This is a story based on our RuneQuest adventure in the world of Glorantha from a week and a half ago. It isn't exactly what happened, but that's history, at least as told by Lloy the shepherd.
After a hard day's work clearing rocks from Gunther's father's new field, the adventurers and locals went inside the farm house to have a party. There was much song and drinking, and even a few good new songs from Egil the ex-slave-miner bard and bagpipe mangler. At least, they sounded good while we were drunk.
Periodically someone went out to check on the cattle. There always was the chance that something will happen, as we found out annoyingly many times. Gunther recently lost his horse one night when sneaky nomads cut its halter and took it. Replacing it with a good cavalry horse from the Pimper's Block market wasn't cheap. Of course, I ride a Lunar military surplus mule, so I'm not as concerned about horses. Replacement mules are easy to find and free, if you know what I mean. That night Gunther's luck was slightly changed for the better when he discovered his family's new cattle being driven off by rustlers. So naturally, he charged out after them into the dark night, with only a bit of light from the evil red crescent moon. Naturally the raiders were waiting for him and got quite a few shots off at his silhouetted figure. Fortunately this was a cattle raid, where custom says you shouldn't kill people if possible, just take their cattle. He survived without armour, put his lantern on a post and rushed to the cattle yard.
Herodrick had kept an eye on Gunther just in case something like this happened (an experienced adventurer or paranoid madman - you decide) and dashed out after him. Whack, whack, whacketta - clunk - Herodrick got smashed back by a hail of thrown clubs and rocks as he went out the door. That was when I clued in that something was up and started getting ready.
Back at the cattle yard, Gunther spotted half a dozen raiders herding the cattle out the gate. A distraction was in order, he wisely assumed, rather than directly crashing the cow party. A quick flick of the wrist opened his wind bag, and he released the wind elemental with instructions to distract the cattle. That would slow down the cows and the raiders, until help came.
The other adventurers decided to delay a while to put on some armour and pick up weapons, while Puck took some time to explain the finer points of cattle raiding to his naive wife. Camassia was the first to grab weapons and head out; clubs and rocks bounced off her thick skin (yes, it really is thick from a previous adventure) as she passed through the door. She charged forwards like an Uroxi does towards Chaos, like the winds in a Storm, like the water over a cliff, and vaulted over the gate rather than stopping to open it, and banged her head into the overhead arch. Not too bright, but that's Cam. Doing an impromptu back-flip, she then bounced off the top rail of the fence and worshiped the ground like a Ernalda priestess lying down on the job.
Herodrick and I had readied ourselves with sword and shield and other items, though we didn't have time for armour, and ran out the door. Herodrick dashed over to help Camassia, while I rushed through the dark farm yard towards the disappearing cattle.
Gunther got his lasso out, but before he was ready, a bunch of people ran up behind him. He threw the rope around a fence post and tried to trip them. They saw his feeble ploy and ran past. Spotting more people running, he vowed that he would get the next bunch.
Camassia and Herodrick recovered and ran after some of the raiders who were escaping towards the oat field. They managed to avoid a shadowy figure with a rope, discovering that it was Gunther. Help had arrived! They banded together and chased after the fleeing raiders.
At the same time I had caught up with the herd on a parallel course. Being only a humble shepherd, I didn't feel like fighting a gang of rustlers by myself. Instead, I used the magic silver bracelet I had grabbed earlier, which the chief had awarded the group for mud shark eradication. After several attempts (this magic stuff just doesn't work for me - sheep are easier to control) I managed to cast a light spell on the trailing cow, overcoming its balky resistance to magic as easily as forcing a ewe to sit still while shearing. Now there was a nice red tail light to mark the escaping herd's location.
The raiders were distracted a bit by the light, but they were more worried about the invisible sylph which was trying to blow one of the cows into the orchard. Either way, I was happy that I could then sneak into the orchard unobserved and outflank the raiders and the cow they were mysteriously swatting at.
Gunther and friends tried to catch up with the escaping raiders but were noticed by a horse riding raider. These were the warriors of the raid, the rest were cotters. He came up behind Gunther, swung a mighty blow at Gunther's chest, and Gunther nimbly ducked out of the way. Lasso in hand, Gunther went for the rider's head but instead got tangled up with the rider and both of them ended up being dragged away by the horse, leaving Cam and Herodrick watching them head at high speed towards the fence.
