We rejoin our brave heroes on the first floor of the only tavern in Schuyler, soaked to their elbows in the blood of their villainous foes, 6 Frenchies who had (until their rapid and brutal demise) cloaked themselves in the disguise of good English Soldiers. Oh, how the good people of that fair green land would tremble to see the honour of their finest young men so besmirched by French interlopers!

But these 6 would sully no more reputations, for they had been gutted horribly in their sleep by our fine adventurers, who now began planning the defeat of the army from whence these vile Frenchmen had come. First they gathered up the soldiers’ swords and coats, dumped the bodies, and set off for the nearby Iroquois village which they had so narrowly saved from a fate worse than death.

The journey took perhaps an hour at a brisk pace, and involved mostly walking along a narrow goat trail heavily encompassed by the silent, dripping forest. Constantly troubled by a feeling of being watched, our heroes nonetheless maintained their bold poise, and emerged after an  hour and a bit into a large clearing in the forest. The North end of the clearing was topped by a low hill, beyond which lay the waters of the lake in which the French army lay hidden. Between them and that hill lay the Iroquois village, consisting of rough tents pitched around a long, low building made of solid logs and thatch. Between the characters and the tent stood some hundred or so Indians, a huge crowd composed of every brave the village had, silently waiting for them.

The characters emerged with their agreed spokesman, the inconstant sybarite Lord Merton, to their fore. In his left hand he carried the coat of a slaughtered soldier, while in his right he brandished the coup belt earlier given to the group as a gift by Iroquois tribesmen. Seeing him the braves began whooping and yelling, brandishing axes and knives; but seeing the coup belt and his respectful greeting, they parted sufficiently to open a narrow pathway through the crowd. At the end of this pathway stood their warchief, a tall and proud brave wearing a coup belt that carried the emblems of many dead.

Troubled but firm in their resolve to aid the Crown, our heroes marched forward into the breach. As they passed amongst the savage throng, many an Indian warrior would step forward, thrusting out his breast and yelling his challenge; but a mere eyeballing of the brute, and a strong back, were enough to forestall further threat. So doing, the characters emerged at the far side of the crowd, standing now face to face with the warchief, his entire clan arrayed about them in native splendour.

Lord Merton had noticed a particular slimy, sly looking Indian, much unloved by his fellows, following their passage attentively through the crowd. Was this perhaps the spy who had aimed to aid the French? But how could one so lowly in the regard of his tribe convince them all to drink alcohol and light fires? Surely he was not the one… but now Lord Merton watched wide-eyed as this inconsequential chap emerged cautiously from the crowd and walked over to his warchief to whisper in his ear. After a moment the weedy fellow turned and returned to the crowd, soon disappearing from sight. Fearing the worst, Merton cast his spell of hindsight to try and identify this spy’s earlier movements and discovered that, sure enough, this was the Indian who had followed them here, giving them such chills in the dark of the forest…

Lord Merton greeted the warchief respectfully, reminding him of the antecedent bravery which the coup belt represented, and of the strong relations between their nations until this juncture. He gave brief warning of the war to come, and begged leave to ask the assistance of the tribe. The warchief merely grunted, and gesturing to some of his fellows, turned away. These other braves ran to the large wooden hall and disappeared inside, and a hush fell over the crowd.

This was too much risk for Russell Ganymede, who invoked his demonic sight so as to look inside the hall. By means of his Infernal scrying he was able to see three ancient, wizened men inside. The hall was wreathed in smoke, penetrated only by the ruddy glow of a few dying fires. Coughing and spluttering, a small gang of braves picked up the platform on which the three wizened men sat, and carried it slowly into the light.

Once the three old men had been set down before the characters, they explained the situation, turning to Mr. duPlessis to prove their point. Having outlined the evil plans of the French, they requested the tribe’s aid – in lighting the signal fire, and ambushing the French army after it had landed. The Indian elders were not convinced until one of their number had laboriously climbed the hill at the rear of the village. There, overlooking the lake, he summoned a gentle rain, and in the pattern of this shower could be seen the 30 French boats, cloaked against prying eyes but not against the trickery of Indian magic. Turning to the other elders, he nodded assent, and the tribe immediately set about preparing the ambush.

While the preparations continued the characters noticed that the warchief refused to talk to them, and wondering at the earlier behaviour of the warchief’s slimy comrade, asked after him until they came to his tent, which was pitched as close to the latrines as a man of his dubious physiognomy ought to be. When they arrived this Indian scout was just sidling off into the forest, carrying a small bag. Lord Merton went invisible and followed him, leaving a trail for Russell Ganymede to follow. They pursued the Iroquois to the edge of the forest overlooking the lake, where they found him attempting to signal the French with a helioscope. They attacked, grabbed him and the helioscope, and bundled him back to the camp.

