for travel - you walk with open coats and hats off during the day. The chilly nights, however, those you can do without. At least the days are steadily getting longer.

You reach Tokat on the 5th, a fair sized town, 500 buildings, amid tobacco, tea and coffee plantations, above the forest. The road is better here, and you roll south with gained enthusiasm. The days are cool, now, thoguh the evenings are still brisk and the nights still chilly. You pass through the bigger city of Sebaste on the 8th, more than twice the size of Tokat, and that night there is an unusual driving rain, that makes you appreciate the vardo.

Its been hardly apparent to you that you've been still climbing all this time. Tokat was 2,600 feet above sea level, Sebaste is 4,000. The plantations have yet been on both sides of the road, but now the party sees the great Anti-Taurus mountains above them, though they are 40 miles, 10,000 feet high and covered with snow. They seem impossible.

The roads have been empty much of this time, except for local traffic, and the party has noticed they've been left alone more than usual. No one seems much interested in them, or friendly, most likely because of their European appearance. At the end of two weeks, the party at last begins to make its way to the pass.

To climb the pass takes two whole days. A fresh wind brings heavy rain the morning of the second day, and another light rain that night. The party is over the pass the next day, the 13th, their feet crunching on snow and the vardo making tracks as they go. They are just beginning to descend when the sun makes it too dark to continue.

This brings us back to the beginning of the post, where the rain has made the last 18 hours intolerable to say the least. The party is hunkered down in their vardo, waiting as the afternoon wears away and there are signs the clouds are dissipating, the animals outside and everything, everywhere, slicked with wet ... when there comes a knock on the door.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Amisos in Late March

Friday, March 26, 1651
With overcast skies and brisk temperatures, a light breeze and a prevailing wind.
Full Moon

For six days you beat your way east against the wind, always coming out of the southeast, a miserable, biting wind when its cold, and dry when its cool. Frelg, the half-orc pilot, shows a tendency to rub a sort of thickened sheep's wool grease into his lips and face to keep the skin from splitting, a concoction he claims to have created himself, and has no name. He is willing to share it out, and it works quite well.

It has been damn cold every day, and at night the wet chilliness of the wind seems to permeate the rafters of the ship so that you are all shivering in your bunks by morning, and slipping into the kitchen for a few minutes to warm yourselves near the cook's iron stove. He's chased you out several times. Wednesday morning began with heavy rain, that was swept away by a clear, cool wind from the northeast that cleared the skies ... but the evening of that day saw great black clouds gathering above the mountains of the coast, and then the Petrel was struck with a heavy, drenching rain, that included even thunder, despite the early time of year. The next morning, Thursday, began with steady, driving rain, again from the land, that seemed at times to come down like sleet.

You round the point at Sinope on Wednesday the 24th, turning south and into the wind, keeping the crew busier than ever tacking straight into the wind. On the Thursday you pass by a fat merchant ship bound northwest, and the party can faintly detect through the floorboards the tense angst of the crew, and smell the salivating that goes on and is yet restrained. The Captain has a flag waved at the ship and it responds with its destination, Constantinople.

Amisos is at the bottom of a great, wide half-moon bay, a city of about 3,000 buildings stretching for three miles along a beachy coast between a hooked right point and a forested left shore. Two spits extend into the Black Sea, the one from the left hand of your view being almost two miles long, to shelter the port from eastwardly originating storms. A city rises upon a gentle slope away from the sea, sitting like a saddle between a western hump (above the hooked point) and a gentle rise to your left hand view.

The Captain brings the ship within the harbour but makes no move to bring it to a quay; she wants to limit her crew's access to the shore. The party makes their goodbyes, the Captain promises to be back here on the 26th day of April, and to remain here until the 14th of May ... whereupon she will leave word at a well-known coffee & bathhouse called The Ataturk, that Frelg knows. This house is a three story, extensive building that can almost be seen from the Petrel as its pointed out to the party.

Now the party finds themselves at the head of Bihtim Road, which negotiates the saddle between the docks and warehouses along the shore road (Fuar) and the interior market, where goods are collected from the hinterland. Up this road into the mountains is the way to Melitene.

A bit of signage for Lukas's vardo:

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

En Route to Amisos

Saturday, March 20, 1651, Evening
Weather: With clear skies and brisk temperatures, a light air and a prevailing wind.

The Petrel makes its way east along the Black Sea coast for five days, early on the third day, the mountains of Anatolia can be seen distantly upon the horizon, and the prevailing wind turns to the southeast, sweeping down off the mountains and bringing with it a cold, biting wind. A thin, splatting rain that keeps up for a few hours without even wetting the deck yet makes the 18th, that first day, unpleasant and unencouraging. Thence forward, cool days turn to brisk, and the nights turn chilly, making the ropes hard to manage and work upon the open deck a bitter chore.

With not but the bow sail up, the Petrel continues to make good time, as the pilot knows well the currents in these waters, and rides one that steers the ship steady on forty miles a day.

Deven, the Norwegian, chances to be alone in the mess with Ahmet, where they have both watched the Captain enter the kitchen for a hot coffee. Madam acknowledges you both, then returns topside ... and Deven says to Ahmet, "That is twice since Constantinople that I have watched your eyes closely follow the Captain." At that moment, Maximillian comes up from below and hears Deven add, "You have a story to tell about women, that is certain. You like them and you dislike them, is that not so?"

Maximillian will remember that Deven is the crewman who tried to strike him early in the voyage, and smashed his hand against the post next to the bunk. I think I can add that if Maximillian wishes to remain just out of sight, around the corner to the mess, that's possible, or he can indicate he enters the mess to get the same hit of coffee the Captain was lately wanting.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Wrapping Up in Constantinople

I never did give the experience.

That was Ahmet, 209; Lukas, 44. Maximillian did not hit for damage, and no one took damage in the fight with the wolf, so there is no bonus to spread around. Shame about that.

I haven't touched the campaign in a month. Does anyone have any last things they'd like to do in Constantinople, and have I forgotten any questions or failed to address any pertinent issues?