Camassia and Herodrick moved as fast as they could across the oat field and caught up before the startled rider and embarrassed Gunther could get disentangled. Cam dealt an almost fatal blow to the rider with her oh so very destructive flail.
I finally finished casting another red light spell and marked the lead cow in the herd. My next brilliant move was to get ahead of the herd, to stop them. I started sneaking through the orchard.
Meanwhile Cam and Gunther also noticed that the cows were getting away, so they charged towards the herders, ignoring the remaining horse riders in the distance. Herodrick stayed behind making sure that the downed raiders stayed down. The farm duo sliced through the overworked drovers like a wolf running through a flock of sheep; a flail disabling one, a demoralize spell scaring another, a hard hit from Gunther downing a third. Gunther also had the same brilliant idea of getting ahead of the herd, but he took the direct route there by going through the cows.
One of the raid leaders shouted to the drovers to abandon the slow cows. That was a good sign for us - at least we'd have some slow cows for the farm.
Puck finished talking to his wife (his player had arrived at the game) and got into action by casting a light wall ahead of the herd, between me and the cows. Another brilliant move. You'd think this would startle the cows and make them turn, but no, they just ignored it. Perhaps they thought it was the rising sun.
The light wall wasn't totally wasted because it gave me a good shield to throw rocks from behind. My aim was good, and I hit the lead cow. A bull's-eye shot, you could say. Or a shot out of the dark. Whatever you call it, the cow wasn't expecting it, and skittered towards the orchard. Mission accomplished.
Camassia held off the horse riding raiders, with help from Herodrick who came riding up on a captured horse after tying up the prisoners.
Gunther spotted his outlawed neighbour Bertold, the one who tried to marry his sister to get control of his ailing father's farm. The pieces fell into place. The outlaw would have known about the new cattle and thus could easily find raiders to help him get revenge. This was not an ordinary cattle raid, this was personal! Gunther wormed his way through the herd and hostile drovers towards his arch enemy, attracted like a Humakt death lord to a zombie. However this was a sword wielding farmer charging towards him and not a shambling zombie.
They met on the edge of the herd, giving Gunther enough time for an initial disrupt spell to pop some acne off the outlaw's face. The enraged outlaw slashed at Gunther's leg, knocking Gunther's sword out of the way and dropping him to the ground. Gunther had time to hack back, and dealt a devastating blow to the outlaw's shield, ruining it. The angry outlaw staggered back and swung down at the grounded Gunther, who could only parry by grabbing the flying sword with his fist, resulting in broken fingers as well as an arm slashed open.
Seeing the nearby fighting at favourable odds, I stepped from behind the light wall to join in and rough up some of these impudent drovers. We exchanged blows several times, evenly matched, until I too had a leg chopped out from under me.
Finally Camassia, Puck and Herodrick caught up and grabbed the outlaw from behind. Seeing their leader captured and lacking other commanders, the rest of the raiders hoofed it down the valley. A bit of first aid got Gunther moving again.
Gunther told the outlaw that he'd let him go if he promised to stay away. He refused, saying "You ruined my life, I'll come back to kill you rather than run away." Gunther was a bit flummoxed by this, then he slowly reached out and placed the outlaw's sword on the ground near his hand. The outlaw glared his hatred at Gunther as Gunther swiftly chopped his head off. Well, technically he did have a chance to defend himself, so it technically wasn't murder. "This is not good," I said, "as the outlaw's spirit is out there, with a vow to kill Gunther as its consuming final thought."
Camassia roughly helped me limp back to the farm, where the farm girls fixed up my leg without a bit of sympathy. As for the outlaw, his body was sent back to his relatives, with even less sympathy. The cows were easily herded up, as they had stopped in the orchard to munch on fallen apples.
After that bit of excitement, I was not eager to start on our long journey across the desert. The chief gave us a Lunar trading license to help us pass through Dinacoli lands without ridiculous tolls, so there weren't any more reasons for us to stay, other than being tired of adventuring and having a longing for home.
Copyright © 2000 by Alexander G. M. Smith.