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[Chronica Feudalis] The Anarchy of England

Jeremy Keller

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Our story begins in the fall of 1140. England is divided in civil war. The Empress Maude, aligned with her bastard brother Robert of Gloucester, is attempting to claim the crown promised to her by her father, King Henry I. The usurper, King Stephen, holds the throne for now but is under constant attack from a growing number of enemies. The two rivals plot and position their armies.

We shall follow the plights of these six protagonists:

Hugh Jongleur - a dwarf entertainer. Master of the throwing ax, juggler, and lutist. Beware his biting wit.
Katherine de Roet - a low-born noble, niece to the Earl of Warwick in-fact. She is a lady-in-waiting by day, but at night she is an armed vigilante who protects the peasantry from cruel barons.
Sir William of Acre - a knight captain of the Hospitallers. He is traveling England recruiting to repopulate the Crusader States.
Declan the Dour - a former monk, former crusader, who now finds work as a personal body guard.
Walder William Hap - the son of a wealthy wool merchant. He is secretive, and hell-bent on making profit.
And a mysterious merchant guard whose name I cannot recall.

Continue, gentle reader, and learn of these adventurous times.
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Jeremy Keller

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Session 1 - Warwick Castle - September 1140

Sir William of Acre was fortunate enough to be invited to a banquet being held by Roger de Beaumont, the Earl of Warwick. Katherine de Roet, the earl's niece was attending, of course, and Hugh Jongleur was hired as a minstrel and juggler for the evening. The three soon learned that Katherine's brother, Henry, was a terrible bully who had recently maimed a peasant child; that there was still a rivalry between Roger de Beaumont and the Sheriff of Warwickshire, Geoffrey de Clinton, even though Geoffrey had married the earl's daughter Agnes as part of a truce; that Geoffrey's cousin Roger de Clinton, the Bishop of Coventry, believed that little Hugh was some minion of the devil; that Hugh had developed feelings for Margaret (another of the earl's daughters) that as he expressed as virtuous, chivalric love and got more than a little miffed when Sir William danced with her.

The following morning there was a free-for-all melee tournament. Sir William, Hugh, and Katherine (dressed as a knight) all participated. Hugh ran around the edge of the fray, throwing his axes at unsuspecting and wealthy-looking targets. He managed to take down Geoffrey de Clinton and drag him off as his prisoner. Sir William squared off against Sir Henry, Katherine's brother, and ended up scarring his face and then permanently maiming his leg. Henry would never walk again.

The protagonists ransomed their captives back to their families, winning large purses.
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Jeremy Keller

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Session 2 - To Chester - September 1140

A few days after the melee tournament, Roger de Beaumont decided to send his daughter, Margaret, to broker a trade deal with Ranulf de Gernon, the Earl of Chester. Attending her would be her personal body guard, Declan the Dour, along with Hugh Jongleur who had joined Margaret's entourage. Roger asked Sir William to escort his daughter as well, making William a knight of Warwick, and giving him a few men under his command. Katherine was also sent, but with a secret mission. She was told to offer Margaret to the Earl of Chester in marriage if he would join in a military alliance with Warwick.

As they traveled, the party was ambushed by a small band of knights. Margaret's protectors turned to meet the attack and managed to fell the knights from their horses and take them prisoner.

They soon arrived at Chester and had their prisoners locked up. They gained audience with Ranulf, the Earl of Chester, who was also entertaining the Bishop of Coventry. The bishop, it seems, was trying to convince Ranulf to show his support for King Stephen. Katherine later met with Ranulf, offering Margaret as a bride in exchange for an alliance with Warwick. Katherine was very convincing.

That night, a shadowy figure slipped past Sir William and his men in the courtyard, past Declan standing guard in the hall, and into Margaret's bed chamber. Katherine, sharing the room with Margaret, spotted the intruder and called an alarm. Declan rushed in from the hall and helped Katherine subdue the shadowy figure. They pulled back his hood: it was one of the same knights who attacked them on their journey to Chester.

A knight who should be locked up as a prisoner.
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Jeremy Keller

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Session 3 - The Defense of Chester Castle - September 1140

Our protagonists soon discovered that it was the Bishop of Coventry who had let the knight out of his cell and charged the knight to finish his task of kidnapping Margaret. They looked for the Bishop, but he had already called for his horse from the marshal and fled. Sir William gave chase and was able to overtake the bishop and escort him back to Chester Castle. There was then a big discussion concerning the Bishop's motives, his alliance with his cousin the Sheriff of Warwickshire, and their plans to drain the coffers of the Earl of Warwick by ransoming his daughter.

Our protagonists decided to send for the Roger de Beaumont, the Earl of Warwick, since his daughter was in such danger. In the meantime they worked on training and Sir William worked on finding more recruits to bring back with him to the Holy Lands. One such recruit was a a traveling merchant whose name I cannot remember.