Upon discovering this treachery the Indians were incensed, and immediately they tied the unfortunate spy to a stake and erected it above the growing woodpile of the signal fire. He began blubbering and wailing, and desperately tried to bargain for his life, but the elders would not listen. During his pathetic begging pleas, he revealed the following information:

  • He was recruited by a spy called Misericorde who deals with natives of three nations (Iroquois, Delaware, Susquehanna)
  • There is a spy amongst the Iroquois near Niagara who may be recruiting Iroquois bandits to infiltrate fort Niagara itself
  • The French invasion fleet is using riverboats with little space for cannon. No cannon will be offloaded at the disembarkation point, the French aiming to use instead the cannon from the capture of Fort Stanwix in their ongoing campaign
  • 10 of the ships on the lake will be departing to land troops inland of Fort Oswego once the signal fire is seen, so as to prevent any retreat from one fort to the other.

Having revealed these things, the spy was left on the stake, with a small group of Iroquois women sharpening their knives nearby, just in case he should be allowed down.

So the scene was set, and everyone drifted down to the forest as the signal fire was lit. Against the backdrop of its glowing fury – and the dying screams of the captured traitor – the characters and their new allies took up positions on the edge of the forest, facing a 100m stretch of open ground to the water. In all there were 100 braves. Their elders had set about summoning the spirits of the forest, in the form of great, shadow-enshrouded treemen, who stood sentinel near the edge of the forest. All  went silent as the river ships approached and disgorged a cloud of longboats. As the longboats approached the shore, still visible in the last light of dusk, it was clear that the Iroquois were horribly outnumbered, perhaps 12 to 1. How could they prevail?

The French landed and gathered with admirable silence on the shore, as yet unprepared for battle. After the majority of the  Frenchies had settled onto land, and were lounging or standing about waiting for orders, a single brave burst from the trees. He ran screaming down to the shore, brandishing his axe and wailing fit to wake the dead. A French soldier raised his rifle to shoot the brave down but his sergeant, thinking the brave friendly, ordered the gun lowered. Moments later this lone Iroquois crashed into the mass of huddled troops, smashing the first couple with his axe and hurtling into the interior of the squad. By the time they had reacted enough to cut him down, he had killed 3 or 4 and injured as many more.

A deathly silence then fell over the scene as all French eyes turned outward to the darkness of the waiting forest. And then, as one, screaming and yelling their barbaric warcries, the Iroquois burst from the shadows of the Forest and charged forward, the great dark forms of their forest spirits running alongside them (and the characters just a little way behind). They hit the unprepared French in a wall of death, hacking and gouging and slaying as they came. The first lines of French, hastily formed with neither powder ready nor bayonets fixed, fell like the wheat before the scythe, and as the Iroquois penetrated the main force of French they hacked about them with gleeful abandon. Here and there an Indian stopped in his tracks to gut one of the fallen where he lay, tearing out his heart or other vitals and holding it up to his fellows in tribute before returning to the slaughter. To the rear, French soldiers began assembling in lines and loading their weapons, but to the fore all was red rage and rivers of blood.

The characters saw now their main goal, for at the rear of the battle stood a Lt. Colonel, his colour sergeant, and the French flag. A potent magic item, the colours grant benefit to the allies of whomsoever hold them, and their possession can turn the tide of battle. Seeing their chance, the characters went to action. David Cantrus summoned the Angel of Death and sent it to slay a Sergeant Major who was attempting to direct fire; Lord Merton assumed his invisible form and slipped through the battle to the distant colours, while his batman fired upon the Lt. Colonel’s signalman, who was attempting to send warning to the retreating ships with a helioscope. Umit the Dervish set about healing fallen Indians, moving slowly forward to remain in range of battle. 

As the Indians marched forward, Lord Merton siezed the colours from the colour sergeant. Russell Ganymede fired on the sergeant, dislodging his grip, and Lord Merton resumed his invisible state. Unfortunately for Merton, a shadowy figure emerged from nowhere and, seeing through his magic, attempted to stab him from the rear. It missed but, guessing it must be Misericorde the assassin, Merton attempted to flee. Seeing the colours retreating, the Lt Colonel, his colour sergeant and 5 soldiers pursued the bobbing flag. Russell Ganymede finished off the Lt Colonel with another blast from his infernal rifle, but Misericorde let out a supernatural screech which staggered Merton and slowed his flight. Still invisible, he staggered about, unable to fight. Misericorde then cast a spell to surround himself with mulitple mirror images. David Cantrus lost concentation on his Angel of Death, dispelling it, and instead cast his spell Suffer Not a Witch, whose righteousness stripped away Misericorde’s protections. Umit the Dervish streaked forward into the battle and, in a sudden whirling attack, injured 3 of the soldiers. Russell summoned a Demon, which came in the form of a shadowy Indian brave, and battle was joined in earnest.