When the messenger returned from Warwick, he informed the party that the Earl was on the way but so was the Sheriff of Warwickshire with all his knights, men-at-arms and archers. The Sheriff would be arriving first. Our protagonists decided they had to meet the Sheriff on the battlefield to prevent the invading army from laying waste to the town of Chester. They organized the townsfolk into a quick militia and with Ranulf and his knights, marched out to the battlefield.

The battle was harrowing, but Sir William, Declan, Katherine, Hugh, and the mysterious merchant were able to close in on the sheriff and his guard. They defeated the sheriff, took him prisoner, and took him up to the wall of the castle for all to see. The sheriff's forces surrendered just as the Earl of Warwick and his army were arriving.

Jeremy Keller

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Session 4 - The Lincoln Plot - December 1140

A few months passed after the battle at Chester and Margaret was married to Ranulf. Our protagonists all celebrated at the wedding and made a new friend, Walder William Hap, the son of a wealthy merchant. Hugh Jongleur was approached by a young, beautiful harper who offered to pay for any information Hugh might have about Ranulf's military maneuvers. Hugh discovered that the harper was part of an intelligence network that stretched back to Queen Matilda, King Stephen's wife, in Kent. Afterwards Hugh informed his friends about this spy, but did not reveal his findings to Ranulf himself. Hugh was unsure what to think about this Earl who just married his lady love.

Hugh's information aside, that night Declan the Dour ended up sharing a bed with the harper. They "pumped" (I believe was the player's word for it) each other for information in a series of parley manuevers. Declan ended up with condition Smitten by the harp's song. Declan learned that the harper reported to a constable at Lincoln Castle.

The following day, a large group sat around talking politics. This included the newlyweds, Ranulf and Margaret, our protagonists, and Roger de Beaumont, the Earl of Warwick. Roger was trying to convince Ranulf to align with the Empress Maude. Ranulf expressed that he was more concerned with fighting against King David of Scotland, who had recently won some of Ranulf's lands in the north in a truce with King Stephen. Roger indicated that he could kidnap David's son, Prince Henry, who was returning to Scotland after a meeting with Stephen in WInchester. It would be a strike against both David and Stephen. Ranulf agreed and the group started planning. They had intelligence that the envoy would be stopping at Lincoln Castle on their way back north.

First, our protagonists decided to engage in a campaign of misinformation. Declan told the harper a lie about maneuverings going on in the south of England with the intention to divert the Queen's intelligence efforts elsewhere. The harper saw through Declan's lies easily and convinced Declan that he himself was under suspicion. Spies belonging to Warwick were on to him and might try to kill him. Declan believed her.

Second, Margaret would travel with her entourage (which largely consisted of our protagonists) to Lincoln and pay a social visit to Alice, the constable's wife, whom she was friends with. When they arrived, they were not so surprised to find that the harper was already there, entertaining the constable and his wife with her delicate songs. Declan later privately confronted her, but the harper warned him of assassins might now out for his life and asked him to stay out of this deadly game because she might now be developing feelings of love for him.

Walder William Hap found the castle's steward. They negotiated a trade deal for a large amount of wool to be delivered the following day in exchange for payment now. Walder, a sly one, talked the circles around the steward and convinced him to part with a large portion of the castle's coffers. Walder left the castle with the money promising to return the following day with the wool.

The next morning, the protagonists put into action the third part of their plan. They had already arranged that Ranulf and his knights would be arriving one day after them. Katherine had done some reconnaissance around the castle to inventory its defenses. Their were two guards posted at the front gate, one at a rear door, and 4 patrolling the castle battlements. Katherine took position to snipe the guard at the rear door with her longbow. Sir William, his men, and Declan went to leave out the front gate. When the gate was open for them they drew their weapons and slew the guards. As this happened, Alice was watching from her chamber window. She cursed at Margaret for betraying her and setting up the ambush and drew her knife. As the lady moved to attack Margaret, Hugh stepped in to protect her, parrying the blade with one of his axes. Telling Margaret to run, he tried to hold the crazed woman back, but was too short to subdue the tall, crazed woman. She kept slashing with her knife and cut into Hugh (drawing blood but causing no serious damage). Hugh, upset, swiped back with his hand ax. The blow was parried. He tried to run out the door, but she came right after him. Finally he pushed her back through the doorway and shut the door locking her in her chamber.

Meanwhile, one of Sir William's men-at-arms, having been bribed by Walder William Hap, snuck into the steward's sleeping place and cut the steward down in his bed with an ax. He then found all the steward's records and set them on fire.

Outside, after having felled the rear guard and one of the wall guards with her deadly arrows, Katherine saw the commotion in Alice's chamber through the window. She fired two arrows through the window, both burying themselves deep into the lady of the castle. She slumped to the ground with thud.

Sir William and Declan were successful with dispatching the guard and keeping the front gate open as Ranulf and his knight rode in and forced the remaining guards to surrender. The castle was taken. Declan looked around for the harper. He found her in the stables...

...in the constable's arms.

Jeremy Keller

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Session 5 - Of Gold and Lies - December 1140

Declan and Sir William had just found the constable and the harper in each other's arms in the stables of the castle at Lincoln. Sir William offered the constable a deal, the constable could escape the embarrassment of losing the castle and being caught with the harper if he immediately set forth to the Holy Lands to join Sir William's contingent at Acre. The constable accepted. This also allowed him to escape the wrath of Declan who was steaming at sight of his lover in the arms of another.

Now it was time for Declan and the harper to talk things out. She immediately made up a lie that she slept with constable to save Declan's life. That the constable, hearing of a price on Declan's head set by the countess of Warwick, was going to kill Declan in the middle of the night if she hadn't put a stop to it. Declan bought all of this. In hindsight, this was a text-book opportunity for a compel. Declan had even just gained a new aspect from the end of last session to underline this relationship with the harper. We just played this exchange out and Declan's player was cool with this but, Chris, in retrospect I owe you an Ardor point.

Declan let the harper go.

The castle, now taken by Ranulf and his men, was to be a point of ambush against Prince Henry as he traveled from Winchester back to Scotland. Preparations began. Our protagonists worked on training and improving themselves — often times acting as mentors to each other.

A few days passed. Walder William Hap learned that Prince Henry and his entourage where not heading towards Lincoln. Queen Matilda, it turns out, heard word of Ranulf's plan of ambush and encouraged her husband, King Stephen, to personally escort the son of King David on a different route. Walder informed his friends of this fact so they could change their plans accordingly.

Incidentally, the harper hadn't been seen around for the past few days.

Declan and Katherine brought this to Ranulf's attention. He was furious, though he soon conceived a new plan. Ranulf would use Lincoln as a base to build an army and launch an attack against Scotland. He immediately wanted to raise the rents of the tenants in Lincoln, but Declan and Katherine were quick to engage him in a parley conflict to talk him out of it. They convinced him it would be better to build the loyalty of his new subjects rather than so quickly garner resentment.

Walder did some investigating, attempting to find the new path that Prince Henry and King Stephen were taking to Scotland. He found them moving north and purportedly on a course going through Sheffield and Leeds. Using the money from his most recent caper, Walder bought up as much of the food and provisions as he could from Sheffield before the large entourage came through. The shortage created a large demand for the goods when Prince Henry, King Stephen and their retinues came through days later. Walder wanted to sell back the goods with a healthy profit. Unfortunately do to a fast-talking merchant (and a failed parley), he made back little more than his original stakes.

(I think we discovered here that abstract wealth systems, such as the purse system in Chronica Feudalis, aren't the best for creating rewards for characters with monetary goals. For a one shot, it's great – you give them a d10 or a d12 purse and their happy — but after that, there isn't much room to grow. Knowing this, for characters like Walder it would probably be better to keep track of coins rather than use the abstract system. In this case, Walder's player decided to make a new character who fits in with the rest of the group a bit better. We will meet this new protagonist in the next session.)

Back in Lincoln, Ranulf was desperate to get his hands on the rents of his tenants in order to help build up for his attack on Scotland. But not all of the money and goods were coming his way. One knight of Lincolnshire, very loyal to King Stephen, was robbing peasants of their rent payments before they could be delivered to Ranulf. Ranulf would not stand for this to go on any longer, so he dispatched his best subjects to deal with the situation: our protagonists.

Sir William (and his retinue of men-at-arms and petty soldiers), Declan, Katherine, and Hugh rode out. They were joined by Thor (the unsavory merchant guard whose name I could not previously remember) and Kywrig, a Welsh mercenary knight happy to make some money off of the Anglo-Norman strife. They met the offending knight and his men on the field.

The fray started with arrow loosed by Katherine. Then Declan charged in and took down the knight's warhorse with one swing of his ax (which he then caught hell for from the rest of the party). Never-the-less the knight was now on the ground. But his men weren't standing idly by. They cut into Sir William's men, dropping them like flies (most of William's retinue are simple characters — only one Vigor — while the knight's men were agents and therefore a bit tougher at two Vigor). It was close for a while, but finally our protagonists gained the upper hand, defeated the knight, and vanquished his remaining men.

What reward they will have for this victory, we will discover in the next session.