Meanwhile the Iroquois charged down the last lines of French soldiers, who had formed three ranks and were ready with massed gunfire. Panicking, all three lines of soldiers – some  300 men – opened fire on the thinly spread Iroquois, but remarkably barely a brave fell. Then they hit the line of soldiers, and the last pitched battle of the engagement began. Against the backdrop of the screams of the wounded and the dying, and the triumphant whooping of  Iroquois warriors, the characters pressed their attack against the Lt. Colonel and his men. Eventually seeing that the battle was up, Misericorde fled to a small boat, leaving the Lt. Colonel and his men to die. He screamed for some nearby fleeing soldiers to help, and together they pushed the boat into the water. The Lt. Colonel made his last stand on the beach, where his men were quickly cut down by a horde of savages, who left him alive on the request of Lord Merton. Besides  the Lt Colonel, the only soldiers still alive were the 5 who had taken to the boat with Misericorde.

Seeing their spy escaping, David Cantrus summoned  a storm of ice and snow over the boat. Huge chunks of hail fell on it, scuttling it and slowing its progress sufficiently for the braves to take to the water and catch up with it. They turned it  over and slaughtered the soldiers as they fell in the water. Again Merton called for them to preserve the life of the spy, but they heeded him not; in their frenzy they butchered him in the water like a stranded Manatee.

So did 1200 men of the French frontier forces fall to a vastly inferior barbarian army. Some might say that in this battle lies a lesson for those who lay claim to the superiority of Infernal technology and modern military planning; but most would merely point out that, as some Oriental strategists have long advised, the key to every success is surprise, and planning.

And on this single event’s outcome rests the fate of the French incursion into the territory of the British Crown. Perhaps this single action will stall the war to come – or have the characters’ actions inflamed a border skirmish into total war?

This week at the Pub where I role-play I will start a series of sessions testing my ideas for changing the AD&D rule system. Starting depends on whether there will be players – everyone else seems to be intent on drifting off to some Call of Cthulhu madness – but I currently have at least 2 players guaranteed, and hope for 4.

The first adventure will not use the full details of my reconfiguring scheme. Magic will use some spells I pulled out of my arse, or spells based on conversions of existing spells in the Players Handbook. Everything else will  run on the skill and combat system I have (partially) laid out here.

There will be 0-3 adventures, depending on interest. They will be set in the world of Compromise and Conceit, just before the outbreak of the French and Indian War in America in 1753. The characters will be entrusted with the responsibility of delivering instructions regarding the treatment of Iroquois natives to a chain of forts from Albany to lake Ontario. Things will, of course, go wrong. The characters available at the start are:

  • Anna Labrousse, an enchantress from the Regency school of magic, from a somewhat down-at-heel background (daughter of an industrialist), but able to enter the Regency school through cunning application of her enchanting talents. Being somewhat disapproved of in her School, she has had to resort to adventuring to better her lot in life
  • Lord Merton of Epsom-St. Hilliers, a shiftless and irresponsible junior Earl, who possibly has syphilis or TB, discharged dishonourably from the Trajectors (a division of military engineers and wizards), and wandering the world looking for trouble in the company of his batman and Infernal Engineer. Lord Merton is armed with “the Earl of Epsom’s blurters”, a pair of rather well-enhanced pistols, and has a few other semi-magical tricks on the side. He is not of redoubtable constitution, however…
  • Russell Ganymede, Lord Merton’s batman and the Infernal Engineer of his old division of Trajectors, also discharged dishonourably alongside Merton. Infernal Engineers summon Infernal essence to enhance the power of cannon and small arms, and usually also use heavy-weaponry. Ganymede has some powers of demon-conjuring and infernal enhancement, and is also a melee combatant
  • Father David Cantrus, a Jesuit priest and sometime friend of Labrousse, who has been struck with wanderlust and a certain disregard for his old order. Or so he says…
  • Umit Dilmen, a Whirling Dervish, a type of Turkish mystic, who has come to America to try his hand at the Great Game and been introduced to the group through the General who commands the fort at Albany.
In AD&D terms, the PCs are respectively a Wizard, Rogue, Fighter, Priest and Druid/Wizard. In this adventure,  however, all have some magic skills and the Rogue particularly has a more limited set of Rogueish skills (he is probably more of an assassin). The first adventure is going to revolve heavily around combat, stealth and then some quick thinking, so the Enchantress may be a bit out of place.
But first people have to turn up…