Jeremy Keller

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Session 6 – A Tale of Marriage and Love – December 1140

After having dispatched with interfering knight, our adventurers brought him back to Ranulf in Lincoln to make all the typical ransom arrangements. Meanwhile, the knight's fiefdom had to be managed and Ranulf felt he was in position to assign it a new lord. He mentioned at court that his first instinct would be to give it to the valiant crusader Sir William, but since William did not have any noble blood ties to England, he was not qualified. Unless.

Unless Sir William married a woman of noble birth. And there was just such a woman in the retinue...Katherine. If such a convenient marriage could not be arranged, the land would go to Katherine's brother and bully of Warwick manor, Henry.

So preparations started for a wedding.

February 1141

In a matter of a couple short months, everything was arranged for a grand marriage with an elaborate feast to impress all the local lords, ladies, and knights.

As Declan the Dour walked into the church, he noticed someone familiar. It was Bridget, the harper, the woman he had been a wounded puppy over for a few months now. He asked her what she was doing here, and she said she was here to change sides. Working for King Stephen had become too dangerous for her and, she insisted, Declan. She would switch sides and join Gundred de Warenne's network of spies in order to protect Declan. Declan warned her that some people would become hostile if they saw her here. They arranged that she would wait outside in the cemetery and Declan would do the talking to Gundred for her.

As Bridget left, Declan watched after her. He saw as Henry de Neuburg (Katherine's brother) noticed her as she was walking out and followed her. Declan followed the two of them and found them talking just outside the church. Henry was placing a coin purse into Bridget's hands, telling her that if the groom were to somehow not survive the night, she would receive a larger purse. Declan could not hear Bridget's response.

The ceremony started. Hugh Jongleur provided the music on his lute, crooning a delicate love song which he dedicated to the bride and groom but secretly directed towards Margaret (Warwick's daughter), the object of his chivalric love. This was a maneuver that resulted in a triple-success and have Margaret a whopping d10 condition of Infatuation with little Hugh.

The bishop of Lincoln, Alexander, presided over the ceremony. There was some Princess Bride mimicry and then we skipped to the end.

The feast was held after in Lincoln castle. Declan started drinking rather heavily. He still hadn’t mentioned to Gundred about Bridget's offer. Henry was drinking a fair amount as well. Margaret was drinking like a sailor.

Lady Katherine went back into the kitchens. Her plan was to arrange to have something put in her brother's drink so that he wouldn't cause any trouble on her special day. But who did she see while in the kitchen? Bridget Harper.

Katherine pulled a knife from God knows where and stabbed at Bridget, cutting her shoulder and pinning her by her blouse to the wall. Bridget reached for a kitchen knife and slashed back, making a shallow gash just under Katherine's neck.

At this point one of the kitchen hands, a young man of manx descent named Fynlo MacEmere (a new PC), intervened and tried to calm Katherine down and pull her away from Bridget. Katherine declared that Bridget was a spy and had the guards haul her down to the dungeon.

Out in the great hall, another fight was brewing. Declan had decided that he was drunk enough, got up, walked across to the other side of the hall where Henry was sitting and punched him in the face.

Ansolm, a cousin to Henry and newly appointed squire to Sir William (and another new PC), scrambled across the room, jumped onto Declan's back and held on for dear life. The young squire was hindering Declan's movement but unable to stop him (Declan is now Grappled d6). Declan and Henry continued to scuffle and Declan pulled Henry up over the table and into the middle of the hall floor.

Ansolm was continuing to try to grapple Declan to the ground. He took Declan's hood and pulled it up over the Irishman's face causing him to be Blinded (d8).

Henry took up a chair and proceeded to bash Declan over his hooded head with it. One of the chair legs splintered off from the impact and was flying straight at Margaret. Hugh Jongleur leapt into the air, snatching the chair leg out of the air before it could harm her.

Hugh advanced into the fray to give Henry a good hit with the chair leg but the retreated back to ensure that Margaret was well protected.

The ruckus continued until both Henry and Declan lie unconscious. The guards were called and were going to take both of them down to the dungeon. But Ansolm appealed to Lord Ranulf, insisting that Henry was innocent and that Declan was responsible for provoking the violence. Ranulf agreed and only Declan was taken away.

Meanwhile Hugh Jongleur was walking down one of the back corridors of the castle after relieving himself. There he was ambushed by Margaret who embraced him and smothered him with kisses. Henry tried to resist, for his was a pure and chaste love, but was overwhelmed with Margaret's drunken advances. They made out.

Until they were caught in the act by Fynlo MacEmere.

Declan came-to several minutes later. He was locked up in the cellar. Locked up with Bridget. They weren't alone for long. Sir William and Lady Katherine came down to pay them a visit. Declan tried to explain how Bridget was trying to change sides, but William wouldn't hear any of it.

Tomorrow, there will be a trial.
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